The Purple Nurple Smoothie

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I’ve been making the same morning smoothie for years now, literally probably 4 years now.  It has never gotten boring, and when I found out I didn’t have the ingredients for it the other morning, I was in shock.  I had run out of my protein powder (yes, I like protein powder).  So, I started Google searching, like any normal person, for a “protein packed smoothie.”  I continuously noticed that people were putting oats into these “protein” smoothies. So, logically I took my old smoothie recipe and added oats to it.  BAD IDEA.  It was disgusting, it lacked flavor, and it was a terrible texture.  I almost didn’t drink it.

Smoothie 1

So, came the experimenting.  I thought for sweetness lets add some berries.  Still it wasn’t thick enough and the oats really just over powered the entire flavor.  Then I thought lets add yogurt for thickness, I pretty much hate flavored yogurt’s.  They taste unnatural to me, and they have a ton of sugar.  Downside is that plain yogurt is very bitter.  So now my smoothies tasted like oats and bitter yogurt.

Finally I found the smoothie I was looking for, and let me tell you once I got my protein powder back I kept with this smoothie, minus the oats.

The Purple Nurple Smoothie:

–  ½ cup Almond Milk (unsweetened, original)

–  ½ cup plain yogurt

–  1 banana

–  1 cup frozen berries (or fresh, I used a mix of berries)

–  1 tbsp. peanut butter

–  ½ teaspoon honey (again I’m not a sweet person so taste and add more!)

–  ½ cup of oats

Smoothie 2

Throw it in the blender, and walla a beautiful purple breakfast smoothie.

A nice thick, yet slurpable smoothie.  The balance of oats to liquids makes the oat texture not so apparent, while the banana balances it for an even smoother texture.  The berries, honey, and peanut butter add a nice sweetness with lots of antioxidants and protein!

*My true smoothie recipe that I’ve been making for four years will be coming soon.

Homemade English Toffee (F.E.S.B.)

Where to even begin… Well it’s not that I haven’t been baking, because truth is I’ve been baking up a storm.  I just simply haven’t had time to take photos, edit them, and then write a whole blog post on them.  These 9 to 5 jobs really take it out of you.

My boyfriend, Thomas, came to visit NY for about 10 days.  We went all over the city exploring museums, restaurants, bars, and more.  Something that stuck with me was this instance at Dylan’s Candy Bar.  I took Thomas and our friend Josh to Dylan’s Candy Bar as a New York experience.  We were wondering around when we came to the chocolate area.  We just had a tester and as he turned to the prepared chocolate area with the chocolate covered pretzels, and what not when Thomas saw English Toffee.  He immediately wanted a piece.  This is something I did not know about Thomas, I had no idea he loved English Toffee.  We got him a piece and oh boy did he savor it.

As you all know I am not a sweets fan, and English Toffee is really not up my alley because of how sweet it is.  None-the-less, I decided, as I have never made English Toffee to give it a whirl.  I may be wrong on this, but it seems fairly basic in that you make the toffee and then you can top it as wanted – chocolate, nuts, maybe some candied fruit, whatever catches your fancy.

English Toffee

It was fairly basic, except that you need to have a candy thermometer, which at least in my experience is not a common household item, only common in households that bake.

I used Tutti Dolci’s recipe.  I will say that I thought the toffee would spread over the whole baking sheet.  Mine spread over about half, and it was on the thinner side of what I’ve seen English Toffee pieces look like.

English Toffee

1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp whiskey
1/8 tsp flaky sea salt
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the butter, sugars, whiskey, and sea salt in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture reaches 250ºF. Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 300ºF, then immediately pour mixture out on prepared baking sheet and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Place baking sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes to set toffee. (* I recommend folding down the edges of your parchment paper, or cutting it off as to let it catch on the freezer, or items in your freezer).

Place chocolate in a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally until glossy and smooth. (* I used a microwave and just microwaved the chocolate for a minute and then 30 seconds stirring in between sessions until smooth.) Pour melted chocolate over cooled toffee layer and spread with an offset spatula into an even layer; sprinkle with chopped almonds and pecans. Let chocolate set completely, then break toffee into pieces. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

It really only took about 30 minutes! I couldn’t believe it.  I made about two ziplock containers worth of English Toffee.  I brought one to work and it was gone by mid day.  The second one I have slowly been handing out to people I go to dinner or drinks with.  Got to share the love you know.

Soft Molasses Ginger Cookies

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What’s better on a cold rainy winter day than some warm cookies and milk?  Well, healthy cookies and almond milk some might argue.  I stumbled upon a recipe that I just couldn’t resist making,  “Soft Molasses Coconut Oil Crinkle Cookies.”  I am a huge fan of coconut oil, I love to cook with it, and I couldn’t image being able to bake with it as well.  So, I put it to the test.

As the recipe from “Averie Cooks” states it is important to remember that these cookies need to be refrigerated before being baked so that the coconut oil may harden, if you skip this test you will rather thin hard cookies.  But, it’s always up to you.   The nice part is they can stay in the fridge for up to 5 days, so you can make these on a weekend or week day evening and then pop them in the oven later!

These cookies were a huge hit at the office.  They are soft, chewy, have a nice zing to them, and the cinnamon sugar puts just the right amount of sweet on them.  I have to say, I may have eaten three myself!

Soft Molasses Cookies

I adapted the recipe from Averie Cooks as I was out of ground ginger, and added salt!

INGREDIENTS:

Cookies:

1 large egg

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup coconut oil in liquid state, about 4 large tablespoons melted.

1/3 cup unsulphured molasses (I used Grandma’s Original Unsulphured Molasses)

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Cinnamon-Sugar Coating:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

Soft Molasses Cookies

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the egg, brown sugar, coconut oil, molasses, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-mixed and smooth.  The mixture will become nice and glossy.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.  Beat on medium-high speed until combined, about a minute.
  3. Now add the flour, baking soda, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. If needed scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Using a cookie scoop make 1 – 2 tablespoon balls, I like my cookies smaller so I used 1 tablespoon balls.  Place balls on a large plate, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Do not bake right away because the coconut oil needs to harden first.
  5. When ready to bake preheat oven to 350F, and spray your cookie sheets with cooking spray.
  6.  For the sugar coating add granulated sugar and cinnamon to a small bowl and stir to combine.
  7. Roll each ball of dough in the coating making sure to get all the nooks and crannies.
  8. Place coated mounds on baking sheets spaces about 1.5 inches apart.  Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.  The cookies will be soft, but they will harden as they cool.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet, I sprinkled the rest of the sugar coating on top of my cookies now.  After 5 minutes, once the cookies have hardened move to a cooling rack!
  9. Eat as many as you can!

Pecan Pie Bars – ‘Tis the Season

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‘Tis the season to switch from summer fruits, to winter fruits, warm apple pies, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, all warm and fresh from the oven.  As I missed apple season, and I didn’t get my hands on a fresh pumpkin yet, I decided to use what was available to me – pecans.  They seem to be everywhere right now.

Now, some of you may know this, but I don’t like dessert.  I don’t mean that I will never eat it, I just don’t crave it.  So, in thinking about baking I have to think of whom I will be giving it to since I won’t eat it.  Pie is great, but I have to find a gathering of people in which to present it so that it will be finished in a timely manner.  Otherwise, I always go for bars and cookies.  Easy to give to many people, great as a dessert for the office, and let’s be honest who doesn’t love a nice shortbread bottom.

pecan pie bars in a bowlThat’s how I came to the decision to make Pecan Pie Bars.  I wanted to give them to my office, and then to my sister as well.  I some how am still left over with about a dozen or so bars, oyy.

I searched FoodGawker for some time, my main source for inspiration and recipes and came across a recipe I fell in love with because of its short bread crust from I Wash You Dry.  It was quick, easy, and I had all the ingredients at home already! One of my F.E.S.B. recipes.

Here is the recipe from “I Wash You Dry”.  Seriously if you have any occasion to bake these, do it.  I ate three, and I am not a dessert lover.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into tiny pieces
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Filling

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2/3 cups honey
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp whipping cream
  • 3 cups pecan halves

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9″x13″ baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine the ingredients for the crust. Use your hands or a pastry cutter to combine, until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into the baking dish, and press into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile in a large (3 quart size) pot combine 1 cup of butter with 2/3 cups honey and 1 cup of brown sugar over medium high heat. Stir and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately, but slowly, stir in the whipping cream. It will begin to sputter, so use caution.
  4. Add the pecans to the pot and stir to coat. Pour the mixture over the crust and spread to an even layer. Bake for an additional 20-22 minutes or until the caramel is soft set in the middle. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

Stacks of pecan pie bars

Cinnamon Soft Pretzels

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So.  This is not the first time I have attempted to make pretzels.  The very first time it was a huge success they were your basic soft pretzel.  We made some fun dipping sauces.  The second time I made them I must have not let the dough raise enough because the pretzels turned out very thin.  As a bread lover though, they still tasted great.  This was my third time making pretzels, they are not the most beautiful pretzels, but they are delicious.

IMG_3623There are two tips, or key points, that I have learned about making pretzels.  The first is that the shape is in an art in and of it self, and that is something I have not mastered yet.  The second is that letting the yeast raise, and treating it correctly is crucial.

The pretzels I made today are sweet, sweet, sweet.  They are cinnamon sugar pretzels made with whole wheat flour.  I used the recipe from Blissful Basil.  I had one correction though she did not list how much Baking Soda to use. I used 2/3 cup and I used warm water to dissolve the baking soda in the water.

IMG_3626

Being a Pretzel Connoisseur myself, these are up on my list of some of the best soft sweet pretzel recipes.

Orzo Veggie Salad: For Those Hot Summer Nights

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My roommate taught me how to make this in college, and now whenever I want a little bit of pasta, or I’m in a pinch of what to bring to a party, I make this.  It’s super fast, super simple, and easy to make using what’s already in your fridge. It also happens to be light in flavor, and pretty healthy.  Just my type of pasta salad, because I think orzo is technically a pasta, right?

The basics of this salad are orzo, roasted vegetables, and a lemon oil dressing. The roasted vegetables I love to use are peppers (red and orange), asparagus, and red onion.  I’ve thrown some mushrooms, broccoli, and other vegetables in before too.

The PrepThe recipe feeds about 6 people as a side pasta salad.

– 1 bag of Orzo (I use Trader Joe’s)

– 1 bunch of asparagus chopped into about 1 inch pieces

– Two peppers chopped into 1 inch pieces

– 1 small red onion chopped into 1 inch pieces

– 5 small lemons

– 1/3 cup olive oil plus 1 -2  tablespoons

– Salt and Pepper

1.  Turn the oven onto 400 F.  Chop all of the vegetables and lay out on a cookie sheet covered with tin foil.  Toss the vegetables in 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 – 30 mins until nice and soft, but not burnt.

2. Turn on a pot of water for the Orzo.  Follow instructions on your packet of pasta.

Roasted Veggies3. While the vegetables are roasting and the water is boiling make the dressing. Take 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1/3 cup of lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix.  Taste until you have the right mixture for you.  I like it very lemony and salty so I use about 1 teaspoon of salt. I also like to add a little garlic salt.

4.  When pasta is done drain and put into serving bowl.  Pour half the dressing in with the Orzo and toss.

5. When the vegetables are done pour into the Orzo, pour the rest of the dressing and toss.  Add salt and pepper as needed.

Orzo Veggie SaladThis salad is best served at room temperature or if you are BBQing it’s great cold.  That’s why the leftovers are fantastic everything has soaked up the dressing and it’s just delightful. I eat this all year round, but then again I live in CA it never gets that cold here.

Hot Bird … A Bar with BBQ

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The reason I have been so MIA lately is that I have been working and visiting my sister and friends in New York.  Some of you may question why I chose to go to New York in the height of summer … When you get offered a cheap flight, you take it.

The last time I saw sister we went to this bar called Hot Bird, which is about a block and a half from her apartment. It is crucial to have some sort of watering hole within a 5 block, radius for those nights you just want a drink, and you don’t want to make an effort.

Hot Bird, to me at least, is a very special bar for a variety of reasons.  I can’t say there is a first because to me all of these reasons are of equal importance.  We’ll begin with the fact that there is a large fire pit in the outside portion of the bar.  This is perfect for the fall nights when it’s chilly, in the winter it is simply too cold.  The next reason this bar is amazing is that it allows one to bring in food from the neighboring BBQ shop, Little Brother’s BBQ.  Little Brother's BBQWhen I first went to Hot Bird, Little Brother’s BBQ was actually delivering the food into Hot Bird.  I’m assuming there were some legal issues with this and that stopped, but one is still allowed to bring the BBQ inside and eat it.  BBQ and craft beer make for an excellent combination. Lastly, Hot Bird has some great craft beers and great prices.

Dogfish Festina PecheOn my last trip there we went for late night beers, so BBQ was closed, although I had been craving it.  I tried what I found to be one of my new favorite summer beers – Dogfish Brewery Festina Peche.  It’s tart, crisp, and refreshing in every sense of the word.  So, what do I do when I get back to LA but try to find it.  Lucky for me Bev Mo sells it!

Here’s to hot summer nights filled with beer and BBQ.

Blueberry’s Blueberry’s Blueberry’s – Blueberry Simple Syrup

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So I had quite a few leftover blueberry’s from my blueberry muffins the other morning, and I wanted to make something interesting with them.  I’ve made loaf’s, muffins, and scones before so I was trying to think of something a little bit more out of the box.  Then it came to me – blueberry syrup.  Now, although you could use it as a maple syrup what I mean by syrup in this case is more like a simple syrup.

The Drink and The Syrup

I made the syrup and mixed it up with a little bit of seltzer water and walla, a beautiful afternoon beverage … mix that with a little bit of vodka and I’d be set for a happy hour at my house.

This is the easiest thing to make and really takes seconds of your time.

Blueberry Simple SyrupRecipe:

1 Cup Blueberry’s

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Water

1/2 Lemon Juiced

 

Put all of this into a saucepan and boil.  Once boiling turn to a low simmer and simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes depending on how thick you want it.  Strain the blueberry pieces from the syrup and let cool. Walla Blueberry Simple Syrup. Store in the fridge to make those beverages extra cold.

The Drink

Sweet and Savory Breakfast – Blueberry Muffins and Biscuits and Gravy

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What do you do when you can’t decide between sweet and savory? … I make them both.  I woke up this morning with the need to bake, but I couldn’t decide sweet or savory.  And since whatever I made I’d most likely be feeding to the boys for breakfast, I really couldn’t decide sweet or savory.  So I made both.

This breakfast started with the idea that I wanted both a blueberry muffin, and a biscuit. Now thinking back on it I guess the obvious thing would have been to make blueberry biscuits, but that thought just occurred to me so I’ll save that one for next time.

The Full Deal

I did a quick google search for blueberry muffins and came up with a recipe from one of my favorite bakers – The Smitten Kitchen.  Luckily I had everything I needed for those already in my pantry!

Then I decided that a biscuit wouldn’t be enough of a breakfast, so I went to the extreme measure and made biscuits with turkey sausage gravy. I found this recipe from The Brown Eyed Baker – a new blogger I’d love to go back to!

Biscuits and Gravy

I served up some fresh squeezed orange juice, along with a little bit of Jamaican coffee and bam a beautiful breakfast came together in a matter of an hour.

Happy Sunday!

Arugula Pesto: What To Do If Your Arugula Is About To Go Bad

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So I have been house sitting my parents house this past week, and I got a little over zealous with the amount of food I would be eating at home. I was planning on eating all three meals there most days – but of course that didn’t end up happening. I also tried to go grocery shopping for one which failed miserably – they don’t sell just two sausages and a handful of spinach. What I ended up with was two boxes of arugula, 6 sausages, a loaf of olive bread, a block of cheese, and 8 bananas.

20130624-120115.jpgNow its the end of the week I have 3 sausages, 1 1/2 boxes of arugula, most of the loaf of olive bread and a good 5/6th’s of the block of cheese. What to do, what to do … GRILLED CHEESE. So here is how this went down. I needed to use a lot of the arugula all at once – arugula pesto = arugula done. In order to use more bread and cheese I made open faced grilled cheeses with a thick bread cut. If you toast the bread before it makes it beautifully crispy, and rather light. Lastly I was only able to use 2 sausages, as it was hard to cram more in me with everything else that was going on.

All together that left with me a 1/4 loaf of olive bread and sausage – not bad, not bad at all.

Arugula Pesto with Chicken Sausage Grilled Cheese Recipe:

Arugula Pesto Recipe (Adopted from Set The Table)

20130624-120212.jpg– 3 Cups of arugula (I really stuffed mine in there)

– 4 cloves of garlic (that was a lot but I like it that way, if you don’t like a lot of garlic go for 2 or 3)

– 1/3 cup toasted Pine nuts

– 2/3 cup grated parmesan

– 2/3 cup oil

– Salt, pepper, and a little bit of hot sauce.

Add all of the ingredients before oil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until chopped. Slowly pour the oil in as the machine is on, and cream the mixture. Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce, pulse once or twice until incorporated and WALLA arugula pesto.

20130624-120040.jpgAssembling the grilled cheese:

1. Preheat oven to 450F

2. Cook sausages however instructed – and then cut into thin slices

2. Cut about 3/4in slices of bread (I used olive bread) and toast in the toaster or toaster oven until nice and golden and lightly butter it.

4. Spread the arugula pesto on nice and thick over the bread – getting it in all the nooks and crannies

5. Place sausage slices on top of the pesto and lay then around the bread to your liking.

6. Place cheese slices on top of the chicken – in order to make sure it doesn’t fall off.

7. Place your ungrilled cheese onto a tin foiled baking sheet and place in oven.