Hosting for the Holidays Hot Cocoa Bar

Image source: Southbound Bride
Image source: In Fine Taste

Sweater Weather!

As soon as it gets dark at 5pm and morning frost hardens blades of grass, I crave a hot drink every night. Hot chocolate is my favorite winter aperitif, so when researching ideas for an upcoming magazine article on creative hosting ideas, my favorite idea was–you guessed it–a Hot Cocoa Bar!

Easy Kids Activity: Why not ask older kids and tweens to participate? Set up a separate table with a wintery tablecloth or a cleared countertop. Supply mugs and spoons, mix-ins and containers, and labels and markers, and let the kids set up the display with a place saved for the hot cocoa. After you add the hot drink, they can be in charge of introducing the Hot Cocoa Bar to the rest of the guests.

Perk of the “job?” They get first dibs!

Supplies and Ingredients:

  • mugs, saucers, spoons
  • carafe of cocoa or hot water and powdered cocoa
  • containers with or without labels
  • mix-ins such as cinnamon sticks, chocolate shavings, peppermint sticks, toasted coconut, crushed toffee or whatever are the fan favorites
  • whipped cream and marshmallows

Note: Depending on diet preferences, ingredients may be parve (dairy free), gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan.

Happy hosting, hon!

Thanksgiving Menu–Autumn, Tomato, Bean and Vegetable Soups

My Thanksgiving menu always includes soup. Velvety Vegetable Soup has been my go-to meal starter for years, but last year I changed it up by serving Roasted Autumn Vegetable Soup. It was delicious! Friday, when the house is full and lunch includes more visitors, I’ve paired Roasted Tomato Soup and Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup with paninis and cheese and cracker platters.

Wishing you a healthy and happy Thanksgiving! Hope it’s filled with family, friends and some time to relax.

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

My co-teacher, Hannah, scooping and sharing the insides of a pumpkin.
Image soure: Joy Food Sunshine

I like roasted seeds and nuts (do I sound like a squirrel?), but have never tried sweet roasted pumpkin seeds. When we were scooping pumpkins and saving the seeds for our two preschool classes, my co-teacher Hannah said she loved the seeds with cinnamon. Mind blown! What planet am I living on? How did I not know about these? Hon, here’s a healthy, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly, kosher recipe from Joy Food Sunshine that I must try!

Happy carving, scooping and baking!

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Tips Before Roasting Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds must dry completely before roasting. Remove the seeds from pumpkins and rinse thoroughly, discarding any stringy orange pieces. Drain seeds by lining a large baking pan with paper towels, spreading seeds evenly in a layer, and letting sit for 24 hours. At the 12 hour mark, change damp paper towels for dry ones, stir to air out pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pumpkin seeds dried for at least 24 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pur vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or coconut sugar to make paleo)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very lightly grease a large baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt coconut oil or butter in a large microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  5. Mix in pumpkin seeds until they are all evenly coated.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin seeds and mix until all they are evenly coated.
  7. Spread pumpkin seeds on your prepared baking pan in single layer.
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. They are done when they start to brown.
  9. To test for doneness: remove a few seeds from the pan and let sit on the counter to cool. If they harden up the seeds are done. If they remain soft, return to the oven, checking them after 5 minutes. Continue baking in 5 minute intervals until done.
  10. Once seeds are done, transfer them from the warm pan to another pan lined with parchment paper to let cool.

Yield: 3 cups

Store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Farro Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables

Image source: David Malosh for Food & Wine.

One of my daughters loves to cook and another loves to bake. The third’s in college so she gets a pass until she lives on her own–lol! My son, also a self-declared chef, tells me about the dishes he puts together. When I requested he make dinner for hubby and me, he said, “When I come home, you cook!”

Morgan, the one who whips up delicious, healthy meals, introduced us to farro. I love its texture and taste and the way it forms a healthy base for an endless variety of additions. Mixing with roasted veggies are my favorite way to dress up this grain.

“Crispy roasted root vegetables like parsnips and celery root add an earthy, caramelized depth to this simple grain salad made with tender, chewy farro. Resist the urge to stir the vegetables during cooking to help the them develop the most color,” says Maria Sinskey for Food & Wine, whose recipe is shared here.

Farro Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water 
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste 
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked pearled farro (about 9 1/4 ounces) 
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups) 
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled, cores removed and discarded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups) 
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups) 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled celery root (about 3/4-inch piece) 
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus parsley leaves, for garnish 
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste 

Directions

Step 1

Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring 3 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Stir in farro. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until farro is tender and water is mostly absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, 10 minutes.

Step 2

While farro cooks, toss together carrots, parsnips, onion, celery root, 1/4 cup oil, and 2 teaspoons salt on a rimmed baking sheet; spread in an even layer. Roast in preheated oven until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Step 3

Drain any excess water from farro. Stir together farro, chopped parsley, vinegar, pepper, roasted vegetables and any residual oil from roasting pan, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes or up to 3 hours, or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. If chilled, let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

Step 4

Just before serving, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and vinegar. Garnish with parsley leaves.

Tips

Farro and vegetables may be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 days. Buy pearled farro for this recipe; it cooks more quickly than whole-grain.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Gluten-Free Women’s Bliss Bites by Aviva Romm

Women’s Bliss Bites, recipe by Aviva Romm.

These may be called “Women’s Bliss Bites,” but guys will enjoy them, too!

My niece (Shout out to the new mom!) wanted to try recipes from Hormone Intelligence: The Complete Guide to Calming Hormone Chaos and Restoring Your Body’s Natural Blueprint for Well-Being by Aviva Romm, MD. I looked up Dr. Romm’s website and I’m a fan. Why? She says, “Being a woman is not a diagnosis.” Love it!

These gluten-free, rich, chocolatey bites are a healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth. Guess what I’ll be making more of?

Women’s Bliss Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted
  • 2 (or so) Tablespoons almond butter
  • 1/4 cup dark cacao powder (dark unsweetened), plus 1 Tablespoon for dusting
  • 4 level Tablespoons maca powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/4  cup coconut flakes, finely ground
  • optional, orange zest

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, grind walnuts until they are close to finely ground. Add dates and grind to from a thicker blend. Add in almond butter and mix until a dough forms. Tip:  A little extra almond butter may be needed to get the dough to form.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the 1/4 cup cacao powder, cardamom and cinnamon. Pour into food processor and blend.
  3. In a small bowl, prepare the remaining 1 Tablespoon of cacao powder, coconut flakes and orange zest.
  4. Remove blade from food processor, then form round balls using about 1 Tablespoon of “dough” per ball. Roll these in your hands, then roll in the extra cacao powder mixture. Tip:  If dough is still crumbly, add a small amount of warm water to the mixture. Alternately, wet hands to make rolling dough into balls easier.
  5. Place on a platter or into a glass storage container. These can be eaten right away or kept in the fridge for 3-4 days. 

Yield: Approximately 16.

Blueberry Protein Breakfast Smoothie

Hon, you know how it goes. This summer, I’ll work out more. This summer, I’ll recharge my mind. This summer, I’ll eat healthier. I’m trying! One of my favorite “this summer” changes is making protein smoothies for breakfast. This recipe by The Nutrition Twins is my favorite!

Is there something you’ve added to your diet or routine that’s made you feel good this summer?


Blueberry Protein Weight Loss Breakfast Smoothie

“Enjoy this sipster for breakfast to take the edge off hunger, prevent overeating, flush bloat and help set your mind & body on the healthy track.” The Nutrition Twins

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (I often used frozen mixed berries.)
  • 1/2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetend vanilla almond milk (I alternated between almond and coconut milk.)
  • 1 scoop vanilla plant-based protein powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (ok, if not fresh)
  • water to blend
  • Extras: banana, drops of liquid ginger

Directions:

Blend this all together and drink! Enjoy!

Best Black Bean Burgers

Photo courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction

I love good veggie burgers but, often, one bite in and they fall apart. There I am making a mess, while attempting to use a fork and knife to eat a crumbling burger.  No more with my new favorite Black Bean Burger recipe thanks to Sally’s Baking Addiction. SBA advises partially drying out the black beans to cook “big, thick, hearty, and flavorful” burgers that can be grilled or baked. Whether they’re eaten on a bun, plain, or on a salad, these delicious veggie burgers are “easy, healthy, satisfying, juicy, spicy and NOT MUSHY!” They were a winner with my family and friends.

Happy cooking, hon!

BLACK-BEAN BURGERS

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14 ounce) cans black beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper (1/2 of a pepper)
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (1/2 of a large onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or oat flour
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, optional
  • corn kernels cut off 2 ears cooked corn-on-the-cob, optional (left over from the previous night’s dinner)
  • 2 large eggs (to make vegan & vegetarian, see note)
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (to make vegan & vegetarian, see note)
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup, mayo, or BBQ sauce
  • pinch salt + pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Spread beans evenly onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until slightly dried out.
  2. In olive oil, sauté chopped pepper, onion, and garlic over medium heat until peppers and onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Gently blot some of the moisture out. (My veggies weren’t too liquidy, so I skipped this.)
  3. Place sautéed mixture in a large bowl with remaining ingredients (cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, Worcestershire, ketchup, salt, and pepper). Add beans. In a food processor, pulse everything together. (Tip: you may need to process mixture in small batches.) Alternately, the bean/veggie/spice mixture can be mashed with a fork. Either way, don’t completely mash the beans. Leave some larger chunks of beans to create a “bulky and satisfying texture.”
  4. Form into patties– about 1/3 cup of mixture in each. Shape the black bean burgers however large or small desired, keeping in mind the larger they are, the more unevenly they’ll cook. To bake: Place patties on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 375°F (191°C) for 10 minutes on each side, 20 minutes total. To grill: Place patties on greased aluminum foil and grill 8 minutes on each side. “Generally, black bean burgers should grill on medium-high heat about 350°F (177°C) – 400°F (204°C).”
  5. Serve with favorite toppings. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Yield: 6 to 7 burgers

Notes:

  1. Freezing Instructions: Stack cooked or uncooked patties between parchment paper in a freezer container or zipped-top bag. Thaw in refrigerator and reheat or, if uncooked, cook according to instructions above. Thawing can be skipped; just cook from frozen for an extra couple minutes.
  2. Vegan & Vegetarian: Since Worcestershire sauce is not vegan or vegetarian, leave out or replace with a condiment such as BBQ sauce. To make burgers vegan burgers, (1) leave out the Worcestershire sauce or replace with favorite vegan condiment, (2) leave out the cheese, and (3) replace the eggs with 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato.
  3. Creative Toppings:  For a light lunch, skip the bun and eat on a salad. Creative toppings ideas are mashed avocado + caramelized onion, pepper jack cheese + spicy mustard + sweet pickles, herbed goat cheese + roasted red peppers, sriracha + sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella + pesto, corn salsa + cheddar cheese, or even chunky mango guacamole, BBQ sauce + Swiss cheese + grilled pineapple

Roasted Cauliflower with Date-Parsley Gremolata

Shout out to my daughter Morgan and her new cookbook Eating Out Loud, Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day, Every Day by Eden Grinshpan. I love it when Morgan cooks dinner!

Of the cauliflower– ‘Its deep, roast-y deliciousness is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, herbaceous date-parsley gremolata. You are going to be blown away by how much brightness you get from the preserved lemon and how the dates balance the tartness with their dense texture.”Of the cauliflower– “Its deep, roast-y deliciousness is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, herbaceous date-parsley gremolata. You are going to be blown away by how much brightness you get from the preserved lemon* and how the dates balance the tartness with their dense texture.’

Eating Out Loud by Eden Grinshpan

Roasted Cauliflower with Date-Parsley Gremolata

Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Gremolata

  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted Medjool dates (about 5)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • approx. 1/2 lemon juice, squeezed from fresh lemon (*The recipe calls for preserved lemon, but Morgan used freshly squeezed lemon juice.)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Roast the cauliflower: Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and salt. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet (or two-you want to make sure the florets have room to breathe so that they get cartelized and crispy instead of steamed) and roast until the cauliflower is golden brown, 20 – 25 minutes.
  3. Make the gremolata: In a large bowl, mix together the dates, sparsely, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. If making this ahead, leave out the vinegar until just before you serve.
  4. Scatter the gremolata over the roasted cauliflower and serve.
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Barley, Bean and Lentil Soup

Barley, Bean and Lentil Soup

This has been a strange winter, weather-wise, with only one snowstorm early on and lots of wet, gray days. If we are what we eat, then I’m turning into a large bowl of soup! When wondering what to make this week, I decided to combine two recipes, Red Lentil and Barley Soup and Bean and Vegetable Soup. The photo doesn’t do this new recipe justice. It was so delicious, hearty and healthy, that my daughter and I indulged in three servings each!

Tip: Substitute lentils, barley, and beans with what you have in your cabinet. Likewise with veggies and spices. What to do with the small amount of grape tomatoes leftover in the fridge? Cut up and add. Have a random can of interesting beans? Pour in the pot. Don’t have all the spices listed? Add a bit more of what you do have. Barley absorbs liquid, so if the soup gets thick add water and spices as needed.

Happy cooking, hon.

Barley, Bean and Lentil Soup
Ingredients:
  • 1 (19 oz) can tomato basil soup
  • 3 cans of water (use empty soup can as measuring cup)
  • 3 teaspoons vegetable bouillon stirred into 2 cups of hot water
  • 1/2 large onion or 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • approx. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup red lentils, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup small whole green lentils, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans
  • a handful of grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. In a large soup pot, pour tomato basil soup, 3 cans of water, and vegetable bouillon stirred in water.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  3. In batches, sauté onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Add cooked veggies to soup pot.
  4. Add remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, approximately cook 1 hour.
  5. Remove and discard bay leaves before serving.

Tip: Add dashes of other spices, such as sage, rosemary, marjoram, etc, as desired.

Cooking Time: 1 hour 25 minutes.

Yield: 8 – 10