I’ve been making my own salad dressings for several years. I can’t even remember the last time I bought dressing from the store, but I learned something new today about using an emulsifier to combine everything so the oil doesn’t separate from the other liquids. Most store bought dressings have some sort of weird emulsifier you can’t pronounce, but there are a few basic ones that are very accessible. Honey, miso, mustard, maple syrup, and mayonnaise are the most common.
Try some of these ingredients and make your own dressing. Just remember to use the olive oil to liquid ratio concept. I prefer one part olive oil to one part other liquid. Some people prefer two or three parts oil to one part liquid. Try some ratios and see what you prefer. Just remember to use high quality cold pressed olive oil. Trader Joe’s has a California Extra Virgin cold pressed oil I like right now.
Here is a simple Asian sesame dressing recipe to be used with any greens. I finely sliced cabbage and zucchini with a mandolin on its finest setting. If you don’t have a mandolin, check out my post on mandolins.
Recipe for about 4-6 servings:
4 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon soy sauce
thumb size piece of ginger finely grated
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil (a few drops goes a long way)
Add all ingredients to small mason jar and shake it like a Polaroid picture.
Add to any greens. Add some toasted sesame seeds. (For ultimate flavor, buy raw sesame seeds and toast them in a pan on low right before)
My dad’s kale garden was growing like crazy, so he cut me about 5 pounds of prime kale. I juiced a ton of it, but I thought I’d try making kale chips. I used kale and tree collards, and I liked the texture of the collards better. These are super easy to make, and don’t worry because you don’t need a dehydrator. A dehydrator is be optimal way to preserve the nutrient value because you can set it at under 120 degrees. The hotter you bake them, the more enzymes are killed. If you do it in your oven, just turn it to the lowest temp and bake for a few hours. My oven only goes down to 170.
One important thing to note is that these chips are extremely crispy when they come out of the oven, but if you let them sit out they will absorb moisture and go soft quick. Put them in a mason jar and seal them tight to keep them super crispy.
I’ve been obsessed with sriracha chili sauce, so I thought I’d create a recipe using it as a primary flavor. I added a little of soy sauce and grated ginger to balance it out.
I tried some plain and soaked them in salt water. They were good, but I preferred the flavored ones.
1 lb fresh kale or collards
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sriracha chili sauce
thumb size grated ginger
break kale into bit size pieces
add soy sauce, sriracha, and ginger
scrunch the kale together hard so they kale starts to break down and soften. This will force the flavor in. Let sit for a half hour.
Dehydrate at a temp less than 120 degrees for 3-4 hours or bake in oven on a cookie sheet at the lowest temperature possible for around 2 hours. Just bake them until they are brittle and crispy.
I love cooking complete meals in one pot because they save time, cleanup, and always have the good rustic feel I love about cooking. With that said, I’m starting a new category called one pot wonder. This category will include simple recipes that are great for feeding a ton of people. The great thing about these recipes is that they can be scaled up according to your needs – all you need is a giant pot, and you can cook for as many people as you want. Simplicity is key.
This is a very simple recipe where you braise chicken in your most fancy vintage of Charles Shaw (I used Cabernet Sauvignon because it sounds fancy). Get a bottle from the deepest recesses of your wine cellar, or just drive down to Trader Joe’s. While your at it, grab their raw frozen chicken thighs. For some reason, Trader Joe’s frozen chicken always tastes delicious, and it’s cheap and convenient.
And yes. I am on a lentil kick. They are so cheap and easy that I can’t stop making them. Deal with it.
Recipe for 4-5 large servings:
4 chicken thighs
3/4 bottle red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 large onion
1 cup water
3 cloves garlic
Rough chop onion. Finely chop garlic. Add both to a large pot with a touch of olive oil. Simmer on Med-low until slightly brown.
Add 3/4 bottle of wine. Add chicken (it can still be frozen or thawed). Bring to boil then turn to low. Braise for 15 minutes on low.
Remove chicken thighs and shred with two forks. Add back to pot.
Rinse lentils really well. Add to pot with 1 cup water and chopped carrots. Mix really well. Bring back to boil then turn to med-low. Cook on med-low for 10 minutes or until the lentils are done. Leave the lid on for half the time and then take it off so the water can evaporate.
Mix periodically so the lentils cook evenly. If the liquid runs dry before the lentils are done just add a touch of water and mix. You want them to be moist but not soupy when they are cooked all the way through.
On our way up to Julian last week, Karissa and I stopped for a pre hike power lunch. This was a quick, last minute lentil soup thrown together that morning. It only takes 15 minutes to make, and it is a really filling and warm lunch. I just cooked a whole pot, left two portions in the pot, and cooled it in the fridge. We brought a little propane stove to heat it up when we got there. Super easy and fun picnic.
We enjoyed our lunch with some green tea, and we were ready and fueled up for our hike in the snow. This soup fills you up quick, but also provides long lasting energy.
If you want to summit, you gotta eat your lentil soup.
Here is the recipe for this lentil soup with an Asian twist:
1 cup lentils
1 handful chopped bok choi or chard
3 green onions
2 celery sticks
2 tablespoons of miso paste
1 tablespoon chicken bullion
1 tablespoon black bean sauce or oyster sauce
soy sauce to taste
1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce (good and spicy)
Add lentils to boiling water and boil for 5-7 minutes.
Finely dice carrots, celery, bock choi, and onions and pan fry for 5 minutes
Drain lentil water and add 5 cups of fresh water. Add vegetable mixture. Bring to boil again and turn to low.
Add miso paste, chicken bullion, black bean sauce, soy sauce, and sriracha.
Cook for 5-10 minutes more until the lentils are cooked. Done.
Last summer I had the opportunity to shoot some Olympic triathletes a few weeks before the London Olympics down in Costa Rica. They were staying on this unassuming strawberry farm/training center at 7,000 feet on volcano Irazu just outside of San Jose. It was a minimal little house down a dirt road in the middle of the farmlands. There was no need to shut the door because the whole house was made up of these leaking windows. Weather changes were constant – sunny one minute giving way to dense fog minutes later. One night the wind knocked out the power for a few hours. This was a common occurrence, so Leo fired up his truck to give us light for a few hours until bedtime.
During an after-workout nap, I had time to wander and shoot. Talking to the owner of the farm, I asked where all these strawberries go. He told me they all go to the US. I’ve never felt a connection with food imported from other countries, but this made me imagine all the cool little farms all over the world that supply us with a good portion of our food. I often picture these farms as acres of monoculture, but looking around most were only about 5 acres or smaller. This farmer tends the whole fields with one other helper. While I was shooting, they were hand watering each plant with calcium. Seeing this man’s hard work and humble operation made me really appreciate the process of growing food.
When I was talking to Leo and Manny about how they change their diet in the weeks leading up to the Olympics they told me that they didn’t change a thing. They still eat rice and beans everyday with some meat and vegetable. It’s amazing how much power you can get from such a simple staple food. I don’t think I ever saw an empty crock-pot in the house; black beans were on tap 24/7. We started every meal with fresh fruit, and the flavors they got out of such simple ingredients was amazing. I noticed they used a combination of finely chopped celery, green pepper, onion, and cilantro in many dishes.
My friend Aaron gave me a good idea a few weeks ago because he said he hates recipes that use ingredients you’ll never use again. He said he ends up omitting ingredients that he wouldn’t see himself using in the future. This point is very true, which is why I like to simplify my cooking as much as possible. So now I’m starting a new category – Ingredients you’ll always use.
The first ingredient is one of the simplest things to make, and it’s a perfect staple food to have in the cupboard. Buy it plain in bulk from the bins, and try to avoid the flavored packaged version. Packaged mixes are good, but if you want to control the flavor and have more versatility, then get the non-flavored.
It’s the easiest thing to make. If your smart enough to boil water, then you 100% wont have any problems cooking this. Just bring one cup of water to boil, add 1 cup couscous, turn off the heat, and wait 5 minutes till the couscous sucks up the water.
Recipe for 3-4 servings:
1 cup plain couscous
1 cup boiling water
small handful cilantro
2 teaspoons dried chicken bullion
2 teaspoons bragg amino acids or soy sauce
Bring water to boil. Add couscous, chicken bullion, and bragg. Stir. Turn heat off and cover with lid. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Check out this video on sprouting. Sprouting is an easy way to grow greens and eat a ton of high nutrient dense food. There are a ton of sprouting systems in all price ranges, or you can just do it in a mason jar if you want. Check it out.
I recently learned about the ANDI score and it really helped me identify the best foods to eat for optimal health. It stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, which is basically a listing of every food and it’s nutrient content per calorie. It analyzes a wide gamut of micro-nutrients including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. If you are trying to improve your health, take a look and start eating some of these foods more.
I also wanted to touch base on a concept I truly believe in, which is the concept of incremental change. It’s the concept of baby steps applied to your health. You basically look at where you are at, develop an ideal long term goal, and then apply small changes weekly to help achieve that goal. Everyone has these grandeur new years resolutions, but most fade after a month or two because people try to do too much at once, get burnt out, and quit. I say take your time. If your eating out 7 times a week, strive to eat out only 5 times and cook 2 meals from whole ingredients. If you cook healthy meals everyday, maybe start growing a small portion of your food. If you are already growing a small portion of your food, figure out how to grow more in an attainable way. If you eat healthy, maybe start juicing or eating raw. Always push forward. Never stop learning. No matter how smart you are, you can always learn.
If you go from eating cheeseburgers to drinking 100% kale juice, you’ll probably throw up and you’ll never make that mistake again. You can’t put the cart before the horse, and by that I mean that you need to change your pallet SLOWLY! It takes about 3 weeks to change your pallet if you consistently eat something new. By eating whole healthy foods, you will naturally stop craving sweet, salty, and fatty foods and start craving healthier options. Getting used to the flavor of olive oil is a prime example. Start making your own dressings using olive oil. At first, you’ll get slammed in the face with the flavor of olive oil, but I guarantee you that you’ll get used to it after 3 weeks if you eat it everyday. Then you’ll develop the taste for a healthy fat (olive oil) instead of the unhealthy fats (french fry oil). Use the search function to find older posts for healthy salad dressings.
This process takes time. Don’t run before you can walk. And don’t give up!
Check out this index and see which foods you can handle and learn a new recipe using them. A quick hint: lentils are very quick to make (only 10 minutes) and delicious. If you are new to leafy greens, try chard and bok choy first and then graduate to kale and collards. Eat them steamed for a few weeks and then eventually start eating them raw in a salad. Cooking kills nutrients, so the goal is to eventually eat things raw. Also, learn to chew well because it aids in digestion.