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.

 

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.

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.

 

Nourishing Beef Bone Broth

You can roll your eyes at the bone broth trend all you want, but the truth is, there’s a reason bone broth restaurants are popping up in major cities and making headlines. While I enjoy bone broth, it feels silly paying $5 for a cup of straight broth, and truth told, with this recipe I can make it better myself at home (and it’s not hard!).

Why drink bone broth?

Bone broth is essentially an anti-aging tonic.  It’s full of pure nutrients and minerals straight from the bones of animals, like chickens, beef, pork, turkey, or lamb, simmered for hours with water and roasted vegetables.  Unlike regular broth which is made with just the bones of animals, bone broth usually calls for some meat on the bones during the cooking process. Grandmothers have been making it for ages, swearing that its healing properties aid the body’s immune system and gut, alleviate inflammation and joint pain, and make skin soft and hair shiny. It makes perfect sense considering bone broth is rich in many important nutrients including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, protein, collagen, gelatin and glycine.  Drink it regularly to aid your body in good health!

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Making bone broth is easy enough. It’s recommended to use a mix of bones with and without meat, and choose bones from organically-raised animals only.  You don’t want to extract any potentially harmful additives that could’ve been given to the animals. Same goes for the rest of the ingredients in the broth.  This recipe is for beef bone broth, but you’d essentially do the same thing with this recipe as you’d do if you were using bones from a different animal.  If you so desire, which I highly recommend, you can add your favorite herbs or spices to the broth too to make it more flavorful.

Ingredients

-4 bones beef bones (aim for a mix of bones, some with a little meat and some without)

-1 yellow onion, quartered

-1 leek, chopped

-2 medium carrots, chopped

-2 celery stocks, chopped

-4 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise

-2 bay leaves

-2 tablespoons peppercorns

-1 tablespoon pink Himalayan sea salt or regular sea salt

-1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

 

Instructions

1- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place chopped onion, leek, carrots, celery and garlic into a roasting pan along with the beef bones.  Roast for 15 minutes, take out and toss the veggies, then roast for another 15 minutes. Turn oven off.

2- Fill a large stockpot with about 12 cups of water (preferably filtered) and add the bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, apple cider vinegar, and roasted vegetables and bones with any juices and scrapings from the roasting pan.  Add more water to the pot if the water doesn’t cover the bones all the way. Optional- add herbs or spices.  I added a mix of Italian herbs.

3- Cover the pot and bring to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, and cook with the lid ajar slightly. Simmer for at least eight hours and up to 24 hours, occasionally skimming the foam and excess fat from the top with a spoon or lettuce leaf, if you have one. The longer you let the broth sit, the more flavorful it will be.

*Note- do not leave the house with the stove on or leave it on overnight while you sleep. You can always continue to simmer it the next day.

4- Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool slightly.  Discard the bones and vegetables by straining the broth with a fine-mesh sieve into a large container. I then transferred the broth to a glass mason jar and made sure to skim the rest of the fat off the top.

Store the broth in the fridge for up to five days and up to six months in the freezer.

Cheers to good health!

 

 

 

 

 

Three Healthy Meals and One Dessert To Impress Your Guests This Holiday

It’s important to eat with the seasons, and with the cold winter months rolling in, it’s time to start eating warmer, more grounding foods. Below are four simple holiday recipes (also budget-friendly!) that should keep meal prep and cook times to a minimum so that you can fully enjoy your holiday season with friends and family. These dishes could either be served together as one delicious four course meal, or perhaps separately before the big Thanksgiving or holiday meal. I would serve the salad first, then serve the soup and vegetable galette together. Obviously save the dessert for last… or don’t!

Winter Salad

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-1 bag fresh spinach

-1 container of pomegranate arils

-1-2 handfuls of dried cranberries

-chopped pecans

-1 pear, diced

-feta cheese

-balsamic

1. Wash the spinach, pat dry and put into large salad bowl.

2. Add the pomegranate arils, cranberries, chopped nuts, pear and feta cheese. I like to add the juice from the pomegranate container.

3. Personally I find that the salad doesn’t need much dressing if you add juice from the pomegranate arils, but balsamic would be a good choice too. Serve and enjoy!

original recipe: autumn chopped salad

Roasted Carrot Soup

-6 organic carrots
-1 potato
-1 yellow onion
-4 cloves garlic
-chicken stock (I used veggie stock or you can just use water. You can also add a bullion cube or Italian seasoning for flavor)
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
   1. Heat oven to 425 F. Peel the carrots and cut them into bite-size chunks. Cut the potato and onion into smaller chunks. Place the carrots, potato, onion and garlic in a baking dish with olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and roast for 10-15 minutes, until it starts to smell delicious.
    2. Remove dish and place the roasted veggies in a pot. Fill the pot with the chicken stock until it just covers the vegetables. Throw in a bullion cube if desired. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to a simmer and cover with a lid for an hour.
    3. Place contents of pot in a blender and blend until it’s a smooth soup. Enjoy!
Vegetable Galette
(serves 2, or serves 4 as appetizer)
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-1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
-2 small, yellow squash cut into thin circles
-3 tablespoons pesto
-1/3 cup ricotta cheese
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
-flour or whole wheat flour (could also use a GF flour, like coconut flour)
   1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
   2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter or on a cutting board. Lay puff pastry sheet out on top of the flour. Use a rolling pin to spread the sheet out a bit.
   3. Spread ricotta over the puff pastry sheet. Then the pesto.
   4. Lay the thinly cut squash circles on top of the ricotta and pesto. Fold up the sides of the puff pastry.
   5. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper the squash.
   6. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
original recipe: The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson
And finally, for dessert…
Black Bean Brownies
(boyfriend approved!)
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-1 15oz. can beans, drained, rinsed well and patted dry
-2 large eggs
-3 tablespoons coconut oil
-3/4 cups cacao powder
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 cup raw sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking power
-optional: chocolate chips or crushed nuts
   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
   2. Lightly grease a baking dish (8×8 works)
   3. Add beans to a food processor and puree. Then add the remaining ingredients, except the optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   4. If the batter seems too thick, then add a little water and pulse again. The batter should not be too runny.
   5. Distribute the batter into the greased dish and add optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Your brownies are ready to serve!  I poured a little unsweetened almond milk over mine to give them a little moisture. Enjoy!
original recipe: black bean brownies

Reasons You Should Cook With This Cancer-Fighting, Pain-Reducing, Immune-Boosting Spice (plus recipe!)

Spices should not be neglected from your cooking, because most spices have health benefits and add amazing flavor or color to foods.  Today I want to talk about the brightly-colored spice, turmeric, which you may have tried before, especially if you’ve eaten Indian food.  Turmeric is argued to be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence, and speaking from personal experience, holy shit! This stuff works.

I started taking turmeric, or curcumin (the main active ingredient in turmeric), in supplement form last year to treat chronic wrist and hip pain. Curcumin fights inflammation and contains lots of cancer-fighting antioxidants.  Within days my pain dissipated.  Here are some other uses for the spice:

Arthritis, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach pain, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, gall bladder disorders, headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, menstrual cramps, depression, Alzheimer’s, water retention, worms, kidney problems, and cancer.

Sound too good to be true?  There’s a reason this spice has been used to treat illnesses for centuries. It works! Cooking with turmeric alone may not be a high enough dosage to make a huge impact with helping any of the above issues, but you can also find turmeric in supplement form to get the full effects.

Turmeric goes very well with black pepper, especially because the black pepper enhances the effects of the curcumin. Turmeric also goes great with other spices like cumin, coriander, curry, etc.

Crispy Turmeric Tofu Tacos

Ingredients:

For the tofu…

-extra firm tofu, drained, cut into cubes (to drain, place tofu block in a colander over a bowl and place a plate with something heavy on top of the tofu for anywhere from 20 minutes- hour).

-spices: turmeric, black pepper, salt, cumin, any additional favorite spices  *turmeric stains bright yellow, so clean immediately if you spill!*

-EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

Extras for the tacos…

-favorite beans, soaked, rinsed and cooked

-taco shells

-avocado

-raw red onion, diced

-fresh corn off the cob

-optional: cheese

Instructions:

1. Turn over to 400 degrees F.

2. After tofu has drained and is cut into cubes, toss the cubes in a bowl. Add spices (I eyeball it out, but probably about 1/4 teaspoon of each spice) and oil and coat evenly.

3. Place tofu on lined baking sheet.  Put in the oven on the bottom rack for five minutes. Flip tofu and place in oven for another five minutes, then repeat once more for a total of 15 minute cook time.

4. Put tacos together- cooked beans, raw onion, corn, tofu, and avocado on shells. Serve up and enjoy!

If you have leftover tofu, I like to do another easy dish of sushi rice, veggies, and tofu.

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For the original crispy tofu recipe, sans tacos, click here.

Other Sources: Whole Foods

Look to Your Farmacy

It’s true, the majority of my money goes toward food.  Delicious, organic, local food.  And you know what?  I’m totally ok with it. Understandably, not everyone wants to spend the money, because organic can be expensive.  Just remember, the more processed crap, toxins, and sugar we consume today, the more doctor visits and money spent on pharmaceutical drugs in the future.  That’s why I look at eating well as an long-term investment in my health, because food is medicine.Let your food be your medicine(1)

Currently, the average American eats too much and spends too little on food.  It can cost a lot to eat organic, but I have some tips on how to best spend your money when buying organic.  Organic food is more expensive because it’s a more time and labor-intensive form of farming. If you’re someone who doesn’t eat organic currently, start by switching at least one thing in your diet to organic, because baby steps are better that no steps. If you’re someone who currently doesn’t eat vegetables or fruits, then maybe starting with canned or frozen vegetables or fruit is the place for you to start.  You don’t need to eat organic all the time to reduce chemical exposure.  Starting a garden, if you have the space, is also a cost-effective way to eat right.

What does it mean to eat organic anyway?  Organic refers to the procedure in which foods are grown, raised, or produced based on government-defined standards.  Originally, all our food was “organic.”  There were no herbicides, pesticides, irradiation, or chemical fertilizers. Rather, all our food was naturally raised, unrefined, unprocessed, and whole. Processing food and chemical farming has only been around since World War II, and since then, our soil has been depleted of important minerals and nutrients that we need.
Because not all of us can or want to buy everything organic, I’ve supplied a list prioritizing which fruits and vegetables to buy organic.  Please refer to the list below for most and least contaminated foods, provided by The Environmental Working Group.image

12 Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables:

Apples

Celery

Cherry tomatoes

Cucumbers

Grapes

Hot peppers

Nectarines (Imported)

Peaches

Potatoes

Spinach

Strawberries

Sweet bell peppers

Kale / Collard Greens

Snap peas

15 Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables

Asparagus

Avocados

Cabbage

Cantaloupe

Sweet corn

Eggplant

Grapefruit

Kiwi

Mangos

Cauliflower

Onions

Papayas

Pineapples

Sweet peas (frozen)

Sweet potatoes

The two foods that I highly recommend buying organic are strawberries and chicken.  The U.S. uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides a year, and only .01% of those pesticides actually reach bugs.  Strawberries, even after washing, retain the most of amount of pesticides.  Pesticides cause issues like skin, eye, and lung irritation, hormone disruption, cancer, brain and nervous system toxicity, blood disorders, nerve disorders, birth defects, and reproduction effects.  If you have children, just remember that kids are four times more sensitive to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults (Source: US Environmental Protection Agency).

Vintage arsenic poison bottle on antique shelfThe reason I disapprove so strongly of commercial chicken is that commercial chickens contain arsenic, which is actually approved and regulated by the government.  Arsenic is known to cause cancer, as well as a number of other health issues.

Trust me, you’ll be able to tell the difference in color and taste between organic and commercially-grown produce. Washington State University actually proved through lab taste tests that organic tastes better.  There are more reasons to shop organic though.  By purchasing organic foods, you’re reducing your carbon footprint and helping out local farmers. Our health starts not with food but with our soil and water. Organic farming respects our ecosystem, while conventional farming leaks pesticides into our soil and our water, which in turn makes people sick. Additionally, organic farms are often smaller and independently owned and operated, so it’s great to help out the little guys.  Buying organic saves energy too, since more energy is used to produce synthetic fertilizers for commercially-grown crops.

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If you’re interested in going organic, but don’t know how or where to start, find your nearest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) so your can get your food straight from your local farmer.  If you have questions, feel free to ask.  Drop me a line.