Be Bold. Eat Buddha Bowls. 

I ate well last week. Buddha Bowls were my meals for the week, portioned into single serving containers for quick grab and go. The inspiration for these Buudha Bowls came from my son. During a conversation he mentioned that he makes them, stores them in the refrigerator and eats them throughout the week. I asked him a few questions about how he prepared them, checked a few online ideas and I was inspired to create my own.

Buddha Bowls are my new favorite lunch. I plan on making more today to get me through this coming week. The most common way to create a Buddha Bowl starts with a base, which is generally a dark green vegetable. Next there’s a grain, a protein, a complex carbohydrate, something sweet, some crunch and some fluff (this would be toppings like chives, cilantro, sesame seeds, etc). All this goodness is topped with a fantastic sauce which is key for a superb bowl.

I adapted my Buddha Bowls to what I had on hand. I am definitely making it with chicken instead of beef when I make more today. Beef is delicious but I think a different sauce would compliment the meat more. The nutty asian-inpired sauce I made will be more ideal with chicken.

I also used some frozen and some fresh veggies. I very rarely buy frozen vegetables. My local grocer had 50% off on a brand I favor and their frozen vegetables were so inexpensive I bought several packages. I’ve found it difficult to get enough raw, fresh veggies in me lately so I decided to take a temporary different direction. It certainly worked!  In addition to the vegetables in my Buddha Bowls, I’ve enjoyed a couple fresh made juices and delicious fresh green salads. I’m planning more of the same for this week, too.

I encourage you to check out some ideas online and come up with your own unique version of these delicious, healthful meals. Here’s how I prepared my Buddha Bowls:

My base was spinach, then I added brown jasmine rice. My frozen veggie combo consisted of green beans, multiple colors and cuts of carrots, sweet peas, corn, broccoli and cauliflower. I tossed them together on a baking sheet, sprinkled a bit of granulated garlic and roasted them in the oven. My protein was thinly sliced grass fed sirloin steak, browned to medium rare in my cast iron skillet. I added roasted yams, cut into bite sized chunks, skipped the sweet and used chopped romaine as my crunch. I topped it with grated ginger, chives and black sesame seeds. Now, the best part-the sauce!  I looked up a few versions and then made up my own. My measurements are rough and I adjusted to taste, but here’s a good base recipe to start:

3 Tbsp creamy sunbutter

1 Tbsp low-sodium tamari

Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp honey

1.5 Tbsp sesame oil

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp ground ginger (I also added ginger juice)

1/2 tsp granulated garlic

I added all ingredients, gave it a quick zap in the microwave to thin the sunbutter then whisked it until everything was evenly combined. I divided the sauce between my containers then topped some with chopped chives & black sesame seeds.

Although Buddha Bowls were the highlight of my week, I did make a two other cassoulets I ate for dinner. These were made with grass fed ground beef, more of the same vegetable combination I used for the Buddha Bowls, spiced with garlic, parsley, cumin, salt and pepper then topped with leftover biscuit dough. Lastly, I managed to get in more fresh produce by making mason jar juice!

I certainly ate healthful food that made my body feel good. Taking a few hours to prepare meals for the week keeps me from wanting to grab unhealthy foods like the little bag of fritos in the convenience market near work that becomes lunch or spending money on the many food carts that line the downtown streets. Homemade meals are always best. My body feels better, my mind is positively focused and my spirit is calm. Eating well makes me happy. I encourage you to try make ahead meals. It’s a great way to be assured you’ll get proper balanced nutrition. I guarantee that will motivate you to be your best every day. Now, who doesn’t want that? 

Roasted Veggie Dip

Let me tell you about this crazy meal I made for dinner.  I prepared a baking sheet with a variety of vegetables, gave them a stir in olive oil to coat them nicely, then sprinkled a bunch of spices on them.  I popped them in the oven until they were nicely roasted and lightly browned. This is when it gets crazy.  I decided to dump the roasted veggies into my mini food processor and whip those veggies into a dip.  I was in a dipping mood!

I made my own dipping chips, too!  I know, super crazy!!  A resident at one of the buildings where I work told me about a grocery liquidation store that sounded too good to be true.  It was quite a distance from my house, so I was hoping it would be worth my trip.  Oh my, I was not disappointed!  Organic, gluten free, dairy free and vegan items could be found in abundance! Not just some random off brands, but many of my personal favorite brands that are part of my regular shopping trips.  I was having my own internal happy dance as I filled my basket.  Among the amazing buys were Udi’s brand gluten free tortillas.  Let me tell you what I paid; two packages for one dollar.  Yep, you read that right-2/$1.00!!  For real!!  The expiration date is good.  Although I enjoy this brand often, I don’t usually buy these tortillas so I can’t tell you what might be “wrong” with them that would bring them to liquidation.  They are fabulous to me and I turned them into chips!!

Stick with me here while I tell you I took it even further.  Food Radical went wild in the kitchen tonight!  I had kale in the fridg that was calling to me, so while the oven was on I just transferred those tortilla chips to a plate and added kale pieces to the baking sheet.  I drizzled some apricot oil over with a sprinkling of sea salt then popped them in the hot oven.  A few minutes later I pulled out beautifully crisp kale chips!

There you have it.  This is one wacky dinner.  I’m here to tell you it’s dang good!  Mixing it up and doing it different is my thing.  Now, I’ll be getting on with my dipping!

Roasted Veggie Dip

2 medium yellow carrots, sliced into rounds

1 large zucchini, sliced into half moons

4 large radishes, quartered

1/2 small yellow onion, sliced

Add veggies to a bowl and drizzle olive oil on the veggies.  Mix to coat then add spices of your choice.  I used basil, granulated garlic, parsley, salt & pepper.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or until veggies are crisp tender.

Kale Chips

1/2 bunch of curly kale, torn into bite sized pieces

Add kale to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil (or apricot oil) to coat. Sprinkle with granulated garlic and sea salt.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 4-7 minutes.  Watch closely!  They bake quickly.

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Lamb Logs Over Rice

Lamb logs? Really? I’m sure you must be thinking, what the heck are those!?  I wanted to make lamb kafta but didn’t have all the ingredients.  I also didn’t soak my skewers.  I wanted to eat my lamb, so here we have lamb logs!

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I tossed this all together, being inspired by other lamb recipes I’ve seen recently.  I think they turned out really flavorful and were delicious!!  I laid them over white jasmine rice that I made with turmeric root infused water.  Turmeric is a bright yellow root with powerful medicinal properties.  It’s main use is for the anti-inflammatory properties, but there are a wide variety of benefits in turmeric so I sneak it in whenever I can to make my body happy and healthy.  It didn’t turn out as yellow as I hoped so next time I’ll grate it into the rice water instead of just dropping chunks in.

I even got fancy and made a sauce!  I used plain Greek style coconut yogurt as the base.  I squeezed in the juice of one lime, added pinches and dashes of sea salt, fresh ground pepper, paprika, granulated garlic, cumin, parsley and coriander.  Gave it all a mix and, Wow!!  Fantastic! I drizzled it generously over the lamb and rice, snapped this picture then got to it!!

Here’s what I did to make my lamb logs taste divine.  You can adjust the spices to your liking.  I just guessed on the amounts and had fun!

Lamb Logs

1/2 pound of ground lamb (the best quality you can afford)

1/4 medium yellow onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tblsp. olive oil

Spices-granulated garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, fresh ground pepper, sea salt, parsley, powdered turmeric, powdered ginger.

Mix all ingredients until well combine.  I made four balls of the meat mix and molded each into similar size “logs”, arranged them on parchment paper and refrigerated them for several hours. I grilled them on the cast iron grill top, turning them occasionally for even grilling and used my instant read thermometer to let me know when they were done.  160 degree internal temperature is recommended for medium done, which is what I like.

Give this recipe a try or play around like I did.  If you enjoy lamb, this is worth it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Pleasures

The alluring sunshine gleaming upon the city enticed me from the views on my deck,  down the hill and to Portland’s waterfront.  The north end is lined with cherry trees coming into their peak as fluffy cherry blossoms create tunnels of pink.  I wanted to be encased in their beauty.

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Go down now, I thought; go while the sun is out.  Feeling the call to find things I love about Portland,  I thought walking the cherry blossom lined waterfront would fill me with the joy of simple pleasures found in this city. Perhaps a walk among the trees and the sunshine warming my skin would lift my spirits on an overall dreary weekend thus far.

It has been a good long time since I have felt my love for this city. Returning from a wonderful trip to North and South Carolina did not bring a new appreciation for Portland.  I find it even more detestable.  I wanted some simple reminders like cherry blossoms,  the portrait of beauty for so many Portland neighborhoods.

I had an easy drive down the hills toward the waterfront.  Positive attitude, camera and creativity were primed to be impressed only to be confronted by the endless battles for street parking.   Where every minute matters on days with Portland’s precarious weather,  I tested out my North Carolina learned aggressive driving skills to score a spot close to my destination.   In the less than two block walk,  I was greeted with drizzle as I entered the north end waterfront.  Momentarily in awe at the impressive show of pink,  I reached for my camera to snap a few pictures then began my tree lined walk.   Keeping with my feigned optimism,  I told myself a little drizzle is okay;  classic spring time in Portland.   Keep focused on the beauty and wish for that sunshine to show its glow any moment.  I quickly snapped some more pictures being careful to protect my camera from the drizzle turned pouring rain.  I was able to catch just a couple more perfect shots when the wind did a fast dance among the trees creating cascades of pink pedals whisking across the park,  whipping the heavy rain sideways,  blowing off my hat and pelting my face as I hurried back to my truck.

Completely soaked,  upset wet dog in my arms,  I grumbled as I got back into the truck, trying to conjure up what little bit of positive thoughts still remained.  I encountered an inordinate amount of traffic and my short trip back up the hills took me triple the amount of time.  I was met with several irrational drivers whose unsafe driving frayed my weary nerves.

Arriving home,  as I walked my deck to the front door I found exactly what I wanted-a gorgeous sunshine upon the city,  creating a glimmer that made me pause in admiration and enjoy the beauty of Portland.  I guess I find appreciation in my city from a distance more accepting these days than being right in the mix of it all.  I took that message and gave it thought as I created a comforting chicken stock,  made from the bones of a whole roasted chicken.

Sometimes the simple pleasures are right in our line of vision yet we are too busy looking past them as we seek something better.  I discovered that investing time in my kitchen with an occasional glance out the window to appreciate my views was the simple pleasure I needed to bring me back to a place of gratitude.  Not necessarily for my city,  but for my current journey that for now,  still exists in Portland.

I Say Chicken. You Say Yay!!

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you’ll know I love chicken.  I have certainly had quite the love affair recently!  I couldn’t help myself!  When bargain prices meet happy, all ready prepared chicken, well I simply get weak in the knees!!

Whole roasted chickens, prepared in a way that is safe for my diet, (I ask!!) spiced nicely, and all I need to do is take it home and eat??  Now, that’s my kind of fast food!!  In fact, I was so thrilled with this deal I took home two!

Of course, once home with my sense of reason back on solid ground, I realized I had no room for two domed containers holding whole roasted chicken.  What was I thinking??   My fridg is tiny!  Well, good thing I think well under pressure and went to work using my brand new set of high quality kitchen knives.  Yes, I finally treated myself to some quality blades and oh wow!!  FoodRadical is one delighted chef!  I filleted and cut those chickens to the bones!!  I even took those bones and boiled all the goodness right out of them, creating a lovely, healthful broth for chicken and vegetable soup.

I taught my first Healthy Eating on a Budget workshop at one of the apartment buildings where I work.  I’m sure you could guess that the budget friendly, healthy recipe and sampling I provided was this very chicken and vegetable soup I speak of!!  It is one of the most affordable and healthy meals for people on tight budgets.  I love teaching people how to use a whole chicken to get the most from their precious food dollars.  That class was so successful and a ton of fun for me!  I am in my perfect element with this job!  I love it!

I am here to say that I might be sick of eating chicken.  Almost!  I have had chicken for lunch and dinner; even sometimes for breakfast, the past two weeks.  For real!  I have found a plethora of ways to create delicious meals using chicken.  My recent favorite this past week has been chicken and spinach stuffed acorn squash.  It’s simple–bite size chunks of chicken along with a handful of baby spinach stuffed into the cored center of a cooked acorn squash.  Yes, yum!!

Seriously though, whole chickens cooked or not are truly a fantastic way to stretch your bucks while still feeding yourself and whoever else for at least a week!  The fact that you can make another week of meals simply by using the bones to prepare a soup is phenomenal!  Give it a try.  Here is a very simple recipe I use in the slow cooker.  Toss your ingredients in, turn it on, forget about it!!  But, not for long because the fragrance, you’ll soon discover is drool worthy and you’ll be counting down till it’s ready!

Chicken and Vegetable Soup

In a slow cooker, dutch oven or large pot, add:

1/2 yellow onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 carrots, sliced in rounds

2 celery stalks, sliced

spices of your choice (I like basil, parsley, paprika and tumeric)

2 cups chicken pieces or chunks

8 cups of broth (made from bones of the whole chicken)

Set to desired temperature and anticipate a fantastic meal!

I throw in about 2 cups of spinach about 15 to 30 minutes before eating it and allow that to wilt.  Tastes so good!

Optional add ins:  radishes, turnips, kale, any veggie that happens to be in your fridg!

Enjoy with your choice of sides!
Here’s some of what I’ve been enjoying:

Soup!

Soup!

soup!

soup!

and more soup!

and more soup!

Coconut Red Curry Chicken and Vegetables over Quinoa

I had intentions to make this dish last night for dinner, but yesterday was simply insane. Work has been incredibly difficult this week.  I am not sure why.  There is always a lot going on, but there are some things that are reaching a tipping point.  Additionally, there is a lot of extra stuff on my plate this week!  When I got home last night I was in such a horrible mood and so irritable. Thankfully, I had someone to vent with and decompress.  She took care of my phyical ailment as well and offered lots of loving compassion.  I felt so much better, but by the time we were done talking it was too late to make this dish and I honestly had no desire.

The ailment I was dealing with yesterday was a swollen eye.  I woke up with it and I didn’t know what was happening, but it got worse as the day wore on.  The pain from it woke me up at 3am this morning and my eye was nearly swollen shut with redness and swelling down to my cheek bone.  Even though I had a class and a workshop to give, I knew I needed to get myself to the doctor and give myself a sick day.  I discovered I have allergic conjuctivitis.  It is apparently caused by environmental allergies.  Of course!  I’m allergic to everything!  Okay, that is quite an exageration but some times it sure seems that way.

It is very hard for me to stay home when I know I should be working.  I have so much to get done with deadlines to meet.  I spent a lot of the morning feeling antsy until I decided to be more productive and make this dish.  It was super easy to put together and smelled so divine while it was simmering on the stove top.

I’ve done all the things recommended to help heal my eye including my own over the top care in an attempt to speed healing so I can go to work tomorrow.  Also, we are heading out of town for our coastal road trip Saturday morning so I definitely want to be well for that!  I eventually calmed myself and enjoyed making this and a couple other things this afternoon.  Dinner tonight will be fabulous!  I added the vegetables that were in my fridge but you can add whatever you have in your fridg.  It will be delicious, I’m sure.  Enjoy this simple dish!

Coconut Red Curry Chicken and Vegetables

Heat a medium skillet on the stove top and add the thick coconut cream from a can of coconut milk.  Add enough water to thin it to a sauce-like consistency.  Allow to simmer until the cream breaks down then add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of red curry paste to the skillet. Continue to simmer until the paste and cream are completely smooth.  Add basil (fresh would be best, but I discovered mine was bad, so I used dried) Add to this:

1 cup cubed chicken breast, cooked

1 medium zucchini, sliced in half moon shapes

2 large carrots, sliced in rounds

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

stir to coat all the meat and veggies then allow to simmer until the meat is heated through and the vegetables are tender crisp.  I then added a bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss in some baby spinach (I only had about 2/3 cup left, but more is better!) Let simmer until spinach is slightly whilted.  Pour over some quinoa (or rice, or noodles!)

Eat and enjoy!

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Daring Greatly With Delicious Simplicity

One of the many awesome benefits of blogging through WordPress are the writing challenges offered by authors of the Daily Press. I consider them all, yet only write when the topic deeply moves me.  A lot of the time topics have nothing to do with food or cooking.  I usually work to make the spin since that is the focus of my blog.

The challenge: What is vulnerability to me and how does it influence my writing. The topic developed from Brene’ Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. Brene’ Brown is a social worker who studies shame and vulnerability. I first learned about her several months ago when my bff suggested I watch her TED Talk presentations. In those beginning days after “M” shocked me by telling me to move out without explanation, I was definitely exposed to raw vulnerability. Brene’ Brown’s words were my steadfast companion nearly every night for countless weeks. I read her books, too. Her words resonated with me so strongly and deeply.

Brene’ says, “to feel is to be vulnerable”.  In those first few days I was shocked and numb. I spent them at my bff’s house drinking rum and eating potato chips when I wasn’t laying on the couch staring at the ceiling, in alternating states of utter disbelief and paralyzed panic. I had no control over what was happening, didn’t know why it was happening and it was threatening the very core of my sense of safety and security.  Home.  I thought I would be homeless.  I thought I would have to give up my cats.  I had no money and a very part time, minimum wage job.  I was so deeply disturbed by the behavior of this person I loved. It really scared me. I wondered what other awful things “M” might inflict on me. It triggered past trauma that created an inner tsunami. I felt unbelievable anger and confusion, made even worse by “M’s silence. Every imaginable feeling coursed through me. Mostly I felt defenseless and unsafe. My bff supported me through all my messy feelings, never once making me feel ashamed of where I was right in any given moment. That exposure was pure vulnerability; allowing others to see me and to really be seen at a time when I needed to be seen the most.  My bff loves me through my struggles and my strengths.

I spent the next several months feeling incredibly exposed and vulnerable as I struggled to secure a place to live, get a job and re-build my life. I asked for help often. What I really wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sob uncontrollably while screaming to the skies, why is this happening?!  But, I faced each day; I did what I needed to create stability and security for myself again.  Along the way I have been so blessed with good fortune in every aspect of my life. I have received an abundance of love in endless ways by countless people, some of whom I did not know at the time and are now friends. This story, part of my journey, has unmasked a level of vulnerability I am so grateful to have experienced. I feel deeply humbled by this walk in life.

Vulnerability is pure courage.

Brown says “only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Whew! That is a big statement!!  Makes me catch my breath! Seems so scary!  Yet, also as Brown says, one must believe they are worthy of love and belonging. What I currently experience is a complete sense of wholeness in my life.  My job reflects my truest self and I am excited as I develop my role and do what I love.  My relationships are blossoming.  I am stable and happy in my home.  At this moment I can truly say I feel I have everything I want and need right now.  I am happy.  I do believe I am worthy.  I know I am not perfect. I own my mistakes.  I am willing to show up in life with all my imperfections and just be real. Truth and courage are not always comfortable, but they are never weakness.

Vulnerability is not weakness.

To say this is to say having feelings equates to being weak. Vulnerability is certainly risky and scary. It opens one up to the possibility of hurt and betrayal, but it also creates connection and love.  I would much rather live with love and connection in my world than feeling the need to be perfect, having fear of rejection and judgement for not being so.

How does vulnerability influence my writing?  It challenges me to be thoughtful in my words, to speak my truth and to risk the criticism of others.  I also feel strong enough in myself to take that risk because I know the critics don’t matter.  I don’t think it makes it less scary to “put myself out there”.  I just feel the need because to do otherwise is to reject who I am. To see my own words gives me strength in my truth. It cultivates a momentous energy of joy and fulfillment.

As I said earlier, this topic and the story that developed has nothing to do with food. Here’s my twist; I took one of the biggest steps of my life thus far; one that makes me feel completely vulnerable and exposed. That is, I am actively taking steps to buy a tiny house and a piece of land.  Scary and so incredibly exciting!!  With this decision comes huge responsibility and accountability.  I decided to cut back on my grocery bill so I can save more quickly toward my goal.  I developed the most delicious soup recently that was simple and cheap.  Getting a little more creative in the kitchen and using what is on hand in my fridg helps me save money and feel accomplished as I work to make a long time dream a reality.  I know this to be true: I am worthy.  It’s okay if I feel completely vulnerable even saying that!

Enjoy the delicious simplicity of this soup, know you are giving your body healthful nutrients and saving a little money while you’re doing it!

Simply Delicious Soup on the Cheap

Put the carcass of a 2# chicken (organic, free range) into boiling for 30 minutes to 1 hour, allowing any remaining meat to come off the bones.  Strain liquid into bowl then add back to the stock pot, keeping the burner on simmer.  When bones are cooled, clean the meat from them and add back into the stock pot of liquid.  At this point you can add any spices and veggies you have accessible in your kitchen.  Bring the stove temperature back up to a boil for 2 minutes then reduce heat to a simmer for 1 hour or until all vegetables are tender.  Here’s what I added:

9 radishes

1/2 of one yellow onion

1 garlic clove

1 small patty pan squash

1 medium yellow squash

3 medium carrots

1 cup of chopped fresh parsley

1 15 oz can of great northern beans, drained

1 small handful of quinoa linguine style noodles (just enough for some “chew”)

Spices included: garlic powder, tumeric, thyme, crushed pepper and sea salt

In total this entire soup cost me about five dollars if I don’t include the price of the entire chicken, which I got several meal from before the soup!  I am still eating it 6 days later. Today’s lunch will be the last of it!  Now that is savings!

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