Did you know blackberries run wild in Seattle? Like, really run wild. Rubus armeniacus, the “Himalayan” blackberry, is an invasive species that has a special talent for sprawling its thorny brambles into every green nook and cranny of the urban landscape. This has earned it a reputation as a “problem child” of the local ecosystem, but I have to confess a soft spot for these wildlings. Who can stay mad at something so delicious? And how can anyone stare down a loaded thicket like this without their latent hunter-gatherer instincts kicking into overdrive?
Over the past week, Seattle has found itself in the middle of both a record-setting heat wave and a thick haze of smoke. Naturally, these conditions make me nostalgic for my days in southern California. (zing!)
In all seriousness though, I really have been doing some California Dreaming. With summertime in full swing, I’m craving sunshine and avocados, and generally feeling inspired by left coast vibes (the Cowabunga Lifestyle, you know?)
Given this set and setting, I got into the kitchen and combined two beloved regional socal desserts:
I’ve been charmed by overnight oats before, but until recently I had never tried what you might call the “original recipe” – bircher muesli. This dish was popularized in the late 1800s by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who served it daily to the high-profile guests of his Alpine wellness retreat. The doctor’s intention behind this humble and wholesome “little mush” was to find a palatable way to get more raw fruit into his patients’ diets. Homeboy was driven by some puzzling proto-raw-foodism beliefs, but I’ll cut him some slack… You can’t blame the guy for living in what was essentially the dawn of nutrition science (people often forget that nutrition is such a young field; for perspective, realize that humans had no concept of vitamins until 1912). I have to give him credit for being ahead of his time in many ways, especially in making connections between health and harmony with nature. And, of course, for inventing my latest summertime breakfast obsession.
In my last post on Food Prep Strategy, I mentioned the latest positive influence that Instant Pot‘s glorious set-it-and-forget-it convenience has graced upon my cooking routines… something I like to call INSTA-GREENS. Really, it’s nothing more than batch-cooking my leafy greens, but in my eyes it’s become an anchor of my weekly self care routine. A simple task that makes me feel like I am treating myself right.
“#1. Make a Lot of Soup”
This was the first directive scribbled to myself on a note titled “Foodprep Strategy,” a deliberate attempt at eating well and staying sane in this time of post-moving–new-life-upheaval. New year, new city, new kitchen, new climate, new grocery stores, new work-from-home transition, all around brand new routine.
In my disoriented state, emerging from a maze of cardboard boxes to hit the ground running as Dinner Captain once again, I turned to soup. Nourishing, crowd-pleasing, inexpensive, efficient to cook in large batches, quick to reheat, and warming for cold bellies… soup has been serving me well.Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Chicken Mushroom & Wild Rice Soup”
As I scramble through my last month living in San Diego, I was lucky enough to take part in one last Healthy Dining Office Potluck. When you work with a team of Culinary Dietitians and other foodie health professionals, potluck celebrations are serious business. Looking back on the 2.5 years that I’ve worked with this team, I’m pleasantly surprised that I had a chance to document several of my contributions online here: there have been polenta-crusted quiches, gluten-free peach cobbler scones, worksgiving goat cheese mashed potatoes, and platters of avocado toast slathered with chimichurri sauce. But to date, my crowning achievement was at a banana-themed bash we held last October, so this week I had go out with a bang and recreate my biggest hit.
Ropa vieja. Be still, my heart.
While I was studying to become a dietitian, I lived in Miami for three years. Moving to Miami can cause some serious culture shock, even for a Florida native, but I have to admit that crazy town has some perks.
Some of the best perks were getting to know Cuban friends and their Cuban FOOD. In Miami, I met some of the world’s nicest people who got me very well acquainted with Cuba’s rich culinary traditions. Cafecitos. Maduros. Picadillo. Pastelitos. And one of my personal favorites, ropa vieja, a classic comfort food that makes you feel at home whether you grew up eating it or not. It’s a flavorful stew made with peppers, tomatoes, and flank steak cooked low-and-slow until the meat is tender enough to effortlessly pull apart into long shreds that resemble the fibers of threadbare cloth, hence the name (ropa vieja = old clothes).
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.