Green Chili Posole

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Last February I was lucky enough to spend a few days at the most amazing resort in Arizona with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law. We stayed in a five star villa, practiced yoga every morning in a studio overlooking the desert and the mountains, took amazing classes, got massages each afternoon – and yet somehow one of the best parts of the trip was the food. Everything was fresh and healthy and seasonal and beautifully prepared, and pretty much made me wish that I was Oprah so that I could go home and immediately hire the chef to come work for me (or maybe just move to Miraval permanently). Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style, and we ordered off of a menu at dinner.  This is one of those times where I wish I kept a diary so that I could better remember all of the meals we had, because they were all pretty incredible (I took a lot of pictures, but they’re all on my old phone). There were usually four entrée items on the dinner menu every night, as well as four (teeny tiny) desserts, and our foursome had so much fun ordering one of each and trying everything – and it was all so good we could never pick a favorite. I ordered both cookbooks as soon as I got back, and have made quite a few things from them since (including a delicious arugula salad, raspberry lemon cookies, and chocolate peanut butter meringues). However, everyone’s* hands down favorite meal was the green chili posole we had one day at lunch.

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There’s an asterisk after “everyone” because I never actually ate the posole – it was made with pork, and I don’t eat pork so didn’t even try a bite. But my mom, sister, and sister-in-law all went back for seconds and then thirds – which is kind of funny since Miraval is big on small portions and “mindful eating.”  They made an exception for the posole, though, and have talked about it ever since (and in their defense, the bowls they give you in the buffet line are really small).  The posole recipe is in one of my cookbooks, so I’ve been meaning to make it for some time. I finally got motivated the other weekend, and I made a double batch – one pork (which I promptly delivered to my sister’s house as a thinly veiled excuse to see my baby nephew), and one chicken so that I could try some too.

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Posole is a Latin American soup or stew made with hominy, chili peppers, onion, and garlic. It’s traditionally made using pork, although – fun/terrifying fact – per Wikipedia, the Aztecs used to use meat from humans killed in ritual sacrifice.  Once cannibalism was banned, however, they switched to pork. How lovely. I’m sure anyone who tried both of my versions would tell you the pork was their favorite, but since I don’t know any better I thought the chicken was delicious. I used fresh tomatillos, but they can be hard to find (especially now that the farmers market season is mostly over) so you could use canned tomatillos as well.  If using fresh, you need to husk them and then rinse them really well as the husks leave a sticky residue. The poblano peppers gave the soup a bit of a kick, but if you can’t find poblanos I think green bell peppers would work fine too. I’ve only ever seen hominy canned (although to be fair, I’ve never looked for hominy until I made this), but I’ve heard you can find it dried in Mexican specialty stores. If you’re just going to a regular market, you can find both canned hominy and canned tomatillos in the Mexican food section (or “international foods” aisle), although it can be hard to find so you may have to really search for it.

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Aside from hunting down a few ingredients, posole is pretty easy to make. Sauté your onions, celery, garlic, and peppers in olive oil (note: it seems like this recipe calls for a lot of garlic, which made me nervous, but it somehow turns out not too garlicky at all), dump everything else in, and simmer for 40 minutes. While the soup simmers, prepare your toppings – all of my google research said the toppings are the most important part of posole. This recipe called for red cabbage, cilantro, cojita cheese, and lime zest and wedges, but I also saw recipes that suggested avocado, radishes, oregano, grated cheddar – basically anything you can think of that sounds good. I think fresh cilantro adds so much to soups, and I also loved the lime zest and juice. A couple recipes I came across also suggested serving the posole with flour tortillas or tortilla chips.  Just make sure to eat your tortilla chips mindfully.

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One year ago: curried butternut squash soup

Green Chile Posole, from the Miraval Mindful Eating cookbook

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup garlic, minced
1 cup poblano pepper, diced
1 lb. lean boneless pork loin, cut into 3/4″ cubes (can also use chicken breast)
1 1/2 cup fresh tomatillos, chopped
1 cup canned hominy, rinsed well and drained
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
4 teaspoons chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Red cabbage, thinly sliced, for garnish
Cotija cheese, crumbled, for garnish
Lime wedges and freshly grated lime zest, for garnish

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-high, add the onions, and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the celery, stir, and cook for 45 seconds. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 45 seconds. Add the poblano pepper and cook one minute longer.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and stir well. Add the pork (or chicken) and cook, stirring to sear on all sides, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatillo, hominy, two tablespoons of the cilantro, the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper; stir well and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, stirring to scrap any bits from the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat and bring soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until meat is tender and cooked through, 40 minutes.

Remove posole from the heat and stir in the remaining two tablespoons cilantro. Garnish with more cilantro, the cabbage, cheese, and lime zest; serve with a lime wedge.

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Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Meringues

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A few weeks ago I posted a cookie recipe from Miraval, the spa I was lucky enough to visit back in February. I wrote about the cooking class we took, but what I failed to mention is what we snacked on during the cooking class. Meals at Miraval are pretty outrageous – at dinner you sit down and order off a menu, but for breakfast and lunch they have an amazing buffet where you can (mindfully) help yourself to all sorts of fresh, healthy foods.  Each day at lunchtime we got to pick from a beautiful salad bar, delicious soups, wraps, healthy entrées, etc. – and then there were always a few tiny treats to choose from as well.  The day my sister-in-law and I attended the cooking demo, they were serving these cookies – perfect timing because we were then able to ask the pastry chef about them in class (after everyone was not-so-mindfully going back for seconds).

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Kim, the pastry chef, told us these are one of the recipes people ask her for the most, and then proceeded to tell us how easy they are to make. Start with a basic meringue – egg whites plus sugar – and simply add chocolate and peanut butter. How have I not thought of this before? They’re a perfect Miraval treat as they’re relatively low fat/low cal, they’re naturally gluten free, and if you use dairy free chocolate chips you can make them dairy free as well. The recipe calls for organic peanut butter, I used Adam’s no stir creamy – there’s a fair amount of sugar in the meringue “batter” so I think the saltier the peanut butter, the better. Almond butter would also be really good. The recipe calls for mini semisweet chocolate chips, but I suspected these would be even more delicious with dark chocolate – and it turns out I was right. It’s all personal preference though, of course, so you could use whatever peanut butter and chocolate chips you like.

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Kim told us that the best way to stir the peanut butter into the batter is to put it in a ziplock bag, snip off a tiny corner, and “pipe” the peanut butter into the egg white mixture. I’m including the recipe as it appears in the cookbook, where it tells you to drop the peanut butter in by the spoonful, but Kim’s way is easy and fun. Next time I might try to use the piping bag to add it in in little tiny dollops, as my giant swirl needed a bit of stirring to mix into the egg whites, and that of course deflated them. They still turned it pretty dang good, however, and the chunks of peanut butter are my favorite part (I would love to make these with crunchy peanut butter next time, but worried the weight might deflate the egg whites even more).

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The cookbook lists chopped pecans as a topping for the cookies, but Kim used sliced almonds and they’re perfect with the delicate meringue (and will be even more perfect when I try these with almond butter). You could use any nut you like, however, or omit them entirely. No matter how you customize them, they’re simple and delicious. I’m not a huge chocolate person (the lemon raspberry cookies are really more my style), but of course I still ate quite a few of these while at Miraval, when my sis-in-law made them as soon as we were back, and of course now that they’re sitting on the counter while I type this. The best part is they’re practically guilt free – or at least as close to guilt free as you’re going to get when there’s chocolate and peanut butter in the title.  If you try them, let me know how you tweak them and how they turn out!

Miraval, previously: Magic Bars, Lemon Raspberry Cookies, Arugula Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Meringues, from Miraval’s Sweet & Savory Cooking

Yield: 20-30 cookies

3 egg whites
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup peanut butter (preferably organic)
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup nuts, optional (chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, chopped peanuts, sliced or slivered almonds)

Heat the oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar, and then the vanilla.

Drop spoonfuls of peanut butter throughout the meringue (or pipe as discussed above) and sprinkle the chocolate chips all over. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the peanut butter and chocolate chips into the meringue, leaving streaks of peanut butter throughout (you want it to stay in chunks rather than getting incorporated into the egg whites). Take care not to deflate the meringue (this is tricky, mine deflated a bit but my cookies were still ok).

Drop spoonfuls of meringue (about 3/4-ounce or 1 1/2 tablespoons) onto the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with nuts (if using). Bake for about 45 minutes (I got engrossed in the Patagonia sale online and mine accidentally stayed in for almost an hour – luckily they were ok). Test for doneness by removing one cookie from the oven, letting it cool for two minutes, and then testing to see if the outside is crispy and the inside slightly soft. Let cool at room temperature on the baking sheet and store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: one cookie (based on a yield of 30 cookies)
Calories: 45
Total fat: 2 grams
Carbs: 27 grams
Dietary fiber: 0 grams
Protein: 1 gram

Miraval’s Arugula Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette (and an easy recipe for Vegetable Stock)

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Hi friends – long time no see. I’ve been meaning to get this post up for about a month now, but for a variety of reasons it just hasn’t happened. Life gets busy, I came down with the norovirus, I’ve had a lot of shopping to do for my little baby nephew on the way (!!!)…..excuses, excuses. Mostly though, I’m afraid I haven’t sat down to post this because salad dressing – especially a healthy salad dressing – is just not very exciting.

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I promise that once you make this though, it’s a lot less boring. Believe me when I tell you I’m not a fan of mustard (or any condiment, really), but this dressing is still somehow delicious. I was introduced to it when I took a cooking class at Miraval last month, and since I’ve been back I’ve been making it nonstop. The Miraval recipes are pretty conscious about oil and salt, but it’s amazing how you don’t really miss them here.

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Isn’t this just the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen? Just kidding, it looks gross – sorry! Thickened vegetable stock sounds weird, I know, but it’s a trick they use at Miraval – thicken your veggie stock with cornstarch, and use it in place of (most of) the oil in dressings to cut fat and calories substantially. At first I was kind of annoyed about making the stock, but it’s actually incredibly easy and makes your kitchen smell delicious. You could easily use store bought veggie stock, however – or just skip this step and use more olive oil if you aren’t that worried about it.

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Just throw all ingredients (except for your whole grain mustard and olive oil) into your blender and puree, then slowly add the oil.

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Whisk the whole grain mustard in once the dressing is removed from the blender, so that the grains stay whole. I know it doesn’t look pretty, but it tastes so good (and healthy!).

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You can use this dressing on whatever salad you like, of course, but in the class we made arugula with cranberries, pine nuts, and goat cheese, so that’s what I did here. I used dried cherries instead (my favorite!) and toasted the pine nuts – delicious as a starter, or add some grilled chicken and call it dinner. My favorite Miraval tip, for the next time you’re entertaining: put on a pair of plastic gloves and plate your salad with your hands – it looks so much prettier that way and you can really make it stand up on the plate. If only I could go to cooking school every day!

Miraval: highlights and cookies

One year ago: eggplant parm (yum, now I’m craving this again)

Honey Mustard Dressing, from Mindful Eating

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup whole grain dijon mustard
2 tablespoons roasted shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon roasted garlic (or raw, or a combination or roasted and raw, depending on how garlicy you like things), chopped
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup thickened vegetable stock (recipe below)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (black pepper would work fine too)
Chives, optional

If using a mixing bowl: combine mustards, shallots, garlic, honey, and vinegar; mix well. Add thickened stock, oil, salt, and pepper, and whisk to incorporate the stock and oil. Add chopped chives.

If using a blender: Add all ingredients except whole grain mustard and olive oil; blend well. Stream in oil. Pour into a bowl and whisk in the whole grain mustard (so that the grains stay intact – you don’t want them to break down in the blender).

Dressing will be thick and creamy. Toss with arugula and any garnishes you like – I love it with dried cranberries or cherries, toasted pine nuts, and goat cheese.

Nutrition information per 2 tablespoons: 44 calories, 1.5 grams of fat

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Miraval’s Vegetable Stock, from Mindful Eating

Yield: Makes Two Quarts

3 cups onions, peeled and quartered
1 cup celery (no leaves), roughly chopped
1 cup carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup leeks, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
2 tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup fennel, roughly chopped (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4″ x 4″ cheesecloth
6 inches butcher twine
2 quarts cold water

Heat a large stockpot with the vegetables; stir occasionally for 3-5 minutes to prevent scorching. Tie spices and herbs inside cheesecloth with butcher twine and add to pot. Cover contents with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for two hours. Strain stock and use or cool in an ice bath. Refrigerate or freeze for future use.

Nutrition information per cup: 47 calories, zero fat

For thickened vegetable stock:

2 cups + 4 tablespoons vegetable stock
4 tablespoons cornstarch

Heat two cups of stock to a rolling boil. Combine 4 tablespoons cold stock with the cornstarch to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the boiling stock and whisk constantly until the stock thickens to a sauce-like consistency. Cool completely in an ice bath. Cover and refrigerate for later use. Thickened stock will keep up to one week – stir well before each use.

Miraval’s Raspberry, Lemon, and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I attended a cooking demo while at Miraval a couple weeks ago, and these cookies were on the menu.  We were able to sample them during class, and as soon as I had my first bite I knew they’d be the first thing I made when I got home.  The woman who taught the class, Kim Macy, is the pastry chef at Miraval, so she was full of tips on how to make baked goods a little healthier – raw evaporated cane sugar, egg whites, adding fruit, etc.  What’s amazing about these cookies, though, is that you would never know they’re meant to be healthy – or as I call them, spa cookies.

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I’ve always had a sweet tooth, and anything fruity is my weakness.  I love the raspberry and lemon combo here, but I think these cookies would be delish with any other berry – blueberries or diced strawberries would work  just as well – use whatever sounds good to you or whatever you have on hand.  The egg whites make the cookies extra light and airy and almost scone-like. The recipe only calls for one third of a cup of chocolate chips, so it’s just enough to make the cookie feel indulgent without adding a ton of extra calories. I googled the recipe when I got home, and discovered they had even been on Oprah!  One of my favorite tips from the class – if you can’t find evaporated raw cane sugar (I never can), just pulse turbinado or demerara sugar (sugar in the raw) in your food processor until it’s a little more finely ground.

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The recipe says you can use fresh or frozen berries, but in the class we used fresh and Kim made folding the berries in look easy. When I tried it at home, it didn’t go quite so well – there were a lot of squished berries and my batter turned pink pretty quickly. When I make them again I’ll use frozen berries to avoid that problem – should you do the same,  just make sure they’re straight from the freezer when you add them to the dough or they’ll bleed even more than fresh berries.

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As you can see from the photos, Kim is also a lot better at icing the cookies using her whisk than I am – I considered piping the icing on, but then thought the whisk idea had just looked so fun….oops! Practice makes perfect, though, so that just means I have an excuse to make these again (soon).

One Year Ago: Split Pea Soup, Blueberry Muffins (original and my healthy version)

Cookies, previously: sugar, my favorite chocolate chip, pumpkin chocolate chip, lactation

Miraval, previously: magic bars

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter (or combination butter and coconut oil – the recipe calls for all butter but I used half butter and half coconut oil)
1 cup evaporated raw cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
1 large egg
3 large egg whites
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

For glaze, optional:

Powdered sugar, lemon juice – measurements aren’t exact, but I used about one cup of powdered sugar and a little less than the juice of one medium lemon.  Just add the lemon juice slowly until you reach the right consistency, and add more sugar if it gets too thin.  You want it thin enough that you can drizzle it over the cookies easily, but not so thin that it won’t dry/make the cookies soggy.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray cookie sheet(s) with non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment.  Cream together butter (and/or coconut oil) and sugar. Add egg and egg whites one at a time, then lemon juice and zest.   Combine flour and baking soda and mix into batter.  Stir in the chocolate chips, then gently fold in the raspberries. Bake 7-10 minutes.  To make glaze: Whisk lemon juice into powdered sugar until your desired consistency is reached.  Drizzle over cookies, let dry.

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Nutrition Information: (based on this recipe making 60 cookies – which would mean they’re teaspoon sized.  I made mine with a small cookie scoop – probably a rounded-tablespoon-size – and my batch yielded 36 cookies).

Calories: 56
Total Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 10 mg
Sodium: 55 mg
Carbohydrate: 8 g
Fiber: 0 g
Protein: 1g

Friday Faves: Miraval Edition

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 early morning desert hike

Last week my mom, sister, sister-in-law, and I had the incredibly good fortune to hop a plane to sunny Arizona and spend a few days at Miraval, an amazing resort and spa outside of Tucson that I’ve been referring to as “Oprah’s Spa” (Oprah and Gayle went a number of years ago, and then Oprah sent an entire audience full of groups of girlfriends during her final season – if you were wondering).  Our days went a little something like this: breakfast, fitness class/hike/yoga, coffee/juice/smoothie bar break, classes or lectures (fitness, nutrition, cooking, mental health, photography, you name it), lunch, spa treatment, more classes or lectures, maybe some pool time, happy hour, dinner, bed.   Needless to say, our trip wasn’t nearly long enough and I can’t wait to get back.  A few highlights:

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life in balance spa – my new happy place

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hummingbird mama and her babies in their nest in the courtyard (in a kumquat tree!)

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pool time (not pictured: my prickly pear iced tea, so delicious!)

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desert sunset

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cooking demo with the pastry chef – lemon raspberry cookies and arugula salad with honey dijon vinaigrette (recipes coming next week, get excited!)

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downtime at the villa