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Chana Saag with Kale

February 11, 2014


One of my favorite traditions at work is our monthly cookbook club. It’s so fun to select a book, pick a recipe and get together with a bunch of other people who love to cook and discuss what we liked and didn’t like about said book. Sometimes it’s an incredibly successful cookbook club, sometimes it’s only okay.  But that’s the point, right? It’s so rare that I get a chance to make more than one or two recipes out of any given cookbook, so getting to taste 10 to 15 recipes at once really gives a feel for what the book is about and the quality of the recipes.

Our most recent selection was Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The book is entirely vegan but the part that really knocked my socks off was the fact that I feel I could serve these recipes at a dinner party to vegans and non vegans alike. The recipes were warm and comforting and incredibly filling. Although there is a fair amount of chopping and slicing and dicing involved in all the recipes, they were all fairly easy to prepare and didn’t require many specialty ingredients. Bonus: I don’t think “vegan cheese” or “vegan meat” was used once!

I left cookbook club this month feeling like I had eaten Thanksgiving dinner, though I didn’t feel weighed down or gross (albeit a little too full) like I sometimes do over the holidays. The food was nourishing, light and hearty all at once, and I fell in love with Isa’s casual and funny way of writing a cookbook.

The Chana Saag with Kale that I made for cookbook club was universally one of the favorite dishes that was prepared, and I couldn’t wait to make it again in my own kitchen to share with you. I tweaked the recipe slightly, mainly by adding more kale and slightly different spices to suit my tastes, but the recipe is incredibly forgiving and easy to adapt based on what you have on hand. However, I would strongly suggest not leaving out the lime juice, because the hit of tangy citrus really brings this dish together.

Chana Saag with Kale
This recipe is adapted from a recipe of the same name from Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I fell in love with Isa's version, which calls for kale instead of the more traditional spinach. Kale is heartier and holds up better, which is important for leftovers. Since this makes a lot, there are bound to be leftovers! I like this dish heavy on the kale, but feel free to use less if you aren't a huge fan of kale.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt (plus more to taste at the end)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, more or less depending on desired heat
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) light coconut milk
  • 8 cups chopped kale
  • Juice from 1 lime
  1. In large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned and softened. In small bowl, combine curry powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, garam masala, turmeric and cayenne. Add spice mixture to onions and cook 1 minute more to toast the spices.
  2. Add in the juice from the tomatoes to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot. Add the chickpeas to the pot along with the tomatoes. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once.
  3. Add in the coconut milk and heat through.
  4. Add the kale and cook 5 minutes more or until kale is cooked and softened slightly.





Peanut Butter Chia Breakfast Pudding

February 10, 2014


Let’s talk about breakfast. It is, after all, the most important meal of the day, but you already know that, don’t you? I’m always amazed at how many people don’t eat breakfast. Maybe that’s because I go to bed each night thinking about what I’m going to eat each morning for breakfast.

Breakfast gets your ready for the day and prepares you for whatever challenges you may face. Take, for example, when I put too much shredded beef down the disposal all at once on Saturday and it led to a major clog in our basement drain when all the beef tried to go down the pipe at once. Yeah, can you imagine how happy my husband was about that? I imagine he’ll be even less pleased when we get the plumber’s bill today. Thankfully. I had a large, healthy breakfast to keep the hangry (hangry = hungry + angry) at bay while dealing with said plumbing issues.

Since we haven’t been able to use the sink in our kitchen, cooking has been reduced to zero this weekend. We’ve been eating down leftovers from our fridge and freezer and using paper plates, bowls and silverware. This chia pudding has also been on rotation since it doesn’t require a pot/pan to prepare and is incredibly filling. It makes you feel like you can take on the world and fix all the plumbing issues. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but you get the idea.


If you’re new to the chia pudding game, don’t be afraid of their less than stellar appearance. The chia seeds plump up as they sit in liquid like milk, water or yogurt, taking on a gel-like consistency similar to tapioca. Chia seeds are packed with fiber, omega-3s and calcium, among other things. Plus, when you’re eating them you just feel super healthy. That’s got to count for something, right?

Since a lot of people (including me) are interested in nutrition when it comes to breakfast recipes, I did a rough calculation of the nutrition information in this recipe, not including the bananas or dark chocolate chips and assuming you’re using stevia instead of brown sugar.

Peanut Butter Chia Breakfast Pudding
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
Creamy chia pudding made with almond milk and peanut butter is the perfect breakfast when topped with sliced bananas and dark chocolate chips for a bit of decadence.
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon creamy natural peanut butter
  • 1 packet stevia or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Toppings such as sliced bananas or dark chocolate chips
  1. In small bowl, stir together the almond milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, stevia, vanilla and cinnamon until well combined. Continue to stir for 1 minute longer.
  2. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) until the chia seeds are plumped and mixture is thick. Top with banana slices and dark chocolate chips before serving.

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Apple Pie Almond Meal Pancakes

January 19, 2014

Is there anything better than weekend breakfasts? Joe and I make a point to eat breakfast together almost every morning. We’re even the crazy people who wake up an extra hour earlier than we need to because we want time to drink coffee, eat breakfast, talk and watch a little morning news. Weekend breakfasts, however, are an entirely different thing. We have time to wake up a little later and still soak up a few hours together, drinking cups and cups of coffee and lounging around in our pajamas, playing with the pups.

During the weekdays we stick to our routine of oatmeal or oat bran for ease, taste and convenience. But on the weekends, we get a little more creative. Eggs, bacon and homemade biscuits are a favorite, homemade pancakes, yogurt bowls with chia seeds and berries and plenty of drippy almond butter.

Although I love pancakes first thing in the morning, particularly of the whole grain variety, I don’t love the fact that they leave me hungry only a couple hours later. Almond meal pancakes, I’ve found, keep me full much longer probably due to the fact that they contain protein.

For a while now, I’ve been making a quick “apple pie” mixture by mixing apple slices, a little brown sugar and butter, cinnamon and flour and microwaving the mixture for a couple minutes until soft and delicious. It’s amazing how much it tastes like apple pie and satisfying dessert cravings without totally blowing the rest of your day. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that combining this apple mixture with almond meal pancakes would create a breakfast nirvana, but I’m glad I finally did!

If you’re looking for a slightly more involved but totally delicious breakfast that’s worth every bit of effort, make time for these Apple Pie Almond Meal Pancakes. I usually steer clear of overly sweet breakfasts, so I don’t care for maple syrup on my pancakes, but I think most people wouldn’t mind a warm drizzle of maple syrup for moisture and sweetness.

Apple Pie Almond Meal Pancakes
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar (you could swap out the brown sugar for a little maple syrup or stevia)
3/4 cup almond meal (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
Apple Compote
1 large apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Very small pat of butter, melted (maybe 1/4 tablespoon or a little less)
1 packet stevia or 2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

In medium mixing bowl, combine egg, cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda, almond milk and brown sugar or other sweetener of choice. Whisk until well combined. Mix in the almond meal until combined.

In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt a small amount of butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon batter by the 1/4 cupful into pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until edges are set. Flip, cook 1 to 2 minutes more or until pancakes are cooked through in the center.

In small microwavable bowl, combine apple, cinnamon, melted butter, brown sugar and flour. Stir until evenly combined. Microwave 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until apples are softened and cooked with just a bit of crunch remaining.

Layer apples and pancakes in a stack. Serve with a little maple syrup, if desired. Serves 2

Happy Cooking!


Curried Sweet Potato Hummus

January 10, 2014

It seems like we’ve been in a constant state of football watching over the last three weeks. Does anyone else feel that way? Not that I’m complaining considering my love for football rivals that of my former football player husband. With bowl games and playoff games and the like, we’ve been doing a lot of entertaining as well.

When it comes to entertaining for bowl games and playoff games, I like to keep things pretty simple. Last week I made a big pot of my mom’s amazingly easy chili and served it with corn chips and cheddar cheese. It meant I could keep the soup hot in the slow cooker, people could help themselves when they were hungry, and I could focus on watching the game instead of tending to guests. Which perhaps makes me a bad host now that I think about it.

I’m also a huge fan of serving dips like hummus and layered taco dips because they’re equally as easy and a little more substantial. In the name of mixing things up, I decided to add a little creaminess and sweet flavor to my most recent batch of hummus by using cooked sweet potato and a sweet curry our friend brought back for us from the Philippines when he was home for Christmas. The flavors played so nicely together that I had to find a similar type of curry if you’re interested in buying some for your home. Just follow the link below for a similar curry to the one I used!


Sweet Potato Hummus 
Makes about 2 cups hummus
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet and spicy curry powder (such as this kind)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less depending on the heat level you like)
1/2 medium sweet potato, peeled, cooked and cut into cubes
2 to 4 tablespoons water
Salty chips (such as pita chips) or veggies for dipping

In food processor, combine chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, curry powder, salt, cumin, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Blend or process until well combined and smooth.

Add the sweet potato and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until smooth. Add enough water to reach desired consistency. I used about 2 tablespoons because I like my hummus a bit on the thicker side. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate.

Happy Cooking!

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. I recommend and stand behind any products with links listed and receive a small amount of compensation if you purchase a product through these links.


Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie (aka The Healthy Girl’s Milkshake)

January 7, 2014


Now that our first full week of January is underway, I’m finding myself with a serious case of winter blahs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not seasonal depression or anything of the sort, but I find it incredibly difficult to jump from the warmth, glow and excitement of the Christmas season to the bone-chilling routine of January. Maybe if 2013 was a little less wonderful I wouldn’t be so sad to let it go and would have anticipated the arrival of 2014 a little more.

Of course, some of this probably has to do with the fact that we’re experiencing record-breaking cold temperatures in our neck of the woods, with wind chill temps that hover in the -50°F mark with a high of -20°F. No, that’s not a typo, that’s just Minnesota winter for you. It’s this time of year that I really start to long for long nights filled with tennis matches with Joe, walks with the dogs, our weekly CSA delivery and cooking everything on the grill. Summer’s pretty sexy, and it’s hard not to long for it in the depths of winter.

I tend to get really wrapped up in the big moments, the next fun event or the next mini trip or vacation that’s on our calendar. I look at our schedule and think about how many days until our trip to Idaho or our long weekend away just the two of us. There’s nothing wrong with anticipating fun events, but I’m beginning to realize that real life is more about the everyday living and ordinary events than it is about the next big thing.

Last week on Monday Joe and I made plans to have a beginning of the week date night. Since we’re working on being disciplined with our finances (and because we have a puppy who needs our time an attention after work) we kept it simple by picking up two brownies from our favorite restaurant and ordering drinks at Starbucks, where we had lots of Christmas gift cards to burn. We sat for about an hour at Starbucks, eating and sipping and talking about life things that we don’t normally talk about at home, when there are things to do and dogs to play with and TV shows to watch. We got away from our phones and all other distractions, and looking back, that Monday date night in all its simplicity was the highlight of my week.

I think, more than anything, the reason I love summer is because I savor every moment. A Tuesday night feels special when it includes a tennis match and a trip with Joe to get froyo. But when I’m hibernating all winter, a Tuesday night just feels like a Tuesday night. So this year, I’m setting a goal for myself to make weeknights, even those in the winter months, feel a little more special. We’re already off to a good start since we had friends over last night to watch the BCS Championship and we have dinner plans with Joe’s parents tonight.

My lack of creativity means I really have no nice transition from one subject to the next. I guess this smoothie recipe, which is on regular rotation at our house, isn’t really related in the least bit to savoring the weekdays through the winter. But perhaps if you think about it as a milkshake (it really tastes like one!) then perhaps a regular smoothie at home can become something a little more special. Milkshake and movie night, anyone?



Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie (aka The Healthy Girl’s Milkshake) 
Makes 1 smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond milk or milk of choice
1 medium banana, peeled, cut into chunks and frozen
1 packet Stevia (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (make sure it’s high quality vanilla)
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 to 3 cubes of ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, adding more milk if necessary to reach desired consistency.

Happy Cooking!

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