Something to Make This Weekend (And Eat with Quinoa): Roasted Roots

I love to roast vegetables.

Cauliflower… brussle sprouts…sweet bell peppers… asparagus.

Now in this depth of winter, however, where locally grown fresh vegetables are hard to find, I’m gravitating towards the abundance of roots: carrots of every color, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, colorful potatoes (red, white, purple), rutabagas.

Carrots, Fingerling Potatoes, and Parsnips

Carrots, Fingerling Potatoes, and Parsnips

Roots have taken front and center for many of our weekly meals:

…tossed with fresh chopped parsley as a side for some roasted chicken, and served with a little chimichurri (or ketchup) for dipping

…simmered with a little chicken broth, a can of white beans, diced onions, and fresh parsley and served over quinoa

…eaten alone as hearty snack between meals

…or, like this (what I’m eating as I write this):

Roasted White Sweet Potatoes, Quinoa, Greek Yogurt, & A Drizzle of Warm Honey

Roasted White Sweet Potatoes, Quinoa, Greek Yogurt, & A Drizzle of Warm Honey

Here’s 5 tips for working with roots:

1) Organic or non-organic? According to the EWG (where you’ll find the guide to pesticides in produce), no root vegetables are part of the ‘dirty dozen’, which means buying organic isn’t necessary. (This is helpful considering the weight of these items; buying non-organic is often a significant cost saving.)

2) To peel or not to peel? I don’t peel my roots, but I do recommend giving them a good, vigorous scrub-down with a clean kitchen wash towel and some warm water. (The skins have tons of nutritional benefits, and I think they help the roots maintain a better texture when roasted.)

3) Serving size? Make double the amount you think you’ll need and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. They make for an instant super-meal anytime of day.

4) Chopping tip: You can roast various roots together, just be sure each root piece is similar in size. This will help them roast through evenly.

5) How to roast perfectly every time: Give the roots a good scrub with a clean kitchen rag and warm water. Rough chop (all in an even size) and toss with a little olive oil, a sprinkling of coarse sea salt, and a dash of black pepper. Placed single-layer on a metal cookie sheet, and roast for 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. 

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Tell me: what your favorite root beyond the basic potato and carrot?

My Out-of-Character Purple Quinoa Soup

We’re officially into summer, but here in Oregon the rain hasn’t stopped. It’s been dreary – just a little chilly. So, last night I decided to make soup for my family to warm us up from the inside out.

I had a beautiful head of red cabbage that I sautéed with some garlic and onions and then simmered in chicken broth. I added cooked quinoa and I seasoned the soup with cinnamon, fennel, and bay leaves. I added a little fresh lemon zest, a dash of sea salt and pepper, and served it with some fresh diced cilantro over the top. It was hearty, chalk full of nutrients, and the flavor was absolutely divine!

The one thing I didn’t bank on, however, was that my beautiful cabbage would go crazy in the pot. As it simmered, my good intentioned meal went from a pot of deliciousness to a big lavender-colored stew. The more lavender it got, the more my stomach sank. Yes, it smelled amazing – and it tasted amazing… but let’s get serious: no matter how spectacular my intentions and the flavors were, it was purple soup.

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Even my man, who loves everything I cook, opened the pot and gave me a look like, “You serious?”

“It tastes amazing,” I said encouragingly. “I know it doesn’t look so great – but wait til you try it.”

I ladled it into bowls for everyone and, as the kids approached the table and saw servings of purple, I got one, then two, then three, “What is this?”

Again, I let out a little laugh (and a prayer they’d eat it since I had no backup plan) as I said, “You’ll love it – I promise!”

Long story short, my prayer was answered and everyone finished their dinner. Surprisingly, there was no complaining, no sounds of disgust – they just ate. Their eyes were half closed with every bite – but they ate nonetheless. (My man even went back for seconds.) Then, as they left the dinner table satisfied, and warm, and full up on nutrients, I even heard, “Gosh, mom, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.”

But, can I tell you something?

I was absolutely shocked they ate that soup. S.H.O.C.K.E.D. It was the ugliest bowl of soup I’ve ever consumed in my 40 years of life – and, hands down, it was the ugliest meal I’ve ever put in front of my family in all the years I’ve cooked for them. Maybe it’s just me – or us… but purple is not meant for soup. Purple is meant for hydrangeas, or skittles, or a snazzy handbag that gives a pop of color to a boring outfit. But soup? No thanks.

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So, what gives then? How is it that my family got past the ugly flag that soup was waving and managed to discover it really was tasty?

I am convinced my family got past the ‘ugly’ because they know my ‘cooking character’. They enjoy my cooking night after night. They see the groceries I bring home; they know the flavors I play with; they’ve grown to trust how I put ingredients together; and, they are confident I cook, not to punish them, but to satisfy and nourish them with all things good. They’ve seen my ‘cooking character’ in the kitchen so regularly that, in spite of this total bomb, they knew they could trust I would never in a million years serve something that tasted disgusting… and that meant they simply ignored the ugly flag and dug right in.

With all that said, I turned off the kitchen lights last night with this quote floating through my mind:

My soup? It spoke really, really bad of me last night. Thankfully, though, I’ve lived out enough love in my kitchen that no one believed it to be true.

AM Northwest: Fresh Fruit Hand Pies

As a mom, there’s not much I get ‘props’ for. No one jumps for joy when I wash and fold their clothes; no one really notices when I go grocery shopping, or make lunches, or sweep the floor. (I wrote about motherhood being a tough gig not too long ago.) And hey – that’s the life of a mom, so I don’t sweat it. But one of the reasons I love, love, love to cook and to bake is because, without fail, when my kids catch whiffs of what I’m stewing, or baking, or sautéing… it draws them to me.

That’s the thing about cooking: the sweet, delicious smells created by my work call my babies to my side quicker than words ever do. They come in close, lean in, and ask for nibbles. They want to talk about what’s going into the pan; they ask questions like: Mom, did you make this up? Have I eaten it before? Will I like this?

They see ingredients at their finest – fresh, colorful, clean. They see me confidently using my hands to prepare and dice and toss and squeeze. They see me choose, and manipulate, and ‘dance’ my mama’s dance of love. And, when it’s all done, they enjoy the fruits of my labor.

It’s seeing my babies enjoy my ‘work’ and celebrate my ‘dance’ – that’s why I cook.

I especially love the squeals of joy when I make these:

Fresh Fruit Hand Pies with Homemade Flaky Puff Pastry

Fresh Fruit Hand Pies with Homemade Flaky Puff Pastry

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Call these my rebel yell against commercialize pop tarts, breakfast strudels, and sugary cereal. I dreamed them up in my kitchen one day when I had an abundance of mangos and some leftover tart dough… and I can’t believe it took me so long to begin creating these. They are just sweet enough with the fresh fruit and the slight addition of sugar that I wouldn’t hesitate to serve one for breakfast with a couple eggs – or as an after school treat with a glass of milk. And man, let me tell you: the kids really think they’re getting something spectacular when they eat these.

The crust is super simple, the filling is fresh and easy to prepare, and based on the reaction of my kiddos, all kids are sure to enjoy making and eating.

Here goes:

First, make the dough.

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 2 regular sticks of salted butter
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 12-13 TBSP ice water
  1. Add flour, butter, and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Turn on for 10 seconds nonstop. Then, pulse and additional 5-8 times. The goal is for butter bits to be about a little larger than pea sized…. so don’t over process!
  2. Drizzle a TBSP of water at a time through the top of the food processor and pulse for 1 second after each water addition.
  3. Pour mixture from food processor bowl into a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, squeeze the dough together until all of the mixture is stuck together. (NOTE: The dough should lean to the dry side. If it is too dry, wet your hands and continue to work dough until it adheres. If it is too sticky, add a tsp of flour at a time until the stickiness is gone.
  4. Form two discs, wrap in plastic, and chill.

While dough chills, prepare your filling. Here are some great options…

Mango/Coconut filling
Dice up some champagne mangos and toss with sweetened shredded coconut.

Apple filling
Peel and dice up granny smith apples. (Apple pieces should be just slightly larger than a corn kernal.) Toss the apples with a little sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Fresh Berries
Toss fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries – anything! – with a little sugar and squeeze of lemon juice.

Assemble the handpies:

  1. Preheat the oven and a baking sheet to 400 degrees.
  2. Roll out your chilled dough on a floured surface until it’s about 1/8 of an inch thick.
  3. Cut out whatever shape you’d like with an oversized cookie cutter, or other found object from your kitchen. (Large coffee cups make great cutters for circular hand pies.)
  4. Fill the center of your shape so that you maintain about a 1/2 inch around the outside of the filling. Dip your finger in the egg wash and coat the edge along the outside of the filling.
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  5. Take a second shape and cover the filled piece. Gently push the edges together being careful not to push the filling out of the sides. Then, dip a fork into the egg wash and ‘seal’ the edges with the fork.
  6. Using a pastry brush, wash the top of the hand pie thoroughly, then score with either a knife or a several fork pricks.
  7. OPTIONAL: You can sprinkle colored pastry sugar over the top before baking. If you are making the apple pies, you can add chopped store-bought caramels and sprinkle a pinch of coarse sea salt over the top for a ‘salted carmel apple’ pie.
  8. Place the assembled pies onto a preheated baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until the pies are golden brown.
For "Salted Carmel Apple" Handpie: fill with prepared apples, a few pieces of store-bought carmel (diced), and then, after you apply egg wash to assembled pie, top with a pinch of corse sea salt.

For “Salted Carmel Apple” Handpie: fill with prepared apples, a few pieces of store-bought carmel (diced), and then, after you apply egg wash to assembled pie, top with a pinch of corse sea salt.

These little gems are amazing warm… but just as yummy served cold – especially when thrown into a lunch pail for your little love.

Check out today’s AM Northwest segment from this morning where Dave and I made these up:

http://www.katu.com/amnw/segments/Homemade-Fruit-Pies-204900551.html

Why I Eat Quinoa.

I eat quinoa in practically every meal. Truly.

I eat it because it’s easy. It takes me seconds to put on the stove and it cooks by itself while I’m making breakfast or dinner. Then, I just store the big batch of it for an instant meal when I’m ready.

I eat it because it’s versatile.  I can eat it warm, or cold. I can put it with my greek yogurt and fruit, or I can make it savory with eggs and spinach. I can replace noodles in my soups with it, thicken vegetable stews with it, and turn it into the base for a phenomenal salad with every vegetable imaginable.

I eat it because it satisfies my appetite. It is filling, sustaining… it satiates me for hours.

I eat it because it makes me feel amazing. I feel light, energized, CLEAN.

Yes, I eat it because it’s ‘healthy’… but ‘healthy’ is hard to swallow if ‘healthy’ brings burden and frustration and confusion. And that’s what most ‘healthy’ trends do these days: burden people with dos and don’ts, calorie counts and carbohydrate components. Most ‘healthy’ talk these days goes against real food and, instead, tangles our mind in the pit of nutritionism, categories, and diet trends.

Quinoa is simple; it’s ancient. It causes me no burden, frustration or confusion.

Eating quinoa is like pulling out my favorite pair of blue jeans and dressing up or dressing down depending on my mood. It’s one of nature’s true superfoods; it was fed to Inca warriors as they headed out to battle thousands of years ago… and it is a prized food of endurance athletes around the world today.

No, I may not be a warrior with armor on, and I may not be running an organized marathon this afternoon. But, as a partner to my husband, a mom of three, a business owner, and a woman who never takes one breath for granted- I am a runner, a warrior, an athlete… and my calling requires physical strength, mental focus, and endurance.

That’s why I eat quinoa.

So this world can keep its diet trends, calorie counts, nutritionism talk, and confusion… I’ll have none of it. Instead, I’ll stick with my best friend, quinoa… and, I’ll be free, and powerful, and fit… and ready to take on the world.

Anyone care to join me?

Rebel on,

-e.

 

AM Northwest: Garden Fresh Tomato Marinara

I love AM Northwest. What started as me popping on to make some quick quinoa snacks has turned into a regular gig – and, yes, it’s pretty fun.

Today I stopped in to show Dave a great way to use up the masses of tomatoes that are bursting from gardens right now. There are tomatoes of every variety, color, size and shape. (Thanks to my friends Holly and Becky that have a phenomenal garden, I know this.) And, you know what? I discovered that when you put them all together in a great big pot and stew them down, the varieties blend together into a tomato sauce that is pure perfection.

Until this year I have never taken the time to make my own tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes because the process always seemed so daunting. Most tutorials instruct to seed them and blanch them to remove the skins. Ugh. Let’s be honest: just the word ‘blanch’ screams of hours in the kitchen, to which this mama says, ‘no thanks’.

But with tomatoes spilling out of my ears, I got bold and I flat out rebelled from the ‘right way’ to do things. I washed, I roughly chopped, and squeezed out seeds as I went (and had no concern from the hangers on). That’s it.

Every tomato color and variety I had at my fingertips went into the pot. Again, rebelling from the instruction to ‘add salt and water’ to help the process, I added nothing. NOTHING. No water; no salt; no broth. I turned those simple tomatoes on high, brought the batch to a boil, and waited until it was all nice and mushy, which took about 30 minutes.

After turning off the heat, I took the greatest kitchen gadget I’ve discovered this year and blended the mix into a pure, smooth sauce. (I figured if my tool worked for smoothies, it’d work for liquifying the skins I didn’t care to remove.) The result? A sauce that was gorgeous, delicious, fresh.

So, then the question is: once I stewed down all my tomatoes, what did I do with all the sauce?

I made up a big batch of basic marinara! And believe me: it is EASY. Seriously. No matter how many tomatoes you’re dealing with, you simply double or triple the recipe below based on the proportion of sauce you end up… and you can freeze the marinara in quart sized freezer bags (or snapware containers, which is what I use) for those nights you’re in a pinch for dinner.

(I must give credit where credit is due, and this recipe is based on a recipe from my favorite Italian priest in the world, Father Bruno… but, I admit, I doctored it up a little by adding fresh basil and anchovies.)

Anyway, here goes:

  • 1/4 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets, smashed with the back of a fork
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, diced and smashed
  • 1 tsp good quality salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 5 cups fresh tomato sauce
  • a handful of fresh basil

Process:

  1. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to large hot fry pan.
  2. Sauté carrots, celery and onion until tender (approx 3 minutes), stirring occasionally so they don’t stick.
  3. Add the mashed anchovy fillets and the garlic. Sauté for about a minute; stir constantly to break up the fillets and to prevent the garlic from burning. (You can add another TBS of EVOO if needed.)
  4. To the sauté, add 5 cups fresh tomato sauce and stir throughly. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Before serving, stir a handful of roughly chopped fresh basil into the marinara; toss with your favorite pasta and top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!!

And hey – come back and let me know if you put YOUR tomatoes to use… and whether you were able to get your kids involved in this fun cooking project.

Rebel on,

Elisha

PS. If you freeze some of the plain tomato sauce (instead of making it into a marinara), it will make a great starter for tomato soup when the days turn colder.

I plan on pulling out some of my plain frozen sauce sometime towards the end of October for a Tomato Basil Bisque soup… so, plan ahead! Keep some on hand and we can make it together!

AM Northwest: Blue Steak Salad and Salty Pappas

Today started super awesome. I was invited back on our local morning show, AM Northwest (PDX, KATU Channel 2) to cook up a 4th of July menu that goes beyond burgers and hotdogs… and here’s what we cooked up:

  • Blue Mixed Greens Salad with Marinated Flank Steak
  • “Salty Papas”
  • Red White and Blue Whipped Parfait

The recipes follow the video… and, in the video you’ll see the technique to use for salting the Salty Papas. Also, as I say in the segment, this is a great ‘deconstruct able’ meal. What this means is that you can prepare everything on the menu and gear it towards adults – but every recipe has elements that you can pull out and serve to the kids without additional effort. For example, my kids don’t eat this particular salad, but they love steak, pears, and the potatoes.

So – enjoy! If you will have children around, I suggest grilling up some corn on the cob while you’re at it. That way if they choose to forgo the salad, they can still have a yummy veggie to add to their plate.

Thanks for being here – and let me know if you try and of these recipes!

Rebel on,

Elisha

Here are the recipes – all recipes make approx 4 servings.

Blue Mixed Greens Salad
4 handfulls of mixed greens
1 Bosc pear, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
A drizzle of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
A drizzle of balsamic vinegar
NOTE: Add a little bit of EVOO and balsamic at a time because dressing this salad requires less than you might think! You can always add more, but if you add too much you can’t go back.
Toss salad until all ingredients are evenly coated with EVOO and balsamic. Serve salad on plate and top with a serving of sliced marinated flank steak.
Marinade for Flank Steak
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
Garlic powder
Coarse black pepper
Dust one side of flank steak with a light coating of garlic powder; follow with a light coating of black pepper. Pour the lemon juice and soy sauce over the meat. Flip the meat from side to side in the marinade until both sides are fully coated with marinade. Cover will tin foil and refrigerate.
Remove steak from fridge about 20-30 minutes before you are ready to grill. Grill steak on direct, medium high setting for 15 minutes, turning once. Remove steak from grill and cover tightly with tin foil; allow steak to sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting into thin strips.
“Salty Papas” (aka Salty Potatoes)
1 pound of fingerling potatoes
Kosher salt
Put potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Cook potatoes on high heat at a rapid boil until soft when pierced with a fork. Once tender, drain off all water and return to stove.
Potatoes should be in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. (Depending on the size of your pot, you may have to complete this step in two batches.) Sprinkle all the potatoes with kosher salt (approx 1 TBSP per pound), cover and cook at medium high heat for 1 minute. While potatoes are still covered, begin to shake pan from side to side so that potatoes become fully coated in salt and do not stick to pan. Return to heat for 30 seconds and shake again. Do this several times until potatoes no longer look moist and there is a white powdery look to the skins. Remove from heat and place in a single layer on a platter until ready to serve. Serve with Cilantro Dipping Sauce.
Cilantro Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup packed cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic
a pinch of kosher salt
Add all ingredients into a food processor until paste-like. Serve beside Salty Papas.
Red White and Blue Whipped Parfait  
2 cups Blueberries
2 cups Strawberries, sliced into slivers
Homemade Whipped Cream
Create a bed of whipped cream in a small dessert bowl. Place blueberries and strawberries side by side, then top with a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy.
Homemade Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
Place cream and sugar in a bowl and whip on high speed with a mixer until stiff peaks form. (This should take 3-4 minutes.) Enjoy.

AM Northwest: Quinoa Super Snacks

Today I shared some quinoa love on Portland’s ABC morning show, “AM Northwest”! I had such a blast… especially because they LOVED the quinoa snacks I made. I mean LOVED THEM.

I made two SuperSnacks in my 6 minutes, both of which give that perfect power punch in the middle of the day: a sweet quinoa snack and a savory quinoa snack.

Here’s what I did:

Sweet Quinoa Super Snack –
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1/2 a banana, diced
1/2 a mango, diced
1/4 cup of coconut milk
sprinkle of unsweetened coconut
a drizzle of honey (if desired)

Savory Quinoa Super Snack –
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 fresh avocado, diced
handful of cherry tomatoes, each one cut in half
a drizzle of olive oil
the fresh squeezed juice from 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

If you watch the segment, a couple of the ingredients for each dish don’t even make it in… yet Dave went bananas for both of them! After the cameras went dark he came right back over and totally finished off BOTH bowls I prepared for him. Even more rewarding was that the camera guy came over and let me feed him – and then two people that must have watched from a different part of the building came in, too! Everyone was gathered around my quinoa station for at least 15 minutes after the show ended… eating, talking, sharing food thoughts.

I must say that today was a good day.

Glad you’re here with me,
Elisha