Paprika Cumin Black Bean Sweet Potato Chicken

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This is our favorite heart healthy, fiber rich, protein packed one-dish-dinner. There’s chicken for protein, black beans for fiber, sweet potatoes for beta carotene…. tomatoes, onions, lime, cilantro for their vitamin packed properties.   Together with healthy herbs like cumin, paprika, pepper, this makes a low cost, high nutrition dinner.   It fills the house with an exotic earthy aroma, the chicken was pull-apart tender, sweet potatoes were creamy and delicious, but of course, the secret ingredient is color.

Ingredients
:: Chicken thighs preferred for this recipe
:: Cumin, paprika, salt, olive oil
:: Sweet potatoes, cubed
:: Can of black beans, rinse and drain
:: Bell peppers, sliced
:: Cilantro and limes to garnish

Directions
In a pan, brown both sides of chicken thighs with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of cumin, paprika and salt.  Set aside.

Reserve 2 tablespoons of seasoned oil. Add sweet potatoes to pan.  Toss to coat and cook for a few minutes.

Return chicken to pan on top of sweet potatoes.
Add a cup of water or broth.
Top with bell pepper slices.
Stew is done when sweet potatoes are tender.

Garnish with more fresh chopped cilantro and wedges of lime, and you’re ready to impress the family with a bright, hearty meal!

Enjoy!

 


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Little Flower Tarts

DSC07301This is one ‘recipe’ that needs little explanation; roll out dough, cut, bake, fill with jam.  Everybody has to try this one.  The most joyful part for me was adding color to the pie cups and seeing a bouquet come to life with glistening jam.  I think the little ones will be thrilled!  They are bite sized too, perfect with a cup of tea or as a little treat in a kid’s lunch box.

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Follow package instructions and bake these for about 10 mins. We want golden petals so don’t over bake them.  Take them out when the edges start to brown and quickly remove from the pan with a teaspoon.

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This is my favorite part….  the flowers come alive.. one by one.  🙂

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A fresh baked bouquet of flowers for you… and you… and you… and you…..  🙂



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Hearty Butternut Squash Soup

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Do you ever get to the market and then all confused which recipe you’re really working on?  My mind’s been spinning with ideas for a healthy new year so I’m pretty sure that was how I ended up with this blend of 3 different recipes; baked chicken and sweet potatoes, spinach soup, and baked butternut squash. The result?  Black bean + spinach + butternut squash soup. Add a spritz of lime, and it was quite a surprise that it tasted so good.

Dinner last night sounded like a scene out of Ratatouille.

Person 1, all serious sounding like a food writer, asked ‘What is the origin of this soup?’

Me ‘I don’t know…. I was going for pumpkin carrot soup and got lost along the way… I guess a happy blend?’

Person 2,  “I don’t care where it’s from… you need to backtrack what you put in it and write this recipe down.  I want it!”

Oh…  thank goodness there were only 3 spices in the pot.  Very easy to remember.  🙂   And there isn’t any real cooking. So you can do it too!

Here’s another little trick.  If you love squash but hate the way they disintegrate into soups and stews or worse, turn dark and discolored, here’s how to get around it.  I cheat.  I seasoned the squash cubes and microwaved it!!  Then add them to the broth when ready to serve.

Microwaving cooks from the inside out, so that results in soft centers and a firm outer on the butternut squash cubes.  And cooking the squash separately retains its own color.  Makes sense?

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Ingredients
:: Butternut squash, cubed
:: 1 large onion, diced
:: 1 large can of black beans, rinsed
:  1 bunch spinach, chopped
:  1 can diced tomatoes.  I used the fire roasted ones.
:  Chicken or vegetable broth.

Spices: salt, black pepper, paprika, cumin

We start with the squash.

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Cube squash.
Add pepper, paprika, cumin, salt and some olive oil.  Give it a toss.
Microwave for 8 mins or so, depending on your microwave machine’s power.

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8 minutes later, you get this gorgeous bright squash.  Like sunshine!

For the broth, sweat the onions till they are translucent looking like this.

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Add the beans….  and the same spices….  And cook for about a min or two.

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Add spinach…. fire roasted tomatoes…. and vegetable or chicken broth.
Turn up heat and cook until spinach is just wilted and soup is simmering.

To serve, add squash cubes to a bowl of broth, with a spritz of lime.

That wasn’t too difficult was it?

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Garlic, Kale + White Bean Soup

Soup season is closing in faster than anticipated.  I love soup… and even more so, I love the humble porridge.  Almost by default, if I’m alone at home, it’s porridge; the same porridge.  I would make it every day from scratch.  And also in the summer.  I know… I know… I sound like a grandma right?   And that has sparked a little discussion among my friends.  Thankfully my neighbor was on my side, and we were quick to point out that besides the clear health benefits, soups are the perfect canvas for what’s in season.  And the perfect time to share why I haven’t got wrinkles at almost 41.  Maybe it’s good genes?  But it is definitely in the soup!

It is a simple way to sooth and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, and you don’t have to be a master chef to create a warm, simmering broth of goodness.  It is inexpensive too, especially when you work with what’s in season.  They become ever-changing and never boring.

A lot of my love for soups, porridge and all meals of that nature, comes from winters counting penniesand trying not to turn on the heat in our apartment.  By choice of course. Didn’t loathe it back then at all, and I still love it now because the simplicity keeps me grounded.

Today I had some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and some garlic around that I wanted to use up, so I decided to make a hearty Kale and White Bean Soup.  This soup is aromatic with a kick!  It has a smokey garlic flavor and a little spice kick from the pepper flakes.

Here we go!

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Ingredients
:: 1 small bunch of Kale (remove stems)
:: 1 can of cannellini beans or white beans
:: 1 can chicken broth + 1 can of water
:: Garlic, sliced
:: Pepper flakes
:: Olive oil
:: A sprig of Rosemary

Extras
:: Cheese.  Goal is to use up the Parmigiano-Reggiano
:: Bread. Yes you’ll want a mountain of bread!  Dunk slices, or chop it up.  It’s all good.  I like chopping mine into cubes, and dropping them into the bowl. Very hearty.

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Directions
:: Grab a pot. On medium heat, give the olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes a toss.   When they get fragrant, add chicken broth and water.
:: Bring to a boil.
:: Then, add beans , kale and rosemary leaves.
:: Turn down heat.  Simmer until kale is tender.
And tah-dah!!!!

DSC09185Slice some bread.
Ladle soup into bowls.
Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

AND, make sure you have a mountain of bread when you enjoy this one!

 


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2-Ingredient Perfect Hostess Chicken Wings

I am long overdue sharing this recipe! I keep bags of this marinated in my freezer. The longer you marinate, the better it gets.  And if someone shows up unexpectedly, all you need is 20 minutes in the oven (toaster ovens work too), and you’ve got good food to go with good company.

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It’s sweet, sticky, little spicy and garlicky.  It’s gone as far back as 4 football seasons, when a friend said ‘Oh my god, you should share this!  Guys love this with beer, and the girls will love making it for us!’  LOL.  The only reason I haven’t shared is because I was afraid you didn’t have an Asian market in your vicinity for the only 2 ingredients you would need.  But if you find the chicken marinate, then you are set for a range of chicken recipes.

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Kecap Manis. Indonesian/Chinese.  Very versatile. It is caramelized sweet sauce.  Thick, sticky and sweet

Garlic Chilli Sauce. South East Asian.  If you can’t find this, you can use Sriracha. Just add extra chopped garlic.  I also use this sauce for stir fry shell-on shrimp in some minced garlic, ketchup and garlic chili sauce. Yum!

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In a zipper bag, marinate chicken with equal parts of chicken marinate and garlic chili sauce.  Refrigerate up to a day.

When ready to use, simply lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 20-30 minutes at 400 deg depending on how many chicken pieces you have.
Serve warm with a side of chili garlic sauce and wedge of lime.

You’ll have everyone fooled that you’re a perfect hostess!  :p


 

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Citrus Avocado Mint Salad

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I have a quirky grocery shopping habit.  I buy fruit singly when I can.  A variety fruit bowl on the table is a colorful delight and makes a merrier sight.   Mimi loves blueberries and apples, and I’ll juice or make salads with the rest of it.

Citrus in the winter is my saving grace.   It is loaded with vitamin C to help you ward off those winter sniffles.  It reminds me of sunshine, summer and warm weather.  While the rest of the country is in negative temperatures, our California winter has so far graced us with a mild winter.

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This is probably my favorite citrus salad.  I make it whenever my fruit bowl is full of orange and grapefruit varieties.   It is so pretty that just prepping and slicing makes me happy. 😀

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I don’t dress this salad at all, except for mint leaves and some pepper.  It’s that simple.  And simple is good for me.  🙂


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Mint: Juice It Up!

Hi Gorgeous!  Take a deep breath!  I realize this is going to sound confusing.  :p   Last week, I said let’s be sure to grow some mint by our window sill this year, for all the recipe possibilities, and even just as garnish.    And now I’m going to tell you mint is so easy to grow, even more so when you give it a little love and attention, that from time to time you will find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to do with sooooo much mint!

Then what do you do?  :O   No, no, don’t start cutting them back!

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There are so many mint recipes, but my favorite (and least cleaning up :p) way for taking care of my mint overgrowth is blending/juicing; pineapple, cucumber, mint and lemon juice.  It is fresh, it detoxifies and it hydrates!  Cucumber has high water content and Vitamin K.  Pineapples have Vitamin C, enzymes and minerals to aid digestion.  Mint is an excellent blood cleanser.  Think glowing skin and clear complexion.  And, who wouldn’t start their day with the brightness of lemon juice?

Ingredients
:: Cucumber
:: Pineapples
:: Handful of mint leaves.
:: Some water or juice.
:: Ice
You can add some honey for sweetness.

Blend all the above into a pretty speckly mix of different shades of green.  Pour into a pretty glass.  Sometimes, I would just stare into it for a bit before drinking. Like ‘Wow, you and I are going to start this day right, aren’t we?’  

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This juice will help you shake off those holiday indulgences and start clean!  Enjoy!

 


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Beet, Feta and Peaches Salad

DSC01671.pngOn the heels of holiday over-indulgence, I spent last weekend going over my pantry inventory, pulling out extra cans of favorite items to send to the food bank and shelter to restock their pantry for the new year.  I tend to go overboard stocking yummy cans of fire-roasted tomatoes because they have depth of flavor and are so handy when you want some flair without excess seasonings!  There were also lots of beets and peaches; my favorite combination.  And you don’t need to dress it.  :O

This salad is a snap to make, very pretty and very cost effective any size party. I have it a few times a month for the health benefits and prettiness.  Beets aid antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support.  They also have a very high concentration of Lutein, which is an important component for eye health (yes, I need that).  For managing blood pressure naturally, beets also have nitric oxide which relaxes your blood vessels and help your arteries stay properly dilated. A glass of beet juice a day is an easy way to bring your blood pressure to a healthy range.

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And if you don’t already have a window sill of mint, now’s the time to grow them.  Did you know they now come infused with flavor?  We have a little plot of chocolate mint, spearmint, orange mint etc. They are great for your fruit waters and salad recipes.  Right now, my favorite is orange mint. It’s like having orange in your water, when it’s really just mint leaves.

Ingredients
:: Can of beets, drain and rinse
:: Can of peaches, drain syrup
:: Handful of mint
:: A cup of crumbled feta cheese

Directions
:: Toss beets and peaches in a bowl.
:: Top with crumbled feta cheese and mint.
:: Then chill. No dressing needed. That’s all. 🙂

 


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