The Real Food Journal
It’s almost the middle of January, the time that most New Years Resolutions fall by the wayside. If I might make a suggestion, let’s all drop any crazy juice fasts and extra hours of extreme cardio right now. What we really need now, and all year long, is balance. And soul satisfying bowls with herby, tangy chimichurri sauce, of course.
Balance, Not Diets
As much as we’d like to think that adopting a short term diet or exercise regime will fix our dietary sins, the truth is that we will be happier and healthier if we just seek balance, day in and day out.
I know, the instant fix is so much more appealing. But I have learned from experience. Diets don’t work, habits do. And seeking the “middle path” is a gentle, life-affirming way to find your healthy weight, take care of yourself, and be in the right place when you do decide to indulge a little over the holidays.
Like all of you, I spent much of December “misbehaving.” I carved out two whole weeks to spend with my family, and to eat pie, drink wine, and sleep late. It was glorious, and I have no guilt or regret. There are times when it’s more important to be fully present and take it all in, and recharge.
Filling the Well
I love the work I do, creating recipes, writing about food, and teaching people about the joys of real food. But by the end of the year, I was feeling drained. I felt as if I had no new ideas, nothing to say. I posted my last blog a week before Christmas, and fell silent. I gave myself over to having long, lovely breakfasts with my Mother and husband, to napping, to going out to eat. I hugged my Mom alot. I cooked for friends and family, but didn’t write any of it down. I soaked up some intangibles. I meditated a little. My creative well was drained, and I was filling it back up.
Back to Life
So, when it was time to get back to work this week, It did feel as though I had veered a little to one side of my middle path. But I knew I didn’t need to drive into the ditch on the other side. Just cook up a pot of grains, roast some vegetables, and resume living the way I usually do. I had a big pile of work waiting for me, so all I really needed was to nurture myself and get back into it. Refreshed and re-inspired, I was ready.
Which brings me to chipotle-roasted cauliflower and chimichurri sauce. There’s no need to eat boring meals when you are eating healthfully. A big bowl of brown rice is soul food, and topping it with lots of textures and flavors creates a riot of flavor. Crank the oven and roast the cauliflower, heck, double it and use some in a salad the next day.
The chimichurri is garlicky, herbal, and sparked with red wine vinegar. It’ll wake up your palate in this cold, snowy season. Toasted pumpkinseeds, or pepitas, give the dish a nutty crunch, as well as providing protein and good fats. Avocado, olives and olive oil taste great, and also provide the kind of fats that have been shown to reduce the risk of depression, so drizzle the chimichurri on with abandon.
So if you are struggling a little with post-holiday readjustments, and feeling like you need to make 2018 a little bit better than 2017, remember balance. Just breathe, and look for the middle path. Big, grain based bowl meals are the culinary embodiment of balance. You can find your own sweet spot when you add a little more of this, less of that. Check out my book, Great Bowls of Food, for even more recipes that help you find that balance.
But don’t skimp on the chimichurri sauce. You need some zing, right about now.
Chimichurri Topped Brown Rice Bowl with Pepitas and Chipotle Cauliflower
There's nothing like a brown rice bowl to put you back in balance, especially after a period of holiday excess. This tangy Chimichurri has pepitas for a little more heft, and smoky chipotle laced cauliflower for contrast.
- 3 cups cauliflower florets
- 1 large carrot quartered and chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup flat leaved parsley
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 4 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/2 cup pepitas toasted, divided
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped red shallot plus slivers for bowl
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups cooked brown rice
- 16 large pitted kalamata olives chopped
- 16 pickled peppadew peppers sliced
- 1 large ripe avocado sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the cauliflower, carrot, onion, and chipotle pepper on a sheet pan, salt to taste. Roast for about 10 minutes, until browned in spots. Keep warm.
In a blender or food processor, combine the parsley, cilantro, garlic, half the pepitas, and process to mince. If necessary, scrape down and repeat. Add the vinegar, olive oil, shallot, oregano and salt and process to make a chunky paste. Scrape into a small bowl.
For each bowl, spread a cup of cooked rice in a wide bowl, and arrange 1/4 of the cauliflower, peppers, olives, avocado and some chopped shallot on top. Drizzle with chimichurri to taste and sprinkle with the remaining toasted pepitas. Serve.
Urban Roots teaches young people about growing and preparing food, and prepares them for whatever career path they choose. I make a brief appearance in this great video, as we made a meal of Thai food.
Do you wrestle with the decision of which pies to make at the holidays? Pumpkin, pear, apple, or even pecan sound so good, but do you really need four whole pies? This time, I’m making six different holiday tarts, each one designed to generously serve one person. This way, everybody has a delicious quandary at the end of the meal.
They have to pick a holiday tart.
Give Your Guests a Choice
Honestly, you won’t have to spend much more time than if you made one pie. One dough, rolled out in six rounds, topped with simple fillings. It’s a little more work, but the payoff of six showy holiday tarts is worth it.
For some easy party snacks, try these Mandarin Chocolate Shots or Smoky Almond Butter Popcorn.
Make a fabulous signature cocktail for your party with my Slushy Lemon Thyme Cocktail.
Of course, I went with whole grain flour in the crust. White whole wheat or whole wheat pastry is soft and tender enough to make good pastry. You can either melt, measure and chill coconut oil to grate in, or use cold butter.
The rustic tart is so easy, and I’ve devised a way to keep the crust from getting soggy when you fill it with fruit. Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour mixed with sugar under the fruit, and it will soak up the juices and thicken to a lush layer of flavor.
The other trick is making a dense pumpkin filling with either cream cheese or chevre. It cooks to a smooth, less custardy consistency, and doesn’t make the crust soggy. It’s thick enough to be contained by the folded edges of the crust.
I was lucky to have a few apples left from a bag I was given by my neighbor. She had visited her family and picked some apples from the apple trees that have been there for at least 50 years. I had a few Prairie Spy and Wolf River and Liberty Apples and I sliced them for these tarts. You can use any firm, tart baking apples, as long as they aren’t too big.
Bosc pears are perfect for this, they are not as juicy as many other varieties of pear, and they stay just firm enough as they bake.
Of course, you can make a coconut whipped cream, or whatever variation on whipped topping you enjoy. Ice cream would also gild the lily nicely.
Don’t put too much on, you’ll want to taste these.
The holidays come but once a year, might as well make a spread of mouth-watering holiday tarts.
Six Single Serving Holiday Tarts
Serve your guests a delicious dilemma. They will have to choose one of these tasty tarts, pumpkin, pear or apple, all differently topped. You just make one pastry dough and fill it six ways, and watch the raves roll in.
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chilled, refined coconut oil or grass fed butter
- 1/2 cup ice water approximately
- 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/4 cup non-dairy cream cheese or chevre cheese
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup Turbinado sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons unbleached flour
- 4 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
- 2 small apples peeled and sliced
- 2 small bosc pears peeled and sliced
- 1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
- 1/4 cup fresh cranberries
- In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, unbleached flour and salt. Stir to mix well. Use the coarse holes of a grater or a pastry cutter to shred or cut the coconut oil or butter into the flour mixture. Toss the mixture and mix with your hands for a few seconds, leaving the fat in small pieces. In a cup, combine the ice water and vinegar. Using a fork to toss the flour mixture, drizzle in the water mixture until the flour is all moistened. Stir and gently turn and knead with your hands, just until a dough is formed. If the dough is dry, drizzle in a tablespoon of cold water just to make a firm but flexible dough.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, and form each piece into a disk shape. Chill for up to 24 hours. Line a rimless baking sheet with parchment.
Measure the flour. Mix the Turbinado sugar and cinnamon in a cup, reserve. Prepare the sliced fruit and crystallized ginger. Mix the 4 tablespoons of flour with the 4 tablespoons of sugar and reserve. In a food processor, combine the pumpkin, cheese of choice, brown sugar, arrowroot, cinnamon and nutmeg and process. Scrape into a cup. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
On a floured counter, roll each round out into a 7 inch circle. Place a round on the prepared pan and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of flour-sugar mixture, and arrange sliced apples or pear slices, as pictured. Make four of these, and sprinkle a few cranberries on one apple tart, and crystallized ginger on one pear tart. Cover the apple tarts and the plain pear tart with cinnamon sugar. Form pleats as you fold the dough over the filling, picking up the edge and pulling it toward the center and repeating a section at at time. On the remaining two dough rounds, spread the pumpkin mixture, again leaving and edge to fold over. Sprinkle one with a few cranberries, leave the other plain. Repeat the folding of the rim to contain the pumpkin filling.
- Bake for 20 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven, then turn the pan, reduce the heat to 375 F, and bake on the top rack for 20 minutes. When the crust is golden brown, transfer the pan to a rack to cool.Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Pomegranate Makes It Beautiful!
Are you planning a big holiday meal? Looking through pinterest for recipes, or digging out your folder of Grandma’s hand-written favorites?Can I put in a plug for good old fashioned cookbooks, too? And of course, pomegranate.
This month is prime time for big sit-down dinners with family and friends, and I’m betting that you need a new side dish. Like this easy Pomegranate Glazed Roasted Veggies with Pistachios. Sweet, tart, and savory, this is a great vegetable side that sparkles with pomegranate jewels and bright green pistachios.
It’s a little Middle Eastern, a little homespun, and will go well with whatever you are serving. Parsnips, sweet potato and carrot give the dish a hearty, comforting quality, and cauliflower roasts alongside them to melting tenderness.
The only trick in this recipe is cutting the vegetables a little differently than you usually do. Basically, I cut each veg into long planks, then divided those into strips. Then I cut each one, moving the angle of the veg under the knife, to cut triangles instead of just straight across. I think it’s a modified roll-cut, just moving the vegetable so it cuts at irregular angles.
I just thought it would look a little more exciting, but if you want to cut them the usual way, go for it. The main thing is that everything is similar in size so it will cook evenly.
Give Your Veggies Room
You need a big pan, so all the pieces have their own little piece of hot metal on which to caramelize. If you crowd them, they end up steaming and soggy, instead of browned and concentrated.
The glaze is the easiest thing, if you buy pomegranate juice concentrate. I keep it around for adding to salad dressings, kombucha and other drinks, or anything that needs a dash of sweet and sour.
If you are looking for more fun with pomegranate, check out these holiday friendly recipes, too:
Pomegranate Glazed Roasted Veggies with Pistachios
Give your holiday meals a kick with a new side dish- sprinkled with sparkling pomegranate and pistachios for a red and green color scheme.
- 1/4 cup pomegranate juice concentrate or 3/4 cup, boiled down
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 small sweet potato cut in angular pieces, 2 cups
- 1 large carrot cut at an angle
- 1 large parsnip cut in angular piece, 2 cups
- 2 cups cauliflower large florets
- 1/2 large red onion vertical slices
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- coarse salt
- 1/4 cup roasted pistachios chopped
- 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
Preheat the oven to 425 F. In a small pot, combine the pomegranate juice concentrate, sugar and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking until the sugar is dissolved.
Slice the vegetables into long slices, then cut on angles to make interesting shapes. Place in a large roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Add a couple of sprigs of rosemary and a sprinkling of salt. Toss to coat. Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover the pan and drizzle with the pomegranate mixture. Return to the oven and roast for 20 minutes longer.
- When the vegetables are tender when pierced with a paring knife, and the souce is coating them thickly, serve.
Not Just For Holidays Anymore
Did you know that Wisconsin is the biggest producer of cranberries? Take that California, with your sunny, temperate weather. The snowy Midwest is the source of 60% of the bright red berries that we eat by the bushel at the holidays. As we lead up to Thanksgiving, we need our traditional foods, and suddenly the scarlet berry is in everything from sauce to these Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones.
The hardworking cranberry growers would love it if we embraced the cranberry all year long, and not just as something to pop into dishes from November to January. This native born superfood is poised and ready to become a part of your meal planning year ’round, in the form of sweetened dried cranberries, frozen cranberries, and juice.
You eat blueberries in winter, why not cranberries in summer?
Fresh, Frozen or Dried-Subbing is Easy
Just remember, these scones will be just as good any other time of the year, and you can use frozen or dried cranberries, no problem. To use frozen, use the same volume, and just stir them in frozen, then bake 5 minutes longer. To use dried, use 1/2 the volume and chop them coarsely, and bake the same amount of time.
There’s tons of research on the health benefits of cranberries up at the Cranberry Institute. Suffice to say, these are some amazing berries, full of Vitamin C, polyphenols, and other phytochemicals that fight disease and cell damage. A cup of raw cranberries has 25% of the Vitamin C and 20% of the Manganese you need for a day, with a few other trace minerals.
It’s really all about the phytochemicals, which show great promise in preventing cancer and other diseases. Anything this red has to be full of good antioxidants, and they are. There are studies showing that regular consumption of cranberries and their juice prevents heart disease, lowers cholesterol, and more.
Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones, with or without Extras
If you are looking to simplify, you can always make these scones without the streusel and the glaze. The sweet potato and cranberry part is exciting enough on its own. But if you want a little more crunch and curb appeal, you might as well gild the lily a little.
I love using the cranberry juice to make the glaze, and making good use of the color of the juice. No food color needed, just natural pigments. The tangy, tart juice is perfect with the sugar, giving it just enough bite to be interesting, with very little effort.
You don’t have to tell anyone that these are 100% whole grain, and have all the healthy goodness of white whole wheat. There is so much going on, with cinnamon and sweet potatoes and berries, that the mildly flavored flour just steps into the background.
Go ahead, bake some cranberry scones for the holidays.
Maybe you’ll still be baking them next Spring!
Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones
Tender, sweet scones are built on a barely detectable base of white whole wheat flour, and adroned with crunchy oat streusel and cranberry juice glaze.
- 1/2 cup chilled coconut oil or organic butter
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons hazelnuts toasted, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or ww pastry
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 cup pureed sweet potatoes
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure cranberry juice approximately
First, measure and chill the coconut oil. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Make the streusel by mixing the oats, hazelnuts, sugar, cinnamon and salt, and chill.
- In a large bowl, combine the white whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Stir to mix.
Grate the chilled coconut oil or butter into the flour mixture, tossing to coat.
In a medium bowl, stir the sweet potato, maple, milk and vanilla. Stir the mixture into the flour mixture, and when it is nearly mixed in, stir in the cranberries.
Lightly flour the counter, and scrape the dough onto the flour. Pat and shape into a disk about 3/4 inch thick. Cut in eight wedges, then sprinkle the streusel mixture over the wedges and pat to adhere.
Carefully transfer the scones to the baking pan, leaving a 2 inch pace between wedges. Bake for 15-18 minutes, just until firm and golden around the edges. Cool on a rack.
When the scones are cool, mix the powdered sugar and cranberry juice in a cup, then drizzle over the cooled scones. Let the glaze dry, then store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Goya Gives Back
‘Tis the season! This fast-moving month between Thanksgiving and the end of the year can be a flurry of shopping, cooking, and family togetherness. To make life just a little easier, I’m thrilled to bring you a chance to give a gift, simply by buying something you probably already buy. During the months of November and December, when you buy Goya brand coconut milk and coconut cream, Goya will give food to a food bank somewhere in the US. So, while you enjoy this delicious Rice and Peas recipe, or anything else you make with coconut milk, you will be feeding someone less fortunate.
Stock Up on Coconut Milk
It might be a good time to stock up! I know I’m always running out of coconut milk. I keep a few cans in the pantry because it’s great for Thai, Jamaican, Indian and other cookery, baking, desserts, sauces, even smoothies.
Because I’m a Meatless Monday blogger, I was offered some Goya products to try out, and included in the package was a can of pigeon peas. In the US, you don’t hear much about pigeon peas, also known as “gullah peas,” so seeing that can prompted a very pleasant memory.
Several years ago, we made a trip to Negril, Jamaica, at Christmastime. Of course, in Jamaica, it’s always about 70 degrees and sunny, and the Christmas decorations look fabulous on the palm trees. The white sand beaches are gorgeous, too.
I love to learn about the food whenever I travel, but in Negril, when I asked our driver, Jim, about cooking classes, he kept telling me that there were none. I kept pestering him, finally offering $100 for someone to come to our hotel, where we had a shared kitchen. The next day, he brought his girlfriend, Lovey, and together we made fresh coconut milk, callaloo, ackee, a rundown made with a fish that had been pulled from the water moments before, and of course, rice and peas.
They told me that gungo peas are a Christmas tradition. The produce stand in front of the hotel was selling the round, green peas freshly shelled, and with a list he jotted down, I bought everything for our feast for a few bucks. We spent a lovely afternoon making coconut milk in the blender, stewing greens and frying ackee, the egg-like fruit that is served for breakfast all over Jamaica. Then we sat down to a meal of real, homemade Jamaican food, with none of the faux Jamaican dishes that the resorts served.
It was one of the most memorable meals in a lifetime of memorable meals.
So, when my package of Goya foods arrived, I knew I would soon be cooking up a big pot of rice and peas, with coconut milk, pigeon peas, and for a little healthy twist, short grain brown rice.
The rice and peas we made in Negril was a little plainer than this, with no spices, just the coconut milk and rice and peas. For this one, I wanted a few more of the flavors that were in the rest of the meal, so I added fresh turmeric, a jalapeno, a tomato, some garlic and ginger. Using brown rice meant it cooked longer, so I stirred the peas in after it was cooked, so they wouldn’t get mushy.
You could build this into a full meal with my Jamaican Curried Greens.
I hope you’ll give my rice and peas a try, and buy some Goya coconut milk and coconut cream. I feel a little bit warmer inside after eating a meal that feeds others.
Especially when it reminds me of warm and sunny Jamaica.
Goya Gives Back
Here’s more info on the promotion:
*For every can of GOYA® Coconut Milk and GOYA® Cream of Coconut purchased from 11/1/17 – 12/31/17, Goya Foods, as part of their “Goya Gives” initiative, will donate an average of 4 oz. of Goya food products to Feeding America® to help provide balanced meals to food banks nationwide. Guaranteed minimum donation of 600,000 pounds from this offer combined with similar offers during the period 6/1/17-5/31/18. Learn more about Feeding America and how it supports local food banks at www.FeedingAmerica.org.
Jamaican Rice and Gullah Peas
Try a tropical twist on Christmas with this lush, coconut-laced rice and pea dish. If you can't find pigeon peas, use kidney beans.
- 4 scallions white and green parts separated
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric chopped
- 1 large jalapeno chopped
- 1 large tomato chopped
- 1 cup short grain brown rice
- 1 15 ounce can Goya coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 15 ounce can pigeon peas drained
- cilantro for garnish
Chop the white parts of the scallions, chop the green parts and save for the end. In a 2 quart pot, warm the olive oil over medium high heat and add the white parts of the scallions, stir for a few seconds, then add the garlic. Stir. Add the ginger, turmeric, jalapeno and tomato and stir until the jalapeno is slightly softened, about a minute.
Add the rice and stir, then add the coconut milk, water and salt and stir, then raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 35 minutes.
Uncover, and if the rice is tender, stir in the peas and reserved scallion greens. Cover and let steam for about 5 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro.
Try Thanksgiving Sushi, Really
Last week, I posted an updated Shepherd’s Pie, with a few delicious tweaks that made it oh so delicious. This week, I’m giving you a Thanksgiving option that might seem a little bit radical. Are you ready for Thanksgiving Sushi?
Before you hit the brakes, let me tell you just what qualifies this sushi to serves as an appetizer or side at this most hide-bound and traditional of meals. First, the sushi rice is laced with wild rice, a Thanksgiving regular. Inside the roll, you have sweet potatoes that have been roasted in a maple syrup and soy sauce glaze. Then there are crisp apples alongside. To take it a step further, a dab of sage-laced mayonnaise, and crunchy roasted hazelnuts complete the theme.
Are you with me? Good.
If you are sharing a meal with people who love sushi, or just a bunch of people who like a little something different, this could be your new tradition.
It’s still sushi, with vinegar-laced, tender sushi rice, nori, and the usual dipping sauces and condiments. Trust, me, all the flavors work together. I love the snap of the honeycrisp apples and toasty hazelnut chunks.
Sushi may seem intimidating, but don’t worry. You can make it at home. I did use an bamboo rolling mat, or takisu, to make the rolls, and then shape the roll into petal forms. It’s such an easy trick, once I show people at my sushi classes, they get it right away. If you don’t have a mat, you can use plastic wrap to form the roll, too.
One caveat: you do need to use real, hand harvested wild rice for the filling. It cooks in the same amount of time as sushi rice, so you can cook them together. If you must use cultivated wild rice, cook it separately and fold it in. But seriously, the real thing is worth seeking out.
Have a great holiday meal, no matter what you serve. This sushi would be a perfect meal for the week after, too!
Thanksgiving Sushi with Wild Rice, Sweet Potatoes, and Apple
Ditch those tired sweet potato sides, and try roasting slices of sweet potato with maple, tamari and sesame oil, then rolling it in sushi with wild rice, hazelnuts, and crisp apple.
- 12 ounces sweet potato a small one
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
- 1 1/2 cups sushi rice
- 1/2 cup real wild rice
- 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon ground sage
- 1 large honeycrisp
- 6 nori sheets
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted, skinned and chopped
- wasabi, pickled ginger, soy sauce for dipping
- Put the sushi rice into a bowl of cold water and swirl and swish until the water turns white, then pour off the water, drain well. Put washed rice, wild rice and 2 1/4 cups water in pot on stove and bring to a simmer. Stir and cover, lower heat. Cook 15 minutes, until water is absorbed; stir, cover, and cool. Stir together vinegar and sugar, stir into rice.
- While rice is cooking, heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice sweet potato into long french fry shapes, toss with maple, tamari and sesame oil on a sheet pan. Roast uncovered for 15 minutes, then turn the strips and bake for 20 minutes longer, until tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove to rack to cool.
- Slice the apple into 1/2 inch thick batons, about the same size as the sweet potato pieces. Mix the mayo with sage in a small cup.
- To assemble, place a sheet of nori on a bamboo rolling mat. spread 3/4 cup cooked rice on each sheet of nori, leaving a strip about 1 inch wide along the top edge exposed. Sprinkle hazelnuts over the rice. Smear a teaspoon of mayonnaise across the bottom of the rice. Lay two rows of strips of sweet potato on the bottom third of the rice, place a couple rows of apple. Brush water on exposed nori. Roll up with even pressure, lay with seam side down to seal.
- To make the flower petal shape, use the mat to shape by pressing down on one side after you've made the roll, using the mat to create the angle down to a point.
Let sit to firm up for a few seconds, then slice with moistened serrated knife into 6 to 8 slices per roll. Arrange each on a plate. Sprinkle hazelnuts over the slices, and garnish with wasabi, pickled ginger, and shoyu or tamari for dipping.
Thanksgiving is all about Thanksgiving Sides
Has your search for the perfect Thanksgiving menu started yet? I won’t decide on the final picks until it’s time to shop, but I like to let some ideas percolate in my mind for a few weeks prior. The days fly by, and it’s far better to have my Thanksgiving sides in mind than to be blindsided by the big day.
Thanksgiving sides are a big deal to me, and most meatless diners, because they are our way to integrate into the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Someone else can make a turkey, we bring our best Thanksgiving sides, and plan to eat them as main courses. It all makes for a great spread, and in my own way, I tempt my friends and family to crowd that plate with plant-based food, perhaps nudging into the space where another slice of turkey would go.
They can save that for tomorrow’s lunch.
Bringing People Together
There are plenty of reasons to avoid your family, but food should not be one of them. This holiday is about giving thanks, and is a throwback to ancient harvest celebrations. It can be as pagan or religious as you make it, or you can focus on the mashed potatoes and keep it all about the food.
I’m lucky to be a guest this year, invited to bring sides to share with one of my oldest and dearest friends, and her extended family and friends, and I can’t wait. Because I don’t have to do the heavy lifting of making the main course, I’m free to explore the Thanksgiving side dish, in all its harvest season glory.
So I’m trying out this creamy, herb-laced version of shepherd’s pie. Usually shepherd’s pie is covered with a deep, boring layer of of mashed potatoes. So, I roasted some whole garlic cloves until they were sticky and sweet, and pureed them with parsnips. I love parsnips, and can’t believe that I still meet people who don’t know what they are. Try my Easy Thai Roasted Red Curry with Parsnips, or my Comforting Parsnip Soup, to explore the long white root. You can pick your milk- almond, coconut, or if you are into dairy, go for half and half. As you can see from the photo, I did a quick piping job- it only takes a few minutes to pop them into a piping bag and make decorative dollops on top of the filling. Of course, you can just spread them on top, too.
As I contemplated the usual shepherd’s pie filling, I wanted to freshen it up, so I went for spinach. I’ve found that dishes with spinach appeal to just about everyone, and the bright green just gives the casserole curb appeal. A few carrots for color contrast, a creamy sauce, and a generous dose of fresh sage, and I have a winning Thanksgiving side.
Make Your Thanksgiving Side into a Main
For the vegetarians, you can make it a main with a package of seitan, a can of mock duck, or a can of white beans. Just drain and stir into the spinach mixture before topping. Gluten-free folks can use white rice flour instead of unbleached for thickening the sauce.
Because making sure there is a good option for everyone is one way to share love and compassion this Thanksgiving. As well as great food.
Roasted Garlic Parsnip Spinach Shepherd's Pie
For a hearty, colorful side dish, make this creamy, comforting casserole. For a hefty main, add some chopped mock duck or cooked white beans to the spinach filling.
- 8 cloves garlic whole, peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds parsnips 5 cups chopped
- 1 cup non-dairy milk or milk
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 12 ounces spinach washed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions chopped
- 2 large carrots chopped
- 3 tablespoons unbleached flour or white rice flour for GF
- 3 tablespoons fresh sage chopped
- 1 cups non-dairy milk or milk
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons tamari
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces seitan, or a can of drained white beans optional
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Place the garlic cloves and olive oil in a small metal bowl and cover with foil, and roast for 20 minutes. The garlic should be very soft and browned. Take out to cool.
- In a large pot, place the parsnips and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium low and simmer until the parsnips are very soft. Test by piercing with a paring knife. Drain well.
- Transfer the garlic and oil to a blender or food processor, and add the parsnips and salt. In a food processor, puree completely before adding the milk. In a blender, add the milk and puree. When smooth, transfer to a large piping bag with a large star tip, or just reserve to spread on the pie.
- Prepare a 9x13 inch pan or other medium casserole.
- For filling: Boil a large pot of water and drop the spinach in, cook for about 2 minutes, then drain. Rinse with cold water, squeeze out, then spread on a thick kitchen towel, roll up, and squeeze until very dry.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and carrots until golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions in the pan and stir to coat the vegetables with flour and eliminate any lumps. Gradually stir in the milk and stock, and cook over medium heat until thick. Add salt, tamari and pepper and stir. Take off the heat and stir the spinach (and seitan or beans, if using) into the sauce, then spread in the 9x13 inch casserole.
Pipe the parsnips on top of the spinach filling as shown, or place dollops on top and spread them with a spatula. Spritz with a little olive oil, then bake at 400 for 35 minutes. I cranked up the broiler and watched carefully for a few minutes to get my parsnip topping nicely browned.
Get Mindful with Hot Chai
Are you busy? Do you feel a little stressed? You’re never too busy to find a moment to be mindful.
We’re all busy. Any time I ask someone how she is, invariably, she’s a little overwhelmed, a little stretched, and just plain busy. Of course, I’m really talking about myself, and the fact that I routinely sum up my existence with that oversimplified, uninformative word, “busy.” So, I’m trying to carve out moments for mindful focus, and let that busy “stuff” go.
You’re so much more than busy
So where exactly do we find time to break away from our cycling thoughts and worries, and take a moment of mindfulness? Perhaps place ourselves in the larger scheme of things, rather than in the minutiae of daily tasks? Of course, it would be great if we all meditated every day.
I even took a mindfulness course this Spring, and meditated almost every day for the whole eight weeks of study. Everyone in the class felt so much better when we took that half hour every day. Despite out best intentions, I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t kept up the habit.
But my meditation teacher said it best: “You always have time to take a breath.”
Just a breath, if you do it right, can separate you from the monkey mind that chatters in your head all day. Just breathe.
Let it all go for a moment
I’ve come up with my own little practice, if you’ll indulge me. All it takes is a cup of hot tea. You can make the chai recipe I’ve provided, and that will add a warm, exotic scent to your mindfulness exercise. But you can just grab a cup of joe from the office pot, or pour hot water over a slice of lemon, if that’s your thing.
As long as it’s hot.
So here’s how I step away from my busy mind for just a few minutes, when I really need to let it go.
Pour yourself a mugful of hot chai. Sit down, grasping the hot mug with both hands to feel the warmth, and press the warm mug to your solar plexus. Breathe.
Focus on your breathing for a minute or so, just breathe in the scent of the tea , breathe out. If thoughts arise, focus back on your breath and let the thoughts pass away, you can even imagine they are floating away with the steam drifting up from your cup. As you focus on your breath, focus on the warmth of the cup, and the surfaces of your palms and chest that are warmed by it.
Breathe in the scent, feel the mug, and really pay attention to it. Keep letting your thoughts fall away, and don’t worry about anything. Just focus on the warmth, and the tea.
Take a sip occasionally.
In this moment, just be present, not thinking about the past, or the future, just about this warm, fragrant cup resting against your center. It’s enough.
Right now, you are feeling the comfort and warmth of a hot drink. If you expand your thoughts outward, imagine that some of your neighbors are also enjoying a hot drink, and feeling just as you do. Expand to your whole neighborhood, and then your town, and on and on. Right now, you are sharing in a basic human sensation, with millions of people. Every one of us needs this comfort, right now.
It makes all your worries seem smaller, doesn’t it?
By the time the tea starts to cool, you may want to get back to doing something else. But you’ll feel better, after taking a moment to just be in the moment.
I hope that you’ll give yourself just a few minutes of stillness, and enjoy my recipe for chai. Mindfulness works.
Homemade Chai Masala and Mindful Chai
Make this spice mix yourself, so you can make a lightly spiced hot or cold chai at home. That way, you control the sweetness, and you can use coconut milk, almond milk, or dairy milk, for a custom drink.
- 4 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 5 cups water
- 4 teaspoons masala above
- 2 tablespoons black tea leaves or your favorite
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1/2 cup honey or other sweetener to taste
- Make masala of ground spices and whole fennel seeds. Mix well and store tightly covered.
For tea, put masala and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, add the milk and vanilla if using, return to the boil, add tea and steep for 4 minutes off the heat. Strain the tea and stir in honey to taste.