Creamy Artichoke Mac ‘N’ Cheese

This luxurious Creamy Artichoke Mac ‘N’ Cheese is the epitome of comfort food!

I am all about a good mac n cheese, but I am often disappointed.  It’s either not creamy enough, bland, overcooked or undercooked.  This mac ‘n’ cheese is utterly creamy and full of flavor.  The artichoke hearts add a bit more richness in the most delightful way!

Creamy Artichoke Mac 'n' Cheese I have been obsessed with macaroni and cheese ever since I can remember.

My friend Cathy lived across the street from our junior high school “John Adams” when we were in the 7th grade.  Students were not allowed to leave the school during lunch, however, kids that lived very close by could get special permission to go home for lunch.  My mom was into health food, which meant whole wheat bread and brown rice but all I wanted at the time was macaroni and cheese!  My friend Cathy would invite me over to her house for lunch quite often.  I was able to sneak out with Cathy even though I did not live close by because the guard at the gate liked us.  It was heavenly for me, not only because of the food but because I got to leave school!  We would make Kraft mac n cheese, grilled cheese with Kraft sliced cheese and wonder bread and spaghetti O’s!  I couldn’t get enough.

Fortunately, in the ninth grade, I got back into healthier foods.  I had enrolled myself into an alternative school where we were allowed to leave the campus during lunch.  My friends and I would walk down to Main St. and would sometimes get a large salad to share and a slice of pizza at Wildflour pizza.  (I know, the pizza wasn’t healthy but come on!)  Other times we would buy prepared foods at “One Life” health food store.

I remember trying those processed foods later in life and thinking to myself how in the heck did I think it tasted good?  Spaghetti O’s are mushy and sweet, Kraft mac and cheese never had enough cheese and it’s orange and wonder bread is doughy.  This artichoke mac n cheese really captures the memory of my youth Kraft version with the added healthier wholesome ingredients!

Creamy Artichoke Mac 'N' Cheese This Creamy Artichoke Mac ‘n’ Cheese is great with a Pinot Gris or a Soave.

Creamy Artichoke Mac 'N' Cheese

Creamy Artichoke Mac ‘n’ Cheese Recipe:
6 – 8 servings
  • 3 to 4 Artichoke Hearts – cooked – hearts roughly chopped (you can use 2 Cans if you prefer)
  • 1/2 White Onion – diced
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1/3 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/4 Cup +2 Tablespoons Brown Rice or Regular Flour
  • 5 Cups Milk (I used 1 %)
  • 1 Container Mascarpone
  • 2 Cups Pecorino – finely grated
  • 2 Cups Cheddar Cheese – grated
  • 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Pound Brown Rice Elbow Macaroni
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
 Instructions:
Artichokes
There are two ways you can prepare artichoke hearts.  One is the way Jack Pepin prepares them.   This way is a lot faster to cook.  Cooking time will depend on the size and quantity. Place in boiling water, turn down to medium-high and then simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
 Or
Cut the stem off the artichoke.  Place them in a large pot of boiling water and place a wet towel on top to keep them wet and immersed during cooking.
 Boil for about 35 – 50 minutes, depending on the size.  Don’t cover with a lid or they can become bitter.  Check on water levels.  Test a leaf to see if it’s ready, it should pull off easily.  You don’t want to overcook them.  Pull out of the water and turn upside down to drain any excess water.  Enjoy the leaves for your lunch.
Cool the artichokes, remove leaves and scrape away the hairy part.  Roughly chop up the hearts.
While the artichokes are cooking, shred the cheese, dice the onions and mince the garlic.
If using canned artichoke hearts, pull all the leaves off and discard or use in another dish.  Roughly chop up the hearts.
Onions

Add the onions to a large heavy saucepan, saute in olive oil over medium-low heat, stirring until the onions are softened.  Add the garlic and stir until it starts to brown, add the wine and let reduce to a syrup.

Sauce

Next, add the butter to the onions, when melted stir in the flour, and cook the mixture, stirring, for about 2 minutes.

Add the milk a little at a time while whisking constantly. Bring the milk to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  Whisk in the mascarpone.  Add the cheese a little at at time and stir until the cheese is completely melted.  Cover and set aside until artichokes are done.
Pasta

 In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni for 4 minutes. You want it less than al dente because the pasta will continue to cook in the oven.  Drain and put into 3-quart gratin dish.  When the artichokes are cooled and chopped, add to the pasta and mix together.

Assemble

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta/artichokes.

 Place on the middle shelf for 35 – 45  minutes or until it is golden and bubbly.
Notes: When you make the sauce, you might think you have made a mistake and made too much, but trust me it’s perfect.  Because the pasta is undercooked it will soak up some of the sauce while leaving enough for an extremely creamy mac n cheese.  You can cook the artichokes the day before if you want.  If not, I start by cooking the artichokes and while they are cooking, I prep all the components and set them aside until the artichokes are ready.   After the pasta is drained I stir in a little olive oil to prevent them from sticking.  Toss the artichoke with the pasta, top with sauce and bake!
 Health Benefits:

Artichokes are a rich source of dietary fiber, which is great for the colon and heart. The bitter compounds contribute to cholesterol reduction in the blood. They contain good amounts of antioxidant vitamin-C and other antioxidants that protect the body from harmful free radical. It is also rich in B-complex group. They are one of the vegetable sources of vitamin K that is good for bone and brain health. Artichokes have a powerful liver protectant called flavonoid silymarin making it a powerful detoxifier.

Charred Broccoli Falafel with Charred Lemon Tahini and Tzatziki Sauce

There is nothing better than homemade falafels and these Charred Broccoli Falafels are everything!   The charred broccoli brings a comfort level to the falafel.  I added charred lemon to the classic tahini and tzatziki sauces, which compliment the charred broccoli very well.  I relish coming up with different varieties of falafel because one, I absolutely love them and two, they are healthy and three, they are a meal where I don’t miss cheese.  You can leave out the tzatziki sauce if you are vegan.

Charred Broccoli Falafel We have had June gloom for months now, so my typical salad eating days have been stopped dead in their tracks.  You can probably tell by all of the warm comfort food that I have been posting lately.  We happen to live in a part of Santa Cruz that gets a lot of overcast days so we have been going on a lot of bike rides over on west cliff where it is generally sunny.  After a long bike ride and coming back to cold weather, these falafels are a welcomed treat full of warmth and nutrition.

Charred Broccoli Falafel These falafels are really easy to make, so don’t let the soaking of the beans scare you off.  Just put them in a pot, add water two inches above them, leave overnight and then drain and rinse.  I have left them in the refrigerator after draining the water for literally two weeks and they are still good.  They even start to sprout!  If you soak extra, you can make hummus or my garbonzorizo tacos.

I usually make the sauces the day before.  If you are going to make just one sauce, I recommend going with the tahini.  The next day, I char the broccoli for the falafel along with three additional cups that I put into the pita with the other veggies.   I sautéed the onions and garlic, then I process everything in a food processor.  I put the mixture in a covered bowl and into the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. When the mixture is cold I form them into patties and bake them.  While they are baking, I prep any veggies I plan to serve with them.  I normally serve these falafels with charred broccoli, fresh tomato, cucumber, radishes, both sauces and the pita on the side, so everyone can build their own.

Charred Broccoli Falafel These falafels are great with a light red wine like a Pinot Noir or Tempranillo.  They are also nice with a Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or a sparkling wine.

Charred Broccoli Falafel Charred Broccoli Falafel Recipe:
Single batch

Charred Broccoli

  • 2 1/4 Cups Raw Broccoli – 1 Cup Charred
  • 1/2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Dash of Salt and Pepper

Falafel

  • 3/4 Cup Dried Garbanzo Beans – 1 1/2 Cups soaked
  • Filtered Water
  • 1/4 white Onion – diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon  Chili Flakes
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 3/4 Cup Cilantro
  • 6 Tablespoons Garbanzo Bean Flour
  • 1 Cup Charred Broccoli – recipe above
Double batch

Charred Broccoli

  • 4 1/2 cups Raw Broccoli – 2 Cup Charred
  • 1 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Dash of Salt and Pepper

Falafel

  • 1 1/2 Cup Dried Garbanzo Beans (3 Cups Soaked)
  • Filtered Water
  • 1/2 White Onion – diced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 1 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon Chili Flakes
  • 2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 1/2 Cup Cilantro
  • 3/4 Cup Garbanzo Bean Flour
  • 2 Cup Charred Broccoli – recipe above
Charred Lemon
  • 1 – 2 Organic Lemons – sliced to 1/4 inch
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
Charred Lemon Tahini Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Roasted Tahini
  • 1/4 Cup (about 4 slices) Charred Lemon
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2/3 Cup Filtered Water
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Charred Lemon Tzatziki
  • 12 oz. Greek plain Yogurt (has to be Greek due to less water)
  • 1/4 Cup (about 4 slices)  Charred Lemon
  • 1/2 Cucumber – peeled – deseeded
  • 1 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Chives – optional
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste
  • Dash of Black Pepper
Garnish options:
  • Radish
  • Cucumber
  • Tomato
  • Charred Broccoli (I did 3 cups raw broccoli)
Instructions:
Garbanzo Beans

Put the beans in a bowl and add water two inches above the beans, leave overnight for at least 12 hours then drain and rinse.  Set aside.

Charred Broccoli
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Toss together the broccoli, oil, salt and pepper.  Spread out on the baking sheet and place on middle rack.
Roast for 15 minutes, then stir broccoli around for even cooking. Roast for another 5 to 10 minutes and make sure and check on them every 5 minutes, until broccoli is as charred as you like it.
Falafel
Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large nonstick skillet, on a medium-low heat.  Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes then add the garlic and salt then saute until the garlic just starts to become golden.
Add the onion/garlic, lemon juice and spices into a food processor, scrape the edges one time and pulse a few more times.
Add the cilantro and the garbanzo beans and pulse about 15 times,  you want it a bit chunky.
Add the flour and half the broccoli then pulse a few more times making sure to incorporate all the flour.  Add the remaining broccoli and pulse a few more times.
Put in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
Assemble

Pre-heat oven to 375

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Form into golf ball size balls and press flat to form a disc and place them on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes then flip them over for 10 more minutes or until golden.  Serve everything separately to let your guest build their own sandwich.
Charred Lemon
Slice the lemons no less than a 1/4 inch or the flesh will dissolve. Lightly coat in olive oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.  Turn on the burner to medium-high heat.
Heat up a cast iron skillet or in the frying pan and when hot add the lemons in a single layer.  Cook until the lemons just beginning to char then flip to char the other side.  (about 2 -3 minutes on each side)
 Tahini

Measure and add everything to a food processor or blender and puree.  It will thicken a bit if refrigerated.  You can add more water if desired.

Tzatziki

Peel the cucumber, cut in half and scrape out the seed with a spoon, then shred by hand or in the food processor using the shred attachment.

Spread the cucumber on a cloth napkin or towel and sprinkle with a little salt, then squeeze out as much water as possible.  You will be amazed at how much comes out, keep squeezing cause more will keep coming out.

Put into a food processor with everything else and puree.  It will thicken a bit if refrigerated.  You can add more water if desired.

charred-broccoli Health benefits:

Garbanzo beans are super high in protein and extremely high in fiber, just one cup provides 50% of the Daily Value.  Because of the fiber, they are great for your heart, lowering blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart attack, as well as help, prevent constipation and digestive disorders.  Just one cup provides 84.5% of the daily value of manganese, which is an antioxidant that acts as a monitor of the free radicals in the body.  If you are low in energy the high iron content will help and will transport oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body.  They also help to balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Garbanzo beans are helpful for weight loss as they keep you full longer.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart with a Almond Oat Crust

This Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart is rich, decadent and oh so good!

This tart was born out of ingredients that were in my fridge just waiting to be made into something delicious.  I made this just after Beto and clan had stayed with us a few weeks back.  I had planned on making them my roasted fennel buckwheat tart but we decided to go out for dinner instead.  I had also planned on roasting red peppers for our beach picnic but I forgot to.  So, with the unused fennel, red peppers along with a tomato Jill happen to leave behind, I came up with this tart.  I guess you can say it’s a Mediterranean style tart.  It’s best served with a green salad and a crisp glass of wine.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart There is so much craziness going on in the world as of late and I normally pride myself on being able to block it out.  But sometimes it can be difficult when something happens in a place where I spent time in or where a friend is from.  I was fortunate enough to visit Turkey with my friend Maggie a number of years ago.  Maggie and I were traveling in Europe at the time and she had asked me if I wanted to go to Turkey with her.  At the time I really knew nothing about Turkey, but I eagerly said yes!  Our plan was to meet up with her relatives that were living on an American/Turkish air force base in Adana.

We flew from London to Dalaman and then caught a bus to Fethiye where we stayed the night.  Fethiye was right on the ocean and it was so incredibly beautiful!  We found a cheap hotel to stay in and the manager told us about a wonderful local place to eat.  It was an outside restaurant run by a local family.  We had some great food and a night of classic Turkish music and dancing.

The next day, we took a bus along the coast to our final destination.  It was a twenty hour long bus ride, which normally would take 11 hours by car.  The bus ride wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for a 17 year old bus steward that apparently had it in for us.  There were maybe two other women on the bus and the rest were men.  Almost everyone was smoking, so Maggie asked the steward if he could open the vents on the roof of the bus.  They were barely open and we hoped that he would open them more since the windows on the sides of the bus could not be opened.  Instead, he closed the vents completely and gave us a look like too bad for you!  I had also put my feet on a metal box that was in front of our seats and he came over and shoved my feet off.  Maggie and I both looked at each other and then started to talk back to him.  Thank goodness there was a really nice man sitting behind us who had told the steward to leave us alone and he did.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart We finally arrived at Maggie’s aunt’s house and were enthusiastically greeted by Maggie’s cute little cousins.  The next day, Maggie’s aunt took us to a local restaurant that had some of the best food I have ever had. The meal consisted of small bowls filled with different salads, soups, rice, vegetables and sauces with a giant piece of flat bread.  I had no idea what Turkish food was like before my visit but I will tell you that I was in heaven with all the great vegetarian options!  After lunch, Maggie’s aunt took us to the cute town near Karatepe.   We saw women weaving rugs in a shop’s showroom and decided to take a look.  Unfortunately, we didn’t buy any rugs.  We also found another shop with a large assortment of beautiful scarves.  Maggie and I both bought a bunch.   We bought scarves made of crepe with lace stitched on the edges but my favorite ones were gauze scarves that had seed bead flowers dangling off the edges.  Of course, I bought one in every color.  Aside from the 17-year-old, everyone one we met was extremely nice and helpful, the food was out of this world and the countryside was insanely gorgeous!  I would love to spend more time there and I will be praying for peace, love and understanding!

Also, my friend Aysegul from the amazing blog Foolproof Living is from Turkey.  While I have never met Aysegul in person, we have been getting to know each other through social media.  She has been a great inspiration and very helpful to me.  Luckily, Aysegul’s family and friends are ok but it’s scary nonetheless.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart This Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart pairs great with a Cava or a Txakoli.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart Recipe:
6 to 8 servings
  • 1 Recipe Toasted Almond Oat Crust – recipe below
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers – roasted
  • 1 Fennel Bulb – cut in half – cored – cut halves in half – thinly slice
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Dash of Salt
  • 1/2 White Onion – diced
  • 1 Garlic Clove – minced
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 3/4 Cups manchego – shredded – divided
  • 1 Cup Pecorino – shredded
  • 8 oz. Creme Fraiche
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 Large Tomato – thinly sliced
Garnish options:
  • Fresh Basil
  • Edible Flowers
Tart Dough
  • 1 Cup Raw Almonds – ground
  • 1 Cup Oat Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Chia Seeds – ground
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 5 Tablespoons Salted Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Ice Water or until it sticks together (don’t over do it)
 Instructions:
Dough
*
Grind the almonds in the food processor then add flour, ground chia and salt.  Pulse several times to combine.
Add the butter in 1/4 inch piece.
 Pulse a few times to break up the butter evenly, then add ice water slowly as you pulse, until it resembles a coarse meal with tiny pieces of butter.  It will be crumbly but holds together when squeezed with your fingers, do not over process.
Roll out the dough to about a 1/4 inch thick and transfer to a tart pan.  Press into the edges and up the sides of the tart pan.  Poke holes in the bottom with a fork. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes or overnight.
*
Roasted peppers
*
Roast peppers on the stovetop on medium-high heat.  A gas stove works the best but it will work fine on an electric stove. Char the peppers on all sides turning with a pair of tongs.  When good and charred, steam them for 10 minutes in a covered dish or a paper bag rolled shut to hold in the steam.  Take a paper towel and rub off the char.  It’s ok to leave a little of the char.
 Slice in half and remove the seeds and stems.  Cut the tops and bottoms off of the peppers.  Thinly slice a pepper to create a lattice. (this part is optional, you can dice them all up if you want) Create the lattice on an extra plate so you know how much you will need then dice up any remaining piece and the remaining pepper.  Set aside.
*
Fennel
 *
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut the fennel in half and cut out the core.  Cut each half horizontally into 1/4 -inch slices.  Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil and a little salt and pepper.  Toss to evenly coat.  Roast for 15 – 20 minutes or until soft and golden.  Set aside.
*
Onions and cream sauce
*
Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes then add the garlic and salt.  Saute until the garlic just starts to become golden.  Add the onions to a medium sized bowl and mix together with the roasted fennel.  Set aside.
Add the creme fraiche with the one cup Manchego, pecorino and salt to a saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until cheese is melted, stirring frequently.  Set aside.
*
Assemble
*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Bake the tart crust on the middle rack for 10 minutes with pie weights or beans and then 15 min without the weights.
 Slice the tomatoes and push out any seeds with your finger to remove as much water content.  Set aside.
Sprinkle half of the reserved manchego evenly over the warm tart crust.  Spread out the fennel mix, sprinkle on the diced red peppers and arrange tomatoes in a single layer.  Spread the creme fraiche mix over the tomatoes and then carefully create the lattice with the strips of bell peppers.  Sprinkle on the remaining Manchego.
Bake 30 – 35 minutes or until golden.
*
Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart Health benefits:

Bell Peppers are extremely high in vitamin A, which helps to support healthy eyesight especially night vision.  It is also very high in vitamin C, which is really important for the skin.  They have a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese and B-complex and vitamin E.  They help reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, helps controls diabetes and helps reduce pain.  They are a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K, molybdenum and manganese.  Red peppers are one of the veggies highest in lycopene and have been successfully tested in the prevention of many cancers.  Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, giving many fruits and vegetables their color, especially tomatoes, that are great for the prevention of cancers in the bladder, prostate, cervix and pancreas.

Fennel is a very good source of fiber that helps limit cholesterol build-up and helps to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in the blood.  The fiber also helps remove carcinogens from the colon and it can eliminate constipation.  It contains the phytonutrient anethole, the main part of its volatile oil that has been shown to reduce inflammation and also helping prevent the occurrence of cancer. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, which is helpful for eye inflammation, and reduces premature aging and macular degeneration.  There are high levels of potassium in the fennel bulbs and seeds and can help increase brain function and cognitive abilities and it also increases the reach of oxygen to the brain.  The fronds above the fennel bulbs contain important vitamins, like pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.

Mango Tamarind Daiquiri

PURA VIDA!

This Mango Tamarind Daiquiri is a refreshing rum cocktail perfect for that summer heat.  It has natural sweet flavors from the fresh mangos that balance well with the tartness from the tamarind.

After a recent trip to Costa Rica, I became inspired to create a cocktail using tamarind.  Tamarind is a leguminous tree that grows in tropical climates, specifically Central, South America and South Africa.  The fruit is found inside a pod with a crunchy outer thin shell, it is sticky and sweet like a date yet tart. 

Mango Tamarind Daiquiri I recently vacationed in Costa Rica with my good friend Ryn, her daughter Angelika and my boys.  We had the privilege of staying in Nuevo Arenal at our friend Michelle and Mark’s beautiful vacation homes called Casablanca, on Lake Arenal.  If you ever plan on visiting Costa Rica, this place was stellar!  We were so close to a lot of great attractions, like the Arenal Volcano, Hanging Bridges, Hot Springs and so many amazing restaurants like The Gingerbread .  The Gingerbread’s Chef Eyal is definitely one of my top three favorite Chef’s of all time!  Everything we experienced was perfectly balanced and spiced.  The typical Costa Rican cuisine is spectacular; consisting mostly of beans, rice, plantain, fresh fish, vegetables and fresh fruit.  A lot of restaurants serve fresh tamarind juice, which almost tastes like a tart apple juice. After tasting it, all I could think about was what kind of cocktail I could make with the unique fruit.

The last day we were there, Ryn and I drove into town to pick up a few things and get some snacks for the following travel day.  We attempted to find tamarind in a jar, but all we were able to find was the fresh fruit. Of course, we could not bring that back to the states.  Needless to say, after I returned home, I couldn’t get tamarind off of my mind, so I went on a mission to find the fruit.  My first stop was the international market, and there it was, I found the fresh tamarind pods.  I was so excited!

Mango Tamarind Daiquiri

Mango Tamarind Daiquiri Cocktail Recipe:

Makes 1- 6 oz Cocktail

  • 2 oz Costa Rican Rum
  • 1/2 oz Orange Curacao
  • 2 oz *Tamarind Puree
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Mango Diced
  • 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 0z Sparkling Water
  • Fresh Lime for Garnish
Profile: Original, Sweet and Tart
Glass: Collins
Garnish: Lime Wedge
*Tamarind Puree:

Makes 2 cups:

  • 20 Tamarind Pods
  • 1 Cup of Water + 1 Cup
Instructions:
Tamarind Puree

Using a butter knife, crack open the tamarind pod and break away the shell from the fruit.  There are stringy parts attached to the fruit and seeds, pull them off and the fruit will separate easily.  Once you have harvested all of the fruit, seed and all, you can start the extracting process.

 Add 1 cup of water to a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat then add the tamarind fruit. Once the fruit starts to separate from the seed, turn heat to low and continue to cook until all of the fruit has completely broken down.  Add the extra cup of water and mix well. Cool completely. Using a fine mesh strainer pour the juice through to strain out the seeds.  Now you are ready to use the tamarind puree in your cocktail.

Cocktail

In a shaker or mixing glass, add fresh lime juice and mango. Muddle the mango until it’s mashed well.  Fill 3/4 of the shaker with ice; add the rum, orange curaçao and tamarind. Shake well for about 6 seconds. Strain and pour into a collins glass full of ice and top with sparkling soda.

Mango Tamarind Daiquiri

Black Bean Roasted Pepper Salsa Soup

This Black Bean Roasted Pepper Salsa Soup is deeply flavorful and incredibly satisfying with the addition of the roasted salsa.  It’s a vegan soup that can be left as it is or dressed up with chunks of avocado, cheddar cheese, Ancho chips, Pico de Gallo or a dollop of sour cream.

Black Bean Roasted Pepper Salsa Soup This was a great weekend to say the least.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Better Homes and Gardens regrammed my Blueberry Chevre Crostini with Champagne Vinegar Hibiscus Flowers on Instagram.  As a food blogger, you spend so much time learning and practicing photography that when someone like BHG acknowledges one of your photos it feels like a really big deal.  The same photo also won the best photo of the week from Haute Cuisine.  I couldn’t be happier.

Black Bean Roasted Pepper Salsa Soup On another note, how was your 4th of July?  Robby and I had a great weekend with Beto and clan. They arrived early Saturday afternoon to our house and we immediately headed to the beach to give the kids the opportunity release some of their excess energy.  Robby and I had been preparing food for a couple days prior to their visit and when we got back from the beach we set up a taco bar full of all of the fixings. It was delicious! It also happened to be Beto’s birthday so Jill and Paloma decorated a Paloma designed cake after we finished dinner. It was an almond cake with dark chocolate frosting, white and dark chocolate tiles arranged like a checkerboard all topped with dinosaur shrinky dinks. It was one of the coolest cakes I have ever seen and it tasted divine!

After dinner, everyone was so tired that it ended up being an early night, which was good because the next day was jam packed full of adventures.  In the morning, we loaded up our cars with all our bikes and headed to west cliff.   We rode along the cliffs and down to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where we stopped for lunch at a small cafe called The Picnic Basket.  If you are in Santa Cruz and are looking for a phenomenal sandwich and salad spot, I can’t recommend this place enough!  They have one of the best grilled cheese sandwich loaded with sharp white cheddar cheese. All of their produce is locally sourced.  After we ate, we left our bikes locked up and walked over to the amusement park where we watched Paloma go on a few rides.  She had so much fun!  We then rode our bikes back to the car. We were all so tired and didn’t feel like cooking or cleaning, so we decided to go to Ella’s at the Airport for dinner.  It was delicious as always.  The next day was the 4th and we packed up our picnic food with some wine and kicked it on the beach for quite a while before Beto and clan headed home.

Black Bean Roasted Pepper Salsa Soup This soup pairs really well with a Rosé Sancerre, White Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc or a Soave.

Black Bean Roasted Pepper Salsa Soup Black Bean Roasted Pepper Salsa Soup Recipe:

A delicious vegan and gluten free black bean soup.

8 – 10 Servings

  • 2 1/2 Cups Dried Black Beans
  • 10 + 5 Cups Filtered Water
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper – roasted – diced
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers – roasted – 1 diced – 1 pureed
  • 2 Poblano Peppers – roasted – 1 diced – 1 pureed
  • 5 Tomatillos – roasted – pureed
  • 2 Large Heirloom Tomatoes – 1 roasted/pureed – 1 diced
  • 1/2 White Onion – cut in half – roasted – pureed
  • 1 Jalapeno – roasted – pureed
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 1 Tablespoon Ancho Powder – freshly ground or pre-ground
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 Cup Cilantro – minced
  • 1 Cup Corn – fresh or frozen – charred (charring is optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon + 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt or to taste
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
Ancho chips
  • 1 Whole Wheat Tortilla (or your choice)
  • 2 Teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ancho Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Garnish options:
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Avocado
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Diced Roasted Peppers
  • Sour Cream
  • Cilantro
Instructions:
Black Beans

In a 5 1/2 quart pot, put a small hand full of beans in the pot at one at a time, making sure there are no rocks.  Then rinse the beans and add the 10 cups of water.  Bring to a boil then reduce to medium-high heat for approx. 45 minutes or until water starts to evaporates and add the remaining 5 cups of water as needed then cook for another 45 minutes or longer, continuing to check on water levels.

* Add sea salt AT THE END or they will be tough.
* It depends on how old the beans are as to how long it will take to cook, older beans can take longer.
* If you have a problem with gas after eating beans.  Try soaking dried beans in water for at least six to eight hours before cooking to reduce gas formation.  Or place beans in a saucepan with cold water, cover and bring to a boil.  Turn off heat and let sit for an hour.  Turn the stove to medium-high heat for about an hour or until beans are soft.
Roast the tomatillos, tomato, onion and jalapeno.

Turn oven to broil.  Core the tomatillos and tomato and cut in half then place on a baking sheet. Cut the onion half in half and place on the baking sheet along with the jalapeno.  Place the baking sheet on the top rack for 6 minutes then flip for 2 more minutes.  Take out of the oven and let cool.

Roasted peppers
Roast the poblano and bell peppers on the stovetop on medium-high heat.  A gas stove works the best but it will work fine on an electric stove.  Char the peppers on all sides turning with a pair of tongs.  When good and charred, steam them for 10 minutes in a covered dish or a paper bag rolled shut to hold in the steam.
Take a paper towel and rub off the char.  It’s ok to leave a little of the char.  Slice in half, remove the seeds and stems.  Set aside the 1 poblano and 1 red bell pepper for the salsa and dice the rest.
Corn (optional)

Turn oven onto broil

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the corn in a single layer.  Place on the top rack for 5 minutes.
Ancho Tortilla Chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the tortillas into 16 to 20 wedges.

In a medium bowl, add the tortilla wedges, olive oil, ancho powder and salt.  Gently toss to completely coat the chips.

Arrange the tortilla strips in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake until golden and crispy, about 12 minutes.

Assemble

Add the garlic to a food processor and mince.  Add the onion, tomato, tomatillos, jalapeno (remove seeds for mild heat.) 1 poblano, 1 red bell pepper and puree then pour into the beans.

Add the diced peppers, diced tomato, cilantro, corn, spices, salt and pepper.

Black Bean Roasted Pepper Salsa Soup Health benefits:

 Black beans are high in cholesterol lowering dietary fiber, 1 cup of cooked beans provides you with over 1/2 of your daily requirements and reduces blood cholesterol that helps prevent heart disease.  The fiber supports the digestive tract and the colon, which helps constipation, diverticulitis, and other gastrointestinal disorders.  They also maintain normal blood sugar levels, helping to prevent diabetes.  Black beans are a very good meat substitute because of their 15 grams of protein in 1 cup and contain only trace amounts of saturated fat and no cholesterol.  They contain phytochemicals, substances found only in plant foods that help fight cancer and other chronic diseases.  They increase energy with the good amounts of iron in them and have more antioxidant activity than other types of beans. They neutralize cell-damaging free radicals that may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.  Black beans are also rich in B vitamins, Folate, potassium (helps regulate your blood pressure and heart rate), magnesium, calcium (builds and maintains bones) and other heart-healthy nutrients.

Bell Peppers have more nutrition as they mature.  They are super high in vitamin A which helps to support healthy eyesight, especially night vision and are extremely high in vitamin C, so much so they have twice as much as an orange which makes it really good for the skin.  Red peppers are one of the highest veggies in lycopene and have been successfully tested in the prevention of many cancers.  They have a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese and B-complex and vitamin E.  They help reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, helps controls diabetes and helps reduce pain.  They are also a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K, molybdenum and manganese.