EARTH BALANCE COCONUT SPREAD

I love baking and frying with raw coconut oil, so was pretty fascinated to try out the relatively new Earth Balance coconut spread. It’s a fantastic vegan alternative to butter when baking and it’s now my spread of choice on toast. My fave snack? A toasted whole wheat muffin, spread with coconut spread, a Justin’s almond honey butter and 1/2 a sliced banana – OMG!

WILD MUSHROOM PENNE

This is the perfect time of year to cook up some earthy, meaty wild mushrooms. This dish is one of my husband’s signature dishes. He doesn’t cook very often but when he does, it’s one of his three signature creations and I’m not allowed near the kitchen, which is excruciating as I’m a complete control-freak when it comes to my kitchen and making sure the pasta isn’t cooked a hair over being al dente etc. So I was banished to the living room while he took the helm in our coveted “corner”. There’s one area of our kitchen, which happens to be a corner and it’s where everything goes on – you can’t do much in our kitchen without being in the “control corner”.

His dish is simple but stunning and despite my protests of him cooking way too much pasta for 3 of us, I ate every last piece. Even my daughter who balked when she saw the “wierd-looking” mushrooms, devoured her bowl.

You can use any mushroom combo for this dish and any pasta, but here’s what he used and it worked beautifully.

Wild Mushroom Penne

2 cups of mixed wild mushrooms (brown caps and chanterelle are great – but use what you can find).

1 cup dried mushrooms ( I recommend either Maitake or Porcini for their deep flavor)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium red or yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

1/2 cup white cooking wine

3 rashers nitrate-free bacon, cubed (if you’re veggie, you can eliminate the bacon, but I add it for a richer flavor.)

16 ounces pasta (you can use any kind but he used this amazing Montebello Pasta Рan  Organic artisan pasta from Italy, which is sublime).

A handful of flat leafed parsley, chopped

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Serves 4

 

Soak the dried mushrooms for 1/2 an hour in 2 cups of very hot water.

Heat a large saute pan and add the onions and garlic. Fry until translucent. Add the cooking wine and fry until it evaporates.

Add the bacon and fry gently for about 3 minutes (you don’t want bacon to crisp or brown.)

Drain the dried mushrooms, but keep the draining water as it makes the perfect stock.

Add the fresh and soaked mushrooms and fry gently for about 5-8 minutes, stirring all the time. Add a ladle of the mushroom broth (from soaked mushrooms), and continue to fry. It’s up to you how much stock you add, depending on how much liquid you like with your pasta.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the package directions, then drain. As soon as you have drained the pasta, spoon it into warmed bowls and ladle the mushroom ragout generously over each bowl. Sprinkle with the parsley and a little Parmesan and eat straight away.

 

 

 

Chickpea Fritters With Lemony Dip

Chickpea Fritters With Lemony Dip.

1 15 oz can garbanzo beans (AKA chickpeas,) drained

3 small or 2 medium sweet potatoes

2 tbsp garbanzo bean flour (health food store)

1tsp: sea salt, pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander

The grated zest of one lemon

1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

2 tsp smoked paprika

6 tbsp grapeseed or olive (not extra virgin) oil

1 cup thick greek yogurt

1/2 tsp paprika

1 garlic clove, minced

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

 

Place the sweet potatoes in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Remove and allow to cool.

When cool enough to handle them, cut in half and scoop out the potato into the food processor. Add the beans, the flour and all the seasoning (set aside 1/2 tsp of the lemon zest.) Pulse until everything is really well-combined, but not smooth (you’re not trying to make hummus here – you want the beans mashed but still chunky).

Place the breadcrumbs on a plate and mix in the paprika.

Scoop out walnut sized lumps of the bean mixture and press into the breadcrumbs on both sides.

Heat the oil in a frying pan until it spits. Carefully add the fritters and fry on a medium to high heat for about 4 minutes on either side or until very brown and crisp.

Drain on a paper towel.

Meanwhile mix the yogurt, paprika, remaining lemon zest, and garlic in a little bowl.

Serve them hot with generous dollop of the dip, and a few crisp Romaine leaves drizzled with good olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

CHICKPEA FRITTERS WITH LEMONY DIP

I love Greek food, particularly a good falafel, however, a really tasty one is hard to find. There’s a great Lebanese restaurant in LA called Marroush and they make the best homemade falafels I’ve ever tasted – crispy on the outside and soft & crumbly in the center.

In the Winter I like to expand my weekend lunchtime repertoire as for most of the year in So Cal, we subsist on mainly salady stuff. These little fritters are a healthy, vegan treat. I ate them for lunch, but they’d be equally good if you did them as part of a Greek-style dinner with some oily Kalamata olives, hommous etc. They also might be good for the Holidays either as an appetizer or a warm canape with drinks around the fire (if you’re doing the latter, just make them smaller/bite-size. They are crumbly – so be warned, but I promise you – so well worth preparing.

Chickpea Fritters With Lemony Dip.

1 15 oz can garbanzo beans (AKA chickpeas,) drained

3 small or 2 medium sweet potatoes

2 tbsp garbanzo bean flour (health food store)

1tsp: sea salt, pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander

The grated zest of one lemon

1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

2 tsp smoked paprika

6 tbsp grapeseed or olive (not extra virgin) oil

1 cup thick greek yogurt

1/2 tsp paprika

1 garlic clove, minced

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

 

Place the sweet potatoes in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Remove and allow to cool.

When cool enough to handle them, cut in half and scoop out the potato into the food processor. Add the beans, the flour and all the seasoning (set 1/2tsp of the lemon aside.) Pulse until everything is really well-combined, but not smooth (you’re not trying to make hummus here – you want the beans mashed but still chunky).

Place the breadcrumbs on a plate and mix in the paprika.

Scoop out walnut sized lumps of the bean mixture and press into the breadcrumbs on both sides.

Heat the oil in a frying pan until it spits. Carefully add the fritters and fry on a medium to high heat for about 4 minutes on either side or until very brown and crisp.

Drain on a paper towel.

Meanwhile mix the yogurt, paprika, remaining lemon zest and garlic in a little bowl.

Serve the fritters warm with a generous dollop of the dip, and a few crisp Romaine leaves drizzled with good olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

SPICY BEAN & ORZO SOUP

Spicy Bean & Orzo Soup

2tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, chopped

5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed (or 1tsp dried thyme)

1tsp smoked paprika

1tsp chipotle sauce

1 tsp sea salt & 1tsp ground black pepper

1 32oz box of veggie stock

1 28oz can organic tomatoes

1 15oz can cannellini beans

4 tbsp whole wheat orzo

 

Heat the oil in a large stockpot and sweat the onions, celery and garlic on a medium heat until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).

Add the carrots herbs and seasoning and saute for another minute or so.

Add the stock and the tomatoes. I used whole canned tomatoes and I like to break them up a bit with the wooden spoon – you could also use diced tomatoes.

Add the beans and the orzo and simmer for half-an hour.

Serve with warm crusty bread.

SPICY BEAN & ORZO SOUP

Today was a depressingly gray Saturday and my daughter was in a total funk as a result of mommy making her sit at the kitchen table and do more homework than she had in mind before going off for an afternoon of ballet rehearsal. I decided she needed a big burst of warm energy, as she’s probably subsisted on nothing but cheap sugar for the last 12 hours, having just come back from a sleepover, so I pulled out my stockpot and made a big pot of this warming soup – which was a total mood-changer.

The key in this quick-fix soup is the spicy chipotle, which gives it a smokey kick. I always have a couple of cans of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce to hand. I throw a can in the blender and keep it in an old jelly jar in the fridge for weeks – a little goes a long way!

Spicy Bean & Orzo Soup

Serves 4-6 hungry people

2tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, chopped

5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed (or 1tsp dried thyme)

1tsp smoked paprika

1tsp chipotle sauce

1 tsp sea salt & 1tsp ground black pepper

1 32oz box of veggie stock

1 28oz can organic tomatoes

1 15oz can cannellini beans

4 tbsp whole wheat orzo

 

Heat the oil in a large stockpot and sweat the onions, celery and garlic on a medium heat until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).

Add the carrots herbs and seasoning and saute for another minute or so.

Add the stock and the tomatoes. I used whole canned tomatoes and I like to break them up a bit with the wooden spoon – you could also use diced tomatoes.

Add the beans and the orzo and simmer for half-an hour.

Serve with warm crusty bread.

TEA’S TEA

If I’m in a pinch, on the run and/or craving a green tea, I love the taste of Tea’s Tea because they actually taste like tea! That might sound weird but most bottled teas can easily taste like any old sweet beverage and not proper tea. As many of you know, I’m a tea enthusiast – bordering on a total tea nerd (according to my husband). My favorite Tea’s Teas? I love the Oolong, which is a dark amber tea, with a slightly most robust taste than green or white, but for an unsweetened green, their plain green tea is fantastic.

As you also know, I’m so NOT a fan of a one-time-use bottle, so either buy a large bottle of Tea’s tea or remember to recycle.

Finally, remember, that green tea in any of it’s forms (white, green or oolong,) is pretty much the healthiest beverage to sip on all day. Unlike all the sweetened coffees and teas out there that just add unwanted calories into your diet, try developing a taste for the wonderful flavor of authentic green tea (you can alway add a pinch of stevia if you have a really sweet tooth.)

 

 

GOURMET MAC & CHEESE WITH WINTER SQUASH

GOURMET MAC & CHEESE WITH WINTER SQUASH

Serves 8 or split into 2 serving dishes for 4 people

1 small butternut squash or 3 small squashes (you want to end up with about 2 cups of peeled, cubed and de-seeded squash). If you’re using Butternut you’ll have to peel, but I didn’t bother with my little yellow squashes. If you have the choice – go with Butternut, as it’s creamier.

Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 the lemon

2oz butter

2oz all-purpose flour

1tbsp dijon mustard

1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

4 cups whole milk

8oz Mascarpone

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

1 16oz package whole wheat macaroni

6oz gruyere cheese, grated (save some for topping)

10 slices Serrano or Prosciutto ham (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F

Spread the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Massage the oil well into each cube. Season, sprinkle with the lemon zest, and place on the top rack for 25 minutes or until tender when a knife is inserted. Remove from oven and set aside.

Turn down your oven to 350 degrees F

Heat the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and add the flour. Mix and allow the mixture to bubble. Add the mustard, milk, mascarpone and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, lemon juice and most of the cheese (keep a couple of handfuls back for topping.)

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to the boil. Cook the macaroni according to package directions until al dente, drain and place in a large mixing bow.

Add the white sauce, the roasted squash and finally tear the ham into little pieces and fold in.

Spoon into a large (or two) baking dish, and place in the over for 25 minutes or until bubbling and crispy on top.

 

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt & Pepper

 

GOURMET MAC & CHEESE WITH WINTER SQUASH

This is hand’s down the best Mac & Cheese I’ve ever made – it’s rich, comfort food at its absolute best. I wanted to use up some beautiful little squashes that I got in my farm box last week, and also a packet of Serrano Ham that my mom smuggled in from England.

I made huge batch so I could freeze half of it ¬†- it’s the perfect cozy dish to offer guests who have just flown in for the holidays. At this time of year I start stockpiling one-pot dinners that I can pull out when we get back from all events that are scattered over the Holiday season.

I will warn you that I didn’t skimp on the fat in this dish, but honestly, if you want to knock the socks off your family and friends, you really need to include all the rich ingredients – not a vegan-friendly dish! If you are vegetarian, just skip the ham and it’ll still be outstanding.

GOURMET MAC & CHEESE

Serves 8 or split into 2 serving dishes for 4 people

1 small butternut squash or 3 small squashes (you want to end up with about 2 cups of peeled, cubed and de-seeded squash). If you’re using Butternut you’ll have to peel, but I didn’t bother with my little yellow squashes. If you have the choice – go with Butternut, as it’s creamier.

Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 the lemon

2oz butter

2oz all-purpose flour

1tbsp dijon mustard

1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

4 cups whole milk

8oz Mascarpone

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

1 16oz package whole wheat macaroni

6oz gruyere cheese, grated (save some for topping)

10 slices Serrano or Prosciutto ham (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F

Spread the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Massage the oil well into each cube. Season, sprinkle with the lemon zest,

and place on the top rack for 25 minutes or until tender when a knife is inserted. Remove from oven and set aside.

Turn down your oven to 350 degrees F

Heat the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and add the flour. Mix and allow the mixture to bubble. Add the mustard, milk, mascarpone and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, lemon juice and most of the cheese (keep a couple of handfuls back for topping.)

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to the boil. Cook the macaroni according to package directions until al dente, drain and place in a large mixing bow.

Add the white sauce, the roasted squash and finally tear the ham into little pieces and fold in.

Spoon into a large (or two) baking dish, and place in the over for 25 minutes or until bubbling and crispy on top.

 

 

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt & Pepper

 

TO YOUR HEALTH SPROUTED FLOUR

Given the fact that our baking is as good as the flour we use, I take great pains to spend a little more to buy really good flour. My favorite flour ever is from The To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. The moment a grain is sprouted, it becomes “live” and thus contains many more nutrients and enzymes. Spouted grains are also easier to digest and so often favored by those who are wheat-intolerant.

I love all of the flours from this company and panic when I run out. They are simply perfect for baking everything from cakes to bread, from pizza dough to pastry. I highly recommend buying yourself a large bag to take you through the holiday season.