hibiscus mint smoothie - food as medicine

as a personal chef, i have many many hours each week in solitude - not only at my clients homes, but also in my own kitchen with my self-employed schedule. i enjoy this time alone, find motivation easily, and although my body settles into the rhythm of cooking for hours on end my brain needs additional stimulation. i devour podcasts. i swiftly listen through full seasons, so quickly that the stories tend to blend together. i catch myself in conversations saying "i listened to a podcast about that..." and then trail off, not fully able to recall the major points of the podcast. nevertheless, they entertain me while i am chopping weeks worth of vegetables. i don't know why i haven't considered audio-books before, but i signed up for a free trial of 'audible' and the first title i downloaded was 'how not to die' by dr. greger (founder of nutritionfacts.org).

my brief non-sponsored book review: 'how not to die' dives deep into how a plant-based diet can prevent and reverse the most common diseases. the first have of the book reviews the top 15 causes of death in our society and what specific foods could be used to prevent or treat them. this first half of the book was dense with data, summaries of research studies and medicine journal findings. so dense i was glad i wasn't trying to slowly pronounce medical words from a page and was simply listening at 1.2x speed. it became a bit repetitive as the solution was always: go plant based. the second half of the book summarizes dr. gregers recommendations for what foods (or categories of foods) we should be eating - condensed down to a list he calls the "daily dozen" (which has also been made into a free app to help you track your daily dozen checklist). 

i flew through the audio book and was so impacted that i downloaded the app and started checking off the daily dozen list. the biggest shifts for me were eating more fruit and beans and giving up my usual breakfast staple: eggs. this was not easy... i adore runny fried eggs, but questions and evidence were piled up against eggs (especially fried eggs). besides eggs and the occasional fancy cheese i cook primarily vegan for myself already. i'm still not ready to take on that proper title (i will still indulge on occasion), but i've made some shifts in my daily meals to align more with dr. greger's vegan diet recommendations. i shifted to my tofu scrambles for breakfast, but now that the weather has warmed up, i've been craving light and cooling foods in the morning. lately i've been enjoying some hearty toast with tahini or hummus, tomatoes and herbs and a refreshing and hydrating hibiscus mint berry smoothie! hibiscus, berries and ground flax seed were all highly recommended for multiple medicinal purposes throughout the book. hibiscus ranks amongst the top sources of antioxidants (as do berries) and promotes stable low blood pressure. ground flax seeds are a true superfood according to the numerous medical studies touting impressive health benefits. for me, the most motivating reason to incorporate ground flax was it's ability to reduce the risk of breast cancer. you really can't go wrong with eating more plants! plus, they are delicious. 

hibiscus berry mint smoothie ~ serves 1
1 cup frozen berries
1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit - pineapple
1/2 small ripe banana
2-4 whole dried hibiscus flowers, or a 1/2 -1 tablespoon crushed pedals
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 small handful fresh mint (or to taste)
1+ cup fresh chard, kale or spinach
~ 1 cup water
1 medjool date (optional)

blend on high speed, adding a medjool date if the hibiscus is a bit too tart for your taste. if using all fresh fruit, you may want to add some ice cubes!

note: look for organic dried hibiscus flowers if your health food bulk tea section or order online. they are surprisingly inexpensive for their extensive health benefits!

citrus salad with sweet pistachio dukkah

a few weeks ago, one of my guests from a previous yoga retreat asked me to cook for a baby shower she was hosting. she wanted to have a fruit salad on the brunch menu, so rather than mixing up a bunch of off season berries, i wanted to feature the season's citrus. kumquats, cara cara, navel and blood oranges - vibrant flavors bringing me such joy throughout seattle's grey winters! sliced thinly and laid out overlapping in alternating colors on a wide platter was absolutely stunning. i topped the salad with fresh mint, pomegranate seeds and lemon zest and set out a bowl of sweet pistachio dukkah for guests to sprinkle over the citrus! it was the perfect palate cleanser or light finish to a special meal! 

the sweet spice dukkah was a delicious pairing with the bright zesty citrus. but make a big batch, because you might want to sprinkle this on everything sweet - sprinkle on toast slathered with coconut oil or ghee, over yogurt or oatmeal, or experiment with making it into an apple crumble or something with ice cream! 

citrus "carpacchio" salad with mint & pistachio dukkah ~ serves 2-4
1-2 blood orange, thinly sliced
2 cara cara orange, thinly sliced
1 navel orange, thinly sliced
4 kumquats, quartered 
zest of 1/2 lemon or lime
a few springs of fresh mint, finely chopped
sweet pistachio dukkah (recipe below), sprinkle to taste

if multiplying this recipe, aim for 1 or 1.5 small/medium citrus fruits per person. the salad could be simplified with by chopping the citrus however you feel most confident. but slicing them thinly like i did above allows for a beautiful presentation! if you want to go for it, just be sure your chef knife is extra sharp! otherwise, you'll have to apply too much force to slice the citrus and you'll end up with orange juice instead of thin carpacchio slices! slice off a bit of the top and bottom so the citrus sits flat, curve your knife down the edges and then turn the orange on it's side to gently slice thin rounds. try to just use the weight of the knife and as little effort as possible, cutting as thinly as you can safely control. you can juice the tops and bottoms and any shaved pieces that have a bit too much flesh on them. 

layer thinly sliced citrus fruits in alternating colors, slightly overlapping. top with kumquats, chopped mint, zest, and dukkah to taste. great alone, or with a scoop of greek yogurt, creme faiche or coconut ice cream! or if you're serving as a buffet, keep the dukkah on the side for guests to add as they like. 

sweet pistachio dukkah 
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/2 cup pistachios in shells 
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1-2 tablespoons coconut sugar (optional) 
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

note: you could certainly use shelled pistachios if you can find them. i find the ones in shells have the best color - but if you're making a large batch, than it would certainly be faster to buy shelled nuts. 

toast sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and gently browned. crack pistachios and use a large knife to roughly chop nuts. combine with remaining ingredients. 

recipes on repeat: pickled turmeric & mint-date dressing

it's hard for me to swallow that it's been four full months since my last blog post. one of my longest breaks in my eight years of drumbeets! my occasional pauses from blogging are rarely an issue of lack of inspiration for blog-worthy ideas. it's more like my own form of seasonal depression... less motivational energy and lack of natural daylight for photographing in the middle of winter seems to have a recurring effect on my blogging routine. unfortunately, chronic pain has been compounding this season's blogging lull. i've been so busy in other people kitchens and cooking for events and yoga retreats that my dominant shoulder and neck are starting to develop chronic problems. yeah, those lovely seasonal root vegetables are literally a pain in my neck. to be fair, loading my shoulders heavily with bouldering certainly does not help my situation and only reinforces lines of tension. but regular yoga was no longer enough to counter the repetitive damage i was doing, rock climbing hurt and i was starting to cook less and less for myself! 

pain is a downward spiral. i've been depressed at the bottom of that chronic pain spiral once before in my life. this time i refuse to loose the joy that cooking, climbing and yoga bring me! so i've been busy working with great occupational and physical therapists and a phenomenal myofascial massage therapist to help correct the damage i've done. i'm taking on a lighter chef schedule while i figure out what is sustainable and am taking time to care for and nourish myself in all ways! 

part of my self care routine has been eating loads of turmeric with black pepper to calm the inflammation in my shoulder and taking WithinUs collagen supplements to support my joint health. i know there are a lot of mixed reviews on the effectiveness of collagen supplements... so after reading and researching, i decided to try out a reliable and sustainable brand that came recommended to me. i've noticed a visible effect the collagen has had on the cracked skin on my heels (nice side effect), but it's difficult for me to distinguish what's been impactful on my shoulder - was it the therapy, the turmeric or the collagen that's brought back my range of motion? it's all taking me up out of the depressing spiral, so i'm just going to keep all the parts going! 

today i wanted to share with you my favorite way to consume turmeric (besides golden mylk made with homemade almond milk, collagen, turmeric and honey!)... quick pickled shaved turmeric! a concept my friend becca turned me on to! they are delicious on salads and grain bowls! and to pair with that, a delicious dressing inspired by a recipe from my new root's new cookbook 'naturally nourished.' the combination is vibrant, springy and oh so nourishing! 

it's good to be back here :) 

quick pickled shaved turmeric
*6 thumb size pieces of raw organic turmeric (smaller pieces will be difficult to work with) 
1 pair disposable gloves! 

8 oz unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons coconut or raw cane sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt 
optional aromatics: 2 bay leaf, peppercorns, raw or dried chili, a few whole cloves or star anise 

dawn those gloves!! (or accept that you're fingers and nails will be yellow for a couple days). use a vegetable peeler to gently peel the rough surface off the turmeric. use a mandoline to finely slice the peeled turmeric into long thin shaves. the turmeric should be a little bendable, but not so paper thin that it's floppy. i usually shave down to where i still feel my fingers are safe and just save the leftover nubbin to grind into a curry or to puree into a smoothie or juice. *knowing that, sometimes i just buy twice the amount of turmeric i want to pickle!* 

once peeled and shaved, lightly pack turmeric into a glass jar. bring rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt and aromatics to a boil, stir and simmer until sugar is dissolved. taste the brine and decide if you want more sweetness or spice - know that the turmeric will also add both a bit of sweetness and spice. 

carefully pour boiling brine over the turmeric to fully submerge turmeric. depending on how much turmeric you shaved and how tightly packed they are, you may have more vinegar then necessary - or you might need to add a splash more rice wine vinegar to submerge. 

let cool before refrigerating. they are ready to eat once chilled, but best after a couple days! they store up to 2-3 weeks in the fridge although they get a little softer over time.

date-sweetened mint hempseed dressing

2 medjool pitted dates
1/2 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons hemp seeds
1 cup mint leaves
juice & zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic, crushed
salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste

soak pitted dates in 1/2 cup hot water until softened and cooled. combine with remaining ingredients in high-speed blender. blend until smooth, adding enough (or all) of the soaking water to get things moving in the blender. use immediately! you can certainly store it in the fridge for a few days - it will separate and need a good shake before enjoying leftovers, and will start to darken after several days but still tasty!

salad combinations that i've had on repeat this season: 
- kale salad massage with lemon juice, olive oil and a drizzle of maple syrup tossed with pickled turmeric, diced dried apricots and toasted pepita seeds! great served with dal lentils or curry! 

- chilled quinoa, julienned/grated beets, fresh herbs, hemp seeds and pickled turmeric topped with mint-date dressing! 

shaved cauliflower & farro salad

there's a certain salad i've been remaking on repeat ever since our yoga retreat last month. i've made it for all my clients with rave reviews, and most recently brought it to a yogisthanksgiving gathering. i'm remaking it one more time for our meal with my family tomorrow night, but i doubt it will stop there. i still haven't tired myself of it...

the inspiration for this recipe came from my friend becca, who adopted it from a salad on the menu at rock creek in fremont. she assisted me with the food for our yoga retreat and added this crowd pleasing salad to the retreat menu. we served this salad to our guests along with a kabocha squash lemongrass stew that was incredible (recipe from nigel slater's cookbook 'tender' but you can find a version here)... it was a winning combo! i've been fiddling with different versions and various vinaigrettes and have finally settled on a recipe to share with you all! it's the perfect contribution to a holiday potluck or a nourishing meal to balance out all the holiday feasting! 

this past weekend i was house/dog sitting for my sister and wandered with her pup over to the university district farmers market. i was so excited to find a pile of vibrant purple cauliflower at nash's farm!!! they are tricky to track down in the grocery markets... but you can certainly use other heirloom varieties like "cheddar" cauliflower, or even romanesco for to mix in some color with regular white cauliflower. 

shaved cauliflower salad ~ serves 6-8 
2 small heads cauliflower (purple, "cheddar," white or romanesco)
3/4 cup emmer farro
1 cup shaved parmesan (about 4 oz) 
1/4 cup or more toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons pickled peppers (mama lil's or sweet piquante peppers), diced 
1/2 cup loosely packed parsley, roughly chopped

bring farro to a boil with 6 cups of water and simmer for about 45 minutes until chewy but tender (i usually pull it off the stove once i see a few grain berries start to split). strain and rinse with cool water. 

trim cauliflower leaving the stem intact and broken into large florets. use a mandoline slicer to thinly slice florets - thin enough that they are a not quite translucent. i use the mandoline to do the bulk of the slicing, and whatever i can't slice without slicing my fingers i chop finely with a knife or just save those leftover florets for a stir fry. if you don't have a mandoline, you could use a food processor attachment to shave the cauliflower instead, but it will turn into more of a cauliflower "rice" texture than shaved cauliflower. 

toast pine nuts in 350-degree oven or on stove top until gently browned and fragrant. shave parmesan, chop pickled peppers and parsley and set aside. when ready to serve, mix ingredients together with a light amount of vinaigrette to start and add more to taste (you don't have to use the full cup of vinaigrette) 

creamy cashew vinaigrette ~ makes about 1 cup 
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
1 tablespoon maple syrup 
1 heaping tablespoon cashew butter (raw or roasted) 
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
large pinches salt and pepper 

use blender or whisk to combine. if you don't have cashew butter on hand, you could substitute 2 tablespoons raw hemp seeds or pine nuts and blend with remaining ingredients in high speed blender. i didn't want to spend $14 on a jar of cashew butter, but i was able to find one of those tiny single serving nut butter snacks for like 75 cents. if storing in fridge for later use, it will thicken... use a splash of hot water to thin and serve.

maple roasted kuri squash, kale & quiona pangrattato

how do i restart this thing? i had planned to take just a month off from blogging to travel with my partner in south africa for the entire month of august. then from the moment we landed home, i had a long list of tasks to tackle... starting with laundry and then bigger tasks like marketing myself for more private chef clients to fill my schedule back up. i've been trying to hustle but struggling to shift gears out of vacation mode. i'm pretty certain my list of tasks has grown longer faster than i've been able to tick things off it. 

so my blog sat idle for not one but two months!!! but not for lack of inspiration. 

our trip to south south africa was incredible and i have memories and photographs that i'll cherish forever. rad bouldering, inspiring sunsets, new friends and wonderful time spent with my favorite person. we had some fantastic meals but the cuisine is very (like reeeeally) meat heavy. i was thrilled to be there during their citrus, passionfruit and avocado season, but i really craved vegetables. i failed miserably trying to find a farmers market with fresh produce beyond the same small selections at the grocery store. so i pitifully bought arugula in tiny plastic "fresh herb" packets because it was the only bitter greens i could find. i cooked a lot of rice and lentils, rice and beans, fried rice and ate avocado toast day and night. i kept dreaming about our markets back home and told a south african climber about the tomato farmer who grows probably 30 kinds of heirloom tomatoes. the south african was stunned! "we have two kinds here. big or small." 

i was so excited to get my hands on heirloom tomatoes and have been all giddy with all the produce coming into season. it gives me so much pleasure and inspiration... i just needed to get into gear again to share it with you all! 

i drew some inspiration for this fall salad from nigel slater's cookboook tender, for a pumpkin pangrattato. "grated bread" aka breadcrumbs. so first i experimented with homemade breadcrumbs. i think i'm partial to the bread crumb version, but got curious to try a crispy quiona version. both were spectacular. without the pangrattato, this is just a simple salad with some of my favorite seasonal flavors. but with the pangrattato... oh, you'll be glad you didn't skip it! 

if you're curious to try this recipe with breadcrumbs (because it was stupendous!) just swap a cup breadcrumbs (ideally chunky homemade breadcrumbs) for quinoa and add a bit more oil (or butter) ... they will brown quicker, but otherwise follow same recipe and directions! the pangrattato is a wonderful topper for roasted vegetables and squash! 

for the maple roasted kuri squash:
1/2 red kuri squash 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
salt & aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup 

preheat oven to 375. gut squash and carefully cut into cubes slightly smaller than 1" - the beautiful thing about organic red kuri squash, is that you can and should eat the skin! if you're using another squash variety, or if your particular kuri squash has a really tough skin you might prefer removing it with a vegetable peeler first, then cutting into cubes. toss cubed squash with olive oil, salt and aleppo pepper - reserving the maple syrup for later. 

line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread squash out in a single layer. roast for 15 minutes and then stir to turn squash on their other sides. continue roasting until squash is fork tender, then remove from oven and drizzle with a tablespoon or more of pure maple syrup. if the quash seems a little dry, add a tiny drizzle more of olive oil too! stir to coat and return to oven for 5-10 more minutes to let sugars caramelize. 

for the quinoa pangrattato: 
1 cup chilled leftover quinoa 
2+ tablespoon olive oil 
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped 
large pinch red chili flakes
large pinch sea salt 

in a skillet (nonstick is best), heat oil, quinoa, salt and red chili flakes over medium-low heat. don't rush it, you want the quinoa to brown slowly and crisp up rather than burn. stir every few minutes and continue frying until quinoa is toasted golden. add chopped rosemary, lemon zest and garlic and continue frying until gently browned - adding a bit more oil if quinoa is burning. 

or the kale salad:
1 bunch lacinato kale
1/4 cup roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds 
juice of 1 lemon
1+ tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
salt & pepper 

de-stem, wash and dry kale and tear or chop into large bite size pieces. massage kale in a bowl with lemon juice, olive oil and maple syrup - you can start with less and add more to taste. season well and toss with roasted seeds, warm roasted kuri squash and crispy quinoa pangrattato. top with a little extra lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil!