Posts Tagged ‘vegetable’

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/
 

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 

How To Shop For And Trim Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts. People love ‘em or hate ‘em. I, myself, am a sprout lover. I eat brussels sprouts two to three times a week. Sometimes I have them alongside eggs for breakfast and other times I have them as a side dish with dinner.

If you are a sprout hater, I beg you to try one of the recipes at the bottom of this post and surely you’ll change your mind! One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is browned in ghee and bacon fat, seasoned with salt and pepper, and tossed with dried cranberries and toasted almonds. Simple, colorful, and delicious.

How to Shop for Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are usually sold individually; however, during the fall when they are in season, sometimes they are sold on the stalk. How cool do they look on the stalk? I have unsuccessfully tried to grow brussels sprouts in my garden for the past two years. Perhaps this is the year! :-)

If your local grocery store or farmer’s market is selling the sprouts on the stalk, do not be intimidated! They are easy to remove and you do not need any fancy or special equipment to do so. 

Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk

To choose a “good” sprouts, pick them up and give them a little squeeze. The leaves should feel tightly packed especially around the base. You will be trimming off the bottom and if the leaves are loose around the stem, you’ll lose some of the good leaves along with the dirty ones.

Trimming brussels sprouts

How to Trim Brussels Sprouts

If you buy brussels sprouts on the stalk, you can snap them off by hand before you begin to trim them. I never wash brussels sprouts before I cook them. Is that gross? I don’t feel much of a need to wash them first because you end up removing all of the dirty outer leaves as you prep them for cooking. After you have removed the outer leaves, if you’d like to wash them, you can give them a quick rinse under cold water.

Trimming brussels sprouts

Trim a small portion off the bottom of the sprout. Some of the leaves may fall off on their own, that is ok. 

Trimming brussels sprouts

Pull the outer leaves off until you see lighter green, shiny leaves. You’ll also want to remove any yellow, bruised, or dirty leaves. 

Trimming brussels sprouts

Now, you are ready to cook them. You can roast them, grill them, sauté them, steam them, or pickle them. They are such a versatile veggie and so tasty when prepared correctly! In the picture below, I halved them, because I was about to toss them in olive oil, season them with this spice blend and roast them for 25 minutes at 375˚. 

Trimming brussels sprouts

Ready to tackle the sprout on your own? Check out these awesome brussels sprouts recipes:

Za’atar Scented Carrot Fries

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have undoubtedly heard me rave about the Foodie Penpals program I participate in each month. Well, I found a Paleo version hosted by Tarah over at What I Gather and Brittanie over at Three Diets One Dinner. How perfect! Paleo Penpals is very similar to Foodie Penpals. Each month you are paired with another participant and you exchange Paleo-friendly items with them. Then, you create a recipe using the items you received from your pen pal. Tarah and Brittanie will put together a roundup post with all of the recipes that were submitted and post it on their blogs at the end of each month. I thought this would be a really great way to expand my Paleo pantry and get some inspiration for new recipes.

This month I was paired with Amanda from Kentucky. She sent me two different spice mixes; one was her own “super secret” pork rub and the other was a spice mix called za’atar. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix that is a mixture of dried herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac and it used on pretty much everything in the Middle East. It can be used to season root veggies or you can add it to olive oil to make a dip for bread. Some people eat it straight from the jar.

Sumac has a slight citrus taste so my original thought was to make za’atar spiked marinara sauce; however, after adding nearly three tablespoons of it to the pot and finding it didn’t have the punch I was looking for, I gave up that idea. I’ve seen pictures of carrot “fries” floating around various Paleo blogs and decided to give that a try. Success!

Carrot fries are awesome! They have a consistency that is similar to sweet potato fries. The sweetness of the carrots and coconut oil pairs nicely with the tartness of the sumac. You can purchase za’atar online or you can make your own from scratch. If you can’t get your hands on any, you can substitute the za’atar in the recipe below for your favorite all-purpose spice blend or season with plain old salt and pepper.

By the way, have I showed you my method for melting coconut oil?

How to Melt Coconut Oil | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

We don’t own a microwave so I had to get creative!

Yup. That’s my bathroom. That’s my hairdryer. Laugh all you want, but it works like a charm! :)

Za'atar Scented Carrot "Fries" | Via Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Served alongside homemade mayo

*NOTE: This recipe makes a single serving of carrot “fries.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon za’atar

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425˚.
  2. Peel and chop carrots into quarters. You want them to be roughly the same size and thickness.
  3. In a bowl, toss carrots in melted coconut oil for a few minutes to make sure they are well coated.
  4. Add za’atar to the bowl and toss the carrots for another few minutes making sure to distribute the spice evenly.
  5. Spread the carrots onto a baking sheet lined with foil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes. Watch these as they have a tendency to burn quickly! It may take a few more minutes or a few less depending on how thick you cut your “fries.”
  6. Remove from the oven and let sit on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Green Juice Boost (of Energy!)

I’ve been intrigued by juicing ever since watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead on Netflix a few months ago. The film follows a man who was 100 pounds overweight with all kinds of autoimmune disorders. He starts juicing in an attempt to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. It was an interesting film and inspired me to start using the juicer that was collecting dust in my basement.

One of the main motivations to start juicing was the fact that I had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. in order to be at school by 7:30. It was hard for me to eat a full breakfast that early; nothing sounds appetizing when you are still half asleep! But, since I didn’t want to leave the house on an empty stomach, I decided to give juicing a try.

The results were amazing! I had a ton of energy and didn’t experience the harsh crash in the afternoons that I usually get with coffee.This is one of my favorite juice recipes. I stuck to this one almost religiously because it wasn’t overly sweet. The lemon gave it a nice tartness and the parsley added a refreshing finish.

Green Juice Boost (of Energy!) - 1/2 cucumber, 1 small apple, 1 lemon, 1 small handful of parsley (about 1/4 cup), 3 stalks kale, 2 handfuls of spinach (about 3 cups). Roughly chop apple and peel lemon. Run all ingredients through a juicer. Enjoy immediately! | Cucina Kristina cucinakristina.com

No mid-afternoon crash!

Green Juice Boost (of Energy!)
*This recipe requires a juicer.

Green Juice Boost (of Energy!). No mid-afternoon crash! Run all ingredients through a juicer. Enjoy immediately. | Cucina Kristina cucinakristina.com

Green Juice Boost (of energy)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 small handful of parsley (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3 stalks kale
  • 2 handfuls of spinach (about 3 cups)

Directions:

  1. Roughly chop apple and peel lemon.
  2. Run all ingredients through a juicer.
  3. Enjoy immediately!

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.

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Homemade Sriracha Mayonnaise

I have never like mayonnaise. I can’t even tolerate it when the flavor is masked and mixed into things. Potato salad? No, thanks. Ranch dressing? Bleh! Sandwich spread? I prefer mustard. Can you imagine my surprise when one night I was craving mayonnaise? I imagine that my body wasn’t craving mayonnaise as much as it was craving fat, but either way I was too lazy to drive to the store, and I decided to make some. Yup. On a whim I decided to whip up some homemade mayonnaise.

I read this recipe from The Clothes Make the Girl and this recipe from Alton Brown and decided to combine the two. I must have gotten lucky because it came together beautifully, tasted amazing, and was super easy. Apparently, mayonnaise is rather finicky and can separate easily if not prepared correctly. 

I will be up front and honest, I have only tried this recipe once, and like I said, I may have gotten lucky. But, if you are a fellow mayonnaise hater, I strongly urge you to make some from scratch. You just may be a convert. I am!

Homemade Mayonnaise
Yields ~1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 cup light olive oil

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine egg yolk, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, mustard and salt. I used the blade attachment and let it whirl for about 20-30 seconds.
  2. SLOWLY drizzle the oil into the food processor. Pour as slowly as you can and then slow it down even more. This part should take about 3-5 minutes.
  3. When you have poured all of the oil into the food processor, let it whirl for another 15-20 seconds.

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Sriracha Mayonnaise

Sweet and Spicy

Sweet and Spicy

Ingredients:

  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil, maybe a little more depending on the size of your sweet potato
  • Seasoned salt
  • 3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise (see above!)
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425˚.
  2. Peel sweet potato and cut into strips about 1/2 inch thick.
  3. Toss in melted coconut oil, season with seasoned salt, and spread evenly on a baking sheet.
  4. Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes or until they brown evenly. If you are feeling extra enthusiastic, flip them at the halfway mark.
  5. In a small dish, mix 3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon Sirarcha sauce until well combined.
  6. Dip sweet potato fries into the Sirarcha mayonnaise and enjoy the flavor explosion!

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.

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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