Roasted Vegetable Brown Rice Bowl with Easy Peanut Sauce

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Every Christmas Eve my family enjoys a fondue feast. It’s a special, beautiful and delicious meal which starts with cheddar fondue with veggies and bread and apples followed by chicken and beef with peanut sauce and creamy horseradish sauce. Dessert puts us over the edge: dark chocolate fondue to coat strawberries, bananas and homemade buttery poundcake. I love fondue not only because it’s so good but because of the laughter and interaction we have as a family. It’s as extravagant as it sounds and we leave the dinner table feeling happy and full.

This is a definitely a special once a year treat, any more than that and we’d all be a little larger. But there’s one thing from the meal that I always crave and love to make at home: peanut sauce. The creaminess, the saltiness, it’s just perfect and so easy to make at home because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand.

Paired with roasted vegetables and brown rice, this is a great lunch. It could easily be made heartier with the addition of chopped grilled chicken or a fried egg right on top.

This week I celebrated the arrival of my first CSA produce box. My friend Lena and I are splitting a weekly box of fresh produce from a local farm, Luckett Farms. It feels really good to be cooking with vegetables that were picked the day I picked them up as well as to support local farmers. Our first box was filled with cabbage, broccoli, carrots, collard greens, sweet potatoes, and raw honey from bees on the farm. The honey is heavenly!

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For this recipe, I roasted some of the broccoli, carrots, and cabbage. The judges on Chopped would probably look down on the way I let my broccoli get slightly burned, but trust me, that dark crispness is where the flavor pops. It really doesn’t taste burnt, just nicely caramelized.

I hope you enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable & Brown Rice Bowls with Easy Peanut Sauce

serves 2

Ingredients:

One head of broccoli, cut into florets
2 carrots, sliced
3 one inch slices of cabbage (cut off of the whole head, keep intact)
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of brown rice*
2 1/4 cups of water
Handful of chopped peanuts
Cilantro leaves for topping
One lime, cut in half

Peanut sauce:
1/4 cup of peanut butter
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
Squirt of Sriracha

To make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bring 2 1/4 cups of water to a boil in a pot on the stove. Add rice and turn heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes until water is dissolved and rice is fluffy. Remove from heat and add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt to the rice.

While rice is cooking, place sliced carrots, broccoli florets, and sliced pieces of cabbage to a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over vegetables then sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Put veggies in preheated oven and allow to roast for 20 minutes. Halfway through, take a spatula and turn veggies over so they can crisp on all sides. If you don’t want your veggies to have that brown crispness, take them out of the oven after 15 minutes.

For the peanut sauce: in a sauce pan, combine all ingredients over a low heat. Stir slowly until the sauce is combined and warm.

Scoop 1/2 cup of brown rice into a bowl, top with half the veggies, drizzle generously with peanut sauce, top with chopped peanuts and fresh cilantro. Squeeze lime juice on top.

*you’ll definitely have leftover rice. Throw it in a Tupperware in the fridge and use for something else!

Yum!

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Eating with the Armstrongs (plus why I love my siblings)

Today is a beautiful, sunny day in Baton Rouge. I’ve already enjoyed sitting outside at a coffee shop with a friend and later I’m planning to head to the dog park with Boone. The weather is a much needed pick-me-up from the early weeks of February which were grey and cold and sad.

I love February because I love Valentines Day! Hearts and chocolate, pink flowers, fancy food, cards, I love it all. Growing up, my mom always made Valentines Day special with a delicious and gourmet breakfast or dinner and my dad would give us flowers and Godiva chocolates, the best! It’s altogether more delightful being married on Valentines Day. Matthew and I celebrated with dinner at our favorite restaurant, Roberto’s on River Road, where we enjoyed sensation salad, stuffed red fish, and King Cake bread pudding. To die for. I bought Matthew some a beef jerky milk chocolate bar from Wild Ophelia and he said it is the best chocolate he’s ever had. What a man.

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February is also wonderful because I get to celebrate the birthdays of two of my very favorite people in the whole world, my older brother and my younger sister.

Ryan lives in Colorado where he skis and snowboards and makes the most of life with new adventures developing all the time. He is laid back, full of joy, friendly, and just the sweetest. I’m so thankful for my big brother!

Natalie lives in Texas where she is loved by every person she knows, is the smartest girl I’ve ever met, drop dead gorgeous, and excellent in everything she puts her hand to. She may be my little sister, but I have lots to learn from her.

I’m celebrating you both today!

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In the food world, here are a few recipes that we have enjoyed lately:

Caesar Dressing is one of my favorite things to make at home. This one uses Greek yogurt for a delightful creaminess. If you’re afraid of anchovies, just omit them! As much as I love garlic, I would use 2 cloves instead of 4, especially if you make this for a party.

The Pioneer Woman wins again with these decadent dark chocolate brownies. Chocolate heaven. As well as with Queso Fundido, a meaty Queso dip that was devoured in minutes by recent party guests.

We loved the Walnut Crusted Chicken from Kitchenspired. The flavors are really profound and the walnut crust gives the impression of breadcrumbs without the bread.

One of my new favorite meals is spaghetti squash with a meaty marinara suace. I really don’t miss the pasta at all. Just use your favorite meat sauce recipe with roasted spaghetti squash. It’s delicious!

Enjoy these recipes, friends!


Taco Chili

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This is our snow day. Are you impressed? Maybe not, but when you live in a tropical land of heat and humidity; well, this is our snow day.
Impressive or not, a day to stay at home calls for hot chocolate by the fire, a bundled up walk, board games, and a big pot of chili.

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When our church met in the evenings in our pastor’s house last year, we would cook dinner for everyone to enjoy after the service. We began with about 30 people but after a few months, we were feeding up to 120 hungry folks! One of my go to dinners for those nights was several big pots of taco chili. Chili is one of those recipes that’s good to have in your back pocket. It’s inexpensive and delicious. It can be made healthier with the use of ground turkey or chicken and it can easily feed a crowd. Seeing as I won first place in a chili making contest, I feel the authority to share my recipe with you. I call this recipe taco chili because I use black beans and corn and lots of cumin. Enjoy!

taco chili
serves 4-6

ingredients:

1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1/2 T oregano
1/2 t cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 can kidney beans
1 lb ground beef
1 28oz can whole tomatoes

Toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, chips, avocado, cilantro, onion

to make:

Chop your onions and garlic. Heat one Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a non stick pan. Add the chopped onions and ground beef. Use a spatula to break up meat. Cook until beef is browned through and onions are translucent. Add chopped garlic cloves and cook for one more minute. Drain any grease into a jar or trash.

Into your slow cooker, add can of tomatoes with juice. Drain beans and corn, add to the slow cooker. Add meat, onions and garlic. Add all seasonings. Stir using a spoon and break up whole tomatoes with spatula or fork. Allow to cook over low heat for 4-6 hours.
**You can also make this in a large soup pot and allow to simmer for an hour. The longer it cooks, the better the flavor.

Serve warm with preferred toppings!

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Shockingly Delicious Banana Nut Pancakes (sugar, wheat & dairy free)

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Part of mine & Matthew’s love story (is that grammatically correct? Took me a couple tries) were weekly breakfast dates to a little cafe in Waco where we’d order hot mugs of coffee with flavored creamer, massive pancakes and the best migas around. We’d sit over breakfast enjoying our food and each other every single week for a good while. In an effort to get to know each other better while dating, I made a list of questions that’d we’d take turns asking, about our childhood and movies we like and places we’d been. It was such a sweet time to find out new things and laugh and share our hearts all over pancakes and coffee. Now that we’re married, I’m amazed to find that we can still ask each other lots of questions and find out plenty of new things. We love to take time to enjoy a meal and just talk. One of my favorite resources for good question asking is this blog.

My favorite pancake to order (they were massive, so you could only eat one) was a banana and mixed nut pancake. I’ve wanted to make my own, but who knew they’d be in this form! Y’all, I just have to confess that I’m usually hugely skeptical of bread like things made without wheat or sugar. They other day, I tried to make wheat and sugar free pumpkin pancakes which turned out just…bleh. Because of that setback, I’ve been determined to find a delicious wheat, dairy, and sugar free pancake recipe. Whelp, victory is mine, because here it is! I wondered if I only like these because I haven’t had sugar or wheat in a week due to my 21 day sugar detox, but Matthew approved these as well, especially topped with bourbon infused maple syrup (omg).

I hope you try them, by yourself or shared with a friend and lots of question asking.

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Banana Nut Pancakes
Serves 2 (about 8 tiny pancakes)

Ingredients:
2 bananas, well mashed
One egg, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup pecan halves
1 Tablespoon coconut oil or butter

To Make:
Mash bananas in a bowl, add beaten egg and whisk to combine. Add cinnamon and vanilla. Chop pecans finely and combine all ingredients.

Heat 1/2 Tablespoon of coconut oil or butter in a non stick pan over medium heat. When the oil glistens, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop the batter (only fill halfway) and pour into small pancake shapes in the pan. When the batter bubbles, flip cakes and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Keep a good eye on them as they can burn quickly. After you’ve cooked half the batter, add another 1/2 Tablespoon of coconut oil or butter to cook the rest.

These are delicious eaten plain, but for true decadence, top with maple syrup, fruit or bananas. It’s best to make them small so they are easy to flip. I recommend serving them with bacon or scrambled eggs for a filling breakfast.

Update: you can absolutely make these without the nuts, they will just a little thinner and you’ll have to be extra careful flipping them. I’m also going to try several other varieties like adding lemon zest and poppyseeds (excluding nuts, cinnamon & vanilla) or chocolate chips.

Enjoy!

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Mixed Green Salad with Figs, Candied Pistachios, Red Onion, Feta Cheese & Lemony Dressing

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One of the books on my Book List for 2014 is Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. I’m not sure why I haven’t read it until now as it’s been recommended to me countless times and I gave it to both my mom and mom-in-law for Mother’s Day. But now I’m halfway through and totally in love. Her thoughts on food and community are rich and real, blanketed with recipes and with stories invoking laughter and tears. I’ve already tried her enchiladas, which are incredible, and I can’t wait to try everything else!

One of my favorite things she shares is her philosophy on feasting and fasting. The idea that in life there are times of feasting, indulging mostly around holidays and vacations, which can be followed by times of fasting, eating a stricter more careful diet, with some treats in moderation. I love this idea. We don’t have to feel guilty about eating that extra sugar cookie or drinking a huge mug of hot cocoa when we balance it with a season of grilled salmon and mixed greens and spinach upon spinach.

This really encouraged me as today I’ve started the 21 Day Sugar Detox. After a hearty time of holiday feasting, I’ve felt the need to freshen up our meals. Inspired by my friend Alexa who has a wonderful blog, aptly named, Kitchenspired, I’m jumping in! Find out more here or follow Alexa’s journey.

Today’s salad is a lovely combination of flavors that can be enjoyed in a season of feasting or fasting. (Although it’s off limits for the detox.) Over the holidays, we went to a delicious little restaurant in Rockwall, Texas called Zanatas. Upon fist bite of their house salad, I knew I’d want it again, so here’s my recreation, which I think is pretty similar. I hope you try it!

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Mixed Green Salad with Figs, Red Onion, Candied Pistachios, Feta Cheese & Lemony Dressing
serves 4

Ingredients:
4 handfuls of mixed greens
6 dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 tablespoon salt

for the dressing
Adapted from Power Foods
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large shallot, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
(You’ll have extra, use on other salads or sandwiches!)

To make
:
For the candied pistachios: preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt and water. Add pistachios, stir to combine. Place a piece of parchment paper on a small baking sheet. Spoon pistachios onto parchment paper. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Mix together lemon juice, Dijon, olive oil minced shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

In a salad bowl, place mixed greens, diced red onions, feta, chopped figs and candied pistachios. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of dressing, combine and add more if needed.

Enjoy!


Chewy, Crumbly Oat & Pecan Granola Bars

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The New Year feels like a breath of fresh air and a choke hold at the same time.  A fresh opportunity to start over, to make goals and plans but also a big lug of pressure to do do do and accomplish EVERYTHING. There are moments of brightness and there are moments when I just want to make the noise my puppy Boone makes when he can’t reach his tennis ball under the couch, a pathetic groan/moan/whimper. Sometimes I wish the New Year started in March when the weather warms up just a little bit, the sun is shiny enough for an afternoon walk, people start wearing jean cut off shorts and flowers peek through the dirt. In January I just want to snuggle in my bed. I don’t want to get up when it’s still dark outside to go to the gym. (I’m super thankful to live in the South where it might be 70 degrees in a couple of days).

But I AM so thankful that I get to take it day by day. I don’t know if tomorrow will even be here. It’s no guarantee. But I do know that right now I can play with my dog, I can try a new recipe, I can listen to a friend, I can drink a huge cup of water and take my vitamins. I can go on a 30 minute 10 minute jog and read a couple pages of a book, I can take food to a homeless person. Well maybe not all in one moment, but I can at least do two of those things today.

That’s what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for today. I’m thankful that as I choose to embrace this moment, then the next and then the one after that, all the moments will add up. They’ll add up to a day then a week, after that a month, and finally a year. And after a year, they’ll all be packaged up tidily or messily, but they’ll be packaged up nonetheless, to be reflected on, mourned over, laughed at, and proud of. In the meantime I may have a day where I don’t do much more than what I was supposed to do, but that’s OK. Because I can start again the day after that.

So today, in this simple recipe, I’m embracing a goal for the New Year. Maybe it’s yours to. By making a healthy (sugar free! wheat free! dairy free!) granola bar, I’m contributing to my goal of eating breakfast, which is contributing to my desire to be healthier, which is contributing to wanting to loose a couple pounds, which is contributing to having more energy and feeling better. Here’s to today!

Chewy, Crumbly Oat & Pecan Granola Bars

Makes 12-16 bars

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ingredients:
2.5 cups oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 Tablespoons or so Sunflower seeds
4oz Medjool dates (pitted)
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup olive oil (used separately)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey

to make:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine oats, chopped pecans, coconut flakes & sunflower seeds in a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle maple syrup and 1/3 cup olive oil over top and stir with a spatula to coat everything well.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Combine honey, vanilla and remaining olive oil and pour into a large bowl. In a food processor, chop bananas and dates until smooth-ish. Scoop into the large bowl of liquid, add oat mixture to the bowl. Stir all the combine.

Pour/scrape mixture into an 8×8 baking pan. Line with parchment paper if you have it (I never do!) or just spray a little cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Store in the refrigerator! Enjoy them for breakfast on the go or crumble them into almond milk or Greek yogurt. Also delicious as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea!

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Book list for 2014

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(Source: Pinterest)

Happy New Year’s Eve! I love making New Years resolutions. In all honesty, it doesn’t bother me if I do all, part or none of my resolutions, I just enjoy thinking up ideas for a productive new year. Drinking more water, exercising and getting in shape always make the list. This year I’m excited to start cooking more seasonly as my friend Lena and I signed up for a produce co-op from a local farm. Hopefully lots of fresh recipes will be shared here from that new venture! My other cooking goal is to cook one meal a week from a cookbook I own. I have a large library of cookbooks and am excited to get inspired by new recipes.
The resolution I always make and usually always accomplish is my book list. My list includes novels, spiritual growth, and historical nonfiction. So here’s what I’m planning to read this year:
1. Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll
2. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly
3. Undaunted by Christine Caine
4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
5. So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore
6. Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
7. Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
8. Seven Great Men & the Secret to Their Greatness by Eric Metaxes
9. Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
10. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
11. Powerful & Free by Danny Silk

Books to finish from last year:
Leading from Second Chair by Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson
City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

I’ll let you know how these are! Happy resolution making and happy reading!

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(Source: Pinterest)