Stuffed Endive with Orange and Goat Cheese

If you are looking for an easy, elegant and healthy appetizer for a holiday meal or a party, I’ve got a recipe for you!

Crisp belgian endive filled with creamy goat cheese, crunchy honey-toasted walnuts, sweet orange sections and a balsamic reduction. A little sweet, a bit of tang, a hint of bitter, a touch of brightness and citrus – it really is a lovely bite! Also, your gluten free and/or vegetarian guests will appreciate you for serving these tasty starters 🙂

Sounds fancy and looks fancy but it’s simple to prepare and your guests will be impressed!

I ran across this recipe in an old copy of a Cooking Light Holiday cookbook and knew I would give this a try. I didn’t stray far from the original but slightly adapted the recipe using a few ingredients I had on hand, reduced the amount of honey by 2 tsp and I toasted the nuts in a skillet instead of the oven.

Stuffed Endive with Orange and Goat Cheese (adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
4 tsp honey, divided
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons orange juice
16 Belgian endive leaves, washed and dried (about 2 heads)
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese (or you can use blue cheese)
16 small orange sections, each section chopped into 3-4 pieces (about 2 oranges) OR 2 cups mandarin oranges in 100% juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped green onion (about 1-2 stalks)
freshly ground cracked black pepper

Directions

1. Stir chopped walnuts in small nonstick skillet over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Drizzle 2 teaspoons honey over the nuts and stir until honey thickens and coats nuts, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Stir to loosen nuts from skillet, transfer to a bowl or plate to let cool.
2. Combine remaining 2 teaspoons honey, vinegar, and orange juice in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, and cook until reduced to 3 tablespoons (about 4-5 minutes).Watch carefully so you do not over-reduce.
3. Fill each endive leaf with 2 Tbsp chopped orange. Top each section with 1 teaspoon cheese and 1 teaspoon walnuts; arrange on a plate. Drizzle the vinegar mixture evenly over leaves, and sprinkle evenly with green onion and black pepper. Enjoy!

Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Amaranth “Couscous”

Have you cooked or tasted amaranth? In case you are not familiar with this tasty gluten free ancient grain, I thought I’d share some info that might encourage you to do so 🙂

According to About.com and Teri Gruss, “the word amaranth means “everlasting” in Greek…this tiny seed has endured the ages, as an important food source for ancient civilizations in South America and Mexico, to its current resurgence as a highly nutritious gluten-free grain.”

Top 10 reasons to incorporate amaranth into your diet:

1. Amaranth contains more protein than any other gluten-free grain-and more protein than wheat. One cup of raw amaranth contains 28.1  grams of protein. Oats are a close second with 26.3 grams of protein.

2. Amaranth is an excellent source of lysine, an important amino acid (protein). Grains are notorious for low lysine content, which decreases the quality of their proteins. The high lysine content in amaranth sets it apart from other grains. Food scientists consider the protein content of amaranth of high “biological value”, similar in fact, to the proteins found in milk. This means that amaranth contains an excellent combination of essential amino acids and is well absorbed in the intestinal tract.

3. Another advantage of the protein content of amaranth is that the primary proteins in amaranth are “albumins” and “globulins”. In comparison, the major proteins in wheat are called “prolamins”, which are considered less soluble and less digestible than are albumins and globulin proteins. Bottom line- the amount, types and digestibility of proteins in amaranth make it an excellent plant source of high quality proteins.

4. Amaranth is second only to teff in calcium content.1 cup of raw teff contains 347 milligrams of calicum, amaranth 298 milligrams. In comparison, 1 cup of white rice contains 52 milligrams.

5. Amaranth contains more magnesium than other gluten-free grains.1 cup of raw amaranth contains 519 milligrams of magnesium, followed by buckwheat with 393 milligrams and sorghum with 365 milligrams. In comparison, an equal amount of white rice contains 46 milligrams of magnesium.

6. Amaranth contains more iron than other gluten-free grains. 1 cup of raw amaranth contains 15 milligrams of iron. Teff is a close second with 14.7 milligrams of iron. In comparison, white rice contains 1.5 milligrams of iron.

7. Amaranth contains more fiber than other gluten-free grains.1 cup of raw amaranth contains 18 grams of fiber- buckwheat and millet contain 17 grams. In comparison, white rice contains 2.4 grams of fiber.

8. Amaranth is slightly lower in carbohydrate content compared to other gluten-free grains.1 cup of raw amaranth contains 129 grams of carbohyrates, white rice 148 grams, brown rice and sorghum 143 grams  and teff 141 grams of carbohyrdates. Oats contain 103 grams of carbohyrates, making them the lowest carb gluten free grain.

9. Amaranth is a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids(as are most whole grains) and it contains vitamin E in similar amounts to olive oil.

10. When you add amaranth in amounts up to 25% of total flour used in gluten-free recipes you improve the nutritional value, the taste and texture of gluten free baked goods. Additionally, amaranth is an exceptional thickener for roux, white sauces, soups and stews.

You may be thinking….if amaranth is such a nutritional powerhouse, why not use it exclusively in gluten-free baking?

Amaranth, by nature, absorbs water very easily. That’s what gives it great emulsifying properties. But if amaranth is used solely in gluten-free baking recipes, baked goods become too dense. Breads will not rise properly and pancakes and cookies become too heavy. The key is combining a variety of gluten free flours and starches to create a blend that mimics the properties of gluten.

Go on and add amaranth to gluten-free flour blends, sauces, soups and stews to significantly improve the nutritional quality of your gluten-free diet.

Here’s a simple recipe for amaranth in a couscous style – lightly studded with creamy goat cheese, flavor-packed sun dried tomatoes and crunchy walnuts. The tangy cheese and dried tomatoes compliment the nuttiness of the cooked grain while the walnuts add great texture – couldn’t be more simple!

Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Amaranth “Couscous”

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked amaranth
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (dried or oil-packed)
2-3 Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled (feta cheese or other could also be used)
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp chopped walnuts
drizzle of olive oil, optional

Directions

Rice Cooker Method:

1. Add amaranth and broth/water to your rice cooker. Set on rice cooking mode until cooked. Let stand for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork and transfer to a mixing bowl. (Note that amaranth will not fluff as much as traditional couscous)
2. Add chopped tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and drizzle with olive oil if desired. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!

Stovetop Method:

1. Add amaranth and broth/water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir and lower heat to simmer for 18-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and grains are cooked.
2. Let stand for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork and transfer to a mixing bowl. (Note that amaranth will not fluff as much as traditional couscous)
3. Add chopped tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and drizzle with olive oil if desired. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!

***On my to do list: Create a cake or quick bread using amaranth flour….to come! Anyone have a flavor suggestion?

A few other ways to enjoy amaranth: 

  • To make an amaranth porridge, cook amaranth in a ratio of 1:3 with water. Add sliced apples, chopped almonds or walnuts and a touch of cinnamon, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 20 minutes).
  • Heat amaranth in a heavy, dry skillet over medium heat until the seeds begin to pop. Serve with almond or coconut milk and fresh berries for a healthy breakfast.
  • Mix popped amaranth seeds with honey or molasses to make a treat known as “alegria” or “joy” in Mexico
  • Or try my amaranth grits with my tomato-sauce poached eggs

Caramelized Onion, Butternut and Goat Cheese Pizza with Grain-Free Crust

I love Udi’s gluten free baked goods – from their bread and pizza crust to the muffins and granola. When I discovered that Udi’s opened up a pizza cafe bar, it quickly became my favorite lunch spot…so much so that I’ve probably tried 60% of the items on the menu. Their salads and salads are always fresh, their gluten free sandwiches and burgers are awesome (particularly toasted) but their pizzas are my favorite. The first time I tasted their roasted squash pizza with goat cheese, roasted garlic, arugula and balsamic vinegar, I was hooked. When Fall hit this year, I knew exactly what pizza I ‘d be making – a twist on my Udi’s fav.

The original calls for a white bĂ©chamel sauce but I brushed the crust with olive oil instead and I made balsamic caramelized onions in lieu of a separate balsamic reduction to save time. Roasting the squash, caramelizing the onions and making my own crust already required a bit of time…and let’s be honest, I just wanted to eat my pizza 🙂 I must say, the recipe totally hit the spot and I didn’t have to spend $15!

While I was trying new recipes, I also made Ricki’s bean-based grain-free pizza crust instead of a pre-made crust or my easy cooked rice crust. I only made a few small changes – subbing tapioca starch for the potato starch, added a bit of garlic powder to the crust and made four 6-inch individual pizza crusts instead of one large. This crust holds up beautifully and you could actually hold it like a normal pizza! This tends to be a challenge for gluten-free crust without any xanthan or guar gums so I was quite pleased with the results: it’s crisp on the outside, can “handle” heavy toppings and is high in fiber from the beans and coconut flour…plus it’s grain-free and egg-free for those who are sensitive. Ding, ding – winner!

Caramelized Onion, Roasted Butternut and Goat Cheese Pizza

Ingredients

1 large gluten free pizza crust or 1 recipe pre-made Bean-Based, Grain Free Pizza Crust (recipe below)
2 1/2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/2 cubes (kabocha could be subbed)
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced (I used a medium red but white or yellow will work)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt and black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 cups arugula, roughly chopped
5 – 6 ounces crumbled goat cheese (if you don’t like goat cheese, feta or your favorite cheese could be used)
1 Tbsp fresh sage, roughly chopped

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400F. In a large baking pan, toss the squash with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and season with black pepper and sea salt. Bake the squash until slightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. While the squash is baking, in a large skillet, add sliced onions and 1 tbsp of olive oil over a medium heat. Saute until onions begin to color, stirring frequently.  Add the balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and stir or toss to combine.  Cover, reduce the heat to low-medium, and let cook for about 25 minutes, or until the onions have cooked down and caramelized. Set aside.
3. Once all of your toppings are ready and crust is pre-baked and warm (per instructions for pre-made or see below for the recipe I used), remove crust from the oven. Brush remaining olive oil over the crust and top with cooked squash, onion, chopped arugula, crumbled goat cheese and sage.
4. Bake until the crust is crispy, lightly browned and toppings are heated through and cheese starts to brown slightly on top, about 15-18 minutes.

*Feel free to use your favorite crust or a pre-made and store bought if your prefer, just note the oven temperatures for the crust and the baking times.

Bean-Based, Grain Free Pizza Crust (Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free) (lightly adapted from Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs)

Ingredients

1 can (19 oz or 540 ml) white kidney or navy beans, rinsed well and drained (about 2 cups/480 ml)
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic, plus about 1/2 Tbsp (15 ml) extra
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened plain soymilk or almond milk
5 drops plain stevia liquid
4 tsp (1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp or 20 ml) apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (45 g or 1.6 oz) coconut flour
2 Tbsp (30 ml) whole chia seeds, ground to a meal in a coffee grinder (about 1/4 cup or 60 ml of the meal)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Tapioca starch (or potato starch)
1/4 cup (60 ml) buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
3/4 tsp (7.5 ml) baking powder
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt
1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder, optional
1 tsp (5 ml) dried basil

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line a large pizza pan OR four 6-inch baking pans with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, process the beans until you have a chunky paste. Add the remaining ingredients (except for extra 1/2 Tbsp oil), soymilk, stevia, vinegar, coconut flour, chia meal, potato starch, buckwheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, garlic and basil and process again until the mixture comes together in a ball. Do not overprocess!
3. Take the ball of dough and, using your hands, pull of chunks the size of baseballs and distribute them evenly over the pizza pan OR divide into four balls of dough, then divide again into smaller balls for four individual crusts. Use the final 1/2 Tbsp of oil to grease your palms and fingertips; then press the dough evenly in the pan until all the chunks come together in a single crust. Keep greasing your hands as necessary to avoid sticking. If desired, make a slight rim all around the edge of the dough.
4. Bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned on the edges and bottom. Top with desired toppings, then return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes for individual pizzas or 25-30 minutes for one large crust, or until until heated throughout and toppings are cooked. Slice and enjoy!

Makes 1 large pizza of 4-6 servings OR 4 6-inch individual crusts. May be frozen; wrap slices individually in plastic and freeze until solid, then store in a Ziploc bag