Simple Fruit Scones

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I guess you can say I’m on a bent with the idea of ‘simple’ meals lately. These scones are what I’ve been eating recently, usually alongside a big pan of sautéed greens and turnips or beets, with a couple eggs scrambled in. It’s like a savory ‘fancy’ breakfast for dinner several nights in a row, and only takes a few minutes, no planning ahead, and whatever vegetables are already on hand.

For these scones, I revisited this recipe, adjusted the types of flour by switching to whole buckwheat groats and oatmeal, which I weighed and then ground in my coffee/spice grinder. And then I added in a small handful of dried fruit, a mixture of chopped dried apricots and cranberries in the first round and simple raisins in the second–since I live with a William of very simple tastes. Both are delicious, and it’s fair to say that these are my favorite of all the British or Irish style scones so common alongside breakfast or served with a vegetable soup.

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Interestingly, in my original recipe I wrote that I’d post a whole grain version of the scones. It only took seven years, but I’ve finally done it!

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The impetus for these are from The Recipe Redux February theme of Oscar Movie Inspiration. Since the Academy Awards are on February 24th, we were asked to head to the movies – and into the kitchen to show our favorite movie-themed recipe. My all-time favorite movie – and one of my favorite books – is Pride and Prejudice. I watch it often, usually when I need a little emotional lift and basically have the entire thing memorized. Aside from that, I tend to gravitate toward British-historical movies in general and the Harry Potter series. With all that British influence, tea and scones are a nice quick mini-meal. Eat them for mid-afternoon tea, an on-the-go breakfast, or like I did, as part of a simple breakfast as dinner.

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Simple Fruit Scones
, makes 4
I’ve made these with vegan butter (Earth Balance sticks), unrefined extra virgin coconut oil, and Kerrygold butter. They all work well as long as you freeze your butter or oil and then grate it into the flour mixture, though I’m partial to the vegan butter since it gives a slightly more ‘buttery’ taste than does the coconut oil. If you have no reason for avoiding true dairy butter, opt for that instead and choose a good brand, like Kerrygold. 

80 g oatmeal
55 g buckwheat groats
5 g arrowroot starch or cornstarch
2 teaspoons / 10 g baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
25 g / 1/4 cup dried fruit of choice
30 g / 2 Tbs. frozen grated vegan butter or coconut oil
120 ml / 1/2 cup cold non-dairy milk

  • Preheat oven to very hot 475°F
  • Grind the oats and buckwheat into a fine flour/meal in a coffee or spice grinder. Then add with the remaining dry ingredients into a large bowl.
  • Rub the frozen grated butter or oil into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces.
  • Add the liquid at once into the mixture and stir until it just forms a sticky dough. They will seem a touch wet, but they will end up more tender this way!
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture.
  • Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle or circle that’s a little more than 1 inch thick. Cut or separate it into four equal portions and gently form into rounds.
  • Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish and bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 12 minutes (check at 10 minutes so as to not overbake!) until the scones are well risen and are lightly colored on the tops.
  • Immediately place the pan onto a cooling rack and serve while still warm, or gently reheated.

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Simple Winter Kitchari

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Following in the footsteps of my last post, I’m creating lots of quick and comforting meals lately. Late-winter is when I typically become the least inspired by seasonal ingredients, but this year I’ve relegated to always having some batch-cooking or roll-over ingredients on hand for ready meals. And I actually haven’t lost inspiration per se, but the hours in the day for cooking creatively and sharing those meals has been taken up elsewhere.

Instead, I’ve really been putting my focus into creating space for in between moments and pauses, and it’s kind of funny to realize when life is really full and can feel rushed that pausing and watching the mind slows everything down. All that rush tends to fall away and around, instead of inside me, and I realize it’ll all get done. There are little checkoffs this season. Taking my ServSafe test and receiving certification, sitting for and passing a lengthy comprehensive exam before graduation this spring. Working on and completing my last group project for my Life Cycle Nutrition class. Successfully completing my last clinical course. Continuing to grow in my experience and working with new and continuing nutrition clients. And turning down my entrepreneur ‘what’s next’ business brain for when I have the ability to put my focus there.

And then setting it all down and going to work, where I focus on teaching kids to cook and learn about the basics of healthy eating.

And then dropping my energy into marathon training and keeping my body healthy.

Layers. Like peeling an onion, my doctor said the other day, only she was talking about layers of healing. We all have these layers of aspirations, or obligations, or activities that we’re simultaneously putting our energy into and even though it might be nice to compartmentalize and separate them, they tend to bleed over and into each other. Or at least mine do.

Over the last few years, I’ve tended to go in and out of stress reactions that will last a few weeks or more. I’m told they are really autoimmune-like flares, even though I’ve also been told I’m a touch too healthy to be diagnosed by conventional medicine, even with lots of ‘little signs’. Every time a flare happens I try to scramble and make sense of it, trying to identify the cause or the trigger, but ultimately when my physical body is a little too out of balance, my mental body becomes equally so, worrying and putting energy into the hurts and aches physically. And vice versa. And the two go round and round together, making the episode worse until I ultimately decide to set them both down, “give up,” and invest my energy elsewhere. That’s all to say that with two big end goals on the table right now, one being finishing my graduate program and the other the marathon that occurs just a few days after, I’m in a space right now of enjoying the process, enjoying the little things about the everyday today,  and not getting so caught up in the what if’s or shoulds, or what’s next. It will come regardless.

And for now, I’m eating lots of kitchari, even accused of making lentils and rice way too many meals in a row lately. But it’s what I’m craving and need after running in the rain or cold, or before rushing off to work.

 

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If you’re feeling like you’re holding lots of ‘layers,’ and could use a little space and pause for calming and grounding, I encourage you to turn off the noises around you that you can, tune into the ones that are still there (like family, the wind or rain, the heater), and immerse your senses in the process of cooking kitchari. Soaking the lentils and rice. Chopping the vegetables, measuring the spice. And then eat in the same fashion, for once without distraction, slowly, slowly. Tasting each bite.

Simple Winter Kitchari, serves 2
This works great as a quick lunch or dinner, and can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, or very few if you’re needing super simple. Double or triple the batch if you’d like, or just make this one for a couple lunch days when your partner doesn’t care to share in your need for more lentils and rice.

3 1/2 – 4 cups water
1/2 cup brown rice, ideally soaked overnight or at least a few hours
1/2 cup red lentils, ideally soaked overnight or at least a few hours
1/2 Tbs. Grounding Masala spice mix (below)
1 cup greens or seasonal vegetables, chopped (mine featured peas, greens, fennel stalks, or turnips depending lately)
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 Tbs. coconut oil
1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
cilantro or parsley, as desired

  • Drain the rice and lentils if you soaked them. Then in a medium pot, bring them to a boil with about 3 cups of water and the spice mixture. If you’re tossing in hardier root vegetables, add them at this time too. Turn down, cover partially, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Check after about 20 minutes and add additional water as necessary and again at the 30 minute mark. After 30 minutes, add the greens or more tender vegetables and stir in, and then continue to cook 10 minutes more until everything is nice and porridge-like.
  • Meanwhile, in a small fry pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and add the cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. Cook just until they begin to turn golden and smell fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour them into the kitchari.
  • Stir, add salt and black pepper to taste, and serve with some cilantro or parsley on top as desired.


Grounding Masala Spice Blend
, adapted from What to Eat for How you Feel
2 Tbs. coriander seeds
2 Tbs. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. whole cloves
3/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. ground turmeric

  • Add all the spices to a coffee or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Put into a labeled container and store away from light.

Simple Black Bean and Rice Bowls with Cilantro Green Sauce

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Sometimes the simplest is the best. I threw together this easy black bean and rice plate a few days ago using leftovers already on hand, and it turns out I liked it better than any of the original meals. It was a reminder to keep things simple, but also, creamy black beans, well cooked rice, steamed cabbage, and a good sauce are probably one of the best combinations for a deliciously quick winter meal.

 

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One thing I do want to mention is that for optimal nutrient absorption, it is an incredibly good idea to soak your beans and grains prior to cooking.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes contain antioxidants called phytic acids (or phytates) which are the plants’ primary form of stored phosphorus. Phytates tends to bind minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron, making them more difficult for us to absorb. Soaking these foods for several hours prior to cooking initiates the sprouting process, which makes many of the minerals more digestible.

There is some debate as to whether we should worry about phytates or bother taking the time to soak our whole grains and nuts, as many experts suggest we simply eat a balanced diet and we’ll get enough of these minerals anyway. However, based on my personal experience as well as many individuals I’ve worked with, those of us that tend to eat primarily vegan or plant-based meals comprised mostly of these phytate-rich plants also show routine need for the very minerals that are bound up by phytates.

This is also one of the reasons why beans cooked from dried are a little more nutritious (not to mention having better flavor and texture) over their speed-cooked canned counterparts. To soak grains like rice, quinoa, and others, simply take the amount you’ll prepare, soak for a few hours, rinse, drain, and then cook as normal in 3/4 the amount of water. So for 1 cup brown rice, cook in 1 1/2 cups water for 40 minutes instead of 2 cups water. I find the texture is improved by this method as well.

 

 

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To make this delicious plate, I made my go-to pot of creamy black beans which makes enough for several meals, soaked and then cooked brown rice, purple cabbage cut into large chunks and steamed for about 10 minutes, and this delicious cilantro green sauce. Enjoy!

Cashew Cilantro Green Sauce
40 g / 2 1/2 Tbs. cashew butter
45 g / 1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and slightly chopped
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp. sea salt
90 ml / 6 Tbs. orange juice
1 Tbs. white wine or apple cider vinegar
water to thin, if necessary

  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until combined. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired consistency, if you find it a little too thick.

 

References:
Frølich, W. (n.d.) Phytate–a natural component in plant food. Whole Grains Council. Retrieved from:  http://wholegrainscouncil.org/files/backup_migrate/PhytateProsCons_0910_DK-WGC.pdf.
Sparvoli, F. and Cominelli, E. (2015). Seed biofortication and phytic acid reduction: A conflict of interest for the plant? Plants. 4 (4): 728-755. doi:  10.3390/plants4040728.
Weil, A. (2010). Are phytates bad or good? Retrieved from: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400758/Are-Phytates-Bad-or-Good.html.