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Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

I craft a lot, a lot of recipes. And I’m always dreaming up more in my mind. Yet, every year, Thanksgiving comes around, and rarely do I have a clue of what I’m going to make.

Usually, the winning idea arrives last minute (fashionably late). Often, it’s after a few Google searches, and several emails from my sister inquiring about what I’ll be bringing to the family feast. Usually she gives up. And often I show up with a surprise. Which means, it needs to be good. Great. Worthy of all turkey-eaters to save some vegetarian room on their plate.

Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

This year, I was given some time in advance to think. Well, actually, required to set aside some time to choose a Thanksgiving dish to share recipe.

I hosted a Friendsgiving this past weekend, which was perfect for practicing my holiday cooking skills before the real deal rolls around.

This heaping bowl of thyme-infused rice and squash goodness got gobbled up in no time. If I had to give it an alternate name, I’d call it Healthful Holiday Party-in-a-Bowl. It’s a true celebration of fall’s best festive flavors.

Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

Here, nutty rice pairs with creamy squash and a sweet-meets-tart punch of flavor from the cranberries. Buttery, pan-roasted pecans add a crunch, while thyme drives that classic Thanksgiving feel that we all know and love. I sautéed the onion in butter to richen things up, and finished it off with parsley to add a complimentary freshness. The result, as previously mentioned, is a T-day party-in-a-bowl. Are you ready to celebrate?

Harvest Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans and Cranberries

If you’re not sure what you’re bringing to the Thanksgiving table yet, I’m throwing this into the recommendation hat. It serves as a great vegetarian main dish that leaves you satisfied with all of its festive goodness.

If you do have a recipe already picked out, this needn’t be reserved solely for the holidays. Healthy and wholesome, I’ll certainly be bringing this to the table again this season. Cheers.

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Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Vegan Coconut Bacon

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Vegan Coconut Bacon

There’s this new spot that opened up in Philadelphia last year called COOK, designed for cooking demonstrations and classes. It features a 16-seat bar that sits in front of a workspace and large open range, with mirrors that hang above for the audience’s viewing. Here, foodie experts and chefs come to hold tastings and learning sessions. And the audience watches/joins in/eats, depending upon the night’s topic. The place is an absolute gem.

Brussels Sprouts

A newfound friend recently invited me to a vegan Thanksgiving class being held there, which would bring me my first COOK experience. By the end of the experience, I was entirely smitten. I do hope this means more nights there to come.

The event was held by a sweet lady named Rachel who owns Miss Rachel’s Pantry, a vegan catering and delivery service as well as a communal table styled restaurant. During the session, she whipped up recipes like cashew brie with toast, winter veggie stuffed seitan roast, and the recipe I bring you today. As the cooking transpired, the audience tossed out questions while COOK’s event host poured an endless supply of wine. Rachel’s responses were incredibly warm and so was the night.

Coconut Flakes

For me, this salad was definitely the highlight of the menu. I had only ever had coconut bacon once or twice before, and the raw brussels sprout concept was entirely new to my taste buds. Together, they make a combination that gives memory to a salad.

This is a bowl of leaves that’s far, far more than just a salad. With the toasty sunflower seeds, sweet and tart cranberries, and smoky coconut-y bacon, theres a huge depth of flavor going on here, all complimentary to the earthy, cabbage-like flavor of the brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts

COOK often sends you the recipes from their events, which is awesome because I had been planning to recreate this recipe since my last bite. I whipped it up yesterday for a lovely Friendsgiving, and plan to make it again for my family’s own Thanksgiving. When a salad gets rave reviews at a party, you know its worthy of remaking and eating twice within a week’s time. If you don’t get around to it for Thanksgiving, I recommend you bookmark this for later. Thanks Rachel!

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Holiday Brussel Sprouts with Pecans and Cranberries

brusselsprouts_holiday (1 of 2)

When it comes to a traditional holiday feast, the one food group shunned to the bottom is always the vegetable group. Green bean casserole just doesn’t count, and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes only barely slide their way in there.

If it were up to me, I’d stray from the conventional and add a whole lot more whole veggies back onto the table. Lightly dressed, garlicky green beans or simple, oven-baked root vegetables sound like the kind of dishes that I want to be celebrating with. Though, half my family would disagree—casseroles all the way, or the holidays just aren’t the same.

Whatever—I can agree that traditions do have their place, and I certainly enjoy the herby stuffing each time these family feasts come around. Between my mom and I, however, we  generally always make sure there’s also a green on the table to compliment that stuffing. And sweet potato casserole. And pie destined for my stomach.

This year, it’s Brussel Sprouts with Pecans and Cranberries, a beautiful dish whose colors just scream of holiday spirit. This is a simple dish that’s easy enough to add to the menu even if you’re already juggling another recipe or two. The sweetened cranberries pair perfectly with the earthiness of the sprouts, and the toasty pecans seal the whole dish. Perhaps after you introduce this to your family, this will end up becoming a tradition, too.

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Spiced Nuts with Cranberries

Homemade gifts are always the best, and often ranked at the top are the edible ones. I mean, who doesn’t like receiving something pre-made and tasty that they can eat?

Nearly always a favorite are holiday cookies, but your friends and family are bound to receive plates full of those from numerous other people. So why not switch it up this year and give away some spiced nuts instead? Jar those babies up to create a special gift that’s memorable even long after digested. Your nut-loving fam. and friends will be thrilled, especially after the holidays exhaust their initial cookie cravings. Plus, by going with the nuts you’ll automatically sneak in an extra nourishing gift for your loved ones. Chock full of heart healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants, like the vitamin E that fills the almonds in this recipe, this edible gift is easily a winner.

Spiced Nuts with Cranberries

-2 cups almonds
-2 cups pecans
-1 cup dried cranberries
-4 Tbsp. butter or oil
-3 Tbsp. honey
-1 Tbsp. brown sugar
-2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
-1 tsp. cinnamon
-1 tsp. smoked paprika
-1 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven 300F.

In a nonstick skillet, melt butter (or heat oil) over medium-low heat. Add honey, sugar, salt, and spices. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and add almonds, pecans, and cranberries, stirring until nuts are coated.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Transfer nut and cranberry contents to baking sheet. Place in oven, and bake 5 minutes. Stir, and return to oven. Bake another 5-10 minutes, or until nuts are golden brown, stirring every 2-3 minutes.

Note: The sweetener can cause the nuts to easily burn. One single minute baked too long can ruin your spiced nuts and cranberries, so make sure to keep a close eye on the oven while baking.