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Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes (Gluten Free)

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Valentine’s Day has always been a favorite of mine. 

Indulging in treats and love and flowers and goodies and cards, etc…how could this not be a fabulous day?

My semester has been pretty hectic, and the workload is pretty overwhelming. Valentine’s day came at the perfect time last weekend. It was a sweet respite from my exhausting grad school schedule and my husband’s even more exhausting work schedule. We enjoyed champagne and a gorgeous walk around our neighborhood, even a delicious romantic meal at a fabulous restaurant. The best part to me was our time in the kitchen together. It always is.

We are a great team when it comes to cooking or baking. Gray is an amazing sous-chef and has come quite a long way from his amateur kitchen skills when we first met nearly four years ago. He also deserves an award for dish duty. The man is all about some clean dishes, and I’m thankful for that, especially when I’m experimenting with a new recipe that dirties more dishes than could ever fit in our kitchen sink. He’s a keeper.

I try to bake something different each year for Cupid’s big day, so when Gray was down to take on this molten lava cake endeavor with me I was elated. A few years ago I made delicious cranberry heart-shaped shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate. Last year I think I made raspberry crepes…must not have been that great, because I really can’t remember! This year, however, I was bound and determined to make a chocolate lava cake. The kind that erupts fudgey chocolate as soon as you dig your spoon in the center. The kind that makes you think to yourself, “there’s nothing better than this, right here, right now.”

When I found a simple recipe for lava cakes using coconut flour, I was super excited. A little skeptical, however, since it didn’t call for much sugar and only required two eggs. How could this be?

Let me just be wholeheartedly honest with you.

This is the best dessert I have ever made in my life. 

Here what you’ll need:

(Adapted from Coconut Recipes)

2/3 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

4 tablespoons of coconut oil 

2 eggs

2 whole vanilla bean pods, scraped

1/8 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 teaspoons of dark cocoa powder

1 teaspoon of coconut flour

Half pint of heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and place a medium sized glass bowl in your freezer.

In a medium sized bowl, melt the chocolate chips and coconut together. You can either do this over a double boiler, or you can microwave in 20 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Set aside to cool.

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In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs, scraped seeds from one vanilla bean, salt, and sugar with a hand mixer for five minutes until frothy. Set a timer! Five minutes may seem like a long time, but it’s worth it!

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Pour the egg mixture over the cooled chocolate and sift cocoa and coconut flour on top. Use a spatula to gently fold all of the ingredients together until evenly combined.

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Equally distribute batter into prepared ramekins. You can grease them with coconut oil or non-stick cooking spray of your choice. Just makes sure you grease them well! Each ramekin should be about half-way filled.

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Bake for 11-12 minutes.

While the cakes are baking, prepare the whipped cream.

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Real vanilla beans take this whipped cream over the top. I order mine in bulk online and store them for up to a year in a sealed glass jar. 

Remove the glass mixing bowl from the freezer. Pour cold whipping cream in the chilled bowl. Use a whisk (or hand mixer if you prefer) to beat air into the cream. Once the cream starts to thicken, add the scraped seeds from one vanilla bean and powdered sugar.

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Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks. A chilled bowl and cold cream make this process a lot easier and faster!

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Serve the molten lava cakes immediately. Top with whipped cream and strawberries. If you’re not into dairy, a delicate dusting of powdered sugar would be perfect!

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The center.

Is so.

Fudgey.

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The perimeter of the cakes have a dense sponge cake texture, while the center oozes out fudge that covers every bite in rich melted chocolate.

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This is not something you will enjoy sharing. The question “can I have a bite?” will quickly be answered with a stern “NO!”

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I love my forever valentine, but he had to have his own cake for this special dessert. Every bite was coveted. I may or may not have licked the ramekin clean. Romantic and classy, right?

Love,

Kelsey

 
7 Comments

Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Sweet Treats

 

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Spaghetti Squash With Roasted Garlic Green Pea & Kale Pesto

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I’m so happy to see the sun shining.

It’s definitely winter here in NC, but lately the afternoons have been a vision. Clear skies with warm sunshine breaking through the chilled air. I love it. It reminds me of spring time. I’m looking forward to my first trip to the nursery in just a few months to revamp my desolate patio garden. I’m excited to stash heavy blankets on the top shelf of the linen closet, to turn off the AC unit. and to open the windows to welcome fresh spring air. But, as my mom always used to say…”patience is a virtue.”

While not-so-patiently waiting for the seasons to change, I’ve been experimenting with some fun vibrant colors in my kitchen. Comfort food is great, but for times like these, I crave a little color and freshness to balance out all the heavy winter meals. I think it’s good for the soul.

This was my first attempt at any sort of pesto alternative. I was pleased. My basil plant is all dried twigs right now. Looking out my kitchen window I see it everyday and convince myself it will come back to life. I’m a dreamer.

That being said, my basil supply was scarce and store-bought, so the pesto needed a little extra volume. Green peas and kale create the most beautiful bright green color, like summer grass or tulip stems. A picture truly doesn’t do it justice. I slowly roasted a head of garlic to add depth of flavor and warmth to the pesto while also inviting a few traditional ingredients to the party like fresh basil, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.

This recipe makes about 16 ounces of pesto. I stored mine in the fridge sealed in a mason jar. I tossed a few heaping spoonfuls of the finished pesto with warm roasted spaghetti squash. Once again, the color is fab. The flavor – that’s on a whole different level. Similar to traditional pasta tossed in basil pesto, this dish is warm and comforting. The pesto coats each “squash” spaghetti noodle without weighing it down like a heavy cream sauce would. Sweet hints from the green peas and caramelized roasted garlic, salty nuttiness from the parmesan, and brightness from a little lemon zest and basil bring it all together to make a perfectly satisfying wholesome meal.


I’ve had a lot of readers ask me what’s the easiest (and safest) way to cut a spaghetti squash. I like to poke holes in the squash, like I would if I was going to microwave a potato. Microwave the entire squash for 5 minutes. This will help make it a little softer for cutting. Use a large sharp serrated knife to cut through the squash lengthwise. If it’s still pretty tough and you have a knife longer than the length of your squash, you can use this method: use a mallet (or rolling pin) to tap tap tap down on the end of the knife. Keep tapping until you break all the way through.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 head of garlic, roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper

1 cup of green peas

2 heaping cups of kale, large stems removed

1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup of fresh basil 

1/4 teaspoon of white pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4-1/3 cup of olive oil

1 large spaghetti squash

About 1 tablespoon of olive oil 

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1/2 teaspoon of dried basil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Trim about 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic head so that all of the cloves are exposed.

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Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of good olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper.

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Using two layers of foil, wrap the garlic head bunching the foil at the top.

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Roast for about 1 hour. Don’t turn the oven off! Allow to cool, then squeeze out the garlicy goodness, which will be the consistency of thick paste.

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Next add roasted garlic, peas, kale, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, basil, pepper, and salt to a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time, processing after each addition of oil, until smooth.

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Carefully cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise and discard the seeds. Season with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried basil.

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Bake face down on a foil-lined baking sheet for 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is very tender.

Use a fork to scrape out all of the strands of squash.

Toss with about 1/4 cup of pesto and dig in!

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I like to eat mine with a few slices of fresh sweet tomatoes. My husband likes his with spicy jalepeno chicken sausage. However you choose to eat it, enjoy doing it :)

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The pesto sauce can be stored in the fridge sealed in an airtight container for future use on pizza, pasta, potatoes, sandwiches…the options are endless! Pop it in a cute mason jar tied with a bow, and voilà, you’ve got yourself the perfect hostess gift.

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- Kelsey

 

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Vegetarian

 

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Mediterranean Shrimp & Fennel Over Pearled Barley

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Because traditional meals can be boring…

My husband joked the other night that I’ve never made a recipe twice. He’s kind of right. I get bored making the some old same old. Life is too short to eat the same thing for dinner. Now don’t get me wrong, if I like something, I definitely stick to it and make it often. But when it comes to main meals, I like to play around a bit.

The other night I was really craving some Mediterranean food. Living a new city makes things a little difficult when you are trying to quickly find the perfect restaurant to clench your craving – living on a budget in a new city makes things even more difficult, right?

So I don’t back down. I like a challenge.

What I love about this dish is that pretty much everything I needed to make it was already in my fridge or pantry. Mediterranean food is not complicated. Everyday spices and flavors come together to make a rich and savory masterpiece in your very own kitchen.

Before you skip over this recipe and turn up your nose to the thought of fennel, just wait! Contrary to popular belief, fennel actually tastes super good. Raw fennel? It tastes and smells like licorice. Slow cooked caramelized fennel tastes completely different. The flavor becomes more delicate and the texture softens. If you want absolutely nothing to do with anise flavor, omit the fronds from the tomato sauce. I won’t mind.

This recipe started with tender pearled barley cooked in vegetable stock and scented with fresh fragrant parsley. Then came the sauce. The sauce of all sauces. Layered with flavors of rich tomato, sweet fennel, and salty capers. I slowly cooked the shrimp in the bubbling tomato sauce and topped it all with tangy feta. Voila! An easy, bold, and wholesome meal that is far from boring and nothing short of tremendously delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need:

(Adapted from Eating Well)

For the barley:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 1/2 cups of pearled barley

1 small onion, finely diced

3 cups of organic vegetable stock 

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/3 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

For the fennel and shrimp:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, cored and cut into 2-inch long strips, reserve the fronds

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 15-ounce can of organic roasted tomatoes (you can also roast your own)

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

1 pound of peeled and deveined raw shrimp (20/30 count)

2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese

For the barley:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add the barley and stir to coat with hot oil until the barley is lightly toasted; the grains will turn slightly opaque just before browning.

Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft.

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Add the vegetable broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil then cover and cook over low heat until the broth is absorbed and the grains are tender.

Fluff the barley with a fork and fold in the fresh parsley right before serving.

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For the fennel and shrimp:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the fennel to sauté. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar. The sugar will help the fennel caramelize in the pan. 

Cook the fennel for about 6-8 minutes until it starts to turn golden brown and is tender.

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Add tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, and cumin. Cook for about 2 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and fragrant.

Add the shrimp, stirring occasionally until they are pink in color and cooked through (about 3-4 minutes).

Stir in the capers and reserved fennel fronds if you desire. The fronds add a delicate anise flavor that you won’t get from the sautéed fennel and they add a vibrant hint of color.

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Serve the fennel and shrimp over a hearty bed of barley. Top with crumbles of feta cheese and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

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Enjoy with crusty bread and a lovely glass (or two) of wine, of course.

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- Kelsey

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 29, 2015 in From the Sea

 

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Banana Nut Cranberry Granola Protein Bars

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I could go on for days about my favorite clean protein and granola bars.

It’s so much easier than it used to be to find a bar made with real ingredients that will actually satisfy your hunger longer than the time it takes to eat it. I always seem to have one in my purse, in the dashboard of my car, and especially in my book bag (shout out to my 7:10-10:30PM class on Monday nights heyyyyy!).

I can’t go super long periods of time without eating, and by super long I mean about two hours tops. Fruit and nuts are great go-to fillers, but what about when I need something a little more satisfying? The thing is, there are products out there, but in all honestly, that stuff gets expensive! In true StrawberryMint fashion, I decided to make a granola protein bar that tastes good, travels well, and fills me up with only wholesome, real ingredients.

What I like about these bars is that they’re super versatile. You can pretty much add whatever you have in your pantry or whatever you’re craving most. I recommend mini dark chocolate chips and dried cherries for a healthy treat on the sweet side. If you want extra protein and crunch, add a variety of nuts – toast them for a few minutes in a dry sauté pan over medium heat to pump up the flavor volume. Coconut flakes, dried blueberries, or even pepitas (pumpkin seeds) would be delish, too.

This particular recipe started with a bunch of super hearty oats. I you only have quick oats on hand, that’s perfectly fine. I like using multigrain oats with rye, barley, and wheat for some additional substance and texture. Ground flax seed adds fiber and omega-3 essential fatty acids that you won’t always find in even the cleanest store-bought granola bars. I add a scoop of my favorite protein powder, which helps to tame my hunger and fight off snacking temptations throughout the day. The struggle is real, y’all. 

Ripe bananas and maple syrup add a layer of sweetness without making the bar taste like dessert. Hints of cinnamon and nutmeg with dried cranberries and slivered almonds bring everything together to form a delicious, nutritious, and flavorful granola bar packed with hunger-satisfying protein. The texture is similar to that of a Clif Bar – soft, but firm, and pleasantly chewy. Perfect for on-the-go snacking and makes a great companion to a hot mug of coffee or tea.


Here’s what you’ll need:

3 cups of oats (I use Trader Joe’s Organic Multigrain Oats with rye, barely, oats, and wheat)

1/4 cup of flax seed, ground into flour consistency

1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (optional; I use SunWarrior Raw Vegan Protein)

2 medium bananas, mashed

1/4 cup of good quality maple syrup (grade A is preferable) 

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/3 cup of raw slivered almonds

1/3 cup of dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine oats, ground flax seed, and protein powder.

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In a smaller bowl, mash bananas and stir in maple syrup, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

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Transfer wet mixture to oat mixture and stir thoroughly until everything is moist. Then fold in nuts and cranberries.

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In a well greased or lined 8×8 pan, use your hands to firmly press in the mixture, paying close attention to the edges.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes until firm. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and slice into bars to cool completely.

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Store the bars in an airtight container. They will also freeze nicely! :)

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This recipe will make about 10 good sized bars. Each bar has 170 calories, 3.3 grams of fat, 5.1 grams of fiber, 8.1 grams of sugar, and 6.1 grams of protein.

Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
13 Comments

Posted by on January 19, 2015 in Morning Glories

 

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Pompe Disease & Prayers for Paul

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So this is far from a recipe post…

As I said at the beginning of this year, my goal is to be more authentic with my readers. I have so much love for the blogging community. So many of you feel like old friends that I’ve never even had the chance of meeting. Not many times in life can we connect with people who share the same interests and passions as ourselves in such a convenient and meaningful way. I am thankful. 

In my attempt to be more authentic, I want to share with you something that has been on my heart. Yesterday, Paul McIntosh, a great guy I went to high school with and a strong athlete/baseball state championship teammate of my husband, publicly shared his diagnosis with Pompe disease. This disease is a very rare form of muscular dystrophy that is always progressive and often debilitating. There is no cure. 

The only treatment option for this disease is a very expensive therapy, and without it, most people with the disease progress to the point of requiring a wheelchair and mechanical ventilation. Paul gives a more thorough explanation of this disease and his story here.

I’m sharing this with you today because Paul is planning to do something pretty amazing, and he needs our help. 

Paul will be running in the Tobacco Road Marathon on March 15th of this year. He is dedicating the 26.2 miles he will be running to advocate and raise funds for those living with this extremely rare disease. All the money Paul raises will go towards the UPF fund to help members of the Pompe community with their Pompe-related needs and expenses.

With such a rare disease, funding is not readily available for those who need it most and awareness is typically not widespread. Paul is passionate about using his diagnosis to advocate and serve others like him. He is studying medicine and will be an incredible doctor one day.

Here are a few things you can do to help:

1Pray for Paul and his journey

For physical and mental strength as he prepares and trains for his marathon; for perseverance when difficult times arise; for avenues of advocacy and support to arise for Paul as he desires to care for those with neuromuscular diseases such as Pompe; for medical advances so that one day soon, Pompe disease will be better understood and ultimately curable.

2. Donate to Paul’s fundraiser here

Paul has partnered with a non-profit organization, the United Pompe Foundation, to raise money for his cause. His goal is $12,000, and I believe we can exceed this. In Paul’s words: “I ask you to donate to this cause. I will be running 26.2 miles during the marathon, and I encourage you to donate whatever you feel led to give, even if it’s just 50¢ or $2 per mile. Please know that your donation will immeasurably benefit and support others who suffer from this degenerative disease. All donations are greatly appreciated (and tax deductible)! And remember, “Together We Are Strong.”

Thanks for reading this post. Hopefully now you know a little more about a disease that not many people have ever heard of. I know I do. Hopefully something stirred in your heart to move to action – whether that be through prayer or financial support.

With lots of love and appreciation,

Kelsey

 
5 Comments

Posted by on January 17, 2015 in Sweet Treats

 

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Healthy Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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My chocolate consumption is semi-problematic.

I’m a snacker. My husband is a three solid meals a day kind of guy, I, on the other hand, am a 37 snacks and eating whenever possible kind of girl. I eat throughout the day, and while most of my snacks are healthy and nutritious, I can’t say I’ve ever gone a full day without a little chocolate.

Thankfully, dark chocolate actually has some pretty positive health benefits. Do I only eat dark chocolate you ask? That’s a negative.

I believe a lot of people struggle with healthy eating and weight loss/maintaining weight loss because of DEPRIVATION. When you tell your body no, it often will keep bugging you until it’s almost impossible to not give in. I want chocolate a lot, but my body doesn’t need a lot of it. Dilemma? No way.

Here’s my tip – if you want something that isn’t super healthy, first try to find a way to change it up a bit. Craving pizza? Make it on the stovetop with a tortilla to cut out extra carbs and calories. Dying to indulge in a donut? Bake, don’t fry. Add fruit for extra vitamins and health benefits. What about french fries? My weakness! Try crunchifying veggies instead of frying white potatoes for a smarter alternative.

This brownie recipe will easily cure any chocolate craving without all the bad stuff. It’s bound with coconut flour, which creates a super dense and fudgey texture. Extra dark cocoa powder adds lovely antioxidants while the agave nectar gives just enough sweetness without making the brownies taste too sugary.


Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cup of coconut flour

1/2 cup of organic dark (or extra dark) cocoa powder

1/2 cup of coconut oil, melted

2 tablespoons of ghee, melted

3 eggs

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of agave nectar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of salt

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Whisk together coconut flour and cocoa powder until evenly combined.

With an electric mixer, mix coconut oil, ghee, eggs, agave, vanilla, and salt. Be careful not to mix eggs with melted oil/ghee when it’s hot. Allow the oil/ghee to slightly cool before mixing with eggs to avoid scrambling the eggs.

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Transfer the brownie batter to a greased 8×8 glass baking dish.

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Bake the brownies for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the brownies to cool before slicing.

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Then eat and enjoy knowing you just totally dissed that nasty box of pre-made brownie mix. You just stepped on the notion that brownies and fudgey chocolate should be avoided at all costs. You just demolished the idea that dessert is a no-no.

Eat. And Enjoy.

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- Kelsey

 
9 Comments

Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Sweet Treats

 

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Vanilla Orange Chia Pudding

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Here I am once again, jumping on the bandwagon. 

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you haven’t been able to avoid the rave about chia pudding. I was confused at first. Is this dessert pudding? Does it actually taste like pudding? What the heck am I supposed to do with it?

So I did some research.

Chia pudding is the consistency of tapioca pudding. It is often made with almond milk or coconut milk, which makes it a convenient vegan snack with tons of protein, fiber, and nutrients from the great and powerful chia seed.

It think the reason chai pudding is so popular, aside from it’s super duper nutritional content, is the simplicity of the recipe. All it takes is a “milk” base, chia seeds, and just about as much creativity as you’d like for flavoring. When you allow chia seeds to hang out overnight with liquid (almond milk in my case), they expand and soften, which is responsible for creating the thick pudding consistency.

I made my first chia pudding with fresh vanilla beans and fragrant orange zest. I love that combination for some reason. It’s kind of exotic, a little Tahitian tropical, I think. A flavor combo you seem to find most often at fancy restaurants with gourmet custards or French pastry creams.

I’ve been topping my vanilla citrus pudding with bananas, toasted nuts, granola, fresh berries, dried apricots…just about anything has been good to me! I was shocked the first time I had this pudding and felt so energized and re-fueled. Ancient Aztecs used to use chia seeds to fuel performance. That’s one reason I love this pudding right before (or even after) a good workout. It fills you up and gives you so much energy to conquer even your toughest sweat sesh or busy day at work.


Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups of plain, unsweetened almond milk

2/3 cup of chia seeds

Two vanilla bean pods, scraped and insides removed

About 1 teaspoon of orange zest

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1-2 teaspoons of agave nectar or honey (optional depending on desired sweetness)

In a large mason jar or resealable container, combine all of the ingredients.

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Fresh vanilla is so important for this recipe. The fragrance and flavor that comes from all the tiny little black beans does wonders for this pudding.

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Seal the container tightly and shake vigorously for about 10-20 seconds until everything is combined and evenly dispersed throughout the almond milk.

Store sealed in the refrigerator overnight.

Your finished product should be the consistency of tapioca pudding.

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Creamy and fresh with warm hints of vanilla and cinnamon complemented by pops of citrusy orange.

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Top with fresh or dried fruit, chopped nuts, coconut flakes, or even your favorite granola. I like mine drizzled with honey for a hint of sweetness.

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Enjoy!

 – Kelsey

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Morning Glories

 

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