I don’t know when it happened, but ever since Autumn began I have had an obsession with chili. I started ordering it from Curly’s Lunch, and became shamelessly addicted to the very cheap and hearty meal. Feeling intimidated to re-create one of my favorite cold weather meals, I knew I had to throw in some special flavors. The white corn kernels, as time consuming as they are, and the nutmeg make this stew really special. In the winter months, like most, I crave warm, filling one-pot meals that I can make on a Sunday and eat throughout the week. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how long this batch will last!
I am not one to use canned beans or vegetables. I most always cook with fresh seasonal produce. But sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do and use what you got. Like when you are stuck inside cause there is a snow storm and you forgot to go to the market so you got slim pickin’s to work with to make dinner. I open the pantry and my eyes fall upon a can of fire-roasted organic tomatoes. Hmmmmm…my mind is a flutter… I’m gonna make us some soup and a loaf of six-seed spelt bread.
My CSA keeps getting better and better. A few weeks ago, we have received watermelon, several types of fresh herbs and bountiful amounts of different greens. No offense, but I was getting so sick of summer squash and cucumbers. I finally got over my summer squash boredom, but there is only so much I can take!
As I mentioned, we finally started getting some sassy greens in the mix. This week I got arugula, spicy greens mix and mesclun greens. They are currently taking over my refrigerator. I love nothing more than feeling like I’m drowning in a fridge full of produce, let me tell you. I am the worst food shopper ever, and by that I mean I never ever get necessities. I am always browsing my local store, and farmer’s markets just to find anything fun and inspiring to cook with. Therefore, I always have too much food on hand. It is literally a race to finish it all.
Today we are going to make, Brown Rice Cakes with Calimyrna Figs, Arugula And A Thyme-Infused Balsamic Reduction. Now doesn’t that sound good?
I mentioned before that I have a hard time eating figs. It isn’t that I dislike them, I just find I’m always eating them plain. I also always tend to eat them with sweet things (like tarts) , and this time I decided to do something a little more savory.
The pumpkin pictured below, Is that not the purtiest, most perfect pumpkin you’ve ever laid your eyes on?! Now I’m not normally one to brag, but I growed that big beauty up there and man, I am proud! It’s my first successful squash, my garden’s inaugural gourd. The primary pumpkin! And apparently when I get excited, I alliterate!
I was so enamored of this precious pumpkin. I knew I had to do it justice, to create something really special. Lucky for me, a pumpkin goes a long way! I spent the whole weekend carving, chopping, blending, juicing, and otherwise altering the darling orb into all manner of delightful delicacies. But first things first, the prep work:
The heavy melon was washed and halved, the innards removed. The seeds were cleaned and set aside for roasty toasty. From there, it’s a blank canvas . . .
T’was a yummy morning. T’was. The dawn a breakin’, the bird’s a flyin’, the dog a wagin’, the fire a crackin’, the very ripe bananas a smellin’…love was in the air…All the elements were in place for the inspiration and creation of this recipe. A recipe I would never make if I were not visiting a special someone. A special someone, who happens to love his bananas. Me, I can’t stand em’. I know. I am in the minority. But I never liked them. As a kid maybe. My mom, who never cooked anything except her occasional overly steamed vegetables, baked potatoes and chicken soup when I was sick (Sorry Ma!), would make me mashed bananas with sour cream and honey. I know. Sounds nasty but as I kid I would crave it. Haven’t touched it since though. Not sure if I could stomach it now. No idea why I liked that mush so much. But at the time, it was Eureka. Now, I am just not a banana gal. Well, not until this morning.
About 15 minutes after I popped this thang in the oven the house started smelling and feeling like a warm, cozy embrace…of, well, bananas.
I found myself and my taste buds unexpectedly excited to taste it. Unfortunately, his oven sucks and the temperature doesn’t ever stay consistent so the bread got burned along the edges and the bottom a wee bit charred. That is why I cut it up into these cute little individual bite size pieces. A handy trick I learned from the Queen Bee Martha Stewart. Cause let me tell you honey — this moist, delicious banana bread tastes divine. Wouldn’t wanna throw it away cause it didn’t come out perfect. Yep. Another reminder of how there is no such thing as perfection and how imperfection can be perfect…
Merry merry jolly jolly to you all! Almost time to celebrate. The tree trimming, the lights sparkling, the festive decorations hanging, the fireplaces crackling, the soups simmering, the stews slowly brewing, the spiced apple cider steaming, the rich hot chocolate warming, the bread baking…mmmmmm I could go on and on….love the holiday season. Always have. And I especially love love love to bake, to brew, to stew and to create something new everyday in my warm toasty kitchen.
When I was a vegan (yes, I said ‘was’) I decided to take the 6 month chef’s training program at the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in NYC to learn how to cook vegan style. The focus was on cooking with whole foods and how important it is, especially if you are vegetarian, vegan or RAW to learn about how to eat a balanced diet. For example, when I was RAW for over a year I felt great for awhile but then I became totally imbalanced, tired and even lost my period. I was eating a tremendous amount of dried and fresh fruits or raw desserts to try and gain energy. I later learned it was a sign my body was craving protein. It took me a bit to get over my militant RAW food obsessions and transition out of that diet but when I did, I immediately felt better. I just did. I didn’t want to admit that eating a little organic animal protein balanced me out but it did. And it still does. So now, I like to call myself a Flexatarian — which is roughly translated to mostly vegan sprinkled with raw goat dairy, some organic meats and eggs. But I am getting off on a tangent now, so back to the holiday meal! Jeeezzzzzzz….. :)
One of my teachers at the Natural Gourmet was chef and cookbook author Myra Kornfeld. She wrote one of my favorite vegan cookbooks “The Voluptuous Vegan” A cookbook I always seem to go back to time and time again. I bring Myra and her book up because truth be told, this recipe is heavily inspired by a recipe of hers, which I have made many times over the years, for my family and friends. Not only does it look beautiful but it tastes incredible.
All of your guests (vegan or not) will be unbelievably nourished and satisfied. I am not a fan of serving up a veggie meal ladened with all those fake processed vegan meats. Tempeh is a whole food yes, but tofu is not and who the heck knows what’s in those vegan sausages and that damn Tofurky, right? If ya ask me, it’s a bunch of man made crap that will cause much unfortunate digestive upset… ;)
So….try this recipe out for a delicious whole food holiday meal alternative. Believe me, your vegan, vegetarian, and yes, even carnivore friends will be feeling the delicious holiday spirit and will leave your table very jolly!
with Macadamia Ricotta Filling and Cherry Tomato Marinara (raw)
If you don’t have a juice capable of homogenizing nuts, you could try using store bought raw Cashew-Macadamia nut butter. It has to be thick though, otherwise the ricotta mixture will be too runny and will leak out of the manicotti rolls.
I tend to use cherry or grape tomatoes in all of my recipes, except during heirloom tomato season. They taste the best and don’t have that mealy texture that most tomatoes have (even the organic ones) especially in winter.
Our friend Brendan Brazier, the vegan tri-athlete, author and formulator of the Vega food products, stopped by to show Sarah and Boise how to make a raw energy bar. This is one of the first products Brendan created during his early days of training.
Red Kuri, Buttercup, Kabocha or Delicata are my favorites squash’s to use for this simple and delish recipe. This is a beautiful festive compliment to any meal; mix it into a mixed winter green salad, put it over cooked grains, sautéed greens, sprinkle some toasted pumpkins seeds over it…basically anyway you wanna serve this, you gotta wonderful sweet seasonal treat… :)
Day 1: I always say that the secret of success to healthy eating is being prepared. So I’m kicking myself right now. For months, I’ve known that this would be the week I did a juice fast. Clearly, I had ample time to prepare. And I did, to some degree. I spent the week prior eating exceptionally well. I drank a ton of water. I carefully plotted what I would eat so that my house would be nearly barren when day one arrived. What I neglected to do: get a juicer. And buy fruits and vegetables to juice. Duh. I had arranged with my neighbor to borrow his juicer.
But when I called to get it today, he was busy, so he said he’d drop it off later while I was at the gym. (We have keys to each other’s apartment.) So I went to the gym, had a great workout. Started talking to this cute guy. And before I knew it, it was like three o’clock, and I’d yet to have anything but water. The cute guy offered to buy me a juice (and to take me out to dinner). They had fresh squeezed orange and carrot juices on the menu. But they were out of oranges and carrots! Now, I was in trouble. I knew that by the time I walked home, got my car and went to Whole Foods, and got back with all my fruits and veggies, it would be at least an hour. Fuck! So not prepared. After grilling the poor juice girl, I settled on a smoothie. It was made with frozen mango and pineapple and water. It tasted good, but frozen fruit smoothies weren’t exactly what I was after when I decided to do my fast. I was a little disappointed in myself, but remembered this juice fast wasn’t about being perfect. But I vowed that from that point on, I’d be prepared. Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
Here in Florida, we are blessed to be at the height of our Farmers Market season. My Saturday ritual involves getting up as early as possible (but never early enough) and heading downtown to visit my favorite organic farmers. Every week I vow to arrive earlier when I hear that I missed out on the strawberries or the last of the Lacinato kale. But come Saturday, sleep always wins. When I finally make it to my favorite booth, I’m always on the hunt for something exotic. Sometimes I can find rare tropical fruits (more often in the summer) and unique citrus varieties. Last week I scored the last of the pink tangelos and WOW–what a treat.
This week I was late. Kale, a major staple for me–gone. So I fumbled around trying to figure out what else to get. I’m a total list maker. I have to be, while shopping for me, my hubby and a handful of clients. Though, in keeping with fresh and seasonal ingredients, my favorite list entry is often “stuff for salad”. Walking around the booth, it was impossible to miss the gorgeous display of Romanesco (a broccoli & cauliflower relative). This is seriously the most beautiful food I have ever seen. It’s bright, lime green and full of spiraling florets. Even better, as much as I love broccoli and cauliflower, Romanesco is a bit more subtle in flavor. I grabbed a perfect looking piece, a ton of fresh herbs and knew I was in for a treat this week. This salad is so light, delicious and absolutely full of fresh herby flavor. If you can’t get your hands on Romanesco, feel free to substitute broccoli or cauliflower.