French lentil salad with walnuts

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There are few dishes I’ve made or enjoyed recently that are this healthy and also this satisfying!  I know many of you are still on your New Year’s resolution kick to eat more healthfully, lose weight, etc., and this dish will give you both health and pure eating pleasure.  These French lentils are truly easy to make and are great warm, or cold the next day for lunch over a salad, or on their own.

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The recipe, from David Lebovitz’s “My Paris Kitchen,” calls for simple and earthy winter flavors — bay leaf, celery and toasted walnuts are the subtle standouts but the bright dressing has complex flavors that will keep you coming back for more.

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Butternut-Miso Soup with Coconut

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Butternut is such a stereotypical Fall food, but sometimes stereotypes are there for a reason.  Am I right?  Butternut is amazing.  I love it mixed into creamy risotto, embedded in delicate ravioli, roasted with herbs like rosemary or sage, but mostly, I love it in soup.  This recipe is different from the traditional butternut squash soups you see this time of year.  It is made with miso broth, fresh ginger, cayenne and coconut milk.

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The hardest part about making butternut squash soup of any kind is prepping the butternut.  It’s worth it though, I promise.  Get smallish butternuts so you’re not left wrangling a large one, which is more difficult in my experience.  A smaller one will make it easier to slice off both ends, peel, then halve the squash before removing the seeds and cubing the butternut.  It’s a little messy…

P1050201But that’s OK because everything else about this dish is simple.  White miso has a delicate, salty flavor and when you put the paste into simmering water, you’ll instantly think you’re about to make miso soup, which I might do another time.  However, adding the butternut with sauteed onions and fresh spices makes this soup rich and unique.

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Mexican Lasagna

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I was recently in Tulsa, OK to see one of my beautiful sorority sisters get married.  The wedding was gorgeous and the weekend was a blast, partly because I stumbled upon the greatest cafe ever!  It was a spot I did not expect to find in Tulsa.  I love when the world surprises me!  The cafe is called Nourish and it was opened in January by two sisters who seem to have a passion for bringing healthful food and drinks the their beautiful Midwestern city.  I bought my new favorite t-shirt there (see below) and later explored Nourish’s website where I found this yummy-sounding recipe for Mexican lasagna.  After making it, I know it is not just yummy-sounding but yummy-tasting, too!

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Simple summer sides for the win

The summer months are slow and easy, especially in my new home in the South.  The days are long and hot, which zaps my energy and leaves me with little motivation to spend a ton of time in a hot kitchen, unless I have wine, of course!  Lately, I’ve been picking up whatever vegetables and fruits are freshest and making meals with just that.  I figure many of you may be doing the same or want ideas about how to make a meal quickly and easily.  This was my dinner tonight: Brussels sprouts with lemon and parsley, a summer veggie salad with basil, smoked salmon and half an avocado.  So simple and I prepared it all in under thirty minutes.

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I washed and thinly sliced the Brussels, roasted them in a 350 degree oven with olive oil, sea salt and pepper for about 15 minutes.  Then, I dressed them with a mixture of lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and a generous amount of fresh chopped parsley.  There’s never enough parsley!

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While the Brussels roasted, I sliced fresh cherry tomatoes, a medium raw zucchini, one yellow bell pepper, chickpeas and torn basil.  I drizzled olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper on top and let it marinate, then added raw pumpkin seeds for a little crunch.  It’s divine and took ten minutes, plus it is gorgeous!

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With my two all-star veggie sides, I felt I had a meal, but I added smoked salmon and avocado to jazz it up a bit then sat outside and enjoyed it while the sun went down.  Talk about summer perfection.  Bon appétit!

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Burmese chicken & rice with green bean salad

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Even without traveling, food can teach us about different parts of the world. That’s something I love most about reading about food, and of course, eating food. My parents went to Burma last year (see photo above) and loved the scenery, the history, and the food. I didn’t get to go to Burma, but I got this cookbook, and love reading through the recipes, history and seeing the pictures of the people there and their food.

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My mom always raves about the long-bean salad with roasted peanuts recipe. What makes this dish is the fried shallots, and shallot oil that remains from the frying. I made a big batch and have since topped practically every salad with fried shallots. Salads will never be the same!

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The book, and Burmese cooking in general, calls for peanut oil quite often. I read in the book that the middle part of Burma, Mandalay and Bagan, provide ideal climates for growing peanuts. If you’re allergic to peanuts, you can substitute sesame oil. I will say, the shallots fry beautifully in the peanut oil!

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How I prepare for the week ahead

A lot of my friends ask me what I do on weeknights when we are all too tired to cook a meal. There is also the issue of what to do with leftovers if you don’t want to eat the same thing day after day. While my method isn’t perfect, it works for me and I hope it gives you some ideas for what may work for you!

On Sundays I spend the morning reading the New York Times and browsing recipes, looking for something that strikes me as a good “base meal” for the week. I love quinoa, bean-based dishes, and vegetable dishes that last a while. I don’t eat a ton of meat so I usually look for a meat-free dish.

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This week, I picked this curried quinoa salad and reserved a portion of the quinoa to keep plain, in case I want to mix it up with different flavors one night this week. The curried quinoa is delicious! I added green peas instead of edamame and omitted the meat.

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I like to have fresh, steamed or roasted veggies that add a different element to some of my meals, or just something extra to serve on the side. This week, I picked organic sweet potatoes, roasted in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes. I drizzled the diced potatoes with olive oil and sea salt before roasting.

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Green Pea and Ham Soup

I am home in California, visiting my parents for the holidays.  Today in the San Francisco Bay Area it is bitterly cold.  Unusual for this area, it was a mere 38 degrees when I woke up today.  But, it’s beautiful, and the most perfect day for soup.

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My mom and I went to the farmers’ market this morning and nearly froze our hands off selecting local carrots for this split pea soup.

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Split pea is extremely satisfying – a comfort soup without a lot of guilt.  It’s dairy free, gluten free, and except for the flavorful ham hock the soup cooks in, it could be vegetarian, too.  But, the ham is necessary for a full-bodied, flavorful soup.  Chop your medley of vegetables: carrots, a yellow onion, celery and garlic.  Cook it all together in a nice olive oil and fresh rosemary.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

Nothing says Fall like a giant pot of warm, comforting soup.  In Arizona, it has just begun to dip into the mid-80s, providing the closest feeling yet to one of autumn.  This chicken tortilla soup makes my favorite season seem a bit closer, even with the warm sunshine beating down on us outside. 

 

This soup is full of deep flavors like red onion, lots of garlic and jalepeño peppers.  You can use olive oil, or butter as a base.  I used olive oil to keep it dairy free.  

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