vibrant winter dal with roasted cauliflower + toasted seeds

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I took a real slow down in the days after Christmas and into the first part of the new year and in that time I gave this space a little update. With it, I also set the intention to align the content a little more towards what has been calling to me these last few months.

Like the couple years before it, 2017 was a particularly challenging year. Even as I was in it, I knew it was a year of lessons and great strides were being made, even as it was difficult to see through the moment. Out of it, or out of those years I should say, I’ve developed a fairly different relationship with myself, one where the person before writing this blog post is like a long-ago friend I no longer know well. I spent a lot of the past couple years delving into the silence, watching the chaos in my brain, going far back into memories of my childhood, seeking to understand what and where I lost myself. I wouldn’t say I’m done with all that necessarily, (because are we ever?), but I do believe I’ve forgiven, learned about, and let go of the events and traumas that were keeping me stuck between being the person I am and the one I thought others wanted me to be.

I feel a lot more like me these days. And more free.

Because I’m drawn to the concept of food as medicine, slightly shifting my eating habits, not just the food but the way in which I try to eat it, has been a big component of the shift. I’ve taken to noticing how I feel, whether it’s cold, anxious or ungrounded, hot and fiery-tempered, or calm and assured, and then adjusting my meals to accommodate. I learned this method of tuning in and then adjusting from Ayurveda, and though to explain it, the idea sounds trite, I’ve noticed improvements in my digestion and mental health from the subtle change in how I season foods, the mindset I prepare them in, and how much attention I give while eating. Ayurveda, like other ancient medical systems, puts digestion as the foundation of health since what and how we eat, so we become.

The biggest difference? There’s rarely mind chatter in the line of “diet culture” thinking, i.e. too much, guilt about eating this or that, wanting a different body or trying to control the one I have, etc. If food is medicine and food is fuel, it’s also nourishment, and nourishment for more than just the physical self.

So to get me through the cold and dark of winter, I’ve been making routine bowls of creamy dal, sometimes simple with a few random root vegetables and greens thrown in, and sometimes fancied up with a quick puree, roasted cauliflower and toasted seeds. Either way, after trying a couple dozen different versions of dal these past few years, I’ve come to this recipe. I’ve taken many concepts from Divya Alter’s What to Eat for How You Feel in making it, and compared to many dal recipes, this one tones down the spices and keeps them to those that gently warm and ground “airy” mind and digestion in this cold season.

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Part of the process in making this is preparing your own grounding spice blend to season the roasted cauliflower and dal. It’s a quick extra step but definitely worth it–I tend to add the blend as a quick sprinkle to many meals that need a little extra something, or on days I feel particularly all over the place. My spice grinder is a favored and frequently used kitchen implement, but if you’re without one or prefer to skip this step, using your favorite curry powder will work as a substitute–however, I tend to think a lot of the magic here is in using tailored spices.

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The spices in this blend are ones that particularly help with digestion and tend to be warming and pungent without being outright hot (like cayenne or chili). This results in open circulatory channels and the ability to warm up and eliminate toxins and congestion. It is especially helpful in the cold season or for the cold person. Specifically,

Coriander improves digestion, calms the mind, and binds toxins in the blood.
Fennel regulates and improves digestion, and is a cooling spice in smaller amounts. It balances the warming spices in this blend.
Cumin stimulates digestion, eliminates toxins, and helps with the absorption of nutrients.
Cloves improves digestion, reduces toxins, and opens circulatory channels.
Black pepper improves digestion, opens circulatory channels, eliminates toxins, and enhances oxygenation in the brain.
Turmeric cleanses the liver and helps break down fats, improves digestion, and is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

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Vibrant Winter Dal, serves 4
1 cup split mung dal (split mung beans) or red lentils, or a combination of both
1 Tbs. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 Tbs. minced ginger
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. grounding masala (see recipe below) or ground coriander
3-4 cups water
1 cup frozen peas
a couple large handfuls diced greens (spinach, kale, etc.)
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more as needed
cilantro and fresh lime slices, to serve

  • Soak the mung dal or red lentils for 30 minutes. Then drain and rinse well.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add in the turmeric and toast for about 10 seconds. Then add in the minced ginger and bay leaves. Cook for about 30 seconds more and then add in the masala or coriander and mung dal. Stir and cook until the beans are almost dry.
  • Add 3 cups of water and bring the soup to a boil. Then cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the beans have become tender and begin to disintegrate. Stir in the frozen peas and greens and cook a few minutes more, just until they are warm and wilted. Add the salt and more water as needed.
  • Then, transfer the dal to a blender and puree, working in batches. Add back to the saucepan and gently warm. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Serve bowls of dal topped with roasted cauliflower, toasted seeds, cilantro and freshly squeezed lime, as desired.


Roasted Cauliflower
1 large cauliflower, outer leaves removed and cut into small florets
coconut oil, as needed
1 Tbs. grounding masala
sea salt and black pepper

  • Line a large baking pan with parchment and toss the cauliflower, spices, and oil to coat. Roast in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until fork tender.
  • Remove from the oven and spoon atop individual bowls of dal.


Toasted Seeds
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

  • Heat the oil in a small pan over medium-low heat and add in the hemp and cumin seeds. Toast them until they begin to turn golden brown and release their aroma.
  • Divide among bowls to top finished soup.


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.

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Savory Spinach Crepes with Sautéed Mushrooms

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When I was on study abroad several years ago, my roommates and I frequented  a handful of restaurants semi-regularly, one of which was a creperie in Dublin’s city center. Like many that cater to the brunch crowd, this was an order at the counter establishment, and all the cooking was done just to the right of the till, behind the counter. I remember watching each time as the cook spread buckwheat or regular batter across the big crepe pan, let it sizzle, flipped, and then added toppings. Ever the one to favor vegetables, I often reverted to the menu options that leaned heavily towards spinach and mushrooms.

 

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Like in years past, The Recipe Redux challenged us to Grab a Book and Cook this month and because I wouldn’t want to break from tradition too terribly much, I reached for my newest Green Kitchen Stories cookbook and found a recipe on page 127 I’ve been tweaking for quite some time. I had even transferred my version to a word document, dated last from July. Of course it was a quick and savory green crepe recipe, leaning heavily on spinach and mushrooms. Apparently my preferred crepe flavors have changed remarkably little in all these years.

David and Luise use rice flour and eggs in their crepes, and then they dress them up with an extra step of tahini, apple, and garbanzo salad. I never did favor that particular combination, the extra step involved, or the heavy egg flavor that came through, as I’m often particular about how and when I’ll take my eggs. Instead, I tweaked the recipe over time to include buckwheat, garbanzo or garbanzo/fava flour for extra protein without another topping, and aquafaba as an egg alternative.

Being quick and easy, these are weeknight friendly and the batter will keep for a couple days in the fridge if needed. As an extra note for those who have allergy/intolerance restrictions or prefer to avoid purchasing unnecessary ingredients, I realized a few months back that my favored buckwheat flour was no longer being milled in a gluten-free facility. I tend to opt for metrics when working with flours anyway, and if you do too and have a semi well-stocked pantry and a coffee grinder, unroasted buckwheat groats (not kasha) will grind into a fine flour as quick as can be and doing so mostly skips the gluten-contamination issue. I also tend to keep leftover aquafaba (chickpea cooking water) in the freezer for occasions that call for quick crepe meals like this one, but if you’re partial to eggs and/or have flax or chia, those options work as well.

 

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Savory Spinach Crepes with Sautéed Mushrooms
, serves 3-4
adapted from Green Kitchen at Home

Crepe batter

¾ cup / 112 g buckwheat flour
¾ cup / 112 g garbanzo or garfava flour
6 Tbs. aquafaba (or 2 eggs, or 2 Tbs. ground flax or chia plus 6 Tbs. water)
2 cups / 500 ml non-dairy milk
1 cup / 250 ml water
a pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, rinsed
1-2 tsp. coconut oil, for sautéeing

Mushrooms
1 lb./450 g mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. coconut oil
a couple sprigs fresh or dried thyme
salt and pepper

Optional Accompaniments
plain coconut yogurt
additional spinach
toasted sunflower seeds

  • Place the crepe ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend, using a hand (immersion) blender, until smooth and green. Alternatively, mix the batter ingredients together in a blender. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes while you prep and cook the mushrooms.
  • For the mushrooms, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add coconut oil, garlic, sliced mushrooms, thyme, and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and glistening, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside while cooking the crepes.
  • To cook the crepes, heat an 8 inch (20 cm) sauté pan over medium heat. Add a pinch of oil and when it is melted, about 1/3 cup (80 ml) of the crepe batter. Tilt the pan until the batter is evenly distributed. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until each crepe is golden and can be turned easily. Repeat with the remaining batter until all the crepes are cooked. There will be about 12 in total. Place the finished crepes on a plate in the oven on the lowest setting while cooking the remaining batter.
  • To serve, top each crepe with yogurt, if desired, and mushrooms. Feel free to add a small handful of additional spinach and/or some toasted sunflower seeds alongside to round out the meal.

If you’re of the mind, check out past December Recipe Redux posts:
Toasted Oat Porridge with Chamomile, Walnuts + Spiced Apples, from Chefs on the Farm
Chili with Chocolate and Walnuts, from Green Kitchen Travels
Quinoa + Chorizo Wintry Salad, from Vegetarian Everyday

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buttercup squash soup with coconut, sage + quince

buttercup squash soup with coconut, sage + quince

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a few weeks ago, i discovered there’s a seemingly abandoned quince tree a couple streets over from us. instead of inquiring about picking the fruit to the nearby house or walking my ladder down the neighborhood and being for real about the situation, i instead ended my marathon-season track workouts for weeks by practicing my plyometric jumps into the lower branches, snagging one golden floral fruit each time, and smuggling it’s precious but ugly self back home to add to my for-soup collection.

i had an idea in my head about updating this soup and instead of sending the floral quince notes throughout, piling a few thin sauteed slices on top with fresh sage. the result is absolutely holiday (or just really nice self-care) worthy.

 

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speaking of holidays, here is what i’m making for the Thanksgiving weekend:

i. a brussels-heavy variation of this salad.

ii. apple pie. i’m planning to recreate the best gluten + dairy free pie crust i’ve made so far, adapted from Alanna’s recipe and fill it with apples + spice inspiration from Renee.

iii. if the weekend calls for more cozy time in the kitchen, i’ll be making cornbread stuffing (per William’s request), and/or pumpkin, sage + rosemary baked risotto, or perhaps just end the weekend with that cornbread alongside my favorite deep/rich vegetable-heavy chili with chocolate and walnuts.

iv. and more of this soup! the Recipe Redux challenge this month is to add some naturally colored holiday treats and trimmings to the table and this soup is definitely colorful! and, importantly, it’s also tasty. i gobbled up the first and then second batch before i took time for photos, so the third round, whipped up in the final days before we head to eastern oregon for family time, is going home to share.

 

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buttercup squash soup with coconut, sage + quince, serves about 4

Curious about quince? They’re a seriously old fruit, similar in many ways to pears, but much more floral in flavor and aroma. They require cooking too, as their heavy tannins and raw texture will dissuade even the hungriest neighborhood scavenger! Since they’re slightly precious and can be difficult to find outside of local shops and markets, a pear or apple can be substituted, or completely left out for a less sweet/interesting ending. For a little more substance, I’ve often been stirring in either cooked garbanzos or sometimes marinated/seasoned tempeh to my soup and rounding it out with some whole grain sourdough bread for a full meal deal. Also, use any squash you like. I used the last of the Buttercup from my garden. It’s a sweet, dense, slightly dry flesh variety, and any of the Kabocha, Hubbard and Butternut varieties are also good alternatives. 

2 lb. buttercup winter squash, exterior rinsed of any remaining soil
1 + tsp. coconut oil, divided
1 large onion, medium-diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 cups water or vegetable broth
2/3 cups full-fat coconut milk
1 1/2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp. sea salt
ground black pepper
1 quince, cored and thinly sliced
1-2 tsp. minced fresh sage

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Slice the squash in half and turn cut-side-down on a baking dish. Add 1/2- to 1-inch water to bottom of pan and roast for about 45-60 minutes, until a fork slides easily through the skin and flesh of the squash. Let cool at least 5 minutes before handling.
  2. Set a large pot on medium heat and add coconut oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it softens and becomes translucent. Then stir in the thyme and water or broth.
  3. Once the squash is done roasting and is cool enough to handle, scoop out the seeds and discard. Then scoop the flesh into the pot. You can either discard the skin or toss it in, as it is definitely edible and will add a little texture towards the end result.
  4. Add the coconut milk and apple cider vinegar.  Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then using either a blender or food processor, puree in batches until you have a smooth consistency. Turn it back into the pot, and add salt and ground black pepper and taste to adjust seasoning.
  5. For the quince, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of coconut oil, sliced quince, and minced sage. Try to spread the slices out over the pan so they are not overlapping and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are becoming golden and crispy on the edges.
  6. Serve the soup hot with the sauteed quince scattered on top. Enjoy!

 

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