Cherry Almond Smoothie

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Even though they often look like a swamp-drink, I’ve been drinking smoothies like this one every morning for weeks now. My mom generously gifted me the Vitamix I’d had my eyes on for Christmas and it’s been smoothie-town up in here ever since. It’s a pretty healthful way to begin the day and since we are notorious breakfast skippers in this house, it’s the best lazy breakfast during the week. The swampy hue comes from a big handful of spinach, but it’s not even a detectable flavor, though visually it’s no beauty. The key is drinking it before it reaches room temperature, because that’s when the spinach really oxidizes and turns into some sort of swamp-thang.

This cherry almond smoothie is my favorite lately. It reminds me of that Jergens lotion my grandma always wore, but delicious. I know…I’m really selling it here. What I mean is that stuff smells like almond extract and even though it’s a pretty powerful flavor, I love it. Especially with cherries and something creamy. When we were living in Michigan I became straight-up obsessed with tart cherries. Recently, I spotted giant bags of organic tart cherries (at Costco) and I’ve been hoarding them a bit and churning them into our morning smoothies. I even blended some into a beet puree for Casper–jury’s still out on whether or not he’s into beets. So, this smoothie basically tastes like dessert, but healthier because spinach and hemp hearts and all that hippie shit. It’s tart from the cherries, fragrant from the almond extract, sweet from the banana, creamy from the almond milk, and totally filling thanks to the almonds and hemp hearts.

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Cherry Almond Smoothie

Makes 1 large (breakfast sized) smoothie.

Sometimes I do half yogurt, half almond milk here. Go wild, be yourself. Also, the order the ingredients are listed is the order I layer them in my blender, I feel like it blends best this way, but really do whatever.

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or whatever milk you prefer)

1 tablespoon hemp hearts (or flax seeds or chia seeds)

2 tablespoons raw almonds

1/4 of a frozen banana

1 cup frozen tart cherries

1 heaping cup baby spinach leaves

a dash, like 1/8 teaspoon, pure almond extract

Layer all of the ingredients in your blender and blend! Tamp down the ingredients as needed, blend until smooth. Drink.

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Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Cranberries & Feta

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Quinoa and I have a tortured relationship. One that I am adament on mending. I have to admit, it may be my fault. Our introduction wasn’t entirely agreeable. I totally didn’t realize you were supposed to rinse quinoa, so the first few times I tried to force us to like this magical grain, we totally hated it. It tasted weird and soapy and gross. So, I left it alone for 2 solid years before realizing I was doing it all wrong. For shame!

Since, I’ve dabbled in quinoa. Adding it to bean burgers and turkey meatballs, letting it hang in the background, no longer hating it, but continuing to let it underwhelm me. Not giving it a fare shake. Recently, though, I’ve become obsessed with this “autumn couscous salad” from the deli of my favorite grocery store, New Seasons. I decided to remake it at home, but sub out the couscous for quinoa in yet another attempt at making it something we could love. And, hallelujah! I’ve done it!

This salad just gets me. It’s full of texture (my favorite) and perfectly balances sweet, nutty, salty, and tangy. I love the way quinoa retains some texture even after it’s cooked and sort of pops when you chew it. Plus it makes this salad so filling, making for a great lunch on its own.

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Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Cranberries and Feta

Make 4-6 servings

I like my vinaigrettes pretty tart and tangy, using a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and olive oil. If you like a smoother dressing, go ahead and reduce the vinegar by a tablespoon or so, to taste. The dressing also includes quite a bit of shallot, which makes for a chunky vinaigrette, but totally adds a ton of flavor to the salad without making for an overwhelmingly onion-y dish. There may seem to be a lot of vinaigrette, but the quinoa really soaks up the dressing. If you are worried, add half and see where you’re at before adding the rest to taste.

3 cups sweet potato, diced small (about 2 small sweet potatoes)

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup shelled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons fresh, chopped sage

1/4 cup finely diced shallot (about 1 medium shallot)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1-2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Toss the diced sweet potato with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Spread the sweet potatoes in an even layer on a sheet pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes, stirring once after about 15 minutes, until tender and some pieces begin to brown. Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa well in a mesh strainer. Add it to a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the quinoa begins to boil reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed. Let the quinoa stand, uncovered for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

While the sweet potatoes and quinoa cook, mix up the dressing. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the shallots, with the red wine vinegar, remaining olive oil, mustard, maple syrup, the remaining salt, and pepper. Shake well to combine.

Add the still warm, cooked quinoa to a large mixing bowl and combine with the dressing. Fold in the cooked sweet potatoes, spinach, cranberries, pepitas, feta, and sage. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days. [/recipe]

Jap Chae – Korean Glass Noodles with Vegetables

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Guys, I made you something very near and dear to my food-lovin’ heart. It’s a food of my people and of my childhood. I think most people think of kimchi when they think of Korean food, but these noodles are a staple in Korean cuisine as well.

Jap chae!

Jap chae is a traditional Korean dish made with sweet potato starch noodles. I usually don’t make this dish, I often buy it from the Korean market, where they make it fresh, or I just have my mom make it for me. After I made this batch and instagrammed it, my mom called to tell me it looked beautiful. Let me tell you guys, this was a major deal. Korean-mother approval= MAJOR! The noodles are clear, stretchy, and delightfully chewy. The ingredients are super simple and this dish comes together quickly after a little bit of chop-chopping and prep. It’s the dish most of my non-Korean friends fall for first when introducing them to Korean fare. My BFF loves these noodles and affectionately refers to them as “sticky-hand noodles”.

When I was a kid, these noodles were probably one of my favorite foods ever. I mean, they are stretchy…just like those sticky-hands you get out of those toy machines near the front doors of the supermarket…and they’re noodle-y! I have always loved noodles and Jap Chae is definitely one of my favorite noodle dishes of all time…plus, it picnics like a champ since it is just as delish at room temperature as it is warm.

[recipe]

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Jap Chae – Korean Glass Noodle with Vegetables

For this recipe the right kind of noodle is key. Look for Korean glass noodles, a sweet potato starch noodle that can be found at a well-stocked Asian Market or order them online*. They are gray and semi-translucent, dried noodles that become clear and stretchy with cooked.

Sauce:

3-4 tablespoons soy sauce (I use low-sodium)

2-3 tablespoons maple syrup (or sugar)

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Noodles:

8 ounces  dried Korean Glass noodles

8 ounces baby spinach

8 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 large carrot, julienned

5 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

canola oil for sautéing

toasted sesame seeds for garnish

In a small dish whisk together the soy, maple, and sesame oil. Set aside.

In a skillet wilt the spinach with a little bit of oil and a pinch of salt. Once just wilted, stir in 1/3 of the minced garlic. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet and add a bit more oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook the mushrooms until all of the liquid they release evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown around the edges. Add 1/3 of the minced garlic and stir to combine. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet and cook the carrots with a pinch of salt and the remaining garlic a minute or two until the carrots are just warmed through but still crisp. Add the green onions and cook an additional 60 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the dried noodles into the boiling water and cook about 8 minutes or until noodles are clear, stretchy and tender. Immediately pour into a colander to drain and rinse  well with cold water. This helps improve the texture of the noodles. In a large bowl toss the sauce and vegetables with the noodles to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve warm or room temperature. [/recipe]

*This post contains links for reference.