Savory Mashed Sweet Potatoes

IMG_3200Remember when I said in this post that we should wait until the Halloween treats digest before blasting Christmas music? Well…I lied. Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey Christmas carols have been blaring through my Pandora this past week. And I am loving it. When I hear Christmas music I want to sprint to the kitchen and cook. There is something about it that gets me in the cooking mood.

When you think of sweet potatoes, what is the first thing you think of pairing them with? Maple syrup, brown sugar, honey…sweet toppings, right? Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet (the “sweet” in sweet potato gives that away), so topping it with more sugar can be a bit of an overload. Today I  decided to take sweet potatoes in more of a savory direction. Even with the savory ingredients, the natural sweetness of the potatoes comes through. The balance of sweet and savory is spot on.

I baked my potatoes before mashing them. Boiling or steaming is another option, but I find the best flavor comes from the baking method.

Are mashed potatoes on your holiday menu?  Sweet potatoes contain more vitamins than white potatoes. They are significantly higher in Vitamin C, Folate and Vitamin A. Plus, I think they have more flavor.  Think about swapping white potatoes for sweet potatoes. You will send your guests home a little bit healthier than when they arrived.

Gluten Free + Baked + Pumpkin + Doughnuts

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I have never been a super fan of doughnuts. I like them, but I don’t love them. Well, that all changed on Saturday morning. I was itching to bake something (I blame it on the season change) and knew I wanted to use pumpkin. I had already made pumpkin bread the week before and didn’t feel like making a pie. I was racking my brain on what to bake when I spotted my trusty doughnut pan. Ah-ha…baked pumpkin doughnuts. They ended up being the perfect weekend breakfast along with a cup of chai tea AND they transformed me into a doughnut lover.

Don’t have a doughnut pan? This recipe would work well as a muffins.

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French Onion Soup

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Have you ever taken a bite out of a raw onion? Not awesome. Have you ever taken a bite of caramelized onions? So awesome. French Onion Soup is like a continuous spoonful of glorified caramelized onions. Sweet, savory and satisfying.  Making French Onion Soup is pretty simple- onions are slowly cooked down to a syrupy golden brown, mixed with a few herbs, wine and broth to create a hearty soup. Although it is simple, it takes time and patience. Slow and steady definitely wins the race when it comes to caramelizing onions. As a result of the natural sugars browning,  raw pungent onions transform into a deep, rich and mild flavor. I should also add that no mints are needed after eating French Onion Soup.  So go ahead and make this on date night.

By topping each bowl with an individual crostini melted with parmesan cheese rather than covering the entire bowl with melted cheese,  this version of French Onion Soup is lighter than it’s traditional restaurant counterpart. It also makes for a very pretty presentation.

I used ghee (clarified butter) to caramelize the onions. You may use butter or olive oil, whichever you prefer. Looking for a vegetarian French Onion Soup? Sub vegetable for the beef broth.

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Spice Apple Cider

IMG_2907OMG…buy some apples, get out your juicer and make this cider right now. Or even better, make this cider, put it in a to-go cup and head straight for the pumpkin patch. If you follow these commands directions, your Fall will be complete.  I promise. There is something so nostalgic about apple cider. It transports me straight back to the days hyper color t-shirts were still cool (I am afraid they will make a comeback), when my mom would bring home jugs of freshly pressed apple cider. It was the perfect way to warm up after a crisp fall day. To this day, she still has the fridge stocked with apple cider during the holidays.

If you don’t have a juicer, please don’t turn your back on this recipe. You can still make homemade apple cider by using the old school (and flavorful) boiling method. Quarter your apples and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the apples. Add the spices to the pot. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for an hour or until the apples are very mushy. Once apples are mushy, mash with a potato masher. Place a very fine colander over a large bowl. Drain the apple mixture. And there you have it- apple cider without a juicer.

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Salmon + Avocado Lettuce Wraps

IMG_2897People often ask me how I come up with recipes. It usually happens at random times, when I am least expecting it.  An idea will  pop into my head as I am drifting off to sleep, while I am at the grocery store and a piece of seasonal produce jumps out at me, or on the tail end of a run when I am using my thoughts to distract myself from my tired legs. Today my recipe idea came to me while I was driving by a giant billboard. “Fresh. Bold. Spicy. Lettuce Wraps”. In an instant I went from not having a single thought of lettuce wraps to craving them. The gotta have it RIGHT now type of crave. This is how my Salmon Avocado Lettuce Wraps with Caesar Dressing came to life. I wanted lettuce wraps, and I wanted them fast.  These wraps are a snap to put together. Cooking the salmon is the most time consuming part of the recipe, and that isn’t hands on. Easy peasy.

Salmon Avocado Wraps work great for a lunch or dinner. They are also a crowd pleaser for entertaining.  Who doesn’t love a lettuce wrap? For a vegetarian version swap the salmon for some quinoa.

The Yogurt Caesar Dressing makes 1 cup, so depending on how saucy you like your wraps ( I like mine saucy), there is usually left over. The dressing will stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week.

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Avocado Pasta

IMG_2709Avocados are hands down one of my all time favorite foods. Rich, creamy, satisfying and delicious.  Avocados go well beyond just tasting fantastic. They are full of fiber, folate, potassium,  vitamin A, C, E, K and B6. Don’t be afraid of the high calorie and fat content of these alligator pears (that’s really their nickname), the calories are health supportive and a majority of the fat is monounsaturated fat. In other words, the fat and calories found in avocados are A-OK.

I most often find myself eating an avocado straight out of the skin, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. So tasty. So satisfying.  Tonight I switched it up and made a creamy avocado pasta sauce. It was a hit in the Lee household. The avocado lends a buttery texture and mild flavor allowing the lemon and basil to have the spot light. Tossing in a diced tomato adds the perfect amount of color and texture. Taber added a bit of feta and sirracha sauce (note: he adds sirracha to EVERYTHING), but I liked the pasta as is.

Avocado Sauce goes well with all pastas. Fell free to ditch the quinoa pasta and use your favorite pasta or whatever you happen to have in the cupboard.

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Criss-Cross Applesauce

pumpkinsWelcome back, Fall. The switch from summer to fall seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. Grocery stores swiftly change their entrance displays from flowers to pumpkins, the beloved pumpkin spiced latte makes a comeback, and Halloween super stores pop up out of nowhere. There is zero time to mourn the loss of summer. Although it is still 90 degrees here in Austin, I decided to jump on the fall bandwagon by making cinnamon applesauce. Nothing gets me in the mood for fall faster than the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house. I was ready to throw on my leggings, zip up my boots and wrap a scarf around my neck. Then I remembered I live in Austin and the weather won’t chill out until late October (at the earliest). I was tempted to blast the air conditioning in our apartment just so I could pretend it was a perfect brisk fall day, but decided that would be an irresponsible waste of energy. So instead I sat out on my patio in shorts and a tank top and enjoyed my applesauce full of fall flavors.

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Thai Broccoli Salad

IMG_2221I have been making this Thai Broccoli Salad for about a year now, and it has become one of my favorite meals.  It is my go-to when I am craving Thai flavors, which is often. I love that it embodies the flavor of Thai without the sodium often found in dishes from Thai restaurants (not all Thai restaurants). Thai flavors with no bloat or MSG- pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a plate of authentic Pad Thai from my fav Thai restaurant every once in a while.  If you find yourself in the same Thai craving boat, give this recipe a try. You will be satisfied.

Thai Broccoli salad  is substantial enough to stand alone or can be served as a side. It would also be great with some added chicken.

Recipe tip- If you don’t have dates at home and aren’t heading to the grocery store, replace dates with 1 tablespoon raw honey.

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Ranchero Quinoa

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I am a self confessed juice bar junkie. I can’t stay away. My favorite juice bar, Juice Land, is a short hop, skip and jump away from my house.  It isn’t just the juices and smoothies that lure me in more than once a week. Juice Land also offers grab and go health supportive, super delish foods. My all time favorite dish  is their Quinoa Ranchero. It is the type of meal that makes you sad when you take the last bite. Has that ever happened to you?  I never want it to be over.  Since the day I tried Quinoa Ranchero it has been on my list of recipes to attempt. As of yesterday, I can officially cross it off the list because I finally made it! It is slightly different than the Juice Land version, but still so good it leaves me wanting more.

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Get Your Peachy Greens On

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Not ready for summer to be over? You aren’t alone. The perfectly ripe and juicy farmers market peach stands with you. Lucky for them (and you), they still have a few weeks before they will officially be out of season. Although they will  soon say a sad farewell, please don’t fret.  We know peaches will be back in style next summer, unlike bright neon and high wasted shorts.

I used the last peach in the fruit bowl for my Sunday morning smoothie, along with some spinach, apple, kale and mint. The combo of mint and peach took my smoothie to the next level.  The fragrance alone gave me an extra spring in my step. That is quite the fete on a lazy Sunday morning.  It is definitely going down in the books as one of my favs.

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