If you haven’t been living in a cave these past few months, then you know the new rage of the food world is cauliflower rice. It’s not really rice, it’s just cauliflower minced up finely and sauteed to the texture of rice. It packs a nice nutritious punch without all the carbs of rice, which makes for a very smart substitution.
I love the idea of cauliflower rice, but the reality is that I have a very small kitchen and my appliances are put away in cupboards to make the most of the limited counter-space that I have. Call me lazy, but I don’t want to get all the pieces of my food processor out to chop the cauliflower down into rice-sized pieces and then have to clean said pieces.
But I do love the idea of cauliflower rice.
So I decided to use my favorite chef’s knife and chop up the cauliflower head into small pieces. I don’t have the patience to get it to rice-sized pieces, but it does chop quickly and easily into pieces almost that size.
A quick saute with some carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger then creates the base of the dish. Adding in curry powder and bit of turmeric turns the cauliflower from a dull white to a golden, glowing yellow. Then to add some protein and heft to the meal, I mix in some organic tri-color quinoa. Easy peasy, right?
Oh but I’m not quite done. The absolute essential finish to the dish adds the final flavor punch: a handful of chopped fresh cilantro, a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Oh my deliciousness!
This past week my pear trees finished blooming, all that remains of them is a snowstorm of white petals blanketing the front yard. My local farmer’s market also re-opened for the season, bringing with it a bounty of fresh, local vegetables. As much as I love asparagus this time of year, I also look forward to the first snap peas of spring.
My mother is an avid gardener, I always say I inherited my green thumb from her, and I can remember as a child being sent to pick peas from the garden for dinner. I’d head out with my little silver bucket and disappear between the tall rows of peas, it was like my own little green world in there. I’d pick the peas, nestle them in my pail, and then sit down between the rows, hidden from the world. One by one I would open up the pods, scoop out the bright little peas, and stuff them in my mouth, crunching happily on those sweet morsels of spring.
Once my child’s tummy was content, I’d hide the shells someplace and then casually saunter back into the house, proclaiming to my mother that none of the peas were ripe. To this day, I’m not sure if she knows of my deception or if she truly thought that her peas never produced much.
I still love fresh snap peas, although the wisdom of age has taught me that the crunchy shell is just as good as the sweet peas inside. I love to eat a handful as a pick-me-up snack in the afternoon or throw some on top of a salad. But for this recipe, spring peas are the star of the show.
What I love about this recipe is that it’s not only easy to throw together, it also makes for a very large salad with little calorie impact. Filling and magically delicious? That’s right up my alley.
I start by combining chopped fresh sugar snap peas with nutty farro, crunchy fennel, a bit of chopped preserved lemon, and some reduced fat feta. I like using reduced fat feta because it still has a lot of flavor like it’s bigger, fattier sister, but it’s made from skim milk so isn’t full of chemicals like it’s non-fat bastard brother.
I finish the salad off with a vinaigrette made from the juice of a meyer lemon, which are also in season right now. A true vinaigrette calls for more oil, however I prefer to keep the dressing lean and let the flavor of the meyer lemon stand out.
What’s your favorite spring vegetable?
Spring Pea Farro Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
The smoky bacon and sweet pineapple combine in perfect harmony. I knew I had to create something with this deliciousness, so I grabbed a package (or two) and headed home to my kitchen.
I start by dicing up the sausage and sauteing it with thin slices of red onion. I only use a little bit of olive oil in the pan as the sausage will release some fat when it cooks that helps keep everything from sticking.
Then I add in some chopped, dried cherries and crushed pineapple, toss it with whole wheat couscous and fresh arugula, and that’s it! The entire dish takes about 15 minutes to prep and cook, making it perfect for those busy weeknights.
What’s your favorite Aidells product?
Pineapple and Bacon Chicken Sausage with Fruited Couscous
It seems like forever since I’ve posted on my blog. Not being able to really get into my kitchen, and advised by my attorney to limit any discussion of my accident and recovery, I’ve been at a loss for writing material.
I moved back into my house 2 weeks ago, after outfitting it with wider paths for my crutches and scooter, a shower chair, and toilet safety rails, and moving my bedroom things downstairs into the spare bedroom since I still am unable to navigate stairs. My cooking, however, has primarily consisted of reheating frozen food in the microwave or assembling the basic sandwich. Not my idea of culinary fun, but it’s a start.
This past week, though, I started accessing my kitchen muscle memory with some extremely effortless dishes, like these Chipotle Quinoa Stuffed Yams. I mean, I simply bake the yams whole, let them cool for a bit, scoop the meat out and mix it with some additional goodness, then spoon it back into the skin and bake it a little more. Easy peasy.
The bonus? It’s also scrumptious, filling, and perfect for Meatless Monday. As I’ve said many times, going vegetarian 1-2 times a week has been a cornerstone of my success in both losing and maintaining my weight.
What’s better than an easy, delicious and good-for-you meal?
These effortless, vegetarian Chipotle Quinoa Stuffed Yams are full of scrumptiously sweet and spicy flavors that will leave you feeling satisfied and guilt-free!
2 yams (5.3 oz. each), baked and cooled to the touch
⅓ cup raw tricolor quinoa, cooked according to package directions and cooled
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1 medium tomato, diced
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
2 oz. part skim queso fresco, shredded (divided)
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Cut the top of the skin of each baked yam lengthwise to create a boat-shaped opening.
Scoop the cooked yam meat out and into a medium mixing bowl. Place the yam skins, intact, into a shallow baking dish.
Mix in the cooked quinoa, chipotle pepper, tomato, cilantro, and 1.5 oz. of the queso fresco.
Spoon the mixture back into the yam skins. Sprinkle the remaining queso fresco over the top of the stuffed yams.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the stuffing is warmed through.
Let cool for 5 minutes and dig in!
To prebake the yams, simply pierce them a few times with a fork, place them on a baking sheet, and bake them for 45-60 minutes at 375F. Test with a fork before removing from the oven; it should pierce the yam easily.
Brussel sprouts are so perfect this time of year. The tiny green heads perch on their tall stalks, tightly closed, just waiting to be plucked and prepped into one delicious dish or another.
What? You don’t like brussel sprouts?
Believe it or not, I was right there with you at one point. My only exposure to brussel sprouts was at the holidays when my grandma would steam them to death and then slather their limp bodies in butter. Disgusting.
And then one day at a family dinner, my sister made roasted brussel sprouts.
Oh. My. Deliciousness.
My world changed. They were at once tender and crisp with a slightly smoky, sweetly caramelized flavor. I was smitten. Ever since then, I look forward to seeing the tall green stalks of brussel sprouts at the market in the fall and the kitchen experiments that will surely ensue.
This Cherried Brussel Beef Stir Fry is one of those experiments. I love the sweet, chewy cherries offset by the tender brussel sprouts and filling meat. Add in a twist of tart cherry juice and kefir lime leaves, spicy sriracha chili sauce, and a bit of cool mint, and you have a flavor sensation like no other.
For the beef, I like to use a lean bottom round roast. These usually come in large pieces of 2-3 lbs. each, but this is a perfect piece to have your butcher slice up. I then freeze the pieces and take them out for dishes such as this or winter stews.
And the bonus? This entire dish takes only about 20 minutes to prep and cook in total. I love a delicious and easy dinner, especially this time of year when the days are short and packed full of work responsibilities and holiday preparations.
An intense flavor explosion, this Cherried Brussel Beef Stir Fry takes only 20 minutes to prep and cook, making it a perfectly wondrous weeknight winner.
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb. fresh brussel sprouts, trimmed and quartered
½ cup chopped dried cherries
2 kefir lime leaves, ribs removed and leaves finely minced
pinch of coarse sea salt
½ lb. bottom round roast, cut into 1" pieces
½ cup tart cherry juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice, cooked according to package directions
Heat the sesame oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the brussel sprouts, cherries, kefir lime leaves and salt and cook for 3 minutes until the brussel sprouts are lightly browned, stirring frequently.
Add the beef and reduce the heat to medium, cooking about 2-3 minutes more until the beef is browned on the outside.
Whisk together the cherry juice, honey, sriracha, and mint. Pour into the skillet and use the back of a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the cooked bits off the bottom of the skillet.
Remove from heat. Serve the stir fry over the brown basmati rice.
With the coming of fall, I always look forward to experimenting with the bounty of squash. I especially love butternut squash. It’s so versatile, lending itself to steaming, roasting, or baking cooking techniques. And the sweet meat of the squash can be used in so many different ways, from my savory Butternut Squash Lasagna to countering the sweetness with a little heat, like I did in this recipe.
For this simple salad, I peeled, seeded and cubed the squash then tossed the pieces with a mixture of chili powder, cumin, coriander and paprika. Roasting the spiced squash brings out a caramel flavor so that when you bite into a piece you first taste the heat of the chili mixture and then the soft sweetness of the roasted squash. The flavor sensation is so amazing that I’m actually working on another recipe incorporating the same roasting technique.
Once the butternut squash is roasted, I let it cool a bit and then mix it with nutty farro, tender baby spinach, sweet chewy raisins, and salty pistachios. A simple dressing of honey and lime juice completes this hearty, entree salad.
The Lucini Italia Olive Oil Taste Challenge Line-up: Delicate Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Tuscan Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The rep told me she would put together a care package for me to sample, so I was expecting some little samples of olive oil and some informational swag. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found 4 gorgeous bottles waiting for me! They sent me full-size bottles of their Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Tuscan Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Delicate Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Trentino Apple Balsamic Vinegar to taste as well as some recipe suggestions.
Yes, it does not suck to be me.
I’m ready to taste some olive oil!
As you can imagine, I’m more skilled at tasting wine than olive oil, but I always take a challenge seriously. I got out some shot glasses and filled each with a little oil then settled in. The Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil is smooth, grassy, and pleasantly bitter with a slight peppery finish. I can see myself using it in many more dishes to come. I really loved the citrus bite in the Delicate Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, in fact I brushed some on a couple of ears of fresh corn that I then grilled up and served just sprinkled with a little sea salt. Yum!
My favorite though was the Tuscan Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The infusion of basil gives it an herbal quality with that strong peppery flavor that basil is famous for. This little bottle of delight has become a must-drizzle on slices of sun-warmed heirloom tomatoes freshly picked from the garden. Now that is a little slice of heaven!
I love that the beets turn the quinoa a lovely purple color in this salad.
Coincidentally, I was also working on this recipe for Grilled Beet Tomato and Quinoa Salad when I tasted these lovelies, and I immediately knew I had to pull the two together. I brushed the beets with the Tuscan Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil before grilling them and then made a very simple vinaigrette of it and the Trentino Apple Balsamic Vinegar to dress the salad. The olive oil enhanced the flavor of the fresh basil in the salad while the vinegar complemented the sweetness of the grilled beets and cherry tomatoes. The result was pure deliciousness.
Do you cook with olive oil? What’s your favorite recipe to use it in?
3 fresh beets, about 2" in diameter, peeled and sliced into ¼" slices
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ haas avocado, diced
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp apple balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Place the quinoa in a fine mesh colander or sieve and rinse well with cold water. Set aside.
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in the rinsed quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
Spread the cooked quinoa on a baking sheet in a single layer and set aside to cool.
Brush each side of the beet slices with 2 tsp of the olive oil. Grill on a pre-heated propane grill on low flame for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked through and tender.
Coarsely chop the grilled beets and place in a salad bowl. Add the cherry tomatoes, avocado, cooked quinoa, and basil and toss to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss to coat.
Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The beets also grill up very well in a cast iron grill pan. Preheat the grill pan over medium-high heat, lightly coat with olive oil, and grill the beets for 3-4 minutes on each side until cooked through.
I love my summer vegetable garden. Yes gardening is a lot of work, but it’s an excellent stress reliever, decent workout, and you get delicious homegrown tomatoes in the end. What’s not to love?
Right now my summer squash is coming on: zucchini, romesco zucchini, yellow zucchini, crookneck squash, and pattypan squash. These are especially good brushed with a little olive oil and thrown on the grill. Grilling brings an entirely new flavor to summer squash, something that can’t be replicated on the stovetop or in the oven.
Pattypan squash from the garden is brushed with olive oil and grilled up.
For this recipe, I wanted to create a light summer salad that was also hearty and filling enough for a stand alone meal. Mission accomplished!
And the dish is so easy to make that it takes almost no effort to throw it together after a busy day at work. There’s a little prep work involved with the wheat berries, but once those are cooked I simply grill up the squash and throw everything together in a bowl. What’s easier than that?
The colors, taste and texture make this an unforgettable summer meal!
For the dressing, I only make a very small amount because the squash and cherry tomatoes (also from my garden!) have so much flavor that the salad doesn’t need a lot of dressing. Of course the fresh oregano and salty feta also help.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that the strawberry patch in my garden is going crazy right now. I started with roughly 8 plants 2 years ago that I transplanted from a planter at my former home. I put them in the ground bordering my raised garden beds and decided to just let them go. Well, like strawberry plants do, they have reproduced to the point where they have almost taken over my backyard. I have strawberries in abundance right now – this week alone I picked a little over 12 pounds!
So what’s a girl to do with all of these strawberries but to find ways to use them? I’ve done the traditional jam making – well not exactly traditional flavors but some delicious combinations such as Balsamic Strawberry Basil, Strawberry Roasted Jalapeno, and Strawberry Hibiscus. Delicious! My favorite trick, though, is to create savory dinner dishes from these sweet summer beauties.
I’ve been seeing a lot of various recipes out there involved roasted strawberries, a preparation technique I had never tried before but I have sincerely fallen in love with. Roasting brings out an entirely different flavor in the strawberry: it is sweet, smoky and deliciously gooey. It’s almost like eating candy.
It took me a while to get the roasting just right, though. The secret: use parchment paper on the baking sheet and roast them in small batches, spreading the berries in a single layer and leaving room between them. The air really needs to circulate between the berries for a perfect roast.
You can roast the berries plain or tossed in a little olive oil, but for this recipe I used a combination of honey and balsamic vinegar for a little extra flavor. In fact, I highly recommend trying this with a fig balsamic vinegar if you have it. I just happened to have a bottle on hand that I had picked up on a recent trip to Napa.
I then combined the roasted berries with some nutty farro, crunchy jicama, thinly sliced green onions, peppery basil, and creamy goat cheese for a savory summer salad that is satisfying and hearty. It’s also perfect for Meatless Monday. This has become one of my favorite recipes, I hope you enjoy it too!
When I started my weight loss journey, I quickly found that I needed to prepare my own food more, instead of running through those all-to-convenient and abundant drive-thrus. This meant that I not only needed to up my culinary game, but I also had to change my cooking style. I turned to TV cooking shows for inspiration, and one of my absolute favorites was Food Network’s Ask Aida, featuring culinary curator and TV personality, Aida Mollenkamp.
Try this Chipotle and Toasted Walnut Wheat Berry Salad for a sample of Aida’s culinary talents!
I loved Aida’s scrumptious recipes, straightforward instructions, and helpful tips ranging from cooking techniques to how to use certain kitchen gadgets to how to select quality produce. I religiously watched her shows and together we made such delicious dishes as a vegan chili, chipotle chicken fajitas, shrimp piri piri, and steak with a compound butter that was to die for. The more I learned, the more confidence I gained in the kitchen and soon I was swapping out this for that and eventually crafting my own creations in order to get the lean calories I needed for my weight loss journey.
So when I was invited to participate in the Virtual Salad Party sponsored by California Walnuts and make a recipe from one of three featured chefs, I was beyond excited to select one of my virtual culinary mentors, Aida Mollenkamp. I chose her Chipotle and Toasted Walnut Wheat Berry Salad because, while I’ve cooked a lot with other grains such as quinoa, couscous, farro and sorghum, I have not yet worked with wheat berries. I saw this as yet another opportunity to learn from Aida. Score!
Raisins add a sweet, chewy flavor that really balances out the spice of the chipotle, the nuttiness of the wheat berries, and the smoky crunch of the toasted walnuts
Whenever I follow a recipe, I always like to make it as crafted first, and then recraft it as my own taste buds, style and dietary needs dictate. I have to say, though, that Aida created a real winner with this recipe because it was delicious. It was so good, I had to go back for seconds, and then I happily took leftovers to work for lunch the next day.
I did have to substitute hard wheat berries as my search of three local grocery stores could not find the soft wheat berries specified in the recipe. I followed the directions on the grocery store bulk bin and soaked the hard wheat berries over night before preparing them according to Aida’s instructions. The result was a delicious, nutty, slightly crunchy grain that I will absolutely be working with again.
Upon first bite, I thought that perhaps the recipe could use another chipotle. But then the finish left the perfect amount of heat. The real surprise, however, are the raisins. They add a sweet, chewy flavor that really balances out the spice of the chipotle, the nuttiness of the wheat berries, and the smoky crunch of the toasted walnuts. All of the flavors combine in perfect harmony like lovers destined for each other.
Win a copy of Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen below!
As part of the Virtual Salad Party, I’m really excited to be giving away a copy of Aida Mollenkamp’s cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen. Designed to help home cooks become more confident in the kitchen, I just know that the winner will enjoys her tips, tricks and recipes as much as I have over the years. Just try this one for a sample of the deliciousness that awaits you then enter the contest below!
1 chopped chipotle en adobo plus 1 teaspoon chipotle en adobo sauce
1 cup toasted walnut halves, coarsely chopped
½ cup raisins
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
3 scallions, light green and green parts thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley or cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Fill a medium saucepan with heavily salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in wheat berries, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until tender but still chewy, about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet to cool. (Can be made through this step up to 4 days ahead. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.)
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add carrots and a pinch of salt and cook until just softened but still retains some bite, about 5 minutes more. Stir in thyme and chipotle and sauce and cook until fragrant then remove from heat.
Place wheat berries in a large, nonreactive bowl and add carrot mixture, nuts, and raisins. Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, and honey until honey is dissolved then stir into wheat berry mixture. Let salad marinate at least 15 minutes before serving or cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 24 hours. Just before serving, add the scallions and herbs.
If you can't find soft wheat berries (like I couldn't) you can also substitute hard wheat berries. Simply soak them in a large bowl of water overnight before draining and cooking them as instructed in this recipe.