Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2014-09-23 20.10.04Sweet potatoes are a nutritious fall treat.  Rich in dietary fiber, vitamins A, B, and C it makes for a great side dish to any meal.  The starchy goodness is complimented by subtle sweetness that really takes off when highlighted the right way.  I got 3 pretty big sweet potatoes in our CSA this week that I knew I couldn’t eat all by myself, so I had to find a way to disguise them into something my husband would eat.  Roasting the potatoes is an easy way to cook them, and it brings out the natural sweetness in the vegetables.   I also learned that baking sweet potatoes increases the Vitamin C content, go figure.  To sweeten I debated between using my traditional go-to brown sugar or maple syrup.  I went the maple syrup route as I keep hearing it is the new “healthy sugar” of choice.

I am not a fan of going full-sweet when making dinner sides, so to keep the savory touch I roasted with leeks and put a few sprigs of thyme on top. Usually, I remove thyme from the stem and stir it into my dishes, but I so often see in recipes that the thyme is used whole to add flavor then removed.  Sometimes the small leaves become bitter while roasting, so I kept the stems attached and removed the sprigs just prior to eating.  I was surprised at how the flavor incorporated so well without actually remaining in the finished product.  To round out the flavors I mixed in a few dashes of ground ginger.  This side smelt like thanksgiving while roasting, maybe it will make an appearance on the thanksgiving table this year.

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Ingredients:

-2 Large Sweet Potatoes, washed and diced with skin on
-1 large leek, diced into 1/2-1″ pieces
-2 Tbsp of oil (I used grape seed oil, you can use whatever you prefer)
-salt and pepper to taste
-2-3 dashes of ground ginger
-2-3 Tbsp of high quality maple syrup
-3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions:

  1. Prepare potatoes and leeks and place into oven safe dish.  Drizzle with olive oilthen season with salt, pepper, and ground ginger.
  2. Mix well then place sprigs of thyme on top, drizzle with maple syrup and an additional dash of salt.
  3. Roast in the oven at 400F for 45 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender, stir once during roasting.
  4. Remove thyme sprigs after cooking.

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Enjoy!

Hot Giardiniera

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Giardiniera is a blend of vegetables that are pickled and can be eaten as an antipasto or used as a condiment.  This recipe is one I got from my mom years ago and have really grown to love.  It takes some prep work and you are a few days away from the finished product, but believe me it is well worth the efforts.  When you make a giardiniera using hot peppers like this recipe, it is also called “Chicago Giardiniera”, typically eaten on Italian beef sandwiches.  We eat it liberally on sandwiches, wraps, sausages, spaghetti squash, over eggs, or even on its own.

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I have experimented in the past with hot water canning this giardiniera to preserve it for months.  This is a little risky as I do not have a recipe for timing the cooking or canning of this recipe to kill of all the bacteria, so I do not feel comfortable sharing a method at this time.  I suggest keeping the giardiniera in the fridge and using it up in a few weeks to a month.  The vinegar is preserving to allow the vegetables to stay fresh in the fridge for quite a while.

The oil you use should be picked based on flavor, so pick a high quality.  Know that the oil will solidify slightly in the fridge, so let it sit out a few minutes before eating.  If you want to lighten up the recipe a little, I would suggest using a grape seed or avocado oil in place of olive oil.  The recipe makes a significant amount, 6-8 pints, based on how quickly you will consume it may be wise to plan to share or half the recipe below.

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Ingredients:

2 green bell peppers, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
8 fresh jalepenos, sliced
1-2 other hot peppers of choice
3 large celery stalks, sliced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups fresh cauliflower florets, diced small
1/2 cup salt
water to cover
2-3 cloves garlic, freshly minced
1 tbsp dried oregano, heaping
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
1-5oz jar green olives, sliced (if desired)
1 C white vinegar (pickling or white wine)
1 C olive oil (or avocado or grape seed oil work well also)

Directions:

  1. Place the prepared peppers, celery, carrots, onion, and cauliflower into a large bowl that is able to be sealed or covered.  Stir in salt and fill with cold water until vegetables are covered.  Cover bowl and place in fridge overnight.2014-09-07 17.07.16
  2. The next day, drain salty water and rinse vegetables well.
  3. In a bowl mix garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, black pepper and olives.  Pour in vinegar and oil, mix well to combine with vegetables. 2014-09-08 19.40.58
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days before use.

I typically package the giardiniera into pint or cup sized mason jars immediately after mixing, however you can return mixture to the original large bowl and seal in the fridge for 2 days before distributing into easier to manage jars or containers.

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Enjoy!

Healthy Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

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When it comes to exclusively fall foods, pumpkin is one that certainly comes to mind.  No other time of year do I want to ingest a Jack-o-lantern, let alone crave it.  There is something so indulgent but at the same time healthy.  Pumpkin is a type of squash full of vitamins (A,B,C, and K) and minerals.  The flavor is distinct but it is easily used in seasonal drinks, desserts, and now healthy smoothies.  I feel like I’m playing a trick on my body with this treat because it tastes so good but is really good for me.

I used my Vitamix blender to get the rich and velvety quality of the smoothie, in just 45 seconds of blend time you have guest pleasing dessert…or breakfast if you desire.

Ingredients:

-1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
-1/2 cup of almond milk or coconut milk (I mixed the two 50/50)
-1 frozen banana
-1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
-1/4 heaping tsp of pumpkin pie spice
-1/2 Tbsp of vanilla extract
-1 Tbsp maple syrup (I used a grade B syrup with rich flavor, you can use agave or brown sugar here too)
-1 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Directions:

Place all ingredients into the Vitamix blender and slowly increase speed to high, blend for 45 seconds.  Add more milk if needed for consistency.

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Note:

-If you don’t have your banana frozen, put it in fresh and add a small handful of ice, you may need more milk when doing this.

-To make this more of a breakfast treat, try adding 1/4 cup of rolled oats or sprinkle with flax seed.

-Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg if serving for dessert.

Heirloom Tomato Simple Side

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Heirloom tomatoes are about to be finished for the season, but if you can get your hands on one I would highly recommend it.  A good tomato can stand alone on my plate, but sometimes it is nice to dress it up a little.  For a simple side we have been eating this summer I slice the tomato into big slices and dress it up a little.  It doesn’t get much easier or healthier.

I love the way basil matches with tomatoes, but don’t feel like you have to stop there.  I love chives when serving with a savory breakfast as pictured above or parsley when accompanying a sandwich.

Ingredients:

-1 heirloom tomato sliced thick
-1 Tbsp of good quality olive oil
-dash of Kosher salt
-1 Tbsp of fresh herbs roughly chopped or torn

Directions:

Arrange tomato slices on a plate and drizzle with olive oil.  Next sprinkle with herbs and kosher salt…done!

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Smoker Cooking the Summer Away.

I have had a lot of remarks lately about my drop in posts this summer.  I do apologize, I have been doing some very simple cooking that I either haven’t found the time for, or just haven’t found “post worthy”.  Another major factor is that my husband and I bought an electric smoker this summer.  We have been smoking a lot of meat and fish on Sunday that we then eat in various meals during the following week.  Most people are not smoking meats at home and I felt this would have really limited my readers ability to recreate these meals.  We went the electric route with our smoker given the limited space on our balcony.  Going electric with the Masterbuilt Smoker was also a great call for us personally as the temperature remains consistent and the smoke output is limited…great for condo living.

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We have fallen in love with this method of cooking for the summer.  I love how easy it is to make a protein that can last all week but still has the ability to make a new meal every night.  As the fall approaches I will be reverting to more traditional methods of cooking and will be increasing my posts.  The recipes I made with smoked protein this summer I am sure to be making and posting with traditionally cooked proteins through the Fall and Winter, so don’t feel like you missed out on much!

Here are just a few of the meals I did capture on camera this summer with smoked proteins:

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Smoked salmon on a bagel with cream cheese, tomato, and chives.

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Homemade Ramen with smoked pork (I will definitely be making this again to post).

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Fresh salad with smoked salmon filet and tangy herb vinaigrette.

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Smoked brisket with a side of red coleslaw.

If you are in fact interested in the marinades, rubs, or woods we utilized for smoking meats this summer please leave a comment and I can provide this for you.  Otherwise, get ready for Fall and all the delicious soups, roasts, and hearty sides that come with the season!

Pumpkin Spice Latte

SeasonsForCooking

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On the weekends we like to make the most of our Breville Barista Express, making what we consider a latte.  We bought it as a Christmas present for ourselves last year and have not been disappointed with the purchase.  It has even turned us into bean snobs, right now we only order in beans from Brooklyn.  You can taste the difference and the grind is so much better than any bean from Starbucks.

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With a little crisp of Fall in the air I wanted to make the ever famous Pumpkin Spice Latte.  I browsed a lot of recipes online before settling with these proportions below.  I tried to make it both healthy and light in flavor as I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m drinking the uncooked filling of a pumpkin pie.

Ingredients: 

– 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened

-1 cup of coconut milk (from a can, I like Trader Joe’s…

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