Sunday, September 28, 2014

Double Sweet Potato Lentil Curry


Aaaahhhhh. Autumn. It's that beautiful time of year in the south when the temperature dramatically dips into the 80's and we begin craving all things cozy and pumpkin and spiced and comforting. Down here in Texas, there are a good many few of us who can't wait to slip into turtleneck sweaters. Amiright?? J/K. Lolz.

Actually, the weather is quite lovely in the mornings. Newton and I can run a solid 2 miles without alarming passers-by that one of us might overheat and die at any moment. So, our seasons here are a little screwy, but I accept you for YOU, Texas weather!

One of the many great things about my little CSA box, is that I don't have to think about what veggies are in season or out of season (despite the weather). The box just tells me.

Last week, my delivery included sweet potato greens, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, okra, onion, patty pan squash, and spaghetti squash. I was able to use three of those items in the recipe I'm sharing today, adapted from smitten kitchen and The NY Times.

What do I mean by double sweet potato? I used the one huge sweet potato along with the sweet potato greens. If you look at the recipes from SK and the NYT, you'll notice that they both used Swiss chard. The fact is, you can use any greens at all. Spinach. Kale. Turnip. Just get 'em in there.

This dish is warm and lovely. Some notes to make it a success:

  • There are a lot of ingredients on this list, and a bit of chopping, but I assure you that the cooking part is easy.
  • The trick is to get the lentils cooked through all the way. No one likes a crunchy lentil. No one.
  • If you don't have garam masala on hand but you do have a plethora of spices, just make your own blend. See my version below the recipe box.  
  • Don't skip the lime. 

Double Sweet Potato
& Lentil Curry

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
½ jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon garam masala*
1 teaspoon curry powder
3-4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 lb sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½” cubes
¾ cup dried lentils (I used green)
1 bay leaf
2 packed cups chopped sweet potato greens
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1 lime, zested

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent (about 4 minutes).
2. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, garam masala and curry powder. Sauté for 1 minute.
3. Add 3 cups broth, sweet potato, lentils, and bay leaf. Turn heat to HI, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. 
4. Add sweet potato greens, salt and pepper. If lentils look dry, add remaining vegetable broth.
5. Cook for 20 minutes longer, or until lentils and potatoes are tender.
6. Serve topped with scallion, lime zest, and lime wedge.

Calories 220, Total Fat 4.0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 1138 mg, Protein 5.7 g, Fiber 7.0 g

* Garam Masala: (this makes just enough for the recipe above, adapted from here)

  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • very scant 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • very scant 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Aaaaaannnnndddd... Finally, DON'T WORRY ABOUT THAT SODIUM. The recipe calculator likely used a high sodium broth. To ensure your sodium intake isn't through the roof, I'd recommend using a low sodium veggie broth.

Happy fall, ya'll!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Everything" White Bean Hummus

Bagels. I haven't bought a package of bagels in quite some time, but my favorite is always the "everything" kind. You may chalk it up to my notable indecisiveness, but why choose simply "onion" or "poppy seed" or "sesame seed" when you can have ALL THE BAGELS!?

Oh, that's right. I don't have a toaster.

So no bagels. But what about this Everything White Bean Hummus recipe? After making it, I think I actually prefer the more traditional garbanzo bean hummus, but this recipe was an interesting change of pace.

From the original recipe, I chose to cut down on the oil and salt just a bit, and to add some lemon juice. I have it on medical authority that decreasing salt in my own diet isn't a good idea (hello, hypotension), but there is plenty of seasoning in the "everything" mix that I felt it salty enough.

White Bean Hummus

Prep time: 15 min (or 60 minutes, if you need time to roast the garlic)
Yield: Enough for 6-8 people as an appetizer

2 cans white beans (cannellini or great northern), drained and rinsed
1 head of roasted garlic
½ small lemon, juiced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (I used black sesame)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

crudité or pita for serving

1. Dump white beans and roasted garlic into a food processor with lemon juice. Pulse until smooth.
2. With the processor running, stream in the olive and sesame oils.
3. Mix seasoning ingredients together.
4. Fold about ½ of the seasoning ingredients into the hummus. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning on top, to taste.

Calories 234, Total Fat 12.1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 297mg, Protein 8.1 g, Fiber 5.2 g

It makes quite a bit of seasoning, so I had extra to sprinkle on salads and grilled cheese sandwiches. I think I still have a bit in the pantry! Try it!

Now... if I could only find my battery charger for the camera, I'd get started on the cocoa chai roasted almonds I made last weekend.  Sigh. Unpacking. Gah.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Smoothie Bowl

Since my last post:

  • I moved (a long way). 
  • I started a new job (the "big kid" kind). 
  • I took a huge exam (nailed it). 
  • I joined a new CSA (deliveries start next week). 
  • And I started a new fitness challenge (#100byHalloween). 

As for all that unpacking that was supposed to happen in August? Still only half finished. (But hey - we can't win 'em all.)

I'll be honest and say that I haven't really been adventurous in the kitchen in the past couple of months. Firstly, with only myself to cook for, I do tend to get a little lazy. And ya'll don't care about my lazy food. Second, I can't find my toaster. Do I use a toaster for many recipes, you ask? No. But I can't remember if I even packed it up or if I simply tossed it out in the heat of the crucial "I DON'T CARE WHAT COMES TO TEXAS ANYMORE" days of Ames.

So how 'bout some smoothies? No toaster required.

I have been on this "smoothie bowl" kick for a couple of weeks now. Mainly, the pictures of these beauties on Instagram are a huge inspiration factor. You should check them out (also try here). Gorgeous breakfast soup.

Normally, I like to liquefy my smoothies to a point where they are more like juice. The Nutribullet lets me do that fairly quickly with the addition of water. The smoothie bowl, however, should probably be of thicker consistency so that you can spoon it up without having to slurp it. Unless slurping is your thing.

The first bowl I invented was a twist on my "Everyday Breakfast Smoothie" which is fresh kale blended with frozen fruit (pineapple, peach, mango, and strawberry) and water. I topped this with fresh mango, unsweetened (dried) coconut, rolled oats, and chia seeds.

The second edition was this frozen fruit smoothie (same blend as above) topped with something called "chia pudding" and fresh raspberries. Chia pudding is basically just soaked chia seeds. Remember those "ch-ch-ch CHIA! Pets" from the 80s? Same seeds. I soaked 1/4 cup chia seeds in 1 cup regular almond milk with a dash of cinnamon overnight. You have to stir it up a bit so it doesn't clump, but I find this to be a nice, weird textural addition to the smoothie bowl. And, most importantly, it looks cool.

Finally, my post-SundayRunday smoothie from this morning. Here, I have a new frozen fruit blend (pineapple, cantaloupe, grapes, peach, and strawberry), layered with the rest of the chia pudding and topped with fresh raspberries and unsweetened coconut.

I actually made some green smoothie with spinach to layer into today's breakfast, but I was afraid the colors would run.... and that wouldn't be so pretty. So I drank it separately! How's that for taking one for the team?

Anyone else out there on the smoothie bowl bus?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Asian Roasted Vegetable Salad with Vermicelli

WARNING. This is a procrastination blog post. 
I should be studying for boards.

If you have never set foot in an Asian grocery, you are truly missing out on some excellent bargains. Usually they will sell larger volumes of the same items found in the "Asian Foods" section at the American grocery store - but AT RIDICULOUSLY LOW LOW PRICES. (I realize that may sound a bit like a used car commercial, but it's 100% factual). I haven't been happy with the state of affairs in their produce section, but for dry goods and non-perishables - IT'S ON!

As for produce, almost anywhere else is better. I usually just go to the regular grocery store, but occasionally hit up the Sam's super store if I have another reason to head that way. You may be surprised, but Sam's has a pretty solid selection of fresh staples. This includes giant amounts of spring mix for salads. Who needs that much lettuce, you may ask? WE ALL NEED THAT MUCH LETTUCE. I consider it a healthy challenge to finish the entire package before the leaves start to turn. The same challenge applies for most fresh veggies in my fridge. You may remember - it pains me to throw things away. LITERAL PAIN. (Man, I've used a lot of caps already! I'll chill out now...) If only there was a way to use up the salad greens *and* all of the other veggies in my crisper without making a heaping pile of cold chopped salad....

I took a peek in the fridge. I happen to have a bottle of fat free soy vinaigrette from Trader Joe's that I don't love as a salad dressing, per se... (I don't prefer sweetened dressings for salad), but it would work great as a base for a quick veggie marinade. I already had an idea in my head for a warm, soy based dressing for broccoli, carrots, and green beans...

Marinated, roasted vegetables on top of lettuce. That could work.

A step to the pantry -- should I add vermicelli noodles? Why not?! Noodles are far underutilized in salads, if you ask me. Which you didn't. But these particular noodles are an automatic match for fresh vegetables (spring rolls, anyone??). Experimental salad. Let's do it.

Asian Roasted Veggie Salad with Vermicelli

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 min
Servings: 4

½ cup fat free soy vinaigrette (I used Trader Joe’s Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp chili garlic paste
1.5 cups broccoli
1 cup fresh green beans, snapped into 2” length
1 cup sliced yellow squash
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced on a bias
4 spears asparagus, cut to 2” length on a bias
¼ pkg (or two small bricks) Asian vermicelli (bean thread)
6 cups salad greens
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (I used black sesame)
Extra vinaigrette dressing, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Combine the first three ingredients in a small bowl.
3. Place all chopped vegetables in a large bowl and pour vinaigrette sauce over. Gently stir to coat all veggies.
4. Spread veggies into a single layer on a large sheet pan. Bake vegetables for 20 minutes.
5. When veggies are almost done, bring a pot of water to boil.  Add vermicelli bricks to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes, gently agitating noodles with a fork to separate.
6. Strain noodles with a large skimming spoon, or similar. Set aside.
7. Plate 2 cups salad greens topped with ¼ noodles and ¼ roasted vegetables (cooled to warm or room temperature). Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with extra salad dressing, if desired.

Calories 203, Total Fat 4.8 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 279 mg, Protein 4.6 g, Fiber 5.1 g

The salad was good. Again, I simply used up what I had on hand. Other tasty additions might include marinated tofu, scallions and mushrooms. If you can't find vermicelli noodles, you can also sub Japanese soba noodles or omit them altogether.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Arugula Spinach Tomato Pesto (ASTP) with Gnocchi & Chickpeas

Aaaaahhhhhhh. The benefit of being (temporarily) unemployed is multifaceted, but one particular bonus is sleeping past 6 am. Every. Day.

Another bonus is having the time to do something other than work, study, or pack boxes. Unpacking.... well that's another story for August. In the meantime, trips to the farmer's market and shoe shopping for one particular upcoming wedding have been a much appreciated change of pace from the daily hospital grind.

Are you ready for another, absolutely delightful permutation of beans n' greens? Not quite to the eat-to-live standards (hello olive oil... and cheese.. and pasta) but full of healthy things nonetheless (arugula-spinach-tomato pesto = ASTP!). The ingredients for the pesto actually make enough for two nights. Use half today and freeze the rest.

The great thing about pesto in general is how forgiving it is. Don't have spinach? Add extra arugula. Prefer less garlic? Reduce it to three cloves. Where the heck to I find pepitas?? Use walnuts.

Arugula-Spinach-Tomato Pesto on Gnocchi & Chickpeas

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 5 min
Servings: 4  servings

3 cups packed fresh arugula
1 cup packed fresh spinach
6 cloves fresh garlic
¼ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or pine nuts
2 chives
6 large basil leaves
¼ cup virgin olive oil
1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1 - 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 500g package of potato gnocchi
2 oz herbed feta cheese, crumbled (I used tomato basil)

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Drop arugula and spinach into boiling water and allow to cook for 20 seconds. Then strain out greens and submerge in ice water. Reserve boiling water for gnocchi (step 5).
2. Peel the garlic and add it along with the basil leaves, pepitas, and chives to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is minced.
3.  Squeeze all of the water from the blanched greens and add them to the food processor along with the tomatoes. Pulse until finely chopped and well incorporated with the garlic mixture.  
4. With the processor running, add olive oil. Blend until well combined. Set half of the pesto aside and freeze for later use.
5. Add garbanzo beans and gnocchi to the reserved boiling water and cook according to gnocchi package directions.
7. Strain gnocchi and beans; scoop into serving bowls immediately. Divide the other half of pesto over gnocchi and sprinkle each serving with feta cheese. 

Calories 436, Total Fat 12.8 g, Cholesterol 12.6 mg, Sodium: 507 mg, Protein 8.7 g, Fiber 4.9 g

This was my first time using gnocchi, which are small, soft, dumpling-like pasta balls. They cook up super quickly, and were easy to find at Trader Joe's and the local grocery store. This ASTP has a great bite from the garlic and arugula, and is lightened up with the tomatoes so that it would be great on any pasta. Or, you can try it one of these other 10 Ways to use Pesto Beyond Pasta from The Kitchn.

Friday, July 4, 2014


The #100bySummer challenge... 

100 miles of cardio in 7 weeks.
Not that hard, right?
It boils down to about 2 miles a day. 

There are all sorts of fitness challenges floating around, particularly in that time of year barreling headlong into summertime. But this particular challenge was inspired by the girls at Tone It Up - you know the ones who have that show on Bravo? Well, maybe you don't know. But Bravo is just about the only channel I watch, so therein lies my current perspective of the world outside of Ames.. whatever. 

The important part is that I did it. Not only that, but I got J to do it too! (He didn't run for a bikini body, but he did run for himself. And maybe a little bit for me, too.) I am so proud of us! Especially since I've never been a good runner. Oh, believe me --- I've given running the ol' college try. Many times. It's always hard. But this time, it was a bit easier for three reasons. 

  1. Other people were doing the exact same thing I was doing. There's a little community of people (mostly women) out there who were posting to Instagram (#bikiniseries #toneitup #100bysummer), documenting their progress, and providing a bit of outside support. It worked. 
  2. I learned to pace myself. With a heart rate monitor (this kind: Polar FT4). It's time to get serious, ya'll. 
  3. Perhaps most importantly, J was willing to go with me. Rain or shine. Hail or humidity. His pace isn't exactly as slow as mine, but he really made an effort to keep with me. I think it was comical at times.. You know how slow I was running? But he didn't laugh. Too much. 

The challenge technically ended on June 21 (the first day of summer!). I posted photos on Instagram throughout the 100 mile challenge to document our progress and thought it would be nice to round them all up here. Enjoy!

Mile 1: We started the challenge the same weekend of Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa and got in our first 4 miles. 
Mile 5: Showing off our Christmas running shoes courtesy of J's parents.

Mile 8: On the way home from Main Street.
Mile 11: Early morning run with the man of the house.

Mile 14: One of the first places I visited in Ames - Olde Main Brewery - with Ian and Tiffany
Mile 17: Started the day off right. That always means a green smoothie. 
Mile 19: Down to the farmer's market on Main.

Mile 23: You just have to get off the couch. The rest is easy. 
Mile 26: Ada Hayden park.
Mile 30: The first of *many* cloudy/rainy days in a row. And a massaged kale salad. That's right. I said massaged.
Mile 34: Minor head trauma due to unexpected hail storm. Whoopsie.
Mile 38: First run with the new toy! Thanks, J!
Mile 42: Lots of good work-outs in the Ozarks! These little beauties live down the street from J's parents. They always come to greet us at the fence.
Mile 46: And these guys.. :) Such troopers!
Mile 58: ....aaaaannnd the blisters that I began taping like a pro.  
Mile 63: A little uphill hiking at Ledges State Park with the boys.
Mile 67: Met this dude at the neighborhood park over Skunk River. 
Mile 70: Made the best roasted garlic and wilted spinach egg pitas after my "passing with a D" mile of the 100 by summer challenge.

Mile 83: Another rainy day in Iowa at the downtown Des Moines farmer's market. 

Mile 88: I ran 5 miles without stopping for the first time ever. I think this hot air balloon in the sky was a visual reward for all my hard work so far. 

Mile 95: Train tracks and green grass in Ames.

Mile 99: Field of dreams. 
Mile 100: My neighborhood for the last 3 years.
"I like my one better than my zero." - Jason
Mile 111: Everything that is good. 

And there you have it. One hundred eleven miles under our belt, and then some (in the weeks that followed).

Have a happy holiday! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spring Chicken Linguine No-Fredo with Peas and Asparagus

Do you like peas?
How about asparagus? You like that?


My I present to you: Spring Linguine Chicken No-Fredo with Peas and Asparagus (and Bacon)!!**

There is a reason this is called no-fredo. Because this is NOT alfredo sauce. I don't often go for half-ass healthy recipes (like alfredo made with half and half...), but there is a recipe for one such pasta with peas and bacon in one of my old Cooking Light mags that has survived a couple of cross-country moves.  So, as you can see... no-fredo and I have a history. 

I love pasta. But, as you know, noodles (along with bread and other deliciously simple carbohydrates) sure do pull the short end of the stick when it comes to healthy eating. So, when we choose to make it for ourselves, it makes the most sense to pack it full of vegetables and use ingredients with a lot of flavor.

Spring Linguine No-Fredo

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20 min
Serves 8

4 slices center-cut bacon
2 shallots, chopped
5 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (divided)
16 oz linguine pasta
5 Tbsp butter, salted (divided)
16 spears fresh asparagus, cut into 2” pieces
2 cups half and half
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded (two generous handfuls)
1 cup peas, frozen
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large, deep skillet. Remove cooked bacon from pan, crumble and set aside.
2. In the same pan, sauté shallots, garlic, and 1 ½ tsp thyme in the bacon fat until softened (about 3 minutes).
3. While shallots and garlic are cooking, sauté asparagus in a separate pan with 1 tablespoon butter and ½ tsp thyme until crisp-tender (about 4 minutes).
4. Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan, then add half and half and chopped parsley.  Gently simmer for 5 minutes. Add Parmesan a little at a time, whisking until all cheese is melted before adding the next batch. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. 
5. While the no-fredo simmers, boil the pasta to al-dente according to package directions.  
6. Add the peas, mushrooms, sautéed asparagus, and sliced chicken breast to the shallot mixture in the big skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and the chicken is heated through.
7. Drain cooked pasta and add to big skillet.
8. Pour no-fredo sauce over the pasta and gently stir to combine with pasta, veggies and chicken. Voila!

Nonfat half and half: Calories 492, Total Fat 15.0 g, Cholesterol 74 mg, Protein 32 g, Fiber 3.5 g
Regular half and half: Calories 535, Total Fat 21 g, Cholesterol 95 mg, Protein 32 g, Fiber 3.5 g
(Heavy cream [1cup]): Calories 559, Total Fat 25g, Cholesterol 111 mg, Protein 32g, Fiber 3.5g)

Don't get me wrong, this pasta would be absolutely heavenly with a thick, velvety, alfredo cream sauce. And more bacon. But that's not what I made. The lower fat version of no-fredo sauce is thin and won't pull together like a heavy cream sauce, so please don't expect that if you choose the non-fat route. In fact, the sauce pretty much broke down over heat. But, gosh darn it, this pasta was tasty, cost less than 500 calories per serving, AND it reheated well for lunch the next day. Feel free to use whatever type of cream you desire, but if you go full-fat alfredo on me, I recommend following a different recipe for the sauce (like this one from the Pioneer Woman) rather than simply subbing cream for the half and half.

* See the beginning of this post regarding my favorite thing to do when choosing dinner recipes.
**Don't feel too bad for him. In all honesty, HE is the one who suggested an asparagus pasta. And he actually enjoyed the asparagus in this dish (at least more than the peas).