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!

 

 

 

 

Smoky Bacon Potato Leek Soup

Dear bacon lovers,

I have found your new favorite soup.  This dish is one I will long for all Spring and Summer as I wait for the return of soup season. The combination of seasonal vegetables with the smoky spices and bacon create a heavenly aroma that’s equally as delicious.  I guarantee you’ll be hooked.  Serve to your whole family or dinner guests this holiday season.

Ingredients

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-3 pieces bacon, chopped

-1/2 yellow onion, diced

-1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into medium-size pieces

-1 large leek or two small leeks, tops removed, white parts sliced width-wise

-4 cloves garlic, minced

-2 dried bay leaves

-1-2 teaspoons paprika (I eyeball it)

-1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika (I eyeball it)

-1-2 teaspoons salt and pepper

-1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

-1 teaspoon thyme leaves

-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

-1 tablespoon heavy cream

-chives for garnish (optional)

-croutons or crushed cheesy crackers for garnish (optional)

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I crumbled these on top and they were delicious

Instructions

  1. Heat large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil.  When hot, add onions and bacon, and cook until browned. Add some paprika, smoked paprika, and pepper.

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2. Add the leeks, potato, garlic and thyme.  Sprinkle with more paprika, smoked paprika, pepper, and this time some salt.  Cook five minutes.

 

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3. Pour broth into the pot and add bay leaves.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until  the vegetables are soft.  Remove the bay leaves and let the soup cool for at five minutes.

 

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4. Transfer to a blender (in batches if necessary) and add the cream.  Blend until smooth. Serve in bowls and garnish.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Stay warm this Fall with my new favorite soup!

butternut-squash

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

-1 butternut squash

-1 yellow onion, chopped

-1 small Granny Smith apple, chopped

-1 small Gala apple, chopped

-5 thyme sprigs

-2 tablespoons butter, melted

-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

-1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

-1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

-salt and pepper

-4 cups chicken broth

Instructions:

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  

2.  Place squash in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes so that it’s softened and easier/safer to cut.  Remove both ends of the squash, then cut in half lengthwise.  Peel the tough, outer skin and remove the “guts” from the inside of the squash.  Continue to cut the squash into smaller, bite-size pieces.

3.  Place the squash in a bowl with the melted butter and thyme leaves, then generously salt and pepper.  Place on the lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.  The squash should be tender enough to pierce with a fork at the end of cooking.

4.  When the squash has cooked for 20 minutes, heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and optional sugar (generally I wouldn’t recommend sugar, but since this is a lot of soup, it’s hardly any sugar per serving).  Add the apples, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. 

5.  In batches, add the cooked squash and onion/apple mixture to the blender along with a cup of chicken broth with each batch.  Blend until smooth.  Continue to add the squash, onions, apples and broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with thyme.  Enjoy!

Beat PMS Symptoms Naturally

I’ve received several requests now for a post on PMS and how to naturally deal with unwelcomed period bullshit.  You know, the bloating, the unhealthy cravings, the cramps, the mood swings… It can be a total downer, although I’ve learned to view my period as a cleansing process for the body to make the whole situation a more pleasant experience.  A positive attitude is everything in life, but sometimes you also need a little help to minimize symptoms.  Here are some of my top recommendations for reducing PMS discomfort:

Diet

When I was younger, a friend and I used to have a “fuck you, period!” ritual every month where we’d pig out on burgers, chili cheese fries and milkshakes at a local diner.  Why is it that when we get our periods we often crave the foods that feel good in the moment, but actually make our symptoms worse?

It wasn’t until I replaced the crap for nutritious, wholesome, REAL food that I really noticed a big reduction in my PMS symptoms.  Eating nutritious foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is what the body thrives on, especially during that time of the month.  Fill up on alkalizing foods like leafy green vegetables and fruit, healthy fats high in omega-3s like salmon, nuts or chia seeds, and unprocessed whole grains, like quinoa or rice.  Eating foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium will help reduce cramps, so eat bananas, dark chocolate (the darker the better), and spinach.  If you’re craving meat, eat some red meat (preferably grass-fed organic).  It’ll help restore depleted iron levels. Feeling bloated?  Drink plenty of water, but also eat foods that are natural diuretics (aka, foods that make you pee more).   Parsley, pineapple, lemon, celery, ginger, cabbage, and apple cider vinegar are all examples. I like to start the morning off with my Daily Green Smoothie which is packed full of nutrients and will typically drink warm lemon water with ginger throughout the day.

Light Exercise

While some people feel like being sedentary during their periods, I’ve found that light exercise can be quite beneficial.  Exercise helps reduce stress and when I’m feeling depressed and irritable, exercise makes me feel relaxed.  Try exercises like walking, running, swimming, biking, or some gentle yoga poses like these ones here:

Essential Oils

Aromatherapy  has been used for many thousands of years as a way to lower stress levels, relieve pain, improve mood, and suppress cravings and nausea. Essential oils have even been demonstrated in lab studies to kill flu, E. coli, and cancer cells (source: Women’s Health Magazine, Cancer Tutor).  Different oils initiate different responses in the brain, which in turn, directs your nervous system to say, “relax” or “spring into action.” During or before menstruation, I recommend clary sage, lavender, chamomile, ylang-ylang, grapefruit, jasmine, or cedarwood to ease symptoms and lift your mood.  I personally like to mix a couple drops of oil with some coconut oil and rub it on my stomach if I’m experiencing discomfort.

Cannabis

Finally, more people are publicly acknowledging the wide-ranging medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant.  For period-related struggles, cannabis can be amazing, and a great alternative to pharmaceutical pain medications that may be harsher on the body. Cannabis rich in the compound CBD is gaining popularity due to its ability to greatly (and in most cases relatively instantly) reduce pain and inflammation while lifting your mood.   In fact, Queen Victoria, as well as many other recognizable, historical women, used CBD-rich cannabis in the 19th century to reduce her menstrual cramps (source: Project CBD).  CBD differs from THC-rich cannabis in that CBD-rich cannabis has little to no psychoactive effects or the “high” most people associate with cannabis.  It’s for this reason that strains high in CBD make it a premier choice for many users.

Remember to Breathe

This tip is for everyone, but especially for those women who get anxious, crampy, depressed, or tired during their periods.  So much can be controlled not only by the brain but by the breath.  Start by taking deep, even breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.  If you can, incorporate some of the yoga poses from above.  Focus on your breath and remind yourself that everything will be ok!

 

Have comments, questions or suggestions?  Have additional methods for relieving cramps or PMS symptoms? Leave a message below, or reach me through my website.

Thanks for reading!