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Spring Quinoa Salad with edible flowers

25 May

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Spring has sprung in New York City, and there is so much to eat!

Yesterday was my last “composting and healthy snacks” session for seniors with mild memory loss, in conjunction with The Memory Tree Program, Teachers College, and the Morningside Gardens Co-op. Read more about our first session and our Earl Grey Spiced Fruit Compote here.

The Memory Tree is New York City’s first program devoted to people with mild memory loss, and their family and caregivers.

This was the end (for now!) of a series of “Going Greener” workshops, continuing a previous project about nutrition, cooking, and farmer’s markets. The “Going Greener” project came about as a way to learn how to keep the world healthy, focusing specifically on composting and easy snacks. 

The series comprised 5 sessions, with each session consisting of a compost component, a media workshop, and a healthy snack and drink. Each week, we gave the seniors digital cameras to use so that they could document the colorful snacks and activities. We also made little youtube videos with the photographs. Check out some of the fun videos on our channel.

My main role was to find and/or develop our recipes, purchase the ingredients, and gather the necessary kitchen tools and gadgets . In other words, I was the official “Recipe Consultant.”

These were the 5 snacks and drinks:

1. Earl Grey Spiced Fruit Compote with Lemony Water

2. Carrot and Hummus “Sushi Sandwiches” with Cucumber “Spa Water”

3. Peanut Butter Oat Snack Bites with Minted Ice Cubes and Earl Grey Ice Tea

4. Mud Pudding aka Chocolate Tofu Pudding with Strawberries and Seltzer

5. Spring Quinoa Salad with Edible Flowers, Hummus Feta Toasts with Pansies, Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Bites, and Sparkling Cider

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Edible flowers are fun to eat and beautiful to photograph, so we planted nasturtium seeds with the intention of eating them at the final session. I took a few seeds home to plant, too! If you have never tasted an edible flower, the flavor and texture are similar to a slightly peppery lettuce leaf.

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The final snack (it was more of a meal this time) was a Spring Quinoa Salad. All of the veggies were from the greenmarket: radishes (did you know radishes have about as much or more potassium as a banana?!), ramps, asparagus, and baby lettuces. We also found an assortment of edible flowers: broccoli rabe flowers, radish flowers, and arugula flowers.

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We chopped the radishes and ramps, and shaved the asparagus into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Then we tossed everything together with the quinoa, added crumbled feta cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice. We scooped the quinoa onto a nice bed of lettuces and delicately topped everything with nasturtium.

We also sliced into a baguette, spread the bread rounds with hummus, and sprinkled feta and edible pansies over the top. The pansies were from a plant we bought at the greenmarket.Who knew you could eat pansies?

Before every snack or meal, we all would set the table and clink our glasses together, toasting to good food and good company. Cheers! And don’t forget to compost the food scraps.

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I didn’t get a picture of our blueberry frozen yogurt bites, but they were so easy and so good. I got inspired after seeing this recipe.

Also, if you are looking for more fun, spring veggie talk, check out this episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Spilled Milk Podcast. They talk about ramps, fiddleheads, pea shoots, and nettles.

And for more spring quinoa inspiration, check out Megan’s post on Elevating Lunch.

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Spring Salad with Edible Flowers

Quinoa is full of good-for-you protein and fiber, and it cooks in just minutes. Throw in some seasonal veggies and creamy cheese, and delicately dot with fresh herbs and nasturtium for a picture perfect spring salad! 

*This recipe is very much to your own taste. Once you have your quinoa base, throw in the suggested add-ins as you like! 

serves 4

1 cup quinoa

Seasonal veggies i.e. asparagus (shaved into ribbons), ramps or spring onions, radishes, baby lettuces…

Feta or soft goat cheese (about 2 oz. or so)

Edible flowers i.e. nasturtium, pansies, or broccoli rabe flowers/arugula flowers/radish flowers

Lemon, zest and juice

  • Rinse the quinoa and drain it. Cook the quinoa in a saucepan (2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa) for about 15 minutes or until cooked and fluffy. Put aside.
  • Chop the seasonal veggies into small pieces. If using, shave asparagus with a vegetable peeler (that way you can enjoy it raw).
  • Crumble the cheese.
  • Zest the lemon.
  • In a bowl, combine the cooked and cooled quinoa, the chopped veggies, the crumbled cheese, and the lemon zest. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and toss to combine.
  • Delicately place the edible flowers on top and serve!

Vegan Chocolate Loaf with yogurt, warmed cherries, and chocolate balsamic

6 May

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Because it’s Tuesday.

Because I’m in the thick of finals (last semester of grad school!).

Because I like to eat “healthified cake” for breakfast. 

Because sometimes, I like to plate my food up fancy. 

I ate a slice of this chocolate loaf for breakfast today. No shame. Vegan chocolate loaf cake with some plain, low fat yogurt, frozen cherries that were warmed in the microwave and poured on top, the juices seeping into the cake, and a final glug of chocolate balsamic vinegar that I re-discovered I had in the cabinet. This could easily be dessert.

Healthy decadence is my jam.

Nicole from CucinaNicolina and I are on the same page in terms of our mindset that life is too short not to have a slice of something sweet, especially when that sweet something is homemade, with a little bit of health mixed in. Throwing in some whole wheat flour and a sprinkling of ground flaxseeds helps make cake an acceptable breakfast in my opinion. Oh, and there’s a cup of coffee in hiding in the loaf, too. I always have a little extra from my morning French press, so this was a great excuse to use it up.

This weekend, I tasted the Brooklyn based White Moustache yogurt in sour cherry flavor. The yogurt company is a father-daughter business, and the yogurt is made from Hudson Valley Fresh whole milk and live probiotic cultures. While the price is steep, this yogurt was a real treat, and was worth every penny. Plus, you get to keep the container to re-use.

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This sour cherry combo got me craving cherries. Since cherry season is not quite here, I found some frozen cherries and just heated them up and poured them over this vegan chocolate loaf. Cherries, chocolate, and creamy yogurt were meant to be together!

Since I gobbled down my jar of White Moustache yogurt, I served the cake with my other favorite brand, Wallaby Organic Plain Low-fat Greek Yogurt. If you want to keep everything vegan, just omit the yogurt or make some sort of coconut based cream.

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Vegan Chocolate Loaf

adapted from Cucina Nicolina

makes 1 loaf or ~8 servings

Nicole says, “As always, replace the whole wheat pastry flour and/or spelt flour with all purpose if that’s all you have. A non-dairy milk or plain water can be swapped for the coffee, but I love the coffee note in there and would be loathe to miss it.” I used whole wheat and all purpose flour to keep things simple, and yes, I LOVED the coffee note.

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds

3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used slightly less)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup room temperature coffee

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease a standard sized loaf pan with oil or butter (omit butter if keeping this vegan) and lightly dust with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, flaxseeds, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together coffee, olive oil, and vanilla.

Dump the wet ingredients all at once into the dry and whisk until just combined. The batter will be more firm than wet.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt, some warmed cherries, and a glug of chocolate balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic vinegar would work, too). 

Life Is Busy, But We Still Need To Eat

23 Apr

It is too easy to fall into eating the same things everyday, so I’m trying to shake up my routine a little, and give you some inspiration to shake things up, too! Today’s post compiles some snapshots of the food I’ve been eating lately.

Most of the foods pictured are quick to prepare yet still filled with nourishing, colorful ingredients. Life is busy, but we still need to eat.

Have you tried any new or different foods recently?

Breakfasts: A warm bowl of oatmeal with a dab of nut butter usually hits the spot for me in the morning. Below are some other fun breakfast options:

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A variation of a single-serving oatmeal protein pancake. Combine 1/3 c. quick oats, 1 large egg, 1/2 teaspoon each of baking powder, chia seeds, vanilla, and cinnamon. Add some fruit to the batter, i.e. 1/4 cup of frozen berries. Cook on a lightly buttered non-stick skillet for about 3 minutes. Flip, and cook for another 3 minutes. Top with something yummy, like plain, whole milk yogurt with a little drizzle of maple syrup.

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Whole wheat toast with cottage cheese and black pepper. A quick way to get in some protein and whole grains first thing in the morning. Add a side of frozen mango cubes for refreshing brightness.

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Speaking of mango, here’s a classic bowl of plain yogurt with granola, chia seeds, and mango slices. As you can see, my brain is already on “warm, sunny weather” mode.

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Another simple breakfast or snack: CRUMPETS. Like an English muffin, the airy wholes of a crumpet are the perfect vehicle for a slick of salted butter and a little jam (I used guava/apple jam). Nut butter, avocado, or a runny egg also sound like excellent crumpet toppings.

Light lunches and snacks: I usually like to make my own lunch at home. I have to remind myself that simple is often the answer. Last week was Passover, so I tried to get creative with matzo…

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Matzo spread with hummus and topped with boiled egg and cucumber slices. To boil an egg, place it in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil. Once boiling, shut the heat off and cover the pot for 10-13 minutes, depending if you are using a large or extra-large egg. Place the eggs in a bowl of ice water to cool. Peel and slice!

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Eating out during Passover is a fun adventure. This matzo was topped with smashed avocado, chili flakes, cumin, and lemon. Can’t go wrong. At The Commons Chelsea. 

Quick, easy weeknight dinners: Keeping some easy staples like frozen/canned vegetables, tofu in the fridge, grains in the pantry, and even fish in tins means a healthy dinner is almost always accessible.

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Whipped up a tofu vegetable curry for dinner one night. With a few apple slices and peanut butter on the side. This is a go-to meal for me, but I changed it up by using a little baby corn. Organic canned baby corn gets drained and rinsed and added to the curry with some fresh broccoli. A different vegetable than I would normally use, and I appreciate the change. Did you know you could “dry sauté” tofu? Slice the tofu and place it in a heated, dry non-stick skillet. The heat takes out all of the excess moisture, and still gives it a nice “crust” because the skillet is non-stick. Now the tofu is ready to soak up all of the yummy curry sauce (a similar effect to “pressing” tofu).

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First time buying a tin of sardines! I made Ellie Krieger’s pasta with sardines. Whole wheat fusilli, broccoli rabe, golden raisins, and pine nuts tossed with sardines. Add Parmesan for a little extra salty goodness.

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Taco night. Corn tortillas toasted on the gas stovetop flame. Smear with refried black beans. Top with leftover chicken, and some sautéed bell peppers and onions. A little salsa or hot sauce for acidity.

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Rainbow Nachos. Blue corn tortilla chips, carrot ribbons, black beans, smoky gouda, spinach. Toast in the oven for ~7-15 minutes. Top with avocado and plain Greek yogurt.

Some noteworthy restaurant eats:

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Carrots | Fluke from The Pines in Gowanus, Brooklyn

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Green Falafel “with everything” from Taim in Nolita

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Rice Bowl with Marinated, Grilled Tofu from Community Food & Juice in Morningside Heights

Roasted Eggplants with Ground Lamb and Yogurt Tahini Sauce

8 Oct

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Eggplant season is still here, and I’ve seen loads of eggplant-related recipes featured on the NYTimes lately, like Martha Rose Shulman’s Lasagna with Tomato Sauce and Roasted Eggplant, Melissa Clark’s Eggplant Dip for non-eggplant eaters, and the awesome Eggplant Marinana Sandwich from Frankies Spuntino Restaurant in Brooklyn. Inspiration central.

It just so happens that while I was ‘fondling’ the beautiful eggplants at the market the other day, my eye flecked over to the Brooklyn Cured meat booth, and they had lamb sausages on special–with Greek yogurt, lemon, and parsley. Suddenly my brain switched from craving a hearty winter pasta to Mediterranean mezze. The weather has been so lovely lately, so I figured I could spare a hearty pasta for a few more weeks. And then I remembered Deb’s recipe for Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce and Cumin-Crisped Chickpeas from her cookbook!

Since I found this amazing lamb, I swapped my usual chickpea preference for ground lamb. With a few heaps of roasted cauliflower (I didn’t use harissa this time but if I had it around I might have…) and warm whole wheat pita, I felt very proud of my meal.

The smaller eggplants are great for roasting in larger hunks (oxymoron?!). I quartered mine because I like a greater surface area for browning on the edges but still being soft on the inside.

As you can see, I smothered my meal in the yogurt-tahini sauce. I ended up making a second batch of the sauce the next day because it was just so good for dipping and spreading. Threw some fresh mint into the mix, but you could use whatever herbs you like, or nix the herbs and go garlic and paprika! This may be my new hummus. And all you have to do is whisk.

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Roasted Eggplant + Ground Lamb

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

2-3 small eggplants

olive oil 

salt

1/2 onion, chopped fine

1 lb. of ground lamb or ground lamb sausage

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Take the tops off the eggplants, and either half them or quarter them. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil, place the eggplant pieces cut side up and brush the exposed sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, flip, and roast for another 15-20 minutes, until the skin is dimpled and the interior glazed and golden.

About 10 minutes before the eggplants are finished roasting, heat a (cast-iron if you have one) skillet. Add a touch of olive oil and saute the onion until starting to brown. Add in the lamb and cook for about 5 minutes, until no longer pink inside. Drain the fat.

Serve the lamb with the roasted eggplant (you can roast cauliflower, too!), the yogurt tahini sauce, and some warm (whole wheat) pita bread.

Yogurt Tahini Sauce

2/3 cup plain yogurt (I used Stonyfield low-fat yogurt)

1/3 cup tahini

1 garlic clove, minced

pinch of salt

lemon juice, to taste (about 1-3 Tablespoons)

fresh herbs, chopped (I used fresh mint)

Whisk everything together. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Give it a sprinkle of paprika for a pop of color!

“Pasta Mondays”: Pasta Shells with Tomato and Eggplant

25 Jun

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It’s been a busy June this year. Before the month slips by, I will share a simple recipe for a pasta dinner. Shells with Tomato and Eggplant.

Pasta Mondays have been happening a lot this month. Pasta offers carb-filled comfort, and when tossed with seasonal produce, feels light and quick (I’ve been on a beans/eggs/tortillas kick, lately as well…). Just what I need to keep me pumped for the busy days ahead.

Below is a photo of whole wheat angel hair pasta with summer squash, toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and Pecorino:

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I turned the leftover sautéed squash into another pasta meal, adding tomato sauce, kale, and “whipped” cottage cheese (my latest obsession, it has the consistency of ricotta but with more protein!):

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This week’s pasta dinner was inspired by an amazing eggplant-based vegan sandwich I ate over the weekend at the Smorgasburg in DUMBO. The sandwich was made by Bombay Sandwich, Co. It had roasted eggplant, onions, and tomato seasoned with cumin, carom seed, asafetida, and jaggery. The sandwich was topped with various chutneys, carrot & mustard seed pickle, fresh cut cilantro & Haldiram’s crunchy chickpea flakes, and was toasted on local seven grain bread from Orwashers Artisan Bakery.

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With eggplant on the brain, and leftover tomato sauce in my fridge, this week’s Pasta Monday was set. I recently acquired some basil plants that I potted and set on my windowsill, and nothing screams pasta and tomatoes like fresh basil! I decided to go cheese-less tonight, but I added a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a little flavor and substance.

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Shells with Tomato and Eggplant

serves 4, loosely adapted from Martha Rose Shulman 

8 oz dry shell shape pasta

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small to medium size or 1 large eggplant, cubed

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1-2 cups prepared tomato sauce (try to find a high quality brand with no added sugar, or purchase it at your farmer’s market if you can)

small handful of fresh basil, lightly chopped

salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

optional: nutritional yeast…or Parmesan or ricotta…

Get your water boiling in a pot. Once boiling, salt the water and add the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When it begins to ripple, add the eggplant and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the edges are nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Cover, turn the heat to medium, and continue to cook, shaking the pan often, until the eggplant is thoroughly softened, about 10 more minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, stir together, and heat through. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Drain the pasta, and toss with the tomato sauce and eggplant mixture. Top the pasta with fresh basil, salt, and fresh ground pepper. If using, sprinkle on top nutritional yeast or fresh cheese.