Spaghetti Bolognese

There’s something so comforting about Italian food, especially the way it brings family and friends together. Whenever I cook Italian, I try to channel an old Italian grandmother by using this age-old secret ingredient: love. By putting all my love into the food and preparation, a good meal can become a great meal.

Bolognese is a staple of Italian cooking, though I actually had zero experience making a bolognese sauce before this.  I’m all about easy always, so this recipe is right up my alley. Use the freshest ingredients whenever possible (just another way you can add love to the meal), including fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones if they’re in season. To make this recipe even easier, I recommend having a blender on hand to help with the sauce.

Ingredients

-5 large tomatoes, medium or large diced depending on your blender (my favorite, if you have access to them, are early girl organic dry-farmed tomatoes)

-6 basil leaves

-3 whole garlic cloves, plus 2 chopped garlic cloves (keep separate)

-1lb ground beef (grass-fed, organic)

-1 yellow onion, small diced

-1 lb shitake mushrooms, chopped

-2 tablespoons tomato paste

-extra virgin olive oil

-salt, pepper

-crushed red pepper flakes

-spaghetti

 

Instructions

  1. In a blender, add these ingredients in the following order: 1/2 cup olive oil, chopped tomatoes, 3 whole garlic cloves, basil, salt, and pepper.  Blend until it’s a sauce.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil or enough to almost cover the bottom of the pan.  Add the chopped meat, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and chopped garlic. Break apart the meat using a wooden spatula or another cooking utensil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until meat is browned and vegetables are soft. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste.  Stir in the tomato paste until it becomes dark in color, then pour the sauce from the blender. Let the sauce simmer for some time (could be as long as an hour) to get a really flavorful sauce.
  3. Heat a large pot of salted water and bring to a rapid boil.  Add spaghetti and cook for about 10 minutes until al dente.  Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Strain the spaghetti and return to the pot.
  4. Add the reserved pasta water to the skillet.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer for a few minutes.  Add the sauce to the pot of spaghetti and stir in to combine.  Plate and garnish with basil leaves. Enjoy!

 

*Some notes about cooking pasta:

– Never add oil to the pot of water or you’ll get sticky pasta.  Add oil after the pasta cooks to keep it from sticking together.

-Always salt the water.

-Reserve pasta water and add to your sauce to allow the sauce to easily mix and stick to the pasta.

Umbrian Lentil Salad

Hi there!

It’s been awhile since I posted something, but I was feeling inspired by another lentil salad I made today.  I say another because my last post was basically the same recipe, only this one uses a different type of lentil and mixed micro greens instead of romaine. It’s so tasty and simple, I got up this morning and was able to make this salad in 30 minutes before I had to get ready for the day. And it should allow me enough leftovers for the next 2-3 days. So that being said, I highly recommend this recipe to anyone looking for something easy, healthy, and quick to prepare.

Ingredients

For the lentils:

-1 cup lentils

-3 cups water

-1 pinch sea salt

-1 bay leaf

For the Veggies:

-1/2 red onion, small diced

-1 carrot, small diced

-salt, pepper

-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

-optional: chopped parsley and basil

For the Salad:

-extra virgin olive oil

-micro greens, or your favorite greens

-feta cheese

-avocado, sliced

Instructions

  1. Search lentils for any small rocks and remove. Add lentils to a medium pot with the water, a pinch of salt and a bay leaf.  Bring to a rapid boil, then turn the heat to simmer and cook covered with a lid for 25 minutes. *Note: add more water to the pot throughout the cooking process if you notice the lentils have absorbed most of the water.
  2. Once the lentils have cooked for about 15 minutes, add olive oil to a heated pan.  When the oil is hot, add the carrots and onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes or until soft.  Add the chopped herbs and mix in.
  3. When the lentils are done, strain them if there’s excess water.  Remove and discard the bay leaf. Add the cooked vegetables to the pot of lentils and mix together. Allow the lentils to cool, then pour over a bowl of greens, drizzle with olive oil, add feta, avocado and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Green Lentil Salad

Who doesn’t like an easy, mindless recipe?  That’s what this lentil salad recipe basically is, plus, it makes great leftovers, is super healthy and tastes delicious!  I think it’s perfect for this season when the weather is warmer since our bodies are looking to be nourished with more cooling foods.

It’s best to prepare your lentils within a couple months of buying them as it’ll make cooking them simpler.  Know that it is best not to add salt or any acidic ingredients to the lentils until the last 10-15 minutes of cooking, as this will result in crunchy lentils even though they’re cooked.  Also, there are different types of lentils, therefore, different cooking methods required, so this recipe specifically calls for green lentils.

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Ingredients

-1 cup green lentils

-2 cups chicken broth (or water)

-1/2 yellow onion, chopped

-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

-1 bay leaf

-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

-1 avocado, cubed

-2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

-1 tablespoon pesto

-1/2 lemon

-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 tablespoon

-Splash of red wine vinegar

-salt and pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Rinse lentils in a mesh strainer making sure to check for pebbles (remove pebbles if you find them).  Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pot.  Once hot, add the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 30 seconds or until softened and aromatic.
  2. Add the lentils and bay leaf to the pot with broth or water.  Turn heat up to medium-high.  Once at a gentle boil, turn heat down and simmer for 45 minutes. Add salt to the pot the last 10 minutes of cooking.  Remove from the heat and keep covered for at least 10 minutes so lentils can soak up the rest of the water.
  3. While the lentils finish cooking, make the dressing by mixing together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small cup or bowl.
  4. To a large bowl, add the chopped lettuce, lentils, feta, avocado, pesto, and the dressing.  Option to serve with a side of toasted pita bread.  Enjoy!

Serving Up Sunchokes Two Ways

It’s always a treat to come across an unrecognizable fruit or vegetable at the farmers market.  The last time I was out I spotted these small, ginger-like nubs I had never seen. Those little nubs turned out to be sunchokes, which are also called Jerusalem Artichokes. I’m not sure how common sunchokes are, but I highly recommend experimenting with them if you can find them.

If I had to describe a sunchoke, I can easily say it’s like a cross between an artichoke and a potato, but it looks a lot more like ginger as I mentioned before. Here is a photo:

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These babies are flavorful and hearty, and a vegetable I honestly think most people would enjoy, even skeptics and picky eaters.  Sunchokes can be served as a side dish to a meal, but I enjoyed them in these two recipes:

 

Sunchoke and Roasted Garlic Soup

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Ingredients

-1 lb sunchokes, scrubbed, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

-1 russet potato, medium

-1 yellow onion, sliced

-6 cloves garlic, peeled

-1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (adjust if you prefer more mild)

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-6 cups chicken broth or water (use bouillon cube for flavoring if using water)

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toast garlic cloves in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large pot.  When hot, add the sunchokes, potato, onion, crushed red pepper flakes,  nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Saute about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables are lightly browned and softened. Add the garlic.
  3. Add the water or broth, more salt, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes minimum.  I prefer to keep it cooking for a few hours for an extra flavorful soup.
  4. Process the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender either until smooth or almost smooth, depending on whether you like some chunks of veggies.  Check for seasoning and serve.

 

 

Broccoli di Ciccio and Warm Sunchoke Salad

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Ingredients

-1/4 lb sunchokes, scrubbed, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

-Three handfuls of broccoli di Ciccio

– Pomegranate seeds

-Honey goat cheese (or other favorite goat cheese)

-Handful of almonds, chopped

-Lemon slice

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

-salt and pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix broccoli di Ciccio in a large salad bowl with the seeds, almonds, cheese, lemon, remaining olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss and put in the fridge covered.
  2. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. In a bowl, mix sunchokes with about 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Remove salad from the fridge and combine with the sunchokes. Serve.

Delicata Squash and Black Bean Tacos

These tacos are so delicious I nearly forgot to snap a photo for this post because I was too focused on eating them. Rarely do I have vegetarian tacos, but seeing how my New Years resolution was to do more meatless meals, I decided to try something different with one of my favorite winter vegetables, delicata squash. I roasted the squash and paired it with black beans, pickled shallots, cilantro, lettuce, pomegranate seeds and sour cream with spices. The recipe can be made vegan simply by removing the sour cream.  So delicious and quick to make!

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Ingredients

(enough for 1 really hungry person, or 2 moderately hungry people)

-1 delicata squash

-1 small head of lettuce, chopped

-cilantro, chopped

-pomegranate seeds

-1 shallot, sliced

-1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

-organic corn tortillas

-sour cream

-cumin

-chili powder

-garlic powder

-chipotle seasoning

-1/4 apple cider vinegar

-1 tbs sugar

-extra virgin olive oil

-salt

-pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Peel squash and cut it into 1/4 inch rounds.  Remove seeds, cut rounds into halves and place in a bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Place on a lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, combine shallots with vinegar, sugar, and salt for a quick pickling.  Stir every few minutes while the squash cooks.  In a separate small bowl, combine sour cream with chipotle seasoning.
  3. Heat drained black beans in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir every few minutes until hot.
  4. Heat tortillas on the stovetop by placing them directly on each open burner and toasting over medium heat.  Flip as each side starts to brown.
  5. When squash is done, put tacos together by filling them with sour cream, squash, drained shallots, beans, lettuce, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds.

 

Let me know what you think!

 

Smoky Bacon Potato Leek Soup

Dear bacon lovers,

I have found your new favorite soup.  This dish is one I will long for all Spring and Summer as I wait for the return of soup season. The combination of seasonal vegetables with the smoky spices and bacon create a heavenly aroma that’s equally as delicious.  I guarantee you’ll be hooked.  Serve to your whole family or dinner guests this holiday season.

Ingredients

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-3 pieces bacon, chopped

-1/2 yellow onion, diced

-1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into medium-size pieces

-1 large leek or two small leeks, tops removed, white parts sliced width-wise

-4 cloves garlic, minced

-2 dried bay leaves

-1-2 teaspoons paprika (I eyeball it)

-1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika (I eyeball it)

-1-2 teaspoons salt and pepper

-1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

-1 teaspoon thyme leaves

-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

-1 tablespoon heavy cream

-chives for garnish (optional)

-croutons or crushed cheesy crackers for garnish (optional)

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I crumbled these on top and they were delicious

Instructions

  1. Heat large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil.  When hot, add onions and bacon, and cook until browned. Add some paprika, smoked paprika, and pepper.

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2. Add the leeks, potato, garlic and thyme.  Sprinkle with more paprika, smoked paprika, pepper, and this time some salt.  Cook five minutes.

 

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3. Pour broth into the pot and add bay leaves.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until  the vegetables are soft.  Remove the bay leaves and let the soup cool for at five minutes.

 

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4. Transfer to a blender (in batches if necessary) and add the cream.  Blend until smooth. Serve in bowls and garnish.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Stay warm this Fall with my new favorite soup!

butternut-squash

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

-1 butternut squash

-1 yellow onion, chopped

-1 small Granny Smith apple, chopped

-1 small Gala apple, chopped

-5 thyme sprigs

-2 tablespoons butter, melted

-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

-1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

-1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

-salt and pepper

-4 cups chicken broth

Instructions:

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  

2.  Place squash in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes so that it’s softened and easier/safer to cut.  Remove both ends of the squash, then cut in half lengthwise.  Peel the tough, outer skin and remove the “guts” from the inside of the squash.  Continue to cut the squash into smaller, bite-size pieces.

3.  Place the squash in a bowl with the melted butter and thyme leaves, then generously salt and pepper.  Place on the lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.  The squash should be tender enough to pierce with a fork at the end of cooking.

4.  When the squash has cooked for 20 minutes, heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and optional sugar (generally I wouldn’t recommend sugar, but since this is a lot of soup, it’s hardly any sugar per serving).  Add the apples, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. 

5.  In batches, add the cooked squash and onion/apple mixture to the blender along with a cup of chicken broth with each batch.  Blend until smooth.  Continue to add the squash, onions, apples and broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with thyme.  Enjoy!

Three Healthy Meals and One Dessert To Impress Your Guests This Holiday

It’s important to eat with the seasons, and with the cold winter months rolling in, it’s time to start eating warmer, more grounding foods. Below are four simple holiday recipes (also budget-friendly!) that should keep meal prep and cook times to a minimum so that you can fully enjoy your holiday season with friends and family. These dishes could either be served together as one delicious four course meal, or perhaps separately before the big Thanksgiving or holiday meal. I would serve the salad first, then serve the soup and vegetable galette together. Obviously save the dessert for last… or don’t!

Winter Salad

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-1 bag fresh spinach

-1 container of pomegranate arils

-1-2 handfuls of dried cranberries

-chopped pecans

-1 pear, diced

-feta cheese

-balsamic

1. Wash the spinach, pat dry and put into large salad bowl.

2. Add the pomegranate arils, cranberries, chopped nuts, pear and feta cheese. I like to add the juice from the pomegranate container.

3. Personally I find that the salad doesn’t need much dressing if you add juice from the pomegranate arils, but balsamic would be a good choice too. Serve and enjoy!

original recipe: autumn chopped salad

Roasted Carrot Soup

-6 organic carrots
-1 potato
-1 yellow onion
-4 cloves garlic
-chicken stock (I used veggie stock or you can just use water. You can also add a bullion cube or Italian seasoning for flavor)
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
   1. Heat oven to 425 F. Peel the carrots and cut them into bite-size chunks. Cut the potato and onion into smaller chunks. Place the carrots, potato, onion and garlic in a baking dish with olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and roast for 10-15 minutes, until it starts to smell delicious.
    2. Remove dish and place the roasted veggies in a pot. Fill the pot with the chicken stock until it just covers the vegetables. Throw in a bullion cube if desired. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to a simmer and cover with a lid for an hour.
    3. Place contents of pot in a blender and blend until it’s a smooth soup. Enjoy!
Vegetable Galette
(serves 2, or serves 4 as appetizer)
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-1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
-2 small, yellow squash cut into thin circles
-3 tablespoons pesto
-1/3 cup ricotta cheese
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
-flour or whole wheat flour (could also use a GF flour, like coconut flour)
   1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
   2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter or on a cutting board. Lay puff pastry sheet out on top of the flour. Use a rolling pin to spread the sheet out a bit.
   3. Spread ricotta over the puff pastry sheet. Then the pesto.
   4. Lay the thinly cut squash circles on top of the ricotta and pesto. Fold up the sides of the puff pastry.
   5. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper the squash.
   6. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
original recipe: The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson
And finally, for dessert…
Black Bean Brownies
(boyfriend approved!)
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-1 15oz. can beans, drained, rinsed well and patted dry
-2 large eggs
-3 tablespoons coconut oil
-3/4 cups cacao powder
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 cup raw sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking power
-optional: chocolate chips or crushed nuts
   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
   2. Lightly grease a baking dish (8×8 works)
   3. Add beans to a food processor and puree. Then add the remaining ingredients, except the optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   4. If the batter seems too thick, then add a little water and pulse again. The batter should not be too runny.
   5. Distribute the batter into the greased dish and add optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Your brownies are ready to serve!  I poured a little unsweetened almond milk over mine to give them a little moisture. Enjoy!
original recipe: black bean brownies

Cooking With Fat

Fats and oils are essential for cooking. They flavor and lubricate our food while also conducting heat during the cooking process. While in the past, many fats have received a bad reputation and been avoided, we now know that fast are actually fundamental and fantastic for cooking. However, because there are so many fats to choose from, many people end up cooking with the wrong fats or oils for their dish, or simply improperly using them. When cooking with fats and oils, it’s very important to know at what temperature that specific fat or oil begins to break down, also known as the “smoke point.”

Condiments494Every fat has a smoke point, be it butter, lard, or oil. If you’ve ever seen your pan smoke, typically after it loses that shimmery look, that is a sign that your fat has reached its smoke point. Once this has happened fat begins to lose its healthy properties and can start to take on an unpleasant flavor. Many oils these days will tell you right on the bottle what the smoke point is. The higher the smoke point, the more ways you can cook with the oil, and the higher temperatures you can cook at. Oils with lower smoke points are great for dressings, drizzling, or cooking at lower temperatures.

Here is a list of very common fats and oils and their smoke points:

  • Safflower oil – 510 degrees F
  • Light/ refined olive oil – 490 degrees F
  • Peanut oil – 450 degrees F
  • Clarified butter (ghee) – 450 degrees F
  • Sunflower oil – 440 degrees F
  • Vegetable oil – 400-450 degrees F
  • Canola oil –  400 degrees F
  • Grapeseed oil – 390 degrees F
  • Lard – 370 degrees F
  • Avocado oil – 375-400 degrees F
  • Chicken fat (schmaltz) – 375 degrees F
  • Duck fat – 375 degrees F
  • Vegetable shortening – 360 degrees F
  • Sesame oil – 350 degrees F
  • Butter – 350 degrees F
  • Coconut oil – 350 degrees F
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – 325-375 degrees F

For sautéing, use oil with a medium or lower smoke point, like extra virgin olive oil. When the oil in the pan begins to shimmer, add your food and cook away.

For searing, choose something with a high smoke point like peanut or vegetable oil. Heat it until it is just starting to smoke, then add your meat.

For stir-frying, choose an oil with a really high smoke point, like peanut or safflower oil. The idea it to get a thin layer of smoking-hot oil on the bottom of the wok before adding your ingredients.

Get Fat Now!

Fat has been a diet no-no for quite some time, but luckily the fat-free era is finally over.  Research shows that fat is essential for our bodies.  Saturated fat is no longer the problem, but is actually the solution for our bodies to repair cells and for proper hormone function. It’s time to enjoy our egg yolks, our whole fat yogurt, or our chicken breasts, skin on. Think about our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers.  Could they have survived harsh conditions and the time between meals if it wasn’t for fat consumption? Hell no!  Our bodies NEED fat, but fat from the right sources.

The body is made up of 97% saturated and monounsaturated fat, and the remaining 3%  is polyunsaturated fat. That 3% polyunsaturated fat is half omega-3 fats and half omega-6 fats.  It’s important for our bodies to have balanced levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, 1:1.  Without this equal balance, too much omega-6 causes inflammation, while omega-3 is neutral.  A diet high in omega-3 fat and low in omega-6 fat is ok thought, because the omega-3 fats will reduce inflammation.

Vegetable oils are a main source of omega-6 in the modern diet.  Some of these oils high in omega-6 include: safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower, soybean, cotton oil.

Fatty fish oil, quality extra-virgin olive oils, coconut oil, or quality butter are all examples of omega-3 fats (yay, butter!).  Omega-3 fats are also vital for the following health benefits:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease and causes of death associated with heart disease
  • Reducing severity of symptoms associated with diabetes
  • Reducing pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis
  • Reducing risk of osteoporosis and bone loss
  • Improving health and reducing symptoms for those with autoimmune disease
  • Helping those with anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder
  • Reducing risk of various types of cancers
  • Improving cognitive function

(Sources: Wellness Mama)

My favorite ways to incorporate healthy fats into my diet:

1.  Eat fat for breakfast, especially before and after a workout.  Below is a favorite, quick breakfast of mine full of omega-3s.  2% Greek yogurt, berries and bananas, topped with protein-packed hemp seeds, and omega-3 sources, flax seeds and chia seeds.

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2. Invest in quality extra virgin olive oil (preferably pressed somewhere local to you), organic coconut oil, and grass-fed butter.  These products can be a little more expensive, but you’ll use them all the time and you won’t need to feel guilty about using the butter.  You can even save money by switching your beauty and home care products to olive oil and coconut oil.

4. If you’re a coffee drinker, add a tablespoon of organic coconut butter to your morning coffee or try Bulletproof coffee.

5. Some of my favorite sources of omega-3s: avocado, salmon, almond butter, eggs, grass-fed meats, extra virgin olive oil, butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, Brussel sprouts, and shrimp.

If you’re having trouble losing weight, suffering from exhaustion or stress, try adding more healthy fats to your diet.