Kale Pesto Pairs Perfectly With LoRe’s Spinach Pasta

lore past

The other day I had the chance to visit Stockton Market, a place I’ll be writing more about for BestofNJ.com and JerseyBites.com. I described it to my husband as everything I love about what some of the hipster culture is about – fresh ingredients, from the farm, local love, know your source – and less about selfies. Am I a hipster? Word is still out, but I’ll never tire of meeting like minded people who share a passion for what they are creating, whether that be handmade goat cheeses to beautiful artwork. I could go on, but let’s get to the point… and the point of the post is PASTA.

lore pastOh pasta. It’s a love affair that will never allow me to fit into those one size smaller jeans. But, I’m ok with that because I could never live without it. Especially freshly made pasta. There’s something so delicate and exciting about it that is different from your go to dried pasta in your cabinet (and yes, I love that pasta too). For me, most of the time anyways, I thin of dried pasta as a vehicle for the sauce I’m about to create. However, with fresh pasta, it’s just as much a part of the dish as the sauce. In fact, everything is elevated because of it. Cook it perfectly, only 3 minutes (or as long as the package tells you to), then toss it with your sauce and you’ll be singing its praises too!

Ok, so back to my trip to Stockton Market and my purchase of LoRe Pasta. Organic pastas, handmade using only the finest stone ground flours from Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown, PA. These guys also happened to be featured in the latest issue of Edible Jersey, where you can find them gushing about the process.

lore pastaOn this particular day, I attempted to go home with some of LoRe’s beautiful beet pasta, however they were sold out, so I went with the spinach rotini. Other choices included a spelt spaghetti, which I’m not regretting not purchasing.  As she handed over the bag of delicate pasta, she told me to store it in the fridge and if I didn’t use it in a week, to freeze it. I laughed and told her there’s no way I’m waiting a week.

One day later, I was boiling water. I decided to go with the green theme and create a kale pesto. I didn’t have pine nuts, so I added in some cashews. I didn’t have Parmigano so I sprinkled goat cheese on top. Add in a few sprigs of parsley, some bright olive oil (which I’ll talk about in another post), some salt, pepper, and yes, red pepper flakes, and I was in pasta heaven.

sage farm goat dairyUnfortunately, we devoured our meals before I took a picture of the finished product. But that shouldn’t stop you from making this! If you don’t have the ability to buy LoRe’s Pasta, head to your local Italian deli or even a specialty goods store. You may find that someone in your area is following a similar protocol. And buying fresh pasta is worth the effort! Not only does it lend a different taste, but it also cuts cooking time down by at least half!

Kale Pesto with Fresh Pasta

1 bunch Lacinto Kale, stems removed
1/4 flat parsley
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package of fresh pasta
1/4 cup goat cheese

Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until the desired consistency. I like a thicker consistency with my pesto, but that’s just my preference. After you’ve cooked the pasta for 3 minutes (remember to read the package directions) in heavily salted boiling water, drain, then toss with the pasta, off heat. Top with crumbled goat cheese (I used a Sage Farm Goat Dairy goat cheese that I bought in Vermont that had Za’tar seasoning on top – delicious!) and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.

If you’re in the Jersey Shore area and are looking for fresh pasta, check out two of my favorite places to visit:

Pasta Volo, Asbury Park
Taste of Italy, Tinton Falls

Grand Slam Sugarpova Chocolate Ice Cream Pretzels

At nine months pregnant, I was asked to do a write up on chocolate. Seriously, there was no way I was saying no to that offer. The chocolate, Sugarpova, turned out to be a new venture by Maria Sharapova, who has won 35 singles titles and five Grand Slam titles in tennis – a Russian tennis superstar. Little did they know that not only am I a huge chocolate fan (and really who isn’t), but I’m also a huge tennis fan. Combine the two and compound it with pregnancy, and you’ve got a recipe for something kind of sinful.

SUG_Chocolate_Counter1Well, before I could even get around to making something with the chocolate bars that arrived on my doorstep on a very hot summer afternoon in July, I went from being pregnant to being a mom. Days turned into weeks and finally a month before I could make my chocolate tennis dream into a reality.

Maybe it was the late nights, maybe it’s the lack of sleep, or just the fact that I need some sort of sugar to keep me going at 4pm when I’m about to crash, but I was able to (finally) put together a simple yet delicious recipe using Sharapova’s Sugarpova chocolate bars (that has such a great ring to it!) that hit all the notes I need in a sweet treat. Oh and did I mention that it’s ridiculously simple to make (take it from me who made it with a 4 week old baby on her hip!)

Sugarpova_4BarsNextToEachOther0000But before I share the recipe, let me tell you about this premium chocolate that Maria Sharapova decided to venture into thanks to her sweet tooth. All Sugarpova bars are made with natural ingredients, are Non GMO, Halal, and is crafted by Baron Chocolatier of Poland (did I ever mention I’m Polish – I swear this was a match made in heaven!) On each bar (flavors range from premium Dark Chocolate – my favorite – to coconut and even strawberry flavored), Sharapova says:

“For years I have traveled the world, not just as an international tennis player, but as a love of all things sweet, searching for that perfect chocolate. After much exploration, I have selected the expert European Chocolatiers at Baron to create Sugarpova Premium Chocolates, curating cocoa beans of the highest quality and turning them into the perfect melt-in-your-mouth bar. The result: Chocolates that are deliciously indulgent, one perfect bite after another.”

"Maria Sharapova Sugarpova Chocolate Launch At The Chicago Sweets & Snacks Expo"
“CHICAGO, IL – MAY 24: Maria Sharapova attends the Maria Sharapova Sugarpova Chocolate launch at the Chicago Sweets & Snacks Expo on May 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Sugarpova)”

Now, since I tend to offer healthy recipes on this blog, I will let you know that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has a number of health benefits for your heart, including lowering LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol), lowering blood pressure, and your risk for heart disease. It also contains polyphenols which help blood flow and may help improve brain function and memory retention. (So if eating chocolate because it’s delicious wasn’t getting you to go for the ace, then these health tidbits should!)

DSC_0310Grand Slam Sugarpova Chocolate Ice Cream Pretzels 

2 Bars of Sugarpova Chocolate (I chose Strawberry and Milk Chocolate)
1 Bag of Small Pretzels
1 Pint of your favorite ice cream (I went old school with Tahitian Vanilla)

Over a double boiler, break up the Sugarpova chocolate bars and stir, slowly melting the chocolate. Be sure the water is simmering and not touching the bottom of the glass bowl. As you melt the chocolate, take the ice cream out of the freezer. You want to thaw it just a little bit, but not so much that it’s melting.

On a piece of parchment, begin to line up your pretzels (before you do this make sure the pan you’re laying them on can fit in your freezer!) Place a teaspoon of ice cream on each pretzel and then top with another pretzel to make a sandwich. Quickly begin to dip the sandwiches into the melted chocolate (or you can cover the first side with chocolate, freeze for an hour or two until set, then flip over and cover the second side, freezing for an additional two hours to set.) Freeze the sandwiches for at least an hour until they’re set.

Finally, enjoy. It’s salty, sweet, and frozen – the perfect summer snack that I hope Maria Sharapova would enjoy.

Sunshine Smoothie Recipe

smoothie recipe

The other day was the first in quite some time where the temperatures climbed into the low 70s. There’s nothing quite like feeling the warm sunshine on your face as you’re working in the dirt.

I spent the day outside after teaching some yoga classes, digging things up, cleaning up the yard, starting seedlings (I know I’m a little late), and really just enjoying the outside with my two dogs (who also got a little spring fever).

smoothie recipe
Picture Courtesy of The Juice Theory

Of course, hard work, especially when you’re using your hands, requires some sort of food to keep you going. I mean, how else are you supposed to get that garden soil ready? For lunch I had an amazing salad from The Juice Theory, an amazing little store that makes some of the freshest and tastiest salads around. I went for the salad special of the day with some avocado. It held me over until my mid afternoon slump when I just had to have something else (especially after having some vines kick some dirt into my mouth). So I made this smoothie with ingredients that I had in the fridge and it’s so good I have to share it with you.

Sometimes creative genius happens when you least expect it!

Enjoy!

smoothie recipe

Sunshine Smoothie
(makes 1 serving)

1/2 cup cooked oats (with some extra water)
1 mango, diced and peeled
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup organic Kefir or yogurt
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

Blend all the ingredients together and you’ve got yourself sunshine in a smoothie!!

Now go take a nap!
Now go take a nap!

A Fast Italian Sandwich As Easy (and Tasty) As Pie

easy italian sandwich

I’m going to be honest here… sometimes I’m super motivated to cook and look for recipes that challenge my culinary skills, maybe use a new ingredient, or an old ingredient in a new way. But then there are other times where I really want something tasty and homemade, but have absolutely no desire to spend more than 10 minutes in the kitchen. Enter this recipe.

easy italian sandwichWith a little help from the store… well, actually a lot of help from the store, this delicious Italian inspired sandwich is super easy, super delicious, super affordable, super pretty, and super quick! Hands on time is about 10 minutes. You can do that. If I could last night, you can tonight.

I usually have about 90% of these ingredients already in my pantry and fridge pretty much all the time. The only time really spent doing actually work is when you’re making the focaccia (using store bought dough and an awesome recipe from The Kitchn) and slicing the cheese (or you can buy it already sliced).

So enough of me blabbering, after all you’re hungry and want your sandwich now.

easy italian sandwich
A Work of Art in Under 10 minutes!

Tasty Italian Sandwich

Makes 4 sandwiches
1 Store bought pizza dough
1 tablespoon of flour
4 Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
4 Roasted Red Peppers (from a jar)
4 Slices eggplant, uncooked
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or 1 tablespoon fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh baby arugula (or spinach)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. While it’s preheating, take the room temperature dough and spread it out over a sheet pan. You can use some flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands (and the sheet pan) and make it a little easier to work with. Basically just use your fingertips to spread it out. “Finger holes” are encouraged. Once it’s spread out across the sheet pan, drizzle with olive, Italian seasoning or fresh Rosemary (I actually used both), red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper. Then use those hands and have some fun with your food, spreading it out to every inch of the focaccia.

Once that’s all set, lower the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F and cook the Focaccia for about 15-20 minutes. Take a peak at 15 minutes because you want it crispy but still a little fluffy on top.

While the focaccia is cooking, take the sliced eggplant (about 1/2 inch thick) and fry in some olive oil on the stove until golden brown on both sides.

Once the focaccia is golden brown, remove from the oven, and cut it into equal size squares.

Now it’s time to assemble the sandwich. One layer focaccia, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, layer with mozzarella, arugula, eggplant, roasted red pepper, top with some flaky sea salt, then finish with the focaccia bread.

Now bite in.

See I told you it wasn’t hard, but it’s so delicious!!!! Worth every 10 minutes!

As always “Bee” Well,

Melissa

Monday March Madness: Enticing Enchilidas

weeknight meals

If you’ve ever had a case of the Mondays, and really who hasn’t, this recipe is sure to beat ’em. Nothing says fun quite like eating a Mexican inspired feast on a Monday night (or really any night of the week). And since it’s one of my favorite months for sports (March Madness!), why not get a little crazy and go big to watch some of your favorite college basketball teams play their hardest.

weeknight mealsFor a night like tonight, I’m making a dish that will raise the heat in hopes that my alma mater, the Monmouth University Hawks, win their game and make it to the big dance. It’s my Enticing Enchiladas.

weeknight mealsI know what you’re thinking. It’s Monday, I don’t have time to make enchiladas! I’m going to be exhausted. I haven’t gone food shopping. There’s too many activities going on. Why don’t we just order in pizza…

Stop right there!

weeknight mealsThis recipe, just like most of my recipes, pack the flavor, but not the time to make it! You’re family will be singing “Ole!” by the end of the night and you’ll feel like a million bucks because not only is it easy, it’s cheap, cheerful, and good for you too!

weeknight meals

Enticing Enchiladas
Serves 4-6 (Depending on how hungry you are!)

2 large or 3 medium sized sweet potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
1 chicken breast, roasted and shredded (optional)
1 handful cilantro
1 jar of your favorite salsa (or feel free to make your own and puree it)
1/2 cup black beans (rinsed and drained if from a can)
8 corn or flour tortillas
1/4 pound monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 jalapeno
1 bunch swiss chard, chopped into bite size pieces, stems separate
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 lime, zest removed and juice
sour cream (optional)
Cojita Cheese (optional for serving)
Sliced Avocados
Hot Sauce

Turn the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and ancho chili powder. Roast for 15-20 minutes until golden. Combine with the chicken (if using), pepper, black beans, chopped cilantro, and lime zest. Taste for salt and pepper.

Take a baking dish and spread an even layer of your favorite salsa on the bottom. On a gas flame or in a dry skillet, heat up the tortillas until pliable, then fill with 1-2 spoonfuls of the sweet potato mixture. Carefully roll up, placing seam side down in the baking dish. Continue until the baking dish is full.

weeknight mealsTop with the rest of the salsa and monterey jack cheese. Pop in the oven at 425 for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.

While the enchiladas are cooking, put a skillet over medium high heat. Place a drizzle of olive oil in the pan with the cumin and then add the stems of the swiss chard. Let cook (without stirring so it gets a char on it) for a few minutes, then add the leaves of the swiss chard. Toss with salt and pepper and cook until you see some charring on the leaves (only a few minutes). Take off the heat and squeeze the lime juice over top.

Serve the swiss chard side and enchiladas with avocados, Cojita cheese, some hot sauce, and sour cream for a full fiesta!

Enjoy and GO HAWKS!

weeknight meals

Craving Pasta, but not the Carbs? Try This…

no carb vegetarian pasta

Raise your hand if you’ve bought a spiralizer… (raises hand). After watching a cooking show and being mesmerized on how easy it was to create beautiful little ribbons with just a simple twist, I was hooked. I envisioned a million ways that I would use this tiny little contraption that I bought for just $12. In my eyes, at that point, I had just reached a new level of healthy cuisine.

no carb vegetarian pastaOh how wrong I was. Have you ever bought something, put it in a draw, only to never let it see the light of day? (Raises hand.) My genius little spiralizer got pushed to the back of the drawer. Catching up with my mandolin and extra large bamboo steamer. That is… until I decided to take action and bring it into my cooking rotation. What I made with it isn’t life changing per se, you already known you can spiralize your veggies, but because it’s so simple, delicious, healthy, vegetarian, light on the hips, and appealing to all tastes – especially those looking for a big bowl of pasta – I had to share.

no carb vegetarian pastaThis recipe is packed with vegetables – I mean packed. You’ll feel so great eating it that when you go for that bite of ice cream for dessert, you’ll enjoy every last bite – no regrets! (Just don’t eat the whole pint, unless you’ve had a really crappy day – then go for it!) I also did a little variation on your normal basil pesto. I had some fresh spinach leaves in the fridge that were about to go bad, so I turned my spinach into a pesto. Delicious!

no carb vegetarian pastaI served my pasta with a quinoa stuffed pepper where I added some of the spinach pesto into the quinoa then baked the peppers with mozzarella cheese on top. Just a suggestion!

no carb vegetarian pastaOh and a side note, if you have dogs, save the leftover “knubs” of veggies for them. My one dog got a kick out of it. He played with it for a few minutes and then gobbled it down. Everyone loves their veggies!

vegetarian pasta

Pesto Veggie Pasta

no carb vegetarian pastaFor the Pesto:
1 cup Fresh Organic Spinach
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (plus more for garnishing)
Olive Oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper

For the Pasta:
4-6 Zucchini and Yellow Squash (Using both creates a really vibrant plate)
3 Carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the pesto, combine everything but the olive oil in a food processor until chunky. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor runs until you get a nice chunky consistency. Taste for salt and pepper.

no carb vegetarian pastaFor the pasta – time to get your spiralizing arm in gear (it’s a workout!) Spiralize all the zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots. Once you have the ribbons, heat a non stick pan to about medium heat, add the olive oil, and saute the ribbons until slightly tender (about 5 minutes).

While still in the pan, add the pesto by tablespoon until you reach a level where the “noodles” are coated with the pesto. Grate some extra Parmigiano Reggiano over the top, maybe sprinkle a few more red pepper flakes over top and I’m telling you, you’ve got a winner!

Recipe: A Summer Grain Salad in the Middle of Winter

quinoa salad recipe

It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean that my taste buds are craving bright, fresh, and bold flavors – basically summer flavors. As much as I love the soups, stews, and pastas of winter, I’m also in love with grain salads that are the perfect meal, side dish, or snack.

quinoa salad recipeMy obsession with citrus continues with this salad that is packed with summer ingredients. Normally, I wouldn’t advocate eating outside of the season – we all know that things tend to taste better when they actually grow relatively around the same time that you’re consuming it – however, sometimes you have to make an exception!

My Summer Grain Salad is the perfect antidote to those winter blues (and pounds!) And be prepared to make extra! The last few times I’ve made this recipe, I just threw it all together in a tupperware container so I could grab a bite (or two) or a bowl in a flash.

This recipe is also super, super, super simple. I mean, you can basically put this together in your sleep!

quinoa salad recipeSummer Grain Salad in the Middle of Winter

2 cups Quinoa, rinsed
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 cucumber, diced
1 Avocado, diced
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 limes, with zest removed
2 tablespoons jalapeno olive oil (or plain, then just add chopped jalapenos!)
1 tablespoon jalapeno infused white vinegar (or white vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pan, add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, cayenne pepper, cumin, and rinsed quinoa. Toast until fragrant on medium heat. Then add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 minutes until quinoa is fluffy.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Add in the quinoa when finished (no need to let cool, it will help wilt the spinach ever so slightly) and then dig in.

Seriously simple… Simply delicious… Enjoy!

Vegetarian Recipe: Quinoa Stew

vegetarian quinoa stew

I’m a sucker for stews, especially when it’s chilly outside and all I want is a big pot of delicious vegetables without going crazy cooking all day long. Hence… the stew. The perfect one-pot-wonder that is the answer to those days when you want something hearty, delicious, good for you, but super easy to make.

vegetarian quinoa stewOne of my favorite dishes to make is a stew that’s packed with sweet potatoes, black beans, tomatoes, and quinoa. I love the combination that they bring together. Similar to southwestern flavors, this stew also packs a punch in heat and tartness that helps cut the thickness of the stew.

If I haven’t sold you on the flavor profile already, let me give you a little urging on the nutrition front:

quinoa stewSweet Potatoes – Packed with Vitamin A and C (gotta love that bright orange color, think beta-carotene in carrots) as well as some great dietary fiber, sweet potatoes good for every part of your body, even your heart thanks to B6 that helps keep your heart walls flexible and healthy.

quinoa stewBlack Beans – You know the song, Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you fart, the more you fart, the better you feel, so eat your beans at every meal! There’s a reason why that song is so popular. Now, if beans tend to be a little difficult on your digestive system, just make sure they’re cooked properly.

quinoa stewQuinoa– Oh quinoa, the ancient Peruvian grain that has successfully won over millions in their quest to get healthy. This little powerhouse is  one of the only non-animal based foods that considered “complete protein.” What does that mean? It contains all of the essential amino acids, which means it’s packed with protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium (one of my favorite vitamins, especially for those suffering from headaches.)

quinoa stewTomatoes – Ok, even though we know that Gisele and Tom don’t eat them (tomatoes are a part of the nightshade family), these plump, red and juicy bites of summer are also packed with Vitamin C (this soup is a great idea to eat during the flu and cold season) and a host of other antioxidants that combat the formation of free radicals in your body.

Now that I have (hopefully) convinced you to jump on the healthy eating train, let’s get to the good stuff. Make an extra helping of this as the soup only plumps up more as you reheat it later in the week. It’s definitely a dish that both meat lovers and vegetarians will love to eat.

vegetarian quinoa stewQuinoa Stew with Sweet Potatoes – Hacienda Style

1 cup Quinoa, rinsed
1/2 onion, diced
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons chiles in adobo sauce
3 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, and diced into bite size pieces
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1-2 cups water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 handful of chopped cilantro
2-3 limes, zest first, then quartered
crumbled tortilla chips to garnish (optional)
Mexican crema to garnish (optional)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized pot, put one tablespoon of olive oil, cumin, and cayenne pepper in the pan. Place the rinsed quinoa in the pan and let toast in the spices until fragrant. Then add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until cooked – about 15 minutes.

vegetarian quinoa stewMeanwhile, heat a large dutch oven under medium heat. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon olive oil, then add the chopped onions. Saute till translucent. Add the garlic and rest of the cumin and the chiles in adobo sauce. Add salt and pepper. Once fragrant, add the sweet potatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sweet potatoes are slightly cooked. Then add the can of fire roasted tomatoes. Add enough water to almost cover the potatoes.

Bring to a boil, then let simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. Add the lime zest, quinoa, black beans, and a 1/2 of the cilantro. Cook together for at least 5 minutes to let the flavors combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve in a bowl garnished with a squeeze (or two) of lime, chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips, and Mexican crema… maybe even some diced jalapenos.

Enjoy!

Upgrade Your Taco Night With My Swiss Chard Tacos

Taco night. It can be a serious calorie buster that can give you a hangover the next morning without even drinking a margarita! However, I love taco night (and I’m assuming that most of you do too because you happen to be my kind of foodies). So, what to do? Continue to make tacos with beef, “taco seasoning,” fried tortillas, refried beans, and all the fixings to just deal with the fried food and salt hangover the next day OR make taco night delicious and satisfying so that you can wake up the next day with pep in your step. Yea… I went with the second option.

So, here we are. Now, I know this may not be a traditional taco, but hey, it’s delicious and believe me I’m totally into that juicy beef taco once in a while. But sometimes, I really just want the rice, beans, lots of veggies, and a tortilla. I mean, is that so bad?

No, it’s not. At least in my opinion. So what am I making here? How about a rice, bean, avocado, and swiss chard taco? Oh yea! I made this for the first time after visiting my local farmer’s market in late August. If it happens to be late fall when you’re putting this together why not try some butternut squash or take some fresh asparagus and beans in the spring. In the winter, just use up your leftover produce – I promise it’s so good.

Oh and because no taco night is complete without a margarita, stay tuned in the next couple of days for my husband’s margarita recipe. It’s fresh, easy, and will take you to that Mexican mindset no matter where you are in the world.

vegetarian tacosPep in Your Step Swiss Chard Tacos

1 can black beans, rinsed – half smashed
1 cup rice (I used Basmati just because I happened to have it on hand)
1 ripe avocado
1 bunch swiss chard, cleaned and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 jalapeno (take the seeds and stems out if you want to dial down the heat)
3 Husks of Corn, corn kernels removed
1 red onion
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Aji Amarillo pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 handful cilantro
1 lime, zest and juice
1 lime, juice
Corn tortillas
Olive Oil
1 ½ cups vegetable broth and/or water

First make the rice. In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the Aji Amarillo pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Add the rice and let toast until you can smell the spices opening up. Add 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth or a combination of broth and water. Cook according to package directions (usually about 30 minutes).

In a separate bowl, toss the halved grape tomatoes, half of the cilantro, juice and zest of one lime, salt and pepper to taste, and half the jalapeno in a bowl. Reserve.

In a pan over low to medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil with the chopped red onion. Let cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Crank up the heat to medium and add the stems of the swiss chard, reserving the leaves, the corn, and the other half of the jalapeno. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper. Let cook for 5 minutes then add the leaves. Stir until wilted and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

In another pan over medium heat, combine half of the can of black beans with 1 tablespoon olive oil over low heat. Mash the beans and then at the end add the rest of the can. (I added additional cumin and cayenne pepper here, but just a teaspoon for additional kick – totally optional!) Take off heat after 5-10 minutes (until a little brown and warmed up).

Over a low flame (if you have gas – if you have electric put in a skillet), add the corn tortillas. Cook about a minute on each side (just be careful you don’t burn them! It’s super easy to do!)

Now it’s time to make the taco! Take the corn tortilla, add a tablespoon of rice, beans, and two tablespoons of the swiss chard mixture. Top with the salsa and some piece of the avocado. Squirt some lime juice over top and there you go! A vegetarian and healthy taco night that will stand up to a beef taco any day!

My mouth is watering just writing this…

Not Your “Plain Jane” Veggie Burger (It’s Gluten Free Too!)

veggie burgerI’m not a vegetarian, nor am I a vegan, however I try not to consume meat unless I’m craving it. However, sometimes I just want a hamburger – no meat included. And to be honest, it’s a little difficult to get that meaty texture that’s packed with vegetables instead of those soy based substitutes because seriously, trading meat for GMO soy might not be the best thing in the world for you.

veggie burgerAfter bowing to my craving of a meat hamburger, I still felt a little unsatisfied. As I continue to grow, my love of animals also grows and it’s getting harder and harder to eat meat. So maybe that was it. But, I’m not bashing omnivores or vegetarians – basically what I’m doing is saying that sometimes you just want the meat, surrounded by a potato bun (an absolute must), without having to feel bad about it. It’s not soy based… it’s not meat based… it’s just plain awesome.

Actually, it’s not really plain at all! What’s not plain you ask? My Plain Jane Burger that hits all of the notes you’re looking for in a burger – taste, texture, and quality. My husband, a big omnivore (he loves both meat and vegetables) told me it was the best veggie burger he’s had. “It’s really good, Melissa!” (His reactions have become interesting as I cook almost every night and sometimes receive no comment at all… so I cling onto these comments when they come!)

My secret ingredient? Maybe the millet? It’s an underused grain that I discovered a few years back. Made the wrong way, it becomes a little mushy, but made the right way, it’s perfection. Similar to quinoa, but reminiscent of whole grain wheat varieties. Packed with B-complex vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. And guess what, just like quinoa, they’re gluten-free.

So, with some key pantry ingredients, an unused grain, and lots of flavor, I introduce to you my version of the vegetarian burger and it’s pretty damn good (if I don’t say so myself).

Plain Jane Burger
Makes 6 Burgers

1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup millet (cooked)
2 ½ cups water or vegetable broth (I like using a 50/50 mixture)
1 egg
¼ cup bread crumbs (you can use panko or gluten free)
1 clove garlic
1 small onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup corn kernels
Choice of cheese (I used Iberico)
¼ cup mayo
1 tablespoon Harissa paste
1 cup chopped and massaged kale
6 potato buns
Salt and pepper to taste

veggie burgerIn a medium pot, combine the millet with the water or broth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the millet is fluffy, around 12 -15 minutes. Drain the millet in a strainer and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, take half of the black beans and blend in a food processor. Combine with other half of beans in a large bowl. Cook the onions until translucent and the garlic until fragrant.

Combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Form six patties and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow them to set.

Once set, heat a skillet to medium low. Add olive oil and cook each burger 7 minutes on one side, then flip over, top with cheese. Cover the pan and cook for another 7 minutes.

Mix the mayo with the Harissa paste, smear onto both sides of the potato bun, add the burger, top with the kale, and then be prepared for a little bite of food heaven.