Friday, March 29, 2013

It's a's a's a SUPER - FOOOOOOD!

Hiya! I’m Sara Jean and I am stepping in for Currolyn to pen this month’s installment of relish - thanks so much for joining us!

(In deep announcer-y voice) “...Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice (and Deliciousness), Super Salmon, Wonder Kale, Ch-ch-ch-Chia and Farro-man (and those three junior super friends, Vanessa, Shannon and Sara Jean) get down to what is really important: saving the world by creating a fabulous, healthy and SUPER-powered SUPER-meal...” (full disclosure, I am a huge nerd and WILL make Super Friends references whenever possible from here on out.)
It was Vanessa’s idea to do a meal based on SuperFoods. She is newly preggers (yay!) and has always had a strong interest in eating well and nutrition, having come from excellent hippie parents who once had a soybean farm and raised their children in Eugene, Oregon (yup.) She thought that a SUPERFOOD dinner would be a terrific counter to our decadent Last Meal Apocalypse Dinner in December. V has been thinking about how to best make herself birth-ready and a good vessel for the little one that is growing inside of her, Jackie (also preggers) is due in MAY (RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER! new relish baby, ya’ll), Carolyn is planning a wedding in September (in FRANCE - do I smell a French-themed relish dinner in our future???) and is working to feel her best-est in her body, and the rest of us have struggled through a winter of EVERYONE BEING SICK ALL THE TIME. Seriously!?? What HAPPENED this winter? Noravirus, sinus infections, influenza, head and chest colds, migraines, in addition to a few real-life-serious diseases that people we care about are fighting against. So it seemed a good time to do a leeeeettle Spring Cleaning of the systems. Carolyn and Shannon were also scheduled to start a 21-day cleanse called Clean the following day (more on that in a future post). The timing really couldn’t have been more perfect.

In a dumb-luck turn of events, our fearless leader was taken down by a nasty migraine the day of our dinner, so she had to sit in a dim, quiet room (doing the things even Wonder Women must do when migraines attack) and sadly missed out on this adventure. So I am stepping into her (very impressive) shoes and am going to reveal all that we learned at our Super Dinner.

Ok. Here goes - We are city girls. Which gives us a baziliion amazing opportunities to live these incredible full and experiential lives. We also (by that very definition) LIVE in a CITY: with pollution, not a ton of access to locally grown food, minimal outdoor time and supremely hectic lives. So we aren't always getting the nutrients we need through food. We should be. We probably could be. BUT since that seems a little daunting given, um, REALITY, we simply do our best. As always. We find the balance that we can. However, learning or RE-learning about how the food we eat is essentially our daily medicine made me feel ultra-capable. (sidebar - sometimes simply completing my laundry can make me feel ultra-capable, but you know what I mean). Real-talk, guys: the main reason we get together is to obsess over food and how fabulous it is and how much we love to cook it, eat it, think about it, TALK about it. We can (drum-roll, please) also USE it as our secret (or not-so-secret) weapon. Because I'm (as I mentioned earlier) a complete nerd, I started researching superfoods before our dinner. SUPERFOOD is defined by the OED as “nutrient rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.”  Basically foods with exceptional medicinal value. Now if you're anything at all like me, you really enjoy eating. A lot. I would WAY rather eat my medicine if it tasted phenomenal, prepared in some delicious meal, wouldn't you? So this is what we set out to do.

This month turned out to be just Vanessa, Shannon and myself. CK had the aforementioned devil-migraine and Jackie and KHud got caught up in crazy life-schedules. So under V’s guidance, the three of us had the luxury of puttering around the kitchen, working together to create this meal. AND, might I add that there is just something so damn relaxing and satisfying about sharing space in a kitchen with other kick-ass people. If we’re going to extol the benefits of good eating, I must give a shout-out here to the pure nourishment and super-heroism of being in cooking space together - and, we three made quite the crime-fighting team. With our knives and bowls and gorgeous ingredients, we chopped and chatted and poured and stirred and story-told and....we munched on popcorn flavored with olive oil and nutritional yeast (which not only is a complete protein that improves mood and energy levels BUT IT MAKES REGULAR POPCORN TASTE JUST LIKE MAGICAL CHEESE-Y MOVIE POPCORN YA’LL - dead serious. Try it.) 

Pop 3/4 cups of your popcorn however you want (air popper is probably best). Add 1/8 cup melted butter, 1/8 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes. Also you can add any herbs you might find yummmmmy. (Because I am a truffle whore, I would probably add a pinch of truffle salt)...
Because we is fancy, we also sipped on spectacular antioxidant blueberry basil lemon cocktails (with a spoonful of vodka (sing that Mary-Poppins-style) for those of us who don’t have another human living inside of us.) Blueberries are basically the rock star of the fruit world (lemons and basil ain't too shabby, either) and speaking of medicinal foods, the Russians use vodka for healing nearly everything, right? (*SUPERFOOD*). 

To make simple syrup, combine 2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups chopped basil and 6 strips of lemon rind. Bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved and then let sit for an hour. Push liquid through strainer to get out the solids. Put in pretty Mason jar.

For cocktail, muddle a large handful of blueberries and a huge handful of basil leaves in a pitcher. Add soda water, basil lemon simple syrup, lemonade to taste. Finish with soda water. *If you want to be naughty you can add a shot of vodka.
And because she donned her superhero cape long ago and always wears it well, V made a beet-white bean-rosemary dip. Every ingredient in this is rather a super-star, but let it be said here that BEETS TRULY KICK ASS, YO!

3 small roasted beets
1 can cannellini beans
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp fresh rosemary

Whir it all in a food processor until very creamy, adjusting seasonings to taste. DIP stuff in it. Jicama and cucumbers in long slices are particularly divine. YUM.

SUPERCOOL THING - In the space of our creating this meal, I became intensely aware of how the food we were working with was so colorful, so aromatic, so beautiful, so SEXY. Beets and kale and white beans and rosemary and yogurt and jicama and cocoa and blueberries and brussels sprouts and apple cider vinegar and farro and salmon and avocado and mushrooms...this foodie Hall of Justice is not only kicking ass but it is damn HOTT, people. Which is always a good thing.

Aside from being wildly attractive, the list of super POWERS these ingredients have is impressive and almost overwhelming. Nearly every ingredient we used comes with a resume of healing-powers a mile long. Too many to list, in fact. I don't want to make you jealous, but suffice it to say that we lowered our blood pressure, balanced our hormones, decreased bloating, strengthened our immune systems, promoted healthy digestion, warded off disease, reduced inflammation, combated heart disease, killed harmful free radicals, stopped cell mutation, stabilized blood sugar AND (not in the least) became happier and more energetic and clearer thinking ALL IN A SINGLE BOUND. Take THAT you nasty villains! POW! THWAP! ZOOM!

Are you ready to load your tool belts with amazing-ness? Here are more recipes from our SUPER FRIENDS SUPER FOODS SUPER DINNER:


Take one bunch of curly kale. Wash it. Dry it (or spin in) and tear it up.

Drizzle Kale with apple cider vinegar and sesame oil and sprinkle with a little salt and a little plain white sugar. Plunge clean hands in and massage ingredients into kale. Add 1 carrot and two green onions chopped into 2 inch matchsticks and toss together. Et VOILA! (you can also add some toasted white or black sesame seeds for an extra crunch!)

For the Sprouts:
  • Preheat oven to 450. Toss 3lbs Brussels Sprouts (i used enough to fit into a 9 x 13 cake pan) with olive oil, 5 cloves minced garlic, salt and pepper.
  • Roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and brown, 25-35 minutes. After about 15-20 minutes of baking, I added a few tablespoons of butter to the mix.
For the SHROOMS:
  • Heat some olive oil in heavy skillet, once it is hot, I added 3 Tablespoons of butter - I heard the combo helps with the smoking point or something. 
  •  Add one pound shiitake mushrooms, 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms. Saute until golden brown and tender. 
  •  Add 1/4 cup red wine (you could also use white, but the red made the dish much richer and is an antioxidant!!!!)
  • 1 T chopped fresh thyme (i think i used a bit more), salt and pepper and boil until liquid is somewhat reduced. 
  •  Add a little more water and 1 more Tablespoon butter, a splash of white balsamic and the juice of half a lemon. 
  • Simmer and then pour over Brussels Sprouts and mix together.
For the Crispy Shallots:
  • Heat 1-1 1/2 cups vegetable oil in heavy skillet until temperature is 250.
  • Slice 5-6 shallots into thin slices and separate in to rings. 
  •  Fry shallots in several batches, stirring occasionally until golden brown, 3-5 minutes per batch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel, shallots will crisp up as they cool. (you can also use leeks...)
Sprinkle shallots over the sprouts/shrooms mixture and broil for a few minutes until top layer is super crispy.

This particular brussels sprouts concoction was my First Prize Winning entry into our very first Smackdown two years ago. It still continues to be one of my favorite things to make (and eat) EVER and I am proud to say that I have converted some non-brussels-eaters into TRUE BELIEVERS...(can I get an AMEN?)

  • Rinse 2 cups of farro well. Put in saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water, add 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until just tender. Drain. 
  • Saute 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil briefly, then add 1/2 can roasted tomatoes (or fresh if they're in season). 
  • Add oregano and basil (fresh if you have it, dried otherwise is fine) and hot red pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes. 
  • Add farro and stir to combine. 
  • Start adding vegetable stock in small amounts, as you would risotto, until it is very tender and the consistency you like, will take about 7-10 minutes. 
  • Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Serve with more grated parm on top.
Farro is a deeeeeeeelish ancient grain that is great in risottos (like this one) or stews or anywhere you might use barley or rice. You can also get a cute little pack of 10-minute Farro at Trader Joe's. 'Cause Trader Joe's rocks.

  • Preheat broiler. Sprinkle whole side of salmon lightly with chili powder, brown sugar, a little salt and a little pepper. 
  • Sprinkle chopped red onion on top and dot with little flecks of butter. Broil until just cooked through.
  • While salmon is broiling, combine 1 whole small avocado and 1/2 cup non fat Greek yogurt with 1 chopped garlic clove, 2 TBS lemon juice, 2 TBS chopped fresh dill, a little salt if you taste it and it needs it. 
  • Mix or food process until smooth. 
  • Serve in dollops by salmon.

1/4 cup of chia seeds

3/4 cup of almond milk

1 tbsp. cocoa powder

Small spoonful of sugar (1 – 2 tsp.)


Combine chia seeds and almond milk. Stir in cocoa powder and sugar. Let sit for 30 minutes or overnight until mixture has thickened. Stir and enjoy!

Shannon is the queen of baking delicious chocolate desserts (see her CRAY lava cake from our Last Meal Supper.) She simply followed the above recipe with no creative embellishments for this one and we all agreed that we wanted the pudding to be, um, something MORE....although when Vanessa's husband, Paul, got home he determined that after a night of beer and bar food, chia pudding was just grrrrreat. We amended at the table with some agave syrup and cocoa powder. The texture of chia isn't for everyone (although I found it kinda amazing) but mostly, sometimes you just need more chocolate.

So *CHEERS*. Have some red wine. Have some chocolate. (both incredible super-foods, by the way!) Invite someone you care about into your kitchen to chop and mix and saute together. And remember that, as cliche as it is, we are what we eat. And even though it seems that I am sometimes simply a bottle of sauvignon blanc and a bag of Reese’s Eggs, I am more often greens and salmon and whole grains and almond-butter. Lucky for all of us there are SO MANY delectable things to eat that really do our bodies good. And have some serious sex appeal (*important*). We girls tend to work real hard to be super-heroes - to excel in every role as mothers and artists and daughters and wives and career-women and girlfriends and sisters and best friends. And we can do A LOT. We really can. But we need to goddamn nourish ourselves so we can keep on ticking. Cause we have (amongst a to-do list of other things a mile long) to save the world. POW!

Cheers. Be well. Actually, be SUPER. See you next month!

1 comment:

  1. Every recipe here sounds [D]ELISH! And I love the Sara Jean storytelling style.. aww. I'm gonna make some of this super stuff!