Sweet Potato “Crostini” with Red Pepper Bruschetta (Paleo!)

Ah… the full moon. Sunday was an interesting day for it. My friend and I went out shopping, and the predicted temperature was supposed to dip down to about 4 degrees F that night. We planned to make dinner, and we had to go to 3 different grocery stores to find onions, ground turkey and ginger. Apparently, people in this area thought they weren’t going to be able to go outside… or… eat turkey. It was a really strange day that ended with a giant tarp blowing across the road and into/onto a man’s pick-up truck and then onto mine, and then finding that my cat got stuck in my room and peed on my expensive dress coat because he panicked. Again, very… interesting day.

I started off this year really strong, actually. Not to say that my year is not still strong, but I was really intentional about my new year’s plans. I had maybe 1-2 drinks at a very small get-together, went to bed at 12:30, and woke up at 7, did some yoga/stretching, and went to the gym. I’ve made an effort to be much more aware of my thoughts, what I want to happen, and want I want, in general. The first week of January, I came across a numerology article about what this “year” is considered, and it says it’s a “3” year. It said that we’re already familiar with this number because our lives revolve around this number – we are on the third planet from the sun, we are made of mind, body and soul, good and bad things come in three’s. After calculating my personal number for 2019, I found that I am also a number 3 for this year. It felt spot on – I’ve said “This year is my year!” before, but this year, it actually feels accurate. It says my creativity and abundance are up on deck to shine, and I honestly couldn’t agree more. I think the thing that keeps me going is truly believing that this kind of energy really is limitless. If you put into practice the idea that your thoughts really do dictate your situation (your job, happiness, wealth, friendships, etc.), it really does happen. It’s so simple, yet so hard for a lot of us. My advice? Invest in yourself, and meditate. Do some yoga. It took me YEARS to learn how to settle into my hot yoga classes and focus – dozens of times to meditate and no longer wonder ‘was I just sort of sleeping?’ This stuff pays off, and it allows you to really connect with what’s going on around (and above) you.

I find that the frustrations of 2018 haven’t left me, they’re definitely still around. I’m just less mad about them, or more sure that they’ll fade or get better, whether I have control over it or not.  This full moon that happened on Monday was a total lunar eclipse. While eclipses sound like darkness, uncertainty, or unexpected events, there’s place for the confidence and courage to accept the change that is coming. This year is more of a reset button – to take a moment to pause and drop what isn’t serving you. Are you feeling really independent and capable? Awesome, that’s where you should be. This moon was huge – it was closer to us and it was close enough to leave behind some energy to those most sensitive or most in need of it. The moral of the story is this – this year, energetically, we have a leg-up to get ourselves through some challenges… much like our earthly New Years’ resolutions, this is only the beginning. Don’t give up yet.

I actually have a few recipes to post in the next few days, but every now and again I like to post a recipe for an appetizer, for a party. Now’s a great time to have some friends over – it’s colder than a witch’s bittie right now, so why not sit indoors and sip wine and eat snacks with your friends?!

Sweet Potato “Crostini” with Red Pepper Bruschetta (Paleo!)

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 45 min

Ingredients

For the sweet potatoes:

  • 3 long (or at least more skinny) sweet potatoes, cut into ½ centimeter slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried parsley

For the bruschetta:

  • 4-5 pound roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
  • ½ small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp (ish) balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a small dish, mix together your first parts of olive oil, paprika, and salt/pepper. Place your sweet potato slices on a greased or lined cookie sheet and brush with oil mixture on both sides. Bake for 20-25 minutes until starting to brown, then flip sweet potato pieces over onto other side for remaining 20-25 minutes, until brown (but not burnt!).
  3. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, grab a small bowl for the dressing. Whisk together the dressing ingredients (olive oil, balsamic, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt/pepper) until mixed. Add your tomato, onion and roasted red pepper, and allow to sit and marinate.
  4. Once sweet potato slices are cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool on a rack to allow them to crisp. Once cool to the touch, spoon some bruschetta onto each slice, and garnish with parsley and basil.

Serve, and enjoy 🙂

-S

Peppermint Patty Pudding Parfait (Paleo, Vegan)

Spirit animals.

Let’s just jump right into this, because I am too tired to come up with some fancy superfluous introduction. Have you ever given any thought to what a spirit animal is, or why it’s important?

I think because of subtle Native American influence throughout my life, I’ve paid more attention to it than the average person. Only until more recently did it start to make more frequent appearances, and I have to tell you — it’s more than just coming across a great meme on Instagram or talking about how Cardi B is your spirit animal because she’s a chatterbox who don’t curr about nothin’. A spirit animal is essentially Mother Nature’s driving force of what embodies you as a cultivated spiritual being, or what supports you as someone in need a spiritual fine-tuning.

Let’s use me an example. I’ve always known my spirit animal was a horse. I’ve loved them and ridden since I was very young, and I’ve always been a “horse girl”. What does a horse actually represent, though? Those of you who know me, I’m sure you know me quite well — I’m the most unintentionally transparent person alive. Apparently, so is a horse. So, the horse… the horse is known for pride, highly charged emotions, and a very driven instinct. Horses are powerful — not in that they are nature’s predators, but they are powerful in such a way where they know there’s strength in numbers and strength in endurance and perseverance. Horses, like any earthly being, are also not perfect. If given the option between fight or flight, a horse will choose flight 99% of the time. However — a horse is not defenseless. they are quick, and bold if need be.

The interesting thing about the representation of a spirit animal is that — no matter how domesticated, the instinct of an animal remains pure. Animals are born with imprints that can be subdued, but they cannot be stopped. A horse has the innate capability of horsey ways that stay with them for life. The same can be said for someone’s spirituality — you can live your life any way you choose and make any decision you want… but ultimately, one way or another, we are all drawn to the same thing, which is compassion, self-acceptance and growth. When situations come up where I know I need to take a step back, ground myself and really understand the situation, it truly does help to envision what qualities a wild horse possesses, what could apply to this situation and how I could channel that into my own perspective.

Not to get too “woo-woo” — you can interpret your spirit animal any way you choose. While mine is a horse, maybe I keep seeing a fox while out driving, walking or riding (a horse… lol..). Perhaps, for that time, I need to bring more fox-like energy into my life by way of my thoughts, my actions, or my reactions. I think we’re drawn to certain animals in certain times of our lives, and I don’t think it’s simply because nature is around us and it happens as coincidence. embrace your inner wild side!

Onto other fun things… like food! I’m not sure where you are in the world right now, but in the Mid-Atlantic US, it’s HOT. Like, stop-wearing-make-up hot. Like, could-I-really-fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk-today hot. Cool down with this fun delicious peppermint patty chia pudding parfait!

Peppermint Patty Pudding Parfait (Paleo, Vegan)

Prep time: 4 hours

Cook time:  n/a

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the chia pudding

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 heaping tbsp smooth almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, or 6-8 drops of food-grade peppermint essential oil (use sparingly)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds

For the parfait

  • 10 oz almond milk Greek yogurt, such as Kite Hill or Silk
  • 2 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

mint leaves, for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a blender or food processor, mix together almond milk, almond butter, peppermint, vanilla, maple syrup and cocoa powder, until smooth.
  2. Once mixed, add to an airtight container and stir in chia seeds thoroughly. Place in refrigerator overnight or for at least 2-3 hours.
  3. Once ready to serve, mix together your yogurt ingredients – the Greek yogurt, honey and vanilla.
  4. Here’s where you can get creative if you want – layer your pudding, and then your yogurt. Add your cacao nibs, and garnish with your mint leaves. Best served chilled – if you want to put it back in the fridge, feel free to do so for a few minutes!

Serve and enjoy 🙂

-S

Lemon Garlic Scallops (Paleo!)

Happy weekend! How’s everyone doing?

What a cray cray week. Yes… I’m still using the term “cray cray”. So did you all know that we just had a new moon on Thursday? This is more fitting than we think, because a LOT is going on these days. This New moon was also a partial solar eclipse. Solar eclipses are interesting, because it’s a literal manifestation of “blocking the light”. The moon stands in front of the sun, essentially blocking the sun’s rays from reaching us. This can be seen as a good thing, but also as something negative.

This particular New Moon is also influenced by our alignment to Pluto, which falls into line with Earth and the sun – this has not happened since 1931. Feeling a little wonky? Yeah, people probably said the same thing back then, too, except they had no internet. I guess we’ll never know. The happening of alignment with this little planet-not-a-planet-now-a-planet-again indicates some sort of crisis with your self-esteem or self-worth, or some other interpersonal relationship. Everyone has traits or characteristics that are less than perfect, but they are really rearing their ugly heads at this point. The best thing is to be self-aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Pluto is also in retrograde, which represents a time to reflect about what control you have over things in your life. Are you on a power trip, or trying to desperately control a situation? Now definitely isn’t the time for that – it’s a great time to release whatever neurosis you have about control and to “live and let live”, or “let go and let God”.

As if we needed MORE confusing astrology, something called a “Grand Trine” has also occurred. In conjunction with the need to relinquish control over anything we’re desperately holding onto in life, we get a little help. Venus, Saturn and Uranus align at a perfect 60-degree equilateral triangle, which is essentially a huge window of balance and harmony to help us transform ourselves. Grand Trine energy fosters natural talent and creative potential in order to solve problems peacefully. There exists a different energy between each cosmic body, which can be felt for the next few months. Venus to Saturn is best for establishing to a relationship, or making long-term financial investments, or anything requiring long term stability. Venus to Uranus is best for trying something new, or experimenting. This is for all you folks that are itching for a new job, new relationship, or new adventure. Hop on the train to Funkytown, because you’ll be there a while 🙂 Next, Saturn to Uranus represents a shift or transition in life. See where this is going? They’re all related – take this time to make a shift or change in your life you’ve been waiting and wanting to do. If in your gut you feel it’s right, it’ll have long-lasting effects.

If you’re feeling a little confused, you should probably just take a breather and eat. I’ve got a lil sumpin’ fancy for you to try. Here’s some easy Lemon Garlic Scallops to make your day better. This takes like a micro-minute to do, and as easy as it is, you’ll still impress!

Lemon Garlic Scallops (Paleo!)

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 10 min

Makes 16 scallops

Ingredients

  • 16 sea scallops (the bigger ones), rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • juice from one lemon, plus a pinch of lemon zest
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley, curly or flat (I used curly)
  • 2 heaping tbsp of ghee (or regular butter, if not strict paleo)
  • generous pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add your shallot and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Then add your garlic, stirring until starting to brown. If it starts to brown too quickly, turn the heat down.
  2. Once your garlic and shallot are cooked, add your remaining ghee and turn the heat up to medium high. Then, add your scallops. These are best cooked when left alone! Don’t play with them or check them, they won’t burn. Let sear for 2-3 minutes per side, until a nice golden brown crust forms. Flip and allow the other side to brown. You can scrape the brown bits from the pan that start to form if they brown too quickly.
  3. Once your scallops are finishing, carefully add your lemon juice and zest, followed by your parsley. Remove from heat, and toss scallops to coat, spooning your butter mixture over them. Since they’re piping hot, I like to let them rest for about a minute in the pan before serving so that all the juices can soak in.
  4. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

-S

Full Moons and Moussaka

Remember how I said the weather turned, and I dug out all my sweaters? It was a fluke. It was 60 degrees yesterday, maybe warmer in the sun. I still wore a sweater, and it was the complete opposite of fun. It was un-fun. My building at work had the heat on, too. Because it’s November, right? It should be cold, right? No, because it’s 2017 and we are very much into global warming right now. Yet — today, I walked out of my house in a light shirt, only to find I need the same warm type of sweater now that I thought I needed yesterday.

This weekend was also a full moon. Every time a full moon comes along, I have every intention of doing something special – doing yoga outside, doing some sort of special meditation, or cooking some earthy dish to complement a beautiful night with a bright, clear moon. I end up doing none of those things, but I do notice that without fail, stuff gets weird around a full moon.

The logic in me says, “This is just confirmation bias! Nothing weird happens on a night with a full moon.” The logic needs to be quiet, because that’s no fun, whatsoever. While crazy stuff can happen all the time, I have always found that people act particularly strange and noticeably different during this moon phase.
Since full and new moons happen when the sun, earth and moon are all in alignment, this impacts the tides more than normal, making them stronger and in turn, falling higher and lower. While we don’t notice it on land, don’t you think it’d be a little silly to not consider what impact it has on us if it can move trillions of gallons of water in a cyclical motion? We are more aware and in tune with the vibrations going on around us during a full moon, which, quite literally, is able to illuminate things more than usual.

November is already a powerful month with the vibration of the number 11, so it’s not surprising that people are getting quirky when the entire moon is exposed. As a double digit of the same number, 11 is thought of as a “master number” — so anything occurring during this time is magnified.. both good and bad, because with a double number like this, there’s also balance. This particular full moon could’ve potentially been very confusing — a full moon is the end of a revolving cycle — yet the number 1 has a common understanding of beginnings.  Truthfully, you can take from it what you want. Moon phases are consistent and cyclical, and people tend to see the moon as feminine because of this. At this point in time, the entire moon is exposed, bright and clear – which could be symbolic of moving energy, unearthing problems, concerns, chores or tasks, and approaching them with full clarity.

Whatever the case may be, it is truly beautiful. You can see the little craters, and just thinking how there are footsteps that remain untouched since the landing on the moon is really surreal. Something so still, quiet, and distant can have such an impact on the world around us, to the point where people’s moods change.. it is really cool, is it not? A little floating sky rock moves water next to us from hundreds of thousands of miles away.

We tried to  come up with something we’ve never made this weekend — we landed on Greek cuisine. Fitting for a full moon, as some of the greatest discoveries in astronomy and moon phases happened in ancient Greek culture… things like Ptolemy, Hipparchus, Aristarchus… all the things you learned about but forgot how brilliant these minds were. Greek culture is so rich, so our tribute to that for the full moon was the heartiest and most flavorful dish we could think of — Moussaka! While I know it’s not made by your family Yia Yia, I think Greek grandmas everywhere might say we did pretty well.

Make a note to keep an eye out for everything around you on the next full moon – you might be surprised with what you notice. In the meantime, as it gets colder (and hopefully stays colder), enjoy this delicious dinner 🙂

 

Moussaka

note: this picture was taken from healthyfood.co.uk, which reserves all rights to the photo. Unfortunately, the kitchen was dark and people ravaged the moussaka before I could get a good picture of it. Mine did resemble this image almost identically (in person), and I promise it looks this delicious when you make it.

Prep time: 40 min

Cook time: 30 min

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

Eggplant and Lamb

  • 8 garlic cloves, finely grated, divided
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp chopped mint
  • 3 tbsp chopped oregano
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 3 medium eggplants (about 3½ pounds total), sliced in half lengthwise and then cut into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 lb ground lamb
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 large jalapeño, finely chopped (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes

Béchamel

  • 3/4 stick of unsalted butter (if using salted butter, add a pinch less of salt once mixed)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 oz of farmer’s cheese, crumbled
  • 4 oz grated Pecorino, grated
  • 3 large egg yolks

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Whisk half of the garlic, ½ cup oil, 1 tbsp mint and 1 tbsp oregano in a small bowl.
  2. Thoroughly coat the eggplant rounds with the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Transfer eggplant to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast until tender and browned, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400°.
  3. Meanwhile, add about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Cook lamb and ground beef, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and liquid starts to evaporate, about 12–16 minutes. Drain fat from the meat and transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. In the same pan, add another tsp of oil and allow to heat. Add onion, garlic, ~2½ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8–10 minutes. Add jalapeño and cinnamon and continue to cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until onion has browned, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add paprika, cinnamon and tomato paste and allow to cook for about 1 minute.
  6. Add wine, stirring to mix thoroughly, until reduced and alcohol burns off — about 3 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes and all of the juice. Carefully break up the tomatoes with a spoon or spatula into smaller pieces… as they heat, they will pop, so be aware.
  8. Add lamb and remainder of mint and oregano and stir to combine. Allow to cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, and remove from heat.

 

Béchamel

  1. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium until completely melted and starting to froth. Add flour and cook, whisking quickly and constantly, until combined, about 1 minute.
  2. Whisk in milk, slowly and a little at a time, and continue to heat, allowing to bubble. Whisk often, until mixture becomes very thick (like pudding), about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in salt. Remove from heat and whisk in farmer cheese and half of the Pecorino. Let sit 10 minutes for cheese to melt, then add egg yolks and vigorously whisk until combined and béchamel is golden yellow.
  4. Brush a 13×9″ baking pan with 1 tbsp olive oil. Layer half of eggplant pieces in the pan, covering the bottom entirely. Spread half of lamb/beef mixture over eggplant in an even layer. Repeat with remaining eggplant and lamb/beef to make another layer of each.
  5. Top with béchamel and smooth surface; sprinkle with remaining Pecorino cheese.
  6. Bake moussaka until bubbling and béchamel topping starts to brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

-S