Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Snack on this: Strawberries!

The downtown market opened today and I bought my first basket of strawberries of the season! Perfectly ripe and sweet. I'm munching on them at this very moment. I don't think I need to say much more about these lovely berries, but if you'd like more reason to eat them, check out a previous post. Oh and I've bookmarked this amazing recipe when I have too many strawberries for one person to eat.

Have you had any strawberries this season?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A new favorite

Last Friday was my 27th birthday. I enjoyed it with awesome friends and delicious food. I was also given this amazing cookbook. If you don't know Heidi by now, you should. Her blog is so inspiring, and I believe it's the first I ever read (and still read). I have her first book, but the second has quickly become a favorite. Delicious vegetarian meals, hearty enough for meat eaters and simple enough for anyone to make. She doesn't use many ingredients, but the ones she does are high quality, often local or available at farmers' markets.
She includes a recipe for roasted tomatoes that inspired this impromtu salad last night. I had a carton of cherry tomatoes that were begging to be baked in a sea of olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. I foresee making this recipe a lot as tomatoes start to take over the markets this summer.
I tossed the tomatoes (and their yummy juices) with black beans, avocado, shallot, parsley, celery, lemon and lime juice. Perfect for a day when the temperature almost reaches 90 degrees. I can't believe the heat and humidity of NC summers are almost here. This Sunday is the first day of May!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring green pasta

I've never been a big pasta fan. Even as a kid, I didn't like spaghetti night. The only noodles I really enjoy are with a stir-fry or peanut sauce, not tomato. Pasta never appears on the grocery list. I'd rather eat rice or quinoa. But living and cooking for someone with a bigger appetite and different tastes, calls for trying new things. As I turned the corner into the grain aisle at Whole Foods a few days ago, I decided to try something new. I grabbed a bag of brown rice pasta.
This dish completely surprised me. It was subtle and light, not heavy like pasta can be. It was perfect for a warm Spring night and we both really enjoyed it.

The brown rice pasta is a little nuttier than regular pasta which I liked. Feel free to add different vegetables. I'm sure asparagus would be delicious. I'm thinking this pasta would be delicious with pesto and oven-roasted tomatoes in late summer.

Spring green pasta
1 bag of brown rice pasta
sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 brunch of spinach, rinsed and chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 bell pepper, minced
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp walnut oil
1/2 bag of frozen peas, cooked
fresh basil
cracked pepper

Cook pasta accordingly to directions. As pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a saute pan over medium heat. Then add garlic and sea salt, cooking until fragrant. Remove from heat. In a small dish, wisk together the lemon juice and walnut oil. Put onion, green pepper, peas, and lemon zest into a large serving bowl, and mix the lemon-walnut oil and cooked garlic in well. As pasta is almost done cooking, add the spinach, stirring. Quickly remove from heat and pour into a colander. Add the pasta and spinach into the large serving dish, mix well. Garnish with fresh basil, cracked pepper and parmesan if you like.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Warm thoughts

I'm having a hard time writing a post about food this morning. Raleigh was hit by a tornado Saturday afternoon that has left people without homes and power. The tornado smashed cars, homes, businesses, a college and a historic cemetery. This storm also took lives. We were fortunate and managed to miss the destructive tornado, but there are many who weren't as lucky.

So today instead of blogging, I'm sending warm thoughts to those who need it most.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The amazing coconut

If you don't know by now, you should. I love coconut oil. Don't get me wrong I also love coconut milk in soups and curries, coconut flakes in granola and coconut water after a long run. I'll save those posts for another day. Coconut is an amazing, heart-healthy fat. Do you know what makes coconut so magical? That would be lauric acid. Lauric acid helps defend the body from viruses and bacteria, while also strengthening the immune system. When eaten, coconut raises the temperature of the body, boosting energy and metabolism. That energy boost is great for athletes or those training for endurance events. Coconut oil is also easy to digest for those with digestion issues.

So now you'll understand why I'm so excited to have received this package in the mail.
Kelapo sent me their coconut oil to review! This is a product I believe in, so I wanted to share it with you. They definitely put some thought into the packaging, which I appreciate.

I already use coconut oil to saute veggies, bake granola and scramble eggs. Josh even uses it to saute his chicken. I decided to make a few new recipes enjoying coconut oil raw instead of cooked. The weather is getting warmer, and these recipes are perfect for it.
This green smoothie is a great way to start the day! Blend all ingredients listed and pour into a glass. Coconut oil is perfect in a smoothie. It departs a tropical flavor while giving you an energy and metabolism boost. Don't worry you can't even taste the kale. This is a great way to sneak greens in at breakfast too.

Coconut oil is a great substitute for butter when baking and is used in raw desserts. I've been in the mood for chocolate so I decided to make two chocolate desserts. Both recipes are dairy and gluten free.
Cashew Chocolate Mousse
3/4 cashews, soaked in water
2 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp cocoa
3 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of sea salt

Soak cashews for a few hours. Then blend all ingredients until smooth. Use a little water to thin, if needed. Pour into ramekins and pop into the freezer. This should make enough for two (~3 in.) ramekins. Check after an hour to see if the mousse has set. Store in the refrigerator.

These raw clusters are so easy to make. They are decadent without being heavy from all the sugar, eggs, flour or milk in most desserts.

Almond chocolate clusters
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/4 coconut oil
1/4 almonds, chopped into small pieces
4 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of sea salt

Pour all ingredients into a bowl and mix well with your hands. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit more coconut oil. If too wet, add more cocoa powder. Stick in the freezer until the clusters have hardened a bit, remove from the freezer and enjoy!

Kelapo coconut oil gets two thumbs up from me! I really enjoyed it raw, but it also tasted great with my scrambled eggs too. Excited to use it with my next batch of granola. Thanks to the kind folks at Kelapo for sending me a sample!

A quick update. The race went well. My sister and I ran the entire time and finished in 2 hrs and 15 minutes. My goal for this race was simply finishing and that we did.

Source: Eat Fat, Lose Fat. 2005. p. 48

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quinoa cakes

Garnished with tahini & yogurt sauce
Sorry for the lack of posts, but this week got away from me. I was busy trying to get as much work done as possible before the weekend hit. I'm leaving for the Outer Banks (in an hour!) to run my first half marathon tomorrow! Wish me luck! Before I dash out the door, I wanted to share a recipe I made last week.

One night last week I was thinking about what to make for dinner. I thought about making black bean burgers. I walked into the kitchen surveying what ingredients I had on hand. No black beans, only dried beans. Then I eyed a lonely bag of quinoa. Hmm quinoa burgers? I did a quick google search and found this recipe.

These little patties remind me of a vegetarian version of crab cakes. Their flavor is light and clean. These cakes would be great on top of a salad, stuffed into a pita or eaten as an open-faced sandwich. This recipe does contain one egg, but I'm sure you could substitute that to make them vegan. They are gluten- and dairy-free as well.

Quinoa Cakes
Adapted from Whole Foods
~2 c cooked quinoa
2/3 c grated carrot
1/4 c minced bell pepper
1/4 c minced celery
1/2 tsp turmeric
6 green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 free range, organic egg
zest of 1 lemon
~1/2 c of parsley, rinsed & minced
1/3 c of chickpea flour*
dash of sea salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients except the egg. Add the egg to the mixture and stir well. *If the mixture is too wet, add more chickpea flour. Form the mixture into patties. I made mine about 3 inches across. This should make about 8 quinoa cakes. Put onto an oiled baking sheet and into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping once to brown each side. Garnish with tahini and/or yogurt sauce.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Snack on this: Coconut carrot soup

I awoke to grey skies and rain this morning. I actually enjoy days like today. I know some can't stand it. Maybe it was because I was born on a rainy Sunday morning or that I studied abroad in London in the grey, cold winter. One thing is for certain, when the weather is like this, I want something comforting to eat.

I saw this simple, vegan soup and wanted to share it with you. I've made similar recipes with carrots and sweet potatoes before. This soup is really versatile and simple to make.

Soup as a snack? Yep, that's right. Instead of reaching for an afternoon cookie or bag of chips, pack a soup to enjoy instead. Soups are a great way to get more vegetables into your diet. They're yummy and packed full of essential vitamins and minerals.

Coconut Carrot Soup
Adapted from Culinate
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp, freshly grated ginger
1 tsp garam marsala (optional)
1 tsp curry powder (optional)
Dash of sea salt and pepper
4 large carrots, chopped
1 can of coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 c water 
2 tbsp lemon juice
Plain yogurt & cilantro to garnish

Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion, cook until translucent. Add garlic, ginger and spices. Stir, cooking until you can smell the spices. Add the carrots, coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for another 10 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Move to a blender or use an immersion blender straight in the pot. Be careful with the hot liquid! Blend well. Add the lemon juice and garnish with yogurt and cilantro.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy April!

April is one of my favorite months. Not only is it my birthday month, but it's also kicks off when most of the NC farmers markets officially open! Herbs, asparagus, greens, pea shoots and radishes finally appear and everyone's itching to be outside to enjoy the much anticipated arrival of warmer weather.

Last week I got my first bunch of local asparagus, and I couldn't have been happier. I sauteed it in olive oil and ate the rest in a galette with kale and caramelized onions Friday night. I'm so excited to cook with more Spring vegetables and fruits.

The weather this weekend was amazing in Raleigh after a chilly, rainy week. We walked to dinner on Saturday night, and I enjoyed a long run around the Lake yesterday. How did you enjoy the warmer weather this weekend!?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy Friday!

I'm making dinner for friends (first asparagus of the season!!!) and we're going out for First Friday tonight. Tomorrow I plan on heading to the farmer's market to find some fresh herbs to plant on my balcony. I'm also a little over a week away from running my first half marathon, ah!

What are your plans this weekend? Hopefully you're enjoying delicious food and good company. Have a great one!