“The Hunger Games” influenced recipe: Herbed Goat Cheese Bites

These “Herbed Goat Cheese Bites” are healthy and delicious little treats everyone will love.   YAY!    All I can say is “Bring on “The Hunger Games”.”  So excited we have a popular trilogy starting where food (and sadly hunger) play a central role.  So much room for creative inspiration, and mine will all focus on healthy interpretations of the many scenes where food and meals play a central role in the character’s life at the moment.

Why in the world am I doing “The Hunger Games” recipe or food interpretations? I have to admit, this time last week the last thing I thought I would be uploading was any “Hunger Games” influenced recipes.  Victor (long time boyfriend) and I are chilling out up here at his house in Lake Tahoe for awhile, so we decided at the last minute Friday to see the premiere of what seemed to be an over marketed movie, “The Hunger Games”.   We found the movie intriguing enough we decided to  download all 3 books onto our Ipads as well as downloading the entire series on audio book.  We have been listening to them together ever since on our Apple “boom box” while watching the snow fall.   Its been kind of fun. I decided to do an internet search to see if there were any sites posting “Hunger Games” recipes and there were.  Yahoo had this one and then I found on Amazon “The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook”.

These “Herbed Goat Cheese Bites” represent the morning of the “reaping day” when 2 children are chosen for the “Hunger Games”. The main character, Katniss, wakes to find goat cheese wrapped in fresh basil leaves, a gift left by her little sister Prim.   Katniss had bought her little sister an injured baby goat years before to help the family survive.    Katniss takes her sister’s gift and eats it in the meadow by the woods with her friend Gale, where they spread it on fresh bread Gale had traded a squirrel for.  In district 12, where Katniss and her family live, bread is a rarity.

I made this yesterday and it was delicious.  Is a great appetizer at a party as well.  This recipe is slightly different interpretation of a “celebrity” chef  Tyler Florence recipe featured here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup of finely chopped cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 8 ounce goat cheese log
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces French baguette sliced in 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves

Directions:

  1. Finely chop and combine the first four  herbs listed (thyme, parsley, tarragon, mint)
  2. Roll the goat cheese log evenly in the fresh herbs and then wrap tightly in plastic.  Chill 2 to 24 hours.  I chilled mine overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 and drizzle the bread slices with olive oil and place on cookie sheet
  4. Bake at 350 degrees until browned and crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes
  5. Remove the fresh herb goat cheese log from the fridge and spread lightly on the baguette slices
  6. Top generously with the fresh chopped tomato and basil

Serve and Enjoy!

Adapted from Tyler’s Ultimate by Tyler Florence, Southern Living
JANUARY 2009



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Basil Walnut Pesto

Pesto  in its traditional form is made with pine nuts, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. Costs for pine nuts have really increased dramatically over the years, so I just make mine with walnuts instead.  I actually think pesto tastes just as good, if not better, with walnuts, as opposed to pine nuts anyways, and some would argue walnuts are healthier  being so high on the antioxidant index.   Pesto with walnuts its also a very economical way to add some bold flavor on any budget.   The flavor is rich but filled with good fats from the olive oil and the walnuts.  It freezes well, defrosts quickly and is so versatile it can be used in sauces, on pizza and pastas, and as a big dollop of flavor on meat, seafood, poultry and veggies.   I usually will make a big recipe and then freeze in several small serving containers.  The recipe included below is a fairly generic version of the recipe.  You can blend the ingredients into a paste in a food processor, or in my case I use a high speed blender.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of packed fresh  basil leaves (found in the produce section by the fresh herbs)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • 2 cloves of minced or crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (opt)

Directions:

  1. Place the basil leave, olive oil, walnuts, garlic and salt in food processor or blender
  2. Blend until thoroughly combined
  3. Add Parmesan cheese and blend 10 to 15 seconds or more
  4. Serve and enjoy, or store in freezer until ready to use

Nutrtion facts

Servings per container: 6

Calories: 213 calories per serving

Calories from fat (good fat): 188 per serving

Total carbs: 2.7

Total sugars: 1.1 g

Protein: 5.6

Total Fats: 20.9 g

 

 



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Easy Saffron Honey-Roasted Butterflied Whole Chicken: A Cat Cora Inspiration!

Serving Suggestion with Sauteed Wilted Arugula and fresh Lemon zest

 

 

I love Chef Cat Cora!  Her food is so fun , whimsical, and  never pretentious.   In magazine interviews or TV cameo’s she always seems to go out of her way to make her food  easy and approachable to even the most inexperienced chef . How can you not love this lady?

Amongst the many things I love about the recipe one aspect I like most is is how inexpensive it is. Check out this cost for a whole roasted organic chicken on sale at Whole Foods.  Its only 1o bucks and this recipe feeds 4 to 6 people.  You can do the math.

One great thing about buying poultry at Whole Foods is that the butcher will be happy to “butterfly” your chicken before wrapping it up for you.  The rest of the ingredients in the recipe are pantry staples, like just organic honey and a pinch of saffron.  Saffron to some may seems “expensive” but I buy mine at Trader Joe’s for 6 bucks or at  Cost Plus World Market here for only $4.99

This recipe is so easy a complete novice could throw this together in a snap and wow the pants off of friends and family.  The secret to the ease?  None other than my favorite “Butterflied Oven Roasted Chicken Cooking Method” . If  you ever followed me last summer, you’ll know I discovered the “Butterflied Chicken” roasting only method after I almost ruined a dinner where I was having company over and was desperate for a “quick fix”.   My butterflied chicken was originally supposed to be something “Balinese” on the grill, but I had problems with the marinade and grill, and eventually was left with only a butterflied chicken,  an oven and 60 minutes to work with.  That day became my first ever experience with oven roasting a butterflied chicken and I will never cook a whole chicken any other way in the oven again.  If your unfamiliar with what a “butterflied” chicken is, you may have heard it’s other name  called the “Spatchcok”  method.

This Saffron Honey-Roasted Chicken completely reflects the best of what I love about Cat.  I poached this recipe from her “Cooking from the Hip” cookbook .  Its one of my favorite little cookbooks.  I would proudly serve this Saffron Honey Chicken to my “foodie” friends at a nice dinner, but its my new favorite “go to” recipe for  simple night at home with Victor and myself.  I am one of those people who loves to use all of the bird.  After roasting a whole chicken,  I always madke a small pot of  real chicken stock within days of making this dish for dinner with the leftover bones.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole roasting chicken 2 1/2-  4 lbs, then butterflied by the butcher or here is a video to show you how to butterfly a whole roasting chicken yourself yourself
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted preferably local organic butter
  • aprox 1/4 cup raw organic honey or organic honey
  • 2 tablespoons water (preferably unfiltered)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 415
  2. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels
  3. Place butterflied chicken  a(A) cavity side down/breast up either on a rack in a foil lined roasting dish or (b)  its also completely fine to place the chicken cavity side down, breast up on a greased double foiled line dish in a roasting pan and place in oven with dark meat, or legs towards the back of the oven for 5 minutes while melting butter in step 2
  4. Melt the butter in a pan (I cheated and went microwave), and then drizzle some of the butter on the chicken rubbing it in with the sea salt all over the outside of the exposed surface.
  5. Meanwhile pour the honey and water into the remaining butter, Add the saffron and the heat in a small sauce pan over low heat until thin enough in consistently to brush over the chicken.  With a pastry brush, brush the honey mixture over the chicken.
  6.  Roast the chicken for another 10 minutes and repeat step 5
  7. Continue to baste chicken with remaining water, butter, honey mixture  over the chicken until an instant read thermometer registers the chicken breast at 150 to max 155 degrees, and the dark meat in the thigh at 160 to 165  max degrees
  8. Turn on broiler to high and allow the chicken to finish cooking and allow  skin to crisp up and brown under broiler. Again while basting if any leftover marinade of the water honey/ water/ butter mixture.
  9. When Chicken breast reaches 165 degrees and the dark meat in the deepest part of the inner thigh reaches no more than 175 degrees remove immediately from oven
  10. Let chicken  rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes before carving…. (this will be hard because it will smell so incredible and looks so juicy!)

Photo from right out of the Oven so Tasty!  Juicy and dripping with flavor!

I’ve shown this served with a simple wilted sauteed arugula side dish.  This leftover chicken makes for a great shredded cold chicken salad as well, and save the chicken bones in a zip lock bag in freezer.  Great for making home made chicken stock. I’ll be doing one and posting it on here within the next week.

 

 



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Raw Healthy Pumpkin Banana “Shake”

This is super healthy and tastes great.    Perfect flavor combination with the canned pumpkin and the “Pumpkin Pie Spice” for the upcoming Halloween and Thanksgiving holiday to entice picky children yet with all the healthy nutrition and non dairy aspects parents love.   This is naturally sweet on its own, but you can add a little bit of sugar, honey or stevia for added sweetness.  I utilized a few “light coconut milk” cubes to add some healthy fats give  a nice frothy rich milkshake feel to a “raw” shake.  I finished it off with some sweet nutmeg spice and chopped walnuts sprinkled on top.

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 4 “light coconut milk” cubes or 1/2 cup unfrozen coconut milk (coconut milk frozen in an ice cube tray)
  • 1/2 cup organic canned pumpkin (I used Trader Joes brand from last year)
  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk (I used Almond Breeze)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pumpkin Pie spice, couple shakes to taste (I used Trader Joe’s brand or you can make homemade)
  • stevia,  a bit of honey, sugar to taste (I didn’t need any)
  • Optional : top with  sweet nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice and chopped wlanuts

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients except sweetener in a high speed blender
  2. Taste and add sweetener if necessary
  3. Pour into two glasses and top with sweet nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and chopped walnuts
  4. Serve and enjoy

 



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Easy Indian Spiced Chicken Breast

I came up with this chicken dish and marinade to go with my Curried Mango Ginger Chutney recipe I made last night.  I originally came across a similar spice combination when I saw a dish called “Tawa Fish”.   I thought this spice combination sounded great on fish (without the frying part) so why not try it with chicken breasts?  This marinade tasted great with the chicken and then even better with the Curried Mango Ginger Chutney recipe I made.  The marinade is easy, healthy  and simple to put together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts (2 large or 4 small chicken breasts)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients (except for the chicken breasts) in a bowl, set aside
  2. (optional) pound out chicken breast until they are all uniform, about 1.2 inch thick, they will cook evenly and faster this way.
  3. Marinade chicken breasts in fridge for at least 1/2 an hour
  4. When ready to cook, remove chicken breasts and pat dry
  5. preheat oven to 400 degree
  6. heat oil over medium to medium high heat in a oven proof skillet or grill pan
  7. Sear chicken until browned for about 2 minutes on each side and take pan directly from stove and place into oven
  8. Depending on thickness of the chicken breast, l finish cooking in about 3 to to 10 minutes.  You want the chicken to no longer be pink and juice running clear.
  9. Remove chicken from pan and and place on cutting board or plate and let rest at least 5 minutes.  The chicken will retain more juices the longer you let it rest.
  10.   Serve as a main dish and accent it with “Curried Mango Ginger Chutney”

 

 

 

 



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Coconut Curried Chickpeas

By all my recent Facebook posts and photos one might easily imagine I am some major chickpea fan.  It seems like lately I’ve been putting chickpeas in everything.  The truth is  I only recently made chickpeas from scratch for the very first time.  I, for the first time ever, did the whole “soaking overnight and then finishing  on the stove” thing.  After eating chickpeas made from scratch I have a whole new appreciation for this little ingredient, which by the way, I had never really liked at all (except for pureed in hummus) prior.

I have heard the argument that there is really no difference between soaking/cooking peas yourself or just buying them ready to eat in a can, but my taste buds and “brain” don’t believe that to be true At all.  I find chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked from scratch can have really amazing flavor and texture which I find totally lacking in canned chickpeas.  I love  cooking them to just barely  “el dente” after soaking them over night and then sauteing them in a variety of herbs, spices and sauces.

I came up this really healthy and tasty little curry dish on the fly the other day,  and it tasted amazing!  You can use canned chickpeas, but I highly recommend, if you have the time and don’t mind the planning, utilizing chickpeas made from scratch.  This is great to make ahead snack/dish and will keep well in the fridge for a couple of day.  This reheats well in the microwave.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh cooked chickpeas or 2 15 ounce cans of chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or oil or your choice)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of cayenne (to your desired “heat”, I used 2 tsp because I loved hot spicy food)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon yellow curry
  • 4 coconut milk cubes or 1/3 cup lite or regular organic coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Heat oil over medium heat until hot
  2. Add garlic and ginger and saute for 2 to 3 minutes
  3. Add onions and carrots and begin to saute
  4.  About 2 minutes in, add the garam masala, cayenne and curry and mix in well, allowing the flavors to infuse in well with the carrots and onions.  About 3  minutes or until the onions soft and carrots with still a bit of crunch.
  5. Add chickpeas and saute  a couple minutes until heated through anl flavors well distributed to chickpeas
  6. Add tomatoes and stir a minute or too, again until ingredients heated through and flavors well distributed
  7. Finish by adding coconut milk “cubes” or or coconut milk and stir until heated through  brought to a slight simmer or slightly “steaming”
  8. Serve and enjoy!  Can be eaten alone, in a roti, or as a side dish

 

 

 



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Healthy Chocolate Almond Butter “Milkshake”: Vegan or Organic Dairy

This shake is packed with protein and and healthy fats.  Super fast, easy to make, filling and great for recovery after working out.  I used almond butter because I like its flavor better than peanut butter, but you can substitute peanut butter if that’s what you prefer.  For me this is super “decadent” tasting, so I make a batch and split it into 2 servings of 8 ounces each.  Works out to about 210 calories each with over 25 grams of protein.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender (I use my vitamix) until well blended.
  • Sprinkle with a little cocoa powder on top
  • Serves 2.  Enjoy 🙂

 

 

 

 

 



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Slow Cooker Indian Curried Chickpeas (Super Healthy!)

 

This is a super healthy, slow cooker version of curried chickpeas made from scratch with the dry beans. Curried chickpeas is one of my favorite snack foods on the planet!   I call this recipe “Indian Comfort Food”.   Cook up a big batch of this and then store in your fridge for a fast quick snack or meal on the go.  Tastes awesome  topped with chopped cilantro and red onions, or cooled with an organic Greek yogurt or healthy cashew cream.  Some people love these served as the main protein in a Middle Eastern wrap dish.

I have been on quite the Indian food kick lately.  That’s a good thing because Indian food has a flavor profile filled with lots of yummy  spices and aromatics which are packed with nutrition, cancer and disease fighting properties.   With a slow cooker you just take the dried beans or peas,  throw in the additional ingredients, set the heat and timer, and your done.  Couldn’t be easier!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of dried chickpeas
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tomato (optional) diced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled and minced
  • 3 green chilies (serrano, habanero, or cayenne) stems removed chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds ground
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1/2 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 6 cups of water
  • Optional:
  • a couple tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • low fat or non fat plain organic Greek yogurt or cashew cream
  • lime wedges for garnish

Directions:

  • Put the chickpeas, onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, green chilies, spices and water into the slow cooker (I use a 3 1/2 quart cooker, but you can use are larger one if you like)
  •  You have two cooking options: Cook on “High” for the first 6 hours, stir, and then on “Low”  until the beans are cooked to your desired tenderness.  Or you can cook it on “Low” for 12  hours or until the beans are to your desired tenderness.
  • To serve, add the chopped cilantro and stir in a little Greek Yogurt or stir in some cashew cream to give the beans an added delicious little creaminess.

Serve and enjoy!   Keep a container for easy snacking in the fridge. These are so yummy, I know you will love this recipe.

 

 

 

 



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Roasted Butterflied Chicken with Ginger Soy Marinade

 

 

I’ll probably use this butterflied chicken cooking method  for roasting chicken in the oven from now on. Or until I become more proficient roasting chicken whole.  This oven roasted butterflied chicken method cooks so quickly, even and juicy, I think it kicks butt on the traditional “whole roast chicken” method. This butterflied chicken may not be as pretty presentation wise, but who really cares?

I have to be honest, I stumbled upon making this recipe, literally by accident.  I was planning on having one of those “cooking weekends” where I had all these fun recipe concepts I was excited to make.   Yet from the get go, things just kept going wrong.  As far as the chicken went, I was planning on making a “Balinese” marinade grilled chicken recipe I had been salivating over for a few weeks, but the marinade came out horrible.  I discovered this only after I was already several hours behind into my cooking for the weekend and I was having company over in a few hours.  So here I had this butterflied chicken ready to marinade, it was too late to fire up the grill, and I had never roasted a butterflied chicken in the oven. I was now paralyzed with “creative cooking  block”.  Looking back I have no idea why I was so flustered.  Roasting butterflied chicken in the oven should have seemed like an obvious “snap”.   I decided upon a  soy glaze so I knew I could at least get a nice looking “brown” on the skin.  I threw together a quick 1 hour marinade, preheated the oven to 415 degrees, threw the chicken in, and 45 minutes later it was done. I LOVED the way this chicken turned out.  The chicken skin was nicely browned  and crisp, and the chicken meat super juicy and cooked evenly throughout.

Normally I don’t make Asian marinades with soy sauce because of the high sodium content but I was a little pressed for time, and I’ll admit, it tasted great.

*** Note: I did not, nor will I likely ever butterfly a chicken on my own.  Just had the butcher at Whole Foods do it for free. To “Butterfly the Chicken Yourself”  Here is a link to an instructional video on YouTube.

Marinade for a 3 to 4 lb roasting Chicken Butterflied

  • 2 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  •  1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • neutral cooking oil, I used grapeseed

Directions:

  • Pre heat the oven to 415 degrees
  • Line a broiling pan with foil, doubled, then oiled
  • Place marinaded chicken, butterflied, breast side up, laying on the pan as the photo above shows
  • oiled the chicken skin and put a nice sprinkling of salt and pepper on as well
  • Put an electric thermometer in the breast of the chicken
  • Place the dark part of the chicken into the oven facing the back of the oven.  The oven is hottest in the back and as that the darker meat needs to be around 10 degrees hotter than the breast meat
  • Set timer for around 35 minutes and check thermometer.  Check every 5 minutes after wards until Breast is 160 degrees and dark meat 170.
  • Optional: Baste the chicken with the left over marinade through cooking process
  • When breast meat is around 160 degrees and the dark meat around 170, turn the broiler up to high, and raise the pan so the skin can get browned and crispy.  Watch closely.  This only took a couple of minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let rest for about 10 to 15 minutes
  • Serve and enjoy

 

 

 

 



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Roasted Carrots with Rosemary

I just love admiring carrots at the Farmer’s Markets, and they are one of the veggies that I consistently add to my cart at the grocery store.  They are super versatile and easy to work with.  They also have a long shelf life so even if I can’t use them right away, I know they will still taste great 5 days later.  Carrots are extremley rich  in Vitamin A and beta carotene as well as having natural anti inflammatory benefits.

On a funny note, my boyfriend is kind of obsessive compulsive, and for some reason,  has been currently obsessed with carrots for the past few months.  We live near a muti purpose grocery store with an amazing produce section, and lately he keeps coming home with bushels of carrots.  And when I say “bushels” he comes home with the whole “kit and caboodle” of the carrots: with the 2 foot long stems on them.  I tell him “You can have the long stems cut off buy the check out clerk or I’ll cut them off right now with some shears”.  But “NOoooooo” he does not want the long stems cut off until he eats them.  So basically we have what looks like a spider plant living in our fridge until he (the boyfriend) decides to eat them.  He  just loves eating them as snacks  while watching TV or working on the computer.  Lately when I go to the store,  he is always reminding me  “Don’t forget to get me some carrots, and only the real kind.  The kind with the stems”.  I have no idea why all of a sudden he has just become obsessed with eating raw carrots (with stems on, god forbid we cut them off first) all the time, but he is obsessed.  I’m not complaining since they are healthy, I just think its kind of funny or aka: weird. ( He will probably be very annoyed with me if he reads this.)

A few days ago my boyfriend came home with the above photographed,  multi colored carrots, and I thought they were way too pretty just to snack on raw, so I told him I would cook them.  He tried the cooked ones from this recipe and gave it a big thumbs up.

Ingredients:

  • Small bushel of carrots (Aprox 7 to 10) washed, greens cut to 1 inch from top of carrots, peeled
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion quartered
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh or dried rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 415 degrees
  2. Toss carrots, onion, and rosemary with olive oil.
  3. Lay out on a tin foil rimmed baking pan
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  5. Roast for aprox 40 minutes until carrots are browned and soft enough to pierce through with a fork

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