Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Tacos

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Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Tacos

This recipe started out as a dip.  It was so popular and well liked it turned into a main mix for a few different Mexican style dishes.  It has evolved a little over the years, but always starts with the same foundation.  It is a very versatile mix that can go a lot of different ways depending on what you have on hand, what ingredients are in season or what your preferences are. We use it for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and as an ever popular dip for parties and potlucks. This recipe definitely has increased our use of black beans.

Black beans and all legumes are nutrition powerhouses.  They are a good source or protein, iron, and other nutrients and a very good source of fibre and folate. In addition black beans (along with other pulses) provide exceptional support for blood sugar balance and blood sugar regulation due to their protein plus fibre combination. Although all beans and lentils are very healthy,  there are unique properties to black beans. Current research is showing they may have particular benefits in preventing colon cancer as they support a very helpful bacteria in the lower colon.   Here are a couple more recipes using black beans.  Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies (with black beans) and  Roasted Corn, Black Bean and Ancient Grains Salad.

If you need taco inspiration, you have come to the right place. This month Recipe Redux challenge is to make a taco that is healthy and creative. Look for the link at the bottom of the post to take you to all the wonderful ideas from the members of The Recipe Redux team. You can probably make a different recipe for Taco Tuesday for at least a year! I’m looking forward to checking them out.

This recipe is very easy, quick, healthy, and creative.  It takes only about 15 minutes to prepare.  It doubles well to make extra to freeze for another day. Simply defrost in the fridge, reheat and serve. For another easy pulse based taco filling see my very popular recipe for Lentil Tacos.

Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Tacos

Makes 8

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp chipotle powder or 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1 1/2 tsp cumin

3/4 cup strained pureed tomatoes

1 3/4 cup cooked (or canned) black beans

1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Taco shells

Toppings such as chopped avocado, grated cheese (or vegan cheese), chopped tomato, lettuce, salsa, lime wedges

Directions:  Add olive oil to medium saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Add spices and heat until they are fragrant (a few more minutes).  Add tomato, black beans and corn.  Cook until filling is heated through (about 10 minutes). Top with freshly chopped cilantro and serve.

While taco filling is cooking prepare taco shells.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place taco shells on cookie sheet and heat for about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve.

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Dark Chocolate Seville Orange Truffles (with Avocado)

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Dark Chocolate Seville Orange Truffles (with Avocado)

I remember making truffles years ago, but only once or maybe twice a year because they were so rich.  Traditional truffles are made with butter or cream to make them so smooth and creamy, with the incredible texture that only truffles have.  If you love truffles, this recipe is going to change your life.

Avocado, which is today’s butter, oil, cream, cream cheese, and mayo substitute, couldn’t be more popular.  Avocado is used to replace fat in all kinds of recipes from brownies, pudding and cheesecake to the ever popular avocado toast.  When combined with dark chocolate in these truffles, it makes a rich, decadent, heavenly dessert that is delicious yet healthy too.

Avocado and dark chocolate are very heart healthy foods. Avocado is made up mostly of fat, but predominantly  heart healthy monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce cholesterol. It is also high in antioxidants and is nutrient rich. Flavonoids and  phytonutrients in dark chocolate have anti-inflammatory, anti-clogging, and antioxidant properties all of which benefit the heart. Much of the fat in chocolate (cocoa butter) is heart healthy as well.  When choosing chocolate, try to find one with seventy percent cocoa or more.  Making truffles with dark chocolate and avocado for your sweetheart is a wonderful way to express your love but also protect their heart.

Dark Chocolate Seville Orange Truffles

Makes 24

1/2 cup hazelnuts

140 grams dark chocolate

1/2 ripe avocado (70 grams)

6 tablespoons Seville Orange Marmalade

pinch salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

Pre heat oven to 300 degrees.  Place hazelnuts on an oven tray and roast for about 10 to 15 minutes, until fragrant.  Remove from oven and with oven mitts, rub hazelnuts together to remove skins.  Let cool.

While nuts are roasting, place 1/2 avocado in food processor and pulse.  Add marmalade, salt, vanilla and process until smooth.  While this is working slowly melt chocolate in a medium size heat proof bowl and let cool slightly.  Slowly add avocado mixture to warm chocolate and stir to combine.  Let cool and if mixture is too runny to make balls, refrigerate or freeze to firm up.

Pulse hazelnuts until fine or until desired texture for rolling truffles in.  Place in shallow bowl or plate.  Spoon truffle mixture onto nuts and roll until coated.  Store in the refrigerator.

 

Citrus Rosemary Roasted Almonds

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Citrus Rosemary Roasted Almonds

Isn’t it amazing how fast the year has gone?  It is time for the December Recipe Redux! This month we’re playing a little party game. We were instructed to reach for the nearest cookbook and redux the recipe on page 201, 16, 216 – or any combination of the number ‘2016.’  So fun!  For this  The Recipe Redux I chose “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters.  On page 216 I found the recipe,  Roasted Almonds with Herbs. It is in the delightful chapter, A Little Something…., which is filled with terrific small meals, snacks, or appetizers. The ideas are simple and quick, easy and nutritious and perfect for entertaining and even gifting.

From warm olives to eggplant caviar there were some great reminders of simple dishes I love and also some that I need to make ASAP such as marinated chard and fresh pickled vegetables.  Although I have made spiced nuts many times before, I particularly liked the method in this recipe. In this recipe the salt is dissolved into the liquid and really enhances the flavour.  The herbs are added and then the almonds are roasted for 15-20 minutes.  Quick and simple!

It is very easy to adjust the flavours to your liking.  The original recipe uses thyme and winter savoury but you can add anything you like. I particularly like rosemary with lemon, orange or grapefruit.  Spices work well too like curry, cumin, smoked paprika, chili, cocoa or maple.

Alice Waters is the owner of Chez Panisse, a restaurant in Berkeley, California that is best known for locally grown, organic ingredients. She has the culinary philosophy that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients and I wholeheartedly agree.  She has many excellent cookbooks and has won many awards.

Citrus Rosemary Roasted Almonds

Makes 1 cup

1 cup almonds

2 tablespoons fresh orange or grapefruit juice

zest of 1 grapefruit or 1 large orange

1/4 tsp salt

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (measure it after mincing)

2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions:

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Squeeze juice from an orange or grapefruit and measure into a medium size bowl.  Add salt and stir to dissolve.  Add fresh rosemary, olive oil and almonds.  Stir to coat almonds.  Add zest and toss.  Transfer to cast iron pan and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool completely.  The almonds will be chewy when still warm but become wonderfully crunchy when cool. Package in a air tight container to keep them fresh.

Check out the full 2016 party links here:recipe-redux-linky-logo

Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour

Spicy and sweet, these easy molasses cookies are filled with gingerbread spices. They are a delicious holiday cookie that is perfect with a cup of tea or to dunk into a glass of milk, a great after school snack or sweet addition to lunch boxes. They also pack well and would be a terrific holiday gift for neighbours or teachers.

Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour
Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour

As far as cookies go, these are a pretty healthy choice.  With so many tempting treats, the holidays can be a tough time to stay on track. These are a nicely balanced cookie, filled with flavour, but offer some extra nutrition beyond the calories. These cookies are made with oil in place of a hard fat like butter or shortening,  iron rich molasses as the sweetener, and sprouted spelt flour.

Spelt is an ancient grain (cultivated since 5000 BC),  which is more nutritious than the standard wheat we have available today.  It has a sweet mild flavour and a fine texture, that gives these cookies a tender, cake like consistency with a soft crumb. Spelt is lower in gluten and is ideal for cookies, pancakes, cakes, muffins, pie crust and crackers.  The gluten in spelt has slightly different properties which make it easily digestible.  It may be a choice to try for those with gluten sensitivities.

Sprouted flour is something relatively new on the market and I’m pretty excited to see it available at the grocery store.  Sprouting grains increases the availability of the nutrients locked in the seeds and can make them easier to digest and absorb. Important nutrients like B vitamins, Vitamin C, soluble fibre, essential amino acids are reported to be higher in sprouted flour. Good news for those who suffer from allergies: sprouted grains may also be less allergenic. Sprouted grain flour is made with intact grains and is a very healthy whole grain flour.  I’m planning on using it a lot more often!

Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour
Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour

Molasses Gingerbread Cookies with Sprouted Spelt Flour

Makes 12 cookies

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/3 cup fancy molasses

1 1/4 cup sprouted spelt flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons hot water

1 1/2 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with a silicone mat.

Heat water and pour it out into a medium heat proof bowl or the bowl of your mixer.  Add baking soda and stir to dissolve.  Add oil and molasses and mix well.  Stir in spices and mix well.  Add flour and stir until well incorporated.  Batter will not be as firm as typical cookie dough.  Using two spoons or a cookie scooper (I used a medium size) make dough into balls. Put loose sugar on a flat surface or plate, roll balls in sugar and place on cookie sheet leaving room between cookies as they spread out a little while baking.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until just baked. Let cool in pan before removing.

This recipe is adapted from the free ebook  “Bake Better Bites (2014) – Recipes and Tips for Healthier Baked Goods”

 

Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce

Every time I make poached pears I don’t know why I don’t make them more often.  They are such a lovely, light, elegant dessert, simple to make and gorgeous on the table.  They can easily be made ahead and refrigerated until needed, making them a great choice for holiday entertaining.

Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce
Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce

Pears are underrated. When you bite into a perfectly ripe pear, you know.  Bartletts have a juicy, sweet, delicate flavour and soft, succulent texture.  They turn golden when ripe but a more accurate test for all varieties is to press the neck of the pear. If it is still hard, leave it on the counter for a couple of days. It can be a little tricky to check for ripeness, which has probably led to the belief that there is only one day when a pear is perfectly ripe.  Have you heard that?  Luckily this recipe is very forgiving — you actually want slightly underripe pears that are firm but not too hard.

Like many of you, I most often associate sage with savoury dishes, the most famous being dressing or stuffing. Sage is a complex flavour, aromatic and earthy.  I first tasted the combination of blackberries and sage in an ice cream flavour.  The combination is surprising and delightful, and adds depth and sophistication to this simple dessert.

Fresh or frozen blackberries work well. I used frozen wild blackberries that I had picked in the summer, which were quite sweet.  Commercial varieties can be tart so you may need to sweeten the sauce.

Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce
Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce

This month’s Recipe Redux is all about trimming the table. “Show us the healthy holiday dessert you will be sharing with family and friends this season.”  I can’t think of a more perfect dessert than these elegant poached pears.  I can’t wait to gather up more ideas from all the recipe redux members to add to my holiday collection. Check out the link at the bottom of this post.

Poached Pears with Blackberry Sage Sauce

Serves 8

4 pears

2 cups blackberries

3 cups apple juice

1 cup water

10 fresh sage leaves

Directions:

In a medium saucepan add blackberries, apple juice, sage leaves and water.  Heat on medium heat.

Poaching pears in blackberries apple juice and sage
Poaching pears in blackberries, apple juice and sage

Peel pears and gently cut out the blossom end.  Trim the bottoms so the pears can stand on their own especially if you are serving them upright.  Add the pears to the poaching liquid and cook on low-medium for 30-35 minutes until a knife easily slides through them.  Turn them occasionally as they start to absorb the colour from the blackberries.

Remove pears and strain remaining liquid through a sieve.  Return liquid to saucepan, heat on medium and reduce for approximately 30 minutes to thicken it a little and concentrate the flavours.  Taste for sweetness and sweeten if desired.

Creamy Carrot Orange Soup with Cashews

I often think of this delicious soup on fall days.  When the weather is cooler and we have an abundance of fresh carrots. I first tried this soup many years ago.  The original recipe is from an old favourite cookbook, “The Silver Palate”.  This was a very popular cookbook  in the 1980’s, written by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins from a popular Manhattan food shop.  In the book, this soup is a starter, a simple soup with onions, carrots and orange juice.  From the first time I made,  I just loved it, along with the many excellent recipes in the book.

Creamy Carrot Orange Soup with Cashews
Creamy Carrot Orange Soup with Cashews

Orange and carrot is an elegant combination.  The orange adds so much to this soup.  It brightens the flavours and adds such a lovely fresh citrus taste that is superb with carrots. I used sweet mandarin oranges  but if you have only navel oranges available that should be fine.  Adding in cashews gives the soup a marvelous creamy texture and makes it silky smooth.  The cashews also add protein and healthy fat which balances the soup to make it a complete meal.

We have officially made Monday soup night in our house.  We have such a busy schedule on Mondays and we need to have an easy dinner that is healthy and satisfying before everyone heads out the door again.  With cooler autumn weather a warm hearty soup for dinner is ideal. Do you have busy days like this?  How do you manage your meals?

Soups is the theme for the Autumn collaboration with a group of terrific Canadian Food Bloggers.  Thank you to Diane from 365 Days of Healthy Recipes for putting it together this month.  If you need more soups in your weekly autumn menus check out all the delicious soups at the bottom of this post.

Creamy Carrot Orange Soup with Cashews

Serves 4-6

3/4 cup cashews

1 liter vegetable stock plus extra for thinning the soup if needed

2 medium onions, diced, about 2 cups

2 tablespoons oil

2 lbs carrots, trimmed and chopped

zest from 2-3 mandarin oranges

4 mandarin oranges, peeled and quartered, with seeds removed

salt

black pepper

Directions:

Soak cashews in water for about 1 hour.  Drain, rinse and blend with approx 1 cup of vegetable stock.  Blend until smooth and “cream” like.

Heat oil in large saucepan on medium heat.  Add onions and turn heat down to low.  Cover with lid and let cook until very soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Add carrots and 3 cups of stock.  Cook until very tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.  In a blender or food processor blend the soup until very smooth.  Add mandarin oranges and blend.  Add blended cashew “cream” and blend again.  Return to pot and heat, adding fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste. Serve with bread or Super Seed Crackers.

This soup freezes well.  Simply defrost, reheat and serve.  It also makes a good packed lunch in a thermos for school or work.

Autumn Soups #CDNFOODCREATIVES
Autumn Soups #CDNFOODCREATIVES

Super Seed Crackers

Have you ever made your own crackers?  This recipe is so quick and easy, once you make them you will probably never go back to store bought crackers.  These crackers are also very healthy.  With a combination of fibre rich seeds like chia and flax, protein from hemp, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, plus healthy and important fat from many of the seeds these super seed crackers are super nutritious.

Making this recipe is a little like making polenta but with much less liquid.  It comes together quickly by mixing in the oil and hot water and voila, you have your cracker dough. Roll it out, score the dough, bake and you are done! One bowl, one spoon and no mixer required.

Salt is essential in these crackers.  Please do not leave it out.  It is very important for flavour.   Having said that, you can vary the flavours.   Try rosemary olive oil by substituting olive oil and adding very finely chopped rosemary (add it to the water to extract more of the flavour).  Experiment with flavours you like and come up with your own favourite variation.

Super Seed Crackers
Super Seed Crackers

These crackers fit many dietary needs.  They are gluten free, grain free, dairy free, vegan, paleo, and FODMAP friendly.  Are they the perfect cracker? But wait!  There’s more!   They are crispy and delicious too.

Super Seed Crackers

Makes 50 Crackers

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup flax seeds, milled (flax meal)

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup hemp seeds

1/3 cup oil (I used avocado oil)

330 ml hot water

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Prepare 2 cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper or silicone sheets.

Measure all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  Add oil and stir to combine.  Heat water and add salt.  Stir to dissolve salt and then pour into mixture.  Stir well.  Divide dough in half and place onto cookie sheets.  Place an additional piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and using a rolling pin, roll on the parchment paper to roll the cracker dough smooth and even and out to the edges of the cookie sheet. Peel off the parchment paper. Repeat with second pan, making the dough as even as possible.  Using a long straight edge knife, score the lines for the crackers but do not “cut” the dough, they will separate cleanly once they are baked.  Bake for approx 55 minutes or until dry and crisp.

Store in an air tight container.  A cookie tin works well.

The recipe is adapted from Miss Marzipan.