Chana Saag (Chickpeas with Spinach)

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Following a month of eating mostly take-out and a trip to the Foodbuzz Festival (where I ate pretty much everything in sight) I’m excited to be back in the kitchen, cooking up healthy recipes.

Choosing the first meal to cook was a difficult task: I was sick of carbs, tired of cheese (yes, it’s possible!), and had my fill of meat. Soup seemed like the perfect solution, but Shawn was sick of that. I knew I was on to something when I spotted a can of chickpeas in the back of the cabinet — starchy, but not heavy like pasta, potatoes, or rice. It didn’t take long to figure out what I wanted to do with them. This chana saag was exactly the kind of meal that I was aching for: warm, creamy chickpeas coated in a fragrant spinach sauce provided enough protein and fiber to keep me satisfied without leaving me stuffed.

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I hadn’t made chana saag in years, and I had forgotten how easy it is! Start to finish, it will take you about a half hour and most of the ingredients involved are pantry staples, meaning this can be easily whipped up on a weeknight. A food processor makes pureeing the spinach sauce a breeze, but if you don’t have one it can also be made successfully in a blender.

Looking for a vegan meal? Substitute silken tofu for the yogurt! You can also leave it out entirely, but it does add a nice touch of creaminess to the sauce.

Looking for a meat-filled meal? I encourage you to give the chickpeas a try. But if you insist, you can substitute two chicken breasts for the chickpeas. Just adjust the final cooking time to ensure that it’s cooked through.

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Foodbuzz Festival & Napa Valley

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Words can’t begin to describe the weekend I just spend at the Second Annual Foodbuzz Festival, so I’ll let the photos do the talking. After a month of eating takeout while traveling, this weekend was precisely what the doctor ordered to get me back to my normal foodie-self. I’ve been home for two days now and have been cooking up a storm – I’ll be back to my normal posting schedule with tons of new recipes this week!

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From the Foodbuzz Gala Dinner: Roasted Golden Beet Tart with Feta, Currants, Wild Arugula, and Basil Puree, Seared Scallops with Bonny Doon Vinyard Verjus Beurre Blanc served with Braised Fennel, Rosemary and Garlic Infused Rack of Lamb with Wild Mushrooms, Pinot Noir Sauce, and Butternut Squash Puree, Almond Cake with Oranges and Spanish Sherry Sabayon.

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2009 Bonny Doon Vinyard Ca’ del Solo Albarino, my favorite of the many wines that were poured.

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The best part of the festival: seeing old friends and making new ones. With Andrea from High/Low Food Drink, Yvo from Feisty Foodie, Siobhan from Blondie and Brownie and the fabulous Sophia from Burp and Slurp who I was SO HAPPY to finally get to meet!

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Transamerica Pyramid. Apparently people think its ugly. I think its awesome!

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Cool fountain in a little park full of redwoods. This was part of a “food” walking tour that I took with Urban Adventures. The food part was pretty much nonexistent, but it was a pretty nice tour anyway. It could have been shorter though – 4 hours walking up and down San Francisco’s hills will leave you pretty sore!

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Allie and I drove to Napa, where we stopped at Domaine Chandon. I had the Etoile Brut, which I enjoyed a lot – nice and dry with lots of tiny bubbles. I would have brought home a bottle if it would have fit in my suitcase! Allie had a sparkling red, which was beautiful, but too sweet for me.

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People picking vegetables in French Laundry’s garden. Talk about Farm to Table!

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Scenery just doesn’t get much more beautiful than this. Napa took my breath away!

Roast Steelhead with Citrus & Olives over Saffron Risotto

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Welcome to the party! Today’s recipe is part of November’s Kitchen Play Progressive Party – a fun, new series where once a month, six bloggers are assigned a course and tasked with using a featured product to create an original recipe. This month’s sponsor isLindsay Olives and I’m serving up a delicious entrée of steelhead trout roasted with rosemary, orange, and olives over saffron risotto.

When the folks over at Lindsay asked which olives I would be interested in trying out, I was immediately drawn to their Naturals line, which are processed without artificial colors, preservatives, or other yucky stuff. These olives are pretty much as simple as you can get – the only ingredients listed on the can are olives, water, and salt! The olives themselves are meaty and buttery, with a smooth flavor that lends itself well to cooking.


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I knew that I wanted to do something different with these olives than a typical tapenade and that I wanted them to be featured prominently in the entrée that I created. Since I loved the braised olives in Sally Bee’s Moroccan Chicken, I wanted to try another preparation in which the olives were served warm. I decided to keep things simple by roasting them along with a few other ingredients and serving it over risotto (my motto: when all else fails, make risotto) and I couldn’t have been happier with how this entrée turned out. Roasting the olives brought out their natural sweetness, and they paired perfectly with the fatty fish and bright citrus. This is a dish that I would happily serve to dinner guests (real or virtual) and that I look forward to making again!

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Tortelloni Di Ricotta Al Pesto Di Noci Tostate From The Geometry of Pasta

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This Monday, October 25, is World Pasta Day, a day devoted to one of the world’s most loved carbohydrate. I’ve decided to join in the celebration by sharing a recipe from the new book, The Geometry of Pasta. After all, what better time is there to share a review of a book dedicated entirely to pasta? Especially when the book contains fun recipes, like this one for Tortelloni Di Ricotta Al Pesto Di Noci Tostate (the fancy-pants Italian way of saying, “tortellini with burnt walnut pesto”)?

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This fun little book isn’t your standard cookbook at all, which is pretty evident before you even open it. The book is small but thick — like a long novel — and the striking graphic cover is as close to an illustration as you’ll get. But while this book lacks glossy photos (which we all know I love), there’s definitely no shortage of unique recipes. The Geometry of Pasta contains over 100 recipes, each featuring simple ingredients and designed to pair the perfect shape of pasta with the perfect sauce. While that may seem like overkill, there really is an art to figuring out whether a new sauce will pair better with a hearty, ridged pasta or with a smooth angel hair. This book takes the guesswork out of it — and introduces you to pasta shapes you’ve probably never heard of!

Some of the recipes are a little strange (I think I’ll pass on the alphabet pasta with ketchup, though I’m sure a little kid would find it to be a great alternative to spaghetti-o’s) and some of the pasta shapes may be hard to find but with so many recipes, this book has something for everyone. I was a huge fan of this tortellini recipe; cooking it was fun and eating it was even better. The combination of sauce and shape really was ideal — the chunky pesto settled perfectly into the curves of the tortellini, ensuring no sauce was left behind in the bottom of the bowl.

I also loved how the recipes in this book were written. They’re slightly vague, which might be frustrating to those less comfortable in the kitchen, but they remind me of something that might have been passed down by a grandparent — very, very authentic. The dual indexes — one in Italian and one in English – were also a nice touch that I appreciated a lot. While this is definitely more of a specialty cookbook than something you would use every day, it’s a great addition to your collection if you’re a fan of pasta or Italian cuisine.

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Harvest Salad with Cinnamon Pecans

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I know I’ve sad it before, but the weather really effects what I feel like eating: I only enjoy Chinese food when it rains. I go through lemons like crazy in the spring. And it’s very rare to see me eating salad on a day that isn’t sunny and warm.

So when Fresh Express issued a challenge to bloggers to create a salad for a chance to win airfare and accommodations to this year’s Foodbuzz Festival, I was perplexed. But I had so much fun last year, and I really want to go again, so I gave it some thought.

Like a lot of other food bloggers, I tend to go pumpkin-crazy this time of year. But there are so many other great, seasonal flavors! Like fresh figs, which are probably my favorite food on the entire planet. And roasted beets, whose earthy-sweetness seems right at home in the fall and winter but out-of-place the rest of the year.

I wan’t sure how these two ingredients would pair together, but I figured it was worth a shot and set out to create a salad that bridges the late summer and early fall harvest seasons. With cinnamon-pecans to add the warm flavors that I crave this time of year, prosciutto to add porkiness, and creamy goat cheese to tie everything together, this is a salad that I’ll happily eat, rain or shine, all autumn long.

(Yes, I find it somewhat ironic that I used Spring Mix in a fall-themed salad. But I’m picky about my salad greens, and that’s what I like. As for a review of Fresh Express…. well, it’s lettuce. I don’t have any complaints and I’d have no problems buying it if that’s what the store I happen to be at carries. I’m not about to make a special trip for it or anything though.)

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Cassoulet with White Beans, Sausage & Turkey

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I don’t know how I managed to make it through 20-some years of life without trying cassoulet, but I have a feeling I’ll eat enough this fall and winter to make up for it. I made the one pictured here about two weeks ago, and I’ve been dying to have it again ever since. I actually have another one in the oven as I write this post.

Don’t let the fancy French name scare you off. When it comes down to it, cassoulet is nothing more than a white bean and tomato stew. A fragrant sauce flavored with fresh herbs cooks quickly on the stove before being mixed with the rest of the ingredients and baking in the oven. It’s pure stick-to-your-ribs comfort food full of rich and delicious flavors typical of the French countryside.

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This dish takes a little longer to make than most of my recipes, requiring about 20 minutes of active time and an hour or so in the oven, but with a little planning it can definitely be made on a weeknight. Go ahead and make a big batch — it tastes even better the next day.

Traditional cassoulet uses duck or goose confit, but since that can be difficult to find (not to mention expensive!) I’ve taken the liberty of using turkey instead. I like the flavor that using some poultry gives the cassoulet, but you can leave it out and use only sausage just as easily.

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