Blueberry Flax Oatmeal (No Sugar Added)

This recipe is easy peasy, but I think you’ll be surprised at how happy it will make you.  It’s my new favorite way to eat oatmeal and, as far as I’m concerned, it needs no extra sweetness beyond what’s provided by the blueberries.  The trick is to be generous with the fruit and to allow it to cook and soften into the oats.  Check your lips for blueberry stains that suspiciously resemble wine stains before heading out the door for work.  Just sayin’.

Last night, Jeremy and I celebrated our anniversary with dinner at a fancy french restaurant (ooh la la), dessert at one of our favorite neighborhood spots, and roses.  It was a good night and a nice way to launch into the week.  I hope you all had equally lovely weekends!

Blueberry Flax Oatmeal
serves 1

– 1/4 cup steel cut oats, soaked overnight at room temperature (or you could just start with rolled oats in the morning)
– 1 cup frozen blueberries
– 1/2 – 3/4 cup coconut milk (or your favorite type of milk)
– 1 Tbsp ground flax seed

1. If you soaked your oats overnight, rinse them off and add to a small saucepan with coconut milk.

2.  Bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  After oats seem to be well-softened, add blueberries.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until blueberries are cooked through and soft.

3.  Pour into a bowl and top with flax seed.


Sunny Avocado Salad with Chive Dressing

Even though it’s still only February, I’m beginning to feel spring poking its head around the corner.  The sun is coming out for at least 15 minutes every day and I’ve noticed tulips pushing their stems out of the ground already.  I even saw a couple purple irises in bloom yesterday!  I’m certainly not naive enough to believe that winter is fully behind us, but I’m starting to dream about the summer days ahead.

I made this salad to fuel my optimism.  The light, green colors are perfect for looking ahead to the coming season but the ingredients are still readily available in season.  You don’t have to buy tomatoes flown in from Mexico to put some spring in your step (apologies for the pun).

In other news, I’m looking forward to a relatively lazy weekend of drinking coffee at home, reading for class, and looking out the window at the sun that peeks out now and then.  Tonight, Jeremy and I are going to a record release party for an album that he mixed.  Perfect.

Sunny Avocado Salad with Chive Dressing
makes 2 large salads
adapted from The Alkaline Sisters

For the salad:
– 1 crisp head of butter lettuce, cut in half
– 1/2 avocado
– 2 Tbsp sunflower seed

For the dressing:
–  2 Tbsp olive oil
– juice from half a lemon
– 1/4 tsp sea salt
– 1/4 tsp tamari
– 1/4 avocado
– 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds, soaked for 15 minutes
– 4 Tbsp water
– 2 Tbsp fresh chives

1.  Blend all dressing ingredients until smooth.

2.  Arrange 1/2 head of lettuce on each plate, spoon dressing over it, and then garnish with avocado and sunflower seeds.  Use a knife to cut it up as you eat.

* I added this post to Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Weekend Gourmet, Real Food 101, and Monday Mania.

Raw Apple Chips

During the week, I usually feel like the length of my “to do” list and the amount of time I have available just don’t match up.  This week is no exception.  There’s a pile of reading and homework that somehow just didn’t quite get done over the long weekend, a bit of a mess happening in my apartment, and some added stress related to spending my first week on a pediatrics rotation at the hospital.  On the bright side, I’ve learned that I like working with kids! (I haven’t spent much time around the youngun’s and so I really had no idea of what to expect.)  It’s their parents that can be hard to handle.

Just kidding.

Not really.

What does this have to do with raw apple chips?  Well, I think they are a perfect snack food, whether I’m trying to give myself a reward for doing ALL of my reading for class or trying to calm my rumbling stomach during a busy day of patient care.  They’re also a great way to be able to buy lots of apples when they’re on sale and preserve them for later.  I was lucky enough to have gotten a dehydrator from Jeremy for Christmas and these are the treat I’ve used it for most often.  If I top them with cinnamon, they make the whole apartment smell warm and festive as they’re drying.

There isn’t so much a recipe as a method.  Cut your apples in half, remove the core and seeds, and cut into thin slices (probably about 1/8 inch thick).  Place slices close together on your dehydrator sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.  If you want them to be technically raw, you’ll have to keep the dehydration temperature at under 115 degrees F and you’ll let them go overnight.  You can speed up the process by starting at a higher temperature (145 degrees F or so) for an hour and then reducing to the “raw” temperature.    Store in an airtight container.

* I added this post to this week’s Fresh Bites Friday, Wellness Weekend, and Fight Back Friday.

Peanut Butter Spelt Cookies

Whenever I make cookies at home, I run into a big problem…I end up with a lot of cookies at home.  And I just haven’t figured out how not to eat way too many when they are just over there on the counter.  Calling my name.  Maybe I’ll get the hang of it when I’m a real grown-up.  But for now, I have to resort to sneakier methods of self-control such as (1) giving most of the batch away, (2) putting half of them in the freezer where instant gratification is less of an option (frozen cookies just don’t have the same siren call), or (3) making cookies that only contain ingredients that I would put into a healthy snack.  These fall into the last category.

My favorite part of these crumbly, sweet, and salty treats is that they are made with whole grain spelt flour, which is a good source of fiber, manganese, copper, and zinc.  My second favorite part is that it contains Grade B maple syrup as the sweetener instead of refined sugar.  Also, the ingredients list is simple and to the point.  They’re on the small side, so you can eat two and say that it only counts as one.  And they’re vegan, in case you’re looking to cut animal products.  I like to think of these as my all-of-the-satisfaction-with-none-of-the-guilt-peanut-butter-cookies.  But that’s too much of a mouthfull.

Before baking

And after. Hey, there's some sunlight in this picture! Thanks, Portland!

Peanut Butter Spelt Cookies
makes about 4 dozen small cookies
adapted from Green Kitchen Stories

– 2 cups whole grain spelt flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp sea salt
– 1 cup natural peanut butter
– 1/3 cup tahini
– 1/2 cup maple syrup
– 1/3 cup walnut oil (you could use olive oil here instead)
– 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly grease 2-3 baking sheets.  If you are using non-stick baking sheets, you probably don’t need to grease them.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.  In a separate large bowl, mix peanut butter, tahini, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla extract until well-combined.

3. Add peanut butter mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined.  The dough will be quite soft.  Drop dough by the tablespoon-full onto your baking sheets and lightly press down with the back of a fork.  It helps to get the fork a little wet occasionally to keep it from sticking.

4. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  They may seem a little under baked when you remove them from the oven but they will seem less doughy when they cool.

* I added this post to this week’s Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Whole Food Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, and Hearth and Soul Hop.

My Kombucha!

My days of buying $3 bottles of deliciously addictive kombucha are over!  Now that I’ve learned how easy it is to make my own, I’m not going back.  You see, about a month ago I bought a kombucha starter kit for Jeremy and myself: (1) as a fun thing for us to try together and (2) because it was getting to the point where he was buying a bottle nearly every day.  That adds up.  The kit cost $18 dollars and included a SCOBY (stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast…yum?), a huge ginger pear tea bag, enough organic sugar for the first batch, and detailed instructions.  I also had to buy a gallon-sized glass jar.

I ended up with about 7 bottles-worth of kombucha, which would normally cost $21 dollars!  So I pretty much broke even on the first batch.  Future batches just require extra tea bags and sugar.

The verdict?  Delicious.  The only downside is that each batch takes about a month, so I’ve got to be patient 🙂

Here are kombucha-making instructions as I understand them:

1. Get a SCOBY.  They are sometimes also referred to as “mothers”.  This is what makes the kombucha magic happen.  You can buy them in kits, like I did, or ask for a piece from someone who’s already on the kombucha train.

2. Bring a gallon (16 cups) of water to a boil on the stove.  Add 8-10 tea bags.  You can use black, green, or herbal teas.  Brew tea according to package instructions, being careful not to over-brew black and green tea as this will make it bitter.

3. Add 1 cup of sugar and dissolve.  This is what my kombucha-making kit recommends, but I might decrease the amount a bit for future batches.  The sugar is important to feed the SCOBY and the final product will contain less sugar than you’d think because the SCOBY will digest a lot of it.  I’m just trying to figure out what works for my tastebuds right now.

4. Pour the tea into a very clean gallon-sized glass jar and cover with a clean cloth.  Remember, this is going to sit out at room temperature for up to a month and so you really want to avoid any bad bacteria growth.  My understanding is that the SCOBY helps to fend off bacteria growth but I’ve seen people end up with moldy kombucha batches before.  You’ll know it’s bad mold if it’s powdery, dusty, or a different color than your SCOBY.  Cover the jar with a clean cloth so that the kombucha can breath.

5. Let the tea come to room temperature.  This can take a couple of hours but don’t put the SCOBY into too-hot liquid.  You don’t want to fry the little guys!  Once it’s cool, add the SCOBY, cover with a clean cloth attached with a rubber band, and find a spot for it to hang out for 2-4 weeks.  The ideal spot would be warm (maybe close to a heater vent) and out of the way so you can avoid getting weird looks from visitors.  The longer it sits, the less sweet and the more “vinegary” it will get.  We like ours on the vinegary side so we went for 4 weeks.

6.  Enjoy your kombucha and share pieces of your now fully-grown SCOBY with friends!

In other news, today was the perfect Saturday.  It was the beginning of my 3-day weekend, meaning that schoolwork pressure was off!  I went to an amazing yoga class this morning, baked some peanut butter cookies (recipe forthcoming!), walked the dog, and cleaned the apartment and went shopping with Jeremy.  Now it’s 8:30 at night, so I guess I could get started with some reading for class…

Does anyone else out there make their own kombucha?  Are there any flavor combinations or techniques I should try next?

* I added this post to the Weekend Gourmet, Real Food 101, Gluten-Free WednesdayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways, and Monday Mania.

Herb-Crusted Cod Fillets and Scalloped Potatoes

Why is cooking fish such a scary undertaking?  I don’t know about you, but for me there’s something kind of intimidating about creating a meal that highlights a delicate, flaky piece of fish.  Seafood just seems a bit more gourmet than my everyday fare and when I do decide to cook it, I feel the pressure to make it right.  And that is exactly what I did with this Herb-Crusted Cod.  It came together in no time and was delicious with a side of buttery scalloped potatoes.  It tasted like a fancy, slaving-over-a-hot-stove kind of meal but was actually more of a weeknight, 30-minute success (not promising you can make this is under 30 minutes…I am the world’s slowest chopper of vegetables and so I always take recipe prep time information with a grain of salt).

If you decide to make both of these recipes for dinner (and I suggest you do!), I would suggest that you start by prepping the potatoes and the topping for the fish.  Then, you can start cooking the potatoes, assemble the fish, and let them finish in the oven together.  I used wild alaskan true cod because it was reasonably priced and came in nicely sized fillets.  I think this recipe would work with just about any fish you like, but you might have to adjust the cooking time.  I’d love to see how it turns out with salmon!

Herb-Crusted Cod
serves 4

– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1/2 cup almond flour (coarsely ground, if you’re making your own)
– 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
– 4 small garlic cloves, minced
– 1/2 tsp cayenne
– salt and pepper, to taste
– 4 skinless cod fillets

1. Preheat the oven to 450.  Lightly grease a baking pan.

2. In a food processor, combine oil, almond flour, parsley, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Pulse until you have a course mixture.

3. Place the cod fillets in the baking pan and sprinkle with almond flour mixture.  Press down a bit to make it stick as much as possible.

4. Bake in the oven until the tops are lightly browned and fish is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately

Scalloped Potatoes
serves 4

– 2 Tbsp butter, melted
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 1/2 lb Yukon gold potatoes
– salt and pepper, to taste
– 1/3 cup grated swiss cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 450.

2. Use a mandoline to thinly slice the potatoes.  In a large bowl, toss with about half the butter and the olive oil.

3. Heat the remaining butter in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.  Place a layer of overlapping potato slices in the skillet to cover the bottom.

4. Toss the remaining potatoes with grated swiss cheese.  Add to the skillet, press down with a spatula, and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat.

5. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, until the top begins to brown.  Cut into slices and serve.

* I added this post to this week’s Melt in Your Mouth MondayHearth and Soul HopFat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesdays, Whole Foods Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesday, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Man-Friendly Dinner: Lemony Leek and Mushroom Pasta

What do you get when you cross a quinoa and green-smoothie loving lady with a guy who has more…uh, traditional tastes?  You get a hard time agreeing on what’s for dinner.  And sometimes a little peace offering is in order.  You see, I started noticing that Jeremy would get a very worried look on his face (panic, maybe) whenever I came through the front door announcing that I had bought groceries for dinner.  His nonchalant question, “What are you making?” masked a desperate search for an exit strategy.  Turns out, not everyone thinks roasted beets and sweet potatoes are an awesome dinner option.

I’ve decided that I need to earn back his trust a bit by making a few dinners that I’m sure he’ll enjoy.  They may not live up to my weirdo health-nut standards (I’m trying to dial back the carbs…this dinner was a carb-lover’s paradise), but seeing his empty plate was its own reward.  Luckily for me, Jeremy does like mushrooms, especially shiitakes.  I piled them on in this dish to amp up the superfood content.  And I served it with a side of buttery garlic bread to underline my good intentions.

Lemony Leek and Mushroom Pasta
serves 2

– 3 leeks, washed and finely sliced (white an light green parts only)
– 3/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced
– 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– salt and pepper, to taste
– juice from 1 lemon
– toasted and chopped walnuts, for serving
– finely chopped parsley, for serving
– 1/2 lb linguine pasta

1.  Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Drain, rinse with cool water, and set aside.

2.  Heat butter or oil in a large pan.  Add leeks, mushrooms, and garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.

3.  Turn heat to low and add lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Toss with noodles until heated through.

4.  Top with walnuts and parsley, if desired.