Autumn squash + tofu curry

Autumn squash + tofu curry

If I had to choose a favorite vegetable, it’d be winter squash. This time a year ago I was working at a little pumpkin market in my hometown – the farmer grew over 40 varieties of pumpkin & squash(!) – and right about now I’m missing my daily cucurbita intake and stocking up on my favorite varieties for the year to come.

It didn’t quite feel like squash season here in Austin until the past few nights when it got down to a chilly 55 degrees. Yes, time to leave the windows open and feel the cool breeze through the house at last.

These chilly evenings have also put warm, comforting curry on the mind, and soon after onto the kitchen table. Continue reading

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earth day bowl

sweet potato + lentil stew topped with cilantro gremolata

“ Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. “

One of my favorite quotes, by Kahlil Gibran.

I hope you play in the dirt today. Plant some flowers, work in the garden, sit under a tree, take your dog to the park, get some grass stains and fully appreciate all the earth provides us !

texas blooms

And then… eat something meatless (and tasty!), for the earth’s health and yours. I chose this sweet potato and red lentil stew because to me is just tastes, well, like the earth. The vibrantly-hued potatoes and peas provide a touch of natural sweetness, cilantro adds some grassiness and lemon brightens it all up like the sun.

It’s comforting, flavorful, and can pretty much be grown from your garden. Continue reading

Cooking in the land of smiles (and MSG)

preparing papaya salad :)

First of all, many apologies for abandoning the blog and you wonderful readers these past few months! I have no excuse except that I was having lots of fun exploring the southeast of Asia. And as much as I would have liked to write some posts, blogging from a phone without all my photos was just never that appealing…

So now here I am, back in my home with a much-too-quickly fading tan and an inspired spirit that always lingers after being in another culture for a while. And more wanderlust, which seems to grow exponentially with each trip I take. Luckily, this was only part 1 of my grand adventures of 2014, with moving to Australia coming up in merely a month!

But let’s talk about Southeast Asia. Without doing much research beforehand, I had few expectations for this 2-month backpack adventure except to be able to travel cheaply and eat some good food. I was not disappointed :)

(And, having few expectations helps me appreciate every place I go so much more — a key to happy travels I’ve learned throughout the past).

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Flower Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our first stop was Thailand, where I was eager to take a cooking class and learn what authentic Thai food is all about. I found our first tastes of Thai fare in Bangkok to be quite heavy and rich, and much smaller portions than we’re used to – which was a good thing! Along with the sweltering humidity, cramped city feel, and bad traffic made horrendous due to ongoing political protests, I was ready to get my massage on the street and get outta there.

A (long) train ride later Forrest and I breathed a sigh of relief and fresh air as we stepped into Chiang Mai. Our songthaew (pick-up taxi) ride from the train station drove us to the moated old city where flower-coated parade floats lined the streets and a colorful, neon-lighted concert was blasting its music to the whole city. We arrived in this super cultural northern city smack in the middle of the annual flower festival – lucky us!

The laid-back, down-to-earth city of Chiang Mai has all the Thai culture your senses could care to soak up. And more. It was such a relief to be there after overwhelming Bangkok, especially at a time of such celebration and blooming flowers galore! Forrest and I had fun trying to navigate through the narrow alleys fringed with tropical plants and quaint cafes to find majestic temple after temple, each with their own style and color and peaceful aura. We’d pick up a street food snack and a Thai iced coffee (the best) and continue our day of exploring or people-watching in the park until it was time to experience the craziness that is the night market.

Then the day came to indulge our tastebuds, stuff our stomachs and learn what it is that makes Thai fare so rich and flavorful. We were recommended a school called Smart Cook Thai Cookery School, and the full day involved browsing the morning market to learn about essential Thai ingredients and then heading to the open-air kitchen to learn how to prepare six different dishes. (Yes, that’s a lot of eating!) Continue reading

kohlrabi-lentil curry & tandoori grilled chicken

A summer Indian feast.

kohlrabi & lentil curry with tandoori grilled chicken

Recently I started working on a small-scale organic farm (and am gaining a whole new appreciation for the hard work that goes into growing our organic food!) along with selling the fruits and veg of our labor at local markets. Although quite the exhausting and dirty workday, it’s great to be reunited with the outdoors during my favorite time of year (bring on the summer heat and tomatoes!) and to bring home some fresh-from-the-earth vegetables to throw on the grill.

We tend to have a good variety of unique vegetables that people are not as familiar with, like garlic scapes, caraflex cabbage, and the star of today – kohlrabi. Puzzled customers examine these alien-looking crops and ask “What is this? What do I do with it? Have you cooked with it?” And of course, I need to be able to answer! Never having tried kholrabi myself did not make it the easiest to explain to intrigued customers at my last market. So I brought some home, told my boyfriend to get excited for an Indian feast (our favorite when cooking a big scrumptious dinner) and decided to create a curry featuring this lovely, seasonal kholrabi.

Kohlrabi, I learned, translates from German as ‘cabbage-turnip’. To me it tastes very much like a broccoli stem when cooked, but eaten raw it is mildly sweet and crisp almost like a jicama. I imagine it would be delicious sliced up thin into slaw. But right now this curry — filled with chickpeas, lentils, butternut and lots of warm spices — has won my heart.

Forrest is a pro at the whole grilling thing, so he was in charge of that part of the meal. Not that I was surprised, but his tandoori chicken was awesome. Like only-marinated-for-10-minutes-yet-unbelievably-flavorful, crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-tender-on-the-inside …awesome. Mucho props to him.

And all together — doused in fresh cilantro and a dollop of yogurt on the side — this made one healthy, satisfying Indian feast, perfect to enjoy on the patio alongside a summer sunset. Continue reading

Back home to comfort (food)

egg<3

It’s always something I look forward to after travelling: returning to my kitchen and to my comfort food. Comfort food – often synonymous with indulgence food – for me is actually the healthy, nutritious, veggie-full meals we eat in our house*. It’s comforting because it satisfies both mind and body, and I crave it when I’m away from it for too long. Traveling in a country like Colombia, where green vegetables are not (at all) the forefront of the cuisine and I’ve eaten one-too-many deep fried empanadas ….makes me long for the salads, stews, curries, fritattas, stir frys, and all other veggie-centered dishes that are a regular at home.

*don’t get me wrong, ‘comfort food’ to me also means all things chocolate ;)

I also return home inspired by the many foods I’ve sampled, techniques I’ve observed, new spices and textures and flavors I’ve discovered. So I’m off the plane and anxious to cook, whether it’s Colombian arepas or a comforting veggie-ful lentil curry.

Here’s a little bite of the food in my life since I came home… just a little detox from empanadas, fried plantains, queso, queso, and more queso.

quinoa falafels over greens & carrot-orange-ginger juice

Quinoa falafels with tahini sauce via Sprouted Kitchen, & fresh carrot-mango-orange-ginger juice

kabocha squash lentil curry

I-could-eat-this-every-day Kabocha Squash Lentil Curry via Pinch of Yumover kale with toasted naan

Jamie's sourdough boule

DSC_3633

My sister’s sourdough boules… maybe ate a little too much of this, but who can resist warm, crusty, chewy, fresh baked bread?!

sourdough boule with apricots + almonds

homemade butterfingers

And in lieu of store-bought Easter candy, we made homemade vegan butterfingers, which blew us all away with their spot on texture and peanut buttery goodness. Continue reading

coconut curry pepita granola

This stuff is the ultimate sweet-salty-spicy-crunchy combination, the kind of snack that leaves you crazy addicted after one bite. So, sorry in advance if you eat the whole batch in one day… I warned you!

The ingredients complement each other perfectly: spicy curry and cinnamon, sweet maple syrup, a good dose of sea salt and toasty coconut, all caramelized around the crunchy roasted pepitas and rice puffs.

Also it’s gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free and so delicious that you won’t even notice.

I tried three different batches, playing with the ingredients each time until I tasted that perfect balance of sweet, salty and spicy. The original recipe was more of a pepita brittle rather than granola, with lots of the gooey stuff and fewer seeds. I’m sure that is delicious but I wanted a more snack-acceptable treat, so I added some oats and rice puffs to make it granola-y.

This is perfect for jarring up and gift-giving, as I did for Christmas, or just leaving in a bowl on the counter for whenever you need a zesty bite to wake your taste buds. Just beware, one bite will turn in to seven… or 25.

coconut curry pepita granola, adapted from here

  • 1 1/2 cups raw unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 1/2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup oats (use gluten-free oats if desired)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 T curry powder
  • 1/2 t Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 T sea salt
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or not—it’s up to you)

*for a lower sugar version you can replace 1/4 cup of the maple syrup with unsweetened applesauce (I haven’t tried this but it should be fine), and use unsweetened coconut.

Heat oven to 350º F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Measure pepitas, rice puffs and oats into a large bowl and set aside. Place curry powder in a small saucepan and heat over low flame until it is lightly toasted and fragrant. Then add maple syrup, coconut oil, salt and cinnamon, whisk to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat.

Pour maple mixture over pepitas and rice puffs, stirring to mix. Spread coated granola evenly over the surface of the parchment-lined cookie sheets in a thin layer. Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and stir shredded coconut into mixture, then bake for another 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until seeds are toasty and granola is golden. Keep a close eye on it this time as the seeds and coconut can burn quickly. Then remove from oven.

Place baking sheet on a wire cooling rack and let cool completely. The seed mixture will harden as it cools. Some areas will be very toasty and crisp, while other areas will be gooey and caramel-like :] When cooled, break granola into chunks. Serve when warm and delicious or store in an air-tight container and eat within 2 weeks (..as if it will take that long)!

^ this was my first batch, which was close to the original recipe with mostly pepitas and I added a few almonds.

mid-baking, adding the coconut.

Enjoy!

-mich Continue reading