Monday, July 6, 2015

Sun Basket's Spicy Vegetarian Pozole + #GIVEAWAY of 1 FREE Week of #SunBasket Organic Meal Delivery

Spicy Vegetarian Pozole featuring black beans, hominy, chipotle, serrano, avocado, sunflower sprouts and pepitas from my Sun Basket box.
When I tell people that I'm a food blogger, the first thing they ask me is what's my favorite place to eat at? No, I have to say, I'm not that kind of food blogger. Or I answer "at home" and I get a weird scrunchy face looking back at me. Then I have to explain that my blog is about sharing fresh, mostly healthy, mostly original, delicious recipes for easy home-cooked meals.

Confession time guys: As much as I espouse home-cooked clean, delicious whole foods, there are those days mid-week where work has just kicked my behind and the last thing I want to do is grocery shop or go home and root around in the pantry trying to use whatever brain power I have left to think up a healthy – quick! – meal to throw together. Those days, I get so tempted to swing by someplace on the way home and pick up dinner. I shamefully admit that I give in once or twice a month which isn't terrible but it's still once or twice a month more than I prefer. It can be a quick descent once you start slipping to keep yourself from falling back into bad habits. Pre-diabetes diagnosis, my often stress-filled day job beat my behind straight to a drive-thru SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK for breakfast on the way to work or dinner on the way home. It's no wonder it finally took it's toll on my body. 

I've been living with mostly clean eating habits ranging from moderately paleo to vegetarian and often vegan all the while attempting to eat heart-healthy and nutritious whole foods for just over a year now. Total weight loss to date is hovering between 57 and 60 pounds depending on the day of the week and my A1C remains in the healthy, non-diabetic range fluctuating between 5.5 and 5.7. There is still a long way to go before I reach my goal weight but I'm feeling so much better these days – which is good because work stress really hasn't let up and it would be so easy to not just slip but fall off the wagon altogether if I didn't have these health successes giving me much needed strength. 

Delivery I can get behind

So when Sun Basket reached out to me to say that they would love to have me test out their service and provide feedback, I was totally intrigued by the idea and after perusing their website, gave an enthusiastic, "I'm in! Send me a box."

What is Sun Basket? 

It's a healthy cooking service that incorporates pre-measured organic produce, line-caught seafood, and responsibly raised animals into easy to follow recipes delivered to your door weekly. Based in San Francisco, this subscription service sources out ingredients from independent farmers, ranchers and fisherman here on the West Coast. Growing quickly, they now deliver to California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The service is three recipes with pre-measured ingredients delivered weekly and you choose whether you want to serve 2, 4 or 6 people with your plan. You can choose between chef's choice, paleo-friendly, gluten-free or vegetarian options.

Here's a screen shot of the menu for July 13, as an example (click on photo to see larger version): 

Don't they all look delicious?? I especially want that chickpea burger now! 

The recipes are quick – most can be made start to finish from 30 to 50 minutes – healthy, and my favorite part, there is no thinking involved because all the ingredients, except for the few pantry ingredients like salt, pepper, butter, oil, etc., come pre-measured for each recipe.

The recipes I tested were the Spicy Vegetarian Pozole. Here's my Instagram of it:

I also had this Roast Chicken with Heirloom eggplant and Melon Salad (chef's choice)

And this paleo selection of Steak and Chimichurri with Swiss Chard

It took a few bites to get into the eggplant and melon combo but it was nonetheless a good meal. The steak was packed with flavor after rubbing it with the included spice mix and the leftover chimichurri was an excellent topping to my eggs the next day for breakfast.

The only meal I cooked on a weekend so I was able to photograph for you was the pozole which was fortuitous because it was by far my favorite meal (and yay! I got permission to share the recipe with you so be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this post for it).

So here's what the recipe cards look like:

You get a photo of what the finished dish will look like on one side.

Along with a headnote, the front of the card also tells you prep time, cook time, calories and servings.

The back side is divided into three panels with the ingredients panel on left telling you what to use from your basket, from your pantry, any special tools involved and a link to view the recipe online. The other two panels include easy to follow directions along with helpful tips specifically about the recipe or a cooking technique explained. The recipes are written clearly enough for any level of cook to be able to follow along confidently.

Here's a group shot of the ingredients designated for the pozole.

The ingredients are placed in a brown sack labeled with the name of the recipe they are intended for with meat or delicate vegetables packaged separately but still clearly labeled. See those little plastic jars of individual ingredients? They, along with any insulation bags, tissue, and the huge box all these delicious fresh ingredients are delivered in are 100% recyclable. Sun Basket includes a postage paid return label with every shipment so after washing the containers, place the packaging back into the box they came in, affix the label and have the post office pick up the box at your door to return to Sun Basket where they will reuse what they can and recycle what they can't. Love that!

Here's more of what I love about this service:
  • Ingredients come pre-measured for exactly the amount you're making meaning there's no waste (how often do you need one chipotle pepper in adobe then are left with three more in the can and no idea what to do with them??)
  • Everything is fresh, organic, and supports independent farmers and ranchers
  • Sun Basket matches and sometimes surpasses the standards of most natural food stores by having the ingredients be GMO, pesticide, and hormone free
  • Recipes are quick, and healthy (500-800 calories) for guilt free gourmet meals any day of the week 
  • Packaging (and I admit, there's a lot of it) is 100% recyclable which is really important to me
  • You can tailor the meal to a specific diet, i.e., paleo or vegetarian or you can mix it up week to week which I love
  • You can skip a week whenever you want and pay only for those weeks you actually take delivery on plus you can cancel at any time so there are no long-term commitments
  • Meals are $9.99 per person meaning they're a whole heckuva lot cheaper than eating at a farm to table restaurant while still enjoying farm to table restaurant quality meals at home
Ready to give it a whirl? Sign up below for the giveaway and/or use this link to get $20 off your first order! Cool, right? 

Enter the GIVEAWAY!

Ready for this guys? Sun Basket is giving one lucky 'Confessions' reader a week's worth of meals free! Suhweet!

The giveaway will be conducted and fulfilled directly by Sun Basket.

Contest ends July 13thPlease keep in mind, this service is currently only available to residents of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. You must live in those states in order to participate in this contest.

Enter here:

Good luck!

And now for the recipe …

Spicy Vegetarian Pozole
The vegetarian riff on traditional Mexican pozole features nutty hominy, protein-rich black beans, and crunchy pumpkin seeds. Chipotles in adobo bring a bit of smoky heat to the soup that's countered by cooling slices of avocado. Remember that the heat from the serrano chile is concentrated in the seeds. Keep them in if you like your meals extra spicy. Or leave them out for a more mild version of this soup. 

Prep time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 20 minutes. Calories: 550 Serves: 2

1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
1 small yellow onion
1 serrano chile
pinch salt
1 chipotle chile in adobo
1 cup black beans
1 avocado
1 lime
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup hominy
ground black pepper, to taste
1 ounce sunflower sprouts
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Peel the onion and cut into thin slices. Cut serrano chile into thin rounds. Add the sliced onion and serrano to the hot pan )use only half the serrano or leave it out if you want your soup less spicy). Season with salt and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, mince the chipotle chile and reserve about 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce. Rinse the black beans. Dice (or slice) the avocado. Slice the lime into wedges.

Add the cumin, chile powder, coriander, chipotle chile and adobo sauce to the onion and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 2/3 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and add the beans, hominy, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the beans and hominy are warmed through and infused with the flavors of the broth, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, add a squeeze of lime juice to the soup and season with salt to taste. Divide the soup evenly between two bowls and garnish with the avocado, sprouts, and pumpkin seeds. Serve with extra lime wedges.

Recipe reprinted with permission of Sun Basket.

Disclosure: Sun Basket sent me a basket with one week's worth of meals for two in order to review the service without obligation to write about them. My decision to post was based on my positive experience with the service and excitement to share this service with you. Product and service facts were obtained from the Sun Basket website. Opinions expressed about the service and meals are, as always, my own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Carne Asada Tacos with Harissa Avocado Crema and Mexican Pickled Red Onions

Welcome July with this twist on a Mexican classic: Carne Asada Tacos with Harissa Avocado Crema and Mexican Pickled Red Onions.

Grilling season is in full swing which makes me happy. Not to say that grilling season really ever ends in sunny San Diego but at least now, the rest of the nation has caught up! So I thought I’d share this little twist on one of my favorite summer grill-worthy foods: the carne asada taco.

There is no meal that reminds me more of those long ago carefree summers as a kid than the smell of steaks grilling. My dad’s carne asada kept all his girls happy for summertime eats. It’s one of my favorite dishes to grill myself and I’m thrilled to be sharing my latest interpretation with you.

I’ve taken yummy flap meat, marinated it in a blend of cilantro, onions, garlic and Mina Harissa Spicy Moroccan Green Pepper Sauce overnight. Then after it’s kissed the grill, I've sliced it, added it to a warmed, slightly charred-around-the-edges corn tortilla, added some Mexican pickled red onions and strips of fire roasted poblano chile and topped it with a harissa spiked avocado crema. Finished with a squeeze of lime, a sprinkling of cotija cheese and a few cilantro leaves and you’ve got yourself one loaded bite of taco bliss.

Another thing that I love about carne asada is that it’s like, instant party food. Seriously. One pound of steak can feed 4-6 people. Just grill it up, chop it up into bite-sized pieces, place it on table with warmed tortillas and bowls of toppings like chopped onions, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, sliced jalapeƱos, queso fresco or cotija, some pico de gallo, taqueria-style salsa, or the green or red Mina Harissa and then let your guests make their own custom tacos. Easy-peasy instant party! Just don’t forget the cervezas and maggies.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! Until next time … xo, ani

For best results, make the marinade the night before and allow the steak to bask in it’s yumminess overnight. Ditto the pickled onions. If you’re short on time, at least marinate the steak 1 - 2 hours before grilling. I prefer flap meat or skirt steak for carne asada but any thin cut of steak will do. If you’re using skirt steak, make sure your grill is HOT and with both steaks, try not to overcook and flip only once. The marinade can easily be used for up to 2 pounds of meat without needing to scale the recipe. If you can’t find Mexican crema in your local supermarket, substitute sour cream. Use just over half as much as indicated, add the juice from a quarter of a lime, then add water to thin it to make up the rest of the recommended volume. Stir well before adding to the blender. The pickled onions will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

Yield: 6 servings

For the marinade:
¼ cup olive oil
½ bunch cilantro, tender stems okay, rough chopped
¼ cup Mina Harissa Spicy Moroccan Green Pepper Sauce
¼ medium onion, peeled
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, peeled
½ teaspoon sea salt
juice of 1 lime (1 ½ - 2 tablespoons)

1 pound flap meat or skirt steak

For the pickled onions:
1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar or honey or 1 single serve packet stevia

1 tablespoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoons dried whole Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup water
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
pinch sea salt

For the crema:
1 large ripe avocado, sliced in half, pitted and peeled
½ cup Mexican crema
¼ cup - ⅓ cup Mina Harissa Spicy Moroccan Green Pepper Sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
sea salt and pepper, to taste

1 poblano (pasilla) chile
¼ teaspoon olive oil

For tacos:
12 corn tortillas
Optional additional toppings: lime wedges, chopped cilantro, grated or crumbled cotija cheese (a salty, semi-hard Mexican cheese often sold already grated or in wedges)


Do ahead
Make the marinade: Place all the marinade ingredients into a blender and pulse until blended well and cilantro is mostly chopped fine. Place the steak into a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the steak and massage it in. Cover the dish with cling film and place in the refrigerator overnight to marinate.

Make the Mexican Pickled Red Onions: Put onions into a glass bowl or large mason jar. Place the peppercorns, oregano and cumin into a dry, hot medium saucepan. Toast until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 2-3 minutes. Add water, vinegars, lime juice, and sweetener of choice; bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and pour over the onions. Cover with cling wrap and allow to sit from 1 hour to overnight before using. (I let mine cool down completely then store in the refrigerator until ready to use.)

Day of
Remove steaks from refrigerator and allow to come to room temp, about 20-30 minutes. Prepare grill.

In the meantime, make the crema: To a blender, add the avocado, crema, harissa, lime juice and a pinch each of salt and ground black pepper. Puree on high until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more salt and pepper or more harissa for a hotter condiment. Feel free to add water by the teaspoonful for a thinner consistency. Store in refrigerator, covered, until ready to serve.

Lightly massage olive oil onto poblano; set aside.

When grill is hot (at least 450 degrees if using a gas grill, like me), place the poblano on the grill and char on all sides. While it’s charring, shake off excess marinade from the steak and add to grill. Cook the steak for 2-3 minutes then flip and cook an additional 1-2 minutes or to taste (careful not to overcook, these steaks taste best medium rare). Remove steak to a platter and tent with foil, allowing the steak to rest 3-4 minutes before slicing against the grain, then cutting into bite-sized pieces (I left the steak as strips for the photos but the tacos are actually easier to eat when steak is cut into smaller pieces).

When poblano is charred all over, remove to a bowl and cover bowl with cling film. Allow the chile to steam for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes or when chile is cool enough to handle, rub the skin off, using  a paper towel if necessary (do not rinse chile!). Cut top off of chile, then slice chile in half and remove the seeds and membranes. Slice the poblano into thin strips from the short side and set aside.

Scatter the tortillas on the hot grill to warm, flipping a few times until lightly charred, pliable and warmed through. Alternately, stack the tortillas into piles of 6 and warm directly on the grates of a gas stove, flipping often, until warmed through (use tongs if you must. In my family doing that would earn you some teasing!). Remove to a towel-lined bowl and cover to keep warm.

To assemble the tacos, place a tablespoon or two of chopped meat in the center of a warmed corn tortilla, add a few strips of poblano, some pickled onions and a healthy dollop of the harissa avocado crema, to taste. Top with a sprinkling of cotija and chopped cilantro. Squeeze some lime juice over the taco and serve.

Disclosure: Cassablanca Foods, the maker of Mina Harissa, is providing some compensation for recipe development. This is the fourth of eight recipes that I'll be sharing through the end of summer. To help offset the cost of running this blog I sometimes take on sponsored posts but rest assured,  I only work with brands I love and use myself and feel 100% confident in the sharing of these brands with you. As always, all opinions, photographs and recipes are my own. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

No added sugar Paletas de Fresa y Naranja de China (Strawberry and Kumquat Ice Pops)

Perfect for warm summer days, this recipe for Paletas de Fresa y Naranja de China (Strawberry and Kumquat Ice Pops) has no added sugar. Instead, the natural sweetness of perfectly ripened fruit is enhanced with several drops of liquid stevia and a splash of lemon juice. 

I remember summers as a kid listening out for that familiar sound of the ice cream truck. Mom would give my sisters, best friend and I change and the moment we heard that tinny sounding music, we’d dash out of the yard and flag the truck down. I often went for the fruity pops like banana, pineapple and berry flavors. To this day, summer weather and ice pops go hand in hand.

Most ice pop recipes call for loads of white sugar (anywhere from ¼ cup to 1½ cups!) on top of the already naturally occurring sugar in fresh fruit or commercially sweetened fruit juice. I was determined to make a pop that I could enjoy on a hot summer day that was fruity and kept the sugar level to a minimum. 

Enter Mexican paletas 

There are two basic kinds of paletas: paletas de agua which are made from fresh ripe fruit, a little sweetener and water. Then there are paletas de crema (or sometimes called paletas de leche) which are made with dairy, flavorings and/or fruit. 

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is the former. Paletas de agua are made with the entire fruit, not fruit juice and artificial flavors like so many commercially sold ice pops (which, as a former Type 2 diabetic, I avoid). To make these healthier, I've left out the white sugar and added a teaspoon of pure organic liquid stevia extract, making them especially good for the occasional cold sweet treat for people keeping their sugar intake to a minimum.

Stevia, what's in a name?

All stevia products are NOT created equal. Many have dextrose, some have erythritol (which, I admit, I do use on occasion for baking when my baked goods needs caramelization), some claim to be stevia but aren't. Take for example,  Truvia. Stevia isn’t even listed as an ingredient but because they have their own proprietary processed chemical called rebiana which is derived from stevia, they can get away with calling it “stevia based.” It has a sickeningly sweet smell and aftertaste. Run away. 

When shopping for stevia, buy only those that list pure stevia extract. SweetLeaf's Sweet Drops Liquid Stevia is purified water and stevia extract. Their shaker, SweetLeaf Pure Organic Stevia Extract, is 100% organic stevia leaf extract. Some of SweetLeaf's other products have some fiber fillers and I'll use them in a pinch but generally stick with the two I mentioned specifically. 

My June 4th Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Box was the inspiration for these paletas. Included in the box, clockwise from noon: broccoli, Pirella lettuce, plums, organic strawberries, kumquats, thyme, Easter egg radishes, baby white carrots, leeks, Savoy cabbage and in the center, popcorn kernels and garlic. From this box I made these strawberry and kumquat paletas; leek, broccoli, thyme and mushroom fritatta; stuffed cabbage with farro and chicken; grilled carrots with lemon thyme dressing. The market box is just $20 and it's filled with local, sustainably farmed and organically grown produce that differs from week to week. See after the recipe for a link for more info.

Sweet & sour

So how did I wind up making strawberry paletas? Simple. The organic berries and the kumquats where included in one of my June Specialty Produce Farmer’s Market Boxes. 

The berries were perfectly ripe and I didn’t want to risk them going bad so I knew I had to use them first and quickly. I’ve been wanting to make paletas for quite some time and when I saw in my Flavor Bible that strawberries and kumquats went well together, the decision was made for me.

Besides their gorgeous color, these have the enticing aroma of fresh strawberries. A great combination of sweet and sour, strawberry is the first taste note but a few licks in and the citrusy tang from the kumquat wakes up the palette. Take a bite and you’re treated to little bursts of sour orangey flavor from the kumquat peel. Don’t like kumquats? Leave them out or sub in an equal amount from a juicy, ripe navel orange.

Ready to welcome the hot days of summer with a little fruity sweet treat? Let’s get started!

Until next time … xo, ani

(Strawberry and Kumquat Ice Pops)

Yield: 10 (3-ounce) ice pops

1 pound strawberries, green tops removed
¼ cup minced kumquats, seeds removed first 

¼ cup plus ⅓ cup cold filtered water, divided
¾ teaspoon Sweet Drops Liquid Stevia Clear
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

Slice the strawberries in half and place in a medium to small saucepan along with the kumquats. Pour in ¼ cup of cold filtered water and the liquid stevia; cook on high until it comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and whisk in the lemon juice and ⅓ cup cold filtered water. Let cool for 10 minutes. Either using an immersion wand in the saucepan or pouring the contents into a blender, pulse a few times for a chunky pop or puree until smooth or to desired consistency. Place mixture in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely for 20 to 30 minutes.

Once cool, fill ten 3-ounce ice pop molds. Depending on what kind of ice pop molds you have, either insert the sticks now or allow to chill in the freezer for 40 minutes before inserting sticks. Then, freeze for a minimum of 5 hours or overnight for a more solid ice pop. Remove from molds and if not eating right away, wrap in cling film and return to freezer. If the pops don’t come out of the mold easily, quickly run them upside down under warm water to help release.

Get your own Farmer's Market Box

To sign up or learn more about Specialty Produce's Farmer's Market Box, visit their website. You must live in San Diego and be able to pick up your box at the warehouse. Pick-up days are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, making it easy to fit into your schedule.

Disclosure: As part of Specialty Produce's Blogger Network, I receive my Farmer's Market Box at a discount. No further compensation is received nor am I under obligation to Specialty Produce to blog my box contents. All recipes, opinions and photographs are the sole property of Anita L. Arambula and Confessions of a Foodie.

♥︎  ♥︎  ♥︎ Some of my favorite things ♥︎  ♥︎  ♥︎ 

The following items were used for this recipe. I was not compensated by the brands to mention them. I merely love the products and want to share them with you. 

  • These molds make the classic ice pop shape. Love that I don't have to partially freeze before inserting my sticks.
  • And speaking of sticks! Stock up so you have enough to last the summer.
  • SweetDrops are my go-to sweetener for liquids like coffee, jams, and porridge.
  • SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Extract is my go-to for baking when I don't need the caramelization properties of sugar.
  • Got to use my new immersion blender with this recipe and now I'm totally addicted!
  • This book by Fany Gerson will make you a paleta-making expert.
  • The Flavor Bible is indispensable for impromptu cooking adventures as it has an a-z listing of ingredients. Find your major ingredient in the list and then read on to discover the most common and successful flavor pairings.

The above are links to my Amazon affiliate account. By making your purchases following the links, I receive a small percentage that helps to offset the costs of recipe testing and website maintenance. Thank you for your support!

Story, recipe and photographs are owned and copyrighted 2015 by Anita L. Arambula, owner and publisher of Confessions of a Foodie, All rights reserved.