Tag Archives: vegetarian

Brunch: Spinach and Cheese Whole Wheat Strata Recipe

25 Jan

I relish in a good weekend brunch but sometimes the struggle to find a reservation, battle the weather, or even worse… wait an hour, makes hunkering down to a comfy, conversation-friendly meal at home way more appealing.

Strata is a layered casserole, usually including eggs, cheese and bread. Although it requires a little planning ahead, it’s an easy crowd-pleaser. Prepared ahead of time and baked in the oven, it requires no fussy juggling between entertaining and cooking. You literally prep it the day before, let it sit overnight, and throw it in the oven an hour before your guests arrive.

The recipe below is adapted from Gourmet (RIP). My version is a little healthier using WAY less cheese (and low-fat), whole wheat bread, 1% milk instead of whole, and as many organic ingredients as possible. It was still delicious although you definitely taste the tang of the whole wheat. If you don’t love whole wheat’s sour nature, you may want to go 50/50 (white/whole wheat) but I enjoyed the contrast against all the dairy. Of course, you can go to the original recipe for the full-fat version.

And yes some of you may remember strata making quite a scene in a 2005 holiday movie. Any guesses?

Spinach and Cheese Whole Wheat Strata

Adapted from Gourmet (sniffle), February 2003 via Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

1 (10 ounce) package organic frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid, and chopped
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped organic onion (1 large)
Less than 1T just for prepping baking pan
Salt & pepper (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed organic whole wheat baguette in 1-inch cubes (1/2 lb)
1 to 1.5 cups shredded organic low-fat chedder or Gruyere (3-4 oz)
1/2 c finely grated parmesan
2 3/4 cups organic 1 % milk
9 large organic eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Procedure:

1. Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Sauteed onions and spinach

2. Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Tip: When you finish a stick of butter, save the wrapper to grease pans. Or you can always lightly dip a paper towel in softened butter to prep a pan. You can also spray lightly with canola oil. Top with one-third of bread cubes,one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

3. Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for eat least 8 hours or up to a day.

Prepped Spinach and Cheese Strata

4. The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Yummers!!! Don’t forget the hot sauce!

Spinach and Cheese Whole Wheat Strata

Mixed Berries

Ingredients:

1 cup of each organic berry (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)

Orange zest

Juice from 1/2 to 1 orange

2T chiffonade of mint

Procedure:

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. If berries aren’t sweet, drizzle 1 T maple syrup (only if needed). Bring to room temperature before serving.

Mixed Berries

Back in LA: Recharging after a long flight

10 Jul

I made it to LA! Ugh, finally. What a flight. Flying is just a miserable experience anymore. Husband and I have been loyal Delta flyers for years, but the lack of benefits lately are making me consider committing airline adultery.

Here was the level of comfort achieved on our flight out. I’m 5’6″, people. My knees shouldn’t be jammed against the seat in front of me.

Cramped Delta Airlines Seats

With these conditions, and nothing but peanuts and pretzels, it’s no surprise many of us end up feeling disgusting when we travel. We’re bloated, tired, dehydrated and hungry. This is why whenever I travel, I make a point to eat well to ensure I don’t end up feeling like a wreck.

I stocked up on food at Balducci’s in JFK. Although they’re expensive, they always have vegan/vegetarian healthful options. The mediterranean wrap was tasty, but packed with onions so beware. My breath could have choked a horse.

Crudite and Hummus snack. Mediterranean Veggie Wrap.

I brought a pack of Peeled pine-4-pineapple snacks from home. They’re such a convenient treat to stash in the carry-on. The packaging is flat so doesn’t take up much space in the “seat-pocket in front of me”.

I spent my first day in LA treating my body to healthy food and rejuvenating fitness to offset the damage. I took Simon for a long walk and stopped at Earthbar at Equinox Westwood for a veggie juice.

Total Greens Juice at Equinox Earthbar, Westwood. Parsley, Celery, Spinach, Kale, Cucumber. I added Lemon and Ginger for extra $0.50.

Then ended the day with a decompressing, stretching, YW Flow 2 class at YogaWorks. I needed something to help stretch me out after that brutal plane ride. And honestly, nothing could have worked better.

Oh, and of course, I was already plotting out dinner before I went to yoga, so I ordered online from Native Foods, and scheduled it for a 6pm pickup. Sure enough, I walked over after class and my Scorpion Burger was there waiting for me. Skipped the line and was in and out of there in less than five minutes. Brilliant!

Stay tuned for more LA adventures!

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons

23 Jun

I rarely venture above 23rd street, so when I had to go to the Upper East Side the other day, I made a few stops along the way. First on my hit list? Candle Cafe!! I didn’t have time to indulge in a full-fledged meal, but I got the Green Goddess juice which boosted my spirits. (I’m sure this guy would appreciate looking like he’s scratching his butt in the picture below. He’s actually just putting his wallet in his pocket, but my version is funnier).

Candle Cafe NYC

Look how vibrant and beautifully green the juice is!!

Green Goddess Juice at Candle Cafe. Mixed Greens, Apple, Lemon, and Ginger.

I swung by Beanocchio for a soy latte and couldn’t resist these delicious coconut macaroons.

Raw Almond Vegan Macaroons at Beanocchio

And they’re even heart-shaped (-ish)! So cute.

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons at Beanocchio

They were sweet, but not cloying, and held together perfectly. I love raw cookies and bars because I don’t feel gross after I eat them. They aren’t packed with processed sugars and artificial ingredients that can send your body into a frenzy. Plus, raw desserts are filling and satisfying. They’re typically high in protein, good fats, and fiber, which means I don’t get the urge to binge on 50 of them. It’s not about the calories, it’s about the quality of the ingredients.

I took a stab at making my own raw vegan macaroons. Next time, I think I’ll try chocolate covered ones. Mmmmmmmm.

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup almonds (soaked for 1 hour)

1/2 cup toasted unsweetened, low-fat organic coconut

1/2 cup unsweetened, low-fat, organic coconut

1/4 cup agave

Directions:

1. Soak the almonds. Drain, disposing of liquid. Reserve almonds.

2. Toast coconut in a small saute pan over low heat.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

4. Put all ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until finely ground and begins to hold together.

5. Using a tablespoon, scoop mounds of the mixture and place onto prepared baking sheet. Note: when scooping, be sure to press mixture into the tablespoon to ensure it forms a mound and holds together. If the mixture is sticking in the spoon, have a cup of hot water to dip the spoon into between scoops.

6. Refrigerate for one hour. These little mounds of joy were soft but held together, even when bitten into. They tasted even better on the second day.

7. Eat!!

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons

Exploring Casual, Healthy Eats in LA

13 Jun

The rest of the trip to LA was fun, but not exactly the sunny week I’d envisioned. What did I expect from June Gloom? It was mostly 60s and low 70s, but I’ll take that over the 100 degrees it was in NYC any day. YUCK.

I got a lot of walking and hiking in, plus I had two Pilates sessions at Winsor. More on that in a separate post.

I love exploring restaurants/food culture in LA. It’s no surprise that I’m such a fan of California cuisine with its’ focus on local, seasonal, fresh ingredients. I had a blast trying out new places and revisiting a few favorite vegan staples. I always find it easy to eat and live healthfully when I’m in LA.  Healthy food options are wherever you turn, and although I’ve learned June weather isn’t ideal, there’s plenty of sunshine to get you off that tush and moving around outside. I didn’t hit many fancy/trendier restaurants this trip, but focused on cafes, and casual, tasty fare.

I made numerous trips to Earth Bar at Equinox for smoothies. The “Flax Master” with acai, banana, blueberries, flax oil, B-12, L-glutamine, vegan protein, and almond milk, was tasty, and thick, just the way I like it. But on a second visit, they may have been too liberal with the supplements because I was having stomach…let’s just say “issues”.

Flax Master Smoothie at EarthBar Westwood

For lunch Wednesday, I walked to Whole Foods to check out their spread. I was amazed they had pre-cut coconut meat!! I haven’t seen that in NYC. It would be so convenient for smoothies, which reminds me, I have a young coconut in the fridge probably rotting. Ugh, need to use that up pronto.

Pre-Cut Coconut Meat at Whole Foods Westwood

The organic local nectarines looked gorgeous so I grabbed two for a snack.

California Local Nectarines at Whole Foods

I spent a couple of days hanging with RealityShowChick. (Who is now my token celebrity friend after her recent segment on 20/20).  She has two flourishing tomato plants on her porch. Most are still green, but there was one, small, perfectly round, red one begging to be picked.

Tomato Plant #1

Tomato Plant #2

As you can see below, RealityShowChick wasn’t “camera-ready” and pulled a puppetry of the finger maneuver. Either that or she’s blackmailing a clown?

The lone tomato

I stopped at M Cafe to pick up dinner. The menu had almost too many options, and took me a solid 10 minutes to make a decision. I was happy to not have the pressure of a line forming behind me. Guess I’m the only person under the age of 70 who likes to eat at 6pm. The cashier was friendly and helpful.

“First time?” she asked.  “Yup. How could you tell?” I replied, going cross-eyed from studying the menu. “Can I ask you the three questions I always ask people who are struggling to make a decision?” she asked. “Sure.”  I figured what the hell, it could only help, right?

Somewhat eccentric cashier (SEC): “How hungry are you on a scale from 1 to 10? 10 being I’m gonna rip someone’s arms off if I don’t eat right now.”

Me: “7”

SEC: “Are you looking for something hot or cold?” she asked.

Me: “I’m not sure. Maybe leaning cold, although I had a salad for lunch and don’t want another one.”

I’m not sure what the third question was. Either there wasn’t one, or I’m having a brain fart. All I remember is she recommended their signature salads, an a la carte menu consisting of various sides like sauteed vegetables, and proteins like grilled fish, tofu, etc. The questions did help reinforce my initial instincts. I’ll have to remember them next time I can’t make up my mind. I went with a Garden Roll and Inari Sushi (organic brown rice in a seasoned tofu pouch garnished with veggies).

The shiitake were splendid and reminded me of my mom’s. Usually she sprinkles sugar and shoyu over the vegetables as she sautes them. It’s always seasoned “to taste” with no real recipe. The result is a sweet/salty combo that I consider one of my favorite comfort foods.

Garden Roll; Shiitake, Hijiki and Lotus Root Inari

I turned down dessert although I was tempted by the Babycakes, and opted for this bright green Kale Lemonade. It was so refreshing!!! Tart lemonade with a little agave, balanced out with earthy Kale. Really tasty stuff. I know you’re sitting there with your nose wrinkled going eewwwwwww Kale Lemonade? Don’t judge until you’ve tried it.

Kale Lemonade from M Cafe

Thursday, I met a friend for breaky at Urth Caffe. They make the best latte art.

Japanese Green Tea Latte with Almond Milk from Urth Caffe

Oatmeal with Almond Milk and Brown Sugar, Granola, Raisin Toppings

We were in Santa Monica during lunchtime and passed an unassuming cafe on Wilshire selling vegan ice cream. There was no signage outside that I could find, just a couple tables under umbrellas. Inside was a small cafe that was brightly colored, unpretentious, and just what I had in mind. Menu items were printed on multi-colored paper and taped up along the top of the counter. There was a lot to read and the guy could tell I looked a little overwhelmed so he gestured to a laminated handout of the menu on a tray behind me. Then he pointed above his head to signs for soups of the day, and other specials. Why didn’t I use the three (or two) question test here?

Inside Interim Cafe in Santa Monica

Husband got the Maui Veggie Burger (supposedly what they’re known for), I got the Tempeh stuffed whole wheat pita with hummus, veggies, and a side salad. Husband also requested a “Tiger Woods” which was an Arnold Palmer without the alcohol. Perhaps it would be more fun if they renamed it “The Womanizer” or “Man-Whore” or something equivalent?

Maui Veggie Burger at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

Tempeh Whole Wheat Pita Stuffer at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

While I waited for our sandwiches, I stood in front of this damn glass case full of vegan desserts. They were calling my name, loudly, so I got the “World’s Best” vegan, gluten-free, chocolate chip cookie.

Dessert Cafe at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

I can’t argue, I don’t think I’ve had a better chocolate chip vegan cookie than this bad boy. The sandwiches and drinks were all delicious and made me wish I had something similar in my neighborhood back home.

"World's Best" Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

As the trip came to a close, what better way to end our stay than a margarita poolside at the W? I love you LA. Hope to see you soon.

Margarita on the rocks with salt at W Hotel Westwood

Vegan-Friendly Wedding Weekend

7 Jun

What an amazing weekend Husband and I had! Our good friends Blake and Rob got married on Saturday. Congratulations B & R! What a gorgeous wedding!!!! Judging by the way I felt yesterday, we had a ton of fun. It may be a few days until I’ve fully recuperated, but it was worth it.

Our incredibly thoughtful hosts arranged to have vegan options available throughout the weekend…how cute are they? Everything from the cocktail hour to dessert offered something for vegetarians and vegans.  I’m really not going to do this justice because I didn’t take as many pics as I should have. Blame it on the al-al-al-al-al-alco-hol. I think I have more pics at home, but I didn’t want to wait all week to share this post so these will have to do for now.

We started with the rehearsal dinner on Friday at The Modern. Guests received tickets to visit the MoMA before dinner. We arrived about a half hour early and had just enough time to breeze through Contemporary Art, then Painting and Sculpture. We saw some impressive pieces like this Jackson Pollack. (AMAZZZINNNGGGG).

One: Number 31, 1950

We headed back to The Modern promptly at 7pm. Everyone mingled over cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres. I was so shocked when one of the restaurant managers brought over a special platter of vegan hors d’oeuvres just for me that included mini bruschetta cups and veggie spring rolls. How special!

For dinner, I received a beautiful tofu, quinoa, vegetable plate. The presentation was bright and colorful, and aroused curiosity in the other diners at table six.  In typical Danny Meyer style, the service was hospitable and the food did not disappoint.

A HUGE bowl of mixed berries arrived for dessert. They were so fresh I ate the entire bowl with a little help from Husband who kept sneaking nibbles when he thought I wasn’t looking.

On Saturday, we headed to the fabulous Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Time Warner Center for the main event. Cocktail hour had a vast spread including passed hors d’oeuvres, a sushi, and a mediterranean bar. I was psyched when the server with the veggie spring rolls parked next to us so I had easy access to those little morsels all night. I never made it to the carving station. I was too busy making sammies out of the mediterranean bar ingredients. I stuffed the pita pockets with hummus, falafel, and olives. They were soooooo good. Sorry, no pics of these because I have no flash on my iPhone. Yes I know, I need to upgrade.

At dinner, I asked for the vegan option despite the fact that I was nearly stuffed from cocktail hour. I received a lovely plate of quinoa with haricots vert, asparagus, and sorel mushrooms (my favorite). Sorry, pic sucks. Use your imagination on this one.

Dessert was a fruit platter with a mixture of melons and berries that a few of us shared.

The next morning we were on a 9am flight to LA for the MTV Movie Awards. First stop, Native Foods Cafe. I made Husband go there before we even checked into the hotel. I had my Scorpion Burger down before the luggage arrived in the room.

After a brief snooze, we were off to the Movie Awards at the Gibson Ampitheatre. Click here for a clip from the Foo Fighters performing last night. It started pouring when it was time for the After-Party (which was completely outside) so we bailed and came back to the hotel. Rain? In LA? WTF?

We arrived back at the W starving (at least I was) and immediately ordered room service. There were limited vegan options and I was feeling a little nauseous. We got edamame, greek salad, grilled salmon salad, and a fruit plate for dessert. The food was pretty standard hotel quality, but at this point I was grateful to be eating anything at all. I’d probably avoid the fruit plate in the future. Mine had a couple moldy blueberries, and the melon was sprinkled with salt to preserve the color. Simon liked the watermelon though.

It was a whirlwind weekend and I’m totally exhausted. Looking forward to more good eats while I’m in LA and hoping to check out a couple new studios. Tomorrow, I’m testing out Winsor Pilates. I’m so looking forward to a solid workout!

Chocolate Nut Smoothie Recipe

29 May

Happy Memorial Day weekend, Food Buffers! It’s officially warm here in NYC. When it’s hot, I want my food cold (along with frosty beverages and an ice bath to soak in). What can I say? I grew up in Maine, I wasn’t made for high heat. I’ve had a smoothie every day this week and been playing around with different flavor combos.

This Chocolate Nut recipe is the perfect jump-start to the morning, or a great afternoon snack. It has a creamy, smooth texture that’s truly satisfying and is packed with nutrients and quality protein. I love making smoothies at home because I can control the portion/calories and quality of ingredients. Plus, they’re fast, healthy, and filling. If you buy smoothies when you’re out, be careful. They can be loaded with calories, sweeteners, and artificial ingredients. Try to see a list of ingredients in the smoothie. Stay away from anything with purees, tons of juices, added processed ingredients/sugars, or fillers like frozen yogurt. Look for organic or raw ingredients, whole fruits, etc.

I’ve used the antioxidant/health benefits of dark chocolate as an excuse to eat more of it (and I know I’m not alone here), but if you really want to reap the benefits, from what I’ve learned, raw, organic cacao is the way to go. Cacao nibs are crushed, peeled cacao beans. They’re deemed a “superfood” and are high in antioxidants so you get the good stuff without all the sugar. According to LiveSuperfoods.com, “Cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea.”

This Chocolate Nut smoothie reminds me of chocolate milk, but better. Get your smoothie-on this holiday weekend!

Chocolate Nut Smoothie

1 cup hemp milk

1 tablespoon cacao nibs

1 frozen banana

1 tablespoon almond butter

optional: add in 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil for added nutritional benefits like fiber and Omega-3s. 

1. Blend all ingredients until smooth in a high-powered blender (like Vitamix). Drink immediately!

Please keep in mind I’m not a nutritionist, doctor, or dietician so if you have any health concerns or dietary questions, please see a medical professional. Here are some other great resources if you want to learn more about cacao nibs and the nutritional benefits.

http://www.rawcacao.com/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/356782-cocoa-nibs-nutrition-information/

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/columnnn/nn100218.html

http://www.medscicommunications.com/just_for_fun.htm

Vegan in Vacationland

18 May

Greetings from Vacationland!

I’m in Maine visiting my parents for a couple days. I don’t make the trip often, so when I do, we usually cook at home, or dine at one of the coastal towns with more food options. In the summer, the tourist towns are the go-to destinations for fresh “lobsta”, clams, and homemade ice cream. Unfortunately, it’s a little early in the season for that and it has been raining nonstop here.

I researched local vegetarian/vegan spots to check out in Portland. Green Elephant, a vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurant I’d found on HappyCow looked promising. As we pulled up on Sunday, they were closed. Slight oversight. Damn you Blue Laws. P.S. Maine was the last New England state to discontinue the law that prevented department stores from opening on Sundays.

With the help of VegOut, a vegetarian restaurant iPhone app I downloaded a few months ago, I found Pom’s Thai Taste which conveniently was next door. I was skeptical of the neon signage (usually a reliable indicator of bad eats), but I was pleasantly surprised. (Perhaps it’s not so reliable after all. Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas has a neon sign and that place ROCKS). The restaurant was casual and quiet, with a handful of other diners. We had a very sweet young server who was attentive and waited patiently as my parents ordered. Aside: My parents are great at a lot of things. Ordering at restaurants isn’t one of them. They appear to be memorizing the menu, as the server hovers waiting to take their order. It doesn’t matter how long they review the menu in advance, it’s always the same. I try to act like it’s not happening right next to me. Gotta love ’em. 

Anywho…The vegetarian gyoza was my favorite. The tofu filling was heartier than the typical all veggie and the exterior was nicely seared without any greasy residue. My dad enjoyed the teriyaki chicken which had two large, but thinly pounded breasts. Somehow I managed to take photos of everything except that dish. Although my Spicy Bamboo and my mom’s Tofu Noodle were too heavily sauced, overall, the food was tasty and worth trying if you’re in the area.

It was refreshing to see some color emerging in Maine’s food world. Growing up, whenever we went out to eat, we were limited to pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches, and Americanized Chinese food. Basically, crap, crap, or a side of crap. Although quality Japanese/Sushi restaurants are still scarce, Thai is more prominent, almost like the new Chinese food. Even Pom’s Thai has three locations. Maine is on the radar with its’ own award-winning chefs/restaurants. I had a delicious meal at fivefifty-five a while ago. Sadly, it was before the blog started, so I’ll have to go back to take pics and do a full report.

I give Maine props. It has managed to maintain its’ charm by staving off the mass development of chains like Starbucks and the Gap. Or maybe the chains have no desire to come to Maine. Either way, it’s nice to not see one on every corner. I think the only Starbucks I saw was at the airport? Although I miss the convenience of home, it’s good to be back, to be grounded, and to be reminded of life outside of the City.

Next time I’ll have to check out some of the award winners, and hit a few lobsta shacks on the coast.

A-yuh!

Vegetable Gyoza with Dipping Sauces

Tofu Noodle-Steamed rice noodles with assorted vegetables and fried tofu, topped with peanut sauce.

Spicy Bamboo dish - Stir-fried bamboo shoots, mushrooms, red and green peppers, onions, and basil leaves in chili-garlic sauce.

New Fruit Mixes from Peeled Snacks

7 May

As I’ve mentioned before, I love Peeled Snacks.   {Pause}   SorryI had to take a breather from typing because I needed both hands to open a bag. I had the pleasure of trying the new Peeled Fruit Mixes at the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival. Now you can get THREE amazing dried fruits in one bag!! Available in the following organic Fruit Mixes: Farmer’s Market Trio (apple, cherry & raisin), Go Figure (fig, date, & apricot), and my personal favorite, Paradise Found (mango, banana & pineapple).

Paradise Found

The resealable pouches are perfect for keeping at your desk for that 3pm snack, or for sharing between family members. I love them when I’m traveling, or if I need a little energy before a workout. The fruit is fibrous so it satisfies without weighing you down and leaving you stuffed between meals. Sometimes I throw a handful of fruit and a few almonds in a snack bag, and I’m good to go. They’re also enough to satisfy that after dinner sweet tooth and are definitely a better alternative to a cookie or piece of cake. Of course, they can become addictive so I always watch my portions and love their single serve pouches. I adore Peeled for constantly coming up with organic, healthy, fresh, and simply delectable snack ideas. What are they going to think of next?

How do you take your Peeled Snacks? Straight up? Do you create your own mix? Are they your child’s favorite snack? Please share!

Shop for the new Fruit Mixes and many other delicious varieties at PeeledSnacks.com!

Farmer's Market Trio

Go Figure

Paradise Found

Lentils and Potatoes with Curry recipe

4 May

It’s a dreary spring day here in NYC. With the rain pouring down, the only thing I want to do is cook a comforting meal and crawl in a corner with a good book. However, I’m on day three of the Blue Print Cleanse so no food for me, but I’ve been saving this recipe for this exact occasion. I made this Lentils and Potatoes with Curry recipe a couple days ago so I’d have leftovers for the hubbie to eat while I cleanse.  Although it’s delicious fresh, I actually think it’s better the second day. It resembles a stew, but is thicker, and a perfect accompaniment to a loaf of crusty bread and a glass of Chianti Classico. Plus it’s basically a four ingredient, one-pot recipe that comes together in less than 45 minutes.

Here’s hoping sunny days are ahead, but in the meantime, turn this doldrums day around by having this for lunch or dinner. You’ll even have enough leftovers to get you through another rainy day (if necessary).

What’s your favorite dreary day comfort food?

Lentils and Potatoes with Curry

slightly tweaked from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 cup dried lentils, washed and picked over

3 1/2 cups organic coconut milk (veg stock or filtered water can also be used)

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 lb new potatoes, halved (or 2 medium russet, peeled and cut into large chunks)

1 bay leaf

salt & freshly ground pepper

minced fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

1. Combine the lentils, liquid, and curry powder in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low so that the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils start to absorb the water a bit, about 15 minutes.

2. Add the potatoes and bay leaf. Cover the pan completely.

Cook, undisturbed, for 10 minutes or so, then stir gently and check to make sure the lentils aren’t too dry. If so, add a little more liquid. Add salt as the lentils become tender.

3. Cover and continue cooking until the lentils are soft and the potatoes are tender at the center, another 5 to 10 minutes, add liquid if necessary. It should be moist, but not soupy. Fish out the bay leaf. Add lots of black pepper, stir, then taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with cilantro (and soy or regular yogurt if desired).

How to Make Almond Butter

2 May

My dad loves peanut butter. Growing up, we always bought freshly ground at the grocery store. I loved switching the toggle on and rotating the plastic container underneath the spout so it was evenly distributed. I’d give it a couple thuds on the counter to eliminate the air and make room for a little more peanut butter.

I guess it’s because of this, that I am a peanut butter snob. Sure, jar nut butters are great in an emergency, but when push comes to shove, freshly ground tastes far superior, doesn’t have unnecessary additives like salt or corn syrup, is more economical, and you can make as much or as little as you want, when you need it.

I bought a Vitamix a year ago and have been addicted to making nut butters ever since. All you need are organic, unsalted, roasted nuts which you probably already have on hand. Plus, I’m always looking for any excuse to use my Vitamix. It’s a miracle worker and can do everything from making smoothies, to soups, dressings, and much more.

This recipe is for almond butter, but you can use peanuts, cashews or try another nut. If you haven’t had almond butter, the texture is a little grainier than peanut, but I actually prefer it. You can also jazz it up by mixing in 1/4 cup raisins and 1 tsp cinnamon.

For peanut butter, simply blend 3 cups unsalted roasted peanuts. No oil is required.

Almond Butter Recipe (courtesy of Vitamix Whole Foods recipes book)

3 cups roasted almonds

1/4 cup canola oil

1. Add 1/4 cup canola oil to nuts to start circulating. If necessary, use more oil adding 1/4 cup at a time. Refrigerate and pour off excess oil next day.

I only needed 1/4 cup of oil, but this will vary depending on the almonds and your mixer.

Homemade Almond Butter

Here are five other healthy, delicious bites you can make with any nut butter. Get nutty!

1. Elvis Sandwich (without the bacon) – Almond Butter, sliced banana and drizzle of honey. Best in a Panini, but can also toast in a fry pan like a grilled cheese or eat cold on a rice cake.

2. Asian Slaw (use almond or peanut)

Asian Slaw

Asian Slaw with Baked Tofu

3. Rice Crispy Treats

4. Ants on a log (celery stalks filled with almond butter, topped with raisins)

5. Cold Soba Noodles with Ginger Peanut Sauce

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