Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower With Lemon Tahini Sauce

Nearly a year has gone by since my last blog post and so, so much has happened in this time. It was a very difficult year for me in many senses, but 2016 was also a spectacular one in many others. I very tearfully and with much trepidation ended the longest relationship I've ever had, moved house twice, travelled to a total of eight countries, and shared countless meals with people I love and care about. One thing has remained a constant in my life, though, and that is my eternal love of food. And so it is after months of being away that I return to share another recipe with you...and a few travel pictures. 
This recipe for tender, yet crisp roasted cauliflower drizzled in creamy lemon tahini sauce just happens to be inspired by one of my last trips of the year that brought me to Israel. Admittedly, the Middle East wasn't exactly at the top of my list of places to visit, considering how often it makes headlines for violence and terror, but it was equally somewhere I'd always wanted to go. The Cradle of Civilization just has an irresistible ring to it. So when a friend suggested a trip to sunny, warm Tel Aviv with a bit of exploring the region to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, my interest was piqued. Let the adventure begin, I thought! 

And so it did. We were chauffeured around in a rundown taxi van across arid landscapes, bobbed in the salty Dead Sea, kneeled in the place where Jesus was thought to have been born, and arrived at the Western Wall just as Shabbat was beginning and the sun was setting on the Temple Mount. We stayed out dancing at a local bar until the place closed down only to wander through the old town and sit in the harbor until the wee hours of the morning.

But no trip is complete without some culinary adventures as well. And I must say, we ate like kings there. One of my favorite stops was the Carmel Food Market in Tel Aviv. We came through in the morning and got freshly pressed juice and pastry, checking out the various vendors lining the street that sold everything from fresh produce and spices to tea, nuts and olives. I made a mental note to come back later for a proper meal at one of the food stalls and was not disappointed.

After a day of beach and roaming the city streets, I was served up this unassuming plate and a beer at one of the stands that had bar seating around its edges. Just a few bites in, I knew it was a dish that I needed to recreate at home. It hit this perfect flavor balance for me, came together so fast, and was made with ingredients that are nothing but healthy. The earthy spices and creamy tahini give the dish this really comforting, hearty flavor, but the cauliflower itself is so light and tender and the lemon leaves a delightful tangy brightness on your tongue. (It also pairs amazingly with beer I might add! :)

Much to my delight, my first attempts at recreation were surprisingly successful. Even though the tahini paste here just doesn't seem to live up to the same standards, the flavors and colors of this dish are glorious and vibrant. I have also taken to sprinkling toasted almonds on top, because apparently I don't know how to leave a recipe be. You can take it or leave it, but I find it adds a nice little something crunchy.

Since no post of mine would be complete without a little nutrition talk, I'll quickly run through some of the great things about eating this:
  • Cauliflower: Besides being low in calories, the veggie is high in vitamin C (immune system), a good source of fiber (heart health), potassium (heart function and muscle contraction), vitamin K (strong bones and blood clotting), and folate. It is also a member of the brassica family of veggies (think kale and broccoli) that is known for its cancer-fighting properties thanks to its sulforaphanes and indoles.
  • Turmeric: This bright yellow stuff that stains everything happens to be part of the ginger family  and is known for alleviating arthritis and joint pain and promoting liver health thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, which are supposed to come from the curcuminoids that it contains.  
  • Tomatoes are celebrated for their anti-cancer or phytochemical properties as well (specifically prostate but also lung and stomach cancer) thanks to a compound called lycopene, which our body can absorb even better when consumed with fats, such as those in the almonds and tahini paste, since it is a fat-soluble nutrient. Lycopene also protects the heart from oxidative damage, and helping to reduce the risk of a heart attack and when used as an extract has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Plus it contains the carotenoid lutein, which promotes healthy vision by preventing macular degeneration.


California Roll Sushi Bowls

If I had to pick a single food to eat for a month straight, sushi might be the winner. I'm pretty sure I could eat it morning, noon, and night without getting sick of it. Don't get me wrong. I love phad thai with an undying passion, and I'd probably choose it as my dying meal, but I feel like I'd get sick of fried noodles around day four. (full disclosure: I may have tested this once after making enough phad thai to feed a small army and trying to live off it for a week). Sushi, however, is so light and fresh, yet strangely filling, that I don't see myself encountering any problems. Plus, with a nice balance or veggies, natural carbs, healthy fats, and quality protein, I think I'd have most of my bases covered.
But jesting aside, sushi is one of my all time favorite foods and one of the few that I always feel good eating. Things I don't love about it though: 1) Good sushi restaurants are expensive, especially when you're me and like to try to eat your weight in it. 2) Making sushi at home, while significantly less expensive, is a massive ordeal that leaves me constantly dipping my rice-covered fingers in an increasingly gross bowl of vinegar water. 

The answer to all my sushi problems: sushi bowls. All it involves is chopping up all the ingredients and haphazardly throwing them into a bowl. Just as tasty, significantly less of a pain in the arse, and easy on your wallet. Great for lazy, thrifty folks like myself.
Besides how quickly this comes together, I love what this meal does for my health:

-Contains quality protein sources: Between the salmon, egg, and avocado, this recipe contains a variety of sources of protein and all the essential amino acids that your body needs for the growth and maintenance of body tissues. Meals high in protein also helps keep me full for longer, something I greatly appreciated as someone who basically wants to eat every two hours.
-Filled with healthy fats: The avocado and smoked salmon are a great source of heart and brain healthy omega-3s. These monounsaturated fats actually help with a long list of things, including lowering your cholesterol/blood pressure, reducing inflammation in the body, and supporting circulation, memory, and blood sugar control
-Good source of antioxidants: Carrots, for instance, are filled with the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which have shown to protect your eyes and help prevent macular degeneration and caracts. Plus your body can convert alpha- and beta-carotene into vitamin A, which supports our immune system. Red peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A and C, and contain the carotenoid lycopene, which is associated with lowering the risk of prostate cancer.
-Plus there is nori! Seaweed contains dozens of minerals and trace minerals, like iodine, calcium, potassium, magnesium, that your body needs to carry out various critical functions. For instance, your muscles needs potassium and magnesium to contract and release properly and a lack there of can result in muscle cramps. 


Simple Stove-Top Maple Bacon "Baked" Beans

Hellooo comfort food. Cannellini beans in a rich tomato sauce with caramelized onions, bacon, mild Spanish peppers, garlic, and a shot of maple syrup. These give Heinz a serious run for their money, if I do say so myself. I promise you won't miss the processed sugar for one minute either. 
On weekdays, I almost always go for a green smoothie for breakfast, since I'm in a rush mornings and don't work up much of an appetite just sitting at my desk all day. On the weekends, though, I have time to turn on the stove and want something that will fuel me up for a day out and about. In other words, I want a plate of food bigger than my head. Now that the days are cooler and shorter, this goes double. I want something hearty that sticks to my ribs and keeps me satisfied for a while. This fits the bill perfeccctly and is a surprisingly healthy option!  
These baked beans have a few things going for them health wise:
  • High in fiber: One cup of beans (click for nutrition data) contains one-half of your daily fiber needs! In my book, fiber is an absolute all-star. Diets high in fiber not only are known for helping reduce cholesterolpromote heart health, and lower risk of cancer and diabetes, they improve digestive (colon) health. You may have heard people talk about how a huge part of your health is actually in you gut. This is because your digestive tract is where you absorb nutrients your body needs. Fiber helps keep your digestive tract clean by brushing the microvilli in your intestines free of debris so they can do their job. Fiber also supports weight loss/maintence and helps control appetite by slowing the release of sugar into the blood stream and improving insulin regulation. 
  • Packed with protein: Beans are also a great source of plant protein. One cup has nearly 20 grams. Amino acids are the building blocks of life. We needs them to help repair cells and make new ones.
  • Good source of iron, folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals: Iron is critical for our red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body. Without oxygen we feel fatigued and everything from our nervous system to immune system suffer. Calcium is important for strong bones and zinc plays a key role in the immune system's defense, cell repair, and wound healing.


Summer BLT Salad

So summer hit me hard this year. Somewhere between July and August--when Frankfurt was having those record-shattering highs in the 100s and shade was no escape--the heat got to me. It settled in every corner on my body, and I found myself lulled into a state of pleasant apathy that made it impossible to want to do anything but lay by the pool. 

This included cooking or even thinking about food. Even going to the grocery store, which happens to be one of my most favorite places ever, seemed like work. I just could not be bothered. Eating a watermelon for dinner and calling it a day sounded like a grade-A plan right about then. And this my friends, this low point is where this recipe was born.
Desperation errr... necessity is the mother of innovation, they say. I guess it is at least kinda true, although I feel like it paints a much more glamorous picture than the reality of a somewhat sweaty, hungry, tired me staring into my nearly empty fridge. Regardless, on that trusty day, I threw all the things I could find to eat together and somehow the result was far more delicious than anything so easy deserved to be. This is the power of bacon. Fresh zucchini, squash, and tomatoes aren't so bad either, but we all know who the star in here.
I like to think of this salad as a healthier alternative to your classic BLT sandwich, minus the lettuce, which we all know was kinda the boring part anyway. Not only do skip the mayo slathered bread, but you're actually getting a decent serving of veggies in at the same time. The beans add a good source of fiber and protein and you still have the mouthwatering bacon in there to bring everything together.
Another thing I love about this meal is how little cooking is actually involved. You just sizzle up the bacon and the acidity of the lemon juice breaks down the zucchini and squash just enough while still keeping the dish fresh and bright. 


Tuscan White Bean & Asparagus Salmon Salad

On my last trip home to the U.S., I had the pleasure of exploring New York for a few days with my family to celebrate my mom's 60th. It was the trip of a lifetime, and one of the absolute highlights was a lunch I had at a little Italian restaurant in SoHo. Salmon with a crispy skin over a bed of cannellini beans, thinly sliced asparagus, pesto, earthy rosemary, and tons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. It was so simple, delicious, refreshing, and filling at the same time. Needless to say, it's been stuck in my head ever since. 
Since asparagus is still in season here, I took it upon myself to give recreating this dish a try last weekend. Hopefully the pictures speak for themselves, but hot damn, it was spot on and oh-so simple to make. The first words out of my boyfriend's mouth after trying this were "Wow!" And this is not something I hear often, since he is slowly becoming spoiled by all the good eats he gets living with me.

Perhaps best of all, though, this meal is incredibly healthy! It is high in protein and fiber and low in calories. It also is free of refined sugar and gluten for those who need to look out for that!

  • Wild salmon: Wild salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acid you can find. This is exciting because omega-3s promote heart health, brain health, circulation, blood sugar control, and even memory function! Other studies suggest they also help improve mood. Salmon also is a great source of protein, potassium, and the cancer-fighting trace mineral selenium. I can't in good conscious mention the health benefits of salmon without mentioning that there is a world of difference between farm-raised and wild salmon. Salmon gets its omega-3s and lovely pink color from its natural diet. Farm-raised salmon typical are feed grains and, as a result, contain more inflammatory omega-6 fats.
  • Asparagus: While low in calories, these spears are high in antioxidants, fiber (blood sugar regulation and digestive health), potassium, folate, vitamin K (strong bones and healthy blood clotting). They also contain the anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting compound quercetin. 
  • Beans: Beans are incredibly rich in fiber, which aids our digestive health. Fiber slows digestion, regulating blood sugar levels and keeping us full. The roughage also acts like scrubbing bubbles to cleanse our colon and intestines, helping to push out unwanted waste products and free the microvilli, so they can better absorb nutrients
  • Rosemary: You don't hear much about rosemary, but it contains caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, which are anti-inflammatory, and have mildly antibiotic and antiviral properties. In animal studies, the oil has proven to protect the liver and inhibit tumors. It also contains compounds that help prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter needed for memory and brain health.
  • Lemon juice: Although lemon juice is acidic, it has an alkalizing and anti-inflammatory affect on the body. It also stimulates digestive juices and the liver to release bile.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Coconut Crumble

Some girls look forward to buying new clothes when seasons change. I live for the new produce! There is just something about specific foods that ushers in a season for me. As much as pumpkins and apples equal fall, asparagus and rhubarb are spring. 
When I saw a big basket of ripe strawberries and rhubarb on sale, I knew Frankfurt had finally said goodbye to winter! Rhubarb never seems to stick around long, though, so I grabbed two bundles and went on my merry way. The only thing left to do was bake a crumble.
As far as I am concerned, once baked goods are in the house, they are fair game for any time of day or meal. With that in mind, I decided to make this treat at least semi breakfast appropriate and went with an oat, walnut and coconut streusel topping, which is filled with fiber and healthy fats. Oh, and the combination is heavvvennly. The coconut and tangy rhubarb are so refreshing with the sweetness from the strawberries and honey. The fat from the walnuts and coconut also help ground the flavors and cut the acidity of the fruit filling. I'm also happy to report that no refined sugar was used and that this dish is gluten free. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!