28 April 2014

Lime-Tamari Noodles with Asparagus + Inner Wisdom

I make a few versions of Asian noodle salads, and this is my Spring version with asparagus and radishes. It's a nice transition piece to Spring cooking because the asparagus are blanched while the other vegetables are left crisp and fresh. There's a combination of warm and cold, cooked and raw elements which feels right to me for the Spring weather here. For a meal, I paired the noodles with these amazing sweet potato carrot cakes I had leftover in the freezer.  

When I started this blog 2 years ago, I wanted to ensure I was making the most of seasonal ingredients that you all as my readers were seeing at the markets. So it forced me to become more aware of seasonal variation in cooking and eating styles. And now I'm learning even more in my coursework about the importance of eating in alignment with the seasons.

You know how we naturally crave cold drinks or ice cream in the summer and warming, heavier stews or pasta in the winter? This is our body acting in alignment with nature's rhythms without our mind taking over. Our ancestors did this well. We in modern society with modern conveniences do not do it so well. The same foods are often available all year around and we are bombarded with so much media and diet news to eat this and not that, that we overthink things. Our mind now overpowers our whole being and we've lost touch with nature and with our inner voice and wisdom.

But we can do something about that! If we take the time to tune into and trust what our body is telling us, we can become our own detectives and make that connection between the foods we eat and how we feel. Perhaps digestion issues or food sensitivities would clear up as a result?

I want to take it a step further and mention that eating seasonally also relates to eating what grows nearby, when available. The produce that thrives in the environment in which we live is bound to also support our body in the way it needs to thrive in the same environment. Our body will know what to do with this food to optimize energy.

In the end, it's not about perfecting seasonal, local eating. It's never about perfection. At best it's about tuning into our intuition and rebuilding the relationship and trust with our bodies and inner voice. So I challenge you to truly listen to and trust what your body is telling you this week, and see what happens!

Lime-Tamari Noodles with Asparagus
Serves 6

Notes: I use brown rice noodles here but soba/black rice/regular rice noodles or whole wheat spaghetti would also be nice options. This makes a lot. If you know you'll have leftovers the next day, consider mixing only half of the veg and noodles with the dressing and storing leftover dressing in a jar in the fridge to toss with the other half the next day.

12 oz. brown rice noodles (~340 grams)
1 bunch asparagus
1 small Chinese cabbage (or Napa cabbage)
4-5 radishes
1 spring onion
1 red chili
Fresh cilantro
Fresh mint
Lime-Tamari Dressing (recipe below)
Toasted cashews (not pictured)

Remove and discard woody ends of asparagus. Slice asparagus on the diagonal into 1/2 inch pieces. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop pasta and cook 1 minute shy of package directions. Add asparagus the last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time. Drain and rinse under cold water. 

In the meantime, halve and slice cabbage, slice radishes, thinly slice spring onions and chili on a diagonal, and chop cilantro and mint. Add vegetables and pasta to a large serving bowl (you may not want to use all the cabbage, depending on how much there is). Pour over half dressing and toss with tongs. Serve remaining dressing at table. Top with cashews.

Lime-Tamari Dressing
3 Tbsp. tamari (or soy sauce)
2 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
3 tsp. orange marmalade (or honey)
Small knob ginger, grated or minced
1 clove garlic, minced

Add all ingredients to a small jar, cover with lid, and shake until well mixed. Taste and adjust acidity and sweetness to your liking. Alternatively, whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.

22 April 2014

Crazy Delicious Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

A very last-minute super cheap flight deal from Philly to Zurich allowed my sister-in-law to visit us for the weekend. And when I say very last minute, I mean the flight was booked only 4 hours prior to departure. It was an impromptu, go-for-it decision that turned into a fun, whirlwind of a weekend tooling around the city, taking in the sites of Spring.

Now it's on to a busy week, but not before sharing this amazing recipe with you. Priorities here! Jarred roasted red peppers are whizzed up in a food processor with roasted almonds, a few dried apricots, and some smoky spices to make an incredibly quick and versatile smoky, fruity, and nutty everything-sauce. Perfect for beautiful Spring days when you'd rather be spending your time outside. So far, I have used it as a dip for crackers, a spread for an open-faced sandwich, and a filling for stuffed avocado. It would also be great as a sauce for quinoa or pasta or as a spread for flatbread wraps. The possibilities are endless. Let me know if you make it - I'd love to hear the creative ways you choose to use it!

Crazy Delicious Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Makes ~ 1 1/2 cups

Notes: Ground chipotle powder is a wonderful smoky flavor booster that also adds some heat. Here, I find it at Nanna spice shop, but you should be able to find it at most large stores with a broad selection of spices or bulk spice bins. Alternatively, smoked paprika can be substituted.

1/2 cup whole, raw skinless almonds
4 dried apricots
4 large roasted red peppers (jarred)
1 clove garlic
Zest 1 lemon
1/2 bunch cilantro, with tender stems (~1/3 cup)
1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. chipotle powder or smoked paprika (or more to taste)
few big pinches salt (~1/8 tsp)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).

Place almonds on a baking sheet and dry roast for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden brown, tossing once halfway through. Remove from oven, cool slightly.

Add almonds, apricots, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until everything is broken down to a fine crumb texture. Add the remaining ingredients and process until you have a thick sauce. You can leave it somewhat chunky or process until completely smooth, depending on your preference. Taste and adjust salt and spice to your liking.

Serve at room temperature. Store covered in the fridge for 2-3 days.

13 April 2014

Roasted Beet and Black Rice Salad

The idea of stress, specifically how we think about it and how we cope with it, has been coming up in research or conversations lately. So I thought I'd share some brief thoughts with you because let's face it, stress is a fact of life. We cannot always avoid it, so we would be wasting our time and energy if we thought we had to remove stress in order to be happy. Instead, here's some alternative food for thought.

How we think about stress matters
Research has shown that when we see stress as beneficial to our performance and our health, it changes our body's reaction to stress. Among a group surveyed, those who reported a lot of stress and believed stress is harmful to their health had a 43% increased risk of premature death.Check out this TED talk for further explanation and tips for how to make stress your friend.

How plant-based whole foods help us cope with stress
The saying, you are what you eat, is true, and the food-mood connection is real. Having brain fog and suffering from mood swings can affect our clarity, motivation, and how we perceive stress in our everyday lives. But we have learned from research that getting enough essential nutrients, many of which are found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, etc. can affect the chemicals in our brain that control mood and have been linked to preventing depression.2,3 Plus it makes sense that simply knowing we are taking care of ourselves by our food choices can improve mood.3

Along that note, I wanted to share what I consider a mood-boosting salad. It's the deepest midnight purple salad you'll have and it offers a flavor-packed playful contrast of earthy and sweet roasted beets, crunchy red cabbage, chewy black rice and toasted walnuts. A bright, tangy vinaigrette brings it all together, and if you have it on hand, some creamy goat cheese is not out of place here.

Roasted Beet and Black Rice Salad
Serves 4-6

1 cup black rice (soaked 6-8 hrs, preferably)
1 large beet
1 very small head red cabbage
1-2 spring onions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 red chili, sliced on a diagonal (optional)
Walnuts, toasted
Whole-grain mustard vinaigrette (recipe below)
Goat cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 F (232 C)

In a medium saucepan add black rice (rinsed/drained if soaked), 1 1/4 cups water (1 3/4 cups water if rice was not soaked), and a few pinches salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is cooked and water has absorbed (15-20 minutes, 30 minutes if rice was not soaked).

Roast Beets: Rinse beet well, cut in half, then into 1/2 inch wedges, divide among 2-3 large pieces of foil, wrap foil around beets, and crimp edges to make a closed packet. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until beets are tender. Open foil packets, cool slightly, then peel skin away and cut beets into chunks.

Shave cabbage: Cut cabbage into quarters, core, and shave by slicing thinly lengthwise.

Add shaved cabbage to a large serving bowl and pour in a few tablespoons of vinaigrette. Massage vinaigrette into cabbage until it just starts to break down (15 seconds). Add black rice, beets, spring onions, chili (if using), walnuts, and a few pinches of salt. Pour over enough vinaigrette to coat (pass the rest at the table), toss everything together, top with goats cheese if using, and serve.

Whole-Grain Mustard Vinaigrette
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp whole grain mustard (or Dijon)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. honey
Juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Scant 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
Scant 1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add all ingredients to a small jar with lid. Screw on lid and shake vigorously until well mixed. Alternatively mix well in a small bowl.

Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L. E., Maddox, T., Cheng, E. R., Creswell, P. D., & Witt, W. P. (2012). Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortalityHealth Psychology31(5), 677.

03 April 2014

Cinnamon-Hazelnut Quinoa Porridge

This is my favorite breakfast as of late. I can't quite put my finger on it but there is something about the warm cinnamon-spiced porridge topped with creamy hazelnut butter, crunchy toasted nuts, and sweet juicy fruit that feels really comforting and indulgent. Quinoa porridge is the perfect winter-to-spring transition breakfast, or any cool morning breakfast for that matter, because it is lighter than oatmeal yet has as much if not more staying power. And while I do love the hazelnut milk/butter here, this will of course work just as well with any nut milk and butter that you prefer.

Cinnamon-Hazelnut Quinoa Porridge
Serves 1

Notes: This is a generous serving. Scale down to 2/3 cup quinoa if you usually eat a small breakfast. As for the quinoa prep, if you have leftover quinoa this is a great use for it. Otherwise I'll usually cook 1 cup of quinoa on Sunday night  (yields ~ 4 cups cooked) so I'll have it at the ready all week.

1 cup cooked quinoa
3/4 cup hazelnut milk (I love this recipe)
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
2 inch piece vanilla pod or splash pure vanilla extract/paste (optional)
Drizzle honey (or maple syrup/brown rice syrup/coconut sugar)
Spoonful hazelnut butter (I love this recipe)
Roasted hazelnuts, chopped
Seasonal fruit (I used persimmons and passion fruit but mango, papaya, berries, or any stone fruit would also be nice, when available)

Add quinoa, hazelnut milk, cinnamon, and salt to a small saucepan. If using vanilla pod, scrape seeds out and add seeds and pod to the sauce pan. If using vanilla extract, add after cooking.

Gently simmer quinoa, covered, for 5 minutes until warmed through and quinoa has absorbed some of the milk. Add honey to taste, if needed, and pour into a bowl (remove vanilla pod, if used, rinse and save for another use). Top porridge with a spoonful of hazelnut butter, chopped hazelnuts, and seasonal fruit of your choice. 

Sending this porridge over to Javelin Warrior's Cookin' With Luv for Mark's Made With Love Monday series.
Made with Love Mondays,
hosted by Javelin Warrior