Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dark Chocolate Coffee Toffee {Mini} Cupcakes

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Did you celebrate my 2 Year Blogiversary all night? And wake up with glitter stuck to your face and your party hat on sideways??

ME TOO! {Read: I went to bed at 9:45pm and was snoring by 9:47pm. Oh well, we tried.} ;)

Ok, so maybe we didn't dance on tables and drink champagne, but I hope you at least entered the Sugarfina giveaway I announced on yesterday's post. I mean, free candy? Too good to pass up!

Anyway, I spent all day yesterday coming up with something celebratory and spectacular to share with you... or, you know, getting my tootsies pampered at The Spa at the Breakers with my bestie from the fabulous WP inks {which I'll be talking a little more about in an upcoming post}. But I promise, I was thinking about what I was going to bake the whole time!

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After a long day of the royal treatment, I pryed myself away came home, made these amazing mini-cupcakes, frosted them, and photographed them... in about an hour flat. How's that for efficient? It's amazing what a day of relaxation can do for you.

The flavor, Dark Chocolate Coffee Toffee, was inspired by one of the sweet treat flavors that Sugarfina is kindly including in the Tasting Box I'm giving away. I happen to love dark chocolate, coffee, and toffee... so it was a no-brainer.

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I adapted my favorite {vegan!} chocolate cake recipe from The Pastry Affair {p.s. Her photography... swoon!} to give it my own twist, and came up with a decadent frosting that's literally the icing on the cake. Thank heavens I made these into minis because I may or may not have "sampled" more than one! {Don't look at me like that, it's my party!}

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I love how these turned out and I think you will, too. But just to be sure, let's make another batch to enjoy, shall we?

Dark Chocolate Coffee Toffee {Mini} Cupcakes
Cake adapated from The Pastry Affair

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder {I use Hershey's Special Dark}
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Heath Toffee Bits
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vinegar {I used white vinegar, but I've also used cider vinegar before, too.}

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini muffin tins with mini cupcake liners. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, salt, and toffee bits. Whisk together until well incorporated.

3. In another bowl, combine oil, coffee, vanilla extract, and vinegar. Whisk together.

4. Pour liquid mixture into dry mixture and whisk until just combined. {Batter will look runny.}

5. Using a small cookie scoop, fill cupcake liners nearly to top. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6. Remove from oven, let cool a few minutes, then remove from tins and cool completely on a wire rack until ready to frost.


For Frosting

2 sticks butter {1 cup}, softened to room temp
4 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 - 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
3 tablespoons Heath Toffee Bits {plus extra for garnish}

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, cream cheese, cooled melted chocolate, and espresso powder until smooth.

2. Slowly add in confectioners' sugar and beat until fully incorporated. Add in milk and mix until frosting is smooth. {If frosting is too loose, add extra confectioners' sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. If it's too stiff, add a bit more milk 1 teaspoon at a time. Do this until you reach desired consistency.}

3. Stir in toffee bits.

4. Frost cupcakes and decorate with extra toffee bits if desired.

Yield: About 32 Mini Cupcakes

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My 2 Year Blogiversary & A Giveaway!

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Today is a pretty special day around here, guys.

It's The Kitchen Prep's 2 Year Anniversary! I know, I can hardly believe it myself.

I've managed to cram two years worth of stories, recipes, and adventures right here in my own little corner of the blogosphere. And some of you have stuck around and been here for most of it: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

My favorite part? {Aside from the sugar, of course. Always smitten with the sugar.} Connecting with you.

I know I've said it a bunch of times before, but I really, truly mean it. If it weren't for you, I'd basically be talking incessantly about food to myself {which, I'm not gonna lie, I do on ocassion}, or driving my hubby crazy with things like whether or not bacon belongs in baked goods. {It does.}

So a BIG thanks to you for stopping by, for reading, for commenting, for encouraging, for questioning, for criticizing, and for supporting this little dream of mine... it means the world to me.

But let's stop talking about me. To show my appreciation for your loyalty, I'm making part of today about you! And about candy!!

Now, where's my piƱata...

Eh, nevermind that. I've got a better idea!

As a fun and fabulous party favor for stopping by the celebration today, one of you will win a "Founder's Faves" Tasting Box from the super sweet company, Sugarfina!


{I'm totally jealous, by the way. I spent a good 45 minutes browsing all of their tasty treats... and there are SO MANY!}



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Clockwise from top center: Dark Chocolate Coffee Toffee, Chocolate Marshmallow Eggs, Artisan Gummy Bears,
Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds, Holland Mints, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels, Mint Chip Malt Balls,
Chocolate Berry Basket
Do yourself a favor and check out all the goodies Sugarfina has to offer... I'm just slightly obsessed and I wouldn't even call myself a "candy" person. But with flavors like Single Malt Scotch Cordials, Chocolate Peanut Butter Malt Balls, and Champagne Gummy Bears, it's hard not to be intrigued.

Or inspired.
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I totally turned their Dark Chocolate Coffee Toffee idea into cake. Well, mini-cupcakes, to be exact. Because what kind of party is it without cake?!

Tomorrow I'll be sharing the recipe for these little sweeties... and trust me, you want them in your life!

But for now, satisfy your sweet tooth by browsing Sugarfina's site and tell me which of their flavors inspires you! Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. I'll be using a winner {at random} on Friday, February 8. Good luck!


Here's to another year of kitchen adventures and delicious celebrations!


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Monday, January 28, 2013

Hearty Turkey Chili {and All About Farley}

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If you follow TKP on Facebook {or Instagram!}, you might have seen my announcement about getting a new family member a few months ago.

Farley collage

Meet Farley.

{Farley Stewart, to be exact. He shares a birthday with a certain cooking/crafting guru, so we thought the middle name was a must.}

He's sort of become The Kitchen Prep's unofficial mascot... I kind of can't stop taking pictures of his precious face. {Hey, I tried not to turn into one of those people... but look at him. He's pretty darn cute.}

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Squishy-bear.

Our first few days with Farley were... exhausting interesting. I'd never personally trained a puppy before. Steve & I both had dogs as kids, but were too young to really be involved in the whole training process.

So all this puppy business was pretty new to me.

Getting a puppy has been a crash course in patience {a virtue which I wouldn't necessarily list among my top attributes}.

In fact, Farley and I seemed to be quite the opposite of one another in the first few weeks we had him.

Me: Deliberate. Planner. Neat. Clean.

Farley: Undisciplined. Distracted. Messy. Stinky.

Though we had our tense moments, we quickly found that we do have some things in common. We both like to cuddle. We both enjoy broccoli {Though I enjoy eating it & he enjoys using it as a chew toy and pouncing on it. Strange pup.}. We like a nice bath, and even getting our hair/fur blowdried. We enjoy eating. {Me? Food. Farley? Just about anything that he can get his needle-sharp tiny puppy teeth on.}We're both a little stubborn & have a mind of our own.

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These last 3 months have been about getting used to one another and learning each other's preferences little by little.

He had a lot of learning to do, as did I. 

And now, Farley's become an integral part of our family. To the point that I'm pretty sure Steve and I have only had date nights at dog-friendly restaurants ever since we got him. Wherever we go, Farley goes.

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Kayaking. The Beach. Work {with the hubby... one of the perks of owning your own business}. Family gatherings. Community events. Sometimes he even hints that maybe he's had enough of the gallavanting and excessive picture-taking.

Farley collage 4.jpg Enough already, paparazzo.

Farley is there with us, making people smile and attracting perfect strangers to come over and say hello or share a story about a yellow lab they once had with a nostalgic look in their eye.

Last week was rough for our little family because we found out that Farley has severe hip dysplasia, a problem common to many large breeds, which means that he will have to have surgery. This is a hard pill to swallow since he is just barely 6 months old and we hope that he has a long, healthy life ahead of him.

It is difficult to watch him hobble around and heartbreaking to call to our fun-loving pup and have him stare back at us with a look that says, "I'd love to play, but I just can't right now." We are getting opinions from the best of the best and hoping that soon Farley will be back to chasing his tail and investigating the world, as a growing puppy should.

 
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This picture says it all.

Until then, we're doing what we can to help him get better and tending to our own hearts with snuggles and comforting dishes... because we know that food can help heal the soul.


 
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This Hearty Turkey Chili is a good start. Rich, robust, and warming, it serves as both a filling dish and a cure for what ails you.

Hearty Turkey Chili

2 tablespoons oil
1 {small to medium} onion, diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced {remove seeds and membrane for less kick}
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey {you can use lean if you'd like}
1 heaping tablespoon chili
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cans low sodium pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 {8 oz.} can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 heaping tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1. In a large dutch oven, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Add onion and jalapeno and saute until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute.

2. Add ground turkey and cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon. Cook until meat is crumbly and no longer pink, about 7-8 minutes. Add chili, coriander, cumin, oregano, and sea salt and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.

3. Gently mix in beans, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes until well incorporated. Pour in chicken broth and gently stir to combine.

4. Bring chili up to a boil. Stir in yellow cornmeal, return to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 25 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot to ensure nothing is sticking. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in fresh cilantro.

5. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.

Optional: Top with grated cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and chopped cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips or cornbread.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Soft Polenta with Shrimp Ragout

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I have had the focus and attention span of a gnat today. No, really.

I woke up early, got the day started, and promptly sat down to make my To Do list for the day & weekend, and ...

Hold on, need to switch the laundry over to the dryer.

See what I mean?

Obviously, some days do not allow for lengthy meal preparation and such. {Ok, MOST days, I'd say.}

But that doesn't mean that you should just throw in the towel and reach for the Hamburger Helper or the instant Mac & Cheese. {Fun fact: I have never actually had HH! No offense to lovers of this product! But seriously are there any??}

Wanna fake out your family and make them think you slaved away in the kitchen between juggling job, errands, life and everything else on your plate? Make them this:

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And light some candles while you're at it for some ambiance. {Except, maybe not if you have kids because that might end up being more of a hazard than a mood-enhancer.}

This is one of the easiest dishes I've made in a while. It was quick, simple, and had tons of flavor. {And a heck of a lot of spice, too, but that's because my delicate little taste buds are not accustomed to red pepper flakes and I used the entire 1/2 teaspoon in ours.}

It also looked surprisingly pretty without a whole lot of effort.

Don't get scared by the word "ragout" either... it may seem fancy, but this dish is basically down home Shrimp & Grits masquerading as a snooty entree in designer Italian flavors. {Though the word itself has French origins. Whoa, we're gettin' all global here. Haha!}

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Oh, heavens. The "flash mob" is surely going to show up at my door for this one.
And I don't mean the friendly dancing kind.

If you're wondering why the pictures have a funny tint to them, it's because I had to photograph the dish right before dinner time and it was already dark out... and there were no leftovers to shoot the next day. Good sign. :)

Alright, off to check a few more things off my list for today. Or at least attempt it before I get distracted!

Soft Polenta with Shrimp Ragout
adapted from Food & Wine

For Polenta:

2 cups water
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup polenta
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For Shrimp:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes {I recommend being conservative if you're not used to it!}
4 scallions, sliced thin, plus 1 extra sliced on the diagonal for garnish {optional}
3 tablespoons tomato paste {did you see my tip I shared on my Facebook page for saving leftover tomato paste?}
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons water
1 pound peeled, deveined large shrimp {I used frozen, but fresh is even better}
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of fresh parsley, minced {or 1/2 teaspoon dry}
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring water and chicken broth to a boil over high heat in a medium pot. When it comes to a rolling boil, stream in polenta, whisking constantly.

2. Lower heat to medium. Bring back to boil and whisk until it begins to thicken, whisking often and making sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.

3. Once the water is mostly absorbed and the polenta is thick but pourable {about 10-12 minutes}, remove from heat and add salt, butter, and olive oil. Stir until the butter is melted and everything is thoroughly mixed.

4. Cover the pot with a lid and set aside to keep warm.

Shrimp:

1. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pan. Add in red pepper flakes and scallions, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often.

2. Add tomato paste and stir or whisk, cooking for about 2-3 minutes until slightly darkened.

3. Carefully pour in wine and water, whisking to incorporate into a uniform sauce and bring to simmer.

4. Add shrimp and cook until just pink, opaque and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.

5. Stir in lemon zest, juice, and parsley, and simmer for a minute or so.

To Serve:

Spoon soft polenta in the center a bowl or dish. Ladle shrimp with sauce on top. Garnish with scallions if desired.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Orange, Walnut, & Rosemary Muffins

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Yesterday I wanted to spend the day cooking, baking, and posting all of the fabulous things I haven't had a chance to share lately. But instead, I wound up elbow deep in a box of my childhood belongings that I've been meaning to go through {because it has been staring at me from the floor of my closet for over a year a while}.

I sifted. I sorted. I laughed. I cried. I reminisced. And organized. And then...

I gave up 6 hours in, scooped up my very neat little piles of notes, awards, cards, and pictures, and promptly deposited them back in the box they have been sitting in for ages.

Maybe next year.

{If you want to see some of the fun finds I came across, check out the pics I uploaded to my Instagram!}

Anyway, I didn't accomplish my goal of completely sorting the contents of that {gigantic} box, but I did manage to completely clean out my closet, get rid of some things, and get a real start on Mission: Get Organized in 2013.

I don't know about you, but I reach a point every once in a while were I feel like I can't focus on anything if I don't get a grip on all of the loose ends I need to tie up around me. Needless to say, I have been in no mood to make a mess in the kitchen without first cleaning up the mess everywhere else {hence the lack of posts in the past week or two}.

But now that I feel like I've made a little progress, it's time to play.

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I figured I'd ease back into it... nothing too crazy. Just muffins.

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Except, the flavor combo of orange zest, walnuts, and rosemary makes them seem like anything but "just muffins". They're sort of like "Aromatherapy Muffins", which is just what I needed to ease the tension of purging closets and emptying cupboards.

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I'm considering doubling up the amount of rosemary & orange zest needed for the recipe, making a batch of muffins with one half, and using other half to make a body scrub... it smells that yummy. I found the recipe for these in a book called 1 Mix, 100 Muffins that I received as a gift a few years ago and forgot all about until the organizing began.

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Now, please excuse me while I go deeply inhale the aroma of these lovelies before taking on the rest of my "To Do" list.

Orange, Walnut, & Rosemary Muffins
Slightly adapted from 1 Mix, 100 Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
6 tablespoons canola oil
Zest of 2 oranges {save 1 teaspoon for icing}
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped {plus extra for garnish}
1/4 cup almond milk*

For Icing:

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
3-4 teaspoons freshly squeeze orange juice

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and walnuts.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, oil, orange zest, and chopped rosemary.

4. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and mix until just combined {do not overmix, there will still be some small lumps}.*At this point, I noticed that the mixture looked a bit dry, so I added a small amount of almond milk to moisten. This is not part of the original recipe, but it worked well for mine. If your mixture looks a bit dry, add 1 tablespoon at a time of almond {or regular} milk until moistened.

5. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter into liners. Bake for 16-18 minutes until tops are slightly golden and firm, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6. Cool on a baking rack for about 30 minutes or until completely cooled. Spoon icing over top and decorate with a small sprig of rosemary.

Icing:

1. Sift confectioners' sugar into a small bowl.

2. Add zest and juice and whisk until smooth.

3. Drizzle or spoon over muffins and let set. {Or eat right away, you've waited long enough!}

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Foodie Feature: Food Truck Invasion

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I live in a quaint little area in South Florida. I love so many things about living here. The weather. The proximity to the beach. The laid back vibe. Heck, it was even named one of America's Happiest Seaside Towns by Coastal Living.

Yes, delicious, fresh food {especially seafood} abounds in this coastal town, it's true. But, I never really stopped to think about the fact that this area is a bit "sleepy", culinarily speaking, until I began to travel to big cities.

City life just has a way of doing the food scene well.

Sure, I live about an hour drive from Miami... but truth be told, it takes a lot of prodding to get me to spend time there of my own will. {The traffic alone. Ugh.}

So, that leaves me with my little corner of the world. And visits to the same restaurants over and over again.*

Enter the Food Truck Invasion. Odds are that where you live, the food truck thing is SO yesterday. {When reality shows are made about something, it's likely that something has been done.} But like I said, it takes a little longer for things to make their way to us and take hold, so I was giddy at the prospect of having the Food Trucks invade our tiny Town Center.

The husband, the pup & I, picnic blanket in hand, wandered over to the "Invasion" fashionably late {I wanted to be there early but we had to close the office & feed Farley first!} to find that the lines had already started to snake around Main Street, which was lined with over 20 + food trucks. The cuisines ranged from the classic burgers and fries, to BBQ, to seafood, to a mobile self-serve frozen yogurt truck.

Overwhelmed doesn't even begin to explain the feeling of being famished hungry and trying to navigate the truck-laden terrain. So, we did what made sense at the moment: Picked up some beers and started the task at hand.

If I could sum up the experience of a food truck rally in one phrase, it would be, "Hurry up and WAIT.", which is understandable considering that most of them were manned by a maximum of 3 people serving made to order meals to throngs of hungry patrons.

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Steve and I quickly developed a system once we set up our picnic blanket on the grass near friends who had already made their rounds: Scout the trucks, make a selection, split up, order & meet back in the middle. Even with our organized approach, we only got to sample the fare from 3 trucks.

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Our spring rolls from Spring In, Roll Out were crunchy & flavorful {albeit a bit burnt} and were probably one of the best buys I saw at 4 rolls for $5.50, so we got two orders {one turkey, one pork} in case we weren't able to get to the front of any other line the whole night. They came with sides of sweet & spicy dipping sauces that added a little zip to the already tasty bites.The truck had run out of the summer rolls I wanted to try, but I think I'd like those even better as I prefer fresh flavors over fried.

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We also got to sample the Pork Bao from International Classic Cuisines {again, one of the last things they had available once we got to them}, which Steve really enjoyed {I literally only had one bite, but they were good}. They were basically a piece of sweet glazed pork tucked into a fluffy "bun" {which Steve kept on looking at incredulously saying they were like a super fluffy pancakes. Haha.} with sprigs of cilantro. One order came in at $9 for 4 buns.

Finally, we had to attempt my favorite round: Dessert! My friends and I walked over to Dolce Gourmet Cupcakes to see if the lines had subsided since our last run. But to our dismay, they were still long and winding. So we sampled a tiny taste of Joji Frozen Yogurt instead. A while later, Steve showed up to our picnic area with a big cup of Joji's "Hazetella" for me! {Does he know me, or what?!} I enjoyed the Nutella-flavored fro-yo, but he wasn't a fan of his pick {Orchid Vanilla Almond} due to the texture. It was a little hard and grainy as if it had been overprocessed. Maybe we hit the dessert trucks a little too late.

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There were so many other trucks that had interesting offerings that I was curious about. The tacos from BC Tacos looked like something both Steve & I would enjoy. I heard great things about the burgers with truffle oil at Bite Gastrotruck, was amused by the clever "Pulled Pork Parfait" {check out what it looked like on Sloane's post over at Life Food and Beer!}  from Big Mike's BBQ, and definitely wanted to check out Best French Fries {BFF} where you can get white potato, sweet potato, and yucca fries either baked or fried with a choice of over 25 gourmet dipping sauces!

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Luckily, the Food Truck Invasion will be a monthly occurrence this year, so I'm looking forward to seeing how they improve upon the inagural experience and am hoping to come armed with a game plan next month so that I can nab a taste of some of the other goodies I spotted!


*Thinking of visiting Jupiter, Florida? There are actually some fantastic eats in our area. Keep an eye out for a post coming very soon highlighting some local favorites!

 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Asian Chicken Salad with Ginger-Sesame Dressing

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I need a planner in my life.

Like, the kind with pages that can be written on, with calendars and spots to scribble down stuff you probably wouldn't remember otherwise. {And it never hurts if it comes with cute stickers, too. Thank you, Lilly Pulitzer.}

Some people can remember all the things they have to do and places they need to be by heart. Other people like to type it into their smartphones or computers or tablets or whatever newfangled gadget du jour is on the market. {Yes, I'm 31, not 95, I realize this.}

But I need pencil to paper contact in order to make it real. When I write something down in my agenda, it's like I'm engraving it into my memory: "Meeting with So-and-So, 2:30pm", "Appointment at XYZ, 9 a.m.", "Pick up buttermilk for Tuesday's blog recipe." "Bestie's birthday dinner, 7:30 p.m."

I have not yet purchased a new 2013 agenda.

You can imagine how that's going.

I haven't missed any important appointments, but I just haven't been feeling organized. And what happens when I don't feel organized? My mind starts racing. And when my mind starts racing, I feel anxious. And anxiety leads to consuming chocolate. And consuming chocolate can get out of control very, very quickly.

Do you see where this is going?

Anyway, until I get to picking up my new agenda, I'm going to need to make allowances in my diet for some extra chocolate intake.

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I've been posting some really healthy, delicious recipes lately, but all of them have required cooking and time. So, for your sake {and mine}, I thought I'd share an easy, nutrious, and satisfying salad that I've been whipping up lately whenever I'm running around with my hair on fire feeling a little rushed or busy.

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As with any salad, you can pick and choose the ingredients you enjoy to add to it. But remember, the more types of veggies, the better. This light dressing is what really makes the flavors stand out and gives it that extra "zing" that doesn't make you feel like eating a salad for lunch... again... is a punishment.

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Which reminds me, I need to run to the grocery store today. Sigh.

Asian Chicken Salad with Ginger-Sesame Dressing

Your favorite salad blend {I like Spring Mix}
1 tomato, chopped
6-7 baby carrots, grated {you could also use pre-cut matchstick carrots or just chop carrots however you please}
2-3 tablespoons water chestnuts
4-5 slices of sliced deli chicken breast {I like Boar's Head Ever Roast}, or a leftover grilled chicken breast, chopped
2 tablespoons Chow Mein noodles {such as La Choy}, optional

For Dressing
Makes enough dressing for 3-4 salads

1/4 cup low sodium tamari {gluten free}, or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1. Place all salad ingredients in a bowl, except Chow Mein noodles.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients, whisking in olive oil until well blended.

3. Pour dressing over salad and toss together.

4. Top with crunchy Chow Mein noodles if desired.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

North African Turkey Meatballs with Brown Date Rice

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For us, eating healthy at home isn't extremely difficult, mostly because we just don't buy or keep things around that would make for temptation. {Except for all those leftover Christmas cookies that we STILL have... good grief, someone come save me from myself!}

The real challenge is making healthy eating exciting. I mean, I want to get giddy about dinner every night as though Homemade Mac & Cheese, pizza, or Honey-Coriander Chicken Wings were on the menu.

But a lot of times what happens is we buy the healthy stuff and -- due to lack of energy, creativity, time, what have you -- the preparation turns out a little lackluster. Boo.

At times like these, I understand why some folks find healthy eating so "blah".

So, yesterday when I was standing in front of the fridge surveying the culinary landscape {and finding that, once again, we didn't do our grocery shopping over the weekend like we should have...}, I picked up a container of ground turkey meat that needed to be used and thought, "I refuse to do something boring with this."

After a little Googling, I stumbled upon a Food Network recipe for these North African Meatballs. Bingo.

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I'm lucky that both hubby and I don't mind trying new flavors and cuisines {and that hubby will eat just about anything you tell him is healthy and edible} because it opens up the possibility to try so many new things we don't normally think to make on a regular basis. With a little recipe tweaking, I came out with this amazingly flavorful and hearty dish that fits our lifestyle perfectly.

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To suit my own taste, I swapped out the ground beef for ground turkey {since I'm not a red meat eater}, simultaneously making it an overall leaner dish. For hubby {who tries to stay away from gluten, especially Mon - Fri}, I changed the suggestion for a side dish of Couscous to a simple, but jazzed up Brown Date Rice, and used gluten free rolled oats instead of the regular kind for the meatballs. {Which, by the way, was definitely a "whaaat?" moment when I saw them listed as an ingredient. Just go with it!}

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The spices used in this dish {coriander, cumin, cinnamon} lend a unique, rich flavor profile that made both the sauce and turkey meatballs stand out from any I've ever made before. And the meatballs themselves? SO incredibly tender from simmering away in the sauce that you won't even know you're eating a leaner meat!

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Before you throw in the towel on your healthy New Years resolutions, let your taste buds do a little bit of world travel* and try some new flavors that will get you excited about dinner again. Variety is the spice of life... so get to sprinkling! ;)

*I have no idea how "authentic" this dish is to North African cooking... if you happen to know if this type of thing is common, please let me know! :)

North African Meatballs with Brown Date Rice
Adapted from Melissa D'Arabian, Food Network

For Rice:

1-2 tablespoons oil
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cups water
1/4 cup dried dates, finely chopped

1. In a medium pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add brown rice and saute lightly until fragrant.

2. Add chicken stock and water and bring to a boil over high. Stir, cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed.

3. Stir well and reduce heat to low. Cover and let cook until tender, about 20-25 minutes.

4. When rice is tender, stir in chopped dates. Keep warm until ready to serve.


For Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 a small onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, grated
1/4 cup olives, pitted & finely chopped {I used black Greek olives, but you could use green as well}
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup white wine {or chicken stock}
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of cinnamon
Salt & pepper to taste

1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and garlic and saute until softened and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add olives and lemon zest and cook for another 2 minutes.

2. Add white wine or broth, scraping the bottom of the pan, and simmer until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, lightly pulse diced tomatoes in blender until desired consistency is reached. {You can skip this step if you'd rather have chunkier sauce.} Stir in blended tomatoes, chicken stock, brown sugar, cayenne, and cinnamon. Cook for 8-10 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened and it has deepened in color.

4. Taste & season with salt and pepper if desired.


For Meatballs:

2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
1 pound ground turkey
1/3 cup rolled oats {I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oats to keep it GF}, finely ground*
Salt to taste
1-2 tablespoons oil {canola or olive}

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together tomato paste and egg until well mixed. Add coriander, cumin, grated ginger, and cinnamon and whisk until well combined.

2. Add ground turkey, rolled oats, and salt, and mix together until just incorporated.

3. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Using a small cookie scoop {or your hands}, make meatballs about 1 inch in diameter, rolling with wet hands.

4. Place meatballs in pan and brown on all sides. When meatballs are browned, place them in the pan with sauce.

5. Simmer meatballs in sauce to finish cooking for about 20-25 minutes or until sauce is thickened* and meatballs are cooked through and tender.

* To grind oats, pulse oats in a food processor until finely ground.
**If sauce becomes too thick, add a little chicken stock at a time until the right amount of "sauciness" is achieved.

To Serve: Serve with Date Rice. Spoon extra sauce over meatballs and rice. Serve hot.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Thai Inspired Noodle Soup

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Happy New Year!

How were your holidays? Did you wake up yesterday feeling a little sluggish? Bloated? Hungover? {I know, those pretty little champagne bubbles somehow turn into bowling balls the next day...}

The time has come to step away from the cookies and fatty holiday foods, put the wine glasses back in the cabinet, and trade in the eggnog for egg white omelets... I know, it's hard to say goodbye, but I promise I'll try to share some recipes that will make it all worthwhile.

It seems like we've been doing nothing but eating and drinking and celebrating for weeks. {Oh wait, that's because it's true.} It all started with Thanksgiving, then a trip to New York in early December {which I will be telling you all about very soon.} where we ate, and ate, and ate and our diet pretty much went downhill from there.

While we were in NYC we ate lunch at a Thai bistro where I had some of the most delicious dumplings I've ever tasted. Well, it actually wasn't so much the dumplings themselves, but the sauce they were in. Ridiculously. Good.

I've been trying to recreate & perfect the recipe at home, but I haven't quite gotten there yet. What I have gotten is quite a craving for Thai food, which is why I made this "cure all ills" soup on New Years Day. {Just for the record, the husband was the one who needed some ills cured after celebrating NYE into the wee hours of the morning.} ;)

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I didn't feel like doing any labor intensive cooking after our exhausting morning of laying around on the beach {it's a hard life,  I know.}, and we were both in the mood for something soothing and warm. {Even though it was 75 degrees out. It's winter in our heads. Whatev.}

Like chicken noodle soup, this Thai Inspired Noodle Soup is a bowl of comfort with an Asian twist. The ginger and sesame oil come through to give it an exotic flavor, and the light coconut milk gives it a silky richness without being unhealthy. We made ours with just veggies, but shrimp would make a great addition if you're looking for some protein.

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Now that the New Year has officially begun... it's time to detox. Why not do it deliciously?

Thai Inspired Noodle Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 a small white onion, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup baby carrots, cut lengthwise or into matchsticks
Pinch of salt
1 large or 2 small zucchini, cut into 1 inch logs
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic, grated
3/4 {10 oz.} bag of spinach
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 can of coconut milk {"lite" for less fat & calories}
3 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 a box of brown rice noodles
Optional: Chopped cilantro for garnish


1. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Add onion slices and carrots, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and saute until starting to become tender, about 5-7 minutes.

2. Add zucchini and cook for about 3-4 minutes until beginning to soften and brown in parts. Add grated ginger and garlic, and cook for about a minute, stirring often.

3. Add teaspoon of sesame oil, and stir. Pour in coconut milk, scraping the bottom of the pan to pull up any brown bits. Stir in chicken or vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil.

4. Add spinach and cook until it begins to wilt down. Add brown rice noodles to boiling liquid and stir. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until noodles are firm but tender, about 5-7 minutes.

5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve hot.