Grilled Shrimp in Pil-Pil Sauce

Celebrate #120DaysofSummer by dining al fresca with this recipe for grilled shrimp in pil-pil sauce, a garlic and chili infused olive oil. Pairs perfectly with Santa Rita sauvignon blanc.

Disclosure: Thanks to Santa Rita wine for sponsoring this post as part of their #120DaysofSummer campaign. As always, thanks for supporting the brands that make Avocado A Day Nutrition possible. 

Five years ago when the hubs and I got engaged and we were just delving into wedding planning, I asked him what was important for him at our wedding.

He replied with two requests. "I want an 80s cover band, and I want to surprise you with our honeymoon destination at the wedding."

So, I turned over honeymoon planning to my fiance, the man who hadn't really traveled until we started dating and had never actually planned a trip before. Gulp.

When it was finally our wedding night, after the speeches, everyone gathered round to hear Scott announce our destination. Of course, he couldn't just come out and say it but had to taunt me with a lengthy speech filled with clues before announcing. The first clue - "After all the hard work Rachael has put into planning this wedding, I know she's going to need a drink. So the first few days of our honeymoon will be spent in what was named the best wine valley of the year."

Naturally, my mind jumped to visions of France and Italy and California. I was excited, but hoped to go somewhere more unique that I hadn't been before.

But my guesses were wrong. We were flying to Chile the next day!!! (<-- !!!!!!!!!!)

Chile was right near the top of my dream vacation list, but I had no clue it was such a famous wine producing region. We spent the first three days of our honeymoon touring it's most famous wine valleys - Colchagua, Casablanca and Maipo - sipping wine and enjoying really incredible food.

So when I started planning a recipe to pair with Santa Rita wine, one of the most well known brands and high quality brands from Chile, I knew I wanted to recreate one of the dishes we enjoyed on the trip. I immediately thought of an incredible meal we had in Santiago where we split woodfire oven baked goat cheese, spicy Chilean mashed potatoes and a giant clay bowl of tender hake cheeks in pil-pil (garlic) sauce. Instead of using hake cheeks (I don't think they sell that at Whole Foods), I swapped local shrimp, since shellfish is a natural pairing with their sauvignon blanc.

And wouldn't you know, when I looked back at my travel journal from the trip, as it turns out, we actually had a bottle of Santa Rita wine that night! How crazy is that? They were running a special promotion all over Chile that week promoting various Chilean wines by offering a bottle to take home with every bottle you ordered at restaurants. Umm, can we get something like that back in the States?

One thing we learned is that Chilean wines offer great quality for the dollar - something with taxes makes wines from Chile less expensive to buy Chilean wines in the States, so now Chilean wine is most of what we purchase!


Grilled Shrimp in Pil-Pil Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shrimp, unpeeled
  • 2 teaspoons grill seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup Santra Rita Sauvignon Blanc

Instructions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat
  2. Toss shrimp with grill seasoning and olive oil. Season with salt if the grill seasoning does not contain any. Let marinade 15 minutes. 
  3. Skewer shrimp on wood or metal sticks. Grill shrimp a couple minutes per side until no longer pink. Remove from grill and set aside until ready to use. 
  4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Stir in garlic and smoked paprika. Cook until fragrant, about 60 seconds. And wine and cook for 1 minute, then turn of heat. Stir in shrimp and combine with sauce, then serve. 

Spinach, Feta and Walnut Phyllo Pie

Enjoy omega 3 rich walnuts in this Mediterranean spinach, feta and walnut phyllo pie! 

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

California knows how to party...at least when it comes to food!

All my favorite foods come from California. If the movie 2012 came to life and California suck back under the sea, I would be quite distraught (and hungry). What would I do without my favorite Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam cheese? How could I celebrate without a bottle of Sonoma County pinot noir? And avocados?? NOOOOO! Not the avocados!

I would also have to mourn the loss of one of my favorite pantry staples, walnuts. Did you know 99% of the US supply of walnuts comes from California? I actually didn't until preparing for this post!

One thing I love about walnuts is that they're one of those foods you can judge by it's cover. It's appearance gives you a hint to it's health benefits. Think heart healthy strawberries, which kinda look like little hearts. And avocados, with their wrinkly skin, helps prevent wrinkly skin! Then there's walnuts, which kind of look like brains, and are my favorite nut for cognitive health.

Walnuts are the richest nut source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids with 2.5 grams in just one snack sized ounce. We've talked about omega 3s and brain health before, a type of fat that's powerfully anti-inflammatory and helps improve blood flow in the brain. That's one of the reasons walnuts seem to play a role in maintaining cognitive health. Walnuts are no one trick pony - there's also been research suggesting a diet rich in walnuts protects against certain types of cancer, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, promotes satiety, and may help prevent diabetes. Oh, and they're delicious too!

When I saw the newest campaign for walnuts, I knew I wanted to make something inspired by my travels. Despite being very much a California food, walnuts are a huge part of many different cultures cuisines. My first thought was a take on baklava, which I enjoyed in every shape and form when we visited Turkey a few years ago. But, my tastes were leaning more savory that day, so I decided to work walnuts into the spinach and feta phyllo pies I ate almost as often as baklava when in Turkey. Walnuts add a yummy crunch and break up the salty feta and herb infused filling. Plus, it packs about 4 grams more protein and 2 grams of fiber in each serving in for a more balanced  and filling vegetarian main.

One thing I'll warn you, this is a pretty time consuming dish so save it for a showstopper on a special occasion. Phyllo dough is a bit finicky, so make sure you cover it with a just barely damp towel to prevent it from drying out while you're working with it. Traditional phyllo pie recipes call for brushing the dough with a whole lot of butter, which is tasty, but I find using a smaller amount of olive oil yields a similar flakiness.

Here's a few more recipes from the blog using walnuts:

Raw Tacos with Walnut Meat

Penne with Spinach, White Beans, Walnuts and Garlic Oil

Slow Roasted Salmon Salad with Apples, Walnuts and Maple Dijon Dressing

Spinach, Feta and Walnut Phyllo Pie

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 2 lbs frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • To assemble:
  • 1 lb phyllo dough, defrosted
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, very finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large sided skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Add smoked paprika and chili flakes and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add spinach, scallions and dill and cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Scoop spinach mixture into a large bowl. Let cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Add walnuts, feta and an egg and stir to combine.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees when ready to bake. Spray pie pan lightly with olive oil. Open phyllo dough and cover stack with a damp paper towel when not working with it so it doesn't dry out. Pour olive oil in a small bowl. Take one sheet of phyllo and brush very lightly with olive oil. Top with another sheet and again brush lightly with oil. Repeat until you have a stack of 4 oil brushed phyllo dough sheets.
  4. Scoop spinach mixture in a line along the short end of the phyllo dough stack (about 2/3 cup total). Tightly roll the phyllo to form a "snake." Press the phyllo dough around the outside rim of the pie plate. Repeat with remaining dough and spinach mixture, creating a coil in the pie pan, stopping when the pan is full.
  5. Mix egg and milk together in a small bowl. Brush over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts. Place in the oven and bake 35 minutes until golden.
  6. Depending on how big your pie pan is, you may have leftover phyllo and spinach. If so, Wrap into another snake or triangles and bake on a separate baking sheet.

Penne with Spinach, White Beans and Garlic Oil

Penne with Spinach, White Beans and Garlic Oil

Make this penne with spinach, white beans and garlic oil! It's made by tossing whole grain penne with white beans, spinach and the most delicious garlic oil that's made with anchovies as a secret ingredient, which packs a ton of flavor and a boost of omega 3 fats! Packed with fiber and protein so it's super filling! 

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Mediterranean Cobb Salad

For a twist on the traditional Cobb salad, try this Mediterranean Cobb salad with roasted asparagus, roasted red peppers and crispy chickpea croutons! 

Time for another round of Recipe Redux! This month's theme:

Limping Along for Lunch

Do you ever find yourself in a lunchtime rut? I quickly get bored of eating the same thing again and again. Packing leftovers from dinner for the next day's lunch has been my method for preventing lunchtime boredom for years! It works well for us since most recipes serve four,  there's always enough for our lunch.

Last month the hubs got a promotion that means a lot more travel the leftovers routine that I had down pat. If it's just me, I don't want to cook something and eat it for lunch and dinner, two days straight

For lunch, as stereotypical as it is, I love salads. They're bright, refreshing and don't leave me feeling groggy when I've got a ton to do the rest of the afternoon. But I also like tasty salads - no boring 'berg lettuce with ranch and cheese!

Last week I tried something new and planned a 'fancy' lunch salad then used some of the ingredients in making dinner the rest of the week. It was basically the reverse of my usual plan of using leftovers for lunch! This Mediterranean Cobb salad topped with roasted red peppers, crispy chickpeas, hard boiled eggs and roasted asparagus is what I came up with.

Here's how I extended my salad to dinner:

Asparagus: Roasted up two bunches and used the rest as a side dish with lemon and garlic chicken kebabs, roasted carrots and skillet potatoes.

Hard boiled eggs: One of my favorite snacks! I sliced them up over rye crispbreads with spicy mustard (one of my clients turned me onto this mustard and it's my favorite!)

Crispy Chickpeas: Roasted 2 cans and enjoyed the rest as a crunchy, salty snack!

Dressing: Leftover dressing is great drizzled over roasted vegetables for bright flavor, or over a side salad at dinner. I had this drizzled on roasted broccoli and it was heaven!

Here's some more ideas with some of my favorite salads:

Asian Tempeh Quinoa Salad with Wild Greens // Make extra tempeh-quinoa salad to serve with brown rice crackers as a snack.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Apples and Tempeh Bacon // Make an extra batch of tempeh bacon to scramble with eggs in the morning, or stuff into a vegan quesadilla with refried beans and guacamole. Use extra lemon dressing over roasted or sauteed veggies.

Black Rice Salad with Crispy Kale and Coconut // Make extra black rice for fried black rice with bok choy. Double the amount of dressing and use the other half to marinade chicken or tofu.

Roasted Carrot and Quinoa Salad with Soy-Miso Dressing // Double the batch of quinoa and use the rest to make a grain bowl or quinoa tahini bars. Make extra ginger orange carrots and swap for the plain carrots in my creamy carrot coconut soup! The dressing is also great over roasted salmon or a simple bowl of brown rice, roasted broccoli and chickpeas. 

One note, there are anchovies in this dressing but PLEASE don't let it deter you! I've got a recipe in the que that will talk all about anchovy goodness, but until then, please give this a try! Know that they're a totally sustainable and delicious source of omega 3s that also packs a nutty, briny flavor into dishes. You can try it in my roasted cauliflower pasta with browned butter (and secret anchovy) sauce ;)

Mediterranean Cobb Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

Salad: 

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 8 cups arugula

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon
  • 3 anchovy filets, very finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss chickpeas with 1 teaspoon olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper, Roast for 20 minutes, toss with a spatula, continue roasting 15 minutes more until crunchy and toasted.
  3. Toss asparagus with 2 teaspoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly on another baking sheet and roasted under the chickpeas for 10-20 minutes until browned and tender. Thinner asparagus will cook faster and thicker will take longer.
  4. While vegetables are roasting, make the dressing. Mix all dressing ingredients together and whisk until combined. Season with pepper (it'll have enough salt from the anchovy)
  5. If serving individually, divide arugula between plates then divide chopped asparagus, chickpea croutons, halved hard boiled eggs, walnuts, and red onion down in lines.

Slow Roasted Salmon Salad with Apples and Maple Mustard Dressing

This slow roasted salmon salad with apples and maple mustard dressing includes an impossible to mess up roasted salmon recipe! 

Hey guys! Popping in with a random and rambling blog post for this salmon salad. Had a bit of a crazy weekend - not crazy in a college spring break way but crazy in a "I'm a total bonehead" way. I drove down to Atlanta with a college roommate/sorority sister for the bridal shower of another one of our roommates/sorority sisters bridal showers (fun fact- she's marrying one of Scott's best friends who she met at our wedding). She ended up getting sick with the flu and in my rush to get out the door Sunday morning and get her back home, plus being distracted by guilt over dragging my poor sick friend all over Atlanta, I accidentally left my computer at my friends house. Of course, I didn't realize this until I got back home to Columbia, three hours away. Mom to the rescue - she met me almost halfway with my computer at Dennys in the middle of nowhere Georgia.

Now I'm finally back home typing this up as my husband prepares my freekeh salad with roasted grapes and brussels sprouts. Haven't tasted the outcome, but from my observations, he may have worked his way out of cooking duty for life. Let's just say he only now learned that you can buy not frozen Brussels sprouts. Kinda wishing I had this salmon salad about now...

I made this with my friend Kara's slow roasted salmon recipe, which has become my go to. It's so moist and impossible to mess up. Just add your favorite sauce or spices to dress it up!

Slow Roasted Salmon Salad with Apples and Maple Mustard Dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon filets, about 1/4th lb each
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons exta-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 ounce bag mixed greens
  • 2 endives, thinly slivered, core discarded
  • 2 fuji apples, chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray. Place salmon filets evenly over baking sheet. Spray tops with olive oil (or brush with a couple teaspoons) and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast 20 minutes until opaque and easily flakes with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. While salmon is cooking, whisk together water, olive oil, mustard, maple syrup, scallions and garlic in a small pot. Place on medium heat and bring to a quick simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and black pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, toss together salad greens and endive. Chop or thinly slice apples and toss in the bowl. If not eating immediately, toss apples with lemon juice. Divide salad among four plates. Top with salmon and walnuts. Drizzle with sauce.

More brain-boosting fatty fish recipes, so you don't do boneheaded things like leaving your computer 3 hours away: 

Cedar Plank Trout with Asian Guacamole
Cedar Plank Trout with Asian Guacamole
Sushi Unroll with Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Spicy Mayo
Sushi Unroll with Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Spicy Mayo
Tandoori Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Tandoori Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Packed with healthy fats and whole grains, these endlessly adaptable energy bars make a filling grab and go snack or light breakfast! Sweetened with just a hint of maple syrup. 

When have you ever felt truly satiated or nourished from an energy bar? Back when I was in college, I lived off cookie dough flavored Slim Fast bars for breakfast. At the time, I thought of it as a 'healthy' way to have cookie dough for breakfast. My diet food-philic taste buds actually believed they tasted like real cookie dough. They do not. If only I paid attention to how they made my body feel...and how hungry I was before my second class!

I get the convenience of energy bars, I really do. There are even a few brands that taste good and are pretty satisfying - because I know you'll ask, I like Lara BarsKIND bars and Health Warrior Chia Bars.

Mostly, I make my own. It's cheaper, you have control over the ingredients, and it tastes a whole lot better. And you know what? Homemade bars are actually filling! Like, I could eat one of these for breakfast and okay, I would be hungry for a snack by 10 am, but I'm always hungry for a snack then.

As with most of my cooking, I take a 'throw in a bunch of crap I have laying around and hope it comes out' approach. This recipe is endlessly adaptable based on whatever staples you have on hand. It's a great way to use up extra grains, dried fruit and nuts you have on hand.

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Makes 12

For the pictured recipe, I used quinoa, a mixture of sunflower seeds, walnuts and pecans, honey, and dried plums.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats, old fashioned oats or quick cook steel cut oats (the latter will yield a crunchier, but slightly harder to cut bar)
  • 1 cup quinoa, millet, oats, teff or amaranth
  • 1 cup chopped nuts of choice, or a mixture
  • 1/2 cup chopped unsweetened dried fruit
  • 1/3 cup honey or pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup nut butter of choice
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, olive oil, peanut oil or avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place oats, grains, and nuts in a large skillet on medium heat. Cook, stirring every so often, until they smell toasty. Remove from heat and carefully pour into a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, combine honey/syrup, nut butter, oil, vanilla extract and salt in a small pot on medium heat. Cook, stirring to whisk, until melted and well combined. Pour over the oat mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Line a rectangle baking dish with aluminum foil or parchment paper so that some is coming out from the edges. This makes it easier to remove the bars after cooking. Pour the oat mixture in to the baking dish and press down to even out the top. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until browned around the edges. Remove and set aside to cool.
  5. Once at room temperature, place it in the fridge to chill, which makes it easier to cut. Once cold, cut into bars and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

More energy bars: 

Almond Trail Mix Cookies
Almond Trail Mix Cookies
Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars
Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars
Quinoa Tahini Bar
Quinoa Tahini Bar

Roasted Asparagus and Radishes with Mint-Pea Pesto

Roasted asparagus and radishes with mint-pea pesto is a beautiful and tasty way to highlight Spring produce. 

It’s finally Spring! Except if you’re here in Columbia...then it’s actually kinda, sorta summer.

I’m not sure what happened, but the temperature basically went from the 30s and 40s to the 90s in about two weeks, skipping the season of Spring entirely. Obviously we still got the insane amounts of pollen typical to this area. And massive thunderstorms that seem to be timed to start exactly 2 minutes before I have to leave the house. Oh well. What’s important is that Spring produce and the dogwood flowers are here and that's enough to make me happy.

This recipe is packed with everything I love about Spring. I’ve been obsessing over roasted radishes ever since I saw this article on The Kitchn. When The Kitchen tells you there’s a roasted vegetable that’s missing from your life – you listen. I love raw radishes in salsa, garnishing a bowl of posole or on rye crispbreads with a little butter and sea salt, but I honestly never thought about cooking them. Roasting radishes mellows their peppery bite and turns it into something sweet, tender and almost juicy. 

This recipe makes more pea pesto than you'll need, and you'll still wish you doubled the recipe! Use leftover pesto as a sandwich spread (it would be amazing on my smoked salmon breakfast sandwich), tossed with whole grain spaghetti, or as a dip for whole grain crackers. You can even freeze it, but you might want to put a light layer of olive oil over the top to keep the bright green color.

I whipped up this recipe during a photoshoot for lululemon's Columbia showroom with Celia from Celia G Photographie. It was so much fun! Celia is incredibly talented, fun to work with, and how cute is the outfit she styled? The Refine Crop I'm wearing is probably the most comfortable thing I've ever put on my body...and for the record I'm currently in 10-year old, hot pink Juicy Couture velour sweats. Don't judge, it's laundry day. And who knows, maybe they'll come back in style. Maybe??

Anyway, wanted to share a couple pictures from the shoot with you all as well as a sneak peak into my kitchen. Please know my kitchen is never this clean and is usually much more chaotic with the two big fluffy dogs at my feet!

Roasted Asparagus and Radishes with Mint-Pea Pesto

Serves:4

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off
  • 8 ounces radishes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Pesto:

  • 1 cup fresh peas
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, packed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the asparagus and radish with olive oil in a large bowl and spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 minutes until tender and lightly browned.
  2. While the vegetables are roasting, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for two minutes. Drain and immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool and stop the cooking.
  3. Drain the peas again and add to a food processor along with the garlic, walnuts, mint, lemon juice, walnut oil, salt and pepper. Process until pureed, scraping down the sides as needed.
  4. Serve roasted vegetables dolloped with pea pesto, or toss it all together.

 You Might Also Like:

Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms with Herbed Breadcrumbs
Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms with Herbed Breadcrumbs
Spring Salad with Avocado, Radish & Peas with Mint-Lemon Dressing
Spring Salad with Avocado, Radish & Peas with Mint-Lemon Dressing
Caramelized Cauliflower with Golden Raisins
Caramelized Cauliflower with Golden Raisins

Za'atar Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins

Roasted cauliflower gets a holiday upgrade with naturally-sweet golden raisins, toasted walnuts and capers. 

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 this contest. I was not compensated for my name. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. Literally, and figuratively.

When I was on vacation with my family, the topic of our Christmas Day meal came up, and somehow, I ended up volunteering to cook the entire meal for all ten of us.

Gulp.

Normally my dad is in charge, and although he's a great cook, let's just say his emphasis is a little more on the meat and a little less on the sides. With half the family qualifying as a borderline vegetarian, I figured a few satisfying veggie sides and a main to accompany my dad's decidedly non-veggie main would make people happy. Plus, I'm pretty excited to show the non-veggie lovers how delicious they can be when you treat them right.

In preparation, I was thinking of the best veggie dishes I've ever had I immediately remembered this dish from Holy Taco in Atlanta. Nutty, roasted cauliflower tossed with sweet golden raisins, salty currants and crunchy walnuts. So much deliciousness in every bite!

Let's talk about the raisins, because although every component is important, it's what truly makes this dish. The sweetness brings out the caramelized flavors of the cauliflower and makes for a great sweet and salty combination with the capers. Naturally-sweet with no added sugar, unlike many other dried fruits, I always keep raisins on hand to add a bit of sweetness to savory dishes like braised greenspilafs, and curries.

Maybe it's the association with oatmeal cookies and and other sweet treats, but I find many people don't realize how nutritious raisins are. Remember, it's dried grape, so raisins have all the same beneficial compounds. One of those compounds is kaempherol, an antioxidant flavonoid which has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. It may even help prevent nerve disorders and osteoporosis. Golden raisins, my personal favorite, are a particularly rich source. Another neat bonus to golden raisins - the dehydration process increases the amount of quercetin, another flavonoid with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Raisins are also a good source of fiber, potassium and iron.

So, let's ring in the holidays with raisins!

Za'atar Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, stemmed and chopped into florets

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons za’atar

  • 1/4 cup walnuts

  • 1/3 cup California golden raisins

  • 2 tablespoons capers

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Toss cauliflower with olive oil. Sprinkle with za’atar and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Spread evenly on a large baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, stopping halfway through to add the walnuts and flip the cauliflower.

  3. When the cauliflower is caramelized and tender, remove from the oven. Add the golden raisins, toss to combine and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with capers and serve.

Raw Walnut Meat Tacos with Cashew Sour Cream

 Recreating a dish from one of my favorite local restaurants with these raw walnut meat tacos with cashew sour cream! 

Five years ago, when my now husband was offered a job outside Columbia, I wasn't exactly thrilled. Faced with the choice of spending more time in a long distance relationship or moving to a town commonly referred to as "the armpit of the south," it kinda felt like a lose-lose situation.

After living here five years, I have to say, Columbia isn't half bad - it's kind of grown on me! When we first moved here, there really wasn't much to do in the conservative capitol of SC other than go out for burgers or to a college bar. But over the only but over the past few years, Columbia has evolved tremendously, and we've discovered a few hidden gems - the best Thai restaurant outside of Thailand, a craft beer and growler store with all local brews, and we even got Trader Joe's and Whole Foods to join our Earth Fare and Fresh Market. Movin' on up!

I decided we officially made it when Good Life Cafe, a raw, vegan restaurant opened on Main Street. For realz. The city of burgers, pimento cheese and mediocre college football (couldn't help it!) now has a restaurant with items like cashew cheese, kelp noodles and eggplant bacon right smack dab in the middle of downtown. I did little happy dance when I first walked through the doors.

I've been there a few times, and everything has been amazing. But the raw vegan tacos are by far my favorite.

I know what you're thinking. Raw, vegan and taco are not three words you would expect to hear, or maybe want to hear in the same sentence. But hear me out. The filling, made from walnuts, is finely chopped into a ground beef texture and seasoned with all sorts of smoky spices. It's then drizzled in cashew nacho cheese, which y'all already know I'm a fan of. It's served with big scoops of guacamole and salsa on top of the crispiest raw tortilla shell, which I have no clue how to make so I used a regular tortilla (which isn't raw, but you know, I don't do raw food diets and/or labels).

I think you're going to fall in love with this nut meat (go ahead and giggle). The soy sauce, spices and sun-dried tomatoes give it a rich, smoky flavor and it really does taste surprisingly meaty!

Raw Tacos with Walnut Meat and Cashew Sour Cream

Serves 4

Ingredients

Sour Cream:

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked 2 hours in water, drained
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Walnut Meat:

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, soaked 2 hours in water, drained
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Dash cayenne
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Pico de Gallo:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 large yellow onion, finely minced
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Tacos:

  • 8 small toasted corn tortillas or lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup prepared or homemade guacamole
  • Nut meat (see above)
  • Cashew sour cream (see above)
  • Pico de gallo (see above)

Instructions

  1. First, make the sour cream. In a food processor, blend the cashews with 1/4 cup water, apple cider vinegar and salt. If you like a thinner consistency, add another tablespoon or two of water. Set aside until ready to use.
  2. Rinse out the food processor. Place the walnuts, soy sauce, sun dried tomatoes, spices, and minced garlic in the food processor and blend until it forms a crumbly, ground beef consistency. Be careful not to blend it too long or you'll get a very weird, savory nut butter! Season with salt and black pepper and set aside until ready to use.
  3. In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the pico de gallo and season with salt to taste.
  4. Toast the tortillas over a low gas flame. Divide nut meat among the tortillas. Dollop with guacamole and cashew sour cream. Serve with pico on the side.

More meatless tacos:

Crispy Tofu Tacos

Crispy Tofu Tacos

Crispy Sriracha Lime Cauliflower Tacos&nbsp;

Crispy Sriracha Lime Cauliflower Tacos 

Fried Avocado Tacos&nbsp;

Fried Avocado Tacos 

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Couscous Kale Salad

 A whole roasted head of cauliflower makes a gorgeous presentation, especially when served over a whole grain couscous and kale salad with sun dried tomato pesto. 

You heard it here first - cauliflower is the new kale.  Yup, that mushy white vegetable you pushed off your plate as a child is poised to make a comeback.  Just like kale can move seamlessly from chip, to smoothie, to sturdy salad green, cauliflower can go from a low calorie stand in for mashed potatoes, to spicy pureed soup, to a creamy yet crispy fritter.  You can even make them taste as good as French fries.  

Not only does cauliflower rival kale on versatility, but it rocks in the nutrition department too. It's hard to compete with kale’s perfect score on the ANDI scale, but cauliflower is no iceberg lettuce.  If you've been avoiding cauliflower, following the flawed "if it's white, don't bite" rule (which is a kinda dumb rule imo), you'll be pleased to know cauliflower is a nutrition powerhouse, right up there with it's cousins broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and (hey!) kale!

Vitamin C

Citrus fruits may be known for vitamin C, but one cup of cauliflower actually contains 85% daily value for the powerful antioxidant nutrient.As most of you already know, vitamin C also plays a role in immune function.Vitamin C is also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, joint disease and cataracts.

Antioxidants

Cauliflower contains a wide range of antioxidant nutrients other than vitamin C. Other nutrients with an antioxidant effect include beta-carotene, caffenic acid, cinnamic acid, quercetin and kaempferol.

Cancer Protection

Cruciferious vegetables, like cauliflower, seem to play a special role in cancer prevention, especially for cancers of the stomach and lung. These vegetables are rich sources of glucosinolates, a sulfur containing compound that is transformed into indoles and isothiocyanates. These compounds reduce the risk of cancer by helping our body detox dietary and environmental carcinogens after turning them into a less toxic and more easily excreted compound.

Vitamin K

Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin K, a group of vitamins usually associated with green leafy vegetables.  Vitamin K is an important nutrient for blood coagulation.  It helps our body get the balance between too sticky (heart attack) and too thin (bleed out from a paper cut).  Adequate vitamin K intake is also associated with a lower risk of fractures, as it helps stop the activity of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone, and promote the activity of osteocalcin, which is associated with bone density. Studies have also indicated a link between serum levels of vitamin K and a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

The glucosinolates in cauliflower also seem to play a role in modulating our inflammatory response, which decreases the risk of many chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. One specific type of glucosinolate, called glucoraphanin, seems to specifically trigger anti-inflammatory activity in the cardiovascular system, which can help prevent and possibly reverse blood vessel damage.

Over the past couple years, I've racked up quite a few recipes for whole roasted cauliflower.  Now that I've made it, I'm not sure what took me so long to finally make it. It makes for such a stunning presentation! And if you're still not convinced cauliflower is the new kale, it's served over a kale and couscous salad.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Couscous Kale Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

Cauliflower:

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed of leaves and core removed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pesto:

  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water if needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:

  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 10 ounces kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, mincedSalt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Drizzle the head of cauliflower with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking dish and roast for about an hour to an hour fifteen until well browned on the outside and tender on the inside.
  3. Meanwhile, blend all pesto ingredients together in a food processor and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat 1 cup of water (or broth) in a small pot. Add couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes then fluff with a fork.
  5. Place kale in a large serving bowl. Top with warm couscous to wilt slightly. If you like it more wilty, just pop it in the microwave for a minute or two. Add olives and walnuts, toss to combine. Whisk together oil, lemon juice and garlic, season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
  6. Make a layer of salad on a large serving dish. Top with cauliflower and drizzle pesto over the top of the cauliflower. Slice into chunks and serve with salad and extra pesto.

Quinoa and Kale Stuffed Peppers

These stuffed peppers are filled with a vegan mix of quinoa, kale and Middle Eastern spices.

Earlier this year, my husband and I cancelled cable and started streaming shows instead. It was a pretty fantastic decision. Besides saving money, we have the freedom to watch any season of all our favorite shows at any time of the day. If I want to watch seasons 1-7 of 30 Rock, I can. If I want to watch that episode of the X-Files where the parasitic Siamese twin of a circus act can detach from his body and eat other people, I can. And if I feel like watching nothing but documentaries and TED talks for a week, I can do that too. Technology is awesome.

The only thing I miss about cable? The commercials. Err, the good ones at least.

It was just the other day that I finally saw the Bud Light quinoa commercial and I just about fell off my chair laughing.  The look on that guys face as he proudly pronounces “it’s a qween-o” is classic!

Despite the funny name, quinoa isn't as weird as as it sounds. 'KEEN-wah' is an ancient South American grain whose cultivation can be dated back to 3000 BC. It was a staple crop of the Incas, along with potatoes and corn. At one point, they were growing over 250 different varieties, but after the Spanish conquest, quinoa all but disappeared. You see, the Spanish, shocked at the Inca’s ability to put up a good fight, despite the fact that they had no guns or horses, assumed it was quinoa that gave them their strength. Fearful of an Inca coup, they banished its cultivation. Maybe they were on to something! It certainly is a nutrition powerhouse!

Although we eat quinoa as a grain, it’s technically a seed of a plant in the same family as spinach, chard, and beets. Being a seed, it contains more fat and protein than other grains.  Half a cup of quinoa contains 12 grams of protein, making it perfect for meatless meals.  Because quinoa is higher in fat, it's also a rich source of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin E and even contains small amounts of omega 3 fats. It contains a hefty dose of phytonutrients – quercetin,  kaemphferol, vanillic acid, coumaric, two of which (flavonoids quercetin and kaemphferol in case you were wondering) are so concentrated in quinoa, some varieties actually contain more than berries, a food usually touted as the top source of flavonoids.

At first, I wasn’t crazy about quinoa, having only tried it as a pilaf-style side dish. It wasn’t until I traveled to Peru and saw versatile it is that I fell in love. I enjoyed it in rich potato soups, whipped into a soufflé, stuffed into eggplant rolls – it was all delicious! Now we cook quinoa about once a week. Looking to break out of the box of flavored quinoa mix? Here are some of my favorite quinoa uses:

  • Mix cooked quinoa into veggie patties where it adds a meaty texture. My favorite was a black-eyed pea and quinoa cake I made for New Years, but I just pinned this recipe and I have a feeling it might come out on top!
  • If you’re bored of your standard oatmeal, make quinoa porridge for breakfast.  If you’re cooking a dish with quinoa, make a little extra then heat it up in a pot with almond milk and drizzle with honey or pure maple syrup. Garnish with toasted nuts, chopped fresh fruit and cinnamon.
  • Quinoa, with it’s satiating protein and fat and chewy texture, makes it a perfect salad topping.
  • Quinoa is a perfect stand-in for rice in comfort food casseroles. Broccoli and cheddar quinoa casserole? Chicken enchilada quinoa bake? Yes please!
  • My favorite simple, no fail, always satisfying weeknight dinner - sauté veggies in a flavorful sauce and serve over a bed of quinoa. Top with toasted walnuts and feta or goat cheese. Dinner in less than 30 minutes!

Quinoa and Kale Stuffed Peppers

serves 4

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients

  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried currants or golden raisins
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 large red, yellow or orange bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat, or pop them in the toaster oven for a few minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder with the red pepper flakes. Process until powdered then stir in cinnamon.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Mix in the spices and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa to the pot. Stir to coat. Pour in 1 1/4 cup water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook about 10-12 minutes. Add kale. Stir and cook until wilted about 2-4 minutes. While the quinoa is cooking, place the currants or raisins in a small bowl with the orange juice and let stand for 15 minutes.
  4. After the quinoa has cooked, stir in the soaked currants or raisins, juice and nuts. Season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Place the pepper halves in a large baking dish. Divide the quinoa mixture between each half, mounding slightly. Pour about 1/2 cup water into the baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the peppers are tender, 40-50 minutes, and serve.

The Best Chopped Side Salad

The Best Chopped Side Salad

The BEST chopped side salad recipe! It’s not your ordinary boring old side salad with just tomatoes and cucumbers. This simple chopped side salad is made with chopped greens tossed with crunchy radish and cucumber, sharp cheddar, creamy avocado, and nutty toasted walnut with a mustard vinaigrette. Bring this chopped side salad to your next cookout!

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