Sriracha-Pomegranate Chicken Wings


 

useGenerally, I try to post only my original recipes on here… but this one is too good not to share! Plus, every time I make these people insist on having the recipe “right away.” So, courtesy of one of my favorite Food Network stars, Aarti Sequeira of the cooking show Aarti Paarti, I present to you, Sriracha-Pomegranate Wings! As Aarti likes to say, “Serve these and people will write poetry about you.”

I have made these for several different occasions and without fail I get the same reaction, “These are the best wings I’ve ever tasted.” And often, when running into folks weeks after the event, I hear, “I can’t stop thinking about those wings!” I’m perfectly content bragging like this because, well, it’s Aarti’s recipe and she gets all the credit.

So get ready – Super Bowl is right around the corner. So start shopping for some of these ingredients, unless you’re like me and your pantry is already stocked with Indian spices. 🙂

(HINT: You can usually find pomegranate molasses at gourmet stores, better supermarkets, Indian and Middle Eastern stores. If you can’t, don’t fret. Grab yourself a bottle of pure pomegranate juice, pour it into a saucepan and boil it down until it reaches a loose syrup consistency. Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t burn. There you have it. Pomegranate molasses. Sriracha is available in the international aisle of your supermarket — it usually has a little rooster on the label, and a bright green top. It either comes in a jar (more chunky) or a squeeze bottle (pureed). If you can’t find it, or don’t like it, any hot sauce or Tabasco will do. A little chipotle Tabasco would be awesome!)

Ingredients
2lb chicken wings (about 12)

Rub:
4 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
8 green cardamom pods, cracked open, seeds removed, husks discarded (if you can’t find these, use 2 tsp cardamom powder)
2 tsp cumin seeds
4 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp kosher salt

Sauce:
4 tsp grapeseed oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp reserved spice mixture
2 tsp Sriracha (Thai chili sauce; use more if you like it spicy!)
2 tbsp Pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp minced or torn mint leaves
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cold butter

IMG_1669Preparation
Pat chicken wings dry with a paper towel; don’t skip this step! This will both help the rub adhere, and ensure crispy skin.

Place a small but heavy skillet (I like using a small cast iron one) over medium heat, and add coriander seeds, cracked black peppercorns and cardamom seeds. Toast, shaking pan often for about 1 minute.

Add cumin seeds and toast another minute until seeds have darkened, are fragrant and faintly smoking. Immediately transfer to a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder, and grind to a fine powder.

Grab a bowl large enough to hold all the wings (or giant zip lock if you must). Pour ground spice mixture into the bowl, and add the mustard and the salt (and the cardamom powder if you’re using this instead of seeds). Whisk to combine. Reserve 4 tsp of this mixture for the sauce (see below). *I would encourage making a double batch of this rub, as you will want to keep extra handy for other meals. It’s amazing on beef or shrimp.

Drop wings into the large bowl or zip lock; toss to coat the wings well. Let those puppies sit for about an hour.

Ready To Cook?
About 15 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375°F.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a wire rack over it, and grease with cooking spray (or brush with grapeseed oil oil). Place the wings on the rack, at an even distance from each other. Pop into the oven for about 45 minutes, flipping the wings over halfway through, and rotating the baking sheet for even cooking.

As the wings are roasting away, make the sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the grapeseed oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the reserved spice blend; cook another 30 seconds. Then add Sriracha sauce, pomegranate molasses and mint leaves. Stir, and cook for about 5 minutes, before finishing with the butter and the lemon juice. Stir. Taste for seasoning and set aside off heat.

When the wings are done, toss with the sauce. Avoid the temptation to eat them all yourself.

Recipe courtesy of aartipaarti.com
Link to recipe here  (Aarti even gives me a shout out!)

The Perfect Bite
So, this might depend on whether you like the drum or the flapper. For me, the perfect bite is the chubby part of the drum. What about you?  Now, I have gone to the trouble of making a yogurt mint sauce for dipping each time, but no one really goes for it. The taste of the wings, by themselves is so profound… why mess with perfection? So just dive in.. because really, the perfect bite is every bite.. including the licking of fingers and your now numb lips.

The Perfect Pairing
Fact: Indian food is incredibly flavorful and can be quite spicy.
Fact: India pale ales are incredibly flavorful and can be quite bitter.
Fact: It’s difficult to pair beer with Indian food.
Fact: It’s difficult to pair food with IPAs.
Fact: Indian food and IPAs were made for each other, literally.

These wings are merely Indian-inspired but have many of the traditional flavors…and with the sticky sweetness of the pomegranate molasses and the earthy, smoking spice rub – an IPA is an ideal choice. That said, I’m no expert on IPA’s to recommend a good one – so if you have a favorite, feel free to suggest it in the comments!

The Perfect Health
To start off, I love these wings because they are baked and not fried. But also, studies indicate that daily consumption of pomegranate juice, about 8 ounces a day for three months or more, can help:

  • Reduce dangerous LDL-cholesterol in blood
  • Improve blood flow to the heart in patients with coronary artery disease
  • Reduce thickening of the arteries that supply blood to the brain
  • Lower the level of systolic blood pressure

See? Not only are these wing unbelievably delicious – they can save lives!

Bon apetit.

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The Red-Headed Martini


Autumn flavors are magical. They bring you warmth and comfort and often hit all 5 tastes… sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. I wanted to create a beverage that “felt” like Fall. And I think I did it.

Introducing, The Red-Headed Martini. All it’s ingredients are auburn-red (as is its creator) and it’s a smooth yet feisty little drink (as is its creator). So aptly named.

I have now made this a few times using different brands of bourbon – some more expensive than others. And I can tell a difference. A big difference. If you can, please opt for the quality… make it last… make it a special occasion… but do yourself a favor and splurge a little. You will thank me.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)
1 cup bourbon – I use Woodford Reserve [pictured].
1/2 cup amber beer – I prefer Negra Modelo. Pick your favorite – just be sure it’s an amber beer that isn’t too nutty or you’ll change the whole flavor profile.
1 tablespoon of dark maple syrup (adjust to taste).
A dusting of fresh grated nutmeg
3-4 dried red chile peppers (1 for each drink)

Tools
martini shaker
grater or micro plane

Preparation
Chill martini glasses and your shaker in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes. The bourbon and beer should be chilled and syrup at room temperature. You can use ice if you forgot to chill everything – but this is not a drink you want watered down.

Ready to Make?
Pour cold bourbon, beer and maple syrup into a martini shaker and stir to mix ingredients. I don’t advise shaking this drink as you will bruise the bourbon the beer will head and foam everywhere. I may or may not be speaking from experience. 🙂

Pour into chilled martini glasses. Grate nutmeg into the martini and then float one dried chili on top. You won’t really experience any heat from the chili until the last sip, when it’s had time to soak making your last sip is the best! When does that ever happen?

Enjoy!

Heirloom Tomato Pie


I’ve been in Nashville for more than 15 years now, and I’ve learned to embrace a lot of the Southern culture. I am enamored by the slower pace, the charming brick houses, and white church steeples that peer atop the gold and amber trees during Fall. I catch myself saying y’all… and I drawl out certain words, doubling their syllables. I’ve even listened to a country song here and there, and didn’t hate it. And I may or may not have tried on a pair of cowboy boots recently.

But Southern food? Oh dear Lord, the food. Try as I might, I have not learned to love it… or even tolerate it. I don’t like the smell of fried food. I don’t like brisket or bbq sauce. I don’t like sweet potato pie and I can’t stomach even walking into a Meat & Three (which I’d never even heard of before moving south).  I take pride in the fact that I have successfully avoided stepping foot into a Shoney’s for 15 years. That alone should earn me a West Coast badge. And don’t even get me started on the copious amounts of shortening that run through the veins of true Southern women.

But this past weekend, in an attempt to celebrate the tomato… something East Nashvillians have been doing for the past nine years at what’s now known as, “TomatoArtFest“… I decided to make a VERY Southern dish… the tomato pie.  In the south, the month of August is when tomatoes are in their prime. They are the sweetest, juiciest and most plentiful. It’s funny, because up until this year, I’ve not been a big tomato fan. But I began buying from local farmer’s, and spending a little more on quality heirloom tomatoes. Then I learned that I have been killing their taste all these years by putting them in the refrigerator!  Yes, that’s right… you’re not supposed to refrigerate tomatoes.  Who knew? According to Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, the author of Tomato Selection and Storage, “Refrigeration is the enemy of the tomato as it nullifies flavor and turns the flesh mealy. The culprit is a compound called Z-3 hexenel, which accounts for the tomato’s scent and taste.” She goes on to suggest that if you must refrigerate tomatoes, take them out about an hour before you will use them to allow the tomatoes time to return to room temperature. All that to say, I have become a tomato-convert!

So, quick – before August is over – go visit your local farmer’s market and pick out a nice firm but tender heirloom… my favorite is called Mr. Stripey (seen to the right over there). I mean, the name alone is worth spending $1.00 on him. But to me, he (yes, I’ve given Mr. Stripey a gender) is the sweetest, least acidic of all the heirlooms.

I loved that for this pie I used tomatoes and onions from local farmers, basil from my friend Lisa’s garden, and thyme from my potted garden!

So grab several, keep them on the counter, and enjoy!

Ingredients

1 9-inch pie shell (unfrozen)
1/2 medium to large red onion, chopped
3-4 heirloom tomatoes, cut in half horizontally, roughly chopped, to yield approximately 3 cups chopped tomatoes. Or thinly slice to layer into pie – your choice.  TIP: salt tomatoes and set aside for 20 minutes to remove extra water – important step or your pie will be soggy.
1/4 cup *chiffonade of basil (about 8 leaves)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (leaves stripped off stems and finely chopped)
2 cups grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
3/4 cup Just Mayo
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) of Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

*Chiffonade basil leaves by stacking them on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, starting at one end slice crosswise in thin slices.

Preparation
Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the chopped tomatoes, using either paper towels or place them in colander, lightly salt and let drain. The salt will draw out the excess moisture.

In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, Tabasco, fresh thyme and the salt and freshly ground black pepper. The mixture should be the consistency of a gooey snow ball.

Ready to Cook?
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place pie shell in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes or longer until lightly golden.

While the pie crust is still warm, brush on your favorite Dijon mustard. Then sprinkle the bottom of the pie crust with the chopped onion. Spread the chopped tomatoes over the onions. Scatter the sliced basil over the tomatoes. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the tomatoes, covering to the edge of the crust.

Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 35-45 minutes before slicing and serving. you can reheat it if you want but trust me on this, if you cut it too soon the “pie” shape will not hold. Don’t believe me? Check out my first slice below (5 minutes out of the oven). More like tomato stew than pie.

The Perfect Bite
Obviously the best bite is when it’s warm and the cheese is all melty… but please heed my warning above. Let it cool first so it will set into a “pie” shape when you slice it  — then reheat if if you must. But I did eat this cold for breakfast the next morning and it was pretty tasty!

The Perfect Pairing
One of my favorite red wines is a Washington Merlot called 14 Hands. And I just found out that they produce a chardonnay as well! 14 Hands chardonnay would be a perfect compliment to this rich southern pie. Bright apple and floral aromas are complimented by light notes of vanilla and sweet butterscotch. Juicy pear and apple flavors give way to subtle touches of toasty spice and ends with a soft finish. I love the butteryness of a chardonnay – which means it must be appealing to my inner-Southern Paula Dean.

The Perfect Health
Tomatoes are well-known for being low in fat, sodium and calories. But did you also know that tomatoes make your skin look great?  Beta-carotene, also found in carrots and sweet potatoes, helps protect skin against sun damage. Tomatoes’ lycopene also makes skin less sensitive to UV light damage, a leading cause of fine lines and wrinkles. Read more HERE.

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower


Ingredients
1 head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

Cut or tear off all of the green leaves on the head of cauliflower.

With a narrow, sharp knife, begin cutting (at the stems) the florets off into bite size pieces. Try to keep as many of the florets whole as possible. Cut off big chunky stems.

On a foil-lined cookie sheet, scatter florets and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt and red pepper flakes and toss again. Make sure florets are not piled on one another, but spread evenly across one pan (one whole head usually fills a standard cookie sheet).

Ready to Cook?

Place in a 375 degree, pre-heated oven on the very top shelf (or use broiler). Roast for 15-20 minutes until fork-tender and you can see the floret edges just beginning to brown.

Serve warm. Can be re-heated in microwave for 30 seconds.

The Perfect Bite

Is warm. Right out of the oven. For some reason, cauliflower gets cold, fast. But as I mentioned above, it is easily reheated.

The Perfect Pairing

Cauliflower is a perfect pair with any and all Indian-inspired dishes (try adding a little curry powder to it was well!).  And a perfect beverage with this would be a rosĂ©. Try Grandin Brut Rose… a french rosĂ© that obtains its brilliant pink color a longer pressing of the grapes. The juice then undergoes alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks before being put in bottles to form its bubbles through the methode traditionnelle. It is aged for a minimum of 9 months.

The Perfect Health

There are4 main nutritional health benefits of cauliflower. Antioxidants (because it’s a good source of vitamin C and manganese); Anti-inflammation (from vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids); Cardiovascular; Digestive (1 cup delivers 3.35 g of digestive fibers!). Cauliflower also contains vitamins B1(thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 niacin, B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folic acid). It serves as a good source of proteins, phosphorus and potassium.

Kale and Walnut Pesto


Kale is such a super food… add walnuts, olive oil and lemon zest and this little gem is unstoppable.  I’ve struggled to find ways to prepare kale that I enjoy. It can be bitter and a little tough. But I could eat this pesto by the spoonful!  I’m currently enjoying it on a Triscuit® but you can put it on just about anything. I’m thinking about smothering a chicken breast with it for dinner – but my favorite way to use it is to dollop it onto a crostini that has been pan-sauteed in butter.

So run , don’t walk, to your nearest grocery (or better yet, Farmer’s Market)… buy a large batch of kale (curly, flat, rainbow – it doesn’t matter)… a good size lemon (Meyer lemons if you can find them!) and some fresh garlic and make enough to eat all week!  Keep in mind that the shelf-life for this pesto is about a week. Read the Perfect Health section below below to see why you want to incorporate kale into as many meals as you can.

Ingredients
4-6 cups (about 6.5 ounces) kale leaves, ribs removed, coarsely chopped
2-3 large fresh garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts (raw is fine but toasting brings out their nuttiness)
3/4 cup Parmesan (or Vegan Parmesan)
1/3 cup olive oil (for extra walnut taste mix with 1 part walnut oil)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation
Remove ribs from kale and give it a rough chop. In a large pot, bring water to a boil with a couple of pinches of salt. Prepare a large boil of ice water and set aside. Once water in boiling, add kale for about 1 minute. Your kale will start to turn a brighter green. Remove from kale pot and immediately put in ice water. This is called blanching and is what helps give (and keep) your kale a bright green. Remove kale from ice water after 1 minute and pat dry.

Peel and roughly chop two large bulbs of garlic. If you are using pre-minced garlic, this is roughly 2 tablespoons.

If you are roasting your walnuts, place then in a dry saute pan over medium heat. Continue moving them in the pan until you begin to smell their nuttiness. It should take about 2 minutes.  Keep an eye on them – they burn easily (which is why I don’t put them in the oven anymore – I always forget them!).

Ready to Make?
In a food processor, add the kale, garlic, Parmesan and walnuts. Pulse 6-7  times until it’s well-combined. Slowly, through the feed tube, drizzle the oil until mixture is moist and holds together. Remove lid and zest your lemon directly into mixture. Zest, and not juice, makes all the difference here. It’s sweet and tangy and every once in a while you’ll get a burst of it in your mouth. So delish.  But feel free to add a little juice for extra lemony flavor. Now add salt and pepper, return lid and pulse a couple of more times. NOTE: It’s important to use the pulse feature and not let your processor run… you want to retain some of the leafy texture of the kale and not make mush. I may or may not be speaking from experience.

Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. And presto you have pesto!

The Perfect Bite
Whenever making a dip or spread or something that is not meant to be eaten on its own… it’s important to taste-test it once just with a spoon and then again with what you plan on having it with. On it’s own it may taste like it needs more salt, but if you plan on eating it with salty chips or crackers… it may be fine as it is once combined with it’s dipping partner.

The Perfect Pairing
Since this is a new item to me… I may discover more and more pairing as I go.. so check back regularly.  I’m certain this will be delightful on a crostini and absolutely divine mixed into some whole wheat pasta. Let me know if you try it on something yummy! Enjoy this with a crisp pinot grigio.

The Perfect Health
Kale’s risk-lowering benefits for cancer have recently been extended to at least five different types of cancer. These types include cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate. Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates in kale play a primary role in achieving these risk-lowering benefits. Read more about the benefits of here.

Baked Eggs


I love eggs. I could create an entire blog about nothing but eggs. One of my new favorite ways to make them, and healthier than fried, is to bake them. It’s simple, no fuss and a thing of beauty.

And since this is January 1st, I thought it appropriate to post this recipe since it’s an excellent New Year’s morning remedy breakfast.

So just follow these simple steps and enjoy.

Ingredients
2 eggs
2 pinches of dried oregano (or your favorite herb)
salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of shredded Swiss cheese / divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Coat two small ramekins with non-stick spray (I prefer olive oil spray).
Crack and drop one egg in each ramekin.
Lightly dust salt, pepper and oregano on top of each egg, then sprinkle shredded Swiss on each.

Place ramekins on a cookie tray and put on middle rack in oven. Bake 10-14 minutes, depending on how “done” you like your yokes. I land mine somewhere around 12 minutes.

When done, immediately run a butter knife around the edges to loosen the egg. Slip the knife or a fork under egg and it should just pop out.

You can use a variety of combinations of herbs or cheeses. The above is just my favorite. But I’ve also used a cheddar with salsa, Gruyere with thyme, and so on. Get creative!

Toasted and Roasted Vegetable Israeli Couscous



So I’ve had this jar of tri-color Israeli couscous in my cupboard for awhile now. Wasn’t sure what to do with it. But after a little research I decided roasting and toasting stuff to go in it was my best bet. Sometimes great things happen by accident. I just started throwing stuff in there and voila…. the result was pretty darn awesome. Savory, nutty, spicy… and that mysterious “umami” taste everyone’s talking about. Technically, the term is borrowed from the Japanese, meaning “savory taste”. But we use it meaning “beyond savory”… that something extra that makes you say, “wow!”

Anyway, the beauty of this dish is that you can swap out ingredients (like the veggies) for your favorites. Just be sure to prepare them the same way. Be sure to think about the type of vegetable you’re using to make sure it will go well with the spices used.

It’s a little labor intensive, but makes a huge batch you can eat on for days. Trust me, it’s worth it. Also, there are a few unique ingredients that if purchased in the grocery store, can be pretty pricey. Find a local International Market in your area (you’ll be surprised how many are out there!)… you will pay 1/3 of the price there and get twice as much. That’s where I purchased the turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, saffron and even the sliced almonds (1/2 lb bag for $4!).

Ingredients
2 cups of Israeli couscous (tri-colored optional. Sometimes called “pearl” couscous)
3 cups low-sodium veggie stock
1 cup water
1 cup fresh broccoli florettes
1 cup fresh cauliflower
1 whole red bell pepper (stemmed, seeded and julienned)
1/2 cup asparagus tips *and 2″long each)
1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used canned, drained and rinsed because that’s all I had)
1 16oz can chickpeas – rinsed
1/2 a medium sweet onion – diced
1 tblspn minced garlic
3 sprigs green onion – diced
1/2 cup sliced almonds (use less if desired – I love almonds!)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp saffron
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Preparation
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

This is a perfect opportunity to organize your mise en place.

Dice sweet onion, mince garlic, cut asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper and green onion according to ingredients above. Toss cut asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and bell pepper lightly in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Spread out on a cookie sheet into one even layer. You may need to do this in two batches.

Ready To Cook?
Place cookie sheet of veggies on top rack of oven (or use broiler). Rack should be roughly two inches from the top. Cook for 15 minutes or until broccoli and cauliflower edges start to get brown and crispy. You can smell when they’re done – yum! While that’s cooking,  drizzle olive oil and heat in  a large soup pot or dutch oven, over medium flame. Add sweet onion, garlic, saffron, turmeric powder and a pinch or two of sea salt. Saute until onions are translucent.

Once garlic and sweet onion are softened, add couscous to the pot and stir consistently. This will toast the couscous and will keep it from becoming mushy. Toast for 2-3 minutes… couscous will start to turn a slight color. Add veggie broth and water. Bring to a boil. Add another pinch of salt and pepper.

While that is boiling, drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil on a saute pan. Once hot, toss in mustard seeds and cumin seeds. They will sputter and splatter so be careful. This only takes a minute – so don’t burn them! You’ll suddenly smell the aromatic seeds and they are ready to throw in the pot of couscous. Reduce pot to simmer. Add roasted veggies, almonds, green onion, chickpeas, tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Stir until well mixed. Remove from heat when all liquid is absorbed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or cold!

The Perfect Bite
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I’m about to tell you to stack your fork with a little bit of everything! However, there are so many ingredients in this – that might be impossible. So, take a few bites… you’ll be amazed how each bite will taste like a different dish! I love getting a taste of the earthy mustard or cumin seeds… then heat from pepper flakes, or smoky from the roasted vegetables. You’ll never get bored, bit after bite.

The Perfect Pairing
There are so many flavors happening here you want an uncomplicated wine. Try Cline Cellers 2010 Viognier. Cline’s Viognier offers rich and distinctive aromas of peaches, apricots, orange blossoms and honeysuckle which will compliment the smoky, earthiness of the spices in this dish.

The Perfect Health
I’ve heard so many people say that couscous is a grain. But, um, no. It is pasta. Believe it or not, it’s made from semolina. Often hand rolled and sprinkled with wheat flour to keep separated. Israeli couscous is toasted, rather than dried, which gives it a nutter flavor.

So is couscous healthy? Not necessarily. But it is a healthier option than most pastas. Especially since it’s generally paired with vegetables and not cheese. But it is a little “carby”. Read more HERE about the health pros and cons of our beloved couscous.

Grilled Guacamole!


Grilled guacamole? Who knew? Just when you thought guacamole couldn’t get any better – someone goes and brings out the grill. And voila… this will be the very best guacamole you’ll ever have. Feel free to add extra things like tomato or substitute  the red onion with white – just be sure to grill them.

So fire up the Bar-B and prepare to have a little party in your mouth.

(as always – it’s best to read through the entire recipe before starting. You’ll want to know a few of the steps ahead of time).

Ingredients
3 whole avocados
1/4 of a medium red onion
1 large Poblano pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 lime
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (vegan)
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  • Preheat grill on medium flame.
  • Slice avocados in half lengthwise and remove pit (tips on removing pits – but do not slice).
  • Leave halves in skins and lightly brush the flesh with olive oil.
  • Lightly brush the skin of the Poblano pepper with olive oil.
  • Slice onion into 1 inch slabs leaving rings nested. Lightly brush with olive oil.
  • Cut lime in half and brush flesh with olive oil.
  • Finely mince garlic if not using pre-minced.

Ready To Cook?
Place avocados and lime halves flesh side down on grill. Place onion and pepper on grill. Leave avocado and lime alone – it’s tempting to pick up and check but you risk squishing them and losing avocado in the fire. They will take roughly 5 minutes on medium heat. The limes will start to brown at the edge when they’re ready.

Turn pepper regularly until it is blistered all over. You will know it’s done because you will suddenly smell the pungent pepper goodness! CAREFULLY turn the red onion over… you may lose a ring or two into the fire – sing a verse of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire and don’t sweat it. But the less you turn the onion the less you’ll lose it to the fire. It’s done when softened and has good grill marks.

Once all your grilling is done remove and let cool. You’re going to need to remove the pepper skin. TIP: Immediately put pepper in glass or ceramic bowl and cover tightly with Saran wrap. Let sit for 15 minutes while other items cool. The steam will help loosen the skin and it will peel right off. Cut top of pepper off and slice open to remove seeds. Cut into strips.

Finely dice onion and pepper. Add all ingredients into a bowl and mash well. Add salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. For a creamier guacamole use an immersion blender or food processor to mix everything together. Just don’t over mix or it will become runny. Squeeze 1/2 a grilled lime over mixture and stir.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

(photos taken with iPhone 4)

Summer Pea Soup with Green Curry and Toasted Mustards Seeds


Nothing says summer like a bowl of pea soup! Okay, maybe there’s a lot of things that “say” summer, like grilling, pool parties, vacations… yea, soup normally isn’t high on the list.

But this soup is so refreshing and can be served hot or cold! Low in calories and quick and easy. See – it’s perfect for summer!

This recipe is also vegetarian and vegan-friendly. But you may use chicken stock or garnish with crumbled bacon if you are phobic about eating a meat-free meal.

Ingredients (yields 3-4 servings)
1 12 oz bag frozen peas – thawed
1 small sweet onion – diced
1 Poblano pepper
1 med fennel bulb – diced
1 tablespoon garlic – minced
1-2 tablespoon green curry paste
1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coconut oil (substitute extra virgin olive oil if you must)
1 cup coconut milk (from the can for a thicker soup, unsweetened from carton for thinner soup – I use canned)
2 tablespoons of green onion (chives) – chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Have a bowl of ice water standing by. Bring medium saucepan of water to boil. Add peas and reduce heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes until softened but not over-cooked. While peas are cooking dice onion and mince garlic.

Ready to Cook?
Saute onion,  garlic and fennel in coconut oil until translucent. Remove peas from boiling water and put into ice water to stop the cooking process (this is called “blanching”). This helps the peas keep their bright green color. Remove peas from ice bath and place in food processor. Roast Poblano pepper on the grill or on top rack of oven until nicely charred. After it cools a bit, remove skin with the backside of your knife. Remove seeds and stem. Add  peas, onion, garlic, Poblano, coconut milk and curry paste to food processor or large blender (remember to remove spout cap if ingredients are hot to allow steam to escape or you will blow the lid off! I may speak from experience). Puree until smooth. Add additional coconut oil or milk, if too thick.

Toast mustard seeds in a dry saute pan until golden brown. This takes less than a minute so be careful not to burn.

Here is an optional step: Using a sieve, pour pea soup through (with a pan below) and work with a spoon until all has been strained. This will help eliminate any pea shells or chunks of onion or fennel that did not get processed thoroughly. If you like a little texture in your soup, just skip this step. But if you’re looking for silky smooth soup – go this extra mile (extra 15 min).

Heat soup on low to medium until warm… or serve cold! Sprinkle with toasted mustard seeds and chives.

The Perfect Bite
Of course the perfect bite of soup is a slurp… but make sure it includes some mustard seed and chive! Also, this is perfect with crostini drizzlde in olive oil.

The Perfect Pairing
Try pairing it with an Austrian GrĂĽner Veltliner. It’s a light, fresh, lively and delicate wine that will compliment this soup whether served warm or cold.

The Perfect Health
When your mom told you to eat your peas, she knew what she was talking about. Peas flaunt twice the protein of most vegetables, so they’re the ideal substitute for fattier protein fare, providing an excellent strategy for controlling your fat intake. Read more about the heath wonders of peas here.

Fish Tacos with Avocado Crema Sauce



I may or may not be addicted to fish tacos. Okay, so what… I am addicted. I could have them several times a week, easily. But I’m picky. I want a corn tortilla (seriously you flour tortilla serving people need to stop it)… I want battered fish (yes, I know it’s not the healthy version – sue me)… and I want a good, flavorful avocado-based drizzling sauce and crunchy cabbage (not wilty lettuce). And cilantro. Yes, there must be cilantro.

By the way… for this particular recipe, I broke my purely homemade rule and used Trader Joe’s small battered fish fillets. Mainly because they are made from halibut and are only 6 grams of fat per serving (2.5 fillets) and THEY’RE BATTERED! And I have not figured out their secret yet…

So as usual, when I love a certain food I set out on a quest to perfect a recipe that I will love and prefer to all else. Here’s what I’ve come up with – but be forewarned  – I may continue to tweak it. It’s only close to perfection. One day…

Ingredients
Uncooked corn tortillas (one for every taco you want)
Trader Joe’s battered Halibut fillets (one per taco. Use a different brand if you want – but you’ll regret it)
1/2 cup purple cabbage – shredded (this will be enough for 3 tacos)
small red onion – diced
1/3 cup cilantro (leaves only)
1 large avocado
4 tablesppons Mexican crema
2 teaspoons green Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons Smart Balance vegetable oil
Course sea salt and ground pepper to taste

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Dice red onion and shred purple cabbage – quantities vary based on number of tacos you’re preparing. Scoop avocado flesh out into small food processor or blender. Add Mexican crema, green Tabasco and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth and creamy. It should pour like thick cream. Add more crema if necessary. Set aside and cover with plastic wrap.

Ready to cook?
Bake halibut according to directions.
While fish is baking, heat vegetable oil in a fry pan. When it becomes fully heated (it will become shiny – test with a drop of water if unsure – it will sizzle when ready), place one tortilla in pan at a time. As soon as the edges begin to crisp and brown turn over and fold in half. Flip one or two more times until edges brown. Remove and place on paper towel to drain. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt immediately. Repeat for each tortilla.

When fish is done, place a fillet in each tortilla shell and stuff with onion, cabbage and avocado sauce. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

The Perfect Bite
Warm and dripping with avocado sauce of course!

The Perfect Pairing
Taco night just screams to be paired with margaritas. But since we’re trying to keep this figure-friendly why not try the new Skinny Girl Margarita mix? It’s a mere 100 calories versus the 500 calorie version served in most restaurants. And guys… just cover up the word “Girl” with some duct tape and you can indulge without having your man card  revoked.

The Perfect Health
Check out these great health stats on the Trader Joe’s halibut fillets!