Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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Savory Yogurt

My husband and I are not vegetarians, but we eat a plant based diet most of the time. We enjoy food of all kinds, preferring food that is good for us, but happy to indulge in delicious food that may not be particularly healthy, on occasion.  Our philosophy is that it’s what we do most of the time that really matters.

My dad was in the Air Force, and did a tour of duty in Korea for a year when I was in the fourth grade, so my mom and I moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. My family is from Harrisonburg, so we moved from San Antonio, Texas to be closer to family. Those Virginia kids told me I “talked funny.” What!? I don’t recall, but I probably thought they “talked funny” too. But I digress. For some reason, that was the year I decided to dabble in “vegetarianism,”  in quotation marks because I didn’t know the meaning of the word at the tender young age of 9.  I don’t know where I got the idea that mom and I should be vegetarians, because I’m pretty sure there weren’t many of them in the Valley at that time.

As adults, the beginning of my exploration into vegetarian food lies with a friend I worked with at Stanford Medical Center, where I worked on the oncology floor before returning to school full time for my teaching degree.  Actually, I went back to get a degree in nutrition, but changed my mind and became a teacher. I’m sure I would have been happy in either field, but I have no regrets with the path I took. Erika was a vegetarian, and she introduced me to one of my favorite cookbooks, Laurel’s Kitchen.

We have been eating plain yogurt for a long time at our house. It started when I learned about falafel, from Erika and Laurel’s Kitchen. I can’t remember if my first falafel was from a local restaurant that served fried falafel balls, or the baked falafel I made from Laurel’s Kitchen, but they were both delicious. I’ll post a falafel recipe in the future, but for now, I’d like to say how delicious plain yogurt is, and how it can be the main focus or a tasty garnish. It’s probably safe to say that it is an acquired taste, and in my opinion, one worth acquiring.  Here are a few favorite ways I like to eat plain yogurt.  They are all seasoned with freshly ground salt, freshly ground black pepper and extra virgin olive oil-fresh herbs are always a welcome addition.

Try this for breakfast or lunch…you can make it however you like.

 

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Or this. . . Can you tell the orange bowl is my favorite??

yogurt with preserved lemons, tomatoes, kalamata olives and sprouts

Yogurt, tomatoes, preserved lemons, kalamata olives and sprouts

How about this one?  Today’s lunch. . .

Yogurt, herring, diced beets, capers and sprouts

Yogurt, pickled herring, steamed beets, rinsed capers & sprouts

Yogurt Bowl with Cilantro Blossoms

Yogurt with Avocado, Baby Lettuce, Cilantro Blossoms, Olive Oil & a Splash of Red Wine Vinegar

What will you put on your plain yogurt?  I hope I’ve given you some ideas!

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Refrigerator Confidential Day #4

Welcome to Day #4 of Refrigerator Confidential!  I’m not sure if you noticed, but we can sure tell that the fridge has more room to move around.  Even though it’s great to have a well-stocked refrigerator, it is fun to “eat it down” and look forward to starting all over again on Saturday.

Tuesday’s Meals with Recipes:

Breakfast

Me- leftover baked potato from yesterday’s lunch, 1/2 grapefruit, Breakfast “Borscht”
My husband- same as the last 2 days {plain yogurt, nuts, dried fruit, local honey}

Lunch

Roasted Carrot Soup
Ryvita Crackers with Organic Cultured Butter

Dinner

Leftover Baked Salmon
Orange & Molokai Purple Sweet Potato Fries
Steamed Beet Greens

Breakfast Beet and Yogurt “Borscht”

I was going to blend up a frozen banana and some plain yogurt to make a banana lassi {although I don’t think you would use frozen fruit in a lassi}, and then it occurred to me that pickled beets and yogurt would be a good combination {think chilled beet borscht with a dollop of sour cream top}.  Mine would be kind of a speedy version of chilled beet borscht.  A big spoonful of pickled beets, with a creamy cloud of plain yogurt swirled in, and a sprinkle of dill and voila, “borscht”!  I tasted it, and thought that some capers would add a nice punch of flavor, and indeed they did.  I love capers!  Actually, I just learned on the Splendid Table podcast last week that capers are more properly called caper buds, because they are the bud of the caper flower {from the caper plant} before it opens.  When the flower drops off, what is left is a caper berry, which looks like a giant caper bud.  I have never tried caper berries, but I hear that they are not quite as pungent as the caper buds.  Had I not eaten the baked potato, I would have enjoyed my yogurt with a buttered Ryvita {a buttered Ryvita is always good}.

Roasted Carrot Soup
adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen 

This is another of my favorite soup recipes from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen .  I think I have mentioned before that it is my favorite soup cookbook, and Madison is my favorite cookbook author.

1 pound carrots, cut into chunks
2 small potatoes, cut into chunks
1 large onion, cut into chunks
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2-4 tbsp olive oil {I used 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil}
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 hefty thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf {I used 2}
*1 quart vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup light cream {I used 2% milk, and the soup was delicious.  I don’t think I’ve ever made it with cream.}
2-3 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream, stirred with a fork until loosened {I used plain yogurt, but would use one of the other choices if I had them on hand.}
Fresh minced parsley or chives

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F {I used 375 degrees F.}.  Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and season with 1/2 tsp salt and some pepper.  Put them in a large baking dish sprayed with pan spray for easy cleanup {I used a 9″x13″ Pyrex baking dish.}, along with the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.  Roast until tender and glazed, about 1 hour, turning them 2-3 times.

Transfer the vegetables to a soup pot, add stock or water and bring to the boil.  Simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20″, then puree until smooth.  An immersion blender is a great tool for this-very quick and easy.  Return the puree to the pot {if you used a blender}, taste for salt, and season with pepper.  Stir in the cream or milk.

Ladle the soup into bowls, swirl in a spoonful of creme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt into each, top with minced parsley and serve piping hot.  Delicious and super healthy!

Makes about 4 servings {6 cups}.

*I used to make homemade vegetable stock for soup until I read Deborah Madison say that if you have great vegetables, you can use water in lieu of stock.  So unless a soup calls for a specific stock {i.e. red stock for tortilla soup, mushroom stock, etc.}, I use water and the soup is great.  I do not care for store bought vegetable stock.

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We had a tasty little wine and cheese pupu {appetizer} while waiting for our Orange and Molokai Purple Sweet Potato Fries to roast.

wine and parmesan appetizer

 

Orange and Molokai Purple Sweet Potato Fries

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Roasted Orange and Molokai Purple Sweet Potatoes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Make sure you have a rack positioned on the bottom of your oven.
3 potatoes will fill up a half-sheet pan-use 2 pans if you want more fries

Cut potatoes so they are approximately the same size; you can cut them into any shape you want {slices, wedges, French fries…}.  Place potatoes on a sheet pan that has been lined with foil, sprayed with pan spray {they will stick if you don’t} and drizzled with olive oil.  Season with kosher or sea salt, freshly ground pepper and red pepper flakes.  The red pepper flakes add a great spicy counterpoint to the sweetness of the potatoes; I wouldn’t leave them out, but if you aren’t a fan of spicy, by all means don’t use them.  I love spicy!!

Roast the potatoes on the bottom oven rack until they are browned and starting to get crispy, stirring occasionally. They will be tender in about 20 minutes, but leave them in longer so they will brown and crisp up.  The purple potatoes can get dried out if you leave them in too long, so keep an eye on them after 20 minutes or so.

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Steamed Beet Greens

Fresh beet greens {1 pound will serve 2-4 people}
Extra virgin olive oil
Butter
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Sherry vinegar or lemon juice

Wash greens well, making sure water is clear, as beet greens can be quite dirty.  Discard any tough stems {or cut small & sauté} and roughly chop the greens.  Spin them mostly dry, but leave some water clinging to the leaves for steaming.  Put greens in a pot large enough to hold them, cover and cook over medium high heat until tender, 10-15 minutes.  Stir occasionally so they do not burn or stick.  When the greens are tender, season with a little butter, olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  If desired, sprinkle with a bit of sherry vinegar or lemon juice.

What’s gone?

  • 1 bottle kombucha
  • salmon
  • both potatoes
  • purple & orange yams {from Costco}
  • beet greens

 

Here is the refrigerator on Day #4:

Wed fridge

 

 


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“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”  ~John Dewey

For some reason, I am having a hard time settling down to write.  My mind has been wandering quite a bit lately, as I think about my friends in the Central Kitsap School District who gathered together again this past Monday, after about 8 weeks of well-deserved summer vacation. This is the week of back to school teacher meetings, sprinkled with moments to prepare classrooms for the children, who are coming next week.  Going back to school is a mixed bag of emotions; it means the return of early morning alarms, and giving up your free time but at the same time, you get to see your friends and the kids again for the camaraderie and excitement of a fresh new year.  Here’s hoping for a wonderful school year for all!

I’ve wanted to write about yogurt for a while now.  We eat yogurt because it tastes good, but also because it is a healthy food.  If you want to eat yogurt for its health benefits, there are a few things to be considered.  Cultured or fermented foods, of which yogurt is one, provide beneficial bacteria for your gut, which is a good thing.  But all yogurts are not created alike.  Look for yogurt that contains the most variety of live active cultures; the more the better.  Yogurt that has fewer ingredients is better for you.  Some yogurt is full of added sugars, colors, stabilizers and other such ingredients which are not needed.  We like to buy plain low-fat yogurt, specifically Nancy’s.  Using plain yogurt allows you to customize your yogurt any way you like.  Plain yogurt is like a blank canvas.  Here is a generic “recipe” to follow to create a fabulous yogurt breakfast.  It’s really up to you to add whatever you like.

Put some yogurt in a bowl.

Add fruit if you want.  This can be frozen fruit, fresh fruit, fruit jam that you have made preferably with minimal added sugar {like our peach jam that I told you about}.

Add a grain.  This can be cooked quinoa, brown rice, 2 tbsp of Buckwheat Chia Crunch, raw oatmeal {regular, not quick cooking, which can make your blood sugar spike} or granola {this granola is our current favorite-I reduce the maple syrup to 1/2 cup and the brown sugar to 1/4 cup}.

Make it nutty!  Toss in some nuts or seeds and maybe some cacao nibs for a little nutritious chocolate “punch.”

Mix it all up & taste it.  If it needs a little sweetening, add a little local honey or Grade B maple syrup.  Maybe a few splashes of vanilla would be tasty.  Once you get used to plain yogurt, you will find the presweetened stuff way too sweet.  If we use a drizzle of maple syrup or honey it is most likely for the nutrients more than the need for additional sweetness.

Sprinkle with cinnamon {tastes great & is good for your blood sugar}.

Enjoy your nutritious bowl of deliciousness!

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Buckwheat Chia Crunch for Yogurt

1/4 c hemp seeds
1/4 c buckwheat {I prefer untoasted buckwheat groats.}
1/8 c chia seeds
1/8 c ground flax seeds {best to grind your own in small quantities as needed}
1/8 c dried fruit, cut into small pieces {optional}

Mix together in a small jar.  When ready to eat, shake it up so you get all of the ingredients.  Use about 2 tbsp per serving.

Makes about 3/4 cup

Here are a couple more ways that we like to jazz up our plain yogurt.

savory yogurt This is my savory breakfast yogurt.  It includes diced cucumber, tomatoes, minced jalapenos, cilantro, cumin & a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  It is delicious with a Ry-Vita Cracker spread with butter, or a buttered piece of toast.

mixed berry yogurt This has Buckwheat Chia Crunch, unsweetened flake coconut, cacao nibs & mixed berry jam {made from Costco frozen mixed berries & a little sugar}.

This is an excellent article about. the healthy bacteria in our bodies.

Sources:
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth {Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.}
Super  Foods {Steven Pratt, M.D.}