When Curry Powder Met Avocados: Indian Guacamole

Heidi Swanson’s new book has landed. Super Natural Everyday is inspiring in every meaning of the word. Her words make you want to record your own musings, her photographs make you want to pick up a camera, and her recipes make you want to cook with abandon. Super Natural Cooking is well-loved cookbook of mine, but Super Natural Everyday firmly ensconces Heidi as an arbiter of natural cooking. While I loved languorously paging through Super Natural Cooking over and over again, many of its recipes were reserved for special occasions or certain turns of mood, whereas the recipes in Super Natural Everyday are things that I want to cook and eat NOW, with no exception.
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Bid Chips and Salsa Adieu: Smoky Carrot Hummus

I am easily excitable when it comes to food. In other aspects of my life as well, passion is my North Star. When something just feels right, I tend to try and steer my ship in that general direction. It’s a magnetic pull, really. Things could be no other way than what they are. Now we arrive at the ever-elusive point: the hummus. Not your traditional hummus, oh no, this is a special sort of hummus. It is intoxicating and rich and downright wonderful, something that you’ll want to make over and over again on those days that things just aren’t going your way and you’d just kill for an ingestible that won’t make your stomach swell to the point of no return.
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Tales From the Other Side of the Baking Aisle: Gluten-Free Coconut & Banana Muffins

Haven’t you heard? Gluten-free is so hot right now. No, I am not gluten-free. I’m just not hip enough to align myself with Victoria Beckham, Zooey Deschanel, Rachel Weisz, and a whole host of Hollywood glitterati. Rather, I got a whole lotta love for coconut and alternative flours of all-stars and stripes (thank you, Kim Boyce!) My coconut lovin’ kicked into overdrive after a family vacation to sunny Puerto Rico, where coconut is practically the national emblem. Street vendors sell endless varieties of shockingly sweet coconut candies while coconut water, the health craze du jour of the moment, is readily available on most street corners where it is epically served to you by a man with a machete, who lobs off the top of a coconut for you, jams a straw through its spongy flesh, and hands you what must be a gallon of coconut water for a mere dollar or so.
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Change-Your-Life Raw Brownies

Sugar is my Achilles’ heel. Always has been, and at the risk of sounding indolent, probably always will be. Nevermind that fact that I can pound wheatgrass shots and veggie juices with the best of ’em, I just can’t seem to shake this particular monkey off my back. I can’t ever have just one serving/slice/square/bite of anything containing some incarnation of sweetness, oh no, I have to have several Everest-sized servings. I am always on the lookout for a dessert recipe that will minimize the damage I do when I go on one of my infamous sugar benders. I adore any sweet treat with fruit, nuts, whole grain flours, honey… you get the idea. My distorted junkie logic assures me that this is license to go for the gold and have those two extra helpings.

When I saw this recipe for raw, vegan brownies, brownies that merely contained dates, walnuts, almonds, and raw cacoa, my eyes did a little bit of bugging. “Could this be the recipe that finally saves me from my self-destructive sugar addiction?” I wondered. And so off I motored to Whole Foods as fast as my sugar hangover from the previous night’s festivities would allow, miniscule grocery list in hand, in search of raw cacao powder and a boatload of Medjool dates. FOUND.
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African Sweet Potato & Peanut Soup

Spring has been reticent here in Chicago. With each seasonably warm day comes a discouraging string of unseasonably dark, cold, and windy days. But we must make lemonade out of lemons! And so I’ve come to view the capriciousness of the seasons as a time to continue my hibernation, cooking up big vats of richly flavored soups, ideally full of my favorite winter vegetable – sweet potatoes!

This deceptively hearty soup is in actuality quite light and invigorating, with its abundance of vegetables, deeply layered flavor profile, and decisively spicy kick. It provides you with a cherry little bowl of nutrition, no matter how dour your climate may presently be. I also love it for its vibrantly orange color and ability to rally the spirits on a frigid, gloomy night in April where you find yourself wondering why you’ve chosen to live in a climate where such temperatures dare to show themselves past March.
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Here’s To You, Tofu: Thai Green Curry with Tofu & Bok Choy

I know I’m not the only one eating less meat these days. I’m not a vegetarian (and probably never will be) but today I crossed a line. There’s no going back now. It’s rather embarrassing to admit, but this was my first time cooking with tofu. I KNOW. But wait! Before you hit “send” on that hate mail, please don’t get the wrong idea. I’ve never been a flag-waving member of the carnivorous denomination known to proudly and lustily consume animal flesh on a daily basis. Ok, so I did go through a wee bit of a steakhouse phase when I first moved to Chicago, but doesn’t that just go along with the whole locavore movement? Embracing the cornucopia of beef varieties native to the Midwest region as one might embrace, say, maple syrup in New England?

Back to my tofu story. I just never really saw the point in cooking with tofu. So obsessed am I with cooking with vegetables that I always felt that tofu was just… dead weight. Not to mention that all of life is a trade off, you choose this over that, don’t you? And so I felt that tofu would take up valuable recipe real estate. Tofu would, inevitably, replace far more deserving, flavorful ingredient candidates. I cringed to think that the vibrance of a sweet potato in the winter or the assertiveness of an eggplant in the summer would lose its rightful place in a dish to a spongy block of white stuff floating about in murky water, unappetizingly packaged in a plastic sarcophagus, and evoking traumatic childhood memories of Lunchables.
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Quickie Barley Skillet Bread

With a surplus of barley flour haunting the shadowy recesses of my freezer (Kim Boyce’s fabulous Strawberry Barley Scones from Good to the Grain, prompted me to order a whole box of it) I figured it was about time to clear house, what with spring allegedly right around the corner. I was making a divine Smoky Carrot Hummus for dinner and, seeking out a vessel for the aromatic spread, was decidedly uninspired by the “homemade whole wheat bread” at the grocery store that listed upwards of 10 ingredients. Lacking both the time and willpower to bake a traditional loaf of rise/knead/repeat bread, that’s when the idea for a quickie skillet bread bubbled up from the depths of my food subconscious. Done in 40 minutes or less. YES.
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