This may be the most festive snack you can enjoy while watching the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio. Not only is the brigadeiro the hosting country’s most beloved dessert… there’s also something delightfully ironic about admiring world-class athletic prowess, while eating bonbons on the couch.
This was a big week for my favorite pressure-cooking kitchen companion: can you believe that among all the super-sales on Prime Day, Instant Pot was the #1 top-selling non-Amazon-device item in the US? That means the cult following surrounding this multi-talented multi-cooker just grew by 215,000, and there are flocks of new fans that are just getting to know its time-saving/energy-efficient/flavor-boosting abilities. Welcome aboard, amigos! Let’s share recipes and celebrate with cheesecake.
In Instant Pot’s dessert repertoire, cheesecake is the unexpected star. What makes the pressure cooker such a good tool for this job? The high-pressure steam in the sealed vessel cooks the dense filling evenly, while the moist environment helps prevent the surface from drying and cracking. It’s the perfect storm for cheesecake perfection!
Today, let’s practice a summertime exercise in keeping it simple. It’s what the universe beckons us to do in this season of plenty, when the sun’s peak puts nature on overdrive, and the plants we cultivate positively vibrate with vital energy. It’s a magical time to love fruits and vegetables.
I baked up these buns as a special treat for Grant’s birthday brunch, and seriously, they were epic. Pillowy, tender, studded with crunchy toasted almonds, and perfumed with the essence of our heavenly freshly-harvested honey. They have just the right amount of richness without overdoing the butter, and like any sensible breakfast bun recipe, they’re designed to hang out in the fridge for a slow overnight rise after being shaped the day before, so they’re ready to sleepily toss into the oven while you start brewing a pot of your best coffee – special weekend treat-yo-self baking at its best.
How sweet it is, having a supply of beautiful fresh-from-the-hive honey in my pantry. I’ve been enamored with the stuff, gleefully drizzling it over any suitable food that crosses my path (usually Greek yogurt, but I have to say the culinary highlight so far has been its role in an extra special birthday-breakfast baked good that I definitely need to share with you soon).
As much as I’ve enjoyed eating the honey, the real treat has been digging into its sweet science. I was curious just how much researchers have been able to observe about honey’s composition, biochemistry, and dietary effects. So I dove deep, into a literature review so obsessive that it gave me nostalgia for my grad school days. If you’re a hopeless nutrition nerd like me, please enjoy my honey reading list:
Welcome to the story of the latest chapter in my farm-to-table education: beekeeping! For real!! A couple of weeks ago I made the cross-country trek to visit my family back in Florida, where my mom has been experimenting with caring for a colony of honeybees. Since we’re both nature-lovers and food-tinkerers, we had been scheming to share a honey-gathering adventure together ever since she started her crash course in self-taught beekeeping, after a neighbor gave her the hive last year.
Looking back, maybe I should have been more apprehensive about breaking into a bee colony to steal their hard-earned honey, but I knew mom had been through a successful harvest already, and I figured humans must have learned a thing or two about dealing with bees in the last ~9000 documented years of apiculture. So I was all in!
The first step was suiting up – at the time we had yet to invest in proper beekeepers’ garb, so we improvised with some rather goofy outfits. Mosquito netting protected my face, and I tucked sleeves-into-gloves and pants-into-socks to keep unwanted intruders out of my business – it got the job done! It was comforting to be covered, but I was surprised to learn that many beekeepers are able to manage their bees’ defensive behaviors so well that they’re able to forgo the bulky outfit!
We rolled up to the hive, armed with the first line of defense for encouraging gentle bees: smoke. Ever wonder what makes smoke the beekeepers’ secret weapon? Interestingly, smoke initiates the bees’ feeding response, triggering them to settle down and eat honey in anticipation of hive abandonment due to fire! It also masks their alarm pheromones, quelling the collective freakout and making it safer to reach into their box for some honey!
Check out those bees! My mom says there are probably about 10,000 in there!!! There are different types of hives with their own pros and cons, but this traditional movable-frame hive is what my mom was given to get started. Each wooden “frame” in the box can be lifted to reveal a solid slab of honeycomb. After prying out each frame and brushing off the clinging bees, mom passed them off to me to run back to the house.
We loaded four frames into another special tool, the extractor: it’s a large, stainless steel, manual centrifuge. We took turns cranking and spinning our hearts out, and ended up with 9 full pints of honey, plus a few other odd sizes once we ran out of canning jars. It was the coolest thing!!! The honey is mindblowing – raw, golden, and studded with a galaxy of pollen visibly suspended in its sticky sweetness.
I couldn’t help but get smitten with honeybees, and my someday-dream-house plans now include a hive in the backyard. Tending a colony just appeals to all of my sensibilities:
- The bees’ mysterious habits and complex behaviors pique my biological curiosity.
- I’m in awe of the ancient knowledge surrounding beekeeping; humans have been accumulating a profound base of understanding over thousands of years of bee domestication, just waiting to be tapped into.
- It’s a beautiful thing to look at the big picture and watch them do their thing, participating in nature and playing their part in our holistic world.
Speaking of which, supporting healthy bee populations is a good deed! Life on Earth depends on, well, life on Earth. Bees play a crucial role, and their populations have been in an alarming decline in recent years. Tending a big family of happy, healthy honeybees using sustainable methods can help turn things around in your community and beyond.
Not ready to invite a few thousand bees into your yard? Maybe instead, start by just checking out this article on 10 Things You Can Do to Help Bees. Happy Earth Day!
I’ve never competed in a chili cook-off, but if I did, this is the contender I would bring to the ring.
Since spying the recipe in an issue of Cooking Light years ago, it’s been a go-to for me and for Grant. I have to give him credit, as he’s taken the recipe on as his specialty – he really makes a mean pot of chili! And as much as I love to cook, there’s something extra-tasty about a home-cooked meal where somebody else does the home-cooking, am I right?
I was surprised to see mixed reviews on the magazine’s recipe post (different strokes for different folks, I guess!) but it’s my all-time favorite and makes an appearance on our dinner table several times every year (that’s a lot for a variety-junkie like me).
This chili has exceptional depth and richness from bitter unsweetened chocolate and smokin’ hot chipotle peppers. I make just a couple of tweaks from the original recipe: most notably, I cut back on the brown sugar (you could cut it out entirely, but I find that just a bit helps balance the heat and round out the tomato flavor) and I add a splash of vinegar at the end for brightness. I also prefer my chili with kidney beans over pintos, and usually only add a single can (but it can certainly accommodate another if you like it bean-ier).
In the recipe below I’m sharing my adaptations and instructions for cooking under pressure (in my case, with Instant Pot). If you’re not on board with pressure cooking, no sweat – we’ve made it plenty of times on the stovetop in a dutch oven before embracing the energy-efficient and flavor-concentrating qualities of my favorite electric pressure cooker.
I believe Instant Pot’s “chili” mode is set at 30 minutes, but for this recipe I’m satisfied with a quicker cooking time of 10 minutes using manual mode.
The beautiful thing about home cooking is that you can make it exactly how you like it – so cook it, tweak it, make it your own!
With exotic Indian flavors and a wealth of nutritious benefits, I’ve really struck gold with these dark leafy greens. In this deceptively simple recipe, fresh kale is gently wilted in a savory base of onions, garlic, and garam masala, brightened with a golden turmeric-ginger broth, and studded with plump golden raisins.
I’ve mentioned before that I like my greens a little sweet and sour; so when my food brain started cooking up the idea for an Indian-inspired recipe, I immediately craved chutney. I understand that in India, “chutney” can refer to any number of different condiments in different regions, but what I had in mind was the anglo-influenced variety: a flavorful preserve contrasting savory onions and spices with sweet fruit, made tart with vinegar. This recipe doesn’t require you to have a jar on hand, but echoes the same flavors with a combination of fresh ingredients and pantry staples.
So, what makes these simple greens such a nutritional goldmine? Not only is this dish full of vitamins and minerals, fiber and phytonutrients like any old bowl of kale; it’s also enhanced with a powerful arsenal of culinary herbal medicine. Garlic, ginger, and turmeric don’t just bring bold flavors to the dish – they’re also rich in a wide range of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and cancer-fighting compounds.
The photo above features green curly kale, but any of your favorite hearty greens can be substituted: collards, Swiss chard, even beet greens.
Eat it over brown rice or quinoa for a light meal, or complement it with a protein like tandoori chicken or tofu. This dish is also a good accompaniment for fans of the frozen Indian food section at Trader Joe’s! Their frozen curries and naan can make a decent meal on a busy night, but you can really upgrade your dinner with just a touch of home cooking – adding a quick fresh vegetable like this will bring the plate to life.
I don’t have a full-fledged post for today, but I still wanted to check in to say hello and share a real-time glimpse into my kitchen life. It’s Valentine’s Day, which means I’m getting ready for our annual holiday tradition: home-cooked steakhouse dinner for two. This year it’s grass-fed sirloin, roasted asparagus and whole onions, and freshly-baked seeded sourdough baguettes (swoon).
Grant is out taking advantage of the warm Sunday weather for a surf session, so I’ve been spending a relaxing morning at home sipping coffee, petting Chuy, and leafing through my bookshelf in an attempt to kindle my next spark of culinary inspiration. Harold McGee delivered, as usual – ever since I was gifted On Food and Cooking years ago, I’ve been in awe of the depth of culinary science and history expertly compiled in its 884 pages. I’ve valued it as a reference book, but after blowing my mind about 7 different times just during my morning of leisurely skimming, I decided I’ve been doing this work a disservice by not soaking every word of it into my food brain! I love being a culinary dietitian and building a career around foodie science, so I really need to take better advantage of this wisdom. I know it’s going to be a long haul, but I’m resolving to finally read this thing cover to cover. Welcome to my nightstand, McGee.
Curiosity is a good thing, and we food lovers have a lot to be curious about. I’ll close with a line from McGee’s introduction, a timely reminder (given today’s holiday spirit) to give our attention to the thing we love:
“Food is an infinitely rich subject, and there’s always something about it to understand better, something new to discover, a fresh source of interest, ideas and delight.”
Any other food nerds out there on the same page? Reach out to discuss! You can order the book on Amazon here.
Sadly, the latest release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is not going to tell you to eat less meat. I, on the other hand, am less worried about profits in the meat industry than I am about a collapsing climate and the brutal reality that at current consumption rates, our children will be facing food and water shortages in the alarmingly near future. So, let me take it from here, America: let’s think about eating a little less meat!
I already try to work a lot of meatless meals into my routine, but following the politics around these guidelines has gotten me riled up and feeling motivated to put more effort into to upping my diet’s sustainability factor. Which brings us to today’s recipe: when it comes to planet-friendly eating, these nuggets are gold.
I happen to love tofu. If you don’t, believe me, I get it. It’s not a mandatory ingredient for plant-based eating, but if you just haven’t developed a taste for it yet, maybe it’s time to give this powerful protein a chance.
Today’s recipe features a crispy coating that commemorates our environmentally friendly efforts with the superstar sustainable wonder crop: hemp! Hemp is a resilient, fast-growing crop that doesn’t require much land or water. It’s also a source of complete protein and healthy omega-3 fats, and its seeds happen to be the perfect toasty/nutty ingredient to mix together with cornstarch for a simple crunchy (gluten free) breading for your tofu nuggets.
Hot out of the saute pan, these tofu fingers are addictive. The breading is neutrally seasoned, so they pair equally well with the full spectrum of dipping sauces. My choice? Hot honey mustard. It’s a 3-ingredient, 30-second recipe (ie. an instant classic).
Through the lens of crispy tofu, I hope I was able to share a few nuggets of inspiration to look at the big picture and consider sustainability when feeding ourselves. It’s not always easy, but our choices matter. If you’re interested in more practical tips for sustainable eating, let me know in the comments – I’m hoping to make time to write another post on this topic soon.
Finally, if the disappointing results of the Dietary Guidelines have gotten you riled up too, let me share this way to take action: help set things straight and call the document what it really is: “Food Policy Guidelines for America.” Dr. David Katz has set up a petition on change.org calling upon the USDA and HHS to clarify that the Guidelines are not intended as expert dietary health guidance, but rather, as Katz puts it, “what politicians think should be done with the best, expert advice in an effort to balance public health against corporate profits.” Right now it has about 75% of the signatures needed, so it needs your support!
Hungry for more hemp? Chill out with my favorite Blueberry Cocoa Hemp Smoothie!
Need a go-to tofu? This is mine: Sweet Chili Baked Tofu, even simpler than today’s recipe and its versatility makes it an excellent meal prep item.