Pumpkin Seeds and Pumpkin Carving

I’d seen some really cute pumpkin ideas on Pintrest a week or so ago. I haven’t decorated a pumpkin in ages, and I was feeling a bit festive. I made this one, with a large pumpkin scooped out, and three white pumpkins made into cat heads. I used hard felt for the ears and whiskers, and a Sharpie for the face. I bought some cute ribbon at Michael’s Crafts, where I also work part time.

Instead of tossing the seeds out, I roasted them. This is very easy to do, and I’ve been snacking on them since. They are also great on salad.

pumpkin2Preheat the oven to 350F.

While scooping the seeds from the pumpkin, remove as much of the stringy pieces of pumpkin as you can. Spread them across a baking pan, as evenly as you can.

Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top, and sprinkle some salt. I also tossed a pinch of garlic salt on them.

Place in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. At about the 15 minute mark, give them a good stir.

Pepper and cayenne also taste great on them! Feel free to mix up the spices to your liking.

Place on a sheet of paper towel and allow it to soak up the excess olive oil. Then, snack away!

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Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

I was given a large pile of tomatoes earlier in the week. I already have salsa in the fridge, and given it’s becoming fall now, so I wanted something warm and comforting. I decided to make them into a heart warming pot of soup. I wanted to roast the tomatoes and onions to really bring out the flavor in them. Since I wanted to keep the soup fresh and healthy I did not go with a cream based. You want to roast the tomatoes until they are starting to lightly bubble and become black. This recipe can easily become vegetarian by swapping the chicken broth out for vegetable. I think the chicken adds just a bit more flavor.

tomsoup4Ingredients:
2 pounds of tomatoes, cut in halves
1/2 white onion, sliced
1 clove garlic
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
pinch of ground thyme
3-4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Optional: Fresh Parmesan cheese to top it off

tomsoup3Set the oven to 375F. Place a piece of tin foil on a baking sheet. Set the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the top of them. Place in the oven, allow to cook for 30-35 minutes. Watch for the tomatoes to be starting to bubble slightly and blacken. Remove from the oven.

While the tomatoes and onions are roasting and are close to done you can put a pot over medium heat. Pour the chicken broth in it, along with the fresh basil, thyme and salt and pepper. Once the tomatoes are ready, add them and the onions to the pot.

Allow the soup to cook on medium low heat until it simmers. About 20 minutes. Then use an immersion blender, or transfer the soup to a blender in batches about 2 cups at a time. Be careful if going this route, the soup will be quite hot. Once it is all blended together, pour into bowls. You can top it off with a bit more fresh basil, and some Parmesan cheese if you like. Makes 4 bowls.

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Easy Applesauce

016.JPGI received a box of apples a few days ago and they were a bit tart. There was also a lot of them. I decided that I would turn them into applesauce. Applesauce is not a real picky recipe to make. There are so many different ways to go about it, even the cooking style. If I had more, I would have done canning as well, which leads into that process. However, you can make applesauce out of just a couple of pounds of apples. This is in a 16 oz container. It’ll make some great snacks! Since I love cinnamon I went a bit heavy there. I was told it tasted like apple pie filling, and left it a bit chunky, instead of running it with the immersion blender.

011Ingredients:
2-3 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut
1/4 cup water
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup coconut sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Once you are done peeling, coring, and cutting the apples into smaller pieces, place them into a pot with the water. Set the temp on medium heat. Squirt the lemon juice on top and give them a stir. Add in the coconut sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Allow them to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring on occasion. Once they start to soften and break apart, turn the heat down to low. You can use a spoon to break up the pieces of apple more. If you like it pureed, use an immersion blender at the end, or scoop cups out and pour into a blender.

Mine is a bit darker from coconut sugar. I have skipped the sugar in it before, however since these apples were quite tart, they needed it. You can use apple juice instead of water, and the cinnamon and sugar ratios are more to taste. This is very flexible and it makes your house smell great! Give it a try next time you have a surplus of apples on hand.

Fresh Mushroom Soup for Two

I love soups! They make me think of fall, the beautiful leaves, and the cooler weather. It’s not exactly cool here, but I got these lovely Crimini mushrooms at the farmer’s market. I’m a huge mushroom fan, when I make pork chops and steak, I love a big pile of sauteed mushrooms on top. They’re almost better than the main course for me! Anyways, the soup takes about a half hour to make. Since I bought a pound of mushrooms, I can make another batch of this. Cooking for two people can be tough. As much as I like leftovers, I can’t always eat all of them and need something fresh.

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Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 large white onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons white rice flour (pretty much any gf flour will work)
2 cups diced mushrooms (Crimini or Baby bella will work the best)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste

Over medium high heat melt the butter in a pot. Add the onions and garlic and allow the onions to soften. Add the flour and stir it in well with the onion and garlic. Next, add the mushrooms and allow them to soften. Stir in the broth, heavy cream, and some salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Allow it to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

*The vegetable broth can be replaced with a chicken broth, or even water.

*The heavy cream can be replaced with milk, but I would suggest adding a bit more flour to thicken up the soup.

This will make 2 larger bowls, or 4 small bowls. You can easily multiply the recipe to make more.

Grape, Avocado, and Chopped Walnut Salad

grape saladWho doesn’t like a fresh and light summertime salad. This has fresh grapes, diced avocado, roasted walnuts, crumbled blue cheese, and a light vinaigrette. It’s perfect for an outside meal, or served along at a cookout.

Ingredients:
6 cups lightly packed mixed greens of choice
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
2 cups red seedless grapes, cut in half
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and roasted
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup red onion, diced

For the Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
pinch of salt and ground black pepper, to taste

grapesalad2Start by roasting the walnuts. Place a skillet on the stove and turn it to medium high. While allowing it to warm up, you can start preparing the greens and other items.

Keep an eye while roasting the nuts, they can burn quickly and only take 5-10 minutes. They’ll start to brown and smell toasted when ready, stir frequently.

Slice the grapes in half, Dice the onion, chop the avocado and add it to a large bowl with the greens.

Mix all the items in the vinaigrette together. When the walnuts have cooled off a bit, add them and the blue cheese to the salad and carefully pour the vinaigrette on top.

Serves 3-4. Enjoy!

Tuna Zucchini Cakes

tuna zucchini cakesThese can be an served for lunch, as a snack, an appetizer, or for a light dinner. I love the combination of tuna and fresh vegetables. I’ve used spices that don’t overwhelm, but add just a bit of flavor. So I made them for dinner and served them with a fresh salad for a lighter and fun meal. I used a gluten free panko for the breading, but any gluten free breadcrumbs will work for the recipe, I just prefer the panko myself.

tunacakesIngredients:
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 a white onion, finely diced
1 cup gluten free panko, divided
8 oz tuna in water
1 cup shredded zucchini
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

tunacakes2In a skillet over medium low heat, use 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the diced onions until soft. While they’re starting to cook, in a large bowl start mixing together 1/2 cup of the panko (set aside the other half cup) the zucchini, the eggs, and all the spices and tuna. add in the onions after they’ve softened and then cooled enough to handle.

Turn up the heat to medium and add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet. make the mixture into 6-8 patties, and flatten them out a bit. Roll them in the panko that was set aside and then place in the skillet. cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and they’re cooked throughout the middle. Makes 6-8 tuna cakes. Enjoy!

Cobb Dip

Cobb DipSince I’ve always been a fan of Cobb salad, and I wanted to make a healthier snack for us on Mother’s day, I made this delicious dip. We always have some kind of chips and dip – and I did put out a guacamole as well, but this stole the show. It’s quite flexible as well, if you want to add something or omit something, it’s forgiving. You could easily add some olives or onions if you like them, or leave out the avocado.

Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1- 1/2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup corn, grilled or cooked – then cooled
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup bacon, crumbled
1 avocado, pitted and diced

cobbsalad2In a medium bowl mix together the cream cheese, sour cream and all the spices. When combined, take a 9″ pie pan and spread the mixture on the bottom. Then place the chopped romaine lettuce on top. Place the rest of the toppings over the romaine lettuce. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips, or other gluten free snacks. Enjoy!

*Using either grilled corn, or frozen corn and cooking and draining, and cooling it will both work. Full fat or reduced fat sour cream and cream cheese are fine as well.

Caprese Quinoa Salad

capraisequinoasalad22This salad is great for enjoying outside during the warmer months and is fast and easy to prepare. The quinoa can be prepared a day or two ahead of time even. Fresh basil and cherry tomatoes along with a bit of rice wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil make this a light and fresh salad. I’ve served this as both a main dish, and as a side dish – it can compliment a lot of dishes well, and it makes for great leftovers for your next day’s lunch!

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Ingredients:
3 cups cooked quinoa to package directions (1 cup dry)
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls (or cut into 1/2″ pieces)
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

capraisequinoasalad3In a large bowl place the cooked quinoa with the rice wine vinegar and olive oil, stirring until the quinoa is coated. Add in the tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, then add a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together well. Serve chilled. Serves 4 as a main dish 6-8 as a side dish.

Potato, Sausage, and Spinach Soup

Potato Sausage and Spinach Soup I made a healthy, delicious soup for dinner today with plenty leftover for lunch tomorrow. There isn’t a lot of ingredients, and it’s not something you have to sit and watch – which is great when I’m trying to get several things done. Since I’ve been trying to eat healthier, I’ve tried to trim a bit of the extra calories out of my food without sacrificing taste.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound turkey sausage (or spicy Italian sausage)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
3-4 cups baby spinach, roughly cut
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)

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In a large stock pot, cook the meat with the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper over medium heat. Drain any excess fat then add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the basil, oregano, broth, water, and potatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes, allowing the potatoes to fully soften when poked with a fork.

Finally, add the baby spinach and half and half, and stir into the soup well, then cook for 5 minutes or so, until it’s fully heated and the spinach is wilted. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Thai Sweet Potato Soup

Coconut Sweet Potato SoupThis soup may look simple but it’s bursting with flavor! A coconut milk base with sweet potatoes and lots of spices makes for a delicious meal. This recipe makes about 4 larger sized bowls, but will easily double if you’d like to make a bigger pot.

Ingredients:
1 14 oz can of coconut milk
4 cups vegetable broth
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 large shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
3 teaspoons fish sauce
1 large lime, juiced

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In a large pot bring the coconut milk and broth to a simmer and add the sweet potatoes, shallot, ginger, curry paste, and cilantro. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender – about 20 minutes. When tender place into a blender and blend until smooth. This may take two rounds, be careful to not burn yourself. Place back into the pot. Add the fish sauce and lime juice. Cook for another 5 minutes, and serve hot. Enjoy!