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Spicy Roasted New Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

November 20, 2017

I have a secret to share with you. Before this, I'd never tried brussels sprouts. I always told my mom they looked like alien brains (they do) and refused to eat them, right up into my early 20s. She loves them and always makes them for Canadian thanksgiving and Christmas, and I thought it was time I finally gave them a try. In the past couple of years I've started to like a lot of other foods I hated growing up, like mushrooms and cabbage, which are both diet staples now. I cook them a bit differently than my mom does but I know she reads this so I'm not going to say they're better, hah. I don't see brussels sprouts becoming a staple only because they're a bit pricey, but I'll definitely enjoy them over the holiday season from now on.

Roasting instead of steaming is the way to go for just about any vegetable, brussels sprouts included. They have a surprising texture when roasted, sort of pleasantly meaty, and not at all what I was expecting. Combining them with potatoes, lots of spices, and little hits of pomegranate makes for a delicious side dish (I see you, American thanksgiving) but you could throw some chickpeas in with everything else to roast up or serve this with an egg or two for a full meal. Make sure you don't leave the garlic out! Those little cloves of roasted garlic is perhaps my favourite thing about this dish. It looks quite festive if you want to have it over the holidays with the red, green, and gold. The potatoes are the gold bit, obviously. Just double or triple the recipe if you're serving a crowd. The spices make it seem like a more complicated recipe than it is, but I promise it's very simple to make.

Because I hadn't made brussels sprouts before, I stood at the sink for a solid half hour peeling the outer leaves and then cutting the bases off - my mom laughed her butt off when I told her. She says that you just have to cut the bases off each tiny cabbage and the gnarly outer leaves will just fall right off. Thanks mama! Choose the greenest sprouts you can find. 

Keep an eye out later this week for my FOURTH annual birthday cake! I started this blog just before turning 23, so this year is number 4, and it's a real doozy. I'm testing today and shooting later this week - birthday week means cake all week!

Spicy Roasted New Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4 as a side

500 grams small potatoes, halved
500 grams brussels sprouts, halved & bases removed
6 cloves garlic, with skin on
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sumac
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To serve:
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F. Place the potatoes, sprouts, and garlic on the tray. Add the oil, sprinkle with the spices, and use your hands to mix until the vegetables are fully coated. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden.

To serve, mix the oregano with the vegetables and place onto a large plate or serving tray. Top with the pomegranate, lemon juice, and additional oregano. Serve hot. 

Autumn Nourish Bowl

November 12, 2017

I have some good news to share! I recently stopped taking antidepressants after slowly reducing the amount over about six months. It's been around five years since I started taking St. John's Wort for depression (it's commonly prescribed in Germany, less often in North America) and it helped a lot - I stopped having suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and general depressive thoughts after having depression since childhood. I know through personal experience that my diet changes have heavily contributed to my mental health improvement and there are some good studies backing sugar intake and inflammation being causes of major depression. I had a long-term inflammation from eating dairy, high sugar foods, and refined flours, and my diet was generally very high in sugar and refined foods up into my early 20s. I'm strict about what I eat now and it certainly makes some things, like eating out, a bit tricky, but you get used to it. Of course there are other factors in my ongoing health, including regular exercise like yoga, walking, and biking, a good routine, and working on healthy relationships. Self-care can sometimes look like selfishness, especially in regard to relationships, but sometimes you just have to reduce your contact with shitty people.

I know that if I'm not careful I'll get sick again, but I feel so lucky to be well without the medication I thought I'd be taking for the rest of my life. It's hard to wrap my head around being healthy on my own without having to take pills every day. I can't remember a time in my life, from when I was just a little kid, when I wasn't anxious and depressed. It was a difficult adjustment when I started taking medication to be able to do simple things like sleep without nightmares or drive without thinking about running into a truck on the highway, but being on the pills also dulled some of my more creative thoughts and slowed everything down a bit. I had to learn how to function without depression. Now I'm relearning how to live without that illness, and also without medication altering the way my brain functions. I don't think I'll ever be as happy as Graham, for example, who is just endlessly positive, because I can't just forget being depressed for the vast majority of my life. Heading up to my 26th birthday at the end of this month, though, I'm hopeful that the next three quarters of my life might be free of mental illness.

All that said, however, without my medication I probably would have committed suicide a long time ago. Medication is deeply important to people struggling with depression and other mental illnesses, and food and other lifestyle changes can only make so much of a difference. Think of it like diabetes. A diabetic person needs insulin but can help support their illness or reduce the amount of insulin they might need down the road by making some lifestyle changes, but the insulin is first defence. Make sense?

My blogging friend Gena posted a recipe a few months ago for turmeric rice bowls. I really love Gena's recipes but this one in particular really spoke to me - pickled onions, my favourite spice, carbs, chickpeas, greens - I made variations of it all summer and turmeric rice became my number one way to cook rice. I think I read the recipe once and then made loose versions of it the rest of the time, but the inspiration for the rice in this dish is absolutely from The Full Helping. The rest of the bowl is filled with autumn flavours. A speedy napa cabbage slaw, roasted butternut squash, spicy black beans, and pomegranate seeds. It's a great mix of textures and temperatures and you could easily mix and match some of your favourite things to add in. I had wanted to add apples to the slaw but we had a really bad season for them this year, and they cost an arm and a leg. We had a few from my grandmother but mostly we've just been going without. Sad.

This meal does come together pretty quickly, but the rice takes about 40 minutes to cook because it's whole grain. Everything else is prepared while the rice is cooking and if you start the squash a little late for example, the rice will keep on the stovetop. Err to the side of having the rice done before the other elements instead of the other way around. There isn't an additional sauce to add to the bowl, but this dressing would be an excellent choice if you want one. 

Autumn Nourish Bowl
Serves 2

Turmeric Rice (Inspired by The Full Helping)

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 small white onion, chopped (60 grams)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb ginger, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup / 160 grams short grain brown rice, soaked if possible
2 cups water or vegetable stock*

Heat a saucepan over medium high heat. Add the coconut oil, then the onion, and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds, then stir in the salt, turmeric, and pepper. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for a minute. Pour the water into the pot and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for about 40 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Roasted Butternut Squash

1/2 medium (750 grams) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3cm squares
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Heat the oven to 180C / 350F. Place the squash on a large, rimmed baking sheet and add the oil and spices. Use your hands to mix until the squash is coated, then bake for 30-35 minutes, or until soft and golden.

Mustard Cabbage Slaw

1/2 napa cabbage (400 grams)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive or walnut oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard*
1/2 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Core and slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. If you have a mandolin, you can use it, or a very sharp knife. Place the sliced cabbage into a medium bowl, and add the vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper. Use your hands to massage the cabbage until it's coated in the dressing, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers will only keep for a day.

Spicy Black Beans

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 cup / 170 grams cooked black beans
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a frying pan over medium heat with the oil. Add the beans and spices, and cook, stirring, for about two minutes to heat the beans and coat them with the spices. Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to suit your tastes.

To assemble, halve each element and place into bowls. Top with pomegranate seeds and serve immediately.

1. I always use water. If you use vegetable stock, reduce the salt and add it to taste when the rice is finished cooking.
2. If you don't like mustard that much, use a 1/2 teaspoon instead.

Fig Snack Bars

November 04, 2017

I've been trying to make something new every week for Graham to bring to work with him as snacks. This past week, dried figs were on sale at our grocer and were less expensive than the dates I usually get, so I thought I'd try out energy balls made with figs instead. I'm not a huge fan of dried figs, but figured that just meant I wouldn't eat all of his snacks, hah. The mixture was a bit too soft to roll into balls but it works really well as a bar. The flavour is definitely a bit more complex, in my opinion, than my usual date-based raw bars/balls and I really like it. It's not crazy figgy after everything is all blended up and can be a nice change from dates. I know I usually give recommendations for substitutions, but this recipe has so few ingredients that I don't suggest changing things around, at least the first time. I tried to keep add-ins like chia or other seeds at a minimum so these make perfect work food - no worries about things in your teeth!

The bars are best kept in the fridge, I think, but Graham said they held up fine when he brought them to work and left them in his backpack. They're okay from the freezer but it's chilly here now and I don't really want frozen foods when I'm wearing six layers, you know? Even though it's snowing back home today and everything is still green here - I'm a wimp after living in Europe for a year. It's definitely a bit sad to be missing the first snow of the year, especially knowing that we probably won't get snow at all. It's like winter doesn't happen without it, and snow is magical, especially the first one of the season. I'd much rather crunch through snow than squish through wet leaves. I mean, if those are the options, because obviously warm and sunny is the best. 

You've been sharing so many pictures of your recreations this week on Instagram, I love it! It always makes my day to see one of you sharing something from the blog. Make sure you tag me (@occasionallyeggs) and use the hashtag #occasionallyeggs so I can see it. 

Fig Snack Bars
Makes around 10 bars

1 cup / 200 grams dried figs*
1 cup / 140 grams sunflower seeds
1/2 cup / 50 grams oats
1 tablespoon coconut oil, or another light oil (walnut, hazelnut)*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg*
Tiny pinch salt

Dark chocolate, for topping

Reconstitute the figs by placing them into a bowl and covering them in boiling water. Soak for 30-60 minutes, until softened. Drain the water and press down on the figs to release excess moisture.

In a food processor, mix the oats and sunflower seeds on high speed until a meal forms. Don't over mix or you'll run the risk of making sunflower seed butter. Add the figs, spices, and oil. Mix again on high until a ball of dough forms in your processor. 

Line a 20cm/8 inch square tin* with parchment paper. Press the dough into the tin, using damp hands to press it down as firmly and evenly as possible. If you have a tiny rolling pin it would be helpful here, just wet it first. Place the tin in the freezer to set for at least an hour, or longer. Remove and drizzle with melted chocolate (I used a couple squares and ate the leftovers), then cut into bars. Store in the fridge or freezer in a sealed container. 

1. I used quite large, golden coloured figs. I haven't tried this with the smaller dark figs, but I'm sure they'd work too.
2. Try to use fresh nutmeg if you can. It's more cost effective and tastes better than ground, particularly because it's pretty slow to get through and pre-ground loses its flavour quickly.
3. I've tried this recipe with coconut oil and walnut oil. Even though it's a small amount, coconut oil does make it a bit firmer. Of course use coconut if they need to be nut free. 

Lentil and Potato Stew

October 30, 2017

Hi I'm back! I was sick for a solid two weeks, longer than I have been in my whole adult life up to this point. I'm blaming one of my yoga students who just started university. Yesterday was my first day back to my regular work schedule with recipe development and I'm happy to be busy again - I spent a lot of time on the couch binge-watching Great British Bake Off (the new hosts are a million times better, btw. Noel Fielding is perfection personified). We also had the time change yesterday so taking pictures of dinner is officially over for the season.

I realized after making this stew the first couple of times that it's essentially my omi's lentil soup, one of the few things she cooks. Omi has a small handful of recipes that she makes on rotation. Apple cake, lentil soup, muesli, potatoes/peas/carrots, and sometimes cheesecake. She doesn't like cookbooks and always says that she likes to cook, but only things she already knows how to make, hah. Her lentil soup is pretty good but I think this one is better. Omi doesn't speak english so I can be pretty positive that she'll never know that I said that.

This is another recipe that's a great staple meal using what you likely have on hand. I like to soak brown lentils with my other legumes when I do a big batch cook on the weekend, and freeze them soaked instead of cooking the lentils (I do the same for red lentils) so they're easy to add to soups and stews instead of being too mushy. Otherwise, potatoes, carrots, and some kind of green - spinach, rucola, kale, chard, whatever. I've made this a few times with frozen spinach because I always have some in the freezer, but I prefer it with the bigger pieces instead of finely chopped greens. You can leave the herbs out if you don't have any or don't want to buy a whole bundle for such a small amount . I have made it without herbs when I haven't wanted to go out in the rain to cut any, but they really do improve the dish. If you're not too keen on eating so many potatoes, you can switch the carrot/potato amounts and use more carrots and less potatoes. In these pictures I peeled the potatoes because they were a little green. I wouldn't peel them otherwise, because the most nutritious part is the skin. Try to use organic if you can as potatoes are one of the most heavily contaminated crops in conventional agriculture. 

Lentil and Potato Stew
Serves four

1 tablespoon oil (olive, sunflower, coconut)
1 medium white onion, chopped
500 grams / 2 cups potatoes, cut into 2cm pieces
250 grams / 1 1/2 cups carrots, cut into 1 cm slices
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, finely chopped*
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
750 ml / 3 cups water
1 cup brown lentils, soaked if possible*
1 teaspoon coconut sugar or honey*
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
3 tablespoons thyme, finely chopped
70 grams / 3 cups rucola or other greens*

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium. Add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes or until softened and fragrant. Stir in the potatoes and carrots and cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally, to brown slightly. Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for an additional minute, then add the spices and stir for about 30 seconds. Pour the apple cider vinegar into the pot and stir, then the water. 

Increase the heat to high and bring the stew to a rolling boil. Add the lentils and reduce the heat to medium-low, then simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the carrots and potatoes are tender. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the coconut sugar, mustard, thyme, and greens. Serve hot and keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. The stew will thicken slightly as it sits.

• The pot might get a bit brown on the bottom from the starch in the potatoes. Adding the vinegar should help lift it, but otherwise the broth will incorporate it and you'll end up with a more flavourful stew. Don't worry about it unless it's starting to burn, and then just reduce the heat.

1. The herbs are sort of optional, but I recommend using them. They brighten everything up a bit.
2. Try to soak the lentils for 24 hours, but use dried and rinsed in a pinch. They'll take a bit longer to cook if they're not soaked.
3. Yes, you need to add a little sweetener. The stew tastes off without it.
3. As I mentioned above, you can also use frozen greens. If you do, stir them in and then turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner to thaw the greens.

Walnut Cookie Dough Energy Bites

October 12, 2017

I've been making energy bites almost weekly for the past few years, but usually make a variation of this recipe. My grandmother gave me a bag of fresh walnuts from a friend a couple of weeks ago and I added a few to my normal energy bite recipe and this happened! The higher oil content in walnuts makes a really creamy tasting bite, really not unlike cinnamon cookie dough. That's what it makes me think of, and whenever I have these in the house I go through them at lightning speed. Walnuts aren't as healthy as sunflower seeds - they have less magnesium, protein, iron, etc. really, lower levels of pretty much everything, and more fat. I use a mix of the two here. So these aren't my everyday energy bites, but I treat them more like a dessert. They're a great pick me up if you need a little boost and they taste like cookie dough, what's not to love?!

I really do prefer them over my normal sunflower seed based bites, but I just go through them way too fast to make them all the time, hah. Sort of like chocolate chip cookies and watermelon. These bites are an absolute dream to roll out, not sticky at all, and do better in the fridge than the freezer. I find that they hold their shape a little better when not refrigerated than normal energy balls too but they definitely taste best from the fridge. 

The sun is out, there are piles of butterflies flitting around our deck right now. Our fat foster cat, Lilly, is trying to hunt. Have you every had a cat that made little hunting noises? Every black and white cat I've ever met does that and Lilly is SO fat, it's the goofiest thing to see her trying to hunt through the glass door. She tries to jump and gets a centimetre off the ground, legs flailing. I think they only way she could ever catch anything would be to sit on it. If you're wondering, yes, she was very fat when she came to us, hah.

Walnut Cookie Dough Energy Bites
Makes about 25 bites

1/2 cup / 70 grams raw walnuts

1/4 cup / 50 grams sunflower seeds
1/2 cup packed / 120 grams soft dates*
2 tablespoons bee pollen (optional)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch sea salt

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the walnuts and sunflower seeds until a coarse meal forms. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until the dates are incorporated into a ball of dough. Form into small* balls, about 3cm, and refrigerate in a sealed container. They'll keep in the fridge for about a week and can be frozen.

1. If your dates are hard, soak them in hot water for 30 minutes beforehand (drain before adding). I used deglet noor dates but of course you can use medjool.