mayocoba beans

Mayocoba Bean Salad

It is that time of year again where the benefits program offered by my employer encourages healthy eating choices.  By choosing “superfoods” such as beans and legumes I can earn points faster, so I tend to incorporate them even more than I already do in my diet.

mayocoba beans

With this in mind I have been on the search for beans I haven’t tried and I stumbled upon mayocoba beans.  They are a smooth white bean, similar to a northern bean, and equally as mild.

I decided on a basil vinaigrette and tomatoes and heart of palm as mix-ins, which was a decision based on using up some leftover ingredients.  The resulting mayocoba bean salad was a fresh dish that I most certainly will make again.

mayocoba beans

Mayocoba Bean Salad

1 lb dry mayocoba beans
6 cups chicken stock
14 ounce can of hearts of palm, drained and chopped
1 lb vine-riped tomatoes, destemmed and chopped
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup white vinegar
4 tablespoons basil stir in paste
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

Soak the beans overnight, then drain and rinse.  Add the beans and stock to a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1.5-2 hours or until beans are tender, but firm.  Drain and add to a large bowl. Add the tomatoes and hearts of palm.  In a separate bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, basil paste, and salt.  Pour over the bean mixture and stir to coat.  Stir in the cheese and serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Tamarisk Honey Bites

Tamarisk Honey Bites

One of these days I am going to host a honey tasting party.  If you have never tried a honey other than clover, you are missing out. One of my favorites is meadowfoam honey which tastes like cotton candy in honey form. Other honey flavors, such as tamarisk or buckwheat, are dark colored honey with a robust and earthy taste.

Tamarisk Honey Bite

Since I had some tamarisk (and buckwheat) honey on hand, I wanted to make an easy appetizer that showcases the honey.  I topped sweet potato chips with a small wedge of brie cheese, drizzled on some honey and garnished with chives.

Now that I have started to think of ways to sample the honey, I just have to plan and execute the party!

Tamarisk Honey Bite

I typically pick up different honey varieties when I visit farmer’s markets, but some of the larger specialty honey makers sell online as well. A few of the brands that I have tried are Grampa’s Honey and Winter Park Honey.

 

Tamarisk Honey Bites

2 ounce brie cheese
12 sweet potato chips
4 teaspoons tamarisk or buckwheat honey
Chives (optional), chopped

 

Cut the brie into 12 small pieces, then place one piece on each chip. Drizzle evenly with the honey and garnish with chive pieces if desired.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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matcha fried rice

Matcha Fried Rice

Have you heard of matcha? I’m sure you have.  It is one of those “in” ingredients these days.  I have put of trying it because green tea ranks below most other flavors of tea in my book. I tend to prefer spicy/cinnamon or earl grey rather than the earthy flavor of green tea.

matcha fried rice

None the less, I was still intrigued. One of the hypes of matcha is the concentrated antioxidants it offers. Instead of steeping tea leaves in a bag, you are essentially consuming finely ground tea leaves. In addition to beverages, it has found its way into food items, even dessert.  I was determined to try it in an entrée and decided to make a version of my fried rice.  I started with my Ham Fried Rice recipe, and eliminated peas, ham, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and ginger. I added matcha as my replacement spice and a bit of baby tomatoes for added sweetness. The result was a light and refreshing Matcha Fried Rice that was well balanced.

matcha fried rice

This festive dish has been a fun lunch this week and I look forward to experimenting with matcha in other recipes.

Matcha Fried Rice

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced red onion
4 cups cooked long grain rice
1 1/2 teaspoons matcha
2 large eggs
½ cup baby tomatoes, chopped
4 green onions, chopped

 

Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the pan and heat until melted over medium-high heat. Add carrots, and onion, and saute for 3 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Immediately add the rice, and matcha, and stir until combined. Continue stirring for an additional 3-4 minutes to fry the rice. Keep warm.

Coat a non-stick pan with cooking spray then heat over medium heat. Add eggs, and cook until scrambled, stirring occasionally. Remove egg, and stir into rice mixture, along with the tomatoes and green onions.  Serve immediately.

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Mulled Pomegranate Martini

Mulled Pomegranate Martini

My latest cooking contest endeavor is the “Stir It Up Holiday Blogger Mixology Challenge” hosted by Stirrings and if proving to be a fun way to kick off the holiday season.  Stirrings makes premium cocktail mixers and rimmers and challenged bloggers to develop a creative, attractive, and delicious holiday cocktail.

Mulled Pomegranate Martini

One of the first things that comes to mind for a go-to holiday drink is a warm and spiced concoction. To add to your winter beverage repertoire I off the Mulled Pomegranate Martini.

Mulling means to sweeten, spice, and warm a drink.   For this cocktail I mulled the Stirrings® Simple Pomegranate Martini Cocktail Mixer and orange juice with cloves, anise, nutmeg, and ginger. After simmering for a few minutes, the mixer is strained and combined with a cinnamon-sugar vodka to add depth to the spice profile. The end result is a Mulled Pomegranate Martini that is a well-rounded delight.

The martini is served in a martini glass rimmed with Stirrings® Cosmopolitan Rimmer (which adds color and a slight hint of citrus) and garnished with an orange peel twist.

Mulled Pomegranate Martini

I can’t wait to experiment with the other Stirrings® products. You can find additional recipes on their social media sites (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook).  Some of the locations that sell the Stirrings® products include: Hazel’s Beverage World, Davidson’s Liquors, Argonaut Wine & Spirits, Keg Liquors, Whole Foods Wine & Spirits, and Applejack Wine & Spirits.

 

Mulled Pomegranate Martini

Mulled Pomegranate Martini

7 ounces Stirrings® Simple Pomegranate Martini Cocktail Mixer
2 ounces pulp-free orange juice
15 whole cloves
3 whole star anise
1 whole nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon crystalized ginger
3 ounces cinnamon-sugar vodka
Garnish: Stirrings® Cosmopolitan Rimmer
Garnish: 2 Orange peel twists

Rim two martini glasses with Cosmopolitan Rimmer. Place the pomegranate mixer, orange juice, cloves, anise, nutmeg, and ginger in a medium sized, non-reactive sauce pan.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes (liquids will reduce by 1/3).  Remove from the heat, strain, and add to a cocktail shaker along with the vodka and shake vigorously. Pour into the rimmed martini glasses, dividing the drink evenly between the two glasses. Garnish each glass with an orange peel twist and serve.

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curry ketchup

Curry Ketchup

My family and I just returned from a vacation in California.  On vacations, I try to frequent off the beaten path restaurants and managed to do so in South Lake Tahoe. One of the restaurants we tried was a German restaurant which offers homemade wursts and other German fare, and imports 30 different German and Belgian beers. The homemade mustards were fantastic, but what intrigued me the most was the curry ketchup that was served with the pomme frites (which were also served with mayonnaise, an authentic Belgian accompaniment).

Curry Ketchup

Curry Ketchup

I decided to research curry ketchup and was surprised to find that curry ketchup is a common sauce served in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.  A popular bottled brand is Hela, though most recipe sites list mixing 4 teaspoons of curry powder to 1 cup of ketchup as a quick at-home version.  The homemade curry ketchup from the restaurant had a bit more depth, so I decided to try a few other stir-ins mentioned on The Kitchen Maus. 

For my quick Curry Ketchup, some curry powder, honey, and Worcestershire sauce is all it takes for a new spin on a favorite condiment. I look forward to when I can vacation in Europe and return with even more unique recipes!

Curry Ketchup


Curry Ketchup

1 cup ketchup
4 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
In a small bowl, combine the ketchup curry powder, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and black pepper until smooth.  Serve with fries or sausages; refrigerate leftovers.

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green peppercorn sauce

Green Peppercorn Sauce

Every now and then I find an interesting ingredient at the supermarket.  Most recently, I went to grab a jar of capers and came across brined green peppercorns.  I had no idea what they were used for, but I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I just had to buy some to give them a whirl.

brined green peppercorn

I did a little online searching and the most typical use is in green peppercorn sauce that is paired with steak. Most recipes call for a heavy cream, but I chose to use cream cheese for easier dipping and a slightly healthier sauce.

green peppercorn sauce

Once we tried the Green Peppercorn Sauce my husband declared it his new favorite steak sauce. If I let him, I think he would smear it on all things beef. If you are looking for a new take on steak sauce I highly recommend you give this a try.

green peppercorn sauce

Oh, and one last tip. Don’t forget that even though these are brined it IS peppercorn – if you bite into one you are in for an intense “treat”.


Green Peppercorn Sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup diced shallot

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic

3/4 cup beef stock

3 tablespoons brined green peppercorns, drained

6 ounces cream cheese

1 ½ tablespoon cream sherry

 

Add the butter to a sauce pan and melt over medium high heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and saute for 2 minutes until fragrant and soft, then add the stock and peppercorns. Once it comes to a boil, add the cream cheese and stir to incorporate.  Once the cheese is mixed in, remove from the heat and add the sherry; keep warm until ready to use. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Black Rice & Edamame Salad

Black Rice & Edamame Salad

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was trying to prep more food on the weekends to make for easier lunches and no brainer dinners.  With this in mind I have been trying to make a variety of salads – rice, lentil, steel cut oats, etc. My strategy has been to create salads with a good mix of vegetables, fiber, and protein to hopefully provide an interesting lunch while maintaining my energy through the day. The salad I want to share today is my Black Rice & Edamame Salad.

Black Rice & Edamame Salad

 

Black rice has higher protein, fiber, and iron content than most other rice varieties and is high in antioxidants.  It has a nutty flavor which makes it a delicious base to build from, and the unique color helps make the dish fun and fresh. To balance the dark color of the rice I added fresh cauliflower and edamame.  Not only is the color contrast visually appealing, but I enjoyed the different textures of the salad (chewy and crunchy at the same time) as well.  I dressed the salad with a light Asian inspired sauce. The soy sauce, ginger and garlic was just enough to compliment the salad without smothering the great flavors of the black rice, edamame, and cauliflower. I hope you enjoy my Black Rice & Edamame Salad as much as I did. Don’t be surprised if you see more salad recipes in the upcoming weeks!

Black Rice & Edamame Salad

Black Rice & Edamame Salad

 


Black Rice & Edamame Salad

1 cup black rice
3 cups water
12 ounces frozen, shelled edamame
2 cups chopped, fresh cauliflower (~ ½ pound)
2 green onions, diced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Rinse black rice until water comes out clear, than add to a large pot with the water.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender and chew, about 30 minutes. Remove from the pot and add to a large bowl.  Meanwhile, cook edamame according to package directions, drain if necessary, and add to the black rice along with the cauliflower and green onions.  In a small bowl mix together the oil, soy sauce, honey, salt, ginger, and garlic and then pour over the black rice salad.

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savory popcorn

Savory Homemade Microwave Popcorn

At the beginning of June my family went on a quick weekend trip to Breckenridge, CO. The few times we have been there we have enjoyed perusing the used bookstore, Old Man Berkins, and tasting the vinegar and oil at the specialty oil store, Oil Fusion. On this occasion, the specialty oil store had samples of popcorn sprinkled with their truffle salt for customers to enjoy.  I must say that it worked for my family – we now have a renewed interested in freshly made popcorn sprinkled with flavorful salts.

True, the pre-purchased microwave popcorn bags are easy. But did you realize that in about the same amount of time you can pop popcorn kernels in the microwave using only a microwave safe bowl and plate? You then get to customize your flavor, using actual butter and whatever topping you choose.

In addition to the truffle salt, we also really love the alderwood smoked salt that I wrote about in my homemade butter experiment. This week I tried mixing a variety of savory herbs and spices: celery salt, garlic powder, dried basil, and black pepper. The possibilities are endless – who knows, I may use pink sea salt, Creole salt, or another concoction next.

savory popcorn


Savory Homemade Microwave Popcorn

½ teaspoon celery salt
¾ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

 

In a small bowl, mix together the celery salt, dried basil, black pepper, and garlic powder; set aside.

Place popcorn in a large microwave safe bowl and cover completely with a glass, microwave safe plate.  Microwave on high for 4-5 minutes, or until the time between popcorn pops is about 3-4 seconds.

Using oven mits, remove the bowl from the microwave.  Pour the butter over the popcorn, tossing to coat. Sprinkle on the salt mixture and toss to coat.  Serve; makes 5 cups.

 

Note: if using an already flavored salt, use ½ teaspoon of the pre-packaged salt in place of the salt mixture above.

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Papaya-Peach Smoothie

Papaya-Peach Smoothie

This week’s fun, Colorful ChoicesTM inspired dish is a Papaya-Peach Smoothie.  In addition to the challenge to eat colorful produce, two other factors contributed to my recipe:

(1)    I may have overbought a variety of fresh fruit this past week.  Peaches were a steal and it had been awhile since we had eaten papaya.  This was in addition to the wealth of apples, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries that I had stocked.

(2)    My daughter wanted to make a special treat to enjoy with her neighbor friends. She had suggested muffins or cupcakes. Since it is the middle of July I wasn’t keen on the idea of firing up the oven, so sly mom that I am, I offered up the mommy-wants-to-use-up-excess-fruit smoothie idea instead.

Papaya-PeachSmoothie

Keeping the smoothie simple, I used my food processor to blend papaya, peaches, almond milk, honey, flax meal, and Saigon cinnamon into a delicious treat that the whole family enjoyed.  The mix of papaya and peaches was the perfect blend of exotic and sweet tastes.  Just like in my Orange Creamsicle Kefir Smoothies, the flax meal amps up the omega-threes and fiber to make this Papaya-Peach Smoothie a healthy breakfast alternative.

Papaya-Peach Smoothie

Now I just have to eat my way through the rest of our fruit!


Papaya-Peach Smoothie

2 cups chopped, ripe papaya
3 ripe peaches, pitted and chopped
½ cup almond milk
4 tablespoons flax meal
1 ½ teaspoons Saigon cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey

Add the papaya and peaches to a food processor or blender and mix until smooth.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth again.

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purple cauliflower dip

Purple Cauliflower Dip

Every now and then the wellness program at my office highlights a challenge. The one starting this next week is to eat 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit in the colors of the rainbow for a whole month.  Doing so (and logging my progress) earns me points towards a better health care plan rate, but I also see it as a great reminder to vary my fresh food.  We sometimes get in a rut, such as always grabbing an apple or carrot sticks for lunch.

When you stop and think about it though, how much blue or purple food do you eat? Probably not much, which I had demonstrated with my Does Color Effect Taste Experiment, but there are other options besides blueberries.

purple cauliflower

Take, for instance – purple cauliflower. Like many other blue/purple veggies and fruit it gets its color from anthocyanin which is thought to help reduce chances of cardiovascular disease and cancer. It is also the chemical behind the acid-base indicator made from cabbage. You may notice the cauliflower gets a pinkish hue when you add the lemon juice in this recipe as a result of the lower pH in that area.

purple cauliflower dip

Chemistry aside, I used the purple cauliflower to make a unique, light take on hummus. Mixing in the cauliflower not only gave the dip color, it also adds a sweetness to the snack. I enjoyed this with carrots and crackers, so be creative (or sneak in another color). I’m sure you will see some other challenge inspired dishes over the next month.

purple cauliflower dip


Purple Cauliflower Dip

1 lb purple cauliflower florets
One 15.5 can garbanzo beans
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek

 

Add the cauliflower and garbanzo beans to a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the lemon juice and the olive oil and continue to process until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.  Once smooth, stir in the salt, garlic powder, basil, and fenugreek. Serve with crackers, chips, or carrot sticks.

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Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

If you often get bored with the typical dinner sides of rice and potatoes, then you will like trying this ancient grain as much as I did.  Farro is a hulled wheat that provides a good source of fiber, protein, and magnesium among other nutrients.  When cooked, it has a chewy texture and a nutty flavor.  I used it to create a Farro and Mixed Berries Salad that was both refreshing and delicious.

Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

I also thought it would be a fun side dish for 4th of July parties by mixing in a bit of red, white, and blue through my add ins.  The strawberries and blueberries add a pop of color and just the right amount of sweetness, whereas the onions and feta add enough savory balance.  Who knows, the unique grain might also serve as a great conversation starter during your meal!

Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

Farro and Mixed Berries Salad


Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

1 cup farro
2 ounces balsamic vinegar
2 ounce olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup chopped strawberries
½ cup blueberries
½ cup diced white onion
½ cup crumbled feta
1 tablespoon chopped mint

 

Rinse the farro, then add to a large pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes then drain and add to a large bowl.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, mustard and honey.  Pour over the farro and stir to coat. Add in the strawberries, blueberries, onion, feta, and mint and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Apricot Ginger Salmon

Apricot Ginger Salmon with Poblano Cauliflower Puree, and Wilted Watercress

I couldn’t wait for The Saucy Mama blogger challenge to open this year.  I absolutely fell in love with the Saucy Mama products when I entered my Baked Tarragon Lemon Sea Scallops in last year’s contest and I must admit I trolled their website the weeks leading up to this year’s contest to make sure I didn’t miss it.  The products I chose to experiment with in the kitchen were:

  • Saucy Mama Poblano Ranch Dressing
  • Saucy Mama White Balsamic & Honey Dressing
  • Saucy Mama Parmesan Marinade
  • Smoky Garlic Mustard
  • Champagne and Honey Mustard
  • Apricot Ginger Mustard

 Saucy Mama

Once I tasted the Apricot Ginger Mustard I just knew I had to build a recipe around it.  The sweetness of the apricot and zing of the ginger are perfectly balanced, which I thought would make an excellent topper for salmon. I complimented the Apricot Ginger Mustard with a bit of Saigon cinnamon and I divided the cooking time of the salmon between searing for a textured crust and baking for even tenderness.

Apricot-Ginger Salmon

Even though the Apricot Ginger Salmon is the main attraction, I utilized two other Saucy Mama products in the equally as tasty accompaniments. A cauliflower puree with the consistency of mashed potatoes earns its flavor from the Poblano Ranch Dressing, and the watercress that has been wilted to tame its spiciness (and pack in more servings per plate) is tossed with a bit of White Balsamic & Honey Dressing.

Apricot-Ginger Salmon

The plated dish, which was garnished with a dusting of kumquats, blackberries, and pistachios, made my husband utter an audible “wow”, which is always a welcome compliment to any cooking contester.  Even better, he said he felt like he had dined in a fancy restaurant – I just hope the judges agree with his review!

Apricot-Ginger Salmon


Apricot Ginger Salmon with Poblano Cauliflower Puree, and Wilted Watercress

2 tablespoons crushed pistachio meat
4 blackberries, diced (~ 2 tablespoons)
2 kumquats, diced (~2 tablespoons)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
2, 6-7 ounce boneless, skinless salmon filets
8 ounces frozen cauliflower
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Saucy Mama Poblano Ranch Dressing
2 tablespoons Saucy Mama Apricot Ginger Mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces fresh watercress leaves
2 tablespoons Saucy Mama White Balsamic & Honey dressing

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, stir together the pistachios, blackberries, and kumquats; set aside.

In a separate small bowl, stir together the salt, pepper, and Saigon cinnamon; set aside.

Place the cauliflower and water in a microwave safe bowl with a lid and microwave for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked throughout.  Drain the cauliflower than add to a food processor. Process the cauliflower until rice sized chunks are formed, pour in the Poblano Ranch dressing and then process again until smooth; keep warm.

Place a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the salmon filets dry, then sprinkle the salt mixture evenly over the top side of both filets, spreading with your fingers to cover the entire top evenly. Once the cast iron skillet is hot, place the salmon filets in the pan, salted side down, and sear for 3 minutes. Turn off the stove, flip the filets over, top each filet with 1 tablespoon of the apricot-ginger mustard, spreading evenly over the entire surface, then transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 6 minutes.

While the salmon is baking, melt the butter in a large saute pan.  Add the watercress and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until watercress is just wilted.  Add the Saucy Mama white balsamic & honey dressing and stir to coat.

To plate, divide the watercress between two plates, top with even amounts of the pureed cauliflower, then place one salmon filet over each pile of pureed cauliflower.  Evenly sprinkle the kumquat relish over both filets and serve immediately.

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