“gour·mand 1: one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking ”
2: one who is heartily interested in good food and drink
Over the past three years, I have spent my days observing and teaching in more than 10 different public elementary and middle schools here in Austin. In turn, I have also been endowed with the opportunity to see what goes on in these said schools’ dazzling lunch lines. For ages, a bad reputation has tarnished our schools’ cafeteria food: devoid of flavor. Minimally nutritious. And guess what? Nothing has changed. If I were a kid in this day and age….I would be choosing the pizza over the raw, flavorless broccoli too. Even if I knew better.
While there have been recent “initiatives” to increase the plant-based options in our children’s schools (ummm pizza=a vegetable?), I am still beyond appalled at what I witness on a daily basis. The “vegetable” options are predictable and tired,to put it lightly: corn and green beans straight from a can, carrots so unappetizing I think a rabbit would turn up its nose, and oh yes, let’s not forget our favorite superfood…ketchup.
The sad thing is…this isn’t just happening in school cafeterias. We are all guilty.
I thought we were revolutionizing our thinking about food and health? Certainly, there are some arenas of the health food scene that have undergone a makeover, but in many ways we seem to be backpedaling. We know the solution to bodily health lies almost entirely in a diet rich in whole foods. But there also needs to be a little effort on our end to enhance their natural flavors and make our vegetables taste good. So, let’s do it! Start with these Soba Noodles with Peppers, Edamame, and a Spicy Peanut sauce. It is an easy, inexpensive, nutritious, plant-based meal. Kids love it. Carnivorous grown men won’t (and didn’t) cry over missing meat. So what are you waiting for? Go make this! It is delicious served hot or cold, for lunch or dinner. ¡Buen provecho!
Soba Noodles with Peppers, Edamame, and Spicy Peanut Sauce
1 package soba/buckwheat noodles
1/2 package frozen shelled edamame
4 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil (separated)
3 cloves fresh minced garlic
1/2 pound assorted fresh peppers, sliced lengthwise (i.e. red and yellow bell peppers)
1 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 Tablespoon honey
1/2 Tablespoons chile-garlic sauce
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
juice and zest of half a lime
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large wok or skillet, pour in 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil.Toss in peppers and sauté for about 2 minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn off heat. Now, make the sauce. Whisk together remaining sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, chile-garlic sauce, peanut butter, fresh ginger, fish sauce, and juice and zest of half a lime. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking.
Add edamame and soba noodles to the boiling water for about 4 minutes. (Take heed: Soba noodles cook much more quickly than regular pasta!) Reserving about a cup of the pasta water, drain noodles and edamame and then mix into the wok/skillet with peppers. Pour sauce over the top and add a bit of pasta water to loosen it up. Toss to combine and then top with sesame seeds. ¡Buen provecho!
Hey Austinites! Tomorrow from 10am-2pm the Austin Food Bloggers Association (which I am a part of) is holding a city-wide bake sale to support AmeriCare relief efforts in West, Texas. We will have 8 different locations across town, so click the link find one near you! In addition to supporting a good cause, there will be an abundance of savory and sweet baked goods to tempt the eyes and taste buds alike. Knowing whose talented minds and hands are at work behind these culinary creations, I can confidently proclaim that this will not be your average bake sale. (Sorry Girl Scouts! I still love you and your crack samosas.) Yours truly will be contributing these gluten-free Chocolate Chip Coconut Delights (scheduled for Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew on N. Lamar), so get ‘em while they’re hot! Their crisp outside and soft, airy inside make for an impossibly delightful juxtaposition, (the antithesis of most chalky, gluten-free baked goods I’ve ever tasted.)
As for those living elsewhere or unable to make it out, try these out at home and let me know how it goes! I always love hearing how my recipes turn out for you. ¡Buen provecho and happy weekend!
Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies
1 1/4 cup coconut flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt (preferably Maldon)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, softened
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shredded (unsweetened) coconut
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon in a large bowl. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, coconut oil, and sugars. Beat in eggs, one at a time, on low speed. Gradually add in dry ingredients until combined, then pour in vanilla. Turn mixer off and add coconut and chocolate chips. Using an ice cream scooper or big spoon, spoon dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. (They won’t spread out very much, so it’s okay if they’re closer together.) Bake for about 14 minutes. Cool and then enjoy!
*If you haven’t worked with coconut flour before, know that it absorbs moisture much better than other flours. These cookies will not fall flat like your standard white flour cookies.
Is it just me or does it seem like every other person I talk to is part of the Paleo diet craze? A few months ago, I wasn’t even sure what Paleo meant, so I wanted to do a bit of research before automatically discrediting it as a fad diet, which is something I am generally wary of. Anyhow, after further investigation, I now know that the basis of Paleo is pretty solid; it’s rich in whole fruits and vegetables, protein, and mono and polyunsaturated (good) fats. I am always trying to incorporate more plant-based food into my life and eliminate the processed junk. It can certainly pose a challenge, but the key is in the preparation. Let’s take this kale salad as an example. I used to think I hated kale. The word itself caused me to turn up my nose. Well, that’s no longer the case. This refreshing salad was a “kale game changer” for me, so to speak (which sounds like an oxymoron, but I am literally addicted.) Easy assembly and lasting freshness add extra bonus points to this healthy summer staple. It doesn’t wilt so you can eat it for days if you are so inclined! Who knew kale could taste so good? ¡Buen provecho!
See… even Lulu can attest to its deliciousness.
Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Creamy Vinaigrette
1 head of fresh kale, torn into smallish pieces
1/2 pound fresh brussels sprouts, sliced thin
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 tablespoons veganaise (or mayo)
1 tablespoon olive oil (or grapeseed)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon spicy/dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
freshly ground pepper and sea salt, to taste
Mix vegetables together into a resealable container and add cranberries and pepitas. Set aside. Make the dressing by combining veganaise, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper. You can always play around with the measurements according to your liking. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables, seal the lid, and shake it up to mix. Enjoy cold. (This is perfect for picnics or pot lucks, especially those brimming with fried chicken, potato salad, and deviled eggs! Gotta have the veg.)
This crab fried rice (aka “vanishing rice”) has been a long time coming. Allow me to explain…
Rewind to July of last year. That’s when I made this for the very first time, and it has been on repeat mode around here ever since. Each time thereafter, I’ve intended to photograph and blog about it, you know, being a food blogger and all. Well, as you can see, that hasn’t been the case until now. It’s almost as if someone was playing a joke on me, because every time I would turn around with my camera… POOF! Vanishing rice. It made for some very happy bellies, of course, but it also resulted in one very despondent food blogger. Such a tragedy, I know! Well, the good news is, because I am now a seasoned fried rice maker, this recipe has endured the refining process and has ultimately been upgraded from its original, yet still tasty, version. I got a little creative and threw in some of my favorite Spanish spices, like pimentón and saffron, which marry beautifully with the traditional Thai spices. Served in my pretty Mexican bowl (in my American home), this crab fried rice is a transcultural delight!
¡Buen provecho! Or should I say ทานให้อร่อย!
Crab Fried Rice
makes about 6 servings
2 tablespoons coconut oil
small pinch of saffron threads (~1 teaspoon)
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1 lb lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
4 cups brown rice, cooked
2 teaspoons curry powder (i.e. Madras)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pimentón (smoked paprika)
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup veg/chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (or, better yet, thai basil)
1/4 cup green onions, light green and white parts, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cashews lime wedges, for serving
Cook/steam the rice according to package directions and set aside. Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium/high heat. Add a touch of veg/chicken broth, then crumble in saffron threads and stir to release color and flavor, about a minute or two. Toss in the onion and saute for about 3 minutes, then add in garlic for about 1 minute until fragrant. Pour in eggs and stir until done (like scrambled eggs) for about 2 minutes. Then, stir in crab, rice, curry powder, cinnamon, pimentón, Sriracha, salt and pepper, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the remaining broth, then the peas, cilantro, green onions, and cashews. Salt to taste. Serve hot with lime wedges, Sriracha, and extra green onions and cilantro/thai basil. ¡Buen provecho!
The first time I experienced the exquisite combination of cured pork and melon was while dining at a street side café in Oviedo, Spain. I can’t remember what course it was or the name of the restaurant, but I certainly recall how the unimaginably thin and salty slices of jamón iberico were draped over the sweet slices of piel de sapo melon. Perfection to the eyes and to the taste buds alike. My fiancé and I both laugh when we look back at pictures of ourselves in Spain because of how bloated we were due to the obscene amounts of jamón we consumed (well, it’s not all the jamón’s fault…)
And the Spaniards take their jamón about as seriously as we Texans take our barbecue. It quickly became a pastime of ours to observe little old ladies hauling these giant pig legs back to their apartments (pata negra pigs, to be precise) without a glimmer of shame. Finally, people who spoke my language, and in more ways than one. People who don’t care how ridiculous they may appear merely for the sake of good food and feeding their families are my kind of people. Amen?
My version of this salad includes mozzarella and basil, but neither of those ingredients are absolutely crucial. You could also make this with prosciutto, or slice the melon and drape the jamón/prosciutto over it. You could even make little kabob appetizers. Either way, try it out and, as always… ¡buen provecho!
Melon, Mozzarella, and Basil Salad with Jamón
Serves about 6 as appetizer course
2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 ripe melon, balled
6 oz bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls), preferably marinated
6 oz jamón iberico/serrano or prosciutto, torn or cut into smaller pieces
Whisk oil and vinegar to emulsify, then add salt and pepper to taste. Combine melon, mozzarella, and jamón pieces and toss with vinaigrette. Gently add basil on top. Refrigerate and serve! Wow…I think that’s the shortest recipe I’ve ever written.
I hope everyone had a fabulous Easter weekend! Mine involved copious amounts of cooking, family dinners, church, and a bit of yoga to make amends for indulgent behavior. I intended to blog a recipe or two from my Easter menu before it actually came and went, but así es la vida! I tend to get a little caught up in the excitement that Easter involves. What a beautiful, blessed day. My heart (and my belly) are brimming with joy and gratitude.
Speaking of a happy belly, these Sriracha deviled eggs were probably the biggest hit out of everything I whipped up this Easter. They stand apart from other deviled egg recipes because they are much lighter and, of course, have that sassy, Thai kick. I made these especially for my Sriracha-obsessed brother and future brother-in-law, and they were devoured before I could even get my hands on one! Not even the ugly ones…ugh…the ugly ones.
You know what I am talking about: those almost unidentifiable, divotted excuses for boiled eggs…yeah, so why does that happen? Well, I did a bit of research and started experimenting to identify possible causes of The Egg-Peeling Massacre of 2013. I won’t bore you with details about pH levels and whatnot, but I will divulge my solution: After boiling the eggs, immediately and gently rap them on a hard surface to slightly crack the shell in a few different places, then plunge them into an ice bath for a couple of minutes before peeling. And violá! Smooth, easy-to-peel eggs. I have read countless theories on the art of egg peeling (I know…food nerd alert!) but this is what worked for me. Finally, I can actually enjoy making deviled eggs! And I know you will too once you try these bad boys. ¡Buen provecho!
Sriracha Deviled Eggs
makes 2 dozen
Difficulty: Easy (now!)
12 fresh, organic eggs, boiled, peeled, cut in half, yolks removed and reserved
1 tablespoon Sriracha (or other spicy chili-garlic sauce)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise or veganaise
2 tablespoons greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon pickle juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (~1/2 teaspoon each)
smoked paprika (pimentón) for sprinkling
sliced scallions for garnish
Gently place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a light boil then turn off the heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Set the timer for 10 minutes (You don’t want those nasty green-gray rimmed yolks.) Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by pouring ice and cold water in a large bowl. When timer is finished, remove eggs, one by one, and lightly rap them against a hard surface to crack the shells slightly. Then, plunge into ice bath for about 2-3 minutes. Continue the process, peel, cut in half, remove and reserve about half of the yolks in a medium mixing bowl. (Throw the rest away!)
Add sriracha, mayonnaise, greek yogurt, mustards, pickle juice, salt and pepper to the bowl with cooked egg yolks. Whisk vigorously (or use a mixer) to combine and smooth out lumps. Now, pour mixture into a ziploc bag and seal. Snip one of the corners and squeeze to pipe filling into eggs. Sprinkle with smoked paprika, add a few sliced scallions, and refrigerate, at least an hour. Serve cold.
A few days ago I was struggling to decide what to make for a girl’s lunch I was going to host. There were about 20 recipe ideas swirling around in my brain, none of which really spoke to me. I was stumped. Does that ever happen to you? With endless resources for inspiration (cookbooks, cooking shows, magazines, Pinterest, other food blogs, etc.), sometimes I become overwhelmed rather than inspired to create. And cooking should never feel overwhelming! If it is, you’ve got to change your way of thinking. So I shut my laptop, closed the books and opened the refrigerator. I really enjoy challenging myself with what I have on hand (if I’ve been to the market or in the garden lately). It fuels the creative juices, which is key in the kitchen! Anyhow, what to make? What about…
Crostini! Who doesn’t love Crostini? I decided to make 3 different options, a “Crostini Bar” if you will, and let the girls pick the winning combination. I made one with ricotta, fig conserve, pear and walnut, another with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and tarragon, and the winner: goat cheese, red wine mushrooms, and thyme. It’s an unbeatable combination, and the ingredients do all of the work! (But, as always, make sure they are the highest quality. This will not taste the same with your standard button mushrooms.) Make these for a dinner party appetizer, or add a salad for a delicious, nutritious lunch. ¡Buen provecho and happy entertaining!
Wild Mushroom Crostini with Goat Cheese and Thyme
makes about 2 dozen
1 french baguette
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms (or other wild mushrooms like chanterelle), sliced
1/4 cup dry red wine (such as cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese or malbec)
8 ounces goat cheese
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed (plus more for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut baguette into thick, round slices and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes until crispy and golden. Meanwhile, pour remaining olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a skillet over medium heat. Toss in garlic and stir for about 30 seconds then stir in the mushrooms. Add salt and pepper and stir for about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and let it reduce down almost completely, about 1-2 minutes. Let cool for a minute or so.
Once baguette pieces have cooled slightly, spread a good amount of goat cheese on each one, top with mushrooms and thyme leaves and serve warm.