Happy New Year all! I hope that everyone was able to celebrate 2012 and welcome the beginning of a new year. Matt and I are looking forward to all that 2013 brings and welcome any new adventures that may arise. We are grateful for a wonderful family and for our quite amazing group of friends. We also look forward to celebrating our second wedding anniversary early next week! I can’t believe that two years have already passed! Time flies when you’re married to your best friend! I look forward to the new opportunities and challenges that will arise this year. I hope that everyone had a wonderful NYE and has a prosperous, healthy year ahead!
Anyhow, onto one of my favorite appetizers! We frequent a wine bar in Philadelphia called Tria that not only has fantastic wine, but delicious small plates. We are obsessed with their herbed ricotta and pistachio bruschetta. It is fantastic! We honestly order 3 small plates of the amazingness every time go in. Since our obsession seems to be insatiable, I thought that it was important that I figured out how to make an as delectable version at home. I think the true secret is the addition of the pistachios and since I’m a honey addict, it also makes the plate for me too. It’s so easy to make and is sure to please your family or any guests!
It may not look like a lot, but boy is it amazing!
This recipe is very variable, you can either prepare a little or a lot depending on what you are planning on serving it for. I often make a small batch and eat it in place of a sandwich for lunch. So there are no specific measurements but require you to go more on taste and the amount you want to prepare.
- 1 loaf of french bread, sliced on the bias into half inch thick slices
- 1 jar of fresh or store prepared ricotta
- Pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
- Fresh basil, chiffonade (aka small strips; it’s easiest to roll on bunch of leaves and then cut them into small strips)
- Dried lavender
- Salt & fresh cracked black pepper
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I made these a few weeks ago, and I guess I forgot to post it! Matt and I are huge Big Brother fans and after a few times of watching Big Brother Afterdark, I quickly realized the cast was obsessed with cocoa almonds. I’d never had them before and I was definitely interested. Seriously, Brittany, Frank, & Ashely ate them alllll the time. After checking them out at the grocery store, (and finding out how expensive they were for a small container!) I figured I could easily make my own version at home. I bought a huge bag of almonds at Sam’s Club a few months ago for something like $9 bucks, so it was definitely worth taking the 15 minutes to make my own as opposed to wasting money.
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1-1 1/2 tbs cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Small sprinkle of Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp honey–this made them a little sticky, next time I may omit the honey and add the same amount of sugar instead
- 1 tsp water
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I love love love homemade salsa. It encompasses all the deliciousness of summer in a single bite. I try to eat as many fresh fruits and veggies as possible during the summer because not only is it good for your body but it’s when everything taste the best. Nothing compares to fresh picked produce in my book. I can’t wait to eventually have my own garden instead of growing herbs on my urban windowsill.
Anyhow, I make many variations of salsa (try my traditional Vine Ripened Tomato Salsa or Avocado Mango Salsa) but this is one of my favorites! I think salsa is a great, inexpensive way to entertain. I like to make a few variations and allow guest to sample each kind–it makes a get together a lot less boring having variation. This particular recipe is one of my favorites because it is a great balance between sweet and spicy. The fresh peaches and pineapple provide a sweet and tangy quality to the salsa that balances the heat from the jalapeños peppers. Trust me–you’ll love it.
Equipment needed: Food Processor
- 3-4 vine ripened tomatoes
- 1-2 large ripe Peaches, peeled and diced
- 1/2-3/4 cup of chopped pineapple
- 1 small red or sweet onion
- 2-3 large cloves of fresh garlic
- 1/4-1/2 cup of pickled Jalapeños--depending on your heat preference; I actually use a lot more than I usually do in regular salsa because the heat is balanced nicely by the fresh, sweet fruit
- Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
- Small pinch of Oregano
- Salt & fresh cracked black pepper
- Roughly chop the red onion into large pieces–rinse under cold water to get rid of the pungent onion smell/taste
- Add to food processor and lightly pulse to break it down a bit
- Roughly chop tomatoes and pineapple and add to food processor
- Slowly pulse to break down mixture
- Grate 2-3 large cloves with micro-planer directly into food processor
- Add desired amount of jalapeños based on your heat preference–I added a little less than a 1/2 cup of pickled jalapeños (considerable less spicy than fresh jalapeños)
- Pulse to desired consistency
- Stir in diced peaches and add juice of 1/2 lemon or lime–the citrus juice really helps keep the flavors clean
- Add salt, pepper, and oregano to taste and serve chilled
Hi friends! Sorry for the week long hiatus. We have been busy traveling for a wedding and had an opportunity to catch up with some of our lovely friends in Indianapolis. We had a fantastic trip visiting with my husband’s family and my two favorite 8 and 6 year old little girls. It was definitely a busy couple of days but despite how great our trip was, it was amazing to sleep in our own bed last night! I remember as a child I was able to sleep soundly anywhere, but now that I am older that is definitely not the case. I guess our king sized bed has really spoiled us. I thought I’d share a few pictures for our trip. The photo immediately below was one Matt was able to capture of a hummingbird while sitting in my mother in law’s living room. I absolutely adore it. The other photo is of my extended family highlighting Matt’s step brother Christopher and his new wife Sarah on their wedding day.
Anyway, enough about our travels and onto this delicious treat! I have seen Dulce de Leche everywhere lately, so I thought it was time to give it a try. I’ve seen several recipes where you just boil the aluminum can that the Sweetened Condensed Milk comes in…but I wasn’t into that version because I was worried about all the toxins that would enter the Dulce de Leche as a result. Consuming gross toxins is not on my list to do, so I tried to think of another way to cook the condensed milk safely. I checked my cabinets and remembered that I had a mason jar from when we ate our dessert from Barbuzzo. My problem was solved. All you have to do is transfer the sweetened condensed milk to the mason jar and throw it in the crock pot for a few hours. Genius. My mason jar was just a mini one, so I was only able to cook one can of condensed milk. It’s on my to do list to buy a larger one so I can make a bigger batch the next time.
Necessary equipment: Mason jar with lid & Crock Pot
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Some days it is really hard to get the recommended daily allowance of fruits and veggies in your diet. An easy way to make sure you are getting a few extra servings is by using your juicer. The great thing about juicing is that if you always use carrots and apples as your base, despite adding spinach or other hearty greens, it still retains a sweet flavor. Plus you know that there are no additives–you are only consuming fresh fruits and veggies not sugar filled juice cocktails. It is also said that juicing allows you to digest the produce more readily so your body is making the most of the nutrients–but there is a draw back to juicing. Juicing doesn’t provide a high amount of digestible fiber like just eating a piece of fruit with edible skin does (fruits are most fiber rich with the skins left intact–that’s when it is important to get your fiber from a different source too–from beans, corn, whole wheat pasta, brown rice etc). It’s important to only juice as much as you are going to drink in one setting because fresh juice doesn’t store well (no preservatives = gross bacteria growth). Great juicers are really coming down in price too, so they are a great gadget to add to your kitchen.
I absolutely love my juicer and love the fact that I’ve never had the same juice twice. I often just gather whatever produce I have in the fridge and give them a try. Today I had an apple, 3/4 cup of carrots, a kiwi, 3 ripe plums, 1/4 cup of green grapes, and 1/2 cup of strawberries. I usually toss in a handful of spinach or some fresh ginger but I didn’t have any of that on hand today. I really enjoyed today’s combo though–I had never juiced plums before (remove the pits obviously) and I loved the flavor and color it added to my juice. There’s no real recipe–it’s pretty much trial and error to find what you like. I often incorporate cucumber into my juicing combinations too, which is really light and refreshing. Adding carrots gives you a lot of great health benefits (vitamin A and antioxidants) and also keeps the cost of juicing down. Enjoy!
Matt and I went out to a Greek restaurant in Philly last Saturday called Opa. It is newly renovated with a pretty cool scene. The specialty cocktails were pretty tasty but my favorite thing about the meal were the zucchini chips served with a tzatziki dipping sauce. Their version was fried but I knew I would be able to come up with something just as tasty without all the calories. I decided to try baking my zucchini and they came out really delicious. I will say that they are quite time consuming because it takes awhile for the veggies to crisp…but they are definitely worth the wait. In place of the tzatziki I made my dipping sauce with Greek yogurt and a few other flavors.
I tried two cooking methods: placing the zucchini right on the baking sheet and placing the zucchini on a baking rack. I will say that I think that just placing them on the baking sheet worked better. Maybe if I were to set the oven to a higher temperature the baking rack would come in handy to make sure heat was able to surround all sides of them before they burn. Perhaps next time I’ll test my theory and update you all with any new results.
Anyhow, I think they are definitely worth a try! They should be eaten the same day they are baked–or else they lose their crispiness and will need to be thrown back into the oven. It’s really no problem to finish them though. I used 2 large zucchinis and it yielded about 1 cup of chips. It’s not a bad way to get one of you daily servings of veggies.
Necessary equipment: mandolin will make this much easier, but you can slice by hand
- Cooking Spray
- Flavoring or your choice: I used Salt for one batch and garlic salt & cayenne for the other Read the rest of this entry
Sometimes it is really hard to convince yourself to eat breakfast in the morning but you have to because it really is the most important meal of the day. Your body uses food–primarily carbohydrates (this is your body’s favorite food to fuel source)–as it’s go to source for energy. It’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to not only keep your metabolism going but to also keep your brain functioning on early mornings. I know some people skip meals in order to reduce their calorie intake because they think that this will help them burn stored fat–well, unfortunately the body doesn’t quite work that way.
Skipping meals is actually bad for your metabolism. The body gets tricked into preservation mode when you don’t eat enough calories/a balanced diet. What does preservation mode mean? It means that your body is actually tricked into storing fat/won’t give up fat because it thinks that there are impending bad times ahead–you can thank evolution for this phenomena. When food used to be scare, our bodies would store and hold onto as much fat as possible–think of it as your bodies very own rainy day fund.
This is what really happens in the body.
- Body breaks down carbohydrates –> energy
- Once carbohydrate stores are depleted–>body looks for other sources to break down for fuel in the body…
- HEALTHY BODIES (diets rich in protein/complex carbs)–> body will breakdown stored fat –> energy
- NOT SO HEALTHY BODIES (i.e. not enough calorie intake/not a balanced diet): body goes into preservation mode –> body skips fat break down–> body breaks down protein for fuel
What this all means? If you don’t ingest enough protein and carbs, your body will actually start munching on its own muscles for fuel. Not good!
Extreme athletes that push themselves to extreme limits will use protein as a source of energy after all other stores are depleted–but they also know how to replenish protein quickly so it doesn’t do damage to their bodies. The average person–who say is walking to work–shouldn’t be using protein as a source of energy at all. That’s why it is important to eat a diet that has both protein and healthy carbs. One of my favorite college professors always used to tell us “Carbohydrate ingestion–spares protein breakdown”–as you can tell she was anti the extreme low carb diets. So what she was saying is that if you eat enough complex carbohydrates–your body will never go into that preservation mode & burn your muscle tissue. What it is really all about is feeding your body the right kind of carbs–complex carbs, in place of insulin spiking simple carbs. My strawberry peanut butter wraps offer a great source of protein and complex carbs with a side of antioxidants & vitamin C from the strawberries. It is a great on the go snack/breakfast–just wrap it in aluminum foil and eat it burrito style on the go. Couldn’t be more simple or tasty.
- Multigrain tortillas
- Peanut or Almond Butter
- Sliced strawberries
- Raw Agave syrup for drizzling
Summer is great for a lot of things…sun tans, BBQs, outside sporting events…but out of all perks of summer, I’d say my favorite is the overabundance of fresh, delicious fruit. As much as I love sweets like chocolate–I’d still take this sweet treat over any cake or cookie any day. So if you are looking for a light, refreshing snack go to the grocery store and stock up your refrigerator. Prices are so low on fresh fruit currently and it’s an easy way to ensure you’re snacking healthy. Add your favorites to a bowl with a little lemon juice and enjoy. My fruit salad contained: watermelon, plums, sliced strawberries, raspberries, cherries, & blueberries. I topped it with a little whipped cream–I feel like that tiny addition helps it read as a dessert and cuts my craving for all things junk later. You can also serve this as a side for dinner–it tastes great with grilled chicken or fish–plus it’s a light way to help fill you up so you don’t consume a high calorie dinner. I was always taught to: “Eat like a King at breakfast, a Queen at lunch, and a Peasant at dinner”. It’s a great strategy because it allows you to burn off all the calories while you are the most active during the day. If you want to eat it for breakfast–top with some greek yogurt and a sprinkle of granola. Keep an eye out for my own homemade agave granola–it’s the best.