Butternut squash + Shiitake ragout

Butternut squash shiitake stir fry ragout

Butternut squash shiitake mushroom stir fry raguI’ll admit it up front. I don’t really like butternut squash. I always want to like it: it’s so beautiful and orange and HEALTHY! It’s ok when it’s puréed into soup but it’s still…squash.

I had a couple of plants this year come up from seed in my compost, so I let them do their thing and now I have about 20 butternut squash. Cooool.
So, I started checking out recipes outside of roasting/pureeing and found a recipe from bon appetit that was amazing! It doesn’t taste squashy but has a creamy texture. It has sweetness from the port, umami from the shiitakes and a pop of color + flavor from the garnish of pomegranate seeds.
Bottom line: I would make it again and again, and this coming from a self professed butternut hater.

Butternut + shiitake ragout: (serves 4)

10 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps halved if small or quartered if large
4 sun-dried tomatoes, not packed in oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 cup tawny Port, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut in 1” cubes (I used 2 pretty small ones)
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Combine shiitake stems, tomatoes, and 2 cups boiling water in a bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add mushroom caps; cook until lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Stir in a pinch of salt. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in 1/4 cup Port and cook, scraping up browned bits from skillet, until liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Stir in onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, scraping up browned bits from skillet, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Pour in remaining Port and cook until sauce is glossy, about 3 minutes.
Add butternut squash; stir to coat. Strain the mushroom stem liquid into skillet; discard stems, chop the tomatoes, and add them to squash mixture. Bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet, and cook until squash is almost tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover; continue to cook until liquid is reduced and glossy, 5-8 minutes.

Hope you enjoy!  I served this with simple quinoa: tossed with parsley, lemon zest and olive oil.  So satisfying and filling.  Great for a meatless Monday :)

Much love,

A.

Easy superfood dark chocolate bark. (5 minutes!)

chocolate bark vegan pomegranate superfood

I have been making a batch of this chocolate bark every week and keeping it in the fridge, enjoying a few pieces each night as an after dinner treat.  Silky and rich, with tons of different flavor nuances just like a good wine.  With lots of polyphenols and antioxidants, dark chocolate is a healthy treat.  Just make sure you’re eating 70% or higher cacao content to ensure that you’re reaping all the healthy benefits chocolate has to offer.  Cacao has a specific antioxidant, epicatechin, that lowers the risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.  Some researchers even consider epicatechin an essential vitamin.  It reduces inflammation, improves blood flow, and elevates nitric oxide in the blood ( this is what Viagra does- no wonder chocolate is considered a love food) .

This bark is infinitely customizable and only takes about 5 minutes to put together. The one I made today was sesame seed (gives a savory quality to it, almost like chocolate covered pretzels), coconut flake, hemp seeds, pomegranate arils, flaky sea salt, and almonds.  Almonds are my favorite nut to use because they give the biggest crunch payoff.  Get a pretty tin to put it in and it makes a wonderful last minute gift, too.

IMG_2315

Superfood Dark Chocolate Bark.

8 ounces or so (2-3 bars) dark chocolate, preferably 70% or above and organic (I prefer Scharffenbergers (not organic but no-gmo soy lecithin) or Green&Blacks)

Any or all of these healthy toppings:

hemp seeds

coconut flakes (toasted or not)

sesame seeds

almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or cashews

pomegranate arils, freeze dried raspberries or strawberries, dried cherries, goji berries, etc.

flaky sea salt (like Maldon)

Rig a double boiler: fill up a large saucepan halfway with water, then place a heatproof mixing bowl over the pot.  Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Start the water boiling and chop up your chocolate.  It doesnt have to be super tiny pieces, just a rough chop will do fine.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (aka the best invention ever) or parchment paper.  Now put all your chocolate in the bowl of your double boiler.  Stir with a rubber spatula until thoroughly melted.  Pour your chocolate onto your lined pan.  Spread the chocolate out with your spatula until it is the thickness you desire.  I like it thin so I spread it out a lot.  Sprinkle all your desired toppings over.  Pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden up.  Peel the chocolate carefully off of the silpat/parchment and break into coarse pieces.  Store in the fridge or freezer for a snappier chocolate, or keep at room temperature (no hotter!) in an airtight container.  If you give it as a gift it would be a good idea to seperate the pieces with parchment paper so they dont stick together.

My personal favorite: Scharffenberger 70% cacao.  Their 85% is AMAZING too.  Rich, nuanced chocolatey flavor with NO acrid/bitter flavors that I taste in many dark chocalates from other brands.  Green & Blacks is my second choice, organic, and more widely available.

scharffenberger bittersweet

Enjoy!

Love,

A.

Creamy berry-almond breakfast smoothie.

berry almond butter smoothie

I have been loving this smoothie for breakfast lately!  I love oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast, but sometimes I just want something sweet and creamy.

This smoothie takes 2 minutes to make in the morning (no cutting fruit or anything!) so its ideal for when you’re in a rush but want something good for you too.  It has tons of healthy, filling fats from the almond butter and antioxidants from the berries.

I equally love this smoothie made with a frozen banana instead of the berries.  It is seriously like a milkshake this way- the banana makes it super creamy and sweet.

The hint of almond extract in this is so delicious.  It elevates the other ingredients and makes a basic smoothie a little more fancy.  If you’re not a fan of almond flavor (like my husband), try vanilla extract instead.

Almond breakfast smoothie. (serves 1)

1c unsweetened almond milk

1/2 c frozen berries OR 1 large-ish frozen banana

1 heaping tablespoon almond butter

5 drops stevia OR sweetener of your choice

1/8t almond extract OR 1/2t vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!

Much Love,

A.

P.s. Kids are into it too ;)

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Walnut meat taco salad (with from-scratch catalina!)

vegan taco salad walnut meat

When I was growing up, my mom would sometimes make this taco salad of iceberg lettuce with ground beef, cheddar cheese, veggies, and nacho cheese doritos crunched up all over the top.  Then it was all tossed with Kraft Catalina.  It was one of my favorite meals!  Not authentic at all but the sweet dressing + the savory meat, chips and cheese + the crunch of the veggies was heaven.

I had a lot of tomatoes from the garden so I made a pico de gallo, and I had a pot of black beans in the fridge, which inspired me to make this much healthier version of my mom’s classic, complete with homemade catalina.  If youre not a fan of catalina dressing, a simple lime vinaigrette like I used in this post would also be good here.

There are quite a few components to this salad, but it is not hard and doesn’t take too long.  I made it on a day when my husband was home so I didnt have littles hanging all over me while trying to get it all together. ;)  You can also always sub in pre made guac, pico, and dressing for less chopping work!

Vegan Taco Salad (serves about 4)

1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped

2c shredded red cabbage

Pico De Gallo:

3 large tomatoes

1/2 medium to large yellow onion

1 lime

1/2 bunch of cilantro

1 jalapeno

Guac:

1 jalapeno

1/2 bunch cilantro

1 green onion

3 avocados

1 lime

Raw Walnut Taco “Meat”

2c walnuts

1T cumin

1t smoked paprika

1.5t chili powder

2T tamari/soy sauce

Catalina Dressing:

1/2c organic ketchup

1/2c coconut sugar

1/2c red wine vinegar

1/2c onion

1t paprika

1/2t (vegan)worcestershire sauce

1c avocado oil

s+p

 

cashew sour cream (optional)

tortilla chips (OMG YOU GUYS I DIDNT HAVE ANY IN THE HOUSE!!!  What is a taco salad without CHIPS!!  I almost sent my husband to the store to get some but I was hungry and the salad was still really good without them.)

 

First make your taco meat.  Whiz the walnuts and spices + tamari in the food processor until it resembles ground beef (smallish crumbly pieces)  Taste a bit and season more to your liking.  Set aside.  Wipe out the food processor.

Then make the pico.  Chop up 1/2 the onion, the tomatoes, 1 jalapeño and 1/2 of your bunch of cilantro.  Mix together and add the juice of 1 lime + salt and pepper.

Now make your catalina.  Blend all ingredients until smooth and season to taste.  I added a squeeze of lemon after tasting it.

Next make your guac.  Scoop out your avocados into the food processor.  Take the other 1/2 of your bunch of cilantro and add that too.  Add in 1 green onion, roughly chopped, the juice of a lime, and a roughly chopped jalapeño.  Pulse until it reaches your desired consistency.  Season to taste with s+p.

To assemble:

Place lettuce in bowl, then on top: cabbage, pico, beans, walnut meat, tortilla chips.  Drizzle with some catalina.  Toss to coat and add more dressing if desired.  Top with the guac, cashew sour cream, sliced jalapenos, and green onions.  Serve immediately- it gets soggy relatively fast.

Much love, A.

P.S.-These are the last of my tomatoes!

homegrown tomatoes

Baby booty cleansing spray–make homemade wipes!

baby wipe solutionToday I have not a recipe for food, but for a diaper wipe solution.  A friend recently asked me about this topic and I thought I’d share here too.  No nasty chemicals are needed on your precious babes gentle areas!  Just this last year there have been of outbreaks of severe contact dermatitis from all the harsh chemicals they put in baby wipes even though they are touted as “gentle”.  Even the natural/organic wipes still have preservatives in them that can irritate sensitive skin and cause allergies, like citric acid.

We used double sided flannel wipes from Green Mountain Baby and loved them (also where I got my cloth diapers from-they are a great company)  This saved so many diapers,wipes and plastic from going in the landfill because they are all washable and reusable.  Plus, the wipe solution kept Vincent’s diaper area from getting a lot of rashes and sped up healing of any irritations.  It is gentle, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial, thanks to amazing essential oils from lavender and tea tree.  They are also EXTREMELY inexpensive.  Just mix up:

1.5c water

3T jojoba oil

3-4 drops tea tree oil

5-6 drops lavender oil

optional: 1 tsp of dr bronners unscented liquid soap

We put it in a small spray bottle and also kept a squeeze bottle of water handy to moisten the wipes (the one they sent home with us from the hospital!  For perineal cleansing)  Whenever we needed to change the diaper, we moistened the wipe with water, then spritzed the spray directly on the diaper area.  Wipe off with clean wipe and done!  If there is messy poop, just use some toilet paper first to preclean the area.  We didnt have a lot of issues with that because we started elimination communication with Vincent when he was two months old.  No more poopy diapers from then on, save for a handful of accidents along the way.

The solution will seperate like in the below photo so make sure to shake it well before each use.

wipe solution

For diaper rashes we used coconut oil mixed with calendula oil.  Coconut is soothing and anti fungal/antibacterial while calendula assists in skin healing.

The power of plants is amazing!

Much Love,

A.

naughty baby

Simple kale fried rice.

kale fried rice

I love kale.  Its probably my favorite winter green.  Something about it is very comforting, very grounding.  I have a hard time digesting it raw, so I usually cook it lightly and it tastes so delicious.  My kids, on the other hand, will only really eat greens in smoothie form and mild spinach is their favorite.  Im not complaining- my kids are very adventurous eaters- but I would like to get a little variety in them now and then.  Its so beneficial to rotate your greens to avoid a buildup of anti-nutrients and to get a wide variety of nutrients.  Kale is something I grow every fall/winter and it is forgiving of a black thumb!  You can even grow it in a pot.  Also, kale is an amazing, inexpensive nutritional powerhouse that has a pretty mild taste when cooked- unlike, ahem- swiss chard, my most hated green.

This very simple, loose “recipe” is so delicious and will easily adapt to whatever you have around.  This is the only way I can get the kids and husband to eat kale.  Try it at your house and see how it goes over!

kale fried rice.

1 large head of kale, stems removed (I prefer smooth dinosaur kale but use whatever type you like)

leftover brown rice (crucial- freshly cooked rice will NOT be the same)

2 cloves garlic, minced (mince and let sit for 10 minutes to increase allicin, a protective compound in garlic)

1/4c minced onion or shallot

3T coconut oil

2 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal

Tamari or soy sauce or coconut aminos– adjust amount to your liking.  I probably used about 1/8c.

Sesame oil, a tablespoon or two

Sesame seeds, for sprinkling on top

Optional add ins: minced carrot, edamame, frozen peas, chopped green beans, minced broccoli, beans sprouts, cilantro- whatever veggies you/your kids love!  Just make sure any veggies are chopped small so that they will cook in time.

First, chiffonade your kale- the thinner the better.  The best way to do this is to stack all the leaves on top of one another, loosely roll them up, and slice very thinly across.

Heat up the coconut oil over medium heat, add the onions or shallots, saute for a few minutes until they are translucent, and then add the garlic.  Stir and saute for about 30 seconds or so until garlic is fragrant- take care not to burn/brown it or it will be bitter.

Add in the cold brown rice and stir it all up.  Turn up the heat to medium high and let cook without stirring for about 3 minutes.  You want the rice to crisp up a bit but not burn.  Stir the rice, then pile the kale (and any optional veggies youre adding) on top and let cook for another 3 minutes without stirring.  Add in the soy sauce, sesame oil, and green onions and stir well.  Let cook, stirring every minute until the kale/veggies are softened to your liking (I did about 2 minutes but feel free to cook more)  Let cool slightly, spoon into bowls, and top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Note: This keeps and reheats very well so feel free to make a large batch for the week!

*A quick note:  I have a seemingly endless line of things demanding my attention in this current time of my life.  However, I love the blog and will continue to update it as much as possible.  I am shooting for once a week posts on Monday night, maybe more.  I have a few posts I want to do about natural healing and remedies I have been experimenting with.  Please bear with me as I adjust.  Thank you for reading!  I appreciate all of you.

Much Love,

A.

kale

Favorite black bean soup.



black bean soup gluten free vegan low fat

Around here we make a lot of different meals.  I rarely use the same recipe twice.  Not that the recipes aren’t good, it’s just that I love to try new things.  However, I definitely have a stash of cherished recipes that I have made time and time again.  This black bean soup is one of them.  Flavorful, filling, creamy, and comforting, this soup is a favorite in our house.  It is extremely versatile as well (good on its own, fabulous with all kinds of toppings, leave the beans whole and eat with rice, use in nachos, etc) and keeps in the fridge wonderfully.  It’s just the thing to make on Sunday and eat all week.  The original recipe comes from my beloved Cooks Illustrated and uses a massive ham hock to cook with the beans to impart flavor.  I obviously leave out the meat and taste absolutely does not suffer.  However, since this soup is so simple, it is imperative to only use very fresh and flavorful broth, spices, and vegetables.  Bonus: cooking this will fill your house with a wonderful, subtle scent of cumin and bay leaf.

black bean soup gluten free vegan low fat

Favorite black bean soup

This recipe is cooked in two steps, the beans and the aromatics/soup.

For the beans you will need:

5c water, plus extra as needed

1 lb (2c) dry black beans, rinsed and picked over for debris

2 large bay leaves

1/8t baking soda

1t salt

Place water, beans, bay leaves, and baking soda in a large pot with lid.  Bring to boil over medium high heat.  Stir in the salt, reduce the heat to low.  Cover and simmer briskly until beans are tender, between 1 and 1.5 hours (this depends on how old your dried beans are)  Start checking the beans for doneness at 1 hour and add extra water during this time if necessary to cover the beans.  After they are done discard the bay leaves but DO NOT drain the beans.  Set aside and start the second step: the soup!

For the soup you will need:

3T oil of choice

2 large yellow onions, chopped finely

1 very large carrot, chopped finely

4 celery ribs, chopped finely

1/2t salt

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2t red pepper flakes-

*note: this amount does not make it spicy, it is for flavor only.  I LOVE it spicy but I have small children so I add extra into the adults bowls as needed.  If you like spicy, you may want to either increase the chili flakes, add chopped fresh hot peppers to your aromatics, or add in some canned chipotle chiles.

1.5T good quality ground cumin

6c broth

2T cornstarch

2T water

2T lime juice

Heat oil in your pot/dutch oven until shimmering.  Add in your onions, carrot, celery, and salt and cook until they are soft and very lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low and add your garlic, pepper flakes, and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the beans, bean cooking liquid, and broth.  Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes to all the flavors to develop.

Ladle 1.5 cups of beans and 2c of liquid into a blender and puree, then return the puree to the pot.  Stir together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl until combined, then gradually stir half of the mixture into the pot.  Bring the soup to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, to fully thicken.  If the soup is still not sufficiently thickened after boiling, add in the remaining cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil again.  Pull the soup off the heat and stir in the lime juice.  Ladle into bowls and top with any desired toppings.  It will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.

Suggested toppings to pass at the table: (choose as many or as few as you want!)

avocado slices

diced tomato

crumbled tortilla chips

dollops of cashew sour cream

chopped cilantro

thin slices of green onions

diced red onions

diced bell peppers

lime wedges

mango chunks

shredded cabbage

fresh hot tortillas

diced fresh chile peppers