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Every other week or so I will cook a big pot of beans or lentils, and a big pot of rice, and eat that in various forms for several days in a row. This is one variation I make quite often, and don’t seem to get tired of: black beans, steamed brown rice, steamed kabocha pumpkin and kale, topped with cojita or feta cheese, and a good salsa. It’s like the inside of a veggie burrito.

There are myriad variations and extra additions, including: minced cilantro, espazote or onion, chopped or sliced tomatoes, avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds, roasted tempeh or tofu, sauteed or roasted mushrooms….

Cooking dried beans from scratch is easy, so cheap, and also allows you to control the amount of salt (and to eliminate other preservatives often found in canned beans). Pick through dried beans to make sure there are no small rocks mixed in. Soak over night if you wish, then cook in plenty of water, with a bit of salt, a bay leaf, and a chunk of onion if you like. Set on high until boiling, then turn down to the lowest setting, cover, and allow to cook for an hour or until tender. Then add any seasonings you like ( I like to add some cumin and a couple hot dried peppers). The only tip is to not add anything acidic (such as tomatoes or lime) until after the beans are cooked, as the acid will prevent them from cooking properly.

I usually just steam the rice, but sometimes I will sautée the rice first with a bit of garlic and chile powder in olive oil before steaming.

Enjoy, and let me know if you come up with any of your own variations!

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Here are a few things I’ve made recently that would be good additions to any holiday meal: an extra spicy, whole wheat gingerbread, a delicate and moist persimmon cake recipe that doubled as  persimmon chocolate chip muffins, lots of kabocha pumpkin simply roasted in olive oil and salt until super tender and caramelized, and an autumn salad with spinach, red quinoa, pumpkin seeds, apple, and feta.

spicy gingerbread

ingredients

1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/4 ts. baking soda

1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon fresh ginger

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground if desired

1 tablespoon orange rind

3/4 ts. salt

1 egg beaten (or 1 tablespoon ground flax seed mixed in 1/4 cup warm water)*

1/2 c. turbinado sugar + extra for topping

1/2 c. molasses (use a fuller flavored  “robust,” un-sulfered or unfiltered molasses if you can)

1/2 c. boiling water

1/2 c. olive oil

directions

preheat 350 degrees

combine dry ingredients into one bowl. in a separate bowl, mix wet in ingredients. combine, then add boiling water last, stirring until smooth.

cook in a loaf pan, cake pan, or whatever you prefer. Bake until golden, coming away slightly from the sides of a pan, and when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Serve alone, or with lemon curd, lemon or vanilla ice cream, or fresh whipped cream. Also wonderful lightly toasted with coffee or tea and sliced oranges for breakfast.

*note: substituting flax seed for egg will make this recipe vegan. the result is just as delicious, but does not hold together as well

persimmon cake/ persimmon chocolate-chip muffins

adapted from bon apetit

note: this recipe results in a lightly sweet cake or muffin. If you would like a sweeter result, use 1 cup of sugar and/or top with a delicately flavored icing, glaze, or sweetened whipped cream (vanilla, orange zest, and/or nutmeg would be wonderful additions)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
  • 4 large, very ripe Hachiya persimmons
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • chocolate chips (optional)
  • chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour muffin tin or loaf pan. Tap out excess flour.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside.
  • Scoop persimmon flesh from skins into a blender. Purée until smooth. Mix with wet ingredients. Add chocolate chips or nuts if using
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, cake pan, or muffin tins.  Bake until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
  • Let bread cool in pan for 20 minutes. Unmold and let cool completely on a wire rack.

caramelized kabocha pumpkin

ingredients

  • kabocha pumpkin
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

directions

preheat oven to 400 degrees

cut pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds and cut in thin slices or small chunks (more cuts means more caramelized edges!) drizzle generously with olive oil (about 1/4 cup for an entire small pumpkin) and salt. toss to coat.

roast until very tender and edges are lightly browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes

optional additions: sliced onions, fresh black pepper, hot chile flakes, a couple teaspoons of maple syrup and/or french mustard drizzled over squash for the last 5 minutes

Autumn Salad

makes one large salad

ingredients:

6 cups baby spinach, or mixed greens

one firm, sweet/tart apple, like a Pink Lady or Gala, cored and sliced thinly

pumpkin or squash seeds, roasted with olive oil and salt at 400 degrees until golden brown

1/2 cup crumbled feta (or ricotta salata, or fresh goat cheese)

1 cup leftover quinoa (any variety, I like red the best for salads)

your favorite vinaigrette or mix together 1 tablespoon french mustard, 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons of your favorite vinegar, black pepper, and a tiny pinch of sugar until emulsified

Toss greens with most of the dressing, leaving a couple tablespoons to drizzle on top. Arrange quinoa, apple slices, seeds, and cheese on top on dressed greens. Drizzle with remaining  dressing and serve.

I just finished packing for a road trip to LA–the second one I will be taking in as many weeks.  I take long trips for work or pleasure pretty often and have learned to plan ahead by packing myself lots of healthy food and snacks for the trip. If possible I like to cook or bake a few things to take with me, but even if you don’t have the time, that doesn’t mean you have to rely on fast food!

Airports, truckstops, and gas stations are full of expensive food that is often ultra-processed, and full of sugar, trans fats, salt, and preservatives. Plan ahead by packing a bunch of healthy snacks that are easy to transport and eat on-the-go. This can not only save you money, but you will also arrive feeling so much better than if you either don’t eat enough or eat junk food the whole day!

When I take my next trip to NYC in the winter I will write a post about what I bring for the plane. For now, here is a list of what I will be bringing in the car with me for the trek to socal in the morning:

  • several bottles of flavored sparkling water stay hydrated by drinking something other than coffee once in a while, and avoid the temptation to drink soda by sipping a variety of flavored seltzer water
  • lots of fruit! oranges and apples travel especially well and you can keep them in the car for several days without worrying about them going bad. The fiber and high-water content of these fruits keep you full and hydrated, and they satisfy your sweet tooth, helping to avoid the candy available at every rest stop and gas station
  • homemade baked goodies for this trip I am bringing Michelle’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and mini-loafs of her apple cinnamon bread
  • a quart or large jar or bottle of organic, 1% milk in a cooler or cooler bag. I’ve learned the hard way that gas stations often only carry powdered “whitener” (whatever that is) to add to coffee, so I bring my own milk. I really don’t mind drinking crappy gas-station coffee as long as it is not full of awful chemicals
  • tea bags–assorted black, herbal, and green tea. You can get hot water almost anywhere on the road
  • crackers and cheese or hummus-my favorite are Ak Mak whole wheat crackers with pre-sliced part-skim mozzarella.

Happy Travels!

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Yet another adaption of a recipe from 101 Cookbooks, this time I’ve borrowed her recipe for easy little bread. This yeast-based recipe is indeed easy and quick, but you’d never know it: it has a great, light texture, and an incredible crust. I wanted to make a rosemary bread, because that is one of my favorites, and used olive oil instead of butter because I wanted my bread to be dairy-free. But you could try this plain or add any seasonings you like. Some ideas that come to mind are: parmesan or another hard cheese, oregano and feta, onion, caraway seeds, herbs de provence, lavender and honey, or mixed seeds.

Easy Rosemary Black Pepper Bread

1 1/4 cups warm water

one packet active dry yeast

1 tablespoon honey, agave, or sugar

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup multigrain cereal (not instant)

3/4 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)

1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

mix yeast, water, and sweetener and put aside in a warm place to “bloom”

Meanwhile, chop the rosemary, and mix all dry ingredients together. If your yeast is slightly bubbly and smells like fresh bread or beer, mix the wet ingredients with the dry. Cover with a warm, slightly damp towel and put in a warm place to rise for about half an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil your bread pan really well. Dump the dough inside, and top with a teaspoon or so of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle more of the olive oil.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Right away, remove it from the pan and onto a cooling rack to keep your olive oil-ed edges nice and crispy.

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Almost everywhere we look these days–the television, newspapers and magazines, even advertisements—we are being reminded about the obesity epidemic in this country. While awareness about this issue is important, it does seem that our culture now equates thinness with health. This article in the New York Times by Dean Ornish (a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute) speaks to the medical research that proves that a healthful diet, not weight, is the best indicator of health.

“Perhaps the biggest misconception is that as long as you lose weight, it doesn’t matter what you eat. But it does. Yet being thin and being healthy are not at all the same thing. Being overweight is not necessarily linked with disease or premature death. What you eat affects which diseases you may develop, regardless of whether you’re thin or fat. Some diets that may help you lose weight may be harmful to your health over time.”

Seems like such an obvious statement, but this is not the way we have been trained to think in this country.

Read the full article here.

lemon olive oil cake, lemon cake, lemon olive oil rosemary cake

This is an adaption of one of my favorite cake recipes, ever,  from 101 Cookbooks–a rosemary olive oil cake with dark chocolate.

I’ve been meaning to try this with new flavors for a long time; a pile of lemons from a neighborhood tree finally made it happen!

A note on this cake: I’ve made this at least a dozen times, and have tried to mess around with the proportions: less oil or eggs, using all whole wheat flour, etc. I really don’t recommend it, the texture of this cake as is is moist, tender, and just perfect, and any changes result in a much drier cake that just isn’t the same.

Also, I really do recommend using the best ingredients in this recipe: a good quality extra virgin olive oil, organic lemons, fresh rosemary, and farm-fresh or organic cage-free eggs. It is a simple cake and the flavors of each ingredient really do come through.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup unbleached flour

3/4 cup turbinado sugar (+ a bit more for sprinkling)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt (+ a couple pinches more for sprinkling)

3 eggs

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup almond milk (or any milk or milk substitute you prefer–whole or low fat, but not non-fat)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest from two organic lemons

juice from one lemon (about 1/4 cup or more)

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped very finely

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil pans with olive oil. Mix dry ingredients, then add the lemon zest, lemon juice, egg and olive oil. Mix then add the milk or milk substitute. Pour into pan of your choice–a large loaf pan is my favorite choice. Here I used my new favorite kitchen item–a vintage mini loaf pan (thanks Dad!)

Before baking, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of sugar and a pinch of sea salt on top. Bake until golden brown, and the sugar is caramelized; 40-50 minutes.

Enjoy!