black bean + kabocha chili

black bean + kabocha chili

The past few days have been good days for chili in Austin, with temps dropping below 32 in a city that does not know how to handle the cold. I figured I better take advantage of the fleeting cold weather the only way I know how – cook up a bubbling pot of hearty, warming goodness.

black bean + kabocha chili

I’ve also eaten more bacon in the past month living in Austin than I have in my entire life. Bacon is not something I’d particularly like to be eating more of, but when the smell of bacon floods your house every time you walk in the door, it’s pretty irresistible…

This is thanks to my new flatmate, who enjoys bacon as his main food group, along with an avocado and sweet potato here and there. Continue reading

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flavor of fall

winter squash

Working at a pumpkin market down the street this fall, I’ve had a chance to taste my share of different pumpkin and squash varieties (the farmer grows over 30). They range in color – from steel blue to burning hot orange – size, shape, ugliness, skin type – pimply and lumpy to smooth as plastic – and of course the taste and texture of their nutritious flesh. I did a taste test of a few that I had never tried, but my preference still goes back to my all-along favorite: the kabocha type.

Kabocha or Japanese pumpkins have a dense, dry yet silky texture and sweet but mild taste, resembling to me a pumpkin and sweet potato combined. They make the creamiest hearty soups when pureed and melt in your mouth when roasted or baked in chunks. My favorite way to enjoy it remains the simplest: chunks of baked squash drizzled in good olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. As simple as possible to let the flavor and texture of the squash shine.

pumpkin varieties

When talking pumpkin recipes with David (the farmer), he said he likes to stuff acorn squash with mac n’ cheese and bake it. Uh, why hadn’t I ever thought of that? Homemade macaroni + cheese is something I allllways look forward to in the fall (but secretly wish included more vegetables :), and I can never get enough of winter squash. So combine the two? Done.

mac n cheese ready for the oven 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

cozy wintertime stew

hearty chicken, butternut + quinoa stew

It’s important at this time of year, to maintain a balance between Christmas cookies and healthy, wholesome meals. Because as long as we take full advantage of winter’s nutritious harvest at meal times, no one need turn down a scrumptious holiday cookie (or two, or three..)

We’ve had our fill of both at my house—perhaps leaning towards the indulgent side—but leafy greens and bright orange squash are still part of our everyday diet. I had this recipe for chicken stew with butternut and quinoa marked for a long time, and like most recipes I finally get around to making I think, why did I wait so long?!

hearty chicken, butternut squash + quinoa stew

This is definitely a keeper in my recipe book, as it’s everything I love in a wintertime meal. Hearty, healthy, balanced, wholesome, cozy, savory, sweet, filling, and lick-the-bowl GOOD!

Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash + Quinoa, adapted from Cookin’ Canuck

  • 1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded + chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • couple handfuls kale, roughly chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley Continue reading

mom’s apple cake, healthified

This is my mom’s old fashioned apple cake. Sans the 2 ¼ cups of sugar. She made it earlier this season and we gobbled it up, oh yes… but no one can feel good about ingesting that much refined sugar. So I decided to do something about it.

In my version, winter squash puree replaces the shortening to keep it moist, sugar is reduced to just 1/3 cup, accompanied by erythritol—a natural (calorie-free) sweetener—and vanilla protein powder, whole wheat flour replaces the white, and an egg yolk is omitted to reduce cholesterol. *check my notes at the bottom for simple vegan substitutions.

It’s basically a balanced meal in itself. Squash = fiber and vitamins; Apples = more fiber and vitamins; Whole wheat flour = whole grains, more fiber; Eggs + milk + protein powder + nuts = PROTEIN! And that’s my excuse for eating a big ol’ slice for dinner ;)  Try it, I dare you.

^Check out that original recipe….. got enough sugar?!

Autumn Apple Cake

  • ½ cup pumpkin or winter squash puree
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup erythritol*
  • 1 t nectresse*
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 egg + 3T egg whites, or 7 T egg whites
  • 1 cup buttermilk (make your own by adding 1T vinegar to a cup measure, and fill the rest with milk)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup vanilla protein powder – mine is sweetened with stevia
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 4 cups apples, peeled & chopped fine Continue reading

southwestern polenta bowl

This time last year (strangely, this exact day), I discovered and posted about my newfound love for polenta. The obsession lasted a good while, as it was an easy ‘cooking-for-one’ meal while I was in school and always comforting during the colder months. Then springtime cravings for salads and fresh veggies took over my attention, and my bag of corn grits was left to its lonesome in the back of the pantry.

Until now! The moment I whisked up these grits today and heaped them with some southwestern-inspired fridge finds, it all came back to me. Deliciousness. A warm, nourishing, well-balanced, fuel-filled meal that’s anything but bland. A comfort food, but one without the post-indulgence guilt.

In this one-bowl meal, polenta [or corn grits] serve as the base as lettuce does for your springtime salad, and you get to be the creative genius to toss whatever your tummy desires on top.  Possibilities are endless, of course, but this one deserved to be documented and made again and again in exactly the same way…..

:]

southwestern-inspired polenta bowl

  • 1/2 cup yellow corn grits
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 T olive oil
  • onion
  • ground veggie sausage
  • black beans
  • roasted cubed pumpkin
  • chopped kale
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh spicy salsa / pico de gallo

Bring vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a pot. Add oil. Lower heat to simmer. Add the polenta in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Whisk for about 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Keeping heat low, cover and let cook for 20 more minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

While polenta is cooking, in a pan sauté some onions with crumbled/ground veggie sausage and sprinkle with a little s+p. I then added in some black beans, leftover roasted cubed pumpkin and chopped kale. Once the sausage is cooked through, you may want to pour in some vegetable broth to help wilt the kale and keep everything from sticking.

When polenta is thick and creamy, spoon into a bowl and pile on your sautéed medley. Top with fresh cilantro and spicy salsa and devour!

Enjoy! -m