Category: WFW

WhyFoodWorks is dedicated to people who want to understand what is happening to their food and their bodies when they eat. Each blog entry offers a question or concept about why a particular food or food component has an effect on your physiology. When you know better, you make better choices because you understand the value of food on a whole new level.

Because the understanding doesn’t stop at “why,” each entry will also include a recipe to show you how to integrate more of the right stuff into your diet – and hopefully get you excited to try some new things!

Pantry Power! Chickpea pumpkin curry from scratch

We’ve all been there

No time to run to the store, not much in the way of fresh veggies on hand, and dinner approaching by the minute.  That scenario is precisely why I recommend keeping a stocked pantry of versatile staples and a Pinterest account at the ready!  A pantry should take you way past spices and dried herbs – think canned foods, dried foods, and yes even frozen and refrigerator foods that have a long shelf life.  I used a combo of all of the above to make a delicious pumpkin chickpea curry, and served it over some leftover bulk-cooked quinoa I’d prepared on the weekend.

Need some help?

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When in doubt, make a curry

Or a soup, or casserole – all are fantastic with a grain, canned veggies, and long-lasting onions and garlic.  I had defrosted some pumpkin I pureed and froze last fall and needed to use it up (part of it went into bread and scones), and had an open can of coconut milk from a batch of muffins I’d popped in earlier that morning…leftovers everywhere!  Pumpkin and coconut are the base ingredients for a delicious Thai curry I’ve made before, so I scrounged a few other necessities up and had a full dinner with some leftover for lunch the next day in no time.

Chickpea Pumpkin Curry

Ingredients

  • 1-2 cups pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin works great)
  • 1-1.5 cups coconut milk
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1-2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 large (28-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large tomato, chopped or pureed (or a can of diced tomatoes; I used some cherry tomatoes I had on the counter)
  • 1-2 cups broth of choice
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 Tbsp oil
  • cashews and cilantro for garnish, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400F; toast the chickpeas on a baking sheet with a drizzle of oil for 10-15 minutes (you could just add them in, but I wanted mine to have more texture).  Heat the remaining oil to medium high in a large pot on the stove, add the onions and cook until translucent, then add garlic and spices and stir while cooking for 2-3 minutes, until spices are fragrant and toasted.  Add coconut milk, pumpkin, tomato, and broth and stir to combine; reduce heat to low and put a lid on to allow to cook for 5-10 minutes.  Add toasted chickpeas.  Serve warm over rice or quinoa, garnish with cashews and cilantro.

How the pros do it

This month’s RecipeRedux roundup is full of meals we made with what was on hand – be sure to check out other posts for ideas and inspiration to Iron Chef it up in your kitchen tonight!recipe-redux-linky-logo

Coconut-Crusted Ahi Tuna Tacos (100+ more healthy taco recipes!)

Taco Tuesday, all year long

This month’s RecipeRedux theme is tacos!  Use this roundup to try a different taco every week for over 2 years, each recipe created to be nutritious and easy to make.  The perfect taco is a combo of flavors, textures, and the humble tortilla shell is a great vehicle for all kinds of culinary spins on the Mexican classic.  My version is more Asian-fusion than traditional, but a step above fried fish – coconut crusted ahi tuna makes a delicious and impressive addition!  Cooking it is easy and fast, and I highly recommend setting up your ingredients family-style so that people can build their own to make the process even easier.

Coconut Crusted Ahi Tuna Tacos

Ingredients

  • 3-4oz fresh or frozen and defrosted tuna per person
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • Dash salt
  • Dash garlic powder
  • Dash pepper
  • 2-4 Tbsp coconut oil
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Sliced radish
  • Mixed greens
  • Dressing of choice (wasabi, horseradish, or avocado based sauces all work well)

Directions

Pat dry the tuna.  Blend the coconut and seasonings in a shallow bowl, then add tuna and coat by turning and pressing into the mixture (that amount will coat 3-4 4-oz cuts).  Heat oil on medium high; add fillets when hot and cook for 3-4 minutes per side (tuna should still be pink in the middle).  Remove and allow to cool.  Slice, then add to shells with other ingredients.  Dress and serve!


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Beautiful/Functional: DIY Kitchen Organization

The magnetic kitchen

Growing up, there was a crocheted sign hanging in our kitchen that said “No matter where I serve my guests, they seem to like my kitchen best.” And I think that’s true of most homes – the kitchen is a hub, a place to visit with the host, or do homework while mom’s cooking, or steal tastes from dishes in progress.  With all of that joyful use, the kitchen also tends to attract…stuff.  Already-crowded counters cluttered with utensils and appliances become second homes for cds, phones, hats, mail, class projects, and the little odds and ends that just don’t seem to have a home anywhere else.

For the cook, that’s extremely frustrating.  No one wants to cook around and in between piles of things.  Visions of perfect, clean kitchens taunt you on Pinterest; why don’t you have all those miles of sparkling countertop?!  Well, the truth is that most people don’t have magazine photograph-ready kitchens, so you can take a certain amount of that self-blaming away right there.  But there are a few ways that you can improve storage, utility, and space.  All of the pictures in this post are from my kitchen, and to answer your first question – yes, it was that bad!  When I moved last April I finally had a kitchen of my own (ok, of our own!) to fill, and it took a few months to figure out the flow of the space.  It’s still not perfect, but ever since my deep clean/purge/organization in the fall it has been SO much easier to cook in!   And my theory is that when you have a beautiful, functional kitchen space, you’ll want to cook more (which is my ultimate goal for you!).  So start your spring cleaning early: here we go!

1. Food storage cabinets

You’ll have to take everything out – yes everything! – and evaluate what you have.  You can go cabinet by cabinet, or pull everything out together and really think about what you want where…categorize:

  • Type of thing by cabinet (baking supply, snacks, spices, canned goods)
  • How often you use things: keep frequent grabs at easy eye level, and less frequent items higher up
  • Size/height – don’t waste head space!  Keep tall things in tall spaces and short things in lower shelves

Then use:

  • Hooks – for hanging mugs
  • Shelves – for taller cabinets
  • Baskets or bins – for bags of things that don’t stand neatly

To the right here is my baking cabinet – now all the sugars are in the sliding bin bottom left, the baking powders/sodas/chocolates bottom right, and nuts/oats above that.  That Before – wow!  How would you get to anything in the back without creating an avalanche?

Here’s another one – you can see that some of the things from the top Before picture actually fit better in this cabinet; all my flours are now living together right next door to where the rest of the baking supplies are.  The tall pitchers and containers have the height they need, the messy bagged items have a basket, and some of those little half-used packets of things were inevitably thrown away.  Order from chaos!

2. Pots & pans

Again – take it all out!  Evaluate what you use, what you need, and what is just taking up space.  Donate the things you use less than annually or have duplicates of, then store the things you use frequently in a convenient way.  Using stick-on hooks inside my cabinet doors changed the functionality of my storage here, because lids weren’t constantly clanking around and falling every time I grabbed my go-to skillet.

They also work well for hanging things (like these mesh strainers) that are too bulky to keep in drawers and utensil holders – just loop a rubber band through the end and make sure you place the hook so that the length of the item doesn’t extend past the bottom, or hit right at a shelf level:

3. Consider wall space & decor

If you don’t already have some food-themed art (or other art!) in your kitchen, check out Marcella Kriebel, a DC-based watercolorist who has beautiful prints for sale in lots of different sizes. I have her “Curcubitaceae” and “Allium” prints, and I love the color and feel they add to my kitchen.

Think about shelving – this simple wall unit holds knives, spices, a towel, and even heavy cast iron pans.  I used the hooks to dry herbs hanging from rubber bands for a huge boost in flavor quality to my store bought spice collection. If you’re lacking space (I had roommates for 7+ years, I know the space scarcity plight well!) then every little nook and cranny has potential.  As you can see from our kitchen layout, that giant wall is totally open, but the floor space is too small to support adding a standing shelf or hutch.  Wall mounting to the rescue!

4. The refrigerator

Most fridges suffer from a lack of system – food tucked anywhere it fits!  By implementing a few rules of thumb, you can avoid the “rotting in the back” phenomenon and keep things organized.

  1. Prepared foods/leftovers to the top: keep things that have a shelf life of 3-4 days front and center, reserving about 2/3 of the top shelf for those heat & eat items.  A shelf might be handy here too, since you do want to utilize what is typically the tallest space available.
  2. Meats to the bottom: reduce drip risk in case they leak!
  3. Designate drawers by product: 1 for cheeses/cured meats, 1 for high humidity produce and 1 for lower humidity produce – read the guide here to figure out what is what!

And don’t forget the rotational powers of a turn table for dark corners in cabinets, pantries, and even the fridge!  There are many of those on my Pinterest board on just this topic:

5. Do the drawers

Even the most pristine homes have an “everything” drawer – it’s a very handy kitchen space!  But most of your drawers could probably do with a good going-through at the very least (mine, left), and some easy, inexpensive partitions to create and keep order for little odds and ends.

Look here for more ideas on how to organize drawers, use dollar store boxes or separators, and don’t forget the DIY option – just use some nice gift wrap to cover a mailing box!  Amazon’s A1 size is small enough to fit in most drawers, but measure first, and either cut off or fold down the flaps to get them out of the way.  This tutorial also shows you how to use office supplies to custom-build partitions.

My goal was to inspire you to get your kitchen in order and be excited about the process – so that ultimately you cook more often and with fewer headaches!  Feel free to link to any of your favorite resources for kitchen organization in the comments below…my favorite thing in the world is a good before & after picture!

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Slow cooking for fast prep (+6 ways to use your crock pot!)

The beauty of bulk

Bulk cooking (also known as batch processing or food prep) is the secret for almost all people I know who eat well and have mostly homemade food.  When I hear “I’m too busy to cook” – it’s usually the truth.  Most people don’t have time to shop, prep, and cook all their meals fresh daily with the hour+ that entails.  But even though food doesn’t have to be your first priority every day, by making it a top priority on one day a week, you can stock and prepare enough food to get you through most meals.

For example, by cooking a batch of oatmeal on the weekend, and stocking up on berries and nuts, you can have breakfast ready every day in under 5 minutes.  Spending some time to buy salad supplies and pre-packing containers (dressing on the side, of course – no soggy salads here!) could be lunch.  My friend and fellow dietitian Amaris is the prep-ahead lunch salad queen, and makes a new round every week:

But when you want something savory, warm, and hearty, there’s no second to the slow cooker.  This set-it-and-forget-it miracle of modern life is one of the most important (and yet often least expensive) appliances you can have in your kitchen, and it makes both bulk prep and weekday prep a breeze.  Load it up, turn it on and in 5-7 hours you can fully cook a tender roast, a flavor-rich stew, or even a baked pasta dish.

To chili and beyond

Most people think of chili or other stews when they think about what they could make in a crock pot.  But it can do so much more! Bone broth (or veggie broth) – sure! Lasagna?  Done! Fajitas sans frying pan – so easy! Fresh bread, crunchy granola, and even snack mix?  Absolutely.  Your slow cooker should be in rotation to make something at least once a week.

Need more inspiration?

If you’re still not convinced that you need to get some slow cooking action into your routine, here are the some inspirational roundups to get your mouth watering and your menu plan rolling:

Secret ingredient french onion soup

From the palace to the pauper

As the story goes, French onion soup came to be in the kitchen of King Louis XV, on a day that there was nothing but butter, onions, and champagne to be found in the pantry – an early “Chopped” episode, of sorts!  The humble onion, which even peasants had access to, had been elevated to French cuisine.  Whatever its beginnings, I’m glad this soup survived time and distance to end up on my mom’s recipe rotations during my childhood.   Sweet, caramelized onions, savory broth, and a fun crust of cheesy bread to break through…just the sight and smell feel cozy and nostalgic to me!

The secret ingredient

Many recipes call for worcestershire sauce as a savory, umami addition, but the late renown Chef Michel Richard used soy sauce, “because it gives it a meaty flavor.”  Sounds great to me!  Because soy sauce is high in sodium, I don’t call for any salt in this recipe – one study even found that sodium could be reduced by half without compromising flavor if soy sauce was used instead!  Many soy sauces contain gluten, so look for certified gluten free versions if you need to – there are also low sodium versions available.  Kikkoman is available at nearly any grocery store you’d go to, and have versions of both.  Be sure to check out all the other RecipeRedux entries to their contest to see other sneaky ways to use it!

Ingredients

  • 3 large onions, sliced into half rings
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (or butter)
  • 1/3 c red wine
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 cups broth of choice (I used a homemade version; look at the sodium on this too as it can be quite high)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or sub 1 tsp dried)
  • 4 slices whole grain bread of choice
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat the oil or butter in a soup pot over medium high.  Add the onions and cook down, stirring frequently until translucent (about 5-10 minutes) and then reduce heat to low and cook for another 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When caramelized, add the wine, soy sauce, broth, and herbs and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut bread to a size that will fit into the ramekin (regular bowls work too; it just has to be able to go under a broiler) and toast them – drier is better, since you’ll be submerging it into the broth.  Scoop soup into ramekins (remove bay leaf), place bread on top, then layer on mozzarella (other cheeses that melt work well for this too!) and broil until cheese is brown and bubbly in places – putting ramekins on a baking sheet makes transferring to the oven much easier!  Enjoy as a soup course, or as a mini-meal…after all, it contains a vegetable, protein, and whole grain all by itself!

I received a free sample of Kikkoman soy sauce mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Kikkoman and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.
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Easy dark chocolate truffles with cocoa nibs

It’s RecipeRedux time!

This month the theme is 2-0-1-6.  A year that will live in infamy.  A year that saw big changes in my life (moving in with David, starting work at PVF, getting used to showing up on TV now and then), and a lot of learning.  So in a nod to closing out this roller coaster ride around the sun, Reduxers are picking recipes from cookbooks on pages that have the numbers 2, 0, 1 and 6 to remake.  I am busy making some last-minute gifts, and my aunt loves dark chocolate, so I thought truffles would be perfect.  I’m actually following the recipe exactly, but “reduxing” the size – truffle minis!  The beautiful, tantalizing book “Chocolate” has a recipe on page 126 and I’m sharing it here – very few (very rich) ingredients, but I love the idea of a crunch outer shell to contrast the creamy truffle inside.

Oh, what fun

I’m also adding a special twist: custom M&M’s!  I had one of their family pictures printed onto mini packs of M&M’s, and even though they’re tiny the clarity is pretty darn good!  You can try it out yourself here.

Dark Chocolate Truffles with Cocoa Nibs

Ingredients

  • 6 + 6 ounces (separated) semisweet chocolate, in pieces or chopped
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup cocoa nibs

Directions

Melt 6 ounces of chocolate over a double boiler.  Bring the cream to boil in a separate small saucepan, then remove from heat and allow to cool.  When the cream has cooled to about 115F (I just waited until the pan wasn’t too hot to touch!), slowly pour the chocolate into the cream.  As you pour, stir with a spatula, thoroughly mixing the chocolate into the cream.  The mixture will thicken and should be smooth and shiny.  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered.  That’s the ganache for the center – while it’s cooling, melt the rest of the chocolate over the double boiler, prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or tinfoil, and grab a spoon.  Scoop out a small amount (I used roughly the size of a large marble) and roll it into a sphere (or whatever shape it wants to be…getting them perfect is tricky!).  Immediately coat the cold ganache ball with the melted chocolate, using a fork to toss it in the bowl to coat.  Drop it into the cocoa nibs and continue to roll to coat. (Alternatively, you could chill before the cocoa nibs and then coat in cocoa powder.)  Place on the cookie sheet.  When you are out of dipping chocolate, pop the prepared truffles into the fridge to store.


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Beyond cookies: 6 homemade holiday food gifts you’ll be excited to share

Good morning, Washington!

There’s still plenty of time!

This collection of food gift ideas was hand-picked to fit the bill: they all feature seasonal flavors or scents, can be made in bulk, and are a step outside the box of the cookies you make every year.  (You should still make those too…I’m all about traditions that evoke those warm, nostalgic feelings!) So grab a friend or prep ’em solo – you can knock all of these out together in just a few hours…use individually as little host/hostess gifts, or make a elegant gift basket for a huge hand-crafted surprise.  Check out my Pinterest board for more versions!  Click the pics below for the full instructions, and see the spot I did on Good Morning Washington to talk about the recipes!.

1. DIY soup in a jar

You’re giving the gift of warm soup on a cold day…and it’s beautiful to boot!  There are lots of great recipes out there for these self-mixed dry ingredient jars, just remember if you go off book that everything you put in should have roughly the same cooking time (ie either all beans or no beans, look for quick cooking versions of grains, and always include some instructions in a note!).  Pro-tip: layer smallest ingredients first and the larger ones last; otherwise tiny pieces will slip through layers and mess up your stripes.  It has to be functional and beautiful!

2. “Artisan” dark chocolate bark

There are lots of pretty chocolate barks in stores now…and let me tell you, they’re pricey!  Here are the secret cheats: you be the artisan, and get a high-percentage dark chocolate bar (I like Trader Joe’s 73% dark bar; $1.99 – and over 70% is where the heart-health benefits are!) and add your own nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, coconut…check your pantry, I’m sure there are lots of things you could add!  A sprinkle of cayenne or salt, some leftover candies, or even peppermint tea leaves could be easy adds.  Skip melting chips, tempering, and dirtying bowls and just use a 300F oven to melt the bars right in their foil – 3-5 minutes is usually enough to soften!  Just make sure you press all the toppings in a bit so they stick.  See my full instructions here or do it the old fashioned way.

3. Rosemary-spiced nuts

Another easy diy that has about a million variations to choose from – I like this one because the rosemary is a unique twist, but of course there are gingerbread, cocoa-coated, and candied options that are equally delightful.

 

4. Coconut-vanilla salt scrub

I have a whole Pinterest page dedicated just to foods you can use for your skin too – but salt scrubs are one of my favorites because they’re SO easy, inexpensive, and darn effective!  This one is three simple ingredients: 1 cup of salt (coarser for a foot scrub, finer for hands), 1/3 cup of coconut oil (unrefined), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  I keep this one in my shower to use after the soap stage – just rinse with lukewarm water and towel dry for glowing, fresh (and beautifully smelling) skin!

 

5. Fruit & nut loaf (the REAL fruit cake!)

I wish I could remember who gave me this recipe…like most people, I was not a fan of fruit cake.  Especially the weird gummy bits!  But this recipe changed my view: they’re delicious and decadent when made with just nuts, dried fruit, and enough flour and egg to hold it together.  The recipe easily doubles, so you could churn out lots of mini loaves or a few big ones if you’re hosting.  So please, this season give a fruit cake a second chance (and just call it a nut loaf so people aren’t scared!).

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
  • 3 cups roughtly chopped nuts
  • 3 cups coarse chopped dried fruit
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla

Directions

Mix flour, baking soda, powder, and salt. Toss nuts & dried fruit in flour mixture to coat. Add brown sugar and mix well, then add eggs and vanilla and use handes to work into a sticky dough. Spray a loaf pan or oil with canola oil, line with parchment, and spray/oil parchment too. Pack the dough into the pan, pressing down until even on top. Bake in oven at 300F for 1 hour to 1.5 hours, depending on size of pan. Cake is done when golden brown on top. Tent with foil if it starts to get too dark. Remove from oven, allow to cool,a nd remove from pan to wire rack. Slice when completely cool.

6. Frankincense scented salt-dough ornaments

This one I can’t take credit for…the lovely folks at Simply Earth sent me an essential oil subscription box to try and I simply LOVE it!  You can opt for a one-time box, a quarterly box, or a monthly box – all come with a variety of oils, recipes, and other goodies to make their concoctions.  This box was perfect for the season: the oils it came with were pine, rosemary, and frankincense, along with an orangey blend called “Happy Joy.”  I’m sharing their recipe for ornament dough here because it’s SO easy and the texture is amazing.  I decorated mine with stamps, paints, and some little plastic bedazzles.  Here’s the process, 5x faster than real time:

Ingredients

  • 15 drops Franckincense oil
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 3/4 cup water

Directions

Mix all ingredients together in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Stir continuously and allow to boil until a dough forms.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely (I cooled mine wrapped so it wouldn’t dry out).  Roll out dough, using extra cornstarch if it’s sticky, and use cookie cutters to make ornaments (I used a chopstick to make the ribbon hole).  Dry for 24 hours, flipping after 12.  (I also found you could bake them for ~10 minutes at 300F to dry them out enough to decorate; this can cause bubbles in some so drying is preferable!)

Some more shots of my ornaments are below; you should note that Simply Earth gives 13% of its profits to help end human trafficking (I love a company with a cause!) and they’re very passionate about their customer’s experience being positive and engaging.  So check them out!

‘Tis flu season – mocktails to hydrate & heal

Smug as a bug

I was sitting pretty and feeling great when my boyfriend got a bad cold last week…I’d been drinking echinacea tea almost daily, getting enough sleep, and eating lots of wonderful winter veggies like squash and kale.  My immune system is strong, I thought, I am not susceptible.  Too smug!  It started in my throat and moved up to my head.  While I’m hopeful that this means I’ve paid my dues and will be healthy for the holidays, it got me thinking – what to drink when you want to feel festive, but know that alcohol will make you feel even worse?

Mocktails to the rescue

On top of being alcohol-free, mocktails are actually a great opportunity to get some much-needed hydration and virus-fighting vitamins & minerals.  But many of them call for added sugar in the form of concentrates, syrups, or sodas.  Here are 3 mocktails I “mocked” up to improve the nutrient balance.  It’s always a good idea to offer a non-alcohol beverage if you’re hosting, but you could bring one as a guest to contribute, too – most people just bring wine, so your concoction will get special attention.  Other great times to use these recipes: for kid’s parties, Christmas morning brunch, pregnant women’s groups, or church events!

Non-Alcoholic Sangria
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Cut out the 1/2 cup of sugar; instead brew with a fruit-infused black tea (less astringent!)

Cranberry apple cider punch
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Sub OJ for orange juice concentrate; infuse with sliced fresh ginger instead of ginger ale; add club soda

Blueberry Mojito
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Muddle blueberries with mint; eliminate sugar & add Buchi’s Elderberry Blueberry Coconut Kombucha to taste instead.

I’ve also pinned some on my Pinterest boards – check them out for extra inspiration!  If none of these hit the spot (though I’d be surprised!) try this: type in *herb of choice* + *fruit of choice* + *cocktail or mocktail* (use Pinterest or google) and something will come up…I haven’t found a combo that doesn’t yield something delicious-sounding yet!  Rosemary peach?  You bet.  Thyme apple?  Sure.  Lavender kiwi?  Sounds weird, but…yup, it’s there.  Post below if you do find a combo that doesn’t exist…maybe there should be a recipe for it!

Plant-powered lunch bowl: farro, shaved brussels sprouts, and fermented beets

Bowls are the new salad

I’m a HUGE fan of a well-balanced lunch bowl.  They’re easy to pack to bring to work, and the options are limitless – which is why I am really excited that they’re this month’s RecipeRedux theme!  I can’t wait to see all the other members’ combos (links below) and give folks some inspiration for lunches that taste and feel awesome.

How to Bowl

Here’s my guide to building a bowl from scratch:

  1. Pick a base: a whole grain (quinoa or millet work well), rice, or legume like lentils or beans – aim for 1/2 cup

  2. Pick your greens: kale, spinach, collards, lettuces – 1-2 cups

  3. Pick 2 proteins: cheese, diced meats, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds – roughly 20g worth; consult the labels to make sure it adds up

  4. Add 2 other veggies (green beans, diced pepper, onion, tomatoes, even a cooked diced sweet potato) – roughly a cup total

  5. Herbs + acid + oil (chopped fresh basil or cilantro, lime or lemon juice, and olive or grapeseed oil) – about 2 Tbsp

I recently brought a bowl to a potluck – they make fantastic side dishes, too!  I cooked up farro, which is wheat’s higher-protein cousin (not gluten free!), then added:

  • Chopped roasted carrots
  • Raw edamame
  • Shaved raw brussels sprouts (I used a mandolin)
  • Fermented beets (my first ferment!)
  • Feta cheese
  • Dried cranberries
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chopped pecans
  • Pomegranate arils (alleluia, it’s pom season again!)

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Gorgeous colors, right?  And the result:

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I dressed it with some rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and EVOO – the ingredients themselves had so much richness and diversity in flavor, texture, and temperature that it didn’t need much!  If I weren’t going to a potluck, I’d have stored all the ingredients separately and made different combos through the week for lunch – here’s what a single serving looks like:

img_4313img_4316YUM.  Try your own – what’s your fav combo?  And don’t forget to check out the rest below!


Winter squash: 7 unique & easy recipes

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Fall has…fallen

And alleluia!  As my first season working on a farm comes to a close, I can say from all of us outdoor laborers: PHEW!  We were so, so hot for so, so many days.  Winter squash is planted during high summer, mulched with hay to keep weeds down, and then we wait…as the plants begin to die off, they leave behind their beautiful bounty.  All one needs to do is walk into the field with a big clipper to cut the stems and pick them up! (Purple Crocs optional!)

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Which winter squash?

You may hear the family winter squash belong to generically called the to the “gourd” family, but it also contains the summer squash like zucchini and yellow squash, cucumbers, and even canteloupes and watermelon.  Winter squash fall in between low and high starch veggies on the carbohydrate scale; they have about 15g per cup.  Where they really shine is Vitamin A & C content (300% and 50%, respectively per cup) for only about 60 calories.  They’re unique from summer squash in their storage capacity – they can be kept at room temp or cooler (but above freezing) for months; just rinse and wipe when you purchase so bacteria on the surface don’t start to eat them!  Buy extra at your markets starting now through December and enjoy them through February – Potomac Vegetable Farms has lots of butternut for sale at all our markets in Arlington, Tacoma Park, Falls Church, Reston, and Leesburg!  CSA customers will also get acorn, delicata, and kabocha (my personal favorite for its bright orange flesh and soft, edible skin).  Here’s the feature segment from Good Morning Washington today:
The pumpkin spice granola recipe I mentioned is right here!

Diced, sliced, roasted, sauteed, pureed – these babies are versatile.  They can go savory or sweet, or walk the line between both.  Most have edible skin, so skip the peeling and save some fiber and vitamins while you’re at it.  Acorn is the only one I’ve found that has a skin too tough to consume.  Below are recipes that will allow each variety to shine: treat yourself to one of them this week!  Click for link to the sources…and keep scrolling for info on my fall retreat, November 4-6 at Mountain View Farm in Purcellville, VA.

pumpkinpieenergyballsPumpkin Pie Energy Bites

dsc_7159Raw Pumpkin Cranberry Ginger Parfaits

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Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Bulgar

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Roasted Acorn Squash with Quinoa Cranberry Walnut Stuffing

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30-Minute Squash Coconut Curry

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Creamy Butternut Squash Alfredo

this-healthy-pumpkin-spice-granola-is-loaded-with-delicious-fall-flavours-made-with-easy-ingredients-and-takes-only-10-minutes-of-prep-to-make_-4Healthy Pumpkin Spice Granola

Retreat with me

I’m hosting a culinary learning retreat next month to give people a small taste of what farm life is like – fresh food, bulk prep techniques, and a focus on fermented and pickled foods are the themes of the weekend, and there will be opportunities for hiking, crafting, and just enjoying a hot drink in the fresh mountain air. We’ll get a tour of the farm and have our own farmhouse to stay in.  Click for more info and registration!backtoroots