Vegetable and Spirulina Soup

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I don’t know about any one else, but I’m over these colder, rainy Mandeville days and I’m ready for a warm Spring season to take over. That being said, I’m enjoying winter’s veggies in warm, soul comforting soups.

I got inspired on one rainy afternoon while sitting and thinking about my amazing grandfather who passed away in 2016; he would make the most bestest vegetable soup! So I thought I’d remake it my way and add some spirulina I got from my local vegan restaurant, Fancy Fruit here in Mandeville.

As I do with all my recipes, I rely on whatever I see when I walk into my garden and when I open my fridge door and I simply make do with what I have. I had callaloo and pak choi as greens and was hoping for some broccoli to roast and add as well but I’m going to have to get some for next time and trust me, there will be a next time; this soup was sooo good! I also had some potatoes which I added to give the soup some hardiness. Grandpa did his soup with pak choi and callaloo too but he never added potatoes (or spirulina) but as I said, this is my version.

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To make it warm and a bit spicy I added bird chillis, cumin seeds and coriander powder. My seasonings were quite simple, just your regular onion, sweet (bell) pepper, dried parsley leaves and garlic; I sauteed those in my fave organic, cold pressed coconut oil which we keep in this jar we had pickles in.

 

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After a quick saute over medium heat, I added the potatoes and got those a bit brown too before adding the greens and some garlic chili sauce, more salt and pepper and some water. Then it’s time to simmer the soup. I simmered with the lid on for about 10 minutes over medium/low heat; I really just waited for the potatoes to get tender.

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In the mean time I went hunting for goodies from my garden; I found peppermint to freshen up the soup, pumpkin blossoms because I had some beautiful ones in the garden that I knew would be so nice and delicate in the soup, I also found some orange blossoms which are slightly zesty and floral (mmmmm), so nice with the spices in the soup. I used these as garnish.

So when my potatoes got tender and the soup broth tasted just right with all the seasonings and flavours, I added everything to a blender and blended until smooth with some yummy almond milk.

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Then I added the spirulina, which by the way is packed with super vitamins like vitamins B-1, B-2, B-3, B-6 plus more which are all great for immune health, energy, nerve and brain function, organ health etc. and nutrients like iron, magnesium, potassium… just oh my gosh, it’s so packed with a lot of goodies. It’s especially good for vegans who need extra protein ’cause it delivers on the protein!

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With this soup though, I added the salt sparingly since the spirulina which is literally from the sea has this beautiful, natural saltiness to it so I did my final seasoning after I added the spirulina.  I highly recommend you do the same. So after I added the spirulina, I blended the soup again and returned it to the pot over low heat, just to keep it warm.

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I tasted for final seasoning and then I served the soup in bowls and added all my garden goodies on top along with roasted almonds for texture, orange zest for extra zestiness and homemade, chunky tomato sauce, because fresh tomatoes go really well with the soup smile face. I know my Gramps would love it!

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I hope you guys make this yummy soup too to help soothe these last few winter days; you won’t regret it!

Vegetable and Spirulina Soup

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: moderate
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This soup is super soothing, super green and super healthy; perfect for cold, rainy evenings. Enjoy by candle light!

INGREDIENTS

coconut oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bird chilis, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon dried parsley leaves

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

3 small potatoes, diced

4 stalks Callaloo, chopped

6-7 pak choi leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce

4 cups water (or as needed)

1 cup almond milk (or as needed)

1 teaspoon spirulina powder

roasted almonds, as garnish

chopped pumpkin blossoms, as garnish

peppermint, as garnish

orange blossoms, as garnish

orange zest, as garnish

olive oil, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add the oil to a soup pot over medium heat. Add the first onions, garlic, chilis, bell pepper, dried  parsley leaves, cumin seeds and coriander to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes and fry for another 10 minutes. Add the greens and garlic chili sauce and saute a bit longer before adding the water.
  3. Simmer on a medium/low heat for about 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are fully cooked.
  4. Once the potatoes are tender, check the flavour profile. At this point the soup should be earthy, spicy and full of depth. Add a little salt.
  5. Transfer everything to a blender and blend on medium speed until smooth.
  6. Add the almond milk, blend again and lastly the spirulina. Blend just to incorporate.
  7. Transfer back to the pot over low heat, just to keep it warm. Test the flavour to ensure the salt level is good.
  8. Serve in bowls and add the garnishes on top.

I hope you shine today!heart

 

 

 

Okra and Egg Curry with Quinoa

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Christmas dinner for a veggie lover can be a bit daunting; turkey here, chicken there and ham everywhere. What’s there for us to eat?

For me, I like to keep it simple with big, bold flavours; that means Indian. So today I’m sharing one of my favourite Christmas dinner main dishes that’s sure to satisfy both meat and veggie lovers, my Okra and Egg Curry with Quinoa. Oh, and for those who are hosting vegetarian guests this Christmas and are absolutely clueless about what to make, I’ve got you sorted!

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Main ingredient, okra. If you’ve read my blog post about my okra fritters, you’ll know that this is one of my favourite veggies that sadly get a bad rep here in Jamaica for being super slimy and just not appetizing. BUT, okra doesn’t have to be that way at all. It’s actually crunchy and delicious when prepared correctly and has zero slime. Make sure the okras you use are firm, bright, green and of course fresh! I use organic ones that I’ve planted myself but pretty much all the okras here on the island are organically grown, so it’s super easy to get your hands on the good stuff, which is AWESOME!

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For the curry, I use my grandmother’s curry blend which is five star, top notch stuff. I mean, you can’t get the stuff anywhere else; well actually, you could get something pretty similar in May Pen Market in Clarendon so go pick up your own!

When you cook with this curry, you’ll see flecks of the spices coated on whatever you’ve made; the sign of quality. So first step is to saute some onion, garlic and tomatoes in coconut oil and curry. Oh by the way, coconut oil is the way to go for this recipe- remember the rule, if coconuts are grown in the country of the dishes’ origin, use coconut oil!

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I pretty much let this fry ’till the onions are crisp, then I add the sliced okras and season with salt and pepper. You wanna fry this until the okras become a bit crispy too, this helps to eliminate the slime.

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Then it’s time to add water.
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In the mean time I boil my quinoa by simply following the instructions on the package and boil my eggs to hard boil. These just hang out until I’m ready for ’em.

You wanna turn the okras down to medium heat and simmer until the okras are tender but firm and the curry reduces a bit. At this point, cut add the eggs and have them simmer in the curry. The whites will turn bright yellow to almost match the yolks. You want the curry to be thicken but still thin and definitely you need to have enough curry sauce (gravy) to spoon over the quinoa.

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I like to finish with a squeeze of lime after I shut the heat off. I stir, readjust my seasoning and serve over quinoa.

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The slightly spicy curry is the perfect warming sensation for this colder weather and is a great additional to any Christmas dinner menu; your veggie friends will love you for it!!

Okra and Egg Curry with Quinoa

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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This Christmas dinner entree is one for the veggie lovers and just perfect for this cold Winter climate.

INGREDIENTS

24 okras, sliced

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (preferably from May Pen Market or your Indian grandmother)

salt and pepper, to taste

coconut oil

1/2-2/3 cups water

2 eggs, hard boiled

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked (follow instruction on package)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To a dutch pot or kadai, add a few tablespoons of coconut oil and 1 teaspoon of the curry powder.
  2. Allow this to get hot but do not burn the spices. Add the onions, garlic and tomatoes.
  3. Fry these until the onions are crispy.
  4. At this point, add the okras and season with salt, pepper and the remainder of the curry powder.
  5. Saute these on high heat, this helps to eliminate the slime. I wait until a crust forms on the okra as a result of the spices and seasonings.
  6. Add the water and lower the heat to medium and simmer with the lid off.
  7. Let the curry reduce a bit for about 5 minutes and add the, sliced, cooked eggs.
  8. Reduce for another 5-7 minutes. The okras should be cooked but firm (and not slimy).
  9. Shut off the heat and add a squeeze of lime. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
  10. To serve, spoon some quinoa on a plate and pile the okra and egg curry on top. You can also mix the quinoa with the curry to make a okra quinoa bowl.

 

 

 

Thai-Style Pasta Curry

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Sundays are the day when I love to go all out in the kitchen, I have so much time to experiment, mix and match and whip up one of those everything but the kitchen sink recipes; last Sunday wasn’t one of those Sundays. I was so wiped out from adventuring the day before that all I could manage to do was make something simple and comforting.

Enter my Thai-Style Pasta Curry. I crafted this recipe out of my love for pasta and Thai-style curry (by the way, that curry gets mixed with pretty much everything in my kitchen so pasta is just one of many accompaniments to this curry). This recipe is super easy to follow and will make a great weeknight meal! So without further adieu, let’s get into it.

Lemongrass. Oh lemongrass. One of my favourite ingredients, especially in Thai foods. In Jamaica you can actually find lemongrass growing wild in one large patch; we often use it here to make teas but I love cooking with it! Gordon has a huge patch growing at his house and he has been my supplier whenever I’m in need of lemongrass.

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But honestly, all the ingredients in this curry work beautifully together and are pretty much on an equal level; I also added turmeric, onion, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, ginger, bird peppers (tiny chilis that pack a serious punch) and coconut milk that makes everything harmonize on your palate.

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I used my favourite kitchen tool, my pestle and mortar to smash all my ingredients together (besides my coconut milk and lemongrass) to make a paste. Once I had it all smooth and pastey, I added fresh, cut tomatoes and smashed the paste some more.

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Then I took it all over to a heated pan with coconut oil. This goes pretty quickly from here! I sauteed the paste over medium heat until the liquid in the paste reduces.

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You might wanna add a bit more oil to the pan before the next step of adding more onions and garlic. Fresh garlic and onion adds to the texture contrast of the curry and I just love biting into sweet sauteed onions!

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At this point you wanna boil your pasta. I used farfalle pasta but any short, medium cut pasta will do. You wanna cook your pasta a little under done only because you’ll be finishing it off in the curry but you have to watch for ‘cooked’ pasta that’s too raw since we won’t be cooking it in the pasta for too long; so cook the pasta until a little shy of al dente or ‘to the tooth’.

Once the onions and garlic are sauteed and slightly browned, I added the coconut milk and a pinch of salt for seasoning along with the lemon grass. On low heat I let this simmer until all the flavours come together; this can take up to 15-20 minutes. At this point I check the flavour every 5 minutes or so and season as needed.

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Once the curry is done I added the pasta and tossed it in the curry before adding a bunch of chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and lime zest.

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I finished the dish with a few coriander leaves and sat down to a quiet Sunday dinner.

The best part about this recipe is that the sauce can be made before hand and stored in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezers for 1-2 weeks. All you’d need to do is add the pasta and heat!

If you end up whipping this up, drop a comment and let me know how it turned out!

Thai-Style Pasta Curry

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

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This is an easy to follow recipe that’s great for weekdays!

INGREDIENTS

4 cups short, medium cut pasta

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 small onion

1 knob ginger

2-3 bird pepper or chilis

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 medium tomatoes, diced

coconut oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups coconut milk

salt and pepper, to taste

2-3 stalks lemongrass, smashed

1 bunch coriander leaves, plus more for garnishing

1 lime, zested

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Chop the onion and ginger and place them in a pestle and mortar.
  2. Add the spices and chilis to them and smash everything to a smooth paste.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes and smash some more.
  4. In a heated pan over medium heat, add coconut oil and heat.
  5. Saute the paste in the oil for about 10 minutes or until the liquid reduces.
  6. Add a bit more oil and saute the 1/2 onion with the two cloves of garlic. Allow them to get slightly browned.
  7. Cook pasta a little under done.
  8. Pour in the coconut milk and stir the curry. Add lemongrass and salt to taste and lower heat. Cook for about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Once the curry has reduced, add the cooked pasta and toss it in the curry, coating all the pasta continue to cook the pasta in the sauce for about 5 minutes.
  10. Turn off the heat and add freshly chopped coriander leaves and lime zest.
  11. Toss the pasta again.
  12. Serve hot with more coriander leaves. Enjoy!

I hope you shine today!heart

 

 

 

 

Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Cherries

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It’s that time again when I post something special for the meat-eaters that’s still healthy and super delicious! Today that recipe is my Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Cherries.

I know some of my followers and readers or even those who might have spotted my blog on one or two occasion would assume that I am vegan… but, I’m not. I simply cook food that I love eating and it just so happens that that means lots of veggie-centric dishes that are yummy and healthy. That being said, there are some meats that you won’t see popping up on my blog because I don’t really eat them; I am a huge foodie though so if I’m in Japan with some high quality Wagyu beef in front of me, I wouldn’t leave without having a taste. In any case, my top priority is eating well and eating healthy; no frills, no trend following, no pretension. So now that we’re all on the same page let’s move on to the recipe!

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For this recipe I got my hands on some farm raised, organic chicken from my mom’s friend who raises these birds as a healthy source of protein, that means no hormones, way less fat on the meat itself and well, quite honestly, it also means you’re eating chickens that chow down on worms ever so often; you can skip ahead if you’re grossed out but keep in mind that this is what you get when you wanna go for organic. Essentially it makes for really good meat, so I personally couldn’t care less.

I used the bottom half of my chicken for this recipe, that’s just the legs and highs in one whole piece. I made sure to trim away any fat beneath the skin and on the back section of the chicken part, then I scored the skin to help get it crispy in the oven! My bird went with my organic, freshly picked rosemary which I’ve featured several times on my blog and I rubbed the scored flesh with salt and pepper before scattering the rosemary all over the chicken. I got my bird into the oven, near the top rack and let it roast on high.

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But let’s backtrack a bit because I’ve been telling this story in reverse. First, I made the cherry ‘topping’, if you will. It’s not a sauce or jam, not really a chutney either although it could be called that; yeah, lets go with chutney then. So I made the cherry chutney with cherries from my grammy’s tree which guys, has been there since before I was a tot, I mean, I pretty much grew up under this tree and here I am today still eating it’s fruit. So grateful for all the fruits this beast of a tree keeps giving! My strong and amazing grampy used to be the one who’d pick bags full of these cherries for me during this season and I’d make all sorts of foods and drinks from them; he’d stand on a makeshift chair and reach into the high branches for the cherries, he’d package them and then bring them to my house for me. Since he’s no longer here, I’ve taken his place as cherry picker (and well, my brother too when he’s here and we both use grampy’s chair).

So the cherry chutney is incredibly easy. I remove the flesh from the seeds first, making sure to leave the flesh in large pieces; this can take a little while but if you work fast it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. Squeeze the juices from the seeds back into the bowl with the cherries, you wanna gather up all the juice you can muster from those seeds. Then in a sauce pan, I added the de-seeded cherries with the juice, some rum and honey and turned the heat up to medium. I let this reduce slowly until it’s reduced in size but still has a good amount of that liquid left behind. Then I add some cornstarch and let it cook for 5 more minutes. It’ll be thick but easily spreadable. I love the tangy cherries with a bit of sweetness from the honey with the earthiness of the rosemary and the crispy, savoury chicken!

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This dish would be great for date night because it’s so simple yet it has the taste and look of a dish you could find in an upscale restaurant.

So when my chicken has gotten crispy and is just a few minutes shy of perfectly cooked, I slid it out and slathered my cherry chutney on top, then back into the oven until completely cooked. The cherries bake into the skin and become like the skin of the chicken itself!

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I love the cherries with the rosemary so much that I added some rosemary to my leftover cherries and had it on some really good toasted bread; delicious!!!

I had my Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Cherries with some baked sweet potatoes which I dressed up with some herby olive oil. I also splashed some plain, tangy yogurt on top but that’s optional; I love tang so I always go over board with the yogurt and the lime! Haha.

So that’s it guys! An easy non-vegan meal that’s still healthy and can work as dinner on the weekends or for a special night with your special someone.

Check out the recipe below!

Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Cherries

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

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Tangy and sweet cherries paired with rosemary make this dish a unique and super tasty one that’s still healthy!

INGREDIENTS

4 cups cherries, de-seeded (with juice)

1 tablespoon white overproof rum (Jamaican preferably but any rum will do the trick)

1 tablespoon honey (more if you want it sweeter)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 chicken, bottom half of legs and thighs

Salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

1-1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large sprig of rosemary

yogurt or lime (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Add the cherries with the juices to a sauce pan with the rum and honey over medium heat. Cook until the juices reduce and the cherry flavour becomes deeper.
  3. Add the cornstarch at this stage, stir and cook for another 5 minutes. The chutney should be spreadable but thick. If it’s too thick, add some water.
  4. While the cherries reduce, start on the chicken by removing any fat and scoring the chicken skin.
  5. Season with the salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary.
  6. Pop it into the oven on a shelf close to the top. Roast for 30-35 minutes until the skin becomes super crispy. Make sure the chicken is almost done but not quite; use a thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 155°F to 160°F.
  7. Remove from the oven and slather the cherry chutney over top.
  8. Put the chicken back into the over for another 5-10 minutes. It will be done at 165°F. If you are an experienced cook, you will be able to look at the chicken and know exactly when it is done, no thermometer needed.
  9. Plate with sweet potatoes and a splash of yogurt or lime.

I hope you shine today!heart

 

 

 

Creamy Vegetable Pasta

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If you’re looking for a quick weekday meals or a simple date night pasta dish, look no further!

My Creamy Vegetable Pasta is delicious, creamy, ‘vegeful’, healthy, super filling and very easy to make. This is actually my go-to pasta recipe on days when I want comfort food fast! And the best part is that you get your sinfully creamy sauce without all the calories associated with the typical creamy pasta.

So the steps to make this pasta are:

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Step 1. Gather fresh callaloo from your garden or the market/supermarket. Make sure it isn’t pre-chopped.

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Step 2. Grab some fresh, green escallion (red root is the best, that’s the one with the purple stems).

Step 3. Choose a firm, fresh carrot with a bright orange skin, chances are those will be the juiciest.

Step 4. Pick up some corn from the market or store or if you’re lucky, from your back yard. Make sure it’s fresh and juicy- test it by tasting a kernel. I added some of the corn silk to my pasta to add more corn flavour.

Step 5. Get a fresh red bell pepper, onion and garlic.

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Step 6. Chop, slice and dice everything into the same size as the pasta you’re using. I used penne pasta.

Step 7. Choose a pasta that your creamy sauce can cling to easily. I like biting into penne pasta filled with sauce but alternatives are macaroni, fusilli, rigatoni or farfalle, just to name a few. If you eat gluten free, choose gluten free pasta, otherwise, go for whole wheat pasta or a plant based kind. Cook the pasta to al dente- that just means you want it firm but cooked, not mushy.

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Step 8. Crack open a dried coconut and extract the milk or use a tin of coconut milk. I prefer torturing myself so as long as I have coconuts laying around, I pull the flesh from the shell then grate or blend to extract the milk. If you do this by hand too, an easy way to extract the meat from the coconut shell is to simply heat it in a warm oven or toaster oven and let it cool, as it cools, the meat pulls away from the shell and it becomes rather easy to scoop it out with a spoon. To cool it down fast you can actually pop it into your freezer for a couple minutes.

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Step 7. Saute all the veggies, except the callaloo leaves, until they are a bit browned. Then add the callaloo and toss just until it wilts a bit. I love spices, so I added some paprika and chilli pepper to my greens as they wilted. Oh and season with salt and pepper.

Step 8. Add the coconut milk and watch it sizzle in the pan, that’s my favourite part! Toss in the pasta and coat it with all the milk. You wanna simmer on medium until the sauce thickens up a bit and when it does, shut off the heat and add thyme leaves. Then adjust your seasoning.

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Check out the creamy-ability on this one! 

And that’s it! Super simple right and trust me you’re getting such a great flavour pay-off for such a quick meal. You’ll keep going back to this one time and time again!

Check out the full recipe below!

Creamy Vegetable Pasta

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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A great weeknight meal or a simple date night pasta dinner. This one, you’ll make over and over.

INGREDIENTS

water for boiling pasta

3 – 3 1/2 cups penne pasta

Salt, as needed

coconut oil

3 heavy stalks of callaloo, leaves removed

1 medium carrot, sliced

1/2 corn, kernels removed

1 medium red bell pepper, sliced

2 stalks escallion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 teaspoon paprika, extra for garnish

1 teaspoon chilli powder

salt and pepper, to taste

1 1/2 coconut milk

4 sprigs fresh thyme, extra for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Over medium heat, bring water to a boil and add enough salt so the water taste salty but not too salty. Add the pasta and cook to al dente.
  2. In a pan over medium heat, add coconut oil and saute all the vegetables, except the callaloo leaves. Get them browned, but not burnt! You wanna keep them a bit crunchy too.
  3. Add the callaloo and the paprika and chilli powder. Toss and allow the callaloo to wilt a bit. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour in the coconut milk and add the cooked pasta. Toss to coat the pasta.
  5. Simmer on medium/high to reduce the sauce. Shut off the heat when it’s thickened enough and add fresh thyme leaves. Add salt and pepper, if needed.
  6. Garnish with paprika and thyme sprigs.

I hope you shine today!heart

 

 

 

 

Chicken and Mushroom Stew

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Yesterday’s dinner was chicken. Yes I eat chicken, not a whole lot but sometimes I do. This was just something I threw together on a whim after a long day of work; unfortunately the picture of the finished dish suffered from a lighting deficiency since hurricane Irma left the afternoon gloomy and super overcast. No worries though, the picture does not speak to just how fantastically delicious this meal was.

Mushrooms are a unique fungi that soak up any flavour you add them to; this is why they are such an amazing ingredient to work with and they can be added to just about anything or cooked up on their own. I look forward to mushrooms being grown here in Jamaica so I can have access to fresh mushrooms all the time and of course grow my own.

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Red onions are at the base of this dish and add a hint of sweetness since I caramelize them to a soft, sweet jam-like consistency. I deglazed the pan with some cognac, which is just a fancy way of saying I used some cognac to help scrape all the good stuff off the bottom of the pan (feel free to use any sweet wine or alcohol you like!). I let that reduce a bit to cook off the alcohol and then added some sweet peppers (bell peppers). I used yellow ones because they have a sweet, delicate flavour and are so juicy! I mean, juices actually flew when I cut into them. I added the sliced mushrooms, seasoned the stew and let it simmer on low.

For the chicken, I marinated it in a herby blend of seasonings, mainly escallion from the garden and organic honey that I got from my aunt.

 

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And grilled them to seal in all that flavour. Into the stew they went and everything simmered until super tender.

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I was lucky to get my sweet pepper bounty from my grandmother’s in all different colours and all my herbs for the marinade came from my garden… All organic!

The depth of flavour in this stew is insane. Its rich and delicate at the same time. The mushrooms hold a lot of the juices and when you bite into them, all the flavours shoot out like missiles.

I garnished with a squeeze of lime and cilantro to brighten it all up and had it with some cauliflower rice.

This isn’t really a quick meal but the flavour payoff is crazy.

Try out the recipe! Click here and drop a comment below, let me know how you like it!

I hope you shine today!heart

 

Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Cauliflower “Cheese” Sauce

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So it’s dinner time and you’re just not in the mood for an eternity in the kitchen. I know exactly how you feel and on those days I wanna whip up something real fast but still keep it clean and healthy. Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potatoes always save the day!

First off, let me note that Jamaican or Caribbean sweet potatoes are a different variety from the North American ones. The major differences are the texture and colour. Our Jamaican variety is firm when baked and even boiled and the colour ranges from an off whitish hue to ones with dark purplish stands running through. Some are sweeter than others but all are yummy so feel free to use whichever sweet potato you like!

The best part about this recipe is the freedom you have to stuff it with whatever veges you’re into. The adventurous home cook or foodie will have fun stuffing this with different vege combos and there’s just no way you can go wrong with the flavour of sweet potatoes and some good veges.

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I stuffed these with carrots, beets, tomato, apple, zucchini, kale and sweet peppers (bell peppers). My sweet peppers aren’t perfect but they were picked fresh from my grandmother’s and they’ve got little spots of imperfection where small worms were snacking. Sometimes you have to share if you want organic (haha).

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I topped all that with a cauliflower “cheese” that I made by simple roasting some cauliflower florets and blending them till smooth with a bit of nut milk. Mmm mmm, so good!

All my veges got a quick saute in a pan, just to soften them up but not so much that they weren’t still a bit crisp (my mom loves veges with crunch). I started with onion, carrots and apple to ‘season’ the pan, as I call it. Then I added the rest of veges in batches.

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By the way, I also added some leftover quinoa I had in the refrigerator so you can add it or not… As I said before, this stuff isn’t affordable to most Jamaicans so no pressure.

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It all looked like a tasty salad after I was done and I had to keep myself from chowing down on it by itself.

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I baked my potatoes from earlier on so once I cooked my veges and got my ‘cheese’ sauce ready, I fired up the oven to get it nicely preheat, cut the potatoes in half and scooped out some of the middle. I always keep the middles for potato croquettes or a quick mashed sweet potato. I stuff the potatoes with the veges and add the ‘cheese’ on top; you can add a little ‘cheese’…

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Or a lot.

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It all gets sprinkled with breadcrumbs which is optional and into the broiler section of the oven it goes to get brown and crisp on top. If you have leftover baked sweet potatoes from the day before, you’re gonna want to pop them in the oven for a bit after you scoop out the middle.

This recipe is all about clean and simple flavours. It’s low low in fat and high high in vitamins and nutrients; little oil and tons of veges. And man oh man is it tasty!

Try it out tonight! Click here to get the recipe.

I hope you shine today!heart

 

Garlicy Chickpea Falafel Wraps

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If you’re into light dinners like my mom and I, then this recipe is for you.

Falafel is one of my favourite Middle Eastern foods and I have it with quinoa, with hummus, on its own or in a sandwich or wrap. Today’s dinner was a healthy, garlicy, yummy Falafel Wrap! I made extra falafels that my mom and I can munch on tomorrow since we’ll be on the road all day; they store great in the refrigerator or freezer and are an easy finger food. This wrap is a ‘one hander’ (can be eaten with one hand) so if you’re on the go or travelling like we are, go ahead and make this up and you’ll have yourself a healthy meal for the road.

I must admit that I usually never bake the falafels in this recipe, I much prefer the serious crunch I get from frying them. You gotta experience this crunch too! Oh and if you love garlic like my brother and I do, you have to try this recipe tonight! I added 6 medium cloves of garlic so this is basically a chickpea garlic falafel, but if you don’t like garlic like we do, you can cut it down to as low as 1 clove of garlic… It’ll still be yum.

I keep this recipe pretty traditional with Middle Eastern spices but I throw in some Jamaican touches as well; sometimes I add escallion (green onions), thyme, rosemary or some other Jamaican herb or seasoning. This time around I used partially dried thyme, that I had drying at home but only because I couldn’t find my dried rosemary. The thyme allowed the garlic to shine but the rosemary will stand up to it and the two will have a dance party in your mouth. If you’ve got dried rosemary you should use it but don’t get me wrong, the thyme works great as well… so does the escallion.

So the spices are the usual falafel suspects, you’ve got cumin, dried oregano (which is actually a herb but what the heck), paprika and cayenne pepper.

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I added just enough cayenne pepper to give the falafels a slight heat because my mom is not a fan of spicy. you can add as much as you like and I reckon it’ll be good with the garlic. The assembly goes pretty quickly, I just put all the spices/herbs and seasonings (onion and garlic), an egg, some bread crumbs, salt and the chickpeas to a blender or a food processor and pulsed to get a wet, but not too wet mixture that comes together and stays together in a ball but still has chunks of onion, chickpeas and so on.

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I shaped them into flat rounds and got them frying in a pan.

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You wanna flip them only when you see them turning brown around the edges, if you turn them too quickly, you won’t get that crunch. The crunch is very important.

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After they are fried. Lay them on a cooling rack, not on paper towels because again, you wont get that crunch; they’ll just steam on the bottom if you use paper towels… and the crunch is very important.

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For condiments, I went pretty simple with a quick and easy homemade tzatziki sauce, chili sauce, lettuce leaves, small tomatoes which were some of the sweetest I’ve ever had! There’s just something about tomatoes that are grown with little human interaction and are left to grow among the weeds.

And I garnished with some cilantro.

Oh and check out this guy I found hanging off a tomato plant; I used cucumbers in the tzatziki sauce and found them especially flavourful and juicy! Fresh ingredients is always the way to go!

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I added the chili sauce to my wrap because I like it spicy but also put some on the side in case my mom was feeling a bit adventurous. You can do the same for yourself or your friends and family who may not be keen on spicy. The tzatziki sauce can go on the side as well if you’ve got vegans around or it can be substituted with a dairy free option like avocado mayo or vegan mayo.

For the flat bread, I used store brought but I usually make my own whole wheat pita breads which are so much better! Buy or make gluten free, gluten full, tortillas, rotis or whatever kind of flat bread you desire, they’ll all work with this recipe.

Wanna make this for dinner or lunch? Click here for the recipe.

Drop me a comment! I’d love to know what you think of this one.

I hope you shine today!heart

 

 

 

 

Kale and Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Thyme Balsamic Dressing

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I’m still riding the kale wave!

There was no way I was going to let that beautiful bunch of fresh, leftover kale from yesterday’s recipe sit in the refrigerator today. Nope. I made myself and my family some kale and roasted pumpkin salad with thyme balsamic dressing; healthy, delicious and absolutely seasonal.

Salad is one thing I make well, I love a good salad and so does my mom so to us a well made salad is a treat! Some may think that salads are the ABCs of cooking and little effort is needed in order to have a great salad and it is true that they are easy to make but it’s pretty important to put effort into getting really good ingredients. Think about it, a salad is almost always a fresh, uncooked meal with or without cooked elements, that means your greens and veges better be on point!

If you’ve read my previous blog, you’ll know I picked up my kale from the supermarket and made sure it was fresh. Search for kale at farmer’s markets or from farmers in your area. Make sure the leaves are dark and bright coloured, not yellow and limp. There are a few different varieties of kale here on the island, any will work great for this recipe. The kale is the backbone of this salad so make sure it’s the best kale you can find. Oh, and you’ll need to massage your kale with a tablespoon of the dressing.

Here in Jamaica you can actually get pumpkin all year round, I mean they practically grow like weeds, even on sidewalks but they seem to be in their prime in autumn so there’s just no better time to eat some pumpkin. I love roasted pumpkin! Especially when it is well seasoned and a bit charred! Roasting pumpkin brings out an underlined sweet flavour that you just can’t get if you boil, saute, fry or do really anything else to it. It was made for roasting.

To make sure your pumpkin is perfect, just ask your Jamaican grandmother to pick out the right one (they always seem to know the ‘good’ pumpkins by just looking), but if you don’t have a Jamaican grandmother, choose a firm but fit pumpkin that has a beautiful deep yellow orange colour; test the colour and ‘fitness’ by chipping a small piece of the skin away, if it chips off without too much effort and has a good, bright colour, it is the pumpkin for you.

Kale and roasted pumpkin weren’t the only ingredients in this salad; I also added corn because it also is made for roasting. I roasted mine on the stove top over direct fire, it made for smoky, soft kernels that went great with the kale. Of course, you can grill your corn as well but I went the easier route cause salads are easy right.

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Our corn came from our neighbour who has the huge farm and they were a small variety but still yummers. When you are picking out corn for this salad, choose the firm ones that are still soft. They’ll give you the best texture.

Toasted pumpkin seeds were just a ‘no brainer’ for this salad; I had pumpkin and I had the seeds from that pumpkin, it seemed only logical to add them to this salad. I did a half and half, half whole pumpkin seeds and half shelled. I thought that the difference in texture and taste would be interested and it certainly showed how the same ingredient can taste and feel different. I added a few other elements to this salad like red bell peppers (sweet peppers) which were super fresh and sweet.

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Quinoa, which I felt like adding just for some extra vitamins and protein is not affordable for the average Jamaican so don’t feel obligated to go out and get it. Eliminate it completely or substitute it with something else. That being said, if you can get your hands on some, add it, it’s one of those magic foods and is actually considered to be a complete protein which is huge for those plant based foods.

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Be careful not to overload your salad with condiments, when you think that’s just the right amount of corn or quinoa, take some out cause it’s probably too much. Too many condiments leaves your salad unbalanced in flavour and texture.

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The dressing makes this salad. It’s thyme+honey+balsamic vinegar+salt and pepper+extra virgin olive oil; it equals to a dressing you wanna gulp down like it’s lemonade on a hot summer day. I muddled the thyme and salt together in my trusty pestle and mortar, squeezed in the honey, mixed that, then added the vinegar and pepper, mixed it up and really went to town mixing while I poured the oil in. It was thick, sweet, tangy, mind-boggling good, should I go on? You get the idea. Although this dressing is the bomb diggity, don’t drench your salad in it unless you want soggy kale and un-crisped veges.

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Fresh ingredients= great salad. Follow my tips and you’ll be on your way to having the best salad of your life! If you want the recipe for this Kale and Roasted Pumpkin Salad with thyme balsamic dressing, scroll down.

And don’t be shy, drop me a comment if you like this recipe or tried out this salad.

Kale and Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Thyme Balsamic Dressing

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

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A great dinner salad, packed with vitamins and protein and yes, it’s so yum!

 

INGREDIENTS

4.4 oz pumpkin, sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

Extra virgin olive oil

1 corn on the cob, roasted or grilled

1 cup cooked quinoa (see package for cooking instructions)

1 1/2 tablespoons unshelled pumpkin seeds, toasted

1 1/2 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted

1 medium red bell pepper (sweet pepper), sliced

1/4 cup raisins

8.5 oz kale, washed and torn into pieces (just the leaves)

Dressing

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

a pinch of salt

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

a little shy of 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt, as needed

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a bowl sprinkle the sliced pumpkin with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss.
  3. In a parchment paper lined sheet pan, lay out the pumpkin slices and roast until the pumpkin is soft and a bit charred. Set aside.
  4. Cut the kernels off the roasted corn and set aside.
  5. Remove thyme leaves and discard stems.
  6. Make the dressing by adding all ingredients to a blender and blending until thick, it’s done when no oil sits on top. Or muddle the thyme and salt using a pestle a mortar, add the honey and mix. Then pour in the balsamic vinegar and the black pepper, mix and start pouring the oil in slowly (while still mixing) to form an emulsion (fats and liquids coming together). When the dressing is thick and the oil is blended in, taste and season with salt as needed.
  7. Pour 1 tablespoon of dressing over the kale in a bowl. Massage the dressing into the kale until the kale turns bright green and feels a bit soft.
  8. Add all ingredients to the bowl with the kale and toss. Pour dressing as desired.
  9. Enjoy!

I hope you shine today!heart

 

Thai Inspired Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

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I’ve had an obsession with Thai food ever since I discovered the cuisine years ago. The flavour profile is notoriously sour and sweet and boy is it spicy! Thai food, the way it is prepared, how the country’s natural fruits, foods and animals are used, shows just how much history the cuisine has. Thai food almost seems like an experience in itself; one of those meals you eat and are immediately transported to a matriarch’s kitchen in the Thailand countryside.

I have been playing around with Thai flavours for a while now and I have so much respect for the cuisine. Its intricacy is one I want to get to know more and more and one day I’ll do so in the motherland herself!

One of my absolute favourite dishes is the green papaya salad. Traditional green papaya salad is salty, spicy and a bit sweet. They add fish sauce and sometimes dried shrimp for the salty, chilis for the spicy and sugar for the sweet. Of course no Thai dish seems to be complete without a few leaves of Thai basil so that’s thrown in there as well. My recipe isn’t traditional though; I have no choice but to use what Jamaica has to offer and well, what I’ve got in my garden! I also do a bit of a ‘switcharoo’ because the papayas I use are never completely green although I have some perfectly green papayas on the tree.

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I usually make this salad with the traditional green beans (string beans) but this time I went with an assortment of other vegetables.

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I started out by making a paste with the chili, garlic, salt and toasted almonds (peanuts are traditional but I’m allergic to the stuff) and the smell coming from the paste was unbelievable. It gets me excited about what I’ll be eating every time I make it! Making the paste is best done with a pestle and mortar, if you don’t have one, you seriously need to get one (it works magic in the kitchen) but in the mean time, mash the ingredients with a smooth rock wrapped in foil, until you get a paste.

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To the paste I added fish sauce (you can use vegan fish sauce if you desire), lime juice and honey (the sugar replacer). I let that hang out for a bit so the flavours can chat and get friendly.

I cut all the veges julienne in thin, long strips and tossed them with the salad then garnished with mint since I’ve got no Thai basil (in fact I’ve never seen it here before) and sat down to a light yet super flavour-packed meal. I must say, fish sauce has such a strong, deep taste and smell that when you are first working with it you might want to throw it out thinking it’s totally off. It’s not. It just smells really… pungent! Don’t worry though, it doesn’t taste that way, just trust in the beauty of Thai food and pour that fish sauce in!

I have this salad on its own but I’m thinking seafood would be a perfect accompaniment, some seared fish or grilled shrimp perhaps! If you wanna go super traditional, you can have it with sticky rice! No matter how you pair it though and even if you don’t, its a winner salad that’s sure to satisfy.

Try out the recipe below. Leave me a comment, let me know if you like it!

Thai Inspired Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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This salad is light but packs a punch in the flavour department. It’s great as an appetizer but I enjoy it for lunch and dinner too!

INGREDIENTS

The dressing

2 cloves garlic

1 chili pepper or one bird pepper (I used the bird pepper)

2 tablespoons toasted almonds or peanuts (I used sliced almonds because that’s what I had in my pantry)

1 teaspoon salt

2 limes (one for garnish)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon fish sauce

The salad

1 green papaya (or slightly ripe, if you want that added sweetness)

1 medium carrot

1/2 of a medium red bell pepper

1/2 of a medium green bell pepper

2 medium tomatoes

mint, chopped (Thai basil, if you can find it)

extra toasted almonds or peanuts, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a pestle and mortar, smash the garlic, chili, almond and salt into a paste. Add the juice of 1 lime, the honey and the fish sauce. Mix it together and set aside.
  2. Slice all the vegetables (except tomatoes) thinly, lengthwise then cut into thin strips. Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise.
  3. In a bowl add the vegetables and pour over the dressing. Toss it to ensure all vegetables are coated with dressing.
  4. Plate by mounting the salad high and garnishing with chopped mint and toasted almonds.
  5. Serve with extra chilis and lime. Enjoy!

I hope you shine today!heart