Monday, March 31, 2014

Roasted Chili-Garlic Endive

Normally my biweekly CSA delivery comes with a big head or two of lettuce that we use for our regular lunch salads. This week, I received a little note in my box saying they ran out of lettuce and were giving me curly endive (also known as chicory) instead. It looks pretty much like lettuce, but when I tasted it, I realized it's pretty bitter (at least to me). I don't do raw bitter greens. But there was no way I was letting the endive go to waste. So, I did what I do with other veggies I don't love raw--roast them!

Roasting tones down the bitterness in the endive and generally mellows out the flavor. I added some crushed red pepper for heat and garlic-infused olive oil for yummy flavor. It may not look like much, but it really was delicious! And so healthy, too! I think this recipe (if you call it that, it's so simple) would also be good for kale and swiss chard--probably any of the greens you might not like to eat raw.

One thing that always surprises me--and that I want to warn you about--is how much these greens cook down. I used about 2 packed cups of greens, which filled a 9x13 pan about half-way up the side:

When roasted, it's barely 1/2 a cup!

You've been warned!

Roasted Chili-Garlic Endive
(Serves 1 as a side dish)

2 cups curly endive
1.5 tsp. garlic-infused olive oil (regular will work, too)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Tear endive into small pieces (2-3 inches or so) and place in a medium-sized bowl.
Drizzle olive oil over endive and sprinkle with crushed red pepper and salt. Toss to coat evenly.
Spread endive out in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish.
Roast at 400°F for 12-15 minutes until soft and browned around the edges, stirring halfway through.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Duo of Chocolate Desserts with Milky Way and 3 Musketeers

#shop, #EatMoreBites

I have got a treat (well, two treats) in store for you today: 3 Musketeers® S'mores Pie and Milky Way Simply Caramel® Cheesecake - both using the new 3 Musketeers Bites and Simply Caramel Bites. Why a duo of desserts today, you ask? Isn't one enough? Not when my parents are coming to visit! They always take on projects around the house while they're here, but I still try to make it feel like a vacation for them by planning a few day trips and, of course, feeding them yummy desserts! (I don't know about you, but for me, it's not a vacation unless there's dessert. And wine...)

To prepare for their visit, I headed out to Walmart so I could stock up on my dessert supplies and everything else I needed (like cleaning supplies - oh how I turn into a cleaning machine when company comes!). As part of the work I do with #CollectiveBias, I was asked to try out the new 3 Musketeers and Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites, which were a great fit for my dessert plans. I found them right off the bat in the candy aisle:

#shop, #EatMoreBites

They were situated along with all of the other mini candy bars. But unlike a lot of mini candies that are individually wrapped, these bites come in a convenient zip package all unwrapped for you. I have to say, I love this concept. Being able to grab just a few bite-sized pieces out of the package makes baking (or having a little post-shopping snack, eh hem) so much easier than having to unwrap and cut up larger candy bars. I know that doesn't seem like it should be hard, but they always seem to stick to the knife and the chocolate flakes off and makes a mess. These bites are a great no-muss, no-fuss solution (not to mention yummy!)

After I found those, I went on to get the rest of my dessert ingredients, cleaning supplies and of course, plenty of tea for my Irish mother. (Gotta have regular British Blend and decaf so you can have a cup at all times of the day!)

Once I got home, it was time to get to the good stuff -- the desserts!

#shop, #EatMoreBites

I plan to serve this Simply Caramel Cheesecake with Salted Caramel Sauce as my first dessert when my parents arrive tomorrow. I thought it would be a great way to celebrate my father's birthday, which was this past weekend. My dad has been scaling back on eating flour and grains, so I used a nut crust for this cheesecake--which also happens to make it gluten-free!

#shop, #EatMoreBites

The second dessert, the 3 Musketeers Bites S'mores Pie, will be more for my mom (and me!) throughout the week as we need a little something sweet after dinner that's super easy to put together for just 1 or 2 people.(Seriously, it takes less than 15 minutes from prep to eat.) These are a sugar-bomb delight, so be sure whoever you serve it to really likes sweet desserts (as I happen to).

Both of the recipes are below. If you like them and want to give them a try (which you should!), you can get some great coupons right now to use at Walmart:
#shop, #EatMoreBites

Also be sure to join the #EatMoreBites Twitter Party on Friday, March 14, from 1:00-2:00 PM EST for a chance to win $550 in Walmart Gift Cards!

Simply Caramel Cheesecake with Salted Caramel Sauce {Gluten-Free}
(Makes 1 6-inch cheesecake; double recipe for a 9-10 inch)

1 Tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 c. finely chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. sugar

2 packages (8 oz. each) light cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. fat-free Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
2 eggs
1 c. Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites, divided
Salted Caramel Sauce (for topping)

#shop, #EatMoreBites

Prep: Preheat oven to 325°F and assemble ingredients.
1. Mix finely chopped pecans, 2 Tbsp. sugar and butter in a small bowl. Press evenly into the bottom of your 6-inch springform pan.
2. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth.
3. Beat in vanilla.
4. Beat in eggs one at a time.
5. Fold in Greek yogurt.
6. Fold in 1/2 c. Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites.
7. Pour cheesecake mixture into springform pan over crust.
8. Give the pan a jiggle to settle the cheesecake down so the top is relatively flat.
9. Place the remaining Simply Caramel Bites evenly on the top of the cheesecake.
10. Carefully press each bite into the cheesecake so it's just even with the surface. (This should help keep all of your bites from falling to the bottom of the cheesecake, though some will naturally go there.)
11. Give the cheesecake one last jiggle to even the top out again (if needed).
12. Place cheesecake pan in a large casserole dish and carefully fill the casserole dish with hot water for a water bath. The water should go about 1 inch up the side of the springform pan.
13. Bake in water bath at 325°F for 50-60 minutes until the outer edges of the cheesecake are set and the middle is just a little jiggly (it will set up after cooling). Cool for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
15. Drizzle the top of the cheesecake with the Salted Caramel Sauce, serve and enjoy!

3 Musketeers Bites S'mores Pie
(Makes 1 individual pie; easily scales up for as many as you need!)

1 premade mini graham cracker pie crust
1 handful 3 Musketeers Bites
1 handful mini-marshmallows

#shop, #EatMoreBites
1. Start with a mini graham cracker pie crust.
2. Add 3 Musketeers Bites to the bottom (I find 7 to be the best fit).
3. Top with a handful of mini-marshmallows.
4. Bake at 350°F for 6-7 minutes or until golden brown.

Don't forget to get your coupon for $0.75 off coupon for 2 small (2.83 oz.) bags of Milky Way Simply Caramel or 3 Musketeers Bites or $3.00 off two 6 oz. bags or larger!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

I am kind of obsessed with salty-sweet combinations--salted caramel being the ultimate sweet treat of late for me. So I decided I might as well learn how to make it myself! I found great instructions from Sally's Baking Addiction that use 4 simple ingredients:

Sugar, cream, butter and salt. (I used sea salt, specifically -- see my version of the recipe below).

The instructions were super easy--no candy thermometer required. The only thing I learned is that you really have to tweak the heat based on your own stove. Medium heat was a little much on my gas stove (if your heat is too high, your sugar can easily burn), so I went down to medium-low. Sally's blog has step-by-step instructions with photos if you need. Here's my version of her terrific recipe:

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
(Makes about 1 1/4 cups)

1 cup white sugar
6 Tbsp. salted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. sea salt

Assemble all of your ingredients first. You're going to need to stir this constantly--no time to run off and get butter halfway through!
Pour 1 cup sugar into a medium-sized sauce pan over medium-low to medium heat (see above). Stir constantly until sugar starts to melt. (Be patient; this will take 3 or 4 minutes before you see the sugar start to clump up.)
Keep stirring until sugar is fully melted and no clumps are left.
Carefully add in the butter all at once (it will bubble up, so watch your hands). Keep stirring until butter is fully melted, about 2 minutes.
Now, very slowly start to drizzle the whipping cream into the sugar butter mixture, stirring constantly. (Again, the cream will make the mixture bubble up, so watch your hands.)
Once the cream is all added, let the mixture boil for about 1 minute.
Remove from heat and stir in your sea salt.
Let cool completely before using in a recipe or storing in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (Good luck making it last that long!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lemon Berry Overnight Oatmeal {Gluten-Free}

There are a ton of overnight oatmeal recipes out there. The basic recipe involves using oats, milk, chia seeds and some sort of sweet flavoring. I've tried all kinds of versions using things like banana, honey, strawberry jam, fresh blueberries and more. But when I found a jar of lemon curd hiding behind the oats in the cabinet recently, I knew I'd hit gold--and this recipe has become my absolute favorite.

If you're not familiar with overnight oatmeal, it's pretty much what it sounds like. You mix up the oatmeal and other ingredients, let it sit in the fridge overnight and in the morning you have a creamy, yummy breakfast (which just so happens to be gluten-free to boot!). The chia seeds are what help thicken the mixture up. I also like to add a dollop of Greek yogurt for some extra creaminess, so you'll see that reflected in my recipe.

For this version I used blackberries, which add a wonderful color to this oatmeal, but you can use any kind of berry you like. The lemon curd is really what makes this a standout. I hope you'll give it a try!

Lemon Berry Overnight Oatmeal
(Serves 1)

1 small handful blackberries
1/3 c. oats
1/3 c. milk (I use almond milk)
1 tsp. chia seeds
1 tbsp. lemon curd
1-2 tbsp. Greek yogurt

Add blackberries to a small jar (I use an 8 oz. jelly jar). Use a spoon to mash the berries up a bit.
Add oats, milk, chia seeds, lemon curd and Greek yogurt to jar.
Cover tightly and shake up until well mixed. (Shake hard!)
Refrigerate overnight.
Enjoy cold (that's my preference) or pop in the microwave for a quick zip, if desired.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dark Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Have you ever had chocolate chips in your banana bread? If not, you're really missing out.

The first time I mentioned adding chocolate to banana bread to my husband (then boyfriend), he thought I was nuts and that it sounded gross. But then he tasted his first slice and he saw the light. I don't always add chocolate to my recipe, but sometimes, it's just the right sweet treat. And I like to reason that this recipe is otherwise rather healthy, so a little chocolate won't hurt.

This time I used some chopped up dark chocolate we had leftover:

(Leftover chocolate? what's that?! This 85% cocoa chocolate was actually a little too dark for eating out of hand, but perfect for baking.) But regular chocolate chips work just as well. Perfect for breakfast, a late night snack or anywhere in between!

Dark Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread
(Makes 1 8x5 loaf)

4 ripe bananas
1 egg
1/4 c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. flour (I often do half wheat, half all-purpose)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 dark chocolate chunks (or chocolate chips)
1 Tbsp. turbinado sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 8x5 loaf pan well.
In a large bowl, mash ripe bananas. Beat in egg, oil and vanilla.
In a smaller bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Add to banana mixture and mix well.
Stir in chocolate chunks.

Pour batter into greased pan. Sprinkle top of batter evenly with turbinado sugar (if using).

Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from pan.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Coconut Oil

Are you into the coconut oil craze? Until recently, I'd heard a lot about coconut oil--especially from the Paleo crowd--but never used it myself. But a few weeks ago my husband when grocery shopping with me (a rarity, and this time it only happened because I couldn't drive for 5 days), he saw some on the shelf and said "hey, let's try this." So I said "hey, why not?!"

If you're not familiar with coconut oil, it's a solid at room temperature similar to butter:

But heat it up a little and it turns to a clear, silky oil:

The first few times we tried it, we used it in stir-fries. It worked fine, but I didn't get a whole lot of coconut flavor from it. And given that it's got more saturated fat than butter, I didn't think it was worth it when my good ol' olive and sesame oils that I usually use for stir-fry work just as well.

Now, it has to be said that there is a lot of discussion going on about whether the saturated fats in coconut oil are better for you (or not as bad for you) as those in butter. I won't go into great detail, but basically it has to do with the length of the fatty acid chains that make up the coconut oil. Since the scientific evidence isn't 100% clear given limited studies, I'm not going to be adding coconut oil to everything. But from what I've read, I have no concerns about swapping out butter for coconut oil.

And so these chocolate chip cookies with coconut oil (or coconut infused chocolate chip cookies, as I like to call them) came to be. I swapped out the usual butter in the recipe for the exact same amount of coconut oil and the results were delicious!

The cookies had a bit of a lighter, crispier texture than the butter version and a slight hint of coconut in their finish. I would definitely make these again, and I can't wait to try other baked goods using coconut oil.
What's your favorite recipe using coconut oil?

If you're looking to try a new one out, here's my recipe for
Coconut Infused Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes 18 large cookies)

3/4 c. coconut oil, melted (I measured the 3/4 c. when solid, which after melting, turned into about 2/3 c.)
1 c. brown sugar (loose, not packed)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat melted coconut oil, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended (no lumps). Add vanilla, whole egg and egg yolk and beat until creamy. 
In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat until well blended.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop heaping (about golf ball-sized) tablespoons of dough onto parchment paper at least 2" apart.
Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies are evenly browned.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Things to Do in Southern California: The Getty Villa

A couple of weekends ago, the need to get out of the house struck (as it so often does now that I'm back working from home!). When we visited the Getty Center a little over a year ago, we learned that before the larger museum in Los Angeles was built, J. Paul Getty had actually housed is art collection in his home in Pacific Palisades, CA, which is on the ocean in between Santa Monica and Malibu. After the collection outgrew his home, he built a Roman Villa nearby to allow for expansion.

The one big difference with the Getty Villa vs. the Getty Center is that you have reserve tickets for the Villa ahead of time. (The tickets are free, but you still have to go online to reserve a specific time slot. The only the thing you pay for, as with the Getty Center, is parking - $15 per car.) We had reserved tickets once before last summer, but something came up and we couldn't make it. Fortunately, when the idea popped up one Saturday, we were able to nab tickets for the very next day.

While the Getty Center focuses on European and American art and architecture, the Getty Villa is all about the Greco-Roman era. That means lots of statues:

 And beautiful murals:
And impressive gardens and architecture (not to mention a peek-a-boo ocean view!):
In the end, hubby and I decided we like the Getty Center a little better, just because it's more "our" kind of art. But the Villa is quite beautiful in its own right--and definitely worth a visit if you're in the Los Angeles area!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Authentic Key Lime Pie

It's citrus season here in Southern California, and it has been another banner year for our key lime tree. For the last 3 weekends in a row, I've gone out to "pick a few limes" and come back in with a big bowl full like this:
(Did you know key limes turn yellow when they're ripe? True story!)
Admittedly, they're very small, so each one doesn't produce a lot of juice. But round up 20 of them (which is very easy to do with our tree this year!) and you've got just enough for a delicious, authentic key lime pie! Wondering why I'm calling it "authentic"? Three reasons: first, it's not green (just like the rind, key lime juice is actually yellow); second, it tastes just like the key lime pie(s) I had in when I was in Key West for my wedding; three, there's no instant pudding involved like I've seen with some recipes. This is the real deal--and it's pucker-y perfection, if I do say so myself.
This is definitely one of my favorite pies. It's creamy and smooth with just the right amount of tartness to wake those taste buds up. 
What's your favorite kind of pie?
If you're looking for something new to try, here's my recipe for:
Authentic Key Lime Pie
(Makes 1 9-inch pie)
For the crust:
1 sleeve graham crackers (I use low-fat)
3 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
For the filling:
2/3 c. key lime juice (about 20 key limes' worth, or you can use bottled juice)
1 Tbsp. key lime zest (from 2-3 key limes)
2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
Garnish (optional):
Whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until crackers are reduced to a fine crumble.
Pour crumbs into a large bowl. Fold in melted butter and sugar to evenly distribute throughout crumbs.
Pour crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie pan. Press crumbs evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan.
Bake crust at 350°F for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.
In another large bowl, combine key lime juice, zest, sweetened condensed milk and yogurt. Mix on low speed until ingredients are well combined.
Pour filling into baked pie crust.
Return pie to oven and bake at 350°F for about 8 minutes or until tiny bubbles start to burst at the surface of the pie.
Cool completely, then refrigerate at least 8 hours for best flavor (I prefer to let it sit overnight).
Top with whipped cream before serving, if desired.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Slow Cooker Asian BBQ Chicken

For as much as I love my slow cooker, you'd think I'd use it more. But tucked away in a cabinet, sometimes I just forget it's there. But with this recipe, I think I'll be bringing it out more often from now on!

I was looking for a new way to cook chicken thighs when I stumbled upon this recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking. I tweaked it to cut down on the sodium (1/2 a cup of soy sauce? yikes!) and sugar. The result was a yummy, slightly sweet, slightly sour sauce the reminds me of some Asian BBQ I've had in the past, so I'm calling this modified recipe:

Slow Cooker Asian BBQ Chicken
(Serves 3-4)

1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. honey
1 Tbsp. dried basil

Place chicken thighs in a single layer in the bottom of your slow cooker.
In a small bowl, mix together chopped garlic, ketchup, soy sauce, honey and basil.
Pour mixture over chicken thighs.
Turn heat on low and cook for about 5 hours (or 3 hours on high).
Serve with rice and steamed pea pods.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Coconut Ginger Rice

Like many people, we're trying to get back on track with healthier eating in this first month of the new year. I feel like we do pretty well most of the year, but those few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas (well, let's be honest - through New Year's day) turn into a bit of a free-for-all when it comes to goodies.

We're not sticking to a "diet" per say, just trying to eat more veggies, fish, whole grains, etc. One way we really enjoy fish is pan-seared and topped with a tropical "salsa" (mangoes, pineapple, papaya and cilantro all chopped up together--no tomatoes). We eat it fairly regularly, though, so I'm always trying to find a way to make it a little more interesting. This time I made a coconut ginger rice to go with it, inspired by a dish we had once at a local restaurant.

It was delicious--a tasty, creamy accompaniment to the more astringent tropical salsa that topped the fish. The ginger isn't overwhelming; it just helps bring out the coconut flavor. I think this would also go well with a Thai curry. Next time, I might even try it with brown rice for an extra dose of healthy.

Coconut Ginger Rice
Serves 2

1/2 cup uncooked white jasmine rice
1/2 cup coconut milk (full-fat! don't go with the light stuff for this recipe)
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)

Add rice, coconut milk, water, ginger and salt to a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked through.

YES - it really is that easy! Enjoy!