Italian Seasoning


Italian Seasoning

Over the years I’ve tried many, many, many Italian seasonings and each one was different.  After I finished the last one in my pantry, I decided that if all these companies could make up their own Italian Seasoning blend, why shouldn’t I?!  Most of the blends included basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary.  Some blends also included parsley, cilantro, marjoram, sage, garlic, and black pepper.  Different spices and different quantities of the spices led to totally different flavor profiles.  I played around with the spices and settled on the blend below.  I intentionally left out the garlic and black pepper because I like to add fresh garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste.   I also opted for parsley instead of cilantro since I associate cilantro with Indian and Mexican food and parsley with Italian and French.

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Winter Dark Chocolate Collection


2017 Winter Choc Box

Happy Winter! There’s something so indulgent and satisfying about chocolate. So, instead of cookie boxes, I decided to make chocolate boxes this year for friends and family.  Pictured above (from left to right):
* Marzipan Stuffed Figs (no link for this one yet)
* Peanut Butter Buckeyes
* Bourbon Truffle Squares
* Candy Cane Truffles
* Butterscotch Pretzel Crunch

Butterscotch Pretzel Crunch


Butterscotch Caramel Crunch 1

Sweet, salty, nutty, crunchy, chewy… a constellation of different flavors and textures packed into one tiny bite makes these treats incredibly addictive!  The savory pecan and pretzel provides a nice balance for the sweet chocolate and butterscotch.  Honestly, the hardest part is finding the mini pretzels and chocolate covered butterscotch (see picture below for what I use).  If you can’t find the chocolate covered butterscotch, you can use chocolate covered caramels.

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Candy Cane Oreo Truffles


Candy Cane Truffle

I made 100 of these minty, chocolaty truffles last year for a holiday party, and they disappeared in minutes!  They aren’t true truffles since the inside is more like a moist cake than a silky ganache, making it have an unexpected texture inside.  For the relatively few ingredients and simplicity, they make a great festive treat! If you are running short on time, roll it in cocoa powder instead of giving it a dark chocolate coating.  However, if you do a dark chocolate coating, you can decorate them!  Some decoration ideas are: crushed candy cane, edible glitter, a pinch of the cookie crumbs, chocolate drizzle, mint leaves, etc.

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Cherry Ice Cream (eggless)


Cherry Ice Cream

It’s surprisingly hard to find cherry ice cream without eggs, colors, stabilizers, and artificial flavors in the grocery store.  I like the recipe below because you still get a pretty pink color, but you aren’t adding any artificial things to the ice cream.  If you are lucky enough to get cherries in a light syrup, you can use that to replace the cherry juice and sugar (I use Trader Joe’s Morello cherries in light syrup).

Variation:  In Step 5, when you add the cherries, also add toasted almond slivers and grated dark chocolate.

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Sparkling Candied Cranberries


Sparkling Cranberries

These cranberries are sweet, tart, crunchy, and unbelievably addictive- a perfect autumn snack!  In addition to just snacking on them, I think they pair really well with cheese boards.  They are also a fun alternative to cranberry sauce for a Thanksgiving spread.  You have to plan a bit in advance since the cranberries sit in simple syrup overnight, but the actual cooking time is short.

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Pineapple-Ginger-Thyme Shrub


Pineapple Ginger Shrub

This is my year for playing with shrubs (fruity vinegar concentrate that can be mixed with water / sparkling water / alcohol to make a super refreshing drink).  I love this shrub since it uses something you normally throw away- pineapple core!  You can also use the pineapple chunks if you don’t have the core.  There is a difference if you use pineapple chunks vs pineapple core- the chunks yield a more pronounced pineapple flavors, whereas the core yields a more pronounced ginger flavor with a hint of pineapple.  I like the sweet, spicy, herby combo either way, which tastes even more fun when you dilute it with sparkling water.

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Strawberry-Pepper Shrub


Strawberry Shrub

If you haven’t had a shrub before, it’s basically a fruity vinegar concentrate that can be mixed with water / sparkling water / alcohol to make a super refreshing drink.  I have also used this strawberry shrub to make a light vinaigrette dressing for a strawberry-baby spinach-candied pecan salad.  I’m sure there is a proper way of making it, but I like the method below because it is easy. You can let it sit longer or shorter in the fridge prior to straining depending on how strong you want the flavors to be. I wait until the strawberries look washed out and have lost some of their color.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Spread


choc-hazelnut-butter

As a kid, Nutella used to be one of my favorite spreads- on toast, on crackers, on cookies, in a spoon…  But I’m far more conscious about ingredients and nutrition now, and the fact that Nutella is so loaded with sugar and palm oil somehow makes it less appetizing.   On my quest to find a healthier chocolate hazelnut spread to satisfy my Nutella craving, the options seem to fall short.  “Sugar-free” appears synonymous with “sugar substitute added” (and I don’t like the aftertastes).  Raw and organic options were gritty instead of creamy.  Some options had too many extraneous ingredients…  Eventually, I figured I should just try making it at home to suit my preferences.  Four ingredients and 3 batches later… I settled on a recipe that I love!

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Chocolate Avocado “Mousse”


avocado-chocolate-mousse

I’ve been really craving a chocolate dessert lately.  I was walking around town, and none of the restaurants had chocolate desserts that were sugar-free (including no sugar substitutes) and gluten-free.  So… I decided to play around with making one at home.   Based on what was in my pantry, I came up with this super-easy “mousse.”  I poured the mousse into these Hazelnut Coconut crusts.  The final product is a rich, decadent, thick filling in a thin, nutty crust.  As you can see in the photo, it sliced beautifully.  I added a small amount of vanilla whipped cream before serving to lighten it up.  As a result, one small slice was so incredibly satisfying =)

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Hazelnut Coconut Pie Crust


nut-coconut-crust

This is a quick and simple crust that I use as the base for tarts/pies.  I love the texture because you can press it thin, and when it’s finished,  it still holds together, but is crumbly and easy to cut with you fork/spoon.  It’s also neutral (no sugar, pinch of salt), so it can be used for both sweet and savory tarts.  You can also add flavors to the crust if you want (cocoa powder, Italian seasoning, etc.).  The recipe below makes a thin crust for 2 4-inch tart tins or a medium thick crust for 1 6-inch tart tin.  You can scale up as needed for bigger tarts.

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Nut crackers (vegan, gluten free)


nut-crackers

One of the biggest challenges to a high-fat low carb diet is not having the bread and crackers to snack on, use to dip, or round out a meal.  Sometimes veggie sticks and cabbage leaves just don’t cut it!  I love these crackers because they at fairly easy to make, full of good fats, filling, and last for a while in an air tight container (the ones in the photo are 2 weeks old).   I have been using them to make open faces sandwiches, appetizers with flavored cream cheeses and herbs,  croutons for salad and soup, and just plain as a quick snack when I get hungry.  If you want variety, you can add spices to the mix.

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Kiwi Basil Sorbet


Kiwi SorbetIn this unbelievably hot weather, we were in the mood for something tart and refreshing.  Homemade sorbets are amazing because you can taste the freshness.  As a bonus, you can also control the sweetness (I often find store sorbet too sweet).   This kiwi basil sorbet really hit the spot in 90+ degree weather!   I left the seeds in for the crunch and because it looks pretty, but if you want a smooth sorbet, you can strain them out.

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Baked Savory Zucchini Cakes


Savory Zucchini CakesLast week’s Hungry Harvest box contained a ton of zucchini.  After using some to make a Veggie Lentil Loaf, I still had two zucchini left to use, so I made these cute savory zucchini cakes.  They are so simple to make, and the best part is that they freeze well so it makes the perfect after work snack!  Being a Marylander, I couldn’t resist using Old Bay to flavor them. You can also pan fry them, but I bake to keep things healthier.

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Espresso Vinaigrette


Espresso DressingI made this dressing for my dad’s birthday a few days ago (you’ll be seeing a few more posts from that dinner soon).  I wanted to make something with coffee since he loves it.  Since this was my first time making this, I kept adding ingredients and changing quantities till I got a taste I liked- meaning I ended up with a lot of extra dressing- I’ve made a few different salads with it, and will post my favorite next: Pear Cocoa Nib Salad.  The dressing has just a hint of espresso, so it actually is more versatile than you’d imagine.  I normally use honey in dressing, but used sugar in this one because honey was interfering with the espresso taste.

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Hazelnut Milk


Hazelnut Milk

We were talking about non-dairy milks at dinner last night, and hazelnut milk came up.  I don’t know how I never thought of making this before!  I made three small batches today to test different proportions and additions, and loved the recipe below.  Toasting it really brings out a different flavor, which felt richer to me.  I also added a small bit of chocolate to one batch and it tasted like a Nutella drink.  You can also add sugar if you want, but I prefer it unsweetened.  However, the recipe below is more versatile, so I’m posting the plain version.

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Homemade Olive Oil Butter Spread


EVOO Butter

Ever get that craving for just bread and butter?  I don’t eat much bread now, but every so often, I really just want bakery-fresh bread with a layer of butter.  Today was one of those days.  Sadly, I didn’t have the foresight to take the butter out of the fridge before going to the bakery… and I wasn’t willing to  wait.   The recipe below is a twist on whipped butter.  Only 3 ingredients, but each of them matter.  I start with unsalted butter, so I can add salt to taste.  I like the slight mineral taste of pink Himalayan salt, so I used that- but you can use any salt you want and adjust the quantity to suit your taste.  I also added olive oil so that it wouldn’t harden completely when I put it back in the fridge (oil doesn’t become solid when cold).  I love the taste of olive oil, so I used a good quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.  If you’re not a fan of the taste, you can always use a milder olive oil.

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Linzer Cookies (eggless)


Linzer CookiesI love making these cookies because you can make them for any occasion by changing the shape in the middle.  Plus, they look really pretty with the dusting of sugar on top.  I tend to go light on the sugar dusting because I like the speckled look.  I made similar cookies a few years ago (Almond Jam Cookies), but I’ve been playing with how to make them with less white flour and eggless so everyone in my family can eat them.

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Spicy Tomato Jam


Onion Tomato JamThis jam came into creation because I really dislike ketchup. It’s sweet and doesn’t taste like tomato to me. I’ve made a more than a few batches of the tomato jam, varying the spices and sugars, until I settled on the recipe below.  You can definitely make a smaller batch and keep it in the fridge if you don’t want to go through the whole canning process.  I really like this jam as a spread (especially with cream cheese), as a topping for soups, spread on cheese or roasted veggies, and many other ways… It’s not ketchup, but I’ll actually eat this! =)

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Ghee (Clarified butter)


GheeGhee, sometimes called clarified butter, is a staple in Indian cooking.  It has a very distinct taste, and a much higher smoke point than oil, so it’s useful in all kinds of dishes.  I’ve made ghee over the years the traditional way, which is to bring butter to a boil in a pot over direct heat and let it simmer “till it’s done.”  Essentially, until the fat separates from the milk solids.  Then you strain it through a cheesecloth so that you’re left with the clear ghee.  Sadly, it often yielded mixed results for me.  I’ve burned the butter, which is an awful smell… I’ve under-cooked it and the solids didn’t separate enough…. I’ve struggled with cleaning the pot, the cheesecloth, and everything else that comes in contact with pure fat!  Until now!!! Although this isn’t a “recipe,” it is a technique I feel is worth sharing.  It really simplifies the process (and clean-up), and while it’s not exactly the same end result, it’s close enough that I actually want to make it at home!  The only challenge is finding the right sized equipment in your kitchen.

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Quinoa Risotto with Peas, Arugula, and Asparagus


Quinoa RisottoThe first time I had quinoa risotto was in a Peruvian restaurant, and I loved the creaminess and texture.  It paired my love of risotto with my love of quinoa, and has the added benefit of being a healthier dish.  This was a first time experiment, and I really like how it came out.  Peas and asparagus are in season, so I decided to make it a green themed dish.
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Apricot Oatmeal


Apricot OatmealFresh apricots in the market!!! I had a some bruised apricots in the bunch, so I decided to make apricot oatmeal for breakfast this week.  I love the tangy twist and contrasting texture it gives to the oatmeal, especially since I use steel cut oats.  Steel cut oats take longer to cook, so I soaked them the night before- but I really do like the texture more than regular oatmeal.

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Jalapeno Cheese Buttermilk Biscuit


Jalapeno Biscuits

Last time I made butter, I had all this liquid left from the first press of the butter.  It tasted amazing in these biscuits.  That being said, it’s much easier and still yum to use ready-made buttermilk.  Also, the cheese really affects the flavor, so definately use a cheese that you like!

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Almond Milk


Almond Milk

YUM!  Forget cereal, this has become my go-to snack and dessert when I am home!  Until I started making almond milk routinely, I never realized how easy and delicious this is.  I started making this at home because I noticed that almond milk from the store has different gums and flavoring additives.  The most basic recipe is to blend the soaked almonds with water and strain it, but I really enjoy a jazzed up version.  I add oatmeal for a little thickness and texture, dates for sweetness, and cinnamon/vanilla/salt for flavor. It requires a bit of pre-planning since you have to soak the almonds, but other than that, it’s quick.  I also decided to buy a mesh bag to make it easier, but cheesecloth works fine if that is what you have.

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Speckled Chocolate Cashew Cookies (eggless)


Speckled Cashew CookieI have had cashew flour in my fridge for 2 weeks, and no inspiration as to what to make with it.  I also found odds and ends of chocolate in my pantry.  Put them together… and this cute crispy cookie is born!  It’s surprisingly easy and looks pretty.  I’m definitely going to include them on my holiday cookie tray!

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Anise pinwheel cookies (eggless)


Anise Pinwheel CookieThese anise cookies are definitely in my top 10.  I LOVE them.  The base is a blend of oats, cashew, and all purpose flour.  They just melt in your mouth and leave a great taste.  Perfect after dinner, or with tea.  The pinwheel design looks pretty, but does take some time.  If I don’t feel like going through the effort, I just drop ~1 tsp of the dough onto the cookie sheet and bake them.  Much easier, and just as yum!

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