[Instant Pot] Ropa Vieja: Cuban Shredded Beef Stew

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).

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[Instant Pot] Chipotle Chocolate Chili

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, you know?

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5 New Ways to Love Quinoa

QUINOA. This little seed can bring a lot to the table. Not only is it a source of complete protein and rich in essential nutrients, but it’s also easy to cook to perfection, and the leftovers taste just as delicious as ever after days in the fridge. You will never regret setting aside a few minutes for weekend food prep to cook up a big batch of quinoa. When we supply ourselves with the right go-to ingredients, we set ourselves up for success to keep our kitchens stocked with healthy meals to count on all week long. Invest in your future!

This week’s surplus of healthy whole-grain inspiration comes from a blog collaboration with Rachael and Cara of Nutrition Milestones (remember them?). We got together last weekend for a cooking jam-session of sorts, and seriously, how great is my food nerd life that I’m lucky enough to have found other people who consider this a good time? Read on to learn what comes out of the kitchen when 3 RDs join forces to come up with some fresh takes on our favorite healthy staple!

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Chimichurri in a Hurry

Flavor. We definitely consider it an essential part of the diet around here, but it’s not often that we talk about its direct relevance to nutrition. After reading a great article by Mark Schatzker last week, I was inspired to take a moment to highlight this underappreciated piece of the human nutrition puzzle.

Shatzker describes flavor as an “ancient chemical language,” which is such a beautifully fitting depiction of the science. “Flavor is the body’s way of identifying important nutrients and remembering what foods they come from.” We have evolved to seek out our favorite flavors, but we’re facing a problem because this synergy between us and our diet has been disrupted by our modern food supply. Factory farming and other questionable contemporary food production techniques yield lackluster products, in both nutrition and flavor. On top of that, a highly profitable industry of food scientists and flavor chemists have stepped in to fill the flavor void, adulterating products with enticing extracts and additives that tempt our senses but that provide none of the benefits that our bodies are craving. Shatzker’s new book, The Dorito Effect, is definitely going on my reading list. The message, which is very consistent with the way we do things around here, is to get your flavor from real food, because it’s what your body really wants.

So how can we put this theory into practice? Today, let’s remember that it doesn’t have to be complicated to craft big flavors from natural ingredients. Serving as a prime example: Chimichurri in a Hurry. Just a handful of the highly flavorful and nutritious compounds in this classic Argentine condiment include antioxidant myristicin from parsley, antimicrobial allicin from garlic, and anti-inflammatory capsaicin from chili peppers. And we get to enjoy all of those whole-food benefits in just a matter of moments thanks to my favorite blender-hack.

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MyPlate Bake #2: Sriracha BBQ Tofu

The MyPlate Bake: Sriracha BBQ Tofu
Ready for take two? In case you missed it last week, this is the second installation of flavorRD’s special feature for National Nutrition Month. Every week in March, we’re biting into a healthy lifestyle with a new balanced recipe inspired by USDA’s MyPlate: the idea is that 1/4 protein + 1/4 carbs + 1/2 veggies = healthy dinnertime success made easy, all on a single sheet pan. This time around, we’re catering to the plant-powered people out there! Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just trying to work in some Meatless Mondays, this spicy sweet garlicky goodness is a full-flavored way to power up your weeknight dinner table.

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All-Purpose Greens

Ready for an authentic glimpse into my kitchen? Here’s the Real Talk: I bought this kale with intentions to make a big fresh kale salad, but I procrastinated too long and the poor greens lost their crunch factor. It was a bummer for about 10 seconds, until I realized the silver lining: they were still perfectly good for sauteing, so now I get to talk to you about one of my favorite tricks for jamming more greens into my diet: All-Purpose Greens, yo!

While you can also whip this up as a quick side dish, this recipe is mostly about healthy-eating logistics. We can all benefit from a trick for making it easier to eat more vegetables, and this is one that I keep up my sleeve. I like to make a full batch of All-Purpose Greens to store in my fridge and use throughout the week in meals that could benefit from an extra serving of veggies. It’s an effortless way to add color and flavor, not to mention fiber, vitamins, minerals, and all of the other disease-fighting phytochemicals that make vegetables the foundation of a healthy diet.

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[Instant Pot] Vegan Caribbean Coconut Curry

Had a hard week? You need an easy weeknight dinner. Fortunately for us, this one is packed with nutrient dense vegetables and layers of slow-cooked flavors… without the slow-cooking. The veggies all cook quickly, so there’s no advance planning needed. Just a little therapeutic chopping and simmering while you decompress from the challenges of the day, and you can have this wholesome vegan dinner on the table in no time.

If you’re a seasoned Caribbean foodie, please note that I’m not claiming any authenticity. When I dreamed up this stew, I was going for a hearty foundation of powerful plant foods, tempered with tropical coconut milk and some warm spices as my simplified allusion to Jamaican jerk-style seasoning. Authentic cuisine? Not exactly. Super satisfying healthy dinner? Most definitely!

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Black Bean Crunch Patties

This healthy and quick summer meal happened last weekend after pressure-cooking a pot of black beans to stock my freezer. Black beans are the standard legume in my house; we eat them alllll the time, mostly in Mexican and Cuban-style dishes. But as I scooped the magical fruits into plastic bags flattened for efficient storage, lacking any dinner plans, I decided to set a bowl aside to get out of the rut and try something different.

I’ve been in the mood for Mediterranean food lately, and it’s been forever since I’ve had a good falafel, which in my house we refer to as “crunch patties” in honor of the classic episode of The Simpsons. And they’re perfect for light summer dining, so why not mix things up with some black beans?

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Mom’s Chicken Cacciatore

After spending a weekend with the family, I felt like my return to apartment life could benefit from some real home cooking. Time for a Mom Recipe, you know? I don’t know if Spring has sprung where you are yet, but even here in southern California the nights are chilly enough to encourage stewy, braise-y dinners. So readers, today you’re lucky enough to learn about one of our most popular family recipes: my mom’s chicken cacciatore.

Cacciatore is Italian for ‘hunter,’ and as I understand it, the idea behind the dish is that hunters are able to pick up wild mushrooms while out in the forest. I don’t claim any real Italian authenticity, but the thing that sets this recipe apart is the sauce. Ohhh, the sauce… It’s tomato-based, but doesn’t really even taste like a tomato sauce. Some kind of magic alchemy goes on between the wine, broth and aromatics that yields something complex, herbaceous, and completely revelatory.

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