Fennel Seed & Paprika Potato Latkes

I have 2 obsessions {well, to be completely honest… there’s a lot more than 2…}: spices and Russia.

One of my closest friends, Lynne, lent me a book in 2007 called Tatiana & Alexander {PS, never lend me a book. Chances are, you probably won’t get it back} which is one book from a trilogy about Russian lovers during WWII. I devoured the 900+ page book in 12 hours, forgoing sleep in the name of love.

Ever since reading those books, I have had a mad love affair with Russia. I kid you not, if I meet someone who has an accent even remotely close to Russian, I pick their brain. I even asked my childhood friend who was born in Russia  if I could randomly email her questions I had about the culture. By the way, I hadn’t talked to her in years.

Anyways, Husband and I went to Scottsdale for our first honeymoon {I say first because someday we WILL be going to Hawaii} and in Old Town Scottsdale, there was a random Russian import store, so y0u know I had to go. I got my first set of true Russian handmade Matryoshka {or nesting} dolls. They are so dear to my heart – probably my favorite earthly possession.

Besides homemade Stroganov, I have never made a Russian dish {gasp!}, so I decided on Latkes, or драники {draniki}. Because the poor old potato is so monotonous, it makes a great canvas to experiment with my other obsessions; spices! Probably my favorite spice would be Paprika. But, since experimenting with fennel, I also love the fresh pop that fennel seeds give. That’s where the perfect marriage {like Tatiana and Alexander’s!} begins…

| Fennel Seed & Paprika Potato Latkes

Serves about 6

4 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled and grated

1/4 C chopped onion

2 TBS ground flax seed mixed with 6 TBS water

1/4 C whole wheat flour

1/2-1 TSP fennel seed

1/2 TSP smoky paprika

1/4 TSP salt

1/4 C olive oil {or 1/8 inch deep in your pan}

Ground fennel seed.

Latkes 1

Mix well the potatoes, onion, flax mix, ground fennel seed, paprika, salt and flour.

On medium-high heat {6th notch or so}, drop 2 TBS size flattened balls in the hot oil. In about 2-3 minutes {or until golden-brown}, flip the latkes for an additional 2-3 minutes. Set each cooked latke on a plate lined with paper towel to soak up the oil.

Serve with sour cream and chives {or plain soygurt}.

Latkes 3

Enjoy!

Gazpacho and Spring Cleaning

That title is probably totally weird to you, but yesterday I did probably like my 10th spring cleaning of the year so far, and it always feels so great. Once I’m done, anyway. I tackled about 6 loads of laundry, deep cleaned both bathrooms, organized our closet and coat closet among other tasks {we are still going to clean the kids bedrooms out this weekend – they come home in 11 days!}.

All the spring cleaning, plus the 80+ degree weather {finally!} and our extremely well-behaved puppy at the park all made me think of those simple things that remind me of summer; lazing around on a hot summer day at the pool or a park, all the windows wide open letting in fresh air…

But one thing that’s not really my all-time favorite summer activity is cooking. If you recall, last summer I made a handful of different soups, which sounds crazy in hot weather. My logic is that you just throw everything in one pot, cover it and let it sit. No slaving over a hot stove or multiple burners heating up your house.

Something that {I honestly have no idea why or where I got it from} I have been wanting to make for the past week or two is Gazpacho. I did some reading up on this cold soup, and it’s just my kind of dish. I like foods that don’t always have an exact recipe, rather a backbone that you build off of to fit your palette/fridge/budget.

It was so refreshing and surprisingly FILLING. I couldn’t eat my entire bowl {I think maybe because the water content is so high} but I wish I could have. This recipe makes a huge pot and could probably serve 6 comfortably as a side dish. Possibly the best part is that there’s no heat required.

Gazpacho1

| Gazpacho

Serves approx. 6

5 Roma tomatoes

1 red/purple onion

1 large cucumber

1 red bell pepper

4 celery stalks

3 cloves garlic

1/2 jalapeno

a handful of cilantro

3 TBS tomato juice

3 TBS olive oil

3 TBS white wine vinegar

1/2 TSP salt

avocado to garnish {optional}

1/2 TBS agave

Finely dice the first eight ingredients. Put half of all the vegetables in a blender plus the last 4 ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour out the blended mix into a large bowl and set aside. Add the other half of the vegetables to the blender/food processor and pulse until they become minced, but not pureed. Add in the minced vegetables into the blended vegetables and stir well.

It is best if this soup sits in the fridge for 8+ hours.

Garnish with slices of avocado and a couple sprigs of cilantro, if desired.

Gazpacho2

Enjoy on a hot day!

Pasta Puttanesca

I’ve heard some very interesting stories about this Italian dish. The name literally translates to, “Whore Style Spaghetti”. One story is that the ingredients were so cheap, it was a staple for Italian night walkers. Another is that prostitutes would make this pungently aromatic, spicy dish and place it on their window sill to draw in men. Whatever story is true, the dish is truly alluring.

I’ve wanted to try my hand at Pasta Puttanesca since I first saw A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s extremely inexpensive, and utterly fool proof. There is a basic recipe here, but the point is that you put in what you have or what you feel like. My ingredients vary a tad from the basic recipe, but it’s mighty fine.

Puttanesca 1

| Pasta Puttanesca

Serves 2

1 TBS olive oil

1/2 TBS minced garlic

1 TSP red pepper flakes

1 – 16 oz can of diced tomatoes in juice

2-3 TBS chopped sun-dried tomatoes

2 TBS capers

1/4 C kalamata olives, roughly chopped

a dash of salt

2 servings spaghetti, cooked

Puttanesca 4

Saute garlic, crushed red chili flakes and capers in olive oil on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Pour in the can of tomatoes and add the rest of the ingredients plus a couple tablespoons of water. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sauce reduces a little, add in cooked spaghetti and stir well to incorporate.

Puttanesca 2

Serve and enjoy!

Smoky Sweet Potato Hash with Kale and Black Beans

So, I literally just realized that I am writing another post about sweet potatoes. Seriously? Good thing they are quite versatile.

Sweet Potato 8

And also, kale? Kale is the trend when it comes to health food these days, and I can totally see why. Kale has more iron than beef {that’s awesome news for those with deficiencies}, more calcium than a glass of milk, and significantly more vitamin C than spinach, among many other things.

Purple Kale

Kale, for me, is better cooked. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat it raw, but I prefer it cooked, and this combination is not only a huge handful of many super foods, but also freakin’ delicious. Plus, it’s a one-pot meal, perfect for those lazier days.

Purple Kale1

| Smoky Sweet Potato Hash with Kale and Black Beans

serves 2-3

1 TBS olive oil

1 large sweet potato, chopped into very small pieces

1/4 red onion, chopped

7 oz black beans {half a can} drained and rinsed

3 large Kale leaves, cut into thin ribbons

a dash of salt

a dash of cayene

1/2 TSP smoky paprika

In a large skillet on medium-high heat, cook in an even layer the sweet potatoes, covering. Stir every couple of minutes for about 15 minutes total.

Add in the chopped onion and continue cooking for a couple more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the beans with the spices, again in an even layer after being well incorporated, and cover for another couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

When everything is nice and somewhat crispy, add in the ribbons of kale, and cook until just wilted.

sweet potato 12

Enjoy!

Quinoa with Greens & Beans

Over the last few years, I have really stayed away from carbohydrates. Even getting as far as being overly obsessive about not eating fruit or even veggies that had over a few grams in them before my wedding. I thought this was “healthy” because, yeah, I lost a lot of weight. But I gained it all back pretty much immediately after our honeymoon. I hadn’t even introduced carbs back into my diet yet, but I made up for it because when I had a cheat day, I really had a cheat day.

I have discovered over countless diets and trial and error that all your body really needs is balance. If it doesn’t get this balance, your body gets cravings and sooner or later you will indulge those cravings. I have only recently {like 2 weeks ago} come to terms with the fact that eating carbs not on the weekend is actually okay {gasp!}. And I don’t mean white sugar and white flour. I mean whole grain seed carbohydrates {notice I didn’t say whole wheat}. Carbs are still a little scary to me, but I have read The Kind Diet before and recently picked it up again, and it details so well why we need these little seedlings in our life and what they do for our insides and overall well-being.

Quinoa with Greens and Beans

So here’s to carbs! {Wow, never thought I’d say that}

 

| Quinoa with Greens & Beans

Serves 2

1 C quinoa

1 TSP oil {I used coconut}

4 or 5 baby bella mushrooms

1/2 C chopped onion

1 C spinach

1 C kale, torn into pieces

1 TSP soy sauce

1/2 C canned great northern beans, or any white bean

Cook the quinoa as package directs {you will have extra}.

In a skillet on medium-high heat, lightly saute the mushrooms and onions in coconut oil until soft. Add the kale and spinach plus soy sauce and 1 TSP water. Cover and stir every few minutes until the greens have wilted.

Start your plate with about a quarter of the quinoa in the pan {or however much you want}, then make a little bed of half of the vegetables and sprinkle 1/2 the beans over the top.

Quinoa with Greens and Beans1

Enjoy!

Cabbage & Chicken Soup

I have always been intrigued by the cabbage soup diet – not so much the diet aspect of it, but does the soup actually taste good? I thought it might.

Husband spent most of his day on a plane yesterday, and getting home from the airport after 2 flights totaling 4 hours, and 3 hours at airports, he finally arrived at 6:30 PM, utterly exhausted. I thought he would hate his life when he heard that we were having cabbage soup for dinner. At first, I’m pretty sure he did – but when he tried it, he surprised me by saying, “this is really good stuff.”

That’s more props than I usually get! You know Husband thinks something is good when he says, “yeah, it’s good.” But when he thinks it’s great, you don’t even have to ask – and he uses the word “really”.  A man of few words, that one is.

Cabbage has many healing properties. For one, ancient Egyptians used to consume cabbage before a night of drinking – and cabbage is still considered a hangover cure.  Being deemed an “elixir of youth”, it also detoxifies the blood because of the combination of sulphur and vitamin C. Cabbage is a magic vegetable for your core, healing ulcers, improving digestion and eliminating constipation.

A hefty kick of spice from cayenne pepper makes this cabbage soup far from bland, with the protein and filling benefits of chicken.

| Cabbage and Chicken Soup

1 TBS olive oil

1 TSP salt

1/2 TSP black pepper

1 TSP cayenne pepper

1 whole red onion, chopped

1 head of cabbage, shredded

1 – 10 oz can of diced tomatoes with green chilies

4 chicken breasts

8 C water

In a dutch oven on medium heat, sautee the onions in oil until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the whole can of tomatoes with chillies, water, chicken breasts, salt, black and cayenne peppers. Cover, reduce to medium-low, and let stand for 1-2 hours.

Take out each chicken breast and shred by pulling apart little pieces with 2 forks. Add chicken back into the dutch oven and bring to a boil, adding cabbage. Cover and let boil for 10 minutes.

Reduce heat back to low for 5 minutes, still covered.

Chicken & Cabbage Soup

Serve and enjoy!