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Today is my day off from work. I had planned to volunteer at a local restaurant (Robin des Bois). The owner donates all profits to non-for-profit organizations. Sadly, upon arrival, the manager kindly informed me that there was a mistake and that they already had enough volunteers for the day. They felt bad enough to give me coffee and lunch to go. Grilled artisanal bread topped with sweet and white potato, wild mushrooms, Emmental cheese and a white sauce (probably some kind of bechamel). I made the salad below to accompany the broiled open-faced sandwich. Perhaps I’ll try volunteering some other time.

 
 
 
Baby spinach
1 pomegranate
1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts
 
Maple-Balsamic Dressing
3 tablespoons walnut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple sirup
Black pepper and fleur de sel
 
To remove seeds from pomegranate, cut fruit in quarters in a bowl filled with cold water. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds. The seeds with sink and the membranes will float.
Roast hazelnuts in a 375F degrees oven for about 10-15 minutes.
Divide baby spinach into 4 plates. Top with pomegranate seeds and roasted hazelnuts. Drizzle with maple dressing and sprinkle with  fleur de sel.
 
Serves 4

 

The secret ingredient making this chili so dark, intense and almost creamy is cocoa powder. It gives a nice aroma and helps thicken the sauce to a dark chocolaty texture. This dish can easily be made vegan by omitting the feta cheese topping. Instead, generously drizzle chili with olive oil.

 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, grated or finely chopped
3 dried hot chili peppers, chopped
1 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1-2 cups vegetable broth
1 16-ounce can kidney beans
1/2 cup black, brown, or green lentils (or combo), rinsed
1 cup meatless ground round (I used Yves Veggie)
1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

Feta, salted yogurt, olive oil, chopped cilantro or chopped fresh baby spinach, for garnish

1 baked potato per serving of chili

 

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onions stirring frequently. When the onions soften up and become translucent, add the garlic, ginger, red pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and cumin. Stir well and cook for a minute of so, until everything begins to slightly brown. Stir in the tomatoes, kidney beans, lentils, meatless ground round, cocoa powder and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 35-45 minutes until lentils are cooked and chili has thickened. Stir a few times during the simmering, taste and ajust spices and salt.

Serve over baked potato and top with feta and finely chopped fresh spinach.

*While chili is cooking, bake the potato. Rub the potatoes with olive oil and salt. Bake at 400 F degrees for about 40 minutes.

 

Makes about 6-8 servings

 banana bread

 

I don’t really have a sweet tooth. But I’ve been craving banana bread (cake?) for weeks. This cake is moist and fluffy, yet dense. For an extremely decadent dessert, reheat in a toaster oven and top with vanilla ice cream. 

 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup wheat germ

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 eggs

1/2  cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup coconut (or soy) milk, room temperature

2 tablespoons canola or any other mild tasting oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch fine grain salt

3 medium, very ripe bananas, mashed

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 Lightly oil a loaf or square pan.

 In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients, except bananas. Beat with a wire whisk until well blended. Stir in bananas. Add to dry mixture, mixing until all ingredients are moistened. Spoon into prepared pan.

Bake 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

rapini pasta

 

Rapini (or brocoli raab) is like the bitter version of brocoli. Some say it’s an acquired taste. I love it. I’ve always loved it.

I will always remember the best pizza I ever ate at Delfina Pizzeria, in San Francisco last summer. It was brocoli raab pizza with olives, mozzarella and hot peppers. Yum. This pasta dish (almost) comes in competition with aforementioned pizza.

 

rapini

 

1 bunch rapini (brocoli raab), trimmed and cut into 3 inch pieces 
4-5 cloves garlic
5 sun-dried tomatoes
1-2 teaspoons dried chili flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Freshly shaved parmesan
Roasted hazelnuts (optional)
Whole wheat pasta (I used spagettini)
1/4 cup pasta water

 

Boil water in a large saucepan. Cook pasta according to the manufacturer’s directions.

While the water in boiling, trim base of rapini stalks. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add whole garlic cloves and sauté for a about 5 minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes, salt, pepper and optional chili flakes. When garlic cloves begin to brown lower heat just to keep the skillet warm.

In the mean time, blanch the rapini in the pasta water for 4 or 5 minutes. Add blanched rapini to the warm skillet, increase heat to medium and sauté for about 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Add pasta and pasta water to skillet. Increase heat to medium high, sauté and mix well, for about 2 minutes. Smash the garlic cloves directly in the skillet with the back of a spoon.

Serve immediately, top with freshly shaved parmesan and roasted hazelnuts.

 

Serves 4

Fiery tofu in tomato sauce

 

I’m sure some people will be skeptical regarding the whole tofu in tomato sauce thing. Trust me, this dish is both comforting (especially on a cold autumn evening) and delicious. Everyone is already aware of the incredible health benefits of tomatoes ; key words : lycopene and cancer fighting.

I like how simple this dish is. However, you could add sliced mushrooms, chopped spinach, sliced zucchini or sun-dried tomatoes when adding the garlic cloves. This dish can be made vegan by omitting the shaved parmesan, maybe drizzle olive oil insted?

 

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4-5 cloves garlic

1 16 oz package extra firm organic tofu

1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes

Pinch of sugar

A few springs of fresh rosemary

2 dried hot chili peppers, chopped (or more, to taste)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh shaved parmesan for garnish

 

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add tofu and chili peppers, cook over medium heat until the tofu has browned a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped onion, stir, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 more minutes. Add whole garlic cloves, continue to cook over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, rosemary, sugar, salt and pepper, bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and smash the garlic cloves directly in the skillet with the back of a spoon.

Serve over brown rice or whole wheat pasta and top with fresh parmesan.

 

Serves 4

Quinoa Beet Salad with Miso-Tahini Dressing

Quinoa Beet Salad with Miso-Tahini Dressing

 

If you prepare the quinoa (or have leftover quinoa) and the beets the day before, this salad is super quick to put together. Quinoa is a seed (not a grain) that is extremely high in protein, making it a very good choice for vegans and vegetarians. Beets are surprisingly soft and almost buttery when cooked. I love their sweet taste and I was once known for my beet addiction. Thankfully, they promote optimum health and are very low in calories. Their deep colored flesh make them a nice (visual) addition to many meals. Plus, beets help fight cancer!

 

Beets

Quinoa Beet Salad with Miso-Tahini Dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

5 or 6 cooked beets, sliced

2 green onions, minced

Fresh parsley, cilantro or mint, chopped

Sesame seeds for garnish

 

Miso-Tahini dressing :

¼ tahini

1 tablespoon miso

Juice of about half a lemon (about ¼ cup)

Lemon zest

2 tablespoons hot water

Pinch of cayenne pepper

 

Place unpeeled beets in medium saucepan, cover with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until beets are tender, about 30 minutes depending on the size of your beets. Allow the beets to cool, rinse and peel.

While the beets are cooking, rinse the quinoa and cook according to package directions (1 cup quinoa for 2 cups water, simmer for about 15-20 minutes).

To make the dressing : mix all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until the consistency resembles a liquid paste.

Toss the cooked quinoa, beets, garbanzo beans and green onions in a large bowl, drizzle with half the dressing, top with fresh parsley and sesame seeds. Serve remaining dressing on the side.

 

Serves 4

Caribbean Inspired Hot Breakfast Cereal Bowl

Caribbean Inspired Hot Breakfast Cereal Bowl

 

I used hot cereal here but you could use almost any grain or cereal : oats, millet, quinoa, barley, etc. Soy milk may replace the coconut milk, pecans may replace the almonds and honey may replace the maple sirup.

 

Hot cereal bowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dried apricots, sliced (I used about eight)

½ cup hot cereal (I used Red River’s mixture of cracked wheat, cracked rye and flax)

2 cups water

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon (or more, to taste) ground cinnamon

1 sliced banana

Roasted chopped almonds

Coconut milk (a splash)

Maple sirup, to taste

 

Combine water, hot cereal, sliced dried apricots and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil. Simmer, uncovered for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, cover and let stand at least 5 minutes, to desired consistency.

Transfer to two bowls, top with chopped almonds, sliced banana and coconut milk. Drizzle with maple sirup.

*While cooking the hot cereal, roast chopped almonds in a 375F degree oven for about 7 or 8 minutes.

Serves 2