Holiday Roasted Vegetable Salad

This roasted vegetable salad features beets, carrots and cauliflower tossed in a maple balsamic dressing with a toasty, nuttiness from pecans and a little sweetness from golden raisins. 

roasted_vegetable_salad

Happy Holidays, all! We’ve had an unseasonable winter thus far in Chicago. Last weekend it was 60 degrees, which I don’t think has ever happened in my lifetime.

Yes, I enjoy the warmer weather (this could be -40 degrees like the last couple years), but it’s a little disconcerting. It worries me about global warming, but more importantly, it makes it hard to get in the holiday spirit.

(I kid, I kid. Global warming is definitely > holiday spirit.)

But let’s focus on a problem I can immediately improve — holiday cheer! I’ve been doing everything I possibly can to make it feel like Christmas: decorating everything, Christmas-y smelling candles, Home Alone, Elf, Christmas tunes bumping…

What I really love about the holidays, though — and I think most people would agree — is getting to spend time with good friends and family and enjoying delicious food. So that’s what I’ve been trying to amp up.

holiday_table

Last weekend I hosted some of my college girlfriends for a potluck + secret Santa exchange, a tradition we’ve had since we graduated. As the host, I decided to make a few items for the potluck:

Roasted Vegetable Salad (lettuce-free)

Lemon Tahini Vegetables

Sweet Potato Frittata

I’ll be posting the recipes throughout this week. I promise, they’re all very easy and can be done in part ahead of time. Hope you enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable Salad

Change out the standard lettuce-based salad for this one featuring roasted vegetables, toasted pecans and golden raisins. This would pair well with chicken or turkey, or would be fantastic over a bed of kale if you still want some greens in your salad.

Serves 10-12

Ingredients:

  • 4 large beets
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • roughly 10 carrots
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil + 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 cup feta cheese (goat cheese would also be amazing)
  • 1 cup raw pecan pieces
  • 1 cup golden raisins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash all the vegetables well and lay on towels/paper towels to dry. Cut the ends off of the beets, peel them, and chop into 1/2″ cubes. Cut cauliflower in quarters and then cut Continue reading

Fall Flavors Series: Vegan Caramel Apples + Butternut Squash Curry

This fall, it’s my goal to go to the apple orchard (and to make the boy come with). Who doesn’t love to be surrounded by gorgeous fall foliage, delicious, freshly-picked apples and maybe an apple donut dipped into apple cider?

What’s even better, though, is when you get to take your freshly-picked, local apples and turn them into CARAMEL APPLES. And just in case you avoid dairy, are cutting down on sugar and/or avoiding corn syrup (often found in the caramel of caramel apples), are a vegan or just want a ridiculously easy, delicious, better-for-you caramel recipe — this caramel is perfect.

For a recent dinner party, I used Blissful Basil’s Five Minute Vegan Caramel as a part of a caramel apple “bar.” Imagine a sundae bar with all of the delicious toppings but instead of putting them on ice cream, you dipped your caramel apples in them.

Exciting, right?!

caramel_apples_with_toppings

Vegan Caramel Apples with Toppings

This is a fun, hands-on and healthified dessert that makes a great option for parties. Kids would love this as well — just change out the toppings with whatever you have on hand/enjoy best. Thanks to Blissful Basil’s amazing recipe for making this happen.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tart and crisp apples, such as Granny Smith, cut into wedges
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
  • 1/2 cup [real] maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Toppings: unsweetened coconut flakes, candied ginger, candied pecans, and sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add apple wedges and orange juice to a zip-top bag and store in the fridge until ready to use.
  2. Heat almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, salt and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low-medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool (ideally in the fridge) for 20-30 minutes. Note, you can enjoy the caramel hot but it will thicken up the colder it gets.
  3. “Skewer” apple wedges using wooden skewers, popsicle sticks, or in our case — chopsticks!
  4. Lay out toppings in small bowls with spoons.
  5. Once caramel thickens, let your guests dip their apple wedges in and then choose their toppings.

I’d say these are some happy apple sundae-goers…

vegan_caramelvegan_caramel_apples caramel_apples

BUT WAIT! It’s not all about the dessert here. There’s also an amazing, easy entree: vegan butternut squash and lentil curry over coconut-lime cauliflower rice. Unfortunately, the curry didn’t photograph so well in the nighttime lighting so there’s no beautiful picture to show you. But just because there’s no photo, doesn’t mean it’s not insane-good.

Also, why have I not made curry in the crockpot before? It’s so easy and the longer you let it chill in the crockpot, the more the flavors meld together and the whole thing turns into this amazing, warming curry.

Butternut Squash and Lentil Curry over Coconut-Lime Cauliflower Rice

The cauliflower “rice” helps lighten this dish up a bit, making it lower carb AND higher in fiber and nutrients.

Curry Ingredients:

  • 2 butternut squashes, peeled, seeded and cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups orange lentils (any color/type would work well here)
  • 1 Tbsp. yellow curry paste
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. turmeric

Curry Directions:

  1. Throw all ingredients in the crockpot and turn to high. Cook for 4 hours, or until butternut squash and lentils are soft.

Cauliflower Rice Ingredients:

  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Cauliflower Rice Directions:

  1. Wash cauliflower, remove leaves, and cut in half. Remove cauliflower “core.” Chop cauliflower into chunks and add about 2 cups worth at a time to a food processor. Pulse for 1-2 second intervals until cauliflower is a rice consistency. You can also grate the cauliflower on a box grater or just chop it up really well for the same effect, sans food processor.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add coconut oil and onions and saute onions for 2-3 minutes. Add cauliflower and saute for about 15 minutes. Add in lime zest and juice, shredded coconut and sea salt. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

Serve the curry over the cauliflower rice. And an expert tip here — make EXTRA and freeze the leftovers in individual containers for later enjoyment. I actually think it almost tastes better when re-heated.

Fall Flavors Series: Kale and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

Happy Fall, y’all! With fall comes brisker weather — which as someone who is always warm, I quite enjoy — along with delicious foods. Pumpkin, anyone? See also: Brussels sprouts, squash in all shapes and sizes, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, etc.

I recently prepared a multi-course vegan meal for a group of wonderful women. A couple of friends came up with the idea for an event, GATHER: Your Mat, Our Table. The event included an hour-long rooftop yoga class and then a delicious vegan meal prepared by yours truly using almost completely local ingredients. Here’s the menu lineup (and credit to the farms that supplied the goods, AKA the veggies):

Lacinato kale,  cinnamon-roasted butternut squash and pomegranate salad with candied pecans and a fig-balsamic dressing

Roasted Brussels sprouts with orange zest and toasted hazelnuts

Purple and sweet potato fritters with spiced apple sauce

Butternut squash and lentil curry over coconut-lime cauliflower “rice”

Caramel apple bar

*Lacinato kale, purple and sweet potatoes from Green Acres Indiana Farm; Butternut squash, red onions, red peppers, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts from Geneva Lakes Produce; Apples from K & K Farms*

This was my farmer’s market haul for the event:

fall_vegetabls_in_season

Many of the awesome ladies at the event were asking for recipes, so I figured I would do a series of posts. I want to first highlight my personal favorite dish of the night (and one of the easiest to make!): a roasted butternut squash and kale salad.

I’m all about color and texture in my recipes, and this one really offers it all. Crispy kale, the “pop” of pomegranate, the smooth, creamy texture of roasted butternut squash plus candied pecans on the side to add sweetness and crunch.

Drizzle it with a super-simple Mission fig balsamic vinaigrette and you’ve got a major crowd favorite.

fall_salad

Fall Kale, Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad

This salad is vegan but to add a little more protein, try topping with grilled chicken, salmon or to keep it vegan/vegetarian and up the protein, add some lentils or chick peas to the mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 bunches lacinato (AKA dinosaur) kale, preferably organic, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil plus 3 Tbsp. olive oil, preferably cold-pressed
  • 1 large pomegranate
  • 8 oz. pecan halves
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. fig balsamic (you can find at specialty grocery stores or olive oil/vinegar shops) Substitute balsamic vinegar if you can’t find fig balsamic 
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the ends off of the butternut squash then cut in quarters. Scoop out the seeds. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel off, then dice into 1/2″ cubes.
  3. Toss diced butternut squash and red onion with coconut oil, cinnamon and sea salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until desired level of char (I like mine really charred).
  4. While squash and onions are roasting, add kale to a large bowl and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Using hands, massage oil into the kale. This will take out some of the bitterness and make the kale a better texture. Put the massaged kale in the fridge to marinate while you prep everything else.
  5. To remove the seeds from the pomegranate, roll the pomegranate gently around on the table (before cutting into it). You will hear and feel the seeds loosening. Then, cut the pomegranate in quarters and scoop out the seeds. Keep seeds refrigerated.
  6. Add 2 tsp. coconut oil to a pan and heat for 1 minute, then add pecans, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup and 1/2 tsp cinnamon to pan and toast, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes.
  7. Using a whisk, mix vinegar, 3 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. maple syrup.
  8. On top of “massaged” kale, add pomegranate seeds, roasted butternut squash/onions and candied pecans. Drizzle with dressing.

Stay tuned for more fall recipes coming your way. And while I’m not generally a “vegan” cook, these recipes have mass appeal and include REAL foods that anyone can get behind. Hope you enjoy!

Spiced Beef Stew {Recipe ReDux}

When the weather cools down, there’s nothing I love more than stew. Okay, maybe I love pumpkin more, but I digress.

Not only is stew fool-proof, but it allows for creativity. Have carrots? Peppers? Onions? Eggplant? Great! Now throw in some meat and seasoning and you’re good. You can change up the protein or vegetables or spices and create a completely new and delicious stew.

The true beauty of stew, though, is the leftovers! Make a big batch and freeze the leftovers in individual containers for a quick meal when you get home late from work or just don’t feel like cooking.

The whole make-extra-and-freeze-for-later principle was the theme for this month’s Recipe ReDux:

Fantastic Freezer Meals:

Share your tips and tricks for making one – or more freezer meals. It’s the end of the gardening season for some of us; let’s store away that produce in heat-and-eat-from-the-freezer-meals. Show how convenient healthy freezer breakfast, lunches or dinners can be!

My freezer meal is the aforementioned stew, but with a spiced Moroccan twist.

The key ingredient here is grass-fed beef, which provides a rich, slightly gamey taste that I absolutely adore. Look for 100% grass-fed beef because it, along with all 100% grass-fed meats, contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids. In other words, grass-fed meat has a healthier fat source, not to mention it means the animal had a happier, freer life.

lamb chili

Spiced Beef Stew

Top this stew with a little quinoa or some sauteed potatoes and you’ve got a hearty, filling meal. Make a big batch of the quinoa/potatoes and you’ve got another side ready to go for later eating. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil (virgin)
  • 1.5 lb. grass-fed beef cubes (such as sirloin)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 10 carrots, sliced
  • 1 small eggplant, cubed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, preferably no salt added
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cardamom

Directions:

  1. Heat coconut oil in a large pot. Add onions and saute for 2-3 minutes, then add beef. Saute beef for 5 minutes, making sure to sear all sides of the beef cubes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil, then simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until carrots and eggplant are tender.

For more amazing freezer meals, check out the link below! 

Zesty Heirloom Tomato Taco Salad {Sponsored Recipe ReDux}

One of the best parts of summer is the amazing produce that’s available in Chicago — especially fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes (or fresh-from-the-CSA in my case).

Top those tomatoes with deliciousness in the form of taco-seasoned lean ground beef (plus some other goodies), and you’ve got a light summer meal.

heirloom_tomato_taco_salad

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Beef Checkoff and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Now, I am not a chicken breast all day, every day kind of girl. I love beef, whether it’s a perfectly-grilled steak, juicy burger, tacos, meatballs or meatloaf, beef frequents my table.

Beyond the delicious flavor of beef, it’s got loads of nutrition. First off, let’s talk protein. A 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 25 grams of protein and 10 essential nutrients.

Emerging research indicates that evenly distributing daily protein intake at meals and snacks throughout the day (~20 to 30g/eating occasion) may potentially contribute to benefits for body weight management and appetite control.

On a related note, protein-packed foods — like beef — promote satiety which can help cut down on mindless eating. I’ve found that my clients who eat more high-quality protein and fats are better able to cut down on sweets and snacking throughout the day.

I especially love grass-fed beef, as it contains a better fat ratio (more conjugated linoleic acids, which function similar to omega-3s). You can find great grass-fed options at most grocery stores and your local farmers market.

To find out more about grass-fed and grain-fed beef, check out the Beef Checkoff’s infographic.

zesty_heirloom_tomato_taco_salad

The Beef Checkoff program also offers a great interactive Butcher Counter where you can learn all about the cuts of beef, including which options are considered lean.

Zesty Heirloom Tomato Taco Salad

Salads don’t have to be made with greens! Top fresh tomatoes with all the toppings for a nice, light dinner. Heirloom tomatoes are super-delicious here, but cherry or regular tomatoes would also work great.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (90% or better), preferably grass-fed
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 4 tomatoes, preferably locally-grown (because they taste soooo much better)
  • 1 avocado, washed, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 green onion, sliced (white and green parts)
  • 1 Tbsp. each lemon and lime zest
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add lean beef to medium skillet and sprinkle with cumin, ground pepper and chili powder. Saute until cooked through.
  2. While beef is cooking, wash and core tomatoes, then cut into 8 wedges. Prepare avocado, green onions, lemon and lime zest and cut lime into 4 wedges.
  3. Lay tomatoes onto four separate plates, then sprinkle cooked ground beef over tomatoes, and garnish with avocados, green onions and zest. Sprinkle with sea salt and squeeze a lime over each serving. Add a few dollops of optional plain Greek yogurt if desired.

zesty_tomato_taco_salad

For more awesome lean beef recipes, check out the link below! 

Miso Mustard Green Beans {Recipe ReDux}

If you follow me on Instagram (@danaartinyanRD), you know that I’m kind of obsessed with my CSA from Green Acres. It’s organic, locally grown and always exciting to see what treasures I’ll get in the week’s haul. I especially love all the weird exotic stuff, e.g. nettles (have to wear gloves when you handle them/cook them so that you don’t get a rash), Scarlet turnips, all colors of carrots and Swiss chard — though I guess that’s not so exotic, depending on who you ask.

I have a special place in my heart for vegetables that are “abnormal” in color: yellow cauliflower, purple asparagus, red carrots and so on. Growing up, my mom always made a point to make sure our meals were colorful, which I’ve carried into my own cooking. So the crazy-colored veggies fit in perfectly. Last week, I got these rainbow green beans and was thrilled to use them in this month’s “Fresh From the Garden” Recipe ReDux:

The season of bountiful produce has arrived. Whether your produce comes from the Farmers Market, a CSA share, or a plot of dirt out back, show how you are using fresh July fruits or veggies. And if you have gardening successes – or failures – please share!

rainbow_green_beans

I can thank a former Recipe ReDux for my love for miso paste. It lends a savory flavor complexity that I get really geeked about. A couple months ago, I was cooking with friends and made some roasted green beans with a miso-mustard sauce, so this recipe is a play on that. It might sound simple or maybe even strange, but trust me, you will be DREAMING about these miso mustard green beans for days. You’re welcome.

miso_green_beans

Miso Mustard Green Beans

Try these with chicken, steak or grilled tofu. If you don’t have green beans, I’m pretty sure this sauce would be amazing on whatever you put it on, so not to worry. I especially recommend cruciferous vegetables and sweet potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. green beans (multi-color if available), preferably locally-grown and organic
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 1 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp. miso paste (I used a chickpea-based, soy-free version from Miso Master)
  • 1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. local honey

Directions:

  1. Wash green beans and carrots well. Cut ends off of green beans and carrots. Julienne carrots (into small matchsticks).
  2. Heat oil in a medium skillet for 2-3 minutes. Add green beans and carrots and saute for 10-12 minutes, or until desired level of char is reached.
  3. While the vegetables are sauteeing, add remaining ingredients to a bowl and whisk until well-combined.
  4. Toss vegetables in miso mixture and serve warm.

miso_mustard_green_beans

Who else is obsessed with their CSA? What’s your favorite CSA treasure thus far?

For more great locally-grown recipes, click the link below!

Mediterranean Shepherd’s Pie {Recipe ReDux}

When I say PIE, you say…

Shepherd’s Pie (??)

To be honest, I’ve never actually had Shepherd’s Pie until today, but when the ladies of Recipe ReDux tasked us with showing our “Pie Love,” I wanted to go savory. And that’s where Shepherd’s Pie comes in.

I have been taking more of a paleo approach to my eating as of late, and eating more healthy fats and less carbohydrates. Most importantly, though, I’ve been trying to cut sugary foods out of my diet. At one point in my life, I was very addicted to sugar, and felt that I had to have dessert after every meal, with my snacks and really any time I could get my hands on sweets. While I still like sweeter foods, I’ve been working to cut junk out of my diet and eat real foods — e.g. fruit instead of cookies and donuts. I found that when I stopped eating a low fat/high carb diet and learned to embrace healthy fats, my sugar cravings naturally improved.

Thus, this is less of a traditional “pie” and more of a meal that you can eat time and time again, switching up the protein, seasoning, or mash (in this case, an amazing sweet potato-parsnip mash that is delicious in its own right).

mediterranean_shepherds_pie

Mediterranean Shepherd’s Pie (Gluten-Free, Paleo)

Grass-fed lamb adds a delicious flavor, and is pure perfection when combined with the natural sweetness of raisins and the freshness of mint, then topped with a delicious sweet potato-parsnip mash. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3 parsnips
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, preferably cold-pressed, unfiltered
  • 2 Tbsp. grass-fed butter, such as Kerrygold
  • 3/4 cup beef stock
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, preferably cold-pressed, unfiltered
  • 2 lbs. grass-fed lamb
  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash sweet potato and parsnips well and cut into ~1/2″ cubes. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil, and roast (I roasted mine in a cast iron skillet) for 35-40 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Add roasted sweet potato and parsnips to a food processor, add butter (it should melt from the heat of the roasted vegetables) and process 2-3 minutes. Add beef stock and seasoning (cumin, rosemary, sea salt and black pepper) and process until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Turn oven down to 350 degrees.
  4. In an oven-safe skillet, such as a cast iron skillet, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add diced onion and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add the lamb and saute until the cooked through. Add in the canned tomatoes and raisins and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken.
  5. Turn the heat off, and stir in the mint. Level out the lamb mixture.
  6. Spread the sweet potato-parsnip mash in a thin layer over the lamb, making sure the mash reaches the sides of the skillet. If desired, use a fork to make a design or write a message in the mash. Sprinkle the green onions around the outside of the skillet and press them into the mash slightly.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top starts to brown.

paleo_shepherds_pie

This is a great dish to make when you’re having company (a set and forget kind of thing) or as a part of meal prep, for a satisfying dish that will last you the whole week! Serve with green veggies, such as sauteed green beans or spinach, and you have yourself a complete meal!

For more PIE LOVE, click the link below!

Goat Cheese, Dried Plum and Rosemary-Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Sautéed Hazelnut Vegetables

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

Happy May, everyone! May is a beautiful month — flowers blooming, temperatures heating up, my birthday…(#justsayin).

Before the weather gets too warm to use the oven, I have been trying to cram in all the delicious roasted meats and vegetables I can. And delicious they are.

Stuffed chicken is always tasty, but for whatever reason, I find myself making my stand-by of baked chicken with BBQ or teriyaki sauce most of the time. Maybe stuffed chicken, meat, etc. just seems more complicated (even though it’s not), which also makes it look all-the-more impressive when you do break out a recipe like this one.

goat cheese_dried plum_rosemary_chicken

I owe the inspiration for this recipe to the California Dried Plum Board, who tasked us Recipe ReDuxers with developing creative ways to use dried plums — formerly known as prunes — in everyday cooking.

Besides May being my birth month, it’s also National Osteoporosis Month, something that we all should care about. I think so many times, we forget about bone health, but it is so crucial to health, especially as we age. Strength training and other weight-bearing activities can have a huge positive impact on bone health, not to mention overall health. Food is also important — and not just dairy! Enter, dried plums.

Emerging research shows that eating dried plums may have positive effects on bone health. Previous studies discovered that eating 100 grams (two servings; about 8- 10 dried plums) of dried plums for one year was associated with increased bone mineral density (BMD) and improved indices of bone turnover in postmenopausal women. Another study indicated that one serving of dried plums may be as effective in preventing bone loss in older, osteopenic postmenopausal women. You can read more about dried plums and bone health here.

BUT, as well all know, if we don’t enjoy the food being recommended, then we probably won’t eat it.

Fortunately, this is not a concern with dried plums, because they are DELICIOUS and super-verstile in the kitchen. I prefer to use mine in a savory way, as seen here.

I’ve also been trying to cut down on and eventually eliminate added sugars from my diet, so I was thrilled to know that dried plums can be pureed and used as a replacement for refined sugar in recipes. Dried plums are naturally sweet but not as cloyingly sweet as straight sugar, which is a major win in my book. No need for uber-sweet desserts here, folks.

goat cheese_dried plum_chicken

Goat Cheese, Dried Plum and Rosemary-Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Sautéed Hazelnut Vegetables

You can choose to make just the chicken and pair it with another side, but the combination of the vegetables with hazelnuts and this chicken is scrumptious. Feel free to change up the vegetables used if you’d like — sautéed kale and other greens would pair also pair nicely.

Ingredients:

Stuffed Chicken

  • 1.5 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, pounded
  • 3/4 cup California Dried Plums, puréed or finely mashed
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

Vegetable/Hazelnut Sauté

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, preferably cold-pressed
  • 2 cups spinach or other leafy green
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 2 cups carrots, thinly sliced into ribbons (you can also use a peeler to get this effect)
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
  2. Using a fork, mash California Dried Plums, goat cheese and rosemary together. Lay pounded chicken thighs on a baking sheet and evenly distribute goat cheese and dried plum mixture onto half of chicken thigh. Fold the other half of the chicken thigh over the mixture. If this sounds confusing, imagine the filling as a hot dog and the chicken as the bun.
  3. Brush the stuffed chicken with 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. sea salt. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. About 30 minutes in, brush with remaining balsamic vinegar.
  4. Meanwhile, while the chicken is baking, heat olive oil in a large skillet for 1-2 minutes, then add onions and saute for 2-3 minutes. Next, add the carrots and saute about 10 minutes, or until desired doneness. Add in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes, until just wilted. Turn stove off then add balsamic vinegar and sea salt and toss.
  5. Chop cooled toasted hazelnuts. Sprinkle over vegetables.

To see more ways in which Recipe ReDuxers use naturally sweet, convenient and nutrient-dense California Dried Plums, check out the link below.

Coconut Curry Beet and Butternut Squash Soup with Cilantro-Lime Pesto {Vegan}

Because you know I’m all about that beet, bout that beet, with pesto. I’m all about that beet, bout that beet, with pesto. I’m all about that beet, bout that beet, with pesto. I’m all about that beet, bout that beet, with pesto. Hey!

I’m bringing beet soup baaaaacccckkk!

I could totally continue on with my Meghan Trainor/beet soup song, but I have an important recipe that needs sharing. For soup, no less. And while this soup is totally about the beets, it’s also about the butternut squash, coconut, curry and THE PESTO. [Vegan] Cilantro Lime Pesto that I posted yesterday. The combination of that pesto and this soup is money.

coconut_curry_butternut_squash_beet_soup_vegan

Who calls a soup + pesto combination “money”? I called a sandwich “money” the other day while out to eat with the boy, who proceeded to tease me about using the phrase to describe food.

I guess that’s just how I roll.

Okay, back to soup.

I’m not generally a soup maker. I make big batches of chili all the time but for some reason I’ve neglected soup.

I think it’s because, until now, I didn’t appreciate the beauty of soup. Soup is a fantastic way to use up ingredients — produce, proteins, etc. — that are on the verge of going bad. While soups can take a little longer to prepare, they yield a giant pot of deliciousness that can then feed you for days. Soups also let you play around with flavor combinations and can be relatively fool-proof.

The curry-coconut-cilantro combo (with beets + butternut squash) is seriously delicious. The richness from the coconut is perfectly balanced by the acidity and freshness of the Cilantro Lime Pesto.

And while I’m not a vegan, the vegan principle of using real, whole ingredients is one that I totally get behind. If you haven’t noticed, I don’t really do processed foods.

coconut_curry_beet_squash_soup_vegan

Coconut Curry Beet and Butternut Squash Soup with Cilantro Lime Pesto

This soup would be perfect to serve at parties, for the holidays or just make whenever you want a warming, delicious and satisfying meal. If you’re not a vegan, I suggest pairing this with a grilled chicken breast for some protein.

Servings: 6, 10 oz. cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 large, fresh beets
  • 1 can (13.6 oz.) light coconut milk + 1 can (13.6 oz.) water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. chili powder (optional)
  • Cilantro Lime Pesto for topping

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut butternut squash in quarters. Cut the ends off (the little nub at the top and tough part at the bottom). Scoop out the seeds (save these for delicious roasted squash seeds if you feel inclined).
  3. Wash/scrub beets well. Cut off top and bottom of each beet, then cut into quarters. No need to peel the beets — just make sure you scrub them well.
  4. Lay butternut squash, cut side down, and beets on a sheet pan and roast for about an hour, until they are soft. Peel the skin of the butternut squash off (it should easily come off). Let the squash and beets cool slightly.
  5. When beets and squash slightly cooled, add to a food processor and pulse mixture until smooth.
  6. Add blended mixture to a large pot, along with coconut milk, water, curry powder, salt, pepper and optional chili powder.
  7. Heat over medium until mixture starts to boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Top each serving with a spoonful of cilantro pesto and serve warm.

vegan_beet_squash_soup_with_pesto

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!