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FLC16: Highlights from Week 1

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It’s Day 7 of my Wine and Cheese Detox and I’m going strong! I feel light and refreshed, I’m sleeping better, and I have hardly thought about cheating. I even attended a work-related wine tasting on Tuesday afternoon and spit all of the wines. But I have to admit, the feel of Napa Bordeaux blends on my lips was luscious. In continuation with my Food Lover’s Cleanse, I’ve made several delicious and healthy meals the past week:

The Chia Pudding with Pineapple and Apricot and Banana Almond Smoothie made for great breakfasts – very filling, slightly sweet, and easy to get together during a morning of multitasking. I was a little put off by the thought of it at first, but I really enjoyed the texture of the chia pudding.  I will definitely incorporate both of these into my breakfast routine.

Tofu Stir Fry

Brussel Sprout and Tofu Stir Fry

The Brussel Sprouts and Tofu Stir Fry was spicy and and hearty. I love a good stir fry, and this was recipe was pretty dynamic for so few elements. I enjoyed the crunch of the water chestnuts and the tangy spice of the gochujang – a Korean chile paste that I have been dying to use in cooking since I read about it about a year ago. I didn’t prepare the suggested rice side as directed, but I did use some black rice that I cooked with bits of ginger and topped with shredded coconut. I forgot to add furikake to the stir fry, but I remembered to include it on my leftovers the next day and it added a nice umami flavor. I would recommend this dish for a hearty vegetarian stir fry, but double up on the gochujang or add some Sriracha because it’s lacking in heat.
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Last night I made Salmon with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Salad with Garlicky Bok Choy. My favorite component was the carrot salad, which I didn’t make nearly enough of. I didn’t bother toasting cumin seeds and used ground cumin and turmeric instead, so it only took about 10 minutes to prepare; an easy salad to get together before heading out the door in the morning. I enjoyed the yogurt-cucumber sauce on top of the salmon, and added a bit of mint to brighten it up. Overall, this meal was flavorful, light but filling, and the flavors integrated well with each other. I used the leftover salmon filet in a lunch salad with arugula, mixed greens, cilantro, mint, cucumber, carrot, almonds and miso-tumeric dressing – yum!

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By far, the Spicy Orange Hazelnut Bark was the best thing I made all week. Since I haven’t been drinking alcohol, I find myself craving something sweet in its place. I’m not a dessert person by any means, but I can’t resist a piece of dark chocolate. Rather than munching on some hipster chocolate bars I got over the holidays, I decided to get out the double boiler and make my own bark. I’m not a huge fan of hazelnuts so I used some bittersweet chocolate with almonds from Trader Joe’s and added some pistachio pieces to the mix, which was delicious. But it was the orange zest and cayenne pepper that really pulled the bark together. I will definitely be making this on the regular, whether or not it’s a replacement for wine! Here’s to another 7 days…

Braised Moroccan Lamb Shanks with French Lentils

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In continuation with my Wine and Cheese Detox and the BAFLC, I spent the better part of my Sunday braising Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate, and I’m certainly not sorry. As the sweet smells of cinnamon and pomegranate filled my apartment, I knew I was in store for something delicious. Not to mention, I was able to use my newly purchased ceramic Dutch oven!

Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate (serves 4)

  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 1 TB cornstarch
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large leek, white and light-green parts only, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  •  cups pomegranate juice
  •  cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup mint leaves

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I paired the lamb shanks with Confetti Lentils, per BAFLC suggestion. They were pretty easy to prepare as long as you have a good box shredder or shredding disc for a food processor. You should be able to find French lentils at most specialty grocery stores, but the only place I could find celery root was at Whole Foods. Turns out, it’s a pretty cool vegetable!

Confetti Lentils (serves 4)

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 medium celery root, peeled and shredded
  • 1 medium onion, shredded 
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more
  •  cups French green lentils

All in all, the lamb takes about 5 hours to prepare so it’s the perfect Sunday roast. Trim the shanks of any excess thick fat (white opaque, rough parts) but do not remove the iridescent membrane, which holds the meat together. Blend together coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, salt and pepper and rub all sides of the shanks with the spice mixture, then let rest for 30 minutes and up to overnight.

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About 30 minutes before you plan to cook the shanks, dredge in cornstarch, covering all sides of the shank. Preheat the oven to 350, then heat 2 TB olive oil in a large dutch oven. Sear the lamb shanks on all sides until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish then add onion, carrot and leek to the pot and cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits that have accumulated, for 1 minute. Add cinnamon and thyme and pour in pomegranate juice and chicken stock. Scrape pan again, then bring mixture to a simmer. Return shanks to pan and season with kosher salt and black pepper.

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Cover pot and transfer to oven. Braise 1½ hours, then check liquid level, making sure there is at least 1″ stock in pan; if not, add water or stock to bring it up to that mark. Continue braising until meat is completely tender and falling off the bone, about 2½ hours.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb shanks to a plate. Discard thyme and cinnamon stick. To serve, bring remaining braising liquid to a simmer, adding more water or stock if needed. Add the meat back to the sauce and cook until warmed through, if needed. Serve lamb pieces off the bone with some sauce and top with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.

Prepare the lentils when there is about 30 minutes left to the lamb. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Add carrots, celery root, onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in lentils. Pour in 3¾ cups of boiling water and bring to a boil once more. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender but retain their shape, about 25 minutes. Season with more salt, if desired. (Do not drain excess liquid; lentils remain tender better if stored in their cooking liquid.) To serve, use a slotted spoon or mesh strainer.

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The lamb was so flavorful and had the perfect balance of sweet and savory, and the yummy lentils soaked up all of the delicious sauce from the braise. I have tons of leftover lentils and plan to add them to a salad some time this week. Although the lamb took a while to cook (as all braised meats do), it was totally worth it and I know it will taste even better over the next few days. This one is definitely a repeat – next time with a wine pairing!

No Wine or Cheese, Please!

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For the first time in my adult life, I’ve implemented a “Dry January” – GASP! I know, I know; how is it possible for me, of all people, to stop drinking wine (and all booze) for an entire month? Well frankly, it’s probably not possible. Which is why I’ve only promised myself two weeks of sobriety instead of the full month. To add to it (because no booze for two weeks isn’t enough?), I’ve also eliminated most dairy and all cheese from my diet until January 15, right in time for what will probably be a gluttonous MLK Weekend.

The line up of wines over Thanksgiving, the beginning of the Holiday binge.

The line up of wines for Thanksgiving dinner, the beginning of the Holiday binge.

I usually roll my eyes when people eliminate an entire food group from their diet for the sake of a New Years resolution or the like. But I legitimately felt the need to take a break after the over indulgence that has taken place over what’s basically been the last six months. And although most of it has to do with the desire to shed a few sugar fueled pounds, I honestly want to prove to myself and any doubters than I can in fact live without wine and cheese for two weeks. So that I can fully maximize my potential weight loss, I figured I should also implement a clean diet and lots of exercise.

The last wines I drank in 2015: Dueling Scribe Cabs (the 2009 blew the 2010 out of the water)

The last wines I drank in 2015: Dueling Scribe Cabs (the 2009 blew the 2010 out of the water)

(While I didn’t drink alcohol or eat any dairy on New Years Day, I didn’t start the official clean eating part of the diet until January 2nd because New Years Day is reserved for hangover cravings. I strongly believe that any New Year resolutions or diets shouldn’t start until January 2nd so that you have at least one day to recover and prepare yourself.)

Lucky for me, this is the time of year when the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse (BAFLC) comes out! The annual plan includes three meals, a snack and a dessert per day, focusing on healthy proteins, good fats, grains, fruits and vegetables, with minimal dairy and sugar. I particularly like this cleanse because many ingredients are repeated throughout the two weeks, and all lunches are made up of leftovers so you don’t have to spend an obscene amount of money on groceries. BA has even put together a printable grocery list that makes shopping much easier (especially when you already have most of the pantry items). While I typically don’t follow the entire two-week cleanse, I almost always find 6-10 tasty and unique recipes that I cycle through.

I kicked it off Saturday night with Mahi-Mahi with white beans, swiss chard and shiitake mushrooms. I made the meal for myself and two friends: The Mayor and First Broad. We all liked the fish (although, I could have doubled the orange zest and sage) and swiss chard, but agreed that the beans were lacking flavor. When I reheated the leftovers for lunch today, I sautéed the chard, mushrooms and beans together with 2 TB of harissa for about 5 minutes, adding the leftover cooked, chopped filet of Mahi-Mahi in towards the end. I finished the dish with a squeeze of lemon. These two small bursts of flavor added some spice and acid that the dish was otherwise lacking.

Leftovers turned healthy lunch

Leftovers turned healthy lunch

Next on the menu: Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate with Confetti Lentils. It looks pretty delicious, but I’ll let you know how it turns out. Stay tuned for more of my favorite BAFLC recipes, and check it out yourself to let me know what you think. In the meantime, wish me luck on my wine and cheese detox!

Pretty Food Tastes Better

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I was really into the Skinnytaste recipe that landed in my inbox yesterday morning. She did a play on sushi in a measuring cup, flipping it onto the plate and creating this beautiful layered tower of spicy shrimp deliciousness. After sweating it out at the gym with my fabulous and stunning trainer, Miss Brit, I ran by my favorite Mexican market for an avocado and a cucumber. But when I finally got into my kitchen around eight – after my hilarious neighbors sufficiently distracted me – I really didn’t feel like waiting for brown rice to cook, especially since it wasn’t even short grain and probably wouldn’t be sticky enough. So naturally, I turned it into a quinoa bowl.

Spicy Shrimp Sushi Quinoa Bowl

  • 1 TB low sodium soy sauce, plus more for drizzle
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 4-6 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup of dry quinoa
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 an avocado, sliced
  • 1 tsp furikake
  • 2 tsp Sir Kensingtons Sriracha Mayonnaise

Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, lime zest and half of the lime juice in a small dish. Coat the shrimp and marinate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa: combine with 1/2 cup of water in a small sauce pan, then bring to a boil, simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Fluff and remove from heat but keep covered. Heat a small pan over a medium flame. Cook shrimp for 3 minutes on each side, remove tails, then chop into bite size pieces.

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Now, just because I couldn’t make my dinner into a neat stack sure doesn’t mean I’m not going to make it look pretty, because pretty tastes better. Spoon the quinoa into the bottom of a shallow bowl then top with cucumber, scallions and shrimp. Lay the avocado slices around the edge of the bowl, then top with furikake and drizzles of remaining lime juice, Sriracha Mayonnaise and soy sauce.

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Once you sit down and stop taking photos for Instagram, chop those avocado slices and mix it all together, seasoning as you wish with straight up Sriracha and more soy sauce. Serve with Dry Riesling, Viognier, or Chenin Blanc. I opted for one of my favorites: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier – or, as true fans commonly refer to it as, CB+V.

Zucchini Blossom Quesadilla

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I’ve been keeping my eye out for zucchini blossoms during my past few trips to the farmers market, and finally spotted some this weekend. The last time I bought blossoms was the day before the earthquake – of course they did not get put to use – so it’s been almost two years since I last cooked with blossoms. I’ve only ever stuffed them with ricotta and pan-fried them, but I wanted to do something different this time. Space Cadet suggested doing a quesadilla, which sounded appealing and different. With her helpful tips and some inspiration from this recipe, I got to work on collecting the remaining ingredients.

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I couldn’t find any Oaxacan cheese at Whole Foods, but I sampled some cave-aged Gruyere that they had out. Even though I’m not always crazy about Gruyere, this stuff was delicious and melts easily so I thought it would make a fine substitute. I also selected some healthier tortillas, which are my new favorite: Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Flour Tortillas with Flaxseed and Rolled Oats. Trust me, they’re great. I also made some salsa verde and avocado crema to serve with the quesadilla, because why not?

Zucchini Blossom Quesadillablossoms

  • 1 small poblano pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of diced yellow onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 large whole grain flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup grated cave-aged Gruyere cheese
  • 6 zucchini blossoms, stems and stamen removed and torn into smaller pieces

Avocado Crema

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 TB nonfat Greek yogurttomatillo
  • juice of 1 lime
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of smoked paprika

Fresh Salsa Verde

  • 5 tomatillos, quartered
  • 2 serrano chiles, stems removed
  • 6 cilantro sprigs, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup water

Start by roasting the poblano pepper. Cook it close to the broiler for 5 minutes, turning once halfway through. Transfer the pepper to a plastic bag and seal. Let sit for 20 minutes, then peel the pepper and remove the stem and seeds. Chop into small pieces and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the salsa verde. In a food processor, combine tomatillos, chiles, cilantro and water and pulse until the salsa is coarsely chopped. Transfer to a serving bowl. For the avocado crema, mash together all ingredients and season to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl.

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Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over a medium flame. Once hot, add onion, garlic and poblano and sauté for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe the excess oil off the pan with a paper towel.

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Return the pan to heat and add a single tortilla. Flip the tortilla once it starts to puff up a bit – about 30 seconds. Add the cheese, pepper and onion mixture, and blossoms. Top with another tortilla and heat for about a minute. Carefully flip the quesadilla so that the top tortilla browns, and cook for another minute. Transfer to a plate and slice into 6 pieces. Serve with salsa verde, avocado crema, and a dry floral white wine such as Gruner Veltliner or Albarino.

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These quesadillas were really yummy, especially with the addition of fresh salsa verde! I made a ton of it, so I will be sure to repurpose it throughout the week, even though it’s quite spicy. And I am so happy to have found another way to enjoy my precious blossoms. Next time I think I will try putting them on pizza. Yum!

Asian Turkey Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles

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In the category of things I can now eat because I will allow cilantro to touch my lips, I bring you Asian turkey meatballs by Skinnytaste! So far Gina has yet to disappoint me, but I was still a little wary about this dish because turkey meatballs can be very dry if there aren’t enough wet ingredients. Fortunately, these meatballs came out perfectly; crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. And the dipping sauce (which I tweaked ever so slightly) added a burst of umami.

Asian Turkey Meatballs (serves 2)

  • 1/2 lb of lean ground turkey
  • 2 TB panko crumbs
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, mincedIMG_1996
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 TB chopped cilantro
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce (makes 1/2 cup)

  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 TB chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 TB water
  • 1 scallion, chopped

Asian Zoodles (serves 2)

  • 2 zucchini, shredded with a julienne peeler
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 TB diced red onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for the meatballs. Mix together and form into 1/4 cup sized balls. Line a baking sheet with wax paper, then place meatballs evenly on the paper. Place in the oven and bake for 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Combine all ingredients and stir until the oil is evenly incorporated. Set aside.

To make the “zoodles” heat a large nonstick pan over a medium flame. Once hot, add sesame oil and swirl around the pan. Add onion and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the zucchini, leaving undisturbed for 1 minute. Sprinkle salt, then sauté and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and divide into two bowls. Top with three meatballs each, and add a spoonful of dipping sauce onto each meatball.

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These meatballs were delicious – full of flavor and not dried out at all. I enjoyed the zoodles, but I think these meatballs would work even better over some soba or thin rice noodles with shredded carrots and zucchini. Maybe next time!

Springing for Steelhead

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The Napa Farmer’s Market is back on! It actually opened two weeks ago, but I couldn’t make it until yesterday. And I was so excited that I forgot to get cash and only had $8 with me. The first thing that caught my eye was a small bag of shelled English peas. It was $3, but I had never cooked with them before so I splurged. I wandered around the rest of the market, scouting each stand to see what looked the best. I stopped at the seafood stand in the back and noticed some Steelhead trout filets – something else I had never cooked before. I purchased (with my credit card) a filet that was over half a pound and went back to another stand to pick up assorted zucchini, squash and a spring onion for a little over $5, but the farmer let it slide. You won’t get that at Whole Foods!

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Spring Pea and Zucchini Salad with Pan-Seared Trout (serves 2)

  • 1 medium zucchiniIMG_1956
  • 1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 4 TB olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 10 oz wild trout
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 radicchio leaves, torn
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced very thinly with a mandoline
  • 1/2 cup shelled English Peas
  • 8 mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 10 parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

Slice the zucchini lengthwise with a mandoline. Sprinkle zucchini evenly with salt and place in a small colander in the sink for about 5 minutes. Rinse the zucchini under cold water and lay out on a clean dishtowel. Carefully fold the towel over the zucchini and roll to squeeze out the excess water and let sit.

In a small food processor, pulse a shallot. Add lemon juice, Dijon, anchovy paste, Sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Process to combine, and add 2 TB oil in a slow, steady stream. Transfer to a small container and set aside.

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In a large non-stick pan, heat 2 TB olive oil over a medium flame. Add garlic cloves and toss off heat to flavor the olive oil. Bring the pan back to the heat and add trout, skin side down. Chop two fonds off the fennel bulb and add to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes to sear the skin, then lower the heat and cover; continue to cook for about 8 minutes, or until the flesh is light pink. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes.

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Meanwhile, assemble the salad: radicchio, fennel, peas, mint and parsley. Top with the zucchini slices and dressing to taste (add by the tablespoon), then toss to combine. Top with half of the trout filet and serve! I enjoyed this meal with 2013 Madam Preston White Rhone Blend – a family favorite! It’s bright and crisp, but the Rhone varietals add slight creamy undertones that make the wine stand up well to a heartier seafood.

Put an egg on it!

Put an egg on it!

The best part of making this meal was the leftovers! I incorporated the trout, english peas and fennel fonds into a quinoa breakfast bowl and it was spectacular. Sauté chopped fennel fonds with chopped white onion and garlic for a few minutes. Add the peas, trout (broken up), 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa, and a handful of coarsely chopped spinach and sauté to combine. Once hot, top with an egg, cover the pan, and lower the heat. Cook for 5 minutes then devour. I actually enjoyed this more than the salad, but that may have been due to my slight hangover.

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