recipes

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado Pesto + The Veggie Spiralizer

zpaghetti plate

It’s the first week of fall and while everyone else is blogging about pumpkin flavored soup, smoothies, muffins, cookies…. I’m stuck in summer mode. As excited as I am to move on to fall, I’m still savoring the last few tastes of summer, like the basil, zucchini and tomato in this dish. The light, refreshing flavors feel and taste right for now, at least until we break 80…

spiralizer

I recently got this new kitchen gadget – the veggie spiralizer. Now, this may surprise you, but I’m really not a big fan of kitchen gadgets. My cabinets tell a different story because I have plenty of them. But if I’m being honest, I really only use a few. I realized my minimalism in the kitchen when we stored the majority of our stuff for a year after moving to Austin. I only brought the essentials; the rest went to the Pod. And now, seven months later, I don’t think I could even tell you what’s in those 10 boxes. My dishes… I miss my dishes. The rest, I hate to admit, I could probably do without. I won’t… but I could…

This though, the veggie spiralizer, this is a keeper. Though, I do wish I had found this one first that you can hold in your hand. It takes up much less space and looks to make the same long pasta like ringlets out of all sorts of veggies from apples to zucchinis. This genius contraption is a godsend to anyone following a gluten-free or paleo diet. Pasta is just one of those things man can only go so long without. And with this guy, I really do not feel like I’m going without. Pasta fix is taken care of. I mean just look at those noodles! I call it zpaghetti.

zpaghetti

Zucchini happens to work particularly well as spaghetti. After spiraling, I use a paper towel to absorb some of the moisture. Then when you’re ready to cook, just toss the veggie noodles in a pan over medium heat with a little oil for a minute or two. The longer you let the noodles cook, the softer they’ll get. So for a more al dente pasta, cook for a minute or less. Sweet potatoes – great for pad thai and stir fries – beets, butternut squash, yellow squash and cucumber (great raw) make perfect noodles.

pesto ingredients

At the end of a season I tend to get a little nostalgic for its signature flavors and ingredients as we transition to what comes along with the next. Pesto is always a summer staple in our house. I love to make a big batch and then use it throughout the week as a sauce, dressing or spread. It’s also a super sneaky way to pack more greens into your diet. But, no need to say goodbye to pesto quite yet… it goes with pumpkin too. 🙂

cooking

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado Pesto

Ingredients

For the Pasta:
2 large zucchinis, spiraled
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the pesto:

1 avocado
2 cups basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup walnuts
1 lemon, juiced
sea salt

Directions

Spiralize zucchini into spaghetti noodles.

To make the pesto, combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Add water or extra-virgin olive oil if needed to help facilitate blending.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and allow to heat before adding zucchini noodles. Saute about a minute until slightly softened for more al dente-like noodles; allow to cook longer for softer noodles. Transfer to a serving bowl and mix with pesto and halved cherry tomatoes (optional). Add chunks of cooked chicken breast for a complete meal.

recipes

Smooth Summer Squash Soup

IMG_5937

Call me crazy, but sometimes even in the middle of summer a bowl of soup can be quite nice. I had the most amazing summer squash soup on our California road trip (when it’s 60 degrees in the evening hot soup doesn’t sound as crazy too). Anyway, I loved it so much I decided to try to recreate it when I got home. Plus, my freezer has been stocked full of homemade chicken broth for months.

I know I’ve promised a couple of times on here to share with you my recipe for making your own broths. There are so many health benefits to making stock the way it’s supposed to be made – from leftover bones. The process of slow cooking animal bones for broth pulls minerals, collagen and amino acids out into the broth. Our bodies then use these essential nutrients to rebuild cells and particularly the lining of our intestine – which prevents those food sensitivities that seem to be on the rise these days. I promise to go into all of this a lot more in another post and share with you my stock recipe. I know the image of slow cooking bones in your kitchen may not sound too appetizing, but trust me, the end result is delicious – so much more flavorful and rich than what you’d buy at the store. And so much better for you! It puts store bought to shame… Plus it’s practically free! Can’t beat that. More to come…

Anyway, back to this delicious, smooth summer squash soup. When I got home from our trip I did what I always do when I want to get ideas for a recipe – I started Googling. I am a nerd and read recipes for fun. Sometimes I find one and tweak it to make it my own, or I might combine ideas from two. For this one, I loved Whole Living’s idea to use cilantro stems – something that’s usually tossed. So I pretty much stuck to their recipe with one small change – I subbed in my homemade broth for an added nutritional boost.

IMG_5915

Cilantro Fan or Phobe?
Cilantro (or coriander) is one of those herbs you either love it or you hate it. Cilantrophobes, as haters of the herb like to call themselves, say it tastes like soap or bugs. Turns out their taste buds don’t lie. Cilantro’s smell is produced by aldehydes. You know what else puts off aldehydes? Bugs and soap. Cilantrophobes make the association in their taste-smell memory bank and understandably then just can’t take it. I myself fall in the lover camp. I love adding cilantro to salads, curries and other dishes for a fresh bite of green.

Cilantro (the leaves) and coriander (the seed) are part of the same plant. Both are powerful detoxifiers and natural chelators that helps to draw heavy metals like lead and mercury out of the body. The leaves also have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. These benefits make cilantro a great choice to add to your green juice. Coriander has been considered a healing spice for centuries and long been used in cooking for it’s anti-inflammatory and preservative properties.  If you read the ingredients on your curry powder, you’ll likely find coriander listed there too.

IMG_5920

Squash it to Me
Yellow summer squash is abundant in the summer which makes it great to use in a soup. Before making this recipe I stuck to winter squashes for creamy soups but opting for summer squash, especially this time of year, will be much cheaper and also keep you eating seasonally which is always a good thing. Yellow squash has a lot of water in it (also good in the summer) and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood sugar stabilizing benefits. I love slicing it up and sautéing squash with sweet yellow onion, zucchini and some dark leafy greens. It’s the perfect quick, easy side dish to go with just about any meal.

IMG_5923

IMG_5925

IMG_5927

IMG_5935

Smooth Summer Squash Soup

recipe adapted from Whole Living

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems, plus 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 5 medium yellow summer squash (2 1/2 pounds), chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • Sea salt
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook onion, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cilantro stems, and coriander and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add squash and 2 1/2 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then season with salt. Puree soup in batches until smooth. (If too thick, thin with a little water.) Adjust seasoning if necessary and let cool slightly. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with lime.

recipes

Turkey Tacos

IMG_4858

As much as I love to cook, this time of year I just want to fix something quickly so we can get on to more fun things… like going for a walk, relaxing on the patio or planning our California road trip we have on the calendar in June. Summer (especially these early few weeks before it really heats up in Texas) is no time to be slaving away in a kitchen. That’s why there are grills. And gorgeous fresh produce that’s even better raw.

These turkey tacos are a perfect summer dinner. They’re quick – like 15 minutes quick. And using romaine instead of tortillas give them an even fresher, crisper taste. Top them with your favorite fixins. We usually keep it simple with fresh avocado, cilantro and tomato. You could always go even more low maintenance with your favorite store-bought salsa. Or take it to a whole new level with your own salsa creation…maybe something with mango or peach?

In the name of keeping things simple for summer, I’m making this one short and sweet…and going for a walk. Happy Summer, everyone!

IMG_4788

IMG_4796

IMG_4817

IMG_4830

Turkey Tacos

Ingredients

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1 lb organic ground turkey
1 head romaine, leaves seperated
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 lime, cut into wedges

Directions

Heat skillet over medium heat and add coconut oil. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and spices; stir and cook another minute. Add ground turkey and cook until cooked through and lightly browned.

To serve, spoon turkey into romaine leaf and top with tomato, avocado and cilantro. Finish with a squeeze of lime.

 

recipes

Spring Spaghetti Squash Pasta

spring spaghetti squash

I was going to wait to post this one after another go-around so I could make it a little prettier. I wanted to add fresh basil. And put the vegetables and chicken on top of the spaghetti squash instead of mixing it all up in the pan hamburger-helper style so it would photograph better. In my blogger’s mind I can see it and it’s stunningly green and gorgeous. But, then I remind myself… that isn’t real.

What’s real is what you see right here. No frills, just dinner. In under an hour. And on a weeknight, what’s better than that right? Um, ok, maybe dinner in under half an hour…

With every post I find myself wishing my photos were more professional and gourmet looking. But then again, professional and gourmet doesn’t really happen when it’s Monday night and you’re just trying to get dinner made after a long day at work. It’s those nights when dried basil will do just fine and you ask yourself, “how can I do this using just one pan…”

You see, really what I aim to do on this blog is give you recipes and good-for-you things you can and actually want to make. I try to keep the ingredient lists low with simple steps to follow and as minimal clean up as possible, which I’ll admit isn’t always the case but I’m getting better… right, Ross? 😉

The thing is, it’s easy to get wrapped up in making healthy eating complicated. There are lots of recipes out there calling for 15+ ingredients with things you’d have to go to three different grocery stores to find. But healthy isn’t exotic or expensive ingredients, or crazy complex recipes, or intimidating cooking methods. Healthy is actually quite simple. So simple in fact, it makes for boring and rather unappetizing photos (this tastes better than it looks, I promise!). So, while it may not be sexy or overly impressive to throw some meat and vegetables in a pan and call it a night, that’s really all there is to it sometimes – basic ingredients, cooked intuitively and enjoyed thoroughly.

So…I’ll do my best to continue bringing you just that so you can stop stressing about what’s for dinner and start enjoying the process… Ah, wouldn’t that be nice?

Get in the Groove
One of my favorite moments I see happen over and over again with my health coaching clients is when they find their groove in the kitchen and cooking becomes fun. Because that’s really what it’s all about – figuring out how to make the process of planning, shopping and cooking enjoyable and maybe even a little bit exciting (yes, it totally can be!) so you’ll want to do it all again next week. 

Check out these testimonials from some of my clients. They achieve some amazing results in a short amount of time once they start finding their groove. For the most part, it’s about figuring out what works with your routine and life and then consistently implementing it until it becomes just what you do. Then you get to do your thing while continuing to reap all those great benefits, like clearer skin, less stress, no more cravings…. seriously, check out these results. And know that you can do it too. If you want to talk more about exactly how, click here to schedule a free 30 minute strategy session with me

I hope you enjoy the fresh taste of spring in this no-frills, very real weeknight dish. Bon Appetit!

asparagus

spaghetti squash

IMG_4742

IMG_4752

Spring Spaghetti Squash Pasta

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup frozen peas (omit if strictly following the Paleo diet)
sea salt & black pepper
lemon
fresh basil leaves, sliced thin or torn (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place spaghetti squash on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until it’s slightly soft to the squeeze.

While the squash, bakes, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tbsp olive oil. Add onion and sauté 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, basil and oregano and continue cooking another minute until fragrant. Add ground meat and stir to combine with aromatics. When cooked through, transfer to a plate and set aside.

Place skillet back over medium heat and add another tbsp olive oil. Toss in asparagus and sauté until slightly soft. Return meat to the skillet and add peas. Continue cooking a few minutes until peas are warmed through.

When the squash is done, remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes before handling. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and discard them (or you can save them to roast later for a healthy snack). Now, using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash away from the skin with a raking motion. The squash will come out in strings, sort of like angel hair pasta.

Add spaghetti squash to skillet with meat and vegetables and mix it up. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon. And top with freshly torn basil… if you have it. 🙂

recipes

Beef & Broccoli + Why I Went Paleo

IMG_4627

It took me a long time to come around before jumping on the Paleo bandwagon. And then once I did, it took me a longer time still to say the words about myself: I’d gone Paleo. Even now, writing this post, it’s hard seeing them in black and white, not gonna lie. You see, I’ve never been much of a fad follower when it comes to lifestyle habits like eating. And I get really turned off by all the hype around a trendy new diet – which is all I used to see Paleo as being. There’s all the books, magazines, shows, events… Diets are a billion dollar business and most end up being just a flash in the pan – you may see results in the short-term but eventually you end up going going back to the old habits and routine and you’re right back where you were months ago. I’ve always believed in balance, moderation, an abundance of good-for-you foods and no deprivation. That’s what works. Not a fad diet. Never mind the fact that I’m a health coach for crying out loud… I don’t do “diets”! That’s what my brain said anyway. But something else inside told me to look further and eventually I came to see that certain components of eating Paleo could really help me.

beef

One day a little over a year ago, I was home working on the couch because I was too stiff with joint pain to make it into the office and I caught an episode of Dr. Oz. He was interviewing a young girl who had gone Paleo as part of a treatment protocol for an autoimmune condition. She’d removed all grains, beans and legumes among other common inflammatory foods such as dairy and sugar and after a few months eating mostly vegetables and high quality animal protein she was living without pain and medications. With a little research, I found several other stories of healing while following a Paleo lifestyle. So, I hopped on and decided to try it for myself. I had already cut out common allergenic and inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, soy and corn, but up until then I regularly ate grains and beans and even though I wasn’t strictly vegetarian, I ate very little animal protein. So I traded my quinoa and chickpeas for grass-fed beef and bison, and of course continued to load up on a crazy amount of vegetables. Within weeks I noticed a difference in my stiffness and energy level. And as I’ve stayed on the diet, I’ve felt better and better.

broccoli

Against the Grain
If you’re saying to yourself now, “But I thought quinoa was healthy?!” You’re right it is. It’s not that these foods the Paleo diet eliminates are inherently unhealthy. When properly prepared and if you can tolerate them they can be extremely healthy for you. The problem is grains, beans and legumes can be particularly difficult to digest and rob the body of key nutrients like zinc. These foods have proteins called lectins and other anti-nutrients that help to preserve the plant and protect it from insects, molds, funguses out there in the wild. The lectins in the grain are like poison to whatever may threaten the life of the plant. To the plant though, we may as well be an insect. It’s poison affects us the same way, potentially depleting key nutrients we require for optimal health and immune function. This is one of the reasons why many with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, myself included, have had such success removing these foods from the diet.

beef and broccoli pan

Paleo Pointers
The other thing to remember with Paleo, is the emphasis is really more on the vegetables than on the meat. I often see it the other way around so you want to make sure you’re filling your plate with high fiber vegetables like dark leafy greens and crucifers such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. The fiber helps keep things moving through the digestive tract (if you know what I mean) so you minimize the amount of time you have beef hanging out in your gut. High quality, organic, grass-fed animal protein is an efficient way to get key nutrients but the key is to keep it moving, you don’t want it sitting around for a few days in your intestine. That can just get downright unpleasant.

In hindsight, I don’t really know how I could have objected to a way of eating where you get to eat steak and all the vegetables you want. That’s not to say that I won’t go back to eating grains, beans and legumes one day. But when I do I’ll have this experience to help me be aware of how these foods affect my body.

Even though for a long time my mind rejected the idea of “Paleo,” a little voice inside me told me there might be something there worth pursuing. I suppose we all have to come around to taking the step that we know is best for us, but that for whatever reason our minds tell us is pointless or silly or not worth the effort.

Sometimes we just have to politely tell our mind to shut up so we can hear that tiny little voice inside that’s so easy to ignore. It’s usually much smarter than our brain and it seldom leads us wrong.

If you’re intrigued about Paleo or if you have any questions about the diet or how it can be used as part of a protocol for autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, I’d love to talk more about it with you. You can email me at megan@meganadamsbrown.com.

IMG_4599

Thinking About Making a Change?
A few posts ago I introduced my new No Pain, Everything to Gain: 90 Days to the Real You. Note: This is not a Paleo diet program. No Pain, Everything to Gain is designed to help you heal and recover from chronic issues such as joint pain, muscle aches, allergies, asthma, headaches, rashes, etc. Through the program you’ll make shifts in your diet and lifestyle to take control of your health so you can feel better and get back to living life on your terms.

I have three free 30 minute strategy sessions open this week. If you think trying something new might be just what you need, schedule your free 30 minute session here.

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry

Ingredients

1 lb beef stew meat
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
salt & pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 head broccoli, cut in florets
1 tbsp peeled fresh ginger, grated
1 bunch green onions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
2 tbsp lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions

Place stew meat in a bowl and sprinkle with arrowroot, salt and pepper and toss to coat. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook the beef until browned on one side, about 1-2 minutes and transfer to a plate. Add broccoli, white part of scallions, ginger, and 3/4 cup of water to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook until broccoli turns bright green and begins to soften. Add beef back to the pan and cook until meat is cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in green part of scallions and lemon juice. Serve with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you like a kick.

recipes

Herby Lamb Meatballs

herby lamb meatball dinner

You know when you move to a new city and have to find all new…everything –  a new hair person, nail place, dry cleaners, car place, etc.? We’re right in the middle of all that right now. It’s like every day there’s a new reminder that we’re the new kids on the block. Don’t get me wrong, I love it; the change is fun and exciting. But wow, you don’t realize how comfortable you’ve been in a place until you have to start all over again. Like, what a luxury it is to be able to hop in the car and know exactly where Target is and how long it will take you to get there (without having to consult Siri). Or to be able to get in and out of the grocery store  super fast because you know exactly what they have and where to find it.

Grocery shopping can be one of the most routine things we do. I usually make my big trip for the week on Sunday and typically pick up the same staples – a whole organic chicken, a bag of lemons, greens, onions, etc. And after awhile of this it’s almost like you go into autopilot – you go in, walk the same aisles, grab the same things and get out. You’re so focused on your routine and completing it you probably don’t even see what else is on the shelf.

That’s when shaking it up can be a really really good thing. When your surroundings change it’s an opportunity to try new things and perhaps expand your palette… that is, if you choose to look at it that way. So, on my first grocery excursion in our new neighborhood in Austin I could have gotten all bent out of shape when I didn’t find my usual whole organic chicken. But, I held it together and got adventurous… and that’s how these delicious herby lamb meatballs came to be.

mix ingredients

make meatballs

The Natural Grocers by our house doesn’t have a full butcher section like our old grocery store, but they do have an excellent section of high quality, organic, pastured, grass-fed ground meats. So, we’ve been on a meatball kick lately, trying out different meats with a variety of herbs, spices and seasonings. My mom is probably getting quite a kick out of the idea of me – the one who once couldn’t even look at ground beef – making meatballs. For years she’s tried to pass down the job of hamburger patty-maker. I may have gotten over my fear but it’s still not happening, Mom. 😉

Anyway, ground may not be the sexiest of cuts, but it’s much less expensive. If you’re wanting to incorporate more organic, pastured and grass-fed meats, it’s a great option to help you save a little money. And these meatballs are damn good, if I do say so myself. If you’re not into lamb you can make them with any other ground meat, like beef or turkey. Serve the meatballs along with your favorite sides. This time we roasted carrots, parsnips and turnips and sautéed up some kale with onion. Ooh, everything was so delicious, colorful, satisfying, and above all, no one was missing the chicken…

Moral of the story, you never know what you might discover with a little change. So this is my challenge for you: Break your routine, try a new store, go without a list. See what you see when you’re out of your comfort zone and the blinders are forced to come off. Keep an open mind, explore, ask for help, learn, and try something new or maybe even something that that once scared you. Who knows, you just might find what you’ve been missing…

cook meatballs

IMG_4554

Herby Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients

1 lb ground lamb (or other meat: beef, turkey, chicken, etc.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a small onion, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup water

Directions

Combine ground lamb, garlic, onion, thyme, rosemary, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well using your hands. Form into balls, about 1 inch thickness.

In a medium saute pan, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add meatball and cook 1-2 minutes until seared, then flip each one to sear the other side. Cook another 1-2 minutes until lightly browned. Add water, cover pan and let simmer about 5 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with your favorite roasted vegetables and sautéed greens.

recipes

Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup

IMG_4481

I know this isn’t your typical Hello, Spring! recipe for the first week of the new season… but spring sure is taking it’s sweet time to get here…. at least in Texas that is. The weather here lately has been down right erratic. 80 degrees one day. 30 degrees the next. And rainy. My god, so much rain. It has literally rained every weekend since we got to Austin. Five weekends of rain, people… in a city that’s supposedly in a drought. Some say we brought it with us. So to that I say, you’re welcome.

So what better to go with our rainy damp days here than a bowl of creamy delicious soup that just so happens to be dairy-free too. When cooked throughly and blended, cauliflower takes on a creamy, smooth consistency. It’s great to use for a non-dairy cream-based soup or even a mash, as a substitute for mashed potatoes.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc. and like its cousins is full of antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin C, K, folate and manganese. It’s the leeks in this soup that make it say, “Hello, Spring!” A leek is a spring onion, which like the rest of its allium family (and crucifers too) is rich in sulfur – one of the most abundant minerals in the body and it’s required for hundreds of processes that keep us alive and kicking. Leeks are also one of nature’s antibiotics with strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Eating alliums (onions and garlic) regularly can help to ward of infection and keep your immune system strong.

When preparing leeks, it’s the white part that you want to cook with. Cut off the green stems and remove the outer leaves. Cut off the end of the root and then slice again in half longways. Open up the leeks a bit to expose the inside pieces and rinse well under water. Cut again longways and then slice thinly. The thinner the strips, the faster they’ll cook.

Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 leeks, chopped (just the white part)
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and chopped
6 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
salt
pepper

Directions

Place pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Saute the garlic and leeks about 3 minutes, until soft. Add cauliflower and saute for another minute. Add broth, then increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce back to medium and simmer, covered for about 20-30 minutes, until the cauliflower can be pierced easily with a fork.

Blend soup either using a blender or immersion blender until smooth and creamy, with no lumps. Return to pot and warm over low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with chopped fresh parsley or chives.

recipes

The Best Beef Stew

IMG_4323

First, let me apologize to all the Catholics out there for sending you beef on the first Friday of Lent. I’m truly sorry. But I thought with another cold front on the horizon you might need this for the weekend…

Oh, the tease of spring… it continues. Instead of cursing the weather gods for keeping me one more weekend away from wearing flip flops, I’m choosing to embrace the chance to make something warming and delicious to curl up with one last time (oh, please). Because before we know it it’s going to be 90 degrees out there and we just won’t look at a hearty bowl of stew the same way…

IMG_4283 IMG_4295 IMG_4296

For all you Paleo peeps, this happens to be a Paleo beef stew I tweaked from this recipe. Instead of the traditional white potatoes in beef stew, I used two kinds of sweet potatoes – your standard orange flesh variety and Japanese sweet potatoes which have a darker, purplish skin and are actually white inside. Sweet potatoes have loads more nutritional value over their white potato cousins. They have tons of vitamin A, C and manganese and are also high in B vitamins, potassium and fiber. Japanese sweet potatoes have the same make up but their richly pigmented skins also make them considerably higher in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists believe our digestive tracts benefit in particular because the compounds associated with these pigments may protect from heavy metals and free-radicals there. And that means a happier tummy.

IMG_4298

So, I know I probably don’t have to sell you on a slow cooker… it’s amazing isn’t it?! I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it took me almost two years after getting one to really use it. I have no idea what I was doing or thinking. There is nothing more brilliant than being able to put a bunch of whatever – meat, veggies, liquid, spice, you name it – in a pot, turn it on and say see ya later. You go about your day (a little less stressed I might add having dinner already taken care of) and when you come home it’s like opening the door to a fantasyland where a private chef has been cooking for you all day. Oh, it smells so delicious. And you just know whatever’s been cooking in that pot all day is going to be so rich, tender and comforting. Still talking about the stew here, ladies… 🙂

IMG_4305

The Best Beef Stew

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs grass fed beef stew meat
2 cups stock
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
3 large sweet potatoes (I use a mix of orange and purple skinned potatoes)
2-3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/8 cup arrowroot (used to thicken at the end) – optional

Directions

First, add the meat to the slow cooker, then add the liquid and all the vegetables, spices and seasonings. Set slow cooker to low and let cook for eight hours. About half way through, give it a stir to move the vegetables.

If you want a thicker stew, do this when the timer dings: Ladle out most of the liquid into a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil, then transfer a small amount to a small bowl and slowly whisk in arrowroot until it’s completely absorbed. Pour the mixture back into the boiling liquid in the pot and remove from heat while you whisk continuously. If you want it even thicker, add some water to your small bowl and sprinkle in more arrowroot powder, whisk well, then add that to your liquid. Once at desired consistency, pour the thickened liquid back into the slow cooker and stir to mix well.

recipes

Basil Broccoli Chicken Spaghetti (Squash)

IMG_3486

I’m not sure what the weather is like where you are, but here in Texas, we’ve officially begun that schizophrenic  time in between summer and fall where the weather just can’t make up its mind. This is usually how it goes… the temperature drops to the 80’s and for a few fleeting days we remember what it’s like to not step outside and immediately start sweating. We rush to a patio, or the nearest Starbucks for a pumpkin latte, and bask in the glory because we all know what’s really going on… it’s just a tease. Summer isn’t over yet.

I’m not sure how this goes in other parts, but without fail, each year, this is what we go through in Texas. The tease of fall. I’ll start thinking about new sweaters, lusting after boots, dreaming about pumpkin-and-spice-tasting everything… Only to come crashing back to reality days later when the temps go back up and I remember: We’ve got one more month to go (at least).

So while my boots patiently wait in the closet, I’ve started celebrating fall with some of my favorites in the kitchen. Warming squash stews still don’t feel quite right, but for those of us stuck in the middle, we can take a little from this and a little from that. So I bring you the perfect combo of summer and fall with basil and spaghetti squash.

spaghetti squash
photo courtesy of steamykitchen.com

If vegetables can be cool, spaghetti squash is the coolest. I mean, just look at what comes out of that thing… To cook, I usually just put it in the oven on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes (more or less depending on the size). I take it out, let it cool and cut it in half long-ways. This is so much easier than trying to hack your way through a hard-as-a-rock, giant squash. You can thank me later. Then scoop out the seeds (roast them later for a healthy snack) and start scraping the insides with a fork. The meat shreds into thin spaghetti-like strings that you can twirl and spin just like the stuff your mom used to make. This vegetable is a godsend to anyone who’s eliminated actual spaghetti. And just as easy as boiling water too. Not to mention, the added nutritional benefits from being a vegetable rather than a refined starch. Just sayin.

IMG_3461

While the squash bakes, go ahead and start the sautee. The onion and garlic add a lot of flavor at the start. Then at the end when you add the lemon, olive oil, and basil, it all comes together as a light sauce for the spaghetti.

IMG_3464

IMG_3466

I try to prep everything ahead, but that doesn’t always happen… After the onions are in the pan, wash and chop the broccoli. For the basil you can either tear it with your hands or thinly slice the leaves with a sharp knife so it’s ready to go when it’s time to eat.

IMG_3470

When the onions and garlic are slightly browned, add the broccoli. I love watching greens turn that bright, vibrant shade of green just a few minutes after they start cooking.

IMG_3476

Once the broccoli is cooked through and a little tender, add the cooked chicken and spaghetti squash. Stir well so that it all gets mixed together.

The last few steps are small, but so important. Squeeze half a lemon over the pasta and then season with salt and pepper. You can add the basil now, or if you plan to have leftovers, wait until you plate. Red pepper flakes are a good addition too if you want a little kick.

Then twirl that spaghetti to your heart’s content and enjoy tasting summer and fall at the same time.

Basil Broccoli Chicken Spaghetti (Squash)

Ingredients:

1 whole spaghetti squash
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 lb. cooked chicken breast (1 in. pieces)
handful basil, thinly sliced or torn
lemon
salt and pepper

Directions

First, get the spaghetti squash in the oven. Preheat oven to 350 and place squash on a baking sheet. Place in oven and bake about 30 minutes, more or less depending on the size. You’ll know it’s done when it’s softer to the touch and you can get a knife through it.

While the squash is baking, prep your ingredients and start a large sautee pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, then onion and cook a few minutes until translucent, then add garlic and cook another minute. Add broccoli. Cook, stirring occasionally until broccoli softens, about 5-10 minutes.

When the squash is done, allow to cool and then cut in half long-ways. Scoop out the goop and seeds in the middle and then, using a fork, shred the “meat” by gently scraping it away from the outer skin.

Add spaghetti and cooked chicken to the broccoli mixture and stir to mix well. Squeeze half a lemon and season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and top with fresh basil. For a little heat, add red pepper flakes.

cooking, recipes

Coconut Chicken Curry

plated

Since getting back last week from India… I mean Austin… I think I’ve had curry four times. Why am I confusing Austin and India, you ask? That was my little joke during our long weekend visit with friends, because every day involved something Indian. We were there primarily to see my friend Lauren perform in a Bollywood production – Om Shanthi. Bravo, Lauren! Maybe all that Bollywood energy stuck with us. But the next night we ended up at G’raj Mahal, an Indian restaurant near Rainey Street. And then, the following day, I found myself loading up a plate of curried cauliflower and chickpeas at the Whole Foods on Lamar, which, by the way, also thinks it’s in India – I couldn’t believe the assortment of Indian curries in the to-go food section and naan in the bread aisle. Anyway….

sautee

Curries like this one are on the regular dinner rotation at our house. I’m a big fan of anything that you can cook in one pot and I love using lots of spices. So, Indian food, and actually most cuisines from the eastern hemisphere make regular appearances. We joke about how our future kids’ friends will react when they stay for dinner and then find out we’re having dahl… Iguess I better get working on a back up healthy mac & cheese…

add-kale

Usually when making curry I don’t stick to a particular recipe. I like to change it up and just go with whatever vegetables I have on hand. It’s a great “clean out the fridge” dish or if you’re shopping you can try to save a little and opt for what’s on sale. Serve over brown rice (or enjoy just by itself) add a little cilantro and BOOM!

spices

I’ve been asked if there’s a particular brand of curry powder I prefer, or if I make my own. I don’t have any regular go-to’s really, but as we’ve experimented more and more, it’s sort of fun combining my own spices rather than going off the shelf. The one in this recipe comes from a recipe provided by Dr. Amy Myers from Austin UltraHealth. If anyone out there has a brand or personal blend they swear by, please share!

chopped

This recipe uses butternut squash (I found the cutest little baby one… makes me excited for fall!), celery, green onions and kale. But change it up and use what you like… cauliflower, zucchini, squash, sweet potato, broccoli, carrots… the possibilities are endless. Don’t have that mix of spices? Use a prepared curry powder or paste. Here’s an old vegetable curry recipe from way back when that uses curry powder for another option.

Did I mention this meal has super powers too? The pungent spices – turmeric, cumin and coriander (just to name a few) – in curry have been used medicinally for centuries. Pungents, which are usually lacking in our modern American diet, are drying which should balance out the sweet (considered mucus forming) foods that it’s easy to get some much more of. Think about the last time you had a spicy chili and it left you with a runny nose, clearing your sinuses. The spices really were “drying you out.” Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, teaches that a truly balanced meal should include all six flavors – spicy, sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter – for satisfaction, balance, optimal digestion, health and harmony. It may sound like a tall order for just one meal, but it shows, food is powerful. And when it’s powers are used for good, magic like this happens…

add-chicken

Coconut Chicken Curry

(recipe adapted from Austin UltraHealth’s recipe)

Ingredients:
1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, cut into crescents
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced small
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
2 cups kale, torn and roughly chopped
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into pieces
1 can full fat coconut milk

Directions:
Heat large skillet ove medium heat and add coconut oil. When oil is hot, add onion and garlic and cook until translucent and slightly browned. Add spices and stir to coat onions. Then add squash, celery and green onions and stir to mix well. Pour in water and bring to a boil. Cook until you can pierce squash with a fork. Add kale and continue to cook until wilted. Add chicken and coconut milk and simmer to allow flavors to combine. Add black pepper to taste. Serve as is or over brown rice and topped with cilantro.