Cooking with Couscous: Comfort Food Gone Global

Sorry, all you Paleo proponents out there, but this post is basically a love letter to grain. Couscous, to be exact. What…did I already give that away in the title or something? Silly me.

couscous grain spotlight

Anyway, this traditional North African staple, made from semolina then steamed until fluffy, pairs fabulously with a diverse range of flavors. From robust winter vegetables to zesty spice blends, it’s the perfect canvas for vegetarian and carnivorous dishes.

My latest kitchen creation features this ingredient as the base for an effortless weeknight meal loaded with colorful veggies and plant-based proteins, plus a sweet and savory seasoning mashup. Just watch: everyone at your dinner table will become couscous converts!

This recipe yields approximately 4 servings, and leftovers are guaranteed. So, you’ve also got a ready-made lunch the next day. #Winning.

warm butternut squash and couscous salad

Ingredients:

1 c. Dried Couscous (I used Moroccan, but Israeli works too)

1 c. Butternut Squash (peeled & cubed)

1/2 c. Chick Peas (drained & rinsed)

1/4 c. Raisins (natural & unsulfured)

1/4 c. Raw Almonds (chopped)

3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 tbsp. Ground Cumin

1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

Sea Salt & Black Pepper (to-taste)

Preparation:

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the Couscous with 1 cup Water and 2 tbsp. Olive Oil, then place the pan on a stovetop burner and bring the water to a rolling boil.
  2. Turn the heat down to a low setting and allow the couscous to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water has been absorbed — about 10 minutes.
  3. While the couscous is simmering, coat the bottom of a skillet with the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil, then place the skillet on another stovetop burner and turn the heat to a medium setting.
  4. Add the Butternut SquashChick Peas, Raisins and Almonds, then  sauté, stirring frequently, until the butternut squash has softened — about 15 minutes. 
  5. Transfer this mixture into the couscous pan and season with Cumin, Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Pepper, then thoroughly combine all the ingredients together.

couscous recipe

Serving Suggestion:

Although I’m a fan of eating this salad as a stand-alone meal (Meatless Monday, anyone?!), it’s also a versatile side dish for grilled fish, baked falafel or another Middle Eastern-inspired protein.

Spring Has Sprung. Here’s a Smoothie to Celebrate.

With the weather FINALLY warming up and this life-giving season in full, glorious swing, let’s do a smoothie recipe!

Wanna cool off from a day spent soaking up the sun, while treating your body to essential nourishment at the same time? Sure ya do! So, whether you need to refuel after a workout, snack smart between meals, or stay energized and refreshed in the great outdoors, I’ve got a SUPER SMOOTHIE that will satisfy on all cylinders.

This blendiful thirst-quencher is also a  nutritional powerhouse — featuring protein packed edamame, Omega-3 enriched avocado, antioxidant fortified papaya, and vitamin loaded spinach.

But, if those health benefits don’t quite tickle your taste buds, maybe the lusciously creamy texture will. Trust me, getting more greens in your diet has never been so indulgent!


Avocado & Edamame Green Smoothie

total time: 5 minutes; yields: 1 serving

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. Spinach (shredded)

1/4 c. Papaya (fresh or frozen, diced)

1/4 c. Edamame (shelled)

1/2 Avocado (peeled & diced)

1/2 tsp. Rolled Oats (whole grain)

1 tsp. Almond Butter (organic)

1 c. Cashew Milk (unsweetened)

1 scoop Greenberry Shakeology Powder (optional, if you’re an avid Shakeology fan, like me!)*

*If you’re looking for a natural protein powder but can’t afford Shakeology, I’d highly recommend checking out Fuel-6 from DailyBurn. This supplement is an excellent source of plant-based protein; plus it’s vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free. Can’t beat those stats, right?

green smoothie ingredients

Preparation:

Combine these ingredients together in a blender and puree until smooth.

green smoothieSpringtime just got sweeter. Bottoms up, my fellow smoothie enthusiasts!


P.S. Sharing is caring, so spread the love by re-posting this recipe on social media — or even feature your own blended concoction — with the hashtag #ShowUsYourSmoothie.

5 Reasons You NEED to Know About Undiscovered Kitchen!

Say what, now??? Never heard of it?

Well, fear not…I’ll fix that! And here’s why you should even care:

1. It’s an entirely digital farmer’s market. If you get your jollies from discovering locally-grown, natural and scratch-made deliciousness from your hometown farmer’s market, what could be better than stocking up on those same goodies without even leaving the house? Answer: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Undiscovered Kitchen allows you to shop an impressive variety of artisan and handcrafted  — not to mention fabulous — foods, sourced nationwide, from the convenience of your computer.

2. The founder is off-the-chain awesome. Her name is Evona Niewiadomsk, — which screams “hippie-badassery” — and she’s uber passionate about food, fitness, travel and embracing life as the ultimate adventure it’s meant to be! Like, this girl just took off on a one-way flight to Spain in pursuit of entrepreneurial ambitions and exotic experiences. Inspired (or maybe a teeny bit jealous)? Uhhh…YEAH! Evona launched UD Kitchen in 2014 with one core mission, which the company continues to uphold: “Support and empower small batch makers across the country and to help passionate artisans grow their businesses! Every purchase made on Undiscovered Kitchen DIRECTLY supports our small batch makers so you can EAT good, FEEL good and DO good!”  Read her full story here.

3. No dietary preference is excluded. Are you freakin’ frackin’ fed-up with struggling to find foods that fit your lifestyle needs and DON’T taste like cardboard?! Well, guess what — UD Kitchen has effectively ended your struggle. Forever. Whether you’re looking for vegan, gluten-free, raw, dairy-free or organic products, UD Kitchen brings all these options together at one easy-to-navigate online destination. Consider it your one-stop-shop “healthy foodie paradise!”

4. Your sweet tooth just met its match. For anyone, who daydreams about the confectionery perfection of a freshly-baked dessert, UD Kitchen understands. They. Get. You. And, they’ve also got you covered! So, satisfy those sugar cravings with sweet and chocolate-y temptations, made GUILT-FREE from wholesome ingredients. You can even score treats that accommodate dietary restrictions — but sure won’t skimp on flavor!

5. Basically, healthy never tasted so fab. ‘Nuff said.

Are you salivating yet? Don’t lie. You totally are. But, hey, no shame…Me too! When I first uncovered Undiscovered Kitchen (see what I did there?), the connection was instantaneous.

In fact, their digital farmer’s market platform seemed so superbly up my alley, that I’ve since become a UD Kitchen Ambassador.

After all, what’s not to love about a company committed to “discovering new and unique products, shopping by lifestyle for foods that fit special health and diet needs like vegan, gluten free and raw, and finding fitness fuels and power snacks for athletes and active lifestyles!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Undiscovered Kitchen banner

Quinoa & Edamame Burgers (a.k.a. Your Dinner Table’s Next Meatless Marvel)

Trivia Question: how does a self-proclaimed foodie, who really really loves veggie burgers, cope on Friday night when her boyfriend ditches her (but all is forgiven, Broski!) for some old-school Nintendo 64?

By creating a kickass recipe to satisfy said veggie burger cravings! Obvi.

I’m not vegan, but I do have a healthy appreciation for vegan cooking. So, that’s exactly what we have here — veggies, whole grains, and plant-based proteins.  Pure, nutritional deliciousness! And I can assure even the most committed carnivores out there that this burger hits the spot.

Nope. You won’t miss the meat.

Don’t believe me? Alrighty, then. Make it yourself. (I’ll just be over here, chanting: “told ya so!”)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1/4 cup Quinoa (cooked)
  2. 1 tbsp. Mushrooms (diced)
  3. 2 tbsp. Roasted Red Peppers (diced)
  4. 2 tbsp. Edamame
  5. 2 tbsp. Rolled Oats
  6. 1 tbsp. Dijon Mustard

veggie burger ingredients

  • Preparation:
  1. Preheat a small saucepan on a medium-high stovetop setting, then cook the quinoa according to the package instructions.
  2. Preheat a small skillet on a low stovetop setting, then saute the mushrooms and roasted red peppers for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Puree the edamame in a blender or food processor until coarsely mashed, then transfer to a mixing bowl.
  4. Puree the mushrooms and red peppers in a blender or food processor until they reach the same consistency as the edamame, then transfer to the mixing bowl.
  5. Add the quinoa, rolled oats, and mustard into the mixing bowl, then stir until the ingredients combine to form a slightly “mushy” texture.
  6. Mold this mixture into patties (I made 1 large patty, but you could just as easily make 2-3 small patties), then transfer them to another skillet and turn the stovetop setting to medium.
  7. Cook the burgers for approximately 5 minutes on each side, then remove from heat and allow them to cool slightly before serving.

veggie burger before

  • Serving Suggestion:

Play off the Asian-inspired flavor of the edamame by wrapping your veggie burger in a Nori sheet (dried seaweed) instead of a traditional bun. Not only will the crisp saltiness please your palate, but it’s also a much healthier swap-out.

In fact, while we’re at it, why not continue this plant-based theme we’ve got going and substitute cheese for cashew cream? It’s a snap to whip up and makes a tasty topper for our veggie burger.

Simply soak 2 tbsp. raw cashews in 1/4 cup water for 1-2 hours (feel free to skip this step if you’re pressed for time), then drain and toss the cashews into a blender, along with 1 garlic clove, 3 tbsp. lemon juice, and a pinch of sea salt. Puree these ingredients until smooth, then spread the cream on your patty.

veggie burger after

 Aaaaaaand….Dinner is served!

10 Ingenious Ingredient Hacks that Equal Smoothie Perfection

Yeaaaah. I’m that girl, who’s best friends with her blender and thinks smoothie-making should be considered the ultimate in culinary expertise.

And, therefore, I don’t just limit myself to the standard, predictable “fruity fare.” Not that I don’t love a classic strawberry-banana combo, but experimenting with unusual flavor profiles is what keeps luring me back to the kitchen.

That’s why no liquid concoction in my repertoire would be complete without the following add-ins. Once blended all together, you might not even notice their subtle, sublime presence; nevertheless, these “superfood” ingredients boost your diet with natural, (mostly) plant-based nutrition without compromising the velvety texture and refreshing taste that you expect from a perfectly-pureed smoothie.

1. Hemp Hearts

hemp hearts

image courtesy of babble.com

 These crisp and nutty seeds are loaded with protein, iron, Vitamin E, whole grains, and Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids for cardiovascular, cholesterol, metabolic, reproductive, and anti-inflammatory health.

2. Rolled Oats

image courtesy of keeperofthehome.org

image courtesy of keeperofthehome.org

This hearty and filling cereal is loaded with fiber, protein, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin E, whole grains, and antioxidants (polyphenols, carotenoids & flavonoids) for cardiovascular, cholesterol, immune, and digestive health.

3. Almond Butter

almond butter

image courtesy of amyshealthybaking.com

 This thick and creamy spread is loaded with protein, calcium, copper, fiber, Vitamin E, magnesium, and Omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular, cholesterol musculoskeletal, neurological, nervous, and digestive health.   

4. Leafy Greens

leafy greens

image courtesy of busterbucks.hubpages.com

These fresh and nutrient-dense veggies are loaded with potassium, calcium, iron, Vitamins A, C & K, folate, magnesium, and antioxidants for cardiovascular, circulatory, immune, and respiratory health (serving suggestions: spinach, kale, chard, collards & watercress).

5. Chia Seeds

chia seeds

image courtesy of mindbodygreen.com

These crunchy and micro-sized seedlings are loaded with protein, manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc, Vitamin B, potassium, and Omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular, immune, anti-aging, energy endurance, and metabolic health.

6. Green Tea

green tea

image courtesy of webhealthjournal.com

This light and invigorating beverage is loaded with antioxidants (catechins & flavonoids) and natural caffeine for  cardiovascular, immune, dental metabolic, energy endurance, neurological, and circulatory health (serving suggestion: matcha, or finely powdered green tea).

7. Coconut Water

image courtesy of coconutwaterlife.com

image courtesy of coconutwaterlife.com

This tangy and hydrating beverage is loaded with fiber, electrolytes, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, bio-active enzymes, Vitamin B, and natural sugar (glucose) for digestive, circulatory, anti-aging, and gastrointestinal health.

8. Raw Cacao

image courtesy of iquitsugar.com

image courtesy of iquitsugar.com

This tart and chocolatey powder is rich in antioxidants (polyphenols & flavonoids), fiber, digestive enzymes, Vitamins A, B, C & E, chromium, magnesium, zinc, iron, sulphur, manganese, and Omega-fatty acids for cardiovascular, cholesterol, immune, circulatory, and neurological health.

9. Greek Yogurt

image courtesy of leanitup.com

This rich and satisfying dairy product is loaded with protein, calcium, iodine, potassium, Vitamin B, and probiotics for musculoskeletal, energy endurance, gastrointestinal, metabolic, and neurological health (serving suggestion: unsweetened variety).

10. Avocados

image courtesy of iwashyoudry.com

image courtesy of iwashyoudry.com

 These indulgent and buttery fruits are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, potassium, zinc, copper, iron, phosphorus, folate, and Vitamins A, B, C, E & K for cardiovascular, cholesterol, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and circulatory health.

So, yeah. That’s my arsenal of secret smoothie superbness. Got any of your own faves worth adding to the list? Share in the comments below!

Bergamonte a Day Makes Your Heart Say “Yay!”

bergamonte cardiovascular support

image courtesy of Nutri Lifescience

If you’ve taken even a casual interest in my social media escapades lately, chances are you’ve noticed  I’m a big believer in Nutri Lifescience dietary supplements. These products, made with wholesome and premium-grade ingredients from around the world, are ideal for promoting both physical and mental wellness, vibrancy and longevity.

Right now, I’m particularly loving Nutri Lifescience’s Bergamonte vegetarian capsules. Conveniently sized and easy-to-swallow, Bergamonte can be ingested on a daily basis to support optimal cardiovascular and cholesterol health.

This supplement contains naturally pure properties from the juice and albedo of a citrus plant called Bergamot, grown in coastal Southern Italy where its nutrient-rich extracts have long been valued for heart health maintenance.

bergamot

image courtesy of Nutri Lifescience

So, that’s why I’m fan-girling over here — because Bergamonte fuels my entire body with nourishment, energy and invigoration, so I can tackle an on-the-go lifestyle.

But, don’t blindly take my word for it (although I do speak from personal experience)…Try this incredible product for yourself!

Incorporating a Bergamonte regimen into your existing routine couldn’t be simpler. Here’s how the process* works:

  • During your first month of usage, just follow the recommended dosage of 2 capsules twice daily on an empty stomach before lunch and dinner.
  • During your second and third months of usage, maintain the results you’ve already achieved by taking 2 capsules once daily, also on an empty stomach.
  • Keep going!!! At the end of those 3 months, I’m betting you’ll be so amazed by Bergamonte’s positive affect on your cardiovascular and endocrine systems that committing to long-term usage will be a no-brainer!

 *Nutri Lifescience strongly suggests that you have current lab results-on hand before beginning this process, then undergoing another lab test after 3 months of continuous usage.*

Easy peasy, right? This dietary supplement fits into every schedule and activity level. Just swallow, then go! Talk about foolproof.

Plus, from NOW–April 5, Nutri Lifescience will be offering 10% off  each 60-capsule bottle. This discount is an ideal opportunity to inexpensively test out Bergamonte’s 3-month regimen. So, click the Amazon link and place your order while this fabulous, limited-time incentive still lasts.  And did I mention FREE shipping? Holla!

Thanks to Bergamonte, cardiovascular vitality, cholesterol wellness and even weight management can be achieved the natural way.

Bergamonte bottle

image courtesy of Nutri Lifescience

Fall Has Fallen Into My Kitchen…

This past weekend, I visited a farmer’s market in the historic downtown section of my Southwest Florida stomping grounds. Even though autumn in my neck of the woods doesn’t necessarily mean colorful leaves and blustery wind gusts, we beach babes still get into the seasonal spirit.

So, – like I was saying before I went off on a “Floridians love this time of year too” tangent – I went to a farmer’s market. And I came home with an butternut squash, a bag full of apples, and other freshly-picked, locally-sourced fall-ish produce.

Then, I set to work putting these farmer’s market finds to use. And if you’re gonna whip up some autumnal comfort food, you might as well do it right. You might as well make soup.

Butternut squash soup. Butternut squash soup with apples. Sprinkled with aromatic spices on top. Warm, hearty, soothing. Ahhhhhh!

So, yeah. From my “fall friendly” kitchen to yours…here’s the recipe:


  • Ingredients:
  1. 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (low sodium)
  2. 1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed)
  3. 1/2 red onion (chopped)
  4. 1 apple (peeled and chopped)
  5. /2 tbsp. ground nutmeg
  6. 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  7. 1/4 tsp. sea salt

butternut squash soup ingredients

  • Preparation: 
  1. Combine the butternut squash, apple and union cubes in a medium-size pot, then pour in the vegetable/chicken stock.
  2. Cover the pot and place it on a stove-top burner, then turn the heat up to high until the stock has reached a rolling boil.
  3. Uncover the pot and reduce the heat to low, then let this mixture simmer for approx. 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
  4. Remove the pot from heat and pour this mixture into a blender, then puree until the soup is thick and smooth.
  5. Pour the soup back into the pot and turn the heat on low, then simmer for a few extra minutes, while stirring constantly.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then give the soup another quick stir. (Side note: I also found that tossing in 2-3 packets of organic Stevia added a lovely sweet and savory combination to this recipe.)

butternut squash soup before

butternut squash soup after

  • Serving Suggestion:

I prefer my winter veggie soups on the slightly sweet side, so I mixed 1/4 cup plain coconut milk into the soup, which added some creaminess to the texture and perfectly complemented the squash’s already nutty flavor.

butternut squash soup with coconut milk