Organic Strawberry Vanilla Date Jam

This post is about jam, not muffins, those fickle jerks.

Well, howdy!

This post is about jam, not muffins, those fickle jerks. Click here to read about my previous muffin fiasco.

It’s nice to see that you’ve not yet melted to a puddle of sweaty mess during these past few days of scorching heat. After selling at the Dallas Farmer’s Market yesterday, and subsequently roasting my cajones off, I was determined to not leave the house today.

Ladies, there just isn’t anything remotely attractive about sweat mustaches. Oh, all the unattractive places we sweat. *sigh*

Moving along, I had some back and forth discussion with my friend regarding the alarmingly high amount of sugar required to can and preserve jams and jellies. Don’t get me wrong, as I am very much in the pro-sweetness camp, but my waistline is telling me to lay off the white stuff (sugar, I assure you).

In the rush of the past week, I had at some point picked up two pounds of organic strawberries. As you know, those ruby red jewels are priced as such. As always happens, I had eaten half of one container and the rest were somehow shoved to the way back nether-regions of the fridge. Blast it.

The following contributed to the creation of this week’s recipe:

1. After a full day in the Dallas heat, I decided to remain in an air-conditioned suburban bubble.

2. I haven’t done laundry this week and thus find myself without any clean pants.

3. I wanted to start eating healthier and see if I could come up with a jam recipe to convince my aforementioned friend that I am super-cool.

4. I had a ton of organic strawberries that had started to bruise and were just asking to be sugared, smashed, and pureed into jammy oblivion.

Without further ado…let’s talk about the good stuff.

This recipe makes two 8oz jars of jam. I follow the standard instructions which are printed on the container of Pectin I had. This is NOT a recipe that I recommend canning. However, I can tell you that I often freeze the second jar this recipe makes. Once thawed, we use it within one week. I suspect it may keep longer, but we are BIG toast fans around these parts.

This jam is delicious. I used four Medjool Dates in this recipe to add some natural sweetness and textural interest. I also subbed Coconut Sugar for traditional granulated sugar. Coconut Sugar is low-glycemic and contains various naturally occurring nutrients. Granted, added sugar is still added sugar, but I don’t get a sugar crash as I do with other sweeteners.

Pretty simple ingredients here.

Pretty simple ingredients here.

The most tedious task is chopping the berries.

The most tedious task is chopping the berries.

Followed closely by pouring the jam into your jar. This is were a wide-mouthed mason jar comes in handy.

Followed closely by pouring the jam into your jar. This is were a wide-mouthed mason jar comes in handy.

Just make sure you don't fill your jars and then realize you forgot to puree the jam!

Just make sure you don’t fill your jars and then realize you forgot to puree the jam!

ORGANIC STRAWBERRY VANILLA DATE JAM

makes two 8-oz jars of jam

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. strawberries, organic is ideal

2/3 cup Coconut Sugar

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup Pectin, such a Sure-Jell brand

4 Medjool Dates, pits removed

Directions:

1. Wash, remove stems from, and roughly chop 1 1/2 lbs. of strawberries.

2. In a medium saucepan, mix strawberries with coconut sugar, vanilla extract, and pectin. Let rest for two minutes. Mash thoroughly, releasing juices.

3. Add pitted dates to saucepan, and bring to boil over medium heat.

4. Lower heat to medium-low and let bubble for 15 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes.

5. In a food processor, pour jam into work bowl and process until smooth. (If additional smoothness is desired, press pureed jam through sieve into a bowl) Take care as jam is still hot.

6. Evenly pour jam into two clean, 8-oz. wide-mouthed glass jars. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before screwing lid onto jar and refrigerating.

Use this jam on anything from toast, pancakes, or PB&J sandwiches. Would even make a nice addition to homemade salad dressings.

Use this jam on anything from toast, pancakes, or PB&J sandwiches. Would even make a nice addition to homemade salad dressings.

Quick Roasted Corn with Jalapeno and Sweet Pepper

Finished Corn

A Corn Haiku:

This is a picture of corn.

Corn on a blue plate.

Corn waiting to get eaten.

There really isn’t any super cute or fancy story about the origins of this side dish. I didn’t know what else to write, so like a boss I went with a Haiku. I’m not even sure if this qualifies as a Haiku, does it?

And as far as a recipe, this one is SO, SO easy I wasn’t sure if I was going to post it or not.

But it is really tasty, so I would be a selfish blogger if I didn’t share, wouldn’t I?

Boiled corn is fine….I guess. But broiled corn? Tossed with jalapeno, sweet bell pepper, Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil, and butter?

Freaking fabulous.

I freaking love sweet peppers.

I freaking love sweet peppers.

It takes longer to chop than it does to cook. You slice and dice the veg, toss it into a bowl, drizzle it with olive oil, butter, sea salt, and pepper before broiling for about 6 minutes or so.

This picture is corny.

Insert corn related comment here.

Done.

Plenty of extra time left to write corny Haikus. (Ha! A pun!)

Or not.

Texan Corn - Rattlesnake Bottle Picture

Quick Roasted Corn with Jalapeno and Sweet Pepper

Serves 4

 Ingredients:

4 ears of fresh corn, shucked

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired, and minced

½ red bell pepper, small dice

2 T. Texas Olive Ranch Rattlesnake Olive Oil

2 tsp. butter, unsalted (optional) To make this vegan, omit butter entirely or replace with plant based spread, such as Earth Balance

Sea salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Optional additions:

Sliced green onion, Lime wedges, chili powder, queso fresco, parmesan cheese.

 

Directions:

1. Preheat broiler to 500 degrees.

2. Line a broiler safe baking sheet with aluminum foil.

3. Holding shucked corn cob vertically (with a firm grip and a sharp knife), slice off corn kernels.

5. In a large bowl, combine corn kernels with minced jalapeno, diced red bell pepper, Texas Olive Ranch Rattlesnake Olive Oil, butter (if using), and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

4. Line corn mixture evenly onto prepared baking sheet. Place under broiler.

5. Cook for 6-9 minutes, until corn and bell pepper have softened and the edges have begun to brown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baked Stonefruit with Granola

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Granola and balsamic vinegar make for an easy breakfast or light dessert option. Ready in under a half hour!

Yesterday my baking company, Birdcage Bakeshop, participated in the Artisan’s Market held monthly at Williams Sonoma.

I know. (Squeeeeee!)

Navigating the world as a new business owner is exciting.

And terrifying.

Luckily, the sampling went well and I fielded lots of questions on what to do with the granola I was selling.

“Funny you should ask. I am posting a recipe on my recipe blog tomorrow and I’m using my granola!”

Believe me or not, this was not a pre-planned marketing tactic. That’s just way too clever for a simple gal like myself.

The true reason why I happened to be posting a granola-usage recipe?

I enjoy my own product. (and for those of you local to DFW, I will be down at the Dallas Farmer’s Market later this month!)

And I had this one queued for being posted this weekend. Pure coincidence.

I love, love, love summer stone fruits. Peaches, nectarines, even plums (as long as they don’t have too bitter of a skin. Bleck!)

This recipe is uber-versatile: serve it with crème fraiche or yogurt for an easy breakfast or top it straight out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream for an easy dessert.

Your friends will be amazed.

If you are baking more peaches than will be immediately consumed, I recommend storing them in the fridge without any granola. Reheat the fruit and top with the granola right before serving to avoid a soggy topping.

 

High Def Ingredient Pic Peaches

Simple ingredients!

Even Simpler Preparation. Make friends and amaze people with your mad skills.

Even Simpler Preparation. Make friends and amaze people with your mad skills.

Notice how the peach halves are filled with their yummy juiciness?

BAKED STONEFRUIT WITH GRANOLA

written for two servings, but easily doubled, tripled, etc. to accommodate number of guests/appetites

Ingredients:

1 peach (or nectarine) freestone peaches are easiest to halve

1 tsp. unsalted butter

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 T. balsamic vinegar, such as Texas Olive Ranch Peach Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 cup granola

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly butter the bottom of a small baking dish.

2. Wash peach and, using a sharp knife, insert tip of knife into crease of fruit; cut all the way around the fruit. Twist peach halves to separate fruit from pit. Note: freestone peach varieties are easiest for halving. If you happen to find yourself fighting a losing battle with the pit, you can also cut your fruit into wedges and stuff them into a small baking dish following the rest of the recipe directions.

3. Place peach halves onto baking sheet or prepared baking dish, cut side up.

4. Sprinkle each peach half with half measure of cinnamon and balsamic vinegar. Pinch off tiny pieces of butter and dot top of fruit.

5. Bake peaches at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until top of fruit begins to caramelize and the flesh has softened.

6. Remove from oven and top each half with 1/4 cup granola. Serve with yogurt or ice cream for an easy summer breakfast or dessert.

Granola topped Roasted Peaches

What will you top your baked stonefruit with?

 

Thyme Roasted Tomatoes over Grilled Polenta

Sweet, tangy cherry tomatoes are roasted and served over grilled polenta.

Sweet, tangy cherry tomatoes are roasted and served over grilled polenta.

It’s been a whirlwind week ’round these parts.

Aside from a M-F desk job, I’ve recently opened up a baking business. This means I spend my time covered in flour, smelling like buttercream, and harassing my family to try anything and everything that has been coming out of the test kitchen.

I usually try to post a new recipe once a week, usually on Sundays, but admittedly I’ve been slipping on that. Oh well….in other news, I am happy to report that I have an herb garden. By herb garden, I mean that two out of twelve plants I put into the container garden are not dead.

 

Doesn't everyone water their garden with a shotglass?

Doesn’t everyone water their garden with a shotglass?

If you look real closely, you can see that I’ve managed to keep alive both parsley and thyme. I have NO idea what the green tuft is by the shot glass, so if anyone knows feel free to leave a comment.

Today marked my first day at the Little Elm Farmer’s Market. I might have spent more money on buying stuff there than I did making money from sales, but oh well. A gal’s gotta eat, right?

My baker’s assistants daughters bought a bag of lovely cherry tomatoes for me. Isn’t that sweet? I put them to good use, roasting them with some Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil, fresh thyme and parsley from my garden (squeeee!), and sea salt and pepper.

Gorgeous 'maters getting ready for a roast in the oven.

Gorgeous ‘maters getting ready for a roast in the oven.

And, in true family tradition, I served the roasted tomatoes over something nobody in my family will eat: polenta. That doesn’t stop me from cooking it. I love, love, love it. And since I’m the boss, they get polenta. Done deal.

I like my polenta firm; that is, from the shelf-stable tubes you can purchase at the grocery store. It’s, quick, simple, and mighty tasty when lightly pan fried in some olive oil.

Not much to look at, but tasty none the less.

Not much to look at, but tasty none the less.

This could be served with any number of main dishes: a firm, mild white fish, grilled chicken breast, or with a side salad for an easy lunch.


Texas Olive Ranch. Love of my life.

Texas Olive Ranch. Love of my life.

Thyme Roasted Tomatoes with Grilled Polenta

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:
2 lbs. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
2 T. fresh thyme leaves
1 T. fresh Italian parsley
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
3 T. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil
1 lb. tube of prepared Polenta (look in the Italian foods section)
2 tsp. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine halved cherry tomatoes with thyme, parsley, 1 tsp. sea salt, ½ tsp. ground black pepper, and 3 T. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil.
4. Spread tomato mixture onto prepared baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, slice polenta into 12 even “rounds” and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.
6. In a large, non-stick skillet heat 1 tsp. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil over medium heat. Grill polenta six slices at a time, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, for about 3 minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining polenta slices and remaining 1 tsp. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil.
7. Line polenta slices on a serving platter (rectangular works best). Spoon roasted tomatoes over top of slices; garnish with grated or shaved Parmesan.

Pass the wine.

Pass the wine.

Espresso Chocolate Almond Pudding

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There are few things in life that tickle my fancy more than coffee and chocolate.

I love desserts of all kinds: lemon, butterscotch, vanilla, really anything.

But there is something about coffee and chocolate that just sends me over the moon.

It had been awhile since I visited my favorite neighborhood store: Green Grocer in Dallas. On Friday, I’d decided that I was long overdue for a visit. I was really hot and I have no air conditioning in my car. I only hope that one of these days my husband will just finally agree to a new car. Mine is paid off and evidently I will be driving it around until the wheels fall off or I have a heat stroke – whichever comes first.

I was craving one of their cold smoothies and was waiting in line when I decided to add on a double shot of espresso to my order. Not to drink right then…I just suddenly decided I would make something for the blog with my favorite coffee. They serve really, really good coffee from a local coffee roaster in Dallas, Noble Coyote Coffee.

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Hey there, lovely.

What I love about Green Grocer is the ability to support several local artisans at once while knowing that everything sold within those four walls is ethically sourced. Noble Coyote Coffee supports fair trade, roasts their own beans, and provides a mighty tasty cup of coffee. Not near Dallas? Order them online here; I promise you will not be disappointed. (I suppose I should state I am not receiving any monies to talk about Green Grocer or Noble Coyote Coffee; I just feel the need to spread the word about good Dallas Companies!)

So….back to coffee and chocolate.

And almond milk.

I buy the best almond milk at Green Grocer:

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Sure, I could make my own almond milk. But this is too good and means I don’t have to soak almonds.

Espresso + Chocolate + Almond Milk = Wuv. Twoo Wuv.

Creamy and sweet with a bold punch of Espresso, this pudding is definitely for the coffee lover. This isn’t your typical chocolate dessert with a hint of coffee. It’s as bold and assertive as the espresso you use, so make sure you brew a cup of your finest espresso. Or, do what I did, and just swing by your local coffee shop and order a double shot. For best taste, allow to cool in the fridge before eating.

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ESPRESSO CHOCOLATE ALMOND PUDDING

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

3 T. cocoa powder

2 T. cornstarch

3/4 cup sugar (Turbinado highly recommended due to its molasses undertones)

pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup brewed espresso

1 1/2 cups unsweetened Almond Milk (or whole milk)

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 T. butter, chopped

Directions:

1. In a medium pot or saucier pan, whisk together your cornstarch, cocoa powder, and sea salt until combined.

2. Turn heat on to medium and add the espresso, almond milk, and egg yolks.  Whisk to combine.

3. Continue whisking while pudding mixture comes just under a low boil over medium heat.

4. Whisk over medium heat for about 7-10 minutes until thickened. Once there are ridges that appear in the top of the pudding when you remove your whisk, your pudding is done.

5. Stir in vanilla extract and butter until combined.

5. Remove pan from heat and immediately pour into serving bowl or individual ramekins. Let cool for a few minutes, then place plastic wrap over serving dishes, ensuring wrap is in direct contact with pudding to avoid the dreaded “pudding skin”. Refrigerate until cool, or overnight for serving the next day.

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Obviously, if you have kids, I highly suggest NOT serving this Espresso Chocolate Almond Pudding to them. If you are looking for a more family friendly chocolate pudding recipe, simply replace the 1/2 cup espresso with an additional 1/2 cup almond milk.

If you are feeling really, really naughty, try adding a half shot of fine bourbon.

For my vegan friends, you can leave out the egg yolks and add in an additional 1 T. cornstarch. It may not set as firm as traditional pudding, but you’ll still have a yummy treat. Sub earth balance for the butter.

Once you’ve made your own pudding, you will wonder why you’re still buying those gross pudding cups from the grocery store. No nasty chemicals here and it is so easy!

Pudding for me. Pudding for you. Pudding for eeeeverybody!!!!

Cheesecake Cookies

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These.

These are tea cookies, plain and simple.

I am a huge lover of cheesecake. I am also a huge lover of cookies.

Mix the two together and, well, I lose my marbles.

This recipe is so easy. If you aren’t a “baker”, rest assured this is one that is really hard for you to screw up.

The cookie has all the flavor characteristics of a classic cheesecake: cream cheese, vanilla, touch of lemon, graham cracker crumbs, and cinnamon.

As far as texture goes, yes there is flour in the cookie mix, but do not expect them to have a traditional cookie crumb. The flour in the recipe is just enough for the cheesecake to hold its shape and the graham cracker coating also helps it keep a round, cookie shape.

I had an idea to roll a maraschino cherry in the middle of one batch. While it tasted good, it just didn’t LOOK good. They kind of looked like tiny, cheesecake UFOs. If you’re baking these for home consumption and really dig the cherry idea, go for it. If you are taking these to a party, might I suggest you finely dice the cherries so that they bake flat?

Okay, fine. Here is a picture of my UFO cookies:

*Cherry Fail*

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So, sometimes my spur of the moments don’t really work out that great. Oh well.

I promise you, though. You will L-O-V-E these cheese cake cookies.

I took one sleeve of graham crackers, threw them in my food processor, and set them aside.

Decorative charger salvaged from Target clearance bin is optional:

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Beat the snot out of your cream cheese, butter, and sugar:

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Once smooth, you will beat in 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, and 2 cups of flour.

Your batter should be “rollable” (like a firm sugar cookie dough) and look like this:

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Pinch off enough dough to make 1 1/2″ circles:

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Toss to coat with graham cracker crumbs.

Might I suggest investing in disposable gloves if you are sharing your treats?

Yes, I realize I have none on in this picture, but this was for demo purposes only:

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Roll dough into a round ball:

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These cookies spread slightly, so leave at least two inches between the balls. Bake for about 12-14 minutes. Serve at room temperature:

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

6 ounces Neufchatel (reduced fat cream cheese)

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 tsp. lemon zest

2 cups flour

1 sleeve of graham cracker crumbs (or about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together your graham cracker crumbs with the ground cinnamon and set aside.

3.Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the softened butter and cream cheese until smooth.

4.Add sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.

5.Using a slower speed, mix in the flour until just incorporated.

6. Using a Tablespoon, scoop out enough dough to make a ball about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Drop this ball into the graham cracker mixture and roll around to coat.

7. Roll into a smoother ball and place on a cookie sheet. Do not flatten; these cookies will spread into the perfect circle.

8. Bake in the oven for about 12 – 14 minutes, or until the edges are just slightly brown.

A few notes:

 – Do NOT overcook these or they will get hard. Bake them until set and graham cracker crumbs are slightly browned. You may think these are undercooked, but keep in mind they are supposed to be “cheesecake” in texture.

 – I kept my cooked, cooled cookies in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving for best flavor.

 I hope you enjoy these!

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Carrot Spice Donuts with Citrus Cream Cheese Glaze

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Happy Easter!

Or, if you don’t celebrate the holiday, Happy Sunday Morning Homemade Donut Day!

Earlier in the week, I ordered a Wilton Donut Pan off Amazon. It’s heart shaped and likely a castaway remaining from Valentines Day, but it was only $5. Can’t beat that!

Going with the whole “Spring” thing and wanting to use my brand new donut pan, I came up with a recipe for Carrot Spice Muffins.

I know it’s confusing, Donut Pan Muffins?!?! Duffins??? Is that a thing?

The batter ended up baking and tasting like a muffin, albeit in a donut shape, so I just went with the title of muffins in order to avoid any breakfast table debate.

My kids woke me up at 6am. On Sunday. Screaming about the Easter Bunny. Without having made mommy coffee. ‘Nough said.

However, in my mind, since they were baked in a DONUT pan this makes them DONUTS, allrighty?

Since it’s Sunday and I don’t count Sunday calories, I topped these gorgeous muffins with a bath of gooey Citrus Cream Cheese Glaze and tossed on some pecans for good measure.

Enjoy!

Whisk together your dry ingredients.

I’m a big fan of using a whisk to combine dry ingredients. It breaks up any clumps and eliminates sifting:

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Similarly, use the whisk to combine the dry ingredients.

Add in your grated orange zest:

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After combining the wet and dry ingredients, use a spatula to mix in your finely shredded carrot.

Note the size of the grate I used. Using the finer grate means that your carrots will cook through:

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Fill your baking pan of choice.

If using a donut pan, it helps tremendously if you cut the corner off a plastic bag and use a coupler to squeeze the batter into the cavity:

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For the donuts, I baked them at 400 degrees for about 14 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

As you can see, mine puffed up quite a bit.

Nobody complained, though:

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CARROT SPICE DONUTS

Makes about 18 donuts if using the Wilton pan. Approx 12 standard muffins if using a tranditional muffin tin.

Ingredients:

1 cup finely shredded carrot

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup buttermilk or whole milk

1 tsp. grated orange zest

3 eggs

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 T. pure maple syrup

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, using a whisk, combine dry ingredients: flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together wet ingredients: milk, orange zest, eggs, melted butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.

4. Make a well in your dry ingredients. Pour in the combined wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

5. Stir in the shredded carrots.

6. In a greased muffin pan or donut pan, fill cavities about 2/3 full.

7. Bake at 400 degrees. DONUTS – bake 12-14 minutes or until firm and toothpick comes out clean. MUFFINS – bake at 400 degrees 18-21 minutes or until firm and toothpick comes out clean. Please note that I baked this recipe with a donut pan and muffin time is approximate.

8. UNGLAZED donuts/muffins should keep at room temperature 2 – 3 days.

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CITRUS CREAM CHEESE GLAZE

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchatel (reduced fat cream cheese)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1 T. fresh orange juice

2 – 4 T. milk (as needed to make glaze of a dipping consistency. Start low and increase as needed)

*The beauty of this recipe is that depending on the amount of milk you add, you can either make a frosting of sorts or a dunkable glaze. You choose! If you are crowning your donuts with chopped pecans, do so immediately after topping your treats.

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and orange juice.

2. Add in milk 1 T. at a time until desired consistency is reached.

3. Dip or spread your donut with the glaze and enjoy immediately.

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Browned Butter Toffee Marshmallow Treats

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Fiddle-dee-dee. Someone hand this gal a fan. I’m going to swoon.

If there was one flavor that makes me weak in the knees, it is browned butter and toffee.

Wait. That’s two flavors.

Anyways, I’m a sucker for Heath bars and my favorite texture is anything toothsome and chewy. Al dente pasta, macaroni and cheese, and……Marshmallow Treats. Yum!

Tomorrow is Easter holiday and I’m so excited to be spending it with some close family friends. Aside from a turkey, green beans, and a cheesecake, I wanted to make something that could be nibbled on throughout the evening.

I was at Target in the checkout lane, waiting patiently to be rung up. Like a bald eagle spotting a salmon jumping mid-air, upstream in a river, I spotted a clearance sign. (It’s a hunting skill I’ve honed over many, many trips to the stores)

That clearance sign was attached to a Heath bar.

*commence drooling*

So, of course, I grabbed five.

There are four members in my family, but they don’t need to know about the extra one, right?

On my way home, I decided to make Marshmallow Squares. With crushed Heath bar. AAAAND browned butter.

While not completely reinventing the wheel, the addition of a little vanilla, a hefty dose of crushed Heath bars, and browned butter

takes the childhood standard Marshmallow Square and gussies it up a bit.

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In a large pot, you’ll brown four Tablespoons of unsalted butter.

Don’t go far, such a small amount browns very quickly.

As soon as little brown flecks appear and butter smells “nutty”, you’ll need to act FAST.

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Mix in your ‘Mallows and 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract.

When I said you need to act fast, I meant it. This explains the shoddy camera work right here:

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Once your marshmallows are melted, pour in your rice crisp cereal and give it a good stir:

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Once completely coated, stir in your crushed Heath bars:

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You’ll be setting up your treats in a parchment paper lined pan.

I like to clip the edges in place with clothespins or chip clips:

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Press mixture firmly and evenly into pan.

Sprinkle reserved crushed toffee bits onto top and press in. Let cool completely:

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Cut bars into squares using a chef’s knife that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

This helps avoid sticking:

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Browned Butter Toffee Marshmallow Treats

Makes 12 large treats or 24 small treats

Ingredients:

4 T. butter, unsalted

1 10 oz. bag of marshmallows (large or small will work)

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

6 cups of crisp rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)

7 ounces of Heath candy bars, crushed (reserving about 1 candy bars’ worth or 1.4 ounces)

Equipment:

9×13″ baking pan

Parchment or waxed paper

rubber spatula or wooden spoon

large pot

cutting board

Chef’s knife

Directions:

1. Line 9 x13″ baking pan with parchment or waxed paper. Set aside.

2. In large pot over medium heat, allow four T. unsalted butter to melt and brown. This process will happen very quickly given the small amount of butter we are using, so keep an eye on it. As soon as brown flecks appear, butter is dark golden and smells nutty, add in your marshmallows and stir quickly until melted together.

3. Add in your 1 tsp. vanilla and give it a good stir.

4. Add in cereal and stir until coated.

5. Pour in crushed toffee bits and stir until evenly dispersed.

6. Pour mixture into prepared 9×13″ baking pan and press evenly and firmly into pan. Use caution as cereal mixture will be hot. You can use a second piece of parchment as a barrier between your hands and the food.

7. Allow to cool completely, several hours. Once cool, use extra bits of parchment paper to assist with transferring treats to your cutting board.

8. Spray a sharp chef’s knife with cooking spray and cut into pieces. You may need to spray knife occasionally to ensure crisp lines on your treats.

These treats should stay fresh for up to 3 days in an airtight, covered container (if they last that long).

*places hand on forehead and swoons*

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Indian-inspired Potato Bean Saute

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Let me kick off this post by saying that I am by no means an expert in Indian Cuisine.

Yes, I am aware that Garbanzo (Chickpea) Beans or lentils would have been more authentic. However, I was making this lunch completely on-the-fly.

STARVING, impatient, and without my glasses, what I thought was a can of Garbanzo beans turned out to be Great Northern beans.

Sigh.

I’m reminded of that insurance commercial where an elderly lady is bumbling around without her glasses, petting and speaking baby-goo-goo nonsense to what she believes to be her cat. Turns out, it was a raccoon or skunk or something like that. Hehe.

So…anyways. Yeah. I totally had a moment.

 I had a craving for something with curry and potatoes. I also wanted something filling and quick to make, and this came together in about a half hour. Not bad. Given that it has no meat or animal products in it, I was unsure if I’d be successful in getting Mr. Carnivore to eat it without complaint. It worked! He wandered in from the garage and asked what I was making because it smelled good. I have learned after ten (!) years of marriage to this man that if I make something without meat, I can’t mention that before mealtime.

After we had eaten, I compulsively just HAD to blurt out “You liked that? Well….IT IS VEEEEGAN!!!!”. I just had to prove a point, you know…

Check out how simple a healthy, hearty meal can be:

Grab yourself some good Quality Olive Oil. I used Texas Olive Ranch, of course by now you know I’m basically like their Fan Club President!

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Without starting a small fire, get your oil nice ‘n hot. Toss in your chopped onions.

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Add in your ‘taters and spices and stir until it smells nice ‘n toasty.

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Add in the rest, including your “not-so-Garbanzo-beans”.

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Toss in your green stuff. Throw a lid on it and let it simmer down.

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Doesn’t it look unauthentically deeeelish?

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EASY INDIAN-INSPIRED POTATO BEAN SAUTE

INGREDIENTS:

15 oz. can Great Northern Beans (or Garbanzo), drained and rinsed

1 T. olive oil

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 T. curry powder

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

one pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

2 medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and diced

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup water or veggie stock

15 oz. can petite cut diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups kale, chopped

Lemon Wedges

To Serve: Cooked Brown Rice, Cooked Basmati Rice, Pita Bread, or Crusty French Bread

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large, deep sauté pan heat your oil over medium heat. Add in your onions and sweat them out. Add in minced garlic and stir 30 seconds.

2. Add the diced potatoes and spices. Cook for one minute, until spices are fragrant.

3. Add in remaining ingredients, except lemon wedges, stirring to combine. Bring to boil, then cover and lower heat to low.

4. Gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every so often, until potatoes are very tender.

5. Remove bay leaf and serve garnished with a lemon wedge over starch of choice.

Texan Quinoa with Grapefruit Cumin Vinaigrette

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Today’s been pretty productive. In my terms, I mean. Usually I’m just happy if I manage to put mascara on.

The things I did today were the following:

1. Pick up produce co-op share from Urban Acres from outside the pickup location in front of the Crossfit studio. Make goo-goo eyes at the hot Crossfit guys. (Although it probably just looks like I have a facial twitch)

2. Go to Target. Look for dresses (for my sister’s wedding) for my two girls. Push cart like a mad woman while drinking Starbucks and chasing my girls around the clothing department while they chase each other. Like a champ, might I add. And don’t be judgy. At some point most parents find themselves in that exact situation. I just tolerate those moments better with a caramel macchiato.

3. Get hair did. It’s been a year since I’ve had it cut OR colored, but I’d be more concerned about my hair color if I hadn’t gained some weight over the past year. D’OH!

4. Take pictures of food.

5. Order take-out. (The irony is not lost on me)

I actually couldn’t wait to write a recipe after seeing the share I picked up this morning. Take a gander at the organic goodness:

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I love Spring produce! I was so excited to see Ataulfo mangoes, Rio Star Grapefuit, cilantro, parsley, red cabbage, and radishes. My faaaavorite type of lemons were also in there, Meyer, but I’m saving those for another recipe. Today I have for you a lovely, flavorful Texan Quinoa salad. Fluffy quinoa is tossed with a ton of crispy, fresh veggies and a tangy Grapefruit Cumin vinaigrette. Chunks of sour-sweet Ataulfo mango, black beans, and creamy avocado add fullness to this dish, which I prefer to serve cold or at room temperature.

So, why Grapefruit? Well, if you’ve never had a Texan, Rio Star Grapefruit you are seriously missing out. I grew up eating really, super tart grapefruit at my Grandmother’s house and I remember that instantaneous lip pucker. Ick. Rio Star grapefruit are no where NEAR that. They are heavenly. That being said, if you aren’t really a grapefruit fan this is a good way to introduce the citrus star into your diet.

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This dish is inherently vegan and gluten-free, but for my carnivorous buddies out there I imagine fish or chicken would be great.

And, of course, my love affair and fan-girl status with Texas Olive Ranch continues. I used their Roasted Garlic Olive Oil in this recipe because I didn’t feel like eating chunks of garlic today. Their olive oil is gently immersed with yummy, garlicky goodness and I felt it rounded out the vinaigrette quite nicely.

This recipe does require a bit of chopping, but I PROMISE you it is so worth it. If you are crunched on time, swing by the salad bar at your grocery store and load up on pre-chopped veggies! I won’t judge.

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TEXAN QUINOA with GRAPEFRUIT CUMIN VINAIGRETTE

Serves 4 -6 as an entrée, 8 – 12 as a side dish

Quinoa Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups vegetable broth or water

1 cup carrots, sliced into thin rounds or matchsticks

3 medium radishes, diced

2 cups red cabbage, shredded

1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno, minced

15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 mango, diced

1 avocado, diced

salt and pepper, to taste

 Grapefruit Cumin vinaigrette, see below

Directions:

1. In medium pot over medium high heat, bring two cups water or broth to boil. Stir in rinsed quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all liquid and is fluffy. Set aside and let cool.

2.  Chop all veggies according to ingredients specifications.

3. When quinoa is cool, add veggies from carrots through jalapeno. Season as desired with salt and pepper.

4. Drizzle prepared Grapefruit Cumin Vinaigrette over salad and toss to combine.

5. Add rinsed black beans, mango, and avocado to top of salad and gently fold into salad.

6. Serve at room temperature or chill in refrigerator for at least two hours.

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Grapefruit Cumin Vinaigrette

makes enough for a full recipe of Texan Quinoa or enough to dress six salads or as a marinade for tofu,fish, shrimp, or chicken

Ingredients:

1 large grapefruit (enough for 6 ounces juice)

1/4 cup olive oil, such as Roasted Garlic Olive Oil

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Slice grapefruit in half and extract its juice.

2. Combine juice and remaining ingredients in tightly covered jar and vigorously shake to combine.

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