Whenever I am dining out and Huevos Rancheros is on the menu, it doesn’t matter what time of day, I will order it. I am not alone, most Californians have a deep affinity and/or guilty pleasure for Mexican food. We have all grown up with it and we can’t get enough of it. Our friendly Hispanic neighbors have shared their culture, food, and inspirations so openly with us. We, in turn, have taken that and put a California flare on what is a constantly evolving cuisine. You haven’t had Mexican until you have had it California style, fresh and loaded with flavor. That being said, there is a real movement of healthy, well-balanced interpretations of classic Mexican entrees like Huevos Rancheros, which is also gluten free. I was recently at Cafe Vida in Culver City and there it was, like an old friend staring longingly back at me. I ordered it, ate every last bit and couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the day. There is a lot of room for interpretation with this dish, but there are always the same core ingredients: the tortilla, beans, salsa and perfectly fried egg. Without further ado, here is the iLee version of a classic favorite, Los Huevos Rancheros.
Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables during the winter months. It is fairly neutral and can easily be incorporated into sauces and in this case, sweet and savory pancakes. It is an easy vegetable to “slip” into any dish which helps boost the nutritional value. As a mom, you’ve got to love that. My sister purees it and adds it to spaghetti sauce so her kids could have the benefit of more vegetables without the fuss. Here, I cook it separately and incorporate it into this sweet and savory pancake that travels well and is delicious both warm or cold. Even your pickiest eater will love, love, love it. For added flare, serve it with a sweet chutney or preserve.
Kale abounds at the farmer’s market this time of year and its detoxifying properties make it a great new year staple to incorporate into one’s regular diet. This salad recipe elevates kale to new heights and has quickly become one of my all-time favorites. The sweetness of the balsamic vinaigrette and the substantial and earthy mix of greens, grains and legumes is the ultimate super food that satisfies the most discerning palates and non-vegetarians alike. As with most cruciferous vegetables, kale can be hard to eat in its raw form. Here, the kale is massaged with lemon juice to remove the bitterness and soften the leaves, creating a silkier texture that compliments and highlights all the ingredients in this unique and filling chopped salad. Easily a 6 serving dish, make sure to save some for the next day as the kale stays firm, all the flavors marinade and its even better the second go around. The Balsamic and Red Onion Vinaigrette is a simple and very special recipe that you can find here as a separate post.
You will need:
1 bunch of curly kale washed, dried and stalks removed
2 cups of cooked quinoa
2 cups of cooked chickpeas or 1 can of garbanzo beans
The galette is my ultimate “go to” during the holiday season or any festive time that calls for a homemade dessert. I am not much of a baker and this easy dough recipe makes anyone look like a pro and the slight imperfections are really what make it perfect. A gallette is a basic free form crust with either a sweet (fruit) or savory (caramelized onions) filling. A cornucopia of apples are available at your local farmer’s market this time of year and fresh fruit makes the best topper for this crust. To keep things easy, I split the recipe up in two parts by making the dough the day before. This calls for a bit of thinking ahead and is really worth it, because the dough is better and the process is much easier overall. The result: naturally caramelized, balanced sweet and tart flavors of baked apple gently cradled in buttery, flaky crust. Easy perfection every time without the hard work. Don’t you just love it?
For the Dough you will need:
2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 1/2 sticks of cold unsalted butter cut rough cubes
1/4 cup ice water
For the Filling you will need:
2 large or 4 small granny smith apples
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon to sprinkle on top
1 tablespoon of heavy cream to brush on edges of crust (optional)
The basic ingredients in a spring roll are: grain, protein and vegetable, which makes it a balanced meal all its own. This recipe is vegan and naturally gluten free, with the added health benefits of cleansing herbs. Cilantro helps detoxify our system from harmful metals and mint is an effective aid in digestion. This is clean food for your body and soul. Spring rolls are typically served as an appetizer along with a dipping sauce. They can also make for a satisfying snack, nourishing lunch option or a fun side dish to any Asian inspired meal. Keep in mind that when this dish comes out, you will have everyone’s attention in the room simply because they are visually beautiful and unique. The mint and cilantro pack a powerful flavor punch and are happily subdued by the neutral tofu and tangy, velvety peanut sauce. The texture of the rice noodles and paper are soft with an element of crunch. Everything here works and plays together nicely. There really is no going back to a traditional fried roll so prepare yourself.
For the spring rolls you will need:
4 oz rice vermicelli
8 rice paper wraps
6 oz tofu sliced into thin spears
1 – 2 avocados sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves rough chopped
1 cup mint leaves rough chopped
2 green onions white and light green parts chopped
A silky-textured, satisfying and healthy way to eat sweet potatoes this fall is to: bake, scoop and purée them. Adding a bit of ginger unlocks the natural cinnamon taste of the sweet potato, making this side dish a nice addition to any holiday meal. My little one says it tastes “like ice cream,” and unlike most sweet potato recipes, this one has no added sugars. The sweet potato has been enjoyed for centuries and it is easy to understand why this root vegetable has withstood the test of time. In addition to it’s rich texture and vibrant sweet taste, it has excellent nutritional benefits like Vitamin A, C, many antioxidants and minerals, making it one of the healthiest things you can eat. To that I say, “…three cheers for the sweet potato, and three cheers for this easy recipe.”
Perfectly roasted, these cruciferous vegetables become decadent and simply irresistible. The cooking method keeps the broccoli and cauliflower nutrient dense, while the balsamic and garlic bread crumbs add a delectable dimension of supreme flavors and makes one wonder how something this healthy can taste so good. Broccoli and Cauliflower are both high in vitamin C, K and anti-oxidants, with significant cancer fighting benefits. They roast well together in the same sheet pan since they cook at approximately the same rate, making it that much easier to combine these two nourishing vegetables into one side that can also be added to rice or buttered noodles for an easy meal.
You will need:
1 head of broccoli cut into equal size florets
1 head of cauliflower cut into equal size florets
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup of bread crumbs (smash up your left over day old baguette)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons of salt and a bit more to adjust flavor when finishing
2 tablespoon of chopped basil or Italian parsley (optional)
Warm flavors of red curry and coconut are infused with lemongrass and cooked with corn in this thai inspired soup, perfect for fall. Corn is a healthy energy food with anti-oxidants to combat free radicals, magnesium for strong bones and heart healthy folate. The curry and coconut milk have their own set of benefits. Curry is known to boost immunity, ease digestion and has strong anti-inflammatory benefits. Coconut milk actually lowers cholesterol levels and is great for your skin. Once I started stocking my pantry with coconut milk and red curry, thai inspired meals became a breeze and this soup became an instant favorite.
You will need:
1 yellow onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
3 cups of vegetable stock
4 inch piece of lemongrass or zest of one lemon (optional)
Black meets blue in the perfect pairing of a ripe black fig with the unique bite of Gorgonzola blue cheese. Roasting them together allows the flavors to penetrate each other, creating a succulent balance of sweet and savory, in this one-of-a-kind taste sensation. In California, figs are all over during the summer months of June through September. Selecting soft ones is the key to getting ripe figs because, unlike some other fruits, figs don’t ripen once they have been harvested. Health wise, they are a great source of fiber and potassium and have been known to lower blood pressure. These roasted beauties make a special and sophisticated appetizer with wine for your next party or keep them in the fridge and delve out with your daily salads and as a side dish to anything in need of a bit of flare.