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My first article for Emerald Aromatherapy has been published! Aromatherapy is the perfect way to awaken creative impulses left dormant during a winter rest. Read more in my full article: http://www.emeraldaromatherapy.org/the-creative-impulse-of-spring-aromatherapy-and-creativity/

Aromatherapy and Creativity, Ylang Ylang

Ylang Ylang Blossom
photo credit: Zaqqy via Compfight

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It may technically be spring now, but it still feels like winter here in Colorado (well, actually Colorado weather is weird, in the 70s one day and snowing the next . . . but that’s another story). Winter always makes me crave potatoes and other earthy veggies, so I’ve been taking advantage of the last of the season by indulging in some roasted root goodness.

Recently, I had a bit of fun getting creative with the colors of my root veggies, combining chioggia (or candy cane) beets, jewel yams, and purple potatoes for a stunning roast.

Rainbow Root Roast © 2013, Stokes

Rainbow Root Roast © 2013, Stokes

I tossed the veggies with typical roasting ingredients (olive oil, garlic, onion slices, dried herbs) and was left with a beautiful, delicious, and surprisingly healthy dinner–beets, yams, and purple potatoes all have higher nutritional contents than regular old white potatoes.

So go ahead, join me in upgrading your veggie roasts during the last of our cold weather!

Rainbow Root Roast

Ingredients

  • 1 large chioggia beet, chopped
  • 1 medium jewel yam, chopped
  • 2 medium purple potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • olive oil, to coat
  • 1/2 tsp each dried thyme, rosemary, basil*
  • pinch cayenne (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

*There are no rules with spices and herbs–get creative!

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop the vegetables, coarsely slice the onion, and mince the garlic. Toss everything together with the olive oil and spices. Roast for about 45 minutes, turning the vegetables a few times to prevent sticking and maintain even cooking. When the root veggies are soft and slightly browned, remove from the oven and serve. Top with parmesan and a squirt of lemon juice for a bit of an extra treat.

That’s it! A recipe that is both easy to make and impressive to serve.

Enjoy!

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This winter has me turning to root veggies for my seasonal nourishment, and I usually have a wide selection of root vegetables on hand–potatoes, yams, carrots, beets, turnips, onions–anything that can be pulled from the ground. But the other day, in the mood to cook, I opened my refrigerator to find only bag of organic carrots and a gigantic daikon radish*. Luckily, limitations often lead to great creativity. I decided to challenge myself and see how many ways I could prepare a carrot-daikon combo, and I came up with three new and delicious recipes. All three recipes are seasonal, easy, and healthy, so enjoy!

English: Picture of a pile of Daikon (giant wh...

Daikon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*Though daikon is a type of radish, which I usually associate more with summer, they can actually be planted in fall for a winter harvest and prepared in ways similar to most root vegetables. Plus, they are super healthy, with high levels of vitamin C and B complex and the potential to act as a digestive aid.

Each of the following recipes is for a single serving–make sure to at least double each recipe if you’re cooking for more than yourself!

Recipe #1: Shredded Carrot and Daikon Salad 

This raw recipe is a great way to prepare daikon with all of its digestive benefits in tact. The salad keeps well for a few days, and letting it sit at least overnight allows the flavors to merge.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 large daikon
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbs shiso ume furikake
  • juice from one ginger medallion
  • splash lemon juice
  • big pinch of sugar
  • salt to taste

Directions

First, prepare the daikon and carrot by shredding them into strips. I used a vegetable peeler with a wavy blade. This type of peeler is commonly used in Southeast Asian food preparation. It’s not only great for quickly shredding veggies into strips, but it will give sliced veggies a decorative edge.

wavey edge veggie peeler

wavey edge veggie peeler

Next, sprinkle the carrot and daikon with shiso ume furikake, a pinch of salt, and a big pinch of sugar. Furikake is a Japanese seasoning meant to be added to rice, though I find all sorts of fun uses for it. The shiso ume furikake I used in this recipe contains a bit of salt and sugar, along with purple shiso, or perilla leaf, and dried ume, or pickled plum. It’s sweet, sour, salty, and delicious.

Ume Shiso Furikake

Ume Shiso Furikake

After sprinkling the furikake, salt, and sugar over the daikon and carrot, add the ginger juice and a bit of the ginger gratings. I used a Japanese-style ginger grater, which is very effective for squeezing out ginger juice. This process also creates fresh ginger gratings, and it’s nice to add a bit of these, as well. If you don’t have an actual ginger grater, try using a garlic press to expel the juice.

Japanese-style ginger grater

Japanese-style ginger grater

Once you’ve added the ginger, toss everything together with the olive oil and lemon juice. Let everything sit for at least an hour so that the flavors can meld.

Carrot Daikon Salad © 2013, Juniper Stokes

Shredded Carrot and Daikon Salad © 2013, Juniper Stokes

Recipe #2: Roasted Daikon with Carrot and Onion

No root-veggie trio would complete without a roasted dish. This simple recipe allows the daikon and carrot flavors to take the spotlight, with just a hint of onion for a flavor boost.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 large daikon
  • 1/2 medium carrot
  • 1/2″ slice of white onion
  • olive oil, to coat
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel and slice the daikon and carrot. Take a half inch slice from the center of a large white onion and separate the rounds. Toss the vegetables together with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread everything evenly on a baking dish or pan. Bake for 45 minutes, flipping once to prevent sticking.

Roasted daikon and carrot © 2013, Juniper Stokes

Roasted daikon and carrot © 2013, Juniper Stokes

Recipe #3: Super Healthy Simmered Daikon

I love this dish. I don’t think I’ve ever been served this dish precisely, but it is definitely inspired by my time eating gorgeous veggie food in Japan. The warmth and rich sesame flavor give it the satisfaction of a comfort food, though just about all the ingredients are super-food healthy.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 large daikon, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medallion grated ginger w/juice
  • 1 Tbs Eden Organic Seaweed Gomasio
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • a splash maple syrup
  • 1 Tbs red miso
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

First, bring 1/2 cup water to boil. Add the daikon and carrot, along with the gomasio, and reduce to a simmer. Gomasio, also spelled gomashio, is Japanese sesame-salt seasoning. I like the health bump dried seaweed gives to this Eden Organic blend, which includes dulce, nori, and kombu.

Eden Organic Gomasio with Seaweed

Eden Organic Gomasio with Seaweed

Continue to simmer the above ingredients for about 20 minutes. Once the daikon and carrot are cooked, stir in about 1 Tbs red miso (more to taste), and simmer for another 5 minutes. If you’d like a bit of heat, this is the time to throw in the red pepper flakes. Finally, remove from heat and stir in the ginger, maple syrup, and sesame oil. Serve immediately.

Simmered daikon and carrot © 2012, Juniper Stokes

Simmered daikon and carrot © 2013, Juniper Stokes

I loved all three of these dishes. I wonder what I’ll come up with next time my fridge is nearly empty . . . !

Best daikon photos ever:

WordPress blogs:

A couple of random recipes:

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Well, it’s the day after Thanksgiving and I am happily stuffed after revisiting some of yesterday’s leftovers for breakfast this morning. I’m at home visiting my parents in Washington State, and I’m happy to say that our Thanksgiving meal was seasonal, local (with pumpkin, squash, carrots, and herbs from our garden), and totally vegetarian!

My family has been pescatarian for years, and I don’t even remember the last time we attempted to have a turkey for Thanksgiving. Though stuffing a turkey for this holiday has become an American tradition, our family has found alternative, more sustainable, turkey-friendly, and equally enjoyable ways to celebrate. We still stick to the classics for our sides–cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and veggie gravy, brussel sprouts or green beans, corn, sweet yams–these are all very easy to make vegetarian. But for the main event, rather than stuffing a turkey, we stuff a pumpkin from our garden. Some years, we use a regular bread crumb stuffing, while other years, we switch to wild rice for a local twist. Either version gives us the satisfaction of the Thanksgiving stuffing tradition, without the added cruelty. And let’s be honest, the more well-known veggie alternative, Tofurkey, is not that satisfying or healthy.

I know it’s a bit late for recipes, but I thought I’d at least share this year’s menu with everyone, with hopes of giving other veggies some inspiration around this time of year. And as a bonus, this menu is almost entirely gluten free.

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu

Appetizer

  • Goat cheese torte with pesto and sun dried tomatoes

Sides

  • Simple green salad with cranberry gorgonzola dressing
  • Organic homemade cranberry sauce with ginger and hot chillies
  • Mashed potatoes with homemade veggie gravy
  • Roasted green beans with red onion
  • Caramelized mushrooms and onion in a rich butter-wine sauce
  • Sweet yams with maple syrup and spices

The Main

  • Individual acorn squash cups stuffed with wild rice and herbs

Dessert

  • Pumpkin pie with bourbon whipped cream

Drinks

  • Local sparking and red wine, as needed ;)

The only dish that wasn’t homemade this year was our appetizer, a goat cheese torte from Trader Joe’s. We served this with rice crackers and sparkling wine from the Mountain Dome Winery, my favorite local winery for the sparkles.

Mountain Dome sparkling wine and Trader Joe’s cheese torte © 2012, Juniper Stokes

A simple side salad with organic baby greens, tomatoes, and green onions, topped with a gorgonzola cranberry dressing from Trader Joe’s, gave the meal a bit of freshness.

simple side salad © 2012, Juniper Stokes

The green beans were supposed to be roasted in bundles with kitchen twine, though we later realized we had the wrong kind of twine and cut if off before actually roasting these beautiful bundles.

green bean bundles © 2012, Juniper Stokes

Homemade gravy with olive oil, flour, and veggie bouillon–delicious and vegan!

vegan gravy © 2012, Juniper Stokes

Dad bought organic cranberries and spiked them with ginger and Thai chili peppers from our garden–amazing. I’ll never serve canned again!

homemade cranberry sauce © 2012, Juniper Stokes

This year, we decided to use acorn squash rather than pumpkin for our main event. After a bit of an odd growing season, my parents ended up with several extra small but still delicious acorn squash from their garden, perfect for individual servings.

tiny acorn squash © 2012, Juniper Stokes

Thanks to their new green house, we were able to season the wild rice stuffing with herbs and carrots from the garden, as well.

stuffed acorn squash with wild rice © 2012, Juniper Stokes

All together, it was a wonderful, healthy, local, vegetarian feast!

Thanksgiving dinner © 2012, Juniper Stokes

I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of the pumpkin pie (made with a garden pumpkin) with bourbon-agave whipped cream! It was delicious, and I must have been a bit too excited to eat it . . .

I hope these menu ideas help, and if anyone is in desperate need of a recipe, let me know! I’m happy to help.

Happy Thanksgiving! © 2012, Juniper Stokes

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With all the pumpkin and squash dishes I’ve been cooking lately, I’ve ended up with a lot of seeds. Pumpkin and squash seeds are not only delicious, but rich in magnesium, zinc, and protein. The secret is to prepare them to be perfectly crispy–neither too chewy nor too burnt. I’ve had plenty of seeds to experiment with this season, and I think I’ve finally figured out how to make perfectly cooked pumpkin (or squash) seeds.

Perfectly Cooked Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

  • pumpkin and/or squash seeds
  • olive oil
  • salt

I haven’t included any specific measurements for this recipe because I’ve found that I never really know how many seeds I’ll have to work with. I tend to buy a lot of small, organic squash and continually save the seeds from each one until I have enough to fill a single layer in a 9″x12″ glass baking dish or a large baking sheet. I use enough olive oil to generously coat the seeds, and I add salt to taste.

Directions

First, you’ll want to clean the seeds. Depending on the type of pumpkin or squash you use, this could be fairly easy, or could require enough effort that you might as well sit down with a bowl of seeds in front of your favorite half hour sitcom. I’ve been cooking a lot of acorn squash recently, and I’ve found that these seeds are fairly easy to squeeze away from the pulp. Maybe you’ll get lucky and the process will be easy for you, too. And if you don’t clean the seeds perfectly, don’t worry! A bit of orange goop really won’t ruin them, and I think it sometimes adds a bit of flavor.

Once the seeds are about clean, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the seeds in a baking dish or on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt to coat. I generously coat the seeds to prevent burning and sticking (and because I love the taste of olive oil). I feel like it’s better to add a bit too much oil at the beginning and then use a paper towel to remove excess oil later, rather than to add too little up front and end up with dry, sticky seeds.

Next, bake the seeds for 40-45 minutes, stirring once to prevent sticking.

perfectly cooked pumpkin seeds © 2012, Juniper Stokes

Next time, I plan on making flavored seeds–curry, thyme, cardamom . . . who knows! I’d love to hear about all of your favorite versions, so please share :)

Enjoy!

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I eat salad all summer long, and I don’t always like to give up my daily salads as summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter. But I do like to eat seasonally, and now that it’s November, what’s more seasonal than pumpkin and squash? Adding a bit of curried pumpkin and feta cheese to an otherwise basic salad makes this easy staple suddenly seasonal and gourmet . . . and surprisingly easy to prepare!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main)

  • 1/4 acorn squash (okay, I used squash in my salad, but I’m sure any winter variety, including pumpkin, would work)
  • 1/4 c crumbled feta
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 4 radishes, sliced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 2 c lettuce, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 2 Tbs flax oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

First, steam the acorn squash (or pumpkin) for about 20 min. While the squash is steaming, sprinkle a bit of curry powder on top. I won’t lie–there are probably more professional ways to create delicious curried squash. But when I cook for myself, I like quick and easy, and this method is the quickest and easiest I’ve found. Once the squash is fully steamed, use a vegetable peeler to take off the skin, and then chop the squash into bite-sized pieces.

While the squash is steaming, you can prepare the rest of the salad. Chop or slice all the veggies and put them a bowl. Then add the feta. It’s as easy as that.

Once the salad is prepared and the steamed squash is on top, you can dress the salad. Following the easy=good method, I put the dressing ingredients directly on the salad, rather than premixing them. I think curry and basil make a great combo, so I first sprinkle a bit of dried basil on top, followed a bit of salt and pepper. Next, add the flax oil. I like the nutty flavor flax adds to this dish, and flax is rich in those ever-important omega 3s. Finally, top the salad with the balsamic vinegar, toss, and enjoy.

curried pumpkin and feta salad © 2012, Juniper Stokes

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One of my favorite aspects of Japanese culture is the attention it places on all things seasonal. Spring’s cherry blossom season may be one of the most famous examples of seasonal Japanese celebrations, and I was never one to miss out on the noon–midnight parties that celebrate this short but wonderful time of year. Still, the fall was always my favorite season in Japan. Summer’s humidity had finally relented, winter’s chill had not yet taken hold, and red maples and golden ginkgos decorated every street and park, celebrating the rare and perfect weather gifted by the autumn months.

Every fall, along with many of my Japanese cohorts, I had my camera out in full force. I made special trips to various parks after work and mountains on the weekends. I would go on long bike rides in search of perfect fall beauty. And my efforts were rewarded. In honor of the season, and a bit of “natsukashii” (kind of like nostalgia), I am dedicating this “Photo Friday” to fall in Japan.*

*I know you know this, but these are totally and completely all mine and copyrighted. Yes, they’re beautiful, but please don’t use them without my permission and giving me credit. Arigatou!

 

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