Category Archives: Background

HOT candied nutz

I use these awesome nuts on my salads, as a snack, in breading for fish, in rice–the gourmet utility is almost endless!  The smoky heat from the pepper works so well with the sweet and earthy flavors of the nuts.  I usually do pecans, but black walnuts and almonds rock too!  They store very well, so be sure to make a BIG batch the next time your oven is warm!

HOT candied nutz

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place nuts in a small baking dish.  Cover with honey or agave nectar and sprinkle with Ground Chipotle Pepper (we use a LOT, but be careful this stuff is very hot!).  Bake for 8-10 minutes (or until golden brown).  Be careful not to burn the nuts!

Mexi-Black Beans

Oh, how I just love mexican food!  However, I have had to adapt many of the classic dishes to accomodate our preference for limiting (no, I didn’t say eliminating!) meat and dairy in our diets.  What this means is that I often turn to beans to provide us with a complete protein (rice/beans) and much needed iron.  Sadly, though, until recently I wasn’t exactly LOCO about beans.  Which is why I started playing around to see what could be done to make them more appealing.  I quickly discovered that  two simple additions and a squirt of lime juice can make monumental changes in the flavor!  So pour yourself a big margarita and get ready to whip together a leaner and meaner mexican feast– you can start by swapping out some of the meat and greasy cheese with these tasty Mexi-black beans!!  Two seriously cool facts about mexi-black beans is 1.   how versatile they are–I use them at breakfast in egg burritos and even as an appetizer with a squeeze of lime over the top and multi-grain chips and 2.  they are packed full of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, and fiber (hello beano!).  Heck, if you are really feeling crazy buy a bag of dried beans and give the home made version a shot.  They are super simple and make a good choice even better because YOU have control over the level of sodium added!

Mexi-black beans

Servings:  3

  • 1 14 oz can of black beans
  • 2 t cumin seeds
  • squirt of lime juice
  • 1 t chipotle pepper flakes (or more!)

In a small sauce pan cook the ingredients over low until they start to break down, become aromatic, and thicken up a little.  This is usually when I take them off of the heat and serve them, but if you leave them cook for 20 or so more minutes they will almost completely break down and thicken to a refried bean consistency, which might be desirable depending upon how you are using them!

Mango and lime salsa

Mango and lime salsa

I had my girlfriends down last weekend to celebrate the April birthday’s in the bunch (3 of 5 of us!).  I wanted to have an easy and refreshing snack for them upon arrival.  I didn’t have time to run to town to pick up  the usual treats so I turned to what I had on hand.  I had picked up a flat of champagne mangos earlier in the week — which I usually eat 2 of daily while they are available.  This just happened to be a CRAZY week and I hadn’t eaten my usual quantity, which left me with about 10 perfectly ripe mangoes to eat SOON!  So I decided to pull out this recipe for mango salsa that I had been eyeing for some time.  I made my usual modifications and THIS is what ended up satisfying my girlfriends that fun Friday afternoon.  I served it with whole grain chips and loads of red wine to wash it down– INCREDIBLE!  Give this one a try, you won’t be sorry–not until the bowl is empty anyway!

Bon Appetit!

Mango and Lime Salsa

  • 6 ripe champagne mangoes (I buy mine at Sam’s, I have heard they Costco also carried them), chopped into 1/4″ cubes
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • large pinch of chipotle pepper flakes
  • 1-2 t cumin seed

Combine all ingredients.  Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour (if you have the patience), stirring often to let the flavors develop and penetrate the mango.

Toasted cumin and saffron Basmati

This is a great rice base for your Indian/Asian dishes.

Toasted Cumin and Saffron Basmati

1 c basmati rice

2 c water, vegetable, or chicken stock

1 T butter

1 T cumin seeds

1 large pinch saffron, crumbled

1 t salt (only if you aren’t using stock)

In a small stock pan melt butter over medium low.  Add the cumin seeds and let cook until the cumin toasts to a darker brown and the aroma is toasted and smoky.

While the cumin is toasting, add the saffron to the warm water or stock to rehydrate.

Add the rice to the pan with the melted butter and stir to coat rice the the flavored butter.  Add the water/stock/saffron and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to very low and cover.  Turn off the heat after 5 minutes and let sit covered for 15 minutes or enough time to hydrate the rice to your preferred texture.

Bright and LIGHT shrimp and couscous or quinoa salad

You can see the lime zest resting top! YUM!

Well, I am happy to report that I am slowly recovering from surgery.  Yes, I had major surgery 12 days ago!  The week before surgery I spent most of my time preparing meals for the freezer and prepping the house for an extended ‘down’ time.  I believe that I have finally made it through the worst of it and will start to reap the ‘rebound’ rewards from my well-planned recovery diet.  Yes, that is right, I have been very careful to maximize every morsel entering my body to provide me with all that I need to heal quickly.  I can fill you in on the details in another post if you are so interested, but that is not what this post is about.  Today I am excited to tell you about my first home cooked meal in almost two weeks!

So my ‘first meal’ criteria was pretty simple and probably fairly obvious considering my introduction with this post.  Here were the requirements:

1.  lots of color

2.  super simple

3.  flavor explosion

4.  dense with micronutrients

So, I armed Andy with a short grocery list and got ready for a fun evening in the kitchen!  I whipped up a beautiful Shrimp Couscous Salad in no time flat and without stressing my body with labor intensive prep work.  I must say, it was fantastic!  About half way through the meal Andy suggested we put this dish on HEAVY rotation at 488.  Man, was I happy to be back in the kitchen and back on my game!  I promise this simple and healthful dish will be a crowd pleaser at your house too!  As you enjoy this dish think about how good it feels to treat your body with the love and respect it deserves!

Bon Appetit!

Colorful and flavorful shrimp and couscous salad

Servings: 4-5

2 c plain couscous or 1 c quinoa

3 c water (reserve about 2 cups of the shrimp stock from your shrimp boil for the couscous or quinoa)

1-1 1/2# uncooked colossal shrimp (16-20 shrimp)–frozen is just fine and you do not need to thaw them

1/4 c red wine vinegar

1/4-1/2 c EVOO (depending upon your taste)

1 T minced garlic

2 t ground cumin

2 t chipotle pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

1 t dijon or brown mustard

2 t + kosher salt

3/4 c diced cucumber

1 c diced red bell pepper

1 c chopped cilantro

3/4 c diced tomato (about 2 medium tomatoes)

1 avocado, chopped

zest from 1 lemon or lime

sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a medium size pot add the 3 c water, kosher salt and a t of chipotle pepper flakes and cook over high heat until it boils.  Add the shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes, until done.  Remove the shrimp set to the side to cool–peel the shrimp once it is cool and set aside.   Bring the water back to a boil and add the couscous.  If you prefer, leave the crustaceans OUT and heat 2 cups of seasoned water for the couscous!  To avoid sticky pasta, add a dash of EVOO to the pot!  Turn off the heat and put a lid on the pot and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix the red wine vinegar, EVOO, hot pepper, garlic, cumin, sea salt, ground black pepper, and dijon mustard together and set aside.

Put the couscous in a large serving bowl.  Add the chopped veggies and shrimp and either stir or put the lid on your bowl and shake well!  Taste the dish and adjust seasonings as needed.  Garnish each bowl with a generous bit of lemon zest or just mix it in with the veggies.  Serve the beautiful salad on its own or with a big chunk of gluten free bread!

Look at all of that great color!

coconut rice pilaf

This rice dish KILLS me!  It is so incredibly delicious and the leftovers (if you actually have any :)) make a great ‘morning after’ breakfast or lunch!  We usually use this rice with our Thai Curry Cod Recipe, but it is a fantastic accompaniment with almost any Thai/Asian dish.

Coconut-Cilantro Rice Pilaf:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 1 t chipotle pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 1 cups long-grain white rice or brown rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon + ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons + chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced

Heat the oil in a heavy 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, hot pepper, and black pepper cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the rice and coconut milk  and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and lime juice– bring to a light boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, 20 to 22 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let sit 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, stir in the cilantro.  Enjoy alone or topped with your favorite tofu, fish or chicken recipe.

Arugula and blueberry salad

My mother-in-law, Sandy, made this fantastic salad for dinner a short time ago.  It was so light, sweet and tasty I devoured two big bowls!  YUM!

I made it tonight for the first time and WOW was it delicious and super easy.

Arugula and blueberry salad

4 cups arugula leaves (cut into bite-sized pieces)

1/2-3/4 c blueberries (as much as you like :))

1/2-3/4 c candied walnuts or pecans*

1/4-1/2 c crumbled blue cheese

2 T Kraft Light Raspberry Vinagrette Dressing (to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper

Put all ingredients in a covered bowl, shake well and serve.

*To candy the nuts:  Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  Place nuts in a baking dish.  Cover with honey or agave nectar and sprinkle with Ground Chipotle Pepper (we use a LOT, but be careful this stuff is very hot!).  Bake for 7-10 minutes (until golden brown).  Be careful not to burn the nuts!  These hot candied nuts are awesome for snacking as well, so I always make extra! Leave out the blue cheese for a nice and flavorful vegan salad.  ENJOY!

Roasted beet and arugula salad

My girlfriend Jolynda was in KC a couple of weeks ago and ate at Michael Smith’s Restaurant. He has several restauants in KC, but this is his flagship and most critically acclaimed.  My blackberry was on fire the following day with calls from Jo!  She had to tell me all about her UNBELIEVABLE dinner.  The one dinner item that she couldn’t get over was the salad.  She claims that it is the BEST salad that she has ever eaten…and if you knew my friend Jo, you would know that this is a HUGE statement (she is an AMAZING and creative cook herself).  So of course, I put Michael Smith’s on my dining radar for my next trip up to KC.  In the meantime, I went to his website to learn a little more about this salad.  I was amazed to learn how unpretentious the ingredients were and how simple it seemed to be.   I made my version of this salad for my hubby a few days later.  I still can’t believe how much he loves it.  I have made it many times and yet AGAIN for our valentines celebration dinner last night.  As he was nearly licking the remaining bits from MY salad plate he said “I could eat this salad EVERYDAY and not get tired of it…”!  Almost daily he asks me if I have put this recipe on the blog yet.  This of course makes me giggle…all of my readers and fans are surely wondering the same thing!!  So here it is…BEST salad EVER!

Oh, I have yet to eat dinner at Michael Smith’s flagship, but I have been to his tapas place (Extra Virgin) next door a couple of times.  OH BABY is it a worth the $$!  I can’t say enough about his smoked oyster mushrooms and the yellowtail ceviche.  On top of that, the wine list is Top Notch.  WOWZA!!  If you are in the neighborhood, it is a must!

Two of my favorite colors--red and green!

Roasted beet and arugula salad

Servings 2-3

2-3 big handfuls of argula (or fresh spring mix)

1 roasted beet cubed

2-3 T red onion diced

1/8 c toasted pine nuts or hot candied pecans

1/8 c crumbled blue cheese (optional)

1/8-1/4 c dried cranberries

freshly ground black pepper

chipotle pepper flakes

1/2 T evoo

1-2 T Basalmic Vinegar

Put all ingredients into a big salad bowl with a lid.  Shake it like crazy.  Serve!

Bon Appetit!