Taco Tuesday Upgrade: Chipotle Spiced Black Beans, Sweet Potatoes & Avocado "Cream"

Who's going up on a Tuesday?! Tuesday is probably my favorite day of the week; I'm not entirely sure why because it's basically just Monday Part Deux, but I guess tacos have something to do with it. I literally almost always observe #TacoTuesday. I actually believe any day can be a taco day, but there's just something about eating tacos on a Tuesday that makes me happy. I wonder how many times I can use the words taco and Tuesday in this post. I challenge you to count.

This recipe has been my go-to lately for tacos. The filling is black beans, sweet potatoes, peppers and onions, all spiced in a chipotle-adobo sauce. Seriously can't get enough of this stuff; I basically eat the filling on its own because it's just so good. I was inspired by this recipe from Naturally Ella, and keep going back to it for everything, tacos included. I added an avocado cream sauce (and skipped the cheese) to cut some of the heat from the chipotle. So. good.

 

Chipotle Spiced Black Beans, Sweet Potatoes, and Avocado Cream Tacos

Makes 4-6 Tacos

Ingredients:
For the filling

  • 1-2 chipotle peppers (depends on how spicy you like it!)
  • 2 tbsp adobo sauce*
  • Juice from 1 lime 
  • 1 tbsp honey (raw and local is best!)
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil (or ghee or butter)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup kale, chopped thoroughly (I used dino kale)
  • 2 cups black beans (or 1 14-oz can, drained and rinsed)

For the avocado cream:

  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or Icelandic skyr
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
     
  • 4-6 corn tortillas, heated on a pan
  • Microgreens (optional)

Directions:

  1. Start by making your chipotle sauce. in a small food processor, combine the chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, lime juice, and honey. Pulse until smooth. 
  2. In a large skillet, heat the avocado oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté 3-4 minutes until onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes and continue to cook. Add the salt and cover the skillet for 1-2 min, allowing the sweet potatoes to sweat and release some water. Cook 10-15 minutes (may take a little longer, depending on size of the sweet potatoes) until they are softened, stirring often.
  4. Add the garlic and bell pepper and continue to sauté another 3-5 minutes.
  5. Then add the kale and continue to cook until it wilts. Add the black beans and chipotle sauce, and stir to ensure everything is evenly coated in the sauce. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the avocado and yogurt and mash together until smooth. Add in lime juice, cilantro, and salt and pepper and mix together.
  7. On your tortillas, spread a thin layer of avocado cream, top it with the filling, and add microgreens. Fold up and eat! 

*You can buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in a can, or buy dried chipotles and jarred adobo sauce separately. I prefer the latter to avoid the BPA from the can.

I hope you guys enjoy these tacos as much as I do, on this lovely Tuesday or any day of the week!


50 Shades of Green Series: (Thai) Basil Pesto

Hi all! Given that it's St. Patty's day, I figured it's time for another green recipe! Today, I am putting Basil on the spot for a little "50 Shades of Green" action. 

Basil is my second favorite herb (cilantro is my #1) because of its beautiful aroma and versatility. A random fact about basil you can bring to your next trivia night is that it actually belongs to the mint family. Its botanical name is ocimum basilicum and its name comes from the Greek word basileus, which means "King" or "Royal". There are more than 40 varieties of basil grown around the world; some of the common ones include Sweet, Lemon, Thai, Holy, and Cinnamon. Who knew?! 

Beautiful Thai Basil!

Nutritional profile: Basil is a great source of vitamins A, C, E, and K. It is also a good source of the minerals manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium, which are necessary for various processes of the body. Its antioxidant properties also come from the flavonoids vecenin, orientin, eugenol, and anthocyanins, which are organic plant compounds found in the stems and leaves. 

Potential health benefits: The different types of basil get their names from the predominant aroma they exude, which is a result of their unique essential oils present in their leaves, stems, flowers, roots, and seeds. These volatile oils are organic and  actually play a role in the biochemical activity of basil. The essential oils serve as antimicrobial defenses, and can prevent bacterial and fungal growth. Certain basil extracts have also been found to reduce inflammation by blocking the release or use of certain compounds that are necessary in the inflammatory process. In Ayurvedic and Eastern medicine, basil is considered a "warming" food and can have a calming effect. In India, holy basil was thought to help with gastric, hepatic, respiratory, and inflammatory disorders.

Purchasing, Storing, and Preparing: Basil is typically grown in summer months, but can be grown inside during the winter near a sunny window. When you are buying basil, look for leaves that are intact, and avoid those that are browning, yellowing, or wilted. For fresh basil leaves, refrigerate them in a barely damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag for up to 4 days. When purchasing basil in a bunch, place the stems down in a  glass of water with a plastic bag over the leaves for up to a week, replacing the water every 2 days. To preserve fresh basil, you can wash and dry the leaves, and place layers of leaves, then coarse salt, in a tightly sealed container. You can also finely chop the cleaned basil and combine it with a small amount of olive oil or water and freeze in tiny portions. You can use basil in soups, stews, curries, salads, pesto, etc. Usually it is added towards the end of cooking to maintain its strong flavor. It's really a beautifully versatile herb!

Chances are, you've mostly enjoyed Sweet or Italian Basil in Mediterranean and/or Italian inspired dishes. Here, I used Thai Basil to add some variety to your life, and because for Christmas, my beer guy husband got me an AeroGarden, from which the Thai Basil has grown rampant. Needless to say, we've had to get pretty creative with it to avoid wasting this amazing herb. Pesto is a great way to use up basil, so I decided to go with a Thai Basil pesto for this Shade of Green!

Thai Basil Pesto with Soba Noodles & Vegetable Stirfry

Recipe adapted from Jess Fuel
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

For the Pesto

  • 2 cups packed Thai basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts (you could also use 2 tablespoons natural PB)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 inch ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp tamari
  • 1 tsp white miso paste
  • 1 jalapeno, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Water for thinning

For the Stirfry

  • 1 package soba noodles (I like this brand)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, cut into half inch cubes
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (optional)
  • 3-4 Thai basil leaves roughly chopped (for garnish)
  • Sriracha (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Start by making the pesto. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor/magic bullet/blender, and pulse to get things going. Stir it up if necessary and then blend or process until smooth. If it is still too thick, add water to thin and blend. Set pesto aside.
  2. Cook soba noodles per package instructions.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add the onions and stir until translucent; about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add the carrots, bell pepper, and zucchini and continue to sauté for another few minutes. Then add the broccoli and continue to stir. 
  6. Add in the cooked soba noodles, coconut milk, and 2-3 heaping tablespoons of pesto and toss until everything is evenly coated. Taste and add more pesto if necessary.* Remove from heat.
  7. Serve in bowls topped with Sriracha and a few fresh Thai Basil leaves for garnish and enjoy!*

*The remaining pesto can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and used in this dish, or you can throw it on some quinoa, veggies, use as a dipping sauce, with eggs, etc.
*You may also top this dish with lean protein of your choice (chicken, fish, an egg, chickpeas, etc.)

What is your favorite way to eat basil? Have you tried any other varieties of basil? Let me know your thoughts if you try this out! 

The Ultimate Rainbow Veggie Skillet

If you follow me in on Instagram, you have probably seen that I am pro hashtag eat the rainbow. The more variety of color we get from fruits and vegetables, the more antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals we are getting into our bodies. The more of these, the better. 

Give me all the vegetables!

Give me all the vegetables!

This recipe is a great way to get in tons of colorful vegetables into your diet. You don't need to use the same ones I used in mine, either; if you have some veggies in your crisper that are on the verge of losing their crisp, this is a great solution to prevent them from going into the trash (I know we've all been there!). 

I went an Asian direction with this dish, using sesame oil to cook the vegetables, and making a spicy, tangy almond butter & sriracha  sauce to throw on top. Super easy and so delicious. For added protein, you can put an egg on top, mix some beans in, or even eat this as a side with fish or chicken. 

The Ultimate Rainbow Veggie Skillet with Tangy Almond Butter & Sriracha Sauce

Serves 4
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes 
Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
For the skillet

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium white or sweet potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or smaller, if you got mad knife skillz)
  • 1 large carrot, or 2 medium carrots, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I used red, but any color would do)
  • 1 large broccoli floret, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 head of purple cabbage, cut into ribbons
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt 
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup of cilantro, chopped; save a few some leaves for garnish 

For the sauce

  • 4-5 tablespoons of almond butter (or natural peanut butter, cashew butter etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons sriracaha
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of water, more for thinning


Directions:

  1. Heat a large pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat, and add sesame oil. 
  2. Add onions and cook 3-4 minutes until translucent.
  3. Add potatoes and sea salt and sauté for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes soften. You can cover it in between stirring, and the onions and potatoes will begin to "sweat", releasing a little bit of water. If the potatoes start to stick, add additional water as needed. You may need to cook a little longer, depending on how small the potatoes are chopped
  4. Add the carrots, peppers, and broccoli and continue to sauté until they reach your desired consistency.
  5. Throw in the cabbage and lemon juice and stir until everything is mixed evenly. Stir in the cilantro last and remove from heat.
  6. At some point while the veggies are cooking you can make your sauce. Whisk or mix together the almond butter, sriracha, tamari, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice until evenly combined. Add water to thin. If you like a more liquid type dressing, add more. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed.
  7. Portion your vegetable mixture into bowls or onto a plate, and drizzle sauce on top. Alternatively you can mix the sauce up with the vegetables in the pan. Serve with your choice of protein and top with some cilantro for garnish and enjoy!

What is your favorite way of incorporating a variety of vegetables into your diet?

50 Shades of Green Series: Watercress Salad with Cumin Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Hi loves! I'm backkkkkk! I guess I do a lot of this back and forth blogging but with a full time job and trying to have a life, things get busy. But I am back, and here to stay with some fun things to come! :)

Just in time for the exciting release of the 50 Shades of Grey film (although I hear it's really bad), I am starting a series here called "50 Shades of Green", where each month I will highlight the nutritional benefits of a green fruit or vegetable and provide a recipe to go along with it! This is to inspire you to get some more greens into your life and to also get you in the kitchen experimenting with some foods you may have never heard of or have been curious to try. I will do my darndest to ensure that the recipes I include here are easy and accessible. I will have tested and put my own spin on each one before sharing, so you can be sure it will be delicious and healthy! I hope you enjoy this series!

For the first shade of green, the spotlight is on Watercress, a leafy green that has landed the spot for number one superfood by the CDC based on its nutrient density (but of course, kale still holds a place near and dear to my heart).  Needless to say it is a nutritional powerhouse, and a gorgeous one at that! 

Watercress is one of the oldest leafy greens consumed by humans. It has a pungent, peppery, bitter, yet sweet flavor, along the lines of mustard or radish (they are in the same botanical family). Ideally, it is best consumed raw, steamed, lightly cooked, as tea, or juiced.

Nutritional Profile: Watercress is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, and manganese. It also contains significant amounts of carotenoids (organic pigments), including lutein and zeaxanthin, which are two carotenoids that are particularly beneficial for eye and cardiovascular health.

Potential health benefits: Not only is this green delicious, but it has gained accolade for some of its healing qualities. In particular, it may accelerate liver rejuvenation and detoxification. In smokers, watercress has shown to detoxify a carcinogenic tobacco metabolite. It may also improve digestion by stimulating bile formation. 

Preparation: Preparing watercress for cooking/eating is quite simple. You simply trim the stems (you may also find it still with its roots and soil), rinse in cold water and dry on a dish towel or in a salad spinner. You should either use right away or you can store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Doesn't this green sound like something you want to eat?! To be honest, until I began working on this recipe, I hadn't tried watercress myself! But I am so glad I did - it has quickly turned into a staple in our house.

The following recipe is so delicious and simple, and can be eaten as a side or as a meal, depending on your appetite. 

watercress2

WATERCRESS SALAD WITH CUMIN ROASTED SWEET POTATOES

watercress salad 1

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1-2 inch matchsticks
  • sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 large bunch of watercress
  • 2 oz goat cheese (optional)
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into cubes (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat, toss sweet potatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Roast on upper rack until tender (30-35 minutes), tossing halfway through.
  2. On another rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or Silpat, toss walnuts with cayenne & 1/2 tsp olive oil. Bake on lower rack until golden brown (around 6 minutes). Caution: don't forget about the nuts in the oven! This happens to me all the time.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, honey, and one tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add watercress and toss to combine. Transfer to bowls and top with sweet potatoes, walnuts, goat cheese, and avocado. 
  4. Enjoy!
watercress salad 2

Have you tried watercress before? What are some of your favorite ways to use it?

Brunch Yourself with Reens Greensified Shakshuka

There are few things more enjoyable in NYC than (boozy) brunch with friends and loved ones. The omelettes, hashbrowns, pancakes, waffles, eggs benedict, huevos rancheros, etc. - how could you go wrong? However, brunch often involves long lines, sometimes days wasted, and perhaps more calories than you intended to consume. 

Don't get me wrong, I am almost always pro-brunch. In the dead of winter, though, you can often find me in my kitchen on a Saturday or Sunday morning trying to recreate some of my favorite brunch dishes to enjoy in the warmth of my own home. Not only do I avoid the frigid temperatures, but I save a little money and can control the ingredients. 

I don't know if Shakshuka is trending right now or what, but I've been seeing a lot of recipes lately for it, and I actually had a dream about making it the other night. So then I did. Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern tomato and egg dish often enjoyed in the winter. It's warming, spicy and delicious. The eggs make for a wonderful source of protein to start the day, and the tomatoes are a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which may help prevent cell damage. I added some kale to the mix, of course, for a little extra green. You also only need one skillet, which is a win in my old Brooklyn apartment world of no dishwasher (besides my husband). So here's a mashup recipe that I created, inspired by the lovely people at Green Kitchen Stories, and the New York Times.

Reens Greensified Shakshuka

Serves 2-4 (depends on hunger levels)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or ghee)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I used yellow, but any color would do)
  • 1 jalapeno (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 2-14.5 oz (or 1-28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 cup kale, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 eggs, depending on your skillet size (I used 5)
  • cilantro, for garnish

Preparation:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil/ghee over medium heat.
  3. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and jalapeno. Add cumin, paprika, and cayenne, and combine until everything is evenly coated. Continue to cook 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, kale, and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes.
  5. Gently crack your eggs evenly into the skillet over the sauce. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper.
  6. Place skillet in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until eggs are set.*
  7. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy! You can serve this with warm whole grain pita, or with avocado toast (which is what I did).

*Note: If you are not using cast iron, please make sure your skillet is oven safe. If not, you do not need to bake your eggs - you can simply cover the skillet you are using with a lid until the egg whites set.

Next time, I will invite some friends over and perhaps we'll also share some bottomless grapefruit mimosas. 

What are your favorite brunches to make at home?