Kale Pesto Pairs Perfectly With LoRe’s Spinach Pasta

lore past

The other day I had the chance to visit Stockton Market, a place I’ll be writing more about for BestofNJ.com and JerseyBites.com. I described it to my husband as everything I love about what some of the hipster culture is about – fresh ingredients, from the farm, local love, know your source – and less about selfies. Am I a hipster? Word is still out, but I’ll never tire of meeting like minded people who share a passion for what they are creating, whether that be handmade goat cheeses to beautiful artwork. I could go on, but let’s get to the point… and the point of the post is PASTA.

lore pastOh pasta. It’s a love affair that will never allow me to fit into those one size smaller jeans. But, I’m ok with that because I could never live without it. Especially freshly made pasta. There’s something so delicate and exciting about it that is different from your go to dried pasta in your cabinet (and yes, I love that pasta too). For me, most of the time anyways, I thin of dried pasta as a vehicle for the sauce I’m about to create. However, with fresh pasta, it’s just as much a part of the dish as the sauce. In fact, everything is elevated because of it. Cook it perfectly, only 3 minutes (or as long as the package tells you to), then toss it with your sauce and you’ll be singing its praises too!

Ok, so back to my trip to Stockton Market and my purchase of LoRe Pasta. Organic pastas, handmade using only the finest stone ground flours from Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown, PA. These guys also happened to be featured in the latest issue of Edible Jersey, where you can find them gushing about the process.

lore pastaOn this particular day, I attempted to go home with some of LoRe’s beautiful beet pasta, however they were sold out, so I went with the spinach rotini. Other choices included a spelt spaghetti, which I’m not regretting not purchasing.  As she handed over the bag of delicate pasta, she told me to store it in the fridge and if I didn’t use it in a week, to freeze it. I laughed and told her there’s no way I’m waiting a week.

One day later, I was boiling water. I decided to go with the green theme and create a kale pesto. I didn’t have pine nuts, so I added in some cashews. I didn’t have Parmigano so I sprinkled goat cheese on top. Add in a few sprigs of parsley, some bright olive oil (which I’ll talk about in another post), some salt, pepper, and yes, red pepper flakes, and I was in pasta heaven.

sage farm goat dairyUnfortunately, we devoured our meals before I took a picture of the finished product. But that shouldn’t stop you from making this! If you don’t have the ability to buy LoRe’s Pasta, head to your local Italian deli or even a specialty goods store. You may find that someone in your area is following a similar protocol. And buying fresh pasta is worth the effort! Not only does it lend a different taste, but it also cuts cooking time down by at least half!

Kale Pesto with Fresh Pasta

1 bunch Lacinto Kale, stems removed
1/4 flat parsley
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package of fresh pasta
1/4 cup goat cheese

Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until the desired consistency. I like a thicker consistency with my pesto, but that’s just my preference. After you’ve cooked the pasta for 3 minutes (remember to read the package directions) in heavily salted boiling water, drain, then toss with the pasta, off heat. Top with crumbled goat cheese (I used a Sage Farm Goat Dairy goat cheese that I bought in Vermont that had Za’tar seasoning on top – delicious!) and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.

If you’re in the Jersey Shore area and are looking for fresh pasta, check out two of my favorite places to visit:

Pasta Volo, Asbury Park
Taste of Italy, Tinton Falls

Advertisements

Mushrooms 101: A Closer Look at Chaga Thanks to FourSigmatic

Mushrooms tend to be one of those fruits of nature that people either love or hate. Whether it’s their texture or the idea that there are countless mushroom species that make you chat with the smoking caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland or take you to the hospital – there are plenty of mushrooms that are magic without those ill side effects.

Mix of forest mushroomsOne such mushroom happens to be Chaga (aka Inonotus Obliquus) that can typically be found in the Northern Hemisphere handing out on birch trees. This powerful mushroom may not even look like a mushroom to you – check out that picture! Known for being a healthy addition to tea in the East for centuries, this ugly (is that mean?) mushroom has made its debut in the U.S. bringing with it all of its health benefits.

So what does it do? Well, according to Dr. Edward Group, chaga is “a highly-concentrated black mass of mycelium that protrudes from birth trees infected with parasitic – but non-toxic- fungus Inonotus Obliquus.”

four sigmatic
Chaga (Picture Courtesy Mother Earth News)

Ok… before you get all grossed out. Remember that to grow mushrooms, you must inject the corresponding tree (usually a dried log) with the fungus of whichever mushroom you want. Where do you think the term “fungi” came from! (The mushroom walks into the bar and the bartender says, ‘we don’t allow your type in here,’ and the mushroom says, ‘why not… I’m a fun guy!’ – Ok, I’ll stop with the corny jokes now.)

So back to this non-toxic fungus. Chaga is recognized from its dark, hard and cracked exterior which resembles “burnt charcoal” and if you crack it open, it boasts a rusty yellow brown interior. Yum! (Yes, I’m being sarcastic). Even though it sounds horrid, by consuming chaga, you’ll be supporting your immune system thanks to its abundance of Beta-D-Glucans, which gives your system a boost or slows it down when its in hyper drive. In addition, it supports your blood vessels, soothing irritation, normalizes blood pressure and cholesterol levels thanks to its betulinic acid, which helps break down LDL cholesterol (aka “bad cholesterol”), and can even assist in supporting your gastrointestinal health.

All of this from one little mushroom? Yes! Thanks to its high levels of polysaccharides (which can help improve your mood), phytosterols, Super Oxide Dismutase enzymes, and a large amount of antioxidants including melanin (actually, chaga has the highest ORAC score which measures the amount of antioxidant potency of any superfood!) Take that kale!

Now that you know the health benefits, I’m sure you want to figure out where you can get some chaga of your own. Don’t worry, I’m not sending you out into the forests of New Hampshire. Thanks to Four Sigmatic, a cup of chaga is a click away.

cordyceps-mushrooms
Cordyceps (Photo Courtesy The Chalkboard Magazine)

The geniuses of Four Sigmatic have turned this powerhouse into a “Mushroom Elixir” and have also added it in their “Mushroom Coffee” that in addition to Chaga includes Cordyceps, another mushroom that’s traditionally grown on the bodies of caterpillars (I’m not making this up!) Don’t worry, Cordyceps doesn’t include any caterpillars, but it is believed to enhance athletic performance and improve aerobic capacity. Dr. Weil even recommends it as a “natural energy boost” which has helped people with “low mood and compromised overall vitality.”

img_3252Back to the Mushroom Elixir – I’m in love! This little power packet as I’ve come to call it is the perfect addition to my morning smoothie routine. It adds a little pep to my step (I’m not a coffee drinker) without the caffeine, while giving me the immune boosting properties my body is craving (especially during the winter, when I’m running on no sleep thanks to my little six month old). It really doesn’t change the taste of my smoothie so you don’t even realize this little mushroom that could is hiding in the depths of your raspberries and peanut butter.

So go ahead, try it in your next morning smoothie and see how you feel. Getting back to the dirt never tasted so good and you don’t even have to “know a gal” who shares the location of that log on that trail in those woods that grows the goods. Four Sigmatic took care of that for you.

Check out my next post on their Mushroom Hot Cocoa with Reishi… yes, they made hot chocolate a health food – FINALLY!

Grand Slam Sugarpova Chocolate Ice Cream Pretzels

At nine months pregnant, I was asked to do a write up on chocolate. Seriously, there was no way I was saying no to that offer. The chocolate, Sugarpova, turned out to be a new venture by Maria Sharapova, who has won 35 singles titles and five Grand Slam titles in tennis – a Russian tennis superstar. Little did they know that not only am I a huge chocolate fan (and really who isn’t), but I’m also a huge tennis fan. Combine the two and compound it with pregnancy, and you’ve got a recipe for something kind of sinful.

SUG_Chocolate_Counter1Well, before I could even get around to making something with the chocolate bars that arrived on my doorstep on a very hot summer afternoon in July, I went from being pregnant to being a mom. Days turned into weeks and finally a month before I could make my chocolate tennis dream into a reality.

Maybe it was the late nights, maybe it’s the lack of sleep, or just the fact that I need some sort of sugar to keep me going at 4pm when I’m about to crash, but I was able to (finally) put together a simple yet delicious recipe using Sharapova’s Sugarpova chocolate bars (that has such a great ring to it!) that hit all the notes I need in a sweet treat. Oh and did I mention that it’s ridiculously simple to make (take it from me who made it with a 4 week old baby on her hip!)

Sugarpova_4BarsNextToEachOther0000But before I share the recipe, let me tell you about this premium chocolate that Maria Sharapova decided to venture into thanks to her sweet tooth. All Sugarpova bars are made with natural ingredients, are Non GMO, Halal, and is crafted by Baron Chocolatier of Poland (did I ever mention I’m Polish – I swear this was a match made in heaven!) On each bar (flavors range from premium Dark Chocolate – my favorite – to coconut and even strawberry flavored), Sharapova says:

“For years I have traveled the world, not just as an international tennis player, but as a love of all things sweet, searching for that perfect chocolate. After much exploration, I have selected the expert European Chocolatiers at Baron to create Sugarpova Premium Chocolates, curating cocoa beans of the highest quality and turning them into the perfect melt-in-your-mouth bar. The result: Chocolates that are deliciously indulgent, one perfect bite after another.”

"Maria Sharapova Sugarpova Chocolate Launch At The Chicago Sweets & Snacks Expo"
“CHICAGO, IL – MAY 24: Maria Sharapova attends the Maria Sharapova Sugarpova Chocolate launch at the Chicago Sweets & Snacks Expo on May 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Sugarpova)”

Now, since I tend to offer healthy recipes on this blog, I will let you know that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has a number of health benefits for your heart, including lowering LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol), lowering blood pressure, and your risk for heart disease. It also contains polyphenols which help blood flow and may help improve brain function and memory retention. (So if eating chocolate because it’s delicious wasn’t getting you to go for the ace, then these health tidbits should!)

DSC_0310Grand Slam Sugarpova Chocolate Ice Cream Pretzels 

2 Bars of Sugarpova Chocolate (I chose Strawberry and Milk Chocolate)
1 Bag of Small Pretzels
1 Pint of your favorite ice cream (I went old school with Tahitian Vanilla)

Over a double boiler, break up the Sugarpova chocolate bars and stir, slowly melting the chocolate. Be sure the water is simmering and not touching the bottom of the glass bowl. As you melt the chocolate, take the ice cream out of the freezer. You want to thaw it just a little bit, but not so much that it’s melting.

On a piece of parchment, begin to line up your pretzels (before you do this make sure the pan you’re laying them on can fit in your freezer!) Place a teaspoon of ice cream on each pretzel and then top with another pretzel to make a sandwich. Quickly begin to dip the sandwiches into the melted chocolate (or you can cover the first side with chocolate, freeze for an hour or two until set, then flip over and cover the second side, freezing for an additional two hours to set.) Freeze the sandwiches for at least an hour until they’re set.

Finally, enjoy. It’s salty, sweet, and frozen – the perfect summer snack that I hope Maria Sharapova would enjoy.

Packing In the Protein… Vegan Style

organic vegan protein powder

Let me just start by saying that normally, I don’t do protein powders, whether they’re organic, vegetarian, or vegan. However, there’s always a time when I know I need more than just my normal smoothie routine.

On those particular days, which have become more often then not, where I’m exercising a little bit more and know that the rest of my day might not pack the protein punch that my body craves, I reach for SunWarrior Vegan Protein in combination with all the other smoothie staples that will keep me fuller, longer.

organic vegan protein powderWhy this particular brand in particular? Well, beyond the very cool name (which as a yoga teacher I am particularly drawn to), SunWarrior is everything that I would want in an organic vegan protein powder. It’s soy free, gluten free, dairy free, with no sugar added, and completely vegan. They’re motto of “transforming the planet one warrior at a time,” is pretty spiffy as well.

I tend to be a minimalist, which is why I chose the the natural flavored powder, which when combined with your favorite fruits and veggies, you won’t taste… at all. How many protein powders have you encountered that has that in their repertoire? (Not many!)

organic vegan protein powderThe “Classic Plus” organic and vegan protein powder uses the strength of whole-grain brown rice, pea, chia, quinoa, and amaranth protein – all ingredients that you’ve packed in to your smoothie before, but this time it’s just in one scoop! This American made product that’s created in Utah, has definitely upped my health game.

Head to their website to download your very own Smoothie E-Book that has 52 recipes to get you through the year. Or, try out one of my smoothies on my blog and just add a blast of protein with one scoop of SunWarrior. But since they’ve got me kind of hooked, here’s another smoothie bowl recipe that will have you going bananas!

sunwarrior smoothie recipeKiss the Sun Warrior Smoothie Bowl

1 Scoop SunWarrior Protein
1 Banana
1/2 cup Organic Kefir, Unflavored
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 avocado
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup ice
1/2 cup granola

Mix all ingredients together except for granola. Top your bowl with your favorite crunchy granola or cereal and you’ve got yourself a warrior’s breakfast or power snack!

Sunshine Smoothie Recipe

smoothie recipe

The other day was the first in quite some time where the temperatures climbed into the low 70s. There’s nothing quite like feeling the warm sunshine on your face as you’re working in the dirt.

I spent the day outside after teaching some yoga classes, digging things up, cleaning up the yard, starting seedlings (I know I’m a little late), and really just enjoying the outside with my two dogs (who also got a little spring fever).

smoothie recipe
Picture Courtesy of The Juice Theory

Of course, hard work, especially when you’re using your hands, requires some sort of food to keep you going. I mean, how else are you supposed to get that garden soil ready? For lunch I had an amazing salad from The Juice Theory, an amazing little store that makes some of the freshest and tastiest salads around. I went for the salad special of the day with some avocado. It held me over until my mid afternoon slump when I just had to have something else (especially after having some vines kick some dirt into my mouth). So I made this smoothie with ingredients that I had in the fridge and it’s so good I have to share it with you.

Sometimes creative genius happens when you least expect it!

Enjoy!

smoothie recipe

Sunshine Smoothie
(makes 1 serving)

1/2 cup cooked oats (with some extra water)
1 mango, diced and peeled
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup organic Kefir or yogurt
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

Blend all the ingredients together and you’ve got yourself sunshine in a smoothie!!

Now go take a nap!
Now go take a nap!

A Fast Italian Sandwich As Easy (and Tasty) As Pie

easy italian sandwich

I’m going to be honest here… sometimes I’m super motivated to cook and look for recipes that challenge my culinary skills, maybe use a new ingredient, or an old ingredient in a new way. But then there are other times where I really want something tasty and homemade, but have absolutely no desire to spend more than 10 minutes in the kitchen. Enter this recipe.

easy italian sandwichWith a little help from the store… well, actually a lot of help from the store, this delicious Italian inspired sandwich is super easy, super delicious, super affordable, super pretty, and super quick! Hands on time is about 10 minutes. You can do that. If I could last night, you can tonight.

I usually have about 90% of these ingredients already in my pantry and fridge pretty much all the time. The only time really spent doing actually work is when you’re making the focaccia (using store bought dough and an awesome recipe from The Kitchn) and slicing the cheese (or you can buy it already sliced).

So enough of me blabbering, after all you’re hungry and want your sandwich now.

easy italian sandwich
A Work of Art in Under 10 minutes!

Tasty Italian Sandwich

Makes 4 sandwiches
1 Store bought pizza dough
1 tablespoon of flour
4 Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
4 Roasted Red Peppers (from a jar)
4 Slices eggplant, uncooked
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or 1 tablespoon fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh baby arugula (or spinach)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. While it’s preheating, take the room temperature dough and spread it out over a sheet pan. You can use some flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands (and the sheet pan) and make it a little easier to work with. Basically just use your fingertips to spread it out. “Finger holes” are encouraged. Once it’s spread out across the sheet pan, drizzle with olive, Italian seasoning or fresh Rosemary (I actually used both), red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper. Then use those hands and have some fun with your food, spreading it out to every inch of the focaccia.

Once that’s all set, lower the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F and cook the Focaccia for about 15-20 minutes. Take a peak at 15 minutes because you want it crispy but still a little fluffy on top.

While the focaccia is cooking, take the sliced eggplant (about 1/2 inch thick) and fry in some olive oil on the stove until golden brown on both sides.

Once the focaccia is golden brown, remove from the oven, and cut it into equal size squares.

Now it’s time to assemble the sandwich. One layer focaccia, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, layer with mozzarella, arugula, eggplant, roasted red pepper, top with some flaky sea salt, then finish with the focaccia bread.

Now bite in.

See I told you it wasn’t hard, but it’s so delicious!!!! Worth every 10 minutes!

As always “Bee” Well,

Melissa

Meditation On Staying Strong and Showing Weakness

international womens day

Happy International Women’s Day! As a woman, I can name so many women in my life, both past and present, who have affected me and made me into who I am today. There are women that I was close with, those who only came in my life for a fraction of a second, those I’m still connected with, and those that I’ve never met, however they all share a common demoninator and it’s the fact that I will forever be thankful of the bond between us.

meditationMost women (and a lot of men too), tend to feel like they have to “do it all” and “be it all” for their friends, family, and work. However, it’s when we constantly think that “having it all” is what we want, to lose site of what “it all” actually means to us.

Is it a new car?
A new house?
A clean house?
An aspiring career?
Successful kids?
Being able to work 10 hours, take care of the kids, cook dinner (in the spotless kitchen), all while folding laundry and looking like you’re about to step onto the red carpet?

Whatever it is, it’s days like this (that also coincide with the New Moon) that I take a step back and do a little self assessment because if we don’t look inward at our true self then we tend our self worth goes down.

We begin to think that our weaknesses are just that, weaknesses, things that should be avoided, taken down, hidden. But, admitting our weaknesses only show us that we are strong and by turning the attention inward, we become self aware of who we are, who we want to become, and why we want to go there. So think first:

What is my version of “having it all” and is it really what I want?

true self meditationIt’s so easy to get caught up in what we perceive as being “it all” whether it’s from society, our family, or our friends. Our own personal image can get clouded by other people’s ideas of what “it all” actually is.

On this new moon, a time when we need to reconnect with ourselves and reaffirm what we are looking for. It’s a time when our thoughts can become scattered if we don’t focus and take the time and energy to turn inward. It’s also a time when we may beat ourselves down a little bit, feeling lethargic, apathetic, and just down. That’s ok if you’re looking at it with an honest eye and instead of continuing the self beat down, focus on the truth in your comments and see where you can make changes that will help you move forward towards your true self.

true self meditationThis is an easy meditation that anyone could use to help focus on their true self while also opening (which isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign that we are embracing what the universe is offering us). Do it for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, or 40 minutes. Just make some time for yourself. I hope you realize that your strength comes from what you perceive as your weaknesses.

international womens dayFind a comfortable seat. You can sit in easy seat or sukhasana on the floor or on a pillow or bolster. Just find a place where your spine can reach towards the sky while your tailbone grounds down to Mother Earth. Allow space to open between each vertebre of the spine while it helps you lengthen your torso. Roll the shoulders up to the ears on an inhale through the nose and then exhale out the mouth as you bring your shoulders back and down.

Come into your natural breath. Focusing on the breath going in and out through the nostrils. Allow any thoughts or feelings to just float by. Don’t get discouraged if there are a number of thoughts, instead just allow them to move on without becoming attached to them.

Now that you’ve centered yourself, begin to deepen the breath and on an inhale chant (internally or externally) “I am” and on the exhale chant (internally or externally) “strong.” Continue for as many breaths as calls to you.

meditationNext follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “kind.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “love.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “enough.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “me.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “Sat” on the inhale and “Nam” on the exhale meaning “I am truth.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Finish the meditation by coming back to your breath and bowing to your inner light.

Wishing you love and light.

As always, “bee well,”
Melissa