Thursday, August 6, 2015

Honey Cardamom Cookies with Chocolate Marshmallows (Homemade S'mores Kit)

Ah, s'mores. Who doesn't love them? The beloved treat made from breaking off a couple of crunchy honey graham crackers from the box, toasting a few marshmallows from the bag, and adding a couple squares of chocolate from the bar.

To tell you the truth, I'm not a big fan of the boxed graham crackers, or the bagged marshmallows. Both taste to me like they have a lot of preservatives in them, and have a strange aftertaste. Time to switch it up I say, and put a little homemade spin on a s'more.

I was given a chocolate themed challenge this month for The Leftover's Club. I was paired up for a second time with Faye from Live Bake Love. I enjoy reading her blog, and I know she loves to bake as much as I do. Give it a peek- I know you'll love it too!

I wanted to challenge myself this month and make something I hadn't tried before. This Honey Cardamom Cookie is my idea of what I'd like a graham cracker to taste like. It's crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and covered in a spicy sugar coating. I've never even attempted marshmallows before, but thought it would be fun to try to make chocolate flavored ones. I figured they would travel (ship) a whole lot more successfully than dipping the cookies in chocolate. Toast the marshmallows, add a sandwich of cookies, and voila- instant s'more. Upgraded.

These Honey Cardamom Cookies are made in a similar fashion to a snickerdoodle. Once the dough is made, it's first rolled into balls, then rolled into a sugar and spice mixture. They don't spread like snickerdoodles, so a little flattening on the cookie sheet with the bottom of a drinking glass before baking them results in perfectly round, and same-sized cookies. Delicious enough on their own, these cookies are also a worthy partner for these delectable chocolate marshmallows.

Honey Cardamom Cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (I used Earth Balance sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla paste (extract is okay)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For coating the cookies:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- In a shallow dish or bowl, combine the 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp cardamom, mix, and set aside
- In a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy- about 4 minutes
- Add in honey, egg, and vanilla paste and continue to mix a few minutes
- Add in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamon, and kosher salt and mix to combine
- Using a small cookie scoop, scoop batter and roll in the palm of your hand to form a ball
- Roll each of the dough balls in the sugar/cinnamon/cardamom mixture until coated 
- Place the balls a dozen to a pan on parchment paper lined cookie sheets
- Take a flat-bottomed glass (I used a juice glass), and gently press down each ball until they are same size (about 3-4"). This batter doesn't spread, and flattening the dough a little ensures the cookies will come out the same size.
- Bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies start to brown around the edges
- Cool on a wire rack

Dairy-free recipe if you use Earth Balance

Marshmallows are a candy. Making candy is intimidating to me. Using a candy thermometer, watching the temperature carefully, having the mixture be like molten lava (I'm very accident prone in the kitchen)- there's a lot of opportunity for error (or injury.) Also, candy tends to be permanent. You can't just add some of this or that to fix a mess-up, if you goof, it's a definite I've got to start over situation. With that being said, these marshmallows weren't as difficult to make as I was expecting. The right equipment is a must- a candy thermometer, dutch oven, and a stand mixer are really needed to make this recipe. Have all the ingredients measured, and the equipment ready to go, and you're in the marshmallow business. Just a little warning- these marshmallows are sticky, sticky, sticky, which means my kitchen is now messy, messy, messy. Ah, the sacrifices we're willing to make for sugar.

Since this is the first time I've ever attempted homemade marshmallows, I used this recipe from my The only things I would change next time is use more cocoa powder in the marshmallow to give them an even more chocolaty flavor.

If you have a food blog, and would like to join this fun treat exchange group, check out The Leftover's Club, and sign up. How much fun does it sound to be matched up with another dedicated food blogger, and to send and receive a homemade goodie? I really look forward to this exchange each month, and hope to see you next month!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chipotle Enchilada Sauce

Enchiladas are my favorite Mexican food item. I love them in just about any form, but my favorite ones are pretty simple- filled with juicy chicken breast, and covered in melted cheese and homemade sauce. Maybe a little guacamole and sour cream on the side.

Homemade enchilada sauce and bottled enchilada sauce are two completely different animals. Bottled sauce is convenient, but rarely tastes like actual chilies. You can usually taste the preservatives and sugar (gasp!) in the bottled variety, and it's just not as delicious. This easy homemade sauce can be made when you have a few minutes, and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks. Freeze it, and it'll keep for a couple of months.

This homemade sauce is spicy from the Chipotle peppers, but not too spicy. It's deliciously rich, and the depth of chili flavor is pronounced and up-front. It's probably a little darker in color than you're used to seeing, but don't let that stop you from trying it. I promise once you taste this sauce, you won't buy bottled enchilada sauce again.

I make my sauce homemade, then save time assembling the actual enchiladas. I like to use rotisserie chicken from the market because, well, it's already cooked and full of flavor. Actually, I buy two because I prefer the breast meat. I also like to stack my enchiladas. A lot less use of oil, less prep time, and they taste the same as rolled enchiladas.

Chipotle Enchilada Sauce
Makes enough sauce for one 9x13x2 pan of enchiladas

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp Earth Balance (or butter)
1 cup (about 1 small) chopped sweet onion
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, pressed
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp oregano
3-4 Tbsp (I usually use 4) chili powder
2-3 Chipotle peppers in Adobo (I usually use 2 because I prefer it not so spicy)
2 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth or stock
Juice from 1/2 a lemon

- Saute onion in the oil and butter until softened, about 3 minutes
- Add in flour and cook another 2 minutes
- Add in chicken broth, spices, chipotle, and lemon juice, and simmer another 4-5 minutes until it thickens up
- Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed
- Pour everything into a food processor, and blend until smooth
- I store the sauce in a mason jar. If you aren't going to use it right away, let it cool before putting on lid and storing in the fridge

The enchilada sauce is a dairy-free recipe!

To make the enchiladas in the photo:

One recipe enchilada sauce
1-2 Rotisserie chicken, meat pulled off, and chopped if necessary (about 2 cups chicken)
1 small can sliced black olives, put a few aside to sprinkle on top of the casserole
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup roasted corn (I get it frozen at Trader Joe's)
1 small can mild green chiles
1 dozen corn tortillas
2 cups pepper jack cheese, grated
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

- Pour enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl, and set it aside
- In a large bowl, stir together chicken, olives, black beans, corn, and green chiles
- Place 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9x13x2 glass and spread it out
- Dip 4 corn tortillas in the enchilada sauce to cover, then place them spread out on top of the sauce
- Spread 1/2 the chicken mixture evenly on top of the tortillas
- Sprinkle with cheese
- Top with 4 more dipped tortillas
- Spread the rest of the chicken mixture
- Sprinkle with cheese
- Top with final 4 dipped tortillas
- Pour remainder of the sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas
- Sprinkle the top of the enchiladas with the rest of the cheese and the reserved olives

This is NOT a dairy-free recipe, unless you can find a decent tasting cheese that melts. If you know of one, please pass along the name :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lebanese Chicken Tawook and Fattoush

One of the best bonuses of living in southern California, beside the weather, is the abundance of ethnic restaurants close by. One of my favorite cuisines is Lebanese food. It utilizes a lot of fresh lemon, mint and parsley, fresh herbs, and spices. Hummus, eggplant, yogurt-based marinades, and fresh salads are also staples of the cuisine. They had me at lemon.

I remember the first time I tried Lebanese food at a place called The Magic Lamp in Long Beach. I had no idea what was what on the menu, so I relied on picking what sounded good by the descriptions. Lots of lemon, grilled chicken, spices and fresh herbs. I ordered Chicken Tawook, Fattoush (pronounced Fatoosh), hummus and pita bread. HEAVEN!! I literally dream about this meal.

I decided to recreate this wonderfulness at home and share it with my husband, who hasn't tried it. Making it all was surprisingly easy and it was so delicious. We actually ate it for three straight days to use up the leftovers, and because it was so yummy. Rich now loves it as much as I do.

Chicken Tawook is lemony, creamy, spicy, salty, sour.. it hits all the flavor bombs on your tongue. The Fattoush is truly my favorite salads of any cuisine- light and so healthy. Again lemony, a little spicy from the fresh radish, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh mint and parsley, all in a clean lemon and olive oil dressing. It usually has pita croutons on it, but since I was serving the meal with pita bread, I skipped the croutons. Oh my gosh, it was all fantastic!

Recipe Tips:
- The chicken can be marinated overnight, but I cooked it after 4 hours and it was still delicious.
- I had a difficult time finding sumac, which is typically used for the Fattoush. I knew the main flavor of it is sour, so I subbed out some lemon zest and crushed Aleppo pepper- a Turkish spice I had on hand. I found this spice at HomeGoods, but have also seen it at Whole Foods.
- It's not difficult to make your own hummus, but I chose to use a store-brand. My favorite is Sabra's pine nut hummus.
- Serve this meal as a plated dinner, or build an awesome sandwich in the pita bread with all the parts.

Chicken Tawook
Serves 6

1 Tbsp tomato paste
5 garlic cloves, pressed
1 carton (1 cup) plain greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp crushed Aleppo pepper (see note above in tips)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp oregano
Juice from 2 lemons
Zest from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2" cubes

- Combine the marinade ingredients in a glass bowl, and stir to combine
- Add in chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and let marinate in the fridge at least 4 hours
- Heat olive oil on medium high in a non-stick pan
- Add marinated chicken and cook on each side about 4 minutes until chicken is cooked through

Serves 4-6

1 large head Romaine lettuce, rinsed, spun, and chopped
1 small cucumber, diced
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup green onion, sliced
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 radishes, very thinly sliced
1 tsp crushed Aleppo pepper
3 garlic cloves, pressed
Juice from 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

- Prepare the salad when you're ready to eat it. It will get soggy overnight, so you'll need to make a fresh salad for leftovers
- Combine ingredients lettuce through radishes in a bowl
- In a small bowl, whisk together the Aleppo pepper, garlic cloves, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper
- Add dressing to salad, and toss

My favorite way to eat this meal:
Place a pita bread on the plate. Top with a big helping of Fattoush, add some of the chicken on top of the salad. Serve with a side of hummus.

Dairy-free option: use non-dairy yogurt for the marinade.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Red Lentil Ragout with Whole Grain Pasta

A flavorful whole grain pasta dish. Vegetarian, with lots of veggies and protein. Spicy and delicious. These were my criteria when looking for something to make for dinner tonight. A tall order, but thanks to a Pinterest posted recipe by foxes love lemons, I had a great base recipe to play with.

Lentils are a food I hadn't tried until I started cutting back on meat and eating cleaner this past January. They are remarkably easy to make (like rice), high in protein, and have a texture like al dente pasta. They're easy to add to soups and stews, and also sauces.

This Red Lentil Ragout with Whole Grain Pasta recipe has more than a few ingredients. However, once you get everything prepped and measured out, it comes together quite easily. A great weekday dinner, it will also serve a few more meals the rest of the week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Recipe tip:
- I've tried dozens of brands of "healthier" pasta, and my favorite is Barilla whole grain pasta in the yellow box. It takes exactly 8 minutes to cook to al dente, and holds up it's texture even in the thickest or thinnest of sauces. It's not too wheat-y tasting, and not mushy or white pasta tasting either.

Red Lentil Ragout with Whole Grain Pasta
Adapted from a recipe by foxes love lemons
Serves 6-8

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, sliced
10 oz white mushrooms, sliced
5 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
6-8 mini San Marzano tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup red wine (I used Pinot)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup red lentils
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp coriander
Zest from one lemon
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
6-8 fresh basil leaves, torn
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 box Barilla whole grain spaghetti

In a large dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil until hot
- Add in the carrot, mushrooms, garlic, bell pepper, onion, and San Marzano tomatoes and cook until vegetables start to get tender, about 5 minutes
- Add in the wine, and continue to cook another 5 minutes until the wine reduces by half
- Add in the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, red lentils, vegetable broth, oregano, fresh basil, coriander, pepper flakes, and zest and juice from the lemon, and continue to simmer 20 minutes until the lentils are tender, and the sauce thickens
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
- Cook spaghetti according to package directions (mine always takes 8 minutes to cook), drain and add to the ragout
- Top with freshly grated parmesan and basil

Dairy-free recipe!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lemon Zingers

It's no secret that fresh lemons and I have a thing going on. I use them- zest and juice-  in just about everything I make. I love them so much, I prefer their taste to be in the forefront of a bite, not just a lingering tartness. Lemons would be my favorite food group if they were one. You get the picture...

This month I was paired up with Maria from A Long Day's Journey Into the Kitchen for The Leftover's Club. She sent me some phenomenally delicious cranberry and blueberry biscotti, which lasted a whole three days around here! Check out her blog, and her tasty healthy recipes :)

We were given a 4th of July theme this month for our baked treats, and  Maria mentioned how much she LOVES lemon bars. Since lemon bars don't ship well to the other side of the country, I came up with a soft-on-the-inside yet crispy-on-the-outside lemon zinger cookie. They're the perfect combination of tart and sweet with lots of fresh lemon zest and juice in the batter. These babies are topped with a pucker-up glaze, and I tossed in some red white and blue jimmies to celebrate the 4th. They are as lemon as I could make them, and I hope she likes them!

If you have a food blog, and would like to join this fun treat exchange group, check out The Leftover's Club, and sign up. How much fun is it to be matched up with another dedicated food blogger, and send and receive a homemade goodie? See you next month!

Recipe Tip:
- You know I'm not a fan of extra steps, but this dough really needs to be refrigerated for a couple of hours to overnight before you can bake it. It's a rather soft dough, almost like cake batter, right after mixing it. Refrigerating it and letting it firm up allows the cookies to keep their shape and not spread. It's worth the little extra planning- these cookies are delicious!
- Place a full-length piece of foil or parchment paper under your cooling racks before glazing the cookies. It catches the drips, and will save a lot of time and effort with clean-up :)

Lemon Zingers
Makes 5 dozen cookies

2 sticks Earth Balance, or unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest from 2 lemons
Juice from 1 lemon
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp kosher salt

3 cups powdered sugar
Juice from 3 lemons
1 cup colored jimmies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Cream together the Earth Balance (or butter), granulated sugar, and powdered sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes
- Add in eggs, canola oil, lemon zest, juice, and vanilla and mix until combined
- Add in flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt and mix until combined
- Refrigerate dough (it will be soft) for a couple of hours, or overnight before baking
- Drop dough by cookie scoops a dozen on each parchment lined cookie sheet
- Flatten cookies with the palm of your hand, or a flat-bottomed glass dipped in sugar
- Bake for 10-11 minutes until the cookies start to lightly brown around the edges
- Cool cookies on a rack before glazing them
- Put parchment paper under the cooling racks (to catch any glaze that falls down the sides of the cookies)
- In a bowl, combine the glaze powdered sugar and fresh lemon juice. Adjust to taste (I like it TART, but if you don't add less lemon juice, or more sugar until you like it.) Carefully stir in jimmies.
- With a spoon, put a small amount of the glaze in the center of each cookie and with the back of the spoon gently spread the glaze until it touches the edges of the cookies.
- Place the cookies back on the cooling rack and let the glaze harden/dry before packing the cookies or putting them in an airtight container

Dairy-free recipe if you use Earth Balance in place of butter

Monday, June 22, 2015

Barbacoa Beef Tostadas

I haven't eaten fast food in over 6 months, but it doesn't mean I don't miss some of it. One of my favorite faster food meals is the Barbacoa beef burrito from Chipotle. The chipotle pepper and spiced beef is so amazingly delicious. Forget the burrito, I would be happy just eating the beef out of a bowl with a fork.

I wanted to bring the flavor of Barbacoa home where I could control the ingredients, but really hoped I could capture the flavor of what Chipotle offers. This recipe is a very slight adaptation from this one on the food blog Gimme Some Oven's. I didn't change it enough to claim it as my own, but it is so darned delicious, I wanted to make sure to share it with you. A little less salt, a little more chipotle.. 4 hours start to finish (with no mussing in between), and you have one delicious dinner!

It's been another warm week here in southern California, and this slow cooker version that would help keep my house as cool as possible was welcomed. We don't need A/C often here, but when your house gets up into the high 80's, it's kind of miserable.

The possibilities for this beef are endless. It would be great in tacos, burritos, on a french roll, over mashed potatoes, or even a topping for tamale pie. I decided on tostadas. Trader Joe's has a great corn tortilla that is nice and thick and low in fat. A perfect platform for this beef. I then diced up a lot of green things as toppings- cilantro, shredded cabbage, green onion, and avocado. A little dollop of non-dairy sour cream and Tapatio sauce, and these tostadas were good to go.

Barbacoa Beef Tostadas
Serves 4

Barbacoa Beef:
3-4 lbs chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 2" cubes
1 sweet onion, diced
1 small can diced green chiles
4-5 garlic cloves, pressed
3 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
Juice from one large, juicy lime
2 Tbsp vinegar (I used white vinegar)
1/2 beef broth
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp oregano
3 large bay leaves
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Corn tortillas (I like Trader Joe's)

Chopped cilantro
Shredded green cabbage
Sliced green onion
Sliced avocado
Sour cream (I like using non-dairy Better Than Sour Cream)
Tapatio or your favorite hot sauce

- Turn slow cooker on high setting
- Add all the Barbacoa beef ingredients, secure slow cooker lid, and cook for 4 hours
- Spoon out the beef chunks into a casserole dish and shred it with two forks
- Add about 1/4 cup of the slow cooker liquid to the beef
- Heat tortillas on a skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium/high heat for a couple of minutes until they are crispy on both sides
- Place beef in the center of the tortilla, and top with the toppings

Dairy-free recipe!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sweet and Spicy Boneless Pork Loin Chops

This past year, my husband and transitioned to eating a lot of vegetarian meals. We've made the change for health and money-saving reasons, but we do still enjoy a meal with meat a couple of days a week. On that note, it's no secret that I love pork. Bacon.. come on now. I don't know if I trust a person that doesn't like bacon. LOL. On those days I do cook meat, boneless pork loin chops are a favorite of mine to use. A reasonably inexpensive cut of meat, loin chops are so quick to cook, and are absolutely delicious.

I really enjoy experimenting with making homemade sauces and marinades. I used to be intimidated by the whole process, but realized whisking together a few ingredients I already have on hand in my cupboards and fridge, and voila. Deliciousness! This particular sweet and spicy sauce is fantastic. It's sweet up front from the honey, has an overall yum factor from fresh ginger, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, and fresh rosemary, and then has a spicy and slightly fiery finish on the tongue from the mango habanero jam. This sauce is addictive. It would also be great on ribs or chicken, and I'm looking forward to trying it on baked chicken wings next week.

This particular recipe makes enough sauce for tonight's pork, and then also enough left over to use in another meal. Make sure you set sauce aside for another day in a separate container before you start basting the pork chops. Once you've touched the chops and then the sauce, any leftovers need to be thrown out.

Sweet and Spicy Boneless Pork Loin Chops
Serves 4

Sweet and Spicy Grill Sauce:
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup organic clover honey
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp mango habanero jam (I like Diane's Sweet Heat)
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbsp lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
Pinch kosher salt (about 1/4 tsp)
Freshly cracked black pepper

4 boneless pork loin chops, 3/4" thick

- Whisk together all grill sauce ingredients in a bowl until combined.
- Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour
- Heat a non-stick skillet oven medium heat
- Season chops with a little kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the heated pan, and place chops in a single layer in the pan
- Baste the top of the chops with the sauce. You'll baste the other side (seared) once you flip them
- Cook for 3 minutes on the first side without moving them, then flip the chops over and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the chops reach an internal temp of 145 degrees
- Watch them so the sauce doesn't burn- the honey can caramelize quickly

Dairy-free recipe!