Pear Ginger Smoothie

There are times in the morning when I’m not so hungry.  But I know that come 10am, I will be starving if I don’t have a little something first thing (and coffee doesn’t count!) A smoothie is perfect and I came across on in Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Foods book a few weeks back.

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Sweet Potato Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

It’s hard to believe that the first day of October is upon us… It seems like it’s only June, with the whole summer in front of us, but I have a feeling the holidays will be here before we know it.  With the prediction of 50 inches of snow in the Mid-Atlantic area this Winter, I look forward to making more soups and stews, that are hearty and filling.  There’s something about a nice, filling soup that warms the soul.

I came across this one on the Purely Elizabeth blog (if you haven’t tried her boxed cookie and pancakes mixes, I highly recommend – no hydrogenated oils, no GMO, no refined sugars) while perusing Facebook one afternoon.  It’s thick, like a stew, full of flavor and perfect for a Meatless Monday meal! (It also reheats nicely)

Sweet Potato Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • salt to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Toss sweet potatoes with 1 tbsp of olive oil and roast for 25 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, sauté the ginger, onion, garlic in oil until softened.
  3. Add all the other ingredients, simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or so.
  4. Add roasted sweet potatoes and continue to simmer for 10- 15 minutes.
  5. Use an immersion blender (or food processor) to blend into smooth or desired consistency.
  6. Enjoy!

Eat your Greens!

Sometimes all it takes it a little change to freshen up your eating.  Below is everything you’ve wanted to know about greens — nutritional value, why it’s good for you and how it helps the body.  Next time, instead of grabbing a head of romaine lettuce for a salad, try one of the many options listed below… your body will thank you!

 

Wheat Berries with Kale and Charred Onion

This weekend marked the unofficial end to the Summer; the pools are closed and kids are headed back to school.  While the warm weather in Washington still feels as if we’re smack in the middle of summer, we will slowly ease into Fall, as the leaves change colors and the sweaters are put back into the clothes rotation.


I made this dish this Summer and found it to be perfect to stand on it’s own as a light supper.  It’s would also be nice as a side dish and great for this time of year when kale is still available.  The wheat berry is a whole grain and an excellent source of dietary fiber. Since it isn’t as highly processed as wheat, with the germ and grass still intact, the nutrients are left untouched and provide folic acid, protein, B-complex vitamins and vitamin E. The dark green leafy kale is high in Vitamin A, making this dish full of nutrients!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups wheat berries
  • 2 medium onions, halved, divided
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces (about 8 packed cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ingredient info:

    Wheat berries, also called hard wheat, are available at most natural foods stores.  I purchased mine from Whole Foods, but you can also order them online if they aren’t available in your area.

Preparation

  • Combine wheat berries, 1 onion half, thyme sprigs, and 1 Tbsp. salt in a large saucepan; add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until wheat berries are just tender but still firm to the bite, about 35 minutes. Drain; discard onion and thyme. Place wheat berries in a large bowl; let cool.
  • Cut remaining 3 onion halves crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are charred in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with wheat berries. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to same skillet. Working in 3 batches, add kale and cook, tossing occasionally, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and adding oil as needed between batches, until charred in spots, about 1 minute per batch. Add to bowl. Drizzle with lemon juice and any remaining oil; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    (Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

Lovely Shortbread

While in London, I received the news that my dear friend had her twins, one boy and one girl.  Always gorgeous, the pregnancy gave her a glow and one couldn’t tell from behind that she was carrying babies.  She looked great each and every time I saw her.  Upon my return, I made plans to see her and meet the tiny twins.

I asked for suggestions on what to take and received several great ideas: baked chicken, lasagna, something her husband enjoys, several types of casseroles and shortbread cookies.  I like to cook.  As many of you know, I try all sorts of recipes from vegan, to gluten-free, to raw, to hearty fare and everything in between… but I love to bake.  Especially for others.  I enjoy taking the time to accurately measure out the ingredients and, for me, the time spent in the kitchen is meditative and peaceful.  I enjoy it so much, that I recently created an iTunes playlist called “Cooking in the Kitchen” full of songs with artists such as Ray LaMontagne, Coldplay and Beyoncé.

Having just returned from London where I purchased tea as gifts, what better treat than shortbread cookies to go with it? I found a recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, and went to work.  Her recipe called for melted chocolate drizzled over the final product, which I opted not to do for mine, but it’s a fairly simple step if you opt to include.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (only if you want to drizzle over at the end)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. (Don’t trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch.) Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it’s completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.

Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.

I didn’t have the cookie cutter size or shape called for in the recipe, so I improvised with a biscuit cutter, which worked just fine.  In my hurried state of getting out the door with fresh shortbread, I didn’t take a photo of the finished product either, but they turned out buttery and delicious and went perfectly with tea! Also a great idea for a girly catch up with friends or a housewarming gift.

Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Queen

In London, I ate.  I’m thankful that we did a lot of walking, because I survived on the beige diet for two weeks (read: pasta, bread and sugar) and dessert every night.  With foods that my body isn’t used to eating on the regular, it was nice to come home and cook healthy, fresh foods.

Originally slated to land on Thursday night, the airline told us that the plane was having mechanical issues, therefore the flight was canceled.  We were booked on the next available flight, which was 5pm the next day.  Guess what? Another night of the beige diet! I told myself that once I was back, I was going to go back to eating clean (non beige) foods, but for the meantime, I enjoyed the pasta. To be clear, I am a believer in moderation — I enjoy desserts, bread and pasta, but I blew the doors off of moderation while in London and it was time to get back to a routine.

First meal was Sunday dinner.

Deciding to go light with a salad, I made a go-to recipe that is easy, hands off and filling.  It’s also perfect for most guests, as it’s vegan, as well as gluten and dairy free.  They are called Ganesha’s Sweet Potatoes and Italian-Style Sweet Potatoes from Kimberly Snyder’s book, The Beauty Detox.  They taste decadent, but they are clean eating at it’s best and full of good nutrients. You’ll thank me! Below are two different recipes, both divine, for sweet potatoes.

Recipe #1:

  • 2 pound sweet potatoes cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 Tbs. coconut oil
  • 1 Tbs. curry
  • 1/2 turmeric
  • 1 tsp. Celtic or Himalayan sea salt

Recipe #2:

  • 2 pound sweet potatoes cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 Tbs. grapeseed oil
  • 1 Tbs. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbs. dried rosemary
  • Cayenne pepper (to taste, optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. Celtic or Himalayan sea salt

Directions (the same for both recipes):

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Toss the potatoes with the coconut oil, curry, turmeric and sea salt.  Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, or until cooked through well and crispy on outside.

{side note: If you have a convection oven, you can use that as well.  I bake them at 400 for 45 minutes, and they’re delicious.}

Pickled Radishes

While at the Farmer’s Market one Sunday, I heard a little girl say to her mother “Can we get some radishes? I love radishes.”  In an age where most children want candy and sweets, hearing the child ask for vegetables made me smile.  Like the little girl, I too like radishes and picked up two different types that morning — one bunch red and one bunch white.

After reading a piece on pickled radishes, I decided to wash these off, slice them into thin slivers and pack into a canning jar.  What started as an interesting read turned into an easy and healthy snack.  The radishes are ready in approximately 24-hours and take only a few minutes to prepare.

They are great to have in the fridge for a quick snack or added to a salad.  If you like radishes, you’ll enjoy these spicy, peppery, tangy crunchy treats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you’ll need:

1 one pint jar

1 bunch or about 1-pound
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar or honey (I used honey)
1/2 teaspoon crushed peppercorns
1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled
optional: 1 chile pepper, split lengthwise

1. If using long radishes, peel them. Trim off the leaves and roots and slice.

2. In a saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar/honey to a boil until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat and add the peppercorns, garlic and chile, if using.

3. Pack the radishes in a clean pint-sized jar, and pour the hot liquid over them, adding the garlic and chile into the jar as well.

4. Cover with the lid and let the jar cool to room temperature, before sticking in the refrigerator.

The radishes will be ready to eat after 24 hours. The liquid will turn a nice rosy color (see below) and the garlic and chile flavors will get stronger. The radishes can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

A Cup of Chocolate Cake

Sometimes a girl (or guy) just needs a little chocolate.

As one who loves to bake, I enjoy being in the kitchen and whipping up something sweet, sometimes spending hours baking, cooking, creating.  But, there are many who don’t enjoy the process but love the end result.  If that is you, this is a recipe right up your alley!

From start to finish, it takes 5 minutes.  That’s it.  You need a coffee mug, ingredients, a microwave and you’re set… ready to bake.  Does it get easier?

5-minute Mug Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 3 T milk
  • 3 T neutral oil (I used vegetable)
  • 3 T flour
  • 4 T sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 3 T semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Add wet ingredients, including the egg, to the mug and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients and mix.  Add chocolate chips and the vanilla extract.  Mix.

Put the mug into your microwave and cook for 2-minutes.  The cake will rise up over the top of the mug, but won’t spill over.  Just in case, I put the mug on a small plate before putting into the microwave.

Remove the mug from the microwave and let it cool for a few minutes before turning it out onto a plate.  You could also eat right from the mug, but let it cool down a bit, as the chocolate chips are ooey gooey and still hot.

The recipe says it’s meant for one, but even with my sweet tooth, I couldn’t finish it all myself — It’s that rich and delectable.  It would also be perfect as the bottom layer of an ice cream sundae.

*Recipe adapted from Lucky Peach

Blue Bottle in San Fran

I recently took a trip to San Francisco, a city I really enjoy.  It was only the second time I’d ever been, so I traced almost the same route as I did the first time I set foot in the chic, eco-friendly city, with only one exception.

To start from the beginning, the first time I visited the city, I saw it solo.  Plotting out each destination on the Cal train from San Jose, I was ready.  First stop? Pier 39 to see the sea lions and grab some soup, piping hot and served in a sour dough bread bowl.  Then it was on to Fisherman’s Wharf,  Ghirardelli Square and the Buena Vista (Which, unbeknownst to me is the birthplace of Irish Coffee. I wanted to visit because it was the opening scene to one of my favorite movies, When a Man Loves A Woman). Then, onto Lombard Street “the crookedest street” and a ride on the trolley cars into Chinatown.  Camera snapping and feet pounding, I saw the majority of San Francisco in a few hours.  And the second time was almost the same, but this time I had my mom in tow and determination to track down Blue Bottle Coffee.

The name kept popping up; Bon Appetit, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Eater… the final decision-making straw was the airline branded magazine found in the seat pocket on my flight to California.  That was it.  We were in search of Blue Bottle Coffee.

Little did I know, the company was celebrating its 10th year in business, opening it’s doors in 2002.  What makes this different from, say, a Starbucks is that there are no drink sizes.  Strictly a one size fits all approach.  Want a double espresso? You’ll have to order two.  No fancy drinks, no extra, triple, skim anything. The concept is European; slow coffee. The mantra of its owner: “I will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roster to my customers, so that they may enjoy their coffee at its peak of flavor. I will only use the finest organic, pesticide-free and shade grown beans.”  The menu consists of the following: Cafe Latte, Cappuccino, Espresso, Macchiato, Cafe Mocha, Hot Chocolate, Cafe au Lait and Drip coffee.  No flavors, no artificial sugar waiting at the end of the bar and no fuss.  Simple, deliciously brewed coffee.

Previously, the only outpost on the East Coast was it’s Brooklyn shop but as of 2012, the company opened a store in Rockefeller Center, underground, on the concourse level and another one in Chelsea. Aside from standalone stores, the coffee is served at Gramercy Tavern in New York City and Alice Waters names it amongst her favorite places.

No bitterness and the sweet organic milk used in my Cappuccino meant I needed less raw sugar to achieve the sweetness I desired. Ten years later, the concept of coffee that was meant to be enjoyed, not gulped, came through in the taste and flavor when I found myself not wanting the liquid deliciousness to run out.  As I stood in line for my final coffee before leaving later that evening, I considered purchasing a bag of roasted beans to bring back to the East Coast.  Putting them back on the shelf, I didn’t buy the beans.   Some things in life are little treasures, and this was one that I looked forward to enjoying the next time business or personal travel brought me back to the city on the Bay.