Spaghetti with Greens and Gorgonzola

Spaghetti with Greens and Gorgonzola

Spaghetti with greens and gorgonzola is the easiest vegetarian pasta dish! Just saute your favorite green leafy vegetables with garlic and red pepper flakes, toss with whole grain spaghetti and serve with gorgonzola and toasted hazelnuts! It's budget friendly and easy to swap whatever greens look good at the market. 

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Balsamic Roasted Peach, Fig & Almond Salad + California Almond Tour Recap

Balsamic Roasted Peach, Fig & Almond Salad + California Almond Tour Recap

Learn all about California almonds from my trip to Lodi, California where I got to see them being grown and processed! Plus, snag the recipe for this California inspired balsamic roasted peach and fig salad with almonds, blue cheese and bacon! 

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Kale, Mushroom and Blue Cheese Quiche {Sponsored Contest}

My trick for creating a creamy quiche without using cream? Create a quick bechamel-style sauce. Try it in this whole grain quiche filled with kale, mushrooms and Point Reyes blue cheese. 

“I received a gift card to offset the expense of my ingredients. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

If I could trade my everyday life with one other person (other than whoever Joseph Gordon-Levitt is currently dating), it would be my sister-in-law, Caroline. Living in Sonoma, she has the most beautiful wine country for her backyard. If she doesn't feel like cooking, she can pick from dozens of the best farm-to-table restaurants. Her weekends are spent surfing, hiking and sampling incredible wines from the hundreds of nearby vineyards. If that's not enough to make you jealous, her town is also the mecca of artisan cheese. They even have a cheese trail. A cheese trail! It's my happy place.

For this contest, we were instructed to lighten up favorite recipes using California dairy. But I'm kind of bad at following rules. Plus I generally buy whole or 2% (organic) dairy. So instead, I used California dairy to give a rich flavor and luxurious texture to an already healthy dish.

This recipe uses dairy in two different ways. First, I used my absolute favorite blue cheese, Point Reyes to add a hit of intense flavor. Point Reyes is made from grass fed cows raised on coastal pastures in California, which is said to impart a unique flavor to the cheese. It is luxuriously creamy, without the dry, crumbly texture of low quality blue cheese, and has the perfect amount of tang. Point Reyes blue cheese is aged five months, and hey, did you know aged cheese is actually good for you? Not just saying this to rationalize my love for cheese - it is actually the richest food source of vitamin K2, may have anti-inflammatory properties in the mold of blue cheese, and if it's made from grass fed dairy, it contains omega 3 fats.

I also used milk to make a quick bechamel-style sauce I mixed with the eggs. It gives the quiche a creamy, custard-like texture without using heavy cream. Really, you must try this in your next quiche!

With cheese, I always recommend buying quality, which allows you to get a lot of flavor with a small amount. The artisan cheeses produced in Sonoma are some of the best, so definitely look for them at the store.

Kale, Mushroom and Blue Cheese Quiche

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 8 ounces mushrooms, brushed clean and quartered

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and cut into thin ribbons

  • 2 tablespoons flour

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 frozen pie crust (I used Wholly Wholesome whole wheat pie crust)

  • 1/4 cup crumbled California blue cheese

  • Handful cherry tomatoes, halved

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Saute until mushrooms start to release their liquids, about 3 minutes. Add the kale and a couple tablespoons of water and cook until wilted, about 7 minutes. Add in a couple more tablespoons of water if it starts to get too dry.

  3. Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a small pot on medium heat. Add flour and whisk together. Cook 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, to take the raw edge off the flour, then whisk in milk and oregano. Bring to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes until thickened. Season with salt and pepper, turn off heat and set aside to cool slightly.

  4. Crack eggs into a medium bowl and slowly pour in cooled sauce while whisking constantly.

  5. Spread vegetables evenly over the crust, sprinkle with blue cheese, then pour the egg mixture over the top. Scatter cherry tomatoes over the quiche, then bake for 30-35 minutes until set.


Baked Eggs with Sweet Potatoes, Brussels and Roquefort

Eggs are baked over a bed of diced roasted sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and gorgonzola cheese for a dish that's perfect for breakfast, brunch or dinner. 

Remember when the only decision you made when buying eggs was small, large or jumbo?  Even then, it wasn't really a choice, because who buys anything other than large?  Now you're presented with such choices as natural, organic, vegetarian fed, free range and what seems like a dozen different stamps (supposedly) guaranteeing humane treatment.  When the price ranges from $2-7, it's important to know what's worth the extra dollars.

Local, organic eggs are your best choice.  I usually get mine from Wil-Moore farms at our local farmers market.  Eggs purchased locally are the most sustainable option - if pastured and organic, they are your most nutritious option too.  Not only is there a difference in nutrition, but there is a huge difference in taste. The yolk is deep orange has an incredibly rich flavor.  The white, or albumin is thicker and won't spread as much.  Aesthetically, this makes a more appealing poached egg...and it keeps me from cursing like a pirate when peeling boiled eggs.

Farm fresh eggs are definitely worth the price tag, but sometimes it's not convenient to get a hold of them.  We're often out of town for the weekend farmers market, so until a market selling local produce opened near our house, I was frequently left in the grocery store, pondering my 3,478 choices.

To save you the hassle and confusion, I've created a simplified guide to most of the egg labels you'll see.  Save this reference guide for your next grocery trip.

Organic: Organic not only refers to the feed, which is organic, free of animal by prodcuts and GMOs, but also ensures some degree of humane treatment.  In industrial egg production, hens are commonly kept in tiny cages, smaller than the size of a piece of paper.  Cages are not allowed in organic egg production and hens must have access to the outdoors, although it may be limited.  Usually, large scale organic egg producers build a porch attached to the henhouse, which counts as outdoor access.  Use of antibiotics is limited.  They are not allowed to be used as a preventative measure, a practice linked to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, antibiotics are only used during an outbreak of infection or disease.

Free Range: Free range is a difficult term to interpret, mostly because it's not regulated.  The FDA has provided the loose definition as "hens are allowed access to the outside."  So while this term might bring to mind visions of hens roaming through open fields, pecking at bugs and generally living a pleasant little life on the farm, it might not be the case.  Some farmers may allow their hens to live free in large fields, while others, generally larger producers, may only provide a concrete porch attached to a crowded hen house.  Also, free range eggs may not necessarily be organic or antibiotic free.  If humane treatment of animals is important to you (and it should be!), do your research!

Cage Free: This means hens were not raised in tiny cages, but it does not mean the bird has outdoor access.  Generally, hens are kept in a henhouse, but they might not have much more room than if they were kept in a cage.  Cage free does not mean organic.  Hens may be given antibiotics, as the crowded environment increases the risk of disease.  This term is not regulated.

Vegetarian Fed:  This means hens are fed a diet free of any animal by products.  Since the discovery of "mad cow" disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, there has been concern about the presence of animal by products in animal feed.  The disease developed because cows are legally allowed to be fed rendered cow carcass, which besides basically being cannibalism, is incredibly unsafe.  Eggs labeled vegetarian fed ensures the hens were not fed animal by products.  If purchasing organic eggs, this is also ensured.

Omega 3 Enriched: Nutritionally, this is a good thing.  Hens are fed flaxseed or fish oil to increase the omega 3 content of their eggs.  This label does not ensure the hens are treated humanely, antibiotic free or fed organic, animal by product free food.  Eggs from pastured eggs naturally contain higher amounts of omega 3 fats.

Animal Welfare Approved: This is the most highly regulated of animal welfare labels for eggs.  It is reserved for family farms.  Hens are allowed constant access to outdoors and shelter.  Beak cutting is not allowed.  Hens are fed a vegetarian diet and no antibiotics are administered.

Certified Humane: Certified human is a regulated term which basically means hens have enough room to engage in natural activities, like perching and nesting.  Cages are not allowed, but hens may be kept indoors or outdoors. No antibiotics are administered.

American Humane Certified:  Hens are allowed access to adequate food and water and room to perform natural activities.  Cages, hormones, and non-therapeutic antibiotics are not allowed, but beak cutting is.  Hens may or may not have access to the outdoors.  This certification is very similar to certified humane, but is considered slightly less stringent.

Antibiotic Free/Hormone Free:  Since the use of hormones is banned in poultry production, hormone free is somewhat misleading.  The prevalence of antibiotics in the egg industry is a bit of an unknown with the egg industry claiming minimal use.  Either way, the label antibiotic free isn't regulated, so it's impossible to vouch for accuracy.  If you purchase organic eggs, that will ensure it is antibiotic free.

Natural:  This means nothing.  Zilch.  And not just for eggs.

Baked Eggs with Sweet Potatoes, Brussels and Roquefort

Serves 4-6

I served this with a simple arugula salad for a light dinner. This would also make for a fantastic brunch, served with fruit salad and whole grain toast. You could also swap the blue cheese for goat. Adapted from Naturally Ella.

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced

  • 4 cups Brussels, halved

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4-6 eggs

  • 3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Place the sweet potato, onion, and Brussels sprouts in a large baking dish. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes until tender, and very lightly golden. It will continue cooking once you add the eggs.

  3. Create 4-6 wells in the roasted vegetables and carefully crack an egg in each well. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the top. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the whites are set and the yolk is still slightly runny. Serve immediately.