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Gingerbread Granola

Gingerbread Granola

We are back from our very short trip to Chicago, we got back late Monday night. It was a whirlwind of a trip, but it was super fun and totally successful on the business front. The holiday market was jammed packed with people and everyone was in such a festive holiday mood. I love that about this time of year.

When we are in Chicago we stay with good friends and it is so enjoyable and relaxing. We are so lucky to have so many amazing friends across the country that open their homes to us. It makes it feel like we took a trip to see and stay with family instead of the alternative of it feeling like the (somewhat) stressful work filled trip that it actually is. I really wish I had more time before we left for this trip to make cute little homemade gifts like this granola for our friends that we stayed with as a “thank you”. This granola would make a wonderful holiday gift for the cereal lover on your list and it would also be the perfect gift for the host or hostess that invites you by for a holiday party. This granola in a simple canning jar wrapped up with some sweet ribbon or twine with a little tag, it really doesn’t get any better. I wish I could also capture and bottle up the smell in the house after baking this and wrap that in a bow and give it to everyone I know. It was that good.

The only bad thing about coming home after traveling, is that the fridge is usually so empty when we return. I try to be smart and plan ahead so we don’t leave town with a ton of fresh produce or leftovers in the fridge, etc. But that also means that when we come home there is very little fresh food to eat and I need to find the time to get to the market. We are pretty busy with work right now, so I haven’t had the extra time to get groceries just yet, so we have been just making do with what we have on hand right now. I have been craving some holiday-inspired goodies, like crazy, so, I decided a fun and healthy way to get some holiday flavor in my life, is to make this gingerbread granola. It made the house smell amazing and it is a great breakfast and snack option. It would also be good sprinkled on top of greek yogurt or ice cream. I’ve been enjoying this granola for breakfast with a few glugs of almond milk or coconut milk (not the canned kind, the beverage kind from So Delicious).

I had blackstrap molasses on hand, so I used that, but feel free to use regular light or dark molasses if that is what you have. Since blackstrap molasses can have a bit of a bittersweet taste, I also added an additional 1/4 cup of coconut sugar. You could leave this off or substitute brown sugar or honey here if you are looking for a bit more sweetness, like I was. Blackstrap molasses is not only a healthier choice for a sweetener, it actually has some health benefits, which is a lot more than more sweeteners can say for themselves. Blackstrap molasses is high in iron and a variety of other minerals.

Is it bad that I want to wrap this granola up and give it to everyone on my list? It’s that good.

Do you plan to make homemade gifts food or otherwise for anyone on your list?

Gingerbread Granola


Gingerbread Granola

Gingerbread Granola

This made enough to fill two 1-quart canning jars

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (if you are gluten intolerant, be sure these are certified gluten-free oats. I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup chia seeds (flax seeds would also be nice)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped (or pecans, almonds, etc)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses (light or dark molasses will also work)
1/4 cup coconut sugar (optional, you can also use brown sugar)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325ºF.
 Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. You can also use a roasting pan, which is nice since you can just mix all of the ingredients right in it, without losing things over the edge.
Combine all of your dry ingredients, oats, seeds, nuts, dried fruit etc., in a large bowl (or in your roasting pan). Add in your spices and salt. Mix well.
Pour the molasses and vanilla over the dry ingredients and stir until well coated. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes. Give the mixture a little taste and add the coconut sugar (or brown sugar) if it’s too bitter for you.

If you aren’t using a roasting pan, spread the granola on the baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes. Toss every 10 minutes or so to provide even toasting.

Let cool completely – it will get crispier as it cools. Keep in airtight container.

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I didn’t get a chance to get on here Thanksgiving Day to wish you all a Happy Day, like I had planned but I was cooking away in the kitchen and watching the parade, the dog show and football! I hope all of my American readers had an incredible day surrounded by people they love most and filled with delicious and tasty fresh foods made with so much love and care. If you aren’t in the US – I hope you have a beautiful Thursday, still!

Our day was perfect, I spent the day cooking in my kitchen and relaxing with hubby, we really needed a day like that, then we headed to my parents to see a ton of family for dessert. It is going to be an insane few weeks coming up so I was very happy to have the perfect balance of a quiet and calm day, with a bit of the usual holiday fare with the extended family.

Of course the best part of making a big feast for 2, is that we have a ton of leftovers. This is so perfect since we are leaving on Friday of this coming week to head to Chicago – so finding time to cook is probably going to be tough. Besides just reheating things, I plan to come up with all kinds of fun and creative ways to eat up the leftovers. This morning I saw a post on the Kitchn with this very topic – lots of great and delicious ways to eat up those leftovers! One of the hardest things to just simply reheat are the mashed potatoes, they are never as creamy and delicious as they are that night! You could certainly make a shepherd’s pie with them or potato pancakes of some sort, which I had planned on doing until I saw this post. The Kitchn had this delicious recipe for Mashed Potato Puffs that caught my eye instantly. Their puffs included ham and cheese, though this was a bit too rich for me after the two days of eating that I just had, so I skipped the cheese and ham and just added a small amount of turkey and some fresh chives from my garden. If you had a vegetarian Thanksgiving, these would still be equally as delicious without any meat at all. These adorable little puffs were super simple to put together and ready in 20 minutes. We had ours for breakfast and we put the leftovers in the fridge for either a side dish or another breakfast. They were puffy, had a slight crisp on the outside and were perfectly soft and creamy inside. I almost always make my mashed potatoes as garlic smashed potatoes, which I add a smidge of Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese to for a little bit of creamy and tart flavor. I make my smashed potatoes with red potatoes, leaving the skins on – so my puffs were a bit more rustic and chunky than the original recipe, which I really liked. They can stick a bit when coming out of the muffin tin, at least they did for me, so make sure you grease your tin, even if it is non-stick. I personally didn’t care about that little bit of sticking – they were delicious regardless.

Well we’re off to the country to cut down our Christmas tree today and then to walk around beautiful Elicottville to really get even more into the Christmas mood! I cannot wait!

Tomorrow I plan to make a gluten-free turkey pot pie with some of the leftovers and I am going to cook down the bones to make a turkey stock for soup. What are you making with your leftovers?

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Smashed Potato Puffs
makes between 12 and 24 puffs, depending the size of the pan used
Adapted from The Kitchn

2 cups leftover smashed (or mashed) potatoes
3 large farm fresh brown eggs, beaten
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/4 cup shredded leftover turkey (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease the cups of a regular muffin tin or a mini-muffin tin.
Whisk together the smashed potatoes, eggs, chives, and turkey. Taste and season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.
Put a spoonful of the mixture in each muffin cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the potato cups are set, browned on top, and hot through and through. Serve immediately.

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Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing (Vegetarian)

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing Muffins (Vegetarian)

When I found out I was going to be a part of Book of Yum’s Gluten-free Vegetarian Thanksgiving Event – I was so excited. This is the first time I have had the pleasure of participating in something like this, but I have wanted to ever since I started my blog a year and a half ago. This one felt like the perfect place for me. Although I am not exactly a traditional vegetarian, I consider myself to be a “conscientious omnivore”, meaning I only eat meat that I feel good about eating that comes from a local farmer where it is raised humanely, free to roam, eat pasture and not be filled with hormones or antibiotics.  We get all of our meat from Sojourner Farms in Olean, NY. This is the ONLY meat we ever have in our home and I feel like it is the right choice for us. We probably only eat meat anywhere from once a week to once a month at home, depending on what we have on hand and what we feel like. The rest of the time we eat completely vegetarian. I really love cooking vegetarian and find that eating a mostly vegetarian diet plus eating a small amount of local pasture-raised meat to have really changed my health immensely. I also feel like for me, it is a wonderful way for me to take a stand against the factory farming industry.

Sea, from Book of Yum, really wanted this event to not only make the transition into the first holiday season for newly diagnosed gluten-free folks to not seem so daunting, but to also highlight all of the wonderful options for those who are, or are cooking for those who are gluten-free and/or vegetarian (or vegan). Many of us find ourselves bringing our own food since many times the hosts are so terrified and paralyzed by what to cook, plus it alleviates the stress we have on wondering what we are even going to eat when we show up at someone else’s house. I love all of the wonderful recipes that have been featured so far, it’s such a great collection of classic dishes and new unique Thanksgiving options.

This year, like last, hubby and I are making the healthy and gluten-free Thanksgiving meal that we want and eating early in the day. After I get up and go to an early morning yoga class, while hubby takes our dog, Seri, to the park, we’ll spend the day cooking together, watching the parade and football and a enjoying a relaxing day at together at home without any work. After we are done eating, we will head over to my parent’s where they are having nearly 30 people for dinner (!) and we’ll join them for dessert, a cocktail or two and it will be the perfect way to have it all.

We took a nice long drive out to the country yesterday to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey from our farmer, Pierre, at Sojourner Farm in Olean. Since we will be having a turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner, I wanted to plan the rest of the meal without any meat. I was really excited to take on the challenge of making a meat free stuffing this year. So making it ahead of time for Book of Yum’s event was even more exciting since it was a test run of this recipe, for me. In the past I have sought out some type of healthy sausage to make my mom’s famous stuffing recipe that I had to have, but it always feels so redundant and unnecessary to have a side dish with meat in it, alongside the turkey. I really don’t need or want that much meat in one meal.

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing Muffins (Vegetarian)

I decided on making mushrooms the stars of the stuffing this year. This delicious side dish is so full of rustic and earthy flavor, the mushrooms have a nice chewiness to them and the beautiful fresh thyme pulled it all together so nicely. Additionally, as you can see by the above photos, I also decided to experiment with making little individual stuffing “muffins”, if you will. I dreamt this up as a way to make sure that everyone gets lots of the crispy goodness that makes stuffing so darn delicious. Come on, admit it, you’ve gotten into with a family member on Thanksgiving over who get’s the edges. In our house, my hubby usually gets the crispy edges on anything that has them, by default. If you don’t care about the crispies (as my husband calls it) or don’t want to mess with a muffin tin, this will perfectly fit into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. I ended up having a little bit leftover after filling the 12 muffin cups, that I put into a very small glass casserole dish. I didn’t want to call this recipe “Stuffing Muffins”, as I feared it would turn people off, since it does sound pretty disgusting, really. Even if you don’t try the stuffing “muffin” approach for this Thanksgiving, you have to try it soon, it is so worth it and I honestly cannot believe I didn’t think of it sooner.

This stuffing does have two eggs in it, so if you are vegan you could experiment with an egg replacer such as Ener-G or making your own flax-seed egg replacer (To replace one egg: 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds plus 3 tablespoons hot water. Stir together until thick and gelatinous.) I have never made my stuffing vegan, but I am sure it would work perfectly. Please let me know if you try it out. Additionally, you will obviously have to make sure the bread you use is vegan.

Besides being very excited about how this recipe turned out, I am also very excited that I get to have stuffing twice in a week’s time, that isn’t a bad deal at all. Stuffing is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving dinner, I don’t think I have it any other time during the year, so it always feels so special. Between that and the mashed potatoes, those are two things that will NEVER be missing from my Thanksgiving menu. For my husband, Mark, I always have to make him a single-serving of his Momo’s famous sweet potato casserole, complete with an ungodly amount of butter, brown sugar and yes, it is even topped with marshmallows. It’s not for me, but I can totally appreciate how it won’t be Thanksgiving for Mark without it, so I will always make it for him.

What dish will always be a part of your Thanksgiving dinner?

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing Muffins (Vegetarian)

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing Muffins (Vegetarian)
Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing (Vegetarian)
serves 6-8

1 loaf of gluten-free bread, dried and roughly torn into small pieces (I used a loaf of Rudi’s all natural gluten-free multigrain bread, you can use your favorite bread)
1 – 1 1/2 cups mushroom broth, vegetable broth or water
1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup wild mushrooms, fresh or reconstituted from dried, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 large farm fresh brown eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Crumble or tear the dried bread into small pieces and place into a 9″ x 13″ glass baking pan. Wet the bread with enough broth or water so it starts to get soft, but you don’t want it insanely soggy, either. If you add too much liquid, just pour it out. Mix with eggs, mushrooms, onions, celery, herbs, olive oil and salt and pepper. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, roll your sleeves up and just get your hands in there to mix it all up, it’s the only way to do it. Once everything is evenly mixed in you can either leave it in the baking pan and bake it as is or start scooping with your hands, an ice cream scoop or a large spoon into a greased non-stick muffin pan. (I greased mine with a very small amount of vegetable shortening). If it doesn’t all fit into the muffin pan, scoop the remainder into a small glass casserole dish.

Place the glass pan or the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the top(s) are browned and crispy. Let the stuffing “muffins” cool slightly before attempting to pop them out of the muffin tin and don’t worry if they don’t come out like a perfect muffin shape, most of mine didn’t, some even fell apart a little. Don’t worry, it’s stuffing, its rustic and it isn’t about the shape and look of them, it is all about the crispies!

Enjoy.

NOTE: since I didn’t want to dry my bread overnight or for a day or so, I placed the sliced loaf in a single layer on a baking pan in the oven at 200º for about an hour to dry it out.

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Arugula, Fennel and Orange Salad

Once the fall really sets in, I already start missing my green veggies. I know we are blessed with squash and root vegetables aplenty throughout the winter, but I really start missing all the beautiful local green stuff from the peak of the summertime. I love that at this point that we are still able to get our hands on arugula, kale, spinach and other leafy greens, but I know soon those will be hard to come by. So, I try to get in as much as possible. I grabbed the fennel, arugula and red onion at the farmers market this past weekend along with some potatoes, bok choy, peppers, beets, carrots and as many other vegetables as I could get my hands on. Gotta get it all in now.

I absolutely love salads, any type really. I rarely meet a salad I don’t love. This cool-weather winter salad has so much vibrant flavor. The peppery crisp from the arugula, the subtle hint of anise from fennel and the tangy sweetness of the oranges all come together perfectly. If I had some in the pantry, I would have topped this salad with some toasted walnut pieces.

What is your favorite fall/winter salad?

Arugula, Fennel and Orange Salad
serves 4

Vinaigrette
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon wholegrain or stoneground mustard, no salt added
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
juice from half an orange (or lemon) – approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salad
5 cups baby arugula, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 1/2 oranges, peeled, white pith removed and cut into segments (use the remaining half for the vinaigrette)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

In a small bowl combine all dressing ingredients and whisk to thoroughly combine, set aside.

Place the arugula in the bottom of a large serving bowl, scatter the orange segments, fennel slices and onions over the arugula; drizzle the dressing over the salad to serve, toss gently. Serve.

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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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Lentil Soup

Well it is official, this past Friday marked the Autumn Equinox, so that means we are officially amidst my favorite season – Fall! Besides all the beautiful weather, cooler temperatures and lovely leaves – we are also blessed with some of my favorite foods of the year. Squashes, pumpkins, apples, brussels sprouts…pies, crisps, soups, stews, roasts…the list goes on and on. As much as I want to enjoy every single one of these things, after a long summer of traveling and the indulgences that goes along with it, I decided to once again mark the shift of the seasons with a cleanse. We were in NYC this past weekend, so rather than starting my cleanse on the equinox as I would have liked, I started on Monday. That was our driving home day, so it was definitely a bit tricky, but I was able to pack some snacks ahead of time for the car rides, like kale chips, roasted chickpeas and unsalted cashews. Plus our gracious hostess in Brooklyn, Karen, made me a delicious glass of fresh kale, apple, celery and cucumber juice before we hit the road. I made a delicious batch of kitchari (recipe coming soon) as soon as I got home and was able to make it through day 1, without a hitch.

I am doing a minimum of 2-weeks this time around, but definitely shooting for a full 28-days if my schedule allows. As with the cleanses I have done in the past, I am loosely following the Ayurvedic traditions, along with the items I tend to have issues with, personally. I am very excited to have a group of 25+ friends on Facebook that are all following along and participating in their own matter. It’s so amazing to have other people to motivate me and as a support system, it makes it even easier. Since I have had quite a few people ask me about how I cleanse, I thought I would put a very loose description of what I personally do in this post. If you have any additional questions about what I am doing, please contact me and I will do my best to help.

I am avoiding the following things:
Dairy*
Eggs
Sugar
Excess Salt (I will use a very small amount when cooking)
Caffeine
Alcohol
Meat (chicken, beef, pork, etc)
Fish and Shellfish (shrimp, scallops, mussels, etc)
Gluten (wheat, barley, oats, rye, etc)**
Soy
Corn
Foods with preservatives, additives or chemicals, and foods grown in an environment laced with chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and canned, frozen or processed foods.**

*Ayurveda doesn’t restrict dairy, but I personally seem to have issues with it, so besides ghee, I am avoiding all dairy during my cleanse.
** these are both things that I avoid on a regular basis, but are very important to a cleanse

So you are probably wondering what exactly I am eating, then…

What I am eating:
Fresh organic fruit. I am going light on the fruit because of the sugar and I am focusing on suggested fruits that are best for digestion such as apples, pears, figs, prunes, papaya, etc.
Fresh organic veggies. Some of the best for digestion are leafy greens, cabbage, celery, brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc
Whole organic grains such as brown rice, quinoa, amarynth, buckwheat, millet
Beans like lentil, mung beans, etc
Vegetable juice and broth
Soups and stews made with vegetables, legumes and grains.
I am cooking with a small amount of olive oil and/or ghee (indian clarified butter that is GREAT for detox)
Raw honey (sparingly)
lots of luke warm water with lemon and/or ginger
detox tea (I like Yogi brand Detox tea)
I am also taking probiotics in the morning after breakfast

I plan to get as many recipes on this blog throughout the cleanse, so you can see a good example of how I eat when I am cleansing.

Here are some additional tips that I have learned along the way:

Some of the differences with an Ayurvedic cleanse vs a regular cleanse is that it teaches you to avoid or focus on foods specific to you and your body-mind type (or your dosha) and it’s needs. Also, although you should be eating TONS of fresh fruits and veggies, you shouldn’t eat them raw during this cleanse. Raw foods are harder on your digestive tract, so you should be heating and/or boiling your veggies and eating them warm.

Eat whole, fresh, natural foods, organic if you can get it. Buy your produce fresh, and consume it quickly.

Also avoid ICE cold water and beverages, it can disrupt the “fire” needed in your digestive tract.

Cook with digestion-enhancing, detoxifying spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, clove, ajwain, fenugreek, dried ginger, Chinese cinnamon and fennel. Add the turmeric to foods as they are cooking, and sauté other spices in ghee or olive oil and pour over prepared dishes for the best therapeutic benefit.

According to Ayurveda, each meal should be a feast for all of your senses. When your plate reflects an appealing variety of colors, textures, flavors and aromas, your digestive juices start freely flowing in anticipation and your body, mind and heart are all fulfilled by the eating experience.

As I mention above, normally I avoid raw vegetables and fruit since it can disrupt your digestive tract and it is harder to digest, however this time around, I am including juices that I am making from fresh, organic vegetables and fruit. I decided to include this, as most mornings I go to yoga from 9:30 – 11:00am, I do not eat before I practice yoga and by the time I get home around 11:30, I am not quite ready for lunch but I am slightly hungry. The juices have been a great and fast way for me to get much-needed nutrients without having to prepare an involved breakfast, plus it is light enough that I am ready for lunch a couple of hours later.

I made this lentil soup for dinner last night and served it with some roasted butternut squash with rosemary, on the side. It was so delicious and perfectly satisfying. I love lentil soup because it can be quite versatile, every time I make it, it is a bit different from the last. You can experiment with different spices and flavors, you can add many different types of vegetables, including leafy greens like spinach or kale and if you aren’t on a cleanse, you could even top it with a delicious homemade yogurt sauce.

When I made this particular pot, I wanted to make sure to include some cleansing spices and I also wanted to get some smokey spice from a couple of dried chipotles. If you don’t like the spices I used, experiment with your own, there are so many possibilities, you could use smoked paprika, yellow curry powder, chile powder, dill, etc – the flavor combinations are endless. For a real hearty pot of lentil soup, you could add some brown rice or other grains to this soup, which I have done in the past and it is delicious. Just add the uncooked rice with the lentils, and skip the pureeing at the end. You could also roast the butternut squash (recipe coming soon) with spices to match your soup and just add it to the pot just before serving. Honestly, I debated this for quite sometime, but ultimately I really wanted to savor and enjoy the crispy browned bites of squash on their own, it felt like such a treat.

Sometimes I like my lentil soup smooth with just a few whole lentils, which is how I made it this time. If you wish to have a chunkier, heartier soup, simply skip the pureeing step and serve the soup, as is.

Lentil Soup
serves 6-8

2 tablespoons of ghee or olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1-2 dried chipotle(s)
1 medium organic red onion, diced
2 cloves of organic garlic, minced
1 organic celery stalk, diced
1 organic carrot, peeled and diced
1 organic green bell pepper, diced
a dash of sea salt (I used very little since I am cleansing)
3 cups of lentils (you don’t have to presoak lentils, but I do as it is supposed to lessen the gassy after-affects)
8 cups of low-sodium organic vegetable broth or water (you may need to add more if your soup gets too thick)
1 large organic tomato, diced (you can just use a can of organic diced tomatoes here, if you wish)

For serving:
1 small tomato, diced
1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced

If you wish to soak your lentils, rinse them well, sort through to pick out any small stones and place in a large glass bowl. Cover the lentils in water and allow to soak a few hours. Once you are ready to make your soup, drain the lentils and rinse again. If you aren’t soaking your lentils, just rinse well, pick through to remove any small stones and allow to drain.

In a large stock pot, heat the ghee (or olive oil) over a medium-high heat, add the cumin seeds, turmeric and dried chipotles, stir until fragrant and the cumin seeds begin dancing around the pot. Add in the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, bell pepper and a dash of salt, saute for approximately 7 minutes until the vegetables are translucent and soft.

Add in the lentils, vegetable broth (or water) and diced tomato, turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a medium-high, cover and allow to simmer for approximately 45 minutes, stirring often. Cook until the lentils are tender. This may take less time, it may take more time, it depends on the lentils you are using and it depends if you soaked them first. You also may need to add more broth or water if the soup becomes too thick. Salt and pepper the soup to taste. You can leave the soup chunky as it is, or if you wish for it to be smooth and creamy, remove the dried chipotle pepper(s) and puree 2/3 of the finished soup in batches, in a blender, adding it to a large bowl as you go and then adding it all back to the pot when you are finished. Stir to combine. Serve the soup topped with freshly diced tomatoes, chopped fresh cilantro and green onions, or whatever your toppings of choice may be.

 

NOTE: the above information about my cleanse is not meant to be taken as medical advice. Every individual is different, this is just what I have found works for me. There are obviously different ways of thinking and a gazillion different types of cleanses. I have done this particular style of cleanse many times over the last two years and have always had great results. Please acknowledge what is right for you, your own body and health and take this all into consideration when embarking on a journey like this.

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Winter Squash Risotto with Radicchio

After a few months with our butts parked here in wintry Buffalo, it’s that time again, we are hitting the road. We leave Saturday morning for Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest Music Festival and Flatstock 29! I love this trip not only because we drive down, and I love a good road trip, but we also get a great dose of some much-needed sunshine and warmer weather plus great music, hang outs with our good friends, good food and so much more. As with all of our trips, though they are an escape from the every day and a bit of a vacation in that sense, they are very much about work and business, so the weeks leading up require a lot of long days and nights of prep. We have to wrap up any client projects we have on deck and we also have to pack and restock all of our handmade goodies, print stuff, sew stuff, etc. I have been trying in these two weeks before, to make meals that require one day of prep and cooking but gives us many meals. I have made pasta Bolognese, vegetarian shepherd’s pie, italian sausage, white bean and escarole soup, slow cooked black beans for tacos and this risotto. It’s been great because we have a ton of leftovers and we’ve been able to just focus on work and when need be, take breaks, heat up some dinner and then get back to work. I love it. Home cooked meals are most important to me when life gets busy and stressful.

This risotto is a nice, hearty winter dish that is comforting, while being light. I love all the different flavors, a good quality vegetable broth in itself has so many layers of flavors, the sweetness from the squash really compliments the sharp bitterness from the little bit of radicchio and the creaminess from the milk and the cheese finish it all off, perfectly. The rich, creaminess from the squash really makes this risotto feel sinful, but you can enjoy it, guilt-free. We served it as our main dish but it is light enough to be a side-dish. If you don’t care for radicchio you could add in baby spinach instead.

Winter Squash Risotto with Radicchio
serves 6
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

1 butternut squash (about 4 pounds)
6 cups organic low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups sliced radicchio
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons organic butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2  cups uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
1/4  cup dry white wine (I didn’t have any so I used dry vermouth)
3 tablespoons organic half-and-half or whole milk
fresh ground black pepper
kosher salt
3/4 cup  (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise; discard the seeds and membrane. Place squash halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet; bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until squash is tender. Cool. Peel squash; mash pulp. Set aside 1 1/2 cups pulp, reserving remaining pulp for another use.

Bring vegetable broth to a simmer in a large saucepan. Keep warm over low heat. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat until hot in a large pan or dutch oven. Add radicchio; sauté 2 minutes or until wilted. Place radicchio in a bowl. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon each of pepper and salt, set aside. Melt butter in Dutch oven. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add rice; sauté 1 minute. Stir in wine and 1/2 cup broth mixture; cook 3 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of liquid is absorbed before adding the next (about 15 minutes total). Stir in squash pulp. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/4 cups broth mixture (about 9 minutes total). Stir in radicchio mixture and half-and-half. Season to taste with black pepper and kosher salt. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Sprinkle with a bit more cheese and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

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