Monday, March 19, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Bake

It has been cold and rainy here in San Diego the past two days. The wind has been blowing so hard that the wind chime outside my front door has been playing music all weekend. Not only have the streets turned into mini rivers but they are also covered with palm fronds making it somewhat cumbersome to tool around. What do you do when the weather conditions are less than perfect and require you to stay inside? I cook!

Warm comfort food with just enough spice to warm my body. Tonight’s dinner could almost be considered a Mex-Italian Fusion. Rather than traditional enchiladas I decided to layer the ingredients and create Mexican Lasagna loaded with veggies and organic free-range chicken! So delicious! 

* This recipe does require some time so plan accordingly. 

3 cups of warm water
3 tablespoons of whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon of sea salt
1 – 8oz can of tomato sauce
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 organic free-range skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 – 4oz can of diced green chilies
1 small onion diced
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 – 12oz can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of frozen corn
1 bag of organic spinach
1 cup of organic mushrooms (I used baby bellas but shiitake, crimini or button would work as well)
1 – 4oz can of sliced black olives
12 small corn tortillas (or enough for 3 layers in a 9x13 pan)
1 package of Queso Fresco, grated (Mexican white cheese – optional)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin by making the enchilada sauce. Add the flour, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cocoa powder and salt to a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the water and mix well. Transfer the sauce mixture to a pot and continue to stir over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and stir until you have reached a thickened liquid consistency. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Left: Before tomato sauce/paste; Right: After adding tomato sauce/paste
Heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO in large skillet. Place the chicken breasts in the skillet, sprinkle with taco seasoning and cover. Cook for approximately 7-8 minutes, flip, and sprinkle with the remaining taco seasoning. Continue to cook for another 7 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and shred.

Use the same skillet that you used to cook the chicken and begin to sauté the onion and garlic. When the onion becomes translucent, add the green chilies, tomatoes, mushrooms, and corn. Stir the ingredients and cook for approximately five minutes. Add the shredded chicken and mix well. Remove from heat.

Left: Layer 1; Center: Layer 2; Right: Layer 3
Lightly coat the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan with the enchilada sauce. Cover the bottom of the pan with tortillas. You may need to tear them into pieces so they fit nicely. Slather on more enchilada sauce. Layer with spinach, top with chicken and vegetable mix, sprinkle with cheese, blanket with tortillas and cover with enchilada sauce. Repeat 1 more time. You should end with a layer of tortillas and enchilada sauce on top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for 30 minutes. 

Left: Before baking; Right: After baking
Allow the Enchilada Bake to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. Top with black olives and eat up!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Raw Vegan Brownies

Last weekend I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition Mega Conference in Long Beach along with 4,000 other Certified Holistic Health Coach’s. I feel so lucky to be part of such an amazing, inspiring community of professionals dedicated to helping others through whole-foods nutrition, natural health and healing. Some CHHC’s own wellness centers or restaurants while others have created and sell a whole-foods product. In fact, I met one woman who was selling a few of her delicious creations during lunch. I opted to try her raw organic brownie and it was wonderful!

The only negative thing I have to say about this brownie is that it’s so good that it’ll leave you wanting more! This entire week I have been thinking about this brownie and finally decided to re-create something like it. I tossed in a few of my favorite things and voila! While it’s not exactly the same, it too is delicious!

You will see that one ingredient I have listed is called Maca. Maca is actually a root, and medicinal herb, that grows high in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. It is an Adaptogen and a SUPERFOOD (a.k.a., nutrient dense food) that provides your beautiful-self nourishment and healing! This root contains almost 60 phytonutrients and helps to rebuild the immune system and increase endurance, energy and stamina. I’ll let you in on a little secret, Maca is also known to be a “love” enhancer because this special root increases libido. Ooh la la!

1 cup of organic raw walnuts
1 cup of Medjool dates (pits removed)
5 heaping tablespoons of raw organic cocoa powder (or whatever unsweetened cocoa you can find at your market)
1 tablespoon of coconut manna or butter
2 tablespoons of unsweetened raw coconut shavings
1 tablespoon of agave nectar
1 teaspoon Maca powder (optional)
1/3 cup of raw cacao nibs (optional)

Add the walnuts to a food processor or high-speed blender and process until the nuts have turned into a fine powder. Make sure you don’t process too long or you’ll end up with walnut butter.

Next add the pitted dates to the walnut powder and continue to process until you have a thick paste. Toss in all the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the cacao nibs, and process again. You should have a thick chocolatey mixture. Toss in the cacao nibs and stir.

Transfer the mixture to an 8x8 baking pan (lined with parchment paper). Use your “clean” hands and begin to press the mixture down until it evenly covers the pan. Place the brownies in the fridge for one hour, cut and serve!

* Keep brownies in the fridge if you don’t finish them immediately J

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gluten Free Quinoa Veggie Pizza

This winter I finally caved and purchased the King of all blenders - Vitamix. If you know anything about this blender, you probably know that it can do anything! It is a bit of an investment but worth every penny. Just one of the many things this blender can do is turn oats and quinoa into flour!

What I created with this nutty combination is no secret (since I gave it away in the title) – pizza crust! I mean, who doesn’t like pizza?! What makes this pizza even better is the fact that it is gluten free, loaded with fresh veggies, and has only a dusting of feta cheese (optional of course J).  While traditional pizza may leave you, feeling bloated, heavy and sluggish, this healthy alternative is light, fresh, and good for you! Pizza? Good for you? Seems like an oxymoron right? Not in this case, it is truly good for you!

Quinoa is a great source of protein and in fact contains all nine essential amino acids, including Lysine. Lysine is a specific amino acid that is famous for tissue growth and repair. This ancient grain is also high in magnesium a nutrient shown to help with migraine headaches. Magnesium relaxes the blood vessels preventing the constriction and dilation characteristics associated with migraines. Quinoa is also a good source of Riboflavin (B2) a vitamin shown to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks by improving and enhancing the energy metabolism in the brain. Now add in the Oats, known to reduce the risk of heart disease and an abundance of fresh veggies loaded with vitamins and minerals and you have yourself a power packed pizza!

Last, but not least, I want to acknowledge a friend and fellow Health Coach, Natalie Collier, from Bloom Body Soul for the inspiration. 

** Please Note **
If you have a blender at home, you may be able to get this same flour consistency; however, it may require some time. If you do not have a blender, these flours can be found at a natural foods store.

2 cups of quinoa flour
1 cup of oat flour (use gluten free oats)
2 tablespoons of flax meal
1 cup of warm water
3 tablespoons of EVOO
1 teaspoon of honey
1 tablespoon of fresh basil (chopped finely)
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary (chopped finely)
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme (chopped finely)
½ teaspoon of sea salt
Pesto sauce (or tomato – your preference)
Veggies of your choice (I used kale, carrots, butternut squash, and mushrooms)
Feta cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, add the quinoa and oats to a blender and process on high until you have a nice fine powder that resembles flour. Transfer the flour to a large bowl and add in all remaining ingredients except sauce, veggies, and feta. Mix well using your hands until the dough begins to pull slightly away from the bowl. Add more oil or water if necessary.

Place the dough onto an oiled baking sheet or pizza stone. Begin to press the dough onto the pan working to create an even circular shape (or whatever shape your heart desires). Pre-bake the crust for 15 minutes, until it turns a nice shade of golden brown.

Left: before pre-bake; Right: after pre-bake
Remove the crust from the oven. Spread the sauce evenly across the crust, top with your favorite veggies, sprinkle with feta and bake for about 20 minutes or until veggies are just tender and the edges of the crust begin to curl off the pan.

Left: before baking; Right: after baking
Let the pizza cool for a few minutes before serving. Dish up and enjoy!!

* Just a tip, slice and dice your veggies using a similar thickness for even cooking.