Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cookbook Review: The Blender Girl Smoothies

I got a copy of Tess Masters' The Blender Girl Smoothies last summer, and now that it's summer again, I'm finding myself breaking it out and making lots of recipes from it. I own a few other smoothie cookbooks, but this one is my favorite because it uses ingredients that are basic, not too expensive, and likely to be in your freezer or summer time produce collection. She offers suggestions for boosters (such as chia seeds) that people may not have on hand but it doesn't feel like the end of the world when you make the smoothies without them. Some of my favorite recipes have been the "apple and mango madness," "cleansing cran-cherry" (great use for collards!), and the "chock-full chocolate surprise." Highly recommended!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cookbook Review: My New Roots

I've started a new food blog, edible minimalism, where I'm trying to up my game with better photography and site design. Head over to this link if you'd like to keep up with me there.

Before saying goodbye to this blog, though, I want to post a review of a cookbook.

My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season by holistic nutritionist and food blogger Sarah Britton is a beautifully photographed cookbook where seasonal vegetables take center stage. Britton also emphasizes whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, with an occasional bit of dairy thrown in. The cookbook is organized according to seasons, with attention to both comfort food in the winter and lighter food in the summer, but also what is available in farmer’s markets at different times of year. I appreciate this, since our on-demand culture leads us to expect everything at all times in our supermarket. However, when browsing through this cookbook, I still found myself wanting to try recipes from the “wrong” season, just because they looked so tempting.

Many of those who follow Britton’s blog or others like it will already have a well-stocked pantry full of natural foods, but some of the ingredients Britton features, such as lucuma powder, will not be in everyone’s kitchens. From personal experience reviewing Julie Morris’ Superfood Smoothies cookbook, when I found myself racking up some serious debt at Whole Paycheck buying until then unknown-to-me ingredients like maca powder and goji berries, I knew that getting excited some of Britton’s recipes could add up financially. In working through My New Roots, therefore, I avoided recipes that contained too many ingredients the average person might not be willing to invest in, although I think everyone should go out on a limb from time to time and try new things, like millet or spelt flour. Some of the recipes have none of these. There were also ingredients that I wanted to buy but couldn’t find, like buckwheat groats (I tried Publix, Trader Joe’s, and Fresh Market). One of my favorite recipes from the book, grilled halloumi with butternut squash and kale, involved a sprinkling of dukka, an Egyptian spice blend featuring hazelnuts. At my favorite Middle Eastern grocery store, hazelnuts were $10 for a tiny four-ounce bag, and the other supermarkets told me they only carried hazelnuts around Thanksgiving. Again, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy them, but the recipe was amazing on its own. I definitely will make it again with the dukka during the right season.

In trying out a new cookbook, the input of family members is also going to be crucial, since it’s difficult to make things more than once if the people with whom you share meals are reticent. The first several recipes I made provoked strong feelings among different members of my family. Britton’s life-changing loaf of bread with olives and caraway, which contains a lot of nuts and seeds, had great flavors but requires stretching familial expectations for bread, which in the end meant the life-changing loaf was largely consumed by me. I thought her recipe for sunflower sesame seed brittle was delicious, but I couldn’t get it to hold together properly, and after several other seed-infused recipes, I was accused of attempting to turn the family into birds. Other recipes that didn’t go over well with everyone included an intriguing red onion lentil soup with manchego toasts, described as a sort of French onion soup with lentils, which I found a little overbearing with thyme and which also disappointed my seven-year-old daughter, who loves French onion soup. I made the fully loaded breakfast bars, which has a base of oats and beans and features dried fruit and pumpkin seeds, hoping my daughter would finally eat her breakfast, but she wasn’t crazy about them, and I found that, like the sunflower seed brittle, I also couldn’t get them to hold together.

But then we hit several winners in a row, finding recipes universally beloved by everyone. My favorite dishes, and the ones I’ll definitely make again, surprised us all with their creative balancing of flavors we’d never thought of putting together. One of the best was the aforementioned grilled halloumi with butternut squash and kale. You can get halloumi, a salty and chewy cheese that fries up nicely while still holding its shape, at Middle Eastern grocery stores, and it is one of my favorite foods right now. Britton’s recipe for socca (chickpea flatbread) with grilled white and green asparagus, dill and feta, is also worth buying a bag of chickpea flour for. Her walnut fig bars, which use dried figs and hold together very nicely, make a great breakfast or dessert, and the oyster mushroom bisque was a revelation. Again, I was out of season in selecting an early spring recipe and couldn’t find the oyster mushrooms, so I bought baby bella mushrooms instead, but this didn’t matter: it is an incredible soup. The mushroom bisque gets its creaminess not from heavy cream but from white beans, and it truly is one of those recipes where you think you’re eating something very rich but actually doing something good for yourself.

I appreciated that a lot of her recipes were gluten-free so that I could make them for a family member who has had to go gluten-free, and vegans will also find that most of the recipes in the book are dairy free. I still have several other recipes I’m looking forward to trying: the cornmeal pancakes with gingered plum compote, and the “best lentil salad ever” are next on my list. In the future I will try to use this cookbook in seasonally appropriate ways, but I’m also grateful that the book introduced me to new ingredients and delightful new ways of putting flavors together.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review.

Oyster Mushroom Bisque

½ pound oyster mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1 Tblsp coconut oil or ghee
3 medium onions, chopped
2 large leeks
Fine sea salt
1 tsp. fresh or dried thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly squeezed juice of ½ a lemon
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth
2 cups cooked white beans (cannellini, Great Northern, etc)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tblsp. olive oil

Clean the mushrooms and chop up the larger ones. Heat coconut oil on medium and sauté onions, leeks, salt and thyme. When onions are soft (about five minutes), add garlic. Squeeze lemon juice into pot and deglaze by scraping up browned bits. Add mushrooms, cooking on medium for five minutes until soft. In a blender, combine broth and beans until creamy. Add to mushroom mixture, stir and simmer five minutes. Blend in blender until smooth, adding water if too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve drizzled with olive oil and fresh thyme.

See you over at edible minimalism!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Awesome Spiced Lentils

Lentils are delicious and healthy, with 12-14 grams of protein per cup cooked. I had some on hand today and wanted something to put over rice that was more like curry and less Italian. I invented this recipe, and it turned out so well that I wanted to post it so I can make it again.

Awesome Spiced Lentils

1 cup lentils, washed and picked over (I used tiny brown ones)
1 onion
1 stalk celery, with leaves
2 carrots or a handful of small ones
3-4 garlic cloves
2 T butter or butter substitute
2 large tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
Dash of cayenne

3 Tblsp. finely chopped cilantro

In a food processor or by hand, finely chop onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Saute in a dash of olive oil for several minutes until softened. In a large saucepan, boil lentils with about an inch of water on top for 10 minutes, then drain. Put lentils back in the pot, adding a cup of water and the sauteed vegetables. Add all the spices up to cayenne and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally or adding water to make sure the mixture isn't sticking. At the end, stir in cilantro and serve over rice.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Best Granola Ever

Hands down, this is the best granola recipe I have tried. I have made it countless times over the past few months, but I keep forgetting to take good pictures of it (since I'm usually too busy eating it). It's Alton Brown's recipe, and you can modify it using different kinds of nuts, but it always turns out perfectly. What I think is distinctive about it is the fact that you slow-roast it - it's not time consuming at all to make, as long as you set a timer every 15 minutes or so and just give it a stir in the oven.


3 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds
1 cup pecans or walnuts (he uses cashews)
3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins (or you can put any chopped dried fruit here)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse the nuts a couple times to chop roughly. Mix oats, nuts, coconut and brown sugar in a bowl.

In another smaller bowl, mix syrup, oil and salt. Pour into the oat mixture, mix well, and spread over a big cookie pan. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to turn the oats over.

Once done, mix in the dried fruit.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry

This is a super easy, make-after-work recipe that can be done in about 45 minutes or less. If you have fresh ginger, add it when you add the garlic. If you have green onions or other vegetables, throw them in as well. Best thing about this is how few pots you need.

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry

3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 lb boneless round steak, cut into 3 inch strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 cups frozen broccoli florets
2 cups baby carrots
1 small onion, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup water

In a bowl, mix 2 Tblsp. of the corn starch with 2 Tblsp water and garlic powder. Add 2 Tblsp cornstarch, 2 Tblsp water and garlic powder until smooth. Add beef and toss.

In a large skillet or wok over medium high heat, stir and fry beef in 1 tablespoon oil, browning lightly. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Add onion and carrots to pan and brown lightly, 4 minutes. Add garlic and frozen broccoli, cook another two minutes. Return beef to pan.

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and remaining 1 Tblsp cornstarch and 1/2 cup water until smooth; add to the pan. Stir to combine, test broccoli to see if it's done. Serve with rice.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Slow cooker two-bean chili with quinoa

This is going to be my new go-to recipe for vegetarian chili. I've found that a lot of recipes for vegetarian chili don't have that extra thickness/heartiness that is present in a meat-based sauce, and they end up being more soup-like. This recipe, which was inspired by this one, remedies that. The secret ingredient? Quinoa, which is loaded with additional protein. If you don't have a slow cooker, you could easily make this on the stove, too. It tastes even better after it sits.

Slow cooker two-bean chili with quinoa

1 onion
1 Tblsp minced garlic
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can red beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup red quinoa, rinsed (you could use other kinds of quinoa as well)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 cup frozen sweet corn (or canned hominy)
1 can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tblsp. chili powder (use 2 Tblsp if you have a mild powder)
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Saute onion and garlic in a dash of olive oil until softened. Add to slow cooker, along with all your other ingredients. Cook on high for three hours, or you could also probably do high for one hour, low for 4-6. Serve with a sprinkling of feta cheese or grated cheddar on top.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Buttermilk biscuits

If you make these biscuits, you may never need to go out for breakfast again - all these need are a couple fried eggs, a side of grits and a cup of hot coffee. These biscuits are amazing. I've made them multiple times, and I keep returning to the recipe again and again. So, I'm putting it here for posterity.

Buttermilk biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tblsp baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tblsp. butter or earth balance substitute
1 cup buttermilk (Make your own! Add 1 Tblsp. white vinegar to a cup of milk, let sit for 5 min).

**Tip to getting these just right - don't handle the dough too much. Don't use a rolling pin.

Preheat oven to 450.

Mix dry ingredients in a food processor. Throw in the butter and pulse until crumbly. Mix in the buttermilk. Mixture should be sticky. Turn onto a floured surface and pat and fold the dough over about five times. Pat it out (do not roll it) to about 1 inch thickness. Cut out biscuit shapes with a glass or cookie cutter, place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. (Place so they are touching each other if you like them soft).

Bake 10-12 minutes until light golden brown. Enjoy!