Farro w/ Roasted Asparagus & Red Cherries

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One of my favorite things about spring & summer time is the abundance of fresh produce. Everything in full bloom looking vibrant and lively as ever. It all makes me so happy; warmer weather, longer days, and a new fresh beautiful harvest. I look forward to our CSA box deliveries every week now because I know it will hold a whole new plethora of colorful goodies. This week we were given some brilliantly red cherries and I knew I had to involve them in dinner soon. I decided to play up one of my favorite dishes with these beauties and spark some color into it. Asparagus is looking incredible these days too and seem to be growing with vigor; the stalks on my bunch were giant. This meal is simple in essence, and doesn’t take long at all. The maple & balsamic dressing give it so much flavor and it makes an over-all generous portion. You could always substitute for another wholegrain like barley, wheat berries, brown rice (for a gluten free version), or even Israeli couscous; although I really enjoy farro in this. I like how the farro puffs up; kind of reminds me of that cereal, Golden Crisps, we used to eat as kids. Farro normally takes about 45 minutes to an hour to make, but I like the quick cooking version from Trader Joe’s. I know you will enjoy this one because this is truly one of those fast, easy, healthy and delicious meals.

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Farro w/ Roasted Asparagus & Red Cherries {Vegan}

Makes about 4 servings as a main or 8 small sides. 
Prep time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 6 minutes
Inspired by Cookie & Kate's brussels sprout version

1 bunch asparagus (about 12oz), cleaned & white stems removed, chopped into small 1″ pieces (I chopped mine a little too large)

1 8.8oz bag Farro (I buy the quick cooking kind from Trader Joe’s)

1 cup fresh red cherries, stemmed & sliced in half & pits removed

4 green onions, stems removed & sliced (use green & white parts)

1/3 cup slivered almonds

1.5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

1.5 TBSP organic maple syrup

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

a few crumbles of Goat Cheese, as garnish (optional if vegan)

Salt & Pepper (to taste)

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1. Prepare the Farro per package directions making sure to season the water with salt. Drain and set aside in a large bowl. Preheat your broiler on high.

2. Prepare the asparagus by cutting of the large white ends (they tend to be to fibrous and bitter). Chop the asparagus into thirds or fourths if stalks are very large (I even cut some of the piece in half length-wise because the stalks were so thick). Add the chopped asparagus into a large bowl and dress with olive oil & sea salt. Heat a 12″, oiled, cast iron skillet over high heat for a few minutes. Add the asparagus to the hot skillet and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the cherries, saute for another minute and then place under the broiler for about 3 minutes until asparagus and cherries have blistered a little (careful to remember the cast-iron skillet will be hot so use oven mits!). Remove from the oven and add the cherries and asparagus to the farro, making sure to get all the olive oil from the pan too. Add in the green onions, slivered almonds, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar and toss all together. Season with salt & pepper to your liking before dividing up into individual servings. Top each serving with a few crumbles of goat cheese and enjoy!

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Coconut Maple Banana Bread

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There are so many reasons to make banana bread. Mostly, the reason occurs because you have a few ripened and browned bananas lying on the counter, looking unappetizing as ever, but yearning to be used. Sometimes, the reason is because you get in that baking mood and you want something healthy and utterly satisfying. Other times, it’s because you are hung-over and you need a distraction from feeling like you might bite the dust. Either way, all are good and all are equally acceptable. Unfortunately for me, my reason, was the latter. What a night we had! We had a little too much fun with great company last night and today I am paying for it. After working all day, I came home and knew I needed a little something special for a night in with my main squeeze. We both needed it, really. Banana bread is something my mother and I always made together. Except, the version we made when I was little yielded 1/2 cup Crisco. (gasp!) I know, right? It seemed like we made a lot of things with vegetable shortening and now you couldn’t pay me to touch the stuff. I decided to make some real changes and attempt a vegan adaptation. The bread is moist and not overly dense, because the almond meal and shredded coconut appear in place of extra flour. This banana loaf cured my post-party blues and helped me realize that I just might possibly survive this day. Phew.

Coconut Maple Banana Bread {Vegan}

(Prep time: 5 minutes, Bake time: 50 minutes)
 

3 ripe medium bananas (*see note if your bananas are not yet ripe)

1 1/2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)

1 cup almond meal

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 tsp aluminum free baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/4 cup organic coconut oil, melted at room temperature

2 TBSP organic maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

*If your bananas are very yellow and not yet ripe, preheat oven to 425º. Arrange bananas (with peels on) on a small baking sheet and roast them on the middle rack for about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and then carefully remove the peels (they will still be a bit hot) and then mash the bananas in a medium bowl, set aside.

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1. Preheat oven to 350º and grease a loaf pan with coconut oil. Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl mash the ripe bananas until there aren’t any large chunks. Add the almond milk, brown sugar, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold to combine (try not to stir around too much here or the bread becomes too dense). Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or cover with foil to allow some of the steam to absorb back into the bread. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and fresh berries.

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