Monday, January 30, 2012

Gluten-Free RoundUp

I have a lot of respect for people with food allergies.  This can be a scary world to live in when one bite of the wrong food can have a huge detrimental effect on your health.  I have worked with people with food allergies for many years and the number of people affected by dairy, soy, eggs, gluten, and wheat seems to go up each year.

I recently went gluten-free based on a recommendation from my nutritionist.  I had been experiencing some chronic knee pain and she suggested a gluten-free diet to see if gluten was causing inflammation.  It turns out that gluten does not have an ill-effect on my body and I had no troubles incorporating it back into my diet. 

For me, going gluten-free wasn't a total headache since I do the majority of my own cooking and am pretty familiar with food allergies.  However, being "officially" gluten-free did make me feel a little paranoid... even in my own kitchen.  Did I use the gluten-free oats in my breakfast or did I accidentally use the regular ones? Wait! Did I just put soy sauce in that stir fry?! What was I thinking?!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Gingered Sea Vegetable Salad

Let's be honest. I know that you didn't wake up this morning thinking to yourself, "I can't wait to eat a giant bowl of seaweed." (And if you did think that, you have my undying admiration.) Let's just say that I didn't wake up this morning thinking that either.

But, I know that sea vegetables are really important for my health. Seaweed is chock full of good stuff like B Vitamins, folic acid, and Vitamins C and E. It is also incredibly rich in minerals like magnesium and calcium and a good source of iodine, iron, and chlorophyll. This is especially important because over the past few years our soil has lost minerals so we aren't getting as many from our food as we used to.  As much as I hate the smell of the ocean, and especially seaweed, I'm gonna eat my sea vegetables.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Flying Apron Bakery

There is a reason that I am not a baker.  There is a reason that the last time I tried to make bread, instead of rising into a loaf it sank into a dark hole.  There is a reason that the one time I tried to make pizza dough, it formed into a ball hard as rock and refused to budge.  There is a reason that I failed as an assistant for a hands-on bread baking class.

And the reason is this:  if I could bake... I would do nothing but eat baked goods.  It's true.

Kale farmers would have to cut back on production.  My local natural foods store wouldn't have to restock beets twice a day.  And my partner would no longer be repulsed by my green smoothies every time she entered the kitchen.  All because I would do nothing but eat breads, muffins, cookies, and cakes all day long. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Banana & Seed Granola Bars

Even if you don't live in Seattle, I am sure that you heard about our crazy weather this week.  It was impossible not to hear about Seattle's great "Snowmageddon" storm all over the news.  Let me be the first to tell you how grateful that I am the storm is finally over the and city has returned to normal.

I live fairly close to my job in downtown Seattle so even with the snow I was still braving the outdoors and public transit all week.  I didn't mind the snow and the cold, but waiting 45 minutes for a bus wasn't exactly a highlight. There is nothing worse than waiting for a bus in the cold darkness at 5:30 am when you are hungry.  Do not get me started on hungry bus-waiting.  Even listening to my favorite podcast would't calm the hungry-crankies at that point.  It was a lost cause.

By day two of the storm, I learned that I had to carry a snack with me at all times.  You never know when the hungry-crankies might strike and you have to be prepared.  And so these granola bars were born.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ginger-Roasted Parsnips

Remember when you were a kid and you mom reminded you to grab a coat before going to school?  Or when she scolded you for going outside with wet hair because you would catch a cold?  And you dismissed it?

But, then you caught that dang cold... Sure, you could have listened, but you had to learn it on your own, right?  Because then the lesson sticks.

Well, the lesson is sticking this week.  It's sticking hard. 

For months my techie partner has been bugging me to change my passwords.  Telling me to change them often.  To make them more complicated.  To not use one password for all my accounts.  Did I listen?  No, of course not. 

Then this week my Twitter account got hacked.  My followers got repeatedly spammed.  Some people realized right away that I had been hacked and alerted me while others got really frustrated because they thought I was intentionally spamming them.

Luckily I was able to change my passwords rigtht away. (And luckily I had always kept a different password for my bank!)  As of now I think the problem has been fixed.  At least, I really hope so.

After the royal pain-in-the-behind that this has been, I will never again be lax about online security.  And neither should you.  But, you don't have to take my word for it... do you? :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Warm Winter Squash Salad

It's been a snowy weekend here in Seattle.  I started my weekend with a trip to the grocery store to stock up on goods in case the weather got worse.  And besides heading out to the gym a few times, we've pretty much stayed indoors.  Between Dance Central on kinect, cleaning projects, photo and writing projects, and being entranced with season 2 of Lost, I've kept myself pretty occupied.  The cats enjoyed watching the falling snow and Bilbo decided that sitting at my photography station (where I photograph all of my food photos) was the coziest place to watch the weather.  And fulfill his dream of being a kitty model.

It is usually hard for me to eat salads during the winter because cold food doesn't sound as appealing, but I happily munched on this one all weekend.  This salad starts with a bed of peppery arugula topped off with warm delicata squash and french lentils.  It's finished with sweet pomegranate seeds and a tangy lemon dressing.  This salad was just what I needed to power our kinect marathon and keep me warm during the snowstorm. 

Warm Winter Squash Salad
Serves 4
1 cup french lentils, cooked
2 cups water
2 medium delicata squash
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
6 cups of baby arugula

Add lentils and water to a pot over high heat.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until tender.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut squash into equal bite-size pieces.  Toss with coconut oil and lay flat on sheet pan.  Roast for 20 minutes, until tender, turning at least once.

Divide the arugula amongst four plates.  Top with warm lentils, squash, and pomegranate seeds.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
juice from 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon brown mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients until combined.  Drizzle over salad and serve. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sesame Roasted Beets and Greens

Here are the things they don't tell you about hot yoga:

Before your first hot yoga class, you should really paint your toenails. Trust me.  You'll want to have something pretty to distract you from the thought that this is how you are going to die.

It's hot. I know you must have gathered that much from the name of the class, but it's really hot. And when the room is that hot and the studio gets really crowded... it smells. Sorry to say it, but some classes make it hard to come back.

You can totally do it.  If I can do it, you can do it. Promise. 

I started hot yoga two weeks ago and have completed six classes to date.  I am not a "yoga person" by any means.  I do a couple of yoga classes at my gym here and there, but hot yoga was never something that appealed to me.  Standing in one spot and dripping sweat all over myself?  No thanks. 

I started my hot yoga experiment to see if it would help alleviate my knee pain.  So far I have had very positive results, which is one of the reasons why I have forced myself to stick with it.  Hot yoga and I kinda have a love-hate relationship at the moment.  I think we're frenemies. 

One of the things that I do enjoy about hot yoga is how it strengthens the mind and body connection.  I usually make a point each day to try to listen to my thoughts and make the positive ones outweigh the negative ones.  During my first class, it became apparent very quickly how strongly my body responds to my thoughts.  For instance, I would think to myself "I am going to fall out of this pose."  And so I did.  But, if I tried the pose again and thought, "I can hold it this time."  I did.  Incredible.

In the studio that I go to, the room is long and narrow so everyone can see themselves in the front mirror.  I find it very powerful to look into my own eyes for an hour and a half.  Some days that takes a lot of courage and work to give myself love that entire time.  I think for women especially this is really powerful because we learn so quickly to avoid mirrors or use them as means to critique ourselves.  Before hot yoga, I don't think there ever was a time when I looked myself right in the eyes and said, "You can do this."  Or, "look how strong your body is in this pose." Or, "Wow, your arms look awesome today." 

Here's one more thing they don't tell you about hot yoga:

Even if you really don't like it... even if you kinda hate it... even if you dread every class... you'll kinda love it.

Here are the things they don't tell you about beets:

Don't ever eat them from a can.  I'm serious.  If you have a can of beets in your pantry, please compost them right now.

Buy beets when they are fresh, preferably with the greens still attached. 

Don't overcook them and if you are not a beet lover, don't boil them.  Roast them.  Always.

Even if you really don't like beets... even if you kinda hate 'em... even if you dread the thought of eating them... you'll kinda love this recipe.

Roasted beets are perfect in winter because they are in-season and full of Vitamin C.  Roasting them brings out their natural sweetness which is why I recommend this method of cooking for people who say they don't like beets.  This recipe utilizes the beet greens as well as the root so you use the entire vegetable.  I like to use different kinds of beets in this recipe for a more colorful presentation, but any type of beets will work. Serve this with some brown rice and lentils for a hearty and healthy meal.

Sesame Roasted Beets
Serves 4

2 bunches of beets
3 Tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 leek, ends removed and chopped
1 Tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons Bragg's liquid aminos
salt and pepper, if desired
sesame seeds for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the greens from the beets and set aside.  Chop the beets. Toss beets with one tablespoon of sesame oil and lay flat on sheet pan.  Roast for 25 - 30 minutes, turning twice, until beets are tender (but not mushy).

Chop the beet greens.  Add one tablespoon of sesame oil to a pan over medium heat.  Add the leeks and sauté for two minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for an additional minute.  Add the the greens and liquid aminos and cook for 15 - 20 minutes, until tender.  Add salt and pepper if desired.

Drizzle beets with remaining tablespoon of sesame oil.  Garnish beets and greens with sesame seeds and serve warm.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

(Gluten-Free) Chocolate Chip Cookies

In a few minutes I am going to share a recipe with you that has more coconut oil and evaporated cane juice than this blog has seen in quite awhile.  And it's going to be good.  This recipe is going to blow your New Year's health resolutions out of the water (sorry about that) and make you drool.  However, we are first going to have a quick chat about drinking water.  I debated about bringing this drinking water conversation up, but I think it's important to talk about.  (If you really want to skip it, I won't be offended if you scroll down to the part about chocolate chips.)  

As I have moved away from processed foods over the past couple of years, I have tried to shift other areas of my life as well.  On the most recent part of this journey I have embraced more and more natural cleaning and beauty products to help rid my home and body of unnecessary chemicals.  Not surprisingly, the more I have shifted away from using chemicals, the more chemical-sensitive I have become.  

Most recently I have begun to notice the smell of chlorine in my drinking water.  I kept thinking that I was smelling residue from our dishwasher detergent and thus began investing better methods for washing dishes.  (Soap nuts, anyone?)  I mentioned this to my partner the other day who questioned, "You know that there is chlorine in tap water, right?"  Um, no.  How did I miss that one? 

This point about chemicals in our water really got to me.  It brought me back to when I was in grad school and one of our class speakers was a woman who crusaded for years to get flouride removed from Oregon's water supply.  I was immensely fascinated because both of her parents were dentists who were opposed to flouride use.  She cited several studies that have actually shown flouride to be toxic to our bodies over time, but (contrary to what we hear form the ADA) she said there have been no studies proving flouride's effectiveness in treating tooth decay.  And, flouride is too small to be removed from water, even with a Brita filter. 

Since I am a water and herbal tea fanatic, this has really had me thinking lately.  Water is such a basic necessity for all forms of life and it deeply pains me to know about the water wars going on around this globe and how many people are deprived of such a vital resource.  (If you are interested in learning more about this I highly recommend the documentary Flow or reading any of Vandana Shiva's work.)  Of course I am grateful to have daily, reliable access to water, but it also really bothers me that I have no control over what goes into my water and that chemicals like chlorine or flouride are allowed because they are at "safe" levels.  And if you drink bottled water, you should also be aware that bottled water is regulated even less than tap water. 

Do you ever have concerns about your water?  What do you think about chlorine and fluoride being added to drinking water?

I think I'll spare you the rest of my rantings and just say that my Brita pitcher is no longer collecting dust on the shelf.  (Even if it doesn't remove everything that I wish it would.)

Now that I am pretty sure I have either depressed, enraged, or deeply bored you, how about I cheer you up with some cookies?  Look!  I baked!

These cookies are my new favorite recipe and not only are they easy to make, they are vegan (of course) and gluten-free!  This recipe comes from Erin McKenna's book, BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery.  In case you've never heard of Erin McKenna or BabyCakes, you should know that Erin is the founder of BabyCakes, an organic, vegan bakery in New York City.  She has also recently released her second cookbook, BabyCakes Covers the Classics.  I have never been to BabyCakes, but if I am ever in NYC it will certainly be on my list of places to visit.  

Due to copyright laws I cannot post her recipe here, but I highly encourage you to check out her cookbook, or you can also view this recipe over on Oprah's website.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Parsnip, Leek, and Sweet Potato Soup

You know that you had a good weekend when you look around your home on Sunday night and see laundry still piled up, dirty dishes waiting in the sink, and a crowded inbox of unread emails.  This is a good sign.  It means that you had better things to do and bigger things to worry about than taking care of chores.  

In my case, I spent the weekend entranced with the first season of Lost.  As you can tell, I definitely had bigger things to worry about than laundry.  I mean, what the heck is happening on this crazy island?  And how did I not know that this show existed until two days ago?!  

Sure I might have had better things to do than laundry, but I still managed to make to the farmers market and survive my second hot yoga class (more on that subject another time).  I fell in love with some beautiful parsnips and leeks at the market and promptly came home and pureed up this soup for Sunday brunch.  My secret to pureed soups is that I always add some beans in for extra protein.  This soup was perfect served alongside a hearty salad with some green onions, sea salt, and crushed peppercorns for a garnish.  I even discovered that a few extra green onions in a small vase make the perfect colorful table accent.

How was your weekend?

Parsnip, Leek, and Sweet Potato Soup
Serves 2 - 4

1 Tbs olive oil
2 leeks, ends removed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 cups Great Northern beans (or any white beans)
2 medium-large parsnips, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
green onions for garnish

Add oil to a large pot over medium heat.  Sauté leeks for three minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute.  Add the beans, parsnips, sweet potato, broth, thyme, sage, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, about 30 minutes until vegetables are soft.  

Remove the bay leaf. Blend the soup by using an immersion blender or transfering it to a regular blender. (If using a regular blender, be very careful as the steam can sometimes cause the lid to blow off.  I recommend allowing the soup to cool for a few minutes, then blending small batches on medium speed while holding the lid down with a large pot holder or towel in my hand).  Serve hot, with salt and pepper to taste, and green onions for garnish.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries with Tahini Ketchup

Nothing says Thursday like standing over the stove and devouring roasted vegetables.  Especially when those roasted vegetables are sweet potato fries covered with cumin, paprika, chile powder, and sea salt.  Then dipped in... wait for it... tahini ketchup.  Yep, I went there.

I spent this last week on a sweet potato fry marathon.  I baked over two pounds of sweet potatoes and dipped them in almost every sauce I could think of.  Hummus?  Tried it.  Miso ginger dressing?  Tried it.  Balsamic vinegar and olive oil?  Tried it.  Tahini?  Tried it.  Ketchup?  Of course I tried it.  Then somewhere in there my fry found its way into both tahini and ketchup and a miracle was instantly created.

I learned some important things about sweet potatoes on my journey.  I learned that I don't like mushy fries.  I learned that I like my fries thinly sliced.  I learned that I don't like the way they taste when tossed in corn starch before baking (even though this is supposed to help prevent mushy fries).  I learned that giving them lots of room on the sheet pan is the best way to get them to crisp up.  And I learned that sweet potato fries taste best when dipped in tahini ketchup.  What a way to start the year.

Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4

2 sweet potatoes, thinly sliced into fries
1 Tablespoon coconut oil (or another oil suitable for high heat)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
pinch chile pepper
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss sweet potato fries with oil and lay flat on sheet pan.  Sprinkle with cumin, paprika, chile pepper, and sea salt.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning twice.  Serve hot.

Tahini Ketchup
Yields: 1/2 cup

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup ketchup

Combine tahini and ketchup and serve.