Thursday, December 8, 2011

Delectable Delicata Squash

It's like Christmas morning for me when I open up my CSA box, and the other day, I received two colorful Delicata Squash.  I sadly forgot to take any pictures, but they are an oblong, yellow squash with green or orange vertical striping.  I don't want to steal other people's images, but if you're still curious, do a web search or check out your local market - they're in season in California right now!  

I love winter squash, but Acorn and Butternut have always been my staples.  The Delicata variety was new to me and I had no idea what to do with them, so I turned to the web to find a recipe to try.  I found many that sounded delicious, but I didn't want to go to the grocery store when I already had lots of produce at home, so I kept searching for a recipe that I could tweak to include what was in my kitchen: cauliflower, carrots, and half a can of coconut milk (left over from a Vegan Pumpkin Bread I made).  Below is what I came up with, and let me say that it was delicious with some coconut brown rice!  Sorry there are not any photos, the dish was very yellow and did not photograph well at all.

Oh, a word to the wise: when cooking with turmeric, use utensils that you don't mind getting stained.  It will turn everything it touches yellow.  For more info on turmeric's health benefits, see this article by Dr. Andrew Weil.

Coconut Curry Delicata and Cauliflower
(serves 2-4 people)

1/2 onion, chopped
2t minced garlic
2t minced ginger
1T olive oil
1 delicata squash, seeds scraped out, then diced (skin on)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 carrots, chopped 
2t cumin
2t turmeric
1t salt
1/4t black pepper 

dash of red pepper flakes (more if you like things spicy!)
1/2 can coconut milk
2T shredded coconut
1t lime or lemon juice

-In medium frying pan, heat oil. On medium heat, add onions, garlic, ginger & delicata. 
-Cook until onion becomes translucent, then add carrot and cauliflower. 
-Cook for about 4 min, with the lid on. 
-Add spices (up to the red pepper flakes in the recipe) and mix thoroughly until evenly coated. 
-Stir and cook for a minute, then add the coconut milk. Mix so that there is no more white from the coconut milk, the spices will change the color.
-On medium-low heat, put the lid on & cook for 5 min.
-Add the coconut milk, shredded coconut, and citrus of your choice. Stir & continue cooking, lid on, until squash & cauliflower are fork soft.
-Serve immediately over brown rice or quinoa (I cooked mine in diluted coconut milk) and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vegan Pumpkin Bread

Ready for the pot luck!
We had an afternoon pot luck party at work last week, and I wanted to bring something healthy, home made, and seasonally appropriate.  I love pumpkin bread, but have not been able to eat it for a while since almost all the recipes I see include eggs. I searched online, and thanks to Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Life I was able to find a recipe to make and enjoy! She has tons of recipes on her site that sound amazing, and while I'm not vegan (just allergic to eggs) I find that vegan baking recipes are the easiest for me to attempt since I don't have to worry about finding an egg substitute.

Below is her recipe, although I made a couple of tweaks to make it even healthier.  I substituted applesauce for the oil, and added in some whole wheat flour.  The pumpkin bread smelled SO good as it was baking, and tasted delicious right out of the oven, as well as the next day. Once it started to get a little soft, I found that putting it in my toaster oven and topping it with butter or honey was a great way to continue enjoying it throughout the week. Be warned: this recipe makes a lot!

Piping hot pumpkin bread

Vegan Pumpkin Bread

You will need 2 8″ x 4″ loaf pans

1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup flaked coconut

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8″ x 4″ loaf pans.
-Spread walnuts in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Toast in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
-In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, white sugar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. -Add the pumpkin puree, applesauce, and coconut milk, and mix until all of the flour is absorbed. 
-Fold in the flaked coconut and toasted walnuts. 
-Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
-Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
-Remove from oven, and cover loaves tightly with foil. Allow to steam for 10 minutes. 
-Remove foil, and turn out onto a cooling rack. Tent loosely with the foil, and allow to cool completely.
-Slice and enjoy!

Spoiled food is no fun!

Do you ever go to the market and buy a bunch of delicious-looking fruits and vegetables, only to have things spoil before you can eat it all?  Personally, I hate throwing out food.  Even putting it into the compost makes me twinge a bit.  But sometimes I get a little excited at the market and come home with way more food than I can eat.  Don't we all?  ;-)

When I get home, I store my newly purchased fruits and vegetables the best way I know, which is usually how I saw my mom store things when I was growing up.  Mom was right about a couple of things, like not washing fruits and vegetables until just before eating, and never putting tomatoes in the refrigerator.  But according to THIS LIST from The Ecology Center's Berkeley Farmers' Markets on how to store your produce without any plastic, Mom was wrong about a couple things (sorry, Mom!).  I've now printed the list and have it posted on my fridge, so I can look up how to store things right when I get home from the market.  Here's hoping my future purchases will last longer now!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Roasted Broccoli

I love broccoli.  While I realize that might make me seem a bit odd to some of you, I really think the cruciferous vegetable is delicious.  When it shows up in my CSA box, I get kind of excited.  Cooked or raw, dunked into a dip or on it's own, I love the stuff.  That being said, I've been getting a bit bored of my usual recipes and recently did an online search to find new ways to prepare it.  I came across one for roasting, and became intrigued.  I usually steam or stir-fry broccoli, so the idea of eating the vegetable cooked yet still crispy (and even a little caramelized) was an exciting one for me!  I modified the recipe slightly, and came up with what you see below - my new favorite way to eat broccoli!

Recipe: Roasted Broccoli
1 head broccoli (ideally organic)
3-6 cloves garlic, sliced
1-2" piece of ginger, minced
2T olive oil
1T soy sauce/tamari

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees. Wash broccoli, remove bottom end of stem, leaving most of it.  Slice the entire head of broccoli lengthwise until you have edible-sized pieces.  This should look like a long stem with the floret at the top.  Place into a large bowl.
2. Put other ingredients into the bowl, and massage everything together with your hands.
3. Put broccoli on a baking sheet, and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  It's done when the edges have turned slightly brown.
4. Put on a plate, and enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Juice Attempt #2

After a weekend of not completely adhering to my cleanse diet (too much refined sugar!), I wanted to start Monday off right.  That meant juice for breakfast!  I knew I wanted to incorporate some veggies this time, so I took a look at what I had around, and came up with this combination: Carrot, Orange, Strawberry and Red Kale.  Oh, and I threw in a little chunk of ginger to spice it up a bit.

The end result doesn't look so great in the photograph, but I assure you, it was pretty darn delicious!  And I was proud of myself for including some greens.  Next time I'll try adding more leaves!

Weekend Fun!

This past weekend was full of activities, but also included lots of relaxation and quality time.  It was a pretty close to perfect combination!  And having the Veteran's Day holiday meant that my sweetie and I could enjoy a three-day weekend together to celebrate both our anniversary and my birthday.  I was especially excited that we were able to go to a restaurant to celebrate.  While I've enjoyed cooking all week, it was a bit tiring and involved a lot of planning to follow my restrictions, and the break from it was something to enjoy.  At Greens Restaurant, I was able to mostly follow my cleanse diet and my sweetie was also able to eat a meal that he enjoyed.  I started with a soup of winter squash and coconut milk that was absolutely amazing, and for my entree had a tagine of mixed vegetables served on top of delicious brown rice, with half an artichoke.
Vegetable Tagine

Linguine with Spinach, Pine Nuts and Tomatoes
Looking out the huge pane window toward the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge, we had an amazing meal and very much enjoyed each other's company.  And I was happy to discover that with a little planning ahead and online research, it's possible to eat out even while following dietary restrictions!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Juice Experiment

My first attempt at juicing this morning turned out too sweet for my taste, but it was a delicious start to my day!  I tried a blend of Apple, Orange, and Carrot Juice.  Maybe I'll add some greens next time, I was a little scared to try them the first time.

New kitchen toy!

Blog post #2!
As part of my attempt to understand how my body handles different foods, I decided to do a fall cleanse.  It is not a fast, but a two-week attempt to eat whole, unprocessed foods and make some goals for changes in my lifestyle.  While I opted to not do the vegan version, looking back on my past three days I realize that I haven't eaten any animal products, go me!  My main goal was that I wanted to cut out dairy, sugar and caffeine to see how I feel.  My usual diet doesn't include much dairy anyway, mainly some yogurt, cheese and butter, but I wanted to see how my body feels without the stuff.

Another aspect of the cleanse is to get enough sleep!  I think I usually do pretty well with this, but I took advantage of daylight savings to shift my sleep schedule.  For the past few days, I've been going to bed before 10 and waking up around 6, and I must say - I feel GREAT!  Maybe it's just the full night's sleep, maybe it's the dietary changes, I don't really know, but there's something about this schedule that feels really good to me.

While doing the cleanse, we are encouraged to make lots of fresh juice and smoothies.  Thankfully, my roommate already had a juicer that I can use.  And my mom bought me a Vita-Mix blender for an early birthday/Christmas present this year (thank you, Mom!).  This machine is amazing, it can seriously make anything: hot soups, smoothies, ice cream, grate cheese, you name it!  It even comes with a whole bunch of healthy recipes to try.  If you're in the market for a new blender, you should give it a look.  And no, I am not paid by this company, I'm just really excited about the product!

For breakfast on the first day of the cleanse, I followed a recipe we were given for an Apple and Almond Smoothie.  It was a lot of liquid early in the morning, but the flavor was nice, and my new Vita-Mix blended it up perfectly!

Recipe for Apple, Almond & Spice Smoothie:
2 Apples, quartered
1C Almond milk
1T fresh rosemary (I didn't have any, so I didn't use this)
1/2T honey or agave
1/2T vanilla

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sugar Pie Pumpkin Soup

Hello out there! Here is my first ever blog post, which is very exciting. I'm still figuring out what the formatting looks like, so don't judge to harshly yet. And please, stay tuned for more!

To start out, I'm going to talk about a dinner I made a few weekends ago. I recieved a Sugar Pie Pumpkin in my CSA (community supported agriculture) box, and had no clue what to do with it! Luckily, they included a soup recipe, which turned out delicious! We paired the soup with half an organic avocado filled with olive oil and home-made red wine vinegar, and a whole-wheat sourdough toast topped with goat cheese. A delicious way to celebrate Halloween!

Sugar Pie Pumpkin Soup
1 Sugar Pie Pumpkin, about 4-5 pounds (make sure it's the edible kind!)
1/2C Shallots, minced
3T Butter
1t Salt
1 1/2 T Maple Syrup
1/4t Nutmeg
1/4t White Pepper
5C Chicken (or veggie) Broth
1/4 Cream (optional)

1. Wash the pumpkin, and cut in in half length-wise (from top to bottom). Scoop out the seeds and stringy parts, and set aside the seeds to cook later. Line a baking sheet with foil, and put the pumpkin cut side down. Bake in the oven, 375 degrees for about an hour, until the pumpkin is soft. Let it cool, then scrape the cold pumpkin out of the skin. Put in a bowl, and mash with a potato masher until it is smooth. (This part can be done in advance.)

2. When you're ready to make the soup...Peel and mince the shallots. Heat butter in a large, heavy saucepan and cook the shallots over low heath until soft.

3. Add broth and turn heat up to medium, heat until it just starts to simmer. Add all the spices and stir. Add the pumpkin a little bit at a time, stirring until until blended.

4. When everything is mixed together well, turn off the heat and stir in the cream. Serve!