Magnificent Mushrooms: 4 to Know

A little secret: I used to think I disliked mushrooms … but the only ones I’d had were those crazy little white button mushrooms that come pre-washed and wrapped in plastic, for who knows how long. A few years ago, the local mushroom growers at my farmer’s market opened my eyes and now I’m positively addicted, and super-thankful for it!

You know I love things super-simple, so it’s probably no surprise that my favorite way to cook them is an easy sear of trimmed (but not chopped) mushrooms in a single layer in a cast iron pan with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Sometimes my family and I stand over the pan and eat them hot and crispy, before they ever make it to the table. Occasionally I get fancy and add shallots and a bit of white wine at the end, but really, there is nothing like hot and crispy mushroom bits fresh out of the pan.

And the best part? Inside all this deliciousness lives all of these benefits!
4 Mushrooms to Know - Jennifer SIlverberg

Cashew Cream Sweet Potato Mash

File this under “necessity is the mother of invention!” We don’t get much snow where I am, but we got a dusting yesterday. So, the roads closed right about the time I got to the bottom of my veggie crisper – oh, no!!

Lunch today meant getting a little creative with the giant (SERIOUSLY giant) sweet potato I had on the counter, and some cashews from the fridge. And it turned out AMAZING. Give this a try, even if it’s not the last food you have left in the house!
Cashew Cream Sweet Potato Mash

Ingredients

Potatoes
– 2 large sweet potatoes (or one freakishly large one – I think I had a 2-pounder!), sliced into 1-2″ chunks
– 1 tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil if you don’t have coconut)
– 1/2 cup water
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp cumin
– sprinkle of salt

Cashew Cream
– 1 cup fresh, unsalted cashews
– water
– 1 tbsp maple syrup
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1/4 cup Dried coconut flakes, unsweetened (can be omitted)

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the sweet potatoes, sprinkle with the spices, stir, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add the water, stir, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft.

IMG_1321In the meantime, in a high-speed blender (like Vitamix), add the cashews, maple syrup, vanilla, and coconut flakes, add water to come to just the top of the cashews, and blend until super-smooth and creamy, with no trace of the nuts.

When the potatoes are ready, put them in a bowl, and mash them with the cashew cream to taste. Top with a little more, just for fun.
IMG_1329
NOTE: You will have leftover cashew cream, which is AWESOME. Use it as an amazing fruit topping, in smoothies, over any baked goods (bread, whatever), eat it straight from your bowl as a treat, or just make more sweet potatoes tomorrow!

Bold Winter Greens Salad

Bold Winter Greens Salad

Bold Winter Greens Salad

This bold winter salad pairs well with hearty but simple winter soups like white bean, or veggie chilis. I usually find myself going back for second and third helpings – and it actually holds well in the fridge as well – so I make a LOT of this salad at a time.

Dressing:
1/3 C tablespoons olive oil
1/4 C tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon raw honey (or regular if raw is not available)
1 tablespoon oregano, dried
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns

Vegetables/Fruits:
4 – 6 collard leaves, trimmed and finely chopped
1 bunch kale, with stems removed, then rolled (like a cigar) and thinly sliced into ribbons
1 head romaine lettuce, diced
1/4 small head red cabbage, diced
Optional: other winter greens, like escarole, chicory, or endive, sliced
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced – no need to peel
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
1 avocado – peeled, pitted, and diced
1 large carrot, sliced horizontally using vegetable peeler
Optional: walnuts, crushed

Directions

Mix all dressing ingredients in a mason jar or similar, shake well, and sit aside to let flavors blend. Salt can be reduced a bit if needed, but not eliminated entirely, or the ingredients will not mix properly.

Chop all vegetables per ingredient instructions. This salad is MUCH better if the thicker greens, like collard and kale, are properly prepared by being thinly sliced!

Place all veggies in a large bowl, and toss with about half of the dressing. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, and then serve with remaining dressing added to taste. Top with walnuts, if desired.

Easy Pumpkin Fig Mousse

This is SUCH a simple recipe, and a healthy way to celebrate the pumpkin flavors of the season. You’ll get more compliments than you feel you deserve … what a great way to start the holiday season, right?

Pumpkin Fig Mousse

Easy Pumpkin Fig Mousse Recipe

Note: As with all recipes using Real Food ingredients, all measures are approximate, and the right blend depends on the characteristics of your in-season veggies (they can vary significantly in sweetness, spiciness, texture, etc.). You’re safe to experiment!

Ingredients

  • One 16 oz can (BPA-free) or box of organic pumpkin – not pumpkin pie mix! (Feel free to sub with one sugar pumpkin, roasted, if you’re feeling like roasting pumpkin!)
  • Two dried figs
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice or garam masala (like pumpkin pie spice, but a little more exotic) If you really like cinnamon or ginger or vanilla or whatever, feel free to add a bit more of this.
  • Optional garnishes if you’re feeing fancy: salted pumpkin seeds (highly recommended for the contrast to the sweet pumpkin), sliced fresh fig, dab of greek yogurt, coconut cream, or fresh whipped cream, and/or organic graham cracker squares (which can give the sense of a “crust”)
  • Toss all ingredients in a strong blender, like a Vitamix, and blend until smooth. Taste, and adjust spices to your liking. Add another fig or a spoonful of maple syrup if you want it sweeter. If you’ve added anything, re-blend, then pour into serving dishes. Hold until ready to serve, add garnishes, and be ready to accept compliments!

    The Most Delicious Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices

    Anti-inflammatory Herbs and Spices

    Inflammation is healthy when it’s a response to a specific threat – it’s the body’s healing response to injuries and some illnesses. But our modern diets and lifestyles introduce persistent stressors, including emotional stress, environmental toxins, and foodborne chemicals, that can keep our bodies chronically inflamed.

    Chronic inflammation is increasingly being implicated in studies as the root cause of many serious illnesses – including heart disease, many cancers, memory diseases like Alzheimers, and autoimmune diseases … as well as being seriously taxing on our energy levels and mood.

    A diet rich in fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, especially when combined with anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like the ones shown above, can help heal your body, and help it preserve your inflammation response for those times when it is needed to fight specific, acute, stressors like injuries.

    And – it’s a delicious way to eat … notice that you have all the spices for a pumpkin pie in this chart! Need a recipe? Try this one: Pumpkin Pie Baked in the Pumpkin.

    Healthy Pumpkin Pie, Baked in the Shell

    Pumpkin Pie Baked in the Pumpkin

    Fresh Pumpkin Pie SliceOk, now THIS was a fun one to figure out! I wanted a fully REAL food pumpkin pie – nothing processed. And I wanted to bake it in the shell. And I wanted it to be fairly easy. Here you go: simple, healthy, and beautiful!

    If you’re thinking of making this for Thanksgiving, you may want to make it once or twice ahead of time, too. Not because it’s tricky or anything, just because it’s delicious :-).

    Ingredients
    2 medium “Sugar Pumpkins” – these are NOT jack o’lantern pumpkins, they’re quite different. Look for ones marked “sugar pumpkins” or “baking pumpkins.”
    1/2 cup maple syrup
    3-4 tbsp “pumpkin pie spice” (or mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice)
    1 tsp salt
    1.5 cup raw cashews
    1 tablespoon vanilla
    I also like to add some freshly ground nutmeg and a little fresh ginger if I have it on hand
    Pepitas for garnish
    Optional: 1/4 cup marscapone cheese – makes the pie super-creamy, but omit for vegan version
    Optional: 2 eggs – they’re not needed, but some people prefer the texture of eggy pumpkin pie

    How to make

    Preheat oven to 350.

    Cut the tops off of both pumpkins, and cut one in to halves, leaving the other whole. With a spoon, scrape out the seeds and other tissues and put aside (you can roast the seeds later if you like).

    Pumpkin pieces ready to roastMix the maple syrup, spices, and salt, and pour into the “bowls” of the halves and the whole pumpkin, and spread around the inside surface. Place these on a large baking sheet and lay a piece of aluminum foil over all. Place into the oven – they are going to cook about 30 – 50 minutes (totally depends on the pumpkins, they can vary considerably), until softened but the shell of the large pumpkin is still solid (not collapsed).

    Remove the pumpkins to cool. Put the cashews, a little water and vanilla in a high speed blender (like Vitamix) or food processor. Note: If you do not have a high speed blender, simmer the cashews in water for about 15 minutes, then discard the water before processing) Process until smooth, adding a little water as needed to make smooth. If you are using marscapone cheese and/or eggs, add them now.

    When the pumpkin pieces are cool enough, pick them up and pour the remaining maple syrup/spices from them directly into the cashew mix and continue blending on low. Then, scrape the soft pumpkin pulp from the pumpkin halves, all the way to the skin (discarding skin), and add to the blender (still on low). Last, scrape about half of the pumpkin pulp from the whole pumpkin, leaving enough to preserve the structure, and also add this to the blender. Process until smooth. Note: you may overflow your blender, and have to blend in stages.

    Taste the pumpkin mixture (assuming you haven’t added eggs) and adjust seasonings – I usually wind up adding some more spices at this point.

    Pumpkin ready to go back into the oven

    Pumpkin ready to go back into the oven. Note that the filling will expand a bit, so expect it to overflow if you fill to the edge.

    When the filling is ready, slowly pour it back into the whole pumpkin, and put the “pie” back in the oven to bake for another 40 – 50 minutes or so, until the top is browned and the filling seems to be set. Remove, and let cool to room temperature, or place in the refrigerator to serve later (most people prefer pumpkin pie to be chilled).

    I like to serve this topped with a little more cashew cream or marscapone, blended with a bit of maple syrup, plus a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds. Slice from top to bottom and put slices flat onto plates, then top with the cashew cream or marscapone. Beautiful and delicious – Enjoy!!!

    Turmeric Green Tea – Antioxidant Blast!

    Turmeric Green Tea

    This super-simple green tea adds a blast of flavor and healthy antioxidants with a shake of ground turmeric … delicious and oh-so-healthy!

    Preferably, use a tea strainer (like this) with loose green tea – the tea is less expensive this way, and causes less waste. If you don’t have one, it can be made with tea bags also.

    Simple Instructions (makes two cups);

    Add green tea and about 1 tsp (more if you like) powdered turmeric to a tea strainer. Bring water to a boil, take off the heat and wait a minute or two to let it cool just a bit. Put the tea strainer in the first cup and pour water over all. Let the tea brew in the cup for about 2-3 minutes. Then remove the strainer and move to the second cup to repeat the brew, adding about a half of a tsp of turmeric to make up for the parts that strained into the first cup. Again, brew for about 2-3 minutes.

    On the choice of green tea: any type will be good, but recent tests among common brands have shown Teavana Gyokuro Imperial Loose-Leaf Green Tea to have the highest levels of EGCG (the antioxidant in green tea believed to be most responsible for its health benefits).

    Fast Fruity Freekeh! – EatYourselfWell for Breakfast

    Fast, Fruity Freekeh - Eat Yourself Well

    If you haven’t met freekeh yet, welcome … you’ll have a new addiction like mine! Freekeh is an ancient form of cracked green bulgur wheat that packs 11 grams of protein per serving, and twice the fiber of quinoa. And it’s delicious, super-easy to cook, and sooooo versatile. Oh – and super-easy to cook, as it always turns out light and fluffy.

    This morning, I cooked two cups but only used a small bit – I’ll be using it all weekend with other dishes as well – salads, pilafs, etc.

    Fast Fruity Freekeh

    Serves two with leftovers

    • 1 cup freekeh (you will have extra, but that’s a VERY good thing – I usually double this, actually, and have leftovers for days)
    • 2.5 cups water
    • 1/2 cup coconut milk or cream, unsweetened (optional)
    • pinch of salt
    • 2 fresh or frozen peaches
    • 1 cup fresh or frozen cherries
    • juice of 1/2 lemon
    • Sprinkle of nutmeg
    • Optional: nuts or hemp seeds as topping – I used pistachios

    Add 1 cup freekeh to the water and coconut milk or cream (if using) and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and cook for 10-12 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with fork.

    While freekeh is cooking, chop peaches (no need to peel, in my opinion) to the cherries in a small saucepan, squeeze lemon over all, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. You won’t need to add water or any liquid, the fruits will liquefy. Turn to medium-low and continue cooking until soft, about 12 minutes.

    Add freekeh to a small bowl and top with cooked fruits, sprinkle of fresh nutmeg, and nuts/seeds if you are using. Also, if you are using coconut milk/cream, just a bit of that over the top is amazing.