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Posts Tagged ‘spinach’

Butternut Squash & Chickpea Coconut Curry (Crock Pot Recipe)

 

I absolutely adore my slow cooker. It is so perfect for those days where you kinda feel like cooking, but you don’t really have the time or desire to stand around stir this pot so it doesn’t stick, toss that thing in this dressing, cut up this and that. I always love eating at home and cooking my own meals, but sometimes after a long day of work, I just don’t have the energy to head to the kitchen and start on another 1-2 hour adventure. Though it hardly feels like work, sometimes it’s just hard to muster up the energy after a long and busy day. With a crock pot there is no preheating, no keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t over cook, no stirring. It’s just simple, easy home-cooking. When you are ready to eat, just head to the kitchen and serve yourself. I always tell Mark that my crock pot is the closest I will ever come to having a personal chef, it really feels like that.

This recipe is exceptionally easy, just toss all (well, almost all) of the ingredients in to your crock pot in the morning and check back later. I decided to keep out the peas until the end and wished I had done the same with the spinach, so I altered the recipe to reflect that. That’s it. You could certainly fuss with sautéing the onions and garlic ahead of time if you wish, but I really don’t see why you should bother. I tossed it all in and it was ready to go 6 hours later. I had some beautiful spinach and peas from the market so I decided to toss those in for some extra greeny goodness and that was our meal.

I truly think this was the best curry I have made yet. I personally have a wonderful yellow curry powder that I love, though I know many people swear by making your own mix, toasting the spices yourself, etc. I have yet to try that as I really love the powder I buy. If you prefer to take that route, please do. Beyond being extremely easy to make, this curry is loaded with flavor and is so satisfying. I served it over a small serving of brown basmati rice and topped it with fresh cilantro and a bit of unsweetened shredded coconut. The perfect cleanse-friendly, fall meal.

Butternut Squash & Chickpea Coconut Curry (Crock Pot Recipe)
serves 8

2 1/2 cups diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups dried organic chick peas
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can organic coconut milk (you can use light here, I didn’t)
1 bunch of fresh spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped (you could also use kale here)
1 1/2 cups freshly shelled peas (you can use frozen here, if you wish)
1-2 large tomatoes, diced
3 cups vegetable broth or water
3 tablespoons yellow curry powder (you can use your own blend of spices here, I just happen to have a premixed curry powder from a local indian grocery store that I love)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (save some for serving)

Rinse and sort through the dry chickpeas. Cut the skin off the squash, remove seeds and cut into 1 inch square cubes. Add all of the ingredients to your slow cooker besides the peas and spinach. Cook on high for 6 hours. About 20-30 minutes before serving add in the fresh peas and spinach, and give it a stir. If your sauce seems to be a bit too thin or watery when it is done cooking, you could make a quick mix of cornstarch and hot water and pour a tablespoon or two of the mixture into the crock pot, allow it to simmer a bit longer. This will thicken it right up.

Serve over brown basmati or jasmine rice topped with fresh cilantro, mint or basil and maybe even some shredded coconut.

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Red Quinoa with Spaghetti Squash, Spinach, Fresh Herbs and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Today is day 9 of my cleanse and I am feeling incredible. Besides feeling lighter, clearer and more awakened when cleansing, I really love the opportunity to play around with new dishes. I love the challenge of making fun cleanse-friendly, vegan meals that are loaded with whole, fresh ingredients and of course, flavor. I especially enjoy doing so this time of year, when there is so much exciting produce to play around with.

I am not going to sing the praises of quinoa once again, if you read my blog regularly you know what a nutritional powerhouse it is. I will tell you however, if you haven’t yet experimented with spaghetti squash, you must. It is such an amazing vegetable (well technically it’s a fruit, but whatever) and it is so versatile in vegan cooking. Many people like to eat spaghetti squash in replace of traditional pasta in recipes, I personally love pasta too much to do this on a regular basis, but I have before and it’s good. I had some for lunch today with a bit of the leftover vegan alfredo sauce that I made and it was delicious. Spaghetti squash is especially good simply tossed with butter or olive oil, garlic, fresh sage and some salt and pepper. Much like a pumpkin, you can also toast the seeds from a spaghetti squash, one of my favorite fall snacks. You could certainly use those on top of this recipe, just cut the squash in half before baking, scoop out the seeds and rinse them before toasting. I personally didn’t feel like hacking through the raw squash before baking, which is much harder than cutting into it when fully cooked, so I baked the squash whole. Plus I already had toasted pumpkin seeds from earlier in the day, on hand, ready to be used.

This meal is full of flavor and it quite hearty. Beyond the nutty crunch of the quinoa and the fall flavor from the squash, I love the taste and aroma from the fresh herbs, the slight crunch from the spinach, the subtle heat from the chile and the brightness of the lemon juice at the end. The crispy toasted pumpkin seeds on top were the perfect finish to the dish. For a dish that is incredibly healthy and light, this dish filled both Mark and I up perfectly. The leftovers are also just as delicious as a room temperature or cold salad.

Feel free to play around with whatever fresh herbs you happen to have on hand, sage would be nice here as well as rosemary, parsley, basil, oregano or whatever fresh herbs you can easily get your hands on. You could also use arugula instead of spinach which would bring a lovely peppery flavor to the dish.

Red Quinoa with Spaghetti Squash, Spinach, Fresh Herbs and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Red Quinoa with Spaghetti Squash, Spinach, Fresh Herbs and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
serves 4-6

1 cup red quinoa (you could also use regular quinoa here)
1 1/2 cups water
1 large peeled whole garlic clove
1 spaghetti squash
1/4 cup fresh herbs, I used chives and mint
1 spicy hot chile pepper, finely chopped, seeds removed for less heat (I used an heirloom lemon drop pepper, you could also use a jalapeno or dried red pepper flakes)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups organic baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375º.
Place the whole spaghetti squash in a shallow baking pan, pierce with a knife or skewer and place in the center of the oven (this is a must so it doesn’t explode). Baked for 45 minutes to an hour, until you can easily pierce it with a paring knife.

While the squash is cooking, rinse quinoa well and place in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water and garlic clove. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and it’s fully cooked. Fluff with a fork and place the cover on the pan until the squash is finished baking.

Meanwhile, cut up your fresh herbs, mince the garlic and pepper and add all to a large serving dish.

Once the squash is cooked remove it from the oven and allow to cool slightly, enough so that you can handle it. At this point, if your pumpkin seeds are raw you can increase the oven temperature to 400º and put them in to be toasted.

When cool enough to handle, cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise with a serrated knife. Scoop out the seeds and fibrous strings from the center of the cooked spaghetti squash. Gently scrape the tines of a kitchen fork around the edge of the spaghetti squash to shred the pulp into strands. Add the spaghetti squash to the serving bowl. Remove the whole garlic clove from the cooked quinoa and add the quinoa to the serving dish. Add in the fresh spinach and toss everything together to combine. Your spinach will wilt a bit from the heat of the quinoa and squash. If you want the spinach fully cooked, you can quickly saute it in the pan you cooked your quinoa in. I personally like the crunch from the fresh spinach. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the dish. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately topped with fresh herbs and a small handful of toasted pumpkin seeds.

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Green Smoothie

I have to say, I am having fun experimenting with different things for breakfast. I am actually excited to get up in the morning and cook or prepare something. So many mornings I tend to feel stressed about what to have for breakfast and I get frustrated. This smoothie may be a turn off to some of you due to its color, though I think it is quite beautiful. Don’t be fooled, it is so much tastier and sweeter than you could ever imagine and such satisfying breakfast. Such a nice way to start your day, with that beautiful green color and a healthy drink. Again, you could really change this around so many different ways, it probably doesn’t need the peaches but I thought rather than ice cubes a few frozen peaches would be nice for another layer of flavor. The parsley gave it such a bright and fresh taste, certainly this can be left out too if you don’t have parsley or don’t care for it.

Green Smoothie
(serves 1)

1 cup loosely packed organic baby spinach
3/4 cup organic white grape juice (no sugar added)
1 small organic granny smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 small handful frozen organic peaches (about 5 or 6 wedges)
1 handful fresh parsley
(add water if necessary to thin)

Add all ingredients to your blender, process until smooth. Add more ice or water as needed to get desired thickness.

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This was a recipe I came up with this morning while I drank my tea, after doing a quick inventory on the refrigerator and pantry and thumbing through my Flavor Bible. I wanted to use some of the goodies we got at the Farmer’s Market this weekend and make something Springy and tasty. The wild rice had a beautiful earthy and nutty flavor. The spinach and fennel had a lemony tang and the perfect amount of that fresh crisp that I crave. The little bit of fresh country bacon brought a salty and smokey flavor and the toasted almonds brought a robust, toasty sweetness that really enhanced the flavor of the dish as a whole and finished it off nicely.

If you wanted to make this a vegetarian dish, you could easily leave off the country bacon and the dish would be equally delicious. I rarely cook with bacon, but when we saw this beautiful fresh bacon at the Farmer’s Market, that we bought directly from the farmer, I knew I would find the perfect dish for it to compliment. The country bacon was a cross somewhere between traditional bacon and ham, not too salty and not too greasy. This is the first time I have ever cooked with it and I most definitely will again.

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Wild Rice with Spinach, Fennel & Toasted Almonds
serves 2

4 cups of fresh spinach, stems removed and washed
2 cups fennel, chopped
3 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup whole raw almonds, unsalted
2 slices of local farm fresh country-style bacon, diced
1/2 lemon
2 cups wild rice, cooked
salt
freshly ground pepper

Prepare 2 servings of wild rice, according to the directions on the package. While it is cooking, over a medium-high heat, toast the whole almonds in a large dry non-stick saucepan. Remove the almonds from the pan once they begin to brown up and make slight popping sounds. Set aside. Once cooled, crush the whole almonds to your desired size.

Add the diced country bacon to the pan and brown it up over a medium-high heat (if the pan is too dry, add a drizzle of olive oil). After the bacon is browned up and heated through, remove it from the pan, cover and set aside.

Using the little bit of grease in the hot pan from the bacon, add the garlic and fennel, sauté over medium-high heat, stirring often, being careful not to burn them. Once the fennel is beginning to soften and brown up a little, about 6 minutes, add the spinach. Stir to combine the ingredients. Add a dash of salt, freshly ground pepper and the juice of half of lemon. Once the spinach has cooked down but still has a slight crisp, about 5 minutes, place 1 cup of wild rice on each plate, top it with the spinach and fennel mixture, then the bacon, crushed toasted almonds and freshly ground pepper. Serve.

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