Spicy Cucumber Salad

I made this simple cucumber salad at my Memorial Day BBQ and it was a big hit (except for my best friend Tracey, who is super pickyyyy.. who doesn’t like cucumbers??) Cucumbers have great nutritional value, low in calories and helps reduce bloating, so it’s perfect after a day (or weekend) of over eating. This salad has a nice spicy kick to it and the longer it sits in the fridge the better! I would make it the night before need it and enjoy the next day!

Spicy Cucumber Salad

4 Cucumbers (leave skin on and cut as thinly as you can, if you prefer use a mandolin)
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped fine
4 limes
1/4 of extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS red hot chili flakes
Kosher Salt to taste

1. Place the cucumbers in a large bowl. Add the chopped garlic and chopped jalapenos. (NOTE: use gloves to cut open the peppers and scrape all the seeds out so the salad it is not TOO spicy!)
2. In another bowl cut the limes and squeeze out as much juice as you can. Add the chili flakes, salt and oil. Whisk with a fork until combined.
3. Add dressing to the cucumbers and toss everything together. Place in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

Photo May 24, 5 17 29 PM

Dark Chocolate Spelt Brownies

The more and more I eat dark chocolate the more I prefer it over milk chocolate, which was not the case even a year ago. I tend to use good quality semi-sweet or bittersweet in my baking now, and the results are a sophisticated not overly sweet taste that is so satisfying. I love making homemade (not in a box) brownies, it’s so easy and again its nice to know exactly everything in your baking. I make these brownies with spelt flour, which is an ancient healthy whole grain in the wheat family. It’s like a distant cousin to our modern day whole wheat. It’s not gluten free but its a great alternative to wheat and can be used in place of it with a 1 to 1 ratio. I love it, it looks like wheat flour, it has a nice nutty flavor but it doesn’t overpower in recipes like whole wheat flour can tend to do. It’s not to hard to find, if your local grocery store has a natural foods section you can find it there or if you are near an Ocean Job Lot they carry the Bob’s Red Mill brand which is what I use. Make this brownie the next time you have a chocolate craving (that’s why I did it) they are so incredibly moist and decadent.

Dark Chocolate Spelt Brownies (adapted from Spelt Brownies)

1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
8 ounces of semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
3/4 of Spelt flour OR you can split this and do 1/4 AP flour and 2 quarters spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a 8 inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper. I use coconut spray from Trader Joes
2. Place butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Let that melt together. Take off heat and then add the sugars. Whist in the sugars until well combined
3. Let that cool a bit before adding eggs in one at a time. the add the cocoa powder and the salt. Fold in the flour until everything is incorporated. Don’t over mix!
4. Place batter in prepared pan and baked 25-30 minutes. Make sure to cool completely before cutting into it. Cut into squares and enjoy immediately!!

Photo May 08, 7 12 23 PM (1)

Photo May 08, 7 12 17 PM

Photo May 08, 7 15 58 PM

Quick Lunch Salad– Kale, Grilled chicken, and Roasted chickpeas

I came up with this salad the other day while I was in a panic in the morning realizing that I forgot to prepare a lunch for the day. I have been trying hard not to buy lunch and thought I would have to that day. But I had a few things in my fridge and had a “make it work” moment and it turned out to be great! The night before I had grilled up chicken breast to have for a salad or to add to a quick pasta dish. I had a kale which I love for salad because it hold up to salad dressing well without wilting and is packed with nutrients and flavor. I had roasted chickpeas the day before(which is my new thing..love it) and a good chunk of blue cheese I had bought the other day. So I thought if I just pack all this up I can assemble a pretty good salad for lunch. All it takes is a little preparation the night before and you have nice gourmet salad and be the envy of all your coworkers who are drooling over your lunch! Pack the chicken in one container, and the vegetables in another. I always make my own dressings so I know what exactly is in them and they often taste better then store bought, but this is your lunch so do whatever makes your stomach happy!

Grilled Chicken Kale Salad
1-2 cups kale, cut up in bit size pieces, hard stem removed
2 pieces of chicken breast, cooked and cut into thin slices
Few pieces of thinly sliced red pepper and onion
2 TBS of roasted chickpeas
Few crumbles of Blue cheese

Assemble a bed of kale on a plate making a slight dome shape. Add the grilled chicken around the dome, then the peppers, onions and chickpeas around and on top of the salad. Add the cheese last and drizzle with your favorite dressing or the yogurt dressing below!

Creamy Yogurt Dressing
1 cup Greek plain yogurt
juice from 1 lemon
fresh thyme, sage or Italian season blend
3 TBS red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Add everything to a small bowl and whisk with a fork or small whisk, add salt and pepper to taste.

Photo May 07, 1 17 58 PM (1)

Photo May 07, 1 17 58 PM

Peanut Butter Flaxseed Granola Bars

I love granola bars, it’s quick on-the-go breakfast or snack during the day. The problem is that they are super expensive (im cheap, thanks mom) and who knows what “preservatives” companies are putting in these things, and lets not even get into the amounts of sugar in these bars. So I decided to make my own, which turned out to be incredibly simple and completely addictive! I used my favorite ingredients; oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, dried cherries, flaxseeds, coconut oil, honey, nutmeg and cinnamon. You can of course put in what YOU love and mix it up each time.

Photo Apr 30, 9 25 13 AM

Photo Apr 30, 9 25 13 AM (1)

Peanut Butter Flaxseed Granola Bars

3 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup crushed and whole almonds or cashews
1/4 cup dried fruit or raisins (I used dried cherries)
1/4 honey or maple syrup
2 tbs flaxseeds
2 tbs coconut oil
Few dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg

Prepare a 8×8 baking dish line with parchment paper and sprayed with baking spray. Have the parchment hanging over the sides so its easy to pull out in the end.

1. In a sauce pan add the peanut butter and honey and heat for 2-3 minutes and shut off
2. In a bowl combine the remaining ingredients and add a sprinkle of kosher salt
3. Add the peanut butter mixture and combine everything well
4. Add mixture to the prepared pan and push down tightly with your fist. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge to set for 2 hours
5. When it’s set, take out of pan and cut in squares or rectangular bars Enjoy!!

Photo Apr 30, 9 21 23 AM

Coconut Crunch Cake

There is a line in a Beyoncé song where she says/sings with power and major badassness “Bow Down Bitches”,  and its amazing,  I don’t have time to explain that this is a song about empowerment and confidence in woman who hold power in this male dominated world, so I won’t.  I know you must be asking what does this song have to do with one of the most delicious cakes I have ever made?? Well the answer is Martha “bow down bitches” Steward.  When is comes to food, especially baking I have so much respect for this icon.  She is fierce and so is the coconut cake she recently had in the latest issue of her magazine Living.  Now, I’m not a huge fan of coconut, I like the oil and milk for certain things in cooking but that’s really where it ends for me with coconut.  I wish I liked it more since the health benefits are through the roof with good stuff for your body.  But this cake looked so friggin good that I NEEDED to try it, and good thing I did because this cake is so good, so delicate and so perfect.  Its like a coconut macaroon and a cake all in one.  There are 3 separate elements; the cake, the shredded coconut topping and  (my favorite) chocolate ganache.  This can also make a great coconut cupcake!  Ill be making this again and again!! As always, enjoy!

Coconut Crunch Cake Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon  kosher salt

1/2 cup of cream of coconut ( I used Trader Joe’s brand extra think coconut milk)

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 cup sugar

3 room temperature eggs

Topping

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon salt (a pinch)

1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups shredded coconut

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup semi sweet chocolate 1/2 cup heavy cream

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a springform cake pan by rubbing butter all over the pan or spray with baking spray.  Dust with a little bit of flour.  In a bowl mix the dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda/powder and salt).  In another bowl mix the cream of coconut  and vanilla together.

2. In a standing mixer beat the butter and coconut oil together.  Slowly add sugar.  Beat until pale and fully, about 3-5 minutes (this is important!!)  Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time.  Then on low add the flour mixture in 3 additions alternating with the cream of coconut/vanilla.  Mix until just combined.

3. Spread the cake batter into the cake pan.  Now make your topping: Add egg whites to the mixer and attached the whip attachment.  Whip until frothy.  Mix in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.  Then fold in the coconut.

4. Dollop topping on the cake batter, carefully spread the topping evenly.  Put cake in oven and bake for 1 hour.  Test with a tookpick to  make sure cake is baked all the way through.

5. Make chocolate sauce: Heat heavy cream in a saucepan and heat until its starts to simmer and turn off.  Pour hot cream over chocolate chips and let sit for a few minutes, then mix with a  spoon.   When cake is done and cooled drizzle chocolate sauce over cake.  When you cut the cake use the extra sauce for individual slices!

 

Photo Apr 07, 12 07 02 AM Photo Apr 07, 12 25 41 AMPhoto Apr 07, 12 27 14 AM (1)

Completely addictive roasted sweet almonds

Hello People! Sorry its been a few weeks since my last post, had some computer issues (which im still dealing with) and work has been busy! But I wanted to get back in the swing of things with these amazing almonds.  I love to snack, and this is one of my favorite things to snack on during the day.  These almonds take me back to when my mom used to take my brothers and I to downtown Boston and she would always buy us the fresh hot nuts from the roasted nut stands.  It was one of my favorite things to eat and always looked forward to it.  One of the things I love about certain foods is the history and nostalgia behind it and how one thing can bring you back to when you were 8.    The smell is enticing and I wanted to create that in my own kitchen.  I had almonds but you could use a mix of nuts or one that you love!  Its super quick and easy.  These are sweet but you could make them savory or spicy! (hmmm sriracha roasted almonds anyone?)

 

Roasted Sweet Almonds

2 cups  whole almonds

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon  kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat.

1. Heat a saucepan to medium heat and add sugar.  Let that melt ( you can add a few drops of water here).   Add your nuts and stir with a rubber spatula.  Then add the salt and cinnamon.

2. Transfer nut mixture to the prepared baking sheet and put in oven for about 5 minutes or until your house smells like a roasted nut factory! Enjoy!

 

Photo Feb 24, 10 33 57 PM

This is what it looks like when it comes right out of the pot and ready for the oven

Photo Mar 03, 10 12 01 PM Photo Mar 03, 10 30 23 PM Photo Mar 03, 10 30 26 PM

 

 

 

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Soup

I have been meaning to make butternut squash for the longest time, and just haven’t got around to making it.  It’s a great weeknight soup because you can make it super fast (30 minutes or less!) and makes great leftovers for lunch the next day.   I tend to go to the grocery store and buy things that I can freeze and make when I feel like it, one of those things is butternut squash.  I bought it a few months ago, cut it up and put in a plastic bag and kept it in my freezer.   I keep this soup super simple with just 3 ingredients; onions, garlic and squash.  I use my immersion blender to make  smooth creamy soups.  I had black beans and corn left over from my stuffed sweet potatoes , so I thought why not use them up and make a great addition to this soup.  The results were just what I wanted, the black beans added  the creaminess, and the corn (which I did not purée) gave the soup a nice texture against the smooth soup.  I cut up scallions and grated fresh parmigiano reggiano on top. Really. Really. Good

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Soup

Special Equipment- food processor or immersion blender (if you don’t have either of these this is a great chunky soup as well!)

1 lb of butternut squash cut into 1 inch pieces

3 cups vegetable, chicken or (like I used) homemade stock

2 cups black beans

1 cup of frozen corn

1 small onion chopped

2 cloves garlic cloves chopped

chopped scallion, grated or shaved parmigiano salt and pepper to taste

1. Put a large soup pot on medium heat with 2 tbs of olive or coconut oil

2. Saute onions and garlic for 3 minutes until the onions are beginning to soften

3. Add the butternut squash and let cook for another 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper

4. Add the stock, corn and beans.  Let simmer for 10 minutes

5. Let cool.  Then blend in batches until creamy (if using food processor) or right in the pot (if using immersion blender)

6. Adjust seasonings (add a few drops of hot sauce if you wish!..I did)  Add scallions and cheese.  EAT!

Photo Feb 24, 8 17 25 PM (1)  Photo Feb 24, 8 27 12 PM Photo Feb 24, 8 27 23 PM (1)