Veggie Bowl with Tahini & Lemon Dressing

Veggie  Bowl with Tahini Dressing

roasted veggies with a zing of tahini dressing

Dang! I totally forgot about that bundle of kale I bought last week. I discovered it languishing in the back of the fridge this morning. I managed to salvage 5 leaves from it, though, to add to the veggie bowl I had in mind when I originally bought it.

A couple of weeks ago, I lunched with a pal of mine at VeggieGrill, a healthy-style fast food place. I ordered and devoured a Harvest Bowl, which included vegetarian sausage, roasted cauliflower, steamed kale, and some kind of creamy sauce. Rather yummy, I wanted to somewhat replicate it. Not sure how close I came to imitating it, but I’m very satisfied with this version.

Best of all, this dish is highly versatile. You can use rice of your choice or quinoa or any other grain or seed. Hot or cold. As for the veggies, add your favorites. Roast ‘em, like I did, or steam them or add them fresh. See what I mean about versatility? Also, you can serve it as a meal on its own or as a side dish.

I roasted my kale along with the other veggies simply because my hunger pains were making me rush (that’s just a fancy way of saying I was lazy). However, the roasted kale added a slightly charred taste, which I enjoyed. I also wanted to add grated carrots, but in my rush of hunger I forgot. And, thankfully, I had cooked the rice the night before so I would have some on hand for the week. I often do that with rice or quinoa. Anyhow, that quickened the process as well as lessened the work load.

And the dressing? The best part! Lots of tang from both the tahini and the lemon, and then lots of pungency from the garlic. It’s a zinger of a dressing that makes the nutty rice and earthy veggies totally pop with flavor.

All in all, a bowl loaded with healthy goodies = happy belly.

Veggie Bowl with TahiniDressing2

a bowl of healthy goodies: veggies & tahini dressing

Veggie Bowl with Tahini & Lemon Dressing

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Note: use your favorite veggies and favorite seasonings as well as your choice of grains for this dish; the ingredients below are just a starting point

INGREDIENTS

Rice/Veggies

  • 3 cups cooked rice (brown or white) or quinoa (I used short grain brown rice which cooks up plump and chewy and nutty…I sometimes buy Lundberg brand or buy from bulk bins at Whole Foods)
  • 1 small crown of broccoli
  • 1 small yellow squash
  • 5 leaves curly kale
  • olive oil
  • seasoning (I used Penzey’s Shallot Pepper, which is fantastic of all veggies, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes)

Tahini Dressing

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. tahini (which is sesame paste…I bought mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp. lemon zest (I actually left this out)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook rice or quinoa, following directions on package. For the short grain brown rice I purchased from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, I rinsed the rice thoroughly using a strainer, then added it to a pan with 2 cups chicken broth (water or vegetable broth works, too). I brought it to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and cooked covered for 25 minutes. Keep it covered for 10 more minutes after cooking, then fluff with a fork. This makes about 3 cups cooked grains. It keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. Just microwave when ready to use after refrigerating if you want hot rice.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Chop broccoli and squash into bite-sized pieces; place in roasting dish. Separate kale leaves from stem, then tear into small pieces; add to dish. FYI: If you don’t want your kale charred, I suggest adding it after 10 minutes of baking. Or massage it instead to tenderize it (yep, it really works!). Or steam it.
  4. Generously drizzle olive oil over vegetables, then give a hearty sprinkling of your favorite seasoning (or I bet skipping the seasoning would be fine because the dressing gives a powerful punch of flavor). Toss to mix. Roast veggies for 15-20 minutes, until done to your desired tenderness.
  5. For Tahini Dressing: While veggies are roasting, place lemon juice, tahini, minced garlic, zest, salt, and pepper in a small food processor and pulse until mixed. Alternatively, you can just whisk with a fork until it’s all mixed. Or even easier, shake it in a container. If the dressing needs thinning, use a bit of water.
  6. When veggies finish roasting, toss with dressing, then add to rice and mix.

SOURCES: inspired by the Harvest Bowl at VeggieGrill; dressing from A Full Measure of Happiness

Bok Choy & Red Pepper Stir Fry

Bok Choy Stir Fry

Bok choy & red peppers star in this simple, quick stir fry

Tomorrow I return to work after a much-needed spring break from teaching, putting me in boo hoo mode, but at least I finally finished grading the essays I brought home. (Oh, the joys of teaching English.)

I did manage to set up the spring veggie plantings, trim a few trees in the backyard, and write a few letters to my nephew who recently headed off to Marine Boot Camp. 

However, I didn’t manage to read any novels, which I’m bummed about, and I didn’t take care of spring purging around the house. Honestly, I don’t know where the days have gone considering I got so little done.

Speaking of where the days have gone, I really don’t know how two months have passed and I’ve only blogged once! Somehow I lost my motivation and energy. The muses left me high and dry. Sinus infection and allergies contributed to the absence as well as a heavy work load of essay correcting (all my own fault for assigning so much work, I know).

Plus, hubby has returned to work after a couple years of schooling for a career change, and now our balance needs readjusting. He used to take responsibility for dinner since I was the one gone all day. Now I get home before him, so I find my evenings filled with kitchen duty, leaving little time and energy for blogging. 

Despite my absence the past couple months, I have experimented with and collected a few recipes to share, one of them this Red Pepper Bok Choy Stir Fry side dish. 

This dish cooks up quickly, uses few ingredients, has crispiness and crunchiness, and contains oodles of nutritional value. Plus, it’s pretty to look at with the bright red and green colors and the sprinkling of sesame seeds. And for us, at least, it adds a new veggie–the bok choy–to our lives, creating a nice break from the heavy doses of broccoli we consume.

It pairs well with brown or white rice for a veggie rice bowl, complements chicken and beef, and tastes especially yummy with Asian meatballs. Or, just eat it all on its own for a filling meal.

Bok Choy & Red Pepper Stir Fry

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. dark sesame oil (don’t skip, for this adds a rich nutty flavor)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (I omit this)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches bok choy, sliced any size you prefer (I got about 8 loosely packed cups from a bag of baby bok choy from the Asian store; I’ve used less, too, as well as used “grown-up” bok choy)
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1-2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • toasted sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add vegetable oil and sesame oil to a wok, heating over medium-high heat (use a large pan if you don’t have a wok). When the oil begins to shimmer, add the peppers, onion, and garlic; toss/stir constantly.
  2. After 3-4 minutes, when the onions turn translucent and golden, add the bok choy, stirring/tossing often. Cook for 1 minute, then add the soy sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, just until the green leaves on the bok choy begin to wilt. 
  3. Garnish with sesame seeds. 

SOURCE: slightly adapted from Cook for Your Life

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (and the book Food Matters)

Despite all the sweet treats I share on the blog, hubby and I actually do eat fairly healthy a good portion of the time. Case in point, these roasted brussels sprouts, seasoned simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

If you remember last year around this time, I shared a Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad, which served as my initiation into liking brussels sprouts. Prior to that, hubby had only steamed them, which simply releases their atrocious sulfurous compounds and ruins the taste. Yuck!

But roasted? Totally a different story, folks! They get a bit charred on the outside yet transform into tenderness inside, and no stinky sulfurous release, either. Yay! The generous sprinkling of sea salt along with pepper and olive oil enhance the flavor, too. I LOVE ‘em this way. So simple yet so scrumptious.

Now for Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. I spent the past couple days reading this book by Mark Bittman. Yes, it’s been around since 2002, but I’m a busy gal, okay? The basic premise of the book is to eat like food matters. I love that idea. I need to remember that what I put into my body matters.

Bittman suggests eating lots of plant foods, as close to their natural state as possible, as well as veggies, beans, fruits, and whole grains. He calls this sane eating vs. the insanity of eating excessive animal products, refined carbs, and junk food (and he provides tons of research to support the negative effects of insane eating, both on the individual and on the environment).

Now, the book isn’t about a specific diet but simply about changing our habits to eating like food matters. He writes, “…deny nothing; enjoy everything, but eat plants first and most” (65). Two-thirds of the book then provides recipes and ideas for eating like food matters.

In the past few years, I actually have practiced what Bittman advises, so his book simply reinforces a style I have embraced already. I really enjoyed the basic premise, though, and will reiterate it once more to close: eat like food matters. Let that guide you as you move forth into 2014. And consider starting soon with these roasted brussels sprouts. Cheers to a healthy new year!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Yield: 2 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces brussels sprouts
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. (or more) of sea salt (I used Maldon sea salt)
  • sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut off the stem ends of the brussels sprouts. Pull off any yellow and spotted outer leaves. Cut brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and place on sheet pan. Toss with olive oil, then spread out on pan. Generously sprinkle with salt and lightly sprinkle with pepper.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn sprouts over; bake another 10-15 minutes until crisp on outside yet tender on inside.
  4. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired, and dust with parmesan cheese.

Note: I baked the sprouts an hour before serving, so I covered the pan with foil and placed back into the oven, heat as low as possible, to keep them warm.

SOURCE: slightly adapted from Food Network, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)

Pile on the Produce: Potato & Veggie Breakfast Skillet Medley (and a giveaway prize package!)

Potato Veggie Skillet

Potatoes & veggies baked in a skillet

 

Congratulations to last week’s Pile on the Produce winner, Angela, commenter #1!

You all have 3 more tries this month to enter the Klondike Prize Package giveaway with the three remaining weeks this month.

Today I bring you the second installation of September’s Pile on the Produce month, sponsored by Klondike Brands. That means you get another great potato recipe plus another prize package giveaway sponsored by the good folks at Klondike.

So what is this Pile on the Produce promotion all about? It’s about encouraging you to create deliciously healthy meals by incorporating produce items along with your potato dishes.

Let’s talk for a minute about the nutritional benefits of taters, Klondike rose potatoes specifically (since that is what I’ve been using for these Pile on the Produce recipes). The Klondike Brands site states that from rose potatoes we gain vitamin B6 and dietary fiber. Vitamin B6 aids with metabolism while fiber fills up the tummy longer, hence possibly assisting with weight loss. Sounds good to me! All the more reason to chow down my beloved taters.

Now give me another minute to tell you about these Klondike Rose Potatoes. The site describes them as “red skinned potato[es] with a heart of gold.” I love that description! First, they literally have a golden yellow color on the inside, unlike the whitish color I’ve seen in other potatoes. Second, the texture appears more dense and smooth to my eye, and when cooked, I could taste a distinct creaminess I haven’t found in other brands of rose potatoes. Hence, the “heart of gold” connotes the inner richness of these spuds.

So, look for the Klondike brand at your local grocery stores and give the potatoes a try. The website contains a locater link to give you a helping hand. I actually received a coupon back at Camp Blogaway for some free Klondike potatoes, but I haven’t found a store near me that carries them. I shared that with the rep from Klondike who contacted me. Part of my participation in Pile on the Produce promotion involved Klondike Brands sending me a bag of their potatoes, and I’m so happy to have had a chance to finally taste their superior quality. As I said, though, my only bummer is that they aren’t in any stores near me…yet. I’m hopeful that someday they will be.

Okay, so let’s finally get to the recipe. I opted to make a breakfast dish this time. At first, I envisioned scalloped potatoes layered in a frittata, but as I perused the Klondike recipe book, I combined parts of the Breakfast Skillet recipe with the Potato Chicken Casserole recipe. I ended up with an ultra creamy sort of skillet frittata/sort of casserole loaded with shredded instead of scalloped potatoes as well as chopped onions, sliced red peppers, and cut asparagus. Hubby and I dubbed this breakfast dish a winner! I hesitated initially to add Dijon mustard, but ultimately it provided a subtle flavor boost. That along with parsley definitely enhanced the palatability of this Breakfast Skillet Medley.

Potato Veggie Skillet

Breakfast baked in a skillet and loaded with yummy veggies and taters

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Let me end, finally, with the Pile on the Produce giveaway details. The folks at Klondike Brands have generously offered to give away a prize pack to one lucky reader of this blog each week during the month of September, “which will include goodies like a cookbook and potato preparation and cooking items.” I received a copy of the cookbook to test out some recipes, and it is chock full of yummilicious ideas. I’m certain you’ll enjoy the recipes in there, too.

One lucky winner will be randomly chosen for this week’s giveaway, which begins today, Monday, Sept. 9th and will end Sunday, Sept. 15th at midnight PST.

HOW TO ENTER

To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post and answer the question:

“Do you favor rose potatoes or russets or golden potatoes?” (I actually didn’t think about their differences until my cooking skills began to develop a few years ago.)

I personally prefer rose potatoes for their smoothness. However, russets are great for fluffy baked potatoes while the golden spuds make superior thin cut fries.

You can receive up to THREE additional entries to win by doing the following:

  1. Subscribe to Scrumptious and Sumptuous using the sign up button in the top right sidebar (or use an RSS feed). Come back and let me know you’ve subscribed in an additional comment on this post.
  2. Become a fan of Scrumptious and Sumptuous on Facebook (if anyone is techie-challenged like me, that means click the “Like” button when you view  my page, which I recently created, by the way!). Come back and let me know you became a fan in an additional comment on this post. Since my readership growth is still in the baby stages, I would like to offer those of you who joined Facebook last week to post an additional comment on this post letting me know you already joined Facebook, thereby giving you another giveaway opportunity.
  3. Share this giveaway opportunity on your Facebook page (or other social media), then come back and let me know you shared in an additional comment on this post.

Klondike Potatoes

Also, click on over to the Klondike Brands Facebook Page for some more recipe ideas, or follow them on Twitter, where you can also enter to win a prize package. And you can find a coupon at the Klondike Brands website.

Potato and Veggie Breakfast Skillet Medley

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 small red potatoes, skins on and shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1-2 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garnish: 1-2 green onions, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Scrub potatoes clean and dry them. Either grate potatoes on a grater, or use the grater blade in your food processor to shred the potatoes. Place shredded potatoes in a sieve and rinse under cold water for a couple minutes to remove starch. Allow water to drain from potatoes after rinsing while preparing remaining ingredients.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and cook for one minute, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add shredded potatoes, sliced peppers, and asparagus pieces; cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes cook through and peppers and asparagus soften. The pan will be quite full, but the food will eventually cook down a bit.
  5. While potatoes and veggies cook, in a small bowl whisk eggs. Add heavy cream, cheddar cheese, Dijon mustard, and parsley; mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Pour egg mixture into skillet and gently mix it in; place in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes or until egg mixture is cooked through. Note: I imagine that if you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you can simply use a casserole dish. Baking time may vary, though.
  7. Remove from oven and garnish with sliced green onions.

SOURCE: mostly a Maria creation with inspiration from The Culinary Guide to Klondike Potatoes as well as ingredients in my fridge

Zucchini Recipe Roundup

Zucchini Recipe Roundup

My garden has three stunted squash plants. Since May. They grew about 8 inches high and refused to grow anymore. Nor have they succumbed to perishing. I don’t get it. Last year’s zucchini plant grew for months and months and months. I even tried a second round of plants this year and same situation: stunted growth.

Hence, we’ve had no zucchini dishes this season. However, since I had quite the abundance the past couple of years and tried numerous recipes and since squash season is in full bloom and since I’ve had quite a few people subscribe to the blog (welcome all!), I thought I’d share my collection. Just click the link below the photos to view the posts/recipes.

How do you like to cook zucchini?

Zucchini Recipe Roundup

Pesto Zucchini Lasagna

Pesto Zucchini Lasagna

Pesto and Roasted Zucchini Lasagna

Zucchini Frittata

Zucchini Frittata

Zucchini Frittata

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake (unbelievably moist and delicious)

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

Zucchini & Carrot Slaw with Asian Dressing

Zucchini & Carrot Slaw with Asian Dressing

Zucchini and Carrot Slaw with Asian Dressing

Zucchini Cheese Bread

Zucchini Cheese Bread

Zucchini Cheese Bread

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

Zucchini Melt

Zucchini Melt

Zucchini Melt

Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

Cauliflower, Potato, & Cheddar Gratin

CauliflowerPotCheese

Not done with cauliflower recipes yet! One more plant has a giant head still growing, so more recipes to tackle and share in the coming days.

When I stumbled upon this particular recipe, I knew I had to give it a try–mainly because our backyard explosion of cauliflower needed some variety of cooking. However, we also love potatoes and we love cheddar cheese, so it sounded like a perfect dish to explore.

I learned from this combo of ingredients that thyme complements cauliflower. That’s how I knew the Cauliflower Frittata recipe I posted last week would work out well, too, because it also uses thyme.

The original title for this dish uses the word “bake” rather than “gratin,” but somewhere in my mind the word “gratin” popped up. I looked up the meaning: it’s actually a French cooking technique in which food cooked in a shallow dish is topped with browned bread crumbs, grated cheese, or both (along with some egg and/or butter). The dish is then baked to form a golden crust. You learn something new everyday, huh? Hence, I renamed the recipe.

The gratin includes a combo of ingredients I would not have thought of on my own, yet I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. So now I have a new way to cook up cauliflower rather than our previous dull method of simply steaming it.

CauliflowerPotatoCheese

Cauliflower, Potato, & Cheddar Gratin

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 medium), peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 head small cauliflower (about 2 pounds), sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray or butter six 12-ounce gratin dishes or a 2-quart casserole dish or even a 9×13 baking pan.
  2. Peel potatoes. Slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place in large pot and cover with cold, salted water until water is two inches above potatoes. Bring to a boil.
  3. While pot is coming to a boil, slice cauliflower into 1/2-inch thick slices. When potatoes begin to boil, add cauliflower, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 10 more minutes or until potatoes are cooked through and cauliflower is tender yet still crisp.
  4. Drain water from pot and allow potatoes and cauliflower to cool for several minutes.
  5. Divide the potatoes and cauliflower among the gratin dishes, followed by a sprinkle of pepper and thyme and then cheese. If you use a single dish, create a couple of layers of the potatoes and cauliflower with the pepper, thyme, and cheese.
  6. Pour broth over the potatoes and cauliflower and cheese. Dot with butter.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Garnish with additional thyme, if desired.

(I just had a thought: some bread crumbs sprinkled on top would make a heavenly crunch addition!)

SOURCE: Rachel Cooks via Everyday Food

Garden Harvest Couscous

Garden Harvest Couscous

A garden surplus of zucchini and basil means finding new and creative ways to use them up. Combine that with a purging of the pantry in which I discovered a partial bag of Israeli couscous (like little pearls of pasta) and the birth of a new dish entered the kitchen world at our house.

With basil pesto leftover from the the other night, I decided to mix that with the couscous and toss in some stray veggies from the fridge along with some zucchini that was taking over our kitchen counter. Really, this meal was born out of a need to purge the fridge and cupboards.

Sadly, I think I accidentally erased the list of ingredients I typed up because I can’t find them anywhere!

So rather than an actual recipe today, I’ll just have to show you the picture of the final product. I really loved the way the pesto flavored the entire dish. The couscous picked up and carried the pesto flavor throughout the dish.

I thinly sliced zucchini, a few stray snow peas, and I also tossed in a handful of peas. I very quickly steamed the peas, like 10 seconds. The snow peas and zucchini were briefly sauteed in oil.

All these green lovelies came from our garden this summer. I also added a bit of garden parsley.

Then, to continue the pantry purge, I tossed in a spoonful of pine nuts leftover from making pesto. They added a nice nutty flavor and slight crunch to balance the softness of the couscous.

All in all, I was pleased with the outcome. But how can you go wrong with tossing pesto and greens with any type of pasta?

Ginger Beef Stir Fry

This stir fry actually tasted pretty good, which surprised me. I attempted it with some hesitancy since plum sauce is an ingredient I had never used, nor heard of, until I saw this recipe. Plum sauce is thick and sweet, and it just didn’t look appealing, but it came highly rated on the web site where I found the recipe, so I had faith it would be good. And it was. It ended up having a sweet taste, kind of like the sweet and sour dishes at Chinese restaurants only without the sour part…just the sweet part.

The 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes left the dish a bit on the spicy side, so I reduced it to 1/8 the next time I made it. Much better for me as I don’t like overly spicy food.

I’ve used cashews rather than salted nuts before because that was what we had on hand. I like the sweetness of the cashews, but the salt of the peanuts adds a nice underlayer of flavor to the dish. As long as it has a crunchy element, whether it be peanuts, cashews, or just rice noodles, it satisfies my palate.

If you don’t have plum sauce, try the Asian section of your market or find an Asian store. Also, you can try a substitution which I’ll add to the recipe below.

Ginger Beef Stir Fry

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INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp. plum sauce (see below for plum sauce substitution)
  • 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger (I use my zester)
  • 1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/8 – 1/4  tsp. red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you like your dishes
  • 1 lb. boneless sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 1½ cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced/julienned (I added this to original recipe)
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced (I added this to original recipe)
  • 2 – 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. salted peanuts, chopped (optional)
  • rice, for serving
  • sesame seeds, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, combine the water and cornstarch; whisk until smooth.  Stir in the plum sauce, ginger, soy sauce and red pepper flakes.  Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, cook the steak strips until no longer pink.  Remove to a plate and set aside, draining the excess fat from the skillet if necessary.
  3. Add the oil to the pan and heat through.  Add the red pepper, broccoli and carrot pieces to the skillet and stir fry until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms and zucchini about 2-3 minutes into cooking of pepper, broccoli, and carrots. Continue stirring for about 2 more minutes.
  5. Mix in the green onion and garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Return the steak pieces to the pan.  Add the sauce, stirring well to coat everything.  Cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes more.
  7. Stir in the peanuts.
  8. Serve over rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish, if desired.

Plum sauce substitution:

Mix together the following:

  • 1 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. plum jam or apricot preserves or orange marmalade
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats, who adapted from The Comfort of Cooking, originally from Allrecipes

Beet Berry Smoothie

Beets in my smoothie? Well, why not since I’ve been blending up spinach, kale, and swiss chard for over a year with my fruits. Only now I’d be moving into another realm of the color spectrum: a rich, jewel-toned magenta. A friend shared a link to this smoothie from the New York Times (thanks Beckie!), and the color of the drink wowed me.

With the weekend farmer’s market only a handful of days away, I decided to attempt this. Come weekend, I scored me a beet–a good-sized one–for only 50 cents. I hope that’s a good deal since I’ve never bought a beet before, never cooked with any before, and never eaten beet in any form before.

My goodness, the jewel-toned magenta color dazzled me as I cut the skin away. Never mind that the root veggie stained my fingers and stained the cutting board. It sure blended into a prettier drink than the dark, dull green of some of my smoothies loaded with leafy greens.

And the addition of orange juice and raspberries? Well, the tartness upped the pucker factor to a tangy level that pleased my taste buds yet had balance from the spoonful of honey. The original recipe calls for yogurt, but I left that out since I had none in the fridge (I subbed one cup of crushed ice instead). Still yummy, but I bet the yogurt would have added a smoothness whereas my smoothie was a bit grainy. Nonetheless, it provided the perfect drink to cool me down on the unusually hot, summer-like day in early March that we experienced over the weekend here in Southern California. Very refreshing (the drink and the sunshine). And healthy, too! Can’t beat that.

Since I only used half the beet, I made another smoothie for breakfast the following day. This time, I added half a lime that I had leftover from dinner the night before plus a banana that was getting a bit too mushy. Love the addition of banana–adds a depth of sweetness that peeks through the tartness of the citrus and berries. Yummilicous!

Beet Berry Smoothie

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NY Times Version

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup mixed frozen berries
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. granola
  • 1/3 cup diced beet
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt or low-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. honey or agave syrup
  • 2 or 3 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS

  • Place all ingredients in blender; blend for one full minute. Serve immediately.

My twist on the recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup mixed frozen berries
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 (or whole) freshly squeezed lime
  • 1/3 cup diced beet
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • a large handful of greens: swiss chard, kale, or spinach
  • enough water to thin the smoothie to your liking

DIRECTIONS

  • Place all ingredients in blender; blend for one full minute. Serve immediately.

SOURCE: New York Times

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I love my mom’s stuffed bell peppers. I always thought they took a ton of work, but they are really quite easy. Who knew? All these years I’ve avoided making them. Well, that and my mom sends me home with a pot full every so often, so I had no need to make my own.

Growing up–and even into our adulthood–my siblings and I would devour the innards of the stuffed peppers but pile the green skins onto my mom’s plate; green peppers just taste too bitter, and none of us can stomach it.

Lately, she has made the stuffed peppers with the yellow, orange, and red peppers, which I have actually learned to eat raw but still didn’t want to eat them all cooked and mushy. I find them very sweet and refreshing in raw form, though. My husband, while we were dating, tricked me one time into eating orange peppers. I thought they were carrots in the salad he had made. Boy was I surprised to find that I actually liked peppers!

So, my odyssey with making stuffed peppers was born out of a need to use up the excess peppers we had bought for a bargain price at the farmer’s market (4 for $1!!). A bit of internet sleuthing led me to a recipe that sounded similar to my mom’s, and now I am tickled pink to add these babies to my repertoire. They are especially tasty because the skins are blanched and retain some of their crunch after cooking. I think the difference with this recipe and my mom’s is that she drowns hers in sauce and that makes the skins ultra tender during the baking in the oven.

For my sauce, I used a homemade roasted garlic and red pepper tomato sauce (the recipe is on the blog Full Measure of Happiness). Scrumptious!! I bet store-bought sauce would work just fine, but this homemade sauce is to-die-for delicious and takes these stuffed peppers over the top.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

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INGREDIENTS

  • 6 peppers (any color–greens have a bitter bite while the red, orange, and yellows have a sweet flavor)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce (I recommend adding more if you like to pour lots of sauce over the pepper when serving it)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef or chuck (I used venison)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice (quinoa works, too)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut tops off peppers; remove seeds and membranes. Dice edible parts of tops and set aside. Rinse peppers under cold water. Place peppers in pot; cover with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain peppers and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Saute diced peppers (from tops), chopped onion, and chopped celery for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, crushed garlic, oregano, basil, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg with remaining 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Gently stir to blend. Add uncooked ground beef, cooked rice, and 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Mix well.
  5. Stuff peppers with meat mixture and place in a 3-quart baking dish or a Dutch oven.
  6. Pour remaining tomato mixture over the stuffed peppers.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-65 minutes.

Ideas from reader reviews from the recipe’s source:

  • add 3 tbsp. ketchup to add sweetness to meat mixture
  • sauce: 8 oz. jar tomato sauce + 16 oz. sour cream
  • add some corn for crunch
  • try substituting some sausage for the ground beef
  • double recipe and freeze leftovers; microwave/defrost for a quick meal

SOURCE: southernfood.about.com