DSCN3450

Four Ingredient Mango Sorbet

Ahhh, Summer.

Floridian Summers mean that most of the tourists have left the building, leaving behind only locals and those that still want a vacation badly enough to brave the dreaded heat. While most thermometers will claim that most days are between 90-95 degrees, which admittedly is still quite hot, the heat index reveals a more true score of around 104. No, I am not kidding. Florida heat coupled with insane humidity leaves the state thirsty for water, as such, afternoon showers are fairly common as well. This makes for a very hot and sweaty season, and unfortunately, it does not let up until about November.

However, Florida’s tropical climate yields more than just heat. Mangoes are in an absolute surplus during the summer months, and any true Floridian can recognize the smell of rotten mangoes in someones yard that were left behind. It’s hard to blame them though, some larger trees will drop up to 15 mangoes a day, and honestly, who can eat all those mangoes?!

DSCN3458

Answer: my chickens will eat all your mangoes. They love em.

My hometown of Delray Beach was once completely covered with mango trees, and one of the main neighborhoods (built around said mango trees) is still full of them, as are many neighborhoods in South Florida. During summer months, it is quite common to get a text or Snapchat from people asking to “PLEASE TAKE MANGOES” so that they don’t just rot on the floor. Delray Beach actually has an initiative in place to donate mangoes in various locations around the city in order to reduce waste- something I am very fond of.

For the rest of the nation that does not have this surplus, you’re still in luck, because most grocery stores have mangoes for very cheap during the summer, similar to berries and other fruits. So stock up while they’re hot! This recipe uses frozen fruit, which can be prepared up to 6 months in advance. So grab em now, slice em up, and wait till you’ve got a craving for some delish sorbet. It’ll transport you back to that delightful summer day when you got a sweet deal on mangoes at Wal-Mart.

DSCN3424

These were from my best friend’s tree behind her house, hit her up, she’s got PLENTY.

One can only eat so many mangoes, and while I find them to be a wonderful addition to salads, ceviche, or tacos, there are ways to use a lot of them at once that yield a wonderful summer dessert.

Cue this Four Ingredient Mango Sorbet.

DSCN3450

Sorbet is so delicious and soothing to a hot summer day, and what better way to utilize the mango surplus?! Just freeze the mangoes overnight and add a few ingredients that I can almost guarantee you already have sitting around. Pop them into a food processor or blender, and you’ve got some high quality, fresh sorbet!

DSCN3442

Hint: I use lemon zest and lime juice together. I love the blend of citrus. Also, use raw honey.

Here’s how to do it.

Ingredients: (Yields about 2 cups)

  • 3 Mangoes
  • 1 Lime- halved and zested
  • 2 TBSP Greek Yogurt
  • 1 TBSP Honey
  • Salt (to taste)

Directions:

  • Peel and chop your mangoes into small cubes, so that they are easier to process. Freeze for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, you want them rock-solid frozen. (Alternatively, you can use pre-frozen mango from the store.)
  • Add frozen mango to food processor (or blender). Add both the juice and zest from one lime, if you like your sorbet tart, do two limes, or use a blend of lemon and lime like I do (see above). Add remaining ingredients- Greek yogurt, honey, and a pinch of salt.
  • Blend until everything is incorporated and all mango chunks are broken down. Taste and add as necessary: Honey for sweetness; Yogurt for creaminess; Lime for tartness- you get the picture.
  • Place blended sorbet into a container and refreeze for 2-3 hours
  • Scoop and enjoy!

Let me know in the comments how YOU utilize your summer mango surplus, whether from the backyard or from the produce aisle!

Bonus idea: place tiny balls of sorbet into a champagne class, pour dry champagne over and you’ve got a sweet frozen mango mimosa!

-Pam

DSCN2282

Five (Cheap) Foods You Should Eat While Backpacking in Central America

Hola! May I express my sincerest apologies for my blog hiatus?

Some of you may know that I just recently finished graduate school (Hello, MS RD!) and traveled a bit in both Central and South America before settling down into the real world. My travel adventures were extended a tad, as I felt that my month in Costa Rica just wasn’t enough.

DSCN3326

I had probably the most wonderful month of my entire life during my 200 HR Yoga Teacher Training, where I learned SO much about myself, yoga, mindful eating, and Central America in general (well, mostly just Costa Rica). However, I felt a bit isolated in the gorgeous town of Santa Teresa, which essentially has one dirt road in and out of the town. Santa Teresa is a paradise for yogis, surfers, and really anyone in general, but I wanted to explore more of the jungle scene in Costa Rica, especially during the “green season” (some refer to this as the “rainy season”, but I prefer the more optimistic term).

DSCN3330

So I suited on my Marmot backpack, and got some firsthand experience of solo backpacking in Latin America. During this time, I was also attempting to make a serious effort at reversing the mild protein deficit I had experienced during teacher training.

Here are five of the foods I ate while backpacking, which require NO cooking and are super cheap. Backpackers are ballin’ on a budget, and while many hostels have kitchens, I found that some lack stoves, ovens, or don’t have kitchens at all.

  • Avocado Toast: Avocado toast maybe #trendyAF right now, but I found this to be my favorite backpacking snack. Not only were avocados very easy to get, but they were actually ripe already! This literally NEVER happens in the States. In fact, I bought three avocados a week ago from the grocery store and they still aren’t totally ripe. Plus, they’re relatively cheap as well. Bread, of course, is always quite cheap unless you’re splurging for the artisan kind. My advice- find the best quality whole wheat bread you can find (make sure “Whole Wheat Flour” is the first ingredient! “Enriched flour” is not the same) and look for the kind that is a bit crusty so that you can keep it in your pack without it getting squished. Keep the avocados at the top of your bag so that they don’t get squished either. When hunger strikes, spread about 1/2 of the avocado on one piece of bread each. For extra flavor, a squeeze of lime or sprinkle of salt and black pepper (grab some of those free packets at the airport) go a long way.
  • DIY Canned Salads: Even when staying in hostels without a full kitchen, most will have at least a bowl and can opener. These are just about the only two things you will need to make a delicious salad made solely from canned ingredients. (Tip: Watch for sodium. Canned products typically have lots of salt for preservative purposes. If the water is safe, rinse and drain the contents of each can 2-3 times to cut back. If not, look for no/reduced sodium products.) My favorite salad is a mix of black beans, pinto beans, corn, tomato, and salmon or tunaALL canned. Very little assembly required- rinse and dump into a bowl. Mix together. That’s it. Bonus points for incorporating fresh ingredients like cilantro or lime- which are pretty accessible in Latin America. These salads are packed with protein and very, very cheap. My go-to equation is: 1-2 cans beans/legumes (chickpeas work too), 1 can corn (for starchiness/carbs), 1-2 cans vegetables, and 1 can fish (omit if vegetarian, the beans have a good amount of protein already) These can be eaten alone,  with crackers, or with the nice crusty bread you already bought for the avo toast🙂
  • Hardy fruits: Central America produces an insane amount of the fruit we eat in the States, and it’s quite commonplace there to stumble upon a banana or mango tree. While you can grab a fruit straight of the tree and risk the anger of a tico (local), realize that the close proximity typically makes them pretty cheap to buy. Fruits like pineapple, banana, mango, and kiwi (read: things with mostly inedible skins) are very backpack-stable and make for incredibly easy on the go snacks. Grab a couple, and you might even be able to trade a fellow backpacker for whatever they just grabbed at the super.
  • Fish and Crackers: Cracking open a fresh can of tuna on the public bus may not get you the best looks, but this shelf-stable combo makes for a great blend of carbohydrate and protein. Dairy can be quite expensive, so instead of splurging for cheese and crackers, opt for a can of tuna or salmon along with some of your favorite crackers. Get the kind that can satisfy you on their own, as they make great binders in your stomach while waiting for your next meal at the soda. Plus, if (God forbid) you get food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea, many crackers are bland enough for even the most upset stomach.
  • Oats: Oats are incredibly versatile, as granola, oatmeal or overnight oats. I’m fairly positive that three of the girls on my yoga training ate oats literally every day. Oats are digested slowly, so they stave off hunger thanks to their fiber as well as protein content. Many Central American groceries will have shelf-stable milk, which adds even more protein to the equation when compared with water. If you do have a fridge handy, add about 1/2 cup of milk to 1 cup oats (more or less depending on the consistency you like) and leave overnight. In the morning, you’ll have a nice bowl of overnight oats for breakfast that will keep you full and regular.
  • Bonus tip: Leftovers! Do not deny the power of leftovers. While it is essential to save some money whenever possible, you may never get to experience the country’s cuisine again. So go to the local soda (this is where local cooks made typical (tipico) food for the area, usually for a low price) and go crazy! I had gallo pinto (rice and beans, typically with eggs and tico cheese) almost every single day, but the absolute best one I ever had was from Soda Mima in La Fortuna. One of the other nights, we went to a nice restaurant to celebrate our friend’s departure. Instead of stressing about how expensive it would be, I just let go, forked over 6,000 colones (about $12) for some delicious veggie noodles, and (thanks to my hostel’s mini-fridge) ate them for lunch and dinner the next day. Look for ones that don’t need reheating, as microwaves are a luxury. Refrigerators, however, are pretty common in hostels, so utilize them in order to avoid getting sick. And again-  ENJOY yourself! Pura Vida.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 3.40.09 PM

 

10 Mindful Moments to Incorporate Into Your Day

 

Mindfulness is everywhere nowadays. In schools, in the workplace, and if you’re like me, all over your Facebook feed.

609ae6b9d31e6d2737430050daa96471

While mindfulness, defined as increased awareness to the present moment, is certainly nothing new (practiced for thousands of years in ancient Asian/ Indian traditions) it is definitely having a moment here in the Western world.

If you’ve ever tried to meditate, chances are you don’t think you’re very good at it. In our world of hustle and bustle, it’s very difficult to find time to sit down and quiet the mind. This is especially true when we sit peacefully on the ground for the first time, attempting to silence a brain full of to-do lists, personal emotions, and thoughts that “you probably aren’t doing this right.” I’m here to tell you that if you’re trying, you’re doing it right.

With that being said, it’s understandable that it may be easier for some people to create little pieces of mindfulness throughout the day, rather than trying to set aside 20 minutes of silence in a house full of dogs, three-year olds, or hungry husbands. (I have none of these things and still can’t sit for 20 minutes.)

Here are ten little moments where you can incorporate mindfulness into your hectic, life-filled existence. Pick one or two of them that you think will best fit into your day, and you’re on your way to mindfulness!

  • First thing in the morning: Yeah, you probably could have guessed this one. However, the morning is an amazing time to set aside a few minutes with your coffee or tea, and make an intention for how you would like the day to begin. In yoga practice, we begin most classes with setting an intention. This is intended (get it) to guide the practice and acts as a central space to return to when the mind is wandering. One intention that I love is “I allow the space between where I am and where I want to be, to inspire me, and not terrify me.” This is especially helpful to me on busy days where the workload in front of me seems like too much to handle. I take a step back, reflect on how relieved and accomplished I will feel once all the work is completed, and get to work. Simple ones such as “I will have fun today.” or “I will make today great.” work just as well as long ones.  Find an intention that gives you motivation and positivity for the day ahead.
  • In the shower: We all know how pleasant and calming a long shower can be. Showers are an awesome time to step back from all the screens and technology that we are constantly surrounded by, and make time for yourself. Next time you’re rubbing conditioner through your hair, take a moment to be thankful for the body you’re given. Pick a body part that you’re especially thankful for that day. Examples include: the legs that give you the ability to go anywhere of your choosing, your beautiful hair that makes you feel feminine, or the belly that gave life to your children (man parts work too!🙂 ).
  • Right before leaving the house: This is a great time to acknowledge all the material (and non-material) possessions you have. Instead of rushing out to your car, appreciate things like your ability to make fresh ground coffee for your commute, your animals that will be waiting with smiling faces for your return, and most importantly the home where you can lay your head at night and everything inside of it. You’ve worked hard to earn what you have, take the time to appreciate that.
  • Commute on the way to work: Sometimes the situations that are the most stressful can be opportunities to create peace in chaos. Turn off the music for a song or two, and acknowledge what’s around you. Even places you may not consider “peaceful” or even “pleasant” such as the grocery store can reflect good memories with the right mind. Instead of thinking about how packed it’s going to be at 5:30 pm when you’re finally out of work, think about that one time you made the bagger’s day by asking how he was doing, or the time your friend dropped a gallon of milk in the aisle and you both fell to the floor laughing, or even the bottle of wine you’re planning to buy for your date on Friday night. Then, turn back on your favorite music and enjoy the time spent sitting in the car. If you’re on public transportation, kindly give a quick “have a wonderful day” to the older man reading next to you. Tiny moments like this can give you an invisible cloud of happiness when walking into the office for a rough day ahead.
  • At lunchtime: So many of us rush through lunch, hoping to refuel our bodies quickly and then return to work. Lunch can actually be a great pause to the day in which we focus on nourishing our hard-working body. Eliminate distractions when possible. Turn off your emails for an hour, I promise they’ll still be there when you get back to your desk. Meet up with that friend you always say “Let’s get lunch” to, or on your way out of the office, ask the new IT guy from Kansas to check out the new burger place on the corner. Then spend that time focusing solely on that lunch. If you’re a desk-luncher, turn off your desktop and at least take a few moments to focus on the food you’re eating, where it came from, how it tastes/smells, and how much freaking fun it is to eat yummy food.
  • Mid-afternoon slump: Ah, everyone’s least favorite part of the day. For you 9-5’ers, this typically comes around 3pm where you’ve come to the conclusion that a new task can’t be done by 5, but you’re not totally sure how to best utilize your time unless you’re fully immersed in your work. Now is a great time to take a walk outside. Appreciate the weather outside that you can’t see from your cubicle. Walk to a nearby coffee shop to use the bathroom and get a quick glass of water. If you’re confined to your workspace, close your tabs, and take a few minutes to listen to calming music to re-center. Come back to the intention you created in the morning. A quick reminder that you began making this day peaceful and productive can completely refocus your thought patterns.
  • During your workout: Workouts can be an incredibly meditative time for people. I find focus and clarity during a long yoga session, especially during savasana (if you don’t know what this is, go to a yoga class! Alright.. Spoiler: it’s the final pose at the end of the practice where you lay completely down and take in all the work that you’ve just done) For some people, running is a great way to calm the mind and block out negativity. If you’re not huge on working out, take a long walk. Appreciate your surroundings, the feeling of asphalt beneath your shoes, the kind wave from your neighbor as you’re walking by. As long as you’re in the present moment, you are practicing mindfulness. Once your workout is over, thank your body for how it performed, how it took you to a new place, and how gracious you are to be exactly how you are at that moment, be it sweaty, out of breath, or even just a teeny bit calmer.
  • Before Dinner: I’ve found that this is a huge way where people find they can incorporate a little mindfulness. You probably already do it. One of the most beautiful pre-dinner meditations I’ve experienced was at one of my friend’s house as she gave the blessing for the dinner I had cooked for her and a few of our other friends. To her, she was doing her typical Baptist prayer before a meal. She acknowledged the process that it took for the food to come to the table, how great it was that we were all together to share a meal, and a gracious request for continued blessings such as the one we were experiencing. This allowed all of us involved to verbally acknowledge how blessed we were to share this meal together. If you already have a pre-dinner ritual, keep it going! If you don’t, now is a great time to start.
  • During your nighttime rituals: You probably don’t even realize that you have nighttime rituals. But even “mindless” tasks can be refocused into pleasant mindful experiences. When taking your contacts out, show gratitude for the science and technology that allows you to see like you used to. When putting anti-wrinkle cream, fully feel your fingers on your face, filling each line with softness. When putting your dog into his crate for the night, silently thank him for being a furry face to wake up to. Lock your doors with the thought that you are safe, and you are protected.
  • Right before bed: Yeah, you probably saw this one coming too. This one is probably my personal favorite. I typically do a mini-flow of yoga (mostly really slow sun salutations) followed by a suuuper long child’s pose where I reflect on the day with zero distractions (as I am literally face first into my carpet with my eyes closed, making it pretty hard to see anything else.) Have a moment of gratitude for the day you just endured, the fact that you woke up this morning, and acknowledge that even if all you did that day was breathe, you are blessed.

 

DSCN2146

Cayenne Pepper Hummus

Hummus is an incredible staple in any plant-based food pyramid (ps. the food pyramid is extremely outdated. don’t listen to the food pyramid. just don’t.) And while there are a few brands available in the grocery store today, hummus is so insanely easy that there’s actually no excuse to not make it yourself.

IMG_1585

However, I do understand expectation vs. reality, and sometimes getting store-bought is simply the more convenient move. I get it. BUT, when you make it yourself you get the benefit of adding as much/little of literally anything. And it’s really just putting a bunch of ingredients in a food processor and pulsing. Very little clean-up necessary.

To me, hummus is either reeeaaaalllly garlicky, or not garlicky at all. And I like garlic. So in this one, I kept the raw stuff in the hummus itself, and topped it with roasted garlic, which is much milder in flavor but still rich in depth.

image2

It’s also topped with olive oil, chopped cilantro, and only the coolest ingredient ever, fresh cayenne pepper.

I got a cayenne pepper plant from my brother this Christmas, along with some other plants, and this is the first to actually be successful! One day, I realized that three of the larger leaves were actually just tiny little green peppers! I play around in my mother’s garden a lot (which is amazing, btw.) but I had never actually used the fruits of my own garden labor in cooking, and I think it was a huge success🙂

DSCN2123

My first concern was, how hot are these really? When most of us hear “cayenne pepper” we think of the orange-red spice found in most households, especially those that cook with Cajun or Creole influence. Dried cayenne pepper is in many spice blends, as it has a really nice flavor that most of us can recognize pretty quickly. So while I could have tied them up in a window to dry out (as most of my Google Search suggested) I decided to use them whole and give them the recognition they deserve!

Upon even more Google searching, I learned that cayenne peppers essentially fall between jalapeños and habaneros in terms of heat. That seemed a little hot for me. In my experience, jalapeños either make my tongue incapable of tasting anything other than fire, or they don’t taste spicy whatsoever. This happens with a lot of peppers, and tasting them raw is really the best way to tell exactly how hot a pepper will be. I plucked these off my little cayenne plant, cut the top off, gave it a lick, decided it wasn’t really too hot at all and got to work!

I chose to use the cayenne pepper not only in the hummus itself, but also chopped up into a chili-garlic-oil topping that really brings this dip to another level. Two dimensions of cayenne pepper. Three if you include the optional cayenne pepper from your spice cabinet.

image1-1

So remember (a few paragraphs up) when I said hummus was easy to make…

Well it is, unless you decide to take off the skins to make it smoother. I remembered hearing this little tip somewhere, and (again) did a Google search to figure out if this really was the move to make. I found a few different directions: some about soaking them in baking-soda-water first to help loosen the skins, to cook them completely, or to peel the skins off one by one. Peeling the skins off one by one was clearly the one that would take the most time and effort, yet it was the one that I chose.

DSCN2127

I’ve made hummus before, but never had I taken the time to go through this peeling process. I have a strange spot in my heart for monotonous tasks such as these in the kitchen. If you need someone to chop and peel five pounds of carrots, I’m your girl. I have minced an insane amount of garlic cloves in my short 23 years on earth, but I still enjoy mincing garlic, grating cheese, or chopping an onion. (Okay I lied, I hate chopping onions because my eyes are super sensitive and my mascara runs down my face. But everything else was the truth.) Being in the kitchen is truly my therapy. It helps me unwind after a long day, and taking the time to create something real and sustainable makes me happy inside as well as takes care of me nutritionally. Feeling the chickpeas between my fingers, smelling the roasted garlic, and drinking a glass of wine on the side just feels so peaceful and almost meditative.

So I took this task in stride, threw on my apron, turned on Hozier Pandora, and peeled two cans worth of chickpeas. 30 minutes later, my fingers had pruned, but I was incredibly satisfied with the large pile of chickpea skins that I had accumulated. I call them chickpea skins for your own sanity, but I will now refer to them as chickpea condoms because that’s exactly what they looked and felt like. Chickpea condoms. Do you really want that in your hummus?

DSCN2131

As always, I digress.

However, I am honestly not sure if the time spent in de-condoming each of these little pulses was really worth the end product. It’s a bit smoother, but not significantly more so than hummus I have made in the past. So it is up to you. Peel or not to peel. The hummus is good either way.

DSCN2139

DSCN2142

A good dip is only as good as what’s being dipped into it. So serve this along side some fresh, crisp veggies (none of that limp shit around here), crackers, chips, or pita bread. I served mine with some red pepper crackers, carrots, radish, celery, and naan chips that I made by cutting up a garlic naan bread into triangles and baking in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. They were amazing, especially with the subtle roasted garlic in the hummus. This can also be done with pita bread, and I highly recommend it.

DSCN2148

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans (15.5 oz) chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 5 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 Tablespoons tahini
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 small fresh cayenne peppers, or 1 medium chili pepper of choice
  • Small handful cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

  • Roast the garlic. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap three cloves of garlic in aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes. Side effect: makes your kitchen smell amazing.
  • Make the cayenne pepper- roasted garlic oil: Finely slice or chop 2-3 cayenne peppers (0r 1/2 one medium chili pepper) and place into a small ramekin. Keep or discard the seeds depending on your spice preference. Add 1 Tbsp extra virgin-olive oil and let this infuse while the garlic is roasting. Once the roasted garlic is ready, mince it and add to the cayenne pepper oil. Add 1 Tbsp minced cilantro and whisk to combine.
  • Make the hummus: In a food processor, add chickpeas, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 4 Tbsp tahini, remaining 2 cloves garlic, one chopped fresh cayenne pepper (or remaining 1/2 one medium chili pepper), lemon juice, remaining cilantro, salt, pepper, cumin, and dried cayenne pepper.  Run through the food processor, adding in a drizzle of the remaining olive oil while it is pulsing. (You may need more depending on how thick you like your hummus.) One the mixture is at its desired consistency, place into a bowl and top with the cayenne pepper-roasted garlic oil.

DSCN2146

Happy dipping!

-Pam

IMG_1212-0

Shrimp Stuffed Avocado

This “tapa” (also known as small plate) has the perfect blend of nutrients to keep you satisfied alllll day.  

  
Shrimp is honestly packed with protein, especially considering its negligible fat and calorie content. I loooove perfectly cooked shrimp- tender but not too firm (Don’t overcook seafood- cooking 101).  The best shrimp I’ve ever had was from a man walking through my campsite last Spring in Savannah, GA. He had just caught them that morning, and was selling them for a great price. We dropped that wild Georgia shrimp one-by-one into a tiny portable stove, and seasoned it with lemon juice and salt. I can almost still taste it. 

So when I was in Fresh Market recently, they were having a decent sale on Wild caught shrimp, so I picked up half a pound for myself. I used it in this amazing Shrimp Pad Thai that I will be posting the recipe for as well, because it’s incredibly tasty and healthy. 

  
Okay so the protein we got down. Next up is fat. 

As you may already know as a functioning member of 2016, avocados are awesome. Mostly because they’re packed with mono- unsaturated fats which help to lower cholesterol and protect the heart. They also have high amounts of micronutrients like potassium (more than a banana) that help carry out cellular functions. 

As you may also know, avocados are tricky. It feels like they take forever to ripen, but once they do, you had better use it that day or it’s going to go bad. 

   

 
The best way to utilize a bunch of ripe avocados is obviously the mother of all avocado recipes- guacamole. (Ps: I make a great Smoky Guacamole ) 

But riiiiiight before the avocados turn into the soft goodness perfect for guac, they are firm and perfect for salads, salsas, and basically anything Mexican. They are also perfect for stuffing. 

Finally, carbs. You can eat this stuffed avocado with a fork, but I prefer to snack with whole grain tortilla chips or crunchy vegetables. 

  
Ingredients (makes two stuffed avocados)

  • 6 large shrimp, cooked and diced
  • One avocado, halved 
  • 1/2 radish, sliced thin
  • Juice from one lime
  • Small bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

  • Split the avocado in half and remove the pit. Gently, peel away the skin from the avocado, and dice the “avocado meat” into small cubes. Scoop out the remaining avocado (it’s ok if it gets messy here) and place in a bowl. 
  • Add in the diced shrimp, sliced radish, chopped cilantro, lime juice, soy sauce, and pepper. 
  • Mix together and taste, seasoning to your liking. 
  • Scoop the contents of the bowl back into the avocado “shell” 
  • Garnish with extra cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and serve with chips or vegetables. 
IMG_0787

Mexican Lentil Chili

This soup was a total accident. And also one of the greatest tasting meals I’ve made in a long time.

IMG_0790

It’s so funny how that works, sometimes. You have this vision in your head of what you want it to taste/smell/look like, and then you realize that just is not going to happen. Or maybe this just happens to me…

I never follow a recipe completely. This is likely the reason that I am not a good baker- I don’t bother to really measure out a lot of things that I should measure out, and my experiments sometimes fall flat (literally.) Mostly I just add more vegetables and less salt to dishes that I see on various social media sites. (Pinterest, Instagram, or Snapchat)

A note about Snapchat. I used to never watch the “Discover” Snaps (Buzzfeed, CNN, ViceNews, Food Network, Cosmo, etc) but now I am completely hooked on TasteMade’s Discover Snapchat. And every single thing that I’ve made so far from it, including last nights Miso Brown Butter Pasta (check my Instagram for that one), has been delicious.

But this recipe, I found on Pinterest🙂 Pinterest is great for these types of things, as well as how to clean gum off your shoes, make-up contour tutorials, and snowman cotton swabs- to name a few. But one thing I do like about Pinterest, is that its algorithms are (mostly) in tune with your current interests. Mine has evolved from a feed packed with chocolate desserts and fluffy cats in its infancy to what it is now- mostly healthy meals (now more and more vegetarian/vegan) along with yoga inspiration, nutrition infographics, and the occasional lifestyle article about periods or something.

BTW- Here is my Pinterest page

So the original recipe I was somewhat intending to make was Lentil Chili from Little Broken which caught my eye on my Pinterest feed, which I have a bit more discretion on now. I had purchased about all of the necessary items, when I decided to add beans into the mix. While I respected the idea of a full-blown lentil chili, I felt like beans would have given me the actual chili experience, still without having meat in it. (PS: I’m a liiiittle bit vegetarian at the moment, well really plant-based. check my previous posts for more info). I also thought it was interesting that the recipe was focused so entirely on being meatless, but why ditch the beans too?

Side Note: I actually googled “Meatless Meatballs” recently for the dinner I’m planning on making tomorrow. So yeah, Meatless Meatballs are apparently a thing, stay tuned for how that goes.

So adding beans was my first addition. Then I realized I didn’t have chili powder. I didn’t think it would be a huge deal to just use cayenne instead, but after tasting it, I realized it didn’t have the flavor I wanted. So I added cumin, hoping that it would give it a little deeper body. This was the turning point for the nationality of this soup. The cumin did help, but it gave it a real Hispanic flavor (along with perfectly seasoning the onion and red bell pepper). Mexican food is basically my favorite, and I might honestly have previously stated that Tortilla Soup is my favorite soup. HOWEVER, this is my new favorite soup!

Rich, flavorful, satisfying soup. It’s a real thing. And it doesn’t have to be loaded with fat, I’m looking at you, Loaded Baked Potato Soup.

IMG_0784

While I may have strayed from the original recipe, I did follow her lead on “thickening soup with soup” aka: taking a little of the soup out, pureeing it in the food processor, and adding it back to the soup for thickness.

That was definitely the move.

So are the toppings. I used what I had on hand- avocado, thinly sliced radish, cilantro, cheddar cheese, scallions, and croutons. I’d definitely recommend something crunchy (tortilla chips would be good, I had bread laying around so I made some croutons) as well as something creamy (sour cream, avocado, cheese) and something green (sliced green onion, cilantro, etc.).

IMG_0787

Mexican Lentil Chili

Ingredients: (Feeds 4- Double up if you’re bringing to a party. They’ll thank you later)

  • 1 TBSP EVOO
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (omit if you don’t like spice)
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 6 oz lentils
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 carton (32 oz) vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Additional toppings: shredded cheese, avocado, sliced radish, tortilla chips, croutons, sour cream, etc

Instructions:

  • In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, stirring until slightly browned, about 8 minutes.
  • Add in minced garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Stir and saute for about 1 minute.
  • Add vegetable stock, lentils, beans, tomatoes, and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then let simmer covered for 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are tender and have expanded.
  • Take off heat, remove bay leaf and take 1-2 cups of the liquid (depending on how thick you like it. I go for about 1.5 cups) and place into a food processor or blender. Process until pureed. (Alternatively use an immersion blender). Add the pureed soup back into the chili and stir together. Mix in about half the cilantro and the whites of the scallions. Taste and season.
  • Top to your hearts desire with avocado, radish, shredded cheese, cilantro, tortilla chips/croutons, sliced scallions, and a squeeze of lime.

 

I’ve stopped cooking meat, but I’m not a Vegetarian

Yes you read right. I have stopped cooking meat, but don’t go calling me a vegetarian and what-not.

12391090_10153914112240962_3787528174183759457_n.jpg

Confusing? Hypocritical? Maybe.

I mentioned my mini-revelation in my last post, but I’ll go over it briefly to further illustrate my point.

So my family (Mom and Step-dad) have 14 chickens. We live 5 minutes away from the beach as well as a bustling downtown (Voted Most Fun Small Town of Delray Beach, anyone?) so it’s odd to people living in the city that we have chickens. My whole street is like this. My next door neighbors have chickens, across from there is some goats and ponies, as well as other goats/4-legged furry friends sprinkled across the privately-owned street. The thing is, we used to have 16 chickens. (8 of them are babies, well really “adolescent” chickens that have started to really grow larger feathers and blossom into their menstruating selves soon enough) but recently two of the larger ones (about 4 years old) were killed by an animal (we think racoon) when they were accidentally left outside at night.

Things happen. Chickens die. But it got to me. I told one of my friends about it, and he comforted me, saying that at least they had this nice life of roaming around my yard instead of being born-and-raised solely to be food. I went on with my life, and ate a Chik-Fil-A sandwich the next day without even noticing.

But subconsciously I was drawn to a meatless existence. I was flipping through my two newest cookbooks (that I COMPLETELY recommend- Thug Kitchen Cookbook and V is for Vegetables ) and was enticed by the vegan and vegetarian recipes (Thug Kitchen is completely vegan. V is for Vegetables is plant-based with some meat recipes in there, but many remain vegetarian or vegan. But I’ll get to that later.)

I’d been doing Meatless Monday for a few months, and had at least experimented with using plant protein in my cooking so far. So when I came back to Alabama to begin my last semester of graduate school, I decided to go vegetarian. I didn’t buy any meat from the grocery store, and I would come in with about 3 recipes in mind, then proceed to make use of the leftovers.

Screen shot 2016-02-03 at 11.53.28 AM.png

Screen shot 2016-02-03 at 11.54.05 AM.png

Screen shot 2016-02-03 at 11.53.50 AM.png

(See?! How good do those look?! No meat to be found.)

Anyway, back to how I am not a vegetarian.

Last week, my nutrition girls invited me over for a cooking/wine night, as we have talked about probably twenty times before. While I considered making a vegetarian dish, I opted for a mostly plant-based meal with a small filet of salmon, for healthy fats and protein.

Screen shot 2016-02-03 at 11.58.01 AM.png

While they may have been receptive to a completely vegetarian meal, they really enjoyed this one and I did too! I started to second-guess my vegetarian lifestyle in its infancy! But I realized- the decisions I am already making, if only 75% vegetarian, are contributing to the ethical reasons behind the ideology, such as improving my carbon footprint, decreasing animal suffering, and just a recognized idea that you don’t actually need meat all the time. (Btw: you really should only be having about 3-5 ounces of meat a day. We in America far exceed that recommendation)

The fact that I allow myself to have meat when out with friends, at a restaurant, or even cooking for a dinner date, means that I allow myself to have it as a treat, and I feel that I respect it more that way. I respect the animal by taking the time to acknowledge it for what it is, and enjoying every single bit of it, rather than mindlessly consuming it.

The chef-author of V is for Vegetables, Michael Anthony says it best as this:

” To have a healthy farm, you need a healthy cycle of elements that includes livestock. It is only in meat-centric America that we think loving vegetables inevitably means hating meat. But I like eating well, I like living well, and I do not believe in a cuisine of deprivation. I believe in finding a better balance. For me, cooking with vegetables is not a political act; it’s an enlightened way of thinking.”

I think this is the point I have been trying to make all along. I don’t think it’s wrong to consume meat. I really don’t. But I also don’t think its completely necessary for us to be eating meat all the time. It is extremely possible for us to satisfy ourselves with the vast multitude of vegetables, legumes, fruit, and seeds out there.

I eat meat when I want to eat meat. and I don’t eat meat when I don’t want to eat meat. It just so happens that the latter gives me the most pleasure. I take joy out of having a plant-based lifestyle.

And pleasure is the most important part! If what you’re eating is not giving you pleasure, don’t eat it!

However, I can promise you, there are about a million ways to make plants give you pleasure.