Monday, October 29, 2012

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

This is my favorite time of year!  The vivid burnt orange, fiery red and golden hues that are abundant in both the leaves and vegetables bring a festive autumn spirit that awaken my desire for butternut squash soup, pumpkin pie and roasted mixed squash.  These deep orange and yellow colors are indicative of a family of plant constituents called carotenoids, which you can remember because carrots are famous for their beta-carotene (a specific carotenoid).  These bioactive compounds support growth and development, eye health and eventually break down into vitamin A.  But, beyond this somewhat “reductionist” type of analysis, these plants have much more to offer.  For one, they naturally contain sugars that can satisfy not only our taste buds, but can also remind us to celebrate the sweetness in other areas of our lives.  Additionally, these richly colored veggies are typically perfect for the cooler, dryer months because they provide warmth and moisture to the body. 

In honor of this vibrant season, I’m sharing my recipe for Warming Butternut Squash Soup.  It has the perfect balance of flavors as the squash and apples add sweetness, the spices have a mix of sweetness, pungency and smokiness and the last minute hit of vinegar lends (well of course) acidity.  Also, a dash of cream goes a long way to providing just a little extra special velvety texture and creaminess that we all crave this time of year.   Celebrate seasonal and local autumn veggies with me, and dive into a steaming hot bowl of my Spiced Butternut Squash Soup!  Enjoy!!!

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
Flavorful, aromatic, and warming, this soup is perfect for a cold winter day.  The sweetness of the cinnamon pairs well with the natural sweetness of the squash and apple, while the cumin adds a smoky depth and the cayenne gives it a spicy kick.   Top it all off with some floral oregano and it’s a spice masterpiece that will make your taste buds sing.  Enjoy with “Sage Butter Lentils” and “Winter Braised Greens” for a complete meal. 

Preparation time: 40-45 minutes
Yield: 5 cups

1 tablespoon organic pastured butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion (about 2 cups)
4 cups frozen diced butternut squash (2 10-ounce bags)
1 small apple (about 1 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 -1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of turmeric
1½ -2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ cup sherry wine
3-4 cups Vegetable broth
¼ cup heavy cream
2-3 teaspoons raw apple cider vinegar or golden balsamic vinegar
Fresh oregano for garnish

Cultured sour cream for garnish (Nancy’s), optional

Heat a 4-quart stainless steel stockpot over medium heat for about a minute.
Add butter and oil and let it spread and coat the bottom of the pan. Add onions and sauté until soft and golden for about 5-10 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Add squash, toss to coat and sauté until golden for about 5 minutes, only stirring occasionally. Add apple and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for another minute.

Add cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, turmeric and salt and stir vegetables to coat and continue sautéing for about 2 minutes. Add wine to deglaze and pick up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add broth, cover and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until vegetables soften and flavors merry, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Turn off heat, stir in cream and blend thoroughly with an immersion blender until texture is velvety. Stir in vinegar and check for salt.  Serve each bowl with oregano and a dollop of sour cream.

Tip: To make this recipe dairy free, simply substitute cream with canned coconut milk.

Variation: Substitute frozen squash with 2-3 cups of fresh cubed seasonal squash

Copyright 2010, S. Sammartino, Original recipe

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Smokey Mexican Black Bean Stew

Are you in need of a quick and easy yet nourishing meal?  If you've stocked up on your 7 Pantry Essentials, you should now have just about everything you need at your fingertips for this recipe.  And, you can literally cook this up in 20 minutes.  How’s that for easy?  Love it!  And for an added bonus, the left overs can be morphed into several other dishes, so you never get bored.  How about Crispy Corn Tostada’s for lunch or adding a scoop right on top of your morning eggs with a little bit of salsa and some Quick and Easy 5-Min Greens?  My husband likes to add the beans on top of organic blue corn chips with Mexican cheese and avocado slices to make enticing homemade Nachos.  Or drain some of the liquid from the stew by using a slotted spoon and use the beans to make homemade burritos.  Post a reply to let me know what you think and get ready to Fiesta it up with this Smokey Mexican Black Bean Stew.  Enjoy.  

Yours In Cooking and In Health,
Siona :)   

Smokey Mexican Black Bean Stew
Here’s a tasty dish that was inspired by my husband, Abdiel.  It can be eaten by itself and topped with polenta crouton , mango salsa and yogurt or put over a bead of quinoa or it can be used to make crispy corn tostada’s or to top your morning eggs. 

Makes 6 servings
Preparation Time: 20-25 minutes

1-2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon smoked chipotle chile powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 cans Eden Food’s no salt added black beans
1 can Muir Glenn’s Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (with or without jalapenos)
1.5-2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1 cup frozen sweet corn
¼-1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Yogurt or cultured sour cream (optional garnish)
Mango or Tomato Salsa (optional garnish)

Heat a 4-quart stock pot on medium to medium-high heat and caramelize onions for about 10 minutes, only stirring occasionally.  Add cumin, coriander, chipotle, garlic and stir and heat spices for 1-2 minutes until they become aromatic.  Drain one can of black beans and reserve the liquid from the 2nd can and add to onion and spice mixture.  Add tomatoes and salt and stir to incorporate.  Cover and simmer stew for 10-15 minutes for flavors to merry.  Add corn and cook for another two minutes.  Turn off heat, add lime juice and parsley and enjoy! 

Copyright 2010, S. Sammartino, Original recipe

Sunday, May 27, 2012

7 Pantry Must Haves

There you are again! Standing at your pantry (don't you wish your pantry looked like that!), scratching your head, wondering what the heck you’re gonna make for dinner.  Images of your favorite cuisine appear and your mouth begins to salivate.  You quickly realize you are SOL (Yes that does mean what you think) because your pantry is looking a little bare.  What’s a gal or guy to do? Keeping a well-stocked Pantry is key to overcoming this dilemma.  Items that are foundational, quick and reliable are a must.  I keep my pantry stocked with several essentials so that I am equipped to make a quick, easy and tasty meal in a pinch.  Here are just a few to help get you started.

v Lather Me Up With a Little Mediterranean Charm
o   Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is one of my favorites.  Coined by Rachel Ray as the good ole EVOO, my Italian grandmother would lather her arms with it as she was cooking a traditional pizza, manicotti or basic tomato sauce.  It’s also an excellent dietary oil rich in those health promoting monounsaturated fatty acids. 

v Protein at My Fingertips
o   Eden’s Canned Beans allow you to whip up a meal in a snap and add a healthy dose of fiber too.  My favorites are black, cannellini, pinto and garbanzo.  They make an excellent addition to stews, soups and salads or even burgers.  Eden’s are cooked with Kombu, a seaweed that is rich in minerals and helps to break down those indigestible starches, making the road ahead much more pleasant so you can say, “Goodbye flatulence!”

v A Little Tomato Action
o   Canned Tomatoes to please my Italian heritage.  They lend acidity to a dish and are a great way to add in some colorful veggies, with hassle free prep that you can count on.

v A Healthy Dose of Kitchen Magic
o   Sea Salt Baby!  Ditch the refined crap and discover the real deal.  Eden Foods, Redmond Real Salt and Himalayan Sea Salt are my favorites.  Salt is essential to making flavors pop and to creating flavor balance.
o   Calling all Acids!  The sky is the limit here.  Santa Cruz Organic Lime or Lemon Juice (or fresh citrus) and vinegars such as regular and golden balsamic are a must.

v Spice It Up
o   Herbs and Spices are a great way to add depth of flavor to any dish.  With so many to choose from, try starting with a few basics like basil, oregano, cumin, cayenne and black pepper.

v Who Say’s Frozen Can’t Be Healthy? (I know they’re not exactly in the pantry)
o   Frozen Veggies please!  Corn, broccoli, green beans, and peas are a few I always have on hand.  Contrary to popular belief, frozen veggies are a great option.  They are harvested during their prime season and flash frozen to seal in nutrients, helping you get those veggies in on even the busiest of days.

There you have it.  Now go get your pantry stocked with these basics and check back for my Smokey Mexican Black Bean Stew recipe.  Leave a reply to let me know which items your pantry is never left without?

To Life, Health, Love and Happiness!

P.S.-For more information on how to stock a healthy pantry, sign up for one of my Pantry Makeovers at 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Cooking Class at Bastyr University

Whole Foods Cooking: A Tasty Introduction

Whole foods cooking is both nutritious and fun, and this introductory workshop is ideal for friends and family to experience together. Space is limited due to the size of the kitchen.
Whole foods cooking is both nutritious and fun, and this introductory workshop is ideal for friends and family to experience together. The morning will start with a short lecture, and then the real fun will begin in Bastyr’s Nutrition Kitchen. You and three others will work together in your own fully-equipped kitchen to prepare a meal of White Bean and Kale Minestrone, Whole Grain Bread with Mary’s Olive Tapenade, and Spinach Salad with Caramelized Onion and Sweet Glazed Nuts.  Your reward at the end of the workshop will be to sit down to a delicious luncheon with your classmates, followed by a cook’s favorite job – dishes and kitchen clean up.
This introduction to whole foods cooking will kick off our culinary series where you can explore how easy it is to incorporate whole foods cooking into your life.  Each workshop, including additional sessions of “Whole Foods Cooking: A Tasty Introduction,” will share new seasonal recipes for you to cook in class and then try at home in your own kitchen. Other workshops in the series will focus on whole grains, beans and soy; fruits and veggies; meat and poultry; fats, oils and salt; sweets; and dairy and eggs. Teens, ages 14 and older, may attend with an accompanying adult.
Upon completion of this workshop you will be able to:
  • Discuss the connection between quality food and good health
  • Describe the meaning of a whole food, processed food, refined food, and nutrient-rich food
  • Prepare the recipes shared in this workshop
  • Demonstrate basic knife skills

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sweet Citrus, Apple and Fennel Wilted Kale Salad

I've heard from many of you that you want to add more greens to your diet this year.  Well, here’s a recipe that will give you a vibrant boost and get your 2012 going.  Share your goals or intentions for this year below and let me know what you’d like to see on our blog or what we can help you with.  Enjoy!    

Sweet Citrus, Apple and Fennel Wilted Kale Salad
Pressing kale with sea salt is one of my favorite tricks for wilting greens and making them more tender and less bitter.  Combine my Quick and Easy 5-Min Greens with crunchy and licorice-like fennel, sweet and tart apples, and a sweet citrus vinaigrette for a luscious and tasty pressed kale salad. 

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Yields: 2 ½-3 cups

1 bunch dinosaur kale, washed and de-stemmed
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1 small fennel bulb, julienne cut
1 small pink lady or gala apple, cubed
cup organic cow’s milk feta, crumbled (optional)
½ cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Sweet Citrus Vinaigrette
¼- cup fresh squeezed lemon or orange juice
cup organic extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 teaspoons raw and local honey
Pinch sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Stack leaves on top of one another, roll tightly and cut into thin ribbons.  Massage greens with salt in a large preparation bowl for about 2 minutes.  Greens should shrink by half the volume. Then, squeeze the greens and discard the juices that come out of them and place in a clean preparation bowl.  Add fennel, apple, feta and parsley to pressed kale and set aside.

In a small preparation bowl whisk together the juice, oil, Dijon, honey, salt and pepper until emulsified and fully blended.  Dress the salad with the sweet citrus vinaigrette, toss to coat and serve.  Salad will keep for 5-7 days refrigerated.

Copyright 2010, S. Sammartino, Original recipe