Sauce

Arugula Mushroom Radish Salad with Roasted Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette

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arugula salad

I couldn’t think of a healthier way to mark my 400th blog entry other than with an easy arugula salad recipe. I also include a roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette recipe as well. From stacking up on all those carbs and calories from soups, meat dishes, and dairy to desserts, an a unique but easy arugula salad recipe is very necessary. I normally would be content with a fresh crisp garden salad but I always welcome new  and creative ideas to spruce a salad up by just a notch.  I live on cut-up veggies daily but I wanted to add an exotic twist to my salad.  Having not tried arugula in a long while, I wanted to incorporate my own variation in which I subsequently did.

Arugula, or salad/garden rocket, is a nutritious green-leafy vegetable belonging to the Brassicaceae family – cauliflower, kale, cabbage, mustard greens, etc.  Sometimes, arugula is referred to it’s scientific name Eruca sativa. Loaded with nutrients and minerals, this vegetable has no shortage of healing properties.  Arugula is also a great source of folic acid and vitamins A, C and K. As one of the best vegetable sources of Vitamin K,  this leafy vegetable provides a boost for bone and brain health. Arugula is not only great for maintaining a healthy weight but it’s also thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac 😉

Commonly used as a salad green, this aromatic spicy leaf is often mixed in with other vegetables with milder flavors. I sometimes like to counteract the peppery aftertaste of arugula with a roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette,  especially for this particularly easy arugula salad recipe. Other people like to sprinkle Parmesan cheese or mix in goat cheese. Or they sometimes throw in candied chopped pecans.  I would have used either option if I had access to any of these ingredients.  I also tossed in some mushrooms and radishes as well but you can use any vegetable of your choice. Arugula is not only limited to salads. I may use leftovers for an arugula pesto dressing, dip, or pasta sauce depending on how adventurous I am feeling.  I recently used some of them to make an arugula mushroom tortilla pizza for lunch. Scrumptious!

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 6 oz baby arugula
  2. 1 red onion sliced
  3. 1 cup of chopped or sliced mushrooms
  4. Handful of baby radishes sliced

For the roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette recipe, you will need

  1. 1 head of garlic roasted peels removed
  2. 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  4. Water
  5. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Place vegetables in a salad bowl. For the vinaigrette, place ingredients in a food processor. While processing, drizzle in some water till achieved the right consistency. Toss gently to coat and serve.

Yields 4 servings

 

 

Summery Marinara Sauce

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summery tomato sauce

I am a hopeless romantic when is comes to tomato sauce. Ironically enough, I normally avoid buying canned tomato sauce as they have high sodium content among other unrecognizable ingredients. Instead, I make marinara sauce from crushed tomatoes or from fresh tomatoes depending on how lazy or motivated I am feeling that day. Just a couple days ago, my local supermarket had a display of yellow and orange cherry tomatoes. At that time, I bought a pound of each of them without giving much thought of what I would be doing with them. I normally tend to snack on cherry tomatoes.  For some  unexplainable reason, I had a hankering for pizza that day. Although I could have reserved these cherry tomatoes for a salad, I was overpowered by this odd sensation to make marinara sauce. It almost seemed epiphanic.  Plus I felt that yellow and orange cherry tomatoes would give this tomato sauce recipe a summery feel. It certainly brightened my pizza.  I would have used whole yellow and orange tomatoes but all I found was cherry tomatoes in those colors which was a novelty to me.  Learning how to make tomato sauce is usually not that complicated but this is not just another tomato/marinara sauce recipe.  This summery adaptation  of a marinara sauce recipe is just as easy and  hassle-free, if not more so.  It’s practically child’s play.  Rather than roasting the tomatoes or chopping them up, I let them naturally soften while stewing them in a sauce pan. The extra skin seems to give this sauce extra depth that you cannot get from a regular tomato sauce recipe. You can add a bit of chili pepper for a hint of heat if you like.   With no 2 hours of simmering required, this summery marinara sauce recipe takes only 20 minutes to make or at leat until the tomatoes have collasped into a thick and flavorful sauce. I really love this creamy summery marinar sauce over pasta, with lasagna, fettuchini, spaghetti, and stuffed shells.  It also makes a fantastic cream pizza sauce as well.  

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 cups of yellow cherry tomatoes stems removed
  2. 2 cups of orange cherry tomatoes removed
  3. 1 onion chopped
  4. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  5. 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  6. 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil
  7. 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon
  8. 1 teaspoon of oregano
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
  10. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add chopped onion and saute till transclucent.  Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until fragrant.  Turn stove up to medium-high level heat. Add tomatoes, herbs,  chili powder, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook tomatoes for 15-20 minutes or until a thick sauce develops. Using a hand blender or food processor, puree till smooth.

Yields 2 cups

Flax Seed Butter

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2014-03-19 08.25.23

Is it me or is the week really crawling on it’s knees? I guess that notion may be  indicative of how stressed out I am.  With all the upcoming holidays, making meals for new mothers, and hosting people, there almost never seems to be a moment of relaxation. I suppose I shouldn’t compain. At least I am preoccupied with something. At times, I find myself preferring sheer boredom to stress but within moderation.   Amid my hectic schedule, I was able to buy myself some time to share another recipe with you. I don’t know about most bloggers but I find blogging about my recipe to be just as therapeutic and settling to the mind as I do with yoga. It allows me to focus on the activities I enjoy most.

I was once window shopping at a health food store perusing through some of the items there. I have been making various homemade nut butters as the commercial items tends to be expensive. The item that stood out to me was flax seed butter. I know flax seeds are not nuts but the spread did pique my interest enough to want to make some of my own rather than spending 10 bucks on a small jar. While I did not make the purchase, I was inspired enough to learn how to make flax seed butter for myself which I subsequently did.

Flax seeds, or linseeds, are thought to be one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet to some.  These type of seeds come from flax – one of the oldest fiber crops known to mankind which have been cultivated in ancient Egypt and China.  Apart from being a rich source of healthy fat, antioxidants, fiber, vitamin B1 and omega-3, modern research has also discovered evidence  to suggest that consuming flax seeds regularly may help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. That’s one heck of a tall order for a single seed that’s been around for many centuries, no?  All the better reason to make your own flax seed butter.

Not only will you get your money’s worth but you will benefit from it’s nutrition value as well. I have been gradually replacing margarine with avocado and flax seed butter. If you don’t like flax seeds, however, you can use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds instead. Or you can use a little of each. This flax seed butter recipe is perfect for those with nut allergies who want to enjoy a good spread. I don’t always do things by the book.  Results are more important to me.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 cups of flax seeds
  2. 1/4 cup of pumpkin seed, sunflower seed or canola oil
  3. Pinch of salt (optional)
  4. Sweetener such as agave, honey, or brown rice syrup (optional)

Instructions

Place seeds in a grinder and grind each batch of seeds, tapping and scraping contents into a bowl for mixing. If you don’t own a grinder, toast seeds in a skillet over low heat. Stir frequently to prevent burning and remove from heat when fragrant. Once cooled, place flax seeds in a food processor and grind for a minute. Slowly drizzle in oil while the food processor is still running. Continue processing until mixture is smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. You may need to occasionally turn off the food processor and scrape it down with a spatula. Taste and add salt and sweetener if desired. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more oil, processing until desired consistency is reached. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

 

 

Roasted Onion Garlic Dip

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onion garlic dip

 

I have a confession to make. I plead guilty of rarely using recipes more than once. It’s not just the results were unsatisfactory the first round. Despite the raves and compliments I receive from family members, friends, and guests about a homemade dip, it doesn’t always occur to me to make it again. It is a  constant race to provide new, fun, exciting, creative content for the readers whilst leaving me little time to revisit the recipes that I enjoy the most. Of course, there will  always be a few recipes that I will share all the time, for the rest of  my life even if it means missing an opportunity to create a new post. I suppose that could also mean that I need to learn to budget my time better and prioritize more effectively. Thankfully, I am sometimes able to spare a few moments for myself before duty hollers  for my attention again.  I am gradually making progress with my time management skills. At the moment, I am putting everything on hold to share my roasted onion garlic dip with you. It is a recipe not to be procrastinated for any longer than it already has been.

Additive, creamy, delicious,and low fat, I have always wanted to make roasted onion garlic dip without using packaged onion soup mix. I am not so keen with the preservatives embedded in these soup mixes. I was targeting for more natural flavors which is how I highly prefer it. After endlessly searching for various recipes, I decided to create an adaption to my liking. This roasted onion garlic dip is a simple recipe consisting of only a few ingredients. While the preparation is easy, the flavors to take some time to develop as you will need to roast the garlic and caramelize the onion.  While the cooking  and prep time estimates to 45 minutes, the result is worth the wait. I recommend serving this dip with vehicles that are more on the little salty side to counteract  the sweetness of the onions and garlic that are in the dip such as bagel chips, tortilla chips, and even pita chips. Cut up raw vegetables would also be a perfect accompaniment to this dip.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 onion finely chopped
  2. 1 head of garlic
  3. 3 tablespoons of olive oil divided
  4. 8 0z of low fat cream cheese of your choice (I used non dairy cream cheese)
  5. 1/4 cup of low fat sour cream or mayonnaise
  6. 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  7. 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  8. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the top off of the garlic bulb, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil, wrap in foil. Roast garlic for 35 minutes. In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Saute onion till caramelized. Add Worcestershire sauce once onions start to get sticky.  Once onions are caramelized, set aside.  Place cream cheese and sour cream in a food processor. Add onions. Squeeze out garlic cloves and add it to the mixture. Add basil, salt, and pepper. Process till well blended. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Yields  approximately 1 1/2 cups

Vegan Lemon Curd

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Lemond Curd

Among her many sterling qualities, I admire my mother in-law for her ability to make lemon curds and custards to perfection; an ability that I am miles behind. I may have griped about my custard failures before but no matter how many recipes I follow to the T, the results are inevitably disappointing. That is why I don’t make lemon meringue pie often. The first time I made that pie, it was a hot lemony mess. With attempts to emulate my mother in-law and please hubby, I dejectedly presented this pie to him. Being forgiving and understanding, he gently explained to me that lemon curds are hard to master for novices and that my mother in-law has many years of experience making lemon meringue pies.  Luckily, I prepared a backup dessert of cookies for emergencies like these so all wasn’t loss. As frustrating as that experience was,  I wasn’t deterred from making lemon curds and custards and I have. I am famous and even notorious for being relentless once I set my mind on something.  There is no limitation with my perseverance. I can understand why people may sometimes have a problem with that.  Sometimes I successfully master the right consistency and on other days it is a liquidity disaster.

Lemon curd is generally made with eggs and butter. I wanted to explore other low-fat egg-free alternatives. I had cross-referenced several recipes and found one that worked for me.  My intention was to make hubby a vegan lemon blueberry tart for dessert. You can guess which was a failure. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the lemon curd. I don’t want to talk about the other components of the tart.  I find the vegan rendition to be a lot easier for me to make. I’ve learned the hard way that cooking this recipe slowly while stirring constantly is key for a perfect vegan lemon curd. Unlike the traditional recipe which call for a heavy use of egg yolks  and a frightening amount of butter, this healthier and egg-free rendition offers a perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors therefore making this recipe a perfect dairy free dessert idea for you to save in your repertoire.  This recipe not only shows that lemon curd can be made vegan but the flavors are just as refreshing; if not more so.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  2. 1 cup of unrefined cane sugar
  3. 3/4 cup of non dairy milk
  4. 3 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons of water
  5. 2 tablespoons of margarine divided
  6. 2 teaspoons of lemon zest
  7. 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  8. Yellow food coloring (optional)

Instructions

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemon juice, sugar, lemon zest and salt, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. After the sugar is dissolved, add the corn starch mixture and the milk, stirring well to combine. Stirring constantly, cook until the mixture begins to thicken and the first few bubbles appear on the surface, about 8 minutes. Add the dairy-free soy margarine, and cook, stirring constantly, for several minutes more, or until the mixture resembles a thick pudding. Transfer the mixture to a heat proof dish, cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap and let cool completely before placing in the refrigerator to chill. Chill lemon curd for 2 hours in the refrigerator before using.

Yields 1 1/2 to 2 cups

 

 

African Spicy Lentil Dip

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Lentil Dip (2)

Most people don’t normally visualize a dip made of lentils. At least I didn’t until recently. I discovered a  lentil dip recipe in a magazine and was inspired to recreate my own interpretation. Lentils as commonly used in soups and stews. Nowadays, dips can be virtually made out of anything imaginable. Lentils are often used in African cuisine,  especially in countries on the Indian-influenced eastern coast, such as Tanzania and Kenya. Contrary to what you have been woefully misled to believe, lentils laced with garlic and various spices make for a really wonderful concoction that is great as a dip and as a spread.  Akin to to ubiquitous hummus, this spicy lentil dip recipe uses lentils that don’t require soaking and long boiling time. Unlike hummus, however, lentils yield a smoother dip as they are smaller than chickpeas.  Who would have thought that lentils would be so versatile? Apart from containing a lot of protein, lentils are a great source great source for iron and lentils also contain dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1. I used brown lentils for this vegan dip but I recommend red lentils to novices as they cook a lot faster and break down more easily therefore making them ideal for dips. Lentils are not popular among my peers and family. I was a bit hesitant to serve this lentil tip fearing that it wouldn’t be received well by my guests. I took that risk anyways. To my surprise, they kept on begging for more. Serve with whole wheat pita chips, toasted bread, corn chips or bread sticks. Have an aversion to lentils or know someone who does? Perhaps this recipe may help them conquer whatever repulsion they have of these legumes. It’s just a matter of consistency and retaining the perfect balance of flavors.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 cups of brown or red lentils rinsed and drained
  2. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  3. 1 small jalapeno pepper minced
  4. 1 onion chopped
  5. Juice from one lemon
  6. 1 teaspoon of cumin
  7. 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  8. 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  10. 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  11. 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
  12. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add lentils, vegetables, and spices ans saute until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the lentils in the process.  Add enough water to cover by 4 inches and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the lentils are tender. Drain and place ingredients in a food processor along with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Puree till smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the cilantro.

Yields 12 servings

 

Homemade Chocolate Spread

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chocolate spread

I don’t often use sweet spreads. Nutella happens to be on the top of my favorite spreads.  I never cared for store bought chocolate spreads. Overall, I found them to be too sugary for my liking. Nutella was my go-to chocolate spread since the sweetness was not as overpowering. Sweet or savory, spreads are very addictive. Put a bowl of crackers and a spread in front of me and they both will be devoured within minutes. That is partially the reason I keep both items and condiments away from each other and out of my reach.  I have managed to keep down my compulsive eating to a tad and I want to stay on that track. I know that I am not doing myself any favors or justice by sharing a chocolate spread recipe. The lack of sugar, minuscule  amount of oil, and natural ingredients is what sets this chocolate spread apart from most chocolate spreads. This chocolate spread takes minutes to make and can be used as a chocolate frosting or icing. Adjust the measurements in the following ingredients depending on the consistency you like. You can even add a nut spread to the ingredients if you like.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 4 tablespoons of coconut oil or trans-fat free margarine
  2. 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1/4 cup of agave syrup or date honey
  4. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Instructions

Melt the coconut oil or margarine, either in the microwave  or in a warm oven. Add agave syrup and vanilla extract and stir. Add cocoa powder.  Add a bit of water if spread is too thick.

Yields about 1 cup