Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chocolate Fix

Here's a tip. Let's be honest, sometimes throughout the day or even when you are done with your tasks at night, you need a little chocolate fix. You don't need a whole bar, just a square, a snip-it, a morsel that soothes that inner chocolate gland that's sounding like an alarm. I know this alarm well, so it makes me extra conscious of the treats I keep in the house, this being the only one I bring home, it's my one cheat. So let me spill the beans. I buy the Dark Chocolate "Pounder Plus" from Trader Joe's. It's more than a pound of dark chocolate (72% cocoa) goodness that comes in perfect, little bite size squares. I chop it up on my cutting board and store it in a little jar on my butcher block- out of constant sight, but not in a secret hiding spot... somewhere in between the two. Then when the moment hits, I simply indulge in my chocolate fix, replace the lid, and carry on as I was before! Only one rule for me: only one trip to the chocolate jar each day.... that's not to say that there haven't been days when those sneaky fingers of mine grab a second piece on that solo trip though!

** And if you prefer, they carry Pounder Plus in Milk Chocolate too!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Kale Chips

This is an idea that has been floating my head for awhile- I have had a few friends tell me about the idea and I have seen it a few times in cookbooks or cooking sites, and well, I am just now getting around to posting it! It's super easy, takes little effort, and is an easy way to incorporate dark green veggies into your diet- NOT TO MENTION that my child ate almost the whole plate herself- they have the crunch and crispy flavor of a potato chip- your little ones will probably like it too!
Raw Kale with Grape Seed Oil and Sea Salt
Baked Kale or "Kale Chips!"
1 bunch kale, rinsed & patted dry
2 TBSP grape seed oil
1/2 tsp sea salt

I rinsed my kale then chopped it into 3 inch pieces (you can chop or tear it) then I through mine in my salad spinner. I removed the tough stems before putting them in a bowl with the oil and salt. Toss them well and then lay them on a roasting sheet or cookie sheet to bake for 20 minutes on 325. Bake them for 12ish minutes, then with a pair of tongs, turn them over and bake for another 8- 10 minutes until the edges are browned and the leaves are crispy. Serve them immediately as an appetizer or a side, they don't stay crunchy for too long, so gobble them up quick!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Orange Dream

So this past week, we went to a friends house to juice some oranges from the tree in her yard. It made some seriously delicious juice that we have been enjoying all weekend. I even decided to incorporate it into our dessert this weekend, so I added a little Vanilla ice cream and made a little treat tasting like a 50/50 bar! You could also make it with whole oranges and get a similar result!

2 cups orange juice
3 scoops vanilla ice cream


2 large oranges
3 scoops ice cream
3-4 ice cubes
*** this version will be a little frothier...

Pour into blender and blend!

This is a great treat with whatever fresh fruit juice you have on hand- try peaches, mango/pineapple, or a combination like strawberry orange!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Peanut Butter Pop 'Ems

Oh my GOODNESS!!! These are divine, and if I was totally honest, are better than the "real deal" Resse's cups. They have no sugar and yet are sweet and satisfying when you need a little pick me up- just pop one in for a little bit of heaven! Thanks to Amy Flory for sharing the idea with us, we are enjoying the goodness girl!!!

The Ground Flax seed gives them some texture and more nutty flavor!

1/2 cups peanut butter (use the natural kind, not Skippy)
5 TBSP ground flax seed
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 TBSP honey
1/2 cup chocolate, I use dark chocolate
** wax paper

Your peanut butter needs to be natural because of the consistency and it needs to be chilled (room temp will make it too runny). Add your flax seed, vanilla, and honey stirring it until well blended. You might have to refrigerate your peanut butter mixture if it is too gooey to roll into balls. Once it hardens, melt your chocolate, I used a double boiler (you could also use a glass bowl in the microwave, just watch it to know when it's done and be careful because the bowl might be hot). The using a tsp sized spoon, scoop and roll your peanut butter mixture and drop it into the chocolate, rolling it around with a spatula, then setting it on the wax paper to harden. I had my wax paper on a plate, then transferred the plate to the fridge for it to chill faster. Enjoy, these are delicious!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lemon Saffron Chicken...

Taste buds ready for a new flavor, getting tired of the same ol', same ol??? Give this a whirl, super easy, fun new flavors, and minimal ingredients... inspired by my Persian Cooking Diva of a sister-in-law who introduced me to cooking with Saffron!

1 package of chicken tenders or breasts
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 TBSP Grape Seed Oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
a pinch of saffron

Pour all ingredients into a dish or Ziplock bag and add chicken tenders (or quartered chicken breasts). Let them marinate for at least 5 minutes (up to 15) and then pour it all into a large skillet. Brown the chicken on both sides, the marinate will be soaked up by the chicken and evaporate until all you have left is the chicken strips. I love the rich yellowish color and the flavor of the saffron combined with the lemon juice and garlic, it's great by itself or wrapped up in a sandwich or wrap. ** In the picture I served it with sweet potato fries and roasted brussel sprouts and cauliflower. But with the left overs I chopped it up and put it in a spelt tortilla with arugula, cucumbers, and some balsamic dressing!

** Saffron can be purchased at Trader Joe's (look for Spanish Saffron) or other stores, it's a little pricey, but a little bit goes a LONG way!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fruit, Granola, and Yogurt Parfait

Here's what my Valentine concocted for me this year, it was quite tasty and pretty cute, way to go Honey! Thanks for sharing YOUR recipe with ME!!!! (he found it himself, I was quite impressed!)

1 cup old fashion oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
3 TBSP oil or butter (if butter, melt it first)
2 TBSP honey

8-10 strawberries, diced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup pineapple, diced
or substitute any of the above with raspberries, blackberries, bananas, or more!!!

2 cups plain yogurt

Preheat your oven to 350, mix all your granola ingredients together and spread them out on a cookie sheet baking for 18- 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove immediately from the cookie sheet (so it doesn't keep cooking) and put it in a bowl. Mix your fruit up and scoop it into the bottom of a glass parfait dish or tall glass, then continue to layer it with yogurt and the granola as much as you would like. This recipe will make approximately 4 servings.

And if you need some cheering up in the kitchen or a little giggle.... this story should do the trick!
My sweet husband wanted to surprise me and make me this for breakfast, but ran into a little snag if you will, when he realized he shouldn't have pre-cooked the oatmeal for the granola!!! In his defense he did show me the recipe which DID say "1 cup oatmeal" instead of a more accurately "1 cup oats"... so he had to dump the first batch and start over for round #2... what a trooper! (And yes, he gave me permission to share the story and the picture!! )
Check out batch #1:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Homemade Apple Sauce

Here's a recipe for those who have a high-tech blender, like the Vitamix or Blendtec. Now, don't think I am getting all fancy on you- it's a real no brainer- so simple you won't believe it. I came up with this the other day when I was making some delicious muffins that called for apple sauce and I didn't have enough on hand- so I made it fresh- here are the measurements if you should ever find yourself in such a predicament or if you have a hankering for some homemade apple sauce...

1 apple, cored
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 TBSP water

Blend. That's it.

*** When choosing your apple decide whether you want tart or sweet sauce- Granny Smiths, Pippins and Jonagold will give you tart sauce while Fuji, Gravenstein, and Gala will give you a sweeter sauce and are more common when making sauce. If your tart sauce turns out too tart, add a pinch of sugar or honey to sweeten it up!

Don't forget about little ones or babies- this is a great, healthy, all natural, homemade treat! I used to even boil some kale and throw it in there with it to add some greens for more nutritional value! You can disguise anything in apple sauce!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cauliflower & Brussel Sprouts....

I adapted this recipe from one I previously posted on Roasted Brussel Sprouts- it's nothing fancy, just threw in another veggie with it- this time it was cauliflower and it was delicious! I quartered my brussel sprouts (because they were huge!) and then cut the cauliflower into small chunks and tossed them all with some Grape Seed oil, 3 cloves of garlic, and s & p. I roasted them on a roasting pan (or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper) on 4oo for about 15- 20 minutes. Then I served them with a drizzle of balsamic over the top- they were delicious! Great combination and great way to introduce more veggies to your pallet!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pesto Sauce

A few weeks ago I posted a quick dinner idea from Trader Joe's, Genovese Pesto Marinated Chicken- and my goal was to come up with a do-it-yourself version that turned out SO SO SO good! Now pesto sauce is really easy to make- it takes minimal ingredients, very little talent and is bursting with flavor, not to mention really reasonable on the ol' pocket book. There are lots of different options of what to do with the sauce, so get creative... baked chicken, pesto pizza, or maybe some tasty pasta??? Feel free to share your ideas too!

3 cups fresh basil
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts
5 cloves garlic
s & p

This is super easy- put all the ingredients in a food processor (or Vitamix!) and blend until it's a creamy consistency.

***Once you have the paste made, you can add it to cooked pasta and throw in some chopped baked chicken and sun-dried tomatoes or you can coat some raw chicken with the sauce and bake it on 400 for 30 minutes and serve it over or along side a bed of pasta. When I last made this I served it with a side of roasted brussell sprouts and cauliflower with a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and the flavors and juices all ran together into a wonderful concoction!

Raw Chicken Breasts Coated in Pesto Sauce before baking for 30 minutes on 400

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Oil of Oregano... a diamond in the rough!

Okay, this is my newest find, and I am so EXCITED about it! I am just sad to know that I am just now discovering it. I wish I had know about it in years past, especially when I was teaching!!! Anyhow, for those of you who have not met, without further a-do, I present to you... Mr. Oil of Oregano.

This little bottle packs a big punch and helps ward off sickness like nothing I have tried before. It blows Airborne and E-mergency out of the water by a long shot. It is completely natural and is derived from wild oregano plants (much different than the oregano we cook with) and is considered a purifier to the body and an excellent early defense mechanism when you feel sickness coming on. It destroys bacteria especially in the skin and the digestive track, increases respiratory health, aides in sinus congestion, and strengthens your immune system remarkably. It also is know to calm and aid in digestive issues and calm irritated gums or itchy skin. If you have kids, work around kids or with the public this is a great item to keep in your medicine cabinet.

If you are in the need for an immune booster, consider purchasing this oil (make sure you get the right kind, Carvacol concentration that is at least 70 %) and be sure to dilute it in a bit of water or juice (when used internally) or oil (when used topically) because of the high concentration levels. You can use olive oil or coconut oil as transfer oil (I used a drop of this in a tsp of coconut oil on my daughters face when she had a bacterial rash on her chin). If you end up taking this supplement continuously then you may need to look into an iron supplement because it can block iron absorption over a long period of time (so thus not recommended to pregnant moms to take continually). The ONLY down fall to this fantastic little gem is the strong taste and burning in your nose feeling you feel for about 30 seconds afterwards (I felt compelled to be a straight shooter with you my readers!) But you would rather a nasty taste for a few seconds or a nasty cold??? That's what I thought!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Roasted Veggies & Linguine with Optional Chicken

I found the original recipe for this in my Vegetarian Times Magazine this month, but I adapted it a bit and added some "optional chicken" for some protein. In the magazines Valentine's addition they recommended making this dish for the official LOVE Day because it brings the fire (with the red pepper flakes) and the romance (with the white wine), so make it for someone you love... or for yourself- you'll love it too!

Grape Seed Oil (or Olive Oil)
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch asparagus, chopped in 2 inch pieces
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 TBSP grape seed oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup basil, torn * optional, can make it without
pasta, whole wheat or brown rice ( I used 1/2 a package of Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Linguini)

Pretty easy recipe, room for sloppy measuring and variations, so feel free to use what you have on hand and modify where you need to. First, bring your water to boil for your pasta and cook noodles per directions on the pasta package. Next, chop your asparagus, onion, and mushrooms and toss them in a bowl with some Grape Seed oil and red pepper flakes. (the original recipe called for 1/2 tsp pepper flakes, so if you like it hot, add more- I thought it was plenty spicy with 1/4 tsp). Spread the veggies on a roasting pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 for 12 minutes. Then add the tomatoes to the pan and let them roast for another 7-9 minutes until veggies get to your preference (the tomatoes will burst open and start to shrivel). Remove them and scoop them into a bowl. If you choose to add chicken, add some grape seed oil and a garlic clove to a frying pan and brown some chicken tenders. Remove them from the pan, and cut them into bit size pieces. Then drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the veggies and the chicken. Add everything pack to your frying pan, pour your wine and chicken broth in and use some s & p, mix everything up and let simmer for a 5 minutes, turning frequently to mesh all the juices and flavor. Serve up solo!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sauteed Mushrooms & Chicken

In a pinch for dinner one night I combined some ingredients I had on hand- it was yummy, fast, and required very little prep. Use it the next time your in a pinch!

1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 TBSP parsley
1 package chicken tenders
1/2 cup white wine or sherry wine
1 package mushrooms, I used crimini

First I sauteed the red onion and garlic in a drizzle of grape seed oil for about 2 minutes. Then I added my sliced mushrooms and 1/4 cup of white wine and let them saute for another 3-4 minutes (you could go wild and add a TBSP of butter if you wanted!). I then removed them from my pan onto a dish, and added another drizzle of grape seed oil that coated my pan along with the remains from the mushrooms. I added my chicken tenders, and let them brown on one side, turned them and browned them on the other side. Once they were fully cooked, I added another 1/4 cup of white wine to my pan and then added back the dish of mushrooms, and let them cook together for about 2 minutes, stirring them all together. I served it over a bed of brown rice pasta, but you could serve it over a bed of stemmed veggies or brown rice too!