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Fall Greens for Comfort

The calendar says it is still fall, however, the temperatures outside say that winter is here.  I love the cooler weather and I love the fall vegetables even more.  Needless to say, I have quite a few favorites for my fall comfort foods.

Today is for Kale.  Curly, leafy, dark-green, wonderful Kale.  Steamed alone or used in soups and stews, kale is a wonderful vegetable to add to your diet.  Filled with vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, iron, vitamin B-6 and magnesium, and more,  this leafy green adds a powerful nutritional punch to your meals.  I actually crave this veggie on occasion!  So I decided to cook it much like I do spinach, with plenty of garlic and onions and a little olive oil!

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First chop half of a sweet onion in smaller chunks, then finely chop 3 cloves of garlic and sauté over low heat in extra virgin olive oil until the onions sweat and are clear.

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While the onions and garlic sauté, slice up a green onion (also known as scallions) including the white bulb.  Add this to the onion and garlic mixture and sauté together. 

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Wash and pat dry a nice bunch of fresh kale.  Roughly chop into smaller pieces, taking care to remove any stems that may be tough.  Pile this into the pan on top of the onions and garlic and toss together.  Watch closely as it begins to wilt.  I take care not to let it get too dark.  Which is why I put about 1/3 cup of water into the greens and put a lid on it briefly.  If you get distracted and let it sit a little too long, they don’t remain a bright green, which is how I prefer my greens. (Note in the photo below….I got distracted by two trouble maker feline children and my greens got a little too dark,) Sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

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Cyn’s Steamed Kale

1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large bunch kale, washed, pat dry and roughly chopped with stems removed

1 large stalk green onion, finely chopped, including the white bulb

pinch Kosher salt

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/3 c. water

Sauté onion, garlic and green onion in extra virgin olive oil until soft.  Add chopped greens and toss together.  Pour water over greens and let steam in lidded pan until greens begin to turn really bright.  Add pinch kosher salt and black pepper.  Watch closely so greens don’t overcook and turn dark.  Remove from heat and remove lid.  Lightly toss into a serving bowl and enjoy.

It doesn’t matter what anyone says, but nothing beats a nice big bowl of greens on a cold wintery day!  Bon Appetit!

Hummus–From Cyn’s Kitchen

Today I am starving.  Must be the fall nip in the air or the rain.  Whatever it is, I decided it was time to make hummus.  I’d bought the ingredients days ago and each time the pantry door opens, they’re calling my name!

So here goes!  Grab your food processor or blender and get it set up, ready to go.  Now gather your ingredients together: 1-2 cans of garbanzo beans, tahini (sesame paste), garlic, spices, parsley, extra virgin olive oil.

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As you can see from the photo above, I just dumped everything in the food processor.  I used just 1 can of garbanzos/chick peas.  I forgot to soak the dry beans overnight, so whatever was in the pantry is what I’m using.  Drain the liquid from the canned beans into a cup or small glass and set aside.  You will want to use some of this later.  You’ll need nice pinch of sea salt, about 1/4 tsp cumin, paprika, 4 tsp tahini, several cloves of garlic, fresh chopped parsley or dried parsley, juice of one lime or lemon and extra virgin olive oil.

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Turn on your food processor and while it’s blending everything together, open the spout and pour your olive oil in.  Leave on until smooth and creamy.  Pour into a bowl, garnish with a few parsley leaves, sprinkle paprika and drizzle a little olive oil.  Here’s the recipe….keep in mind, I do not measure, so measurements are approximate.  Adjust to suit your taste.

 

Hummus

1 can Bush’s Garbanzo Beans/Chick Peas

4 tsp Tahini (ground sesame paste)

2 large garlic cloves

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp cumin

about 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and extra for drizzling

juice of one lime or lemon (I had limes in the kitchen this time)

paprika

coriander or parsley leaves, finely minced or 1/4 tsp dried

Drain the garbanzos/chick peas into a cup or bowl.  Set liquid aside.  Rinse the beans in cold water and place into the food processor.  Add tahini, garlic, sea salt, cumin, lime/lemon juice, and about 1/2 of the bean liquid.  Turn on the food processor and pour the olive oil in it while it runs.

When completely combined and smooth, pour into a serving dish.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle paprika and garnish with parsley leaves.  You can also take 3 whole garbanzos/chick peas and arrange in the middle for decoration.

Serve and enjoy as a dip with raw veggies or as a spread for sandwiches on bread or in pita pockets!

Pimento Paroxysm

By definition, paroxysm means any sudden, violent outburst.  In my mind, with summer just around the corner and today being Father’s Day, it’s time to break out the summer dishes and just let the flavors explode all over the palette.  So, given that definition, I think paroxysm works well in my title!

Today I am trying two comfort food dishes that include pimentos but changing it out a little.  Pimentos are just chopped up red peppers that can be pickled and smoked.  I love the flavor they add to dishes and the color just adds a beautiful pop to any dish!  The first dish is a revamping of my favorite summer dish: potato salad.  Who doesn’t love potato salad on a hot day?  There are so many ways to make this dish, but I just kept it simple using what I had in the pantry.  The second dish is: pimento cheese spread.  Another dish that has fifty million different ways of making it, I again chose to keep it simple and the recipe is based on one from a co-worker.

 

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First step: peel and chop potatoes.  Probably the least fun part of the whole thing!  I took 5-6 large Idaho potatoes, because that’s what I had in the kitchen!  After peeling and washing them, I put them into a large bowl of water.  It’s been said that soaking them in water will help remove some of the starch.  I guess it’s true, because when I came back a little later to chop them, their texture was very different!

Second step: cook the potatoes.  In a large pot of salted water, boil the potatoes until just softened.  You don’t want to overcook them because the potato salad will be mushy.  Once cooked, drain and rinse the potatoes.  Rinsing them helps to stop the cooking as they will continue to cook until cool.

For the sauce, you will need your favorite mayonnaise or salad dressing.  To keep it vegan, use Veganaise or another similar vegan mayo.  I had some light Miracle Whip on hand and decided to just use that.  Next add some yellow mustard, freshly ground black pepper, healthy pinch of paprika, pimentos, shallots and some Vidalia onion.

Mixing it all together, chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight so the flavors meld together.  See the recipe below!

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Cyn’s Pimento Potato Salad

5-6 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cooked until just tender

1/2 Vidalia onion, diced

1-1/2 purple shallot, diced

2-1/2 tbsp. pimentos

3 tbsp. yellow mustard

3-4 tbsp. salad dressing or mayonnaise

1 tsp paprika

freshly ground black pepper

Peel and soak potatoes in a large bowl of water for about 20-min.  While they are soaking cut the Vidalia onion, purple shallots and place in a bowl together with all the other ingredients.

One the potatoes are chopped, cook until just tender in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Drain and rinse to slow the cooking process.  Toss altogether and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight so the flavors will meld.

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Now for the second dish!  I love pimento spread, but sometimes the store-bought has so many extra ingredients in it and while I like cream cheese, using it in pimento spread makes the spread so much heavier, in my opinion.

This recipe was inspired by a co-worker who brought in her pimento spread for a birthday party luncheon that we had recently.  I basically followed what she told me, except for the choice of cheese.  She uses Velveeta process cheese and I chose sharp cheddar.

The end result is basically the same = creamy, light, flavorful.  Perfect.

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Doesn’t that close up photo just make you want to dig in?!? 

Here’s the recipe:

Cyn’s Pimento Cheese Spread

1 cup freshly grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

2-3 tbsp. pimentos, including the juice from the jar

your favorite mayonnaise or salad dressing

(I added some freshly grated white Mexican melting cheese that I had because there was just a tiny bit of it left.  I think it came to about 1/3 cup or less)

Mix all together in a large bowl until well combined and creamy.  You may have to add more mayonnaise or salad dressing until it’s the right consistency.  Chill for at least an hour to allow the mixture to set.

Serve on bread or crackers or use as a dip with your favorite dipping chips.

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Bon Appetite!

General Tso’s Tofu

There is a little hole in the wall in town that makes the absolute best General Tso’s tofu.  They serve it with broccoli and it’s been a very long time since I’ve even made it to that side of town to get some!  It has been on my mind for weeks, nagging at me until the craving has gotten so big that I just could not ignore it any longer!  So I started searching for a recipe to make General Tso’s Tofu.

After looking at countless recipes online and remembering how the dish looked from my local restaurant, I finally found one that I could use!  I had most of the ingredients and figured tweaking it a little based on what I have on hand would be fine.  After all, if it tastes good, that’s all that matters, right?

First step: open the package of Organic, non-GMO extra firm tofu and drain.  Wrap it in a towel and place a plate on top and bottom to press out more water/liquid and let sit for a little while until it isn’t so wet.

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I cut mine into square, little cubes and put them in the pan to brown the edges a little.  While the tofu browns, dice up half of a red onion.

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Remove the browned tofu cubes from your pan and sauté the diced red onion.  I used about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for the tofu and the onions.  I also put 3 cloves of garlic through the press and chopped some onion greens to the sauté.

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To change things up a bit, throw in some snow peas with the sautéed onions and add the browned tofu.

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Now for the sweet, tangy sauce that makes this dish so delicious.  Gather together the organic soy sauce, something a little sweet and the corn starch for thickening.  My sweet was some homemade syrup that I had leftover from a Sunday morning brunch recently.

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Add 3 tbsp sweet and 3 tbsp organic soy sauce to the pan.  In a small measuring cup, add 3 tablespoons of corn starch and 6-8 tablespoons water and mix together until smooth without lumps.  Add to the pan and quickly toss the tofu mixture so that it is evenly coated.

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As the liquid heats up, it will thicken.  Remove from the heat once it is thick and the tofu mixture is coated well.

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Below is the actual recipe courtesy of Food.com.  Someday, when all the ingredients are in my pantry, I may try this again!

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General Tso’s Sauce

3 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp rice wine

1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp chili paste

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Mix all ingredients in a sauté pan.  Cook at medium temperature until thickened, stirring occasionally.

While I left out some of the ingredients in this particular recipe, it turned out really nice and if you don’t like spicy, leaving out the chili paste won’t matter!  Snow peas and all, this was probably one of my better lunches…ever.  And I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

Until next time… Bon Appetit!

Orange Fig Bars

This year I am running behind on everything!  Shopping, baking, mailing the Christmas cards and gifts… So I am absolutely grateful to have a quiet weekend just before the big day.  I’ve been craving something fig lately and I came across this wonderful recipe in the Family Circle Magazine 2013 holiday edition.  Being a huge fan of figs, I just couldn’t pass it up!

So….(drum roll, please) here is my first attempt at homemade fig bars!

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Pre-heat your oven to 350* F. The next thing I do is get the figs cooking down so that once I finish the cookie layer, they are ready to go and I don’t have to wait for them.

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You’ll need a large, lidded pan that can hold 4 cups of dried figs that have been coarsely chopped.  In this pan will go the chopped figs, honey, 2 tbsp sugar, orange juice (I squeezed a fresh naval orange) and the zest from an orange.  I also added a little water.   The figs I used were organic, dried figs that we found at Costco.  They are wonderful!  And since figs can sometimes be difficult to find depending on where you live, this was a nice treat for me.

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First chop your figs into smaller chunks.  I cut these figs in half, the cut each of those halves into another half.  Wash your orange really well (organic is best) and take your zester, pictured above, and zest all the peel off into the pot. Then squeeze the juice of that orange. It will look like a sticky mess once you add the honey, orange juice and water!  But it will smell absolutely wonderful!!

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On medium heat, bring the figs to a simmer, lower the heat, put the lid on and let cook about 15 minutes or until they are all soft.  I made sure to stir occasionally and was actually able to resist the urge to lick the spoon!  While the figs are cooking, put together the cookie layer.  Once that is done and the figs are soft, you will put them into a food processor, or blender, and run until they are completely smooth.  This mixture will then be spread on top of the cookie layer to be baked for about 25 minutes.  Make sure you cool completely or cutting them into bars will be a nightmare!

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The recipe is below.  Have fun with it and enjoy these!  I actually ended up cutting them smaller than what is on the plate.  They are so rich and delicious and not very sweet at all!

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Orange & Fig Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour (make sure it is unbleached) or whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt (I used Celtic Gray Sea Salt)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (vegan butter works well here)

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

4 cups dried figs, roughly chopped

1/2 cup orange juice or the juice of one large orange

1/4 cup water – this is my addition to the recipe

zest from a large orange

2 tbsp. pure honey

Pre-heat the oven to 350*F.  Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  (I am partial to parchment)

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In another bowl, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Slowly pour in the flour mixture and beat on low until well combined.  Press firmly and evenly in the bottom of your lined baking pan.

In a medium, lidded pot, combine figs, orange juice and zest, honey, 2 tbsp sugar, and water, if you are adding it.  Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook until soft…about 15 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a food processor (or blender) and run until smooth.  Let cool about 5 minutes.  Using a spatula dipped in warm water to prevent sticking, spread the fig mixture over the cookie layer. (re-dip your spatula in warm water as needed to prevent sticking)

Bake at 350*F for 25 minutes.  Cool completely.  Lift from the pan to a cutting board.  Cut into small squares.

Per cookie: 122 cal; 3g fat (2g sat fat); 2g pro; 24g carb; 2g fiber; 41mg sodium; 7mg chol

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Mediterranean Lentils and Rice

Fall brings on cooler weather and with that comes a craving for warmer foods.  Warmer foods meaning soups, stews, casseroles and all those wonderful fall squashes, greens and of course, the year-round staple, legumes.

Lentils are one of my favorite foods.  Growing up, we ate it made into a thick stewp: too thick for soup, but not quite a stew.  We ate it on rice, we ate it as a meat substitute in a casserole.  It is a very versatile legume and one that I consider to be quite tasty!

Packed full of folate, fiber, iron, vitamin B1, potassium and protein, these are just some of the benefits we receive from eating lentils.  Being a cancer survivor, I like to add additional spices and seasonings to boost their value even more.

This week I went with the Mediterranean style that I love so much.  I hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!  Remember, I do not measure so all measurements are approximate.  You will have to add/detract to adjust for your taste!  Enjoy!!!

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Vegetable Rice

Into the rice cooker went about 2 cups of white jasmine and brown jasmine long grain rice with enough water to cover the rice plus two fingers over.  I find that mixing the rice together helps my picky eaters enjoy the healthier brown rice more. 

Gather together the veggies for your rice.  I grabbed whatever was in the refrigerator:

1/4 red sweet bell pepper, diced

1/4 green sweet bell pepper, diced

2 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin, separate the rings

1 medium red onion, diced small

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or put through garlic press

1 small carrot, peeled, sliced and cut into small squares

1 stalk celery, diced small (optional)

Pinch Sea salt or kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 handful parsley chopped fine or big pinch dried, rubbed through your fingers

Sauté in extra virgin olive oil until the carrots and celery soften a little.  Add rice and toss until well coated with veggies and olive oil.  Add seasonings: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder.  Warm thoroughly and add parsley.

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Mediterranean Lentils

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp Celtic Sea Salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup lentils

Sauté shallots, garlic and spices together until shallots are soft and clear.  Add rinsed and drained lentils and enough water to cover the lentils plus about an inch above.

Let cook until the lentils are soft, add water if too thick.  You may need to adjust the seasonings if you add a lot of water.

Once done, serve up and enjoy! 

Red Quinoa Summer Salad

Quinoa has been around for a long time, but I have been slow to try it!  In my part of the world, sometimes it can be hard to find certain items or if it is to be found, the selections are quite limited.  I ended up buying this online for several reasons with one being that it is organic.  It is Eden Foods Organic Red Quinoa.  Then because I was uncertain what to do with it, I just let it sit for a while.  A few days to be exact!  Then after talking to a few friends who eat quinoa regularly, I had a better idea of how to use this mystifying grain.

One friend suggested I try it for breakfast.  She eats it every morning like a hot cereal or oatmeal.  So I did on a weekend since this has to cook for a few minutes.  I tried mine with a little molasses.  It was delicious and I did not get hungry for 5 hours!

You can use quinoa to make veggie burgers, vegetarian meatballs and so many other things, but one idea that interested me most was the cold quinoa salad.  I love salad.  Lately, I’ve been eating a salad at least 5-6 times per week.  And for me, the busy week makes me keep everything very simple.  So here is my version of a Quinoa Salad.  I hope you like it!

Quinoa Salad

 

Red Quinoa Summer Salad

Cook the red quinoa according to the directions on the package and then chill for at least 24 hours.

1-2 medium cucumbers, seeded and cut into small chunks

1-medium tomato, seeded and cut into small cubes

1-2 tbsp. feta

Vinaigrette dressing – click here for the recipe

Once the quinoa is thoroughly chilled, toss with cucumbers, tomatoes, and vinaigrette.  Sprinkle feta in and mix well without breaking up the chunks of feta.  Chill for about 30 minutes so the flavors can marinate together.

Serve as a side dish or main meal.

This is such a refreshing salad!  I’m sure it will be reinvented often in my kitchen!

Bon Appetit!