sprout for joy

emerge, spring up, grow


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tangy tofu lettuce wraps

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First, a confession: I seriously over-cooked this poor tofu. It turned out more like tofu-jerky… hey, maybe I’m on to something? But rather than wait until I bought more at the store, thereby procrastinating this post even more, I decided to follow through in hopes you’ll let it slide. I mean, it sounded like little rocks hitting the plate…

008I tried to be cool and slice the tofu into a different shape, rather than the characteristic cube, but I see that helps it cook more evenly. But not to worry, coating these babies in my secret weapon (Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Q Sauce) saved the day. This is my all time favorite BBQ sauce, from right here in Austin. It says it right on the label: “Made right. This is the real deal. And its tangy tomato, vinegar, molasses and black pepper are gonna treat you right.” Also, it contains all-natural, gluten free ingredients. As a BBQ snob from Georgia (from when I used to eat meat), I have to admit this sauce satisfies all the right requirements: thick, smooth, tangy-sweet, and good enough to make charred tofu appealing. Moving on.

The next save the day ingredient is something I’d never tried before, but is now a kitchen staple, Israeli Couscous.  It contains two ingredients: wheat flour and water, and has about the same nutritional profile as the regular smaller grain couscous but slightly less calories, protein and fiber by weight (due to the extra water I’m guessing). It’s not as nutritionally dense as quinoa, which has 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of fat per 1/3 cup uncooked. (Israeli Couscous has 6 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and 0.5 grams of fat per 1/3 cup). I really enjoyed it’s nutty flavor and chewy bite. The little bit of stickiness makes it perfect for holding lettuce wraps together, and if you’re looking to shave a few calories, it’s a great option. Plus, it kind of looks like Dippin Dots.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package firm organic tofu
  • 1 Tbsp. oil (I’m on an avocado oil kick)
  • 1 cup Israeli Couscous
  • 1 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (insert favorite… mine is Stubbs)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup raw broccoli florets, chopped small
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced into chunks
  • 4-5 large organic green leaf lettuce stalks

Steps:

  1. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a 2 qt. pot.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in Israeli Couscous, add tomatoes and broccoli, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, drain any excess water and fluff with fork.010
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. avocado oil in non-stick skillet.
  4. Add tofu and sauté until lightly browned, flip pieces to cook evenly, remove from heat and coat in BBQ sauce.
  5. Lay lettuce beds flat on plate and spoon on couscous mixture.
  6. Top with tofu, and add avocado for garnish.
  7. Wrap em up and enjoy!

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You’ll have couscous left over, which I counted as a plus. This really makes for a great, healthy light meal, and it’s quick and easy. My suggestion? Now that football season is here (finally!!), make these as a perfect game-watching side to bring to get togethers and cook-outs! Sure to be a crowd pleaser. And on that note, Go Dirty Birds!! 🙂


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kitchen sink paella

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I’m struggling with this title… it almost seems disrespectful to this exotic, traditional Spanish dish. Especially considering paella and I were only introduced a few days ago when I met some friends for dinner at Barlata, a chic new tapas restaurant in Austin. I had to go home and Google what exactly comprises a paella.

To my delight, it turned out to be a versatile, vegetable-friendly, free-style type dish with a couple of key ingredients: rice and saffron (which I also had to Google). Saffron is essential to give the characteristic, rich golden color and unique flavor. After some brief research, I decided this dish was just my style, simple and open to interpretation.

While potentially degrading, “kitchen sink” is appropriate based on my strategy for collecting ingredients (saffron being the only item I had to purchase). Apparently it’s the most expensive spice on the planet, I could have easily dropped fifteen for a bottle. Luckily I found a smaller amount for about five bucks, good enough. It’s too bad I now love the stuff… looks like my staple seasoning collection is about to get a lot more expensive.

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I’m leaving in two days for a solo hiking trip to Denver (first time!) so I had to clear out the fridge, thus the paella recipe was born. Please take that into consideration when you see I used 6 cloves of garlic and two types of onion (I hate to waste anything). But as a side, I always use a TON of anything that gives flavor, and I habitually triple amounts of seasonings and spices in a recipe (excluding salt and oil). As long as it tastes balanced, why not? It’s good!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups organic broccoli florets, steamed
  • 1 cup organic edamame, shelled and steamed
  • 2 Tbsp. avocado oil
  • 1 package organic tempeh, chopped into bite size
  • 6 cloves organic garlic, diced
  • ½ organic red onion, diced
  • Bragg liquid aminos all-purpose seasoning
  • 8 whole baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 bunch organic green onion, chopped
  • 3 cups organic, low sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp. saffron, crushed
  • 1 cup organic white jasmine rice
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced

Steps:

Steam broccoli and edamame and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. avocado oil over medium-high heat in non-stick skillet, add chopped tempeh, 3 garlic cloves and red onion, sauté 5-7 minutes or until tempeh starts to brown. Add Bragg liquid amino liberally and stir, continue to sauté another 5 minutes to brown tempeh.

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Remove tempeh mixture from heat and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. avocado oil over medium-high heat, add mushrooms, green onions; cook 5 minute. Stir in remaining garlic, broth and saffron; bring to a boil. Sprinkle rice over ingredients, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.

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Sprinkle broccoli, edamame, tomatoes, and tempeh over rice. Cover and cook paella 8 more minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and let rest, covered for about 3-5 minutes.

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Spoon into bowls, garnish with green onions, season with salt and pepper (optional).

This recipe is gluten-free, vegan, and low fat. The addition of tempeh makes it a high protein, nutrient packed meal that tastes amazing. I’ve only been meat-free for a little over a year and just recently started using tempeh. Not so much to add protein, I believe we get plenty from plant sources alone, but more for the hearty texture and nutty flavor it provides. It’s less processed than tofu, and undergoes fermentation which makes it easier to digest, and makes the nutrients more absorbable and usable by your body.

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I also LOVE adding it to salads…

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But back to paella, I highly recommend it as a quick and easy, healthy, delicious meal that keeps well and makes great leftovers! Enjoy.


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vegan cheesy grits

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I woke up on this fine Saturday morning with one thing on my mind, cheese grits. It’s my all time favorite breakfast food, mostly because it reminds me of one of my amazing grandmothers. She left this Earth too soon, when I was seventeen, but she remains the star of so many of my childhood memories. In everything we did together, the rule was it had to be unique and creative. When we made recipes, I got to pick out any ingredient I wanted and she would cook something up with it. As a six year old, I remember gathering anything colorful and bright from the back yard, including rose petals, twigs, leaves, stones and berries (she drew the line at roly polys and lady bugs, I tried). We washed my “ingredients” and baked it all into a delicious cornbread. Then we picked out the non edible parts and ate it.

Our favorite game we named Wagon Train. Our horses, Thunder and Lightening, were two barstools we tied rope around. The wagon was a huge open umbrella we sat beneath in the garage. We’d go on long trail rides and when we got hungry we’d throw all the stuffed animals out in the drive way and go hunting.

I remember quietly watching her put on make up and spritz perfume, sitting on a dainty vanity stool in her pink bathroom surrounded by ornate hand held mirrors, crystal spray bottles with satiny tassels, oriental lip stick cases, and all her pearls and diamonds. She was such a lady.

I loved to climb up and sit in the big dogwood tree in her front yard, covered in white blossoms, and sing all the songs she had taught me. “I’m a Little Tea Pot” was my favorite. There was also a giant magnolia tree… the smell of those velvety sweet magnolia flowers will always remind me of her. Ok, getting a little teary eyed here… what was I talking about again? Ah yes! Cheeeese grits! The secret to my grandmother’s world famous cheese grits was not one, not two, but five slices of Velveeta cheese. Oh yeah. I can still taste it. Luckily, I have learned a lot since then about why processed, plastic-wrapped, chemically treated “cheese” is not the best thing to put in your body. And on that note, I’ve found a better way (and it tastes just as good).

I adapted this recipe from one in the Engine 2 Diet cookbook My Beef With Meat. I used a lot more garlic and onion… and more nutritional yeast than it calls for, after all, that is the “cheesy” part. But hey, a few more tablespoons of nutritional yeast is far better than five slices of imitation cheese am I right!?  I also sautéed organic spinach, swiss chard and tomato in avocado oil for the topping. I love bringing in more colors.

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Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

¼ cup green chilies, diced

1 chipotle pepper, chopped

2 cups veggie stock

½ cup grits, yellow

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

½ lime, juiced

½ tsp salt (optional)

1 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

Instructions: 

Sautee the onions, garlic, green chilies and chipotle pepper with 2 tablespoons veggie stock for 5 to 7 minutes
Add the rest of the stock and bring to a boil
Whisk in grits and cook on low heat for 5 to7 minutes
Stir in nutritional yeast and lime
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The peppers really add a nice little kick! I’m surprised by how perfectly moist this turned out, considering there’s zero butter, oil or dairy. I think I’ll make sautéing in vegetable stock a regular practice, it works great! I have to say, nothing will ever replace my grandma’s five slice Velveeta grits, but my tummy is happy and my arteries are too.


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my new love

I recently attended the Mind, Body and Spirit Expo here in Austin, which proved to be enlightening as well as strangely entertaining. With the event tag line: “Renew, Evolve, Refresh, Transcend” …all for 10 bucks, it seemed right up my alley. I was amazed to see so many people flocking to this unique gathering of psychics, chiropractors, fortune tellers, reiki masters and healers, all presumably searching for answers (myself included I suppose). I sat in on a lecture about using the power of meditation to transform negative thoughts and energy in yourself and others. We were instructed to think of a difficult situation happening in our lives, and to meditate for seven minutes on the emotions that surfaced. The point was to not fight it, but rather sit with it, while the therapist created a healing (magical?) energy field around us (yeah, not so sure about that part), but I have to say I walked away a little lighter! The speaker said she named it “Sky Therapy,” because “clouds in the sky always dissolve, no matter how big or dark they are.” Nice, huh?

I spent a couple hours perusing handmade crystal jewelry, hemp clothing, eavesdropping on psychic readings, and participating in a demo on all natural skin products with whole, botanical ingredients (called OM Ayurvedic, so impressive I bought some). But the absolute highlight of the expo was laying eyes on something I’ve only seen in my dreams… avocado oil.

Maybe you’ve already seen it out there on the shelves, but I haven’t, and I’ve been wondering when the food industry will jump on this one! I know there are always questions about which oil is best, I myself jumped head first on the coconut oil band wagon and used it for everything. As you’ve heard, some fats are “good” and some are “bad,” and too much of anything is unhealthy. This dietitian will tell you no differently. Personally, I cook with either coconut or olive oil, depending on the flavor I prefer for the recipe. But as it just so happens, I am crazy about avocados, which I consider to be one of the most nutrient dense foods we can consume. They’re rich in oleic acid (a monounsat fat), antioxidants, vitamins, magnesium, beta-sitosterol (which competes with cholesterol for absorption), omega 3, folate and fiber.

My favorite use so far is roasting vegetables drizzled with a little avocado oil. I found one infused with garlic, even better for taste. The vegetables maintain their color and flavor extremely well with this oil, and taste amazing.

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extra virgin avocado oil is rich in niacin, omegas 3, 6, and 9, vitamin B6 and E, has a smoke point of 520 degrees and beautifully enhances flavor

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roasted garbanzo beans, red bell pepper, mushroom and kale with avocado oil, lemon and garlic. obsessed.

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simple broccoli, mushroom combo, roasted in avocado oil at 375 for 20 minutes. note the fluffy, vibrant appearance, still slightly juicy and extremely flavorful.

As a side note, the avocado oil infused with garlic is perfect for dipping bread Italian style making it completely dangerous. I just find there is so much room for food love in my life, and I welcome this new addition.