Thursday, January 24, 2013

Eating Whole Foods: Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Clams & Italian Sausage

By: The Food Hunter

I've been wanting to try the Portuguese dish of pasta with clams and sausage for months now. Of course when I finally get around to making it I can't seem to remember which cookbook I had saw the recipe in. It's probably a combo of old age, and the fact that I have so many cookbooks, but I am always misplacing recipes.

Sometimes this can pose a I will plan an entire meal around a recipe I know I saw and then not be able to fine it anywhere...which means rethinking a menu.  Thankfully that was not the case this time around.  I was easily able to find many recipes with one quick online search. In order to round out the dish I chose a recipe that included broccoli rabe.

My quest for clams always brings me to Whole Foods Market.  I love the quality and selection of their seafood.  Although I've bought various meats from Whole Foods over the years I've actually never tried their sausage.  This was a great opportunity.  They sell several varieties but I went with the most traditional for this recipe; sweet Italian.  One thing I really liked about the sausage was that you can buy it fresh and already out of the casing. This just added to the ease of the recipe.

This is quite a simple dish that comes together fairly easily and imparts tons of flavor. You will easily impress your dinner guests with this one.

Want to win a $25 Whole Foods Gift Card?  Details after the recipe.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Clams & Italian Sausage
(adapted from Tyler Florence)

1 1/2 pounds loose sweet Italian sausage, shaped into mini-meatballs
4 to 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, or to taste
Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme
30 littleneck clams, cleaned and scrubbed
2 cups dry white wine
1 pound orecchiette
Kosher salt
2 small bunches broccoli rabe, stems removed
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


1. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.

2. Take another large saucepan (big enough to hold clams) and set over medium heat. Add some olive oil and the sausage. Cook over medium heat to render fat and get color on the sausage. Once the sausage is browned on all sides, remove and place onto a paper towel-lined plate. To the same pan, add the chopped garlic, red chili flakes and thyme leaves and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Turn up the heat, dump in the cleaned and scrubbed clams and white wine. Cover with a lid and steam for about 10 minutes until the clams open.

3. While clams are steaming, cook the pasta. Add orecchiette to boiling water and cook. With about 3 minutes left, add the broccoli rabe to the same pot and cook until tender. Drain pasta and broccoli and place into the saucepan with the browned sausage. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir to combine. Place into a large serving bowl.

4. Now return to the clams. Remove the lid and add the cubes of cold butter and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil as you stir. Once the sauce thickens slightly give it a final seasoning with pepper and a little salt (go easy on the salt) then take the whole pan and pour on top of the orecchiette and broccoli rabe. Shower with fresh Parmesan and parsley.

****Whole Foods Gift Card Give Away****
Leave a comment on this post.  Let me know what you would buy at Whole Foods if you won. Contest runs through 1/31/2013

Want additional entries:
1. friend me on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you did
2. Like Whole Foods on Facebook also leaving a comment here
3. Tweet about the contest on Twitter and link to me
4. Follow me on Instagram and leave a comment here letting me know.
5. Follow me on Pinterest also leaving a comment here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup; Brown Bag Series #10

By: The Food Hunter

There's been a chill in the air...oh who am I's been down right frigid in Phoenix the past week or so. And although I prefer the heat to this any has been perfect soup weather.  So this past weekend that's what I focused on....soup.

I love creamy soups; and contrary to what you might think they don't have to be loaded with fat to make them thick and delicious.  Potatoes are a great thickening agent and sweet potatoes offer lots of health benefits (find out more here). Both the potatoes and carrots lend a sweetness to this soup; making it perfect for a cold winter lunch.

Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup


3tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 3/4 cups cubed peeled sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 1/2 cups water
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 cups chopped carrot (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Move onion mixture to side of pan; add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to open space in pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute or until butter begins to brown. Add sweet potatoes, 3 1/2 cups water, broth, and carrot; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

2. Place half of soup mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining soup mixture. Stir in half-and-half, salt, and pepper. Ladle about 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 2 teaspoons sour cream and 3/4 teaspoon parsley.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dried Tart Cherry Granola Bars: Brown Bag Series #9

By: The Food Hunter

Dried tart cherries are a great source of antioxidants. They've been known to reduce muscle soreness, and fight heart disease and can even help you sleep better at night as they contain melatonin.  I try to eat them on a regular basis either mixed in my oatmeal or in granola.

Granola bars are so versatile. You can use the same base recipe, switch up a few key ingredients and have a completely different bar.  This particular recipe combines pecans and dark tart cherries...two of my favorite things.  These bars are a delicious, easy to make on the go snack..that fit well in your brown bag.

Dried Tart Cherry Granola Bars 

1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup honey, heated
1 Tbsp vanilla
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup nut butter ( I used almond)
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl stir together oats, cherries, wheat germ, salt, seeds, cinnamon and pecans.  In another bowl whisk together honey, oil, nut butter and vanilla..

Add the liquid mixture to the oats mixture and stir until evenly coated. Firmly press mixture into an 8X8 pan that has been lined with foil ans sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until browned at the edges but still slightly soft at the center. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.  Using the foil lift the mixture from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off foil and cut into 15 bars.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Guacamole With A Fennel & Green Apple Twist...A Virtual Potluck Event

By: The Food Hunter

I'm pretty certain that everyone is familiar with traditional guacamole; the Mexican avocado based spread/dip.  But did you know there are hundreds of variations out there?  So many that my VP blogging group decided to host a little guac party to see what interesting twists we could come up with.

I decided I wanted to try a roasted fennel & green apple version I had seen online. The flavor combination just sounded intriguing to me. Mixed with your traditional avocado you didn't really taste the fennel but the green apple and lime juice really stood out.  If I had to use one word to describe this guacamole it would be refreshing.  I served it with pita chips; but it would be equally delicious served along side fresh veggies, like carrots or zucchini.

Next time your looking for something just a little different to serve your guests I would recommend giving this guacamole a try.  And be sure to check all the VP bloggers for other great ideas.

1. Green Guacamole
2. Winter Citrus
3. Mango Guacamole
4. Bacon Ranch
5. Pineapple Chipotle Mango Guacamole
6. Simple Guacomle

Roasted Fennel & Green Apple Guacamole

(adapted from Rick Bayless)
1 medium fennel bulb, stalks and fronds cut off
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium green apple, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 ripe medium-large avocados
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
crushed red pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the fennel bulb in half, and then cut each half into 3 wedges. Lay them in a single layer in a small baking dish and drizzle with the olive oil. Measure in ¼ cup water, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt, cover with foil and slide into oven. Bake until the fennel is tender, about 1 hour. Cool.

Remove the fennel to a cutting board and pull off any exterior layers that seem fibrous. Cut out and discard the pieces of core that hold each wedge together, then chop the remainder into tiny pieces – the tinier the better.

While the fennel is cooking, put the apple into a bowl, sprinkle it with the lime juice and toss to combine. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

Cut the avocados in half, running a knife around the pit from top to bottom and back up again. Twist the halves in opposite directions to release the pit from one side of each avocado. Remove the pit, and then scoop the flesh from each half into a large bowl. With a large fork or the back of a large spoon, coarsely mash the avocado.

Add the thyme, basil, apples (including all the lime juice) and the chopped fennel to the avocado and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and crushed red pepper. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate until serving time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Clean Eating For Busy Families....Recipe & Giveaway

By: The Food Hunter

When I hear the word "family" I automatically think children. So when I received a copy of Michelle Dudash's new cookbook "Clean Eating For Busy Families" I'll admit I was a bit turned off.  I don't have kids so I didn't see any reason to even look at this book.  Boy was I wrong.  This book is fabulous and not just for people with kids.

The focus might be on "simple and satisfying whole foods recipes your kids will love" but trust me when I say you will love them too.  What I like most about this cookbook is that it includes nutrition information for each recipe, substitutions for seasonal products and tips for eating "clean".

I've tried several recipes from this book over the past few months and have enjoyed every one of them.  Like the open faced turkey sandwich below. Stuffed with veggies this sandwich is an easy to make complete meal that doesn't skimp on taste.

Anyone that is looking for a cookbook with lots of quick "clean" meal ideas should have a copy of this book in their collection.   I will be giving away a copy to one lucky reader.  All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by midnight EST on 1/21/2013.  Please be sure to leave an email or some form of contact information to be included in the giveaway. 

Quick Broiled Open Faced Turkey & Swiss Sandwich With Spinach & Avocado

4 slices whole wheat bread
2 tbs mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 cups baby spinach, chopped
8 slices natural roasted turkey
4 slices Swiss cheese
1 avocado, sliced thin
1 tomato, sliced thin

Place oven rack on second highest shelf, about 3 inches from heating element, and preheat to a low broil. Place bread on sheet pan in a single layer and broil for 1-2 minutes until toasted on top. Remove the pan from the oven.

Spread the mayonnaise and mustard on the untoasted side of each slice of  bread. Top with spinach, turkey and cheese. Place it back into the oven and broil 4-5 minutes until cheese starts to bubble and brown. Remove from the oven.

Arrange the avocado and tomato on top and serve warm.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Diablo Burger, Flagstaff; All About Local

By Jennifer Giralo

This year, I’d like to take the opportunity to focus on eating smarter and healthier. I’ve studied and witnessed the many positive effects of choosing a cognitive meal, one you thought about in a health and ethical sense. That being said, choosing to cook at home and buying the ingredients necessary from local grocers is as important.

There are those occasions when we do eat at restaurants, and what matters is the choices we make on where and what to eat. My partner and I went to Flagstaff recently and stumbled across Diablo Burger, a local burger joint with a passion for using local ingredients and sustainable habits. Not to mention the wonderful view from the restaurant.  This place has personality and it shows in their menu.

It's stated that every burger is made from 6 oz. of 100% local, open range-raised, antibiotic-free and
growth-hormone free beef from the Diablo Trust ranches.  They are char-broiled & served on a signature handmade, preservative-free, branded MJ’s English Muffin, with Seasonal Greens, Tomato, Pickle, and our DB Frites (Really good, Belgian-style Fries).

All of the burgers are cooked to order which means you always get a perfectly cooked burger. But because this is a locally-sourced product -- these cows are coming off the open-range of Northern Arizona, not an assembly line -- there can be variation in fat-content from one animal to the next, even one patty to the next.

I ordered the Wrigley Field Burger (Ordered Medium Rare, which was a first for me): Bacon, Swiss, Grilled Onions & Spicy Honey Mustard. The burger came with all the dressings of a burger (lettuce, tomato, and a pickle), as well as Belgian-style Fries sprinkled with Rosemary and other seasonings. Every bite of this burger was bursting with flavor, mixing harmoniously with the bacon, Swiss cheese, grilled onions, and spicy mustard. In between bites, I would involuntarily grab for as many Rosemary Fries as possible; I couldn’t get enough of their taste. I even requested that we come back and order some of the fries on our way home.

Each meal made is unique, just like Diablo Burger. This local restaurant celebrates the ethics of eating locally and supporting local businesses. They don’t take credit cards, as credit card companies are not local. Diablo Burger has customers walking away happily full, but also thinking about ways we can contribute to more ethical choices all around.

On their menu it reads:

“According to a study by the New Economics Foundation in London, a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy. When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every transaction.”

I would highly recommend this restaurant for all, vegetarians and vegans as well.

Leave a comment of your favorite local restaurant or favorite place to buy local ingredients. If you get a chance to visit Diablo Burger, come back and tell us what you ordered!

For more information you can contact them at:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chocolate Amaretti Trifle

By: The Food Hunter

Let's face it, kitchen disasters happen to the best of us. Just like anything else in life it's how you handle these little mishaps that matter.  You can either be upset about what happens and let it ruin your day or you can make the best of the situation.

Let me set the scene: It's two days before Christmas 2012, and in between all of the usual holiday cooking I was preparing a chocolate amaretti tart for a party I was attending later that evening. I choose this particular tart not only because its delicious and one of my favorite desserts but also because its super easy to put together and I was short on time.  Little did I know what was about to happen.

I was running around the kitchen like a chicken with its head cut off; when the cake timer started beeping. With 10 different cooking projects going on at once I carelessly reached into the oven to remove the tart. Anyone that has ever worked with a removable bottom tart pan knows a lot of attention needs to be paid when lifting these pans.  One awkward movement and the entire bottom will release.  Hence my disaster. The tart was accidentally extracted from the pan onto the stove top; crumbling instantly.

I was able to salvage a nice chunk of the tart but nothing that was presentable for the party; which at that point was just a few hours away.  There was no time to bake another dessert and no time to run out and buy something (not that that was even an option).  I'll admit that initially panic did set in; but I took it in stride and decided there had to be something I could do. And that's when I remembered the individual trifle dishes I had.

Dessert turned out perfect.  I layered the crumbled cake with some macerated strawberries and homemade whipped cream and no one was the wiser.

Chocolate Amaretti Cake
(adapted from Giada DeLaurentis) 

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup amaretti cookies (about 2 ounces)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
grated orange peel
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350F.

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Refrigerate. Microwave the chocolate until melted and smooth, stirring every 20 seconds, for about 1 minute.

Combine the almonds and cookies in processor. Pulse until they are finely ground. Transfer the nut mixture to a medium bowl. Add the butter and sugar to the processor and blend until creamy and smooth. Add the grated orange peel and pulse briefly, until incorporated. Add the eggs 1 at a time. Blend until the eggs are incorporated. Clean the sides of the mixing bowl and blend again. Add the nut mixture and melted chocolate. Pulse until blended. Clean the sides of the bowl. Blend again.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the center puffs and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes.

Whipped Cream

1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoons sugar

Place your mixing bowl and wire whisk in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes. Then place all the ingredients in the cold bowl and beat just until stiff peaks form. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate. Makes about 2 cups of whipped cream.