Roasted chickpeas with a KICK!

I love roasted chickpeas.  Also called Garbanzo Beans, these petite peas are packed with protein and fiber and the crunch is irresistible.  Sometimes I toss them in salads or use as a garnish for other vegetable dishes.  Mostly, I just keep ’em hanging out in a bowl on the counter for hungry Littles to grab and go as they zoom from one activity to another.  They are also a great ‘tizer to nibble on while you enjoy a glass of wine.

You can use dried chickpeas, but I stock up on the organic cans when they are on sale at Whole Foods or Central Market.  Experiment with seasonings and herbs.  There are infinite possibilities.  My latest fave is with a double dash of cayenne pepper! A handful of these will have you kickin’ up your heels!

Roasted Chickpeas

1 (15 – oz) can chickpeas or garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained)

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp coarse sea salt

2 big dashes of cayenne pepper

After rinsing and draining chickpeas, dry thoroughly on paper towels.  In a small bowl combine olive oil, sea salt, and as much cayenne pepper as you can handle.  Add chickpeas and stir to coat.

Spread chickpeas onto a foil lined roasting pan and roast at 450 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes.  Keep a watchful eye on the peas towards the end of the cooking.  You’ll know they are done by their golden color and crisp texture.


Mashed Sweet Potatoes


I recently saw sweet potatoes in the take out case at Whole Foods and it inspired me to get a little more creative with my sweet spuds.  I roast sweet potatoes at least once a week for Littlest.  She adores them and they are so healthy, loaded with vitamins A & C, beta carotene and good fiber.  Sweet potatoes are actually one of the healthiest and cleanest carbohydrates you can eat.

With Thanksgiving around the corner and sweet potatoes on my mind, I came up with this mashed version in hopes of finding something all of the Littles might enjoy this season.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (2 good sized sweet potatoes)

3/4 cup orange juice

1 cinnamon stick

2 Tbs brown sugar

1/3 c dried cranberries

Fill the pot to cover the sweet potatoes and boil until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are boiling, simmer orange juice and cinnamon stick over very low heat, just to warm the  juice and infuse the cinnamon.  Add the dried cranberries towards the end of the simmering just to plump them up and distribute all the flavors.

When the potatoes are tender to the fork, drain well, return to pot and mash with fork or ricer depending on the consistency you prefer.  Once potatoes are mashed to your liking, add orange juice mixture slowly and stir into potatoes.  Add brown sugar and continue to stir until well incorporated.  You may or may not need all of the juice mixture depending on the texture and consistency you desire.  If you find you need more liquid after adding all of your juice, add a little cream or milk to thicken it up.

The Littles gave this sweet, tart mashed sweet potato recipe two thumbs up.  I hope you will too.

Do you have any quick and easy sweet potato recipes to share?

Curried Chicken Salad

Since I broke in my new ovens and cooktop on such haute cuisine, I thought it was time to kick it up a notch and try some healthier fare at the Schell Cafe.

What do you eat for lunch?  Seriously, I’d love to know.  It could be an overlooked meal for me as my default mode is to skip it entirely.  However, skipping lunch is not smart and always catches up to me by late afternoon just in time to hunt and gather all the children.  In an effort to avoid being crankier than my super cranky children, I’ve learned that it is in everyone’s best interest at the cafe for me to eat lunch.  But, what? And how to make it simple? I clearly don’t need another meal to plan, right?  Lucky for me, I tend to have super yummy left overs which is definitely a bonus.  But there are certainly days when I need a nutritious lunch and on the double.

After the move weekend, we were all carbed out from an overload of pizza and grilled cheese.  So, I started the week off making a double batch of curried chicken salad.  I found this recipe in Oxygen Magazine last winter and I make it all the time.  It’s packed with protein, very low carb and is quite tasty.  I am giving you the recipe as I found it in Oxygen, with minor adjustments.  For the record, please note that I used smoked paprika in place of curry this week.  Half way through making this recipe, I realized my curry did not survive the expired spice purge of last week.  The smoked paprika was a decent alternative, but this salad is best in its original curried state.

Curried Chicken Salad

2 tsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp curry powder

1 garlic clove, minced

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/3 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers (jarred or better if you use these)

1/4 cup cashews

1/4 cup raisins

First, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, curry and garlic.  Drizzle in the olive oil slowly as you continue to whisk.  The dressing will begin to emulsify.

In another bowl combine chicken, celery, red peppers, cashews and raisins. Mix in dressing.

Try it and let me know what you think.  And if you have any healthy lunch favs let me know!  I’m sure we could all use more ideas to keep us well fueled for the day.

Cilantro & Pepita Pesto

I make pesto all the time.  It takes about two seconds and is a great way to use fresh herbs.  Yesterday I made homemade guacamole for the Littles.  Since I only used a handful of cilantro, the rest of the bunch was left staring me in the face this morning.  So instead of a traditional basil & pine nut pesto, I decide to give tonight’s version an updated spin with cilantro & pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

Cilantro Pesto

1/2 cup roasted pepitas

4 T (more or less) extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

dash of chili powder

dash of cumin

3 T fresh lime juice

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

Put the pepitas in a food processor, I like to use a small one for pestos.  Grind them until they begin to form a paste.  Slowly begin to drizzle in about 1/2 of the olive oil.  Stop the processor and scrape down the sides then add the salt, chili powder and cumin.  Pulse again a few more times and add the lime juice and crushed garlic.  Depending on the consistency, add more of the olive oil.  Add the cilantro, more olive oil and pulse until you like the texture!  You might have to add a little more oil or juice if your pesto is too thick.  If it gets to runny toss in some more pepitas.  There is no magic and it will taste delicious.

I’m serving the cilantro pesto with grilled salmon steaks for Husband and me and will also toss some into pasta for the Littles.  Don’t tell the rest of my brood, but I saved a small stash as a dip for my roasted sweet peppers for lunch tomorrow.  Cooks privilege.

P.S. Don’t forget to vote in my What to cook Friday poll.  It’s a dead heat.  I’ll choose whatever meal is ahead at noon on Thursday!

Roasted Sweet Peppers

These little gems are addicting.  Proceed with caution.  I roasted 2 pounds of these tiny little peppers and will use them all week or until I eat them all.  Hopefully, not in one sitting.  I’ll serve just a few as a side dish tonight and then save the rest for snacks and lunches.  You can pop a whole pepper right in your mouth.  One right after another.  And bonus — they are really good for you!  I like them plain, or with my yummy cilantro pesto, or sliced and added to a turkey-pita sandwich.

Roasted Sweet Peppers

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss sweet peppers lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and a little coarse sea salt.  Spread evenly over a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 30 – 40 minutes.  Turn the peppers every 15 minutes or so.  You’ll hear the peppers start to pop and sing towards the end.

Betcha can’t eat just one!

Quinoa: the ultimate super food

Quinoa.  Say what, you ask?  KEEN-wah.  If you haven’t tried it yet it is my challenge to you this week to make quinoa.  I dare you not to fall in love.

This nutty, super seed originated in South America and was so important to the Incan culture they referred to it as ‘the mother of all grains”.  Quinoa is in fact a seed. While relatively new to the United States, nutrition experts have been quick to sing its praises.   And rightfully so.  It is a complete protein loaded with all eight of the essential amino acids.  High in protein, fiber and amino acids this super seed is also gluten free.  As if that wasn’t enough, quinoa is also a good source of calcium, iron and vitamins E and B.  Now will you try it?!?!

Quinoa is usually found in the bulk section of your grocery.  I know Whole Foods and Central Market have it.  Sadly, my HEB hasn’t added it yet to its new bulk section.  It’s a cinch to prepare and its uses are so versatile you’ll want to try it savory and sweet.  It can be used for breakfast like an oatmeal or as a side dish like couscous or rice.  You can even bake with quinoa.  Stock up and I promise it will become a staple in your home.

Tonight I roasted chicken with a million cloves of garlic.  And created a quinoa side dish with ingredients I had on hand.  Quiona seeds are coated with a substance called saponin which can taste bitter if not removed.  The seeds you purchase will most likely have been rinsed thoroughly but I like to rinse them again at home.  For tonight’s dinner I used 1 cup of quinoa.  I measured out the seeds and rinsed them in a strainer.

The general rule of thumb for cooking quinoa is to use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to grain.  I used 2 cups liquid and 1 cup quinoa.  I used 1 1/2 cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup water.  There is no magic to this concoction  I simply had 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth in the fridge and needed to use it up.  Plus I like the subtle seasoning the chicken broth gives the quinoa. You do want to stick to the 2:1 ratio though.

I added the rinsed quinoa to the boiling chicken broth, stirred, reduced my flame to low, covered and simmered for 15 minutes.

After the quinoa was cooked (all the water was absorbed), I added:

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup peas

Try it, you’ll like it!  Be bold with your quinoa experimentation and then send me your recipes.  I’m anxious to hear what you come up with.

Alice Waters’ Coleslaw

Seared Ahi Tuna atop Alice Waters' Coleslaw

Seared Ahi Tuna atop Alice Waters Coleslaw

I have a wonderful reoccurring dream where I live at Chez Panisse.  Sometimes in my dream I’m Fanny, Alice’s daughter who literally grew up at her mother’s famous restaurant in Berkeley.  Sometimes I’m one of the fortunate chefs under Alice’s tutelage.  But the dreamiest of all dreams is when I’m simply a guest at a cozy table downstairs with a vantage point of everything going on in the kitchen.

When I’m not dreaming, I can only aspire to be Alice Waters-esque.  Buying local, organic produce at the peak of its harvest is made relatively easy with Whole Foods and Central Market in my backyard.  When I can I shop at our local farmer’s market and support the local farms and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) in central Texas.  I’m (still) on the waiting list at Tecolote Farms. Katie if you are reading this, please, please let me in!  I can only imagine the thrill of having a freshly picked bushel of produce land on my doorstep each week.

Despite my dreams and desires to be all organic, local and fresh sometimes those pesky, little realities such as time and money keep me from living in a complete Waters’ World!  But, when I stumbled across a recipe clipped from a newspaper entitled Alice Waters’ Coleslaw, I floated back into my reveries.  I wish I could attribute the clipping or that this is in fact an Alice Waters recipe.  All I have is a copy of the recipe given to me by Mom’s BFF.

I’m going to sear a beautiful tuna steak and serve it a top this yummy coleslaw.  Here is the recipe as it was given to me:

Alice Waters’ Coleslaw

1 medium cabbage (about 3 pounds)

1 large jalapeno

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

3-4 T fresh lime juice

3-4 tsp red wine vinegar

1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Large pinch of sugar or more to taste

Quarter the cabbage through the core; cut out the core.  Cut the quarters crosswise in half; finely shred, using a sharp knife.  Place shredded cabbage in a very large bowl.  Cut open the jalapeno, discard the seeds and dice.  Add jalapeno, onion and cilantro to the cabbage and toss to mix.  Mix lime juice, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and sugar.  Toss with cabbage.