Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Cilantro is such a wonderful herb, so fresh and bright! It makes me think of summer, and always has to be included in salsa in my opinion! But when you go to the store and want to buy some fresh cilantro, you usually end up buying a huge bunch of it, because that is the way it is sold granted it is pretty cheap for the amount you get. But unless you have a recipe that uses a ton, then you always have leftovers, or at least that is the way it always happens at my house. So, today I had leftover cilantro, and decided to make some pesto out of it. I normally use cashews with cilantro in my pesto, but since I have a bunch of peanuts in my fridge, I decided to branch out today. Once I tasted it I thought it might be good in some wraps with shrimp for dinner. I end up cooking shrimp a lot, since they are a quick cooking source of protein and they are delicious! They ended up being really good with the pesto, so I decided to share the recipe.  The funny thing is I still have leftover cilantro...hmmm...maybe some salsa?
Shrimp Wraps with Cilantro Peanut Pesto
Makes 4

1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1 Tbsp peanut oil
juice of 2 large lemons
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp driec ground chipotle pepper
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
40 medium raw shrimp(31-40 per lb), peeled, deviened and tails removed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 8 inch whole grain tortillas (I use Ezekiel brand)
1/2 cup carrots, cut julienne
1/2 cup cucumber, cut julienne
4 romaine lettuce leaves
To make pesto, combine all the ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth then set aside. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, toss shrimp with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Spread shrimp out on prepared baking sheet and roast until pink, opaque and cooked through about 5 minutes (more or less). Remove from oven and let cool. To assemble wraps, lay 4 tortillas out on a counter. Spread the upper half of each with about 2-3 Tbsp pesto (you may have some left over), then top each with 10 shrimp (in the upper third of the tortillas). Place the carrots and cucumbers on top of the shrimp, dividing evenly among the 4. Top each with a lettuce leaf, and roll up tightly, starting at the top. cut in half and secure with toothpicks if desired!

Monday, March 29, 2010


Buttercup squash is a vegetable I can't get enough of! In fact I love it so much I cook extra and freeze it just so I can have some in the spring and summer months when it is out of season; It is not really in season anymore, since it is almost April, but I bought a whole bunch and stored it in my basement while it was, so I still have plenty to enjoy. Although I just could eat it plain, roasted and be happy, one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is in enchiladas! Many people make chicken enchiladas, but I use chicken style seitan in mine since I don't eat chicken...and it is just as delicious! This is a recipe I came up with about 2 months ago while the snow was still flying, but I enjoy it so much I have been making it once a week since then. I thought I would share it even though squash is no longer in season, since you could substitute summer squash such as zucchini for the winter squash and just dice it up and roast it for less time. Either way, I love these enchiladas, and if you are a squash lover, you will too!
Roasted Squash Stacked Enchiladas
Serves 2 very generously

1 medium buttercup squash, cut in half vertically, and seeds removed
cooking spray
2 tsp peanut oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp dried ground chipotle pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 Tbsp peanut oil
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pkg chicken style seitan cut into bite sized pieces

6 six inch corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or monterrey jack cheese
sour cream for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Place squash cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast for about 20-30 minutes until squash is tender but not squishy. Let cool and cut into cubes, set aside and lower the oven temp to 375. To make sauce, heat 2 tsp peanut oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion, and saute until soft, then add the chili powder, cumin seeds, cinnamon, chipotle, and garlic, and saute about a minute until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, salt, vinegar, honey, cocoa powder and bring to a boil. lower to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes on low heat and add the cilantro. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth, and keep warm. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and add the onions and scallions, saute until softened and add the bell peppers, garlic, seitan and squash cubes. Saute until heated through, then spoon about 1/2-3/4 cups of the sauce over to coat the mixture. Remove from heat. To assemble the enchiladas, spoon a bit of sauce onto 2 large shallow bowls, then top each with a tortilla. Spoon half the filling onto the tortillas, dividing evenly between the two bowls, then spoon a little more sauce over each, along with a third of the cheese dividing evenly between the two. Top each with a tortilla, then the rest of the filling, a little more sauce and half the remaining cheese. Top with another tortilla, the rest of the sauce, and the rest of the cheese. Place in the oven and bake until heated through and cheese is bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve with sour cream!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Asian Peanut Slaw

I must be on a peanut butter kick lately because it is finding it's way into many of the dishes I have made this weekend from salads to cupcakes.  Maybe it has something to do with me finding 3 unused jars of it in my cupboard while I was cleaning it out this weekend, and thinking maybe I should find some interesting ways to use some of it up before it goes rancid (since the natural stuff doesn't last forever like the sugar filled brands).  Well actually, that was just a lucky find since I love the stuff and could eat a whole jar in a sitting if it wasn't a gazillion calories!   So being on my peanut butter kick, I decided to make a salad dressing with it, using a recipe I often make when I want something peanutty since it is so good.  Sometimes I make more of this dressing and toss it with soba noodles for a hot entree, or use it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, but today it was salad.  Here is the recipe for the dressing and the salad:

Asian Peanut Slaw
serves 2-4

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp tamari
Juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 garlic clove
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
water as needed
sea salt to taste

1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 bell pepper, cut julienne
1 medium carrot, cut julienne
1 cup snap peas
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts

In a food processor, combine all dressing ingredients and process until smooth (adding a little water (a Tbsp at a time) if a thinner consistency is desired), set aside.  Combine all the veggies and cilantro in a bowl, and toss with the dressing until well coated.  Divide the salad among the serving plates and top with the peanuts. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I love mangoes! They make me think of summer, even when it is still chilly outside. So last weekend when I was at the store, and I saw some perfectly ripe mangoes I had to pounce on them! I thought they would be great in a salad, possibly pureed into the dressing. I have a recipe for dressing using mangoes that I have adapted from one in the book "Passionate Vegetarian" by Crecent Dragonwagon. She calls it "Rainforest Vinaigrette" and that is exactly what it reminds you of when you taste it! Her recipe is delicious as is, but I decided to make it using ingredients that I happened to have on hand, and the recipe below is what I came up with. I think her idea of using pureed mangoes in a dressing and adding diced bananas is genious as well as delicious! This is a great recipe if you need a bit of summer before the 90 degree days hit in a few months!

Tropical Rainforest Salad
serves 2

1/2 large mango
8 roasted cashews
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
juice of 1 large lime
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp peanut oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 banana, diced small
1 large head butter or bibb lettuce, washed or 1 large container spring mix lettuce
1/2 large mango, diced
1 cup diced pineapple
8 kumquats, sliced, or one orange, sectioned
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 medium cooked beet, sliced
1/4 cup roasted salted cashews

Combine all dressing ingredients but the banana in a food processor and process until very smooth, pour into a bowl, and stir in the banana. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, mango, pineapple, kumquats, beets, and shallot. Toss with the dressing, and distribute beween two serving plates. Sprinkle with cashews and serve!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spa cuisine

Today I was feeling like eating something that came from a spa...strange, because since the weather is cool still I would usually want something heavy and cheesy, but no, today it was fresh and healthy.  But healthy has to equal flavorful as well as satisfying, at least in my kitchen!  So I was thinking of ways I could incorporate hummus into my dinner for tonight, since I had made a batch yesterday (spring beet and white bean hummus (see previous post for recipe)).  Wraps using whole grain tortillas sounded like a good idea to me, since I could use the hummus as a flavorful spread and incorporate some fresh veggies as well, and still have it be a filling meal.  I needed a protein source, and I felt like going vegan for today, so I sauteed some chicken style seitan with some garlic and shallots and added it to the filling to make the wrap even more substantial.  The wraps turned out wonderfully, and took no time at all to prepare...plus they made me feel like I was at a spa!  Here's the recipe:

Beet Hummus and Chicken Style Seitan Veggie Wraps

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 16 oz pkg chicken style seitan
2 garlic cloves
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
juice of one lemon
4 8 inch whole grain tortillas (I used Ezekiel sprouted)
1/2 cup hummus (see previous post for my beet and white bean hummus recipe, but store bought is fine)
4 leaves of romaine lettuce
1 medium carrot, cut into julienne
1/2 large cucumber, cut into julienne
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat and add shallot.  Saute until softened and add seitan and garlic.  Saute until heated through, then add salt and pepper to taste as well as oregano and lemon juice.  Stir in and remove from heat.  To assemble wraps, spread hummus on each wrap on the upper half of the wrap, dividing evenly among the four. Place a romaine leaf on each.  Spoon seitan mixture onto each wrap in a line on the upper third of the wrap.  Divide carrots, cucumber and sprouts evenly among the wraps placing the veggies atop the seitan.  Roll up the wraps tight, secure with toothpicks, and cut in half on the diagonal if desired.  Makes 4

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pink Hummus?

Spring is now here...and so I am in favor of all things brightly colored, especially beets! I like to use them as a natural food coloring in cakes...but they bring a beautiful pin color to anything you blend them into! I had recently seen a recipe for beetroot hummus, I don't remember where, but it inspired me to try and create my own since I had some cooked beets leftover from last night's dinner.  I always try and use what I have on hand if I can, so I had some dried white beans in my cupboard, and I decided that they could replace the usual chickpeas in my hummus.  I threw in that beet for some beautiful pink color, and voila!  This is a fairly traditional hummus recipe besides the beets and beans (but with my own proportions of course).  If you are a hummus lover, then try this one!  Especially if you are in need of some spring color!

Spring Beet and White Bean Hummus
2 cups cooked white beans (canned is fine)
1 medium beet, cooked
juice of 3 lemons
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 Tbsp sea salt
1/8-1/4 tsp dried chipotle pepper (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 tsp ground cumin
6 garlic cloves

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and process until smooth. Serve with chips or veggies for dipping!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I have always loved mustard.  In my opinion it is a hundred times better than ketchup, no ketchup on my hotdogs (actually soydogs, since I don't eat pork or beef).  I enjoy mustard so much that if I find a good pale ale honey mustard, or a spicy coarse grain mustard, I could just eat a spoonful of it plain. I have been making my own for a while, usually just coarse grained honey mustard, but I decided to change it up a bit this time and make a balsamic maple garlic mustard instead.  It may not be the usual suspect when it comes to how mustard looks, since it is brown and not yellow, but it is definately delicious!  It is sweet yet tangy with a wonderful garlic flavor, making it perfect for salad dressings, or on a sandwich.  Here is the recipe if you want a mustard you can't find in a store and have a little time to make it!

Balsamic Maple Garlic Coarse Grainy Mustard

3/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
6 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp water
4 large garlic cloves
1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp sea salt

In a large bowl, combine mustard seeds, and vinegars.  Cover with plastic and let sit overnight.  Place in a blender, along with the remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth, but still has grains to it.  Add the mustard back to the saucepan, and cook for about 10 minutes over low heat, stirring often, until the garlic flavor has mellowed, and the mustard has thickened slightly.  Pour into jars, and allow to cool.  Keeps in the fridge for at least 6 months.  Makes about 3 cups.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nature's butter...

I call avocadoes "nature's butter", because their texture is like no other fruit, and they have a wonderful delicate flavor that can be used to make things silky when pureed.  The funny thing is avocadoes clean your blood, and butter clogs it...don't get me wrong, I love butter, and there is a time and a place for it, but avocado fat is the type that you always feel good about eating.  I was in California about a month ago, and I had a wonderful salad that featured avocadoes.  So yesterday I decided to try and recreate it, because I came across some beautiful avocadoes at the store while I was shopping...maybe I was subconsciously thinking I needed to provide my body with some good oils and nutrients after a big workout?  Well the fact that the avocadoes were on sale helped I guess, and the fact that they are just so darn good!  So I picked up some butter lettuce, mushrooms, and roquefort cheese to go in the salad as well, because those were all things that the salad I had out in CA contained.  I am not sure what type of dressing the restaurant used on their salad, it probably contained mayonnaise, but me, not being a fan of mayo, decided to use pureed avocado to make the dressing creamy.  I threw in some lemon juice, and garlic to give it some zip, as well as some honey to keep it sweet.  When it was all tossed together and we were eating it with dinner, I decided that I liked it better than the one I had eaten in California!  It had all the same toppings like the diced avocadoes, roquefort, egg and mushrooms, but what was different was the dressing...and of course I believe that what made this salad better was the humble avocado! 

Avocado and Mushroom Salad with Roquefort and Egg
1 Tbsp Avocado oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 medium ripe avocado
2 small garlic cloves
1 Tbsp honey plus a tsp
sea salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 heads bibb lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite salad sized pieces
2 small avocados, cut into large dice (preferrably just ripe, not too mushy)
12 small crimini mushrooms,thinly sliced
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, finely diced (easiest to use an egg slicer)
2 oz good quality roquefort cheese, crumbled

In a food processor, combine dressing ingredients, blend until very smooth and set aside. In a large bowl, combine lettuce, avocadoes, mushrooms, and shallots. Toss with enough dressing to coat, and divide lettuce mixture between 4 plates. Scatter diced egg and roquefort over the salads dividing evenly among the four plates, and serve!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Grown Up Grilled Cheese

Ever since I was a little girl, grilled cheese has been one of my favorite comfort foods.  Of course I have graduated from ordering it every time I go out to eat (which is what I did when I was 5), but it is still something that I feel just needs to be made occasionally, especially after a busy, stressful day at work.  Of course now I am not the grilled cheese purist I once was when I was little, insisting it be made simply with cheddar and white bread (and I no longer dip it in ketchup).  I now prefer to add grilled or sauteed veggies to the sandwich, to make it more interesting and so I can at least claim that part of it is healthy.  Also I prefer to use crusty rustic bread, often of the whole grain type, and put cheeses other than cheddar on it.  This time I chose fennel and shallots laced with garlic and lemon for the veggies, and roquefort for a flavorful cheese, with some mozzarella to ensure lots of melty goodness.  This is is what I prescribe as a remedy after a hard day at work!

Carmelized Fennel Roquefort Grilled Cheese

makes 2 sandwiches

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp butter
4 slices rustic country bread
3 oz roquefort cheese
4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil, then add the fennel and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally until very soft. Add the garlic, and saute for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and thyme, and stir to combine. Remove from heat. To assemble sandwiches, spread butter on one side of each bread slice. Place 2 bread slices on a plate, buttered side down. Top bread slices with half of the cheeses then top cheese with fennel mixture. Top with remaining cheese, then remaining 2 bread slices, buttered side up. Heat a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Place sandwiches in skillet. Cook sandwiches until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side, then transfer to the oven to melt the cheese completely. Cut in half, and serve!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Recipe: Winter Citrus Spiced Pecan Salad with Roquefort

My counter was overflowing with citrus fruits, so I decided to make them into a salad to keep life interesting.  I combined blood oranges, a regular orange and a grapefruit for a variety of color and flavor, with some bibb lettuce I had in the fridge, a shallot I had on the counter, some spiced pecans I had made and some roquefort cheese I had leftover.  I would definately reccomend making this salad if you need a little sunshine to chase away the winter blahs while you wait for spring to arrive!

Winter Citrus Pecan Salad with Roquefort

(serves 2)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp honey dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup pecans
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp maple sugar, or brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 head butter or bibb, or boston lettuce, washed and shredded into edible sized pieces
1 blood orange, supremed
1 orange, supremed
1 red grapefruit, supremed (Rio Star is my favorite)
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
3 oz roquefort cheese crumbled
Whisk together dressing ingredients, and set aside. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss together pecans, maple syrup, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne and spread out onto the prepared baking sheet. Toast in the oven for about 7-10 minutes or until fragrant and lightly brown. Remove from oven and let cool. In a large bowl, combine lettuce, citrus fruits, and shallot, and toss with the dressing. Divide between 2 plates, and sprinkle roasted nuts and roquefort over the salads. Serve!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sweet Potatos with lime are simply divine...

Last night I made had roasted some sweet potatoes as a side dish.  They are so wonderful on their own, but even more so when you roast them at high heat until the skin is almost charred, then scoop out the soft flesh and puree it with a bit of lime juice and sea salt...that simple, but sooo good!  Amazingly, last night I had extra, since they were rather large potatoes to begin with.  Not being the type that likes to waste food, I let my imagination wander as to what sort of new and interesting dish I could possibly make them into.  Well, I had some extra filo dough in the freezer, and some goat cheese in the fridge as well as some limes on the counter...so I thought, what if I mixed together the cheese, lime and sweets, and encased them in the filo dough as a sort of snack or appetizer...would it work?  Would it taste good?  There was only one way to find out.  I decided that to make them even more tasty I could make a sort of a pesto to go along with them.  I decided the pesto would contain cashews, coconut and cilantro among other things, and I could whip it up while the triangles were baking!  I was very pleased with the result of this new food creation!  The triangles were fabulous!   The pesto to go along with them turned out delicious as well, but if you are in a time crunch you could just do the triangles...they are very addictive, and I bet you can't eat just one.  They are even good at room temperature and could be used as an appetizer at a party.  If you do end up making the pesto, you can use extra as a dip or spread. 

Sweet Potato Cheese Triangles with Cashew Coconut Cilantro Pesto

1 5-oz. log soft goat cheese
1 cup sweet potato puree
1/4 cup lime juice
1 Tbsp lime zest
1 large egg
1/4 tsp ground chipotle peppers
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. sea salt salt
3/4 cup melted salted butter
12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted in refrigerator

Coconut Cashew Cilantro Pesto:
3/4 cup coconut milk (canned is fine)
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 1/2 cups finely shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
1 1/2 cups salted roasted cashews
1 cup packed fresh cilantro
zest and juice of 4 limes
juice of two oranges
4 fresh garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.
Mix together cheese, sweet potato puree, lime juice and zest, egg, chipotle, and garlic in a medium sized bowl until well combined.
Place one sheet phyllo on work surface, and use a pastry brush to coat one half of it with butter. Fold in half lengthwise, and brush top with more butter. Fold in half again to make 4-inch strip of dough. Brush strip with butter, then spoon about 2 Tbs. sweet potato mixture on corner of bottom edge. Fold corner across to make a small triangle, then fold up like a flag, enclosing sweet potato in triangle of phyllo. Brush both sides of phyllo triangle with butter, then place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining phyllo sheets, butter, and sweet potato mixture. Bake about 20-22 minutes, or until triangles are golden. Transfer to wire rack, and cool at least 10 minutes before serving. While the Triangles are baking, combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth. Serve with the Triangles. Makes 12 triangles

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pecorino, Pine Nuts and Pears...

In the winter there are three ingredients that end up in my salads quite often...pecorino romano cheese, toasted pine nuts, and pears.  I love the saltiness of the pecorino romano, and I know a lot of people would consider this completely obsurd, since supposedly Parmigiano Reggiano is the king of cheeses, but I actually like pecorino better (and it is a lot cheaper)!  I tend to favor cheeses made from milks other than cows as well, because they seem to be more flavorful (pecorino happens to come from a sheep).  As far as the pine nuts go, they are like gold in a nut form...very expensive, but totally worth a splurge and definately deserve to be sprinkled atop many dishes!  They have a wonderfully buttery flavor that you don't get with any other nut, and have a particular affinity for lemon, and citrusy flavors.  As far as the pears go, Anjou is my favorite, but Bartlett often finds its way into many of my recipes as well.  Lucky for fruit lovers that we have pears in season thorough the winter months to get us through the peach and other summer fruit withdrawal!  To combine these 3 ingredients I came up with a pecorino pine nut and parmesan salad, and threw in some kumquats for color, since they go well with the three.  This salad is a cure for if you are feeling sick of all the heavy winter food, and looking for something light and refreshing! 

Pecorino, Pine Nut and Pear Salad

2 Tbsp roasted pine nuts
1/2 oz freshly shredded pecorino romano
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, and torn into pieces
1 large pear (such as anjou or bartlett), thinly sliced
16 kumquats, thinly sliced
1/4 cup roasted pine nuts
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
To make dressing, combine all ingredients in the food processor, and process until smooth. Place lettuce, pear, and kumquats in a large bowl, pour dressing over, and toss together with hands (the best way to get everything evenly tossed if you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty). divide salad between 2 plates, and top with remaining pine nuts and pecorino.