Spinach and “Ricotta”-Stuffed Pasta with Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com-17

When I have people over for dinner, different types of recipes typically get responses that fall into a specific category.  Some are the Oh, this is so healthy!-category.  Others, the this is sinful, just give me a tiny slice-category.  There’s the I can’t stop eating this-category, usually related to appetizers. There’s the, this is so rich, you might have to roll me out the door-category.  Anytime I use tofu-ricotta in a recipe, my dinner guests usually fall into the I’d better not eat too much of this-category, but are delighted when they realize that this recipe actually falls into my favorite recipe category: the, this is so healthy but it’s satisfying all my cravings right now category.  

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com-4

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com-6

I know, I know, some people have an aversion to even the slightest mention of tofu.  Everyone’s had soggy unflavored cubes of tofu at some point.  Those little guys give this versatile protein a bad rap!  In this case, the tofu is blended with a variety of ingredients to give it the taste and feel of real ricotta.  The best part is, it tricks the mouth into thinking it’s cheese, but is full of protein!  Even my little brother, for whom pizza is a food group, approves of my tofu ricotta–here’s my recipe for kale ricotta lasagna that had him fully convinced that the world was not as he had previously imagined–I ate TOFU?  And I thought it was CHEESE?!  Mind blown!!!

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com-7

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com-11

Most of my recipes are born out of food daydreams, and this one was no exception.  I picked up a box of brown rice manicotti (which I had no idea even existed) and began to dream of my pre-lactose intolerant days and the deliciously creamy stuffed pastas I had enjoyed in the past.  In that instant, I knew what I must do.  I whipped up a batch of tofu ricotta and lightly sauteed some spinach to stuff inside–creamy, garlicky and full of vibrant greens.   For the top, a fire-roasted tomato sauce filled with garlic and fresh oregano, and basil to garnish.

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com-9

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com-12

I’m of the mind that one shouldn’t eat (or avoid eating) from a place of guilt or shame.  Sure, some foods are very occasional sometimes foods.  I certainly have my share of nope, definitely can’t/won’t eat that foods, mostly of the highly-processed variety.  Sometimes a little sweet treat or crunchy snack is just the thing I want, and I allow myself that every now and again.  I’m highly unlikely to jump on the Paleo, Ketogenic, or any other kind of diet-philosophy band-wagon, but what feels best to me is the way Michael Pollan sums it up:  “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” For me, being healthy always comes back to using real whole ingredients to make real, flavorful and soul-satisfying foods, and to giving yourself the flexibility to give your ever-changing body what it needs when it needs it.

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com-13

To all my vegan, lactose-intolerant compadres, I hope this stuffed pasta takes you back to the pre dairy-avoiding days that only exist in your dreams!  Enjoy!

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Pasta|Spoonwithme.com-16

Spinach and “Ricotta”-Stuffed Pasta with Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

I love the freshness of the oregano in this recipe, but if you don’t have any on hand, dried herbs will work just fine and can be substituted using a ratio of  1:3 dried to fresh.  

For the tofu ricotta:

  • 1 (14-ounce) block extra firm tofu, drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mellow white miso
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the pasta and sauce:

  • 4 tb olive oil, divided
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup dry White wine (optional)
  • 1 24 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 24 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 ½ tsp dried basil (or about a tablespoon and a half chopped fresh basil)
  • ¼ tsp Crushed red pepper
  • splash of balsamic vinegar to taste
  • 3 tb finely chopped Fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 7 ounces brown rice or whole wheat manicotti (I like this kind)
  • 8 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • salt to taste
  • Fresh basil to garnish, optional

Process:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute.  Pour in the white wine if using, and cook for a couple minutes to burn off some of the liquid.  Add both cans of tomatoes, and dried herbs (fresh herbs are added later), crushed red pepper, and salt to taste.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes slightly darken and the flavors meld.  Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to taste (about 2 teaspoons), and stir in the fresh oregano.  Adjust salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add 2 tablespoons salt and par-cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  If pasta will be sitting for a while, lightly toss it with oil so that it doesn’t stick together.

To make the tofu ricotta, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, stopping to push down the sides with a rubber spatula if needed.  Adjust seasonings to taste and set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium frying pan.  Add spinach, and generous pinch of salt  and cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach has just wilted and is still bright green.  Allow to cool slightly.

Combine the spinach and tofu ricotta in a medium bowl and stir until evenly incorporated.  Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag or large freezer bag, and cut off a small corner at the bottom of the bag.

Spread half the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Pipe the spinach-ricotta mixture from the bag to fill each noodle, and arrange them in a single layer in the baking dish. Spread the remaining sauce over the top of the noodles, cover with foil and bake according to the pasta package directions, about 40 minutes.   Garnish with fresh basil right before serving if desired.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Spring Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

Spring Asparagus Penne|Spoonwithme.com-14

It’s about time we got some spring going on up in here!  I’ve been a little sporadic here, and not because I haven’t been thinking about all of you, my wonderful Spoonies!  In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about you and your ability to access all my recipes more easily.  I’m working hard in the background to do a total revamp of Spoon With Me, to be unveiled in the near future!  I can’t tell you how excited I am!  Besides that, let me assure you that I have not been huddled in front of a microwave waiting for my frozen meal to be finished.  Quite the opposite, actually.  I started feeling a little stumped on what to post for the past couple months.  Sometimes when we’re at a loss and inspiration seems like it’s not as free-flowing as we would like it to be, the best thing to do is feed ourselves–the inspiration will grow from that.  

Spring Asparagus Penne|Spoonwithme.com

I love listening to The Good Life podcast, and Jonathan Fields explains it like this–we have 3 buckets–contribution, connection, and vitality.  In short, each bucket can only be as full as the least-full bucket, so if our vitality bucket is empty (how we nourish and take care of ourselves), we don’t have enough energy to connect with others or contribute our ideas and talents to the people around us.  For me, it seems counter-intuitive to pause and step back when I really really want to create, create, create!  I think that if I could just think hard enough, a golden goose egg of an idea will just pop out of my brain.   However, for me, the hamster wheel of spinning thoughts seldom produces the best ideas.  Ideas need space to grow and breathe, then they just seem to appear on their own.  Recently, I’ve been setting the table for creativity, and waiting for it to come (thanks Elizabeth Gilbert!).   For me this happens when I slow down and allow myself to enjoy what I enjoy without pressure.  There’s been a lot of recipe ogling, cooking, playing in the garden, and art-making going on all up in here!  I may not have been posting, but man, I’ve been eating, and creating just to create, and little by little, I’ve felt my blogging inspiration come back!

Spring Asparagus Penne|Spoonwithme.com-13

Spring Asparagus Penne|Spoonwithme.com-7

With the weather being warmer than any spring I remember in Colorado, I’m starting to crave lighter, brighter fare.  Here’s a recipe I improvised on a night I wanted dinner fast.  It only takes a little chopping, one sheet pan, and in under 30 minutes, voila!  You’ve got dinner!  Perhaps I was feeling a bit Mary Poppins-ish, but I  wanted the sauce to practically make itself as it cooked.  The basic gist is to toss the asparagus, cherry tomato, mushrooms,  an almost-obscene amount of garlic and lemon slices with olive oil on a sheet pan, and broil it until the veggies are slightly blistered and golden.  Deglaze with a little white wine, and what you have in the end is perfectly roasted vegetables and a little pan sauce.  Everything, including the lemon slices gets thrown into a bowl with the pasta, and the last step (almost) does itself–you’ll stir everything together, making sure to push the softened lemon pulp out of the rinds where it will join with the white wine and cherry tomato juices and shallots to form a light and lemony sauce that coats the pasta.  

Spring Asparagus Penne|Spoonwithme.com-11

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, about 10 ounces
  • 8 ounces asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 ounces crimini mushrooms, halved and thickly sliced
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced, about 4 oz
  • 8 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 lemons, sliced thick, seeds and ends removed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 ounces whole wheat or brown rice penne (this is my favorite gf pasta which can be found at many local grocery stores)
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine (vegetable or chicken broth will work too)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • a couple pinches crushed red pepper, optional

 

Preheat broiler on low.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Toss the cherry tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, shallots, garlic, lemon slices and thyme in olive oil, and season w/ salt and pepper to taste.  Broil on low 4 inches from the heating element for 10-15 minutes.  Cook the pasta according to package directions while the veggies are broiling.  You want the cherry tomatoes to pop and be darkened in spots, the asparagus crisp-tender and slightly under-done. If the vegetables don’t seem to be cooking enough, broil on high for a few minutes, watching carefully.  Add the white wine and put back in the oven for a few minutes to reduce slightly.

Toss all the vegetables, including the lemon slices in a large bowl with the hot pasta.  As you stir, press the inside of the lemons against the sides of the bowl– the lemon pulp will come out of the rinds to create a sauce. Remove the peels from the pasta.   Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve while hot. 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Hearty Vegetable Mushroom Stew

 

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-17

Brrrr-zee-pants:  an exclamation often used in my house as an expression of extreme coldness.

In my house growing up, my dad liked to keep the thermostat at around 60 degrees.  The lowest temperature I remember seeing was 56˚.  I’d walk around the house in layers, blankets swathed around me like a linen closet beauty queen, shivering.  Back in those days, you could usually find me in the Bahamian paradise of my bedroom, space heater on full whack, swim suit, sunglasses and towel. When it was time to forge out into the tundra (the rest of the house),  I’d layer up to go on my covert mission, creeping down the stairs in my blanket to the mission control panel in the downstairs hallway.  Can’t get caught–Oh hello dear brother.  Just walking in the hallway.  Where’s dad?  Beep beep beep beep beep–think he’ll notice an extra 10 degrees?  Let the back and forth heater games begin!

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-2

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-4

Warmth is a core value of mine, and although my house isn’t cold now–luckily, the Mister and I are compatible on our thermostat preference setting (MFEO, I tell you), my most favorite spot in the house is in my zen den, in front of my space heater.  It makes even the most mundane tasks appealing.  When I visit dad’s house now, I wear my Antarctic hooded coat, and bring my emergency preparedness blanket.  I may have gotten a lot of my creativity and imagination from my dad, but one thing I sure didn’t inherit is his tolerance for cold.

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-5

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-3

The weather out here in Denver has been bipolar these days.  One day it’s 75 degrees.  The next, a howling snow storm.  On the days I would classify as BRR-ZEE-PANTS, I like to cook something filling and warming.  Before I stopped eating meat, I used to love a good beef stew, although it wasn’t really the beef I was after.  I was always a vegetable hoarder growing up.  Mom would make a pot roast in the slow cooker, with carrots, potatoes and celery, and I’d pass by and sneak forkfuls before dinner.  I also have fond memories of making really hearty stews in my early cooking days.  My diet has changed substantially since then, and although I don’t crave the beef, I do crave the taste memory of a good beef stew–dark, rich and hearty with lots of vegetables; the kind of soup that warms you up from the inside out.

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-6

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-8

This stew is perfect for the most brr-zee-pants-iest of days.  Melt-in your mouth carrots, parsnips and potatoes suspended in a thick, rich mushroom broth.  You can simmer it on the stove, or as I like to do with any soup or stew recipe, sauté the vegetables and assemble the soup completely, and save the simmering step for the slow cooker.

There are still some blustery days to come, so next time you think to yourself, “gee, I feel quite brr-zee-pants right now”,  I hope you’ll cuddle up in the Bahamian paradise of your space heater, and try a big bowl of this stew!

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-9

Hearty Vegetable Mushroom Stew 

Makes: 12 cups,  6-8 servings

  • 2 TB vegan butter2 TB olive oil
  • 1 1/4 lb  small onions such as cipollinis, ends trimmed, peeled and quartered (or use the same amount of yellow or sweet onions, diced)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch
  • 2 med parsnips, sliced 1/4 inch (8 oz)
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, chopped 
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine or dark beer
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 quart mushroom broth
  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried wild mushrooms, woody stems removed
  • 1 1/2 pounds fingerling, yukon gold or red potatoes, cut 1 inch x 1/2 inch
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 TB Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce, more or less to taste
  • 1 tsp worchestershire sauce (check for vegan if needed)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 TB arrowroot starch or cornstarch, whisked into 1/4 cup cold water or broth
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar

Heat butter and oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the onions and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with salt, and cover and allow to sweat for 3-4 minutes.  Uncover and sauté for 2 minutes until softened.  Add carrots, parsnips and celery.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and fresh mushrooms.  Sauté for a few more minutes, .  Deglaze plan with the  marsala wine or beer, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add tomato paste.  Stir to coat the vegetables.

Add the broths, dried mushrooms, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, liquid aminos and worcestershire sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, but careful not to over-salt because the stew will cook down and concentrate a bit.    Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender, or put in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours.  Stir in the arrowroot or corn starch slurry. Remove 2 cups of the soup to a blender.  Puree.  Add back to the soup.   Stir in the apple cider vinegar.  Adjust salt, pepper and liquid aminos to taste.  

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Sauce with Gnocchi

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-10

It was a lazy Saturday afternoon–well, at least it would have been if I could sit still for more than two minutes without wanting to cook, create, or do .  I had most of the ingredients for this mushroom sauce and made a spur of the moment decision to finally photograph and blog this recipe, since it’s become one of the Mister and I’s favorites in our dinner rotation for the past few months.  I just needed a couple things.  No need to consult the recipe.  Besides, it’s all in my head…Mind like a steel trap!  I left, went to the store, came back.  Oops, forgot the mushroom broth.  Ummm, that’s okay, I’ll use the tiny amount of mushroom broth I have and fill in with veggie broth, which I always have on hand.  Okay, we’re good!

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com

Cooking, cooking, photographing, destroying the kitchen…  I pulled up my recipe, and read through my notes.  Oh yeah, I normally add cashew cream.  Dang it! Cashews haven’t been soaked, because I don’t actually have any in the pantry.  Oh no!  It’s almost sunset!  I have maybe another 45 minutes before this baby needs to be made, plated and photographed in the already waning light.  You don’t have time to go to the store again, self!  Wait self, you mean to say that you didn’t even read your own recipe before going to the store?!  Hey, hey now self, I thought I had it all under control.  Well next time, maybe you’ll –I know I know, I just thought it was all up here, in the brain!  Steel trap, my–Okay, okay!  Maybe next time!  A sage word of advice:  always read the recipe first.  I think I secretly like flying by the seat of my pants.  I love finding solutions for a problem when option one isn’t possible.  Limitation inspires creativity.

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-2

These recent years have been an exercise in limitation.  The last almost 8 years have been an improvisational dance of give and take with cancer.  It has changed or taken many things important to me,  giving some things back after a while, taking some things forever.  If I thought I only had one option in life, that there was only one way to do things, I would be plumb out of options.  Limitation inspired me to adapt and get creative when I felt like I was losing all the things I loved to do.  At my worst point, and for about a year, I experienced constant debilitating spasms in my neck and back caused by radiation treatment to my spine. In addition, the chemo caused a chronic cough that sent zaps of pain throughout my back, so intense they eventually broke a rib. The medicines that made that spasms slightly bearable made my stomach extremely ill, taking away my enjoyment of many of the things I loved most, including food!

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-3

During those days, you could find me laying in a yoga class listening to the teacher and imagining the poses, doing the very few I could muster.  Food and I had a precarious relationship, so I developed as many variations of broth and rice soup as I could think of, and dove into my favorite cookbooks and food blogs, trying to find things that would appetize me.  I fell in love with writing and lettering in my journal, because it was something creative I could do with very little movement.  I still live with cancer every day, but I’m grateful to say that my latest treatment regimen has been kinder on my body, and I’ve been climbing mountains in Thailand, gaining strength in my yoga practice, and am able to eat food that excites me again!

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-4

No matter your limits, let them inspire you to dream of all the things that are possible and not get bogged down chasing all the things you’ve lost.  Know which things to pursue and work toward, which things to wait patiently in hope of a reunion, and which things to let go the best you can.  There are things I will never get back, and every day is a balancing act, but I’m here now, each new day an opportunity to turn limitation into new possibilities.

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-5

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-6

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-7

The kitchen is a fun playground for this exercise.  I’m the most creative when I have to find a way to create with what I have on-hand instead of running to the store for all new ingredients.  Recipes are guidelines, and the recipes I post here are often snapshots in time of my latest version.  They constantly undergo little tweaks and additions based on what I have, what I’m craving, or a wacky idea I think just might work.  Don’t be afraid to make your own additions!

vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-8

The Mister loves this recipe.  My in-the-moment adaptations worked well, and the sauce kept the same character;  creamy, rich, savory and chock full of mushrooms.  We like to have it over gnocchi paired with something lighter and more nutrient-dense on the side like my brussels sprouts salad, since the gnocchi is pretty starchy and filling.  This sauce would make a great mushroom gravy over mashed or roasted potatoes, whipped cauliflower, a cauliflower steak,  salmon or piece of seared chicken for the non-vegetarians.  It also makes a great pasta sauce.  We have options, people!

Let’s let our limitations in the kitchen and beyond inspire creativity and possibility!vegan-mushroom-stroganoffspoonwithme-com-11

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Sauce

This sauce is extremely versatile, and can be served over gnocchi, pasta, or as a gravy.  

makes 3-4 servings as a main dish sauce

  • 3 tablespoon vegan butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3  shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces  cremini mushrooms, diced
  • 3-4 cups mushroom broth
  • ¾ cup  white wine
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose or gluten-free flour
  • ¼ to ½ cup cashew cream (see below) or full fat coconut milk
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 24 oz gnocchi or pasta for serving, cooked according to package directions (Delallo makes a great gluten-free gnocchi)

 

Heat 2 TB of the butter and the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Saute shallots until they soften, 2-3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to taste.   Sauté, stirring occasionally,  for about 6 minutes until softened but still retaining some firmness.  Add the white wine and stir to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan.  Cook the wine down for a couple minutes then add mushroom broth and thyme  Bring to a high simmer to concentrate and thicken the broth for 6-8 minutes.

Melt remaining TB butter in another nonstick pan.  Whisk in flour to form a roux.  Whisk the roux into mushroom mixture.  Whisk in the cashew cream or coconut milk to taste.   Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot over the gnocchi or pasta, garnished with fresh thyme.  

Cashew Cream

Process adapted from Beard and Bonnet.  See their detailed tutorial here.

Cashew cream makes a great dairy-free substitution for heavy cream in recipes such as soups and sauces.  This recipe makes more than you will need for the mushroom sauce, but is much easier to blend in a larger quantity.  Leftovers can be drizzled on a soup, on Mexican dishes, or on a hearty quinoa bowl.  Cashew cream can also be used as a base for a creamy salad dressing.

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 1/2 cup filtered water, plus more for soaking
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, to taste

Place the cashews in a bowl and cover with the filtered water by an inch.  Allow to soak overnight (or, if you forget to soak ahead of time, cover the cashews with boiling water and soak for 20 minutes).  Drain and rinse the cashews.

Blend the cashews, water, lemon juice and salt in a high powered blender or food processor until very smooth, adding more water if needed, for 1-2 minutes.  If using a regular blender, immersion blender, or food processor, you will need to blend it for longer.

Leftovers will keep in a sealed container for 3-4 days, or can be frozen up to 6 months.  If you choose to freeze the cream, run it through the blender again once defrosted to smooth out the texture again.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts

brusselssproutssaladspoonwithme-com-16

I’ve returned from my adventure in Thailand (more on that coming soon!), and am slowly readjusting to normal life again.  The contrast was stark; in just two very long travel days, I went from 80˚ weather, new colors, foods and experiences, to the all too familiar snow, holiday traffic and the Christmas mania!  No bah humbugs intended, but it was kind of nice trading a couple weeks of the inundation of holiday advertisements and rush to buy presents for trekking, climbing, caving, hanging out with elephants, and connecting with an amazing group of cancer survivors in Chiang Mai.  Can you really blame a girl?  

brusselssproutssaladspoonwithme-com

brusselssproutssaladspoonwithme-com-2

Today’s recipe involves a vegetable that the Mister grew up hating.  It’s funny how when you’re a kid, you can’t imagine how the steamed vegetable you can’t stand could have any other incarnations other than the way it’s been prepared on your dinner plate.  I’ve always liked brussels sprouts any which way, but I’d never thought to eat them raw.

brusselssproutssaladspoonwithme-com-3

brusselssproutssaladspoonwithme-com-8

My first dalliance with a Brussels sprouts salad was at a friend’s dinner party this summer.  Although quite simple, with lemon juice and zest, good olive oil, toasted walnuts and parmigiano on the side, it contained the perfect balance of flavors.  I love the simpler lemony version to serve as a side to a rich pasta such as the vegan mushroom stroganoff I seem to make weekly these days (will share the recipe soon!).

brusselssproutssaladspoonwithme-com-5 

I’ve jazzed up this version of the Brussels sprouts salad to make it complement traditional  holiday dishes.  This latest version is jeweled with dried cranberries, tossed with a lemony maple-dijon vinaigrette, and topped with crispy roasted Brussels sprouts leaves.

brusselssproutssaladspoonwithme-com-11

The adventure continues, this time in the kitchen!  I hope you have a wonderfully happy holiday!

brusselssproutssaladspoonwithme-com-14

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

This festive salad makes a great side to any rich winter dish.  The roasted Brussels sprouts leaves are a fun garnish, but can be omitted if time is limited.

For the salad:

1 ½ pounds brussels sprouts

¾ cup chopped walnuts

¾ cup dried cranberries

For the dressing:

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from a large lemon)

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from a large lemon)

½ teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon maple syrup

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 -¾ tsp salt, to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

For the roasted Brussels sprouts leaves (optional):

Reserved outer leaves from 1 ½ lb Brussels sprouts

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Cut off the bottom stem of each Brussels sprout, and pull off the outer layer of loose leaves, reserving the crisp ones, discarding any that are wilted brown.

Toast the chopped walnuts in a frying pan over medium heat, until they begin to sweat and smell toasty.  Supervise closely and stir often, as they will burn quickly.  Set aside to cool.

Toss the outer leaves with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove any leaves that are crispy and turning golden brown, stir, and bake for another 2-3 minutes, until all the leaves are crispy and golden brown.  Remove to a paper towel covered plate.

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, then slice very thinly.  Toss the sliced Brussels sprouts, toasted walnuts and dried cranberries together in a large bowl.

Make the dressing:

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, dijon mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk in the olive oil in a slow stream to incorporate.  Adjust salt to taste.  

Toss the dressing with the salad.  Garnish each individual serving with the crispy roasted Brussels sprouts leaves, if using.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Buckwheat Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon-Walnut Topping (gf, v)

buckwheat-pumpkin-breadspoonwithme-com-23

Oh my goodness, it has been way too long!  The past couple months, I’ve been working away on a fundraising project for First Descents to pay it forward to other young adult cancer survivors.  Every day after work, I’ve been a maniacal little crafty elf, hand making custom journals and sketchbooks.  Almost all of the books have been delivered, and I am so excited to say that I’ll be going on a grand adventure to Thailand in exactly three days with First Descents.  The trip will include trekking, climbing, caving, ziplining, spending a day taking care of elephants and of course partaking in delicious Thai eats in the city of Chiang Mai with a group of other cancer fighters and survivors.  Needless to say, my mind has been a bit distracted, and I’ll be so excited to share pictures when I return!  

buckwheat-pumpkin-breadspoonwithme-com

The past couple weeks, I have been baking, and tweaking this recipe I based on my blueberry buckwheat banana bread.  I love the texture of baked goods made with buckwheat flour.  The texture is similar to wheat, and the taste is slightly more earthy than an all purpose flour, and despite the name, buckwheat is gluten-free and doesn’t actually contain wheat.  I was extra motivated because a dear friend brought me a beautiful bag of buckwheat flour ground in an Amish mill in her hometown in Illinois.  She knows me well!

buckwheat-pumpkin-breadspoonwithme-com-2

buckwheat-pumpkin-breadspoonwithme-com-6

The Mister was jazzed at first.  Ooh, pumpkin bread!  He was even jazzed on the second attempt.  I like that with a little more sweetness!  I knew it still needed a couple more tweaks.  By the third attempt, he looked at me skeptically, but agreed to taste it and give feedback.  This is really good!  I think it’s fine like this.  Something inside me said, we can do just a little bit better.  The fourth time, he said, Well, I guess we won’t need to make pumpkin bread for a while.  Point taken, Mister, point taken.  Both of us were happy with the final result, and my colleagues were even more thrilled when they got to partake.

buckwheat-pumpkin-breadspoonwithme-com-8

Besides being gluten free, they’re also vegan, and sweetened with coconut sugar and maple syrup. They are crowned with cinnamon and coconut sugar dusted walnuts which emerge from the oven toasty and fragrant.  If you’re still in pumpkin-frenzy mode, these muffins will fit the bill, and why not have them hot from the oven with a cup of my favorite spiced healing tea (yeah, yeah, I know they’re supposed to cool before I eat them, but I just can’t help myself!)?  

buckwheat-pumpkin-breadspoonwithme-com-22

buckwheat-pumpkin-breadspoonwithme-com-20

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I’ll report back after my adventure!

Buckwheat Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon-Walnut Topping (gf, v)

Makes one loaf or 12 muffins

  • 15 ounce can  pumpkin puree
  • ¼  cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1.5  tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • 1 ¼  cup coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup real  maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup  applesauce
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ½  tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • ½  tsp nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp of cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour

 

Topping:

  • 1/3 cup  walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon,
  • 1 1/2  tsp coconut sugar,
  • Additional coconut oil and sugar for dusting loaf pan

Preheat oven to 375˚F.  Grease the loaf pan or muffin tins with coconut oil or use paper muffin cups.

Make the flax egg: Stir the ground flax with 3 1/2 tablespoons water in a small bowl.  Set aside for 5 minutes to allow it to gel.

In a large bowl, place the pumpkin puree, melted coconut oil, flax egg , coconut sugar, maple syrup,  applesauce, almond milk,  vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (or the pumpkin pie spice).  Stir well to combine.  Add the buckwheat flour and stir until just incorporated.  Pour the batter into muffin tins or a standard loaf pan ( ⅓ cup measuring cup works well to fill the cups in a standard muffin pan).

Make the walnut topping: Crush the walnuts with a rolling pin or sturdy glass.   In a small bowl, mix the crushed walnuts, coconut sugar and cinnamon together.  

Distribute the walnut mixture evenly over the loaf or muffins.  

Bake 25-32 minutes for muffins, or 50-55 minutes for a loaf, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes before devouring.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Jenita’s Calabacitas

night-garden-1-of-1-19

To my friends, family and the Mister, I’m Jenny, and sometimes Jen.  My cousins, aunts and uncles throw in a childhood nickname, Jen-Jen, every now and again.  To my cancer survivor friends from First Descents, I’m Flip Flop.  To my Grandma Maria, I will always be Jenita.   My grandma moved to the United States from Veracruz, Mexico when she was a young girl.  

Night garden (1 of 1)-7

Calabacitas soup, although New Mexican in origin, has been a staple comfort food in my grandma’s, mom, and aunts’ kitchens for as long as I could remember.  This recipe has evolved in my own kitchen as I’ve made it, and I’ve finally settled on a version that satisfies my taste memory of the soup I ate growing up, and has my own touch, which is why I call this recipe Jenita’s Calabacitas!

Night garden (1 of 1)-15

Night garden (1 of 1)

Night garden (1 of 1)-3

My family has always made calabacitas with a plethora of colorful vegetables: zucchini, yellow squash, corn, carrots, green beans, onions and tomatoes cooked down with salsa to create a flavorful broth.  Mom and the aunties always add a couple pieces of monterrey jack cheese which form cheesy, melty goodness in the bottom of the bowl.  My version uses vegetable broth as a base, and is seasoned with fresh herbs and spiced up with green chili.  I like to heat up corn tortillas until they’re soft and dotted with little golden spots, roll them up and use them to scoop up the tender flavor-soaked squash and veggies.  

Night garden (1 of 1)-9

Night garden (1 of 1)-8

When the smell of fire roasted green chilies wafts through the air at the farmers’ market, I know it’s time to make a big batch of Calabacitas, my ultimate summer and fall comfort food.  

Night garden (1 of 1)-11

I hope it makes its way into your kitchen while the produce is so beautifully colorful!

Night garden (1 of 1)-13

Night garden (1 of 1)-17

Jenita’s Calabacitas Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini and yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • kernels from 3 ears corn (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, diced (or 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 ounces roasted hatch-type green chilies, chopped (choose spice level carefully)*
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
  • 2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat.  Add the onion and sauté for 4-6 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour until the squash is very soft and has soaked up the flavor of the broth.  Season again to taste with salt and black pepper.

This soup makes great leftovers, as the flavor improves when refrigerated overnight and also freezes well.

 

*If using hot chilies, start with less, and taste for spiciness before adding more.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized