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Luscious Lamb Ragù.

Braised Leg of Lamb Ragù with Carrots, Onion, Herbs & Red Wine Served Over Pasta.

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I love going to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market to pick up fresh and local produce and meats. I went recently and got a leg of lamb. Gareth loves lamb, being Welsh and all (cue the lamb jokes!) so I waned to make something special with it. I’ve only made roast leg of lamb in the past, so this time I wanted to do something totally different. I browsed lots off different lamb recipes to get ideas, and decided to make a hearty lamb ragù over pasta. It turned out absolutely delicious. The sauce was rich and hearty with perfectly tender meat. It was a wonderful meal for a chilly winter night.

Makes ~5 cups of sauce.

Recipe is adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb leg of boneless leg lamb
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic (2 cloves or so)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • grated Parmesan for topping
  • pasta of your choice (I used Trader Joe’s gluten-free brown rice penne)

Cut the leg of lamb into smaller pieces and trim off any excess fat. Heat a large, deep pan or dutch oven on the stove on medium/high heat. The pan needs to be deep enough to hold all the sauce and ingredients that will be added. Add the olive oil and chopped garlic. Once the oil is heated and the garlic is lightly browned, add in the lamb and cook each side for about 3 minutes. Once the outside of the lamb has browned, remove the lamb from the pan and set aside.

Add the carrots, onion and parsley to the hot pan and cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. Once the vegetables have softened, add the lamb back into the pan and heat on high. Pour the red wine into the pan. Once the wine reduces by about half, add in the can of crushed tomatoes. Put the heat on low and season with a dash of sea salt and cayenne pepper. Put the lid on the pan and cook on low/simmer for about two hours.

After the dish is finished cooking, remove the lamb from the sauce and use two forks to pull apart the lamb to create a shredded consistency. Once shredded, add the meat back into the sauce and stir well.

Cook the pasta as directed on the package. Once cooked, put a large spoonful of the ragù on top with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

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Wine Tasting In Buenos Aires – Anuva Wines

Anuva Wines ~ Buenos Aires

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While in Buenos Aires, we wanted to do a wine tasting to experience some of the great wines South America has to offer. We came across a spot called Anuva Wines while doing some last-minute Google searches on the hotel WiFi and made a reservation for a tasting later that day. We spent the morning eagerly awaiting our first wine tasting of the trip, and it was worth the wait! Hidden on a side street in the midst of the fashionable Palermo Soho, we found a large, unmarked black door which led us up a steep staircase into an enormous, light filled room. There was a large table of people who looked just as excited as us to start sampling wines. The sommelier was named Diego, and he was great. He gave great explanations of each wine and was happy to refill our glasses as much as we desired, which made me happy. Each wine was paired with a small bite to eat to compliment the flavors of that wine. It was a truly delicious and fun experience. It was probably the best part of our trip to Buenos Aires. If in BA, definitely head over to Anuva Wines!

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The first wine that was poured was Las Perdices Extra Brut and my oh my, it was delicious. The wine had a subtle citric aroma and tasted of pear and apple. I drank mine a bit too fast, but it was so refreshing after walking around in the heat. It was paired with two types of crostini: ricotta and lemon & arugula, pear and walnut. We ended up buying a couple of bottles to ship back to the US, so can’t wait to open up a bottle of this once the weather warms up!

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The second wine served was Mairena Torrontés. This wine had an aroma of tropical fruits and lychee and tasted like grapefruit and apricot. It was was served with humita, which I had never heard of before. Diego was kind enough to write down all the ingredients of the dish for me so I could try to recreate it myself. It’s similar to a stew and is cooked with yellow corn, red and green bell peppers, pumpkin, basil, chimichurri, onion, milk and cheese. The chimchurri gives it a mild spiciness that paired perfectly with the citric flavors of the Torrontés.

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The third wine poured was the Mairena Bonarda. The wine had an aroma of pepper, dark fruits and vanilla and had a smooth and spicy blackberry taste. It was served with a selection of cured meats and cheeses. You really can’t go wrong with wine + meats and cheeses, it’s basically the best combination ever.

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The fourth wine was San Gimignano Syrah Roble. The wine had an arroma of vanilla, violets and red fruit and had a dark, spicy flavor. It was paired with a traditional meat and potato empanada. It was perfectly cooked and tasted great with the bold flavor of the wine.

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Last, but certainly not least, the fifth and final wine poured was a Carinae Finca Deneza Malbec. The wine had an aroma of leather and a deep, bold, tannic flavor. It was served with two delicious chocolate truffles. Now, by this point in the tasting, I was admittedly a bit drunk (and by a bit, I mean really) but even while intoxicated it was still so interesting to see how the tastes of the chocolate changed and enhanced the flavors in the wine. The sweet, rich chocolate was the perfect end to tasting.

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Zoodles With Peanut Sauce.

Raw Zucchini & Carrot Salad With Green Onions & Peanut Sauce.

DSC_0711I’ve only recently become familiar with the term “zoodles” but for those of you who are not yet clued in on this, “zoodles” are made from spiralized zucchini which ends up looking like noodles. Since pasta is my ultimate favorite, I have to try anything that could provide a low-carb, healthy substitute for noodles. This dish was more of a salad than a pasta dish, but you still definitely get a little bit of the pasta feel when you’re twirling up the zoodles. The peanut sauce is sweet, salty and a little bit spicy and goes really well with the mildness of the zucchini and carrots. It makes a great, healthy meal or side dish. If you’re a fan of peanut sauce, be sure to check on these older FBB recipes for stir-fried tofu or spicy noodles with shrimp!

Serves ~3

  • 2 large zucchini, spiralized
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup diced green onion
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 4 tbsp Tamari
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • hot red pepper flakes
  • crushed peanuts for topping

In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, ginger, garlic, Tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil and a dash of hot red pepper flakes. Whisk well to combine all ingredients and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, carrots, green onion and pour the sauce on top. Toss to combine so everything is evenly coated in the peanut sauce. When serving, top with a small pinch of crushed peanuts for an extra crunch.

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Creamy Cauliflower & Goat Cheese Purée.

Puréed Cauliflower With Goat Cheese, Garlic & Cayenne Pepper.

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This cauliflower purée will trick your eyes AND your taste buds into thinking you’re eating mashed potatoes! This is an amazing, low-carb substitute for potatoes and makes a great side dish. The goat cheese melts into the cauliflower and adds a salty, tanginess and the cayenne adds a subtle heat that balances out all of the flavors. I served it up with a steak and it was the perfect dinner. Yum!

Serves ~3.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup 2% milk
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • dash of sea salt (to taste)
  • dash of cayenne pepper (to taste)

Steam or boil the cauliflower until soft and drain any excess water. While hot, put the cooked cauliflower into the food processor and blend until smooth. While blending, pour in the milk. Once smooth, pour the mixture into a pot on the stove on medium heat and stir in the Parmesan, goat cheese and garlic. Season with a dash of salt and cayenne pepper and stir well until the cheese has melted into the cauliflower.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

Low-Fat & Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

DSC_0022I’ve been on a banana bread kick lately. My mom makes the world’s best banana bread and whenever we go back to Cleveland she sends us home with a loaf, which we quickly devour. I’ve been on a quest to create a recipe for yummy yet healthy-ish banana bread. This recipe is gluten-free, low fat and still really delicious! Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t compare to my mama’s banana bread, but it’s a great alternative for when you have a craving for it but don’t want the fat and calories of regular banana bread!

~Makes 8 generous slices

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour (or regular flour if you prefer it not to be gluten-free)
  • 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill almond meal
  • 5 over ripe bananas (they should be a little brown)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp light butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp baking soda

Cut the bananas into smaller pieces put them in the mixer along with the eggs, vanilla and melted butter. Mix until the bananas are smooth and then slowly add in the flour, almond meal, cinnamon, chocolate chips and baking soda. Once combined, pour the mixture into a greased baking pan (I used a 9″ round cake pan) and bake in a 385 degree oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

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Creamy Caper Pesto Pasta.

Penne Pasta with Creamy Caper Pesto & Artichokes.

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This creamy caper pesto pasta (say that ten times fast!) is a unique twist on a standard basil pesto. Be warned, if you don’t like capers you will not like this pasta! I happen to love capers, but I do realize that they’re an acquired taste. The capers add a salty tang to the sauce that’s balanced out with the Parmesan and sour cream. The artichokes compliment the flavors and textures perfectly. If you like capers, you should definitely give this dish a try!

Serves 4-5.

Ingredients:

  • 16-oz package penne pasta (I used Trader Joe’s brown rice penne)
  • 1/3 cup capers
  • 1/3 cup sliced roasted almonds
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large handfuls fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 small handful fresh dill
  • 3 tbsp reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 14-0z can of quartered artichokes, liquid drained

In a food processor, add the capers, almonds, olive oil and lemon juice. Blend the ingredients to so they are chopped and then add in the handfuls of parsley and dill, one handful at a time, blending each until chopped and mixed in. Lastly, add the sour cream, Parmesan and black pepper and blend the mixture until completely smooth. If needed, add in a little bit of water to help smooth out the mixture.

Boil the pasta as directed on the package and drain all excess water. Put the pasta back into the same pot and mix the cooked pasta together with the artichokes and caper pesto to combine and heat the sauce.

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Southern Comfort Food.

A Southern Comfort Feast With Friends.

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Now that I’m a Southerner, I decided to try my hand at some new Southern style dishes for a recent dinner party with work friends. Although I tried to adapt the recipes to make them a bit healthier, these are still definitely indulgent, but hey… it’s the holidays, right?! The dishes turned out great and were rich, warm and, of course, comforting. If you’re in need of dishes for your Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, these would all make great additions to your meal!

Green Bean Casserole

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Adapted from this recipe.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs green beans, cut in half
  • 1/3 cup light butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups skim milk
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley dry ranch mix
  • 1 cup sliced baby Portabello mushroom
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup French’s fried onions, crushed
  • dash of salt (to taste)
  • dash of cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Begin by boiling the green beans. Boil for about 5-7 minutes or until the green beans are tender. Drain the water and set aside. In a small pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat and cook the mushrooms for about 5-7 minutes or until soft and set aside.

In a pot on the stove, melt the butter on low heat and slowly add in the flour to create a roux. Slowly whisk in the skim milk on low/medium heat. Continue whisking until all lumps are gone. The mixture can simmer but should not boil. Once the mixture has thickened, add the ranch mix, Parmesan cheese, dash of salt, and dash of cayenne pepper. Mix well to combine.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked green beans and mushrooms with the sauce. Toss to combine so the ingredients are evenly coated and then pour the mixture into a large casserole dish. Top the mixture with an even coating of the panko breadcrumbs, French’s fried onions and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.

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Creamy Chicken & Dumplings

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Adapted from this recipe.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 package pre-made biscuits, cut into quarters
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 32-oz containers of chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1/3 cup light butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • garlic salt (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sage

Begin by melting the butter in a large pot. Once melted, reduced the heat slowly add in the flour to create a roux. Once combined, slowly add in the milk, whisking continuously to remove any lumps. Allow the mixture to thicken on low heat and then add in the chicken stock, onion, peas and carrots and raise the heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium add in the biscuit dough. Cook with the lid on, stiffing fairly often, for about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, parsley and sage and stir well to combine.

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Corn, Arugula & Bacon Salad With Dijon Vinaigrette

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Adapted from this recipe.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 bags frozen corn
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4-5 large handfuls fresh arugula
  • 12-oz bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • dash of salt
  • dash of black pepper

Put the corn in a pot on the stove on medium/high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often, to cook and thaw.

While the corn is cooking, mix the Dijon mustard, white vinegar, olive oil and salt/pepper together and whisk well.

Once the corn has cooked, allow it to cool to room temperature in a large serving bowl. Once the corn is room temperature, add the arugula, tomatoes and chopped bacon into the serving bowl and pour the dressing over top and mix well to combine.

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