main, vegetarian

tofu vegetable coconut curry

Sooooo…. plant based diets. Anyone here follow one? Or thinking about following one? A plant-based diet can be defined as one that focuses on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes, while minimizing or excluding animal food products such as meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy products (1). Vegetarianism and veganism, of course, are not new concepts, but it seems like the movement for consuming less meat has been growing in recent years. To my shame as a dietitian, I honestly never really looked much into the arguments and research for eating a plant-based diet until fairly recently, even though one of the most common personal questions I receive from people when they find out what I do is “so, are you a vegetarian?”

Nutrition is already a complicated science, but it gets even more confuddled when you factor in all the personal opinions, religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and life philosophies that influence eating patterns and choices. I think I kind of avoided the vegetarian thing because I knew once I started researching, it would just be an endless black hole of information and voices that would take forever to sift through. Plus, not only are meats and animal-based foods tasty, they are also central in the traditional cuisine of so many cultures- who is anyone to say that they’ve been doing it wrong all this time? But fairly recently, I found it in myself to actually do the research. I still have more to learn, but I want to briefly outline here the arguments I’ve found so far FOR a more plant-leaning diet. As I’ve mentioned in my posts about sugar, I truly believe that food is a means of enjoying life and therefore I have no interest in a [fill in the blank]-free diet. Meat and animal-based foods have a sacred place in human history and cultural traditions, and I really believe that these foods are there for us to enjoy. Also, it is possible to eat vegetarian/vegan and NOT do it in a healthy way. See this article. Meat and animal-based foods cannot be neatly categorized in the black and white camps of “healthy food” vs. “unhealthy food.” What I am learning from my research, though, is that 1. we in modern day Western cultures do eat far more animal-based foods than we truly need, and 2. it is possible to get all the protein and other nutrients we need without making meats or animal-based foods the central part of our daily meals. I don’t cook much with meat anyways, mostly because I don’t like buying and cooking it, but I have decided to consciously try to eat less animal products (sometimes a struggle because of my Greek yogurt addiction), by for example surveying my non-meat options for protein before automatically choosing the chicken at the salad bar, and alternating my Greek yogurt breakfast with other choices. Following a plant-based/plant-leaning diet is a personal choice that can be made for any number of reasons. I won’t go over all of them, but some of the more common reasons for going plant-based are: health, environmental, and ethical.

From a health standpoint— I’ll focus here on 3 nutrients of concern when it comes to meat: saturated fat, protein, and micronutrients.

Saturated fat: Ask any cardiac patient what their doctor or dietitian has recommended for their diet, and they will most likely tell you they’re supposed to eat more chicken and fish and less red meat. That’s because the fat in red meat, those lovely white marble-y streaks that make your pot roast extra juicy and tender, is mainly saturated fat. High intake of saturated fat and cholesterol has been strongly correlated with the accumulation of plaque in arteries (this process is called atherosclerosis), which, when allowed to continue to the point where the artery becomes blocked, leads to heart disease and potential cardiac events, such as heart attacks. If you’re interested in learning more about the research behind our current heart healthy diet recommendations, I’d recommend starting by looking into the Framingham Heart Study. (The hyperlink takes you to Wikipedia, so you’ll get the basic overview, but if you really want to analyze the science, find some real journal articles or other scholarly publications on this!)

Protein: When we think of high-protein foods, most people automatically think of meat. It’s true, humans need protein, and the protein in meats and animal based foods are what are considered “high biological value,” meaning that these proteins are more efficiently used by the human body than the protein from plants. Protein is a macronutrient that has come to be highly revered in society, partially due to the detrimental effects of protein malnutrition, and partially due to the belief that eating more protein will help build muscle. However, I would argue that there is a range of protein that we need to avoid malnutrition and maintain muscle mass, and that taking in more protein above that range is not necessary. A good rule of thumb for estimating your protein needs if you’re a healthy person with no acute medical issues and have a mildly active lifestyle is 0.8grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Take a second and calculate that out for yourself (take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 to get weight in kilograms, if you’re from the U.S.). I bet your protein needs are lower than you thought! Not only is excessive protein not necessary, it is also potentially harmful to our health. For one thing, it plays into the general issue of over-eating and excess caloric intake. Excess calories lead to weight gain, which can in turn lead to a host of other metabolic issues. For another, excess intake of animal-based foods actually has been shown in studies to be linked to cancer, auto-immune diseases, and other chronic illnesses including heart and kidney disease. For more information, I would recommend reading “The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell and checking out this WHO FAQs page on the link between red meat intake and cancer. Given the fact that we really don’t need as much protein as we are often led to believe, it is possible to get the amount we do need from plant-based foods; high-protein plants include soy, legumes, nuts, quinoa, and peas.

Micronutrient concerns: Some may argue that going plant-based is harmful because of the nutrients you miss out on when you skip meat. And they’re right to be concerned! There are some micronutrients that are found in larger amounts in animal-based foods. These include vitamin B12 (found naturally only in animals), calcium, iron, and zinc. However, if you’re not a strict vegan/vegetarian, it is likely that you are getting the micronutrients that you need from the limited animal products you do consume, as well as from plant foods, but if you’re concerned about deficiencies, see your doctor and/or a dietitian to find out ways to find out for sure and supplement as needed!

From an environmental standpoint-– According to the USDA, Americans consumed an average of 71.2 pounds of red meat and 54.1 pounds of poultry in 2012 (2,3). That’s a lotta meat. Consider the environmental cost of producing that much. Did you know that 1 quarter pound hamburger could require 150 gallons of water to produce!? (4). And many sources state that water requirement could even be much higher. Raising animals for food is responsible for a large portion of global water consumption, mainly because of the water-intensive grains that must be grown to feed animals for meat production. In addition, raising livestock produces more greenhouse gases than driving a car, as cows produce methane as a by-product of digestion (that’s a polite way of saying: cow farts). There’s also the issue of the land needed to raise enough livestock to feed our growing population and its ever-growing hunger for meat. With our rate of 70lb of red meat/person/year, how can we expect the earth to sustain this habit?? One step towards a solution is for consumers to choose their meat from farms with a commitment to sustainability. Another step towards sustainability is to just eat less meat! My own recommendation, based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 is to limit meat consumption to no more than 3-5 ounces per day (3oz meat is about the size of a deck of cards).

And then there’s the ethical standpoint. It’s a bit dated, but I would highly recommend the documentary “Food, Inc” to anyone interested in learning about animal agriculture/farming practices and animal welfare in the US. New industrial practices have always come with ethical consequences in the food industry (The Jungle, anyone?). Fueled by the inclination to satisfy demand and maximize financial success, many food companies have adopted practices to ensure efficiency and mass production of food at minimal cost (5), though really the cost may be both human and animal health. Things have changed some since the documentary came out in 2008, but the fact remains that most sources still report that more than 95% of animals raised for food are raised in factory farms, which can mean overcrowding, indoor confinement with poor air quality, poor sanitation leading to sickness and misuse of antibiotics, and many other unethical conditions for the animals (6). Again, a step in the right direction for the consumer would be to choose meats from farms that are committed to animal welfare. For us average consumers who can’t necessarily commit to a local meat share or buy meat at the local farmer’s market regularly, learning to decipher labels at the supermarket is important. Whole Foods has actually collaborated with Global Animal Partnership to create a pretty nifty 5-step Animal Welfare Rating system- learn more here!

Phew. So this is just a summary of SOME of the issues surrounding meat consumption and the arguments for eating less animal-based foods. My conclusion has been the same as with any other diet or eating ideology– it’s all about BALANCE!I think Michael Pollan says it quite well in his article here. While I certainly don’t feel the need to eat a 9-ounce steak every day, I don’t feel bad about enjoying a smaller portion of meat, perhaps once every few days when it’s available and comes from an animal that was sustainably and ethically raised.

So, if we’re not eating meat every day, how will we get the protein and nutrients we do need? Well… may I venture to suggest soy-protein-rich tofu?

Tofu is one of those foods that is fairly consistently met with a visceral gag when I suggest it (to any of my non-Asian friends) as an example of a plant-based protein-rich food. It’s probably a texture thing. I don’t really know, I grew up eating tofu and can’t get enough of the stuff. Pan-fried and dipped in soy sauce, silken and crumbed into soon dubu jjigae, marinaded and simmered with vegetables as mapo tofu… the possibilities are endless! Here I have an example of a tofu recipe that you will hopefully enjoy if you’ve liked my other curries!

tofu vegetable coconut curry

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
2-3 small sweet potatoes, chopped into 3/4 inch cubes
1/2 block (7.5oz) firm or extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry with paper towel
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion
2 cups broccoli/cauliflower florets
1/2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 of a 13.5oz can of low fat coconut milk
2 tsp red curry paste
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tsp fish sauce
3 cups Tuscan kale, chopped/torn
Leaves from 4-5 fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped
S&P to taste
4-5 Tbsp olive, vegetable, or coconut oil
1/2 tsp crunchy peanut butter, optional
1/2 tsp flour (for thickening curry)

Brown Jasmine rice, for serving

Directions:
Roast sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil. Toss cubed sweet potatoes with 1 Tbsp oil and a dash of salt. Place sweet potatoes in a single layer on foil-lined sheet and roast in preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Don’t worry if they’re still undercooked; they will continue to cook later in curry. Set aside.

Fry tofu: Cut the block of tofu into small rectangles, about 1″ by 1.5″ (or smaller, if you wish). Heat 1-2 Tbsp oil in a pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the tofu slices and allow to fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown on one side. Add 1 clove minced garlic, and flip the tofu to fry on the other side another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make curry:
1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a shallow sauce pan (any sort of large pot/pan with sides at least 2″ high will do) over medium heat. Once pan/pot is hot, add onions, peppers, and broccoli/cauliflower and cook until onions and peppers are softened. Add the remaining minced garlic, grated ginger, and a dash or two of salt. Saute until broccoli and cauliflower are softened, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Add coconut milk, vegetable broth, a curry paste. Mix so that the liquids and paste combine. Let the mixture come to a boil, then add fish sauce, lime juice, and chopped cilantro. Add kale, cover pot/pan with lid and reduce heat to a simmer. When kale is wilted, stir the mixture, then gently mix in the sweet potatoes and tofu. Cover with lid again and let simmer for about 30 minutes.
3. Remove lid and gently mix in 1/2 tsp peanut butter (if using) and 1/2 tsp flour. Let simmer uncovered for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve: Serve curry over rice. Garnish with lime wedges and fresh cilantro.

References:
(1) https://www.forksoverknives.com/plant-based-primer-beginners-guide-starting-plant-based-diet/#gs.GCoLqUw

(2) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/meat-preparation/beef-from-farm-to-table/ct_index/!ut/p/a1/jZHBTsMwDIafZsc0KR1Tx62qhLbCWqYJlvUypZ2TVmqTKjEUeHrCOA1tsPgU-_tl-zctKaelFm-tEtgaLbrvfznbszWbhfOUZcU8vGfL_GVdPKQpize3Htj9AeTRlfoLL2H_6bMrGtzYVbpStBwENqTV0lCuAInQbgTrKJfGHIgTEvCDSFEjcQ0A-kIPAslgYRD2aAjlFYAk0preg7YnaAiKqgPKa9y3-gDvdEvL05FY6GOZR5vpIssjVkx_A2c8-wEum-K3Vp2pjgfaJbqKYr-eBQkWbPBqfbpBHNzdhE3YOI6BMkZ1ENSmn7BzksY4pPyUpEP_zD8fkwVrn_pt7JIvITsfKQ!!/#2

(3) http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/02/26/465431695/eat-less-meat-were-told-but-americans-habits-are-slow-to-change

(4) https://water.usgs.gov/edu/activity-watercontent.html

(5) https://www.forbes.com/sites/phillempert/2015/06/15/why-factory-farming-isnt-what-you-think/2/#2fcaf27b1d8c

(6) https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/farm-animal-welfare

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nice cream, four ways

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I’ve got ice cream on the mind these days. The days are getting warmer, the local creameries are blowing up my Instagram feed, and Joe Biden is getting his own ice cream flavor at my alma mater this week!!! This (and, oh yea, also all the graduating smarty poos to whom Uncle Joe is speaking)(congrats, guys!) undoubtedly is cause for a celebratory cone!

However, in an effort to prevent myself from eating ice cream TOO often this summer, I’ve come up with some fun flavors for “nice cream,” which is a faux ice cream made with frozen bananas and milk as the base. It’s an imposter, for sure, but one that hits the spot when you want a frozen treat but can’t justify the calorie/sugar/fat bomb of real ice cream. I recommend stocking up on some batches of this lower-sugar, lower-fat version to satisfy those mid-week cravings, and saving the real stuff for the weekend :)

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nice cream

  • Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients:
2 small or 1 large banana, frozen
1/3-1/2 cup of milk or soymilk

Mix-ins:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip: 1 Tbsp peanut butter + 1/2 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Matcha White Chocolate Pretzel: 2 Tbsp matcha powder + handful of white chocolate or yogurt covered pretzels
Orange Ginger Vanilla: 1/2 orange, peeled and cut into chunks + 1 tsp grated orange zest + 3 pieces crystallized ginger, roughly chopped + 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. *For this flavor, I recommend decreasing the milk/soymilk to 1/4 cup or less, as the orange juice adds some extra liquid!
Blueberry Coconut Almond: 1/3 cup fresh blueberries + 1/4 cup coconut flakes + 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions:
1. Place frozen bananas and milk/soymilk in a food processor. Add peanut butter (for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip) or matcha powder (for Match White Chocolate Pretzel). Puree until smooth.
2. Add additional mix-ins, and use “chop” feature on food processor to incorporate.
3. Place this completed nice cream into a container for storage in the freezer. If a “soft serve” consistency is desired, you can eat immediately!
4. Once frozen, you will need to let the nice cream thaw ~10-15 minutes on the counter before it is scoopable!

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raw almond joy bites

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Listen, you guys know that I love me a good slice of cake. I’m a firm believer that delicious food represents more than mere nourishment– it’s a means of provision and hospitality, a medium for creativity and skill, a backdrop for community and camaraderie, and it is one of the most universal sources of pleasure life has to offer.

But let’s talk facts. There are things we, as members of modern societies, eat regularly that need to be moved to the “eat occasionally” lists. I know you know that added sugar is one of those things. To give a little perspective– the American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of about 6 teaspoons a day of sugar (if you a lady) and about 9 teaspoons a day (if you a dude). The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommends that no more than 10% of your daily caloric intake comes from added sugars. An NPR article from 2016 has quoted that the average American takes in about 22 teaspoons of sugar daily- far above the recommended limit, no matter how you spin it. For some more stats and graphics on how we’re doing on our sugar consumption as a nation, go here (spoiler alert- we’re not doing well).

Why do we overeat sugar? The blame has been passed onto a lot of things, from individual factors such as evolutionary instinct and human response to stress, to the food environment which includes big food companies and even the “traditional” thinkings of health professionals and nutritionists (for shame!). Succinctly put, studies have affirmed the addictive nature of sugar and our instinctual drive to seek it out for energy, survival, and pleasure. On top of that, sugar sells, and food companies know this. The low-fat diet craze of the 1970’s and 80’s in the U.S. led to the replacement of fat with sugar as the major taste enhancer for “diet foods.” Now what we’ve got is a food landscape in which added sugar, often disguised on food packaging labels by one or more of its aliases (ever heard of high fructose corn syrup or maltodextrin?), has become a ubiquitous and an expected component.

Why is this a problem? Without going into too much biochemistry, when we eat more sugar than our body needs, an excess of the hormone insulin is produced; insulin acts to store sugar in the cells, including fat cells. Simple carbohydrates (think white, refined carbs) are digested and absorbed much quicker than a complex carb (think brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains) and therefore lead to a faster rise and, subsequently, a faster crash of sugar in the blood. This leads to a roller coaster-like effect in which the body tells us to consume more food and more frequently. Over time, we end up with weight gain and a myriad of metabolic health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

What should we do about it? The simple answer is to eat less added sugar– something closer to the recommended limit of 10% of our daily calories, or 6-9 teaspoons per day. But we all know this is so much easier said than done, largely because many of the foods that are most convenient- and most appealing at times of stress, boredom and celebration- are processed foods high in added sugar. Knowing this, one practical way to reduce your daily sugar consumption is to stick as much as possible to a “real food,” or whole food, diet– one high in ingredients and foods that have had as little processing done to them as possible. This means whole grains, fresh (and as much as possible- local) fruits and vegetables, responsibly raised meat and animal products, raw or simply roasted nuts and seeds. You might find that, in an attempt to make fresh vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and meats taste good, you have to add things like condiments and dressings, which are common sources of hidden sugars. My professional recommendation? Make your own dressings and sauces! Home prepared foods are not only healthier and fresher, they also make eating so much more rewarding and satisfying. Worried about the sugar content in certain whole foods, like fruit? Well, the sugar in fruit does break down into the same components as those from sugar in, say, a candy bar. But with the fruit comes a whole host of other good nutrients- fiber, vitamins, minerals- which not only gives fruit more “bang for the buck,” but also helps to slow down its digestion and absorption into cells. Food in its natural state is designed for optimal breakdown in and nourishment to our bodies, guys. Is this not amazing???!?

My last little tidbit here is that I want to make clear that I have no interest in a completely sugar-free lifestyle. In fact, I would recommend against an overly strict avoidance of sweets for many reasons- one being that strict bans can often cause “rebounds” of overeating and bingeing. Also, I do believe that sweets eaten as treats for a special occasion are one way of simply enjoying life! If you’re going to eat a cookie, eat a damn good cookie– just don’t eat one every day! You should also know, my faithful readers, that I am preaching to myself here. We’re in this together, guys. There is a balance to be struck here, and I know that we can find it!

So here’s to taking back our health with a whole foods diet. I’ve made us some sweet little treats made with the most delicious of ingredients and no added sweeteners (trust me, the dates are so sweet that any added sweeteners would probably ruin these). These little guys are reminiscent of Lara bars, but they come packaged like cute little truffles. They are incredibly easy to make and serve as the perfect non-special occasion treat!

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raw almond joy bites

  • Servings: approximately 24
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Ingredients:
12-14 pitted dates
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup cacao powder or cacao nibs (the nibs will give you a crunchier texture than the powder) + more cacao powder for dusting, if desired
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes (again, the difference is just in texture) + more shredded coconut for dusting, if desired
1-2 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk (I used Califia Farms‘ no-sugar-added toasted coconut flavor)
1/2 tsp almond extract, optional
1/2 tsp coconut extract, optional

Directions:
1. Pulse almonds, cacao nibs, and coconut flakes in a food processor until you get a coarse meal. *If using cacao powder and/or shredded coconut rather than the nibs/flakes, I would pulse the almonds alone first!
2. Add dates, and pulse until blended.
3. Add coconut milk and extracts, pulse until the mixture comes together and can be formed into shape.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out tablespoon-sized balls with your hands and place on the sheet. Roll the balls in cacao powder or shredded coconut.
5. Put the balls in a sealable container and refrigerate for at least an hour (you can eat them immediately, but I find that refrigerating leads to a more dense and satisfying texture!)

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coconut beef curry

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HELLO INTERNET FRIENDS!!! I’m so sorry for being MIA over the past couple of months. No excuse. Just busy. You know.

Anyways, I’m back now after a fall full of, well, life. There was foliage, hiking, sweater-buying, and pumpkin bread-making. There were travels and birthdays (my own included- hello, late 20s!) and time spent with family and friends. There was Thanksgiving. There was an election. Fall is always such a fleeting season, one where we (or at least I) feel the need to PACK IN ALL THE THINGS. On top of it all, there is so much to think about, so much to digest about what is changing and happening in our country and in the world.

Winter feels a little more final. The temps dropped this week, and it’s like we’re all saying “welp, we knew it could happen any day, and now it’s here.” Might as well embrace it and hunker down for the season, always fighting for joy and peace, and clinging to hope in the midst of all the changes. A bowl of warm curry always helps, so here I am!

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*Special shout out to my roommate, who let me use this beautiful photogenic bowl, handmade by her sister! Thanks Megan!!

coconut beef curry

Ingredients:
2 lbs beef chuck, cubed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup slices carrots
1/2 onion, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 Tbsp red curry paste
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup torn basil (Thai basil if available)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups Jasmine rice

Directions:
1. Prep all ingredients: peel/chop carrots, slice onion and shallot, mince garlic, peel and grate ginger, and cube beef, discarding fat as able.
2. Heat a large skillet (use one that is ~2 inches deep) to medium. Salt beef cubes as desired, then cook in the skillet until browned all over. Set aside in a covered bowl.
3. Heat oil (I used olive oil) in the same skillet over medium heat. Cook onions, shallot, garlic, and carrots until onions begin to caramelize, about 5-8 minutes. Add the ginger and curry paste and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
4. Return the beef to the pan and add the stock, sugar, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, covered.
5. Uncover and cook for another 45 minutes, or until curry is looking like it is thickening (I added about 1 tsp of flour just to help speed this process). Add the lime juice and fish sauce. Cook, stirring, until heated. Stir in basil and cilantro. Add salt to taste.
6. Make Jasmine rice as directed; I combined 1 cup rice with 2 cups water and 1 tsp butter in a pot, brought this to a boil, then covered and let simmer for 18-20 minutes. Fluff with fork when done.
7. Serve curry over rice; garnish with fresh cilantro, basil, and/or lime wedges.

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lemon lavender mini bundt cakes + flower crown party!

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One year ago today, Britni- my good friend, dear roommate, and the floral genius behind Two Stems of Joy– told us about how a burst of purple from a flower arrangement she had put together for a work photoshoot had ignited in her a joy that led her to realize that, in her dreams and aspirations for life, there would be flowers.

Britni is one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I know, and it has been an inspiration and a huge honor to have seen her passions take root and start to bud. I have watched her thoughtfully and joyfully pour herself into every single set of arrangements she has done over the past year, whether it was flowers for an entire wedding (she’s done TWO all by herself in the past year!) or just a bouquet to give our dining room table a little extra sumthin’ sumthin’. My generally monochromatic life has gotten a healthy dose of color this past year, and I am certainly the better for it. How can you not be happy when a vase full of dahlias is staring you right in the face while you eat your morning yogurt??

The exciting thing is that this is just the beginning of the journey for Two Stems of Joy and for Britni’s pursuit of her floral dreams. I am incredibly proud to call this talented florist my friend, and think you should all hop on over to her site to see more pictures of our blogiversary celebration!!!! Britni made us these gorgeous flower crowns, I made some little lemon lavender cakes, and we problem-solved through afternoon lighting problems (aka so many shadows in our kitchen) to do a photo-shoot with our other roomie-friend, Megan! So fun!

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lemon lavender mini bundt cakes

  • Servings: 6
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Adapted from: I Bake He Shoots

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp dried lavender
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp buttermilk
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a mini bundt pan (or a full-size bundt pan, if you plan on making one large cake) with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, mash the lemon zest with the back of a spoon into the sugar. Do this until the sugar is wet and fragrant. Cream the butter and lemon sugar until light and fluffy with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated.
3. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice.
4. In a medium/large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then add the lavender and whisk to incorporate.
5. With the mixer on low for the bowl with the butter and sugar mixture, alternative adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
7. Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before carefully taking the cakes out and inverting them to cool on a wire rack. Cool completely before adding the glaze. Dust with powdered sugar at the end.

 

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soups

curried pumpkin and red lentil soup

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IT’S FALL!! As I type this, a very crisp breeze is blowing through my window, a pair of fluffy new slippers are on my feet, and a Tupperware container of this curried pumpkin and red lentil soup is now in my fridge, awaiting many more days of blissful consumption.

This recipe was a total improvisation, so there are probably some tweaks that can be made here and there. I cut/scooped seeds out of/peeled a whole pumpkin, but I bet you can used canned pumpkin and get similar results with significantly less fuss. Any of the spices can be adjusted to your taste, or you can add anything I didn’t include! Consider the recipe below a set of loose guidelines. Easy, forgiving, and oh-so-cozy. As the fall should be.

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curried pumpkin and red lentil soup

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
1 small sugar pumpkin; peeled, de-seeded, and cut into cubes*
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 cup red lentils, washed and soaked at least 1 hr
1 15.5 oz can full fat coconut milk
1.5 Tbsp red curry paste
1 cup chicken broth
Juice from 1 lime
2 bay leaves
Salt, to taste
Roasted and salted pepitas, for topping

*I found it easiest to cut the top of the pumpkin, scoop out some of the seeds with a spoon, then cut the pumpkin vertically into two halves. I then scooped the seeds/stringy fibers out of each half, sliced the halves into thinner segments, and cut each segment into a few chunks. From there I cut the rind off each individual chunk. This was a bit time-consuming, but it felt like the safest way! Feel free to use canned pumpkin if this amount of work seems excessive!

Directions:
1. Prepare all ingredients: chop onion, grate ginger, mince garlic, and cut pumpkin into cubes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a baking tray by lining it with aluminum foil.
2. Place the pumpkin cubes into a bowl and drizzle with ~1/2-1 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and mix so pumpkin cubes are evenly coated. Spread the cubes on the foil-lined baking sheet and roast in preheated oven for ~15-20 minutes, until just starting to get soft. When done, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
3. Heat 1-1.5 Tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook until translucent, ~2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Cook until fragrant, ~1 minute.
4. Add the roasted pumpkin, lentils, chicken broth, curry paste, coconut milk, lime juice and bay leaves to the saucepan. Mix to incorporate all ingredients.
5. Let the mixture simmer, covered, for ~15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Remove from heat, fish out bay leaves, and let cool ~5 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend everything together. Blend to desired texture. Add salt to taste (I used a fairly generous amount). Serve immediately, topped with pepitas or other desired toppings, or let cool and store in fridge.

 

 

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balsamic peach summer flatbread

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And here we are in September. How did we do on those summer bucket list items we talked about last month?? Are you all as exhausted as I am now??

August was excellent for me. I went to LA for a big family get-together (#reyoonion2016), spent time at the beach, was really into morning running/avoiding having to work out in the swampy afternoon humidity, moved apartments (only 5 blocks away but OOF what a process), and, to christen the little oven in my new place, made this flatbread with summer things (peaches! corn! heirloom tomatoes! fresh mozzarella!).

I love the fact that nature provides us with so much richness in both flavor and nutrition each season. Seasonal produce is the best. I am totally gearing up and getting real excited for the fall harvest, but I sure am going to miss the beautiful summer fruits and vegetables that rocked the farmer’s markets this year. But hey, it’s not Labor Day quite yet, so grab yourself some summer produce while it’s still phresh as heck, make yourself a summer-y flatbread, and bring the leftovers along on one last beach trip!

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Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

balsamic peach, corn, and chicken flatbread

  • Servings: 4-8
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Ingredients:
1 frozen or hand-prepared pizza dough (I used Whole Foods sprouted black bean dough)
8oz can of corn kernels (I only used half of the can)
1 ripe, medium sized peach
1 medium heirloom tomato
1 package fresh mozzarella cheese
Few leaves of fresh basil
1-2 small chicken breasts
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh or dried rosemary
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Balsamic dijon dressing (see below)
Balsamic glaze (I used Blaze Fig Balsamic Glaze)
Other herbs as desired, to taste (I used dried basil)

Directions:
1. Remove dough from fridge and let sit for ~30 minutes prior to stretching it out.
2. Prepare chicken: Cut breasts into small 1/2-inch chunks. Place chunks in a sealable bag or bowl. Add olive oil, rosemary, minced garlic, and salt. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to marinate. When marinated, add chicken to a pan and sear over high heat. Flip chicken pieces to sear other side. Then, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook through.
3. Prepare corn: If using canned corn, drain liquid from corn. Add corn to a pan over medium-high heat and let sear until kernels brown on one side. Flip and reduce heat to medium-low. Remove from heat when both sides of kernels are browned as desired.
4. Slice peaches, tomatoes, and mozzarella. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Stretch dough onto a greased baking sheet. Brush with about 2 Tbsp of balsamic dijon dressing. Add tomatoes, mozzarella, peaches, chicken, corn, and fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle with any other herbs desired!
6. Bake flatbread in preheated oven. Bake until crust is golden at edges and cheese is melted.
7. Remove from oven and let cool ~15 minutes. Drizzle with balsamic glaze.

balsamic dijon dressing

  • Servings: 1 cup
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Ingredients:
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice from 1/2 medium lemon

Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a jar. Close jar tightly and shake to mix!

 

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