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Welcome to Wild Basil Living!  It’s a site all about living.  I wanted to create a site where I could blog about anything that moved me enough to write about it.  Sometimes it’s a great new healthy recipe and sometimes it’s an inspirational story.  Really this website is just a compilation of different ways to enjoy life.  So take what you can and share what you know – after all we only get one life, so why not season it with possibility?

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Black Bean Hummus Tartine

This past weekend Brad, Ian, and I went to visit my sister and her husband in DC. What a fantastic weekend! We went to this amazing little restaurant called Le Pain Quoditien for lunch, and I fell in love with the place. It’s like Whole Foods meets a rustic European cafe. I don’t even know how to describe it. I literally wanted to try everything on the menu. To my surprise I discovered that this restaurant is actually a chain. Unfortunately there are no locations remotely near my house. Luckily the Le Pain Quoditien has a cookbook and posts their menus online. Since I don’t own the cookbook (yet), I decided to try and recreate one of the items I had. I’m sure this recipe is not super close to the actual one that the cafe uses, but regardless I love how it turned out!

Tartine means slice of bread in French and in cooking basically refers to an open faced sandwich. This Black Bean Hummus Tartine is topped with roasted red peppers and a harissa tahini.

Black Bean Hummus Tartine
serves 3

1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, partially drained
3 cloves garlic (use 1 or 2 cloves if you don’t want a very garlicky hummus)
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Sea salt, to taste
1 red bell pepper
1 TBS tahini
1 TBS harissa (I bought a jar of Moroccan harissa which can typically be found in the ethnic food aisle of the grocery store)
3-4 slices of really good bread (i.e. homemade bread, or some sort of really good artisanal bread)
1/2 an avocado, sliced

To make the black bean hummus, combine black beans (add some of the liquid from the can), garlic, olive oil, cumin, and sea salt in the food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Place hummus in refrigerator.

To roast the red pepper, you can either use a gas stovetop, grill, or the broiler in an oven. To cook on the stovetop or grill, place the whole pepper on the grate over the gas flame. (I roasted mine on the stove over medium heat.) Use tongs to rotate the pepper until it is blackened on all sides. To roast in the oven, preheat your broiler. Cut the top and bottom off of the pepper. Make a cut down one side of the pepper so it can lay flat. Place the pepper skin side up on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil until pepper is blackened. Once the pepper is blackened, let it cool a bit. Remove the blackened skin once pepper is cool enough to handle. Cut pepper into thin strips.

To make the harissa tahini, mix the tahini and harissa together with a fork. (This doesn’t make a lot so use a prep bowl or a mug to mix in.)

To assemble the tartine, cut each slice of bread into 2 or 4 small finger-sized pieces. Top each piece with a spoonful of black bean hummus, a couple of roasted red peppers, an avocado slice, and a bit of harissa tahini.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Banana Shake

I love this drink so much, I’ve literally made it almost every day – it’s that good. This “shake” is guilt free, dairy free, and super easy to make. It definitely hits the spot when I’m craving something chocolate!

Chocolate Banana Shake
serves 1

1 frozen banana (you can use an unfrozen banana instead – the shake just won’t be as thick)
5 ice cubes (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp agave nectar
1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy immediately!

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Banana “Ice Cream”

This recipe is so incredibly easy to make and takes no time at all to whip together. It’s also healthy and so delicious (not to mention vegan and gluten free)!

 

 

 

Banana “Ice Cream”
makes 1 serving

1 frozen banana
2 TBS unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp pure maple syrup
*Walnuts, dairy free chocolate chips, or unsweetened coconut(optional)

In a blender combine banana, almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup. Blend until creamy and is the consistency of ice cream. Add more almond milk, 1 TBS at a time, if needed to achieve desired consistency. Top with chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, or coconut if you choose!

Enjoy!

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Chicken and Bell Peppers with Creamy Chipotle Chili Sauce

I got the idea for this recipe from my neighbor who had a similar dish at restaurant, so thank you for that Dan! I wanted to make a healthier version of the dish he described, and I have to say both Brad and I LOVED this. There are tons of different versions you could make of this – add an onion or different varieties of bell peppers. You could even make this dish vegetarian by substituting the chicken with a can of pinto beans. Or just add a can of pinto beans to the chicken and stretch out the meal a little further. The real secret is the chipotle chili sauce. It’s spicy (so if you don’t like the heat, make sure you scrape out the seeds of the chili pepper).

We ate this with homemade corn tortillas and guacamole, which really paired well with the spiciness of this dish.

Chicken and Bell Peppers with Creamy Chipotle Chili Sauce
Serves 2

2 TBS canola oil, divided
2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
½ large bell pepper (your choice on the color), sliced to 1-2” strips
1 chipotle chili plus 1-2 TBS of the sauce from a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (this can usually be found in the ethnic food or Mexican aisle of your grocery store)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBS reduced fat cream cheese
1 piece of reduced fat string cheese, diced (you can substitute with cheddar, Colby Jack, or Queso fresco – I only had reduced fat mozzarella string cheese in the house so that’s what I used)
3 TBS skim milk (plus a couple more TBS depending on the desired thickness of the sauce)
Salt, to taste

In a large frying pan, warm 1 TBS of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers and cook until peppers and lightly browned. Remove from pan. Add the remaining TBS of oil and chicken breast pieces. Cook until chicken is browned and no longer pink in the center.

Meanwhile, mince the chipotle chili pepper, removing some of the seeds if you don’t want the dish to be super spicy. In a small sauce pan or small frying pan over heat, add the chili pepper and adobo sauce, and the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese and the cream cheese, stirring frequently until cheese is melted and is blended with the chili pepper. Add the milk one TBS at a time, making sure to stir after each addition until desired sauce thickness is achieved. You should be able to drizzle the sauce easily, so make sure it’s not too thick. Season with salt to taste.

Add bell peppers and chipotle sauce to the chicken. Warm over medium-low heat until chicken and peppers are heated through.

Serve with homemade corn tortillas and guacamole.

Enjoy!

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Spinach Quiche – guilt free!

We have this amazing little cafe bakery near our house that makes fantastic quiche. I shared a slice with my husband yesterday as a snack, which then made me crave it for dinner. Knowing though that quiche generally is high in calories and high in fat, I wanted to make a healthier version of it. So last night I got to work in my kitchen, and I completely lucked out that my experimental healthy quiche turned out great on my first try! This recipe is definitely a winner in my household. Feel free to substitute the vegetables with whatever you like – I used spinach and sun dried tomatoes, but broccoli, peppers, artichoke, mushrooms would all be great substitutions. This recipe makes 1 pie plate sized quiche (about 8 slices), but since it’s healthy I would not feel bad indulging in more than one slice :-)

Spinach Quiche – guilt free!
makes 8 slices

Crust:
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
Dash of salt
2 TBS Earth Balance vegan butter
3 1/2 TBS water
Quiche:
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 an onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
4 eggs
2 egg whites
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks of part-skim mozzarella string cheese, shredded (about 1/3-1/2 cup)
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped (*optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small mixing bowl combine flour and salt. Add butter and mix with a fork, until mixture forms pea sized crumbs. Add water 1 TBS at a time over part of the flour mixture and mix with a fork. Repeat this process with the water until all of the flour mixture is moistened. Form dough into a ball.

On a lightly floured service, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to make a circle about 10 inches in diameter. To transfer the dough to the pie plate, wrap dough around a rolling pin and unroll it into a 9 inch pie plate. Gently press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. (*Note: Because this dough recipe does not yield a full sized pie pastry, dough will not extend past the sides of the pan.)

Cover dough with a double layer of foil and bake for 8 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove foil and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes until pastry is set and dry. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until lightly browned, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add eggs and egg whites and whisk together. Add yogurt, milk, and salt, and whisk until ingredients are well blended. Stir in onions, cheese, spinach, and sun dried tomatoes if desired.

Carefully pour egg mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake in 325 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let quiche cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

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Chicken Tagine

I wanted to make something a little more exotic yesterday and stumbled across this Moroccan recipe for Chicken Tagine. I thought it would make for a nice romantic Valentine’s meal with my husband. :-) A tagine is actually a type of cookware used in North Africa for making slow cooking stews (if you Google a picture it kind of looks like a genie lamp). I don’t own a tagine, but my Dutch oven seemed to do the trick. Here’s the recipe I used, but you can substitute whatever vegetables you like and add more spices if desired.

Chicken Tagine
serves 2-4

1 TBS olive oil
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 small red potatoes, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup sweet peas (I used frozen)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
Dash cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
*quick cooking couscous for serving over (optional)

Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Add the chicken, onion, and garlic and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook 15 minutes until browned.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking for 30 minutes or so until the vegetables are tender.

Season with salt and pepper and serve over a bed of couscous if desired!

Enjoy!

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Black Bean Brownies

I was craving something chocolate that I could enjoy with my afternoon cup of decaf coffee (and after my pregnancy is over, a nice glass of red wine). I decided to make something with a little nutritional oomph, and thought I’d try black bean brownies. I’m glad I did because these brownies are AMAZING! They are flourless, so they are very rich and fudgy (and gluten free). I also made these dairy free by using dairy free chocolate chips. If you don’t mind dairy, then feel free to use whatever semi-sweet chocolate chips you’d like. The brownies can be stored in an airtight container for 1-2 days. If you plan on keeping them longer than that, cut the brownies into squares and freeze. They defrost really well :-)

Black Bean Brownies
makes 1 8×8 inch pan

1/4 cup canola oil
1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 eggs
1/4 cup + 1 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup evaporated cane juice (*may substitute with granulated sugar)
Dash of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup dairy free semi-sweet chocolate chips (*or good quality chocolate chips if you don’t need brownies to be dairy free)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8×8 inch square glass baking dish with cooking spray.

In a blender or food processor, combine all of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips and blend well. Melt 1/4 cup of the chocolate chips and add to the blender. Blend again. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges start to pull away from the side of the dish.
*Note: These brownies are very fudgy, and will almost seem undercooked when they come out of the oven, but they will firm up a bit as they cool. Let them cool 10 minutes and then cut into them. Bits of brownie may stick to the knife when you’re cutting, but that’s fine. Also, these brownies freeze well. Cut the brownies into 1 or 2 inch squares and freeze.

Enjoy!

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Lentil Chili

This chili recipe originates from the Moosewood Simple Suppers cookbook. My sister and her fiancé shared this recipe with me, and I absolutely love it. I use more lentils, beans, and tomatoes than in the original recipe, but I love that this meal comes together in one pot and is ready in under an hour. It’s healthy, hearty, (and vegetarian) :-)

Lentil Chili
Serves 6

2 TBS olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups dried green lentils, sorted and rinsed
5 cups vegetable stock
1 ½ TBS chipotles chilies in adobo sauce, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté 5 minutes until onions begin to soften. Add the bell pepper and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over low heat for 30-45 minutes until lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

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Celery Soup

I know at first celery doesn’t sound that appealing as an entire meal, but this soup is so good it will definitely change your mind.  Not to mention, it’s a super easy way to get those vegetables into your diet. This soup can be made in several variations. If you just want to make a simple soup, you can make a version of this just using celery, potatoes, and vegetable stock and skip the rest of the ingredients. I made this soup for dinner the other night two ways – one chunky and one pureed version, both using the recipe below. I liked the heartiness of the pureed version, but Brad prefers chunkier soups. Either way they are both good, especially paired with a thick slice of freshly baked Irish Soda Bread.

Celery Soup
Serves 2-4

1 TBS olive oil
1 small bunch celery, diced with leaves removed
2 potatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
*For the heartier pureed version, add on can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated for serving (optional)

In a large pot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients except for the vegetable stock and the cannellini beans (if using). Sauté for 10 minutes until onion is softened. Add the stock and the cannellini beans (if using) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking for another 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are cooked and can easily be pierced with a fork.

*If making the pureed version, puree the soup in a blender or in the pot using a hand immersion blender.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Enjoy!

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Vegetarian Lasagna

(Actually if you don’t add the mozzarella cheese on top, it’s vegan, but since I didn’t do that we’ll just have to stick with vegetarian.) When you think of lasagna, the word “healthy” doesn’t typically come to mind. But with this vegetable laden, low fat version those words go hand in hand. The real secret though is the “ricotta cheese” used in this recipe. It’s made from tofu! It sounds weird I know, but it works so well in this lasagna, and you’ll never know the difference. Just maybe don’t mention that there’s tofu in it to the kids…(or my husband) :-) I love this recipe because it’s healthy comfort food, and perfect if I don’t want to cook the next day – leftovers! If you don’t have lot of time, assemble the lasagna the night before and leave it covered in the refrigerator overnight. When you’re ready to cook it, let it stand 30 minutes at room temperature before baking it.

Vegetarian Lasagna
Serves 6

1 tsp olive oil
¾ cup mushrooms, chopped
¾ cup zucchini, chopped
½ cup carrots, chopped
½ cup bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange), chopped
½ cup red onion, chopped
1 (26 oz) jar fat-free or low-fat tomato basil pasta sauce
6 lasagna noodles, cooked
½ cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
“Ricotta cheese”
½ block (7-8 oz) extra firm tofu
2 cloves garlic
1 TBS olive oil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp sea salt

If your lasagna noodles aren’t cooked, cook them now according to the package directions. Separate noodles on a plate (so they don’t stick together) and let cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, bell pepper, and onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pasta sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take the 6 noodles and cut them in half. Spread a little tomato sauce mixture on the bottom of an 8 inch square baking dishes. Arrange 4 noodle halves on top of the tomato mixture. Carefully spoon a bit of the “ricotta” mixture on top of the noodles and spread gently over the noodles. Top with a bit more tomato sauce. Continue to layer following the same pattern – noodles, ricotta, tomato sauce. When you’ve used all the noodles, top with a little more tomato sauce and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.

Cover lasagna with a piece of foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving (if you don’t, you may have a difficult time cutting a piece without it falling apart).

*This recipe lends itself to a lot of substitutions. 1) Use whatever vegetables you like. Or add more to this existing recipe. 2) Substitute the tomato basil sauce for your favorite pasta sauce – just make sure it’s tomato based and not high in fat. 3) If you really don’t like tofu, you can use part-skim ricotta cheese. You can also add another punch of protein to the tofu ricotta mixture by mashing up a can of cannellini beans and stirring them in.

Enjoy!

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Apple Pancake

My mother made this when she came to visit and I absolutely loved it. She used beautiful honey crisp apples that we picked up from a local Farmers’ Market. This breakfast dish is great for Fall and perfect for breakfast or brunch. It’s also very light – I probably could have eaten half of it myself!

 

Apple Pancake
Serves 4

1 cup skim milk
4 eggs
3 TBS evaporated cane juice
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
3 TBS Earth Balance butter
3 roughly peeled apples, cored and thinly sliced
Maple syrup or brown sugar for drizzling over top, about 2-3 TBS

Preheat 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix milk, eggs, evaporated cane juice, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon together. Add flour and mix until well combined and batter is smooth.

Place butter in a 13×9 inch baking dish. Place dish in the oven until butter melts. Remove dish from oven and tilt the dish so butter distributes evenly in dish. Place apple slices in dish, overlapping them a bit so the bottom of the dish is well covered. Place the dish back in the oven for about 10 minutes until the apples begin to soften slightly.

Pour the batter over the apples and lightly drizzle with maple syrup or sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake apple pancake about 20 minutes until it is puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

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Grilled Oatmeal

I saw this on a breakfast menu and feel in love with it! This creative twist on a classic (not to mention healthy) breakfast item seemed like the perfect transition from summer into fall. I used blueberries and cherries, but feel free to use whatever fruit you have on hand. Also, the oatmeal does need to chill for at least two hours otherwise it’s very difficult to grill. If you plan on making this for an early breakfast, make the oatmeal and refrigerate it the night before.

Grilled Oatmeal
Serves 2

1 cup old fashioned oats
2 cups water
2 TBS maple syrup
1 cup berries (whatever you like)
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 TBS vegan butter (or regular butter if you’d prefer)

In a medium saucepan, add oats and water and cook over medium until oats are mostly cooked. Stir in maple syrup and continue cooking until oats are fully cooked and nice and creamy. Remove from heat.

Pour oatmeal into an 8 or 9 inch cake pan or square baking dish, using a spatula to distribute evenly in the pan.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

After the oatmeal has been thoroughly chilled, heat a grill pan (or frying pan) over medium high heat and melt the butter. Using a cookie cutter or a knife, cut shapes out of the oatmeal and place in the hot pan. Cook 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through until oatmeal is a caramelized golden brown.

Top with berries and chopped walnuts. Drizzle with maple syrup if desired.

Enjoy!

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Autumn Pepper Soup

This recipe came together as a result of a large bag of mini bell peppers. The only way that I was going to make a dent in the bag before the peppers went bad was to make some sort of soup that required quite a few of them. I call this “Autumn Pepper Soup” because the tri-color of mini bell peppers remind me of the changing colors of leaves this time of year. This soup is the perfect transition from summer into fall because it’s a light and healthy broth-based soup, yet hearty enough for those cool fall nights. Serve this soup with a thick slice of homemade Irish soda bread for a nice fall meal.

Autumn Pepper Soup
Serves 2

2 TBS olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
8 mini bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange – do not use green pepper), chopped
*(if you do not have mini bell peppers, two large red bell peppers will work just fine)
1 tomato, chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 15.5 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper
1 TBS fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, optional

In large saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 4 minutes until the onion softens. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the peppers, tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Cover partially and cook for 10 minutes.
Add half of the black-eyed peas to the soup and cook, partially covered, for an additional 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Alternatively, if you do not have an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.

Stir in remaining black-eyed peas.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a garnish of fresh parsley.

Enjoy!

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Sautéed Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Spread

First of all, let me apologize for not having a picture of this dish. We ate it all before I could snap a picture. :-) This spread is fairly simple to prepare and makes for a very delicious hor d’oeuvre. Although it would be great anytime of year, the heartiness of the seasoned mushrooms and the sun-dried tomatoes makes this a great recipe for fall. The spread can be stored covered in the refrigerator for a couple of days, and can be served at room temperature or warmed.

Sautéed Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Spread
Serves 8-10 people

4 TBS olive oil
1 lb mushrooms, sliced (I used a combination of cremini and baby bella mushrooms)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, chopped

In a large frying pan, warm 2 TBS of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms reduce down and begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and salt. Sauté for another couple of minutes until the mushrooms are well coated in the herb mixture.

Transfer mushroom mixture to food processor. Add the remaining 2 TBS of olive oil, 1 TBS at a time, to the mushroom mixture and pulse until the mixture becomes a spreadable consistency. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Enjoy with crostini*, crackers, roasted peppers, or roasted sliced potatoes.

*To make crostini: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice a baguette into ½” thick slices. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle bread with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes flipping slices halfway through, until golden brown.

Enjoy!

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Roasted Vegetable Flatbread

There are so many reasons why I love this recipe. First of all, it’s absolutely DELICIOUS. The sweet crispness of the roasted vegetables gives it fantastic flavor without having to add to many things. And secondly, it’s super versatile. You pretty much can’t screw it up. Just take some flatbread (I used a multigrain Naan which is an Indian style Tandoori flatbread), some hummus, your favorite vegetables, and a bit of cheese, and you’ve got yourself a very healthy, very easy meal. Below is the recipe I used to make mine, but feel free to substitute with whatever vegetables you want. You can also kick things up a notch and season the vegetables with a bit or rosemary, thyme, oregano, or even some balsamic vinegar. The possibilities are endless :-)

Roasted Vegetable Flatbread
Serves 2-4

2 Naan flatbreads
1 cup hummus
½ cup zucchini, sliced
½ cup red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Portobello mushroom, sliced
¾ cup bell peppers, sliced
½ cup broccoli florets, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Sea Salt and Pepper, to taste
½ cup Feta, Parmesan, or Mozzarella cheese (whichever you prefer)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place Naan on a baking sheet in the oven while it is heating up to lightly toast the Naan. Remove when Naan has turned a light golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all the vegetables. Drizzle with a little olive oil (about 2 TBS) and season with salt and pepper. Lightly toss vegetables to evenly coat. Place vegetables on baking sheet and roast for approximately 20 minutes, until vegetables start to brown. Add more or less time depending upon how crisp or browned you like your vegetables.
*Note: Vegetables cook at different rates, so make sure to check on them and stir them every 10 minutes or so to prevent them from charring.
When vegetables are done, remove from oven, but do not turn the oven off – you’ll need it for the last step.

Transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Place Naan on the baking sheet. Spread ½ cup of hummus evenly over each Naan. Top with the roasted vegetables. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a bit of cheese over each flatbread.

Place the baking sheet with the flatbreads back into the oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese begins to bubble and melt.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Roasted Red Peppers

I almost always have a jar of roasted red peppers tucked away in my refrigerator. Roasted red peppers are extremely versatile and super easy to toss into a ton of different recipes, not to mention a very simple (and time saving) ingredient to add to just about anything. I used to buy the store bought roasted peppers, but I recently made them myself. Not only were they delicious, but they were super easy to make and less expensive than the store bought ones. :-)

 

 

Homemade Roasted Red Peppers
6 whole red peppers (you can however many peppers you want – I just used 6 because that’s how many came in the club pack at my grocery store :-) )
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Place whole peppers on baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, turning peppers a few times so that peppers roast evenly on all sides. Peppers are done roasted when they are fairly charred on all sides. Remove baking sheet from oven and cover with tin foil. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Cut each pepper in half and remove the stem and seeds. Carefully remove the peel and discard. Cut each pepper into slices. Place pepper slices in a jar and drizzle with olive oil. Screw the lid back on the jar and store peppers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

*Feel free to get creative and add garlic, parsley, or whatever blend of spices you like to the peppers.

Add roasted peppers to your favorite hummus or pasta sauce recipe, or use them in sandwiches or salads.

Enjoy!

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How to Properly Prepare and Eat an Artichoke

Artichokes are one of those things that are rarely served at dinner parties and aren’t commonly found on menus. Why? Because they’re a little intimidating, and cooking them (and even eating them) isn’t exactly intuitive. By the way, when I say ‘artichoke’, I don’t mean the artichoke hearts that come in a jar and are used for that yummy creamy spinach artichoke dip that’s always a hit. I’m talking about whole raw artichokes that resemble a small grenade.

A couple of years ago, I attempted to cook some artichokes for dinner. I must’ve prepared them incorrectly, because they were very ummm…difficult…to eat. I’ve never described a food as ‘scratchy’ before, but that is definitely how I would have described these artichokes. Needless to say, I scarred my husband with that experience and he pretty much never wanted to eat another artichoke again. Oops :-)

Since then, I’ve been bound and determined to properly cook an artichoke that was not only edible, but delicious too. The other day I finally braved up and bought 2 whole artichokes to make for dinner. And, surprise surprise, they turned out great! Here are my tips for preparing and eating artichokes. Enjoy!

How to Prepare an Artichoke:
There are tons of different recipes for artichokes, but the following are the basic steps for how to prepare and cook an artichoke. If you would like to make the Grilled Artichokes with Parsley and Garlic recipe that I used, skip down to the bottom of this post and follow the recipe instructions for preparation and cooking. Otherwise, to prepare an artichoke for a snack or a simple side, follow these steps:

*Note: have a lemon on hand to prevent artichokes from browning

1. Wash the artichoke to remove any dirt on and beneath the leaves.
2. Cut off about an inch from the top of the artichoke. Cut off a portion of the stem, leaving about 1 inch left.
3. Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut off the sharp tips of each of the leaves. (This is an optional step as the leaves do soften up a bit during the boiling process. Although it does remove any prickly bits from the leaves, this step is mainly for aesthetic purposes.)
4. Immediately after cutting each artichoke, rub the cut areas with half a lemon to prevent browning. If you are preparing several artichokes, have a bowl of cold water mixed with some lemon juice on hand to place cut artichokes in.
5. Artichokes can either be boiled, steamed or microwaved. Artichokes are done cooking when they are tender, and a leaf can easily be pulled from the center of the artichoke.
To boil: Boil the artichokes in salted water for 25-40 minutes, until tender.
To steam: Place a steamer basket inside a pot filled with 1-2 inches of water. Bring water to a boil. Place the artichokes in a steamer basket and cook covered for 15-30 minutes, until tender.
To microwave: Microwave artichokes in a covered microwave-safe dish for 8 minutes, adding additional time if you are you are cooking more than one artichoke.

To Eat:
1. Have small plates or bowls set aside for discarding leaves.
2. To eat, pull off a leaf, one at a time, from the artichoke. Dip the leaf into melted butter, mayonnaise, or some other sauce. Place the leave in your mouth, with the inner leaf part facing towards you. Bite down and draw the base of the leaf through your teeth to remove the tender portion. You basically are scraping the tender inner leaf portion with your teeth to consume.
3. After all the leaves have been removed, scrape off the inedible prickly “choke” with a spoon. The choke is the inedible part of the artichoke and is the fuzzy white and purple prickly part. Once the choke is removed, the artichoke heart will now be exposed. The heart can now be cut into pieces and eaten or used in other recipes.

Here was the delectable artichoke recipe I used, courtesy of Giada DeLaurentiis.

Grilled Artichokes with Parsley and Garlic
Serves 6

6 fresh artichokes
2 lemons halved, plus 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Trim the stem from each artichoke to 1-inch long, then bend back and snap off dark outer leaves. Cut top inch of artichokes with serrated knife. Using a vegetable peeler, peel dark green areas from stem and base of artichoke. Quarter each artichoke. Using a small, sharp knife, cut out the choke and remove the purple, prickly tipped leaves from the center of each wedge.

Place finished artichokes in a large bowl of cold water and squeeze 2 lemons into the water and stir. Continue with remaining artichokes.

Once finished, drain the artichokes and place into boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 12 minutes.
Drain the cooked artichokes and place onto preheated grill. Cook until tender and lightly charred in spots, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, add remaining lemon juice (1/3 cup) parsley, garlic and salt and pepper, to taste. Gradually drizzle in olive oil.

Toss or drizzle the grill artichokes with the garlic/parsley mixture and serve.

Enjoy!

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Honey Glazed Salmon

I love fish, and one thing I love about living across the street from an awesome grocery store is their fresh seafood. I was thrilled yesterday when I discovered they had just gotten in some wild-caught Yukon River Salmon from Alaska. Personally, I think fish is one of those foods that is much better fresh than frozen, so I am always happy when I can find fresh seafood.

This is the mouth-watering salmon recipe I used last night. Baking the fish in the parchment paper packets kept it from drying out, and made clean-up a breeze! :-) Combined with the fact that this recipe literally takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish, this recipe is definitely a winner at our house!

Honey Glazed Salmon
serves 2
2 TBS honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS olive oil
2 salmon fillets
Salt and pepper
Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 400-450 degrees depending on how thick the salmon fillets are.
**If fillets are less than 1 inch thick, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If the salmon fillets are 1 ½ or more inches thick, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine honey, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil and mix well.
Cut 2 sheet s of parchment paper about twice the length of the fillets. Place a salmon fillet, skin side down just below the center of each of the pieces of parchment paper. Generously coat the salmon with the honey garlic mixture using a basting brush. Season with salt and pepper.

Fold the parchment paper in half and then fold in the sides to make a packet. Make sure to fold over any open edges so that the salmon is tightly wrapped.

Bake salmon packets on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes until salmon is cooked to your taste. (Check doneness by inserting the side of a fork into the thickest part of the salmon. For well done salmon, the center should be opaque in color and flake. )
*The salmon will continue to cook a little after it is removed from the oven, so remove it when it is slightly rarer than you prefer.

Enjoy!

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Spinach Pasta Salad with Cannellini Beans and Sun-dried Tomatoes

This recipe is a fresh take on the traditional pasta salad, and really is more of a spinach salad with pasta in it. It’s the perfect choice for a light meal, and packs well for picnics too.

This recipe also lends itself to lots of substitutions. I used homemade orecchiette pasta that I found at a farmers’ market, but feel free to use your favorite pasta. Also, if you’re not a big spinach fan, you can substitute the spinach for any mixed greens.

Spinach Pasta Salad with Cannellini Beans and Sun-dried Tomatoes
Serves 4

2 cups dried pasta
4 cups fresh spinach
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, chopped
1 Campari tomato, chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 TBS Goat cheese, crumbled
2 TBS Parmesan cheese, grated
Sea salt and pepper

Boil a large pot of salted water. Add pasta and cook 8-12 minutes according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of pasta water for salad.

In a large bowl, add spinach and cooked pasta and lightly toss. Next, add sun-dried tomatoes, Campari tomato, cannellini beans, goat cheese and Parmesan. Drizzle pasta water over salad and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

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Caramelized Grilled Pineapple

Here’s a fun summer dessert idea that I recently got from Wegmans grocery store. I love that this dessert is cooked on the grill!

Caramelized Grilled Pineapple
Serves 4

1 pineapple, rind and core removed, sliced
¼ cup evaporated cane juice (or sugar)
1 TBS ground cinnamon
Sauce:
1 tsp butter (I used Earth Balance vegan butter)
¼ cup evaporated cane juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TBS water
½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup slivered almonds

Preheat grill on high for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl mix evaporated cane juice and cinnamon until they are well combined. Blot pineapple slices with a paper towel until they are dry. Dip both sides of pineapple slices into cinnamon mixture until they are well coated.
Place sheet of foil on grill. Place pineapple slices on foil and grill on medium-high until sugar bubbles and caramelizes to a deep brown color. (This should take approximately 3-4 minutes per side.) Remove pineapple slices from grill and transfer to a serving platter.

In a small frying pan over low heat, lightly toast almonds, stirring every few seconds so almonds do not burn. Set aside.

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add evaporated cane juice and cinnamon to sauce pan. Stir constantly with a whisk or spatula to prevent sugar from burning. Add water, 1 tsp at a time until mixture forms a thick, but drizzling consistency. Bring mixture to a boil, and remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

Drizzle cinnamon sauce over pineapple slices and top with toasted almonds.

Enjoy!

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Greetings from NY!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, so let me fill you in on all that’s been going on…

We moved.

…I guess it’s pretty simple to explain! We recently moved from Iowa to upstate New York, so things have been a little crazy lately with unpacking boxes and hunting down missing items, like our ironing board. Which, by the way, I’m not sure how one loses an ironing board – it’s so big and oddly shaped I don’t know how we can’t find it!

Anyways, we really like our new house, but the best part is we live across the street from a grocery store! And a really nice grocery store at that. Every cook’s dream! We’ve been to this grocery store, oh probably 10 times since we moved here a week and a half ago. It’s just too easy since we can literally walk to it. Okay, so you may think I’m a little nuts for going on and on about a grocery store, but I’m definitely not the only one around here who feels this way. If you’re from the Northeast (which you’re probably not), but if you happen to be from Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, or Virginia, you’ve probably heard of Wegmans. Wegmans Is this fantastically wonderful grocery store filled with pretty much any ingredient you’d ever need to cook with. They also have a huge selection of prepared meals, and café items, like sushi, a stir fry, a custom panini station, and a Mediterranean bar to name a few. I could go on and on, but I won’t :-) Rather I’ll leave you with this comical, albeit cheesy, Wegmans commercial featuring Alec Baldwin (who is originally from Long Island, NY…where there is a Wegmans :-) ).

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Apricot Orange Scones

I love this scone recipe. It makes breakfast better. And if you’re having a stressful day, have a cup of tea and one of these. You’ll feel better, I promise :-)

 

 

 

Apricot Orange Scones
Makes 10 scones

2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, beaten
2 ¼ cups flour (you can use white whole wheat or all purpose)
1/3 cup evaporated can juice (aka organic sugar)
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3 TBS pecans, finely chopped
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
¼ cup dried cherries, chopped
2 tsp almond milk
2 tsp evaporated cane juice
Orange Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 orange, cut in half
1 TBS orange zest
¼ tsp vanilla
Dash of ground cloves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine almond milk, vanilla, and egg. Mix well with a fork. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, evaporated cane juice, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Using two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (You can also do this using a food processor and pulsing the mixture.) Stir in the almond milk mixture. The dough will be sticky.

Sprinkle a little flour on the dough and on your hands, and knead a few times to form a ball of dough. (*Note: The dough will still be quite sticky.) Place the ball of dough on the baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Shape the dough into an 8 inch circle. Cut the dough into 10 wedges, but do not separate the wedges. (The scones will be moister if they bake as one giant scone.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes until scones are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Drizzle orange glaze over scones. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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Creole Red Beans

This dish packs a lot of flavor and is great as a side or the main entrée. Serve by itself or over a bed or rice or pasta. This dish also reheats well and can easily be doubled or tripled to feed a crowd.

 

 

Creole Red Beans
Serves 4-6

2 TBS canola oil
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch salt
2 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 15 oz cans (about 3 cups) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salsa:
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup Fresh parsley
1 TBS canola oil
1 TBS cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Sauté onions and garlic in oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add celery and carrots and cook for another 2 minutes. Add pepper and continue to sauté until the vegetables are tender.

Whisk together the tomato sauce, cider vinegar, agave nectar, mustard, salt, and herbs and spices. Add to the vegetables.
Combine the beans with the vegetables and stir. Simmer for
30 minutes over low heat.

For the salsa, combine scallion, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, oil, cider vinegar, cayenne, and allspice. Mix gently with a fork and set aside.

Serve the beans just as they are with a spoonful of salsa, or over a bed or rice or pasta.

Enjoy!

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Old Fashioned Steel Cut Oats with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar

Excuse my lack of posts recently. A few weeks ago my husband found out he was being relocated for work, so we are in the hectic process of moving at the moment. We’re going from Iowa to upstate New York, so moving in a matter of a month’s time is a bit of a trick. :-) Needless to say, things have been a little crazy around here. In lieu of that, I decided a nice relaxing breakfast this morning was in order. Relaxing didn’t quite happen though as Mother Nature decided to send a nice hailstorm through our neighborhood last night, and knocked down our mailbox in the process. (I’m sure the new homeowners’ will really like that!) So although things didn’t go quite as planned this morning, breakfast was still nice! This is a recipe for steel cut oats, which have a bit more of a crunchy texture than typical oatmeal. Steel cut oats are also a bit infamous for taking a while to cook (about 40 minutes). I’ve heard you can make these in the crockpot though, so I’ll have to try that next time. Nonetheless, they are a bit of a different take on traditional oatmeal, and definitely worth the extra time to make. This particular recipe reminds me of something I might find in my grandmother’s cookbook – simple, comforting, and delicious. Of course I added a little extra step (brûléeing the oats) at the end to complicate things if you want to kick this recipe up a notch. :-) Regardless if you actual brûlée them or not, these oats are great with just a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar.

Old Fashioned Steel Cut Oats with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar
Serves 4

1 TBS butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups boiling water
1 cup almond milk
1 TBS brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the steel cut oats and stir for 2 minutes to toast the oats. Add the boiling water and stir.

Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 30 minutes. Stir the oats occasionally so they don’t stick to the pan.

Add in the almond milk and continue to cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Optional: To make brûléed steel cut oats, sprinkle cooked oats with brown sugar and turbinado sugar or evaporated cane juice. Using a cooking torch, fire the top of the oats until the sugar is caramelized.

Enjoy!

*Steel cut oats reheat well, which is good since they’re a little time consuming to make. Make a large batch of steel cut oats, and reheat small portions in the microwave or on the stove, adding a little splash of milk to get creamier texture.

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Marble Brownies

While I wouldn’t exactly call these brownies “healthy”, they are made with natural, wholesome ingredients. If you’re going to indulge, you might as well do it right! :-) The Neufchâtel cheese makes these brownies nice and moist and gives them a subtle tangy flavor that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the chocolate.

 

Marble Brownies
Makes 16 squares

1 cup + 1 TBS white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons Earth balance butter, cut into pieces
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 ¼ cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane juice
4 large eggs
6 oz Neufchâtel cheese, room-temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch square baking dish with baking spray. In a small bowl, whisk 1 cup flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Fill the bottom part of a *double boiler with water and place 8 tablespoons of butter and chocolate in the top part. Over low heat, stir chocolate and butter constantly, until smooth – 2 to 3 minutes- and remove bowl pan from heat. Add 1 1/4 cups evaporated cane juice and mix to combine. Add 3 eggs, and mix to combine. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and stir until just moistened (do not over mix).

Prepare Neufchâtel mixture: Whisk Neufchâtel cheese with 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice, 1 egg, and 1 tablespoon flour. Alternately spoon chocolate batter and Neufchâtel mixture into prepared baking dish. With the tip of a small knife, swirl to marble.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until brownies are done and come out clean with a toothpick inserted into the center.

Enjoy!

*If you don’t have a double boiler, place a large heatproof boil over (not in) a pot of water simmering on the stove.

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Easy Summer Couscous Curry

This isn’t what I’d call a traditional curry. This recipe makes for a very light and fresh tasting couscous with just a hint of red curry. The vegetable (or vegetables) are the stars in this recipe so you can use whatever have on hand. I had a leek from the local farmers’ market I wanted to use up, so I added that to the recipe. There aren’t a ton of ingredients to this couscous, and there aren’t a lot of spices. A light squeeze lime juice and a dash of sea salt are just enough to give this dish a punch of flavor without masking the flavors of the fresh vegetables.

This dish serves 1-2 people. I say 1-2 because I ate the entire thing myself yesterday, but it was probably enough for 2 people. :-)

Easy Summer Couscous Curry
Serves 1-2 people

1 cup water, lightly salted
½ cup couscous (use the fast cooking Moroccan style couscous)
1 TBS olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced (discard most of the green parts)
1 oz silken tofu, diced
1-2 tsp red curry paste
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
Cilantro

Bring water to boil. Add couscous and stir. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand. Couscous should cook in about 5 minutes.

In a large frying pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add leek and tofu and stir. Continue cooking for 5 minutes until leeks soften. Stir in curry paste and almond milk. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add cooked couscous to the pan and stir until everything is coated with the curry/almond milk mixture. Add lime juice and sea salt to taste. Serve with a garnish of chopped cilantro.

Enjoy!

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Bananas Foster Bread

This banana bread is sinfully delicious. The rum makes it nice and moist. I imagine this would also be wonderfully decadent as a dessert served with a scoop of vanilla gelato and drizzle of rum and caramelized bananas on top.

 

 

Bananas Foster Bread
Makes 1 loaf

3 TBS Earth Balance butter
½ cup brown sugar (*see note below to make your own homemade brown sugar)
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
½ cup dark rum
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ cup evaporated cane juice (aka organic sugar)
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 TBS canola oil
1 egg
Topping:
1 TBS Earth Balance butter
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
3 TBS brown sugar
¼ cup rum

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Let cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Add bananas and rum and stir to combine. Reduce heat and let mixture cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally until the bananas break down and the mixture starts to resemble a thick syrup. Remove from heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well with a fork.
In a large bowl, add evaporated cane juice and almond milk. Blend well with a beater over medium speed. Add canola oil and egg and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Add banana mixture and beat until just combined.

Pour batter into a 5×9” loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove loaf from pan and cool completely.

For the topping: In a small frying pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the chopped nuts, brown sugar, and rum. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the nuts begin to caramelize. Spoon topping over the top of the loaf or on top of each slice before stirring.

Enjoy!

***To make brown sugar, add 1 tsp molasses to a ½ cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar. Mix well with a fork. Add more molasses for dark brown sugar.

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Pain Perdu with Orange and Cinnamon Syrup

Pain Perdu means “lost bread” in French because the bread is literally lost in the egg and milk mixture. It’s basically a fancy way of saying French toast, and sounds so much more elegant when you’re serving it :-) I made this particular recipe for Mother’s Day yesterday and it was a big hit. Mom loved it!

 

Pain Perdu with Orange and Cinnamon Syrup
Serves 4

French Toast:
6 thick slices of bread
4 eggs
2/3 cup almond milk
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS orange zest
Syrup:
1 orange
¾ cup evaporated cane juice
½ cup water
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of ginger
2 TBS butter

In a large bowl mix, eggs, almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest. Place slices of bread in bowl, rotating them around so that they all get coated with the egg mixture. Let the bread soak for 10 minutes.
Peel the orange and separate the segments. Using a small knife, peel off the membrane of each segment. Place the oranges, evaporated cane juice, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a sauce pan and stir constantly over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Heat large skillet or griddle over medium heat and melt butter. Place the soaked bread slices on the skillet and cook each side 3-5 minutes until golden brown.

Cut each slice on a diagonal and serve with a drizzle of orange syrup and a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Enjoy!

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pecans and Avocado

This recipe for brussel sprouts is so delicious, I guarantee you will not have leftovers. My husband loves this recipe, and let me tell you, out of the two of us, he’s definitely not the vegetable lover. The avocado in this recipe is really what makes it. It adds a nice fresh summer-time taste, and the creaminess of the avocado pared with the slight crunch of the brussel sprouts is fantastic.

This recipe was given to me by my mother and is based off of a dish she had in a restaurant once. The credit goes to her and the chef who thought to add avocadoes to brussel sprouts! :-)

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pecans and Avocado
Serves 2

1 cup brussel sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 ½ TBS olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ tsp dried thyme
¼ cup pecans, roughly chopped
½ an avocado, diced

Blanch and shock the brussel sprouts. To do this, boil a pot of water, add the brussel sprouts, and cook them for 5 minutes. Drain water from pot and pour the brussel sprouts into a bowl of ice water to “shock” them. Drain the water from the bowl.

In a large frying pan over medium high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the brussel sprouts and season them with a little salt and pepper and dried thyme. Sauté them for 10 minutes or so until they are lightly browned and crisp. Add the pecans and avocado and lightly sauté for another minute.

Serve with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar if desired.

Enjoy!

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Chipotle Chicken and Lime Stuffed Peppers with Avocado

I love these chicken and black bean stuffed peppers because they’re a nice twist on the traditional ground beef ones. The chipotle chilies add some heat and smokiness, and the roasted garlic and lime gives them a nice southwestern flavor. Serve these with a side of homemade corn tortillas and you have a healthy and delicious south of the border meal!

*Note: Depending on the size of your peppers, you may have a bit of the filling leftover.  Don’t worry though – served on a bed of lettuce or a toasted bun, it makes a good meal for tomorrow’s lunch. :-)

Chipotle Chicken and Lime Stuffed Peppers with Avocado
makes 3 stuffed peppers

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
Water
Sea salt
2 TBS olive oil,
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2/3 cup corn
1/4 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 TBS lime juice
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tsp chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, minced (include a tsp of sauce)
3 large bell peppers
Queso fresco
½ an avocado, diced

Place chicken breast in a small saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the chicken. Salt the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered about 15-20 minutes until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees Fahrenheit). Remove chicken from pot, making sure to reserve the broth for later use. When chicken has cooled enough to handle, shred it using a fork or with your fingers. Set aside.

In a frying pan, warm 1 TBS of the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and corn. Continue sautéing 5 minutes until onions start to turn translucent and garlic is lightly browned. Add coriander and cumin and continue to sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside. Pull the two cloves of garlic out of the pan and peel the papery skin off. Smash the clove of garlic and return it to the onion/corn mixture.

In a large bowl, add the black beans, lime juice, tomatoes, and chilies. Smash the black bean mixture using a potato masher or fork, until approximately half the mixture is mashed. Stir in chicken, onions, garlic, and corn.
Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all ribs and seeds – do not discard the tops. Cut a very thin slice off the base the peppers so that they will stand upright in the baking dish.
Fill each of the peppers with the black bean/chicken mixture. Top each pepper with a bit of queso fresco. Place the tops back on the peppers.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place peppers in an 8×8 inch square baking dish. Lightly brush the peppers with the remaining Tablespoon of olive oil. Fill pan with chicken broth, 1 ladle at a time, until pan is filled ¾” with broth. Bake for 40-50 minutes until peppers are soft. Check on the peppers every 10 minutes or so – if peppers are getting too brown, cover dish with foil.

Remove peppers from oven and place a spoonful of diced avocado underneath the tops of each pepper. Sprinkle each pepper with a bit of sea salt if desired.

Enjoy!

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Cannellini Bean Crostini

I love making crostini. They are great as appetizers and also make the perfect accompaniment to salads or soups. Crostini literally means “little toasts” in Italian, and that’s exactly what they are. Crostini are very versatile and can be topped with anything from just a simple cheese to a variety of pestos and spreads. These cannellini bean crostini are nice because they’re a little heartier. The beans give the crostini a little boost of protein and fiber, so I like to have these as a side to a light meal.

Cannellini Bean Crostini
Serves 2

½ French baguette, cut into ½ inch thick slices
1-2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
½ can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Paprika to taste
Red Pepper flakes to taste
1 clove garlic
1 oz havarti cheese, thinly sliced
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced

Place baguette slices (aka crostini) on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Broil in oven for 1-2 minutes until bread turns golden brown. Remove baking sheet from oven and flip the crostini. Bake for an additional minute or two so that the crostini is lightly browned. Remove baking sheet from oven and flip the crostini once more so that the olive oil side is face up. (Keep the oven on broil – you’ll need it again in a minute.)

Peel the garlic clove and slice in half. Rub the garlic into each of the crostini to flavor.

In a small bowl add cannellini beans, a dash of paprika, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Mash with a fork. Add additional paprika and red pepper flakes to taste.

Spoon a bit of the cannellini bean mixture onto each crostini. Top each one with a thin slice of havarti cheese. Broil for 1-2 minutes until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.

Remove from oven and top each crostini with a slice of tomato.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Soup 101

The process of making soup is almost as comforting as the food itself. Light and flavorful or rich and creamy, a bowl of homemade soup always hits the spot. Soup is a staple in our house. We often make it at the end of the week when we’re running low on groceries and have a hodgepodge of vegetables left in the fridge. Miraculously it always turns out good, and makes for a very satisfying meal when served with a thick slice of rustic bread.

Although there are a gazillion different recipes for soup, below are some basic ingredients you’ll need for a filling broth-based soup:
• Some sort of stock (vegetable, chicken, beef, etc. – whatever you’d prefer)
• A bouquet garni – a bouuet garni is a bundle of herbs that is added to soup at the start of cooking time to give the soup more flavor. Traditionally, a bouquet garni includes some parsley sprigs, thyme, and a bay leaf. Make a little bundle by wrapping the herbs in cheesecloth or a piece of muslin and tying it secure – this makes finding the herbs at the end a lot easier. Many herbs can be left in the soup if they are chopped finely, but a dried bay leaf never tastes good so make sure you always remember to remove it at the end! :-)
• Onions, leeks, fennel, and/or garlic – The majority of soups have at least one of these four ingredients in them because they help give the soup a nice full flavor. Finely chop or thinly slice the vegetable and sauté in a little oil before adding any broth.
• Vegetables – Carrots, celery, corn, potatoes, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes…pretty much any vegetable you can think of can go into soup. Although adding raw vegetables and simmering them is the most common practice, roasting vegetables beforehand can give soup a more robust flavor.
• Beans, lentils, or meat – If you are using dried beans or lentils, make sure you soak them overnight first before using them. Canned beans are great if you’re in a hurry because they can be added directly to the soup with no prep work. As far as meat goes, some recipes say to brown it in a frying pan first while others have it cooked in boiling broth. I found that the general rule of thumb is brown beef and boil chicken, so I’d stick to that if you’re not sure how you want to cook the meat.

*Although I did not specify exact quantities of ingredients because it’s largely variable, to make soup for two you’ll need approximately ½ cup of one of the onion options, 2-4 cups of stock, a small bouquet garni, 1 cup of chopped vegetables, and 1 cup of protein.

To make soup, add sautéed onions/leeks/fennel/or garlic to a large stockpot. Add stock, the bouquet garni, vegetables, and protein and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for at least 20 minutes. While the soup is simmering, taste it and add any additional dried herbs or spices.

After the soup has simmered, you can either enjoy it as chunky soup or you can puree a portion (or all of it) to make it a bit thicker. Puree the soup using a blender, food processor, or hand immersion blender.

Top soup with a bit of grated cheese, croutons, fresh herbs, or crisped vegetable slivers.

Enjoy!

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Lettuce Controversy – Are we destroying the environment by making our food safer?

Does making our food safer to eat negatively impact the environment? It appears so. At least when it comes to leafy greens.

I recently read several very interesting articles that explained how new safety practices are destroying many wildlife habitats. Up until six years ago, many farmers were encouraged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish more environmentally friendly farming practices. For example, drainage ditches on the perimeters of fields were covered with dirt and planted with grass to prevent fertilizer runoff from contaminating water sources. Specific vegetation that made good habitats for insects that helped farmers, such as those that ate pests like aphids, were also planted. Tactics such as these improved water quality, created greener countryside, and protected the homes of a variety of wildlife.

Then in 2006, there was an E. coli outbreak associated with bags of spinach that caused 205 people to be sick and killed three people. The Food and Drug Administration was able to trace the E. coli back to a specific field, but was unable to confirm how the field got contaminated in the first place. Potentially contamination sources included wildlife, livestock, humans, and water, but the FDA was unable to pinpoint the exact cause. Regardless, the FDA came up with a “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables” to help curtail future outbreaks. The drainage ditch grass was sprayed with herbicides and killed because it might be a potential home for mice. Ponds were dried up that could be home to ducks and geese. Trees nearby fields disappeared. Fences were built along fields to prevent wildlife from invading. Basically anything that could potentially be home to some form of wildlife was destroyed. And with their homes demolished (and even ponds poisoned), much of the nearby wildlife has been killed.

Although these new food safety campaigns seem to have succeeded in their mission – to date, there have not been any more large scale outbreaks from contaminated lettuce – you can hardly call them an “optimal” solution. The big problem is no one is really sure which practices are making food safer. Even some members of the FDA aren’t certain that their anti-wildlife policies are actually making a difference. In a two-year long government and university study, out of 866 wild animals tested, only four tested positive for E. coli. That’s less than 0.5%. That’s also a lot of needless killing off of wildlife.

So what is the solution? Unfortunately right now there isn’t one. Several research groups are working to determine which animals are serious threats to food safety. Sustainable Conservation, a nonprofit organization, is also working with farmers and government officials to come up with innovative solutions to protect wildlife and be environmentally friendly while keeping food safe. Let’s just hope they come up with something soon.

Sources:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/04/23/151047957/how-making-food-safe-can-harm-wildlife-and-water
http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2007/ucm108873.htm
http://www.gourmet.com/foodpolitics/2009/04/politics-of-the-plate-oh-deer

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Stir Fried Quinoa

Have you ever started to make something and then realized halfway through that you were missing an ingredient? That’s how I ended up with this recipe. I was going to make a baked quinoa dish, but realized I was a few eggs and breadcrumbs short. So I improvised. :-) This dish is simple to make, and very easily adaptable. I used spinach, chives, and dill, but feel free to use whatever vegetables and herbs you like.

Stir Fried Quinoa
Serves 2

¾ cup quinoa
1 ¼ cups water
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp dried chives
1 tsp dried dill
½ tsp cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup green onions, finely chopped
1 cup chopped spinach
2 TBS cornmeal
1 egg, beaten
1 TBS olive oil

In a small pot add quinoa, water, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes until quinoa has absorbed the water. (It will be tender and look like little curlicues when it’s done.) Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl add chives, dill, cumin, garlic, green onions, spinach, cornmeal, and cooked quinoa. Stir with a fork. Add egg and mix.

In a large frying pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add quinoa herb mixture. Cook 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally until quinoa is lightly browned and crisp.

Enjoy!

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Italian Cannellini Bean Dip

There are 3 reasons why I absolutely love this dip:
1) There are very few ingredients
2) It’s healthy
3) It takes no time at all to make
This dip is great as an appetizer served with pita chips or toasted baguette slices. Served over a bed of mixed greens, it also works well as a light lunch.

Italian Cannellini Bean Dip
Serves 6

2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained.
1 ½ TBS red pepper flakes
2 TBS olive oil (*use lemon or garlic infused olive oil if you have some on hand)

In a medium bowl, add approximately 1/3 of the cannellini beans and smash with a potato masher or fork. Add the remaining cannellini beans, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Stir a bit to mix all ingredients together. Heat dip in a saucepan over the stove if desired. Otherwise, this dip is great served at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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