Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Healthy Eating Habits

Wild Rice & Quinoa Chipotle Rubbed Grilled Chicken Bowl

Over the last several years, the push to end obesity in America has driven efforts supporting healthier eating habits in homes, on the go and in schools.  The Campaign to End Obesity (CEO), the Let’s Move campaign driven by Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution are amongst a few.  Some of the ideas are welcomed but, there is still far more resistance to tackle than there is support, and these concepts are ones I believe shouldn’t be pushed aside. 

A common response I hear when asking why fast food options are chosen over cooking meals at home is accessibility and ease.  It is far easier to pull up to the drive thru and have dinner in hand within a matter of minutes than it is to rush home and prepare a meal each night.  I understand the premise of fast food, and honestly cannot argue the ease it offers but, for me, fast food isn’t something I get from a drive thru, fast meals are ones that I create at home, with quality ingredients some freshly prepared and some prepared beforehand that offer nutrition, sustenance and are easily adapted to satisfy even the most aggressive cravings.

On Sundays, I prepare a few staple items to last throughout the work week making lunch and dinner preparation much easier.  There is always a super food which alternates between quinoa, wild rice, winter berries or faro, legumes in the form of chick peas, black or kidney beans, grilled proteins such as fish, chicken and lean cuts of beef and grilled or roasted vegetables.  Taking a little time out of my Sunday afternoon to prepare ingredients opens up much more of my time after work allowing me to maintain a healthy fitness regime, catch my favorite TV shows and even relax before bed with a glass of wine. 

Here is an original recipe that I often turn to during the week is different takes on the classic “burrito bowl.”  This one dish wonder is, in my opinion the easiest to prepare and the most versatile.  Taking the premise of the recipe and alternating between your favorite ingredients this adds a whole new twist to the ordinary idea.

Wild Rice & Quinoa Chipotle Rubbed Grilled Chicken Bowls

Ingredients
Serves 1

¼ cup plain wild rice
¼ cup quinoa

One boneless skinless chicken breast
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp chipotle powder
½ tsp garlic powder
Half zucchini sliced length wise
1 or 2 tsp grapeseed oil
Avocado
Bell Pepper

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, then stir in the rice and quinoa, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender, about 25 to 20 minutes.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high.

Toss the zucchini slices with a light coating of grapeseed oil, season with salt and pepper.  Grilled until tender about 2 minutes per side.

Evenly coat both sides of the chicken with one teaspoon of grapeseed oil, black pepper, chipotle and garlic powder then grill 3 minutes on each side and allow to rest for ten minutes before thinly slicing.  Season with salt to taste.

Layer the prepared ingredients in a bowl, top with avocado slices and chopped bell pepper to serve.  

A great breakfast variation of this dish is to simmer the cooked quinoa and wild rice in a mixture of almond milk, cardamom, vanilla extract and cinnamon, topped with dried fruit, toasted unsweetened coconut flakes or almond slices and a light drizzling honey or agave nectar.Wild Rice

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tamari Ginger Glazed Grilled Chicken CocoNUT Salad

Salads have become my go to staple for lunch and dinner but, as you know, they can easily become redundant so, to challenge this, I combined components not commonly seen mingling together keeping with summer flavors.  Thrown together using ingredients I had on hand; this salad is light but, hearty with textures that will create an absolute party in your mouth.    

Ingredients
Serves 2

¼ cup raw macadamia nuts
¼ cup raw slivered almonds
¼ cup raw cashews
½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 zucchini, sliced length wise ¼ inch thick
Agave nectar
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp lime juice
¼ tsp sesame oil
3 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
Light oil
A mixture of your favorite lettuces

Slice the chicken breasts into ¾ inch thick strips, and in a bowl toss with 1 tbsp tamari, 2 tsp grated ginger and 1 tbsp light oil to coat.  Grill until cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side depending on the thickness, and then set aside to rest.  Brush the zucchini slices with garlic chili paste and grill until just tender  about 1 to 2 minutes per side, remove and then slice into 1 to 2 inch pieces.

In a dry pan, lightly toast the nuts until fragrant, remove and set aside.  Then in the same pan toast the coconut flakes.

To make the dressing; combine the peanut butter, 1 tsp ginger, 2 tsp tamari, sesame oil, lime juice and 2 to 3 tsp light oil until combined, using the agave nectar to adjust the flavor to your preference.  I wanted the dressing a little on the sweeter side to balance the robust and spicy flavors of the chicken and zucchini, and used about 3 tsp agave nectar.

Toss the cilantro and lettuce lightly with the dressing to evenly coat and then toss with the zucchini, chicken, nuts and coconut before serving.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Raw Recipe: Key Lime Pie

Aside from environmental benefits, raw foods offer health perks such as increased energy, a boost in weight loss management and aid in the alleviation of common GI issues.  Mental clarity and emotional balance are also benefits people commonly find from consuming a raw diet.  Another motivating factor to incorporating more raw recipes into your diet is that by consuming live versus cooked foods nutrition consumption is maximized resulting in cleaner blood and healthier cells.

The other night I was watching the Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats and was intrigued when a spotlight on Divine Pie came up.  With gluten, sugar and dairy free crusts and fillings this delightful pie stand offers Portland raw versions of tasty classic desserts.  The idea of raw pies is something I haven’t personally experienced or actually ever thought of until watching this segment but, I find the idea is a unique way of incorporating live foods into your diet and one that is perfect for warmer months when lighter dessert options are always welcome.  While I am not planning to change my diet entirely at this point, it was all I could do to contain my enthusiasm until the next day (I watched this episode at 12:30 am) to get into the kitchen and start experimenting with raw recipes.

The plan started with the idea that I would get my feet wet by duplicating one of Divine Pie’s amazing creations but, I haven’t been able to locate recipes for any of their pies.  Motivated by the challenge and geared with essential knowledge of how these raw delectable’s are created I developed my own recipes taking inspiration from one of the pies feature on the show (and my personal favorite) Key Lime.   

Now, what makes this raw pie interesting is not only the ingredients used but the way they are prepared and the role they play in creating the same flavor and texture as the traditional version, and surprisingly enough the result is mind blowing.

Raw Key Lime Pie

1 young coconut - coconut milk reserved and meat removed
2 avocados
¾ cup soaked raw cashews
1/4 cup raw macadamia nuts
¼ cup soaked raw almonds
½ to ¾  cup key lime juice
Zest of 6 to 8 key limes
¾ cup agave nectar

Crust

1 cup raw cashews
½ cup raw almonds
½ cup raw macadamia nuts
1 cup coconut flakes
1 1/4 cup chopped dates
1 tbsp coconut oil

Soak the cashews and almonds (as specified) for 4 hours prior to preparing this recipe.  To make measuring easier I like to use one container for the portions needed for the filling and another for the portions needed for the crust. 

In a bowl, pour water over the nuts until just covered and then let stand at room temperature until ready to use.  Once soaked, using within a day or two is best for quality and freshness.

To prepare the crust; in a food processor using the S blade, pulse the fresh and soaked nuts together until they just start to break up (alternately you can pre chop the nuts), add the dates and pulse until the mixture when pressed holds its shape.  Add coconut flakes and pulse until just combined.  Pour the mixture into a 9 inch pie dish and press to evenly to form the crust, cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Next, remove the top of the coconut with a serrated knife, pour out the milk and then using a spoon remove all of the flesh and pulse with the soaked nuts, avocado, lime juice, zest and agave until smooth.  *Depending on the ripeness of the avocados and how tart the key limes are you may need to adjust the amount of agave to reach your desired sweetness.  Once the mixture is smooth pour it into the pie crust and refrigerate for at least 2 hours prior to serving. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Eating Our Way Through the County Fair!

Nothing kicks off summer in San Diego better then opening day announcements of the county fair.  Known for being one of the largest in the country, the San Diego County Fair  boasts a traditional range of competitive events, live stock shows, exhibits, games and rides.  For most, anticipation runs high when it comes to the updated list of newly comprised random edibles.  Battered, fried, wrapped in bacon or doused in chocolate all unique, some outlandish and are most definitely geared towards out doing the prior year’s selection. 


We like making the most of our day, getting in most of what the fair has to offer, and have a pretty good strategy for making our way through each experience – start with a snack, wander through the exhibits and then hit the rides before indulging in as many fair treats as we can handle.  Aside from the sinfully delicious fried delectable’s there is usually a good selection of healthier options such as this year’s highlight the Antipasto Bread Bowl.

A crisp mix of romaine and iceberg lettuce lightly tossed in a red wine vinaigrette and topped with tomatoes, pepperoncini, mozzarella, black olives and salami served in a freshly baked crusty sour dough bread bowl.

Without fail someone in the group kicks off snack round one with an order of Aussie Chips.
Sliced potatoes battered, fried and topped with your choice of nacho cheese, ranch and/or sweet chili sauce they are crisp and phenomenally delicious.

At some point, we venture towards some of the more outlandish options, and this year was no different as we found ourselves in front of the “Bacon-A-Fair” in search of the highly recommended “Pork-abello” Kebab. 

Mushrooms stuffed with gouda, wrapped in back then grilled until the mushrooms are tender
and the bacon is crisp.



And if mushrooms aren’t your preference an excellent alternative are the Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers.
Filled to the brim with cream cheese and then wrapped in crispy bacon, these pack a punch on the
spice scale and are flavor packed.


What's a bacon themed concession without a Bacon Wrapped Fried Hotdog?
Wrapped in bacon, breaded and fried until crisp.

Other snack option include Cheesy Bread – fresh sour dough buttered and topped with mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, Italian Sausage topped with grilled peppers & onions and Fried Cheese Curds.   


And for those looking for something a little more familiar popular food vendor setup shop as well serving pizza and corn dogs all incredibly tasty offering plenty of variety for every taste.


After we've made our way through all there is to look at, rode as many rides as our stomachs can handle and wandered through more exhibits then anyone should in one day, we end the day with something sweet.  One of the most talked about desserts all over the news was a twist on a fair classic - funnel cake - and I couldn't wait to make my way to try the latest version.

Red Velvet Funnel Cake - Traditional funnel cake topped with cream cheese frosting, 
whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

Of course we couldn't leave without one last treat - Cream Puffs.
Profiteroles topped with fresh vanilla, chocolate and strawberry whipped cream - a perfectly light ending.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Margarita Cupcakes with Tequila Lime Buttercream


Happy Cinco de Mayo Everyone!

It's been awhile since my last post so, I figured what better to come back with than a festive Cinco de Mayo recipe.  Now, there are tons of margarita cupcake recipes on the web but, unfortunately most of which use boxed cake mixes.  There are a few from scratch recipes but, they didn't incorporate all of the traditional flavors of a margarita so, I had to think outside of the box.  I took a basic vanilla cupcake recipe that I adapted from a recipe I found in a book several years ago, and added three key margarita flavors; lime zest and juice, cointreau and of course tequila.  

Now, let's talk quality of ingredients.  Since the components of this recipe are primarily uncooked quality is key.  While I'm not saying you have to go top shelf, a good quality, great tasting tequila makes all the difference in the end result.  Also, to acheieve the best texture cupcakes and frosting all ingredients should be room tempertaure prior to preparing.

Ingredients - Cupcakes

3 cups AP flour
1 cup coconut milk
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp orange extract (or Cointreau)
1 tbsp baking powder
3 limes, zest and juice
1/4 cup Corralejo Tequila (or your favorite)

Ingredients - Glaze

3 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp tequila
juice of a lime

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment; cream together the butter, sugar, tequila, lime juice and zest until light and fluffy.  Then add one egg at a time until completely incorporated.  Next, mix in the salt, baking powder and orange extract until combined, and then add the flour in three parts, and the coconut milk in two parts, mixing just until the batter comes together.  Using a 1/4 cup measure; fill each lined cupcake tin about three quarters of the way full and then bake for 23 to 28 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  [I start checking the cupcakes after they have baked for 20 minutes to ensure they do not get dry.]

To prepare the glaze; in a bowl, microwave the agave nectar, tequila and lime juice for 30 seconds and then gently whisk to combine.

While the cupcakes are hot brush glaze all over the tops, allowing it to soak in and then gently brushing on a little more and then set the cupcakes onto baking racks allowing them to cool completely.

Ingredients - Tequila Lime Buttercream

4 sticks unsalted butter
8 cups confectioners' sugar
8 to 10 tbsp tequila
6 limes juiced
1/2 tsp orange extract

In a stand mixer using a whisk attachment; combine the butter, tequila, orange extract and lime juice with 2 cups of confectioners' sugar until combined, then keep adding the remaining confectioners' sugar until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.  [Note: In between adding the confectioners' sugar I taste the frosting each time and adjust the flavoring accordingly.]

Using a piping bag, offset spatula or even a ziplock bag with the edge snipped, generously frost each cupcake and then top with lime zest and sea salt. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coriander Cauliflower Chickpea Soup

Anyone who knows me knows I love soup.   Whether I am making a classic recipe, or throwing together ingredients I have on hand to create something completely new, when it comes to putting together a quick, healthy meal, soups are usually my go to.


I came up with this recipe while looking for something light to serve with steamed tilapia.  Coriander has an amazingly fresh flavor that compliments vegetable soups wonderfully.  The addition adds a lovely almost citrus flavor to the broth which is set off further with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Ingredients

One large cauliflower
15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 cups vegetable broth
Two shallots
Two celery stalks
1 large fennel bulb
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp dried basil
Juice from one lime
4 vine ripe tomatoes, seeds removed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pecorino (optional)

In a heavy bottomed pot; saute the shallots and celery stalks until tender, slice and add the fennel and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and allow everything to cook down for about 3 minutes.  Remove the stalk from cauliflower and break off into florets, add to the pot tossing with the sauteed vegetables.  Next, add the stock, season with salt, pepper, coriander, dried basil and parsley, and let simmer until tender about twenty minutes.  Finish the soup by stirring in the chickpeas, adding the juice of one lime, and seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  A spirnkling of freshly grated pecorino romano cheese adds a subtle creamy, salty bite which also compliments the flavors very well.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Orange Scented Angel Food Cake

If you've never tried making angel food cake from scratch, I highly recommend giving it a whirl (literally).  This angel food cake has an incredibly light texture, enhanced with citrus that is the perfect pairing with fresh berries.  This is my adaptation of several angel food cake recipes I've tried over the years.

Ingredients

12 egg whites
1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp orange extract
zest of an orange

After separating the egg whites, allow them to sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.  This will help develop the right consistency, creating an airy light meringue.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, salt and extracts until soft peaks begin to develop, slowly add the granulated sugar a 1/4 cup at a time until fully incorporated, and continue beating until the meringue develops stiff peaks.  

Sift the flour and confectioner's sugar three times, and then lightly fold into the meringue until fully mixed.  

*It's important to make sure the dry ingredients are evenly distributed into the meringue but, it is important not to over mix as this will change the texture of the cake.

Pour the batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden, remove from the oven, then turn upside down either on the feet of your angel food cake pan or by inverting it onto a wine bottle, and allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Foodbuzz 24x24: A Spring Fare Lunch

I love the changing of seasons because it brings on a fresh array of ingredients to use with recipes that I have been jotting down through out winter and, it is all I can do not to buy everything at once and indulge in a smorgasbord of what the new season has to offer.  

I consider spring to be the in between season in the way of produce, offering of a mixture of lighter flavors perfect for crossing over from rich winter comfort recipes.    

When it was time to submit proposals for Foodbuzz 24x24 I knew right away the perfect menu to submit.  One showcasing the flavors of spring in a variety of healthy and flavorful ways.  Here is what I have in mind;

Citrus Fennel Salad
A fresh salad of fennel and segmented citrus drizzled with a simple
dressing of the fruits juices and extra virgin olive oil

Slow Roosted Tomato Soup with Grilled Lemon
Slow roasted tomatoes blended into a light soup enhanced with griled lemon

Herbed Gnocchi with Pesto
Classic gnocchi flavored pack with fresh thyme, basil, and parsley
served in a lemony pesto

Caramelized Pear Tarts with Brie
Diced Asian pears caramelized and served in delicate puff pastry
shells with fresh brie


Fennel Citrus Salad

Light, fresh and crisp with bursts of sweet tart citrus flavor, this is what I consider to be a great way to start off a spring meal.  The key to making this salad is keeping the components roughly the same size.  Thinly slicing the fennel, topping it with fresh citrus segments enhances the natural sweetness and balances the flavors perfectly.

Ingredients
Serves four

2 fennel bulbs
1 honey tangerine
1 pink grapefruit
Extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp grapeseed oil

To prepare the fennel; remove the top leaving about an inch of green, as well as the outer layer [this part tends to be fibrous] and then slice the fennel into 1/4 inch pieces.  Next, segment the citrus, and slice the Asian pear arranging onto a platter with the grilled fennel slices.   This salad is best served with a mix of arugula, mint leaves and fennel fronds, lightly dressed with a good squeeze of the juices left in the citrus after it has been segmented, salt, pepper and olive oil.


Slow Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Lemon

For this recipe, I like using vine ripened tomatoes , and in this case the riper the better.  Slow roasting maximizes the intensity in flavor adding an amazing richness and eliminating the need to finish with heavy cream.  Served over homemade gnocchi speckled with fresh herbs, and then finished with a bright squeeze of grilled lemon makes for a wonderful twist on a comforting home style classic.

** The slow roasting takes six to seven hours.  This is important to keep in mind if planning to serve at a lunch or dinner party.

Ingredients
Serves four

For the soup;

Two pounds of vine ripened tomatoes
1 carrot
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 stalks lemon grass
4 cups vegetable stock, low sodium is best
2 lemons, halved
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Remove the tomatoes from their stems, lightly pierce the skin in three or four places to prevent them from bursting, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper then slow roast until concentrated and chewy, about 6 to 7 hours.  This step is best completed the night before, and make extra which can be kept in the freezer for later use. 

In a separate pot; sauté the onion and carrot until tender, and then add the garlic continuing to cook until fragrant.  Next, add the thyme, tomatoes and stock, bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove thyme sprigs, check the seasoning and using an emulsion blender, pulse until smooth.  

As an accompaniment, I like to serve this soup with a wedge of grilled lemon.  The heat loosens the juices, and also mellows the flavor which compliments this recipe beautifully.  Simply halve the lemons and put them on a hot grill for a couple of minutes before serving.

Whole Wheat Herbed Gnocchi with Pecorino

Light, fluffy potato dumplings flavored with fresh herbs and served with pecorino in a lemony pesto, what’s not to love?

Michael Chiarello’s recipe for gnocchi is a beautifully simple yet and extremely flavorful.   The only changes I have made are in the preparation, and with the addition of fresh herbs.  If this is your first time making gnocchi, don’t be intimidated, you will be surprised at how easily they come together, and while practice makes perfect in the way of shaping them there is really no right or wrong.   

Gnocchi Ingredients
Serves four

One pound russet potatoes
3 large egg yolks lightly beaten plus, one extra on reserve if needed
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup all purpose flour


Peel and boil the potatoes until tender, let cool slightly then mash using a whisk or fork.  On your counter or in a bowl using the potatoes create a mound with a well in the center, just as you would when making pasta dough.  Start by adding the egg yolks, cheese, herbs salt and pepper, then using a fork mix until evenly combined, then start adding flour about a quarter cup at a time folding [not kneading] it into the dough just until it holds together.  If the mixture ends up becoming too dry add another egg yolk.  When ready, the dough should be firm but, give under light pressure and should hold together when rolled into a half inch tube.  If your dough hasn’t reached this consistency it is easily fixed by folding in a little more flour until the dough yields as described above.

Next, divide the dough into four equal parts, roll each into a rope 1/2 inch in thickness, then cut it into 1/2 inch long pieces and toss in lightly flour to keep them from sticking.  To make the signature grooves; take each piece and push on it lightly with your thump against the tines of a large fork while pushing it away from you.  The gnocchi should take on a cupped shape.  Another method is to shape each gnocchi into ovals then indent with your thumb and roll them on your palm.  The grooves not only hold in the sauce but, also allow for more even cooking.  [Side note: It took several practice runs to get the hang of shaping them and I still by no means make perfectly shaped gnocchi but, I think that adds a rustic character to the dish that I love.]  Dust lightly with flour; spread the gnocchi in a single layer onto a cookie sheet and allow them to dry (preferably in front of or under a fan) for half an hour.  At this stage the gnocchi can be frozen for use up to one month later. 

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt, drop the gnocchi into the water and once they float to the top cook for about 90 seconds, remove and drain.  At this point, I like to toss them in a little extra virgin olive oil to prevent them stick to each other. 

Pesto Ingredients

1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 cup arugula
1/2 cup Italian flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh mint
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup pecorino
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste


In a food processor; toss in the arugula with the basil, mint, parsley, garlic clove, lemon zest and juice, then pulse until blended, add the pecorino and while processing, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto comes together.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, toss with the gnocchi and serve with a sprinkling of pecorino.  This dish is best served at room temperature.

Caramelized Pear Tarts with Brie

Originally, the plan was to make dessert style flat breads with fresh apricots or nectarines but, after not being able to find ripe produce, the plan quickly changed.  Asian pears, while pricey, are in season and offer a crisp bite to rich, creamy brie.  I already had a package of puff pastry shells on hand so instantly I know the perfect replacement would be these Caramelized Pear Tarts.  

Ingredients

6 puff pastry shells
2 Asian pears, peeled and diced
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
4 ounces fresh brie
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and cook the puff pastry shells until golden.  

In a pan, melt the butter, brown sugar, spices, salt and butter.  When bubbling add the diced pear and lightly toss to coat.  Allow the pears and caramel to simmer until tender but, not mushy, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

While the oven is still warm, warm the brie until sightly melted.  Then spread about 2 teaspoons onto the bottom of each shell, cover with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pear mixture and then top each, evenly with the remaining brie.  Serve immediately.

Friday, March 23, 2012

SRC-Style Recipe Swap - Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken

With so many amazing blogs out there, it seems like I have an ever growing list of recipes I want to try but, getting through the list can seem unattainable.  After several months, I recently visited the What’s Cooking board on The Nest and was excited to see a new recipe swap SRC-Style.  Hosted by Sarah with A Taste of Home Cooking this isn’t your ordinary recipe swap, organized as a blog swap giving foodies an opportunity to prepare any recipe off a randomly picked fellow blogger’s website. 


For my assigned blog, I was fortunate enough to receive Carrie’s Sweet Life.  Simplistic in nature, Carrie’s website is packed full of amazing full flavor, “down home” recipes.  In fact, there are so many to choose from that I couldn’t resist and had to make two! 


To start, a Spicy Yogurt Marinated Chicken which I prepared tandoori style in a 425 degree oven, this and the addition of turmeric were the only tweaks I made.  I chose low-fat yogurt over full fat, and would recommend against using non-fat as you need a little to retain moisture and achieve the silky texture to the chicken.


Ingredients

One whole chicken divided into pieces
1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup fresh chopped mint
2 garlic cloves
Two 2-inch pieces of lime zest
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp hot paprika
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger


In a food processor; blend all of the ingredients (less the chicken) until smooth, then marinate the chicken pieces in the mixture overnight making the pieces are evenly coated, and turning once or twice during.


To cook the chicken; preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and bake on a sheet tray lined with cookie racks for 30 minutes, then turn and bake until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes for the smaller pieces and 15 to 20 minutes for the larger pieces.  [Cooking on racks will allow the heat to circulate on both sides resulting in quicker, more even cooking.]  If the chicken appears charred don’t panic!  This is exactly what you are looking for.  Let the chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. 

Thanks Carrie for having such a great blog to work off of!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pomegranate Craisin Orange Scented Muffins

I hear it’s always good to stock up on healthy snacks, that way you reach for those in place of unhealthy ones.  So, with that in mind I’ve made it my mission to create health conscious recipes not only for snacking but, also quick breakfast grabs and lunch treats. 

This is a basic whole grain muffin recipe that can easily be transformed into whatever creative flavor combination you can like.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember the source of the original recipe.  I found it several years ago and have since made a few changes tailoring it to my taste.  This batter works great with pretty much any combination you can think of, and for this batch I went Pomegranate Craisins and orange.  Tangy and sweet, it’s a classic combination you can’t go wrong with. 

Ingredients


3/4 cup whole grain flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oats, plus 2 tbsp to top
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup 1% milk
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
2 egg whites
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure orange extract
Zest of an orange
1 1/4 cup Pomegranate Juice Infused Craisins


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


Combine the dry (reserving 1/4 cup) and wet ingredients, in separate bowls, and lightly whisk to combine.  In two batches, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just incorporated.  Toss the Craisins with the reserved quarter cup of dry ingredients, then fold into the batter.  Line the muffin tin, then fill each cup three quarters of the way full, topping off each with any left over batter.  Sprinkle the tops with the reserved oats, and then back for 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If the muffins need more cooking time check them every minute to ensure they do not over cook and become dry.  This recipe yields twelve muffins.


Nutrition
Calories              124.4
Fat                     2.7 g
Cholesterol         .5 mg
Sodium              155.4 mg
Sugar                 21.4 g
Protein               1.8 g
Potassium          102 mg
Total Carb           29 mg


Nutritional calculations courtesy of SparkPeople

Monday, March 5, 2012

Saturday Night Dinner

Prosciutto Wrapped Cod, Roasted Asparagus with Black Eyed Peas 
in Lemon Parsley Vinaigrette

Black eyed peas were a must have side dish for every New Years dinner at my house growing up, and  it was said that eating them would bring luck with the New Year.  When I was a kid, black eyed peas weren't my favorite so, as long as I ate at least a spoonful I wouldn't miss out on any of the good fortune.  As I have gotten older, I've come to really love their hearty flavor and make them often with a simple lemon vinaigrette that makes for a fantastic warm black eyed pea side dish to just about any protein.  

For the fish, I was fortunate enough to come across fresh Alaskan Cod which I don't find around here very often unless I take the time to head down town to the fish market.  I had a dish of bacon wrapped halibut a few years ago that was amazing, and because I wanted something a little leaner than bacon chose prosciutto.  A simple seasoning of salt and pepper, a light drizzle of oil then baked in the oven until cooked through and crisp.  Along side, I roasted asparagus with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper.  Absolutely delicious.  

Ingredients
Recipe based on a serving for one

One 5 ounce Alaskan Cod fillet
Two thinly sliced pieces of prosciutto
6 asparagus spears
1/2 cup black eyed peas
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
One lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Rinse and pick through the black eyed peas, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about half an hour.  In a bowl, squeeze the juice of a lemon, season with salt and pepper and then whisk in the olive oil until combined.  Drain off the liquid from the black eyed peas, pour into the bowl, top with the chopped parsley then toss until evenly coated in the vinaigrette.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the woody base of the asparagus spears, toss them with about two teaspoons of light oil such as grapeseed or canola, and then put them onto a roasting tray and into the oven.  Lightly drizzle the cod on each side with oil, season with salt and pepper, then wrap with the slices of prosciutto.  Put onto a baking tray and in the oven with the asaparagus.  Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes.  By this time the asparagus will be tender and the prosciutto crispy.  


That's it.  Super simple, healthy and very tasty.  Enjoy

Thursday, March 1, 2012

REVIEW: Vibrant Flavors Pretzels & Oregon Dukkah

I was recently give the opportunity to review a range of all natural pretzels and regon Dukkah and am excited to share the experience with you.  Vibrant Flavors is an Oregon based company creating new standards in the way of nutritional snacking.  Their mix of non-greasy, flavor packed pretzels and hearty Oregon Dukkah offer a variety of flavors to suit every snacking taste. 

Creator, Donna Dockins, comprised her amazing Pretzels and Oregon Dukkah from all natural, locally sourced ingredients.  It’s not hard to see that quality is top priority from the ingredients, and everything down to the packaging which is produced locally, made from recycled and biodegradable materials, shows care.

There are six flavors of Vibrant Flavors Pretzels chose from Sweet Onion, Italian Herb, Barbeque, Roasted Garlic, Maple Bacon and Beertzel.  Not only are they super crisp, and perfectly toasted but, they are completely fat free which makes them a no brainer for guilt free snacking.  The flavors are deliciously intense and taste just like you're eating the ingredients fresh and as promised they weren’t at all greasy to the touch!  I can definitely see myself snacking on these during work, while out running errands or even just while hanging out at home.

Oregon Dukkah is unlike anything I have ever tried in the way of dips.  Derived from Egypt this combination of nuts and spices is known as a robust dry dip which can also be used in cooking, savory and sweet.  Oregon Dukkah can be enjoyed in so many ways in fact, I am still thinking of ways to incorporate these flavors into everyday recipes.  Keep it traditional and “Do the Dukkah” by dipping bits of bread into extra virgin olive oil and then into the Dukkah for a flavor explosion.  This incredible blend of spices also tastes great mixed into Greek yogurt or sour cream for a tangy dip that works perfectly with Vibrant Flavors pretzels or as the center of a veggie tray, and the sweet flavors makes the perfect dry dips for fruit or toppers for parfaits.

You can order Vibrant Flavor Pretzels & Oregon Dukkah by visiting www.VibrantFlavors.com.  The pretzels range in price from $5.99 each for a 2 ounce pouch to $30.59 for a pack of five pouches and the Oregon Dukkah from $7.29 for a two pack to $28.69 for a case of twelve.

Of course I couldn't complete this review without cooking up something tasty so, here is the recipe for a cast iron baked apple crisp I made using the Coconut Oregon Dukkah.

Dukkah Apple Crisp

Ingredients

One packet Coconut Oregon Dukkah
Six granny smith apples
1 tbsp black strap molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup oats
1/4 cup flour
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and quarter the granny smith apples.  I prefer mine to have a little bite left over after baking which simply quartering the apples allows but, if you prefer them softer by all means slice them into eigths.  In a bowl, toss the apples with half of the Oregon Dukkah, cinnamon, molasses and vanilla to evenly coat.  Set aside while making the topping.  In a separate bowl, rub the flour and butter together until it resemembles pea sized crumbs just as you would if making a short crust pastry.  Next, add the oats, pecans and the rest of the Oregon Dukkah tossing to evenly mix.  In a cast iron skillet; pour in the apples then evenly distribute the topping to cover, place in the oven and bake until bubby and golden, about 15 minutes.  Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.