polenta with mushrooms, kale and roasted carrots

A super simple creamy polenta recipe with a tasty mushroom, kale and red onion sauce, along with dijon brushed roasted carrots. It's vegan, gluten and dairy free.

freshly picked carrots
bunch freshly picked carrots
freshly picked carrots
fresh carrots
kale, mushrooms, carrots and red onion

I like routine - it can be cathartic, even necessary. But at times can feel oppressive and restrictive. When I become particularly aware of the daily repetition, a slightly suffocating feeling emerges from the depths of my being, gripping, like two imaginary hands forcibly choking me. Breath doesn’t flow in and out the way it ought to, energy feeling trapped. 

There’s an urging to depart from repetitive thoughts, actions and ways. And perhaps not in a grand fashion, like picking up and moving to a new country but by simply changing something in my routine. Even the slightest shift can suddenly redirect my focus, rearrange my thinking and open up new ideas. That’s when I feel an ease, a release, a lessening in the grip around my throat. Breath flows steady. In and out. 

I believe these smothering feelings are necessary for growth and change. It’s our body and mind’s way of sending us signals that we need to refocus and rearrange, if only energetically. I often think it’s in those moments that the universe is trying to tell us something and all we have to do is listen. It can be something substantial or merely changing up routine in the kitchen. 

Feeling stagnant comes in many forms and I realized that no matter how much I love fresh tomatoes, zucchini and strawberries, there comes a point in the season where I just want to move on, experience something new and fresh. And sure, there’s still over a month of summer left, but I’m finding a certain shift happening every August. I’m ready to experiment with fall produce. 

Luckily I need not look too far for inspiration as my little garden is the perfect muse. A few kale leaves and a bunch of carrots set the tone for the recipe. I had leftover red onion along with some sliced mushrooms in the fridge and pulled it all together in no time. But there was one thing missing. A base for what would be a mushroom ragout and roasted carrots.

While neither paleo nor whole 30, but certainly gluten free, today’s recipe base holds a certain sweetness for me and was a staple growing up. And it is a 180 from what I normally cook but I wanted to go with it. I’m talking about polenta. I felt it was the ideal companion for the flavorful mushrooms, kale and roasted carrots. 

It’s become one of my favorite dishes not just because it’s incredibly easy to make but but tasted really freaking delicious! You won’t miss the meat as the mushrooms create a rich and hearty sauce that’s rich yet healthy and nutritious. But you could always experiment with a protein if you wanted to. Check out the below suggestion.

Should you soak the polenta first?

While not necessary if you’re in a hurry, I highly recommend it. I do eat some gluten free grains from time to time, and when I do, they usually have to be soaked first. That makes a big impact on digestion and can cut down on the anti-nutrients often found in grains.

Can you use a paleo substitute for polenta?

Absolutely! You can find a recipe for home made cauliflower rice here and what you’ll want to do is just give the cauliflower rice some additional pulses until it reaches the desired polenta size.

Can you add a protein?

Yes, you can. I’ve tried several variations of this recipe and it works particularly well with a quality sausage. Before you start cooking the onion, you could simply cook the sausage first, remove and set aside and then add in the onions and continue with the recipe. Before serving, just slice the sausage and toss it in with the mushroom mix.

Whichever variation you make, you’ll find this to be a perfect comfort food for any time of year, but it works especially well once the season turns a little cooler.

kale mushrooms and red onion
polenta with mushrooms, kale and roasted carrots
polenta with mushrooms, kale and roasted carrots
polenta with mushrooms, kale and roasted carrots
polenta with mushrooms, kale and roasted carrots

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polenta with mushrooms, kale and roasted carrots

  • soaking time: 12 hours

  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • cooking time: 30 minutes

  • makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry polenta

  • 3 cups water

  • 1/2 cup broth of your choice

  • 2 tbsp ghee

  • 5 tbsp olive oil divided

  • 1 lb portabella mushrooms

  • 1/2 red onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 cups chopped kale

  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

  • 1 lb carrots with stem

  • 1.5 tsp salt divided

  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper, divided

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or broth if whole 30)

  • optional: chopped Italian parsley


Equipment:

  • sheet pan

  • parchment paper

  • soup pot

  • small mixing bowl

  • large skillet (preferably cast iron)


Directions:

In large soup pot, add polenta along with 3 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt, cover and let soak overnight.

The next day, start simmering polenta for 10 minutes stirring continuously. Add broth and continue simmering, while stirring regularly for another 10-15 minutes. Add ghee and if you want, additional salt and turn heat to the lowest setting and continue simmering.

* If you don’t want to pre-soak the polenta, just follow package instructions.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim greens off carrots and slice them in half. Add carrots to parchment paper lined sheet and add 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/5 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper and combine. Roast carrots for 25 minutes or until tender but with a slight bite.

In small mixing bowl combine dijon mustard, 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp lemon juice and whisk well. Set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat cast iron skillet on medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil and chopped red onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Next add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Turn up heat, add wine or broth and deglaze pan for 2 minutes.

Reduce heat back to medium and add sliced, mushrooms, thyme and kale. Cook for 10 minutes until mushrooms are soft and kale has wilted.

Remove carrots from oven and immediately brush with 1/3 of the dijon lemon and oil mixture.

Add the remaining mixture to the mushrooms and stir well.

To plate, add polenta, roasted carrots, mushroom mixture and if you want, sprinkle with chopped parsley or additional thyme.


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spiced turkey burgers with peach chutney

cabbage, peaches, green onion
peaches and green onion
peaches
spiced turkey burgers with peach chutney
spiced turkey burgers with peach chutney

I rolled over and looked at my phone, 5:32. I quickly tossed the covers aside and stumbled around the room in search for a long sleeve and some shorts. It was quiet. I peaked out the window and a pang in my chest told me to rush. A quick scan of my surroundings and I determined it was clear - they were still sleeping. I made a beeline for the door, grabbing the key along the way. 

The air was thick and salty, seagulls happily announcing the morning's arrival and searching for whatever food was left from the previous evening. It was a welcoming symphony. I made my way down the steps, sleep still tugging at me or perhaps that extra glass of wine I'd had the night before, but no matter. 

Crossing the near empty street, aside from the occasional deterministic runner, I was alone making my way from the promenade on to the beach. The shift from asphalt to cool freshly combed morning sand, felt exhilarating. As I made the trek across the beach, the sound of crashing waves intensified. It never ceases to amaze me just how beautiful the beach is early in the morning. 

I climbed up the lifeguard stand, skimming the beach. A few surfers, hungry for good waves held my attention for a moment. So did the elderly man with his oversized hat and peach colored shirt, serenely and rhythmically moving his metal detector from side to side as he searched the beach for treasure. Were they as happy as I was at that moment? Few things feel as complete as this place. I felt a jolt of sadness trying to make its way into my head. This won't last, this won't last. I tried to chase it away and just observe what was in front of me. 

I held on to the moment for as long as I could before making my way back to the condo where they would likely be buzzing with energy, ready to get outside and get the day started. 

A bike ride to a local farm on the agenda for the day complete with lunch outside. Beach Plum Farm is one of the most beautiful places I've seen and a favorite in Cape May. The food is made with only local ingredients and offers some unusual pairings. We sat in the shade of a big oak tree on a damp picnic bench. Lost in thought, I looked over the red cabbages, scallions and fresh herbs, remembering the recipe I'd made shortly before we left. 

Turkey burgers with peach chutney, red cabbage, scallions and spicy mayo was maybe something I would be able to find on the menu here. I thought about what it would be like to live simply and work on a farm by the beach, growing and making food, being close to the ocean. I was quickly jolted out of my daydream when our food arrived but what did remain is this spiced turkey burger recipe. 

It's a delicious sweet and spicy combination with flavors and textures aplenty. Since turkey burgers can often be plain and boring, I wanted to give them life and infuse them with plenty of spices and top them with a fresh peach chutney and sliced cabbage. 

I may not get the chance to live at the beach anytime soon but at least I can sink my teeth into these delicious burgers while day dreaming of the ocean. 

spiced turkey burgers with peach chutney
spiced turkey burgers with peach chutney
spiced turkey burgers with peach chutney
spiced turkey burgers with peach chutney

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spiced turkey burgers with peach chutney 

  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • cooking time: 15 minutes

  • yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 semi-ripe peaches peeled and cut into cubes

  • 1 scallion sliced (separate white and green part)

  • 1/2 cup purple cabbage sliced

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + extra for brushing the burgers

  • 1 lb ground turkey (I use 85/15)

  • 2 tbsp mayo

  • 2 tsp coconut flour

  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander

  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/4 tsp onion powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

    Optional though recommended toppings:

  • chipotle lime mayo (store bought or a speedy recipe)

  • sliced avocado

  • extra purple cabbage

Equipment

Directions:

Preheat grill or grill pan. In a mixing bowl, combine ground turkey with mayo, coconut flour, ground coriander, ground cumin, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and form into 4 patties. Brush both sides with olive oil and set aside. 

Preheat frying pan to medium. Add olive oil, white part of scallion and a pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes stirring regularly. Add purple cabbage and cook 3 minutes. Lower heat, add peaches a pinch of salt and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring regularly until peaches are soft.

Grill turkey burgers for 3-5 minutes per side until fully cooked (internal temperature of 165 °F).

To assemble, place turkey burgers on plate and layer with chipotle lime mayo, sliced avocado, peach chutney and sprinkle with additional cut up scallion. 


If you're looking to spruce up your turkey burgers, try this mouthwatering recipe. These paleo and whole 30 turkey burgers are juicy, moist and pair perfectly with a speedy peach chutney. Pair them with avocado and spicy mayo! Check out this 15 minute recipe! #paleoburgers, #turkeyburgers, #whole30, #turkey, #calmeats, #grilling, #peachchutney, #peach, #quickrecipes, #15minutedinner, #15minuterecipe

vegan tacos with chipotle lime mayo

vegan tacos
vegan tacos
vegan tacos
vegan tacos

At last, spring is here. I feel safe writing it now; even certain that we might be safely past the bi-polar days of early spring.

This season I fell in love with nature more than at perhaps any point in my life. I can’t get enough of it. I crave walking barefoot on dewey morning grass, watching petals glide through the air making their descent while listening to the symphony of birds.

Spring feels like a sensory orgasm of sorts; maddening beauty all around…colors, vibrancy, crisp air. There is a feeling of aliveness in my body every time I step outside and I simultaneous curse myself for not having noticed this breathtaking beauty in springs past. Or at least not on such a fervent level.

So in honor of all things alive and colorful, I wanted to make a simple recipe that’s fresh, full of vegetables and rich in flavor; a dish that would do to tastebuds what spring does to the senses. After all, when the weather warms up, I think most of us naturally gravitate towards lighter food and a good amount of vegetables .

And one of my favorite ways of eating loads of vegetables is in the form of tacos. While I do like raw vegetables just fine, frankly I prefer them roasted and/or sautéed. I find they’re far better on digestion too despite potentially losing some of their nutrients. And the best part? You get to wrap them in a delicious tortilla and pile on your favorite toppings which will hopefully include a plethora of chipotle lime mayo.

These vegan tacos are staples in my house and never disappoint. The combination of sweet potatoes, zucchini, bell pepper sweet corn and black beans tossed with spices, garlic, honey and lime hit just the right spot for me. I don’t eat beans and corn often but I make an exception for these tacos. If you’re strict whole 30 or paleo, no sweat - skip the corn and beans and they will still taste fantastic.

Now you can certainly skip the MYOT (make your own tortillas) but to me cassava tortillas truly round out this dish. Yes, it’s a little extra work but oh so worth it. You can find the recipe for these easy to make tacos here.

Whether you’re enthralled with spring or just enjoy vegan tacos, check out this simple weeknight or any night dinner.

vegan tacos
vegan tacos
vegan tacos

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  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • cooking time: 30 minutes

  • makes: 10 tacos

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces

  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1” pieces

  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1 cup cooked black beans (skip for paleo and whole 30)

  • 1 cup defrosted organic corn (skip for paleo and whole 30)

  • 1 tsp ground paprika

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/2 tsp chili powder

  • zest of 1 lime

  • juice of 1/2 lime (if not juicy use 1 lime)

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro plus extra

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • cassava tortillas (recipe here) or buy this brand

  • spicy mayo (recipe here) or buy this brand (for vegan mayo try this)

  • optional: avocado slices

  • optional: sliced radish

  • optional: sliced red cabbage

  • optional: additional chopped cilantro

Equipment:

  • large cast iron pan

  • roasting tray

  • parchment paper


Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add sweet potatoes, zucchini and bell pepper, all spices, salt and pepper to parchment paper lined roasting tray. Roast for 25-30 minutes until vegetables are soft.

If making tortillas, make them now. Recipe here.

Meanwhile, shortly before vegetables have finished roasting, preheat cast iron pan on medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds stirring continuously. Lower heat, add corn and black beans and warm through for 5 minutes stirring continuously. Turn off heat, add lime zest, lime juice and honey and add roasted vegetables and chopped cilantro. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Scoop vegetable mixture on tortillas, top with spicy mayo, avocado, radishes and cabbage and additional cilantro if you wish.


If you’re looking for a delicious dinner you can whip up in 30 minutes, try these roasted vegetable vegan tacos. The great thing is they can be customized for whole 30 and paleo lifestyles, are completely vegan . #tacos #paleotacos #whole30tacos #vegantacos #vegan #vegetarian #roastedvegetables #calmeats #veganmexicanfood #dinner #healthyrecipes

rutabaga noodles with tahini sauce and cashew crumble

rutabaga noodles with tahini sauce and cashew crumble
rutabaga noodles with tahini sauce and cashew crumble
rutabaga noodles with tahini sauce and cashew crumble

I grew up only a sea away from a country rich in flavors and spices. Some traditional recipes made their way onto our table but not nearly enough given the proximity.

My mom would frequently travel to Turkey for work and would come back baring delicious foods that we’d never dream of having access to in Romania. One of them was halva. Funny because I’d had it my whole life but Romanians always made it with pressed sunflowers and never tahini.

That was my very first introduction to a flavor I would come to revere as an adult. It is unmistakable - an ingredient used in Middle Eastern and Asian dishes alike. Truthfully one that can’t be substituted.

So a few moths ago while stocking up on tahini I had a burning desire to make a quick sauce. The only problem was, I now had a tasty sauce on my hands but hadn’t quite thought about what I’d do with it. Sure, roasted carrots or sweet potatoes would always be good options for dipping but I was in the mood for something new. Something that would wake up my taste buds.

Rutabaga already had its moment in a previous post where I gushed about its versatility and distinctive taste, but I feel the need to reiterate just how delightful this unassuming root is. While raw it tastes somewhere between a turnip and cabbage, when cooked its essence is revealed. Everything that’s been hidden beneath the waxy surface comes to life when this noble root has just a few minutes in the heat.

To top it all off, I wanted something to complete the taste I was after - something intense but not overpowering. A sprinkling of cashew crumble is exactly what this dish needed. It is one of the simplest and most delicious ones I’ve had. Flavorful, intense and satisfying.

rutabaga noodles with tahini sauce and cashew crumble
rutabaga noodles with tahini sauce and cashew crumble
rutabaga noodles with tahini sauce and cashew crumble

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prep time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 5 minutes
makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large rutabaga, peeled and spiralized

  • 1/2 cup runny tahini

  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashews

  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided

  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil

  • 2 tsp coconut aminos

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 2 tsp lemon juice

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • a handful of very thinly sliced carrots

  • handful of very thinly sliced cucumber

  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro (optional)

  • 1 green onion, green parts only (optional)

Equipment:

  • blender

  • large mixing bowl

  • small mixing bowl

  • spiralizer

  • large non stick frying pan

Directions:

Combine tahini, water, lemon juice, coconut aminos, salt and sesame oil in large bowl and set aside.

In blender finely grind cashews until they’re fine. In small bowl, combine them with 1 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt and mix well with your fingers by pinching the mixture until it becomes crumbly - set aside.

Preheat pan on medium heat. Add 1 tsp olive oil and rutabaga noodles and toss frequently for 5 minutes until they begin to soften but are not mushy.

Remove from heat and add to bowl with tahini sauce. Toss to combine.

Place noodles on plates and add carrot and cucumber slices along with as much cashew crumble as you wish. Top with cilantro and green onion and serve.

If you’re looking for a flavorful noodle bowl but are following a grain free lifestyle, look no further than this tasty rutabaga recipe with tahini sauce and cashew crumble. It’s a satisfying, creamy and you won’t miss the pasta. #veganrecipes #vegan #tahini #rutabaga #paleorecipes #paleo #plantabased #whole30recipes #whole30 #paleonoodles #whole30noodles #cashews #tahinisauce #calmeats #veganfood #rutabaganoodles

asparagus sausage scramble with egg

asparagus
red onion, asparagus, scallions
tray with mixed vegetables
asparagus sausage scramble with egg

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself here, considering that we’re only a few days into spring, but I can’t help but already celebrate asparagus season. I’ve had a fascination with asparagus since first discovering this green beauty upon moving to the States.

Asparagus feels memorable every time it ends up on my plate. Despite its year long availability, it is a pricier vegetable and I reserve it for special meals. But in spring, when the farmers markets explode with the green spears, I take full advantage and gorge on it.

Even though asparagus at first glance seems robust and sturdy, it can easily be wrecked in the cooking process. It needs to merely kiss the heat for a few minutes in order to come into its full, glorious potential. I guess I never really thought about vegetables making out with heat but okay…I guess this is where we are now.

But let’s get back to today’s recipe. I wanted a versatile enough dish that could easily make for a simple breakfast lunch or dinner. I also wanted it allergy friendly and first and foremost, tasty, with earthy yet bright flavors to celebrate all that spring has to offer.

Red onion and sausage create a flavorful base and are tossed with cauliflower rice, sweet bell pepper and asparagus. Ginger and coconut aminos, add depth and the whole thing is finished with some bright lemon zest. Now, you could certainly stop there, but if you want to take it a step further, you could add an an over-easy egg and take this dish to another level.

asparagus sausage scramble with egg
asparagus sausage scramble with egg
asparagus sausage scramble with egg

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asparagus sausage scramble with egg

  • prep time: 5 minutes

  • cooking time: 25

  • makes: 4 servings


Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive or avocado oil

  • 2 sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed

  • 1/2 red onion, chopped

  • 1lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2” pieces

  • 1 yellow, red or orange bell pepper, chopped

  • 4 cups cooked cauliflower rice (follow package instructions) or make your own here

  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos

  • 1” knob grated ginger

  • zest of 1/2 lemon

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

  • 4 eggs

  • optional: 1 green onion sliced, green parts only


Equipment:

  • large cast iron or heavy bottom skilled

  • medium frying pan


Directions:

Heat cast iron skilled over medium heat. Add oil and sausage. Cook sausage breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it’s cooked through - about 10 minutes. Remove sausage and set aside.

In the same pan, if needed, add a little more oil, onion and a pinch of salt. Cook onion stirring regularly for 5 minutes until translucent. Add bell pepper and asparagus and cook for another 5 minutes until vegetables have softened a little.

Return sausage to pan, add cauliflower rice, sausage, grated ginger, coconut aminos, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until all ingredients have combined.

In a separate pan, cook eggs to your preference and serve along with asparagus scramble.

Optional, top with green onion and serve right away.


A 30 minute recipe that can make for a simple breakfast, lunch or dinner. A delicious combination of asparagus, red onion, sausage and cauliflower rice are tossed together with ginger and coconut aminos to create this speedy dish. It’s low carb, paleo, gluten free and whole 30 too. #paleodinner #30minuterecipes #whole30dinner #glutenfreedinner #quickmeals #glutenfree #dairyfree #whole30 #calmeats #paleo #realfoodrecipes #cleaneatingrecipes #speedydinner