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Roasted Vegetable Israeli 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.


  • 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


  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,, 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.

Stuffed Peppers


This month’s recipe is a quick and easy meal that can be prepared with ingredients that you likely already have in your kitchen. Stuffed peppers are a filling and nutritious meal on their own when served with vegetables or a salad, but they also make for a healthy and satisfying side dish. There are many variations of stuffed peppers found across the world in the cuisines of Spain, Mexico, India, and the Middle East, to name a few.

This recipe is a classic vegetarian version with southwestern and Mexican flavors.  It is meant to be light, but there is always room for more cheese to add to the density, and additional spice and seasonings are welcome. I advise using a hot salsa and/or adding a few shots of hot sauce to the mix if you prefer a little heat. Brown rice can be used to increase the amount of fiber, and chopped cilantro as a garnish adds a bit of flair to the finished product. A little extra salsa, picante sauce or hot sauce also makes for a nice condiment when serving. The recipe makes 4-6 servings depending on the size of your pepper.


  • 4-6 large red or green bell peppers – tops, seeds and membranes removed
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16oz can salsa
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix ingredients together.
  3. Stuff each pepper with the rice and bean mix.
  4. Place them in a sprayed/greased baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove foil, top the peppers with extra cheese, if desired, and return to the oven uncovered for another 5-10 minutes or until the tops start to brown and the peppers are soft.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 175 / Fat: 5g / Saturated Fat: 3g / Carbohydrates: 24g / Fiber: 5g / Protein: 5g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine,, 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. 

Thai Curry Noodle Soup


This month’s recipe is a classic Thai curry soup that is very quick and easy to prepare. I have been a big fan of Thai food since my teens, but my true love affair with it commenced during my travels in Southeast Asia a few years ago.  After sampling as many different dishes as possible while touring that section of the continent, I have spent many days and nights trying to recreate authentic versions of all of my favorites. I have had mixed luck competing with the authenticity of the pros in Thailand, but this red curry soup comes pretty close to one you might find on the street in Bangkok.

This recipe makes for a very satiating meal that provides numerous health benefits. The herbs and spices, along with the onion, garlic and ginger provide an abundance of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying elements to the dish. While coconut oil and coconut milk have gotten a bad rap in the past for their high amount of saturated fats, recent studies have shown them both to actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good cholesterol), while reducing arterial damage and providing minerals such as manganese, phosphorus and magnesium.  Using light coconut milk in this recipe helps to cut back on the total calories and fat in the dish.

This curry soup can be prepared in well under an hour even with the lengthy prep work involved. However, when time is on your side, more flavor will develop the longer it sits at low heat. There is always room for any additional vegetables, such as the optional mushrooms and kale, and you won’t go wrong adding in another protein such as chicken or shrimp. The recipe makes about 8-12 servings.


  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 3 cups light coconut milk
  • 2 cups kale, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup button or cremini mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 package thin rice noodles
  • 1-2 limes cut up into wedges
  • fresh cilantro
  • sliced scallions
  • fresh basil
  • bean sprouts
  • thinly sliced fresh red chili peppers (optional)
  • thinly sliced bell pepper (optional)


  1. Heat a large stockpot to medium-high heat. Sauté the onion in the coconut oil for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and red curry paste and stir continuously for another 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable stock or broth and stir thoroughly, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add any desired (optional) vegetables of your choice at this point, such as mushrooms and/or kale.
  4. Add the tofu at the last 2 minutes of cooking to heat through.
  5. Taste the broth and season to preference with kosher salt and/or a dash of soy sauce or fish sauce if needed.
  6. You can either cook the noodles according to the package directions and cool them by running under cold water, or you can break a chunk off and put them in a bowl dry and ladle the hot soup over top and allow to sit for a couple of minutes until they soften.
  7. Squeeze a couple of wedges of lime into the soup bowl and garnish with the rest of the desired ingredients.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 235 / Fat: 11g / Saturated Fat: 5g / Carbohydrates: 26g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 11g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine,, 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. 



This month’s recipe may sound familiar, yet many people do not know what ratatouille is other than a French culinary term, and a popular children’s movie. Ratatouille is really nothing more than a stewed vegetable dish that originated in the Provencal region of France. It has been regarded as a go-to summer meal throughout the Mediterranean coast. Traditionally, ratatouille is prepared by sautéing each item separately before being layered in a dish and baked. However, recipes have evolved so that it can be prepared faster and easier with less cooking time that in turn retains more of the nutrients in some of the vegetables. This recipe is an excellent side dish with any meal. It is also ideal to have in the fridge as a leftover to be mixed in with pasta, quinoa or soup. It can even make for a nice topper or garnish for your favorite protein dish.

The recipe makes about 8 servings.


  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, medium-large diced
  • 1 eggplant, medium-large dice
  • 1-2 red bell peppers, medium-large diced
  • 1-2 zucchini, medium-large dice
  • 1-2 yellow squash, medium-large diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 (28oz) can of diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot at medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Add eggplant and bell peppers and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes until vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Add zucchini, squash and garlic and more olive oil at this point, if needed. Continue stirring and cooking for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add thyme, salt, pepper and tomato paste and stir together thoroughly.
  5. Add white wine and stir until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add canned tomatoes and the bay leaf, then reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. The vegetables should be soft, but not mushy.
  7. Turn off the heat or set to very low and add the balsamic, basil and parsley. Stir together.

This can be served immediately, but letting it sit for longer allows the flavors to develop more intensely. Remove (or just avoid eating) the bay leaf.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 136 / Fat: 8g / Saturated Fat: 1g / Carbohydrates: 13g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 3g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine,, 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. 

Vegetarian Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup


Nearly every country has at least one national dish recognized worldwide. Just as Thailand has pad thai, India is known for curry, and Spain is renowned for its paella, Vietnam has pho noodle soup. Traditional pho is a popular street food consisting of a meat-based broth cooked for hours or even days. This vegetarian version can be prepared at home in under an hour. The ingredients can be as extensive or as simplified as desired. Most recipes call for whole cloves and star anise in the broth, however, I find it unnecessary to purchase a whole jar of each just to prepare this variety.

This recipe is light but filling, and offers an assortment of nutritional benefits. It is low in calories and fat, and the herbs and spices give the soup many cleansing and detoxifying properties. There is room to add any desired vegetables to increase the nutrient density, and the flavor can be tweaked to be either subtle or bursting with the spice and heat of your preference. The recipe serves 8.



  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 large onion, diced large into about 8 chunks
  • 1 medium stick fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves (optional)
  • 3 star anise (optional)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 bunch of basil stems (reserve leaves for pho)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro stems (reserve leaves for pho)


  • 1 package rice noodles
  • 1 8oz package baked tofu
  • cilantro
  • basil
  • sliced green onions
  • bean sprouts
  • shredded carrot
  • lightly sautéed or roasted mushrooms, sliced
  • lightly sautéed or roasted bok choy
  • thinly sliced hot peppers, such as Thai chili
  • crushed peanuts
  • lime wedges
  • fish sauce, dash
  • soy sauce, dash
  • hot sauce, dash


  1. Combine all of the broth ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil at high heat, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Strain broth, return to the pot, cover and keep hot at low heat. Discard solids.
  2. Meanwhile, start prepping your pho ingredients. Any combination of the above ingredients may be used and anything else desired may be added.
  3. Cook noodles according to package directions. Run under cold water to keep from overcooking.
  4. If using raw tofu, mushrooms or bok choy, I find it best to make a quick stir-fry or roast them before adding to the soup. If stir-frying, heat a large pan or wok until hot, add a tablespoon of oil (coconut is recommended for stir-frying) and add ingredients to be sautéed. Season with a bit of salt and pepper or soy sauce. If roasting, toss all ingredients in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on a roasting or sheet pan (greased or sprayed) and roast for about 7-8 minutes at 400 degrees.
  5. Ladle about 1-2 cups of broth into a bowl. Add noodles and any other desired ingredients. Season to perfection.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 220 / Fat: 5g / Saturated Fat: 1g / Carbohydrates: 35g / Fiber: 5g / Protein: 8g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine,, 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. 

Caribbean Rice and Beans

Caribbean Rice and Beans

Rice and beans are one of those meals that can go from bland and boring to delectable and delicious with just a few ingredients. With the addition of a couple of vegetables and a bit of spice, a very plain side dish can quickly become a desirable main course. Most people generally think of the Cajuns or Latin Americans when they think of a flavorful recipe for rice and beans, but one spot on the map to not overlook is the Caribbean.

The islands in the Caribbean have a unique array of culinary influence. Varying from island to island, there is often a fusion of French, British, Mexican, Spanish and African flavors with one usually dominating the other, depending on the island.

I recently prepared this month’s recipe while on a sailing trip to the Caribbean with a group of friends. After sampling various styles of rice and beans on the islands of Antigua, Guadalupe, and Dominica, I did my best to replicate an authentic version, while only using the ingredients that I had available to me in the galley of the boat.  The finished product was a hit with my fellow mates, and I was pleased with how easy it was to prepare a fairly authentic and healthy meal with such limited ingredients.

This recipe for rice and beans is an excellent source of protein and fiber. The addition of coconut milk adds a bit of sweetness and complexity, while also enhancing the nutritional quality. Coconut milk has gotten a bad rap over the years for its high levels of saturated fat; however, recent studies have shown it to actually aid in weight loss, while also enhancing the immune system and improving hair and skin. This recipe is great by itself, but I prefer it with a side salad, a little sliced avocado and my favorite hot sauce. Serves 6-8.


  • 1 cup long grain white or brown rice
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 can light coconut milk (divided in half)
  • 1-2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato (or 2 Roma tomatoes), diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and washed
  • ¼ cup water or vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (optional)
  • dash of hot sauce such as Frank’s or Cholula
  • 1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro


  1. Place rice, water and half the can of coconut milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a sauté pan/skillet at medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper, and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until it softens, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the black beans, water/stock, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper and the other half of the can of coconut milk. Bring to a light simmer (at medium-low heat) and cook for about 5-7 minutes until about half of the liquid has cooked off and the beans have thoroughly heated through.
  4. Add the vinegar (if desired), hot sauce and herbs to the beans, and either mix the beans thoroughly into the rice or simply serve them over top.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 210 / Fat: 6g / Saturated Fat: 4g / Carbohydrates: 34g / Fiber: 6g / Protein: 6g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine,, 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. 

Adventure Cuisine – Chef Brandon McDearis Prepares Herb Gnocchi at Kenai Riverside Lodge


A nice piece about myself and the lodge where I have been working for the past seven summers. 

July 7, 2015 at 10:30 am by Lis Korb

Adventure Cuisine at Kenai Riverside Lodge

Kenai Riverside Lodge is located on the banks of the Kenai River, about halfway between Anchorage and Homer, Alaska. It’s one of our favorite add-ons to our selection of Alaska small ship cruises as this lodge is both conveniently located and serene and remote feeling. Kenai Riverside Lodge takes great pride in the food that they serve. Onsite chefs return year after year, and they put time and love into every meal. The lodge is known to go to great lengths to accommodate specific dietary needs and food allergies. Food is an integral part of any vacation experience, and they work hard to ensure it’s a phenomenal one!

Each morning, a hot breakfast buffet is served before you head out for a guided activity, such as fishing or river rafting. You might walk in to the aroma of hot blueberry pancakes, bacon, fresh fruit, coffee and tea. A made-to-order lunch will be prepared to take with you on your guided activity. On a river rafting trip taken by one of AdventureSmith’s staff there was a spread of smoked Alaska salmon, fresh veggies and breads for a make-your-own sandwich station, with hot beverages to keep everyone warm.

In the evening, Kenai Riverside Lodge serves four-course meals family-style. Share stories about the day over a glass of wine or Alaskan micro-brew beer. After dinner, guests can spend time on the riverside deck over a campfire or have another glass at the lodge’s bar!

Chef Brandon McDearis

Brandon McDearis, head chef at Kenai Riverside Lodge, first came to work in Alaska in 2010. He has a BS in Foods and Nutrition from Radford University and a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Before coming to Kenai Riverside Lodge, Brandon worked mostly in high-volume catering and cooking in upscale restaurants, as well as running his own personal chef business.

Brandon’s past couple of winters have included ventures such as cooking in Australia and Antarctica and running expeditions in Peru. When he is not working in the kitchen, he is often writing about food and  nutrition, both in magazines and on his blog at

Herb Gnocchi with Sautéed Spinach & Charred Cherry Tomatoes

Chef Brandon McDearis has prepared this gnocchi recipe a number of times over the years at the Kenai Riverside Lodge. It’s been featured as an appetizer, a vegetarian entrée and as a side item for halibut and rockfish.

They can be prepared ahead of time and frozen to cut down on the total prep time. The step with the ice bath can be skipped, but Brandon says he finds it to be failsafe when making them fresh, in order to not overcook them. Also, feel free to leave out the spinach and cherry tomatoes. The gnocchi can just be sautéed and browned in a little olive oil and butter, seasoned, tossed with Parmesan, and paired with another vegetable and/or protein. The recipe makes 8–12 servings.


2 pounds starchy potatoes
2 egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 bunch parsley (finely chopped)
1 sprig rosemary (finely chopped)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups spinach (packed tightly)
1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
¼ cup white wine
2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese


  1. Boil the whole potatoes until soft (about 45 minutes). Peel while still warm and pass through a ricer or vegetable mill into a large bowl.
  2. Boil 1.5 gallons of water in a large stockpot. While water is coming to a boil, set up an ice bath of 6 cups of ice and 6 cups of water beside the stove.
  3. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and sprinkle all over with the flour. Place egg yolks, herbs and spices in the center of the well and mix egg mixture into potatoes and flour with a fork as if you were making regular pasta.
  4. Once everything is well blended and dough has formed a ball, roll it out onto a clean, floured surface and knead like bread dough for about 3–5 minutes until the dough is dry to the touch. Up to 1 more cup of flour may need to be used during this step, depending on how moist and starchy your potatoes were to begin with.
  5. Cut hunks of dough off and roll into ¾ inch diameter dowels that resembles snakes and cut into ¾–1 inch pieces. Drop the pieces in the boiling water and cook until they float (about 1 minute). As they rise to the top, scoop them out and put them in the ice bath. Let sit about a minute in the ice bath and then drain.
  6. Meanwhile, heat up a sauté pan with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil at medium-high heat. Drop tomatoes in the pan, and toss for about 20–30 seconds until you see a little color on them. Then, add about 2–3 cups of your gnocchi to the pan and continue to sauté for about 1 minute until they begin to lightly color and heat through. Feel free to add a little more olive oil if your pan looks too dry.
  7. Finally, add the white wine to the pan along with the spinach. Continue tossing until spinach is wilted and wine has cooked down. Remove from heat, toss with butter and Parmesan. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Note: If you are not going to serve the whole batch at once, then lay the gnocchi out on a greased pan and freeze. Once frozen, they can be stored in a Ziploc bag or plastic container in the freezer for a few months.

Keep tabs on the AdventureSmith blog’s Adventure Cuisine series for more recipes from our partner small ships and lodges.