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.

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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.

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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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Kale and Sweet Potato Niçoise Salad

Ever since eating my first Niçoise salad, I’ve been hooked. The perfect green beans. The Kalamata olives (my favorite). The potatoes, which give just the right amount of sustenance to the salad. And of course, the seafood. Throw in hard-boiled eggs and a delicious dressing, and you’ve made the classic.

Well, last week, the urge for a Niçoise salad hit and it hit bad. Since I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand for the classic, I decided to mix it up a bit and do my own take. Leftover sweet potato subbed for white potatoes, kale subbed for lettuce, capers subbed for olives and sardines subbed for tuna/anchovies. Plus some fresh basil from my beloved Farmed Here and black garlic — a new obsession — to add a little more flavor. Top it off with a 3-ingredient Dijon vinaigrette and I was in Niçoise heaven (or at least my improvised version of it).

Nicoise_salad

Oh and no offense to the Niçoise peeps, but I feel my version is quite possibly tastier and most definitely packed with more nutrients than the original — from the “superfood” status of kale to the omega-3 content (it’s high, folks) of sardines to the antioxidant power of fresh herbs.

Recipe: Kale and Sweet Potato Niçoise Salad

Trader Joe’s just started carrying fermented black garlic, which is where I bought it. If you live near an Asian market, however, you will most certainly find it there. Fresh rosemary or thyme would also be delicious in place of the basil.

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Yields: 1 salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh baby kale (love the Earthbound Organic pre-washed Kale)
  • 1/2 large sweet potato
  • 1, 6 oz. can water-packed sardines
  • 1 cup cooked green beans
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • 1 Tbsp capers, juices drained
  • 1 clove fermented black garlic, sliced

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  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp olive oil, preferably organic, cold-pressed
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

Poke holes in sweet potato and microwave for 3-5 minutes, until potato is soft. You can also use a leftover baked sweet potato if you have one on hand. Cut the sweet potato into large wedges.

Assemble salad: Lay kale on top of a large plate. Top kale with cut sweet potato, can sardines (drained), cooked green beans, capers, sliced black garlic and fresh basil. Grind black pepper over the salad.

Make dressing: Mix Dijon mustard, olive oil and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl. Pour over salad.

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Warning: this salad is best enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. Your coworkers will not be very pleased if they have to smell sardines and garlic over the cube wall. Just sayin’…

Curry Spaghetti Squash with Spiced Greek Yogurt Sauce

The first big snow of the season in Chicago means winter is here (wah, wah) and it’s COLD!

Coldness

Coldness2

When the weather gets cold, there’s nothing like a spicy curry dish to warm you up. Typical curry dishes can pack on the calories, however, because of heavy coconut milk and lots of butter. So I figured, why not make a lightened-up recipe using curry? This spaghetti squash dish is vegetable-based (vegetarian, in fact), gluten-free and full of flavor. Enjoy!

Curry Spaghetti Squash with Spiced Greek Yogurt Sauce

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked spaghetti squash (about 1/4 large squash)
  • 1/2 cup kidney beans (preferably organic, no salt added variety — Whole Foods has a great version)
  • 1/2 cup 2% or full-fat organic (from grass-fed cows) Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp organic raisins
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp organic honey
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:

Cook spaghetti squash by halving and roasting in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Use a fork to shred squash into “spaghetti.” Mix spaghetti squash with remaining ingredients until well-blended. Serve warm.

Note: you can make the spaghetti squash ahead of time and then heat once you’ve mixed the ingredients (this is what I did)

Curried_spaghetti_squash

Enjoy!

What other cold-weather dishes do you love?

Purple Asparagus: Antioxidant Powerhouse

Chicago’s Green City Market has finally started back up! And with a spring farmers market comes asparagus AKA the only vegetable available in Chicago at this time of year. Lucky for me, I love asparagus. My newest obsession, however, is purple asparagus. With a slightly sweeter taste than regular [green] asparagus, it’s perfect both cooked and raw. Note, purple asparagus sadly turns green when cooked (see pic below), so if you want to keep the color intact, slice it thin and serve it raw in salads. A source of acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, also helps to boost the purple color. Nutritionally speaking, purple asparagus contains slightly less fiber, more protein and more vitamin C than green asparagus. Check out the comparison below:

Left: purple asparagus, Right: green asparagus

Left: purple asparagus, Right: green asparagus

The purple color is not only pretty — it’s what makes purple asparagus a nutritional powerhouse. Anthocyanin, the flavanoid responsible for purple, red and blue colors in fruits and vegetables, is considered an antioxidant, able to remove free radicals (which can cause negative health effects, from inflammation to cancer). Various research has shown that anthocyanins also have antimicrobial properties and can decrease inflammation, improve blood pressure, improve eyesight and suppress the spread of cancer cells*.

The most important point to note with purple asparagus, however, is that it is delicious. It tastes less bitter than green asparagus and just looks gorgeous as part of a meal. Dietitians and other health professionals will tell you to “eat the rainbow” not only because it will provide a variety of nutrients, but also because we eat with our eyes, and a colorful plate is much more appealing that a monochromatic one.

With leftover salmon and purple asparagus on hand, I cooked up a delicious little meal. After cutting the asparagus on the bias, I sauteed it in coconut oil and minced garlic. This formed the bed underneath my salmon. I then drizzled with Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze (amazing stuff, by the way). A nice, light, low-carb lunch!

purple asparagus and balsamic salmon

 

 

*Source: J Biomed Biotechnol. 2004 December 1; 2004(5): 239–240.

Butternut Squash Tastes Like Butta

Butternut squash, with its creamy texture, is the perfect comfort food. Like butta, some might say. Plus, because it has both sweet and savory notes and is extremely versatile; not to mention it is loaded with nutrients. Nutrition breakdown: half a cup of butternut squash is only 50 calories and provides a whopping 260% your daily need for vitamin A, plus 40% your daily need for vitamin C (vitamins A and C boost immunity, can decrease inflammation and contribute to healthier skin, eyes and an overall healthier body). You’ll even get a little iron and calcium in that 1/2 cup serving, though you’ll probably want to eat more than half a cup!

My one issue with butternut squash, however, is that can take 45-60 minutes to cook. Thus, I had a butternut squash sitting on my counter for several weeks before I got around to making it. Did I mention I made it in 30 minutes? The key is to cut it up small. With a VERY sharp knife. Butternut squash doesn’t play around…you have to put major – at least for me – muscle into cutting that baby up. That expression, “no pain, no gain,” can absolutely be used here. Completely worth the minor hassle to get a deliciously cooked butternut squash, though. Check out how I used it several ways!

Butternut Squash and Arugula Salad

Arugula, White Bean and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash*
  • 1/2 cup white beans
  • 2 Tbsp roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp cracked pepper

Directions: Toss all ingredients together. Yep- it’s that simple!

*To roast butternut squash, peel it and cut it into 1.5″ cubes. Drizzle with olive oil or use cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Note: the smaller the pieces you cut, the faster it will cook.

Butternut Squash-Stuffed Portabellas

Butternut Squash and Tempeh-Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash, mashed
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 oz tempeh (uncooked), finely chopped
  • 4 portabella mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt (smoked salt, if you have it, works really well)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1 oz cheese (parmesan would be ideal, but I didn’t have any, so I used light cheddar instead)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove stems from washed/dried portabellas. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Mix all remaining ingredients (excluding cheese) together and stuff into the prepared mushrooms. Top with shredded or thinly sliced cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until mushrooms are thoroughly cooked and cheese is browned and bubbly (and thus, delicious).