Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks....but not for this dish.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone enjoyed time away from work, time with their friends and/or families and some delicious eats. I definitely did and am so thankful for it. As such, I was hoping to bring you a festive side dish to share not only at future thanksgivings, but for any Fall meal(!) ...but really what I have for you today is a disaster.

Yeah, that's right. I'm blogging about my food disaster. I was trying to come up with a lighter veggie centered dish that was not only beautiful for Fall but also more elegant than a salad. Ya know? I mean, it is Thanksgiving after all. And there is only so much room on our plates! So when push comes to shove, who is gonna pick a Plain Jane Salad over delicious dressing, turkey or sweet potato casserole?! Not me. (Except, I did pass on this dressing this year. I had a delicious & successful (albeit this dish) Dairy and Gluten Free (Duten Free as a good friend of mine calls it) Thanksgiving meal! Yahoo!)

Anyway, this disaster. A friend of mine brought her go-to vegan dish to our Thanksgiving meal at work this past week -- Roasted Butternut Squash and Broccoli. It was fantastic!!! It was the only item I ate seconds of. I even didn't finish a few things that were still delicious just so I could eat more of her dish! So naturally, I wanted to recreate it with whatever current obsession I had going on (aka Pomegranates). Poms are a winter fruit that I absolutely loooove! All I could think about was how gorgeous the colors would be if I threw some pom seeds in there with the squash and broccoli.

So I went for it. I roasted the butternut squash and the broccoli. But instead of using olive oil & garlic as my friend did, I went the sweeter route with coconut oil and maple syrup (just a hint). I chilled it and then sprinkled pom seeds all over the top and even threw some cooled, roasted butternut squash seeds on there too! I had it covered. I really thought I had nailed it on this one! ....Until I tasted it.

The broccoli didn't quite crisp up but it wasn't tender either. It was some weird texture in-between stale and chewy. GROSS! And there was missing something. Sure, I sprinkled some salt on there... but it really needed more than that. My dad later suggested rosemary which I totally agree with. The butternut squash was cooked well and tasted good as it almost always does... but there was some serious lacking going on in this dish. (Amidst the gross texture of the broccoli!).

Sad to say this dish was a total flop...but I did dedicate myself to it and got a few good shots! So I'm sharing them with you anyway. Hey, maybe you can recreate this dish WAY better than I can! I'm thinking next time, I will add in rosemary & thyme and use brussels sprouts instead of broccoli. Maybe then it'll be a success! If you try it, let me know. I haven't decided if I'm brave enough yet. Ha!

On the flip side, I am excited to say that I made maybe the best version of Sweet Potato Casserole yet -- all without any refined sugar, gluten or lactose. Plus it was all organic! Woooo! I'll have to share this one with you soon.

For now, enjoy these pics and the rest of your holiday. Many thanks to my sweet family who put up with me climbing all over the kitchen to get shots for a dish that wasn't even delicious. Maybe next time! : )

Happy Thanksgiving, failed dishes and all!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Facts about Fat: Olive Oil

Hello there! Think I had forgotten about my Facts about Fats series? Think again!! I am here today with the simplest of recipes, albeit one that I always try to keep on hand. I use it on everything! From cooking at very low heats to drizzling over vegetables, potatoes or other grains to the oil base in salads! That's right. You guessed it -- EVOO! I absolutely love Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Sure, it's a pretty common household item, but there are a good number of facts that most people don't know (including myself).

First Fun Fact: (do you see what I did there? *nerd*)

First off, did you know that the burning point of Olive Oil is much lower than, say, Ghee or Coconut Oil? A burning point (as briefly discussed in this post) is the time at which the fat starts to smoke and let off gas. When this happens it releases free radicals which are extremely dangerous for your health and are linked to a variety of diseases. So when you are in the kitchen, you want to be aware of your temperature usage. It's good to have a general knowledge of what fats to use for specific cooking methods. For Olive Oil, since the burning/smoke point is much lower (around 200-300) it's really best to use it as a condiment moreso than as a cooking oil. Think: drizzling over food, salad dressings, etc.

Second Silly Statement: (ok this isn't silly but you see my trend)

I bet you're saying, "Ok, so I know what to use Olive Oil for....but what kind do I buy?" Well, I'll tell ya! You want to look for Organic, Cold (Expeller) Pressed, Unrefined, Extra Virgin Olive Oil. GEEEEEEZE, right?! ..But hear me out.

Organic: You want organic because otherwise olive trees can be loaded with chemicals! Try reading all of this information in one night!?! You'll be a committed organic buyer in no time. Chemicals are used to kill insects, fungus, weeds etc. We should be careful not to consume these just like we would avoid other various household items that are meant to kill insects, fungus, weeds etc as they are harmful and dangerous to the body. Strangely enough, we spray chemicals on our plants and think it's ok but we would never cook with it! I found myself thinking this way, but when I realized the basic connection I saw how illogical it was. I realize there is a higher threshold of toxicity there...but the toxicity is still there my friends. To me, buying organic is now one of the most basic and important steps in moving towards a healthier lifestyle. So, when people ask me how to get healthy that is always my first thought and I encourage them to research the harmful affects of chemicals (and hormones for that matter) on our bodies. Ignorance is bliss, right? Yeah, sadly that applies to our food nowadays! So research for yourself what really goes on with our food before it gets to our plates and see if it changes your mindset. Honestly, I encourage you to do this! : )

Expeller Pressed/Cold Pressed: Expeller pressed means that the oil is extracted mechanically. Often, chemicals are used to pull the oil out of the food. Again, this is harmful to the body because it not only deteriorates the extracted oil but the chemicals are of course not good for consumption. If you buy expeller pressed then you are using the mechanical (chemical free) method of extraction. The raw food item is pressed until the oil is released. It does not pull as much oil and is therefore a tad bit pricer, but it's better for the environment, for your health and for those working to extract the oil. Cold Pressed is also expeller pressed, but is more regulated on how high the temperature can go during the process. Friction can be created when the oil is being pressed resulting in higher temperatures. The higher the heat temp, the less nutrients remain intact. So, if possible you want Cold Pressed which is a heat regulated version of Expeller Pressed.

Unrefined: Refined olive oils are those that I mentioned above that use chemicals to extract them. This will cause the flavor to diminish, which is helpful if you need a neutral oil, but at the cost of adding chemicals into your body (although for other oils there are chemical free methods to obtain a neutral flavored, refined oil). So, for olive oil specifically you want unrefined. Usually Expeller /Cold Pressed olive oils are also unrefined but it's good to be aware and on the lookout. Sadly, at this point in the game you really have to dig for the most natural, wholesome ingredients as they aren't as readily available.

Extra Virgin: This refers to how many presses it took to release the oil. It's best to have it pressed only once because this retains the most flavor and is the highest quality.

I could keep going on and on about how to buy olive oil. I am learning that there is such an art to pressing olive oil and it makes me appreciate the hard work that it takes to do it honestly to preserve the flavors and nutrients! If you want to read more, check this out.

Third Tasty Thought: (ok I promise this is the last one...)

Now that you know what to use olive oil for and how to buy it, you should probably know how to store it. Fortunately, this step is much simpler than the other two. You don't want to heat it (per the First Fun Fact) so store it in a cool place. Also, Olive Oil is not like wine -- it does NOT get better with time. You want to buy as fresh as possible and use it up quickly. As such, avoid buying in bulk. Instead buy small, fresh quantities often.

These facts are all specific to Olive Oil. Terms vary per oils and even brands. Do some research of your own and learn all there is to know about oils and how to use them in the most nourishing and enjoyable ways!

This is one of my favorite ways to use olive oil. It's simple, delicious and goes with everything!

Rosemary Olive Oil

Olive Oil
Several Rosemary Sprigs
Glass jar with stopper or lid

  1. Place rosemary sprigs in glass jar (be sure to use a jar that is easy to pour). 
  2. Pour olive oil into jar ensuring that it covers the entire length of the sprig. 
  3. Close jar and let sit for a few hours.
  4. The longer the rosemary sits in the oil, the stronger the flavor. 

I love to drizzle this on popcorn, vegetables, grains, potatoes... just about everything!! It's delicious!




Sunday, November 3, 2013

Morning Routines + Pumpkin Granola

It's been pretty quiet around here. I've missed practicing my photography, researching recipes and most of all time for casual cooking and/or baking. The rest of my life has been so draining that I honestly haven't had time for much else but sleep. And since I happen to need a bit more than the average person (9.5 hours please!) it tends to dominate my free time. I act like I'm complaining. I secretly (not so secretly) love sleeping. Oh, I love it. I love the feeling of your head gently falling on the pillow at the end of the day. Of a deep, deep exhale that lets out all of the day's concerns. Sleep is a time to let go. To simply set aside all the worries you're carrying on your shoulders, smile to yourself and close your eyes. It can all wait until the morning.

[Enter the morning]

We all have our own routines, do we not? Mine is constantly evolving as I'm learning new healthy habits I want to incorporate into my daily life. Right now my day starts at 5:45 am. I try to do a few simple yoga poses and stretches for 15 minutes in the morning. That really helps to get my blood flowing and loosen up my stiff muscles. After that I like to freshen up. Washing my face with warm water, ending with a few splashes of cold and brushing my teeth. That does a wonder you know! I've started looking forward to it. It feels like the moment where I'm officially starting the day fresh (and clean!). Then I'll head into the kitchen, boil some water and start to read. My roommate and I are currently reading through Philippians via this book. We read the chapters from scripture out loud too. It's been amazing! I've loved the repetition and slow pace. The rest of the morning involves breakfast, oil pulling, using my neti pot, prepping myself with professional attire (sigh), drinking lots of water and maybe even some silly dancing to my favorite tunes. ; )

Now, I know that I breezed right past breakfast earlier, but don't let that fool you. Breakfast is a much anticipated event in my morning routine. Every night I secretly hope I wake up with nagging hunger pains and I am thoroughly disappointed on the mornings when that isn't the case. I try to keep a variety of items on hand for breakfast options and listen to my body to tell me what it needs. Some mornings it's eggs, avocado slices and greens. Other times it's a smoothie. Recently though? It's been this pumpkin granola. Usually granola is more of a spring and summer meal to me because the cold milk quenches my thirst. But this granola, ohhh this granola. It's sweet, crunchy, chewy, autumn-y and just enough pumpkin. The pecans and maple marry perfectly, the pumpkin puree causes the oats to clump and create a few clusters (which I happen to love in granola) and the vanilla and spices truly make it feel like you're eating Autumn in a bowl.

I hope you create some space in your morning routine for this Pumpkin Granola. I doubt you'll regret it.

Pumpkin Granola
Slightly adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
Makes about 3 cups

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp sea salt
1tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup Maple Syrup
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups old fashion oats
1/2 cup raw pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
l-2 large handfuls of crimson raisins

  1. Preheat the oven to 300.
  2. Mix first 6 ingredients into a mixing bowl.*
  3. Then add the nuts, seeds and oats.
  4. Mix well and spread out on the baking sheet and bake for around 35 minutes. 
  5. During the process, check one or two times to be sure it's not browning too quickly and mix around with a spatula to ensure all sides get a good toasting. 
  6. Once the granola feels dry enough and isn't too brown, remove from oven. 
  7. While it's still warm, toss with the raisins. 
  8. Cool completely and enjoy! I happen to love mine with nut milk. 


*Since using coconut oil, try to have all ingredients at room temperature so that it doesn't seize back up into a solid state.

My oven heats up and cooks quickly, so I listed a lower temperature and shorter cooking time. Adjust those details as needed for your oven.