the flexible foodie

The more we know about our food system, the more we are called into complex choices.” ~Barbara Kingsolver

White Beans with Kale Pesto and Arugula

Posted on October 21, 2014

pesto 2

We spent this past weekend at my parent’s house in the Berkshires. It was so relaxing to be back in the countryside and the leaves were at the height of their fall beauty. On Saturday we visited the Great Barrington Farmers market where my mom gathered local bounty for a casual lunch. Amongst her well selected spread was a tub of the best pesto I have ever had. Kale pesto. I made a batch almost immediately upon returning home, and we’ve been using it with everything. It’s great on eggs, baked over fish, and is especially yummy in this fiber filled salad of white beans and arugula.

pesto close up

for the pesto

ingredients: 1 bunch of organic lacinata kale, 1 organic lemon, 1/2 cup of walnuts (or pine nuts), 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, parmesan cheese (optional), salt to taste.

to prepare: toast walnuts in a skillet over medium heat, until they turn golden brown. wash kale thoroughly and cut into medium sized pieces. place in food processor (you can use a mortar and pestle for a more rustic pesto if you’d like), along with 2 cloves of smashed and roughly minced garlic, 1 tsp of lemon zest, walnuts, parmesan cheese if using and sea salt to taste. as the food processor is running, add olive oil in a light stream. keep blending until you’ve achieved your desired consistency.

for the salad

saute 1 cup of white beans (cannellini, navy and butter all work great) in a skillet with a glug of olive oil. add a heaping tablespoon of pesto and cook for another minute or two. plate over a bed of arugula. enjoy!

“A Squash a Day” + A Winter Squash Bowl with Broccoli and Creamy Tahini Dressing

Posted on October 17, 2014

squash salad 2

A squash a day keeps the wrinkles at bay! Just kidding, I mean, I’m not actually suggesting you consume an entire squash everyday. However, winter squash contains an incredible array of health benefits and is an excellent item to add to your weekly or bi-weekly repertoire. A single serving delivers a powerful dose of vitamin C, important for maintaining a strong immune system, as well as a freakish amount of vitamin A. I don’t mean freakish in a bad way, more in the sense of “oh wow nature is a sexy beast!” Carotenoids, a component of vitamin A is a naturally occurring antioxidant. It plays a strong defensive game against disease (even certain types of cancer), and it plays a vital role in maintaining skin health. And who doesn’t want glowing vibrant skin, especially in the middle of winter! Add all that plant fiber to the equation and you’ve got yourself a superfood!

squash salad 1Ok, so now you know that squash is good for you, but did I mention how delicious it is? Especially when it’s been roasted in the oven with spices, mixed with quinoa and broccoli, and tossed with a creamy tahini dressing.

for the squash bowl:

ingredients: 1 acorn or butternut squash, 2 small heads of broccoli, 1 sweet potato, 1 cup of cooked quinoa, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, sea salt, spices (I used cinnamon, paprika, chile, and a dash of cumin on my squash), tahini, apple cider vinegar, and 1 lemon.

to prepare: preheat oven to 400 degrees. peel and cube squash and sweet potato. spread over a parchment paper covered baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and spices. roast for 45 minutes or until tender. meanwhile, cook your quinoa and set aside to cool. steam broccoli for 3-4 minutes and then run under cold water to stop it from cooking. you want it to still be slightly crunchy. whisk together 2 large tablespoons of tahini, 2 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, and juice of 1/2 a lemon. add salt to taste.

transfer squash, quinoa and broccoli to a large serving bowl and toss with the tahini dressing until it’s evenly dispersed. garnish with pumpkin seeds. enjoy!

Gem Lettuce Salad with Beets and Pine Nuts

Posted on October 16, 2014

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What if I told you that over time you could come to find beets every bit as delicious as cookies and cupcakes. That eventually you would be able to march right by the pastry stand at the farmers market, straight over to the farm stand to proudly claim your bunch of beets. You would laugh at me right? I know this because if someone had once said that to me, I would have laughed too. I am a sucker for all things sweet, in fact, ice cream tops my list of all time favorite foods. But I’ve learned through trial and error, that indulging my sweet tooth too often leads to some pretty serious repercussions. Some of the sugar induced behaviors I’ve observed in myself are; restless sleep, difficulty paying attention, low energy, and significantly worsened PMS. Totally not worth it! So, in order to satisfy my desire for sugar I have found ways to incorporate more naturally sweet foods into my diet. Fruits are always great, but I find that veggies such as sweet potato’s, squashes, and beets really hit the spot! They are so energizing and nutritious that after awhile of this kind of supplementation, you won’t really crave the junk food sugar anymore. Plus they are so beautiful to look at that manufactured baked goods seem to lose their appeal.

 

As a fun experiment why not try eliminating all refined sugar from your diet for a week or two. When the craving kicks in, choose to create a meal around one of the more naturally sweet vegetables I’ve listed above. Pay attention to what kind of shifts take place for you psychologically and physically as you eliminate processed sugar and add more wholesome versions. I think you’ll find it pretty transformative!

beet collagefor the salad:

1 head of organic gem or butter lettuce, 2 handfuls of organic baby arugula, 5-10 small beets (here I used a variety of golden and red), pine nuts, sea salt and pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, (optional, goat cheese).

to prepare:

preheat oven to 400 degrees. scrub beats under running water to remove any dirt from skin. chop into bite sized cubes or into thin circular pieces as I did here. drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. cover pan with lid or tin foil and bake for 1/2 hour. remove from oven and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. return to oven uncovered for another 15 minutes. remove from oven and set aside to cool.

thoroughly wash and dry your lettuce. tear into bite sized pieces and place in a large serving bowl. drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. add sea salt to taste. lay beets over the top of the greens. sprinkle 3 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts over top. plate and serve!

 

*a note on the goat cheese.

we stumbled upon a place a few blocks away from us in Boston that sells the world’s best goat cheese, Monterey Chevre, so of course I couldn’t resist throwing some on my salad. the farm is located quite close to where we used to live in Great Barrington and is a cool place to visit if you’re in the area. if it happens to be springtime, baby goats abound and the little dudes absolutely love visitors! here is a cool piece on the farm.

Hearty Quinoa Salad with Pecans and Kale

Posted on October 15, 2014

kale USE

Though it came about quite by accident, this was one of the most satisfying salads I have had in recent memory. My boyfriend had thrown some chicken in the oven to roast and randomly said aloud to me, how about you make a kale salad with parmesan and pecans, and just like that, the idea for this dish was born.

 

Because we only had a small bunch of kale on hand, and we are trying to grocery shop once a week instead of running to the store for groceries every evening (so uneconomical, more on that later!) I opted to throw quinoa in alongside it to round it out a bit, i.e. stretch it into lunch leftovers. This pushed the salad safely into the territory of complete meal. The quinoa is still slightly warm, the pecans give it a wonderful nutty crunchiness, and the kale is vibrantly green and tender. When tied together with a quick dusting of sharp, freshly grated parmesan, the flavors scream autumn!

 

Oh, and if you haven’t yet, I insist you try these chocolate covered almonds. They’re made locally, in Boston, (we actually picked them up at the Taza factory while on a bike ride the other day), contain awesome ingredients, and are absolutely unreal!

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for the salad:

 

ingredients:

1 cup cooked quinoa, slightly warm, 1 bunch of organic kale, juice of 1/2 a meyer lemon, 1/2 cup pecans, olive oil, salt, and freshly grated parmesan.

 

to prepare:

wash and dry kale thoroughly. de-stem. roll 3 leaves up at a time into a tight tube shape, slice horizontally into thin strips. keep going until all the kale is cut. place into a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice, 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt. using your hands, massage the kale for up to 2 minutes or until it is tender and a dark vibrant green.

toss the quinoa with the kale, and add 1/2 cup of chopped raw pecans. add salt to taste. finish with a generous grating of fresh parmesan. enjoy!

Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad with Honeycrisp Apple and Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Posted on October 14, 2014

Brussel Salad 1

Though I love veggies all year round, come autumn and winter I find myself missing the raw crunch of produce like, tomatoes, cucumbers, asparagus, and many others that favor warm weather growing seasons. Though I occasionally ignore the part of my conscience that tells me to eat seasonally, I try my hardest to abide by the principles of sustainable agriculture by avoiding foods that have to travel long distances from other regions or that have to be grown in a hothouse.

 

Here is a harvest calendar for New England that I often refer to when selecting produce. If eating with the seasons is something that interests you and you would like to start playing around with it, I highly recommend printing out a copy to stick on your refrigerator. It’s a great way to simplify what can often seem complex and intimidating.   The rewards of eating in harmony with nature are endless, but one of my favorite and most tangible is that when you eat with the seasons you eat foods that are picked at the very height of their freshness. Not only are they richer in nutrients, but they are so much more delicious than the wilted, sad looking vegetables often found in the produce aisle this time of year.

 

Right now for example, brussel sprouts are the one! They love the cool weather and their flavor even heightens after a light frost or two. In addition to being delicious and versatile (they are great raw, as in this salad, or roasted in the oven!) they also contain the same healing antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals as other cruciferous veggies.

 

Ingredients:

for dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp. dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon grade a maple syrup, good squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

for salad: 1 honeycrisp apple, 20 medium sized brussel sprouts.

Directions:

To make dressing, whisk together vinegar, mustard, maple syrup and lemon. Drizzle in olive oil and whisk until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.Core apple and slice into thin matchsticks.Trim ends of Brussels sprouts and remove any outer damaged leaves and discard. Using a mandoline slicer or a very sharp knife, slice sprouts almost paper thin or as thin as you possibly can. Place shaved sprouts in a large bowl. Toss with apples and dressing.Divide salad among serving dishes and garnish with a generous sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan.

Berries Throughout Winter and a Fruit Smoothie

Posted on December 10, 2013

It may seem a little odd to be talking about smoothies when many of you have snow falling outside your windows, but I am an all winter smoothie gal. Drinking a smoothie a few times a week during the colder months of the year is a great way to get your antioxidant fix when fresh berries are not in season, and we know how important antioxidants are…!  So, on to smoothies.

I can’t tell you how many times smoothies have saved me from food regret.

smoothie 1

You know, the feeling you get after you’ve just eaten an obscene amount of crackers straight from the box because you were starving when you walked in the door and didn’t have the energy for pots and pans.. yeah, that one…

At moments like this, when I’ve missed the window for dinner but don’t want to go to bed on empty, smoothies have time and time again proven to me that they can be nutritious and well rounded light meals all on their own.

 

I am crazy for smoothies; for breakfast, as a snack, and as I mentioned, even for a late night dinner fix. The amazing thing about them, is that you can throw in just about anything and invariably it will hit the spot. That said, as with most things, I have a favorite. Meaning, it usually wins out when I’m weighing whether or not to get newly creative with my ingredients. Feel free to substitute almond milk, fresh juice, or coconut water for the yogurt if you’re a vegan.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of organic frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 frozen of organic frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 of a banana
  • 2 tablespoons of unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tsp  fresh ground flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened yogurt (I like greek for it’s high protein content)
  • 1 cup of baby spinach leaves (optional)

Instructions:

Throw everything in a blender and blend on high until it’s smooth!

How Do I Keep Fish on My Menu? and a Ted Talk by Dan Barber

Posted on December 6, 2013

In this inspiring Ted Talk, renowned chef Dan Barber poses a question that many ethical chefs face: “how do we keep fish on our menu?”. For many years I was a pescatarian (meaning fish was the only animal based protein I included in my diet besides eggs) but as I became increasingly aware of issues surrounding commercial fishing and it’s affect on ocean ecosystems I struggled with a similar question: how do I keep fish on MY menu?

 

Though fish is indubitably one of the healthiest sources of protein and minerals, overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing practices are threatening the health of our oceans, and to such an extent that the personal health benefits associated with the consumption of fish are not enough to outweigh the negatives of supporting the seafood industry.

 

What’s perhaps of even more concern is the fact that fish are exposed to more environmental toxins than any other animal, including humans. Trash, radioactive waste, heavy metals particularly mercury, and pesticides are only a few of the contaminants that fish absorb into their systems through water pollution. When we eat fish we are ingesting these toxins into our bodies and our bloodstreams, which is why pregnant women are cautioned to not consume seafood during pregnancy or even while breastfeeding, That’s how potent and toxic these pollutants are.

 

So what can we do? The absolute best resource for learning to eat seafood safely and with minimal deleterious affect on ocean ecosystems is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood watch website.  They encourage consumers and businesses to purchase seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that don’t harm the environment. They also offer recommendations as to what fish can be eaten safely in regards to contamination.

 

As Dan Barber says, “we need a radically new conception of agricultural”, and sustainable fishing practices should be at the forefront of our agenda. Our seafood choices have the power to make this situation worse, or improve it.

 

Also check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s vast collection of sustainable seafood recipes. Not only will you find culinary inspiration here, but you can use this as a framework through which to educate yourself on safe seafood choices.

 

xo

mima

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