27 October 2014

Roasted Cauliflower with Dates, Almonds, and Tahini

If summer is cobbler season, then fall is definitely roasting season. I've been roasting my way through the beginning stages of our cool weather, warming up the house just enough to take the chill out of the air as it's not quite time to turn on the heat.

This is a favorite fall/winter vegetable dish of mine, and it's past time I shared it with you - I have unintentionally been holding on to it for close to two years now. It's a typical example of my style of cooking; combining savory with sweet and always seeking a balance of tastes and textures. Small, but worthwhile details that I feel make a meal more satisfying. Plus, it's quick to come together and is festive enough to fit into any upcoming holiday meal spread. And leftovers, if you have any, are great tossed with chickpeas and/or quinoa, rolled up in a wrap or stuffed into a pita for lunch the next day.

Roasted Cauliflower with Dates, Almonds, and Tahini
Serves 4

Notes: If you do not enjoy the flavor of cilantro, use mint and parsley instead.

1 large head cauliflower (or 2 small heads:  ~580 g total)
Extra-virgin olive oil
4-5 dates, chopped
1/3 cup (46 g) slivered almonds, toasted
Generous handful cilantro, chopped
Tahini sauce (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 450 F (232 C).

Cut cauliflower and tender stems into florets and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil. Toss to combine and roast, tossing once, for 20 minutes.

In the meantime toast almonds in a small pan on the stove top, stirring often, until golden brown and fragrant. Chop dates and cilantro. When cauliflower is cooked immediately add to tahini sauce with dates and almond. Toss gently, sprinkle with cilantro and finish with an extra squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

Tahini Sauce
2 Tbsp. tahini
Juice 1/2 lemon
1/8 tsp. salt + freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses (or 1 tsp. honey)
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Mix everything together in the bottom of a large bowl. If it's too thick, add a few teaspoons of water to thin to desired consistency.

19 October 2014

Hearty Autumn Vegetable and Apple Stew

I realize that fall officially began here in the Northern hemisphere almost a month ago, and I'm behind in welcoming it in on the blog. When people ask me what my favorite season is I usually say it's the transition between seasons rather than an actual season. The transition for me symbolizes movement, the promise of patterns not remaining stagnant, the opportunity to change up routines to release energy and blockages, mental or otherwise. And finally, it's the anticipation of what's to come. 

But if I had to choose an actual season, Autumn would be it. The air is refreshingly cool and light, and nature is offering an abundance of grounding energy in the form of root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets.  And as nature knows best about what we should eat and when, I follow along and look to these roots in particular for balance at this time.

Do you ever notice having a renewed burst of energy with the transition into fall? Maybe it's in the form of enhanced clarity and productivity, but for some it can also be mixed with nervous or anxious energy. I notice this new energy in myself, and that's when I know it's time to increase my intake of root vegetables. As the name implies, they are rooted plants; grown securely in the earth, they are warming, grounding, and stabilizing for our energy and blood sugar. Unlike the light, water-filled lettuce and cucumbers we use to stay hydrated and cool in summer, roots deliver the phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber in a denser energy package, exactly what our mind and body needs and craves as we move into the colder months.

This stew is a balance of smoky, sweet, and tangy notes, and it highlights some fall favorites; parsnips, Brussel sprouts, and apple cider. Most importantly, I've designed the recipe so that it serves as a template, a launching pad. The flavor profile and liquid-to-veg proportions are in place. Overtime, use the substitution notes below the recipe to swap out root veggies and type of beans and greens to suit your taste or availability.  Make it your own so that it becomes your go-to fall stew recipe.

Happy stewing!

Hearty Autumn Vegetable and Apple Stew
Serves 4

Notes: See substitution notes below recipe to make this your own. And leftovers the next day are even better. As it reheats on the stove top add in some fresh green to brighten the colors.

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (120 ml) apple cider
5 cups (613 g) mixed fall veggies (I used Brussel sprouts + parsnips)
4 cups (just shy of 1 liter) water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 large sweet apple, peeled and chopped
2 big handfuls Swiss chard, cut in chiffonade (~3 large stalks) 
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)

Prepare vegetables. Remove woody ends and dry outer layer of Brussel sprouts and halve (or quarter if larger). Peel parsnips and dice into small bite-size pieces (if they're too big they won't cook thoroughly).

Heat a Dutch oven  or soup pot over medium heat. Add oil and onion; cook until onion begins to soften (2-3 minutes). Add garlic and spices (through cinnamon). Stir and cook another minute until garlic and spices are fragrant.

Stir in tomato paste, then deglaze pan with vinegar, using a wooden spoon/spatula to pick up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. (Stand back when adding vinegar so you don't inhale the strong smoke.) Stir in apple cider and let bubble and reduce slightly for 30 seconds or so, then add vegetables, water, and salt.

Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Taste broth and add more salt if needed. Then add apple, greens, and beans. Cover and simmer another 3-5 minutes, until greens have wilted and are bright green. Ladle stew into bowls and serve with a pinch of smoked paprika, if desired.

  • Chipotle chili powder, chili powder, or harissa sauce, can replace smoked paprika
  • I used slightly less than 1 lb (500 g) Brussels sprouts + 2 medium parsnips; carrots or sweet potatoes would also be nice options
  • Use a fresh, quality natural apple juice instead of cider, if cider is not available
  • Kale or spinach can replace Swiss chard. See this how-to for chiffonade.
  • White navy beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, or butter beans are all good options

12 October 2014

Cooking For One Week Wrap-Up | Recipe & Top Tips Summary

Our Cooking for One series has wrapped up and it was a huge success, thanks to the seven other fabulously creative contributing bloggers. In case you missed some of the series, you will find a photo-recap and cooking-for-one tips shared throughout the week below. The highlights below only capture some of the incredible insights shared in each post, so head over to the respective blogs for the recipe in full and more insights on cooking for one.

"Adjust expectations: Solo meals don't need to be elaborate to nourish. But they should still be approached with the intention to satisfy."

"Are we only worth a greasy takeaway? A box pinged in the microwave? Of course not…..
Cooking for one can be a gift to yourself: a time to replenish and nourish in a way most appropriate to you. I think it was Nigella Lawson who dubbed eating for one Templefood: the idea of looking after oneself, and one’s self alone, with food that is easy, nourishing and – this being Nigella’s idea – slightly decadent."

"Re-purpose leftovers.  I think that it is so important for people to understand that they don’t necessarily have to eat the same thing five days in a row if they have leftovers.  For example, if you make a protein and a roasted or steamed vegetable one night for dinner you can easily turn that same meal into a delicious stir-fry, taco, or burrito the next night."

"I cook a big batch of soup, stew or curry to have for meals throughout the week, or freeze to save for another day."

"I love having things prepped ahead of time so it is simply a matter of me either arranging (as I would with say a salad), or heating as I would with these Root Vegetable Calzones."

"Think sauces….To keep it interesting it’s all in the sauce – I’ll put together an easy miso sauce, or tahini drizzle, a yoghurt dip or a satay sauce. A very easy way to jazz up a simple dish. And enjoy it! If you set the table, pour a glass of wine, and put on a little music, chances are you’ll also make more effort with the food itself.

"Make a super hearty sandwich – one that you can lazily throw together. Everything gets cooked in one pan so the mess stays minimal but the flavor is maximal!"
"I see it as an opportunity to eat exactly what I want. And just because you might be cooking for yourself, does not mean you don’t deserve to nourish your body with tasty, whole foods you enjoy!  YOU ARE WORTH IT!"


 What I love most about these recipes, and tips especially, is that they certainly serve us well when dining solo but they are also equally valuable in our everyday cooking, whether that is for one or more.

Now over to you. What is your favorite tip? And how can you apply it to your solo dinner and/or your everyday cooking this week?

05 October 2014

Cooking for One Week! ~ Green Quinoa Bowl

Welcome to Cooking for One week! I am thrilled to be teaming up with some very inspiring and talented fellow whole food bloggers to bring you this series. You can see in the daily line-up below the recipe that over the next 7 days we will be arming you with an arsenal of easy and approachable whole, plant-based recipes ideal for those dinners for one.

But you may be asking….Cooking for one, is it really worth it?

Of course it is. Now let me convince you. Whether you usually cook just for yourself or for others, we all find ourselves needing to cook for one from time to time, right? But I think there is a misconception when it comes to what it really takes to make a quality whole foods meal just for one. Friends with busy careers who live alone have told me it's not worth the effort and is just as easy to eat out or buy something ready-made. I get the time and effort argument, as I also often face this same dilemma when my husband is away. Even I have less motivation to dirty the kitchen and make an effort just for myself, especially during the work week at the end of a busy day.

But I have found ways to make good food that I look forward to eating and can spend minimal time in the kitchen preparing. In fact, the more I do small things like this for myself, the better I feel physically and emotionally. I've come to realize that with just a little planning and minimal effort, the pay off to feeling replenished and nourished is huge. And remember, treating others well starts with treating ourselves well.

So, it's really a mindset shift. It is a shift in the way we think about optimizing our efforts and minimizing our time in the kitchen. And to help you with this mindset shift, in addition to  a week's worth of recipes, my friends and I will also be sharing our personal favorite top tips for successfully cooking for one.

My Top Tips for Cooking for One

  1. Plan ahead + Embrace leftovers
Cook big batch items like soups, stews, or pasta sauces, roast veggies, and cook a pot of grains when you have the time and energy on the weekend. These often taste even better the second or third day anyways, plus they are usually freezer-friendly. Try portioning out soups and pasta sauces in single-serving containers to freeze.

  1. Proactively stock your kitchen
Don't wait until you're hungry to scan your kitchen to decide what you should cook. Keep a diverse set of your favorite fridge and pantry staples stocked so they can be easily combined last minute to make a quick entree salad or soup.

  1. Adjust expectations
Solo meals don't need to be elaborate to nourish. But they should still be approached with the intention to satisfy. When I'm alone for dinner I often look forward to big salads, leftover soup, or roasted veggies with eggs or leftover grains. I don't expect anything more than simple, but I make sure the ingredients are quality and mealtime is enjoyable.

My belief is that the more we are mentally and emotionally open to enjoying the meal, the easier the food will be digested and the nutrients assimilated in our body. This is backed by science, in fact. One of the main divisions of our nervous system is in our gut, and the energy of thoughts and emotions we take into and throughout mealtime affects the motility of our digestive tract. 

Needless to say, no matter how simple my solo dinners are, I get as much pleasure from them as any other dining experience because I take time to have food on hand that I enjoy and I know that eating a homemade meal in a quiet, relaxed environment with some much deserved "me time" is special in itself and nourishing on so many levels.

Green Quinoa Bowl
Serves 2-3

Notes: I am more likely to cook for myself when there is minimal chopping and everything can be prepared in one pot for little cleanup. Here the broccoli steams directly on top of the quinoa in the last 8 minutes of cooking time. And while the quinoa cooks, I chop avocado and olives and make a quick lemon-balsamic dressing in a glass jar to store in the fridge. This quinoa bowl has a few fun surprises - it was inspired by the flavors of Morocco.  

1 cup (190 g) white quinoa
1 3/4 cup (420 ml) water
1/4 tsp. salt
4 unsulphured dried apricots, chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice (divided)
1 small head broccoli (~3 cups/230 g chopped)
Handful green olives
1/3-1/2 avocado
Lemon-Balsamic Dressing (recipe below)

Rinse quinoa in a sieve until water runs clear. Add to a medium pot with water, salt, and chopped apricots. Cover, bring to a bowl, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, chop broccoli florets and tender stems into small bite size pieces (err on the smaller side so they cook thoroughly). With 10 minutes cooking time remaining, remove lid and quickly zest lemon directly over quinoa, then distribute chopped broccoli evenly on top. Cover again, finish cooking, then remove pot from heat, keep covered and let steam for 5 minutes. Once steamed remove most of broccoli, squeeze 1/2 lemon over quinoa and fluff with fork.

While quinoa finishes cooking, chop enough olives and avocado for that night's serving and make the dressing.  To serve, layer quinoa in a bowl with broccoli, avocado, and olives on top and drizzle with dressing.

Lemon-Balsamic Dressing
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Juice 1/2 lemon (remaining from recipe above)
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard (or Dijon - this is stronger, so you may need less)
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
Pinch salt + freshly ground pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a glass jar with a lid. Screw on lid and shake to combine. Store extra in jar in the fridge to use with leftovers the next night.

Follow this daily line-up for Cooking for One inspiration all week. Hopefully you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Sunday, October 5th
Katie @ Whole Nourishment ~ Green Quinoa Bowl
Monday, October 6th
Kellie @ Food to Glow ~ Grilled Shiitake Kimcheese
Tuesday, October 7th
Isadora @ She Likes Food ~ Vegetable Lasagna Roll-ups
Wednesday, October 8th
Dearna @ to her core ~ Roasted Pumpkin and Peanut Soup
Thursday, October 9th
Lynsey @ lynseylovesfood ~ Roasted Root Vegetable Calzones

Sarah @ Highgate Hill KitchenSpicy-Roasted Chickpeas, Herbed Freekeh & Moroccan Carrot Salad
Friday, October 10th
Grace @ Earthy FeastMarinated Mushroom Sandwich with Sautéed Greens + Avocado + Egg
Saturday, October 11th
Teri @ Nourished Roots ~ Curried Red Lentil and Roasted Delicata Squash Soup