Morning Juice

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Am I weird for wanting to bro out every so often? Go camping for 4 days without showering, call everyone “dude” and let them call me that right back?

Girls do that, right? Because I definitely do that. Often.

For one thing, I’m a sucker for action movies. Give me a pair of 3D glasses and a fistful of popcorn and I’m all set for the next 2.5 hours. This is the first summer since childhood that I’ve made it a point to watch nearly every blockbuster that comes out.

Except Fast & Furious part 1289494. Why do those exist?

I think bro-ing out is important to keeping a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Sure, there’s running a 5K, practicing yoga, and cutting out processed foods — but sitting down for a few evenings with a cheap can of beer, a blazing fire and conversations amid farts? It reminds me that there’s a chunk of me that doesn’t care about nail polish, brushing my hair, or that parachute pants are back in style (Seriously, when did that happen?).

But don’t worry guys, I’m still here. By Sunday morning, I’m looking up recipes for kale salad and pulverizing vegetables into juice.

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Kale, celery. I’m really sorry for what I’m going to do to you. It’s going to be loud. It’s not going to be pretty. It’s borderline plant murder.

Also, hey, I know not everyone has a juicer. They’re expensive, bulky, and you really have to be willing to deal with a single-purpose contraption, unlike blenders, which make smoothies, margaritas and salsa. But the juicer I just bought was $100 and it’s probably the best thing I’ve bought all year. Actually, here’s a list of my favorite kitchen things.

So nix that end-of-summer clothing shopping spree and invest in something with a little more sustenance.

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I’ve made four different kinds of juices thus far without using a recipe. I’ve yet to make a bad batch because a) vegetables taste delicious and b) it’s all about balancing the greens with the sweets.

For example! If you’re packing in 4 cups of spinach or kale, make sure you complement it with sweet beets and pears. Apples are also spectacular sweeteners and give you an energy boost in the morning similar to coffee.

Oh, and ginger. In everything. Please.

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I should paint my nails in that color.

Morning Juice.

4-5 stalks lacinato kale
1 large pear
2 large carrots
1 chunk ginger, about a 1″ cube
2 small beets
6-7 stalks cucumber
1 large cucumber

Shove the ingredients in the blender in the order listed above. It’s always good to start juicing with leafy greens.

Serve with ice or at room temperature. You can make a large batch at night and drink it in the morning so you don’t wake up your roommates with what sounds like an alien spaceship hovering in the kitchen.

Makes about 20oz of juice.

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Winter Vegetable Soup

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sat·ur·day night

/ˈsatərˌdā / nīt/

Noun
1. Falling asleep with a book on your lap and a glass of wine half full on the coffee table.
2. The inability to replace wool socks with boots and a quilt with a coat.
3. Waking up before midnight, brushing those pearly whites and calling it.

I let Saturday night have her way with me. And I was pretty OK with it.

Because on Sunday morning, the two inches of snow were all I needed to throw the rest of my vegetables into a pan and call it a soup.

_MG_1457What do we have here? Celery, sweet potatoes, carrots, leeks and red potatoes.

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I might get married with a bouquet of herbs instead of flowers. The basil will be gone by the time I make it down the aisle.

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Leeks, bless their hearts, are dirty jerks. All sorts of little granules nestle themselves between the layers of leaves and there’s only one good way to get rid of them – a submersive rinse.

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When you roast everything together, the flavor’s like whaaaaaaaat?

Wait, where did all these vegetables and dried herbs come from? I joined a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) this winter and once a month was bombarded with root vegetables, pears apples, rutabaga and the occasional bundle of kale and broccoli. It was worth every penny.

Summer CSA with blueberries, tomatoes and fresh herbs, here I come.

_MG_1501Winter Vegetable Soup.

1lbs red potatoes, chopped into 1-1/1/2 inch chunks
3-4 large carrots, chopped like the potatoes
2-3 sweet potatoes, ditto
2 large leeks, sliced into 1/4in. pieces and submersed in a cold water bath
5-6 stalks celery, sliced into 1/4in. pieces
3-4 cloves garlic, skin still on
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cups vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash all the vegetables (use a rough sponge when necessary). Toss with olive oil and herbs in a 9x13in baking pan. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, until the carrots are soft (they take the longest).

In a blender or food processor, pulse the roasted vegetables with the vegetable stock until smooth. Place pureed soup into a large pot as you work your way through the rest of the vegetables, being sure to not overload the blender. If it’s too full, the heat and pressure will make the lid explode, no matter how much you try to hold it down. (Seriously.).

Once everything is pureed, either sieve the contents through a cheese cloth or leave it chunky (I like my soups thick). Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer until the soup is nice and hot.

Makes about 6-8 servings.

Enough to melt the rest of the snow.

Farro Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Romano Beans

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When I get into something, I really get into something.

I started crocheting last year and relentlessly hooked my way to coasters, headbands and half-done mittens. I watched epic YouTube how-to videos on different stitching methods. I developed calluses. Now my yarn and plastic hooks are stowed away somewhere beneath my bed.

Last summer’s thing was running. I went from never running ever ever ever to zipping around 5 miles a day. I bought super lightweight shoes because I’d read in a book that running barefoot was a good idea. My knees started hurting. Hello, stress fracture.

But more than a year ago, I had a rampant reaction to working at a summer camp for nearly two months and never once having the chance to cook for myself. So much iceberg lettuce and canned black beans. I don’t want to talk about it.

That reaction was this. And I haven’t gotten calluses or stress fractures yet. And I sure as poop haven’t stowed it away beneath my bed.

Everything’s on the kitchen counter.

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So let’s dive right into it after that brief sojourn.

I’ve never cooked with farro. It’s been a mysterious grain ever since I first learned about it, and I had thrown all of my efforts into finding it. It’s been a long journey through aisles of beans, bulky items, almond milk and the “ethnic” row. I had to answer a few riddles to get there.

I practically cried when I found the stuff. Farro has more protein than quinoa. It’s untouched grain. And there’s no controversy surrounding it just yet.

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Heirloom tomatoes are such babes I don’t even know where to begin.

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I mean, come on. Stop.

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Crispy romano beans. I used to eat this stuff by the bucketload on long hikes. So refreshing. Yum in my face.

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What’s a salad without some dressing, right? Olive oil, dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar add some zing and refreshment that might make you think it’s summer time.

Ooh, that’s a good one.

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Farro and wine. Let’s get Italian.

Farro salad with heirloom tomatoes and romano beans.

adapted from The New York Times

2 cups cooked farro
7-8 baby heirloom tomatoes, roughly sliced
1lb romano beans, trimmed and blanched

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

To cook the farro, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil and add the grain. Let it simmer for about 40-50 minutes, or until the grains look like they’ve blossomed. Drain thoroughly and douse with cold water.

While the farro is cooking, chop the tomatoes and trim the romano beans. To blanch, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the beans. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and immediately remove from heat before giving the beans a cold water bath.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

Toss the beans, tomatoes and farro in a large salad bowl before adding the dressing. Toss everything together, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Just before serving, top with fresh parsley.

Makes about 4-6 servings, which might be just enough to alleviate at least some of the pain caused by this weekend’s Patriots game.

Steel Cut Oats with Strawberries, Bananas and Peanut Butter

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I made a daring getaway. I only just got out of there with my life and dignity.

It was at the bargain basement of Urban Outfitters. There were sales. There were $5 t-shirts. The clothing racks were spaced about six inches apart and it was the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday. Lines to the registers were 10 deep.

I lasted five minutes. No amount of printed tights, patterned pants or polka dot shirts could keep me there.

I scurried up the stairs and didn’t look back, for fear of being turned into stone.

And to calm my nerves, I ran straight into the hardware store next door and made purchases that either make me out to be a dude or, at the very least, someone who is obsessed with coffee. 200 filters. A pour-over brewer. Batteries. I almost bought that pooping pig keychain. Remember those?

Shopping is stressful and I don’t recommend it to anyone.

But I do recommend a full serving of steel cut oats every morning.

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Steel cut oats are my jam. And so much better than plain old rolled oats. They’re dense and slightly crunchy and, best of all, are re-microwavable. You can make a big vat of them on Sunday and have it last you for the rest of the week.

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Bananarama! Strawberrypalooza! Fruits! Vitamins!

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Guys I just put a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter in that bowl. It might even be two tablespoons. A dollop. A lot.

Steel cut oats with strawberries, bananas and peanut butter.

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
3 tablespoons ground flax
1 banana
3 strawberries
dollop of peanut butter

In a large pot, bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the oats and stir continuously to make sure none of the grains get stuck to the bottom. Reduce the heat to a simmer and keep on stirring every minute or so to prevent a skin from forming. Continue to do this for about 30 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed and the oats have a porridge-like consistency.

Turn off the heat and quickly incorporate the ground flax.

Add sliced bananas, strawberries and peanut butter dollop. You can also add any other fruit or topping your heart desires. Make it a breakfast dessert with chocolate chips. Throw in some mango. Get some jam in there.

Makes enough for an apartment of 4 people or just enough to last you until Wednesday.

Roasted Vegetables and Seitan

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We should probably talk.

Not about the new year, because you’ve already been cutting out sugar and bread while gliding your way toward the physique you had before, say, Halloween. Who would’ve thought that coconut macaroons could be so good? Since when has a truffle tasted like heaven in a bite? You don’t even like caramel corn.

We’re all in the same boat. So you’ve joined a gym. You’re dying during a spinning class. Your clothes are really sweaty. You got a new yoga mat. You’re drinking lemon water with cayenne pepper and maple syrup for breakfast. I get it.

But I think we should talk about something else. It’s the dreaded V-word. No, not vegetarian, because you’re probably okay with that by now.

I’m talking about veganism. Yeah. I’m about to get really real. Because…veganism means no cheese. It means no butter. No eggs. I might cry just thinking about it.

But I’m doing it.

For the next two months, I am not going to eat any animal products (except for honey because…I don’t even want to get into it.), nor am I going to drink beer.

Why? Because I’m lactose intolerant. Because six pints of PBR doesn’t feel really great. Because health is important. Because my body is important.

But most importantly, because I’m really competitive and my new job (say what?) is having a get-fit showdown, and I’m about to whoop some bootylicious booty.

So I’ve already gone grocery shopping and come back sans cheese, butter and eggs for the first time…in a while. I’ve got the cook books. I’ve got the determination.

And let me tell you.

Seitan is pretty weird.

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Right? What is that? It’s like chicken. It kind of tastes like chicken and has the consistency of…chicken. It’s dubious. It’s an indescribable color.

But it’s packed with protein – more than tofu – and has less fat than its soybean cousin. And, like chicken, it sucks up flavor like a sponge.

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The pitfall of many vegetarian and vegan diets is that participants (should I call them that?) succumb to human cravings for salty and sweet food without thinking twice about the amount of carbohydrates and sugar that go along with it.

Guys. Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

For this vegan experiment, I will do my darndest to not only avoid the cheese and the eggs, but also the bread and the sugar.

It’ll be hard. So, so hard.

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But worth it.

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Smothered in a ginger sauce and tossed with a splash of barbecue for added kick.

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Parsley adds color and a little pinch of refreshing flavor to any dish, roasted or raw.

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Roasted vegetables and seitan.

1lb seitan, uncooked and cubed or shredded
2 zucchinis, sliced thick
1 red bell pepper, coarsely sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely sliced
10oz crimini mushrooms, sliced in half
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1/8 cup ginger salad dressing (or just create your own ginger salad dressing by infusing the root with olive oil and a splash of sesame oil over night)
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the seitan, vegetables and liquids until everything is coated evenly. Pour into a baking pan and roast for about 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

Once you take it out of the oven, let it cool slightly before adding the minced parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste with each bowl.

Makes about 5-6 servings.