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Meatless Mondays! Roasted Vegetable Rice Bowl with Toasted Walnuts, Basil and Blueberry Balsamic Sauce (Gluten Free & Dairy Free)

Roasted Veggie Rice Bowl with Blueberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Roasted veggies and sweet tangy blueberry balsamic sauce with toasted walnuts and chiffonade basil

I’m not sure what it is with me and cooking gluten and/or dairy free lately, because it isn’t something that is compulsory for my health, however, I do feel pretty good when I eat this way. The last couple gluten and/or dairy free recipes that I posted have occurred by chance, and not at all through planning. Last night was one of those nights that I didn’t think I would create anything worth a damn in the kitchen, but I surprised myself. Yet again! We are nearing the end of our rations at this point and really need to get to the grocery store, but I am playing that game of trying to stretch as many meals out of what we have in the fridge. It’s quite a fun game, and something I have become pretty good at I must say. I think living on a budget has made me a better cook; a more resourceful steward, and definitely provided a stage for improvising ingredients when I need to use something up or don’t have something I want to use.

We have lots of half used veggies in our fridge right now (and of course fresh basil) that need to be used up in the next few nights. My hubby and I have been trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our repertoire, so last night seemed like a good night to do that especially since it was Monday… ahem… Meatless Monday 😉

As I started cooking last night the only thing I knew was that I needed to use up some broccoli, a quarter head of cauliflower, a handful of some mini bell peppers, as well as some fresh basil. Recently I was informed through my Pinterest (and namely through the blog http://www.amateurgourmet.com on behalf of the Barefoot Contessa‘s book Back to Basics) that I have been cooking broccoli wrong my ENTIRE life! How could I be so ill informed?! I’ve always pretty much just steamed or sauteed broccoli and that was the extent of it… until now. Have you ever roasted your broccoli? Well, I gotta tell you… it is AMAZING! It caramelizes it and gives it a nutty flavor that beats all other water logged broccoli you’ve ever had to date! Armed with my new found broccoli cooking method, I hit the kitchen with my remaining veggies and got to roastin’.

After I started the rice and got the veggies into the oven to roast, I figured I would just pour some balsamic vinegar over the dish and call it good… but then inspiration came over me. (cue angels singing) I recalled that I had about a half cup of blueberries in a bowl in the fridge that I had been telling myself to make a smoothie with since I made pancakes over the weekend. Aha! Blueberry balsamic reduction sauce it is! Balsamic is a great vinegar to use with fruit and it reduces beautifully to create a wonderful fruity, slightly tangy sauce. Sidenote: In addition to using balsamic in this sauce, I often times put a tsp. or so into the fruit mixture when I do fruit crisps and it turns them from great to AWESOME – it’s something in the caramelization of the fruit.

The dish ended up with a lovely mixture of sweet, tangy, nutty, roasted flavors. The sauce along with the toasted walnuts for a nutty crunch and the fresh chiffonade of basil (I love to say that word, chiffonade, but let’s be real here.. it’s just shredded). You will hardly notice that you are missing meat! But… if relinquishing your rights to meat is a big deal for you, then by all means you better cook up some chicken or salmon with this meal…I would hate to see you famish. 🙂

Servings: I made enough for 2 and some leftovers for lunch

This is one of those meals that you can estimate measurements of the veggies.

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice
1 3/4 cup water
pinch kosher salt
Small crown of broccoli, cut into florets and stem pieces
1/4 crown of cauliflower, cut into florets and stem pieces
1/2 bell pepper, cut in strips
3 garlic cloves, smash it open and mince it
small onion, roughly chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling (couple Tbs)
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Garnish
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
basil chiffonade
feta cheese (optional, but not dairy free)

Blueberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. minced onion
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 Tb. honey
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp. water
pinch of kosher salt

Cooking Steps 

1. Prep all veggies as instructed above. Preheat oven to 425°

2. Put water and rice in pan. Place on stove on High heat. Once water starts boiling, cover and reduce heat to low and cook about 20 minutes or until rice has absorbed all liquid.

3. Place broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, onion, garlic in a foil lined roasting pan. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in preheated oven and roast for about 20 minutes or until veggies have good roasted color.

4. While veggies and rice are cooking, start the Blueberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce. In a saucepan over medium heat add olive oil. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes until tender. Add blueberries and cook for 2 minutes, until skins are bursting. Add honey and balsamic vinegar and stir. Heat until mixture comes to a boil. In a glass cup, mix the cornstarch with the water and then add this into the pan. Reduce heat and cook uncovered so liquid reduces. Keep this on low while you prepare rest of meal.

5. Heat a pan on medium heat (I find a cast iron pan works well for this). Add roughly chopped walnuts to pan and toss for a few minutes until they are nice and toasted. (Make sure you keep an eye on this pan as they go from barely toasted to blackened in seconds… trust me, I know.) Take toasted nuts out of pan and set aside to cool

6. Chiffonade your basil (check out link for how to chiffonade). Once the veggies and rice are finished cooking plate on a dish and drizzle with the blueberry balsamic sauce. Garnish with chiffonade basil, toasted walnuts and (optional) feta cheese.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think of this dish!

 

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Whiskey Caramel Cinnamon Rolls with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky

whiskey. caramel. carbs. What else do you need?

This dessert… or breakfast… or snack (it’s ok, I won’t judge you even if you eat it for dinner) was inspired first by my love for a good bread pudding. I love me some bread pudding with yummy, warm and gooey whiskey carmel sauce. If it’s on the menu at a restaurant I have probably had it. I’d venture to say that there is few things better in this world. A few weeks ago I also had one fierce craving for cinnamon rolls, but I didn’t dare indulge my craving unless I was going to have a decent cinnamon roll at best (I could have fallen hard for even one of those mall cinnamon rolls.. yep you know the one). On a recent trip to the liquor store with my hubby, I got a mini bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. I had never tried it, but after rave reviews from friends and my hubs, I thought I better try it. But did I drink it? No. I made the best cinnamon rolls with it.

I must confess that I am not much of a baker. I tend to steer towards cooking as it inherently more creative and allows for more trial and error than baking does. But I do love a good challenge and up until this post I had never made my own homemade cinnamon rolls. I relied on a heavy dose of Alton Brown for the dough recipe and altered a whiskey caramel sauce recipe with the Fireball Cinnamon Whisky – so I can’t take complete credit for it, however, I have yet to find this recipe anywhere else. I learned a lot about baking for this post and if it wasn’t for a dear friend who held my hand (through the phone) and held back my tears as the dough nearly didn’t rise, this may not have become a success.

I am now hooked on making homemade cinnamon rolls and have a few new ideas up my sleeve for next time. Enjoy!

You can watch the video here to prepare the dough: Alton Brown’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients

Dough (courtesy of Alton Brown from Food Network):

  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 large whole egg, room temperature
  • 2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
  • 6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • 20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
  • 1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Filling:

  • 8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4-ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons

Note: I mixed up this recipe by adding a few dashes of vanilla over the sugar mixture and I chose to add chopped walnuts on half of the dough after I rolled it out (to see if we liked it better with or without nuts). Perhaps next time I make this I will experiment with a lil’ orange zest.

Directions

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Caramel Sauce: 

  • 1/4 cup of butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
  • 6 Tbsp heavy cream

Combine the first four ingredients in a sauce pan and boil for 2 minutes.
Turn off the heat, stir in the cream.
Drizzle Drench rolls in this delicious sauce and enjoy.

Note: This sauce will make enough for about 6 of the rolls. It is so good you will want to double the sauce recipe above so you have enough for all of the rolls. Since there is just 2 of us in our house and the sauce is made so quickly, I chose to make the sauce two different times (the first night we had it for dessert and the next night we finished them up).

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