Sweet-Spicy Harissa Roasted Almonds

Aida Mollenkamp Healthy Easy Snack Recipe Roasted Harissa Almonds

I need a “pause” button for life. Last week, in 48 hours time, I flew from Los Angeles to New York to Los Angeles and finally to Hawaii, where I arrived beyond jet lagged. You’re probably thinking, “Hawaii, huh? Quit your complaining!” But, the reality is that I have a few more weeks of work ahead of me before I can really take a break. In the five days since I arrived on island, I’ve spent every waking moment indoors going line-by-line through the galley version of my cookbook. It’s an exhausting but necessary process that will bring the book one step closer to completion.

Needless to say, I’ve been in need of brain-food to keep me uber-focused and that where this recipe fits in. I wanted a roasted almond snack that’s a bit more exciting than almonds straight from the bag but quick enough to fit in my schedule. The result are these super low-fuss, but flavor-packed roasted nuts. They’d probably work fabulously as part of cocktail party or as a holiday gift, but, I won’t be thinking about those things for at least another 5 days. And, at the pace I’m going, that might as well be light-years away.


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Spinach Salad With Pears and Pomegranate

Raw Spinach Salad with Pears and Pomegranates Recipe

Some scoff at the idea of adding a salad to the Thanksgiving spread, but it’s an elegant way to start things off, and, if you’re watching your waistline, it’s an easy way to fill up on healthy calories before you dig into the rest of the meal. This seasonal salad works during the fall or winter, and brings a lot of festive color to the holiday spread with sliced pears, red onion, and tart pomegranate.
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Mushroom Agrodolce Bites

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Mushroom Ragout

Cocktail parties are my favorite. And, no, it’s not because of the cocktails. Okay, it’s partly because of the cocktails, but it’s mostly because, to me, a good party is made up of a range of small bites with a variey of tastes. With the holidays around the corner we’re heading into high-gear party season, so I thought I’d share one of my go-to cocktail party recipes: Mushroom Agrodolce Bites.

These little numbers have a lot going for them — they’re affordable, a cinch to make, and can be made ahead of time — but what I’m drawn to is the sweet-sour flavor. Agrodolce is a sweet-sour sauce hailing from Sicily and though it’s classically made with just onions, here it’s combined with roasted mushrooms for a recipe packed with a mix of sweet-sour and earthy flavors. If you aren’t entertaining anytime soon, serve the mushrooms (without the endive) as a side-dish as they a natural pairing with a variety of cold-weather fare from roasts to slow-cooked foods.


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The Bodysurfing Lavender Farmer

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipes Lavender Thyme Pork Chop

Recently, I headed to Newport Beach for a bodysurfing session with friends at The Wedge. The Wedge isn’t just any surf spot, but the spot for bodysurfing in Southern California. It’s a steep wave and you have to know what you’re doing to ride it (and to avoid getting hurt). As is the case with many top-tier surf spots, there is a pecking order to surfing The Wedge and a crew of locals who doggedly enforce that hierarchy.

I know, it may seem weird that I’m talking bodysurfing instead of food, but the two worlds aren’t that different — both are tight-knit groups and both tend to have one-track minds (the only difference being surfers focus on waves instead of food). The crew at the Wedge has a long-standing reputation of being abrasive and confrontational if brushed the wrong way, so, when my friends decided to brave the wave that was well beyond my skill level, I made like a wallflower and minded my own business from the comfort of the jetty.

And then I met one of the crew. He’s a stocky, middle-aged, bodysurfer named Potato, because, well, I have no idea why, but it’s a great nickname all the same. Upon meeting him, I quickly learned two things: he’s very kind and very much a chatterbox. We talked the whole time my friends were in the water — first about the beach, the waves, Newport, and finally about food. I figured food came up because he knew I cooked, but turns out it was because Potato is a part-time cook and a full-time farmer. While he grows all sorts of produce, Potato’s main crop is lavender. (I know, you were hoping it would be potatoes, weren’t you?)
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Bumper Crop Charred Tomato Pasta

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Charred Tomato Pasta

It started with a text. My friend wrote, “bumper crop of tomatoes! you want?” I quickly responded “yes” and within hours I was biking across town with bags of tomatoes hanging from my handlebars.

I know you’re probably thinking how delightfully summery that is. How it conjures images of Italy. How there I’d be replaced by a deeply tanned, lithe girl dressed in a vibrant flowy skirt so impossibly long that the gears would threaten to eat the hem with each push of the pedal. And, how she’d be attraversando the piazza with a basket of picture-perfect tomatoes.

But that was not me. I was zigzagging across Hollywood after sundown, whizzing along back streets on my single-speed bike, and clad in a reflective ski helmet that logs more time on my bike than it does on the slopes. And rather than crossing a piazza, I was doing my best to avoid potholes that were more or less the size of my small apartment. Needless to say, I arrived home to find the tomatoes were far the worse for the wear. To salvage them before the fruit flies took over, I embraced their squished state by charring them until they blistered and tossing them with pasta.
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