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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Tiger nut milk


tiger-nuts
Tiger nuts, tiger nut milk, and tiger nut flour- YUM!  Years ago, when I was visiting Spain, I tried these tiny little snacks called tiger nuts.  They were sweet and nutty, and so addictive!  Many of the places I visited also sold tiger nut milk, which tasted like dessert.  I was so surprised when I learned that they are actually root vegetables, and not nuts!   Anyhow, I saw some in the store and had to pick them up.   I started munching on them the minute I checked out at the cashier.  In addition to just snacking on them, I made tiger nut milk (soooo good when chilled). Since I couldn’t bear to waste any of the tiger nuts, I turned the fibrous pulp into “flour” and now have a new flour to play with in the kitchen.  I’ll post recipes using the flour as I work on them.

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Pumpkin “Hummus”


pumpkin-hummus

It’s pumpkin season!!!  This is a quick, easy recipe for pumpkin “hummus.”  I’m calling this hummus even though there are no chickpeas because the texture resembles hummus. The milder bean allows the pumpkin and spices to shine. I may be partial, but I think the Indian flavors complement pumpkin well to make a warm, autumny dip/spread.  I served the pumpkin hummus at party this weekend with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Soup Crackers. It seemed to vanish, so I’m not fussing with the recipe any more! =)  You can make this a day or two ahead of time, and it will actually be better since the extra time will allow the flavors to meld better.

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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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Coconut Butter


coconut-butter

I feel silly even posting this recipe since it’s only one ingredient, but the end product is so amazing, it’s worth it just to have people try it!  I was very thankful to have my Vitamix for this recipe since it really works the motor.  I imagine it would work in a blender or food processor, but may just take longer or be grittier.  Also, I made it unflavored so it can be more versatile, but feel free to add vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, sea salt, etc. to make whatever flavor you want.

Side note: I couldn’t bear the idea of cleaning out and wasting the coconut butter stuck to the sides of the blender container, so I made this Almond Milk right after the coconut butter in the same blender.  The residual coconut butter resulted in a slightly thicker and sweeter almond milk- delicious!

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Grilled Peach Gazpacho


Peach GazpachoAugust = peaches!!! Nothing beats fresh, ripe peaches in late summer.  I got 4 peaches, a few tomatoes, and basil in my Hungry Harvest box this week.  Instead of eating them straight or making a sweet dish, I decided to make a savory one.  The 100 degree weather has really put me in the mood for a nice, chilled gazpacho.  I wanted to add a little more flavor to the gazpacho without adding too many ingredients, so I grilled the peaches before adding them.  I also had this Mango White Balsamic Vinegar, which added the tart and sweet flavors without being too punchy or overpowering the other ingredients.  I listed the topping as optional since some people prefer smooth gazpacho, while I prefer the texture variation that the finely minced topping provides.

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Coconut-Tamarind Gravy


This recipe is one of my staples.  I love the tartness of the tamarind, the creaminess of the cashews, and the tropical feel of the coconut.  I’m posting this as it’s own recipe because it really is worth making a double batch and keeping it on hand for a quick meal.  You can add this gravy to fully cooked veggies and it makes them so much more satisfying!  I like to go on the drier side when i use it in dishes, but you can thin it out with a little water when you add it to veggies to make it more saucy.

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Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup


Red pepper tomato soup

This is an easy soup that has lots of flavor and really lets the ingredients shine.  That being said, use good quality, fresh produce- it makes all the difference!  If you are short on time, you can roast the veggies ahead of time and blend it later.  The photo shows the soup topped with my attempt at a basil foam, but usually I just top it with basil ribbons.

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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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Grilled Romaine Salad with Grapefruit Mint Dressing


Grilled Romaine

Summer = grilling! So why shouldn’t that extend to salads? It’s amazing how something as simple as grilling can change an entire dish.  This recipe is centered around dressing up grilled romaine hearts. But really, it’s just to give you ideas… play with the dressing, cheeses, nuts, and other toppings!  I like the thinner dressings like the one below since it soaks into the romaine between the leaves.  The picture shows one romaine heart plain, and one dressed up with blue cheese and pecans.

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Gazpacho


Gazpacho

Gazpacho is one of my favorite summer soups- straight from farmer’s market treasures!  I’ve seen and tasted so many different gazpacho recipes over the years, and one thing that hits me is how forgiving they are.  The recipe below is a general guide, but you can vary the ingredients based on what’s fresh and available.  How can you not get hooked on a recipe that’s this quick and easy and light!? =)

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Mint Cilantro Coconut Chutney


Mint Cilantro Coconut ChutneyI made this green chutney for Mother’s Day since it was gorgeous weather outside and we decided to grill.  The flavors are so light and fresh that I love it in sandwiches, wraps, with roasted veggies, as a soup garnish… pretty much anything summery.  It’s also very versatile: thin it out with water to make a dressing, mix it into yogurt to make a dip, whisk it with olive oil to make a pasta salad.  It also gets bonus points for freezing well.  It’s amazing how a chutney so healthy and easy to make can be sooooo good!

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Basil Arugula Spinach Pesto


PestoI realized that I use pesto in a bunch of my recipes, but never actually posted a recipe.  Surprising, since I consider this a staple.  It a quick way to make an okay meal taste special (pasta, sandwich spread, soup, grilled veggies, etc).  Adding the other greens keeps the color nice and bright, and adds some additional flavors.  Also, if I don’t have pine nuts, I substitute cashews and it still tastes good.  This sauce also freezes well, so I often make extra and keep it.

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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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Garlic Coconut Chutney


Garlic Coconut ChutneyThis is a really easy, versatile chutney that I use to dress up a lot of dishes.  There’s no oil and it freezes well- both reasons that it’s at the top of my list for stocking up on.  I don’t usually eat it straight since the flavor is very strong.  My favorite variation (if I’m very motivated), is to roast all the garlic in the oven before putting it in the food processor with everything else.

Cooking suggestions: Add a spoonful to rice or lentils when boiling (most common way I use it).  Use it to marinate tofu or veggies.  Mix a little into roasted veggies.  Spread a thin layer on corn-on-the cob before eating.  Spread a thin layer on dosa.  Add a spoonful into batter that you use for frying veggies.  Mix it with water or yogurt to make it more dippable/spreadable.  Feel free to share other ideas!

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Roasted Pumpkin Chipotle Soup with Caramelized Onions


JarrhadaleKnowing my love of pumpkins, my friend bought me a Jarrahdale pumpkin for my birthday!  Such an awesome gift- especially because I’ve never cooked with one before.  If you’ve never seen one, Jarrahdale’s have an interesting greenish-blue outside, with a beautiful bright orange inside (picture below).  The last few times I made Pumpkin Soup, I used coconut milk.  But this time I really wanted to taste the flavor of the pumpkin.  I’ve also recently discovered that I love caramelized onions.  So you’ll see this recipe has relatively few ingredients.  Don’t be fooled though- it still took a little over an hour to make.  And honestly, if I wasn’t so hungry and it didn’t smell so good, I would have simmered it for a while longer so the flavors would blend together more (I’m sure this will taste yummier tomorrow!)

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Butter (in Vitamix)


Butter (in Vitamix)

Butter (in Vitamix)

Nothing like the taste of fresh cream butter… This is my method for making butter in the Vitamix- please note that it is different from what is in the Vitamix recipe book.   This is a little additional work, but I like how the butter turns out better and I feel like it lasts a little longer in the fridge.  The directions look lengthy, but in total this takes me about 10 minutes to do steps 1-5, and then it sits overnight to drain.  I tried to be as descriptive as possible, so please let me know if something is not clear!

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Pistachio Lime Sauce


Pista Pesto

I had some leftover ground some pistachios from a different recipe, so decided to make a pistachio sauce for one of the Valentine’s day dishes.   I mixed this with ditalini  pasta, but it also tastes good on veggies, toast, and even as a pizza sauce.  Just a note, I used key limes last time to make this- and it came out more limey than using regular limes.

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Strawberry Balsamic Dressing


This is a great quick dressing that adds a natural sweetness to salad.  I used it on a Strawberry Hazelnut Salad. I strongly suggest using fresh strawberries if they are available.  You may need to vary the amount of salt based on how tart/sweet the strawberries are, but it’s worth the unpredictability since fresh strawberries taste so good!

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Creamed Spinach


Creamed Spinach

Creamed Spinach

I remember the first time I had creamed spinach- it was at a steak house (dinner was a mix of sides…) and I loved it!   The texture is a great mix of creamy, but not mushy.  The recipe below is my version of creamed spinach.  It’s fairly easy to make if you use a whisk.  I’ve tried it without a whisk, and it inevitably ends up with lumps.  Also, when I make it now, I used 4 tbsp of olive oil and almond milk so it is vegan (and really good!) Continue reading

Roasted Eggplant Dip


Aside from the time it takes to roast the eggplant, this is actually a really easy recipe.  I love eating it in wraps, with crackers, on sandwiches, etc.  I alternate between mashing the eggplant up completely for a smooth dip and cutting the inside into cubes for a chunkier dip. 

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Split Pea Soup


I’ve been waiting for a chance to use my new Dutch Oven (Le Creuset) to make a soup to see how the flavors change.   I really do like the way the dutch oven (and probably a crock pot) enhances the spices and flavors of split pea soup.  I like chunky split pea soup more than blended ones, so I cook this one for a long time, until the split peas fall apart.  Since this soup takes a long time to simmer, I generally make large batches and freeze them in small containers.  That way I can have some ready whenever I want!  I like my soups on the thicker side, but you can add more water/broth if you want it thinner.  If you are going to freeze it, I would make it thick and dilute it when you reheat it.

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Roasted Veggie Soup


I was in the mood for soup one day, so I picked up a few veggies that looked healthy.  This soup is relatively simple, low-fat, and tastes really good because the veggies are roasted!  It’s also pretty forgiving in terms of which veggies you put in, and how much- so it’s great for using up leftover veggies!  If you want to make it creamy, you can add a spoon of sour cream or cream cheese when you serve it.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip


Probably one of the quickest recipes I’ve made with an incredibly yummy result!  I’m not usually a fan of feta because I find it salty, but it adds a great flavor to this.  Also, I used bottled roasted red peppers, but if you want to use fresh ones, you can follow this recipe that has how to roast red peppers: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.  Although I titled this a dip, I can imagine it tasting great as a spread on sandwiches or wraps. 

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Asparagus Soup


The grocery store had some good-looking asparagus two weeks in a row, so I couldn’t resist buying it again!  I forgot to post the soup recipe last time I made it, so I made it a point to remember this time.  This is a fairly simple, healthy soup (no oil or butter!) that has a lot of flavor.  I like keeping the asparagus tops intact so that I have something crunchy when I eat the soup.  However, if you like soup that is more uniform in consistency, you can add the tops in Step 3 and blend it with everything else or save the tops for another recipe.

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Acorn Squash Soup


Sadly, squash season is almost over… The grocery store still had some acorn squash, and it’s kind of chilly, so I figured I’d make some acorn squash soup.  This is one of those soups that I think tastes better the next day, after the spices have a chance to really set in.  If you don’t like spicy things, you can leave out the paprika and black pepper in Step 1.

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