Asian Inspired: Sesame Ginger Dressing!

Sesame ginger dressing

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

It’s one of those dreary, cool, drizzly fall days here in Michigan.  I needed a little pick me up for lunch – something with some zest and lots of nutrients – and something other than roasted fall vegetables, which my family would probably say I’ve been making a little too much of this past week.

So, I thought a more lively salad with some home made salad dressing would be just what I needed.

I have a newfound love for salads – especially after eating at the vegan and raw foods cafe Prasad, in Portland.  But I needed some creative, homemade salad dressings to dress them up a bit.

I love the Asian ginger dressing that you get on salads at sushi bars or Japanese restaurants, and although I wasn’t going for that same exact taste, I did want to incorporate a little ginger and sesame flavors into my dressing, so I played around with a few ingredients and came up with what I think (and Lindsey and Frankie agree) is a pretty darn good salad dressing!

To get the sesame flavor, I used toasted sesame oil (not regular sesame oil).  And for the ginger flavor, rather than using freshly grated ginger, I used ginger juice.  Have you ever seen this?

Ginger juice

I saw it for the first time at the health food store the other day and decided to pick it up, figuring I’d experiment with it.  So this dressing was the perfect excuse to try it out.

If you have someone reluctant to eating a salad, a good salad dressing drizzled on top just might be enough to entice them to munch on one.

Here’s how I made my Asian-inspired Sesame Ginger Dressing:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. honey

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1/2 – 3/4 tsp. ginger juice (depending on how much ginger flavor you want)

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Asian dressing

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, whisk together, and drizzle over salad.

Hopefully this brings a little brightness to your day, if it happens to be dark and rainy where you are as well!

The Noble Pumpkin – Why You Should be Eating More!

Healthy pumpkins

By Shannon Keirnan, Contributing Foodie Bitch

As far as I’m concerned, fall is the best time of year. I can wear jeans and baggy sweatshirts everyday while I grow in my warm winter leg hair. Everything smells really good for some reason, like burning leaves and apple orchards and cinnamon. Campy horror movies marathon on the television for weeks on end.

And, best of all… pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING.

Laugh if you must, but to me there’s nothing “basic” about craving pumpkin treats in the fall… unless you mean in terms of being a basic, standard human being who loves all that seasonal deliciousness. How could you not?

But there’s a lot more to that orange fall staple than just an increased taste factor in my coffee. Pumpkins have a long history of being used as a food source (well before they jumped into your latte), and for good reason. They’re loaded with health benefits!

Let’s take a moment to explore the wonder of the pumpkin, shall we?

Below, check out a history of this noble, strange-looking food, read about the health benefits, and peruse a few recipes to get the full effect of incorporating pumpkin into your diet!

HISTORY:

Pumpkins (from the Greek word “pepon,” meaning “large melon”), unlike arguable foods like the hotdog or hamburger, are a true American fare. They originated in the ancient Americas, long before corn had become king. Pumpkin seeds have been found at archeological sites dating back more than 6,000 years. However, it is assumed that only the seeds were eaten, as wild pumpkins were bitter until the Native Americans took to cultivating them.

Native Americans grew pumpkins using the “Three Sisters” practice, planting corn, beans, and pumpkins all together (usually along with a dead fish for fertilizer). The beans put nitrogen into the soil, the corn and growing beans stabilized one another, and the pumpkin leaves provided shelter and shade to the shallow corn roots.

Native Americans ate pumpkins as a staple, often roasting strips over fires to dry them, which would provide nourishment through the long hard winters. Dried pumpkin was also ground into flour. Pumpkin seeds were not only food but a medicine, and pumpkin flowers were added into soups and stews.

Pumpkins also helped saved the pilgrims from starvation.

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.”

Pilgrim verse, circa 1633

 After a while, the pilgrims got savvy about preparing pumpkins. They scooped out the seeds, and filled the hollow insides with cream, honey, eggs, and spices, and roasted it in hot ashes. This great concept was pumpkin pie’s esteemed ancestor.

The pilgrims also used pumpkin, along with persimmons, hops, and maple sugar, to ferment the first pumpkin-flavored beers… and for that gift we thank thee, pilgrims of old.

Europe, on the other hand, was not so quick to embrace pumpkins. They were called the Food of the Poor, and were considered “a very ordinary fruit.” Potentially, they got the reputation because they were so easy to grow, and poor farmers could grow them in their dungheaps. As many of us know – including Nancy, who has a veritable pumpkin patch by her front door where an errant pumpkin once decided to rot – pumpkins are hardy and eager to thrive.

It was in the 1970’s that the pumpkin we recognize today came to fruition, as hybrids which were excellent for carving came into popularity. Unfortunately, growing these for size and shape, rather than taste, has degraded much of the flavor, and the traditional Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin we know and love isn’t ideal for consumption.

Want to create your own kitchen pumpkin masterpiece? Try heirloom varieties like Cinderella, Delicata, Hubbard, or Sugar Pie, if you want to give cooking them a go.

And eat them you should, because of the many

HEALTH BENEFITS:

Pumpkins are also loaded with vitamins and minerals. Notably, they contain major amounts of vitamin A, vitamin B-6, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium, and polyphenolic antioxidants like leutin, xanthin. They’re also a good source for folates, niacin, and thiamin, and minerals like copper, calcium, and phosphorus.

Eating pumpkin can help prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Pumpkin seeds contain plenty of zinc, unsaturated fatty acids, as well as protein. The amino acid tryptophan contained in the seeds is not only good for your body overall, but it also aids in the production of serotonin, a key component of a happy mood.

Pumpkin is super high in fiber. Diets high in fiber can increase weight loss and benefit heart health, and lower the risk of some cancers.

Pet owner note: pure pumpkin puree or fresh pumpkin is also safe for dogs. It can be a low-calorie treat, or added into a chunky dog’s food to help keep it full if you’ve cut back on portion sizes. The extra fiber in there is also beneficial to dogs!

BUT CAN I EAT IT?

Obviously one of the greatest ways to enjoy the pumpkin is to incorporate it into a meal or drink, so check out a few of my favorite recipes below, and please feel free to leave more recipe suggestions in the comments!

Have a beautiful crisp weekend, everyone!

Organic pumpkin spice latte

 Copycat Pumpkin Spice Latte

The Food Babe pointed out this great recipe from Good Housekeeping, for those of us who love the Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte, but aren’t so into the ridiculous prices or added carcinogens. I tweaked it only slightly, and used organic ingredients.

Ingredients: 

8 oz. milk of choice

4 oz. strong coffee or espresso

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Cinnamon

Ground nutmeg

Ground cloves

1/4 cup organic pumpkin puree

Pat butter

Whipped cream

Instructions:

Heat the sugar in 2 cups of water, whisking until dissolved. Add pumpkin pie spice, a dash of nutmeg and clove, and 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon.

In a separate pan, heat the pumpkin puree in a small amount of butter, until very slightly darkened (this will remove that “squashy” flavor).

Whisk the pumpkin puree into the syrup until everything is mixed well. Let cool, and then strain (excess can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator).

Brew 4 oz. of strong coffee or espresso, and combine with 8 oz. of your milk of choice (I prefer almond), heated. Stir in about 2 Tbsp. of the syrup and stir well, or blend.

Garnish with whipped cream (homemade is best!) and another dash of cinnamon, and enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars (Recipe: Sandy Keirnan)

These show up in my house every year, and I ain’t sad about it.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour (substitute gluten free, if needed)

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup sugar

5 Tbsp. softened butter

1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped (I prefer walnuts)

1 package softened cream cheese

1/2 cup pumpkin

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. allspice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour and brown sugar in medium bowl. Cut in butter to make a crumb mixture. Stir in nuts. Set aside 3/4 of the mix.

Press remaining mixture into the bottom of an 8″ square. Bake for 15 minutes, and then let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend until smooth.

Pour over the baked crust. Sprinkle with the reserved topping.

Bake 30-25 minutes.

Cool before cutting into bars.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: 

Ingredients:

Fresh pumpkin seeds (don’t need to be rinsed clean)

2-3 Tbsp. melted butter or olive oil

1/2 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Pepper

1/4 tsp. powdered garlic

1/2 tsp. Chili powder

Dash Cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss all ingredients in a bowl, and bake on a cookie sheet for 25-40 minutes until golden brown, stirring once.

Nancy’s Pumpkin Pancakes 

Pumpkin-Apple Muffins

Maysoon Zayid and Marie Forleo on Moving Beyond Looks

I absolutely love Marie Forleo and every Tuesday she puts out either a Q & A Tuesday video, where someone will ask her a business question and she answers it – usually in about 5-7 minutes – or she will put out a longer video where she interviews someone.

This week she interviewed a comedian by the name of Maysoon Zayid.  It made such an impact on me that tonight I had Mike and the girls watch it again with me.

There were a few things that stood out to me about this interview.  First of all, Maysoon has Cerebral Palsy, yet the obstacles she has overcome and the physical “limitations” she has broken through are awesome!  It reminded me of how important the mind is and how the body can do some pretty amazing things.

It also reminded me of how we need to take charge of our health and challenge what doctors say to us.  If Maysoon’s parents had listened to her doctor when she was young, Maysoon wouldn’t be walking today, doing yoga, doing stand-up comedy, and she certainly wouldn’t have graduated from college!

The other thing that stood out, and even more so, was how our society tends to judge people and pick them apart.  For some reason, we tend to look for something negative to say about people or we tend to feel the need to categorize them and label them according to how they look or act or how they behave, as if this brings clarity to who they are.  We seems we think that if we label everyone, the world will then be somewhat more organized and we can better deal with it.

The challenge with this is that each of these “labels” is only a fraction of each person’s whole being, AND, these labels are, more often than not, not even relevant to who those people really are.

In the interview, Maysoon says her biggest challenges came after doing a TED Talk and having over 5,000,000 views (to date).  She openly talks about her disability, so people felt they couldn’t really comment on that… so instead, they called her “fat!”  And that has been really hard for her to recover from.  She doesn’t consider herself fat – she has always felt like she is a healthy person – she eats healthy, she works out – but she has no abdominal muscles, due to her weaker back and the Cerebral Palsy.  So there are comments like, “I don’t understand – her face is so beautiful, why is she fat?  She would be so beautiful if she wasn’t fat.”

Now, when she goes on for an interview or to do a show, rather than thinking about what she is going to talk about, she’s stuck thinking about what is she going to wear and how is she going to look.

It’s a reminder of how far down this road we have gone – so much emphasis is put on how we look and not on who we are and what we have to say.  And, I feel changing this perspective will happen when we actually connect with people from the heart.  When you open your heart, have a conversation with someone, and feel a little compassion, you can’t help but move past the external features.

I hope you enjoy the interview, have a few laughs (she is a comedian, after all), and are inspired!

Matcha, Strawberry, and Cucumber Smoothie

Matcha strawberry cucumber smoothie

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Mike and I returned from Oregon late last night, and I started the day inspired to try some new recipes, and play with the combinations of ingredients that we experienced while on our trip!  The Allison Hotel in Newberg, which is where we stayed, had an amazing Chef’s Garden, and one night Mike and I had front-row seats at the kitchen.  We got to watch them cut and prepare the evening’s meals (I now would like a new set of pans!).  So that was a great experience.

Then, at Prasad Cafe in Portland, where we ate a couple of times, the presentation of the food was just amazing, and I was reminded how much of a difference a great dressing or sauce can make on a salad.  I’m now researching and experimenting with various combinations to play around with to spice up our salads at home – and maybe even get the girls a little more interested in salads as a result.

Another idea (self-reminder) I’m looking forward to trying is caramelizing more things.  We were watching “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” one night before bed, and the chefs at a couple of the featured restaurants were making sure to caramelize their meats and veggies, and you could tell that made a huge difference in the taste.  I know it does, from experience… I just needed to be reminded.

Watching the food prep at the Allison Hotel’s restaurant (Jory) and seeing the creative displays of salads at Prasad prompted me to see how they cut up some of those veggies.  You may recall the picture of the salad I posted a few days ago – well, I was curious how they got those beets to be cut up like that, all curly and thin.  I asked Shannon, and she said it was a “spiralizer.”  Can you believe I had never heard of such a thing??  She brought her’s over for me to try out – I can’t wait.  After I finish writing this post, I’m on my way to the health food store for some zucchini and carrots and other fun stuff to spiralize.  I’m thinking Mike and the girls will be so impressed with my newfound culinary skills, but actually, I will probably be more excited than them :)!

Finally, I couldn’t wait to try making one of Prasad’s smoothies at home.  I had my first attempt this afternoon.  I printed off their menu to keep on hand for meal ideas, and for lunch today, I thought I would try to make one of their smoothies.  Mine didn’t turn out quite as green as their’s, but it was just as good.  Here’s what I did.

Ingredients:

1 cup strawberries

1 small cucumber (not peeled – so make sure it’s organic)

1 tsp. Matcha tea powder

8 mint leaves (or peppermint leaves)

1/2 cup full fat coconut milk

1/2 Tbsp. honey

Directions:

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and mix.  Pour and enjoy!

You can play around with the ingredients and the adjust them according to your taste.  I happen to like mint, so I like that the 8 leaves of mint gave a stronger mint taste to the drink.  If you don’t like such a strong mint taste, you can always go a little easier on it.  As I mentioned, my smoothie wasn’t nearly as green as Prasad’s, so next if you want a more green smoothie, you can add more Matcha powder – it’s good for you anyway, and will definitely add more color.  My drink at Prasad wasn’t too sweet, so I figured I would add enough honey to make it a little sweeter, but if you are fine without the extra sweetness, you can cut back on the honey – the strawberries might add enough sweetness for you.  I think next time, I may play around and add a little lemon juice.  I think the lemon and strawberry combination would be tasty.

Can’t wait until my mid-afternoon snack to play around with some more ideas!