Open faced pesto omelet with kale and cherry tomatoes

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Not all mornings are created equal. And yet, it’s the way we handle them that can set the tone for the rest of the day. For me, the majority of my days start the same; I wake up at 5am, go to crossfit from 6-7am, shower and head to a long day of work followed by grad-school or yoga. I’m running a tight ship in the mornings, so I have to be pretty planful on what I’m bringing with me to eat, to make sure that I can get something healthy and nutritious to start my day. Planning, time-constraints, constantly on the go, these are the areas that I’m good at. This post is not about that.
My schedule switches around from time to time with work, and today was one of those days. I had the morning off and decided to try and slow my life down (something I’m terrible at) and sleep in, go to a later crossfit class and just enjoy the morning before I had to go into work for noon.
I went to crossfit and had a tough class. I felt awful leaving, and, because I had nothing planned, free reign, I went down the street to the local orchard with one thing on my mind…comfort food. I walk in there prepared to buy the whole display of freshly baked pies and cider donuts. Instead, I walk out with a grapefruit and a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free pumpkin cupcake. I look at the cupcake, which I’m sure sounds like the most ridiculous type of treat to a lot of people, and I actually don’t even want it anymore.
My life, constantly on the go, has left little time for patience with myself. It feels like a whirl-wind where the tiniest slip up can send everything crashing to the ground. When, in actuality, that isn’t the case. Talking to a good friend pulled me back into reality; she grounded me again. Some days just aren’t good, and those are the days which it’s hardest to keep all the good things in perspective. It’s hard to hold it together all the time. And well, that okay. You just keep working hard, because the alternative is to stop and that’s just silly.
So I came home, put my cupcake in the fridge (I will still eat it, just at a time I can actually enjoy it) and decided to make myself a delicious breakfast. I knew cooking would make me feel better, and eating a hearty, nutritious breakfast would reset my off morning and set me up for a much better day.

Open faced pesto omelet with kale and cherry tomatoes
¾ cup organic cage-free egg whites (about 6 egg whites)
1 cup organic kale, washed and roughly chopped
About 6 organic grape tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp organic basil pesto (it’s easy to make your own, but I keep a jar on hand just to add a quick little bit to the occasional recipe, but if you have time to make your own, by all means!!)
Organic extra virgin coconut oil (I use the spray when cooking eggs, but you can use a little of the regular stuff, or even olive oil or your favorite other cooking spray)

Directions:
Heat a medium sized skillet on low to medium, spray with coconut oil
Sauté quartered tomatoes for a minute or two and add the kale. Continue to cook until kale is wilted.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl add 1 tsp of basil pesto to egg whites and whisk together.
Turn your pan down to low, give it a minute to come down in temperature, and then pour the egg white mixture over the kale and tomato mixture.
Cover the skillet (I just use my largest pot’s lid since my skillet doesn’t come with a cover, 🙂 Improvise!)
Let cook about 5 minutes or until the top of the egg is set. (Be patient, and don’t turn up the heat to make it cook faster because the bottom will burn! By covering it, the steam will help cook the top and you won’t have to flip it!)
And that’s it, just slide it out onto your plate and enjoy 🙂

Late night study snack – Spicy sweet potato fries with vegan curry cashew cream

chilisweetpotatofriesandcurrycreamsauceThe life of a working grad student is certainly not a luxurious one.  Long days, late nights, and a hectic schedule are a daily occurrence. It is easy to fall into a rut with food choices when your mind is occupied by exam dates and papers that are due. Sometimes all you want is something quick and easy. But I’ve found that if you think outside of the box a little bit, items that on the surface may seem time consuming and difficult to make, can actually fit into your schedule pretty nicely.

Last night when I got home from class, I knew I was in for a late evening. I had a film to watch, a paper to write about the film and other general homework assignments that are due each week. Yes, I procrastinated, it happens. I knew I would want a late night snack to get me through the night, and nighttime is when my sweet tooth kicks in the worst. My solution: sweet potatoes.  They’re sweet and creamy and I love to add another dimension with a hint of spice.  Cut them up into fries and they’re the perfect snacking food.  And of course, every fry needs a dipping sauce; it’s pretty much a rule.  I have been experimenting with vegan cashew cream sauces, and I wanted to try a different spin on one this time…curry.  For me, nothing says comfort like warming spices, and with the season of cool, dark nights upon us, spicy sweet potato fries and a curry cream sauce makes perfect sense.

This is one of my recipes that has quick, easy prep, and gives you time to be productive while it does the hard part all by itself.  I got home, turned the oven on, sliced, tossed and threw in the sweet potatoes, put some cashews in a bowl of water and got to my homework.  When I was ready for a break from my assignments, my snack was ready for its final finishing touches.  I then promptly devoured it as I got back to my late night of studying.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

2 small or 1 medium to large sweet potato

1 TBS olive oil

Cinnamon – to taste

Chili powder – to taste

Sprinkle of salt

Raw vegan curry cashew cream

½ cup raw, organic, cashews

¼ cup water

½ -1 tbs lemon juice

½ teaspoon curry powder

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon dried basil

To start: preheat the oven to 400 and put the cashews in a bowl of water to soak for at least 30 minutes

  • Cut the sweet potato(es) into long fry-like pieces.  I like mine to have some crunch, so I cut them on the thinner side.  A trick I use here is to cut the pieces at an angle, so one end gets crunchy while the other end has more potato to it.
  • Drizzle the olive oil, sprinkle on the cinnamon and chili powder to taste (I prefer a lot of cinnamon and only a little spice, so I do about ½-1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash to ¼  teaspoon of chili powder, but of course, adjust how you like it) and toss it all together to coat evenly
  • Spread out on a foil lined baking sheet in one layer and bake
  • Bake for 30-45 mins depending on how well you liked them cooked; toss the pieces about half way through to even out the cooking

To make the sauce:

  • Drain the soaked cashews and discard the soaking water
  • Put them in a blender or food processor with water, lemon juice and seasonings
  • Blend until creamy (you may want to add more water if it’s too thick)

Always TASTE your food as you cook!! Maybe you want more curry, or more lemon, or more cinnamon or more spice! …experiment until you find what balance is right for you!!

“Deconstructed hummus” and greens — a zesty lemon, tahini, miso sauce

The fact that I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks has been nagging at me.  One of my goals for this summer was to try and post something at least once a week, whether it be a recipe, tip, or even just some insight into my organization techniques for my hectic life.  But, life happens sometimes, and I can’t complain because my summer has been great so far.  Don’t mistake this hiatus from blog posts to mean that I haven’t been creating in the kitchen.  While I have been eating out occasionally, most of what I eat is still homemade by yours truly! But, because of my go, go, go days and nights, I’ve been sticking to a lot of my old trusty recipes. I haven’t made anything that made my eyebrows pop up like, wow this is goooood, I need to share this recipe… until last night’s dinner.

As you may know from reading my blog, I joined an organic CSA this year.  The beauty of this is that I end up having to buy very few, if any, veggies for the week.  The challenging part of this though, is coming up with ideas for meals based on what I’m given, as opposed to getting to pick out my produce for the week.  Braising greens are something that I have gotten in my share for more than a few weeks in a row.  I’ve cooked them up with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar to bring to a picnic, they were a big hit.  I’ve also sautéed them with sweet onions, and served with sunny side eggs for breakfast, another yummy meal.  But frankly, they’re not the prettiest thing to take pictures of (a wilted mixture of green looks sloppy no matter how much fuss you put into the plating), and subsequently I never became excited enough about the dishes to try and write up a mouthwatering description.

BUT, of course, since I am writing this, clearly I am excited enough about this dish to disregard the visually unappealing nature and try to get across this dish’s worth based on the flavor!

Deconstructed hummus and greens_a zesty lemon tahini miso dressing

I’ve been describing this dish as a sort of deconstructed hummus.  It has the same creamy, Mediterranean taste as hummus, and most of the basic ingredients one would use to make the dip.  The deconstructed part is based on leaving the chickpeas whole instead of blending them with the other ingredients in the dish.   Leaving them whole added another texture which was important in breaking the one note texture of the greens mixture.

The secret in this sauce though is the miso.  If you’ve ever had miso soup at a Japanese restaurant you may know the flavor, but it’s far from the only use for this delicious ingredient.  Miso is a fermented paste made most commonly from soy but there are also other varieties you can buy.  I prefer white miso, it has a more mild, salty/sweet flavor.  Miso is a complete protein, a good source of b-12, high in antioxidants, and because it is fermented it is an enzyme rich food.  It has also been shown to reduce risk for breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.  Adding a little bit of miso not only bumps up the nutritional value but it also enhances the flavors of the sauce.

Here’s how I made it:

I receive a mixture of all different varieties of greens from my CSA.  Everything from kale, to collards, to swiss chard, so feel free to experiment with whatever you can find.  I prep them by cutting off the thick stems, rinsing and spinning them dry, and simply throwing them in a big pot of heated coconut or olive oil to wilt down stirring occasionally to make sure every leaf gets its chance!  If you’re making a lot, try adding the greens in batches so it doesn’t overwhelm your pot.

Once the greens were mostly cooked, I added one box (because they come in boxes instead of cans now!!) of organic garbonzo beans (aka chickpeas) and heated through.

For the sauce:  (these measurements are guestimates, because I didn’t realize how tasty it would be to remember to measure!!)

  • The zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 TBS organic tahini
  • 1 TBS organic white miso paste
  • A good dash of red pepper flakes (for a little heat!)

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl until it forms a thick paste.  Then slowly add water, whisking to combine, until you get your desired consistency.  It’s really that simple!

Poured over the dish, this sauce coats the greens and chickpea mixture with just the right amount flavor, brightening the bitterness of the greens and pulling the whole dish together.  I served mine with a simple pan seared chicken breast, but I’d be interested to try out it in other ways too; maybe on soba noodles or in a stir fry? Lots of possibilities!!

Chilled ginger-citrus carrot and beet soup

Soup in the summertime seems like a ridiculous idea.  It’s already hot out; you don’t need your dinner to warm you up even more.  A chilled soup on the other hand, can end up being exactly what you might be looking for.  Last summer I had my first experience with chilled soups one Saturday afternoon while perusing the farmers market.  A woman was giving samples of her homemade cold soups, and after trying one I promptly bought 3 containers, it was that good.  The best one that I had was by far her chilled beet soup.  Beets are one of my favorite vegetables, I eat them hot AND cold so it makes perfect sense that a chilled beet soup would be a home run.  I wanted to see if I could do it.

Luckily, I got beets in my CSA this week! How convenient.  What makes this even better is that I have also been getting the most delicious Napoli carrots for the past few weeks too.  They are just the right amount of sweet with a clean crisp finish to them.   I can almost eat the whole pound raw in one sitting.  Good thing I refrained this week, because into my soup they will go!

organic beets

As with almost everything I make, I pretty much made it up as I went along.  I immediately knew the flavor profile that I wanted.  A bright note of citrus and a zip of ginger would definitely compliment the sweet carrots and earthy beets.  I thought back to my basic soup making knowledge and went at it.

Ingredients:

4 medium sized beets – cut into small chunks (the smaller the pieces the faster it cooks!)

About ½ pound of carrots (I just couldn’t part with them all!) – also cut into small chunks

About 4 ½ cups of organic vegetable stock – low sodium

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 spring onion bulb, diced – I also received these in my CSA, they have a light, sweet, onion flavor that I knew wouldn’t be too overpowering.  If you can’t find them, try using a shallot.

1 TBS olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

Juice of ½ orange

1 TBS grated ginger – As I’ve noted in other recipes, a good tip is to keep your ginger in the freezer.  It stays fresh longer and you don’t have to worry about peeling it, you just use a microplane and grate what you need!

 

Making this was pretty simple, here’s what I did:

  • Sautee the garlic and onion in the olive oil (you want to cook out the raw flavor)
  • Add the stock and bring to a boil
  • Add the beets and carrots and cook until they are fork tender
  • Add the lemon juice, orange juice, and the grated ginger to the pot, stir, and take it off of the heat. *The last thing you want to be doing is adding a hot liquid to your blender, so make sure you let it cool down!!*
  • Once it’s cool, pour it all into the blender and blend!
  • Chill in the fridge for about an hour and EAT!!

chilled ginger citrus carrot beet soup in blender

 

I garnished mine with some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and it tasted great!!

chilled ginger citrus carrot and beet soup

You can definitely eat this soup hot too, so keep it in mind during the fall and winter months.  Just reheat it on the stove after you blend it and enjoy.

Spicy white bean, sweet potato and kale soup

“Well the weather outside is frightful”….ok ok I won’t start singing winter wonderland songs but it’s really quite true lately.  It’s been chilly and rainy for days with the exception of one nice day…where is the nice weather?!! So I decided to give in and cook myself something warm and comforting to cozy up on my couch with and embrace this crappy weather….and what’s better than soup?!! I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe on the blog, because for me, soup is EXTRA hard to pay attention to what I’m putting in it.  It gets a little of this and a little of that, and oh, no wait, a little more of that…soup is about tasting as you go and tweaking it to perfection by building the flavors.  But this was so simply delicious, I will do my best to explain it all 😉 and please, tweak as you go too! Start with little dashes and add more if you like the way it’s going, it’s a great way to introduce new flavors to your palate.

Spicy white bean, sweet potato, and kale soup

The basic ingredients:

2 TBS EVOO

½ white onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can of organic cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

About 2 cups of organic kale

1 medium sweet potato, diced into small cubes (I like to leave the skins on)

Organic vegetable broth, low sodium (I used about 3/4 of a quart container)

Seasonings:

Salt and pepper

Cardamom

Cinnamon

Ground cayenne red pepper

 

Instructions:

  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium and cook the onion until translucent
  • Add the garlic and cook another minute, then add the kale and sautee until wilted
  • Add the beans and sweet potato and stir to combine
  • Pour the vegetable broth over everything until you have a little more broth than you would want if you want it soupy, or a little less if you want it thicker.  The broth will cook down and thicken up some so keep that in mind.
  •  Now I add my seasonings.  Like I said, dash and taste and figure out what works for you.  With the cayenne I started out with just a little bit and built it up to make sure it wasn’t too hot.  The cardamom and cinnamon, I did a couple dashes of each since I love those flavors together, especially with sweet potatoes! And as always, season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring up to a boil, cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender.
  • Once the sweet potatoes are fork tender, check your seasonings again.  You want a balance between the sweetness of the potatoes and cinnamon and the heat from the cayenne.  Adjust as needed and ENJOY!!

Baked Squash Stack with White Beans and Stewed Tomatoes

A little while back I had the pleasure of ‘talking food’ with one of my sister’s closest friends Emily and her husband Andy.  It’s not every day that I meet people who get excited about vegetables like I do, (and I completely plan to steal from their garden this summer 😉 haha).  But tonight’s recipe was inspired by them.  While we were swapping food favorites and looking through old pictures of dinners (because I’ve been taking pictures of my food long before I ever had a blog… I’m weird I know) Andy came across one that he immediately wanted the recipe for.  If you know me, or have read my blog before, then you are well aware that I am not good at recipe writing.  I also rarely make the same thing twice, partly for that reason.  However, I can always decipher what ingredients I had used in something and frankly, it’s more fun sometimes to use the same flavor profile but find new ways to re-invent it!!  This is a twist on the dinner that they saw and it came out delicious!!

Baked squash stack with white beans and stewed tomatoes

Baked Squash Stack with White Beans and Stewed Tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 medium yellow squash

1 medium zucchini (you can swap these two depending on which one you want more of; I just happened to have these quantities so I went with it!)

1 can organic cannellini beans (no salt)

1 can organic stewed tomatoes with Italian herbs

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Garlic powder

Italian seasoning

Directions:

  • Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and transfer them to a small bowl.  Using a fork, mash the beans into a chunky paste.
  • Also, drain the stewed tomatoes and put them in a separate bowl.  (squash give off a lot of liquid when they cook so you won’t need the extra from the tomatoes)
  • Slice your squash and zucchini into thin rounds, keeping them each in separate piles
  • Spray a baking dish (mine was 8×8) with non-stick spray and lay out an even layer of your first yellow squash in the bottom of the dish.
  • Season the layer with garlic powder and Italian seasoning
  • Take ½ of the mashed cannellini beans and dot it on top of the layer
  • Take ½ of the stewed tomatoes and using your fingers break them apart it into chunks, spreading it on top also.
  • Next, layer your zucchini and repeat the same seasoning steps followed by the remaining cannellini beans and stewed tomatoes.
  • Top with the final layer of yellow squash
  • Season with Italian seasoning and drizzle with 1 TBS of extra virgin olive oil to allow the top to brown up in the oven
  • Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until the squash are tender and cooked all the way through, test this by sticking a fork in it! (the bake time will vary depending on how thick or thin your rounds are and also the size of your baking dish)
  • Broil for a few minutes at the end to brown the top

Baked Squash Stack with White Beans and Stewed Tomatoes Overhead

Baked Squash Stack with White Beans and Stewed Tomatoes Sideview

I also think this dish would be amazing sprinkled with some fresh grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (but since I’m dairy free 😦 you’ll have to let me know!!!)

Daily Don’t Forget: More Bananas!

organic fair trade bananas

Bananas are a staple fruit in my diet and they have a ton of health benefits.  Here’s a few of my faves!

  • Not only do bananas give you energy because they are loaded with vitamins and minerals, but studies have shown that eating a banana can actually lift your mood!!
  • They are also a fantastic source of potassium which is great for an active person like me because it can prevent muscle cramps after working out.   It also regulates your circulatory system and helps keep a proper balance of fluids in your system.
  • They’re a good source of iron, vitamin C and B6
  • They’re easy to digest and their fiber content (about 3g in one banana) can help regulate your digestive system.

BUT! I have a bit of a reputation for being a banana snob…I’m super picky about what degree of ripeness I will eat a banana.  Not too green, bright yellow, very little brown spots, if any…it’s a little neurotic haha

What this means is that a lot of the bunch gets too brown before I can devour them!

While making banana bread with your over ripe bananas can be one good way to utilize them, there’s no way I can make, let alone eat, an entire banana bread each week.

MY Solution: Freeze them!

Once the bananas start getting too ripe for my taste, I peel them (<– important step), cut them in half or thirds depending on the size, and just toss the pieces into a Tupperware container to be frozen.  It’s that simple.

My favorite way to use a frozen banana is in my morning green smoothie.  By adding a frozen banana to the mix, the smoothie instantly gets that thick, creamy, frozen texture that is hard to get by using ice cubes.  It’s delicious.

Another simple way to use a frozen banana is to make banana ice cream!!  You just blend the banana with some almond milk and literally…..voila!  You can jazz it up too by adding dark chocolate chunks and/or peanut butter, or by adding different berries, whatever your imagination brings!

So next time you’re at the grocery store, be sure to pick up some bananas, and don’t hunt for the small bunch! Because don’t forget! you now have a quick simple solution for the ones that get too ripe!!