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!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

More Muffins! Strawberry Coconut and Peach Ginger Muffins

I think I now have enough muffins in the Stark Raving Delicious recipe arsenal to make a whole chapter in my future cookbook. Yep, I'm going to write a cookbook. First time I've said that aloud, and I'm not going to lie- it's a little anxiety making. But also exciting!

I just love muffins. I love to make them (one bowl, no mixer, little mess), I love to give them away, and I especially love to eat them. I prefer them warmed up (in my dreams with a little pat of salted butter) in a little bowl so I can eat them with a fork. I swear eating them with a fork makes them taste even better. My husband thinks I'm a little nuts.

There are endless flavor combination possibilities when you bake muffins. Any fresh or frozen fruit (and many veggies) work well in muffin batter- berries, apples, pears, stone fruits, pumpkin, zucchini, carrots. Nuts, candied nuts, nut butters, and coconut are all great. Buttermilk, nonfat milk, almond milk or whatever else you have available. Don't forget the chocolate chips. Basically, whatever floats your boat. Muffins are just so darned easy to adapt. Go crazy- I bet they'll be amazing!

These Strawberry Coconut Muffins are so delicious, I had to stop myself from eating the batter. The batter. I don't know what it is about strawberries and cinnamon and coconut, but they are freaking delicious together. These muffins are very moist and flavorful- you'll get compliments with these gems.

The marrying of peach with ginger came about after I had an iced tea of the same combination. These Peach Ginger Muffins are also moist and delightful, with a little extra kick from the ginger. Peaches are one of my favorite fruits, so I may have eaten one.. or two.. or three of these. Okay, in my defense eating them was over a few day's time. I did show some restraint. Next time I make them, I think I'm going to try a little fresh ginger in the batter or candy some for the top of the muffins. Always experimenting!

Strawberry Coconut Muffins

Strawberry Coconut Muffins
Makes 8 large muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (you can use regular milk or buttermilk as well)
1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance non-dairy butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries

For sprinkling on top:
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a small bowl, stir together the 1 Tbsp sugar and 1/4 tsp topping cinnamon and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, lemon zest, and shredded coconut
- Add in the beaten egg, melted EB, almond milk, vanilla extract, and lemon juice and stir just to combine
- Carefully fold in the diced strawberries
- Using a cookie scoop, fill muffin cups 3/4 full of batter
- Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar topping over each muffin with a little spoon
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick pushed into the center of the muffins comes out clean
- Cool completely on a wire rack

Dairy-free recipe!


Peach Ginger Muffins

Peach Ginger Muffins
Makes 8 large muffins

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance, melted
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Zest from one small orange
Juice from 1/2 orange
1 1/2 cups fresh and firm peaches (no need to take off the skin), diced
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces

1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a small bowl, stir together the 1 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp ginger and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and orange zest
- Add in the beaten egg, melted EB, almond milk, vanilla extract, and orange juice and stir just to combine
- Carefully fold in the diced peaches and toasted pecans
- Using a cookie scoop, fill muffin cups 3/4 full of batter
- Sprinkle the cinnamon/ginger sugar topping over each muffin with a little spoon
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick pushed into the center of the muffins comes out clean
- Cool completely on a wire rack

Dairy-free recipe!

Almond Butter and Dark Chocolate Granola

I kid you not, I make a batch of maple and cardamom granola weekly for my husband's breakfasts. I'm an oatmeal with fresh fruit kind of girl myself, but he loves homemade granola. Over the last year, I've made the granola healthier by adding things like flax seeds and wheat germ, using olive oil, and reducing the amount of  sugar in the recipe. So far, no complaints. I've asked him if he'd like me to switch it up a bit, maybe use coconut oil, add some different flavors, etc. but he loves it as-is. A creature of habit married her match.

This month for The Leftover's Club, I wanted to take my granola recipe and really change up the flavors, and further tweak it to be healthier. What I've come up with is an Almond Butter and Dark Chocolate Granola made with coconut butter, raw nuts, and very little natural sugar. Nut butter and chocolate is a winning combination, and this vegan and gluten free granola is really tasty. It also makes a delicious topping for yogurt or almond milk ice cream. Maybe I'll try a little on top of my cooked oatmeal in the morning.

This month for The Leftover's Club, I was paired up with Johanna Elsemore from Notes From a Messy Kitchen. Check out her adorable blog. I spent the better part of a morning flipping through her posts, her mostly vegan and paleo recipes, and taking notes. Some great stuff there Johanna :)

If you have a food blog, and would like to join this fun food 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 home-baked goodie? See you next month :)

Almond Butter and Dark Chocolate Granola
Makes 4-5 cups of granola

1/3 cup raw, unsalted almond butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 heaping Tbsp coconut butter
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups organic, gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup raw, slivered almonds
1/2 cup honey almonds (opt)
1/2 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup Guittard 63% cacao chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside
- In a small saucepan, combine almond butter, vanilla, maple syrup, coconut butter, kosher salt, and cinnamon over very low heat until it can be stirred to fully combine. Remove pan from heat.
- In a large bowl, combine oats and almonds. Stir in the almond butter mixture with a wooden spoon until it's evenly mixed it.
- Pour granola out onto prepared baking sheet and spread out in an even layer
- Bake for 20 minutes, stirring the granola half-way through baking
- Pour granola out onto parchment paper on your counter and let cool completely
- Add in the chocolate pieces
-Store granola in an airtight container. It will be fresh for a week up to 10 days.

Vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free recipe!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

I have a confession to make. I've never attempted to make ribs at home until this week. To tell you the truth, they've always been intimidating to me. When I started this blog last year, I wrote out the foods I'd love to make, but have been too intimidated to try. My should try foods. I can know happily check off ribs!

I love to order baby back ribs at some of my favorite restaurants. Savory, sticky and messy, and sweet meat. What's better? I've asked a lot of questions over the years regarding their preparation and cooking methods, and the intimidating answers is why I've never attempted ribs at home. Roasting peppers to make homemade sauce, and then hours and hours of smoking time. I can barely man our barbecue, and don't own a smoker.. nope, not intimidating at all!

While I like a little vinegar with my vinegar, my favorite rib barbecue sauces are a little sweet, a little vinegary, and a little spicy. It's a fine balance that I haven't found in a lot of prepared sauces. My husband, on the other hand, LOVES mustard-based barbecue sauces. I saw Trader Joe's is now carrying a Carolina-style mustard barbecue sauce, and thought I'd give it a try. Why not? The sauce, with a bit of Diane's Sweet Heat peach habanero jam added for heat is a really tasty combination!

Diane's pepper jams is one of those products I happened upon by chance, and then after I tasted it, can't believe I've missed out it my whole life. While we were on vacation along the northern coast of California, I bought some local food products, and her peach habanero jam was one of them. I have gone through two large jars of it already in the past couple of months. I add it to my roasted vegetables and chicken (or vegetarian) sausage dinners, I've used it in pulled pork, I love it on eggs, and also with goat cheese on crackers. If it wasn't so spicy (think lip numbing) I would probably eat it out of the jar with a spoon. The company doesn't know me from anyone, and I am not a paid endorser for her products. They're just freaking delicious, and I'm sharing my find. Good, good stuff!

If you have the time to have your slow cooker on for 8 hours, making ribs at home is much more economical than ordering them at a restaurant. I believe I paid $13.00 for a whole rack at Trader Joe's. It's easily double that to order them at a restaurant.

Pull off the thin membrane on the back side of the rack of ribs.

Adding a slow-cooker liner makes clean-up a cinch.

Sticky sweet, spicy, and carmelized glorious baby backs :)

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs
Serves 2-3

1 rack (2-3 lbs) baby back ribs
Mr. Tubbs barbecue rub (I don't salt/pepper the ribs because this has both in it)
1/2 cup Trader Joe's Carolina-style barbecue sauce

1/4 cup Trader Joe's Carolina-style barbecue sauce
2 Tbsp Diane's Sweet Heat peach habanero jam

This ribs post isn't so much a recipe, as a how-to. I hadn't made ribs before, and decided to try them in the slow cooker. It just wasn't a day I could sit and babysit my oven for the day. I took copious notes, and have a bullet list of instructions for you:

  • Use the largest slow cooker you have. I put two half-slabs in one slow cooker, and stacked four half-slabs in another. The two half-slabs cooked to falling-off-the-bone tender, while the four stacked high cooker needed to be rotated half way through the cooking time. If you need to cook more than one slab of ribs, use more than one slow cooker.
  • Line your slow cooker(s) with mess-proof bags. I think the one I found is from Hefty brand. Barbecue sauce caramelizes as it cooks, and being able to just remove the grimy bag after the ribs have cooked was a huge time and arm muscle saver.
  • Remove the outer membrane from the back side of the rack before you begin. I didn't even know this was a thing, but removing the layer will help your ribs be more tender, and make them easier to eat.
  • Use a dry rub as the first layer of flavor. Pat the ribs dry with a couple of paper towels, then liberally sprinkle and rub in the dry rub. I used what I had in the cupboard- Tubbs brand.
  • Cut the rack in half. If you have smaller pieces, they will cook more evenly in the slow cooker.
  • Lay one section of your rib rack in the bottom of your slow cooker, meat-side up. Pour a little of the barbecue sauce on top (not soaking, just to coat), then place the other half of the rack on top and also pour a little sauce on top of it.
  • Turn the slow cooker on LOW and cook for 8-10 hours (mine were done at 8 hours)
  • Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and set it aside
  • Once your ribs are cooked through and are falling off the bone, carefully remove them from the slow cooker and place them meat-side up on the foiled cookie sheet
  • Brush more sauce over the ribs to coat and place them in your oven on broiler setting for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce caramelizes and gets sticky
Dairy-free recipe!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Farmer's Market White Peach Bread

My second favorite month of the year is, hands-down, May. May is when the weather is still cool, peonies (I adore them) and sweet peas bloom, and when delectable stone fruit make their appearance at the local farmer's markets. You can't get much more beautiful than a rainy day, the look and smell of peonies, and the taste of a farm-fresh peach. Life is good!

The white peaches I bought Sunday at the market are so heavenly sweet, three of them were lucky to make it into this Farmer's Market Peach Bread. My husband will be disappointed to see them gone, but hopefully this peach bread will make up for it.

Naturally sweet, but not too sugary, this bread has become one of my favorites. It's just delicious, and a great way to use up your over ripened bananas (without making just another banana bread.) It's so simple, there's a good chance you already have all the ingredients in your fridge and cupboards.


Sweet Peas

White Peaches

Farmer's Market White Peach Bread
Makes two 8x4" loafs

1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Zest from a lemon
Juice from 1/2 the lemon
1 Tbsp Rodelle vanilla bean paste
3- 4 ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 white peaches, peeled and chopped (about 1 heaping cup)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Grease and flour two 8x4" loaf pans
- In a small bowl, mash bananas with a fork and set aside
- In a large bowl, whisk together canola oil, eggs, brown sugar, almond milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, bananas, and vanilla paste until combined
- Add flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk just until combined (don't over-mix it)
- Carefully fold in chopped peaches and pecans with a spoon
- Pour batter into two 8x4" loaf pans. The batter will only come up about 1/2 way in the pans
- Bake for 40- 45 minutes until a toothpick pushed into the middle of the loaves comes out clean
- Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then remove them from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack

Dairy-free recipe!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Chocolate Chip and Cold Brew Cookies

When I was a kid I wasn't allowed to drink coffee, but I was allowed to dunk my plain cake donuts into my parent's cups. To this day, I remember that magic combination of sweet buttery cake and bitter black coffee. Even better yet was dunking a chocolate iced cake donut, but as you could imagine, that didn't make the parents happy.

I'm blazing a path today. My Google and Pinterest searching didn't come up with one single recipe  using Trader Joe's Cold Brew in a baking recipe. I wanted to read a few for reference- makes me a little leery to add more liquid than usual to a cookie recipe. How do you balance it? Would they spread out too much and be runny? Well, after an hour of fruitless searching, I decided to just get in the kitchen and figure it out for myself. Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day everyone!

This cookie recipe is going to seem a little wacky. Take a look at the measurements of the ingredients, and you'll see what I mean. However, these coffee chip cookies are absolutely GLORIOUS. My detailed notes and mad scientist mindset this morning are your gain. I wouldn't change a single thing. So good!

Cold Brew (sometimes called Toddy or cold press) coffee is a product I discovered when I discovered blended coffee drinks at my local coffee shop. It's the fantastic result of steeping coffee grounds in cold water for a long time (usually at least 12 hours or even overnight.) It's absolutely delicious in iced coffee or shakes (I use it in my protein drink every morning with almond milk.) You can imagine my delight when I saw Trader Joe's was offering it already prepared and ready to use. YES, and thank you!

These cookies are the perfect combination of crunchy on the outside, and soft and gooey in the middle. The coffee flavor comes through loud and clear, but without being overwhelming or bitter-tasting. Somehow that magic cold brew just plain elevates the flavors in this cookie. Chocolate chips taste chocolatier, buttery cookie tastes even more buttery. You get the picture... Bessie help me, I've eaten one and need to give the rest away before I eat them all.

Recipe Tip:
- These cookies spread a bit, so I used a medium-sized cookie scoop and placed 9 cookies on each sheet.

Chocolate Chip and Cold Brew Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 stick + 2 Tbsp Earth Balance (or unsalted butter)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (pure extract is okay)
1 large egg
3 Tbsp Trader Joe's Cold Brew coffee
1 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (macadamia nuts would be awesome too)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Line a few cookie sheets with parchment paper, set aside
- Cream together the EB (or butter), brown sugar, and sugar until fluffy- about 3 minutes
- Scrape down the bowl
- Add the vanilla paste, egg, and coffee and mix to combine
- Scrape down the bowl
- Add in the flour, baking soda, and salt until combined
- With a large spoon, add in the nuts and chocolate chips
- Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, scoop out 9 cookies per cookie sheet
- Bake for 9-10 minutes until they start to brown around the edges
- Cool completely on a wire rack

Dairy-free recipe if you use EB!