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 twitter 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. 


 

 

how to make sauerkraut

 A basic recipe for making probiotic rich sauerkraut at home with just two ingredients. 

My gut healing journey has been an eye opening experience. It's been exactly a year since the day I decided to give up gluten and dairy for good. It stands out as it was decisive and transformative. I vividly remember driving home from work, listening to a podcast on gluten sensitivity. What I was hearing hit me like a pile of bricks. I finally asked the question: "could gluten be at the root of all the issues I'd been struggling with?" I had to put the theory to the test and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. If you want an in-depth read about gluten, check out this post

If you're wondering why I gave up dairy as well - the answer is simple. Like gluten, cows milk proteins act as an allergen and can cause a similar immune response. 

But let's get back to the gut and more importantly to how to make sauerkraut. When it came to healing my gut, removing trigger foods and allergens was good but not enough. Working towards re-building what had been broken for so many years required that I focus on repopulating my gut bacteria. 

One surefire way I've done this probably the best way is by consuming fermented foods regularly, in particular sauerkraut. The stuff is truly miraculous. I believe out of all fermented foods, sauerkraut packs the most benefits in a very small serving. 

 A basic recipe for making probiotic rich sauerkraut at home with just two ingredients. 

What are the benefits of sauerkraut? 

  • Improves digestion
  • Improves nutrient absorption
  • Better focus
  • Increases energy
  • Boosts immune system
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves cognitive function

Some sources state that something like 10 trillion live bacteria can be found in just two ounces of home made sauerkraut, which is the equivalent of a 100 count of bottled probiotics.  Another interesting article on the benefits of consuming sauerkraut and fermented food sheds some scientific light on this ancient food. 

Why make your own sauerkraut? 

My reasons are cost effectiveness and also knowing exactly what goes into it. A small jar of refrigerated sauerkraut that contains only salt and cabbage usually costs somewhere around $4-$5 dollars. Making your own will save you money and yield far more sauerkraut.

One word of caution. If you've never eaten sauerkraut before, I suggest starting out with only 1 tsp and building up to a few table spoons a day. Eating too much too soon can actually have some negative side effects such as upset stomach or diarrhea.  

How to make sauerkraut? 

I keep things very basic by using clean mason jars, one head of cabbage, that's been finely sliced and fine pink salt. I prefer pink salt because of the milder taste and added nutrients. You can either hand hand massage the cabbage and salt together or you can use a sauerkraut pounder in order to speed up the process. You can also choose to use a fermenting stone but it's certainly not a requirement.  

 A basic recipe for making probiotic rich sauerkraut at home with just two ingredients. 
 A basic recipe for making probiotic rich sauerkraut at home with just two ingredients. 

how to make sauerkraut

  • prep time: 5-10 minutes
  • fermenting time: 2 weeks to several months

Ingredients: 

Equipment: 

Directions: 

Ensure your work space is clean. Wash and dry mason jars. 

Cut cabbage in two and and finely slice the cabbage. Add to bowl along with salt and massage cabbage with both hands or sauerkraut pounder for about 5-8 minutes until cabbage starts to release a liquid. 

Stuff cabbage in jars and pour in liquid dividing it between jars. Press the cabbage firmly into jar ensuring the liquid bubbles to the surface. Option is to add fermenting stone. Twist on lid firmly and store in a cool, dark place and allow to ferment for 14 days to several months. Once you open the sauerkraut, store it in the refrigerator. 

*Tip: While fermenting, keep sauerkraut away from fluctuating temperatures such as dishwashers and stoves. The ideal temperature is between 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit. 


 

 

blood orange, carrot and ginger smoothie

 A simple blood orange smoothie fIlled with vitamins and minerals. An invigorating drink anytime of the day

I admit I spend quite a bit of time at Whole Foods. It may be a good thing that it's not located near my house but close to work. It works out since I only travel to the office twice a week and therefore have only two opportunities for doing serious food shopping damage. But there's something about that place - the layout, the feeling, it's just different than your typical grocery store. Some would say it's snobby and overpriced and I'm the first to agree but damn it they have those cool salt lamp balls that are heated and...off topic.

 A simple blood orange smoothie fIlled with vitamins and minerals. An invigorating drink anytime of the day
 A simple blood orange smoothie fIlled with vitamins and minerals. An invigorating drink anytime of the day

But in all seriousness, it's still winter and my farmer's market is quite sad at the moment so this is the next best thing. Being in the presence of fresh food inspires me since most of the time, I have no idea what my next recipe will be. I plan to a certain extent but I like the thrill of finding an ingredient and letting the natural discovery process unfold. That kind of intuitive shopping feels rewarding and I can't imagine doing things any other way. 

I realize most of the time I look like a crazy person investigating produce, smelling it, hopelessly staring into a blood orange's soul...you know, looks weird as can be from the outside, but perfectly acceptable to me. 

And speaking of blood oranges, as they're in season for only a few short months, I decided to get a few and see what I could make with them. Moro blood oranges evidently are only in season through March so buying them felt all the more special. 

 A simple blood orange smoothie fIlled with vitamins and minerals. An invigorating drink anytime of the day

When I cut into the blood orange I was in awe at the surprinsing color. I've seen blood oranges before but these had to be the most beautifully marbled shade of deep red with a few specs of orange peppered throughout. I immediately had to photograph it and since it was 9am and I wasn't quite prepared to whip up any particular dish at that point, I decided to opt for a smoothie. It is a preferred way to get a healthy dose of vitamins in liquid form. My daughter who's a smoothie aficionado, was delighted to try something new. 

If you can't find blood oranges, using a regular orange is perfectly okay, you just won't get that orange creamsicle color but will get all the taste. 

 A simple blood orange smoothie fIlled with vitamins and minerals. An invigorating drink anytime of the day

blood orange, carrot and ginger smoothie

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond, cashew or coconut milk
  • 1 medium carrot peeled and chopped 
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 knob grated fresh ginger (about 1")
  • 1 frozen banana 
  • 1 /2 cup pineapple
  • optional: toss in 1/2 apple, peeled and cored
  • optional: 1 scoop collagen

Equipment: 

  • blender

Directions: 

Combine all ingredients and blend for about one minute until everything is fully incorporated. 


chicken meatballs with tomatoes and carrot noodles

 chicken meatballs, greens, blue napkin
 chicken meatballs, avocado and carrots
 chicken meatballs, greens, avocado

Though frustrating with its baffling weather patterns and changing moods, March is a beloved month. It's frequently been a month of change for me. Perhaps it has to do with the time change or the patches of green becoming more visible by the day that create a shift.

While winter is still lingering about and a surprise snow storm could be just around the corner, I'm in the mindset of wanting to be outside. I'm anxious to get my hands dirty and pepper the vegetable garden, plant carrots and tomatoes and as many others as I can squeeze in the beds. After a long, dark winter, I'm ready for more sun, lighter clothing and lighter food. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about the soups and stews and do make them all year long, but spring and summer beckon for lighter food and lots and lots of vegetables. 

A dish I made quite a bit last summer is this chicken meatballs with tomatoes and carrots. Since my tomatoes ripened quicker than I could pick them, we had a surplus that needed to be used. And what better way to use tomatoes than in a fresh sauce with plenty of olive oil, fresh garlic and oregano, right??

I opted for chicken meatballs instead of beef as they simply work better with this tomato sauce. My recommendation is to work the chicken meatballs gently since they're a bit more delicate than their beef cousins. While chicken itself can be quite bland, cumin, coriander and ginger infuse these chicken meatballs with loads of flavor. A favorite in my house that doesn't disappoint. 

 chicken meatballs, greens, fork, blue napkins

chicken meatballs with tomatoes and carrot noodles 

  • Prep time: 10-15 minutes
  • Total cooking time: 50 minutes
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

For chicken meatballs:

  • 1 lb organic ground chicken
  • 3 tbsp almond flour or freshly ground almonds 
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2-3 tbsp avocado or olive oil 

For carrot noodles:

  • 2-3 large carrots spiralized 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • sprinkle of salt

For tomato sauce

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup bone broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 shallot (you can use 1/4 of an onion if no shallot on hand)
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish
  • optional: 2 tsp maple syrup
  • optional: 1/2 an avocado sliced to top sauce and chicken meatballs

Equipment

  • large frying pan
  • medium frying pan
  • spiralizer or peeler

Directions:

Combine all ingredients for chicken meatballs, form 1" balls and set aside. Preheat large, heavy pan on medium heat. Add avocado or olive oil and chicken meatballs and cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes until brown. Set aside. 

Spiralize your carrot noodles and set aside. If you don't have one available, you can use a peeler to create long thin strips of carrot and they work just as well. (I often do this) 

In the same frying pan used for chicken meatballs, add 1 tbsp olive, garlic and shallot and sauté on medium heat stirring continuously for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and oregano and cook for 2 minutes. Add broth and deglaze pan, scraping any brown bits off the bottom. Lower heat, add salt, pepper and optional, maple syrup and simmer for 5 minutes. Return meatballs to pan and cook an additional 10 minutes stirring occasionally. 

Lastly, preheat medium pan, add add olive oil and carrots  and sauté for 5 minutes, until soft.

To plate, add carrot spirals, top with meatballs and sauce and sprinkle with additional cilantro. If you wish, add a few bits of avocado, which adds a layer of creaminess. 


5 ingredient paleo crepes

 crepes, strawberries and greens
 basil 
 crepes and strawberres with cacao nibs

Growing up I ate a lot of crepes. Romanians borrowed them from the French along with numerous other dishes. Crepes always held special treat status in our house. Whenever my  mom would announce she was making them, I'd quickly abandon whatever activity I was involved in. Instead I'd park myself on a chair next to her, patiently waiting for the first soon to be botched crepe, so I could eat it.

After all, the first crepe normally gets thrown away. There's something mystical that has to happen between the batter and pan once the proper temperature is reached and a bona fide crepe is formed. For my mom and for me, it's always the second crepe. The first, while hardly worthy of the name, was always one for testing, ensuring the consistency was just right. What it lacked in form and looks, it made up for in taste. 

The crepes my mom would make were called "clatite", filled with jam and rolled into long tubes. While I could hardly wait to get my hands on them once freshly rolled, it was the next day that they came into their full flavor. 

I'm surprised it took me this long to experiment with the makeover version of crepes, considering they're one of my favorite foods but I think I've finally nailed them. These crepes are delicate, airy and almost sensual in some ways. 

 crepes strawberries, greens and cacao nibs

For these simple paleo crepes, you need eggs, coconut oil, almond flour, tapioca flour and cashew or almond milk. That's the basic recipe to keep them neutral. If you like your crepes on the sweet side, a teaspoon of vanilla will sweeten them and make a perfect base for your favorite sweet filling such as quick paleo chocolate spread

 strawberries, basil and greens
 folded crepes, strawberries 

5 ingredient paleo crepes

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cooking time 15-20 minutes
  • Makes 8-10 crepes

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs at room temperature 
  • 4 tsp melted coconut oil + additional for cooking or you can use ghee
  • 1/2 cup fine almond flour
  • 2 tbsp tapioca flour
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened cashew or almond milk at room temperature 
  • optional: pinch of salt (for savory)
  • optional: 1 tsp vanilla extract (for sweet)

Equipment

  • crepe pan, non stick or ceramic coated frying pan
  • large mixing bowl
  • whisk

Directions

In large bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk together well. 

Heat crepe pan and add a coat with 1/2 tsp coconut oil or ghee. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter and coat pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side and flip. Remove and repeat the process until all the batter is gone. 

Crepes can be stored in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to a week.