Summer is finally winding down. I’m watching the weather like a hawk, hoping through sheer will that the 80 and 90 degree weather will be behind me very soon. Actually, I’m pretty sure I jinxed myself last week. I posted a screen shot on Facebook of the gorgeous 70ish forecast for the week, knowing damn well that I was rubbing it in my Austin friend’s faces. And what happens? In the 90s the week after! That’s what I get.
So, the fan is still blowing and the oven remains vacant. No soups, no lattes, no roasts. Simple and fresh. Copious amounts of berries and peaches are still being stuffed in my face. I’m not complaining…yet.
For the past couple months I’ve been making this curry chicken salad every week and keeping it in the fridge for lunches. It’s so good. For real. Lean chicken, lentils, curry powder, Greek yogurt, coconut milk, cilantro, toasted almonds…I mean, seriously, what’s not to love? Unless you’re one of those people who think that cilantro tastes like soap. That’s a thing, I hear. In this case, just leave it out.
Coconut Curry Chicken Salad
• 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced (I use this method)
• 1/3 cup cooked lentils (I use this method, but cooked in chicken or veg broth)
• 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (I use 2%)
• 1/4 cup coconut milk, full fat
• 1 tbsp curry powder
• Juice of 1/2 a lime
• 1/4 cup toasted almonds (I use this method)
• 5 green onions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only
• 2 tbsp cilantro, minced
In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt, coconut milk, curry, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss. Check for seasoning.
In the same vein as “put a bird on it” or “put an egg on it,” I propose a new idiom: “put some almonds on it!” All three of these I’ve used as life mottos at some point in time. Before Portlandia made “put a bird on it” a common phrase, I went through a phase circa 2007 in which I bought a bird stencil and preceded to paint birds on everything from my bathroom walls to our coffee table to notebooks. It was a problem. I still feel that putting an egg on most things will make it significantly better, so I’m holding on to that one, but most recently I’ve been making a huge batch of toasted almond slivers and putting them on tons of dishes.
I buy sliced almonds in the bulk section of my grocery store and toasted them in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, watching them like a hawk and flipping them often until they are browned and fragrant. This usually takes 10 minutes or so. You can toast them in the oven as well – 350° for 10-15 minutes, stirring them around halfway through. These puppies can burn very easily, hence watching them diligently.
Toasted almonds are not only healthy and delicious, but they add crunch where needed. My favorite ways to use them are on top of salads, as a crust for salmon (crumbled toasted almonds, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, garlic, dill, s&p), or in a curry chicken salad I’ve been making lately (recipe to come soon). They’d go great in a fruit and yogurt bowl for sure. The possibilities are endless, y’all! If you have any other suggestions for how to use toasted almonds, let us know in the comments!
I did this no sugar challenge a couple months ago, and it really opened my eyes to the sheer amount of sugar in just about everything. I had no idea there was that much sugar in bread. I mean seriously, try finding a sugarless bread. It’s pretty hard. There is added sugar is everything: sauces, dressing, yogurt, canned-anything, packaged-everything. Sugar has infiltrated all our food and stuff that is supposed to satiate our sweet tooth, like fruit, isn’t enough. We as a society have become so accustomed to the super sweet that a gorgeous summer peach that is so juicy you have to eat it over the sink isn’t even enough.
Am I going to give up sugar all together? Um, no. The other day I had a Blueberry Bourbon Basil donut at this lovely place here called Blue Star Donuts that was honestly the best donut I have ever had. So good that I feel like my life is infinitesimally better for having eaten it. I’m not going to miss out on these moments, but I am going to be super cognizant of how much I’m eating and be even more vigilant about reading labels. Through all the gobbledygook of information on what’s good/bad for us, I really do believe that the amount of sugar Americans are ingesting is causing obesity and a boatload of health problems.
So instead of buying fruit yogurt at the store which can have up to 33 grams, or over 2 tablespoons of sugar in the little package (um, gross), buy some plain greek yogurt (I like Whole Foods organic brand), dump 1/2 a pint of fresh raspberries in a bowl with a cup of said yogurt and mix it all up while pressing the raspberries against the side of the bowl to mash them up. Top with 1/2 tablespoon of local honey to sweeten it. Way more tasty and a million times better for you.
The best thing about being unemployed, other than rereading the entire Harry Potter series and hangin’ out with this goofball all day…
…is getting to cook. A lot. I lazily plan the day’s meals, thinking up weird combinations and what dishes would make a good lunch for Derek the next day. This sort of unstructured existence will be short lived, so I better enjoy it while I can. If I was only independently wealthy! [crosses fingers/prays to the big man upstairs]
This particular dish takes a whole lotta making components in different ways and dirtying a lot of pots and pans, which really isn’t my bag, but like I said, I got all day. I made huge portions of the sweet potatoes and the quinoa to keep in the fridge and add to other stuff during the week, although half the sweet potatoes went straight into my mouth via my fingers and right out of the baking pan. Zero self control. This meal would be great for Meatless Monday and a veggie would be a great addition as well. Maybe roasted broccoli. Will definitely try that next time.
Arugula Pesto Quinoa Salad with Paprika Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Black Beans, and Goat Cheese Crumbles
For the Arugula Pesto
• 2 cups packed arugula
• 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
• 1 tbsp lemon zest
• 2 cloves garlic, diced
• 1 cup olive oil
• s&p to taste
For the Quinoa
• 1.5 cups pre-washed quinoa
• 1.5 cups water or broth
For the Roasted Sweet Potatoes
• 2 organic sweet potatoes
• 2.5 tbsp olive oil
• 2 tsp paprika
• 2 tsp kosher salt
• 2 tsp pepper
For the rest
• 15oz can or box of black beans, rinsed
• .5 cup goat cheese crumbles
• s&p to taste
For the Arugula Pesto- add all ingredients minus the oil to a food processor and pulse until blended. Slowly pour in the oil with the motor running to emulsify. Check for seasoning. Reserve a 1/4 cup for recipe.
For the Quinoa (adapted from here)- Toast quinoa in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until quinoa is very fragrant and makes continuous popping sound, 5 to 7 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, stir in water and quinoa, and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until grains are just tender and liquid is absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Remove pan from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff quinoa with fork. Set aside. Reserve 1 cup cooked quinoa for recipe.
For Paprika Roasted Sweet Potatoes (adapted from here)- Scrub and rinse the sweet potatoes, and dry with a paper towel. Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the potato into one-inch cubes, trying to make the cubes similar in size, as best you can. Put all the cubes into a big bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the sweet potatoes. Add the salt, black pepper, and paprika. Stir to coat. Make sure all the potatoes get coated – if necessary, add a little extra olive oil. Turn out the sweet potato pieces onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for about 40-50 minutes, flipping with a spatula after 30 minutes, until the edges should be golden brown and the interior is soft and buttery. Cooking time varies from oven to oven to check often. Set aside and let cool. Reserve 1-1.5 cups roasted sweet potatoes for recipe.
Putting it all together- Mix 1/4 cup of Arugula Pesto into 1 cup of cooked quinoa in a big mixing bowl while the quinoa is still a little warm. Add the sweet potatoes, beans, and goat cheese. Season to taste. Eat at room temp!
Hailing from the pages of BON APPETIT comes my go-to tomato sauce for all occasions. Before I was using this one which needed 3+ hours of cooking time and required the crushing of tomatoes with bare hands, but let’s face it, I’m no Italian grandmother from the old country. The simpler the better. Because I’m lazy.
Nothing but good things go into this sauce: crushed tomatoes, silky butter, briny anchovies, mountains of garlic, a touch of heat. DO NOT be scared by the anchovies! This sauce is in no way fishy. Cooked down anchovies are a staple in Italian sauces as the give a rich, nutty flavor that is to die for. I see you scoffing, but trust me on this one. All this yumminess gets thrown into a super hot oven and 30-40 minutes later the tomatoes get roasted down into this jammy, incredibly intense tomato sauce that goes well on anything. No messy fingers required.
**Note: go with the best ingredients for this sauce since there are not that many to begin with. Buy San Marzanos or an equally high quality product from Italy, Plugra butter, and good anchovies.
• 1 28oz can or carton of crushed tomatoes
• 3 tbsp good quality unsalted butter, separated
• 2 anchovies packed in oil
• 6 cloves of garlic, minced or sliced
• 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
• s&p to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a 12×9 (or similar) baking dish, add the tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, and stir to incorporate. Dot with butter and give it a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes until jammy. Check for seasoning.
If you are making this with pasta, cook 8oz of your favorite pasta in a large pot of very salty boiling water until just al dente. Drain, but reserve a 1/4 cup of pasta liquid. Once sauce is done, return pasta to the pot you cooked it in and add the pasta liquid, 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan, and sauce and cook over medium high heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. It’s important to stir constantly as this will bind the sauce to the pasta and let it finish cooking.
So, this one time I moved to New Orleans for exactly one month. The city, every bit as colorful as the houses that line the streets, was not exactly welcoming, but we were hopeful despite its flaws. There were flies. Lots of them. And the air was thick as gumbo. And I think there might have been a stabbing down the street from our house the day we left. But when you looked past the crumbling streets and despair, man, it was beautiful. It’s overflowing with music and food and life. You can feel the history seeping from the ground, whispering its secrets. New Orleans is alive. It breathes. And everyone living there are her children.
There were signs that it wasn’t meant to be, if you believe such things. Everything that could go wrong did. Moving there was postponed twice. There was a terrible accident on the freeway on our way there and we were stranded on a bridge for 4 hours. Though our home was gorgeous, there were little things that kept happening that put a damper on the day. Our poor Ghostface had uncontrollable allergies. And then, my job situation fell apart as jobs sometimes do.
When it all went to hell there was a convenient way out, and we decided to, literally, sell almost everything we owned and move across the country to the Pacific Northwest. It was crazy. It was a whirlwind of excitement and fear and stress. There were so many unknowns, and there still are, but Portland feels like home. Truly. We adore it here.
Ghostface likes it too. He gets 2 (!) walks a day! In the summer! In Austin it was so hot that even walks at night had him panting like mad. Although last week was pretty hot, in the 90s, the rest of the time it’s been just gorgeous. The high on Sunday is 74. Ugh, I’m in heaven.
Needless to say, I didn’t cook much in the last 3 months. Moving twice in 2 months will do that. But I finally got back to it a couple weeks ago and my body is relieved. New Orleans has 2 kinds of food: fried or drowning in butter. Though my mouth was happy, my body was in a state. And they had very little healthy options. Portland is the opposite of that. Though it may lack a little of the soul NOLA food has, it makes up for it in freshness and quality ingredients. I think I’ve already lost like 5 pounds.
I love bagel and lox. It’s one of my favorite things. But it’s not exactly something you should eat all the time. I haven’t found a great bagel place in Portland yet, so I had to make my own version of the classic. I also healthified it a bit by subbing a sugarless, whole grain bread for the bagel and cutting down on the cheese. Also, smashing everything together not only melds the flavors nicely, but it keeps everything in place. Smoked salmon does have a ton of sodium, so if you’re watching out for that, take note. Otherwise you have a healthy lunch full of protein, good carbs, omega-3s, and vitamins. Pair it with a salad and check off the veggie category too!
• 1 tbsp minced red onion (scallions or chives would work too)
• about 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
• 1/2 tbsp capers, minced
• 2 slices of smoked salmon, chopped
• 2-3 tbsp goat cheese crumbles (or whipped cream cheese)
• squeeze of lemon juice
• crack of pepper
• 1 slice of whole grain bread, toasted
• good olive oil (optional)
Put all the ingredients except the bread and oil into a bowl and smash together with a fork until well incorporated. Top toasted bread with the lox smash and drizzle with some good olive oil.
Soup! Glorious soup! Though the weather is changing its mind faster than a fickle teenager (it was in the low 60s on Thursday and the high 80s yesterday), I’ve managed to whip up some steaming bowls of veggie goodness during some of the colder nights. My love of this meager staple should be of no surprise to you all, so I vow to limit my soup posts to those with some pizazz. And this is it.
Coming from Molly Wizenberg’s spectacular blog Orangette, this recipe, like most I like to post, is gloriously simple yet totally delicious. Rich, silky, slightly spicy, and full of flavor. This is absolutely our new go-to squash soup!
Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk (slightly adapted from Orangette)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 or 4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha
Lime wedges, for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Spray or lightly coat the flesh with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and put flesh side down on baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour or until soft. Let cool slightly and scoop out cooked flesh.
Warm the oil in a Dutch oven (or other approximately 5-quart pot) over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the roasted squash, coconut milk, broth, maple syrup, fish sauce, and Sriracha, and stir well. Raise the heat to bring to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the flavors meld.
Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), puree the soup until smooth and velvety, about 3 minutes straight. Taste for salt and sweetness, and adjust if necessary. Ladle the soup into bowls with a squeeze of lime and serve hot.
We all know how healthy tuna is. We also know how healthy avocado is…
That reminds me of this time I had a huge crush on this guy. He was very tall, very handsome, and in very good shape. He also became semi-famous about 5 years after this story, but that is neither here nor there. So, after a couple initial awkward flirtations, I decide this one night I was sure to see him that I was really going to put on the charm and get him to ask me out. I’m all smiles and he’s all swagger.
Hot guy I used to know: “So, what did you do tonight?”
Me, trying to be cool: “Just had dinner with a friend.”
Hot guy wanting further information: “What did you have?”
Me, excited he’s interested in something food related: “I had their roasted chicken and avocado burrito.”
Hot guy surprisingly declares: “Oh, I don’t eat avocado.”
Me, astonished: “Uh, why? It’s so healthy and delicious!”
Hot guy getting less hot by the minute: “It’s too fattening.”
Me, completely turned off: “Um, ok.”
I kid you not, I decided in that moment that this little crush I had was over. I don’t even know if he was really interested, but any guy that is so obviously neurotic and vain that he doesn’t even eat healthy fats like avo, is not the guy for me.
Prior to my current love, who is gloriously open to most food and thinks anything I cook is good even if I think it’s terrible, I was plagued with boyfriends that were unadventurous eaters. One guy literally wanted to sit further away from me because he was so grossed out that I was consuming sushi. That one didn’t last long either.
Good food is one of the great pleasures in life, and what a sad existence it would be to purposefully limit and deny yourself all the amazing food in the world.
Okay. Back to this yummy tuna salad. Tuna salad has been done. Overdone. Most of the time is a slimy mess of thick mayonnaise, under-seasoned and underwhelming. Not to mention that drowning tuna in mayo kinda negates the health factor. This recipe is none of these things. Substituting most of the mayo with avocado gives it creaminess without the saturated fat. And then you make it even healthier with a whole zucchini grated in there. Zucchini has such a mild flavor and great crunch when raw, so it’s perfect to add here. Really gives it needed texture.
Scoop all the goodness out of a whole avocado, add a tablespoon of mayo, then salt and pepper it.
My love for pasta can only be accurately described by the following Portlandia skit.
If left to my own devices, I would go the way of Peter – watching pasta porn and hiding zip-locked noodles in the cistern. To me, little comforts my belly as much as a large bowl of starchy pasta goodness.
This recipe. THIS RECIPE! If you are a food blog junkie, you’ve undoubtedly already seen it. But if you haven’t, you, my dear, are in for a treat. It is genius. It will leave you thinking, “why haven’t I always made pasta this way?” One pan, under 20 minutes, cooks the pasta and makes a light and flavorful sauce at the same time. Genius, I say! And I bet it’s highly adaptable. Add some heavy cream, pesto, pureed eggplant… so many options. But the real beauty of this dish is in its simplicity.
Go forth and cook some pasta I tell you!
One Pan Pasta (from Lottie+Doof)
12 ounces linguine
12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
1 onion, thinly sliced (red, yellow, or white)
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2- 3/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 cups water
Freshly grated parm or romano for serving (if you wish)
A couple notes: Do not skimp on the salt! It will flavor the the pasta and the sauce. Also, use a large, deep, and straight-sided skillet. The pasta should lay flat in it.
Combine all ingredients in skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes. Remove whole sprigs of basil. Plate and top with fresh basil and cheese.
Serves 4 (or 1, depending on your level of pasta addiction)
There are a lot of Gwyneth haters out there. Seriously, people were losing their damn minds when she was featured on the cover of Bon Appetit. But honestly, every single recipe of hers that I’ve made has been simple and delicious. Now, does that grant a cover on that beloved food magazine? I don’t know. What I do know is that I will make a Gwyneth recipe before a Rachael Ray recipe any day. This particular gem is crazy easy and crazy good. Spicy sriracha, lots of lime, and freshly chopped cilantro – need I say more?!
To accompany said salmon, I made Paul Qui’s coconut milk stir fried spinach. Another keeper and a cinch to make. He uses classic Asian flavors to make ordinary sautéed spinach extraordinary. I baked my shallots until they were crunchy (ahem, slightly burnt), but you can find fried onions at the Asian supermarket easily.
These two dishes – created by two famous people, one who kicked some serious ass in Iron Man 3 and the other an Austin icon – come together for a healthy and delicious dinner done in under 30 minutes. Get to it!
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sriracha Lime Salmon (slightly modified from here)
juice and zest of 1/2 a lime
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp sriracha
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
3/4 lb salmon fillet, skin removed
Heat oven to 425°. In a bowl, whisk together juice, zest, syrup, sriracha, and a little salt. Place salmon in a foil-lined baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and pour sriracha lime sauce over top. Roast salmon until cooked through and flaky, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serves 2.
Paul Qui’s Asian Stir-fried Spinach (slightly modified from here)
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces baby spinach (I used a baby spinach, baby kale mix)
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
fried Thai onions or baked shallots
In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the spinach all at once and toss until nearly wilted. Add the coconut milk and fish sauce and cook until the spinach is tender and the coconut milk has reduced, about 3 minutes. Top with fried onions and serve.