Moroccan couscous and roasted vegetables

I have a slight obsession with Mediterranean food. One of my dream vacations is to go on a Mediterranean cruise because I would love to see all the art and architecture and such, and I want to try all the amazing food! So many beautiful combinations of herbs and spices. I just love it.

A while ago I found a recipe for Moroccan chicken from the Betty Crocker cookbook, and it was amazing. We make it all the time. So I decided to take the basic ideas from that recipe, and adapt it to make Moroccan spiced couscous, and some roasted veggies to go with it.

moroccan couscous and roasted vegetables

its good for youUse whole wheat couscous for a healthier, higher-fiber meal. And all the vegetables are of course so healthy! There’s very little salt since there are so many wonderful spices, and the only fat is from the olive oil, which is also good for you. And of course, it’s delicious!

Put a medium pot on the stove with the water and olive oil, and bring to a boil. In the meantime, chop up all the vegetables, and toss them in a frying pan with olive oil, and a little salt and pepper if desired. Toss regularly, and cook until the onions are tender and the vegetables are getting nicely browned/roasted.

pan roasted vegetables

Once the water boils, add the spices and couscous, remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let it sit for about five minutes, then fluff the couscous with a fork.

moroccan couscous

Serve the roasted veggies with the couscous, along with Moroccan grilled chicken and sliced papaya, if desired. I know, it sounds a little weird to serve papaya with this, but trust me. It’s amazing. The flavors complement each other wonderfully.

moroccan chicken couscous and roasted veggies

Moroccan Couscous and Roasted Veggies

1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups water
1 cup couscous
1/2 medium onion
1 medium zucchini
8 mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper
1 small tomato
1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1. Mix all the spices together in a small bowl. In a medium pot, bring the water and olive oil to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat, add spice mix and couscous, and cover with a lid for about five minutes.

2. Chop all the vegetables, and toss in a large frying pan with the olive oil. Cook, tossing regularly, until onions are tender and vegetables look nicely roasted.

3. Fluff the couscous with a fork, and serve with the vegetables. Serve with Moroccan grilled chicken and sliced papaya if desired.

For the Moroccan grilled chicken, use the spice mix from above, rub onto a chicken breast, and cook on a grill or frying pan. Slice and serve with the couscous and vegetables.

change it upYou could also add eggplant or artichoke hearts if desired

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Maple Balsamic Salmon with Lemon Butternut Squash Orzo

This might make me a total nerd, but I love getting good deals! My husband makes fun of me because I (quite) frequently tell him about the great deals I get at the grocery store. I think part of it is justifying the things I buy, even though he’s far less concerned about it than I am. I just feel like if we’re eating something that’s normally pretty expensive, I have to explain that I got it for super cheap!

Like this beautiful salmon filet that was plenty of meat for a meal for our family – and cost less than $2!

maple balsamic salmon

Seriously, how could I not buy it?? I didn’t have a choice!

Plus, then I got to try out this fabulous recipe my sister told me about. It’s adapted from this recipe she found on the Mayo Clinic DASH Diet. (There are actually tons of great, healthy recipes on there! Go check it out!)

save moneyHow did I get salmon for that cheap you ask? Look for the “manager’s special” stickers on meat – that means it’s super marked down because the sell by date is only a day or two away. I buy most of my meat that way! If you’re not going to use it right away, just freeze it!

Back to this recipe – not only is it good for you, it’s also super easy! I’m still a little intimidated by fish; we never ate it growing up, so I don’t have a lot of experience with it. But this recipe is seriously fool proof.

creamy lemon butternut orzo maple balsamic salmon and asparagus

Just mix the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and crushed garlic in a small pan on the stove. Heat it until it just starts to boil, stirring frequently. Then use about half of it to glaze the salmon, and pop it in the oven! Be sure to put the salmon on foil – the glaze gets really sticky and you do not want to clean it off the pan!

maple and balsamic vinegar glazed salmon

After 10 minutes, spoon most of the rest of the glaze on top of the salmon, and put it back in the oven. After another 10 minutes, check to see if it’s done. It should be nice and flaky. If it’s not, spoon whatever’s left of the glaze on top, and cook it for a few more minutes.

While the salmon is cooking, you can make the orzo.

creamy lemon butternut squash orzo

Start by cutting up the squash. You’ll want about 1 cup of squash cut into small chunks. Put it in a small pot with enough water to cover, and cook on the stove until tender – about 10 minutes.

Just a side note on the squash – I used slightly less than half of the squash pictured above for this recipe. I used the rest to make some baby food! Also, when buying a butternut squash, find one with a nice long neck. That’s where most of the usable “meat” is.

butternut squash

Cook the orzo according to the package directions, then add the cooked butternut squash.

For the sauce, squeeze the juice of one lemon into a bowl. Crush in 1-2 cloves of garlic. Mix in 2 egg yolks.

creamy lemon butter sauce

Melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter. Make sure it’s quite hot – this is what cooks the egg. Slowly, using a whisk, mix the hot butter into the lemon and egg mixture. Be patient, and keep whisking the whole time. This keeps the yolks from scrambling, and makes a smooth, creamy sauce. Pour on the orzo and squash, stir it up so the sauce evenly coats everything, and serve with the salmon!

creamy lemon orzo with butternut squash

We also had lemon butter asparagus: Just melt a little butter in a large frying pan, toss in the asparagus, and squeeze in a little lemon juice. Saute until tender-crisp.

lemon butter asparagus

its good for you So many healthy things in this meal! First of all, everything is all-natural except the orzo, which you could certainly buy an all-natural pasta. I even used real maple syrup! There is no salt. None. (Unless you use salted butter, which would add a small amount) But still tons of flavor. Salmon is full of vitamins and Omega-3s. Butternut squash has tons of fiber, vitamin C, and loads of other vitamins. And asparagus give you more fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and lots of other goodness.

There is a fair amount of butter… but when split between all the servings, it’s not that much per serving. Plus, some natural fats will help your body process and use all those vitamins!

maple balsamic salmon lemon butternut squash orzo and asapragus

 

Maple Balsamic Salmon

~1 lb salmon filet
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic

1. Preheat oven to 375. Combine syrup, vinegar, and crushed garlic in a small sauce pan on the stove. Bring just to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it boils, remove from heat.

2. Place the salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet, and use a spoon or a basting brush to glaze the salmon. Use about 1/2 of the glaze, saving the rest.  Put it in the oven, and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pull the salmon out of the oven, and brush/spoon most of the rest of the glaze on top. Put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

4. Check if the salmon is done – it should be nice and flaky. If it is, it’s ready to serve! If not, use any glaze that is left, and put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

Makes 4 servings

Serve with Creamy Lemon Orzo with Butternut Squash and pan-roasted asparagus.

Creamy Lemon Orzo with Butternut Squash

1 c uncooked orzo
1/2 – 1 c butternut squash cut into small chunks
1 lemon
2 egg yolks
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 c (1 stick) butter

1. Chop the squash into small chunks, and place in a small sauce pan with enough water to cover. Cook over medium heat until squash is tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Prepare orzo according to package directions. Drain and mix with cooked squash.

3. While those are cooking, prepare the sauce. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a bowl (make sure to discard any seeds!). Crush in the garlic and whisk in the egg yolks.

4. Melt the butter, making sure it is quite hot. Slowly pour the butter into the lemon-egg mixture, whisking constantly. This will cook the egg but keep it from scrambling. Pour over the hot orzo and squash, mix to coat, and serve.

Makes 6 servings

 

Mexican Rice

I love Mexican food. It’s totally comfort food for me. Few foods make me happier than super cheesy enchiladas or some shredded beef tacos or tamales. Oh, tamales.

Maybe it’s because of growing up in Southern California, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a week without eating Mexican food except for the few months I lived in Europe. And even then, when  my mom sent me a package she included some tortillas and enchilada sauce!

That being said, I’m no expert at making authentic Mexican food (though I would love to be!) But I have come up with a few good recipes over the years, and am constantly searching for and working on more.

healthy taco salad with Mexican rice from scratch

This Mexican rice is pretty simple, and making it from scratch is a lot healthier than making packaged ones (they have soooo much sodium! and all sorts of preservatives and such). You basically just toss all the ingredients in a pot, put the lid on, and let it cook!

Mexican rice recipe

That’s fresh chopped cilantro on top of the bubbling rice. I love cooking with fresh herbs! Almost all of the ingredients for this recipe are fresh, and it makes the rice very flavorful.

Mexican rice from scratch

When it looks about like this, it’s done. Stir it up with a wooden spoon – the tomato sauce tends to be thicker on the top. If there’s still liquid, just cover it back up and cook for a few more minutes.

Mexican rice

It will be a little saucier than plain rice, but there shouldn’t be any standing liquid. It should look like this when it’s ready to serve.

Mexican Rice 

2 cups white rice
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat on the stove. Once it reaches boiling, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer about 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir and serve!

Makes 6-8 servings (about 4 cups cooked rice)

change it upSqueeze in some lime juice for a little more flavor, or if you like things a bit spicier, add 1/2 a chopped jalapeño or sprinkle in some cayenne pepper.

easy Mexican rice recipe

It’s great on taco salads, in burritos, or just as a side dish.

Honey Oat Bread with Sunflower Seeds

Who ever came up with the phrase “best thing since sliced bread” clearly wasn’t talking about the taste! Because let’s be honest – homemade (or even bakery) bread tastes soooooo much better than basically any sliced “bread” we buy at the grocery store. That stuff is mostly air with some overly-processed carbs and other random junk trying to trick you into thinking it’s bread.

This is bread.

honey whole wheat oat bread with sunflower seeds

Doesn’t it just look so thick and delicious? Nice crisp crust with just a little sticky honey, and soft and chewy inside. We ate the whole loaf within two days. And we would have eaten it faster except my husband was hardly home during those two days!

I don’t make homemade bread very often. In fact, this was my first attempt in a few years. But it turned out so well, and was actually pretty easy to make, that I think we’ll be making lots more! Plus, my two-year-old had a blast helping me knead the dough!

kneading bread 1 kneading bread 2

See, kids can help in the kitchen! Granted, he did get flour all over himself… but he was actually pretty helpful with the kneading.

 

honey whole wheat oat bread

I can’t actually take credit for this recipe – I used this wonderful recipe from Bakingdom.

However, I did make a few changes. I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. And it turned out great! I also sprinkled sunflower seeds on top of the bread along with the oats suggested in the original recipe. The seeds added a nice nutty flavor that complemented the whole wheat and honey flavors beautifully.

its good for youUsing whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour means lots more fiber and vitamins in your bread! Add that to the oats (bring on the fiber) and sunflower seeds (healthy fats and proteins) and honey (tons of vitamins, minerals, etc.) and you have a bread that’s delicious and nourishing!

honey oat bread with sunflower seeds

It hasn’t even baked yet, and it already looks scrumptious!

If you’re intimidated by making bread (I was!) or envision spending hours in the kitchen kneading, try out this recipe. It’s really easy and doesn’t take much time at all (other than waiting for it to rise). I was pleasantly surprised by how quick, simple, and delicious this bread was!

Soft Honey Oat Bread by Bakingdom

whole wheat honey oat bread with sunflower seeds

The wonderfully golden bread after baking. I could hardly wait to slice into it!

I’m testing out a few more bread recipes over the next week, so I’ll be sure to let you know how those turn out! Hopefully with a little more practice, I’ll be adapting and coming up with my own recipes soon!

Mixed Roasted Potatoes

Yesterday I posted the recipe for the pork chops I served for Easter with these tasty (and colorful!) potatoes. So today I figured I should post the recipe for the potatoes.

mixed roasted savory potatoes

I love the way these different potatoes look all mixed together. And I love even more the way they taste! The sweetness of the sweet potatoes is nicely balanced by the earthy flavor of the other two, and roasting them with herbs and spices just makes for a wonderfully savory side dish.

its good for youSweet potatoes have lots of fiber and are just packed with vitamins! And since the other potatoes still have their skins, they have lots of fiber and vitamins too! (B vitamins, vitamin C, and Iron to name a few)

mixed roasted potatoes recipe

I used Russets, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Yellow, white, or purple would work as well – but Russets, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes are often the most easily available and least expensive. And you’ll definitely want some sweet potatoes in there for their flavor.

Scrub the potatoes and cut off any bad parts. Peel the sweet potato. Then chop them up into bite-size chunks. They don’t have to be perfect, just roughly similar sized pieces.

mixed roasted potatoes

Once they’re all chopped, toss them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary (dried works too, it’s just not as strong of a flavor). Pour them onto a foil-lined baking sheet, and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, mixing half way through so they get more evenly crispy. If you like them extra crispy on the outside, cook them a little longer.

I’m super bummed I didn’t get a picture of the potatoes with the pork chops! It all looked so scrumptious and colorful! Oh well… I’ll just have to make this meal again!

Mixed Roasted Potatoes

3 medium Russet potatoes
3 medium red potatoes
1 large sweet potato
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (or 1-2 tsp dried)

1. Preheat oven to 425. Scrub the potatoes and cut off any bad parts. Peel the sweet potato. Chop the potatoes into bite-size cubes.

2. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. There should be just enough oil to lightly coat the potatoes and make the seasonings stick.

3. Pour the potatoes onto a foil-lined baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Place on an upper-middle rack and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring the potatoes around half way through. For crispier potatoes, cook an extra five to ten minutes.

Serves 6-8

These would also be an excellent side with grilled chicken and some roasted or grilled veggies! Or even some grilled fish.

Oven baked Cajun fries

I love french fries. It’s kind of a problem. Like, if there are french fries, I will just keep eating them until there aren’t any more. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m still eating them. My husband makes fun of me for it. I guess the good news is we basically never eat fast food, so we rarely eat french fries.

But I do sometimes make french fries! And these are infinitely better for me than the things that may or may not actually be potatoes, soaked in grease and coated in salt. For starters, I never fry my “fries.” I always make them in the oven. I also, obviously, use real potatoes. And I don’t use much salt because I use other seasonings as well. And you know what? I like them better than the fast food fries! (Except maybe the Cajun fries from Five Guys. They’re pretty amazing.)

So here’s my take on Cajun Fries:

oven baked cajun french fries

I made my own Cajun seasoning rather than using one you can buy at the store on the spice aisle because those tend to be mostly salt. This one does have salt in it, but is also full of other spices to give the fries lots of flavor! This seasoning mix would also be really good for grilled chicken, corn on the cob, or other veggies.

homemade Cajun seasoning

Cajun Seasoning Mix

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like it hotter)

Mix all spices together, and use on french fries, chicken, vegetables, etc. or store in an airtight container until ready to use.

This spice mix makes enough for about five medium potatoes if you’re making Cajun fries. You can easily double, triple, or quadruple the recipe if you’re making more fries, chicken, etc. or just to store for another day.

Now on to making the french fries!

First you’ll want to scrub the potatoes and cut off any bad parts. Then you can chop them into long thin strips, or use my time saver tip:

time saverCut the end off the potato so it’s flat and can stand up. Then use an apple slicer/corer to chop the potato.

trick tip fast homemade french fries

You’ll want to cut the center “core” piece smaller – I usually cut in in fourths.

homemade french fries tip

Ta-da! Lots of french fries cut in a matter of moments!

Now just toss them in a bowl with some olive oil, then add the Cajun seasoning and mix to coat.

homemade oven french fries

Cover a cookie sheet with foil – this makes clean up so much easier, and also helps the fries not to stick. Then lay out the fries in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Pop them in the oven and bake until as soft or crisp as you like! (I usually do about 15 minutes. 20 minutes should make them pretty crispy. Or just move them to the top rack.)

homemade oven baked cajun french fries

You’ll probably want to turn them over/mix them around about half way through just so they don’t stick or get too crispy on just one side. The easiest way to do this – since the foil cools almost instantly, pull them out of the oven, lift the edges of the foil, and just shake them around. Then use a fork to spread them back out, and stick them back in the oven.

Enjoy! (They’re extra delicious with a little bleu cheese dressing)

Oven-baked Cajun Fries

5 medium potatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
Cajun seasoning (see recipe above)

1. Preheat oven to 450. Wash and trim the potatoes, removing any bad parts. Cut into long thin strips (see tip above).

2. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil until evenly coated. Sprinkle in the Cajun seasoning and mix well.

3. Spread the fries in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning fries over about half way through. For crispier fries, cook on top rack or for a longer time.