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18 April 2014

Roasted Asparagus & Polenta with Zesty Spring Pesto

Roasted Asparagus & Polenta with Zesty Spring Pesto | happy hearted kitchen

I'm thinking I might start a series of post called 'Good Stuff on Polenta.' Thoughts? I am totally addicted to it! Crazy to think that I had never made it before the beginning of this winter, I don't know what I was waiting for really, but now, it's on a weekly rotation around here.

If you grew up in the nineties like me, you probably remember that ridiculous Sunny D commercial, that aired in between Saved by the Bell and City Guys? Well, polenta is my sunny delight. Come home, open the pantry, we got rice, quinoa, some red stuff, hey - what's this in the back? Polenta. Quick, easy, satistifying and goes crazy good with all this gorgeous spring produce. Not to mention easy on the budget and a little goes a very long way.

Roasted Asparagus & Polenta with Zesty Spring Pesto | happy hearted kitchen
I picked up some asparagus at the market the other day, and so far we've had it shaved raw in salads a few times, but nothing brings out the sweet nutiness of asparagus quite like a good roast. Paired up with a super zesty pesto and a few other spring touches, I couldn't resist piling it all on top of a fluffly bed of yellow polenta. Polenta Delight, friends. The good stuff kids go for.

Roasted Asparagus & Polenta with Zesty Spring Pesto | happy hearted kitchen

Roasted Asparagus & Polenta with Zesty Spring Pesto
Good spring dishes don't need much. Fresh, local produce, good quality olive oil and lots of citrus and herbs. Let the vegetables have their moment in the spotlight! Vegan and Gluten free. Serves 2. 

Psst. Watch out for stinky pee!

Ingredients
Zesty Spring Pesto
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds (or sunflower seeds works well too)
  • 1/4 cup each fresh parsley and chervil (or 1/2 cup just parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon 
  • 2 tablespoons, or more, extra virgin olive oil
Other Stuff
  • 10-15 stalks asparagus, green or white or mixed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup instant polenta (organic, non-gmo if you can, check those labels!)
  • 2 cups water (or more, depending on how thick you like your polenta)
  • Salt and pepper
Toppings
  • Lemon zest and black pepper
  • Sprinkling of chopped chives and parsely

What to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C and trim off the woody ends of the asparagus and slice on a diagonal in half or in thirds
  2. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Roast in the oven until tender and just brown, about 15 minutes.
  3. Bring water to a boil in a small pot and season with salt
  4. While the asparagus is cooking, make the pesto by combining all the ingredients in a small blender. Add a bit more olive oil or water if it needs thining. Set aside.
  5. Once the water in boiling, reduce to simmer and add in polenta while stirring constantly to avoid clumps. Once it starts to thicken, remove from heat and cover.
  6. Can be assembled either on individual plates or on one big platter, place a dollop of polenta on the plate, top with roasted asparagus and then pesto. Garnish with finishing touches and serve immediately. (Pesto can be made ahead of time).

11 April 2014

Moroccan Carrot & Quinoa Salad

Moroccan Carrot & Quinoa Salad | happy hearted kitchen

 I walked up to the market last Wednesday morning and was stopped completely in my tracks. Radishes! Yipee! Baby Carrots! Oh yeah! White Asparagus! I almost fainted.

Spring is really starting to sneak in, and I think it's my favorite time of year. So much newest and freshness. The smells, the tastes, the sun and the anticipation of all that is, summer.

Moroccan Carrot & Quinoa Salad | happy hearted kitchen
Moroccan Carrot & Quinoa Salad | happy hearted kitchen

The sign above the carrots at the market said: Carottes Nouvelles. As in 2014's newest crop of carrots. This got me as excited as some people get for the Beaujelais Nouveau! New carrots!? All small, light orange with gorgeous green tops and so sweet tasting. No joke, I brought them home and did a sample taste with Matt just as one would sample a new wine. We sat on the deck and nibbled away. I even went so far as to compare them to one of last weeks carrots still in the fridge. Pretty crazy, I know. But mother nature is one awesome broad and I just want to savor everything she brings our way. Hope you're getting some hits of spring wherever you are!

Moroccan Carrot & Quinoa Salad | happy hearted kitchen

Moroccan Carrot & Quinoa Salad
Although fresh carrots right out of the garden don't need much more than a good scrub, I made a big batch of this salad for my lunches this week and thought I'd share. And plus, with picnic and bbq season just around the corner, this is a great one to add to your repertoire as it can be kept in the fridge for a few days and still tastes fresh. Toss in some rocket or other spring greens (carrot tops!) for a bit of color just before serving, if you so desire. 
Serves 2. Double quantities to feed a crowd.
 
Ingredients

Spiced Quinoa

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup salted water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground paprika and coriander
  • Pinch each ground fennel seeds, anise seeds and cinnamon (optional, but totally delicious)

Salad
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon local honey
  • 2 tablespoons raisins or currants
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • Large handful each fresh parsley and coriander

What to do

  1. Rinse the quinoa under cold water in a metal sieve for about 30 secs. Add rinsed quinoa and water to a pot and season with salt. Add in spices. Cover and simmer for 12 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit with the lid on for another 5 minutes.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, ribbon or slice the carrots and place in  a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, honey and lemon juice and set aside.
  3. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, add to the carrots along with the raisins, almonds and fresh herbs (reserve a few for the final touch). Toss everything together with your fingertips or two forks and serve or refrigerate.

7 April 2014

Bad Ass Breakfast Bars

Bad Ass Breakfast Bars | happy hearted kitchen

This post was supposed to be a recipe for some lovely little carrot and coconut cupcakes. You see, it was my birthday last week and I wanted to make you (me) something special. They were going to light and fluffly, totally healthy, slightly sweet and topped off with a orange and maple coconut cream frosting. Something that says, I'm 28 now, and I want a sophisticated cupcake.

Bad Ass Breakfast Bars | happy hearted kitchen
Bad Ass Breakfast Bars | happy hearted kitchen

Except they weren't. They weren't any that. They were wet and gooey and gummy, better used as door stops and paper weights than any treat for a celebration. Three times over. Three different trials, three different recipe tweaks, but none worthy of the dream-like cupcakes I was hoping to share with you all. So, there are about 3 dozen sticky carrot cakes in my freezer if anyone's interested. We are slowly making our way through them, and as I absolutely hate throwing food away, I have been trying to salvage them by slicing them in half, toasting them and spreading with almond butter - turns out, not so bad. not too bad at all. And thus, a new recipe was born - meet the Bad Ass Breakfast Bar.

I took all the flavors and ingredients I used for the muffins, altered it slightly and set out to make a soft  yet crunchy morning bar. Sucessfully, if I do say so myself. I was going to call these carrot cake breakfast bars, because, well they are that too, but I thought my failure turned triumph deserved something a little more solid.  you know. dude. bad. ass.

Bad Ass Breakfast Bars | happy hearted kitchen

Bad Ass Breakfast Bars
Fully loaded to keep you going and sneaking a little veg into your morning meal always makes you feel like a nutrition super hero. Please note, these bars are not heavy on the sweet side. They are purely sweetened with fruit; which is what I look for in the morning, however, if you tend to like things with a spoonful of sugar, a tablespoon of maple or brown rice syrup should do the trick. I'll let you be the judge of that. Vegan, gluten and sugar free. Makes 10 bars.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted
  • 3 tablespoon all natural almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil + a little extra, melted
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple or brown rice syrup (optional, depending on desired sweetness)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats, choose certified gluten free if necessary
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup nuts and/or seeds (I used 3/4 chopped walnuts and 1/4 pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 sultana raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine sea salt

What to do
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C
  2. Toast oats, nuts, seeds and coconut in a dry skillet over medium heat until slightly brown and fragrant (optional step but adds a bit more flavor and crunch). Transfer to a large bowl and stir in cinnamon, salt and raisins
  3. Combine all the wet ingredients in the food processor. Shred the carrots first, about 2 small carrots should yield one cup, change out the blade and blend in banana, dates, applesauce, almond butter, coconut oil, and ground flax until the mitxture comes together but is still a little bit chunky. If your dates seem dry soak them in water before hand and strain.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well
  5. Press the mixture into a  8 x 11 baking dish, lined with parchment sligthly overhanging the sides. Using a flat bottom surface, (measuring cup, metal spatula, ect.) smooth out the top and press down evenly so that the bars and nice and compact. 
  6. Drizzle over with the extra melted coconut oil and spread across the top of the bars, this will make them nice on brown.
  7. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until top and sides are golden
  8. Let cool completely, then using the sides of the parchment paper remove from the pan (I let mine cool off overnight) Slice into bars, I got 10 bars out of my batch, but depending on the size you want you could get 8-12 I'd say. Keep the bars in a sealed container for about a week, or store in the freezer.

1 April 2014

Lentil Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Chard, Feta & Pistachios

Lentil Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Chard, Feta & Pistachios | happy hearted kitchen

We went out for a few drinks to celebrate my upcoming birthday a couple nights ago. Nothing wild , just a little night out with some of the good friends I've made here (ok, maybe a bit wild, as I do recall a flaming shot). But it was really nice. My co-worker and I almost share the same birthday, plus, she got engaged this past week, so we had a lot  to cheers to.

I like birthdays, not for parties or presents, but for the momemts they mark for me (and also, cake). I tend to always remember each birthday, and like to think back to who and where I was when I turned 18 (guh!) or 24 or now 28. I appreciate seeing myself change and grow every year, getting to know who I am more and more as I get a little older. It has got to be the longest, most compelling relationship we will ever have, the one we have with ourselves. And each year seems to turn a new chapter.

Lentil Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Chard, Feta & Pistachios | happy hearted kitchen
Lentil Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Chard, Feta & Pistachios | happy hearted kitchen

I've moved around a lot these past years, changed jobs and countries, made new friends and cherished relatinships with old ones. I've found little more courage and gained a bit more confidence, I've climbed mountains I never thought possible (literally) and have many stories I am proud to tell. They've been big years for me. I can imagine the day when I think back to when I turned 28, of who and where I am right now. How I still have so much to learn, and so many more chapters to turn. I'm so in love with this crazy life.

So, there might be a cake post coming, maybe not, we'll see. But for now, there's sweet potatoes and a new year ahead. A little more of myself to discover, lots more memories to make, and who knows, maybe a couple more flaming shots along the way.

"How strange to see the wrinkles on the sides of my eyes growing and getting deeper the older I get. I laugh. A lot. This is the proof and they are my scars of happiness." - Tyler Knott Gregson

Lentil Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Chard, Feta & Pistachios | happy hearted kitchen


Lentil Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Chard, Feta & Pistachios
A no fuss week night meal, with a few extra sprinkles to make it jazzy. Minimal effort yields big flavor. Gluten free. Serves 2.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped chard or kale leaves
  • 3/4 cup cooked beluga lentils
  • Olive oil and apple cider vinegar, to dress
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup lightly salted roasted pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
  • Handful sheep's milk feta
  • Lemon zest, cracked black pepper and fresh parsley for serving

What to do
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F / 200 C. Prick sweet potatoes a few times with a knife and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes until soft. Sweet potatoes are done when the skin has pulled away from the flesh a bit and the center is soft. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the potato.
  2. Meanwhile, dress the lentils with a little olive oil and apple cider vinegar, (if you are using canned ones maybe warm them through a bit on the stove top in a splash of water first), and stir in the toasted sesame seeds.
  3. Remove the potatoes from oven and slice each one in half. Open up and stuff with chard leaves, then top with warm dressed lentils. Top it all off with pistachios, feta, lemon and parsley.

25 March 2014

Shaved Fennel and White Bean Salad with Olives, Lemon & Mint

Shaved Fennel and White Bean Salad with Olives, Lemon & Mint | happy hearted kitchen
Shaved Fennel and White Bean Salad with Olives, Lemon & Mint | happy hearted kitchen

'And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you. Because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it'

- Roald Dahl

Shaved Fennel and White Bean Salad with Olives, Lemon & Mint | happy hearted kitchen
Shaved Fennel and White Bean Salad with Olives, Lemon & Mint | happy hearted kitchen

Shaved Fennel and White Bean Salad with Olives, Lemon & Mint
I have had only what I can best describe as a serious love affair with fennel this winter. It has never really been apart of my meals until now. It started out slowy in a soup, then got tossed into a winter salad mix, since its been thinly sliced into all the salads, or simply lightly dressed in lemon juice and olive oil. And here, we meet again. 

This salad lies somewhere between Greek and Italy. Crunchy, salty and fresh, sort of your not-quite-summer take on a greek salad. It is as good as the sum of its parts, so good quality olives and olive oil can make big difference. Let your own love affair begin. Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium bulbs fennel
  • 1/2 cup cooked and rinsed white beans (cannellini, linga, butter, etc.)
  • Juice of one lemon, plus a little zest
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 8-10 kalamata olives, pitted
  • Handful fresh mint
  • Cracked black pepper

What to do
  1. Slice the fennel bulbs in half and remove a tough core. Using a mandolin or sharp knife thinly slice the fennel in rounds or half moons and place in a salad bowl.
  2. Squeeze over lemon juice and add a little olive oil. Toss lightly together with your fingertips.
  3. Roughly chop the olives and mint, and add to the fennel along with the white beans
  4. Toss everything together and serve with black pepper and lemon zest and top with fennel fronds.
  5. Drizzle over a little extra olive oil, dig in!