Roasted Garlic

We usually have Sunday dinner at my mom’s house with the whole family. Last week she made a turkey sausage lasagna that was to die for! My mom is the most amazing cook. I learned everything I know from her. We always talk about recipes and different ingredients we experiment with. One of us will try an ingredient, tell the other about it, and low and behold, it will end up in the other’s cabinet!

I always bring something to Sunday dinner, whether it’s a dessert, appetizer, side, or salad. I never show up empty handed! So when I asked my mom what she needed me to bring, she said an appetizer. Stew and I were trying to think of something we haven’t had lately that would go well with Italian. We’ve done the whole antipasto platter, caprese salad, and bruschetta thing. So he thought of roasted garlic!  My family is full of garlic fanatics. We went to my mom’s early and roasted the garlic at her house while we hung out. Me, Stew, Mom and Michael (my stepdad) ended up eating 4 of the 5 heads of garlic before anyone else even showed up!!! It’s a good thing we all had bad breath together. It was roasted to perfection. The perfect starter for our yummy lasagna!

All you need is a nice crusty baguette, some garlic heads, olive oil, and salt & pepper.IMG_0185

Cut the tops off the garlic and place them in a garlic roaster. If you don’t have a roaster, you can put them in a pouch of tin foil! Drizzle the garlic with olive oil. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.IMG_0197

While the garlic is roasting, slice up the bread. Coat each side with nonstick spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can use a grill pan if you don’t have an indoor grill. Just cook them for about 3 minutes on each side until they get nice grill marks and are a bit crisp.IMG_0201The garlic should roast at 350° for about an hour. It will come out looking brown and will be very soft to the touch! You can always sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper if you want. Plate it up and enjoy!IMG_0206

Roasted Garlic –Serves 8-10

5 heads of garlic

1 baguette

olive oil

Nonstick spray



Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the tops off the garlic and place them in a garlic roaster. If you don’t have a roaster, you can put them in a pouch of tin foil! Drizzle the garlic with olive oil. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the garlic in the oven for about an hour, or until the garlic is brown and starts to pop out of its skin. It should be very tender to the touch.

While the garlic is roasting, slice the bread into 1/4 inch slices. Coat each side with nonstick spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can use a grill pan if you don’t have an indoor grill. Cook them for about 3 minutes on each side until they get nice grill marks and are a bit crisp. Serve the bread alongside the garlic. Use a small butter knife to scoop out the garlic and spread onto the bread. Bon Appétit!

Butternut Squash Soup

I LOVE this soup! All of my friends can attest to this. I make it every chance I get. We had it at our pumpkin carving party and at our early Thanksgiving celebration last night. I also make it for lunch every chance I get. I’ll make a big batch and just keep it in the fridge right in the dutch oven. That way I have a delicious lunch waiting for me every day! I think you get the point!

Stew and I went to Monza last weekend, our favorite restaurant downtown. The special that night was pumpkin soup. I HAD to get it to see how it compared to mine. I actually liked mine better!!! It was definitely tasty and had a great apple onion compote on top with some toasted almonds. But there is just something so addictive about this butternut squash soup!

It all started when I was home for lunch a few months back and the good old PB&J just wasn’t gonna cut it. I had all of the ingredients I needed to make this soup, so I gave it a whirl! I was so proud of the finished product! The thing that makes this different than all the other pumpkin or squash soups I’ve had is that it’s sweeter! It has a great balance of spice from the pepper and sweet from the maple syrup. Roasting the squash adds so much more flavor too! In my opinion, roasting the squash is the secret weapon. You can switch up the toppers to shake it up too. I topped this batch with a little toast with goat cheese, cranberry relish, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. SO GOOD!

You have to make it. It would be a perfect little appetizer for Thanksgiving or really any occasion! I’m telling you, you won’t be disappointed!

Soupserves 6

3 cups roasted butternut squash (1 large or 2 medium)*

olive oil

1/2 onion diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, diced

3 cups chicken broth

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tbsp 2% milk (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

*For the squash-Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Peel the squash (I use a potato peeler) and cut the ends off. Cut in half where the squash begins to round. Cut the round half in two lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds (just as you would a pumpkin). Cut the squash into about 1 inch cubes. Spread the cubes out onto two sheet pans. Pour 3 tbsp olive oil on each pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and pepper on each pan. Mix thoroughly with your hands so that the squash is evenly coated. Place in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. Use a spatula to move the squash around halfway through the cooking. Once they are fork tender, they’re ready!

Heat large dutch oven to medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots. Cook until softened, about 5 more minutes. Add in the butternut squash, chicken stock, and cinnamon. Bring to boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, about 10 minutes. Working in batches depending on the size of your blender, transfer mixture to your blender and mix until smooth (you can add more stock for a thinner consistency). Make sure to hold lid securely in place with a dish towel over it. Transfer the blended mixture back to the pot over low heat. Add in the maple syrup, milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Just heat until warm enough to serve. I topped this batch with a little toast with goat cheese, cranberry relish, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Vegan Queso and Bean Dip

This reminds me of my days in the raw food world. You can definitely make this non-vegan by adding regular milk, butter, and cheese. But here is the version I made. I actually made this for my brother’s birthday party. My entire family devoured it (none of whom are vegan) and LOVED it! Little did they know what was in it… mwahaha! I used a vitamix for the cashews and milk because it definitely made it silky smooth. I’m not positive that a food processor would work as well. So don’t yell at me if yours is chunky. Now, I’m not telling you to go out and buy a $600 blender…buuuuut it’s worth it when you have some spare change. This is an incredible appetizer (or entree if you’re me and Stew) for your next party, and it’s so delicious and good for you (I won’t tell if you don’t)! Enjoy.

Vegan Queso and Bean DipServes 8-10

1 cup raw cashews

1-1/3 cup plus 1-3/4 cups unsweetened almond milk

3 tablespoons vegan margarine

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 16-ounce can pinto beans

1 jalapeño, finely diced

1 tomato, seeded and diced

1/3 cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese

1 bag corn tortilla chips, for serving


1. In a high-powered blender or food processor, blend cashews and 1-1/3 cup almond milk. Set aside.

2. Over medium heat in a large pot, heat margarine and flour to make a roux. Add onion and garlic, coat well, and cook for about 3 minutes. Add cashew mixture, nutritional yeast, remaining 1-3/4 cups almond milk, lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Add salt, pepper, cumin, pinto beans, jalapeño, and tomato and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes or until thick.

Add shredded vegan cheese. Cook for an additional minute, or until smooth. Remove from heat and serve with tortilla chips.

Sesame Ginger Quinoa Spring Rolls

In my never-ending quest to find fun, healthy, and delicious meals, I came across this gem. I adore quinoa but get bored with the “pile of quinoa on the side of my plate” deal. When I read this I thought, “hmmm this can’t be good, but I’ll try it anyway.” It turns out, I was more than wrong! These rolls are so delicious! I made some changes (of course) and turned it into my own. My husband and I ate it for supper the other night and his exact words were, “I could eat quinoa like this five nights a week”… SCORE! Hopefully our little man on the way will be as easily tricked into eating healthy foods… I digress.

There are definitely a few ingredients you may not have on hand like the rice paper, chili garlic sauce , and Mae Ploy Sweet Chili dipping sauce. But they’re not expensive and literally last for months in the fridge. I use them in stir-frys and sushi a ton. You can actually get them at World Market and I’m sure Whole Foods (although they might be twice the price). They’re just good to have on hand.

So, it is a bit time consuming but worth it, especially if you have a helper who cleans up after you. I actually made the quinoa in advance, so all I had to do was mix it up when I was ready to rock and roll (literally).

Start with mixing all of the ingredients into a bowl, then mix in the dressing.

Lay out a clean dish towel so you can blot your hands if you need to between rolls. Then, fill a large dish with sides (I used a pyrex pan) with hot tap water. Let one rice paper soak at a time until it gets soft. This just takes a few seconds. Then place the paper onto your cutting board and fill with about 1/3 cup of the mixture. Fold both sides over and then, starting at one end, tightly roll it up.

Once you roll them, slice them on a diagonal and arrange them on a plate. Serve with the dipping sauce. These could definitely be served as an appetizer, but we ate the whole plate for supper. Once you taste them you won’t blame us!

Sesame Ginger Quinoa Spring Rolls-serves 4

Adapted from Fit Pregnancy

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 3∕4  cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2  cups arugula
  • 1  large carrot, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • 1  green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1⁄4  cup olive oil
  • 2  tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 1  tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2  teaspoons sesame oil
  • Juice of 1⁄2 lime
  • 1  teaspoon chili garlic sauce
  • 20  rice paper wrappers
  • Mae Ploy Sweet Chili dipping sauce

1. In a medium saucepan bring water, stock, salt, and pepper to a boil. Add quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer covered until liquid has absorbed, about 20 minutes.

3. Fluff cooked quinoa with a fork and combine in a large bowl with arugula, carrot and green pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, lime juice and chili garlic sauce; stir into quinoa mixture.

4. Fill a shallow pan large enough to set the rice papers in with hot water and soak one rice paper until softened, about 15 seconds. Remove and place 1 ⁄3 cup of the quinoa filling down the center of the paper. Fold the sides over the mixture, then start to tightly roll one of the remaining sides over the top. Slice on the diagonal and continue with remaining papers and quinoa filling.

5. In a small bowl, pour Mae Ploy Sweet Chili dipping sauce.

King Oyster “Calamari”

This is one of my favorite “raw food” dishes. I’m definitely not 100% Raw, but I really feel better the cleaner I eat. Raw just means that food is prepared at temperatures below 115 °F  so that the enzymes are still alive allowing them to aid in digestion and rebuild proteins in the body. Now, nothing beats a fruit or veggie that is in season and uncooked! But sometimes it’s fun to experiment and transform them into another dish. That’s where this “Calamari” comes in. This is such a great party idea! It’s much cheaper than real calamari and just as tasty! King Oyster mushrooms are not always available, so make them when you get the opportunity. I’ve only ever seen them in Whole Foods. 

Take the caps off the mushroom and slice the stem into ¼ in disks. The rings are pretty small, unless you find jumbo sized mushrooms. So I found that an olive pitter works really well for the smaller rounds and then I just use a round cutter or a paring knife to cut circles in the center of the larger rounds. 

Let them marinate in the olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt mixture for about 30 minutes. While those sit, make the cocktail sauce. Combine all the ingredients into the food processor and pulse until chunky. 

For the “breading” add the flaxseed, herbs, chili powder, cayenne, and black pepper into a bowl. Just mix with your figures until all the ingredients are combined. 

Take the mushrooms that have been marinating and toss in the “breading” mixture. Place the “calamari” on a mesh dehydrator sheet and dehydrate at 115 °F for about 2-3 hours. They should be warm and softened (like the texture of calamari). If you don’t have a dehydrator, don’t go out and buy one just for this (unless of course you’re looking to get into more Raw Food cooking)! You can use your oven, just bake them at a low temp for a shorter time. They won’t be considered Raw, but they’ll still be good. Keep an eye on them if they’re in the oven. 

Pile high onto a plate with the bowl of cocktail sauce. Place some lemon wedges on the plate for a nice fresh garnish, and there you have it! 

King Oyster Mushroom “Calamari”- Serves 6

Adapted from Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis


10 King Oyster mushrooms

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 cup ground flaxseed

2 tsp dried Italian herbs

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

¼ tsp chili powder

½ tsp black pepper

 Cocktail Sauce

1 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked at least an hour in warm water

3 cups chopped tomatoes

2 tsp horseradish

½ yellow onion

1 clove garlic

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp sea salt

pinch black pepper

Slice the stem of the mushrooms into ¼ inch thick disks. Caps can be saved for later use. Using an olive pitter, make a whole in the center of the small pieces. Using a paring knife, cut a whole in the center of the larger pieces. Toss the mushroom rings into the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Let marinate for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, to make the cocktail sauce, add all ingredients into the food processor and pulse until smooth. Place into serving bowl and set aside.

Then combine the flaxseed, herbs, cayenne, chili powder, and pepper into a bowl to create the “breading” mixture.

Once the mushrooms have marinated, add them into the “breading mixture” and toss to coat. Place the “calamari” onto a mesh dehydrator sheet. Dehydrate for about 2 to 3 hours at 115 degrees until warm or slightly crisp. To serve, cut a lemon into wedges and place on the serving platter with calamari and cocktail sauce.