Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oh She Glow's Homemade Yolos

So, today I popped over to my girlfriend, Shanna's, house for a quick visit.  Not only did she give me a giant brussel sprouts salad, but her sweet mother whipped me up a kale smoothie (Thanks, Deb!!! It really did give me a great energy boost for the rest of the day!). Shanna and I are constantly sharing healthy foods and recipes with each other.  One vegan blogger we are obsessed with is Angela Liddon over at Oh She Glows.  Her brand new cookbook, The Oh She Glows Cookbook, is seriously to die for and you must must must check it out!  Anyway, Shanna asked me if I have made this gal's Rolo knock-offs (made with dates) yet because she just did yesterday and they are amazing. Of course, not being satisfied with ONLY getting a salad AND a smoothie, I asked her if I can have one (actually,  I kind-of demanded one, because, I'm all about taste-testing a homemade Rolo). Shanna points over to her sweet, beautiful kids sitting at the table, fresh homemade yolos all over their mouths, and says they just gobbled the last of them up! Darn!

So, of course, I had to try these out for myself immediately.  When I was making these the kids asked me what I was doing....I said, "Oh, I'm just making Rolos from scratch." They got all excited and couldn't wait for me to finish with them. All three gave them a big thumbs up!! And they totally bought my fib that they were candy! Ha!  I swear, these little gems are Oh So TASTY!!! I had to tell myself "NO MORE" after five of them in a row. Crazy, crazy yummy!!!!

Give them a whirl!!! I think you will love them! Thanks for the heads-up, Shanna!!

This recipe comes directly from the website:

for the caramel
  • 200 grams pitted soft Medjool dates (about 11 large)
  • 1/2 tbsp peanut butter (or other nut or seed butter)
  • pinch of fine grain sea salt
for the chocolate coating
  • scant 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
for garnish
  • chia seeds (optional)

1. [Note: You want to use very soft Medjool dates. If yours are firm, soak in water to soften before using. Be sure to drain well.] Process pitted dates in food processor until a sticky paste forms. Now, add in the nut or seed butter along with a pinch of fine grain sea salt. Process until combined. The mixture will be SUPER sticky, but this is a good thing!

2. Scoop out the sticky mixture into a bowl and freeze for about 10 minutes. Chilling it makes the caramel easier to shape into balls. After chilling, lightly wet your fingers and shape caramel into small balls to make about 18 balls total.

3. Place balls back into the freezer for another 10 minutes on a parchment lined plate. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips along with 1 teaspoon coconut oil on the stove top over low heat. When 2/3 of the chips are melted, remove from heat and stir until everything is melted. <I melted the chips and coconut oil in the microwave>

4. Remove balls from freezer and dunk each ball into the melted chocolate, one at a time. Roll around to coat. Tap off excess chocolate and place back onto parchment-lined plate. Sprinkle with chia seeds (optional) and stick a toothpick into each. Repeat for the rest.

5. Freeze again for at least 20 minutes until set. Bites taste best straight from the freezer and will soften (but will not melt) at room temperature.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

See's Candy Chewy Chocolate Chip Browned Butter Cookies

Well Folks, I think I may have found the ULTIMATE chocolate chip cookie. I know, I know, I say this all the time! It's true.....I am a cookie conoisseur....I love me a good cookie (it's one of my weaknesses) and I'm always searching for new, fun, yummy recipes to share with you all.  I often find myself attracted to cookie recipes that are filled to the brim with goodies- nuts, toffee, pretzels, cinnamon chips, white chips, peanut butter, yada, yada, yada.....And I truly do love me a goodie-filled cookie.  But, there are times when I just crave a straight-up, plain ol' chocolate chip cookie....and let me tell you, this simple recipe totally nails it!!!

I found this recipe on the See's Candy website.  I grew up in California where See's Candy stores were a dime a dozen - I never knew how lucky my sweet tooth had it until I moved to another state. Oh See's, how I miss you so! I know I can buy See's online....and I know our big mall here has a See's kiosk, but, it just isn't the same. See's Candy will always be my all time, forever favorite chocolate.

So, while I was browsing their website the other day (I do that every once in awhile because I like to torture myself) I noticed they had a "recipe" section. I was intrigued immediately!!  This cookie recipe is very unique...the butter is deeply browned and then immediately put into the freezer - I was like, "what, what?!"  After I blended that beautifully browned butter with the sugars I tasted a tiny bit- it tasted like toffee!! I knew right then these cookies would be very very good (and oh are they!). But, there was one other ingredient that really shook things up....just a teeny, tiny bit of molasses. I have never used molasses in a chocolate chip cookie before.  I wondered if that teensy bit would make such a difference. I think it did. I'd love to hear if you think it took these cookies to the next level, too!

Oh!! And one more thing to note. The recipe says to let the cookie dough rest in the fridge for 24 hours before baking. I definitely agree with chilling your dough before baking!! But, it can be difficult to plan for cookies up to a day ahead!! So, I cooked a few cookies after letting the dough chill only 4 hours. And then I baked the rest after the full 24 hours. The cookies that were chilled for only 4 hours were still delicious!!!! Although, the cookies that were chilled for the full day were even better. Anyway, all that to say, if you can't wait a day to bake the dough, they will still turn out yummy!

Here is the recipe directly from See's website (please note, I doubled everything you see here to make a full, regular sized batch of cookies....I probably should have quadrupled it they were so good!!!):

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz See's semi-sweet chocolate chips <I used Toll House- oh sorry, See's! If I had a store near me, then you know I'd use your chips!>

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat about 5 minutes, until bubbling and foaming. Once butter is amber in color, transfer to a small bowl. Scrape the browned bits from the pan into the bowl too. Add one teaspoon of cold water, and stir. Place bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Remove browned butter from the freezer and place it in the mixer along with sugar and brown sugar <I just used a hand mixer; it worked fine>. With the paddle attachment, mix on low for one minute, then increase to medium speed until combined.

Scrape down sides of mixing bowl and paddle, then add egg, molasses and vanilla. Mix for about one minutes until completely combined. 

Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until fully combined.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Let cookie dough rest for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

When it's time to bake, preheat oven to 350F.

Place rounded tablespoonfuls of dough, two inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets <I did not line my cookie sheets, nor did I grease them>. Bake in preheated oven about 10 minutes <do NOT overcook these cookies!>.  Remove cookies from oven and let cool for 9 or 10 minutes before transferring them to a plate.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fancy Mac 'n Cheese with Roasted & Sundried Tomatoes, Spinach and Chicken

This meal was super easy to whip up and quite yummy.  I didn't originally plan on adding sun-dried tomatoes, but, when I opened my fridge door they were just there staring at me, so I threw some in.....I'm glad I did because they added a lot of flavor to the dish.  And I am always a huge fan of putting roasted cherry tomatoes in just about anything.  Since I don't eat meat, I only put chicken on one side of the dish (instead of stirring it into the whole thing) vegetarian portion turned out delish, so, just know this meal is great with or without the chicken. Two out of three kids loved this. I hope your family does, too! Enjoy!

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb ziti or penne pasta
2 teaspoons minced garlic
5 tsp all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt & pepper, each
1/2 tsp dried basil
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 large handfuls of spinach leaves, chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup cooked chicken, chopped (optional)
3 tablespoons of bread crumbs or panko

Preheat the oven to 400F

While the oven is preheating, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta noodles according to the lowest suggested time on the box (ie. if the box says to cook for 9-11 minutes, cook for only 9 minutes).  Drain the al dente pasta and set aside.

Toss the halved cherry tomatoes with 2 tsp olive oil and spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes on 400F.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Add ­remaining 2 teaspoons oil to a large oven-proof skillet (if your skillet isn't oven proof, it's okay, you can transfer to a cooking dish later). Add garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in flour, milk, salt, pepper and dried basil. Use a whisk to blend all ingredients completely; whisk until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook for one minute or until thickened; stir frequently.  Remove the pan from heat; stir in Parmesan and mozzarella and blend until smooth. Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce; stir well.  Stir in chopped spinach, sun dried tomatoes and chicken, if using.  Gently fold in roasted tomatoes.  If you are not using an oven-proof skillet, then you should transfer your pasta to a cooking dish now. Sprinkle the top of the pasta evenly with bread crumbs.

Change oven temp to broil.

Broil the pasta dish for about three minutes. Stand close by and turn on the oven light to make sure the bread crumbs do not burn. Remove from oven once breadcrumbs look golden and are slightly crispy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Zesty Quinoa Salad

This yummy recipe was shared with me by my friend, Kim. Kim loves all things quinoa (so do I; I mean, really, who doesn't now a-days? We are living in a quinoa-loving world, people). I tweaked the original recipe up a little bit as I always seem to do; I can't help myself!!! My husband and I ate the whole salad for dinner served with pita wedges. But, I also think this would make a fabulous side dish or quick lunch. I know a couple of my girlfriends like to make a big batch of quinoa salad on Sunday nights and then eat a little bit for lunch as the week goes on. This is a very smart thing to do to ensure you eat a healthy lunch every day and not just a bowl of cereal (that would be ME) or a couple of donuts out of the pantry (ummm, ya you, my bestie-who-shall-remain-nameless, I'm talking about you)!! Enjoy!!!
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 Tbl to 4 Tbl fresh cilantro, chopped (according to your tastes)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 sliced almonds (optional)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbl apple cider vinegar (or white or red; not Balsamic)
1 Tbl honey
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt & pepper, each
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flake, to your taste
Pita bread slices for serving

Bring quinoa and broth (or water) to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pour olive oil, vinegar, cumin, honey, salt & pepper, and red pepper flakes together in a Tupperware container. Cover with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously until thoroughly combined.

Combine cooked quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, green onions, cilantro, and sliced almonds (if using) together in a bowl. Pour dressing over quinoa mixture; toss to coat. Gently fold in feta cheese. Taste the salad and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Chill salad in the refrigerator.
Serve with toasted pita bread wedges. Enjoy!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Zucchini, Apple & Quinoa Cakes with Cucumber Yogurt Dressing

Summer is coming to a close and yet, I'm still a vegetarian. I call myself a "summer vegetarian" because it's just easier for me to omit meat in my diet in the warmer months. The chill of fall makes it harder for me to resist the occasional chicken sausage soup, beef stew or turkey chili.  My husband is always happy once summer comes to a close because he knows it means a little chicken is on the horizon.

But for now, I'm very content in my meatless-world. And these zucchini apple cakes leaving me craving for nothing!! They are extremely delicious, filling and healthy. I LOVE them! Hope you do too!

Zucchini Cakes:
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1/3 cup pecans (or walnuts)
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 medium apple, grated with peel on
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped (substitute with 1 Tbl dried dill)
1/2 tsp garlic, chopped
1 Tbl ground flax (optional)
1 Tbl hemp seed (optional)
2 eggs
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 Tbl olive oil

Yogurt Dressing:
6 oz container of plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbl lemon juice
1/4 tsp garlic salt

Mixed lettuce

Put uncooked quinoa in a mini food processor and process until finely ground. Add pecans and process until mixture is smooth.

Place grated zucchini and grated apple in a strainer. Let stand 15 minutes. Use a few paper towels to squeeze out excess liquid through the strainer. The zucchini and apple should be barely moist by the time you are ready to use it.

Combine zucchini, apple, green onions, dill, salt, pepper, garlic,  feta cheese and eggs in a large bowl. Stir well to combine. Add the quinoa and pecan mixture and ground flax & hemp seeds, if using; stir well to combine.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add 1 Tbl olive oil to pan. Add 1/4 cup of the zucchini batter to the hot pan; use the back of the measuring cup to flatten the mound into a 3"-4" cake. Cook 4 minutes then flip cake to the other side. Cook another 4 minutes. Remove the finished zucchini cakes and repeat procedure with the remaining olive oil and rest of the batter.                         

For the dressing combine yogurt, cucumber, red bell pepper, lemon juice and garlic salt; stir well. Divide lettuce between plates. Top with zucchini cakes and dressing. Serve right away. Enjoy!!