Saturday, April 30, 2011

Roasted Broccoli with Sesame Miso Dressing

Sometime soon I plan to stop talking about this. But until then you'll just have to hear about it.  I mean, I have to tell somebody and everyone else in my life is sick of hearing it.  Guess who got to meet Brandi Carlile this week.

Yep, that would be me.

If you don't know who Brandi Carlile is that has to change right now.  She's an amazing singer/songwriter originally from the Seattle area.  If you haven't heard her music before you need to.  Seriously.  Like right now.  Her new album will also be released on May 3rd and she's performing at a bunch of places around Seattle to celebrate.  Check out her website for more details.    

So here's where I'm going to geek out about this again.  I've been a huge fan of hers for years and have always told people that one day I planned to meet her.  I didn't know how, but I knew it would happen.

The nonprofit organization I used to work for had their annual fundraising event this week and through some of their connections they were able to get Brandi Carlile to perform at their auction.  Their event manager, quite aware of my obsession, texted me as soon as Brandi was confirmed.  Apparently I was the first person to be notified.  I'm just that cool.

And the rest is history.  They had an amazing event and raised over $345,000 to benefit women and girls in the Seattle area.  Brandi gave an awesome performance.  And, at the end of the night, I got to meet her.  And she hugged me.  Twice.  Just sayin.

So, how does roasted broccoli relate to Brandi Carlile?  Quite frankly, it doesn't.  But I figured I had to move on from gushing about her eventually so I might as well follow it with something that you're interested in.

Do you like broccoli?  No?  Hmm, then maybe I should just keep talking about Brandi.

Even if you're not a big broccoli fan, I have a feeling you might like this recipe.  The salty and sweet combination from the miso and agave bring out the best of broccoli's qualities.  Roasting it adds a nice flavor as well, but you could easily steam it instead.  If you wanted, you could even eat the broccoli raw and use the sauce for dipping.

Do you eat your broccoli stalks?  If you don't, you're missing out.  Broccoli florets are great, but I think the stalks are sweeter and even more delicious.  To use them in this recipe, cut the florets from the stalk then simply peel or chop off the outer tough layer of the stalk.  Chop the peeled stalk into pieces and roast with the florets.  They are also delicious raw so I wouldn't blame you if they never even made it to the oven.

Roasted Broccoli with Sesame Miso Sauce
Serves 6

6 cups broccoli florets and stems, chopped
4 Tablespoons white miso paste
2 Tablespoon agave syrup
2 Tablespoon rice vinegar
4 Tablespoons water
3 Tablespoons sesame seeds for topping

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Lay broccoli flat on a sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes, turning at least once.
Mix miso paste, agave, rice vinegar, and water together.  When broccoli has finished roasting, either drizzle or toss dressing with the broccoli.  Top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Braised Leeks

All I can think about right now is spring.  And sunny weather.  It seems to have (finally!) hit Seattle and it is amazing. Earlier this week I got outside for my first bike ride of the year.  It was exactly what I needed.

Of course, that beautiful bike ride was followed by some crushing news.  I came home to find my cat sitting on my parsley.  The parsley I so carefully grew from seeds.  The parsley I've been tending to every day for the past month and a half.  The parsley that was only one day away from being transplanted into the garden.  The parsley that I had so many culinary plans for.  Yep, that parsley.

Okay, I'll admit.  I cried a little.

This is my cuddly little monster, Bilbo.  Don't be fooled by his cuteness.  He has a plan for world domination and your herbs are next.

There's something about spring that just makes me want to eat green things.  There's been a lot of asparagus, broccoli, and greens around here lately.  Lots of big salads.  And lots of leeks.  I usually saute my leeks in a little oil and add them to other vegetable dishes with some salt and pepper, but when I stumbled upon this recipe in Vegetarian Times I knew I had to have it right away.  And it was worth it.

The key to cooking this is to cook the leeks long enough so that they are tender, but not so long that they are mushy. If you're worried about fat or calories, you could leave out the second tablespoon of olive oil to drizzle over the top, but I would encourage you to splurge.  That extra bit of oil adds a great flavor to the finished dish.  Ah, spring. 

Braised Leeks
From Vegetarian Times, April/May 2011
Serves 4

4 medium leeks
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
2 teaspoons agave or brown rice syrup
1 cup water 
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
Salt and pepper

Cut green tops from leeks and trim ends without removing bottoms (to hold it together).  Halve each leek and rinse each layer thoroughly to remove any dirt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add leeks cut-side down and cook 3 minutes, or until browned.  Turn leeks and brown 3 minutes more.

Add broth, agave or brown rice syrup, and water. Add salt and pepper if desired.  Partially cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 - 25 minutes, or until leeks are tender.

Whisk together vinegar and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in bowl.  Transfer leeks and cooking liquid to casserole disk.  Drizzle with vinegar mixture.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: There will be broth left over after cooking.  Plan ahead and save it for another recipe!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Green Smoothie 2.0


Dear Earth, 
I love you.

Thank you for these first few days of spring.  Thank you for supplying my body with water and nutrients each day.  Thank you for giving me fresh air to breathe without me having to think about it.  I'm lucky to have you.  Please stick around awhile?

I think about you often.  I think about how you take care of me and how I try my best to take care of you too.  I think about you when I take short showers, ride my bike, compost, reuse paper, shop at the farmer's market, and pick up trash on the ground.  Hey, did you hear that I started my own worm bin this year?  Yeah, I thought you'd be proud. 

Thank you for all that you do.  I am grateful for you.


Is it weird that I love Earth Day?  One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2011 is to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.  A few months ago I gave myself a goal to have half my garden planted and thriving by April 22.  Of course that was before I knew too much about gardening and learned that there isn't much that you can plant in Seattle before late April.  Luckily, I love greens and those were safe to start in mid-march.  My indoor herb gardens are also coming along quite nicely.  But, I can't wait until my greens are ready to eat. 

Speaking of greens, let's talk about green smoothies.  I've been drinking green smoothies since back in the day.  Heck, I had my first green smoothie even before I went vegetarian.  Green smoothies seem to be kicking up quite a stir lately as more people have grown to love their green goodness.
And what's not to love?
  • They're super quick and easy to make!
  • They're a great breakfast, pre- or post-workout meal, and make a great anytime snack!
  • They help get more greens into your diet!
  • They use raw greens so you're getting the full nutritional value of the greens as well as their digestive enzymes!
  • And they're delicious!
Maybe you avoid all green things.  Maybe you strictly avoid green things in glasses.  Or maybe you've been burned by a really bad green smoothie before.  I won't judge.  But maybe I can help mend the wound?

Once you're ready to hop on the green smoothie wagon, you'll want to start with the basic recipe.  These are my versions that I've adapted throughout the years, but there are hundreds of variations out there and you can even make it 100% raw by substituting fresh juice for the milk and leaving out any non-raw supplements.  I covered some basics in my first green smoothie tutorial which is a great starting recipe for beginners.
Basic Green Smoothie

2 cups nondairy milk
1 frozen banana (remove the peel, cut into 1-inch slices, and freeze in a plastic bag overnight)
1 cup of frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries, etc)
1 scoop rice protein powder (soy or hemp work well)
Greens: spinach has the mildest flavor and for a beginner, I would recommend starting with 1/2 cup.  As you become used to the taste, you can increase to 1 - 2 cups or try other greens like kale, chard, or collards.

Blend milk and greens for 15 seconds - 1 minute (depending on your blender) on high. Then add your fruits and blend for 15 - 30 seconds. Add the protein powder and blend another 15 - 30 seconds.

Once you master the basic recipe, it's time for an upgrade.  The great thing about smoothies is that it's pretty hard to mess them up.  If you put in too many greens, just increase your liquid ratio.  If your smoothie isn't sweet enough, just add a little more fruit.  Experimentation is your friend.

I like to add extra supplements to my smoothies and I have a variety of things that I use. You can pick and choose depending on your taste buds and nutritional needs. 

(A quick note about blenders: I get a lot of questions from readers about what type of blender I use. I use a Vitamix 5200 and absolutely love it! I bought it in 2007 and have used it almost every day since. It was an investment, but I think it was worth it to have a high-powered blender that will last many years.)

Green Smoothie 2.0
Makes 2 Servings

Basic Ingredients:
2 cups chopped kale or greens of your choice (you can remove the thick stems if desired)
2.5 cups nondairy milk
1 cup water
2 medjool dates, pitted
1 cup frozen bananas (remove the peel, cut into 1-inch slices, and freeze in a plastic bag overnight)
1 cup unsweetened frozen fruit (mango, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, your pick!)
1 scoop rice protein powder (soy or hemp work well)

Add 1 or all of the following:
1 Tablespoon wheatgrass powder (contains chlorophyll for healthy blood function)
1 teaspoon spirulina powder (contains chlorophyll for healthy blood function)
1/2 teaspoon maca powder (contains nutrients which help the body's endocrine system)

Add 1 of the following:
1 teaspoon flax seeds (high in fiber, Omega-3's, and B vitamins)
1 Tablespoon hemp seeds (high in trace minerals, Omega-3's and Omega 6 fatty acids)
1 Tablespoons chia seeds soaked in 1/4 cup of water for at least 10 minutes (Chia seeds are full of fiber and Omega-3's.  Soaking them makes it easier to blend them into the smoothie.)

Pick at least 1 of the following for your fat source:  (Fat is needed to absorb the nutrients in the greens.  It also helps you feel full!)
1 Tablespoon nut butter
1/2 avocado, pitted and skinned
1 Tablespoon borage/flax oil (This borage/flax oil blend is a good source of Omega-3's and Omega 6 fatty acids.)
1 Tablespoon pumpkin seeds

Blend milk and greens for 15 seconds - 1 minute (depending on your blender) on high. Then add your fruit, dates, any supplements, and any other smoothie additions and blend for 30 seconds - 1 minute. Serve immediately. (It can also keep for a few hours in a fridge or by adding ice cubes. However, the longer it sits the more "green" it starts to taste.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

No Excuses Cornbread

A couple of weeks ago I started a game with myself called No Excuses.  It goes like this:  You start by figuring out a few things you would like to do in your life or habits that you would like to change. 

Got that list?  Good.

Next step: you figure out what has been holding you back from doing those things.  What are the challenges to making those goals happen?

Once you've got that figured out, you have to start taking small steps toward your goals and get rid of the excuses and roadblocks.  This is where you play the game by finishing this sentence:  There are no excuses...

There are no excuses...
For not getting some physical activity in my day, every day.
For mentally putting myself down.
For eating a meal while standing, in the car, in front of the television, or at the computer.

Write down your list and keep it somewhere you look often.  When you find yourself making an excuse not to do your goal, then repeat the phrase there are no excuses... (fill in the blank) and make it happen!

I've really been craving cornbread lately.  While playing No Excuses, I realized that there are no excuses for not making amazing cornbread.  I mean, can you think of any?

This cornbread is moist, crumbly, and amazingly delicious.  I've been enjoying it with this light, springy soup and the combination has been fabulous.  The original recipe called for unbleached all-purpose flour and canola oil.  You can certainly use these ingredients or another flour or oil of your choice.  I used spelt flour and olive oil because the combination sounded yummy.  And, there are no excuses for a mediocre lunch.

No Excuses Cornbread
Adapted From Post Punk Kitchen
Makes 12 to 16 squares

2 cups cornmeal
1 cup spelt flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups soymilk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Preheat oven to 350, line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper or spray the bottom lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, wisk together the soymilk and the vinegar and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt).

Add the oil and maple syrup to the soymilk mixture. Wisk with a wire wisk or a fork until it is foamy and bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Pour the wet ingredient into the dry and mix together using a large wooden spoon or a firm spatula. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Slice into squares and serve warm or store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Whole Wheat Orange Scones

I learned a lot of things about myself last weekend when I was fighting my cold.  Apparently while sick I like to bake things.  Sweet things. 

I also learned that while baking my favorite thing to do is to listen to Thriller on repeat.  Loud.  For an hour.  This is completely normal, right? (Sorry, neighbors.)

But, at the end of that process I ended up with these delightful scones.  Totally worth it.

These orange scones are bright, tangy, and perfect for spring.  Surprisingly, the orange pieces make the scone a little tart rather than sweet.  If you're looking for a sweeter scone, juice the orange (you should get about 1/2 cup of juice) instead of using the slices.

The whole wheat flour in these scones definitely lends itself to a "healthier" taste than your average scone.  But, this scone is moist, light, and just crumbly enough.  It's like a biscuit meets a traditional scone.  Yum.

If you're trying to disguise the healthy aspect for your audience, you can serve these warm with jam.  Or just serve them warm with jam just because jam is good. 

If you'd like to add an orange glaze over the top, it's easy enough to do by mixing some powdered sugar with a little orange juice.  I opted out of this because I was trying to avoid the additional sugar.  But, then I went and smothered sugary jam over everything.  Oh well.

Orange Scones
Makes 8 medium-sized scones

Adapted from Inside A Black Apple

1/2 cup soy milk
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 Tablespoons evaporated cane juice
1 organic orange, zested and sliced
Pinch of salt
5 Tablespoons of cold vegan margarine, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the soy milk and apple cider vinegar together in a small bowl.  Let sit for a few minutes and allow to thicken.

In a large mixing bowl whisk flour, baking powder, evaporated cane juice, orange zest, and salt.  Add the margarine and mix (using your hands) until the mixture is crumbly with pea-sized chunks. 

Slice the orange starting by cutting off the top and the bottom, exposing the wheel of orange flesh inside.  Use a sharp knife to cut away the peel and pith of the orange.  Slice in between the white skin segments to the center of the fruit at a slight angle.  Make sure that you have removed any seeds and then add the orange slices to your mixing bowl.

Stir in the vanilla extract and soy milk/apple cider vinegar mixture until just blended. Do not overmix or it will result in tough scones.

Roll scones into a ball and flatten slightly on a cookie sheet to resemble 3 inch rounds.  Let scones rest for 10 minutes before baking.

Bake for 12 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lemon Ginger Tonic

I've been fighting some nasty germs lately (the really mean ones).  Luckily though, I think I'm finally winning.

I don't like being sick.  I hate having to eat "sick food" because everything else makes you nauseous.  Or when your body gets too warm, then too cold, then too warm again.  And that feeling like you need to take a nap every half hour. 

Although it's not fun to be sick, there are a few benefits. Like lying on the couch in a snuggie watching an entire season of Friends while asking your significant other to grab you a sparkling water from the fridge. With exactly eight ice cubes and the juice from half a lemon.

No, wait, a lime.

No, lemon.  Definitely lemon.

With a straw, pretty please?

Yeah, you only get star treatment like this if you're sick.

The only thing that's been saving me the past few days is this drink.  And I'm pretty convinced this is what cured my sore throat and started turning this battle around. 

Now, before we continue, I do have to warn you that there is honey in this tonic.  There are a lot of people who do not consider honey to be vegan and so I have never posted anything with honey on this blog.  However, I'm personally not opposed to using honey and it's an essential part of this drink.  If you are allergic or don't use honey, you can always omit it or sub another sweetener instead.  (Apple juice is perfect in this.) 

The reason I say that honey is essential is because it is a natural immunity booster.  Honey contains antioxidants, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, is a good source of vitamins and minerals, and aids in digestion.  Lemon juice helps to make the body more alkaline and restore pH balance.  Ginger is wonderful for digestion and helps with nausea.  Together this makes a pretty tasty and powerful drink.

Since I have a juicer, I usually juice the lemon (removing the peel first) and ginger.  However, if you do not have a juicer, you can still squeeze the juice from the lemon.  Then you can either zest the ginger and add to the tonic, or, chop up the ginger into chunks and boil in the water for a few minutes then remove. 

I typically drink this hot, but you could also serve it cold or substitute sparking water for tap water. 

 Lemon Ginger Tonic

1 lemon
1 piece of ginger (about the size of your pinky)
1 - 2 Tablespoons of honey
1 cup of boiling water

Juice the lemon and ginger.  Add to your favorite mug with the honey.  Pour in the boiling water and drink as soon as the temperature is suitable. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Caramel Corn with Sea Salt

I think I gained four pounds this week.  The reason?  Caramel corn.

I'd been dreaming about making caramel corn.  Thinking about buttery-flavored sweet kernels... and how to create a caramel topping free of dairy, white sugar, and corn syrup.  

One of our friends is moving to Colorado for a cheese-making apprenticeship at a small dairy.  It wouldn't have been a proper good-bye without an amazing potluck dinner:  sausage for the non-veg folks, salad, roasted vegetables, hand made peanut butter cups, and some caramel corn.  Quite the way to say good-bye. 

This caramel corn isn't like the overly sweet stuff that you get from the tin at Christmas time.  This is a lighter version that is still sweet, but won't give you that crazy sugar rush.  If you like your popcorn sweeter, simply use less popcorn (2 batches instead of 3) and you'll get more caramel.

One of my favorite things about making this is that it made the entire apartment smell like sweet caramel.  It's also fun to snack on the gooey, warm kernels from the oven. And I'm not quite sure how this is possible, but three days later I'm still finding stray kernels on the floor.  Sure, it's a little messy.  But definitely worth it. 

Caramel Corn with Sea Salt
Yields: 36 cups (a little over 2 gallons)
Serves: 8 - 10 people

3 batches of plain, unsalted stove-top popcorn
1/2 cup olive oil
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses (optional)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Spray three large cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray.

Remove any unpopped kernels from your popped corn.

In a saucepan, combine the olive oil, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and molasses.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Lower heat and gently boil for 5 minutes, continuing to stir.

Remove from heat, stir in 1 teaspoon of the sea salt, baking soda, and vanilla extract.  (The baking soda will cause the mixture to double in size and change to a light brown color.)

Mix the popcorn and caramel together.  (I found this easiest to do in several batches in a large bowl mixing with my hands.)  Make sure to mix them together while the caramel is still warm.  (As it cools it becomes harder to mix together.)

Spread the popcorn on the sheet pans.  Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sea salt.  Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes.  (Due to a lack of oven space I had to use the top rack which browned the popcorn much quicker.  If you use your top rack, rotate the sheet pans so they are only on top for 15 - 20 minutes and keep an eye on it so it does not burn.)

Cool and break caramel corn apart before serving. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Perfect Stove-Top Popcorn

Maybe because it's Saturday.  Maybe because you're hungry. Or maybe because you're tired of the microwave version.  Regardless of the reason I'm glad you're here.  Let's make popcorn. 

Popcorn is the perfect snack.  It's fun to eat, delicious, and unless you're avoiding eating corn, everyone can have some.  I find it fascinating that up until now I've been using prepackaged microwave bags to make my popcorn.  They may seem convenient, but they're pretty pricey and it's really hard to find ones without butter.  Once I realized how simple, cheap, and quick it is to make popcorn from scratch on the stove I knew I'd never go back to those microwave bags.  
The only supplies that you need are popcorn kernels, a large pot with a lid, and some cooking oil.  I thought it would be fun to use coconut oil and give my popcorn a light coconut flavor.  If you're not a coconut fan, you can use any other oil: olive, canola, grapeseed, safflower, avocado, etc.  I also really like using almond or peanut oil for a nice popcorn flavor.  

Perfect Stove-Top Popcorn
Yields: 12 cups of popcorn
Serves 2 - 4 people

1/4 cup coconut oil (or any oil of your choice)
1/2 cup corn kernels
Sea Salt

1 large pot with lid (Note: it needs to be large enough for the popcorn to be in one layer.  If your pot is smaller, decrease the amount of oil and corn kernels.)

Place your pot on the stove, add your coconut oil, and turn to medium heat.  Let sit for 2 - 3 minutes until hot.  Add your popcorn kernels and cover with the lid.  Your corn should begin to pop within 1 - 2 minutes. The popping should become more rapid as the oil gets hotter.

When the popping begins to slow down, remove the pan from the heat and let sit (with the lid on) for several minutes.  Remove the lid (beware of steam) and transfer popcorn to a bowl.  Season with sea salt and/or other toppings as desired.