Almond Butter

As I was making my standard weekly batch of almond butter it occurred to me that I’ve never done a post about almond butter. I’ve mentioned that I make my own, but never shown you how. Well today’s your lucky day! Okay, maybe not your lucky day. But a good day, nonetheless.Almond Butter2

I love almond butter. Before I discovered almond butter, I loved peanut butter. By love, I mean that I eat it nearly everyday. I’ve eaten almond butter or peanut butter nearly everyday for as long as I can remember. I don’t really remember eating it when I was a child, but certainly since I was a teenager and since. And since I’ve started eating almond butter, I’ve almost eaten it exclusively (instead of the previously loved peanut butter). I do use peanut butter for cooking on occasion and always have a jar in the fridge just in case. But almond butter’s my thing.

Anyway, when I finally started making my own almond butter, about a year and a half ago, I was so excited. I’d wanted to start making it sooner, but I didn’t have a food processor. I actually finally bought a food processor for the sole purpose of making almond butter. Gladly, I use it for tons of things now. One of the reasons I wanted to start making my own is because the only store bought almond butter that I found I liked was the roasted unsalted from Trader Joes. And getting to Trader Joes on a weekly basis was not something I was able to do. So I would go once a month and buy 4 or 5 jars at a time. If they had it in stock. Which often enough, they did not. Trader Joe’s was also a good option because the almond butter was about $5 a jar, which was a bargain since many of the others I’d found were upwards of $10 or more per jar. I’d even gone to Whole Foods and Fairway to grind my own. But I didn’t like the taste or texture of those either. Since I was eating almond butter nearly everyday, almond butter was a BIG part of my food life (and still is).

So I bought a food processor and found a great little specialty market, Carmel Grocery, sort of near my house where I started buying raw almonds for 5.49 a lb. Also, a huge bargain. I think they’re like $5.99 now, but still…

Now that I’ve gone on and on, let me tell you how to make it. It’s incredibly easy, if you have a good food processor. I like to start with raw almonds and roast them myself. I just think it’s better that way.

  • 1 lb. raw almonds
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out the almonds on a baking sheet. Roast for 12 minutes. Turn off the oven (don’t open it). Let the almonds sit in the oven for 5 more minutes. Then remove from oven and let cool completely. Ovens vary, so adjust your roasting time as necessary. But don’t roast them for too long because the almond butter won’t be nearly as delicious.

Once the almonds have cooled completely, dump them in the bowl of your food processor and add a pinch of cinnamon, if you like. Secure the lid and turn on full power. Grind for 1 and a half minutes or until the the almonds stop moving around the bowl of the food processor. Use a spoon to thoroughly break up the mass of almonds.

Secure the lid and turn the food processor back on. Grind for another 5-6 minutes or until the almonds are fully ground and moving very freely and evenly around the bowl.

Then, blend it for another 30 seconds.

Transfer the almond butter to a 16 oz. jar, put a lid on it and store in the fridge. This will last for several weeks, though I’m sure you’ll eat it all up before then.

Enjoy!

 

Green Lentil and Bulgur Wheat Salad

This weeks salad was once again a practice in cleaning out the refrigerator/pantry. I had a about half a bag of dried green lentils plus about 1/2 cup bulgur wheat in the cabinet, so I decided I would build my weekly salad out of these two items. Throw in the last bits of veggies left in the fridge before the farmers’ market trip and voila.

Lentil and Bulgur SaladSteve has really come to like these weekly salads of mine. He loves that I’m putting other things on salad greens. Besides vegetables. Well, they are still vegetables, but I get what he’s saying. And it’s true, it does make the overall salad more interesting. Plus, you end up getting a lot more yummy vegetable matter in your meals. So it’s a win.

The recipe below is just an estimate, based on what I had leftover in my kitchen. Feel free to substitute with what you have in your kitchen. Get creative. Switch up the herbs and spices. Do what sounds good to you. Then, add a couple spoonfuls to your regular green salad and you’re good to go.

Lentil and Bulgur Salad2

I usually end up with about 1 quart of my weekly salad. This week I wound up with about 2 quarts. This is a good amount if there are two people eating this throughout the week. If there’s only one of you, split the recipe in half.

Green Lentil & Bulgur Wheat Salad

  • 2-3 cups cooked green lentils (drained and cooled)
  • 1 cup cooked bulgur wheat (cooled)
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 sun dried tomatoes, diced
  • 2 big handfuls flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 3-4 grinds of black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

In a large bowl combine lentils, bulgur, veggies and parsley. Add remaining ingredients and fold together. I like the folding technique because it combines everything well without smooshing the lentils. That’s it. It’s really easy and will feed you all week.

Enjoy!

 

Sundays in my Kitchen

Sundays in my kitchen are pretty busy. I love to spend a large part of my day in the kitchen, playing. After a trip to the farmers’ market I like to clean out the fridge. This generally leads to figuring what I can do with all of the leftover produce from the week. And what I can do with dinner leftovers.

Apples

These are Matsu apples, from the Farmers’ Market today. So delicious. Light, crisp, tart.

This Sunday I made some burritos with leftover black beans with corn and tomatoes I had. Sometimes I just put leftovers from meals in the freezer to eat later. But I cook everyday, so often, I forget about what’s in the freezer. So I’m trying not to put so much in the freezer. Steve will eat the burritos throughout the week, so it works well.

I also had some fresh beets in the fridge, so I pickled them. They were very nearly on their way out (meaning garbage) but I didn’t want to waste them. Luckily once I peeled them, they were fine. I’m trying to pickle something each week because I love pickled vegetables on my salads (even more so since I’ve become a plant based eater). And since I eat a big salad nearly every day, I eat a lot of picked veggies.
Pickled BeetsI also made a pot of beans on Saturday. These turned into Rajma Masala (Indian chili), for Mondays dinner, and my weekly salad. Every weekend I make a salad to eat off of throughout the week. Last week it was a barley salad, this week it’s beans with onions, garlic, celery, carrot, sun dried tomatoes and a quick vinaigrette with fresh frozen thyme. Fresh frozen thyme just means that I had a ton of fresh thyme so I picked all of the leaves and put them in a jar in the freezer for later use. Super handy.

I also had a bunch of leeks from last weeks farmers’ market trip. So I chopped and cleaned those up for easy use during the week. I’m thinking I’ll make some pasta with a caramelized leek and mushroom sauce. And there’s also a ginormous (about 16 inches long) head of bok choy that I’ve had for a couple of weeks (I love how long cabbages last). I’m thinking this would go nicely braised with a miso glaze.

I have a few other odds and ends, but they’ll just get added to salads during the week. I’m thinking that avocado I found in the fridge will go nicely with my cold bean salad. And maybe that lonely parsnip can get julienned and tossed in with my salad greens. As for the very large bunch of Italian parsley, I’ll be a garnishing queen this week!

Spending my Sundays playing in my kitchen feeds my soul. And even though I’m thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day, I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s my thing and I love it.

Barley and Edamame Salad with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

Barley and Edamame SaladEvery weekend I make a salad to eat off of throughout the week. I gives me a chance to be creative in the kitchen, use up leftover produce and also gives me something healthy and fulfilling to eat for lunch during the week. The point of this post is not so much the recipe, but the idea. You see, you can make a salad like this out of whatever you have in the house. Sometimes it’s barley, sometimes it quinoa, sometimes it beans and so on. Use whatever you like, mix in whatever veggies you have left in the fridge. Add some fresh herbs, and little home made vinaigrette and there you go. This recipe makes a quart, which is the perfect amount for topping my greens with throughout the week.

I didn’t go to the store and buy any of these ingredients. I had it all on hand. I actually had a piece of a bell pepper, a piece of an onion, one tiny little carrot and couple of cloves of garlic to work with. I also only had half of lemon, which is why I only used zest from half of a lemon. Plus, I really wanted to use this stuff up before they went bad. I had the edamame and the thyme in the freezer, and I used the last of my barley, which just happened to be about a cup dry.

Go clean out your fridge and see what you can make!

Barley & Edamame Salad with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked pearled barley
  • 2 cups shelled edamame
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small carrot, shredded
  • 1 small purple onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine Dijon mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper to a small bowl and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and toss thoroughly with the vinaigrette.

The longer this sits in the fridge, the better it tastes.

Enjoy!

Curried Lentils

Lentil Curry_2Lentils are an incredibly satisfying and nourishing food. They are also extremely versatile. You can add them to soups, use them for a vegan taco filling, make fritters out them and use them to help bind a veggie burger. You can also just make a simple pot of lentils and enjoy them over brown rice or any of your other favorite grains. For me, lentils are a comfort food. I’m not sure how they claimed that place in my mind and stomach since I didn’t grow up with them, but when I want something deeply satisfying and filling to eat, I go for lentils.

Another great thing about lentils is that they don’t take long to cook and they’re not fussy. This recipe is simple and easy and comes together in under an hour. It uses basic brown lentils that are common at most grocery stores and the basic staples most people have in their kitchen.

Curried Lentils

  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. yellow curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup Fresh cilantro leaves

Pick through your lentils to make sure there are no rocks or any other debris in them (you may be tempted to skip this step, but I have found rocks in my dry beans). Then thoroughly rinse the lentils in cold water and drain.

In a medium pot (4 QT) combine the lentils, stock, the vegetables and the curry powder. Bring this to a hard simmer, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and let cook for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the lentils get too dry, use the remaining cup of stock to thin.

After 40 minutes, give it a taste. Take two or three lentils from different areas in the pot and taste them to make sure that they are all tender. Slurp a bit of the liquid to make sure that the lentils are seasoned well. If the lentils are not all tender, let it cook for another 10 minutes or so. If the lentils are not seasoned to your liking, add salt and pepper to taste. I don’t add salt to the cooking liquid for a couple reasons. The first is that we are a low sodium household, the second is that the stock already contains a little salt.

I know slurping sounds funny, but slurping the liquid and allowing it to come into full contact with the taste buds will give you a true sense of the flavor (at least in my experience).

Enjoy!

Baked Butternut Squash Fries with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Butternut Squash FriesYou may not know this but, I’m a bit of a french fry junkie. And I have been for most of my life. I try to only enjoy them on occasion these days because unfortunately, they’re not very healthy. I’ve attempted to make baked ‘fries’ before, but they never really came out crispy enough (I like em crispy). Luckily, I recently mastered the art of the crispy baked french fry. Yay!

I had an abundance of butternut squash in my fridge this week, as well as a giant bunch of fresh rosemary, so I decided I’d make crispy baked butternut squash fries with fresh rosemary and sea salt. Wow, that’s a mouth full. Anyway, it’s super easy and fairly quick. Plus, I already had the oven on, so why not. Plus, Steve wanted a little amuse bouche while I was making dinner.

And since I’m here, let me give you an interesting fact or two about butternut squash. Did you know that butternut squash wasn’t sold commercially until the 1940’s? Also, butternut squash is loaded with fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A & C and can be used in place pumpkin in any recipe.

Baked Butternut Squash Fries with Rosemary and Sea Salt

  • 1 large butternut squash, neck only
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1/2 inch square sticks. It’s important that all of your fries are about the same size so that they cook evenly. Add them to a large bowl and toss well with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt. Place the squash in a single layer onto a large baking sheet, being mindful to leave a bit of space between each stick.

Bake for about 15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden on both sides. Remove from oven and serve. We had ours plain, but I imagine these would be great with a spicy ketchup.

Enjoy!

Basil Cashew Cream Pasta

Basil Cashew Cream PastaSteve has been bringing home little gifts for me. Food gifts, like raw cashews. He knows I love ingredients to play with. The raw cashews have been especially welcome as I have been toying with the idea of trying cashew creams. Since switching to a plant-based diet nearly a year ago, I’ve become more and more creative with new plant-based recipes. But lately, I’ve been feeling a little, well, bored. So I was thinking that adding a new sauce would really perk things up, and that’s where the cashew cream comes in. I also love the idea of cashew cream because it’s easy to make, it’s made from whole foods and cashews contain antioxidants and minerals that are good for your health.

On a side note, cashews are a very interesting food. First of all, cashews are a seed, not a nut. Also, cashews are part of the overall fruit of the tree which includes a cashew apple. Steve says it looks like a squash poop. Read more about them here.

Anywho. I made my first cashew cream a week ago in place of the cheese sauce that they boys requested for their cauliflower. They both enjoy cauliflower already, but someone told them that some parents added cheese sauce to vegetables in order to get their kids to eat them, so they wanted to try that. Kinda backwards, I know. Anyway, I’m not at all keen on the idea of introducing cheese sauce in my kitchen, especially to smother vegetables that they already like, so I decided to try my hand at a cashew cream substitute. They didn’t go for it. Oh well, live and learn. I loved it though! It reminded me of hollandaise sauce, which is an even bigger win in my mind, because I love hollandaise sauce. I didn’t record the recipe or take a photo. I’ll have to recreate it later and write a post about it.

Since I got another box of raw cashews this week, and had a big bunch of fresh basil, I decided I wanted to make a basil cashew cream for my second attempt. It’s incredibly simple to make. All you need is a food processor or blender and a few ingredients that you may already have on hand. It’s really just a basic cashew cream recipe with pesto added. And basic cashew cream can be used as a dairy substitute in many dishes, which I hope to explore more over the next several months.

Once I made my basil cashew cream, I tossed it with whole grain spaghetti and roasted butternut squash. It was really delicious and was a fantastic alternative to something like fettuccine Alfredo or other creamy pastas. I had about 1/2 cup of the basil cashew cream leftover, which I plan to use for sandwiches this weekend.

Basil Cashew CreamBasil Cashew Cream Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 tbsp. good olive oil + 1/4 cup
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 7 oz. whole grain spaghetti or pasta of your choice
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked and drained*
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/4 water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and clean out seeds. Chop the squash into 1 inch cubes. Toss it in 1 tbsp. olive and season with salt and pepper. Roast the butternut squash for about 30 minutes or until just tender. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to package instructions, being sure to save about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water for later.

Add the cashews, salt, nutritional yeast, onion, garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and basil leaves to a food processor. While the food processor is on, drizzle the 1/4 cup olive oil into the mixture. Then gradually add the water and blend until well combined and creamy, about 5 minutes. If it’s not really creamy and cohesive, it’s not blended enough.

Toss about two-thirds of the basil cashew cream with the hot pasta. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water if the pasta is too thick to coat evenly. Once the pasta is coated well, gently toss in the roasted butternut squash and serve.

*Soaking your cashews is simple. Just add the raw cashews to a bowl and cover them with water (I use boiled water from my kettle). Let them soak for at least two hours or overnight if you have time. It seems like the longer they soak, the creamier the end result. Then drain the cashews before adding them to the food processor.

Enjoy!

Knarley Barley

Knarley Barley3Knarley Barley is our take on beans and greens. In some variation or another, we probably eat this weekly. We’ve always got some sort of beans in the freezer and greens in the fridge. Chopped tomatoes are a pantry item always on hand, as with the rest of the ingredients. It’s absolutely my go to meal and it’s quick and easy. And while I do tend to make it with barley, hence the name, it’s also great with pasta or rice or whatever other grain you might have in the cupboard (polenta is my second favorite option).

Another reason I love this dish so much is because along with being fulfilling, it’s wonderfully healthy. We all know that dark green veggies are great for our health. They are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals that enhance brain function and heart health. They also posses qualities that inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Today I used broccoli rabe for our Knarley Barley. This green in particular contains vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron. We’ve also got garbanzo beans, which are high in protein, fiber and folate, among other nutrients and tomatoes, which are loaded with vitamin C, A and lycopene. I could go on, but you get the point. This is one nutrient packed meal! And I haven’t even talked about the benefits of barley…

It got it’s name from Steve, who was tasked with coming up with a catchy name for it for a blog post. It’s a catchy name, so it stuck.

Knarley Barley2

  • 1 cup pearled barley, rinsed and drained
  • 2 1/2 cups water or stock
  • Salt (if you’re not using stock)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 bunch dark greens (broccoli rabe, kale, collards, etc…), washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cooked beans (I generally use garbanzo or white kidney)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika or liquid smoke (optional)
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Combine water or stock, salt if using and barley in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed. Keep your eye on this, barley will stick and burn if left on too long.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and sweat for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for another minute. Add greens, stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and paprika or liquid smoke and let cook for another 15 minutes.

Serve over barley and drizzle with hot sauce as desired.

Enjoy!

Sprouting

SproutsI planted these sprouts on Friday. I decided to use soil instead of my sprouting jar. Just for fun. It’s working really well. They’re over an inch tall already. I can literally sit here and watch them grow! I’ll let them go for a few more days and have a delicious sprout salad. Sprouts2These sprouts are a spicy sprout blend from my local health food store. I just added a layer of rock and a thick layer of soil to a plastic shoebox. Then I spread the sprouting seeds, thickly, over the surface. I covered it with a nice, even quarter inch of soil and watered it well. I’m watering it twice daily at this point.

Sprouts3These sprouts are sort of and official start to my second growing season this year. The first one didn’t go very well. I currently have a beautiful tomato plant that’s just about 6 feet tall and showing no signs of flower or fruit. I also have a green bean plant with battle scars. A squirrel tore through our screen and stole most of the plant. But there was one small piece left over. And it’s growing. My peas were a complete bust. I did harvest some great radish greens and a few little radishes. Anyway, I could go on and on with those stories.

Go grow something. It’s incredibly fulfilling.

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean BurgersI told my boyfriend I needed some text for this recipe, so this is what he wrote about this meal: Continue reading

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