Recipe: Black Bean & Acorn Squash Empanadas

Looking for a healthy version of empanadas?

This recipe is adapted from the very popular cookbook Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook.

There are lots of ways to enjoy these and stay uber healthy…with some guacamole or a spicy lime cilantro sauce by just combining in a blender some lime juice, cilantro, serrano and fage 0% greek yogurt and add some water to thin it out for a nice drizzle sauce.

Recipe: Black Bean & Acorn Squash Empanadas

  • 1 c. APF
  • 1 c. Whole Pastry Flour
  • ¼ c. cornmeal
  • 2 T. sugar
  • ½ t. baking powder
  • ½ c. vegan shortening (chilled), chopped into small pieces (i like earth balance the best)
  • ½ - ¾ c. cold water
  • 1 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T. evoo
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and brunoise
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and brunoise
  • 2 smaller acorn squash, peeled, seeds removed and brunoise
  • ¼ c. cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T. oregano, chopped
  • 1 T. cumin, ground
  • 1 (16 oz.) can of black beans, drained, rinsed and mashed a few times with a whisk
  • juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1-3 t. red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  1. To make the dough: In a food processor, pulse together APF, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt until combined. Sprinkle in pieces of shortening, pulsing until dough just begins to form together. Sprinkle in apple cider and begin alternating between pulsing the processor a few times and a few tablespoons of water until the dough comes together. Remove from processor, wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
  2. Prepare filling: In a saute pan over medium high heat, add the evoo, when it is hot, add the bell pepper, jalapeno and saute golden brown on edges (2-3 minutes), add acorn squash and continue to saute until squash is cooked through, but not mushy (3-4 minutes). Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Stir in cilantro, oregano, cumin, black beans, lime juice, lime zest, maple syrup, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste and let cool completely.
  3. Prepare dough and fill empanadas: Remove dough from fridge, break into 3 pieces leaving 1 on your working surface and put the rest back in the fridge. This will make your life easier if the dough is chilled. Roll out your dough into a rectangle (about a 12x9 in size), cut it into 6 squares. Roll out each square a little thinner (about a 4x4 in size). Spoon about 2-3 T. of filling in lower left corner of each piece, fold the top right side over the bottom right filling, gently press together the ends, starting as close to the filling as you can, without breaking the dough. Then using a fork, press around the edges and clean up the edges with a knife (to form the empanada half moon shape). Place the finished empanada on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, like the 100% canola or coconut oil. Finish rolling out to rectangle, then squares, filling and sealing empanadas with remaining 2 balls of dough (should make about 18 empanadas)
  4. Bake on empanadas at 400 degrees until golden brown and warmed through (about 20 minutes).
Makes about 18 small Empanadas...which is about as much rolling as my carpal tunnel can handle:(


Ode to Curry Gold

Ode to Curry Gold at Sweetgreen
Inspired by Maya Angelou's Phenomenal Women

Fast food joints wonder where your secret lies.
You’re not processed or built to suit a ‘value’ meals size
They think you're selling healthy lies.

I say,
It’s in the reach of my warriors
The span of my long run,
The stride in my fartlek,
The curl of my biceps.
You’re curry gold
Phenomenal curry gold.
That’s you.

I walk to where you are
Just as cool as the FroYo I see
And to the fast food man across the street,
That stands or
Falls down to his knees,
His media swarms around me,
Yet tired and clogged arteries are all I see.
I say,
It’s the curry in the dressing,
And the almonds toasted just right,
The spring in my spinach,
And the joy of cucumbers so light.
Your curry gold,
Phenomenally curry gold,
That’s you.

The man himself has wondered
What I see in you.
They try hard to live without a deep fryer
But sweetened injections can’t touch
Your simple roasted chicken
When I show them your ingredients there's no mystery
They say they still can’t see
I say,
It’s within this chefs clean eating habit,
The sun on your beets,
The spice of your curry,
My healthy lifestyle complete
Your curry gold
Phenomenal curry gold,
That’s you.

Now they understand
Just why there's always a line
You don’t shout or jump about
Although sometimes your stores' music is just plain too loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the beep of my Garmin,
The bend of my wheel,
The prayer at my hearts center,
My choice to care,
‘Cause your curry gold
Phenomenal curry gold,
That’s you.

Recipe: Mock Curry Gold
  • 2 c. spinach
  • 1 small chicken breast, roasted, small dice
  • 1/4 c. cucumber, small dice
  • 1/4 c. pineapple, peeled, small dice
  • 1/4 c. beets, peeled, small dice
  • 2 T. almonds, slivered, toasted
  • 2 T. cranberries, dried, unsweetened
  • 2 t. evoo
  • 2 t. curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large bowl, toss together spinach, chicken, cucumber, beets, pineapple, almonds, cranberries until combined.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together evoo, curry powder, salt, pepper and drizzle around edges of large bowl with salad. Gently fold and toss salad with tongs.


Article & Recipe: Quinoa...your Passover loophole?

Going through grain withdrawal this passover?

And here is one of my favorite side dishes for red quinoa:

Recipe: Red Quinoa with Swiss Chard & Toasted Chickpeas
  • 1 c. red quinoa, gently rinsed
  • 3 c. veggie stock
  • 1 (16 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch of red swiss chard, ribs removed, chiffonade
  • 2-3 T. evoo
  • 1/4 c. combo of garlic, onions, bell peppers, brunoise (based on your preferences)
  • 1 T. oregano, minced
  • 1-2 t. sherry vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Fill a medium pot 3/4 with half water and half veggie stock, bring to boil and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Bring another pot to a boil, filled 3/4 with water and generously sprinkled with salt.
  3. Preheat oven to 400, when hot, place chickpeas in sided baking dish, spray with canola oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and place in oven to bake until toasted and crispy (about 30 minutes).
  4. Add quinoa to 1st pot of veggie stock-boiling water, turn down to 'gently' boil until grain just begins to sprout, about 10-15 minutes. Strain grain from liquid and set aside.
  5. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl with 1 part ice and 3 parts water, set aside.
  6. Add swiss chard to 2nd boiling water pot to blanch (about 30 seconds to 1 minute), strain from pot and dump into ice bath until swiss chard is cooled (about 30 seconds), strain from ice bath, gently squeeze excess liquid from swiss chard and set aside.
  7. In a saute pan over medium high heat, add about 1 T. evoo until hot and almost smoking, then stir in garlic, onions, bell peppers and saute until translucent and golden brown on edges (about 1-2 minutes) then stir in swiss chard, tossing to coat, remove from heat and dump into large bowl.
  8. Add cooked quinoa to large bowl, gently toss with 1-2 T. evoo, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
Check out another one of our quinoa recipes here!


Restaurant: Cowboy Ciao

Its fall and foodies everywhere begin to crave all kinds of slow foods, home-style dishes and basically anything baked, stewed, braised...so thankfully there is Cowboy Ciao, a downtown Scottsdale restaurant that excels at providing these 'cravings'.

Things do have a southwestern flare (it is in AZ), but with a slight contemporary twist and year-round it is heavy in fall/winter cooking style techniques (aka, braising, stewing).

Even though I am not a fan of southwestern flare decor (I know, it is AZ) or the smell of stale beer (it has a real nightlife!), it has been added to my will-eat-at-list when in the Valley of the Sun.

Truffled Braised Beef Short Rib Risotto

Fried Macaroni & Cheese
with Veggie Chili Dipping Sauce
Braised Beef (Short Rib Reuben Style)  Sandwich with Au Jus &
Homemade Potato Chips


Restaurant: Elephant Jumps

My new favorite restaurant is Elephant Jumps, a (relatively new) Thai restaurant near the VA intersection of route 50 and 495. Elephant Jumps is the only DC area Thai restaurant I have eaten at that serves the fresh and simple food I've enjoyed in my multiple trips to Thailand. And I am not the only one.

In the past few months, I have tried nearly 70% of the Elephant Jumps menu and enjoyed it all - eating there and take out too. One of my favorite dishes (pictured left - from take-out) is the Crispy Salmon with Ginger Sauce (although it can also come with mango sauce which I really like as well). I think my second favorite is the Cashew Chicken in Taro Nest or maybe its the Fried Papaya Salad?

You might want to take note, this restaurant has four levels of spice, mild, medium, hot and Thai hot - and this is the only Thai restaurant I've been to in the states that 'Thai Hot' actually means 'Thai Hot', yet the taste isn't lost in the heat, it just adds another layer of flavor.

Never fear though, if you are someone who loves Thai, but has a co-diner that doesn't so much...they have an East meets West menu, which includes a great Burrito Satay Chicken stuffed with rice, chicken and sweet style peanut sauce...a very yummy Chipotle-style Thai Burrito.


Williams-Sonoma FREE Demonstrations

Fall has arrived and it is time to start thinking about all those delicious upcoming holiday dishes and treats! Get some new ideas (while watching your wallet) at your local Williams-Sonoma FREE demonstration classes throughout the month of October. Click here for schedule and call your local Williams-Sonoma store to RSVP.


Event: FREE dessert day!

Photo from my culinary school days
at L'Academie de Cuisine
Today only! Book your reservation through opentable at any of these participating restaurants and you'll receive a FREE Dessert! (with just a minimum purchase of 1 entree).


Event: Cooking Class at Ceiba

Ceiba Restaurant (one of my favorites!) is having a cooking class on Saturday, September 25th from 11am to 1pm ($75/pp). I've been to their classes before and they are great...entertaining, interesting dishes and they do all the work, so you can just sit back and enjoy their delicious dishes and their wine.

The Menu
Crab Meat Causa Rellena
Tiradito de Pescado
Aroz Con Pato
(Includes Wine Pairing)
Can't attend? No worries, this time around they'll be featuring this menu during dinner service from September 25th to October 2nd.

To reserve your spot, contact Jillian Zins at 202.408.0201 or via email at jillian@passionfoodhospitality.com


Recipe: Yakima Valley Featured Product

What a surprise to get this e-recipe, via vegetarian times that pays a little homage to my homeland, the Yakima Valley. The recipe is from Cafe Flora, a vegetarian restaurant in Seattle that features this cherry-polenta dish, crafted from ingredients provided by a Yakima farmer, Merv Dykstra.

I don't know Merv, but it sounds like he's been doing pretty well for a while now, supplying ingredients to many Seattle area restaurants.

The recipe is great...sweet, savory...good for an appetizer, an unusual dessert or an interesting substitute for a cheese course. When I prepared it for myself, I even bought the cherries from the Old Town Alexandria Whole Foods, which are from Selah, my hometown in the Yakima Valley.


Urban Myth: Airline Food is Bad

A recent CNN article brings to light the amazing fare of fine-dining dishes that are available to you in first class. It got me thinking about all the wonderful airline meals (yes...I said AIRLINE!) I've enjoyed in the last few years.

Myth: Everyone uses plastic sporks.

Each airline has its own china style set and sets your table (aka, tray) one passenger at a time. (US domestic flights first class carriers excluded.) Photo from the Tahiti based airline, Air Tahiti Nui.

Myth: Food isn't Good

If I am on an Asian Airline, 9 times out of 10, I will get the Asian menu option. This is still the best, most flavorful and well prepared Bim Bam Bop I have ever had! Photo from South Korean based airline, Asiana.

Myth: Will it be Chicken or Fish for your entree?

Another Asian meal option selection, where I got to enjoy tons of things that I could never possibly find in an any Asian resturant in the DC metro area. Pictured beginning from left and going clockwise: steamed rice, shark fin pudding, marinated beef and veggie stir fry, pickled veggies, etc., miso soup (in the black covered container) and braised seafood and veggies. And this was just my main course, from a 5 course dinner. Photo from Japanese based airline, All Nippon Airlines.

Myth: The only difference between first class and couch, is that the seat is bigger.

I never buy caviar. I fully admit it is the cost vs. joy. Plus everytime we fly internationally (on a non-domestic carrier) I eat so much caviar, I cannot stomach more for about 6 months. Can you see the amount of caviar on the plate? Insane! And sometimes I ask (and always get if I request) seconds. Photo from German based airline, Lufthansa Airlines.

Myth: If you don't want to go hungry, always bring some snacks for your flight.

People that don't fly internationally or on non-domestic carriers are generally surprised when I tell them I never go hungry on a plane. I always tell them they really should save up their airline miles, because a 5+ multi-course on board dinner, that doesn't include the welcome on board snack (pictured here), the snack menu or the 2nd meal service (usually a mere 3 courses) really ROCKS for foodies like me. Photo from Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific Airlines.


Travel: Texas BBQ

My husband and I have been known to travel for food. Be it flying to Barcelona for the weekend to eat at El Bulli or stopping in London (on the way home from China) to eat at the Fat Duck.

So in September, we will head to Texas for a long weekend to taste some fantasic BBQ. Currently our list contains 9 locations, each noted from our research (from friends, websites, etc.) for a meal that is sure to be special. We'll only have 48 hours, so we may have to stop eating several days before we go!

This is only our first part of our BBQ tasting trips. We do plan on visiting Kansas and Tennessee separately. If you have a suggestion for any of these areas, please let me know. And of course, I will post lots of pictures after our trip.

Our current San Antonio-Austin Area, Texas BBQ restaurant list (and the minimum we'll be tasting there!):


Recipe: Fueling Your Workout - Quinoa with Chickpeas, Roasted Veggies and Herbs

Break out of your pasta-with-meat-sauce runners diet rut and fuel up with a delicious nutty-flavored grain: Quinoa. Pronounced Keen-waH, in just 1 cup, it packs over 100g carbs, 20g protein and 10g fiber. You can enjoy it warm or cold, so it is very versatile through the seasons.

This is a great dinner entree for vegetarians or a wonderful side dish to supplement a grill out. And here is a great little background from the Whole Foods blog with some other recipe ideas.

Quinoa with Chickpeas, Roasted Veggies and Herbs
  • 1/2 c. dry Quinoa
  • 2 asparagus spears, sliced into 1" pieces
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 artichoke, heart only, diced
  • 1/4 spanish or red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 small zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 c. cherry, grape or small heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. chickpeas, from canned, drained and rinsed
  • 1 T. minced herbs (parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, tarragon - whatever!)
  • 2 T. evoo
  1. Bring a medium pot to high heat, filled 1/2 way with water to a boil and sprinkle in a little salt.
  2. Preheat oven to 425.
  3. Add quinoa and turn down heat to a 'heavy simmer' or 'light boil' for 10-15 minutes until quinoa starts to 'sprout' and is al dente.
  4. In the meantime, toss veggies and herbs in a bowl with 1 T. evoo and salt and pepper to taste. Place in oven to roast for 10-15 minutes until cooked through, remove from oven and set aside.
  5. Strain quinoa from water and gently toss over sink in colander to remove excess water - then place in medium bowl.
  6. Add veggies, remaining 1 T. evoo and chickpeas to quinoa and gently stir to combine. Ready to enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Servings: 1 very large entree or 2-4 as side dish

Nutritional Info:
Calories: 1400
Carbs: 218g
Fat: 48g
Protein: 42g
Fiber: 24g

Nutritional values are based on Prevention estimates


Recipe: This Weeks Favorite - Grilled Mahi Mahi Corn Tacos with Brazilian Collard Greens, Lime Scented Slaw and Avocado Salsa

In a regular work week, I can prepare over 300 recipes - be it sauces, sides, salads, etc. This can make it difficult for me to motivate myself to prepare dinner for my family everynight. But without fail, there are some things that look and smell so good when I am preparing it for my client, that I'll think about it constantly until I can prepare it for myself!

Grilled Mahi Mahi Corn Tacos with Brazilian Collard Greens, Lime Scented Slaw and Avocado Salsa
  • Hard or soft shell corn tacos
  • 8 oz (about 1/2 lb) mahi mahi filet (skin and center bone removed), cut into large, bite sized pieces (so they fit in your tacos)
  • 2 1/2 T. ground cumin
  • 1/2 T. ground coriander
  • 2 t. cayenne or chili powder
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, minced
  • 2 T. parsley, minced
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion (1/4 of the onion is diced, the other 3/4 is thinly sliced)
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of collard greens, stems/ribs removed, rolled longways (like a towel) and thinly sliced
  • 1 small green cabbage, thinly sliced (outer edge - about 1" - only)
  • 4 limes, juice and zest separated
  • 1 avocado, smashed
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a medium pot, filled 3/4 of water to a boil, generously add salt.
  2. In a saute pan over medium high heat, add 1 T. canola oil, when hot, add about 3/4 of the thinly sliced sweet yellow onion and all the garlic (except about 1 t.). Saute onions and garlic until golden brown on edges, then deglaze the pan with chicken stock or water, bring to medium boil until au sec (pan is dry) and remove from heat.
  3. Drop sliced collards into boiling water until bright green and slightly wilted (about 1 minute). Strain from water, stir in caramelized onion-garlic mixture, 1/2 t. cumin and 1 t. cayenne (or chili powder), set aside.
  4. Heat your grill pan or outside grill.
  5. In a medium bowl, add salt, pepper, 1 T. canola oil, mahi mahi, 1 T. cumin, 1/2 T. coriander, 1 t. cayenne (or chili powder), 1 T. cilantro and zest from 2 limes. Toss mixture and place on grill for about 2 minutes on each side, remove from grill and set aside.
  6. (If you use soft corn tacos, heat then on the grill for about 2 minutes each side)
  7. In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, remaining sliced onions, 2 T. cilantro, 1 T. parsley, juice from 3 limes, zest from 1 lime, salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  8. In a small bowl, combine mashed avocado, diced tomato, remaining diced onion, (about a teaspoon of) garlic, 1 T. cumin and 1 T. cilantro, salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Build tacos with collards, mahi mahi, cabbage slaw and avocado salsa to enjoy! 


Recipe: Fueling Your Workout - Fruit, Yogurt & Granola Breakfast

Being a runner means you need a lot of carbs to fuel your energy. Most runners need a minimum of 300g/day. Having some protein in your pre or post workout meal is helpful too, when your run is particularly hard. And in this hot weather, you can't help but sweat!

So start your morning run off right with this great combo of fruit, greek yogurt and granola.

Fruit and Greek Yogurt Parfait with Granola
Place fruit in bowl, spoon over yogurt and spread over the top of the fruit. Sprinkle granola over to enjoy!

Calories: 550
Carbs: 90g
Fat: 11g
Protein: 28g
*Nutritional values are based on Prevention estimates


Events: Restaurant Unleashed Week: March 1-7

The Restaurant Association of the Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) is running a "UNLEASHED" Restaurants! week - basically a week of discounted menu options at participating restaurants in the area (a.k.a., restaurant week).

The RAMW is advertising it under the guise that people are pent up, our desire for foodie camaraderie is runith over and we demand a fill-up (for a discount) at our local (RAMW member only) restaurant. According to the advertisement on the website:
“This will be a great way for patrons to ‘unleash’ the pent up dining passions that have been so constrained over this winter,” said Lynne Breaux, President of RAMW. “And it’s not just dining; this is also about social contact, conviviality, decompression and so much more that we tend not to think about until it is taken away. Think of our “Unleashed” week as an intense, really big, group therapy session.”
This could be true....there was a lot of snow for a while. But it could have something to do with low/poor restaurant sales in January and February. Normally bad months for restaurants, where made much, much worse by the snow.

So 'UNLEASH' your wallet and pick out some restaurants to visit from the participation list on opentable.