amaranth bowls for breakfast, lunch or dinner

my daydreaming and brainstorming has caused a recent bout of forgetfulness and utter spaciness. last week, i was walking home from a physical therapy appointment (apparently there is a limit to how many root vegetables my neck and shoulders are comfortable chopping each week...) and realized just how intense my brainstorming state had become. i was managing to make my way towards home on auto pilot, but felt completely disoriented. i couldn't remember what i had done that morning but could clearly remember my dream from the night before - or was that reality? - and didn't remember sending an email that i was receiving a response to. i couldn't manage a clear train of thought for more than a few seconds. at first, i thought i was just loopy due to the deep breathing exercises and neck adjustment my therapist had just worked with me on. in other words, my head was literally just not on straight... later, i realized i was getting a head cold, which was contributing to my loopiness. but before the neck adjustments, before the onset of the head cold, i had been lingering in this lucid-dream state, so wrapped up in my own brainstorm that it had become disorienting. 

it's pretty incredible to realize that in the last few weeks i have found so much inspiration that my brain literally could not handle it all. i was trying to process the brilliance of dr.daphne miller's book 'farmacology' and was diving fast into pages of 'the third plate.' i was discussing ideas wit inspiring women through a local young female entrepreneurs group. conjuring up grand ideas with my brilliant and supportive mom over lunches and coffee. and listening to podcast interviews with women who truly inspire me. my brain was overloaded with encouraging ideas! 

the solution - besides hydrating and resting to manage the head cold - was to declutter my brain and organize my thoughts on paper. write out goals and set some action steps to guide me in the direction i hope to be heading with my career. i also directed some inspiration from listening to an interview with claire ragozzino on pure green magazine's podcast to create a few recipes for nourishing and grounding meals using amaranth. the first recipe was inspired by claire's maple-maca porridge recipe on her blog. the second, was a warming one-pot meal inspired by her discussion on ayurveda and eating simple, warming foods during the winter months. so if you've never used amaranth before,  go hunt it down in a natural foods store and delight in the unusual flavor and texture of this ancient grain. 

maple-maca amaranth porridge (adapted from vidya) ~ serves 3
1 cup amaranth grain
3 cups water, or swap out half for favorite non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons grade b maple syrup
2 teaspoons maca powder
1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dried apricots or other unsweetened dried fruit, diced
1/3 cup hemp seeds

notes: i used equal parts water and homemade date-sweetened hazelnut milk for this particular batch (see my recipe for homemade almond milk and simply sub 1 cup of raw hazelnuts) 

bring water/milk to a simmer in a small sauce pan. add amaranth and simmer for 25 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent amaranth from clumping. stir in maple, maca, oil, vanilla and apricots and let simmer for another 5 minutes or so until amaranth is plump and porridge thickens. serve with additional almond milk and a few tablespoons of hemp seeds over each bowl of porridge. the porridge stores well, so you can make a batch ahead of time and add a bit of water or milk to gently reheat it in the mornings for a quick breakfast! 

amaranth and root vegetable indian curry ~ serve 5-6
1-1/2 pounds root vegetables (sweet potato, carrot, turnip, parsnip, golden beets)
1 small head cauliflower 
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
1-1/2 quarts vegetable stock 
2 tablespoons ghee
1 heaping tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 or more teaspoon cayenne 
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 cup amaranth
juice of 1 lime

notes: this recipe was inspired by a bag of mixed root vegetables from a local farm that included carrots, parsnips, turnips, golden beets and jerusalem artichoke. you can use any blend of root vegetables, but i highly recommend adding sweet potato into the mix as well!

crush garlic and let rest for 10 minutes before adding it to any heat to preserve the medicinal qualities of raw garlic. in the mean time, brush off any dirt from root vegetables, but do not peel. slice vegetables into small cubes the size of hazelnuts. chop cauliflower florets into 1/4" strips and then roughly chop into smaller bites. 

heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat and saute diced onions for 5 minutes. add spices and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. add prepared vegetables, amaranth and stock to the pot. the vegetable stock should just barely cover the vegetables - adjust volume if necessary. bring soup to a simmer and cook covered for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until vegetables are fork tender and amaranth is plump. remove from heat, add the juice of 1 lime, and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

teff flour fruit & nut crackers

one day after yoga, i bopped next door to the elliot bay bookstore to kill time judging books by their covers and drooling over cookbook photos. i rarely purchase cookbooks, probably due to the fact that there are so many incredible - and free - food blogs on the web to draw inspiration from. but every once in a while, i discover a cookbook that sparks my interest to the extent that i have to rush home and read it cover to cover. "flavor flours" was exactly that type of book. 

i've always enjoy experimenting with the use of alternative flours. not because i follow any particular diet, but because of the unique flavors and textures they offer. i am all for gluten (and thankfully my tummy agrees with it too), but having variety is thrilling! when i saw this cookbook for the first time, it took me all of five seconds before making a decision and heading to the cashier. i rushed home, brewed a pot of tea and sat down to read it cover to cover. each chapter focuses on a different flour with savory and sweet recipes fitting for any meal of the day. i'm not much of a baker, but i would like to be, and this cookbook offered me so many inspiring ideas i realized the significance of my post-it notes marking every other recipe had become meaningless. clearly, i was going to have to test each recipe, 'julie & julia' style. 

i've dabbled quite a bit with nut flours, so i decided to skip ahead to the chapter on teff flour (known commonly for its use in eithiopian injera bread). the first recipe i tested was for a delightfully rich,and crumbly bittersweet teff flour brownie that i shared with my bandmates. the second recipe was for a date cake loaf - which to my surprise was more breakfast-y than dessert-y. after toasting up leftovers with a bit of butter and honey, i had an idea to make another loaf and turn them into crostini crackers. i made only a few adaptations to the original recipe, making the resulting crackers a bit more savory - perfect for pairing with a fine cheese. 

teff flour fruit & nut crackers ~ makes about 30
1/2 cup teff flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1 cup pitted medjool dates, quartered
1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
1 3/4 cups raw walnut pieces
2 large eggs

preheat oven to 300f-degrees. in a large bowl, whisk together flour, soda, baking powder, palm sugar, salt and black pepper. add chopped dried fruit and mix to coat fruit in flour, breaking up any clumps of fruit. in a second bowl, beat eggs until lightened in color. fold eggs into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. 

line all sides of a 8x4" bread loaf with parchment paper or foil. pour in the batter and press down with damp fingers to level out the loaf. bake for 60-70 minutes, until lightly brown and crusted. let cool in the baking dish for at least 2 hours before slicing into crostini. although i might recommend slicing off the ends to nibble on while the loaf is still warm. 

once the loaf is cool, use a sharp bread knife to cut the loaf into 1/8" thick slices (or as thin as you can manage without them crumbling apart). if the loaf is warm at all, you will have a very difficult time. 
spread the thin slices out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. reheat oven to 250f-degrees and bake for 60-80 minutes, flipping them over after 30 minutes. they will brown just slightly and still be a bit maliable while still warm, but once they have cooled they will be crisp little crackers! store in an airtight container and serve with a fine cheese (like my favorite, humbolt fog!) or  with my olive and fig tapenade

red wine braised beets & cherries

the world of social media, blogging, podcasts and such boggles my mind. incredibly amounts of information (and misinformation) is posted daily to the web via a millions sources. i am just one of thousand of food blogs, contributing to the clutter of food porn and personal ramblings on the interwebs. i always figured my words and photos here would be lost amongst the hubbub. but the interconnectedness of this world wide web and ways in which it can actually draw people together has astounded me. 

in the past year, i've been introduced to new clients and fabulous new friends with shared interests who found me on instagram. i've developed relationships with other far away foodies and corresponded with blogging icons like molley yeh, to discuss our mutual obsessions with percussion and vintage dansk ware. i've been sent samples of incredible jamon iberico direct from spain and a box full of fine teas mailed from china from small businesses looking to connect globally with chefs and foodies. or most recently, getting interviewed for a radio station broadcasted in new york for their 'biology of a blog' program.

who knew so much could happen from hashtags and key words. 

during my recent radio interview (which you can listen to here ... i jump in at 15m:42s) i was asked to list a few favorite recipes from my blog. well it turns out, one of said favorite never actually made it onto the blog. i made this beet dish several times over the holidays, and photographed it before thanksgiving. i had intentions of posting the recipe, but then rushed off to orcas island for thanksgiving and forgot to post the recipe! whoops. 

anywho, i'm still a newbie with braising techniques, but it is rapidly becoming one of my favorite cooking techniques! so much so that i've been entrusted with the title of editor of the feed feed's braising feed (yet another magical connection made via instagram). this recipe is my way of turning beet-haters into lovers. i mean beet-lovers. although this recipe might just make someone fall in love with you, especially when paired with a good red wine. 

red wine braised beets & cherries
12 small to medium red beets
8 oz red wine 
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
pinch salt 
3/4 cup dried cherries 

notes: tart or sweet cherry varieties are both great, but preferably use unsweetened cherries (read the ingredients). use a red wine that you'll also enjoy drinking, since you'll only be using a glass for the recipe. you'll also need a dutch oven or baking dish large enough to lay beets down in a single layer without being too crowded. 

preheat oven to 350 degrees. trim and scrub clean the beets. no not peel. combine ingredients together in a dutch oven with a fitted lid, or tightly wrap foil over the top of a baking dish. bake (or braise, rather) in the oven for at least 45 minutes, then test firmness of beets with a fork. continue to braise until beets are fork tender, similar to the texture of a firm but ripe pear. depending on the size of beets, this may take up to 90 minutes. remove from oven and let cool in cooking liquid. 

you can either serve beets whole (or quartered) with skins intact. the dish will be more nutrient dense with the skin, but also more "earthy" flavored. for a more elegant presentation (or for folks who aren't yet fans of beets) i'd suggest removing the skins. once cooled, simply fish the beets out of the braising liquid (no not discard liquid!) and use a clean rag or paper towel to gently scrub off the skin. discard the skin, half or quarter the beets and return peeled beets to braising liquid. 

store and serve braised beets and cherries in the cooking liquid. serve chilled or at room temperature with a spoon so that guests can enjoy the sauce as well! 

asian pear grain bowls

i have received a jury summons. i don't think i know anyone my age that has served on a jury. do i? to be fair, a small part of me thinks this would be an interesting experience. like the day i agreed to work as an undercover asset of sorts for the washington state liquor control board at age 17 - fun for a day of zipping around in cop cars to casinos and bars. but the fun maxed out at one day... similarly, i'd serve on a jury for a day. one day would be fun. but the larger part of me worries i'd be out of work for weeks or even months serving my civil duty. i'm self employed. no one is going to pay me for a leave of absence to sit on a jury. the families i cook for would starve. that's an overstatement, but still, i can't take extended time off! so now i have to persuade the court that i fall under the "extreme inconvenience" category. fingers crossed...

there are pros and cons to being self employed. the biggest challenge is the fluctuation of work load. there are times when i'm catering events and cooking for four or more families each week. and other stretches of time when clients take vacations and i only have 6 or so hours of work to do in a week. if i was more financially driven (or flat broke), those slow weeks would probably stress me out. but i'm neither broke nor motivated much by money. i am fortunate to have a job i love to do that pays my bills. so the overly-booked weeks are the times that stress me out! grated, these busy (and well paid) weeks are what allow me to relax during the lulls. but it i've realized i have to be selfish with my time and relax when the opportunities present themselves. you never know when you're next busy week will consume you. 

the past week has been one of those lovely, relaxing lulls that i've filled with recipe testing, daily yoga practice, reading, gathering together with friends and trekking around the city in this unseasonably warm and sunny weather. at some point last week i spent a good chunk of my morning after yoga practice chatting over beverages at juicebox with a new friend who shares similar passions for yoga, cooking and teaching. i ordered a cup of the daily soup - a hearty blend of barley, root vegetables and thin matchsticks of asian pear. i made a mental note, like i so often do, to reuse those flavors and came up with this lovely dish. you could toss it and serve it as a grain salad, or dress ingredients individually to highlight each component of the dish. only as an afterthought did i think to add avocado to the leftovers i had for lunch the next day... i highly recommend adding avocado, although it was a delightful dish served as pictured here. you choose! 

asian pear grain bowls
1 head frisee 
1/2 cup unsalted, toasted cashews
1 large or 1 1/2 small asian pears
1/4 cup cilantro
1 cup whole grain, hulled barley 
1 avocado (optional) 

for the vinaigrette 
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
juice & zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt & red chili flakes

note: hulled barley is a minimally processed whole grain, with the bran layer intact. compared with pearl barely, hulled barley has more nutrients, protein and fiber! 

bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. add hulled barley and simmer on low for 25 minutes. at this time the barley is tender but chewy and nutty, which is how i prefer it served in salads. if you like your grains softer or have a weaker digestion, you may prefer to cook them for up to a full hour. strain and rinse with cold water and let drain while you prepare other ingredients. 

slice asian pears into thin matchsticks. cut any matchsticks longer than an inch in half. toss pears with a bit of lime juice to keep from browning and set aside. wash, dry and chop cilantro. roughly chop toasted cashews. tear apart frisee into bite-size leaves. whisk together vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. 

you can toss all ingredients together and serve as a grain salad. or dress frisee with a small amount of vinaigrette and in another bowl toss together the barley, cilantro and cashews with the majority of the vinaigrette. assemble as pictured, with lime-dressed pears and sliced avocado (optional) on top

my maca matcha milkshake

about a year ago i posted a recipe for my favorite breakfast smoothie. i was hesitant to post such similar recipes, but here is the new and improved version of my go-to breakfast smoothie. there is no particular reason i was trying to improve it. it was already delicious. but i recently discovered maca and thought i'd try a variation that would incorporate this superfood root and also pack a green punch to kickstart my gloomy seattle winter mornings. you'll have to try both recipes, compare, and let me know which you preferred! 

i like to take walks through east capitol hill, wandering through blocks of incredible homes and massive trees, and typically ending up at my favorite cookie bakery, hello robin. recently, the herbalist set up show just two doors down from hello robin. i was quite excited about this new addition to the neighborhood, since there is nothing else like it in central or south seattle. they have an incredible variety of herbs, tonics, medicinal teas, etc. after my first trip their, i walked home with wonderful herbs to add to a bed time tea to relax and clear the head, and maca to try in my morning smoothies. i was told that maca root powder aids our adrenal glands, giving us increased energy, stamina, immune function and resistance to stress. sold! anything to give me stamina for my uber-active days is worth a try! not to mention, it adds a wonderful malty flavor to smoothies ... giving this almond milk based smoothie a delightful milkshake quality... a milkshake fit for breakfast or a mid-day snack. 

maca matcha milkshake ~ serves 1
1 or 1-1/2 cup homemade date-sweetened almond milk (or unsweetened store bought)
1/2 medium banana, raw or frozen into cubes
1/2 cup frozen pineapple pieces
*1/2 teaspoon ginger juice (or fresh grated ginger) 
1/4 avocado 
handful of fresh spinach 
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
1 to 2 teaspoons maca powder

*another recent discovery: the ginger people's ginger juice! for those of us without juicers that want to add ginger flavor to cocktails, fizzy water or a smoothie without the pulp of grated ginger... or, for those of us that don't trust our fine motor skills for grating ginger before 8am. 

start with 1 teaspoon of maca. blend all ingredients together until creamy. if using frozen banana, you may need to add 1-1/2 cups milk. if you love the flavor of maca, add a second teaspoon to the mix! 

for date sweetened almond milk ~ makes 4 cups
1 cup raw organic almonds
4 cups water
4 pitted, medjool dates
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

soak almonds in water overnight or for 8-12 hours. drain and add soaked almondds to high speed blender with 4 cups of fresh water and pitted dates. blend on high speed until milky. use a nut milk bag to strain almond pulp from milk. discard pulp (or good luck finding a tasty use for almond pulp. i still have not.) store almond milk chilled for up to one week. add vanilla extract if you like, or enjoy plain. i've also added vanilla beans to my quart glass of almond milk and reused the bean for adding flavor to several batches of almond milk.