Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sun Dried Tomato Puree

I was in the mood for something super savory and full of flavor the other day, so I dug out my mini food processor and experimented with my sun dried tomatoes.  What I ended up with was a flavorful, brilliant red puree.  I spread it on some crackers, but it would also work as a topping for baked potatoes.  You could also toss it into some whole wheat pasta! 

Sun Dried Tomato Puree

a big handful of sun dried tomatoes (not the ones packed in oil)

1/2 to 1 whole garlic clove

2-3 T olive oil

juice of 1/2 a lemon

salt and pepper

Put all ingredients into a food processor and whiz it up to a chunky consistency.  It’ll only take a few seconds.  Check for seasonings and that’s it!

Give it a try!

Silky Split Pea Soup

During the summer my little brother graduated from college in Santa Barbara... Yeah! Anyway, while we were there, Marco, Chloe, and I went to a little “mom and pop” restaurant and had some fabulous split pea soup. Chloe and I couldn’t get enough of the stuff and we pretty much fought over who would lick the bowl. It has taken me about four months to finally give it a try. If I knew how easy is was to make split pea soup, I would have done it four months ago!

Special equipment:

immersion blender (a regular blender will also work, but you might want to wait for the soup to cool a little so you don’t end up with green walls!)

Silky Split Pea Soup

2 medium white onions, chopped

1 T Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil (a Grub recipe), plus extra for garnish

1/2t salt

1/2 t paprika, plus extra for garnish

1/2 t ground ginger, plus extra for garnish

1 32 oz box veg stock

1 cup water

juice of 1/2 lemon, plus extra for garnish

1 16 oz dried split peas

Sauté onions over medium-low heat in 1 tablespoon of Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil until tender. Add salt, paprika, and ginger and heat through. If the onions get a bit dry, add a drizzle of veg stock and continue to sauté. When onions are nice and soft, add rest of veg stock, water, lemon juice, and split peas. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until split peas are soft.

Now grab your immersion blender and whiz away! You want your soup to be completely creamy and silky. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika and ginger, a drizzle of fresh lemon juice and a douse of Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil.

So, there you have it! Grab a big hunk of whole grain bread and there’s dinner. Great for this cool autumn weather.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My new raised veggie garden bed!

This is soooo cool!  Marco finished the garden bed and it looks awesome!  (I helped a little.)  Not including running to the store a couple of times, it ended up being a three-hour job.  Thank goodness it wasn't a hot day.  It can get up into the 100's out here.  

We'll be covering the surrounding dirt with gravel and filling it up with organic soil and compost.  (Next pay check.)  It may take a little hunting around these parts to find a place who sells organic soil.  

This reminds me a little of that show Good Neighbors, from England.  I loved that show!  Watch out Barbara, you may have some competition soon!

Thank you Marco!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Grapes with Rice and Beans

Inspired by a newfound web site, The Garden Girl, I talked Marco into helping me built a really nice raised bed for my future veggie garden.  (Well, I’ve got to give Marco most of the credit; he did all of the “heavy lifting”.)  I can’t wait to fill it with rich organic soil and compost and start growing some great Grub!  Not like I know what I’m doing.  I think I’ll just learn as I go.

After all that hard work we were starving.  By 1:30 it was time for lunch.  I had thrown some butternut squash, baby carrots, and some grapes in the oven to roast around 12:30.  They turned out perfect, and to my surprise, the grapes were delicious!  I then made a complete meal by tossing them with some left over rice and beans.  Here’s what I did...

Roasted Butternut Squash and Grapes with Rice and Beans (E2L friendly)

1 medium butter nut squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
a large handful of baby carrots
a large handful of sweet green grapes
1T olive oil 
salt and pepper

1-2 cups of leftover brown rice
1/2 a can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 a can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2T chopped pecans
a drizzle of Citrus Chipotle Sauce (a Grub recipe), or use your favorite vinaigrette
spinach leaves

Toss the squash, carrots, onion, grapes with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, tossing half way through.  Slightly cool on counter.

Now lightly toss the squash mixture with the rice, beans, and pecans.  (Leftover brown rice can be a little hard.  You may want to add a drop of water and microwave for 30 seconds to soften it up.)  Dress with Citrus Chipotle Sauce or your favorite vinaigrette and spoon over a nice big bed of spinach.

Switch out the butternut squash for sweet potato.  Use another salad green in place of the spinach.  If you have something comparable in the fridge or pantry, use that first before you make a special trip to the grocery store.  Keep it simple!

I can’t wait to make these kinds of dishes with my home grown produce.  Then Marco will see it was well worth the effort and maybe I can talk him into expanding the vegetable garden!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Citrus Chipotle Sauce

I’ve read a few books on nutrition. Most of them are off the beaten path, Eat to Live, China Study, Food Matters. I’m really drawn to the whole vegan approach, however, I like to make recipes where it’s easy to incorporate some animal products, if desired. Dr. Fuhrman’s books, Eat to Live, and Eat for Health, are really influencing me at the moment and have inspired a few new recipes.

Here’s a delicious, refreshing sauce you can use to top a big bowl salad greens, raw pumpkin seeds and avocado, or warm roasted sweet potatoes and carrots.

Citrus Chipotle Sauce (E2L friendly)

4 garlic cloves

1T agave nectar

2 cups fresh orange juice

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

1-2 chipotle peppers

veg stock... maybe

Blend in all ingredients, except for veg stock, in a blender until smooth. Pour in a pot and simmer on medium heat until the sauce is reduced by half. If too thick, add enough veg stock to get the desired consistency and simmer for another 3-5 minutes. Reducing the sauce will mellow the garlic and make the rest of the flavors more intense. It will also thicken the sauce. Strain in a fine mesh sieve.


Using fresh orange and lime juice instead of the bottled junk will make a HUGE difference in the outcome of this recipe.

When I buy a can of chipotle peppers, which are just roasted jalapeno peppers in adobo sauce, I put the leftovers in a zip sandwich bag, flatten it out, and freeze them for further use.

For more information on Eat to Live, check out Dr. Fuhrman’s web site at

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brentwood Farmers Market Veg

Here's some beautiful veg we found mid October at the Brentwood Farmers Market.  The variety is thinning out a little, but it's obvious the vendors only bring their very best.  

I dove right into those mushrooms, sauteing them up in a little Garlic-Chile-Spiked Olive Oil (a Grub recipe!), salt and pepper.  Absolutely wonderful!  Not too mushroomy tasting, but buttery and sweet... mmmmmmmmmmmm. 

Grilled Veggie Sandwich with Basil Pesto

This morning Marco, Chloe, and I walked around the Brentwood Farmers Market.  After making our rounds to each and every stand, I looked into my very heavy bag and saw that we had gone a little crazy.  So much for the list.  I usually try to control my sweet tooth when I go, saying no to so many delicious treats.  We ended up with sweet cinnamon bread from Greenlees, a vegan Lemon Coconut Loaf from Way to Life, and a couple of different chocolate truffles from the Bella Luna Chocolates stand.  Thankfully, the breads will freeze well.  The truffles, however, will have to be eaten within the next couple of days.  Waste not, want not!  

It wasn't all sweet nothings though.  Although the pickings are a little thinner at the market these days than they were a couple of months ago, we managed to come away with some sumptuous veggies, perfect for lunch.  Red bells, a large globe eggplant, cute young green and yellow zucchini, sweet onions, and the most delicious mushrooms I have ever had... ever!

Well, the veg were all so fresh that I just had to have a little of everything.  So, for lunch I decided to make a grilled veggie sandwich.  And to add a little some'n some'n, I slathered on some basil pesto.  No recipe required!

Here's how you can make your own:

You'll need a grill pan with a press or board that fits inside to weigh down the sandwiches.  Better yet, a panini grill press, but they're expensive and can only do this one job.  If you don't have either, a regular fry pan works just as well.  Just put a plate or board on top of the sandwiches and weigh down with a can of soup.

Slice up your favorite veggies, like zucchini, eggplant, onions, or bell peppers.  (Some big sturdy mushrooms work well here!)  Spray pan with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle sliced veg with salt and pepper and grill for a few minutes until tender.  Set aside.  Get two slices of your favorite bread or a nice soft roll and slap on some mayo, honey-dijon mustard, and basil pesto.  Layer on your grilled veg and place assembled sandwich on the non-stick sprayed grill pan.  Weigh down with board or plate.  Grill both sides until toasty brown.  Slice and devour!  

Marco says it goes great with an ice cold Sierra Nevada and a fresh jalapeno pepper... typical!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

End of Summer Veggie Soup

Today was the first rain of the season and it got me thinking about soup.  Now that the weather is getting colder we’re all craving warm, comforting foods.  Here’s a nice smooth soup that uses those summer veggies still found in the grocery store.  It’s all blended up and topped off with beans and leftover rice.  

End of Summer Veggie Soup

1 fennel, chopped into large chunks

5 roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded

1 red bell pepper, chopped into large chunks

2 medium zucchini, chopped into large chunks

3-4 T tomato paste

3T Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil (Grub recipe) 

juice of one lemon

zest of one lemon

salt & pepper

garlic powder

1t fresh rosemary, chopped 


1 can of white beans (or leftover frozen beans, thawed) 

leftover brown or wild rice (or any grain, for that matter)


Place all cut veggies into a baking dish and toss with rest of ingredients, not including water, rice, and beans.  Roast, uncovered, for 45-55 minutes at 375 degrees.  Toss half way through.  

Let veggies cool slightly and blend with tomato paste in blender until smooth.  Be careful the lid doesn’t pop off due to the heat.  (You may want to cover the lid with a towel just to be safe.) Adjust consistency with a little water.  Adjust the salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

Top with a generous dollop of warm rice and beans and a drizzle of Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil.   

So, there you have it.  A warm, nourishing way to end a long rainy day.

Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil

Here’s a way to add a little unexpected flavor and flare to your dishes.  Super easy to make and looks great out on the counter. 

Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil

1 cup olive oil

5 whole garlic cloves

6-8 dried chili de arbol (in the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store)

glass bottle with poor spout (Cost Plus has some cute ones to choose from.)

Heat all ingredients in a pot over medium heat until garlic cloves turn slightly golden.  Don’t burn the garlic because it may make the oil turn a bit bitter.  Let oil mixture cool in pot, so the flavors can meld.  Using a funnel, poor spiked oil, garlic, and chilies into a glass bottle.  

I use this on toast when I want something else besides the standard butter.  It’s great over fresh sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with kosher salt; or drizzled over soup or pasta.  It’s spicy and gives a little kick to your dish, and you don’t need much.

And Lulu thought she was the only hot stuff around here!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pasilla Chile and Cinnamon Fruit and Nut Chew

So, I was off to my mom’s house the other day, and wanted to take a little homemade something along with me.  The nut freak that I am, I rummaged around the freezer and cupboard and came up with this little crunchy munchie.  Super flavorful with a little spicy kick.  But, don't share because you won't have any left!

Pasilla Chili and Cinnamon Fruit and Nut Chew

1 cup whole raw cashew nuts

1 cup whole raw pecan halves

1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/2 cup of chopped dried pineapple

1/2 cup of chopped dried papaya

1/2 cup of large raisins (I like the Jumbo Raisin Medley from Trader Joe’s)

1 T pasilla chili powder 

1 T cinnamon powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup honey

Toast nuts and seeds in a dry pan, watching they don’t burn.  Once you smell them, remove from heat.  Add the dried fruit and toss.  Evenly sprinkle the chili powder, cinnamon and salt and lightly toss - not too much though.  You don't want all the spicy goodness to settle on the bottom of the pan.  

Spray a 1/3 measuring cup with non-stick spray and measure honey.  This will allow the honey to pour right our.  Add honey to granola mixture and stir together, coating everything.  Spread out on parchment-lined cookie sheet.  (a silpat baking mat works nice here too.)  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Break apart and store in old clean jars.

Tips - 

Clean up immediately so the leftover honey and spices don't harden on the pan and spoon.

I found pasilla chili powder from the local Mexican market.  It’s usually used in sweet recipes, so it goes perfectly with cinnamon in this.  It's not super spicy, good for those who don't like things too hot.  The course granules of the kosher salt make a nice contrast too.  It’s totally addictive!

Variations - 

If you prefer different nuts or dried fruit, switch it up.  Sesame seeds would be a great substitute for the sunflower seeds.  A big jar of this tied with a huge bow would make a great gift.  (Think Christmas!)