Holiday Salad with Pecan and California Raisin-Crusted Goat Cheese {Sponsored Recipe ReDux}

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Raisin Marketing Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

The holidays are certainly upon us. I’m not sure about you all, but we have holiday parties/festivities for the next several weekends (not that I’m complaining). That means lots of food, and most of it not very healthful.

My general plan of attack for myself (and what I recommend to clients) is to bring a couple dishes that you have prepared and feel good about eating. That way, when you’re surrounded by marshmallow and sugar-laden sweet potato casseroles, creamy vegetable sides and indulgent desserts galore, you at least can at least eat/feel good about eating the dishes you brought (and maybe skip some of those disgusting creamy casseroles).

brussels_butternutsquash_raisins_goatcheese1

For the holidays, my go-to dish is a salad. It’s the dish I volunteer to make for all my holiday parties, partially because I don’t trust others to make a good salad — I’m a control freak and I’ve never denied that — and partially because I make a damn good salad.

So when the folks at California Raisins tasked us with creating recipes that are “naturally sweet for the holidays,” my mind went to salad.

When making a salad, I love taking seasonal vegetables and adding just a touch of sweetness, whether that’s a honey-infused vinaigrette, raisins, or both, as I’ve done here. California Raisins add natural sweetness with zero fat, no cholesterol and no added sugar. Plus, they offer 9% your daily fiber and potassium, and 6% of your daily iron.

brussels_butternutsquash_raisins_goatcheese

They’re a great choice for wholesome at-home or on-the-go snacking, plus they lend themselves well to both savory and sweet applications, where they provide natural sweetness.

They are seriously amazing for snacking, though, as evidenced by the fact that my roommate and I snacked on a pretty portion of the bag of California Raisins before I even started to create my recipes, to the point where I had to go back to the store to get several more bags. No biggie though, because California Raisins are the most economical dried fruit, according to the USDA.

As a sidenote, I love to pop a few raisins with peanut or almond butter — ants-on-a-log sans the celery, if you will — and also add them to my plain Greek yogurt to add extra nutrition and a little natural sweetness.

They also were d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. in my Vegan Moroccan Stew, which I made for another ReDux a few months ago.

Recipe: Raw Brussels Sprouts and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pecan and California Raisin-Crusted Goat Cheese

This salad is perfect for the holidays and because the Brussels sprouts don’t wilt like other greens, you can actually prep and dress the salad up to 1-2 days ahead of time. California Raisins add a great sweet note to the salad and the goat cheese brings just the right amount of tang.

brussels_butternutsquash_raisins_goatcheese2

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 3/4 cup California Raisins, divided (1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup)
  • 8 oz. log Chevre goat cheese, sliced into 1/2″ rounds
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Peel butternut squash using a sharp knife then cut in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds from the middle. Dice into small (~1/4″) cubes. Toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and lay on a baking sheet. Roast at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until the squash is soft.
  2. While the squash is cooking, cut/shred Brussels sprouts, then wash and thoroughly dry them (or use a salad spinner).
  3. Mix 1/4 cup California Raisins, pecans and rosemary and gently press mixture into both sides of the goat cheese slices.raisins_pecan_rosemary_goatcheese
  4. In a large bowl, add balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, honey, pepper and salt. Use a whisk to mix.honey_balsamic_dressing
  5. Add shredded Brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash, and remaining 1/2 cup California Raisins and toss with dressing.          brussels_butternutsquash_honey_balsamic
  6. Top with pecan and California Raisin-crusted goat cheese.

To make it a meal, try adding grilled chicken, turkey or fried eggs, as I did for breakfast yesterday.

CARaisins_GoatCheese_Salad_witheggs

See how other Recipe ReDuxers are using California Raisins by clicking the link below.

Cheesy Phyllo Bites {Recipe ReDux}

It’s almost Thanksgiving!! Have you figured out your Turkey Day menu yet? Holiday meny planning is a favorite activity, especially when done with my mom. Whether we’re physically together or discussing over the phone, we brainstorm back and forth to come up with the perfect menu.

Needless to say, we’ve been plotting what to make for Thanksgiving for a couple weeks now. We wanted to make something to honor my Grandma Sona, who passed away over the summer. She was truly a very special lady and we all miss her more than words can say.

My Grandma was the most amazing cook, even though she would tell you she really didn’t like cooking. While she’s made quite a few memorable dishes, my favorite was always Boreg. It’s an Armenian savory phyllo dough casserole similar to Spanikopita, but with the spinach subbed out for cheese and eggs. It’s seriously divine.

So when the folks at Recipe ReDux challenged us to share one of our favorite food memories and the healthier “redo” of the recipe, my decision was easy-peasy.

cheesy_phyllo_dough_bites

I had made Boreg with my Grandma only one time, after convincing her to show me how. I quickly tried to jot down her recipe (or lack thereof) and eyeball how much cheese, milk, eggs, etc. she was using and managed to come up with a relatively straightforward recipe. We had a really great day cooking and hanging out together. And our Boreg was phenomenal, as always. She was very patient showing me how to handle the phyllo dough, brush the butter on, add the filling and bake it.

I had never actually made it myself, though, let alone made a healthier version of it.

boreg_bites

Grandma’s recipe called for one cup each of Parmesan, Romano and Feta cheese and up to one stick of butter. I’m all for eating fats, but that’s a LOT of fat!

To lighten it up a bit, I used low fat cottage cheese in place of some of the other cheese, cut down from one stick of butter to just 3 Tbsp., and used only about half of the package of phyllo dough, and I have to say that my version tasted almost as good — there’s no way I could ever beat Grandma’s — as G-Sona’s (our nickname for her).

Recipe: Cheesy Phyllo Dough Boreg Bites

These Boreg bites would be a perfect side or appetizer for the holidays. Try to work as quickly as possible when handling the phyllo dough as it dries out very fast. Don’t worry if the phyllo tears or gets crumbly — mine did and it turned out just fine.

boreg_ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 package phyllo dough, defrosted (you will only need about 1/2-3/4 of the package)
  • 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup Feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Romano and Parmesan cheese blend (or 1/4 cup of each)
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

cheesy_appetizer_bites

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease a one-dozen muffin tin with butter or cooking spray.
  2. Lay phyllo dough out on cutting board and cut into squares of about two inches by two inches.
  3. Lay 1-2 squares of phyllo dough in each of the muffin tin slots and gently press the phyllo into the slots. Brush the top layer with butter. Continue this process for 5-6 more layers.
  4. Mix 3 eggs, cottage cheese, Feta and Romano/Parmesan blend. Place a dollop of the mixture in each of the phyllo cups.
  5. Continue to layer 5-6 more layers of phyllo/butter over the cheese and egg mixture.
  6. Combine remaining egg with baking powder and water. Beat with a fork.
  7. Poke holes through the phyllo cups with the fork and spoon about 1-2 tsp. of the egg/baking powder mixture into each cup. It will nestle into the fork holes you just made.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until phyllo cups are golden brown.

cheesy_phyllo_cups_unbaked

cheesy_phyllo_dough_bites

This one’s for you, Grandma! I wish you were here to enjoy them and know you would be proud of my work.

cheesy_phyllo_dough_boreg_bites

What family recipes will you be preparing this holiday season? See what memories inspired fellow Recipe ReDuxers by clicking the blue guy below.

Quick and Easy Recipe: Warm Green Bean, Pomegranate and Sweet Potato Salad {Sponsored Recipe ReDux}

I received free samples of Libby’s new Vegetable Pouches mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Libby’s and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

With the cooler weather, I’m craving all kinds of fall- and Thanksgiving-themed foods. But who has the time to cook all the squash, potatoes, beans and turkey? Not this girl.

I’m all about the quick, simple meal using quality ingredients — and culinary shortcuts — to yield tasty, good-for-you dishes. So when the folks at Libby’s Fruits & Vegetables challenged us to create delicious appetizers, soups, salads or side dishes in 10 minutes or less using Libby’s Vegetable Pouches as the hero ingredient, I was ready to get cooking.

warm_thanksgiving_salad

Libby’s Vegetable Pouches are pretty snazzy little things. They’re microwaveable (DONE IN ONE MINUTE!), which means fewer dishes for moi to clean (this whole not having a dishwasher thing is really getting old). Libby’s is the first to offer ready-to-heat vegetables in pouches. I don’t have to feel bad about throwing the package away, either — I’m a hippie like that — because pouches use 75% less energy annnddd waste is easily compressed, reducing space in home disposal and landfills. An added bonus is that the pouches are made with BPA non-intent materials.

Tip: the pouches will be available nation-wide come the new year and can currently be found in select Walmart stores.

green_bean_pomegranate_sweet_potato

But none of the aforementioned perks matter if it’s not tasty, right? Lucky for me (and you all), Libby’s Vegetable Pouches are delicious and come in five popular varieties – sliced carrots, sweet peas, cut green beans, mixed vegetables and sweet corn.

I chose the cut green bean variety as the star of my warm green bean, pomegranate and sweet potato salad.warm_thanksgiving_vegetable_salad

This salad is a GAME ˆ CHANGER. It would be a welcome addition to any Thanksgiving table and it takes LESS THAN TEN MINUTES TO MAKE! Not to mention it is no-bake (a microwave is the only cooking vessel you need), since oven space is quite precious on Thanksgiving. Plus, with “exotic” sounding ingredients like pomegranate, rosemary and cinnamon pecans, you’ll appear to be the best, most knowledgable chef around.

Recipe: Warm Green Bean, Pomegranate and Sweet Potato Salad

Enjoy this while it’s still warm, or refrigerate and eat cold. This would be delicious served alongside chicken or turkey — or eat it by itself! It’s really that good. If you don’t have pomegranates around, you can swap them for dried cranberries.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 pouch Libby’s Cut Green Beans
  • 1 cup pomegranate arils (seeds), or the seeds from one medium pomegranate (use the pre-seeded version to save time — I find them frozen at Costco or fresh at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup raw pecans
  • 1 tsp. butter, preferably grass-fed
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey (look for an ethically harvested variety — find out more about the honey/bee issue here)
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

ingredients_warm_green_bean_salad

Directions:

  1. Poke holes in sweet potato using a fork. Microwave sweet potato for 2-3 minutes. Flip sweet potato over and microwave for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until it feels soft.
  2. While the sweet potato cooking, melt butter in a small skillet, add pecans and cinnamon and stir for 2-3 minutes to toast.
  3. Prepare pomegranate. The best way to do this is to roll the pomegranate on the counter before cutting it — you should feel and hear the seeds loosening up. Then, inside a metal or glass bowl (the juice could stain a plastic bowl) cut the pomegranate into quarters and dig out the seeds. Or, use pre-prepared pomegranate seeds to save some time.
  4. When sweet potato is done in the microwave, swap it out for the Libby’s Cut Green Bean Pouch and cook according to package instructions.
  5. While the green beans are cooking, cut the sweet potato into small cubes.
  6. Drain heated green beans and add to a large bowl along with remaining ingredients (including toasted pecans). Toss and serve warm.

green_bean_pomegranate_sweet_potato_salad

Voila! Enjoy this super-easy, amazingly delicious salad!

 

Vegan Moroccan Stew {Recipe ReDux}

Scary spices.

No, I’m not talking about your least favorite Spice Girl. I’m talking the theme for this month’s Recipe ReDux:

Spooky Spices: You know they are lurking there: Way in the back of your spice drawer. There lie the herbs, spices, or rubs that are getting dusty because you’re afraid to use them… you simply don’t know what to do with them! Well, pull them out and show us a recipe you created to deliciously conquer that fearful spice. (Or maybe the recipe was a flop – and the spice still give you nightmares?!)

I’d say I’m not scared of too many spices. I love to combine spices in unusual ways to completely alter/upgrade a recipe.

So at first, I was completely stumped.

Then, like a gift from the gods, my friend gave me some amazing saffron. I like the flavor and color that saffron brings to recipes, but I had never used it in my own cooking.

saffron

So, I started doing my research and one article gave mention of using saffron with cinnamon and cumin — SOLD! Saffron can give a bitter taste to dishes if not treated properly. To make sure I mantained the beautiful taste and depth that saffron can lend, I first ground the saffron using a mortar and pestle (my Grandma’s mortar and pestle, in fact — brought all the way from Turkey). Then, I steeped it — like you would tea — in hot (but NOT boiling) water for about 30 minutes, yielding the most beautiful golden liquid.

vegan_moroccan_saffron_stew

From there, it was time to make stew! Not just any stew…Moroccan-style, VEGAN, warming stew. Enjoy!

Recipe: Vegan Moroccan Stew

This dish is perfect for a cool fall day. If you need gluten-free, use one block of extra firm (crumbled) tofu in place of the tempeh.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pinch saffron (about 25 strands)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 3 cups mushrooms, such as criminis, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut or olive oil
  • 2 blocks tempeh, crumbled by hand
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, preferably no salt added
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/3 cup raisins

Directions:

  1. Heat 1/2 cup water until hot, but not boiling. While water is heating, grind saffron using a mortar and pestle, or even with your fingers if you don’t have a mortar and pestle. Add the ground saffron to a small dish and pour hot water over it. Let steep.
  2. In a large pot, saute onion in oil. Once onions are translucent, add mushrrooms and eggplant and saute for 10 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, crumbled tempeh, spices, salt, apple juice, steeped saffon/water combo and raisins and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Garnish with raisins or a sprinkling of ground saffron if desired.

vegan_tempeh_saffron_stew

Check out how fellow Recipe ReDuxers use “spooky spices” by clicking on the little blue guy below. Enjoy!

Eggplant Chips with Roasted Garlic Pumpkin Hummus {Recipe ReDux}

My Grandma used to make the most delicious roasted eggplant with yogurt sauce. Velvety smooth, garlicky, cooked for hours…

The fact that I could never duplicate that dish could be attributed to many things — I didn’t use enough oil, I went too light on the garlic, I used the wrong type of yogurt for the sauce — but when it all boils down, no one can do it better than Grandma. Am I right?

While I love my Grandma’s eggplant dish, I myself could never really get eggplant right. It would turn out soggy or tasteless or morph into a weird texture when cooked. I loathe eggplant because I am a perfectionist and, well, the things I created up until now were far from perfection.

I’m always up for a challenge, though, so for this month’s Recipe ReDux theme of dehydrated food (either doing the dehydrating yourself or incorporating dehydrated ingredients into a dish), I figured it was time to meet my culinary nemesis.

Eggplant, you ain’t got nothing on me. Doesn’t hold a candle to Grandma’s Eggplant, but it’s pretty damn delicious.

eggplant_chips_pumpkin_hummus

It turns out eggplant chips aren’t so difficult. And you don’t even need a fancy dehyrator. Nope, these were dehydrated right in our old crappy oven.

What really makes these eggplant chips, though, is that dreamy pumpkin hummus made with roasted garlic.

peeled_garlic

Do you all know the trick to peeling a lot of garlic very quickly?

Peel the outside layers off of the bulb, plop the whole thing in a container with a lid, and shake it like a Polaroid picture. Like, really shake it. Your muscles should be sore, no joke. I don’t know how, but this assault to the garlic magically gets all of the peels off while keeping each clove intact.

This is a great party trick, depending on the type of party.

So once you’ve magically peeled your garlic, it’s ready to be roasted on the stove. Just place it in a small saucepan, pour in enough olive oil to cover the cloves fully, and heat the oil/garlic until it starts to simmer. Then remove from heat and let cool.

You now have both roasted garlic AND garlic-infused olive oil! Now what to do with all of this deliciousness?

pumpkin_hummus

Hummus, obviously! And since it feels like fall in Chicago, PUMPKIN hummus. The roasted garlic and garlic oil also make an excellent pesto sauce, FYI.

Recipe: Eggplant Chips with Roasted Garlic Pumpkin Hummus

You can eat these together or separately, they are both delicious in their own right. I can’t wait to try the eggplant chips with a yogurt sauce and the hummus with, lets be honest, everything. Man I love hummus.

Ingredients

Eggplant Chips:

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into very thin rounds (1/8″ or 1/16″). Use a mandolin if you have one.
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt

Pumpkin Hummus

  • 2 (16 oz) cans low sodium chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pumpkin, or 2 cups roasted/pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup garlic olive oil (see above for how to make your own)
  • 4-6 cloves roasted garlic (also see above)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini or nut butter, such as almond or cashew butter
  • 2 Tbsp. local honey
  • 1 Tbsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

sliced_eggplant

Directions

Eggplant Chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Place metal cooling racks on top of baking sheets (I needed two in order to fit all of the eggplant). The cooling racks allow air to circulate around the whole eggplant chip, helping it to dehydrate more effectively.
  3. Spray the cooking rack with cooking spray. Salt one side of the eggplant piece, then lay salted side down on the rack. Do this with all of the eggplant rounds, then spray the tops of the eggplant with cooking spray and sprinkle salt over the eggplant (so that both sides are salted). This will help draw moisture out during the dehydrating process.
  4. Place baking sheets in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pans then bake for another 30 minutes. Flip the chips and then bake for another 15-30 minutes, or until the eggplant is slightly browned and crispy.

Pumpkin Hummus:

  1. Place all ingredients in a large food processor and process until desired consistency.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Drizzle with honey and olive oil for serving.

eggplant_chips_hummus

{side note: how frickin’ adorable is the green polka dot mini casserole dish in the picture?! Expect a fruit crumble or vegetable bake at some point in the very near future. Thank you, World Market.}

For more amazing dehydrated recipes from the talented Recipe ReDuxers, follow the link below (click on the little blue guy).

Avocado, Apple and Cabbage “Green” Slaw

Happy Labor Day, y’all! (I am not from the south and really should never use the term, “y’all” but it seemed necessary here).

If your Labor Day is going to see some BBQ action, make sure there are some healthy options available. This slaw is both creamy from the avocado and tart from the sour apple. It’s the perfect complement to meat or other grilled proteins. 

If you can’t find sour apples — mine were from my local farmers market — you can most definitely use tart green apples.

apple_avocado_slaw

Avocado, Apple and Cabbage Slaw

This recipe is perfect with meat, chicken or fish. The apples add a nice tartness that cuts through any fattiness of meat.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head green or red cabbage
  • 1 fresh, ripe avocado
  • 1 sour apple, julienne-style (or use a green apple)
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, such as Bragg’s
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Peel, seed and mash avocado
  2. Roughly chop cabbage (should be thin strands)
  3. Mix cabbage with mashed avocado, julienned apple, vinegar, lemon juice and salt. 

Happy grilling!

apple_avocado_slaw_pork

Eggs Nestled In Vegetables

Eggs are, quite possibly, one of my favorite foods. Full of protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats — all for 70 calories a pop (for a large egg).

Enough about nutrition, though. Let’s focus on the best part of an egg: the yolk. That perfectly runny, unctuous, food porn-worthy (I’ll admit I enjoy egg yolk porn from time to time), delicious yolk.

While frying, poaching and baking (see my recipes for Eggs Baked in Spaghetti Squash Nests and Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce) are great and all, my latest creation, which I call “nestled eggs”, definitely takes the yolk cake.

nestled_eggs_beet_greens

It’s a super-easy and versatile recipe, first off. Just saute fresh, frozen or leftover vegetables, plop some eggs in and top with olives, hummus, sweet potatoes, whatever! 

It’s also a leave-it-alone kind of recipe. Once you plop the eggs in and cover it, you can go get ready for the day. I generally do my makeup and get dressed while this is cooking.

Now that’s just good time management.

Nestled eggs make for a satisfying, low carb, paleo-friendly, gluten-free breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s also a great way to get some extra vegetables into your day.

Eggs Nestled in Vegetables

This is a very flexible recipe. Try it with a vegetable of choice, or even use leftover vegetables. Finish it off with toppings of choice. Some of my favorites include Kalamata olives, hummus or pesto for dipping and balsamic vinegar.

Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups greens or other vegetable of choice (I used locally-grown beet greens — the stems from my beets — above)
  • 1 tsp olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
  • 2-3 eggs, depending on how hungry you are
  • Toppings/sauces of choice (I used 2 Tbsp. hummus, leftover sweet potatoes and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar above).
  • Pinch of pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tsp. olive or coconut oil and heat for 1 minute. Add greens, or vegetable of choice, and optional garlic to the pan and saute for 2-4 minutes. 
  2. Spread the vegetable mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  3. Crack eggs right into the vegetable mixture.
  4. Sprinkle with pepper and any other spices you like.
  5. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook eggs for 5-7 minutes, or until the egg whites are set.
  6. Plate the nestled eggs and serve with toppings of choice.

 

For dinner, I like to pair the nestled eggs with protein pancakes — perfection!

nestled_eggs_yellow_squash_olives

Another take on nestled eggs, made with locally-grown golden squash and garlic, topped with sliced Kalamata olives.