Food For Frost


With these unexpected cold fronts, it’s a great time to bring out the crock pot for something warm to bump out the cold. I was in the mood for a new round of curry and blended the remaining red curry I had and some yellow and used chicken as the protein this go round. As I often say, it’s helpful to prep ahead of time by separating large packs of meat into 6, 8 and 10 count bags for your freezer, since we don’t always have time for a store run. Since I already had the chicken, purple green beans and curry powder, I grabbed basil, low fat coconut milk and carrots from the store to finish the dish. This can be eaten as a soup or served with rice depending on your preference. Check out the recipe below.

Chicken Curry
Serves 8

8 chicken legs
2 cups purple or green beans
1 14-16 oz bag of baby carrots
6 small red potatoes
1 tbsp. yellow curry powder
2 tbsp. red curry powder paste (optional)
1 13.5 oz can low fat coconut milk
1 package of basil
1 cup diced onion
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
3 cups of water

1. Remove skin and any excess fat from chicken and rinse before putting in crock pot.
2. Season chicken with seasoning (not curry).
3. Dice onion and halve potatoes add to crock pot. Add frozen green beans and carrots. Add water and curry and mix well.
4. Set crockpot on low heat for 8 hours.
5. Add coconut and basil in last 30 minutes of cook time.
6. Enjoy!

Inspired Brunch


I thoroughly enjoyed cooking this Saturday at the Red Stick Farmer’s Market this weekend. I decided to expand a pickled onion and strawberry salad I created last strawberry season and and a sweet potato and sausage hash done in an “Inspired” way. 🙂 I decided to make a sweet and sour pork sausage with a savory sweet potato hash to go with the salad for a seasonal and flavorful weekend brunch.

Check out the recipes below. You can also catch me in action with the short video by Lena Farms on Facebook with some quick tips on uses for apple cider vinegar. As always, share your thoughts!


Pickled Onion and Strawberry Salad
Serves 4-6

1 cup of chopped strawberries
1 cup of sliced onion (1 small)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. strawberry ghost pepper jam
1 cup shredded arugula
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. coarse black pepper


Sweet and sour pork sausage with Sweet Potato Hash
Serves 4-6

Main Ingredients:
1/2 lb. cubed smoked sausage
1 1/2 medium sweet potato cubed (2 cups)
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
1 cup water
1 tbsp. olive or canola oil
1/2 cup chopped green onion bottoms
1 pinch of salt

Sweet and sour sauce ingredients:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. pineapple ghost pepper jelly

1. Add apple cider vinegar and jam to a medium-sized bowl and mix well with a fork until well blended.
2. Cut an onion in half then peel each half. Slice each half thinly and add to the vinegar mixture. Let sit for 15 minutes.
3. Peel and rinse sweet potato. Using aggression and a sharp knife (haha), cut sweet potato in half, then into thirds before dicing into small cubes.
4. Clean green onion stems and bulb bottoms well under running water and then cut off rooted ends (can be replanted). Thinly cut ends up to where the stem turns green.
5. Add oil and onion to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes then add sweet potato. Add 1/2 cup of water . Add paprika, pepper and rosemary and mix well. Let cook for 6 minutes, shaking the skillet or stirring occasionally.
6. Cut sausage in half longwise, then in half again to make cubing the sausage easier.
7. Add potatoes and onion to a small bowl and place sausage in same skillet with 1/4 cup of water and let sausage cook for 3-5 minutes until water evaporates. Add potatoes back in and if potatoes are undercooked (still hard) add a splash of water.
8. In the bowl from the potatoes, add balsamic vinegar and jelly and mix well with a fork until blended. Add to sausage and potato mix and stir well. Cook for 3 minutes until liquid evaporates and remove from heat. Add a pinch of salt it desired.
9. Rinse and slice strawberries and add to the bowl of pickled onion.
10. Rinse and chop parsley and arugula and add it and seasoning to the bowl. Mix well.
11. Plate both and enjoy.

Start Snacking


We all snack during the day; some randomly and others intentionally. The body needs fuel throughout the day to help keep the metabolism fueled and burning fat. Snacking smart and intentionally is important for fueling a healthy metabolism.

While I stock up on varied fruits and vegetables for snacking, sometimes I want and need more. I’ve mentioned before my love of avocados; the best thing is to get them as small as possible for single servings and the teeny tiny avocados (actual name) from Trader Joe’s certainly makes the cut. One quick and easy snack is a mashed garlic avocado with the snap pea or lentil bean crisp. They are a wonderful option if you want a chip or crisp that has some nutrients. I am a huge fan of the wasabi ranch snap pea crisp and the onion and thyme lentil bean crisp. I’ll also like the mashed avocado with baby carrots. This is one to make right before eating to avoid browned avocado.

Another option is one of the many hummus options. While it can be brought, I decided to try my hand at making some at home. The hardest part to this was roasting a few cloves of garlic. The rest is just pulsing in the food processor or blender.

Check out the recipes below for two of my favorite snacks.

Roasted garlic and red pepper hummus
Serves 10

1 14oz can of organic chickpeas
1/2 cup roasted red bell pepper
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (~2 lemons juiced)
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a small pan with foil.
2. Pop off 5 cloves of garlic from the bulb and leaving skin on, add to the baking on. Bake for 10 minutes.
3. Open can and rinse chickpeas. Add to food processor.
4. Open a jar of roasted red bell pepper and add about a half cup. Juice lemon seeded side up.
5. Add garlic and oil top before pulsing until smooth. (2-3 minutes)
6. Season to taste. Enjoy!

Garlic mashed avocado
1 small avocado
1 clove grated garlic (1 tsp)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut avocado in half longwise. Remove pit.
2. Use a spoon to scoop out each half into a bowl or on a small plate. Mash gently.
3. Grate garlic directly in the mix mince it fine.
4. Mix well and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Enjoy.


Seafood Salad



Seafood is an easy go-to in my book and with so many flavors that can be added to it, what’s not to love? In observance of the Lent season, I wanted to offer up this quick 10 minute dish that is both flavorful and filling. It refrigerates well and is wonderful with mixed greens.

Quick tip: if you are not a fan of leftovers, it helps to be prepared with individual bags of frozen shrimp. I typically buy 5 lbs and break it down into single (5-6 shrimp) double (10-12 shrimp) or full pound bags for a larger dish. It it easy to then cook shrimp for 5 minutes and cut up the fruit and veggies of choice for a quick meal. Trader Joe’s has the adorable and perfectly portioned teeny tiny avocados that come six to a bag, so you can always make this dish as you go in single or double servings.

Also, if you are unfamiliar with mangoes and how to cut them, check out this quick YouTube video to learn how to pick and cut them:

Check out the recipe below.

Seafood salad with spicy sesame dressing
Serves 2

2 cup pieces, Mangos, raw
1 medium, Avocado
0.50 tablespoon, Oil – Sesame
0.50 tbsp, Honey
2 Tbsp (15ml), Low Sodium
1 tbsp, Rice Wine Vinegar
6 oz, Shrimps (about 10-12)
9 oz, Crab Delights, Imitation Crabmeat (1 1/4 cup)
1 tsp avocado oil
1/2 tbsp. onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and devine shrimp ( or defrost frozen shrimp.
2. Add avocado oil to medium skillet over medium heat. While it heats season shrimp with salt and pepper and onion powder. Add to heated skillet and cook for 2 minutes per side then remove pan from heat.
3. While shrimp cools, add vinegar, oil, sriracha an honey to a medium bowl and mix well with a fork. Rough chop the imitation crab and add to dressing.
4. Cut avocado in half long wise and score the avocado longwise and the across making small cubes. Gently with a spoon, scoop into the bowl.
5. Rinse mango. The center of the entire fruit is a pit so similar to cutting the avocado, cut a strip longwise from either side around the center and score and cube the fruit like the avocado. Push the skin inside out so fruit stands like buildings. Cut in small cubes off into the bowl.
6. Add in shrimp and lightly season with salt and pepper. Mix well with a spoon.
7. Enjoy!


Loving Lentils


Lentils are one of those power foods that are high in fiber, protein, an array of minerals and vitamins and is low in carbs. It’s a great legume that is easy to cook, can be flavored a variety of ways and gives you staying power to keep you feeling full longer. While I’ve cooked them before primarily in soups and other dishes, I don’t often highlight it as the gem it is.

This week I wanted to introduce myself to a new whole grain and decided barley would pair well with lentils. Barley is also loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals and is known for being a heart healthy option because of it does not contain cholesterol, a known contributor to heart disease. Typically as a whole grain, it takes longer to cook like brown rice; however I saw a 10 minute bag of barley in Trader Joe’s that I thought was just too good to pass up. I cooked the lentils in stock and dried herbs and the barley on a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt to add as much flavor as possible to them both. Since I also am a fan of sour cream or guacamole on my beans I made a quick little topping of sour cream, a splash of rice wine vinegar fresh chives and salt and pepper to top it. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts!

Lentils ingredients (serves 4)
8 oz lentils
16 oz organic chicken or organic vegetable stock
2 cups of water
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Barley ingredients:
1/2 cup dry barley
1 1/4 cups of water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt

Lentils Directions:
1. Add liquids to a medium pot with herbs, vinegar and seasoning. Bring to a boil.
2. While boiling pick through lentils for debris then add lentils.
3. Set timer. Top, reduce to low heat and cook for 35-40 minutes.

Barley Directions:
1. During last 15 minutes if lentil cooking, add barley and liquid to a small pot and bring to a boil. Add oil, vinegar and salt and stir before topping and reduce heat to low.
2. Let cook 10 minutes and strain any extra liquid.
3. Serve with lentils and enjoy


Vegan Believin’


Since I’ve dabbled in vegetarian meal options, I thought it was only fair to venture into the vegan arena. While similar, the primary difference is that vegan excludes any animal product or by-product including dairy, eggs and honey. While I like to explore different foods, flavors and textures, I don’t subscribe to really any diet beyond balance in all things. Plant-based proteins are important for maintaining overall health and balance; however there are other nutrients found in seafood and lean animal proteins that are not found in plants. In addition to the proteins (whatever the source), adding more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are always on my agenda.

I was inspired to do a Vegan dish with my trip to Trader Joe’s where they were sampling a vegan kale, cashew and basil pesto. I decided to make a quick orzo dish with the pesto, Roma tomatoes, roasted yellow peppers and grilled and marinated artichoke hearts. I picked up a small bag of cashews for some added texture. Let me just say, nothing is better than being surprised with a new delicious go to! And at about $3.60/serving, that’s hard to beat.

The only thing missing was a protein. So instead of adding beans to the dish, I decided to make my first red bean cake with a can of organic red beans ($.99), some fresh herbs, spices like coriander, smoked paprika and sautéed garlic and onion. I was beyond surprised at how good it was and totally forced samples on friends at lunch. 🙂 The only thing I would do differently is to add panko breadcrumbs to give more texture and shape as I had to handle them delicately with the spatula.

To give the red bean cake moisture for lunch, I made a quick garlic avocado aioli at work to go with my lunch which was basically smashed avocado, grated garlic, lots of lemon juice and salt and pepper. This also would be great as spread for a red bean sandwich with either arugula or a lettuce of choice. Check out the recipe below and certainly share your thoughts!

Orzo Pesto ingredients (makes 4)
1 1/4 cup of orzo
4 oz kale cashew basil pesto (1/2 container)
1 cup diced tomato (about 2)
1 cup chopped grilled and marinated artichoke hearts (or canned)
1/2 cup chopped roasted peppers
2 tbsp. fresh basil chopped
2 tbsp. chopped cashews
1tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Red bean cake ingredients (makes 4):
1 15.5 oz can of organic red beans
1/2 cup sautéed onions
1 tbsp. sautéed garlic
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. salt and pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup flour

Garlic Avocado Aioli:
1 small ripe avocado
1/2 of a lemon juiced
1 clove grated or 1 tsp. minced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and dice onion and add to a small skillet with 1/2 cup of water over medium heat. Mince garlic and add to skillet. Cook both for 5 minutes ubfik water evaporates and set aside.
2. Bring a pot of water to boil for orzo. While booking, open and rinse can of beans. Add to a medium-sized bowl and mash with a fork until no beans are whole. Rinse and dice cilantro.
3. Add orzo to boiling water and set timer for 8 minutes. Add cilantro and spices to bean mixture and mix well.
4. Rinse and dice tomato by cutting around the seeded core (save for salsa) and slice and dice each fourth of the tomato. Add to a large bowl.
5. Open jars of roasted peppers and artichoke hearts and chop the appropriate amount of each. Add to the bowl.
6. Rinse skillet from earlier and add olive oil over medium heat. While it heats, strain the orzo and add to the bowl of veggies.
7. Add flour to a plate or shallow dish. With gloved hands, form beans into balls (it will fall into patty) and coat lightly in flour before adding to hot oil. cook for 2 minutes per side as remove from heat.
8. Add pesto to orzo and tear basil to fold in. Chop or crush cashews (optional).

Aioli Directions:
1. Cut avocado in half. Scoop halves out into a bowl or small cup and mash with a fork.
2. Grate garlic and add. Cut lemon in half and squeeze over avocado seeded side up. Mix well.
3. Salt and pepper to taste.

International Eats


With the ever changing weather from cold to warm to cold again, and the increase of the sniffles and cases of the crud around me, I am ramping up on immune boosters, natural antibiotics like raw minced garlic and spicy soups to clear out the sinuses and protect my health.

In addition to cooking, I love to read and was delighted to be given a travel food magazine called Milk Street from which I was introduced to Lablabi, a delicious and spicy chickpea soup from Tunisia. I actually ended up making two small pots since I could not get enough of the bright and complex flavors in the soup. I also tried making one pot with harissa and one with the Chinese chili sauce that is easier to find in more stores and was pleased that both were great. This soup combines Spanish flavors like olives, capers and cilantro with North African spices like harissa. I was intrigued to learn that this soup is traditionally a breakfast in Tunisia and is usually more combined like a porridge. I decided not to mash everything together and have more whole and identifiable ingredients. Color me lazy. I decided to work with canned organic chickpeas instead of dried for a quicker cooking time on a busy night. Even with the chickpeas in the dish last week, I was still inspired to use more chickpeas. This soup took about 30 minutes to make. Now if you prefer your chickpeas super soft then I would recommend adding 15 minutes of cook time. Check out the recipe below.

Lablabi (Makes 4)

2 cups of large chopped French bread or ciabatta
1/4 cup harissa or alternate spicy chili sauce
1 can or organic low sodium chickpeas
1 cup diced onion
1/8 cup minced garlic (6-8 large cloves)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups water
32 oz chicken stock or broth
4 boiled eggs
6 tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
6 tbsp. chopped cilantro
4 tbsp. chopped olives
4 tbsp. capers
3 tbsp. olive oil (garlic infused optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and dice onion and add to a medium pot over medium heat with a splash of water and 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
2. Smash and peel garlic cloves before chopping fine and add to pot. Stir well.
3. Add tomato paste and harissa and stir well. Rinse the can of chickpeas in cool water and add chickpeas and water to the pot. Top and bring to a boil for 20 minutes.
4. While that boils, line a small baking dish or sheet with foil. Slice bread and cube into large pieces. Place on baking sheet and toss with olive oil.
5. Bring eggs to boil in a separate small pot.
6. Add stock or broth and boil another 10-15 minutes. Add bread to oven.
7. While boiling, chop olives and fresh herbs. Remove eggs and rinse with cool water. Peel eggs.
8. Turn off pots and remove bread from oven.
9. Add a handful of bread to each bowl, top with soup mixture. Add 1 tbsp. of capers, olives and 1 1/2 tbsp. of parsley and cilantro to each bowl and one egg cut longwise.
10. Enjoy!