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{Vegetarian} Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

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As Princess Diana once said, “Family is the most important thing in the world.”

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling from North Carolina to Texas to spend some time with my grandmother for her birthday. I also got to hang out with my cousins, aunt, and uncle. It was one of those trips that goes by too quickly. Heading to the airport to go back home, I felt like I had just arrived in Texas that very same day. Saying goodbye to family is never easy. As I’ve gotten older, it seems it only gets harder and harder.

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With adulthood also comes a much busier schedule. Traveling and making plans to spend time with loved ones, I’ll have to admit, are not always on the top of my priorities list. I hate saying that, but it’s the truth. I think we often take for granted the people we love. We assume they’ll always be there and that work, school, money, etc. require more of our attention. I hope this year brings a change for me. I hope I will devote more time and energy to not just visiting, but living life and spending quality (phone-free, work-void, deliberate) time with the people I love, many of whom live far away. It’s worth it. The to-do list, that’ll get done. Making memories with family, that’s what it’s all about. 

My grandmother is awesome. She is a talented gardener, a cat-whisperer, a devout Catholic daughter, a music/movie junkie, and a foodie. It’s easy to see many of my character traits and passions stemmed from her. During our trip we went to visit George Ranch Historical Park. A beautiful living history ranch that demonstrates Texan life from frontier to WWII. We had the best time touring old homes, visiting with the biggest pig I’ve ever seen, and chowing down at an old fashioned chuck wagon lunch. It was chillier than expected, so the steaming Mexican posole and cheddar corn bread were just what we needed.

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When I returned home from Texas, I couldn’t help but crave big southwestern (Tex-Mex) flavors of chilis, cilantro, peppers, and cumin. I created this recipe one afternoon when I was thinking about the day on the ranch with my grandma. I doubt the majority of true Texans would approve of a meatless meal, but take my word for it – this dish is filled with hearty protein, tender veggies, and HUGE flavors that any cowboy or cowgirl would enjoy.

I start by cooking up some quinoa. The traditional stuffed pepper is filled with white rice and browned beef. I like using quinoa instead of rice because it has crazy loads of protein and a better texture in my opinion. It keeps your belly full and satisfied for much longer than it would be if you ate a serving of rice. I combine my cooked quinoa with a little cornbread mix and fresh cilantro. Wowza…I would be lying if I said I didn’t eat about four or five big wooden spoonfuls of this stuff straight from the pot. It’s delicious.

I hollow out my peppers and drop them in boiling water for just a couple minutes. This helps them soften up so they’re easier to eat with just the cut of the side of your fork. I like using red, yellow, and orange peppers for this dish. Not to discriminate on green peppers, but I just don’t love them. They’re not as sweet and often taste bitter. You ultimately can choose whatever color pepper you’d like to stuff. Green babies need love too.

I sauté some of my favorite veggies with black beans (more protein!), spicy tomatoes, and traditional southwestern spices before folding in the cornbread quinoa. Okay, my mouth is watering just typing this up. 

Lastly, I fill these puppies up past the brim. They hang out in the oven with a nice melted blanket of hot pepper cheese, and I serve them up with creamy greek yogurt and more cilantro, of course. Mmm…pure joy.


Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cup of quinoa (uncooked)

1 cup of water

1/3 cup of organic, whole grain cornbread mix

1 tablespoon of ghee (or butter)

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/3 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped (plus extra for garnish)

4 large bell peppers

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 of a small onion, chopped

3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups of kale, large stems removed, chopped

About 6-8 small mushrooms, sliced (I use baby bellas)

1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of black pepper

1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 teaspoon of chili powder

1 15 oz. can of organic fire roasted tomatoes

2/3 cup of mild white cheese, shredded (I use jalepeno havarti, but pepper jack will also work nicely)

Plain greek yogurt for garnish (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until most of the water has evaporated and the quinoa is fluffy.

Add the cornbread mix, ghee (or butter), salt, and cilantro. Set aside.

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Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the peppers. Bring to a boil.

Slice the tops off of each pepper. Remove the seeds and membranes with a small pairing knife or your hand. *This recipe calls for 4 stuffed bell peppers…I only had three to work with, but I had plenty of filling leftover for a fourth.

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Stand the peppers straight up in the boiling water. Cover and cook for about two minutes to soften the peppers, making them easier to eat. Remove from the boiling water and set aside.

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In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for a few minutes until tender. Then add the garlic and kale. Sauté for a few minutes until the kale begins to wilt. Add another tablespoon of oil if the pan begins to dry out. Reduce heat to medium-low.

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Add the sliced mushrooms. Sauté for about a minute, and then add the beans. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Add half the can of fire roasted tomatoes (about 7 ounces or so). Stir and simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat.

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Stir in the quinoa cornbread mixture making sure everything is evenly incorporated.

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With a spoon, generously fill each pepper cavity with the mixture. Top with the remaining fire roasted tomatoes. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

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Remove the foil and top with cheese. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes. When there is about two minutes left of baking time, pump your oven up to broil to brown and bubble the cheese. Be very careful. The cheese will brown quickly – no more than 60-90 seconds!

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I like to top these peppers with a dollop of plain greek yogurt (you could also use sour cream) and a delicate garnish of fresh cilantro leaves.

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These peppers won’t disappoint. The flavors are warm, savory, and spicy, with a hint of sweetness from the cornbread. With all the veggies and protein-packed quinoa, these peppers will leave you and your tummy feeling quite satisfied. I’ve yet to finish a whole pepper in one sitting. They are hearty!

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Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Vegetarian

 

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Thai Red Curry with Butternut Squash and Chickpeas

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Because sometimes what we believe to be the most complicated is actually the most simple.

I have a confession: I’ve never dipped my toes into the big scary pool of homemade Thai food. When I want it, I simply pull out my handy dandy take-out menu and give my favorite restaurant a call. Thai food sounds intimidating, am I right? So many worldly flavors and spices, it just makes sense to leave it up to the experts. Boy was I wrong. 

Thai food, and authentic tasting Thai food at that, is doable and surprisingly super simple – especially this recipe!

Red curry is a delicious combination of chili heat with creamy coconut milk. Toss in hearty butternut squash, tender chickpeas, and fresh cilantro for an out-of-this-world vegetarian curry that stands up strong next to any of the best curry dishes from your favorite Thai restaurants.

It’s not just the flavor that makes me fall in love with this recipe. I also adore it because ingredient shopping was a one-stop ten minute outing at the grocery store. You probably even have a few of the necessary ingredients in your kitchen. I didn’t have to buy anything out of the ordinary and everything was pretty easy to find. I would suggest buying a whole butternut squash instead of pre-cut squash. Usually the pieces in those bags of pre-prepared squash are way too small. They would break up and disintegrate in the curry sauce. You’ll want big hearty chunks of fresh squash for this dish.

Other than squash, I also needed to buy red curry paste and coconut milk. You can find cute little 4 ounce jars of red curry paste in the international aisle of your grocery store. This recipe calls for the whole jar. When I emptied it into the pot, I quickly took off the paper label and popped the little cutie in my dishwasher. I love collecting glass jars for all sorts of things.

Coconut milk is also pretty widely stocked in most grocery stores. I usually have a can or two of low-fat coconut milk in my kitchen that I use frequently to cream my coffee. That will not work for this recipe. Be sure to buy full-fat coconut milk. You’ll want it because it’s what makes the curry the right consistency to nicely coat the squash and chickpeas with heavenly creaminess.


Here’s what you’ll need:

(Adapted from What’s For Dinner by Curtis Stone)

1 butternut squash (about 2 lbs.)

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 

4 oz. jar of Thai red curry paste

15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon of cumin

13 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk 

3/4 cup of water

1/3 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish

Carefully peel the squash and cut lengthwise in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut off the top of the squash to remove the stem. Cut into 3/4-inch pieces. You can reserve the squash seeds and roast them like you would pumpkin seeds for a tasty crunchy snack.

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Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the curry paste and cook for about one minute. Add the chickpeas. Season with salt, ginger, and cumin.

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Stir in the coconut milk and water. Add the squash. Bring to a simmer.

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Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the squash begins to soften.

Stir in the cilantro and simmer, uncovered, stirring every so often for about 20 minutes. The squash should be fork-tender and the sauce should reduce slightly.

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Season with salt to taste. You can also add a chopped Thai chili with the curry paste to pump up the heat factor. Word of caution – these babies will make your eyeballs sweat.

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This curry is super tasty on it’s own with a colorful sprig or two of fresh cilantro. You could also serve it up with a side of jasmine or basmati rice. Even couscous would work well.

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Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Vegetarian

 

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Roasted Squash & Tomato with Pesto

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Yellow squash was on sale the other week – just another thing to deepen my longing for warmer weather.

Have you ever thought about where you would choose to have a shopping spree if you won a gazillion dollars and could only spend it in one location? I would easily choose a grocery store. Probably Earth Fare, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s. What a dream!

But honestly, I’m happy anywhere in the presence of fresh, colorful produce. There’s just so much potential! My creative juices start flowing and I’m in the zone as soon as I step through the doors. Grocery stores, farmers markets, etc. are my thing. And so is yellow squash.

I’ve missed this stuff for months now. Yellow squash reminds me of grilled veggie kabobs at the beach and fresh seafood. Mmm…fresh seafood! Yellow squash just has that thing about it. The thing that makes you think about warmer weather and cold drinks with little umbrellas. OK, maybe that’s just me.

When I saw the squash at the store recently (on sale, woo hoo!) I grabbed as much as I could. I enjoy eating it just about any way. I’ve even started to really like it in it’s raw form. Dipped in some cilantro buttermilk ranch…nom nom nom. The crunch is delicious, and unlike most raw veggies, raw squash is far from bitter or starchy. I often give my squash a little season and a quick roast in the oven. It’s simple and foolproof. This time I was all about color. I wanted to make a one-dish meatless meal that didn’t look like a boring side dish or taste like a measly one-ingredient thing. Cue tomatoes.

I sliced the tomatoes and squash in discs of about the same size. I used my mandolin for the squash and a super sharp serrated knife for the tomato. More color, more flavor! Cue roasted garlic green pea and kale pesto. 

Perfection. 

Dollops of this pesto add vibrant pops of green and tons of hearty nutrients which help complete this dish as a perfect one-dish meal that even the most dedicated carnivorous eaters will enjoy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 large yellow squash

1 large tomato 

1 tablespoon of coconut or olive oil 

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

Juice from half a lemon

1/4-1/3 cup of roasted garlic green pea and kale pesto

1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the squash and tomato about 3/8 inch in thickness. I used my mandolin to slice the squash. Use a sharp serrated knife to carefully cut the tomato. Cut the tomato slices in half if needed to make them about the same size as the squash slices.

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In a baking dish lightly coated with coconut oil or olive oil, layer the squash and tomato alternating each piece to create a pattern. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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Dollop pesto on top of squash and tomato and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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Bake for 40-45 minutes until the tomatoes have released some of their liquid and the squash is tender.

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This dish is not only beautiful in presentation, but it’s also incredibly full of flavor. It’s fresh and light, perfect as a standalone meal, but also works well alongside pasta, atop crusty fresh bread, or paired with baked chicken. I even had it once for breakfast with my egg white omelet. Yum!

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Pesto adds a zip of freshness to just about anything. Roasting the squash and tomato create a sweet depth of flavor that is so nicely complemented by the salty parmesan cheese. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it however you choose to eat it :)

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Sides and Salads

 

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Lemon Berry Chia Jam

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Jam makes me happy.

I am so thankful for our home. I’m thankful for where we live and all the people here who live life with us. It’s been a fun ride so far.

We are surrounded by some of our closest, most extraordinary friends. I can’t imagine starting a new chapter of life without the constant love and support of these people. Some college friends, a handful of people from the church we attended in college, even a few bests from high school. It’s amazing how everyone kind of ended up in the same place. God is pretty awesome like that.

Although I know we won’t be where we are forever, I am gladly soaking up every second of this life here in Raleigh, NC because it’s flying by so quickly. I guess that’s what happens when you’re having fun, right?

So, here’s the story about the jam.

My husband’s best friend from growing up has an amazing fiancé named Kristine. Now they both live in Raleigh and it makes me SO happy :) She is beautiful, hilarious, always willing to have a good time, and always willing to help clean up after a get-together :) Since we first met, we have had a strong connection over our love for health foods and wholesome ingredients. Kristine makes some incredible stuff, and I’m constantly asking for her recipes. A while ago Kristine noticed I was enjoying my experimentation with chia seeds. She sent me a text asking if I had ever tried chia jam. That was new to me!

I tend to stay distanced from jam and jellies, simply because they require so much sugar to taste right and thicken properly. I can’t seem to perfect a jam recipe that is at least just as tasty as the real stuff without all the sugar and added pectin . Most jam recipes call for 2-3 cups of sugar – holy diabetes! No thanks! When Kristine told me about chia jam and how simple it was to make, I was eager to get started.

This jam took no time to make in my blender. It was almost too good to be true. No standing over the hot stove dodging molten berry splats that leave your kitchen looking like a crime scene. I only added a tablespoon of honey – you could also use agave or stevia. The sweetness was just right and so were all the delicious favors of lemon and mixed berries. The chia seeds act as a natural thickener to create a thick spreadable jam perfect on buttermilk biscuits, buttered toast, warm scones, fluffy pancakes,  or even creamy yogurt.


Here’s what you’ll need:

1 heaping cup of frozen mixed berries

1 tablespoon of warm water

1 tablespoon of honey

Juice from half a lemon

About 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest

1 1/2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. I used my smoothie attachment and it worked really well. Blend until smooth.

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Transfer the jam to a sealed glass jar. Store in the fridge for 2-3 hours before servings.

It’s pretty difficult convincing people this jam is not necessarily traditional jam. It’s even more difficult keeping it around for more than a few days.

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I’m glad it’s so simple. I will be making much, much more.

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Thanks, Kristine!! xoxo

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Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Morning Glories

 

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Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes (Gluten Free)

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Valentine’s Day has always been a favorite of mine. 

Indulging in treats and love and flowers and goodies and cards, etc…how could this not be a fabulous day?

My semester has been pretty hectic, and the workload is pretty overwhelming. Valentine’s day came at the perfect time last weekend. It was a sweet respite from my exhausting grad school schedule and my husband’s even more exhausting work schedule. We enjoyed champagne and a gorgeous walk around our neighborhood, even a delicious romantic meal at a fabulous restaurant. The best part to me was our time in the kitchen together. It always is.

We are a great team when it comes to cooking or baking. Gray is an amazing sous-chef and has come quite a long way from his amateur kitchen skills when we first met nearly four years ago. He also deserves an award for dish duty. The man is all about some clean dishes, and I’m thankful for that, especially when I’m experimenting with a new recipe that dirties more dishes than could ever fit in our kitchen sink. He’s a keeper.

I try to bake something different each year for Cupid’s big day, so when Gray was down to take on this molten lava cake endeavor with me I was elated. A few years ago I made delicious cranberry heart-shaped shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate. Last year I think I made raspberry crepes…must not have been that great, because I really can’t remember! This year, however, I was bound and determined to make a chocolate lava cake. The kind that erupts fudgey chocolate as soon as you dig your spoon in the center. The kind that makes you think to yourself, “there’s nothing better than this, right here, right now.”

When I found a simple recipe for lava cakes using coconut flour, I was super excited. A little skeptical, however, since it didn’t call for much sugar and only required two eggs. How could this be?

Let me just be wholeheartedly honest with you.

This is the best dessert I have ever made in my life. 

Here what you’ll need:

(Adapted from Coconut Recipes)

2/3 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

4 tablespoons of coconut oil 

2 eggs

2 whole vanilla bean pods, scraped

1/8 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 teaspoons of dark cocoa powder

1 teaspoon of coconut flour

Half pint of heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and place a medium sized glass bowl in your freezer.

In a medium sized bowl, melt the chocolate chips and coconut together. You can either do this over a double boiler, or you can microwave in 20 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Set aside to cool.

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In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs, scraped seeds from one vanilla bean, salt, and sugar with a hand mixer for five minutes until frothy. Set a timer! Five minutes may seem like a long time, but it’s worth it!

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Pour the egg mixture over the cooled chocolate and sift cocoa and coconut flour on top. Use a spatula to gently fold all of the ingredients together until evenly combined.

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Equally distribute batter into prepared ramekins. You can grease them with coconut oil or non-stick cooking spray of your choice. Just makes sure you grease them well! Each ramekin should be about half-way filled.

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Bake for 11-12 minutes.

While the cakes are baking, prepare the whipped cream.

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Real vanilla beans take this whipped cream over the top. I order mine in bulk online and store them for up to a year in a sealed glass jar. 

Remove the glass mixing bowl from the freezer. Pour cold whipping cream in the chilled bowl. Use a whisk (or hand mixer if you prefer) to beat air into the cream. Once the cream starts to thicken, add the scraped seeds from one vanilla bean and powdered sugar.

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Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks. A chilled bowl and cold cream make this process a lot easier and faster!

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Serve the molten lava cakes immediately. Top with whipped cream and strawberries. If you’re not into dairy, a delicate dusting of powdered sugar would be perfect!

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The center.

Is so.

Fudgey.

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The perimeter of the cakes have a dense sponge cake texture, while the center oozes out fudge that covers every bite in rich melted chocolate.

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This is not something you will enjoy sharing. The question “can I have a bite?” will quickly be answered with a stern “NO!”

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I love my forever valentine, but he had to have his own cake for this special dessert. Every bite was coveted. I may or may not have licked the ramekin clean. Romantic and classy, right?

Love,

Kelsey

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Sweet Treats

 

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Spaghetti Squash With Roasted Garlic Green Pea & Kale Pesto

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I’m so happy to see the sun shining.

It’s definitely winter here in NC, but lately the afternoons have been a vision. Clear skies with warm sunshine breaking through the chilled air. I love it. It reminds me of spring time. I’m looking forward to my first trip to the nursery in just a few months to revamp my desolate patio garden. I’m excited to stash heavy blankets on the top shelf of the linen closet, to turn off the AC unit. and to open the windows to welcome fresh spring air. But, as my mom always used to say…”patience is a virtue.”

While not-so-patiently waiting for the seasons to change, I’ve been experimenting with some fun vibrant colors in my kitchen. Comfort food is great, but for times like these, I crave a little color and freshness to balance out all the heavy winter meals. I think it’s good for the soul.

This was my first attempt at any sort of pesto alternative. I was pleased. My basil plant is all dried twigs right now. Looking out my kitchen window I see it everyday and convince myself it will come back to life. I’m a dreamer.

That being said, my basil supply was scarce and store-bought, so the pesto needed a little extra volume. Green peas and kale create the most beautiful bright green color, like summer grass or tulip stems. A picture truly doesn’t do it justice. I slowly roasted a head of garlic to add depth of flavor and warmth to the pesto while also inviting a few traditional ingredients to the party like fresh basil, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.

This recipe makes about 16 ounces of pesto. I stored mine in the fridge sealed in a mason jar. I tossed a few heaping spoonfuls of the finished pesto with warm roasted spaghetti squash. Once again, the color is fab. The flavor – that’s on a whole different level. Similar to traditional pasta tossed in basil pesto, this dish is warm and comforting. The pesto coats each “squash” spaghetti noodle without weighing it down like a heavy cream sauce would. Sweet hints from the green peas and caramelized roasted garlic, salty nuttiness from the parmesan, and brightness from a little lemon zest and basil bring it all together to make a perfectly satisfying wholesome meal.


I’ve had a lot of readers ask me what’s the easiest (and safest) way to cut a spaghetti squash. I like to poke holes in the squash, like I would if I was going to microwave a potato. Microwave the entire squash for 5 minutes. This will help make it a little softer for cutting. Use a large sharp serrated knife to cut through the squash lengthwise. If it’s still pretty tough and you have a knife longer than the length of your squash, you can use this method: use a mallet (or rolling pin) to tap tap tap down on the end of the knife. Keep tapping until you break all the way through.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 head of garlic, roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper

1 cup of green peas

2 heaping cups of kale, large stems removed

1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup of fresh basil 

1/4 teaspoon of white pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4-1/3 cup of olive oil

1 large spaghetti squash

About 1 tablespoon of olive oil 

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1/2 teaspoon of dried basil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Trim about 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic head so that all of the cloves are exposed.

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Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of good olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper.

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Using two layers of foil, wrap the garlic head bunching the foil at the top.

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Roast for about 1 hour. Don’t turn the oven off! Allow to cool, then squeeze out the garlicy goodness, which will be the consistency of thick paste.

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Next add roasted garlic, peas, kale, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, basil, pepper, and salt to a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time, processing after each addition of oil, until smooth.

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Carefully cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise and discard the seeds. Season with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried basil.

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Bake face down on a foil-lined baking sheet for 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is very tender.

Use a fork to scrape out all of the strands of squash.

Toss with about 1/4 cup of pesto and dig in!

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I like to eat mine with a few slices of fresh sweet tomatoes. My husband likes his with spicy jalepeno chicken sausage. However you choose to eat it, enjoy doing it :)

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The pesto sauce can be stored in the fridge sealed in an airtight container for future use on pizza, pasta, potatoes, sandwiches…the options are endless! Pop it in a cute mason jar tied with a bow, and voilà, you’ve got yourself the perfect hostess gift.

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- Kelsey

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Vegetarian

 

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Mediterranean Shrimp & Fennel Over Pearled Barley

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Because traditional meals can be boring…

My husband joked the other night that I’ve never made a recipe twice. He’s kind of right. I get bored making the some old same old. Life is too short to eat the same thing for dinner. Now don’t get me wrong, if I like something, I definitely stick to it and make it often. But when it comes to main meals, I like to play around a bit.

The other night I was really craving some Mediterranean food. Living a new city makes things a little difficult when you are trying to quickly find the perfect restaurant to clench your craving – living on a budget in a new city makes things even more difficult, right?

So I don’t back down. I like a challenge.

What I love about this dish is that pretty much everything I needed to make it was already in my fridge or pantry. Mediterranean food is not complicated. Everyday spices and flavors come together to make a rich and savory masterpiece in your very own kitchen.

Before you skip over this recipe and turn up your nose to the thought of fennel, just wait! Contrary to popular belief, fennel actually tastes super good. Raw fennel? It tastes and smells like licorice. Slow cooked caramelized fennel tastes completely different. The flavor becomes more delicate and the texture softens. If you want absolutely nothing to do with anise flavor, omit the fronds from the tomato sauce. I won’t mind.

This recipe started with tender pearled barley cooked in vegetable stock and scented with fresh fragrant parsley. Then came the sauce. The sauce of all sauces. Layered with flavors of rich tomato, sweet fennel, and salty capers. I slowly cooked the shrimp in the bubbling tomato sauce and topped it all with tangy feta. Voila! An easy, bold, and wholesome meal that is far from boring and nothing short of tremendously delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need:

(Adapted from Eating Well)

For the barley:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 1/2 cups of pearled barley

1 small onion, finely diced

3 cups of organic vegetable stock 

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/3 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

For the fennel and shrimp:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, cored and cut into 2-inch long strips, reserve the fronds

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 15-ounce can of organic roasted tomatoes (you can also roast your own)

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

1 pound of peeled and deveined raw shrimp (20/30 count)

2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese

For the barley:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add the barley and stir to coat with hot oil until the barley is lightly toasted; the grains will turn slightly opaque just before browning.

Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft.

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Add the vegetable broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil then cover and cook over low heat until the broth is absorbed and the grains are tender.

Fluff the barley with a fork and fold in the fresh parsley right before serving.

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For the fennel and shrimp:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the fennel to sauté. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar. The sugar will help the fennel caramelize in the pan. 

Cook the fennel for about 6-8 minutes until it starts to turn golden brown and is tender.

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Add tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, and cumin. Cook for about 2 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and fragrant.

Add the shrimp, stirring occasionally until they are pink in color and cooked through (about 3-4 minutes).

Stir in the capers and reserved fennel fronds if you desire. The fronds add a delicate anise flavor that you won’t get from the sautéed fennel and they add a vibrant hint of color.

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Serve the fennel and shrimp over a hearty bed of barley. Top with crumbles of feta cheese and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

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Enjoy with crusty bread and a lovely glass (or two) of wine, of course.

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- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in From the Sea

 

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