Wednesday, June 27, 2012

[yerba] mate latte

"Mate isn't just a drink, but a way for the people to gather."

Mate (pronounced "mah-tay") is a type of plant native to South America, particularly Argentina, Southern Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay. It is dried up and made into a tea. Natives usually drink it through a filtered metal straw (called a "bombilla") and out of a gourd. Traditionally, the natives will carry around the gourd, bombilla, and a thermos and take breaks throughout the day to drink mate with friends. It is a major part of the social culture of Argentina and Paraguay.

The taste itself is slightly bitter and earthy. It contains twice the amount of caffeine as black tea, but still only half as much as coffee. The nice thing about mate is that it really makes you feel energized without the jittery feeling that other caffeine sources tend to give you.

A few months ago I was in Whole Foods buying a pound of loose yerba mate and the girl that was checking me out asked me if I knew about "Mate Lattes". I said I didn't. She said it is half mate, half almond milk. Pretty much my dream beverage. Ever since, I've been frequently enjoying my mate lattes and I notice a significant difference in my energy level and mood. My energy is sustained throughout the day and I feel happy and motivated.

Besides its immediate effects, yerba mate offers many health benefits. It contains many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant properties. It can help improve focus, boost the immune system, stimulate the digestive system, and aid in weight loss.

The nice advantage of a mate latte is that you can drink it warm or cold. Yesterday I had mine over ice because it was a hot day and it was so refreshing!

If you don't have a gourd and bombilla, (don't worry, I don't either) you can brew your tea regularly and use a strainer. Typically mate is brewed in hot, but not boiling, water and it brews for about 5 minutes.

This is one of my favorite drinks in the world. You really can't beat the way it changes your day and gives you that necessary boost! Buen Provecho!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Farm Fresh Vegetable Curry with Quinoa

Every third Thursday of the month we get fresh produce from a CSA called Farm Fresh To You, which delivers all around Southern California.  The produce comes from local farms, mostly in Temecula, which is very much "local" to Orange, San Diego, and LA counties.  We get a box every month with whatever is in season and are sometimes forced to get creative with what we are given.

Last month we got rhubarb and it was quite the challenge.  I'm not a big pie maker or any kind of baker really, so I looked into savory recipes.  I didn't find even one appealing so I ended up putting it in a breakfast smoothie with frozen bananas and strawberries.  Definitely masked the flavor and I got the nutrients.. win, win.  If anyone has a good rhubarb recipe, please share!

This past Thursday we got carrots, potatoes, baby bok choy, green bell peppers, sweet peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, avocados, and some romaine lettuce.  I decided to make a Thai/Indian-inspired curry dish with most of the veggies.  Here is what I came up with:

  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • baby bok choy
  • green bell pepper
  • sweet peppers
  • yellow onion
  • garlic
  • coconut oil/any oil with high boiling point
  • coconut milk
  • indian spices: turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, garam masala, salt, and pepper
  • fresh basil
I learned from a dear friend of mine (Usha!) that in order to bring out the flavor of spices you should put them in the pot with oil before any other ingredient and wait until they make a popping noise.  The spices infuse the oil with their flavors and it makes the dish that much more savory and delicious.  After heating the spices, I added minced garlic and coarsely chopped onions.  I cooked the onions until they were almost transparent, then added potatoes, carrots, peppers, and then bok choy.  I added about one cup of coconut milk and stirred the pot.  Then I added some salt and pepper and let it simmer.  Finally, I added chopped fresh basil from our garden for even more flavor.

As the curry simmered, I cooked some quinoa to serve with it.  I boiled 2 cups of water and added 1 cup quinoa.  Let simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is light and fluffy.

The freshness of the veggies combined with the incredible Indian spices made this such a flavorful dish!

You can make this type of dish with so many vegetables.  If you have cilantro, that would be a great addition as well!

Blueberry-Coconut-Flax Pancakes

I made these on Saturday morning for a change in my breakfast routine.  I felt like blueberry pancakes but didn't want that lethargic feeling that pancakes usually give me.  So I decided to give them a healthy spin.  There is definitely no shortage of fiber in these pancakes, that's for sure.
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or any milk of your choice)
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1 egg OR 1 Tbsp. flax mixed with 3 Tbsp. boiling water (mix well and wait 5 minutes. Should have consistency of an egg... A great way to make a recipe vegan)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup raw coconut flakes

Whisk all ingredients together and pour on greased pan. Flip when bubbly on edges. Should make about 4 large pancakes.  Drizzle with honey or maple syrup if you like.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Fresh Summer Salads

Last weekend my friend Tania and I were inspired by Food&Wine magazine (per usual) and decided to invite friends over and make dinner.  We used fresh veggies that she bought at the Farmers Market that day and went to Whole Foods for the rest.

What was on the menu:

Drinks: Moscow Mules and Red Wine (or what was left of them by dinner time)
Main Dish: Cedar Plank Salmon with Lemon and fresh dill
Salads: Orzo salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Raw Zucchini & Mixed Green Salad with Raw Asparagus, Corn, and Avocado
Dessert: French Yogurt Cake with Fresh Raspberries (courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine... Out-of-this-world!)

Cedar Plank Salmon
-cedar plank (comes in a pack of two at Whole Foods)
-about a pound and a half of salmon (ideally a nice wild variety)
-fresh dill
-a few lemons (cut in slices)
-2 cups Sake (for marinating)
-soy sauce
-sesame oil
-agave nectar

1. Cut salmon into two inch pieces. I removed skin ahead of time, but you don't need to.
2. Marinate salmon in sake. I placed filets in ziploc bags and poured in Sake. Leave in refrigerator for about an hour.
3. To make glaze: mix two Tbsp. soy sauce, 2 Tbsp. sesame oil, 1 Tbsp. agave in bowl, about 1/2 a cup of chopped dill, and a couple pinches of salt in a bowl.
4. When salmon is ready, place filets on cedar plank. About an inch or two apart. Spoon glaze generously on salmon. Add a couple slices of lemon to each filet and top with a couple sprigs of dill.
5. Place cedar plank in oven at 375 degrees for about 30-45 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. It should have a nice golden-brown tint when it is ready.

Orzo Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Raw Zucchini
-1 1/2 cup whole wheat orzo
-about 2 cups cherry tomatoes
-2 medium sized zucchinis
-olive oil
-lemon juice
-balsamic vinegar
-oregano (fresh would be lovely, but we used dried oregano)
- salt&pep

1. Cook orzo, drain, cool.
2. Roast tomatoes on a tray with olive oil in oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.. Or until bubbly and browned. Let cool.
3. For zucchini, I wanted to make ribbons using a vegetable peeler, but unfortunately our tools were a little unsatisfactory so I ended up just cutting them into small pieces. If you have a veggie peeler, try the thin ribbons, its such a nice touch!
4. Add all ingredients to bowl. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, a little balsamic vinegar, and season with oregano, salt, and pepper.

Serve cold.

Mixed Green Salad with Raw Asparagus, Corn, and Avocado
-mesclun greens (any greens, really)
-1 avocado
-can of corn, rinsed and drained (or fresh, raw corn, if you have)
-small bunch asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
-dressing: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper