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Archive for April, 2010

kitchen sink soup

I admit it.

Although I may appear normal on the surface, I’m no stranger to odd behavior (or so I’m told). Every time I sit down to write a blog post, I struggle with controlling my internal evil twin. The one who wants to launch into a long-winded political diatribe or write a geeky poem about genetic expression or transcription pathways. Maybe link to a current climb of Mount Everest, write a book review, or evangelize about the healing power of yoga.

Anything but food.

Writing recipes is not easy for me. I don’t follow recipes, how can I write one? When I cook I just throw stuff together, taste, adjust, add more stuff, taste and on it goes until I have something I like. Or something my guy Fairbanks will eat.

This soup was absolutely delicious. Explaining in a coherent manner how I came up with it won’t be easy, but I’m going to give it a try. It was that good.

kitchen sink soup – you could also call this clean out the fridge soup
what you need (whatever you have)

4 shitake mushrooms, washed well and chopped
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery (and leaves), chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 cup shredded cabbage
6 cherry tomatoes, chopped
8 cups broth (I used a combination of chicken and vegetable broth)
1 cup cooked rice (I used a mix of brown and wild rice)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
herbs: bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, oregano
* chopped means in small 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes (something like that)

what you do
1. In a large soup pot over low/medium heat, sauté mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil until fragrant. Remove mushrooms and place in a blender. Set aside until later.
2. In the same pot (add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of olive oil if you need to), sauté onions, garlic, celery, carrots and zucchini for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently to combine flavors.
3. While veggies are sautéing, add 2 to 4 cups of broth to the mushrooms in the blender. Purée well.
4. Pour mushroom/broth purée over veggies and add the rest of the broth to the pot. Add sweet potato, cabbage, tomatoes and rice. Stir, turn heat to low and simmer for at least 2 hours. Season and taste as you go.

This is better the second day and even better the third. You may have to add a little water to it over the next day or so. Adjust according to whatever you have in your fridge. It’s kitchen sink soup, it really doesn’t matter.

One of my all-time favorite British chefs gave me some tips on seasoning soups. Miles of suggests bay as a base ingredient in cooking. From there, he says hardy herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage and savory go well in mixed vegetable soups. I don’t always follow directions well, but when it comes to seasoning, I pay attention to what Miles has to say. He’s a master. Thanks, Miles!

Go forth, clean out your fridge and make kitchen sink soup! As another wonderful mentor of mine once said, everything you need, you already have.

gluten-free backcountry power bars

Sunday was closing day for Winter Park/Mary Jane Ski Area. I posted season-ending party pictures on my Facebook page, but now that the snow is slowly melting, the focus has shifted from skiing to mountain biking. The Winter Park crew will soon be working on single track trail expansion and the construction of Trestle Bike Park. Plus, there’s climbing, hiking and backpacking. I love Colorado, no season left behind!

Okay, so what does that have to do with a food and nutrition blog, you ask?

Time for homemade power bars!

backcountry power bars
what you need

1 cup pecans
1 cup almonds
1 cup chopped dried apricots, unsulphured (I used organic Turkish apricots)
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped, 55% cocoa content or higher
1/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 cup Pamela’s GF Baking Mix
2 tablespoons ground chia seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (I like organic, grade B)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

what you do
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread the pecans and almonds in a single layer on the prepared cookie sheet and roast for 6 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. They burn easily, so watch them and stir once or twice if needed. Let cool.
2. Place flour, ground chia seeds, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add nuts and pulse until they are coarsely chopped and well blended with the other ingredients.
3. Add oats, apricots and dark chocolate and pulse several times so everything is mixed together.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, maple syrup and vanilla. Make sure these ingredients are well blended. Add the nut and fruit mixture to the bowl. Using a fork, mash and mix them all together, breaking apart clumps of dried fruit and chocolate.
5. Spread the mixture over parchment paper onto the cookie sheet. Either flatten the mixture with your hands or place another sheet of parchment paper on top and roll out into a flat sheet, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and bake on center rack of oven for 24 to 28 minutes until nicely browned. Don’t over-bake them. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 dozen bars.

Happy trails!

gluten-free sweet potato quinoa burgers

Okay, I admit it right off. Crappy photo.

Since my photography skills (and cheap camera) often leave a lot to be desired, I’m going to ask you to use your imagination on this one. Imagine the above pre-baked quinoa burgers to be fully cooked, nicely browned, a touch crispy and served on a beautiful bed of lightly steamed baby spinach. Now imagine they are topped with a sprinkling of shredded Parmesan cheese, slowly melting over the burgers. Accompanied by a glass of smooth and light-bodied Pinot Noir, slightly chilled.

Much better.

I took the photo seen above right before putting them in the oven. But once they were finished, all I wanted to do was eat and not fuss with food styling (I use that term loosely) or snapping pictures. They were delicious! Seriously delicious. And perfect served over a bed of spinach. I’ve been working on a gluten-free, veggie burger for some time now with several failures along the way, but this one is the clear winner. No doubt about it. I’ve made them 3 times since I took this photo and I’ve been over-the-top thrilled each time. These are keepers.

Melissa’s gluten-free sweet potato quinoa veggie burgers
what you need

1 cup cooked quinoa (I used organic red quinoa)
1 medium sweet potato, baked with flesh scooped out (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup raw shredded orange beets
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup white beans (I used canned Eden Organic Navy Beans*)
25 Mary’s Gone Crackers (I used the organic black pepper crackers)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped black olives
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
olive oil for sautéing
what you do
1. Place crackers in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground (not a powder, but not chunky). Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute onions, garlic and celery. Add beans to saucepan, stir and cook for a couple more minutes. Lightly mash beans with a fork until they’re semi-crushed. Remove from heat.
3. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. If the mixture is too moist, add some more ground crackers. If too dry, add some more smashed beans.
4. Form into “burger” patties and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. Check after about 15 minutes and rotate pan to insure even browning.
5. Serve on a bed of lightly steamed spinach or use as a burger with a gluten-free bun.

The ingredients can be changed according to your preferences. Skip the olives and add chopped mushrooms. Use shredded carrots instead of beets, black beans instead of white. Be creative.

* Eden Organic beans are packed in cans that are BPA free.

Peace, love and gluten-free quinoa burgers!

cherry cabbage chia recovery smoothie

This recipe is for my city-riding, bike messenger, fixie friends (you know who you are); my marathon running friends (that would be you, Jack); my ultra-paddling friends (Fly Fish Chick and Banning); and my Livestrong friends who are an inspiration to all.

I’m a big fan of smoothies. You can pack vegetables, fruit, seeds and all kinds of healthy ingredients into a breakfast drink. Just imagine how much your body will love you if you start your day with several servings of high-end antioxidants and building blocks. I won’t go overboard with the geeky details, but Dr. Glyn Howatson, exercise physiologist and lab director at the School of Psychology and Sports Sciences at England’s Northumbria University (I also adore my UK friends), found that marathon runners who drank cherry juice twice a day for 5 days before and 2 days after the London marathon, recovered much faster than those who didn’t. Howatson and his research team (talk about geeky*) also found that cherry juice reduced oxidative stress and inflammation. To make a long and biochemically complicated story short, the substances in cherries help reduce physiological stress, diminish inflammation, boost immune function and speed up recovery time. All good things.

Here’s how I see this and how I apply it to my life and to everyone I mention above. We’re all under physiological stress, whether you’re a bike messenger in NYC (check here to see what that’s like), running the Boston marathon (run Forrest run – uh, I mean Jack), “sprint” paddling 262 miles from central Texas to the Gulf coast (check here for details about my friend Christine and Team Paddlefish’s attempt at this grueling race), or fighting cancer (which puts everything else into perspective).

Whatever we’re doing we’re experiencing oxidative stress.

Okay, so what is oxidative stress?

My Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance book defines oxidative stress as cellular damage caused by an accumulation of free radicals, which ultimately increases the likelihood of cellular deterioration associated with many diseases, a general decline in central nervous system and immune function and advanced aging. I’m paraphrasing; that’s the abridged version. The detailed version is much scarier. Oxidative stress is to us like kryptonite is to superman.

Yikes! Please pass the cherries.

Here’s what’s so amazing about the human body. We have an elaborate natural defense system that fights against free radicals and other icky things, but we need to equip our army with the right battle tools.

A donut doesn’t have the fire power of a broken squirt gun.

I want a battleship, a rocket launcher and some grenades. That’s what you get when you supply your troops with high-powered, nutrient-dense foods.

Does that make sense?

If so, then let’s support the troops! This smoothie is full of ingredients that help fight cancer, boost the immune system, combat oxidative stress, speed recovery time, restore tissue damage and blah, blah, blah.

power-packed cherry cabbage chia recovery smoothie
what you need

1 cup coconut water (wonderfully healthy electrolyte drink)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen organic cherries, about 10-12 (see health information above)
1/2 cup Redwood Hill Farms vanilla goat yogurt (I love this stuff)
3 or 4 large Napa cabbage leaves, washed and chopped (contain anti-cancer substances)
1 tablespoon ground chia seeds (high-quality protein)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (helps balance blood sugar)

what you do
Add ingredients to a blender or VitaMix and blend well.

* Bananas and pears also taste great in this smoothie. Be creative.

I prefer using all organic ingredients, but if nothing else, make sure your cherries are organic. They’re on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list. Check here for a downloadable shopper’s guide to pesticides in foods.

* I’m very fond of nerdy guys and am not knocking these cute UK science geeks.

You might also like these geeky posts
Performance enhancing beets
Does my butt look big

Go forth and power up your army!

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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(co-written with Pete Bronski)

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