The Real Food Journal

Yellow Curry Tofu with Makrut Lime is the Thai Curry You Need Right Now

Yellow Curry Tofu with Makrut Lime

Yellow Curry Tofu with Makrut Lime is so beautiful over Black Rice noodles!

If you follow food trends at all, you know that turmeric has been on the hot-and-happening-food lists for a while now. Soon enough, it won’t be a trend at all but an accepted food in the consciousness of chefs, diners, and juicers. Now that fresh turmeric is becoming widely available, I’d like to suggest that another trend to come is a rise in Thai yellow Curry dishes.

Turmeric Plus Lime

This Thai yellow curry is perfect for the season of citrus, since this is the time when exotica like Makrut limes are available, too. I’m using the term Makrut in place of the term Kaffir, which we should all stop using. The limes have been called Kaffir for many years, probably named after the Kaffir people of Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, in the ensuing years, Kaffir came to be used as a racial slur in other parts of the world, so there’s a movement to switch the terminology. Basically, we shouldn’t be using a term that is equivalent to the “n-word” to refer to a fruit and its leaves.

Thai Curries Are Easy

Red and green Thai curries have replaced hummus and veggie lasagna as the token vegetarian dish on many restaurant menus. It’s a great solution, really, the curries are easy to make, keep well, and can cover all your special needs diners by being vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and if served over black or brown rice, whole grain.

Generally speaking, red curry is medium- hot, while green is hotter, and both are from Central Thailand. There are many variations on curry paste, from the more Indian-spiced Massaman curry to the Pananag and Jungle Curries. Thai yellow curry is not as hot, making it very accessible, even to Minnesota palates!

The makrut lime is a wonderfully fragrant, intensely flavorful ingredient. I like to simmer the peel in the curry over low heat, so the oils from the peel can really infuse the coconut milk. It is reminiscent of citronella, but in a good way. I used Mae Ploy brand Thai yellow curry paste, which I made a trip to the Asian store to get. It’s reliably vegetarian, and the ingredients are: garlic, lemongrass, shallot, dried red chile, salt, galanga, cumin, cinnamon, star anise, turmeric, kaffir lime peel and coriander seed.

Curry pastes keep for months in the refrigerator, so go ahead and stock up.

Thai yellow curry is often made with potatoes, so I subbed in sweet potatoes. They give the dish enough sweetness that you don’t need to add any, and are just a little bit more colorful.

I found these gorgeous black rice noodles, which are made with Forbidden Rice. They are as tasty as they are good looking. If you want to sub some other noodle, anything from a regular rice noodle to a whole wheat linguine would be perfect.

So look for these wrinkly, lumpy limes where you shop, and simmer them with turmeric for a timely, healthy dish.

Thai yellow curry should soon be as common as spaghetti and red sauce!

Yellow Curry Tofu with Makrut Lime and Black Rice Noodles

Fresh turmeric and yellow curry paste give this curry a golden glow, and the lime infuses it with a unique and exotic flavor. The black noodles really make the color pop, but if you can't find them just use your favorite noodle.

Course Main Course
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 1 block extra firm tofu drained
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large makrut lime zest pared off in a strip
  • 1 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups cubed sweet potatoes
  • 1 large jalapeno chopped
  • 1 teaspoon canola or coconut oil
  • 4 ounces fresh shiitakes slivered
  • cilantro and scallions for garnish
  • 8 ounces black rice noodles

Instructions

  1. Drain the tofu and wrap in a towel, press lightly to extract water, then cube and reserve.

  2. In a large saute pan, heat the coconut cream over medium-high heat and add the turmeric and curry paste. Stir until it comes to a boil. Add the salt and lime zest and stir in the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook for at least five minutes, adding water or more stock if it gets too thick.

  3. Add the sweet potato and jalapeno and stir, when it boils, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the sweet potato cubes are tender when pierced with a knife. Fold in the tofu and simmer gently until thick.

  4. In another pan, heat the oil over high heat and sear the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until browned and shrunken. Keep warm.

  5. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Serve curry topped with shiitakes, cilantro and scallions.

Can a Valentine’s Dessert Be Decadent AND Light? Crispy Pastry Nests with Aquafaba Mousse and Berries are!

Have you planned your Valentine’s Day yet? Forget about going out, it’s much snugglier to stay in and have your own private menu. The most important part of the meal is, of course, the Valentine’s Dessert. It must be sensuous, it must be chocolate, and if you can make it pretty, you’ve got a winner.

It’s all about the Valentine’s Dessert

For my Valentine’s Dessert, I went with a deep dark chocolate mousse. 85% cacao chocolate, to be exact, although you can use your favorite. Just don’t use chocolate chips. They are formulated to keep their shape in a cookie, and don’t flow as well when you try to fold the melted chocolate into the mousse.

Then I simmered some aquafaba with raspberry and vanilla extracts, chilled it, and whipped it up. It takes longer to whip aquafaba than egg whites, so if you are accustomed to that process, just give it time. it takes about 16 minutes.

aquafaba mousse

Folding melted chocolate into aquafaba mousse

The Kataifi Nests

For this cute dessert, the only tricky part was making a trek to the Middle Eastern grocery for Kataifi pastry. It’s in the frozen food section at Holy Land at the Midtown Global Market, if you live in Minneapolis. Depending on whether it’s Greek or from the Middle East, it might be called Kunafa, Kunaifa, or some other spelling. It’s a form of filo dough that has the texture of fine rice noodles, and it’s actually really easy to use, as long as you just let it be kind of messy. Just drizzling it with some melted coconut oil or butter, fluffing it into nests, and sprinkling it with sugar is all you need to do.

Once the nests are baked, they keep for days, as long as you keep them in an airtight container. If you are a fan of syrup-soaked desserts, you can even dip them in syrup. I skipped that for the photo, but include instructions below.

 

Kataifi Pastry Nests

Kataifi Pastry and Nests

This is a good one for a special night because all the components can be made ahead. Make the nests and mousse up to three days out, and you can assemble it at the last minute. Nothing requires any special skills, unless you consider folding to be a big challenge.

Valentine's Day Aquafaba Mousse

A lovely Valentine’s Dessert

Then it’s up to you to garnish with some berries, drizzle with some chocolate sauce, and dig in. It’s a little messy, when the nests crumble into a pile of crunchy strands, but getting messy is part of the fun.

It’s all part of celebrating the “love holiday” and it wouldn’t be complete without a chocolate Valentine’s Dessert!

Aquafaba Mousse in Kataifi Nests

Put them on a little cake stand for serving

Crispy Nests of Raspberry Chocolate Mousse with Strawberries

Use Kataifi pastry to make these quick and easy nests, and whip up some aquafaba mousse to nestle inside. Perfect with berries for a Valentine's dessert.

Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 1 pound kataifi or kunafa thawed
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Mousse

  • 3/4 cup aquafaba 1/2
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon raspberry extract
  • 5 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons organic sugar
  • strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate seeds
  • chocolate sauce

Syrup

  • 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water or rosewater

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease the 12 cups in a muffin tin and reserve. Put the pastry shreds in a large bowl and use your fingers to separate and fluff them. Drizzle with melted coconut oil or butter and toss to coat. Pull out a small handful and coil and roll it to place into the muffin tins. Shape into nests, make an indentation in the middle.

  2. Sprinkle the nests with turbinado sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, loosen gently while still warm. Let cool completely, store in an airtight container.


  3. For Mousse, put the aquafaba in a small pot and bring it it to a boil, add the vanilla and raspberry extracts. Boil until reduced to 1/2 cup. If you get below 1/2 cup, add a little water to make 1/2 cup.

  4. Place the aquafaba in the refrigerator until completely cold. Put the cold aquafaba and cream of tartar in a stand mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, or a large bowl with an electric mixer. Melt the chocolate and let come to room temperature.

  5. Beat on high for 10 minutes, then sprinkle in 1 tablespoon sugar and beat for 3 minutes longer, then sprinkle in the remaining tablespoon and beat for 3 minutes longer. 

  6. Fold the chocolate into the whipped aquafaba until smooth. Transfer to a storage tub and chill until cold and firm.

  7. To serve, place a nest on a small plate and dust with cocoa or powdered sugar. Scoop a small portion of mousse into the nest, then decorate with berries. If desired, drizzle with chocolate sauce.

  8. If making syrup, make it before baking the nests. Place the sugar and water in a small pot and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir for just a couple of minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Chill until completely cold. When the nests come out of the oven, take each out of the pan and place on a rack over a baking pan. Drizzle the nests with syrup and let the excess drip into the pan. Let cool.

Is Evercrisp the Next Big Apple?

Evercrisp Apple-Nutella Panini

Melty and Delicious Evercrisp Apple-Nutella Panini

What’s your favorite apple? I have been smitten with the Honeycrisp ever since that Minnesota born juggernaut took me by the tastebuds. You could divide my apple life into BH (Before Honeycrisp) and AH (After Honeycrisp.) It was that big. There have been new apples AH, but none have tempted me to change allegiances. At least not until now. Now, we have the Evercrisp, the love child of the Honeycrisp and a Fuji, and it’s a pretty attractive apple.

In fact, the Evercrisp has so much effervescent juiciness in every crunchy bite that the juice flows like bubbly champagne. And I love champagne.

I suppose now I will enter the Evercrisp period, at least until the supply runs out!

Evercrisp Apples

A Beautiful Bowl of Evercrisps

The Crunch is the Thing

The breakout quality of the Honeycrisp was the almost explosive crunchiness, and the Evercrisp is just as magically percussive in your mouth. Biting into one causes big, juice packed cells in the apple to burst, flooding your palate with intense flavor. The Fuji’s influence seems to give the apple a slightly sweeter, perfumey quality, balancing with the tartness of the Honeycrisp. There’s more going on in your mouth, and it’s all good.

Apples Take Time

While the Evercrisp is new to you and me, it actually came to be in 1998. It takes that long to get a new apple into production. So, the hot new apple is actually 20 years old. The first official crop was in 2016, and it was just a small, test run. The 2017 crop is in stores now, and should last until the end of February. In Minnesota, your best bet for trying one is a Lunds or Byerly’s store. (For a guide to finding the Evercrisp near you, click here.)

These are Keepers

One of the standout qualities of the new Evercrisp is its durability. Unlike most apples, it stays crisp and fresh for months, even without refrigeration. Growers and sellers love that, and you will, too. An apple that stays fresh in that crisper drawer longer means less food waste. Less food waste saves you money, and reduces the carbon footprint of your apple cravings.

Evercrisp Apple Salsa

The Crunchiest Evercrisp Apple Salsa

To give these apples a little test run, I ate lots of them straight up. Every time, the fist bite was a revelation. Then, I made some really simple things with them. The Grilled Evercrisp and Nutella Panini is so easy, It’s hardly a recipe. Same thing with the Evercrisp Apple Salsa. I was restrained, just giving the apples center stage.

That crunch held up in both, keeping the salsa exciting well into the next day. The grilled slices in the panini stayed just firm enough, taking on a nice color without falling apart.

I’m seeing a bright future for the Evercrisp, which delivers on both the texture and flavor, as well as keeping well to reduce waste. I’m predicting that next year will be a big one for this newcomer.

It’s definitely a win-win!

If you want more recipes for apples, try apple salad 

 

Evercrisp Apple Mint Salsa

Get ready for crunch, with this simple salsa you can make from Fall through Spring. Great on chips, quesadillas, or a Mexican themed bowl meal.

Course Appetizer
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped Evercrisp Apple about 2 apples
  • 1 large jalapeno seeded and diced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh spearmint chopped
  • 1 large scallion chopped
  • chips

Instructions

  1. Don’t peel the apple, just cut in small cubes. Put in a bowl with the jalapenos, sugar, lime and mint and toss to mix. Serve with chips, nachos, quesadillas, or anything else that needs a little crunchy salsa.

 

Grilled Evercrisp Apple and Nutella Panini

Just good bread, good apples, and the over the top chocolate hazelnut Flavor of Nutella. I used an organic coco-hazelnut spread by Nutiva, which is dairy-free.

Course Main Course
Servings 3
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 8 slices whole wheat peasant style bread I used Baker's Field
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate Hazelnut Spread or more, if you like it
  • 1/4 cup roasted, skinned hazelnuts chopped
  • 2-3 large Evercrisp Apples peeled and sliced
  • canola oil for grill

Instructions

  1. Preheat the panini grill. Slice the bread, if necessary, and spread four slices with 2 tablespoons Nutella. Chop hazlenuts and reserve.

    Brush the panini grill with canola oil and place apple slices on the grill, close the grill. Cook for a minute or two, until the apples are marked and softened. Let cool slightly as you grill the remaining apples. Cover Nutella with apples and hazelnuts, then place the second slice of bread on each. Brush the bread with oil and grill the sandwiches until toasted and marked. Slice each in half or quarters and serve.

Share a Heart-Healthy Chili Bar : It’s Great Superbowl Food

Chili Bar gives you the option to add your favorites to a bowl of smoky red chili!

Start with a bowl of red, and top it as you see fit!

Superbowl food doesn’t have to be sooo unhealthy…

Minneapolis has a case of Superbowl fever, as we count down to the big game. For my part, I will be appearing on “WCCO This Morning” on February 2nd, cooking to promote Wear Red day for the American Heart Association, while providing a tasty chili feast that you can make for the big game.

Because heart health is still important on Superbowl Sunday.

Heart disease is a big one for me. I’ve lost loved ones to it, I’ve had heart surgery. But more about that later.

For some reason, the craziness around the Superbowl extends to the food, too. Superbowl food is all about ribs and bacon and chips and dip. It’s as if sat fat were the lucky charm to make your team win. So, to make everybody happy, I’ve devised a chili bar that allows you to serve a vegetable-rich, heart-healthy chili, and offer assorted toppings. It’s Superbowl food for a healthy heart.

Wear Red!

I am all in on Wear Red Day- red is my color! It’s also personal for me. The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement is an effort to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women. CVD is the #1 killer of women- more women than men die of heart disease, more than all cancers combined. And everyone can reduce their risk by 80% with diet and exercise.

Like most of you, heart disease has been a part of my life. My own father died of heart failure, after many years of suffering. It was terrible to watch a strong, athletic person slowly decline as CVD progressed.

Maybe it was my Dad’s habits that made me such a plant-based, get-moving kind of person. That’s why I was shocked when I was diagnosed with a hearth defect ten years ago and had to have heart surgery. There I was I was, riding my bike on 50 mile circuits three times a week, going to kickboxing class, and getting all A’s when I had my blood pressure and cholesterol checks.

My heart surgery story

So when I called my doctor’s office about a weird pain in my chest that I thought was heartburn, the nurse told me to go to the ER. I scoffed. “No way, I don’t have heart problems,” I said. “You have to go.” She said. I blew it off, but after a sleepless night, I gave in and went to the hospital.

After a couple of hours and some tests, it turned out that I had a congenital heart defect called Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome. The heart problem had nothing to do with my heartburn, it had just gone undetected all this time. The doctor recommended surgery. I scoffed again. “I’m too busy to have heart surgery!” I said.

Luckily for me, a determined nurse, whose name I do not know, wouldn’t let it rest. She kept calling me. Finally, she talked me into meeting with the heart surgeon, just to talk.

And a month or so later, I had heart surgery. An ablation, to be specific, to zap away some extra electrical tissue in my heart.

It was amazing, one minute I was being strapped to a table, the next I was awake and looking at my new, perfect EKG. I was home the next day, and was out walking on the trail as soon as I got home.

The moral of the story is, if your doctor says you need heart surgery, don’t put it off. They are really good at these things these days. Better to fix a problem before it gets out of hand.

I want to keep my friends and family healthy, too!

So, I’m in the business of making delicious, healthful food, and I serve it to the people I love. Because we all need to take care of our hearts. Keeping all my loved ones heart-healthy extends to my Superbowl food spread, too. If you need a cool cocktail, check out my Lemon Thyme Slushy.

Superbowl food that's good for your heart!

On TV, I’ll be browning ground turkey, but at my house, I cooked up some homemade seitan, and I’ll bet some people wouldn’t notice the difference.

If people want to, they can pile up avocado and red chilis and cilantro, or they can spoon a bunch of the ground turkey on there. As long as there is a healthy base, it is better than most of the Superbowl food options.

And that is how I put points on the board. One bowl of chili at a time.

Superbowl Chili for Wear Red Day

Serve your friends and family this tasty, vegetable-rich chili, and if you must, serve some meat on the side. People might just fall for the meatless chili, and enjoy a heart healthy meal while watching the big game!

Course Main Course
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup freekeh
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 large carrot chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can red kidney beans 15 ounces
  • 2 cups vegetable stock approximately
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

Toppings

  • 8 ounces ground turkey or seitan plus chipotle powder, if desired
  • 4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 large scallions chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 4 large red Fresno or red jalapenos slivered
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • chopped pineapple, hot sauce, etc.

Instructions

  1. In a small pot, bring 1 cup water to a boil, then add the freekeh. Cover tightly and reduce to a simmer, cook for 20 minutes. Take off the heat, stir and drain any excess water. Reserve.
  2.  In a 4 quart pot with a lid, heat the olive oil, then add the onion, carrot and pepper and saute for about five minutes or longer, until soft and golden. Add garlic and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika and stir, then add the salt, cooked freekeh, kidney beans,vegetable stock, diced tomatoes and tomato paste and stir, simmer for 10, adding water or stock if needed. When the chili is thick, taste for salt and heat, and adjust to taste. Can be made up to three days ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered.
  3. To serve, warm the chili. Saute the turkey or seitan in a little olive oil, adding a pinch of salt and a pinch of chipotle powder, if desired. Serve all the toppings in bowls, and let your guests serve the chili and spoon toppings on top.

 

 

Make Some Comfort Food: Creamy Roots Puree with Cashew Curry Gravy

Roots Puree with Curry Gravy is comfort food

Just Comfort Food

Comfort Me With Food

It’s cold outside, and here in Minnesota, we’ve been cocooning for weeks. At times like this, it’s hard to keep from face-planting into anything at all that seems like it might replace the energizing effects of sunshine and warmth. Sugar, Salt and Fat are sending out a siren call. At times like this, I look for comfort food that packs a bunch of flavor, creaminess, and yes, real food goodness. A Creamy Roots Puree with Curry Cashew Gravy hits the spot.

Steamed Parsnips, Turnips and Whole Garlic Cloves, comfort food

Steamed Until Butter-Soft

Why Roots?

First and foremost, I have no beef with potatoes. I forget about them, honestly, because I’m thinking about whole grains when I put my menus together. I’m not potato-phobic, or anti-carb. But when it comes to a creamy, silky mash, I really think parsnips are so much sexier. Parsnips are like the sweet, mildly earthy cousin of the potato, once you cook them. For this puree, I snagged a huge turnip, really, it counted as two turnips. It’s my laziness that calls me to big vegetables, thinking, “I’ll only have to peel one!” and this turnip looked smooth and fresh, so there was no fear of it being a woody monster root.

Spice it up with Curry

From there, it was a matter of sauce. I had my fill of meaty tasting miso gravies over the holidays, so I was in the mood for something a little spicier. That craving for comfort food dictated that I wanted creaminess, so I went with raw cashews, for a rich, thick base. Curry spices felt warming and complex enough to keep me interested. I had fresh turmeric on hand for juices and smoothies, and love to add that to dishes as often as it makes sense. I’ve written about the incredible health benefits of turmeric before here, with a recipe for dal, too. I’m dedicated to keeping my brain as healthy as possible, and turmeric is part of that plan.

Roots Puree with Curry Gravy, comfort food

Creamy Roots Puree with Curry Cashew Gravy

So, yes, I ate it with a spoon, without expending any energy on pesky chewing. This would make a great side dish for a big salad, covered with Cauliflower and Spiced Nuts, or alongside a mess of Channa Dal. Kamut Naan with Banana Chutney would be divine.  Cauliflower Biryani would be another unexpected twist to serve alongside. A samosa or some Chapati might also be a good accompaniment. If you’re up for it, my Nut Curry Stuffed Squashes are a showstopper of a main course.

It’s starting to feel like winter won’t last forever, so you might as well give yourself over to comfort food that makes you feel good in your body. Warm up with real food.

Creamy Roots Puree with Curried Cashew Gravy

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 4 medium parsnips peeled and sliced
  • 2 large turnips peeled and sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves peeled
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or other non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Gravy

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews soaked
  • 1 medium roma tomato chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cilantro for garnish
  • 1/2 cup toasted cashews

Instructions

  1. Set up a steamer and steam the parsnips and turnips until very tender, about 10 minutes. Pour the coconut milk or other milk and salt into the Vitamix and add the hot roots. Secure the lid and insert the tamper. Start on Variable Speed 1 and increase gradually as you press the ingredients into the blades with the tamper. When smooth, transfer to a serving dish and keep warm.


  2. For gravy, drizzle the oil in a large saute pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir, and cook for about 10 minutes. When tender, add the turmeric and ginger and cook for a couple more minutes.  Add the paprika and cayenne and stir. Add the tomato and stir until softened, about 4 minutes.

  3. Transfer the onion mixture to the Vitamix and add the cashews and half a cup of water. Secure the lid and select Variable Speed 1. Using the tamper, press the ingredients into the blades as you increase the speed. Blend on High until the mixture is very smooth. Makes about a cup plus 2 tablespoons of gravy.

  4. Serve the roots with a drizzle of gravy and top with cilantro and toasted cashews.

Make An Easy Chimichurri and Chipotle Cauliflower Bowl for Balance in 2018

Chimichurri Brown Rice Bowl with Pepitas

Easy, Tongue-Tingling Chimichurri Sauce Makes This Simple Bowl Exciting

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.

(For a few more balancing bowls check out a Big Kale Bowl with Turmeric-Cashew Dressing,or Roasted Broccoli and Quinoa Bowl,or a Tibetan Tsampa Bowl with Veggies.)

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.

Chipotle Cauliflower for a Great Bowl Meal

Chipotle Sprinkled Cauliflower, Carrots and Onion

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.

Chipotle Roasted Cauliflower

Roast Smoky, Spicy Cauliflower ’til It’s Soft and Sweet

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.

Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 large carrot quartered and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • extra virgin olive oil

Chimichurri Sauce

  • 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

Bowls

  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • 16 large pitted kalamata olives chopped
  • 16 pickled peppadew peppers sliced
  • 1 large ripe avocado sliced

Instructions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Make Mini Holiday Tarts in Six Flavors for a Delicious Dilemma

Holiday Tarts

So hard to pick from the Holiday Tarts!

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.

six holiday tarts, pumpkin, pear and apple

Six holiday tarts cooling on the rack

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.

holiday tarts

Apple, Pear, Pumpkin, Casual and Delicious

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.

Apples from my friend's friend's trees.

Cranberry Apple, or do you want Ginger Pear?

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.

Heirloom apples for holiday tarts

In the back, a Wolf River with the long stem, on the right, Prairie Spy, in front, Liberty.

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.

Individual Apple Tarts

Cinnamon Apple Tart with Whipped Cream

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.

Course Dessert
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 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

Fillings:

    Pumpkin Filling

    • 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

    Fruit Fillings

    • 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

    Instructions

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

     

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