Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Braised Pears with Qunioa and Butternut Squash

A couple of weeks ago the nonprofit that I work for held a fundraiser to raise money for our grants towards economic justice for women and girls.  Our guest speaker was a distinguished author who has done a lot of work with other women's funds.  At the end of her speech, she was talking about why it is so important for everyone to be donating their time, money, and efforts towards social justice.  I believe her words were along the lines of "because no one else is going to do it... There is not going to be anyone to come in and do the job for us."  For the past two weeks, these words have been ringing in my ears.

No one else is going to do it.  No one else is going to come and solve all of the economic, social, racial, etc. etc. injustice there is in our community.  It is up to us.  No one else is going to speak up when others are being exploited.  It is up to us.  I don't know how that makes you feel, but it makes me feel like I'm not doing enough right now.

The life coach in me immediately turned those words inward and made me want to push myself harder.  No one else is going to tell me that I could be doing more in my life-- whether that's donating more, volunteering more, or being a more present community member.  No one else is going to come challenge me and tell me that they know I could be giving 110%.  It's up to me. It's up to us.  I'm not quite sure where I'm going to be taking this newfound passion and energy, but I know that I will be doing more

Until then, braised pears and quinoa will have to do. I love the contrast of red quinoa against the squash so I highly recommend it.  Red qunioa also has a different texture and slightly nuttier taste that is a great balance for the sweetness of the pears.  If you're in a time crunch, you could easily leave out the butternut squash or serve the pears over plain quinoa.  But, if possible, I think you should make the extra effort.  Giving more is important when it comes to cooking too.

Serves 4.

Ingredients for quinoa and squash:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups broth (or water)
1/4 cup golden raisins
handful of slivered almonds
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and diced
2 Tbsp olive oil 

Ingredients for braised pears:  
2 Tbsp Earth Balance
4 Tbsp agave nectar 
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger root
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved lengthwise and cored
2 Tbs unseasoned rice vinegar

Butternut squash:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine squash and two tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and scatter evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, turning 2-3 times with a spatula.

Rinse your quinoa; then drain, transfer to a pot and add the broth.  Add the cumin, diced onion, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and cover with a tight-fitting lid, then turn the heat down to a simmer.  Cook for about 15 minutes and remove quinoa from heat.  Allow to sit five minutes with the lid on then fluff the quinoa gently with a fork.  Mix the raisins and almonds in just before serving.

Braised pears:
Melt Earth Balance in a pan and saute over medium heat.  Add soy sauce, ginger, agave, and cayenne pepper. Stir well until ingredients are combined then reduce heat to medium-low.  Add pears, cut side down.  Simmer 8-10 minutes, basting frequently until tender.  Transfer pears to a serving dish, leaving the liquid in the pan.  Bring liquid to a slow boil and add vinegar.  Simmer until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes.  This is what you will pour over your final dish.

Mix squash and quinoa, then plate.  Top with two pear halves and drizzle your sauce over the top.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Live Sweet and Sour Soup

How was your Saturday?  Ashley and I finally made it out to the pumpkin patch today.  After much online research, we decided on Gordon's Skagit Farms because we love Mount Vernon and had a great road trip there a few years ago.  The patch was every bit as adorable as their website -- beautiful pumpkins of all varieties, incredible prices, and even a corn maze!  You couldn't ask for more.

Even though it was supposed to pour buckets of rain today, it was absolutely gorgeous outside until this evening.  Something about walking around in this pumpkin patch with the sun shining over the entire field left me feeling amazingly blessed.  I don't know, maybe it was just a much-needed Vitamin D dose, but it was one of the moments when my frivolous worries slip away and I realize all of the small miracles in my life.  Thank you

For lunch today we stopped at the Skagit Valley Co-op.  We first discovered this little Co-op on the only vacation that Ashley and I have ever taken together. (A camping trip that went horribly wrong; remind me to tell you that story some day!) Even though it is three years later, the Co-op was just how I had remembered it.  Lots of yummy food options and the same small-town vibe. 

I haven't eaten much raw food since August.  Of course, I've had salads here and there and my typical green smoothie, but my body has definitely been craving more raw food lately.  I decided to indulge in some raw soup and came across this recipe from the March issue of Vegetarian Times.  It might not look like much, but it warms you up in the same way that cooked sweet and sour soup would.  You can also gently heat it if you prefer to. (As long as it's under 115 degrees fahrenheit it's still technically considered raw.) 

Serves 4.

1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
3 Tbs. nama shoyu
5 dried apricots
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
2 Tbs raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup cucumber, cut into strips
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced (2 Tbs.)
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
1 Tbs raw agave nectar
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste

Stir together the sprouts and nama shoyu, and let marinate white you prepare the soup.

Soak apricots in a bowl of warm water for five minutes to soften.  Drain.

Place apricots, tomatoes, green onions, vinegar, ginger, and 3 cups of water in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth.  Transfer to serving bowl, and stir in cucumber, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, agave, cayenne, and sprout mixture.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lentil and Eggplant burger

If you've known me for long enough, I'm sure you've heard me rant about eggplant.  Eggplant is one of the few things that I don't like.  I felt guilty about this for a long time because I thought that I had finally met a vegetable that I didn't like.  But then, I learned that biologically-speaking eggplant is a fruit. Sigh of relief.

When I began this blog last February, I decided it was time to fall in love with eggplant. I  even went to the store to specifically buy an eggplant, admired it for its artistic beauty, and then promised to welcome it with fresh taste buds.  Several eggplant recipes later, I threw in the towel.  There was no hope for me and eggplant.

I knew one day the eggplant would come back to haunt me.  That day is today.  Today I opened my CSA bin to find... an eggplant.  I held it up to show Ashley and we both made the "eww" face to each other.  We can be such little brats sometimes.

I quickly got to work researching new recipes and came across this one by SusanV on FatFree Vegan.  I am happy to report that eggplant tastes just fine when hidden amongst lentils and buried beneath spices.  Plus, who doesn't love a good veggie burger?  Serve this with traditional condiments and toppings of your choice - I love spicy mustard, tomato, and sprouts.  If you are gluten-free, this patty is amazing in a lettuce or collard wrap.

Yields 6 burgers.

1 large eggplant
3/4 cup quinoa flakes
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 cup cooked lentils
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (spicy or mild)
2 teaspoons potato starch, cornstarch, or arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar

Preheat oven to 425 F. Remove the top of the eggplant and cut it in half lengthwise. Place it cut-sides down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Bake for 25 minutes or until the eggplant is completely sunken in and tender. Remove to a shallow dish and allow to cool completely. (You can do this even several days in advance and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.)

Once the eggplant is cool, discard any liquid that has accumulated and scrape the flesh from the peel. Place the pulp in a food processor and pulse a few times to make a coarse puree. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix very well and allow to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, wipe or spray it with a little pan spray or canola oil. Wet your hands and form eggplant mixture into patties about 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick.

Cook three or four at a time until lightly browned and then carefully flip over and brown the other side. Remove with a spatula and place each burger on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until burgers are cooked through.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Not-Your-Average Pumpkin Bread

I've been on a mission for the past few days to find the perfect, healthy pumpkin bread.  I started thinking about pumpkin bread last week and couldn't get it out of my mind since then.  But, I was being picky about my bread.  Of course I wanted it to be vegan and preferably gluten-free.  And I didn't want any sugar - only agave.  And I didn't want any soy.  And I didn't want to use powdered egg replacer (I was hoping for flax meal, applesauce, or chia seeds).  And I wanted to use coconut milk or coconut oil instead of other oils.  And I was determined to use fresh pumpkin. Quite the list of requirements, eh?

I scoured every cookbook I could find and there was nothing even close to what I was looking for.  I searched google, blogs, recipe sites and still found nothing.  I was beyond determined so I decided I would just have to make my own recipe.  This is where the fun really started.

I've told you I'm not really a baker, right?  I'm great at other food because you can play with the ingredients a bit more.  Unfortunately with baking, you have to be very precise... which I am not.  But, there I was, determined to make up my own recipe. 

I baked my pumpkin and made fresh applesauce from scratch.  I threw together my quinoa flour, spices, and a few other things that seemed should go in the bread as well.  The end result of my attempt at pumpkin bread wasn't bad, but I knew it could be better.   I knew I had the ingredients right because the flavor was great, but it didn't rise right which meant my proportions were off.

That's when I stumbled upon this recipe by Mary Vance, a holistic nutritionist in San Francisco.  It met every requirement of mine and tasted fabulous.  Problem solved.

This version is lightly sweet, but if you like things sweeter, feel free to add more agave to the batch.  I also used fresh ginger because I like things a bit spicier, but you are welcome to use powdered ginger.  In most of the pumpkin bread recipes I found, it said that the pumpkin bread would be great for breakfast.  Not to sound snooty, but there is no way I would ever think of starting my day with that much sugar.  However, I actually had a piece of this batch for breakfast this morning and it was perfect for breakfast.  That's saying a lot.

Makes 1 loaf. 

1 1/2 cups Flour of your choice (You can use quinoa, spelt, wheat, or any flour of your choice)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
dash cloves
1 1/2 cups cooked & pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup unrefined virgin coconut oil
3 Tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with enough hot water to make 1/2 cup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup agave
2 tbsp applesauce
handful of chopped walnuts for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease loaf pan. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. Set aside. Puree pumpkin, flaxseed meal mixture, coconut oil, water, agave nectar, fresh ginger, and applesauce in blender until smooth. Mix flour mixture with puree until just combined and pour into the pan.  Sprinkle a few walnuts on top, if desired. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until an toothpick inserted in the bread comes out clean.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Carrot & Butternut Squash Soup

I have been dreaming about this soup for awhile.  Light, yet hearty. Creamy and sweet, but not over the top.  This is the kind of soup that goes perfectly with these sunny, chilly days we've been having in Seattle.  And, I don't want to toot my own horn too much, but this is freakin delicious.  You certainly won't  miss the dairy and chicken stock found in other butternut squash versions. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is soups that leave you hungry.  When I sit down to eat, I want it to mean something.  This one delivers.  The cannellini beans are the perfect way to add that extra heartiness and depth that typical butternut squash soups lack.  I also love the combination of flavors from the squash and carrots.  You can serve this with some warm bread, pita chips, of if you're looking for something different and fun, try it with a side of homemade Jo Jo potatoes. 

Serves 6-8

1 butternut squash
2 onions, diced
5 carrots, sliced
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans
stock (about 5-6 cups) 
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cut butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  Coat a baking sheet with a little olive oil or nonstick spray and place squash cut side down.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until squash is tender (but not mushy). Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes.  Then remove the peel from the squash and cut into chunks. 

In large pot over medium heat, saute onion, garlic, carrots and ginger in oil for 5 minutes.  Add enough stock to cover the carrots and give you a little room (I used about 5 1/2 cups).  Add the beans, squash, and orange juice.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer until carrots are soft (about 20 minutes).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off heat and puree in a blender (it took about two batches for me to do this in my Vita-Mix).

Garnish with a swirl of olive oil (or chili oil if you have it!) and freshly grated pepper.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stuffed Peppers with Tomatillo Salsa Verde

I don't know if you are already familiar with Cheryl Richardson, but she is an amazing life coach and author.  I've mentioned her book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, in this blog before and not a week goes by that I don't pull it off my shelf for a quick refresher.  If you visit her website you can also sign up for her weekly newsletters.  

I've been working on simplifying my life since I moved.  I figured it was a great time to make a fresh start and really prioritize the things that are important to me.  Each morning I've started my day by making my "Absolute Yes" and "Absolute No" list.  These are Cheryl's terms for things that matter to you - ones that are worth devoting your time and energy - and things that aren't. 

My "Absolute Yes" list includes my body, my family, my home, good energy and happiness, good food, and the well-being of those around me.  My "Absolute No" list is pretty simple at the moment: wasting energy on things that don't matter and being inauthentic. In Cheryl's newsletter this week, with it being 10/10/10, she shared her lists of ten things to say yes to and ten things to say no to. I hope this inspires you to create your own lists and discover what is important to you in your life. 

Ten things to say yes to:
  1. Green vegetables.
  2. People who make you laugh.
  3. A goal or dream that won't go away.
  4. Being in nature and getting fresh air.
  5. Sitting in sunlight.
  6. Spontaneous hugs.
  7. An invitation that feels exciting and scary at the same time.
  8. More rest than you think you need.
  9. Moving your body.
  10. An open door that feels like an act of grace.

Ten things to say no to:
  1. Rushing.
  2. Conversations with people who constantly drain your energy.
  3. Negative thoughts.
  4. The inner critic who tells you to play it safe.
  5. Pushing yourself to do more when you feel tired.
  6. Unhealthy guilt or shame.
  7. A request that immediately causes you stress.
  8. Second helpings when you feel full.
  9. More work when you already have a full plate.
  10. Living life from the neck up.

Regardless of what is on your lists, I certainly hope that stuffed peppers fall under "Absolute Yes."  I have found that stuffed peppers are one of those things that people either love or despise.  It all depends on how they are cooked.  

I first had stuffed peppers in my college dorm - smothered with marinara and melted cheese.  It was love at first bite.  The only thing I didn't love about it was the way it fell apart as soon as you cut into it.  Oh well, tis the downfall of the stuffed pepper.

I've made stuffed peppers with different recipes over the years.  I personally like to cut the peppers in half, rather than simply removing the tops.  You can cut yours however you wish.  

Even though it's fun to cover something in tomato sauce, I decided to make a sauce-less version and go all out on the salsa instead.  Since I used bell peppers and poblanos (which have a bit more heat), I made the salsas very mild.  You can always add in some jalapeno to spice things up a bit if you wish.  I also broiled the peppers before stuffing them instead of baking the entire stuffed pepper. As long as this recipe doesn't end up on your "Absolute No" list, I'll be happy.   


Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Makes about 3 cups.

1 lb tomatillos
1/4 tsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped onion
salt to taste
2 long green peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped 

Remove the paper husks from your tomatillos and rinse well.  Cut them in half and place them cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Place under a broiler for 7 minutes, until the skin is lightly blackened.

When they have cooled, add tomatillos and remaining ingredients to a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are well mixed. Place in refrigerator to cool until ready to serve.

Red Salsa

Makes about 2 cups.

2 roma tomatoes
2 red sweet peppers
1 cup cherry tomoatoes
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 red onion
1/4 tsp red chili pepper
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste 

Wash your tomatoes and sweet peppers.  Cut them in half and place them cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Place under a broiler for 7 minutes, until the skin is lightly blackened.

When they have cooled, add tomatoes, peppers and remaining ingredients to a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are well mixed. Place in refrigerator to cool until ready to serve. 

Stuffed Peppers 

4 peppers of your choice (I used bell peppers and poblanos)
1/2 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup corn kernels
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked black beans
olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
red chili pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
salt and pepper to taste 

To Broil Peppers:
Set your oven to broil.  Cut peppers in half and remove the seeds.  Toss peppers with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place them cut side down on a baking sheet in a single layer. Leave them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the skins are browned. You want them to have a little color, but not be falling apart. 

Prepare Filling:
Add olive oil to a pan over medium-high heat.  Saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes.  Add the quinoa, corn, and black beans and saute for about 5 minutes, until thoroughly heated.  Add the cumin, paprika, red chili pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. 

Assemble Peppers:
When your peppers are ready, stuff each one with the quinoa filling and top with salsa of your choice.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Here I Am" Peanut Slaw

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to operate in the present.  This week I was reading a yoga magazine and came across the phrase "here I am."  I instantly fell in love with it.

So, here I am.  Making to-do lists on the bus on the back of a receipt.  Here I am.  Brushing my teeth.  Here I am.  Worrying about if I worry too much.  Here I am.  Playing my favorite song by Ingrid Michaelson on repeat. Here I am.  Chopping cabbage, crying over onions, and loving every minute of being in my kitchen.  Here I am.

Serves 4

1 savoy cabbage, sliced into thin strips
3 carrots, grated
5 radishes, grated
1 onion, sliced into thin strips
small handful of cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

3 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 Tbsp peanut oil
2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
Juice from half a lime
1 Tbsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the cabbage, carrots, radishes, onion, and cilanro together.  Next, mix the ingredients for the dressing.  Toss the dressing with the cabbage mixture and garnish with peanuts.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Autumn Harvest Salad

Let's just get this out of the way:  it's been too long.  And, I've missed you.  How is October is your corner of the Universe? 

Everything has been bright, beautiful, and busy here.  I have finally pulled out my Vita-Mix and food processor from the tower of moving boxes.  I hope to have the kitchen up and running again shortly.  Until then, let's just munch on some raw beets and catch up.

Almost everyone that helped us with our move got a taste of this salad.  It was the least I could do as a thank you for all of our amazing friends who packed boxes, cleaned counters, and carried furniture around. I know raw beets aren't for everyone, but you might be pleasantly surprised with this recipe.  If you still have your doubts, then I guess I should mention that Ashley had two bowls of this and no one could possibly dislike raw beets more than her. 

I think the key is that this salad is so rich, delicate and juicy.  Juicy would usually be the last word I would think of to describe raw beets, but that's where the carrots and apples come in. A little crunch here and there, a lot of sweetness.  All you need is some fresh produce, a food processor, and a little oil. Nothing could be quicker, easier, and more delicious to make.  Just look out for your chin... the beet juices tend to run. 

Serves 4 - 6

4 medium carrots
4 medium beets
2 medium apples (or 3 small)

1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
3 Tbs olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon

Mix the ingredients for your dressing together in a small bowl. (I just whisked it together with a fork.)  Run your carrots, apples, and beets through a food processor to create small match sticks and add them to a large bowl. Toss with your dressing.  When serving, garnish with another drizzle of olive oil over the top and salt and pepper if desired.