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Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

As soon as the first crisp days of autumn arrive, I subconsciously, and rather rapidly, begin to shift my diet to match the shifting environment that surrounds me. Outside my window, I admire the many shades of orange spreading across the sky. Then soon after, near as many orange hues start appearing on my kitchen counters.

Squash of every variety, and sweet potatoes too, fill up my empty wooden baskets, my ceramic plates, and now my mason jars, too.

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

When Williams Sonoma kicked off this week with the theme of “Not Your Average Smoothie”, naturally I knew I needed to throw some squash into my blender.

I’m all about going outside the traditional smoothie box, and I’m also all about squash, so it seemed like a perfect platform for experimentation.

I turned on my oven, said bottoms up, and began getting to work.

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

I decided upon butternut, loving its creaminess in soups that I often create with apples. I figured, why wouldn’t that be delicious iced and turned into a smoothie, too?

After testing out this smoothie several times, I finally came up with a recipe that’s a little weird, a little wild, yet totally straw-worthy and insanely refreshing.

Through my testing, I learned to save the oven for the squash soup, and stick to steaming for the smoothie. Steaming enables the squash to stay juicer and not as dense so you end up with a shake that has a nice light, whipped consistency. Along with some spirited spice – curry powder and a kick of cayenne (ow ow!) – this smoothie embodies some of fall’s best warming qualities while remaining refreshing till the last sip.

Feel free to try swapping the butternut with sweet potato, or even pumpkin. Just be mindful of possibly needing to adjust the liquid. If you want to step further out of the box, add some spinach. I did this to one batch, and the results were great (even if it sounds a little weird). To get a little wilder, top your smoothie with toasted walnuts or pecans. Or an extra kick of that spicy cayenne, if you like it hot.

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Curry Harvest Soup

Curry Harvest Soup

In Philly, sweater weather has official set in. I’m zipping around a little faster on my bike and keeping my jackets zipped up a little higher. All in the name of keeping warm while I watch the leaves turn, fall, and land from their treetop post.

When I set this soup upon the table yesterday evening, I have to say, I was feeling pretty good about autumn. Warm, crusty bread and an Oktoberfest beer paired by its side, it’s safe to say I think you’d feel the same.

Curry Harvest Soup

If you find yourself ever getting the fear-of-winter blues, like me, make soup. Soup is pretty much the solution to everything.

After a crisp, October run, with the sun setting just a wee bit too early, a spoonful of this will assure you, autumn will be more than okay. And for a few warm moments, it’ll make you forget all together about winter.

I call it soup meditation.

It clears the mind. It clears the nose…especially if you put enough curry powder and spice.

Curry Harvest Soup

This particular soup has plenty of spice, although not in a notably fiery way. It remains light given all its vegetables and brothy composure, yet with some of the season’s best – sweet potatoes and kale – has a heartiness that makes it more than satisfying. I find this balance makes it perfect for mid-fall, when you need a little warmth but not a heavy sauna in your bowl.

Curry Harvest Soup

Make sure you don’t skimp out on the toppings. The parsley and nutritional yeast really do wonders to enhance this simple recipe and play off its seasonal freshness.

Curry Harvest Soup

Additionally, feel free to use all sweet potatoes, if feeling so inspired. You can rarely go wrong with an extra sweet potato in the pot.

As for the yellow squash, slightly matured ones, characteristic of this time of year, are fine and maybe even preferred. The heartier flesh pairs well with the other ingredients going on here.

Serve with some earthy bread and a nice fall beer, and you’ve got yourself the perfect evening.

More soup to come soon, guaranteed.

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Quick Spring Eats

Spring so far has been more about cleaning than cooking. It’s been all about salad days — Mac DeMarco included. Morning runs — some in shorts and a t-shirt!(!!)  And quick, unplanned dinners. It’s been about leisurely minutes spent outside, explorations with friends, and cleaning my psyche. (I hope you didn’t think by cleaning, I meant my apartment. Currently, my laundry’s flooding my room, and likely covering up the dust that’s swimming down beneath it. Hey – that could be considered laundering the floor though, right?)

Sometimes, when spring calls, you’ve just got to shift your priorities a bit and soak up all that sun that bright sky is shining down. However, that doesn’t mean turning your diet to crap. Short on time certainly doesn’t mean pizza night should be every night.

Let's eat

For Lunch/Dinner: When you can have a few quick and easy recipes up your back sleeve, your spring cleaning will feel so much more CLEAN. As I said, I’ve been doing a lot of salad. Raw greens are my go-to, largely because their heartiness can take on a lot, and because they’re easy to make a meal out of. Add grains. Add beans. Maybe add herbs or cheese. Add nuts. Add other veggies. Definitely add avocado. Create a salad that feels like much more than a salad, so you can feel both healthy and excited. The best part? When you start with a base of raw kale or collards, you can make a huge bowl on Sunday night, and have something already made you can munch on all week. Throw this Tahini Dressing on it, and you’ll be golden.

Chia Overnight Oats

For Breakfast: If you’re like me, and you’ve been using the spring weather to get up early and bike/run/read/whatever — or if you’re not, perhaps consider doing so; it feels great  — it’s ideal to have a breakfast that’s both energizing and quick. I HATE rushing around in the morning. It starts my day off on a stressed out note. But when going for a run in the morning, I can’t say I love waking up extra, extra early either. My solution? Have breakfast prepared the night before.

Here’s where overnight oats comes in. I’ve definitely featured a few of these recipes before on my blog. I’m still eating it on the regular, and am still loving how satisfying it is. Plus, it’s made in advance so you literally need just one minute in the morning to pull it out of the fridge, top it with nuts, and drizzle maple syrup on top — leaving all your other morning minutes to relax and fuel up. See below for the recipe to my latest chia seed rendition.

Curried Ketchup Cabbage and Potato Stir-Fry

For Lunch/Dinner: Another go-to is breakfast-for-dinner. Pack your breakfast with veggies, and this becomes an incredibly quick health-for-your-buck kind of meal. My breakfast of choice this past week? Eggs a la Curried Ketchup Potato Cabbage Stir-Fry.

There’s a beer garden in Philly that turns simple snacks into memorable menu items solely by the curried ketchup they offer on the condiments table. I’m pretty sure all they do is add a little curry powder to regular store-bought ketchup – which is what I do with my potato/cabbage breakfast-for-dinners.

There’s no set recipe here. Dice 1 large onion and 1 large potato, and saute in some olive oil until the onion is caramelized. Meanwhile, slice up about 1/2 head cabbage. Add 1/4-1/3 cup of ketchup to the pan, along with a palmful of curry powder. Stir, and then add the cabbage. Add a splash or two of apple cider vinegar, and cook over medium heat. If cabbage begins to stick, add 1/3 cup of water, and cover pan with a lid. Finish cooking until cabbage is tender, 8-10 minutes in total, adding a few red chili pepper flakes if you want it spicier. Top with a pan-fried egg, and serve.

Don’t worry. I’ll be back to cooking up slightly more elaborate meals pretty soon once the novelty of spring wears off. And if that doesn’t happen, then the abundance of early season veggies on their way is bound to get me back in the kitchen. I’m getting antsy just thinking about it.

What’s your favorite spring meal? Or your favorite quick meal to make?

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Mostly Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

Most Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

Snow in the city is dirty. It will soil your shoes, your gloves, your stoop, your snowballs.

Suit up and put your game face on, or that black — and sometimes salty blue — stuff they call snow might stain a piece of your soul, too. It feels little like the soft, white flakes that flow quietly to country lands. Lands where cars stay stationary, kids go sledding and firesides roar.

Most Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

Yet snowfall in the city can also be a magical experience. I see this in ways far different than where I grew up. It comes in ways that remind me why I’m carrying out my youthful years in an urban setting.

Most Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

For one, while schools might shut down, often the community does not. Where I currently live, on snow days restaurants often remain open. They fill up with afternoon conversation. At the corner of my block, a place lights its fireplace and spreads out its board games. Beer is poured. Coffee is served. Warmth, both literally and socially, can be found in abundance.

My neighborhood’s yoga studio powers through with an evening session taught by a local teacher. I go, as do others, to fill the class, and practice while gazing out the window at the falling white flakes. They remain clean as they hang in the air, and it’s in this moment that I feel like I am “home” again. Back in the country enjoying a piece of serenity.

Following class, I rejoin the bustle. I meet a friend up the street at the fireplace for a beer and a game and good company. And again I remember, this is why I love the city.

Most Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

The start of this year has been a rough one in terms of the weather. I loathe winter. I could do without snow, and even seasons too if I really had to.

Yet, I am constantly reminded of why I still remain on the East Coast, in a state that won’t let me scoot by without being cold, in a city that I’ve grown to love. Surrounded by friends, and not far from family, I’ve learned to survive the cold seasons and even admire some of its parts I hate the most. Snow too has its place, and for now, it seems to be a significant part of my life…like it or not.

So until I get the guts to move far, far away to a new city in warmer lands, you can find me coping in my current city with my baking gear and measuring cups. When snow falls, cooking and tea and adventuring all call — usually in that order, too.

These were whipped up during our last winter storm here in Philly. They make for a healthy snack or breakfast, and are definitely going on my repeat recipe list. Made with antioxidant-rich curry powder and mostly raw ingredients (excluding the peanut butter), their packed with energy. The good kind. The kind you might need to get you through a long winter. Only 31 official days left. Not that I’m counting down or anything.

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Grace’s Coconut Oat and Nut Granola

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Granola’s great in the summer. However, there’s something about heating up the oven, stirring up a large bowl of oats.  And then letting the warm, toasty smells fill the room while baking away the morning of a cold winter day. Call it winter solace. Granola solace. Call it whatever you want to describe a moment that sometimes just can’t be summed up in words.

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Coconut flakes are my new obsession, and I find them now to almost be a mandatory component of granola. I tracked through Philadelphia for nearly 2 hours – across 5 different stores – just to find them a few months ago, determined to make this Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Coconut Bacon. At the time, I was questioning my sanity. But after finally finding the flakes, and later obsessing over them during multiple cooking encounters, I am now questioning the sanity of the stores that are not carrying them.  Coconut flakes are worth every last step of an adventure to go find them.

For my Philly followers, check out Essene Market in Queen’s Village. For everyone else, I got tipped off along my travels that Vitacost.com is a good place to order coconut flakes.

Whatever you do, don’t succumb to buying the shreds. Unfortunately, they’re simply not the same as their larger, flakier counterpart.

Coconut Flake and Nut GranolaFeel free to play around with the nuts you use in your granola. I personally love a little variety. Pecans, walnuts & almonds are always a must for me, and various other seeds are generally just an added, crunchy health bonus.

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Spoon over hot or cold cereal in the morning, enjoy as is with milk, or simply pack a handful in a bag to eat on the run. Granola is a versatile, energy-packed snack, and when you make it yourself, you can ensure you’re fueling up on the good stuff. Forget chowing down on a bag of sugar and unnecessary processed ingredients. That’s no good. Plus, when you skip out on making it yourself, you miss that toasty smell from your oven like I mentioned before. Nothing beats that.

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