Monday, June 18, 2012

Green Beans with Chili, Mushrooms, and Pecans

The past couple of weeks have been pretty crazy, filled with a visit from a close friend from the states, long work days, and eventful nights in and around Tel Aviv.  I'm wiped out to say the least.  I can still feel vibrations pulsing through my body and buzzing ringing in my ears, remnants from a weekend full of loud music and lots of dancey Israelis.  However, I watch my email inbox build before my eyes and am reminded that a new week has started.  Back to the grind.

On another note, the humid Tel Avivian heat has officially hit (forgot quite how moist it gets here) and it has become hard to breath or do anything outside for that matter. Awesome.  I will say though, the hotter it gets, the more I crave fresh, crispy fruits and veggies.  With deliciously rich dairy products and opportunities to buy fresh baked breads and pitas on every corner,  it is beyond easy to indulge in a satisfying diet exclusively consisting of bread and cheese here in Israel.  Fortunately, the country is even more famous for its produce.  Notorious for its large exports of oranges and dates globally, Israel really does grow some of the most delicious fruits and veggies in existence.

Lucky for me, I live near a number of produce stores and the largest shuk (outdoor market) in Tel Aviv where I can find fresh, affordable products.  So, to start the summer off right, I have vowed to start cooking more so I can utilize the season's natural treasures!

Last night, to my dismay I opened my fridge only to find a bag of string beans and a few mushrooms left over from last week's shopping trip.  So instead of heading to a restaurant, I did what I love to do...I scraped together a healthy meal with some creativity and cabinet staples.  I pulled out some frozen lentils from my freezer, almond butter and soy sauce from the fridge, roasted pecans and chili flakes from the cabinet, and of course the string beans and mushrooms.

It was a little unconventional, but really tasty and very filling!
(Serves 1)
2-3 cup green beans, cooked
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup lentils, cooked
1-2 T natural almond butter (natural peanut butter will work fine here as well)
1/4 cup + 2 T water
1 TB low sodium soy sauce
handful pecans, chopped
crushed chili flakes (amount to your liking)
1/2 T olive oil

In a pan, heat olive oil.  Add mushrooms and cook until softened.  Spice with crushed chili flakes to your liking.  Add green beans and 1/4 cup water.  Let cook until green beans are al dente.  Add cooked lentils, stir, and remove from heat and pour into a shallow bowl.

In a mixing bowl, combine almond butter, 2 T water, soy cauce, and chili flakes to your liking,  Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour almond sauce over green bean mixture and sprinkle pecans on top.  Enjoy! : )

Monday, May 21, 2012

New Country, New Knowledge, New Food...Quinoa Stuffed Peppers and Israeli "Caprese" Salad

It has been exactly four months since my last post!  To say the least, there have been quite a few life changes to date.   

Since January 21st, I...

1. moved to Tel Aviv, Israel
2. miraculously found an apartment on my own
3. danced next to Israel's most well known celebrity a club at 4am
4. have been pulled over twice for "crossing white dotted lines..."?
5. experienced credit card fraud (awesome)
6. bumped into an American cousin visiting Israel who I have literally met once before  
7. recently learned how to play a somewhat annoying, yet addicting card game called "Taki"
8. learned that oven-safe cooking pouches are called "kookies" 
9. FINALLY have a functioning stove and oven after 6 weeks of gas/electricity/installation issues

The list could go on and on.  Moving to Israel has been a rollercoaster of ridiculousness, complete elation, and immeasurable stress.  It's been quite the adventure.

One of the things that brings me continual joy and peace of mind is my ability to stroll over to numerous delicious restaurants, falafel and juice stands, and produce kiosks in my area.  Tel Aviv has become a hub for quality, fresh, healthy, vegetarian/gluten-free friendly, and of course delicious foods and restaurants.  

Just down my street, I can find the best voted juice stand in Tel Aviv, across from my building, an awesome cafe with a mean cafe hafuch (late'),  and my very block is home to one of the most highly rated restaurants in Tel Aviv.  It's grand.  I'm so inspired by Tel Aviv's fusion of middle eastern flare with cosmopolitan modernity, especially in regards to food.  

In honor of my newly installed stove and oven, tonight I insisted on cooking up a fresh, affordable meal for a friend and myself!  Cooking again and it feels so good...

Dishes included:

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. ground cumin                                                                                                                                                                                     
1 Tbs. sweet paprika                                                                                                                                                                                   
1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper                                                                                                                                                                       
2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                                                                                                              
1 10-oz. spinach                                                                                                                                                                                          
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes                                                                                                                                                                     
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained                                                                                                                                        
1 box sliced mushrooms                                                                                                                                                                     
3/4 cup quinoa                                                                                                                                                                                             
3 large carrots, grated (1 1/2 cups)                                                                                                                                                    
4 large bell peppers (any color)                                                                                                                                                            
2 cup water
Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.                                                                                                                          
Add mushrooms and cook until soft.

Add cumin, pepper, paprika, and garlic, and sauté 1 minute.

Stir in spinach and tomatoes.
Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
Stir in chickpeas, quinoa, carrots, and 1.5 cups water.
Cover, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender.
Season with salt, if desired.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Pour remaining 1/2 cup water in bottom of baking dish.

Fill each bell pepper with quinoa mixture until just overflowing, and place in baking dish.
Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour.  Uncover and transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.
Israeli "Caprese" Salad

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved     
large handful basil leaves, chopped                                                                                                
bulgarian cheese, cubed (portioned to your liking)      
ground black pepper                                                                                                                                  
1 Tbs. olive oil
Combine all ingredients and serve! 
בתאבון (bate' avon)-Enjoy!
Goldstars, of course

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Yet another butternut squash variation...this time "Butternut Squash with Coconut Milk and Peanuts"

Happy Weekend!

I know. I know. I've already cooked up two butternut squash dishes in the last few weeks, but it's just too good! I can't stop buying my pre-chopped squash!  Last night, I wanted to attempt something rich (yet, healthy of course), so I knew coconut milk was the way to go.  This side is so easy, so creamy, and incredibly flagrant!

Butternut Squash with Coconut Milk and Peanuts

(Serves 4-6)


24 oz. chopped butternut squash
2 Tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
1 onion chopped
2 Tbsp diced green chiles (mild, canned)
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup peanuts (halved)
10 oz. unsweetened coconut milk
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
5 bay leaves


1. In a pan, heat 1 Tbsp oil. Add squash and saute over medium-high heat until golden brown (about 8 minutes).  Remove pan from heat.

2. At the same time, in another pan, heat 1 Tbsp oil. Add onion and saute over medium heat until softened and browned (about 10 minutes).  Add bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and chiles and stir for about 3 minutes.  Add cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Mix.

3. Place butternut squash pan over high heat and add onion mixture. Stir. Pour coconut milk into pan and bring to a boil.  

4. Cover pan and reduce heat to very low and let sit for about 10 minutes until squash is softened.  Remove from heat.

5. Squeeze juice of a lemon into the pan and distribute the 1/4 cup of halved peanuts, stir, and serve.

Bon Appetit! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Butternut Squash with Shelled English Peas

I'm not a huge pea lover.  They're full of carbs and calories with little return on protein and fiber, so I rarely ever eat them.  But, the tables turned the other day at Costco, when I noticed beautiful bags of fresh shelled English peas, which I've heard are delectable.  Eeeeeven though I typically don't go for the green guys, I decided to try these because I knew if I used them with other vegetables I love, they would probably be delicious.

So, I headed home with my pound o' peas and pondered about what to do with them.


I knew they would look vibrant and probably taste so if paired with butternut squash.  So, I made a second run to the grocery store, but this time to just to my local Trader Joe's.  I came back with my favorite ready-to-go vegetable of all time....chopped butternut squash in a bag!

I gathered some ingredients from my kitchen to create a dish with the squash and peas and VOILA.... an Indian inspired creation full of flavor and anti-oxidants.  It was really tasty if I do say so myself.

Butternut Squash with Shelled English Peas

(Serves 4-6)


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 box sliced mushrooms
16 oz. chopped butternut squash
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup fresh English peas (or frozen peas)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp tumeric
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp+1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp+1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water


1. In a heated skillet, add 1/2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Place the chopped onion into the skillet and saute until translucent.  Add sliced mushrooms and saute until soft.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside on a plate.

2. In the same skillet, add the other 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Place butternut squash into the skillet and cook on high for 7 minutes.  Add cumin, tumeric, cinnamon, paprika, and remaining salt and pepper to squash.  Pour 1/2 cup water and stir.  Cook over high heat until majority of the water absorbs.

3. After most of the water has absorbed and has created a thickened sauce, add the peas and the mushroom mixture to the squash.  Cook through another 5 minutes on low-medium heat.

4. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mediterranean Quinoa with Spiced Chicken Breasts

It's been a whirlwind with the holidays, but I'm back!  Hope you all enjoyed the extended weekend (Not to mention we get to enjoy yet another 3 day weekend this weekend! But, who's counting...)!

Tonight, I felt like preparing something with a Moroccan-esque vibe...with my own twist of course.  So, I cooked up a black bean and tomato quinoa with spiced chicken breasts.  This dish is very easy to make and most ingredients are right in your pantry (I didn't have to make a market run for this one!).

Mediterranean Quinoa with Spiced Chicken Breasts

 Note: This recipe is easily adjustable depending on how few/many people you are serving.


1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup rinsed and drained black beans
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, juices reserved
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cup vegetable broth (Trader Joe's Organic Low-Sodium variety highly recommended)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


1. In a pan, heat olive oil.  Add chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute on medium heat.

2. In the same pan, add black beans, 1/2 the can of diced tomatoes (juice of half of can included), 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon cumin, and 1 cup of vegetable broth.  Mix and bring to a simmer.  Add quinoa and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until quinoa appears light and fluffy.  Add additional vegetable broth if necessary to fully cook quinoa.  All of the broth should be absorbed in the end.

3. In another pan, add remaining cup of vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.  Add cooked chicken breasts and bathe them in the broth.  

4. Distribute ground black pepper, turmeric, and remaining cumin and cinnamon to the pan.  Add the second half of can of diced tomatoes with its juices.  Cook over low heat, for 5 minutes, creating a thickened sauce.

5. Serve this dish on a serving platter or on individual plates starting with the quinoa, topping it with the chicken breasts, and spooning the tomato broth sauce over the whole dish.

Ready to be topped with the glorious chicken breasts!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quick and Delicious Stuffed Peppers!

Today was just one of those know...where you wake up tired and are restless and fidgit-y the rest of the day.  Sooo, when the clock struck 5 and work came to a close I knew just what I needed... something warm and savory that I could throw together quickly for dinner!

I searched the fridge and collected the veggies I had on hand, mixed them with some other ingredients, and spices and VOILA!...scrumptious veggie stuffed peppers!

Vegetable Stuffed Peppers
(Serves 3)

3 medium bell peppers
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice (or grain of your choice)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2-3/4 cup spaghetti sauce
1/4-1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2. Rinse the bell peppers and remove their tops.  Line them in a baking dish (not on a cookie sheet).

3. In a bowl, combine the carrots, rice, tomatoes, parsley, black beans, spaghetti sauce, cumin, paprika, black pepper, and sprinkle of salt and toss.

4. Fill each pepper with the tomato-rice mixture to the very top and smash down with a spoon...add more mixture until you can't squeeze any more in!

5. Pour water (amount depending on the size of your pan) into bottom of baking dish.

6. Place stuffed peppers into heated oven and cook for 45 minutes.

Grainy, fibrous, and bursting with flavor
Bright and beautiful

Dig in and relish!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Veggie Chicken Chili

One of my favorite things to do on a cold day (well, let's be honest, any day really), is to enjoy a savory meal that can be served up in a bowl and devoured with a spoon.  There is nothing more comforting than cozy-ing up on the couch with the bright flannel throw that my mom quilted and designed, without having to mess around with a plate and fork, or even worse, dealing with a knife, if the meal so requires!  So, I'm always searching for new soup, stew, and chili recipes or am trying to create some new ones of my own.           
A couple of days ago, I became obsessed with the idea of making vegetable chicken chili (a healthier alternative to traditional beef chili). After researching next to 20-30 already existing chicken chili recipes, all of which were missing that certain "je ne sais quoi" I was looking for, I decided to do what I have the most fun doing when cooking...Trying “a little of this, a little of that” and hoping for a great turnout!  And what a great turnout this dish was!  My veggie chicken chili is a melting pot full of bits and pieces from other chili recipes with creativity of my own weaved throughout.  My critics absolutely loved it! 
Veggie Chicken Chili
(Serves 4)

1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 pound ground chicken (or turkey)
2 red peppers, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 stalks celery, chopped
1  14 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup water
2  5 oz. cans tomato paste
1  14 oz. can diced tomatoes, juices reserved
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a non-stick pan, heat one teaspoon olive oil.  Place ground chicken (or turkey) in pan and cook until golden brown, breaking chicken up into small chunks.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

2. In a non-stick skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil.  Add chopped onion and cook on medium heat until translucent.  Add garlic, carrots, celery, and red pepper and cook for 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook until soft.  Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

3. Pour ¼ cup water into pan to de-glaze.  Transfer browned chicken into the vegetable pan.  Add drained kidney beans, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes (with its juices).  Sprinkle in cumin and chili powder and stir.  

4. Cover and cook on low for up to 2 hours to thicken to your liking.

5. Finally, uncover and serve!
Bon Appetit!