Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Smoked Paprika Red Lentil Soup

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If you are feeling comfortable with making a particular dish, soup in this case, how about varying it up instead of reinventing the soup wheel? I added smoked paprika, vegetarian broth and potatoes to my red lentil with turmeric soup and not only is it crazy delicious, but it is also so similar to the other soup that I end up having all the ingredients. Smoked paprika gives any dish an earthy, Mediterranean flavor so make sure to keep it in your spice rack. Be careful and read the label because some are spicier than others.
Smoked Paprika Red Lentil Soup:
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large potato, diced
3 medium sized carrots, diced
2 quarts vegetable broth
2 cups red lentils
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp olive oil
Method:
In a large, heavy sauce pan over a low flame, heat up the olive oil.
Add in the diced onions and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Keep stirring so they don’t burn or get brown.
Add in the minced garlic and stir for a minute.
Add in the vegetable broth, carrots, potatoes, lentils and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add in the seasonings, taste to make sure the vegetables are tender and either pulse in a food processor or leave chunky.
Serve with a crusty bread and salad.
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Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Thai Chicken Sandwich with Peanut Butter and Chili Sauce

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What to do with your leftover breaded chicken cutlets? How about making a Thai style sandwich? All you need is some peanut butter, a lime, some cilantro and lunch is served! Enjoy!

Thai Chicken Sandwich with Peanut Butter and Sweet Thai Chili sauce:

1 loaf french bread
1 lb chicken breasts
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp peanut butter
Thai sweet chili sauce for drizzling
1 lime, quartered
Method:
Divide bread lengthwise and cut into 4 even sections to make 8 slices for 4 sandwiches. Set aside.
Beat the egg and place in a shallow bowl.
Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl or a pie plate.
Pound the chicken breasts until they are flat, about 1/2 inch thick.
Dip the chicken in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs until they are fully coated.
Heat up a heavy medium sized skillet over medium heat and heat up the oil.
When the oil sizzles with a drop of water, add in the chicken and cook until browned on one side.
Flip the chicken and fry on the other side until golden.
Remove chicken and set aside to cool on paper towels.
When cooled, slice thinly and lay on one side of the sandwich bread and drizzle chili sauce on chicken.
Spread peanut butter on the other side of the sandwich bread and top with cilantro and a squeeze of a lime.
Repeat until all 4 of the sandwiches are made.
Enjoy!
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Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Chocolate Hazelnut Date “Truffles”

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Looking for a crazy delicious dessert that you can feel virtuous about eating? Try these healthy faux chocolate truffles that may even fool your children. Keep them stored in a glass tupperware in the fridge for a week (even longer!) and snack on them without the guilt!
Chocolate Coated Hazelnut Date Truffles:
one cup shelled hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups pitted dates
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Combine above ingredients in a food processor until it starts to ball up and stick together
If you can mold balls out of the “dough” you can do so (that means they are ready!). If it is still crumbly, add a few more dates until they are sticky enough to mold
(should make about 20 3/4 inch balls)
lay the finished ones on wax paper on top of something hard like a wooden cutting board
Coating:
They are now ready for rolling in the chocolate which I like to do with chopsticks or toothpicks
one cup dark chocolate morsels or good quality cholate chopped
1/4 tsp ground espresso/coffee beans
1/4 cup almond milk (can use cow’s milk)
Combine chocolate and almond milk in a double boiler until melted-keep stirring
Add in the espresso grounds and stir in
Let cool to warm but not too cool because then the chocolate will be too hard to roll the truffles in
Roll each truffle in the chocolate and then place back on the wax paper
When all are coated, place in the fridge to harden-should only take 1/2 hour or so
Makes about 20 3/4 ” truffles
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Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Pasta with Ricotta, peas and Broccoli

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When serving pasta to the family, again, it doesn’t have to be a guilt inducing experience loaded with empty calories and carbs. Add some nutritious legumes and vegetables, even from the freezer, along with some spices to make this a meal you can feel good about serving. Oh, and it will just take a few minutes to make! Enjoy!
Pasta with Ricotta, Peas and Broccoli:

2 1/2-3 cups cooked pasta (I used macaroni)
1 cup steamed, chopped broccoli
1/3 cup frozen peas
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp olive oil
3 TBS ricotta cheese
salt, pepper and red chili pepper flakes (optional)
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Method:
In a sauce pan, heat up the oil over a low flame and add the spices and garlic. Stir until cobined for a few seconds
Add in the steamed, chopped broccoli and peas and stir
Add in the cooked pasta and stir until coated with spices and oil
Add in the ricotta cheese and stir until it’s all combined
Add salt and pepper to taste and some red chili pepper flakes if you like that
Finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated Parmesan
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Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Chinese Fried Rice

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Do you ever make too much rice and end up throwing it out? Please don’t! Making home made fried rice is so much healthier than a lot of the greasy stuff you get in restaurants and it is easy and delicious. Try this one on for size and add meat or tofu to make a full protein filled meal, although the eggs in this dish can suffice.
Chinese Fried Rice:
Ingredients:
4 cups leftover cooked white rice
4 scallions, chopped into pea sized pieces
2 scrambled eggs set aside in a bowl
2 cloves garlic minced
one tsp fresh, minced ginger
one TBS sesame oil
one TBS soy sauce
Method:
In a medium sized non-stick frying pan over medium heat, heat up the sesame oil
Add in the chopped scallions, ginger and garlic and stir until they are wilted
Push the scallions, ginger and garlic to one size of the pan and add in the beaten eggs to the other end of the pan and scramble until cooked through
Add in the rice and stir to combine
Add in the soy sauce and stir
optional : add in a few ounces of cooked chicken, shrimp, tofu , nuts or any other protein and stir until combined
Serve hot
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Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Chinese New Year Tofu with bamboo Shoots for a crowd

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Chinese New Year is right around the corner and what a perfect time to broaden our culinary horizons and experiment with Asian cooking. This is a pretty straightforward recipe that simply requires some prep work and perhaps the purchase of a few ingredients you may not have. This recipe will feed a large crowd so feel free to halve it or even quarter it if you won’t be able to eat it all. Enjoy!
Tofu with Bamboo Shoots:
4 16 oz. boxes firm tofu
2 cups bamboo shoots (fresh or from a can-can get fresh ones at some Asian food stores)
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 TBS canola oil
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS grated ginger
Sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 TBS sesame oil
2 TBS Sriracha or other hot sauce
2 TBS honey
Sir together in a bowl and set aside
Method:
In a large pot or frying pan over low to medium heat, heat up the oil
When oil is hot, add ginger and garlic and stir until onions start to wilt-lower the flame if garlic seems to be burning
Add in the tofu, bamboo shoots and cilantro and stir to combine all the ingredients
Add in the sauce and stir gently so as not to break up tofu too much (unless you want it broken up)
Serve hot with rice and enjoy!
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Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Sesame Tuna Salad

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Every few weeks my husband eats dinner and exclaims,”PLEASE save this recipe and make it again!” He says this because I experiment with so many recipes that I often forget to repeat ones that he loves, as I move on to the next ones. I promise to make this one again soon and may just make it our Sunday night dinner item to start the week off right. It is light, flavorful, healthy and really delicious with a nice tang from the balsamic vinegar. I hope you like it as much as he did!
Sesame Tuna Salad:
one can tuna in water
1 medium sized carrot, small dice
1/2 cup cilantro, washed and minced
2 TBS chopped scallions (or red onion)
2 tsp lime juice (or lemon)
Dressing:
drizzle olive oil
drizzle balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
topping: 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (or any chopped nut or seed)
Method:
Mix all the ingredients until the dressing.
When it is all combined, drizzle on the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and stir
Top with sesame seeds and enjoy with salad greens, toast or crackers
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Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Paleo Curried Carrot Soup

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As cliche as it is, I try to detoxify in January to start the year off right. I consume way too much starch and dairy during the holidays so I follow a modified Paleo diet for a couple of weeks in January to get a head start on health for the year. Below is an adaptation of a recipe that my mother used to make from the NY Times many years ago. I substituted all the dairy and flour and it turned out great! I hope you like it!
Paleo Curried Carrot Soup:
2 TBS olive oil
one medium onion, chopped
4 gloves garlic, minced
2 TBS coconut flour (Can get at many supermarkets now-especially Whole Foods)
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 lb carrots, chopped
one TBS curry powder
one cup almond milk
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
Method:
Heat olive oil in a large , heavy pot over low flame
When hot, add in chopped onions and garlic and saute until onions are wilted-don’t let garlic burn! Avoid burning the garlic by constantly stirring and keeping the flame very low
Add in the carrots ,curry powder and coconut flour and stir to coat
Add in the broth, partially cover the pot and let simmer over low-medium flame for about 1/2 hour until the carrots are tender
Puree with a hand blender/immersion blender or blender
Stir in the salt, pepper and almond milk and enjoy!
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Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Kale Salad with Roasted Squash and Apples

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The new year is a perfect time to start healthier habits , like making salads a staple in the weekly menu. For an easy and healthy change, try incorporating roasted vegetables that you prepare early in the week into your salads. They are filled with nutrients and if you plan ahead, they are an effortless addition. Enjoy!
Kale Salad with Roasted Squash and Apples:
Large Bag kale-Approx. 10 cups Kale
1 small butternut squash peeled, diced and roasted for about 30 minutes on parchment paper lined baking sheet-let cool
2 apples, peeled and diced
one large carrot, peeled and chopped (the entire thing)
One cup toasted, chopped pecans
2 tsp honey
2 tsp olive oil
1/8 chili powder and 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
flavored vinegar -I like Chocolate Vinegar from “Olive That and More ” in Montclair, NJ
olive oil for dressing
3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Method:
Fill a large salad bowl with kale and wash and dry. Set aside
Place medium sized frying pan over medium flame and add 2 tsp olive oil
When oil is hot, add apples and honey and stir
Let cook for a few minutes until apples start to soften
Add in roasted butternut squash, stir and let heat through
Add in 1/8 tsp chili powder and cinnamon , stir and let cool
Add apples and butternut squash to salad. Then add in pecans, carrots, goat cheese and toss
Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar , toss and serve
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Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Magic Cookie Bars

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Hi everyone! Let’s face it, we all want the teens to hang out at our house so we can keep an eye on them. Yes, it’s noisy, yes, they drink all my organic milk, yes, I pray they won’t put their muddy shoes on my daughter’s white carpeted floor, yes, I smile politely when they leave a thousand chocolatey napkins on my table for the dog to attack but at least I can make sure they are not in the middle of town drinking and smoking.
Initially, I attempted to lure them with edamame dip and pita chips and my leftover egg strata but, although they said they liked it, I found it untouched IN THE GARBAGE!!! Oh, the horror.
When my daughter begged me to make the classic age old recipe for Magic Cookie Bars (you can find this classic on every website and cookbook), what could I say? Everything in moderation. It’s a sacrifice I must make.
How do you lure the teens to your house? If your homemade hummus and sprouts just ain’t doing the trick, try these and get back to me on your success.
Magic Cookie Bars:

2 packages graham crackers crushed in a food processor
1 stick of butter , melted
one 14 oz can condensed milk
2 cups chocolate chips (feel more virtuous by using fair trade ones from Costco)
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut
Method:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
In a 9″X13″pan with sides like a pyrex, spray some cooking spray or rub some butter on the bottom
mix the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs together and press into the bottom of the prepared pan
pour the condensed milk all over the crumbs
sprinkle on the chocolate chips
sprinkle next layer with coconut
Place in the oven for 25 minutes and let cool
Serve room temperature or chill in the fridge-enjoy!
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