Sunday, April 10, 2016

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Toasted Breadcrumbs


This is pure comfort food. Since it is April and still feels like winter, I'm allowing it. 

Finding a love for whole foods can be a journey, which sometimes takes years to develop and cement. It's a transition, and like any other transition, baby steps are often necessary. This is a great recipe for a transitional kitchen, one that helps convince skeptics that whole foods and healthier ingredients can still be delicious and satisfying. And so the momentum builds. And bellies are warmed.

For the deepest flavor, I highly recommend roasting a pumpkin (or any winter squash) and scooping out the inside to be used in this recipe. If you are short on time or energy, canned pumpkin puree can be used, and will still be delicious (just not as delicious!). So no excuses.

This recipe can be made vegan by simply omitting the cheddar cheese. Or you can swing the other way and increase the dairy by using cow's milk in place of soy milk. Either way, I promise you'll love it. 

You can even make a double batch, and freeze the second one in lunch size portions. One of our secrets to weekday success is having a stocked freezer from past meals. I chill the second one, cut it into desired portions, place those on a parchment paper lined baking sheet to freeze, and then move each one into a labeled quart sized freezer bag. 

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Toasted Breadcrumbs
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

3 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups soy milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. salt 
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
a dash of turmeric, optional
Additional salt and pepper, as needed

1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta shells, cooked
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

2 tbs. sage leaves, sliced thinly

Directions

Cook shells al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil over low-medium heat in a medium pot. Add diced onions and cook until translucent. Sprinkle in flour and stir constantly for one minute, to toast slightly. Slowly pour in soy milk, a half cup or so at a time, stirring with a whisk to prevent clumping. Once incorporated, add pumpkin and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, or until thickened. Add shredded cheese, salt, nutmeg, black pepper and dash of turmeric. Taste and season with additional salt if needed (don't under-salt!)

Mix pumpkin cheese sauce with cooked pasta shells and pour into a oiled baking pan. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until sides are bubbling and breadcrumbs are toasty. Serve garnished with sage. 

Relax. Eat Well.



Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Florida Lime Pie


I have warm weather and sunshine on the brain- we leave for a quick trip to Captiva Island, off Florida's coast, on Saturday. To me, that means: citrus. Bright, zesty and fresh, citrus is like a shot of sunshine no matter what the weather is really like outside.


So this is an ode to the classic Key Lime Pie- with some serious upgrades. Soaked raw cashews and coconut milk lend the requisite creaminess, while sticking with whole foods. Maple syrup replaces the sugar, but could just as easily be raw honey.


The crust is a nutty mix of almonds and dates, minced up and packed down into individual cupcake cups. You can find these stiff cups, which are a bit taller than normal, in most specialty kitchen shops. I love them because they peel off and leave you with a stunning individual-sized dessert.


Ingredients

1/2 cup raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 cup soft medjool dates, pitted
¼ tsp. sea salt
1 cup raw cashew, soaked for 4-12 hours, drained
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup lime juice, about 3 large limes, reserving zest
1/2 cup maple syrup

Directions

Place almonds and dates in a food processor with sea salt and pulse until finely chopped. Test by pressing the dough lightly to see if it holds together. Press into the bottom of 10 stiff cupcake holders. Set aside.

Place drained cashews along with remaining ingredients (except lime zest) in a high power blender. Process until very smooth, scraping down as needed. Pour into cupcake holders over nut crust until full. Top with lime zest and freeze until firm. Remove from freezer 10-15 minutes before serving.

Relax. Eat Well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rosemary Pesto


On the first day that truly feels like winter, I have a little throwback to summer for you. 

Remember those herbs we talked about preserving at the end of the harvest this year? Dig those rosemary sprigs out of the freezer and let's get started. 

If starting with frozen sprigs, simply let them sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or so, until they are easy to strip off the stem. 



Pesto can be the basis for so many wonderful dishes- I love to have a few different types in my freezer, ready to be pulled out for a quick dinner. Trying varying the herbs for some new twists.

Try this one instead of tomato sauce on a flatbread, with caramelized onions, fresh chèvre, and a sharp cheddar. Or tossed with some pappardelle noodles with blanched broccoli and toasted pine nuts. Or folded into a quick frittata with sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms.

Rosemary Pesto

Ingredients

2 garlic cloves
1 cup packed rosemary leaves- from fresh or frozen
1 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Zest of one lemon
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Peel garlic, and mince in food processor. Add rosemary through lemon juice and continue to puree, drizzling olive oil and scraping down as needed in to achieve desired consistency.

Store fresh in the refrigerator, or freeze in ice cube trays to be used later.

Relax. Eat Well.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Golden Turmeric Milk


Although we have been graced with possibly the nicest November on record, there is still a bite in the air that comes with this time of year, leaving me craving a warm mug in my hands.

I think I have mentioned my constant effort to incorporate turmeric into my daily life before. It is the ultimate anti-inflammatory, which is endlessly beneficial to our overworked bodies. Pair that with its load of antioxidants (apparent through its rich orange coloring), and you have a powerful medicine that can help prevent and treat whatever ails you.



With that said, there are a few kitchen tricks that can help you assimilate and incorporate all of the health benefits from this amazing little root more effectively. The first is to not overheat it- excessive heat or boiling will start to deteriorate it's nutritional prowess. The second is to enjoy it with some sort of fat. The active component in turmeric, curcumin, is fat soluble, meaning that it needs to be consumed with a source of fat to be fully absorbed. And finally, add a pinch of black pepper, which also boosts it's bio-availability substantially.


So what does that mean for this recipe? Don't let the tea boil too much- you want to get it to a simmer, and then let it steep. If you are worried about this step, you can heat your milk to a simmer and then add your turmeric, ginger and black pepper to steep. Don't skip the few pinches of black pepper, and add a tsp. of coconut oil if you are using a skim milk or nut-based milk.

It is not hard to find fresh ginger or turmeric in the produce section of your local health food store. When you find it, buy a good amount, give it a good wash and store it in a bag in your freezer. It will last forever this way, and actually grates easier with a microplane (just take it out to thaw for a few minutes before grating, and it is truly a breeze). Then throw the rest back in the freezer for your next use.



Golden Turmeric Milk


Ingredients
Serves 2

2 cups whole cow's milk or hazelnut milk (or milk of choice)
1-inch fresh turmeric, grated
1-inch fresh ginger, grated
a few grinds of black pepper
1 tsp. extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil, if not using whole milk
1 tbs. raw honey or maple syrup, to taste, optional

Directions

Place all ingredients in a small pot and heat until simmering, over low-medium heat, watching carefully to avoid a boil-over. Cover and turn off heat, letting it steep for 10 minutes. Stir in sweetener, if using. Strain into container of choice. Enjoy hot or cold.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Curried Coconut Squash Soup


As the weather continues to turn towards fall, I have been getting back into soups and stews, and it was one such craving that inspired this Curried Coconut Squash Soup. Simple, with a creamy decadence from coconut milk and flavor-bursts from curry spices, it is my ideal weekend lunch.


I happen to know that it freezes well, as I made a big batch to hand out to a few friends who could use the spare time these days.


Side note: did you know that grilled cheese freezes well too? I gifted the soup with a bag of frozen Grilled Cheese Croutons (grilled cheese smothered with scape pesto and cut into bite sized cubes). Pop the thawed soup in a pot and the croutons on a baking sheet, and you have a comforting meal ready in no time flat.

Curried Coconut Squash Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients



1 tbs. coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs. fresh ginger, minced
1 tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
2 carrots, sliced in half moons
1 medium red kuri squash, unpeeled, cubed (mine was about 3.5 pounds whole, 10 cups cubed)
1 can coconut milk
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tbs. tamari
1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional, for heat)
1/2-1 tsp salt (optional, to taste)

Directions

No need to peel the squash- it will puree smooth and you will benefit from the added fiber and time on your hands.

Heat coconut oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent. Add minced ginger, garlic, curry powder, cumin and coriander and continue to cook, stirring often, for 1 minutes, making sure not to burn spices. Add carrot and squash cubes, as well as coconut milk and vegetable stock. Turn up heat and bring to a boil, and then down to a simmer for 20 minutes. Check to make sure squash cubes are completely cooked. Remove from heat, add tamari and blend with an immersion blender. Once smooth, taste and adjust seasonings by adding more salt and/or cayenne pepper for heat.

Notes: Other winter squash varieties would work here as well- try buttercup, butternut or blue hubbard.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Preserving the Herb Harvest



There are several ways I like to put up my herbs during the summer to be used during the winter months, when the snow covers the ground and there are no greens in sight. It not only saves money on pricey herb bunches, but it allows me to enjoy bright vibrant flavors and nutrition packed leaves when I need it most. 




Frozen as Pesto Cubes 
I make a huge batch of my favorite pesto, portion off into ice cube trays and place in the freezer. Once frozen solid, the cubes can be transferred into a freezer bag, labeled and stuck in the back of the freezer to be taken out and enjoyed in a variety of portion sizes. I use these on pizza, tossed with pasta or spread on wraps. You can use any herb, but my favorites are basil and rosemary.


Freezing the leaves whole
Can't be simpler than this. Simply harvest, wash, remove leaves and spread out on a baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and label, to be pulled out in small amounts without sticking together. The texture will be a bit off (not the best for fresh salads) but the flavor remains vibrant. I use my frozen leaves for sauces, smoothies salad dressings or anything baked or stir-fried, where texture is less important. I use this method with parsley, cilantro, sage, chives, lemongrass and mint. Even kale for that matter. Nothing better than Vitamin C rich summer parsley during the winter flu season!


Dried 
Simply harvest, wash, dry and bunch your herbs with a rubber band. Hang upside-down indoors or out for a few weeks until completely dry. To simplify storing, you can then remove the leaves and store in a airtight container (they'll fall off easier once dry). The stems are great for soup stock. I prefer this method for the oilier herbs, such as thyme, rosemary and sage, as they hold their original flavor better. I also like it with tulsi basil and mint for loose leaf tea. 


There you are! Hopefully this inspires you to take the time to preserve your garden herbs for the upcoming winter, or to grow a few more in your garden next year. There is no better way to eat locally, and promote health during the long winter months. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Crispy Fiddlehead Poppers


Woohoo!!! It's that time of year again. Wild ramps and fiddleheads are popping up- spring it is so sweet!


I absolutely love ramps, also known as wild leeks- the leaf is similar to a chive and the root bulb to a shallot. It is a member of the alium family, and offers hints of both onion and a mild garlic flavor.

In the past, I have posted recipes for Ramp Butter and Wild Dandelion Ramp Pesto. This year, I wanted to share a Fiddleheads recipe, which only seems overdue, given my name and love for the wild fern. 

Nutritionally speaking, these shoots are rich in Vitamin A and C, iron and manganese as well as omega-3 fatty acids.


It seems as though most recipes out there center on either pasta, garlicky sautés or pickling, so I wanted to share something a little different. This recipe is a bit addicting, and I can imagine it would go over well across the age groups. Not a bad way to get your ferns in. 


These poppers are super quick and easy, and pretty fool-proof. They reheat well- just pop them back on a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or so. You want to enjoy these babies hot. 

I enjoy them by themselves, but a dipping sauce does truly bring them over the top. Today I mixed equal parts plain whole milk yogurt with a lemon vinaigrette I had in the fridge, and that was delightfully rich yet tangy. I can imagine they would be great with any sort of aioli you could dream up, or my vegan raw almond "aioli" (with or without the cilantro, depending on your stance).

Crispy Fiddlehead Poppers
Serves 2

Note: if you do not have access to sumac, replace with garlic granules or powder.

Ingredients

2 cups fiddlehead ferns, washed well and trimmed

1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp sumac
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2- 3/4 tsp. sea salt (depending on your salt level preference)

1 large egg

1 tbs. oil for drizzling

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Clean and dry and fiddleheads well, trimming to a 1/2 inch below the furling head.

In a medium bowl, mix together almond flour, sumac (or garlic), smoked paprika and sea salt.

In a separate medium bowl, beat egg. Add in fiddleheads and toss well. Using a slotted spoon, remove fiddleheads from egg, letting excess drip off. Move in to almond flour mixture bowl and toss to coat very well.

Place breaded fiddleheads on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate pan and continue to bake for another 5 minutes. Remove pan, flip fiddleheads and return to oven for the final 5 minutes.

Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.

Relax. Eat Well.