its that time of year again….

Chicago surprised us with a chilly weekend which has me REALLY excited about Fall. Sweaters, boots, scarfs, warm soups, stews, lots of baking, and…. pumpkin spiced things.

I usually treat myself to 1 Pumpkin Spiced Latte from Starbucks each year. and then, after finishing it, I suffer from buyers remorse because I think of all of that sugar, non-organic almond or soy milk they use, and the likely scary ingredients included in their “pumpkin spice” flavoring.

This year, especially Friday as I was wandering the streets of Chicago enjoying the sudden crisp in the air, I decided that  I would just make my own pumpkin spiced things so that I wouldnt have to deal with that buyers remorse anymore. Plus, making my own means that I can enjoy more of this Fall flavor over the course of the next couple of months.

Lucky for me, one of my favorite bloggers, 100 Days of Real Food, posted these recipes on Facebook last week, which timed out perfectly.

I took her general recipe and tweaked it a bit:

3/4 cup steamed Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk
2 shots espresso or coffee (I like strong coffee drinks; you could use 1 shot if you want it a little milder)
1 tsp Organic Maple Syrup
1 tbls Organic Pureed Pumpkin
1/4 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (I made my own using this recipe from another favorite blogger, My Baking Addiction)

and the result? a delicious pumpkin-y morning drink without the worry.

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I’m going to continue playing around with this recipe along with other pumpkin spiced recipes as Fall approaches….

recipe: gazpacho & cheese toast.

Its been quite hot here in LA. While most people think that LA temps hover around 72 degrees year round.. that’s not the case in the summer months! We have been hitting some pretty high temperatures which makes for a warm home (we do not have air conditioning or proper insulation). This poses a bit of an issue with cooking or baking because turning the oven on is the last thing you want to do when your house is already blazing hot. This time of year is when I start relying on crock pot recipes and recipes for foods with minimal cooking.

Yesterday was warm (although not nearly as hot at the weekend and days prior) and I wasnt really in the mood to do much cooking that involved being over the hot stove or turning on the oven for too long.

For some reason I started craving gazpacho. That cold, tomato goodness sounded perfect for a hot evening.
Aaron isnt big on cold meals… so I wanted to make sure there was at least one element to dinner that was warm and “cooked” for him.

The end result was fantastic (and easy!) gazpacho with cheese & herbed toast:

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Not only did the gazpacho turn out delicious, but it was SO easy to make and ended up making enough for either 2 dinners or a dinner and 2 lunches. I love that!

Gazpacho
(recipe slightly adapted from MattBites.com)

3 large heirloom tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 large green bell pepper
2 tbls red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste

1. chop up the tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper into small pieces (it doesnt have to be perfect!) and throw them into your Vitamix blender (this is the model we have, and love). Add the peeled garlic cloves (they can be whole) and red wine vinegar to the blender and blend until the mixture becomes a smooth liquid.

2. once blended, taste the mixture. Add more red wine vinegar if needed.

3. add the olive oil and salt (depending on how much it needs) and blend again until smooth.

4. taste one final time, and add salt/vinegar if needed.

5. pour mixture into bowl, pitcher, individual Weck jars (as I did), or even Mason Jars. Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

6. remove from refrigerator and serve. optional: top with diced avocado, sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes, pinch of flaky sea salt, etc. Enjoy!

IMG_3314just look at all of those beautiful summer colors!

For the cheese toast– smear a slice of ciabatta or sourdough with a butter-olive oil-herbs of choice mixture (we used cumin, oregano, pepper) and top with muenster cheese. bake until warm/melted and then broil until the cheese bubbles.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip cookies.

I have been craving some homemade cookies. I havent had the time to bake any due to school, homework, studying, etc….. but since it was the weekend I figured I could find some time to bake while I working on my lengthy Lab Report for Biology. Taking breaks to step away from a Lab Report to bake some cookies sounded like a perfect idea.

I gave Aaron two options:
1. I could make Chocolate Zucchini cookies, OR
2. I could try out a new recipe and bake some Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip cookies.

He chose option number 2.

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies
(recipe from Zesty Cook who got it from Sallys Baking Addiction)

Ingredients:
2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used unbleached all-purpose; next time I will use whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) organic salted butter, softened
1 cup organic light brown sugar
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1 organic, free range egg, at room temperature
1 organic, free range egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
16 wrapped caramels, cut into 4 or 5 pieces each (I used Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels; make sure the ones you choose dont contain High Fructose Corn Syrup or Hydrogenated Oils!)
flaky sea salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

With an electric mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until a dough forms (may take a couple minutes of stirring). Fold in the chocolate chips (do not add the caramels yet). Do not over mix the dough at any point in this process.

Chill dough for at least 30 minutes (or overnight) in the refrigerator. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto un-greased baking sheet (I used a Silpat which made clean up a breeze). Press a few pieces of caramel onto the tops of the cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. The centers should appear very soft and puffy. Sprinkle each cookie generously with sea salt while they are warm.  Enjoy!

*Make sure to keep dough cold at all times while the batches are baking. I kept my dough in the refrigerator in between batches.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

YogaWorks 300hr Professional Program Final Project

When I found out that we had to do a final project for the YogaWorks 300hr Professional Program I, of course, gravitated towards something food related. I remember being pretty fascinated with how my mentor Joan Hyman ate during our 200hr Teacher Training last year so I thought: “hmm, I wonder what other Los Angeles based yoga instructors eat?”

I ended up “interviewing” a handful of YogaWorks senior teachers asking them 7 questions:
#1. Do you follow any type of “diet” or “eating lifestyle” such as vegetarian, vegan,  raw, Ayurveda, etc? If so, do you care to share your thoughts on how this improves your over-all health and practice?

#2. What is your go-to meal or snack that you feel fuels your body before a yoga class? Or do you practice in the morning before eating anything at all?

#3. What is your favorite post-yoga meal or snack?

#4. If you go out to eat in Los Angeles, where do you like to go? Is there any specific reason you choose this particular establishment?

#5. Is there one food item that you feel you cannot live without?

#6. I’m asking everyone to share one of your favorite recipes. It can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, or even dessert; it can be simple or complex. Whatever you love to cook at home that you feel is a good representation of your preferred way of eating and contributes to your overall health and yoga practice.

#7. Do you have any tips or suggestions regarding food, health, and how you feel this relates to yoga?

 
I compiled the answers and organized them in a little pamphlet-type-book titled food & yoga and I am really happy with how it turned out! I love how similar these teachers answers are and I also love that I agree with so much of what they had to say.

I presented this to my 300hr TT group as well as my mentor this past weekend and I wanted to share it with you:

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f&y pg2f&y pg3f&y pg4f&y pg5f&y pg6f&y pg7food&yoga pg8

A special thanks to Joan Hyman, Carmen Fitzgibbon, Anne Van Valkenburg, Kia Miller, Lisa Walford, and Jennifer Elliott for their contribution to this project!

recipe: Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

These cookies are delicious. DELICIOUS!
I absolutely love them! and no, you cannot tell they contain zucchini at all.

If youre craving a gooey, chocolatey cookie but done want something completely unhealthy; these would be a great option. These satisfy any sugar or chocolate craving without loads of guilt (or trans fats or preservatives).

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies
(from Tasty Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 tbls unsalted butter (vegan butter works too)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1 large, free range egg
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup confectioners sugar (for rolling the dough in)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*
In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder and whisk or sift to combine. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the butter, vanilla extract and sugars. Use a stand or hand mixer to mix until creamy. Add the egg and shredded zucchini and mix just until combined. Pour in the flour mixture (I typically do this in thirds) and mix just until combined. Add the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips, mix to integrate into dough.

If desired, sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on a plate so you can roll the balls of cookie dough in the sugar. Roll the dough into balls and roll them in the sugar if desired. Space cookie dough evenly on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled cookie sheet.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes.

recipe: Whole Wheat Zucchini & Applesauce Muffins

You already know my feelings on having healthy, filling muffins around the house. Here is yet another wonderful muffin recipe that I love and make often.

Whole Wheat Zucchini & Applesauce Muffins
(adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded zucchici
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup applesauce (homemade, or unsweetened organic if store-bought)
2 large, free range eggs
1/3 cup walnut or flaxseed oil (I strongly suggest avoiding canola oil)
1 tablespoon + 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*
Combine flour and the next 5 ingredients (through baking powder) in a large bowl, stir well.
Combine zucchini, applesauce, eggs, walnut oil, and vanilla in a smaller bowl; add to dry ingredients.
Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake at 350* for 17 minutes. If using loaf pans: divide batter evenly between 2 loaf pans and bake at 350* for 1 hour 15 minutes.

*the baked muffins freeze well.

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a day of cooking & baking.

We try to keep a variety of food in the freezer for daily use. Sauces, soups, muffins, cookie dough, fresh fish, etc that we can defrost and use on the days that making everything from scratch just doesnt work.

Our food reserves were running a little low, so we chose to have a “cooking & baking” day yesterday in order to stockpile some foods for the coming weeks. I try to have a freshly cooked homemade meal ready for Aaron when he comes home from work, but there are days when time just wont allow it. So, on these days, I rely on our freezer to help me with a homemade meal.

Yesterday morning while drinking our coffee, Aaron and I made out our grocery list and Aaron went to Whole Foods before things got too crazy (we have learned that its simply not worth going to the Whole Foods by our house on a weekend afternoon).

Aaron came home with our bounty and then we piled everything up on the counter top.  I added the items from our CSA that we were planning on using and then divided everything up based on which recipe it would be going with (organization is key!)

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Yesterday we made:
Spicy Tomato Soup
Roasted Tomato & Garlic Marinara (to be used as pizza or pasta sauce)
Spicy Chipotle Hummus
Whole Wheat Zucchini & Applesauce Muffins
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies
Pizza Dough

Instead of putting all of the recipes on one single blog post, I decided to write up the recipes separately so that they are easier to reference.

Aaron and I plan to have one of these “baking & cooking” days about once a month or so in order to keep a decent amount of food in our stockpile. While, yes, it did take all day. We also had fun doing it. We were able to schedule the recipes out so that while one thing was cooking, the other person was prepping the next recipe or doing the dishes (and boy, did we do a lot of dishes yesterday!) We were also able to have the football game going, once the afternoon rolled around we popped open a beer, and just had fun being around the house doing two of the things that we love to do: cook & bake.

Bran Muffins, a snacking staple to have around the house.

I always like to have some healthy, filling muffins around the house (and in the freezer!) for snacks, additions to breakfast, or even dessert.
So I’m pretty much always on the hunt for new muffin recipes to try out.

I tried this recipe for Bran Muffins that I found at 101 Cookbooks, yesterday.
It turned out great! Most and slightly fluffy but with the density you expect from a good bran muffin. I added walnuts and dried cranberries to mine… but the sky is the limit for what you can put in them.

Yogurt & Honey Bran Muffins
(recipe from 101 Cookbooks, who adapted the recipe from the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons raw natural cane sugar OR brown sugar
2 cups full fat yogurt (I used Fage greek yogurt)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey, preferably a light honey such as clover
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup of add-ins of your choice – dried cranberries, walnuts, etc (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F degrees, racks in the middle.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, wheat bran, salt, baking soda and sugar.

Beat together the yogurt, egg, honey, and butter in a second larger bowl. Add the dry ingredients and fold in until everything comes together. Fold in any optional add-ins, raisins, nuts, and the like. Resist overmixing.

Either grease a muffin tin with butter or line the tin with muffin liners.
Fill each 3/4 full. Bake 12 -17 minutes, until muffins are golden on top and cooked through.

Makes about one dozen larger muffins OR about 18 regular sized muffins.

and, these pair great with a hot cup of French Press coffee… which is exactly how I am enjoying mine this morning.

cinnamon pear & apple-sauce.

We ended up with a lot of pears and apples after our last produce delivery. So many that I knew we wouldnt be able to eat all of them before they started going bad.

I had planned on making my go-to Pear & Apple Crumble….. but for some reason I wasnt really feeling it. Maybe it was because I had just baked a huge batch of Chocolate Chip cookies? or maybe I just wasnt in a crumble mood?

Instead, I decided to cut up the pears and apples, sprinkle them with a light coating of sugar, squeeze some lemon juice on them (to prevent them from oxidizing) and I let them sit in the fridge overnight.

Then, yesterday morning I put them in the crock pot along with some water, a tiny bit of brown sugar, and a cinnamon stick and I let them cook on low for about 6 hours. I fished out the cinnamon stick and then used my immersion blender to blend it all together.

The end result?
delicious Cinnamon Pear & Apple-Sauce:

Cinnamon Pear & Apple Sauce:

3 or 4 apples, cut into chunks (I left the skins on)
4 or 5 pears, skinned, and cut into chunks
granulated sugar (I eyeballed it, but I think it was about 1/4 cup)
juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
sprinkle of ground cinnamon

Toss cut up pears and apples in a bowl with granulated sugar and lemon juice.
Put contents into crockpot and add brown sugar, cinnamon stick, and ground cinnamon (to taste).
Cook on low for approx 6 hours.
Blend together.
Refrigerate.
Enjoy.

Chocolate Zucchini Cookies.

I tried this recipe out last night and it. is. fantastic. 
Its the perfect treat if you’re in the mood for some reasonably healthy, chocolatey goodness.
They taste like gooey brownies…. and you cant even tell there is zucchini in them.

Chocolate Zucchini Cookies
Prep Time: 10 m | Cook Time: 14 m | Makes: 24

Ingredients:
1-¼ cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
½ cups Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
½ cups Brown Sugar
½ cups White Cane Sugar
1 whole Egg
1 cup Shredded Zucchini
½ cups Walnuts, Chopped (optional)
1 cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
⅓ cups Confectioner’s Sugar (for Rolling The Dough In)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder and whisk or sift to combine. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the butter, vanilla extract and sugars. Use a stand or hand mixer to mix until creamy. Add the egg and shredded zucchini and mix just until combined. Pour in the flour mixture (I typically do this in thirds) and mix just until combined. Add the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips, mix to integrate into dough.

If desired, sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on a plate so you can roll the balls of cookie dough in the sugar. Roll the dough into balls and roll them in the sugar if desired. Space cookie dough evenly on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes.

Source: Tasty Kitchen