Sunday, September 23, 2012

Vegan Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili

When pumpkins go on sale, I go a little crazy. You see, I can't buy just one. My head filled with the dreams of muffins, cakes, pies, enchiladas, soups, stews, curries...I just can't help but load the cart full of at least 4 or 5 sugar pumpkins. Some of it will end up in recipes right away, and some of it will end up in the freezer, but the first step is to roast the pumpkin.

First cut the stem off. This will allow you to slice the pumpkin in half much easier and without so much risk to life and limb. Pull the top off and set aside.

Then, using a large, sharp knife, cut down one side until you reach the bottom. It will probably not want to cut through the base, don't worry about that. Cut along the other side until you meet resistance.
Then, using your hands, pull the two sides apart. They should break right through that tricky bottom that wouldn't cut.
Scoop the seeds out and set aside for roasting later. (I am actually mildly allergic to pumpkin, when I touch the inside it makes my skin itchy and red, so Jordan is here to the rescue!)

 Place on an oiled cookie sheet, face down, and cook for 40-60 minutes, or until soft. Let cool.

  Scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin, discarding the skin. From here you can puree it to be used in your recipe of choice.

For the soup, you will need:

2 cups of cooked black beans
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
about 1/2 Tbsp of cumin
1 Tbsp of chili powder (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
about 3 cups of broth
half of one roasted sugar pie pumpkin

In a large stockpot, heat a few tablespoons of oil. Over medium/high heat saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add in the spices and cook, stirring, another minute or so, until fragrant.  Stir in the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a blender, combine your cooked pumpkin flesh and the broth. Puree until smooth. Stir into the chili and simmer for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the spices as necessary. Serve hot.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Coconut Oil and Parsley

I've been hearing  a lot about coconut oil lately; its benefits for hair and skin, and for cooking. I love all things coconut (not that yucky imitation coconut flavor, but the real stuff). So I picked up a bottle this afternoon at my local market. I also picked up the first of autumn's pumpkin and squash bounty. You know it was only a matter of time before I put these two together, right?

But shortly afterwards, I was warned off of using it from my friend who used to live in Indonesia. I guess when coconut oil became a big fad, Indonesians began to cut down jungle to grow coconut trees, encroaching into Orangutan native habitat. Thankfully, I checked my bottle, and it seems mine came from the Phillipines. So dinner was on after all!

Spaghetti squash is so fun. I never get over the fact that it actually turns into little noodles when you dig into it. If I could, I would seriously consider replacing ALL of my pasta with this neat little vegetable.  Plus, the flavor of the coconut was so delicious, it really comes through as it cooks, without being sweet or overpowering.

1 medium spaghetti squash
4 tbsp coconut oil
3 cloves of galic, minced
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Slice your spaghetti squash in half (this requires muscles and a very sharp knife!) then clean out the seeds. Place face down on a greased cookie sheet and cook at 375 for about 40 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat coconut oil, garlic and ginger in a pan until fragrant. Remove from heat.

Using a fork, scrape the squash out and watch as it magically turns into noodles!!

Place your squash noodles into a large bowl, salt and pepper to taste, and pour the coconut oil/garlic mixture on top. Stir to coat. Top with parsely.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Orecchiete with Baby Broccoli and Lemon Garlic Sauce

Orecchiete is also known as "ear shaped" pasta, though my kids call them "suction cups" because of the way they stick to the bowl (isn't that the best thing you've ever heard?? Kids are so amazing, they really see things with new eyes).

This dish is so light and fragrant, with lemon, herbs, and tender baby broccoli. We served it up with a platter of crudite (or fresh, raw vegetables) for a healthy, satisfying dinner.

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup of vegetable broth
4 tsp. Italian seasoning
3 cloves of garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch of baby broccoli, roughly chopped
1 box of Orecchiete, or other small pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and the butter in a large skillet. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Next mix in the Italian seasoning, cook 1-2 minutes. Pour in the broth, lemon zest, and broccoli. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 5 or 6 minutes, until it simmers and the flavors begin to mix.

Ladle the hot pasta into bowls and top with the broccoli and sauce. Garnish with lemon wedges and hot pepper flakes and perhaps a bit of Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

Vietnamese Style Noodle Stir Fry

What an eventful week this was. First, I had my initial meeting with the University of San Francisco on the study I'm involved in, testing how yoga can improve female pelvic health. It's really exciting to be a part of this work and I am so grateful that my mentor Leslie Howard has brought me in to teach the study group. But driving from Monterey to San Francisco is a 2+ hour drive, (each way!)enough time to get bored with both NPR and music.  I'm thinking I need to invest in some books on tape. Got any good ideas?

Second this week, my eldest son got his report card and not liking what he saw, he threw it in the garbage. I am so disappointed. Not especially with the grades, but with his behavior. So we're spending a lot of time talking about satya and the way that being honest creates better relationships and better lives. It can be difficult to face the truth, but it is always a better choice than lying. I have seen this to be true in my own life, through all kinds of situations, and honestly believe that it is always worse when you lie.

 Part of the hard part as a parent (or a spouse, etc) is that you have to create a kind of trust when it comes to truth, an expectation that though you might be disappointed, the value in being told the truth is enough that you will be a reasonable person upon hearing it. Does that make sense? So I always tell my kids what my mama told me, "if you tell the truth, it might be bad. But if you get caught lying (and you will, eventually, be caught) it is going to be much, much worse."

Lastly this week, and most exciting, my husband finally broke ground in the backyard and started the long task of building my own little yoga shala. I am so, so, SO over-the-moon excited! A nice little place for myself, maybe some private lessons, which will double as a guest house for the many yogis and midwives that we have stay with us. (We seem to attract wandering vagabonds and adventure seekers, and love it).

This week's most popular dinner was Vietnamese style noodle stir fry. I don't actually know if this would be considered "Vietnamese" but it was the best approximation of a dish I order at our local Vietnamese restaurant.

I don't usually "shop" for stir fry ingredients,  opting instead for what's on hand, but I did go searching for some good noodles for this dish. I ended up choosing Chuka Soba noodles, and they were a big, big hit with the family.

1 package Chuka Soba noodles
1 package of extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 each red and orange bell pepper, chopped
Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
lime juice
5 tbsp unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1 cup of napa cabbage, chopped roughly

Heat oil in a large wok and saute the tofu until browned. Add in the garlic and the ginger. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add in the bell pepper and peas. Cook another few minutes, until the bell pepper is just beginning to soften. Add in the soy sauce, lime juice and peanuts. Stir and cook until combined..

To cook the noodles, you simply boil them for three minutes then drain.

Serve the stir fry over the noodles, top with fresh napa cabbage and extra lime wedges for garnish.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How to Freeze Avocados

I am addicted to avocados. They are loaded in heart-healthy fats that help to lower cholesterol. They also boast loads of potassium (also heart healthy) high amounts of vitamin B, C, E, K, which are good for the blood (and again, the heart) and for immunity and they are packed with fiber and antioxidants, while being very low in yucky (unhealthy) saturated fat.

But with prices ranging from $1 to $2 a piece, I haven't splurged on these delicious little beauties in quite a while. This weekend though, they went on sale at our local grocer, 3 for $0.99. That's $0.33 each! So I woke up at the crack of dawn, ready to fight my way through hordes of shoppers for the love of avocados.

Gratefully the supermarket was pretty empty at 8 am on a Saturday, and I was able to get my hands on 18 of them, along with limes and fixin's for tacos later on today.

So what does one do with 18 avocados? Freeze them, of course. I love nothing better than fresh, chunky guacamole, but frozen avocados will do in a pinch, especially if it saves me a few dollars.

To start, cut your avocados in half, de-seed them and empty the flesh into a food processor.

The trick with freezing avocados is that you have to puree them with a bit of lime juice to keep them from turning brown. You'll need 1 tbsp of lime juice per avocado. We juice them the old fashioned way.

It takes two Garretts to juice them!
Puree the lime juice and your avocados until smooth. Then place them in baggies or containers by serving size. Leave room for the puree to expand as it freezes.


Then when ready to use, remove from the freezer and thaw.For a quick guacamole, I mix it up with a tablespoon or so of premade salsa, salt, pepper and cumin powder.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spicy Seasoned Edamame Pods

My kids first tried edamame cooked in the pod at a local sushi restaurant. I could go into how that was our first trip out to dinner after the birth of our third son, how Kelly, at 3 months old was furiously grabbing at everything he could get and screaming the whole time, how Cole was literally licking the window (why, I'm still not sure). I could do that.  But what I prefer to remember was the moment that my husband did the most romantic thing: he asked the waitress to box our food to-go and we ate our dinner at home. Yes, that is romance to a new mom, let me tell you!

I usually make these up in two batches, one for the kids without the spiciness, and the spicy-hot one for us.

I start with organic, pre-cooked, refrigerated edamame pods (only because Costco sells them in a huge container for only $3.00, and with a family of five that is quite the steal) but you can start with fresh or frozen ones too, just steam them up before beginning the first step of this recipe.

toasted sesame oil
about 3 cups of edamame in the pods
spicy sauce of your choice (Sriracha, or Chalula, etc)
red pepper flakes
Braggs Aminos/Soy Sauce or sea salt

Heat a 1 or 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil over medium heat in a skillet.

Add in the edamame and toss to coat, tossing frequently with tongs so they don't scorch.

Once they are heated through (it only takes a couple minutes) stir in a dash or two of red pepper flakes. Then turn off the heat and drizzle with a few teaspoons of spicy sauce of your choice. The pan will still be hot, so toss quickly to coat. Salt to taste.

 The fibrous outer shell is not edible, so use your hands (it's messy, have a napkin!) and pop the shells open and squeeze the seeds directly into your mouth.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Open Faced Avocado Melts

The lady at Trader Joe's who samples cheeses could be my most favoritest person ever. Somehow she not only manages to convince my husband to buy delicious artisan cheeses, but advises him on how to use them. Which makes me about as excited as children on rollerskates.

Take for instance this little beauty, a combination of delicious ingredients, brought to you by none other than my husband, via the sweet little genius at TJ's.

We used a rustic olive baguette and a dijon cheese, but any cheese will work and you can add dijon mustard right on top.


1 baguette, cut into slices
sliced tomato
sliced avocado
cheese of your choice
dijon mustard
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Brush your bread slices with olive oil and vinegar, then top with spinach, tomato and avocado. Top the whole thing off with dijon mustard and finally sliced cheese. Broil until melty and slightly browned on top and eat with a knife and a fork.