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Journal

Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Filtering by Category: Wild Food

Pumpkin + a recipe

Katie Gordon

I've been putting pumpkin in EVERYTHING lately.  Ice cream, oatmeal, smoothies, curries, muffins...you get the idea.  I justify it by reminding myself of the benefits of pumpkin.  It's got antioxidants to keep our skin glowing and wrinkle-free (gotta start young, right?), carotenoids to protect our eyes, potassium to balance electrolytes and keep our muscles functioning, and vitamins A and C to keep our immune system going strong.  Mostly though, I love it because cooking with pumpkin usually involves all the other fall spices that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, especially on days when I can use a little extra grounding and comfort in my life.

Paleo Pumpkin Bread (adapted from Elana's Pantry)

1 c. blanched almond flour 1/4 tsp. sea salt 1/2 tsp. baking soda 1 Tbsp. cinnamon 1 tsp. nutmeg 1/2 tsp. cloves 1/2 c. roasted or canned pumpkin* 2 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup 1/4 tsp. stevia 3 eggs

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and spices in a large bowl.  Add pumpkin, honey or maple syrup, stevia, and eggs and blend either by hand (I used a fork) or in a food processor.  Pour the batter into a loaf pan (mine measures 7.5" x 3.5").  Bake at 350 F for 35-45 minutes, and let cool for an hour.

*Elana uses her homemade roasted pumpkin, but I didn't feel up to carrying a pumpkin home from the store, so I used canned and it turned out just fine.

Vegan Pumpkin Ice Cream

Katie Gordon

This recipe was a collaborative effort between my roommate Heather and myself.  Heather did most of the work though.  We've been waiting until it was appropriately crisp and cool outside to warrant pumpkin usage to make this ice cream.  Just to be clear, I'm not vegan.  For those of you who are, I still love you, but I also love fish tacos. I'm not sure what else needs to be said.  Chocolate and pumpkin...it's a thing.  You need to try this.

Vegan Pumpkin Ice Cream (adapted from PBSparents)

one can coconut milk (full fat!) 1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree 3/4 c. maple syrup 2 tsp. vanilla extract 1/4 heaping tsp. cinnamon 1/4 heaping tsp. ginger powder 1/4 heaping tsp. nutmeg 1/4 heaping tsp. cloves 1/4 tsp. salt 1 c. of chocolate chips (optional, but not really)

Whisk everything together in a large bowl, transfer mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Sadly, I don't have a picture of the finished product in our one pretty bowl because I only have the camera on my iPhone and instagram will only take you so far.  Let's just hope one of these days I get a real camera.  Until then, you may have to put up with me experimenting with different filters like I'm a pro.

Birthday Mint Chip Frozen Yogurt

Katie Gordon

I've been wanting an ice cream maker for a LONG time.  This year, as I live/sweat through my first New England summer, I dropped a not-so-subtle hint via text to my mom that I "need" one for my birthday.  I figured she'd get the word out to the rest of the family.  By some birthday miracle, aka my wonderful grandmother, I opened my door to find a giant box on my front step labeled "Frozen Cookie Dough."  Puzzled, I tore open the box to discover not 10 lbs. of cookie dough, but the ice cream maker I had for so long been hoping. As fate would have it, Heidi posted this recipe that she got from Sara at Sprouted Kitchen on my birthday.  I took it as a sign from the universe.  This is NOT your average low-fat, overly-sweetened-with-fake-sugar frozen yogurt, nor is it vegan (recipe forthcoming).  Instead, it's full of creamy, minty, dark chocolate-y goodness with just the right amount of tart.  If you don't have an ice cream maker, I know David Leibovitz talks about making ice cream without one, so you may want to check that out.  I would have posted pictures, but in my excitement over the finished product, I forgot.

Fresh Mint Chip Frozen Yogurt

1 c. fresh mint leaves 1 c. heavy cream 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. brown rice syrup 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract 2 c. whole milk greek yogurt 2 oz. good quality dark chocolate, chopped

Chop the mint leaves and put them in a small saucepan with the cream.  Over medium heat, bring the cream-mint mixture to a simmer, pressing the leaves to release the oils.  When it comes to a simmer, add the brown rice syrup, stir to fully combine, turn off the heat, and let the mixture steep for about 30 min.

Pour the cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, add the peppermint extract and yogurt, and whisk to combine.  Then cover the mixture and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

Following the manufacturer's instructions, churn the yogurt.  When it's finished, stir in the chocolate.*  Serve immediately, or transfer to a container and store in the freezer.  Let's be honest though, there probably won't be any left to store.

*Side note: I added the chocolate when I mixed in the yogurt because I suck at reading through the whole recipe and following directions.  It turned out just fine.

Spring Miso Soup

Katie Gordon

Hi All!  It's been SO long since I've posted that I don't even know how to catch you up.  So let's just skip that for now so that I can share with you this awesome miso soup recipe that my amazing roommate and I made tonight.  The original inspiration for this recipe came from my mentor and friend, Nicole. As most of you know, I've been studying Chinese medicine in conjunction with Shiatsu Anma massage for awhile now and I've been getting into macrobiotics/eating and getting in tune with the seasons.  When I stick to it, I've noticed I feel much more grounded and at home in my mind and body.  Now that it's finally feeling like spring here in New England, it seems like a good time to start talking about Spring in terms of TCM.  Just in time for Summer to roll around...

Spring is the time for us to renew our relationship with our liver, which has been working extra hard all winter to digest the fats and heavy foods that have been sustaining us for the last few months.  Energetically, the liver is responsible for establishing a smooth flow of energy through the body and mind.  For these reason, Spring is also a great time to cleanse the liver, but more on that later.  Here are some basic guidelines for spring food:

- Eat light(ly)!  Not just less, but light foods.  Think organic greens, sprouts, lots of fresh veggies (of which there will be lots in the farmers' markets now), and grains. - Simple food preparation.  Steaming and sauteeing are quick and easy ways to cook most of those fresh veggies you just picked up. - Incorporate sweet and pungent flavors to move stagnation and get your chi (or qi if you prefer) moving. - Limit intake of salty foods.  Salt as a flavor has a sinking and contracting energy, which is the opposite of what we want to do in the spring.  Side note: I know miso is salty, but it's an exception because it's awesome and good for your liver.

Keep in mind for this recipe that it's soup, so feel free to vary any amounts (I didn't measure exactly) or add in/leave out whatever you're feelin' or not.

Also, mushrooms are a superfood.  Fact.

Spring Miso Soup:

8 c. water 2-3 c. chopped and whole fresh mushrooms (I used shiitake and cremini mushrooms, chopping up some and leaving some of the shiitake whole to make things interesting) 2-3 green onions, chopped 5-6 Tbsp. red miso* pre-cooked barley** handful of dandelion greens, chopped

Clean your mushrooms, chopping up some or all, and put them in a bit pot with the water, heat to a boil, turn to a simmer, and let them simmer away for an hour or so.  You don't have to do it this long, but it makes a richer mushroom broth and also extracts more of the nutrients in the mushrooms.

Now that you have your mushroom broth, throw in the chopped green onions to simmer for a few minutes.  In a small bowl, mix your miso and some warm water until the miso is completely blended, thinning out the mixture as needed, and add it to the mushroom broth.

Add in your barley and your greens.  Honestly, I didn't measure the barley at all, so just put in however much you think looks good, let it heat, and you're all set!

Notes: *I used red miso, though you can use any kind.  Red and yellow are both great for your liver, and have a bit more flavor in my opinion.  You can even use both.  Feel free to experiment and see what you like. **To make the barley, I put 1 c. pearled barley in a pot with 3 c. water, brought it to a boil, then let it simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.  The package said it would take over an hour, but it definitely didn't, so just keep an eye on it.

Serves 6 or so.

Triple Sesame Bowl

Katie Gordon

Hey y'all.  I know it's been a long time.  I'm not going to apologize because knowing me, this long hiatus might happen again, but just know that I was thinking of you.  Every time I baked cookies (not that it happens too often as of late), picked some lovely vegetables from the garden (I've been trying to keep up with the cucumbers), or finished a completely satisfying meal at home, I'd tell myself to write about it.  And then I wouldn't.

I've been feeling pretty scattered with all the stuff going on in life recently, so I'm working on eating more grounding foods: brown rice, sweet potatoes, seaweed, nut and seed butters, etc.  Here's a bowl I made last night after getting home from work.

Note: For some reason it's taken me this long to realize how awesome it is to cook a lot of rice at once so I have some for the next few days.  It makes it super easy to throw together bowls on those nights you need some nourishment, but don't have the energy to make a big production out of dinner.  Just mix up the veggies and spices you use in the sauce ;) 

cooked brown basmati rice cooked adzuki beans broccoli florets 1 head of baby bok choy

sauce: 1/2 tsp. miso (I use brown rice miso, but feel free to experiment) 1 tbsp. tahini (add more to taste if you like) 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar ground ginger cardamom

drizzle of toasted sesame oil sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds dusting of chinese 5 spice blend

Steam broccoli until just tender, then throw in the baby bok choy and steam for another minute or so.  While waiting for the broccoli to steam, make the sauce.   Mash together the miso, tahini, and apple cider vinegar in a bowl to make a paste.  Sprinkle in the spices to taste.  You can also mix up the spices, using whatever you have on hand or whatever sounds good.  I like to use warming spices (yes I know it's August) because they're good for digestion.  Add whatever spices you choose to taste, then slowly add room temperature water until you reach the desired consistency; mine is usually about the consistency of melted ice cream.

Once the veggies are lightly steamed, add the rice, beans, and veggies to the bowl with the sauce.  Top with the toasted sesame oil, seeds, and Chinese 5 Spice blend.  Take care not to add too much of the oil because it can be over powering.

Makes 1 bowl.

Farmers Market Salad

Katie Gordon

I'm not trying to make you jealous when I tell you that it's 82 degrees right now in Southern California.  I'm just trying to put this glorious day into context ;) Every Saturday morning, my mom and I go to our local farmers market.  We meet for coffee at 8:30, then stop to talk to the lady who makes the really cool jewelry that we never actually buy, then proceed through our usual route, stopping to sample all the flavors at the hummus stand (which we try every week because you never know, they switch things up), talk with the goat cheese guy, say hello to the fruit lady, the kids at the Cal Poly Pomona stand, and the fabulously flamboyant lettuce guy, who sometimes gives us free basil.  Then I rush off to teach my two yoga classes.  We have our routine pretty much down to a science. Today when I got home from teaching I threw together a salad with my newly purchased produce and thought I'd share it with you.  I didn't measure anything so use as much or as little of everything as you like.  Also feel free to add beans for extra protein; adzuki or black beans would go nicely.

Farmers Market Salad

Arame A few leaves of kale, de-stemmed and chopped Squeeze of lemon Handful of watercress, spinach, or whatever other baby greens you have on hand, Small carrot, chopped 1/2 beet, grated Cilantro, chopped 1/4 of an avocado 1 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds balsamic vinaigrette olive oil salt and pepper to taste

Soak the arame for 5 min.  Put the kale in a bowl, squeeze the lemon juice over it, and let it sit while you prep the other veggies.

Throw everything in a big bowl and enjoy!

An apology...and a cookie

Katie Gordon

Wow, thanks for sticking around!  Let me tell you what I've been up to the last few months.  It's been a doozy (is that how you spell doozy?).  First of all, I'm just about to finish my first 15o hours of Shiatsu massage.  It's been amazing, exhausting, humbling, and totally worth every minute.  Now starts the intern clinic that I'm super stoked for and hopefully more workshops full of anatomy and chinese medicine fun! I've also been teaching two new yoga classes every Saturday, which has been awesome because my students are bad ass and continue to show up every week :) Anyway, between work, school, and teaching I haven't had much time for cooking and other fun things, so it's good to be back.  As a way of an apology, I'm leaving you with an awesome new recipe for cookies that I adapted from Joy the Baker.  They're chocolate-y.  They're delicious.  They're vegan.  You should definitely make them.  And sneak lots of bites of cookie dough in the process.  *Bonus: Since they're vegan you don't need to worry about salmonella! (not that I do anyway) :D

Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. sea salt 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional, but you should really add it) 1 c. vegan sugar 2 Tbsp. flax seed meal 1/2 c. apple sauce 1/4 c. coconut oil 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1/2 c. vegan chocolate chips

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, flax meal, apple sauce, oil, and vanilla.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add the chocolate chips, and mix with a wooden spoon (or spatula) until all the dry ingredients are moist.  I kneaded the dough a bit with my hands, but be careful not to over-mix.  Dump the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap, form into a disc, wrap, and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight).

Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the racks in the center and upper third of the oven.  Form tablespoon-size balls, roll them in granulated sugar, and place on the prepared sheets.  Press each one down slightly with the heel of your hand because they won't spread much.

Bake for 9-10 minutes.  They'll be slightly soft in the middle.  Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing them to wire racks to cool completely.

Yields about 28 cookies.

Greens and Ginger Soup

Katie Gordon

Have you ever had a cold that keeps coming back, each time a little stronger?  If not, consider yourself lucky and keep doing whatever you're doing.  If so, you should make this soup.  It has just enough heat from the ginger to help clear your head, sinuses, and lungs.  Also, foods like onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon may strengthen the immune system as well as help your body to rid itself of the virus. More importantly, when I'm sick soup is the only thing that sounds good to eat.  Since it is cold-flu season, I figured I'd share the recipe with you all, especially those of you living back east with 10 feet of snow piled up outside your door.  Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration.

The best part about this soup is that you can totally improvise depending on what veggies you happen to have.  Switch up the spices (cardamom would be a welcome addition), substitute the greens (watercress or chard might be nice), throw in some carrots, you get the idea.

Greens and Ginger Soup Loosely adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 yellow onion, chopped 2 Tbsp. olive oil 1 sweet potato 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated 2 garlic cloves 1/2 tsp. cumin 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 1/8 tsp. nutmeg 2 c. veggie broth 1/2 bunch of kale, de-stemmed and chopped greens from one beet, chopped salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion and olive oil in a saute pan on low heat, stirring occasionally for about half an hour until the onions are tender and golden.

While the onions cook, peel and dice the sweet potato and put it in a large soup pot with 4 cups of water, the grated ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and a dash of sea salt.  Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft.  When the onions are finished, add them along with the veggie broth to your sweet potatoes, then throw in the greens.  Bring back to a simmer for just a few minutes until the greens are softened but not mushy.

I served the soup over adzuki beans for some added protein, but it's great on its own, or you can serve it over a grain of your choice.

Serves 5-6.

Coconut-Ginger Arame Rice

Katie Gordon

I've been really into making bowls for my lunches recently.  Grain + protein + veggies + some kind of sauce that I throw together.  It's great because there are so many combinations and flavors to play with.  This recipe is what I made for lunch today and since it got such a big response on FB, I figured I'd post it.  Actually, Anna specifically requested that I post it.  I wasn't trying to hold out on you.  I promise.  It was just something I threw together out of things in my pantry that needed to be used and it just happened to be delicious.  I'm also going through a MAJOR coconut phase.  And a pretty major seaweed phase.  And avocados...you'll probably see those popping up here quite a bit in the next few weeks. This recipe is all about improv, so adjust the arame and ginger to your liking.  Just remember that the arame expands when it soaks.

Coconut-Ginger Arame Rice Note: For those of you unfamiliar with arame, it's a type of seaweed and can be found in the ethnic food section of your health food store.

1 c. jasmine rice (can also use any combination of brown, white, red, black, or purple rice, whatever strikes your fancy) 3/4 c. water 1 c. coconut milk (not lite)

1/2 tsp. ground ginger spoonful of coconut butter (like I said, I'm going through a phase...)

arame (I honestly didn't measure...use as much or as little as you want) pinch of sea salt pinch of sesame seeds

2 heads baby bok choy, chopped

Rinse your rice three times (yes it has to be three) in a medium saucepan, and then add the water and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Remove it from the heat, keeping it covered, and let it steam for another 15 minutes or so.

While your rice is cooking, soak your arame in cold water for about 20 minutes.  Then drain and rinse.  Sprinkle some sea salt and sesame seeds over it and set aside.

Also while the rice is cooking, steam the bok choy.

Once the rice is done, mix in the ginger and coconut butter, then add the arame mixture and enjoy!

Serves 2-3.

the yang within the yin

Katie Gordon

Welcome to the first Saffron Zen post of 2011!  I know it's about time.  As winter progressed and we approached the New Year, I could sense myself contracting, like I was going into hibernation mode.  According to Chinese Medicine, that's what is supposed to happen during the winter season.  Winter corresponds to the element of water and the kidneys, bladder and adrenal glands.  Winter is the time to store our energy, nourish our bodies, minds, and souls. The kidneys are where our chi, our energy, is stored to be used in times of stress, illness, and as we age.  They can be thought of like a seed which stores so much potential energy for the life that will one day spring forth from it.  Stress is the main source of kidney chi deficiency.  As our chi is depleted, our adrenals get burnt out trying to keep up with us in the non-stop pace we set for ourselves, especially during the holidays.  In times of stress, it's important to take time out to also relax, restore, and rejuvenate.  Most importantly, winter is the time of year when we need to sleep!  Remember that thing we're supposed to get 8 hours of per night?  Shoot for 9 hours instead.

However, TCM theory also says that in the dead of winter appears yang, the sun energy, light.  Since the New Year, I've noticed a pretty major, though subtle, energetic shift.  I've been wanting to go out more, socialize, see and be seen.  It almost feels like a blossoming, an opening of my spirit.  It's the yang within the yin.

So although we're oh-so-gradually heading into the yang time of year, and even though it was 70 degrees and sunny today in So Cal (sorry for those of you in New England where it just snowed 2 feet in a day),  it's still January, and we still need to be nourishing our kidney chi by resting, relaxing, and enjoying warm soups, hearty whole grains, and lots of ginger tea.  That was a really long sentence.  At any rate, here's a recipe for miso soup that should not only warm you up in no time, but also is an amazing cure for the cold that everyone seems to be catching right now.

Miso Soup adapted from 101 cookbooks

3 oz. dried soba noodles 4 c. water 2-4 Tbsp. miso paste (I used white, but experiment with other kinds) Handful of spinach, or other leafy greens 2 green onions, tops removed, thinly sliced Pinch of red pepper flakes

Cook the noodles and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Pour some of the hot water into a bowl and whisk in the miso paste to thin it out.  Add the thinned miso paste back into the sauce pan.  Taste, and then add more if you like, using the same method as before.

Keep the noodles separate until just before you serve the soup, otherwise they can get mushy.  Just before serving, divide the noodles between two or three bowls, add the greens, onions, and red pepper flakes, and pour the broth over them.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Note: You can also add mushrooms (I like shiitake mushrooms, plus they're great for the adrenal glands), tofu, cilantro, ginger, etc.  It's fun to play around with miso soups, trying all kinds of variations depending on your mood.

Ginger Persimmon Bread

Katie Gordon

I took a day off yesterday.  A "mental health day" as my dad used to call it.  So I woke up slowly, staying cozy in bed with a huge mug of tea for as long as I could justify it, went to yoga, and visited my favorite coffee shop for a matcha almond milk latte and to catch up on some reading.  Then I baked.  For a day off, I'd say it was pretty productive.  I even cleaned the bathroom. Joy had posted this recipe a few weeks ago and it sounded like the perfect combination of fall flavors.  I had never tried baking with persimmons and I just happened to have two from the farmers market.

For this recipe, I use Hachiya persimmons, which are for baking, as opposed to Fuyu persimmons, which are for eating raw, on salads, with nut butter, or any other creative uses you can come up with.  The Hachiyas are taller and are ripe when they're super soft.  Fuyus are squat and firmer even when they fully ripen.

Ginger Persimmon Bread adapted from Joy the Baker

Note: I made the persimmon pulp by peeling two Hachiya persimmons, slicing the flesh off the core, and throwing it in the blender, pulsing until it was still a little chunky.

1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour) 3/4 tsp. salt 1/2 c. persimmon pulp 1 tsp. baking soda (I used baking powder because I couldn't find my baking soda and it worked fine) 1 c. natural cane sugar 2 eggs 1/2 coconut oil (can substitute vegetable oil) 1 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. nutmeg 1/2 tsp. ground ginger 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger (if you don't have fresh ginger or can't be bothered to grate some, just use 1 tsp. of ground ginger) Dash of ground cloves (optional)

Place a rack in the top third of your oven and preheat the to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x4x3 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.

In a small bowl, combine the persimmon pulp and baking soda/powder.

In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, and spices together.  Add the persimmon mixture.  Then fold the wet ingredients to the flour mixture until all the flour is combined.  Pour it into the loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

Tricolor Quinoa

Katie Gordon

I'll skip the part where I apologize for not writing in forever and tell you all how busy I've been the last month or so.  This fall has been going by way too fast and I had planned on posting all kinds of pumpkin, apple, squash, and other fall recipes (don't worry there will still be some in the next few weeks), but it just didn't happen.  I've also been experiencing some kind of food/cooking slump in the last few weeks for some reason, which I'm sure we've all gone through.  The kind of thing where you just don't feel inspired, nothing grabs your attention.  But with Thanksgiving tomorrow and volunteering to make desserts for the family dinner, I've forced myself out and it feels good to be back in the kitchen. This recipe is one that's pretty easy to throw together after getting home from work, knowing you have to make something for dinner, and trying to use up produce from last weekend's farmers market.  I adapted a recipe from The Urban Vegan, a book from which I'll definitely be using and adapting many recipes.  Most of you know by now that quinoa is high in protein, but it's also packed with fiber, iron, and calcium, making it a true superfood!  However, for added protein I mixed in adzuki beans at the end.  Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you like/have on hand and need to use up.

PS: Rob, note the usage of kale and quinoa...I thought you'd appreciate it ;-)

Tricolor Quinoa

1 T. olive oil 1/2 onion 2 cloves garlic 2 c. water or veggie broth 1 carrot 1 bell pepper 1 c. kale 1 c. quinoa, uncooked 1 strip kombu broken up into pieces, optional (good source of iodine)

Season to taste with fresh herbs including but not limited to: sage, rosemary, or thyme (especially lemon thyme...yum!)

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil, add the onion and garlic, cook for about 5 minutes.  Pour in the water or broth, carrot, pepper, and kale and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the quinoa and kombu, stir, and turn heat to low.  Simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the veggies are soft.  When you have about 5 minutes left, add the fresh herbs so the flavors can all combine.

Yields 4-6 servings.

Roasted Root Salad

Katie Gordon

I really really want it to be Fall.  But even though I'm ready for cool crisp air, butternut squash, scarves, chunky sweaters, soup, hot cider, and baked apples, it's still in the 80's here in Southern California.  So instead of being upset that it's still hot, I'm just going into denial mode and getting ahead of myself because I really can't resist posting this recipe for you all so that when Autumn finally does show up, you'll be ready. Now let me just start out saying that I'm really not a potato person.  I could do with or without them.  I'd rather cook up a pot of quinoa, farro, buckwheat or some exciting grain.  That all changed last weekend when my mom and I found some purple potatoes at our local farmers market.

Along with the potassium contained in your typical potato, these purple potatoes are also a rich source of the phytonutrients called Anthocyanins, pigments found in blue and purple fruits and vegetables (blueberries, blackberries, and acai for example).  Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals caused by the body's normal metabolic processes, as well as radiation, environmental toxins, cigarette smoke, pollution, and herbicides.  Purple potatoes are the most common, but look for any color especially as heirloom varieties become more popular and readily available.

Roasted Root Salad: adapted from 101cookbooks

1 1/2 lbs small, waxy potatoes, scrubbed and quartered (I used purple, but you could use any color you want) 1/2 lb carrots, scrubbed and cut into the same size as your potatoes 1/2 lb parsnips, scrubbed and cut 6 shallots, peeled and cut into halves lengthwise 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil 2 pinches of sea salt 2 bunches of green onions, green tops cut off and sliced in half lengthwise

vinaigrette: 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar 1 small or 1/2 medium shallot, minced 2 tsp. whole grain mustard 1/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt 1/3 c. olive oil 1 Tbsp. greek yogurt or creme fraiche (optional)

2 c. cooked wild or brown rice (the wild rice looks prettier)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and shallots with 1/4 c. olive oil and sea salt until well-coated.  Turn them out onto one or two baking sheets (I had to use two) in a single layer.  Throw the green onions into the bowl and coat them with the residual olive oil, then add them to the baking sheets.  Keep in mind the green onions will take about 20 minutes while the rest of the veggies should stay in there for 40-60 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, pour the red wine vinegar into a small bowl along with the chopped shallot.  If you have time, allow them to soak for about 20 minutes.  Whisk in the mustard and salt, then drizzle in the olive oil, still whisking.  Then stir in the yogurt or creme fraiche, adjust vinegar, mustard, salt, etc. to taste.

When the vegetables are done, remove them from the oven.  Toss your rice with some of the vinaigrette.  Then either add the vegetables to the bowl and toss with the rest of the dressing, or turn the rice out onto a serving platter and use it as a bed for your vegetables.  Top with the roasted green onions.

Serves 6.

Sweet Potato & Butternut Squash Soup

Katie Gordon

You may be wondering why I'm posting a soup recipe in June.  Well to satisfy your curiosity, I'll tell you a story...

My friend, Deb, and I had been planning to make a fantastic dinner together last Friday.  It had been a hot and humid few days, so on Thursday we decided we'd make gazpacho with quinoa-stuffed peppers.  Perfect summer dinner, right?  Then temperatures dropped overnight back down into the low 60's (yes that's cold for me) and we reconsidered our plan.

I had come across this recipe in an old issue of Yoga Journal in an article discussing how through an Ayurvedic diet based on your body type, your body will naturally find its ideal weight.  The sweet potato and heating spices in this recipe make it an ideal meal for those who are vata-dominant because of its heating, heavy, and calming qualities.  More on Ayurveda coming soon...

Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup

2 Tbsp. Ghee or Olive Oil 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks* 1 medium sweet potato 1 large onion, loosely diced 2 garlic cloves, smashed 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, chopped 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp. ground cloves (optional) 1 tsp. ground cumin 1/2 tsp. turmeric 3 c. water or broth 1 c. coconut milk (or half-and-half) Salt and pepper to taste Freshly minced parsley to garnish

Heat 1 Tbsp. ghee or oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep saute pan.  Add squash, sweet potato, and onion.  Saute for 7-8 minutes or until ingredients turn golden brown.  Reduce heat to low, add garlic, and cook about 10 more minutes, or until vegetables are a caramel color.

In a separate soup pot, add 1 Tbsp. ghee or oil, ginger, and the spices.  Saute until fragrant.  Add broth and vegetables to soup pot.  Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, partially covered, until the squash is tender.

Puree in a blender until smooth.  Return to soup pot.  Add coconut milk, salt, and pepper to taste.  Heat and serve.  Garnish with parsley.

*Please be careful when peeling your butternut squash...I sustained an injury while doing so, and though I won't go into details, suffice it to say my index finger/fingernail suffered a close call with the vegetable peeler.

Toots and Peanut Butter Banana Cookies

Katie Gordon

This past Sunday, Cam and I saw Toots and the Maytals play at the House of Blues.  For those who don't know, The Maytals are a reggae band from Kingston, Jamaica that go way back to the 60's.  As in pre-Marley.  Toots coined the term "reggae."  He's kind of a big deal.  Their sound combines ska, reggae, soul, rock, and even gospel with hits like "Monkey Man", "Pressure Drop", and "Take Me Home Country Roads".

The crowd on Sunday was eclectic, to say the least.  There were kids around 11 with their parents, all the way up to people my grandparents' age, who, by the way, looked to be having the best time out of everyone.  Anyway, I tried taking pictures, but they didn't turn out well, so here's one of my favorite pictures of Toots:

And now for the recipe portion of this post...

I don't only make cookies...I promise.  I have tons of recipes for salads, bowls full of grains and veggies, beverages, stir fries, sandwiches, scrambles, soups, and other goodies.  But for some reason, I've been more than a little obsessed with baking recently, and cookies are so easy and satisfyingly delicious.

The other night I promised Cam some kind of baked good in exchange for bailing on going to his weekly gig at Serafinas.  I had bananas in the fridge that were that perfect color of yellow-almost-brown necessary for turning into a  bread, but did NOT have eggs.  Now, just to warn you for future posts, I've also been unusually excited about vegan baking, so I figured, why not try substituting bananas for eggs?

I came across a recipe on Fat Free Vegan that didn't have too many ingredients.  Normally when things say fat-free, I steer clear.  Fat-free usually means not very good, especially when it comes to baking.  However, as the title of Susan's post says, they're "lower-fat", so I decided to make an exception.  And let me tell you, these were AMAZING!  Also, I don't think I need to remind you that peanut butter and bananas are one of the greatest combinations in the world.  So, I had to share the recipe with you.

Peanut Butter Banana Cookies: adapted from fatfreevegan.com

1/2 c. natural, no-sugar added, unsalted peanut butter (chunky or smooth) 3/4 c. raw sugar 3/4 c. mashed banana (about 2 medium bananas) 1 1/2 c. unbleached flour (you could also use whole wheat pastry flour) 1 tsp. baking powder 1/4 tsp. salt 1/2 c. non-dairy chocolate chips, optional (the original recipe called for 1/4 c. but that didn't seem like enough to me)

Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together the peanut butter and sugar, then add the mashed banana and mix until creamy.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, to the peanut butter mixture.  Add the chocolate chips.  Avoid over-mixing the dough, otherwise the cookies may come out too dense.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet.  It's very sticky.  You just have to deal.  Flatten with a wet fork (yes, it's important that the fork is wet, or else the dough will stick to the fork and you'll get frustrated because there will be peanut butter dough stuck all over your fingers, hands, arms, face, and shirt...and no, I don't know that from experience).  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown.  They'll be soft when you take them out, but they'll set nicely as they cool.  Also, they'll stay somewhat moist because of the banana and oil in the peanut butter.  Don't be alarmed.  This is what makes them so good.

This recipe makes about 20 cookies.  They are especially delicious dipped in almond milk.

Banana-Mash Cookies

Katie Gordon

I love coconut.  I eat it, drink it, and slather myself in it from head to toe.  I love anything that smells like real coconut, and especially enjoy experimenting with it in recipes.  So when I came across this cookie recipe on Heidi's blog a while ago, I immediately went out and bought all the ingredients.  One thing about these cookies is that I love all the ingredients by themselves.  How can you go wrong with dark chocolate, banana, oats, coconut, and almond?  Unfortunately, that also means it took me a long time to actually get around to making the cookies.  Everytime I had all the ingredients on hand, I'd end up eating one of the essentials.  A bunch of bananas will last about 2 days in our house, and once those are gone, I might as well use the chocolate chips for another recipe, or just to eat on their own.  The coconut flakes would be willingly sacrificed to sweet potatoes, oatmeal, granola, and yogurt.  Once I was left with the almond meal and coconut oil, I'd start over again. 

So this past Sunday, driven inside by the rain, Cam and I decided it was a good day to bake.  After looking through some saved recipes, I remembered these.  And what do you know?  We actually had everything, except for the chocolate, on hand (although in retrospect, we have a chocolate bunny that might have come in handy).  I love when well-intentioned baking endeavors work out.  Now we have a plate of delicious, nutricious cookies sitting on our table, which I justify eating for breakfast because they're small and healthy and made of oats and banana :)

Banana-Mash Cookies

3 large, well-ripened & well-mashed bananas (1 1/2 cups) 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed to just melting (you can also use olive oil) 2 cups rolled oats 2/3 cup almond meal 1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded and unsweetened 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt 1 tsp. baking powder 6-7 oz. chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in top third of oven.

In a large bowl, combine mashed bananas, vanilla, and coconut oil.  In another bowl, mix oats, almond meal, coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined.  Add the chocolate chips.  On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop small spoonfuls of the dough (about 2 teaspoons full).  Bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges start to golden.  I left mine in for 14 min. and they turned out perfectly. 

Makes about 3 dozen little cookies.

Sandals and Sweet Potatoes

Katie Gordon

The other day it when I got home from work it was 68 degrees outside!  (For those of you back home in Orange County, that's HOT for March)  I practically ran home, dug out my shorts and Rainbow sandals from the depths of my closet and ran back outside to the park around the corner.  As I wiggled my toes into my sandals, a strange feeling of familiarity came over me.  Now for those of you who don't know, Rainbows are a very personal thing.  They're made to mold to your feet and last for years.  I've tried wearing a pair of my friend's, and they just don't ever feel right.  My rainbows and I are made for each other. 

(yes, that's a hole in the heel...)

So when I slid my feet into them for the first time in 6 months, I felt a deep sense of comfort, like the smell of home when you return from a long trip.  Memories of summers past came rushing back, and I sighed in relief, knowing the worst of the cold weather is now over.  We'll still get plenty of rain.  Here in New England March, April, and May showers bring hot and muggy summers.  But there will be no more snow (at least in excess...fingers crossed), and I can put away my North Face coat that looks like I'm wrapped up in a sleeping bag.

But before we put root vegetable season behind us, I wanted to post this recipe for sweet potatoes that I've been meaning to share with you for quite some time now.  I got it from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks (where I get so many of my recipes), and have made it a few times now.  It only lasts for about a day because Cam and I will eat it for all 3 meals, plus snacks, if possible.  I didn't ever think I liked sweet potatoes.  They sounded good in theory, but seemed too complicated to make.  But when I saw Heidi make them with coconut (my favorite food ever) I figured I'd give them a shot.  And I'm so glad I did!  Sweet potatoes are my new comfort food.  First of all they taste like candy, especially when you add maple syrup and coconut milk like in these ones.  Second of all, they're bright orange...what could be more cheerful in the middle of winter??  The ginger in them adds a subtle kick (as well as digestive health), and the macadamia nuts on top give them a nice crunch that nicely contrasts with the creamy potatoes. 

Enough introduction.  Here's the recipe:

Coconut-Ginger Sweet Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes  1/3 cup coconut milk (NOT light coconut milk) 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated 1 tablespoon maple syrup 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt 1/3 cup raw, unsweetened grated coconut 2 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter  1/3 cup toasted macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F degrees, a rack in the middle or upper third of the oven.  Grease a medium-sized casserole dish (Heidi uses 6 ramekins, but I don't have ramekins so I just used the casserole dish).

Wrap each sweet potato in foil and pierce a few times with a fork, then place them in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half (I baked them for closer to an hour and a half to make sure they were really soft).  When you take them out, you should be able to slice through them like soft butter.  Let them cool for a few minutes after taking them out, then cut each in half, and scoop the flesh into a medium mixing bowl.  You should have about 3 cups of sweet potato.  Mash the sweet potatoes with the coconut milk.  I use an immersion blender, but you could use a hand mixer or food processor as well.  Stir in the ginger, maple syrup, and sea salt and taste.  Now is the time to adjust any of the seasoning if you want to before they're put back in the oven.

Spoon the mixture into the casserole dish, sprinkle the coconut over the top, drizzle with olive oil or butter (I sometimes skip this step,though), and bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, or until the coconut on top is golden.  Remove and sprinkle with the macadamia nuts.

Heidi says this serves about 6.  I eat a lot of it though, so 6 would be stretching it.  These go great with sauteed garlicky greens, grilled chicken, or marinated tofu.  I imagine they could also taste good with some kind of light, herbed fish.  So even though it's been in the 70's and sunny back home, these sweet potatoes can still bring a touch of comfort, and the coconut flavor hints at the summer just around the corner.  Hope you enjoy!