Sunday, November 4, 2012

Food for the Soul

The weather has been rather cool and cloudy this week, and I haven't been on the river. However, with so many people still without power on the East coast, we are grateful that the hurricane spared us without even a single power outage.

Since the river hasn't been hospitable, I turned my attention toward indoor activities this weekend and thought I'd share with you one of my favorite weekend routines. I call it my "cooking retreats." Basically, I spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen cooking a few meals and sides for the upcoming week while listening to an audiobook, retreat recording on CD, or online video of a spiritual nature. Pema Chodron is one of my favorite teachers to listen to during a cooking retreat. In the past, I also have enjoyed listening to audiobook versions of Paulo Coelho's novels.

A cooking retreat is an incredibly restorative and calming activity (and it helps that I love to cook) that elevates my consciousness and results in a refrigerator full of delicious, nutritious food to start the week. I am convinced that being so centered while cooking somehow raises the vibrational energy and quality of the food. Food made with love and a peaceful heart always seems to taste better. It makes the whole house feel peaceful - and smell amazing, as well.

Driving home from work, I passed by a new restaurant with a sign outside that declared: "Soup's On!" Sounded good to me - and I haven't gotten soup off my mind since seeing that sign. So split pea soup over basmati rice was part of the menu I cooked up today. I also made corn bread, teriyaki quinoa, browned Brussels sprouts, oven-roasted carnival squash, and apple crisp.

Below is the complete menu, with recipes. :-) I've been making all of them for years, and they are family favorites.

Split pea soup over basmati rice with corn bread
 Split Pea Soup

  • 1 lb. (2 cups) green split peas, rinsed
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 cups (or more) peeled carrots sliced about 1/2" thick
  • 1 cup diced potato or sweet potato
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups (or more) chopped kale, broccoli, and/or parsley
  • Handful of dried arame (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp. ground marjoram
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • Black pepper and salt, to taste
  • Brown rice or basmati rice (optional)
Put split peas in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. Skim the foam off the top, and discard it.

Add remaining ingredients to the soup. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 45 minutes.

If you plan to serve the soup over rice, begin cooking the rice at this point using a 1:2 ratio of rice to water.

Ladle out approximately half the soup, and purée it in a blender. Return the purée to the pot, add the pepper and salt, stir, and return the soup to a simmer.

Serve hot. This soup is especially delicious over brown rice or basmati rice! Recipe serves 6 to 8.

Corn Bread
*adapted from The Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook by Julie Jordan

  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup dried milk powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg or egg substitute (I use Ener-G Egg Replacer)
  • 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1 cup milk or non-dairy alternative (I use Almond Dream)
  • 3 Tbs. light vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeño or red hot cherry pepper, diced small (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium-size bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, milk powder, salt, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, honey, milk, oil, and hot pepper. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, and beat thoroughly so the batter is smooth and free of lumps.

Pour the batter into a well-greased pie or loaf pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the bread is firm and lightly browned. Serve warm.

Teriyaki quinoa with browned Brussels sprouts

I fell in love with quinoa the first time I had it more than 20 years ago at Light on the Hill retreat center. It is an ancient grain that sprouts (tiny sprouts) during cooking. It is a nutritional powerhouse - gluten-free and delicious, too! This is my favorite quinoa recipe. I like to serve it with browned Brussels sprouts and either roasted squash "smiles" or orange-sesame tofu.

Teriyaki Quinoa 
*adapted from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan: Everyday Vegan Recipes Worth Celebrating by Dreena Burton

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (I like to use a mix of different colors)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated (or 1/2 tsp. dried ginger)
  • 3 Tbs. tamari (I use reduced-sodium)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. agave nectar or honey
  • 3 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup green onions (scallions), sliced
Rinse quinoa in cold water for 2 minutes. In a saucepan, add quinoa, water, garlic, and salt. Bring to a boil on high heat, stir, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 12-14 minutes. Turn off heat, and stir in ginger, tamari, agave nectar, lemon juice, and sesame oil. Cover again, and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir. Garnish with scallions before serving, or stir them in (as I do).

Browned Brussels Sprouts

This is my own recipe, inspired by my friends, Sam and Vanessa. It is the most delicious way I know to cook Brussels sprouts! Use whatever amounts of the ingredients that taste best to you.

  • Fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half vertically (through the stalk)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh garlic, minced
  • Tamari (I use reduced-sodium)
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Black pepper
  • Breadcrumbs or Parmesan cheese (optional)
Begin by steaming the Brussels sprouts in a pot with a steamer basket until they are about halfway cooked.

Put a little olive oil in a pan (I use as little as possible), and set burner to medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts are nicely browned.

When they are cooked to your liking, remove from heat, and splash with some tamari and sesame oil. Adjust amounts to your liking. Sprinkle with black pepper and breadcrumbs or Parmesan if you'd like. Stir to distribute flavors evenly.

And for dessert - apple crisp! I bought a large bag of Cortland apples from the orchard down the road and made an extra batch for our next-door neighbors.

Apple Crisp

  • 6 to 8 cups of cooking apples (I use Cortland) 
  • 3 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 4 Tbs. margarine or butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. (or more) cinnamon
  • Dash of allspice
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (uncooked)
  • Very small amount of orange juice (if desired, if the crisp is too dry; I usually omit)
Preheat oven to 375°.

Peel, core, and slice the apples. Put them into an oblong pan, and drizzle them with lemon juice. Toss to coat, and arrange the apple slices evenly in the pan.

Melt the margarine, and stir in the brown sugar or maple syrup. Mix in the spices, flour, and oats; stir well to combine. If you think the topping needs a little more moisture, add one teaspoon at a time of orange juice. Crumble this mixture onto the apples in the pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, uncovered. Cover if it crisps too quickly so it doesn't brown/burn. Serve warm. Recipe serves 6 and tends to be devoured quickly in my house!

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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