Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Butternut Squash Pad Thai

Well I can't very well move on from summer without sharing the story of the season.

I feel a bit bad spinning it into a story because it does have an unfortunate outcome but if there's anyone I know who can take a situation like this and turn it on its head, it's this guy.

Our budding actor was back in action this summer with a great program out of Palo Alto offering 'professional training for serious young artists'.  All was going along tickety-boo until one day our young Robert De Niro decided to have a Raging Bull moment and take his acting career to a whole new level (the movie buffs among you know exactly where I'm going with this...).

When our son was asked to act out the emotion "anger" he decided to punch the wall in front of him with full force (no half measures people, this is serious acting).  Now, to his credit, the wall was fully padded with one of those thick gym mats (the kind that baseball players hit without restraint, all limbs on board) so he thought he was safe. But in this case, regrettably, our inexperienced boxer broke a wrist and a finger in the process. Not a fun day at camp.

But there was some light at the end of the tunnel and a line delivered in a way that only he can that sent this mom into hysterics.

After spending a painful and at times emotional afternoon in the ER (this was his 7th and 8th broken bone after all), our weary but undefeated fellow glances over at me in the car and says "well, look at it this way Mom. Now I can say that I broke two bones in someone's body by throwing a single punch. So what if it happens to be my body!"

(I had to pull off the road I was laughing so hard).


Well, I'm just delighted with the way this recipe turned out.

I often venture new experiments but if they don't meet a certain taste threshold, they never see the blog.

This recipe packs all the delicious flavor you would expect from a traditional Pad Thai but uses the fall classic butternut squash in place of rice noodles.  The raw vegetable 'noodles' are tossed into the sauce at the last minute allowing them to warm up but maintain their al dente texture - the result is a resistant bite and no mush. 

As much as I adore the taste of grain-based noodles/pasta, they don't play a big part in my diet at this stage.  Sure I'll enjoy the chef recommended gnocchi when I'm dining out on occasion (and savor every morsel) but generally, I find this kind of food doesn't do me a lot of favors.  I just end up feeling bloated, tired and unproductive waiting out the storm until the diabetic coma passes.

Our whole family loved this dish - hope you do too!

Butternut Squash Pad Thai

Butternut Squash Pad Thai (naturally grain free, gluten free)

For the Pad Thai
  • 1 Tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and shredded with this handy tool
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 generous cup fresh bean sprouts of choice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 pound medium-size shrimp (about 8-10 shrimp)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 4 Tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
  • 1 fresh lime, cut into segments
  • Optional: chopped cilantro

For the Pad Thai Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (or slightly more) tamarind
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 Tbsp coconut palm sugar (substitute brown sugar)

Serves 2

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. You can easily substitute chicken or tofu in place of shrimp in this recipe for the protein component.
  2. Pad Thai derives its distinctive flavor from tamarind (not soy sauce).  You should be able to find tamarind in the Asian section of your grocery store but, failing that, certainly at any Asian grocery store.
  3. This particular sauce does have some kick to it (heat) so if spicy is not your thing, diminish the chili garlic sauce or omit it altogether depending on your sensitivity level.
  4. When it comes to preparing Thai cuisine, I always recommend sampling the sauce to determine the right balance of sweet, salty, sour, spicy -- this way, little adjustments can be made suited to your particular taste preference.

  1. Cut butternut squash in half (lengthwise).  
  2. Peel half the butternut squash with a simple carrot/potato peeler (reserving the remaining half for roasting and adding to soup, sauces, dips and stews).
  3. Using this tool (the best $11 investment you'll ever make) or a spiralizer, shred/spiralize the peeled portion of the butternut squash, setting aside the resulting ribbons or 'noodles.' The skin of the butternut squash, even once peeled, is a little tougher than other vegetables such as zucchini so it may feel a bit resistant to shredding at first. Once you've found the right angle though, you should have no trouble carving into it to create your ribbons/noodles.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small container with fitted lid, combine sauce ingredients: tamarind, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce if using, and sugar, shaking well to combine.  Taste the sauce and make any desired adjustments to try and achieve the ideal balance between sweet, salty, sour, spicy ~ the hallmark of Thai cuisine. 
  5. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat and sauté the shrimp in some grapeseed or olive oil just until opaque (this should only take a minute or so).  Remove shrimp and set aside.
  6. In the same skillet, sauté shallot and garlic over low-medium heat just until softened and fragrant.
  7. Add the bean sprouts to the skillet, mixing to combine with the onion/garlic for another minute.
  8. Spread the onion/garlic/sprouts mixture to the sides of the pan and add eggs to the center allowing them to set slightly before gently mixing in with the other skillet ingredients (the heat should not be too high at this point - you don't want to brown the egg just delicately cook them).
  9. Return opaque shrimp to the skillet, mixing to combine with the other ingredients.
  10. Add the butternut squash 'noodles' to the skillet along with the sauce (being sure to give it a good shake before adding it), mixing to integrate and warm through.
  11. Divide the warm butternut squash shrimp pad Thai between two plates (I like to bring some of the shrimp to the top of the plate) and top with a sprinkle of green onions, peanuts and cilantro as desired.
  12. Serve a lime wedge or two alongside each dish and be sure to squeeze some fresh lime juice all over the pad Thai before savoring (the lime is not meant as mere decoration!).

© Inspired Edibles

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Soy-Braised Pork Tenderloin with Star Anise and Cinnamon

I'm listening to the rain fall.

But it's not happening outside my window.

My son showed me another way, here.  

Now into its third year of a historic and severe drought, this beautiful state desperately needs water.

With over 400 commodities, California is the nation's most productive agricultural state (as well as a leading world producer) and the country’s sole producer of a dozen crops, including: almonds, artichokes, olives, raisins and walnuts. The golden state also employs a significant percentage of the country's farm workers.

With water supplies dwindling by the day and first time legislation being enacted to regulate its use, we're doing what we can to conserve and yes, even will the sweet rain.


When I first came across this gorgeous looking braised pork tenderloin over at With a Glass, I assumed that it was roasted.  Although I don't make it very often, I have only ever roasted pork tenderloin and never in my dreams would I have imagined a result this favorable from a skillet.

The meat itself is rendered gorgeously tender but it's the depth of flavor that might just take your breath away.  The nuanced fragrance of the star anise is a standout in this warming autumnal dish with its range of aromatic sweet notes complemented beautifully by the cinnamon and garlic.  

Although the ingredient list is short and the recipe straightforward, the flavor is complex, bold and refreshingly unique. 

I've made this recipe a couple of times now and generally serve the pork over rice or quinoa (which sops up the juices beautifully) with some applesauce and a side of veggies.

It's a recipe that is simple enough to whip up on a weeknight and impressive enough to serve to guests or enjoy for Sunday night dinner, which is how we most recently appreciated it. There were oohs and aahs at the dinner table and not a single morsel left on anyone's plate including the mini adults.  

It's a winner in our books (thank you Sissi!) and I hope you enjoy it too.

Soy-Braised Pork Loin with Star Anise & Cinnamon

Soy-Braised Pork Tenderloin with Star Anise & Cinnamon ~ adapted from With a Glass
  • 1 pork tenderloin (2.5 pound range), cut into chunky pieces
  • 10 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce* (or tamari for gluten free version)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 4 star anise
  • 8-12 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
  • 2 Tbsp coarse sugar, brown sugar works well
  • 1 cup water
  • For the corn starch slurry: 1 heaping Tbsp corn starch and 4 Tbsp water

Serves 6

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. *Most authentic versions of soy-braised pork tenderloin (Chinese in origin) call for dark soy sauce.  Since I have been unsuccessful at finding one that does not contain artificial colorants, MSG and sulphites (quite a load for those of us who are migraine sensitive), I opted for regular soy sauce.  While I'm sure there are passionate feelings/attachments to dark soy sauce and its relevance in this recipe, I can assure you, I did not feel cheated ;-).
  2. I recommend trying this recipe in its current form before adding other aromatics such as ginger, sesame oil, etc.  I normally encourage variation, departure and experimentation but you may find that this recipe already has plenty going on and more layers may detract rather than add.
  3. The reasons I love this recipe so much are the same reasons I would not be able to eat it on a regular basis (and it has nothing to do with the pork!) -- the intense, distinctive flavors of the sauce strike just the right note of surprise and delight on occasion.

  1. Whisk together 6 Tbsp soy sauce and 1 Tbsp honey in a shallow dish large enough to accommodate pork.
  2. Marinade pork pieces in the soy mixture for at least 20 minutes (or overnight). 
  3. In a large skillet or wok, sauté garlic cloves in some olive oil over medium heat until the garlic takes on a golden color.  
  4. Add the two pieces of cinnamon and the star anise to the skillet and sauté together with garlic for another minute.
  5. Add the marinated pork pieces to the skillet alongside the garlic, cinnamon and star anise, allowing them to brown slightly.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp coarse sugar with remaining 4 Tbsp soy sauce.
  7. Pour the whisked soy mixture into the skillet along with the water (1 cup) and allow the dish to simmer uncovered for about 1 hour (or more) until the pork has cooked through and the sauce has reduced and darkened somewhat.
  8. Prepare the corn starch slurry by whisking together the corn starch (1 heaping Tbsp) and water (4 Tbsp).  
  9. Add the corn starch slurry to the skillet mixing well to incorporate into the soy mixture and allowing the sauce to boil gently just until the sauce has thickened (this should only take a minute or less). 
  10. Remove skillet from heat and plate the pork and garlic pieces over grain or vegetable of choice (leaving the cinnamon stick and anise behind) but not their amazing flavor!

© Inspired Edibles

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Autumn Oatmeal with Apple, Cranberry & Walnut

My mom sent me four autumn leaves in the mail.

They were the first she gathered from the trees near her home.  I found them pressed together neatly in a card with her signature handwriting slanting almost vertical along the page.  

She said she wanted to send them to me so I wouldn't forget about the fall.

Delicate and impossibly light, I removed the leaves from the card and carefully placed them on the kitchen table.  I had a sinking feeling they were going to fly away even though I was inside.  I sat there staring at them and imagining my mom in a younger version of herself, walking in the autumn leaves with her big rimmed sunglasses and pink lips, my cheeks pressed into my hands, tears streaming down my face.  

So much for getting tougher with age.  I only soften.  

These are the gifts I cherish most. The gestures, the kindnesses and the feelings I no longer have words for. 

Autumn Oatmeal

Autumn Oatmeal
  • 1 cup 100% whole grain oatmeal (steel-cut or rolled)
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed, ground into meal
  • 1 tsp coconut oil or butter
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 apple, skin on and diced
  • 2 + 1/2 (or more) cups water 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce 
  • 1/4 dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup raw walnut pieces
  • milk beverage and drizzle of honey, as desired

Serves 2

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Flaxseed profile: flaxseed is an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (known as alpha-linolenic acid or ALA) fibre and lignans (plant compounds believed to be protective of breast health).  
  2. Grinding flaxseed: unlike chia, flaxseed must be ground in order to be bioavailable (absorbed and usable by the body).
  3. How to buy & store flaxseed: I strongly recommend purchasing unground flaxseed (the whole seed) as opposed to pre-ground meal and simply using a dedicated coffee grinder or mini blender as needed.  Any remaining ground flaxseed should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. This is because the omega-3 fat in flaxseed is quite volatile and reactive to light and ambient temperature.  Often, ground flaxseed that has been left to sit out on the shelf for weeks/months in broad daylight will go rancid.  Keep your unopened flaxseed in a cool, dark place and once opened, store in the fridge.
  4. Oats: both steel-cut and rolled oats offer a good source of soluble fibre - the kind attributable to helping keep blood cholesterol in check.  Whether you are choosing steel-cut oats (chopped into larger sizes) or rolled oats ('old fashioned, quick-cooking oats' that have been rolled or flaked for easier cooking), be sure to choose 100% whole grain.  Oats should have at least 3 grams of fibre per serving and ideally zero sugar and zero sodium.  
  5. Unsweetened Oats: buying the oats unsweetened allows you to decide how much and what type of sweetener you would like to add to your cereal, rather than the manufacturer.  I am not a fan of instant oat cereals (powdered oats) because, even when they are 100% whole grain, these cereal packets almost always have sugar and sodium added to them. 
  6. Cinnamon: cinnamon is not only delicious it has also been shown to have a positive effect on blood glucose levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.  Easy ways of adding cinnamon to your diet include sprinkling it over your cereal or yogurt, adding it to smoothies, soups, stews and baked goods, topping your coffee with it or making your own cinnamon tea.
  7. Other Seasonings: I've kept the seasoning simple here but of course, you can amplify with nutmeg, clove, cardamom, vanilla, etc. as you like.  If you are sulfite sensitive, you may wish to avoid commercial brands of "pumpkin pie" spice however (which commonly uses the preservative) and create your own blend of spices. Pumpkin pie spice is generally made up of a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice but cinnamon/nutmeg will get you mostly there.

  1. Heat coconut oil or butter in a skillet set to medium heat and sauté diced apples just until they begin to soften (about 30 seconds or so) then remove from heat. 
  2. Meanwhile, place oatmeal, ground flaxseed and cinnamon together in a pot, stirring to combine with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add water to the oatmeal mixture, stir and allow it to come to a gentle boil on the stove-top. Immediately reduce to lowest temperature to simmer.
  4. Add warm apples and cranberry to the simmering mixture, stirring to combine. If the mixture is too thick to stir fluidly (the flaxseed will swell) add a little more water. 
  5. Simmer/cooking time will vary depending on the type of whole grain oats you are using (steel-cut oats are comprised of larger pieces and take slightly longer to cook than rolled oats which have been cut into smaller pieces for quicker cooking).
  6. Remove oatmeal mixture from heat, stir in apple sauce and make any final seasoning adjustments before dividing between two (or more) bowls and topping with walnut, milk beverage of choice and a drizzle of honey, as desired.

© Inspired Edibles

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Zucchini Pasta with Chicken, Mushroom & garden fresh Marinara Sauce

Whenever I find myself running behind on my writing commitments and the pressure starts to mount, I paint my fingernails red.

A strange cure for writer's block perhaps but it works for me.  Red is one of those colors that just won't be denied. Bold and energizing, it's an accelerator and mood changer. And it turns out that it doesn't endure procrastination very well either.
As soon as I see those bright red chiclets moving across the keypad in a trail of fire, it's like a call to action. Suddenly I'm transported out of the doldrums of my languid mind and into a place of movement and activity, whether I want to or not.

I don't think it would work on any kind of regular basis, and I wouldn't care to have my hands ablaze more than a few times a year, but every now and again, seeing red is where it's at.  

Does color change you?


I know I should be moving on to back-to-school themes and fall givings and such but you'll forgive me for holding off on the pumpkin posts for now.

It is still August after all and I'm really not in a rush to abandon summer especially while mother nature continues to turn out such gorgeous late summer produce.

And speaking of spoils, we received another generous haul of garden tomatoes and basil from our neighbors this past weekend.  In fact, we got the full tour of their plantation (so inspiring) and this time, I decided to make a roasted marinara sauce from their givings.  

Instead of serving the Italian sauce with a conventional grain-based pasta, I decided to switch things up a little and work with zucchini - another abundant vegetable right now. 

Some of you might remember this handy dandy shredding tool from this post that allowed me to make short work of my green papaya. That is the same tool I used to make the zucchini pasta threads.  You could also use a spiralizer (I don't own one but I understand they are quite versatile and will produce a noodle like shape).

If you make this recipe expecting your great-aunt Angioletta's pasta, well, this is not it. On the other hand, you may be surprised to discover just how appetizing this dish is in its own right without comparison. A warm and savory roasted marinara sauce mingled with sautéed mushroom and chicken over a bed of light and delicious zucchini.  You might just like it. A lot.

Zucchini Pasta with Garden Fresh Marinara Sauce

Zucchini Pasta with Garden Fresh Marinara Sauce (grain free, gluten free)

For the Marinara Sauce
  • 4 lbs (about 12 medium sized) fresh seasonal tomatoes, cored
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste, optional
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut in chunks 
  • 6-8 peeled whole garlic cloves, or to taste (we love our garlic!)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, or to taste
  • pinch of red chili pepper flakes, as desired
Makes approximately 2 cups of Marinara Sauce

For the Zucchini Pasta
  • 4 medium sized fresh zucchini, unpeeled and shredded or spiralized
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 4 oz each), cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 carton (about 2 cups) sliced fresh mushrooms of choice
Serves 4

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Roasting Method: I have used different methods to roast tomatoes in the past.  This particular method uses higher heat for a shorter duration.  I recommend using a dish (as opposed to a baking sheet) for this method because the vegetables will release significant fluid.
  2. Converting Zucchini into Pasta: In order to convert the zucchini into pasta like threads, you will need either a shredding tool such as the Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler (the best $20 investment you will ever make) or a spiralizer (links above in write-up). Anything else will likely be an exercise in futility and frustration.  
  3. Adding Protein: I talked about the function and importance of protein in this post.  Without the addition of protein to this zucchini marinara, this dish becomes essentially a vegetable salad (zucchini, tomato, onion, garlic & mushrooms) perfectly nutritious in its own right but has no more holding power than a bag of carrots (about 20 minutes). Protein is critical for building this dish into a meal, staving off hunger and creating satiety. If chicken is not your thing, use any protein of choice, animal or vegetable.  You can also purée beans or lentils directly into the sauce during the blender step rather than adding them whole.  Lots of options.
  4. Lovely Lycopene! Tomatoes are not only rich in vitamins (A, C, K) and minerals (folate, potassium) they are also the best dietary source of lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found primarily in cooked tomato (and to a lesser extent in watermelon and pink grapefruit).  It has been linked to the reduction of prostate cancer (as well as other cancers) and cardiovascular disease and more recently, to a reduction in photodamage caused by the sun (how neat).  Lots of promising research on lycopene.


Heat oven to 425 F
  1. Using a tomato corer or a simple knife (which is what I used) remove the center part of each tomato and discard.
  2. Place tomatoes, hole side up, in a baking dish along with onion and garlic.  It doesn't really matter how they are placed - haphazard works.
  3. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper (and any other seasonings desired).
  4. Place vegetable tray in the oven and roast for about 35 minutes or until the tomatoes have started to break down, juices are running and the onion/garlic is taking on some golden coloration.
  5. Remove baking dish from oven and allow it to cool.
  6. Meanwhile shred or spiralize the four zucchinis and set aside the pasta.
  7. Place a large colander inside a bowl and carefully transfer roasted vegetable and their juices into the colander allowing the juices to drain into the bowl - reserve some of the juice.
  8. Transfer strained vegetables to a blender or food processor and blend/process until combined.  
  9. At this point, you can either add the basil to the marinara sauce and blend/process together or reserve the basil for topping.  You can also taste and adjust marinara seasonings to your liking.
  10. If the marinara sauce is thicker than you would like, simply add some of the reserved roasting juice and blend.  If the mixture is more dilute than you would like, add tomato paste to desired consistency (it acts as a thickening agent and also adds a rich red color to the sauce).
  11. Meanwhile, sauté cubed chicken and mushroom in a large skillet over medium-low heat with a little bit of olive oil. Note: when chicken is cubed in this fashion it does not take a long time to cook (about 2 minutes or less) so it works out just fine tossing them together.  
  12. When chicken is cooked through (no longer pink inside - it will happen quickly) add the marinara sauce to the skillet and mix to combine with the chicken and mushroom just until everything is warm. Make any final seasoning adjustments (note: you can also add capers, olives, cheese as desired).
  13. Divide zucchini pasta among four bowls/plates and top with chicken, mushrooms and marinara sauce. 
  14. Top the pasta with fresh basil and a sprinkle of red chili peppers, as desired.

© Inspired Edibles

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Baked Summer Harvest Zucchini Boats

If you follow Inspired Edibles on Facebook, you may have caught a sneak peek of the inspiration for this post.

This past weekend, our new neighbors delighted us with the most welcome housewarming gifts. 

An array of garden delights including: little gem lettuce (soft and buttery), firm and crunchy cucumber, fragrant basil and the sweetest, freshest tomatoes we've ever tasted! The tomatoes were so good in fact that we ate the first few solo and unseasoned, swooning over every bite (sometimes it's the simple things...). We then went on to enjoy the ingredients in sandwiches, with drizzled balsamic and in a tossed salad that evening.

Since the givings were so generous, I had plenty of tomatoes leftover and wanted to make the best of them while they were still in their prime.  I had the idea of rounding up some of the best of the late summer harvest and presenting it in these zucchini boats. Open faced melt style. 

If you haven't tasted baked zucchini yet, you're in for a treat! Soft, savory and full of comfort, you could almost (almost) mistake these stuffed lovelies for pizza ~ and, bonus, they deliver a better long term investment. 

This a very simple recipe that involves baking the zucchinis with olive oil and sea salt and then filling them with black beans and veggies and a sprinkling of cheese (of course, you can use whatever toppings you like). 

We enjoyed these molten zucchini boats with a side of quinoa and a tossed green salad. A light and delicious vegetarian summer meal the whole family enjoyed.

Baked Summer Harvest Zucchini Boats

Baked Summer Harvest Zucchini Boats
  • 4 healthy zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise 
  • 2 cups cooked black beans, or beans of choice (thoroughly rinsed if using canned)
  • 1 cup corn kernels (thawed if using frozen)
  • 4-6 gorgeous garden tomatoes, diced
  • 1 New Mexico green chile, seeded and diced (always optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, or to taste, smashed
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 1/2 cup cheese of choice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped herbs of choice plus more leaves for topping (I used basil)
  • sea salt & coarse black pepper to taste

Makes 8 zucchini boats

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Zucchini Size: You don't have to seek out large zucchinis for this recipe (any healthy happy zucchini will do) however the plumper ones will accommodate more filling.
  2. Filling: You can (and should) fill your zucchinis with any topping ingredients and seasonings you and/or your family enjoy.
  3. Right from Oven: We found the baked zucchini tasted best right out of the oven.
  4. Some like it Hot: The chile pepper added a little kick to the mix but if spice is not your thing, simply skip it or use a pepper of your own choosing.  
  5. Caution: Canned beans are always an option however, in addition to having a superior taste and texture, I favor dried beans because of ongoing health concerns surrounding Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a known toxin that continues to be used in the lining of many food and beverage cans - including canned beans.  Studies have shown that this industrial plastic is absorbed by canned foods and, when ingested by consumers, can give rise to significant spikes in urinary levels of BPA.  Some manufacturers are now making BPA free cans however they are few and far between.
  6. Why I smash Garlic: (not just to take out my frustrations!) I recommend smashing the garlic (as distinct from running it through a garlic press) for two reasons.  I generally enjoy the chunkier texture of garlic in recipes and chopping/slicing the garlic cloves alone without first flattening them (smashing/crushing) will not release 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 and then chop or slice the garlic.


Heat oven to 350 F
  1. Using a small spoon, scoop out the interior pulp of each zucchini half (where the seeds reside) taking care not to pierce through the skin (this will create a little cavity along the interior middle of the zucchini where your filling will go) -- you should be able to scoop the pulp quite easily with a spoon but you can also use a knife if preferred.  Be sure to reserve the hydrating pulp for smoothies! :)
  2. Brush the interior of the zucchinis with olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper, as desired
  3. Place the zucchinis (olive oil brushed side up, skin side down) on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in oven for approximately 15 minutes or until zucchinis are tender (you can sample a slice at this stage to discover just how tasty they are!)
  4. Meanwhile, assemble remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl: black beans, corn, tomatoes, chile (if using),  garlic and a Tbsp or so of fresh chopped herbs, mixing to combine.
  5. Add salsa, just enough to moisten the mixture without making it drippy. 
  6. Leaving the warm zucchinis on the baking sheet, carefully divide the mixture among the zucchinis, filling each cavity.
  7. Sprinkle cheese over each zucchini filling and return the tray to the oven for another 8-10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the mixture has warmed through.
  8. Remove zucchini boats from oven, top with additional herbs as desired and enjoy! (best enjoyed straight from the oven). 
  9. I served these zucchini boats with a side of quinoa and a tossed green salad.  It was a light and very tasty summer evening meal.  The whole family enjoyed it!
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

The boys start school on Monday.

I know.  

Seems cruel and unusual to me too.

And yet, they feel good about it, so who am I to say.

My eldest says he likes being in school with his friends when the weather is still so nice ~ (like it turns dramatically here in CA - wink) ~ everyone is full of energy and good spirits and there is a ball to kick or throw at every break. Even though they don't live far apart, plans don't seem to get made quite as often during the summer break so school remains the great joinder.  

We squeezed in all the mandatory pre-school appointments in the earlier part of the week ~ the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker ~ and this morning I dropped my youngest off at his High School orientation. Yup, two boys in high school now. I'll admit I lingered a bit longer than I needed to. Catching those last glimpses of boyhood before it all changes, again.

So here I sit in a new home surrounded by boxes and to-do lists and yet, a warm cup of tea and this quiet space seems just about right. 

These last few weeks have swooshed by in a blur and I'm feeling grateful for the pause.


Today I'm talking about breakfast and sharing some of my favorite ways to start the day. 

I am often asked in my nutrition practice what the ideal breakfast is and my answer is always the same: it depends. And it does.  Age, stage, level of activity, work/sleep schedules, response to food, goals and objectives.  In short, while there are certainly guiding principles, there is no one size accommodates all when it comes to nutrition. 

We are all biochemically unique and each of us has the ability and responsibility, in my view, to experiment and learn what works best for us.  

For myself, the composition and ratio of micronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrate) will vary depending on whether I am preparing for work (sedentary) or exercise.  It may also vary with the seasons as my digestive vitality and food preferences are not the same in the grueling heat as they are in cooler temperatures.  

Prior to exercise, I prefer easily and quickly digesting food sources such as whole grain oatmeal with ground seeds, a few pieces of sliced banana and milk.  A nourishing and easily digested meal that provides me with just the right amount of energy I need to have a productive workout session.  If I eat this type of breakfast sometime around 7:30 am and workout sometime around 9:00 am, I am usually looking for a more concentrated protein source by 10:30 - 11:00 am. 

On the days when I am not working out in the morning, I might opt for a more substantive breakfast with greater staying power (satiety) such as this nourishing breakfast bowl which contains a variety of food elements in more concentrated forms.  A simple and delicious meal bowl made up of protein (found in the eggs, nuts, cheese and quinoa), fat (found in the avocado, nuts and cheese) and carbohydrate (found in the quinoa and sprouts) complete with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Although packed with goodness, this quinoa breakfast bowl is easy on the system and does not leave me feeling bloated, tired and grumpy the way more popular breakfast assortments of the carbohydrate family can (ie: toast, pancakes, waffles, muffins, sugary cereals, etc) ~ pretty much the opposite of how you want to feel starting out the day.

Be sure to have a look at the Nutriton & Cooking Notes I prepared for more information on the role of protein, fat and carbohydrates in the body as well as nourishing food sources of these macronutrients.

Enjoy experimenting with different combinations and remember, nobody ever said you couldn't eat lentils or steak for breakfast. Do what works for you!

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl (Gluten Free)

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
  • 2 gently boiled eggs, or cooked however you wish.
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup or more fresh sprouts of choice (I used clover)
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • small handful nuts of choice (I used almond)
  • 1 ounce feta cheese
  • seasonings as desired

Serves 1

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Make Ahead: If you prepare your quinoa and eggs the night before, this breakfast comes together in a snap!
  2. Not Just for Breakfast: Although we're talking about breakfast today, this lovely meal bowl would be suitable any time of day.
  3. Break-Fast: After prolonged sleep, breaking our fast (break-fast) helps kick start metabolism and promote mental acuity providing us with the necessary fuel to start our day.
  4. Lack of Time or Appetite: If lack of time or appetite is a factor, start small and bring something quick and easy to work: a wedge of cheese; a handful of nuts; a hard-boiled egg (you can prepare ahead of time and store in fridge); plain yogurt with a drizzle of honey; almond butter on sliced apple or cucumber. It doesn't have to be big or complicated. Start small and build over time.
  5. The role of Protein/Carbohydrates/FatsProtein, the basis of all structural components in the body, tops the list for satiety. Protein requires more work for our bodies to break down than carbohydrates, keeping us feeling fuller longer and preventing jags in insulin levels. The regulation of blood sugar can also help stabilize mood and energy levels. Most neurotransmitters (the brain's communication channels) are made of protein which is critical for mood, alertness and concentration. Carbohydrates are the body's number one source of energy however most of us continue to over-consume carbohydrates relative to our protein intake and activity levels.  The trick is to consume carbohydrates in proportion to our actual energy requirements and to focus on nourishing sources ~ those that offer high fibre relative to their sugar release (low glycemic) ~ options below.  Fabulous Fats often maligned and feared, fat is needed for the absorption of vitamins, the proper functioning of sex hormones, the insulation of our vital organs and the protection of cell membranes including our brain.
  6. Key Sources of Protein/Carbohydrates/Fats: Carbohydrate Sources: complex grains (quinoa, kamut, millet, teff, buckwheat, oats, amaranth, etc.); fruits + vegetables.  Mixed Sources: lentils/legumes (combination carbohydrate/protein). Protein Sources: animal meats; fish; eggs, soy proteins: tempeh, tofu, vegetarian wheat/gluten: seitan. Mixed Sources:  nuts/seeds (combination fat/protein), yogurt and cheese (combination fat/protein). Fat & Oil Sources: avocado, coconut, olive.


  1. Note: you can prepare quinoa the night before and simply store in fridge.
  2. Cook quinoa (generally 2:1 ratio water to quinoa) and eggs (boil for 4 to 5 minutes for a yolk that is still runny, 6 to 7 minutes for a yolk that is barely set and 8 to 9 minutes for a firm set egg).
  3. Allow quinoa to cool somewhat while you assemble the remaining ingredients.
  4. Add cooked quinoa to the base of the bowl.  I sometimes mix in a little bit of coconut oil or butter with the warm quinoa and add a sprinkle of herbs (I especially like rosemary) and sea salt/ground pepper.
  5. Add remaining ingredients in a layered or circular fashion as desired -- eggs, avocado, nuts, feta cheese and sprouts. 
  6. For the sprouts, I sometimes add a splash of apple cider vinegar but more often than not I just leave them naked -- there is plenty of flavor coming from the other ingredients including the savory feta and seasoned quinoa.
  7. I hope you love this simple meal bowl as much as I do!
© Inspired Edibles

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Fine.  I confess.  I often add massaged kale (and you'll like it too!)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Spicy Peanut Chicken with Mango Slaw

Well, we're less than a week away from our big move and we could not be more excited. The renovations have been moving along swimmingly and, knock on my hard head, all appears to be in order and on track...when does that ever happen? The relative calm and lack of perceived trouble is stressing me out.

Let the moving chaos begin!

While we sort through boxes, bins and furniture over the next couple of weeks, I'm sharing a delicious little number for all of you peanut butter fans out there.  

This spicy peanut chicken has a place at my table any time of year!

I especially enjoy it combined with a sweet and sour coleslaw to draw out the best of the contrasting flavors and textures.

And who doesn't love a dish that comes together so easily in the summer, when we'd all rather be outside doing something else with our time.  

The delicious coconut-lime peanut marinade will do the work for you while you put your feet up, sit back, relax and sip on a refreshing Mojito smoothie.

Ah, summertime.... enjoy!

Spicy Peanut Chicken with Mango Slaw

Spicy Peanut Chicken with Mango Slaw

For the Spicy Peanut Chicken
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup all natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 nub of ginger, grated or minced
  • 2 heaping tsp (or to taste) chili garlic sauce
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves (about 1 cup), finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped peanuts for topping

For the Mango Slaw
  • 1 small head (about 4 cups) chopped or shredded cabbage of choice (I used a mix of napa and red)
  • Two generous handfuls (about 2 cups) kale leaves, preferably massaged ;-)
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and roughly cubed

For the Mango Slaw Dressing
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed, optional
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste

Serves 6

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. I like to prep the marinade for this chicken in the morning - get it done and have the chicken all set for dinnertime.  That way, the afternoon is mine and there's no last minute rushing about.
  2. If spicy is not your thing, simply omit the chili garlic sauce altogether - the peanut chicken will still be delicious! Heat is a matter of taste but I find 2 tsp of chili garlic sauce relatively mild on the heat scale so you can work from there.  
  3. Although I have not tried it, I suspect this recipe would be at least as delicious with almond butter and, for that matter, with any nut or seed butter.  So if peanut is off your list, feel free to experiment.  On that note, sunflower seed butter is one of my favorite flavor discoveries of the past several years -- delish!
  4. Any combination of cabbage, additional greens and fruit works for the coleslaw -- this is merely a suggestion.  I often wait to see what looks freshest at the market and make my decisions accordingly.

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine: peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, ginger, chili garlic sauce, and half of the cilantro leaves, mixing well to combine.  If the sauce is too thick, add one of the following options by quarter cup increments: water, coconut milk or chicken stock, until desired consistency is achieved (while you don't want soupy, you should be able to whisk the sauce comfortably).
  2. Remove half of the spicy peanut sauce (should be a generous half cup or so) and set aside in a small covered container in fridge.
  3. To the remaining peanut sauce in bowl, add chicken pieces, mixing with your hands until all the pieces are well saturated.
  4. Cover the chicken mixture with wrap and store the bowl in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight, allowing the chicken to absorb the marinade flavors.
  5. Meanwhile, assemble mango slaw ingredients in a medium sized bowl and, separately, combine slaw dressing in small bowl or container with fitted lid.  Whisk or vigorously shake the dressing before drizzling over slaw mixture, mixing to combine.  Cover and store in fridge until ready to serve.
  6. When the chicken has marinated sufficiently and you are ready to serve, warm a skillet to medium-high heat adding some coconut or olive oil.  
  7. Carefully place marinated chicken in the hot skillet allowing it to cook/sear on one side for a minute before flipping/tossing.  Continue process until chicken is cooked through. This should not take very long as chicken pieces are quite small (roughly 4-6 minutes) depending on temperature of skillet. Remove chicken from heat.
  8. Meanwhile, heat the reserved spicy peanut sauce in a small pot on the stove or keep it cool as desired.
  9. Remove mango slaw from fridge and give it a final stir before plating. 
  10. Plate spicy peanut chicken beside mango slaw, topping with an additional drizzle of reserved peanut sauce (warmed or cool), cilantro and a handful of chopped peanuts, as desired.
  11. Enjoy.
© Inspired Edibles

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