Red Quinoa With Vegetables, Almonds, and Cheese

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile (thank you to those who have!), you’ve already heard me discuss the importance of listening to your body’s cravings and eating with the seasons.  Last night was a perfect example of this.  I had bought all the ingredients to make this recipe for a red quinoa salad for dinner, but when dinnertime rolled around, my body wasn’t craving a salad at all, but instead a hot meal.  This is completely natural to experience as the warmer months transition to the colder Fall and Winter months. Our bodies crave cooling foods in the Spring and Summer (think salads and fresh fruit), and warmer foods in the Fall and Winter (stews, soups, and hearty meals). So I took the red quinoa and scavenged through my fridge to come up with this delicious recipe.  I hope you enjoy it!

 

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Ingredients  (2 servings)

-1 cup red quinoa, rinsed thoroughly under cold water.  Use your fingers to lightly rub the grains together.

-3 cups water

-1/2 bouillon cube

-2 carrots, thinly sliced

-6 oz. shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

-1 large shallot, thinly sliced

-6 asparagus stalks, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

-Garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

-2 handfuls unsalted almonds, chopped

-Ricotta salata cheese to top (or other favorite cheese)

-salt, pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Turn oven to 425 degrees F.  Add the rinsed quinoa to a medium-sized pot with the water, salt, and the bouillion half.  Stir to mix in.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Drain water in a strainer if necessary at the end of cooking then add the quinoa back to the pot.  Fluff with a fork.
  2. While the quinoa cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add all the vegetables to the pan to saute.  Add pepper and the garlic powder, but no salt yet.  Add more oil if necessary.  Cook for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until browned and softened. Add salt the last couple minutes of cooking.
  3. Place the chopped almonds on a piece of tin foil and toast in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Remove and turn off the oven.
  4. Combine the quinoa, vegetables, almonds, and top with ricotta salata.  Serve in bowls.  Enjoy!

 

Spaghetti Bolognese

There’s something so comforting about Italian food, especially the way it brings family and friends together. Whenever I cook Italian, I try to channel an old Italian grandmother by using this age-old secret ingredient: love. By putting all my love into the food and preparation, a good meal can become a great meal.

Bolognese is a staple of Italian cooking, though I actually had zero experience making a bolognese sauce before this.  I’m all about easy always, so this recipe is right up my alley. Use the freshest ingredients whenever possible (just another way you can add love to the meal), including fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones if they’re in season. To make this recipe even easier, I recommend having a blender on hand to help with the sauce.

Ingredients

-5 large tomatoes, medium or large diced depending on your blender (my favorite, if you have access to them, are early girl organic dry-farmed tomatoes)

-6 basil leaves

-3 whole garlic cloves, plus 2 chopped garlic cloves (keep separate)

-1lb ground beef (grass-fed, organic)

-1 yellow onion, small diced

-1 lb shitake mushrooms, chopped

-2 tablespoons tomato paste

-extra virgin olive oil

-salt, pepper

-crushed red pepper flakes

-spaghetti

 

Instructions

  1. In a blender, add these ingredients in the following order: 1/2 cup olive oil, chopped tomatoes, 3 whole garlic cloves, basil, salt, and pepper.  Blend until it’s a sauce.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil or enough to almost cover the bottom of the pan.  Add the chopped meat, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and chopped garlic. Break apart the meat using a wooden spatula or another cooking utensil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until meat is browned and vegetables are soft. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste.  Stir in the tomato paste until it becomes dark in color, then pour the sauce from the blender. Let the sauce simmer for some time (could be as long as an hour) to get a really flavorful sauce.
  3. Heat a large pot of salted water and bring to a rapid boil.  Add spaghetti and cook for about 10 minutes until al dente.  Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Strain the spaghetti and return to the pot.
  4. Add the reserved pasta water to the skillet.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer for a few minutes.  Add the sauce to the pot of spaghetti and stir in to combine.  Plate and garnish with basil leaves. Enjoy!

 

*Some notes about cooking pasta:

– Never add oil to the pot of water or you’ll get sticky pasta.  Add oil after the pasta cooks to keep it from sticking together.

-Always salt the water.

-Reserve pasta water and add to your sauce to allow the sauce to easily mix and stick to the pasta.

Umbrian Lentil Salad

Hi there!

It’s been awhile since I posted something, but I was feeling inspired by another lentil salad I made today.  I say another because my last post was basically the same recipe, only this one uses a different type of lentil and mixed micro greens instead of romaine. It’s so tasty and simple, I got up this morning and was able to make this salad in 30 minutes before I had to get ready for the day. And it should allow me enough leftovers for the next 2-3 days. So that being said, I highly recommend this recipe to anyone looking for something easy, healthy, and quick to prepare.

Ingredients

For the lentils:

-1 cup lentils

-3 cups water

-1 pinch sea salt

-1 bay leaf

For the Veggies:

-1/2 red onion, small diced

-1 carrot, small diced

-salt, pepper

-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

-optional: chopped parsley and basil

For the Salad:

-extra virgin olive oil

-micro greens, or your favorite greens

-feta cheese

-avocado, sliced

Instructions

  1. Search lentils for any small rocks and remove. Add lentils to a medium pot with the water, a pinch of salt and a bay leaf.  Bring to a rapid boil, then turn the heat to simmer and cook covered with a lid for 25 minutes. *Note: add more water to the pot throughout the cooking process if you notice the lentils have absorbed most of the water.
  2. Once the lentils have cooked for about 15 minutes, add olive oil to a heated pan.  When the oil is hot, add the carrots and onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes or until soft.  Add the chopped herbs and mix in.
  3. When the lentils are done, strain them if there’s excess water.  Remove and discard the bay leaf. Add the cooked vegetables to the pot of lentils and mix together. Allow the lentils to cool, then pour over a bowl of greens, drizzle with olive oil, add feta, avocado and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Green Lentil Salad

Who doesn’t like an easy, mindless recipe?  That’s what this lentil salad recipe basically is, plus, it makes great leftovers, is super healthy and tastes delicious!  I think it’s perfect for this season when the weather is warmer since our bodies are looking to be nourished with more cooling foods.

It’s best to prepare your lentils within a couple months of buying them as it’ll make cooking them simpler.  Know that it is best not to add salt or any acidic ingredients to the lentils until the last 10-15 minutes of cooking, as this will result in crunchy lentils even though they’re cooked.  Also, there are different types of lentils, therefore, different cooking methods required, so this recipe specifically calls for green lentils.

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Ingredients

-1 cup green lentils

-2 cups chicken broth (or water)

-1/2 yellow onion, chopped

-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

-1 bay leaf

-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

-1 avocado, cubed

-2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

-1 tablespoon pesto

-1/2 lemon

-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 tablespoon

-Splash of red wine vinegar

-salt and pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Rinse lentils in a mesh strainer making sure to check for pebbles (remove pebbles if you find them).  Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pot.  Once hot, add the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 30 seconds or until softened and aromatic.
  2. Add the lentils and bay leaf to the pot with broth or water.  Turn heat up to medium-high.  Once at a gentle boil, turn heat down and simmer for 45 minutes. Add salt to the pot the last 10 minutes of cooking.  Remove from the heat and keep covered for at least 10 minutes so lentils can soak up the rest of the water.
  3. While the lentils finish cooking, make the dressing by mixing together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small cup or bowl.
  4. To a large bowl, add the chopped lettuce, lentils, feta, avocado, pesto, and the dressing.  Option to serve with a side of toasted pita bread.  Enjoy!

Veggie Coconut Curry

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I crave coconut curry all the time and luckily for me, I have a restaurant just down the street that can satisfy my craving.  But that was before I realized how easy coconut curry is to make.  I pretty much thought about all the vegetables that would taste good smothered in coconut milk (so like, everything) and added in rice to make one of my favorite meals. The other exciting news?  Follow this recipe and enjoy leftovers for days.

Ingredients

-1 small cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces (or use 1/2 a large cauliflower)

-1 German butterball potato, cut into small pieces

-1/2 green bell pepper, chopped into small pieces

-1/2 red bell pepper, chopped into small pieces

-1 carrot, chopped into 1/4 inch slices

-1/2 onion, diced

-4 cloves garlic, minced

-1 tablespoon ginger, minced

-1 tablespoons coconut oil

-1 tablespoon coconut sugar (optional)

-1 can coconut milk (full-fat)

-2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (found in a can in ethnic/Thai section at store)

-1 tablespoon tamari

-1 tablespoon rice vinegar

-optional: cilantro or basil for garnish

 

Instructions

1. Make a pot of jasmine rice.

2. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add coconut oil.  When the oil is hot, add potato, salt, and pepper and cook for five minutes.  Add about 1/4 cup water and place a lid on the pan to steam.  Add more oil if necessary. When the water has evaporated, add more water and allow to steam.  Add cauliflower. Continue to add water and steam until potatoes are slightly tender.

3. Add carrots to the pan and add more salt and pepper. Add more oil if necessary.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes until slightly softened and add the peppers, onions, garlic, and ginger. Add more salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until you can pierce the peppers with a fork.

4. Add the red Thai curry paste to the pan and mix it in with the vegetables. Cook for another 2 minutes.  Pour in the coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, and sprinkle coconut sugar. Stir to combine over medium heat.  Maintain a gentle simmer (reducing heat if need be) and cook long enough until everything is tender to your liking, about 5-10 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and stir in tamari and rice vinegar.  Serve over rice and add fresh herbs for garnish.

 

3 Ways to Get More Nutrients From Your Smoothies- recipe included!

Morning rituals are important, and for me, making smoothies is my thing.  Not only are smoothies convenient, but they contain tons of nutrients, depending on what ingredients you use.  Moreover, it’s easier for our bodies to digest foods that are in a more broken down form (which is why it’s important to chew your food).  When you blend your food, the cell walls of the food is broken down to a point where you can extract more nutrients and allow the body to absorb more of these nutrients. While juicing your food has become very popular, juices can have high sugar content and do not contain the pulp. With smoothies, the entire fruit or vegetable is blended in, which I like because you get more fiber and antioxidants from the pulp.  Other reasons to blend are that it allows for slower sugar absorption, a blender is easier to clean that a juicer, and overall I feel like you can do so much more with a blender than a juicer.  That being said, you can absolutely switch it up between juices and smoothies; both have their benefits.  Whenever possible, make sure to use organic produce, although you can get away with buying these “Clean 15” non-organic.

Leafy Greens

I put all types of things in my blender.  Spinach, romaine, and kale are a few of my favorite leafy greens to use because they don’t really stand out in the smoothie. Who wants to feel like they’re drinking spinach?  Ick, not even me.  Unfortunately, I’ve found out from my clients that not all blenders can successfully blend leafy greens.  Experiment with your blender at home.  At least with my Vitamix, there does seem to be an order in which you should put ingredients in your blender.  Start with your base liquid (I use purified water, hemp milk, coconut milk, or unsweetened almond milk), then put in the leafy greens, followed by fruit and lastly ice or frozen goods.  If I’m making two servings of smoothie, I generally put in one big handful of each type of leafy green.

Citrus Peels

Lemon has always been a staple of my smoothies, but recently I experimented by including the lemon peel.  The peel actually contains 5-10 times more nutrients than lemon juice and adds an extra punch to the drink. For example, one tablespoon of lemon peel contains double the amount of vitamin C and triple the amount of fiber than one wedge of lemon without the peel, according to the USDA database (Reboot With Joe). Once I experienced a smoothie with lemon peel, I started adding peels from other types of citrus (blood oranges and oranges, to be specific).  I highly recommend!  I don’t use the entire peel, maybe just a quarter from each type of citrus.  Upon further research, I’ve also learned the peels contain an antioxidant called Naringin that’s powerful in fighting cancer.

Brown Bananas

Ripened bananas have higher levels of antioxidants and cancer-fighting properties.  I’ve never been a fan of eating brown bananas since they’re a little softer than a yellow banana, but in a smoothie, the taste and texture are not distinguishable.  If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, you actually should eat your bananas while the peel is still green, but if you aren’t diabetic, then “the more dark patches a banana has, the higher its immunity enhancement quality will be” (One Green Planet).

 

Morning Citrus Smoothie

-1.5 cups purified water, unsweetened almond milk, or hemp milk

-1 handful spinach

-1/2 organic green apple

-1/2 organic blood orange (leave peel on)

-1/2 organic lemon (leave peel on)

*If you don’t have organic citrus, make sure you wash the peel before adding it to your smoothie.

-1 ripened banana

-1 scoop unflavored protein powder (optional)

 

  1.  Add ingredients to your blender in the order listed above, making sure to blend gradually unless you know your blender can handle everything at once.  Add more liquid if the smoothie is too thick.
  2. Pour and drink immediately.  Enjoy!

 

 

Nourishing Rice Bowl

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Grains, protein, and veggies all in one dish.  Serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Ingredients

-1 cup sushi rice, cooked

-1 piece salmon

-2 eggs, scrambled

-1/2 cucumber

-1 head of broccoli

-green onions with white bottoms and green tops sliced thinly and separated

-sesame seeds

-2 tablespoons tamari

-1 tablespoon honey

-1 tablespoon olive oil, coconut oil, or toasted sesame oil

-1 teaspoon garlic powder

-salt, pepper

*Note- I typically eyeball ingredients, so measurements in instructions might be a little off.

 

Instructions

  1. Set oven to 400 degrees F.  Place salmon in a zip lock bag.  In a small bowl, combine and whisk together tamari, honey, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Pour the sauce into the bag with the fish and let the salmon marinate for at 10 minutes.  Save any remaining sauce.
  2. Toss broccoli and the whites of the onions in a large bowl with remaining sauce.  Add salt and pepper, plus some extra olive oil if necessary so that broccoli is evenly coated.
  3. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.  Place the salmon and vegetables on the baking sheet and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon.
  4. Slice cucumbers.  In a small skillet, scramble the eggs.  Remove eggs and put in a serving dish along with some sushi rice and the cucumbers.  Add the salmon and broccoli when they’ve finished cooking.  Sprinkle with the green tops of the onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Serving Up Sunchokes Two Ways

It’s always a treat to come across an unrecognizable fruit or vegetable at the farmers market.  The last time I was out I spotted these small, ginger-like nubs I had never seen. Those little nubs turned out to be sunchokes, which are also called Jerusalem Artichokes. I’m not sure how common sunchokes are, but I highly recommend experimenting with them if you can find them.

If I had to describe a sunchoke, I can easily say it’s like a cross between an artichoke and a potato, but it looks a lot more like ginger as I mentioned before. Here is a photo:

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These babies are flavorful and hearty, and a vegetable I honestly think most people would enjoy, even skeptics and picky eaters.  Sunchokes can be served as a side dish to a meal, but I enjoyed them in these two recipes:

 

Sunchoke and Roasted Garlic Soup

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Ingredients

-1 lb sunchokes, scrubbed, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

-1 russet potato, medium

-1 yellow onion, sliced

-6 cloves garlic, peeled

-1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (adjust if you prefer more mild)

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-6 cups chicken broth or water (use bouillon cube for flavoring if using water)

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toast garlic cloves in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large pot.  When hot, add the sunchokes, potato, onion, crushed red pepper flakes,  nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Saute about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables are lightly browned and softened. Add the garlic.
  3. Add the water or broth, more salt, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes minimum.  I prefer to keep it cooking for a few hours for an extra flavorful soup.
  4. Process the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender either until smooth or almost smooth, depending on whether you like some chunks of veggies.  Check for seasoning and serve.

 

 

Broccoli di Ciccio and Warm Sunchoke Salad

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Ingredients

-1/4 lb sunchokes, scrubbed, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

-Three handfuls of broccoli di Ciccio

– Pomegranate seeds

-Honey goat cheese (or other favorite goat cheese)

-Handful of almonds, chopped

-Lemon slice

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

-salt and pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix broccoli di Ciccio in a large salad bowl with the seeds, almonds, cheese, lemon, remaining olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss and put in the fridge covered.
  2. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. In a bowl, mix sunchokes with about 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Remove salad from the fridge and combine with the sunchokes. Serve.

Delicata Squash and Black Bean Tacos

These tacos are so delicious I nearly forgot to snap a photo for this post because I was too focused on eating them. Rarely do I have vegetarian tacos, but seeing how my New Years resolution was to do more meatless meals, I decided to try something different with one of my favorite winter vegetables, delicata squash. I roasted the squash and paired it with black beans, pickled shallots, cilantro, lettuce, pomegranate seeds and sour cream with spices. The recipe can be made vegan simply by removing the sour cream.  So delicious and quick to make!

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Ingredients

(enough for 1 really hungry person, or 2 moderately hungry people)

-1 delicata squash

-1 small head of lettuce, chopped

-cilantro, chopped

-pomegranate seeds

-1 shallot, sliced

-1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

-organic corn tortillas

-sour cream

-cumin

-chili powder

-garlic powder

-chipotle seasoning

-1/4 apple cider vinegar

-1 tbs sugar

-extra virgin olive oil

-salt

-pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Peel squash and cut it into 1/4 inch rounds.  Remove seeds, cut rounds into halves and place in a bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Place on a lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, combine shallots with vinegar, sugar, and salt for a quick pickling.  Stir every few minutes while the squash cooks.  In a separate small bowl, combine sour cream with chipotle seasoning.
  3. Heat drained black beans in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir every few minutes until hot.
  4. Heat tortillas on the stovetop by placing them directly on each open burner and toasting over medium heat.  Flip as each side starts to brown.
  5. When squash is done, put tacos together by filling them with sour cream, squash, drained shallots, beans, lettuce, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds.

 

Let me know what you think!

 

Making Cooking An Enjoyable Experience

As a self-taught chef, it took me years to build confidence in the kitchen and to view cooking as something other than stressful.  I had to do a lot of experimenting, read cookbooks, watched Youtube videos, and learned from friends, but with time I found ways to make cooking a pleasurable experience.  I’m no Martha Stewart, but I’ve mastered various cooking techniques and cleaning methods, and finally figured out a way to successfully cut a goddamn onion without crying. Huzzah!

Kitchen preparation is equally as important as the cooking process.  When you eat, you absorb not only the nutrients but also the energy of the food. Macrobiotics, a dietary philosophy centered around health status, location, age, gender, etc., follows the premise that every action on the food affects the quality and nutritional value of the meal.  Every single slice or chop, the speed of the stirring, the quality of the food, the mood the cook is in, as well as the cleanliness and order of the kitchen, is consumed with the food.  Ever heard the expression “Cook with love?”  Aim for that.  Cook with love, and you’ll taste the love.

Keep a Clean Workspace

I want you to imagine two different scenarios.  In the first one, you walk into your kitchen about to cook and everything is a mess.  Crumbs and wrappers litter your counter and dirty dishes pile high in the sink.  In the second scenario, you walk into your clean, clutter-free kitchen about to prepare a meal.  In which situation do you imagine you’d be more excited or inclined to cook?

More than likely, you chose scenario two. Having a tidy workspace always makes the task at hand more inviting.  According to the Japanese, both cleaning and cooking should be a meditation.  Messy spaces can affect your happiness and heighten stress levels, while clean ones have the opposite impact.  I’ve found that I am so much more in the mood to cook when I have the space to work.  Of course, for some, cleaning can be a drag to do after a meal, so this brings me to my next tip.

                                    Clean As You Go

Julia Child says, “In professional kitchens most chefs enforce the ‘clean as you go’ rule, which prevents unsightly messes from building to unmanageable levels and removes clutter, which can distract even the most efficient cooks as they chop, grill, and plate through the evening.” (source: PBS.org)

Cleaning as you go may sound like a lot of effort, but it’s not. I swear, adopting this kitchen habit has totally improved the entire cooking experience.  Not only does it keep counters clutter-free throughout food prep, but there’s much less mess to clean up after the meal is over. For each meal I cook, I now put a paper garbage bag, compost bag or bowl on the counter as my designated scraps bin (I highly recommend composting to reduce your carbon footprint).  I work on a cutting board and prep each item one at a time, pouring scraps into the compost bag as I go. Each prepped food goes into a bowl to keep things separate.  It takes hardly any effort at all. Look how tidy everything looks in this photo below:

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Have Fun With It

If you aren’t having fun yet, then pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some music, and get your family or friends to help out.  If I find a recipe online, I like to print it out and read through all the directions before I start so that I know exactly what to expect.  I’ve neglected to read through the whole recipe only to find that I wasn’t prepared for some of the later steps.  This would completely halt the cooking process or throw the timing off. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices and seasoning and always choose fresh, quality products.  The fresher and more seasonal your ingredients, the more delicious and nutritious your food will be.

Good luck and happy cooking!