Homemade cooking with healthy seasonal ingredients
I started this blog to share my desire to create and eat healthy meals with others. I grew up eating dinner out most evenings and I don't think that is the healthiest way to eat, so now I really value healthy, seasonal, home-cooked meals. But don't get me wrong, I do love to eat out on the weekends and take a break from cooking! I currently live in Northern California with my husband, two children and our (semi) feral cat. I am originally from Michigan and have lived in several different places in the US and for a very brief time in Hong Kong. I prefer to cook meals from scratch when time allows and I use organic ingredients when feasible. My cooking is not usually original, but I often tweak recipes from popular sites and magazines to suit them to my family's liking and to make them more nutritious and healthy. I enjoy cooking (of course), gardening (I really need to improve on this one!), skiing, biking, tennis, yoga, reading, traveling and wine.
I rarely buy Trader Joes bagged salad mixes, but for some reason the Cruciferous Crunch Collection with shredded kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, green and red cabbage looked really good today. Then there was the problem of what on earth am I going to make out of this? I had an “ah ha moment” when I realized that the real reason I was going to Trader Joes was to pick up some chicken to make homemade chicken soup for my sick child. Then the perfect idea came to me, Asian chicken salad with the extra chicken from the soup, perfect! This only serves 2-3, so double the recipe if you are feeding 4 adults, or use it this way if it is just a side dish for 4-6 people. I hope you enjoy this very crunchy light meal!
I have often wanted to make granola but always thought the stuff from the store is good enough, why bother. Well now I get it. Before I even tasted the granola, I was won over while the granola was baking by the heavenly smells of the pumpkin spices, roasting nuts, and oats permeating through my house. This was enough to convince me that I will never buy packaged granola again! Give it a try and feel free to substitute types of nuts/dried fruit that you prefer and spices that you prefer or that are seasonal. Thank you to Jen Jones of Sweet Green Kitchen for the recipe. I only made very minor adjustments.
3 cups of rolled oats (I like thick old fashioned rolled oats)
1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts
1/4 cup chopped raw almonds
1/4 cup chopped raw pistachios
1/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds, shelled)
1/8 cup flax seeds
1/8 cup ground flax
1/8 cup psyllium husk (ground)
1/8 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 -2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ginger or just 2 teaspoons cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 Tablespoons of coconut oil
2 Tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar (I have read don’t use honey because the delicate enzymes will be destroyed by the heat)
1/2 cup of no sugar added, 100% fruit jam (apricot or strawberry is recommended)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons water
1/4 cup chopped dried fruit-sweetened dried cranberries
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
Line a large 12″x17″ rimmed baking pan with parchment paper (or grease the pan). Set aside.
Mix the coconut oil, sugar and jam in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until well combined. Remove from heat and add vanilla and water, stir and set aside to cool slightly.
Mix all the dry ingredients (oats through salt) in a large bowl.
Pour the wet ingredient mixture into the dry mixture. Stir until the dry ingredients are fully mixed with the wet. Add additional water if necessary.
Press granola mixture into the pan, press mixture down so it all sticks together. Press hard (with a back of a measuring cup for example).
Bake the granola in the oven for 15 minutes. Stir the granola and re-press into pan. Cook for 10 more minutes and stir again adding the chopped cranberries and re-press into pan. Place back into the oven for 15 more minutes, but make sure not to let it burn, granola can be perfect one minute and burned the next!
Remove from oven and allow to cool on the pan. It may cook a little longer after you take it out. When cool store in a large airtight container. Enjoy!
Notes: updated 11/9/17
Don’t add dried fruit right away, it tends to take on a burned flavor. I have had more success adding it in the last 15 minutes of cooking, although a lot of recipes say add it after cooking, but then it won’t stick to the granola and I like my granola chunky.
I have tried both cooking the wet ingredients and not cooking them and I see the logic in cooking them, the ingredients emulsify that way, but I am not sure the end result is any different. I re-wrote the recipe to include the cooking of the wet ingredients step, but I am still on the fence about this.
Overall cooking granola is pretty tricky! I am finding that it can burn very quickly, so cooking it low and slow is my mantra. I have experimented with cooking it at 280 degrees, but maybe that is too conservative, seems a little raw, so I think 300 is better.
It is autumn and that means pomegranate time! I love pomegranates but I hate getting the arils (seeds) out of them. I pretty much have avoided them unless I was willing to shell out the cash to buy the arils in a package. Then to be honest they are often slimy and not so great. But lo and behold I discovered recently that cutting open a pomegranate doesn’t have to look like something was butchered in my kitchen! I can’t believe I didn’t know this until a couple of weeks ago–how did I miss this? This would have saved my children and myself a lot of anxiety every autumn when they wanted my to buy whole pomegranates and I would try my best to avoid it or get really crazy with bibs and aprons and tons of paper towels to contain the flying red juice. Sorry kids! Click here for detailed instructions on how to accomplish this feat and keep your hands their natural color.
I got this recipe idea from the wonderful chef my husband hired for my birthday recently. She made this incredible little appetizer of crostini, grilled Haloumi cheese and pomegranate seeds. The flavors were so incredible and so autumn-like! So today I was trying to come up with an interesting salad with pomegranate seeds and then I thought about the warmed Haloumi cheese and voilà, this is what I came up with. Hope you all like it as much as we did!
Vibrant pomegranate, fennel, tomato, baby lettuce and Haloumi salad is full of wonderful autumn flavors .
Credit: adapted from Haloumi, Pomegranate and Rocket Salad on Taste.com.au
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
180 grams Haloumi Cheese, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
12 ounces of mixed baby lettuces
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium fennel bulb, very thinly sliced, reserve some fronds for garnish
1 pomegranate, seeded (see this page for excellent instructions)
Mix first four ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking to emulsify it. Set dressing aside.
Place the greens and fennel slices in a large serving bowl.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the pine nuts to the dry pan and toast for a few minutes. Careful they burn fast! Remove pine nuts and set aside.
Add a little cooking spray to pan and heat up again. Add the Haloumi slices and cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until slightly browned. Remove from pan and place on top of salad.
Heat up the tomato halves in the hot pan for just a couple of minutes, adding a little salt and pepper and spread them on top of the Haloumi on the salad. Add the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and serve with the dressing on the side (or toss if you prefer).
I braised the chicken and vegetables in a ceramic dutch oven, but the inspiration recipe cooks it in a crock pot. Either way, this is a pretty easy and healthy recipe that you can throw together the night before or in the morning and cook all day in a crock pot or for a couple of hours in a dutch oven. I made this very mild so the spice phobe will eat it and the rest of us can add chopped chili peppers at the table, but if you don’t have any spice phobes it would certainly be better with spicy peppers cooked in it!
1 quart of no-salt or low-sodium chicken stock (or broth)
1 small sweet onion chopped (or half a large onion)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large bell peppers (whatever color you like) chopped
2 jalapeños chopped (seeded if you want less heat)
2 ears of fresh corn, shucked and cut off the cob
1 – 14.4 oz. can of no salt added roasted tomatoes with the liquid
1 1/2 teaspoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or fresh, use a few sprigs and pull the stems out before serving)
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast meat, sliced in quarters (can leave whole if you are willing to cook a longer time or are putting in a crock pot all day)
1 – 14.4 oz can of no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
chopped romaine lettuce (about 1 cup/person)
*Mexican brown rice (or whatever you prefer)
approx. 1 cup of shredded mixed Mexican cheese blend (or cheddar) – Optional
guacamole, diced tomatoes and a few pieced of chopped cilantro as a topping — optional
*Mexican Brown Rice: Cook rice with 1/2 water and 1/2 chicken broth, 1 tsp of chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin and a shake of oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook according to rice package directions (I like to use a rice cooker).
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large dutch oven combine chicken stock, onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeños, corn, tomatoes with their liquid, and spices. Mix well and then add chicken.
With the lid on the dutch oven, put the chicken mixture into the the oven for an hour and stir it occasionally.
After the first hour check that it has not become too dry, there still should be plenty of liquid in there. Add the black beans and cook another 30 minutes without the lid, or until the chicken is falling apart and the liquid has mostly evaporated and the dish looks more like a stew and less like a soup.
Remove pot from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
Serve by first layering a cup of chopped lettuce, a 1/4 – 1/2 cup rice, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture, a sprinkling of cheese, a dollop of guacamole, a sprinkling of diced tomatoes and a few sprigs of cilantro.
Note: This can also be put into a tortilla and eaten like a taco; or put into corn tortillas with a spicy red Mexican sauce and melted cheese to make it enchiladas; or spread chicken mixture over tortilla chips and melt cheese over it for nachos. It would also be very nice as a vegetarian dish with extra vegetables and sub the chicken stock for vegetable stock and leave the chicken out. The possibilities are endless!
I didn’t set out to make enchiladas on a Monday night, the plan was crab cakes and salad, but when I told my son I was making crab cakes he looked at me and said “Mom, you know I don’t like crab cakes.” Well, I guess I really have been ignoring that, as I do believe that sometimes it takes ten or more times to try a food before you might like it. He actually used to like crab cakes, not sure what changed, but I decided why bother if he won’t eat it or just picks at it. So now what to do with the crab I bought earlier from Trader Joes. It was pre-packaged in the refrigerator section, so I didn’t have to use it yesterday, but I thought I would anyway, as I was now in the mood for it. I had a distant memory of crab enchiladas I made many years ago. I dug up the recipe and didn’t like how it looked (tastes change over time!). Then my husband and I both found a recipe online that looked pretty good for crab and avocado enchiladas, but it had a white sauce in and on it, which was not what I was thinking, I was thinking a green tomatillo sauce, so I created my own recipe. I was in a tremendous hurry and didn’t have a lot of confidence this would turn out to be worthy of this blog, so I didn’t take pictures. Nevertheless it was pretty tasty so I will post the recipe (best as I can remember). I will probably tweak it in the future and I will post that when/if I do. I have a feeling this would be just as good without the crab and just vegetables (adding a few more mushrooms and doubling the spinach).
Veggie-filled crab enchiladas with a tomatillo sauce.
1 fresh ear of corn with husk still on it
1 small yellow or sweet onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 red bell pepper, chopped (in addition a jalapeño would be great as well if no one you are cooking for is afraid of spicy food)
3 large mushrooms, diced
1- 12 oz package of fresh spinach, chopped
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano (or a little more of this and all spices)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper to taste
16 oz crabmeat — I used Chicken of the Sea pre-packaged lump crabmeat in the refrigerator section of Trader Joes. Fresh would be better but more time-consuming and more expensive, not to mention that crab is not currently in season here — yeah, I know this is a “seasonal” cooking blog…but I am not perfect.
1 1/2 cups shredded mixed Mexican cheese (1 cup for filling and ½ cup or so to top enchiladas with).
8–12 tortillas — I used some corn and flour hybrid tortillas and some flour tortillas because they are easier to handle than plain corn, but enchiladas are traditionally made with corn tortillas. The corn-flour ones were pretty small so I used about 10 tortillas total.
2 cups (at least) of Tomatillo Sauce –NOTE: I knew I couldn’t make the enchiladas plus a sauce from scratch on a Monday night so I bought 2 packages of “Frontera Brand Green Chile Enchilada Sauce” (see picture below). It was pretty good actually but my son found it spicy (I disagree) — Here are links for two homemade tomatillo sauces from Cooking Light that I have made previously that I think would be very good in this recipe:http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/classic-salsa-verde or http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/green-chile-sauce
1 avocado, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
Microwave the corn in the husk for a few minutes until corn is tender. Cool and then cut kernels off the cob. Set aside.
Chop onion, garlic, red pepper (jalapeño if using), mushrooms, and spinach.
Heat a large skillet with a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
Sauté the onion, garlic and red pepper for 5 minutes in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook a few minutes longer until the mushroom water evaporates some. Add the chopped spinach and season with salt and pepper, oregano, chili powder and cumin. Stir well and cook for a few more minutes or until the spinach wilts.
Remove the mixture from the heat and put into a large mixing bowl. Add crab and cheese and stir well.
Spoon a few tablespoons of tomatillo sauce onto bottom of greased baking dish.
Heat up tortillas if using corn tortillas (so they don’t crack when rolled). Flour tortillas don’t need heating.
Spoon crab and vegetable mixture into tortillas. Roll them and place them seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat until all the crab mixture is used up.
Pour tomatillo sauce over enchiladas until it comes at least half-way up the enchiladas. Sprinkle desired amount of cheese over the top of the enchiladas (about ½ cup). Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown a bit and sauce is bubbly.
Remove from oven and top with chopped avocado, tomatoes, and jalapeno. Serve and enjoy!
This is pretty much a straight-up Food and Wine/Andrew Zimmern recipe. Really easy and really flavorful! Original recipe included 2 scallions, thinly sliced and did not include the mushrooms or avocado (or sometimes tomatoes) that I added. I think some grilled shrimp or hardboiled egg would be really good in this as well. I served this with Quick Brined Roasted Salmon with Lemon Garlic Oil and some simple brown Jasmine rice. Very easy and delicious meal. My son could not get enough of the salmon and the salmon’s savory sauce.
Here is it with the tomato and as a side dish with salmon.
As I was making my son breakfast I noticed that I had two perfectly ripe bananas. Too ripe for eating but perfect for baking, so I whipped up a quick batch of banana muffins. Yum! These are so delicious and quite healthy too with the whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour and almond meal, only a cup of sugar and wholesome bananas, eggs and yogurt. Try it for a quick breakfast with some fruit or a healthy snack.
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I use non-fat, but use what you prefer)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 large eggs
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries, juice sweetened or unsweetened (watch out, these can have a lot of sugar added) or raisins
1/4 cup nuts of choice (I used pumpkin seeds today)
parchment paper muffin liners
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Combine flours and next 7 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk.
In a small bowl mix with a whisk the yogurt, oil, egg, banana and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the cranberries and nuts. Stir gently.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, stirring just until moist. Will be pretty thick.
Spoon the batter into a muffin tin lined with parchment paper muffin liners. The parchment liners don’t require any oil, they are non-stick and are an incredible find! If you don’t have these then lightly spray your muffin tins with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
I usually freeze half the batch to put in a lunch box or enjoy at a later date.
Pretty warm day here in the Bay Area. I decided I would make crab cakes Crab Cakes and a tomato, corn and avocado salad. This was based on what looked fresh at the grocery store today. Just a quick salad that I threw together, no actual recipe, but I tried to capture it the best I could in the recipe below. Enjoy!
Tomato, Corn and Avocado Salad with Ricotta Salata
1 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half or quarters depending on size
1 avocado, diced and soaked in lime juice
1 tablespoon lime juice (approx)
2 ears of fresh corn, cooked and sliced off the cobb
2 tablespoons ricotta salata cheese, very small dice
freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Combine the tomatoes, avocado with lime juice, corn and ricotta in a medium bowl. Try to add the corn while it is still hot or warm, it warms up the rest of the salad and makes the flavor more intense. Mix well.
Sprinkle with the salt, pepper and olive oil and mix well.
So easy and so delicious! I got the recipe from Feed Me Phoebe and I have made it several times. The first couple of times I used Great Northern beans instead of Garbanzo beans and I have also used marinated artichokes instead of water-packed artichokes, but I think it is healthier with the water-packed artichokes. I have also added a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach in the past, which I would have done today, but I am out of spinach! The hummus is great any of these ways. Below is the basic recipe, pretty much unchanged from Phoebe Lapine’s recipe.
I took a little blogging-break, but hopefully I am back for the next month or so. June blog entries will probably be very light if at all. But hey, who wants to cook in the summer anyway! This a a very simple and easy dish to slowly get myself back in the swing of writing again. This is a Food & Wine recipe that I added asparagus and mushrooms to. A very flavorful and nice quick weeknight dinner.
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms (or white button), cut into thick slices
1 pound asparagus, ends broken off and sliced into one-inch pieces
fresh ground pepper
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (save time and buy it deveined, it is worth it!)
2 tablespoon small capers, drained
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
In a very large skillet heat some olive oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes. Add the asparagus and the shrimp and cook over high heat until the shrimp are lightly browned and barely opaque, about 2 minutes.
Add the capers and cook for 30 seconds. Turn the shrimp and add the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley. Cover and cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through and the sauce is slightly reduced. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a dish and spoon the sauce on top. Add a sprinkle of the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley and serve. Enjoy with some crusty whole wheat bread or rice.