A League of Their Own

Last week while we were in Las Vegas, my parents left fresh Brussel sprouts and asparagus in our fridge. After a four day weekend away, this week was perpetually a game of catch up. Every day when I opened the bottom shelf for blueberries for the boys, these fresh veggies looked up at me wondering the fate of their existence. This morning after my weekly run to the grocery store, I knew I needed to do something with these vegetables before they spoiled.

Roasted vegetables have been a go to of mine for quite some time. They can be great with scrambled eggs and cheese tucked into a tortilla for a great soft taco option. They are a wonderful side paired with macaroni and pork chops. Paired or as a stand alone, roasted vegetables rarely disappoint.

Traditionally I use olive oil and sea salt when I roast veggies. With fresh bacon from my grocery run, I decided to shake things up and let the veggies swim in the natural salt and fat of thick cut bacon. The end result was a cacophony of flavors that lingered on the tongue long after the last bite. Rest assured, roasting your vegetables with bacon puts them in a flavor league all of their own!

Let me just say the simplicity of this dish makes it an easy midday meal with minimal effort. It would be delicious with sweet or Russet potatoes, butternut squash, broccoli, cauliflower, or zucchini too. Follow the same method regardless of the vegetables you have on hand. The more the merrier especially when it comes to color and texture. The most important thing is chopping everything to about the same size so that it cooks evenly in the oven.

INGREDIENTS

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  • Brussel sprouts, stems cut & halved
  • carrots, peeled & halved
  • 1 medium sweet onion, peeled & sliced
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, ends cut
  • 1 garlic, whole
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon
  • sea salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. On a cookie sheet, place the bacon evenly on the bottom and then layer with chopped vegetables. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

Cook for 15 minutes. Then toss the vegetables and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Tossing the vegetables ensures that the veggies cook evenly. Allow the vegetables to brown and crisp slightly before removing them. Oftentimes after 30 minutes in the oven, I simply turn the oven off and leave the vegetables in a little longer to reach the perfect level of browned edges.

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Serve over basmati rice and enjoy!

WEEKLY MEAL PREP

Use the leftover rice and vegetables for quick and fuss free lunches. My leftovers are prepped and stored in Tupperware for the week.

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Souper Bowl Sunday

An important part of healthy eating is meal prep. Having healthy options readily at your disposal to avoid reaching for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s or the bag of nacho cheese Doritos. It requires forward planning and fresh, quality ingredients, but with a little practice it can evolve into a healthy habit.

Since our ten day green smoothie cleanse, I started making a pot of homemade soup every Sunday afternoon. The prep side of things is undoubtedly the most labor intensive part of cooking. Let’s be honest, peeling, chopping, mincing, and dicing takes time. But fresh ingredients are key to any delicious soup. To save time and be more efficient, canned and frozen vegetables can also take some of the work out of meal prep. Today’s soup, however, required a lot of knife handling as all of the vegetable ingredients were fresh.

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The greater Houston area has experienced an unseasonably cold winter, which has created the ideal type of weather for savory soups and crusty breads. Yesterday afternoon a cold front blew in that dropped today’s temperatures into the high 30s; weather conditions perfectly suited to make today a souper bowl Sunday.

So without further ado, I give you one of my all time favorite soups, chicken coconut curry. Enjoy this soup over jasmine rice and top with a drizzle of Sriracha sauce. It could very easily be made vegetarian by substituting the chicken for tofu and swapping the chicken broth for vegetable broth.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium white potatoes, halved and chopped
  • 3 to 4 portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 limes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cartons of chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cans of coconut milk (I typically use lite)
  • 4 to 5 tbsp of red curry paste (Adjust to your liking)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot on medium low heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil for ten minutes until softened. Add the garlic and sauté the garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Next add the carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, chicken broth, and curry paste. Allow to simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 hours until the potatoes and carrots are soft.

Because I usually make my soup while Atticus is napping, I turned off the heat and let the soup rest until about 45 minutes before I was ready to serve dinner. I added the chicken, coconut milk, lime juice, and cilantro and turned the heat back on to low to medium low. It truly depends on your range setting. The goal at this point is to allow all of the ingredients to simmer but never allow the coconut milk to boil. You’ll have to monitor it to determine the best setting on your stove.

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Serve over jasmine rice and enjoy. This soup hits all of the key flavor notes, spicy with the curry, sweet with the coconut milk, and the vegetables all compliment each other perfectly. Cilantro always adds that extra level of flavor too. This soup reheats well making it an ideal option for lunch during the week and at least one leftover meal for dinner during the week. It’s exotic flavors offer a great change of pace to more traditional soups like chicken noodle. Even Liam gave it his seal of approval- a smile and an empty bowl.

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Some of the other highlights of our weekend included Liam wrapping up his first basketball season with his final game on Saturday, Sunday morning shenanigans before breakfast, and catching up with family over ridiculously amazing fried chicken donut sandwiches. All in all, it was a great weekend!

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Good Things Come in Threes

In the last month, we’ve enjoyed some savory homemade soups, spectated at a few sporting events, and smiled almost every step of the way. True to the adage, “good things come in threes”, tonight’s blog post highlights three of my recent favorites- soup, spectating, and smiles!

TUSCAN CHICKEN SOUP

Since Christmas, I’ve been on a soup kick- chicken tortilla, chicken detox soup, vegetable beef, and now a simple Tuscan chicken soup. Most Sundays, I make a pot of soup that starts the week off on a great foot with a delicious dinner option that also makes for some amazing workday lunches.

This soup was adapted from a recipe I found on Nicky’s Kitchen Sanctuary (www.kitchensanctuary.com). It could also very easily be a delightful vegetarian option by substituting the chicken for cannellini or white beans.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 2 medium white potatoes, diced
  • 2 cartons chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed; deboned & shredded
  • 4 handfuls fresh kale

Directions:

In a large soup pot, sauté the onions on medium heat in one tablespoon olive oil for ten minutes until soft and translucent. Stir occasionally.

Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until fragrant (2 to 3 minutes).

Next add the carrots, celery, potatoes, chicken broth, and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken and kale and heat through for up to five minutes until the kale is wilted. Garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and serve with a crusty bread. We enjoyed ours with some delicious rosemary focaccia.

SPECTATING

Atticus and I joined our friends Gabe and Miriam and their sweet son, Milo, to cheer on our friends along the Chevron Houston Marathon course. It was beautiful, cold, sunny day- a trifecta for perfect racing conditions. We cheered loudly and encouraged our fellow Bayou City Road Runners along the course as they zoomed by us a mile 22 in Memorial Park. Despite the cold temperatures, Atticus and I enjoyed spectating, spending time with good friends, and offering smiles to the fearless runners on their journey to the finish line.

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One evening a few weeks ago while Sean was in Dallas for work, I threw a little spontaneity into our week when I took the boys to the girls’ varsity soccer game at my school. Both boys enjoyed cheering on the Lady Lions as they savored Chick-fil-a kids meals in the bleachers. In my favorite picture of the evening, Liam moved to the railing for a close up view of the action, and Atticus turned just in time to smile for the camera.

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Every Saturday for the last month, Atticus and I have cheered on the Liam and his fellow Heat teammates. Sean has earned a special place in heaven for the amount of patience it requires to coach a team of kindergarten basketball playing boys. Every week, we’ve seen Liam make great strides on the court as his dribbling and passing skills have improved. Go, Liam, go!

SMILES

In a house full of laughter and light, smiles and happiness are plentiful. Between the squeals, giggles, and screams of a 15 month old and a six year old, it is often a constant cacophony of  sounds. Beautiful smiles almost always accompany the noises and sounds that reverberate off of the walls in our den. Below are some of my most favorite smiles from the last month.

As I reflect back on the memories shared around a kitchen table, the happiness accomplished through sportsmanship, and the simplicity and beauty of a child’s smile, I am reminded time and time again of how infinitely blessed I am. Here’s to many more moments of joy. May they continue to come in threes, fours, or any other numerical combination of greatness!

An “Egg”cellente Kind of Week

Between our holiday Monday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and then two consecutive  “Snow Days”, this week has included a lot more play than work. On our snow days, the boys and I lounged around the house in our pajamas without a care in the world. I got so caught up in the ease of no makeup and messy hair that I had to mentally psyche myself back into the idea of going back to work last night.

Another highlight of my week was plated and served the last three nights for dinner. Let me just say each of these recipes was incredibly fresh, easy, and simple to orchestrate from start to finish. With the wintry conditions, I didn’t venture out for my typical midweek grocery store run. Grateful for my standby kitchen staples, I whipped up three amazing egg dishes I highly recommend. Every single one of them was vegetarian friendly too. From my kitchen to yours, enjoy!

HUEVOS RANCHEROS

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground comino
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • cherry tomatoes (not pictured), quartered
  • eggs, # depends on how many you’re serving
  • corn tortillas, again the quantity depends on the # of people at your table
  • sea salt & pepper to taste
  • salsa

Directions:

In a skillet on medium high heat, sauté the garlic in one teaspoon of olive oil until fragrant. Add the black beans and ground comino and stir until well blended. Allow the beans to warm through. While the beans are warming, in a separate skillet fry an egg in one teaspoon of olive oil. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. As the egg is frying, warm the tortillas on a comal until slightly charred. To assemble, place the tortilla on a plate, top with a fried egg, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, and salsa. Continue frying eggs and assembling until everyone at your table is served.

The only ingredient I didn’t have on hand was fresh cilantro. Next time, I’ll make sure to have an extra bunch in my fridge to enhance the flavor of this dish even more.

This recipe is truly a simple, delicious, and healthy option that is ready in no time flat. The only skill required is the ability to multi-task in the kitchen!

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AVOCADO TOAST

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 12 grain bread, # depends on your dinner party and/or how hungry your guests are
  • fresh spinach
  • cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • eggs, again this will vary
  • sea salt & pepper
  • avocado (not pictured), smashed to create a spread
  • hot sauce- our new favorite is Yellowbird Sauce Jalapeno Condiment

Directions:

In a toaster, toast the bread to your preference. Set the toast aside.

Cut an avocado in half, squeeze into a bowl, and smash with a fork. Spread evenly on each slice of toast. Then evenly layer the spinach leaves on top of the avocado.

In a skillet on medium high heat, fry an egg in one teaspoon of olive oil. Place the fried egg on top of the spinach. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes and top with hot sauce.

My brother and sister-in-law gave us this amazing new hot sauce for Christmas. It’s made and bottled in Austin and apparently is in high demand in all of the local restaurants there. My brother said Austinites have dubbed it their local Siracha. The flavor and heat bring a lot to the palate, and it definitely harmonizes well with eggs.

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BAKED EGGS IN TOMATO SAUCE

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I discovered this recipe while perusing the internet. A blogger after my own heart Recipe Runner (reciperunner.com) encourages her readers to “eat well and run happy.” A mantra I’ve been living by for years. This recipe is hands down the easiest thing you could make on a weeknight. I was blown away by the combination of flavors and will definitely be serving this one again very soon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar of tomato sauce
  •  6 eggs
  • parmesan cheese (not pictured), grated
  • fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • sea salt & pepper

Directions:

In a large cast iron skillet, pour a jar of tomato sauce and spread evenly with a spatula. I used a jar of H-E-B’s Tomato & Basil. Feel free to use whatever sauce you have on hand. Next evenly layer the grated parmesan cheese over the sauce. Then carefully break six eggs over the cheese. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

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Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. You will know when the dish is ready when the tomato sauce starts to bubble and the whites of the eggs set. Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh basil. Serve warm with fresh bread.

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Seriously, “egg”cellente!

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10 Days Later

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Sean and I just completed a 10 Green Smoothie Cleanse. This isn’t the first time we’ve embarked on this exercise of self-control, but it proved to be the most meaningful. The holidays are a time of joy, merriment, and indulging. Great wine, amazing cheeses, authentic tamales, and delectable desserts definitely put the merry in Christmas.

With the new year, new beginnings and resolutions motivate us to reevaluate areas of our life that require personal growth and self-regulation. The intention of our cleanse was to flush out toxins, recalibrate our food cravings, and kick off the new year by putting our healthiest foot forward.

In preparing for this cleanse, it is easy to see why so many people gravitate towards pre-made, processed food. Aside from it tasting delicious, it’s easy to plate dinner for the entire family in no time flat when Domino’s or Chinese take-out can be delivered to your door in a matter of minutes.

Having all of the ingredients on hand and making sure healthy snacks were always within reach proved key to making it through the ten day cleanse without losing stamina or breaking the cleanse rules. We completed the modified cleanse that included two green smoothies a day along with one clean meal. We opted for a breakfast and dinner smoothie and had soup or fresh fish or poultry for lunch. Healthy snacking helped curb cravings and helped keep our metabolism working overtime. Approved snacks included crunchy vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers, apples, hard boiled eggs, a scoop of unsweetened peanut butter, and a handful of nuts. Drinking water and abstaining from alcohol were two important aspects of the cleanse. All of these components together proved to be integral to the cleanse’s success.

Meal planning was a critical part of our 10 day cleanse too. I found a great recipe for Detox Chicken Soup from A Spicy Perspective (www.aspicyperspective.com/chicken-detox-soup/). I adapted the recipe to better suit our likes including subbing cilantro for parsley and adding fresh jalapenos to add an extra layer of heat. We also enjoyed delicious lemon rosemary salmon and lemon pepper chicken. Both of these dishes packed a high dose of protein and flavor for a satisfying and savory clean meal.

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CHICKEN DETOX SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 natural rotisserie chicken, skin removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped and seeded if you like a little less heat
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger until soft. Add the chicken, broth, carrots, apple cider vinegar, and spices and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and add the broccoli, peas, and cilantro. Simmer until the broccoli softens and is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm and enjoy!

Ten days later, I feel energized, healthy, and proud of myself for the exercise in self-control. I failed to recognize how much sugar I consumed prior to this cleanse. I found myself craving whole foods like fresh salmon, produce, and poultry. Going forward I want to continue having a green smoothie daily for breakfast to jumpstart my morning with a healthy dose of greens, fruit, and fiber. If you’re interested, I highly recommend J.J. Smith’s 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse. Her book offers step by step recipes, the science behind the cleanse, and a wealth of other information about its health benefits.

I won’t lie, there were times I wanted to cheat. Who wouldn’t when the scent of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies fills your office? At my lowest points, I felt ready to chew my own arm off. But anyone can do this for ten days if you set your mind to it. I promise you’ll feel amazing after you get past the first two to three day hump. This is when your energy level skyrockets and you really start to feel better than ever. I strongly recommend having a cheerleader to encourage and motivate you to stay on track. Knowing Sean was encountering some of the same challenges made it easier to keep on trucking. The end results are truly worth the sacrifice that comes from doing it. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!

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A Tortilla Soup State of Mind

This afternoon heavy rain and strong winds blew in a cold front. On my drive home from work, I was awed by an unbelievable, beautiful double rainbow. As the sun set and the winds continued to howl, the temperature plummeted quickly. This evening prepping for my run required an extensive amount of apparel- gloves, a long sleeve tech shirt, athletic tights, a down vest, and a ski hat.

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Most of the time as I run, I reflect on my day or formulate a blog post in my head; using the miles for inspiration. With the wind chill, tonight’s 43 degree temperature felt about ten degrees lower. My thoughts drifted to warm sandy beaches, extra hot chai lattes, and a boiling pot of homemade soup. Warm thoughts propelled me through the miles and windy conditions I encountered on tonight’s run.

What better way to kick off the weekend than with a pot of tortilla soup that warms the core and soothes the soul. On Christmas Eve my family shared bowls of savory soup and stories about life. A few days later, my friend Jenny hosted a soup exchange party and again a pot of homemade tortilla soup brought friends and family together. Then for New Year’s Eve, I made another batch of soup to share with our NYE guests. 2017 ended and the new year began with this simple and delicious recipe that I now share with you.

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INGREDIENTS:

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  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cartons of chicken broth; sub with vegetable broth to make it vegetarian
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, stems trimmed
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 store bought rotisserie chicken, remove the skin and roughly chop; nix the chicken if you’re a vegetarian and consider adding zucchini or yellow squash in its place
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped; remove the seeds if you want to tame down the heat
  • 2 bags of frozen corn
  • 2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground comino
  • 1 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder

GARNISHES:

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  • Sliced jalapenos
  • Grated cheese; my favorite is the Mexican blend
  • Cojita cheese
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sliced avocado
  • Tortilla chips; I love Julio’s because the seasoning adds another layer of flavor to the soup

DIRECTIONS:

On medium high heat, sauté the garlic and onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the chicken, jalapenos, canned tomatoes, and spices and bring to a boil. Then allow the soup to simmer for several hours until you are ready to serve. About 45 minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, add the frozen corn and bunch of cilantro. Garnish with grated cheese, sliced avocado, cilantro, and tortilla chips. Serve with warm flour or corn tortillas and a side of Mexican rice.

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Savor and enjoy your tortilla soup state of mind. Buen provecho!

Standout Side Dishes

*** A quick aside before I delve into today’s post. Because life is a delicate balancing act, I’m moving towards posting three quality blog posts per week. Ideally I will post on Tuesdays, Thursday, and Sundays going forward. When I first started writing this blog, I had grandiose visions of posting daily and for awhile I was able to deliver. The quality of writing is very important to me and so sometimes creating a post truly evolves into a labor of love. To stay true to my writing and true to myself, three days a week of blog posts seems like the most ideal way to share my stories and also balance all of the other complex tasks of keeping things in my life in order.

And on that note, let’s move on to standout side dishes that truly could stand alone on your table and have everyone reaching for the serving spoon for seconds.

As long back as I can remember, cabbage and black eyed peas were a central theme of all New Year’s meals my mother prepared for us growing up. Indulging in black eyed peas guaranteed good luck in the new year, and chowing down on cabbage ensured wealth. Traditionally preparation methods usually include boiling the cabbage and seasoning with salt and pepper. Black eyed peas follow a similar method or might be thrown into a ham soup for good measure. Truth be told, both dishes have rarely wowed me until this year, but I always made sure to put a few of each on my plate for good measure.

I adapted the recipes below from several different websites and added my own flair to create two side dishes that stole the show at our New Year’s Eve dinner. We also enjoyed a low key, kid centered New Year’s Eve that included fireworks, noise makers, and bunuelos. An easy dessert made with flour tortillas, butter, and a blend of cinnamon and sugar. Enjoying bunuelos is another traditional New Year’s food I’ve enjoyed since childhood. It is also eaten to ensure good luck in the new year. Between the bunuelos and black eyed peas, I’d say we’re set for a year of absolute good fortune!

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SOUTHERN FRIED CABBAGE

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cabbage, thinly cut in narrow slices
  • 6 slices of thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • salt & pepper, to taste

This dish highlights southern cooking and comfort with the savory flavor of bacon. As an aside, I used a soup pot for this dish because of the volume of cabbage. Sauté the bacon on medium heat until browned. Remove the bacon pieces and set aside. Add the diced onion and sauté in the bacon grease. Then add half of the cabbage and continue sautéing. When the cabbage starts to cook down, add the remaining cabbage and the cooked bacon. Stir frequently to evenly distribute the heat. Cook until the cabbage is softened. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm!

Recipe reference: http://www.4theloveoffoodblog.com

BLACK EYED PEA & SWEET POTATO HASH

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled & grated
  • 1 fire roasted red pepper (jarred), diced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp harissa spice blend (see recipe below)
  • 1 to 2 cups black eyed peas, cooked
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, stems removed & roughly chopped

This vegetarian dish is ready to enjoy in just a few simple steps. In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Then add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the grated sweet potato and cook until softened. Then add the red bell pepper and spice blend and stir until the mixture is evenly coated. Finally add the black eyed peas and cilantro and cook until the peas are warmed through. And viola, enjoy!

This dish would be exceptional served atop Naan or with a side of scrambled eggs. Consider substituting the black eyed peas with black beans and stuff in flour or corn tortillas for delectable tacos.

Recipe reference: http://www.veganricha.com

HARISSA SPICE BLEND

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After a little online research compliments of Google, I discovered that harissa is is a Maghrebi hot chili pepper paste or rub derived from a variety of peppers. Because I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand when I happened upon this recipe, I adapted the recipe and created my own version below. I stored the remaining spice blend in an air tight container and will consider integrating it into some new recipes soon. I’ll be sure to share my results in a future post.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, dry roasted on medium heat briefly until browned
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup of ground chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Mix all spices in a small container and blend evenly.

Recipe reference: thereapeuticcuisine.tv