We have had record snow fall here in Ohio–close to 11 inches total from two separate snow storms. I don’t mind snow too much as long as I can still drive in it and go about my day without falling on my butt. Though I have noticed a tendency I am developing called “sitting on the couch all day next to the fire and television.” In fact, it was about part-way into my third movie this afternoon that I decided it was time to go for a walk.
An hour and 20 layers later I was walking on pristine powdery snow next to a small creek near our house. I live in a secluded area of the city so on normal days we can hear plenty of traffic noise but today the only sounds to be heard were the babble of the water and the cardinals. It was so peaceful.
One downside of snow though is that events tend to be canceled, which is how I found myself with the world’s largest bowl of pineapple mango salsa and no one to share it with (our church was going to have a salsa-making contest which was canceled due to the two snowstorms).
Needless to say we have been discovering new ways to eat salsa. We have tried it on chips, pita, in tacos, on salad and tonight we had it on top of paprika-dusted cod (my favorite way so far).
This salsa is so fresh and sweet with pops of flavor from lime, cilantro and flakes of sea salt that almost make it taste like a margarita. This recipe is based on a salsa served at Whole Foods. My two recommendations for getting it just right is to dice everything very small so you get a good variety of flavors in every bite and don’t leave out the salt because it really enhances the overall flavor.
Sweet and Salty Pineapple Mango Salsa (makes approximately 3-4 cups)
- 1 pineapple-cored and diced
- 1 ripe mango-peeled and diced (add a little agave nectar to your chopped mango if it is still slightly green)
- 1/2 bunch of finely chopped cilantro
- 1/2 of a green bell pepper-diced
- 1/2 of a red bell pepper-diced
- 1/2 of a red onion-diced
- Juice from 1 fresh lime
- Kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl except lime juice and salt. Then add the lime juice and salt to taste. Allow to stand 5 minutes then taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Enjoy!
So colorful (and tasty)!
Now it is back to studying for me. I am taking the GRE tomorrow. So relieved it is finally here so I can be finished and done with it 🙂
What is about a spontaneously deciding to go out to brunch that makes you feel so indulgent?
The reason for today’s brunch was actually due to a favor that my sister owed to me from this past summer. She decided to pay me back in the form of a meal at North Star Cafe (a locally owned restaurant in Columbus).
She knows me too well.
I would do pretty much anything to eat at North Star. I love their food because it is absolutely delicious and always very good quality (much of the menu emphasizes locally sourced ingredients).
It was very busy when we walked into the restaurant around 10 am but we only waited in line for a few minutes–during which we were offered a sample of a dense triple chocolate cookie (best wait I have every had). We both ordered and then spent a few minutes waiting for a table to open up before clipping our order number onto a little stand attached to the napkin holder.
After a short wait, which we spent people-watching the other customers (mostly a young adults with a few younger families), a sunny server delivered our meal. For me, a side of roasted sweet potatoes mixed with peppers and onions and another side of two farm-fresh poached eggs. For my sister, a hearty bowl of oatmeal served with warm cream. The server also brought three bowls filled with almonds, sunflower seeds and cranberries which she sprinkled on top of the oatmeal. The presentation of our dishes was pleasing but not as much as the flavor. All I can say is their roasted sweet potatoes are crave-worthy.
They were roasted until they crisped and carmelized (and how cute is the tiny sprinkle of parsley on the eggs? Tiny details) and the onions and peppers sort of melted into the potatoes adding dimension and sweetness to the dish. My only critique would be there was a little too much oil for my taste. Otherwise they were outstanding.
My sister’s oatmeal was also very good. She said it tasted like it was cooked with milk instead of water (always a good sign).
Why don’t we do this more often? Well, at North Star you pay for the quality of your food. If you want locally sourced organic ingredients you are going to have to be willing to pay for it because it gets expensive fast. However, if you are craving a delicious filling brunch that you can feel good about, look no further than North Star. You won’t be disappointed.
We are supposed to get 1-2 inches of snow here in Ohio tonight–our first real snow this year. I am not a huge fan of winter but I don’t mind a cozy snow day now and then. Particularly a snow day that ends with a plate of sweet bbq tofu next to a pile of warm cinnamon sweet potatoes and spicy black-eyed peas. Make this healthy nutrient-dense meal the next time you are snowed in and you won’t regret it. You will be warm and full of happiness from the inside out.
I actually stumbled upon this delicious combo of black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes on a blog called Post Punk Kitchen (the bbq tofu was my own addition to help round out the meal). I love how the spicy-sweet flavors complement each other so well–healthy Southern comfort food at its finest!
For the Black-Eyed Peas
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced small
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch kale or collards, rough stems removed, thinly sliced(about 1/2 pound)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2-15 oz cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup veg broth
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional, a smidge of smoked paprika would be great too)
Preheat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Saute the onion in the oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Use a little cooking spray if needed. Add the garlic and saute a minute more. Add the greens, 1/4 cup of water and salt. Cover the pot and cook the greens down for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add black-eyed peas, tomato sauce and broth and thoroughly mix. Cover pot and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add hot sauce and liquid smoke, then use a potato masher to mash some of the beans, about 1/4 of them, to thicken the sauce. Cook for about 5 more minutes uncovered. Taste for salt and seasoning. Serve hot.
For the Sweet Potatoes
- 1 pound apples, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- (2 average sized) 2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon agave (optional, I left it out because my potatoes were sweet enough already)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
Preheat a 4 quart pot over low heat. Spray with cooking spray, then add apples, sweet potatoes, water and salt. Cover pot and sweat the apples and sweet potatoes for about 20 minutes, stirring often. What this means, is just to cook them slowly and let them steam. You want to coax the moisture out of them, but if you make the flame too high they’ll burn and cook unevenly.
After 20 minutes, you can turn the heat up just a bit. Add a little more water if needed. Cover and cook 20 more minutes, paying close attention so that they don’t burn, and stirring often. When they’re very tender, they’re done. Mash with a potato masher. Add the agave, cinnamon and ginger, and mash some more. Taste for salt and seasoning. Serve warm.
For the BBQ Tofu (this is more of a technique than a recipe)
- 1-14 oz package of extra-firm tofu (drained)
- 3/4 cup of bbq sauce of choice
Line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels and place the tofu on top. Put more paper towels on the tofu and place something heavy on top (like a textbook or a cast iron skillet) and allow the water to drain out for about 30 minutes. Discard the paper towels and slice the tofu into 1/2 inch slices. Cut each 1/2 inch slice into 4 pieces. Pour the bbq sauce in a baking dish and toss tofu with the sauce. Allow to marinate for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the tofu on the baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, turn half-way through. Brush with more bbq sauce if desired. Enjoy!
Finals are over. What a relief. . . now I just have one more semester until graduation! I am so excited and nervous because I have begun the process of filling out applications to different Dietetics internship programs. I have also begun to study for the GRE (like the SAT for grad school). I can’t believe how much math I can forget in 2-3 years. I took up to college-level calculus as a freshman but now I am back to learning the basics of high-school math (the highest level of math that the GRE tests). So that is gist of what I will be doing for the next 3-4 weeks. I really know how to have fun 😉
In terms of food, it is finally egg nog season. My entire family loves egg nog. Unfortunately, we have two issues with it. First, egg nog is not the healthiest food on the planet. Second, half of my family is severely allergic to eggs. So for the past several years we have been trying different dairy-free replacement options that just haven’t been up to the nog par. Real egg nog has a nice weight to it in your mouth–a thick creaminess that has to be replicated in order for it to feel like you are drinking the real deal. Many replacements focus on just providing an egg nog flavor and are rather watery and overly sweet. However, I am pleased to announce that we have finally searched out the perfect replacement egg nog:
So Delicious Coconut Milk Nog is astonishingly close to the real thing. It is so thick with just the right level of spice and sweetness (the nutrition isn’t too bad either 3 grams of fat versus 10 grams in traditional egg nog and about a 1/2 of the calories). I could think of a thousand ways to use this product (egg nog martini?) but since the taste reminded me a little of a Snickerdoodle cookie I decided to make a Snickerdoodle oatmeal. It was a good decision.
- 1/2 cup of quick-cooking dry oats
- 1 cup of water
- 1/4 cup of So Delicious Coconut Milk Nog
- 1/2 a banana (chopped into small pieces)
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of vanilla
- 1/8 tsp of cream of tartar (gives the oatmeal a more snickerdoodle-like taste)
- 1/8 tsp of salt
Stir all ingredients together in a small pot and bring to simmer over medium heat. Stir frequently to help the banana break down and “melt” into the oats. Cook until desired consistency. This oatmeal will thicken slightly if you allow it to cool for a couple of minutes (if you can wait that long). Enjoy!
I know that the season for pumpkin officially “ended” with Thanksgiving. However, I feel that this nutrient-packed and fiber rich food deserves a place in meals all-year round. It is a pantry staple at my house and I always have about five cans stored up in the event of a canned pumpkin scarcity (it did actually happen once several years ago so one can’t be too careful).
A friend gave me this pancake recipe a long time ago (I think it actually came from a B and B) and I make it fairly regularly. It contains a full cup of pumpkin as well as buttermilk, both of which yield a more moist pancake without a lot of addition fat. I have served this recipe to guests numerous times and everyone always raves about them. They are sweet, moist and spicy with a nice density that isn’t too heavy and somehow manage to retain a certain “fluffiness.” The key here is to use real buttermilk. I have tried making my own buttermilk with the vinegar added to milk method and it just doesn’t yield as spectacular results. Believe me, you will be very happy you invested in the real stuff once you have tried these amazing pancakes.
Perfectly Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes (makes enough for about 6 people)
- 2.5 cups of all-purpose flour (whole-wheat is too dense)
- 2 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
- 1 tsp of ginger
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 1/4 tsp of all-spice
- 1/2 tsp of baking soda
- 1 Tbsp of baking powder
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup of canned pumpkin
- 1/4 cup of butter, melted
- 2 cups of low-fat buttermilk
- 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp of vanilla
Mix all dry ingredients in a medium-size bowl with a whisk. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined (don’t over mix there will still be some lumps and that’s ok). Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake onto a hot greased skillet and cook until the edges look dry. Flip and continue cooking until cooked through. Serve with warm maple syrup. Enjoy the best pancakes you will ever eat!
Finals week begins this Wednesday. It may be crazy because I know that I have an immense amount of studying to do for five finals but I am actually really excited. I’m excited because in a little more than a week I can officially say I am half way through my senior year! In some ways time has flown by so quickly since I first stepped foot on campus as a freshman in 2009 and in other ways it seems like an eternity ago. So, knowing that I am going to have incredibly little down-time this coming week, I decided to make a delicious and nutritious batch of muffins to eat for a quick and easy breakfast with yogurt or as an afternoon/evening snack.
I went searching for a banana muffin recipe because, despite my aversion to fresh bananas, I really enjoy them in baked goods (especially banana bread). I chose a recipe that combined the classic flavor of banana with a hint of peanut butter for extra staying power, flavor and protein. Also, instead of the usual canola oil, this recipe calls for greek yogurt and used part whole-wheat flour. Perfect (well almost perfect, perfect requires a small handful of chocolate chips stirred into the batter before baking).
Peanut Butter Banana Muffins (slightly adapted from here; makes a dozen muffins)
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup peanut butter
- 2/3 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 t vanilla
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 t baking powder
- 1/4 t salt
- 1/2 t cinnamon
- 1/4 C sugar
- 1 C all-purpose flour
- 3/4 C whole-wheat flour
- chocolate chips, cinnamon sugar for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with baking cups and lightly spray with canola oil.
Mix the wet ingredients together–mashed banana, honey, peanut butter, yogurt, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and cinnamon).
Add the wet and dry together and stir until just combined. If desired, fold in about 1/4 cup of chocolate chips.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tin until the cups are 3/4 full, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake on the middle rack in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
These muffins are delicious. They have all the right flavors and retain their moistness without the addition of a lot of fat and they reheat really well. I have a feeling I am going to be munching on them a lot this next week. Here’s to muffin munching brain power!