Spring vegetable quinoa soup with lemon basil pesto

It’s Earth Day week, and I had this idea of concocting some kind of richly earthy sort of stew I hadn’t made before. Just thinking of it, I couldn’t quell the word umami from resonating in my head with deep, ringing tones. Something about umami; if Yoda was a taste, umami would he be.

Featured in this stew, there would have to be brown lentils, mushrooms, burdock root…that last one mainly because I only just discovered its existence last fall when I tested out a recipe that included it for Yoga Journal, and it seems to epitomize earthiness with a sort of mysticism attached. So, there was an ingredients list. Then, not even halfway through the week I decided to chuck it, for now. 

Actually, so fat I don’t like burdock root. This may well change, easily, depending on what I learn about amazing benefits like blood purification and lymphatic system strengthening that I can’t possibly get anywhere else.  But for now, I’m just not a huge fan of the sinewy woodiness, or the fact that the earthiness is really actual earth. And the brown, knobby lumpiness of my ingredients seemed more suitable for a witch’s bubbling cauldron than my envisioned rustic family dinner honoring Earth Day.

spring soup (1)
Instead we’re relishing  something light and bright and fresh that sings spring that I originally made for Ancient Harvest. You can vary the vegetables, the amounts, the herbs. You can load up the veggies and still savor a light yet satisfying meal. I love the way the pesto makes the flavors pop.

I may have mentioned before, lately I’ve been driving myself a little more batty than usual in my personal quest to expand knowledge. Instead of really challenging myself and poring over, say, financial journals or exploring other areas outside of my comfort zone, I’ve been diving headlong into more of what am already interested in, was already reading/watching/listening to. Foremost, that’s food and nutrition. Lately, lagging just a hair behind, toxins in our environment. It’s not the healthiest thing, going further and further into the abyss that is all the ugly, greedy, and despicable in the world and repeatedly reinforcing how little we can do about it. 

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But at least there is always a little we can do. And if there is anything worth taking little, or any size, steps for, it’s our planet. We only have one. 

Different people need different diets, and few things are as off-putting as people assuming they’re due some kind of applause for theirs. But no one argues with the power of produce, and the significant impact such a delicious choice can make on personal health and the health of the whole planet. This week, of all weeks, it feels especially good to love seasonal vegetables. Happy Earth Day!

Spring vegetable quinoa soup with lemon basil pesto
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa, any variety
  2. 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  3. 1 leeks halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (white and light green portions)
  4. 2 medium carrots, diced
  5. 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  6. 3 cups water
  7. 8 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut diagonally in approximately 1-inch pieces
  8. 1 1/2 cups kale leaves, ribs removed and chopped
  9. 1 cup cooked navy or white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  10. 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  11. 1 cup torn basil leaves
  12. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  13. 1/4 cup walnuts
  14. 3 cloves garlic
  15. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add leek and carrots sweat 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add vegetable broth and water and bring to a low boil. Add asparagus, peas, kale, beans and corn. Cook 5-7 minutes, until asparagus is tender.
  4. Prepare the pesto: place basil, lemon juice, pine nuts, garlic, and remaining olive oil in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  5. Stir in quinoa and half of the pesto. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Thin to desired consistency with extra water as needed. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Ladle into bowls and serve with remaining pesto spooned on top.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Spinach mango salad with honey lime dressing

So here’s a quick and simple salad that’s light and fresh and as buoyantly colorful as this past week has been. While it may not exactly be seasonal, it tastes like this warm and vibrant spring week has felt. Sweet with a pleasant tang.

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I wanted to stick this up early in the week as something to come back to, but  I kept dragging my feet. While the justification of being too busy is true and valid, it wasn’t really truth, I realized. The real issue was, I didn’t have a story to attach. No pensive reflection stirred by the sumptuousness of mango or the bite of lime. Even knowing the whole purpose of this whole blog is really a catalog, I guess I’m attached to the journal aspect. It feels like cheating, or failing, not to be bursting with thought guided by ingredients.

This is in its way a little ironic, as I’ve been striving so hard to cultivate more mindfulness. It’s been a slowly emerging, beautifully enlightening process, if but snail steps. And the most treasured part, embracing peaceful gratitude for each moment for just what it is. Why then so much hesitancy to share something with no purpose other than saying appreciatively, here is something rather nice?

Blue Heron (4 of 6)
On that note, I don’t usually feel drawn to “here’s what happened this week” kind of posts, but this week has been rather rainbow lovely. The most perfect moments were the simplest and the most vivid, in both the actual colors present and the still life style peace of them. They were composed of  the kind of little things that relax you into breathing more deeply and seeing more wholly. 

Little F and I shared the best “egg decorating” yet.

egg decorating
And on Thursday, my boys melted and swelled my heart with the most beautiful, quiet birthday day. After a perfect early morning run with a friend, the day opened with the sweetest card depicting our little family team.

mommy_bdaycard
We took the day off, which took concerted maneuverings on Dave’s part, and we went to the mountains where for a little hike, picnic, and basking in the sun.

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I can’t pretend there’s a connection between this salad and this week aside from brightness and color. Except for this: each is worth a little appreciation and a place in a catalog, literal or mental. The other somewhat ironic thing about working so concertedly on mindfulness is how heightened a certain distrust has been of enjoying the perfection of the moment. There’s an inherent fear of being too happy. It only makes sense. Nothing lasts, good or bad. But time to let that go a little. 

Today, I was immersed in imaginative play with little F when he suddenly flopped on his back in a way reminiscent of when he was a little baby. “Cover me, Mommy,” he said sweetly, arms open and puppy eyes beseeching. Sometimes he likes me to do that–pretend flop on him like a blank, “covering” him. It won’t last long, and as I bundled him up, reveling in that moment, I couldn’t stop the nagging voice from saying so. But oh am I enjoying it now, in spite of nagging busybody “just you wait” warnings in my head. So I’m sticking the moment here in this post–which has (surprise) taken on tangents it didn’t need to. So I can take heart that I’m doing my best to remember, and get back to being with gratitude. 

Have a very bright and happy weekend!

Spinach mango salad with honey lime dressing
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoons lime juice
  3. 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  4. 1-2 tablespoons honey to taste
  5. 2 teaspoons white miso paste
  6. salt and pepper to taste
  7. 3 cups spinach
  8. 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced and then sliced across to make 1" long pieces
  9. 1-2 ripe mangos, diced
  10. 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
  11. 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shred
  12. 2-3 thinly sliced green onion (both green and white parts)
  13. ⅓ cup chopped roasted peanuts
  14. ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the first six ingredients (oil through salt and pepper) until thoroughly combined.
  2. Mix all remaining ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat just before serving.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Simple stovetop hot chocolate brown rice pudding (dairy free, vegan, refined sugar free)

I’m proud of this recipe especially because I didn’t create it. It may not be the most original concept, and I can’t even honestly say that the list of ingredients is accurately detailed as we combined them…twice now with a third visibly on the horizon. In fact, those two separate batches were both eyeballed so certainly created with similar but different quantities, for everything. That’s what made the making of it so without any detriment to taste whatsoever, and this is all coming out wrong. What I really mean to say is, this isn’t my recipe but I love it sooo much more for that, because it’s Felix’s. There are countless versions out there that differ in subtle or no ways at all, but little sous chef is 3 ½, and he doesn’t know that.

ricepudding
“Mommy, can we please, please, please make hot chocolate rice pudding?” Little F asked one unusually chill, wet day. That’s how this began. “We can try,” I told him. “What steps do you think we’ll need?” Little F cocked his head to the side thoughtfully and responded confidently, “Make hot chocolate and put rice in it!” And that is pretty much what we did. Cooked brown rice, almond and coconut milk, vanilla, a scoop of dark chocolate, bit of cocoa powder, a splash of pure maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon. It was a playful and exquisite process with a product to match.

CheeseThere is a part of me, a very large part, that cannot believe that when I tell you little F is 3 ½ I’m talking years not months. Daily, we’re navigating tumbling seas that are speckled with tormented tantrums pulsing with unimaginable fury so encompassing they can bowl us over and force us to swallow a bit of guilty laughter at the same time. Interspersed are these magical, enchanting rainbows of wonder and discovery that lend lightness to the soul even as wrinkles and gray hairs are etched by the trying back and forth. And underlying everything, for this very fleeting moment, we’ve had a clingy, uncertain phase that means lots of cherished, fiercely loving cuddles alongside stacks of jobs undone until exhaustingly late.

Photog in the makingTantrums, clinging, and even the wondrous energy of exploration–all tough at times. Sometimes really hair-pulling hard. And always painfully bittersweet in how short-lived we know them to be. So it’s easy to say with 100% certitude, even in the most intense heat of the most tempestuous fit, on some level I am always grappling with some grief over the necessary drift that is happening right now. The one where my little sidekick steadily becomes his own leading action hero and we fade, cheering, into the background.

Luckily, there is never enough time in this season we’re in to dwell too much on what’s next, what’s going wrong, who might be judging, etc. Even better, that drift so far is brimming with steady gems that sparkle as if to say, savor this and trust in the journey. 

They are little things, mostly. Reassurances that parceled in with all the budding independence comes blooming, shared pride offered with the greatest of love. They are in the cheeky, sparkly-eyed, shyly winsome way a little person tells you one day, sitting naked on the toilet, “Maaaaybeee I gonna just use the potty now, no more pull-ups.” Or when that same little person guides you on a nature hike of his own devising, one that winds around according to “my plan” and incorporates a variety of mystery animal poop shapes, sizes and colors that he had taken note of and remembered. And when an idea pops into his head for creating something so simple, wholesome, and actually scrumptious you just want to make it week after week both for the pleasure of it (because it’s indeed yummy!) and for the memory of how much you want to take a giggling bite out of him.

(By the way, I am sorry and a little embarrassed to mention poop not just once but actually twice in the same post, and one that is meant to be about a snack that happens to be brown at that. At the same time, it just feels appropriate. It’s all as it should be, the push-pulls what they need to be, and it’s good.)

 

Stovetop hot chocolate brown rice pudding
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup short-grain brown rice
  2. 3 cups unsweetened almond coconut milk (or equivalent combination of almond and/or coconut milks)
  3. 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. ¼ cup maple syrup
  5. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  6. ⅓ to 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips according to taste
  7. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Bring 1 1/2 cup water and rice to a boil over high heat. RCover, and reduce to a slow, steady simmer for approximately 40 minutes.
  2. Add almond coconut milk(s), stirring well, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and allow to cook until pudding has thickened, 20-25 minutes, stirring at regular intervals.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Spring barley salad with green goddess dressing

It’s St. Patty’s Day week, with official spring just a skip away, and I wanted to share something green. No loosely connected, tangent-riddled stories, just green goodness. Also a few musings on green love. Because, how would you know it was really me writing if I didn’t wander a little in whimsy in what is otherwise meant to be a sensible share?
Salad (1 of 10)

This recipe is all about the dressing. A dressing so easy (being dressing) that goes atop salad so variable (being salad), you don’t need half the list or even need steps. With a sound go-to Green Goddess like this one, you can go wild and just trust your tangy sauce will hold everything together with a satisfying lip smack. (It goes great with quinoa, too. 🙂 )

It’s funny how ingrained in human nature it is to find fault or focus on the negative. Research shows it takes roughly 25 compliments to take the edge off an insult. Personal experience says maybe quite a lot more. Even something as life-giving and peaceful as green is not immune. A color universally associated with nature, health, and feelings of being renewed is also linked with envy, seasickness, and greed.

Salad (4 of 10)
But it is St. Patrick’s Day week, and it is almost officially spring, so what better time to practice re-wiring our brains to focus on the positive? Fire and wire. Because green is loveliness and nature, and positive energy will do us good.

Green sings. Green grows, and nourishes. Green is Kermit the Frog, at once awkward and lovable, pure and loyal in expressiveness, determined and adventurous calmly reassuring that not only is it OK to feel sad, everything will be alright.

Salad (5 of 10)

Green is gorgeous, humble, sustaining life. The world is getting hotter in more ways than one, and sadder. This spring, let’s freshen up and green up where we can. At least let’s love our greens.

Spring barley salad with green goddess dressing
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup pearl barley
  2. 1 large ripe avocado, flesh only
  3. 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  4. 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  5. 1/2 cup water
  6. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  7. 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
  8. 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  9. 1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
  10. 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  11. Sea salt and pepper to taste
  12. 3 cups baby spinach, kale or mixed greens
  13. 4-5 radishes, thinly sliced
  14. 1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal
  15. 1 medium carrot, shredded
  16. 1 cucumber, sliced and halved
  17. 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  18. 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  19. 1 cup sprouts, for topping
Instructions
  1. Combine the barley with 3 cups water and a pinch of salt in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and let cool.
  2. Prepare the dressing: in a high speed blender or food processor, combine avocado plus next 8 ingredients (through parsley) and process until smooth. Thin with additional water as needed for desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Toss barley with vegetables. Drizzle with dressing as desired and stir to combine. Serve topped with sprouts. Store leftover dressing in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Gluten-free vegan cinnamon date “blondie” bars (date-sweetened)

Lately there’s been an especially annoying and annoyingly persistent refrain caught in my brain–that awful Cookie Jar chant. You know the one. Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? [X] stole the cookies from the cookie jar… I don’t have a particularly good reason to particularly dislike that rhyming name game, but I do. The reason it’s stuck there is a little bit more endearing if somewhat problematic, in that little F has been taking to helping himself from the cookie tin housed in the freezer. Once, we thought that purchasing a new fridge with a large freezer drawer on the bottom would be useful in warding off snack sneaking, but no, it’s not. There are certainly conversations that need be had, rules and boundaries to be discussed. Yet there is a big, admiring, mushy part of me that wants to indulge our little big boy in every independent, empowered initiative to meet his own needs, including this one.

Bars (1 of 6)

My accommodating nature and his nibbling cause are mutually fed, literally I guess, by the fact that for the moment our attempts at healthy messaging around treats and sugars seem to be sinking in. “No more sugar for you today, Daddy,” F will say with surprising regularity whenever Daddy’s caught snagging an extra snack. “If you eat too much sugar, you gonna be sick and your body gonna be confused.” It seems counterintuitive to reward such observations by being all the more lax on self-guided cookie ventures, but gee.

Another factor chiseling away at resolve to be more firm is that the cookie tin, which is actually rather small, is typically filled with these healthy grain-free sugar cookies from Chocolate Covered Katie. Or a vegan variation of these, which I created for Madhava. And right now, it’s loosely packed with these, date-sweetened, just a bit chewy, gluten free and vegan ‘blondie’ bars I had sifting around in my mind for awhile and finally got to try.  

Bars (2 of 6)
For someone who makes a point of trying
not to eat cookies too often and goes to fairly significant lengths to make sure treats are on the healthy (for treats) side, I seem to have established a longstanding reputation for having a stash pile of cookies. Pre-parenting, our house was a routine stop-by for friends who routed long bike rides specifically to include a snack break from the freezer. When little F was born, the baking took a sharp downturn for a good while. But then my little sous chef got into mixing, measuring, stirring and baking with me…and there you go. The freezer was back in action as a (healthy-for-cookies) cookie trove.

Bars (4 of 6)

These were originally meant to be a makeover of these quinoa cinnamon toffee bars I made for Ancient Harvest and loved when tasted but didn’t eat. They’re not dairy-free, for one thing. I had a few adaptations in mind, but before long the tweaks piled up so much there was barely any resemblance to the first version and walah! Whole new cookie. (In case you’re wondering, yes I just thought it would be fun to say/write ‘walah’.) They’re rather guiltless, and yummy. Superb fresh from the oven, with that gooey meltaway chocolate quality; and they hold up amazingly well in the freezer. They may even be best–once the straight from the oven time has passed–straight from the freezer.

Chat wedding practice (3 of 5)There was a moment the other week while we were both still sick when I just collapsed in a mire of loneliness, negativity, and feeling sorry for myself. Everything was on hold. We were so cooped up. I hit such a low point that, looking over at my conked out child lying next to me on the bed, I felt the words pulse quietly against my brain, “This you-and-me alone deal is just not enough.” And as soon as the thought made its presence known, I recanted it. Truly, just then this diaphanous turning-point kind of ray of light glimmered into the room, kissing little F’s face; he opened his eyes and smiled, and out poured bright, loving energy that just flooded me.

Yeah, I was tired and prone to being overly emotional with every emotion all at once, but it was moving. You are absolutely, without question, more than enough, all by yourself, and always, my heart said to him. But it also managed to slip me a quiet revelation that one day, I need to be enough all by myself, too. I’m not sure I ever even felt quite that way before motherhood. It’s good to have goals.

Right now, I am so enjoying living in the fullness that is mostly this amazing little person, with nearly every choice I make, professionally, socially, and emotionally, pivoting around him. Right now, it’s enough to consciously work one day at a time at one day feeling enough as just me, myself. And trust that as time continues to flow that I will at least find solace in evolving reasons to keep a freezer stash of (healthy) cookies.

Gluten-free vegan cinnamon date “blondie” bars
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup pitted dates (Medjool are amazing, but any)
  2. ⅓ cup plus 1 Tablespoon orange juice or water
  3. 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons flax meal/ground flax in 5 tablespoons water)
  4. ½ cup almond butter (sunbutter will work, too)
  5. ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  6. 1 cup chickpea flour
  7. ¾ cup quick oats
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. 2 flax eggs or eggs
  10. ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  11. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  12. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  13. ½ tp ¾ cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Combine dates and water or orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil; cook 10 minutes, stirring, or until most liquid is absorbed. If desired, pulse in a food processor until reaching a fairly smooth, jam-like consistency.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray or parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Transfer date mixture to a large mixing bowl and whisk in flax eggs. Add almond butter and mix until well mixture is smooth.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl, stirring to combine. Spoon batter (will be thick) into prepared pan and spread out until smooth and even. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are slightly puffed and browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

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