No-More-Flaming Stir Fry

No More Flaming Stir FrySo you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been putting up a lot of recipe posts these days. And you’re probably getting sick of hearing about weight loss and bootcamp and self-discovery and health trends and blah blah – where’s the FOOD? The truth is that being in such a goal-focused state, I’m eating a lot of the same things on a daily basis. You’ve read about my juice, you’ve seen my purple smoothie, and you’ve hopefully by now tried my curried roasted veggie and coconut soup. For me, routine is a way of keeping me on track: I find good things that I love to eat and I stick with them. It works for me. Once I reach my goals and summer arrives, no doubt things here at the starving artist will shift. But for now, we’re sticking with good clean eats.

Today, finally, I have a new recipe for you. This stir fry was inspired my new quest to fight inflammation. You heard me mention this yesterday, but some of you may be wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Chronic inflammation is a condition that has been identified as the root of many serious medical problems including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. It is also directly linked to smaller ailments like, oh I don’t know, POOR DIGESTION, asthma, and can even be the source of persistant sinus infections – all of which I suffer from. What causes inflammation? Poor diet. GASP!! Shocking? No. Specifically: wheat, gluten, dairy products, meat, white sugar, processed/packaged/prepared foods, and alcohol to name a few. It’s serious business, kids.

Click the link below for the recipe:

No More Flaming Stir Fry (Recipe PDF)

And here are the main things to notice:

  • Soy Sauce Replacement. We all love putting soy sauce in stir fry. I have a gallon jug of Kikkoman in my fridge. But guess what? Soy sauce is not gluten free. It’s true! Look at the bottle. There are gluten free and raw brands you can find at Whole Foods, but personally I love Bragg’s Liquid Aminos – it’s pure, packed with protein, not fermented, not heated, gluten free, alcohol free, and preservative free. Give it a try. You’ll love it.
  • Turmeric. Did you know turmeric is a superfood? Neither did I, until I started researching and came across this fantastic article. A member of the ginger family, not only is turmeric widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it is now being discovered that its chief active nutrient, curcumin, can actually fight cancer, not to mention dozens of everyday ailments. The point: use it!!
  • Brown Rice. I know many people are not fans of brown rice, but that’s usually because they are not buying the right kind, nor are they cooking it properly. Go for short grain brown rice (find it in bulk at Whole Foods) and bake it, don’t cook it on the stovetop. For more detail and the recipe, check out this blog post of mine. Brown rice is gluten free and definitely on the anti-inflammatory list. Just be sure to use modest quantities. Notice there is just a sprinkling in the picture.
  • Coconut Oil. I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy this at Trader Joe’s for a while now. Not only does it have great flavor, it is heart-healthy and has many health benefits. You should avoid vegetable oil at all costs and stick to cold pressed extra virgin olive oil or other organic unrefined nut oils like coconut, walnut, and even avocado (though they are all really expensive).  TJ’s has very affordable cold pressed olive oil.
  • Garlic, ginger, shitake mushrooms, broccoli, onion, Sriracha (chili peppers). All are super anti-inflammatory foods! Yes!
  • Eggs are yummy, but beware you should only eat them 2 times per week, lest they could become a source of inflammation. Pay attention to your body and how you feel when you eat them. I really wanted egg in my stir fry, so that’s what happened. :-)

Hope you enjoy as much as I do. What do you think about all this anti-flammatory talk? Share your thoughts. And let me know how you like the recipe!!

Here are more resources to check out:

Seven Spices/Foods that Could Save Your Life
Anti-Inflammatory Pyramid and Diet
Know Your Cruciferous Vegetables!

Acorn Goodness

Roasted Acorn SquashThis time of year I’m seeing bins of acorn squash at all my local grocery stores. It’s perhaps a little off putting to see a vegetable in the shape of a giant hard acorn. I mean what the hell are you supposed to do with it, crack it? Plant it and see if a tree grows? But the truth is that when roasted properly, acorn squash makes a delicious and satisfying winter time dinner that will fill you up without deviating at all from your healthy regimen. Definitely Bootcamp friendly. ;-)

So here is what you do. Very easy. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your acorn squash in half against the grain. Scoop out the seeds and guts from the crevices and then trim the outer ends so that the squash will sit straight up with the crevices facing up. Coat the outside skin with a very thin layer of olive oil, then place them on a foil lined quarter sheet pan. Now for some flavor. In a small bowl combine the following:

  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp maple sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • pinch of clove
  • pince of cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Mix thoroughly and spread evenly between the two halves. Rub mixture thoroughly over the flesh of the squash and drain any excess that pools into the bottom of the cavity back into the bowl and set aside. Season liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper. Then place a small pat of butter in each half of the squash. Put tray into the bottom half of the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft and the edges are crispy.

Eat directly from the squash, drizzling the remaining maple syrup mixture over each half and adding some extra butter as desired. Or, scoop out all the squash, place into a bowl and lightly mash together with the left over syrup, some extra butter, and an extra sprinkle of maple sugar. As I always tell you, do not run out to buy spices you don’t already have. Make up your own seasoning. Brown sugar can easily be substituted for maple sugar, but maple sugar is really great stuff.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Farmers’ Market Dinner

Hello friends, I am blogging in real time today! Hope everyone has enjoyed this beautiful fall weekend. This morning I finally had the opportunity to return to my beloved Hollywood Farmers’ Market. It had been two weeks since my last visit – for shame. Today I could not resist the Domenico’s tent. Not only do they have a plethora of fresh pastas, they also have the only pre-made pesto I would ever consider purchasing, made with roasted Marcona almonds and basil. Mind-blowing. I went for a package of fresh whole wheat bucatini and then made my way to the mushroom tent to purchase a $10 bag of fresh chanterelles. Between these two items I was already at $16, which means I couldn’t really go too much further with the purchases. So, I got stocked up on some fresh herbs – chives and chocolate mint are my two staples, but today I got a third one that I’ve never used, marjoram. It’s almost like a cross between rosemary and sage. Thought it would be perfect for a mushroom sauce to go with this fresh pasta.

Well, let me tell you, I was right. I chopped up the chanterelles with some creminis and sauteed them in butter and olive oil and salt. I also soaked some dried porcinis in boiling water for 10 minutes. I then chopped them up and threw them into the pan. Once soft I added 3 cloves of garlic run through a garlic press and one finely diced shallot. After cooking those for a minute, I added a bit of flour, cooked that for another minute, then added the water I soaked the porcinis in with some beef stock. Once it got thick and bubbly I added 1 cup of defrosted frozen peas,  the fresh marjoram, then let it simmer for a bit. Once my bucatini was cooked I scooped it right out of the pot into the saute pan. I brought it all together with some fresh parmesan and romano. An earthy, comforting meal for a chilly night. Delicious.

Happy Sunday :)

Pecan Pesto

I love pesto. But never from a store bought container – no no. Pesto is way too easy and way too fresh to shell out for some chemical-filled processed crap you find in the grocery store. But I’ve noticed that everyone seems to be obsessed with putting roasted pine nuts in their pesto… pine nuts… I’m sorry, pine nuts are really expensive. And I would have no use for them other than pesto, so why would I want to invest in such an item? Most of the time when I make pesto I don’t use any nuts. For me, all I need is basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and cheese. Tastes good to me!

But while I may never be a purveyor of pine nuts, I nearly always have pecans in my cabinet (my absolute favorite nut). So as I was making this batch of pesto, I thought what the hell, let’s toast some pecans and throw them in here. And you know what? It was friggin delicious.

Now I have to tell you, I never measure anything. But here is the approximate recipe:

  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 large container fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan or romano cheese
  • big pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper
  • olive oil

All I do is throw the garlic into the food processor and get it chopped up really good. Then I cram everything else into food processor (except the olive oil), turn it on, get it good and ground up, then I stream in olive oil until it reaches the smooth consistency you desire. I like mine a little on the thick side, as you can see.

If you’re not going to use this right away, be sure you store it in the fridge in a container with plastic wrap pressed against the top to help prevent browning. Air = browning.

Stay tuned for a PHENOMENAL recipe to use this with.

Shiitake Mushroom Gravy with Chia Seed

In addition to my fresh lavender, I got a tremendous bargain at the farmers’ market on Sunday via a tent selling paper bags full of baby shiitake mushrooms. I had only two dollars left in my wallet and spotted the bag of mushrooms marked $3. One of the biggest secrets to going to a farmers’ market is to go towards the end when the vendors are trying to get rid of whatever they were unable to sell. It’s much easier to barter and you are likely to get a really great deal.  Case and point, this bag of mushrooms. I asked if she would take $2. Not only did she agree, she proceeded to fill the bag with some leftover shiitakes in a bulk bin that she considered “deformed” and therefore wouldn’t sell them. Tremendous deal.

In a situation like this, with such fresh and lovely mushrooms, simplicity is best. I decided I wanted to make a gravy using the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and vegetable stock for an easy and satisfying dinner. I wanted to get the gravy thick, but I didn’t want to have to use flour as I’ve been trying hard to avoid it whenever possible. One of my favorite things to do is browse the “New Item” section at Trader Joe’s – there are always such fun new things to play with like coconut cream, honey roasted almond slices, coconut flakes, etc, etc. Recently I discovered Chia Seeds, which I later learned act as an outstanding thickener when they are ground. And they happen to have much the same digestive benefits as psyllium fiber (Metamucil). Who knew?

So here’s what I did. Got a large heavy or cast iron skillet nice and hot. Added butter and just enough oil to coat the bottom and tossed in the mushrooms, about 3 three cups of fresh shiitake. I sauteed them until they began to brown, then added 1 finely minced shallot, 1 clove finely minced garlic, kosher salt, and black pepper. Once fragrant, I added in 1 tablespoon of ground chia seeds, sauteed for an additional minute, then added two cups of vegetable stock. I then let it simmer until it thickened – happens very quickly. Once thick I killed the heat, added in one tablespoon of chopped fresh sage, and bam, a delicious mushroom gravy that I ate over brown rice. This would also be great with steamed vegetables or as a topping for grilled chicken or steak. Yum.

Hope everyone is enjoying the fall! More coming from me over the weekend!