Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Classic Lemonade

I recently heard someone say that August was like the Sunday of Summer. I feel like lemonade, especially homemade lemonade is something that should be in hand on a lazy Sunday afternoon at the end of summer.

It's fresh, light, tangy, and just sweet enough to quench your craving for something sweet in between lunch and Sunday dinner. If I had a deck, balcony, back or front porch, I would take a full pitcher of this with me and read until the pitcher was empty and my mind was full.

Hope you enjoy!

1 part lemon juice
1 part sugar
4 parts cold water

Or, if you'd like your measuremtns in cups, use these:

1 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
4 cups cold water

Mix everything (in a large pitcher) like a rock star, and drink it like royalty.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sweet Potato Curry Recipe

As a curried soup, this has a lot in common with other curry dishes. One of the problems with using curry, in my mind, is that it generally over powers most other flavors. To counteract that you need to use another strong flavor - pomegranate, coconut, or pineapple, just to name a few non-meat choices. In this case, it's paired with coconut and, most shockingly, sweet potatoes. 

Not only are sweet potatoes great for you, but it means that you don't need to add ANY sweeteners to this dish to expertly blend the curry and coconut. Also, the coconut is really just a supporting flavor in this dish, as opposed to some other dishes it is debuted in. 

Another nice thing about this is that the flavors come in waves - first the sweet and savory coconut is present, quickly followed up by a more distinct starchy sweetness that only sweet potatoes have, and finished with a peppery kick from the curry. 

As food goes - this is easy, fantastic, and a great conversation starter for dinner. 

5 cups packed, cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 sweet or yellow onion, diced OR 1 teaspoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
5 cups chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can coconut milk (original recipe calls for light coconut milk, but I think you loose some of the needed flavor when you do.)
1 1/2 cups apple sauce
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon curry powder


1. In a large pot, heat coconut oil and sauté onions just until translucent (if using onion powder, skip this step, and add all ingredients after step 2. 
2. Add stock and bring to boil - add remaining ingredients and mix well. (It might be 'stringy' at this point - that's okay!)
3. Cover, reduce to medium low, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until onions are tender. 
4. Blend soup until smooth and creamy. An immersion blender works best, but if you don't have one of those, carefully (it's HOT!) ladle it by batches into a standing blender, and blend until smooth. 

Serve hot, or chill and serve cold (my preference). 

If desired, top with additional coconut milk.

**This freezes really really well too, which is why it's great for batch cooking. 

Clockwise from top left: Nutmeg, ginger, onion powder, curry powder.
Roughly 5 cups of sweet potatoes here - yum yum yum!!! 
There are nine potatoes here - the can gives a good size reference.
Topped with coconut milk for an extra bit of contrast.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Chopped Greek Salad with Homemade Greek Vinaigrette

This has been a go-to favorite for lunches for the past two weeks. It's easy to prepare, and easy to transport (can you say "Hello plastic bag?!"), so it makes total sense if you're trying to eat right but have a busy life. 

What is also nice about this salad is that it's filling, packed with great veggies and nutrients, and entirely satisfying on warm spring days.... not that we've had many where we are right now.... but for the rest of the world enjoying spring, this is truly a great dish. The crisp, crunchy sweetness of the peppers and the cool, delicately mellow taste of the cucumbers are contrasted by the gently herbed tang of the dressing. 
Also....the savory pop of the cherry tomatoes is fantastic, especially when you can find great heirloom tomatoes that just burst with flavor. And the dressing - honestly, it is amazing. It has the tangy punch from the vinegar, the herby, earthy hold from the oregano, and the rich depth given by the extra virgin olive oil. I made a whole bottle just to have on hand - that is how good it is. 

Another nice thing about this is that it can be served as a side dish or a main lunch. If you're looking for more protein, toss in cut up grilled chicken or drained garbanzo beans. 

Serves 2 for main dish, 4 for side dish.

Vinaigrette Ingredients:

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (no substitutions!!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, crushed)
salt/pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

3 bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange - one of each is my favorite), diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 cups diced cucumbers (mini cucumbers work great)
1/4 cup  thinly sliced red onion (about 1/8th of an onion)

1 cup crumbed feta


1. In a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake together all the vinaigrette ingredients. Add salt and pepper to preference- set aside.*

2. In a large bowl combine all of the vegetables and gently toss together. Top with feta cheese and gently pour dressing over everything.

Serve immediately at room temperature, or chill before serving.**

*Dressing can be made ahead, and if desired, mix the onions in as well and let them marinate a bit. This reduces the sharp edge of the onion flavor and allows ingredients in the vinaigrette to blend together better.

**If you make this salad ahead of time DO NOT mix in the dressing or the cheese. If you mix in the dressing or feta and then chill the salad, it tends to pull out water from the veggies, making the veggies limp (rather than nice and crisp) and the dressing watery. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Batch Cooking and Eating Healthy

Batch Cooking

Today I tried batch and freezer cooking for the first time in earnest. IT WAS EXHAUSTING!!!!!

I've been known to make a large pot of chili or soup and freeze what we didn't eat in portion size containers for consumption later. However, today I tackled four meals.... in bulk.... at once. IT WAS EXHAUSTING!!!!!  I have decided that 1) it's a learned skill with a learning curve and 2) takes a certain amount of endurance (did I mention that it was exhaaaaaaaaaaausting?!). However, as I look at my clean kitchen - dishwasher loaded, pots and pans washed, and a freezer and fridge chock-full of lunches and dinners for this week - I feel satisfied and very accomplished.*

Hot dang. Would you look at that pretty girl. She worked hard today.
I'm about to give her a mop and maybe declutter the corner. 

The bunny trail that led to my undertaking this newfound lovely insanity started with me reading this post that I saw on pinterist, then reading about twenty different posts on the same site (Organize Yourself Skinny) - not exaggerating either - and reviewing previously found literature. My interest in taking charge of my life was renewed.

Here are the thoughts that gave me the motivation to tackle it:
• Time is a premium this week, thus no time for healthy cooking (for any meal really, double bummer).
• I honestly want to be healthy and loose weight (in that order). No more hiding!
• The idea intrigued me. Why not give it a shot? If I'm going to chop one pepper, why not three?
• I have to think about food at some point, why not think about it all at once?

Having similar thoughts? Keep reading.

My fridge and freezer are full of pre-made salads, healthy soups, and snacks. Way to go me!
Eating Healthy 

It's all about education. One of my favorite quotes is "What I do depends on how I feel about what I know." Apply it liberally.

What do I know about my body? About food? What do I know, through experience or study, how they interact optimally? What do I know about regular exercise and it's affects on me personally?

Personally, I believe bodies are a gift from God that we get to learn how to manage properly. Thankfully, I also believe that He's given us health guidelines. (I'm not getting preachy, just personal.)

How do I feel about those things will reflect in what I do. I decided it was time for me to care a little more and take charge of this aspect of my life.

In regards to healthy eating here are some of my basic and repetitive thoughts:

• It's a lifestyle, not a phase.
• You need to think about your food.
• The more you learn, the better off you are and will be.
• Always keep learning.  Use various sources (Doctrine and Covenants 89, Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat For Health, OYS) but use critical thinking skills.

In conclusion: Knowledge is power. Get educated. Come to care about it enough to act on it.

*Studies (that I remember studying, but don't now have the references for) have shown that people who  exert all their available efforts to and are fully committed to the pursuit of meaningful and worthwhile goals are happier than their counterparts. My personally summary of it was "There is deep satisfaction in work." ....and not necessarily 'I get paid for this work', but the more generally definition of 'exertion'.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pomegranate Chicken (Fesenjan)

A while back my sister-in-law sent me this recipe. I don't know if she knew how obsessed with pomegranate juice I am, but I. am. obsessed. It has a tart, full taste with a little bit of citrus and a complex sort of mellow body to it. Basically, its complex, distinct, and very good. Sip it slowly and let it roll around your mouth to really grasp the full extent of it. 

While I normally seek inspiration from others, I rarely keep a recipe as I found it. It's nothing to do against the original creator - I just flat out like to tinker with food.

However, I tried slightly modifying this once, and just wasn't happy with the outcome. Dana, on her blog Minimalist Baker, has created a wonderful dish. It's a sweet, nutty, and savory sauce with chunks of tender chicken. It has a kick of pomegranate flavor that really ties in a lot of the curry like turmeric and sweetness from the honey. 

It can be served with naan, rice, or cauliflower rice (my favorite).  And please, for the love of good food, serve this with a glass of pomegranate juice. 

POM Juice in it's glory. Photo rights go to this site.
As I made almost no adaptations to this, and her post is so well written, I will post the original recipe in it's original form, giving her full credit. For her full description of this dish, and all her tips, tricks, and suggestions, please visit her blog, or blog post Fesenjan (Pomegranate Chicken)

I hope you enjoy! 

A classic Persian dish made simple with a few time-saving techniques. Vegan optional and naturally gluten free. Plus, healthy and filling and perfect for gatherings or everyday weeknight meals.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Persian
Serves: 3-4
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (or 1 8-oz. bottle pom juice)
  • 1.5 cups walnut halves
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1.5-inch cubes*
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock*
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • pinch each cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper
  • Optional: 1 cup uncooked white or brown rice (I used jasmine) for serving
  • Optional: 1 cup pomegranate arils and fresh parsley for garnish

  1. If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, make your own by pouring pomegranate juice into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add a pinch of salt and a little lime juice and simmer for 45 minutes until reduced. Set aside to cool. You will have leftovers.
  2. Next, toast walnuts in a shallow pan over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Once cooled, transfer to a food processor or blender and blend into a fine meal. Set aside.
  3. Next, if you’re serving with rice, start by rinsing 1 cup rice in a fine mesh strainer. Bring 2 cups water to a boil, add rice and a pinch of salt. Cover and turn to low. White rice should take 18-25 minutes; brown rice 30-40. Don’t open lid until it’s done. Fluff and set aside, covered.
  4. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Once hot add 1 Tbsp olive oil and onions. Cook until soft, stirring occasionally.
  5. In a separate pan over medium heat, cook the chicken in two batches in a bit of olive oil. Once browned, add it directly to the pot with the onions. Salt chicken while browning.
  6. Once all the chicken is in the pot, add chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat and add pomegranate molasses, honey, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and walnuts. Simmer for 15-25 minutes or more, until desired thickness is reached. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  8. Serve over rice or with naan. Garnish with pomegranate arils and parsley. Store leftovers covered in the fridge. Should keep for several days.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pastrami Sandwich with Swiss and Caramelized Onions

So this is pretty much amazing. Like I've mentioned before regarding French Onion Soup, something magical happens when caramelized onions and Swiss cheese get together. It's not quite a Jane Austen romance novel type of magical, it's more like the Cinderella's pumpkin turning into a magnificent carriage to transport a beautiful woman to a ball type of magical. 

Depending on what else swiss and caramelized onions are paired with, the flavors that are highlighted are different. In this sandwich, there is almost a sweet, nutty and earthy flavor that is brought out. Pair that with the salty, smokey, and peppery taste of the pastrami, this sandwich becomes an instant favorite. 

The pastrami I used here was from Trader Joes. I will say that although I really liked it, I haven't had tons of other pastrami to compare it to. Also, I used sourdough bread as I abhor rye bread which apparently is the more popular for this kind of thing. 


Sliced/shaved pastrami 
Sliced Swiss cheese 
Caramelized onions (about 1/4-1/2 onion per person should be good, FYI) 
Dijon and/or honey mustard
Sliced bread, any type, but something more substantial is better. Sourdough, rye, ciabatta, etc. 


Spread desired amount of mustard on two slices of bread. Layer on pastrami, cheese, the onions, and top with second slice of bread. I find it works best with the cheese in the middle. 

Grill if desired, but it can be served cold too.