Friday, October 28, 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto with Leeks and Sage

I know I just posted a recipe for Spaghetti Squash a couple of weeks back but this risotto turned out so well that I couldn’t resist! Plus this winter vegetable is soooo good for you!

Butternut squash is typically pear-shaped, nude or light peach in color with a smooth texture. The flesh is a vibrant yellow-orange and contains seeds and fibers within the fatter or bulbous portion of the vegetable. It is packed full of anti-oxidants, including Vitamin A which keeps the skin and mucous membrane cells healthy. Vitamin A is also essential for vision and some studies show that Vitamin A can prevent and protect against lung and oral cavity cancer.

In addition to Vitamin A, butternut squash is also rich in fiber, and B Vitamins such as folate, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine. Wait! There’s more! This nutrient-dense veggie also contains an abundance of minerals like iron, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus and is known for lowering cholesterol. Eat up!

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
4 cups of vegetable stock *
1 ½ cups of Arborio rice
1-2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons to EVOO
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage
½ cup Parmesan cheese (substitute nutritional yeast if vegan)
Sea salt
Black pepper

Pour the vegetable stock in a large pot with a cover and bring to a boil. Add the cubed squash, turn down the heat, and let simmer until the squash is tender when poked with a fork. If the squash is tender before adding it to the risotto, remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl for later use.

Meanwhile, add the EVOO to a large bottom pot, deep skillet, or Dutch oven and sauté the leeks over medium heat for approximately five minutes. Next add the Arborio rice and cook for three minutes or until lightly toasted and covered in oil. Add ½ cup of vegetable stock at a time to the pan of rice and continue to stir until stock is absorbed. Continue until the rice is cooked through, al dente, and a creamy consistency (approximately 30 minutes). Turn off the heat and add sea salt and pepper (to your liking). Mix in the squash, sage, and Parmesan cheese. Stir and serve!

* You may not use all of the stock.

Monday, October 24, 2011

National Food Day

What is National Food Day? National Food Day is October 24, 2011 and for all the years to come. It is a day to unite as one, a day to raise awareness for the food that we consume. It is a day that allows us to push for healthy food that is grown and produced in a sustainable and humane manner. Food Day seeks to bring all people together: farmers, chefs, teachers, nutritionists, foodies, students, etc. to fight for a cause.

We are what we eat.

Each and every day we are given the freedom and power to choose what we eat. We decide what we put into our bodies. Our decisions directly impact the way that we feel. Do you feel tired and depleted of energy? Do you have trouble digesting the food that you eat? Do you suffer from the after-lunch food coma? Do you bruise easily? Do you suffer from headaches or migraines? These complaints can all be linked to the nutrients that you may or may not be getting from the food that you choose to consume. I challenge you to be mindful of what you are consuming. Does your diet consist of caffeine, sugar, white enriched flour, processed foods, etc.? Welcome to America. These are the things that are made accessible to us every single day. What about kale, sea vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, avocado, blueberries, mango? I would bet that these items are more difficult to find and may cost you more money than the bag of chips you buy during your lunch break. This is the problem and this is why National Food Day is so important. The bunch of kale is more expensive than the chips. The only way to make healthy food more affordable and accessible to all Americans is to make healthy, natural, organic food a priority in our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I choose organic, pesticide free. I choose apples, greens, and tomatoes that may have a few blemishes but they are pure. I choose eggs that come from chickens that get to click-cluck around large open areas. I choose fish that are wild and swim freely. I choose animals that are grass fed, free to roam, and not injected with hormones. There is a reason children develop earlier folks – added hormones! Food Day is not just about us as humans, but about the way we treat the animals we plan to eat, and the environment.

Local Food Day events are planned throughout the country this week. Please visit Food Day to find an event in your area. And last, but not least, I ask that you please be aware of how you feel, what you purchase, and what you choose to put into your body. Celebrate food!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Smashed Applesauce

It has been unseasonably cool and cloudy here in San Diego this fall...or at least at the beach. One crazy thing about living at the coast is that if you drive five miles inland you can usually find bright rays and warmer temps. I honestly think that you can experience at least three different seasons in San Diego County in ONE day. Snow in the local mountains; thick marine blankets that cover the coast and sunny warm temps inland! Crazy! Enough of my rambling lets move on to the point of this post – food!

The fruit drawer in my refrigerator is overflowing with locally grown organic apples. Time to do something with them! Cool and cloudy = warm and saucy!

Now, you’ll notice that I specifically mention the use of “organic” apples. Apples top the chart of the Dirty Dozen, a list of 12 foods to eat organic due to the large amount of chemicals and pesticides used to grow the crops. More than 40 different pesticides have been found on apples, which of course mean these pesticides have also been detected in store purchased applesauce and juice. Buy organic if you can and also check out the Dirty Dozen to see what other foods you should buy organic.

If you do use organic apples choose whether to leave or remove the peel – your preference. Please note the peel does contain almost half of the nutrients found in an apple. Apple peels contain: vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, folate, iron, soluble and insoluble fiber, and antioxidants. If you cannot find organic apples or choose not to use them, then I suggest removing the apple peel. Unfortunately I have sensitivities to apple peels from time to time so you’ll see that I did remove the peel.

Now on to the good stuff! Only four ingredients needed until you can devour this delicious smashed applesauce!

6 large organic apples, peeled, cored and cubed (I chose Honeycrisp!)
1/2 cup of water (add more as needed)
3-4 cinnamon sticks (I really like cinnamon so I added extra cinnamon)
1/4 cup brown rice syrup or honey (more/less – your preference)

Add water, apples, and cinnamon sticks to the pot. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until the apples are soft enough to (s)mash. If too much liquid remains in the pot, drain until desired consistency. (S)mash your apples and add in the natural sweeter and extra cinnamon if you’d like. I used a potato masher and it worked perfectly. If you like your sauce smoother and less chunky I suggest that you run the mixture through a food processor for a few seconds.

Enjoy applesauce as is or add some fresh granola for a healthy version of apple crisp! My fresh, homemade granola recipe will be coming soon!

*Recipe makes two medium mason jars of applesauce.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Falling for Squash

Fall is by far my favorite season. I grew up in Wisconsin where the seasons are drastically different. Winter is extremely long – actually too long. The first snowfall is quiet, peaceful, and beautiful. Of course, then there are frosty windows, huge snow banks, and bone-chilling temperatures. Excitement fills the air as spring approaches because the season brings green grass, fresh flowers, and rain showers. Summer means thick, hot air, longer days, thunderstorms and lakes that reflect the shades of green on the trees. Then there is fall. The most beautiful season of them all!

The sky is painted the most perfect shade of blue. The temperature gradually falls and there is a crisp bite to the air. The leaves on the trees change to beautiful, robust shades of red, orange, yellow, and gold. Now that I live in San Diego, the city of sunshine, these seasonal changes are not quite as obvious. I have to be more mindful, and observant to notice the subtle differences in the air, the flowers, and the temperature. Then I notice…fresh apples, pumpkins, squash and root vegetables that fill the stands at the farmers market and the baskets at our local food coop. I LOVE fall!

Our bodies naturally begin to request rich, warm, comforting autumn flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cumin. We give in and create some fabulous, healthy, comforting foods. Enjoy this dish that contains roasted spaghetti squash, brussel sprouts, and sweet apple chicken sausage with delightful flavors of cinnamon, maple, and cumin. When I cook I typically don’t measure anything! This is all a little new to me. With that said, please use your judgment and add more or less of any ingredient listed J

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 lb. of chicken sausage (any flavor you’d like or try soy-chorizo or tofu as vegetarian options)
2 cups of quartered brussel-sprouts
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
2 teaspoons of EVOO
2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Cut the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and stringy squash bits. Drizzle the cut side with ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon cinnamon per side. Place the squash, cut side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until squash is tender when poked with a fork.

While the squash is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet. Add the brussel sprouts and chicken sausage to the skillet and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes over medium heat.

Whisk together the maple syrup, extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of sea salt.

When the squash is tender, remove from the oven and let it cool slightly.  Use a fork to shred the inside of the squash so that it resembles spaghetti. There truly isn’t an art to this, the squash will shred into noodle-shaped pieces automatically. Place a heaping amount of spaghetti squash onto each plate. Add a large spoonful of the brussel sprout/chicken sausage mixture and drizzle with the maple syrup sauce/dressing. You’re ready to eat!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Raw Kale & Corn Salsa Salad

Have you ever noticed that produce looks so much better at the Farmer’s Market? It is fresh, colorful, crisp, and displayed beautifully! The sun hits the eggplant and heirloom tomatoes in a way that makes them look like candy.  The beauty of fresh fruits and vegetables can overwhelm me when I visit the Farmer’s Market. I just want all of it and sometimes don’t know when enough is enough. I usually navigate my way through the stands without a plan.  I choose what looks best on that particular day and then start mixing and matching textures and flavors once I get home.

This week, I made my regular trip to the Farmer’s Market and filled my basket with fresh greens, beets, sugar snap peas, various herbs, carrots, squash, and pumpkin. Just when I thought I was finished, a local farmer twisted my arm into buying three ears of his beautiful sweet corn. I was overjoyed by my beautiful basket of fresh, locally grown produce. I quickly headed home to indulge in my natural goodies.

Sweet corn. You can grill it, roast it, steam it, bake it, and boil it. You can eat it with your fingers, use cute little cob holders, or cut it off the cob. Eat it plain, season it with cumin, add ghee and sea salt, or in this case make a raw corn salsa! Try this delicious corn salsa on top of a bed of raw kale for a healthy and nutrient packed salad. I also whipped up a chili-lime vinaigrette to dress it up.

Now, you might be thinking that Kale is bitter and tough. If you don’t remove the thick rib or spine down the center of the leaf then you are absolutely right! You also may not realize that if you massage the raw kale with a drizzle of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), apple cider vinegar (or your favorite vinegar), and some sea salt that the fibers start to break down and the kale will soften. If you plan to eat any dark, leafy green vegetable I highly suggest kale! Kale is a powerhouse! Packed with Vitamin K, essential for our body’s inflammation process, loaded with at least 45 antioxidant flavonoids, and its glucosinolates provide cancer-preventative benefits. If you’re not already eating kale, I suggest that you add this amazing vegetable to your diet!

Salad Ingredients:
1 bunch of raw kale, stems removed and leaves finely julienned
2-3 ears of sweet corn, corn kernels removed from cob
1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
2 heirloom tomatoes, diced or chopped
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

In a large bowl toss the julienned kale with the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and sea salt. Massage the mixture for two minutes or until the leaves begin to appear wilted. Let this rest for approximately 20-30 minutes to allow the kale to continue softening.

In the meanwhile, mix together the vinaigrette.

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons for extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of raw honey
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder

Whisk all dressing ingredients together and combine with the corn, tomatoes, and peppers. Pour the mixture over the kale and it’s ready to serve.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oatmeal Carrot Coconut Cookies

I don't know about you, but I LOVE dessert! I love dessert so much that I will stop eating dinner to ensure that I have room for dessert. My boyfriend tells me that I have a second stomach for sweets...I don't disagree.

As a student, studying holistic health and nutrition, I am well aware that my sugar intake is slightly high. I have been focused on limiting my sugar intake, reducing my intake of refined sugars (e.g. table sugar and high fructose corn syrup) and using natural sweeteners instead (e.g. raw honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, stevia).

Natural sweeteners can be equally delicious in baked goods but there are a few things to consider when using natural sweeteners as sugar alternatives. Both honey and maple syrup are naturally sweeter than white table sugar; therefore, you will need to scale down the volume of these sweeteners. For example, replace one cup of white sugar with ½ or ¾ cup of raw honey (adjust to your liking). Because you are adding liquid volume to the recipe you need to reduce another liquid by ¼ cup. If there is not another liquid in the recipe you can add three tablespoons of flour to thicken the mixture. This is something I wish I would have known months ago!

This cookie recipe came to life after being inspired by two different food blogs: 101 Cookbooks and My New Roots. I modified Heidi Swanson’s Oatmeal Carrot Cookie recipe and added a variation of Sarah Britton’s Coconut Vanilla Icing. These healthy and delicious cookies are dairy-free, sugar-free, and made with whole-wheat flour…and vegetables! Oh yeah, and I promise that they will knock your socks off!

Oatmeal Carrot Coconut Cookie Ingredients:

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup rolled oats (not quick/instant oats)
2/3 cup chopped/crushed walnuts
1 cup shredded or grated carrots
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup real maple syrup at room temperature
1/2 cup coconut oil (warmed until just melted)
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Either use a baking stone or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder, sea salt, coconut and oats in a large mixing bowl. Next add the shredded carrots and nuts. In a smaller bowl, mix the maple syrup, coconut oil, and ginger. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Left: dry ingredients; Right: dry + wet ingredients
Place the dough on the stone or baking sheet one tablespoon at a time. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges should be golden brown. Let cool before adding the icing.

* This recipe makes approximately two-dozen cookies.

Prepare the icing while you wait for the cookies to cool.

Coconut Vanilla Icing Ingredients:

1 can of Original Coconut Milk 
1/4 cup of creamed honey
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Place the can of coconut milk in the fridge at least two hours before you make the icing. This will allow the cream-like layer to thicken at the top. Scoop the thick coconut cream into a mixing bowl and save the coconut water for another use. Add the whipped honey and vanilla and beat with a mixer until smooth. Place the icing in the refrigerator to set.

Cookie Assembly

Place a dollop of the icing on each cookie. Feel free to sprinkle with coconut flakes and place a walnut on top for an added treat. Adorable and delicious!!!
We may have tasted a few :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

DIY Almond Milk

In the world of nutrition there is the ultimate dairy debate. The truth is that many children and adults have sensitivities or allergies to lactose, a disaccharide sugar most-commonly found in milk and other dairy products. While there are numerous non-dairy alternatives on the market, my favorite is Almond Milk!

Almond Milk is delicious when added to oatmeal, smoothies, healthy baked-goods, or on its own. The question is, "Why buy almond milk when you can easily make it at home?"

What you'll need:

1 cup raw almonds (cashews, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, etc.)

Nut-milk bag (cheesecloth or paint-straining cloth will work fine as well)
Large bowl
Pitcher or glass milk jar

*Add vanilla and 2-3 dates if you prefer your almond milk on the sweet side

Soak the almonds (or any other nut you choose) in water overnight for approximately 8-10 hours. Strain and rinse the almonds. Place the almonds in the blender and add three cups of water. Blend on high until almost smooth. 

Stretch your nut-milk bag (or cheesecloth) over the top of your pitcher and strain the almond mixture. Squeeze the almond pulp to get every last bit of milk extracted. Transfer the almond milk to a sealable glass jar or container. 

Fresh, homemade almond milk will keep in your refrigerator for three to four days.