Butternut Squash Soup

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

I made this soup for a dinner party a few weeks ago and it was a big hit.   I served it as a first course in tiny vintage tea cups – it was a fun evening.    I’m in New York on set shooting and it’s literally 16 degrees here.  The shoot is amazing, we’re getting everything we planned on and more but feels like frozen Fargo North Dakota, and not showing any sign of Spring yet on this coast.   Butternut squash soup is a very simple Fall/Winter soup that you can make anytime and freeze the left overs for the warmer months ahead.  You can defrost and heat it up without turning on the oven and that’s perfect for my place.  I live in Silverlake and don’t have AC, so I never use my oven during the summer months.  I’m planning ahead!

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  • 2 to 3 butternut squash, cut in half and seeded
  • 1 small apple (Honey Crisp)
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • Grated fresh ginger root
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • Olive oil

Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and coat both with olive oil over parchment paper.     Roast the squash in the oven at 400 degrees for 40 – 50 mins and check it towards end with a fork.

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Once the squash is roasted and cooked, scoop the flesh out with a spoon.

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Saute the onion with olive oil until translucent.

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Add the cooked squash, chicken stock, salt and pepper and grate fresh ginger to taste.    Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and use a blender or hand blender and puree to a smooth consistency.

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Enjoy!

Apple Cobbler with Spelt Flour and Agave

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APPLE COBBLER WITH SPELT FLOUR AND AGAVE

Once you invest in the alternate flours, agave, coconut oil etc.. you can bake fresh fruit pies, tarts, cakes and cobblers anytime – just depends on what’s in season and what you love to bake.   This Apple Cobbler recipe from Erin McKenna’s Babycakes cookbook is very easy to make and it’s always a big hit with friends.  I’m a regular at the Babycakes bakery in Larchmont but try to bake from her cookbook as much as I can.

This recipe offers all-natural, organic and delicious alternatives from from the common allergens:   wheat, gluten, dairy, casein and eggs.   All sweeteners have been chosen responsibly and used sparingly but rest assure that white sugars will never be found in my kitchen and I’m moving away from white flour completely in all my baking and cooking.    It’s a life style change that I’ve been incorporating slowly in my kitchen and daily life – I’m a curious health conscious cook, making wise choices.  The fun part is cooking, baking and testing recipes that I blog about here and documenting my journey.

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  • 3 cups diced apples (Honey Crisp at the peak of season shown here)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 3 tablespoon evaporated cane sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum free)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.   Line one 8 x 3 inch cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with coconut oil, set aside.

In a small bowl (or right in the pan like below) combine the apples, half of the agave nectar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, xanthan gum, cinnamon and half the sugar with a rubber spatula and set aside.

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In a medium bowl, whisk together the spelt flour, oats, sugar (other half), baking powder, cinnamon, 1 and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

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Add the coconut oil, the remaining agave nectar, vanilla, and hot water directly to the dry ingredients.   Stir until a crumbly dough is formed.

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Spread the apple mix evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan.  In segments distribute the batter over the top of the fruit and sprinkle the top with the sugar.  Bake the cobbler on the center rack for 25 – 30 mins.  The cobbler will have a golden crust, and the juice from the fruit will bubble.  Remove from the oven.

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Let the cobbler stand for 15 minutes.   Best served warm, directly from the pan.   Allow the cobbler to cool completely before covering.   Place plastic wrap over the pan and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Enjoy!

Carrot and Parsnip Soup with Ginger

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CARROT AND PARSNIP SOUP WITH GINGER

I love roasting root vegetables of all kinds and slow cooking them into a creamy puree especially during the colder months.   The hand blender is the key to a smooth hearty and healthy soup without the use of dairy to thicken.   A big pot of carrot and parsnip soup is perfect to have in your refrigerator to bring to work or school for lunch or to have at one meal with family and friends.   For this simple recipe, see if you can find the sweet carrots, seasonal parsnips and honey crisp apples while in season.

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  • 5 – 6 Med to Large Sweet Carrots
  • 1 Honey Apple Crisp
  • 2 – 3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Med Sweet Onion
  • 1 Box of Vegetable Stock (organic)
  • 3 – 4 Sprigs of Thyme
  • Ginger – Freshly grate test for flavor
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt, Cracked Pepper

I leave the skins on the root vegetable, chop and toss with Olive Oil, Salt and Cracked Pepper.   Roast for 45 mins on 385 degrees.

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Once the vegetables are roasted and soft to the touch transfer these beauties to a pot on the stove and pour in a box of vegetable stock with thyme bring to a boil.   Bring the heat down to a medium flame and continue to cook down for 10 mins.    Remove from the heat and use an electric hand blender or you can pour into a standing blender.   I love my hand blender by Cuisinart and use it all the time.  The newer cordless versions allow you to blend while you’re still cooking.

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Enjoy!

Healthy Shepard’s Pie with Turkey, Herbs, Roasted Veggies and Greek Yogurt

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HEALTHY SHEPARD’S PIE

It’s Fall and that time of year when I love to roast and bake all the time!  I love any variety of Shepard’s Pie with mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, ground beef, chicken or turkey.  Yukon Gold potatoes mash to perfection for this dish just drizzle of olive oil after you cook the potatoes and they whip to become silky smooth to spread on top.  I wanted something that incorporated sweet potatoes and butternut squash.    Here’s what I came up with and served with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or Labne to finish the dish.

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  • 1.5 lbs Ground Free Range Turkey
  • 2 Cups Cremini Mushrooms –  Sliced
  • 1 Sweet Onion
  • 2 Parsnips
  • 3 Sweet Carrots
  • 2 Yams
  • 1.5 Cup of Fresh Peas
  • Parsley – Handful
  • Sage – 15 leaves
  • Thyme – 10 Stems
  • Rosemary – 1 branch
  • 1 Med Celery Root or 2 stalks of celery and you can use the leaves
  • 1 Small Butternut Squash, Peeled and Chopped
  • Mushroom Base – Better Than Bouillon

Chop the sweet onion, parsnips and carrots – I leave the skins on the parsnip and carrots and clean them throughly.

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Then chop the celery root by removing the thick roots around the bulb.

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Once removed, chop like you would the parsnips and carrots.

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Saute the onions, carrots, parsnips and celery root with a drizzle of high quality olive oil.  Don’t season yet, we’re going to add the mushroom base and you want to test after you add that in and allow to cook down.

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Next, chop all the herbs – parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage.   Then slice the cremini mushrooms.

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Once the onions look translucent, add the mushrooms and continue to saute on low heat.

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Add half of each herb to the veggie mixture here.

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Turn off the heat and add the peas.

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Pour the mixture into a baking casserole dish.

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Next saute the ground turkey in the same dutch oven pot.

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Once the turkey starts to brown add the rest of the herbs – allow to slow cook for on low for another 5 mins to release the aroma of the herbs.

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Add 1 cup of water with 1 spoonful of mushroom base to the ground turkey mixture.

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Allow the meat to simmer on low for a few more minutes.    You can add a half of cup of greek yogurt here at this stage and mix.   Or you can wait like I did and serve each bowl full with a spoonful in the center.    This is the stage when you taste test – make sure you add the mushroom base then test.   You can add more salt and cracked pepper if you’d like, just be sure not to over salt since the base is concentrated.

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Pour the ground turkey mixture over the veggies in the casserole pan.

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Peel and chop the yams and butternut squash.

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Spread the yams and butternut squash over the casserole.   You can toss the yams and butternut in olive oil if you’d like before pouring over the casserole if you’d like.

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Bake for one hour on 385 degrees and serve immediately!

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Enjoy!

Healthy Baked Eggplant Parmesan

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BAKED EGGPLANT PARMESAN

Last week, I told my brother that I baked eggplant parm and he asked did you add the soft boiled eggs and rice?!   Growing up with homemade eggplant parm was a childhood delight and one of those meals that demanded more than one plate.   I would literally fall asleep in the same position I ate dinner in.   And depending on whose house you were at, you could easily find yourself stuck to the plastic covering on the sofa on top of it all.  I’m not sure what region of Italy the recipe is from but it is amazing!   Fried eggplant in a flour batter.   Meat gravy with savory chunks of pork that were slow cooked all day.  Hints of herbs.  Layers of rice mixed with fried eggplant peppered with soft boiled eggs, fresh mozzarella and locatelli cheese then baked to piping hot cheese festival.    I still dream of it but these days I would literally drop dead if I ate that so now, I’m trying to recreate amazing flavors from simple whole foods.    But I still go big every once a while, it’s in my blood.

Here’s a simple recipe to bake a wonderful Healthy Eggplant Parmesan.

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  • Two Medium Eggplants
  • Garlic
  • One Red or Sweet Onion
  • Fresh Basil – Handful
  • 2 Cans of San Marzano Chopped or Whole Tomatoes
  • Parsley – Handful
  • Salt and Pepper (best quality you can afford or find)
  • Dried Herbs – Medley or Variety you like
  • Fresh Mozzarella Grated – Made from Part Skim from cows NOT treated with rBST

Chop the sweet onion and saute over a med heat with top quality olive oil until translucent.

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Add two cans of San Marzano Tomatoes.  I used one can of chopped and one can of whole tomatoes.   Bring to a boil, then lower and allow to simmer for 20 – 30 mins.   Add garlic, parsley and basil.

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Thinly slice the eggplant.  And flavor the sauce with high quality salt.

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Layer the eggplant, sauce and cheese.    You can add a special mix of herbs if you want to each layer.

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Once assembled, bake on 375 for 45 mins.

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Enjoy!

Babycakes Pumpkin Spice Bread – Vegan, Gluten Free and Sugar Free

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BABYCAKES PUMPKIN SPICE BREAD – VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE & SUGAR FREE

I’ve been baking from the BabyCakes cookbook for a few years now and I’m constantly finding new amazing vegan, gluten and sugar free treats to make.   This is my favorite time of year to bake and there are so many healthy amazing recipes and options now it’s hard to go back to the more traditional way of baking but trust me there is a time and place for everything.   I’m not afraid of banana cream pie, caramel bars or birthday cake, it’s all about timing and who I’m cooking for!   The truth is there are so many healthy options now that taste amazing – this is a special thanks to Erin McKenna and her pioneering recipes!

The beauty of cooking one of these recipes is that you have to buy so many new ingredients that it only makes sense to keep testing recipes once you start to invest in the healthy fava bean flour, spelt flour, xanthan gum etc….

Here are the ingredients to get started with the Pumpkin Spice Bread.   The recipe calls for muffins but I just baked them a little longer and poured the batter evenly into two loaf pans.

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  • 2 Cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour (Fava Bean Flour)
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Power (Aluminum Free)
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Xanthan Gum
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Oil, Plus more for the pan
  • 2/3 Cup Agave Nectar
  • 2/3 Cup Rice Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 Cups Canned Unsweetened Pumpkin Puree – Organic
  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.    Prepare the loaf pans or muffin tins by spreading the coconut oil on the pan then sprinkle a thin layer of the flour – just like you do with regular butter and flour.    You can shake the pan to make sure all the coconut oil is covered with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon and ginger.

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Add the oil, agave nectar, rice milk, and vanilla to the dry ingredients.

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Stir until the batter is smooth and thick.  Using a plastic spatula fold in the pumpkin puree and hot water until both are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

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Pour the batter evenly into two loaf pans coated with flour and coconut oil to prevent sticking once we remove the breads.   Bake the breads on the center rack for 30 minutes, rotating the tins 180 degrees after 15 mins.  The finished breads will be soft to the touch and a knife or toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean.    Test the breads at about 20 mins to make sure your oven it’s running to hot or dry heat.

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Let the breads stand in the tin for 15 mins, then transfer to a cooking rack.   Can store up to three days in an airtight container.

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Enjoy!

Raw Vegetable Quinoa Salad

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This is a good recipe example of raw salad combination of fresh seasonal veggies tossed with an ancient grain – this time I used a tri-colored quinoa.  This salad is incredible simple and totally filling and delicious so it’s a favorite of mine when I’m super busy with work.   I have this for a few days in a row and doesn’t seem to matter because it’s fresh and clean fuel – sometimes I serve it over chopped kale and add a few pieces of grilled chicken for some protein.

  • Hand full of strawberry tomatoes when in season or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Med Lemons
  • 3 – 5 Small Sweet Carrots, chopped
  • 4 English Cucumbers, chopped
  • Radishes, sliced
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Arugula, chopped
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Wine or Apple Vinegar
  • Feta – 3 Tablespoons or more to taste

Chop all the fresh veggies and herbs.   You can add dill, mint or olives if you prefer.

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Cook the quinoa, I prepare 2 – 3 servings for this salad.   Mix with the chopped veggies and herbs.   Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and freshly squeezed lemon.

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Enjoy!

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