Archive of ‘Vegetarian’ category

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds &
Blood Orange Vinaigrette

This recipe for green beans gets a zesty punch from the blood orange vinaigrette. It’s a perfect side dish for a summer BBQ! The blood orange vinaigrette would also make a great dressing for a brunch salad.

green beans with blood orange vinaigrette

While most of the kiddos in Chicago are heading back to school today, I am sitting in my house enjoying a hot cup of coffee with the windows open. Getting Easter Monday off is one of the perks of working at a Catholic school. I mentioned that the windows were open, right?! OPEN. Begone, winter! See you next year! spring is finally on the horizon!

You know what is awesome about spring? The seasonal fruits and veggies that start to pop up at the grocery store and farmer’s markets. You start to see things like asparagus, ramps, peas, and fennel. The sheer RETURN of the farmer’s market is an exciting thing about spring. 

On my weekly trip to the grocery store, I happened to see blood oranges were on sale so I picked up a few thinking I would enjoy them as a snack throughout the week. Lately, I’ve been using olive oil and lemon juice to dress my lunch salads and as I was washing my weekly produce haul, I wondered if I could make a delicious blood orange dressing for my salads.

Blood Orange Vinaigrette by Cucina Kristina

A quick Pinterest search turned up this recipe from CHOW. I’ve adapted it below by swapping the vegetable oil out for extra virgin olive oil, adding some garlic, and sweetening it up just a hint by adding pure maple syrup. After portioning out enough dressing for the week, I had some left over so I decided to test it for an Easter side dish. I really wish I had experimented with this sooner because this dish was a winner!

Green beans with a blood orange dressing

This was such an easy side dish and would be a wonderful addition to a BBQ, picnic, or holiday meal. I think it would also be a great dressing for a breakfast or brunch salad. If the idea of a vinaigrette doesn’t appeal to you, you could always use those blood oranges to make a margarita!

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds &
Blood Orange Vinaigrette
This recipe for green beans gets a zesty punch from the blood orange vinaigrette. It's a perfect side dish for a summer BBQ!
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Blood Orange Vinaigrette (makes 1 1/4 cups)
  1. Juice from 3 medium blood oranges
  2. 1/2 teaspoon blood orange zest
  3. Juice from 1/2 lemon
  4. 1 clove garlic
  5. 1/2 small shallot
  6. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  7. 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  10. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the green beans
  1. 3 pounds green beans, trimmed
  2. 1 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
To prepare and blanch the beans
  1. Trim and cut the beans so they are roughly all the same length. I like to cut them on a slant so they look pretty on the plate.
  2. Boil the green beans in a large pot of salted water for 3 minutes.
  3. Immediately remove the beans and plunge them into a separate bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking process so they maintain their bright green color.
  4. Toss with blood orange vinaigrette and toasted almonds.
  5. Garnish with a few extra toasted almonds and remaining orange zest.
For the almonds
  1. Roughly chop 1 cup of almonds.
  2. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and toast at 325˚ for 10-12 minutes. Watch them to make sure they do not burn!
  3. Reserve a small handful to garnish your green beans.
For the blood orange vinaigrette
  1. Zest your oranges. Add 1/2 tablespoon to a blender or food processor. Reserve the rest for garnish.
  2. Add all of the ingredients (except the olive oil) to your blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Slowly, drizzle in the olive oil and blend until well-combined.
Adapted from CHOW
Adapted from CHOW
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/
 

How to Make Homemade Tahini

If you’ve ever wondered how to make tahini, keep reading. This recipe for homemade tahini is easy to whip up in your food processor and will cost you a fraction of the cost of buying it in the store. 

how to make homemade tahini

Have you ever roasted your own peppers on your stovetop? It’s incredible easy and they taste so much better than the canned stuff. I do this a lot more in the summer when I have the time to devote to fancy things.

how to roast red pepper

This weekend, I read on David Lebovits’s site that you can do the same thing with eggplant before making baba ganoush in order to give it a smoky flavor. I decided to give it a whirl because I love a good baba ganoush. I make it a lot in the summer because we grow eggplants in our garden and the thought of smoky baba ganoush sounded too good to pass up.

fairytale eggplant growing in our garden

David warns you not to leave the eggplant on the stove for too long because the smoky flavor may become too strong for most folks. Well, I didn’t listen because I am not very good at following directions. Ever noticed there aren’t any baking recipes on this site? That’s why. The result? A baba ganoush that was Way. Too. Smoky. Just as he had warned. 

roast eggplant to give it a smoky flavor

As the eggplant was roasting, I started gathering the other ingredients I needed to make the baba ganoush. I needed garlic, lemon, chili powder, olive oil, and tahini. Gah! I was out of tahini. I considered substituting sun butter for the tahini and crossing my fingers when I saw a jar of sesame seeds in my cupboard. 

Woo! Homemade nut butters are made by whirling nuts in your food processor and adding a bit of olive oil until you get the desired consistency so it makes sense that tahini could be made just as easily.

I am super bummed that the baba ganoush didn’t turn out, but now I have 1/2 cup of tahini so I can experiment quite a bit before we are up to our eyeballs in eggplant!

Homemade Tahini
This recipe for homemade tahini is easy to whip up in your food processor and will cost you a fraction of the cost of buying it in the store.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  2. 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a pan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until they are golden and fragrant. This took me about 7 minutes. Make sure you stir often because, like nuts, they can burn quickly.
  2. When the seeds have cooled, add them to your food processor.
  3. Turn the food processor on and add olive oil by the tablespoon until you get a smooth consistency. I used about 5 tablespoons.
  4. Store in an airtight container in your fridge.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/

Food Blogger Cookbook Swap!

Food Blogger Cookbook Swap

At the beginning of the month, I signed up for a Food Blogger Cookbook Swap, hosted by Alyssa of http://www.EverydayMaven.com and Faith of http://www.anediblemosaic.com. For the swap, I sent a gently used cookbook from my collection to a food blogger and received a cookbook from their collection in return. 

Which Cookbook Did I Get?

Vegetables: The Most Authoritative Guide to Buying, Preparing, and Cooking, with More Than 300 Recipes by James Peterson.

Food Blogger Cookbook Swap

Vegetables by James Peterson

A big shout out to Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla for sending it to me. Camilla is a writer for Edible Monterey Bay magazine (that’s pretty much my dream job so I am super jealous!) and has quite the collection of recipes on her blog. Go check her out! You will not be disappointed.

I’m super pumped about this cookbook for two reasons. 1. It fits nicely into my Paleo and gluten-free way of life and 2. It has a TON of information about vegetables I have yet to try. For example:

Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead Ferns

Photo Source: Specialty Produce

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem Artichoke

Photo Source: With Love, Mags 

and, Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Photo Source: Healing Healthy

It also has a ton of information about how to buy each vegetable, the best way to cook it, how to store it, and how to prep it for cooking. This cookbook is seriously AMAZING! 

How to Prepare Asparagus

One of the cool things I learned from this book was how to properly prepare asparagus. The book states, that “asparagus must be peeled [because it] helps the asparagus cook evenly and makes almost the entire stalk as tender and as delightful to eat as the tip (James Peterson, p. 15).” And to think, I thought restaurants were peeling asparagus for the sole purpose of making it look pretty on the plate. 

I tried this technique the other night and, I have to admit, I was impressed with the results! To peel asparagus, simply lay it flat on your cutting board and peel the stalks using a vegetable peeler.

How to peel asparagus | peeled asparagus

Once peeled, I tossed the stalks in a bit of extra virgin olive oil, seasoned them with Lakeshore Drive seasoning (my current favorite!), and roasted them in a 400˚ oven for 15 minutes. I served them alongside some mahi mahi I had marinating in Three Citrus Garlic Marinade. It was a quick (read: lazy) meal, but it was delicious.

Check out the links below for all of the participating food bloggers. Visit their pages and see which books they received and how they intend to use them!

Participating Food Bloggers in the Swap

A Baker’s House
An Edible Mosaic
avocado bravado
Blue Kale Road
Blueberries And Blessings
Cheap Recipe Blog
Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Create Amazing Meals
Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Cupcake Project
Dinner is Served 1972
Done With Corn
Eats Well With Others
Everyday Maven
Flour Me With Love 
From My Sweet Heart 
girlichef 
Great Food 360° 
Healthy. Delicious. 
I’m Gonna Cook That! 
Je Mange la Ville 
Karen’s Kitchen Stories 
Kitchen Treaty 
Olive and Herb 
OnTheMove-In The Galley 
Our Best Bites 
Paleo Gone Sassy 
poet in the pantry 
Rhubarb and Honey 
Rocky Mountain Cooking
Shikha la mode 
Shockingly Delicious 
Sifting Focus 
Spiceroots 
Spoonful of Flavor 
Tara’s Multicultural Table 
The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler 
The Suburban Soapbox 
The Whole Family’s Food 

Maxwell Street Market & Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles

I have some exciting news. This is my 100th post! Woo!

In honor of my 100th post, I am going to give you a travel post AND a recipe. Y’all are lucky readers. :) In addition to chronicling my world travels, I wanted to start writing about my discoveries and adventures right here in Sweet Home, Chicago. You can find my first “Tourist in the City” post about the Chicago Botanic Garden here.

Today, I am going to tell you about a hidden gem in Chicago. It’s the Maxwell Street Market, a weekly open-air flea market located in the South Loop. Seriously, if you live in Chicago and you love Mexican food, you should head down to Des Plaines and Polk Street and stuff yourself silly. The market is held every Sunday. You’ll find some of the best, inexpensive Mexican street food in Chicago and there is no admission price to get in. Win!

Pastor Taco at Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Pastor (Pork) taco – $2

I went with a friend of mine in November and ate approximately 25 pounds of food. Ok, maybe not quite 25 pounds of food, but I sure as heck ate a TON of tacos that day and didn’t feel guilty about it.

Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Me, quesadillas, carne asada, and pastor.

The food is all made to order, even the tortillas. Did I mention that it is cheap? Check out these prices.

Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

I recommend… everything!

This lady was a tortilla making machine! She was cranking them out like nobody’s business.

Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Fresh, soft, warm tortillas. YUM!

I am a bit of a mole freak. I love mole. If I see it on a menu, I have to order it. This was some of the best mole I’ve had since moving to Chicago and I paid $2.50 for it.

Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

I love mole!

In addition to housing some fantastic street food, the Maxwell Street Market is also host to a flea market. Need a set of tires? You can get them here along with a new lamp, a package of socks, a box of nails, and a guitar. You can also get your hands on some fresh produce at prices that beat any grocery store in town.

At the flea market, I bought a bag of dried hibiscus flowers and have been drinking hibiscus tea throughout the winter. Hibiscus tea has a very tart flavor, similar to a cranberry. I happened to like the tartness and usually drank my tea without adding any additional sugar, although I occasionally added a bit of honey to sweeten it. The hibiscus flower contains vitamin C, is thought to lower blood pressure, and has a surprising amount of health benefits. It is also very pretty to look at when it is steeping in your teapot. :)

I posted a picture of strawberry hibiscus popsicles in last week’s Paleo Food Diary and had a lot of people asking for the recipe. If you do not have popsicle molds, you can freeze these in ice cube trays, Dixie cups, or muffin tins. If you like strawberry, you might also enjoy my strawberry, banana, and orange popsicles.

Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles
Makes 6 pops

Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup dried Hibiscus flowers

Directions:

  1. In a pot, bring water and Hibiscus flowers to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain flowers and add the liquid to a blender.
  3. Add strawberries, banana, and honey and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Making homemade broth is incredibly simple and seems to really impress people. It is also inexpensive, totally customizable, and so much better tasting than any canned broth or bullion cube on the market. I make homemade vegetable broth approximately once a month. I keep a gallon sized freezer bag in my freezer and throw any vegetable trimmings and ends from my food prep into it.

Store vegetable trimmings in a freezer bag to make homemade vegetable broth

Store vegetable trimmings in a freezer bag to make homemade vegetable broth

When the bag gets full, I dump it out into a large pot of water and 4-5 hours later have a rich, dark amber broth that is perfect to use as a soup base. You can refrigerate the broth if you are using it that week or freeze it for later use. I like to freeze my broth in ice cube trays and use them to cool down hot soup. I use this method for cooling down my hot coffee.

Ice Cube Tray Measurements

2 cubes = 1/4 cup
4 cubes = 1/2 cup
6 cubes = 3/4 cup
8 cubes = 1 cup

Save Vegetable Peelings and Ends for Homemade Vegetable Broth | cucinakristina.com

Don’t discard gems like this!

This is also a great way to use up any vegetables you won’t be able to eat before they spoil. The smell that will seep throughout your house is amazing as this broth is simmering. The hardest part about making broth is waiting

Ingredients that can be used:

  • Carrots (shavings, tops, trimmings)
  • Parsnips (shavings, tops, trimmings)
  • Radishes (trimmings)
  • Celery (leaves, base, trimmings)
  • Onion/Shallots (all types! skins and trimmings)
  • Garlic (skins and trimmings)
  • Mushrooms (whole or scraps)
  • Fennel (trimmings, base, tops, scraps)
  • Leeks (base, tops, trimmings)
  • Turnips – I always toss a whole one into any batch of stock
  • Any vegetable you have on hand!
  • Herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley, whatever you like!)
Freeze odds and ends for later

Freeze odds and ends for later

The great thing about this method is that your broth will change flavor depending on the scraps you collected in the bag. Generally, I make sure to add a few garlic cloves, an extra onion that is chopped into quarters, and a turnip. I find the turnip gives the broth a nice earthy undertone that is otherwise missing.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Save Vegetable Peelings and Ends for Homemade Vegetable Broth | cucinakristina.com

Simmer for ~4 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 turnip, quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bag of vegetable trimmings*
  • Water – The amount of water you start with will depend on the size of your pot. Generally speaking, you want the water to reduce to about 1/3 of the original amount. The more it reduces, the more concentrated your broth will be.
  • Salt and pepper**

*NOTE: If you do not collect trimmings and want to make broth from scratch just use whole ingredients from the list above.

**Generally, I don’t add salt or pepper to my broth. I usually wait until I am cooking with it to add salt, pepper, herbs, etc. However, you should experiment and season according to your taste!

Directions:

  1. Place all items in a pot and fill with water. Leave about 1 inch from the top of the pot.
  2. Bring water to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ~4 hours. Times will vary depending on the size of your pot so be sure to check periodically the first time you do this.
  4. When the water has reduced to about 1/3 of the amount, remove from heat and strain.
  5. Let the veggies cool and then squeeze them over the broth to make sure you get all the flavor you can out of them.
  6. Strain again to remove any big chunks of vegetables.
  7. Freeze in ice cube trays and store ice cubes in a large freezer bag.

Mason Jar Salads

Mason Jar Salads. Stay fresh for up to a week in the fridge. Layer hardier ingredients on the bottom and more delicate items on top. Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Great time saver!   

I do my grocery shopping and food prep for the week on Sunday afternoon. It the single best time saver and stress reliever that I have discovered to date. It takes a bit of planning in the beginning to get the hang of it, but it is so worth it once you figure out the odds and ends!

I typically spend anywhere between 5-6 hours shopping, prepping, and cleaning up on Sunday, but it totally eliminates any work I have to do for meals during the week. At any point during the week, I can whip up breakfast, lunch, or dinner with zero prep time and minimal clean up. Mid-week clean up is reduced to the pots/pans I use to cook and the dishes we eat on.

For the past few months, I have been eating salads everyday for lunch and storing them in mason jars. I make 6 at a time and the mason jars keep the ingredients fresh for the entire week. Any airtight container would probably work, but I like mason jars because they fit in the door of the fridge. If I were to make the salads only, shopping, prep, and clean up would probably take 2-3 hours.

A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of my mason jar salads on Instagram and it sparked a ton of questions from people. I originally saw this idea floating around Pinterest so I thought everyone already knew about it, but it turns out they do not. I never actually “pinned” the original idea onto one of my boards so, unfortunately, I can’t credit the place that I first saw this.

I don’t add any dressing into the mason jars because I dress my salads with olive oil and vinegar only. If you want, you can add the dressing to the bottom of the jars. Just make sure that you always layer sturdy veggies at the bottom (like carrots or radishes) so they stay crisp throughout the week.

Mason Jar Salads
Time: 2-3 hours which includes shopping, prep, and clean up
Makes 6 salads

Make a week's worth of salads ahead of time and store them in mason jars. They will keep in your fridge for up to a week! Layer hardy ingredients on bottom and more delicate items (like lettuce or sprouts) on top. Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Example of the items you will need

Ingredients
You can use any ingredients that you want. For the above salads I used the following:

  • 3 green peppers – 1/2 pepper per salad
  • 12 radishes – 2 radishes per salad
  • 6 carrots – 1 per salad
  • 3 small apples – 1/2 apple per salad
  • 6 celery stalks – 1 per salad
  • 3 shallots – 1/2 shallot per salad
  • 3 heads of romaine lettuce – 1/2 head per salad
  • 3 small cucumbers  – 1/2 cucumber per salad. Note: Pictured above are 6 small cucumbers because I planned on using 1 per salad. As you can see in the picture below, it was way too much so I ended up using half of the original amount I bought.
  • Sport peppers

Directions

Mason jar salads will keep fresh and crisp in your fridge up to a week. Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Layer your ingredients

Start with your sturdy ingredients and layer each ingredient. Add the lettuce last. I layered in this order. Radish, carrot, cucumber, celery, green pepper, apple, shallot, sport peppers, and lettuce.

Mason Jar Salads - They will keep fresh and crisp in your fridge up to a week. Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Shake the jar to create more room

Don’t worry if your jar starts to look like it is getting full. You have tons of room left and you can push the items down when you add the lettuce. Before adding the lettuce, shake the jar to settle the ingredients and fill in the gaps between layers. The jar on the left has not been shaken, the jar on the right has. See the difference?

Make salads for the week ahead of time and store them in a mason jar. They will keep in your fridge for up to a week. From: Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Finished salads

Lastly, add the lettuce. Really pack it in there. You can fit a lot more than you think in these jars!

When you are ready to eat them, dump them out into a large bowl. At this point you can add a protein source like hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken, or shrimp. Add nuts or seeds if you are keeping it vegetarian or vegan. You can also add homemade pickled banana peppers.

Store vegetable trimmings in a freezer bag and use them to make homemade vegetable broth. Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Use these to make homemade vegetable broth

Make sure you save any veggie shavings or trimmings. Just throw them into a plastic bag and store them in your freezer. When the bag gets full, dump the contents into a large pot of water and make homemade vegetable broth.

Curried Acorn Squash and Red Lentil Soup with Spiced Acorn Squash Seeds

Are there any curry lovers out there? I am dying to share this recipe with someone because it is hearty, comforting, and oh so tasty. It’s the type of soup that warms you from the inside out. I threw it together on a whim last night and apparently nobody in my life likes curry!  More for me, right?

Before we get to the recipe, I want to share a couple of notes about this soup and some substitution ideas. First, I used an acorn squash because it is what I had on hand. If you are new to using squash and do not have good knife skills, substitute with a butternut squash. The butternut squash is infinitely easier to peel and has a similar taste. If squash is not your thing, substitute with sweet potatoes. If neither squash nor sweet potatoes are your thing, try my chicken tortilla soup.

Second, this soup has an intense curry flavor. If you like curry, but you do not love curry, cut back to 1 teaspoon and use vegetable broth and water as the base instead of just straight water. As the soup is cooking, taste and add more curry as desired. Remember that it is easier to add more of an ingredient than to try to balance it out after the fact.

Third, do not throw out the squash seeds! The seeds are edible just like pumpkin seeds. For some reason, people do not think about toasting the seeds of other squashes, but they make a wonderful soup garnish or can be used on salads or as an on-the-go snack. I flavored my seeds with salt and Chinese five spice, but you can use anything you like to season your seeds. Some spices that compliment curry are cinnamon, ginger, chili powder, cumin, or cloves.

Now, on to the soup! This is the type of soup that you will want to make on a chilly winter day. The mere smell of curry warms my body as it seeps throughout the house. I almost can’t wait for the first real snowfall so I can make it again. This soup would be a great starter to a Thanksgiving meal even though the flavors are not necessarily traditional. By the way, how is Thanksgiving THIS Thursday? Where does the time go?

Just before serving, I added a tablespoon of chili paste. I use Huey Fong, which is the same company that makes Sriracha (aka rooster sauce). I think the chili paste adds a nice layer of heat to this soup. For you spicy food haters, I would not describe the flavor chili paste adds to this soup as spicy at all. It is not going to burn your mouth and make your eyes water, it just adds a little kick and enhances the overall flavor of this soup. Give it a try! If you are nervous about adding chili paste to the entire pot of soup, you can always put it on the table and have guests add it to their individual bowls as desired.

Curried Acorn Squash and Red Lentil Soup

Cucina Kristina | Curried Acorn Squash and Red Lentil Soup with Spiced Acorn Squash Seeds

Warms you from the inside out!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 acorn squash, peeled and cubed (see substitution ideas above)
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (see substitution ideas above)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste (optional)
  • 1 1/2 quarts water

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, cook onions and garlic in melted coconut oil, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add ginger and cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add carrots and squash and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the curry and cumin and cook for about a minute. This will toast the spices and open their flavor.
  5. Add water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are cooked through and vegetables are tender.
  6. If using, add 1 tablespoon of chili paste just before serving.
  7. Serve warm and garnish with spiced acorn squash seeds.

Spiced Acorn Squash Seeds

Ingredients:

  • Coconut oil
  • Chinese five spice (see substitution ideas above)
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Rinse and dry the seeds from 1 acorn squash.
  2. Melt coconut oil in a small bowl and toss the seeds to coat evenly. If you do not have coconut oil, you can use olive oil.
  3. Add 1 generous pinch of Chinese five spice and toss to evenly distribute.
  4. Spread seeds onto a baking sheet lined with foil and sprinkle with salt to taste.
  5. Roast in a 375˚ oven for about 12 minutes. All ovens vary so you will want to watch the seeds and check on them periodically. They are done when they look toasted and golden brown.

Easy Pickled Banana Peppers for Salads or Sandwiches

Cucina Kristina: Garden Salad

A true garden salad!

I snapped this photo last week before diving into my salad at lunch. I grew everything you see in that photo except the banana peppers, the dried cranberries, and the pumpkin seeds. I will definitely get a plant or two of banana peppers next year because nothing makes me happier than grocery shopping in my own backyard!

If you are an inexperienced gardener and want to grow some greens, I would highly suggest arugula. If you came over to my house at all this summer, you would probably think to yourself, “Why on earth aren’t you eating all of this arugula? Who spends the time planting and cultivating a garden and then doesn’t use it?” I kid you not, I’ve eaten a giant arugula salad for lunch nearly every day for the past 4 months. I can’t eat this stuff as fast as it grows! I would bring in fistfuls of arugula like you see in the photo below at least every 2-3 days. I am going to try to grow some indoors over the winter. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Cucina Kristina: Garden Fresh Arugula

Armed with a fistful of bas… arugula!

One of my favorite additions to salad are pickled banana peppers. I don’t buy them very often because they are expensive, and I can go through an entire Costco-sized jar of them in about a week. While at my favorite grocery store in Chicago, A&G Fresh Market, I noticed fresh banana peppers were on sale for something ridiculous like .19¢ a pound. I thought to myself, “I wonder how easy it is to make those banana peppers I love so much.” Turns out it is absurdly easy, quick, and cheap (even when the peppers are not on sale) to make them on your own. The hardest part is waiting the 48-72 hours for them to pickle properly.

Pickled Banana Peppers
The recipe below is for a pound of banana peppers. A pound didn’t sound like that much, but it yielded about 3.5 quarts of pickled peppers! Keep that in mind when making these; a little goes a long way. Assuming you do not eat them the way I do, the good news is that they will last quite a while in your fridge due to the high vinegar content.

Also, you generally want a 3:2 ratio of vinegar to water, but you do not need exact measurements for a recipe like this. If you only have 2 cups of vinegar handy and you have to add more water, that is ok, but you should try to aim for no less than a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water when pickling since vinegar is what make things “pickle.”

Cucina Kristina: Homemade Pickled Banana Peppers

Perfect for salads or sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. banana peppers
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 smashed garlic clove per jar – 1 lb. of peppers filled 3 and a half quart sized mason jars. Therefore, I used 4 cloves of garlic.

Directions:

  1. Slice banana peppers into rings. Remove seeds if desired. Note: I do not remove the seeds because I like the small amount of heat banana peppers have. Banana peppers are not spicy like jalapeños or serranos. They have a Scoville rating of 100-900 (more than a bell pepper, less than a poblano pepper), but some people are super sensitive to heat. If you are, remove the seeds.
  2. Put the banana peppers into a glass jar(s) with an airtight seal.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the water, vinegar, salt, garlic, and sugar until it comes to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for 3-5 minutes to dissolve the sugar and salt, remove from heat, and cool to just above room temperature. If you pour hot liquid over your peppers it will cook them and they will get soggy. Let your pickling mixture cool. Be patient!
  5. When cooled, pour pickling liquid over peppers making sure each jar has a piece of smashed garlic in it.
  6. Store in the fridge. Let the peppers pickle for at least 48-72 hours before eating. The longer they sit, the better they are!

Salted Maple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, and Chili-Lime Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I love old vintage radio shows. I used to listen to them every day when I was commuting to and from my office job. My favorites were Vintage Horror Radio, the Twilight Zone, and the Great Detectives. They are especially fun to listen to at this time of year.

I hope everyone has a happy and a safe Halloween!

Cucina Kristina: Salted Maple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Chili-Lime Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Salted Maple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Chili-Lime Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

The recipes below are for the seeds of 1 medium-sized pumpkin. If you are going to use one of the recipes below for a full pumpkin worth of seeds, you’ll need to adjust a bit!

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon raw coconut oil, melted
  • 1 scant teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar depending on how sugary or cinnamony you like things.
    Hint: Pumpkin pie spice and apple pie spice work really well here, too!

Directions:

  1. Mix cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Toss pumpkin seeds in coconut oil until evenly coated.
  3. Spread in an even layer onto a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  4. Roast in a 350˚ oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Salted Maple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:

  • 1 scant tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Sea Salt

Directions:

  1. Mix coconut oil and maple syrup in a small bowl.
  2. Toss pumpkin seeds in maple syrup/oil until evenly coated.
  3. Spread in an even layer onto a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  4. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.
  5. Roast in a 350˚ oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Chili-Lime Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Chili powder to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lime

Directions:

  1. Toss pumpkin seeds in olive oil until evenly coated.
  2. Spread in an even layer onto a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  3. Sprinkle with chili powder and stir to evenly coat.
  4. Sprinkle with salt.
  5. Roast in a 350˚ oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Cool and squeeze fresh lime juice over seeds before serving.

Cocoa Roasted Cauliflower

OMG! This recipe is amazing. I think I might love cauliflower now, which is good because cauliflower is low in calories and packed full of vitamin C. Ok, ok enough with the boring stuff. On to the chocolate!

I received an email from Vosges Haut Chocolate with this recipe for cocoa roasted cauliflower. I was intrigued, Googled it, and found this recipe on The Clothes Make the Girl, which sounded so much better. It was! I am a sucker for coconut oil so I was in as soon as I saw that.

OMG. So good.

Next time I make this I am going to omit the paprika because the coconut oil, salt, and cocoa powder together are such a wonderful sweet, salty, savory combination. I’m not sure the paprika adds enough umph for me to use it again, but experiment, you might love it! I am also going to use fresh garlic because freshly roasted garlic is one of the best things ever.

Cocoa Roasted Cauliflower

Cucina Kristina: Cocoa Roasted Cauliflower

Savory and sweet. So lovely!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Salt and garlic powder (or fresh garlic) to taste

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.
  2. Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a bowl and toss cauliflower until it is evenly distributed. Note: We do not have a microwave so I melted the coconut oil by blasting it with a hairdryer. Worked like a charm! True story.
  3. Spread cauliflower on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, garlic, and cocoa powder.
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes.

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