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:
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.
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.
Resolving to Eat Better this year? Me too, but I’m not just talking about nutrition… I’m also always looking for new and exciting ways to ENJOY IT. That’s why I make this kind of food: wholesome, real ingredients coming together to make something indulgently nourishing for your “most important meal of the day.” It’s simple, but special. It’s rich, but still provides legit nutrition. And as a bonus, it will warm you to the bones not only by virtue of being a hearty porridge, but also by briefly relieving your winter weather woes with a mental tropical vacation.
So, what makes these oats so nutritious and filling? The winning combination of whole grains and coconut deliver fiber, complex carbs and a healthy dose of fat that provide lasting energy to fill you up and truly satisfy.
You can cook this on the stove, in a rice cooker, or a slow cooker, but I choose my pressure cooker. It couldn’t get much faster or simpler!
The secret to this recipe is the first step, toasting the oats and coconut, which enhances the nutty flavor in both ingredients (it’s easy as pie with Instant Pot’s saute function). Be sure to reserve some toasty coconut to use as a topping before dumping in the rest of the ingredients and locking down for pressure cooking.
You’ll open the lid to find some flawless oats: lightly sweetened and heavily fragranced with coconutty aroma. The flecks of toasted coconut offer a satisfying chew, while the coconut milk makes it extra rich and creamy. Top with fruit (fresh or dried), a drizzle of the coconut milk that’s leftover in the can, and an extra sprinkle of toasty coconut flakes.
Aside from everyday eats, keep this recipe in mind when you have a home full of house-guests. Throw together a double batch, set up a toppings station, leave the steamy pot on keep-warm mode and allow your waking visitors to self-serve at their leisure. Oatmeal doesn’t normally garner oohs and ahhs… but this recipe is special enough to hold its own!
Leftover oats? You’re in luck – save a cup to whip up a batch of my #1 favorite pancakes. Imagine how good they’ll be infused with coconut!!
Looking for more healthy breakfast inspiration? Get some fresh, practical ideas from my post on My Top 5 On-The-Go Weekday Breakfasts.
Loving your new pressure cooker? You can find the rest of my Instant Pot recipes here.
[Instant Pot] Creamy Coconut Steel-Cut Oats
Below is my pressure-cooker adaptation of this recipe from Shutterbean. If you’d rather use a rice cooker or the stovetop, use her instructions instead. If using a slow cooker, start the night before you plan to serve. Add an extra cup of liquid (your choice – either more water, coconut milk, or another liquid like almond milk), and cook overnight on the ‘low’ setting.
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup coconut milk, plus additional for topping (I use full-fat canned coconut milk, but you can substitute lighter varieties if desired)
2 cups water
1 pinch salt
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
Begin by toasting the coconut: add the dry coconut to the pressure cooker to cook over medium heat (with Instant Pot, press the ‘Saute’ button to begin cooking at medium saute heat). Stir frequently, and watch closely to avoid burning. When the coconut begins to lightly brown, remove half to set aside for the topping, and add the steel-cut oats to toast as well. Cook the oats and coconut for a few more minutes, until both are fragrant. Then add 1 cup coconut milk (reserve the remainder for topping) and the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine, then cook under high pressure for 2 minutes (with Instant Pot, press ‘Cancel’ to stop saute mode, then close the lid and press ‘Manual’ to select 2 minutes).
When the cooking time is complete, allow 10 minutes for a natural pressure release before opening the valve and lid. Serve warm, topped with a drizzle of coconut milk, a spoonful of toasted coconut, and any other desired toppings.
The Universe has a way of keeping us humble, doesn’t it? Take for example the time I fell hard for The Great British Baking Show on Netflix, and mused contentedly about what an adept contender I could be. Naturally, my next baking session was an epic screw-up. I’m claiming distraction as the reason behind the embarrassing disaster, but seriously: it involved boxed cookie mix, BOTH of my apartment’s smoke alarms, and a full hour spent the next day scrubbing the bottom of my oven. So, right, I was not Star Baker this week.
(Undoubtedly my worst mishap since the Great Kombucha Eruption of 2015.)
Similarly, look what happens when I promise you a newly developed recipe. Here we are nearly a month later, and I’m just now getting back to you because of an extended string of lackluster trials in my test-kitchen. Lucky for you guys, I don’t give up too easily.
The plan was to cap off my sourdough baking series with a special weekend breakfast combining the flavor/benefits of sourdough with the seasonal charm of pumpkin spice. But I soon realized that this pairing would require a bit of trial and error, as pumpkin puree and sourdough can both complicate efforts to optimize the texture and density of baked goods. After wrestling with a series of adaptations to the basic sourdough pancake formula from King Arthur Flour, I decided I might be better off seeking insight from my favorite online community of super experienced and skilled bakers at The Fresh Loaf.
Lo and behold, those good bakers know exactly what to do: I was just one blog post away from a foolproof formula. To create my perfect sourdough pumpkin pancake, I spiked the recipe with buttermilk, brown sugar and a sprinkle of spices; I also swapped in whole wheat pastry flour to take advantage of its delicate crumb. The pancakes are tender, lightly sour, subtly spiced… and we couldn’t have done it without that bubbling, fermenting colony of our favorite friendly microbes.
Nothing like a good recipe success to recover from a streak of kitchen fails… What a relief! Happy cooking, everybody. I’m off to put that sparkling clean oven to good use.
(No sourdough starter? How about some tasty steel-cut oat pancakes instead?)
We’ve been culturing a deep appreciation for sourdough here at flavorRD! We started with a crash course on sourdough’s history, science and nutrition benefits, followed by the how and WHY of getting your starter started. This week, I’m finishing the series by walking you through my weekly sourdough baking ritual, and sharing some of my favorite recipe successes from my experiments so far.
My Weekly Sourdough Ritual
Since the feeding and maintenance of a sourdough starter requires you to set aside a portion to “discard,” it only makes sense to synchronize feeding time with a weekly baking session. Make that starter earn his keep! Once you’ve grown a sourdough culture, no matter what tempting treats are on your “to bake” list, they all start with the same simple steps that make up the weekly ritual:
- Take the starter out of the fridge, pouring off any liquid that has accumulated on top (this is alcohol from the yeast’s slow fermentation!) and giving the rest a quick stir.
- Divide the starter into two halves – set one aside for baking, and leave the other in your ‘crock’ (FYI: mine is just tupperware) to continue your culture.
- Use a kitchen scale* to weigh 4 oz. flour** and 4 oz. water, and stir them into the remaining starter in the crock until smoothly combined. Allow it to sit, covered but not airtight, at room temperature for 2 hours before returning it to the fridge. This gives your microbial friends some time to eat before going back to ‘sleep’ for the week.
- Take the other half of the starter that you set aside, and use it in a tasty recipe! It can often be used in this “unfed” state (ie. in baked goods that either don’t need to rise much, that involve a pre-ferment, or in quickbread type recipes that include another leavener like baking powder/soda), but if you want it to be powerful enough to leaven bread, you’ll want to give this half its own feeding as well. To give it some extra “oomph,” feed the discard starter with 4 oz. flour and water just like in the last step, and let it hang out for about 12 hours before baking. If I’m planning to bake bread on Saturday, I usually take my starter out on Friday night, split it, and feed both halves. Then after 2 hours, I put one half back into the fridge for next week, and leave the other half out overnight to continue fermenting until I’m ready to bake the next morning.
* I actually use this inexpensive + very precise pocket scale!
** I usually feed my starter with unbleached all-purpose flour, which yields the most reliable results. But once every few weeks I prefer to liven things up with a feeding of whole-wheat flour instead.
Highlights of my Sourdough Baking Rotation
And finally, what we’ve all been waiting for… the recipes!
Pizza Crust: I’ve already mentioned (and teased on Instagram) my obsession with crafting the perfect whole grain sourdough crust for pizza night. Recipe testing is still in progress, but you can definitely look forward to seeing the results here once I get it dialed in.
Pancakes + Waffles: Weekend breakfast turns your sourdough ritual into an opportunity to show your household some love. This basic recipe from King Arthur Flour has an overnight rise with buttermilk, and comes out superbly light and fluffy. I substitute whole-wheat pastry flour instead of the all-purpose stuff, with great results, and it’s also a good foundation for customizing variations with your favorite mix-ins. In fact, I have a new seasonal specialty coming your way soon!
Biscuits: I’ve only experimented with sourdough biscuits once so far, but they definitely warrant further study! I tried a variation on this cheddar biscuit recipe from Cultures for Health (great resource for all things fermented), and although it came out a little more like a dinner roll than a fluffy/flaky biscuit, we still ate them enthusiastically. The dough is marbled with sharp cheddar, black pepper and garlic, which I was compelled to enjoy savory-sweet style: topped with a drizzle of honey. Next, I’ve got my sights set on these cheddar-chive beauties.
Seed Bread: When I wrote last week about my motivations for starting a sourdough habit, there was another bullet point that I should have included: because I am addicted to sourdough seed bread! I first got hooked on the version they sell at the bakery department at Sprouts, and then when I found this recipe from Smart Nutrition (one of my all-time-fave RD bloggers) I’m pretty sure it was seriously the tipping point that inspired me to adopt my new sourdough pet. I add hemp seeds to mine, and it is outrageously good.
Those are the baking basics that have stood out as the house favorites during my first couple of months experimenting with my new sourdough ritual, but I look forward to baking plenty more healthy, fermented grainy goodies. You can keep up with ongoing updates on my baking inspiration on my Sourdough Recipes Pinterest board (next on my list: those popovers and those donuts!)
Readers, now it’s your turn: tell me about your sourdough! What are your best tips and must-try recipes?
Seasonal cooking gets tricky when the calendar says it’s Fall, but the weather does not. This is a treat that can ease the pain of being stuck in that awkward limbo between seasons – when you’re dreaming of warm spices and baked goods fresh from the oven, but what you really need is something out of the freezer. If you’re drawn to the autumnal charms of apple pie, and you agree that it’s at its best when a la mode, you’re way overdue for an inside-out twist!
Join me in lazy-cooking bliss by buying a box of apple turnovers from your local bakery. Freeze them, slice them in half, and admire the airy void between the pastry and the filling. Soften a tub of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt and use it to fill the pocket, gently pressing a spoonful at a time to create an even layer. Pop your stuffed triangles back into the freezer to firm up, and look forward to blowing your mind.
Each stuffed triangle is a perfect hand-held package, but it’s a rich dessert, so keep portion size under control by choosing smaller pastries. I’m on the hunt for mini-sized turnovers, because this would just be such a killer finish for a dinner party!
Need another easy way to indulge your cravings for Fall flavors? Check out last year’s suggestion: The Easiest Seasonal Pumpkin Treat (Dark Chocolate Edition)