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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Caramelized Onion Spread


Onion Tomato Jam

For onion lovers!!!  This takes the bite out of onions, and results in a sweetish, melty, multi-purpose onion spread.  Since this recipe does take a long time to cook down, I make a large batch at a time and then use it in all kinds of things- pizza, soup, sandwiches, mixed into dips, on veggies… sky’s the limit!  The picture above has two of my favorite spreads on brie- caramelized onions (left) and tomato jam (right- recipe coming soon).

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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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Focaccia


FocacciaA whole day off… that means bread time!  I didn’t feel like making a regular loaf of bread, so I made focaccia instead.   This is one recipe that I definitely recommend using good olive oil for.  As far as the toppings go… make your favorite combo, clean out the fridge, use colorful ingredients to be festive… have fun with it!

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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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Spiced bourbon applesauce


ApplesauceThis is a fun twist on applesauce.  If you’ve never made applesauce before, I think you’ll be surprised at how easy and delicious it is!  I can’t recall the last time I bought applesauce from the store… I don’t have a particular kind of apple that I use – it’s usually a mix and match of what I have at home.  I’d say to use the apples you like the taste of!  There aren’t too many ingredients, so the flavors really stand out.  I don’t always add bourbon and it still tastes amazing.  The bourbon just makes it feel a little more indulgent.  Also, I like it chunky so I don’t puree it at the end, but you can if you like smooth applesauce.

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Meyer Lemon Herb Butter


Meyer Lemon ButterThis is one of my favorite ways to spice up veggies- especially when they are steamed!  It tastes really great on bread too, but I’m trying to keep it healthy… It’s a fun and easy twist on butter (you can use margarine if you want too).  I make it into a log and freeze it so I always have a quick way to add flavor.   I happened to have Meyer lemons this time, but I’ve done this with regular ones too and it still tastes yum!

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“Roasted” Red Peppers


Roasted Red Pepper 2I realized today that I use roasted red peppers all over my blog, and haven’t actually described how to roast them at home.  I put “roasted” in quotes since these are actually broiled (not sure what the difference is).  The first time I roasted the peppers, I was really careful not to burn it.  Turns out, it actually tastes better if you completely blacken it!  You can buy ready-made roasted peppers from the store, but I prefer roasting them at home.  It’s fun and I find that it tastes more flavorful to me.

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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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Strawberry Balsamic Sauce


Strawberry Balsamic SauceThis recipe stems out of picking far too many strawberries to eat…  Even though it has pectin, it is NOT a jam.  I changed the proportions to make it more of a sauce and less sweet.  I like it on Greek yogurt (pictured), ice cream, pancakes, chocolate cake… let your imagination go wild!

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Arrabbiata Sauce (Spicy Tomato Sauce)


ArrabbiataMy all time favorite sauce for pasta, pizza, baked dishes, and a lot of other foods- sometimes I only use a tablespoon or so for flavor. This sauce is simple, but does take time to make because I like to add the ingredients one at a time and then simmer it. I tend to make this in a big batch and freeze the extra.

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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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Valentine’s Day Dinner


VDay Dinner 2013I love all holidays, and that includes Valentine’s Day!  I made dinner for my parents today to celebrate an early Valentine’s Day.  Initially, I wanted every dish to incorporate red- but later decided that might be too much.  So instead, I settled for a mix of dishes that let me play with a variety of foods and techniques.  The menu is below and the recipes will follow soon!  Hope everyone has a great Valentine’s Day!

Halloween Party (Fun Food!)


I had a Halloween party last year and completely forgot to post about it!  I had the most fun planning the food for the party (as usual).  The best thing about Halloween food is that you can be super creative to make things fit into the creepy, gross theme.   Below is the table spread for the party, with links to the foods and how I did them (click on it for a larger image).

Halloween Fun Food

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Rice Wrap Crackers


 

A few months ago, I went to the DC fancy food show and got to sample all these amazing food products!  One of the new things I tried was Mountain Bread Rice wraps made from rice flour.  I used these to make some at home and they came out great.  Thin, cripsy, and flavorful!

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Labneh (Yogurt cheese)


This is my new, healthy substitute for sour cream and cream cheese in recipes.  Although lately, it hasn’t even made it into recipes- I end up finishing it with toast and crackers!  Its so simple and tastes soooo good… slightly tangy and creamy.  The only thing to remember is that you need to start making it at least one day before.

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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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Balsamic Vinaigrette Drizzle


As mentioned in my last post, this drizzle tastes amazing on top of sweet potato fries.  It makes a lot, so I ended up using it on brussel sprouts, spinach salad, vanilla ice cream (with fruits), caramelized pearl onion, pretty much everything I made for a week! =)  You can make it a few days before and store it in the fridge until ready to use.  Let it come to room temperature so that it’s not as thick.

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Pineapple Cranberry Sauce


Cranberry season is coming to a close, so I had to post one last recipe!  This is twist on your typical cranberry sauce.  Since it’s fairly easy, I just keep it on the back burner while I’m making other things.  I meant this to be a side dish, but I ended up eating a whole bowl of it with walnuts on top.  I also put it with some vanilla frozen yogurt, and that was delicious!

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Goat cheese with Herbs de Provence Spread


A little while back, my friend went to France and brought back Herbs de Provence (so exciting!).   So of course, they sat on my counter begging to be used for all of 2 days before I obliged.  This is a pretty simple and quick recipe that tastes wonderful spread on bread or crackers.   I made it day before I wanted to use it so that the flavors would really settle in.  Also, I stored it in the fridge and it stayed good for about a week (till I finished it that is!).

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