Caponata en Croute

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Caponata is a well known and much loved Italian antipasto that originated in Sicily.  A savory mix of vegetables and fried eggplant is perked up with sweetened vinegar and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

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Tonight we ate it “en croute”, wrapped in puff pastry, as the main dish.  It was served with a fresh salad and a little bit of fish.

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It’s incredibly versatile, and can be used as a side with Mahi-Mahi or roasted meats, as a main course, or as an appetizer that is served either on it’s own or with toast points.  Some versions even include pine nuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds, and a bit of cocoa powder.  Like an Italian version of mole.  Feel free to add those if you are so inclined!

Caponata en Croute

Serves 4

Caponata the night before…

2 small eggplants, sliced in 1/2 inch strips (see instructions)

2 small red onions, cut in half, and then cut in 1/4 inch slices

1 celery stick, cut in 1/4 inch slices, and boiled for 4 minutes

1 large sweet red pepper, cut in 1/2 inch strips

1 T capers (if packed in salt, rinse and soak for at least an hour, changing water at least once to purge the salt.  If packed in vinegar, just rinse)

12 green olives, thinly sliced

6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded

1.5 T raw sugar mixed with 2 T red wine vinegar

about 2 C olive oil (give or take) for frying eggplant

black pepper and salt

Sprinkle eggplant strips with salt and let sit in a colander for at least an hour.  Rinse thoroughly, and press between dishtowels to dry.

Saute pepper and onion slices in olive oil with a pinch of salt.  Use a pan or pot with a cover – this will help the vegetables to retain moisture, and get a great texture.  I start with the peppers, and then add the onions once the peppers are about 1/2 way done.  Once the onions are nice and soft and translucent, add the tomato puree and cook for about 15 minutes with the cover on, stirring occasionally.  Take pan off heat and set aside.

Add olive oil to fry pan and heat to med/med low.  Whatever fry temperature is for your particular stovetop.  Fry the eggplant in batches, removing from the oil when they are golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Add the eggplant, capers, olives, and basil to the pepper and onion mixture.  Return the pan to the stove top and heat to medium.  Once it’s nice and hot, stir in the sugar vinegar mixture, cook for an additional 10 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool down.  Transfer to a container and let sit overnight and up to 3 days.

En Croute the night of…

1 rectangular sheet store bought puff pastry dough (use one made with oil if you prefer a vegan version)

1 beaten egg for brushing top of pastry (use oil if you don’t want to use egg)

dried oregano and Maldon or other flaky salt for sprinkling on top of pastry

Let caponata come to room temperature. Spread in center of pastry dough, and fold over edges.  Brush top with beaten egg or oil, and sprinkle with herbs and salt.  Cook according to package instructions.  The caponata is already cooked and does not need to be hot, so really you’re just cooking the pastry.

Enjoy!

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Marinated Cauliflower with Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

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That nice little bit of caramelization on the cauliflower comes from agave syrup.  You can get the same color by using a natural, unrefined sugar.  The agave was used in this recipe so there would be a bit of “sticky” to the cauliflower.

Agave syrup is not necessarily healthier for you – it’s quite processed and pretty high in calories.  It does however, handle the heat of a sear quite well without turning black and bitter like a sugar sometimes can.  It’s more similar to a corn syrup than a sugar when you add it to a sauce.

What is my favorite way to steam vegetables?  Well…this handy bamboo steamer is my absolute favorite way.  The taste is so clean and fresh.  Each compartment can hold a different vegetable, and even if you’re using them them together in a recipe, they retain their own unique flavor profile.

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Marinated Cauliflower with Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed

1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated

1 inch piece fresh turmeric, grated

3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground mustard (why mustard?  Because cooking cauliflower and broccoli can unfortunately make some of their strongest nutritional benefits less available to your body.  Adding mustard or radish to the cooked vegetables will then provide the nutrients necessary to ‘unlock’ their potential.  If you eat these vegetables raw, then you get the full benefits)

1 dried hot Chinese or Thai pepper (whole)

1/2 C Braggs Amino Acids or Soy Sauce

2 T Agave Syrup

Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

1 C peanut butter (I did not use a “peanuts only” brand, because it doesn’t melt as well for this quick and easy version).  

1 t garlic powder

1 t dried minced onion

1/4 t powdered dried ginger

1 C miso broth (I used a very yummy natto miso brand, but you can use other types of miso broth as well. )

*optional* honey to taste

Whisk all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the steamed cauliflower.  Massage the marinade into the cauliflower and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.  To serve, heat a pan to medium and add a bit of oil so the cauliflower doesn’t stick.  Remove cauliflower from marinade and sear both sides.

For the peanut sauce, briefly heat the spices in the bottom of a pot, and then pour your water in.  Follow your miso directions.

Whisk the miso broth bit by bit into the peanut butter until the peanut butter is melted and it’s at the consistency you want.

I like this marinated cauliflower and peanut sauce best when served over mung bean noodles and a bunch of steamed vegetables like carrots and zucchini!

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Honey Scented Rosemary Mint Carrots

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Just a bit of seasoning for this side dish.  The barest hint of flavor, and the quiet scent of honey (miele) and herbs on a breeze.

Some side dishes shine as a main meal.  This delicate carrot recipe sounds like a supporting actor.  In my opinion, it’s no peas and carrots.  If you’ve never had a supper of peas and carrots by themselves, then it’s possible you’ve never had chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

I’m just saying, and it’s all I have to say about that.

The first time we ate these carrots, they were served with roasted potatoes (sprinkled with Reishi mushroom powder and Maldon salt when they emerged from the oven).  The pic is here.  That’s a phenomenal, melt in your mouth halibut on top.  That is not allegory, the fish actually melted in your mouth.

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We couldn’t eat everything, so a day later we had potatoes and these carrots, with a little bit of the fish. By little bit, I mean, like hardly any fish. Completely different meal.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe (ricetta).

Honey Scented Rosemary Mint Carrots

4 cups thin sliced carrots

1 C water

4 inches fresh rosemary stalk with leaves

6-8 fresh mint leaves

1 t honey

Put all ingredients (except honey) in a tall narrow pot, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.  Stir during this time, so the carrots are basically steamed in their own juices.

Remove from heat and stir in honey.

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Balsamic Roasted Chicken Breast

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I’m not joking, this was a 1.19 pound chicken breast.  That’s HUGE.  That’s a little over 1/2 kilo.

I used to make this fairly often several years ago, and it’s a great marinade!  If you can get your hands on a whole, cut up chicken, it makes a beautiful meal for a family and looks really stunning on a platter.  Add some mashed cauliflower to soak up the sauce, and a nice, simple salad of greens and tomato, and you’ll have a dish that “probably” won’t have any leftovers.  But if you DO have some leftover chicken, it makes an awesome topping for a salad the next day.

*tip – when using balsamic vinegar as a marinade, you do not need to use your most expensive bottle.  Save that for use as a salad dressing or drizzled over vegetables.*

Balsamic Marinade

1/4 C Balsamic Vinegar

2 T olive oil

2 T Dijon Mustard

2 T lemon juice

1 t minced garlic

1 t minced onion

1 t dried rosemary

1 t honey

pinch salt, pinch pepper, pinch hot pepper, pinch beet powder

After it cooks:  1/4 C hot chicken broth with splash of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 F

Whisk the marinade together and pour over the chicken breast.  I like to use a resealable kitchen storage bag, which I wash and reuse.  Marinate for at least an hour, but it’s even nicer to do it overnight.  Remove from bag and let excess marinade drip off.  Place the chicken breast, skin side up on a rack over a roasting pan.  Cook for approximately 35 minutes, brushing once during the cooking with the reserved marinade.  Remove from oven and put on a dish under a tent of aluminum foil while you prepare the sauce.

Put the roasting pan on top of the burner (make sure you are using a pan that is both oven and stove top safe!) Turn the burner to medium and pour the chicken broth into the pan.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the drippings from the pan.  Cook over medium heat until reduced by about 1/3.  Add a splash of lemon juice.  Remove from burner, pour over the chicken and serve!  This is an excellent marinade for a whole chicken as well!  Increase the cooking times by 5 minutes for the rest of the chicken (thighs, wings, legs, etc).

 

Herbes de Provence Cod

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It has been a while since I have posted.  There are a lot of reasons why, but if I have to look deeply at myself, a big part of it is because I thought:

What I ate is not post worthy

I’m experimenting a lot, and the recipes are good, but

Not post worthy

People like what I cooked, say they love it, but can it be replicated?  Can anyone do it?  Anywhere?

Not worthy

Wow.

Psalm 139:14 says

I will praise you; for I am fearfully (gloriously) and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and THAT my soul knoweth right well.

That’s US.  Who we are, when we agree with who God says we are.

So today, I made some fish.  And it was good. So I’m posting it.  Not because it’s fancy, takes a lot of technique, or ticks any of the current dietary things, or is post worthy, but because it was good, and after eating it, I FELT good, and a cloud lifted from my brain.

Not only that, but afterwards I ate the leftovers of a recipe I was working on that is the

PERFECT DESSERT for this meal.  I’m so excited again to work on that one, because somehow, in the days when I couldn’t figure out what to post…it was all coming together in a glorious and wonderful way.  A little bit of research showed, that when you put certain foods together, you actually assimilate all of the nutrients and AMP UP the nutritional value.

Seriously?

It’s true!

The dessert that I have been working on is super good, and fits completely with the fish I made tonight, it just needs a few tweaks and twiggles.  I made up the word twiggles but feel free to use it.

This recipe is for ONE.  Just multiply the ingredients if someone else is eating with you.

You start by laying very thinly sliced potatoes, carrots, and a little bit of onion in a cast iron pan that was heated to med low, and had a small amount of olive oil spread on the bottom.  I salted all the veg except the onion, and let the liquids come out.  Then rinsed them and patted them dry before putting them in the pan.  Some of the starch will come out of the potatoes.

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Then I laid the cod on top of the potatoes.  The cod was seasoned with garlic, herbes de provence, olive oil, and some pink salt.  I topped it with some thin sliced lemon, and drizzled some more olive oil over it all.

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After 10 minutes in a 350 F oven, I took it out and stirred up all the vegetables around the fish.

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Another 10 minutes in the oven, take out, stir the vegetables again, and cover in tin foil.  It should sit for at least 5 minutes covered by the foil tent.

I’ll do the first picture again, because all I do many times is top with a chiffonade of lettuce.  Even if it’s not just you eating, it’s fun to set out salt and pepper that has to be ground, and some olive oil.  That way everyone gets interactive with the food, even if someone else cooked it. There is always going to be someone who wants to put some hot pepper on it, so put that out also.  Anyway, have fun!

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Herbes de Provence Cod

1 piece cod approx 6 oz (I used a frozen at sea piece)

2 T good olive oil

1 T Herbes de Provence ( I used a blend from a place called gaec le frigoulet – but I can’t find a website.  It is the BEST EVER blend I ever had, and it was a place where we just stopped because I said “let’s stop here” as we drove past it on the road.

1/2 clove minced garlic

More olive oil

Mix olive oil, garlic and oil together with a fork.  Let sit for a while.

Pat your fish dry if it is very wet.  Coat each side with the herb mixture.

Drizzle with some more olive oil, and cook in oven for 20 minutes.  Take out and cover with tin foil for at least 5 minutes.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

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Antioxidants, fiber (or should I spell it “fibre” just to shake things up a bit), vitamins and minerals galore, toasty, crunchy, and pops of sweet.

Top with crumbled bacon if you would like, or better yet, serve with sausage.  It’s especially good with Italian style sausage, and if you’ve never had sausages and grapes for supper, then you’re missing out.

The only thing this picture is missing is the sprouts and the pine nuts!

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Brussels Sprouts are a variety of cabbage that grows on a stalk, and the sprout itself is actually a “bud”, like a flower bud.  They’re not “baby cabbages” like I once thought, but an actual type that originally came from the Mediterranean region and then moved north through Europe.

One cup of these sprouts has 120% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C.  And you know what my favorite dessert is to have after this meal?

A couple of mandarin oranges.  More Vitamin C.  And the other part of a good dessert?  The almost forgotten and lesser known Vitamin C – Conversation.  

This entire meal can be on the table in about 30 minutes, leaving plenty of time to enjoy each others company.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

1/2 pound Brussels Sprouts, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise through the core

olive oil

salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes

1/2 C red grapes, sliced in 1/2

2 t pine nuts

Iron skillet

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a small mixing bowl, drizzle some olive oil over the sprouts and add in the seasonings.  I don’t measure.  Mix to make sure everything is coated and then put into your skillet.  Don’t crowd them too much or they’ll steam instead of roast.  Set timer for 15 minutes.

Take out pan and flip the sprouts.  Add the grapes and nuts to the pan.  Return to oven for 5 minutes.

Transfer to plate immediately so those little nuts don’t get too brown!  Top with bacon, or some additional salt and pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil.

 

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African Peanut Chicken Soup

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I like fancy food – a lot, but I also like comfort food – a lot.  This recipe definitely falls into the comfort food category.  It also falls into the really good and healthy for you category.

It would take pages to write down all of the benefits that you can get from curry powder alone, and this recipe has almost a 1/4 cup of it.  Surprisingly it doesn’t taste like an overwhelming curry, but your body sure recognizes how good it is and starts to use it right away.

If there was one benefit that really stands out, it would be anti-inflammatory.  But even that is not enough.  These ingredients are strongly anti-cancer and even guard against cognitive malfunctions such as alzheimers.  Your liver will thank you too, because it’s great for clearing out congestion, which is pretty common in the cold winter months.

Convert it easily to a meatless (and vegan) version by substituting chickpeas and roasted cauliflower for the chicken.  A good quality vegetable broth made with carrots or squash will also provide a similar richness as the chicken broth.  Go even further, and get even more nutrition by adding some miso to the finished version.  You wont have to cook it as long, so just adjust your time.

I feel really good after eating this dish, and I know you will too!

 

African Peanut Chicken Soup

1-2 T coconut oil

2 chicken thighs (bone in, with skin)

1 yam, diced

1/2 C onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1  jalapeño pepper, diced, no seeds (can use a different kind of pepper if you would like)

1 T grated ginger

1 smoked kipper, minced (or you can use a smoked fish that you just put in the pot while cooking and then pull out)

3 T curry powder (no salt)

pinch sugar

pinch hot pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

1 quart low sodium chicken broth (I add additional bone broth concentrate for flavor and nutrition)

1 C creamy peanut butter

1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, drained

1 C coconut cream

salt and pepper

Heat up your dutch oven to medium low, and add the coconut oil.  Salt and pepper your chicken thighs and brown on each side.  Stir in the yams, garlic, onion, pepper and curry powder with a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes or so.

Stir in the chicken broth, peanut butter and tomatoes.  Add the bay leaf and sugar, cover, and simmer for about an hour.  Pull out the chicken thighs and once they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat and finely mince the skin. Return them to the pot and stir in the coconut cream.  Add a good amount of black pepper, and then taste to see if it needs more salt.

Let cook for another 20 minutes to half hour, but don’t let it boil.  It should be hot, but not boiling.

Serve with crushed peanuts on top and raw pumpkin seeds or cilantro.

*options: you can make this a stew by reducing the amount of broth or by adding additional chicken thighs which can be served whole over a bed of rice*

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