I’m keeping this post simple because I feel it could easily get out of hand, fast!
Here’s the deal, like the rest of America, I am in love with pumpkin.
For some people, this is just a trendy type of love, but for me, it’s the real deal and it’s got roots, people, serious roots. You see my love of pumpkin stems from my love of Halloween. And that love story began a long, long time ago, back when I was embarking on my first trick-or-treating experience. Long before I knew that candy was just the beginning of my beautiful (and believe it or not, healthy) relationship with all things sugar. Now that I have such an advanced palate (uh huh, yep, I do. Ha!) and a degree in Nutrition, I can take what I love and put a de”light”full spin on it. Enter, my pumpkin spice granola.
Why I made this recipe: Because “soup season” has officially begun in my household and because I really enjoy a bold-flavored, hearty soup like this Red Curry Quinoa Soup.
Why I love this recipe: Well, for the reasons I made this soup and for a few more too. First, quinoa is one of my favorite grains, not only is it nutritious, but it cooks super fast. That means this soup comes together fast too! Why else, you ask? Because it’s totally satisfying. There’s nothing I dislike more than a weak, bland, watery soup. This one is none of those things!
How this recipe is healthy: Oh, that quinoa! Not only does it cook fast, but it is so nutritious! A perfect source of vegetarian protein and loaded with fiber and iron, it’s a delightful alternative to rice and other grains. And how about that red curry paste! Never heard of it? Well, let me introduce you to your new kitchen staple. This stuff is simply magical. Typically used in Thai cooking, it adds serious depth of flavor to any dish you make, plus a little heat. All of that flavor doesn’t even come at a caloric cost either! The ingredients, usually chili peppers, garlic, galangal (or Thai ginger), shallot, spices and kaffir lime are foods that are loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients, that also happen to be amazingly flavorful. A true culinary and nutritional gem.
A hearty soup made with earthy, robust red curry paste, fresh vegetables and quinoa.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced (about 3/4 cup chopped)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced (about 1 1/2 cups chopped)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon red curry paste
2 teaspoons peeled, chopped fresh ginger
1 cup quinoa
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
2 tablespoons lime juice
Sea or Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in a pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper and sweet potato and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic, curry paste and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the quinoa and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender and quinoa is cooked.
Remove from heat and add the lime juice. Season with salt to taste and garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
Cut the potatoes into half-inch cubes, this helps them to cook more quickly. And don’t worry if they’re not exactly a half-inch, just about that size is perfect! 🙂
Looking to “amp-up” your freezer-meal arsenal? Have no fear, because my Basic Black Beans are here!
Ok, so that was a little hokey, but it’s true! This month’s theme for the Recipe Redux was to share one of our favorite freezer meals. Immediately, I thought of my favorite recipe for basic black beans. How many times have they saved my life? More than I can count, let’s just say that.
What’s so great about these beans? EVERYTHING!
I’m not joking. They are just an all-around hero in my house and let me tell you why. First, they are made from scratch and that makes for some pretty perfect beans. Oh, I hear you mocking me about that, but hear me out. When you cook beans from scratch, you get to flavor them and control their firmness. Have you ever tried to eat a bean from a can, just by itself? It’s not that great, right? Generally flavorless and slightly on the mushy side, right? Well, those beans have their purpose, but not when I just want to sit down and eat a bowl full. Second, these beans are freezer champions. Meaning, you can stick these beauties in the freezer and then break off bits and pieces when you want them. It’s amazing and such a time saver!
Oh, I can almost hear you now…”Sara, this is great, but what the heck am I going to do with all of these beans?”
Don’t freak out! I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that! There’s sooooo much you can do with these. First, you can literally just eat them out of the pot like soup. Top a bowl of black beans with Greek yogurt, a little salsa and cheddar cheese and you’ve got an amazing meal. Or, drain them and add them to tacos or burritos. Still not buying it? Try mashing them up and putting them in a quesadilla or on top of a piece of whole grain toast along with some avocado. Sound good? Whew…now go make them and see for yourself!
With just a little planning, delicious black beans can be yours to be used in any meal. These beans freeze well, so enjoy some now and stick them in the freezer to have later.
1 pound dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
6 cups water
3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
The night before
Place the rinsed black beans in one or two large, sealable container(s) and pour enough water over them to cover by a few inches (they’ll expand a little, so give them room!)
To cook the beans
Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, stirring and cook an additional 1 minute.
Drain the beans from the soaking liquid (you can toss the soaking liquid) and place in the pot with the onions and cumin. Add the water, garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Stir, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover partially with a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, Add the salt and cook an additional 15-20 minutes or until the beans are tender, but still holding their shape.
Remove beans from the heat and stir in the Mexican oregano.
Serve as is for the perfect side dish or drain and add to tacos or quesadillas. They can also be served as soup and topped with Greek yogurt, chopped tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
You love it so much that you insist on ordering it at least once a week from your favorite pizza place. While that’s fine and good, it’s um, actually not. Many pizza places load on the heavy toppings and leave you feeling like you just ate a vat of oil topped with a salt lick. Yuck. Ok, well, maybe it tastes good at the time, but it can leave you feeling pretty gross. But don’t worry, I have a solution! My famous (or soon-to-be-famous) Easy Pizza Toasts.
Yes, pizza can be yours and it can taste good and leave you feeling awesome!
What’s the trick? There isn’t one! Yup, it really is easy. Let me explain. Start with some yummy whole wheat bread then slice it thinly. Cook up some yummy veggies (this toast I made with onions and squash) – hint, cut them up small so that they cook fast (this also makes them look super cute on your toasts). Spread a little marinara on top of those bread slices, top with a little cheese (a good, flavorful sharp cheddar is my favorite), then add the veggies. Slide them into the oven for about 10 minutes and you’ve got Easy Pizza Toasts!
So, no more heavy pizza for you (ok, have it every once in awhile), instead enjoy the crispy, crunchy, veggie-goodness of these Pizza Toasts!
Quickly sautéed veggies piled high on whole grain bread topped with cheddar cheese then toasted in the oven.
1/2 loaf, 15-ounce whole wheat baguette, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices on the bias
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion (about 2 1/2 ounces), diced small
1/2 medium zucchini (about 5 ounces), diced small
1/2 medium yellow squash (about 5 ounces), diced small
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup canned or jarred marinara sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400’F. Line a 9×13-inch sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.
Heat the oil in a large pan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. (You may need to adjust the heat to prevent burning.) Stir in the zucchini, squash and salt and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and oregano and cook one more minute. Remove pan from the heat.
Spread marinara sauce evenly over bread slices, then sprinkle with cheese. Top each slice with some of the squash mixture. Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until bread is toasted and cheese has melted.
Garnish with fresh basil before serving.
This recipe makes 20 pizza toasts. A great appetizer or main dish!
Well, it’s officially September and it’s blazing saddles here in Chicago. That means it’s time to be creative in the kitchen. Read, “how can I cook without cooking?” Luckily, Mother Nature is on our side during the warmer months, providing us with a wealth of fresh produce that requires very little preparation. How kind of Her! So, to keep the sweat at bay, I created this hearty bean salad that’s both refreshing and satisfying.
If you’ve got a can opener and a knife, you’re all set for this recipe. Just pop open a couple of cans of beans, then chop up some fresh veggies and you’ve pretty much got this dish made. Lots of beans and veggies means you know it’s good for you, which is just an added bonus, really. Then, to jazz it all up a bit, I’ve created a tangy, yet sweet vinaigrette made from fresh lime juice and zest as well as honey, mustard and olive oil. That’s it! So easy, just like I promised.
Serve up a big bowl of this tonight for dinner and save the rest to munch on during the week. This salad tastes even better after a day or two in the fridge.
P.S. – If you’re not in the mood to cook an ear of fresh corn, you can substitute thawed corn or canned corn. See, so easy!
This delightfully healthy dish comes together fast and it not only looks beautiful, but tastes great too.
For the salad
1 ear of fresh corn, shucked and cleaned (or about 1 cup corn kernels)
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or any other bean will work here too)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
1/2 medium red onion, peeled and diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
For the dressing
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup olive oil
sea salt, to taste
To prepare the salad
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and return to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse the corn under cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry and when cool enough to touch, cut kernels from the cob and add to a large serving or mixing bowl.
To the same bowl with the corn, add the beans, peppers, onion, cilantro and jalapeño, if you’re using it. Toss to combine.
For the dressing
In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard, lime zest, lime juice and honey. Whisk in the olive oil.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to evenly coat the beans and vegetables. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Toss again before serving.
This recipe makes between 7 1/2 and 8 cups salad.
You don’t have to let this salad sit in the fridge before digging in, but it does taste so much better when you do!
As a kid, I loved the fish sandwich from a certain fast-food chain that shall remain nameless. There was something about it that I just really enjoyed…and I’m quite convinced it was the tartar sauce. For some reason, I always felt that tartar sauce was something special, reserved for fast-food meals or vacation fish joints. We never had it at my house, making it even more alluring.
My fascination with tartar sauce continues. To me, there’s nothing better than a little dab of it on a grilled piece of tilapia or smeared on a hearty bun along with a piece of blackened perch and lots of lettuce. It’s the perfect complement to so many great fish dishes.
That’s why I’ve created my own, simplified, healthier tartar sauce recipe. The ingredients are mostly staples in the pantry, and I’ve used granulated and powdered versions of onion and garlic, respectively, for even quicker and easier preparation. Of course I swapped out most of the mayo for low-fat, plain Greek yogurt, saving calories and adding protein and calcium!
Try it as is, or add a splash of hot sauce or sriracha to spice it up. Experiment with fresh herbs like dill and thyme. It’s the perfect condiment compliment to your favorite fish dish!