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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Zucchini Noodles in Light Cream Sauce


zucchini-noodles-in-light-cream-sauceThanks to my vegetable spiralizer, this whole dish took less than 10 minutes! Spiralized zucchini is an awesome substitute for spaghetti. I like it in light sauces that don’t weigh down the zucchini. The best part of this dish is that it is so versatile.  I used basil to add flavor since it’s growing on my balcony, but mint, oregano, rosemary, etc would also taste great. You can also add chopped nuts (pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc) if you want more flavor and texture.

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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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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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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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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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Chunky Bread Salad


Bread SaladThis salad is inspired by multiple delicious panzanella salads I’ve had over the years.  It’s not actually a panzanella salad because it deviates from the traditional ingredients and process, so I’m going with “Chunky Bread Salad.”  I love how easy this salad is to throw together, especially if you make the Spicy Sourdough Croutons ahead of time.

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Spicy Sourdough Croutons


Spicy Sourdough CroutonsYou may never want to buy croutons again… These are super easy to make and soooo addictive!  I end up making extra because I know I’m probably going to eat half of them before they ever make it to the soup or salad.  If you don’t have day old bread, you can dry it out by cutting the cubes and then heating them in the oven at 200 F for a few minutes.  Also, these croutons freeze really well- just take them out of the freezer long enough to allow them to come to room temperature.

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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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Lavender Lemon Ricotta Cookies


Lemon Lavender Ricotta CookiesLast weekend, Three Shepherds Farm came to the cooking school to teach cheese making and it was amazing!  The whole milk ricotta had such a great taste and texture, that I ended up eating a lot fresh (in salads, with fruits, etc).   I flew through what was made in class, and ended up making another batch myself.  Turns out ricotta isn’t too hard to make at home- which means I am totally making fresh ricotta from now on!  So after the second batch, I found myself with some left in the fridge.  I decided to experiment with ricotta cookies… I tried a bunch of different flavors and recipes: pumpkin (couldn’t resist!) orange (which was good, but didn’t feel as light as the lemon ones), and plain lemon (good, but something was missing).  I ended up loving the lemon ones with a bit of lavender- and that’s the recipe below!  It sounds a bit fussy, but I found the quantities and steps really affected the outcome.  I kept the cookies in an air tight container and they retained the softness and texture, and I’m on Day 5… =)

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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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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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Marinated Mozzarella


What’s better than mozzarella? Marinated mozzarella!!!  I love adding these marinated mozzarella balls to salads (I don’t need dressing then), sliced on top of pizza, on top of crackers, or even just plain.  The best part is that it is relatively easy to make and stays good for a while!  Also, you can make it a few days before you need it- actually, you should since the flavor gets better with time. 

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Eggplant Parmesan (baked, not fried!)


I’m baaaack!  Many apologies for not posting in such a long time, I was having major computer issues… But, I’m back and have collected many, many recipes in the last 2 months!  I’m jumping back in with eggplant parmesan since I made that for dinner today.  The difference between the recipe below and most others is that I didn’t fry the eggplant slices- instead I baked them.   The best part is, I think it actually tastes better this way!  Also, I like adding spinach to it.  Making the eggplant slices is time-consuming, so I tend to make 2 trays at a time and freeze/keep one of the trays before baking for another day- the quantities in the recipe below reflects this double recipe.

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Pumpkin Feast (Vegetarian)


A few weeks ago my sister and her fiance threw a surprise birthday party for me- and the second best part (first best being everyone coming of course!) was that it was pumpkin themed!!!  The really amazing thing was that there was such a wide variety of dishes, appetizers, main dishes, desserts, drinks, etc.- and all vegetarian!  I was completely blown away by the variety- hence calling the post “Pumpkin Feast.”  

Sadly, in the shock of being surprised, I forgot to take pictures, but take my word for it- every single thing was delicious and I highly highly recommend them.  The menu is below and as I get the links from people, I’ll connect them.

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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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Summer Picnic


This is an extremely belated post since it is from the picnic we had for Mother’s Day.  So, although Mother’s Day is gone, the dishes we made for the picnic are great summer foods.  We decided to have a variety of salads and dips instead of one main dish, and we were definitely stuffed when it was over!  Some of the things we picked up from Trader Joe’s, but the rest we made at home.

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5 Bean Salad


I generally don’t feel like eating big meals in summer, so this is a great salad since it’s marinated, cool, and filling.   It’s very easy to modify based on how much work you want to do (dried vs canned beans) and what kinds of beans you like.  I used dried canary beans, volcano beans, great northern beans, anasazi beans, and adzuki beans (all bought from Whole Foods).  You could just as easily used kidney beans, black beans, pink beans, etc.  Just remember that if you use canned beans, you should use ~1.5 cups of each since the measurements I have below (1/2 cup each) are for dried beans.

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Sun Dried Tomato and Spinach Bread


This bread came about because I was going through the fridge and found a jar of marinated sun dried tomatoes and thought it would be great to center a bread around them.   I always like the combination of spinach and sun dried tomatoes, so that’s what this bread incorporates.  Also, since we have a bread machine, I used it to make the whole process easier, but it’s totally doable without one.   If you aren’t using a bread machine, you can knead the dough by hand until it’s smooth and elasticy and you can let it rise in a warm place for 3-4 hours (Steps 3 and 4).

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Polenta with Mushrooms and Spinach


I was doing my weekly grocery run at Trader Joe’s, and their pre-made polenta caught my eye.  If you’ve never had polenta before, it’s a dish that is made from cornmeal and can be firm or soft.  The best part is that you can eat it pretty much any way you want.  The polenta from Trader Joe’s is firm and comes in a log that is easy to slice and use.  I happened to have mushrooms and spinach in my fridge, so that’s how this dish came about!

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Zucchini Cupcakes with Lemon Basil Frosting


To all of you who requested this recipe, sorry for taking so long to post it!  I had this cupcake for the first time on a Cupcake Crawl.  It was such a unique combination, so I had to try to make it at home.  It’s not exactly the same since I don’t know their recipe, but it still tastes good!  The frosting is really light and gives it a good flavor.  Since the icing is cream/mascarpone based, it needs to be kept in the fridge until an hour or so before you’re ready to serve.


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15-Minute Penne


First off- my apologies for the long lag in posting!  I figured I got enough complaints that I should post something (although to be quite honest, I don’t cook much in summer).  Anyhow, this pasta recipe stems from having very few ingredients in the house.  My biggest time-saving tip is to start the water for the pasta before you cut everything up, since making the pasta probably takes the longest.   The best thing is, if you time it right, you can have dinner ready in 15 mins!

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Tiramisu


My dessert of choice in Italian restaurants!  Also a family favorite.  One year we did a poll of what everyone’s favorite dessert was in my family (which was roughly 30 people spanning ages 7-60+ at the time), and tiramisu won!  Anyhow, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, some people in my family don’t eat eggs,so this recipe does not include egg yolks in the filling like the traditional one.  I have additional notes below for making this egg-less and diabetic friendly.

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Infused Olive Oil


Sometimes the best appetizers are simple bread slices or cubes dipped in infused olive oil.  We’re having guests over for dinner this weekend, and these infused olive oils taste the best if they’ve been sitting for a couple of days, so I decided to make them today.  You can add whichever herbs and spices you have handy or feel like using.  I made 3 types: 1. rosemary-thyme-black pepper-bay leaf, 2. garlic, and 3. pequin pepper.  I also like things pretty heavily flavored, so you can decrease the amount of herbs and spices if you like milder flavors.

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Brown Butter Sage Sauce


As described in my previous post, I made pumpkin ravioli for dinner.  I wanted a simple sauce to go with it, and I’ve always wanted to try a brown butter sage sauce.  This was my first time making it, and I added WAY too much sage (lesson learned, too much sage makes it slightly bitter).  The recipe below reflects what I should have added, so it will be okay if you follow it.

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