Food for Thought Recap: Health Values

I don’t know what it is about mid-August, but it has me in the recap mood. Maybe it’s because I want to hold on to the last few weeks of traditional summer, even though fall doesn’t start here in Chiba until Halloween. Maybe it’s because I prefer to spend my weekends lounging around reading historical fiction or children’s fantasy books, my usual summer tradition going back to when I was 8 or so. At least now I’m old enough to drive myself to the library when I run out of books.

This is also, apparently, the summer of desserts…

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Uncool Fudge

Last Sunday, when I made 12 sweet potato truffles and ate all 12 in the space of six hours, also in the middle of writing Tuesday’s giveaway post, I fully intended to post the truffle recipe today. On Monday, being on an unusual dessert kick, I unintentionally developed an avocado fudge recipe – well actually I saw the Avocado Fudge on La Fuji Mama’s site a few days before, and that was lurking in the back of my brain. But haphazard blender experiment turned into a full-blown diva, blowing my innocent little truffles out of the water. I mean, it kicked them in the pants, poor little gals. Sweet potatoes, passed over? Blasphemy! Or a testament to how much I love this fudge. I became a woman obsessed – fudge for breakfast, fudge as a snack, fudge for dinner. Well part of dinner anyway. Salad + fudge became a balanced meal, for dinner but also for breakfast…I know it is unconventional, but that’s the point!

Blueberry Pudding Cake

Guys. GUYS. We have a huge winner. A rousing success. A simple, delicious, throw together summer dessert that leaves families fighting over the cake pan as soon as it’s cool enough to touch. I knew from the minute I saw this cake on Shutterbean that I had to recreate it. It took three tries, but each one was even better than the last, and from the beginning this cake has flown out of the pan, inhaled by my family. Team Johnson could not get enough. The latest version, paired with a sumptuous vanilla ice cream recipe from Simply Bites, is the best yet. It screams summer dessert – easy, bursting with fresh berries, and perfect with a scoop of ice cream on a warm summer night.

Sweet Potatoes Can Save the World

Okinawan purple sweet potatoes

My friend calls me a yaki imo (roasted sweet potato) addict. He told students that I teach that I have “yaki-imomania”. It isn’t far from the truth. I’m crazy about them! They are sweet, carby, filling, satisfying, and nourishing – the ultimate healthy comfort food. They give me an extra burst of energy and mollify my troubled soul on days when nothing seems to go quite right. But I can always rest contented knowing that I’ve given my body and soul what it needs – a whole foods solution.I didn’t really embrace my love of sweet potatoes until I read the book Sweet Potato Power. There I learned about the glory that is all things sweet potato, realized there were other people out in the world as crazy about sweet potatoes as I am (some even somewhat close by!), and became totally convinced that sweet potatoes can, in fact, save the world.

Frazzled Scallops & Sauteed Mushrooms

I don’t know what it is about traveling. I love it, of course. But there is a small, homebody part of me that can get stressed out – aka frazzled, in Team Johnson vocabulary – about the actual traveling. I’m not afraid of flying or anything like that, and I’ve been traveling alone for quite some time. I’m not sure why leaving my nest gives me a little flutter of underlying anxiety (god help my future college-age children if I’m a ball of nerves about myself).

Of course, as if I didn’t have enough to prepare for a multi-week, cross-ocean trip – including food for a 12 hour plane ride since United is too silly to provide gluten-free meals! – I like to use big trips as a deadline for achieving stuff around the house: clearing out clutter, seeing friends that I have been too “busy” to connect with in the past month, even creating future recipes. And when I say “like”, I mean, this is an old habit that I fall back on in times of stress, which only makes me more stressed out. Makes perfect sense right? You’ve got a lot on your plate, so you might as well add some more! Eeesh…Really I should be doing these things a little bit at a time, day by day, getting energy-draining or clutter-clearing tasks done immediately. I’m slowly improving on this habit, but I do have a long way to go.

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First Guest Post: Blueberry Avocado Smoothie!

The other day I was searching for an email my brother had sent me and I typed “Joe radish” into the search bar. We tend to like the same sorts of food – and by like I mean rave like addicts – such as grilled vegetables, coconut anything, and of course sweet potatoes. We email at least 4 times a week, and a majority of those emails are about food. I love having a person in my life who gets as excited about making and sharing food as I do. I mean, how often do you pair a person’s name with a vegetable in your search bar? I thought I’d share a few of our missives first before moving on to this gorgeous, quick and easy recipe, perfect for an energy-packed breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up.

it’s go time

Kate:
ahhhhhhhhhhhh your produce box makes me so jealous!!!! salad and green smoothie every week, holla. and KALE. oh momma kale…

***

Joe: got some beef stew meat. What veggies should I put in it?
Kate: Hmm beef stew…sweet potatoes. Traditional is carrots, potatoes, peas. I think any kind of root veggie would be great: rutabegas, parsnips, acorn squash, butternut squash. Butternut squash! That would be really good. Spring onions. Garlic? I can’t think of any American produce right now….some sort of spinach or spinach family…Chard! No , kale. KALE.
***
Kate: Yeah if you could post it that would be great! You can also put your website up there too and get your name out. Btw, are you friends with civilized caveman on facebook????!!!!

Joe: yes walter yes
***
Joe: also, thought you would like my eating adventures… went to yoga first thing this morning and then was having a hungry day.  breakfast was:

9 over easy eggs
2/3 bag baby spinach
2 GF bagels with almond butter and sliced strawberries and banana
1 apple
handful baby carrots

was surprised by the quantity, but I think it was partially because I had a hungry day yesterday too and never quite satisfied the hunger…

Kate:
I do enjoy hearing about your eating adventures. What kind of GF bagels do you get? probably an extra hungry day from all the travel and whatnot. I can’t believe you eat an average of 7-9 eggs! and he’s roughly the size of a barge! Gastoooooooooon….

***
Joe:
today I made pecan-encrusted and walnut-encrusted chicken, and I think it is my new favorite thing.  I also want to try it with hazelnuts and try nut+salmon.  I also roasted my first kabocha squash!
Kate:
AHHH SO HUNGRY TODAY.but those nut encrusted things sound sooo delicious, esp the salmon right now. do you add any other spices? I’m feeling some nutmeg with those hazelnuts, but just a dash. also have you tried herbamare?  its really good
SQUAAAAAAAAAAAASH. I’m buying an oven with my next paycheck. roasting here I come…ps I am drinking this tea called “healthy tea” (or herushii, as the japanese say) and it has carrots, reishi, orange peel, some other random stuff I dont know, but it is for my “Beauty Feeling”. what a country
***

As you can see, my brother does most of the intelligent communication – asking questions, telling stories, sharing recipes and brainstorming ideas. I usually respond with emphatic capitalization of the foods I want to eat in that very moment. Can you turn vegetables into an onomatopoeia? One amazing oversight is that I haven’t included any of the other 10,000 emails where we use the word awesome repeatedly. But having someone like Joe to share food adventures, questions, and inspiration with is nothing short of awesome and awe-inspiring. I’m incredibly lucky to have him as a friend, role model, and brother. And we’re lucky that he is sharing his smoothie-making magic with us today! This guy is a wonder at the juicer, blender, and grill:
Blueberry Avocado Smoothies, by Joe Johnson of Feeling Terrific

Rushing to work and don’t have time to make a big breakfast? Need a summer cool-down but don’t want to reach for ice cream or sno-cones? Just want to experience the fantastic flavors of your favorite fruits and vegetables blended together? Green smoothies to the rescue!
I personally have a smoothie for breakfast every workday. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and I can enjoy it on the road while driving to work. I pack my smoothies full of fruit, greens, and healthy fats to keep me satiated and steady all morning.This version starts with blueberries, my favorite of fruits. I usually get frozen wild blueberries at Trader Joe’s, which remind me of picking blueberries with Kate near our grandparents’ house.

I made another version that used cucumber instead of blueberries – SO GOOD

Coconut milk was a staple in my smoothies until I discovered something better: avocado!
Avocado is an under-used smoothie ingredient that makes any drink incredibly creamy.
Start adding ¼-1/2 an avocado to your smoothies and I guarantee you’ll never go back!
The healthy fats keep my blood sugar stable and keep me full all morning – no crashes like after donuts or coffee.

I throw a handful of greens into my smoothies to give me extra energy and vitamins. Amazingly, they blend right in and you don’t even taste them. I usually use red or green kale, but swiss chard or spinach work well too.

Top your smoothie off with a superfood like raw cacao powder, maca, ground flax seeds,
or chia seeds, and you’ll truly have a breakfast of champions! This version includes chia
seeds, which become awesomely gelatinous and interesting when soaked overnight.

Blueberry-Avocado Smoothies

1 cup frozen blueberries (organic, if possible)
½ ripe avocado
Handful red kale
1 T chia seeds soaked overnight in ½ cup water
2 cups water (add more for a thinner consistency)
(optional) few drops stevia for added sweetness

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour and enjoy!

Makes one Joe-sized breakfast, or two large smoothies.

with avocado and a dash of lime

***
I really enjoy kale in my green smoothies as well, but since you can’t get kale here in Japan (yet) I used komatsuna, which is a less-bitter cousin to fully-grown spinach. I recommend using baby spinach in green smoothies for it’s milder flavor. If you want to try regular spinach, I suggest steaming them first. Or you can make a silky green soup for another fantastic way to pack in greens during mealtimes! But back to smoothies, I totally agree about the fun texture of soaked chia seeds. It reminds me of the bubble tea that everyone used to go crazy for in college. I never liked it (too sweet, amazingly), but it always looked like fun to eat.

soaked chia seeds

So dive in to some great smoothie combinations and let us know what you think! I’ll leave you with one last email….
Kate:
AWESOME BREAKFAST THIS MORNING. I put my xmas meal leftovers into a cabbage wrap~ one was sunflower seed spread with tomatoes, avocado, roasted cauliflower, and sprouts. The other was mashed spiced sweets [sweet potatoes], balsamic chicken, perfect onions, and a pickled fig. Trying to do a new blog post on squash and vegetables, but my recent pictures arent uploading and I just formatted my camera! augh, distracting myself with  a snack of half a roasted sweet [potato] too. and I:m going home to make more chestnut soup!

did you find a suitable blender in MI? made some fresh almond milk last night, havent done that in a while and it was delish.

I LOVE FOOD
are you scheming? [skiing]

***
Joe: I like how we seem to be making similar diet changes independently…

Kate: well, auntie patty told me they used to say we had our own language. maybe its food-based
***

Oh. It definitely is.

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Joined the awesome bandwagon at Diet, Dessert & Dogs Wellness Weekend July 5-9
Happily submitted to Fit & Fabulous Fridays #39

Laarb-inspired Summer Salad

This…this makes my heart sing. The color, the different textures, even the fun shapes! I eat salad every day, but there is something particularly exciting about summer salads. Cool, refreshing, wholesome, and extra tasty with all the super fresh produce, I’ll munch my way through salads all summer long.

For the past month or so, I’ve been making a variation on the Laarb gai salad over at Low Amine Recipes. Bright and fresh, I love the balance of tangy lime and mellow mint. If you need something more substantial (here’s lookin’ at you, Mar), you can add ground chicken, sliced pork, or whatever protein floats your boat. This salad is a great vehicle for overcooked meat – I’ve been known to overdue a few things on the grill – as it absorbs the dressing and flavors to create a satisfying complement to the vegetables. Continue reading