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.

Fall Salad + Maple Tahini Dressing

IMG_3178The first of November marks the day I officially start planning my holiday menus. It also appears to be the day stores start playing Christmas music.  I love Christmas music and was definitely singing along, but shouldn’t we let the Halloween treats digest before jumping to December?  Anyways…back to holiday menu planning. It is one of my all time favorite things to do. If I were on match.com it would forsure be in my bio under interests. Thank goodness I am not on match,  I am pretty sure that would deter all potential (cool) dates. By the second week in November I have a folder full of potential dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. When I am not brainstorming recipe ideas, I am in the kitchen recipe testing. Gotta test out the recipes and make sure they are holiday table worthy! Today I tested a Fall Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing. It definitely passed the test and will be on the holiday table. Tart granny smith apples mend well with the sweet dressing, salty pumpkin seeds and red onion. I threw in some chewy dried cranberries, which complements the crunchy apples and seeds. Very well balanced and a  great way to get some greens on your holiday plate.

Use whatever nuts or seeds you have in your pantry. The pumpkin seeds are perfecto in the salad, but walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds or any other nut/seed would work well too. A little blue cheese would also taste great on this salad.

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B.L.A.T. + Horseradish Aioli

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Today I took on a classic, the BLT.  I jazzed it up a bit by adding avocado and a horseradish aioli. Does that make it a B.L.A.T.H.O.? Hmmmm I think we will stick to calling it a B.L.A.T. (Bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado).  The end result was the perfect balance of sweet, salty and spicy.

Fresh horseradish can be tough to come by and a bit intimidating. Feel free to substitute prepared horseradish for the fresh horseradish. Prepared horseradish can be found down the condiment aisle of your grocery store in a jar. Fresh horseradish is very strong, so if using a jarred version increase the amount of horseradish in the aioli.

On a side note- If you ever have a stuffed up nose, take a sniff of fresh horseradish and you will be cleared out within seconds.

INGREDIENT SPOTLIGHT                                                                                                                                                                           Horseradish

Horseradish has been used medicinally since the Middle Ages. Beyond the pungent spice it lends to recipes, it is also high in a compound known as glucosinolates, which aids in the prevention of cancer.  It is also high in vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system and treat the flu/cold. Have body aches or sore muscle? Using horseradish topically can soothe sore muscles, joints and head aches. Horseradish helps stimulate blood flow to the skin surface and to inflamed areas of the body. So many health benefits stuffed into a small (not so pretty) root.

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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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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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Chicken + Feta + Basil Burgers

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Rumor has it meatballs are a trendy food item right now. I had no idea. While I was watching one of my gossip educational shows, Extra,  an editor of People Magazine suggested viewers throw a “meatball party”. Hmmmm if I were to receive an invitation to a meatball party I would expect the entire male cast of Jersey Shore to be there. Meatball/meathead…same thing, right?

Instead of following the trends and making meatballs I decided to make chicken burgers. A distant relative to meatballs. So often chicken burgers start out great, but by the end of the cooking process they have transformed into dry wannabe burgers. When I set out to make these chicken burgers my main goal was to make an extra juicy burger with high flavor. Fresh herbs and mushrooms played a large part in helping me accomplish my goal. Mushrooms add moisture and fresh basil amped up the flavor.

If you aren’t a mushroom lover, this burger is still the burger for you. Taber strongly dislikes mushrooms, so I had to hide them in the recipe. I chopped them up so small he had no idea they were there. I have a horrific poker face, so I let him in on my little secret. Of course, I waited until after he was done with the burger.

These would also be great on the BBQ. Chill for one hour before throwing them on the grill.

To make this recipe gluten free- substitute almond meal for the bread crumbs or omit the bread crumbs all together.

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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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Fig + Mint+ Goat Cheese Salad

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How beautiful are these figs? Serious stunners. I was at my second home the grocery store when these pretty little tiger striped figs caught my eye. Figs were not on my shopping list but I couldn’t resist, not that I tried to.  By the time I made my way to the check-out, I had dreamt up an arugula, feta, mint,  and goat cheese salad with a lemon vinaigrette.  The flavor combo of sweet figs, spicy arugula, salty goat cheese and tangy vinaigrette is ah-mazing.

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