Green Beans with Chili and Roasted Red Peppers

I’m trying to plan a Thanksgiving for two.

We had an Australian version of the holiday last week, but I wanted to plan something closer to the actual day.

With the exception of pasta, I’m pretty skilled at figuring how much food will feed me and my very strong and handsome fianc√©, and leave me a little extra for lunch the next day. (I just can’t figure out dammed dried pasta portioning!)

But a Thanksgiving feast for two is a whole different gig. I want a range of foods and familiar dishes just like the real thing, but I don’t want to have an out of control leftover situation.

So far, here’s my plan of attack:

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Roasted Red Pepper, Chili and Cashew Dip

A fun fact about me: I am a huge klutz. Like, textbook definition of clumsy, uncoordinated, and awkward. It’s kind of unfortunate.

I’m terrible at all sports, so I generally try to stay away from those.

Other things are not so easily avoided. I knock over full cups of liquid almost daily, I carelessly cut and burn myself while cooking (we need to keep a first aid kit in the kitchen), and I knock my shin into the bedpost pretty much every time I walk past it.

Family members sarcastically call me Grace.

I’ve tripped while jogging, resulting in serious cuts on my hands and knees. Which was pretty painful and embarrassing. I did that twice. The second time, I cut and scraped the exact. same. places. WHO DOES THAT?

Gauche. So gauche.

Something I cannot manage to screw up: this dip. Pantry staples + food processor = accomplishment without injury (thanks, largely in part, to the advanced safety features on my food processor.)

The sweet and smokey peppers, the crunchy sweetness of the cashews, and the salty Parmesan are tied together perfectly by the chili. You can control the spiciness with the amount of chili paste you use. A half a tablespoon is a good place to start. I used a whole tablespoon – which gives it a definite edge without overwhelming the whole operation.

Dip it, spread it, mix it. It’s excellent with eggs, roasted veggies, toast, avocado, rice or quinoa, on crackers or pitas, with chicken or fish…you get the idea.

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper and Cashew Dip
– 3-4 large whole roasted red peppers (or 1 cup of chopped roasted red peppers)
– 1/3 cup toasted, unsalted cashews, roughly chopped
– 1 tablespoon chili paste
– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
– sea salt, to taste

Combine ingredients in a food processor and blitz until everything is finely chopped but not completely pureed. Adjust seasoning. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Cashews: You could use dry roasted or raw cashews and toast them yourself.
To toast: place cashews in a dry pan over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, tossing frequently, until golden. Allow to cool before using.

Salads That Travel: Roasted Sugar Snap Peas & Quinoa Salad

Not to brag or anything, but I am a total expert on bringing lunch to work. An entry-level salary in publishing and an interest in nutrition motivated me to get into the habit of brown bagging it a few years ago.

In the beginning, there was a lot of was trial and error (think soggy lettuce, disastrous salad dressing leaks, etc.) but I pushed on to become a queen of Tupperware-toting.

This skill has proved useful in more fun areas of life too – like picnicking and long-distance travel.

Grain-based salads are great to have in your byo meal arsenal. Filling, vegetable-ful, and easy to pack and assemble – they check all the boxes. They keep well for a couple of days in the fridge and go well over a big bed of greens, if you’re looking to bulk up your bowl.

This recipe roasts sugar snap peas with shallots prior to adding them to the salad. The sugar snaps caramelize making their naturally sweet flavor more complex. White beans, roasted red peppers, toasted almonds and nutty quinoa come together to balance out the sweetness of the sugar snaps and shallot.

Roasted Sugar Snap Pea Quinoa Salad
(Makes 2 serves)
– 1 cup quinoa, cooked
– 1 1/2-2 cups sugar snap peas
– 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
– 1/2 cup cooked white beans, rinsed
– 1/4 cup roasted red peppers/capsicum
– 1 tablespoon olive oil, more to taste
– salt & pepper
– pinch of red pepper flakes
– toasted almond slices

To cook quinoa: Place 1/2 cup rinsed dry quinoa in 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered until the liquid is adsorbed (about 10 minutes.) There should be little white tails that come out as each grain puffs. These usually indicate that the quinoa is done.

Roast your sugar snap peas (based on a recipe from Eating Well): Toss sugar snap peas and sliced shallot with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt & pepper and chili flakes together in a bowl. Spread mixture out on a baking tray and place in a 200 C/400 F oven for approximately 12-15 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

To toast almonds: Scatter in a dry pan and cook over a medium-low heat until they become golden and fragrant (about 5 minutes.)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently to combine. Add more olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Place in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Roasted Red Pepper Chilli Sauce

Do you ever psych yourself out about life? Like all of the sudden, you feel like you’re not doing something right – even though yesterday you felt totally on top of it? Yeah, that feeling sucks.

How do you shake it?

My food processor is a surprisingly useful tool in dealing with these situations of mental stress. If something edible, and I daresay delicious, comes about because I decided to put a bunch of things in that food processor – things suddenly feel a little better. I’m on the right track. I’ve restored some sense of control.

It might be a combination of the simplicity of preparation, the loud noise it makes, and watching pieces of food get pulverized. I’m not sure.

I was looking to use some extra coriander and limes I had when I found a chilli sauce on Nigella Kitchen that fit the bill.

It’s similar to a typical fresh salsa with a spicy punch and a citrus zing, but has a smokiness from the roasted red peppers.

I omitted most of the oil that Nigella used in her version because I thought the sauce was the right consistency without it. It clings to a chip properly, without being too thick or sludgy.

It’s perfect for bringing to a party and scoring bonus points for making something (when you barely did anything.)

Or for enjoying alone while watching old episodes of Nigella, drinking a frosty beer, and taking a moment to breathe.

Jumbo Chilli Sauce
adapted from Nigella Lawson

– 3 whole roasted red peppers (jarred, to make it easy)
– 1 clove of garlic, peeled
– 2 hot chilli peppers (I used one red and one green) with seeds in tact but top stems removed and cut in half
– 1/2 cup coriander stems roughly chopped
– Zest of one lime
– Juice of one lime
– 1/2 cup coriander leaves
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– salt

Drain the red peppers of any excess liquid.

Place roasted red peppers, garlic, chilli peppers, coriander stems, lime zest and juice in a food processor and puree until finely chopped and almost smooth. Add salt, olive oil and coriander leaves and blitz again until everything is blended and smooth.

Serve with tortilla chips.