Chickpea Tikka Masala (Vegan, GF)

chickpea tikka masala_blog_2

I’m finding my groove after some time away in the quiet mountains of the Lake Tahoe region.

It’s a strange thing harvesting lemons from your backyard one moment, and then finding yourself at a 9000 foot elevation surrounded by snow the next.  Strange as in unfamiliar, but certainly not unwelcome.

Boundless, beautiful California — ocean, deserts, mountains, forests, lakes — you choose. Don’t mind if I do.

chickpea tikka masala_raisins

So while I daydream about our starlit nights, ski-filled days and roasted Brussels sprouts with gorgonza fondue (yup, it happened), I have a delicious and warming meatless riff on the well-loved Chicken Tikka Masala for you today — and it all happens in one pot.

I am particularly drawn to the juxtaposition of heat from the spices and the cooling nature of the cream/yogurt in tikka masala — one of the principal features that distinguishes this dish from the lovely Chana Masala.

Now clearly my chickpeas were not cooked in a tandoor and being that it is vegan recipe, the dairy element is also represented differently here with a creamy coconut milk.  I also decided to ranch things up a bit by adding apple, raisin and almond which in my view work swimmingly in this adaptation (and you thought the British version was a departure – wink to my Indian friends).

chickpea tikka masala_ingredients

I’ve selected some beautiful Indian spices with their characteristic thermogenic properties and balanced the heat off against the cooling properties of the coconut milk. The resulting sauce is luscious and full of flavor — the meal satisfying and simple enough to pull together any day of the week. I often serve it over coleslaw but on occasion rice or as pictured here, quinoa. Our whole family loves it.

As always, be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for best results.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chickpea Tikka Masala (Vegan, GF)
 
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Author:
Serves: Serves 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
  • 5 cups cooked chickpeas, thoroughly rinsed if using canned
  • ½ heaping cup plump golden raisins
  • 1 large happy apple, skin-on and diced (I used red delicious)
  • ½ cup unsalted almonds (whole or slivered as desired)
  • 8 large button mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 14 fl oz/ 400 mL unsweetened full fat coconut milk
  • 6 oz/170 g tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp ground garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ - ½ tsp (or to taste) cayenne pepper
  • 1 large nub of ginger, grated (about 1 heaping tablespoon or to taste)
  • 2 tsp coarse sugar (brown sugar is fine)
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet set to medium-low heat, sauté onion, garlic and mushroom for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the garlic fragrant.
  2. While the mixture is cooking, sprinkle the onion/garlic/mushroom with the following seasonings: garam masala; cumin; coriander; turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, tossing to coat.
  3. Add coconut milk and tomato paste to skillet and gently mix all ingredients together to integrate - making sure that the tomato paste is fully broken down and its color released in the spicy sauce.
  4. Add ginger and coarse sugar to the skillet, mixing to combine.
  5. Add chickpeas, raisin, apple and almond to the skillet, mixing to combine with the sauce.
  6. Taste the mixture and make any seasoning adjustments desired.
  7. Once mixture has heated through serve in individual bowls or plates with accompanying greens, coleslaw or grain of choice, as desired.
Notes
Why Chopsticks? although many Asian countries do not conventionally use chopsticks, I tend to use them frequently with many types of food as a way of slowing down the eating process and improving digestion. It's a wonderful technique.
Garlic: flattening garlic (smashing/crushing) is a surefire way of releasing the allium’s beneficial oils. To smash, simply use the flat side of a large knife and carefully press down on the garlic over a cutting board until it breaks/flattens somewhat. Sprinkle with sea salt (the salt absorbs beautifully into the garlic at this stage) and then chop finely.
Season to Taste: as with all recipes, seasoning is all about personal taste. If you know that heat doesn't work for you for example, ease-off on the cayenne or omit it all together. The same thing goes with ginger and garlic (or others) - experiment according to preference.
Don't soak mushrooms: mushrooms naturally contain a lot of water that gets released in the cooking process. If you soak your mushrooms in water to wash them, you will end up with a runny mess. To avoid this, use a damp cloth or brush to clean the mushrooms instead.
BPA: canned beans are always an option but try to seek out those with a Bisphenol A (BPA) free lining. BPA is a known toxin that continues to be used in the lining of many food and beverage cans. Studies have shown that this industrial plastic is absorbed by canned foods and when ingested can give rise to significant spikes in urinary levels of BPA.
Even better the next day: while this tikka masala is ready to eat from the get-go, I do find that the flavors develop even more over time. The almond remains crunchy (even on day 2 and 3), the apple mellows just enough to attenuate the high notes while still lending some sweetness and flavor and the raisins plump up and soften. In short, this dish makes awesome leftovers!

chickpea tikka masala_blog

Now, since you’re no doubt wondering about the lovely wood background you see in my photos today, here’s a closer look:

wood board_inspired edibles

It’s a cutting board! (which I have no intention of cutting on) — a beautiful gift from my boys. In addition to its ornamental use and entertainment value — I could stare at it all day — I might also use it as a food platter one day.

(The retro grocery list pad? — isn’t it the best, from one of my awesome sisters).

Bon Appétit mes chères amies/amis!

chickpea tikka masala_blog_3

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How lack of sleep may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts

I’ve always been mystified by the characterization of weight management as a simple matter of ‘calories in vs. calories out’ – a reductionist approach that leaves plenty unsaid.

Our weight may be influenced by a myriad of factors including metabolism, hormones, medication, sleep patterns and stress.  And while none of these factors absolve us of personal responsibility for our health, they may mean that the picture is more complicated than we are often led to believe.

lack of sleep and weight gain

◊ Sleep Function

On a practical level, we all understand the importance of sleep and how it can facilitate or undermine our mental acuity, work productivity and the quality of our interactions with peers and loved ones.

Sleep is critical for restoration (growth, repair and rejuvenation), learning, memory consolidation, mental wellness, hormone function and immune defense.

There is also a mounting body of evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation increases our risk of obesity by altering brain function and disrupting the delicate balance of hormones that regulate our appetite, stress levels and glucose metabolism (more below).

◊ How much Sleep

The number of hours of sleep needed to maintain ideal balance will vary depending on our age, lifestyle, health and biochemical individuality.  For adults, somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep is generally regarded as ideal.

◊ Sleep Deprivation & Weight Gain

Lack of sleep often leaves us feeling physically and mentally weaker and less motivated.  In addition to making it more likely for us to skip our exercise regimens (or be unable to workout as productively as we might otherwise), studies also indicate that sleep deprivation makes us more inclined to eat greater quantities of higher-calorie, lower nutrient foods. This may be to make up for the energy deficit or, as another study suggests, because something fundamentally changes in our sleep deprived brain that makes us vulnerable to these dietary choices.

Sleep deprivation also appears to trigger powerful hormonal changes in our bodies:

  • Numerous studies show that lack of sleep is associated with elevated ghrelin levels (a hunger stimulating hormone) and lower leptin levels (an appetite-suppressing hormone). The result is that we end up with more chemical messengers signaling us to keep eating than those alerting us to stop.
  • Lack of sleep also gives rise to higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) that, when in balance, operates to regulate important body functions. However, elevated and prolonged cortisol has been associated with a number of negative health effects including: impaired blood sugar control, high blood pressure, lowered immunity and abdominal obesity.
  • A recent study also showed that just one night of total sleep deprivation was enough to significantly reduce resting metabolic rate (our body’s ability to burn calories at rest) in adult men in comparison to those obtaining 8 hours of sleep. Resting metabolic rate is the energy required to perform our vital body functions (breathing and heart beating for example) while at rest. Since up to 75% of the calories we consume during the day are used by our bodies for this purpose, this is not an insignificant finding.

◊ Dietary & Lifestyle Strategies for Improving Sleep Quality

If it were as easy as lying in bed for seven hours to achieve blissful, restorative sleep, we would all be doing it. According to recent statistics, close to 40% of North Americans report sleeping less than seven hours a night with many experiencing recurrent sleep trouble.

With this in mind, some dietary and lifestyle tips to help promote a good night’s rest:

  • Room Climate – a comfortable mattress/bedding and a cool and dark room are essential to a good night’s rest. If you have furry friends who are sleeping with you, no matter how much you may love them, now is a good time to think about recreating the sleeping boundaries and moving your pets into a different room during the sleeping hours. If you find that you are waking from your partner’s movements, consider split mattresses in a singular frame which can reduce motion transfer or, depending on the circumstances, separate beds close by.
  • Avoid Stimulants — If you are not already doing so, consider limiting caffeine to the morning (or phasing it out 6-8 hours before you plan on sleeping). Caffeine is a stimulant that mimics the effects of adrenaline in the body and increases blood pressure.  Caffeine can also interfere with the brain’s production of a sleep-inducing chemical called adenosine.  Studies show that caffeine not only makes it difficult to fall asleep, it can also shorten the duration of sleep. Keep in mind as well that stimulation comes in many forms.  Turning off your computer, phone and television monitors several hours before bed can be an excellent way of decompressing the nervous system and preparing for rest.  You can ask anyone in my family how ruthlessly I apply this practice in my own life — I have found it to be enormously helpful.
  • Alcohol — There is a common misconception that alcohol assists in getting a good night’s rest.  While it’s true that alcohol may help us fall asleep faster (it is a depressant that slows motor and brain function), it’s also true that it disrupts the second half of the sleep cycle and interferes with critical REM sleep.
  • Evening Meals — Large meals at the end of the day put a heavy burden on our digestive system at a time when our bodies should be focusing on rest and repair. While there will always be exceptions, try to keep your evening meals reasonable portioned and as clean (close to nature) as possible. If you know that certain foods cause you digestive upset (even though you may enjoy them) such as spicy foods for example, consider moving them over to your lunchtime meal instead of the evening.
  • Tart Cherries and Almighty Melatonin — You may have heard of the importance of sleeping in a dark room.  This is because the production of the powerful sleep-regulating hormone melatonin is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light. What you may not know however, is that tart cherries are a bioactive dietary source of melatonin. A compelling study recently published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that consuming tart cherry juice twice a day gave rise to significantly higher levels of melatonin in participants who experienced substantive increases in sleep time and sleep efficiency over the control group. Benefits in sleep duration and sleep quality were observed in both men and women.
  • Consider a Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock — Have you ever noticed how much better you feel when you are allowed to wake up naturally (based on your own sleep cycle) vs. being woken up by a set time alarm clock or someone/something else? Sleep cycle alarm clocks claim to monitor the phases of your sleep by monitoring your movement and targeting the best time to wake you accordingly (you set the time range). And while there is no hard science behind their effectiveness, Apple’s sleep cycle alarm clock, for example, remains one of the company’s most popular apps and continues to receive top user reviews. If it works for you, it works for you.
  • Taming the Monkey Mind – One of the toughest opponents we will encounter to a good night’s rest is our overactive brain.  Calming our bodies in preparation for the more difficult work of calming our minds can be a highly effective tool in achieving a good night’s rest.  The formula will be different for each of us, but here are some ideas to experiment with.  Many of these techniques can be useful not only for falling asleep initially but also for falling back to sleep when we wake in the night:

♦ Daytime exercise (it is generally best to reserve higher intensity/aerobic exercise for earlier in the day) ♦ A relaxing evening walk in the fresh air ♦ Progressive Muscle Relaxation ♦ Breathing Exercises ♦ Meditation ♦ Yoga ♦ Journaling ♦ Visualization ♦ Music (a wonderful free source: calm.com) ♦ Soothing Herbal Teas (such as valerian root and chamomile) ♦ Essential oils (lavender and jasmine are notably helpful in connection with sleep though my personal favorite in the winter is frankincense — dab a little on your wrist and/or pillow case or add a few drops to your evening bath water or bedroom humidifier).

The information in this post is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician or other health care professional directly before beginning or changing a course of health treatment.

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Broken Heart Mint Chocolate Truffles (vegan)

broken heart mint chocolate truffles_blog_a

I knew as soon as I unmolded these little hearts that they were ruined.

Rough edges, jagged lines, cracks, crevasses, chips and divots.  You name it, they wouldn’t make the cut. I’ve been operating in the blogging world long enough to know this is not what people want to see.

No big deal, I’m well accustomed to redos. Besides, the fix was easy enough.  The mixture was too thick to form properly into the crevasses of the mold — a simple matter of adding a different type of chocolate better suited to melt and pour.  I’d have these little truffles smoothed out in no time.

broken heart mint chocolate truffles_blog_d

And then something funny happened on my way to fixing them.

The more I looked at these tattered little hearts, the more I fell in love with them and the perversion of covering them up split me down the middle.

How many times had I done this, seen this, felt this.

dusted mint cacao truffles

Our collective desire to hide, cover, smother for the sake of something brighter, smoother, straighter (for the record, I also miss the occasional crooked tooth — where did they all go?). We don’t tolerate flaws very well.

But if the heart symbol represents the center of our emotional and spiritual selves, could I not just let that be what it is? The sum of our love and losses, our wounds, our scars, our strengths and our weaknesses.  Many bold and beautiful things but surely not perfection.

broken heart mint chocolate truffles_blog_c

These vegan truffles are made from raw cacao powder and coconut butter.  They are silky, rich and delicious — I also happen to think they’re quite beautiful.

The resulting mixture is thick and somewhat sticky so it doesn’t pour like some other fluid chocolates do.  If you prefer smooth truffles, you can either shape the mixture into little balls (quite common with raw cacao) or, if you want to go with smooth little hearts, let’s call them new-to-the-world hearts, you can melt dark chocolate (raw cacao is available in bars as well).  Also, be sure to read the notes on melting coconut butter in the recipe below. 

I added a splash of mint because I like the touch of freshness it adds to these rich delights but you could omit in favor of pure chocolate or your own extract of choice.

Finish with a dusting of cacao, cinnamon, nutmeg, matcha or vanilla powder, as desired (the possibilities are endless).

Here’s to your happy, healthy, vibrant hearts!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Broken Heart Mint Chocolate Truffles (vegan)
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: makes about 13 one ounce chocolate truffles
Ingredients
  • 1 cup raw cacao powder
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pure mint extract (or to taste)
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup (or to taste)
  • ⅓ cup coconut butter or slightly more, melted
  • pinch sea salt
Instructions
  1. Place raw cacao powder in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add vanilla extract, mint extract (if using), maple syrup, melted coconut butter and sea salt.
  3. Whisk ingredients together until smooth (adding slightly more butter if needed). The truffle mixture should be smooth but fairly thick.
  4. Taste the truffle mixture and make any desired adjustments (extracts, syrup, etc).
  5. Use a spoon to scoop out the thick truffle mixture and place it into the silicone heart molds pushing the chocolate down (compressing it) as you go along. Use a spreader or knife to smooth out the back.
  6. Place heart mold/s in the fridge for approximately one hour to allow the hearts to firm up. (You could also place in freezer for about 20 minutes but be careful not to freeze/burn).
  7. Gently unmold the hearts.
  8. These chocolate truffle hearts do best stored in the fridge.
Notes
1) You will need a silicone heart mold to make these truffles (unless you are adept at spinning hearts out of air in which case I am very jealous). I bought mine many years ago at IKEA (sold as an ice cube tray). You can find these molds easily online - Amazon has many to choose from.
2) In their pure form, cacao and cocoa powder are used interchangeably to refer to the basic powder made from whole, roasted cacao beans that have been ground up. The powder itself contains very little fat and no added sugar. This is not to be confused with the more common commercial cocoa powder used to make hot chocolate which is processed and sweetened. You can find natural cacao and cocoa powder at health food stores and many large grocery stores.
3) If you are new to coconut butter, it is the pureed pulp/meat of the coconut - unlike coconut oil (which is extracted and separated from the pulp of the coconut), the butter retains its native fiber content.
4) Coconut butter, like all saturated fats, is generally solid at room temperature. Coconut butter is a little trickier than coconut oil to melt. The butter's texture varies considerably and it also burns easily. I do not recommend melting coconut butter in the microwave. The water bath method (double-boiler) is a gentler method (a warm but not hot oven might also do the trick). If you wish to keep these truffles 'raw' you can simply heat the coconut oil over a bowl of hot water (using the double-boiler method) and gently coax it along until it melts -- as opposed to heating more rigorously (and at a higher temperature) on the stove top.
5) I prefer chocolate (and desserts generally) on the mildly sweet side - the vanilla and mint add wonderful taste but you can also modify the maple syrup quantity to suit your taste.

dusted mint chocolate truffles_blog_8

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Caribbean Spiced Sweet Potato-Carrot Soup {wannabe Potage Crécy}

dairy free sweet potato & carrot soup_blog

Love the definition of Potage Crécy I recently came across: “French for it’s cold outside — you need some creamy carrot soup.”

Creamy carrot soup it is.

Finally.

Last week, while I was posting ‘lean and clean’ spring chicken on my facebook page (what an oops that was), the rest of the world was posting comfort and warmth.

Just as it was occurring to sleepy me that the better part of North America was in a deep freeze, (the three hour time difference doesn’t help), my brother emailed a picture of his co-worker’s husky dog curled up in the fetal position outside in the snow (when a husky’s seeking comfort from the cold… you know it ain’t pretty). It was -35 C /-31 F at home that day.

caribbean spiced sweet potato carrot soup_blog_6

Ouch.

There are plenty of things I miss about Canada but frozen eyelash weather isn’t generally one of them.

Still, I do think about the northern winters often enough.

I miss the fresh fallen snow and the feeling of burying myself deep in the forest.  Those sacred places where you can feel your mind quiet and hear your heart beat against the stillness of nature.

caribbean spiced sweet potato carrot soup_blog_9

On those snow heavy days when the landscape was covered white, we would spend the better part of the daylight hours skiing through the back-trails of the Gatineau Hills, and often recover with a bone warming pot of soup at the Chelsea Pub.

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image courtesy of Le Pub Chelsea

It’s hard to beat the charisma of soup on a cold winter’s day.

While I can’t say that the carrots used in this potage were sourced from the Crécy region of France (reputed to be among the best tasting carrots in the world and who doesn’t love saying the words potage Crécy), we did find our organic California grown carrots to be a perfectly delicious stand-in.

Bold, aromatic, thick and satisfying, we loved this bowl of goodness.  The gingered broth in tandem with the banana and coconut lend a distinctively Caribbean touch to this winter curry and I’m thinking a taste of island sunshine might be welcome right about now.

caribbean spiced sweet potato carrot soup_revise

5.0 from 1 reviews
Creamy Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup (Dairy Free/Vegan Option)
 
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Author:
Serves: yields about 6 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ tsp ground garam masala
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • ¾ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • pinch ground cayenne pepper, it's hot so use accordingly
  • 1 large nub of ginger, finely grated (I used about 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 pound (450 g) carrots (about 4 cups), chopped or simply use baby carrots
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (you could microwave to soften if easier - see notes)
  • 1 banana, peeled and chopped (substitute ½ cup apple sauce or 2 tsp brown sugar)
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)
  • 1 cup (or more) coconut milk
  • dash cinnamon or nutmeg for topping
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, sauté onion and garlic in a little bit of olive over low-medium heat until the onion becomes translucent.
  2. Sprinkle dry seasonings (garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne) over the onion and garlic as they cook, mixing with a wooden spoon to integrate the flavors.
  3. Add chicken or vegetable broth and coconut milk to the skillet with seasoned onion/garlic
  4. Add carrots, sweet potato and banana to the skillet (the liquid should mostly cover the vegetables/fruit) if it doesn't simply add a little coconut milk (or fluid of choice)
  5. Allow carrots, sweet potato and banana to simmer for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are barely soft (al dente)
  6. Add ginger to the skillet and mix to combine
  7. When vegetables are al dente, remove skillet from heat and allow it to cool somewhat before carefully transferring contents into a blender/food processor to purée to desired consistency. You can do this in batches if easier. Work carefully as the fluid will still be warm.
  8. If the consistency of the mixture is too thick after blending, simply add some chicken/veg stock or coconut milk to dilute. You could also add water or milk beverage of choice if preferred.
  9. Be sure to taste the soup to make any seasoning adjustments.
  10. Once desired consistency is achieved, carefully transfer the puréed soup back to the skillet to serve in individual bowls topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg (as desired) or cool fully before storing in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Notes
1) This soup is intended to be thick but you can easily dilute to suit your preference with stock, water or milk of choice.
2) The ginger and cayenne bring distinctive flavor and heat to the soup -- I find them delicious and welcome but you can reduce the quantity or omit as desired.
3) If you find it difficult to cube an uncooked sweet potato (they can be quite hard), simply soften it in the microwave. (You can leave the peel on for this - that too will be easier to shed once softened).
Nutrition Highlights:
1) Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin C and fiber and they also lead the vegetable pack with their concentration of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. In tandem with carrots in this recipe, they bring a whopping concentration of beta-carotene which studies suggest can help guard against certain cancers and heart disease.
2) Curcumin, the active bright yellow pigment found in turmeric, is revered for its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Turmeric is thought to protect against cancer by inhibiting tumor formation and cell growth.

Inspired Edibles_ski adventures

carribean spiced sweet potato and carrot soup

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5 strategies to help reduce sugar cravings and restore balance

5 strategies to reduce sugar_lemon_blog

If you’re coming out of the holiday season feeling like you need to take a little break from the sweet life but aren’t having the easiest time shaking it, you’re not alone.

Sugar has a very powerful effect on the reward center of our brain.  There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the chemistry underlying sugar addiction is virtually identical to the chemistry underlying drug addiction in that both are driven by dopamine – the neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s pleasure reward circuit.

When we consume sugar it stimulates the release of dopamine and we experience a sensation of pleasure. We get cued by sights, sounds and smells that evoke powerful memories of pleasure and keep us coming back for more.  Every time we succumb to addictive foods we reinforce the circuit of desire and reward further, making it harder for us to break the pleasure cycle. In short, the more we eat sugar the more we want to eat sugar, and vice versa.  Some of us may have inherited a biochemistry that makes us especially vulnerable to this cycle.

The good news is that there are strategies we can put in place to help lay new tracks and diminish those persistent sugar cravings. Today I’m sharing some of my top tips for hitting the reset button and restoring balance.

1. Enjoy fresh lemon juice in tepid water and on food — I can’t say enough about the benefits of the humble lemon. Beyond acting as a potent antioxidant during cold and flu season (vitamin C) and adrenal gland supporter (important during times of stress), the citric acid in lemon juice also helps cleanse both the palate and invigorate the digestive system.  This action alone can be powerfully helpful for moving things along and changing the taste and direction of food choices we make throughout the day — nothing like the sharp taste of lemon to blunt sugar cravings and snap us out of lasagna mode.  Hydrating and delicious, you can enjoy a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning (a great way to start the day) and/or before meals — simply squeeze fresh lemon juice into tepid water. A cautionary note, if you start drinking lemon water with any degree of frequency, you may wish to start using a straw to limit the exposure of acid on your teeth (prevent the erosion of tooth enamel). Lemon juice can also help prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels by reducing a food’s overall glycemic index (the acid in lemon helps slow the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar).  Consider adding fresh squeezed lemon to fruits and vegetables and side salads that accompany your meal.

2. Make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet — protein helps prevent jags in blood sugar levels that can promote cravings. Unlike carbohydrates that are metabolized relatively quickly into sugar in the body, protein requires more work for our bodies to break down and metabolize.  This improves our sense of fullness and satisfaction and also assists in keeping our blood sugar levels stable (which can also be very helpful for mood and concentration).

Conversely, when blood sugar levels are fluctuating and start to drop, our brain naturally cues us in to seek the quickest form of energy available to correct the imbalance, a carbohydrate/sugar. This is a normal, adaptive response but the result is that we end up jumping from one sugar to the next. To overcome this response, we need to avail ourselves of sufficient protein throughout the day to prevent the sugar loop (this is also an excellent strategy for avoiding insulin fatigue/type 2 diabetes).  Be sure to include a protein source not only with your meals but also your snacks – a strategy that holds true for adults and children alike.

3. focus on natural sugars — the initial stages of reducing sugar can be really difficult, especially when coming off the holidays surrounded by the heavier hitting desserts. When the urge strikes, seek out natural sources of sugar to satisfy desire without fueling cravings.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • fresh fruit salad ~ make a large batch, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the fruit (to delay oxidization, extend life and benefit from the acid) and keep it stored in a covered container in the fridge. I think sometimes we forget just how gorgeous and appealing fruit salad can be;
  • frozen fruit: place fresh fruit such as: blueberries, grapes or sliced bananas on a parchment lined baking sheet – freeze until solid and then transfer to a freezer bag and keep stored in the freezer.  It takes longer to eat frozen fruit which prolongs the duration and enjoyment of the snack. You can also blend frozen fruit to create a delicious smoothie or ice cream (banana works especially well for this).
  • dark chocolate: opt for 75% cocoa or higher (the higher the cocoa content the lower the sugar) – one or two squares when the urge strikes is a great way to meet desire without fanning the flames – dark chocolate is also antioxidant rich.  I enjoy making chocolate clusters – a simple combination of melted dark chocolate with nuts/seeds and dried fruit.  But my current fave is frozen sliced banana dipped in dark chocolate which I keep stored in the freezer – beyond simple and perfect for satisfying without priming the pump. Coming soon to the blog!

4.  Be aware of other sugars that may be sabotaging your efforts - there are obvious sources of sugar that we all recognize in dessert foods and then there are the other pleasure producing foods we don’t always associate with re-enforcing our sugar cravings such as pasta, bread and alcohol.  Keep in mind that alcohol is a sugar with powerful altering effects on blood sugar and mood.  It can be very difficult to reduce sugar consumption in food while simultaneously consuming it in liquid form – alcohol or other beverages. When you do wish to eat bread and/or pasta, consider whole grain sources (fibre does help slow the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar modestly in addition to its other health benefits) but more critically, include a protein with these carbohydrate sources to help mitigate the rapid conversion to sugar in the body.

5. Create new habitsif you find yourself craving sugar around the same time every day, consider initiating new habits. For instance, the evening (following dinner) is commonly a time when dessert cravings set-in. Establishing new routines such as making a warm pot of flavored herbal tea or going for a walk following dinner can be really helpful for changing the palate, shifting focus and laying tracks for new habits and routines.  At first, the herbal tea will seem like a small (and possibly annoying) consolation prize but give it one week of consistent application and you’ll be seeking it out with pleasure and not punishment.  You might even find yourself craving peppermint tea!

The information in this post is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician or other health care professional directly before beginning or changing a course of health treatment.

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Matcha Green Tea Rejuvenating Smoothie

green tea smoothie_blog

I did something completely different on the culinary front for Christmas this year.

I invited the family to vote on Christmas dinner.  I went about it by creating a menu with three categories: appetizer, main dish and dessert and listed three food options within each category.  The menu was circulated electronically and the boys were asked to vote quietly on their top food choice in each category (they would only find out on Christmas day which selections won).  In the event of a three-way tie in any category, mom would get the deciding vote, otherwise, majority rule.

I thought it would be a fun way to mark our first Christmas in the new home. In the end, it was also well worth the effort.  I will admit to some intermittent anxiety — that moment when you wake up at 2 am and think: did I really say that I was going to make herbed mushroom, garlic & onion cradled in a pillow of sour cream and served on miniature pancakes? Was I fully baked at the time?

green tea smoothie_blog_1_update

To make the process interesting for yours truly, I offered up suggestions that I’d been wanting to make for some time now.  A mix of classics and curious inventions.  I kept food photography out of it so I could relax and just enjoy the actual cooking process (and Christmas day!).

In case you’re curious, here’s a little summary of the winning selections: the chosen appetizer was indeed as described above: pan-seared herbed mushrooms, garlic & onion cradled in a pillow of sour cream and served on warm miniature  pancakes.  I survived it and I’m glad I did. This was a delectable little creation that was inspired in part by a conversation with a girlfriend, in part by this post, and in part by my meddling noggin. This is definitely one that I will blog about in the future.

green tea smoothie_blog

The winning main dish was this classic.  I’m so glad I made it!  It’s the funniest recipe though — have you made it?  It’s quite unconventional (old fashioned?) in its construction and maybe mildly convoluted. I found myself reading it several times to get a handle on it and also wondered about the wisdom of some of the seemingly arbitrary steps — but who am I to argue with the famed dish and its creator.  So, I followed the instructions as closely as I can ever bring myself to and in the end, it was a mouth-watering meal that was loved by all (phew!) — I served it with wild rice, julienned carrots and seared baby onions.  Not a drop left on anyone’s plate.

Dessert was this obscenity.  Even with half the sugar it was divine (and seemingly still quite sweet).  Silk on the tongue.  But beware, very rich, a sliver will do y’a.  Next time I make it I will focus on the crust which was somewhat lackluster in my version – walnut perhaps.

I hope you all had some fun kitchen adventures as well!

Today, I’m recharging with this antioxidant-rich rejuvenating green tea smoothie… so delicious and full of beautiful ingredients.  Versatile too — don’t forget, there are always options, so feel free to make this lovely your own.

Oh, one last thing… Inspired Edibles returns in the New Year with a new Nutrition Series! I’m excited to offer you some focused nutrition information in addition to recipes, photography and life stories.

Until then, be well and have a joyous new year’s celebration!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Matcha Green Tea Rejuvenating Smoothie (vegan)
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Recipe type: Beverage, Snack
Serves: serves 2
Ingredients
  • 1 cup almond milk or milk/water beverage of choice (see notes)
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 frozen banana, chopped
  • 1 green apple, skin-on, chopped
  • ½ avocado
  • handful walnuts or nut/seed of choice
  • 2 heaping tsp matcha (green tea powder)
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • splash of fresh lemon juice to taste
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
  2. Blend until ingredients are broken down and well integrated.
  3. Add more fluid as necessary to achieve desired consistency.
Notes
1. If you are new to matcha, you may find it slightly bitter initially - to offset, you can start with 2 level tsp of matcha powder and flavor with additional fruit or slightly more sweetener, as desired.
2. I enjoy a fairly dilute smoothie (I find it easier to drink), but if you prefer something thicker simply reduce the fluid at the outset.
3. You can use any milk beverage of choice or water (coconut water is also lovely).
4. Feel free to use whatever fruit and/or dark leafy greens you have on hand for this recipe. Smoothies are versatile and generally quite forgiving :) so have fun with it and taste test as you go along to achieve desired result.
5. Matcha tea is made from green tea leaves that have been finely milled into a silky, radiant green powder. When you drink matcha you are benefiting from the entire green tea leaf, not just the brewed water from the leaf. Matcha is considered amongst the highest quality green teas with one of most concentrated antioxidant contents.
6. Avocado not only tastes delicious, it is also endowed with gorgeous, nutritive properties. An excellent source of heart healthy monounsaturated fat, avocado is also rich in lutein, a carotenoid that operates to help protect our eyes from disease. Other health supporters found in the avocado include: fibre, folate, vitamin K, vitamin E, and vitamin B5.
7. Dark Leafies! Studies continue to link spinach, and other dark leafy vegetables, to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. The vitamin E content in dark leafy vegetables is also said to protect our brain cells against oxidative damage, helping keep our minds healthy as we age.

 

green tea smoothie_blog_3_update

You just never know who’s going to jump in your drink ~ magical things can happen during the holidays
 
 
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winter white salad with mandarin and fennel

winter white salad with mandarin and pomegranate

There’s a scene in the Hollywood remake City of Angels that’s indelibly etched in my memory.

The heroine is making a breakfast fruit salad for her lover, which sounds simple enough, but there’s nothing ordinary about this moment.  She sinks her soul into the process and brings the viewer with her.  We are meticulously drawn in to the color, texture and taste of her experience.  The most memorable moment comes when she hand squeezes fresh orange segments all over the bowl, the explosive juices unbound and running glory over the fruit.

It’s been almost 17 years since I watched that movie, and that scene, that otherwise innocuous moment, has done more to ignite my culinary appetite than any other.

winter white salad with mandarin and pomegranate_tree_2

Fast forward two decades and here we are with a beautiful mandarin tree that is now rendering gorgeous, juice-filled fruit with skin that rolls off almost effortlessly.

We watched with hopefulness through the summer as the tiny dark pigmented fruit grew a little each day and mother nature took its course helping the globes graduate through deliberate shades of green, yellow and orange.

winter white salad with mandarin and pomegranate_1

One thing we’ve discovered about harvesting mandarin is that sharp garden shears are necessary to properly release the fruit.  If you try to hand pick the fruit by pulling it away from the branch, the way you would an apple or lemon for example, it will actually rip the skin off the orange at the tip, leaving it behind on the tree, something like so:

winter white salad with mandarin and pomegranate_tree_1

To avoid this, we simply snip mandarin-heavy branches off the tree and then unmold the fruit when we are ready to eat them.

winter white salad with mandarin and pomegranate_tree

Growth is eventually so prolific that regular harvesting becomes necessary to avoid spoilage.  We share with neighbors, incorporate the fruit into recipes and juice like the best of the west coast crunchies.

There are few things quite as delicious as freshly squeezed mandarin juice (great insurance policy against winter colds too). My husband filled four large mason jars worth over the weekend (though not hand squeezed).

fresh mandarin juice_blog_1

Surrounded by these fragrant, Vitamin C-rich beauties, I couldn’t help but create a cleansing winter salad for you.

I wanted something that allowed the mandarin to shine and enhance rather than detract from its taste and beauty.  I opted for fennel bulb and angel hair coleslaw (another bow to the movie perhaps) and bejeweled the whole affair with another seasonal beauty, pomegranate.

It all comes together in a zingy citrus-ginger dressing that is rather irresistible.

winter white salad with mandarin and pomegranate_2

By the way, the movie is memorable for another reason.  You see, we also happened to have our brand new six-week-old baby boy in the theater with us that afternoon.  He slept (yes, you might say like an angel) on a soft blanket nestled between us.

You just never know the potential of an ordinary moment to transform into the extraordinary.

5.0 from 2 reviews
winter white salad with mandarin and fennel
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Recipe type: salad, appetizers & starters
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • FOR THE SALAD
  • 3 cups angel hair coleslaw (from finely shredded light green cabbage)
  • 1 fennel bulb, ends snipped (you can reserve for soup) and bulb chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup arils (pomegranate seed)
  • 4 juicy seasonal mandarin, peeled and divided into segments
  • handful of fresh delicate greens of choice

  • FOR THE CITRUS-GINGER DRESSING
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mandarin juice
  • 2 Tbsp white rice vinegar (substitute cider vinegar)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 heaping tsp grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 nub fresh ginger, grated (about 2 tsp or to taste)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of sea salt and coarse black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Place angel hair coleslaw (or finely shredded light green cabbage) into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add chopped fennel pieces to the same bowl.
  3. In a small container with fitted lid, combine citrus-ginger dressing ingredients: mandarin juice, vinegar, oils, mustard, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Close the lid and shake the contents. Be sure to taste the dressing and make any taste adjustments desired.
  4. With your mandarin segments and pom seeds ready, whisk or shake the dressing a final time before drizzling most of it over the coleslaw/fennel, reserving some for topping.
  5. Mix the coleslaw/fennel and dressing together to integrate flavors.
  6. Divide salad mixture among four bowls or plates and top with pom seeds, mandarin segments and greens of choice.
  7. Add a final drizzle of dressing to the top of each salad as desired.
Notes
1) You don't have to shred cabbage for this recipe (unless you wish to), you can simply purchase angel coleslaw;
2) Pomegranate seeds are now also widely available for purchase but I find they do not last very long before spoiling and I have never been disappointed with the freshness, color or taste of seeds drawn directly from the fruit. Despite the minor mess potential from extracting the seeds, I find it well worth the small inconvenience.
3) Keep in mind that the citrus-ginger dressing is slightly less sour/acidic than a traditional vinaigrette and slightly sweeter. I find it a refreshing change and one that works well in this salad but if you prefer savory/sour, just go lighter on the fruit juice and allow the vinegar to take over.
4) For the greens, you can work with fresh chopped herbs or salad greens of choice - we found peppery arugula (rocket) to be a particularly welcome addition here.

winter white salad with mandarin and pomegranate_duo

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Roasted Maple Sriracha Pecans

roasted maple sriracha pecans_2

Despite some seasonal confusion (my heart is saying pine cones but my eyes are still seeing roses),  I have to say, this dual border fêting is working out quite well for us.

We gladly welcomed the five day American Thanksgiving break with some highly unstructured family time. It’s amazing how much fun you can have doing precisely nothing.

With a house full of boys, I’ve learned to embrace the concept of movement.  Time off generally means planning some kind of high-octane activity that often involves long drives, little sleep and most assuredly, adventure.

pure Canadian maple syrup_blog_1

Not this time. Instead, we woke without alarms, lingered over long breakfasts, hung out in our pjs, enjoyed unhurried dog walks and played some intense and at times combative spirited and often impassioned poker (I can’t remember the last time we managed to corral our teenage sons into cards – let’s face it, hanging out with mom and dad just doesn’t cut it at this stage. I guess poker teases the possibility of adventure).

roasted maple sriracha pecans_7

So here we are on the other side of two Thanksgivings and look… it’s time to celebrate again!

The advent calendar is out (yes I still do an advent calendar for my boys, judge if you must), the Christmas cards are in production and Grand-maman’s Bâtonnets à la melasse instructions are on the counter.  I’ve known the recipe for her delicate French biscuits by heart for 15 years but I still need to see it every year.

roasted maple sriracha pecans_9

And today I’m sharing another delicious holiday nibble that I’ve been making quite a bit lately. Crunchy caramelized love bites that are simply packed with flavor.  The combination of maple and Sriracha together with warm earthy sage and sea salt offers up sweet, savory and spicy notes with every bite.

Not into heat? No problem.

Skip the Sriracha and make a version with maple syrup alone — equally delicious and works especially well on cereal and for yogurt topping, etc. The plain maple version is the one I make the most ~ the Sriracha is just my special holiday edition (wink).

These tasty pecans also make a great game day munchie or a beautiful gift for teachers, neighbors and friends.  Tuck them into a mason jar, decorate the lid if you wish and attach a ribbon.  Festive, delicious and so simple.

pine cones_blog 1

enjoy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Roasted Maple Sriracha Pecans
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer, Snack
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole unsalted pecans
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
  • 2 tsp melted coconut oil or butter
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • pinch sea salt
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together: maple syrup, sriracha, coconut oil (or butter) and sage.
  4. Add pecans to the bowl and, using your hands, toss nuts around thoroughly to ensure they are well coated with mixture.
  5. Invert coated pecans onto parchment paper and spread out such that nuts are not touching. Be sure to scoop out any final wet mixture from the bowl with a spatula and onto the pecans.
  6. Sprinkle coated pecans with some sea salt.
  7. Place tray in the oven for 10-12 minutes to roast (tossing the nuts at least once) until the pecans are fragrant and have begun to brown - **you don't want to burn the nuts** so keep a close eye.
  8. Carefully remove the tray from the oven and allow the nuts to cool before enjoying. NOTE: the nuts will be somewhat soft when they come out of the oven as the glaze is molten. As the nuts cool down, they will crisp up. Enjoy!
Notes
1) Heat (the spicy factor) is very personal and difficult to declare for all. In my view, this recipe generates a mild to moderate heat but again, your experience may differ.
2) You can omit the Sriracha altogether if heat is not your thing. The maple version is equally delicious and works especially well on cereal and as a topping for yogurt and salads, etc.
3) Enjoy these nuts as an appetizer, snack, game day munchie or offer them up as a gift (teachers/friends/neighbors) -- so easy to make and you can present them in a decorative mason jar.
4) Store the pecans in an airtight container for up to 1 week (they are freshest/crunchiest in the first 3 days).

roasted maple sriracha pecans_1

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Baked Ricotta with honey, rosemary & pomegranate

baked ricotta with pomegranate_blog_1

Complex, enigmatic and beautiful.

I’m not sure there’s another fruit on earth that stirs me quite like the pomegranate.

From its distinctive crown to its soft leathery skin to its chambered interior flush with succulent jewels, the ruby red stunner never fails to capture my attention.

pomegranate-tree[1]

And in this part of the world, I am blessed to encounter them frequently on my walks.  Although our backyard holds many gems, this particular fruit is not one of them (or, at least, not that we’ve noticed yet).

I say this only partly in jest because it seems that each week since we moved in, we make a new discovery. Persimmon, goji, orange, calla lily and birds of paradise are just a few of the wonders that have revealed themselves to us over the four short months that we have been here.

pomegranate-tree_blog-4[1]

Our mandarin tree ~ one of the culinary hallmark’s of the holiday season ~ is now heavy with fruit and I’ve kept a close eye as the globes turned from deep green to yellow and now, finally, a promising blush of orange. The fruit will mature over the coming weeks.

We’ve planted two lime trees, a grapefruit tree and a peach tree and are looking into an olive tree! (oh my).

Needless to say, I continue to marvel at the edible landscape that surrounds us and have to give my head a shake every time I walk outside to pluck a lemon off the tree for my sparkling water, tea or food.

baked ricotta with pomegranate_blog_2

The lemons that were used in this recipe, and appear in these photos, are a great success story. As you might imagine, the horticulture scene here can be a little daunting to the uninitiated.  I’ve always joked about my lack of experience in the garden and natural black thumb but I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by these gifts from nature that it’s inspiring me to learn.

When we first arrived, the lemons on this tree were no bigger than the tip of my thumb and showed no signs of progress. With a little TLC, we managed to grow them into thriving fruit with a taste unlike any lemon I have ever brought home from a store.

lemon tree_eureka or lisbon_blog

Fresh and aromatic, you not only taste the difference, you can smell it too! After holding the uncut fruit in my hand even for a moment, the gorgeous fragrance of citrus lingers on my skin like lavender.

baked ricotta_blog_21

And speaking of dreamy…

This appetizer?  It has to happen.

(I don’t mean to be bossy but you really do want to make it and your relatives really want you to make it too).

If you haven’t yet baked ricotta, you’re in for a treat.  Simple, warming, delicious and satisfying are just a few descriptors that come to mind… but also beautiful and decidedly festive, don’t you think? A perfect holiday choice for all generations.

Bon appétit!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Baked Ricotta with honey, rosemary & pomegranate
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 15 oz/425 grams (about 2 cups) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary + more for garnish
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup or so pomegranate seeds (arils)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • drizzle of honey for topping
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F
  2. Combine ricotta, lemon juice, lemon zest and finely chopped rosemary together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Taste the ricotta mixture and make any seasoning adjustments desired - rosemary, lemon juice/zest, salt & pepper - before placing the mixture into an oven proof dish (ideally ½ - 1 quart size).
  4. Drizzle olive oil over the ricotta mixture and place it in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until it has heated through and begins to bubble around the edges.
  5. Carefully remove the dish from the oven and drizzle with a light touch of honey and a sprinkling of sea salt.
  6. Garnish with pomegranate seeds (pressing them gently into the mixture) and rosemary, as desired.
  7. Enjoy immediately with cut up fruit, vegetables and/or sliced bread/crackers.
Notes
1) Ricotta is a rich source of vegetarian protein. A quarter cup of ricotta packs 7 grams of protein (more than an egg!). This two cup appetizer has approximately 56 grams of protein.
2) It's hard to beat the full fruit of the pomegranate for quality seeds - when you cut into the fruit you will find the arials at their freshest, most succulent and richly pigmented. Having said that, you can save time and mess by purchasing the seeds on their own, so the choice (as always) is yours.
3) There are many different ways to present the pom seed topping on this dip. In the featured recipe, I decorated half the ricotta with a generous amount of seeds and created a dividing line with a chunky piece of rosemary. Another attractive way is to sprinkle the seeds all over the surface (they will appear like polka dots) and toss individual rosemary sprigs here and there between the seeds - they will look a bit like pine needles. Really pretty!
4) I did try baking the pomegranate seeds in one version but I don't recommend it. It will dehydrate the seeds and leave them rather lackluster which you definitely don't want. On the other hand, you can tuck some additional seeds into the ricotta mixture (as opposed to leaving them on the surface) for more texture if you wish - this method seems more resilient to baking.

baked ricotta with pomegranate_blog_3

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Sesame-Ginger Beef & Broccoli

sesame beef & broccoli_final

So tell me, do you like to mess with tradition?

(let’s keep this particular conversation centered on the kitchen shall we).

I ask because I shared a cranberry sauce from the kitchn on Facebook yesterday and the post bombed.  I wasn’t concerned about the bomb; I was however fascinated by the possibilities underlying it and what I might infer from it (great stats problem to bring out your inner geek).

Since the likelihood of all of my fans needing to scratch their backs at precisely the same time that my post entered their news feed is about as probable as the entire population deciding they no longer eat cranberry sauce during the holidays, I was left with two more likely explanatory variables: the use of unconventional ingredients in this particular recipe was a nonstarter (star anise, ginger, fig) and maybe, just maybe, people don’t like to mess with tradition… especially when it comes to their holiday classics.

So tell me, as my random sample audience, do you stick to the same tried-and-true recipes year after year for the holidays or do you crack open the cookbooks (kindles) looking for new ideas and inspiration.  Are there certain dishes that are simply sacrosanct (there’s no hope of deviating from them even if you wanted to) while others negotiable?

For my part, I can’t remember the last time I made a turkey for Christmas (or Thanksgiving) but there are other aspects of our holiday celebration that are more traditional — like our oatmeal buttermilk breakfast scones — a definite must!

sesame beef broccoli_blog_1_update

As for today’s recipe, you’re looking at the most popular and frequently requested dinner in our home right now!

Thin slices of tender beef with broccoli sautéed in a mouth-watering sesame-soy ginger sauce.  Not only is it delicious and nourishing, it’s also cooked in one pot and you can have it on the table — start to finish — in less than 30 minutes.  Faster than takeout.

sesame seeds_blog_1

I have two strong recommendations for making this dish optimal:

The first is to buy a tender cut of beef — do not be tempted to buy those “pre-cut” strips of stir-fry beef in packages.  You will be very disappointed. Instead, I highly recommend flat iron (top blade steak) for this recipe which will literally melt in your mouth.  And it’s not that expensive. I pay about $14 for 1.5 pounds and the broccoli/rice/onion are peanuts.  So you’re looking at a cost of about $4 per person taking into account all the major ingredients.

Secondly, do not be shy to ask your butcher to slice the meat for you — I even ask my butcher to slice squash and pumpkin for me (those things are treacherous!)– they have the machinery that allows them to slice the meat very thin which is precisely what you want for this recipe.  The thinner the better.  I request a width-wise cut and that way I don’t have to cut the meat again at home unless I want to.

5.0 from 3 reviews
Sesame-Ginger Beef & Broccoli
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • FOR THE BEEF BROCCOLI
  • 1.5 to 2 pounds tender beef cut into very thin strips (I recommend flat iron/top blade steak)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 Tbsp or so sesame seeds for topping
  • ~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~
  • FOR THE SESAME-GINGER SAUCE
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce (use tamari for a gluten-free version)
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind sauce (optional, I tend to have it on hand and love the flavor)
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp coconut palm or brown sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 heaping tsp (or to taste) chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 large nub of ginger, peeled and grated
  • ~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~
  • FOR THE CORNSTARCH SLURRY
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved into 1 Tbsp water
Instructions
  1. Whisk sauce ingredients together in a small bowl or container with fitted lid and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet set to low-medium heat, sautée onion in some olive oil.
  3. Just before the onion becomes translucent, add the broccoli florets to the skillet and toss with the onion. You don't want to overcook the broccoli but merely saturate the color and soften it slightly.
  4. Remove the onion and broccoli from the pan and set aside for a moment.
  5. In the same pan, increase heat to medium-high, add a bit more oil and sautée meat quickly on one side and then flip to the other side. This should only take about 1 minute. The thin meat will cook very quickly and you don't want to overcook it.
  6. Once the meat has been flipped, return the onion and broccoli to the skillet and add the sauce (giving it a final whisk beforehand).
  7. Add the cornstarch slurry to the skillet and allow the mixture to just come to a boil, mixing the whole time.
  8. Remove skillet from heat and divide mixture among four plates. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy with rice or as desired.
Notes
1. Please see my top two recommendations for succeeding with this recipe in the body of the post. Both are very helpful -- the first, critical.
2. Although pretty in its Japanese aesthetic, I don't normally serve this meal in divided portions. In reality, the broccoli is mixed in with the meat and the sauce. I just wanted to do something different for the presentation.
3. I have found with cornstarch over the years that it really doesn't work well to mix it directly into a sauce. It's worth the extra minute dissolving it in water first before integrating it.
4. Although I have not tried it in this particular recipe, I often use tapioca flour as a thickening agent. So if you prefer to skip the cornstarch, this is another good option.

sesame beef broccoli_blog_2_update

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sesame beef & broccoli_blog_crop

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