Harvest Salad with Parsnips, Pomegranate, and Pear

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This salad looks like, smells like, and tastes like fall. It combines fairly simple flavor profiles of not commonly used ingredients to showcase them in the best way. The humble parsnip is really elevated by the simple roasting.  Set against the backdrop of kale, this salad is as filling as it is nutritious. A perfect quick and easy weeknight dinner.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bunch of kale leaves (about 8 leaves). I used red kale here

2 parsnips

1 pomegranate

1 pear (I had an Anjous)

1/2 cup of toasted nuts (pecans for me today, walnuts or hazelnuts would do)

Drizzle of maple syrup and olive oil

For the dressing

1/3 cup olives oil

1 clove minced garlic

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 lemon juiced and zested

1 tablespoon Apple cider vinegar

Pinch of salt and Pepper

Directions

Turn the oven on to 375 degrees. Wash the parsnips and peel outer layer (if desired, you don’t have to peel them).  Cut them into wedges about an inch-2 inches wide. Place into a baking sheet and coat very lightly with maple syrup and olive oil. Place into oven and roast for 35-45 minutes. Take out when starting to turn nicely golden at edges.

Meanwhile prep the rest of the dish. De-seed your pomegranate. I like this lady’s method.

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http://thecafesucrefarine.com/2013/11/the-easy-way-to-remove-pomegranate-seeds/

Basically just cut it in half and then hold it over a bowl and whack it until the seeds fall out.

Thinly slice your pears and roughly chop the kale down to more manageable size, leaving out the middle vein of the stems.

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To make the dressing either pop everything in the food processor for a second or into a bottle and give it a good shake.

And your gorgeous fall salad is ready. Perfect with a glass of wine.

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** adapted from PBS Food

http://www.pbs.org/food/kitchen-vignettes/kale-pomegranate-and-caramelized-parsnip-salad/

 

 

Vegetable Bolognese with Pasta

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Well, I will tell you what- don’t decide you want to start a new hobby like a blog and then go out two weeks later and buy a new house!  My husband and I bought a wonderful fixer upper and even though we won’t close on the house until January due to having a renovation type mortgage loan, it has already been a lot of work and stress!  I can’t wait until we have a beautiful new house to live in, but my oh my it is time consuming.  So, I definitely haven’t been cooking as many new recipes as I have wanted.  I have been cooking what works and eating more take out than usual.  Missing too many meals from being too busy, though unfortunately that is not unusual with my job.  One of the big problems is that I will not eat all day and then come home and realize I am starving and not want to take an hour to cook something, just eating whatever is available instead.

I have had the time in the last few weeks to make this delicious vegetable bolognese sauce twice.  I recently had to go to Las Vegas for a conference, and while I was there I had this recipe at Giada De Laurentiis’ restuarant.  It was so good I looked it up and made it at home.  The first time did not turn out well.  As you will see this recipe is based quite heavily on mushrooms- which I really don’t care for.  They are too “meaty” in their flavor profile for me.  So I have altered this recipe quite a bit to downplay that flavor while making it more tomato based.  It still has the same amount of mushrooms and veggies in it and is extremely hearty.

Ingredients

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (hit up your specialist grocery for these- DLM in Dayton, folks- they usually hang above the fresh veggies in small plastic baggies)

6 carrots washed and roughly chopped

1 white onion peeled and large chopped

1 red bell pepper roughly chopped

1 handful of walnuts

6 cloves garlic or 1 tablespoon pre-minced garlic (I do not have time I have decided to spend my whole life peeling and mincing garlic!)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 handful each of fresh thyme, oregano and basil (generous handfuls, finely minced)

Salt and pepper to taste

To taste crushed red pepper (I added about 2 tablespoons)

6 ounces button mushrooms

1 can of tomato paste

1 can of stewed tomatoes

1/2 cup of red wine

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

1 pound pasta, rigatoni or spiral pasta that will hold sauce well

Parmesan cheese for topping, to taste

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Directions

Start by placing your dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl with hot water to rehydrate them.  Leave them sitting while you do other work.

Place a large pot on the stove and get your olive oil warming. Then place your chopped veg- carrot, onion, bell pepper, garlic- into the food processor with the walnuts.  Pulse briefly for about 5 seconds.  My food processor is super strong so I very briefly pulsed them.  You want it to be finely chopped but still chunky.  Do not pulse too long or it will turn into a mush-like baby food consistency.  I made this mistake the first time I made this recipe.  Not very appetizing. This picture is how they should appear.image

Dump them into the pot.  Stir and let warm for about 5 minutes.Add in your herbs, salt, pepper, CRP and let cook another 2-3 minutes.  Do not let get to boiling, just simmer.  Start a pot for your pasta to boil.

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While that is ongoing dump the liquid from your mushrooms out and put the mushrooms themselves into the food processor.  Add in the button mushrooms and the tomato paste.  Add a splash of water.  Pulse for about 5-10 seconds.  Again until finely chopped but still chunky.  This will also then be dumped into the pot and stirred to mix together.  Let simmer for a few minutes and while it is doing so, toss your can of stewed tomatoes into the food processor.  Stir those into the pot as well as the red wine.  Bring the temp up to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Cook your pasta during this time.

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As the final step add in the mascarpone cheese to the sauce and let simmer for another 5 minutes or so while the pasta is finishing.  Then meld the pasta and sauce together.  Add a splash of the pasta water if needed. Top with Parmesan cheese and basil.

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As I said before this dish is very filling.  It is also a great way to get veggies in without really knowing it (why would someone want that???) since they are mixed into the sauce.  Once I added more tomato flavor to this it made it more appetizing to me as someone who just can’t get past a heavy mushroom flavor- even though there are still 7 ounces of mushrooms in the dish.  I have to give myself credit on this one- the atmosphere in the posh Giada dining room may have outdone my living room, but the flavor of the dish was top notch both places.

** Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/rigatoni-with-vegetable-bolognese-recipe.html

New York City: Babbo and Otto

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I used to be such a naive person. I looked at Mario Batali in his ridiculous orange crocs, and I unfairly judged him on his appearance. That was a mistake. At this point we have eaten at every Molto Mario restaurant, and even seen the man (and crocs!) in person. I can say, without a doubt, that to me Mario is infallible and producing some of the best Italian food there is to eat in this country. This post is specifically about Babbo and Otto, where we ate this trip to NYC, but Del Posto is a beautiful gem sitting atop the fine dining scene in New York.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is the everyday accessible Eataly. The food here is as delicious, but it comes wrapped in a package of a market packed to the brim with imported and fresh goods. It honestly is a flurry of activity and takes some time to navigate. Let’s get down to the bones of it and start with Babbo.

Babbo and Otto in NYC are both located right by Washington square park, about a block from each other. Babbo is the stand-by Batali restaurant that has been around the longest (opened in 1998). It remains the hardest to get a table here. Even a month out, the only times for reservations are early around 5:30 or later around 10:30.  This suits us as we try to pretend we are still young when we travel and eat late at night. The place is still packed to the gills at 10:30 on a Friday. 80s rock like Guns and Roses is playing and drinks are flowing- everyone is having a good time. Our table-mates next to us may have too good a time: they gave a “whoop” each time a new course came, were pretty hammered, and I’m pretty sure wandered off at the end of the meal to have sex in a bathroom. Yuck!

At Babbo there is not a huge preponderance of vegetarian choices. Even the pasta courses and antipasti are meat focused. There are a few choices for each course. Some of the vegetable dishes have meat or meat broth in them, they are more than happy to prepare them vegetarian for you.  The choices that are available are all wonderful!

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The night we dined, there was a special appetizer- buffalo mozzarella with an arugula pesto. This came on bread, which I didn’t expect, but it was so good. I’ve never had a pesto from Mario that wasn’t fresh and delicious, and this one was no different.

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For my main pasta course I loved the pumpkin “lune” or ravioli. These are ubiquitous now, seemingly on fall menus everywhere, but eating here I’m reminded where they originated at here in the States. Seasoned with sage and a light dusting of amaretti cookies, each bite is perfection.

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We ordered several vegetable sides to go along with our meals. The beet farroto (at top) was absolutely beautiful and really highlighted the flavor of beets. Brussels sprouts (sans pancetta) were roasted to soft and supple goodness. The only bad note was the rapini- it hadn’t been sautéed quite enough and was still very bitter and sour.

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We saw another table order this beautiful desert and had to have it. It was a mix of gelato and sorbet. The standouts for me were the corn, olive oil, and coconut. It was just a lovely way to close out a lovely night.

At both Babbo and Otto the service was excellent: polite, attentive, and friendly. We went to Otto before going out to see Hamilton (the best musical ever!). Otto is more casual and easier to get a reservation, more family friendly. This was our first time eating here for dinner; we’ve had lunch before on several occasions. What I love about Otto is there are so many vegetarian choices. From appetizers, salads, vegetables, pastas, pizzas there are an abundance of options. I am like a kid in a candy store when I eat here.

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We started with a selection of two delicious salads. One thing we never skip at Otto is the seasonal caprese. This version was with creamy burrata cheese that was so luscious! Alongside this we had a fennel and apple salad with walnuts. Fennel really makes a wonderful fresh salad vehicle, and paired with apple it is tart.

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Choosing from the many verdura (vegetable) dishes was tough! We went with another farro dish, this one with squash and apple. Farro is really one of my favorite grains as it is so hearty and nutty. Broccoli rabe was the other choice, and I ate it with my pasta as it paired very nicely.

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This was actually the first time I’ve had pasta at Otto, usually just eating veggies, salad, maybe pizza. I just couldn’t resist getting the goat cheese agnolotti! They were amahhhhzing! Light and airy in a simple lightly lemony sauce.

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A lot of these dishes and others from Marios restaurants are in his cookbooks, and I look forward to tackling them. His simple but sophisticated favors stand the test of time. Molto Mario!

New York City: Dovetail vegetarian tasting menu

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A vegatarian tasting menu used to be an unheard of thing. It is now something less rare but still worthy of special acclaim. I have had the pleasure once before, at Gramercy Tavern last year here in NYC.  Honestly, there are few other places in the country, or world for that matter, where you will be able to find one. I have a few restaurants on my bucket list- the masterful and artistic Alinea, the over the top Eleven Madison, the revered French Laundry- but there are many more accessible places out there. I could not help but stumble upon Dovetail due to so many rave reviews and write-ups. My one sadness is that we are never in town on Monday nights. Dovetail has a vegetarian menu every single night, but Monday they pull out all the stops and devote every course to vegetables as idols. We made reservations for a Wednesday night and prepared for an adventure!

It starts with the locale- tucked away on the upper west side. Walking in the whitewashed brick walls and low lighting reek of good taste and old money. That being said- my fresh off the metaphorical Ohio farm hubby and I were made to feel right at home among the wealthy New York clientele. I have never had a very negative experience at a fancy restaurant, and I think it’s mostly about attitude. We are always falling over ourselves to be polite and express overwhelming interest in the restaurant, staff, and menu. This will win you a lot of favor and good service that is not rude or stuffy. The servers were all really wonderful and  this restaurant had numerous awesome female sommeliers; I loved to see that!  I had the wine pairings with my meal, which was a new experience and very cool. I had one wonderful wine that I loved and need to hunt down- Mamacita white sparking wine out of Oregon, so good and crisp, not sweet at all.

We already knew coming in we would be doing the tasting menus. Since I do not like mushrooms as the main component of a dish, they let me swap it out for another option of my choosing. Of course Rob had the meat tasting menu and there was some really horrible stuff on there (foie gras!). I will not even speak of those atrocities!

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The meal started with a trio of amuse bouchées. Pineapple drink with foam, fried potato cube, and a mini tart with parsnip purée. All were delicious!

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Next was my chosen course- an heirloom tomato salad. Pickled ramps really gave this a nice acidic bite.

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An haricot vert salad with apples followed. What blew my mind was that the black purée you see there is actually also made of haricot vert! It tasted so good and totally different, I had no idea and had to ask what the heck it was. Mind blown.

Next was the best dish of the meal- sweet corn polenta with blackberries and truffles (pictured at top). The polenta was out of this world in flavor and just paired so perfectly with the earthy truffles and sweetly sour blackberries. Thus was my first truffle experience. I loved them, who knew? Star of the night.

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Followed by another great dish- spinach and artichoke crostata. Creamy, rich, memorable.

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Continuing strong with grilled figs with radishes, stracciatella, and pistachios. Figs are another ingrediant recently discovered for me, and now I love them! Check out Fig and Olive also in NYC, Chicago, and DC.

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This gorgeous looking dish of miso marinated beets was where the meal nose-dived for me. I love, love, love beets. These beets soaked up all the salt of their miso marinade such that they were inedible. I literally could not eat them, and left them on my plate to be carried away. It made me very sad. Ending with this before desert almost ruined the whole dang meal.

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We had two little palate cleanser courses before desert. The last was a mango sorbet with ginger. Honestly that should have ended the meal, it was that good- so creamy with the ginger the perfect counterpoint. This pretty confection above was a blueberry pavlova. It was light and airy but eclipsed by its predecessor, and thus outshined and soon forgotten.

On the whole this meal was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in my life. I look forward to returning here, preferably on a Monday to see the veggie magic happen.  If you are ever in NYC and need somewhere to go for a very special occasion- I would recommend Dovetail for those true foodies out there! (For the less adventurous diners: always, always, always choose a Mario Batali restaurant. He is the best!)

New York City: Candle 79, Vegan Dining

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My husband Rob and I are fortunate to be able to travel. We have been traveling around the U.S. this last year, making our way to parts of the country we both haven’t seen before. Much of that has involved eating at absolutely incredible places.  I am a typical type A planner and I crazily research places for months before we go, all so that we can have that one perfect bite. I’ll usually book all our dinner reservations a month in advance. For lunches we tend to just pick whatever is near us at the time and wing it. I think we get the best of both worlds this way- wonderful fine dining and spur of the moment holes in the walls. That being said sometimes our best laid dinner plans fall through (thank you midtown traffic!) and we have also had some of our great finds from improvising this way- the now standard post theatre dinner at Toloache, for one.

We started off this NYC trip with my idea of heaven, and Robbie graciously played along. The vegan restaurant Candle 79 is one of my favorites. I also have their cookbook and it also is full of varied and impressive recipes. They will be gracing these pages in weeks to come, I’m sure. It’s on the fancy schmancy UES near all the museums, so we ate here before we went to the Frick.  It is on a nice wide street just off Lex- 79 street. The inside space is really cute. 2 stories and the top story is filled with light from a large window over looking the street . We have always eaten lunch here and it is always busy, many people have reservations, but you can get in without one.  When we are traveling, and especially if it is our first time eating somewhere, we tend to order lots of courses and variety to sample the menu (and in case something isn’t so good!).

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We started with some delicious fresh juices and smoothies, of which there are ample selection. Acai berry banana and carrot, beet, ginger- so yummy. The fresh ginger ale has its own cult following, that’s how good it is. All the freshly made cocktails are scrumptious, too.

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The appetizer course is the least inventive course here. We had a delicious guacamole timbale. It has a lot of cucumbers in it, so for my personal tastes it suffered a bit. Those plantain chips are the best! Absolutely light, grease-less perfection!

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The salad course is my favorite here. I could have eaten every last one!!! This beautiful little devil had brussels, apples, celeriac, pistachios, tofu, grapes. Ahhhhh. I need to figure out a version of this for my house!

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Again the entree course was overwhelming to me with options. When you are vegetarian you get used to having only a few options at most places, so my brain was on circuitry overload here!!!  They have a fresh pasta special everyday, which is always good. Today I was feeling a more protein driven choice, so I chose the seitan burrito.  I had to dismantle it a little as there was too much rice and tortilla for my liking, but the filling of seitan, greens, beans, onions then topped with salsa and guac was really homey and good.

Robbie through this all had a very hearty lentil soup and the seitan burger with polenta fries. Perplexingly his seitan burger did come on toasted bread not a bun- totally the wrong vehicle, I think. But the patty itself and the polenta fries were really good. He was a trooper but didn’t really care for it much, he kept insistenting it was “fine.” He made out better with his dinner, so it turns out ok!

Bottom line if you get to NYC and vegetarian food is one of your passions, you have to go to Candle 79 when you are in the city!

Spiralized Butternut Squash in Sage Brown Butter

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Spiralizers. Hugely trendy right now. I recently got on the bandwagon myself. Being vegetarian I am not a stranger to using vegetables as substitutes for other foods, including pasta. This handy little gadget makes it really easy to get beautiful, uniform sized cuts from all kinds of veggies. No more struggling with a knife and peeler!  This is my inaugural spiralized recipe.  It turned out pretty well, I think. It was fun to crank out the gorgeous noodles. The brown butter was the tricky part- I don’t think I let mine get quite brown enough, look below for some hints on this.

Serves 2. Takes 30 minutes.

Ingredients

One butternut squash

2 tablespoons butter

10 fresh sage leaves

Olive oil

Fresh grated Parmesan and fresh ground pepper

Directions

Set up you Spiralizer of choice. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Peel you squash and discard the big bulbous bottom part that has seeds. Place the long upper part into your Spiralizer and start cranking.

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When your squoodles are done, place them on a baking sheet with parchment paper and toss lightly with olive oil. place into the oven to lightly roast for about 7-8 minutes.

While they are in the oven, get your brown butter going. Use a light color pot, not a dark skillet so you can see the color of it while it cooks (I did not do this, a mistake on my part). Medium heat. The butter will melt and then star to bubble and foam. It will turn tan then brown. Some sediment will form in the pan. When it starts to tan, place your sage leaves in the butter.

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When it gets a nice golden brown color, it’s done. Take your squoodles from the oven and toss them in the sauce.  Top with fresh pepper and Parmesan cheese.

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** Adapted from Boulder Locavore

http://boulderlocavore.com/butternut-squash-noodles-in-sage-brown-butter/

Fresh Corn Salsa and Black Bean Tacos

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Tacos! There are endless recipes and variations for tacos, which is what I love about them. These tacos are made bright with the corn salsa, the corn right off the the cob. I layered it with a traditional tomato salsa and fresh avocado as well for a balanced bite. As you can see by the pictures these were pretty overstuffed, and I would up eating a lot with a fork. They would be great without the tortillas in a bowl as well with rice or quinoa, like any taco fixings.

Serves 4. Takes 30 minutes plus garlic roasting time

Ingredients

2 15 ounce cans black beans

1 white onion- diced and split half/half

1 whole bulb garlic, roasted. To roast garlic, chop off the bottom quarter. Leave in the peel. Cover in olive oil and place in foil wrap. Put in oven at 400 degrees for an hour. Garlic will be soft and light golden brown and easily pop out of its peel.

1 separate clove garlic finely minced

2 stalks corn, all kernels cut off

6 radishes thinly sliced

2 handfuls cilantro, finely minced and divided in half

2 limes both juiced, one zested

1 lemon

1 jalapeño minced and seeded

2 Serrano peppers (or 3 more jalapeño peppers)

1/3 cup feta cheese

1 handful pickled carrots, diced. To pickle carrots: place 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup Apple cider vinegar in pot with 1/2 cup water. Add a pinch salt, pinch of crushed red pepper, and several slices of fresh jalapeño to the pot. While coming to a boil, peel and chop up several carrots into inch size pieces. Place into pot, bring to boil then turn off heat. Let cool then jar.

1can fire roasted tomatoes (15 ounce)

1 bunch green onions (ok to leave out)

1 avocado, sliced

Sea salt

EVOO

Cumin

Smoked paprika

Chipotle

Crushed red pepper

Directions

Place a sauté pan on the stove at medium heat with a tablespoon olive oil. When hot, add half the white onion to the pan. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic to the pan and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add the black beans with their juice to the pan. Season with about a teaspoon each: crushed red pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, and chipotle. Turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 20 minutes to cook off the bean liquid, stir occasionally.

While the beans are cooking you can make the two salsas to go with the dish.

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My favorite quick salsa comes from Thug Kitchen. It uses canned tomatoes, but you would never know, it tastes so fresh. The only part that takes any time is roasting the garlic, the rest comes together in a few minutes in the food processor.  Add your roasted garlic, can of roasted tomatoes, half the white onion, a handful of the cilantro, the Serrano peppers, the green onion (if using), juice of one lime, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and pulse together. For both this and the salsa below, I add a splash of lemon juice as I really love the brightness of lemons compared to limes. Or according to my brother, I just like Sprite and its lemon-lime goodness.  You can use immediately and jar the rest.

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To make the corn salsa, place your fresh corn kernels in a bowl with the juice and zest of one lime, one tablespoon of lemon juice, one handful of minced cilantro, the feta cheese, the sliced radishes, the pickled carrots and add a teaspoon of salt. Mix together and set aside. This part of the recipe I found on Cookie and Kate. I added the pickled carrots for that extra punch of the vinegar.

Time to assemble your tacos! Heating up your tortillas on a skillet will give them a little extra edge. Start with a scoop of the black beans then layer the two salsas on top. Finish it off with fresh avocado.  One of the reason I like this taco recipe and similar ones to it, is because there is very little cheese. Just a little feta, which gives that nice salty punch. Cutting back on the cheese is good for us cheese-aholics!

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** As stated above the roasted tomato salsa recipe is adapted from Thug Kitchen. I have a terrible mouth, so I love their hilarious recipes.

http://www.thugkitchen.com

** Cookie and Kate is another great blog featuring wonderful whole food recipes and great photos (with a dog!)

Sweet Corn & Black Bean Tacos

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