Soda Bread and Dreams of Ireland

I tend to organize my memories by meals. Chances are if I’ve been on a journey of any kind, I can remember what I ate every day of the trip. I guess it comes along with having a food- oriented brain– when I’m out of my everyday life, flavors and conversations had around the table become that much more vivid. Something about being away from other distractions and belongings brings the focus back to the basics of human livelihood.

Right now, I’m waiting for grad school classes to begin in a seemingly unending fog of hot, humid and stagnating L.A. air. In this environment and time of year that does not spark my appetite or excitement to be in the kitchen, I find my thoughts escaping to the crisp air and fluorescent green of the Irish countryside where I wandered for two weeks back in March. In addition to the friendliest people you can imagine, Ireland offers some of the freshest, most scrumptious, made-from-scratch meals. It seems to be the Isle’s best-kept secret. Shhhh..don’t tell or the small towns will become more overrun with tourists than they already are. In each tiny village, my friends and I enjoyed grass-fed steak, farm-fresh chicken, raw oysters, and the most brilliantly yellow butter, all for undeniably reasonable prices.

Among all this variety, one staple remains constant with each meal in Ireland : soda bread. Crunchy on the outside, soft and often gooey on the inside and made to be used as a vehicle for the mango-colored butter. When I returned from my trip, I set about coming up with my own version so that I could mix up a batch, brew a cup of Irish Breakfast tea and indulge in dreams of cow-spotted hills, pub music sessions and Guinness stew.

This recipe is so quick and easy. You only have to dirty one bowl. Bake a loaf and enjoy with butter, jam and lemon curd. Or as a savory treat alongside soup!

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Ingredients:

2 cups white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup old fashioned oats

2 Tbs. coarse corn meal

1/4 cup oat bran

1.5 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 cup brown sugar

8 Tbs. unsalted Kerrygold butter, chilled

1.5 cups yogurt without pectin (Trader Joe’s sells one) or Keifer

 

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a flat cookie sheet with butter.

In a large bowl, combine flours, oats, oat bran, cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Cut butter into small pieces and use your hands to combine it with the dry ingredients until it is pea size (just like making a pie crust).

Pour in yogurt or keifer and mix dough into a ball. Add more yogurt if it’s too dry. Just enough to bring it together. Place ball of dough on cookie sheet. It absolutely does not have to look perfect. Just like a semi-round, sort of lumpy on the top loaf of bread. Bake for 35-40 minutes until top and bottom are golden brown. Center should be very moist.

Let cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and serve warm.

 

 

 

 

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Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Training Program

    Today I wanted to take a moment to talk a little bit about the NTA (Nutritional Therapy Association). They are an organization based in Olympia, Washington and they run Nutritional Therapist training programs all over the country, educating students about the importance of whole food nutrition and the fundamental problems with the Standard American Diet. I completed their Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program in Seattle a little under a year ago, which is organized in a 10-month distance learning format. As students, we completed homework in modules that were released through an online classroom portal and then we met up for three long-weekend workshops every few months to take tests and engage in hands-on training. I originally found out about the program three years ago and it finally fit into my life to do it last year and I am so glad that I took a leap and made it work. It was such an empowering sense of community and camaraderie. We were supplied with a lot of information and worked hard over the course of the program and it was 100% worth all the effort. I credit the NTP program with pushing me along my current life path.

     I’m starting acupuncture school in a month and I don’t think I would have ever come to that decision had I not been in the NTP training. My Nutritional Therapy education helped me realize that I can learn and retain scientific information, which I didn’t always believe. I was an English major in college and had labeled myself as “not a science person” from the time I was in high school. I had some bad experiences with physics classes and wrote the whole thing off. But my experience re-enforced my study skills and reminded me that any academic pursuit is possible with proper motivation. After learning about blood sugar regulation, fatty acids, hydration systems and more in the NTP program, I realized that while further education in the sciences will be a  challenge, it will not be a prohibitive one. The other aspect of NTP training that really pushed me toward acupuncture was the foundational element of the functional evaluation which is the hands on portion of the course. Students learn to palpate points on a client’s body that correspond with different functions in order to evaluate health and test supplements. When we were practicing the functional evaluation with our partners in the workshops I had an “aha” moment in which I realized that I am meant to be working hands on with clients. Actually up until that point, until about a year ago, I thought that I wanted to go into counseling in order to combine counseling and nutrition, but after going through NTA and doing this hands on evaluation, I realized that I feel called to practice on the body side of the mind-body connection, rather than working on the mind side. I truly believe from all the science that we learned and from what I’ve experienced in my own health journey and the health of my friends and family, that if you heal the body, the mind will follow.

    My education as a Nutritional Therapist has also had a tremendous effect on my overall health and well-being. It has shifted the way that I eat and has helped me increase my daily energy and helped me be able to have a healthy sense of control about what’s going on in my body. I’ve also seen the way the information I’ve gained has helped my friends and family as I share it. I’ve helped my mother lower her blood sugar through education about sugar and carb consumption, helped friends by giving them shopping lists and having them fill out a Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire (our initial intake form for clients) to evaluate their health and give them feedback. So while I haven’t yet been working as an NTP for income, I have certainly been using this knowledge to help those around me in small, everyday ways as well as incorporating nutritional knowledge into my cooking and recipes. I had been blogging for a while before I went through the program and I have been cooking my whole life and certainly love cooking desserts and carbs (and I still do), but now I have been focusing more on recipes that are whole foods based and use healthy fats and proteins as their cornerstone.

    I highly recommend the NTP program through the Nutritional Therapy Association to anyone who has been interested in nutrition, food or cooking and wants to take it to the next level. You can go on to become a practitioner and share this knowledge that becomes second nature to you but really isn’t second nature to most of the population. Nutritional Therapy Practitioners are at the forefront of a movement that our world really needs. 

Check out upcoming courses:

NTP Classes

Rustic Rosemary and Thyme Pommes Anna

I’m back in sweltering LA. But it sure does feel good to be home. I always find myself immediately more inspired to cook while I’m here, though I suppose that could change in a month when I start school and realize that I’m up to my eyeballs in 2,000 page textbooks about Chinese Herbs. I’m determined to keep up cooking and lessons and sharing food while in school because it’s all part of a larger vision of Nutritional Education and healing through Acupuncture that I hope to combine in the future.

This recipe is inspired by a meal I had at Quillisascut Farm School a few years ago. I made my own version this past winter and was reminded of it just a few weeks ago when I stopped by the farm for a visit so I revisited my recipe a few days ago. Traditional pommes anna (and the way we ate it at Quilly) is a french dish consisting of slabs of potato cut with a mandolin into very thin slices, layered in a dish with pieces of butter between each and baked. I like to call my version rustic because that’s a nice way of saying “I don’t own a mandolin so my slices aren’t as thin, but if you say “rustic” it sounds better than “on a budget and don’t want to purchase a mandolin”.” I also like to use fingerling potatoes instead of a traditional yukon gold (especially if the fingerling potatoes are multi-colored) because each little round gets quite crispy.

This is definitely a fall dish. And it is definitely not fall yet. But I’m autumn obsessed and impatient, so please bear with me.

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Ingredients:

2 lbs. Organic mixed heirloom fingerling potatoes (or simply a mixture of your favorite potatoes)

6 oz-8 oz (3/4 cup- 1 cup) cold salted Kerrygold butter, (I’m not joking here..you can’t be afraid of butter with this dish. Normally I’m all for buying unsalted butter and thus controlling salt intake yourself, but Kerrygold does suck an awesome job on this butter that I leave it to them in this case)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

cracked black pepper

2 tsp. fresh thyme

1 tsp. fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 400F.

Wash potatoes. I like the skins on because I think they look nice, but you can peel the potatoes if you want. Carefully slice each potato into rounds as thin as you can safely make them with your knife. Once you’ve sliced all potatoes, pat the slices dry with a paper towel. Potatoes hold onto a tremendous amount of moisture and any left on them will make it difficult for them to crisp up.

Sauté garlic in 2 Tbs. butter for about two minutes over medium heat until just golden. Remove from heat and set aside.

Use one end of the stick of butter to grease the bottom of a 8-10 inch round baking dish. Then lay down one layer of potato rounds. Sprinkle garlic evenly around potato layer. Next, cut off small pieces (about 1/2 tsp. size) of butter and arrange them on top of the layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with thyme and rosemary and cracked pepper. Repeat this layering process of a layer of potatoes, garlic, butter and herbs until you run out of potatoes. Make sure to do one last butter layer on the top and extra herbs.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until potatoes on top look golden and crispy.

Tastes delicious with a fried egg on top!

Serves 4.

Whole Grain Mustard and Onion Coq au Vin

This is my favorite chicken dish right now and one I’ve been perfecting for a while. It can be warm and wintery but it’s not so stew-like that it won’t work for a summer night alongside a green salad. I really enjoy the way this meal tastes with quinoa, especially because it’s a little hard to tell where the whole grain mustard stops and the quinoa begins, but you can serve it atop rice or cous cous or another favorite grain, or skip the grain altogether. I think the best part about this is that it is basically as easy to make for four people as it is to make for eight. So an instant dinner party is next to effortless!

 

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Ingredients:

4 large chicken thighs (preferable organic and free range)

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

sea salt and pepper

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

3/4 cup white wine (whatever you have on hand works. even red will work in a pinch)

2 Tbs. water

3 heaping Tbs. whole grain dijon mustard

2 Tbs. whole milk yogurt

2 cups cooked quinoa

In a large stock pot over medium high heat, meal 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. olive oil. Brown the thigh for 3-4 minutes on each side until they begin to turn golden. Salt and pepper generously on each side. For my measurement inclined friends, I would say about half a teaspoon of each, distributed between the four thighs. Remove the thighs with tongs and set aside on a plate.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. oil to the pot and let melt. Add the onions and stir well. Add the thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes along with salt and pepper to taste. Let the onions cook down over medium high heat for 2 minutes. Then add the balsamic and sugar and stir. Let cook another 5-7 minutes, stirring every minute, until onions become translucent and start to caramelize. Pour in the wine and stir well to cook off anything that might be sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Add the chicken thighs back in to the pot with the onion mixture. Add the water. Bring to a simmer then turn down to low, cover and let cook 30-35 minutes until thigh meat is dark and well cooked. Remove the lid, turn up to medium, and simmer slightly for an additional 2-3 minutes. Turn down to low and stir in the mustard and yogurt.

Turn off the heat. Serve over quinoa, making sure to get plenty of the saucy onions!

Serves 4.

Kitchen Love

I’ve just moved into a new place in Seattle–my first time living on my own. This means my life has been speeding along as I packed my car, drove from Los Angeles to Seattle and have been frantically running to IKEA and target–setting everything up before I start my summer job on Monday. Thus the recipe post hiatus. But there is plenty of cooking on the horizon for me, and I had to get my new kitchen just right. Having my own space and organization is the ultimate inspiration. Wherever my passion for food leads me in the next year, I feel ready!

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Simple Vibrant Summer Salads: Cold Peanut Noodles and Beet Slaw with Lime Dressing

Here are two easy and colorful salads. Maximum flavor. Minimum effort. Just what the doctor ordered for hot days.

Peanut Noodles with Veggies: 

Ingredients:

1/2 lb soba noodles or your favorite long pasta ( spaghetti or linguini work well)

2 large zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces

1 large head broccoli, cut into bite sized florets

2 large carrots, cut into small rounds

1 package firm tofu, cut into small cubes

4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbs. grape seed oil

4 Tbs. natural creamy salted peanut butter

1 1/2 Tbs. less sodium soy sauce

2 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. honey

1 Tbs. lime juice

1-2 Tbs. water

1/2 tsp. chili flakes or however much sriracha you can handle (optional)

 

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Boil a large pot of water with salt and a drizzle of oil. Cook pasta or soba noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside. In the same pot, heat 1 Tbs. grape seed oil over medium high heat. You’ll want to use grape seed instead of olive oil here because an olive oil flavor doesn’t go so well with soy sauce and peanut butter and because grape seed oil has a higher smoke point, and is therefor better for cooking over a flame at high heat. Add in chopped garlic and sauté until it starts to brown. Turn the heat down to medium low and stir in the peanut butter with a wooden spoon. Once it starts to come together with the garlic, add the soy sauce to begin to thin it out. Stir well. Stir in the brown sugar and honey and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the lime juice and the spiciness if you so desire. The mixture should be the consistency of a custard or pudding–thick, but not so thick that you can’t stir it. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water. Remove the sauce from the pot and set aside in a small bowl.

Add a splash more oil into the pot and sauté zucchini, broccoli, carrots and tofu over medium high until tofu starts to brown. You’ll be picking up all the remnants of garlic and sauce from the pot and that is definitely not a bad thing. Add about 1/4 cup water to the bottom of the pot, cover, turn flame down to low, and let veggies cook through for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Let cool slightly 5 minutes.

Add the noodles to the veggies and tofu in the pot. Stir in the peanut sauce. The bit of water from the veggies and the moisture from the noodles will help distribute the thick sauce throughout the dish. Once everything has been mixed together, arrange the noodles on a serving platter or in a large bowl, cover, and let chill in the fridge for an hour before serving.

Serves 6-8.

Beet Cabbage Slaw with Lime Dressing:

Ingredients:

1/2 large head of your favorite cabbage

1 large beet

3 large carrots

the juice of one lime

1 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

2 tsp. soy sauce

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Finely chop your cabbage into small strips. Place in a large bowl. Wash your beet and peel it if it’s not organic (but try to get organic because it will taste so much better, not to mention be so much better for your body). Cut off the ends. Use the largest holes of a box grated to shred the beet, being extra careful not to shred your fingers. Add the beet to the bowl with the cabbage. Shred your carrots in the same way. Mix your veggies together. Your beets will stain everything else red. This is part of the fun of it!.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Taste to see if you like the balance of salty to sweet to acidic. Adjust by adding more honey, vinegar or soy sauce to your taste. Pour over the slaw and mix well.

Serves 4-6.

Fava Bean Lemon Garlic Pasta

Nothing says spring like favas!

My friend Clarissa works for Out of the Box Collective, a farm to home grocery delivery service, and gets to bring buckets of organic produce and other farm delicacies home with her. Last night she invited me over to create several dishes with her goodies from this week. Drawing inspiration from a collection of seasonal ingredients is my favorite way to design recipes. I learned while selling veggies at markets in Seattle that food speaks for itself when it’s grown in the right soil and makes it to your table not long after harvesting. These bright, fresh flavors were no exception.

Here’s one of our creations:

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta of your choice (we used brown rice pasta but you can use any type and shape you want–it would work well with spaghetti)

4 large cloves garlic

1/2 lemon

1 Tbs. butter

1 tsp. red chili flakes

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 cups shelled fava beans (approx. 1 lb. of favas in the shell)

freshly grated parmesan (or other hard cheese)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 eggs (optional)

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Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Dump in your shelled fava beans. Favas come in a big pod and then each bean is covered by a membrane. Leave these membranes on as they are much easier to remove after boiling. Boil your favas for 15 minutes. Drain, let cool and remove each individual skin. This is painstaking, but worth it. I promise.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain.

Melt butter and 1 Tbs. olive oil in a large frying pan. Add garlic and sauté until it begins to turn golden. Add chili flakes. Add fava beans and sauté another minute. Salt and pepper to taste before adding your pasta. Turn heat to low and add in pasta. Stir well. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the pasta. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Stir well. Taste and salt and pepper if it needs it. Add more olive oil if you find it too acidic. Turn off heat. Pour pasta into a serving dish and top with grated cheese.

I like to then fry up an egg for each person in the garlicky oil that remains in the frying pan and then pop the egg on top of each individual serving. The yolk mixes with the cheese and creates a carbonara-like effect.

Serves 4.

 

Monday Greens: Salad and Kale Chips

I figure Monday is a good time to promote veggie recipes. Maybe you drank a bit too much on Saturday night or you had a bunch of pastries on Sunday. I personally always seem to find myself feeling that Sunday is just a pastry kind of day. So Monday is a good time to lighten up–give your system a little rest with some super simple, bright, and flavorful recipes that highlight market vegetables. First, my tried and true recipe for any green salad. I like tomatoes and avocados in my salad this time of year in California, but try anything! Last week at the Altadena Farmer’s Market, I did sliced raw beets and blood oranges in a green salad and used market lemons and honey in my dressing. I’m including my dressing recipe here. I’ve been perfecting it over the years and I got plenty of positive feedback at the market so I want everyone to know just how simple it is! I’m also including my kale chip recipe because it takes no time at all and is a great way to get everyone to eat kale–even people who swear they don’t like kale! Baking transforms it.

Early Summer Green Salad with Honey Lemon Dijon Dressing:

Ingredients to serve 4-6:

1 head lettuce of your choice or 1/2 lb mixed baby greens

1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and cut into cubes

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

*really anything else you want in a salad should go in here

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. dijon mustard

1 Tbs. lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

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Summer’s Bounty

Prepare lettuce in your favorite bowl with your favorite fixings. Lightly salt the salad before dressing it. For dressing, combine mustard, hone, lemon juice and balsamic in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste and see if you like the balance of sweet to spicy to sour. Adjust accordingly. Gradually whisk in the oil to emulsify. Pour over salad. Toss and enjoy!!

World’s Easiest Kale Chips:

1 head curly green or purple kale (don’t use Lacinato (Tuscan) or Red Russian kale–results are a bit odd)

1.5 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

garlic powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Wash and dry kale. Rip leaves off stems and break into bite-sized pieces (about 2 inches in diameter). Arrange leaves onto a baking sheet (you’ll want to make sure your baking sheet has a rim). Drizzle oil over the kale and turn the kale over with your hands, moving it around until each piece has a thin coating of olive oil. Salt and pepper kale to your liking and add garlic powder if you want. Pop into the oven for no more than 15 minutes on the middle rack. You’ll want to check on it every two minutes after the first five minutes because it can burn quickly. But, if you catch it before it burns, the end result is perfectly crispy, salty and barely oily chips that hardly resemble the leafy green bundle they were twenty minutes early.

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Veg done right

 

Whole Wheat Pear Tart

This recipe was happily born of a bit of laziness. I didn’t have white flour and I had just been to the store and really didn’t want to go again, so I decided to make my tart crust out of whole wheat flour. I often use whole wheat flour for more savory pies and pastries, but wasn’t sure how it would work for a dessert. It turned out to be the perfect balance to the sweet pear and custard inside, resulting in a finished product that is equally good served topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream after a summer dinner or enjoyed with a cup of strong coffee as an indulgent breakfast.

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Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

10 Tbs. cold unsalted butter

pinch of salt

5 Tbs. ice water

2 Tbs. cold milk

3 large D’anjou pears, cut in half, cored, and sliced very thin

4 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla

cinnamon for sprinkling

To make the crust, pulse flour, butter, salt, water and milk together in a food processor or mix in a kitchen aid (or work together with your hands). Bring dough together in a ball. Flatten, and press into a tart pan. Chill for at least 20 minutes.

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Preheat oven to 350. Beat together eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla. Remove tart shell from fridge. Arrange thin pear slices in concentric circles around bottom of tart pan. Pour custard over pears. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Turn down to 325 and continue to bake until custard in set (about 20-25 more minutes.)

Sprinkle with cinnamon if you like. Let cool. Serve chilled.