Salted Butterscotch Blondies


Most years on the day after Thanksgiving I will do one of a handful of things: Black Friday shopping (on-line, people -not in the stores!), nab a Christmas tree and decorate the tree and/or my place or spend the entire day baking Christmas cookies. To be honest, it’s been a few years since I spent the day baking Christmas cookies and though I wanted to this year, I was bit pooped from spending all of Thanksgiving cooking. So despite the fact that I had pulled out a bunch of brand-new Christmas cookie recipes to try (courtesy of Food Network Magazine), I could not find the motivation to continue cooking.

This weekend I was craving something sweet and a craving can be the most powerful motivator of all. So I whipped up these blondies (yes, whipped-the recipe is sooooooo easy) to satisfy my sweet tooth.

The original recipe from Food Network Magazine calls for a tablespoon of actual scotch, which I did not have. I do not have scotch listed in the below ingredients. Rest assured that wikipedia tells me that “scotch” is not your standard ingredient for butterscotch so omitting the ingredient from this dish will not render the dish a fraud.

ingredients.

  • 2 sticks plus 2 T. butter
  • 1 3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. heavy cream
  • 1 T. pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. fine salt
  • Flaky sea salt, for topping

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; spray the foil with cooking spray.
  2. Combine 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar and the heavy cream in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla; set aside to cool.
  3. Melt the remaining 2 sticks butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat until the butter begins to bubble and spit and flecks of brown rise to the top; let cool slightly. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, the eggs and the remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla, then stir in the flour, baking soda and fine salt.
  4. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and pour the butterscotch sauce on top. Gently swirl the sauce into the batter using a knife. (This is nearly impossible to do in batter that uses browned butter so instead it’s fine if you just drizzle the butterscotch on top and let it sit.) Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and let cool completely in the pan. Lift the blondies out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang. Cut into pieces. Eat as is or warmed up with a scoop of ice cream and some butterscotch or caramel sauce on top.

Recipe Rating: 

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Triple Layer Cheesecake, Pumpkin and Pecan Pie



Even though I gave my dad first dibs at choosing the Thanksgiving menu this year, he allowed me to choose the dessert. Mainly because he knows how much I love dessert but also because I would have to make it. Neither of us overly like pumpkin pie, but it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving unless you have one on the table, right? This recipe was my way of bringing pumpkin pie to the table without feeling like I was missing out on something better. It contains a layer of cheese cake, pumpkin pie and pecan pie. My grandma clipped this recipe from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and sent it to me. Good find, Grams!

This pie was quite an undertaking. It’s actually not quite as hard as it sounds, though people often tell me that I have a different understanding of what’s “hard” in the kitchen. It was quite an undertaking for me because I believe I chose the wrong sized pie dish. The recipe said it makes a 9-inch pie but I couldn’t fit all the ingredients in my pie pan. And to be honest, there was so much extra pecan pie filling when all was said and done that I didn’t think a 10-inch pie pan would have faired well either. I do have a nice deep-dish le creuset pie pan that probably would have been perfect for the occasion. Maybe I can try this pie another time using a different dish.

Because all my ingredients would not fit into the pan, I wasn’t able to make three separate layers. Also, I actually thought it would make more sense if you layered the pie with the cream cheese on the bottom, pecan in the middle and pumpkin on top. That’s in order of most dense to least dense because the pumpkin layer is all liquid. So the way the recipe reads now you are pouring a heavier density layer of pecan onto liquid pumpkin and you know what happens? It sinks. Even if you pour it carefully. It all sank right into the middle of my pie. And then of course I had a bunch of the pecan filling that wouldn’t even fit, and my cup (or pie pan) was already runneth over at that point.

A bit into the baking when the pumpkin layer was starting to puff up, I added the rest of the pecan filling around the outside edges to try to get a layer of pecan that covered the entire dish. It looked successful as I was pouring but when I pulled the finished product out of the oven … it just looked like pumpkin pie with some pecans peppered on top and like the pecan filling had sunk completely to the middle. It looked like a pumpkin pie with some random pecans sprinkled on top. Oh well. It looked decent just not what I had been envisioning.

Another thing that made me think the pie was going to be a total bust is that it seemed to take waaaaaaay longer than the amount of time called for in the recipe to bake this pie. That could be because I added more pecan about halfway through. When I finally pulled the pie out of the oven, it was still pretty jiggly in the middle but starting to brown A LOT. I didn’t want to risk a dried out cheesecake layer so I yanked it hoping that the pie would firm up/set when it cooled.

Well, it mostly did. When I cut into the pie, it oozed a bit of the pecan filling making it look like I garnished the pie in caramel (or some other sauce) when I plated it. You can see the sauce in the pictures.

But the taste… oh the taste of this pie. It literally tasted like the best thing I had ever had. Literally. I detest pumpkin pie but this pie I could eat all day long. And it had a substantial amount of pumpkin in it! It tasted like mostly pumpkin with some cheesecake and a bit of pecan. But the flavor and texture combination worked so well. If I were going to someone else’s Thanksgiving and had to bring a dessert, this is the dessert I would bring. I mean I would make it in a bigger dish and try to cook it completely next time, but I would definitely bring this pie.

My dad and I felt like we ate too much for Thanksgiving dinner (though I swear I didn’t eat that much – I didn’t even eat half of what I put on my plate!) so we decided to have this pie the following morning. For breakfast. I whipped up some homemade whipped cream (1 cup heavy whipping cream + two tablespooons sugar) to top off the pie but I think this pie would also be phenomenal with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or maybe some butter pecan. You’ve gotta try this pie. Trust me!

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cream cheese layer ingredients.

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 T. flour
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • One 9-inch blind-baked pie or tart shell

pumpkin layer ingredients.

  • 1 c. pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 2/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 2 T. granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 T. plus 1 tsp. flour
  • ½ c. heavy whipping cream

pecan layer ingredients.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 c. corn syrup (clear or dark)
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ c. chopped pecans
  • ½ c. whole pecan halves

directions.

  1. Make cream cheese layer: Place cream cheese and sugar in bowl of a mixer fitted with flat paddle. Beat until combined. Add egg yolk, flour and vanilla and beat to combine. Use a rubber spatula to place cream cheese filling into bottom of the blind-baked pie shell. Place pie in freezer 20 minutes while making the next layer.
  2. Make pumpkin layer: Place pumpkin, sugars, spices and salt in bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add eggs, flour and cream and pulse to combine. Remove pie from freezer and carefully pour pumpkin filling over cheese filling. Place pie back in freezer 20 minutes while preparing the pecan filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Make pecan layer: In a mixing bowl, beat eggs by hand with a wire whisk. Add corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla. Stir to blend. Stir in chopped pecans.
  5. Remove pie from freezer. Place pie on a baking sheet pan. Carefully pour pecan mixture over pumpkin layer. Place pecan halves decoratively on top of pecan filling.
  6. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 55 minutes or until filling is set. Cool pie completely before serving. Store in your refrigerator if not eating immediately and/or if you have leftovers.

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Crispy-Skinned Herb Roasted Turkey


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I asked my dad if he wanted to fly in for Thanksgiving this year instead of me flying back home to the Midwest when I realized I was low on cash. One of my dogs was diagnosed with diabetes in June, and it’s been a bit crippling to my pocket the last few months.

Since moving to the West Coast, my Thanksgivings haven’t been all that typical. One year I had dinner with my friend and her parents. Another year I went out to eat with a coworker at an expensive seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean. Last year was spent at my then boyfriend’s family Thanksgiving. And on the really good years I was with my dad and/or my sister and I was lucky enough to be able to cook Thanksgiving-like foods. And even though I’ve had a few good years making Thanksgiving-like foods, I have never actually roasted a turkey. Can you believe that? I overcooked some turkey legs in a crock pot one year but I’ve never attempted to roast a turkey.

So this year when my dad asked what I wanted to do for Thanksgiving, I told him I definitely wanted to make the traditional spread. Having made only cornbread the year prior (along with non-Thanksgiving foods on Friendsgiving), I was ready to go all out.

I had found a few turkey recipes that I’d amassed over the years but the recipe my dad suggested was one I found in the November 2016 Food Network Magazine Holiday Best section. The recipe is courtesy of Jeff Mauro.

The recipe online differs slightly from the one I have in print. It says to start the turkey three days prior, while the print version says two. I think the on-line version is correct. I remember remarking to my dad as I was wrapping the turkey in Saran-wrap two days before Thanksgiving that the recipe didn’t make sense. As such, I was afraid I had begun preparing the turkey too late and that my turkey would turn out to be crap.

Despite getting a late start on the turkey prep and thinking that I had overcooked the turkey (the temp read 180 when I checked the turkey prior to the two-hour mark), the turkey came out totally perfect. Crispy skin. Juicy meat. The meat was actually infused with flavor from the rub. I haven’t had roast turkey in a while, but this turkey seemed like the best turkey I’ve ever had. Jeff Mauro describes it as, “The best darned thing I’ve ever made,” and I would have to agree.

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ingredients.

  • One 12- to 14-pound fresh Amish turkey (I used a Kosher turkey; I don’t believe Amish turkeys exist in the great State of California)
  • 3 T. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic (I actually used minced garlic from a jar but I’m pretty sure this is intended to be either garlic salt or garlic powder)
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed
  • 4 T. butter, melted

directions.

  1. Three days before cooking the turkey, rinse, clean and dry the turkey thoroughly.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the salt, granulated garlic, black pepper, bay leaves, thyme, orange zest and rosemary until still coarse but uniform, about 10 times. Rub the inside of the turkey with the salt mix. Then carefully slip your fingers under the breast skin and rub a liberal amount UNDER the skin. Flip the turkey on its side and sprinkle more of the salt mixture on the thigh, wing and leg. Repeat on other side.
  3. Place the bird in a large zipper-top bag or brining bag. (If neither is available, cover in plastic wrap.) Place the bird on a wire rack on a sheet pan breast-side up, and place in the fridge away from any raw food (on a lower shelf). Leave in the fridge for 3 days.img_2194
  4. On the night before cooking, remove the turkey from the fridge and take it out of the plastic. The skin should be dry and the salt should be dissolved. If any large patches of moisture are present, wipe with paper towels. (I never did this step.) Place back in the fridge, uncovered, for another 8 hours to dry out.
  5. On the day of, take the turkey out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking. img_2195
  6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Fit a roasting pan with a wire v-rack.
  7. Put the turkey in the roasting pan and brush with the melted butter. Roast for 30 minutes. Turn the heat down to 325 degrees F and roast, basting occasionally, until the thigh registers 165 degrees F, about another 2 hours. Let the turkey rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carving.

I started this effort Tuesday night and unwrapped the Turkey on the morning of, intending to make the turkey for dinner (by about 6 or 7 pm). This means that the Turkey was wrapped in plastic wrap for less than 48 hours. Despite this glitch, the Turkey turned out amazing. Which makes me wonder what it would have tasted like had I started the turkey a day or so earlier. Regardless, I would recommend this recipe to anyone looking for a roast Turkey on Thanksgiving or any other day of the year.

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Easy Turkey Gravy


When I was growing up, gravy of any kind was made on the stove within the roasting pan. My mom or either of my grandmas would place the roasting pan across two burners and mix the ingredients together in the pan. I had no idea what they did to get gravy to whatever was in the pan other than add some flour.

I hadn’t really considered a gravy recipe until the turkey was nearly out of the oven. Luckily I found an easy recipe at thekitchn.com. I didn’t think it was going to work at first because my roux didn’t turn into a thick, gloppy mixture. It was very runny. As I was preparing to add some cornstarch (mixed with water) to thicken the gravy, a funny thing happened. The very thin sauce began to thicken slightly. Then more slightly. And eventually the sauce thickened into the most perfect gravy consistency I had ever seen.

I didn’t add any salt, pepper or herbs to this gravy. It was perfect as is.

ingredients.

  • 1/4 c. turkey fat
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. pan drippings
  • 1 to 2 cups broth or water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional extras: splash of sherry, splash of wine, teaspoon of minced herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage

directions.

  1. After you’ve removed the turkey from the oven and set it aside to rest, set the pan over medium-high heat on the stove-top. You may need to span two burners. When the pan drippings are hot and sputtering, pour in a cup of broth and begin scraping all the bits from the bottom of the pan.
  2. Pour the contents of the deglazed pan drippings into a measuring cup and place this in the refrigerator or freezer, wherever there is space. (Note: For a very smooth gravy, strain the pan drippings before adding them to the gravy.) In the 30 minutes it takes to rest the turkey, the fat and drippings will separate and the fat will begin to harden. This makes it easier to skim off just the fat for making the gravy.
  3. You want about a cup of pan drippings and 1/4 cup of fat. If you have less drippings, you can make up the difference with broth. If you have less fat, you can make up the difference with oil. If you have more fat, discard a little of the fat until you have 1/4 cup. If you have more drippings, use less broth in the next step. If you have a lot more of either, you can double the recipe.
  4. Skim the fat from the top of the pan drippings (or use a fat separator) and warm it in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the fat is hot, whisk in the flour to form a thin paste. Let this cook for a few minutes until bubbly.
  5. Pour in the pan drippings and whisk to combine with the roux. This will form a thick, gloppy paste. (Note, this never happened for me. When I poured in the drippings, I had a very thin sauce.)
  6. Finish the gravy by whisking in a half cup of broth. You can add more broth for a thinner gravy or let the gravy cook a few minutes for a thicker gravy. (Note, I didn’t add any additional broth because my roux was so thin. It did thicken up as I let it cook over medium-high heat but it only thickened up some. It thickened up enough to be the consistency of gravy. It was perfect, actually!) Taste the gravy and add salt, pepper, and any extras to taste.
  7. Gravy can be kept refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to three months. Reheat gently over low heat while whisking occasionally to prevent the sauce from breaking.

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon


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I have this thing with sweet potatoes. I am OBSESSED with them. But not on Thanksgiving. I’m not sure why. Sweet Potato dishes are usually the first thing I’ll pass. Maybe it’s the marshmallows. Or the other overly sweet accoutrements that normally accompany the spud. Whatever the reason, sweet potatoes don’t top my list of Thanksgiving faves.

Yet still when I was creating my Thanksgiving day menu I did not want to skip the dish. I found a few decent looking recipes to try, and my dad chose this one that I found in Food Network Magazine. I thought it was an excellent pick at first glance because it contained bacon. Bacon makes any dish better. But I was worried that the maple syrup would make the dish overly sweet.

On Thanksgiving day, I decided to make this dish in the morning, and then reheat while the turkey was resting. It’s a good thing I started this dish early because I found I only had one tablespoon of maple syrup in my refrigerator. Enter my dad who saved the day. He first walked to several area stores looking for maple syrup. He came back with pancake syrup, which I had to decline. Then he offered to bike to the nearby Von’s where he found some expensive-looking maple syrup that hails from Wisconsin. Thanks to him I was able to make the recipe as it should be.

I tasted these spuds hours before I served them on the Thanksgiving day table and knew they were going to be a hit. I didn’t even mind the sweetness. I’m not sure what it is about them that makes them stand apart but I was more than pleasantly surprised by this recipe. I would serve it in years to come knowing it would impress and please Thanksgiving day diners. My dad’s not overly fond of sweet potatoes in general and he really loved the dish as well.

ingredients.

  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes (4 to 5 medium)
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 T. apple cider
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream, warmed
  • 6 T. salted butter
  • 3 T. maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt

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directions.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Bake until completely soft, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl and set aside. Discard the skins.
  2. Cook the bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until crisp, 8 to 9 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the cider to the drippings in the saucepan and cook until mostly evaporated, about 30 seconds.
  3. While the bacon is cooking, heat the heavy cream and butter over medium-low heat until the butter is melted/the mixture is warm.
  4. Add the potatoes, heavy cream/butter, maple syrup and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; mash with a potato masher until smooth and warmed through.
  5. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl; top with the bacon and drizzle with more maple syrup before serving.

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Thanksgiving Day Bacon and Biscuit Dressing


I’m afraid the pictures for this dressing do the recipe no justice. But you’ll have to trust me on the fact that any dressing recipe made out of biscuits and bacon is going to rock your world. This one rocked mine. My grandma sent me a recipe that she clipped from Penzey’s magazine. I could not find a link to the recipe on-line but it’s similar to other one’s you’ll find on the internet.

I had to improvise a bit on this recipe which resulted in a very large batch so if you learn from my mistakes and follow the recipe below, you should get a similar dish that tastes just as awesome but doesn’t require 20 people to finish it off.

First off, I had to make biscuits specifically for the recipe. They were yeast-biscuits which I’ve never made before. They didn’t turn out that pretty, but I was fine with that because I intended to use them in the dressing recipe anyway. I made the biscuits a few days ahead of time and froze them, thawing them the night before.

The day of I got going early with this recipe by baking the biscuits. While the turkey was in the oven, I began prepping the rest of the ingredients. This is where things went awry. I had purchased three large yellow onions for two Thanksgiving Day recipes. However, I didn’t realize that this recipe did NOT call for LARGE onions. So I’m sauteing all my vegetables (onions, celery and mushrooms) and I’m noticing that the pan is quite voluminous. I glance over at the biscuits sitting not that far away and think … huh … it appears that there are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more vegetables than biscuits going on here. Now I’m not a stuffing/dressing expert, but I would think that you want your “bread” to be the start of the stuffing/dressing show.

What to do, what to do. In the freezer I had stored the remaining biscuits that I had not already baked/browned. So I took the leftover biscuits from the freezer, but them into cubes and threw them in a pan to bake right along with the turkey. So I doubled the biscuit recipe to make up for the fact that I probably had four-times the amount of onions called for. I still only used 4 cups of chicken stock and, because of that, thought perchance the dressing would be dry. It wasn’t at all! It was moist but not mushy, which is good because you never want your dressing to be mushy. The bevy of fresh herbs in the recipe, gave it good flavor. I made myself a huge plate of turkey, potatoes, and dressing and sadly (or not so sadly, depending on how you look at it) could not finish the entire plate.

Because this recipe yielded so much darn dressing, I was able to create my favorite Thanksgiving Day Leftovers Bowl to take in my lunch next week (and then some).

ingredients.

  • Twelve 4-inch biscuits, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (this recipe is similar to one I used)
  • 1 1/2 lb. bacon
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 5 celery stalks, diced
  • 16 oz. white button mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 T. chopped fresh sage
  • 4 T. chopped fresh tarragon
  • 4 T. chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 T. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 to 2 tsp. salt, to taste
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 4 to 5 c. chicken stock

directions.

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F.
  2. Spread the biscuits out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 375°F.
  3. In a deep sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  4. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Set the pan over medium heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, mushrooms, and herbs and cook until the celery is soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Add the bacon to the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the biscuits and stock and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer the dressing to a baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until the dressing is lightly browned, about 20 minutes more.

In order to have everything timed perfectly, I completed the instructions up to the part where you add in the stock. I mixed the biscuits with the rest of the mixture and then set everything aside until the turkey was out of the oven. Then I quickly mixed the stock into the rest of the ingredients and threw the dressing into the oven. In the fifty minutes it took to bake this dish, I let the turkey “rest,” I made the gravy and I baked the biscuits. With only one oven to use this year I had to choose the exact right recipes–I couldn’t have too many oven-dependent dishes–and I ended up choosing correctly!

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All-Purpose Pie Dough {blind-baked}


I don’t have a lot to say about this pie dough recipe other than it worked out great in my Thanksgiving day pie. I failed to take pics before the finished product above (my blind-baked pie shell). Whoops-a-daisy!

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit and have to say I was intrigued by it–mainly because of the apple cider vinegar. Pie dough recipes by nature are putzy to me. But this one seemed even more putzy given the dissolving of the sugar in the apple cider vinegar and water on top of the 10 minute wait before you can use the concoction.

But I liked the promise of a “flaky” pie crust sans the normal bits of butter (or cream cheese) to aerate the dough while in the oven. My pie filling (more on that later) was so fabulous, I’m not sure the crust mattered much. But I will say that I ate all the crust on my piece of pie–even the part that didn’t have any pie ingredients sticking to it. Good enough for me!

ingredients.

  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T. hot water
  • 3½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ c. (2½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt

directions.

  1. Stir sugar, vinegar, and hot water in a small measuring glass to dissolve sugar. Add ⅓ cup ice water and stir to melt ice; chill in freezer until very cold, about 10 minutes (do not let it freeze).
  2. Mix flour and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Add butter using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the dry mixture until largest pieces of butter are pea-size. Using your fingers, rub the butter pieces between your fingers to incorporate into the flour mixture. Continue doing so until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.
  3. Gather into a mound and make a well in the center. Pour in sugar mixture, using your fingertips to slowly incorporate into flour; work in until only a few dry spots remain. Knead until no dry spots remain and dough holds together when pressed.
  4. Divide dough in half, flatten into disks, and wrap each in plastic. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

*Dough can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled, or freeze up to 1 month.

If you need to blind bake your crust, follow these instructions found at thekitchn.com:

equipment.

  • 1 9-inch pie plate
  • aluminum foil
  • pie weights, dry beans, or pennies
  • baking sheet

directions.

  1. Heat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Roll out the pie crust and transfer it to your pie plate as normal. Trim the edges and crimp.
  2. Cut off a large square of aluminum foil and use it to line the pie. Snug the lining right up against the edges and sides of the pie.
  3. Pour the pie weights or beans, etc. into the pie dish. Make sure they cover the bottom of the pie and press against the sides of the pie. This will keep the pie from puffing up and the sides from sagging as the crust bakes.
  4. Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake until the edges of the crust are just starting to turn golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven.
  5. Grasp the corners of the foil, and lift the weights out of the pie. Transfer them to a bowl or plate to cool. The bottom of the pie will still look wet and un-cooked at this point. (Here’s where I accidentally stopped the process and my crust turned out fine for my pie!)
  6. Return the crust to the oven. Bake until the bottom looks dry, another 5 minutes. If the pie will not be cooked again with the filling, bake for another few minutes until the edges of the crust have browned and the bottom is lightly golden. The bottom crust will puff a bit as it bakes, but will deflate again when you remove the pie from the oven.
  7.  Check your recipe — some pies are assembled while the crust is still warm, others need the crust to be completely cooled.

Bread Bowl Brie Onion Dip


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In between Thanksgiving breakfast and dinner, I knew I needed something for my dad and I to munch on. I have a cascade of “appetizer” recipes located in my appetizer file I keep. That’s right. I keep an appetizer file. I keep a “bread” file and a “pizza” file and a “cake” file and a “side dish” file… I think you get the picture. I have probably 20 or 25 different “files” of recipes.

I chose this recipe (with my dad’s approval) because I love French onion soup, I love Brie cheese and I love bread. I reasoned that I would also love this appetizer. I was right.The recipe is intended to be a dip. You’re supposed to scoop out the onion and cheese mixture with either crackers or bread crisps. Well I found that I liked it better by simply cutting the bread into slices. I didn’t like the idea of wasting the bread bowl, plus the flavors meld right into that thing so it seems like a shame to not eat the onion and cheese smothered bread.

The recipe is slightly to putzy to make – the putziest part is making the bread bowl. But the rest of it isn’t too bad, especially if you have a mandolin with which you can easily slice up the onion. I found this recipe in the November 2016 edition of Food Network Magazine.

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ingredients.

  • 2 T. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c. low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 T. chopped fresh chives, plus more for topping
  • 1 loaf French bread (18 to 20 inches)
  • 8 oz. brie cheese, rind removed, thinly sliced
  • Crackers and/or crudites, for serving (optional)

directions.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and thyme sprigs, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelized, 15 to 17 minutes (reduce the heat if the onion is getting too dark).
  2. Add the Worcestershire sauce and cook until the skillet is dry, about 1 minute. Add the beef broth and cook, stirring, until the mixture is slightly saucy, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly; discard the thyme sprigs and stir in the chives.
  3. Cut your loaf of bread in half and using a small serrated knife, hollow out the bottom bread loaf, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Drizzle the inside of the bread with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fill the loaf with half of the brie, then top with the onion mixture and the remaining brie. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until the brie melts and the bread is toasted, about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, if desired, slice the reserved half of bread into pieces and arrange on a separate baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until toasted, 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the dish with more chives and serve with the toasted bread and crackers and/or crudites, if desired, for dipping. Alternatively, cut the loaf into two inch slices and eat with your fingers.

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Bacon, Cheese and Poppy Seed Biscuits with Sage



In the Thanksgiving edition of Food Network Magazine there was a Mix & Match Biscuit recipe which is where I created the biscuit for this year’s Thanksgiving. It was rolls versus biscuits and my dad chose biscuits and the recipe. He dictated that the biscuits must have bacon and cheese and said that I could choose the rest of the ingredients. That left me with picking out the seeds and herbs. I chose poppy seeds and sage, probably not a traditional combo!

Of all the dishes on my Thanksgiving table in 2016, this was the most disappointing. Now before you go thinking that the recipe was bad, let me reassure you that it wasn’t! The biscuits tasted really, really good. They just didn’t rise all that much when I baked them. They still had flaky layers in between … just not much height. This could have been my fault because I made the dough and then hours later baked them. I don’t know if this could have impacted the result or not, but I’ve never pre-made biscuit dough. I always bake the dough immediately after making.

I should also point out that every dish I made this year was fan-freaking-tastic. So if you have a bunch of recipes that are amazing and say one of them is the most disappointing it still means the recipe was great. Got it? Great.

ingredients.

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 c. white cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 2 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. shredded Gouda (or other) cheese
  • 1/2 c. cooked, diced bacon
  • 1/4 c. poppy seeds
  • 1 T. freshly chopped sage
  • 1/2 c. butter, cold, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 c. buttermilk

directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir with a whisk to thoroughly combine.
  3. Add butter and cut the butter into the flour mixture with two knives or a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like coarse meal with pea-size bits of butter. Add in cheese, bacon, sage and poppy seeds and stir until combined.
  4. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until the mixture has come together with bits of meal that hasn’t been incorporated. At this point dig in with your hands and knead the dough just until the dough has come together. Do not over-knead.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a 5×10 rectangle, 3/4 inch thick. Fold in half and pat out again; repeat. Cut out with a flowered 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. Re-roll with scraps and cut out remaining biscuits.
  6. Arrange the biscuits on a baking sheet; brush tops with milk and sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. (Makes 10 to 14)

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Roasted Garlic-Parmesan Mashed Potatoes


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I found these potatoes listed in the Thanksgiving 2016 section in my Thanksgiving edition of Food Network Magazine. These potatoes are a bit putzy what with having to roast the garlic, make the cheese and rosemary shards and then finally boil up the potatoes. But, I will tell you that they are every bit worth the effort. These potatoes do not need any gravy because they stand alone. They are perfectly garlicky, cheesy and salty. They may be the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had or eaten. I may proclaim that same statement every year at Thanksgiving as  I usually try a new mashed potato recipe every year. But I swear this recipe trumps all prior statements and opinions.

ingredients.

  • 1 head garlic
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 sprig rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon chopped leaves
  • 2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes (4 to 5 medium), peeled and cut into large chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1/2 c. mascarpone cheese

directions.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice off about 1/4 inch from the top of the garlic. Place on a sheet of foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in the foil, place on a baking sheet and roast until the garlic is soft, 50 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, spread 1 cup parmesan in a thin layer on a baking sheet (use a silicone mat if you have one; I used parchment paper and it worked OK); sprinkle with the chopped rosemary. Bake until golden and bubbling, 5 to 6 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and then rinse the potatoes well with cold water to get rid of any excess starch. Cut into smaller pieces and then transfer the potatoes to a saucepan; cover with cold water by 1 inch, season generously with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. You should be able to stick a fork into a piece and the peice should fall from the fork but not split the piece in half.
  3. Let the garlic cool slightly, then unwrap and squeeze the cloves out of the skins into a small saucepan. Add the milk, butter and rosemary sprig. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot but not boiling. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
  4. Drain the potatoes and return to the pot over low heat; cook until any excess water evaporates, about 2 minutes. Strain the milk mixture into the pot with the potatoes, pressing on the solids. Add the olive oil and 2 teaspoons salt and mash well with a potato masher. Fold in the mascarpone and the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.
  5. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl; crumble the crispy parmesan on top before serving.

I ended up doing this recipe in steps. I roasted the garlic and made the parmesan crisps hours before I cooked up the potatoes. Because the turkey occupied the oven for over two hours, I only had 30 to 45 minutes to wrap up all my side dishes so all food could be placed onto the table at the same time (after removing the turkey from the oven). Since step one of the potatoes is to roast the garlic for about 50 minutes, I knew I wouldn’t have time for it all if I held off until the turkey was roasted. You see that’s the bummer about having only one oven! I have always dreamed of having a double oven. When I lived in Portland I had the next best thing: two next door neighbors who had no problems letting me use their ovens on holidays. It was quite convenient when cooking elaborate holiday dinners.
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Gouda Corn Pudding


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Hopefully this will be the first of many posts. I have quite a day of food planned out. For weeks I’ve been dreaming about my Thanksgiving menu. Sometime in September I began sifting through recipes trying to piece together the perfect turkey day menu. When my dad arrived in town two weeks ago I presented him with my top choices and let him choose from the various turkey, mashed potato and stuffing recipes.He let me choose dessert.

I also knew I wanted to make a hearty breakfast dish and for that I had picked out a recipe I’d been wanting to try for a while. My grandma sent it to me probably some time ago; she clipped it from Relish magazine. I’m all about a good egg bake on a holiday morning. This one has corn, bacon and plenty of cheese. It smells amazing when you’re pulling it out of the oven.

  • Yield: 8 servings

ingredients.

  • 1 3/4 c. milk (I used whole milk but any preference will do)
  • 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/2 c. fresh corn kernels
  • 1/2 c. diced red or orange bell pepper
  • 8 ounces cooked bacon, ½-inch diced (the original recipe calls for ham)
  • 1/2 c. chopped green onion
  • 4 ounces + 2 ounces Gouda cheese, shredded (divided)
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (to taste)

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directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan or coat with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together milk and flour. Whisk in eggs. Add remaining ingredients; stir until blended. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Top with additional 2 ounces of shredded cheese. img_2071-1
  3. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool 10 or so minutes before serving.

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I realized in planning my menu for today that I somehow went without a cornbread recipe. That was my contribution to last year’s Thanksgiving dinner and I have to say that it was amazing! I almost wish I had made it again this year because I failed to share the recipe on this blog last year. There’s always next year or even Christmas, I suppose. But I was glad that in lieu of corn bread I had something with corn on my menu today.

This egg dish was the perfect start for the day. It’s packed with protein, not “too” unhealthy and won’t leave you feeling sluggish. Plus, who can go wrong with anything that has cheese and bacon in it? My dad said he loved the sweet corn in the dish. I found some pre-shucked corn at Trader Joe’s. As luck would have it, the Trader Joe’s package was the exact amount of corn I needed for this recipe. This dish is easy to put together. I mixed all the ingredients and stuck it in a bowl in my fridge overnight. In the morning I preheated the oven, greased my baking dish, poured the egg mixture into the dish and topped with additional cheese. I’m sure this dish will be great tomorrow morning, too, and would make a good reheat if you like to take leftovers to work.

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Cauliflower Gratin


I found a very basic recipe for Cauliflower Gratin when flipping through Foot Network Magazine a couple of weeks ago. I unsheathed the recipe this morning when I was trying to finalize my Thanksgiving menu and found the recipe in a pile of recipes I had set aside. I had an extra bag of Riced Cauliflower I’d bought at Trader Joe’s when I’d been planning to make a Thai dish with cauliflower instead of rice. So when my stomach began grumbling today, I decided to fill its emptiness with this dish. It was very easy to make, especially because I didn’t have to rice my own cauliflower.

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ingredients.

  • 16 ounces riced cauliflower
  • 1 c. cream
  • 1 c. Dubliner cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

directions.

  1. In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium-low heat until it begins to brown. Add the cauliflower and turn up the heat to medium-high. Cook until cauliflower begins to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the cream. The recipe I was falling called for heavy cream but I didn’t have any so I used half and half. Season with salt and pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg, if you so please. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken.
  3. Pour the mixture into an oven safe dish or individual oven safe dishes if you would like to make smaller individual portions. Top with cheese and broil until the cheese begins to brown. Remove from oven and let cool for five or so minutes until the dish doesn’t burn your mouth when you bite into it!

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If you’re not overly fond of cauliflower, this is probably a good dish to ease yourself into the taste. If you love any gratin-style vegetable (as do I), you’ll love this dish. This recipe makes two large portions or four smaller portions, in my estimation.

If you can’t find riced cauliflower in the store or you don’t want to pay the additional expense for the convenience, you can easily rice your own cauliflower. Just grab a head of cauliflower and grate on the large holes of box grater. I’ve also used a food processor to get riced cauliflower. Cut down the cauliflower head into large florets and pulse until you have shreds of cauliflower that are the size of rice.

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Sweet Potato Cookie Dough Bites



I said to my coworkers the other day that I’m so obsessed with making “cookie dough” bites that I would like to turn them into a food movement. Like cupcakes became a movement. Or food trucks. I will talk about cookie dough bites with anyone who will listen. Luckily my coworkers humor my talk and graciously offer to try the various flavors I keep pushing on them.

I bought some sugar pumpkins at Trader Joe’s the other day. Every fall I buy pumpkins and bake them and then puree the innards and use the puree in recipe after recipe or freeze the puree for later use. The past two years I got away from that practice but I renewed it again this year with vim and vigor. As I was baking two sugar pumpkins (with the intention of making some pumpkin cookie dough bites), I realized I had a baked sweet potato in my fridge that I had yet to use. Ding, ding, ding. What a great flavor for cookie dough bites! (Seriously, there are endless flavor combinations one could use.) Sweet potato is my favorite vegetable. I would try eating sweet potato in any way, shape or form. I found several recipes floating around the inter-web and settled on one at dieT Taste as my muse. My changes are below.

ingredients.

  • 1 c. sweet potato puree or mash
  • 4 T. honey
  • 4 T. coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. rolled oats
  • 2 T. flax seeds, ground
  • 2 T. hemp hearts
  • 1 c. almond meal
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c. nut butter (I used cashew)
  • 1/4 c. cacao nibs
  • 1/4 c. mini chocolate chips

directions.

  1. Put sweet potato puree into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add honey, nut butter, sugar, and vanilla and mix to incorporate.
  2. Add dry ingredients: oats, cinnamon seeds, almond meal, cacoa nibs and chocolate chips. Mix until combined.
  3. Roll into 1 inch balls. Keep in the refrigerator or freezer in a closed container.

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 Does everyone know how to bake sweet potatoes? If not, follow this recipe here.

Pioneer Woman’s Black Bean Burgers


Oh my. I didn’t think I would EVER say this about a veggie burger but I am in LOVE with this burger. While my best friend was visiting me, I made us what was supposed to be a very easy black bean burger. I added spinach to the recipe and the black bean burgers became green black bean burgers. I wasn’t overly fond of the burger itself. It tasted good (once I doused it in salt, which was not an ingredient featured in the recipe I was following!). But the thing that struck me/annoyed me about the burger was the texture. I had to add three times the amount of oats to be able to slightly form a patty. The mixture was very sticky and not very structurally sound. Still, the burgers held up during cooking and tasted really pretty good despite their structure. Which got me to thinking … maybe I could find a better bean burger than the one I had made.

Enter the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I googled “Black Bean Burger” and this was the first recipe to pop up. Whenever one of the Pioneer Woman’s recipes come up in my google search I immediately peruse the recipe because … the Pioneer Woman and her food are both fantastic. So if she’s endorsing a black bean burger (and she heavily endorses her burger), I have a feeling I’m going to like what she’s selling me.

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Yeah. I didn’t like her burger. I LOVED it. I served mine relatively plain with creamy Tillamook cheese melted on top and a chipotle mayo smeared on the toasted artisan bun. It was pretty much heaven on Earth. I love that this burger mixture has structure. Nothing flimsy or mushy about it. It holds up so well it actually resembles a real (well-done) burger. I also think that from far away, the black bean burger looks like a real burger.

Oh and did I tell you how easy this recipe is to make? All you do is mush the beans. Oops. I mean mash. Then you mix in the remaining ingredients and let it sit for a few minutes before forming into patties and frying. Hello! Does it get more simple than that?

My recipe is gently adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s and serves two instead of four. But they are two HUGE burgers.

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ingredients.

  • 1 14.5 ounce can black beans
  • 3/4 c. Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 T. grated red onion
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 tsp Ancho Chili Powder
  • salt and pepper
  • hot sauce (I Used Sriracha)
  • 4 slices cheese
  •  canola oil
  •  butter
  • 2 artisan hamburger buns
  •  mayonnaise or mustard
  •  lettuce or other greens
  •  sliced tomato

directions.

  1. Drain the black beans; do not rinse. Place beans in a medium-sized bowl and use a fork to mash them until they’re mostly broken up, but still have some whole beans visible. Add the breadcrumbs, onion, egg, chili powder, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Stir until everything is combined, then let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Heat a tablespoon or two of canola oil with an equal amount of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Form the bean mixture into patties slightly larger than the buns you’re using. Place the patties in the skillet and cook about 5 minutes on each side or until heated through. When you flip the burger over to cook the second side, place 2 slices of cheese onto the patty if you’re adding cheese. (Place a lid on the skillet to help the cheese melt if needed.)img_1920
  3. img_1919Grill the buns on a griddle with a little butter until golden. Spread the buns with mayonnaise or mustard, then place the patties on the buns. Top with lettuce, tomato and any other burger fixings you like. Pickles? Avocado? Fried egg?

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I like burgers made of bean! I do! I like them a lot, I mean! I would eat them in a car. I would eat them driving far. I would eat them every night. I would eat them on a flight. I would eat them here and there. I would eat them anywhere! I do so like burgers made of bean. Thank you! Thank you. I love them, I mean!

 

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Basil Thai Chicken over {Cauliflower} Rice


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The other day I was trying to get creative about sneakily adding more vegetables into my dinner so I began researching how I could do so with cauliflower. Trader Joe’s sells “riced” cauliflower that I’ve been eyeing up for a while. So I looked up recipes for fried (cauliflower) rice and the ilk and stumbled upon a recipe for Thai Chicken with Basil and Cauliflower Rice at I Breathe I’m Hungry.

The recipe sounded good to me. Really good. But I have this thing with cauliflower masquerading as other foods. Like Cauliflower Pizza Crust? Grosser! Does not taste anything like real pizza crust. Yes – it’s decent if you’re trying to have a “healthy” pizza, but really if you’re eating pizza why are you trying to make it healthy? Gobs of cheese isn’t the healthiest thing to eat whether it’s over bread or cauliflower! That being said, I was nervous about this dish because I was thinking the cauliflower wouldn’t make a good rice substitute. My main concerns were the taste and the texture.

While the texture of the “rice” turned out to be a bit on the mushy side, the signature cauliflower taste was completely hidden by the fish sauce and sesame oil. I was super pleased to discover this! This dish is a bit on the spicy side thanks to the hot sesame oil and Habanero pepper. When I cook with peppers, I don’t remove all the seeds because the seeds give the dish kick but you can remove the seeds if you see fit.

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“rice” ingredients.

  • 1 tsp. (hot) sesame oil
  • 2 T. avocado (or other lightly flavored) oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • 16 oz. or 4 cups finely chopped (riced) cauliflower
  • 2 T. fish sauce

chicken ingredients.

  • 2 T. avocado (or other lightly flavored) oil
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • 2 T. Habanero pepper, minced (about three small)
  • 2 c. chopped, raw, chicken breast
  • 2 T.fish sauce
  • 1 T.sugar substitute
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, Julienned
  • 3 c. fresh spinach leaves
  • fried eggs for serving

directions.

  1. Heat 2 T. avocado (or other) oil in a medium-sized pan.
  2. Add the 4 cloves garlic, ginger, and chilis and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant and sizzling.
  3. Add the chicken to the pan and stir occasionally – cook for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
  4. Add the fish sauce, sugar, fresh basil and spinach – stir and cook until the chicken is coated and the basil and spinach are wilted – about 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. When you first add the chicken to the pan, begin cooking your “rice” in a separate large saute pan. Add 2 T. avocado oil, 1 tsp. sesame oil and pinch of ginger to the pan and turn the heat to medium. Add the two cloves of minced garlic and cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute.
  6. Add the cauliflower and fry over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the fish sauce and stir well, cooking for another 3 minutes. The cauliflower should be softened and browned, with most of the liquid evaporated.
  8. Remove from the heat and transfer the cauliflower rice to a serving dishes. Top with the chicken and a fried egg.

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This dish is AMAZING and sounds relatively simple but takes a bit of juggling to pull off. I would suggest having EVERYTHING prepped so you can just throw everything into the pan when required. As stated in the above directions, I suggest cooking the chicken, rice and eggs simultaneously (it will require some good timing on your part) so that all the ingredients are hot when you’re plating the food.

This recipe made about three servings.

Pumpkin Superfood Cookie Dough Bites


I love the fall. It’s my favorite time of year; it always has been. Here in Southern California you don’t necessarily know it’s fall by the weather, though this year has started out way more fall-like than it did last year (it was in the 80’s through Thanksgiving last year – this may not sound like a complaint to some, but it is). You know it’s fall when you start seeing pumpkin everywhere. Starbucks brings out pumpkin kind of early (the beginning of September). For me, when I see sugar pumpkins on display at grocery stores, I know it’s fall.

I was delighted when I saw some mid-October when I stopped at Trader Joe’s on a whim. I had forgotten that I used to buy sugar pumpkins on an annual basis, roast them and then freeze the pumpkin puree for later use. My first order of business with my newly roasted pumpkins cooling on my stove? Find a doable pumpkin cookie dough bite recipe. I found one that looked at Well Plated.

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ingredients.

  • 5 or 6 large Medjool dates (about half a cup)
  • 1/2 c. nut butter (I used cashew)
  • 2 + 1 c. old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 c. coconut or brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. walnuts
  • 1 c. almond meal
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 4 T. pure maple syrup,
  • 2 T. chia seeds
  • 2 T. hemp seeeds
  • 2 T. ground flax seed
  • 1 scoop raw chocolate protein powder
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 c. cacao nibs

directions.

  1. If the dates are dry or hard, let soak in hot water for 10 or 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Transfer the dates to a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until the dates are in small pieces and form a sticky ball.
  2. Add 2 cups of oats, nut butter, walnuts, pumpkin, sugar, maple syrup, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, almond meal, protein powder and salt. Pulse to combine. The oats and nuts should be in small pieces but not completely smooth. The dough should be rather stiff. Add the last cup of oats, cacao nibs and chocolate chips and pulse to combine.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (I refrigerated overnight). With a spoon, scoop the mixture then roll it into balls that are roughly the same size. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator (up to 2 weeks) or freeze (for up to 2 months).

I’m terrible at following recipes sometimes and this was one of those times. I decided I wanted to add a few items to the recipe and sometimes when you add a few items you have to make adjustments here or there. The recipe I have written above is the recipe I used … to the best of my knowledge. I was throwing more of this and more of that in there (left and right!) trying to get cookie dough consistency. The end product turned out fine. Good even. But I felt like the color was anemic. Could have been the pumpkins’ fault. One of the pumpkins I got looked a bit anemic on the inside.

I got 24 balls from this recipe which come in at 181 calories, 3.6 g fiber, 5.3 g protein and 10.6 g sugar, each.

Cheers to fall weather, sweaters and pumpkin everything.

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Acai Berry Smoothie Bowl



The first time I had an Acai Bowl was, embarrassing, not that long ago.It was when I moved back to California (two years ago) at Acai King in Huntington Beach. I chose the peanut butter banana flavor and watched him scoop a humongous portion of peanut butter into the already prepared Acai mix. It was the best thing ever. Since then, I’ve been trying to recreate that delicious bowl. I bought some frozen Acai from Fresh and Easy back when they were around. It did not yield the same results. Not even close. Then I bought Julie Morris’s book Superfood Snacks, which turned me on to Acai Powder.

This recipe is based on her Every Berry Smoothie Bowl recipe and inspired by the Acai bowl I had at Acai King.

ingredients.

  • 1/3 c. almond milk
  • 1/3 c. vanilla yogurt (I used greek)
  • 1 c. frozen mixed berries
  • 2 T. dried mulberries
  • 1 T. Acai Powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 T. peanut butter or other nut butter
  • 1/3 c. granola
  • one small banana, sliced
  • 1/2 T. hemp seeds
  • 1/2 T. chia seeds
  • 1/2 T. goji berries

directions.

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender until completely incorporated. I had a large frozen strawberry that never got broken down so make sure all your berries get blitzed!
  2. Pour into a bowl and top with granola, banana, seeds and berries. Eat immediately.


I used unsweetened almond milk and unsweetened Greek yogurt which made this bowl very unsweet. That’s actually the point of Julie’s recipe. It’s good and refreshing with no real trace of sweetness. If you’re cutting back on sugar, do the same. If low sugar is not your thing, feel free to use sweetened almond milk and sweetened yogurt. If that’s not sweet enough, I would then add a bit of agave syrup. Enjoy!

Meatballs in Roasted Tomato, Garlic and Pumpkin Marinara Sauce



My coworker gave me the last bit in a jar of pumpkin marinara sauce he purchased half off at the grocery store this past week. I was trying to decide how to use it up and decided on eating it with some frozen meatballs my mom had made and stuck in my freezer the last time she visited. As an aside, my mom makes the best meatballs. She stuffs them with cheese curds. I grew up thinking all meatballs had cheese in the middle (and that every mom made birthday cakes and pancakes from scratch) and was unpleasantyl disappointed the first time I had a meatball without cheese in the middle. I thought … why would someone make such a thing?

At any rate, the tiny amount of pumpkin marinara in my fridge inspired me to make my own in an amount large enough to fit in a crockpot. I found various recipes for pumpkin marinara on the internet, none of which were exactly what I wanted so I went out on a limb and made my own. It was pretty easy. I roasted all the vegetables (tomatoes, onion and garlic) besides the pumpkin which was baked, pureed and then frozen a few weeks ago. Then I threw it all in a crockpot with some vegetable stock, salt, seasonings and the homemade frozen meatballs–I didn’t measure the amount of meatballs; just filled the crockpot up about three-fourths way. Six hours later I had meatballs in a tasty sauce inspired by the taste of fall.

ingredients.

  • 32 ounces cherry, grape or other small tomato, roasted
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, roasted
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted
  • 2 c. pureed pumpkin
  • 2 c. vegetable stock (you can substitute broth for stock and chicken for vegetable if you please)
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 c. basil leaves, Julienned
  • 1 lb (approx.) prepared meatballs, frozen

directions.

  1. Dump all in ingredients in a 5-quart crockpot or slow cooker and stir to combine.
  2. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, high for 3 to 4. Once your sauce is done if you have any tomatoes that are still in tomato form, take fork and press them against the side of the slow cooker so that they burst. For a smooth sauce, extract the meatballs and blend the ingredients using an immersion blender (or dump it into your regular old stand up blender).
  3. This would be amazing over spaghetti but I ate just the meatballs and sauce (two helpings in two hours).

The ingredient amounts are approximate. I didn’t measure anything, not even the tomatoes. I was making a very large pan of roasted tomatoes made from four 16 ounce containers and reason that I used about half the pan. Also, I put the onion chunks on the tomato tray and roasted them both together. As with any sauce recipe, you should feel free to play around to make the sauce the way you want it to be. Add more of a certain seasoning for flavor. Add more pumpkin puree to add thickness. You could also add some tomato paste. A touch of cream would have been great in this recipe!

Red Velvet Warm Oats Bowl


I found a recipe for Red Velvet Energy Bites that I turned into Red Velvet Cookie Dough Bites with great success. So I assumed red velvet oatmeal would be as much of a success. It wasn’t. At least not at first pass.

In all fairness, I should have seen it coming. I used the same amount of beet for one bowl of oatmeal as I did for 23 cookie dough bites. So the bowl had an intense taste of beet to it. I covered this up by adding plenty of cacao powder and additional chocolate chips and brown sugar. By the time I mixed all the additional flavors into it the bowl was decent tasting and fairly chocolate-y, but I couldn’t escape the memory of the taste of my first bite (which was all beet). That being said, if you like beets, you’ll probably love this bowl. img_1321-4

ingredients.

  • 1/2 c. oats
  • water
  • 1 small beet, cooked and pureed
  • 1 to 2 T. half-and-half
  • 1/2 T. butter
  • 1 to 2 T. brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2  T. cacao powder
  • 1 T. cacoa nibs
  • 1 to 2 T. mini chocolate chips  (plus more to sprinkle on the top)

directions.

  1. Place oats in a microwave-safe bowl. In a small saucepan, mix the pureed beet with enough water to thin it out a bit. Add the cacoa powder and a pinch of salt. Cook over high heat until boiling. Pour over the oats and cover the bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir. If the oats have not cooked by this point, you can help it along by cooking in the microwave over high for an additional one to two minutes. (You can probably skip the boiling step and nuke the bowl in the microwave until desired consistency if you so wish.
  2. Top with butter, half-and-half, cacoa nibs and mini chocolate chips. Add additional cream or milk to adjust the consistency, if needed.

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Superfood Nut Butter



I’ve been creating my own superfood-infused nut butter for a while now. I got the idea from Trader Joe’s. They sell a really yummy peanut butter with chia and flax seeds. So what I’ve been doing is mixing almond butter with natural peanut butter (ratio of 1:1) and adding hemp seeds, chia seeds, ground flax seeds and sometimes even cacao nibs. It’s really easy to make and makes me feel not as guilty about eating “peanut butter.” It’s what I eat with my apples because, for some reason, when I eat an apple alone it makes me hungrier.

Then I came across a recipe for Power Seed Butter in Julie Morris’s cookbook Superfood Snacks, which has been my food bible recently. Julie’s recipe looked slightly more complicated but still easy enough and even healthier than my hastily slapped together recipe so I thought I would give it a go.

Immediately after making this nut butter I threw it on some whole wheat toast, added some sliced banana and a drizzle of honey. It was heaven. I liked this recipe so much that I wish I would have started out making a double recipe. Not that it would be hard to make a second batch but obviously it would have been easier to do it all at once. This is something that can last a long time in your refrigerator – if you let it!

ingredients.

  • 1 c. roasted almonds
  • 1/3 c. raw pumpkin seeds, de-shelled
  • 1/3 c. sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 c. flax seeds
  • 2 T. chia seeds
  • 2 T. hemp hearts
  • 2 T. grapeseed oil
  • pinch of salt (optional)

directions.

  1. In a food processor, process almonds until coarsely ground. 
  2. Add remaining dry ingredients and, with the processor still running, slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil.
  3. Process for about 10 to 12 minutes stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

I should have started out reading Julie’s Do’s and Don’ts of making nut butter before attempting this recipe. Had I done so I wouldn’t have been so skeptical about the process. When I first started blending up the batch I didn’t think the ingredients would turn into anything resembling a creamy texture. I didn’t think two tablespoons of oil would be enough. But it did, and it was. And it didn’t take all that long either. Only a couple of minutes. I kept the food processor going for about 10 minutes because that’s what the recipe recommended, but I wasn’t sure if the last 4 to 5 minutes made that much of a difference. The liquidity of this nut butter is similar to what would you find at Trader Joe’s.

I added a few pinches of salt and found my batch perfectly salty. You may not need to add any salt at all. The roasted almonds I used were salted to start out with, too; though you can find low sodium roasted almonds if that’s your preference.

One serving of this nut butter is just under 150 calories (compared to the 190 to 210 that other nut butters weigh in at) and has 3.5 grams of fiber (and 5.3 grams of protein which is a bit less than your standard almond butter – 7 grams).

Smoked Salmon Dip


One of my friends has a house on an island in Alaska. Her family convenes there every summer (at the least) and they fly back to the Pacific Northwest with as much fish as they can carry. Just kidding. I think they have the fish shipped back. When I lived in Portland, she was nice enough to share what she caught on many occasions. She had a smoker and was known to smoke at least some of the salmon that she caught.

There was at least one birthday (if not two) where she gave me some of her delicious smoked salmon as a gift. When Jen shared her smoked salmon it was the first time I had ever been inclined to try smoked salmon. Oh sure there were times growing up (holidays, mostly) where there would be a slab of smoked salmon plated as an appetizer. And one time when my sister and I lived together in a tiny garage converted into an apartment when she took me in after I first moved to Portland she used some store-bought (thin) smoked salmon in a pasta recipe. I opted for fresh salmon on my portion. Back to Jen’s salmon. For some reason when Jen introduced me to her smoked salmon I didn’t turn my nose up at it (like I had with all other smoked salmon before) and I fell in love.

I thought I was doomed to never have Jen-like smoked salmon again when I moved back down to Southern California. But I have happily found several stores that carry smoked salmon that’s Jen-like. It’s thick at least. Which reminds me of Jen’s. So on occasion, whenever I’m in the mood for cheese and crackers, I’ll also buy smoked salmon and have that with water crackers, too.I’ve had some smoked salmon in my fridge for a few weeks now.

For the longest time I had been intending to make a smoked salmon dip. Jen once or twice made an outstanding smoked salmon dip that she served with sliced cucumbers. It was sooooooo good. So I tooled around on the internet trying to find the perfect recipe. Most recipes that I saw called for horseradish, which I don’t particularly like. Not that I would be opposed to using it in a recipe, but I didn’t have any anyway. I needed a recipe that used ingredients I actually had on hand. Finally I found a horseradish-less recipe at Natasha’s Kitchen that looked good enough to try.

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­ingredients.

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco hot sauce, or to taste (I used Sriracha Sauce)
  • 4 to 6 oz. smoked salmon, (about 1  to 1 1/2 cups, chopped)
  • 2 T. chives, chopped plus more for garnish
  • crackers, cucumber slices or French Bread Baguette, sliced (to serve)

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directions.

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine softened cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, salt and Tabasco sauce. Mix at medium speed until well blended, scraping down the sides and bottoms as needed.
  2. Add chopped salmon and chives and stir a few times just to combine. Check the taste and add more salt (and maybe some pepper!), if desired. Refrigerate at least two hours, the longer the better–overnight recommend, before serving. Spread over slices of bread, cucumbers or crackers. Be warned. It’s addicting!

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I waited a full four hours with the dip chilling in my refrigerator before I tried it. But I couldn’t wait a minute longer to cut up the cucumbers I had purchased for the occasion. Instead I found some crackers I bought at Fresh and Easy a year ago that were garlic flavored (and slightly stale). I figured the dip would cover up the fact that the crackers were slightly stale.

This dip is GOOD. I can’t decide if it’s good as is OR if it could use a bit extra smoked salmon in it (I only used four ounces). It’s very creamy and very cream cheesy. But to me the star of the show should be the smoked salmon. If you agree, you should add another two or so ounces of smoked salmon to the recipe.

This recipe is one that I could see myself making over and over again. Why? Because it’s so GOOD. And because it’s so EASY. It would be perfect to take to work potluck. Or as an appetizer for a dinner party. Or for a snack when getting together with family or friends. It would be good for lunch. It would be good for dinner. I bet you could even eat this on a bagel and call it breakfast. It is that GOOD.

Luckily for me I have about half of the smoked salmon I purchased leftover so I can make another batch next weekend if the mood strikes.

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Raspberries and Cream Warm Oats Bowl



I found raspberries for $1.50 (for 6 ounces) at the store this weekend and bought four containers thinking I would make a raspberry pie. Then I realized a few things. One, I have way too much to do to make a pie. Two, I have no tapioca. Three, nearly everyone I work with is on a diet. I needed to find “plan B” to use up all those raspberries. The easiest thing, I decided, was to incorporate it into a warm bowl of oats in the morning. Last week I ate Chunky Monkey Warm Oats Bowls for breakfast every morning. A raspberry-centric bowl of warm oats seemed like the best and easiest way to fit all those raspberries in.

ingredients.

  • 1/3 c. rolled oats
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c. half-and-half, milk or non-dairy milk of your choice
  • 3 to 4 ounces of fresh raspberries (thawed frozen raspberries would probably be fine too)
  • 1/2 T. chia seeds
  • 1/2 T. hemp hearts
  • 1/2 T. ground flaxseed
  • additional raspberries and milk for garnish

directions.

  1. Place the oats and salt in a microwavable dish. Add the milk and place in the fridge. If you can, soak your oats in the milk for a few hours (or overnight).
  2. Once ready to eat, heat in the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds. Add brown sugar, raspberries and seeds and mix to incorporate. Mash the raspberries with you spoon if you’d like.
  3. Top with additional raspberries and milk, if desired.


I’ve been eating a lot of oats lately so I consider myself a bit of warm oats expert. It’s my opinion that if you soak the oats in your liquid overnight (even a couple of hours will do) that the oats will be less likely to turn into a big bowl of mush when you microwave it. There’s something more aesthetically pleasing to me about eating oats that look like oats instead of oats that look like mush. So obviously it’s not necessary to do this step, but if you’re particular about what your food looks like (like I am), I promise you this is the way to go.

Using half-and-half, this warm bowl of oats comes in at 375 calories, 11.2 g protein, 9.1 g fiber and 14.6 g sugar. This flavor is one of my favorite yet!

“Cookie Dough” Protein Bites



Over a year ago I bought the cookbook Superfood Snacks by Julie Morris. I somehow stumbled upon this gem of a cookie book (Amazon suggestions, I believe) and this book has changed my life. In the year plus since I bought this cookbook, I’ve become obsessed with trying to sneak superfoods into my meals. Julie’s recipe for Cookie Dough Protein Bites was one of the first recipes I wanted to try when I first flipped through the pages of the book. I even bought Medjool dates specifically for the recipe. And then the dates sat in my cupboard for a year or so. I guess life got in the way or something.

But the recipe has been haunting me ever since. Every time I flip through the cookbook (which seems nearly daily these days) I glance at the recipe and stare longingly at it and want the cookie dough bites on the page opposite the recipe in my mouth. Immediately. Alas, I threw out the damn Medjool dates that I had in my cupboard for about a year some time ago in a cleaning frenzy. Today I stopped at Trader Joe’s to get some chicken for my dogs and passed Medjool dates at the end of the produce aisle. It was Kismet.

The first thing I did when I got home (other than feed and walk my dogs) was to whiz the ingredients together in my food processor. Then I pinched the dough together between my fingers to taste the creation and literally fell in love.

I am so pissed I waited this long to try this recipe. It’s the BEST RECIPE EVER. I’m serious. It tastes like cookie dough. But there’s nothing cookie dough about it in terms of ingredients (except for the vanilla extract maybe). I have no idea how these ingredients turn into the taste of cookie dough but they do. I would recommend to anyone to try these bites. Immediately if not sooner.

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Below is my spin on Julie’s recipe.

ingredients.

  • 1 c. dried mulberries
  • 5  Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/3 c. cashew butter
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (raw)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (I never really measure how much vanilla extract I put in anything)
  • hefty pinch of salt
  • 1 oz. dried goji berries
  • 1/4 c. hemp seeds
  • 1/4 c. semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 c. cacao nibs

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directions.

  1. In a food processor, grind the mulberries until you have a coarse mixture. Add the dates, nut butter, protein powder, vanilla extract, and sea salt, and process until  combined.img_1365
  2.  Add the goji berries, hemp seeds, chocolate chips and cacao nibs. Briefly pulse to break down the ingredients; allow some large pieces to remain.img_1367
  3. You may need to add a touch of water to get the crumbs to bind when pinched together. I had to. If the dough is too wet, mix in a bit of protein powder.img_1368
  4. Julie recommends packing the dough into a cookie dough scoop. I always have difficulties getting regular cookie dough out of my scoop and this time was no different. I did use the cookie dough scoop to portion out the dough however. Then I rolled the dough into balls. I got 12 balls.
  5. Julie says you can store these bites at room temperature in an airtight container for several weeks (or in the freezer for several months!).

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If my estimations are correct, each ball is approximately 180 calories, 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. These bites are also high in vitamin C.

I cannot stress enough how EASY this recipe is. It’s just whirring and whizzing ingredients in your food processor. Seriously, people. It’s SO easy. Though it tastes like something that is so BAD for you, this is a snack you can feel good about eating.

Red Velvet Cookie Dough Bites


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I was searching for a recipe for “red velvet oatmeal” when I came across a blog for Red Velvet Energy Bites at Namely Marly that got me intrigued. I’m a sucker for red velvet anything so I thought I would try to recreate the energy bites myself. I always like to source recipes and make sure I’m using the best one or combining the best of the best. Could you believe there are very few recipes for red velvet energy bites/balls/bars floating around the internet? Most of the other ones I found contain protein powder (meh) instead of real ingredients, which was not what I was looking for. So I decided to forge ahead using Marly’s recipe and tweaking it just a bit.
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ingredients.

  • ½ large beet, roasted and pureed in its juice
  • 3 T. almond butter
  • ¼ c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 c. rolled oats
  • ½ c. almond meal
  • ¼ c. hemp seeds
  • ½ c. ground flaxseed
  • ½ c. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 t. cacao powder
  • 3/4 c. mini chocolate chips
  • ½ c. cacao nibs
  • 1 oz. dried goji berries

directions.

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the pureed beet, almond butter, cacao powder and dark brown sugar until mixed thoroughly.
  2. Add in the almond meal, rolled oats, seeds and coconut and stir until completely incorporated.
  3. Lastly, add in the cacoa nibs, chocolate chips and goji berries and stir to combine.
  4. Press dough down with wax paper and cover until thoroughly chilled. I chilled mine overnight but an hour or two will probably do.
  5. Roll into balls. I got 23 balls approximately 1.2 ounces a piece.
  6. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.

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I wanted something small to snack on when I wake up in the morning before my morning bowl of oats. I don’t wake up hungry but find that I get hungry in between the time that I wake up, get ready for work and get to work (6 am). I don’t like to eat breakfast that early in the morning so I thought a small snack would help keep my hunger at bay until I can eat my breakfast at a decent hour (say 7 or 8 am).

Marly’s recipe does not contain sugar but contains ingredients that have more sugar (a larger amount of chocolate chips and possibly the coconut – the sweetness isn’t specified in the recipe). I tried making this recipe without sugar thinking the beets were sweet enough but … they weren’t. You can try omitting the sugar if you’d like, but I think the 1/4 cup of brown sugar doesn’t do much damage to the recipe, health-wise anyway. You could use something healthier in place of the brown sugar, like coconut sugar (which I forgot I have!), if you so choose.

Based on the 23 balls yielded in this recipe, each ball contains approximately 160 calories, 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 14 grams of carbohydrates (if you’re counting that).

I fed one to my coworker today and she said she loved it even though she hates beets. She said you can’t taste the beet taste at all and I have to say I agree. These cookie dough bites are perfectly sweet and great for that stretch of time in between (or before!) meals. My for coworker even thinks eating one helped stave off a headache!

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Chunky Monkey Warm Oats Bowl


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Maybe you’re reading the title of this blog (and thinking back to my Warm Oats Bowl with Superfoods blog) and wondering… what the hell is the difference between a warm oats bowl and oatmeal?

I like to think of warm oats bowls as oatmeal’s indulgent (yet still healthy) cousin. On weekends when I make these bowls I pour boiling water over the rolled oats, cover and let the water seep into the oats. OK maybe I give the bowl a little nudge by nuking it in the microwave for 30 seconds to absorb any remaining water but still I like the slower, lengthier process better. It ensures the oats do not turn to mush immediately and it gives me a chance to get my topping ingredients together.

The chunky monkey flavor tastes so indulgent it will feel like you’re eating something naughty; something you should only eat on the weekends. But coming in at approximately 500 calories, 14 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber (based on adding 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter), you could probably eat this bowl for breakfast during the week, stay full until lunch and not feel guilty whatsoever.

ingredients.

  • 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 T. hulled hemp hearts
  • 1/2 T. ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 T. cacoa nibs
  • 1 T. dried goji berries
  • 1 to 2 T. peanut butter
  • 1 T. honey

directions.

  1. Cook oatmeal according to standard directions. You should be able to find directions on the canister of oats you purchased but if you buy oats in bulk (like I do) you can used this basic recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. I let my oats steep in hot boiling water (covered) until the water had seeped into the oats.
  2. Top oatmeal with peanut butter, honey, cacoa nibs, hemp seeds, ground flaxseed and goji berries. If your oatmeal is too dry you can add some milk or cream to make it a bit more creamy.


Before I assembled this bowl, I was debating on adding cream and/or butter. I opted not to add either since the bowl was plenty calorie-rich without the two. I would have added cream at the end had my oats turned out too dry but the oats were plenty creamy by using the boiling water pour-over method to prepare the oatmeal. I microwaved the peanut butter and the honey to liquify them so that I could drizzle them over the bowl for aesthetic purposes but that wouldn’t be a necessary step (unless you’re taking pictures of you’re food too).

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