Tahini Miso Dip

Makes 1/2 C

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As a mom, I’m always searching for another goody to whip up in the kitchen that just may WOW my toddler.  She’s a good eater most of the time, and I am certainly grateful for that.  Still, it’s good to keep pushing the envelope, expanding gastronomic horizons, and educating the palate.

I’m also doing a 4-week detox at the moment and miso, while solely my addition to this type of detox, plays a big role in my diet.  Having spent 3 years living in Japan, I’ve come to LOVE miso soup in all its variations and for every meal of the day.  Breakfast, too.  But, it’s so nice when it pops up in a place you least expect it.

A.G., a peer in culinary school, first introduced this to me when I was doing all kinds of experiments with my diet.  It’s expanded and grown over the years, but this time I’ve kept it simple, for those still tender and emerging tastebuds that can so easily be put off (seemingly) forever!

Why miso?

The simple answer is that it’s a true super food.  The details are as follows:

  • Miso is a fermented paste of soybeans, rice, barley or other grain and a koji inoculant.
  • Fermented means that is a probiotic.
  • Probiotic = bacteria.  The good bacteria that create a lustrous environment of strong cells to ward off the not-friendly bacteria.  It’s the immune boosting bacteria that also settles your digestive system.  And, it also makes you happy.  Seriously.
  • Miso is a known anti-carcinogen and is also known to reduce the effects of radiation and environmental toxins.  (Next time you’re going for x-rays, eat miso before and afterwards.  Help your body out!)

In this recipe it’s used completely raw, but when you’re cooking with miso, you want to make sure you don’t COOK the miso.  Heating miso kills all of its incredible healing properties.  So, if you’re making soup for example, add a bit of the water/stock to a small bowl and dissolve the miso in it before adding it to the pot.  Make sure the stove is off and just stir it in.  It’ll work it’s magic, in flavor and healing, on its own.

To be honest, my little one doesn’t love this just yet, but I know it’s totally up her alley.  All she has to do is try it!

You’ll need:

  • 1/4 C organic tahini
  • 2 t yellow or red miso (depending on your preferences…I used red miso.)
  • 2 T fresh squeezed lime juice (or lemons)
  • 1/2 t lime zest (or lemon)
  • 2-3 T water (you could need more depending on the consistency you’re looking for)

To make:

Stir all ingredients together except for the water.  Then, add the water in a slow drizzle to achieve the level of consistency you’re happiest with.  If it’s a bit too tart, you can add a little drizzle of honey or maple syrup to even it out.

Enjoy and smile 🙂

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Black Bean and Quinoa…Burger?

For picky, I mean, moody eaters, especially!

Makes 4 adult burgers and 3 baby burgers:)  (or 6 adult burgers)

blackbean and quinoa burger

It finally happened.  What parents everywhere told me would happen. My baby girl who ate EVERYTHING suddenly only wanted bread. Oh, what a slippery slope that bread, pasta, pita, naan route is.  It happened a few days before we left the USA and it got worse when we arrived.  My daughter’s addiction also involved copious amounts of olives (all kinds), feta once in a while, and raisins.  Still, getting her to eat variety (bye, bye balanced meals) was impossible.  And like any new mom, I enabled her.

Worried sick that she isn’t eating well, or enough, (what’s that about percentiles?) results in me enabling her “pickiness”.  Please, just eat something, anything!  As if all calories are equal.  I’m a health-supportive chef, I know this!  But, I’m also a new mom and reason isn’t always the first thing that comes to the rescue when worry sets in.

Yet, logic did follow.  She wouldn’t starve.  She kept eating those (usually refined) foods because I had made them available to her.  And she knew that!  And so the experimenting began…again.

First- eliminate those bread-y foods she’s addicted to.  She’ll get hungry and she’ll eat, (eventually), what IS available.

Second- go back to basics.  For us this meant going back to foods she used to love and again, because she’s older now, tweaking seasoning, textures, cuts, and believe it or not, presentation.

Third- be persistent and consistent.  If she doesn’t want to eat something, try again another time, try another form (in soup, as finger food, puree???), but keep trying.

I’ve been surprised with the outcome.  Claire IS an adventurous eater and she will try most things.  She eats well on most days.  On others she can’t be bothered as much.  It’s led me to wonder about these terms we’re so quick to label our kids with; picky, fussy eaters.  I’m reluctant to call Claire picky yet.  I think she’s still working on developing her tastebuds and like all people, sometimes she’s in the mood for (fill in the blank) and sometimes she isn’t.  Can’t blame her for that!  But I know that if I want her to develop healthy eating habits and become an adult who eats vegetables as well as a varied diet, then I have to give her those foods now.  If I want her to grow up loving and enjoying food, from sourcing it to cooking to eating, then we have to do those things now, together, as a family.

The experiment continues!

Now, let’s get to this burger.  It has quickly become a household favorite.  As an ex-vegetarian, I find I’m always trying to find the next amazing veggie burger because so many fall flat.  (Boca Burgers are gravely insulting to vegetarians!)  They also work great for Claire because she can pick up each delicious, nutrient dense bite with her little fingers.  I opted for quinoa, in an effort to avoid using wheat products (flour, breadcrumbs) where I don’t really have to, because she’ll inevitably end up eating it elsewhere, so minimizing her exposure (and increasing diversity) is in our best interest.  If black beans and quinoa have not made a home in your pantry yet, what are you waiting for?

Happy cooking!  Happy Eating!

You’ll need:

1 C dried black beans, soaked

1 1″ piece of kombu

1 bay leaf

1 t ground cumin

1/2 t ground coriander

1/2 C cooked quinoa

1/2 C walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 C finely shredded carrots (1 medium sized carrot should suffice)

1 small red onion, chopped

1/4 C parsley, finely chopped

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

To make:

1.  Cook off the beans.  Drain and rinse and add beans to a soup pot with enough water to cover.  Add kombu and bay leaf and let boil on high heat for 10 minutes.  Skim the foam off as often as needed.  After 10 minutes, reduce heat to medium, add cumin, coriander and a nice, solid pinch of sea salt.  Partially cover and cook for 50 minutes or until beans are very tender.  When done, drain (reserve some liquid, just in case) and mash with a potato masher.

2.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the beans and mix well.  (Optional:  You could refrigerate the mixture at this point to let is set and get firm before making patties, but it’s not necessary.)  Form 6 even patties.

3.  Heat 1/2T of oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Cook burger about 5 minutes on first side or until golden brown, then flip burger and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

4.  Serve on a roll or pita (when in Rome, right!) and top with your favorite burger toppings.  I also like to serve it over an arugula salad with avocado.  YUM!

5.  Enjoy!

Cannellini Bean Dip

Makes 3 C

So, remember I said something about minimal cooking?  Well, doing what I can to minimize turning on the stove or oven?  This is another example.  Dip!  Bean dips are such a great way to get a good snack (or sometimes meal…let’s be real about this!) in the middle of the day.  They are also a wonderful appetizer.  I took the opportunity and cooked twice as many beans as I needed because it had been a while since we’d had these and a summer white bean salad had already made an appearance in my dreams.  Of course I dream about food!

Beans and I…we’re good friends.  I’m Colombian and like anyone of Latin origin will attest, beans are part of our everyday and sometimes several parts of our day!  As a vegetarian, I was more than grateful for this.  I relied heavily on various beans for protein, which much like animal protein, builds and repairs body tissue.  They are super blood sugar regulators and thus an excellent choice for anyone with insulin issues.  They’re low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, folate and other B vitamins.  They are also a wonderful source of dietary fiber.  There are 2 types, insoluble and soluble, and both are critical for our health.  Insoluble fiber does not dissolve so it acts as a sponge, literally “cleaning” up by ushering toxins out.  (That’s why our gut and colon stay healthy!)  Soluble fiber dissolves and becomes gel-like in our gut making us feel full, longer. Overeating, while tempting, is never good.  Quantity destroys quality in anything!  (I might have said that before.)  Anyway, thank you fiber and thank you beans!

For the record, Latinos aren’t the only ones with a bean habit.  Beans and legumes, “one of the earliest and most important cultivated crop, are grown everywhere that people farm”.¹  Indeed, most places I’ve traveled, I’ve run into some kind of bean along the way.  Honestly, I can’t wait to encounter more!

You’ll need:

1 C dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1 1″ piece of kombu

1 bay leaf

2-3 cloves garlic confit*

3 T olive oil (from garlic confit)

1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice

To make:

1. Get the beans cooking!  Drain and rinse the beans, then add to a saucepan with water to cover.  Boil over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, skimming the foam that forms.  Reduce heat to medium-low, dd thyme, rosemary, kombu and bay leaf, a pinch of sea salt and partially cover.  Cook for about 45 minutes or until beans are tender.

2. Remove the herbs and kombu from beans, drain and let cool.

3. When cooled, add remaining ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.  You may want to adjust the garlic, oil, lemon and salt so play with it until you get it to your liking.  These measurements worked great for me:)

4. Serve with crudite (my go-to choice for a super healthy snack that sometimes turns into lunch) crispy country bread, pita bread or flat bread.  Gluten-free crackers are also delish with this dip!

5. Enjoy!

*The Garlic Confit adds depth to the garlicky flavor.  It’s umami-ish which translates into deliciousness.  However, this dip comes out lovely using fresh, raw garlic as well.  Start with 1-2 cloves and adjust from there;)

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

Robusto Pita-nini

Makes 4 Pita-ninis

In this summer heat, I’m drawn to the simplest meals.  (Read: the less I have to turn on the stove, the better!)  That often means lots of salads; grain, bean, green, etc.  Sometimes the salad sneaks itself into sandwiches, or this case a pita-nini.  My family spent a lot of time living in the Middle East (my grandfather worked for the United Nations) so the pita became a staple in our home.  It seems more manageable to me than chunky slices of bread which seem more suitable to the colder months.  In any case, thinking about the fig spread in the fridge brought about this experiment.

There are 3 stars in this show:  the fig, the robusto* and the arugula.  I’d like to concentrate on the dark leafy green that is also known as rocket.  It’s one of my favorite of the cruciferious veg (if you stick around long enough you may find I say this often) and in early summer it’s positively addicting.  Cruciferous vegetables are widely known anti-carcinogens.  Their potent phytonutrients help the enzymes that “ward off carcinogens and other outside invaders, inhibit cancer formation, detoxify carcinogens and protect against colorectal, stomach and respiratory cancers”.¹  Like other dark leafy greens, arugula is an excellent source of calcium, iron, copper, magnesium and anti-oxidant vitamins A and C.  They are also wonderfully endowed with the B-vitamins, especially folate.  And, let’s not forget fiber.  There’s plenty of it here!

What’s amazing about a food that is so nutritious is that it is bursting with delicious flavor!  It’s peppery and spicy even.  It’s amazing raw in salads, in sandwiches, in pesto (move over basil!) or, when cooler days arrive, cooked in stir-frys and soups.  However you choose to incorporate arugula into your diet, your body will be thankful as will your palate.  Love it when everyone is happy!

You’ll need:

4 large whole wheat pitas

1/2 C fig spread

4 large handfuls of arugula (Of course, you judge how much is good for you.  I always overdo it when it comes to fresh greens!)

sliced robusto cheese (Again, how much is up to you…I went light with the cheese because it’s packed with flavor and a little goes a long way.)

butter or olive oil for grilling

To make:

1. Cut off about 1″ off the top of the pita and open the pocket.

2. Spread 2 T (approx) onto bottom half of pita then top with arugula and cheese.

3. If using an actual grill (lucky), brush some olive oil on each side of pita bread and place on grill (medium heat) with a plate or pan on top to hold it down.  If using a sauté pan (medium heat), do the same or use butter.  Each side will take about 4 minutes or until bread is crispy and cheese is melted.  Lastly, if you have a panini maker, put it to good use with this yummy pita-nini!

4. Serve warm.

5. Enjoy!!!

*Robusto – I ran into this cheese not quite sure what I was looking for.  I should say then that the cheese found me because once I tasted it, I knew it had the right amount of sharpness with soft edges for this pita-nini.  It’s a bit sharper and harder than a gouda.  Super yummy though!

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

Fig Spread

Makes 1 C

Figs are one of those fruits that evoke a sense of mystery.  Its very shape, the thread like center surrounded by hundreds of seeds in the cavity, is unlike anything else.  They’re chewy (flesh), crunchy (seeds), and smooth (skin) making them a culinary delight to play with.  They are also succulent, juicy and delightfully sweet.  Figs are known to be delicacies in their own right.

Figs have been found in myths throughout the world.  There are images of the fig tree in the Garden of Eden and it has associations with Dionysus (Bacchus for the Romans), and Priapus, a satyr associated with sexual desire.  But my favorite comes from India.  According to Buddhist legend, Siddhartha Gautama (or the Buddha!) achieved enlightenment while sitting under the bodhi (bo is a type of fig) tree.¹  I can just picture it.  That was back in 528 B.C.

What can figs do for us today?  Dried figs (what’s used in this recipe) have more dietary fiber than prunes.  Remember that fiber benefits our gut (improves digestion) and our colon.  It also makes us feel fuller so we are less likely to overeat.  According to Rebecca Wood, dried figs are higher in calcium, “ounce for ounce” than cow’s milk.²  They are also high in protein, iron (for red blood cell formation), copper (necessary for production of red blood cells), potassium (vital component of cell and body fluids that help control heart rate and blood pressure) and phosphorous (works closely with calcium for strong bone development).*  And apparently, they are also helpful to those on that inward journey.  Would anyone like some enlightenment with their figs?

What to do with this jar of bliss?  Spread it on a piece of millet toast with some cultured butter, put a dollop on your granola or in your yogurt and top with nuts or get creative and let me know what you come up with!

Namaste fellow gourmands.

You’ll need:

1 C dried figs, chopped (I used about 9 Turkish figs)

1 C water

1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of sea salt

To make:

1. Place figs and water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until they reach a simmer (light bubbling), then reduce heat to low and cook until water is almost completely evaporated.  (You still want a tiny bit of liquid…it will be thick like a reduction.)

2. Once the figs have cooled, place them and the lemon juice and salt in a food processor and process until smooth.

3. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.  It will keep for 7-10 days.  (Though I’ve used it after 2 weeks with no problem;)

4. Enjoy!

¹ http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Fi-Go/Fruit-in-Mythology.html#b

² Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

* http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fig-fruit.html

Holy Cow, Veggie Burger!

Makes 6 burgers

You may be wondering how I might have the audacity to put a veggie “burger” on the blog after not too long ago singing the virtues of the grass-fed burger.  I wouldn’t blame you.  Though they both share the same “burger” name, they really shouldn’t.  Nothing can compare to or replace a grass-fed burger and this veggie burger has no intentions of doing that.  This veggie burger has its own attitude and quite confidently stands alone.

It took me a good 7 years before finding and perfecting this beauty.  I was so sick of the Boca Burger and others like it.  It always seemed unfair to me that just because I was vegetarian, it meant that for Memorial Day Weekend, Fourth of July or any other summer BBQ, I’d have to eat mediocrely while my omnivore friends feasted on some real, good, most likely whole food.

This veggie burger is for you, my vegetarian friends.  It’s real, it’s good and it’s whole.  No TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) here, thank you.

And for my omnivore/flexitarian friends, it’s for you, too.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy it in all it’s veggie-ness glory.

What makes this such a substantial “burger” is chickpeas.  Chickpeas should be a staple in your pantry.  This versatile bean holds up well in stews, burgers, pastes/dips, soups, etc.  Not surprisingly, they’re super healthy for you, too.  The insoluble fiber (a boatload of it, specifically 12.5 grams/cup which is 50% of the daily recommended value) does wonders for our digestive tract.  They flush toxins from the body and leave behind some short chain fatty acids that energize the colon and leave it functioning even better.¹  That translates into reduced colon cancer risk.  They have a great supply of unique antioxidants that mean all good things for our cardiovascular system.  They’re a super source of protein and they regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.

See, I told you these are for everyone.  (For my vegan friends, please scroll to end of recipe.)

Have a great weekend everyone!

You’ll need:

1 1/2 C cooked chickpeas (about 1/2 cup dried chickpeas)

1/2 C pecans, roughly chopped and toasted

1/4 C sunflower seeds, toasted

1/2 C parsley, rough chop

1/2 onion, diced (about 1/4 C)

1 carrot, shredded (about 1/4 C)

1 egg, beaten

1/2 t sea salt

1/4 t cumin

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2-3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or more for frying)

To make:

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until pretty smooth in texture.  Refrigerate mixture for 15-30 minutes to let it set before making the patties.

2. Heat olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat.  Cook each burger for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Be careful when flipping burgers over, because they are a bit delicate.

3. Serve and dress however you love your burgers!  (I put this one on a multi-grain roll with herbed mayo, micro greens, avocado and sweet potato fries:)

4. Enjoy!

For my vegan friends:  Apologies that this is almost, but not quite there.  I never tried a vegan version because I enjoyed getting the extra protein and fat from the egg.  Plus, it’s such a great binder.  Anyway, I hate to leave you out of the party so check out this recipe.  I’m dying to try it, too.  Next time!

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=58

Curry Chicken Salad

Serves 4

Adapted from The Cancer Fighting Kitchen

My husband’s current obsession, besides our daughter’s belly laugh, is curry.  He seems to be leaning more towards the Thai curries but he’s happy with any curry really.  Curry is a mystery.  And that’s just because it means so many things to so many people in so many places.  Even in Japan, a common lunch was curry rice which I always thought surprising since curry isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Japanese cuisine.

There is the curry leaf, which until recently I didn’t even know existed.  My mother-in-law planted it one year and the strong aroma quickly took over her herb garden.  It is used quite commonly in India and imparts a distinct curry taste, the original I guess!  The more well known is curry powder; a blend of varying spices that mimic the flavor of the curry leaf.  Curries are unique to each family and region, much like German towns each have their own delicious microbrew.  It’s one of the more amazing things about food.  A dash of this here and a bit of that there and you’ve got a completely new dish.  It’s beautiful and it keeps us and our tastebuds always wanting more.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the role of Ayurveda in this spice.  Ayurveda is a traditional medicine practiced in India for over 5,000 years.  It recognizes 6 tastes; sweet, salty, sour, astringent, pungent and bitter and they’re all found in curry powder.  Under Ayurvedic principles, eating all 6 flavors in one meal is both balancing and satiating.  If you feel balanced after a meal, you’re not likely to go searching for dessert (sweet) or any other flavor.  You’ll feel completely satisfied.  If you haven’t enjoyed an Ayurvedic meal, I highly recommend it, if only for the experience and then you can decide for yourself.

The superstar in curry is turmeric and I’m glad to finally get to write about this spice.  Turmeric is pretty ridiculous when it comes to its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial powers.  Turmeric is used to heal many conditions, one of which is cancer.  According to Rebecca Katz in The Cancer Fighting Kitchen, when eaten with a cruciferous veg (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc.) the curcumin present in turmeric has been shown to reduce the growth of prostate tumors as well as to keep tumors from spreading to other parts of the body.  It is used to heal wounds and is good for conditions such as arthritis.  It’s also a wonderful digestive aid.  And, it’s one of the highest known sources of beta-carotene.  Move over carrots!  Or better yet, sprinkle some of this spice on some roasted carrots!  Hmmm, sounds like another dish in the making.

You’ll need:

1 lb roasted chicken (I used legs and thighs), shredded

1 C seedless red grapes, halved

1 stalk celery, sliced

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 C cilantro, chopped

2 t fresh ginger, grated

1/2 t sea salt (or more to taste)

1 T curry powder

1 t lemon zest + 1 t fresh squeezed lemon juice

6 oz. Greek yogurt

To make:

1. Combine the chicken and the grapes and set aside.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Add chicken and grapes and mix well until chicken is thoroughly dressed.  Let it sit for 15 minutes in the fridge to let the flavors mingle and blend:)

3. Serve over a crisp bed of greens such as romaine lettuce or stuffed into pita bread:)

4. Enjoy!

*Vegetarian option: Substituting extra-firm tofu for the chicken is a great vegetarian option.  I would cook the tofu as in this recipe, for a bit more added flavor, crunch and aesthetic, but it’s definitely not necessary.  Enjoy!