Monday, April 22, 2013

Kale, Bacon, & Asparagus Stir-fry

Lets talk about two of my favorite foods. Kale + Bacon. It's no oxymoron that these two foods go together so darn well. After all, if you haven't made this Bacon Brittle Kale Salad yet, then you should probably re-think your priorities.

Per my last post, you are now all aware that I am currently studying Holistic Nutrition. What I love about my Program is that I am amongst other crazy passionate people who believe that good whole foods can make one feel amazing. Every week, one person brings a snack to class. This past week was my week and I chose to bring a kale, bacon, and asparagus stir-fry to share. If your immediate reaction is "you bring bacon to a nutrition class?" then you should know: this aint' no fat-free nutrition program.

I don't think I need to convince you why I did this. #passionateaboutpork

But lets talk nutrition for a minute - I promise not to bore you as this is probably quite relevant to many of you.

Kale has amazing health benefits! It's a fabulous source of Vitamins A, C, K (especially important for heart health!), fiber, and minerals like magnesium. How you prepare the Kale is important too and could potentially impact your thyroid function if you have thyroid issues.

This is because kale is a goitrogenic food, like soy and other cruciferous veggies. What on earth does that funky word mean? Goitrogens are substances in certain foods that can potentially interfere with our body's thyroid gland. This is because goitrogens interfere with iodine uptake and iodine is needed to produce ample active thyroid hormones.

So what does this mean for you!? No biggie. Really. You still gotta eat your greens.

But if you have hypothyroid issues (low thyroid), consider cooking your goitrogenic veggies. This will help to inactivate the goitrogens and you can still get your greens in! Consider limiting your intake of raw goitrogenic veggies - save it for special occasions if you will.

The second best part of this stir-fry (bacon is obvs the first) is that it makes amazing leftovers.

Kale, Bacon, & Asparagus Stir-fry

8 slices bacon
1-2 bunches kale (Curly or Lacinato will work), the leaves torn off from their stems
1 bunch asparagus (about 10 will do), chopped into bite-size pieces

3 1/2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 small yellow onion or shallot, chopped finely
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt & pepper to taste

1. In a frying pan, cook the bacon over medium heat. Remove the bacon and place on a plate with paper towels to help soak up the extra grease. Transfer the bacon grease from the pan to a bowl or jar. Once the bacon is cool, tear it into small pieces.

2. While the bacon is cooking, tear the kale leaves away from the stems and place in a bowl. Add the chopped asparagus in.

3. While the bacon is cooling, using the same pan as it was cooked in, add 3 tablespoons of the bacon grease into the pan and add the onion. Stir for a few minutes over medium heat, until the onion begins to brown and caramelize. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients in, as well as the kale and asparagus. Cook for 5 minutes or so, until the asparagus become more tender. Add the bacon pieces in and cook for 1 or 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.


Friday, March 22, 2013

An update.


I've been meaning to write on here for a while now. And in all honesty, I've just felt as though time has escaped me over the past few months. I actually didn't think anyone would notice, but then of course, my Mother informed me that some of her cooking students were asking about my blog. Figures.

You know you better get on it when your Mother, who still uses aol dial-up Internet, is asking about your blog. And yes, aol-dial up still exists.

I'd like to share something that has been a huge part of my life lately, which I've kept fairly private. Last September, I started school. Again. I am currently enrolled in a year and a half program at Bauman College in Berkeley to become a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. The curriculum is heavily based around taking a whole foods and wholistic approach to nutrition.

A love for food is in my blood, people. I grew up on a few acres in which my Dad transformed into an amazing fruit and vegetable orchard. We'd pick blackberries and make fresh pies on Sunday mornings, Laura Ingalls-Wilder style. And my Mom. Well, she instilled a love for cooking and baking from scratch in me from the moment she refused to buy me an Easy-Bake Oven.

But about 3 years ago, I met an inspiring woman named Lisa. She is a Registered Dietitian with an MS, a Holistic Nutritionist, an Herbalist, and a general health-wonder woman. Upon my first consultation with her, I was completely addicted to learning about all things nutrition-related. After obsessively telling all my close friends how amazing my time with Lisa was and inundating Lisa with nutrition/health questions constantly via email, she told me "you should probably enroll in a nutrition program as you are clearly passionate about this."

Two years later, I finally bit the bullet. And here I am. Nearly 6 months into my Holistic Nutrition program. I've struggled for the past few years with finding my way, career-wise. I put so much pressure on myself to find that perfect balance of passion and financial stability, and the classic work-life balance. I have not found it yet and continue to struggle.  I don't love my day job. But I will say this. The moment I walk into my classroom on Wednesday nights, I feel relieved, excited, and like I am home. When I am stressed professionally or personally, I think about school. And how much I love it. And then I think about how one day, maybe I'll be able to help someone make a really small change in their diet that will end up making a huge change in their life.

The thought of this ability to do so makes me giddy.

Work, family, and friends; it is hard to find balance among all these while enrolled in school. However, I feel that what I am learning in school is so valuable and I can't wait to share it.  I plan to pop in on my blog from time to time and share both recipes and my growing nutrition knowledge. I hope this sounds good to you.

And also, I would just like you all to know that as I write this I am eating a delicious gluten-free triple chocolate brownie. Just because I'm studying to become a Holistic Nutritionist doesn't mean I have perfect eating habits. It's definitely a journey.

I can't help that I keep it real.

I just hope that one day, I can sit down with you, and maybe teach you just one thing that improves your health long-term. Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Coconut-Cinnamon Roasted Acorn Squash

I have a confession to make.

I've been cheating on butternut squash and sweet potatoes with...acorn squash.

Lets get real. I love all my beta-carotenes. Especially when roasted in the oven with a healthy serving of real buttah and a few dashes of cinnamon.

So, last Sunday morning I was perusing the Farmers Market and a favorite farmer of mine had a beautiful assortment of squashes. I fought the urge to buy a butternut squash and instead bought 2 acorn squashes. Best. Decision. Ever.

I cooked the acorn squashes for Sunday night dinner. A certain special Midwestern-meat and potatoes lovin'-young-man looked at me and said "How do I eat this?" I replied "Scoop it out with a spoon!" I waited.

"This is really good."

Not to mention, here are some of the health benefits of the ingredients in the recipe:

Cinnamon: a warming, healing spice, which can help to normalize blood sugar.

Butter: use the real butter; so many benefits. To name a few, it contains Vitamin A, D, E, K and helps fat-soluble vitamins be absorbed by the body.

Coconut sugar: sweet, with a caramely flavor. Coconut sugar isn't highly processed and is considered to be a low-glycemic index level food, and is safer for diabetics than brown or white sugar. Oh, and it contains magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium.

Another recipe that will warm your soul. Because that's just how I roll. 

Coconut-Cinnamon Roasted Acorn Squash

2 acorn squashes, cut in half, with seeds scooped out
2 tablespoons butter (I used Kerrygold grass fed butter)
2 tablespoons coconut sugar (brown sugar can be used too)
A few drizzles of real maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the acorn squash in half like so (see picture below) and scoop out all the seeds. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.

2. Place a few small slices of butter on each squash. Next, sprinkle the sugar evenly across all. Drizzle maple syrup (not too much). Finally, sprinkle with cinnamon generously.

3. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Every 15 minutes, take the squash out and brush the liquid mixture that will form in each squash all over the squash. Make sure to let cool before sprinkling with sea salt and digging in with a spoon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Get Better Soon Soup: Spicy Lentil & Kale Soup

It may have been 81 degrees in San Francisco last week, but I was fighting a very nasty cold.

In an effort to kick said cold, I stayed home from work to relax and heal. But anyone who knows me, knows I am horrible at relaxing and sitting around doing nothing. So of course, I decided to cook. But only using ingredients that were already in my kitchen. Because I was too lazy to venture to the grocery store, naturally. Cooking is therapeutic, right?

I threw together a bunch of ingredients I had in my kitchen in order to make this soup. I wasn't planning to document it at all, hence the lack of pictures. However, this soup turned out amazingly flavorful, hearty, and healthy. I might declare it one of the best soups I've ever made. 

So as we enter the Winter season, or as I like to refer to it, the season of too-much sugar, tummy-aches, and flus, remember this soup.

This soup can cure people.

I topped my soup with a dollop of pesto I had left over in the fridge, as well as Siracha. Since we're approaching Turkey Day, you could even substitute the chicken sausage with leftover turkey. Yum!

Consider garnishing outside of the box bowl, with: Siracha, pesto, croutons, grated Parmesan or Pecorino. Did I mention Siracha?

But really, when is Siracha as a garnish not appropriate? 

Spicy Lentil & Kale Soup

2 tablespoons butter, ghee, or extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, sliced finely
1 tablespoon minced garlic or 4 fresh cloves, chopped
1 bunch lacinato/dinosaur kale, leaves torn off of the stem
2 cups lentils (I used the pre-packaged Trader Joes lentils)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth + 2 cups water
1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely sliced
2 chicken sausages, cut up into bite-size pieces (I used Trader Joes garlic-chicken sausages)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons basil (I used dried, but you can use fresh leaves)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cheese rind, optional (I used Pecorino)
Sea salt & black pepper, generously, to taste

1. In a large soup pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes or so, til they begin to brown and the shallots nearly caramelize.

2. Add all the rest of the ingredients, except the salt and pepper. Stir everything all together. Place a lid on top of the soup pan and bring to a boil. Once the soup comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Once the soup is done simmering, turn the heat off. Carefully taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve and enjoy.

*This soup freezes well. I'll often put a serving side in a plastic bag and pop into the freezer for future cravings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Browned Butter Salted Blondies

Ok, lets get a few things straight.

While I must admit that I am normally a dedicated and tireless chocolate-loving gal, there are a few instances in which I must admit that vanilla, often described as yellow or blonde in food terms, is better.

Pour example:

Vanilla bean ice cream. Much better than chocolate.

Yellow cake (with thick chocolate frosting). Tastier than chocolate cake. (I know this is shocking coming from me).

Blonde men > brown haired guys ...huh? What. I can't help it. It's my personal preference.

But always remember that brunette gals are better.

Now that we're on the same page lets talk about these blondies. I made these for a Sunday night dinner I hosted and let me tell you that they were a huge hit! This recipe comes together with just a few ingredients in 10 or 15 minutes. Seriously one of the easiest desserts to make, ever. And the final product tastes so very buttery, rich, and sweet. Kind of how I like my men. Just kidding. That was a really bad joke. Make these blondies and I promise you'll forgive me.

Oh and by the way, I made mine gluten-free, to boot!

They are so delicious, that I barely got to snap a picture. See below for proof. Now, go get your butter on (the stove, duh).

Browned Butter Salted Blondies
Makes about 12 blondie brownies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour of your choice (I used Thomas Keller's Cup4Cup as a gluten-free alternative; just don't use whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt + extra for on top

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8x8-inch baking dish.

2. Over medium heat, melt the butter, stirring constantly. Once the butter melts and bubbles a bit, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

3. While the butter is cooling, mix together, in a separate dish, the flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Once the butter has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, quickly whisk in the brown sugar and then the eggs. Combine this mixture with the flour mixture and mix everything together until the batter is smooth. Breathe in the buttery deliciousness.

5. Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish and sprinkle the top with a pinch or two of sea salt. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife/toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the blondies.