Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Welcome to Wednesday! You’ve made it this far, you should be proud! There’s a lot of health and wellness information coming out this week, and I’m excited to share some of it with you.

Have you ever wondered what might happen if you gave up sugar for an entire year?  Like, really gave it up.  No white sugar, no fruit juice concentrate, no maple syrup, no honey? If I’m being honest, the thought of giving up sweet stuff altogether makes me shudder. I grew up in a house in which my sugar consumption was very strictly monitored. My sister and I would ride our bikes to the corner store to buy candy bars behind our mom’s back. For years afterwards, I was a total candy and soda addict and couldn’t control myself around sugar. I finally figured out how to regulate. Now I raise my daughter differently, to have access to sweets in moderation and to teach her how to self moderate. It’s not easy though, and we sometimes get off track. A reboot sounds like a good idea from time to time. Not a year, but maybe like a week? Read this to find out how one family did it, and how they felt at the end of the year. Thanks to my friend Annie for forwarding this along to me!

I have been subscribing to HelloFresh for a few weeks now, and overall I’m pretty pleased. I love their vegetable boxes because they are more affordable and we are also trying to eat more vegetarian meals. I cringe at the waste of packing materials but we are recycling them so I feel better about that. I love that we get to try new recipes that helps me get out of my meal ruts, especially when time is short and I have less time to give it thought. Tonight I made black bean quesadillas with caramelized onions and they were so good even my 11 year old gobbled them up. Click on the link for the recipe so you can make them at home! Use whole wheat or gluten free tortillas if that’s what appeals to you.

And finally, if you’ve been thinking “Gee, I really wish there was a funny food blog I could read today” look no further than ProntoPup. His most recent post on his attempt to go vegan, only to realize that he’s really a “vaguean” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) is hilarious, honest, and will make you wish you could have dinner with him. Spoiler alert, I get to have dinner with him, and it will probably consist of tofu steak!

Have a great rest of your week, you guys.  Don’t forget to check back on Friday for a new cocktail recipe!

 

Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Happy Thursday!  I hope you are having a fantastic week.  And, if you aren’t, I hope you find a little bit of happiness here at Cultivate Wellness.

I plan on writing a longer, more thorough blog post about my recent experience being interviewed on our local NPR station, but in the meantime I wanted to post the link so you can listen for yourself.  Remember that post I wrote about the horrible swimsuit spread in Discovery Girls magazine?   It created quite a bit of discussion, including with the host of our morning news show on Minnesota Public Radio.   She decided to dedicate an entire show to the topic of body shaming in young girls, and asked to interview me.  You can listen to the entire show here.  I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on it and keep the discussion going, so please share and comment!

Speaking of people struggling with body image issues, I read this piece, entitled Fat Dad: The Coffee and Cigarette Diet recently in Well section of The New York Times and it touched my heart.  I thought it was lovingly written.  So often we talk about women and body image, but it’s a good reminder that men struggle with this issue too.

Do you love potato salad as much as I do?  I love it in all forms: with celery, with egg, with mayo, with vinegar.  Dill, parsley, scallions, mint.  It’s *all* good in my book.  Here’s a healthy, delicious looking red, white and blue potato salad just in time for Independence Day.

Have a great rest of your week, whatever you have planned!

As always, I’d be so grateful if you shared my blog with people you think would like it, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, via email, or word of mouth (or all!).

You might also like:

Last week’s Midweek Mashup

Bikini Body

Potato, Carrot and Leek Soup

 

 

 

 

Easy Posole

Is it warm and sunny where you are today?  We have finally been gifted with beautiful spring weather and it makes me so happy.  I’ve got the sudden urge to spring clean the house from top to bottom.  It happens every year about this time.  The trouble is finding time in the day because I just recently started a new consulting gig from home on top of my course load for my Nutrition Consultant degree.  And golf.  It’s practically the only thing I think about in the warm months.  What is your obsession/hobby/thing that brings you joy?  I’d love to hear about it!

This week I made another Gwyneth recipe from her book It’s All Good. Ever since returning home from Arizona I’ve been craving all the flavors I grew up with.  Jalapeños, chiles, hominy, avocado.  Spicy and fresh.  Gwyneth wrote that her chef made this soup for her on a cool summer day when she wanted something warm but still light.  BTW, if you are wondering what hominy is, read this very informative article entitled “What The Hell Is Hominy, Anyway?”.

So this week I picked up the phone to call my personal chef and then realized, whoops! I don’t have one.  Darn.

I used my own two hands to make this soup and was delighted with the flavors.  It is indeed light and fresh, but still comforting.  It’s full of antioxidants because of all the veggies and herbs. Hominy is high in fiber, low in fat, and is a whole grain. And as made, this soup is vegan.

Some changes I would make: 1)At least double the recipe.  It barely made enough for four regular people. 2)Add at least one additional can of hominy to the soup.  It came out lacking a little bit of heft.  My husband pointed out more hominy would make this soup even better. I should also mention that when I told my husband I was making hominy he thought it was a kind of fish.  Bless his Indiana-bred heart.  3) If you have spice-averse children, omit 1/2 the jalapeños and let people add them at the end. 

Otherwise, I would say this soup is fantastic and just the perfect thing for a day when you feel like eating something that is simultaneously warm and light.  If you want to add some shredded chicken or pork I bet that would taste good too.

INGREDIENTS:

6 tomatillos: peel the papery layers off, rinse, and chop them (throw away the papery outside)

1 large red onion, roughly chopped

2 jalapeños, chopped (remove the seeds for less spice)

olive oil

sea salt

4 cups vegetable stock (I love Better Than Bouillon which I find at the grocery and even Costco)

A few sprigs of cilantro

28 oz can of hominy, drained and rinsed (I personally would double this amount)

GARNISH:

Ripe avocado, diced

Cilantro

Chopped scallions

Sliced radishes

Lime wedges

Anything else that tickles your taste bud fancy

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 450 F. On a large sheet pan, toss the tomatillos, onions and jalapeños with enough oil to coat.  Add a large pinch of salt. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and a little browned.

Transfer the veggies and about 1 cup of the stock into a blender to puree until completely smooth.  If using an immersion blender like I did, you’ll need more than 1 cup of liquid so it doesn’t splatter.

Add the vegetable mixture along with the hominy, rest of the stock and cilantro to a large pot.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer for at least 15 minutes. Season to taste.

Remove the cilantro stems and discard.  Add garnish and enjoy!

posole

 

 

Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash

It’s been a while since I posted a Gwyneth recipe here.  Her flawless face on the over of her cookbook (It’s All Good) has been staring at me with reproach for weeks now.  Months even.  If I were anything like Gwyneth I would have not let this much time pass and furthermore, in that amount of time, I would have also made my own line of beauty products and have experimented getting stung by bees as a beauty treatment.

So this weekend I cracked open the cookbook and picked a recipe for which I had all the ingredients already.  I love when that happens!  I needed to eat a healthy and filling lunch before playing golf so I went with the quinoa with roasted butternut squash.  It seemed like the perfect easy and healthy option.

By now you probably know how I feel about Gwyneth (we’re frenemies, FYI).  The truth is, her recipes have never steered me wrong.  I haven’t found one that wasn’t delicious yet.  The Braised Chicken With Green Olives is most definitely my favorite.  Just last night my friend  and fellow food blogger ProntoPup reminded me how good that dish is.  It’s kind of fussy to make, but you are handsomely rewarded at the end.

This quinoa recipe isn’t fussy, and I would rate it a solid 7 or 8.  It’s not fancy, it does the trick.  It makes a fabulous lunch or dinner side dish.  And it’s super healthy.  And for a Monday isn’t that enough?

QUINOA WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

img_2809

INGREDIENTS:

1 package frozen butternut squash

olive oil

sea salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 cups cooked quinoa (use directions on the package)

3 scallions, chopped (I like to use the whole scallion, not just the whites and light green parts)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place butternut squash in a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and stir to coat.  Roast until browned (about 20 minutes).

While roasting the squash, whisk together the lemon juice with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a healthy pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl. When the quinoa is finished, incorporate that in with the dressing, scallions and parsley.  When the squash is finished roasting, place it on top the quinoa mixture.  Add some extra scallions and parsley to the top to garnish.

 

ENJOY!  Please let me know what you think by commenting! And I wouldn’t hate it if you shared my blog with all your friends and loved ones.

 

 

BBQ Chicken, Spanish Style

Happy New Year!  I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and were able to spend time with people you love and doing things that you enjoy.  I got to go to a northwoods cabin with my family, where we sat by the fire reading, went ice skating, ate yummy food and just enjoyed being together.  I slept in, went to bed early, and didn’t focus on chores or being productive.  It was fantastic.

I focused more on holiday baking the last several weeks than I did on cooking anything unique. When I’m busy and hectic, usually the first thing to go is my creativity in cooking.  I’ll revert back to things that don’t take much thought of effort.

Last night, after feeling sufficiently rested, I got back to cooking recipes from Gwyneth’s cookbook.  I had dogeared a BBQ chicken recipe that looked good, so that’s where I started. The result was pretty great — the marinade was easy enough.

I prepared the marinade in the morning and after smothering the chicken in it, stuck it in the fridge for about 6 hours.

marinade
Super easy marinade for the chicken

That evening, instead of grilling the chicken in 20 degree weather, because I’m not a savage, I opted to bake it and then put it under the broiler at the end for several minutes to get the skin browned and crispy.  The family liked it, although we all agreed it could use a bit more salt.  Next time I will sprinkle flaky sea salt on top before baking (or finishing salt at the end).

I served the chicken with sautéed mushrooms and roasted Brussels sprouts.

 

I feel comfortable recommending adding this dish to your rotation! It’s easy, flavorful, and a bit different than the usual baked chicken.

BBQ chicken spanish style
BBQ Chicken, Spanish Style

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

Large pinch of coarse sea salt

1 t freshly ground pepper

2 t hot pimentón (I used regular smoked paprika)

One 3-4 lb chicken, cut up (don’t remove skin, it’s the best part!)

METHOD:

Mix everything except the chicken in a bowl. Pour the paste all over the chicken pieces and massage it in, making sure to get it under the skin as well. Let the chicken sit in the marinade for an hour or two, or up to overnight. Bake at 375 for about 25-30 minutes until juices run clear.  Or, if it’s warm where you are, grill over low heat for 20 minutes on one side or until it’s firm to the touch and browned.

Hearty Lentil Soup

lentil soup

As soon as the weather turns cooler here in the north, I start to crave hearty soups.  I love them when they are full of vegetables because it means I don’t have to serve anything on the side except some crusty bread.  I have a favorite soup that I make all winter and fall that also happens to be a favorite of my family.  Whenever I tell my 11 year old that it’s what we are having for dinner, she gets really excited.

I was late to the lentil game, and now I can’t imagine what I did before them.  Lentils are so full of protein and fiber and really make a soup an entire meal in a bowl.  They felt intimidating to me for some reason.  Now that I know I just have to rinse them and pick out any super weird looking ones, I’m good to go.

This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis.  Over the years I’ve made quite a few changes to it and I really do love my updated version. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons olive oil (or just do what I do which is to pour some in a pot till it looks like enough)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 carrots, washed & chopped (I seriously don’t even peel them, just scrub)
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large potato or 2 small potatoes, cubed (again, don’t peel them)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
11 cups vegetable broth (I love Better Than Bouillon)
4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
Fresh spinach

METHOD:
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. I love to use my prized Le Creuset Dutch oven that I received one year for Christmas.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery and stir. Then, add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender (about 5-8 minutes), stirring occasionally. Do not let vegetables burn. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the potatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Now, add the broth and stir. Nestle the thyme sprigs in the mix and then bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Taste the soup and add any additionally salt and pepper (or more bouillon if using) it needs.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Ladle the soup into bowls. Add a large handful of fresh spinach into the bowl and mix to wilt.  Serve with crusty warm bread.  We are partial to sourdough rolls or garlic bread.

Braised Chicken With Green Olives & Garlic

braised chicken done
Braised Chicken with Olives + Lemon

Oh me oh my.  Gwyneth has gone and done it again.  This time with a braised chicken recipe from her cookbook that I made for dinner last night.  It was supposed to be for the family, but I forgot that my husband had his holiday work party and rather than wait until Sunday when we would all be together at dinner time again, I decided to make it for just me and my girl.  I’m so glad I did.

I keep hoping that Gwyneth will feature a recipe that I can report back and tell you was terrible.  Not because I want to cook bad food, but because little by little she is turning me from a frenemy to a friend.  At least where food is concerned.  I’m uncomfortable with that.  She’s a bazillionaire with a tenuous grasp on reality.  She thinks we all have hot pimentón spice from Spain and are down with the usage of the term “conscious uncoupling”.  I dunno, she just seems a bit untethered.  BUT.  BUT.  Up until now, her recipes are the bomb.  

Last night’s Braised Chicken With Green Olives + Lemon didn’t disappoint.  I was a bit worried about the olives.  I love love love any kind of olive.  The rest of my family not so much.  For this recipe I just kept them whole, but if you have a whole gaggle of olive lovers, I would dice them up.  I followed the recipe almost exactly because it didn’t have any insanely unique ingredients or directions.  Without further ado, I present Braised Chicken With Green Olives + Lemon:

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 chicken, cut up, room temperature (I used about 2 lbs, SKIN ON OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN)

Coarse sea salt

Black pepper

2 T extra virgin olive oil

3 shallots, sliced into thin rings

1.5 cups chicken stock (I always use Better Than Bouillon)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half (next time I will, like, triple this)

10 large green olives, pitted

Leaves from one sprig of thyme (I just threw the whole sprig in there intact)

Juice of one lemon

METHOD:

Salt and pepper the chicken

Heat the olive oil in a large enameled cast iron pot (like a Dutch oven)

Cook the chicken until deeply browned, about 4-5 minutes. Turn chicken over and do the same thing. They should look like this:

braised chicken 1
Browned Chicken 

Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until they soften, about another 4 minutes.

Add a splash of the chicken broth and scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add remaining chicken stock and scatter the garlic cloves, olives and thyme over the chicken.

Pour the lemon juice over everything and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down as low as it will go and cover the pot, cooking for about an hour until the chicken is very tender. (If you have less time, be assured that I only cooked the chicken for about 35-40 minutes and it was well cooked and juicy and delicious).

Serve over rice, potatoes, or alongside a piece of bread.  I also served with roasted root vegetables.

This is the plated version which I hesitate to even show you because I put so little effort into it.  To be honest I was so excited to eat.

As always, please let me know what you think by leaving a comment.  I always appreciate a share as well!

braised chicken plated