Dinner

Mushroom "Crab" Cakes

I am super excited to share this recipe with you! I'll admit I'm not someone who particular loves mushrooms. In most dishes if I had the option to have the meal with or without mushrooms it would be without. Then again, most of my memories of mushrooms were that of the slimy, rubbery type my father used to get on his pizza everyone and awhile. Lately, I have grown to like them more, and have appreciation for them if I'm out to dinner and they are served in a dish I order. But I've been secretly wanting to do more with them. Then I found Mycoterro Farm at the Winter Farmers' Market last week. I had just grabbed myself some coffee from my new favorite roasters, a local placed called Karma Coffee Roasters, and was heading to line up from my produce when I saw a sea of funky looking mushrooms set up and just had to learn more... 

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The man running the mushroom stand was exactly how you'd might imagine... I was taken back to my trip to Bonnaroo in 2006 and had to laugh. The first thing that caught my eye was a bizarre looking mushroom that resembled a sea urchin and I had to learn more. It's called a Lion's Mane mushroom. The guy (super nice and helpful but I didn't get his name) tells me that the mushroom has a taste similar to lobster, with a texture like crab.

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I had to have one and he provided me with some extra information on the mushroom, including a recipe for a "crab" cake. I took the recipe and tweaked it a bit and have to admit he was 100% right. I could fool anyone with these little bites; no one would know I was serving mushroom! For the most part I remained true to the recipe that came from Mycoterra Farms with the exception of adjusting some of the measurements of ingredients and using Greek yogurt in lieu of mayonnaise as I preferred to use the Greek yogurt as a healthy, fat-free (unprocessed) substitute.

An important note I learned was that raw, or undercooked, this variety of mushroom will taste quite bitter, and is best cooked slowly in a skillet or roasted. This recipe called for roasting the mushroom, so I followed suit. I chopped up the mushroom, perpendicular to the spines, as noted to retain the stringy seafood texture, tossed in some organic extra virgin olive oil and threw in my oven along with a large clove of garlic to roast at 350 degrees for 30-40 mins, turning part way.

Mushrooms retain a lot of water, so they shrink quite a bit when cooked. I was so concerned about overcooking these that I pulled them out on the early side. I could tell they could use some more cooking so after I started sweating some diced onion on the stove top, I added the lion's mane to cook another minute. I put the mushroom, garlic and onion mixture in a food processor and pulsed 3-4 times just to break up the chunks. In a separate bowl I started adding the rest of the ingredients for the "crab" cake: 2 tbs Greek yogurt, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 cup of bread crumbs, 1 egg, a generous amount of fresh chopped parsley, a splash of vinegar, splash of lemon and 1 tsp of paprika (and salt and pepper to taste). I gently folded in the the mushroom mixture with the other mixture to create the cake mix. All they needed was to be cooked!

I'd imagine that you could bake these in the oven, but to really get the true texture of a crab cake they need to be pan fried. My go-to cooking oils are grapeseed oil and coconut oil - both have a high smoking point, meaning they can withstand high heat, without breaking down/burning (and becoming a carcinogen). I was out of grapeseed oil, so I used coconut oil and it worked perfectly. If you've never cooked with coconut oil, I'd highly recommend it. While the oil itself smells like coconut oil, I don't find in imparts a coconut flavor to what you are cooking. (pic) Look at these beauties! Out of the pan, I simply blotted off the excess oil and sprinkled a touch of sea salt on top.

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For dipping (because every good grab cake needs a sauce) I whipped up a quick 4 ingredient remoulade-like sauce and served my creation with a Purple Kale salad with avocado and chickpeas (I'll add a like to that recipe once I post it).

Lion's Mane mushrooms are a vary rare variety, so the fact that I have access to them now this winter through the market means I'll be making and enjoying this recipe a few more times. I don't know about you, but I think this would make perfect game day grub for the big game a few Sundays from now! If you don't have access to lion's mane can you make this recipe? Absolutely! The unique qualities of the lion's mane do add that texture and slight taste you'd expect from a crab cake, but that's not to say you couldn't use this cooking method with a more common variety, like oyster mushrooms (which have a more mild flavor) and replicate something in the same vain. Go ahead! Be adventurous! As the "mushroom guy" said last week, "can you imagine the first person that decided it would be a good idea to try to eat one of these things?!" Curiosity can pay off. I'm very pleased I got over my aversion of mushrooms and discovered something so delicious to add to my cooking repertoire!  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound (2 pints) Lion's Mane Mushroom
  • 2 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs Greek yogurt (organic mayonnaise can be used as a substitute)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup organic bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 egg (you can easily make this recipe vegan by replacing this with a "flaxseed" egg)
  • splash of white or red wine vinegar
  • 2-3 tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • lemon juice from 1/4 lemon
  • 3-4 tbs coconut oil (or alternative) for cooking the cakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

For remoulade:

  • 1/4 cup non or low-fat organic Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard (I used Trader Joe's Garlic Aioli Mustard)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • juice of 1/4 lemon

DIRECTIONS

  • Dice Lion's Mane mushroom into large pieces. Toss in olive oil and roast in oven, with garlic at 350 degrees for 30-40 mins. Turn halfway through. The mushroom will shrink substantially as the water cooks out.
  • When ready, put mushroom and garlic mixture in food processor and pulse 4-5 times until mix is broken down in smaller chunks.
  • In a separate bowl mix together the egg, soy sauce, Greek yogurt, lemon, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Use a whisk to evenly mix the wet ingredients. Add breadcrumbs, onions* and pulsed mushroom mixture.
  • *If you choose, you can saute the onions instead of using raw onions (this is optional). To do so, cook in a saute pan on medium-low with coconut oil, slowly sweating the onions until translucent (about 5-7 minutes).
  • Use an ice cream scoop or tablespoon (depending on the desired size of the crab cakes) to measure equal portions of crab cakes. With your hands, form into cakes.
  • Heat coconut oil in non-stick pan on medium heat and fry until lightly browned on both sides.
  • Finish with a touch of sea salt
  • For remoulade: Using a whisk, mix yogurt, mustard, parika, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

"Psychedelic" Salad

Maintaining a food blog is a lot like working out; if you take a break, it's hard to start again. I know a lot about both. I love cooking and photography; both allow me to explore my creative side. It was that enjoyment and my desire to share healthy recipes that got me to start this food blog. This past summer was really exciting. We started a small garden, started raising our own chickens and I found myself training for my first 5k! Despite my best intentions of sharing more recipes throughout the summer, as you can tell. It just didn't happen. Without trying to explain myself, or make excuses, I'm simply going to say that there is a lot of work that goes into pulling a post together after the dish is prepare, and frankly, I didn't make that a priority.

But, I'm back and resolved to start sharing recipes again! No surprise, with the start of the New Year, I'm refocusing on my health. I started the year off detoxing and eating completely clean. I haven't even had a drink since New Years Eve! I got back to a fitness regiment and signed up for a 15 class January yoga challenge. Last Saturday, after my 8am Vinyasa class I stopped by for the opening day of a Winter Farmer's Market hosted by a local garden center.

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This was exactly what I needed to start getting inspired again. I arrived about a half hour early, while the vendors were still setting up. It was a smart move because I got to scout out who was going to be there that week, and give myself enough time to line up for Red Fire Farm's stand, who sells amazing produce. Within a few minutes I scored some brussel sprouts, mixed lettuce, purple kale and butternut squash. I then quickly got in line to get some root vegetables from Winter Moon Roots.

I don't like to pick favorites, but of all the vendors that I've seen at the market since I started going two years ago, Winter Moon Roots has one of the most alluring set-ups. Their root vegetables range the full color spectrum, and the bright colors of the beets and carrots pull you in. Not only do they have a wide array of roots themselves (from parsnips to potatoes to turnips to radishes and more), they carry several varieties of each.

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Cleverly they slice open the produce to reveal the beauty inside. This week I couldn't help but pick up some cool looking "Psychedelic" or Chioggia beets. Inspiration for this winter salad instantly came after seeing the name and colors. I couldn't wait to go home and whip up my lunch. It's worth noting that the only thing "psychedelic" about these beets are their cool colors; they are not going to make you "trip"!

Salads are usually easy dishes to pull together, but when making a beet salad, you do have to account for the time it takes to roast your beets.  As soon as I returned home, I got my oven preheated, washed the beet I was going to use for the recipe, splashed it with some oil, wrapped it in foil and threw it in the oven. Cooking time varies greatly depending on the size of your beet, but I knew mine would need to roast for about 40 mins. Rather than wait around, that gave me plenty of time to unload my groceries, wash and prep my other produce for that week, and tidy up around the kitchen.

Around the 40 min mark , I checked the doneness of the beet with a knife. It should be easy to puncture, as if you were checking on a baked potato. Pull it out of the oven and let it cool slightly before handling. With a pairing knife, gently scrape the outside skin. It will peel away easily. Discard. Slice or chop your beet however you choose. My beet was large enough that I saved half of it for other salads later in week. As it finished cooling I started assembling the salad.

I started with super fresh mixed greens from the market - I especially like how there were varying shades of greens and some pops of reddish purple from the red leaf lettuce. To add another punch of color to play with the ruby colored beets, I shaved some red cabbage. I've talked a lot about beets, and while they inspired this salad, I didn't want them to be the star. No, they'd share the stage (or plate) with bright segments of orange.

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Oranges are one of those fruits that make getting through the winter a lot easier. They are a great reminder of warmer months ahead and packs a heavy punch of Vitamin-C, not to mention they taste delicious!  You'll have to feel comfortable with your knife skills to segment out your orange, but after watching a quick video, I realized how easy it was.

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Greens, beets, citrus.... I needed some fat! Yes, all salads need, no, deserve a healthy fat. Avocado was going to be the perfect healthy fat for this salad. It was going to have the perfect creaminess to pair with the citrus notes from the orange segments and the vinaigrette (besides, I am partial to avocado). Seeds are also a great source of healthy fat for salads, and since I also wanted some crunch, I sprinkled on some unsalted pumpkin seeds I had on hand.

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And lastly, the dressing; a bright citrus vinaigrette to bring all the flavors together. Dressing is way to easy to make, so if you are still looking for a resolution this year, try to start making homemade dressing. Classic vinaigrette use equal parts oil to vinegar or something else acidic. My dressings usually use more vinegar and citrus juices, which pack big flavor without a lot of calories, than oil making mine 1 part oil to 2 parts vinegar. But there is really no way to mess it up. I took some extra virgin olive oil and added it to a small mason jar. Then I squeezed the leftover orange juice, plus juice of a lemon to give it a rounded citrus flavor. Finally I added a splash of white wine vinegar and a touch of salt and pepper. I covered the jar and gave it a shake to emulsify the dressing.

When I make dressings, I'll make them in small batches. I only needed about 1-2 tablespoons for a single serving of my salad, leaving me with extra for other salads throughout the week.

So there you have it! A beautifully bright and balanced salad with earthy beets, sweet oranges and creamy avocado to put a smile on your face in the dead of winter!

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Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 medium to large size Chioggia beet, roasted and sliced
  • 2 organic navel oranges, segmented
  • 1 cup shaved red cabbage
  • 1/2 avocado, cubed
  • 1/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 4 cups of mixed organic greens of your choice

Citrus Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice from orange (after being segmented)
  • 1-2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • sea salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

Beets

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Clean beets, leaving skin on, wrap in foil.
  • Bake for 30-50 mins depending on size of beet until tender.
  • Remove and let cool. Once you can easily handle the beet, use a pairing knife to scrape of the skin.
  • Slice or chop to desired size.

Citrus Dressing

  • In a small mason jar, add all the ingredients for the dressing and shake vigorously to emulsify. Use the dressing throughout the week for future meals.

Assembling the salad

  • Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl. Add 3-4 tbs of the dressing* and toss.
  • *If you are saving half of the salad for a meal later in the week, store without the dressing. Just use 1-2 tablespoons for a single serving.

Linguini with Asparagus & Hazelnuts

I love the simplicity of this recipe and how it allows asparagus, fresh from the farm share, stand out in harmony with a buttery and herbacious lemon sauce. Feel free to use whatever type of pasta you'd like, but I think the wide strands of linguini are the best vehicle for this particular recipe. If you are feeling more daring, I'd suggest making your own pasta. The dough itself, is quite easy (even easier with a food processor, but you can do by hand). The only thing  you really need is a pasta machine, to roll out the thin sheets of dough. I suggest looking at a Homegoods or Marshalls. I've seen them there for under $30 (its an investment that will last a life time).

I have somewhat struggled with dough recipes in the past - especially when I play around with the type of flour I use. I specifically had a bag of whole wheat flour, so I ran a search on the interent for a recipe calling for the same. My first hit was for a recipe by Lidia Bastianch. I didn't need to look any further; Lidia is a goddess in the Italian culinary world. If there was anyone who had a good recipe for pasta, then she did.

I had just walked in the door on Tuesday, after picking up the farm share. I ran to my Kitchen Aid mixer, pulled the recipe up on my iPhone and started measuring out my ingredients. As I opened my whole wheat flour I was pleasantly surprised to see my 1-cup measuring cup that had been missing for several months. It was a good omen. Flour, salt, olive oil and egg. How much simpler does it get? In just a few minutes I had pasta dough ready to work with.

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I wanted the recipe to be simple and focused on one key ingredient: the asparagus.

Before cooking my pasta (which would only take about 2 minutes being so fresh), I used the pot of boiling water to steam half of the bunch of asparagus for a few minutes, and then put in an ice bath to retain its bright green color.

For the sauce, I started melting 2 tablespoons of organic pastuered salted butter in a saute pan. I added sage and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to add some brightness to the dish. Meanwhile, I took a small handful of hazelnuts and toasted them in the oven. It wasnt a necessary step, but I like the deeper flavor it adds than just using raw nuts.

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I mentioned this was a simple recipe, but you have to be a good multi-tasker as everything happens so quickly. Hazelnuts were toasting, butter was melting, and the aspargus was steamed and ready. All there was left to do was through in my fresh linguini into a bot of boiling salted water.

Two minutes later, I pulled the pasta, add added to the pan of melted butter along with diced asparagus. Tossing the pasta in the pan of sauce allows the pasta to continue to absorb some of the flavors, while warming up the asparagus that was cooked in advance.

I split the pasta over two bowls and topped with fresh cracked pepper, shaved pecorio romano, and chopped toasted hazelnuts for myself.

Ingredients:

  • Linguini (measured for 2 servings)
  • A half bunch of asparagus
  • 2 tbs of salted butter
  • tsp of fresh sage or other herbs (optional)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 2 -3 tbs of hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shaved or 1/8 cup of grated pecorino romano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Fill up pot used for cooking pasta, halfway. Using a steaming basket, steam asparagus for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and put in ice bath to retain bright green color.
  • Add more water to pot, full enough to cook pasta.

Garlic & Herb Shrimp

Maintaining a food blog is a lot of work, especially on top of having a busy job. There is quite a lot going on at work, and even though most of the Irish-inspired recipes I planned out for this week are rather simple, it still takes some time to prep everything and have daylight to shoot it all.

Thankfully I had a really quick and easy recipe for Garlic & Herb Dublin Bay Prawn planned out to recreate.

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Fishing towns are scattered all throughout Ireland's coast so I'm dedicating several of this weeks posts to seafood. Dublin Bay Prawns, also commonly known as langoustine, are very similar to look and taste to shrimp.

Prawn and shrimp are in the same zoological class but prawn are generally a bit larger. For whatever reason prawn/langoustine are not common in the states. In fact, I think the first time I had seen a langoustine was when my husband and I were honeymooning in Portugal.

Short story long, instead of using Dublin Bay prawn, I picked up a half pound of shrimp.

For the best flavor I could have purchased them with shells (they flavor the sauce), but to keep it simple I grabbed the peeled and deveined.

So here is what you need:

Ingredients: 1/2 pound of shrimp 2 tbs butter (Kerrygold is a great choice) 3-4 tbs of fresh chopped parsley or other fresh herbs 3 cloves of garlic minced Juice from half a lemon 1/4 cup dry white wine Angel hair pasta (enough for 2)

How it all comes together The longest thing you need to wait for is the water to boil for the pasta. Other than that, be ready to move quick.

While that pot of water is coming to a boil, start prepping your shrimp. Rinse off and pat dry.

In a bowl mix the lemon juice, minced garlic, herbs and the 2 tbs of soften butter in a bowl.

Add the shrimp and massage the butter/herb mixture into the shrimp. Do not leave in this marinade for longer than 30 minutes because the acidity of the lemon will cook the shrimp before it even hits a sauté pan.

When the water looks close to a boil, get a sauté pan set over medium heat.

(Here is where you need to move fast).

Drop the shrimp with marinate into pan and start to sauté. They only need 1-2 minutes per side.

Now drop your angel hair into the boiling water. Check the instructions to cook until al Dente (a slight bite).

Once shrimp has color on both sides, add about 1/4-1/2 cup of white wine to the pan and let reduce for a minute.

Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan. Let cook in pan for another minute. The pasta will soak up all those flavors.

Divide to among two bowls and top with a few fresh herbs.

Ideally enjoy with a glass of white wine, especially if you've had a long day.

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Guinness Mussels with Irish Soda Bread

My anticipation for Spring is at it's highest now that daylight savings has arrived. I'm so looking forward to longer days, warmer weather and the fresh flavors the season has to bring. It's all worth celebrating and St Patick's Day couldn't come at a better time. I, myself, am not Irish, but I've married into an Irish family. Now, as a Turner, I think its important to learn a few things about it. Food is one of the best ways to immerse yourself into a culture and what better time to explore Irish cuisine than the week of St Patrick's Day!

So what exactly is Irish cuisine? Even when you look at the menus of "authentic" Irish pubs around Boston, I see "quesadillas" and "chicken Parmesan" as often as Shepard's Pie. It's certainly not "Irish" just because it has Guinness or whiskey (although a the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes I made last year were some of the best I've made). And  surely, there is more to Irish food than Corned Beef and Cabbage and Bangers and Mash (which I love).

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The Irish have never really been known for their food, not at least the way the French, Italian, German, Spanish etc are. The notion really surprises me because the wealth of ingredients available is incredible. Here is what I've learned so far:

  •  it isn't all about the potato ( it only arrived in the late 16th century)
  • the immaculate green pastoral lands make for great grazing grounds for cattle, sheep and other livestock
  • great grass fed cattle make for some of the worlds best butter, cheeses and milk
  • it's an island (duh) so don't forget about seafood
  • Irish cooking is simple and from the heart. Use what you have (think fresh and local)

This first recipe I'm sharing is all about simple, fresh, and "local" ingredients. The whole meal came together in about a half an hour (fresh baked bread included!)So let's get to it. Irish Soda Bread is a considered a classic. If you are planning on making any Irish meals this week, I beg you to try your hand at making your own bread instead of buying a pre-made loaf (or even worse, a "mix").

Irish Soda bread requires 4 ingredients and chances are you have 3 of them in your pantry already. All you need to buy at the grocery store is buttermilk.

I would have love to get some fresh buttermilk from the local farmer's market, but I didn't see any so I opted for some organic milk at the grocery store. The only thing adding flavor to this bread is the buttermilk, so it was important to me to get some higher quality milk (hormone/antibiotic free).

Preheat the oven to 400 and get ready to get your hands dirty. You will be glad you didn't dig out your mixer (one less thing to clean).

Get your biggest bowl and fill it with the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix to combine. Then make a well in the middle of the flour to pour the buttermilk into. Then, as seen, slowly pour in the buttermilk into the well.

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Then, using one (clean) hand, slowly start mixing the flour into the buttermilk. The dough will come together very quickly. It will feel sticky, but shouldn't feel wet. Once mixed, knead a few times. The dough should feel pillow-y.

In this shot, I was testing out a stone ground flour. I've made this recipe before with traditional all purpose flour, and I could tell be the texture the mix just wasn't right. The flour is much more course and I have a feeling the stone ground flour was much heavier, per cup, than the ap flour.

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 No worries, even with a little blunder, it took 5 minutes to start from scratch and get it right. For the heck of it I decided to bake both. The stone ground came out way too dry. I learned the hard way your can't replace alternative flours cup for cup.

Before popping in the oven, use a sharp knife to cut an "X" on the top and brush with a bit of olive oil or buttermilk for color. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

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At this point you are 30 minutes away from a delicious Irish meal! Crack a beer and kill some time (the mussels only will take 10 minutes).

Seafood goes far beyond Fish & Chips - you have Dublin prawn, salmon, cod, mussels and more! The market had some great looking Maine mussels harvested the day before so I knew I wanted to put together a dish around them. I had seen a Guinness inspired dish online I wanted to try to recreate.

The first thing you must do when you get home is to place the mussels in a large bowl of cold water. Add in a few tablespoons of cornmeal. This will help clean the mussels. Essentially, as they eat the corn meal, they get rid of the sand and other stuff that already was in their stomach (yuk, I know). Set them in the fridge (in water) until ready to cook.

A great mussel dish needs a great broth, and a great broth needs great flavors. This one starts off with a classic mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery (ironically in the colors of the Irish flag).

Get a deep dished sauté pan set over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of butter (I used Kerrygold). Add the finely diced veggies and begin to sauté for 3-4 minutes. You don't want to burn/caramelize them, just slowly sweat them.

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Get ready for the good stuff. Pour in a bottle of Guinness along with a 1/2 cup of chicken or fish stock to deglaze the pan. Add a bay leaf and turn up the heat to bring to a simmer and let reduce by half. Turn down the heat a little and add the half cup of cream. You want to let that simmer and reduce by half again, but need to watch closely that you don't scald the milk. Be sure not to have the heat up too high.

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Now you can add your cleaned, rinsed mussels to the pot. Cover and let steam for 3-4 minutes. The mussels are ready when they open. If they are a few that didn't open, remove and discard. Those were dead before you cooked them so do not try to eat them!

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I love serving this family style and let everyone serve themselves. By now, the Irish Soda bread would have plenty of time to cool. Cut several slices and serve with softened Kerrygold butter. The bread is perfect for sopping up all that delicious creamy Guinness broth.

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As you would pair a nice red wine with a Cog-Au-Vin, it would only seem right to enjoy a pint of cold Guinness along side the Guinness Mussels. That is just how my husband and I had this dinner. I have to admit, there is something really special and romantic about a meal like this. It really amazes me how a few simple, good quality ingredients can come together to make something so delicious.

Sweet Potato Soup

This week is all about the avocado. So far we've seen it in a pesto, a topping for your breakfast and today you'll see it as a garnish for a beautiful and delicious Sweet Pototo Soup. When it comes to food I know I throw around the words "favorite" and "love" a lot, but sweet potatoes and avocados are some of my favorite foods. They are definitely things I have to have year round regardless of when they are in season.

I haven't had a chance to visit the local Winter Farmers Market has just opened this weekend, but I did get to get some great organic sweet potatoes from Trader Joes. There are so many great ways to enjoy them, but this past weekend I decided to make soup. Whenever I'm in doubt of what to do with fresh veggies, I usually opt for a soup.

Like most of my soups, I start off by throwing the veggies in the oven. I just through the oven on 350, wrapped 3 sweet potatoes in tin foil, and let bake until tender. If you were trying to save time you could always microwave them but I prefer the oven. Often I'll add olive oil to whatever I'm roasting but because I would be discarding the skins, I didn't bother.

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Let the potatoes to cool slightly before touching. Slice open and scoop the flesh into a pot. Set to medium heat and add 2 cups of vegetable stock. Use a potato masher to break down to large pieces of potato. Next use your immersion blender to start blending the soup. You'll likely need more liquid, the size of the potatoes will determine how much. I ended up adding another cup of vegetable stock and a cup of coconut milk (because I had it on hand). You can stick to vegetable/chicken stock or just water depending on how thick you like your soup.

When the soup got to a simmer I turned the heat down to low. That's when I added pepper, sea salt, paprika, and a dash of cumin to taste.

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The soup itself is very simple, but it's the garnishes that make it special. Serve with cubed avocado and crushed blue tortilla chips on top and a wedge of lime on the side.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of low fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 avocado for garnish for serving

Instructions

  • Set oven to 350. Clean sweet potatoes and dry them off.
  • Wrap sweet potatoes in foil and bake in oven about 40 mins or until fork tender.
  • Let cool slightly, and when they can be easily handled, cut open sweet potatoes and scoop out insides.
  • Begin to heat a medium to large size pot to medium low.
  • Add sweet potatoes, spices and 1 cup of coconut milk to pot. Use a masher to begin to break up sweet potato.
  • Begin to add some of the vegetable broth, about 1/2 cup at a time. Begin to puree soup with immersion blender. Continue to slowly add vegetable broth until you get to the desired thickness of soup. For thicker soup you will probably only need about 1 cup... for thinner soup, use up to 2 cups*.
  • Turn heat up until the soup starts to bubble and then return to a slow simmer and let cook for another 10 mins.
  • Serve with diced avocado, crushed tortilla chips and a squeeze of lime.
  • * The amount of vegetable stock needed varies greatly depending on the size of your sweet potatoes and preference.

Kale & Cashew Pesto over Spaghetti Squash

I love cooking in the winter. As the days get colder and shorter, and I start craving warming comfort food, the kitchen becomes a haven. Usually the stovetop is slowly simmering marinara sauces and stews and the oven is cranking out delicious sugary baked goods. A year ago today, I was (at least) 23 lbs heavier. As we head into the holiday and colder blistery New England winter, I'm determined to find new healthy favorites that are just as comforting as the heavy dishes I used to devour. I look to seasonal produce to help inspire me. Italian dishes are undoubtedly comfort food to me, but pasta certainly isn't on my go-to "healthy" list. Luckily, high carb and calorie pasta can be easily substituted with spaghetti squash.

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Spaghetti Squash is considered a winter squash. They can be identified by their tough skins as opposed to summer varieties like zucchini. Like butternut, acorn, kabocha, pumpkin, and delicata squashes, you should easily be able to find these at a grocery store this time of year. They also are featured in Winter Farmer's markets that pop up after the holidays.

Spaghetti Squash gets its name for its resemblance to spaghetti pasta after its been roasted and the flesh removed. Its low in carbs and calories, and high in vitamins. A cup contains only 42 calories and 10 carbs so you could definitely go for seconds and thirds without feeling guilty! The stuff is just really delicious, if you haven't tried it, introduce yourself to it this week!

I've made spaghetti squash with bolognese before, but this week I wanted to try something different, like a pesto. Traditional pesto is made with basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil; and you can't really go wrong with that. While you can certainly find basil in the grocery store this time of year, its definitely more of a summer flavor. I made several variations of pesto this summer with a variety of greens from our farm share. Kale, being one of my favorite greens, and also in season, would make the perfect base! Out of pine nuts, I opted for raw, unsalted cashews I had. Everything else would remain the same.

Roasted cherry tomatoes complete the dish as the acidity helps to cut through the richness of the pesto. They are just popped in the oven towards the end of the squash roasting and make a beautiful garnish. I love how they look like bright little rubies standing out against the green pesto. It's very Christmas-y!

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So here's how to whip this dish up.

The first thing you have to do is roast the squash. Pre-heat your oven to 375°. Using a heavy kitchen knife, carefully cut the spaghetti squash down the middle and remove the seeds. Place cut side up, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for around 45 minute or until fork tender.

While the spaghetti squash is roasting, you can whip up your pesto. Add kale, cashews, garlic, a squeeze of lemon and Parmesan cheese in a food processor and pulse until everything has broken down in tiny bits. Then, slowly drizzle your olive oil in, blending until smooth. Use a spatula to scape everything out into a separate bowl.

Next prepare the cherry tomato topping. Depending how much tomato you like, slice a handful or so of cherry tomatoes in half. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for easier clean up. When the squash only has 20 mins left, pop the tomatoes in the oven to roast.

One the squash is ready, everything will come together really fast. Pull the squash and tomatoes out of the oven and let cool so the squash is easier to handle. Using a fork, start scraping at the flesh and pull out the "spaghetti". All that should be left is the tough skin that can now be discarded. In a bowl, toss the spaghetti squash with half of the pesto. Save the rest for later use (you can freeze it) or add a bit more to the spaghetti squash. Just be mindful of the portions, between the oil, nuts and cheese there is a lot of calories and fat in pesto, luckily its mostly the healthy kind and your serving it with squash that virtually has none.

Serve in two bowls and top each with the roasted cherry tomatoes. If you'd like, garnish with a few chopped cashews for extra crunch.

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Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Pesto
  • ½ cup cashews (plus some extra for garnish later)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 3 cups kale, washed, chopped and packed tight
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Roasted Tomatoes
  • 1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dry)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Cut spaghetti squash in half the long way. Remove seeds.
  • Drizzle with 1-2 tbs olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  • Roast in oven for 45 mins
  • Meanwhile, add kale, cashews, garlic, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice into blender and pulse until kale and cashews are in tiny pieces.
  • While pureeing, slowly add up to 1/2 cup olive oil, until pesto is smooth.
  • Scrape into another bowl and reserve for later.
  • Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and thyme.
  • Place in oven the last 20 mins that the squash is cooking.
  • When squash is done, let cool a few minutes before handling.
  • Using a fork, scrape out all the "spaghetti" like flesh until only the tough skin is left.
  • Toss half of the pesto in with the squash, and serve in two bowls.
  • Top with roasted tomatoes and garnish with a few extra chopped cashews if you like.

Saffron Butternut Squash Soup

I can't say enough good thing about squash. They are a great source of anti-oxidants, vitamin C, Omega-3s, helps to regulate blood sugar levels, and overall promotes optimal health...and they are really delicious. It's sort of funny, but the first time I ever tried squash was this year through the farm I was a part of. Squash comes in many varieties from summer squash like zucchini to winter varieties (my favorite) including butternut, delicata, and spaghetti squash. Squash is a must add to your grocery list. If you are new to squash or have picky eaters at home, soup is the perfect vehicle to introduce this wonderful vegetable. This recipe particular recipe will warm your soul during cold fall and winter days and is very easy to prepare.

I usually get pretty excited when I see squash soup on a menu when I go out to dinner, but the few times I've ordered it I've been disappointed. In my quest to eat healthier, I cut out extra calories where I can. Each time I've ordered butternut soup this year its always made with a ton of extra cream. It absolutely drives me crazy, because you don't need to use heavy cream/milk to make a great squash soup. I've enjoyed many soups that don't have a drop of cream that are silky smooth and delicious.

I do agree that cream can help balance out flavors but its really high in calories and fat - and there are plenty of great subsitutes. I'm using unsweetened coconut milk in this soup. It will help give the soup that silky texture, without all the fat and calories.

The flavor of coconut can be really polarizing. But let me say that the flavor of both the coconut milk and the coconut oil the recipe calls for is extremely mild. If you absolutely abhor coconut (or are allegric) subtitute with almond milk and another oil. Believe me, the coconut milk this recipe calls for is NOT what you are accustom to having in a Pina Colada, nor will it taste like sun tan lotion. The slight coconut flavor from these ingredients really pairs so well with the rich spices we're using. You have to trust me on this one.

Spices play an important role in this recipe; the star, saffron. Saffron is one of the most expensive food items by weight. Each thread-like strand of saffron come from the stamen of a crocus. Since each flower only has three stamens, it takes an acre of crocus crop to yield one pound of the stuff! Thankfully, a little goes a long way and you should be able to get a small jar relatively cheap. I've seen it from Trader Joe's for about $12. For this recipe I used saffron that my brother brought home for me from Spain (where saffron is most commonly cultivated and sold). The flavor of saffron is very unique - and hard to describe. It's very floral and you can get immense flavor from just a few strands. I've made the mistake of adding too much to a dish and it was very over-powering. For this recipe I only used about a quarter of that little pile you see in the picture below.

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While saffron makes this dish special, the soup wouldn't be complete without a few other friends like paprika, cumin, coriander, curry and white pepper. Paprika was the most obvious accomponiate to the saffron, because its also a Spanish spice. You can buy sweet or smoked paprika, either will do in this dish. Contrary to what some may think, paprika is not spicy so you can use it liberally. This dish only needs a tablespoon. Next, I added cumin, which will give a smokey heat to the dish. The cumin is what really makes this soup so comforting and warming on a cold New England day. In lesser amounts I also added some coriander and curry. Neither is absolutely necessary, but I felt it really rounded out the flavors. I choose white pepper over traditional black pepper just for looks (so if you don't have it, use regular pepper).

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The toughest part to this recipe is preparing the squash. You will need a good vegetable peeler, sharp knife, and a bit of muscle. Can a half inch from the bottom and top of the squash first. Next, peel the skin off. Because you've cut the bottom you can stand the squash upright to stabilize it. After its peeled, use a heavy chef's knife to cut it in half the long way. Use a large spoon to pull out the seeds (you can clean and roast these just like pumpkin seeds if you like). Finally, dice into one inch cubes.

The onion and garlic will be much easier to handle. Simply peel and quarter the onion, and add it to your bowl of squash. The garlic gloves can be tossed in whole (to help avoid burning) after they have been peeled as well.

I haven't met a vegetable that doesn't like roasting. I think the way these veggies are prepared for the soup make it extra flavorful. Many soup recipes I see simply call for sauteeing or steaming the vegetables, but I love the carmelization that happens during roasting. The only downside is that you tend to loose more nutriets roasting than steaming, but the flavor is phenomenal. I roast the vegetables with the dry spices (not the saffron yet) to help bring out their aromatics.

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A key part of roasting your vegetables is choosing your oil. When it comes to healthy eating there are definatley oils to avoid (canola/vegetable), so I normally stick to olive oil or grapeseed oil. However, I've recently started using coconut oil in my cooking and I really love it. Virgin coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat. When you buy it, it actually is in a solid state, it doesnt turn to liquid until its warmed up. What makes coconut oil so amazing is that it can handle higher tempatures and safely convert from a solid to liquid state and back, without breaking down. The reason to be concerned about overheating oils is because as an oil exceeds its burning point, it starts to break down and they turn into a carcinogen (cancer causing agents).

You will have to warm up the jar in the microwave to covert to a liquid before measuring out the tablespoon for this recipe. Just make sure the cover is off and you don't put any metal in the microwave. Toss the chopped veggies, spices (except saffron) and oil in a bowl to coat evenly and spread out a baking sheet. Add a few pinches of salt to everything. Roast in a 400° oven for 25-30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the butternut squash is fork tender.

When the veggies are done recipe. Start working on the broth. Pour the coconut milk into a large pot (big enough to hold all the roasted veggies) and turn onto medium heat. Add the saffron strands. I waited to add saffron until this point, because it would have burnt in the oven. Instead, I add them to the milk so the flavors bloom. You will see the white coconut milk turn yellow. You only need to wait a minute or so and you can go ahead and add the vegetables to you pot.

Blend with an immersion blender*. Slowly add the vegetable broth. You may not need all two cups so add it slowly until you reach the desired consitency. If the soup is still too thick, you can add a bit more liquid either from the coconut milk or vegetable broth. Turn to low, and let the soup cook another 15 mins before serving to allow the flavors to mellow.

*If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender. Just make sure it was made for hot liquids and hold a towel over the top in case it explodes. Return the soup to the pot after blending to allow to simmer as above. Finally, taste and season with salt, as needed. I like to leave that until the last step once you can try all the flavors together.

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Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream, greek yogurt, or a drizzle of olive oil.

Ingredients

  • One butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes (about 6-8 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tbs virgin coconut oil
  • 2.5 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • salt & pepper for seasoning

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°
  • Peel butternut squash. Cut in half, remove seeds and chop into one inch cubes.
  • Peel and quarter one medium onion. Peel 2 garlic cloves.
  • Place butternut squash, onion and garlic into mixing bowl. Warm up virgin coconut oil (if in solid form) and add 1 tbs to the vegetables. Add in paprika, cumin, coriander, curry and 1 tsp salt. Toss to coat evenly. (Do not add in the saffron at this time).
  • Lay vegetables on baking sheet and place in oven for 25-35 mins until the squash is fork tender. Turn vegetables half way through so they caramelize and cook evenly.
  • Once you pull roasted vegetables out of the oven, start warming the coconut milk over medium heat in a large pot. Add the saffron to let steep. The white coconut milk will turn yellow. After waiting a minute for the saffron to steep, add in all the roasted vegetables plus any liquids from roasting. Use an immersion blender to start pureeing into a soup (if you do not have an immersion blender, transfer into a regular blender safe for hot liquids). Add 1-2 cups of vegetable stock until you reach the desired consistency. If full 2 cups of vegetable stock isn't enough, add more coconut milk or stock based on your preferences.
  • Let soup simmer on low another 10-15 minutes to full absorb saffron flavor. Add extra salt to taste as needed.
  • Serve with a dollop of sour cream, greek yogurt or drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Nutritional Information*

Serving size: 1.5 cups

Calories: 157, Carbs: 22g, Fat: 7g, Protein: 3g, Sugar: 8g