Quick Tip Friday – Greek Yogurt Substitute

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Friday, July 19, 2013

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When I’m craving something creamy but want to keep things like, I like to substitute plain greek yogurt for heavier ingredients like sour cream or mayonnaise. It’s a great base for avocado crema, or as a healthy substitute in curry mango tuna salad. Once the temperatures drop (I’m counting down the days), plain yogurt makes for a tangy garnish for creamy tomato soup. Plain greek yogurt also makes a delicious topping for baked potatoes, nachos or anywhere else you’d usually use a dollop of sour cream!

Enjoy!

How To Grill Corn

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Now that I live in the great oven that is called Phoenix, I no longer look forward to summer for its pleasurable weather.

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Turns out triple digit weather just plain sucks — even if it’s a “dry” heat. So instead of imagining myself poolside with a margarita, I patiently look forward to the edible bounty summer brings. Sweet seasonal treats like juicy berries, succulent watermelon and fresh corn on the cob are about the only things that I anticipate during this season I now loathe.

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While I can agree that there is nothing better than biting into the first juicy berry of the season, I still feel partial to popping the first kernel off a bright yellow cob. The starchy vegetable has a special place in my heart. Not only did I enjoy it often growing up, I lived amongst fields of it (although it was the kind we only consume eventually).

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Getting the best sweet corn of the season was a special summer ritual.  Every August, we’d frequent the same intersection of local gas stations to get a dozen or so of our favorite farmer’s crop. There is one woman I still remember vividly. She would sit stoically in a lawn chair next to a pick up bed filled with cobs of corn and enormous watermelons. I can still imagine her weathered hands exchanging cash for a plastic bag of the good stuff.  howtogrillcorn.3

Once home, my father and I would gather on the front porch to tackle the job of husking together. After laboriously working (corn husking a big batch of corn is no easy task), we’d return to my mom with naked ears. My parent’s favorite method is to simply boil the corn in a giant pot of water, butter with a bread heel and finish with a little bit of salt. It’s genius in its simplicity.

Today, Jordan and I prefer grilling as our cooking method of choice. Partially because we’re addicted to anything charred, but also because we like to keep the oven off when it already feels like hell outside. You could also put the cobs in foil or even wrap them back up in their husks. For me, both these methods are too time intensive  That’s why we choose to just chuck the husk and put the corn directly on the grates. The result is slightly smoky, slightly chewy sweet ears of corn. Pair with a fresh green salad and don’t forget to garnish with berries to celebrate summer!

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Print this How to

How to Grill Corn

serves 4

4 ears of corn, husk and silk threads removed
olive oil
kosher salt

  1. Preheat the grill to medium high heat.

  2. Slowly pour or spray oil over cobs of corn while using clean hands to spread the oil evenly.

  3. Season liberally by spinning the cobs while sprinkling over small pinches of kosher salt.

  4. Place the ears directly on grill, either between the grates or across.

  5. Rotate the corn using kitchen tongs after 3-5 minutes. Continue to cook, rotating every few minutes until every side has been slightly charred. (On average, medium to large cobs should take about 20 minutes)

  6. Remove from grill.

  7. Enjoy as is or dress up the corn with things like butter or cotija cheese.

Notes: If you have leftovers, remove kernels from the cob by holding the ear vertically over a cutting board and carefully slide your knife down the bottom of the kernels. Great for rice or quinoa vegetable salads, in frittatas, and over greens. Sometime I buy extra cobs, just to have leftovers. Keep chilled in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

There are several reasons this household looks forward to waking up on Saturday morning.

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The first being that there are no deadlines to be met. Instead, our actions are completely guided by will and preference. There is so no urgency to wake up and start the day, so usually Jordan and I start the day according to our internal clocks. While Jordan plays a little catch up on sleep, I usually find myself ready for the day by seven or eight. I take advantage of the alone time by working on a post or doing house chores and cleaning. I love the process preparing our home for the week to come, so I oddly look forward to Saturday morning for this reason too. I’m also pretty clumsy when it comes to cleaning, so it’s usually not long until I make enough noise to wake sleeping beauty.

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By nine or so, Jordan slowly makes his way from bed to help charge through the remainder of my do-to list. It’s usually at this point that we realize how hungry we are! To sustain our growling bellies, I pour a cup of coffee or tea while Jordan turns to to orange juice. Then, our favorite part begins — making breakfast. Our Saturday morning meals tend to err on the side of indulgent to make up for all the kale smoothies we eat through out the week. Staples include biscuits and gravy, cheesy omelets or sweet, fruit-filled pancakes. Regardless of the dish, we take our leisurely time to enjoy every last bite while chatting about plans for  the rest of the day. It’s our time to reset, recharge and look forward to the weekend ahead.

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Is it Friday yet?

These pancakes are perfect for your next Saturday morning breakfast. Made with wholesome ingredients like whole wheat pastry flour and coconut milk, you can feel good about starting your day with these. We studded them with fresh blueberries, but you can really sub in any fruit you like from strawberries to raspberries to sliced bananas. Even if you’re only cooking for two, I suggest making the entire recipe and freezing the rest for easy weekday morning breakfasts.

Print this Recipe

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes

serves 3-4 (7 pancakes)

dry ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon raw sugar

6 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

wet ingredients:

1 large egg

1 cup + 3 tablespoons coconut milk, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup blueberries

butter or coconut oil for the pan

 

1. In a small bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, 1 cup + 1 tablespoon coconut milk and the vanilla extract.

3. Slowly pour the dry ingredients into the wet while whisking to combine. There will be a few lumps, so don’t over mix.

4. If your batter is too thick, mix in the additional coconut milk one tablespoon at time until it’s thin enough to easily pour.

5. Heat a large saute pan or griddle over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of butter or coconut oil. Tilt the pan to cover the bottom completely.

6. Once heated, pour a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Cook the pancake for 30 seconds before adding your blueberries. Add as many as you like to the top of the pancake.

7. Once the pancake starts to bubble and the edges set, flip and continue cooking the other side.

8. Repeat with the remaining batter.

 

Note: Pancake base adapted from Skinny Taste

Quick Tip Friday – Slow Cooker Beans

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Friday, June 14, 2013

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Since trying to reduce my reliance on animal products, I’ve had to be creative in finding other sources of protein. A few of my favorites include raw nuts, seeds and legumes or beans. The last two are my favorites. Beans are great in soup, as a salad topper, whipped into a spread, roasted for a snack, in tacos or burritos and baked into casseroles.

For a long time, I only enjoyed beans already prepared from a can because they were convenient, ready to use and appeared affordable (even organic will only run you a buck or two). That is until I visited the bulk aisle and realized how much money I could save if I just purchased dried and cooked them on my own.

savings per cup of beans = $0.35

The problem is I didn’t have the time to stand nearby a boiling pot of water for multiple hours since I’m at work for the better part of the day. I gave my slow cooker a though and decided to research the different methods for cooking beans. To my delight, I stumbled across this post from TheKitchn.

Now that I’ve discovered the slow cooker is a perfect method for cooking dried beans, I can take advantage of the savings they provide. The process is incredibly straight forward and will work with any type of bean – from navy and kidney beans to garbanzo and black. I start the slow cooker in the morning and either have Jordan check on them after four hours or come home for lunch to do it myself. When it’s start dinner, the beans are ready to be eaten or used as a base for a recipe.

Not only will I reap the benefits of saving money over time, I’ve also eliminated the waste of cans by utilizing my bulk aisle and reusable linen bags. Oh, and I did I mention they taste about ten times better than canned?

Its hard to argue the value of cooking your own beans.

 

A Trip to Solana Beach + Cobb Salad

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This past Memorial weekend, the boyfriend and I embarked on a journey to our favorite place.

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This time around, we went north of San Diego to discover the smaller towns that line the coast. We stayed in an affluent area called Solana Beach. The coast was like nothing I had ever seen before. Its scenery was something out of a story book. When we first walked out, our feet met the velvety pale sand and immediately our eyes were drawn to the vast horizon. Clumps of seaweed and other peculiar ocean vegetation dotted the shore as remnants from the previous night’s high tide. During the day, the commanding sea withdrew to reveal miles of coast reachable by foot. But as the hours past, the milky waves would return to fearlessly collide with the lofty cliffs that lined the shore. The landscape was truly magical, which was the perfect setting for our trip’s purpose. To rekindle and reconnect.

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We had no plans for what each day would bring. Our only hopes were to disconnect from reality and delight in one another’s presence. Our mornings started with a leisurely walk on the beach, enjoying the efforts of local surfers capturing the ocean’s energy. On Saturday, we walked to a quaint cafe in our neighborhood for a velvety almond-milk cappuccino (for her) and a rich french kiss mocha (for him).

After breakfast, our days were filled with more time spent on the beach, basking in the warmth of the sun without a care in the world. If only this was real life. The only departures we made were for food and aimless driving. The latter became an evening staple. Not far from the coast, windy roads snaked through thickly wooded countryside. Nestled every few hundred feet were incredibly private neighborhoods. So discreet that it was rare we actually saw a home in its entirety. Instead, we marveled at the grandiose gates that protected each fortress. One evening, we were so engrossed in our opulent surroundings that we completely tuned out my car’s “low fuel” warning. With only five miles left in our tank, we were very luck to reach a gas station almost six miles from where we began.

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After dinner, we’d return to our guesthouse (We highly recommend by the way!) to modify our wardrobe. Equipped with light sweatshirts, we would returned to the shore and finish our day listening to the growl of the sea. As we sat, lulled into tranquility, I took a mental note that these are the moments I must never forget. Absent from any distractions and humbled by the ocean’s strength, we sat there feeling as though it was just us and nature. My heart swelled with gratitude for the beauty before my eyes and the fact that I got to share it with the man who sat next to me. I realized in that moment, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Life was good.

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During our stay, we enjoyed many amazing meals. There is something so refreshing about California cuisine. Regardless of the restaurant, there is a deep appreciation for quality ingredients. Every dish seemed to be bursting with flavor as it danced upon my tongue. Our favorites included a crisp, charred Salsiccia pizza from Real Food and Spirits. The atmosphere was spot on for an intimate dinner  as we indulged in our adult beverages. A cold glass of Heineken for him and medium bodied glass of Sean Minor Pinot Noir for me. Our favorite spot, though, was a random find in Encinitas. Union Kitchen and Tap was just up our alley with a wide range of microbrews and classic food favorites. Our drink of choice was a local beer from San Diego called Mission Hefeweizen. It was one of the most crisp I’ve every tasted (no lemon needed). Jordan enjoyed the mini pork sliders, but I went for something a bit lighter — the cobb salad. This classic salad had a base of romaine and was sprinkled with the usual suspects: hard boiled eggs, bacon, tomatoes and a Maytag blue cheese. Everything came together once  tossed in a delicious red whine vinaigrette. It was a well orchestrated salad to say the least. We literally ate every last bite. Now that we are back to reality, I knew I would have to recreate the dish. So last week, I got to work on my own version.

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The foundation is classic — freshly chopped organic romaine lettuce. After a light rinse and whirl in the salad spinner, I dressed the mild lettuce in a sharp and tangy red wine vinaigrette. From there, I adorned the salad with customary cobb toppings including hard boiled eggs, tomato and bacon. It’s important to stay light handed when garnishing these salads; as every ingredient (egg yolks, bacon and blue cheese) is pretty rich on your tastebuds and in your belly.

Union’s version was decked out with blue cheese from Maytag, but it tasted far too strong for my liking. While it was easily enjoyed it in small doses, one large bite would quickly send my palate over the stinky cheese edge. So when perusing the specialty foods case at Whole Foods, I decided to utilize the employees’ expertise in my quest to find a milder blue cheese. They directed me to a buttermilk version, and to my delight it was much more tame. Honestly though, I still can’t say I am 100% on the blue cheese train. I would prefer a salty feta any day, but some recipes really do just require it. Like this one. My favorite counterpart to bacon is avocado, so I decided to also add a handful of freshly cut avocado. The result was a deliciously, satisfying salad. Now if only I could recreate the beach that joined it as well.

This salad is perfect for dinner since its ingredients are a bit on the heavier side when compared to other raw green salads. It’s best enjoyed when paired with a cold beer and a hot summer’s night. That kind of meal will make anyone feel thankful for the good stuff in life.

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Note: This recipe makes much more vinaigrette then you will need to dress this salad. Store the remaining dressing in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Print this Recipe

Cobb Salad with a Classic Red Wine Vinaigrette

serves 2, easily doubles

for the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinaigrette

splash of lemon juice, optional

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey

salt and pepper to taste

for the salad:

1/2 bunch organic romaine lettuce, chopped, rinsed and spun (about 4 cups)

2 slices of thick bacon, baked using this method

2 hard boiled eggs, cooled with shells removed

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 avocado, cubed

2-3 ounces buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled

  1. To prepare the vinaigrette, add olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice (if using), dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper to a high speed blender. Whir on high for 30-60 seconds or until the dressing comes together; set aside.
  2. To make the salad, first prepare the garnishes. Chop bacon into bite size pieces and set aside. Slice hard boiled eggs lengthwise, cutting each half into four pieces and set aside.
  3. Add romaine lettuce to a large boil. Dress the salad with 1-2 tablespoons of the red wine vinaigrette, being mindful that you can always add more. Toss gently and taste to adjust seasonings (using more vinaigrette, salt and/or pepper).
  4. Add the chopped bacon, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado and blue cheese; toss lightly. Serve immediately.

 

 

How To – Quinoa

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Since embarking on my journey to eat more nutrient-dense food, there has been one discovery that has really impacted my life.

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It’s called quinoa, and without it I feel as if my life would be empty. That’s a bit exaggerative; but basically, I’m trying to say I’m obsessed with the stuff. Not only is it simple to make, it’s easy on  your digestion (it’s a gluten-free pseudo-cereal or seed), full of fiber and one of the most complete proteins on this earth. Because of that fact, I like to sub quinoa and beans for a meat free dinner.

Once cooked, the seeds taste slightly nutty and can have a texture that ranges from mushy to chewy. It all depends on preference. I’m partial to something in the middle. So, if you follow this recipe, your finished product will be tender, fluffy and slightly chewy. I have made an incredible amount of quinoa since purchasing my first bag at Sam’s Club almost three years ago (which feels like yesterday; time is a crazy thing).  Thus far, this is my favorite way to prepare it. The recipe calls for a simple saute and quick boil to cook through the quinoa through. Start to finish, this dish takes a mere 25-30 minutes which makes it perfect for weeknight meals. There are a variety of ways to enjoy this recipe:

  • Enjoy the recipe  as is for  a simple starch side at dinner. It pairs well with a lean protein like grilled chicken and some sort of roasted vegetable.
  • Prepare the recipe to add to other dishes like tossed salads, casseroles or stir-fry’s.
  • Use the leftovers to serve (cold, room temperature or warmed) over a green salad dressed in a vinaigrette.
  • Use as a substitute for noodles in macaroni and cheese.

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The foundation for this recipe is using the right sized pot. I recommend a medium size sauce pan with a tight fitting lid. To start, place the sauce pan over medium, teaterting to high heat. Add a splash of your favorite cooking grease. I’ve used every kind of fat for this recipe, and believe me you really can’t go wrong. Coconut oil adds a trace of sweetness while a combination of butter and olive oil imparts more savory elements.

Once the oil is heated (when the oil sizzles with contact of ingredient), add finely chopped onions and stir to coat. Season with a bit of salt and continue to stir the onions every few minutes to brown evenly. Cook until the sides appear translucent. As the onions soften, they become much sweeter and more palatable than compared to raw.

Next, I like to toast the quinoa to help develop  a layer of nuttiness. Simply add rinsed, uncooked quinoa to the pan with sautéed onions and stir until well coated in oil. Cook over medium heat until it becomes fragrant. Deglaze the pan with your stock and quickly scrape to release the brown flavor bits on the bottom of the pan.

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Give it one more good stir and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and nudge the heat toward medium-high. Watch closely as you continue to prepare the rest of your meal or whatever else you have to get done in that moment. Once you see the stock has come to a rolling boiling, turn the dial to low heat, near a one or two. Let the quinoa steam until the seeds completely absorb the liquids. This is where patience is well awarded — in order to get fluffy, light quinoa you must wait a few minutes after removing the quinoa from the heat to remove the lid. Once ready, remove lid and gently fluff with a fork before serving or using for another recipe.

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This recipe makes enough quinoa for two people. You can easily double the recipe to make as many servings as you need. Store leftover quinoa in an airtight container and chill in the fridge for up to a week. For this recipe I used a multi-color quinoa, but you could also sub white, red or black quinoa. I like to get my quinoa from the bulk bins to save money and wasteful packaging, but you could also find it in the rice aisle or gluten-free section.

Print this Recipe

How To: Quinoa

makes 2 servings, easily doubles

1/2 cup organic uncooked quinoa

1/2 tablespoon oil or butter

1/4 onion or 1/2 shallot, chopped finely

1 cup vegetable, chicken or beef stock

salt to taste

  1. Place a small or medium size saucepan over medium heat. Add butter or oil.
  2. Once heated (onion pieces should sizzle when hitting the pan), add chopped onion or shallots and season with a little salt. Stir until onions are coated in fat and evenly dispersed. Stir the onions every few minutes to ensure even caramelization. Cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add quinoa and stir until evenly coated in fat. Toast for an additional 5 minutes or until the quinoa becomes fragrant (it will smell nutty).
  4. Add broth to pan and begin scraping the bottom to release brown bits for flavor. Give it one more stir and cover with a tight lid.
  5. Once boiling, lower the heat (my dial goes between 1 and 2). Set a timer for 15 minutes and walk away.
  6. After 15 minutes, check that the quinoa has soaked up the liquids (this is where a clear lid comes in handy). If the quinoa appears soupy, let it steam for another 2-3 minutes. If the quinoa appears firm, remove from heat and let rest for an additional 5 minutes.
  7. Remove lid and gently fluff with a fork to serve.

Quick Tip Friday – Leftover Chicken Salad

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Friday, May 17, 2013

For some reason or another, I always seem to have chicken lingering in my fridge waiting for me to use (hopefully before it spoils). I hate throwing away food, but leftover chicken just as is can be quite boring. To make it into something more delectable, I like to transform it into a new dish. One of the easiest methods is to create a chicken salad.

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Simply shred chicken into thin slices, combine with a creamy dressing and mix in equal parts vegetables. Voila!

Be creative with your ingredients. You can use any number of vegetables from carrots and corn to edamame and red peppers. Try to utilize what you already have on hand and get creative from there. When it comes to the dressing, I like to lighten things up with a combination of mustard and mayonaise. My favorite seasonings include paprika, garlic powder and cumin, but you don’t have to take the Southwest route. Be imaginative and combine any flavor combo you think would be delicious. The results may surprise you. When it comes time to serve, pair with hearty bread, grainy crackers and a good sized green salad.

Your coworkers may swoon over your perfectly crafted lunch, but they don’t have to know you did it with leftovers!

You can find the exact recipe for my chicken salad recipe here.

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