A dish to celebrate the late harvest.
Despite the abundance of fresh produce in the summer, it can be tricky to eat healthy. If the weekend is here and the sun is out, you can guarantee the grill is getting fired up for lunch. When you think of grilling, most of us think of hotdogs, hamburgers, steak tips, and chicken kabobs. Not to put down any of those options (if enjoyed mindfully and on occasion), but when it's hot, I want something light, crisp and refreshing; which often makes me feel like I'm missing out on that grilled flavor.
You haven't lived if you haven't had a fresh, local peach at the peak of summer. We were lucky this year and several of our weekly shares from our CSA were full of peaches. On their own, chopped up with Greek yogurt & granola, grilled and served with ice cream.... all fantastic. Grilled and thrown on a salad? Oh, it's a-ma-zing.
I'd been wanting to play around with a grilled peach salad, so when we lit up the grill last week, I went for it. While my husband got his hotdogs out, I started quartering up a sweet and juicy peach.
I looked around the kitchen to see what else I could do with the salad. I wanted something creamy to balance out the acidity of the peaches, but wanted to skip the cheese that day. A perfectly ripe avocado was ready, and I heard that they are great to grill too, so avocado it was. I cut a few segments, coated both with a little bit of grape seed oil and threw on the hot grill.
You don't need a lot of ingredients to make a salad, a great salad, but you do want to make sure you have some different textures. I found a purple bell pepper from the grocery store the day before, so I sliced a few strips up to add an extra fresh crunch to the dish.
I also had a bowl of these cute, tiny little tomatoes called Matt's Wild Cherry accumulating. It's always the best producers in our garden year after year, and they are so sweet and delicious. I wasn't sure if peaches and tomatoes particularly went together, but they were both going into this salad.
One more thing - pecans. Pecans and peaches are practically best friends, so I couldn't imagine doing a grilled peach salad without them. Many people use candied pecans in salads. You know, I do enjoy those on occasion, depending on what else is in the salad, but in a salad like this, with sweet tomatoes and peaches, raw unsalted pecans work best.
For a dressing, I wanted to pair the peaches with a balsamic vinaigrette. Earlier in the year I picked up an artisan variety Blackberry Ginger balsamic vinegar I knew could make a good dressing. It's on the sweet and fruity side, so its not one of those vinegars you can put on any salad, but its one that works so well when you are already incorporating fruit, as in this one.
My trick with homemade dressing is to mix it in a small jar, as needed. Equal parts extra virgin olive oil to vinegar, plus a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Screw a lid on the jar, shake to emulsify, and you are done! Making your own vinaigrette doesn't take any more than 30 seconds longer than pulling a store bought variety out of the refrigerator. Its definitely worth trying.
When you are looking for a summer lunch that can be light, crisp and refreshing, while satisfying your need from something grilled, try a salad like this.
- 2 fresh peaches
- 1 Avocado
- handful of Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes (any cherry tomato would do)
- Half of a sweet bell pepper (look for purple, yellow or orange varieties)
- 1/2 cup of raw pecans, chopped
- 3-4 cups of green or red leaf lettuce
- 1 tsp Grapeseed oil to coat peaches and avocado
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbs Blackberry balsamic vinegar
- Pinch of Salt and Pepper
- Slices peaches to get about 6 segments from each.
- Cut up avocado into quarters.
- Lightly coat peaches and avocado in grapeseed oil to help create grill marks
- Place peaches and avocado slices onto a hot grill. Do not flip or turn until the first side has nice grill marks. You will know its reach to turn when the peaches and avocados are not sticking to the grate.
- Meanwhile, slice up the bell pepper, and get the rest of the salad together.
- Divide rinsed lettuce between two plates, and top each with sliced peppers, the cherry tomatoes and pecans.
- When the peaches and avocados have grill marks on both sides, place those on top of the salad.
- To make the dressing, put the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a small jar. Put a lid on and shake vigorously to emulsify. Divide between two salads to taste.
If you can't find or don't have a Blackberry balsamic vinegar, just use regular balsamic. You can add a drop of honey to the dressing to sweeten it up a bit.
The best hot chocolate I've ever had was on a class trip to Madrid, Spain back in 2004. The trip was a whirl-wind experience, soaking up as much culture, and visiting as many sites as we could see in the 10 days we were there. One very found memory I have was the night one of our teachers took our group to a small little cafe, tucked in the winding streets of Madrid. Oh, how I wish I could remember that name of place; I'd be sure to go back if I visit Spain again.
Their specialty was churro con chocolaté. The warm chocolate drink was nothing of the thin, watery hot chocolate of my childhood; this was a thick, dark and bitter concoction, essentially a drinkable ganache you could dunk the churros in. It was amazing. It was likely what turned me into a dark chocolate lover. For me, the darker the better; I love the rich and complex flavor of bitter dark chocolate.
My Hot Cocao with Clementine recipe is an homage to the flavors of that Spanish treat. My version is much lighter; not the ganache-like consistency I had, but it does have that complex and bitter chocolate flavor which I brighten up with a squeeze of clementine. Perfect for vegans, or anyone trying to avoid dairy; it's topped up with a whipped coconut cream.
Today is Day 2 of my little snow-day vacation. Framingham, MA got HAMMERED by Winter Storm Juno. The news reported my hometown got 33.5" of snow between late Monday night and early Wednesday morning. This blizzard is sure to be one I tell our children about one day. I got lucky; my office has been shut down for the second day in a row. I'm happy I had the time to kick back yesterday, because today was dedicated to the clean up. My car was buried in snow, and the task of unearthing it made me miserable. Our house has a garage, but it is so full of tools and junk there is no room for my car, which means, of course, a ton of work for me.
It was grueling, annoying, and a workout; but I did it. I dug out my car, cleaned it off and it'll be ready to hit the road to work tomorrow morning. After being in the cold for so long my bones were aching for something warm. My 2nd favorite hot beverage, after coffee, is hot chocolate. When I was little, making a good hot chocolate was all about adding some Swiss Miss into warmed milk (instead of water) for a creamy and comforting treat. In the past couple of years, I've reduced the amount of dairy I consume. I first made the decision to drink more dairy-free milks, like almond milk, because I was looking for a way to cut calories, but I eventually realized, when I'd drink regular milk, the dairy free versions were much gentler on my stomach. It seemed to make a lot of sense, considering my parents switched me to soy formula as a baby, because I was quite colicey. Anyway, happy with my dairy-free milk, its proven to be a great base for hot chocolate.
Now, I must call attention to the fact this is hot "cocao" not hot "cocoa". Raw cacao powder is unadulterated and contains many more nutrients than traditional cocoa powder. Pure, unsweetened cocoa powder tastes very bitter and rich, which is why it is most often used in sweets and confections. For more differences check out One Green Plant's article. I wouldn't say cocoa powder is worse than cocao, but the raw cocao powder was going to give me the flavor profile I wanted.
To get my hot treat going I added 1 1/2 tbs of the cocao powder to the almond milk along with a tbs of honey and a dash of cinnamon. I use cinnamon all the time, I love the flavor and how it adds extra warmth to a dish. Cocao powder doesn't dissolve as easily as the powder from a hot chocolate mix, so you need to whisk the mixture as it warms over the stove top. The thing that takes this next level is clementine. Orange and dark chocolate have long been a classic combination (one I've usually hated). There was nothing worse, as a kid, to bit into a piece of chocolate to realize it was orange flavored. What I've come to realize, is that it wasn't so much the fruit mixed with the chocolate as much as it was the artificiality of the orange flavor... it always overpowered the chocolate in the candies I had. With orange being a classic flavor in churros, and a big box of clementines sitting on my counter tops, I sliced one in half and squeezed in the juice at the very end of my hot chocolate being ready. Come to think of it Grand Marnier would be fantastic in this, but I'm still committed to #DryJanuary.
The best part of any hot chocolate is, of course the whipped topping. I love whipped cream. Any excuse I have to make it, I will. Nothing impresses people more as when I take out a chilled bowl, my biggest whisk, and whip it up by hand. Great upper body workout. I've seen and heard great things about whipped coconut cream, and had to try it for myself. I can attest that it is every bit as satisfying as the "real" stuff.
To make the coconut whipped cream, you have to chill a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge for at least an hour. This will ensure the cream separates from the liquid. After that, you prepare just as you would a standard whipped cream. Place the coconut cream in your stand mixer with a sweetener like coconut sugar or honey along with the vanilla extract. With the whisk attachment beat on high until it is whipped. Because coconut cream is more dense than dairy cream, it won't be as airy, but it will certainly be as creamy and delicious.
Before assembling, I blitzed my hot cocao mix in my blender with two or three pulses. With the whisking I did, it probably didn't need it but I wanted to ensure that all the ingredients were incorporated and the drink was frothy. Feel free to omit that step in interest of getting to drink it. Fill your favorite mug and top off with a heaping helping of whipped coconut cream and sprinkle on some extra cinnamon and clementine zest for good measure.
- 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or another dairy-free substitute like light coconut milk, hemp or soy milk)
- 1 1/2 tbs unsweetened cocao powder (not cocao powder)
- 1 tbs honey (I'm aware that some vegans wouldn't consider honey vegan, so you can substitute that easily with agave nectar or maple syrup)
- Juice of half clementine
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Coconut Whip Cream
- 1 16oz can of coconut milk, chilled (you must use the full fat version)
- 1 tbs sweetener such as coconut sugar, agave or honey
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Pour almond milk into sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add cocao powder, honey (or other sweetener) and cinnamon.
- Use a whisk to incorporate the cocao powder with almond milk. It will take some time, as it doesn't instantly dissolve.
- You want to get the hot cocao up to approximately 112 degrees, carefully not to let come to a boil. You don't want to scald the almond milk.
- Right before taking cocao off the heat, squeeze in the juice of half a clementine (you can add the juice of a whole clementine if you'd like, or just snack on it on the side).
- (optional) Blitz mixture in a blender for a few seconds to get frothier and ensure all flavors are incorporated. You can also achieve this if you whisked the mixture on the stove.
Coconut Whipped Cream
- Allow can of coconut milk to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
- After opening, use a spoon to carefully scoop out the thick coconut cream off the top. Below this layer is a clear/slightly cloudy liquid you can reserve for other purposes (like a smoothie)
- Add coconut cream to a stand mixture with whisk attachment and beat as you would with regular cream.
- Add vanilla extract and coconut sugar (or some other sugar substitute).
- Continue to mix on high until you get a whipped cream texture.
*I've made a lot of true whipped creams in my time and found the coconut cream, because it is more dense to begin with, does not become as light and airy as your standard, dairy based whipped cream.
That said, it had excellent flavor and the texture (while thicker) was the perfect touch to this hot chocolate.
So the story goes, my father-in-law, at one point, was juicing so much that his skin turned orange from all the carrots he was consuming. Carrots get their orange color from beta-carotene, which our bodies turn into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient and supports healthy skin, the immune system, vision and more. If my father-in-law's skin turned orange due to carrots, it would be safe to assume he was full of Vitamin A (however all of this seems like a tall tale).
This is the first year I've really started to get into juicing. We've had a juicer sitting in a closet since my husband and I first moved in together a few years ago. I've always been more of a smoothie person in part for the added fiber, and part because clean up was easier. But lately, with this new year underway, I've found myself taking the few more extra minutes for cleanup to try juicing more. In fact, I think I've juiced more this month than I did all last year. Refocusing on my health and nutrition I've started adding juicing into my routine. I've found I really enjoy it and has been especially beneficial when I caught a cold and needed to boost my immune system. This January I challenged myself to avoid alcohol for #DryJanuary, so juicing has also been a great way to enjoy something other than water.
Earlier this week I cut into a golden carrot I picked up from Winter Moon Roots. I bit into one of the spears, and I swear, it was the best carrot I've ever had. I've tried different colored carrots before and they always pretty much taste like any other carrot, but these golden carrots were just slightly sweeter than your standard orange carrot. It instantly got me thinking how great this carrot would be in a juice.
Now, every time I think if juicing, particularly carrots, I think about my father-in-law's story about turning orange (I always picture that oompa-loompa shade of orange and laugh to myself). I wonder what color golden carrots would turn your skin. Gold, like King Midas' daughter? Then all of a sudden the recipe for this Golden Goddess juice came to me.
With a blend of golden carrots, golden beets, golden apples and a medley of citrus and ginger I can't say that this delicious juice will turn your skin gold, but packed with vitamins and nutrients this juice will give you a burst of energy and certainly make you radiate and glow from the inside out.
With the perfect recipe in mind I couldn't wait to get to the Wayland Winter Farmers' Market this Saturday. Even snow wasn't going to stop me (my husband tried to advise against it, but you shouldn't get in the way of a woman a mission). This girl needed her roots!
As usual, Winter Moon Roots delivered on some amazing produce. In addition to the golden carrots and beets for this recipe, I also grabbed some regular red beets and a watermelon radish to use in some other dishes this week. Michael, the owner, is super nice and hooked me up with some extras too. He saw one of my earlier blog posts this month and when I told him I was doing a special juicing recipe this week he gave me a few extra carrot bits (not pictured). My dog, Killian, was also really appreciative of the gesture; carrots are his favorite and of course he was begging me for snack when he saw what I was unpacking from the market.
After the market, I stopped at the regular grocery store to pick up a few more things. I lucked out because they had organic golden delicious apples in stock, which is exactly what I wanted for this juice. When I returned home and finished unpacking, I got right to juicing (I've been waiting to try this for days)!
The golden carrots produced a bright yellow juice that looked so refreshing, while the golden beets had a more orange/gold tint. Things were coming together just as I had imagined. An apple, half an orange, slice of lemon and inch of ginger and I was ready to down this concoction. It was the perfect contrast to the snowy weather outside. Bright and vibrant while the world outside was covered in a sheet of white.
- 1 jumbo sized or 3 normal sized golden carrots
- 1 medium golden beet
- 1 golden delicious apple
- 1-2 inches fresh ginger root
- Half of an orange, peeled
- 1 slice of lemon, with rind
- Chop ingredients enough to make sure they fit through your juicer's chute (don't give yourself any more work than you need to).
- Following the manufacturer's instructions, get your juicer ready with a glass large enough to collect all the juice.
- Start juicing and drink immediately.
Use a mason jar as your glass. When you are done juicing, screw on a cap and give the juice a quick shake to mix up all the ingredients. Alternatively, give your juice a quick stir to blend the flavors.
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...
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.
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.
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!
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Admittedly, I am still looking for a great beer dough for pizza. I had a fantastic pizza planned for the week to use homemade ricotta cheese, sauteed swiss chard, leftover roasted chicken, the ripe tomato from the farm, and some homemade swiss chard pesto. The topping pairings were great, but the pizza crust left a lot to be desired. My failure of a dough aside, pizza, with fresh vegetables is a great way to use produce you arent sure what to do with. Pizza be so much much more than just marinara and processed mozzerella cheese. When you top it with healthy ingredients, it can turn into one of those indulgences that isn't all that bad.
I suspected, right from the beginning, before I even gave the dough a chance to rise, it would be doomed. It just felt tough. Maybe it was the mixture of whole wheat flour (which worked out amazing for the pasta) that through the recipe off. I was still hopeful, because, even though it wasnt as springy and fluffy as I expected, it did roll out nice and had some potential of being a decent base. I had even used my husbands homemade beer and mixed in fresh rosemary. It smelled amazing.
I got the grill fired up to test out our pizza stone for a second time. The first time we used it, we burned our store bought dough, so I was careful to spread out the coals a bit better. Ready and rolled I threw our pizza dough on the heated stone to precook.
I always let the dough cook for a few minutes before adding toppings. It cooks much better as it prevents the dough from getting too soggy from all the liquid from the toppings leaching out.
Ready to pull the dough off to start adding toppings, I realized we were in trouble - some of the dough was sticking to the stone and wouldnt come off without tearing away from the bottom of the pizza. I was so upset, but kept going. Afterall, no one would see the bottom anyway.
First I spread on a layer of homemade ricotta cheese. Next, I layered on some sauted swiss chard and chopped roasted chicken. Finally, I placed on slices of our fresh tomato and placed back on the pizza stone in the grill to finish cooking. The second time around on the grill, I was still having trouble. The bottom was cooking much faster than the rest of the pizza. In fear it would be over cooked on the bottom and raw on top, I pulled the pizza and tranfered it into the oven inside to finish cooking.
I had one last finishing touch. I dolloped on some delicious swiss chard pesto. You can make pesto with anytype of green - dont think its just for basil. Really, its all about that intense garlic flavor with the salty pecorino romano.
The finish product? The crust, well, just never got the fluffy feeling I wanted it to have. No, it was more so like a cracker. If you like well-done crispy pizza, you would have like it, but it didnt make the cut for me. However, I couldnt help going back for a second "half" slice.... and then a third "half" slice. The toppings were perfect. The ricotta was creamy, the sauteed chard and tomato added the freshness I craved, and the pesto added a salty garlicy bite to the end.
- homemade or store bought pizza dough
- corn meal
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2-3 cups ricotta cheese (depending on how thick you wish to spread it)
- 1 tomato
- 2 cups swiss chard, sauteed
- 1 cup+ leftover roasted chicken
- swiss chard pesto
- Roll out pizza dough to desired thickness (considering it will rise when cooked). Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of the pizza to help prevent sticking to the pizza stone or pan.
- Drizzle top of pizza with olive oil and place on a pizza stone or pan in a 400 oven or charcoal grill. Partially cook for several minutes (to help prevent pizza from getting soggy after adding toppings). Time will vary significantly depending on type of dough (thin crust vs rising dough).
- Remove from oven/grill. Spread on ricotta cheese and evenly arrange sauteed chard, chicken and tomato slices.
- Place back in oven/grill and continue to cook until crust is done (again times will vary). I recommend periodically checking on the pizza. Use spatula to lift pizza and inspect bottom, to ensure its not burning. You can carefully poke the crust, around the edges to check for doneness. If you are unsure, tear off a piece of the crust to make sure dough was cooked through.
- Remove pizza from heat and let cool and rest for 5 minutes. Dollop on pesto, cut and serve.
After indulging on carbs the day before, I wanted to make something leaner and lighter the next. We got some great red leaf lettuce and I knew I wanted to make a salad with some of the fresh strawberries. Honestly, I would have been fine to enjoy the meal sans-meat, but I also have my husband to think about and he had been working up a healthy appetite after a long day of work. Traditionally, I had seen chicken pair with strawberry salads, but I had sirloin tips, with great marbling that needed to be cooked and thought why not steak and strawberries? The acidity and sweetness of the strawberries would help cut through the "fattiness" and richness of the steak.
I had my husband get the charcoal Weber started, while I through the steak tips in a quick balsamic vinegar and grape seed oil marinade. Id never marinaded anything with balsamic, but knowing it would be the base of the dressing, I thought it would compliment it well. Being a shorter marinade time, I knew it wouldn't impart too much flavor, but the acid would help break down and tenderize the meat.
I pre-washed the lettuce the day prior, so mixing up the quick honey-balsamic vinaigrette, and prepping the base of the salad was very easy. All I needed to do was dice up some of the strawberries.
Kitchen Tip: Don't throw away your strawberry tops
Somewhere on Pinterest I saw, what I now think, was a life altering epiphany about strawberry tops. Rather than throwing them away (or composting them). Save them to make infused water! I added a couple slices of lemon to mine. A nice, healthy and refreshing accompaniment to dinner.
I took control of the grill, and got the perfect sear on the steak and then moved the tips to indirect heat to finish cooking to a medium rare. While the meat rested I portioned out the salads, topped with some crumbled goat cheese and almond slivers (two great pairings with strawberries). Before serving, I sliced the sirloin, against the grain, into thin bites and placed on top of the salad.
- 1 lbs sirloin steak tips
- 4 cups red leaf lettuce
- 1 cup of strawberries, sliced
- 2 tbs slivered almonds
- 1-2 oz goat cheese (based on preference)
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- salt and pepper to taste
- Marinade steak tips in mixture of equal parts balsamic vinegar and grape seed oil, salt and pepper (optional). Pre heat grill.
- While waiting for grill to heat up, mix 2 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper in bowl. Mix with whisk to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Sear steak tips on hottest part of grill for 1 minute. Flip and grill another minute. Move steak tips to indirect heat on grill and let cook for another 4 minutes or so. Use a thermometer to check for doneness based on preference. I cooked mine to be medium rare to medium. When done, pull off grill and let rest at least 2 minutes before slicing.
- For salad, toss red leaf lettuce, sliced strawberries, goat cheese and almonds in with vinaigrette. Before serving, thinly slice steak and place on top of salad.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
The 2014 CSA from Warner Farms starts today! In a few hours I will be picking up my first week's haul of fresh produce. While most of you visit the site for recipe ideas, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some other kitchen tips, like how to clean produce. I also have a yummy, dairy-free ice cream recipe to share.
Over the past few months I've tried to get into a better habit of prepping my food once I get home from the grocery store. I've let many whole pineapples and melons go bad in my time because I somehow never got around the dicing them up. Now, as soon as I return from the store with things like that, I'll prep and pop them in the fridge so the fresh fruit is ready to enjoy any time throughout the week. The same goes with washing fruit. I've come to learn that your fruit and veggies will keep longer when you clean them when you get home. Here is a really simple way to use Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to wash your fruit & veggies.
I've notice special produce cleaners in the grocery store before, but have never purchased one before. I was always accustom to just rinsing everything off with water. Unfortunately water doesn't really cut it when you want to wash away harmful pesticides (if you arent buying organic) and killing off germs from potential e-coli contamination or even all the people who have touched that piece of fruit from harvesting, to shipping to a food distributor to the grocery store, the other customers checking out that piece of fruit, to the person ringing up your order.
I don't want to gross you out, but really want to stress the importance of cleaning what you get from the grocery store BEFORE it goes into the refridgerator. The good news is, cleaning produce is easy and inexpensive. I've opted in for a more natual way, using RAW Apple Cider Vinegar. The most likley brand you will see in stores is made by Bragg.
I pick out a medium size bowl, fill with water, and then add at least 1 TBS of ACV. There are many how-tos out there that will tell you what ration of water to ACV to use, but truthfully, I just eye it, and pour in a few small "glugs". I'll place the produce in the bath for 5-10 minutes (usually while I am unpacking other groceries or tidying up the kitchen). During this time, the enyzmes in the unpasterized, raw, apple cider is working magic, killing off germs and bad bacteria. Above is a before and after picture of the water I used to clean the strawberries I got from Warner Farms on Saturday.
To be perfectly honest, I thought the berries looked very clean when I got them, and it was tempting to dive right into them without cleaning, but look at how much dirt came off in just a 5 minute soak!
After soaking in the water/ACV bath, rinse your fruit off with clean water, and let air dry before storing away in the refridgerator. You will feel ALOT better about what you are eating knowing that it is clean, plus it will last longer for you to enjoy.
This batch of strawberries was only going to be stored overnight because first thing Sunday morning I got going on a dairy-free version of Strawberry Ice Cream.
I love ice cream; who doesn't? Of course what none of us love is all the calories. While most of my favorite ice cream recipes are full of heavy cream, whole milk, egg yolks and sugar, I wanted to expand my repetoir and add a "clean" low calorie and dairy free option to the blog.
I had two cans of coconut milk in my cupbard (one light and one classic with full fat) that I decided would be the perfect base for the ice cream.
There is only a little cooking required and its very easy to adjust the sweetness as you see fit. Using the full quart of strawberries, I created a compote with dried dates and honey. While warm, I blended 3/4 of the mixture in a blender with the two cans of coconut milk and added the mixture to my ice cream maker.
The tub of the ice cream maker must sit in the freezer over-night before its ready to churn anything into ice cream. I had mine ready to go and poured the strawberry/coconut mixture straight in. After churing for about 20 mins, a soft-serve like consistancey of ice cream had formed, meaning it was almost ready for the feature.
With regular ice cream (using traditional cream) you have to be careful not to overchurn or else the ice cream will turn into more of a butter texture. There is no worries here with over churning a coconut milk based ice cream, but I wanted to make sure it was still soft so I could stir in the last 1/4 of strawberry compote. I liked being able to have small chunks of strawberry in the ice cream, but if you prefer a smoother texture, just blend everything together from the get go.
Its tempting to dive right in, but you should let it sit the the freezer, in some sort of reusable container before you enjoy. The mixture turns rock hard once its frozen, so you'll want to give yourself 15-20 minutes to defrost when you are ready to eat. Top off with your favorite healthy toppings like almond slivers and raw cocao nibs for the chocolate lover in you.
- 1 13.5oz can of organic coconut milk (full fat)
- 1 13.5oz can of organic coconit milk (light)
- 5 pitted dried dates chopped
- 1/3 cup honey (more if you want more sweetness)
- 1 quart of fresh strawberries
- Set small pot to medium heat. Add chopped strawberries, dates and honey and let cook down to almost a syrup constitency (10-15 mins). Use the back of a spoon or potato masher to break up the strawberries to smaller pieces if you are planning to mix in some of the compote into the base.
- Take 3/4 of the mixer and place in blender with both cans of coconut milk. When you open the cans the "fat" will have risen to the top, with the clear coconut liquid on the bottom, scrap all into the blender. Blend until smooth. You can add all of the compote mixture if you do not like "chunks" in your ice cream.
- Place mixture into ice cream maker for about 20 minutes or until it starts looking like soft-serve. Mix in anything you want to add with a spatula at this point (remaining compote, nuts, etc).
- Let harden in the freezer at least 20 minutes before digging in.
Little did I realize I year ago, how much my life was going to change. I just joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program advertised through my work in an effort to incorporate more fresh produce into my life and be healthier. The concept of a “farm share” was really exciting to me. Each week, we’d pick up a box filled with a variety of the freshest produce. If you watch the show “Chopped” on Food Network, it was sort of like getting a “Mystery Basket”. Each week I would be challenged to use all the ingredients, often new ones I had never tried before.
Being forced to experiment with new foods, flavors and recipes really got my creative juices flowing, reigniting my passion for food. By the fall I launched this food blog!
The big change, was really with my eating habits. Simply by eating more fresh produce, and less processed food, within 2 months of starting the farm share I had lost 10 pounds. Adding a regular exercise routine I’d continue to loose a total 25lbs by the end of the year. This photo is probably the most dramatic in terms of my transformation. When I got married in September 2012 my dress fit like a glove. No undergarments needed. Earlier in January this year, I tried the dress on again, and well, you can see what a difference that 25lbs made.
Food has changed my life. I am the healthiest I have ever felt. No, I am not perfect and I enjoy indulgences plenty. That said, the farm share program taught me how to eat. I learned that for so long, I was depriving my body from what it really wanted and needed. Needless to say, when they started promoting the 2014 CSA season, I couldn’t wait to join again.
There is something to be said about really knowing where your food comes from. So with the start of the farm share around the corner, I wanted to take a trip to Warner Farm in Sunderland, MA to see where my farm share comes from. Saturday they held their annual Strawberry Fest and decided to make the 2 hour trek from my home in Framingham. What a beautiful day it turned into.
Warner Farm is a long established family farm. They have been passing down their knowledge of farming through 9 generations! In 1995 they were celebrating 275 years of farming, set on 70 acres of land in Sunderland - that is just amazing to me.
The farm implements a variety of sustainable growing practices on their farm. Seventeen acres of their land grows Certified Organic produce, with more land in the transition process of becoming certified. In their non-organic fields they implement an "Integrated Pest Management" system. According to their site, that means that they rotate crops, protect and release beneficial insects, scout for pest and disease threats, and apply the safest of pesticides only if crop failure becomes a threat. What that means to be is that this family farm really cares about the quality of good they pass along to their customer. Its not just about high yields and high product, its about using sustainable methods to deliver fresh, honest produce.
My first stop was the farm stand where they were celebrating their annual Strawberry Fest. When I pulled up, I was greated by a massive, beautifully weathered barn that housed much of their equipement on this part of the farm where they grew strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes and some other produce. A small stand is set up for vistors to purchase strawberries by the quart or pick up a box to pick-your-own. While contemplating if I'd pick my own or take the easy way out, I took a small walk to check out what else was going on.
Most of the Strawberry Fest activities had yet to be underway. There were games, music and hayrides planned for later in the afternoon, which I wouldn't be able to stay for if I were to get back home in time to take my father out for a Father's Day dinner. But I did get to meet on the of the girls in charge of their farmers markets and got to chat a bit about the farm. The location of the farm is stunning, with Mt Sugar Loaf set in the background.
As more and more families started to trickle in to pick their own strawberries, I decided I'd opt for the easy way out and pick up a quart of the pre-picked ones. But before I did, I took a walk through the patch and admire all the beautiful ripe strawberries waiting to be picked. It's too late now, but I think there will be a place in my own home garden next year for some strawberry plants.
There is actually a whole other part of Warner Farm up the road, that is home to an amazing corn maze in the fall. While most of the activity of the day was set at the farm stand, I figured I may as well swing by. After I picked up my fresh strawberries I headed up to road to see what I could find. I found the entrance, but the only people who were there looked like workers. With a sign directing people to the farm stand for Strawberry Fest, I figured everyone was pretty busy in prepartion of the CSA starting this week. Not wanting to bother anyone, and having to head back home to meet up with my siblings and father for dinner, I decided to wrap things up.
Despite the short visit, I was very happy I went out to Sunderland. I got to meet a couple of really nice people, learn a bit more about the farm, and see where my farm share is coming from. All in all a great Saturday. With the CSA program officially underway, I will be starting a new feature called "Farm Share Friday" where I'll share my favorite recipe of the week made from items we collected that week.
In the meantime, I'll have a new post up tomorrow with tips on how to clean your produce, as well as a recipe for a dairy-free Strawberry Ice Cream.
After a long winter, and unseasonably cold Spring, I am so grateful for the weather to be improving. I could have done without the deluge today, but I am sure my garden loved it.
I've been on a bit of a "hiatus" with the blog, but there has been plenty going on at, what now I refer to as, the "Turner Homestead". Most of our weekends have been spent in our backyard, on some exciting projects.
In late March I ordered seeds from Johnny's Seeds, which had a great organic selection. Things were looking promising, with kale, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and peppers sprouting fast.
In April we "broke grown" and built a raised garden bed to start growing some of our own produce this summer. We have tried to grow tomato plants in pots before, but before we ever had a chance to enjoy their fruit, a pesky squirrel or chipmunk would ravage the juicy ripe tomatoes.
I was really excited to be growing produce from seed, but once we translanted the little sprouts into the garden bed, many stopped suspended in an infant state. We suspect it was because of the weather, but I'm sure it also had something to do with our little experience in growing vegetables.
With such a short growing season in New England, we purhcased some addtional plants, that were more mature so we'd at least get something out of it. However, in the last week or so, some of what I started from seeds have started growing like crazy. Our kale and boston lettuce is going through a growth spurt and the Rudolph Radishes I planted are ready to pick!
This week for lunch I enjoyed a delicious salad served in a pita pocket using fresh radish straight from my own garden. There is truely something special about eating food your grow yourself. Thats what I love about having a dedicated vegetable garden. I can grow what I want, how I want it, organically, without pesticides and enjoy it FRESH. I am the only one who is handling it before it gets on the plate.
Speaking of fresh, it doesnt stop at the garden. This year we got chickens. Yup! You heard right, we are raising our own flock of egg
laying hens. Most of our time the last month or so has been dedicated to builidng a coop for the girls. They've just officially moved out of the brooder we had inside, to the custom coop at the end of May and are LOVING their new home.
You probably have a few questions:
Are you crazy? Maybe, but I'm okay with being a crazy chicken lady. I'll have the freshest eggs on the block!
Are you getting eggs yet? No. They are still too young. And sorry they do not still look like this (warning: the next image may be too cute to handle):
You'd be amazed in just how fast these things grow! I swear, the first couple weeks, I'd come home from work and they'd look totally different than they had that same morning. They are 9 weeks now and resemble mini-chickens. Here is the same girl, all black.
If you want to see more pictures of the chicks, you can head to the Mindful Glutton Facebook page. You can expect I will have some amazing recipes using the freshest eggs you can imagine come August. But lets get back to those RADISHES.
A Delicious Radish Recipe:
If you haven't tried radishes, or are looking for ways to use them, salads are perfect. They are slighly peppery, crisp like an apple, and add a great crunch (not to mention packed with awesome vitamins and nutriets).
Ever wonder what makes a perfect salad? For me, its about fresh mixed greens, something crunchy, a creamy fat, and a tasty vinegrette. Chances are, at anytime, I will have all those "essentials" at home. For this healthy lunch option, I employ organic mixed greens, avocado (radish's best friend), some leftover farro I had from earlier in the week, and a tangy soy ginger vinegrette I picked up a few weeks ago.
This lunch comes together so quickly. After warming up the farro in the microwave, I squeeze in some fresh lemon juice, and toss it, with the rest of my salad ingredients into a bowl. Sometimes I will make my own simply vinegrette with a flavored vinegar and olive oil, but I've come to love this store bought dressing,
. I tried a sample at Whole Foods and loved it. They keep their ingredients simple, which I appreciate, and stay away from icky articifial ingredients. I cant speak to all their products, but this one has no preservatives and I can pronounce and know all the indredients listed. I suppose I could make my own, but love this as a quick go-to.
The salad itself is small, so I serve it in pita pocket. My favorite right now is
version, thats low in calories, but filling. You can certainly opt out, or use half a pita, and eat the rest of the salad as a side.
- 2 cups of organic mixed greens
- 1/4 ripe avocado
- 2 small radishes, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup of cooked farro
- squeeze of lemon (optional)
- 1 tbs of your favorite vinegrette
- 1 pita pockets
- Mix salad, radishes, avocado, farro, vinaigrette, and squeeze of lemon into bowl and toss. Serve as a salad, or stuff inside of a pita pocket and enjoy.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
If you made it this far then congratulations! I know the idea of avocados in baked goods sounds crazy but trust me you may never go back to your old brownie recipe! The avocado makes these super moist and fudgey, and I promise you cannot taste the avocado.
There are several substitute ingredients in this recipe. I try to eat as well as I can, but every once and a while you need to indulge. Even when I indulge I like to try to be somewhat "healthy". You know, have your cake and eat it too (a foodies favorite cliche).
The first obvious substitute is avocado. Most brownie recipes call for canola oil or butter. This recipe uses avocado as the fat...but it's a healthy fat! Seriously though, over the last few months I've found myself removing canola and vegetable oil from my kitchen. I also use a lot less butter. We are so used to using ingredients because of the flavor it gives food, but you won't miss it here.
The next substitute is almond flour for regular white wheat. Almond flour is used in many gluten free recipes. I'm not gluten free, but I thought it would be good to add a few gluten free recipes to my repertoire. I don't have anything against regular all purpose flour, but it also doesn't have any nutritional value.
Nut flour on the contrary, has healthy fats and plenty of Vitamin E. It also has a low glycemic index as it is high in protein and low in carbs and sugar.
Just so you are aware, almond flour is very calorie dense, so just because there are some healthy benefits with this alternative, doesn't mean you should eat a half a sheet of brownies in one sitting.
The last substitute I used was coconut sugar. I had seen this in the baking aisle of one of my favorite stores and it sparked my curiosity. With further research I've found there a few notable benefits of swapping out your standard sugar for coconut sugar. First, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index (35) and doesn't cause blood sugar levels to spike as would traditional sugar. Secondly, regular sugar doesn't contain any vital nutrients and therefore is consider empty calories. Coconut sugar, on the other hand, retains quite a bit of nutrients such as Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium.
Now, calorie for calorie coconut sugar is the same as regular sugar. Although I find it to be a better choice, on a day to day basis I keep added sugars out of my diet - regardless of the type of sweetener. Now to get these brownies started!
First you need to melt your chocolate chips. You can either do so in a microwave or over a double boiler. Pay close attention so that the chocolate doesn't seize. If you use the microwave method, heat for 20-30 seconds at a time, and stir. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
Next, crack your 4 eggs into a mixing bowl along with the coconut sugar. Use a hand mixer or whisk to beat the eggs and sugar together. I'd let the hand mixer go for about a minute to help incorporate air into the eggs and sugar.
To the egg and sugar mixture add the flesh of two ripe avocados. Use the hand mixer again to make sure the avocado gets really incorporated into the mix. Once you know the avocado is blended in, slowly add in the melted chocolate.
Once combined, stir in the almond flour and cocoa powder. When I made mine I also added a tbs of instant espresso powder. Its a trick I use whenever I bake anything chocolate - it adds a really nice depth to the chocolate flavor. Unlike most baking recipes, you won't need to worry about over mixing since the almond flour is gluten free.
The avocado brownie batter is ready to be poured in the pan. One last thing before I put my batch in the oven was to stud the top with a small handful of chocolate chips.
The original recipe said to bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees but I found I needed 30-35 minutes. I'd check at the 25 minute mark and keep a close eye on it.
When they are ready they will fill your kitchen with the aroma of chocolate. It's hard to keep your hands off these but it's EXTREMELY important to let them cool completely (at least 20 minutes). The longer the better. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers. To be honest, I thought they tasted better the next day being chilled.
I took the batch into work the next day because I knew I'd eat them all if I left them at home. People LOVED them!
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
Avocados aren't just for salads, they are smart anything of day; breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I love adding some avocado to my breakfast to create a well rounded meal.
Avocados are a fantastic super food. They are high in fat, but don't let that scare you; monounsaturated fatty acids are known to lower heart disease. They also contain another healthy fat called oleic acid that helps with the absorption and digestion of nutrients such as beta-carotenoids.
Although classified as a fruit, the are low in fructose and a great source of fiber, potassium, b-vitamins, beta carotenoids and folic acid to name a few.
While I like to buy local and organic, avocados are not something you will find in New England. However, they are one of the safest conventionally-grown produce. Their thick skin protects the flesh from pesticides.
So many things to love about avocado which is why one of my go-to breakfasts aside from a smoothie is Egg Whites and Avocado over Quinoa Toast.
This breakfast comes together really quickly.
First I start toasting a slice of Trader Joe's Quinoa bread. It's a great alternative to your standard wheat toast and I really like its nutty flavor.
While that's going I start preparing my egg. I don't like waste, so often I cook up a whole egg, with yolk.
In this case, I had a recipe that that needed yolks so I reserved the whites. You can store them in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days. Much better than store bought egg white.
Prepare the egg however you like. Then top the toast with the egg. I then add my favorite salsa, Trader Joe's Cowboy Caviar, which add a ton of extra flavor without many calories. Finally just a 1/4 of an avocado sliced. If you like things extra spicy - add a few dashes of hot sauce.
As much as I can, I like to buy and eat seasonal produce. But one of my absolute favorite health foods is avocado. I suppose you can consider it "in season" thanks to Mexico, which makes it available year round. Anyway, I probably eat avocado everyday, incorporating it as a healthy fat. I love them so much I decided to dedicate a week of posts to this beautiful vibrant fruit! There are many uses for avocado, but have you ever considered using it in pesto? Pesto itself is extremely versatile so you could use this as a sauce over pasta, a spread, or in wrap like this recipe!
You only need a few ingredients and a food processor.
I make this is small batches since the avocados oxidize, turning the pesto a brownish color over the course of the next few days. The added citrus helps with that, but we eat with our eyes too, so the more vibrant the better!
First, start off by pulsing 1/4 cup of raw, unsalted cashews in the food processor to break up slightly. Traditional pestos use pinenuts, which are fine to use but I had a jar of cashews (which I had recently used in a Kale Pesto) and wanted to use again.
Next, I add the flesh of one ripe avocado, 2-3 peeled cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano) cheese, a packed cup or more of fresh basil, juice from half a lemon and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. * you can adjust the amount of basil you'd like depending on your taste - I usually use one package worth if I buy from a grocery store.
Blend the ingredients. As they start to incorporate, slowly drizzle in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. There is already plenty of (healthy) fat, in the avocado, so you want to use discretion with the olive oil. Its simply to help smooth everything out.
Now all you have to do is decide what you want to use the pesto on! The first time I made it I ate with spaghetti squash and it was absolutely delicious. I would have done the same the other night when I made this batch but didn't want to wait for the squash to roast.
Instead, I heated up some turkey breast I had roasted the night before and tossed with a few tablespoons of the avocado pesto. I added it to a wheat flour wrap with baby arugula and crunchy sliced red pepper. Simple. Delicious.
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1/2 cup pecorino romano
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup raw unsalted cashews
- 1 cup basil leaves
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- 2 gloves of garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- Add cashews to food processor and lightly pulse to break up
- Add all other remaining ingredients (besides olive oil) and blend until smooth.
- While blending, slowly add olive oil
Calories: 223, Carbs: 5g, Fat: 22g, Protien: 4g
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.
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!
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.
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 2 tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 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)
- 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream, greek yogurt, or a drizzle of olive oil.
- 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
- 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.
Serving size: 1.5 cups
Calories: 157, Carbs: 22g, Fat: 7g, Protein: 3g, Sugar: 8g