My first CSA share of the year!! I love local, organic food <3

So yesterday I picked up my first share of produce from the certified organic farm that I am doing a CSA with this year!! I cannot explain how excited I am to finally be able to participate in something like this.  If you want to know more about what a CSA is, and its benefits, I spelled it all out HERE!  I love the idea of getting fresh, local, organic produce every week.  Also, what excites me is getting to try new vegetables!! As you may know, I’m an experimenter with my food, so not knowing each week what I will be getting, and sometimes getting things I don’t normally use, will really push me to expand on my cooking and be able to share new and exciting things with all of you guys, my readers!!

It’s pretty early in the growing season, but I still got a bunch of AMAZING things this week! Here’s what I got!!

First CSA share

A Genevese basil plant (so I will be able to grow and have my own basil all year long!)

Baby mixed salad greens (so tender and delicious!!)

Mixed braising greens (I’m thinking braised with cider vinegar…can you say YUM?!)

Rainbow Swiss Chard (will make for some beautiful food pictures!!)

Napoli carrots (they raved about their carrots; I can’t wait to try them!)

Haukeri Turnips (something new for me…he said they’re tender; you can eat them raw or roast them)

Radishes (he said they’re especially spicy ;)…I say: good!)

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!!

Coconut banana chocolate protein pancakes

Part of what I love about cooking is how much flexibility I have with my food.  I can open my fridge and just create dishes from what I have on hand, throwing a little of this, and a little of that to build flavorful meals.  So when it comes to baking, or anything where ratios and measurements are concerned, I tend to shy away.  I like getting the occasional inspiration from recipes, but not following them.

This is something I’m trying to change my mind set about.  Measuring shouldn’t be my enemy, and I can still make recipes “my own” while following someone else’s direction.  So I wanted to try out something I hadn’t made before, protein pancakes.  My view of pancakes was always that the batter was a difficult thing to perfect.   You were either using a box mix (no thank you), or measuring out ingredients exactly (yikes), or you were ending up with a disaster.  I’m actually not a huge fan of regular pancakes, they leave me feeling too full and weighed down, but this healthier version piqued my interest and I decided to start researching it.

In looking around the internet at recipes I realized that most of them all had similar base ingredients and similar ratios.  Happily, I decided to compile a general outline to follow and then decided to put my own twist on them.

The result: Coconut banana chocolate protein pancakes, drizzled with honey, natural peanut butter and dark chocolate dreams peanut butter.  A-MAZ-ING.

Coconut banana chocolate protein pancakes

I’ve decided to count this as a positive step and compromise in my fear towards recipes and a hopeful move in the direction of easing my fear of baking.  😉 There will be more experiments to come I’m sure!

Here’s what I used:

1 scoop protein powder (I use Garden of Life Organic Raw Cocoa Protein)

½ cup egg whites

½ organic banana

¼ cup organic oats

1 TBS organic coconut flour

1/8 cup (Silk) coconut milk

1/8 TBS baking soda

2 dashes of cinnamon (optional)

Dash of nutmeg (optional)

Blend it all together.  You can use a regular blender or I used my smoothie blender cup (kind of like a magic bullet but cheaper haha)

Cook over medium low heat in a skillet sprayed with coconut oil.  You know they’re ready to flip when bubbles start to form and pop!  This made 3 decent sized pancakes for me, and yes, I ate them all. 

I finished them off with a drizzle of honey, and then melted in the microwave a healthy tablespoon of Whole Foods fresh ground natural peanut butter and Peanut Butter & Co Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter.  Simply delicious!!

Healthy Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

I’ve been having really hectic weekends lately.  Between the semester almost ending and all the presentations and school work that go along with that, and all of the friends in my life having babies and getting married, I haven’t had much time to prep my weekday meals like I usually do.  What this means for me is I’ve been eating a lot of salads and tuna haha. 

Luckily, last night I finally had some free time to get back in my favorite place, the kitchen.  I wanted to make a dish that I knew would yield a lot of food for me, but wouldn’t be a lot of work because I was exhausted! I love this dish because it’s not only packed with veggies, but it’s simple and easy to make!! I’m not a huge fan of take-out food, but if you’re a fried rice lover, I highly suggest trying this instead.  It’s a much healthier and more nutritious option and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much it tastes like you’re actually eating fried rice!

cauliflower fried rice

You can really throw whatever veggies you want into it, but here’s what I used:

  • ½ onion diced
  • ½ red bell pepper diced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper diced
  • Hand grated 5 baby carrots (because that’s what I had in my fridge!)
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • Fresh grated ginger

You’ll also need:

  • 1TBS oil (I use extra virgin coconut oil)
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 TBS low sodium soy sauce
  • Any protein you may want to add
  • salt and pepper of course 😉

Start by sautéing your onions in 1 TBS of oil until translucent.  Then add the garlic, ginger, and other veggies and cook through.

While the veggies are cooking, cut off the florets of the head of cauliflower.  Some stem is ok, just not big pieces of it as it doesn’t process as nicely as the florets do.  Pulse them in your food processor until you get a rice-like consistency.

Add the cauliflower rice to the pot of veggies and stir to combine.

While the added cauliflower is cooking through, I whisked together the 2 eggs and scrambled them in a separate small pan. 

To finish, add the soy sauce and scrambled eggs, (add whatever cooked protein you would like at this step too) mix it all together and voila! Dinner is served! This made 4 servings for me, but really I wanted to eat it ALL! I served it with some hand cut chili spice sweet potato fries that I made also, but that’s another post! Hope you enjoy!!

cauliflower fried rice and chili spice sweet potato fries

Breakfast fail to fix — Busy Morning’s Peanut Butter Banana Nut Oatmeal

Busy happens.  In my life busy is what I love and what I thrive off of, but even for me occasionally there ends up being too many things to do in a day.  For instance, I haven’t put a blog post up in about a week.  I’ve started writing many posts but haven’t been able to complete them because I have too much going on and they get pushed aside.  However, one thing that doesn’t get pushed aside is my health.  It’s so easy to think in terms of the present and instant gratification.  Yet, I make a conscious effort to stay aware of my food and health decisions in the now because I know they will affect me later too. Busy or not, I still cook for myself and eat well and maintain my active lifestyle, because I make it a priority.  But! Like I said, I understand busy.  My dishes haven’t been creative, and certainly nothing special enough to be picture worthy in my eyes.  But I stick with it and I plan ahead and even if my food isn’t pretty, it’s delicious and healthy and I feel great after eating it, and that’s what matters most.

I wanted to share my breakfast from this morning because it was almost an epic “too busy” fail moment.  Oatmeal is something that’s quick and easy to make for breakfast, and filling and nutritious too, so I turn to it a lot on hectic mornings.  I boil 2/3 cup of water, add 1/3 cup of old fashioned oats, and simmer on medium for about 5 minutes.  This morning I let the time get away from me and I came back to over-cooked oats! But instead of getting frustrated, I improvised.  I added a little bit more water, a bunch of cinnamon and mashed an entire banana into the mixture and let it heat through.  Tasted like banana muffins so I kept going…crumbled some walnuts on top and a big spoonful of natural peanut butter and it was amazing!  I will definitely make this again, and not just the days I mess up my regular oatmeal haha.  It’s just another simple breakfast idea, or fix in my case, to keep on hand for those busy, hectic mornings when you just don’t think you have time to eat healthy.

peanut butter banana nut oatmeal

peanut butter banana nut oatmeal close up