Winter Wonderland Salad (pes, gf, veg option)

Pinterest is by far the leading referrer to allez! gourmet. My peanut butter & cinnamon Greek yogurt dip has been a huge Pinterest hit- thank you to all readers who have shared it! Interestingly, my pollo guisado recipe has also taken off. This cracks me up- the Dominican woman and American woman in me have experienced Pinterest validation equality. Ha! Pinterest is truly a great resource for recipe sharing and I browse it for inspiration all the time. In fact, a solid Pinterest-browsing sesh inspired me to create this tasty winter salad.

salad 10

Another inspiration for the salad: My wonderful husband very kindly gifted allez! gourmet eight bottles of Vom Fass vinegars and olive oils for Christmas and I was eager to use them. Dave has always supported my little hobby blog and encourages me to keep it up- thank you to Dave for keeping me flush with love, encouragement, and olive oil.

salad 7



  • 1 package organic baby arugula (I suggest organic girl)
  • 2 salmon filets, seasoned (leave out for veg/v option)
  • one large sweet potato, cubed
  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 can sliced beets
  • goat cheese, torn into chunks
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • balsamic or red wine vinegar


Preheat your oven to 400. In a 9×13 Pyrex pan or on a baking sheet, toss the sweet potato cubes with 2 tsp olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes until browned outside and soft inside, tossing once or twice so they don’t stick.

salad 1

As the sweet potatoes cook, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium and season the salmon. You could use good old s&p, fresh herbs, or your favorite seasoning mix. I used a seasoning called “Fisherman’s Wharf,” which conjures up the image of a filthy dock but was actually quite tasty.

Cook the salmon 3-5 minutes per side until medium well or well-done, your choice.

salad 3

Meanwhile, drain the can of beets and layer the slices between paper towels. If you’d like to toast your walnuts, do so over medium heat in a nonstick skillet, tossing until they’re fragrant. Toasting the walnuts will lend big flavor for little work.

When the salmon is done and the sweet potatoes are cooked through, dress a large handful of arugula with a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of vinegar, and a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top with the beet slices, torn goat cheese, walnuts, sweet potatoes, and salmon.

Pescatarian and vegetarian options, equally delish

Simple as that! The olive oil I used was lemon-flavored and the vinegar was aged and Spanish. The Antonio Banderas of vinegars, if you will. So! How will you dress your winter salad?

Brian’s Sunday Soup (v, gf)

The introduction to this glorious soup should start with an introduction to my uncle Brian and aunt Liz. They are runners, scientists, urban farmers, yogis, cat whisperers, and cooks. They’ve been known to move to China and Korea to teach English. They work tirelessly to restore the creek by their home* to health. They’ve collected water in rain barrels decades longer than your ironically bearded neighbor has, and they do things like compost and march for clean energy because everyone should do those things. On top of all this, they find time to fearlessly reinvent their careers and go see St. Vincent at the 9:30 Club. They’re that cool.

brians soup

So now you know a bit about the brilliantly kaleidoscopic lives that inhabit the sunny kitchen full of great conversation where my uncle Brian threw together this soup the last time we visited. The soup is as healthy and vibrant as Liz and he. “Oh, it’s just got a little of everything in it,” Brian humbly explained as Dave and I poured bowls of the stuff into our gaping faces. If we could have done keg stands over the stockpot, we would have. My sweet mama had come up that weekend to visit and she loved the soup- so did my 20-month-old curly-topped nephew! It’s a crowd-pleaser.

deftly showcasing his spoon-handling skills and Mardi Gras beads

the neph’ showcasing wicked awesome curls, spoon-handling skills, and Mardi Gras beads

I emailed Brian asking how to make the soup soon after and he gave me a true cook’s recipe- ingredients, ideas, tips, no measurements. The mark of a cook at home in his kitchen. I’ve included some of these notes. Behold, Brian’s Sunday Soup.



Adapted from Brian Parr


  • 1 bag of mixed beans, soaked overnight
  • eeoo (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Spice mix (edit according to your tastes): 1/2- 1 tsp coriander, 1/2-1 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp-1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2- 1 tsp turmericrosemary is nice if you have a bush, cumin (but only a little as you know how it overpowers everything else)
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 1 russet potato, diced
  • sweet corn (sometimes)
  • 5-6 carrots, peeled and chopped into coins
  • 5-6 stalks celery, chopped, greens chopped and reserved
  • 1/3 cup brown lentils
  • 1/3 cup medium pearl barley (leave out if you’re avoiding gluten)
  • 2-3 quarts low sodium vegetable stock, or 2-3 quarts water and 1 1/2 tbsp low sodium vegetable base
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, optional
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a little bit of the vinegary juice form a jar of hot pepper rings adds a nice little bite!
  • red cabbage, sliced into confetti for garnish
  • mustard greens, sliced into confetti for garnish (super important and make all the difference. Plus, they are easy to grow and have a long season)
  • your favorite hot sauce for serving


One day ahead, or before you leave for work: SOAK YOUR BEANS. Place them in a bowl or pot, cover with water to a depth of 2 inches above the beans, and let soak for 8 hours or overnight. I put my bowl of beans and water in the microwave to cat-proof while I was at work. Okay, now fast-forward, cooking show-style to: perfectly soaked beans! Rinse and drain them twice. Chop your veggies on your pretty wooden cutting board, which you should care for with food-grade mineral oil, did you know?

onions chopped final

This soup is a very manly soup (if soups can be manly), as the recipe came from Brian and Dave made it at our house. Man Soup: for men, by men. In a large stockpot, have yo’ man heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion in eeoo in the pot, Get them to the browning stage on medium to low heat and then throw in the garlic at the end. Move the onion to the sides of the pot, create a space in the middle, and add spices to ‘dry cook.’ This gets really aromatic, sometimes to the point of burning eyes and coughing, achh, ohh, ahh, hack, hack….  As they cook on medium heat, be careful not to burn- they are quite potent!!


When your spice blend is fragrant and toasty, add the beans, russet potato, sweet potato, corn, carrots, lentils, tomatoes, and barley (you read that right- don’t add the celery!). Cover with enough water or stock to come a few inches above the veggies and beans and add vegetable base, if using. Stir the soup, raise the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2- 2 hours on low, until the beans are tender.


When the beans are tender, stir in the chopped celery. Give it a taste and add black pepper. Salt, if needed. Dip up a few bowls and top with the gorgeous, ribbony mix of red cabbage, celery greens, and mustard greens, the last of which give the soup a leafy, horseradish-like bite. You’ll be glad you did! Pass some hot sauce around. And go thank you uncle and aunt for being your uncle and aunt. It’s probably long overdue.

lovely greens and purples

lovely greens and purples

Thank you, Brian and Liz, for the hospitality and the memorable meal.


Kale and White Bean Korma (v, gf)

This vibrant, fragrant dish makes me happy. Its colors and flavors of make me think of lovely Nepal and of colorful Northern India, which I imagine to be one of the most lively places in the world. The tantalizing smell of onion, ginger, and garlic cooking in coconut oil will make your kitchen feel like this:

Photo: National Geographic

Holi festival! photo: National Geographic

Korma is derived from the Urdu word ḳormā, or “braise.” Even though there’s no meat in this dish, you braise the sweet potatoes by cooking them with curry powder, onion, and a bit of tomato sauce before simmering them in coconut milk with kale and white beans. You can serve this korma with rice if you like or serve as a side dish. I found that it really holds up on it’s own; I dolloped mine with some plain Greek yogurt for a hearty meal.  स्वादिष्ट (delicious)!




Adapted from Food 52


  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 4 oz tomato sauce (half of a small can)
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (see note below)
  • 2 large handfuls chopped kale
  • 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp salt


In a large stockpot, heat coconut oil over medium. Add the onion and saute until it’s translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute another minute.


Add the sweet potatoes, curry powder, and tomato sauce. NOTE: if you don’t like curry powder (and many people don’t), omit it for Pete’s sake. Add paprika or brown sugar and pepper or red curry paste, or nothing or anything you like in its place. But if you do like curry powder, add it now. Continue to cook the sweet potatoes over medium for about ten minutes, until they begin to soften a bit.

sweet potatoes

Add the coconut milk, kale, and white beans. Bring the korma to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes.

look at that nutritious jumble!

look at that nutritious jumble!

That’s all! Uncover and serve, you wholesome and adventurous veggie-lover, you. Top with yogurt or diced cucumbers. Enjoy!


Have Yourself a Healthy Little Christmas

Happy holidays! I hope everyone reading this is stuffed to the gills with pie and ham and eggnog and booze and sugar cookies. That’s a good way to be. Dave and I have between three and four family Christmases to attend each year and the highlight is always the food. This, for our crazy Cruse appetites, means two dinner plates each and a dessert plate, at every meal. WHOA. Hey, we love life! What can I say? A delicious practice, gorging ourselves, but fleeting and not without serious après-holiday plumping effects.


This year, Dave’s mama suggested a healthy Christmas Eve feast- novel idea! I assume some responsible families, somewhere (somewhere very far away from us, out of sight and mind) have been doing this for generations, but it was definitely a twist in our holiday routine. The menu included mashed sweet potatoes, Oaxacan eggplant spread, shrimp cocktail, quinoa salad, grilled salmon, and roasted pork tenderloin. Not a stick of butter in sight, and the meal was a huge hit! I’ve included all recipes below. What did you make? Does your family steer from the norm and go healthy during the holidays?

dinnah is served!

dinnah is served!


salmonGrilled Salmon with Herb Rub: just posted this Allez! recipe last week! Such an easy crowd pleaser.





OaxacanOaxacan Eggplant Spread: adapted from Gourmet magazine. Char eggplants and poblanos, peel, chop, and combine with white onion, cilantro, lime, and the kicker-  a habanero! Divine. This was the underdog Big Deal dish of the evening. We made it one before, in the summer- it’s really good with ice cold beer. Serve with corn tortillas or tortilla chips.




potatoesMashed Sweet Potatoes: clean, roughly chop, and boil 3-4 large sweet potatoes until tender (do not skin). Drain, return to pot, and mash with 1/2-3/4 c orange juice, 2-3 tbsp margarine, 1 tsp cinnamon, and a pinch of kosher salt. Taste and add more OJ/margarine/cinnamon/salt to taste.




quinoaQuinoa Salad with Avocado, Black Beans, Corn, and Tomatoes: adapted from MindBodyGreen. Cook and cool 1 cup quinoa according to package directions. When cool, add a whisked vinaigrette of the juice of a lime, 2 tbsp olive oil, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Add a handful chopped cilantro, 1 cup corn, a rinsed can of black beans, 10-12 halved cherry tomatoes, and a diced avocado. Adjust seasoning to taste.



tenderloinPork Tenderloin: we roasted a pre-seasoned pork tenderloin from the store, but here’s an Allez! rosemary pork tenderloin recipe from February, 2012.




Shrimp Cocktail: who has two thumbs and forgot a close-up? This girl! But no biggie- just buy shrimp and serve with cocktail sauce. BOOM.

I hope the holidays were wonderful for you and that 2014 is full of joy and success. And, as always, thank you for reading!


Merry Christmas!




All Hail the Sweet Potato!

With all of the Thanksgiving-themed lists of pie recipes, variations of green bean casserole, and turkey tips/methods/instructions/hotlines(!) we’re bombarded with this time of year, I was thrilled to see Mark Bittman, with his front-and-center positioning in the world of food blogging, writing about the humble, beloved, and often overlooked: sweet potato! And published the day before Thanksgiving, no less!

I will sing the praises of the sweet potato every chance I get. You’d be hard-pressed to find a vegetable bursting with more nutrients, that can be prepared in so many different ways, from breakfast to dinner to dessert, and from sweet to savory to spicy. And for CHEAP.  Take a look at what Mark has to say about them here– and try a departure from their traditional baked or casserole preparations.

Since I’m not technically posting a recipe, I’ll link back to a few from the a!g archives:

I’ll also type the word LOVE. Love, love, love. I love them, and they love me back.

From the Mark Bittman piece- simple, glorious sweet potatoes:

All hail!

Roasted Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes with Coarse Salt and Nutmeg (v, gf)

If you have read my other posts, it’s no big secret that I adore sweet potatoes. With undying, eat-them-two-to-three-times-a-week adoration. They’re incredibly nutritious, they’re versatile, they’re filling, and they’re beyond delectable. Craveable, even… which leads me to this post.

snack ti-yme

I had NEVER TRIED sweet potatoes (say whaaaa!!!???) until I met my husband. My mother-in-law, Jane Ann, makes them in holiday casseroles and as dinner sides all the time and she opened my sad, beta carotene-deficient eyes to the wonderful vegetable. My life is now divided into time BSP and ASP.

These days, when I want a sweet and salty, deeply flavorful snack that is still going to do something good for my body, I make these. If you can wait about an hour to snack, I swear: give these a shot and they will kill any craving you have. They have all the warm, homey trappings of comfort food, and they won’t break the calorie bank. From the bottom of my orange, starchy little heart, here are:



  • 1-2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes (at least 1 pound)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • a few shakes of cinnamon (1/4 tsp or so)
  • freshly grated nutmeg (same- 1/4 tsp or so)
  • a large pinch of kosher salt (about 1/2 tsp) Read More

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Bisque (My New Favorite Soup) (v, gf)

INSTANT CLASSIC. INSTANT FAVORITE. This soup was not only delicious, but bursting with nutritous ingredients and very easy to make. I haven’t fallen for a recipe this quickly in a while, and this soup definitely earned a spot on the staple list for the Cruse household. Added bonus: my husband loved it as much as I did! He’s not so big on vegetarian dishes, but he devoured his bowl and remarked several times that he really liked it (I deal in compliments, you know). We had it as a warming side to roast turkey breast sandwiches (bonus recipe below!).
The smooth and creamy texture and subtle sweet and spicy flavors will really knock your socks off. If you’ve been wanting to make a healthier root vegetable soup and you like delicate Thai-style flavors, do yourself a favor and try this one.

And if you make it, let me know what you think!!


(adapted from


  • 1 lb sweet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup red lentils (available in the Bob’s Red Mill display at your grocery store- the bag I bought cost $6 and had about 4 cups dry lentils)
  • 4 cups chicken broth (I used 4 c water and 3 tsp Maggi chicken boullion)
  • 1 tsp Sriracha (to your taste, can always add more like this girl)
  • 1 tsp Thai red curry paste (Thai Kitchen brand is avaialble in the Asian section of most major grocery stores)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • cracked black pepper
  • cilantro (optional garnish)

cilantro, red lentils, coconut milk


Add broth, sweet potatoes, onion, lentils, Sriracha, curry paste, and brown sugar to a stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce heat and cover; simmer for 25 minutes.

bubbling away

Uncover the soup and let sit for 10 minutes to cool- you want soup to be cool enough to run through your food processor. Too hot, and the heat could damage the processor and/or the steam could force lid off/cause general problems. Just let it cool.

batch 1, pre-blending

Stir in coconut milk and process in batches until smooth. This is seriously the easiest soup… I just can’t get over it! Combine batches in a large bowl, and give soup a good stir before serving. Generously crack black pepper over top, and serve with cilantro and additional Sriracha.

So good! Let me know how it goes when you make it, and anything you change in your home version.

Bonus recipe!!!! Roasted turkey breast for sandwiches:

Make sure the turkey breast you buy is thawed. You’ll need 3 carrots, 3 stalks of celery, butter, and an onion.

Preheat oven to 350, and grab a roasting pan. Salt and pepper rinsed and dried turkey breast all over, even in the cavity. Melt 1/4-1/2 stick butter (you could use canola oil instead), and brush all over breast. Cut up the veggies, and stuff the cavity with a mix of them, placing remaining veggies around turkey in the roasting pan. You can put a little water or broth in the bottom of the pan if you like (I don’t).

Tent some foil over the breast, and place in the oven; roast for 2 hours, until the timer in the turkey pops up, or until a meat thermometer stuck into the turkey reads 170 degrees. Let sit 20 minutes, then carve into slices to put on sandwiches! Et voila!

bless-ed leftovers

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burrito Filling (v, gf)

I came across this wonderful recipe on one lovely life, a really sweet little blog. It had been a long day and I had a mish-mash of seemingly unrelated ingredients in my pantry; the opportunity to use some sweet potatoes that had been hanging out in the potato bin since Christmas (! ugh, SO lazy) seemed like a good one. Plus, this is a mix and roast recipe that creates leftovers. Doubly good!

I tend to go for highly seasoned foods, and have been trying to cut out meat where I can- I feel so much lighter and more energetic when I turn down the meat content and up the veggies. This recipe fit the fast and meatless bill perfectly! Here it is:


(adapted from One Lovely Life)


  • 1 large sweet potato, diced. I left the skin on to retain more nutrients. You may peel if your heart so desires.
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 Tbsp taco seasoning (I used Ortega reduced sodium). Amount will depend on taste and how large your veggies are. You may use homemade seasoning if you’re an overachiever.
  • 3 tbsp canola oil. *you may use another oil, but I like to use a neutral oil with highly flavorful seasonings and high roasting temps.
  • 1 (14.5oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Tortillas or tortilla chips
  • Any toppings you’d like to add. I opted for Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde and Chobani plain, nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375. Dice your sweet potato and onion; try to keep the dice of each fairly similar in size. This makes for a prettier dish and even roasting.

In a large bowl, toss all ingredients. Stir to coat well with oil and seasoning. Spread mixture out on a large baking sheet.
Roast for 30 minutes, stirring 15 minutes in, adding more olive oil if necessary. I used the 3 tbsp of oil as to avoid this.
Toss black beans and roasted vegetables and serve with chips or in tortillas. Trader Joe’s baked blue corn tortilla chips were DELISH with this filling, and added visual interest; the salsa verde, creamy white yogurt and blue chips made quite a pretty bowl of chow. The subtle sweetness of the roasted onions and sweet potato, paired with the smoky seasoning and black beans gives an unexpected punch of flavor. Top with what you wish, and enjoy! Here are my leftovers at work the next day:


Makes 4 servings for 4 hungry people.