Archive for Lunch Ideas

Za’atar Hummus Pizza

I can’t stop thinking of new menu items for my cafe. I was having a conversation with my lovely baker about the possibility of doing kids’ lunches and we were brainstorming foods that might work particularly well for school lunches. You know, easy to eat, healthy, familiar enough for most kids…She mentioned that a restaurant she once worked in served a hummus pizza and I have been obsessing all of the hummus pizza possibilities since then. As you know, I’m also obsessed with Za’atar. On top of all of that, I have gotten over my longstanding aversion to olives. I think we just might have it on the menu at the cafe sometime soon…this may or may not be the version that goes into kids’ lunches, but it sure is yummy!

I make lots of varieties of focaccia, so I use leftovers for the pizza crust. You can use your favorite pizza crust, tortillas, or even pieces of bread for little personal hummus pizzas. And, of course, topping are your choice, but here’s a suggestion…

  • Pizza crust (unbaked or pre-baked will work), tortillas, or bread
  • Hummus, about 1/4 cup per serving
  • Lightly steamed broccoli
  • caramelized onions
  • pitted and halved olives (optional)
  • Sumac, fresh thyme, sesame seeds, and sea salt
  • Aleppo peppers, optional

If you are using a pre-baked crust, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If your crust still needs to be cooked, bump it up to 400 degrees. Place your crust on a pan and spread with hummus. Arrange the broccoli, onions, and olives (if using) evenly over the hummus. Sprinkle with sumac, fresh thyme, sesame seeds, and sea salt. Add a pinch of aleppo pepper, if you wish. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until your crust is lightly browned and the hummus is heated through. Enjoy!


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Roasted Parsnip and Carrot Chips

I have always liked parsnips, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone out of my way for them until now.  Maybe it’s their earthy sweetness, or the fact that they are still feeding my local produce appetite, but I am in love with them right now.  And, like most things I love, they require only the simplest preparation to be perfectly delicious.

They are a nice addition to any roasted vegetable platter, as a side with a sandwich or dip, or of course they are a great snack.

  • 5-6 medium parsnips
  • 5-6 medium carrots
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • a handful of parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and dry the parsnips and carrots.  Slice both the parsnips and carrots about 1/4 inch thick on a diagonal; do this by lying them on the cutting board and holding them firmly (with fingertips rolled back toward you, of course), then angling your knife at a 45-60 degree angle so you are cutting oblong slices.  This provides a greater surface area to brown.  Drizzle the cut vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt, then spread them in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet (the rim will keep any excess olive oil from dripping off).  Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  They will be browned and slightly caramelized when they are done.  Sprinkle them with parsley and a little more salt, if you wish.  Enjoy!

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Raw Vegetable Soup

I did a cleanse a couple of months ago and one part of it was starting the morning with freshly made vegetable juice before breakfast.  The idea of juicing hadn’t appealed to me before this, because juice is not a whole food and I did not like the idea of all of the pulp going to waste.  The more I learn about it, though, the more I am intrigued by this idea of getting a whole bunch of concentrated vitamins into our bodies first thing in the morning and I actually find it quite powerful.  It’s also easy on the digestion first thing in the morning, because your body doesn’t really have to do any work to assimilate it.  Of course, I do not let the pulp go to waste.  I use it to make dehydrated crackers, I cook it into veggie pancakes, or I add it to breads, vegetable sautes, etc.

A couple days ago, I had to head out to my kitchen very early and I don’t have a juicer there.  It was too early to turn mine on before I left, as my whole family had been with me in the kitchen the night before until later than is prudent and I really wanted them to be able to sleep in.  So, I had to come up with an alternative that would provide all those good vitamins and minerals to start the day, but could be made without a juicer.  Fortunately, with the Summer produce in full force, my vegetable drawers were well-stocked, so I grabbed a few things and headed out.  In this case, I brought carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and fennel, plus some ginger and a lemon.  But, the options for this kind of soup are really endless – zucchini, cabbage, bell peppers, and romaine lettuce would all be good, and of course you can’t go wrong with fresh herbs.

This will make 2 servings – you can have it for breakfast and lunch or you can share it with someone you love.

  • 5 medium carrots
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 stalk fennel, or more to taste, reserve the greens for garnish
  • 1/2 inch of fresh ginger, more or less as you like
  • 1 small ripe avocado
  • juice from 1/2 lemon or lime
  • salt, to taste

Place the carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, fennel, and ginger in the blender and process until smooth.  Add the avocado and continue to blend.  Add the citrus juice and a generous pinch of salt, then taste and adjust as needed.  Garnish with the green, wispy fennel and serve cold.  Enjoy!

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Pan Roasted Shiitakes and Millet

Shiitake mushrooms are millet are, to me, a perfect match.  I haven’t exactly thought about why, but maybe it’s that the earthiness of the mushrooms is complemented by the sweetness of the millet.  Maybe it’s the slight chewiness of the mushrooms against the softness of the millet.  Maybe it’s the colors.  Who cares, really, because they are delicious together.

Both components happen to be grown in Colorado, by the way, so this is a dish that can be done with 100% local produce for most, if not all, of the year.  If you use large, very mature mushrooms, you’ll need to remove the stems, but if you get the baby ones from the Farmers’ Market, you don’t even have to trim them.  Feel free to substitute other kinds of mushrooms if you like – this is also great with a mixed bag of exotic mushrooms.  FYI – the proper way to clean a mushroom is by wiping it with a damp paper towel.  Mushrooms are porous, so if you immerse them in water, they will get water-logged.  That said, for his recipe, I give them a quick rinse and throw them immediately onto the hot pan…

  • 1/2 lb baby shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch leafy greens, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked millet (see this recipe for cooking instructions)
  • 2 Tablespoons good olive oil for finishing
  • Optional – a protein such as sprouted French lentils, roasted chickpeas, or grilled tempeh

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Give the shiitakes a quick rinse and put them into the hot pan.  Sprinkle with sea salt, cover, and leave them for about 4 minutes.  Move the mushrooms to the side and pour a little olive oil into the space you created.  Add the shallots and crushed red pepper flakes and cook until the shallots are soft, then add the chopped greens and sprinkle with salt.  Spread the cooked millet on top to keep some of that steam in and cook until the greens are wilted.  Turn off the heat, stir in the mushrooms, taste, then adjust seasonings.  Top with the protein of your choice and enjoy!

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Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of providing lunches for a yoga teacher training.  Doing Kundalini Kriyas from 7am to 7pm four days in a row builds up quite an appetite, as you can imagine, so I wanted to offer a good array of foods in good amounts to keep them nourished throughout the day.  I was asked to provide salad each day, among other things, which was a bit of a challenge for me, because I typically don’t make/eat salads in the colder months.  Requests like this that are outside my usual norm can provide such wonderful inspiration and that’s exactly what happened.  I did provide raw green salads each day, but as the days went on, I realized that I needed some heartier salads and sides as well.

This salad is simple and delicious.  Of course, it requires a little prep if you don’t have cooked quinoa and sweet potatoes on hand, but I usually either have them or want them in my fridge, so I either use leftovers or cook extras and have leftovers for something else.  Even if you start from the beginning, this will only take you an hour to prepare, max, with only about 15 minutes of your attention required.  Doubling or tripling it won’t add much to the prep time, and it’s a great dish to bring to a potluck.

I’m going to provide the basic recipe, but there are many options for creating more complex flavors with spices or garnishes – I made a Southwest version to go with my Chile-Lime Vegetable soup, but I know I’ll make many other versions of this in the future.

  • 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (start with 1 cup dry)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, roasted
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, unfiltered if you have it, or the best-tasting oil you have on hand
  • 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 big handful of parsley, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Optional embellishments:

  • For a Southwestern flavor, use minced red onion instead of the shallots, lime juice instead of lemon juice and sprinkle with pepitas; use cilantro instead of parsley, if you wish.
  • For an African version, add up to 1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger and Berbere spice (start with 1/2 teaspoon – amount will highly depend on the heat of your particular blend; if you don’t have Berbere spice, try 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon each ground allspice, fenugreek, coriander, cardamom, paprika, and cayenne, or as close as you can get with what you have on hand).
  • For an Asian flavor, add up to 1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger, use 2 Tablespoons brown rice vinegar instead of the lemon juice, tamari instead of salt, and add a splash of toasted sesame oil; garnish with crushed nori.
  • For a Moroccan version, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each ground tumeric, cumin, and cinnamon, stir in about 1 cup of chopped tomatoes, and garnish with cilantro.
  • For a Spanish version, add 1 teaspoon minced garlic to the shallots about 1 minute before you stir in the spinach and spice with 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads and 1 2 teaspoons smoked paprika.
  • To add some simple deliciousness to the basic salad, garnish with roasted leeks and crispy kale
  • If you’d like to add a little more protein, add some cooked beans to the quinoa before dressing (chickpeas would be delicious with the basic version, as well as the African and Moroccan versions; white beans would be great with the spanish version, black beans with the Southwestern version, and maybe some baked tofu with the Asian version)

If you haven’t already, get the sweet potatoes roasting and the quinoa cooking.  Meanwhile, saute the shallots in olive oil until they are just beginning to brown, stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach is just wilted.  When the quinoa is ready, dress it with the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, then stir in the parsley and crushed red pepper.  Taste and add more lemon juice, salt, and/or pepper as needed.  Stir in the roasted sweet potatoes and garnish as you wish.  Enjoy!

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Samosas are savory stuffed pastries thought to have originated in Central Asia. They have been around since before the 10th century, so the concept has spread and different cultures have adapted them to their own regional cuisine. I think that they are probably most widely known here in the US as fried turnovers filled with a spicy potato and pea mixture.

My version is made with a chickpea pastry, rather than the usual wheat-based dough, and filled with coconut curry vegetables. I think they are delicious, and what a bonus that they are also healthy and portable. The chickpea pastry is quite easy to work with and you could use anything you want for a filling – this is a great use for leftovers. Be inspired and have fun!

For the filling:

  • 3 cups of diced potatoes
  • 1 cup of coconut milk, plus enough water to just cover the potatoes
  • 3-4 Tablespoons ghee or olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder, or more to tast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts sliced
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional (depending on the heat of your curry powder)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Pastry Crust:

  • 4 cups sprouted chickpea flour, if possible, or regular chickpea flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water, or as needed

To make the filling: place the potatoes, coconut milk/water, ghee, curry powder, and salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer, partially covered, for five minutes. Add the carrots and continue to simmer. When the potatoes are nearly soft, add the scallion, cabbage, and kale and continue to cook for another five minutes. Add the peas and cook a minute or two. Taste and adjust seasonings, as necessary.

To make the pastry: if you have a food processor, place the flour and salt in the bowl fitted with the metal blade and pulse a couple times to combine. Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times until the oil is dispersed. Continue to pulse, adding the water a little at a time until the dough balls up. If you are making it by hand, mix the oil in with a fork, then switch to a spoon when you add the water in. It is ready when it sticks together, but isn’t sticky, when you pinch it between your fingers. Knead a few times with your hands. It should make a smooth dough and hold together without cracking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 baking sheets. Divide the dough into quarters. Cover three of the quarters with a barely-damp cloth and cut one quarter into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a 3-inch round and put about 1 Tablespoon of filling in the center of each. Use your fingertips to brush a little water around the rims, then fold over and seal. Repeat with the remaining dough and bake them until they are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Crock Pot Black Beans

A couple of notes before I start.  If you don’t have a crock pot, read on, because you can certainly do this on the stove.  But, you might want to consider that small investment if you can stomach another kitchen gadget.  It might be worth it if it helps you avoid the weeknight take-out routine…Also, this is a basic recipe and you can fix it up however you like, including subbing a different kind of beans.  Don’t feel the need to go to crazy, though, because it doesn’t take much to make good food taste good and why make life complicated?

Every once in a while, a discussion about slow-cookers, aka crock pots, comes up.  It  seems that many people have them, but don’t know the many advantages of using them.  Well, I am here to tell y0u how easy your life will be if you dust off your old crock pot and get it working for you….You can cook just about anything in a crock pot and the biggest advantage is that you don’t have to be there watching over it.  You just throw your ingredients in, turn it on, and go on about your life while it does its work.  That means you can go to sleep and wake up to a hot, ready-made breakfast.  You can have lunch ready to scoop into a thermos.  You can go to work and come home to a steaming hot, yummy dinner.  Or, best yet, on the weekends,  you can throw your dinner in the crock pot and then sit around reading a book ALL day while enveloped in the delicious aroma of a home-cooked meal.  I know, in this busy world we live in, it seems outrageous to lie idle all day, but I challenge you to rebel and give it a try.

Seriously, all you have to do is put your ingredients in the crock pot and turn it on.  If you think you can’t cook, keep reading, because you are going to learn to love your crock pot.  The only thing I ever do to complicate things is saute my vegetables on the stove before putting them in, but you can even skip that part.  You can also skip the whole soaking/bean cooking part if you already have some leftover cooked beans.  This is a fabulous way to use them up.

Here’s a good starter recipe.  It’s nice because it’s simple and yummy and you can really use any kind of beans with good results (though you might need to add more cooking time for larger beans).  We’re going with black beans for now, because just about everyone likes black beans, but you can use whatever kind you like.  The added bonus is that you also get to learn that cooking beans from scratch is also a breeze.

  • 2 cups dry black beans
  • water for soaking
  • olive oil
  • 2 medium onions or leeks, chopped (or a combination)
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 strip kombu*, optional
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • Optional – bell peppers (seasonal), sliced carrots, cumin, chili seasoning, fresh lime juice, chopped greens, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cabbage…
  • 5 medium tomatoes, fresh and roughly chopped if in season, 1-1/2 cups jarred strained tomatoes if not
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

*Kombu is a sea vegetable often cooked with beans to make them more digestible.  It also adds nutrients, particularly iodine.

Soak the black beans in water to cover by about an inch overnight.  Alternatively, you can put them in a pot with water to cover by 2 inches, bring it to a boil, and just soak them for 1 hour.  Drain the beans in a colander and rinse them well, then put them in your crock pot along with a little olive oil and your onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and kombu if you are using it.  Add enough water to cover the black beans by an inch or two.  Turn it on, high if you have a choice, cover it, and walk away for the next 6-8 hours.  I don’t add salt or anything acidic until the beans are soft.  That’s controversial, but I have found that these impede the bean softening process; you can decide for yourself.  Once the beans are soft, add the tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper and let it all cook for at least another hour or two.  Here is where you can make the timing work how you want.  You could cook the beans the  night before, then throw the tomatoes, salt, etc in in the morning and then cook it on low until you are ready to eat.  This is optimal, because the beauty of the crock pot is that it gives lots of time for your flavors to come together.  However, if you are pinched for time, you can cook the tomatoes on the stove for 10 minutes and stir them in and it will still be delicious.   If you are adding some of the optional vegetables – bell peppers, cabbage, and other relatively quick cooking veggies can be added with the tomatoes.  I would add carrots at the beginning.  Winter squash and sweet potatoes will need at least an hour and maybe two to get soft, but can also be cooked more quickly on the stove and added in.  Serve over rice or quinoa with a green salad on the side, maybe some cornbread too, and enjoy!

PS – if your schedule requires the beans to cook a little faster, you can bring it all to a boil on the stove, then transfer to the crock pot, or if you don’t want to dirty another pot, you can heat the water in a tea kettle or pot on the stove and pour it over the beans, etc in the crock pot.

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