SoulShine Farms & Thai Turkey Wraps

 

Let’s face it. Right around day 20 of Whole30, food starts to get a little boring. You’ve probably realized that most of what you rely on for convenience is noncompliant. You might’ve eaten a million or more eggs, and the idea of most food might just turn your stomach. I try to plan for this food boredom and fight the desire to give up by trying a few new recipes or tinkering with an old one. I recently got some AMAZING, light & crunchy microgreens from a local farm, SOULSHINE FARMS.

SoulShine Farms is a local farm located here, in Lynchburg, VA, growing all kinds of micro greens and sprouts. These little guys are superfoods, filled with tons of the good stuff, even as much as 4-40 times more nutrients than full grown plants! Just some of what you’ll find in the shoots are vitamins a, b, c, e, k, folic acid, calcium, iron, manganese, and protein. I had no idea the punch they pack, but it makes this semi-vegetarian very happy to see a full amino acid profile and up to 20% protein. It’s even extra awesome to be able to get them grown locally, organically, and non-geo. But the thing I really love is they’re a backyard farm, utilizing the space that would otherwise just be grass. It’s really refreshing and encouraging to see this kind of thing in our little city. You can pick up their goodies at the Lynchburg Farmer’s Market, the Health Nut, or place special orders with Dustin. Head over to Instagram to enter a local giveaway for a sample of these products!

Here’s a recipe I love, topped with some of the pea shoots from the farm. It got rave reviews from family & friends! I made it with two dipping sauces, one spicy & one creamy (Think salsa and sour cream when you’re eating Mexican). Hope you enjoy!

Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4

1 lb ground turkey
1 head butter or bibb lettuce
1 can water chestnuts
2 cups sliced white mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup coconut aminos
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp Red Boat fish sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Toppings
Soul Shine Farms pea shoots
shredded red cabbage
avocado
grated carrots
sesame seeds

Brown the turkey in oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Drain the excess fat. Add the mushrooms, scallions, garlic and water chestnuts, and cook until the mushrooms soften. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut aminos, onion, ginger, and sauces, and over the turkey mixture and cook 1 minute. Season to taste and serve with toppings and sauces ready to assemble. 

Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1 green onion
1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
juice of 1 lime
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender until fully combined.

Spicy Thai Dipping Sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp Red Boat fish sauce
2 garlic cloves
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tbsp mustard
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender until fully combined.

Peppermint Marshmallows & Paleo Hot Cocoa

Yes, I do try to eat as close to a paleo/whole30 diet as possible, but c’mon.. it’s almost Christmas. That means I get to throw away some of my norms in the spirit of celebration and enjoy my winter favorites. I figure that if I get to each these absolutely amazing marshmallows on top of paleo hot chocolate, I’ll be about halfway there. That counts as trying, right?

If you haven’t had homemade marshmallows before, stop everything you’re doing and make them right now. Your mind will be blown. The best part is you have very little active work to do and there aren’t many dirty dishes in the end. I used a pretty standard recipe, then can flavored them to my liking. Because my sole purpose for these babies is to add to my hot chocolate, I went with peppermint DoTerra essential oil. YUM.


 

Paleo Hot Cocoa
Serves 2
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (feel free to substitute your favorite paleo compliant milks)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp honey or agave

Bring all ingredients to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally. Top with homemade marshmallows and crushed up candy canes!

Peppermint Marshmallows
3 packages unsweetened gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
1 cup sugar
1 cup light karo syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 drops peppermint essential oil
1 cup powdered sugar
Watch this video to see the process & some helpful tips!

Mix together 1/2 cup cold water and gelatin in the bowl for your mixer. Allow to stand untouched while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

In a heavy bottomed pan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and remaining water over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then allow to continue simmering without stirring, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees. Immediately remove from heat.

Using the whisk attachment on low, mix the gelatin and water mixture, then slowly pour the syrup mixture down the side of the bowl. Turn the mixer on medium-high and allow to whisk for 12-14 minutes. It will be thick and creamy. Add the vanilla and peppermint, and whisk again for the final minute. 

Sift powdered sugar into a large 9×12 pan, then lay parchment paper along the bottom of the pan. Sift more powdered sugar on top of the parchment. Gently pour the marshmallow into the pan and smooth the top with the back side of a large spoon. Sift more powdered sugar on top, then allow to sit uncovered at room temperature overnight. Cut them into squares and dust with a little more powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies with Orange Glaze

Winter is here, and I’m in full baking mode. I honestly don’t even enjoy baking all that much, but at this time of year, something makes me want to fill the house with smells of cakes, cookies, and fresh baked bread. Having some fun with seasonal ingredients, I used my favorite basic chocolate chip cookie recipe from Smitten Kitchen and made a few changes. I like to double (or sometimes triple) the recipe, then flash freeze the cookie dough. Whenever I need to make freshly baked cookies, I can take a few or a dozen out and bake them up in a flash!

 


Cookies:
2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 c. white chocolate chips
3/4 c. frozen cranberries

Glaze:
1/2 c. powdered sugar AND EITHER
a. 1 Tbsp water & 2 drops Blood Orange essential oil
OR
b. 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice & 1 tsp orange zest

Preheat your oven to 325 & line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, and continue blending until creamy. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and salt into the bowl, and mix with a large spoon just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and sit in the fridge.

Form golf ball sized rounds and add 3-4 frozen cranberries at a time to each ball as you form it. Freezing the cranberries and combining them as you roll the dough balls will keep cranberries from popping in your hands and spraying all over your face, clothes, and kitchen. Lesson learned the hard way.

Space evenly on the parchment and bake for 12-16 minutes, depending on size. Once cooled, whisk together the glaze ingredients and spoon over the cookies.

 

Pumpkin Spiced Bread

It’s officially fall here in Virginia! And even though I hate to say goodbye to the summer sun, there are so many cozy things about this season that warm my heart. There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are falling, and I love nothing more than to sit lazily around the fire at night, laughing and enjoying sweet time with my family.

Fall flavors are just as important to creating the cozy feeling I love so much. I’m actually tempted to live solely on apple butter and pumpkin pie. Instead, I try to look for every excuse to enjoy those favorite fall flavors into everyday eating, while still making healthier choices. This is a recipe for a lightly sweetened pumpkin bread based on this recipe with a little bit of chocolate and hazelnut fun. It’s made a teensy bit healthier by cutting down on sugars and substituting some whole wheat flour.


Pumpkin Spiced Cake with Chocolate & Hazelnuts
Serves 20, makes 2 loaves

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (unflavored if using canned – see below)
1 tsp coconut oil (or butter or cooking spray)
1/2 cup melting chocolate
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts

Preheat your oven to 350. Using coconut oil, grease two medium loaf pans well. Combine the flours, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs and mix with a hand mixer for about 2 minutes or until fluffy. Stir in the pumpkin puree. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients slowly, continuing to mix on medium until incorporated. Pour mixture into the loaf pans and bake for 50 – 60 minutes. Always test it with a toothpick! Allow to cool.
Roughly chop the hazelnuts. Warm the melting chocolate in the microwave until soft, about 2 minutes, stirring every 30-40 seconds. Spread the chocolate evenly on top of the breads. While it is still soft and warm, top the chocolate with chopped hazelnuts. Allow to cool at room temperature. Slice and serve with a hot cup of coffee!


My favorite way to make pumpkin puree: Preheat oven to 300. Wash the pumpkin, slice in half from top to bottom and remove the stem. Scrape seeds out with a spoon (save them and roast em up or make pumpkin seed butter!) and place each half face down (skins facing up) on a cookie sheet. Bake for about an hour or until you can easily slide a knife through. Once cooled, remove the flesh from the skins and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth. You can freeze in an airtight container or enjoy right away.

 

Whole 30 Vegan “Cheesecake”

It really stinks to be being “that person” who doesn’t eat anything at parties because you’re on a diet. Not only do you have to say no to many of the delicious things right in front of your face, but people will ask questions, lots of questions, about why you aren’t eating. Then you have to explain your diet plan, over and over.  So I thought September would be a quiet month for my first round of Whole30, well enough past the BBQs and parties of summer but still before the fall and winter holiday parties. I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been that hard to get through; I’ve had lots of support from family and friends at events and gatherings. It’s just a little sad when you have to miss out on the more social and fun parts of food, so I wanted to make a delicious snack that would let me join in on the fun! I found a recipe for vegan cheesecake, but needed to make a few changes to make it align with the Whole30 restrictions.

What I like about this recipe: It takes less than 5 minutes of cooking time, so you can make it way ahead of time or whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Plus it actually reminds me more of ice cream cake than cheesecake… so it’s pretty much amazing.

By the way, you’re actually supposed to skip all desserts in order to help break the cycle of cravings, instead of whole30-fying recipes. But you know what? I think it’s ok to figure out a way to get yourself through these 30 days without totally denying yourself of the enjoyment of food. I like food, and I plan on continuing to enjoy it once I’m done with this. At least that’s what I’m telling myself as I eat this tonight.. haha.


Whole 30 Vegan Cheesecake

Crust:
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raw cacao nibs
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup raisins
pinch salt

Cake:
1 1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 large lemon
3 Tbsp coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce

Berry Topping:
1/2 cup mixed berries
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Directions:
Place all crust ingredients into a blender or food processor and pulse until fully broken down and combined. Press into a 6 inch pan.
Rinse out your blender, then add all the cake ingredients into the cake. Blend on medium speed until creamy and dreamy. Taste and check consistency. You may need to add a little more lemon juice or apple sauce to sweeten it.
Mix together the berries and lemon juice and spread on top of the cake.
Freeze at least 4 hours, but let it sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

 

 

Whole 30 : Week 1

Let me just start by saying this: My sister made me do it. The first time she asked me to join in her Whole 30 group, I said no. Hell no, actually. I’ve done diet plans before, and I’ve always had one of two results:

1. I go overboard, become borderline obsessive and it takes over my life (or)
2. I half-heartedly join in, then abandon the plan at the first sight (or smell) of pizza

For those of you who don’t know what Whole30 is, I’ll briefly explain. Whole 30 is a thirty day eating plan based on the book “It Starts with Food,” cutting out sugars, grains, dairy, and processed foods for the entire month. Taken directly from whole30.com :
“Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the “reset” button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life, and your long term health.” 

So what got me on board? I read more about it and heard the stories of other people, and there are a few things that set this plan apart. It’s not a quick solution, just a way to jump start healthier lifestyle choices. And what tipped the scales (literally), is that it isn’t just about the physical effects of following a healthy plan, it’s also about conquering the psychological aspects of eating like habits and cravings. We started September 1st, and I just finished my first week. As a lifelong stress eater, one of the first observations I’ve made is that Whole 30 seems to diminish many of my impulsive eating habits. I plan each meal and snack in advance which means that my food choices haven’t been dependent on or even linked to my emotions. And I have to say, that feels like a really good change. 

A few other observations from this week:
1. I am absolutely astounded by how much I miss bread. I had no idea how reliant I was on it, and going without it for just a few days has been tough, but I’m hopeful that this exercise will help decrease the cravings. Although lately I’m dreaming of eating PB&J sandwiches…
2. Everything, literally everything, has sugar in it. Please take this as a reminder to look at your food labels! I liked to think I was an educated shopper, but I’m still pretty surprised to find sweeteners in some pantry staples.
2. If you do this, expect weird side effects early on. Between my fellow week 1 friends, we’ve experienced everything from moodiness and headaches to fatigue, constipation, and oily skin. I guess it makes sense that initially breaking lifelong habits has manifested in crazy ways, so stay tuned for week 2!

On to more important things. The food! Here’s my favorite dessert/snack plate from this week.


Sweet & Salty Fig Plate

Sweet & Salty Fig Plate

10-12 fresh figs
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 salted pistachios
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp cacao powder
1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 dates (Whole 30) or 1/2 tbsp maple syrup

Coconut flakes: (These are so good I eat them all by themselves!) Preheat oven to 300. Evenly spread the coconut flakes on a cookie sheet. Bake for 6 minutes, removing after 3 minutes to stir them. Allow to cool slightly and sprinkle with sea salt.

Cacao drizzle: Place dates in warm water and allow to soak for 30 minutes. Melt coconut oil in the microwave, and whisk together the oil, cacao powder, and maple syrup. If you’re sticking to Whole 30, soak dates in warm water for about an hour, or to speed up the process, microwave for about a minute. Blend with enough of the water until smooth.

Slice the figs in half and spread on a platter or plate. Drizzle the cacao over the figs, then top with toasted coconuts and pistachios. Cover and refrigerate or enjoy right away!

 

Boozy Fruity Arnold Palmer

When I was a teenager, I used to drink Arnold Palmer Iced Tea/Lemonade pretty much by the gallon. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. I outgrew that phase when I found out that drinking about 10 cups worth of sugar each day really isn’t the best for your health. From time to time, though, there’s nothing better than a nice sweet glass of it. And apparently today is National Lemonade Day. As soon as I found out, I knew I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to celebrate with a nice glass of homemade Arnold Palmer, plus a little something fancy. So here’s the adult version of my childhood favorite to enjoy on a nice hot day, or whenever you have to celebrate a completely legitimate national holiday. Feel free to make it without the booze, and it’ll just be a fruity version of the classic!


Boozy Fruity Arnold Palmer
Makes about 10-12 glasses

2 cups unsweetened iced tea
2 cups lemonade
1 1/2 cup white wine (I used pinot grigio because I had it open)
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 peach, sliced
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1 lemon, divided in two
about 20 mint leaves
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In a small pan, heat water, sugar, ginger, peaches and strawberries. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and cook down for about 5 minutes. This will make a quick infused simple syrup. Strain the fruit and set aside. Pour the syrup into a large pitcher, then add lemonade, iced tea, and white wine. Juice 1/2 lemon and stir in the lemon juice.

Fill glasses with 1/3 cup of the fruit mixture and a few mint leaves and muddle in each glass. Add a few ice cubes to each glass, then fill each from the pitcher. Slice the remaining 1/2 lemon and garnish each glass with a slice. This can be made a day in advance and kept chilling in the refrigerator until you’re ready to service.

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Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie for pretty much forever. There are so many variations on the chocolate chip cookie that it’s difficult to say exactly what makes it perfect. Growing up in New York, I used to go to Italian bakeries and buy these gigantic, chewy, cake-like cookies that were simply amazing. On the other hand, I also always loved those teensy tiny, thick, crispy chocolate chip cookies. Let’s get real, I love everything in between too. I’ve finally come to a conclusion, and it only took me 26 years to get here. There is no such thing as a perfect chocolate chip cookie. GASP! I think there are just too many delicious recipes out there to really choose which is right, or right-er than others. That said, this is my go to chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s a classic, that’s why. They’re certainly not perfect, especially when I make them. I have zero patience for making them uniform, ensuring the exact same number of chips in each perfectly circular cookie, but I use this recipe all the time because pretty much all cookie lovers, even the cookie monster-like connoisseurs, love them.

I started using Smitten Kitchen’s Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe years ago (it’s awesome!), and have made some changes to make it better suited to my tastes and cooking habits. It’s a little bit “healthier” than her recipe because I cut some of the butter and sugar and subbed some whole wheat flour, but let’s face it, it’s a chocolate chip cookie. It’s not going to make you skinny, sorry. In any case, you will definitely enjoy these.


Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 27 cookies (cookies approximately 4 inches wide)

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c salted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325° and cover three cookie sheets with parchment paper. If you only have two cookies sheets (like me), allow one to cool completely before reusing it.

Mix together the flours, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Add the vanilla and eggs and continue blending for another minute or until light. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture a little at a time, continuing to blend. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts if using.

Now listen up – resist the urge to start baking right away. Put the dough in the fridge. It will probably hurt to wait (it KILLS me), but it’ll be worth it. Wait at least 10 or 15 minutes or until the batter has cooled enough to stiffen. Place tablespoon size dough balls onto the parchment paper, with about 4 inches between each one. I can usually fit around 9 cookies on each cookie sheet. Bake for 13-16 minutes. Once out of the oven, allow to cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to finish.

Blog Tour

Getting involved in the blogosphere (is that what it’s called?), has been such a fun and exciting way for me to share my love of cooking and to challenge myself to learn along the way. I’m still new at all of this, but I’m slowly learning. One of the best and most unexpected parts of this journey has been getting to know and connect with other food bloggers. I got an awesome opportunity to be part of this Blog Tour. My friend Jen at MealDiva invited me to participate– Make sure you check out the MealDiva Blog Tour. She makes the most amazing, healthy, and kid approved meals, like these Curry Mango Shrimp with Coconut Rice!!! Curry-Mango-Shrimp-Kabobs
So here’s how the blog tour works: I get to introduce myself differently by answering some questions, then share a few other food blogs I think you definitely should check out. Here I go!


1. What am I working on?
Right now I’m working on a series of blog posts called “All Grown Up,” where I take meals you’d typically think of as kid food and elevate it to something you’d actually want to eat. I’m not sure how this will turn out yet, but it’s been fun experimenting!

2. How does my work differ than others of its genre?
I only post recipes about the food I actually like. This isn’t about syndicating, ad sales, hits per month, or anything like that. When I make something I especially like, I’ll post it. I also like to think there’s something for everyone. I try to prepare balanced meals, and I actively look for ways to make meals healthier, but I don’t have any rules. My family doesn’t follow a specific raw, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, paleo, weight watchers, or any other specific diet, but I can pretty much bet that if you do, you that you can easily find recipes that suit your needs. If you can’t, please let me know and I will definitely work on improving it!

3. Why do I write what I do?
I started this blog as a hobby around the time I became a new at-home mom in a new city. My first idea was for this to be pretty much only about food, but I found that I wanted an outlet to share some of the things I was thinking and experiencing. And since I’m the boss of this blog, I get to write about whatever is on my mind, although usually it’s just pizza.

4. How does my writing process work? There is very little structure to how I work. Sometimes I have a thought that just won’t leave my mind until I write it down, and sometimes a fresh fruit or vegetable just stands out to me. I try not to read cookbooks or cooking magazines too much – I want to cook what I want to eat, which changes all the time!


Here are three other awesome food bloggers you NEED to check out. Immediately. Right now!

The Kitcheneer: Amanda is one smart cookie! She’s an engineer who makes healthy meals your whole family will love. These Tropical Fusion Chicken Tacos look AMAZING!!

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The Huia Tree: Sheryl makes cooking like a pro look like a piece of cake. Literally. Somehow she makes the most amazing recipes seem totally doable for anybody at all! One of my favs is this simple and elegant Rustic Avocado Pistachio Toast.



She Eats : Kristy is hilarious. Seriously. Check out some healthy and fun recipes on her blog! I love her drink recipes, especially these Raspberry Margaritas!
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Creamy Mint Pasta with Rainbow Beets and Peas

 

We’re well into the hot summer weather here in Virginia, and that means my mint plants are OUT OF CONTROL. I love it, but I can’t help feeling just a teensy bit of pressure to use it all, letting none go to waste. That said, I’ve been adding mint to pretty much everything. Sometimes it doesn’t work so well, but sometimes, you get a super delicious and beautiful meal like this. I used the very last of my sweet peas and some absolutely gorgeous rainbow beets I got from our CSA, and I pretty much licked my plate clean.


Creamy Mint Pasta with Rainbow Beets and Peas
Serves 2-3

Mint Cream Sauce:
1 cup milk
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
5-8 mint leaves

Pasta:
1/2 lb thin spagetti
4 small rainbow beets
3/4 cup green peas

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel and thinly slice beets. Parboil the beets and peas by dropping them in the boiling water for about a minute, then remove and set aside. Bring the water back to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until it is just under al dente, about 5 minutes, then drain.

While the pasta is cooking, combine the milk, cheese, butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a sautee pan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the sauce begins to boil, add the beets and peas and continue stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes. Thinly slice the mint and add it and the cooked pasta to the sauce, allowing the pasta to finish cooking and absorb some of the sauce, about 3 minutes. Plate the pasta and top with extra parmesan, pepper, and mint, and enjoy!