Beet + White Bean Spread


IMG_6014
I absolutely love the vibrant color of this dip. It makes for a fun, Valentine’s Day themed appetizer and is super simple. Plus, it brings beets to the table in a new way and rounds out their earthy flavor, making them more approachable to beet-lovers and beet-skeptics alike.  You choose the amount of beet that works for you, so if you are still on the skeptic side, start with one and add from there.  
Beets are such a rich source of antioxidants and also contain compounds that help with blood flow and circulation, making them heart healthy and a very sexy food at the same time, perfect for your Valentine’s Day meal!

Serves 4-6

1-2 medium beets, cooked and peeled
2 cups cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, peeled
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
2-4 T olive oil

First, roast the beets wrapped in foil at 375 for 30 minutes or until soft.  Allow to cool, then peel with a vegetable peeler or paring knife and chop into quarters.

Place the beets in your food processor or blender along with the beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, sea salt and chopped thyme leaves.  Blend until smooth and incorporated, then slowly stream in the olive oil and continue to blend until a silky texture is reached.  Adjust seasonings as needed and serve with vegetable dippers or these Brown Rice + Herb Crackers.

Spiced Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Pomegranate and Cacao Nibs

IMG_6003

This past week I assisted my dear friend Ali Miller of Naturally Nourished with a Food-As-Medicine cooking class on Aphrodisiac Foods and Chocolate Avocado Mousse was on the menu.  Check out her version, a list of upcoming cooking classes, and her awesome practice, here.

If you’ve never had chocolate avocado mousse, or if you think it sounds weird, you absolutely must try it.  You also might have been living under a rock for the past couple years, because this is definitely a thing.  We served an early version on my menu at Roots Juice and I’ve tried a million different variations since then, all of them delightful.  And for Valentine’s Day, I quite frankly cannot think of anything sexier than creamy avocados, rich chocolate, spicy cayenne and tart pomegranate seeds!

Chocolate goes well with pretty much everything, avocados included.  Their creaminess lends an incredibly creamy mousse texture without any dairy added. This is the perfect recipe when you’ve got very ripe to overripe avocados, as the chocolate will camouflage any brown spots.  Do yourself a favor and use raw cacao powder in this recipe if you can, not cocoa powder, as it has a higher antioxidant load and is less processed .

I love a subtle spiciness with my chocolate, and the cayenne really revs up this dessert (as well as its eater).  You can certainly experiment with other spice combinations as well.

Serves 4
2 avocados, halved and pitted
1/3 cup raw cacao powder 
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch cinnamon
pinch cardamom
pinch cayenne
pinch sea salt
1/4 cup coconut milk or almond milk, as needed
pomegranate seeds and cacao nibs to garnish

Puree the avocado until smooth in a blender or food processor.

Add the cacao powder, sweetener of choice, vanilla and spices.  Blend until silky smooth, adding the milk one tablespoon at a time as needed.  Taste and adjust sweetness and spices.  Serve with pomegranate seeds and cacao nibs.

Moqueca (or Brazilian Fish Stew)

IMG_5951

IMG_5962

IMG_5984

We recently got back from a three week trip to Brazil for Christmas and New Year’s.  When I say recently, it was actually a full month ago today.  My tan lines are long gone, bathing suits are stowed for warmer days (especially the thong one I bought…just for Brazil!), and I’m back in my winter hibernation mode, big sweaters and leggings all day every day.  When I say Brazil I mostly mean Rio de Janeiro and a couple of neighboring spots because Brazil is like, huge.

Anyway, one of the things I was most excited about, which is always the case when I travel, was the food.  Sadly, my experience of Brazil was mostly a miss when it came to food, and especially nutrition.  It was potatoes next to rice next to beans next to a piece of overcooked and under-seasoned meat. Carbs, carbs and more carbs.  I almost peed myself when I found kale on a menu.  Now, I’m not saying all Brazilian food is bad, and it certainly could have been a combination of our terrible Portuguese and picking the wrong restaurants, I just was really happy to get back to my own kitchen.  Hence the inundation of blog posts.

Did I mention that I accidentally ordered raw meat for dinner one night, and lacking the vocabulary to send it back, endured a 30 minute staring contest with a pile of bloody ground beef?  Or the time I was forcibly dragged into a churrascaria and then inundated with a rotation of meat I didn’t really want, followed by more meat really I didn’t want.  Brazil is no place for a recovering vegan, or a health-conscious person of any nature, and by the end of the trip it had me swearing up and down that I’d never eat meat again once I touched American soil.  I quickly gave that up in the comfort of my own kitchen, but I certainly won’t be running around Houston to track down any Brazilian restaurants anytime soon.

The trip in all was amazing, and there were definitely some food highlights. Among them, tapioca flour fried into the most amazing chips, fresh papaya, passion fruit caipirinhas, fresh coconuts and acai bowls on every street corner. And then there was this dish called Moqueca, which quickly became my go-to at any restaurant that served good fish.  I was not about to risk another raw meat ordeal.  It was served bubbling hot in these giant bowls that no one human could finish on their own, it was even a stretch for two people.  Moqueca is a coconut milk based stew, with white fish, tomatoes, onions and an array of other vegetable players.  I also had it once or twice with, get this…banana.  They put it in EVERYTHING.  I tried banana on pizza once, which actually was kind of great.   This recipe represents a loose translation of the dish.  Like I said, my Portuguese is horrible and I could have totally missed an ingredient or two…so if you’re Brazilian please don’t be offended.  Also if you’re Brazilian, please tell me how your country is not full of overweight diabetic people considering that your diet is carbs on carbs on carbs.

Oh yeah, the recipe.  It is best to marinate your fish a few hours ahead, so plan accordingly.  If you don’t plan accordingly, all is not lost, I promise.  Just marinate while you chop up the other ingredients.   Choose a firm, white fish like halibut, sea bass or snapper.  I used redfish and it worked quite nicely.  This dish goes well with, dare I say it, rice.   Please use brown rice or even quinoa, for my sake.

Serves 4-6

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
4 green onions, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2  pounds white fish, cut into bite sized cubes
2 Tablespoons of coconut oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped very finely
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped very finely
1 bay leaf
3-4 tomatoes, diced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 cups vegetable broth or chicken bone broth (fish stock would be great here)
1 can coconut milk
4 Tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 cup hearts of palm, sliced
pinch cayenne
more cilantro, green onions and lime wedges for serving

First, marinate the fish in the lime juice, half the yellow onion, half the green onion, half the ginger, half the garlic, half the cilantro, a tablespoon of coconut oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Set aside for 3-4 hours.

Heat a stock pot or dutch oven over medium and add the other tablespoon of coconut oil.  Add the onions and sauté until translucent.  Add the bell pepper, ginger, garlic and green onions until softened, then add the bay leaf and remaining cilantro.   Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add the tomato paste, coconut milk and fish sauce and return to a boil. Next add the diced tomatoes, hearts of palm and the marinating fish, as well as all of the marinade.  Lower the heat and cook, covered, 8-10 minutes or until fish is cooked through.  Remove the bay leaf and season to taste with cayenne, salt and pepper.  Serve with cilantro, green onions and a lime wedge.  IMG_5136

Blue Cheese, Fig & Swiss Chard Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

IMG_5925

As I’m posting this recipe, I’m sipping on a big bowl of cold, kind of goopy avocado and celery soup.  I’m on a detox, and while it’s not half bad, it’s definitely not as delicious as this stuffed pork tenderloin.  I’m counting down the days until I can make this recipe again (five down, five to go…).  Make it this weekend so I can live vicariously through you!
This dish is simple and straightforward, and the product is elegant and perfect for entertaining or for a fancy dinner for two, with leftovers for lunch the next day. I brined my pork ahead, which I definitely recommend if you have some lead time, it makes the meat so juicy and flavorful.  You could throw it in the brine the morning of, and it will be ready by the time you’re ready to cook dinner.
Serves 4
For the brine:
2 cups apple cider
4 cups cold water (or enough to cover the pork)
1/4 cup sea salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 sprigs thyme
For the pork:
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 cups swiss chard, cut into ribbons
1/2 cup dried figs, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
For the apple cider glaze:
1 cup apple cider
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder mixed with water
To make the brine: If you are brining the pork, combine apple cider, salt, garlic and thyme and bring to a boil in a medium saucepan until salt is dissolved.  Add the water, cool completely, then submerge the pork in the brine.  Brine in the refrigerator 8-12 hours.
To make the pork: Preheat the oven to 450F. Remove the pork and discard the brine.  Pat dry and place on a flat surface covered with plastic wrap.  Butterfly the tenderloin by cutting down the long edge about 2/3 of the way through, so that you can open it like a book.  Place another piece of plastic wrap over the pork and pound with a meat mallet or a small cast iron skillet until 1/2 inch thick.
Remove the plastic wrap and fill down the center with the swiss chard, figs and blue cheese, leaving 1/2 inch border on each side.  Roll up the pork from the long side and secure with kitchen twine every two inches.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle the outside with the salt and pepper and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.
In the meantime, make the apple cider glaze: Combine the apple cider and maple syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and stir frequently until the mixture starts to thicken.  If it needs further thickening, add in the arrowroot mixed with water and whisk until combined.  Remove from the heat.
After 15-20 minutes, remove the pork and pour the glaze over it.  Bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until a meat thermometer (inserted into the meat, not the filling) registers 145F.  Allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing into 1 inch slices, discarding the twine.

Goji Almond Protein Bars

IMG_5896

I’m not sure which I like better, these little bars or this adorable heart print cake stand I just got from Sur La Table.  It’s part of their Valentine’s Day collection, and I’m admittedly obsessed with all things hearts, this time of year and always.  Of course, you can’t eat the cake stand.  These bars are a perfect mid-morning, pre-workout or anytime snack, packing about 11 grams of protein each.  While typical protein bars are dense and heavy, these bars are surprisingly light and crunchy.  They’re also gluten free, made with airy brown rice puffs, almonds, coconut and goji berries.  The great thing is, once you’ve got the recipe down, you can really substitute any combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruit.  I’m dreaming up a version dipped in dark chocolate as we speak…stay tuned for that!

Makes about 10 1-inch x 3- inch bars

1/2 cup nut butter of your choice (I used almond)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch cinnamon
1 cup puffed brown rice cereal
2 scoops grass fed whey protein powder, or protein powder of your choice
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried goji berries

Combine the brown rice cereal, protein powder, coconut, almonds and goji berries in a medium bowl.

Heat the nut butter and honey over medium low heat until bubbling. Remove from heat. Stir in the sea salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract.

Pour the nut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Press into an 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper, or into bar molds like these! Place in the refrigerator until firm, then cut into bars or pop out of molds.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week…if they last that long.


			

Apple Cinnamon Protein Pancakes

 IMG_5874

Pancakes, though delicious, are traditionally pretty much devoid of nutrients, and thus rarely make an appearance at my breakfast table. White flour, white rice, white sugar, even white potatoes don’t really stand a chance in my kitchen. Even the whole grain varieties of pancakes are lacking substantial protein, essential to a good breakfast. These pancakes are a super yum way to add more protein to your breakfast, while still satisfying a pancake craving. They are grain free and made with almond meal, apple sauce and protein powder.  I cooked them in grass fed ghee to give them a little extra healthy fat boost, then topped them with caramelized apples and local honey.

Makes about 12 medium sized pancakes, or 3-4 servings

For the pancakes:

4 eggs
2/3 cup apple sauce, unsweetened
1/2 cup almond meal
1 scoop plain grass fed whey protein, or your protein powder of your choice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon maple syrup or honey

1 teaspoon grass fed butter or coconut oil, for cooking

Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, then add the applesauce, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon. Add in the almond flour, protein powder and baking powder and mix until thoroughly combined.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium. Add a small amount of butter or coconut oil . Once heated, pour in about 3-4 Tablespoons of batter. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, turning once bubbles start to form and the pancakes are firm enough to be flipped. Please note, these pancakes are a little more delicate than normal pancakes, so be careful when flipping!  Repeat with the remaining batter.

For the apple topping:
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 teaspoon grass fed butter or coconut oil
2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
squeeze lemon juice
In a small saucepan, combine the apples, butter, maple syrup or honey, lemon juice and cinnamon. Heat over medium heat until bubbling, then lower the heat and cook 10-15 minutes until apples soften and liquid thickens. Pour over pancakes and serve hot!

Broccoli Meatballs, Two Ways

IMG_5818IMG_5824 Although I may have strayed from my staunch veganism, I haven’t gone far.  I’m still eating and cooking just as many, if not more, vegetables as ever before.  These meatballs are a fun way to sneak in more veggies and a very different take on broccoli than your typical steamed variety.  I’m a big fan of sneaking vegetables into the most likely of places, like greens in a meatloaf or cauliflower in an otherwise decadent dip.  These meatballs fit that bill, and I imagine they’d go over well with picky eaters and kiddos alike. As a kind of homage to my very veggie roots, I’m posting a vegetarian version, which is adapted from a recipe by my beloved Vegetarian Times magazine, as well as a version made with grass fed beef.  The recipe makes at least a dozen pretty substantial meatballs, so you could feasibly whip up half a batch of each and pit them against one another in a taste test.  We did that, actually.  And while they were both good, like really really good, my boyfriend and I agreed that the vegetarian version was a clear winner. Makes about 12 large meatballs

For the vegetarian version:
4 cups broccoli, steamed until tender (about 10 minutes), then cooled
1 cup raw almonds, pulsed into a rough meal
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 parsley, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch sea salt
pinch black pepper
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350F. Pulse the steamed broccoli in the food processor until well chopped but not mushy. Add the chopped herbs, onion, garlic and spices to the food processor and pulse a few more times, until uniform. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the ground almonds and parmesan.  Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl, then add those in as well and combine.You may want to use your hands here to make sure everything is uniform. Shape the mixture into 12 balls, either eyeballing it or using an ice cream scoop to measure them out.  Press them together by hand and smooth over. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the tops with olive oil and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crispy on the outside.

For the omnivore version:
2 cups broccoli, steamed until tender (about 10 minutes), then cooled
1 pound ground grass fed beef
1 cup raw almonds, pulsed into a rough meal
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 parsley, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch sea salt
pinch black pepper
2 eggs

Follow the same instructions, adding the ground beef at the same stage as the almonds and cheese. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160F. Serve either version, or both, over brown rice pasta or spaghetti squash with a good dollop of marinara, homemade or not.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

IMG_4652

Tortilla Soup makes for a fun weeknight dinner, with its infinite variations of toppings.  The base of the soup too can be made any number of ways, fresh tomatoes or canned, leftover rotisserie chicken or freshly cooked bone-in breasts shredded right into the pot, chipotle peppers or ancho chiles or jalapeños, or all three.  My favorite part of this dish (besides the eating part) is the assembly at the table, which makes for a fun dinner party activity or an interactive kids meal.

Serves 4, with ample leftovers

For the soup:
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I used smoked sea salt)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1-2 jalapeño peppers, diced, depending on your preference for spice
6 cups chicken bone broth
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1-14.5 oz can black beans, preferably Eden brand
2 whole chicken breasts, or the equivalent, cooked and shredded
For the condiments:
4 tortillas, cut into strips, drizzled with olive oil and baked at 350F until crispy
1 avocado, sliced
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup raw jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup whole milk greek yogurt
1 cup cilantro, torn
1 lime, cut into wedges

In a stockpot, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, carrots, jalapeño, cumin, chili powder and salt and sauté until onion is translucent and vegetables begin to soften.

Pour in the chicken stock, shredded chicken, canned tomatoes and black beans and bring the whole pot to a boil.  Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook 30-45 minutes.  Test for seasoning and be generous with cumin and chili until desired spice is reached.

To serve, ladle into soup bowls and pile high with condiments, including a good squeeze of lime juice.

Lamb Burgers with Greek Yogurt + Cucumber Sauce

IMG_5731 IMG_5717 News flash: I’m not vegan anymore.  After seven years of devout veganism, several more years of vegetarianism, and even a brief foray into raw foodism, I am cured. Er, maybe not the right word…but suffice to say that I have happily rejoined the world of the (extremely conscious) omnivores.  And what a glorious world it is.  I can walk into a restaurant and order just about anything on the menu, no questions asked, and there are whole entire food groups previously ignored in my culinary self-education for me to play with.

Vegetables will always be my first love, and I’m not eating any less of them now that I’m also eating meat…and eggs….and cheese.  I’m still very concerned with where my food comes from, perhaps more so than ever.  If I’m eating out at a restaurant who is less than transparent with their sourcing, I’ll still elect a vegetarian option.  I choose clean proteins in the form of grass fed beef, pasture raised chicken and eggs, raw milk cheeses and recently, grass fed bison and lamb.  My reasons for making the switch were many and it wasn’t an easy decision, but so far I’m pretty pleased with the results. This lamb burger pairs really nicely with my Grain Free Tabouli recipe.  I went bun-less here with butter lettuce to keep carbs low, but you could opt for toasted pita bread or a whole grain or sourdough roll as a vessel.

Serves four

 For the lamb burgers: 
1 pound grass fed ground lamb 
1 small onion, minced
 1 clove garlic, minced 
3 Tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped 
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
 pinch sea salt 
pinch black pepper 
olive oil 

In a stainless steel bowl, combine the ground lamb with the onion, garlic, mint, parsley, salt and pepper. Shape into four patties about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly coat both sides with olive oil. Grill the burgers over medium high heat on a grill or in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop.  Cook 10-12 minutes, turnings once or twice, until cooked through and browned on both sides.
For the Greek Yogurt + Cucumber Sauce : 
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt, preferably Nancy's or Wallaby Brand 
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 Tablespoon olive oil 
1 Tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
 1 clove garlic, minced 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
black pepper to taste 

Scoop out the seeds from the cucumber half and dice the remaining flesh finely. Combine the garlic with the salt, then add in the chopped herbs and olive oil. Stir in the yogurt, then fold in the cucumber. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For assembly:
8 leaves butter lettuce or similar, washed and patted dry
4 slices red onion
4 slices ripe tomato

Place two leaves butter lettuce on a plate, overlapping. Place the lamb burger on top of the lettuce, then top with red onion, tomato and a generous dollop of Greek Yogurt + Cucumber Sauce. Serve alongside Grain Free Tabouli.


			

Grain Free Tabouli

IMG_5688 Parsley is abundant right now and to me that means only one thing–tabouli. Traditionally, tabouli is made with bulgar, yielding a distinctly nutty flavor while also lending some bulk.  Here, cauliflower and almonds replace the bulgar for a grain free alternative that is bright and crunchy and full of detoxifying sulphur compounds and antioxidants.  I like to mix in a dollop of greek yogurt and serve it alongside chicken or lamb.

¼ cup almonds
½ head cauliflower
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 cucumber, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
juice of one lemon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Place the almond in the food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Set aside. Break the cauliflower into florets and place in the food processor. Pulse until it resembles small grains. Combine the cauliflower and almonds, then fold in the parsley, mint, garlic, tomato, cucumber, and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with allspice, salt and pepper. Mix until incorporated and season to taste.