Pomegranate Glazed Carrots

Sometimes you want to take things up a notch!

You want to put a little extra time and love into some special dishes that are sure to get "oohs" and "aahs" at your table.

If this is what you are looking to do, I suggest you start by simmering down some pomegranate juice into a thick molasses-type sauce.

Then make it into a honey, orange zest, and vinegar dressing that will coat your perfectly roasted carrots in a glaze of goodness.

And finally take the time to top those glistening, sticky sweet carrots with pecans, a touch of yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and parsley...

In the end you will be rewarded with a side dish that definitely takes things to the next level--offering all the flavors of a home-cooked meal, but with enough elegance for a sophisticated restaurant service.

Pomegranate Glazed Carrots

servings: 2 -3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice (see note below)
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons honey
  • 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Zest of ¼ orange
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a small sauce pot, bring the pomegranate juice and sugar to a simmer. Continue to simmer this mixture until it has reduced to a molasses-like consistency—about 30 minutes. You should have about 2 tablespoons of this thickened pomegranate juice.
  2. Transfer the pomegranate mixture to a medium bowl, then whisk in the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the honey, Dijon, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and the orange zest.
  3. Add the carrots to a baking sheet, tossing them with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Roast them in the oven until they are tender and nicely browned on the outside—about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the carrots from the oven and toss them with the pomegranate vinaigrette, then return them to the oven for 5 minutes more.
  5. After removing the carrots from the oven, serve by drizzling them with the yogurt, then sprinkling with the pecans, pomegranate seeds, and parsley.

Notes:

  • You will want to use 100% pomegranate juice, not pomegranate juice mixed with other juices, or with added sugar. If you can't find pure pomegranate juice, you can use a blend, but your glaze will be significantly sweeter; adding a little extra vinegar may balance it out.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam + Pecans

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Appetizers are an important part of the holiday season. 

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When you're sitting around drinking bubbles and singing Christmas carols or opening presents, it's just not the same without something warm and cheesy to nibble on.

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Brie is not the most loved cheese (there are people who find it slightly stinky)...

But when you bake it into an ooey-gooey mess, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who can resist a taste (or two, or three—or eleven).

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And it only gets better when you top it with homemade blackberry and apple jam, candied pecans, and pomegranate seeds!

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Because although we can all agree that melty cheese is ridiculously good, when you combine it with slightly tart jam and crunchy pecans, you will NEED a second, third—and eleventh!—helping!

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And let’s be honest, it’s darn cute.

It’s a present in itself!

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Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam

servings: 1 brie wheel with about 1¾ cups jam, serves 8 to 10

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  • 2 cups blackberries, halved
  • 2 medium green apples, peeled + chopped into ½-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Baked Brie:

  • 1 brie cheese wheel (16 ounces), rind on
  • 1½ cups Blackberry Apple Jam
  • ½ cup whole blackberries
  • 1 medium green apple, sliced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped candied pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  1. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the blackberries, apples, maple syrup, and vinegar. Bring this mixture to a boil, then a simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the fruit is purple and has broken down; the liquid should be absorbed and the mixture thick and jam-like—10 to 15 minutes.

Baked Brie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the top rind off the brie wheel and discard it. Place the brie wheel in a small, round, oven-proof dish, then place the dish on a baking sheet and cook until the cheese is melty—10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the baked brie from the oven and top it with the Blackberry Apple Jam, blackberries, apple slices, pecans, pomegranate seeds, and thyme leaves.

Notes:

  • As the brie is eaten, there will be less jam at the bottom. Feel free to add the remaining ¼ cup of jam (the amount remaining after putting the 1½ cups of jam on top of the baked brie) to the bottom bit of the brie to increase the jam-to-brie ratio.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Turkey Chorizo Hash with Brussels Sprout Slaw

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I love creating Thanksgiving dishes that use holiday staples in brand new ways. And veggie sides have always kind of been my specialty…

But this time around, I wanted to try something with the most classic ingredient that comes to mind when you say the word “Thanksgiving”—the turkey.

Combining turkey with sausage, and adding sweet potatoes and cranberries makes one mouth-watering dish that gives you all the fixings of your Thanksgiving table in every bite!

Happy Thanksgiving! ♥

Turkey Chorizo Hash with Brussels Sprout Slaw

servings: 2 to 4; makes 2 entrée portions or 4 side dish portions

Brussels Sprouts Slaw (optional):

  • 8 Brussels sprouts (about 4 ounces), shredded (about 2 cups packed)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper

Turkey Chorizo Hash:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces turkey breast, chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 1½ cups)
  • 3 ounces chorizo sausage, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 14 ounces), chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 2½ cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ cup cranberries
  • Brussels Sprout Slaw (optional)

Brussels Sprouts Slaw (optional):

  1. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and then crosswise to create ribbons; discard the ends.
  2. Mix the shredded sprouts with the lime juice, salt, and pepper, then allow the mixture to sit as long as possible—for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Turkey Chorizo Hash:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, chorizo, and 1 teaspoon of the salt, cooking until the meats are brown and cooked through—5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Remove the turkey and chorizo from the pan, but do not drain the pan; set aside the meats. To the same pan, add the sweet potato, onion, garlic, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook the veggies over medium heat until the sweet potatoes and the onion are tender and browned in spots—7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the turkey and chorizo back to the pan, then add the cranberries to the pan as well. Toss all ingredients to combine.
  4. Serve the hash with the Brussels Sprout Slaw, if desired. Enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Garlic + Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed potatoes are wonderful, am I right?!

But when you’re looking for a healthier, more nutritious option—let’s talk about mashed cauliflower!

These days, it's not uncommon to have a Thanksgiving Day guest who steers clear of gluten.

And even if you don't, we all want to cook up something that will have everyone at the Thanksgiving table seriously wanting—maybe even needing—to go back for seconds.

It just so happens that you can serve your gluten-free friends and get everyone and their brother excited about the same fabulous food. I’m talking about a mouth-watering, velvety, cheesy side dish…

mashed cauliflower!

And not only is this dish healthy and incredibly delicious, but super simple!

Start by steaming up a little cauliflower and garlic…

Puree it with some cream cheese, Parmesan, and chives… 

And you'll find your result is the creamiest, most flavorful side dish.

It’s definitely worthy of a place next to (or in place of!) your traditional mashed potatoes.

Garlic + Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

makes: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower (2 pounds), broken or cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Directions:

  1. Add the cauliflower and garlic to a large pot and fill it with just enough water so that the vegetables are covered. Simmer until the veggies are tender—about 10 minutes, then drain.
  2. Next, place the cauliflower and garlic mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cream cheese, parmesan, salt, and pepper, and pulse until the mixture is smooth, but with some small lumps. When you are finished, it should look similar to mashed potatoes.
  3. Add the chives to the mixture in the food processor and pulse only a few times—just to combine. Then remove the cauliflower mash from the food processor, place in your favorite serving dish, and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Sausage Stuffing Stuffed Brussels Sprouts

 

 

My family is big on Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving (along with a laundry list of other must-haves, we like to eat).

 

 

 

 

So as the one normally in charge of anything veggie, I often find myself elbow deep in Brussels sprouts come November.

 

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Egg In A Squash Hole

 

 

Some chefs will tell you that presentation is everything.

 

 

 

 

Well that’s not exactly true, though yes, we eat with our eyes first, it’s really all about the taste.

 

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Sriracha Hot Chicken Soup

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Chicken noodle soup is great and all, but if the stock you're using isn’t first class, well, the whole thing can end up tasting...just okay.

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So for this recipe, I’m using veggies that will infuse the broth with a spicy, smoky flavor.

A flavor that will wake up your taste buds.

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Roasted red peppers, fire roasted tomatoes, and sriracha—all things you can find in any grocery store these days!

These ingredients elevate what was once a basic soup to anything but.

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But let’s be honest, I hooked you as soon as I said Sriracha Hot Chicken Soup. 😉

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Sriracha Hot Chicken Soup

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 3 celery ribs, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Two 12-ounce jars roasted red peppers (about 4 small peppers)
  • Two 32-ounce boxes chicken or vegetable stock (8 cups)
  • One 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 12 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves, more for garnish
  • 1 avocado, pit + skin removed, chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the celery, onions, carrots, garlic and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook this mixture until it is soft and fragrant—about 7 minutes.
  2. While the veggies cook, drain the roasted red peppers, then prepare by pureeing them in a food processor or blender, or finely chopping by hand.
  3. To the pot with the veggies, add the stock, pureed roasted peppers, tomatoes, sriracha (use 1 to 2 tablespoons, depending on how spicy you like things), and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring this mixture to a simmer, then cook to allow the flavors to combine—about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the egg noodles and cook until they are a couple of minutes short of al dente—about 5 minutes. Add the cooked chicken, lime juice, and parsley, then cook until the chicken is warmed through—about 3 to 5 minutes. Taste the soup and add salt if needed.
  5. To serve, top with the additional parsley along with the avocado. Enjoy with grilled bread if desired.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

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Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

Is there really anything better than tomato soup?

Let me clarify--homemade tomato soup.

When I was younger, I was addicted to cans of the Progresso version.

I can picture myself at age 22, squeezing my way into my 2x2 foot kitchen, cracking open that blue can, and then waiting those 2 minutes for the microwave to deliver my spoils.

If only I had known how much better making my own tomato soup could be.

Like, SO much better, and requiring no skills or fancy ingredients.

And what I also couldn’t have imagined at the time was how adding tender rice to my soup would completely take it to the next level.

Or that topping it with a beautiful and refreshing three-ingredient basil yogurt drizzle would boost its amazing-factor sky-high.

But now that I know what I didn't know, let's take our tomato soup there.

We just need to sauté some garlic and onions...

Add some crushed and juiced tomatoes...

And while that all simmers, combine yogurt, basil and a little salt for a drizzle you could never find in a Progresso can.

Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

servings: 8 cups of soup, with about ½ cup drizzle; serves 4

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Tomato Soup with Rice:

  • One 10.6-ounce package Veetee Microwavable Thai Jasmine Rice (makes 1½ cups)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • One 46-ounce can tomato juice
  • Two 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Basil Yogurt Drizzle
  • Fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, for a garnish (optional)

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

  1. Add the yogurt, basil, and salt to a blender along with ¼ cup water and blend this mixture until it is mostly smooth. If you prefer, you can skip the blender and instead finely chop the basil, then mix it by hand with the yogurt, water, and salt until all ingredients are well combined.

Tomato Soup with Rice:

  1. Microwave the rice for 2 minutes as per the package instructions, and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Then add the onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon of the salt and cook until the vegetables are tender and fragrant—3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato juice, diced tomatoes, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and puree it until smooth, then return it to the pot and stir in the rice and cream.
  4. To serve, divide the soup into bowls, top with the Basil Yogurt Drizzle, and sprinkle with the basil leaves if desired.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Jack-O-Lantern Peppers with Onion + Dill Veggie Dip

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I love to have people over for appetizers…

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I love to pick at snacks and sip my drink, and pick and drink...

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And since the arrival of our twins—in the name of keeping things simpler—I’ve pulled out these pepper pumpkins whenever we’ve had baby-visiting guests.

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They're easy and oh-so-cute, and when you fill them with a homemade veggie dip, they make the perfect fall appetizers. 

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Just cut jack-o-lantern faces into orange peppers and fill them with a combo of Greek yogurt, mayo, dill, garlic, and sundried tomatoes.

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And when the dip is gone, you can just devour these little pumpkins, too.

Voila! Suddenly you have no dishes!

And that is what really makes for a great party. 

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Jack-O-Lantern Peppers with Onion + Dill Veggie Dip

servings: 4 peppers with 2 cups dip

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cups plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup packed coarsely chopped fresh dill
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh scallions
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 medium orange bell peppers with flat bottoms + intact stems

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, dill, scallions, tomatoes, onion flakes, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and salt, then set aside.
  2. Cut straight across the tops of the peppers, then set the tops aside. Scoop out and discard the pepper seeds.
  3. Using a small, sharp paring knife, cut jack-o-lantern faces out of each pepper (such as triangle eyes and a smile with teeth).
  4. Scoop ¼ of the veggie dip (about ½ cup) into each pepper, then replace the tops.
  5. Serve with your favorite crudité platter, veggies, or crackers.

Notes:

  • The dip is best when it sits for at least 30 minutes; make it ahead of time, if possible.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Everything Spice Pumpkin Cheese Ball

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After eating my 124,562nd Everything Bagel with cream cheese, I had an epiphany.

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“I should make this into a cheese ball!”

“Better yet, a PUMPKIN cheese ball!!”

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And thus the Pumpkin Cheese Ball was born.

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I had seen different versions of pumpkin cheese balls on Pinterest.

But most of them involved hours of wait time and a series of rubber bands, which all seemed far above my pay grade (or attention span!).

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There had to be a better way.

And guess what?! I found it!

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Don't worry, I'll share my secret...

Basically you create a mouthwatering cheese ball made of goat cheese, cream cheese, sundried tomatoes, and scallions.

Cover it in Everything Bagel seasoning, then shape it with a chopstick or spoon.

And for the cutest final effect, top it with a pumpkin stem.

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It’s seriously that easy, and it’s done in 20 minutes.

And once you set it on the table, it will last about the same amount of time!

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Everything Spice Pumpkin Cheese Ball

servings: 10 to 12

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 5 ounces herbed goat cheese (such as Boursin)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped chives
  • ¼ cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup everything bagel spice mix
  • 1 stem from small pumpkin or bell pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese, goat cheese, chives, and sundried tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor or mixer, then process to combine until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic along with your hands to form the mixture into a short, squat ball, then place the plastic-wrapped ball in the refrigerator.
  3. Remove the stem from the bell pepper or pumpkin; if you use a pumpkin, it’s easiest to cut off the whole top of the pumpkin straight across, then cut around the base of the stem (rather than trying to break the stem off).
  4. Remove the cheese ball from the plastic and transfer it to a small plate. Pour/sprinkle the spice mix all over the cheese ball, pressing it in so that it sticks and coats the entire ball.
  5. Use a chopstick or spoon handle to press indented lines into the ball that resemble the creases on a pumpkin, then use your hands to smooth and reshape the ball.
  6. Insert the stem into the center of the top of the ball. Serve with your favorite crackers, and enjoy!

Notes:

  • If you’re having difficulty with Steps 4 or 5, try putting your cheese ball back in the refrigerator or freezer to chill longer. It will firm up and may be easier to work with.
  • If you don’t have a pumpkin or bell pepper, you can also use a 2-inch piece of broccoli stem; this also looks great!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Carrot Pumpkins

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I like to celebrate Halloween as much as the next person, but I’m not the type to spend hours crafting or piping pumpkins onto everything I make.

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But what I do love is to take a carrot, make a couple of simple cuts in it, and suddenly have a pumpkin patch on my plate!

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These pumpkin carrots could not be simpler!

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Look for thick carrots, then cut two “V”’s lengthwise down the tops of the sides.

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Cut the carrots into rounds, then let yourself feel like one of those Pinterest moms as your kids go to school with NO BORING CARROTS in their lunches.

They've got PUMPKIN carrots!

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Carrot Pumpkins

servings: 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium carrots

Directions:

  1. Peel the carrots and cut off their tops. Place the carrots on a cutting board and cut two short vertical lines into the tops of each carrot, about ¼ inch from one another; the cuts should go about ⅓ of the way through the carrots’ diameters and should extend the length of the carrots (see cross section of carrot below).
  2. Next make two diagonal cuts into the tops of the carrots that intersect the first two cuts, creating long, triangle-shaped strips that, when removed, create pumpkin shapes when you look at cross-sections of the carrots (see below).
  3. If needed, use a vegetable peeler to refine the shapes of the carrots so that they look more like pumpkins. Cut each carrot width-wise into ¼-inch slices, discarding the smallest ends.
  4. Serve with your favorite hummus or veggie dip and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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White Bean Pancakes

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Every Sunday my husband takes my daughter, Ivy, to the diner for pancakes while I try to catch up on a weeks-worth of sleep.

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Ivy LOVES pancakes.

And when I found out that her iron levels were a little on the low side, I started thinking about how I could get more iron into her diet.

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Pancakes were just the thing!

I’ve done Acorn Squash Pancakes, so I figured why not try a new version by adding an iron-rich bean instead of the squash?!

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I put a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans in my batter, and I’m telling you, the result looks and tastes JUST LIKE regular pancakes!

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It was so simple (opening a can of beans!) to turn a semi-indulgent breakfast into one we can feel really good about eating!

It’s easy to “eat healthy” when you’re eating like this!

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White Bean Pancakes

makes: 10 to 12 medium (4 to 5 inches in diameter) pancakes

Ingredients:

  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans (about 1¾ cups), rinsed + drained
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 ounces frozen spinach (about 1 cup), thawed + drained (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Add the beans, flour, milk, spinach (if desired), eggs, baking powder, vanilla, and salt to a blender, and blend this mixture until it is smooth.
  2. Next, add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, pour about ½ cup of the batter into the pan; this will make one pancake about 4 inches in diameter. Cook the batter until bubbles start to pop on its surface. Then flip the pancake and cook it until the other side is also brown and the edges are dry—about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Repeat with the remainder of the batter.
  3. Serve with extra butter, syrup, fruit, or whatever you like!

Notes:

  • If you prefer fluffier pancakes, separate the yolks and whites of the eggs. Rather than following Step 1 as written, add the beans, flour, milk, spinach (if desired), egg yolks, baking powder, vanilla, and salt, to a blender, and blend this mixture until it is completely smooth; then transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with a handheld electric mixer on medium-high until they are white and fluffy and have soft peaks (they should be about 4 times larger than their starting size)—about 2 minutes; you could also whisk by hand or do this in a stand mixer. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the bean and flour mixture, deflating them as little as possible. Then proceed to Step 2 as written above.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
White Bean Pancakes 7(1).jpg
 

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Kraft-Style Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower + Sweet Potato

As a kid--and still, as an adult--I was (am!) obsessed with mac and cheese.

But my kid-self wanted nothing to do with any kind of homemade mac and cheese sporting a bubbling crust.

Gross!

No, if it didn’t come out of a box, I wouldn’t go near it.

It’s been a couple of years, but there are still a lot of kids out there just like me (and maybe some adults, too).

So how do you get your kids to eat a homemade mac and cheese that’s also packed with veggies?

You make it look and taste as much like the original as possible!

The base of this sauce is pureed veggies.

There's no butter and no milk.

But there are so many hidden veggies inside, it will make your head spin.

It’s time to lose the box (...at least, sometimes)!

Kraft-Style Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower + Sweet Potato

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about ¾ cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ½ medium head cauliflower, cut into large chunks, (about 1 pound or 3 cups)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled + cut into 1-inch chunks (about ½ pound or 1¼ cups)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1¼ + ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces American cheese (6 slices)
  • 12 ounces macaroni pasta

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until tender—5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, sweet potato, vegetable stock, and the 1¼ teaspoon salt. Bring this mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender—about 20 minutes. This should give you about ¼ cup liquid along with the veggies.
  2. Place the veggie mixture in a blender and process it until it is completely smooth. Add more stock or water if there is not enough liquid to blend easily.
  3. Then transfer the mixture back to the saucepan over low heat. Add the cheddar cheese, American cheese, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt; stir until the cheese melts (depending on the saltiness of your stock and cheese you may not need this extra ½ teaspoon of salt). Add more stock if your mixture is too thick or if it thickens over time.
  4. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions. When done, drain and transfer the macaroni to the saucepan with the veggie and cheese mixture. Toss to combine and serve.

Notes:

  • You can use any combination of cheese that you like—cheddar, parmesan, fontina or provolone— though I do like to include a little American or Velveeta in my mix, as it gives the cheese sauce the right consistency.
  • This version is on the simple side; for a flavor that makes a bigger impact, I suggest stirring in some salsa or adding sautéed peppers to the mix.
: @NikkiDinki

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Balsamic Roasted Onions

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I love taking underrated vegetables, shining them up, and showing people just how much delicious-potential they have!

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Onions don’t generally get their own place on your dinner table...

Instead, they usually play the supporting role in dishes.

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The tick to getting them to take center stage is infusing them with flavorin this case, balsamic, Dijon, and rosemary.

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Then add some sweetness to the mix, and let them roast up to sticky perfection in the oven.

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When you treat them right, they become a show-stopping side dish that will be gone before the main meal!

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Okay, Mr. Onion, it’s your time to shine!

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Balsamic Roasted Onions

servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium Vidalia onions, cut into ½-inch slices (skins left on)
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey, more for drizzling
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Place the onions in a large plastic food storage bag or shallow dish. In a small bowl, combine the balsamic, olive oil, honey, mustard, rosemary, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Pour this mixture over the onion slices and close the bag or cover the dish. Marinate the onions in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight; be sure to occasionally shake the onions around in the bag or stir them in the dish ensure that the marinade gets into all parts of the onions.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lay the onion slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, then bake them until the onions are very tender and dark in color—about 55 to 60 minutes, removing them from the oven to lightly baste the tops with more of the vinegar mixture every 15 minutes.
  3. After removing them from the oven, drizzle each of the onions with about ¼ teaspoon of honey and sprinkle each with a pinch of salt.
: @NikkiDinki

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Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

In my book, Meat On The Side, I have a Cauliflower Wing recipe...

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I roast cauliflower and toss it with my famous (and famously simple!) Buffalo sauce.

Then I douse it with blue cheese and shaved celery, for a “salad” worthy of an Oscar (Or whatever type of award is appropriate for a salad. Probably not an Oscar, huh?).

It’s an easy and light way to get your Buffalo fix.

However, I've been playing with the whole cauliflower + Buffalo sauce thing for awhile now, and I've recently come up with a new version.

This one has just a few more calories and takes just a little more time, but in the end you are left with something that will really, truly satisfy your craving for wings.

The batter is simple--a combination of flour and milk...

You whisk it up, add some cauliflower, and suddenly start to see the magical way a piece of cauliflower can become a wing.

Once baked, you simply toss these "wings" with Buffalo sauce and, most importantly, prepare yourself to eat them all!

It’s a plate of wings that are baked--not fried! And it's cauliflower--not chicken!

Really, what more could you ask for?!

No need to send a thank you gift, just remember you owe me. ;)

Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

servings: Makes 40-50 cauliflower “wings”

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, broken or cut into bite-size florets
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil. Spray the foil generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, 2 tablespoons of the hot sauce, 3 teaspoons of the Worcestershire sauce, the salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.
  3. Toss the cauliflower in the batter, then spread it on the baking sheets. Bake the cauliflower until it is slightly browned in spots—about 20 minutes.
  4. While the cauliflower bakes, in a small pot, whisk together the remaining ¾ cup hot sauce, the butter, vinegar, brown sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Once the cauliflower is browned, remove it from the oven and toss it well in the Buffalo sauce. Turn on the broiler, to high if you have that option. Then return the cauliflower to the baking sheets and cook it under the broiler until it is crispy and browned in spots—2-3 minutes more. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and toss or brush it with the remaining sauce. Enjoy by serving with blue cheese.

Notes:

  • Freezing Instructions: To enjoy later, freeze the completed Buffalo Cauliflower Wings in a single layer (not touching) on a baking sheet lined with foil. Once they are frozen, remove the wings from the baking sheet, place them in a food storage bag, and put them back in the freezer until you are ready to eat them. To reheat, begin by preheating the oven to 375°F and lightly spraying a baking sheet with cooking spray. Cook the wings until they are warmed through, 10-15 minutes, depending on their size.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Brown Butter Garlic Carrots

If you have read my vegetable-focused cookbook, Meat on the Side, it was probably shocking to learn on page 108 that...I don’t like carrots.

Because as much as I’m a huge veggie fan, I have to say that not all veggies are created equal.

In my mind, carrots just fall low on the list.

But that doesn’t mean I don't eat them.

I know that the more I eat them, the more I’ll get used to them and develop a taste for them.

In other words, I'll actually learn to like them.

So when thinking about a carrot side dish, I knew I wanted it to be delicious to carrot-lovers, carrot-likers, and carrot-tolerators alike. 

And I figured the best way to do this was to invite some of my favorite things like brown butter and garlic to party.

In the end I seriously LOVED these carrots--like shockingly LOVED these carrots.

YOU MUST MAKE THEM!

Brown Butter Garlic Carrots

servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch small + thin carrots, with tops (about ¾ inch in diameter and 8 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup cubed sourdough bread (about 1½ ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the carrots in a single layer on a baking sheet and toss them with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast the carrots until they are tender and browned in spots—about 30 minutes. Please note that if your carrots are thicker they will take longer to cook.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the bread until it is dried out and golden brown. Then transfer the bread to a food processor and pulse until breadcrumbs form. Set these aside for later.
  3. Next, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and swirl the pan until the butter stops foaming and bubbling and you see brown specks on the bottom of the pan—about 5 minutes. Remove the butter from the heat and allow it to cool slightly, then add the garlic followed by the carrots, and toss these ingredients together.
  4. Transfer the carrots to a plate and top with the breadcrumbs and parsley.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Sriracha Honey Brussels Sprouts

I love that Brussels sprouts have made a powerful comeback in recent days.

People are excited to learn that a deeply browned, roasted Brussels sprout is much different--and tastier!--than a steamed one. 

And now that we've all figured out just how heavenly a sprout can be with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, I’d like to bring us to a whole new level--adding honey for sweetness, sriracha for heat, and pumpkin seeds for crunch!

The result is a Brussels sprout that is sure to make you sing in delight.

Because you sing when eating delicious food, right?

I’m not the only one, am I?!

Sriracha Honey Brussels Sprouts

servings: 1 pound of Brussels sprouts; serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, stemmed + halved (quartered if very large)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a baking sheet, toss the Brussels sprouts with the oil, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Place them in the oven and roast them until they are deep brown and crispy on the edges—about 35 minutes.
  2. While the Brussels sprouts cook, in a large bowl, mix together the sriracha, honey, vinegar, the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of pepper.
  3. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and toss them in the bowl with the sriracha honey mixture. To serve, top the Brussels sprouts with the toasted pumpkin seeds and parsley.
: @NikkiDinki

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Cucumber Zucchini Salad

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A friend of mine wrote an article about having a ton of zucchini in her family's garden when she was growing up.

So much, in fact, that her family resorted to dressing their excess of squashes in "outfits" and leaving them on a "lucky" neighbor's doorstep (read more).

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I suppose that is one (uh...ahem) effective way to deal with an excess of zucchini in your garden.

However, may I gently suggest another?

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To bring another vegetable into the conversation, cucumbers are similar to zucchini.

For instance, both vegetables are delicious raw as well as cooked.

With this in mind, I'd like to point out that anything cucumbers can do, zucchinis can do also!

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So instead of making the same old cucumber salad (don't get me wrong, those cucumber salads can be delicious!), I decided to bring our mutual friend, Mr. Zucchini, to the pickling party.

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The best think about this Cucumber Zucchini Salad is that it takes only a few minutes to make and only a few more to marinade.

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In the end, you have a light, refreshing salad with crunchy cucumbers and zucchini that are seriously a match made in heaven.

And as a bonus, it’s like -20 calories (okay, not really, but I'm sure it's close)!

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Cucumber Zucchini Salad

servings: 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 English cucumber (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces)
  • ½ small red onion (about 2 ounces), very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut the cucumber and zucchini into very thinly sliced rounds. When you are finished slicing, you should have about 2 cups of cucumber and 1½ cups of zucchini.
  2. In a medium size bowl, toss the cucumber and zucchini slices with the onion and salt, allow this mixture to sit for 30 minutes, then transfer it to a colander to drain off the excess liquid. Return the veggie mixture to the bowl and set aside.
  3. Next, combine the vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes, whisking or stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour this mixture over the veggie mixture, tossing the veggies to coat them evenly.
  4. Chill the salad for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Be sure to drain off any excess liquid once again, before serving.
: @NikkiDinki

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Turnip No-Potato Salad

Summer is here!

So, of course, I’ve got summer barbecues on my mind.

And obviously that means I’ve got summer barbecue staples on my mind—potato salad, to be exact!

I think we can all agree that potatoes are great, but there are other root veggies out there that are primed for side dish glory.

Take turnips, for instance.

Turnips are a little sweeter than potatoes and make for the most amazing substitute in a “potato” salad.

Combine them with some crunchy celery, a hit of bacon, and a simple dressing made of mayo and Greek yogurt.

Voila!

You’ve got a potato--I mean a turnip--salad to die for!

Turnip No-Potato Salad

servings: 3 cups of salad, serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 5 small to medium turnips (about 1½ pounds), cut into ¾-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
  • 1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon pickle juice
  • 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
  • ½ teaspoon paprika, more for a garnish
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced into half-moons (about ¾ cup)
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup), more for a garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the turnips with the balsamic vinegar, oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Bake the turnips until they are tender and lightly colored—20-25 minutes.
  2. While the turnips bake, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook it until it is crispy—6-7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain, then coarsely chop it and set it aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, pickle juice, mustard, and paprika. Add the turnips, celery, scallions, and three-quarters of the bacon. Toss this mixture to combine, and season it with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  4. Garnish the salad with the remaining bacon, along with more scallions and paprika.
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Spicy Shrimp Tacos on Jicama Shells + Pineapple Avocado Salsa

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There are a lot of cool things going on in this recipe.

First, the shrimp get tossed in cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, which gets them nice and spicy and gives them TONS of flavor.

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Next, you're making a spread of creamy sour cream, spicy chipotle, and cool lime.

Not to mention that you're also whipping up a pineapple avocado salsathat you should just go ahead and make extra of, because you will want to put it on EVERYTHING.

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And last, all of this goodness goes on a piece of jicama that is sturdy yet flexible, and adds another layer of freshness and crunch to the dish.

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And because it’s really just a slice of jicama, it takes almost no extra time.

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You could use these components separately in lots of dishes this summer, or you could combine them all and make the most outrageous tacosthat are actually crazy healthy for you.

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Whatever you do, you are eating good tonight!

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Spicy Shrimp Tacos on Jicama Shells + Pineapple Avocado Salsa

servings: 4; makes 8 small tacos

Pineapple Avocado Salsa:

  • 1½ cup finely chopped pineapple
  • 1 avocado, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Taco Shells:

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle puree *see note
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • One-1½ pound jicama, about 4-5 inches wide
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 16-20 large/extra large shrimp (about ¾ to 1 pound)
  • Pineapple Avocado Salsa
  • Cilantro, for a garnish

Pineapple Avocado Salsa:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, avocado, red pepper, lime juice, cilantro, and salt. Mix together and set aside.

Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Taco Shells:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, lime zest, chipotle puree, and 1½ teaspoons of the salt. Mix together and set aside.
  2. Peel the jicama and cut it in half widthwise, creating two circular pieces. Place one of the halves on a mandolin cut-side down and set the mandolin for about 1/12 inch-thick slices (You should set the dial between ⅛ and 1/16, but closer to the 1/16 mark.). Your slices should be thin enough to bend without breaking, but thick enough to hold the filling. Also, if the jicama is too big for your mandoline, trim one of the sides until it fits. After slicing the jicama, you should have about 20 “taco shells” (the extras can be saved for up to a week in the fridge). Discard the ends or use for another purpose.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook the spices for 1 minute, then add the shrimp and cook it until it is pink and cooked through—about 2-3 minutes. Note: You can cut the shrimp in half prior to cooking if you prefer; the smaller the shrimp, the better they fit into the jicama taco shell, which also makes the taco a little easier to eat.
  4. Place the jicama shells on plates and sprinkle each with a touch of salt. Next top with the sour cream mixture, then the shrimp, and finally the Pineapple Avocado Salsa. Garnish with extra cilantro if desired.

Notes:

  • You’ll find chipotles in adobo in a small can next to your taco fixings in the supermarket. A whole chipotle pepper is generally too spicy for a recipe, so I take the whole can and puree it in the food processor or blender. Then you can measure out what you need. Store the remaining puree by placing in the bottom of a Ziploc bag and allowing it to freeze like that so you get a log shape. Then just slices off as much of the frozen puree as you need in the future.
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