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.

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Fall Flavors Series: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts

Brussels sprouts get an upgrade with toasted hazelnuts and orange juice and zest. This side dish is perfect for the holidays or a random weeknight.

Happy Friday! This has definitely been one of those weeks that feels like it’s never going to end and then, all of the sudden, Friday sneak-attacks and all is good. Isn’t that the best feeling?

A couple of weeks ago, I got to cook dinner for a group of ten awesome women as part of a fantastic event, Your Mat, Our Table. The event brought together women interested in healthy food and fitness by combining a one-hour rooftop yoga class overlooking Chicago and then a multi-course vegan, gluten-free meal made by moi, featuring dishes like my Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad and this yummy Brussels sprouts dish.

The menu utilized almost 100% local foods procured from the Evanston Farmers Market, mostly from Green Acres Indiana and Geneva Lakes Produce.

I was like a kid in a candy store that day at the market — was awesome getting to see, smell, touch and ultimately taste all that great produce whilst chatting with the farmers and other market patrons.

Did I mention the farmers market is my happy place? #nerdalert

brussels_sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts and Orange Zest

These Brussels are gluten-free, vegan and most importantly, delicious. Either buy a bag of them or, if you’re a glutton for punishment like me, get a stalk or two and saw those puppies right off (try not to cut yourself).

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, washed with outer few leaves removed
  • Zest and juice of one orange
  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Cut ends off of sprouts and then quarter them. Toss with olive oil and orange juice, then spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until slightly charred.
  3. Meanwhile, chop hazelnuts and lay on baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the hazelnuts become fragrant.
  4. Sprinkle roasted Brussels sprouts with orange zest and toasted hazelnuts and serve.

Stay tuned for more recipes from the event, including vegan caramel apples. This Sunday, I’ll be posting the recipe for {crock pot} Butternut Squash and Lentil Curry with Coconut-Lime Cauliflower Rice. Get pumped!

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!

Olive and Red Wine Hummus {Sponsored Recipe ReDux}

I am currently blogging from #BlogBrulee at beautiful Smuggler’s Notch Vermont. I’m only half a day in and already I feel like I’ve learned so much and met the most amazing, inspiring bloggers. More on that to come – or if you can’t wait, check out my last post, which explains all about the awesomeness that is Blog Brulee.

I owe my ability to even go to Blog Brûlée to Recipe ReDux, which not only gives me creative recipe ideas every month and allows me to connect with fellow Recipe ReDuxers; it also means I get introduced to awesome foods/food brands/commodity boards like California Ripe Olives. They’ve challenged us ReDuxers to utilize and highlight California Ripe Olives in a unique and tasty recipe that also includes other flavors represented in the Mediterranean Diet e.g. vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish/seafood and more.

olive_hummus_with_wine

I received free samples of California Ripe Olives mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Ripe Olives and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 If you haven’t gathered from my blog/social media food posts (which make up about 99% of my posts), I am a HUGE fan of Mediterranean foods, and being half Armenian, grew up eating the best.

My favorite Mediterranean food – hell, my favorite food period – is hummus. Hummus has the perfect blend of lemony-garlicky-olivey flavor that works just as well as a dip, spread, condiment or to eat with a spoon (guilty). Beyond the deliciousness, hummus provides great nutrition. My clients often think that hummus is “fattening.” Grrrrrr, the “fattening” comment AKA one of my dietitian pet peeves.

[Stepping on soapbox] First off, foods that contain fats, specifically the good ones – monounsaturated, omega-3s, etc. – do not make you fat. In fact, those fats bring down inflammation in your body, which can make you feel better and also decrease your risk for various health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and inflammatory issues like rheumatoid arthritis and IBS.

Second, let’s compare hummus to other condiments such as BBQ sauce, ketchup, premade salad dressings and all the other junk. Hummus generally contains whole, real ingredients, barely any sugar and not much sodium. It is an infinitely better condiment than the other aforementioned sauces, which are generally LOADED with salt, sugar/high-fructose corn syrup, weird oils, preservatives and more. [Stepping off soapbox]

Okay, back to my love affair with hummus and also my love for olives, which I’m not sure I’ve mentioned yet but which is real and true.

Olives are an essential part of the Mediterranean diet and contain monounsaturated fat (1.5 grams per 4-olive serving) – the good fat, as we’ve discussed. California Black Ripe Olives are as nutrient-loaded as they are tasty. They contain vitamin E (0.25 mg per serving), iron, (0.49 mg per serving), vitamin A (60 IU per serving) and fiber (0.5 grams per serving). California Ripe Olives are extremely versatile in the pantry.
Since I love hummus already, I figured why not pump up the olive flavor with California Ripe Olives? Oh, did I mention there’s also red wine thrown in the mix? Because sometimes when you’re making California Ripe Olive Hummus and drinking red wine, you have crazy ideas like adding said wine to the hummus. And sometimes these ideas actually turn out great, as they did here. Cheers to that!

California Ripe Black Olive and Red Wine Hummus

Serve this savory, briney hummus with your favorite vegetables, cheeses and meats or enjoy it spread on a sandwich or “dilute it” with some oil and vinegar like I do to turn it into a salad dressing.

mediterranean_hummus 

Ingredients:

  • 2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1 can California Ripe Black Olives, drained, with 2-3 olive reserved
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil plus 1 tsp.
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients, except for olive oil, to food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Drizzle olive oil through the feed tube and process until well-incorporated.
  3. Chop reserved olives and add to the top of the hummus as a garnish. Drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil.

For more California Ripe Olive 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!

6-Ingredient Miso Honey Roasted Chickpeas {Recipe ReDux}

Do you ever rummage through your fridge or pantry and think, ‘I really have to use up x before it goes bad’? It could be a random spice at the back of your spice cabinet, a condiment on your fridge door, a special kind of grain you only needed once (hello, arborio rice!), etc. Well, it’s spring which means it’s spring cleaning time! And spring cleaning should definitely involve food items too — which is why we’ve been tasked with doing just that for this month’s Recipe ReDux:

Spring cleaning: Go through your pantry, cupboards, freezer, or fridge; what ‘treasures’ have you found? Pick an ingredient/spice/condiment that’s been hanging out for a while and give it the attention it needs. Share a healthy recipe made using your new-found pantry prize.

Roasted_Miso_chickpeas

I had almost too much inspiration this month so I decided to combine two neglected ingredients into this recipe, which I have to give myself kudos for since this recipe only involves six ingredients total (for all you math nerds, that means 1/3 of the ingredients).

The first: chickpeas. I pretty much always have either canned or dried chickpeas — AKA garbanzo beans — in my pantry. For the most part, I end up hummus-izing them (yep, I just invented a new word). But then I found miso hanging in the fridge and thought, ‘hey, these could go together’.

Miso has such an amazing, umami flavor and adds a really interesting depth to recipes. I personally like to hit as many different taste buds with my recipes as possible, so added some sea salt, honey and citrus (lemon) to round things out.

This recipe’s beauty comes not just from its taste but also from its simple ingredient list and very hands-off preparation. Hope you enjoy!

miso_honey_roasted_garbanzo_beans

Miso Honey Roasted Chickpeas

These roasted chickpeas get super crunchy — almost like nuts or croutons — and make a great topping for salads and stir fries and are equally as delicious on their own!

miso_honey_garbanzos

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans chickpeas (about 4 cups), preferably organic, no salt added
  • 2 Tbsp. Miso (use a soy-free, chickpea-based version like the one pictured above if you want to go soy-free)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, preferably unfiltered, cold-pressed
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Add miso, olive oil, lemon juice and honey to a bowl and whisk until well combined.
  2. Add chickpeas to the miso mixture and toss to coat. Lay on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.
  3. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until chickpeas are crunchy. (I like mine nice and charred as you can see from the photos). Note: the chickpeas will continue to harden after you take them out of the oven.

Warning: these are extremely addicting so try to control yourself when they come out of the oven. If you can’t, though — no worries. They’re not exactly junk food. 😉

To find out how other Recipe ReDuxers use buried food “treasures,” click the link below. Happy eating!

Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Coconut Curry Beet Sauce {Recipe ReDux}

Who doesn’t love leftovers? Cook once, eat twice…or three, or four times.

Instead of just reheating the leftovers, though — c’mon, you know that gets boring — why not repurpose them into a completely new and delicious dish?

That’s what we were tasked with doing for this month’s Recipe ReDux:

Two for One

We’re all about cooking once and eating twice. In short, double dinners are better. Show us how you take a favorite recipe already on your blog – and ReDux the leftovers into a new dish. Or, whip up a new healthy recipe and give suggestions on how to make it a second meal. For example, slow cooker pot roast could become shredded beef tacos; or grilled chicken breasts might morph into chicken salad.

roasted_carrots_coconut_curry_beet_sauce

A few weeks ago I made this delicious {vegan} Coconut Curry Beet and Butternut Squash Soup, and I packaged the leftover soup into individual containers and then stuck the containers in my freezer for future soup-eating occasions.

Now, the soup was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but after eating it for a week straight, I was completely beet souped out. And I still had a couple containers left.

What’s a girl to do??

(#firstworldproblems)

roasted_carrots_beet_sauce

MAKE IT INTO A SAUCE! And drizzle that sauce onto the most perfectly-roasted rainbow carrots.

Did you know that carrots started off as PURPLE — not orange? Some think that orange carrots were first bred in the Netherlands to honor King William of Orange, but whatever the real story, the orange color has seemingly stuck since that time.

I like all carrots, but rainbow carrots are just so gorgeous! And the different colors mean that they have a variety of nutrients — beta-carotene (vitamin A) in the orange carrots, anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants) in the purple carrots and Xanthophykks and lutein (linked with cancer prevention and eye health) in the yellow carrots.

Roasting them brings out their natural sweetness and earthiness. I could eat them straight out of the oven (with a little sea salt), but the addition of this beet sauce completely elevates them and will totally impress your dinner guests.

roasted_carrots

Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Coconut Curry Beet Sauce

Serve this delicious veggie dish with grilled chicken or steak — or keep things vegan with marinated/roasted tofu. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. carrots, preferably organic rainbow carrots
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 cup leftover Coconut Curry Beet and Butternut Squash Soup
  • 1 Tbsp. lime zest (from organic limes)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked sea salt (regular, non-smoked sea salt would also work)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash/scrub carrots and cut the ends off. Lay carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with melted coconut oil. Toss the carrots a few times to evenly coat them with oil.
  2. Roast carrots for 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Transfer the carrots to your serving platter.roasted_coconut_carrotsroasted_rainbow_carrots
  3. Using a spoon, drizzle carrots with leftover beet soup, then sprinkle with lime zest and pecans.

roasted_carrots_coconut_curry_beet_sauce

Check out the link below for infinite leftover meal ideas from the members of Recipe ReDux. Enjoy!

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.

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!