I’m in the home stretch, friends. Manuscript is due on Monday which means that, although I love hanging out with you, we’re going to have to make this visit quick today because I have a boatload of writing to finish. Although if my editor is reading this post, have no fear, I am totally on schedule! 😉
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day not only because it jumpstarts your brain and your metabolism, gives you fuel to get going, provides energy until your next meal, but it also sets the tone for how you feel and what you crave the rest of the day.
Hypothetically speaking, if I eat a doughnut for breakfast, my blood sugar will surge, then plummet, making me cranky and not able to think very clearly. I will be hungry a short while later, and psychologically other things can happen. That sugar may initiate more cravings for sweets during the day. I might be annoyed with myself for eating something “bad” and feel depressed afterwards. I could even think my whole day of eating has already been “ruined” and so I throw in the towel and eat a whole other bunch of crap, which we all know is a crazy thing to do, but it happens to the best of us.
The key is to eat the right amount of the right combination of high quality protein, fats and complex carbohydrates at breakfast.
At least twice each week, I make a big pot of warm porridge, usually steel cut oats, but occasionally another grain or two. I set out a bunch of different jars on the counter so everyone can make their own “power bowl” with fresh or dried fruit, nuts or nut butter, seeds, coconut, granola, and the like.
Last year I decided to change it up a bit and mix a bunch of different grains I had lying around and see what would happen. It’s always a good idea to expose yourself to more nutrients and flavors! I chose grains that all had similar cooking times — millet, quinoa, rolled oats and “creamy buckwheat cereal.” The buckwheat cereal is just the cut version of whole buckwheat groats, so it cooks faster. I loved it and so did my husband! My son, who doesn’t like to try anything new, thought it was “ok.” But he finished his bowl and eats it all every time I make it. (I think he secretly likes it.)
Many of my students have asked me for the “recipe” after seeing many a bowl of multigrain porridge on my Instagram feed. There’s really no one recipe for how to do this. I usually use 1 cup of mixed grains, so you can divide that equally into 1/4 cups of each of 4 grains. Or you can do mostly oats if that’s what is most familiar to you and a couple tablespoons of the other ones. (Mixing the grains makes for a more complex flavor than just one note.) I like to cook with water and when the grains are nice and soft and porridge-like, finish it off with something creamy like almond milk. If you are desperate to get more protein into your breakfast, you can certainly cook your grains with milk from the start.
You can also use other grains like wheat berries (not GF), brown rice, spelt (not GF), barley (not GF) and steel cut oats, but keep in mind those take longer to cook even if you soak them the night before (which you should do — see this post for why.)
There are infinite possibilities for toppings or add-ins, but I have included a few images of my latest creations (sorry there are no images of the porridge in the pot — the steam fogged up my camera and the pictures were a mess!) and you can check this post on some of my favorite oatmeal concoctions. Make your next breakfast count!
1 cup mixed gluten-free grains (I like a combination of rolled oats*, quinoa, millet, and creamy buckwheat), preferably soaked overnight in water and drained
4 cups water (use 3 ½ cups of water if grains were soaked)
½ - 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or milk of choice (click here for how to make your own almond milk)
In a medium saucepan, combine the grains and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered.
Cook until all the grains are tender, about 25-30 minutes. If grains were previously soaked, they will cook much more quickly!
Stir in the almond milk according to whether you like your porridge is thick or thin until porridge is nice and creamy. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few days. Reheat in a saucepan with a little water or almond milk to desired consistency.
*Look for specially labeled Gluten-free oats if you are gluten-intolerant or are trying to limit gluten.
We all have those recipes we love but don’t make very often (for me it’s chicken pot pie and spanakopita.) And then there are the recipes you rely on when you don’t want to think about what to make. Those are your go-to, no-fail, everyone-loves-this recipes. I wish I had an endless supply of those. But I am going to share one of my-go’s with you today! This roasted veggie buddha bowl is just that. I swear I could eat this every day. I taught this recipe in my classes in January and I actually did eat it every day and I never got tired of it.
A Buddha bowl is really just a simple combination of (usually) lightly steamed vegetables on top of a gluten-free grain, like brown rice, and often topped with a sauce or dressing of sorts. It is a very clean and healthful meal, but very satisfying. Personally, I prefer all my meals in a bowl. I love when all my food gets combined and every bite has a little bit of everything. It’s Mr. Picky’s worst nightmare.
A Buddha bowl is flexible. Clean out of the vegetable crisper and use what you’ve got. Not in the mood for rice? Use quinoa or millet. Soy or peanut-based sauces are very popular on Buddha bowls, but I am kind of obsessed with my lemon-tahini dressing from this salad, so I adapted that for this recipe. And even though I said a Buddha bowl is usually made with steamed vegetables, who says you can’t roast them? Like with a little coconut oil until the edges are just a bit crispy. Heaven!
I make dinner for my family every night (and if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you would know exactly what that looks like!) Even though I am a big proponent of one meal for all, there always those days I ate a late lunch after a class and I’m not feeling like the roast chicken and potatoes I am making for dinner that night. This Buddha bowl is my go-to on nights like that. I’ll make a big pan of roasted veggies for all of us and then whip up this dressing and a pot of steamed quinoa and voila! I have something a little lighter and I’m a happy camper. That’s not to say that my husband and my kids don’t like Buddha bowls. They all really do, especially my girls. As you would imagine, Mr. Picky doesn’t exactly eat his in a bowl. Rice in one separate, distinct area on a plate, roasted veg in another and hold the dressing, please. No problem, dude.
If you decide to make this dressing for your Buddha bowl, you really have a nice vegetarian meal no matter what grain you use since tahini is basically just sesame paste. Sesame seeds are high in protein, good fats and did you know, calcium? Just good to know if you’re looking for non-dairy sources of calcium. And if you make this with broccoli and kale, you have a very calcium-rich meal. I also like to sprinkle everything my Buddha bowl with gomasio, a macrobiotic condiment which is just a mixture of sesame seeds and sea salt. The one I use by Eden Organic also has seaweed in it. If you have all the other ingredients, but not the gomasio, make this anyway — you will love it and you will feel awesome after eating it. Have a lovely weekend!
Roasted Vegetable Buddha Bowl with Lemon-Tahini Dressing
Dressing (makes about 2 Tablespoons/serving):
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, about 1 small lemon
2 small cloves of garlic, grated or minced or just smash the cloves if you don't actually want to eat the garlic, but still have a subtle garlic flavor
¼ cup raw tahini (roasted tahini is fine, but raw is a little milder)
3-4 Tablespoons room temperature or warm water
¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
pinch of cayenne (optional)
8-10 cups mixed vegetables such as 1 head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets and stems, trimmed and chopped AND 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets*
2 Tablespoons melted unrefined coconut oil or unrefined olive oil
3-4 large leaves of kale, washed, dried, stems removed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Steamed brown rice, millet or quinoa for serving (optional)
Plain or seaweed gomasio for sprinkling on top (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
Make the dressing (or you can make while the vegetables are roasting): in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, tahini, water, olive oil, salt and cayenne until well blended. Just use the amount of water you need to get the consistency you want.
In a large bowl, toss the broccoli and cauliflower with the coconut oil. Don’t wash the bowl yet. Place the broccoli and cauliflower in one layer on the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, or until tender and golden in spots. I like to turn the vegetables after about 15 minutes.
Take the kale leaves and rub them around the bowl with any remaining coconut oil until lightly coated. Tear until large pieces and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place on top of the broccoli and cauliflower in the oven and roast until the kale is just crispy, about 5-10 minutes.
If you’d like to eat this as a “bowl,” place a scoop of rice/millet/quinoa in a bowl and top with the vegetables. Spoon some sauce over everything and sprinkle with gomasio, if desired.
*Other roasted veggies that would be great are beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes!
Have you ever read a cookbook or food blog where an unbelievable, creative recipe was put together with “odds and ends” from the pantry or produce bin? I am always in awe of people who can do that. Those same people go grocery shopping without a list and simply buy what looks good and then create a meal around it. I too can use bits of this or that and turn it into something fairly tasty, but it usually ends up as a frittata, Pantry Pasta, or some sort of fried rice dish. Definitely enough to get an acceptable dinner on the table, but nothing that will win me any accolades.
One day a few years ago, I decided to try my hand at “throwing something together.” I figured I had done this many a time at salad bars, I should be able to do this within the limitations of my own pantry and refrigerator. Whereas I pride myself on keeping things simple, on this particular day I got a little carried away. It all started with some quinoa, corn and cilantro which sounded Southwestern to me. Pretty soon I was dicing up red pepper, red onion and opening a can of black beans. Just when I thought I was done, I spied a mango and that went into the mix, too. After squeezing in some lime juice, olive oil and cumin, I had myself one fresh and tasty salad that I could happily bring to a backyard barbeque or serve to guests, even that same day to my mother-in-law who is slightly skeptical of quinoa.
I’ve made this salad countless times since then and changed it up every time. Red onion has been replaced with scallions or shallots. Ripe avocado and toasted pumpkin seeds have found their way in on many an occasion. When corn is crazy fresh and sweet, I just cut it off the cob raw and use it that way. With Father’s Day coming up, I am thinking about including this on the menu, but I might just leave out the quinoa entirely since I made quinoa tabbouleh last year on Father’s Day. Although my husband likes quinoa just fine, he doesn’t consider it very “manly.” Please. I keep trying to tell him how much protein it has — it’s like eating meat, but without the saturated fat and cholesterol. But it’s his day and I aim to please! So I think next weekend I’ll make this with extra corn and beans and thrown in some “manly” diced up grilled chicken. Regardless, “creating” this salad was a good exercise for me in learning how to be flexible, but also gave me some confidence to use what I’ve got — in more ways than one.
1 ½ cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed if canned (1 can)
1 ½ cups fresh or cooked corn (cut from 2 large ears)
¾ cup diced red pepper (1 small pepper or ½ large)
½ large red onion, diced (soaked in ice water if you want to cut the harsh onion flavor)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon sea salt
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
⅓ cup fresh lime juice (about 1 ½ limes)
⅓ cup unrefined, extra-virgin olive oil
Rinse quinoa in a bowl with water or place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Transfer to a saucepan and add a healthy pinch of sea salt and 1 ¾ cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and place a kitchen towel over the pot. Place the lid over the towel and let sit covered for 5 -10 minutes.
Transfer quinoa to a serving bowl, fluff with a fork and cool slightly. Add beans, corn, red pepper, onion, (optional) jalapeno and cilantro. Sprinkle with cumin and sea salt.
In a small bowl combine lime juice and olive oil. Pour over salad and mix well. Taste for seasoning.
Options for substitutions/additions: Also delicious in this salad are sautéed zucchini, diced celery, diced fresh mango, sliced scallions, diced tomato or diced avocado.
I know it’s still February, but I think a spring bug bit me. The new strawberries, asparagus, sugar snap peas and artichokes were calling my name last weekend at the farmer’s market and I felt myself thinking ahead to the next season. Just noticing that the sun is setting later and later is making me giddy. Yesterday I was working at home and felt inspired to make one of my favorite quinoa dishes with baby spinach, fresh dill and mint. It was like a bowl of fresh air.
This salad is based on the ingredients in spanakopita, the very rich and tasty Greek pie made from layers of phyllo dough (and butter), stuffed with cheese, spinach and herbs. My friend John gave me his mother, Libby’s heavenly recipe for spanakopita which I have been making for at least 10 years now, but not quite as often as I used to since loads of dairy, processed wheat and fat aren’t friendly to a certain someone. So these days spanakopita makes an appearance only once a year at our Yom Kippur break-the-fast dinner. Don’t feel sorry for me too fast.
Since I still crave those flavors, I came up with a lighter and fresher way to enjoy them. Hence this salad was born. Would you think I was lying if I told you I like this quinoa just as much, maybe more than spanakopita? Of course, I acknowledge this is still a salad and not a flaky, buttery hot mess of three kinds of cheese bound by chopped spinach. But I do like this quinoa better!! I like that it’s fresh, zingy and makes me feel energized instead of weighed down. Quinoa has that effect on me. It’s gluten-free and full of high quality protein, fiber and healthful minerals. For something so nutritious, it is also bouncy and light. Plus I can prepare this salad in a faction of the time it takes me to butter 20 sheets of phyllo dough.
My girls came home from school yesterday and polished off what was left in the serving bowl. I was hoping to ask Mr. Picky to try one bite. In the past, he has only been willing to eat the spinach leaves after he wiped them clean with his napkin. But lately I’ve noticed he has been a little more tolerant of quinoa, not minding if a spoonful or two gets mixed in with some kale salad or sugar snap peas. This is part of the slow and steady process to which I have committed.
For those of you with actual dietary restrictions or aversions, this is an incredibly flexible recipe. Vegans and dairy-free people can omit the feta and add some kalamata olives for a salty bite. I know there are mint-haters out there (really? very hard to believe!), so feel free to leave that out, especially since Libby’s recipe calls for only dill. And for those of you who would rather not use pine nuts, I have also used sliced almonds or roasted pistachios before with success. I love quinoa with a little crunch. This salad is the perfect lunch or light dinner on its own, but I have also served this with dozens of different sides including roasted carrots and beets, grilled zucchini, sauteed green beans with shallots or minted snap peas. Can you say “Spring It On?!”
¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces feta, preferably made from goat or sheep’s milk
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Rinse quinoa in a bowl with water or place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Drain and transfer to a medium saucepan with a pinch of sea salt and 1 ¾ cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Quinoa can remain in the pot until ready to combine with other salad ingredients or transfer to a serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Allow quinoa to cool slightly.
To the quinoa add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. * Or you can place the spinach on a serving platter and toss with 1 Tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Combine quinoa with remaining ingredients and mound on top of the spinach leaves. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Other additions can include Kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, and/or fresh corn kernels.
Let me just start out with a disclaimer — I am not from the South. I am a Yankee, which means I like my cornbread with half cornmeal and half flour and a drop of sweet and that’s that. If you are a true Southerner and wouldn’t dream of adding honey or sugar or maple syrup to your cornbread, I hope we can still be friends. I didn’t grow up eating it and I have no recipe that was passed down from my grandmother. But my husband and my kids love cornbread, especially at certain times of the year and I love preparing them good food that makes them happy.
After I posted my Thanksgiving menu a few months ago, I had many inquiries about my cornbread recipe, so I figured I would share it just before the Super Bowl when you might be whipping up a big pot of chili. Even if you’re not eating something that goes well with cornbread, you will be delighted with this quick bread just by itself. My husband loves to split a wedge of the bread, toast it and slather it with a little more butter or honey or strawberry preserves for a nice treat. I typically like a barely sweet cornbread, which this is if you use 4 Tablespoons of honey. You can adjust the sweetness level according to your preference, but the best part about this bread is how moist and corny it is (even after several days.) I’m not sure anyone in my family knows that I add cooked quinoa to the batter. And it’s not because I’m the kind of person that sneaks healthful food into recipes and doesn’t say anything. I’m not clever enough for that. But I do try to use food efficiently and one day I had a bit of quinoa left in the fridge and since quinoa and corn go really well together, I decided to add it to the corn bread batter. You don’t notice it at all, except that I think the quinoa adds a nice moistness to the bread and a great boost of protein.
I’ve made this cornbread so many times with different combinations of ingredients based on whom I am feeding or what is available to me in the pantry and it has never disappointed. Although I’ve learned something about how certain foods affect the end result. Dairy, such as milk and butter, result in a slightly more golden color to the finished bread. Coconut oil leaves a slightly sweet, subtly tropical aftertaste. The whole spelt flour is slightly coarser than whole wheat pastry, and made the bread feel a little more “whole grain.” If you use olive oil, you can taste it if the bread is still warm, but not after it has cooled a bit, but that will also depend on the kind of olive oil you use. Take this as a foundation recipe and have fun with it. Drop the honey and add diced cooked bacon, finely chopped jalapenos, or shredded cheese. Or prepare as is with some vanilla extract and blueberries or raspberries for a sweet treat.
Are you entertaining for the Super Bowl? I would love to hear what you’re making. I am making guacamole and baked chips, but I’ll also serve it with jicama. I’ll make a giant pot of Vegetable Chili tomorrow and reheat on Sunday. I am also doing a Baked Potato Bar with lots of toppings (what in the world is easier to make than a baked potato?) I actually love a baked potato topped with chili! A big chopped salad and cornbread for sure! Daughter #1 told me she’s in charge of desserts. I’m nervous. Other fun foods for the big game can be Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Enchiladas (especially the casserole version), a Taco or Fajita bar, Cilantro-Lime Slaw or a make-your-own sandwich bar with grilled chicken. I know my family in NY will be making some form of baked pasta, meatballs, sausage and peppers. Know your audience, I guess!
If you have leftover guacamole and/or salsa after the game, save it for a great soup recipe on Monday. Have fun!
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour or your favorite GF baking mix
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground*
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk**
½ cup melted unsalted butter (1 stick) or coconut oil or olive oil
2 large eggs***
4-6 Tablespoons honey or Grade A maple syrup (I use 4 Tbs.)
1 cup COOKED quinoa (optional)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease an 8 x 8-inch baking dish (I usually dip a pastry brush in the melted butter I’m using in the recipe and grease the pan that way.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl or a blender, combine buttermilk, melted butter, eggs and honey until well blended. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the corn kernels. Using an ice cream scooper, divide the batter into the muffin pan or pour it into the prepared pan.
Bake the muffins for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Or bake the cornbread in the 8 x 8 pan for 30-35 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing muffins from the pan.
*If you like a more tender, less grainy cornbread, increase flour by ½ cup and decrease cornmeal by ½ cup.
**Or ½ cup whole unsweetened yogurt + ½ cup milk of choice. Or 1 cup dairy-free milk + 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
***Or 2 Tablespoons ground flax meal mixed with 6 Tablespoons warm water. Allow to sit 10-15 minutes. And then allow batter to sit 5-10 minutes before baking.
****To cook quinoa: Rinse quinoa and then cook 1 cup quinoa in 1 ¾ cups boiling water covered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered. Makes about 3 cups cooked quinoa.
Father’s Day is this Sunday and we are getting ready to celebrate the man of the house. I have already begun planning my menu, which no doubt will involve some grilling since we all know that’s a man’s favorite thing to do. If my husband had his way, the meal would consist of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, grilled corn and ice cream sandwiches. And the reason my husband has been able to maintain his girlish figure all these years is because he is not in charge of meals. Before you accuse me of being no fun whatsoever, please know that grass-fed burgers with raw cheddar cheese and Applegate Farms organic grass-fed hot dogs will be in the house. Thankfully several people in our family like my turkey burgers enough that I will be making a batch of those. But more importantly, what am I going to eat?
Did I really find a way to make Father’s Day all about me? No, no, this will be Dad’s day, but it’s my job to make sure there’s a little balance in the meal and protein for the non-hot dog eaters. Like me. When I think about one of my favorite things to make for a backyard barbecue, something versatile enough to complement anything, delicious in its own right, lovely to look at and healthful enough that you can almost justify eating all that meat, quinoa tabbouleh immediately comes to mind. Just look at it! Light and bouncy quinoa mixed with sweet cherry tomatoes (use whatever colors you like), crunchy cucumber and all those fresh herbs. Who wouldn’t want to eat it? Don’t answer that, because I know what you’re thinking. I took this salad to my friend Karen and Jonathan’s house the other day for a barbecue and every man there not only tried the quinoa, but finished every little grain.
Quinoa works really well as a substitute for tabbouleh’s traditional bulgar wheat. (Like you really need to eat more gluten.) You can even mix different colors of quinoa and different colors of tomatoes. When I brought it to Karen’s, the quinoa was still too warm to mix with all the vegetables and herbs so I kept that in a separate container and brought a little glass jar with the lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Everything else was prepared ahead and kept in a serving bowl. Before we sat down to eat, I mixed the quinoa with the vegetables and herbs and poured in the dressing. Super easy, really nutritious and you know what? Real men don’t eat quiche, but they do eat quinoa!
2 cups diced unpeeled Persian or Japanese cucumber (or cucumber with a tasty skin)
2 cups halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
4 scallions, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon minced garlic
¾ cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or as much as you can chop -- the more, the better!
¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
⅓ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Rinse quinoa in a bowl with water or place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Transfer to a saucepan and add a healthy pinch of sea salt and 1 ¾ cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.
Transfer quinoa to a serving bowl and allow to cool. Fluff with a fork periodically.
Combine cooled quinoa and remaining ingredients plus 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt. Toss to mix well. Taste for seasoning.