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.


Directions:

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.



Directions:

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!
© Inspired Edibles

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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

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.


Directions:

  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.

Directions:
  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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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Fresh Quinoa Tabbouleh


I have a serious affection for fresh parsley.  And I'm not talking about the kind relegated to garnish!

Well-loved (and possibly overrated) in its dry form and woefully underappreciated in its natural form, fresh parsley will take you places the dried herb simply can't go.  Full-bodied, bright and grassy, this vibrant green contains natural cleansing properties that make it especially refreshing and welcoming in the summer.

Playing a starring role in this garden fresh tabbouleh, fresh parsley draws out the best in sweet summer tomato, crunchy cucumber and tangy lemon.

Tabbouleh is a vegetarian dish, most often referred to as a salad, of Levantine origin. The traditional Mediterranean version of tabbouleh showcases fresh parsley as the principal ingredient (the dish is mostly green) together with chopped mint, tomato, olive oil and fresh lemon juice.  Bulgar, a wheat derivative, is sometimes added but it plays a minor role in the classic preparation. 

Today's recipe offers a little riff on the traditional preparation with the substitution of quinoa for bulgar as well as the addition of cucumber and other seasoning choices.  

This lovely Mediterranean salad will store well in the fridge for up to two days and would make a beautiful addition to any meal, picnic or potluck.  The flavors are truly delicious and refreshing and the contents wonderfully nourishing.

I hope you enjoy it but whatever you do, don't substitute dry parsley!



Summer Fresh Quinoa Tabbouleh

Summer Fresh Quinoa Tabbouleh (Gluten Free)

For the Quinoa Tabbouleh
  • 1 cup (250 mL) dry quinoa (yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa)
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, diced or bite size chunks
  • 1/2 English cucumber, diced or bite sized chunks
  • 3 green onions (scallion), minced
  • 3 (or so) garlic cloves (always optional - we love our garlic!), smashed
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, flat or curly (about 1 cup/250 mL), chopped
  • Handful mint leaves, (about 1/4 cup/60 mL), chopped

For the Dressing
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) terragon vinegar (substitute rice vinegar)
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) grainy dijon mustard
  • sea salt and coarse black pepper to taste

Serves 4-6

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Storage: this summer fresh quinoa tabbouleh will keep well in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two days.
  2. From Side to Meal: you can easily convert this recipe into a meal salad by adding lentils or legumes (I especially like it with white bean); cubed tempeh, salmon, tuna (fish/seafood of choice) or any meat protein as desired. 
  3. Quinoa: dubbed the Mother Grain by the Incas, quinoa’s nutrient profile has earned it star status. Rich in plant protein, quinoa is an important staple for vegetarian/vegan diets. It also contains B vitamins and a number of minerals including, notably: magnesium (a natural muscle relaxant), manganese, phosphorus, copper and iron. Quinoa’s low glycemic index also makes it an excellent choice for blood glucose control.
  4. Parsley: parsley contains vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid.  Notable minerals include: calcium, iron and potassium.  Parsley is often used to cleanse the palette and is said to be a natural diuretic that can ease distention/bloating. 
  5. Garlic Crush: I recommend smashing/crushing garlic (as distinct from running it through a garlic press) for two reasons.  I love the chunkier texture of the garlic and chopping/slicing the garlic cloves alone without first flattening it (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.


Directions:
  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions (generally 1:2 ratio quinoa to water).
  2. Allow quinoa to cool while you prepare/chop herbs.
  3. Place quinoa in a large bowl (large enough to accommodate the entire salad) and add chopped parsley and mint, tossing to combine.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine: tomato, cucumber, onions and garlic, mixing to combine. 
  5. In a small bowl or container with fitted lid, combine: olive oil, vinegar, lemon, mustard and salt & pepper to taste, whisking or shaking to combine. Adjust seasonings as desired.  If you find the dressing overly acidic/sour, you can add a tsp or so of honey/maple syrup.
  6. Drizzle dressing over tomato mixture and mix gently to combine.
  7. Add tomato mixture to quinoa-herb mixture and mix gently to combine, taking care not to mash the tomato.
  8. Allow the quinoa tabbouleh to sit covered in the fridge for one hour absorbing the delicious juices from the dressing before serving.  
  9. Top individual salads with additional parsley, as desired.
  10. Nutrition Facts below are based on 4 servings.

© Inspired Edibles

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Roasted Summer Plum Sauce with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


Normally any home purchase is news and certainly worthy of celebration but this one feels especially sweet for our family (yes, we just bought a home!!).

When we arrived in the Silicon Valley almost a year ago now, little did we know that we would find ourselves in the middle of the most challenging real estate market in the US at the moment. A combination of very low inventory and a swelling population fueled by the booming tech sector (think: Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn to name a few), set the stage for shamefully inflated housing prices, unprecedented bidding wars and the common phenom of all cash offers (along with a host of other miscellaneous shenanigans). We experienced free market enterprise at it's worst, or best, depending on how you look at it. 

So when the stars recently aligned and our family of six -- dog and cat inclus -- picked up the keys to our home last week, there were tears of joy from this mamma. Relieved, grateful and yes, deliriously happy to have our own patch of green.

All of our belongings from Canada are still sitting on a truck and we are working out of the original suitcases we came with last August. But here's the funny part about that. You discover very quickly just how little you need to survive and to survive well.  I'm not going to pretend that I don't think about my stuff from time to time.  I do.  But frankly, a lot less than I would have ever imagined.  The two things I miss the most? Our family photos and my books... sure, it will be nice to have my kitchen appliances back and an extra pair of shoes but all in all, if there's anything this year has taught me is that we carry way more than we need. I'm overwhelmed at the prospect of fitting it all back into our lives. (And I'm not sure I want to).

Meanwhile, the aspect that I'm probably most excited about relating to our new home is the edible landscape. This subarctic gal is still shaking her head in disbelief at the beauty and utter wonder. 

Care to see what's growing in our backyard?

Let's start here. You might recall this image from last week's post... 
  


A beautiful apricot tree!

My husband is a huge fan of apricots ~ he and the boys used to play a game of 'catch the flying apricot with your mouth' at breakfast time when the boys were young. This particular tree felt like it was meant for them.

Keeping our apricot tree company are two lemon trees... 


One of them (pictured above) is doing quite well, with large, luscious lemons (we've taste tested them of course). The other lemon tree is rapidly producing miniatures -- they're very cute but we suspect the tree may need a little TLC and some pruning to focus it's energy back to its natural growth pattern.  How fun to think that we might have an impact on the growth of a lemon tree ♡.

Further along the path, there is a mandarin tree (we have yet to determine the variety). Mandarins typically bloom in the winter but when I visited the property to shoot some photos, wouldn't you know it, there was one fruit on the tree; just waiting to pose. Handsome devil!




And here is the crowning glory (in my view) and the subject of today's recipe... a beautiful, bountiful plum tree!



It just takes my breath away every time I look at it.  I had no idea mature plums were covered in a dusty-white coating on the tree (the ones we find in stores have been rubbed off or polished).  The coating (an epicuticular wax) or 'wax bloom' protects the fruit and allows it to prevent moisture loss. (You could almost mistake me for a natural gardener).


Here's another shot of one that I rubbed off with my thumb -- looking more familiar.

And what about this fellow.  Any guesses?



We had no idea either.  It's a pineapple guava tree (!!?) -- I keep calling it a grapefruit guava (I confuse pineapple and grapefruit linguistically though not conceptually. I do however confuse dinosaurs and dragons conceptually, which is more concerning).

The former owner tells us that for every one delicious pineapple guava fruit, there are twenty or so horribly sour, inedible ones. So it's a bit of a game to see who can get the good guava! We can hardly wait to discover this fruit and so much more... every time we visit, we seem to uncover something new.  We have never been so excited and motivated to learn!

We have a month or so of renovations ahead of us (currently underway) with a projected move-in date of late-July/early-August.  The summer posting schedule will not doubt be hit-and-miss but, it is summer after all, so let's all enjoy it!

I hope to be back to regular posting sometime in September.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On to today's recipe...

So simple and full of deliciousness!  The plum sauce need not be reserved for dessert -- though it's mighty delicious enjoyed this way and seemed suitably festive. The first time I made this sauce in fact, my husband and I ate it with seared scallops (delish!).  It also pairs beautifully with yogurt and mixed in with morning oatmeal or smoothies.

I hope you enjoyed the mini-tour of our backyard and stay tuned... if I'm feeling brave, I may post some interior reno photos. We'll see how it goes!

Wish us luck ;-).


Roasted Summer Plum Sauce with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Roasted Summer Plum Sauce with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

For the Plum Sauce
  • 10-12 juicy, ripe plums, skin-on, pitted and roughly cut in half 
  • 4 Tbsp (60 mL) orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) (or to taste) honey or pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) balsamic vinegar

Serves 4

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Sweet, juicy and nutritive, plums are low on the glycemic index and offer a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and fibre.  Plums also contain calcium, magnesium and plant-based iron. These dark-skinned lovelies are rich in phenols that offer a protective effect against oxidative damage (they operate as antioxidants) helping to reduce the risk of disease. 
  2. Ripe plums are the way to go here -- tart, hard plums will not render the same results. The plums should have some comfortable give when you gently press on them.  
  3. This plum sauce need not be reserved for dessert (though it's mighty delicious used this way) -- the first time I made this sauce in fact, my husband and I ate it with seared scallops (delish!).  It also pairs beautifully with yogurt and mixed in with oatmeal or smoothies.



Directions:

Heat oven to 400 F.
  1. In a spacious bowl, combine orange juice, honey or maple syrup and balsamic, whisking to combine.
  2. Add plum segments to the juice mixture and gently toss to combine.  Allow plums to sit in the juices (mixing on occasion) for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  You could also use an unlined baking dish if your prefer, provided there is sufficient room for the plum segments to roast without touching each other.
  4. Remove plum segments, one by one, from the juice bowl and place on the baking sheet such that they are not touching.  (if you need to, simply use two sheets or work in batches). Drizzle any remaining juice over the plums.
  5. Roast the plums in the oven for approximately 12-18 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until the plums have started to break down with juices flowing.
  6. Carefully remove tray from oven and allow it to cool before transferring the plum segments (and any transferable juices) to the blender or food processor.
  7. You can remove the skins from the plum segments at this point (you will be able to roll them off easily) but I don't recommend it.  The skin is where all the flavor is and once blended you won't be aware of it in the sauce (it leaves only the tiniest bits of chewy deliciousness). 
  8. Blend the roasted plum segments until the plum is well broken down and integrated into a nice smooth and consistent sauce.
  9. Carefully transfer the sauce into a serving dish and enjoy with food of choice, for example: ice cream; frozen yogurt; regular yogurt; on cereal; with a smoothie or with fish/seafood.  Any leftover sauce can be kept in a covered container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  10. I have a number of ice cream recipes on the blog if you wish to make your own but this particular recipe is all about the plum!

© Inspired Edibles

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