ultimate beet spiral salad

Ultimate Beet Spiral Salad

Every January, Healthy Solutions Spice Blends hosts a recipe contest. Of course this means I can’t wait to enter.  All of their products are great low salt and low sugar options, without sacrificing taste.

This year I decided to experiment with the Ultimate Burger blend.  While the namesake might lead you to think that my recipe entry is a juicy burger, think again! I used it to make an amazing vinaigrette to create my Ultimate Beet Spiral Salad.

ultimate beet spiral salad

The Healthy Solutions Ultimate Burger blend is mixed with a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar to make a well balanced and low salt dressing. I used the vinaigrette to dress a salad of raw beet spirals, shelled edamame, baby tomatoes, and feta for a light and healthy salad that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

ultimate beet spiral salad


Ultimate Beet Spiral Salad

10.7 oz. (~4 cups) red beet spirals
½ cup shelled edamame, cooked and cooled
1 cup orange baby tomatoes
½ cup feta cheese
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar

2teaspoons Healthy Solutions Spice BlendsTM Ultimate Burger

 

Place the beet spirals, edamame, baby tomatoes, and feta in a large bowl and stir to toss.  In a separate, small container, mix together the oil, vinegar, and Ultimate Burger spice blend until uniform.  Pour the dressing over the beet salad and toss to coat.  Serve.

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Endive and Watercress Salad

Endive and Watercress Salad

When I plan a special meal, such as holiday gatherings or a Valentine’s Day dinner, I like to start with a fancy salad. Making a special salad such as this Endive and Watercress Salad looks and tastes impressive, yet doesn’t require much more effort than your everyday iceberg and tomatoes version.

I took inspiration from two different salad recipes I had saved from magazines (one from Good Housekeeping  and one from Better Homes and Gardens), switching out the dressings for a balsamic vinaigrette and replaced walnuts with pecans. I added currants for extra sweetness and kept the presentation as a tossed salad, which was easier to prepare for a large gathering ( I made a double batch for our Thanksgiving dinner this past year).

endive and watercress saladThis Endive and Watercress Salad was a huge hit, and I had multiple family members ask for the recipe.  I’m sure it will be a keeper in your house too!


Endive and Watercress Salad

1 package of watercress, (2 cups chopped)
2 endives (1/2 pound)
1 large Bartlett pear, cored and chopped
½ cup dried currants
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
½ cup pecan halves
1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing

 

Remove the watercress from the package, and remove the roots.  Wash and roughly chop the watercress and place it in a large bowl.  Chop the endive in thin rings and add to bowl.  Add in the pear pieces, currants, blue cheese, and pecans and toss.  Pour over the vinaigrette and toss until coated evenly.  Divide between four salad plates and serve.

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garam masala butternut squash

Garam Masala Roasted Butternut Squash

I love butternut, but I despise peeling and chopping it. That is why I joyfully bought pre-peeled and chopped butternut squash from Costco in a handy 2 pound tub. Prep time was instantly reduced by 85% and I could focus on how I wanted to flavor my dish, rather than how to safely peel the squash. I decided on a simply roasting the squash, while adding a ton of flavor with a dose of garam masala (which is a blend of spices that is typically found in Indian cuisine).

garam masala butternut

To roast the squash, I preheated the pans to set a sear on the underside of the butternut, which is a tip from Stuart O’Keeffe (as published in Optimum Wellness Summer 2017 edition). Once the squash was in the oven, I just had to wait for 40 minutes or so for it to get tender and a nice golden brown color. In addition to the amazing carmelization of the outside, the roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the butternut squash.  In fact, you would swear you are eating a sweet potato casserole without all of the added sugar.

garam masala butternut


Garam Masala Roasted Butternut Squash

2 pounds (8 cups) peeled, seeded, and chopped butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons garam marsala
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 °F.  Place two roasting sheets (15 x 18) in oven to warm.  In a large bowl, toss together the squash, oil, and garam marsala, stirring to coat the squash evenly.  Carefully remove the roasting sheets from the oven and divide the squash between the two sheets, spreading out the squash on the sheets.  Place the sheets in the oven and roast the squash for 40-45 minutes or until beginning to brown on the outside. Transfer to a bowl and stir in pine nuts and oregano. Serve.

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boar ragout

Boar Ragout

You know me, I often like to try something new and different. This week I wanted to try ground boar (which I found in the freezer section of my local grocery store).  I decided to use the boar in a hearty, wintery ragout.

boar ragout

A mixture of roasted acorn squash, mushrooms, and purple potatoes, was tossed with a boar and rosemary sauce. I served the ragout over soft polenta, for a beautiful (and filling!) dinner.  The true test – would the kids eat it?  Sure enough, they asked for seconds of the nutty tasting boar ragout.  I’m glad they are willing to try all of mom’s wild new dishes!

boar ragout


Boar Ragout

1 small acorn squash
½ pound purple potatoes
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms
1 lb boar meat
½ tablespoon fresh rosemary
½ tablespoon freshly minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef stock
Polenta for serving (optional)
 

Heat oven to 350°F. Slice acorn squash in half, and remove seeds.  Cut in half moons and place on a greased baking sheet, cut side down.  Cut purple potatoes into 1 inch width circles, then cut into half moons; place on a greased large baking sheet along with onions.  Place both baking sheets in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until acorn squash and potatoes are tender.  Remove peels from squash and cut into chunks.

 Meanwhile,  heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, or until browned.  Transfer mushrooms to a large bowl.  Add boar meat and brown over medium heat, about 10 minutes.  Add in rosemary, garlic, flour, and stock and simmer, stirring to mix in flour.  Remove from heat and stir in mushrooms, squash, and potatoes.   Serve with polenta, if desired.

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Pork Green Chili

Pork Green Chili

I like to make a big pot of chili as an easy dinner that provides plenty of leftovers for multiple meals (lunch included).  I tend to gravitate towards beef chili, but this week I was in the mood for a Pork Green Chili.

Pork Green Chili

I kept it simple by using my crock pot.  A pork loin was cooked until tender and easy to shred, and then creamed corn, green salsa, onions, and beans were added to make a hearty and tasty chili.  The green salsa had a fair amount of kick, providing a great base for the chili.  We ate ours with cheddar cheese grated on top, but a Monterey jack would compliment the dish just as well.

I’m sure I will tinker with this chili the next time I make it. I can never seem to make chili the same way twice.  What is your favorite chili mix in?


Pork Green Chili

4 lb pork loin
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced yellow onion
2 cups jarred green salsa
One, 14 ounce can creamed corn
One 15 ounce can northern beans, drained
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cumin

Cheese for serving (optional) 

Place the pork loin in a crock pot with 2 cups of chicken stock on high for 4-6 hrs. Skim off the fat and shred, then add onion, salsa, corn, beans, cumin, and garlic.  Stir to combine and cook on high for 1 hour longer. Serve; refrigerate any leftovers.

Notes:  Looking for the same amount of kick? I used 505 Southwestern hatch green chili in medium for my chili. I was not sponsored for this post.

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asparagus casserole

Asparagus Casserole

Many Thanksgiving gatherings include a green bean casserole. There is no denying the creamy goodness of such a casserole, but I wanted to test out a version using asparagus (a favorite vegetable in my family) with a homemade sauce. 

Parboiled asparagus, get coated in a generous amount of a cream sauce, and mixed with sauuted onion, garlic, and cheese. Once baked and bubbly, it gets a dusting of crumbled bacon.  I’m sure this dish will be irresistible at our Holiday feast!

asparagus casserole


Asparagus Casserole

2 lbs asparagus
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup diced yellow onion
½ tablespoon freshly minced garlic
4 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups ½ and ½
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
½ cup cooked and crumbled bacon

 

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the asparagus and boil for 5minutes; drain and add asparagus to a greased 2.8 Liter casserole dish.

In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter.  Once melted, add the onions and saute for 8-10 minutes, or until translucent and begin to brown.  Add the garlic during the last minute of saute; remove from the heat.  Return the non-stick skillet to the stove and melt the remaining butter over medium heat.  Add the flour to the butter and stir frequently for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add the half & half, stirring until smooth and sauce begins to thicken.  Add the salt and pepper, then pour over the asparagus.  Add the onions, garlic, and Monterey jack cheese to the asparagus, and gently toss to evenly coat the asparagus with the sauce and cheese.

Heat oven to 350°F. Bake the casserole for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the bacon and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and bubbly. Serve; refrigerate any leftovers.

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Sausage and Kale Soup

Sausage & Kale Soup

This week, one of the books my daughter brought home for reading homework was Stone Soup.  If you have never read the book, the story is about an impoverished town that comes together to share the small amounts of food they have to create a large and scrumptious kettle of soup. Reading about a “little bit of meat, a little bit of beans, and a little bit of carrots” got me thinking that a hearty soup was just the ticket for this weekend.  Not only would I get to use the last bit of kale from my garden, but it also would give me a vehicle to get more beans into the kid’s diet. 

 Sausage and Kale Soup

I chose mild Italian sausage as my “little bit of meat” since it would add a lot of flavor.  I rounded out the soup with kale, black beans, carrots, onions, and chicken broth.  The soup was delicious without being too heavy. The kids thought it was a fun way to bring the book to life. Stone soup never tasted so good!

Sausage and Kale Soup


Sausage and Kale Soup

1 lb mild Italian sausage, without casing
12 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced yellow onions
3 cups kale
One 15 ounce can or black beans, drained

 

Add the sausage to a large pot and brown and crumble over medium heat.  When the sausage is cooked through, add the stock, carrots, and onions.  Bring to a boil and add the kale and black beans.  Cook for until the kale is wilted, then serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

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tzatziki tacos

Tzatziki Tacos

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with a friend at Next Door Eatery in Denver. One of the things I respect about this restaurant is their commitment to the farm-to-table concept.  This reminded me that it had been awhile since I had purchased meat from local farmers, especially lamb. This got me thinking of lamb dishes, resulting in this Tzatziki Tacos recipe.

tzatziki tacos

I decided to modify the traditional tzatziki sauce of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, dill, and lemon by making it a cross between a salad and salsa. I accomplished this by adding tomatoes, feta, and Kalamata olives and keeping the cucumbers as chunks (rather than blending them into the sauce). I then used this fresh salad as a topping to balance the hearty taste of the shredded lamb, served in a toasted corn tortilla.

My husband thought these were fantastic, making me wish I had made a double batch. If you are looking for a fun, new take on tacos (or gyros), try these Tzatziki Tacos!

tzatziki tacos

Tzatziki Tacos
 1 ½ pounds lamb shoulder chops
½ cup beef stock
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1 cup peeled, diced cucumber
½ cup crumbled feta
¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives
½ cup plain, Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon  lemon juice
10 yellow soft corn tortillas (~6 inch diameter)
 

Place the lamb and beef stock in a 4 quart slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours. 

While the lamb is cooking, prepare the tzatziki salad.  Place the tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, and olives in a large bowl.  Add the yogurt, dill, garlic, and lemon juice and stir to coat and mix well.  Refrigerate until ready to serve the tacos.

After the required cooking time, remove the lamb from the slow cooker. Then, remove the bones and fat from the lamb and shred the remaining meat; set the meat aside and keep warm.

Lightly toast the corn tortillas on both sides in a non-stick skillet.   To serve, evenly divide the lamb between the tortillas, and top with the tzatziki salad. Serve immediately.

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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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Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

I’m often amazed at how many variations there are on classic recipes.  Take for example Stuffed Mushrooms. When I first started making these I used leftover bratwurst from a summer BBQ and I have been doing so ever since. I have even used the stuffing base in other recipes, such as my Stuffed Acorn Squash.

Stuffed Mushrooms

In addition to bratwurst meat, the stuffing includes breadcrumbs, onions, cheese, and fresh parsley.  The combination is a wonderful, savory starter.

Stuffed Mushrooms

 The instructions below start from an uncooked bratwurst, just in case you want to make these anytime.  If you do have some cookout leftovers, the timesaving instructions are noted as well.

Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb button mushrooms
1/3 lb uncooked bratwurst (~1 bratwurst)
1/2 Cup yellow onion, diced
1 Tablespoon freshly minced garlic
¼ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons fresh, minced flat leaf parsley
¾ cup pecorino-Romano cheese

 

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Wash mushrooms, then remove stems.  Mince the stems and set aside.  Place the mushroom caps (top down) in a large, greased casserole or 9×13 pan.

Add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil to large sauté pan, and place over medium high heat. Remove the bratwurst meat from the casing and add to the saute pan. Saute the bratwurst meat, breaking it apart with a spoon, until it is cooked throughout. Remove the cooked meat, place in a large bowl, and set aside. Add the minced mushroom stems and onions to the man and cook, stirring frequently, until softened – about 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes longer.

Remove from the heat, and add the mushroom stems and onions to the bratwurst meat, along with the breadcrumbs, parsley, and ¼ cup of pecorino Romano cheese; Stir to combine.  Evenly divide the stuffing between the mushroom caps, then sprinkle the tips with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt and brown slightly. Remove from oven and serve.

Note: If you have a leftover, cookout bratwurst, place brat in food processor and process for about 20 seconds, until well minced to eliminate the meat-cooking step.

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shaved brussel sprouts

Basil-Garlic Shaved Brussel Sprouts

Perhaps it was a need to eat more vegetables to balance my latest intake of sweets, but one way or another I ended up with Brussel sprouts in my grocery cart this week.  I have mentioned before that the only way I can get my husband to eat them is by using my Flash Fried Brussel Sprouts recipe. I have been determined to try other means of cooking them as I don’t always like pulling out my deep fryer, hence this Basil-Garlic Shaved Brussel Sprouts recipe.

The idea of shaved Brussel sprouts has caught my attention since I thought that smaller pieces might minimize the cabbage taste (or just provide more surface area to coat with butter or other toppings to mask the taste).  I decided to keep the mixed in spices simple and classic with garlic and onion as the main flavors and then added basil for a sweet undertone.  The result was a fresh take on the veggie, and one that reminded me of something my grandmother use to make frequently for dinner.  I enjoyed the shaved Brussel sprouts as a side but I can easily see mixing in some other vegetables and protein for a healthy lunch salad.  I also managed to get my kids to eat some, which is always a huge win.

shaved brussel sprouts

Basil-Garlic Shaved Brussel Sprouts

1 ½ pounds fresh Brussel sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons dried, minced onion
½ teaspoon dried granulated garlic
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

 

Using a 2 mm disk attachment, shred the Brussel sprouts using a food processor.  Melt the butter over medium high heat in a large saute pan.  Add the shaved Brussel sprouts to the pan and stir frequently.  Cook for 5-6 minutes, until the Brussel sprouts are slightly wilted and bright green.  Remove from the heat and sprinkle the spices over the Brussel sprouts, stir to coat evenly, and serve.

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Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini

Since I am still trying to eat a variety of vegetables daily (despite the fact that I no longer need to track my vegetable intake for my health benefits program) I decided to make a vegetable full, fall inspired dish – Stuffed Zucchini. 

What I love about Stuffed Zucchini (or any other vegetable for that matter, like Stuffed Acorn Squash) is that you can really tailor the recipe to what you have on hand.  I went with the classic mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onions) as my main filler outside of the zucchini and pork sausage since I think it adds great color and flavor. You can just as easily omit the extra veggies – it just means your filling will not be as “full” in the zucchini vessel.

Stuffed Zucchini

My favorite part about this Stuffed Zucchini recipe is that both my kids ate it without a fuss.  Lately they have been picky or crabby and I’m relieved when they eat a good serving of vegetables without a ton of coaxing.  I should also mention that it was a hit with my husband.  In fact, I had to rush to get some photos in so that he could eat the serving I had set aside for my photography. I count that as a successful dinner!

Stuffed ZucchiniStuffed Zucchini


Stuffed Zucchini

4 medium sized zucchini (about 2.5 pounds)
1 tablespoon oil
½ cup diced yellow onion
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced carrot
1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
½ cup freshly grated pecorino-Romano cheese
¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 lb hot Italian pork sausage
½ cup shredded mozzarella

 

Preheat oven to 375 °F.  Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, scoop out the center and dice the scooped out zucchini “meat”. Place a saute pan over medium heat and add oil.  Once oil is warm, add the onions and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the carrots, celery and diced zucchini and saute another 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add to a large bowl, along with garlic, pecorino-Romano cheese, breadcrumbs, and sausage and combine until well mixed.  Evenly divide between the eight zucchini halves and fill the zucchini cavity.  Place stuffed zucchini on a large baking sheet and bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until meat is fully cooked.  During the last five minutes of baking, sprinkle with mozzarella and return to oven to melt cheese.  Remove from oven and serve.

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