Roasted Broccoli Couscous

Roasted Broccoli Couscous

Roasted Broccoli Couscous

Roasted broccoli is without a doubt my favorite vegetable dish. I like broccoli prepared almost any way, but roasting it in the oven with olive oil, salt and garlic brings on a new depth of flavor that is at times both a little nutty and very slightly sweet.

But to turn my favorite vegetable side dish into something I can eat as an entree or as a souped-up side for guests is really something special.

And it’s still quick and easy, taking less than 25 minutes from first wash of the broccoli to serving warm. All you have to do is roast the broccoli, and while that’s in the oven prepare your favorite small grain couscous (I like using whole wheat) and toast a handful of sliced almonds. Then toss it all together and serve.

Please, I beg of you, use those broccoli stems! They’re the best part of the broccoli in both taste and nutrition. All you have to do is peel off the thick outer layer and then slice the stalk into thin coins. So delicious!

Here’s the recipe:

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Lunch in a Crunch: 16-Minute Kale & Mushroom Spaghetti

Kale & Mushroom Spaghetti

Kale & Mushroom Spaghetti

Today was one of those crazy busy Mondays where I had so many things I wanted to accomplish that I wasted half the morning trying to decide where to begin. And then, just as I’d finally hatched a plan it was thrown to pieces by a phone call asking me to sub for a kids’ cooking class this afternoon.

The next thing I knew I was working on a lesson plan with five – yes, five – loads of laundry in the washers downstairs all while trying to hurry myself out the door to buy ingredients for the class.

And did I mention I was famished? Sure, I could have noshed on some dry cereal or quickly defrosted something from the freezer, but I really felt like I needed a hot, fresh and filling lunch to carry me through the rest of the day. The problem was I had exactly 16 minutes to prepare lunch before I needed to take my clothes out of the dryer.

So I quickly rummaged through the refrigerator and grabbed the first things I found: half an onion, kale, mushrooms and lemon juice. Perfect, I’d make whole wheat spaghetti with kale and mushrooms.

To speed the process along, I immediately set a pot of water on the stove so it could come to a boil and also heated a bit of oil in a saute pan, the idea being to let the stove do most of the work. I chopped the onion and dropped it into the pan while moving on to cut the kale and mushrooms. In the end the vegetables and spaghetti finished cooking at the same time, which happened to be just moments before my 16 minutes were up. I ran downstairs, grabbed the laundry, and multi-tasked by folding and eating at the same time.

I couldn’t have planned it better if I’d actually tried.

Here’s the recipe:

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Recipe: Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots & Sauteed Spinach

Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots and Sauteed Spinach

Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots and Sauteed Spinach

This has been a rather strange food week for me. It started off strong at the all-you-can-eat-NRA show but quickly dwindled when I came down with something resembling the flu (not actually the flu, but a cold/fever). So there went a day and a half worth of good eating.

Luckily, I’m starting to feel a bit better although my appetite and taste buds aren’t at their normal levels…. yet. Good thing as today was another exciting foodie shopping/tasting day in Chicago with visits to the Green City Market (my first time attending the outdoor market this year) and the grand opening of the giant new Whole Foods in my neighborhood. And that one was a serious feast with tons of local vendors sampling products, not to mention the cool new food court.

Between the two food shopping endeavors I came home with a nice amount of produce, then quickly collapsed on the couch as the effort of shopping wiped out all my energy. I had recharged a bit by dinner time, but not enough to make the morel risotto I’d originally considered. Instead I turned to my bag of farmer’s market spinach and the package of beef stew meat in the refrigerator (it was the cheapest meat available at WF).

As a side note, I don’t normally have beef just sitting around in the refrigerator. I bought it this afternoon at WF because I had a weird craving for beef and I believe if I’m craving a specific ingredient it’s because my body really needs it. Of course this can be a bit tricky because I’m always craving chocolate, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Anyways, I thought back to a few months ago when I had some beef scraps leftover from another dish I had made that I had seared quickly in a hot pan and deglazed with balsamic vinegar. I decided to do that again but add some caramelized shallots for a bit more flavor and sauteed spinach, sort of like a hot beef salad I’m calling balsamic beef bites with caramelized shallots and sauteed spinach.

Trim spinach Sliced shallots Diced beef

It was great, something that came together very quickly in just one pan and was relatively healthy. I think most tender cuts of beef would work (stay away from flank or strip steaks) and should be trimmed of excess fat and cut into small bite-sized pieces. I like cutting them small because they cook quickly and evenly, and you don’t need a knife to eat them.

The real key to this dish though is to use a high quality balsamic vinegar; mine was aged 18 years and is rich and a little sweet.

Sear beef bites Deglaze with balsamic vinegar Cook spinach

Also, I used regular spinach from the farmer’s market which needs to be trimmed of the rough stems and washed very well. Feel free to use baby spinach if you prefer.

Here’s the recipe:

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Black Bean Brownies, Welcome to My World!

Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean Brownies

I’ve officially been living life in a bubble, one that hasn’t included black beans. What on earth was I thinking? They rock! I’m actually a little ashamed that I’ve been avoiding them for so many years (read: my entire life), but also excited about the possibilities.

For starters, black beans are incredibly healthy (hello protein and fiber). They also taste delicious, are quick and easy to prepare, and can be used in everything from rice to soup to salads to even desserts!

Yes, you read that right. Black beans are great in sweet desserts.

I discovered beans on my recent trip to Costa Rica where I ate them everyday, usually with rice, a protein (chicken or fish, or eggs if breakfast), and a vegetable. And they were delicious, not to mention filling and nutritious.

Black bean brownies: eggs and beans in blender Black bean brownies: puree everything

Now that my eyes and stomach are open to black beans I’ve begun to notice them more in everyday life back at home. For example, the other day I heard someone talk about black bean brownies made from a brownie mix, simply substitute a can of black beans for the eggs and oil and bake according to package instructions.

This idea piqued my interest, but I wanted to take it a step further and make the brownies completely from scratch, no box mix needed. This recipe turns the idea around a bit, using the black beans in place of flour and liquids and pureeing them in a blender with eggs, flavorings and sugar.

Bake black bean brownies Cool black bean brownies

These were decadent, relatively healthy and gluten and dairy-free, although I have to note that they’re not for everybody. The flavor is rich with a fudgy texture and you can’t taste the black beans at all, but your waistline will sure be able to tell the difference.

Here’s the recipe:

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Recipe: Herby Pea Pasta

Herby Pea Pasta

Herby Pea Pasta

I love pasta. Absolutely, positively love it. It’s incredibly versatile with thousands of sauces, vegetables, proteins, spices and herbs available to combine with it, not to mention all the forms pasta comes in – fun shapes, flavors, even whole grain is becoming easy to find. But the thing I think I love most about pasta is how simple it is to put together a flavor-packed meal in less than 15 minutes.

Shrimp and shallots Add frozen peas

Take this dish, herby pea pasta. It came together in a snap. I minced a shallot, sweated it in a bit of olive oil, added semi-thawed shrimp, then a little white wine, frozen peas straight from the freezer, the cooked pasta, chopped fresh herbs, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Half the products were either shelf-stable or frozen, and the herbs (in this case chives, tarragon and basil), were leftovers.

A whole lot of fresh herbs

The whole dish was completed in the amount of time it took to boil water and cook the pasta. Because there wasn’t a lot of prep work, I was able to chop and cook the other ingredients while the pasta boiled.

Mix pasta with shrimp and peas Mix in herbs

Here’s the recipe for today’s dish, but note that you can use pretty much any type of herb you have available.

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