maple dijon thyme roasted vegetables

 carrots and brussels sprouts
 vegetables on roasting tray
 roasted vegetables in bowl
 carrots and brussels sprouts on cutting board

A tiny hand escaped from mine as her feet searched gleefully for a bare spot. She couldn’t find it. Leaves of every color blanketed the uneven pavement making it nearly unrecognizable. She hopped about kicking some in hopes that it would reveal itself. It was enchanting in a way standing on the familiar but not discerning any of it. I watched her do this for some time until she grew bored with the activity and moved on.

Nature is beguiling. I feel bewitched by the display before me. So many leaves, not one like the other, swaying about in the occasional gust of wind. I take her hand as we continue on our walk.

Fall is a feast for the senses. It puts a spell on me every year and I long for it to last. Everything is beautiful, rich, draped in every shade of yellow, orange and red. A trace of green still cutting through reminds me of what was and what will be in another 5 months.

Saddened by the realization that soon all will be bare and bleak, I walk a little slower feeling melancholy. But the bouncy, blonde haired, blue eyed girl beside me, dragging a stick in the pile of leaves, screaming with delight, jolts me out of it.

I wanted to pay homage to this season of gold and make a dish reminiscent of the very colors draping our lawns and sidewalks. Because not only are the leaves exquisite during this time of year but so is the produce. Beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts wed with tangy apple, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and thyme to create an earthy autumn inspired dish.

Even though beets tend to be selfish, enveloping everything around them in their deep red color, the taste these vegetables take on when roasted together is everything I want out of a fall dish. You can put them on salad, as a side for your Thanksgiving dinner, or top them with a delicious runny egg and make a meal out of them.

It’s undeniable that fall is the most dramatic and beautiful season and during this time I find my food is often inspired by it.

 brussels sprouts and string
 roasted vegetables in bowl
 vegetables napkin brussels sprouts carrots

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maple dijon thyme roasted vegetables

  • prep time: 10

  • cooking time: 30

  • makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium carrots peeled and cut into 2 inch sticks

  • 1 large beet or 2 medium peeled and cut into 4 and sliced

  • 12 oz of Brussels sprouts cut in half

  • 1 large apple peeled and sliced

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided

  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

  • 1 tbsp maple syrup plus 1 tsp (skip for whole 30)

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

Equipment:

  • 2 roasting trays

  • parchment paper

  • large bowl

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line roasting trays with parchment paper.

In large bowl, add all vegetables and apple, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp maple syrup, salt, pepper and thyme and toss to combine.

Spread evenly on roasting trays and roast for 30 minutes, rotating the trays half way through and tossing the vegetables for even roasting.

Meanwhile, in same bowl whisk together leftover tbsp olive oil, Dijon mustard and and leftover tsp of maple syrup.

When vegetables have finished roasting, add them to bowl and toss to combine with the Dijon maple dressing and serve right away.

  • Note: You can skip the Dijon if you prefer without and if whole 30, skip the maple syrup.


 Experience all of fall’s produce in one delicious side dish. Roasted beets, apple, carrots and Brussels sprouts work perfectly with maple syrup and dijon mustard to create a delicious, festive Thanksgiving, holiday or every day side dish. It’s vegan, paleo with a whole 30 option as well. #vegan #calmeats #thanksgivingsides #fallsides #fallproduce #sidedishes #beets #carrots #brusselssprouts #paleosides #paleothanksgiving #whole30sides #whole30thankgiving

grilled vegetables with balsamic and basil

 grilled vegetables with balsamic
 grilled vegetables with balsamic
 grilled vegetables with balsamic
 grilled vegetables with balsamic
 grilled vegetables with balsamic

Red onion - an unassuming vegetable hiding a gentle sweetness and flavor behind its many layers. It took me a while to fully come around to this lovely vegetable. I used to catch glimpses of it in the grocery store, modestly nestled next to the sweet and yellow variety but hardly ever did I think to cook with it. I guess it seemed a bit intimidating so I stuck with the familiar kind. 

But truth be told, red onion is now one of my favorite vegetables. Aside from its alluring color, red onion has a sweet, mild flavor that enhances many a dish. 

Las weekend my mother visited. And as is typically the case, she comes baring little gifts of one kind or another. While I insist that I need nothing and she doesn't have to, this time though she nailed it when she walked in with a massive pot of basil. There are few things that bring me as much joy as fresh herbs. But along with the basil she also brought an array of vegetables that were now strewn about my counter so my job was to figure out what to do with the mishmash. 

Days past and I still hadn't figured out what to do with all the vegetables on hand. Roasting of course was always an option but I wanted something else. Then I remembered the red onion sitting in the fridge from a previous recipe I'd made and it all came together. I would keep things very simple and grill the vegetables, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and finish them with balsamic vinegar and fresh basil. 

I won't lie, you can play around with this recipe as you see fit and swap out the vegetables to suit your liking but what you absolutely can't be without is the red onion. It changes the entire flavor profile of the vegetables. It brings out the best in them in an almost inexplicable way. You'll see...

 grilled vegetables with balsamic
 basil
 grilled vegetables with balsamic
 grilled vegetables with balsamic

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grilled vegetables with balsamic and basil

  • prep time: 5 minutes

  • grilling time: 10 minutes

  • makes: 4 servings

Ingredients: 

  • 1 red onion, sliced

  • 1 zucchini, sliced

  • handful of green beans, trimmed

  • 2 red bell peppers, roughly chopped

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper

  • 2 balsamic vinegar

  • 1 tbsp fresh basil chopped

Equipment

  • large mixing bowl

  • tongs

  • grill

  • grill safe plate

  • cling wrap

Directions:

Preheat grill on low.

In large bowl combine all ingredients aside from vinegar and basil and mix well. 

Add all vegetables to grill safe cast iron plate (most grills come with one) and grill for 10 minutes on low (stirring occsaionally) until soft but still retaining a bite. 

Place grilled vegetables back in bowl, add balsamic vinegar and basil and stir until vegetables are coated. Cover with wrap and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve right away. 


 If you're looking for the prefect side for pretty much any dish, check out this simple 10 minute grilled vegetables recipe. Red onion, bell peppers, zucchini and green beans come together with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil. This recipe is vegan, paleo and whole 30. #calmeats, #grilling, #grilledvegetables, #vegetables, #sidedishes, #vegan, #vegansides, #whole30

moroccan cauliflower couscous with cherries and apricots

 Moroccan cauliflower couscous with cherries and apricots

I never really thought of cauliflower as a particularly interesting vegetable. Truth be told, aside from fermented cauliflower, I don't recall liking it much growing up. Despite numerous attempts, I just couldn't warm up to it. 

After moving to the US, my mom, unfamiliar with American cooking stuck to traditional dishes we often had back in Romania. One dish she would often make involved cauliflower. While I vehemently protested eating it, she would nonetheless make it, secretly hoping she could convert me. 

 Cauliflower couscous with cherries and apricots

Despite my being convinced that I would never warm up to it, one day it just clicked for me. I think I like cauliflower. But I'm no purist. If you put a bowl of raw cauliflower in front of me, I won't be fighting you for it. I need a little something to make it sexy and appealing. 

Since I've started eating mostly paleo, couscous is no longer part of my regular diet but it used to be a staple in my cooking. A great alternative to traditional couscous is cauliflower couscous. I didn't believe it for myself until I started playing around with it. I make my cauliflower couscous with loads of spices, dried apricots and cherries and top with slivered almonds. Traditionally, moroccan couscous involves raisins but I decided to use dry cherries instead as it ads a tangy flavor that balances out the apricots quite well. 

You can find cauliflower that's been finely chopped in most grocery stores. But if you want to make your own, I have a very simple tutorial that lets you get it to the size you want. 

 Cauliflower couscous with cherries and apricots
 Cauliflower couscous with cherries and apricots
 Cherries and greens
 Slivered almonds and greens
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Total cooking time: 15-20 minutes
  • Makes 2-4 servings

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups cauliflower rice
  • 1/2 cup low sodium broth of your choice
  • 1/2 sweet onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tbsp chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tbsp dried cherries (alternatively use golden raisins)
  • 2 tbsp sliced almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper

Equipment

  • large cast iron frying pan or large frying pan of your choice

Directions: 

Heat frying pan over medium heat. Add olive oil onion and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes until translucent.

Add cauliflower rice and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add spices, salt, pepper, apricots, cherries and broth and cook for another 5 minutes until liquid has been absorbed. Top cauliflower couscous with slivered almonds and mix well. 

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moroccan cauliflower couscous with cherries and apricots
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cauliflower rice
  • 1/2 cup low sodium broth of your choice
  • 1/2 sweet onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tbsp chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tbsp dried cherries (alternatively use golden raisins)
  • 2 tbsp sliced almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
Instructions
1. Heat frying pan over medium heat. Add olive oil onion and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes until translucent.2. Add cauliflower rice and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add spices, salt, pepper, apricots, cherries and broth and cook for another 5 minutes until liquid has been absorbed. Top with slivered almonds and mix well.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2-4

cumin roasted carrots with avocado and tahini dressing

 Cumin roasted carrots with avocado, tahini dressing and sesame seeds

I can't say it enough, eating well doesn't have to be complicated. Eating healthy doesn't have to be time consuming and it most certainly doesn't have to be bland. Simple ingredients can be transformed into delicious and flavorful combinations. When faced with the all too familiar question: "what should I eat?", look no further than a bag of carrots and an avocado. 

 Cumin roasted carrots with avocado, tahini dressing and sesame seeds

Admidetly, I've been going through a pretty intense roasted carrots phase. It's borderline concerning. I think about them, crave them and can't seem to get enough of this amazing root veg. I want to use carrots in every recipe and have them for every meal. Okay, okay not quite that bad but it fits in line with my slightly obsessive nature. When I get into something, I really get into it. Whether it's an author,  a musician, artist or food. I just have to consume it until I've had my fill. 

But the truth is, roasted carrots are amazing. I meal prep them every week and generally have a decent amount on hand all week for salads or to dip in spicy mayo. Recently I've decided to add ground cumin to them and whip them into a simple salad but flavorful salad. Cumin roasted carrots with avocado and tahini dressing make for a perfect side or a light lunch. I top them with toasted sesame seeds, sliced almonds and for a little extra crunch and some green, a few slices of red cabbage and some sliced cilantro. 

 Cumin roasted carrots with avocado, tahini dressing and sesame seeds

Cumin roasted carrots are incredibly easy to prepare and you can make as much or as little as you want and have plenty left on hand. I've recently shared on social media that I've upgraded my carrot purchasing to 5 lbs at a time. Why mess around, right? 

All you need for this simple recipe is ground cumin, a bunch of carrots, an avocado, tahini, lemon and olive oil.  

 Cumin roasted carrots with avocado, tahini dressing and sesame seeds
 Cumin roasted carrots with avocado, tahini dressing and sesame seeds
 Cumin roasted carrots with avocado, tahini dressing and sesame seeds

cumin roasted carrots with avocado and tahini dressing

  • Prep time: 10 minutes

  • Total cooking time: 25 minutes

  • Serves 4

Ingredients: 

For carrots: 

  • 7-8 large carrots

  • 1-2 avocados, peeled and sliced

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 1 tbsp olive oil + additional 1 tsp

For dressing: 

  • 2 tbsp runny tahini

  • 2 tsp lemon juice

  • 2 tbsp water

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1/2 tsp honey (skip for Whole 30)

  • 1/4 tsp salt

Optional toppings:

  • sliced red cabbage

  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

  • 1 tbsp toasted sliced almonds

Equipment: 

  • large roasting sheet

  • parchment paper

  • mixing bowl

  • whisk

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel carrots and slice into strips (about 2" long). Add to parchment paper lined roasting sheet along with cumin, salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until soft but still retaining a bite to them. Toss once half way through. 

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients under dressing and whisk until fully incorporated.

Once carrots are finished, add remaining 1 tsp of olive oil and avocado. You can add a sprinkle of salt if you wish. 

To plate, add cumin roasted carrots and avocado, drizzle with tahini dressing and sprinkle with sesame seeds, almonds, red cabbage and cilantro. 


 

 

sweet potato fries with chipotle lime mayo

 sweet potato fries, mayo and herbs
 sweet potato fries in parchment paper
sweet potato fries (10 of 20).jpg

I shared on Instagram last week that I was making some changes to the blog. Not drastic but just scaling back a bit on my wellness posts to every other week. Since the blog's inception, I've done my very best to put out a wellness post every week along with 2 recipes but I realized it became a bit intense. While rewarding in every way, I found myself stretched thin with my face perpetually in my laptop. 

But admitting that I couldn't cotninue doing the thing I set out to felt shameful in a way and very disappointing. I felt uncomfortable until I realized that who really cares and why does it matter? Those who are interested in the content I put out will stick with me and those who aren't won't and that's just fine. Being okay with things just as they are felt liberating. 

So once I moved past the unease, I decided to carry on with the day. A trip to the museum and a simple recipe were going to be enough for a little reset. 

Art museums have always been special as art has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. Perhaps it was my father's artistic inclination or my touching a single brush stroke of Van Gogh's Sunflowers that sparked it but museums allow me a strange returning to myself. It doesn't matter what kind of chaos is happening on the outside, once I step foot inside a museum, things shift. The beating of my heart rhythmic and even...walking, admiring, appreciating.

sweet potato fries (16 of 20).jpg
sweet potato fries (12 of 20).jpg

Recharged, inspired and also very hungry, I decided to whip up a favorite of mine. Sweet potato fries with a chipotle lime mayo. I won't lie, I have a weakness for chocolate but nothing makes me lose my self control like sweet potatoes dipped in this addicting mayo.

While I've had the jarred chipotle mayo, I decided to just make my own and see what happens. Let's just say that I'm likely going to be sticking with my version. It's absurdly easy to make with only a few ingredients. 

While I can appreciate a good home made mayo, I do like shortcuts and since Primal Kitchen makes a fantastic mayo, I thought this may save me a lot of time. All I use is mayo, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, garlic powder, lime zest and lime juice. And oh my god, I can eat it by the spoonful. 

sweet potato fries (14 of 20).jpg

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sweet potato fries with chipotle lime mayo

  • prep time: 5-10 minutes

  • cooking time: 25-30 minutes

  • makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

For sweet potato fries

  • 2 large sweet potatoes or 3-4 medium

  • 1-2 tbsp avocado oil

  • 1/2 tsp salt

For mayo

  • 1/2 cup mayo of your choice (I use this. For vegan option try this)

  • zest of one lime

  • 2 tsp lime juice

  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

  • 2 tsp adobo sauce (these can be found in most grocery stores)

  • 1-2 chipotle peppers (reserve the rest for another time)

Whole 30 mayo chipotle lime mayo option: check out this recipe

Equipment

  • food processor

  • baking sheet

  • parchment paper

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash and scrub sweet potatoes well. No need to peel. Cut into thin strips and lay on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Toss with oil and salt and bake for 25-30 minutes stirring them half way through. For crispier potatoes bake an additional 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for sauce in food processor and puree until fully incorporated. 

When sweet potatoes are finished sprinkle with additional salt if you wish and serve with mayo. 


 Sweet potato fries with home made chipotle lime mayo is a favorite of mine. With only a few ingredients needed, you can whip this up in no time! #sweetpotatofries, #chipoltlelimemayo, #sides, #lunch, #dinner, #fries #paleo, #whole30, #vegan, #grainfree, #glutenfree, #dairyfree