Monday, July 25, 2011

Lazy Girl Tostadas

I, um, think I may have mentioned that time is of the essence these days.  There are thank-you cards to write, logistics to coordinate, and all manner of week-before-the-wedding things to do.  I've been whipping up fast, easy (read: lazy) meals that satisfy my need for good food while not putting a huge dent in the time budget, and these tostadas -- which I also tend to cook when I'm homesick and missing good Mexican food -- are the perfect fast but healthy go-to meal.

Lazy Girl Tostadas

Two corn tortillas
Cheddar cheese -- or, for vegan friends, Daiya cheddar cheeze (how much you use depends on how much of a cheese fanatic you are!)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 Cup cooked black beans
1/4 Cup cooked brown rice
1/3 Cup frozen Southwest vegetable blend (onions and red and green peppers)
1/2 Tablespoon cumin
1/4 Tablespoon garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan; once hot, saute the peppers and onions until thawed and warm.

Meanwhile, put the cheese/cheeze on top of the tortillas, and place under the oven broiler (I'd either do this on a cookie sheet or, if you're really lazy like I am and can't handle the idea of doing dishes, a sheet of tin foil).

Back to the stovetop while the tortillas crisp-ify and the cheese melts!  Add the cooked beans and rice, cumin, and garlic to the pepper and onion mix.  Saute until everything is well-blended and hot.

Once the cheese is melted and the tortillas are hot, pull them out and scoop the beans/rice/pepper mixture on top.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I Ate Wednesday: The "OMFG I Have 8 Million Things To Do Before I Leave" Version

You know how, just before you leave for vacation, you realize that you have approximately 2 thousand things you have to do before you'll be ready to go?  That's where I am right now, only it's amplified by the fact that the wedding is in 10 days.  Weddings, it turns out, have a lot of last-minute logistics involved (when is the cake being dropped off?  Who'll be there to pick it up?  What time do we need to pick up the marriage license?  Why are there no gnomes who can do all this while simultaneously cleaning the apartment?).  Whoda thunk?

Since my to-do list is a) approximately as long as my arm, and b) about to spawn baby lists, I'm relying heavily on quick meals until after we get back from Colorado.  My entry for this week's WIAW, hosted by the fabulous Jenn at Peas & Crayons, features many such quick fixes -- so if you're pressed for time too, hopefully this will give you some useful ideas.

Since I get up at 5:35 to do some circuit training before going to work (only 25 minutes, so it's not too hardcore), I reeeeaaaallly need some caffeine inspiration before I can even think of getting my heart rate up.  Solution:  chai with almond milk.

O caffeine gods, how I love thee.
I usually eat breakfast at work (and then a snack...and then lunch...and then more snacks), so I usually load up my lunch bag before leaving the apartment.  I've totally gotten weird looks on the Metro before for schlepping in with a bag full of food for an 8-hour work day.  Hey, I'm a hungry girl.

The weird amalgamation of stuff in the upper right-hand corner is spinach, brown rice, and some cumin.  I usually mix that with the black bean soup in the upper left-hand corner, and then I can feel all virtuous and whatnot about getting loads of protein, healthy carbs, iron, and dark leafy greens in one sitting.  ;)

I'm usually hungry again shortly after getting home from work, and since it's hot as hell outside today, I decided to keep dinner light and go with my favorite salad.

Salad O' Awesome:
1 Cup chopped romaine lettuce
1/8 Cup slivered red onion
1/2 Cup sliced strawberries
1/4 Cup chickpeas
Annie's Naturals Papaya Poppyseed dressing, to taste

I was, um, STILL HUNGRY after two bowls of this, but I ran out of ingredients after the second serving -- so I resorted to fresh fruit.  (I know, I know.  It's a rough life when one has to resort to fresh fruit.  Le sigh.)  Dessert, woe is I, was two white nectarines and one fresh apricot, chopped up and topped with Coconut Bliss.

Now, about that to-do list...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Uber Fast Garlic & Lemon Lentils and Rice

Back when I lived in Colorado, I had a fabulous acupuncturist whom I adored.  Among the many things about her that I loved was her method of first trying to cure various ailments with food – whether she was recommending specific foods or suggesting that something be eliminated from my diet, she consistently looked to food as the first step towards healing. 
Given my contentious relationship with my stomach, she often recommended that I occasionally eat lightly sautéed spinach with olive oil and lemon juice to help calm my gallbladder.  (I have absolutely no idea how this works, but it totally does.)  So, when I found myself thinking about tonight’s dinner menu and suddenly developed a hankering for something – anything, really – involving sautéed spinach with olive oil and lemon, I figured I’d heed the message.  I’m a big fan of listening to my body, particularly its cravings – I mean really, it’s not like I crave Snickers bars the size of 18-wheelers and oil drums filled with cherry Coke – and I’m a proponent of the theory that those cravings are my body’s way of trying to tell me what nutrients I need most.
So, when faced with this specific hankering, it seemed like a pretty good craving to satiate.  I also needed something that could cook while I went running, so I relied on one of the most heavily used appliances in my kitchen arsenal: my old ally, the rice cooker.  (My Betrothed got it for me for Christmas last year, and given that I use it all the effing time, I think it was a good investment.)  I put sprouted brown rice and sprouted green lentils into the rice cooker with a boullion cube, pressed ON, and scooted my butt out the door.
When I got back, only one step was left: sauteeing some garlic and spinach.  That takes, like, two seconds, so I was happily feeding within minutes.  I was ludicrously hungry by that point, so I'm pretty sure I looked like a Conehead while eating dinner...
Uber Fast Garlic & Lemon Lentils and Rice
1/2 C Sprouted (or regular) brown rice
1/2 C Sprouted (or regular) green lentils
1 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped (you can use more or less to suit your taste -- garlic is my homie, so I use a lot of it.)
1 fresh lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the lentils and rice into a rice cooker with 3 C water or vegetable broth.  (You can also do this in a regular heavy-bottomed pot.  The ratio of liquid to dry is 2:1, but I've worked with thirsty ingredients before -- so adding an extra 1/4 C of liquid isn't unheard of.)  If using boullion, I used an Edward & Sons low sodium vegetable broth cube, and it was perfect.  Cook the lentils and rice until tender and fluffy.
Once the lentils and rice are ready, put 2 tablespoons olive oil into a pan and place over medium-high heat.  While waiting for the pan to heat, finely chop the garlic.  Once the pan is hot, add the garlic and saute until caramelized. Spoon the garlic into a separate bowl to remove from heat.  Next saute the spinach until it's wilted -- about 1-2 minutes -- with a small bit of olive oil.
Spoon the lentils and rice into a bowl, and top with the garlic and sauteed spinach.  Squeeze 1/2 fresh lemon (or to taste) over the whole thing, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with lemon, and inhale your food.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tropical Banana Soft Serve

My mom is notorious in our family for her love -- nay, adoration -- of bananas.  When I was growing up, bananas were a staple of my diet.  When I grew up and left the nest, nary a visit home nor a phone call could end without my mom's favorite admonition: "Be safe! Get plenty of sleep! Take your vitamins! Eat bananas!"

One of my favorite blogs, Oh She Glows, features variations on a delicious banana soft serve.  (I'm going home for the wedding in two weeks, and I can't wait to make this for my mom.  It may wind up being her favorite dessert ever.)  

As much as my mom loves bananas, though, I love mangoes.  I fell in love with these fabulous fruits when I was living in Israel; I'd never had fresh mango before, but once I did, I was an immediate convert. 

You had me at hello, mangoes.  You had me at hello.

I decided to combine the banana soft serve with some fresh mango and a bit of Coconut Bliss for a tropical dessert -- which seemed fitting, since the heat index here was about 103.  It was light and fluffy, although since I used fresh mango instead of frozen, it wasn't as cold as it could've been.  You might want to try a mix of fresh and frozen (if you do, let me know how it turns out!).  After a long, swampy day, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Tropical Banana Soft Serve
1 fresh mango (or 1/2 fresh mango and 1/2 cup frozen mango)
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup Coconut Bliss

Core and scoop out the mango.  The best way to do this is with what I think might be the greatest invention ever (my apologies to Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, and Alexander Graham Bell, whose inventions all pale in comparison): the mango pitter.  Mangoes can be squirrely little bastards -- it's hard to work around the core and still get a lot of the fruit.  The mango pitter, however, makes it absurdly easy. 

Directions: place the pitter over the mango and press down.  No joke.  Mango pitter, I <3 you.

Happy happy mango!

Put all the ingredients into a food processor. 

 Blend until smooth (it takes between 1- 2 minutes).  Serve and enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Peanut Butter and Banana Ricy Hot

Ok, ok.  The title was a horrible pun.  I couldn't help myself.  There I was, looking for a way to describe the hot rice cereal I tried this weekend (its actual name is Arrowhead Mills Rice & Shine, which I figured might have copyright issues attached to it if I used it in the title), and suddenly I walked by my bathroom and saw there, staring at me from the counter...the Icy Hot.  O Icy Hot, blessed source of relief to strained muscles, you provide succor and comfort after many a butt-kicking workout. 

And you provided the basis of a really bad pun.

Which, in my book, is just as good as helping my sore muscles.

Just to be clear, though, the recipe doesn't actually call for Icy Hot.  (Now that would be some shit if it did.  "Hey, have I got a great recipe for you!  It involves poison!")  It is, however, way more delicious than I anticipated.  Since the estomago was still displeased this weekend, I decided to up the ante on my rice intake.  I'd seen this cereal in the grocery store and had just assumed it would turn out to be a crappy substitution for Cream of Wheat (which, back in my glutinous days of yore, I looooooved).  However, I was quite pleasantly surprised: as it turns out, it was really good -- it was a lot like Cream of Wheat, but was obviously GF and totally safe. 

I decided to adorn it with one of my favorite sandwich combinations: peanut butter and banana.  I remember making myself a PB & banana sandwich one day when I was a kid, and I was utterly convinced that no one in the entire universe had ever before conceived of this amazing flavor combination.  I thought I was a culinary renegade.  A revolutionary.  I took my wondrous creation to my mom, who informed me that although peanut butter and banana are delicious together, such sandwiches are actually quite common in England.

Oh well.

As it turns out, though, PB and banana go beautifully with some Ricy Hot.

Channeling My Inner British Person PB & Banana Ricy Hot
1/4 Cup Arrowhead Mills Rice & Shine cereal
3/4 Cup water
1/2 banana
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
Agave and cinnamon to taste

Combine the cereal and water in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Stir constantly until thick (about 3 minutes).  Pour into a bowl and top with peanut butter, sliced banana, agave, and cinnamon.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Asparagus and Broccolini "Lasagne"

One of the many things I share with my Dad is an ardent love of asparagus.  A few years ago, he stumbled upon wild asparagus on the side of a path while out riding his bike, and it was his personal equivalent of finding the Holy Grail.  He picked as much as he could fit into the small biking pouch he was carrying, and as soon as he got home he steamed and ate what he still describes as the best asparagus he’s ever tasted. 
(Side note: he was so excited that he told me the story of finding said asparagus at least 5 times, if not more, over the course of two weeks.  To this day, when he forgets that he's told me about something twice already, I'll bust out a "Hey Dad, tell me again about the time you found wild asparagus on the bike path!"  Let's just say it's a good thing I'm an adult now, because I would've been in serious hot water for such wiseassery as a kid.)
In any case, living in Northern Virginia doesn’t lend itself to finding anything growing by the side of the road (unless that thing is a Capitol Hill intern’s political ambitions or an elected official’s ego).  So, failing that, I buy asparagus either at our local farmer’s market or at the grocery store.   It ain’t fresh-picked wild asparagus, but it’s still darn good.
For this asparagus dish I was, once again, inspired by Martha Rose Shulman’s Recipes for Health column in the New York Times.  She comes up with some truly fabulous ideas, and I’m always impressed by how creative she is.  This "lasagne" is, well, not really lasagne.  (Hence the "quotations" around the "word" "lasagne."  Am I the only one who thinks of Dr. Evil when I see too many words in quotation marks?)  It involves lasagne noodles, yes, and ricotta is a heavy hitter in this recipe -- but it's a loosely-defined lasagne.  Or a loose lasagne, but that just makes it sound like a pasta dish that has no standards or self-respect.
Anyways, I altered this recipe a bit to suit my tastes/dietary needs: the no-boil lasagna noodles have been replaced by GF brown rice lasagna noodles, I added sauteed garlic instead of raw, I included broccolini and sauteed onions for some extra nutritional oomph, and I substituted the pecorino/romano for Parmesan and Robusto cheese (which is available at Whole Foods and worth every penny).

Asparagus and Broccolini “Lasagne”
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s Lasagna with Asparagus and Chives
½ lb. asparagus, trimmed
1 head C broccolini, chopped
½ C low-fat ricotta
6 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, chopped thin 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ C marinara sauce
½ lb. Tinkyada Gluten-Free lasagna noodles
¼ Cup ground Parmesan and Robusto cheeses
Salt and pepper to taste
The masses beginning to assemble on the counter (of their own doing, obviously)
 Heat water in a large stock pot until boiling.  Once it's at a rolling boil, snap the lasagna noodles in half and immerse in the water.  While the noodles are a-cookin', saute the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Cook until caramelized.
(Read in Eric Cartman voice): Oh hey, guys...
While that's getting itself caramelized, trim and wash the broccolini and asparagus. 
Before washing, cut the bottoms off the asparagus and then slice the stack in half.

They're cute little broccolini now, but they had loooong stems and lots of leaves before.
Knives are good for relieving broccolini of such encumbering accessories.

Once caramelized, remove the garlic and onions from the pan.  Return the pan to the stovetop, drizzle a bit of olive oil, and add the asparagus and broccolini.  Saute until bright green and tender.
I'm on a Cartman kick, sooo...the veggies say "Respect our authoritah!"
Drain the lasagne noodles once they're nice and al dente.  In a separate bowl (or, if you're me and you blanch at the thought of adding one more thing to the already Everest-like pile of dirty dishes, you use the recently-vacated stock pot the lasagne noodles were cooked in), combine the garlic and onions, fresh basil, oregano, ricotta, marinara sauce, salt, and pepper and mix well.

Layer a bowl with the lasagne noodles, sauteed veggies, then the ricotta sauce.  Sprinkle with the Parm-Robusto mixture, top with fresh cracked pepper, and be thankful that there are parts of the country where asparagus, not political ambition, grows wild.
Commencing Operation FEEEEEED MEEEEEE in 3...2...1...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What I Ate Wednesday: Italian Roasted Veggie Kebobs and Italian Potatoes

I've recently stumbled upon two fabulous little slices of the blogosphere: Peas & Crayons, which I now officially adore, and Karla's Veggie Noms, which is effin' awesome in its own right. (Anyone who creates a recipe for Lazy Girl Guacamole is totally someone I can roll with!) 

Peas & Crayons runs a virtual pot-luck, so to speak, called What I Ate Wednesday.  I'm a newcomer to this shindig, but I want to give it a shot.  Here's hoping for a little beginner's luck...

First, as an intro to my dinner montage, let me say: there’s something truly awesome about grilling.  I know it’s traditionally considered to be a guy thing, but I say to hell with that stereotype – because grilling is fantastic.

We live in an apartment building, so we can’t have a proper gas grill. (Insert Debbie Downer “wah-waaaaaaah” noise here.)  However, my fiancé – who was born and raised in Texas, so he takes grilling very seriously – researched the best options for flameless outdoors grills shortly after we moved in together.  We eventually bought a Weber electric grill, and it’s as close to the real thing as a flameless grill can possibly be.

Although we’re a mixed vegetarian-carnivore household (I’m the former, he’s the latter), I try to cook meals we can both eat as often as possible. 
Knowing how much he loves marinated and grilled chicken – and upon the realization that I had some organic bell peppers I needed to use before they turned mushy – I decided to fire up our beloved grill and make some veggie kebobs.

I’ve had veggie kebobs at our local Afghan restaurant, but they always taste under-cooked and bland.  In a bid to remedy the blandness issue, I thought it might help to marinate the veggies before impaling and grilling them.  My fiancé loves Italian dressing marinade for his chicken, so I decided to do the same for these veggies – and hot damn, it worked!  The resulting kebobs were tender and flavorful, and they went perfectly with the accompanying Italian potato dish.
And oh, the potatoes.  Lovely, happy potatoes.  In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that I love potatoes.  I know they’ve been maligned as a weight-gain culprit in recent weeks, but…I don’t care.  I love them.  I suspect this is due to my predominantly Irish heritage: somewhere, embedded deep within my DNA, is a genetic imperative to love potatoes.  I don’t care if they’ve been getting bad press lately – I’m not about to forsake my genetic destiny to love potatoes. :)
Happily, the veggie kebobs and the potatoes were a perfect match, and I pretty much stuffed myself on both.
Gathering up the troops
Italian Roasted Veggie Kebobs:
1 Organic red pepper
1 Organic green pepper
¼ Onion
2 Cups Italian dressing (I used 365 Brand Organic Italian, which was both GF and Vegan)
Cut the peppers and onion into approximately 1-inch slices. 
If Ashton Kutcher made a cooking show, would it be called "You've Been Chop't?"

Place them into a Ziploc bag, pour in the 2 cups of Italian dressing, and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Once marinated, put the peppers and onions onto the skewer in whatever pattern you like (I’m slightly OCD about these things, so my kebobs were all uniform and whatnot…oy). 
Must. Stop. Impaling. Vegetables.
Place on a hot grill for 7-8 minutes or until cooked.

Simple Italian Boiled Potatoes
Potatoes, preferably Red Russet or Yukon Gold – the quantity on this can vary however you like
Olive oil (the quantity here will also vary depending on how many potatoes you use)
Fresh thyme to taste
Oregano to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chives to taste

Cut the potatoes in half if they’re large, place into a heavy pot, and cover with water. 

Boil the potatoes until they’re soft – you’ll know they’re ready when you can stick a fork into them without meeting any resistance.
Drain the potatoes and place them into a casserole pan.   Drizzle with olive oil and then stir them around to give them a good coating.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Using a clean pair of scissors, cut thin slices of chive onto the top as garnish.

Pile everything onto one plate and dig in!
I can neither confirm nor deny the allegation that I stuffed my face shortly after this photo was taken.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Healing Ginger Soup

The estomago is displeased.  
After a whirlwind weekend, my body seems to have caught up with me – and now it’s giving me a firm talking-to by making my stomach feel like Iraq circa 2005. 
I woke up last night with some wicked nausea, and it continued into the morning.  Although it calmed down a bit after I slept in (on a scale of 1 to 10, how lame is it to call your boss the day after a long weekend to tell him you’re coming in an hour late?), my stomach still felt on edge throughout the day.  I’ve been through this drill enough times to know that when an upset stomach strikes, it’s time to deploy the BRAT diet.
The first time I heard the term BRAT diet, I was a) kind of delusional from not feeling well, and b) unaware that BRAT is actually an acronym.  So, in a perfect storm of misunderstanding, my illness-induced lack of a brain-to-mouth filter, and my tendency to be a smartass, I asked my doctor if I was supposed to start chewing on ill-behaved children to calm my GI tract. 
Thankfully she has a sense of humor, so she patiently explained that BRAT stands for bananas (or broth), rice, applesauce, and toast.  It’s a bland, boring diet used to reintroduce foods after a bout of stomach upset – and although it’s bland indeed, it helps.  It also doesn’t have to be all you eat for more than a day or two, so the “Sweet Jesus, this food is ridiculously boring” motif doesn’t last for long.
Although I spent the day sipping ginger-lemon tea, I figured I could use some extra hydration for dinner.  A broth-based ginger soup with rice sounded like it would hit the spot; however, having never made ginger soup before, I wasn’t sure where to start.  Today – unlike yesterday’s experience with the raspberry sauce – I remembered that the forces of Google are with me.  I found the recipe below and decided to adapt it a bit: I knew my stomach would protest mightily against the spinach (sad face! I love spinach under normal circumstances), and I’m not exactly a fan of mushrooms, but I did think carrots sounded appetizing.  I added the rice for a bit of BRAT-friendly bulk, and replaced the chicken stock with a vegetarian chicken-flavored boullion cube and a dash of GF soy sauce.

Healing Ginger and Rice Soup
Inspired by Kalyn’s Kitchen Healing Asian Soup with Ginger
1 vegetarian chick’n boullion cube
2 Cups water
3-4 thick slices of fresh ginger root
½ Cup cooked brown rice
8-9 baby carrots
GF Soy sauce to taste
Chives to garnish

**If you’re cooking dried rice, get it cooking before the soup – but if you’re lazy like me and are using pre-cooked, frozen brown rice, it can a) wait until the end, and b) be cooked via microwave.**
Chop the ginger into 3-4 thick slices.
Step 1: cut the edges off all four sides.

Step 2: Using a knife and cutting downwards, slice the skin off each side.
No need to be precise - even if some of the ginger comes off with the skin, it'll be fine.

Step 3: cut lengthwise into quarters.
Place the water, boullion cube, carrots, and ginger in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Once it’s boiling, turn it down a bit and let it simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and pull out the ginger slices using a pair of tongs.  Put the cooked rice in a bowl and cover with the soup.  (I mashed up the carrots with a fork, but I'm willing to bet that this would work well with fully intact carrots too.)  Add a dash of GF soy sauce (just one splash was fine for me, but you can use more or less according to your preferences).  Using clean scissors, cut slices of chives for garnish.
Serve, enjoy, and tell your stomach to pull itself together.
Seriously, stomach: slow your roll!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Patriot Parfait

For the Fourth of July, I usually like to make some sort of red, white, and blue dessert.  Y'know, to be thematic and all.  This year's Independence Day weekend was particularly awesome: yesterday I got to be the guest of honor at my bridal shower, I got to spend time with three of my closest friends (and bridesmaids) who kindly schlepped into DC from afar for said shower, and it was a perfect chance to relax and have fun before we leave for Colorado in three weeks.

After my friends got back on the road this morning, I decided it was time to get some flowers (a vase I got yesterday was asking -- nay, begging -- to be filled) and start thinking about dessert plans.  Since I was tired from a whirlwind weekend, and since my soon-to-be Hubs and I both hate crowds (and if there's one thing about DC on Independence Day, it's that the whole place is one teeming mass of tourists who're all crowding in to get a good look at the fireworks) we decided to stay in and have a low key night.

Per my usual during the summer, I had visions of berries.  And ice cream.  Coconut ice cream.  And a raspberry sauce that I saw Ina Garten make on an episode of Barefoot Contessa that I caught a few weeks ago.  So, off to the store I went.  Off into the vortex that is our local Whole Foods.  Into the writhing masses of stressed humanity that descend on this Whole Foods in advance of any holiday (or snowstorm).  Thankfully, the trip was a fast one.

Once I got out of there and returned home, I tried to recreate Ina Garten's raspberry sauce from memory.  It was, uh, a bit of a challenge -- and it didn't even occur to me to look it up on teh Interwebz.  (Oy vey.  Mental note to self: Google is at your disposal at times like these.)  At a critical juncture, I thought I remembered her putting raspberry jam into the recipe, so I frantically looked around the fridge -- but there was no raspberry jam to be found.  Sooo...I grabbed the almost-empty jar of strawberry jam instead and scooped out every last ounce.

"Oh, that's right - I pretty much never buy raspberry jam. Maybe this'll work instead."

Happily (and to my surprise), it all turned out well: the sauce was tangy-sweet, and it topped off this parfait of patriotic glory perfectly.

Red Berry Sauce
Loosely adapted from Ina Garten's raspberry sauce

1 six-ounce container fresh raspberries
1/8 Cup sugar
1/8 Cup agave nectar
2 Tablespoons strawberry jam

Put all the ingredients into a small pot and place over medium heat until boiling gently.  Let it simmer until the raspberries have broken apart and the mixture is starting to get thick and syrupy.  (It'll get watery at first, but that's ok -- it'll thicken up!)

Remove from heat, put into a glass container, and store in the fridge for 2 hours.

Patriot Parfait:
1/2 Cup fresh blueberries
1 scoop Coconut Bliss vanilla ice cream (it's lactose and gluten free, so it's both GF and vegan friendly...not to mention ridiculously delicious.)
2 -3 Tablespoons Red Berry Sauce
Sprinkle with toasted almonds

Scoop the Coconut Bliss into a glass (or, really, the container of your choice), cover it with the blueberries, and top with the Red Berry Sauce.  Sprinkle toasted almonds on top, watch fireworks, and enjoy!

Friday, July 1, 2011

GF Strawberry Crisp

I've always been fascinated by spices.  They can take normal food into a whole different realm of existence, and since so many spice variations differ by geographic region, I've long loved learning about spices and seasonings that are indigenous to different countries and cultures.

So, when I spent a year living in the Middle East, my spice addiction grew even stronger.  In the shuk -- the giant open-air market in Jerusalem featuring dirt-cheap produce and every spice imaginable -- spice vendors would pile paprika into huge cones to draw business into their shops.

"Come in," beckon the paprika cones.
"Come in, and be prepared to buy enough spices for a small army..."

I, for one, couldn't get enough of the spice shops.   I bought all manner of traditional spices to bring back to the U.S. -- cardamom, saffron, za'atar, the list goes on -- and soaked it all up as much as possible.

Since returning to the U.S. almost five years ago (ack!), my love of spices has remained intact and is going strong.  You can imagine my elation, then, when a surprise package arrived in the mail -- and when I opened it, it was a wedding sampler package of different spices from a vendor in Chicago.  I was giddy.  I clapped my hands and did a happy dance.  I'm not kidding.

Replete with cinnamon sticks and bay leaves!  Happy day!
I decided to bust these puppies out immediately.  I was particularly intrigued by the vanilla sugar, which smells divine.  So, I decided to incorporate it into a recipe for GF strawberry crisp.

Why strawberry crisp, you ask?  Well, in addition to my spice addiction, I also have a bit of a strawberry problem.  Namely, I get overzealous.  I crave fresh strawberries throughout the winter -- but, since they're on the Environmental Working Group's list of fruits and veggies that should be bought organic, they remain entirely too expensive for most of the year.  Except for the summer, when they're cheap.  Which is when I tend to get waaaaaay too excited, buy my weight in strawberries, and then find myself feeling horrified when I can't eat them all before they go bad.  

Because organic strawberries deserve far better than that hideous fate, I decided to make strawberry crisp.  The crisp is inspired by Martha Rose Schulman's GF Quinoa-oat Crumble (as published in the New York Times) -- I amended it to include brown sugar and the vanilla sugar, replaced the nutmeg with a bit of cardamom, and omitted the salt.  I also replaced the butter with Earth Balance, and the quinoa flour with quinoa flakes, which are readily available in most health food stores.  As cooked below, this crumble is both GF and vegan, and it redeemed my tendency to be overzealous with the strawberries.

Strawberry Crisp with Quinoa-Oat Crumble
Inspired by Martha Rose Schulman's Quinoa Oat Crumble

1 1/4 Cups GF Rolled Oats (I like Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 C Quinoa Flakes
1/3 C Brown Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Cardamom
6 Tablespoons Earth Balance
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Sugar, OR 2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

 Place all the above ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined and crumbly. 

Spread over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or aluminum foil, if you're me and you realize that you haven't purchased parchment paper in a really long time) in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, stir, and bake another 5-10 minutes or until evenly browned.  Remove from heat.

Line a baking dish with 2 - 4 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered. Sprinkle the crumble on top, drizzle with extra vanilla extract, and bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes.

Plate 'er up and enjoy!