Vegan tortilla soup with New Mexico chiles

Every year for Christmas dinner we have our "Traditional Non-Tranditional" meal. In the past we have had lasagna, crepes, tacos, or raviolis. This year our gathering will be small but cozy. I'm planning a Mexican theme and this tortilla soup was a great warm-up.

This spicy soup is the perfect meal for a cold winter night and, while you're making it, your kitchen will smell amazing! I love the fragrant peppers and sizzling onions and garlic. The recipe, as written, is somewhat light on veggies. Feel free to add corn or any of your favorites to make this even more hearty!

Recommendation: Serve over brown rice or another grain for a complete meal in one bowl.

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Vegan Tortilla Soup
Serves about 6
3 large dried New Mexico chiles
1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1 large sprig or 1 1/2 tsp dried epazote (optional)
2 cups cooked black beans
4 cups chopped greens (chard, spinach, or kale)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

Garnish:
1 avocado, chopped
Chopped cilantro
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges
  1. Holding the chiles one at a time with metal tongs, quickly toast them by turning them an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until the aroma fills the kitchen. (Alternatively, toast chiles in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing them flat for a few seconds then flipping them over and pressing again.) When cool enough to handle, stem and seed the chiles, break them into pieces and put them in a blender along with tomatoes and their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won’t completely puree the chiles.)
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden. Add the onion and garlic to the blender with the tomato mixture. Process until smooth.
  3. Return the pot to medium heat. Add the puree and stir continuously until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add broth, water and epazote. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the beans and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the greens and season with salt to taste. Cook until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes, depending on the type of greens.
  5. Serve garnished with cilantro, avocado, and a squeeze of lime.
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(Inspired by Eating Well.)

Gingerbread granola bars

I occasionally get burned out on my regular snacks and, with Christmas on its way, I'm craving spicy flavors and warm baked things. With visions of gingerbread dancing in my head, I created this granola bar recipe. These wholesome bars are rich in iron, protein, and fiber and can easily be made gluten-free by using gluten-free oats.

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Gingerbread Granola Bars
Makes about 9
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (process 1/3 cup oats till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts or seeds (I used 1/3 cup dried cranberries, 1/3 cup raisins, 2 Tbsp hemp seeds, 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/3 cup chopped walnuts)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp melted Earth Balance margarine
1/3 cup almond butter
2 Tbsp chia seeds (optional, you can omit or sub ground flax seeds)
3 Tbsp applesauce or canned pumpkin
3 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
3 Tbsp real maple syrup
1 tablespoon water
A little more brown sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ pan with parchment paper. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts (except chia seeds).
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted Earth Balance, chia (or flax) seeds, almond butter, applesauce (or pumpkin), molasses, maple syrup, and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until well combined.
  3. Spread mixture evenly into the prepared pan and sprinkle brown sugar lightly over the top (optional). Bake for about 35 minutes, until brown around the edges. Cool in the pan for a few minutes then use the edges of parchment to lift them from the pan and place on a cooling rack to cool completely. Once cool, cut the bars into squares. If they seem crumbly, you can refrigerate them for 30 minutes or so before cutting them.
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(Recipe inspired by Smitten Kitchen)

Romanesco

Yesterday I posted a few photos of the romanesco that I received in my last CSA box. I think it is the coolest looking veggie that I've ever seen! I'm a bit obsessed with it, really. The second that I found it in my box, I immediately started taking photos of it...even before I finished unpacking the rest of the fruits and veggies.

Bloggers are weird, right?

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You can use romanesco as you would broccoli or cauliflower. That is, if you can bring yourself to cut into it- that's hard because it is so darn pretty! I chopped and cooked this one in a Thai curry sauce and served it with tofu over brown rice.

Here's a recipe from 101 Cookbooks to give you some inspiration: Cilantro Noodle Bowl

Fevers, goals, and party dips

With parties and gatherings stacking up on our calendar this weekend, my four year old spiked a 102+ degree fever on Friday. Deep breaths. Cancel. Reschedule. Tylenol. Apple juice. Sleep... We seem to be just about back on track today and my boy is feeling better, thankfully.

I have been, in the in-between moments, working on my goals for 2011. For 2010, I had WAY TOO MANY goals. Way. Too. Many. I wasn't able to keep track of the list but, honestly, I think the most important things were summed up by my word for the year: CULTIVATE.

GetNatured was born at the end of 2009 and has been growing and evolving organically into something that feels really good. I completed my second and third triathlons in the summer of 2010 and have built new friendships with some amazing women through my moms' group and tri training.

I haven't chosen a word for 2011 yet, but my general themes include having more adventures and more barefoot time (downtime). I want to write more and "to do list" less. I want to have more reasons to take pictures and fewer reasons to stay indoors.

What are your goals from 2011? Did you choose a word for the year?

Aside from creating goals, I know many people are party hopping this time of year and dips, chips, cheese, and desserts abound. Here are three of my favorite recipes that can be eaten with crackers, pita bread, baguette, or veggies or as a salad topper or sandwich filling:
  • Roasted red pepper dip (recipe)
  • Chickpea salad (recipe) - try adding a little cayenne for an extra kick
  • Spicy edamame dip (recipe)
Speaking of veggies, we received this romanesco in our last CSA box. I LOVE the way that it looks!

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Staying afloat: My bag of tricks for staying buoyant

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(The sky from my backyard this afternoon.)

This time of year can be a mixed bag of emotions for many people. The holidays apply pressure to be jolly. To bake and shop. To wrap and invite. To consume. The cloudy skies and early setting of the sun can keep us inside and away from the things that feed our souls (like friends and exercise) and drive us to the things that feed our bodies (although not well), like snack foods and eggnog lattes.
I have experienced bouts of this too.

The dance of maintaining balance seems to have an increasingly complex choreography. Over the years, I’ve become pretty adept at self-renewal. I find inspiration in many places and I’ve developed a list of things that I have come to depend on for shaking loose the clingy fingers of the blahs. I call my list my "bag of tricks to stay buoyant". When I notice the cloud cover settling over me, I go through this list in my mind to figure out where I'm out of balance. With the help of excerpts from a blog that I wrote from 2005-2009 allibrew), here is my list:
  1. Get some sleep. A minimum of seven hours a night (preferably eight).
  2. Move. I need to run, bike, swim, or otherwise get my heart rate up at least three times a week (preferably outside) to keep sane.
  3. Be social. Bond. Spending time in good conversations and laughing with friends and family is hugely energizing for me.
  4. Eat healthy food and drink water. When I eat well, I feel well (physically and mentally). Minimizing sugar keeps my immune system strong and my moods and appetite even-keel.
  5. Sunlight. I need to go outside and breath. To get fresh air and feel sunlight on my skin. To "commune with nature". Sometimes my backyard will do. Other times I must (MUST!) drive to the coast and watch the ocean for a little while. (One of my favorite blog posts from the past: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...")
  6. Write. Wax poetic or make lists on a napkin- whatever you need. This is an outlet for me. As I put it in a blog post almost six years ago: there are tiny seeds of contemplation dwelling in my soul. Holding onto these thoughts creates a quiet fear of losing them. It is as though they become something valuable and necessary as soon as they arise. Writing them down alleviates my subtle urgency to free them.
  7. Yoga. My yoga mat is more thorough than a doctor visit for a check up. I can so clearly gauge my heath and happiness from that vantage. When my balance is good in tree pose, it is a sign that life isn't overwhelming me at the moment. When I can breath freely while holding strong in a triangle, my anxiety is low. When my crocodile is smooth and slow, I feel strong and confident off the mat. When forward folds feel really good, I am happy and content. When I can hold and enjoy pigeon and crow, I am on top of the world.
This "bag of tricks" works really well for me but life still throws me curveballs on occasion. When things get overwhelming or I feel like I'm stuck in a rut, I take a timeout

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When I yearn for days punctuated by pink and purple sunsets instead of the exhaustion of another routine completed, I schedule a spa day or maybe even get in the car (or a plane) and head for the beach.

Another excerpt from my past: When I’m on vacation, my brain shifts to a different frequency. It goes on brain vacation. I start to tune out the noise of the world and tune into my head space. I pause to ponder simple things in great detail. Like, do I really want waffles for breakfast or would an omelet taste better? Do I want to swim first or start the day by cracking open the first item on my summer reading list? Are gardenias more fragrant in the afternoon than in the morning? I don’t have to have brilliant ideas. I don’t have to ask thought-provoking questions. I don’t have to hurry.

How do you nurture yourself through the blahs?

Curried red lentils with bulgar and spinach

Maybe it is our broken heater or maybe it is Thanksgiving leftover burnout, but our meals have taken a spicy turn this week. We've had Thai spicy green beans with tofu and curried red lentils. I received my CSA box this morning and I fully expect to be creating a meal or two that involves chiles and other belly-warming things.

These curried lentils are super healthy and make a hearty one-pot lunch or dinner. Feel free to cut back on the jalapeno if you prefer a little less heat and add as many veggies as you can (carrots and red bell peppers would be great). This dish (inspired by Eating Well Magazine) is loaded with protein, iron, and fiber!

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Curried Red Lentils with Bulgar and Spinach
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoons amchoor (or amchur or green mango) powder (*optional, see note)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/4 cup bulgar wheat
8 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
3-4 cups fresh spinach leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Water as needed to thin
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, garam masala, amchoor powder, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes longer.
  2. Stir in lentils, broth, and bulgar and bring to a boil. If you are using additional vegetables other than greens (e.g. carrots, bell peppers, etc.), add them now too. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes. Add water, if necessary, if lentils get too thick- you can serve this thinner as a soup or thicker like chili.
  3. Discard bay leaves. Stir in cilantro, lemon juice, and spinach. Season with salt and pepper.
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*Note: Amchoor (amchur) or green mango powder can be difficult to find and is optional here. I found it at Whole Foods Market. It may also be found at Indian grocers or online.