7-ingredient sesame ginger noodle bowl sauce

What’s better in spring than a cold noodle bowl?

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FINALLY spring is here, and the fresh spring ingredients are starting to pop up on the shelves.  Crisp beans, tender asparagus, leafy greens…which all sound like great ingredients for a noodle bowl, if you ask me!  This month’s RecipeRedux theme is 7 ingredients or less, and my Asian-inspired noodle bowl sauce fits the bill.  I made them for Gracy’s self care group on Sunday, and used my go-to format of a make-your-own bar so people could choose which elements to add.  (And as always, I chose EVERYTHING!)

But the sauce!  It’s delicious. Savory, nutty, salty, and tangy – and very forgiving.  I often use rough measurements and it always ends up just fine…make a big batch and taste as you go to adapt it!

IMG_3360Sesame ginger noodle bowl sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c sesame oil
  • 1/4 c soy sauce (can substitute soy-free aminos or homemade soy sauce)
  • 2″ fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 Tbsp almond or peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (double if skipping nut butter)
  • 1 lemon’s juice
  • 1 clove garlic

Directions

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor; mixture will be thick.  Drizzle in 1/4c -1/2 cup water until desired consistency is reached.  Taste and tell!  You could add a hit of hot sauce, a pinch of sugar, or more of any of the ingredients you want to play up.

Click the frog for other RecipeRedux 7-ingredient recipes for fast, healthy dishes!

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Girl’s weekend in Virginia

I have some big life changes coming up soon (more on that later in March!), and as part of the transition I’m going to be weaving in some more personal posts.  Things I’m doing, people I’m with – certain posts will be more focused on what’s going on in my world. This is one of them! Hope you enjoy and want to follow along; I’ll still be including nutrition-focused tips and sharing a lot of great food :)

Girl’s Getaway

One of my longtime friends, Alli, noticed that her husband has a lot of “boy’s weekends” – camping, hunting, hiking, bachelor parties…practically every other month!  So she convened a group to share some high-quality time for ladies only.  We rented a cabin on AirBnb, decided to share cooking responsibilities, and planned to do a hike and visit a winery.

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It was a little cloudy and gray – but at least no snow, and there was even a hot tub so the chilly air was nice to have.  We visited Wisteria Farm & Vineyard for a tasting on Saturday, and stuck around with a packed picnic and a bottle of their Adonis red wine.

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They even sell wool from their sheep and eggs from their gorgeous chickens!  I bought a skein of wool (all from one sheep, named Thaedra) and Courtney (the one in the quilted coat above) is going to knit me a hat in exchange for some pottery.  If you can’t do it all, trade for it all!

Here’s a summary of the food: venison stew with grits and homemade rosemary bread, spinach and onion strata with a grapefruit salad, french toast with leftover grits and berries.  Definitely a weekend I’m glad I have country-born friends who COOK!  We only had 2 big meals each day, and snacked for midday/hiking.

I took the opportunity to bring my DSLR camera and practice my food photography…these are my best shots, but for every one of these there are 3 that are over or under exposed.  Living, learning!  We closed out a beautiful, cozy weekend with a hike in Shenandoah River State Park:

Oh – and one more shot: the only boy who was allowed was Alli’s dog, Gilbert.  He’s a black lab/Great Dane mix, and he is a CUDDLER: IMG_3270.JPG

I hope you had a charming and relaxing weekend – plan a weekend escape with friends!  Spending time with people who make you feel special and whole is the food your soul needs.

Cooking with Siggi! (+how to choose a yogurt)

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A word about yogurt

Here’s the sad truth: most yogurt on the shelves in the US is basically a light dessert, at best.  Many brands add tons of sugar (or artificial sweetener), colors, flavors, and stabilizing ingredients so that the resulting product is far from the nutritious, versatile food that it should be!  Siggi’s is one brand I like a lot – their claim is “simple ingredients, not a lot of sugar,” and in fact their cups always contain more protein than sugar.

What to look for in yogurt

Those criteria alone will get you far (and rule out most of the options on the shelf), but read the ingredient list to make sure they don’t contain gelatin, starches, gums, carageenan – all just thickeners that are hiding low-quality yogurt.  Milk, cream, and active cultures are all you need to make yogurt!

With lots of flavors and several in the 2% and whole milk categories (I’m partial to the whole myself), Siggi’s is competitive with other brands out there.  And with the outreach they do for dietitians, they’re at the top of their marketing game!  Today they hosted a lunch based on Nordic cooking – we got to see how to filet a whole fish, and then cooked in groups.  My team had the mushroom and arugula salad, which had just a dollop of plain yogurt to give some tangy creaminess.

Best of all, Siggi himself was there – he is a jolly Scandinavian fellow, and it’s amazing how he’s grown the company in just 6 years.

The whole meal was delicious – thanks for having us, Siggi’s!

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The full meal – mashed sweet potatoes, roast root vegetables, arugula and mushroom salad, and the pan seared salmon with edible flowers, seasoned yogurt, and raspberries (an amazing combo!).

*This event was sponsored by Siggi’s Dairy.  I was not compensated for my time financially.*

Alternative Flours (+salted peanut butter banana cookies)

Check it out!  I was featured on ABC7’s morning show to discuss this topic!

Refined grains: the original “processed” food?

While wheat has been a dietary staple for humans for thousands of years, the refined flour we make from it has only been around for a little over a century.  Machines make it possible to grind wheat berries into flour, and then separate that flour into its components – the bran, endosperm, and germ.

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The bran contains fiber and B vitamins, the germ contains vitamin E and the oils that make vitamin E more digestible, and the endosperm…well, that’s mostly starchy carbohydrate, which your body quickly turns into sugar.  “White flour” is made from just the endosperm and then usually bleached, and “whole wheat” flour is all the parts of the grain, pulverized (look for unbleached).

The fiber and oils help the endosperm to digest more slowly, and make it much more nutritionally dense than endosperm alone – stripped of those components, blood sugar rises quickly, and the body has to work harder to bring it down to the right range.  Over time, regulating blood sugar becomes more and more challenging to the body – read more about how white flour impacts many body systems – and suddenly the explosion of diabetes we’re seeing isn’t such a mystery!

A little bit of white flour isn’t the problem – this goes far beyond the occasional treat or dessert.  The problem is that white flour (also called refined, enriched or all-purpose flour) is has replaced whole grain flour in a very big way:

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See the big white gap between the dots and the bars?  That’s in part because of increased usage of refined flour, and in part because of our sugar intake went up, too.

The answer is simple

Unfortunately, simple doesn’t mean easy – reversing this trend is a complicated problem on a large scale, from food suppliers to food companies to sales.  But luckily, on an individual scale, it’s EXTREMELY doable.  There are more products than ever on the market that make great substitutes for refined flour – many flours from whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, sorghum, and non-grains like coconut, black bean, and even crickets!

The key is that they are fiber rich and nutrient-dense (not just gluten free or organic, words that tell you nothing about nutritional value!), and you also have to be willing to experiment since not all of them can replace all-purpose flour cup for cup.  Even replacing just part of the white flour in recipes can give you a big nutrient boost!  This guide discusses some considerations; and Bob’s Red Mill provides this one.

Not into baking or cooking?  Here are ways to cut out the white flour:

  • Only buy (and order!) 100% WHOLE wheat or whole grain bread, wraps, bagels, pasta products (if it just says “wheat” that usually means “white flour!” – look for that 100% to be sure the grain used was whole grain)
  • The word “multigrain” is also an indicator refined grains are an ingredient – it just means the maker used multiple grains that could all be refined
  • Snack on nuts and seeds, not pretzels and crackers
  • If you do choose crackers, look for “whole wheat” or “whole grain” to be the first two words on the ingredient list
  • If you’re a cereal eater, look for bran or oat based cereals that have at least 5g of fiber per serving

Recipes to get you started

If you’re ready to get cookin’ then here’s where to start:

Lemon Chia Seed Breakfast Muffins (adapted from The Healthy Maven)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or canola oil
  • 2 lemon’s juice (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 lemon’s zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl combine almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, chia seeds and sea salt. In a separate bowl combine oil/applesauce, lemon juice, lemon zest, eggs, honey and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir to combine. Line a muffin tray with paper liners or silicone liners or grease well and divide batter evenly among wells.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, watching carefully to not burn (unlike I did…). Remove from oven and let cool in tray for 10 minutes. Remove from tray and allow to cool on a wire rack.

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Salted peanut butter banana cookies (adapted from Amy’s Healthy Baking)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 medium banana
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp milk of choice
  • 1/2 cup sugar of choice
  • extra kosher salt for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, stir together the mashed banana, peanut butter, vanilla, and milk. Stir in the sugar. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Chill dough for 15 minutes (this makes it much easier to work with).

Shape the dough into small spheres and flatten.  Bake for 9-11 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

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For more innovative uses of alternative flours, check out my fellow bloggers:

 

5 essential tools for your dream kitchen (+no-knead bread)

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Form and function

There are thousands of kitchen gadgets out there, and my kitchen has dozens (if not hundreds!).  But if you lined them all up on your counter and could only choose 5 to use, chances are they’d be the ones that are the most universal, sturdy, and have been around forever.  Making sure that those tools are high quality and easy to grab means you’ll be cooking faster and better right off the bat!  Below, I discuss some considerations you’ll want to make before choosing these essentials.

My top 5 essential kitchen tools:

1.
Silicone Spatula Set of 4 with Hygienic Solid Coating

The spatula – great for scraping, dolloping, mixing, stirring and folding.  The benefit of this set is that there are 2 of each size so you can always have 1 in cleaning rotation, and something that will fit in smaller jars and crevices.  The REAL plus is in the design – they’re silicone from tip to end, so there’s no risk of the top becoming separated from the handle, and nowhere for bits of dough or batter to get stuck during cleaning.  And they’re heat safe to 480F! Bonus: they come in 3 colors, sure to suit any kitchen decor.  $16.95 for the set.

2.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Oval Wide Dutch Oven

Ah, the dutch oven.  This could be the most versatile cookware ever – it goes from stove top to oven, covered or uncovered, so you can do anything from fry an egg to braise a roast to bake bread.  The enameling makes for easier care – no seasoning required – and means you get to choose from lots of colors.  If you could only have one pot, this would be the best choice!  $169-$249 depending on color.

3.

Measuring Cups & Spoons Set by Morgenhaan

No kitchen is complete without measuring spoons and cups, but SO many designs are flawed!  This set is sturdy (no bending or breaking of handles) has the measurements etched on (painted on always wears off – is that a half teaspoon or a quarter?!), provides both US and metric numbering, and the spoons are narrow and long so they’ll fit into most spice jars.  The cups have a small spout for easy pouring so you can measure fluids too (a dry cup and a fluid cup are the same; liquid measuring cups just leave extra space at the top to prevent spills!).  A 12-piece set for $29.99.

4.

Cuisinart DLC-10SY Pro Classic 7-Cup Food Processor

This is another diversity-driven pick: you can shred cheese and cabbage, slice carrots or potatoes, knead dough, or whip up a sauce, all in this one canister.  With simple controls and the option to buy specialty discs for other slicing styles, this guy should have a home in every kitchen! $119.99.

5.

Pyrex Prepware 8-Piece Mixing Bowl Set

Not all mixing bowls are nice enough to serve in – these are, and their kitchen-to-table-ability makes them my pick.  Glass is beautiful to serve with because you can see the food from all angles, and the color coded lids (with sizing info!) allow them to take food beyond prep & serving to storage.  And they’re microwave-safe, too! Mix up cookie dough, pancake batter, toss a salad, or let bread dough rise in one of these – only $29.67 for the set.

That’s my list – what’s on yours?  Here’s a recipe that uses almost all of those kitchen items!

No-knead overnight bread

I experimented with this recipe several times before landing on what worked well for me – I use white whole-wheat flour for a soft bread that’s still high in fiber, and just a bit of AP flour.  With only 3 ingredients and about 10 minutes of hands-on time, this is a great recipe to bake up at the beginning of the week!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add 1 1/2 cups warm water and stir to combine until all flour is incorporated scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic (or a lid!) and place in a warm area for 12-18 hours. When ready to bake (dough should be bubbly and sticky), preheat oven with a dutch oven inside at 450F.  Remove hot dutch oven, lightly flour the dough and shape it gently into a loose ball (all surfaces should have a light flour coating), then drop it into the pot. Bake with lid on for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool before slicing.

Since I mentioned dream kitchens…

Here’s what I’ve been pinning lately!   When I get my hands on a kitchen to reno, I’m definitely going with classic white – though I love the idea of having bottom cabinets painted out in an accent color like the one at left below.  Changing the color scheme could be as easy as an afternoon of knob removal and paint, right?  And ever since seeing that BlueStar copper stove, I have dreams of shiny hazel accents…

Someday, my friends.  Someday!

BlueStar Cooking asked me to write about my favorite kitchen gadgets and dream kitchen elements…I was not paid for my time and do not receive commission on their products.

Your guide to glutamate (+vegan queso salsa dip)

On savory flavor

There are many foods and food components that make food taste savory – that rich, complex taste that’s independent of salty, and sometimes described as “meaty,” and known as “umami.”  One molecule that contributes to those flavors is glutamate – an amino acid that’s found in meat, cheese, and even vegetables including mushrooms, broccoli, and tomatoes.  (Read more here about sensitivity to glutamates, MSG, and the low-glutamate diet for people who are sensitive.)  It’s also found in nutritional yeast, a flaky protein and vitamin-rich product made from yeast cells (I’d write a whole article about its uses, history, and nutritional properties, but this blog post does that quite nicely!).

A word about yeast & yeast extract:

In full disclosure, I was sponsored to help create that video – and I’m grateful to be given a platform for the message!

I was really excited to see my friend Elaine post a recipe that uses nutritional yeast and is both Superbowl friendly and genuinely healthy!  The yeast provides that cheesy flavor, while the creamy texture and cheddar color come from tahini and carrots, respectively.  And it’s nut-free for those concerned about allergies!

 

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picture from EatingByElaine

 

I decided to do mine with another twist, and sub canned tomatoes and chiles instead of soy milk for a Ro’tel-esque spin.  And let me tell you: this tastes AWESOME.  It even got the boyfriend seal of approval to bring to his friend’s Superbowl party today (which is not a healthy foodie oriented kind of crowd).

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Have you used nutritional yeast before?  Any other recipes I should know about?  Without further adieu, here’s the recipe – enjoy!

Vegan queso salsa dip (adapted from EatingbyElaine)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fresh, room temperature tahini (runny is best, Soom brand is excellent)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ large lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • Garnish: sprinkle of paprika, sliced green onions, fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil and add carrots
  2. When carrots are cooked (soft to a fork, ~10 minutes), drain and add them with all other ingredients except tomatoes to a high speed blender and puree until smooth
  3. Fold in tomatoes and chiles with a spatula
  4. Serve warm with chips or veggies and garnish with sliced green onions, paprika and fresh cilantro. You may want to microwave just before serving.

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Superbowl Snacks Roundup

Well folks, it’s that time of year again…I am completely ambivalent about the teams playing (as always), but super excited for some eating, drinking, and socializing!  It annoys me that healthy food has a bad rap for parties like this – if you’re doing it right, there is NO sacrifice of flavor, fun, or dramatic presentation.  If you’re doing it wrong…well, you get the sad tray of pre-cut veggies that your supermarket has and call that the “healthy option.”

Do not do that.

Here are some gorgeous and delicious options, rounded up from my food networks, and all fit the bill of being nutrient dense and game-day appropriate.  Enjoy!

baked-buffalo-cauliflower-bites-15 Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

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Healthier 7-Layer Dip


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Pollo Asado Fries

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Vegan Warm Nacho Dip (nut-free)

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Spicy Spiralized Sweet Potato Fries

Pizza hummus 2
Pizza Hummus

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Avocado Spinach Dip

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Sweet Potato Skins

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Spicy Salty Popcorn

spinachdip
Spinach Artichoke Dip

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BBQ Chicken Flatbread