Friday, October 2, 2015

Blueberry Coconut Almond Granola

My journey towards creating the perfect granola recipe began at the beginning of the year when four pounds of old fashioned rolled oats were delivered to my house.  My parent's kitchen was on the verge of being renovated and needed to be completely cleared out.  I was the recipient of pretty much all of the food products that their kitchen had contained.  While I was appreciative, I was overwhelmed with the overflowing bags of food filling my kitchen (on top of what we already had!).  I was determined to use up everything that they gave us and I did just that, beginning with the oats.

Since I had oodles of oats, I decided I would try my hand at making granola.  I had only attempted making my own granola once in the past.  While it was well received, it wasn't my favorite.  This time around, I set out to make my perfect granola.  I made several recipes but eventually came up with my own.  My recipe calls for dried blueberries which is kind of funny because I am not a big fan of blueberries!  Sure I love them in pies and other baked goods but you will rarely see me eating them fresh.  After trying various dried fruits in this granola, I decided that dried blueberries were the best candidate.  Go figure! 

There are many reasons to make your own granola.  First of all, it is cheaper, secondly, it is EASY to make, thirdly, you can control the ingredients that go into it (which is important in the age of GMO's, processed sugars, etc.), and most importantly, it tastes SO much better than store bought.  So the next time you reach for a bag of granola off of the store shelf, hit the bulk food section instead, and make your own.  You won't be disappointed!

Blueberry Coconut Almond Granola

3 cups of old fashioned organic rolled oats
1 cup of shredded unsweetened organic coconut
1 cup of raw slivered organic almonds
1 cup of dried organic blueberries
1 tsp. of ground cinnamon (Ceylon is the best in my opinion!)
1/2 tsp. of Himalayan salt
1/4 cup of raw organic unprocessed coconut oil
1/3 cup of local honey
1/3 cup of 100% pure maple syrup
1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract


Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together the oats, coconut, almonds, blueberries, and cinnamon.  In a sauce pan on low heat, combine the salt, coconut oil, honey, and maple syrup.  When the coconut oil has melted, remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla extract, and stir until mixture is well combined.  Pour the liquid mixture into the large bowl and stir until the everything is evenly coated.  Dump the contents of the bowl onto the parchment lined baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  Watch it closely towards the end so that it ends up golden but not burned!  This granola takes the full 55 minutes in my gas oven but all ovens are different.  Once the granola is nice and golden, take out of the oven and let it cool for an hour or two.  When dried it should be hard and crunchy (if not, you know that your granola needs more time in the oven next time you make it).  Store in a sealed container for up to two weeks!

Serve over Greek yogurt, ice cream, or just eat it by the handfuls like we often do! Enjoy!

Photo by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ezogelin - Turkish Red Lentil Soup

I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time but every time I make this soup, I fail to document it.  Sigh.  Life takes over, what can I say?

A friend from college and owner of luxury travel agency, Destination Affairs, had been on a recent trip to Dubai.  She sent me this beautiful array of spices that she had picked up from the Souk market there.  I was out of my mind with excitement!  A cook's dream!  Opening that box was like opening a present on Christmas morning.  The excitement was truly the same.  I have to admit that I was hesitant to use them at first because I viewed them as gold. I did not want to use them hastily.  Instead, I wanted to find the perfect recipes to highlight their flavors.  These are truly some of the best spices I have ever used.  The cumin seed was so tasty that you could eat it straight (which I did) and the sumac had the most beautiful deep purplish burgundy color. I wanted to cherish them but then let's face it, spices do not get better with age.  I dove right in!

While on the hunt for different red lentil soup recipes, I came across a soup by the name of Ezogelin.  There is a sad story about a woman (Ezo) who was unlucky in marriage, that is associated with this soup but don't let that deter you from trying it!  It is honestly the perfect soup for a cold winter night (perfect timing, no? lol).  

*Google "Ezogelin" or "the Ezo Bride" to read the story if you are curious about the story behind the soup! 

Ezogelin (Turkish Red Lentil Soup)

2-3 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. of smoked hot paprika
1 tsp. of cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper 
1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp. of tomato paste
1 tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp. of dried spearmint
1 cup of red lentils, picked over and rinsed

1/4 cup of Basmati rice, rinsed
1/4 cup of quinoa (or bulgar wheat), rinsed
8 cups of water
1 Tbsp. of sumac, more for garnish

juice of one lemon
Himalayan salt 
fresh ground black pepper
fresh mint, chopped for garnish
crumbled feta cheese for serving

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery with a pinch of salt, and cook until they start to brown.   Add the garlic, cumin seeds, paprika, crushed red pepper, cayenne, tomato, tomato paste, and cook for around 5 minutes or so.
Add in the lentils, rice, quinoa, and stir to coat in the tomato spice mixture.  Pour in the water, add the dried mint, cover, and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for 35-40 minutes until the grains and lentils are cooked through.
Add the sumac, lemon juice, and season to taste. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
Serve in large bowls sprinkled with chopped fresh mint leaves, crumbled feta cheese, and an additional pinch of sumac.

Pictures by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe adapted from Cook Eat Live Vegetarian

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nimma Rasam

It is no secret that I love soup.  I could eat soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner....not kidding.  Nimma Rasam or lemon rasam, is one of my favorite soups to order when we eat Indian cuisine.  It is a brothy, tomato based soup that is spicy, tangy, loaded with flavor, and just downright delicious.  I feel like it is a healing soup as well since it contains turmeric, spices, lots of garlic, ginger, and heat from hot chillies!  I have been on the hunt for the perfect recipe for rasam since I had my first bowl.  This is my latest version, made with sprouted lentils so that it is hearty but still brothy at the same time.  If you love spicy soups, you are sure to love this! 

Nimma Rasam

2 Tbsp. of coconut oil
1/2 a large onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
3 carrots, halved and cut on a diagonal
1 cup of assorted sprouted lentils
6 cups of water
Himalayan salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1 head of garlic, sliced
2 small green chilies, sliced
1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
lemon slices for serving
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped (plus more for garnish)
Basmati rice for serving

2 Tbsp. of coconut oil
1 tsp. of black mustard seeds
1 tsp. of cumin seeds
1/2 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 dried red chillies, rinsed and dried
10-15 fresh curry leaves
1/4 tsp. of hing 

Heat the coconut oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot on low to medium, add the onion, and a sprinkle of Himalayan salt.  Saute until the onions are translucent, then add the tomatoes.  Cook the tomatoes down a bit until they are mushy (around 8 to 10 minutes), then add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, and saute for another minute or two.  Add in the carrots, lentils, green chilies, ginger, garlic, and water.  Stir, cover, and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer until the lentils are cooked through.  In the meantime, begin your tarka.  Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and cover the pan.  When you hear the black mustard seeds popping, quickly toss in the curry leaves, dried red chillies, and cover the pan again.  The oil will spit so be careful!  Shake the pan a bit and then add in the onion. Saute until the onions brown a bit and then add in the hing.  After a minute or two, dump your finished tarka into the lentils.  Stir in the lemon juice and fresh cilantro.  Simmer for 5 more minutes so the flavors meld together, season with salt/pepper, and then serve it with a bit of Basmati rice.  Enjoy!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Roasted Cabbage, Vegetables, and Garbanzo Beans with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cabbage is one of my favorite vegetables.  It is one of those versatile veggies that I gravitate towards whenever I am at the store.  I throw it in soups, roast it, saute it, stuff it, make it into a salad, or use it as a condiment in tacos.  You really can't go wrong!  Roasting cabbage is probably one of the easiest and no fuss ways to cook it.  I usually toss it with crushed fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, and olive oil, which is always yummy but decided to try something different this time around.  The peanut sauce below reminds me of the sauce you would have on Szechuan noodles in a Chinese restaurant which is why I can't stop making this!  It is that good!  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Roasted Cabbage, Vegetables, and Garbanzo Beans with Spicy Peanut Sauce

1 head of cabbage, shredded
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 carrots, thickly julienned
1 red bell pepper, thickly julienned
1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
extra virgin olive oil
Himalayan salt
fresh ground black pepper or ground Szechuan peppercorns 
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
lime wedges for serving
sriracha sauce for serving
1/4 cup of unsalted roasted peanuts
3 scallions, chopped 
Jasmine rice or rice noodles for serving

Spicy Peanut Sauce:
1/3 cup of all natural creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup of hot water
1 small garlic clove, grated
2 Tbsp. of rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. of low sodium tamari 
2 tsp. of honey

Preheat your oven to 425.  Place the cabbage, onion, carrots, and bell pepper in a large roasting pan.  Give the veggies a good sprinkle of salt, pepper, and then drizzle a healthy amount of olive oil over the whole thing.  Toss the mixture and put it in the oven for 20 minutes.  Toss again and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.  Add the garbanzo beans, toss once again, and return to the oven for 20 more minutes.  While the vegetables are roasting, make your sauce.  Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until the sauce is smooth.  To plate, place your rice or noodles on the bottom of a dish or bowl.  Next place the veggies on top of the rice, drizzle a good amount of the sauce on top, drizzle some sriracha, and top with cilantro, scallions, nuts, with a lime wedge on the side.  Enjoy!

Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking
Photos by Becky Loves Cooking

Monday, October 13, 2014

Greek Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is probably one of my favorite comfort foods.  I make several varieties utilizing many different types of lentils.  I also always seem to have the ingredients for a lentil soup so it is one of my go-to meals.  Usually, I make my classic Italian version but I decided to go Greek this time since I had quite a bit of pantry items to use up.   I just love the way dill, lemon, and feta, brighten up dishes.  A big bowl of this on a chilly day warms the soul!

Greek Lentil Soup

4-6 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, cored and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 Tbsp. of tomato paste
1 Tbsp. of Greek seasoning (sodium free)
a bundle of fresh thyme (or 1/2 Tbsp. of dried thyme)
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper (optional)
4-6 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
1 1/2 cups of green lentils, sorted and rinsed
1/4 cup of fresh dill, roughly chopped (or 1 heaping Tbsp. of dried dill weed)
8 cups of water
Himalayan salt
fresh ground black pepper
half a 16 ounce bag of frozen whole leaf spinach or kale
zest of a lemon 
juice of a lemon (or two if they are small)
1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
cooked rice for serving (or some crusty bread!)

Heat the oil in a heavy 5.5 quart Dutch oven over medium, add the onions, pepper, carrots, celery, and a good pinch of salt.  When the veggies begin to brown, add the tomato paste, Greek seasoning, thyme, and crushed red pepper.  Once the tomato paste cooks and becomes a deeper color, add the garlic, and cook for another minute.  Add the lentils, water, dill, cover and bring to a boil.  Bring it down to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are cooked through.  Add lemon zest, lemon juice, feta cheese, and spinach.  Simmer for 10-15 more minutes.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Ladle into bowls over a little bit of rice and enjoy!  

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Harissa

I love Brussels sprouts but to be honest, I don't go out of my way to pick them up at the grocery store.  They take a little work to clean but most of all, they never seem to be fresh.  Today I took my kids to Costco and while we were in the frigid refrigerator section (their favorite section of the store), I glanced over at the sprouts.  To my surprise, they were fresh!  No moldy ends or discolored leaves!  I threw a bag of sprouts into the cart and figured I would come up with some way to prepare them in a day or two.  While in the car, I kept asking my adorable children if either of them had passed gas.  They are usually pretty honest (and proud) about that sort of thing so I dropped it even though our car smelled to high heck!  When we arrived home and I began unloading the car, I quickly realized who/what the culprit was....the Brussels sprouts!  Of course!  I made the decision to get them in the oven as soon as I could because the last thing I wanted to deal with was a stinky fridge.  After glancing around the kitchen, I picked up my old standby, harissa.  I could seriously put harissa on everything and anything.  For those that don't know, harissa is a North African and Middle Eastern hot pepper sauce.  You can use it as a condiment or add it to dishes in the cooking process.  I feel like the roasting process intensifies and deepens the flavor of the harissa.  I have yet to make my own but I definitely plan on doing so in the future.  In the meantime, I have come across a couple of brands that have become my favorites.  I hope you enjoy this new take on Brussels sprouts!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Harissa

2 lbs. of fresh Brussels sprouts, outer layers removed and stems trimmed (halved if they are huge)
3-4 Tbsp. of harissa (I used Piquant Harissa)
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Himalayan salt
crumbled feta cheese
honey, for drizzling
fresh mint, chiffonade

Preheat your oven to 400 and line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper (easier clean up at the end).  Toss the sprouts with the harissa, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and spread them out in a single layer on the pan.  Roast them for 20 minutes and then stir them a bit so that they get crispy on all sides.  Roast for another 20 minutes, until they are nice and crispy on the outside but not dried out inside.  For serving, garnish with feta, a drizzle of honey and fresh mint.  Enjoy! 

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stewed Italian Cucuzza Squash

Cucuzza?  What the heck is that?  It may sound like some sort of disease but in fact, it is my favorite summer squash.  Cucuzza (translation...Super Long Squash!), is a crazy Italian squash that can grow up to 10 inches in just one day!  In my family we always referred to it as "cucuzza-long" because apparently its given name didn't truly express how incredibly "long" these squash really are, haha!  Below is a picture of the cucuzza as well as a picture showing how they grow....

The cucuzza vines grew up an old dead tree!  

Cucuzza may be slightly labor intensive to prepare but they are SO worth it.  I will peel and core these guys until the cows come home because I just love the flavor of this squash.  It is sweet, mild, and doesn't turn to gush when you cook it, unlike other squash varieties.  The seeds inside of the cucuzza resemble those of grapefruit seeds......but on steroids, so yes, it needs to be cored.  The skin can be really tough so peeling is also essential.  I prefer to stew or saute my cucuzza but you can stuff them, roast them, add them to soups, etc.!  

Unfortunately, you won't find the cucuzza in the grocery store because let's face it, it probably looks like a Frankensquash to most people and it wouldn't sell.  Instead, you will have to grow them yourself, hunt them down through a CSA or local farmer's market.  I am blessed to have access to a local garden and boatloads of cucuzza!  

So enough of all of that, now onto the recipe!  

Stewed Italian Cucuzza Squash

4-6 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper
Himalayan salt
fresh ground black pepper
10 or so banana peppers (or 2-4 cubanelles), cored and sliced lengthwise
3 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and diced
8-10 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
a bundle of fresh thyme
2 lengthy cucuzza squash, peeled, halved, cored, and sliced

Heat the oil in a 9-quart Dutch oven, add the onions, crushed red pepper, and a sprinkle of salt.  When the onions become translucent, add the peppers and cook until they soften.  Add the tomatoes.  Cook this mixture until the water from the tomatoes has mostly evaporated and the mixture has a deep red color to it.  Toss in the garlic and the thyme bundle, cook for a minute or so.  Next, dump in the prepared cucuzza and stir until it is thoroughly coated with the tomato mixture.  Turn the heat to low and cover.  Let this simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Remove the lid and cook for an additional 15 minutes to reduce the liquid that has come out of the squash.  Once the squash stew has thickened, turn it off.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve as a side dish or as a main meal over rice or pasta with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano of course!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking