Thursday, August 14, 2014

ZUCCHINI "PASTA"


[THE RECIPE]
Serves 2

Necessary Utensils:
Spiral Vegetable Slicer or Vegetable or Julienne Peeler
Cutting board and sharp knife
Colander
Cheese cloth or kitchen towel, optional

1 - 2 tsp. sea salt
4 small - medium zucchini*
1 - 2 T. coconut oil or ghee or use steam method for oil-free**
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
choice of veggies: bok choy [thinly chopped], fennel bulb and fronds [thinly sliced], kale [thinly sliced], chard [thinly sliced], spinach, and / or tomatoes [fresh or sun dried]
Herb Dressing or herbs of choice [basil, chives, parsley, cilantro, etc.] or use lemon juice with herbs for oil-free
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, optional / to taste


Slice zucchini according to the Spiral Vegetable Slicer instructions [I use the smallest blade] or using vegetable or julienne peeler [as instructed by manufacturer] to make thin pasta slices or noodles. If you are using the peeler, only work as far as the soft, seedy middle and then discard [the seedy middle won't hold up and make for mushy pasta].


Place sliced zucchini in colander [lined with cheesecloth or a towel, optional] and toss with  1 - 2 teaspoons of sea salt. It's important to make sure all the "noodles" are covered as this will pull the water from the vegetable. Set in either a glass baking dish, large bowl, or sink to collect water. Let stand for 30 minutes [minimum].


Meanwhile, warm oil in large cast iron skillet. Saute onions over medium-low heat until transparent and beginning to brown. Toss in garlic and veggies of choice and saute until vegetables are bright green and tender or wilted. Remove from heat and set aside until zucchini noodles are ready.

When zucchini noodles have sat for at least 30 minutes, rinse well under running water. If you used a cheesecloth or towel, gently pick up keeping the noodles in the center of the towel. Begin to gently ring out the water using the towel or cloth to hold the noodles. If you are using just the colander, gently press down on the noodles, pushing out water or pick up and squeeze. The point is to get as much water out of the noodles as possible.

Place skillet back over medium - high heat and add zucchini noodles. Stirring frequently, heat noodles until just hot and only slightly cooked.

Remove from heat and add Herb Dressing or toppings of choice. Top with toasted nuts or seeds, cooked quinoa, or shredded goat cheese. Lamb meatballs or a broiled fish filet are also delicious if you choose to add meat but remember, keep the servings at 80% vegetable pasta and 20% protein of choice [nuts, cheese, meats].

*Zucchini on the smaller side are the best choice in this case. The larger squash tend to have seedier, mushier centers which can be difficult to put through a spiral cutter. If you are using a vegetable or julienne peeler than size really doesn't make a difference although the younger zucchini tend to have a better flavor in my opinion.

**To steam: place prepared zucchini pasta in steam basket with a medium size pot. Fill pot with 1-inch of water [water should stay below basket]. Turn heat to high and bring water to boil. Steam for 2 - 3 minutes, turning pasta each minute, until just soft.


Monday, August 4, 2014

TWO SUMMER SALADS, ONE HERB DRESSING

Every March it happens. I become so giddy with the idea of fresh herbs I start, what seems like, way too many seeds. Then July rolls around and I am so grateful for the endless supply of basil and other decidedly "summer" flavors. I've been enjoying this dressing alongside almost every meal, preferably while sitting on the patio with a small glass of coconut water kefir.

The dressing is really easy to make and, if you don't have a garden, you can easily find herbs in bulk at your local Farmer's Market. Don't let a missing herb stop you - blend together whatever combination suites you and sub herbs you love for ones you may not favor. This recipe is a combination of my favorites but really, go nuts with whatever you've got.

Within this post you'll also find two of my go-to salads. I love the balance of raw greens with cooked vegetables and tend to make a large batch of the veggies so I have them at the ready when meal-time rolls around.


[HERB DRESSING RECIPE]

Note: This recipe makes a larger batch, about 4 or 5 half pint jars. I make large batches of this dressing and freeze it in small glass jars for a bit of summer flavor come winter chill. 

2 cups organic, extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 c. Genovese basil leaves
2 c. roughly chopped chives
1 c. lemon or lime basil [optional, if you don't have this simply add another cup of the Genovese basil]
1 c. parsley leaves
6 sprigs tarragon leaves

Optional Additions: toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds; toasted walnuts; nutritional yeast; garlic - raw, powdered, granulated, or roasted; onion powder; cayenne pepper

Pour oil into a large blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper. If you have a blender with a tamper you can layer all of the herbs [except the Genovese basil] into the blender and blend to smooth. Add the Genovese basil and blend again to smooth. If you are using a food processor or basic blender, add herbs in stages and blend to smooth before adding the next herb. Mixture should be thicker than standard dressing. If you prefer a pour-able dressing you can add a bit more oil and a couple pinches of salt.

Store in an airtight glass jar or freeze in small glass jars for winter use. I love this dressing with just about everything: salads, butternut squash hashbrowns, zucchini pasta, quinoa, fish, etc.

[CUMIN CARROT-RADISH + HERB QUINOA SALAD RECIPE]

4 - 5 medium size carrots, rinsed and sliced
8 - 12 radishes, rinsed and sliced
1 - 2 T. coconut oil or ghee, melted
4 T. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. sweet paprika
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 c. cooked soaked and sprouted quinoa* [this is a great way to use leftover quinoa from a previous meal]
1 T. herb dressing [see recipe above]
large handful baby greens or salad blend, rinsed and spun dry
1/2 avocado, sliced
1 - 2 T. raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut [optional]**
1 T. extra virgin olive oil [optional, I love using a lemon-flavored oil with this salad]

Place cumin seeds, paprika, a pinch or two of sea salt and ground pepper in a spice grinder or dry vita-mix container. Grind until seeds are powdered. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss carrot and radish slices with oil or ghee. Sprinkle ground cumin mixture over the oil-coated vegetables and mix well [using your hands works best here]. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft when poked with a fork.

While vegetables are baking, heat quinoa in a cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 5 - 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add herb dressing. Toss until quinoa is well coated.

Arrange greens on plate of choice. Drizzle with olive oil and layer warmed herb-quinoa, roasted vegetables, avocado, and sauerkraut. Enjoy immediately or cool.

*Soaking and sprouting quinoa really improved digestibility. Place quinoa in a glass jar and cover with double the amount of water. You can add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar to increase the benefits of soaking. Cover with cheese cloth or mesh sprouting lid and let stand for 12 hours. Drain water, rinse, drain, and rinse. Place in jar in a warm, light area and rinse once or twice throughout day. Sprouts should appear in 24 - 36 hours. After sprouts appear, rinse and drain once more. Place in a pot and fill with just enough water to cover quinoa. Cover, bring to boil, and reduce heat to low until all liquid has been absorbed. Let stand covered for 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork. 

**Raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut is packed with friendly bacteria. It's a great addition to any meal. If you purchase, make sure it is from a reputable source.

[GREEN BEAN + QUINOA SALAD RECIPE]

2 c. fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch size pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 c. cooked soaked and sprouted quinoa* [this is a great way to use leftover quinoa from a previous meal]
1 T. herb dressing [see recipe above]
large handful baby greens or salad blend, rinsed and spun dry
1/2 avocado, sliced
1 small cut of wild-caught, sustainably harvested fish of choice [I enjoy salmon or halibut]
1 T. + 2 tsp. coconut oil or ghee

Warm one tablespoon of oil or ghee in a medium-sized cast iron skillet or medium. Add onion and saute until very soft and just beginning to brown. Add garlic and saute for a minute or so. Toss in cut green beans and saute until beans are bright green [or yellow or purple depending on variety] and just beginning to soften. Remove from heat and set aside. 

In another small skillet, heat cooked quinoa over medium heat for about 5 - 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add herb dressing. Toss until quinoa is well coated. Add quinoa to cooked green beans and set aside. 

In the same skillet used for quinoa, warm 2 tsp. coconut oil or ghee over medium-high heat. Rub fish filet with sea salt and freshly ground pepper [you can be generous here!]. Carefully place filet in pan with oil and cover. When first side is browned flip and return cover. Cook until desired level of done-ness has been reached. You could also bake or broil fish if preferred.

If beans and quinoa have cooled, warm over low heat. 

Arrange greens on plate of choice. Layer with warm herb-quinoa and sauteed beans, avocado, and fish. Enjoy immediately or cool.

*Soaking and sprouting quinoa really improved digestibility. Place quinoa in a glass jar and cover with double the amount of water. You can add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar to increase the benefits of soaking. Cover with cheese cloth or mesh sprouting lid and let stand for 12 hours. Drain water, rinse, drain, and rinse. Place in jar in a warm, light area and rinse once or twice throughout day. Sprouts should appear in 24 - 36 hours. After sprouts appear, rinse and drain once more. Place in a pot and fill with just enough water to cover quinoa. Cover, bring to boil, and reduce heat to low until all liquid has been absorbed. Let stand covered for 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork. 


Monday, July 28, 2014

PUMPKIN + SUNFLOWER SEED BUTTER



After quite a few attempts at making a creamy seed butter, I've finally gotten one I love. The recipe makes a more peanut butter-like seed butter so if you prefer sweet you can add a bit more stevia or coconut sugar.

[THE RECIPE]

2 c. raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
1 c. raw, shelled sunflower seeds

If you want a basic seed butter simply toss with salt and skip the spices. For a spiced bend use the following spices:

3 tsp. Ceylon cinnamon powder
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
2 tsp. ginger powder
1 tsp. vanilla powder
1/2 tsp. cardamom powder

Option Additions: hemp seeds, flax seeds, raw stevia powder, coconut sugar

Place pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a quart-size jar. Cover with water [filling jar] and secure a tight-fitting lid. Let soak overnight on the counter. In the morning, drain the water, rinse well and drain again. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the soaked seeds on a baking sheet and toss with remaining ingredients. Bake 20 minutes, stir, bake an additional 20 minutes, and stir. After 40 minutes total of baking time, turn off the oven and let the seeds sit in the oven until they are a deep golden brown [10 - 20 additional minutes] but not dark brown. Remove and cool completely.

Place cooled seeds in a blender [with tamper option] or food processor. Turn on blender or processor and gradually make your way to the highest setting, scraping the sides as needed. You shouldn't have to put much effort into keeping down the mixture, the machine will do most of the work [this is where I've gone wrong in the past. I would continually push the mixture down with the tamper rather than just letting it be]. It will start to become a thick paste-like consistency and maybe choke a bit. After a couple minutes enough of the oils will be released and the butter will start to flow more consistently. Once you've achieved a nut butter or creamy consistency, add whatever additions you choose [see options above] and continue to blend to smooth. Pour [you may need a spatula] into a glass container and let cool before storing in refrigerator.

Friday, July 25, 2014

COCONUT WATER & COCONUT MILK KEFIR

I recently started making my own kefir [milk and water] and am so excited about it I had to post it here. First, I love the taste and texture - a bit tart, with a hint of lemon, thick and creamy if milk kefir and light and fizzy if coconut water kefir. It's packed with pre and probiotics, amino acids, enzymes, and the more difficult vitamins and minerals to get from diet alone.

Best of all, my two little girls love it. We enjoy the coconut water kefir with meals and the coconut milk kefir alone, topped with a pinch of pure stevia and berries, as a salad dressing or garnish in soups, and in smoothies.

Don't let the instructions fool you. It really is so easy to make and once you've done it a time or two it'll be like riding a bike. I whip a new batch up in around five minutes or less these days.

A Couple Notes: There are commercially prepared goat's and cow's milk options available [ranging in quality and price] however, this is a great vegan alternative. If you prefer kefir made with animal milk you can use the same kefir starter and simply follow the instructions included. Regardless of the milk or water you choose, remember this is a serious amount of good bacteria coming your way so start small for a few days [think teaspoon for kids and tablespoon for adults]. You may become a bit bloated and / or gassy - don't worry, it will pass. You're experiencing the war between good and bad bacteria in your gut. Over time you can gradually increase the amount of kefir to whatever feels balanced for your body.


[THE RECIPE]

3 packets of kefir starter [I use the Body Ecology brand; it comes with six packets*]
three 14-ounce cans of coconut milk [I use Native Forest Regular Coconut Milk] and three 17.5-ounce cans of pure, young coconut water [I use the Amy & Brian brand] or you can simply do a single batch of either the milk or water [or a double batch of either]
1 small cooler
2 kitchen towels
medium size pot
funnel
2 1/2 gallon-size glass jars with tight-fitting lids
kitchen thermometer [optional]
one kitchen spoon [to stir]

Pour coconut water into pot and warm to 90-degrees over low heat. You can use a kitchen thermometer but I tend to just check it periodically with either a clean finger or my lip - if it feels slightly warm I know it's ready. Once warm, put funnel over one of the glass jars and carefully pour coconut water into jar. Add 1 1/2 packets of kefir starter, secure lid tightly, and gently shake to incorporate. Wrap with one of the kitchen towels, place in cooler, and close lid. Set aside.

Pour coconut milk into the same pan you used for the coconut water and warm to 90-degrees over low heat. Again, you can use a kitchen thermometer but I tend to just check it periodically with either a clean finger or my lip - if it feels slightly warm I know it's ready. Once warm, put funnel over the other glass jar and carefully pour coconut milk into jar. Add the remaining 1 1/2 packets of kefir starter, secure lid tightly, and shake [a little more vigorously than the water] to incorporate. Wrap the jar with the other kitchen towel, place in the cooler next to the jar with the coconut water, and close lid.

Let the coconut milk kefir sit in the cooler [unmoved] for 24 - 36 hours or until slightly thicker. The coconut water kefir should remain in the cooler for about 48 hours.

Gently remove the coconut milk kefir from the cooler so as not to disturb the water kefir, close the lid to the cooler, and gently shake the milk kefir jar. Place in refrigerator to slow fermentation process. It will get thicker over the next day or so if you prefer a thicker kefir consistency [more yogurt-style]. After the water has sat for the required time, remove and place in refrigerator as well. Water kefir should be a bit fizzy. Both should have a tart, almost lemon-y taste.

To make a continuous batch follow the same instruction above but rather than using a new starter each time, reserve 6 T. of the milk kefir and add to the new batch or 8 T. of the coconut water kefir to add to that new batch.

Refer to Donna Gate's Body Ecology Diet for more detailed instructions and the extensive benefits of kefir as well as the best way and time to consume kefir.

*I've tried the more generic [and less expensive] brands from the health food stores and found that I had a fizzier kefir water with the Body Ecology brand as well as a better quality product. I can get quiet a few more batches out of one starter kit than I did with the other brands. It seems to be easier on my digestive system as well. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ASPARAGUS-LEEK SOUP WITH HERBS

 It's been a while! Here is one of my favorite soups this year. I love it for breakfast [try before you dismiss!]. For me and my body type, soups or cooked veggies in the morning provides a warm, nourishing, and grounding way to start the day. It's also a fantastic simple dinner - light and easy to digest. You can bulk it up by adding any or all of the garnish options listed below or serve it along side a small salad.

[THE RECIPE]

1 1/2 - 2 lbs fresh or frozen asparagus [depending on the season you could also try green beans + zucchini in place of the asparagus], chopped into 2-inch pieces
2 large or 3 medium leeks, rinsed and sliced
1 large fennel bulb, rinsed and sliced, or 2 tsp. whole fennel seeds
2 - 3 large garlic cloves, minced or sliced
1 - 2 T. ghee or coconut oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 - 5 c. water or broth of choice
2 c. nut or seed milk of choice [I really like using homemade walnut milk]
1 1/2 - 2 c. fresh basil
one large handful each of fresh parsley and dill leaves

In a dutch oven or large pot, warm ghee or oil over medium heat. Add cut fennel and leeks. Saute over medium heat until leeks begin to look transparent and fennel is soft [about 7 - 10 minutes]. Add garlic cloves and fennel seeds if using and saute for an additional 3 - 5 minutes or until fragrant. Season with a bit of salt and pepper, add asparagus and water, stir, cover, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 - 15 minutes or until asparagus is bright green and soft. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in herbs [basil, dill, and parsley]. Carefully blend using an immersion blender or place in blender and blend in batches until very smooth. Return to pot and stir in milk of choice. Garnish as desired. This soup is wonderful both warm and cold. Enjoy!

Garnish Options: coconut kefir [recipe to come soon!], toasted walnuts, goat cheese, cooked quinoa, cut avocado, finely sliced basil leaves



Thursday, April 10, 2014

"END OF WINTER" SOUP



This year, more than others, I have anticipated spring with a surprising fervor. Winter has been long and very cold. Yet, as winter comes to a close I can't help but want a few "fare-well to winter" soups to see this season out in respectable fashion. Part of me is not quite ready to bid my squash friends good-bye as they have been common meal companions through these endless months. On the other hand, fresh greens are clamoring for attention, trying with reckless abandon to spring forth from the ground. The effort is just so hard to ignore! And who would want to? Asparagus, spinach, kale, baby lettuces, micro-greens - they're all singing like sirens "look at me, I'm here and ready to nourish you in a lighter way!"

So here is a wrap up to our winter meals - we bid you adieu and prepare to embrace the growth, newness, beauty, excitement and energy of spring!

[THE RECIPE]

1 T. coconut oil or ghee
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
8 large yellow or orange carrots, rinsed and cut into chunks
1 large head cauliflower, rinsed and cut into chunks
2 c. pumpkin or winter squash puree [or 4 c. peeled and cubed fresh or frozen]
8 c. broth or stock of choice
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 T. dried sage
2 bay leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Over medium heat, melt coconut oil or ghee in large soup pot. Once melted, add onion and saute until just transparent. Add garlic and saute another minute or two. Sprinkle in thyme, sage, and bay leaves and stir for 30 seconds or so. Add carrots, cauliflower, and pumpkin or squash if you are using cubed or frozen [if using puree wait until the end to add] and cook for a minute or two. Pour in broth or stock, stir, cover and bring to boil. Once soup is boiling turn heat down to allow for a simmer and cook until all vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes.

When vegetables are soft, turn off heat and let cool for 5 - 10 minutes. Add pumpkin or squash puree at this time if using. Very carefully blend with an immersion blender or blend in  batches in a blender. Return pureed soup to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and pour into individual bowls. Add toppings as desired.

[THE TOPPINGS]

Purple Carrot Chips
Follow this recipe using thinly sliced carrots in place of kale.

Kale Chips
Follow this recipe using kale cut into thin ribbons rather than whole leaves.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Place shelled pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet. If you have a toaster oven, toast on the lowest setting once or twice. If you prefer the skillet method, place pumpkin seeds on skillet and roast on medium-high heat for just a minute or two until pumpkin seeds become fragrant and slightly brown. Stir consistently and don't take your eyes off of them!

Chopped Green Onion or Chives
If you grew onions or chives last year, check out the spot you planted them. You may be surprised to find them shooting up!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

TAHINI STIR-FRY WITH QUINOA

Limited sleep [such is the woe of being a parent] begs this to be a really simple post to mirror a simple recipe.

I tend to rely on a variety of stir-fries for my lunches throughout the week. Getting a meal in while tending to two active, demanding girls is hard enough. Cooking nearly impossible. So salads, stir-fries, and smoothies generally round out my daily meals.

During the summer we put away quite a few veggies from the Farmer's Market and our own garden. When these run out, as they inevitably do, I rely on store-bought frozen. Organic ensures the product itself is not genetically modified but doesn't protect the product from being owned by a GMO-based company. Whenever you can, try to find out who the parent company is and what they're standard practices include. Even better, ask your local health food store if they carry any local, organic frozen [or storage] produce. You may be surprised with what you find!

[THE RECIPE]

2 medium mushrooms, chopped
1/2 a medium onion, diced
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced or granulated garlic powder
A good 2 - 3 cups of veggies of choice, fresh or frozen [for this recipe I use frozen beans and frozen asparagus]
2 tsp. tahini
splash of white wine vinegar
sea salt, to taste
quinoa, cooked
raw sesame seeds, garnish

In a large skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until onion is just transparent and mushrooms slightly browned. Add fresh or frozen veggies and saute until just soft. Add tahini, a large splash of white wine vinegar, garlic or granulated garlic powder, and salt to taste [I tend to make this recipe on the saltier side]. Mix well.

Serve over warm quinoa and garnish with sesame seeds.