Sunday, January 23, 2011

Let's EAT!

Sometimes blogging feels weirdly self-indulgent. But hey, there is really nothing wrong with a little bit of self-indulgence every now and then, right?

Whew. Now that THAT is out of the way, let's talk about one of my favorite indulgences in the world. FOOD. I love food. I love cooking, smelling, tasting, touching and EXPERIENCING food. Food is romantic, playful and exciting. It can have an air of comfort (like 40-clove garlic chicken, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes or a Waffle House breakfast at 2am) or be completely shocking (who knew oven roasted kale could rival potato chips?? And has anyone tried that Paula Dean recipe where she put tomatoes on ice cream??)

What I love most about where I am in this journey of life, as it relates to food, is that food is no longer my enemy. At some point over the past few years I finally figured out how to combine how much I LOVE to eat and experience food with how much I love feeling and being healthy. Maybe someday I'll have the balls to write about the dysfunctional relationship I've had with food in the past, but that will be another time. For now, just know that it's really wonderful to be able to truly ENJOY food without feeling guilt, shame, fear or (my least favorite) nothing at all.

Over the past few weeks I've made some ridiculously simple, healthy recipes that turned out to be over-the-top DELICIOUS. And they involve a few of my very favorite NUTRITIONAL POWERHOUSE foods - so not only are these crave-worthy dishes (trust me, you will start to CRAVE kale after you try this) but you actually SHOULD eat them, and on the regular!! Win!!

So without further ado, my verbose attempt at writing down the things I've been doing in the kitchen as of late.

Honey Tahini Sauce (with fresh fruit) (from Whole Living magazine)

My new favorite breakfast and/or afternoon snack and/or dessert and/or midnight snack
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (tip: the 4 oz snack packs come in handy because you don't have to dirty a measuring cup AND you don't waste a whole jar of applesauce to use a half cup. Maybe I just don't eat applesauce enough, but I never get through a whole jar before it goes bad!)
1/4 cup tahini
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp water

Blend the ingredients together until the sauce is smooth. Pour a few spoonfuls over fresh fruit - I think it goes EXCEPTIONALLY well with grapefruit, apples, pineapple and mango. Sprinkle with sea salt. You could also throw some raw nuts or coconut on top. This makes about four servings - which is ideal because after you have it for breakfast you'll crave it again for a snack. Keeps in the refrigerator a-okay, though I've never had a batch in there longer than 36 hours, give or take. ;)

Oven Baked Kale
I love this because you can either follow the directions to the letter and end up with kale that is half crunchy, half chewy and is side-dish worthy, or you can bake it for an extra 5 minutes and end up with kale chips. Either way is DELICIOUS. Use quality olive oil and quality sea salt, because you can REALLY taste both!

Big bunch o' kale (the original recipe I saw called for four cups, but I've never measured the kale. Hmm.)
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the kale, pull the leaves off the thick stems, tear into bite size pieces. Pat it dry with paper towels (it's one of those general rules of thumb if you're trying to bake or roast something so that it's crispy: if there is water involved, your food will steam first, making it mushy. The drier, the crispier.) Toss with the olive oil and put in the oven. Bake for five minutes, turn over, bake for seven more minutes. I think because I try to make a LOT of kale at once, this timing tends to result in chewy-crunchy goodness. If you use less kale it might be all-out kale chips at this point. With lots of kale on your cookie sheet, you have to bake it for about five more minutes for the kale chip experience. =) When it comes out of the oven, immediately sprinkle with sea salt. It cools down really quickly, so if you like it warm (and I do) you have to hurry up and start eating! (No problem!)

Roasted Garbanzo Beans (aka, healthy corn nuts!)
2 cans of garbanzo beans
about 2 tbsp of any seasoning combination your little heart desires (I've done 1 tbsp cajun seasoning + 1 tsp garlic powder + 1 tsp onion powder + a sprinkle of cayenne and been happy with it! But next time I'm working cumin into it. I love cumin.)
olive oil cooking spray (Confession: I usually loathe cooking spray. I like to use REAL olive oil or REAL butter, thankyouverymuch. But for some reason, the cooking spray really works in this recipe. I haven't even tried it with actual olive oil!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the garbanzo beans and pat dry with paper towels. (Whenever I do this, the little skins of the beans roll off; I take them time to pick them out and throw them away. It probably doesn't matter, but they'd probably burn if they are off the bean anyway, so why not?) Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Toss the beans in your spice mixture, pour onto the pan, spray the beans with cooking spray. So with these, like the kale, you can experiment with the cooking time and find out what texture you prefer. If you bake for 45 minutes (shaking the pan every 15 minutes) they turn out crispy on the outside with a little bit of give when you bite into them. If you bake them for another five to ten minutes (50-55 minutes) they are TOTALLY crunchtastic. It's your call. The crunchtastic method really does produce something almost exactly like those gas station corn nuts we used to eat on road-trips!

Pasta with Cauliflower Sauce
Last weekend I was watching Rachel Ray and she made a cauliflower sauce that looked so yummy! I decided to make it, but I made a few changes to her recipe - namely, I roasted the cauliflower before adding it to the sauce and I added lots and lots of sliced baby portobello mushrooms so it would have a richer flavor. Oh, and I threw in some roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh parsley for some contrasting flavor notes. I am really happy with how it turned out, but I bet if you added really high quality hard cheese as a garnish it would be superb. (I had none on hand. Tragic.)

1 large head of cauliflower, washed, cut into florets, dried well
1 package (about a cup) of cherry tomatoes
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
5 to 8 cloves of garlic, chopped (so I have a garlic THING. If a recipe calls for two cloves, I always add six. At least.)
1 package (about two cups) sliced baby portobello mushrooms
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock or broth
salt, pepper, thyme, red pepper flakes
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 box of pasta - any type (Rachel said that cauliflower lends itself to whole wheat pasta; I used Barilla Plus, so I don't know if she's right or not.)
2 ladles of pasta water (reserve after cooking)

Toss the cauliflower in a tbsp of oilve oil and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning it over now and then so it browns evenly. Meanwhile, put the other tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over high heat. When it's nice a hot, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes, then add the onion and cook for about five minutes. When the onions are translucent and a little brown, add the mushrooms and a few tbsp of water and cook until they are soft and delicious.  By now your cauliflower is out of the oven; add it to the pan. Add the chicken broth and simmer, covered, on medium heat for about ten minutes. While all this is going on, boil your pasta, making sure to reserve a few ladles (cups) of pasta water after it is done. Also, wash and dry a box of cherry tomatoes and toss them in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and throw in the 400 degree oven for ten minutes, shaking the pan just once during that time. They can sit on the pan when they come out until you're ready for them. After your sauce base has simmered for about 10 minutes, grab a potato masher and get to work on your cauliflower - you can leave it just kind of mashed or mash it up really good - it depends on the kind of texture you're looking for in the sauce. (You could even blend about half of it up in the blender and add it back if you want a really saucy sauce. For me, a quick mash was good - I like the texture of the roasted cauliflower!) Add the pasta water and simmer for a few more minutes. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and thyme.

To serve, ladle a spoonful of the sauce (honestly, it's a little bit thicker than a sauce - but if you added more broth/stock you could make it saucier without losing flavor) over your pasta and top with a few roasted cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley. So good!

Mango Smoothie (from Whole Living magazine)
I practice a LOT of yoga (shocking, I know) and one thing that drives me crazy are foot cramps. I find if I make sure to eat a banana, some prunes, or drink some coconut water each day, I don't get foot cramps as often! Yay potassium! This smoothie is a fun way to up your fruit consumption and get your coconut water in for the day. And speaking of, coconut water is a great replacement for milk, juice or yogurt in any smoothie recipe. I lovvvvvvvvvvve it.

Put in the blender:
1 ripe mango
2 tbsp lime juice
1 cup coconut water
pinch of cayenne pepper
5-6 ice cubes

blend. enjoy. =)

A few other yummy things that hardly count as recipes but I'd like to recommend:

Plain Greek yogurt, topped with 1 tbsp flax seeds and 1 cup frozen raspberries, defrosted for about a minute so they are still cold, just not frozen. Yummy. Satisfying. Wonderful. (Yes, I know you're supposed to grind up your flax seeds for the most nutritional punch, but I just LOVE eating them whole - so crunchy!!)

Sesame Ezekiel bread, toasted, topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onion and capers. I know the bagel is the traditional stage for cream cheese and smoked salmon, but I'll tell you what: the crunchy, nutty Ezekiel bread lends itself BEAUTIFULLY to the smooth cream cheese and smokey salmon.

Grapefruit sections and raw almonds, nestled in half an avocado. Sounds silly, tastes divine. 

Popcorn, popped in 2 tbsp of coconut oil. You don't need butter on-top and it pops up SO crispy... and I love the hint of coconut flavor the oil imparts!!

Lime La Croix with 1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail, and 1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds, served in a wine glass, garnished with lime. It makes mid-afternoon feel fancy and fun.

Happy eating!!


  1. A lot of stuff sounds good here. Although the kale hasn't really appealed to me, I've heard such good things about it that I called Lauren when she was out at the grocery and told her to pick some up. I baked some tonight and am sad to say that it didn't do it for me. Now, it could very well be that I did something wrong or just had some bad luck. I didn't use the full head of kale; in fact, I had just enough to make one layer on the cookie sheet. The kale kind of blackened and tasted like burnt popcorn. Would I be correct in assuming that it's not supposed to be like that? Could having only enough for one layer have been the problem (cooked too intensely)?

    A lot of these dishes sound very good, but we've stocked our fridge full of veggies already for more or less a week of meals cooked out of the Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. This is the cookbook that I first started cooking vegetarian meals out of back in college (despite not being even remotely a vegetarian), and now I'm getting back to it. We'll be having Bean and Bean Gumbo, Black Bean Chilaquile (a sort of casserole), Chick Peas with Spinach, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito, Pasta with Eggplant, Pasta with Lentils and Artichoke Hearts, and Roasted Vegetables with an Asian sauce. It should be a good week. :)

    All the best to you!

  2. No blackened kale!! I don't like it when it gets to that point, either - definitely overcooked. If you only have one layer I'd DEFINITELY cut down on the cooking time, and watch it really closely as it gets to the five minute mark on the second side. You don't want it all brown or at all black. Mine usually has a few spots of crispy brown, but it's mostly still green.

    Here is my other kale suggestion, though, in case the crispy oven baked kale just doesn't work at all:

    steam kale for a good long while. I don't even bother with the steamer - I put the kale in a big old pot with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup water, put a lid on it and cook it for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Then, toss it with roasted cherry tomatoes, a bit of salt and some olive oil - the same roasted cherry tomatoes I put on top of that cauliflower pasta, in fact. This is actually a Kripalu recipe from their seasonal cookbook, and it's the first way I ever made kale, and still my go-to. I made it for Molly Harsh and her husband in CA and they liked it, too! So that's my next kale recommendation. The other thing my friends have been buzzing about as of late are kale and pear smoothies, but I haven't tried those yet, so I can't comment. The thing is, I LOVE the flavor of kale, so I'm easy to please in the kale dept. =)

    Also, umm, can I come live with you guys?? I make a GREAT nanny - trust me - LOTS of experience on that front. Just feed me all those things you mentioned and we'll call it even!!! Haha!

    xoxo to all three of you!!!!

  3. Wonderful ideas. BTW---I made oven roasted kale the other day and Ava (my little girl) said, "Stop Mama! Don't eat it all." What every mother wants to hear their kid say about their greens :) Thanks!

    I've never thought about adding tomatoes to ice cream (was it chocolate or vanilla) BUT have you ever read ThunderCake? The recipe there calls for tomatoes in the cake. We made one a while back.

    Also, if you know of any great healthy eating blogs please pass them my way!