The Original Friendsgiving (+cauliflower herb gravy)

cauliherbgravy

I’m jut going to put this out there: I started Friendsgiving.

I mean, I think I did – this year will be my 10th annual consecutively hosted event!  I started in college (Friendsgiving 2005), and as I’ve moved from Lancaster, to DC, to Philly, to Gettysburg, back to DC…I haven’t missed a single one.  It seems to me that the phenomenon started getting really popular 3-5 years ago (the first Urban dictionary listing of the word appears in 2009), so if you know of anyone else who predates 2005, I want to hear about it!

Mine is always held the weekend before the real Thanksgiving, which is strategic: everyone is pretty much chomping (pun intended) at the bit for the holidays, are still in town, and no one is yet sick of turkey.  Or turkey sandwiches.  Or turkey casserole.  Or turkey curry. Or turkey mousse (it’s a thing).  At the first one, in my row house next to the F&M campus, there were about 15 guests, and our oven stopped working halfway through cooking the turkey.  I had to call my friend EJ to come pick it up, take it to his house, finish roasting, and bring it back…he was dubious that he could make the quintessential Thanksgiving dish, and worried he would mess it up, but the secret is this: the turkey is the easiest, yet most impressive, part of the meal.  (To be fair, I “cheat” and use a roasting bag…but those suckers WORK.  Get some.)  Every year, it’s just a great gathering of awesome people who I love and am so thankful for, and the perfect start to my holiday season.

Friendsgiving today

Over the years, it’s grown – last year’s event had 45+ guests, and now it’s a potluck, which makes having enough food for that many possible.  Today we had around 40 guests, over 15 dishes, and plenty of wine.  The company changes, the food trends shift, but I always end the day with a full stomach and heart.

Highlights:

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Cauliflower, the new kale:

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I was excited to experiment with an alternative gravy this year. Knowing there would be some vegetarians, I wanted to have an option for them even though my usual go-to is to make a quick gravy with the turkey drippings (which I also still did, it’s too good not to).  I was gifted a beautiful cauliflower by Gracy of Beautiful Life Self Care and decided this was the perfect use for it.  (By the way, she’s amazing, and leads groups to balance and wellness online; if your life feels out of control you should check her out!) Silky, rich, and fortified with olive oil (gravy’s gotta have some fat!), you will swear this is as good as the real thing.  And if you can boil water, you can make it.

It fits perfectly with the RecipeRedux theme this month: a food memory I’m thankful for, healthified.  My family’s Thanksgiving meal always includes homemade turkey gravy, with neck meat and giblets.  If you don’t pour it on everything, you’re doing it wrong, scrape the plate, lick the spoon, really great gravy.  This cauliflower version is delish and has the benefit of containing a vegetable!  Click the blue frog below to see the other Redux member’s recipes :)

Cauliflower herb gravy

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, broken into small florets
  • 3 c vegetable broth (low sodium, or don’t add the salt)
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (I like Soom)
  • 1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash garlic & herb seasoning (or some garlic and onion powder)
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash Italian seasoning (or a blend of oregano, rosemary, and sage)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions
In a medium pot on the stovetop, bring broth and cauliflower to a simmer.  Cook with lid on until soft to a fork, ~10 minutes.  Pour cauliflower and broth into a blender and add all other ingredients.  Puree until smooth (I let mine run for ~3 minutes; be careful, it’s hot – hold a tea towel on top of the blender or allow to cool for a few minutes).  Makes 5 cups.

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Pantry dump & bake – with new Libby’s vegetable pouches! (+easy veggie casserole)

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I’m always on the lookout for new products – and sometimes, they come to me!  As  RecipeRedux member I get access to foods that might not even be on the market yet…like the new Libby’s Vegetable Pouches, which are easy to open, shelf stable, and cook in the micro wave in 1 minute.  They’re an alternative to canned veggies, and taste better in my opinion!

With the cold weather finally here on the east coast, tis the season for a warm, cozy, casserole – by using Libby’s vegetables, beans, and whole grain pasta, this is an all-in-one meal that reheats perfectly for lunches.  No pre-cooking, sauteing, or chopping here – just dump all the ingredients into a pan, bake, and serve.  While it’s in the oven, sneak in a workout, relax, or enjoy time with your family!

I received free samples of Libby’s new Vegetable Pouches mentioned in this post. I was not compensated for my time.

Easy Veggie Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 pouch Libby’s green beans
  • 1 pouch Libby’s green peas
  • 1 pouch Libby’s corn
  • 1 handful chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 15-oz can pinto beans
  • 3 c broth
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/2 lb whole wheat short noodle pasta
  • 3 oz mozarella or cheddar cheese

Directions
Grease a casserole pan (mine is 8″ diameter and 4″ deep) and preheat the oven to 350F.  Drain pouches and beans, and fold together with a spatula with noodles, broth, parsley, egg, and milk in a mixing bowl.  Pour in to casserole pan, and bake for 45 minutes.  Sprinkle on cheese and bake for another 5 minutes until melted.  Serves 4.

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Seeing Seattle (+curried cauliflower soup)

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Last week, I got to visit my good college friend Laura out in the Great Northwest!  She grew up in Tacoma, and now lives there with her (Kentuckian) husband and their cute dog.  I hadn’t visited out there since her wedding a few years ago, and when the stars aligned for direct flights at great prices, it was time to go!

It rained.  No surprise, I know – and I expected it to, so in a way the rain was actually part of my vision for a great trip!  It didn’t stop us from doing anything we wanted to (the people out there are not as wimpy as others in certain parts of the country), which included winery-going, hiking, touring the Microsoft city campus, and of course hitting up one of the most iconic American markets: Pike Place.  My trip is below, in pictures!  Plus a delicious recipe for creamy cauliflower soup that I made a version of for dinner with them while I was there.

Here we are at Chateaux St. Michelle – the grow grapes in the eastern part of the state, and ship them here to process.  Washington state is one of the country’s top wine-producers, up there with California and New York!2014-11-03 12.09.41

At the beginning of the Rattlesnake Ledge trail – 4 miles round trip took us about 2 hours!
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Here’s that cute dog I was mentioning:2014-11-04 11.30.25

The view was a LITTLE obscured by the clouds…2014-11-04 11.30.16

But cleared a bit when we got to the top for this magnificent view:2014-11-04 11.32.31

After we made it back down, a trip to the Microsoft HQ gave us a photo op with ALL the top dudes ;)IMG_2079

And a chance to try out some new technology – you could add virtual accessories and make up, and the way it stayed with your face was pretty crazy!
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After that, a visit to the market…even in the rain, this place is bursting with light, color, and some real characters.IMG_2093

Lots of great Washington State produce for sale…we tried the Sweet Tango apple variety, a new Honeycrisp cross.IMG_2087

Dang that’s some big garlic.IMG_2091

Can’t visit the northwest without seeing – and eating – some fresh salmon!IMG_2097

Yes folks, that’s chocolate pasta…linguine for dessert, anyone?IMG_2102

Time for dinner…love their huge farmhouse table, that Laura’s husband built! 2014-11-04 18.46.09

Broiled salmon – just salt, pepper, and lemon juice!2014-11-04 18.57.06

Wheatberry salad with zucchini, carrots, and fresh cheese curds from the market.2014-11-04 18.42.08

Cauliflower soup – I tweaked the recipe I made them to up the protein and changed the flavor a bit in the recipe below!2014-11-04 18.45.48

Curried Cauliflower Soup
(as sampled at the Columbia Heights market last Saturday!)

Ingredients

  • 1 lg cauliflower (~2lbs)
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 4 c vegetable broth
  • 15oz can white beans
  • 1 c half & half

Directions:
Heat oil in a large pot on the stove.  Add garlic, onion, and cauliflower; saute lightly for 5 minutes.  Add spices, beans, and broth.  Simmer for ~35 minutes or until cauliflower is soft. Puree.

Rocket Retreat Recap (+smokey cinnamon sweet potato wedges)

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What’s the fastest way to learn something new?

Try a lot, fail a lot, and get back up to try again.  It’s how I’ve been trying to live my life, and a rough estimation for the theory behind Rocket Yoga, which is a sequence of poses based on Ashtanga Yoga (Rocket’s more serious and strict predecessor).  I spent the long holiday weekend tucked away in a house on the Chesapeake Bay with 12 other yogis, learning more about “The Rocket,” eating, and bonding…but let me back up a step…

My friend and yoga teacher, Jonathan, asked

if I would do the food for a retreat with him almost as soon as I got back from the last retreat I did.  I said yes right away – how could yoga + food + vacation ever be a bad idea?!  Jonathan is every inch the classic ashtangi: intense, driven, and precise, so even though this was the first retreat he’d led, I knew it would be well done.  Within a week, he’d found the house and given me a plethora of menu ideas, and the weekend sold out hours after he started advertising (if you want to experience Jonathan and the most pumped-up, sweaty, rocking yoga class in DC, check out his Saturday morning 10:30 at Kali!).  The man is pretty much a tornado…a meat-eating, laugh-loving, Rocket-teaching tornado.

Food unlike any other

Jonathan’s perspective on food is similar to mine: it should taste good, be plentiful, and every kind is welcome.  So he didn’t want to go vegetarian for the weekend, and there would be mimosas at brunch.  Sounds pretty great, right?  I used the same “build a bowl” method as last time to ensure that everyone’s eating patterns could be accommodated, and we served two large meals with lots of snacks every day.  Because Rocket is pretty intense, and we had afternoon workshops as well, everyone was always adequately hungry – and adequately fed.  Here’s the summary:

Dinner 1: Mediterranean quinoa bowl bar
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With s’mores around the fireplace!
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Brunch 1: Huevos rancheros tostada bar with roasted plantains
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Dinner 2: Asian noodle bowl with soba or rice noodles and sesame ginger dressing
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Brunch 2: Veggie Quiche with smokey cinnamon sweet potato wedges (recipes at the end of this post!)
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Dinner 3: Loaded pasta salad with grilled steak or tempeh over arugula 2014-10-12 19.57.11

And of course, a trail mix bar with KIND bars supplied by the company!
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The food was pretty much loved by everyone from carnivore Jonathan to a gluten-free vegan, so I’ll call it a success!  One of the brunch favorites was the roast sweet potato wedges, so here’s the recipe – easy to make for a large group!

Smokey Cinnamon Sweet Potato Wedges

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Ingredients:
  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp oil (I used olive)
  • Dash salt
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the sweet potatoes into wedges (first in half, then into 4-5 slices length-wise) – leave the skins on!  Place in a gallon bag; add oil and close to toss and coat.  When coated, sprinkle in spices and toss more.  Spread wedges evenly on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour.  They should be soft to a fork and golden orange.  Serves 4.

More of the weekend, in pictures:

Our house!
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Me, sweating:
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The Rocket Dog!
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Jonathan flying me for some dock acro – really, he is the best base I’ve ever flown!IMG_9274

National Pasta Month (+pasta puttanesca)

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The best place for pasta in Columbia Heights

is Maple.  They make their own noodles in house and the sauces from scratch.  I’m also partial because they source some ingredients from the farmer I work for at the CoHi market on Saturdays…but pretty sure I’d be a fan anyway, anyhow.  It’s comfy and casual, yet feels elegant, has a small but diverse menu (of which everything I’ve had is delectable), and isn’t pretentiously priced – if anything, it’s one of the best values in the city for the quality of food.  I had the linguine puttanesca there a few weeks ago and my mouth has been thinking about it ever since.

Entre national pasta month

If you didn’t know, don’t feel bad…I wasn’t aware that October is pasta month either, until the RecipeRedux challenge (sponsored by the National Pasta Association – yup, that’s a thing, too) was listed.  Even though pasta isn’t a central part of my regular diet, it definitely has a place in the American diet for its versatility, ease of preparation, and potential health benefits.

Nutritionally speaking

pasta is a concentrated source of carbohydrate, our body’s primary fuel.  Because it is a plant product, it contains dietary fiber – as long as you get a whole grain variety!  Fiber content is very low in white flour pastas, and quite high in those that are fortified with wheat germ or oat – usually around 6g (out of a 25g recommended daily) for a serving.  Which brings me to portion sizing.  Many restaurants have totally ruined our eye for judging a single serving of pasta, which is only 1 c of cooked noodles.  Getting 2-4 times that amount when you eat out isn’t uncommon (another thing I like about Maple – it’s not a huge serving!) and therein lies the problem.  Over consuming carbohydrate causes a surge in insulin, which signals energy storage (ie, fat) and can lead to insulin insensitivity over time.  So the takeaway: pasta = good, too much pasta = not ideal!

Pasta Puttanesca

is a chunky, tomato based veggie sauce that is loaded with great briny flavor from anchovies, capers, and olives.  It’s easy and fast to make, and pairs perfectly with any meat over a perfectly cooked noodle.  Having a half cup (the serving size for sauce) will be hard to do…so have two!  Veggies are what we need more of.  This version will have you at the table in half an hour and absolutely delighted…especially if you can’t make it to Maple :)

Linguine Puttanesca (a la Sarah, via Maple)

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb whole wheat pasta
  • 3 large red tomatoes (I used one large and a pint of cherry, ~2lbs), diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 1 tin anchovies
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 poblano (or red bell) pepper, diced
  • 1/2 whole black kalamata olives, diced
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 1/2 c flat leaf parsley, rough chopped

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Directions

Heat a large pot with water filled halfway on the stove until boiling.  Cook pasta per box directions until al dente (slightly firm).  Heat oil in a sauce pan (4qt); add onion, garlic, and anchovies.  Saute until anchovies start to break down and onions become translucent (~3-4 minutes).  Add the tomatoes, pepper, and wine, reduce heat and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the olives, capers, and parsley, cook an additional 5 minutes.  Plate pasta, scoop sauce on top.  Garnish.

Click the frog to see the rest of the pasta contest entries!

ClassPass: sweating in style!

Last night I had the opportunity

to try one of the newest workout options in DC – ClassPass!  It’s like having a membership to tons of yoga, pilates, cycling, boot camp, and barre studios all over the city.  We were hosted at SculptDC, which has yoga and cycling classes in a really great location between Metro Center and Gallery Place.  You get to do up to 3 classes a month at each member studio – perfect for anyone who wants to try new workouts or likes to keep a very varied routine!  After all, as this article points out, mixing up workouts can do everything from preventing continual use injuries to enhancing weight loss.  Read more about how it works, and check out their list of over 50 DC locations!  If you’re looking for a way to move more but afraid to commit to a single location, this is your jam.

My evening, in pictures:

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SculptDC has a very chic space – love the ClassPass light sign!

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A chill, large room for yoga, and awesome Jade yoga mats are supplied at Sculpt!

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Me and Megan, our teacher of Sculpt360 – a pop music infused yoga class that incorporates cardio and weights – this was a “post” pic, and that is very real and hard-earned sweat on my shirt!  She had amazing energy and clearly we could all wish for arms like hers!

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Sweet Green is rolling out a new standard of THREE seasonal salads, starting today!  We got a preview, which was delicious – they are for sure my favorite salad take out in the city.

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To cap it off, as if we weren’t pampered enough, there was a manicure bar from Manicures N Motion - they set up shop anywhere, and now my nails look amazing.  WHAT a cool business!

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And there was champagne – not my normal recovery fuel (they also had coconut water!) but take if it it’s offered, I say!

 

RecipeRedux: Spicy Ginger Peach Fruit Chews

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It’s time again for the RecipeRedux – a monthly link up of dietitians’ blogs, as we all focus in on a chosen food category!  This time the theme is dehydrated food.  I don’t own a dehydrator, and my oven leaves a lot to be desired, but last year I figured out how to use my slow cooker to make “fruit by the foot” and decided it was time for round 2.

One of the benefits of dehydrating is prolonged shelf life – removing water makes it less likely that many types of bacteria will grow.  These fruit leathers could last weeks in the fridge in an airtight bag!  They’re also much more portable; no bruising or smooshing to worry about.

A crock pot works surprisingly well as a dehydrator for purees.  You can try this with many other fruit combos, just remember these two rules: 1) the lid must stay off for it to work this way and 2) only a thin amount of fruit can cover the bottom – ~1/4-1/2″ is ideal.  My crock pot is a 6qt oval, so it has more floor space than smaller, circular ones.

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Spicy Ginger Peach Fruit Chews

Ingredients

  • 2 large peaches, pitted (skin on!)
  • 1″ fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, deseeded

Directions
Puree all ingredients in a blender.  Coat crock pot with oil, pour in puree.  Set on low for 10-11 hours, until fruit is fully dried.  Peel out of pot, cut with a pizza wheel on a cutting board.

 

Click the frog for more amazing dehydrated recipes!