Sweet Sprouts

“Brussels sprouts?! Yuck!” 

Those were my sentiments, as I’m sure most of yours as well, towards brussel sprouts as a child. Actually, to be honest, those feelings took me pretty far into adulthood as well. But as I have learned in my culinary journey, anything can be good if seasoned and prepared well. (Not saying my mother didn’t prepare them well, I’m sure her’s were delicious. I just wasn’t willing to give them a fair chance at the time because, well, they were brussel sprouts people!) 

First of all, can we just talk about the fact that they are actually called “Brussels Sprouts” and not “Brussel Sprouts”?! Who knew about that extra “s” at the end?! Not me, my friend, not me. World rocked. 

Members of the cabbage family, production of Brussels sprouts in the United States began in the 18th century, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana. Their highest producer to date is the Netherlands, where they’re probably served alongside raw herring or something different like that. Isn’t different such a nicer word than weird? Although now I’ve gone and said weird anyway, so you still know that was my initial word…I digress. 

These little cruciferous veggies help lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, and aid proper thyroid function. So basically, as usual, your mom was right; eat your vegetables! 

So, Mom, I hope you’re happy. Here’s a Brussels sprouts recipe that even kids will love, because they’re sweet, tangy, and crunchy and almost make you forget you’re eating veggie! I said almost, I’m not a magician….

  

Beauty & The Butcher’s Sweet Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 1½ lbs brussels sprouts, halved
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar or 1 tbs balsamic glaze if you have it (trader joe’s makes an excellent one)
  • 2 tsp honey

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or use a silicone baking mat.
  • In a large bowl, toss brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper to coat thoroughly.
  • Transfer the brussels sprouts to baking sheet and roast until tender and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Don’t freak out if some of the leaves get a little burnt, those crispy bits are the best part!
  • Place brussels sprouts back in bowl. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey and toss to coat evenly. Taste and season with kosher salt if necessary and serve. Or at least try, I set mine to cool on the stovetop and most of them were gone by the time dinner was ready…

I paired them with my famous (in our house at least) turkey meatloaf and creamy goat cheese polenta! But that’s anothef post for another day… 

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blast from the past…

This week I am taking part in a special school to improve my teaching skills. So since I’ll probably be too busy to blog, I decided to feature some of my very early posts. Can you believe I’ve been doing this for two years?! Today, since I’m hungry, lets bring it back to a post from July of 2013, and for all you vegans out there, simply omit the eggs, sub almond milk, and voila! Vegan rice pudding! Not only that but the almond milk gave it a delicious nutty flavor and even enabled me to cut back on the sugar! You could also get really crazy and use quinoa instead of rice. But no worries, I’m going to give you the tried and true recipe too. Who can resist rice pudding?! 

  Beauty & The Butcher Rice Pudding
Ingredients:

3/4 cup uncooked white rice (I used minute rice)

1 cup half and half

1 cup milk

4 tbs granulated sugar

1 tbs light brown sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 egg yolks

1 tbs unsalted butter

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:

Boil rice in a medium saucepan (according to directions on box – mine used 3/4 cup) with granulated sugar and salt until completely done and tender. Pour in half and half + 1/2 cup milk and simmer on low for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes until thick and creamy. It may look like it’s too much milk and it will never thicken, but it will you just have to wait. Once thickened, Mix in brown sugar. 

In a small bowl add egg yolks. Spoon 3 spoonfuls of the pudding mixture in with the yolks and whisk rapidly to temper and prevent scrambling. Once yolks are warm, add into pudding mixture and add the remaining half cup of milk. Cook for 3-5 minutes more until thickened up again. Once thickened, remove from heat and add in butter, vanilla and cinnamon. If you are making the vegan option your pudding will not be as thick, that’s just what chickens do. 

Pudding can be served warm or cold. Store in airtight container for 3-4 days, but it’ll never last that long! 

vegan fiesta!!!

  
So yesterday I shared with you the story of the Sanibel Sprout and the delicious meal I had prepared by the chef & owner, Nikki. She told me that she is a firm believer in seasoning. I agreed with her wholeheartedly, I’ve always said I feel that anything can taste good as long as it is prepared and seasoned well. 

(Some people prefer a little too much seasoning, and salt my food right in front of me…eye roll…no comment…)

Nikki’s taco salad with walnut “taco meat” was so very flavorful that when you took a bite you tasted cumin, chili powder, and sea salt, not walnuts. It actually tasted like ground taco meat. But lighter and more heart healthy. But the cashew “queso” topping? That really blew my mind, I had no clue how it even existed and I decided I had to try making it for myself. I did a little research and experimenting and came up with my own concoctions for both. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures as I went along, sorry, but trust me it’s really easy. But there are pictures of the finished product! 

First, the taco meat.

Ingredients

  • 2 C whole walnuts (if you only have chopped on hand that’s OK just don’t pulse them as much in the food processor so that they don’t get too fine…like Brad Pitt)
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder (all spices are to taste; you may want a little more or a little less…as I tasted I felt it couldn’t get enough cumin so I kept adding until the flavor was just right)
  • 4 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tb olive oil (I omitted this when making it for friends who are not eating any kind of oils, I just put a little water in instead, but I do think the oil is helpful in binding the mixture together and enhancing the flavor.)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until it’s the consistency of ground meat.

Taste test, and add more spices if you’d like.

This is totally optional but I think totally a must to a) feel like you’re eating taco mea and b) completely fool your butcher husband…Heat mixture in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Your house will smell like you’re having a fiesta!  

  
 
I love a colorful salad so I out all sorts of toppings out; black olives, red & yellow bell peppers, fresh diced tomatoes, shoestring carrots, seasoned kidney beans, sunflower seeds, organic blue corn tortilla chips, and, my personal favorite, big hunks of avocado!But the real star of the dish and the perfect finishing touch? The cashew queso! Which, by the way, also doubles as a dressing for the salad which was especially nice for our non oil eating amigos. I’m really getting into this fiesta thing now! 

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours, drained, and rinsed.
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast…(I had to go to the health food store to find this…it smells awful and I don’t know why it was necessary but it just was. Note to self: do more research on nutritional yeast and follow up with blog post about said ingredient) 
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender until smooth and queso like. Make sure to scrape down the sides and that it’s really blended all the way through, you don’t want any little cashew chunks.  This makes about 2 cups and the queso sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 You could just spoon the sauce over your salad but where’s  the fun in that?! Or….you could put sauce into a ziplock bag, snip the tip, and artfully pipe over your salad for a beautiful finish to the meal. There was plenty of queso left over too, so we took some of those beautiful organic blue corn tortilla chips and dipped them right in there. Take that nacho cheese!  

The butcher and I aren’t quite ready to go completely meatless or dairy free yet, but we are definitely cutting back and making better choices. This dish is so delicious it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice! Taco salad for all!

   

Vegan Paradise 

As you know, I spent a lovely week with my mother in law on Sanibel Island recently. It was a much needed relaxing break. On Wednesday we went for massages, body treatments, and a little oxygen bar treatment at the Sanibel Day Spa. It was divine.  

After such a grueling (ha!) morning of pampering and detoxifying treatments, we wanted something light and healthy to fill our bellies. Since Yelp never lets me down when looking for local restaurants, off to Yelp I went, and came across a little vegan cafe, called the Sanibel Sprout. It had great reviews and the menu sounded fantastic. Five minutes later we were there.  

 I can never walk into any health food store without instantly thinking of my mother in law, even though this time she happened to be standing right next to me. The combined aromas of vitamins, essential oils, and patchouli fill the air and remind me of her. This was no different. We were instantly greeted by the most adorable little British woman with platinum hair, a hot pink shirt, and a warm smile.

After perusing the shop section of the store, filled with books, supplements, candles, and a plethora of all natural products, we wandered over to the cafe portion, oohing and ahhing over the vegan cheesecakes, mini vegan key lime pies, vitamin elixirs, and other goodies in the prepared food case. We grabbed a few vitamin elixirs (Ok Mom grabbed one, I’m still new with all this stuff) and took a seat to look at the menu. 

     
   
Mom decided on the vegan lasagna made with brown rice noodles, tomato sauce, and cashew cheese. I, because I’m special, ordered something that wasn’t on the menu but listed on the specials board behind the counter. It was a vegan taco salad. Sounds like an oxymoron right? Wrong! The “taco meat” is actually made with seasoned walnuts and the “cheese” is cashew queso. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost

    
 It was delicious, filling, and if I hadn’t known, I would’ve thought I was eating ground beef. Seriously. In fact, I even found out later from the chef that recently a woman who had picked up a taco salad to go, had called later completely irate that there was meat in her vegan salad! There was no greater complement than that! We had to talk to the owner. I walked over to the aforementioned sweetheart who had welcomed us and found out her name was Edith. I gabbed to her a bit about how much I loved my food and asked her who owned this amazing little spot.

“I do. With my daughter, Nikki. She’s the chef” she said as she motioned toward a young woman working furiously behind the counter blending, chopping, and moving back and forth with grace and know how.

 I told Edith that I had a blog and would love to do a little write up about the Sanibel Sprout so perhaps I could ask her a few questions and take a photo of her. She kindly obliged but said she first had to check her lipstick. She was so adorable I couldn’t help but snap a photo of her as she did so. 

 Once she was fully primped, she positioned herself on a stool in front of the juice bar and smoothie station, took her glasses off, and smiled. 

“Is this alright?” she asked.

“Perfect” I said.

Edith is 89 years old and becoming a vegan literally saved her life. 

Three years ago she was diagnosed with stage one leukemia. Her daughter and natural chef, Nikki, moved from Miami to Sanibel to help her mother change her diet and hopefully prolong her life. Although Edith had been a vegetarian for many years, she was not as enthusiastic about going completely vegan. 

“If I have to give up chocolate and milk, I’d rather just die.” she candidly recanted. 

But Nikki assured her that she would never be hungry and that every day she would be showered with deliciously filling breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. And that she did. She never went hungry and was fully convinced. It has now become her lifestyle.

Edith’s sister, still living in England, was also diagnosed with leukemia. Sadly, she passed away soon after. The difference in their diets was undeniable and the results spoke for themselves. Three years later, Edith’s leukemia is still at stage one and, to the amazement of her doctors, has not moved or grown whatsoever. 

There may not yet be a cure for cancer out there, but a plant based diet, living on what God created, certainly seems to be effective in prevention and even treatment of disease. 

I could have sat and chatted with those two all day, but the beach was calling. I look forward to going back on our next visit, Edith will be 90 by then, and probably better than ever. 

As soon as I got home, I had to try to recreate Nikki’s delicious taco salad. Stay tuned tomorrow for the recipe! 

  

 
 

pho sho…

Last night we enjoyed some delicious pho with some of our best friends. It was delightful. But you might be asking yourself, what IS pho?  


Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles, herbs, and traditionally beef or chicken although vegetarian options are just as delicious. The hearty soup originated in Northern Vietnam during the 20th century. Pho was originally sold at dawn and dusk by roaming street vendors, who amazingly shouldered mobile kitchens on poles across their backs. From the pole hung two wooden cabinets, one housing a cauldron over a wood fire, the other storing noodles, spices, cookware, and space to prepare a bowl of pho. Boy does that sound heavy! Thankfully now it’s much more widely available and no poles are necessary, you can go to your local pho eatery and order a bowl. (Our favorite spot is Pho 88 on Mills Avenue in Orlando for you local folks)


 
       

But what if you don’t have a pho eatery near you, or you want to try making it at home? Now you can! You can judge how good a Pho soup is by how much concentrated flavor is packed in the broth while still retaining a clean, clear broth. I like my Pho without Sriracha or Hoisin sauce (or “the brown stuff” as the butcher calls it)…I really enjoy the purity of the chicken broth without anything to hide its flavor and aroma.

There are 2 very important steps to a clear but intense broth – 1) parboiling the chicken to get rid of the impurities 2) charring the ginger and onion for a naturally sweet, robust flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole (preferably organic) chicken (4-5lbs)

1 whole onion, unpeeled and cut in half

3-inch chunk of ginger, unpeeled

{Broth spices}

2 tbl whole coriander seeds

4 whole cloves

2 whole star anise

2 tbl raw sugar 

2 tbl fish sauce…be sure to choose a fish sauce light in color, it should look like brewed tea….anything darker than that (looking like Coca Cola) is inferior quality.

small bunch of cilantro stems only, tied in bunch with twine

1 lb dried rice noodles 

{Table Accompaniements}

2 cups bean sprouts 

cilantro tops – leaves and tender stems

1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Sriracha hot sauce

Hoisin sauce

sliced chili or jalapeño (for the brave people out there)

DIRECTIONS:

Place ginger and onion on a small baking sheet. The top of the onion should be about 4″ from the oven’s heating element. Set to broil on high for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occasionally, to get an even char. The skin should get dark and the onion/ginger should get soft. After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off the onion and use a butter knife to scrape the skin off the ginger. Slice ginger into thick slices. I know this may seem tedious but trust me it’s worth it for the rich flavor it produces!

Fill a large pot or Dutch oven with water and boil. With a sharp knife, carve the chicken breast meat off and reserve. Or just marry a butcher. With the rest of chicken whacking hard through the bones to get sections about 3″ big. The more bone that is exposed, the more marrow that gets in the broth (translation: rich, flavorful). You can even whack several places along the bone just to expose more marrow. When the water boils, add chicken sections (not breast) and boil on high for 5 minutes. You’ll see lots of foam and “stuff’ come up to the surface. Drain and wash your pot thoroughly. Refill with about 4 quarts of clean, cold water. (If making vegetarian pho, this step can be skipped and just use vegetable broth or make your own veggie stock) 

Add chicken, chicken breast meat, onion, ginger and all of the broth spices in the pot and cover. Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Prop lid up so that steam can escape. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers when cooled and set aside (you’ll serve shredded chicken breast with the finished soup). With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities in the broth. Skimming every 20 minutes ensures a clear broth. Simmer a total of 1-1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and or sugar.
Strain the broth, discarding solids. Prepare noodles as per directions on package. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soft noodles in each bowl. Have all the table accompaniements at table for each person to add to their bowl based on individual taste. Even though your broth may not be as clear, you can also make this recipe in your crock pot and come home to the delicious aromas of Vietnam!  
 It was PHO yummy! Photastic! Can I have pho mo?! I could do this all day…

We also had some DELICIOUS spring rolls with a to die for peanut sauce but that’s another recipe for another day! 

Kung Pao Goodness 

  This salmon dish is spicy and sweet in all the right ways, super healthy, and according to the butcher, “the best seafood dish he’s ever had”. It’s also easy to make and, gasp, I even measured out my ingredients for you this time! If you’re allergic to peanuts, leave them out. If you’re allergic to salmon, use chicken or beef. If you’re allergic to beef then well, we can’t be friends. Here’s what you’ll need… 
 2 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 heads of broccoli

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1 lb. skinless salmon fillet, cubed

2 tablespoons unsalted peanuts roughly chopped
Now let’s get cooking!

Preheat oven to 375°. On a baking sheet, toss sweet potato chunks with 1/2 tbsp oil. Add cinnamon, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Spread sweet potato chunks in a single layer and bake until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. In a bowl, toss broccoli with 1/2 tbsp oil; season with salt and pepper and toss again. Push sweet potato to one side of sheet and arrange broccoli on other side in a single layer; bake until tender, 10 to 15 minutes more. In a bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, chili flakes and got sauce; set aside. In a pan over high heat, heat 1 tbsp oil; cook salmon, until browned on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer salmon to a plate and set aside; add soy sauce mixture to pan and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat and return salmon to pan along with vegetables; turn gently to coat. Top with peanuts and serve. YUM! It seriously was so delicious, I will definitely be making this again soon. For two people you could definitely cut this in half, I always make extras so we have leftovers for the butcher’s lunch and this made two nice portions of leftovers. To make it even better, I recommend enjoying it on the patio with a glass of wine and the love of your life, that makes any dish fantastic. 

 

pumpkin lovers unite!

It’s fall y’all! And in honor of such, what could be a better recipe to make than pumpkin soup?! I made a huge vat of it recently for a congregation work day and it was a huge hit with lots of recipe requests. So here you go!

IMG_3839.JPG
Beauty & The Butcher’s Cream of Pumpkin Soup

1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 carton chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
(as per usual all of the spice measurements are merely an approximation; feel free to do more or less of what you please especially the cayenne- just taste as you go people, you can do it!)
1 cup heavy whipping cream…this obviously makes the soup creamy, rich, and delicious but if you are anti-dairy (or happiness https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kH1UtGUSvrE ) then you can use a soy milk creamer or leave it just as it is, it’s still yummy. You could use olive oil instead of butter to make it completely vegan) This recipe makes a small pot, I usually always at least double it and in case you’re wondering how to make it for 100 people, just multiply everything by seven!

Directions

Sauté chopped onion in butter in medium pot until translucent. Add half the carton of chicken broth; stir well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.
Transfer broth mixture into the blender and purée until smooth. Make sure you have an oven mitt or potholder over the top of the blender in case of splashing because the liquid will be very hot, I’m speaking from experience here, trust me.
Return mixture to saucepan. Add remaining can of broth, pumpkin, salt, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground pepper; stir well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The “cover” part is very important because the pumpkin likes to pop and otherwise you’ll have little orange splotches all over your kitchen! Again, speaking from experience.
Stir in whipping cream and heat through. Do not boil, it will curdle the cream. This is a great soup to make a ahead and reheat but don’t add the cream until you have reheated it and are ready to serve. Ladle into individual soup bowls and serve, hopefully with grilled cheese!!!