Category Archives: Food

Spring Superfood Smoothie

Oh geez, people.  I have so much to tell you.  There are apple cinnamon cookies, there’s lemony quinoa asparagus salad, there’s a really impressive bourbon carrot cake.  There’s also hiking and rock climbing and some crafty stuff.  There’s probably a lot I’m forgetting.  But before all that (especially before the cake…that’ll come next, and it’s sinful) there’s the renewing, refreshing superfood power of this smoothie.

Don’t be fooled by the spinach AND kale in this smoothie.  You won’t be able to taste it, I promise.  That green power is amped up by the antioxidant power of frozen berries, plus the protein and good-for-you fats of Greek yogurt and almond milk.  Make a big tall glass of this and feel good about the rest of your day!

Superfood Smoothie

Makes 1 tall glass, about 16-18 ounces

  • scant 1 cup almond milk (I like the kind that’s sweetened but not flavored)
  • 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup loosely packed baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed kale, torn
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (I do a third each of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries)
  • 1/2 frozen banana, sliced
  • drizzle of honey (about 1 tablespoon)

Put the almond milk, yogurt, spinach and kale in the blender and blend well.  Then add the remaining ingredients and blend until you get a thick, well-combined smoothie.  You might need to pulse it a little bit, or put it on grind for a few seconds and stir it with a spoon if your blender is having trouble with the frozen stuff.  Your finished product should be thick and purple!

You might need to eat this with a spoon (side note: I am obsessed with mint green nail polish).  You can change up the ingredients a little bit, but the way I make it produces one big, satisfying serving with about 300 calories.  Now your body is prepped and ready for carrot cake and french fries…just sayin.

Also, a lesson on frozen bananas: peel the bananas before freezing.  I made the mistake of popping them in the freezer whole and the skins are close to impossible to remove.  Just a bit of wisdom from me to you.

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Mushroom Polenta as a Lesson in Time Management

I haven’t been posting a whole lot lately.  You know this, I know this, I’m sure whatever government agency monitoring our computers knows this.  And I apologize.  I’ve been very busy lately…well, I thought I was very busy.  Really I was just making bad choices about my priorities.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been running around like a crazy lady, with capoeira, volunteering, starting my business, working, meeting friends and of course spending time with my boo.  Oh and laundry.  Lots of laundry.  But the truth is, in my down time (scarce as it is) I’ve just been sitting on my butt, watching reruns of Food Network shows online and eating WAY too many brownies.  So now it’s back to blogging, meditating, crafting…the good stuff.  More good stuff.

Anywho. Who remember’s Stick Stickly from Nickelodeon?  If you do, you know why I ask.

ANYWHO.  What better way to teach a lesson in time management than baked polenta?  There are several steps and (literally) several pots on the stove, but it’s not as hard as it looks.  And it’s oh so rewarding!  I’ve adapted this recipe for mushroom polenta from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, that lovely book I got for Christmas.  I changed up a few things – adding veggies, changing the cheese, pairing it with a spicy cream tomato sauce – but as we know, recipes are just jumping off points, right?  Right!  Especially with something as versatile as polenta.

Mushroom Polenta with Spicy Cream Tomato Sauce

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups water or low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 6-8 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 portobello mushroom, sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • optional: handful of baby spinach (or whatever green you want to put in)
  • splash each low-sodium vegetable stock and red wine
  • 3/4 cup grated smoked provolone or mozzarella
  • 1 28-ounce can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons cream
  • olive oil
  • dried basil and thyme to taste
  • paprika, chili powder and red pepper flakes to taste
  • salt and pepper

This is one of those recipes where you want your mise en place to actually be in place – you’ll have to sautee the veggies, cook the polenta, make the sauce and then bake the finished product.  I’d start by at least cleaning and prepping your mushrooms, plus chopping your onions and garlic.  Remember to remove the gills of your portobello with a spoon!

Then you can start by adding half your onions and garlic to a large sautee pan with some olive oil.  When the onions begin to turn soft and translucent, add your mushrooms, plus a splash of vegetable stock and red wine to help them cook down.  Continue to sautee the vegetables until the mushrooms begin to soften, then add some salt, pepper, basil and thyme to taste (I tend to go a little heavier on the basil).

Toss in some spinach or other green if you want to (or, as I did, some baby romaine I needed to use up – weird, I know, but I’d rather not let it go to waste and I’m one of those weird people who doesn’t mind wilted greens).  Keep turning everything until the greens begin to wilt and the mushrooms and onions are cooked through, then remove from heat and set aside.

While your onions and mushrooms are cooking you can start the polenta by bringing your 3 cups of water or veggie stock to a boil in a large pot.  When it begins to boil, slowly pour in your cornmeal while stirring with a whisk to prevent clumps.  Reduce the heat and simmer the cornmeal uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently – be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so the polenta doesn’t scorch!  Add in a generous pinch of salt, plus some pepper, paprika and maybe a dash of chili powder if that’s your fancy.  When the polenta is thick and the water is absorbed, pour it into a greased 9-inch glass pie dish.

Oh!  Did I mention you should also be making your tomato sauce?  If you want, you can move the mushroom topping mix into a bowl and reuse your sautee pan.  Just add some olive oil and sautee about another quarter of your onion with a couple more cloves of garlic.  When they begin to get soft and translucent, add in your can of crushed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper, plus a good dash of paprika, basil, chili powder and a generous sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes.  Adjust all the seasonings according to how spicy you like things – I like em spicy!  Heck, throw in some oregano if you want.  Simmer the sauce on low heat to marry the flavors and cook off some of the liquid; after about 5-10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in a tablespoon or so of heavy cream.  Be conservative here – a little cream will go a long way, so add a little bit at a time until it’s to your liking.  Then top your polenta with a thin layer of the sauce.

Next, top the polenta with about half your cheese, then the mushroom mixture, then the rest of your cheese.  Add another sprinkling of pepper if you want, then pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Hit the broiler for a few minutes more, and when the top looks brown and bubbly take it out.  Let it cool a bit, then serve in slices topped with more sauce and a fresh green salad.  I know it’s a lot of juggling, but trust me, you’ll get the hang of it.  Show that mise en place who’s boss!

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5-Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug

I feel like, before I go ahead with this recipe, I need to issue a warning: this recipe is dangerous.  It’s way too easy, way too convenient and perhaps just a little too indulgent (the cake base on its own is about 400 calories).  You might find yourself whipping up this cake far too often for your own good, so proceed with caution.

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On the other hand, this cake might be your best friend on days you really need a quick boost of warm chocolate without going to the store or spending an hour baking a cake.  In fact, you can make this little gem in five minutes flat, I guarantee it (I don’t actually guarantee it).  It’s especially nice on snow days with coffee, and it would totally impress an unexpected guest – most if not all of the ingredients are probably in your kitchen anyway!  If you don’t believe how easy it is, go ahead and give it a try.  But know the awesome addictive power of a five-minute cake.

5-Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug (adapted from The Family Kitchen)

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon water (or a bit more if needed)
  • optional: sea salt, chopped walnuts, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, salted caramel candy, instant coffee, peanut butter…?

In a small bowl (think soup bowl sized), mix your mandatory chocolate cake ingredients.  All of them.  Seriously, just throw that stuff together and stir away.  If you’re adding in something that will fill the whole cake, stir it in now: a small handful of chopped nuts, a quarter teaspoon each of cinnamon and chili, a half teaspoon maybe of instant coffee powder?  Not all of them of course.  Don’t be greedy.  Pick a theme, you can always make another one later.

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Then grease or spray a regular-sized coffee mug (something around 12 ounces) and pour the batter into the mug.  If you’re adding something that isn’t incorporated into the whole cake batter, pop it in now: drop a couple caramel candies in the center, swirl in a tablespoon of peanut butter, top with crushed pretzels or sprinkle with sea salt.

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Finally, microwave your mug of goodness for one-and-a-half to two minutes on high power.  The mug will be hot, so remove it carefully and let cool a minute.  Then…indulge.  It’s really that easy.  And addictive. Beware!

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Mujaddara Paella?

Look, I don’t mean to brag here, but this dish is a winner.  It started out as mujaddara – a spiced Middle Eastern dish of lentils, rice and onions.  But you know me, and I can’t settle for only grains and protein for dinner.  I have to add as many veggies as I can.  As it happens, I’ve also been hankering for some paella lately (also Spanish rice, which I plan on making with cauliflower – stay tuned!) – not traditional paella, since I don’t eat meat or seafood, but the idea of a paella.  You know, rice and veggies and spices.   The obvious solution is to combine the two, and I must say, it is mighty delicious.  And, as always, healthy!

Mujaddara Paella

  • 3/4 cup lentils (I like red)
  • 1/3 cup basmati or long-grain rice
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3-1/2 cup frozen peas
  • about 3 ounces baby spinach
  • olive oil
  • 1/4-1/3 cup red wine
  • pinch of dried sage and thyme
  • chili powder, paprika and red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper

First, soak your rice in water while you get the lentils and veggies going.  Put your lentils on the stove with 1 and 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the water is evaporated and the lentils are tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Turn off the heat, stir in the tomato and let stand, covered, until the other items are done.

Although you should technically soak your rice for about 30 minutes, I usually get impatient and only soak it for about 10 minutes before cooking it.  Like the lentils, stir with 2/3 to 1 cup water and cover, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.  The rice might take a little longer to cook, about 25-30 minutes, until it’s truly tender.  Stir it (and the lentils!) often so nothing sticks to the bottom of your pan and burns.

While your lentils and rice are going, start sauteeing your onions in olive oil.  When they begin to soften and turn translucent, add your garlic and mushrooms.  Wipe the caps with a paper towel to clean and scrape out the gills of the portobello.

Sautee on medium-low heat until the mushrooms start to cook, then add about 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 to 1/3 cup red wine (I just drizzle it in the pot till it looks right – i.e. not a lot of excess wine in the pan), plus a little more olive oil if needed.  Also add some salt, pepper, sage and thyme to taste (just a pinch of the last two, and a healthy sprinkling of the first two).  Stir frequently until the mushrooms really become tender and start to shrink.

At this point, add in your baby spinach and peas, and stir until the spinach begins to wilt.  Take off the heat and add to the lentils, along with a dash of chili powder, a smidge of red pepper flakes if you like heat, and a generous amount of paprika.  Stir together with more salt and pepper, and add the rice whenever it’s ready.  Taste to adjust the seasonings, but remember the flavors will marry more as leftovers.  Then…serve!  Whole grains, protein (in the rice, peas and lentils) and of course vegetables.  My kind of meal and oh so good.  Another one-pot (okay, three-pot) wonder!

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Spinach Cheese Cakes

This is a lazy post.  Not because I’ve been lazy – quite the opposite, actually.  I’ve been extremely busy – in the best possible way! – hence no recent posts.  I’ve been completely obsessed with capoeira, which takes up 2-3 of my weeknights, and of course I’m still volunteering in therapeutic horseback riding…but now I’m up to five hours every Sunday.  It doesn’t feel like a chore though, since they’re both things that feed my soul.  All my remaining free time is taken up with my awesome friends and fantastic boyfriend.  And sometimes laundry.  Sometimes.  So yeah, life is good…but busy!

Anyway.  This recipe is pretty easy, so long as you have a real food processor like a real person and don’t have to hand-chop spinach before attempting to really annihilate it with an immersion blender.  Side note: using an immersion blender on a huge bowl of spinach will look, feel and sound like you’re doing yard work.  But other than that it’s an easy recipe.  I like having a little stash to eat with tomato soup and crusty bread, or you can make them for party apps.  I bet they’d also freeze well for those SUPER lazy days!  The best part is you pack almost a pound of spinach and a ton of protein into indulgent-feeling food.

Spinach Cheese Cakes (adapted from Eating Well)

  • 12 ounces (2 bunches) spinach, or you can add in/substitute some kale or other greens
  • heaping 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese (low-sodium, if you can!)
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Like I said, you start this recipe by chopping the spinach and other leafy greens in a food processor, or, if you’re me, you painstakingly hand-chop the leaves before attempting to finish this off with a hand blender.  I bet you could just hand-chop these though if you don’t have any sort of automatic implement.

So this becomes this:

Then pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and spray a nonstick muffin tin.  In a small bowl, lightly beat your two eggs together.  Then, in your big bowl o’ spinach, add the rest of your ingredients: the cheeses, egg, garlic and spices.

Stir together the ingredients, then fill your muffin tins as full as you can get them (at least level to the top).  Depending on how much spinach you used, you’ll get between 8 and 12 cakes (I got 11, but I threw in some leftover kale on top of the 12 ounces of spinach).

That one lil’ empty cup looks lonely.  Bake the cakes until set, about 20 minutes.  They’ll bake waaay down and the edges will just barely start to brown.  Remove from the tin and let cool.  They were a little wet when I took them out, I’l assuming because a.) my spinach was still a little moist from washing and/or b.) I didn’t attempt to drain it.  I just stored them in a large tupperware between paper towels to soak up the extra moisture.  Serve warm with any meal that needs a boost of veggies and protein, or eat them as a healthy (50-calorie-each) snack!

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Clean Eating. But First, Banana Bread.

If you remember, dear readers, one thing on my 24 Before 25 list was to go a whole month without eating high fructose corn syrup. In the past month or so I’ve tried – and failed – about three times to do this.  Actually, I wasn’t really failing at not eating high fructose corn syrup – that turned out to be pretty easy.  What I was failing at was not eating something overly processed that technically didn’t contain HFCS (maybe just corn syrup) that then led me to feel like I was eating gross processed crap anyway and turn to more junky foods with the resolution that I would eat clean again starting tomorrow.  I’d get about a week again and then cave again.

The problem was, even though I was technically following my rule, I knew the real goal of the rule was to eat less processed food in general.  So even though my list item is still to go a month without eating HFCS, what I’m really going to do is a month – hopefully more – of clean eating.

There are a lot of ideas of good or clean eating out there.  No dairy!  No gluten!  Everything raw!  So what are my rules for clean eating?

What I will be cutting out:

  • HFCS
  • Chemicals I can’t pronounce or identify on a store shelf (i.e. those crazy stabilizers, flavorings and preservatives in packaged food)
  • Most refined sugar, with the occasional exception for things I bake myself
  • As much white flour and refined carbs as possible

What I won’t be cutting out:

  • Dairy (I rarely eat it anyway, but I like yogurt for breakfast sometimes)
  • Alcohol (but I’ll only drink my usual quality craft beer and whiskey)
  • Caffeine (green tea is totally good for you!)
  • Gluten
  • Fruit (yes, some extreme diets think fruit has to much sugar)

Basically I’m not going crazy orthorexic (orthorexic – obsession with right eating) fad diet here and cutting out whole food groups, I’m just sticking to a faith that anything whole and natural is good for you and anything packaged and processed is not.  Tomorrow will be the day I start, and I’ll go through the end of February – that’ll make a whole month.  Are you in?

But that’s tomorrow, and today, today there’s banana bread.  Not that banana bread necessarily breaks any clean eating rules – especially not my banana bread! My banana bread, which was sort of inspired by this recipe from Joy the Baker and this recipe from Allrecipes, is full of good things like millet and yogurt and fruit and had minimal bad things like sugar and oil.  Okay, so there is flour.  But it’s bread.  Duh.

Millet Banana Bread

  • 2 cups flour (try half whole wheat!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 large overripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup millet

Preheat your oven to 350 and butter a 9×5 loaf pan.  In a medium bowl, blend your flour, soda, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In a larger bowl, mash your three bananas until mostly smooth – it’s okay if there are a few chunks.  Or, if you’re like me and you froze a super-ripe banana just for this purpose, simply mush up the slimy mess you will find inside.  Seriously, it’s disgusting.  I actually had to call my mom to ask her if it was normal for the frozen banana to turn into a brown, smushy tube – I remember her doing this when I was a kid, and she assured me it was.  This is what the banana looked like out of the freezer:

And this is what it looked like when I opened it.  It stayed in one gelatinous piece, and I just shook it out of its skin into the bowl.

The rest of the bananas I just chopped and rough mashed with a fork.  When that’s done, stir in your oil and yogurt.

Add the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla, and beat with a hand mixer on low for a few seconds, just until everything is blended.  Again, it’s okay if it’s a little lumpy.  No big.  More banana goodness.

Next, stir in your dry ingredients until they are just incorporated.  Add the millet and stir in until it’s evenly distributed, then put it in your prepared pan and make sure the batter is spread to the corners.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top starts to look toasty and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  I know this doesn’t sound like long enough for banana bread, and I was just as surprised when I checked the oven after 40 minutes and the top was beginning to brown.  But hey, it works.  That’s what happens when you make up recipes: you have to adjust when things come up.  And it will come up, into a dome of crunchy banana goodness.  The millet is a great textural component, but walnuts would also be good here.  You know I’m going to tell you to play around with it yourself.  Whoever said baking is an exact science was lying!

So, banana bread for dinner tonight, clean healthy eating starting tomorrow.  The hardest part will be going to work on Monday and not snacking on all the chips and treats we have in the classroom.  But I have faith.  It is on the list, after all, I have to do it!

Speaking of the list, I’ve been making a little progress.  I already told you I watched a football game, and I’ve also started (really) volunteering at a therapeutic horseback riding center.  I’m looking into swing lessons, researching the stock market, and I’ve signed up for a program that matches international pen pals.  I also started taking capoeira lessons, which is an awesome Brazilian dance-martial arts thing that I LOVE.  I know it wasn’t a list item, but I’d been wanting to go to an intro class in Denver for a long time now, and in the spirit of the list and trying new things I finally went.  Now I can’t stop.  Of course I’ll have to wait till my body stops being so sore after every class before I can start swing dancing and rock climbing.  But I’m so glad I faced my fear of the unknown, and my fear of failure, and went for it.

You know what they say: you should do at least one thing every day that scares you!

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Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos

The first time I had sweet potato black bean tacos was at Watercourse Foods, an awesome vegetarian restaurant here in Denver.  Ever since then I was smitten.  Sweet potatoes?  Spicy food?  What?  Oh yes.

Actually, I’d been thinking about this recipe before I knew Joy the Baker did it, and before I knew there were a slew of variations online.  So you know what?  I’m not going to credit anyone but Watercourse and my own ingenuity.  Sometimes you just have to take what you want!

Let me start by saying two things. One, my usual schpiel about how this recipe is awesome and healthy and vegetarian: nothing but veggies, protein and healthy plant-based fats.  Mega win.  Two, since this was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of recipe (the best kind) I don’t really have exact measurements.  I’ll do my best to estimate things, but it’s hard on spices – I just know what looks right to me.  But I trust you.  You know how to season something “to taste”, don’t you?  Of course you do.  You got this.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos with Cabbage Slaw (serves 3)

  • 1 15-oz. can unsalted black beans
  • 1 large or 2 smallish/medium sweet potatoes
  • about 2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • about 1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • about 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped (or more…to taste!)
  • 3-4 limes
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 8 small whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 avocado
  • cumin, paprika and chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • sriracha sauce

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and chop your sweet potato(es) into small cubes, about 1/2 inch.  Think of the size of your little taco tortillas when you prepare everything – you want bite-size potatoes that won’t fall out, and thin, short ribbons of cabbage and onion for the slaw.  Toss the potatoes in a large glass baking dish with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt, pepper, cumin, paprika and chili powder to taste (I got a little heavier on the cumin and paprika – basically a solid dusting on top of the potatoes, which I then toss by hand).  Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring once, until tender.

While the potatoes are baking, toss your ribbons of cabbage and onion in a large bowl with the apple cider vinegar and the juice of 2-3 limes.  Coat the veggies well and let stand for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, then pour off most of the excess liquid.

Then add the cilantro, tomato and just a touch of salt and pepper (maybe a dash of chili powder?), toss again and let stand until time to serve.

Finally, when you only have about 7 minutes left on your sweet potatoes, drain most of the liquid from your black beans and heat them in a medium saucepan and medium-low heat.  Stir in lots of cumin and chili powder (if you like spice), pepper, a squeeze of lime, and as much salt as you need to brighten the beans.  I guess you could just buy regular salted black beans, but I like having more control over my seasoning…and my sodium intake.  Just keep tasting the beans, but keep in mind they’re also one of earthier “base” flavors of the dish, and they’ll be offset by the tangy slaw and spicy sriracha.

When your potatoes are done and your beans are heated through, put everything in serving bowls and toss a few tortillas on the stove or in the microwave.  Then assemble the tacos – sweet potatoes, beans, slaw – and top with slices of avocado and a drizzle of sriracha sauce.  Serve with a sweet, malty beer to offset the spiciness.  Sublime!

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