Archive | Starters and sides RSS feed for this archive

Tasty 10-Min, 5-Spice Pumpkin Soup

5-Spice pumpkin soup

While standing in line at Starbucks, a guy behind me said: “Let me guess, you’re going to order a pumpkin latte, because all white girls are obsessed with pumpkin.” What the heck?! How dare he stereotype me!  With the most indignant look I could muster, I responded: “No, I’m getting an orange juice!” I might have mumbled “pumpkin hater!” under my breath a little bit. “So you ARE obsessed with pumpkin, aren’t you?” he persisted. I shifted from foot to foot, averting my gaze while fiddling with my pockets. “Ah ha, I knew it!” he exclaimed. Damn it – cold busted!

Okay, yes, I am a total pumpkin head. (Wait, that came out wrong.) I have pumpkin on the brain throughout the fall and winter, and why shouldn’t I?  It’s such a cozy, delicious, healthy food! It’s utterly packed with fiber, which not only keeps your intestines clean, it also helps people lose weight since it makes you feel fuller longer. It’s also got loads of beta-carotene, which fights off cancer and wrinkles, and it has oodles of Vitamin A, which helps your eyesight. So bring on the pumpkin cookies, curries, risotto, muffins, pancakes – I’m in!

If you want to satisfy your pumpkin fix with a crazy-simple, incredibly delicious 10-minute vegan pumpkin soup, give this one a try. It is the easiest thing in the world to make and it’s so rich, delicious, hearty and unique (thanks to the secret ingredient: Chinese 5-spice powder) that you, your family and friends will be begging for more. So go ahead, embrace your pumpkin obsession with pride – this soup is so good that it has the power to convert even hardened pumpkin haters, and carnivores will be happy too since it will give them that satisfying full-belly feeling they love.  With Thanksgiving fast approaching, add this to your menu and everyone will be glad you did, especially you since it takes so little time and effort to make this lovely, impressive soup. Enjoy!

Cimeron’s Tasty Ten-Minute 5-Spice Pumpkin Soup
From fridge to table: 10 minutes
Serves: 8

1 – 28 oz can organic pumpkin puree (plain pumpkin, not the pie mix)
1 cup plain almond milk
4 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
A dash of cinnamon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Dump all the ingredients into a large soup pot and whisk over medium-high heat. Cook for 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper, then serve. Seriously, it’s that simple. And it’s crazy-delicious, too!

 

Advertisements

Time for a Yummy Vegan Picnic!

It's summer and vegan picnic timeAttention all other seasons: summer kicks your booties!

With the weather warm, the flowers blooming, the sun sparkling and such an abundance of ripe fruits and tasty veggies available, it’s such a great time for a picnic. But when I add the word “vegan” to “picnic,” it creates terror in some of my carnivore friends. It’s pretty funny to watch. “But, but, but, what do you serve at a vegan picnic? Carrot sticks and raw broccoli?”  They look so horrified, so I usually respond with something like: “Of course not! We prefer cow patties sandwiched between pieces of tree bark. Duh!” Seriously, why are some people so flipped out about vegan food? It can be unbelievably delicious and a breeze to make, and bonus – it’s good for you, great for the environment, and even better for all the animals you’re saving.

To make things easier (and yummier) for your next picnic, here are my top 5 original creations of perfectly picnickable (that’s a word, right?) vegan dishes, and one spectacular summer beverage that will make your next outing out-of-this-world.

Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole

Mango-Pomegranate Guacamole and Chips

Hot damn, this guacamole will make your mouth so happy…even if you hate avocados (as my converting-carnivore husband and I do). Mmm, the lightly sweet mango and the unexpected tiny bright bits of pomegranate really make this guac amazing. Just pop it in a tupperware container and toss it in your picnic basket.

Thai Sweet Chili and Lime Edamame 

This has to be one of the easiest and yummiest thing you can whip up in 5 minutes. Can’t you just taste the lime, garlic and slightly piquant Thai sweet chili sauce? It’s lick-your-fingers good! This edamame dish is great at room-temp, so it’s perfect for summer outings.

Thai Spiced Peanuts and Smoky Spanish Cashews Smoky Spanish Spiced Cashews

No description needed, right? The title alone says it all – awesomeness awaits your taste buds! Throw these in a baggie and try your best not to eat them on the way to your picnic. (Note: do not try to eat just one. It is impossible).

Peanut-Sauce Glazed Noodles and Veggies

Let’s keep with the Thai theme, shall we? These Thai-style noodles with a truly delicious peanut sauce and sautéed veggies is an awesome cold dish, and it takes no time at all to make.

Grilled veggie sandwich with romesco sauce

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Romesco Sauce

If you haven’t had romesco sauce before, please, do yourself a favor and drop whatever you’re doing and make it right this very second! Your taste buds will thank you! It’s a super easy-to-make thick sauce that’s unreal as a sandwich spread, especially with roasted veggies. You won’t believe that it’s made from blanched almonds, roasted red peppers, sourdough bread, balsamic vinegar and couple spices – they blend together to make a sauce that’s even better than the sum of its parts. It is truly spectacular and will probably make you moan with joy a little bit.

And lastly, Summer Sangria

This is my most favorite and dangerous drink! Throw your favorite ripe, juicy summer fruits in there – peaches, strawberries, blueberries, melons – and savor the refreshing flavors of the season in this happy little sangria. But watch out – the light, fruity flavors are so good that you probably won’t taste the alcohol at all, so if you’re like me, you’ll likely drink one (or four) more glasses than you can actually handle. So you may be stumbling home from your picnic, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Happy picnicking!

Seriously spectacular sangria

Grilled Corn, Sweet Potato, Black-Bean Salad with Cilantro Dressing

 

IMG_1337

Man, Mondays blow. Especially after epic summer weekends! If you could use something yummy to pick you up, this dish will do the trick.

So you guys know that I usually only publish my original concoctions, but this recipe that my friend gave me (thank you, Bonnie!) is so delicious and awesome that I have to share it. This gorgeous, healthy, nutrient-packed, summery vegan “potato salad” is oil-free, refreshing yet filling, yummy-beyond-words and totally unique.  The sweet potato provides a silky, flavorful foundation, while the grilled corn and chipotle give it a slightly smoky and caramelized flavor, which is perfectly balanced with the black beans and the sunny, herbaceous cilantro dressing. Not only is it tasty, but it’s also really good for you – the sweet potatoes are the best source of beta-carotene around (which strengths your immune system, gives you healthy skin and keeps your eyes happy), the beans are loaded with protein, and the corn has oodles of antioxidants. This makes a great meal or side dish.  And it’s super convenient since it can be made ahead and served cold, at room temp, or packed up for a picnic or potluck. Oh yeah, and it’s also gluten-free. I am IN LOVE with this salad. I bet you’ll like it as much as I do!

Grilled Corn, Sweet Potato, Black-Bean Salad with Cilantro Dressing

From fridge to table: about 20 minutes
Serves: about 10-12 as a side dish

roasted corn

1 clove garlic
2 tsp blended chipotle sauce*
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (if you want a colorful salad, use garnet yams)
4 ears corn, husked
1 can whole black beans, rinsed and drained
4 scallions (white and green parts) thinly sliced

* The original recipe (by Associated Press) called for a lot more chipotle – like enough for my tongue to spontaneously combust, detach from my mouth and dive into a pool for relief – so I adjusted it down. Oh, and to make the chipotle “sauce,” get a can of “chipotle in adobo sauce,” which you can find in the Hispanic food aisle at the grocery store, and whirl the contents in a blender. I like to freeze the blended sauce in ice cube trays for easy future use.

First, make the dressing. Use a blender to whirl together the garlic, chipotle sauce, shallot, cilantro and rice vinegar and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a medium pot with steamer basket, boil a little bit of water, add the sweet potatoes, cover and steam until tender, which takes about 8 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl and immediately toss them with half of the salad dressing (to soak up the goodness of all that lovely herbal flavor), then set aside to cool.

Heat your grill to medium and lightly mist the corn with a cooking oil spray. Grill the corn evenly until the kernels are golden and tender. Remove from grill and cool until you can handle the corn without lighting your fingers on fire. Placing the fat end of the corn on your cutting board, slice the kernels from the cob. Then add the corn to the potatoes, along with the black beans and scallions. Pour the remaining dressing on top (to taste) and blend well. Then stuff your face with this yummy dish, and don’t feel guilty for a second since it’s so incredibly healthy for you!

 

Healthy sweet potato salad

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

Israeli couscous salad with cumin orange vinaigrette

Do you ever feel a bit like a mad scientist when you cook? Man, I do, especially when concocting a new recipe. I had the tastiest salad yesterday at The Assembly, a new restaurant in Santa Cruz. So me being me, I had to deconstruct it and create my own version that will strike awe in the heart (and mouth) of my carnivore…and also at a baby shower I’m co-hosting. I don’t have a picture of myself creating things in my kitchen, but I’m pretty sure I look and sound like a cross between Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein and Monty Burns. “Mmm, yessss. Blend cumin and orange – no one will expect such a bewitching combination! Make the miniature Saturns of quinoa orbit the pearls of Israeli couscous. Yeessss. Mix in some golden beets, sweet currants, kale. And kumquats, yes kumquats, to make it come ALIVE!! Mooohahahahah!”

Although when my friends who do not cook see me in full-on chef-it-up kitchen-concoction mode, they stare at me as if I look like this:

preparing for alien onslaught

But I digress. Don’t worry, no lab coat is needed to make this healthy, delicious, elegant salad. It’s actually quite simple to make, and it’s versatile too – it’s perfect as a meal or a side-dish. Trust me – you’ll love this delicious salad. It’s got everything: it’s both savory and sweet, it’s got a bit of crunch, there are earthy flavors and bright citrus highlights, it’s packed with protein, complex carbs, fruits, veggies, everything!

When you make this salad, be sure to serve it by holding the bowl high above your head and shouting “IT’S ALIVE!!”  🙂

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

From fridge to table: 15-20 minutes*
Serves: 6-8

Salad:

1 cup Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous)
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried currants or chopped dates
10 kumquats, rolled and finely diced*
2 cups finely sliced kale
1 large cooked golden beet, peeled and chopped **

* Cool tip about kumquats: roll them between your fingers to release oil held in the kumquat’s skin. You’ll see that it takes on a shiny sheen. This immediately takes the bitterness out of the skin so you can eat the kumquat whole. Pretty cool, huh?

how to prep a kumquot

Orange-Cumin Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

** There are tons of ways to cook beets, so if you’ve got your favorite method, go for it! If not, here’s an easy way: scrub the beets, rinse them off and put them in a casserole dish. Coat with a little oil, cover with foil and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the Israeli couscous according to package (I boil 1 ¼ cup water with a pinch of salt, add the 1 cup of couscous, cover and simmer for 10 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package (I combine 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until water is absorbed, about 12 minutes). Once the couscous and quinoa are done, fluff them to cool, then combine them in the bowl with the other salad ingredients.

Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a lidded jar, shake well, then stir into the salad, to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Israeli couscous salad with orange cumin vinaigrette

Flower-Power Salad with Golden Beets, Grapes, Toasted Hazelnuts and Lemon Vinaigrette

Flower power golden beet salad

It’s spring, which means it’s time to find new ways to dupe my husband into eating all the veggies I’m harvesting from our garden. Luckily I found a secret weapon: edible flowers!  When you see something as pretty as a purple viola or bright red nasturtium on your plate, it draws your attention…and totally distracts John from the beets I’m tricking him into eating. Ha ha!

Now you and I know that freshly roasted golden beets – which are rapidly rolling into farmer’s markets and grocery stores – are simply delicious and have a slightly sweet, mellow flavor. And they’re one of the only sources for an awesome phytonutrient called betalains, which have anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties, not to mention vital free-radical-fighting antioxidants. And since there’s evidence that betalains help prevent cancer, eating beets is a tasty way to stay healthy, especially with this beautiful and delicious salad! But to John, beets are classified as “Weird Vegetables” in his “Never Eat That” food file. So naturally, I made it my mission to trick him into eating beets…and he LOVED this salad!

Being the devious cook that I am, I also decided to slip in some grapes and toasted hazelnuts to give this lovely spring salad some additional nutrients and protein, and a nice little crunch. Tossed with a light and zesty lemon vinaigrette, this salad will not only wow your friends and family with its beauty, but also with its refreshing and unique flavors and heath benefits. And yes, you will totally get to trick ‘weird vegetable’ haters into eating beets, which is both fun and yummy!

Cimeron’s Flower-Power Salad with Golden Beets, Grapes, Hazelnuts and Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves: 8
1 head red butter lettuce, or 7 cups baby mixed greens
10 small golden beets (or 4 big ones), scrubbed and ends trimmed off
1 cup seedless grapes, halved (or if you want to get really fancy, use tiny champagne grapes)
¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
a small handful of edible flowers (such as pansies, violas, calendula, or nasturtium)
For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup white lemon balsamic vinegar (I adore the one made by 11Olives.com. But if you don’t have some handy, you can substitute plain white balsamic vinegar mixed with 1 heaping teaspoon of lemon zest)
1 tsp minced shallot
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
A pinch of salt
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray lightly with oil, then seal up the beets in the foil. Bake until the beets a bit soft to the touch – about an hour. Cool until handleable then rub off the skins with a dish cloth or paper towel. Slice beets and refrigerate until cool.
To  make the vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients except the oil. Then slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously.
Toss all the salad ingredients together – except the flowers – with your desired amount of dressing. Garnish with flowers…the brighter the better to distract any beet-averse husbands, wives, kids or friends. 🙂
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Flower power golden beet salad

 

 

 

 

 

5-Minute Masterpiece: Thai Sweet Chili and Lime Edamame

It’s a rare dish that hits the culinary trifecta of being savory, spicy and sweet all at the same time. It’s even rarer when such a treat is also good for you. And rarer still  for it to be a 5-minute masterpiece! My friends, today is a day for rejoicing since we’ve hit the foodie mother load! Behold the awesomeness that is Thai Sweet Chili and Lime Edamame:
Thai sweet chili and lime edamame
What could be tastier than the slightly sweet and spicy flavor of Thai sweet chili sauce combined with fragrant garlic, tangy lime juice and the salty goodness of edamame? It’s the perfect appetizer or snack for those who want big flavors but have little time to cook. This unique edamame dish is literally finger-licking good and packed with protein.  It’s especially great when you’re starving and need something fast (like I was when I created this appetizer), or when friends pop by and you want to watch them turn into human vacuums.
As for the carnivore approval rating for this vegan, gluten-free, low-calorie delicacy, John gives it two chili-sauce-coated thumbs up. He loves this appetizer so much that whenever I serve it, he acts like he’s going for the gold medal in a speed-eating contest. The bowl empties so fast that I’m convinced that an edamame-eating monster is stealing it. Make some today and see if the edamame-munching monster will show up at your house, too!
Edamame monster
Thai Sweet Chili and Lime Edamame
From fridge to table: 5 minutes
Serves: 4
1 pound of frozen edamame (in pods)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
2 tsp lime juice
salt, to taste
Boil salted water in a large saucepan and cook the edamame until tender, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and stir for 2 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add the Thai sweet chili sauce, remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Drain the edamame, then toss it with the sauce mixture and add salt to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy!
But beware the edamame-eating monster…

Play with your nuts: Mexican Chili-Lime Peanuts, Spiced Maple-Glazed Pecans, Wasabi-Soy Almonds

Welcome to the third and final installment of the Great Spiced Nut Series! How about we play with our nuts today and dress them up with some yummy international flavors?  (Hey, is that your mind right there in the gutter? Okay, I sort of lead you there, but still!) So today we’re off to Mexico for Chili-Lime Peanuts, to the American South for Spiced Maple-Glazed Pecans, and Japan for Wasabi-Soy Almonds. These are all so addictive and delicious that you’re going to proclaim to one and all the joys of playing with your nuts. Enjoy, and please let me know which ones you like best!

Mexican Chili-Lime PeanutsMexican Chili-Lime Peanuts
From pantry to table: about 45 minutes
Chili + lime + peanuts + salt = heaven. Seriously, need I say more? Just imagine these classic flavors together – if you cannot taste them on your tongue right now, I’m sorry to tell you this, but I think your taste buds are dead.

3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp chili powder
½ tsp smoked sea salt
1 cup roasted but unsalted peanuts

Heat oven to 250. In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients except peanuts. Then add peanuts and toss to coat. Toss all of this onto a parchment-lined pan and roast for 30-45 minutes, until toasted and the liquid is fully absorbed. Be sure to stir every 10 minutes or so. Serve once they’re cooled.

Spiced Maple-Glazed Pecans

From pantry to table: about 15 minutes
These nuts are slightly sweet, a little sticky, a teeny bit spicy, a touch smoky, and totally delicious. They’re especially fantastic on salads, but they’re also great on their own.
 IMG_1519
1 cup raw pecans
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cumin
generous pinch of allspice
pinch of cayenne
¼ tsp smoked sea salt
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp maple syrup
 
Heat oven to 350. Toast pecans for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, in a metal bowl, combine the spices. Add in the maple syrup and blend well. When nuts are done, toss them in the syrup/spice mixture for a few minutes until fully coated. Spread them in a single layer on parchment paper and cool completely.

Wasabi-Soy AlmondsWasabi-soy almonds
From pantry to table: about 16 minutes
If you like things a little spicy and crunchy, this recipe is for you! The rich flavor of soy and the clean-hot flavor of wasabi are a match made in heaven, and the smoky flavor of toasted almonds brings it all together to make a perfect snack. 

1 cup raw almonds

sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
generous dash of cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons brown sugar
dry rub:
1 1/2  tsp wasabi powder
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp smoked sea salt
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Heat oven to 350. Toast almonds for 10 minutes. While that’s happening, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Toss the hot, toasted almonds in the sauce and coat well. Then roast the almonds for another 6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes so the sauce doesn’t burn.  (The nuts will be a little bit damp when you take them out, but that’s fine – it’ll help the dry rub stick to the nuts.) While that’s happening, in a dry metal bowl, mix together the dry rub ingredients. When the nuts are ready, toss them vigorously with the dry rub ingredients until coated. Enjoy!

Thai-Spiced Peanuts and Smoky Spanish Cashews

Welcome to part two of the spiced-nut recipe series! Today we’re visiting Thailand and Spain with our taste buds. And special bonus: scroll down to the bottom to learn how to make these cute mini chalkboard clips, which are really great for labeling party food. It’s also great for freaking out your friends who will be convinced that a deranged person is running loose in your house and labeling things with chalk. (Please do not tell me that you write beautifully with chalk because this will thwart my efforts to convince my husband that everyone looks like they have maniac  handwriting when they write on chalkboards.)

Thai-Spiced Peanuts

Thai-Spiced Peanuts
From pantry to table: about 35 minutes
If you’re a fan of Thai red curry, you are going to love these nuts, which feature the rich, slightly spicy, aromatic flavors of Thailand. Plus, these spiced nuts are super unique. Nummy!

1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp lime juice
2 1/2 tsp Thai red chili paste (available in the Asian food section of most grocery stores) (add more paste if you want angry nuts and/or you want to be a fire-breathing dragon)
½ tsp smoked sea salt
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp dried basil

Heat oven to 250. In a small bowl, blend together all but the peanuts, then add peanuts to coat. Pour into a parchment-line baking pan and roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minuets. Cool completely, then watch them disappear.

Smoky Spanish Spiced Cashews Smoky Spanish Spiced Cashews
From pantry to table: 11 minutes
These nuts are pretty much my new addiction. The combination of smoky paprika with rosemary, brown sugar and salt is just flipping ridiculous. People go nuts (sorry for the pun) when I serve these. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s The New Classics.

2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
2 tsbp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp smoked sea salt
1 tbsp Earth Balance spread

Heat oven to 350 and toast the cashews for 10 minutes until golden. Meanwhile place all the other ingredients in a metal bowl. When the cashews are ready, mix them vigorously with the spice mixture until the Earth Balance melts and the cashews are fully coated. Cool and don’t even bother serving – just spoon them directly into your gullet.

How to make mini chalkboard clips
You don’t need to be Martha Stewart to make these cute little chalkboard clips. They’re super quick and easy to make. Just head down to (or go online to) Michael’s Craft Store and pick up any shape of wood cut-out you like. Here are a few that I picked out:

wood cut-outs for chalkboards

Next, buy some wooden clothespins, chalkboard paint (it comes in a variety of colors) and chalk – all available at the craft store. I also bought a $2 glue gun and some glue sticks to make this project go even quicker. Clip the clothespins onto something so they’re suspended off your work surface, then glue the wooden cut-outs onto the ends of the clips. chalkboard clips in the makingOnce dry, apply three coats of chalkboard paint, waiting until the paint is totally dry between applications. Then try like hell not to write like a serial killer on your new mini chalkboards.

Go Nuts with These Easy Spiced-Nut Recipes

Spiced nuts

The holidays are here, so it’s time for that annual freak-out-festival of “Oh My God, what am I going to make for all those people coming over, and gifts for the neighbors, and snacks for shopping, and and and… akkkk!” Never fear, my friends, for I am about to blitz you with a ton of spectacular, tasty and easy spiced nut recipes straight from my kitchen. Featuring flavors from around the world, there’s something here to suit every palate: Indian curried cashews; Truffled-honey hazelnuts; Mexican chili-lime peanuts; spiced maple-glazed pecans; Thai-spiced peanuts; smoky Spanish cashews. I don’t want your heads to explode, so I’ll dish out two of these recipes at a time over the next few days.

These nuts make elegant appetizers, they’re tasty snacks, and they’re fantastic as gifts. Plus they’re high in protein, and did I mention that they take no time at all to make? In short: they kick ass.

But before we get to the nuts, exciting news: have you heard that Jay Z and Beyonce are going to try being vegan for the next 21 days? This is great for them, but even better for us! Next time you’re at a restaurant without vegan options on the menu and you ask the chef to make you a plant-based dish, if the waiter gives you that look – you know the one I’m talking about – you can now throw some attitude back at him: “Would you give that look at Jay Z or Beyonce?! Hmm?” (You may also want to follow that with: “Please don’t spit in my food.”)

Why are Beyonce and Jay Z doing it for just 3 weeks? No, it’s not because they’re special guests at a Fresh Meat Festival at the end of the month. (By the way, there really is such a thing…but I think it might disappoint some carnivores. Google it!)  According to some psychologists, it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. So if you know some carnivores who want to convert, tell them about Jay Z and Beyonce’s 21-day vegan challenge and see if that helps. If that doesn’t work, maybe try giving them that look and spitting on their meat? 😉

In honor of all converting carnivores, the holidays, and everyone with taste buds, here are the first two recipes in my 3-part installment of super easy and extremely delicious spiced nut recipes. Enjoy!

(Oh, and how do you like my mini-chalkboard clips?  They’re great for labeling food for parties. I’ll show you how to make these yourself in an upcoming post, so start channeling your inner Martha Stewart and stay tuned!)

Huh, when using chalk, my handwriting looks like that of a serial killer. (Why is my husband hiding the knives?)

Huh, I just recognized that my handwriting looks like that of a serial killer. Hey, why is my husband hiding the knives?

Indian Curried Cashews
From pantry to table: 11 minutes

If you like the flavors of India, you’re going to love these cashews. (And if you don’t like Indian flavors, what is wrong with you?!) These are crazy-easy to make and when you toss the hot nuts in the spice mixture, it unleashes intoxicating aromas that make your house smell heavenly.

2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
1 tbsp curry powder (personally, I like doing ½ tbsp of curry powder and ½ of garam masala – yum!)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp olive oil
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Heat oven to 350. Roast the cashews for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium metal bowl, mix all the spices and oil. When the nuts are ready, immediately toss them with the spice/oil mixture for a couple of minutes to coat completely. The nuts are HOT, so it’s important to use a metal bowl instead of plastic (which will melt) or glass (which may crack). Cool completely, then watch people vacuum them up.

Truffled-Honey Hazelnuts*Honey truffled hazelnuts
From pantry to table: about 15 minutes

Mmm, these are so addictive!  The beautiful, elegant flavor of truffles compliments the earthy flavor of the roasted hazelnuts and the slightly sweet taste of honey just perfectly. Serve this to guests you want to impress…or just hoard them all for yourself.

1 cup hazelnuts (preferably with skin removed)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp truffle salt

Heat oven to 350. In a small bowl, microwave honey for about 15 seconds, until it becomes a little more liquid. Toss the hazelnuts in the honey and coat well.

Line a small baking pan with parchment paper and pour out honeyed nuts in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes, then remove from oven and immediately sprinkle on the truffle salt. Cool completely – the honey coating will harden upon cooling. Then break them up and serve, or store in an airtight container. Oh who are we kidding? Just scarf them down and screw everyone else – you deserve it!

*Please note that I did not call these “filberts.” Because that is just wrong. Whoever is behind the evil plot to change the beautiful name of hazelnut to the dumpy hick name of “filbert” (probably some nut farmers named Phil and Burt – we’re onto you!), we must resist!

Super Simple Scrumptious Savory Soup

Multi-grain super simple soup
Have you ever heard a friend tell you: “Oh you really like this soup? I just whipped it up using whatever I could find in my fridge, it only took 15 minutes.” And did you force and smile while thinking: “A-hole! I haven’t even found time to shower today.” Well my friends, never fear, for today you will become that a-hole! That’s right, with this simple, hearty and delicious dish, you’ll be that much-envied home chef who can magically create a scrumptious and healthy soup from scratch in no time at all using scraps from your cupboard and fridge. And bonus: it’s a one-pot meal, so clean-up is quick and painless.

Harvest grains

Thanks to the Israeli couscous, orzo, quinoa and chickpeas, this savory soup is quite filling and has a nice backbone to it. The rich flavors of the tomatoes and red pepper really shine, and they do a great job of hiding the zucchini and carrots (which is essential for those of us who want our veggie-averse loved-ones – like my husband – to eat and enjoy this soup). It’s also versatile – if you’re more in the mood for a thick stew, just use less broth.

So get ready to make your taste buds and your body very happy! It’s a perfect meal to make at the end of a busy day. And if you share a bowl with your friends and tell them how quickly you cheffed up this yummy soup using “just a little of this and that I found in my fridge and pantry,” be sure to enjoy watching them force a fake smile to mask the fact that they’re screaming “a-hole!” inside their heads.

Multi grain soup ingredients

Super Simple Savory Multi-Grain Soup

From pantry to table: about 20 minutes
Serves: 4

½ of a large onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chili de arbol, broken (optional – if you want a spicy little kick)
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
½-3/4 cup carrots, chopped
4-6 cups vegetable broth (use for if you want stew, 5-6 if you want a thinner soup)
½ cup “mixed grains” *
1 tsp dried oregano
2 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise then cut into half-moons
salt and pepper to taste
fresh lemon juice, to taste

* For your mixed grains, be sure to choose those that take the same amount of time to cook. For example, I like using Israeli couscous (which is fatter and chewier than regular couscous), quinoa, orzo and chopped chickpeas. Trader Joes has their own blend of this called “Harvest Grains,” which is quite nice.

In a large soup pot over medium-high, sauté the onion in about 1 tbsp of olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue sautéing for 1 minute, then add the red bell pepper and chili de arbol (if using). Continue stirring until the onion is limp and translucent. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook for 1 minute, then add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, toss in the carrots and mixed grains and stir well. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, stir in the zucchini, cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

Season with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice. Enjoy!

IMG_1301