Category Archives: Vegetarian

Radish Salad with Dill Buttermilk Dressing

radish salad blog

Sometimes, the simplest of things can be the most delicious. I remind myself of this often-forgotten fact every spring, when fresh vegetables start appearing in my garden and in the farmer’s markets. Just a few super-fresh ingredients thrown together can make for a delicious dish. Case in point – radishes.

I feel that for me personally, radishes have gone underappreciated for many years. They’ve always been present in a salad, but I’ve more often celebrated other components – cool cucumbers, crisp lettuce, spicy or bitter greens, or a perfectly ripe tomato. But in truth, they provide a crisp, cool crunch, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, a bit of spice. I’ve found that a fresh radish is truly a delight in itself.

And since the bounty of spring is beginning to show here – my garden is just now producing lettuces big enough to pick, as well as a good amount of cilantro, a ton of kale, and even the spinach is looking pretty tasty – I figured it was high time to create a simple spring salad. I gathered some fresh radishes, a little lettuce, and a few colorful carrots from the farmer’s market, and tossed it together.

I wanted to really bring those flavors together with an easy, delicious dressing. I am also growing dill and chives, and so I whisked together a quick buttermilk dressing with these herbs that was reminiscent of a ranch dressing, only fresher. It’s also easily made dairy-free by swapping out the buttermilk for a coconut milk & lemon juice mixture (I’ll show you how below) – something I often did in my dairy-free days.

This salad is an easy way to bring some fresh spring flavors to your meal. It only takes a few minutes to throw together, and its simplicity allows you to really enjoy each component.

radish salad blog 2

Print Recipe

Radish Salad with Dill Buttermilk Dressing (gluten-free, dairy-free/vegan adaptable)

1 small bunch green lettuce (such as Bibb, romaine, or green leaf)

1 bunch radishes

3 small carrots

2-3 T crumbled feta (omit for vegan)

Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and place into a medium bowl. Slice the radishes thin and add to the lettuce. Peel the outside of the carrots, and then peel into ribbons for the salad. Add the feta and toss. Place on plates.

Makes 3-4 side salads.

For the dressing:

1/3 c buttermilk (or 1/4 c coconut milk + 1 T lemon juice, whisked)

3 T mayonnaise (can substitute vegan mayonnaise for vegan)

1 1/2 T chopped fresh dill

1 1/2 T chopped fresh chives

1/2 t kosher salt

1/4 t garlic powder

Whisk together the buttermilk and mayonnaise until smooth. Stir in the dill, chives, salt and garlic powder. Chill until ready to use, up to 4-5 days.

Makes about 1/2 cup dressing.

Asparagus, Kale, and Mushroom Brown Rice “Risotto”

veggie risotto blog

This past weekend was filled with a few more meals eaten out than usual. Meals of the slim-on-vegetables variety. While I enjoyed what I ate, I was ready for lighter fare. I opted to break out my brown rice, and load it up with all the fresh spring vegetables I could find. Which, after my Saturday trip to the farmer’s market, was quite a lot. I’m notorious for buying every pretty thing I see at the market, and then wondering how in the world I will manage to eat it all before it goes bad.

I don’t cook with brown rice all that often. I like it – especially short-grain – but frankly, I often feel like the 40-45 minute cook time is too long. Which is funny, because honestly, making dinner usually takes me at least that long, once you factor in the dishes I am doing beforehand (from our lunches taken to work) and all. If I simply throw the rice on the stove to cook first thing, then tend to the dishes and the rest of the prep for this dish, it honestly doesn’t take any “extra time” at all. Dinner still happened at “normal” time. It was well worth it.

I mean, check out that result. The brown rice is nutty and slightly chewy, and holds up perfectly to this ”risotto” style dish. With a ton of vegetables, and just a splash of cream to tie it together, it’s light and flavorful, and fresh, and plenty filling enough to be considered a main dish if you choose. And while it does have some dairy, it’s easily made dairy-free and/or vegan with a few simple swaps.

So go ahead – go gangbusters at the farmer’s market! Throw caution to the wind! Grab all the fresh green veggies that catch your eye. Throw them all together in this risotto, and you’ll be sure they’ll be enjoyed, rather than ending up sad and forgotten in the crisper. You won’t be sorry.

Print Recipe

Asparagus, Kale, and Mushroom Brown Rice “Risotto” (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)

2 1/4 c stock (chicken or vegetable)

1 c short-grain brown rice

2 T butter or olive oil

4 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered (or cut into eighths if they are large)

1 green onion, minced

1 small head green garlic, minced (can use 2 cloves of regular garlic if you don’t have green garlic)

1 t fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1/2 c white wine

8 oz asparagus spears, cut into 1/2-inch lengths

8 oz frozen peas, thawed

1 c chopped fresh kale (I used Red Russian, but you can use any variety)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T butter or olive oil

1 T cream (can use almond, soy, or coconut milk for vegan)

2-3 T shaved parmesan (omit for vegan)

1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add rice and reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow to cook for 40-45 minutes or until cooked through.

Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add butter/olive and allow to heat for a minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Add the green onion, garlic, and thyme leaves and sauté an additional minute or until fragrant. Add the white wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has evaporated. Add the asparagus, peas, and kale and sauté for a minute or until the asparagus is bright green and heated through.

Add the rice and stir in, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Finally, stir in the butter/olive oil and cream. Serve, topped with parmesan and fresh parsley.

Serves 4.

 

Grilled Yellow Summer Squash with Sweet Basil and Feta

grilled yellow squash 2

Last Saturday, in case you missed my flurry of posts about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in The Home Depot’s Dallas Garden Party.

It was a great event for people new to gardening, grilling, or just wanting to get some additional tips and tricks to make their garden-to-table experience more successful. Mary Katherine Green of the Gardenieres was there, showing gardeners how to pot fresh herbs and answering all your garden questions.

Cassie Freeman of Hi Sugar Plum was hosting, and talked to all sorts of people, helping them through the party, decorating pots, taking photos, and learning. There were representatives from Southern Living that showed amazing decorating tips (I need them to come to my house and show me a few things!), someone from Fiskars showing some cool garden tools, and an expert helping me (and interested grillers) understand all the details of the Weber grill.

collage garden party

After all, I was using it to teach many happy eaters learn how to grill with their garden vegetables and herbs as they nibbled on samples of Chicken Yakatori, Grilled Carrots, and my recipe I developed just for this event – Grilled Yellow Squash with Basil and Feta.

garden collage

It was a fun event filled with activity, and I had the opportunity to interact with some wonderful people. The caterers that executed the dishes, including mine, were talented and made me look amazing. I was most thankful for them.

An added bonus? I found out last week that I was to be taped in an interview with Jocelyn White of Designing DFW for an upcoming episode to air in May! So before the Garden Party, we talked about my recipe and the event. It’s my first TV experience, and I can’t wait to see it air. It was exciting and a bit nerve-wracking all at once!

I loved developing the recipe for this event. I’ve been more than ready to break out my grill all winter, and have already shared a grilled asparagus dish. And the summer isn’t even here yet, folks! The grill will certainly be earning its keep around here this season. It’s just so simple for me to grill many of our meals. There’s fewer dishes, it’s fast, and the flavor created by grilling is pretty awesome.

Here in the coming months, summer squash and zucchini will be everywhere. Gardens will be overrun. People will be making casseroles and breads galore. This is a simple, fresh, easy way to prepare squash that’s a little different than the norm. A few ingredients are whisked together to make a vinaigrette. The squash is tossed in the dressing, grilled, and then topped with basil and feta. The combination of flavors is an awesome mix of freshness from the basil, that lovely grill factor, a bit of tang from the mustard and lemon, and a salty note from the feta. It’s literally something you can cook in about 5 minutes, but can wow your guests. Even if those guests are just a few hungry teenagers or your spouse.

Print Recipe

Grilled Yellow Summer Squash with Sweet Basil and Feta, created for The Home Depot Garden Party (gluten-free)

 

4 small-to-medium sized yellow summer squash

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh sweet basil

 

Preheat grill for medium-high heat.

To make the dressing, in a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, sugar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Slice the squash lengthwise in half, and then lengthwise in half again. Place the slices of squash in the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat.

Remove squash from the dressing and grill over direct heat for a minute or two on each side or until grill marks appear and until the squash is just tender.

Remove and place on a plate. Drizzle remaining dressing over the squash. Season with additional salt and pepper as necessary, and sprinkle with feta and chopped basil.

Serve immediately.

 

Serves 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Asparagus with Feta, Almonds and Basil

grilled asparagus blog

Sometimes, you need something that really brings the spring feeling to your plate. For me, asparagus is that “something”. Asparagus means winter is over. That the green things are growing again, and that I can expand my fresh vegetable intake beyond root vegetables, winter squash and cabbage. The beginning of spring vegetables, to me, is the greatest time, because it speaks of all the delicious, fresh things to come.

Now, I feel somewhat guilty saying this, but I’m ready for the winter to be over. It’s been cold even down here in Texas (and I certainly know that it doesn’t even compare to what those of you in the north have endured!), and for longer than usual. I’m embracing spring. I’m ready for rain, thunderstorms, and green, growing things. For now, I’ve temporarily forgotten that with springtime comes our barrage of gigantic Texas insects, followed by all-too-warm temperatures. Come August, when it’s 100 degrees for days on end here, I’ll be wishing for the cold once again. But right now, I’m ready for the warmth.

So in order to encourage spring to come along, I grabbed some asparagus and uncovered my grill. It’s finally light enough in the evening that I can grill without needing a flashlight. (Come on, tell me I’m not the only one that’s done that!) Truth be told, I love grilling. It’s quick and easy, and there’s one less dish to wash when you’re done. It also imparts a lovely flavor to just about anything.

In this case, a brief visit to the grill makes this asparagus tender and full of flavor. Toss it with some lemon juice, almonds, feta (omit for dairy-free/vegan), and basil, and suddenly, you’ve taken an already-fresh flavor and completely kicked it up a few notches. It’s bright, fresh, and definitely is that “something” that brings spring to your table.

It really only takes a few minutes to make, and is totally worth every moment. I enjoyed this as a side dish on a mundane weeknight, but it’s certainly dressy enough for company, or even for a holiday dinner – Easter or Passover Seder (served with a vegetarian main or fish dish), perhaps?

Print Recipe

Grilled Asparagus with Feta, Almonds and Basil (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)

2 t extra virgin olive oil

1 t lemon zest

1 t lemon juice

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T crumbled feta cheese (omit for dairy-free/vegan)

2 T sliced almonds

1 T chopped fresh basil

Preheat grill to medium heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour over the asparagus, and season with salt and pepper.

When grill is hot, place asparagus in a single layer over direct heat on the grill. Close the lid and grill for a minute or two, and move so that the other side of the asparagus spears touch the grill. Continue to grill just until tender (the time may vary depending on the thickness of your spears and heat of the grill). Remove immediately. Toss asparagus spears with feta, almonds, and fresh basil and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Pickled Carrots and Jalapeños

pickled carrots and jalapenos

A few weeks ago, my parents took me to lunch at this little hole-in-the-wall taco shop. They’ve been visiting there for ages, and have always enjoyed the food. It’s perhaps slightly more than a hole-in-the-wall, truthfully – it’s a combination taco shop plus small Hispanic grocery and carnicería. The building is run-down, but you can tell they keep things clean. Finally, I got to experience these tacos that my Dad has been raving about for what seems like an eternity.

Truth be told, the tacos were good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely worth revisiting. I enjoyed barbacoa and lengua tacos and was a happy camper. But the real prize wasn’t even something you paid additional for. Alongside your order, they would bring you a bowl of these pickled carrots and jalapeños. We asked for extra, and noshed on these slightly sweet, subtly spicy condiments both before and during our meal. They provided the perfect brightness to offset the richness of my barbacoa and were deliciously addictive. My Dad mentioned that he’d made unsuccessful attempts to get the recipe out of the lady that makes these delicious treats. Apparently that recipe was top secret.

So, turning to me, he encouraged me to take the leftover pickles home. Why? He wanted to see if I could reverse engineer the recipe. It was a challenge I was willing to take.

The pickles were simple, but reverse engineering even a few simple spices takes careful consideration. I wasn’t 100% sure on ratios, but I took a stab at it. What resulted was quite close and equally as tasty. I could definitely enjoy having these in my refrigerator, ready to accompany our next taco night (which is practically a weekly event around here).

Of course, this will mean I need to make more. I sent home this jar to my Dad, who was all-too-happy to take it off my hands.

Print Recipe

Pickled Carrots and Jalapeños (gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, vegan)

3 fresh jalapeños

5 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal, about 1 inch thick

1 clove garlic, peeled

1/2 small white onion, sliced

2 bay leaves

10 black peppercorns

10 whole coriander seeds

1 1/4 c white vinegar

1/4 c apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 c filtered water

1 1/2 T kosher or pickling salt

1 T granulated sugar

Place the jalapeños, carrots, garlic, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and coriander seeds in a quart-sized glass jar or container. Bring the vinegars, water, salt and sugar to a boil. Pour over vegetables until covered. Allow to cool to room temperature and place lid on jar. Refrigerate 1-2 weeks or until desired level of pickling is achieved.

Keeps about a month, maybe longer, although I can’t imagine you’ll make it last that long.

 

“Buffalo Wing” Chex Mix and Giveaway!

chex mix

Update: This contest is now closed. The winner is commenter #18 – Shay! Congratulations to Shay.

March marks the beginning of that month-long craziness filled with college basketball. What makes it extra-special? This year, the NCAA Final Four is local to me! They’re hosting the finals in Dallas!

While we will be on pins and needles hoping for our favorite team to go far, I do know one thing: I’ve got a great snack, just in case we need to have a bit of a party for some crucial games. General Mills, the manufacturers of Chex cereals, contacted me and sent me a bunch of awesome Chex gear to get me on my way towards making an incredible gluten-free Chex mix recipe, just for you!

Now, most of the time I make snacks from scratch. Like this Roasted Tomato Almond Dip, for example. But sometimes, you need an easy crowd-pleaser, and there’s nothing wrong with reaching for a few good gluten-free items to make that happen. Chex mix is one such crowd-pleaser, and is easy and perfect for a party. Especially one involving beer, gluten-free or not!

And so I got to work. I made two different batches of Chex mix, actually, in the quest for the perfect “Buffalo Wing” flavor, using Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (which is gluten-free). The first batch was the easy-breezy recipe. It was tasty for sure – a bit of a kick, and it was a crowd-pleaser at my office. But it wasn’t a full “Buffalo Wing” taste. The flavor was there, but it wasn’t in your face. So I tried a second version. It took an additional step, but in my opinion, the results were well worth it. The second batch was full-on “Buffalo Wing”!

What was that additional step?

I made Frank’s Red Sauce “powder”. If you have a dehydrator, you can make this too! All I did was pour some sauce on my drying sheets, throw in the dehydrator, and forget about it for nearly a day. Then I broke off the dried sauce into chunks, pulverized it in my coffee grinder (I have a cheap one dedicated just for spice grinding – kind of like this one), and voila – I had Frank’s Red Hot Sauce “powder”. This stuff is kind of awesome, actually. I can’t wait to try it on other things. Popcorn is high on the list.

I am sharing with you both versions, so you can decide which way to go for yourself. They’re both delicious. My coworkers gobbled it up before the week was out, if that gives you any indication. And as for the gluten-free additions? Nobody knew any different. It was tasty, and that’s all that mattered.

So if you’re looking for an easy make-ahead snack and want a twist added to it, I encourage you to make some “Buffalo Wing” Chex mix! You’ll be glad you did.

In fact, General Mills has offered to give one of my readers the same fun package they gave me! It includes boxes of gluten-free Chex, coupons, a T-Shirt, some Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and a reusable tote. It’s a great package and a perfect excuse to make some Chex mix!

Here’s how to enter to win:

- Leave a comment telling me your favorite kind of Chex (and even a favorite recipe to make with it!)

- Share this giveaway on Facebook and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you did so

- Tweet this giveaway on Twitter and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you did so

- Pin this giveaway on Pinterest and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you did so

That’s it!! The giveaway will end at 11:59PM CST on Saturday, March 8, 2014. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents ages 18 and up.

 

Print Recipe

Buffalo Wing” Chex Mix (gluten-free, dairy-free-adaptable)

3 c Rice Chex

3 c Corn Chex

1 c gluten-free bagel chips (such as Glutino), broken in half

1 c roasted peanuts

1 c gluten-free pretzels (such as Glutino), broken into smaller pieces if large

6 T butter or vegan buttery sticks, melted

1 1/2 T dried parsley

1 t dried dill weed

1 t garlic powder

1 1/2 t onion powder

1/2 t ground black pepper

1 t dried chives

1 t celery salt (only use 1/4-1/2 t if you use Frank’s Red Hot Sauce powder instead of liquid sauce)

3 T Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (either bottled sauce, or use my powder recipe below for more intense “buffalo” flavor)

Add the cereal, bagel chips, peanuts, and pretzels into a large microwaveable bowl. Mix together the melted butter/vegan butter, spices, and either the liquid Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or my powdered version (preferred) until well-mixed. Toss the butter with the cereal, ensuring everything is coated evenly.

Microwave for 6 minutes, stopping to stir well at least every 2 minutes. Spread out on paper towels to cool. If desired, sprinkle more Frank’s Red Hot Sauce “powder” over to up the “buffalo” intensity!

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce Powder (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1/2 c Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Spread hot sauce out on a dryer sheet made for your dehydrator. Dehydrate at 140 degrees F for 20 hours or until thoroughly dry. Break into small pieces and pulverize in a blender or spice grinder. Store in an airtight container.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of General Mills/Chex.  The opinions and text are all mine.

Roasted Balsamic Mushrooms, Plus Videos For Veggie Success!

roasted balsamic mushrooms

You’ve made a decision. You want to eat more vegetables. But after eating salads for a few weeks, you’re sick and tired of the same old thing. You want to try a new vegetable, so you browse the produce aisle, and you grab something different. Some spinach. Cabbage. Maybe Brussels sprouts, or some crimini mushrooms. You’ve told yourself “I’m going to cook this!” and you put it in your basket. It goes home with you, and you stick it in the crisper drawer in the fridge.

And there it sits. And sits.

Aaaaand sits.

See, you had the best of intentions. You really did. But that new vegetable? Frankly, it’s intimidating. Outside of the norm. You just don’t know what to do with it! So it remains in the fridge, alone and forgotten, until it has turned into a mushy, slimy mess in its cellophane bag. After a time, you guiltily throw it away, and resolve to do better next time.

Sound familiar? An alternate version of the story involves you browsing the produce aisle, but feeling so overwhelmed by the intimidation (“I don’t know how to cook any of this stuff!”) that you ultimately come home with a baking potato and a bag of salad for the third week in a row.

I’ve been there. I understand. When we’ve already expended so much energy throughout the day focusing on getting kids ready for school, working, dealing with emergencies, ungrateful bosses, traffic, and less-than-ideal weather, we just can’t deal with the “new vegetable” thing. Even if our heart is in the right place.

It just seems so…hard.

That was the premise for the recent string of YouTube videos I’ve been sharing lately. Because I know that for many of us, cooking from scratch alone is uncharted territory, and even if we know how to make a few things, we are often hesitant or just don’t have the energy to do something that seems daunting. A new vegetable, or any food, really, often seems daunting! I’m hoping that through these videos, that we can together change that thought process. Because honestly, a vegetable shouldn’t be so scary, right?

Each of these videos (feel free to browse around and subscribe to my YouTube channel) showcases a simple way to prepare a fresh vegetable using very few ingredients, and 5 minutes of preparation time, max. The videos aren’t super-fancy; my kitchen isn’t perfect and I’m often in comfortable clothes. It’s not perfectly polished. My dogs make cameo appearances sometimes, as they’re often hoping I’ll drop something tasty on the floor. Moral of the story is: This stuff is totally down-to-earth and doable. Even at the end of a long day. I promise!

This week, I’m sharing one of my favorite ways to make roasted mushrooms. These mushrooms I’ve shared before a few years ago, but I come back to them time and again. After all, they’re easy. You can toss mushrooms with some herbs and garlic, and when you’re ready, throw them in the oven. Then, 20 minutes later, you take them out. The end. Finito. That’s all you have to do.

But in case you don’t believe me, you can watch the video and see for yourself.

See? That’s not so bad, right? Ready to make them for yourself? Here’s the recipe!

Print Recipe

Roasted Balsamic Mushrooms (gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, sugar-free)

1 lb fresh crimini mushrooms

4 garlic cloves, minced

¼ c extra virgin olive oil

2 T balsamic vinegar

1 t fresh thyme leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ c fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil. Toss the mushrooms with the garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Roast until the mushrooms are juicy – about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and toss with the parsley while still warm.

(hint: to streamline your meal, you can prepare this recipe up to the point where you would put it in the oven, and instead refrigerate for a few hours. Then, when it’s time, just pop in the oven as directed.)

Serves 4.

 

 

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic

sauteed spinach

Looking for a quick-and-easy way to get something green on your plate for dinner tonight?

How about spinach?

Gone are those days, when I was growing up, where Mom would open a can of spinach, and we would eat it, pretending we would grow big and strong just like Popeye. I can’t even remember the last time I ate canned spinach, honestly. It’s been a long time. I much prefer fresh when I can get it, frozen when I can’t. It’s a taste preference – canned seems mushy and salty to me nowadays.

Cooking from fresh, however, doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. With just a few ingredients and less than 5 minutes, you can have delicious sautéed spinach with garlic that is a million times tastier than the canned variety. The fresh flavors of the spinach and garlic really shine, and the spinach is tender and bright.

Want to see just how easy it is? Check out my simple instructional video – and while you’re at it, subscribe to my YouTube channel to see even more easy veggie ideas.

So while your main dish is roasting in the oven, pull out a skillet and sauté some spinach! You’ll be happy you did.

Print Recipe

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic (gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

1 T coconut oil (or oil of choice – olive oil or butter works well here)

1 clove garlic, minced

8 oz spinach leaves, rinsed well and drained (let any residual water cling to the leaves), torn into smallish pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat, swirling around to coat. Add garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add spinach leaves and stir to coat. Cover with a lid and allow to steam for a minute or two, or until leaves have turned bright green and have just started to wilt. Remove the lid and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 2-4.

Chocolate-Covered Cherries

chocolate covered cherries

Growing up, one of my Dad’s favorite treats was a box of chocolate-covered cherries. I loved them too. Biting into the chocolate shell to reveal the sweet maraschino cherry inside was like opening a delicious present. But over the years, the boxed chocolate-covered cherries of old became less appealing. The quality went down, and they were more often a cheap chocolate shell filled with cherry-like goo. Next-to-none of the real thing.

While I certainly could have sought out a higher-quality confection from one of the fancy candy stores, I opted instead to attempt my own. I’ve made other candies – chocolate coconut candies, fudgepeanut butter cups, chocolate pecan pralines and more – so why not these?

Turns out, they were easier than I’d imagined. Making the fondant was a cinch, and without the testy nature of boiling sugar (like there is with pralines or caramels and such), this was a project I could do at my own pace and while working on other things in the kitchen without fear. The most difficult part in my opinion was remembering to set the cherries to dry out a bit the day before I wanted to make these – which really isn’t that difficult at all!

So whether you want to treat your Valentine this year to something special, or you just want to play candymaker in a new way, I encourage you to make your own chocolate-covered cherries! They’re sweet and delicious and well worth a little work.

Print Recipe

Chocolate-Covered Cherries (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)

About 20 maraschino cherries (I used an 8 oz jar of these, as they have no dyes or corn syrup)

2 T butter or vegan buttery sticks (don’t use the vegan spread, as it has too much water), softened to room temperature

2 t agave nectar

1 1/2 T reserved cherry liquid

1/4 t almond extract

1 1/2 c powdered sugar

8 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate (I used Guittard)

The day before you want to make your chocolate-covered cherries, drain the cherries from their liquid (reserving the liquid) and pat dry. Set on a wire rack inside the refrigerator to dry overnight.

The following day, to prepare the fondant, add the butter/buttery stick, agave nectar, reserved cherry liquid, and almond extract and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar, and mix on low speed until everything comes together in a ball around the paddle. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of cherry liquid. Too sticky, add a bit of powdered sugar. You want the texture to be a soft and malleable dough, but not sticky.

Scoop a small ball with the dough (about the diameter of a quarter) and roll in your hand. Flatten out the dough into a circle, and place a cherry in the center. Wrap the cherry with the fondant so that it covers the cherry completely, and roll between your hands to get rid of any seams or wrinkles and make it as round as possible. Place on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining cherries. Place sheet of cherries in the refrigerator or freezer for about 30 minutes while you prepare the chocolate.

Temper the chocolate: Prepare a double boiler. Once water is simmering, add chocolate to the top bowl/pot. Allow to melt and come to about 113-120 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Scrape chocolate onto a cool marble slap, and using a scraper, smooth out the chocolate and move it around the slab to help it cool. (alternatively, you can reserve some “seed chocolate” and add it to the warm chocolate to cool it down.) Once it’s about 80 degrees F, scrape the chocolate back into the double boiler. Allow to come to about 90 degrees F, stirring occasionally, making sure not to warm it too much. Then it’s ready for dipping.

Dip each cherry into the chocolate, rolling around to coat completely. Place the cherry back on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cherries.

You can store the cherries in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Over the next few days, the fondant will soften and liquefy a bit (this will slow down considerably in the refrigerator). My photo shows them still with a solid fondant – they’re still delicious that way too!

Makes 20 chocolate-covered cherries.

 

 

Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts

pan seared brussels sprouts

A few weeks back, I shared in the Eating the Food group that I was having pan-seared Brussels Sprouts along with some eggs for breakfast. This started a conversation not only about Brussels Sprouts (and their deliciousness, of course) but also about getting more vegetables into your breakfast. I must confess: I don’t always get veggies in first thing in the morning. I do enjoy them (especially with eggs), but it just doesn’t always happen. Of course, that realization got me thinking and inspired this post about getting more vegetables into your day.

So I’ve been motivated once more to be sure I’m giving vegetables their due. While I have no issues in the spring and summer, when I go to the farmer’s market and come home with more vegetables than any normal human can possibly consume in a week, (What can I say? They all look SO GOOD and I get starry-eyed and have to bring them all home with me.) winter-time makes vegetable consumption more difficult. This is when I focus on those veggies that are longer storage varieties, such as root vegetables, winter squash, cabbage, and of course, Brussels Sprouts, so they still taste fresh. I also try my hardest to make these veggies easy to make, so I’ll be more likely to consume them even on busy weeknights.

Pan-searing is one such way to accomplish that “easy-to-make” goal. It only takes a few minutes and really highlights the natural sweetness of the Brussels Sprouts, thanks to the caramelization that happens in the pan. They’re delicious alongside meatloaf and mashed potatoes, pork chops, or even with eggs at breakfast. Even if you’ve previously shunned Brussels Sprouts, I encourage you to revisit them with this method. You might just find them not only tolerable, but they could become your new favorite veggie!

For step-by-step instruction, check out my “how-to” video on YouTube for these Brussels Sprouts (and feel free to subscribe, so you won’t miss an episode!):

Print Recipe

Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts (gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

1 1/2 T coconut oil

1 lb Brussels Sprouts, sliced roughly into 1/4 inch thick slices

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium heat. Add coconut oil and allow to melt and coat pan. Spread out sliced Brussels Sprouts into a single layer in the skillet. Allow to sear without moving for about a minute, or until the sprouts start to brown. Stir around to flip the sprouts and brown the other side for another minute or so. Continue to stir every so often, spreading the sprouts back out, until they are browned on edges and just tender throughout. (Total cooking time is about 5 minutes.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.