Corn-Potato Soup

In the winter, as the cold settles in, I’m often reminded to nourish myself with things that make me warm, from soup and lattes to yoga and long hikes. But it’s not just during the cold months that we need to bring warmth and nourishment into our lives.

Tangible things that make the body warm like hot foods and activities that increase your heart rate are what people initially think of when they want to heat their body, but warmth also means surrounding yourself with people you love. Catching up with a friend, snuggling up with your cat or enjoying the company of a loved one makes you feel loved and wanted.

Lately I’ve been focusing on bringing more warm and nourishing elements into my life, because life is too short to live feeling cold. Simply thinking about all of the people, close by and thousands of miles away, that support me and care about me gives me a warm feeling inside. So before the next cold burst comes, I challenge you to reflect on what makes you feel warm and nourished and bring more of that into your life.

Soup is one of the tangible things that is nourishing and warm, so I’ve been experimenting with different recipes. This one is inspired by a corn chowder that a good friend made. While it’s hard to beat delicious soup and good company, this recipe is a healthy vegan alternative to classic corn-potato soup.

corn-potato-soup

Corn-Potato Soup

Ingredients

> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> 1/2 large white onion, chopped
> 4 cloves garlic, minced
> 2 russet potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
> 2 cups frozen corn, or 4 ears fresh corn
> 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
> 1 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
> salt and pepper
> 2 green onions, chopped for garnish

Instructions

Sauté olive oil, onion and garlic in a large saucepan over medium heat for 4 minutes. Add potatoes and season with salt and paper. Cover and steam for 5 minutes.

Add corn, broth and almond milk and stir. Cover and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low. Cook until the potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes.

To serve, top with chopped green onion, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast (for a cheesy flavor) and paprika.

Makes 4 servings.

Carrot and Kale Thai Soup

At the start of the year, many people make New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, exercise more and drink less. While these goals are well intentioned, they often last a couple months — or sometimes as short as a few weeks.

To me, New Year’s resolutions should be goals or things you want to do for life, not just a couple months. And that may mean not making your resolutions very extreme. For example, instead of trying to eat healthier by cutting meat from your diet and avoiding all sugar, consider eating lean meat a couple times per week and saving sweets for certain days of the week or special occasions. Moderation is key.

After the indulgences of the holidays, I yearned for a simple, healthy and flavorful dish. I found a recipe called “Carrot and Kale Detox Soup,” which sounded like it would do just the trick. The mere name of the recipe inspired me to think about what “detox” means. To me, this recipe was filled with veggies and required only a few ingredients and minimal cooking time — just what I needed during the first few busy weeks of the year. To others, the word detox might cause them to think the recipe isn’t going to be as yummy or filling because it’s meant to be healthy. That’s not the case at all.

Words have certain connotations, but it’s all about how you interpret that word and what it means to you.

When I described this recipe to friends and co-workers, many said it sounded like a delicious version of Thai soup — thanks for the inspiration for the recipe name. Without further ado, here’s the recipe.

carrot-and-kale-soup-2

Carrot and Kale Thai Soup

Ingredients

> 3 cups kale, chopped
> 4 medium carrots, grated
> 2 cups coconut milk
> 3 cloves garlic, minced
> 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
> 1 tablespoon olive oil
> salt and pepper

Instructions

In a medium saucepan, sauté olive oil and garlic over low heat. Add kale and carrots. Stir and continue to sauté for about 7 minutes.

When the carrots and kale begin to soften, add coconut milk. Mix thoroughly and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Add turmeric, salt and pepper, and stir. Serve and garnish with chopped green onions or cashews.

carrot-and-kale-soup-3

Pea-Walnut Puree

Once a month, I help out with the culinary demos as a volunteer with CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture). Renowned chefs and cookbook authors come to share a recipe — and samples — with the public, and as a volunteer, I work alongside them to prepare the recipe.

A couple weeks ago Sascha Weiss, the executive chef at The Plant Cafe in San Francisco, prepared a delicious chickpea panisse with roasted asparagus, maitake mushrooms and pea-pistachio puree. The entire dish was flavorful, but the puree in particular inspired me to start making more purees and spreads at home. They’re quite simple yet add a refreshing new element to my go-to meals. This pea-walnut puree is my rendition of Weiss’ pea-pistachio puree and tastes delicious atop roasted vegetables, salads, you name it.

Pea-Walnut Puree Pea-Walnut Puree

Ingredients:

> 1 cup peas, steamed
> 1/2 cup walnuts
> 2 tablespoons lemon juice
> lemon zest from 1 lemon
> salt and pepper

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined. Add water until the puree reaches a consistency that is spoonable.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Sascha Weiss of The Plant Cafe Organic.

Roasted Cauliflower Steak with Quinoa

Vegetarians rejoice because you can have steak too — it’s just a different kind of steak. I’ve often read cauliflower steak recipes and thought It sounds so simple, yet the presentation is of restaurant caliber. This rendition uses all parts of the cauliflower to make a cauliflower puree that’s simple yet elegant.

Cauliflower Steak with Quinoa

Ingredients:

> 1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch thick “steaks”
> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> salt and pepper
> 1 cup quinoa
> 1 leek, rinsed and sliced
> 1 clove garlic, chopped

Instructions:

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups water over simmering water, until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small pan and roast the steaks on each side until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the cauliflower puree, cut the remaining cauliflower ends including the stalks into small florets and blanch until tender. Preheat oven to 350°F and spread florets on a baking sheet. Cook for about 15 minutes.

In a medium pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Saute the leek and garlic. Add the cauliflower florets and season with salt and pepper. Cook until cauliflower is tender. Puree mixture in a blender until smooth.

To assemble the dish, fold together quinoa and 1 cup cauliflower puree in a medium bowl. Place a bed of the quinoa mixture and top with a cauliflower steak on each plate. Garnish with roasted vegetables.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from The Wall Street Journal.

Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad

A couple weeks ago, I had a delicious meal at La Bodeguita del Medio in Palo Alto and was inspired by a simple yet flavorful salad. The Palmitos salad is composed of hearts of palm, frisee, avocado, red grapefruit, sugared walnuts and a lime vinaigrette. The combination of flavors was both refreshing and filling, so I decided to try to recreate the salad. It’s slightly different and combined with a recipe from Food & Wine — plus some of my personal touches. Not only is this salad delicious, it’s easy to throw together in the office, given that the ingredients are pre-cut.

Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

> 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
> 2 persian cucumbers, cut into bite-size pieces
> 1 can hearts of palm, drained and sliced 1/4-inch thick
> 1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
> 2 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds
> cruciferous crunch collection from Trader Joe’s (includes kale, brussels sprouts and cabbage)
> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> 1 tablespoon lemon juice
> salt and pepper

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes, cucumbers, hearts of palm, avocado and sunflower seeds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad, and gently toss.

Makes 2 servings.

Adapted from Food & Wine.

Raw Fig Bars with Pecans

I was never a fan of Fig Newtons growing up — I opted for Oreos or chocolate chip cookies. But as people say, your preferences, including your tastebuds, change every seven years. While I still love sinking my teeth into a rich piece of fudge, my sweet tooth often opts for fruit flavors instead.

Last year, I followed a raw diet for three days, and after three days, I was ready to eat simple things like steamed vegetables and cooked quinoa. Nonetheless, I still like to experiment with raw recipes because eating foods in their raw form keeps all of nutrients intact and at their highest levels. This raw recipe hits the fruit lover’s sweet tooth and is easy to make. My favorite part of this recipe was the combination of the filling and topping, so if you’d like to eliminate some of the carbs here, just try those two layers.

Raw Fig Bars with Pecans

Ingredients:

> 1 cup brown rice flour
> 3 tablespoons maple syrup
> 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
> 2 cups dried Mission figs, soaked in water for 3 hours
> 1/4 teaspoon salt
> 1 1/2 cups pecans

Instructions:

To make the crust, combine the brown rice flour and 2 tablespoons maple syrup in a medium bowl. Add fig water until it sticks together. Press into a 9×9-inch pan.

To make the filling, blend the figs, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and salt in a food processor. Add the fig water until it’s a smooth consistency but still thick. Spread the filling on top of the crust, leaving about 1/4 cup in the food processor.

To make the topping, add the pecans to the food processor and pulse until there are small but chunks, but it’s not too fine. Spread and smooth on top of the fig filling. Cut into bite-size pieces and enjoy.

Makes 9 servings.

Adapted from One Green Planet.

Vegetable Farro with Figs and Sunflower Seeds

Every week I plan my meals for the next week or two, so I can do grocery shopping on the weekend and schedule the cooking throughout the week. Recently, I remembered my slow cooker, which hasn’t been used since last winter. The slow cooker can be a woman’s — or man’s — best friend.

The only challenge is finding recipes that are healthy, and in my case, vegetarian. A majority of slow cooker recipes involve a large white rice, bean or meat component, which can be fine as long as you pair it with heavy dose of vegetables, but I wanted a recipe that was naturally good for you and filling. When I typed “slow cooker” into my recipe app Paprika, I discovered this recipe, which I knew was going to be a winner in my book. The farro provides a nutty flavor, the veggies melt in your mouth, the figs give it a sweet kick, and the nuts on top make it crunch.

Vegetable Farro with Figs and Sunflower Seeds

Ingredients:

> 1 cup farro
> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> 2 cups water
> salt and pepper
> 1 tablespoon chili powder
> 4 cloves garlic
> 1 lemon, sliced into slivers
> 1 green bell pepper, sliced 1/3″ thick
> 1 red bell pepper, sliced 1/3″ thick
> 1 large eggplant, cut into bite-size pieces
> 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, stemmed
> 1 fennel bulb, cut into 8 wedges
> 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
> 3 small zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces
> 6 ounces spinach
> roasted sunflower seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

Turn a 6-quart slow cooker on high and set the timer for 6 hours. Add all of the ingredients up to and including the cherry tomatoes. Cover and cook for 4 hours.

Stir the mixture gently and add the zucchini and spinach, submerging them in the liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 2 more hours.

Season with salt and pepper and garnish with roasted sunflower seeds.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Food & Wine.