Veggie Jambalaya

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Jambalaya is a delicious southern food that fits my favorite qualification: one pot cooking. I am always trying to reduce the amount of dishes I produce while I cook.  This makes it so easy. All you need is a cutting board, knife, and a large skillet/pot with a lid. Jambalaya is also very easy to make vegetarian by using a lot of veggies, and (you guessed it!) BEANS!  I love this recipe with pinto, kidney or black beans. Just pick your favorite!
Ingredients:
– 1 sweet or yellow onion
– 1-2 bell peppers
– 1 poblano or other moderately spicy pepper (optional)
– 2 ribs celery
– 1 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
– 3 cups broth (or water with bouillon equivalent)
– 1 cup rice (brown or white)
– 1 cup beans (black, pinto, kidney, or red)
– 2 tbsp. paprika
– 1 tsp. ground cumin
– 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
– 1/2 tsp. black pepper
– 1 tsp. salt
– 1 tsp. sweetener (agave nectar, sugar, real maple syrup, honey, whatever.)
– 2 tbsp. cooking oil (I use coconut or canola, not olive since the veggies are cooked at high temps.)
Clean all vegetables and either chop finely by hand or process in a food processor.  Chop/process fresh tomatoes separately if using so that they don’t get too mushy.
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Heat cooking oil in skillet until hot but not smoking. Cook all veggies (except tomatoes) in the oil until onions are translucent and all veggies are tender.  Add tomatoes and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add all other ingredients and stir well. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until all water is absorbed, usually about 15-20 minutes. Be aware that if using brown rice it may take 25-35 minutes to absorb all of the water.
Once everything is done, stir well and taste.  You may need to adjust the seasonings to your personal taste. Enjoy!
*Optional: sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top of each individual serving to counteract a little spiciness if it is too much for your taste. This recipe is also great garnished with fresh chopped cilantro*
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Pomelo, Queen of Citrus

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You may have seen a small pile of pomelos in your grocery store before, but your eye may have passed them by because of their unfamiliarity.

They are usually yellow/green, and about two to three times larger than an orange.  Few grocery stores stock them in large quantities, so they are usually located off to the side of the grapefruit somewhere. Below is a picture of a pomelo next to a grapefruit. Yes, a grapefruit.  They are that big!

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I discovered the wondrous pomelo during one of my favorite excursions – “find something weird in the produce department and try to figure out how to use it.” What I discovered would convince me that this is the best citrus fruit… Ever.

Pomelo originate from southeast Asia.  They taste very similar to a grapefruit, minus the bitter taste that turns most people off to grapefruit. That is what makes them so delicious! They pretty much taste like Fresca in a peel.

They have a very thick albedo, which is the white pithy part between the peel and the fruit. So, even though the pomelo appears extremely large, the edible portion inside is much smaller.  This very thick albedo can make them difficult to peel, so I usually cut mine into slices and eat them that way, biting each slice off of the peel as I go. Depending on the fruit, sometimes the membranes between sections can also be very thick and sometimes bitter, so eating around that is a good idea, too.

The most important part about choosing a good pomelo has to do with the smell.  When they are ripe and good, they have THE MOST HEAVENLY SMELL.  I could sniff them for days on end. My version of heaven smells like pomelos all. of. the. time.

When I have a nice, ripe pomelo sitting on my counter it makes my entire kitchen smell heavenly. I can smell it from across the room! It’s beautiful!

While in the grocery store, select a nice yellowy pomelo and give it a hearty sniff.  If you can easily detect a citrusy, grapefruity smell, it will probably taste nice and sweet inside.  If you can’t smell anything, or the smell is very faint, do not bother buying one. They usually aren’t cheap and it is worth it to wait for a really good one.

Other ways to pick a good one: the peel should be more yellow than green, the larger the fruit the better, and when squeezed it should have a little give which means the albedo is nice, soft and thick.

Pomelos are delicious to eat just as they are, but can also be incorporated into other lovely dishes. If you have the patience to remove all of the sections from the membranes, they are great in fresh fruit salads, and in China it is commonly used in pork stir fry.

Have you eaten a pomelo before? If you have, I would love to hear about it!

P.s. When we were in Disneyland 2 weeks ago, we saw gorgeous pomelo trees with beautiful, big fruit on them right on Mainstreet USA, near the entrance to Tomorrowland!  I got just as excited as my 2-year-old when she spotted Mickey Mouse. I wanted to pick one soooo badly.

Cold Buster Orange Dream

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I invented this recipe recently while suffering from a horrible head cold. This awesome drink reminds me a little bit of an Orange Julius, but has no added processed sugar (so sweet it doesn’t need it!) and is packed with vitamins C & A.

Ingredients:

– The juice of 3 oranges (I use my Breville Juice Fountain to juice them, but you could also use a citrus juicer.)

– The juice of 1 carrot

– 2 handfuls of ice

– 1/2 cup unsweetened greek yogurt with live cultures. I use my own homemade greek yogurt.

– 2 drops of doTERRA lemon essential oil (optional)

Put all ingredients into the blender and blend on high until ice is no longer chunky and the drink is smooth and frothy.  Enjoy!

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Zesty Orange & Cranberry Muffins

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These slightly sweet & zesty muffins make a great breakfast!

Side note: I love to make muffins with my 2-year-old because they are easy to throw together, and mixing doesn’t have to be exact.  She loves putting muffin liners into the pan, or stirring the dry ingredients with a potato masher.  Turns out a potato masher is A LOT less messy than other utensils when it comes to mixing with toddlers. I just make sure to give it a thorough stir after she has had her fun.

Zesty Orange & Cranberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Ingredients:

– 1 cup oats (old fashioned or quick, doesn’t matter.)

– 1 cup flour (white or whole wheat, doesn’t matter)

– 1/4 heaping cup dried cranberries

– 1/8 tsp. salt

– 2 tsp. baking powder

– 1/4 cup white sugar

– 1 egg

– Zest of 1 orange

– 3 tbsp. canola oil

– 1 cup milk

– Juice of your orange + 1 tsp. white sugar

Mix all dry ingredients well and set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, and orange zest.  Whisk  in milk.  Add to dry ingredients and stir until just blended.

Evenly distribute into greased muffin tins (recommended) or a muffin tin lined with papers.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Do not over-bake.

After removing from the oven, drizzle your orange juice + sugar mixture lightly on the top, remove from tins, and allow to cool completely. Enjoy!

Portobello Mushroom “Burgers”

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I have to give the credit for this delicious recipe to my friend Kelly.  She shared this awesome recipe with me and it has become a regular in our household.  This is a great way to satisfy a hamburger craving without having to use actual beef, which for many reasons, I generally don’t like very much. This recipe is also REALLY fast to make, taking a total time of 30 minutes or less.

I also must note that I am still teaching myself to love mushrooms. Right now they are in the “kind of like” category for me, so trying this dish that centers around a giant mushroom was quite a jump for me. I was very pleasantly surprised! When cooked in this way, the portobello mushrooms are not slimy and have a surprising meaty flavor to them. Go figure!

Portobello Mushroom “Burgers”

Ingredients:

-One medium-sized portobello mushroom cap per person

-One small sweet onion

– One slice of cheese per burger (any kind, could also be soy cheese)

– One bun for each burger

– Other desired burger toppings, such as tomato, lettuce, mustard, ketchup, pickles, etc.

– Small amount of cooking oil of your choice

Thoroughly rinse each mushroom cap to ensure all soil has been removed.  Use a paring knife to carefully remove the majority of what is left of the mushroom stems.  Pat dry with a towel.

Slice the onion into rings or half-rings.

Heat frying pan or skillet on medium heat with oil.  Do not allow the oil to become so hot that it smokes. If this happens, you know your oil is beginning to produce carcinogens, so this is a good rule of thumb whenever heating oil for any dish.

Toss the onion into the pan and quickly sauté until semi-transparent, then move to the side of the pan in a small pile.

Place the mushroom caps GILL SIDE DOWN into the hot pan.  Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, or just until heated through.  Continue to tend the onions as needed.  Flip the mushrooms gill side up, and place slices of cheese on each mushroom.  Putting the cheese on the already-cooked gill side allows for the cheese to melt down into the mushroom cap, which is especially delicious.  While still cooking, place a pile of sautéed onion on top of each mushroom/cheese stack. This will help the cheese to melt. Cook for 3-5 more minutes.

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Dress your buns as desired while cooking completes.  It is a good idea to toast your buns because these burgers are juicier than average, and can make a flimsy, cheap bun fall apart under pressure! I also love to find a crusty french bread loaf or artisan bread of the right size and use that instead of buns.  It holds up better, and looks oh-so-much fancier. Place one hot mushroom/cheese/onion pile onto each bun & enjoy!

I usually serve these delicious sandwiches with a platter of finger veggies to share, or if I am feeling ambitious I will make a hot pan of oven fries (look for that recipe in the future!)

Coconut Granola

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This delicious and easy granola can be made in large batches and stored like regular breakfast cereal.

Why pay high prices for healthy granola when you can easily make your own?! It is SO much cheaper than that crappy, processed, pre-made stuff, and if you get your ingredients in bulk, it’s even MORE economical. Plus, it is husband and 2-year-old approved.

Coconut Granola

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

Ingredients:

– 6 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)

– 1.5 cups sweetened, flaked coconut

– 1/2 cup brown sugar

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– 1/2 cup canola or coconut oil (melted if coconut)

– 1/2 cup real maple syrup or agave nectar

– 3/4 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries (or both!)

Mix together oats, coconut, brown sugar, and salt until evenly distributed.  In a separate container, mix oil and syrup.  Pour oil & syrup mixture over oat mixture and stir until evenly coated.

Spread mixture out on two large cookie sheets, distributing it in an even layer.  Bake in oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring the granola every 15 minutes until it is golden brown and the coconut is toasty.

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Remove from oven, toss with raisins or cranberries (or both!).  Allow to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

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You could also add in any type of nut before toasting for a  delicious crunch. I choose not to cook with nuts because I have a pretty serious tree nut allergy. I wish I could, though. I also have added chia seeds in the past, which I loved, but my husband didn’t. He didn’t like that they floated in the milk.  Oh well.

Great with just plain milk, or if you heat it up with milk in the microwave for a minute or two, you get a DELICIOUS toasty oatmeal.  Also great mixed with yogurt.

*I adapted this recipe from an original recipe by Alton Brown, featured on his show, Good Eats.

Fast & Easy Hummus

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Do you love hummus? If you do, and only have had the crummy pre-made stuff from the store, you don’t know what you are missing! If you don’t like hummus and have only tried store-bought, I implore you to give it another try with homemade.  I honestly didn’t really like hummus until I my sister-in-law made some from scratch and I fell madly in love. My toddler loves it so much she eats it plain.

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Hummus is a delicious creamy blend of chickpeas (garbanzo beans for you northerners!), oil, lemon juice, salt, sesame seeds (tahini), & garlic.  When left to these simple ingredients it is sooo delicious, but can easily be dressed up with other ingredients. It is mainly used as a dip for fresh vegetables, crackers, or as a spread on sandwiches or pitas.  It is very healthy, packed with protein and the good-for-you kind of fat.

Fast & Easy Hummus

Ingredients:

– 1 can of garbanzo beans, or about 2 cups of our own pre-cooked beans

– 2-3 tbsp. olive oil

– 2 peeled cloves of garlic

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– 1 tsp. lemon juice (red wine vinegar can also be substituted)

– 3 tbsp. sesame seeds (or tahini, which is just pre-blended sesame seeds. I find it cheaper to buy the seeds themselves in bulk and add them whole.)

Put all ingredients into a food processor.  Process on high for 2-3 minutes AT LEAST. Do not be tempted to stop your food processor before this, even if the mixture is creamy-looking.  Allowing it to whip up and blend well is the secret to making it so delicious.

Serve with fresh finger veggies like carrots, celery, cucumber, or bell peppers.  Also works great with crackers (my favorite!) or as a replacement for mayo on sandwiches. When I serve it for friends, I like to sprinkle a little paprika on top and garnish with a couple of mint leaves to make it look pretty.

Other things to try to add:  Roasted red peppers, 3-4 fresh basil leaves (one of my family’s favorite),  and green onion.

*One important note about sesame seeds/tahini.  It is not recommended to serve tahini to infants, even though hummus looks a lot like baby food.  Introducing tahini too early into a child’s diet can put the child at risk for a food allergy (or so I’m told).  I can’t remember when I first gave it to my daughter, but I think it was around age 2.  You can easily make this great hummus without the sesame seeds if you want your food-eating infant to enjoy it as well.