Roasted Poblano Quinoa Salad with Cilantro White Balsamic Vinaigrette

This is a great summer Roasted Poblano Quinoa Salad consisting of little gem lettuce, jicama, corn, red onion, jalapeno, queso fresco and an easy to make cilantro white balsamic dressing.  Omit the cheese if you are vegan.  You can also add other veggies to this salad and make it your own….

Roasted Poblano Quinoa Salad My birthday is on Labor Day this year, which is always exciting since it only comes every 7 years.  My mom and Clyde are coming to visit and to attend my beach potluck birthday party.  There will be a handful of my favorite people so needless to say I am very excited!

As I get older, I become more aware of what having faith means, at least to me.  Everyone experiences times when they need to have faith but it can be so challenging when you are in the middle of a crisis or you can’t see how it can work out.  There have been countless times in my life where everything worked out even though I couldn’t see how it would at the time.  During those times I would often hear my mom’s voice saying, “feel the fear and do it anyways”!  When I am having one of these moments in life I think back to a time when I chose to have faith and to go for something that scared me and how it always turned out even better.  The story below is one of those times.

Roasted Poblano Quinoa Salad Many years ago, I had a stopover in Honolulu when I was on my way back home from New Zealand.  I had an open ended one year round trip ticket.  I had been in New Zealand for 2 months, so I had 10 more months left on my return leg of my ticket.  I did not want to go back to Venice, so I decided to see if my friend Jenna was in Hawaii.  She lived half the year in Santa Monica and the other half in Hawaii.  I called her when I got off the plane and luckily, she was there and she came to the airport to pick me up.  I was so excited because she happened to be with my good friend Alana.  I spent two weeks at Jenna’s parent’s house that was on the beach at Pipeline, which was a lot of fun!

One day we hitch hiked to town to shop for some food and Alana said to me, “let’s go to Maui.” I said “sure, why not?”  We told the surfer guy who had picked us up, how we planned to go to Maui and that Alana needed a backpack and a tent.  The guy told us that he had a backpack that she could have.  We couldn’t believe it, we were so stoked!  After we returned from shopping, Alana went home and called me a few minutes later to tell me that she found a sleeping bag.  We immediately booked our flight and we were off to Maui.

Roasted Poblano Quinoa Salad We met a woman on the plane who had asked us where in Maui we were staying and we told her that we had no idea and that we planned to wing it.  She suggested that we should go to Paia and offered us a ride from the airport because there wasn’t any public transportation on Maui.  So, we took her up on her offer.  We saw a small campground close to town where we ended up pitching our tents.  We walked into town looking for a latte and something to eat.  There was a French cafe on one side of the street and a vegan cafe on the other.  We decided that we needed to eat and went to the vegan cafe first.

We started talking to the lady who owned the vegan cafe and she told us that she and her staff were all followers of the Essene religion.  This was the first time I had heard of it.  We told her that we had pitched our tents down the road and she encouraged us to go get our stuff before it got stolen.  She then offered us room and board in exchange for working in the cafe kitchen.  This was my introduction into sprouted raw food cooking.  We were so psyched!  We had lived with them for about a month when I just couldn’t take it anymore.  They had rules like no drinking and I wasn’t someone to be told what to do at the time.

Roasted Poblano Quinoa Salad Alana stayed on and I went and got a job at the French cafe across the street “La Vie En Rose”.  A guy who had owned the property behind the cafe rented small camping spaces and he had one spot available.  There were two small campers and 5 other people living in tents.  I loved it!  The French cafe was owned and ran by two Basque men who were a lot of fun and taught me about Basque cooking.  They had the best espresso and homemade croissants I have ever had.  I was in heaven!  I ended up working there for 6 months and had the time of my life.  The moral of the story is that if you take a leap of faith, things will usually work out better than you could imagine.  There is more to this story that I may divulge in a future post.  What leaps of faith have you taken that

What leaps of faith have you taken that turned out better that you imagined?

3U9A9985 Thanks for stopping by CaliZona! To see what’s going on, you can follow me on  InstagramFacebookPinterest, TwitterBloglovin‘ or subscribe by e-mail to get the latest recipes.
Roasted Poblano Quinoa Salad Recipe:

Approx. 8 Servings

This is a great summer Roasted Poblano Quinoa Salad with little gem lettuce, jicama, corn, red onion, jalapeno, queso fresco and an easy cilantro white balsamic dressing.

  •  1 Cup Quinoa – your choice
  • 1 3/4 Cups Filtered Water
  • 1 Bouillon Cube – vegetable – salt free
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1  Cloves Garlic -whole
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste
  • 2 Small Poblano Peppers (it depends on how much poblano you like) – roasted – destemmed – deseeded – diced
Cilantro Vinaigrette – if you like a lot of dressing, I recommend doubling.
  • 1 Cups Cilantro Leaves – packed
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons  White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1 Small Clove Garlic
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste
  • Dash Black Pepper
  • 3 – 4 Heads Little Gem Lettuce or 1 Small Head Romain – chopped into thin strips
  • 3/4 Cup Corn – fresh or frozen/thawed – or to taste
  • 1 Jalapeno – minced
  • 1 Cup Jicama – peeled – cubed
  • 1/4 Red Onion – thinly sliced or minced
  • 1/2 Cup Cilantro – roughly chopped
  • Queso Fresco – crumbled – to taste
  • Manchego Cheese – finely shredded – to taste – optional

First, rinse the quinoa well then add all ingredients except the poblanos into a small saucepan.

 Bring to a boil then mash the bouillon and cover the pot, turn to medium-low, then simmer for 15 minutes for white and 20 minutes for black. (I recommend using a timer)

When finished cooking, remove from heat and let sit with the lid on for 5 more minutes.  Let cool.


Roast the poblanos 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, stems and dice.


Add all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.


In a large bowl, mix the poblano and lettuce into the quinoa.  Top with all the remaining veggies and serve with the vinaigrette and cheese on the side.

Roasted Poblano Quinoa Salad Health benefits:

Quinoa is a super food that is extremely nutrient rich as well as it is a complete protein source and high in fiber, which helps digestion and heart heath.   It contains more antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients than any other grain.  Unlike most grains quinoa has a significant amount of gamma-tocopherol of the vitamin E family, which helps some inflammatory issues.  It is a good source of magnesium that helps metabolism, cardiovascular, and blood vessel function, which is helpful for migraine headaches. Quinoa contains the antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol even more than in cranberries.  It is helpful in regulation of blood sugar and also reduces your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Poblano Peppers are extremely high in vitamin C; just one pepper has 95% of your daily value.  They are great for your immune system and help to reduce inflammation like in arthritis and asthma.  They are also helpful with the increase of oxygen helping the body to burn more calories 20 minutes after eating peppers.  They are full of vitamin A, vitamin K, and potassium.


Roasted Tomato Pizza with a thin Olive Oil Cracker Crust

Roasted Tomato Pizza I used Robby’s crust recipe for this Roasted Tomato Pizza that is yeast free, super thin, crispy and delicious!  This recipe originally started out as a roasted tomato cheese dip that I ended up morphing into a pizza topping instead.  I used Ancient Olive Trees Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the crust, the sauce, the roasted tomatoes as well as drizzling some on top of the cooked pizza.  The flavors of all the toppings are the perfect combination with this crispy olive oil crust.

Roasted Tomato Pizza I mentioned in my prior post that some of our friends had stayed at a campsite very close to our house.  Our friends Erin and Leif who had shown up for the day were planning a camping trip to Big Sur.  We were all chatting and Erin suggested that I should go with them.  I thought to myself, yeah why not!  A lot of our friends from Venice and Santa Monica (8 to 9 families) normally meet up twice a year in the summer to camp and surf together.  It’s so cool because we all have known each other since we were kids!  All our friends’ kids have known each other all their lives and they always have a great time together as well.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Monday morning, Erin and her friend Jen picked me up and we headed to Big Sur.  We had to drive around through Cambria due to all the fires that have been going on in the Big Sur area!  It’s so very sad!  After we arrived, we set up our tents and relaxed a bit enjoying the amazing view of the ocean before going to our friend’s potluck dinner.  There were about 15 of us at the potluck, eating, drinking and chatting around a fire.

Roasted Tomato Pizza The next morning, Erin made breakfast and we relaxed as we enjoyed our coffee.  The day consisted of a small hike to the ocean and more relaxing with a little wine.  It was overcast the whole time but it was still warm enough to enjoy ourselves.  Later that evening, we headed a few miles south of our campsite to where some of our other friends were staying.  It was at a huge multi-family campsite, where they hosted a huge potluck dinner.  There was fettuccine alfredo, enchiladas, rice and beans, all the meat you can imagine and a huge spread of appetizers.  We had a great couple of relaxing fun filled days.

Roasted Tomato Pizza I collaborated with Ancient Olive Trees, by using their Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the recipe.  Ancient Olive Trees is a Northern California based olive orchard and oil company.  They craft the olive oil with a tree-to-table approach.  What’s really cool is that they use early harvest Arbequina and Arbosana olives from 30 to 100 year old trees, which are pressed right after the fruit is harvested.  This is a high quality, super fresh and smooth olive oil that has outstanding flavors with a hint of grassy notes.  It truly is one of the best olive oils I have tried.

As you might know, I am all about organic so you might be wondering why this olive oil doesn’t say it’s organic.  They can’t sell it as organic because they don’t bottle it in an organic certified location.  Even though they can’t market it as organic, they do not use pesticides on their trees.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Enjoy a Tempernio or Chianti for a red or a Pinto Gris or Suave for a white wine.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Thanks for stopping by CaliZona! To see what’s going on, you can follow me on  InstagramFacebookPinterest, TwitterBloglovin‘ or subscribe by e-mail to get the latest recipes.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Recipe:

Makes 2 medium or 3 small pizzas

Pizza Dough – divided into 2 or 3 portions – or store bought
  • 2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Filtered Water
Tomato Sauce – divided into 2 – 1/2 cups or 3 – 1/3 cups
  • 1/4 White Onion – diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Jar Strained Tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons Dry Red or a Dry White Wine
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Fresh Oregano Leaves
  • 1 Teaspoons Sea Salt or to taste
Roasted Tomatoes – divided into 2 or 3 portions
  • 8 oz. Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Garlic – minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • Dash Pepper
Cheese Mix – divided into 2 or 3 balls
  • 4 oz. Mascarpone
  • 4 oz. Chevre Cheese
  • 8 oz. Mozzarella – shredded
  • 8 oz. Cherry Tomatoes – sliced in half
  • Basil
  • Arugula
  • Red Chili Flakes
Pizza Dough

Bread/dough making is never an exact recipe. The proportions of dry and wet ingredients are dependent on many factors including the temperature and humidity of your kitchen as well as the make up of the flour. You may need to adjust by adding additional flour or water to get the correct consistency during the kneading process.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.  Next, measure the olive oil and apple cider vinegar into a glass measuring cup, then fill the rest with the water up to the 3/4 cup mark.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mix it with a wooden spoon or with your hands and knead until it has a smooth consistency.  If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour while you knead.  Roll it into a ball and put back in the bowl, then cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Tomato Sauce

Add the onion and olive oil to a straight sided pan and sauté on medium-low heat for 5 minutes then add the fresh oregano and garlic then cook until garlic just starts to brown.  Add wine and cook until reduced and it has a syrupy consistency.

Add wine and cook until reduced and it has a syrupy consistency.

 Pour tomato sauce into the pan and cook on medium to low heat.  Add the salt.  Cook until thickens about 20 minutes or longer.
Roasted Tomatoes
In a medium bowl, add tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper.  Spread tomatoes evenly into a baking pan. Roast tomatoes under the broiler for 4 – 5 minutes or until slightly blistered.  Take out of the oven and set aside.
Cheese Mix
Add the mascarpone and chevre in a medium sized bowl and mix together.  Then add the shredded mozzarella and mix well.  Set aside.
Pizza Crust

Separate the dough into two or three balls.  Generously flour the board and rolling pin then start to roll out one of the balls to about a 1/16 inch thick.  So, very thin.

Roll from the center out and continually adding flour as you lift and turn the dough.  This is to ensure it doesn’t stick.  Carefully slide the rolled out dough from the board onto the hot pizza stone.  Parbake for less than a minute, just until you see tiny bubbles.  Be careful, this happens really fast.  Carefully take out of the oven.

Parbake for less than a minute, just until you see tiny bubbles.  Be careful, this happens really fast.  Carefully take out of the oven.

 If doing 3 pizzas, spread 1/3 cup of the sauce evenly over the crust or 1/2 cup for 2 pizzas.  Spread on your tomato sauce, randomly plop spoonfuls of the cheese mix around, then sprinkle the roasted tomatoes around. Lightly sprinkle on a little salt and pepper then, place it back in the oven for 6 – 9 minutes or until it looks good to you.

Take it out of the oven and top with the fresh tomato halves and basil then drizzle with a little more olive oil.  Cut and serve immediately.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Disclosure: Thanks to Ancient Olive Trees, for sponsoring this post!  Thank you for supporting the brands that make CaliZona possible.  Just so you know, I would never support a brand or product that I don’t believe in!

Health Benefits:

Tomatoes are great for the heart due to the extreme antioxidant support, niacin, folate and vitamin B6 that helps the reduction of heart disease.  They are also high in vitamins A, C, K and potassium.  The choline in tomatoes helps assist the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.  It also helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.  Tomatoes are high in Lycopene the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.  Cooking tomatoes break down the cell walls, which helps to release the lycopene and is better absorbed by the body with a little bit of fat like olive oil.  The Zea-xanthin in them helps to filter harmful ultra-violet rays, which protect eyes from “age-related macular disease.”  They are also a powerful blood purifier and great for skin and bone health.

Hibiscus Hummus with Baked Pita Chips

This Hibiscus Hummus has a classic hummus taste with subtle tangy hibiscus flavor and a pink hue.  The additional flowers on top add a nice pop of color as well.

Hibiscus Hummus About a month ago, our friend Beto reserved a campsite for 2 nights at the campground that is right next to where we live.  I was so excited because no one has stayed there ever since we have lived here.   They showed up this past Wednesday afternoon along with Jill’s long time friend Maili.  After they had set up the tents and pulled out all the cooking supplies, our friends Erin, Leif and Taj showed up for a potluck BBQ.  We sat around the picnic table chatting while sipping on wine and watching Jill the master griller at work.  She cooked up a huge BBQ feast.

Maili had brought a whole lot of homemade sushi and a clam dip.  Erin brought a salad, chips and guacamole and I brought this hummus with baked pita chips.  Everyone also brought wine, of course.  It’s pretty cool when all your friends are really good cooks because the spread is always abundant and delicious. As always, there was a lot of great conversations and laughter.

The next day, our friend Jean showed up around lunchtime and Leif and Taj returned for round two.  The kids had the best time playing together.  It was another fun day of beach, food, wine and great conversation.

Hibiscus Hummus I enjoyed this hummus with my hibiscus tea and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s also great with a nice Rose.

Hibiscus Hummus Thanks for stopping by CaliZona! To see what’s going on, you can follow me on  InstagramFacebookPinterest, TwitterBloglovin‘ or subscribe by e-mail to get the latest recipes.

Hibiscus Hummus Recipe:
Approx. 2 1/2 Cups
  • 1 Cup Dried (2 Cups Cooked) Garbanzo Beans – soaked – cooked
  • 1 Cup Filtered Water
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Hibiscus Flowers
  • 1 Large Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup Tahini
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Pita Chips
  • 8 Pita – cut into 6 to 12 wedges for each pita
  • Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste
Preparing garbanzo beans
You can cook the garbanzo beans two different ways: one is a quick way, the other is by soaking the beans overnight which is better for your digestion.  This is how I prepare them, plus if you are going to make falafels, this is the way to go.

Place them in a large bowl and cover with filtered water, they will expand to over double their size, make sure you cover by several inches of water to allow for expansion.  Soak overnight for at least 12 hours then drain and rinse.

Quick method
Place the beans in a pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water above the beans and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the beans soak in the warm water for 1 hour then drain the water and rinse.  Follow cooking the beans instructions below.

Cooking the beans

If you want extra smooth hummus you can do as Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi do from their cookbook “Jerusalem”  and remove the skins from the garbanzo beans.

Just add soaked chickpeas and 1 teaspoons of baking soda to a large saucepan over high heat.  Stirring constantly for about 2 – 3 minutes.  Covers the chickpeas by about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil and reduce to simmer on medium heat for about 30 – 60 minutes or until soft, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer.  Skim off the foam and skins that float to the surface.  They should be very fairly tender pressing between your fingers but not too mushy.
(I have also removed the skins one by one by squeezing them between my fingers. Without the baking soda.)

Put the beans back in the pot and cover with several inches of filtered water.

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer on medium heat for about 30 – 60 minutes or until soft, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer.   They should be very fairly tender pressing between your fingers but not too mushy.  Pinch each bean to remove skins if desired.
Put the hibiscus flowers and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil then remove from heat.  Let sit until it has cooled.
Strain the flowers and set the water aside.  Add the flowers and garlic to a food processor and mince as best you can.
Add all the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.  Scrape the sides at least once.
Optional – If you want to garnish with extra flowers you can repeat the hibiscus/water recipe.  It looks pretty but it does change the texture.
Baked Pita Chips
Turn down the oven to 350 degrees

Cut each pita into 8 triangles and place on one side of a parchment lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt and gently toss.  Bake for 11 – 12 minutes or until crispy.

Hibiscus Hummus 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.

Hibiscus Flowers is a simple way to increase your antioxidant intake due to the high vitamin C content.  The antioxidant properties can help reverse the inflammatory process in your body and has the ability to lower high blood pressure.  It protects against chronic disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.  It helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol from the body, therefore it helps protect against heart disease and blood vessels from damage.

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
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.
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.

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.


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.

 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.


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


  • 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


  • 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)
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.
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.

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)

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.


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.