Portland Porch Salad

Last weekend was beautiful here.  This weekend looks to be cool and chilly with a good chance of rain.  I’m grateful for the sun we did get, but I’m ready for more!  On the warmest, most beautiful day last week, I decided it was time to move away from the carb-y comfort I’d been instinctively reaching for in favor of something lighter.  Hence the Portland Porch Salad.  Which I did eat on my porch.

Check out my cool countertops.

Close-up.

It was inspired by lettuce wraps of the same name from the Post Punk Kitchen but mine quickly turned into a salad when I realized that I never have and never will be able to gracefully eat a lettuce wrap.  Maybe I’m using the wrong king of lettuce or maybe I just get greedy and overload the poor leaves with filling.  Whatever the reason, I’m much happier heaping everything onto a plate, grabbing a fork, and calling it a day.  I’ll probably be making this again next weekend when the forecast promises us another wave of springtime weather!

Portland Porch Salad
makes 2 huge salads

For the edamame pesto:
– 2 cloves garlic
– 1 cup fresh basil leaves
– 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
– 10 oz package edamame beans, thawed
– juice from 1 lemon
– 2 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
– 1 tsp salt
– water as needed for consistency (I needed about 3/4 cup)

Place all ingredients except water into a food processor or high-powered blender.  Add water a bit at a time until you have a thick but pourable consistency.

For the salad:
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 shallots, thinly sliced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/2 lb asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces on the diagonal
– a handful of cooked chickpeas (or use more, I just had a handful leftover from something else)
– 1 large peach or nectarine
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1-2 cups lettuce per person

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook another minute or two.

Add the asparagus and chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes over medium-high heat.  Add the peach or nectarine and cook until liquid has been released and the whole mixture is bubbly.  Season with salt and remove from heat.

Wash and dry the lettuce, tearing it into bite-sized pieces.  Toss with several tablespoons of edamame pesto (3 or so per serving should work), plate, and top with warm asparagus and peach mixture.

* I added this post to this week’s Wellness Weekend, My Meatless Mondays, Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, and Mix It Up Monday.

Creamy Vegetable Risotto

I made my own broth for this dish by simmering odds and ends from vegetables I had stored in my freezer for about 30 minutes.  I also amped up the savory goodness of the broth by adding a parmesan rind and a 1/2 tsp salt.  If you’re interested in making your own veggie broth, The Kitchn has a great tutorial.  Of course, your favorite pre-made brand will work as well.

Creamy Vegetable Risotto
makes 3 servings

Ingredients
– 3 Tbsp butter, divided
– 1/2 onion, diced
– 2 shallots, finely chopped
– 1 large carrot, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
– 2 cups frozen green beans, thawed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
– 1 cup Arborio rice
– 1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works well), divided
– 5 cups vegetable stock
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, heat broth to a simmer and then turn the burner to low.  You’ll want it to remain warm for when you’re ready to add it to the rice.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add onion and shallots and sautee until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add carrot and green beans and sautee another 10 minutes.  Try not to let the onion get browned.

Increase heat to medium-high and add rice.  Stir constantly for about 3 minutes, until the rice grains are translucent.  Add 3/4 cups wine and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Lower the heat back to medium and begin adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring regularly until most, but not all the liquid is absorbed.  The rice will be tender in about 30 minutes.

Remove risotto from heat and stir in remaining 1/4 cup wine, 1 Tbsp butter, and cheese.  Stir until butter and cheese are melted and fully mixed in.  Serve immediately.

* I added this post to this week’s Full Plate Thursday.

New Breakfast Food: Quinoa Flakes!

Not that I need any new breakfast foods.  All my favorite meals tend to be breakfast-centric: eggs served all kinds of ways, smoothies, oatmeal…I could probably live on those foods and be perfectly happy.  Which is why I was intrigued when I noticed a few fellow bloggers mentioning quinoa flake breakfast bowls.  In the past, I’ve tried making a breakfast-y version of quinoa with all my usual oatmeal toppings but found the result to be less than stellar.  I wasn’t sure that the flakes would be any different but when I noticed them in the bulk section of my food co-op, I decided to give it a try.

And the verdict is…great!  The quinoa flavor was not overpowering at all and texture was super smooth and creamy.  Add all your favorite toppings; you won’t be disappointed.

There was another first involved in making this recipe: stevia.  Maybe you’ve already tried this natural non-caloric sweetener and you either loved it or hated it.  I was leaning more towards hating it (my mouth knows what’s real sugar and what’s not) but I used a bit in this recipe to sweeten it up and actually enjoyed it.  I think the trick is to use a very small amount (I was just looking for a little bit of extra sweetness).  There was also “real” sugar in my bowl from all the strawberries, which may have also helped.

So what do you think about stevia?  Is it a friend or foe?

Quinoa Flake Breakfast Bowl
serves 1

Ingredients
– 1/3 cup quinoa flakes
– 1 Tbsp chia seeds
– 1 Tbsp flax seeds
– 2 Tbsp shredded coconut
– 1 cup chopped strawberries
– 1 cup coconut or almond milk
– 1/2 tsp vanilla
– 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– stevia, to tase

Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.  You may need to add extra milk as the chia seeds absorb liquid.

Toast Points with Onion Marmalade and Chèvre

Hello everyone!  I hope your week is off to a good start.  I wanted to get this post in before my long, long day tomorrow.  I’ll be be up before the sun rises and driving out to the Oregon coast to spend the day providing community health screenings to low-income kids.  Then I’ll be rushing back to Portland, getting dolled up, and letting my wonderful boyfriend take me out to dinner and Cirque du Soleil for my birthday!  That’s right, I’m turning 27 tomorrow.  :)

My life has been such a whirlwind recently, I can hardly believe another year has gone by. At this time last year, I was just learning that I would be going to nursing school (I was so excited!) and Jeremy and I were looking for our first apartment together.  Now, I’m studying for my RN licensure exam and happily settled into a cozy apartment.  My goals for this year are to (1) have a strong final few terms at school, (2) find a job I like, (3) continue experimenting in the kitchen and making regular blog updates, (4) stay physically active, and (5) take a vacation.  A real one.  The feasibility of which depends entirely on my success at goal #2.  It will be exciting to see what this year brings!

But now, on to the food.  This is a recipe I chose based on the fact that I had all the ingredients already available in my kitchen.  I love it when I can find new ways to transform items that otherwise seem commonplace.  For example, that half-loaf of sourdough bread hanging out in my freezer became toast points!  Which is way more exciting than regular toast.  I think the Queen of England probably eats toast points.  And humble yellow onions were magically transformed into rich, sweet onion marmalade.  Topped with crumbled goat cheese, this is a light lunch or appetizer fit for royalty.  Enjoy!

Toast Points with Onion Marmalade and Chèvre
adapted from Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry by Lukas Volger 

For the onion marmalade:
– 2 Tbsp butter
– 3 yellow onions
– 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
– 1 bay leaf
– 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
– 1/2 cup red wine
– 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
– 1/4 tsp salt

Peel the onions and cut in half lengthwise.  Cut halves into thin strips.  If you are like me and likely to cut yourself with the knife given half a chance, just go as thin as you safely can.  Thicker strips may just need to cook a bit longer.

In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, and bay leaves and cook until onions are soft, about 15 minutes.  They should not get too browned at this point.  Add wine, vinegar, and sugar and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15-20 minutes.  Season with salt.

Keep stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
For the toast points:
– 2 pieces of bread per person, I like sourdough
– olive oil

Lightly brush the bread with olive oil on one side.  Toast until just beginning to brown.  Then, cut the toast in half horizontally.  Cut the halves vertically, so that they look like triangles.  Each piece of bread will yield 4 toast points.
To assemble:
– prepared toast points
– prepared onion marmalade
– a few tablespoons chèvre

Spread about a tsp of onion marmalade onto each toast point.  It is quite flavorful, so you don’t need a lot.  Sprinkle with goat cheese to taste.  Serve immediately.

More onion marmalade ideas you might enjoy:
Spicy Red Onion Jam from the Homesick Texan
Grilled Cheese + Onion Marmalade from Urban Baker
Caramelized Onion Jam from Shutterbean (I especially love their brainstorm of what to do with your finished product!)

Espolón Holly

Spring really is here and, with it, my desire to escape the city and play by the river or to just sit on my sunny patio with a cocktail.  I realize that I’ve never posted a cocktail recipe here, and for a good reason: I never make them.  To me, a good mixed drink is some kind of magic, an alchemy that is best left to professionals.  But I got hit with spring fever this week and just couldn’t escape the urge to enjoy a somewhat irresponsible treat (responsibly, of course) at home.

For my maiden voyage into the world of cocktail-making, I wanted a recipe that would yield great reward without a lot of specialized ingredients.  While I love fancy liqueurs and aromatic bitters as much as the next person, I didn’t think it would do to have to buy several expensive bottles of ingredients for one little drink.  So I finally settled on an Espolón Holly, adapted from the Corzo Holly over at Imbibe Magazine.  The only differences between my drink and theirs is that mine has just a teensy bit less sugar and it uses a much more affordable tequila.  Of course, you can use any brand of tequila you would like.  My research pointed me in the direction of Espolón because it seems to be universally liked and is moderately priced.  (This website is great for people who don’t know their way around a liquor store and want to buy good spirits without getting suckered into spending too much money.)

Things I learned while making this cocktail:

1. This is just a really great drink.

2. Do your research before heading to the liquor store.  Make a list of well-reviewed products in your price range to take with you because the selection can be overwhelming if you don’t know your Jose Cuervo from Patrón.

3. A muddler seems like an unnecessary tool.  Until you need one.

4. Is it just me, or are limes really hard to juice?

5. Simple syrup is so easy to make.  Just use a 1:1 ratio with regular sugar and water and mix until the sugar is dissolved.  Presto, you’re a bartender!

6. Cocktails are much more exciting (and photogenic) when they are served in special glassware.  Something to add to my ever-growing list of things to buy when I’m out of school and gainfully employed!

I hope you are enjoying the change of season as much as I am.

Espolón Holly
(tip: an ounce is 2 tablespoons) 

Ingredients
– 1 1/2 oz reposado tequila
– 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
– 3/4 oz simple syrup
– 1/8 oz balsamic vinegar
– 3 fresh strawberries, quartered
– 3 fresh basil leaves

In a shaker, muddle the strawberries and basil leaves until juicy and aromatic.  Add remaining ingredients and shake well with ice.  Strain into a glass and garnish with an extra strawberry.

Almond Flour Brownies (Grain-Free)

I hesitated a little before starting this post.  I’ve noticed a chocolate theme emerging on this blog recently and I don’t want you to think I have a one-track mind.  Except that I do.

And these brownies are capable of satisfying even a die-hard chocoholic’s need.  They’re dense, moist, sweet without being cloying, and, yes, chocolate-y.  The espresso powder gives them a little extra bitter note, which I think contrasts well with the sweetness.  It’s optional, but I highly recommend adding it if you have some.  Eating these reminded me of the brownies of my youth.  Sometime during high school, I discovered Ghirardelli’s double chocolate brownie mix (complete with extra chocolate chips) and came to believe that the best brownies in the world came out of that box.  I’m sure I ate way too many of them, since that’s what high-schoolers do, and I certainly never thought of making my own from scratch.  How far I’ve come!

These are definitely my new go-to.  While they are definitely not healthy in the way that, say, a kale salad is healthy, there are a few things you can do to feel more virtuous about enjoying them:

1. Use grass-fed butter.  I use Kerrygold and, while it’s more expensive than your regular grocery store butter, I believe it’s worth every cent.  Grass-fed butter contains a better ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats.  Americans tend to be overloaded with omega 6’s and this is a good way to help tip the balance in a healthier direction.  Grass-fed butter is also a good source of Vitamins A and K2.  Learn more about why you might want to consider buying grass-fed here.

2. Try palm sugar.  Made from the flowers on coconut trees, palm sugar is a low glycemic sweetener (meaning it won’t cause drastic spikes in your blood sugar) that can be used just like regular sugar.  It’s also rich in vitamins.

3. Make your own almond flour by pulverizing soaked and dehydrated nuts in a food processor.  I talked a little about why I do this here.

You don’t HAVE to do any of these things to make wonderful brownies.  I just figured that I spend so much time researching nerdy health topics that I should pass along some of what I’ve learned.  Either way, I hope you enjoy!

Almond Flour Brownies
makes an 8×8 pan
very slightly adapted from The Wannabe Chef

Ingredients
– 3/4 cup almond flour
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp espresso powder
– 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips, divided
– 1/2 cup butter
– 3/4 cup palm sugar
– 3 eggs
– 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking powder, and espresso powder.

In the microwave or on the stove, melt together 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips and butter.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine palm sugar, eggs and vanilla.

Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients.  If your chocolate mixture is very hot, you may want to wait to add it until the egg mixture has been somewhat incorporated into the flour to avoid cooking the eggs.  Fold in remaining chocolate chips.

Pour batter into an 8×8 pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

* I added this post to this week’s Whole Food Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Real Food Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, and Gluten Free Wednesdays.

Roasted Garlic Lentil Hummus

This was the perfect snack to get me through the week.  Drizzled with olive oil and served with carrot sticks (or other favorite veggies!), it’s a healthy treat packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats.  This was my first time making hummus from lentils and it ended up being much creamier than the recipes for chickpea hummus that I have tried.  This method is excellent for the home cook who does not have an industrial-grade blender or food-processor to deal with the somewhat tough skins on chickpeas.

Perfectly creamy.

Mmmm garlic.

I soaked the lentils overnight to help increase their digestibility.  This is not completely necessary, but good to do if you have the time.  I also ended up getting the perfect hummus texture without adding any oil.  To add some healthy fats to my snack, I drizzled each serving of hummus with a healthy dose of olive oil.  This really took the taste over the top, too.  Give it a try!

Roasted Garlic Lentil Hummus
adapted from The Tasty Alternative

Ingredients
– 1 cup red lentils, soaked overnight
– 1/4 cup tahini
– juice from half a lemon
– 1 head of roasted garlic (instructions here)
– 1/2 tsp salt
– olive oil, if needed for texture and/or for drizzling

Drain and rinse red lentils.  Put in a large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Cook for about 20 minutes, until very tender.

In a blender or food processor, add lentils, tahini, lemon, garlic, and salt.  Blend for several minutes, scraping down sides as necessary.  If the texture is too thick, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and try again.

Serve drizzled with olive oil and with your favorite vegetable crudités.

* I added this post to this week’s Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Weekend Gourmet, Fat Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, and Monday Mania.

Perfect Weekday Eggs

I love eggs for breakfast.  They’re one of the only things that can actually keep me from getting hungry before lunch and there is an endless number of ways to prepare them.  I’m especially attached to scrambles that are bursting with veggies.  The only problem is that I’m often very crunched for time during weekday mornings (snooze button, anyone?) and the washing, chopping, and sautéing needed for a proper scramble is just not going to happen…enter the perfect weekday eggs.

With just a tiny bit of prep during the weekend, a plate of delicious scrambled eggs is less than 5 minutes away.  Seriously.  You can time it.  I’ll provide a recipe for you to try out, but really, the perfect weekday eggs are more of a method.  When you have a little extra free time in the kitchen, pull out your food processor and puree some scramble-worthy vegetables and olive oil.  I used a tomato, shallot, and parsley but I think mushrooms, zucchini, and/or spinach would be other good options.  Store the concoction in the fridge and use it as the base for your scrambled eggs when you’re in a hurry.  As a bonus, I found that this method yields consistently nice, soft scrambled eggs (as opposed to those dry, overcooked bits you might get when you’re rushing to get out the door and trying to multi-task…oops.)  I’m not sure why this is, but I’ll take it.

And now, off to hit the books!  Let me know how this turns out, especially if you use other vegetables.  I want to hear about possible new combinations!

Perfect Weekday Eggs
serves 1-4

For the vegetables:
– 1 roma tomato, seeded
– 1 shallot
–  1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1/4 tsp cumin

Pulse all ingredients in the food processor until pureed.  Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days.

For the scramble:
– 2 eggs per person, lightly beaten
– 1/8 to 1/4 cup vegetable puree per person
– goat cheese (optional)

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add vegetable puree and heat until sizzling, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs and cook, stirring constantly, until scrambled, 2-3 more minutes.  Top with goat cheese and serve immediately.
* This post is part of this week’s Gluten-Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Spelt Banana Bread (No added sugar or oil)

My long and leisurely spring break is coming to a close and it would be a tragedy if I didn’t get some baking in before classes begin again.  This wholesome banana bread is sure to keep me happy during my long day in the classroom tomorrow.

Especially if it's slathered in coconut butter.

My spring break was decidedly laid-back.  No beach vacations for this girl.  I stayed in Portland for some quality reading and kitchen time.  Other highlights include: my sister coming to visit (all the way from Ft. Worth, TX), a day of walking around in the sun and shopping with some girlfriends, game night, and seeing an AMAZING show with the bands Onuinu and Yacht.  (My boyfriend produced and mixed Onuinu’s record and plays drums in the live show…so of course I like them.  As for Yacht, I have never seen a show like theirs.  They are from outer space.  In a good way.)

But back to the banana bread.  I like this recipe because all of its sweetness comes from the bananas.  It’s got no added sugar, no oil, and it’s whole grain.  And it’s vegan, if that matters to you.  I hope you enjoy!

Spelt Banana Bread
makes 1 loaf
adapted from GB&J

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
– 1/2 cup almond flour
– 1/3 cup rolled oats
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 cup coconut milk (or other type of your choice)
– 5 ripe bananas (the riper they are, the sweeter the bread will be)
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp almond extract
– 1/4 cup almond butter
– 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
– 1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, mix together flours, oats cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, mash the bananas well and mix in the vanilla and almond extracts, and the almond butter.  Alternatively, you can give all those ingredients a whirl in the food processor or blender.  I used my Vitamix, which was incredibly easy.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry just until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Pour batter into a loaf pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.

* I added this post to this week’s Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Monday Mania, Real Food 101, and Make Your Own Monday.