Over-the-Top Sweet & Savory Shepherd’s Pie

30 Thu, 2010 § 3 Comments

As promised,

one nutrient-dense dish.

Traditionally “Cottage” or “Shepherd’s” Pie was made with minced [also known as ground] beef or lamb with a crust of mashed potatoes.  Throw in a few veggies, ample amounts of cream, sour cream & butter, & you have a simple & rich greasy modern version.

Nothing about traditional shepherd’s pie appeals to me, but after my grandma passed along a version using lentils, I knew I could make it even tastier & healthier.

By using lentils instead of the traditional ground meat, we still get a good dose of protein but without all the disease-causing, saturated fat.  The fat that is present in my pie is primarily “healthy fats” from sauteing the vegetables in olive oil.

Swapping out white potato for sweet potato means your blood sugar will rise about 30 percent less during digestion.  Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin A & have more vitamin C, calcium & soluble fiber [& they taste better].

I was given two different caloric totals per serving when I tried calculating the nutritional information on two different online sources.  252 or 450.  Honestly, when you are eating whole foods & listening to your body, you really don’t have to count calories like a mad person.  Eat slowly & mindfully until you are satisfied.

This pie packs nearly 8g of protein per serving.

18.4% DV Iron

Nearly 9% DV Calcium

Loads of Vitamin A & Potassium

Vitamins C, E & B6

Zinc, Manganese & several other key nutrients

Over-the-Top Sweet & Savory Shepherd’s Pie

Preheat oven to 350*F

  • ½ C dried whole French Lentils
  • 3 medium Sweet Potatoes, washed & cut into small cubes [I left the skins on, but feel free to peel.]
  • 3 large sections of Shallot, peeled & chopped
  • 3 small Carrots, I found it easier to cut length-wise slices [rather than rounds] to chopchopped
  • 1 large Tomato, chopped
  • 1 C Kale, chopped
  • ½ tsp dried Basil
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ T Braggs Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
  • ¼ C Rice or Almond Milk
  • 1T Earth Balance Butter
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt

Simmer Lentils in a pot with 1 C of water until liquid cooks out, ~45-50 min.

Mash with a fork.

Meanwhile, boil Sweet Potatoes in a pot of water until they can be easily pierced with a fork, ~30 min.

Once Lentils are cooked,

  • On medium heat, saute Shallots in 2T EVOO until soft & translucent, 1-2 min.
  • Add Carrots & Tomato, cooking until carrots are almost tender.
  • Add Kale.
  • Once Carrots are tender, add the mashed Lentils, salt, basil & Braggs.
  • Stir & simmer, uncovered, until the liquid cooks off.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mash [or food process] the cooked Sweet Potatoes, salt, milk & butter with a fork or potato masher.

Pour the vegetable-lentil mixture into a lightly-oiled pie pan.

Layer mashed Sweet Potatoes over the top.

Bake 15-20 minutes until heated through & slightly browned on top.


*Our pie was a bit “over-the-top” because the sweet potatoes were larger than medium & really towered over the lentils [see first photo].  No complaints here; we love our sweet potatoes.  I may use more lentils in the future.

*This is a great recipe for “late” work days, because it can be prepared & assembled beforehand & kept in the refrigerate until you are ready to bake it.

*I like the simplicity of the basil, but next time I will try substituting cumin, coriander — maybe even red pepper flakes.  Use whatever you have on hand or suits your taste — including other vegetables!

*Not a fan of Kale?  This is a great way to “hide” it from Dave ;).  He really enjoys this dish.  I started with ½ cup, then added more & still would have liked more.  Feel free to add even more kale or use spinach instead.

*This dish nearly has it all: ample vegetables, a protein; the only thing missing is a whole grain.  You could add cooked brown rice or another grain to the “filling”; or do like I sometimes do & enjoy an evening snack made up of whole grains.


What are your favorite make-ahead dishes?  What nutrient-dense meals do you love?

Plant-Based & oh.so.happy

29 Wed, 2010 § 9 Comments

Just know I hate using the term “vegan”.  I hate defining my habits with a label — I hate labels in general.  Yes, it is less complicated in certain instances, like ordering at a restaurant; I simply despise restricting myself to the confines drawn by a label.

How I eat is not who I am.  True, my principles & ethics influence choices I make regarding food, as it should be.  Who I am should drive my actions, habits, choices, etc.  Not the other way.  Labels should not pretend to define our “character”.

People are often thrown off by my response when they ask about my eating habits:

I eat a whole food, plant-based diet & avoid sugar.

Seems like a mouthful when I could just slap a label on it.  It usually works out that I don’t though; people seem less defensive & turned off by this explanation.  How can they argue or take offense?  Whole foods?!  Lots of vegetables & fruit?!  Madness! 😉

Regardless of how I choose to explain, I am often cautioned to “be careful”.  Now is my turn to get defensive & take offense, right?  Not at all.  People care — at least I hope their concerns are brought on through caring — & I have met a fair share of people eating a “vegetarian” or “vegan” diet that is in no way healthier than a non-veg one.  Their concerns are legitimate.

Where DO I get vital nutrients like





I do not mind at all explaining — I actually love talking food…if you have not picked up on it ;).  To quell any fears, I want to describe some excellent points & sources that I rely on.


A common rebuttal in the vege-world is that people do not need as much protein as they think they need or consume.  This is indeed true for the average person with a minimal activity level.  As athletes though, we do need to make sure we are getting an adequate amount.  I can tell when I am not consuming enough protein: I do not feel satisfied, I lose strength, & I crave sweets & bread like crazy.  Focus a bit on my protein intake, & I immediately feel satisfied, energized & my cravings vanish.

Even more important than stressing over getting a lot of protein is focusing on the source & how easily my body can utilize it.  Easily digested whole foods are best.

The body does not utilize protein directly; it first converts it into amino acids which it then uses to regenerate cells [i.e. tissue repair].  The idea that we will become deficient if we do not eat “complete” proteins foods [those containing all essential amino acids which our bodies do not produce] is a misnomer.  Our bodies are incredibly brilliant & efficient.  As long as I provide the blocks, it will piece them together better than I ever could.  Eating a variety of protein-dense foods assures that I get a variety of amino acids since different sources contain varying aminos.  We can even speed regeneration by eating foods rich in amino acids, so the body does not use as much energy converting protein to amino acids.  Greens have the highest percentage of amino acids per ounce; because of their low weight, they need to be eaten daily to reap the full benefits though.

Some of my Favorite Protein Choices:

Legumes [high in amino acids], per cup [cooked]

  • Lentils [French are probably my current favorite]  18g
  • Adzuki  16g
  • Chickpeas  14g
  • Black  14g
  • Black-Eyed Peas  14g
  • Split Peas  16g

Seeds [high in amino acids]

  • especially Hemp [“complete”] 11g [per 3T]

Nuts [high in amino acids]

Pseudograins, per cup [cooked]

  • Amaranth  10g
  • Buckwheat Groats  7g
  • Quinoa [“complete”]  12g
  • Wild Rice  7g

Whole Grains

  • Barley, whole  8g
  • Brown Rice  4g – 8g
  • Oats  4g
  • Spelt  8g

Soy [I do not eat a lot of soy & generally stick to sprouted Tofu or fermented varieties like Tempeh]

Chlorella & Spirulina

Even Vegetables have protein & some Fruits, per cup [cooked]

  • Broccoli  4g
  • Leafy Greens
  • Pumpkin  2.7g
  • Sweet Potatoes 4g
  • Mulberries  5g [per 48g serving]


The form of Iron found in non-animal sources is not as easily absorbed by the body.  To increase absorption, simply eat with foods containing Vitamin C.

Great Choices to Maintain Happy Iron Levels:

Dark, Leafy Greens

Split Peas

Pumpkin seeds


Black Strap Molasses

“Double-Bang” ~ Iron – & – VitaminC – Rich Foods:

Apricots, dried



Brown Rice

Brussels Sprouts

Collard Greens









It is actually thought that most cases of poor bone health & osteoporosis are not brought on by a lack of dietary calcium, but by stress & over-consumption of acid-forming [refine, processed] foods.  I won’t go into that now though.  We all understand calcium’s role in the body strengthening & repairing bone, but it is also hugely responsible for muscle contraction & ensuring a rhythmic heart beat.  Most of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones [95%], but the 5% left in the blood stream can be a key indicator of a decline in levels as you experience an irregular heart beat or muscle cramps during activity.  Some non-animal foods can have a calcium-absorption rate of 50-64% — double the rate of dairy.

Calcium-Rich Go-Tos:

Dark, Leafy Greens



Brussels Sprouts




Sesame seeds, Tahini

If you exit this post with room for only two points in your mind, make it these:

Obviously, 1. eating a lot of dark, leafy greens is key.  Generally, I eat greens every day.  Get them anyway you can: steamed, in salads, disguised in Green Monsters, roasted as tasty kale chips, hidden in casseroles [Ashley’s Quinoa-Millet Casserole looks awesome], VOO & thick soups, etc.

2. Variety.  Eat a lot of different foods each day.  You know the whole “eat the colors of the rainbow” thing?  It’s true…AND it can be loads of fun.  Try a new vegetable every time you shop.  Experiment.  Be creative.

Check back tomorrow for a delicious, simple meal that covers the nutrient gamete in a single, savory dish.

When it’s a “Cereal”-kind-of-day

28 Tue, 2010 § 4 Comments

Some days, only cereal will due.

A low-maintenance, simple bowl just fits the bill every now & again.  There is something nostalgic about cradling my favorite bowl, silently 😉 slurping & savoring delicious spoonfuls of on-the-verge-of-soggy grains.

However, my tastes have changed drastically since my
Cracklin-Oat-Bran-craze & the Cinnamon-Toast-Crunch obsession of my youth.  Not to say these are not still good tasting; they are just in no way good — meaning nutritious — for you.

Traditional, processed cereal is fairly void of anything resembling a true nutrient.  Most are drenched in sugar or HFCS & composed of a lot of empty calories that do not leave you satisfied for long.  Have you ever measured out an actual serving?  Chances are most people pour 2 or 3 servings into their bowls, then often go back for seconds.  yikes.  These boxed varieties fuel me in no way.

I am still satisfied by a simple bowl of grains; but, with a little creativity & an opened mind, more & more often, I find myself dressing things up a bit & reaping the nutritional benefits.  It is more fun to be random & daring anyway.

As much as I enjoy simple VOO, some mornings require the oomph I get from a Green Monster; but I am not quite feeling a smoothie.  I need a bit more.

A few weeks ago, Green Monster VOO was the answer.  Before heading out to the gym, I made a hemp-protein-packed Green Monster & poured it over oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, & salt, stirred it all up & left it in the fridge.  This was so satisfying as a post-workout treat, especially topped with the sweetest farmer’s market strawberries.

Butternut Squash seems to be all the rage in smoothies on the food blog circuit these days.  I decided to bury it beneath home-made Autumn Granola instead.  Dave loves granola, so I have been trying to keep a batch on hand for him lately.  I had to “test” it of course & scattered it over a leftover piece of butternut squash I had roasted with pumpkin pie spice.

The first time I devoured had Buried Butternut Squash was actually as an evening snack, hidden beneath a mound of Ezekiel sprouted cereal, which is the only store-bought cereal I buy anymore.  This was actually my favorite; after soaking for a few minutes in almond milk, the Ezekiel grains softened & thickened to an almost “cakey” texture surrounding the squash.  Yum!

When another case of evening hunger hit, VOO was not quite where it was at & hearty Ezekial would have been a bit much.  More Fruit Than Grain did the trick.

Crunchy, Sprouted Buckwheat Groats over cinnamoned Honeycrisp slices with a touch of Salt-Kissed Maple Walnut Butter.

Thanks for indulging my cereal randomness. 😉

Now I will give you a “real” recipe.

Okay, so nut butter is not all that complex; still I see many struggle with achieving a “creamy” texture & even the flavor they seek.  These are more “tips” than a “recipe”.

The “trick” to reaching that creamy state of nuttiness is to…well, let the nuts reach it.  Be patient.  This is where people fail.  Process the nuts in a food processor…continue processing…process further…& process more if needed, scraping down the sides as necessary of course.  It is actually the heat of the processor that seems to finally break the oils down in the nuts, resulting in that sought-after butter.

First crumbs; then a fine meal; then butter.  Seriously, it may take minutes, but it will happen [even with a simple processor like mine].  Just stick with it.  Resist the urge to add oil! It is not necessary.  What is the point of making your own from scratch if you are just going to add oil?

As for flavor, walnut butter can be the tricky one, delicious but often resulting in that bitter-like-only-a-walnut-can-be aftertaste.  Toasting helps mellow the bitter aspect, accenting the deep flavors, but it walks a fine line; you must be careful not to burn them at all, which seems to only enhance the bitterness.  I usually toast ~10 minutes at 350*F, watching closely & shaking often [about every 2-3 minutes] to promote even toasting.

Another remedy for bitter walnuts: Salt.

I found that adding just a touch of sea salt [~½tsp per 2 cups nuts] to the walnuts before processing neutralizes the bitterness.

I also added a drizzle of maple [the few slow drops left in the bottle], because maple & walnuts seem perfectly suited for each other.

Salt-Kissed Maple Walnut Butter

  • 2 Cups Walnuts, lightly toasted
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • Maple Syrup, to taste [I only added the few last drops left in the bottle; but ½ tsp – 1 tsp would be a good place to start.]
  • Combine in food processor & process several minutes, scraping down as necessary, until it reaches desired consistency.

I have never had Walnut Butter from the store — so I have nothing to compare it to — but this is really nice: a distinct, deep toasty, nutty flavor.  Dave is not a fan of walnuts; he said it tasted good & not like walnuts. 😉

Another nice thing about walnut butter: because it is so rich & distinct, I do not go overboard eating it straight from the jar like other nut butters.  [What? 😉 I know you do it too.]  It is definitely better paired with VOO, fruit, Sweet Winter Mash [mashed turnips & sweet potato] or simply on toast — pretzels — I think it would be awesome with pretzels.  Plus, too many walnuts can give me cankers.  I hear that is pretty common.  I wonder what it is. ??


What are your favorite nut butters & combiniations?

When is cereal the answer to your day?  Do you reach for the same box from your childhood or has your taste evolved?

59 Days.

27 Mon, 2010 § Leave a comment

If we were counting down.

Which I am not.

But if we were,

we still have 59 days…

& while my thoughts have not been of the traditional turkey with stuffing & mashed potatoes, my mind has been dancing toward Thanksgiving none-the-less,

with 59 days to go.  😉

Dave & I might enjoy our own intimate dinner this year.  While we would greatly miss the usual extended-family celebrations, tailoring our own unique dining experience to our tastes & eating habits is more than a little appealing.  We love creating our own traditions together, & I have always wanted to observe Thanksgiving dinner in a very particular way.  My premature & billowing excitement may lie in the possibility of planning it in just the way I have always wanted.

[Sorry to tease 😉 I will share more details in coming posts.]

Currently my mind is consumed by various dishes we could make, which I am anxious to share as well as read ideas from you & learn what your celebrations entail.

This week, in the spirit of Thanksgiving anticipation, I made pie

with this phenomenal crust.

My first experience with chickpea flour, & I must say I. Am. A. Fan.

It is rich & creamy, lending amazing texture & taste to complement the filling:

[not-so]Silky Sweet Potato

This pie is from Terry Walter’s Clean Food which, with its plethora of delicious meals, constantly strengthens my resolve to prepare simple & seasonal food.  Much of my Thanksgiving brainstorming is coming from her book.  I also read [directly from her fingertips] her newest book, Clean Start, will be out November 2nd!

Terry is not exaggerating when she boasts the chickpea flour, pecan-infused crust becomes much more than a simple shell for a delicious filling.  Oh, the possibilities.

This sweet & savory pie, meant as more of a side dish, is dessert worthy indeed.  Dave seemed to love it, & since he is not a fan of pumpkin pie — gasp! yes, tragic, I know 😦 — this may make a superb alternative.

Terry’s creation is perfect & does not need any tweaking.  My only variations: I did not puree the sweet potatoes but simply mashed & mixed, hence the “not-so-silky”, but I liked the bit of texture [& did not think my small food processor would handle 3 sweet potatoes] & it was actually still pretty silky.  I also did not realize I was out of Agar flakes; but since the recipe calls for only 1 tsp, I just added an extra tsp of Arrowroot powder, which seemed to work just fine.

In keeping with my spirit of Thanks: after a moment of angst yesterday, I am thankful for Toyota FJ’s high quality roll-cage & durability.  It is amazing when things work — & hold up — as they should.  I am grateful our friend is alive today.


What are you thankful for today?

Is anyone else already thinking about Thanksgiving?

Zen Breathing & BOO in a Jar

25 Sat, 2010 § 2 Comments

I could be 40 feet up.  I could be 100 feet.  I could be just 5 feet.

My movements on the rock suddenly become desperate rather then fluid & controlled.  My muscles are surrendering.  My body is tired, & I have met the crux.  My relaxed, confident grasp morphs into the death grip, draining my muscles quickly.  Panic breathing strikes, depleting my muscles further.  I have lost it.  I fall — or worse — let go.  Give up.

Perhaps my endurance failed.  Perhaps my mind failed.  Whichever the case, overcoming The Panic sets extraordinary athletes apart from the rest.

I was introduced to one method of overcoming this at the beginning of the year & am reincorporating it into my training again.  Apart from training the aerobic system & increasing endurance in a gym setting, Breathing Ladders teach breath & mind control as well.

To execute a Breathing Ladder, pick a weight & movement,  then set a timer & do one rep followed by one breath, then do two reps followed by two breaths, three reps followed by three breaths, etc. Breathe as much as you want while working; breathe only the specified number of “reps” while resting.  Build your “pyramid” by starting with 1 rep, building to 10 — or even 20 or somewhere in between — then come back down to one.  The idea is to draw the exercise out, making it last as long as possible.  Generally, athletes with an efficient O2 utilization system can make a 1:20:1 pyramid Breathing Ladder last about 45 minutes; some can draw it out an hour or more!

The movement must be “big”, incorporating full-body demand.  I like Kettlebell Swings [we do not have a kettlebell, so I used a 12-lb medicine ball which could have been heavier].  The point is oxygen consumption & efficiency: big movements cause a great oxygen demand.  Pull-ups do not work because the muscle mass is too small to create significant O2 demand before muscle acidity & fatigue cause work to cease.

The ideal is to use the perfect combination of movement/load/reps to keep yourself in the zone where “total panic is a single mistake away & Zen-like calm is the prize for those who can reach it.”

[Breathing Ladder source: Gym Jones]


Food is generally a good motivator for me while working out — not during Breathing Ladders though.  Because I wanted these to last as long as possible, I had to constantly brush the image of my awaiting meal from my mind to keep from rushing through.  😛  After 25:47 minutes of 1:10:1 Breathing Ladders, Thursday morning, all I could think was BREAKFAST.

I have had Buckwheat on the brain ever since my friend, Dina, shared a slice of her homemade raw[dehydrated] bread with me.

The light, airy crunch took me by complete surprise — I was expecting a much harder texture — & the deep nutty flavor of the grain won me over immediately.  I. Am. Hooked.

Buckwheat groats are technically not a “grain”, but a fruit seed related to rhubarb & sorrel, making it gluten-free.  A complete protein, rich in vitamins, it is also a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus & potassium.  It is also thought to lower cholesterol.

I wanted to get the benefit of soaking & sprouting these quickies — they only take 1-2 days — & include them in my morning VOO.  Generally partial to parfaits [thanks to Angela, whose overnight oats & parfaits are always out-of-this-world beautiful & delicious!]; but lately I have been leaning toward basic VOOs, simply accenting a key ingredient like end-of-summer peaches.  B-groats would be just the thing to mix it up a bit…but not the only thing…

No, I did not eat sunflower seed butter from the jar for breakfast…not to say this has never happened before… 😛

I have seen a few bloggers rave about cooking oats in an empty nut butter jar to get that last bit out & enhance the flavor of the oats.  Because I do not use a microwave [or eat a lot of cooked oats], I have not tried it yet.  As I scraped the last bit of sunbutter from this guy though, I knew right away he would be the medium for my next soakage.

BOO [Buckwheat Overnight Oats]

  • ~½ C Buckwheat Groats, sprouted
  • ~½ C Oats
  • 1-2 T Chia seeds
  • substantial sprinkle of Cinnamon
  • dash Sea Salt
  • Rice milk to just cover
  • Combine & whisk in an empty nut butter container.
  • Store in refrigerator overnight.
  • Next day stir ins: that delicious side of chopped, fresh, local peach & a scoop of Hemp Protein Powder.

*I used all the oats [just over ½ C] & groats [just under ½ C] I had on hand; so about 1:1.  I enjoy the groats so much I will probably increase the amount of groats & decrease the oats next time.

*This was closer to two servings for me, which I had intended to save for a couple mornings.  I mixed it all up while making dinner & “tested” a couple spoonfuls while watching Man vs Wild later on.  WARNING: If you make your VOO too early in the evening, it will likely disappear before the next morning.  Fortunately, there was still plenty to refuel me after my breathing ladders.

*Also, while the texture of BOO differed subtly from VOO & was rather delicious, I enjoy the soft crunch of b-groats which is missing after soaking them.  To recapture this texture, I will dehydrate them after they sprout next time & add them as a stir-in rather than soaking with the oats.


I am super excited to experiment with B-Groats — raw granola, snack bars, crackers!  Any great original recipes out there?


Do you ever incorporate “mental” training into your workouts?

Spiritual Cooking

23 Thu, 2010 § Leave a comment

Food is magical: I cannot tell you exactly how it works, but it brings people together.

At the heart of most holidays & special occasions lies an aromatic table of thoughtfully prepared delectables.  Often the most cherished bonding occurs in the kitchen.  It brings together family & friends in labor filled with love & often laughter.

Even as one of the most used, loved & crucial rooms in the home, situations in the kitchen can quickly become intense.  Sometimes quarters can feel tight in even the largest spaces & timing is always of the essence.  The perfectionist in me surfaces, stressing over pleasing everyone, fearing a new or creative spin on a recipe will flop & frustrating over the reality that Dave is not a mind reader. 😉

Others may be tired from a long day or sense the impatient tummies of hungry little ones.  Too often, the love intended to be infused into the meal vanishes in a haze of anxiety.  Other times, it becomes less about nourishing, & the intention turns toward impacting.

Obviously, I am passionate about food & cooking.  I could easily — & have guiltily been known to — spend all day planning meals, browsing recipes, wandering the grocery store or farmer’s market in search of inspiration, experimenting in the kitchen & enjoying the results.

Pursuance of healthy living was the initiator of this passion.  Feeling plain lousy — even though I ate “healthily” — is what began my journey toward truly evaluating what I was putting in my body & then listening to my body’s response.  It truly is a journey — transitioning subtly, ever evolving — as I learn more & more about food, its source & impact & continue to listen to my body.

When my search for healthy eating habits guided me toward more & more whole foods, I realized the joy of cooking slowly & simply.  Food became fun again & not a constant ordeal over micro-nutrient composition & obsessive calorie counting.  The answer was simple: eat real food & make most of it myself.

It completely altered how I perceived food & created a ritual of planning meals, shopping for food, preparing it & appreciating its journey.  Cooking with love & without ego is an intention that has enhanced my passion for food; it is also a point I need to revisit & strive to embrace more.

My ego has weaseled its way back into my kitchen as I am stressing over the outcome rather than enjoying the process.  As I flex my “culinary prowess” ;), I worry about impacting or impressing those that eat it more so than nourishing them.

This has been a longstanding struggle for me: to let go of the outcome & embrace Seva, the practice of serving others with no expectation of reward or recognition.  Even with this reminder I wrote years ago, hanging in our kitchen, I still “forget”.

Essence of Seva:

Let the Ego Fall Away,

Leaving only Peace.

Though difficult, it is liberating to let go of my attachment to the outcome.  Rather than a display of culinary prowess, cooking can be an offering of love.

*Plan meals that are physically supportive & nourishing, considering the season — even the day — moods, activities, energy levels, etc of those who will partake.

*Bring awareness to the kitchen.  Completely be in the task at hand whether washing an apple or slicing carrots julienne.  Check in with my body & how it feels.  Am I tensing?  Do I need to rest my feet?  Where is my mind — my thoughts?  Perhaps even incorporate an Asana practice before or during meal preparation.

*Carry this awareness into dining.  How often do we simply inhale a meal that has been painstakingly prepared?  Savor each bite.  Eat slowly & meditatively, observing the flavors.  Take a moment & pause before eating; really think about the journey of the food on my plate, from birth or seed to death or harvest.  This silent prayer or offering of gratitude enlightened & enhanced my personal concept of ethical eating more than anything else.

*Reconnect with the underlying joy of the experience & learn to stay compassionate, centered & loving.  [I tend to lose my cool in the kitchen sometimes, if you know what I mean.]

Rather than shooting for culinary brilliance, I am coaxing myself to reach for more humble aspirations: Love First, then Serve, Feed, Nourish.


When you let go of the outcome: all that is left is Love…& the best kind of food.


What is the tone of your kitchen?  What are your thoughts on spiritual cooking?

Mochi Dumblings

20 Mon, 2010 § 1 Comment

Mochi recipes are always a bit of an adventure the first time.  It is quite difficult to imagine what it is going to morph into.  I end up stressing over the outcome, while Dave reassures we have never gone hungry over a complete culinary catastrophe…besides, there is also last resort take-out at our favorite Thai place ;).  [Fortunately it has never come to that.]

Now that I know what to expect & LOVE the outcome, I am sure Dave often wonders how I ever survived before discovering mochi — & how I would survive if it suddenly became unavailable!  Can he imagine a girl who once ate traditional waffles?  How did I used to get my crispy, gooey fix?

Did I just lose you at “crispy, gooey”?  🙂  Or are you intrigued?  What is Mochi?

Traditionally, the Japanese pounded steamed rice with wooden mallets in large wooden mortars; I have seen recipes for making your own [which I honestly have no interest in doing] or you find brands like Grainaissance in the cooler section at healthfood stores like WholeFoods.  You simply take it home, cook & watch it become soft & edible again — & delicious.  It puffs out slightly, gaining that delectable crispy exterior & chewy center.   Mmm.

You can lay slices in a waffle-iron, pan-fry it or bake & stuff it like we have done here.

The strange “goo” below my thumb used to be the “innards”.  As it puffs, the “goo” shoots seeps radiates out [we are not sure; we missed the phenomenon], leaving a bit of a hollow space for stuffing stir-fry.  Ta-da.  “Homemade” dumplings.  The “goo” just may be the best part.

Simple Mochi Dumblings

  • ¼ Onion, diced
  • ~1C Cabbage, thinly sliced
  • ~1C Broccoli slaw, a packaged combo of shredded broccoli & carrot we picked up at Trader Joe’s [I wish Utah had Trader Joe’s :(]
  • Of course, you can shred your own “slaw” & add other vegetables, like sliced mushrooms or garlic, to the “stir-fry”.
  • ~10 sprays/1T?? Bragg’s Amino Acid or Tamari/Soy Sauce
  • 1T Mirin
  • Cut Mochi into 2″ squares & bake at 400*F for ~15 minutes, watching closely after 10, until they puff out.  [We used ~¾ of a cinnamon-raisin package, which made about 9 squares.]
  • While the mochi bakes, heat EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Saute Onion & a substantial amount of powdered Ginger [fresh would be better ~½ T or more, grated] for ~2 minutes.
  • Add Cabbage & Slaw along with Tamari & Mirin; saute 5-7 minutes until vegetables are soft.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Once mochi has puffed, remove from oven & allow to cool slightly. [Be more patient than I or anticipate burnt fingertips :P]
  • Gently slice open mochi puffs & stuff with stir-fry.  You can try to close & seal them or call it good like I did!
  • Enjoy with a dipping sauce of your choice or creation.

Here is ours:

    • 2 T Tamari/Bragg’s Aminos
    • a “dash” of toasted Sesame Oil [you can use more, but I am not a huge fan — I think the toasted oil can be overpowering to the other flavors]
    • 1 tsp Brown Rice Syrup or other sweetener
    • 1 tsp Red Chili paste, for a burst of heat
    • a bit of Lime juice might also be good

      Strange to imagine creating these puffed-out delights from a hard slab of mochi.  For as simple as this recipe is, we had NO idea how it was going to turn out; but we tried to have fun waiting for them to puff, raising eyebrows over the “goo” & stuffing them with stringy vegetables.

      p.s. Dave “hates” cabbage & really enjoyed these.

      Slowing Down & Apple Pie [Waffle]

      16 Thu, 2010 § 1 Comment

      As Fall gently stirs at the door, Summer is frantically bustling about inside…desperate to accomplish just a little bit more…desperate to hang on just a little bit longer…before settling down to sleep.

      I have felt the Go Go Go of Summer’s bustling this week — which nearly got away from me — it is Thursday already?!

      Last night, I finally managed to pull in the reigns, slow down & schedule a night with me. Good, nourishing food; my favorite holey sweats; soothing sounds of our backyard creek; &, a cuddly puppy.

      Check.  Check.  Check.  Check.

      It just seems suiting to roast winter vegetables, which have just come into harvest, slowly — but not too slowly; I was hungry after all.

      Slow[Down] Roasted Winter Vegetables with Truffle Oil

      • Preheat oven 425*F

      • 1 small Sweet Potato, sliced into rounds
      • 2 Turnips, peeled & chopped into quarters
      • ½ Daikon, peeled & chopped
      • Thin slices of Onion
      • 2 Beets
      • Combine all but the beets in a baking dish.
      • Drizzle with EVOO .
      • Sprinkle with Salt, Pepper & dried Tarragon [if you have fresh Tarragon, add it after roasting].
      • Drizzle with Balsamic.
      • Toss to coat.

      Feel free to peel, slice & add the beets to the mix OR…
      Try my “lazy” way which is the BEST way to cook beets:

      • Simply wrap in tinfoil, drizzled with EVOO & roast along side the pan of vegetables.   The skin will slide right off!  It seems to come off more easily once they cool slightly; I am generally too anxious & burn my fingertips, so be careful. 😉
      • Roast vegetables ~45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes to promote even caramelization & browning.
      • Drizzle all but the beets with a small amount of Truffle Oil.
      • For a refreshing contrast to the other vegetables, I squeezed a little lemon juice over the beets.

      *I wished I had thought to make Kale Chips to go along with this; I like baking them at 225*F for 45-1 hr.

      *Caramelized onions are insane!  I should have used a lot more onion [¼ – ½ C vs a couple Tablespoons]; onion in every bite would be ideal.

      *I meant to save half of this as leftovers; that did not happen. 😉


      A night to yourself calls for a special kind of dessert of course.

      Honeycrisp Apples are my absolute favorite — though Pink Ladies often give them a run for their money — part of the appeal is that their growing season seems to be fairly short, so I get them while I can.

      Locally grown, Utah beauties. 🙂

      Apple Pie Mochi Waffle

      • Cut Mochi into ¼” slices [you will need about 8 slices]
      • Thinly slice an Apple — [Go ahead & snack while you work; you won’t need the whole apple.  Eisley adores apples, so feel free to share with your pooch too.]
      • While you slice the apple, melt ~½ T Earth Balance Butter in a small skillet over medium heat.
      • Add apple slices to the skillet.
      • Mix in a substantial amount of Cinnamon, a sprinkle of Nutmeg & just a dash of Ginger.
      • Stir occasionally until it reaches desired softness [I wanted mine similar to baked apples but with a touch of crispness].
      • To make waffle, lay slices of mochi cut-side down on preheated, ungreased waffle iron; close securely & cook until puffed & slightly crisp but not too hard & dry, about 3 minutes, or until your waffle iron signals it is done.  [Mine is pretty accurate].

      • Top Mochi Waffle with Apple Slices & enjoy your evening of writing, reading, playing around with photography & puppy cuddling — ok, that is what I did, but do what you enjoy. 😉


      Do you feel a bit of a rush in the air?  What do you do to slow down?

      No More STUFF

      15 Wed, 2010 § 3 Comments

      I am completely fed up with American-style consumerism.  I am tired of constantly being assaulted within our “built environment” by the visual noise of clever marketers.  I recognize meaning cannot be bought [yes we can purchase things that make life nice, but not more meaningful].  I pledged years ago to rid myself of one item for every new item I brought home.

      Yet, I have still accumulated a lot of stuff.

      With the desire to live much more simply & make a pretty drastic life change, Dave & I had been toying with the idea of massively downsizing & seriously purging much of our stuff.  Nudged by the 100 Thing Challenge, we dove in, joining this worldwide grass-roots movement in which people are limiting their material possessions.  People who were once ‘stuck in stuff’ are empowered to live.

      The purpose of Life is to provide Experience.  How restricted is our experience if it is overshadowed by all the “stuff” we accumulate?  If it is blurred by the mask of “things” that lay claim to our identities?  If it is stalled by fear of losing our “possessions”?

      I am realizing how simply I can live.

      Now, I am trying to shed material effects to free up space for this living.

      As I sift through belongings, prioritizing everyday life is an obvious breakthrough.

      “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. ”

      ~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

      What is consuming my time, energy & focus versus what truly brings me happiness through experience?  What may be required to continue pursing these?  There are some things to which I am utterly attached.

      There are enjoyments & passions that enhance the experience of living.  Our “purge” is not about getting rid of it all.  It is about breaking free from restrictive consumerism habits, embracing non-attachment & creating space in our lives.

      Some things fall easily to the bottom of the list: I can survive without an iPod [not that I am ready to give this up ;)], high heels, lip gloss, crazy kitchen gadgets, etc.; but what about the really meaningful things?  How do you throw out keepsakes or flowers from your wedding?

      Often, letting go is addictively refreshing: Dave comes back exhilarated after a trip to the dumpster/recycling bin.  Other times, it is trying & heart-wrenching — maybe even guilt accompanied — to let go of an item associated with a cherished moment…though you will never use it again…though you often forget it is there.  I will set these aside to return to later  when I can focus completely on the item & why the attachment exists.

      I know I  will never use these books again; but every time I see them, I think how sweet my mom is.  I remember a visit from her [which always stand out], when she spontaneously bought them for me from the college bookstore.  She thought they would help with my writing; she always believed in my writing.  It is about her visit, not so much the books.

      In these instances, I have turned to a “Memory Journal”, meant for recounting & re-experiencing moments that made items special.

      The sage can walk away from his burning possessions & not look back.

      ~an interpretation from the Tao Te Ching

      Not only would we like to reach a state of non-attachment where we do not look back; but, our goal is to not have much to tempt a backward glance.

      Minimize.  Prioritize.  Simplify.

      My dream is to become mobile: to be able to pick up & go at will.  I often muse of living in a trailer & traveling without hindrance.  Yes, 😉  I aspire to becoming “trailer trash” — a gypsy — embracing ultimate simplicity.

      Liberated, with only experience driving us forward.


      Do you ever feel “stuck in your stuff“?

      Tinfoil Portabella Pizzas

      12 Sun, 2010 § 3 Comments

      Tinfoil dinners are generally a camping staple for us.  It is super easy to build a complete & delicious meal we simply chop & wrap beforehand; then toss gently place in the coals.

      Patiently waiting for them to thoroughly cook through is the most difficult part ;).  Normally these are a pretty basic combination of chopped vegetables, meat for Dave, a little Earth Balance butter & some seasonings, but I wanted to make something a little different this time.



      I am going to toss gently place these beauties in the fire?

      Why not?  These Stuffed Portabella Pizzas are meant to broil on the lowest temperature setting for several minutes to really toast the delicious Cashew Basil Cheese, but I was hoping laying a few coals over the tinfoil would do the trick.

      While our cheese did not exactly toast beneath the mound of peppers, it did melt & taste FANTASTIC none the less.  It is no wonder Angela took Gold in the Portabella Playoffs.  The combination of pizza sauce, peppers & — have I mentioned how much I love? — cashew basil cheese is spot-on-good-stuff.

      Not generally a huge fan of red sauce, Ashley’s home-made pizza sauce is the best, especially with my mom’s bottled tomatoes; just throw in some red pepper flakes for a burst of heat.  Because I made it from scratch & was unsure how much it would yield,  I was a bit short of the one cup needed for our 4 porta-caps.  We also used a lot more chopped peppers than Angela [the same amount [1 C] she used for 8 caps]; so while our pizzas are less photo-worthy, they are certainly no less taste bud worthy.

      • After removing stems & gently rubbing the Portabella caps with a wet cloth to clean, lay each on its own lightly oiled sheet of tinfoil [if you are taking them camping].
      • Spoon ~ 2 T of Pizza Sauce into each Portabella
      • Spoon ~ 2 tsp of Cashew Basil Cheese over the sauce
      • Divide chopped Onion [1 – 2 T total] & chopped Peppers [I used a combination of ½ C Bell & ½ C Banana Pepper] into equal portions & sprinkle over Portabellas.
      • We threw on some sliced garden jalapenos as well.
      • Sprinkle Red Pepper Flakes & finely dice fresh Basil over the top
      • Wrap & seal in tinfoil homes until cooking over the fire OR skip all the tinfoil stuff & broil 10-12 minutes, on middle rack, watching closely.
      • Serve immediately!


      What are in your tinfoil camp entrees?

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