Vegetable-Packed Miso Soup

Today, I needed to take a break of all the holiday indulgences I’ve been enjoying.  They’ve been impossible to avoid.  I baked my first pie this week, the break room at work has been littered with cookies and candy, and yesterday we got a package in the mail straight from Jeremy’s mom in Georgia with southern-style holiday treats.  I recently heard that the average American gains 1-2 pounds during the holiday season each year.  Which doesn’t sound like a lot…except that most of us never lose it again.  Add that up over the course of a few decades and you’ve got a pretty sizeable problem.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to sit here and tell you to deprive yourself of all the sweetness that the holiday season brings.  I am the worst (THE WORST!) at staying away from tempting goodies.  For me, the best solution is to load up on healthy foods when I can so that I’m simply not that hungry when I’m faced with items that don’t fit into my healthy eating plan.  Yeah, I’ll still eat them, but I’ll have smaller portions.

photo

This soup, with its nourishing veggies and umami-filled broth is a good way to step back from the holiday fray…so you’ll be even more ready to fully enjoy that holiday meal.  I used bonito flakes in the broth for a more authentic miso flavor.  You can find them at a well-stocked asian grocery store, but feel free to substitute low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (the miso and soy sauce will add plenty of their own saltiness at the end).

Miso Soup with Vegetables
makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
– 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
– 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
– 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
– 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
– 6 cups water
– 2 cups lightly packed bonito flakes
– 3 carrots, halved and sliced
– 2 heads baby bok choy, thinly sliced
– 1 block medium-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
– 3 Tbs miso paste
– soy sauce, to taste

1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic, cook 1 minute longer.

2. Add water.  Place bonito flakes in a mesh container (I used a nut-milk bag) and immerse in the water to steep.  You just want to be able to remove the flakes once they’ve imparted their flavor.  Add carrots and white sections of bok choy and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Lower heat and remove bonito flakes.  Add leafy sections of bok choy and stir until wilted.  Add tofu.

4. Ladle some broth into a bowl and add miso paste.  Stir until miso has dissolved and return to stock pot.  Taste and add soy sauce, if desired.

Power Lunch: Turkey, Veggie, and Brown Rice Bowls

You guys, sh*t is gettin’ real over here.  How real?  Well, my gorgeous diploma for my B.S. in Nursing came in the mail yesterday, my NCLEX (that’s the nursing licensure exam) is 2 weeks away, and I had my first job interview this week!  I have been losing myself in daydreams about how much I want this job.  It’s a resource position, which means I would get to fill in for other nurses on vacation, sick days, or family leave, and it’s at one of the best hospitals in the state.  I’ll be hearing back next week and am excited/terrified!

In the meantime, I’ve been truly enjoying my unemployed-cation.  I have time to cook most of my meals at home, have been going on long walks with my dog, and I’m catching up on Homeland just in time for Season 2.

Even if you are working a 9-to-5, this power lunch bowl would be an easy and energy-boosting work take-a-long.  Just sauté your ingredients over the weekend (make enough for several days to save time), cook some rice, and you’ll have an envy-inducing lunch on Monday.  The protein from the turkey and the fiber from the brown rice will keep you satisfied for hours.  Which is also a plus for a homebody like me whose kitchen is only steps away.

Turkey, Veggie, and Brown Rice Bowls
makes 2 servings

- 1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
– 1/2 lb ground turkey
– 1/2 tsp chili powder
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
– 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
– salt, to taste
– 1/2 avocado sliced

Cook turkey and spices in a large skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, peppers, and about a pinch of salt.  Cook for another 7-10 minutes until peppers are tender.  Serve over 1/4 cup warm rice topped with 1/4 avocado.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Ok, so my first week of “freedom” from school has been much less productive than I had anticipated.  I am coming to the conclusion that the internet is an evil dementor (Harry Potter reference, sorry) and is sucking my life away.  I love having information and ideas right at my fingertips, but sometimes accessibility cheapens things.  Does that make sense?  My brain has been retrained to flit from one webpage to another, not to quietly enjoy a morning coffee or spend an hour wrapped up in a book.  I’ve only recently come to this realization and have not yet decided what to do (or even if anything must be done).

Do any of you have the same problem?  Have you done anything about it?

Ok, enough with randomness.  On to food!

I made these sloppy joes for my vegetarian boyfriend and we both loved them.  The chipotle peppers and barbecue sauce added a lovely, smoky flavor and the combination of black beans and edamame kept the filling from being too heavy.  I promised Jeremy that I would start repeating some of his favorite recipes (I’m guilty of never doing the same thing twice…possibly a manifestation of internet-induced attention deficit?) and this one is going in the regular rotation.  Enjoy it with seasonal veggies or oven-fries.

Find the recipe here at Vegetarian Times online.  The only change I made was not to bother with low-fat barbecue sauce or cheese.

While I’m at it, I might as well link to another comfort food recipe I’ve been loving this week.  The BEST rice pudding from Gilt Taste.  Don’t do like I did and decide that the 1/4 cup rice to 3 cups milk ratio is wrong.  It’s right.  Next time, I will trust them completely.  :)

* I added this post to this week’s Fresh Bites Friday.

Welcoming Fall with Sweet Potatoes

I spend a lot of time in the summer dreading the fall.  Warm, sunny weather in the Pacific Northwest is a rarity and I truly do hate to see it go.  But now that cooler days have set in, I’ve remembered that I actually like wearing scarves and sweaters, using the fireplace, and making crock-pot dinners.  I also love sweet potatoes.

Even for breakfast.

These are perfect alongside some local grass-fed goat sausages.  I made enough for a few days and then breakfast was just a few microwave buttons away.

Cumin Roasted Sweet Potatoes
serves 3-4
adapted from September 2012’s Vegetarian Times 

Ingredients
– 3 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
– 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
– 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
– 2 tsp cumin
– 1 tsp paprika

Preheat oven to 425F.  Toss all ingredient in a large baking dish until vegetables are well coated.  Roast for about 45 minutes, until fork-tender, stirring halfway through.

I added this post to this week’s Full Plate ThursdayThriving on ThursdaysWhole Foods Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Allergy Free WednesdayFat Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Cast Party Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Traditional Tuesday, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Summer Squash Sauté with Goat Cheese

Hello!  I feel like I should apologize for my long absence.  In the last several weeks, real life has trumped cyber life and I decided it would be best to wait until things settled down before getting back into the kitchen and on dishesanddishes.  There was the wrap-up of my final term in nursing school, graduation(!), a visit from my parents, and a trip up to beautiful Orcas Island off the coast of Washington.

The view from outside our hotel.

The San Juan islands are amazing.

On the ferry to Orcas.

Even Dan got to enjoy his favorite activity.

I’ve been catching up on sleep, reinstating some self-care (hello exercise and yoga!), and working through the process of getting my nursing license and looking for jobs.  I tend to shy away from instability and uncertainty and so I’m sure these next few months of battling it out in a tough job market and seeing what turns up will be a real learning process for me.  The up-side of unemployment?  I have time to cook.  :)

Yay cast-iron!

My mom gave me a cast-iron skillet as a graduation gift and a used it for the first time with this simple sauté of crookneck squash, red onions, spinach, and goat cheese.  It was a delicious side dish and the perfect answer to the end-of-summer’s glut of squash.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

How do you deal with change?  Do you welcome it or dread it? 

Summer Squash Sauté with Goat Cheese
makes 6 servings
inspired by Happyolks taco version

Ingredients
– 1 tsp olive oil
– 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
– 3 crookneck squash, cubed
– 1 tsp red wine vinegar
– 1 tsp dijon mustard
– a few handfuls of spinach
– 2 oz goat cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add squash, increase heat to medium-high, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Stir in red wine vinegar and mustard until well incorporated.  Add spinach and stir for another minute, just until wilting.  Remove pan from heat and crumble goat cheese over vegetables.  Toss a few times and serve warm.

* I shared this post with this week’s Superfood Sunday and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

My oh my, I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I put up my last recipe.  Between wrapping things up for graduation (I finish in 2 weeks!) and lying in pools my own sweat (ew) in my hot apartment, I’ve been seriously lacking in energy lately.  I tend to believe that there are few problems a good helping of nutrition can’t solve…does anyone have any good tips for breaking out of a low-energy slump?  If so, I’d love to hear them.

Because of the recent temperatures and my unfortunate lack of air-conditioning, I’ve been focusing on creating meals that require little, if any, cooking, baking, or boiling.  While this one does not completely fit that mold, it comes pretty close and the leftovers kept me happy for days.  I even ate a few servings for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

This recipe was inspired by a similar one from Whipped.  I changed the ingredients based on what I had in my kitchen and I omitted the mozzarella because…well, I was dealing with the discovery that I now have cellulite on my thighs.  I really recommend taking an extra few minutes to make the pickled cherry tomatoes.  They provide amazing little bursts of flavor and are easy to make.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
makes 8 servings
adapted from Whipped

Ingredients
– 1/2 cup quinoa
– 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
– 1 cup diced zucchini (about 1/2 large)
– 1 ear corn, kernel removed
– 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
– 2 handfuls spinach, roughly chopped
– 1 cup pickled tomatoes (see recipe below)
– 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
– salt, to taste

Start by pickling the cherry tomatoes.  They will need at least an hour for the flavors to come together.

In a large bowl, toss vegetables together.  Drizzle with oil and vinegar and toss again.  Finish with a sprinkle of salt.

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Plate to Plate

Ingredients
– 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
– 3/4 cup water
– 4 tsp salt
– 2 tsp sugar
– a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
– 2 garlic cloves, gently crushed
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix vinegar, water, salt, and sugar together until salt and sugar are dissolved. Mix the halved tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Pack gently into a glass jar and pour vinegar mixture over until covered.  Replace the lid, give it a few good shakes, and leave it at room temperature for 1-3 hours.

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

* I shared this link with this week’s Fat Tuesday and Traditional Tuesday.

Smart Cookies (with protein!)

I go back and forth on the whole concept of protein powder.  Sure, it’s an easy add-in for the morning smoothie and it can help keep me satiated until lunch.  BUT, protein powders are expensive, often contain unnatural ingredients, and can taste like, well, butt.  So lately I’ve been choosing to avoid them and to rely on eggs, nuts, meats, and raw milk for my protein.  In the meantime, a very expensive bag of protein powder has been wasting away in my cupboard.

This is the Vanilla SunWarrior Warrior Blend protein.  I bought it after trying a free sample and I thought I was in love.  When my whole 2 pound bag came in the mail, though, I found that my tastebuds had done a complete switch.  I found it to be just tolerable and, a few weeks later, not even that.  By the time I was halfway through the bag, I hated the stuff.  And so we’ve been at an impasse, with me unable to either consume it or throw it away (I figure there’s a good $20 worth of product still in that bag!).  BTW, I’m not trying to point out SunWarrior as having a worse-than-average product.  Based on the online reviews, it seems that most people love it…just a matter of taste.

This long story is to tell you that  these cookies finally vindicated my purchase.  When baked into these hearty cookies, I find the Warrior Blend to be absolutely amazing.  It lends a nice, sweet vanilla flavor and plenty of healthy staying power.  Next time I make these, I may even increase the amount of protein and decrease the whole wheat flour, just to see what I end up with.  Use your favorite (or maybe least favorite) brand and whip these up for quick breakfasts or snacks.

Have you ever found a way to repurpose something that was languishing in your cupboards?

Smart Cookies
makes 12-15 large cookies
adapted from Blissful Bites

Ingredients:
– 1/4 cup coconut oil
– 1/4 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
– 2 Tbsp peanut butter
– 1/4 cup honey
– 1 egg
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1/2 tsp almond extract
– 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder (I used Warrior Blend)
– 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
– 1/2 cup dried cherries
– 1/4 hazelnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.  Beat oil, milk, peanut butter, honey, egg, and vanilla and almond extracts until smooth.  Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and protein.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Fold in oats, cherries, and hazelnuts.

Form cookies with large scoops of dough and place them on a nonstick baking sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.