A holistic approach to health, joy, and good food.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Rouxbe Experience....A lesson in eating your homework.

I've taken a break this summer from posting since I've been a busy bee - mainly, eating my homework. I've recently graduated from Rouxbe's online Professional Plant-Based Certification Program, and we've been busy creating food and eating food, creating, and eating....it's been enlightening to say the least, and an amazing experience.

This has everything to do with going back to the basics. Going back to the things you think you know, to learn them in a totally new and inspired way. Chopping. Knife skills. How big is a small dice anyway, and how do you sharpen your knives, hold your guide hand, know when a pan is ready for a sautee. Chemistry, science, art, and total joy.

We've had so much fun with the plant-based recipes, and we've totally indulged this summer: hand made manicotti with tofu ricotta filling and fresh marinara, chocolate genache torte, soups, stews, bean salads, desserts, smoothies, and so much more! 

My favorite part of the course was the intended "mise en place" for each recipe, or rather, the idea of "everything in its right place" before you proceed with the recipe. So many meals have been ruined due to overcooking, leaving the stove for an ingredient, not timing things correctly, and mise en place allows you to have everything in the right place, chopped, measured, ready to go, so that you can ENJOY the process of cooking and be in the present moment. Symbolic, right? 

Here we go. 

Enjoy the gallery of plant-based nutritious cooking, where nothing is missing....except the junk. This is how we loved ourselves up this summer, with beans, grains, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, super foods, and all the lovely indulgences that these create, with whole foods. 

Knife skills!

Mise en place for roasted lemon cauliflower.

Spring asparagus rissotto. 

Mise en place for an arugula quinoa salad.

Coconut chickpea stew.

Penne carbonara (the vegan way)

Thai noodle soup.

Tofu chocolate mousse pie.

Braised seitan au jus with garlic greens.

Handmade manicotti, tofu ricotta, and marinara.

Handmade udon stir fry.

Mushrooms and beans.

Purslane and flower salad.

Chocolate genache pie with cherry/black pepper sorbet.

Mock tuna pate in collard rolls.

Mise en place for tempeh brocoli stir fry.

Polenta and broccoli/tempeh stir fry and heirloom tomatoes.

Cauliflower chimichurri.
Here are some photos of our last Rouxbe Assignment, which was to host an event with little canap├ęs. So much fun enjoying good food and family and friends. 

Sweet pea and jimaca coconut samosas (raw) with lime creme.

Mini samosa burgers with onion and mango chutney.

Healing turmeric tomato soup, sweet potato crackers, borage.

Mini chocolate genache tortes with berry sorbet and coulis.

Fruit kabobs - can't have enough fruit kabobs!

Amazing best friends and family.

Best of late Summer Green Smoothie

If you're like me, you have a plethora of collards in the garden now, getting big and getting ready for a delicious fall. They are wonderful for making wraps (instead of tortillas), chiffonade into salads, massaged into more salads, but still, I find that I run out of ways to use them; so we get creative. Adding them to your smoothies is a super easy way to get 4 or 5 large leaves (and I'm talking a little under a foot long). They are crisp, green, and filled with fiber and nutrition. 

Also, these smoothies are a great way to get in more mint as well. Mint is refreshing, cool, fresh, and bold and mixes really well with summer fruits. So why not? Indulge in a late-summer minty fresh smoothie. 

3-5 large collard leaves, washed, destemmed and torn
1/2 bag of frozen organic strawberries
2 cups loosely packed mint (about 10 sprigs, without stems)
2 frozen bananas, in chunks
water to fill vitamix pitcher 1/2 way

Blend away and enjoy. This also keeps really well, so I make a big pitcher in the morning and drink a large glass, and then save the rest for the afternoon. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spring-a-Dilly Asparagus Salad

Springtime is all about dill and asparagus for me. Dill and lemon juice taste so fresh together, and as soon as I see asparagus in the markets, I know that the seasons are changing and warming up. I love the combo of honey mustard & lemon combination, and the dill just take it over the top.

Also, a note on chopped salads…many of us use greens for our salads (as do I) but to kick it up a notch, sometimes I just cube and mix various veggies together and that hits the spot in another fun way. This recipe is an example of just that…an explosion of textures and flavors in your mouth. Enjoy!

Combine the following dressing ingredients together in a bowl: 
2 tablespoons honey mustard
3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar or 2 tablespoons lemon juice (or to taste)
pinch of salt and a few pinches crushed black pepper
Mix the dressing ingredients together and taste for seasoning.

In the same dressing bowl, layer in:
½ cup halved cherry tomatoes
¾ cup cubed cucumbers
½ cup cubed red pepper
¾ cup chopped asparagus spears
1 tablespoon dill

Mix everything together and adjust the seasoning to your liking. This serves 2 as a side salad or one large salad for a very hungry person...Enjoy!

Raw Chocolate Berry Mousse

Is there anything better than chocolate mousse? I’d say yes ~ chocolate covered strawberries is a nice runner up. This recipe combines both of these tastes for an over-the top experience.
Due to the good fats, stevia, and low-sugar berries, this is also a nice low-glycemic, filling dessert (one might say, you may even try it for breakfast!)

1 cup fresh or defrosted strawberries (defrosted ones blend better)
1 dropper liquid stevia (or to taste)
2 heaping tablespoons raw cacao
½ avocado

Blend ingredients well until smooth.  Scoop out the contents in a bowl and mix in ¼ to ½ cup chopped strawberries (defrosted or fresh), and stir well. Garnish with shredded coconut.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup (raw)

One of my favorite soups in the world used to be cream of tomato soup or cream of red pepper soup, except that I wans’t as big of a fan of the cream, additives, and stabilizers/faux ingredients found in packaged boxes of soup. I realized that what I loved the most was the deep dark rich flavor of tomatoes or peppers, and seeked to make my own version of the soup.  This comes as close as I can remember to that delicious rich flavor. 

In a Vitamix, blend together:
½ red pepper, chopped
1 cup cucumber, chopped
¼ cup sweet onion, chopped
1 tomato, halved
½ avocado
½ cup sun dried tomatoes (no oil or sulfites)
salt, to taste

When everything is smooth (or more chunky, per your taste), add in ½ cup of fresh basil and pulse to incorporate (but not blend completely in the soup). Garnish with more avocado and shredded basil and enjoy!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Top 5 reasons for Pantry Raids

Organizing has always been "my thing" in many departments - clothes shelves, shoes, wrapping supplies, the never ending organizing of the attic (how does it get messy? I think we have attic elves), and most of all, the kitchen. One of my favorite things to do on a rainy or snowy day is clean out the pantry...there are so many reasons to do this, but one of the most important is that you realize how much you have and how much you don't need! Here are some before and after pics from a friend's pantry raid: 

Before raid, where everything's on the floor....here comes the fun part!

After the raid - baking stuff up top, kitchen wraps and plates, next shelf, healthy grains and beans middle, healthy treats, eye level, pastas and sauces 2nd to bottom, and cans on the bottom. You can't see it but two other shelves on the right are also organized, with wine, cooking books, oils, emergency supplies, and overstock.
The whole thing took about 2 hours tops. 
1. SAVE MONEY: I used to be one of those people that had 5 jars of marinara, or 4 containers of opened honey, or three opened boxes of crackers. I hate to say it, but the only reason this was the case was since I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT I HAD so then I bought more of it! 

2. KITCHEN DETOX: Organizing your pantry is like detox for your kitchen. You end being more productive and creative since you see which ingredients go together, and things will be clean and tidy (and therefore, meal planning will be clean and easy).

3. BETTER FOR YOUR TUMMY: Yes, you can use beans after 3 or 4 years, but believe me, you won't want to. They don't cook as well, they don't soften up, and they'll kill your digestive track with gas and bloating. Just don't do it. Replenish often, and keep things fresh. 

4. YOU'LL EAT HEALTHIER: The other thing is that it clutters your mind and allows you (almost encourages you) to be super healthy. If you design the healthy foods to be at eye level, put the nasty baking stuff all the way at the top, and compartmentalize, then you'll only reach for the healthy stuff and forget about the nasty stuff! Believe me, it's helped even me, a health coach, to eat better. 

5. IT SAVES YOU TIME: Keep your teas together, your grains together, your fruits together...this saves you time. If you are looking for your favorite nite nite tea at 9:00 pm and you can't find it, then you've gotten yourself in a tizzy. Your blood pressure goes up, which is the precise reason you wanted to relax before bedtime, and there you have it. Also, we all have surprise guests. In 20 minutes you can put something together since it's easy to locate, easy to see, and easy to grab. 

BONUS: it is pretty on the eyes. It looks amazing! Beautiful even. Ok, I might have gone too far, but no, I do consider it beautiful to look at. And I always say, an organized home is an organized head, so you can get to the good stuff...living, working, having fun, being efficient, and enjoying every moment of it. And yes, a clean pantry can do that - only because a messy pantry keeps you away from that kind of clarity.

On that note, I have a secret to share. I've been cleaning pantries out for my friends and clients, and have kept it to myself. It's now time to come clean - I LOVE doing this stuff! So if any of you are interested in a pantry raid, give me a shout - they're $99 each and I promise you, you will LOVE it!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Year in the Life of A CSA Host

As many of you know, I've been hosting a CSA at my home for the past year. I wanted to pass on some things that have been really meaningful for me, and some reflections on the experience. 

Some of you may not know what a CSA is, or what it actually means to host one. Community Supported Agriculture allows us to buy direct from the farmer, which ultimately means cheaper produce, a deeper connection to those growing our food, and also more sustainable practices (since the food is primarily local). In addition, our CSA is organic or eco-grown, which means that we ditch the pesticides and herbicides that come with conventional produce, and in the end, we end up contributing to "greening" the earth. Every little step counts. In addition, everything is seasonal, grown in the tri-state area (for 99% of the produce). This means that you get what you get when nature delivers it. An abundance of fruit in the summer, an abundance of roots and greens in the winter. 

As a host, I would receive boxes of produce that would be in season, and I'd divide it into shares for people to pick up. So for example, today (December 5th) we received:  apples, pears, potatoes, celeriac, carrots, kale, lettuces, bananas (these were not local), tomatoes, oranges, broccoli, and a few other things. I'd divide them all by weight or number in individual share boxes (we had 15 shares total), put extras in a grab/exchange basket (those items not divisible by 15), and put out a sign up sheet where people leave their payment for the next share, and check off that they've received today's share.  

There were many unexpected things that I learned from this experience. The first thing that was very evident to me was the seasons changing, and what was available. To be honest, many of us are used to buying what we want, when we want it. Even in December, you can find strawberries. But everything comes with a price. Getting "what we want, when we want it" means that someone has to drive it from the region that it grows (and pineapples don't grow in NJ), and that means gas, travel, time, fumes, paying the driver, and many other facets of the food industry that we don't see. Eating food that is seasonal and local makes sense for these reasons alone, but I also found that it makes sense in other ways:  in the summer, my body wants to cool down with fresh berries and lettuce. In the winter time, I want to warm up with a sweet potato, some amazingly sweet apples, and boost my immunity with broccoli and kale. It just makes sense that I crave these things, and never has this been more evident than when I hosted this CSA.

The second thing I noticed is that organic produce isn't always pretty and perfect. And I loved that. I love the spots on the apples (but when you taste them, the flavor is nothing like what you'd buy at a supermarket). I love the non-waxy oranges and the incredible juice inside. I love how the lettuce comes in crazy colors like deep purple, red, brown even, and vibrant greens. I also found that the tomatoes with the little extra give also had the extra flavor in them, especially when made into a sauce. Some people turned their nose up when they saw spots here and there, but I knew the secret (the same secret when my mother cut into the gnarly crab apples from the tree) - they were the most delicious ones! So when they were left behind in the grab basket, I gladly gave them a home. Nature isn't perfect. Heirlooms come with knobs and colors and features not common, and that's what I was after. That's where the nutrition, flavor, and authenticity was. 

I also gained a huge appreciation for the farmers. I typically would say a prayer of appreciation before I ate, appreciating the earth for the food, the bees for the pollination, the farmers for the picking, the drivers for bringing us the food, the ones who pumped gas, who bagged it all, the store clerks, everyone involved in getting us the produce. But ever since I started the CSA, this appreciation deepened. The connection for me became closer to those that provided the food that we ate. I became the one who dispersed the food, very early in the morning, on cold days, and I have to admit, sometimes when I'd rather sleep in. One of the deliveries took place during the 2 week outage from Sandy, so had to make due with gloves, a hat and some serious bundling up. But it was all wonderful and fun and creative. I warmed up by the action and exercise of opening boxes, stooping down to pour out beautiful potatoes in the shares. I saw the sunrise, I greeted the truck guy who told me stories about how he met his fiance, and have a beautiful plant-based Thanksgiving. I connected with the workers who talked with the farmers, and to be pleasantly surprised by how quickly they replaced items and often sent extras because the harvest was plentyful. I also connected with the pod members who sometimes didn't know what they were getting but appreciated the opportunity to better feed their families. This was beyond gold to me. I couldn't pay for this. I couldn't even ask for this experience. It was just given to me.

One of the best parts of the CSA was being forced to try something new. We're so "old" in our practices sometimes, when we just buy what we know. Suddenly, I was trying acorn squash, celeriac, green tomatoes, even mini kiwis - they all tasted fantastic and really required me to up my game on my repertoire. No more boring dinners of the same old things. It was during this period of time when I feel I really became a chef. 

It was a life-changing experience. I worked through the seasons, smiling at whatever mother nature had to give us, meeting new people, appreciating what it really means to bring food to the table, in a nutritious, organic, clean, whole way. 

If you are ever interested in finding a CSA near you, you can visit any of these sites. Get ready to be inspired.