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I didn’t get a chance to get on here Thanksgiving Day to wish you all a Happy Day, like I had planned but I was cooking away in the kitchen and watching the parade, the dog show and football! I hope all of my American readers had an incredible day surrounded by people they love most and filled with delicious and tasty fresh foods made with so much love and care. If you aren’t in the US – I hope you have a beautiful Thursday, still!

Our day was perfect, I spent the day cooking in my kitchen and relaxing with hubby, we really needed a day like that, then we headed to my parents to see a ton of family for dessert. It is going to be an insane few weeks coming up so I was very happy to have the perfect balance of a quiet and calm day, with a bit of the usual holiday fare with the extended family.

Of course the best part of making a big feast for 2, is that we have a ton of leftovers. This is so perfect since we are leaving on Friday of this coming week to head to Chicago – so finding time to cook is probably going to be tough. Besides just reheating things, I plan to come up with all kinds of fun and creative ways to eat up the leftovers. This morning I saw a post on the Kitchn with this very topic – lots of great and delicious ways to eat up those leftovers! One of the hardest things to just simply reheat are the mashed potatoes, they are never as creamy and delicious as they are that night! You could certainly make a shepherd’s pie with them or potato pancakes of some sort, which I had planned on doing until I saw this post. The Kitchn had this delicious recipe for Mashed Potato Puffs that caught my eye instantly. Their puffs included ham and cheese, though this was a bit too rich for me after the two days of eating that I just had, so I skipped the cheese and ham and just added a small amount of turkey and some fresh chives from my garden. If you had a vegetarian Thanksgiving, these would still be equally as delicious without any meat at all. These adorable little puffs were super simple to put together and ready in 20 minutes. We had ours for breakfast and we put the leftovers in the fridge for either a side dish or another breakfast. They were puffy, had a slight crisp on the outside and were perfectly soft and creamy inside. I almost always make my mashed potatoes as garlic smashed potatoes, which I add a smidge of Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese to for a little bit of creamy and tart flavor. I make my smashed potatoes with red potatoes, leaving the skins on – so my puffs were a bit more rustic and chunky than the original recipe, which I really liked. They can stick a bit when coming out of the muffin tin, at least they did for me, so make sure you grease your tin, even if it is non-stick. I personally didn’t care about that little bit of sticking – they were delicious regardless.

Well we’re off to the country to cut down our Christmas tree today and then to walk around beautiful Elicottville to really get even more into the Christmas mood! I cannot wait!

Tomorrow I plan to make a gluten-free turkey pot pie with some of the leftovers and I am going to cook down the bones to make a turkey stock for soup. What are you making with your leftovers?

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Smashed Potato Puffs
makes between 12 and 24 puffs, depending the size of the pan used
Adapted from The Kitchn

2 cups leftover smashed (or mashed) potatoes
3 large farm fresh brown eggs, beaten
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/4 cup shredded leftover turkey (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease the cups of a regular muffin tin or a mini-muffin tin.
Whisk together the smashed potatoes, eggs, chives, and turkey. Taste and season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.
Put a spoonful of the mixture in each muffin cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the potato cups are set, browned on top, and hot through and through. Serve immediately.

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Butternut Squash, Arugula and Goat Cheese Pizza

After being on a cleanse for two weeks, removing meat, fish, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, the usual gluten and processed foods, etc – I was looking forward to slowly adding some things back in this week. I love that after two weeks of removing those things from my diet, I no longer crave them, I don’t feel weighed down, exhausted, sluggish, bloated, etc. I feel like the change of seasons is the best time to wipe your slate clean and start fresh and new. Personally, in my life I like to subscribe to the idea of ‘all things in moderation’. That’s not to say I eat junk food, corn syrup laced sodas, processed foods, factory farmed meats and all that other yucky junk in moderation or at all, but there are some things that, though I know in excess can be bad for you (specifically for me – caffeine, alcohol, dairy, meat, sugar), I think in moderation are OK and in some ways good for you.

I like cleansing because I can reset myself and my cravings and start over with the new season. I don’t see myself giving up dairy entirely anytime soon, or cocktails for that matter, so by doing a cleanse I can clean myself of all the junk in my body and any excessive cravings I may have for these things, especially after months of traveling and eating and drinking more than I would like to.

Once I am off a cleanse, I don’t go all in again the very next day and make a drink to have with my massive cheese and meat platter, all finished off with a huge plate of cake – but instead I slowly start adding small amounts back into my diet. This is partially so my system isn’t shocked after two weeks of eating mostly vegetables, whole grains and legumes, but also so I don’t just jump back into old habits and cravings. This week I wanted to enjoy and add back in small amounts of locally farmed dairy and meat and some sweets – but only those made from alternative sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar, no straight cane sugar just yet.

This pizza was the first real treat after coming off the cleanse and I felt like it was a good way to go back in. I made the crust with flaxseed egg replacer (2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds with 6 tablespoons of warm water) and I got the goat cheese from First Light Farm & Creamery, a wonderful local farm with delicious goats milk products. In addition, the arugula, squash and onion were all from the farmers market and the rosemary was from my own garden. It doesn’t get much fresher and tastier than all that!

This pizza is loaded with delicious fall flavors, everything pairs together so well. The arugula retains a nice subtle and spicy crunch, the squash is tender and so perfect with the rosemary and onions and the goat cheese finishes everything off with a super flavorful, rich and creamy tang! As mentioned in the recipe below, please feel free to use your own favorite pizza dough recipe (with or without gluten, it doesn’t matter) or even a good store-bought dough or crust. Since it was a busy weeknight, I used a package of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza dough mix. Although I have made some delicious gluten-free pizza doughs completely from scratch, I really love how easy and delicious the Bob’s Red Mill dough is for when you don’t have all that time. It is a pre-mixed blend of flours (without any additives or other wacky ingredients) and it comes with a package of yeast. You just add olive oil, eggs (or a flaxseed egg replacer) and warm water, that’s it. I like their crust because it is light, it has the perfect balance between chewy and crispy and it isn’t too thin or too thick. When I don’t have the time to make my own dough it really is a great alternative.

I made this pizza earlier in the week and since then I have had a small amount more of organic dairy and some pasture-raised local meat from our farm.  I am still feeling really, really great! I am really looking forward to having a glass or two of wine this weekend in celebration of my birthday and I am also looking forward to experimenting this weekend with making some healthy sweets made from sugar alternatives. Look for a recipe tomorrow for my gluten-free pumpkin oatmeal raisin cookies made with honey instead of sugar and grapeseed oil instead of butter. Sunday morning we are going apple picking so keep an eye out for an updated version of my gluten-free apple crisp, I am going to try to make a version without butter or sugar! I can’t wait to play.

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Butternut Squash, Arugula and Goat Cheese Pizza

Butternut Squash, Arugula and Goat Cheese Pizza
makes 8 pieces

1  – 1lb ball of  your favorite gluten-free (or not) pizza dough or a ready-made crust. You are looking for a 14-16″ round crust (I used a package of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza dough mix and made one large pizza with it instead of two)
2 1/2 cups cubed local butternut squash (about 1/2-inch square pieces)
2 tablespoons olive oil (half for the squash and reserving the other half for the crust)
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped (you can use dried rosemary here, just use less)
3 cups organic arugula, roughly chopped
6 ounces crumbled local goat cheese

Preheat oven to 425º. If you are making your own pizza dough, have it already mixed and rising. While your dough is rising, on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, half of your salt, half of your freshly ground black pepper and half of your fresh rosemary. Cook the squash until slightly browned and tender, about 25 minutes, tossing occasionally to ensure even cooking. Set aside.

While the squash is cooking, caramelize the onions in the other tablespoon of olive oil with a dash of salt in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Stir often and cook 10-12 minutes until perfectly browned and caramelized. Set aside.

Once all of your toppings are ready, pre-bake your dough without the toppings (mine took approximately 10 minutes), then remove from the oven and top with squash, onion, arugula, crumbled goat cheese and the remaining rosemary, salt and pepper. Bake until the crust is crispy, lightly browned and the cheese is melted, about 15-18 minutes.

Obviously whatever pizza dough recipe or ready-made crust you choose to make this with will be fine, just adjust your cooking temperature and times accordingly (if necessary).

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Lentil Soup

Well it is official, this past Friday marked the Autumn Equinox, so that means we are officially amidst my favorite season – Fall! Besides all the beautiful weather, cooler temperatures and lovely leaves – we are also blessed with some of my favorite foods of the year. Squashes, pumpkins, apples, brussels sprouts…pies, crisps, soups, stews, roasts…the list goes on and on. As much as I want to enjoy every single one of these things, after a long summer of traveling and the indulgences that goes along with it, I decided to once again mark the shift of the seasons with a cleanse. We were in NYC this past weekend, so rather than starting my cleanse on the equinox as I would have liked, I started on Monday. That was our driving home day, so it was definitely a bit tricky, but I was able to pack some snacks ahead of time for the car rides, like kale chips, roasted chickpeas and unsalted cashews. Plus our gracious hostess in Brooklyn, Karen, made me a delicious glass of fresh kale, apple, celery and cucumber juice before we hit the road. I made a delicious batch of kitchari (recipe coming soon) as soon as I got home and was able to make it through day 1, without a hitch.

I am doing a minimum of 2-weeks this time around, but definitely shooting for a full 28-days if my schedule allows. As with the cleanses I have done in the past, I am loosely following the Ayurvedic traditions, along with the items I tend to have issues with, personally. I am very excited to have a group of 25+ friends on Facebook that are all following along and participating in their own matter. It’s so amazing to have other people to motivate me and as a support system, it makes it even easier. Since I have had quite a few people ask me about how I cleanse, I thought I would put a very loose description of what I personally do in this post. If you have any additional questions about what I am doing, please contact me and I will do my best to help.

I am avoiding the following things:
Dairy*
Eggs
Sugar
Excess Salt (I will use a very small amount when cooking)
Caffeine
Alcohol
Meat (chicken, beef, pork, etc)
Fish and Shellfish (shrimp, scallops, mussels, etc)
Gluten (wheat, barley, oats, rye, etc)**
Soy
Corn
Foods with preservatives, additives or chemicals, and foods grown in an environment laced with chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and canned, frozen or processed foods.**

*Ayurveda doesn’t restrict dairy, but I personally seem to have issues with it, so besides ghee, I am avoiding all dairy during my cleanse.
** these are both things that I avoid on a regular basis, but are very important to a cleanse

So you are probably wondering what exactly I am eating, then…

What I am eating:
Fresh organic fruit. I am going light on the fruit because of the sugar and I am focusing on suggested fruits that are best for digestion such as apples, pears, figs, prunes, papaya, etc.
Fresh organic veggies. Some of the best for digestion are leafy greens, cabbage, celery, brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc
Whole organic grains such as brown rice, quinoa, amarynth, buckwheat, millet
Beans like lentil, mung beans, etc
Vegetable juice and broth
Soups and stews made with vegetables, legumes and grains.
I am cooking with a small amount of olive oil and/or ghee (indian clarified butter that is GREAT for detox)
Raw honey (sparingly)
lots of luke warm water with lemon and/or ginger
detox tea (I like Yogi brand Detox tea)
I am also taking probiotics in the morning after breakfast

I plan to get as many recipes on this blog throughout the cleanse, so you can see a good example of how I eat when I am cleansing.

Here are some additional tips that I have learned along the way:

Some of the differences with an Ayurvedic cleanse vs a regular cleanse is that it teaches you to avoid or focus on foods specific to you and your body-mind type (or your dosha) and it’s needs. Also, although you should be eating TONS of fresh fruits and veggies, you shouldn’t eat them raw during this cleanse. Raw foods are harder on your digestive tract, so you should be heating and/or boiling your veggies and eating them warm.

Eat whole, fresh, natural foods, organic if you can get it. Buy your produce fresh, and consume it quickly.

Also avoid ICE cold water and beverages, it can disrupt the “fire” needed in your digestive tract.

Cook with digestion-enhancing, detoxifying spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, clove, ajwain, fenugreek, dried ginger, Chinese cinnamon and fennel. Add the turmeric to foods as they are cooking, and sauté other spices in ghee or olive oil and pour over prepared dishes for the best therapeutic benefit.

According to Ayurveda, each meal should be a feast for all of your senses. When your plate reflects an appealing variety of colors, textures, flavors and aromas, your digestive juices start freely flowing in anticipation and your body, mind and heart are all fulfilled by the eating experience.

As I mention above, normally I avoid raw vegetables and fruit since it can disrupt your digestive tract and it is harder to digest, however this time around, I am including juices that I am making from fresh, organic vegetables and fruit. I decided to include this, as most mornings I go to yoga from 9:30 – 11:00am, I do not eat before I practice yoga and by the time I get home around 11:30, I am not quite ready for lunch but I am slightly hungry. The juices have been a great and fast way for me to get much-needed nutrients without having to prepare an involved breakfast, plus it is light enough that I am ready for lunch a couple of hours later.

I made this lentil soup for dinner last night and served it with some roasted butternut squash with rosemary, on the side. It was so delicious and perfectly satisfying. I love lentil soup because it can be quite versatile, every time I make it, it is a bit different from the last. You can experiment with different spices and flavors, you can add many different types of vegetables, including leafy greens like spinach or kale and if you aren’t on a cleanse, you could even top it with a delicious homemade yogurt sauce.

When I made this particular pot, I wanted to make sure to include some cleansing spices and I also wanted to get some smokey spice from a couple of dried chipotles. If you don’t like the spices I used, experiment with your own, there are so many possibilities, you could use smoked paprika, yellow curry powder, chile powder, dill, etc – the flavor combinations are endless. For a real hearty pot of lentil soup, you could add some brown rice or other grains to this soup, which I have done in the past and it is delicious. Just add the uncooked rice with the lentils, and skip the pureeing at the end. You could also roast the butternut squash (recipe coming soon) with spices to match your soup and just add it to the pot just before serving. Honestly, I debated this for quite sometime, but ultimately I really wanted to savor and enjoy the crispy browned bites of squash on their own, it felt like such a treat.

Sometimes I like my lentil soup smooth with just a few whole lentils, which is how I made it this time. If you wish to have a chunkier, heartier soup, simply skip the pureeing step and serve the soup, as is.

Lentil Soup
serves 6-8

2 tablespoons of ghee or olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1-2 dried chipotle(s)
1 medium organic red onion, diced
2 cloves of organic garlic, minced
1 organic celery stalk, diced
1 organic carrot, peeled and diced
1 organic green bell pepper, diced
a dash of sea salt (I used very little since I am cleansing)
3 cups of lentils (you don’t have to presoak lentils, but I do as it is supposed to lessen the gassy after-affects)
8 cups of low-sodium organic vegetable broth or water (you may need to add more if your soup gets too thick)
1 large organic tomato, diced (you can just use a can of organic diced tomatoes here, if you wish)

For serving:
1 small tomato, diced
1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced

If you wish to soak your lentils, rinse them well, sort through to pick out any small stones and place in a large glass bowl. Cover the lentils in water and allow to soak a few hours. Once you are ready to make your soup, drain the lentils and rinse again. If you aren’t soaking your lentils, just rinse well, pick through to remove any small stones and allow to drain.

In a large stock pot, heat the ghee (or olive oil) over a medium-high heat, add the cumin seeds, turmeric and dried chipotles, stir until fragrant and the cumin seeds begin dancing around the pot. Add in the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, bell pepper and a dash of salt, saute for approximately 7 minutes until the vegetables are translucent and soft.

Add in the lentils, vegetable broth (or water) and diced tomato, turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a medium-high, cover and allow to simmer for approximately 45 minutes, stirring often. Cook until the lentils are tender. This may take less time, it may take more time, it depends on the lentils you are using and it depends if you soaked them first. You also may need to add more broth or water if the soup becomes too thick. Salt and pepper the soup to taste. You can leave the soup chunky as it is, or if you wish for it to be smooth and creamy, remove the dried chipotle pepper(s) and puree 2/3 of the finished soup in batches, in a blender, adding it to a large bowl as you go and then adding it all back to the pot when you are finished. Stir to combine. Serve the soup topped with freshly diced tomatoes, chopped fresh cilantro and green onions, or whatever your toppings of choice may be.

 

NOTE: the above information about my cleanse is not meant to be taken as medical advice. Every individual is different, this is just what I have found works for me. There are obviously different ways of thinking and a gazillion different types of cleanses. I have done this particular style of cleanse many times over the last two years and have always had great results. Please acknowledge what is right for you, your own body and health and take this all into consideration when embarking on a journey like this.

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Fried Black Rice With Ginger Tofu and Baby Arugula

I came across this recipe in a recent issue of Whole Living and couldn’t wait to make it. I love black rice so much, it is full of flavor. I always keep a pound or two of Black Japonica in the pantry, a unique field blend of medium grain black and short grain mahogany rice. It’s so nutty and sweet, perfect in many different dishes.

This recipe is so healthy and fresh, simple to make and full of so many flavors. The original recipe called for spinach but since I still had some baby arugula on hand, I figured that would work just as well. I was pleasantly surprised how much more delicious the rice was after frying it up in the pan, it grabbed all the little bits of ginger and garlic and the Sriracha left in the pan from the tofu. The tofu had a nice crisp outside and it was full of flavor from the ginger and Sriracha and the arugula brought a beautiful peppery crunch. I hope to plan spinach and/or arugula in our garden this year so I have a feeling we’ll be eating this dish a lot this summer.

Fried Black Rice With Ginger Tofu and Baby Arugula
Adapted from Whole Living, March 2011
Serves 4-6

3/4 cup black rice (I used a blend of black and mahogany rices)
1 1/2 cups water
1 bunch organic baby arugula, rinsed and roughly chopped (spinach will work here, too)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into six 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
Lime wedges, for serving

Bring rice and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Steam baby arugula, covered, in 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes; set aside. Saute garlic, ginger, and scallion whites in remaining oil until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tofu and Sriracha and cook until tofu is golden, about 6 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Add rice to skillet and cook over medium-high heat until crisp, about 2 minutes. Serve with baby arugula and tofu. Garnish with scallion greens and serve with lime. Add more Sriracha when serving, if you like.

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Baked Sweet Potato Chips

This is a super easy and healthy treat you can make at home that is perfect for a mid-day snack or for the road trip munchies. I made these for our drive to NYC a couple of weekends ago, they were perfect for the car.

You can certainly leave the peels on, though the potatoes that I had on-hand were looking a bit rough, so I decided to peel them. I used organic white sweet potatoes but any sweet potato or regular potato would work just as well. You can have fun with spices, oils and other flavors. I kept it simple with just salt and pepper and a good olive oil and topped them with a squeeze of lime and a bit of chopped cilantro. You could add chili powder, cinnamon or any other spice or herb you desire. I made these again today, for a mid-afternoon snack, and this time I used applewood smoked sea salt! WOW, it was incredible.

Once you get into making your own chips, you’ll really laugh at the thought of eating them out of a bag. These are so much more filling and have a great flavor. You will still have the great crunch but without the insane amount of fat from frying and all the chemicals and preservatives.

Once thing I recommend highly when it comes to making your own chips at home is to slice the potatoes (or whatever you are making the chips from) with a mandoline slicer. This ensures a consistent thickness on all the chips so they will cook evenly, plus it is incredibly easy to use. You can go-it by hand with a sharp knife and a steady hand, but it isn’t easy.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips
serves 4

2 medium organic sweet potatoes, scrubbed well or peeled, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

lime wedges for serving
fresh chopped cilantro for serving

Preheat oven to 400º F.

In a large bowl, add the potato slices, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss gently to evenly coat.

Place the potato slices on two rimmed baking pans, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gently toss to coat evenly. Arrange in a single layer between the two pans.

Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the potato slices are golden brown, crisp and cooked thoroughly, turning a couple of times to crisp evenly. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper a squeeze of lime juice and the chopped cilantro just before serving.

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Spicy Spring Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Arugula (Gluten-Free)

Pasta is definitely my go-to comfort meal, it rarely disappoints. I almost always have a couple of pounds of dried gluten-free pasta in the pantry and enough ingredients to throw together a tasty and seasonal dish with it. Plus, I really love how little effort it takes. In the time it takes to preheat the oven and make a horrible processed frozen pizza, you can have a delicious main-course pasta made with fresh ingredients. With all the traveling we’ve had going on and how busy we’ve been I have been craving one of my homemade pasta creations, so last week after we got home from NYC and before we left again for Pittsburgh, I thought up this dish and threw it together for us.

Besides the beautiful spring produce that is finally showing itself at the grocery store, what inspired this dish was a jar of hot pepper spread from Wegmans in my refrigerator. We always have it on-hand for things like sandwiches, soups, eggs, pizza etc. It has a mere 5 ingredients, all natural, and it’s the perfect condiment. It caught my eye the other day and I realized that I had never made a pasta dish with it. I decided to take a trip to the grocery store and let the fresh produce decide the rest. I was definitely craving a spring inspired dish! Though the choices are still limited and it isn’t all necessarily local, I was happy to see more green in the produce section. It feels like we are finally through the winter and onto brighter things, literally.

The asparagus and baby arugula both jumped out at me in the produce section and I thought paired with the spicy peppers, a nice parmigiano-reggiano and some lemon, they would be perfect. Certainly skip the hot pepper spread if you don’t care for spicy or if you can’t find anything like it, or you can substitute it with a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes. Have fun with it and always start out slow with the spicy ingredients if you don’t like the heat, you can always add more. This pasta just explodes with fresh flavors, the heat from the hot pepper spread brings a nice zing, but it’s not too overpowering, the subtle peppery crunch from baby arugula is fresh and welcomed after a long winter, along with the brightness from the lemon. It is a very light and healthy, but certainly satisfying, spring dinner. If you are looking for a nice vegan spring pasta dish, just leave off the cheese or substitute with your favorite cheese substitute, it will still be delicious.

After a winter of root vegetables, frozen vegetables and just plain ‘blah’ produce, it really is nice to start seeing better fresh produce options again at the grocery store. The farmers market opens in less than 3 weeks (I am counting down the days) and shortly thereafter I will be starting our garden.

Here’s to the spring, more green and a lot sunshine!! (FYI – as I type this, it is snowing)

Spicy Spring Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Arugula (Gluten-Free)
serves 4-6

1 lb asparagus
3 tablespoon organic olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 lb organic gluten-free brown rice pasta (you can use any shape you’d like and certainly you can use regular pasta here, as well)
2 cups organic baby arugula roughly chopped or torn
2 cloves organic garlic, minced
1 tablespoon hot pepper spread (I buy Wegmans brand, but you can also substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or leave it out)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Lemon zest
fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400º F.

Clean your asparagus and snap off the tough ends. Cut into 2-inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan and place in the preheated oven. Roast for 15-25 minutes until tender, but still a bit crisp.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, reserve approximately 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and rinse in hot water. Place the rinsed pasta in a large serving bowl, immediately add the baby arugula and toss, so it begins to wilt. Then add the minced garlic, hot pepper spread (or red pepper flakes), 2 tablespoons of olive oil and as much cooking liquid as necessary to make the pasta a bit creamy. Toss carefully to combine all the ingredients, add more cooking liquid as needed. Once the asparagus is done, add this to the pasta along with most of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, reserving a bit for serving. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the pasta, taste the pasta and salt and pepper to taste. Toss everything carefully one last time. Plate the pasta individually and top each serving with fresh lemon zest and the remaining cheese.

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Chocolate Chip Brownies (Gluten-free)

I came across this recipe while on my cleanse last month, and I wished I hadn’t at that time, because it was all I could think about for the last day or two of the cleanse. I couldn’t wait to try it out. I had almond butter on hand from smoothies and other recipes during my cleanse and I had really fallen in love with it. So versatile and there so many recipes it will work in, plus it is super tasty on its own on a spoon, just like old faithful, peanut butter. I had an amazing gluten-free brownie a while ago at the Lexington Coop and had been looking around online for a similar recipe using those ingredients. I came across this recipe on Elana’s Pantry, a wonderful gluten-free blog that features so many great recipes, many of which are made with almond flours and almond flour butter, etc.

These brownies are not only the best gluten-free brownies I have ever had, I think they are the best brownies, period. My husband couldn’t get enough and couldn’t stop raving about them, he said they were the best had ever had, too. He is such a good gauge for these types of recipes, since many times what I think is good, really isn’t, since it’s been over 6 years since I have had gluten and the original versions. When he can’t get enough and says it’s the best ever, I know I have struck gold. I cannot wait to make these again, maybe with nuts or coconut, even.

Whether you can have gluten or not, you need to make these brownies. It’s not only amazing that these are gluten-free but I cannot believe that there isn’t any flour in them. Not only are they a lovely protein-packed, healthier version of a classic dessert but they are just plain perfect!

Chocolate Chip Brownies (Gluten-Free)
Makes about 24 brownies
Recipe via Elana’s Pantry

1 (16) ounce jar organic almond butter, smooth roasted (if it is salted only add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt)
2 local farm fresh brown eggs
1 1/4 cups agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dark chocolate chips 73% cacao

Preheat oven to 325º. In a large bowl, blend almond butter until smooth with your mixer or a hand blender. Mix in eggs, then add in agave and vanilla
Blend in cocoa, salt and baking soda, mix well, then fold in chocolate chips. Grease a 9 x 13 Pyrex baking dish. Pour batter into dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes

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Creamy Italian Sausage and Potato Soup

As you can probably tell from reading my recipes, we eat very little meat in our household. We aren’t vegetarians, but I would say we are mostly vegetarian. I consider myself to be a conscientious omnivore, I do eat meat occasionally, but only meat that I know where it comes from, how it was raised, what it ate, etc. At this point the only meat in our house comes from a local farm where it was all pasture-raised without the use of hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals. We have visited the farm, we have seen the animals and we have shaken the hand of the man who does it all. This is the only way I will ever buy meat for our home. It feels right. This fall we shared a pig with my parents. We have more pork that you can even imagine in our freezer. At home I would say we probably enjoy pork once or twice a month and chicken once a month. I have a good supply of this wonderful ground italian sausage that is unlike anything you can ever imagine. So tasty, sweet, subtly spicy and not too greasy, it is perfect. Without the ability to make patties and throw them on the grill (it is WAY too cold for that), I was trying to think of some winter friendly ways to enjoy the sausage. I thought a nice hearty soup would be perfect. I was torn between a tomato-based vegetable pasta sausage soup but then I thought something creamy and hearty sounded even better (though I plan to make that first soup soon).

This soup was really incredible, spicy and creamy with a nice green crunch from the spinach. The fresh herbs were wonderful, though dried will do if you can’t find fresh. I wanted it to be nice and brothy and wanted more servings so I used about 7 or 8 cups of chicken broth, you can certainly go with less, 5 or 6, if you want it to be a chunkier and less brothy soup. I also decided to go with half and half versus heavy cream to keep it a bit lighter per serving, but heavy cream would certainly be delicious and with less broth you would have a nice thick soup, just a bit fewer servings. Oh and the freshly grated parmesan cheese on top really sets this soup over the edge. It is the perfect finishing move.

*I am not at all crazy about the photo of this soup, it was hard to photograph with all the lovely bits, and I forgot to put the cheese on top for the photo, but you get the idea.

Creamy Italian Sausage and Potato Soup
serves 6-8

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound of ground Italian pork sausage, local, pasture-raised and free from hormones and antibiotics
6-8 cups of organic chicken broth, low sodium
5 small russet potatoes, washed and cut into 1 inch cubes with the skins still on
1/2 cup of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup of organic half and half
2 cups of coarsely cut spinach
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place the olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. When the pan is hot add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion gets soft. At this point add the Italian Sausage and cook until its browned. Our sausage isn’t very greasy so I didn’t need to pour any out, if your sausage produces a lot of grease pour some off before adding the soup.

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat add in the chicken broth, potatoes, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and bring to a simmer, allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

After the soup has been simmering add the sausage, onion and garlic mixture and cook another 5-10 minutes. After it is done simmering, add in the half and half and stir. Reduce the heat and be sure it doesn’t boil. Cook another 2 minutes. Taste the soup, add more salt and pepper to taste. More red pepper flakes if you want it spicier.

Remove the soup from the heat, add in the spinach and cover. Let it sit for an additional 3-5 minutes until the spinach is cooked.

Ladle the soup in your bowls and sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese.

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Happy New Year to you all!! I am so incredibly excited to dive head first into 2011! 2010 was a wonderful, blessed year filled with many great moments and though I experienced a few tough and trying moments in 2010, I have tried my best to look at all of those experiences as times where my strengths are tested and I learn just what I am capable of. I personally decided to make 2010 the year I tried to relax and not take everything so seriously, to take each moment for what it is and to love myself more. I have always made sure to see the positive in things and to realize things could always be worse, 2010 was the year I really made certain to keep that mindset in the forefront. I have also decided to focus on all that I have and how lucky I am to be healthy, happy and loved. I truly feel that each day is special and that I am lucky to have a loving husband, an incredible family, and a job and career that I not only love, but am immensely proud of. For us, both personally and professionally, 2011 is already shaping up to be an incredible year and I am elated for each and every moment to come!

One of the things I accomplished in 2010 that I am quite proud of, besides shedding 30lbs of excess weight, is the ability to be so in tune with my body and my health that I can sense when it is off-balance and needing a clean-up. I kept with my lifestyle and eating habits through the holidays, but it is inevitable that you are just consuming more food and drink than any other stretch of time throughout the year, at least for me anyhow. It is a week of excess, in all facets of life. I knew just before New Year’s eve, when I felt some sniffles coming on and I was feeling a bit more sluggish than usual, that I was in need of a good cleanse. I decided I would do a 2-week cleanse beginning today.

There are many different cleanses and detoxes out there, some are VERY intense and limited to just liquids, others aren’t nearly as strict, still allowing poultry and fish. I think the type of cleanses I practice, fall somewhere in the middle. I always avoid added sugar and salt, meat, fish, dairy, eggs, caffeine, and alcohol. Of course my cleanses also always include my usual no gluten and no processed foods. This time around I am also avoiding soy and corn. To most people this sounds limiting and difficult, but I actually look forward to it and think it is an exciting time. I love the focus on fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, herbs and spices. Life tends to get crazy and meals get rushed and these important elements often get forgotten and overlooked.

I find that these cleanses allow my body to not only detox but to also get back to a clear digestive tract that is able to do its job at it’s fullest. I have also done a bit of reading on Ayurvedic healing and learning to avoid or focus on foods specific to you and your body-mind type (or your dosha) and it’s needs. When I cleanse, I don’t follow the Ayurvedic cleanses per se, I just include that general focus on food types, herbs and spices and the importance of yoga and meditation when cleansing. There is big emphasis on digestion-enhancing, detoxifying spices in Ayurvedic healing such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, clove, ajwain, fenugreek, dried ginger, Chinese cinnamon and fennel. According to Ayurveda, each meal should be a feast for all of your senses. When your plate reflects an appealing variety of colors, textures, flavors and aromas, your digestive juices start freely flowing in anticipation and your body, mind and heart are all fulfilled by the eating experience.

I am by no means an expert on cleansing or Ayurvedic medicine, I simply know my body and have tailored a cleanse to me and what I need, so please don’t take any of what I am doing as “medical advice” or anything more than me keeping a journal of my journey through this cleanse.

I plan to cleanse for 2 weeks, longer if I feel I need it. I will be posting many of the recipes here on my blog as I go. Hope it helps any of you looking to try out a cleanse or maybe you are just looking to add in some very healthy, clean detoxifying recipes! Happy New Year and happy clean eating to you all!

 

Banana Pom-Berry Smoothie

 

This recipe will be the first of many smoothie recipes I will feature. I think they make great breakfasts and if you include different ingredients each time, you won’t get bored. I decided to add flax seeds to this smoothie (and will likely do so often through this cleanse) to get some added fiber and healthy omega-3 fats, it is great for adding to smoothies as it tends to keep you a bit more satisfied, a bit longer. Flax seeds are also great sprinkled on salads, cooked vegetable or added to breads or cereals. This smoothie had a ton of flavor and it is now over 3 hours since I drank it and I am still quite satisfied. This is one I will for sure be making again.

Banana Pom-Berry Smoothie
serves 1

1/2 orange, peel and pith removed (I used a cara cara pink navel, any orange will work)
1/2 cup organic 100% pomegranate juice (no additional ingredients and definitely no sugar added)
1 organic banana, halved
1 tbsp ground organic flax seed (I buy them whole and grind them myself)
1/2 cup frozen organic mixed berries

Add all the ingredients to your blender, blend until smooth. Enjoy!

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Flourless Carrot Cake

I am very behind on posting recipes right now. I still have recipes from Thanksgiving dinner, that I have yet to post. We are in the thick of one of our busiest times of the year. Our store is busy for the holidays, our web sales have been killer, we have two pretty big jobs on the books and we have been traveling to many different holiday events selling our stuff. On top of all of this, a week and a half ago, Buffalo got slammed with a really nasty snow storm that dumped about 3 feet of snow at our house in a very short amount of time. Our street wasn’t plowed for days and we were stranded at home. This all wasn’t so bad, except my husband Mark was supposed to be in Chicago selling our wares at the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale. And worst of all, our fridge and pantry were pretty bare, I had planned to shop that coming weekend. So, I couldn’t even make the best of the situation by baking and cooking. Needless to say, I have been craving to have a few days to just relax, sip on a cocktail or two and just cook!

I came across this recipe just days before Thanksgiving and I had still been looking for the perfect dessert option to bring to my parent’s house. I made a huge feast at our house beforehand for just Mark and I, complete with a pastured turkey from our farm and tons of healthy and gluten-free dishes. Admittedly, I had my hands full and didn’t get the best pictures, so I am unsure on how many of the dishes I will be able to feature this year (I still have to go through all the photos), but that just means I may have to recreate them again some time soon, so I can get them on here. Darn.

This cake was the perfect light finish to a day full of eating and it was so incredibly easy to make. I loved that it was naturally gluten-free and didn’t have many ingredients at all. It had a lovely spice to it, reminiscent of pumpkin pie filling and the flavor from the almonds was so great. It’s like this recipe was created just for me on the day.

Make sure to grate the carrots on the fine holes of your grater, or they’ll be too crunchy. For best results, wrap the cake tightly in plastic after it cools and serve it the next day. It will keep for five days in the refrigerator if wrapped airtight.

Flourless Carrot Cake
Adapted from Recipes for Health by Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times
serves 10-12

1 1/2 cups (1/2 pound) unsalted toasted almonds
1/4 cup organic dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 large farm fresh eggs
1/3 cup organic raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated organic carrots (about 10 ounces)
a bit of raw sugar for dusting

Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle. Oil a 9-inch springform pan, and line it with parchment. Lightly oil the parchment.

Combine the almonds and the brown sugar in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend until the almonds are finely ground. Add the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest, and pulse together.

Beat the eggs until thick in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with an electric beater. Add the organic raw sugar, and continue to beat until the mixture is thick and forms a ribbon when lifted from the bowl with a spatula. Beat in the vanilla. Add the almond mixture and the carrots in three alternating additions, and slowly beat or fold in each time.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place in the oven, and bake one hour until firm to the touch and beginning to pull away from the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and carefully remove the spring form ring. Allow the cake to cool completely, sprinkle lightly with raw sugar, then wrap tightly in plastic.

I realized in all the excitement of my first Thanksgiving dinner and sharing this dessert with the family, I never took a photo of the cake sliced, so I am doing something I never do and including a photo from the original recipe. The photo is what sold me on the recipe, so I figure it only fitting you get to enjoy it (and drool over it), as well.

Flourless Carrot Cake - Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
©Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

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