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Chosen from a record number of entries from all over the country—and even a few international submissions!—these recipes excelled in taste and creativity. First-place winners receive a $100 gift certificate to their favorite natural products store; runners-up receive a $75 gift certificate. Thanks to our natural-products sponsors ... and congratulations to these top-notch cooks.
SIDE/APPETIZER: FIRST PLACE
Panzanella Tuscano (Tuscan Bread Salad)
Anne Taglienti, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Serves 8–12 / A wonderfully fresh blend of flavors and textures. This would make a great addition to a summer picnic or barbecue; you can make it the night before and refrigerate until ready to take along.
1/2 cup Eden Organic Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes marinated in oil, chopped (include oil)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Simply Organic All-Season Salt
1 teaspoon Simply Organic Ground Black Pepper
1 loaf (about 1 pound) day-old crusty bread, such as French or Italian
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
6 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped anchovies
1 small red onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 small cucumber, seeded and diced
1 cup Kalamata or oil-cured olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup Eden Organic Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. For the dressing, combine 1/2 cup olive oil with sun-dried tomatoes, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and set aside.
2. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes. Place in a bowl and pour dressing over top. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, combine basil, spinach, tomatoes, anchovies, red onion, garlic, capers, cucumber, and olives. Add 1/2 cup oil and 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and toss gently to combine. Place half of the bread mixture in a large serving bowl and spoon half of the tomato mixture over the bread. Layer with remaining bread; cover with remaining tomato mixture. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. If desired, add additional oil and vinegar to moisten bread just before serving.
SIDE/APPETIZER: RUNNER UP
Spicy Three-Pepper Soup
Debra Seaburg, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Serves 12 / Smooth, deep flavor with a little kick. This healthy soup can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen.
3 tablespoons Organic Valley Salted Butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped leeks, white parts only
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons Simply Organic Turmeric
1 teaspoon Simply Organic Coriander
1/4 teaspoon Simply Organic Crushed Red Pepper
1 teaspoon Simply Organic Garlic Salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
2 orange bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
2 15-ounce cans great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
1 vegetable bouillon cube (5g)
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Toasted pine nuts, for garnish
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks. Season with salt; sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add bay leaves and all spices; stir for 1 minute.
2. Add chopped peppers, beans, broth, bouillon cube, ground flaxseed, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove lid and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves.
5. Transfer soup in batches to a blender or food processor; blend until smooth. Return soup to pot and heat through, stirring thoroughly. Garnish with toasted pine nuts.
ENTRÉE: FIRST PLACE
Pecan-Arugula Pesto with Spicy Tofu and Rice
Candace McMenamin, Lexington, South Carolina
Serves 6 / A unanimous pick among our judges for its fantastic, satisfying taste—and it's easy to make. An excellent vegetarian dinner choice.
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
3 cups chopped arugula leaves (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon Simply Organic Crushed Red Pepper
3/4 cup Spectrum Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 2 tablespoons
8 ounces Oriental-style baked tofu (such as White Wave), sliced into 1/4-inch strips
3 cups hot, cooked brown rice
Toasted pecans and basil sprigs, for garnish
1. Place pecans, arugula, basil, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping down sides as needed. Add cheese, lemon juice, and red pepper. Pulse until well combined, scraping down at least once. With the machine on, add 3/4 cup olive oil in a steady stream and process to a smooth paste. Set aside.
2. In large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Place tofu strips in skillet and sauté until lightly browned and firm on each side. In large bowl, combine pesto with hot rice and toss gently until coated. Top with tofu strips. Garnish with toasted pecans and basil sprigs.
ENTRÉE: RUNNER UP (TIE)
Quick Pumpkin Soup
Alison Birks, Harwinton, Connecticut
Serves 8 / The rich broth and hearty sausage make this a classic comfort-food soup.
1 tablespoon Eden Organic Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
4 low-fat organic chicken and apple sausages (12 ounces total), thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 15-ounce can organic great white Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic Ginger
1 teaspoon Simply Organic Crushed Sage
1 teaspoon Simply Organic Thyme
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
1 quart chicken broth
1 15-ounce can organic pumpkin puree
2 cups Organic Valley Plain Soymilk
Olive oil, for garnish
Ground toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1. In an 8-quart saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté onion, apple, sausage, garlic, and beans until onion is translucent. Add all spices and sauté until tender.
2. In a separate 4-quart saucepan, heat chicken broth and pumpkin puree, whisking until smooth. Add to sausage mixture and simmer on low heat, 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat. Just before serving, stir in soymilk (do not boil). Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and ground pepitas.
ENTRÉE: RUNNER UP (TIE)
Cranberry-Apple Baked Chicken with Quinoa
Wendy Nickel, Kiester, Minnesota
Serves 6–8 / The tea-infused quinoa and chicken give this dinner an interesting sweet-savory flavor combination. The quinoa stands alone as an excellent side dish, too.
2 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 1/2 pounds free-range chicken pieces
1 teaspoon Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 red apples (such as Gala), cored and chopped, divided
2 cups fresh cranberries, divided
12 Celestial Seasonings Cranberry-Apple Zinger Tea bags, divided
4 cups hot water
1/2 cup honey
2 cups hot water
1 cup Arrowhead Mills Organic Quinoa
2 tablespoons Organic Valley Unsalted Butter
Chopped green onions and fresh parsley, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 325°. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive and brown chicken pieces on both sides; sprinkle with seasoning. Place chicken pieces in a large roasting pan. Using the same skillet, sauté garlic, onion, 1 chopped apple, and 1 cup cranberries until tender, about 8 minutes.
2. Add 8 tea bags to 4 cups hot water and let steep; squeeze out tea bags and discard. Add honey and mix until dissolved.
3. Pour onion mixture over chicken pieces. Pour tea-honey mixture over all and cover. Bake 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, steep remaining 4 teabags in 2 cups hot water; squeeze out teabags and discard. Transfer tea to a saucepan and add quinoa; bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook 10–15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. In the same skillet, melt butter and add remaining chopped apple and 1 cup cranberries; sauté until softened, then stir into cooked quinoa. Serve cooked chicken alongside or atop quinoa; garnish with green onions and chopped parsley.
DESSERT: FIRST PLACE
Cocoa and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
LeeAnn Piermont Camut, Warrington, Pennsylvania
Serves 12 / The judges couldn't resist this flavor-balanced and decadent dessert, even though it's a bit labor intensive. Make it for a special occasion and enjoy the raves. To save time, use an all-natural, premade chocolate crust; transferred and pressed into a springform pan.
5 tablespoons Organic Valley Salted Butter, melted and divided
3/4 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
3/4 cup chocolate wafer crumbs
1 1/2 cups Organic Valley Ricotta Cheese
2 8-ounce packages Organic Valley Neufchatel Cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
3 large eggs
1/3 cup cocoa
2 large egg whites
4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons Organic Valley Unsalted Butter
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa nibs (such as Dagoba)
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix half of the melted butter with vanilla wafer crumbs. Press firmly in center of the pan to form an inner circle about 6 inches in diameter. Mix remaining butter with chocolate wafer crumbs. Sprinkle around the vanilla crust to form an outer circle; press firmly into pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 300°.
2. In a large bowl, beat ricotta cheese, Neufchatel cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla seeds until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Pour half of the batter into a medium bowl; mix in cocoa until well blended. In a separate clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold half of the egg whites into cocoa mixture and half into remaining batter. Pour cocoa mixture evenly over crust. Gently pour remaining batter over cocoa mixture and smooth with a knife.
3. Bake at 300° for 50–70 minutes, or until center is almost set; remove from oven and run a knife around the outside edge of pan. Turn off oven; return cheesecake to cooling oven and leave for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.
4. Combine cream, butter, and chocolate chips in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until chips are melted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool 5–10 minutes. Spoon mixture evenly over cooled cheesecake. Sprinkle with cocoa nibs. Refrigerate until glaze is set. Remove pan sides just before serving.
DESSERT: RUNNER UP
Ginger Pear Risotto
Roxanne Chan, Albany, California
Serves 6–8 / An original and fantastic-tasting dessert. It's surprisingly easy; most of the work is simply stirring the pot. This would be great with tea—even for breakfast!
3 1/2 cups Organic Valley Vanilla Soymilk
1 2-inch piece gingerroot, peeled
2 tablespoons Organic Valley Salted Butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
1 11.5-ounce can pear nectar
2 tablespoons honey
1 large ripe pear, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons dried currants
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
1. Heat soymilk and gingerroot in a 2-quart microwaveable bowl until milk is steaming hot (do not boil). Cover and let steep. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, heat butter over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add half of the pear nectar and cook, stirring, until liquid has evaporated, 1–2 minutes. Add remaining nectar and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in honey.
2. Add 1/2 cup of the warm soymilk; cook, stirring, until mostly absorbed, 2–3 minutes. Add remaining soymilk, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring and cooking until rice is tender and creamy, 20–25 minutes total. Remove pan from heat and remove gingerroot. Stir in chopped pear, crystallized ginger, currants, almonds, and almond extract. Cool 10 minutes; serve, garnished with mint leaves.