Fig and Orange Crumble

Today was an unusual day. During one morning, June 18, I picked a bowl of the first figs and 4 bushels of the last oranges.  What makes it unusual is to be harvesting figs and oranges on the same day. The figs don’t normally come in until July 4th weekend, and the oranges are typically long gone by now. Naturally my first thought is that they needed to be cooked together in one sweet dish. After searching the internet, I learned that figs and oranges are commonly used together, but mostly in compote, jam, and chutney. When I found a recipe for Fig and Orange Crumble, I had to give it a try, with a few revisions.

Fig Orange Crumble

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c flour
  • 3 ounces coconut oil in solid state
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 2/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1t ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 pound figs cut into quarters
  • 2 oranges, including juice, segmented
  • 2T brown sugar
  • 2T Grand Mariner

Assemble the crumble: combine the flour, salt and coconut oil using a pastry cutter or food processor. Stir in the raw sugar, oats, ginger and almonds. Place in refrigerator while you  prepare the fruit.

Cut the fruit as directed above. Toss together the oranges, figs, Grand Mariner and brown sugar.

Lightly oil a deep baking dish or 8″x8″ baking pan. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the fruit mixture into the prepared pan and top with the crumble. Bake for 25-30 minutes,  until top is golden brown and fruit is bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

A couple side notes: the original recipe called for butter, not coconut oil, so you can use it instead if you like. Also, I thought I had Grand Marnier in my cabinet, but was out. I substituted some kumquat infused rum pictured below. The original recipe stated if you don’t like to cook with alcohol, you can use orange blossom water instead.

Kale Soup with Roasted Pablanos and White Beans

If you’ve browsed my recipes, you know by now that pablano peppers are a favorite ingredient. I like them better than bell peppers, and often use them instead of the latter. Yesterday I harvested the last of the winter kale and had a bunch of pablanos from the farmers market that needed to be used. Hmmm… what to do? I decided on a vegetarian dish, but if you have a meat eater in your house you could easily add some cubed chicken or pork to this soup. Initially I planned on adding a cup of corn to the soup, but forgot in the end, plus had already used corn tortillas and don’t like to overload on carbs. Feel free to add it when you turn off the soup if you can afford the calories or have a long run planned for the next morning. For this soup you will need:

  • 6 large pablano peppers
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2T olive oil, divided
  • about a half pound of kale or other green, washed, stems removed, cut into strips
  • 6 corn tortillas, cut into strips
  • 2 15 oz cans of great northern or other white beans
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 t sriracha sauce
  • 2t vinegar
  • 6 cups or more your favorite broth

Start by roasting the pablanos. This may seem labor intensive the first couple times you try it, but it’s really easy, and you can work on other parts of the meal while you roast and then cool them: first, wash and remove the stems and seeds, leaving the peppers whole. Preheat the broiler to high and place the pablanos inside on a cookie sheet about 6 inches away from the element. The skins will begin to blacken, at which time you turn them and allow to cook on the other side. Be careful not to  start a fire! When blackened on all sides, place into a brown paper bag and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. While they are resting, go ahead and heat 1T of the olive oil, adding the onion when the oil sizzles. Saute` the onion with the spices and sriracha until translucent. You can also begin browning the tortilla strips over medium heat with the remaining olive oil. I sprinkled a little salt and chili powder on them while they cooked. Remove from heat when golden and crispy. By now the pablanos are ready to peel. Remove them from the bag and slip the skins off, sort of like a blanched tomato, they come right off. If necessary, use a paper towel to facilitate the skin removal. You could run under cool water, but risk losing some of the roasted flavor by doing so.  After you remove all the skin, slice into strips. On the right side of the photo you can see all the discarded skin. While this step isn’t crucial, it does give the pepper a distinct flavor and texture, much like roasted red peppers.

Now you’re ready to make the soup. Add the pablanos to the onions, stir, and toss in the kale. Combine well and continue cooking until the kale fully wilts. Pour the broth and vinegar into the vegetable mixture and heat to boiling. Next, if you haven’t already done so, drain, rinse and add the beans. When using canned beans this step is crucial. I can’t say how many times people are surprised that I used canned beans when they taste the food. The typical comment is: “I usually hate the flavor of canned beans, but these are fine.” Make sure you pour them into a colander, rinse thoroughly and allow for drying time. Besides a better flavor you are also washing away a large majority of the sodium and, if not using organic (recommended), chemicals used as preservatives.

Bring the soup to a boil, then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 15-30 minutes. The flavors meld best with time. In fact this is a great soup to make a day or two ahead of time and re-heat, but make the tortillas same day so they are fresh and crispy. Taste to correct seasonings and serve with tortilla strips sprinkled on top. If desired top with a sharp cheese or dollop of Greek yogurt. If you decided to add meat to the recipe, it should be added while the onions are cooking. I like it plain, no cheese, no yogurt, no meat – but that’s me. My husband did complain on the lack of chicken, but loved the combo served with a little red papaya as a side dish.

Spanish Omelet

Here’s a dish I’ve been making for a long time, yet only discovered the “real name” a few years ago when our Spanish exchange student, Andres’, made dinner for us one night and announced he was making a Spanish Omelet. Last weekend at the farmer’s market I couldn’t resist the fresh eggs and knew this would be on the menu. The beauty of the recipe is the versatility. It can be changed in any number of ways by adding different spices, vegetables or cheeses. It’s also simple to make, and when served with a salad, acts as a complete meal. When Andres’ made it, as in Spain, it was simply olive oil, onions, potatoes, eggs and cheese. My version includes vegetables. Here I’ve used spinach, which is the favorite, but other vegetables, such as chopped broccoli or asparagus can be substituted. Cheese also changes the flavor. Here I’ve used manchego, but it is also good with feta, cheddar, whatever you like. The meal is light yet nutritionally dense. As written below, it should serve 3-4 people depending on appetite sizes. You can increase or decrease the amounts depending on how many you’re serving. I’ve made enough to feed six using my largest sauté pan.

You will need:

  • one medium onion, preferably sweet.
  • one or more T olive oil.
  • new potatoes, about 2 cups when sliced (6 small).
  • about half pound of fresh baby spinach leaves.
  • six medium eggs.
  • 1/4 cup milk or unsweetened nondairy milk (I used almond).
  • seasoning for the egg (flexible, to taste. I used salt, pepper, sriracha sauce, and garlic powder)
  • 1 cup your choice cheese, grated or crumbled (in the case of feta).

Start by slicing the onion and sautéing in about a tablespoon of olive oil, enough to coat the onion, potatoes and pan so the egg doesn’t stick. In this case I do use a nonstick pan, but if you don’t, add a little extra oil so you don’t have a dried eggy mess on the bottom of your pan. When the onions begin to soften, add the potatoes, stir well, cover the pan and allow to cook a few minutes, stirring often with a spatula to keep from sticking. Meanwhile, in the blender or food processor combine the eggs, milk, and seasonings. When the potatoes begin to soften and brown around the edges, stir in the spinach, allowing just to wilt. Next pour the egg mixture over the top, turn down the heat, and cover. Cook for a few minutes, until the sides begin to pull away and the egg begins to look firm while still a little runny on top. While the egg cooks preheat the broiler to low setting. Sprinkle the cheese over the omelet and place under the broiler for 5-10 minutes, depending on the heat and how close the rack is to the broiler. You want it to cook slowly at this point, to melt the cheese and firm up the egg, being careful not to burn.Take it out when it turns a nice golden color. Allow to cool a few minutes while you throw together a salad. Here I’ve used beets roasted in walnut oil served over leafy greens. Perfect for spring!

Soup is My Favorite Food

When it comes to versatility, soup wins hands down. Endless possibilities and dense nutritional content make soup a regular meal in our house. Plus, leftovers are easy to pack and always taste great for lunches during the week. The recipe below is one that I make with the remains of a roasted or rotisserie chicken, but you don’t have to use chicken. Any vegetable stock tastes great, and if you are pressed for time “Better-than-Bouillon” is an excellent standby. The stock is important though, as it is the base flavor of the soup. If you use prepared bouillon, be careful to use “all natural” without chemical additives – which most of them have. If you aren’t using chicken as the protein, you can substitute navy beans, black eyed peas, lima beans or drained 1/2 inch cubed firm tofu.

To make the stock: remove all leftover meat from the chicken, cut into bite size pieces, set aside. As you remove the meat, place bones, skin, everything into a large six-eight quart Dutch oven.  Add enough water to completely cover the bones. For extra flavor add a quartered onion, a couple stalks of celery cut in thirds and a few carrots cut in half. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat to low and allow to simmer for several hours, adding water as needed to keep the bones covered. I usually do this after dinner when the stock can simmer for 3-4 hours, then I turn it off at bedtime and let it cool over night on the stove top. In the morning, using a colander placed in a large bowl, pour the whole thing into the colander, then lift it out, leaving only the liquid. Discard the bones and used vegetables, being careful to seal tightly away from animals, especially dogs, who think the discards are an especially yummy treat. Now pour the liquid into a container, seal tightly and leave in fridge. When you’re ready to use it (up to one week later in the fridge, or you can freeze up to six months), remove the lid and you’ll see a thick yellow cover on the top of the stock.  This is all the chicken fat that has floated up and solidified. Remove and discard the fat, and if freezing, do so before you freeze it. Beneath the fat you’ll see chicken gelatin which melts back to liquid when heated.You can use the stock for numerous types of soups, sauces, green chili, but here I’ve made chicken & vegetable soup.

Now you’re ready to make an easy, hearty soup. Start with any hard vegetables you want to use. I usually dice an onion, thin slice a couple stalks of celery with the greens and slice a few carrots (the food processor is my friend). Begin to saute’ the onion, stirring frequently for a couple minutes, add the carrots and celery and continue to cook  until the vegetables begin to soften. If desired, add some minced garlic to the vegetables then add the stock, or if using store bought bouillon, add it now, about 6 cups +/- of liquid. Bring to a boil and add desired seasonings (marjoram, thyme, basil, salt, pepper to taste – I use about 1/2-1 teaspoon of each, sometimes I add a little heat, like a squirt of tobasco or sriracha). Allow the mixture to boil for about 10 minutes, then add the reserved chicken (if  using) or 1 can of beans rinsed thoroughly and drained or use frozen beans. If desired, add a can of diced tomatoes for added flavor and color. After the soup simmers for several minutes, add the softer, or quicker cooking vegetables. My favorite is Brussels Sprouts, but if I don’t have any, I use chopped cauliflower or any greens on hand, such as spinach, kale or collards. When those vegetables are done, turn off the heat and stir in 1 cup of frozen corn and 1 cup of frozen peas, which is great for bringing the soup to a manageable temperature quickly. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings. If you feel the broth is too strong, or soup too thick, you can always add extra water as needed.

Not Your Mama’s Chicken & Rice

When I first moved down here to the south, I learned that chicken and rice is a favorite southern dish…. yummy, a can of “cream of whatever” soup, white rice, chicken, broth, all baked together…. mmm mmm good. Seriously, this can be a healthy dish with a little help.

This version popped into my head the other night when I had a craving for the black rice I keep in my pantry. The first time I ever tried it was by accident, while shopping at Marshalls (of all places) in the gourmet food section. I saw it under the label of “The Emporer’s Rice” and had to try it. The flavor is fragrant and the texture chewy and nutty. It’s really very good, but hard to find. We were shopping at Dean & Delucca’s on a recent trip to Charlotte and I had to buy a bag when I saw it. Warning: this is not cheap – it’s why the Emporer loved it. This 2 pound bag set me back $20! But I’ve used it for multiple meals, still have a couple cups left, so overall not so bad. If you can’t find it, any brown rice would work, or one of the variety mixtures. This rice is not to be confused with wild rice though, not even close. Another plus: unlike other rice this is low glycemic, high fiber, a great complex carb. Plus, the color alone makes me feel like it must be pretty healthy, you know, the darker the better!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup black rice cooked in two cups water, 1t salt, 2t olive oil (I used the rice cooker and prepared the rest of the meal while it cooked).
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips.
  • 2 medium pablano chilis, diced.
  • 2 stalks celery, diced.
  • 1 medium onion, diced.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 c frozen corn
  • 1 T olive oil (plus the 2t for cooking the rice).
  • salt, pepper to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, add the onions. When they begin to soften add the celery, cook for a  couple minutes, add the pablano and garlic. Saute’ all the veggies for about 3-5 minutes, then add the chicken. Continue to cook until the chicken is completely done, but not overcooked, about five minutes depending on your stove top. By now the rice should be cooked (about 40 minutes in the cooker). You know it’s done by tasting – it will not be soft like other rice, but firm and chewy – not crunchy! Stir the rice into the chicken mixture, then add the corn. Cook for about one more minute, turn off burner, let rest for a few minutes and serve. We had this with a large serving of sautee’d baby spinach. Clarke doesn’t care for most rice dishes, other than Chinese food, so I knew this recipe was a winner when he said it was good AND had seconds. It made enough for both of us to have a healthy serving size for dinner, plus 2 more lunches for me. A final note: you’ll notice the lack of seasonings in this dish. I let the rice, garlic and the pablanos take care of that. It has a bit of a bite to it, but not overpowering. If you like a little more heat, go ahead and turn it up to taste!

Black Bean Quesadillas & Spinach Sweet Potato Salad

Anyone who knows me knows I love to cook, and I love to share my recipes. The problem is that I rarely use a recipe myself, so sharing becomes difficult. My daughters are always asking me to send them a recipe for “fill-in-the-blank” but it would require making the dish myself, so frequently they have to wait… and wait. The other difficulty is that as I cook I have to record everything I use instead of the usual little-of-this-little-of-that approach. So if you choose to follow a recipe I post, remember to be creative. Use these ideas as a guideline, and improvise as needed. However, don’t blame me if you go crazy with spices/ratios and wonder what went wrong!

Here is a simple recipe that provides a satisfying meal in just a few minutes. A few notes first. Before starting the quesadillas, cook a medium size sweet potato in the microwave, peel, dice 1/2 inch, and leave to cool on cutting board.

Last night when I made these, I used the “healthy” whole grain, low carb tortillas I had in the fridge. Unfortunately these do not act like authentic tortillas. I’ve had success with whole wheat tortillas before, but these had a similar taste and texture to cardboard, and even though I cooked them to a nice golden (if not dark) brown, they never got crisp. Real tortillas don’t behave that way! Also, I prefer NOT to use processed ingredients, but in the real world, a quick meal is often necessary. The black beans were organic and the only added ingredient was salt. The frozen corn was organic (from Costco, really good), and the salsa was 365 brand organic.

Ingredients: <4 flour tortillas> <1 can black beans rinsed and drained> <1/2 cup salsa> <1 cup frozen corn> <1/2 cup sharp cheddar grated> (if vegan is preferred, prepare 1/2 cup cashew cheese sauce -see enchilada stacks)> <1/2t ground cumin>

In a medium bowl combine the beans, corn, salsa, cheese and cumin. Spray a  hot griddle with olive oil and place a tortilla in the pan. Spoon 1/4 of the filling over half of the tortilla, fold in half. Repeat process with remaining tortillas. After just a couple minutes – depending on the heat level – check the underside of the tortilla. When it is turning a nice crisp brown, flip and repeat on the other side.  While the quesadillas cook, toss a few cups of fresh baby spinach into a salad bowl. Add desired amount of broccoli florets broken into bite size pieces and the cooled diced sweet potato. Sprinkle a few pecan halves over the top (toast them beforehand if desired). Toss with your favorite vinaigrette – I used  a simple citrus vinaigrette that I had in the fridge, a mixture of one fresh squeezed orange with pulp, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, pepper, honey and a little vinegar.

Quick, easy, healthful, delicious!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

For the past few weeks I have tried to sit down and write on several occasions. One thing or another pops up, and it doesn’t happen. Well here’s a short one for tonight. It’s in honor of starting another one month session of the elimination diet – or should I say real food diet. I am on day 3 of no sugar, caffeine, wheat, dairy, alcohol or processed foods. Sounds pretty terrible doesn’t it? Well, I’m here to say it’s not so bad, and plan on posting examples over the coming days.  For my one minute post of the night, I’m sharing dessert. Technically, cocoa powder would be considered a “processed” food, but I use a high quality, no added ingredient type, so it’s a go for me. Same goes for the peanut or almond butter – nothing but nuts in there.

Last summer on the internet a version of this was going around and around as a weight loss sweet tooth remedy, but with a couple modifications, I’m betting if you try this, you will swear you’re eating a sweet treat from DQ (gasp!).

First, let me say, I never throw a banana away. In my freezer is a constant gallon size zip lock bag of frozen banana pieces, no peels of course, although I do remember recommending this once, and was told it didn’t work because the peels wouldn’t come off… I can’t eat a banana that has started to turn – NO black spots – so they go in the freezer, and work especially well for this recipe if you have some that turned fairly black but still firm enough to peel. These chunks of frozen banana are great for smoothies… and ice cream.

So, take the equivalent of one large banana and put it in your food processor. This works best if the banana is already broken up into 1-2 inch pieces before you freeze it. You can use a Vitamix, but I’m not sure how well a blender would work, might be a little hard on the motor. To the banana add 1t of cocoa powder and 2t peanut butter or almond butter. Turn on the processor, holding it steady until the chunks begin to break up. Don’t worry about the beginning – it’s definitely a rough start. Continue to process until smooth and creamy, the consistency of soft serve ice cream. If it’s just too thick and doesn’t break up add a little almond milk or coconut milk (or real milk if you’re not avoiding dairy). I’m telling you this is good stuff… and oh yes, you can make it bad… toppings baby! But if you stick to the plan, this is a fantastic pre morning long run bedtime snack.