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Roasted Vegetable Israeli Couscous

Couscous

Couscous is one of those familiar items seen on many ethnic menus and inside the grocery store, usually on the aisle with the rice and quinoa. Most people assume it is a grain of some sort, but it is actually steamed balls made of semolina flower that originated in Northern Africa. It’s much bigger “cousin” Israeli couscous looks similar, but is much larger and lighter in color. However, aside from their name and shape, the two are actually quite different.

Israeli couscous does indeed originate from Israel, where it is called Ptitum, but its history doesn’t go back as far as one might think. It was first created in the 1950s when rice was scarce in the country, and it is only fairly recently that it has been marketed and sold around the world as Israeli, pearl, or Jerusalem couscous.  Israeli couscous differs from the traditional North African couscous in more than it’s size and color. It is considered a pasta, like orzo, and is toasted giving it a slightly nutty flavor. Israeli couscous is very versatile for cooking and can be used much like pasta, rice or whole grains. Served hot or cold Israeli couscous holds up well when reheated or added to soups.

The recipe below pairs Israeli couscous with a roasted vegetable medley and Mediterranean flavors. The couscous is the main draw here, but much less could be prepared and used as a filler for the vegetables. It’s meant to be served hot, but works great chilled as a salad. While it can be a meal on it’s own, it pairs well as an accompaniment.. The recipe makes about 8-10 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, more possibly needed
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 yellow squash, seeds removed and diced
  • 2 zucchini, seeds removed and diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup chopped basil
  • 3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, handful

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prep all vegetables.
  3. Toss onion, pepper, squash, zucchini and garlic in olive oil and salt and pepper in a bowl.
  4. Spread vegetables out on a sheet pan and roast for about 10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.
  5. Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan of vegetables and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until vegetables start to get golden brown.
  6. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of stock to a boil in a medium-sized pot and add the couscous and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10-12 minutes (stirring occasionally) until couscous is just tender with a slight bite. Strain couscous and transfer to a large bowl; stir in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to prevent sticking.
  7. Add the remaining ingredients, mix thoroughly, adjust seasoning as needed and serve.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 246 / Fat: 4g / Saturated Fat: 1g /Carbohydrates: 45g / Fiber: 5g / Protein: 6g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, http://www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica.

Corn Cakes

By Brandon McDearis

This month’s recipe is simple and cheap to prepare, and it is also a great way to rid yourself of any spare corn that may be hanging out in your kitchen. Whether you have a surplus of fresh corn in the summer time or a bag of frozen corn that needs to get eaten before freezer-burn takes charge, this recipe is a resourceful way to put that corn to use.  You may even have a can of corn sitting in the cupboard right now, and you do not even know it. Regardless if its state, I would suggest that anyone with an excess of corn in their home give this corn cake recipe a try.

These corn cakes are very easy to prepare, and they can be eaten at any time of the day. They taste great on their own for breakfast with a little maple syrup, but they also work well at dinnertime as a side. These corn cakes can even be used as an appetizer by garnishing them with sour cream and chives. As with most recipes, there is plenty of room to play a bit with the flavors here too. You can add some finely chopped jalapeno for spice or a handful of your favorite cheese to enhance the flavor. The recipe makes about 16-20 corn cakes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups self-rising cornmeal mix
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • dash of hot sauce
  • 1 cup whole corn

Directions:

  1. Whisk together cornmeal mix, flour and sugar. Then, gradually whisk in the rest of the ingredients one by one until batter is smooth and everything is thoroughly incorporated.
  2. Pour about ¼ cup of batter for each cake onto a lightly greased griddle or nonstick pan at medium heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked; turn and cook other side 2-3 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 153 / Fat: 5g / Saturated Fat: 2g / Carbohydrates: 25g / Fiber: 2g / Protein: 2g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica.

Balsamic Bruschetta

Bruschetta

This month’s recipe is a simple procedure for preparing the classic bruschetta. It’s slightly heavy on the balsamic, which adds a bit of sweetness and acidity to contrast the pungency of the garlic and onions. This bruschetta is perfect as a traditional appetizer topped on a toasted baguette or crostini. This low-calorie, nutrient-dense bruschetta also makes for a flawless and flavorful garnish to beans, pastas, salads and more. The recipe makes about 8 half-cup servings.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 5-8 fresh basil leaves
  • Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Simply mix all ingredients in a bowl. Allow sitting in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.
  2. Adjust seasoning as needed. Strain any excess juice from the bowl and serve.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 66 / Fat: 5g / Saturated Fat: 1g / Carbohydrates: 6g / Protein: 1g

The Tomato’s Long Strange Trip

Perhaps because of our love of pizza and pasta most Americans think of the tomato as something quintessentially Italian. But, the tomato actually originated in South America, where a wild form of it grew in what is now Peru. How and when cultivation of the fruit started is not really known but, generally believed that farming of tomatoes had spread north to what is now Mexico by about 500 B.C. As passionate as we are about tomatoes here in the U.S., it’s ironic that the tomato was not introduced by our next door neighbor to the South but, from Europe. It’s true! To get to the U.S., the tomato took a long circuitous route from Mexico to the Caribbean to Europe in the 1500’s, either by Christopher Columbus or Hernan Cortes after he captured Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). The tomato thrived in the Mediterranean climate but, it wasn’t widely adopted as a food until the 1700’s. The tomato itself probably arrived in the U.S. via Caribbean immigrants or possibly earlier on 16th and 17th century on Spanish, but was generally thought to be poisonous. Thomas Jefferson discovered a taste for tomatoes in Paris in the 1700’s brought them back to the U.S. to grow as food. It wasn’t for almost another hundred years, however, when Alexander Livingston, a farmer and scientist, bred larger sweeter tomatoes, that the tomato took hold in the North American diet. In the end, it took nearly 500 years for the tomato to cross the Mexican border to arrive in American cuisine.

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica. 

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh

This month’s recipe is a play on traditional tabbouleh, but instead of using the conventional bulgur, it calls for tender, nutty quinoa instead. The flavor and the nutritional value are very similar, but the quinoa turns this classic Middle Eastern dish into a complete protein. This tabbouleh is a filling and energizing meal on its own, but also a great side dish when paired with most entrees. The make-ahead salad is perfect for backyard barbecues, and stays good for up to one week after preparation. The recipe makes 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1¼ cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 English cucumber, diced into ¼ – inch pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and water to a boil at high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Turn off heat, stir quinoa well and transfer to a shallow baking dish for cooling. Cool in the refrigerator for about 30-45 minutes.
  3. Put the garlic and lemon juice in a bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil.
  4. Mix together all ingredients thoroughly and check the seasoning. More salt, pepper or lemon juice may be needed.

Makes about 6-8 servings.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 224 / Fat: 12g / Saturated Fat: 2g / Carbohydrates: 24g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 5g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica. 

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

roasted-cauliflower

Cauliflower is a member of the cabbage family that has many uses in cooking. It is often a great low-glycemic substitute for potatoes in purees and gratins, and it is a nice addition to stir-fries and vegetable medleys. It is often overlooked on its own as a key vegetable to be paired with a meal, but when roasted with a little oil and salt, it turns succulently sweet and caramel brown.

This month’s recipe turns the dial on the flavor profile of roasted cauliflower up several notches. The sweetness of the coconut oil and the maple syrup paired with the soy sauce and the spice of the curry gives it a contrast of flavors that makes the cauliflower tantalizing. It is so easy to prepare that even the most novice cook can pull it off, and it is likely that you already have most of the ingredients in your pantry. The fact that the recipe costs under a couple of dollars to prepare is a nice bonus as well. The recipe makes about 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil melted
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Melt coconut oil in a small sauce pan.
  3. Thoroughly mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Spread cauliflower out on a greased/sprayed sheet pan. Leave any remaining juices in the bowl and discard.
  4. Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until cooked through and golden brown.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 119 / Fat: 7g / Saturated Fat: 6g / Carbohydrates: 11g / Fiber: 3g / Protein: 3g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica. 

Southwest Black Bean Soup

black-bean-soup

This month’s recipe is an easy to prepare black bean soup with hints of spicy southwestern flavors. It is very filling, but is low in calories and fat, and high in protein and fiber. This can be a great first-course or can be the center of the meal by itself. There is the option to blend part or all of the soup after it is finished cooking, but it is not a requirement. Blending half of the soup gives it a nice consistency, and is less work on the digestive system, however the flavors remain evident regardless. The recipe makes about 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 14oz cans black beans
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • dash of hot sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Preparation:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot at medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and jalapeño and stir often for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add the tomatoes and the next three spices. Cook down, stirring continuously for about another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the black beans and the vegetable stock/broth. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from the heat. Season liberally with salt, pepper, hot sauce, lime juice and taste. If needed, add more seasoning and thin the soup with more stock/broth.
  6. Blend half of the soup in the blender or with an immersion blender and return to the pot (optional). Garnish with the cilantro before serving.

Makes about 8 servings.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 168 / Fat: 3.5g / Saturated Fat: .5g / Carbohydrates: 26g / Fiber: 6g / Protein: 8g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica.

Sweet Potato Salad

sweet-potato-salad

Sweet potatoes usually show up as the star of one of these recipes at least once or twice a year. They are not only very versatile for cooking (their uses and preparation methods are endless), but they are consistently ranked by various food and nutrition publications as one of the healthiest foods on the planet.  Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and dietary fiber. As a complex carbohydrate, they fall low on the glycemic index, making them beneficial for controlling blood sugar.

This month’s recipe is a lighter take on the classic potato salad. The sugariness of the sweet potato adds some extra, unique flavor often lacking in the traditional version, and the added nutrition turns a guilty pleasure into a wholesome side dish. There is always plenty of room to play around with this recipe. It can be prepared with a mix of red and/or yellow potatoes to allow for more flavor contrast, and more mayo and sour cream can be added for a richer and denser final product. The recipe makes about 10-12 half-cup servings.

Ingredients:

5 large sweet potatoes

1 small to medium-sized onion, diced

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

Pinch of salt and pepper

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

½ teaspoon of onion powder

½ teaspoon of dried dill

Shot of hot sauce

2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley (optional)

Directions:

  1. Dice sweet potatoes into medium-sized chunks.
  2. Boil a pot of water and drop your potatoes into the boiling water. Cooking time will vary depending on the potato, but let them boil for 5-10 minutes until cooked all the way through, but not to the point of mashed potatoes.
  3. Strain the potatoes and lay them on a sheet pan to cool. They can go in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to cool faster.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet at medium heat and cook the onion for about 5-10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown.
  5. Add it along with the rest of the ingredients to a bowl. Mix everything together.
  6. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust it accordingly to your preference.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 116 / Fat: 4g / Saturated Fat: 1.5g / Carbohydrates: 17g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 3g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica.