Sesame Asparagus with Sweet Soy Sauce

Usually around my house we abide by: if it’s yellow, leave it mellow.  Let’s save water here, okay? I’m trying to save the Earth, okay? However, this rule is completely ignored when asparagus is eaten.  TMI, I’m sorry. What is it about asparagus that makes our shi-shi smell funky?  If you have ever wondered, it happens to be due to asparagusic acid, which our body breaks down into sulfur containing compounds.  These, much like rotten eggs, don’t smell so fresh.  Anyways, food for thought.

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This recipe is pretty simple, and makes for a terrific side dish.  Even though it feels much like purgatory when I step outside, the bottoms of my flip flops almost melting into the concrete, it technically still is Spring.  Spring means asparagus is at its prime, my friends. It’s sweet, crunchy, fresh, and full of folate as well as vitamins E, K, C, and A.

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A friend of mine introduced me to Kecap Manis recently, it’s basically an Indonesian sweet take on soy sauce. When combined with roasted veggies….Hallelujah.  I could eat veggies for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner if it’s perpetually smothered in this.

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So simple, and yet, so YUM.  Another testament to the fact that good cooking doesn’t have to mean fancy cooking.  I mean I wore my apron while cooking today, and that’s about as fancy as I got. Whether or not I was wearing gym shorts underneath is negotiable and irrelevant.

Sesame Asparagus with Sweet Soy Sauce

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 8 oz fresh cremini or button mushrooms (shitake would also be good if you’re willing to pay a bit more)
  • 1 T sesame oil (olive works as well)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt/pepper
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce/gluten-free tamari
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • white/black sesame seeds for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Rinse asparagus and snap off the ends by holding each spear and breaking off the bottom 1″
  3. Rinse mushrooms and slice evenly
  4. Spread asparagus and ‘shrooms on a baking dish.  Add oil and roll veggies around until they’re all smothered.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about 9-10 minutes…until you can easily pierce the asparagus with a fork.  Don’t start watching Desperate Housewives and walk away…pay attention because no body likes mushy asparagus.  Except my great aunt Mildred but Mildred has no teeth so…
  5. While the veggies are roasting, throw brown sugar and soy sauce in a pot over low heat.  Stir frequently (about 10 minutes) until it thickens into the consistency of maple syrup.  Don’t let it boil or burn! Be patient.  The Housewives can wait, so can you.  Stir in garlic powder once it’s the correct thickness.
  6. When you have the sauce ready, drizzle it over the veggies and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Voila.  How easy.  Que delicioso 😉

 

Oh this song is just so great I had to sharesies.  It’s fun and something you can’t help but sing along to.  Even though I am about 98% sure I am singing the wrong words…it’s so catchy I just don’t care.  Besides, how can you shy away from a song by a band called Magic City Hippies?  Brilliant.  Here is “Bust.”  Head to the farmer’s market for some fresh asparagus, roast, roast, roast away and crank up the Magic City Hippies!

Broccoli Tahini Salad

 Let’s get real.

I know the word ‘broccoli’ doesn’t always whip you into a ravenous frenzy, but this fresh twist on that little cruciferous vegetable is so worth raving about!   I went very light on the dressing for these photographs because I didn’t want to scare you away with vegetables soaked in all this brown liquid and…they did turn out pretty.  But I smothered it in sauce afterwards and was 100%  satisfied in doing so. Don’t be afraid to get saucy on a Tuesday night, guys.

This festive crunchy little salad tosses fresh bite sized crispy veggies in a savory creamy dressing.  You’re probably like, “Vegetables worth drooling over?….Chyeah right.”

But this salad…

Such wow.

Much green.

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And….umami!  Some people have heard this word but don’t know the full definition.  It’s science!  Umami is a taste that is basically found in foods rich in the amino acid glutamate.  Commonly referred to as “the fifth flavor,” umami is abundant in foods like beef, chicken, and pork and is commonly described as savory and salty.  This is why some people go bonkers for bacon.  Like I said, science, baby.

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Anyways, the point of this nerdy rambling is that this salad evokes some of the pleasurable sensations we feel when we taste umami. I have many friends who tell me they don’t feel satisfied after eating a meal made without meat.  And this is totally valid!  Along with other likable qualities (likable to some…), meat has such high levels of this umami flavor that the tastebuds become accustomed to this. Dare I say it again, it’s science.  Man, Bill Nye would be SO proud. It’s unbelievably satisfying, but made without a trace of umami-rich meat.  My meat-eating friends helped themselves to seconds, and thirds of this salad.  The dressing contains yummy nutty tahini (basically nut butter made out of sesame seeds and a main ingredient in hummus) with a zing of fresh ginger and the salad features creamy avocado and crunchy cabbage and broccoli.  A perfect and blissful blend of vegetable power, healthy fats from the avocados and seeds, and protein from the beans.

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This is a very fresh salad, and one that should be (and normally tends to be) devoured quickly.  Once made, eat it that day or save it for one more day. After that, you run the risk of harboring a big bowl of very sad, soggy salad.  Ohhh avocados, you temperamental little rascals, you.

This is an absolutely perfect dish to bring to a BBQ, a picnic, or some other social function where you can impress your friends with an absolutely amazing and healthy salad, and beat out that boring bowl of macaroni salad we have all had 85 million times.

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Broccoli Tahini Salad

For the salad:

  • 1 bunch of broccoli
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup diced red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (optional)

For the dressing:

  • 4 T tahini paste
  • 4 T soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
  • 1 T fresh grated ginger (or 1/4 tsp ground ginger)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3-5 T water, depending on thickness desired
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Start by getting all ninja in the kitchen and slicing and dicing those veggies into small bite sized pieces.  Once the broccoli is chopped, blanch it: boil it in salted water for 2-3 minutes.  Then drain and submerge in icy water.  Drain again and pat dry. This will cook the broccoli but preserve its crunch!
  2. Toss all veggies, the beans, cilantro, and the sunflower seeds in a large bowl.  Save the avocado and lemon for last.  This way you cut down the chances of the avocado getting smashed.  Avocado….why you so sensitive?
  3. Now for the dressing, whisk tahini paste and soy sauce/tamari in a small bowl.  By the way, for those that are mildly interested or curious, tamari is a wheat-free version of soy sauce (and thus a favorite among a gluten-free-sushi-loving crowd).
  4. Whisk in the water, garlic powder, and ginger.  Taste it and add in the appropriate amounts of salt and pepper. Everyone is different in how salty or peppery they prefer their food so I thought I’d leave this one open to self experimentation.
  5. Gently mix the dressing in the veggies.  Once served, keep salad in the refrigerator. Salad, how you so tasty?

Today’s song is amazing.  What I really love about it is that it almost sounds like something that would have been made 50 or 60 years ago, but the album just came out in 2014!  So, not only does it sound legit, the artist is actually still alive and you could go see him on tour if you wanted to!! What a concept! Double score.  This smokey bluesy gem is called “Your love will blow me away” by Son Little. Check it ooooooooout.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’ve been holding out on you…

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These are literally the best chocolate chip cookies you will ever make.

Would I ever lie you to?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

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Not to, uh, toot my own horn or anything but this recipe took home Best in Show in the Baked Goods competition at the Siskiyou County Fair.  This annual fair was just about the most exciting thing that happened to the little town I lived in nestled in the mountains of Northern California.  I uh, ruthlessly beat out 25 other sweet old grannies who probably brought cookie recipes that were handed down from generation to generation with my own snarky secretly healthier vegan chocolate chip cookies.  Alright, fine, not my shining moment, but I was pretty happy with that pretty big pink ribbon.

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All the butter that normally saturates a chocolate chip cookie is replaced with yummy antioxidant rich coconut oil.  The flour is a mix of 100% whole wheat and oats to create a nice dense and chewy texture. Toasted almonds are thrown in for added protein, fiber, and of course, flavor. These can absolutely be made gluten free by using all purpose gluten free flour and certified gluten free oatmeal.  I have made them this way, and they are still really good, but let’s get real….not AS good 🙂

HOWEVER, unless you want your cookie to taste like a gritty hockey puck of mule turd and chocolatey sand, make sure the oatmeal is instant and you’re not just throwing in old fashioned rolled oats. I have made this mistake a couple of times….no bueno, and although they do not actually take on the flavor of mule turd, the consistency is thrown way off.  I buy the little packets of regular unflavored instant oatmeal.  

Also, the brand of chocolate chips you buy will probably make or break the cookie.  I have used Nestle with sub par results….Ghirardelli is the best!

The egg that would normally bind these babies is actually replaced with chia seeds.  Have you ever used chia seeds in baking?  You mix chia seeds and water and they coagulate into a texture that’s almost identical to gooey eggs.  Ground flax seed/golden flax meal can also accomplish this.  This means you can eat as much raw cookie dough without any risk of getting ill!  Win for the cookie dough enthusiast! Big time fail for those skinny jeans hiding in the back of your closet.

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Mmmm chia.  You magical little seeds, you.  So crunchy.   So slimy.  So…versatile.  Full of omega 3’s, fiber, manganese, and phosphorus…can you say, “Cha-cha-cha-chia!!?”

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This cookie is just screaming, “eat meeeee.”

And who am I to argue?

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups instant oatmeal
  • 1 T soymilk or other non-dairy milk
  • 2 T vanilla extract
  • 2 chia or flax “eggs” —> (2 T chia seeds/ground flax seeds mixed with 6 T water)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 3/4 cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Toast the almonds.  This amps up the flavor profile by a million!  Simply place in the oven on a baking sheet for 6-9 minutes or put almonds in a regular toaster oven until the nuts begin to turn a light brown color and release a toasted aroma.  Stir frequently and watch them like a hawk, they will burn within a matter of seconds.  Put down the chocolate chips and pay attention!  When sufficiently toasted, set aside.
  3. Create the “egg” by mixing together the 2 T of chia seeds or flax along with 6 T of water in a little bowl.  Let it sit for at least 5 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together the coconut oil and brown sugar.  If the coconut oil is too hard, pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds until it is softened into the creamy consistency of butter.
  5. Add in the vanilla and non-dairy milk.  Beat in the “egg”
  6. Stir in the 3 cups of instant oats
  7. In a different bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg
  8. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and oats and mix well until a dough forms
  9. Add in the toasted almonds and chocolate chips
  10. Form dough into small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.  I greased mine with coconut oil because I’m efficient like that.
  11. Bake cookies for a mere 9-10 minutes.  The trick with these cookies is to take them out of the oven just before they have fully cooked.  Something about the coconut oil will harden them if you bake them too long.  This preserves the softness we all love in a classic chocolate chip cookie.

 

I definitely went on a music downloading binge this past week, and congratulations, you have been selected to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  It was nearly impossible to pick the song to post up, but here it is!  As I was photographing the cookies outside in my beautiful garden, I felt so lucky to have the sun shining and the sky blue and the flowers around me in full bloom.  Having lived in other places, I truly do love California.  While some people on Facebook are whining about shoveling snow off their driveways, I was snapping pictures outside in the 80 degree weather.  On that note, I am quite the sucker for cover songs.  This is a fresh and extremely different take on 2Pac’s classic California Love by a band from Cleveland by the name of Somekindawonderful. Leave your window open while you bake and turn this up.

Pesto & Mushroom Pizza

Back in the good old days, (does anyone else feel 85 when saying this phrase?) before I had sprouted a real curiosity or knack for anything within the culinary realm, my best friend and I would always just make Top Ramen when we got hungry.  I’m not sure if my parents were hoarding copious amounts of these enriched noodles in case of WWIII but we always had enough in stock to feed 65 armies.  Being the chefs at heart we were, we would always mix together one beef and one chicken flavored packet and and we called it “Beeficken.” My, oh my, how we have come a long way.

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Well, my best friend still eats Top Ramen.  Taylor don’t kill me, please.  But I will say I have learned just a few things since then. For instance, take pizza.

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In college, pizza was a staple.  No, I don’t want to talk about the freshman 50.  That’s right, I said 50. That, along with Taco Tuesday, and having my name on a plaque in the local bar for drinking 50 days in a row (I went to Santa Barbara, don’t look at me like that), was how we survived.  This is an entirely different pizza than I would have chowed down on in university.  And, for that I am proud.

Rich pesto is slathered on whole wheat dough and it bubbles and bubbles and toils and troubles alongside red onion and mozzarella until creamy crunchy Nirvana is reached. Even its picture alone ignites a feeling of delicious nostalgia…

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Oops, no, that’s not it.

That is a picture of my wine.  Sorry.

Moving forward, I decided to get all house on the prairie and make my own pizza dough.  I thought to hell with it, I’m already going this far, now there is no turning back.  I will post the recipe below, and although a bit labor intensive, the taste of homemade whole wheat thin crust is unsurpassable. Take my word on this one.

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The pesto is pretty quick and easy. It’s so good, I swear I could just slather this stuff on the dough and call it dinner. Pine nuts and fresh basil form the backbone.

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Your typical pesto recipe calls for parmesan cheese.  You may certainly add this in, if you so choose, however this recipe uses nutritional yeast instead.  Nutritional yeast is an amazing dairy swap out for cheese, and it’s loaded with vitamin B, folic acid fiber, and protein.  You can find it in the bulk bins or natural food section of your grocery store…it has a nutty cheesy flavor and comes sold as a yellow powder.  This amps up the flavor of this pesto fantastically and is pictured below to the right of the basil.

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Can you say….YUM

 I also used vegan cheese on this pizza, but you can certainly use mozzarella too.  My favorite brand of vegan mozzarella is Daiya, you can get it in many standard grocery stores 🙂

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If you so choose, you can purchase pre-made pizza dough or even pre-made crusts.  Trader Joe’s has a great whole wheat dough that you can take home, roll out, and use as crust.  My word, with the amount of times I mention Trader Joe’s in my blog they should make me their spokeswoman.  I just love that store- it’s cheap, healthy, and the people are always so nice!  Whole Foods is great and I could get lost in there for hours but I always end up spending my entire paycheck in .6 seconds.

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Pesto & Mushroom Pizza

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour…and a little more for dusting
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 T olive or avocado oil
  • 1 T cane sugar
  1. Begin with the most difficult part: getting the water the right temp for the yeast to grow.  If you have a thermometer, you can use that.  Water should be heated until about 105-110 degrees (F).  If you don’t have one of these fancy tools, use your best judgement when I say “warm” water.  Press your hand to the bowl and if it sears your fingers, it’s too hot.
  2. When you have the right temp, add the yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar.  Let sit for 5 minutes with a dish towel covering it.
  3. Meanwhile, mix together 2 cups of the flour, the salt, and remaining 2 tsp of sugar in a large bowl or electric mixer with paddle attachment.
  4. When yeast mixture is done sitting, form a well within the flour mixture and slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Then add in the water/yeast/sugar mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Using a muscular arm or a dough hook in your mixer (pick your poison my friends) knead the dough and keep adding in flour in 1 T increments until dough forms a ball and is no longer sticky.  Should take around, oh, 5 minutes.
  6. Once formed into a ball, place in lightly oiled bowl and let it sit, covered with a dish towel or saran wrap, for 45 minutes. During this time the dough should have risen like jesus on easter.
  7. After it has risen, punch the dough down and form into a compact ball again.
  8. Dust a cutting board with some more whole wheat flour and with a rolling pin, roll out dough into the shape of a circle approximately the size of your pizza pan.  Let sit for about 10 minutes.  It’s now ready to bake! You can also be more time efficient than me and make this dough the day before.  Before rolling out, just wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and place in fridge.

For the pesto:

  • 2 1/2 cups of fresh loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (others have had success with walnuts, too)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 T lemon juice
  1. Roughly chop the garlic cloves. Place into a food processor with basil leaves and pine nuts.  Process until coarsely ground.
  2. Next, drizzle in olive oil and add the salt, pepper, lemon, and nutritional yeast.  Process until a runny green paste forms.  Sounds appetizing.  No, I swear it really is. Addictive, actually.
  3. Add salt or pepper to taste.

For the pizza:

  • 1 batch of whole wheat dough or crust (see recipe above)
  • 1 batch of pesto (see recipe above)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan Daiya mozzarella cheese or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms (I used brown cremini)
  • 1/2 cup red onion
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to a very high temp.  If your oven is not ghetto fabulous like mine, it will probably get up to 500.  I got mine to 475.  Back up off, we all make sacrifices.
  2. Stretch the dough until it is covering the entire bottom of the pizza pan, then slather the entire surface in rich gooey pesto sauce
  3. Chop the onion finely and slice the mushrooms thinly
  4. Because mushrooms tend to leak a lot of water when cooked, I use a little trick before I put them on pizzas.  I place them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap (yes I am fully aware this is contributing to my ultimate demise) and microwave them for a couple minutes.  Drain.
  5. Sprinkle onions over pesto.
  6. Sprinkle pizza in cheese.  Add more or less depending on personal preference.
  7. Add mushrooms to the top of the cheese and sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper.
  8. Cook pizza, times will vary.  I cooked mine for 13 minutes at 475.  If your oven is hotter, it could take only 10 minutes.  Keep checking. You’ll know it’s done when the crust begins to turn light brown and the cheese and mushrooms also adopt a slightly browned tint.
  9. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it.  I know this is torture, but like my glass of wine whilst cooking, it is a necessary evil.

 

I’ve got a little hippity hoppity for you on this post. I am a big fan of conscious hip hop and if I hear a beat that entices me during the first 15 seconds, it’s pretty much a given I will enjoy the rest of the song. This song features a beautiful piano riff and it’s both rhythmic and bad ass.  It’s called Under the Hood, by a three man crew from Montreal by the name of Specifics. They’re definitely worth checking out if you dig that jazzy melodic hip hop vibe.  Pizza party mid week and a new tasty track…not much over here to complain about. Cheers.