Tag Archives: Brussels sprouts

Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

L1030066I am one week into my new food regimen.  I like to think of it as a regimen rather than a diet.  I don’t do well with diets.  The minute I am told I can’t have a particular food, I immediately want it.  This regimen was prescribed for me by a naturopathic doctor that I have been seeing for my IBS.  As you know from my last post, peri-menopause has caused quite a bit of havoc in my life over the past 18 months. I can’t believe it took me this long to seek medical treatment. I am a firm believer that much of what ails us has to do with our diets. So when my doctor prescribed this specific diet for my condition, I decided to give it a go. One year ago, I probably would have said, “No thanks”, but I am desperate to feel better. The regimen is  similar to the Paleo diet in that it excludes sugar, dairy, and all cereal grains. However, I am allowed a few types of cheese (thank god) as well as legumes.  I joked to my husband that I might join the CrossFit/Paleo cult that has swept the nation. I saw fear in his eyes.

I had awful headaches during the first few days. I’m assuming this was my body going through sugar withdrawal. But after they passed, it got a lot easier. I’m feeling pretty good and not feeling deprived at all. In fact, the thought of sugar doesn’t even sound good to me, which is strange. I was planning on allowing myself a piece of cake next weekend for my birthday, but I decided that I am going to make a healthy dessert instead.  Black bean brownies, anyone? I will try to post that recipe here in the coming months. It’s one of my favorite things to eat when I need something sweet.

In the meantime, get a load of this salad! It may sound boring, but I can assure you that it’s full of flavor and slightly addictive.  The dressing has a nice bite/tang to it, thanks to mustard and shallots. Give it a whirl!
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Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield: 8-10 servings

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large bunches of Tuscan kale (about 1 1/2 lb. total), center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely grated Pecorino

1. Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld.
2. Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
3. Measure 1/2 cup oil into a cup. Spoon 1 Tbsp. oil from cup into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat. Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer nuts to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.
4. Slowly whisk remaining olive oil in cup into lemon-juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds.

Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts

DSC_5826I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before how I used to despise brussels sprouts when I was a kid.  My mom would simply boil them and serve them to us, as though they were supposed to be edible.  Since then, I have come to love brussels sprouts.  In fact, they are one of my top 5 favorite veggies of all time.   I love their bitter earthiness, and they are so versatile – you can pair them with sweet, sour, spicy, umami, whichever flavor profile you want!  They won’t let you down.  One of my 2015 goals was to make more Asian dishes, because, well, why not, really.  I came across this recipe in a recent Bon Appétit issue, and ripped it out immediately to add to my recipe folder.   Taking a look at my folder reminded me that I need to post on this blog more frequently, lest I want to end up being a recipe hoarder and die by having a box of recipes fall on my head.

This recipe is for all of the brussels sprouts lovers out there, as well as the Asian food lovers.  Enjoy!

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Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Bon Appétit

2 lb. brussels sprouts, halved
5 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. finely chopped, peeled ginger
2 Tbsp. hot chili paste
6 dried chiles de árbol, lightly crushed
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts

1.  Preheat oven to 425 F degrees.  Toss brussels sprouts and 4 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.
2.  Roast, tossing once, until softened (but not soft) and browned, 20-25 minutes.  Set aside.
3.  Meanwhile, mix cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. water in a small bowl until smooth.
4.  Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high.  Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring often, until garlic is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
5.  Add chili paste and cook, stirring, until darkened, about 2 minutes.  Add chiles, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil; stir in cornstarch slurry.
6.  Simmer, stirring, until sauce coats spoon, about 2 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Toss brussels sprouts with sauce and serve topped with peanuts.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins

DSC_5162In January of 2005, I took a bus from Port Authority to Springfield, Massachusetts for a silent meditation retreat.  My good friend had gone on a retreat the previous year, and she told me it had helped her become more present in her daily life.  The style of meditation is called Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are.  It was taught in India thousands of years ago as a way to deal with everyday ills.

I had had a particularly rough winter:  breaking up with my boyfriend, getting back together, then breaking up again.  I wasn’t happy at my job, and things just seemed pretty bleak overall.  I was counting on this meditation retreat to solve all of my problems.  I would finally become enlightened, gain more self-acceptance, and learn how to be at peace with myself.  I didn’t realize that I was also going through a bout of depression.
DSC_5152The Vipassana style of meditation is very regimented, and looking back, I now know that it wasn’t what I needed at the time.  When you first arrive at the retreat center, the staff conducts a brief orientation where they go over the rules and shortly after that you give them your phone, reading materials, etc. (basically anything other than your clothing).  You are not allowed anything that might distract you from your practice.  Furthermore, you take a vow of silence for the next 10 days, and you are expected to refrain from eye contact as well.  For some reason, this all felt very doable at the time.  I was desperate to feel better.

Throughout the first few days of meditating, we focused on our breathing.  Everything becomes very still and quiet.  By the fourth day, you learn how to notice physical sensations throughout your body without reacting to them.  The objective of this practice is to learn how to go through life in a more mindful way.  Thoughts will come and go, but we are in control of how we react to those thoughts.  Feel your feelings, and know that they will not kill you.  You don’t need to numb out with alcohol, food, drugs, sex, etc.  One of the most important things I learned at this retreat is that when you try to numb the pain with whatever your poison is, you also numb yourself from feeling joy.  Life just becomes something you have to slog through, as opposed to something to celebrate.  I still struggle with this idea sometimes.

By day five, I was ready to leave.  It was cold and dark everyday, and the staff had made announcements that a snowstorm was imminent in the coming days.  I was in the middle of nowhere in Massachusetts and I felt trapped.  I had learned some helpful meditation techniques, but I was dying to talk to another human being.  I was profoundly lonely and depressed, and found myself trying to sneak glances at the other participants at lunch or while walking outside in between meditation sessions. I was beginning to understand that being alone all day with my negative thoughts was not helping me.  It was making things worse.  All I wanted was a smile from another person, something to reassure me that everything was going to be ok.  I felt like I was going a bit crazy not being able to talk to someone.  Years later I was diagnosed with chronic depression and was told that silent meditation retreats can actually be dangerous for depressives because of the isolation factor.  I have since learned healthy ways of managing my depression, and still try to incorporate meditation on a weekly basis.  To this day, I consider that retreat to be one of the toughest mental challenges I’ve ever been through.
DSC_5156This is one of my favorite recipes for the colder months.  I discovered this recipe last winter, and I must have made it at least a dozen times.  I used to hate Brussels sprouts growing up.  My mom would boil them, and they would turn out soggy and bitter.  That hatred has grown into a real fondness.  Brussels sprouts might just be one of my favorite veggies now.  The bacon and raisins are a perfect pairing because of the salty/sweet combo that combines beautifully with the slight bitterness of the sprouts and the sour vinegar.  Warning:  this recipe is addictive.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 tsp. olive oil
4 thick slices bacon
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup raisins
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1.  Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes.
2.  Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  Let cool.  Coarsely crumble.
3.  While bacon cools, add Brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until well browned in spots and beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes.
4.  Reduce heat to low and add raisins, shallot, and butter; cook, stirring often, until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes.
5.  Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1-2 minutes.
6.  Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms with Sage Polenta

DSC_4356It’s official:  I have been watching too much television lately.  I usually hunker down for the winter, staying indoors even more than usual, and my television viewing increases by default.  However, in the past I would listen to music or a podcast when in the kitchen.  But I have recently taken to watching non-stop episodes of Chopped.  I am obsessed.  And with the fast-forwarding function of our DVR, I’ve discovered that you can watch an episode in all of 40 minutes!  But all of that fast-forwarding has affected my brain:  I woke up this morning with a pounding headache and before I opened my eyes, all I could see were a million images flashing before me like my brain was on automatic fast-forward.  I tried using a meditation technique of calming my mind and focusing on my breathing, hoping that that would make it go away.  It didn’t stop.  The only way I could get the flashing images to stop was to open my eyes.  It was 4:30 a.m.  I was too tired to read so I got out of bed and decided to turn on, you guessed it, another episode of Chopped.  Is this what it feels like to be a drug addict??  And yes, I am comparing heroine to television.

By the time my husband woke up, my headache had receded.  As I robotically made my Dunn Bros. coffee, I told him I needed to try abstaining from technology for a day, or maybe just television.  I need to start meditating again, at the very least to counterbalance all of the constant information being absorbed by my brain via the television, internet, social media, etc.  Well, readers, I will have you know that it is 4:45 p.m. and I have not turned the television on all day!  This feels like such an accomplishment.  (Is this what it feels like to get old?)  Of course, when my husband arrives home tonight we will go through our usual routine of watching an episode of Jeopardy.  He is, after all, practicing to be a contestant (and champion) one day in the near future.  He is going to be the first person to beat Ken Jennings’ record!!  And I’ll be in the audience cheering him on.
DSCF2902 I don’t think polenta gets enough love.  I think of it as a poor man’s risotto, but I love it, nonetheless.  In the past, I’d only eaten it with meat or fish.  But this recipe with roasted Brussels sprouts and mushrooms sounded perfect for a cold winter day.  The polenta itself is combined with parmigiano-reggiano cheese and sage, which gives it a nice earthy flavor.  I actually whipped this dish up for lunch; it came together in no time at all.  You can substitute your favorite vegetables if you aren’t a fan of Brussels sprouts, but try to leave the mushrooms in if you can—they add a nice umami flavor to the dish.

Stay warm out there, East Coasters!
DSC_4338Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms with Sage Polenta
Adapted from Oh My Veggies

Yield:  4 servings

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
4 oz. crimini mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups water
1 cup instant polenta
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Toss the Brussels sprouts and mushrooms in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
3.  Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.
4.  While the veggies are roasting, bring water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk in the polenta.  Continue to whisk constantly until the polenta is thickened, about 3 minutes.
5.  Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan, sage, and salt and pepper to taste.
6.  Divide the polenta into 4 bowls and top each with 1/4 of the roasted vegetables and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.