Dad’s Brussels

Tuesday night is Dad’s night. Chelsea teaches a prenatal yoga class and doesn’t get home until after I’ve put Matteo to bed. So once she leaves for class, it’s Dad’s night. After walking around the neighborhood looking at all the Holiday lights, we came home and cooked dinner together.

I love food and cooking and I want my son to appreciate it too. I have made it a point through his life so far (2 years 9 months) to expose him to all aspects of food. From growing and buying it to cooking and eating it. My hope is that he will understand how eating a healthy well balanced diet can positively impact his life. This method has worked pretty well so far as he is an adventurous eater, who loves fruits and vegetables. Tonight he ate green beans, roasted potatoes, chicken and brussels sprouts.

When he eats a protein, I say, “this will make you strong”. When he eats a vegetable, I say, “this will keep you happy and healthy”, when he eats fruit I say, “this will give you energy”. The carbs are never a problem for most kids. Getting young kids to eat rice, pasta or bread doesn’t really seem to be an issue for most parents. It’s the vegetables that are the most important for mental and physical development, but also the most challenging to get kids and even some adults to eat.

Matteo and Aven checking out the broccoli for bugs

Involving Matteo in the growing, harvesting and cooking of vegetables has really helped cultivate his love of vegetables and food in general.

Back to the brussels. They have been a chef/foodie thing for the last several years as it seems like just about every restaurant I go to has their own riff on this vegetable that when I was a kid, no one really ate.

I make it a point to order them as a side whenever they are offered. They are all a little different and I kind of like them all. My ideal brussels sprout side dish has a crunch from a toasted nut, a sweetness from a grape or berry and then the charred crispy vegetable, all of this married together with a sweet and tangy sauce.

Trying to perfect my homemade brussels sprouts to combine my favorite aspects of all those that I’ve had out and about has been a labor of love for the last several years. I’ve tested out different ways to cook them.  From complex: steaming, pan frying and baking, to simple: baking at high heat. I feel like the other night I had a major breakthrough and wanted to share it with anyone else who enjoys these mini cabbages as much as I do.

First, I cranked the oven to 425 and prepped the brussels by trimming the ends, cutting them in half and rinsing them in the colander. Then I tossed them in olive oil with some salt and pepper and placed them flat side down on the baking sheet.

Brussels and Potatoes

I also cut potatoes into 1/2″ wedges and tossed them in olive oil with salt and pepper as well and put them on the same sheet. After 20 minutes, I flipped the potatoes and  tossed the brussels around. Lately I have been adding chopped walnuts and cut up grapes, but since I didn’t have any, I added some of trader joes omega mix, which has dried cranberries, walnuts and pumpkin seeds and that turned out great.

After 10 more minutes, about 30 minutes total (checking because ovens vary) I took out the brussels and put them in a bowl. Then, I added honey and balsamic vinegar to the bowl and tossed everything together. I shook the potatoes around and placed them back in the oven for a few more minutes until they were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

In the past, I added balsamic vinegar and sugar while pan frying, but most of the time, while they would be tasty, they would be a little bit soggy. I found adding the honey and balsamic in the end is the way to go. They get absorbed into the brussels while they are hot. Finally I had something that was “blog worthy” because it was delicious AND super easy to make…

I steamed the green beans and then tossed with a little butter, salt and pepper. For the chicken sausages I cut them into little circles and pan fried them according to the package directions with a little olive oil. If you’re not into chicken sausages, I also make the same dish with salmon and it goes really well.

Matteo and I both enjoyed our dinner and ate everything on our plate. I came out from putting him to bed and Chelsea had come home and devoured her plate that we left for her and she said “that was awesome, I really loved it” and she doesn’t just throw out compliments. If she is saying it’s legit, then it truly is. It was an easy dinner to make and I got everything Organic from Trader Joes. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Recipe for Brussels Sprouts

  • Brussels sprouts, olive oil, kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup crunched up walnuts
  • 1/4 cup grapes sliced in quarters

Heat oven to 425°F.  Meanwhile, trim the bottoms from the sprouts and cut each one in half through the stem. Add olive oil and salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange them cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven.

Roast, for 15-20 minutes, then add walnuts and grapes or TJ’s omega mix and continue to roast until the leaves are dark brown and crisp and the undersides of the sprouts are browned, 25 to 30 minutes total. Take them out and put in a bowl and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and honey and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Yum.

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Incredibly Satisfied

That’s what Chelsea said after tonight’s dinner… Homemade Veggie Chili…A healthy dish we have been trying to perfect over the last year. We make it every week or two. There are always leftovers and it’s great to take them to work the next day. It’s super easy to make and so now I’m going to share the recipe with you. Don’t you want to feel incredibly satisfied?! I know I do!

Part of the recipe is always the love and intention you put into the food you make. I love to cook and so that really helps…When I’m chopping vegetables, listening to music, I love it, it makes me so happy…making food for myself and someone I love. Somehow the love goes into the food. I don’t know how, I’m not a scientist, I just know it works. If you don’t believe me try it for yourself and you’ll see.

So here it is. I always try to buy organic for many reasons, one of which is its tastes better. I even used Kale from our garden. Here is everything I put in…

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I first chopped up the onion, garlic, carrots and peppers and put them in a pot on medium to low heat with olive oil. After they all softened up I added a little salt and cumin and chili powder. Then I added the zucchini, squash, kale and all the beans plus one cup of veggie broth. Then another dash of the three spices. I let this go on with the heat on low for about 10 minutes and then Chelsea called. She was on her way home from teaching her prenatal yoga class. She said to add the corn and diced tomatoes cover it and let it simmer until she got home to give it the final flavoring… That’s her specialty. She has the palate of a sommelier… I’m just the sous chef. She always gives our dishes the final touch. It’s about a 20 drive home and it simmered the whole time. I went up to the roof, watched the sunset and finished my Moscow Mule…

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Chelsea arrived home and added a little more cumin, chili powder and salt and said we could have used another can of the diced tomatoes. So add that to your recipe if you want to make it more like a true chili. She said ours looked liked a goulash. Well, however it looked…

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It tasted delicious and left us both incredibly satisfied…

Grow your own

Right in the center of my vision board are the words Farm to Table. The further along my yoga path I have come, the more this means to me. Eating consciously. Locally grown, seasonal, organic…you know, the good stuff.

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Since I live in Manhattan Beach, where outdoor space is hard to come by, having a farm is not an option. There is very little land here that is not beach or home. Few people even have yards. That means if you want to enjoy farm to table you rely on the farmers markets, which are amazing. However, my intention when I put it on my vision board was to have the farm myself. My grandfather was a farmer and he advised me at a young age to not take up farming as a career. So actually what I really meant when I set it as an intention is to grow my own food…at least some of it. Garden to Table is more accurate. With limited space you have to be creative in order to make this happen, but I’m here to tell you, it can be done!

We are fortunate enough to have a balcony, so we can grow things in pots.

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Sure it would be nice to have a big yard with a garden, but you do the best you can with what you have. As a lover of food, I can honestly say, I am hard pressed to find something more satisfying to my taste buds and to my soul, as food that I plant, take care of, harvest, cook and eat myself.

I believe there are several factors for this. First of all it’s 100% organic! Next, there is hardly any carbon footprint. Except for when Chelsea and I went to the Garden Center in El Segundo to get the seeds and soil. Third, it’ seasonal and finally they were grown and cooked with love and I truly believe this has a positive effect.

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We planted the beets and kale out on our balcony, along with some sweet potatoes that our friend Berit gave us. I have been on a morning meditation kick and I usually do it outside near the plants. It has been a nice practice, spending a few minutes sitting quietly in the morning, connecting to my breath, listening to the birds sing amidst the drills, saws and hammers from the construction next door. Then getting up and looking after the plants. Watering them and watching for bugs, trimming off the dead leaves, etc.

Meditation and gardening have this in common…to get the most benefits, consistency is key. You can’t just meditate once or water the plants once and expect results. However, when done on a consistent basis over time the benefits of meditation are a greater sense of peace and joy. The benefits of gardening are beauty from the flowers and food from the plants. So, after just a few weeks, it was time for a joyful food harvest. I decided to make Kale chips and beet greens with my bounty.

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The beet greens were surprisingly delicious and easy to make. I cut the leaves in half and chopped up the stems into tiny quarter inch pieces. Sometimes I toss them in the skillet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and after a couple of minutes they are sautéed and ready to enjoy. Tonight I added them to a stir fry Chelsea was making using coconut oil and veggies from the farmers market.

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The kale chips were almost just as easy and even more delicious. I used my friend Katie B’s recipe. Katie Bressack Heat the oven to 425, trim off the stems and toss the kale lightly in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and spread onto a baking sheet.

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Place into the oven and keep an eye on them. They only take a few minutes and the difference between good and un edible happens fast. When they are crisp, they’re ready. Crunchy and yummy. What a great way to enjoy veggies!

Both the kale chips and beet greens satisfied my taste buds and my soul. The fact that I planted, tended to, harvested and cooked, made them even better.

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Cheers…to homemade BBQ sauce

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Let me start by saying, I LOVE Barbecue Sauce! Maybe it comes from my roots in Arkansas, or my upbringing in North Carolina, where the Southern folks love them some BBQ. But, I have always loved the sauce. There are so many different kinds too. Even different regions of the state have different flavor profiles. Some are sweeter, some more tangy , but all just a little bit different. Have you ever noticed, there is basically just one ketchup, but there are a wide variety of sauces with the title BBQ attached to them. Over the years, I would always order a side of it whenever I was at a new restaurant. As a result, I have tried hundreds over the years and my love of cooking inspired me to make my own. I have modified this recipe over the years, so sometimes it is sweeter and sometimes more tangy, but I love it and rarely do I find one out on the town or even in stores that I like better.

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The great thing is, it’s easy to make and can be made from organic ingredients , which is important to me. I look at the ingredients of many of the popular versions in stores and they have high fructose corn syrup as one of the first ingredients. None of that here, so you can slather it on whatever you want. One time Chelsea came home to her roommate eating it with rice. She said “I just wanted to eat this sauce”!

So, at the request of my friend Val, I’m sharing this recipe on here for anyone to try. Have fun with it and feel free to make modifications depending on your own preferences. This one is a little sweet, a little tangy, a little spicy and full of umami. (Which is that pleasant savory taste that helps make ketchup so satisfying) http://www.umamiinfo.com/2011/02/What-exactly-is-umami.php

For Matt’s homemade BBQ sauce 2014 edition, mix together
1 cup organic ketchup
1 cup organic brown sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

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The key is then to cook it down, meaning adding mixed ingredients to a skillet and cooking it on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring it occasionally, especially as it begins to bubble. This will give it that stickiness that takes it to the next level for my taste buds, it’s where the umami comes out. Then after it cools a little, I put it in a glass jar and either give it away to someone I love (I’m bringing some to yoga tomorrow for you Val) or enjoy it on everything from salmon to grilled eggplant. I even use it on our home made pizzas.
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Oh yeah, the beverage… It’s a mock tail. Non alcoholic cocktail. Fun to drink and easy to make. Chelsea and our friend Laurel made some ginger syrup. I used a little of that, along with soda water. I then muddled up fresh basil from a basil plant we have next to the sink along with lemon from a tree outside, mixed it all together while the sauce cooked down. Delish!
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This is the yoga pose for today’s post. It’s called Malasana, basically a squat. Great to do when your muddling. This pose helps my low back feel better the way it stretches and builds strength. I have had two yoga teachers say that “Cultures that spend time in this position have fewer back issues” I can believe that. Since I’ve been doing it, my back feels great. Try to do it for one minute per day, followed by a forward fold, muddler not needed to perform this pose;)
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Ladies Night

Tonight Chelsea and Berit went to a Norwegian party. Berit is part Norwegian and recently won a reality show based in Norway with other Norwegian Americans called Alt For Norge. She was our upstairs neighbor at the time and we got to experience her being gone for two months and then coming back and keeping the fact that she won a secret from us for two months after she got home, while we all curiously watched the show. Convinced that she came in second or third. It was quite brilliant on her part actually. It made for an exciting run! So now she is a bit of a celebrity in that “world” and Chelsea is reaping the benefits, by being able to get dressed up and go to a fun party.
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I had a fun night too! Doing some of my favorite things, cooking and eating.

Tonight’s dinner was easy to make and delicious to eat. First, I thinly sliced purple potatoes, yellow squash and green zucchini and threw them in the same bowl and tossed them with olive oil and sprinkled salt and pepper and crushed up Rosemary and sage with my hand and sprinkled it over and mixed around and placed on a baking sheet and put it in the oven to bake at 400 degrees.
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I also snapped off the ends of asparagus spears (locally grown and organic as is all of my produce) put them in foil with butter, Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar.
I also added my homemade BBQ sauce on salmon and put those two on the grill>

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The end result…

BBQ salmon with asparagus, zucchini, squash and purple potatoes

BBQ salmon with asparagus, zucchini, squash and purple potatoes


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I’m back!

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After years of writing all my random thoughts and inspirations into paper journals and after being inspired by my friends and fellow bloggers Gabby from Cause We Can Events, Jessica form Life, Love, and Yoga; and Peggy and Megan from Curry Girls Kitchen…I’ve decided to share with those who care, my thoughts and inspirations on everyday life. In the hopes that someone, somewhere, will be inspired to live a better life, be a better person, and have a positive impact on the world around them.

I will do this through the lens of Yoga, Love and Food. Three things that I am passionate about. Three things that positively impact my life. I love yoga (teaching and practicing), I love Love (making and spreading), and I love food (growing, cooking and eating). So here goes…

Namaste and Bon Appetit.

Love,
Matt