swiss chard stem + ramp spring rolls with miso green goddess dipping sauce

chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking
chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking

I've been on an unsubscribing and deleting frenzy lately. Maybe it's the new-age version of spring cleaning, but something inside me is screaming to purge. It started with me reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up . Like so many people who have picked up that book, I was immediately inspired  to go through my entire closet, and give away those shirts and shoes that I look at and go: MEH. I got rid of five giant bags of stuff. FIVE bags! I didn't even know I had that many clothes, or rather, so many clothes that I didn't love so much. It felt so good, I started doing it in all other areas of my life. 

If you've read the book, you know that she tells you to do it all at once, but since I convinced myself that I will probably never dedicate a whole day or weekend to purging and cleaning .... I did it my way. It worked for me, it was contagious, and even though I didn't follow her instructions exactly, the need to purge and rid my life of things that I do not love is now something that is in me, and it will probably never go away. It crept it's way into my digital life as well. I deleted so many emails last weekend that my phone had a total freak out. It was like: GAH! What are you doing? It took a day or two for it to calm down, and now I think my phone, like me, is much happier without holding on to so much dead weight. 

What is it about spring that makes us want to clean up our closest, clean up our emails, and clean up our act? It is because the weather is getting warmer and we want to be our best to enjoy every minute of the sunshine? Is it that we hibernate in the winter and collect things and dust, and when the spring comes around we have the urge to get rid of that thick, blah layer of stuff? Who knows, but whatever the reason is, I love it. I love spring, and I love to clean and purge. 

The first signs of spring are happening in NYC, even if the weather cannot make up it's mind. Ramps have made an appearance, and the sun has shown it's warmth on a couple of occasions. My winter clothes are making their way to the back of the closet, and the sweaters that I no longer love are making their way to Goodwill. Spring and summer always feel so much sweeter after enduring the grueling winter.  

So, let's celebrate spring with one of my favorite snack-y foods that has spring in it's name. And while we are at it, I am going to throw my favorite spring allium in there, the ramp. You probably know what ramps are, they are spring's trendiest new food, but if you have never heard of them or cannot find them, any green onion-type veggie will do. I am also doing a little spring cleaning with this recipe, by getting the most out of each veggie. Using the stems, which sometimes get discarded, and using leftover parts of veggies from the spring roll, and adding them to this super tasty and healthy green goddess dipping sauce. 

chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking
chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking
chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking
chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking
chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking
chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking
chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking
chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking
chard stem + ramp spring rolls | what's cooking good looking

swiss chard stems + ramp spring rolls with miso green goddess dipping sauce 

MAKES
about 5 spring rolls

INGREDIENTS

 1 bunch of swiss chard (about 10 leaves), stems separated from the leaves
olive oil
salt + pepper

5 ramps, white and green parts separated
1 avocado (split in half, one half for the rolls and the other for the sauce)
1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced into 3" long matchsticks
a large handful of microgreens

5-6 large spring roll skins

for the green goddess dipping sauce:
3 swiss (green) chard leaves (reserved from the rolls) 
5 of the white parts of the ramps (reserved from the rolls)
the other half of the avocado (reserved from the rolls)
1 small garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon of sweet white miso
10 basil leaves
1/4 cup of parsley
the juice of 1/2 lemon
a pinch of salt (if necessary)

METHOD

*Pre-heat the oven to 375º

Prep the veggies + making the dipping sauce:

  • Chop the cucumber and the chard stems into matchsticks, no longer than 3". The chard stems you will want to make sure are extra skinny, you may even want to make them smaller than 3", because they can be chewy, so the smaller they are, the easier they are to eat in the spring roll. Slice one half of the avocado into lengthwise slices, and slice the green parts of the ramps in half lengthwise. 
  • Then, to make the dipping sauce, place 3 of the chard leaves, the white parts of the ramps, the other half of the avocado, 1 small garlic clove, the miso, basil, parsley, and lemon juice into the food processor. Pulse a few times to chop the ingredients, and then add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it's smooth. Taste and add salt or adjust and seasoning necessary. Set aside until you're ready to serve. 

Roast the chard stems:

  • Place the chard stems onto a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes until tender. Remove, and allow to cool before adding to the rolls. 

Roll the spring rolls:

  • Have all of your ingredients, including the dipping sauce, near your rolling station. Fill a large, shallow bowl with warm water. Dip the spring roll skin into the water for about 10-15 second, until pliable, and then place it onto a clean, flat surface. Stack the ramp greens, cucumber, chard stems, and avocado in the center of the spring roll. Add a small spoonful of the sauce and finish with a pinch of microgreens. Fold the bottom half of the spring roll snugly over the filling, and then fold in the sides. Finish by rolling the ingredients away from you until it  is tightly wrapped. Repeat these steps until you've used all of the ingredients. If you like, you can use a serrated knife to cut the rolls in half down the center. Serve with the remaining dipping sauce on the side.  

golden bell pepper soup + avocado+ cilantro

golden bell pepper soup + avocado + puffed rice | what's cooking good looking
golden bell pepper soup + avocado + puffed rice | what's cooking good looking

I met Amie about a year ago at a blogger pot luck, and my immediate impression  was ..... wow! this girl has such positive, infectious energy! And, that's exactly the feeling you get when you open her new cookbook. After getting to know Amie (we are actually neighbors in NYC, and enjoy catching up while strolling around the neighborhood), I can say with first hand experience, that Amie's latest book, Eat Clean, comes from the most genuine place of wanting to help others live the healthiest, most vibrant life by way of clean eating, and detoxing your home environment.  

Amie experienced one of the worst, most nightmarish health scares of anyone I have met, and she was able to heal herself by completely detoxing her life, from the food she was eating to the products she was bringing into her home. She has so much knowledge on this subject (which she so generously shares throughout the book) it is so incredibly helpful for anyone, not just people who are sick and trying to get better, but also for people who want to stay away from the scary toxic stuff and live a cleaner, healthier life. She shares her knowledge in a way that it not at all judgy or preachy, she just wants you take her info, and customize it to what works for you. 

You know that I am such a believer in the connection that clean food can have on your overall wellbeing, and even though I am not 100% clean 100% of the time, I know that anyone can benefit from making even the smallest change here and there in order to feel some sort of improvement. Once you catch that happy, healthy vibrant feeling, it's hard to shake it. It stays with you, and even if you get away from it, you'll always want to go back there. So it's nice to pick up a new book, like Amie's, and read it to get re-inspired to be your best and healthiest.  

This golden yellow bell pepper soup I am sharing today is from Amie's book. It  is so simple to throw together and so zingy and delicious. It's the perfect soup for right now (for us in NYC) where the weather has been torture, and I am in need of some brightness to cheer up these unseasonably cold, grey days. I also enjoyed this chilled the other day (which was just as delicious) and closed my eyes and imagined I was eating gazpacho on the beach in the summer ....... soon enough! 

golden bell pepper soup + avocado + puffed rice | what's cooking good looking
yellow-bell-pepper-soup-WCGL-05.jpg
golden bell pepper soup + avocado + puffed rice | what's cooking good looking
golden bell pepper soup + avocado + puffed rice | what's cooking good looking
golden bell pepper soup + avocado + puffed rice | what's cooking good looking

golden bell pepper soup + avocado + cilantro 

This recipe is from Amie Valpone's book, Eating Clean, on pg. 182. Below, I am presenting the recipe exactly how Amie does in the book, but I made a few changes based on what I had on hand. I did not have celery, so I left that out. I also was not able to find marjoram, so I used thyme instead. I didn't have any pre-made veggie broth, so I actually just used water with a little extra salt, and it was still very flavorful. Lastly, I added about two dashes of turmeric and a squeeze of the juice of half a lemon, because I love the zing that lemon gives to soup. 

SEVRES 4-6 

INGREDIENTS 

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
sea salt + pepper
8 yellow (or orange or red) bell peppers, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
4 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth (preferably homemade)
1 tablespoon of fresh marjoram, finely chopped

optional toppings:
1 avocado, sliced
a handful of chopped cilantro
croutons (gluten-free, if necessary) 
*I used a handful of puffed rice that I had leftover from the previous recipe

METHOD

  • In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, celery, a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Cook for several minutes until all of the vegetables are tender. Add in the peppers and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the sweet potato, season with a little more salt and pepper, and add the broth. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minute until all of the vegetables are tender. 
  • Carefully transfer the soup to a blender, do this in batches if your blender is not large enough, and process until smooth. Taste, and adjust any seasoning necessary (this is where I added a squeeze of lemon juice, if you would like to do the same), and blend one last time. Return the soup to the pot, and keep warm until serving. To serve, ladle into bowls and finish with the toppings of your choice. 

sweet crispy rice clusters + how to make homemade puffed rice!

sweet crispy rice clusters + how to make crispy rice! | what's cooking good looking

I did a lot of baking as a kid. My mother's Kitchen Aid basically acted like a babysitter for when I got home from school. My mom would often work until after I got out of school, so when I came home (and to procrastinate starting my home right away), I would bake. And bake. And bake. Sometimes I would get my brother involved and have him videotape me baking ...... what I wouldn't do to have copies of those video tapes now. 

My mom also had a binder of beat-up, stained, well-loved recipes for things like dump cake, and five layer bars. Did you have dump cake as a kid??? OMG. So good. I also baked a lot of boxed muffins with huge sugar chunks on top, and then I would only eat the tops because they were extra sweet. One of my favorite treats to make and munch on were rice crispy treats. Who, as a kid, doesn't love rice crispy treats? The sweet, gooey, crunchy squares were so addicting, I could eat so many. Now as a adult, processed marshmallows scare me, and rice crispy treat would definitely be wayyyy too sweet for my tastes. Gosh, that just made me sound really old, uptight, and boring, so let me redeem myself by saying I made a rice crispy-style treat, with just a couple of healthy(er) ingredients and sans scary processed marshmallows. 

You may have noticed on instagram that I have had a bit of a puffed rice obsession recently. I am not even sure what inspired me to make my own puffed rice at home, except for the fact that I love rice and I love things that are crispy. While the process of making puffed rice takes a couple of hours, there is hardly any "active" work, and you can make it in big batches. The best thing about puffed rice is that there are SOO many uses for it, aside from these yummy crispy rice clusters. You can add it to your soup or salad for some texture and crunch. You can eat it as you would rice crispies, for breakfast with sliced bananas and milk. Or, you can get all nostalgic with me and make these crispy rice clusters, a healthier but just as yummy, sweet treat to much on.  

sweet crispy rice clusters + how to make crispy rice! | what's cooking good looking
sweet crispy rice clusters + how to make crispy rice! | what's cooking good looking
sweet crispy rice clusters + how to make crispy rice! | what's cooking good looking
sweet crispy rice clusters + how to make crispy rice! | what's cooking good looking
sweet crispy rice clusters + how to make crispy rice! | what's cooking good looking

sweet crispy rice clusters + how to make homemade puffed rice! 

MAKES
3 cups of crispy rice / a dozen+ crispy rice clusters

INGREDIENTS

for the crispy rice:
1 cup of short grain brown rice
1 3/4 cups of water
a pinch or two of sea salt
a couple of cups of sunflower (or another) high-heat oil

for the clusters:
2 cups of homemade crispy rice (or puffed rice cereal) 
1/3 cup of shredded coconut
1/4 cup of cacao nibs (optional)
1/2 cup of cashew butter (or almond or peanut butter) 
1/3 cup of brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt

METHOD

To make the crispy rice:

  • Place the rice water and salt into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 10 minutes. 
  • Pre-heat the oven to 250º. 
  • Spread the rice out onto a small baking sheet. Bake (dehydrate) in the oven for 2 hours. The rice should be dry and hard when it's done. Place the rice into the fridge to cool off for at least an hour. 
  • The last step is the most important, to puff the rice. In a medium saucepan, add enough oil so that it comes up to about 1/2" on the side, and heat the oil over medium heat until it's shimmering. Test to make sure it's ready by adding a single piece of rice to the oil. If it sizzles all around the rice kernel, then it's ready. Add about half of the rice to the pot and cook for about 30 seconds, just until the rice puffs up. This happens very quickly, and you do not want to overcook it, otherwise the rice will be too crunchy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the rice and place it onto a paper-towel lined plate. Do this until all of the rice is puffed. 

To make the clusters:

  • Place 2 cups of crispy rice (or puff rice cereal) into a large mixing bowl, along with the shredded coconut and cacao nibs (if using).  
  • Place the cashew butter, brown rice syrup, salt, and vanilla into a medium saucepan. Heat over low until until the syrup and cashew butter are melted and you can stir everything to combine. Once the mixture is smooth and mixed, pour directly into the bowl with the puffed rice. Stir until everything is evenly combined. 
  • Grab about a tablespoon size of the mixture and roll it between your palms to form a cluster. Do this until all of the clusters are formed. Enjoy! They will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for a week+. 

sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce

sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce | what's cooking good looking
sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce | what's cooking good looking

Do you ever have one of those weeks where all of your worlds collide and explode in magical kind of glittery bomb of greatness? You know, one of those weeks where things that you have been working towards for months or years, all come to a head in a couple of days, and you wonder why the universe couldn't spread it out a little bit? I had one of those weeks this week, and while it required lots of deep breaths,  it was so very exciting. Two major life things I have been working on for such a long time both came to a head this week, and hopefully, fingers and toes crossed, they will all work out and I will be able to share both with you soon. 

Sometimes when life gets like this, I put my hippy astrology hat on and do some googling about horoscopes, and moon phases . When I used to work in the service industry, there was no better stage for the craziness than being a server in a restaurant to experience the effects the full moon can have on people. I would be able to tell it was a full moon, every single month, just by the way people were acting. It's kind of hard to describe, but like clockwork, I witnessed this unique kind of craziness, and now I am such a big believer in the energy of the full moon. 

Well, with the week I had this week, I had to jump on the internet and see what lunar events were happening ..... and I knew it!!! There was not only a full moon but a lunar eclipse happening this week, which is meant to be a more potent event than a full moon. This one specifically was meant to facilitate big life changes. Letting go of the old, things that don't serve you anymore, to embracing the new. I can always get on board with that, so thank you full moon lunar eclipse for that big push this week. 

These sweet potato noodles don't have much in common with full moon lunar eclipses. But, being such a noodle lover, they are a great way for me to experience a thai kind of noodle dish, with a healthier kind of noodle. Out with the old, and in with the new? Maybe .... for the days when I want a lighter, healthier noodle it can be ;)

sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce | what's cooking good looking
sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce | what's cooking good looking
sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce | what's cooking good looking
sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce | what's cooking good looking
sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce | what's cooking good looking
sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce | what's cooking good looking
sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce | what's cooking good looking

sweet potato noodles + sweet and spicy peanut sauce 

If you do not own a spiralizer or a julienne peeler, you can also use a regular vegetable peeler or a box grater by grating or peeling lengthwise to get long-style noodles. If you're looking to buy a spiralizer, THIS ONE by Ali of Inspiralized is my favorite. 

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

for the sweet and spicy peanut sauce:
1/4 cup of peanut or almond butter
2 tablespoons of tamari or coconut aminos
2 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 tablespoon of hot sauce
a thumbnail sized piece of ginger, peeled
1 small garlic clove, peeled
2 teaspoons of honey
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil

1 very large (or 2 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled, and spiralized or julienned with a julienne peeler
a couple tablespoons of grapeseed oil, or another neutral high-heat oil

toppings:
2 tablespoons of gomasio or sesame seeds
2 tablespoons of chives, minced
1/3 cup of purple cabbage, shredded
some crushed salted nuts (peanuts or cashews) 

METHOD

Make the sweet + spicy peanut sauce:

  • Place all of the ingredients for the sauce into a food processor and run continuously until smooth. Add about 2 tablespoons of water, or enough until the mixture is thin enough to coat the noodles (but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon). 

Make the sweet potato noodles, cook them, and serve:

  • Using a spiralizer or a julienne peeler, make (long) noodles with the sweet potato. 
  • In a large cast iron, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, and heat over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is browned and cooked through. Transfer to a large bowl. 
  • Pour the 3/4 of the sauce and the gomasio (or sesame seeds) over the sweet potato noodles and toss gently with tongs until the noodles are evenly coated. Place the noodles into individual serving bowls, drizzle a little more sauce over the top, and finish with a pinch of the cabbage, and a sprinkle of the chives and nuts. Serve warm. 

charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + pickled red chilies

charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + quick pickled red chilies | what's cooking good looking
charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + quick pickled red chilies | what's cooking good looking

I am a big believer in having homemade condiments and pre-cooked grains and beans hanging around the fridge for so many reasons. The most obvious would be so that I can throw together a quick, delicious lunch in no time, which encourages me to eat healthier meals at home. A totally reasonable and good reason to have these homemade goodies around. 

A less obvious reason is something that happened to me last night. I had a couple friends over for a rainy night hang out, and we decided to be super lazy and order in some delicious food. Our food was taking a really long time and we needed an appetizer to hold us over. I didn't think I had much in my fridge, but when I opened it I realized there was leftover shallot confit and pickled chilies from a few days ago, a head of broccoli, and some cooked quinoa. So in about five minutes, I whipped up an appetizer of charred broccoli with shallot confit and pickles chilies and threw over some quinoa. A pretty impressive and delicious impromptu app, that I owe all to the fact that I love to keep homemade condiments like shallot confit and pickled red chilies, and other goodies like cooked quinoa in my fridge. 

It might seem like it takes a lot of effort up front to have these things hanging around, but I am about to convince you that it is WAY easier than it seems. The hardest part about making the confit is peeling the shallots, which takes less than 5 minutes. Then, all you have to do is cover them with some olive oil, throw it in the oven for about 45 mins, and you have enough shallot confit to last you a week or more. And those pickled peppers take less than five minutes from start to finish. These two simple tricks can be done anytime you have a few extra minutes in your day/evening, and will elevate any meal ....... but one of my favorite things to add them to is this broccoli dish. 

Broccoli is one of the vegetables I eat most often, but it is also the one I get the least creative with. That is probably because this charring method is by far my favorite way to eat broccoli. It's so good, we make this at least 3 nights a week for dinner. There are tricks to getting that char just right, and it's all about the cut of the broccoli and not disturbing it while it's cooking. The cut is important because you want to make sure that each piece has a flat surface to lay on the cast iron, which gives more surface area for char. This requires you to take those florets and cut them in half down the center one more time so they each have one evenly flat side. Then, you lay each piece, flat side down, onto a scorching hot cast iron and DO NOT touch them for about five minutes. That is all. By that point they are pretty much done, they just need one good toss with some salt and pepper and they are ready to be all dressed up with the shallot confit and pickled peppers and devoured.

charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + quick pickled red chilies | what's cooking good looking
charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + quick pickled red chilies | what's cooking good looking
charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + quick pickled red chilies | what's cooking good looking
charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + quick pickled red chilies | what's cooking good looking
charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + quick pickled red chilies | what's cooking good looking
charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + quick pickled red chilies | what's cooking good looking

charred broccoli salad + shallot confit + pickled red chilies 

SEVRES 2-4

INGREDIENTS

for the shallot confit:
5-6 shallots, peeled and quartered
about 1 cup+ of olive oil
2 bay leaves

for the pickled chilies:
3 mild red chilies, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 cup of sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon of kosher salt

for the broccoli:
1 large head of broccoli, sliced into florets and sliced in half again (you want one side of the broccoli to have a flat surface) 
a couple tablespoons of sunflower (high heat) oil
salt+ pepper

toppings: about 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts

METHOD

Make the shallot confit:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350º. 
  • Place the shallots into a small loaf pan. You want them to evenly cover the bottom of the pan, so adjust the amount of shallots accordingly. Then, pour enough olive oil over the top so that the shallots are completely submerged. Depending on the size of your loaf pan, you will use one cup or more of olive oil to do this, which seems like a lot, but that olive oil is useable after the shallots are cooked. Add the two bay leaves. 
  • Bake the shallots for about 40 minutes, until they are completely cooked and soft. Allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a mason jar, cover. Set aside if you're using soon, or in the fridge if you're storing for later use. 

Make the pickled chilies:

  • Place the chilies, vinegar, and salt into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and allow it to sit and cool for a few minutes. Transfer the chilies and vinegar to a small mason jar, and leave on the counter until it cools. If using soon, leave them out, or cover and refrigerate if you're using another time. 

Lastly, make the broccoli + assemble + serve:

  • If you're using the pine nuts, quickly toast them for a couple of minutes in a dry cast iron over low heat. Remove and roughly chop. 
  • Using the same (large) cast iron, pour enough oil so it covers the bottom of the pan evenly, and heat over high heat. Once the oil is very hot, add the broccoli pieces, making sure each piece has the flattest side touching the pan. Leave the broccoli for about 4-5 minutes, undisturbed, until each piece is good and charred on that one side. The broccoli should  be cooked though at this point, but still have a crunch to it. Season with salt and pepper, give it a stir and let it cook for another minute or two, and then remove the broccoli from the heat and transfer to a serving bowl. 
  • Top the broccoli with some of the shallot confit (about half), drizzling some of their oil over the top, several chili slices, and a drizzle of their vinegar, and finish with the toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately, warm.