Sunday, February 28, 2010

wilted chard with garlic, lemon, and parmesan

We are starting to get ready to move (more on this soon). Today, this meant that I spent my morning going through cooking magazines (which seem to have started to spontaneously generate - I have no idea how I've collected so many!) to decide which ones would join us in the move and which would be headed towards a recycling bin fate.

One of my habits when I get a new cooking magazine is to stick a post-it note on the front and list the recipes that catch my eye as I'm perusing the mag. It was impossible not to read these lists as I sorted through the piles, so as a sorted, I reminded myself of a whole host of recipes I'd been planning to make but still haven't gotten around to.

This is one of those recipes. I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand, which was a bonus. The recipe is adapted from the January 2009 edition of Gourmet (which, sadly, has gone out of print). My primary modifications were the addition of preserved lemon (not required, but I have one on hand that I'm trying to use up), olives, and red pepper flakes. A vegetarian version that omits the anchovies (but includes the salty olives) would also be tasty. Here's what I did:

Wilted Chard with Garlic, Lemon, and Parmesan
Serves 2

olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced
1 bunch chard
2 anchovy fillets (optional)
6 oil cured olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. preserved lemon rind, minced
1/4 c. grated parmesan
red pepper flakes

Cut chard leaves from stems and center ribs. Cut leaves and stems into 2-inch pieces, reserving separately.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Saute garlic until golden, about 45 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add anchovies to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until they start to break down, about 30 seconds. Add chard stems and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chard leaves by handfuls, turning with tongs and covering pot briefly until greens are wilted. Cook until the leaves and stems are tender, 5 to 8 minutes.

Stir garlic into chard along with lemon juice, preserved lemon, olives and cheese. Serve topped with additional parmesan and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

One year ago: roasted romanesco

Saturday, February 27, 2010

blackened green bean salad

We are having dinner at Dave and Ashley's house tonight. They asked that we bring a salad, so my mind went immediately to something lettuce or spinach based. Not having yet landed on what sort of salad to bring, I was flipping through a magazine earlier today and paused on a recipe for skillet cooked green beans. That sounded pretty tasty. It wasn't until later in the day that I realized I could introduce a few twists to this recipe and turn it into something that could pass as a salad...who says a salad has to have lettuce in it, anyway?

The result was super tasty, beautiful, and flexible: it can be eaten, hot, cold, or any temperature in between. Here's what I did:

Blackened Green Bean Salad
Serves 4

1 large orange
2 tsp. canola oil
1 lb. green beans, rinsed and trimmed
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
a handful of pecans, toasted
freshly ground black pepper

Finely grate the zest of orange; set zest aside. Segment orange, removing as much of the pith as possible. Slice each segment in half lengthwise and crosswise, cutting each segment into 4 pieces. Set aside.

Heat canola oil over high heat in a large skillet. When it begins to smoke, add the green beans. Sprinkle with sea salt. Cook, stirring only every 2 minutes or so, until the beans are half blistered and blackened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the orange juice, olive oil, and vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Transfer the green beans to a serving platter. (If your salad is going to travel, like mine, or you're preparing it ahead of time, allow the green beans to cool in pan then cover and store in fridge until ready to use). Scatter orange slices over beans, then pour dressing over the top. Sprinkle with orange zest, toasted pecans, and freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy!

One year ago: sauteed radicchio

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

almond joy crispies

Oh, YUM.

Yes, it is my second time making rice crispy treats inside a week (ok, inside of 3 days). I honestly couldn't help myself. The first ones were so good. And gone. And I've been thinking about this almond variation since I made the first peanut buttery batch...

They turned out even better than I had imagined. You simply must try one.

Almond Joy Crispies
Makes 36 1" squares

3/4 c. almond butter
3/4 c. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. agar flakes
1/2 tsp. coconut extract (optional)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 c. unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal
3/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c. toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped*
*I used E. Guittard bittersweet chocolate wafers.

Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine cereal, coconut, almonds, and chocolate. Set aside.

In a large pot, combine almond butter, maple syrup, agar flakes, salt, and extracts. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is hot, smooth, and bubbly. Mix in dry ingredients.

Press mixture into parchment lined baking pan. Refrigerate until cool (at least 30 minutes) and cut into small squares with a sharp knife. (These are a bit richer than the peanut butter version due to the chocolate, so I cut them even smaller. Also, that way you can eat more!)

To ensure my 3-day sugar high doesn't expand to 4, most of these will be accompanying me to work tomorrow to spread the almond joy. Though I may allow myself to steal one on the drive into work. After all, this does contain cereal, so that means it's technically a breakfast food, right?


One year ago: rutabaga 3 ways

Monday, February 22, 2010

peanut butter crispies

I've just discovered my new favorite desert. It's easy to make. And while healthy may be too strong of a word (given that two of the main ingredients are peanut butter and maple syrup), it markedly does not contain processed sugar or butter - two of the things that typically make desserts so good (and so bad in large quantities).

The basic recipe is from Super Natural Cooking. This time, I kept it simple and my only changes were the addition of vanilla and peanuts. But I'm very excited to try additional variations and definitely plan to experiment with different nut butters and add ins (I'm already dreaming about a version involving almond butter, unsweetened coconut, and carob chips...).

JR is training for an iron man and it's becoming nearly impossible to keep food in the house. He's also been running into challenges trying to figure out what to eat during and between runs and bike rides to keep his energy level up. Between his ride and run today, he devoured a couple of these crispy squares: the sweet snack is a good balance of protein, carbs, and natural sugars to help maintain energy.

Peanut Butter Crispies
Makes 20 snack sized squares

3/4 c. natural peanut butter*
3/4 c. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. agar flakes**
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
3 1/2 c. unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal
1/2 c. unsalted peanuts
*By natural, I mean that the only ingredient should be peanuts.
**Agar flakes are a vegetarian gelatin, derived from seaweed.

Combine peanut butter, maple syrup, agar, salt, and vanilla in a large pot over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until melted and beginning to bubble.

Add cereal and peanuts. Stir until well mixed. Transfer to a parchment-lined 8x8 baking dish, pressing firmly into place with wax paper.

Refrigerate until cool, then cut into small squares with a sharp knife.

One year ago: split pea soup

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I think the picture says it better than words can: yum.

Pissaladiere is a type of French pizza. I learned from Wikipedia that it is popular in southern France (especially around Nice, Marseilles, Toulon, and the Var District), as well as in the Italian region of Liguria. Pissaladiere is known as a white pizza, as it contains no tomatoes, and is traditionally topped with caramelized onions, olives, and anchovies. After making and consuming it last night, I'm going to consider it heaven on a plate.

Allow me to indulge in a brief aside: my cleanse is over. Not finished (as you may recall, I began the 28 day cleanse on February 1st), but rather, I'm done with it. After nearly 3 weeks of no wheat, sugar, or dairy, I'm seeing most of the benefits I was hoping for (I think I've kicked the chocolate and wine before bed habit, I'm sleeping much better, waking up each morning with energy, and my jeans fit better) and I really miss cooking with some of these ingredients! So I'm going to call this round complete (slightly ahead of my 30th birthday, which was my intent anyway, just a little bigger "slightly" than initially planned) and plan to give it another go in summer, where there will be a greater variety of fruits and veggies to consume.

Back to the French pizza: I've been thinking about pissaladiere since I copied down the recipe over Christmas at my mom's house (from A Taste of the World). As I read through the recipe again yesterday, my mouth began to water. Now seemed the perfect time to try it out.

The result? The combination of sweet caramelized onions and salty olives and anchovies was turned out just as great as I had imagined it would be. The thyme and marjoram provided perfect bits of additional flavor in perfect proportions. For vegetarians reading, it would be good without the anchovies as well, you may just want to dial up the salty olives a bit.

The original recipe sounded like it would be huge, so I halved it. I also omitted winter savory sprigs from the confit, mostly because I didn't have the patience at the grocery store to locate them, and played with the amounts of some of the other ingredients. The recipe below reflects my modifications. The instructions make the process sound much more involved than it is - most of the preparation time is inactive (onions baking, dough rising). And I promise, once you taste this, you'll realize the bit of labor to get there was totally worth it...

Serves 4

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 c. lukewarm water
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more to oil bowl
1 1/2 c. flour, plus more for kneading and rolling

10 anchovy fillets
10 oil cured black olives, pitted and halved
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced fresh marjoram

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cut butter into pieces and put in a shallow baking dish. Melt in oven 5 minutes. Remove dish, add onions to it. Tear bay leaves and sprinkle over onions. Add thyme sprigs, pepper, salt, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake, turning every 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown, 60-90 minutes. Remove from oven. Discard bay leaf pieces and thyme sprigs.

Meanwhile, prepare dough. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl. Add sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy. Combine yeast mix, salt, olive oil, and flour in mixer. Process until a silky but firm ball forms. If too wet, add a little flour at a time; if too dry, dribble with warm water.

Turn dough onto well-floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic. Oil a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer dough to bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size - 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough, recover with towel, and let rest for 30 additional minutes.

Lightly flour an 8x13 rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish. Position rack in upper third of oven. Preheat to 500 degrees. Punch down dough and turn out onto lightly floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle. Transfer to baking dish. Spread with onion confit, arrange anchovies and olives on top. Bake until crisp and lightly browned, 12-15 minutes.

Serve warm, drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh marjoram.

We ate ours along side a simple salad and bowls of fresh tomato and basil soup. Cut it into small pieces, it would make an excellent dinner party appetizer.

One year ago: spicy bok choy soup

Saturday, February 20, 2010

ahi sushi bowl

You may recall the sushi bowl concept from late last year. Earlier this week, I decided to revisit it. I was initially thinking of building a deconstructed salmon roll, but the ahi at the fish counter caught my eye, so I made a last minute seafood swap, but left the remaining ingredients as I had planned. Here's what I did:

Ahi Sushi Bowl
Serves 2

3 Tbsp. shoyu or soy sauce
juice from 1 orange
1 tsp. rice vinegar

seared ahi:
1 tsp. peanut oil
1/3 lb. ahi tuna (searing grade)
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds (I used a mix of black and white)

the rest:
1 tsp. peanut oil
3 green onions, sliced (including greens)
1 tsp. ginger, minced
1/4 c. edamame
3 c. cooked rice
1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped into matchsticks
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 sheet nori, toasted to crispiness in a hot pan or under the broiler
sesame seeds

Mix the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

Heat 1 tsp. peanut oil in medium frying pan over medium heat. Add ahi. Sear lightly on each side (1-2 minutes per side, or until desired doneness - I like mine to cook about 1/2 cm. on either side, leaving most of the middle raw). Allow to cool slightly, then cut into 1/4" slices.

Heat remaining 1 tsp. peanut oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add ginger and green onions. Stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add edamame and rice. Cook until rice is hot. Add dressing and stir fry until well distributed. Add crumbled nori, mixing to distribute.

Serve rice in individual bowls topped with ahi, avocado, cucumber, and additional sesame seeds.

One year ago: homemade veggie stock

Monday, February 15, 2010

french lentil and roasted squash soup

Ah, mid winter holiday. In celebration of Washington and Lincoln's birthdays, I paid bills, unpacked from my trip to Seattle, did laundry, and cleaned out the fridge (JR apparently survived on pizza and bacon in my absence). I also thought about what to eat in the coming day and coming week.

I came across the following recipe on 101cookbooks. It initially caught my eye because I thought I had a butternut squash patiently waiting to be consumed on the counter (though when I noted its absence, JR reminded me that I already used it to make aztec squash soup last week). But by that time, I'd already read through the recipe and was hooked. It meant trying a number of things for the first time:

1. Star anise - it's a beautiful spice and it smells amazing. I was curious how this would combine with ginger to flavor the soup. How much like black licorice would it taste, exactly?
2. Fennel bulb - this veggie has only entered my kitch twice before; I have never tried cooking with it, and was excited to see what would happen.
3. French lentils - how are they different from lentil lentils? No idea. Time to find out.

It turns out that my French lentil knowledge (or rather, complete lack thereof) was tested at the grocery store. I stood, staring at the shelves of lentils and beans, unable to see anything that said "French Lentil". iPhone to the rescue. Through this informative lentil site, I learned that French Lentils are also called French Green Lentils. There were green lentils on the shelf, but no French descriptor. Upon closer reading of the site, it was confirmed that green lentils are another name for brown lentils, which are the lentils I've used in curries before, and which are not the same as French green lentils. Still no French lentils to be found.

Just as I had resolved to stop by another grocery store on my way home, I thought to take a look in the bulk foods section. Bingo! French Green Lentils. They were dark and speckled, just like my handy lentil site had pictured. I also learned how they are different from brown lentils: they remain firm after cooking and have a rich flavor.

Enough about lentils. On to the soup!

French Lentil & Roasted Squash Soup
Serves 4-6

1 butternut squash*
1 c. French green lentils, rinsed
5 1/8-inch thick rounds of fresh ginger
1 whole star anise
6 c. water
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
red pepper flakes
*The original recipe calls for a kabocha squash. The grocery store didn't have any on hand, so I substituted butternut squash, which worked well.

Cut squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp. Oil cut sides and place cut sides down in a baking dish. Roast in 425 degree oven 45-60 minutes, until soft. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine lentils, ginger, anise, and water. Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Add sea salt.

In a large soup pot, combine olive oil, onion, leek, and fennel. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until soft, 7-10 minutes.

Remove the star anise and ginger from lentils. Add lentils (with broth) and squash to veggies. Stir well. Cook an additional 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Season with additional salt if needed and a dash of red pepper flakes.

As I approached the "put it all together" step, I became concerned that this might be a really weird soup. But weird it was not. It was flavorful and hearty and is definitely something I will make again. Ah, mid winter holiday. :-)

One year ago: garlicky kale

spicy vegetable chili

I'm continuing the trend you've seen posted this week on veggie-packed meals. Weeks 2 and 3 of the cleanse I'm currently undertaking call for 70% of the food I intake to be in the form of raw vegetables. Given that I'm in Washington state at the moment and it's 40 degrees and raining, the thought of 70% raw fruits and veggies is a little bone chilling. So I'm cutting myself some slack. I'm not going to concede on the 70% vegetable part, but am going to try to be ok with the fact that they are mostly going to be, well, cooked. It's a compromise I'm willing to live with (at least until I get back to Cali, where it's a little warmer).

I wasn't planning on such a spicy chili, but it turns out that a little chipotle in adobo sauce goes a long way. I used 2 about tablespoons, and would consider the result to be on the spicy side of medium. Any more and you'll have some serious spice on your hands. Reduce it if you aren't a spice lover (but think about making it available on the side if you are feeding anyone who might want to increase the heat in their bowl).

Spicy Vegetable Chili
Makes a very big pot of chili

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 handful mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp. chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes (with liquid)
4 c. kidney beans, cooked & drained*
2 c. small red beans, cooked & drained*
2 c. water
*I used dried beans for my version, but if you're looking for a shortcut, canned beans will work as well. Just make sure they are rinsed well to reduce the salt that is added in the canning process.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium low heat. Add onions and garlic. I like to chop my way through the other ingredients, adding them to the pot as they are chopped and stirring occasionally. Once you've added all of the produce, increase heat to medium. Stir and cook a few minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add chipotles in adobo and spices. Stir and cook 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, beans, and water. Stir well. Allow to cook together, partially covered, over low heat as long as you can (at least an hour to give the flavors a chance to meld). As with most stews, this will be even better on the second day. It also freezes well if you don't think you can make your way through the leftovers.

This chili with a kick provided the perfect internal warmth on a damp Northwest day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

slow cooked veggie packed tomato sauce

When I told my mom I was making vegetable pasta, she pictured pasta with vegetables. But instead, I decided to incorporate the veggies into the sauce. I had a free afternoon on my hands, so I filled it with chopping and cooking (some of my favorite pastimes). What resulted was a delicious and nutrient-packed sauce. Before we get to the recipe, let's take a look at the nutritional benefits of the main components:*

Onion: Onions are a rich source of flavonoids, substances known to provide protection against cardiovascular disease. They help the body's metabolism by lowering blood cholesterol, blood fat, and blood sugar. They are a natural antibiotic and contain vitamins A, B, C, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur compounds, bioflavonoids, and essential oils. The high concentration of sulfides in onions provide protection against tumor growth, especially that associated with stomach cancer.

Red Bell Pepper: Red bell peppers contain high amounts of vitamins A and C and, like most other vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables, are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants work together to neutralize free radicals, which can travel through the body and cause damage to cells (they contribute to: cholesterol build up in arteries that lead to heard disease, the nerve damage in diabetes, the cloudy lenses of cataracts, the joint damage in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and the tightening airways of asthma). The antioxidant free radical destroyers found in bell peppers may help prevent or reduce the symptoms of these conditions by shutting down the source of the problem.

Mushroom: Mushrooms are a good vegetarian source of protein and contain copper, iodine, manganese, potassium, selenium, and zinc. They have stimulant properties and can help strengthen the immune system. For the past 20 years, the phytonutrients found in mushrooms have been the object of anti-cancer research. They have been shown to help regulate the amount of estrogen circulating in the body, and thus protect against breast cancer.

Canned Crushed Tomato: Tomatoes are packed with a number of great things, but I'll concentrate on one here - lycopene. Lycopene helps protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen damage and has been linked to the protection of DNA inside white blood cells - amazing stuff. Canned tomatoes have an even greater concentration of lycopene than their fresh counterparts due to the processing method. Carotenoids like lycopene are fat-soluble, so pair tomatoes with olive oil, avocado, or nuts to aid in absorption in the body. Commercial tomatoes are sometimes grown to quickly or genetically modified, so it's definitely worth seeking out organically produced tomatoes for their greater nutritional benefits - this holds true for items made from tomatoes as well: organic ketchup has been shown to contain 3x the lycopene content of that made from commercially grown tomatoes!

Rainbow Chard: calls chard the "vegetable valedictorian" due to its impressive list of health promoting nutrients. Chard is high in vitamins A, C, and K, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, and a host of other vitamins and minerals. The combination of traditional nutrients, phytonutrients, and dietary fiber have been shown to aid in the prevention of digestive tract cancers, such as colon cancer. Bonus - you get all of these health benefits in relatively few calories (35 calories per cup).

Kalamata Olive: The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health touts the olive as a superfood. They are packed with vitamins A and E, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, antioxidants, oleic and linoleic acid. Olives and olive oil are a staple of the Mediterranean diet; those who follow it have a low incidence of cardiovascular disease compared to those who eat a high proportion of animal fat in their diet. Why? Studies have shown that the high oleic acid content in olives and their oil helps regulate the balance between high-density lipoprotein ("good" cholesterol) and low-density lipoprotein ("bad" cholesterol) in the blood, which prevents fatty deposits in the arteries and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

On to the recipe! Here's what I did:

Slow Cooked Veggie Packed Tomato Sauce
Makes about 4 cups

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 handful of mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 28-oz. can crushed organic tomatoes
1/2 tsp. honey or agave nectar
1 bunch chard, destemmed and chopped into thin strips
1 handful kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until fragrant and soft, 3-4 minutes. Add red pepper and cook an additional 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and spices. Stir and cook 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, honey, and 1/2 c. water.

Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (adjust the heat lower if it begins to bubble too rapidly, and add more water if the sauce begins to look too dry).

Add chard to top of sauce (don't mix in) and cover pan. Allow chard to steam for 10 minutes, until bright green. Uncover and mix chard into sauce. Increase heat to medium. Add kalamata olives. Cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with your favorite pasta.

Friday, February 12, 2010

miso braised bok choy and mushrooms

I love baby bok choy. This time of year, it makes a regular appearance in the weekly
CSA box. I had originally been thinking of putting it into a stir fry, but then decided against it. Then I was thinking miso soup, but again reconsidered. What about a sort of hybrid of the two? Bingo.

As described below, this makes a great side dish. Add more water or broth for a soup. Or add tofu and serve over brown rice for a meal. Oh, the possibilities!

Miso Braised Bok Choy and Mushrooms
Serves 2

1 Tbsp. peanut oil
1-2 handfuls mushrooms, quartered
2 heads baby bok choy, well rinsed and chopped
1 Tbsp. white miso paste
1/2 c. vegetable broth
sesame oil & chili flakes to serve

In a small bowl, whisk miso paste with 1/4 c. hot broth until smooth. Set aside.

Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook 2 minutes. Add miso-broth mixture to mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed or evaporated, 3-5 minutes.

Add bok choy and remaining broth. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are soft and bok choy is tender but still bright green. Remove cover and let any remaining liquid evaporate.

Serve drizzled with toasted sesame oil and a sprinkling of crushed chili flakes.

One year ago: seared ahi tuna

Thursday, February 11, 2010

vegetarian split pea soup

Growing up, my mom would periodically make a big pot of split pea soup. I never paid much attention to what went into it until my vegetarian years, when the fact that it was cooked with ham hocks caused me to avoid it.

When I was in Seattle in December, the pot of split pea soup my mom made tasted like a bowl of nostalgia in a very yummy way (I don't eat much meat, but am no longer vegetarian). The role of ham hocks while cooking is to depart a smoky flavor to the soup, which I'll agree is pretty tasty.

The only time I've made split pea soup before, it was a different twist from what I consider to be the traditional version my mom makes. And earlier this week, it was the traditional version that I was craving. There's little better than a big pot of soup when it's cold and rainy outside.

Challenge: I wanted a vegetarian version. Can it be as tasty as the ham hocks version? After the soup I made earlier this week, I believe the answer is yes. Here's what I did:

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
Makes a big pot of soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
desired spices*
2 c. dried split peas, rinsed and sorted
8 c. water or vegetable stock**
fried leeks (optional, but highly recommended)
*I used 1 tsp. dried lemon thyme, 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram, 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp. white pepper.
**I used 1/2 cube of Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon with Sea Salt dissolved in hot water as my base.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Stir and cook until mix becomes fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add carrots and celery. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender, 8-10 minutes. Add spices, stirring to distribute, and continue to cook for 2 minutes.

Add water or veggie stock and split peas. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until split peas are cooked to desired tenderness. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To make fried leeks, rinse leek well and slice white part into 1/4" rounds. Place in a small bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp. arrowroot powder. Mix to coat. Heat 1" vegetable oil in the bottom of a pot over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add leeks in a single layer (you may need to do it in a couple of batches). Fry, stirring occasionally, until leeks are golden brown. Remove and allow to drain on paper towels.

Serve soup topped with fried leeks. You won't miss the ham hocks, I promise!

One year ago: Aztec squash soup

Saturday, February 6, 2010

detox breakfast rice

Earlier this week, I embarked on a 4-week detox program. My impetus for doing so was twofold: 1) to give my body a chance to process the toxins that have built up over time, and 2) to help me hit the "reset" button on my diet: I think maybe I forgot to stop eating the rich foods and sweets after the holiday season ended. Time to change that.

The program I'm following is from The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health. I did this cleanse last summer and felt amazing afterwards. Week one of the detox calls for drinking a lot of herbal tea and low content mineral water, and cutting out wheat, dairy, meat, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. This means that I'm eating a lot of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (and drinking a lot of liquid!). It's only been six days, but I already feel like I'm sleeping better and have more energy during the day. Direct evidence: I got up at 8am this morning (a Saturday), which is nearly unheard of!

During the past week, my staple breakfast at work has been steel cut oats with banana, dried blueberries, flax seeds, and almonds. Saturday brought with it a break from this routine. After getting up this morning, I scoured the fridge and cupboards searching for something satiating and healthy. Leftover brown rice in the fridge plus dried fruit in the pantry from JR's parents sounded like, together, they would do the trick.

Before I get into the preparation details, let's check out the benefits of the food items that make up this dish (this section could aptly be titled, "what I learned from the internet today"):

Dried cherries & peaches: Both fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals: vitamins A, B, E, calcium, magnesium, potassium. Cherries are detoxifying and rejuvenating; they stimulate the immune system and help prevent infection. Peaches are both diuretic and laxative - perfect during a cleanse. Researchers have discovered that when you dry fruit, it can become richer in antioxidants (though it's important to note that water soluble vitamins, like vitamin C are degraded in the process). Dried fruit is also higher in fiber than its fresh counterparts. Look for natural dried fruit that doesn't have added sugar.

Brown rice: Brown rice is a whole grain, energy-providing food. It is a complex carbohydrate that provides 15 essential nutrients, including B-vitamins, niacin, and potassium. Brown rice is rich in fiber and gentle on the digestive system. It helps control blood sugar and cholesterol.

Soy milk: Soy milk is high in protein, and because it is made from beans, also contains much more fiber than cow's milk. Soy milk contains isoflavones, which are thought to help in the prevention of heart disease, osteoporosis, and many cancers.

Honey: Honey is a natural sweetener and a natural antibiotic. It contains a variety of vitamins and minerals (that vary depending on the type of flowers used for apiculture). Because of its numerous nutritional benefits, honey is treasured around the world and is an important aspect of traditional medicines, such as Ayurveda. One source I read said that honey can also help with weight loss: when consumed with warm water, it helps in digesting the fat stored in your body. There's a good reason to add some honey to your tea!

Cinnamon: Chinese herbalists use cinnamon to promote vitality and warm the body. It has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol and have a regulatory effect on blood sugar. Honey is a good source of fiber, iron, and calcium. Bonus: it tastes good!

Pecans: Like other nuts, pecans are a good source of monounsaturated fat. Several studies have shown that pecans contain more antioxidants than any other type of nut. Pecans contain vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and zinc.

Ok, the health lesson for today is complete. Here's how it all came together in a tasty, satisfying breakfast:

Detox Breakfast Rice
Serves 2

1/2 c. dried cherries
1/4 c. dried peaches
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. brown rice, cooked
6-8 oz. soy milk
1 Tbsp. honey

Place the dried fruit in a small bowl. Boil water, add to bowl. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat rice in a pot over medium heat with 1/4 c. soy milk, stirring occasionally, until the soy milk is absorbed and the rice is hot. Reduce heat to medium low. Add fruit (including water) and honey. Mix to combine. Stir periodically, adding more soy milk as needed to keep the rice moist and from sticking to the bottom of the pan (similar to making risotto). Continue with this process until rice reaches desired consistency - the longer you cook and add soy milk, the creamier it will become.

Serve topped with a couple dashes of cinnamon and a sprinkling of pecans.

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