Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkuembap)

Last week I suffered a pretty bad blow to the head.  I didn't loose consciousness or anything, I just felt like someone dropped a brick on my noggen.  After a night in the ER I was told that I had a minor concussion and symptoms should dissapear within a week.  Being the obsessive compulsive, Type-A personality kinda gal, I returned to my job, shortening my hours. I mean, anything less that 40 hours is considered rest, right?  I would come home, lay down for a bit, run an errand if I was feeling up to it and then spend an hour in the kitchen cooking dinner. 

A week had gone by and I wasn't feeling any better. I was actually feeling worse.  Headaches, vertigo, and dizziness were preventing me from doing anything (working, going to the store, walking the dogs, etc..) To sum it up, I felt (and continue to feel) drunk and severly hungover at the same time, which is not exactly a fun time.

Rest.  Like, really resting is very difficult for me.  Laying out the couch doing absolutely nothing is pure torture.  So much, that even when I felt like absolute shit I would still continue to go about my day as if nothing was wrong, and would wonder why it always took so long for my body to heal itself.

I tried to work through my head injury and that got me nowhere fast.

My brain was sending my body a very important message (you know that I need to chill the hell out NOW, or I could do some serious damage), and for once, I finally listened. Sleeping 8-10 hours a day and confining myself to the couch, moving only to eat and pee has become the new protocol.  Anything stimulating (reading, listening to music, watching T.V., playing on the computer) is a big no-no when trying to heal from a concussion, but I'm still allowing myself a couple hours a day so I don't go cray- cray.

Baby steps.

So what, you ask, does kim chee fried rice have to do with having a concussion?

Absoultely nothing, other than the fact that all of my meals have to be prepared in less that ten minutes so I can get my butt back on the couch, and this here fried rice fits the bill perfectly.  It fills me up all day, is super healthy (er, other than the fried part), and is the ultimate comfort food when I'm feeling down.

As long as you have some leftover rice, kimchi, eggs and some vegetables on hand, you can throw this dish together in no time.

Up until recently I had never had kimchi.  I love fermented foods (saurkraut, kombucha, yogurt) for their taste and health promoting benefits but never gave this one a chance.  However, once that first bite crossed my lips, I became addicted and have gone through an entire jar in less than three days!

Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean dish usually made with cabbage, radish, onions, garlic, chilis, and seasonings, but can vary from region to region.  It's salty, crunchy, sour, spicy and oh so good for you due to the fermentation process. Kimchi is consumed as you would any pickled vegetable, most commonly enjoyed with rice, noodles, meat or tofu and vegetables.  Whipping up a batch of kimchi fried rice (aka kimchi bokkuembap.. I just love saying that) is a great way to incorporate this delicious pickle into your diet when you want a quick meal.

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkuembap) (serves 2)

3 c. leftover rice (I used white jasmine)
2 T. sunflower oil (or any neutral oil)
3 cloves garlic, grated
2" piece ginger, peeled and grated
two large handfuls baby bok choy, rough chopped
two large handfuls baby spinach
3/4 c. kimchee, rough chopped (I used Mama O's brand straight outta Brooklyn)
4 scallions, thinly sliced.
2 t. sesame oil
cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

2 eggs
1 T. butter or sunflower oil

Heat 2 T. oil in your largest cast iron skillet (or any other large frying pan) over medium high heat. Add the baby bok choy and cook until wilted.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook an additional 30 seconds, stirring constantly to prevent burning.  Add the rice, tossing to coat with the oil. Spread rice into a single layer and let cook for a couple minutes.  Using a spatula, mix the rice up a bit then spread it out again.  Repeat until the rice starts to crisp up a bit, then stir in the baby spinach, half the scallions and kimchi.  Cook for an additional 30 seconds, stirring constantly to wilt the spinach. Add sesame oil and season with cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy your kimchi is), sea salt and black pepper. Divide the fried rice between two bowls. Reduce the heat to low, scrape out any remaining bits left in the skillet and return to the burner.  Add butter or oil, then crack two eggs into the pan. Cook until the whites are set but leave the yolks runny. Carefully slide the eggs onto the fried rice.  Top with the remaining scallions and eat immediately. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sprouting: A Do It Yourself Guide

Sprouts have long been considered wonder foods, being one of the freshest and most nutritious of all vegetables. Sprouts are very alkalizing, and are high in in vitamins A, B and C and rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium. They are also high in fiber and omega 3 fatty acids.

Most of you are probably familiar with alfalfa or clover sprouts (the kind you're most likely to see on salads or sandwiches) or mung bean sprouts (those crunchy white sprouts integral to Asian cuisine), but you can sprout almost any seed or bean.  Even wheat and spelt can be sprouted and used to make bread. 

Most people think that growing your own sprouts is a difficult task, but it couldn't be easier!  All you need is some seeds, a glass jar with a mesh screen, some water and about two minutes a day to rinse and drain your sprouts. A clamshell of sprouts will usually set you back $2-3, which considering how nutrient dense they are, isn't a bad price. However, purchasing your own seeds for sprouting is inexpensive and growing them from seed will ensure that you have the freshest sprouts possible!

Make sure you purchase high quality beans/seeds for sprouting.  Health food stores or on-line shops sell an abundance of seeds and beans, however, you may have difficulty sprouting regular 'ol beans and seeds from the grocery store because they are sometimes treated with enzyme inhibitors to prevent the sprouting process.  Avoid using seeds packaged for gardens because they may be treated with pesticides. 

I invested in a sprouting jar fitted with a perforated lid which makes the rinsing/draining process easy peasy, but you could also use a mason jar and purchase a mesh screen (either plastic or metal).

Fortunately, I was able to find all of the above supplies at my local co-op, but the sprout people, an online company, has everything you need to get started.

Before you begin:
Make sure your sprouting jar is clean and sanitized to prevent the growth of bacteria or molds.
A little goes a long way with those seeds!  Most expand 8 times their original volume, so using as little as 1 -2 tablespoons of seeds will yield several cups of sprouts.

Happy sprouting!

Sprouting seeds (lentil , clover, radish and alfalfa).

Soak 3-4 T. of seeds in a sprouting jar or a mason jar fitted with a mesh screen in enough cold filtered water to cover by 5 inches.  Let sit on the countertop for 24 hours.

After your sprouts have been soaking for a day, drain thoroughly.  Fill the jar half way with cold filtered water and swish your seeds around a bit.  Drain again and place the jar in a bowl positioned at a 45 degree angle.  Repeat the rinsing/ draining process two to three times a day (I usually do it twice: in the morning and before I go to bed) returning the jar to it's tilted position each time. The amount of time it will take for your seeds to fully sprout will vary from seed to seed and factors such as temperature an humidity.  This blend takes 5-6 days total (counting soak time)

24 hours after our initial draining.

                                   48 hours later.

                                     72 hours later.

And... we got sprouts!  On the final day I like to place my jar on a windowsill, exposing it to sunlight for a couple hours.  This allows the sprouts to develop chlorophyll, turning them from yellow to light green.

Once your sprouts are done, transfer them to a tight fitting container lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Raw Tacos

You're probably thinking.. enough with the raw food already. 

Where are all of the recipes featuring brussels sprouts and acorn squash and cranberries.  Where are the warming comfort foods?

Patience, little grasshoppers.  We've got five good, solid months of cold weather ahead of us, so I'm in no rush to be eating squash (and blogging about it) every other day of the week.  Check back in a month or so when I'll be bitching about the cold and living off of hot toddy's.

There are some recipes featured on my blog that in no way resemble the "real thing".  I'm not trying to fool anyone by convincing you that this here raw taco will taste just like something that you would pick up at your nearest Mexican restaurant.  There is no fried corn tortilla, no ground beef and no sour cream.  The only thing that you might find in both of these versions is some fresh salsa and guacamole.

But, then again.. why should we have to compare something that is delicious and thoughtfully prepared to something else when we can just enjoy it for what it's worth.  Just like my raw carrot and parsnip fettucine or these raw brownies.  I'm not trying to pass them off for pasta made with wheat or brownies made with eggs, butter, sugar and flour, but they are still tasty nonetheless, and much healthier too!

Cabbage leaves are a great vehicle for anything that you would normally put into a taco shell or corn tortilla except they contain no fat or wheat but still give you some crunch.  Ground walnuts with some traditional taco meat spices (chipotle, cumin, chili powder and garlic) mimic the flavor and substance that you would get with ground beef.  Soaked raw cashews blended with a little lemon and salt makes a creamy alternative to sour cream and is great for those that have an intolerance to dairy.  Adding a dollop of guacamole and a little fresh salsa made with cherry tomatoes and bell peppers is a given because they are delicious and belong in a taco.

The ingredient list or instructions may seem a bit daunting, but everything comes together very quickly. If you're pressed for time you can always throw in a couple slices of avocado instead of making a batch of guacamole.  Just remember to soak your cashews ahead of time for the sour cream!

Raw Tacos
From My New Roots

Walnut Taco Filling:
1 c. raw walnuts
1 T. nama shoyu (raw, unpasteurized soy sauce) or tamari
1/8 t. ground chipotle
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to mix

Cashew Sour Cream:
½ c. raw cashews
1 ½ T. lemon juice
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1/8 t. salt
Water, as needed for blending

Soak cashews in enough water to cover by 3 inches for at least 6 hours, or overnight.  Drain cashews, then place in a blender with the remaining ingredients.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of water and blend, scraping down the sides as needed.  Add water in 1 tablespoon increments until desired consistency is reached. For a thinner sauce, use more water, for a thicker sauce, use less.

Raw Salsa:
1 c. chopped cherry or grape tomatoes
½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped fine
½ red onion, minced
¼ c. chopped cilantro
½ clove garlic, minced
Juice of ½ lime
1 t. raw honey
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt

Whisk the garlic, lime juice, honey, olive oil, and sea salt in the bottom of a bowl and set aside. 
Cut up the vegetables into small pieces, chop the cilantro and add everything to the dressing bowl. Fold to combine and let sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Cabbage (red or green)

To assemble your tacos, gently peel off the outer leaves of cabbage, then carefully remove several inner leaves.
Place a small amount of tacos nut meat in the bottom of your cabbage leaf.  Top with a generous amount of salsa, a spoonful of guacamole and a dollop of sour cream.  Fold up like a taco and eat!  Don't forget the napkins, even raw tacos are a messy affair!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Olive Oil Granola

I work in one of those kitchens that always has some sort of scraps laying around for staff to munch on.. broken cookies, wonky shaped soft pretzles, day old rolls, or if we're lucky, a buttermilk biscuit or scone that somehow didn't make it's way to the bakery case.

Despite the fact that I could clearly have a free breakfast at my disposal every morning, I am one of the few that still choose to brown bag it.  Sure, muffins and cookies and scones are freaking delicious.. but I need me a REAL breakfast. Working in a kitchen is kinda like low impact aerobics.  There is alot of walking, squating, lifting and bending involved.  I used to be one of those people that would skip breakfast, munching on an occasional scrap of a chocolate chip cookie here and there, but my body needs some serious nourishment in the morning to allow me to stay energized and focused. 

The trick is finding the right amount of food that will fill me up, but not weigh me down. Optimally, I would start each day with a thick slice of toast, topped with some sauteed greens and a poached egg. Starting work at 6 a.m. doesn't really give me that opportunity, so I stick with things that are easy to eat standing up, that I can munch on while I work.

One of my favorite breakfasts on the go is granola and yogurt.. a classic combo.  Up until recently I would bring my own yogurt, and then choose from one of thirty available granolas available to me in the bulk aisle at work.  Can I just tell you... granola is EXPENSIVE! A mere serving (like, 1/3 c.) granola (the good kind made with maple syrup and lots of nuts and fancy dried frut like mulberries and goji berries) would set me back two dollars. TWO DOLLARS!  That's just poppycock. 

There are certain things that are much more cost effective to DIY (do it yourself) and granola happens to be at the top of thie list.  The great thing about making your own granola is that you can customize it to your liking. Most granola contains lots of sugar (usually disguised as evaporated cane juice) and some neutral fat like canola or sunflower oil, which isn't exactly health food, despite the fact that it has always been labeled as such.

I've made granola with coconut oil in the past with great results but decided to switch things up a bit using extra virgin olive oil.  I added cashews, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds along with some shredded coconut and raisins, with a combination of maple syrup and local honey to sweeten things up a bit.  The end result was some relatively healthy, crunchy, not too sweet granola that costs a fraction of what you would pay at the store.

Do your body a favor. Get all hippy like and eat some homemade granola.

Olive Oil Granola (makes ALOT)

4 c. oats
1/4 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/4 c. raw cashew pieces
1/2 c. raw almonds, rough chopped
3/4 c. unsweetened coconut
1/8 t. sea salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. honey
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two sheetpans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, sea salt and cinnamon.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir together the olive oil, maple syrup and honey. Stir until well combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour the wet ingredients to the oat mixture and divide between the pans, making sure the mixture is evenly distributed in a single layer.
Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. When the oats are lightly browned and toasted remove from the oven and set aside to cool.  Stir in raisins and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

THE Raw Brownie

You know when you have a recipe for something, be it chocolate chip cookies or lasagna or apple pie and you are convinced more than anything in the world that yours is the best?

Don't lie, because I know you do.  I have several recipes that I make time and time again never even botherning to try something new because, well...mine is the best. How could this other recipe possibly compare to the awesomeness that I've been making over and over again with great results every time? I mean... why mess with a good thing?

I was sure that I had found the perfect raw brownie recipe. It was super easy to throw together and I usually had all of the ingredients necessary to whip them up last minute to satisfy my occasional chocolate fits.  When planning the dessert for my raw food cooking class I was convinced that these would be a hit and didn't even think twice about searching for another recipe. 

 My cooking class partner suggested we try her raw brownie recipe.  Like myself, she was pretty set that hers were the best. I don't know if it was the stress of planning everything else for class or the fact that I was trying to be less of a controlling asshole, but I decided to push my brownies to the backburner and go with her recipe instead.  I mean... I really SHOULD try new things anyway.

Everyone in our class loved the brownies, but I was on such an adrenaline rush that I really didn't have much of an appetite for dessert so I saved a couple to eat for breakfast the next day (because raw cacao is a totally acceptable breakfast option).

I think I cried a little bit after my first bite, they were THAT GOOD.

Sooooooo... I think it's safe to say that I have a NEW favorite brownie recipe!  Not that my other one wasn't amazing... but this one is like, HOLYCRAPBALLSAMAZING!

On the upside this recipe is just as easy as my old standby, but unfortunately they are a little more expensive to make.  Unlike regular brownies that I would have no problem eating half a pan in one sitting, these are pretty dense so I couldn't really imagine eating more that one... or two.

Make these brownies.  They'll be your new favorite and you can impress all of your friends when you tell them they are raw!

THE Raw Brownie

2 c. whole walnuts
2 ½ c. medjool dates, pitted
1 c. raw cacao powder
1 c. raw, unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ t. sea salt

Place walnuts in a food processor and pulse until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the cacao and sea salt and pulse to combine.
Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. You should end up with a mix that appears like cake crumbs, but when pressed should easily stick together. (If the mixture doesn’t hold together well, add more dates)
Transfer mixture to a large bowl and combine with the chopped almonds.  Press into an 8” by 8” cake pan lined with parchment paper. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Carrot-Parsnip Fettucine with Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto

My friend Renee (host of the blog, Nourish Your Roots) and I taught our very first cooking class this past weekend at the Troy Arts Center and IT WAS amazeballs! I had never attended a cooking class, let alone been given the opportunity to teach one, so the experience was a real treat. Luckily, we had a great group of women as our audience which made the class run smooth (the hard cider I chugged right before the class may have helped as well) with no awkward moments or uncomfotable pauses.  So, ladies if you're reading this, thanks for being so awesome!

There are so many directions you can take when teaching a cooking class, and at first we had no idea wheat we wanted to do, other than keeping it vegetarian.  Even narrowing it down to a class that would exclude the use of of meat, we felt we needed to do something that would grab peoples attention.  We both are fans of cooking with unprocessed, nutrient dense, whole foods and thought why not teach a class in raw foods preparation. Although I don't follow a raw foods diet, I try to incorporate as much raw food into my diet as possible have always loved the challenge of showing people that raw, unprocessed foods can taste just delicious as cooked food.  We weren't sure if we would draw a huge audience since upstate New York isn't exactly known for their raw food scene, but we said screw it and decided to roll with it and ended up with a sold out class!

We compiled most of our recipes from one of our favorite blogs, My New Roots. Sarah's style of cooking in very similar to Renee's and mine, and we knew that if it was posted on her blog we could count on it being delicious.

We decided to start out with a ginger-goji berry lemonade, followed by carrot parsnip fettucine with cilantro pumpkin seed pesto (pictured above). The main course was a raw taco fiesta (taco walnut meat served in cabbage leaves with cashew ricotta, avocado and a tomato-bell pepper salsa fresca). To end the meal we served fresh homemade almond milk and raw brownies (recipe coming soon!).

Yeah.. we're pretty amazing.

Hopefully I'll slowly be adding these recipes to my blog (since I didn't have one spare minute at my class to take any pics) but in the meantime you can check them out at My New Roots!

Fortunately, I snapped a shot of the carrot parnsip fettucine when we were doing a trial run for our class to ensure that everything were were planing on making was, in fact, edible.

I've made "raw" pasta in the pasta using a fun little gadget called a spiralizer, which basically takes vegetables (zucchini, celery root or daikon radish) and turns them into long noodles (similar in size and shape to spaghetti or fettucine), with which you can then top with a raw marinara, pesto or even dress with a little olive oil and lemon for a simple side. A spiralizer great to have on hand if you are doing mass quantities of noodles, but I have found that a regular old vegetable peeler will give you the same results.

Carrot-Parsnip Fettucine with Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto


Cilantro and Pumpkin Seed Pesto:
¼ c. raw pumpkin seeds
2 c. fresh cilantro leaves and tender sprigs
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 T. lemon juice
1 t. seeded and coarsely chopped jalapeno pepper
½-3/4 t. salt
½ c. extra virgin olive oil

Place pumpkin seeds in a food processor and process until broken down a bit.  Add the cilantro, garlic, lemon, jalapeno and salt and process until finely ground. With the motor running, stream in the olive oil until the mixture is creamy and fairly smooth.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots and parsnips into long, thin strips, dropping into a bowl as completed.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and toss until vegetables are well coated.  Set aside for about 10 minutes, until softened.

Add the pesto to the parsnips and carrots and toss well to combine.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Zucchini Bread

There is a brief moment in time, usually the middle to end of September, where the last of the summer produce sits alongside the first harvest of winter squash, pumpkins and apples.  The days still creep up into the upper 70’s, but the mornings and evenings are cooling down, for sure.  A warming corn chowder starts to sound a little more appealing than corn on the cob.  A salad of fresh picked tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella doesn’t sound nearly as appetizing as some hearty bitter greens sautéed with garlic and white beans served with a nice hunk of garlic bread.           

As much as I’m craving kabocha squash, apple cider donuts and roasted Brussels sprouts, I’m trying to cram as much zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers and bell peppers in my mouth as possible.  In a couple more weeks, it’s gonna be squash season until April, so I’m enjoying what I can get until it’s gone.

Luckily, I have several friends that know what the hell they are doing in a garden (unlike myself)and always have an excess of basil, cherry tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini that they are more than willing to give away.

Unfortunately, once I am given all these free vegetables I sometimes have a difficult time using them up before they make their way into the compost bin.  Basil is a no brainer. Freeze it or make an ass ton of pesto and eat it all week long.  Cherry tomatoes can be roasted and thrown into a quick pasta with some of that fresh basil.  Zucchini is one of those vegetables that can be grilled, stuffed or grated and made into fritters. Really, favorite way to eat the stuff is in the form of bread.

I’ve been on the quest to find a tasty, zucchini bread that has SOME redeeming nutritional benefits.  That way when I eat over a half a loaf in a day (breakfast, afternoon snack and as an after dinner treat) I feel no gulit or remorse whatsoever.

Whole wheat flour, walnuts, zucchini, eggs... healthy, right?

Whatever...It could be worse.

Zucchini Bread (makes 2 loaves)
Slightly adapted from 101 cookbooks

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
1/3 cup poppy seeds
zest of two lemons
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini.

In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter.

Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling.