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Crispy Baked Asparagus Fries

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Asparagus has always been my favorite vegetable…probably even my favorite food.

In college, when I was cooking for just myself, I had some pretty interesting (unbalanced) meals. I remember countless times steaming a bunch of asparagus and eating the entire thing with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I also remember when I discovered my love for raw asparagus. Recently at my husband’s work Christmas party, I avoided the meat options and made a beeline straight for the vegetable platter, overflowing with untouched super thick raw asparagus spears. I filled my plate and crunched away on one of my favorite delicacies. I was seriously in heaven…FYI, vegetarians typically don’t chose steak houses as their restaurant of choice.

My relationship with asparagus has been long-term. Even as a kid I enjoyed it more than the average adult. I’m really glad I genuinely like it, though, because the health benefits of asparagus are outrageously good. It’s packed with tons of Vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as folate and fiber. Asparagus also has countless antioxidants, making it a cancer fighting power veggie which has also been proven to slow the aging process. Check and mate!

I love this simple recipe because it doesn’t take much to make such a delicious and healthy side dish for any meal. All you need is a few of the basics and crackers – we all have crackers in our pantry, right?

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 bunch of fresh asparagus

1/2 cup of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

3 eggs, beaten

About 10 butter crackers of your choice, crushed

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Clean and prepare the asparagus, cutting off the ends where the stems naturally break when bent (about an inch or so). Dry thoroughly.

Prepare three shallow bowls: one with flour, salt, and pepper; the other with eggs, and the last with medium-fine crushed crackers.

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Lightly coat each asparagus spear with seasoned flour, then dip in the beaten eggs. Lastly, generously cover each spear with crushed cracker crumbs. I pulse my crackers for a few seconds in my food processor for the perfect consistency.

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Arrange the asparagus on a baking rack and bake for 10-12 minutes until the cracker bits are golden brown.

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You could also make this recipe with panko breadcrumbs, but I’ve been there, done that, and I definitely prefer cracker crumbs. They brown up nicely and stay super crunchy which makes for a delicious coating to the tender asparagus.

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The “dippage” options are endless. Ketchup works, according to my husband’s palate, and so does your favorite barbecue sauce or aioli. Mix up some plain greek yogurt with freshly squeezed lemon juice and any fresh herb of your choice for a light and vibrant dipping sauce. You could even mix plain greek yogurt with some sriracha for a little cool and spicy flare.

What’s your favorite way to dip your veggie fries?

- Kelsey

 
8 Comments

Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Sides and Salads

 

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Papaya Power Smoothie

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Since cinnamon rolls have been the staple diet in my house for the past few days, I figured I’d lighten things up a bit with a smoothie recipe.

When my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Antigua, papaya (and rum) were everywhere. Our breakfast plates typically consisted of a whole papaya, fresh eggs, and some type of sweet bread. I loved the papayas in Antigua because they were about the size of a lemon and sweet and juicy as ever. You could slice it open with a butter knife and peel the delicate skin back to reveal the tastiest fruit. Oh how I miss those breakfasts overlooking the Caribbean Sea – not a care in the world other than remembering to reapply sunscreen every few hours on the beach…ahhhh

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Since returning from our honeymoon, my love for papaya has significantly grown. I have luckily been able to find some good ones at my local Trader Joe’s. They’re always ripe and delicious, but they’re not often in stock. Thankfully I found one a few days ago and it was perfect. I can’t say enough about the nutritional value of this fruit. It’s packed with Vitamin A (makes your hair and skin glow!) and Vitamin C and is great source of potassium, folate, and fiber. Papaya is a super low calorie fruit with tons of flavor that works in just about any smoothie, beverage, salad, or even savory dishes.

I love this smoothie because it reminds me of sweet summertime laying by the beach on our honeymoon. Coconut milk adds not only a rich creaminess in texture, but also a distinct tropical flavor that will cure any of your winter blues. Kale gives a huge boost of vitamins and nutrients, and with the papaya, you won’t even know you’re eating a power veggie – you’ll think you’re sipping on a island cocktail.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2/3 cup of ripe papaya, cubed

1/2 cup of kale, thick stems removed

1 small banana 

2-3 tablespoons of coconut milk 

3-4 cubes of ice

Blend all ingredients together until smooth and green specs are no longer visible.

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Add more ice for a thicker smoothie and more coconut milk for a thinner smoothie.

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This green smoothie will give you a little hint of paradise and a whole lot of nutrition for your body.

Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
3 Comments

Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Drinks

 

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Cinnamon Raisin Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

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All things are good in moderation, right?

I’ve known for years now that my husband’s vice is cinnamon rolls. I see him struggle to break his gaze upon the Pillsbury tins when we walk the aisles of the grocery store. I watch his head perk up when we walk past the Cinnabon stand in the mall. Despite his love for these buttery sweet buns of deliciousness, our fridge has never housed the round blue cylinders just waiting to be popped open and stuck in the oven. Nope. I just can’t do it.

If you think I’m being harsh, or going a little overboard, just take a look at the ingredients on the back of a typical cinnamon roll package. Hydrogenated oils, potassium sorbate (preservative), and corn syrup solids just give you a few ideas of what you’ll find/eat. Additionally, ingredients such as ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, and niacin grace this list as well.

I of all people should know we’ve got to indulge a little here and there. I probably like cinnamon rolls just as much as my husband (maybe), and I’d be a total hypocrite to tell you I avoid sugary fatty foods at all costs. BUT I will tell you that I refuse to feed my body these ingredients that have no right to be eaten in the first place. Everything is fine in moderation, but processed chemicals…not so much.

So I had this grand idea to surprise my husband with his favorite treat by making a recipe I had never attempted in my culinary adventures: cinnamon raisin rolls from scratch. Preservative-free and just as delicious with tons of gooey icing.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup of unsweetened plain almond milk 

1/2 cup of salted butter, divided

A heaping 1/2 cup of raisins

1 cup of hot water

1 packet of instant yeast

1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon of cinnamon

3/4 cup of brown sugar

Extra cinnamon and brown sugar for sprinkling the bottom of the dish

For the Icing:

1/4 cup of organic plain cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

2-3 tablespoons of almond milk


In a small saucepan heat the almond milk and 3 tablespoons of butter until the butter has melted. Do not allow the liquid to boil. For a vegan recipe, use dairy-free butter. Margarine or processed butter spread will not work in this recipe. 

Remove the milk mixture from the heat and allow it to cool just until it is no longer too hot to touch. Your liquid must be warm to activate the yeast, but if it’s too hot it will kill the yeast. 

Transfer the milk mixture to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on the yeast. Allow it to activate for about 10 minutes. It should start to bubble. Stir in granulated sugar and salt.

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While the yeast is activating, add raisins and hot water to a small bowl. Let the raisins soak in the water until you’re ready to use them. This will plump up the raisins, making them more tender.

Using a spatula or a dough hook on a standing mixer, add in the flour about a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring with each addition. When the dough is too thick to stir, and after all the flour is added, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until it forms a loose ball. If using a stand mixer, allow the dough hook to knead your dough for a minute or so until it all comes together in one ball of dough. 

Coat a clean mixing bowl with canola oil (coconut oil works too, but it may give your dough a hint of coconut flavor – definitely not a bad thing in my book!) and then set the dough ball in the bottom of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm dark place for about an hour and a half, or until the dough has doubled in size.

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From this…

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to this!

Once the dough has risen, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a large thin rectangle, the two longest sides being about 20 inches in length. Brush with 3 tablespoons of melted butter and top with brown sugar, cinnamon, and strained raisins.

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Starting at one of the long sides of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly and set it seam side down. With a sharp serrated knife or a thin clean string of flavorless floss (I used a sharp wire that I use to slice blocks of cheese) cut the dough into 2 inch sections.

Heavily butter a round pie dish and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Place the rolls in the pan and brush with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for another 30 minutes.

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While your rolls are rising, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Once the rolls have risen, bake for 25-30 minutes, or until slightly golden brown. Your house will smell the way I believe breakfast time will smell in heaven. 

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While the rolls are cooling, make the icing. I suggest my decadent cream cheese icing, or if you want to make this a vegan treat, mix up about a cup of powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of almond milk until the glaze is the consistency you desire. 

For the cream cheese frosting, blend room temperature cream cheese with powdered sugar and almond milk until the icing is thick and creamy. It should slowly drizzle off the back of a spoon.

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One thing I do not like in moderation is icing. I think I like a serving of icing with just a little taste of cinnamon roll.

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I decided to bake two of my rolls in a separate dish so Gray and I could “taste test” last night after dinner. We were quite pleased :)

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You can make these the night before! Just put in your fridge (covered) after you’ve allowed them to rise after cutting them. Bake the next morning and smother with delicious icing for the best breakfast ever.

Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Morning Glories

 

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Sweet Potato Biscuits

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There’s something about making biscuits that makes you feel like the perfect southern homemaker. 

I had to laugh at myself yesterday afternoon as I stood barefoot in my kitchen, apron around my waste, window open, humming a Christmas song stuck in my head while I covered myself (and my kitchen) with flour rolling out biscuit dough. It seemed to me like a movie scene, like I could have been a character in Steel Magnolias.

I’ve actually never made biscuits before yesterday. I can’t even begin to bear the thought of the chunks of lard needed to make those southern classics flakey and delicious. Which is why I was surprised when I asked my husband yesterday what we should do with our bag of sweet potatoes for dinner and he responded: sweet potato biscuits.

What? I’ve never made those! But man do they sound good, right? Then my wheels started turning, and I thought to myself, there must be a way to make these things a little healthier while still being super tasty and comforting. Coconut oil, perhaps? Maybe a little almond milk? Folks, I think we found a winner!

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

3 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of cloves

1/4 cup of cold butter, cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons of coconut oil (solid)

1 large, or 2 small, sweet potatoes (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons of honey or agave nectar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or scraped seeds from the inside of 1 vanilla bean

4 tablespoons of almond milk (unsweetened and plain)


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cloves.

Pulse in butter and coconut oil until flour begins to look grainy and butter is in pea-size pieces.

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Set the flour mixture in the freezer.

Cook the sweet potato(es) in the oven or microwave until soft all the way through. Scoop out the inside into a large bowl, discarding the skins. Add honey or agave and vanilla. Mix on medium speed with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until very smooth. Then add milk and mix on low until just combined.

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Transfer the flour mixture form the freezer into a large mixing bowl. Directly add the sweet potato mixture to the flour mixture and combine with clean hands until the dough begins to form a ball.

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Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and kneed for about 2 minutes until slightly firm and tight.

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Roll the dough until it is about 1/2-3/4 inch in thickness. Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter or the edge of a glass.

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Place on a lined/greased baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes until slightly golden brown.

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You can eat these biscuits any way your heart desires. I like mine with a little slab of sweet cream butter and a drizzle of orange honey.

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I also enjoyed a few Thanksgiving leftovers in between a biscuit for the ultimate sandwich. We had the joy of experiencing three full Thanksgiving meals over this past weekend. The amount of leftovers we had is kind of unsettling. I don’t want to talk about turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, or the like for a long, long time.

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Just add a schmear of plain cream cheese, a dollop of cranberry sauce, and a slab of cooked turkey breast. Warm in the oven for a few minutes and treat yo’self.

Enjoy! And happy biscuit making!

- Kelsey

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 4, 2014 in Breads

 

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Baked Eggplant with Cherry Tomato Balsamic Sauce

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I love an all-veggie meal that doesn’t leave you staring blankly into the fridge after midnight.

I am all about a meatless meal, but sometimes without the meat, the meal can feel more like a light snack. This does not have to be the case. There are countless veggies out there that are just as satisfying to your hunger as other protein-rich meaty options.

Let’s talk about fiber: it’s not just for your grandma.

Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be digested by the body, meaning it cannot be broken down into sugars. Therefore, fiber helps regulate your body’s use of sugars, which allows you to stay full for longer and keeps your blood sugar in check. Yes please!

Eggplant is an excellent source of dietary fiber, and with no fat, 6 carbs, and 27 calories in a 1-cup serving, it makes an exceptional addition to any diet.

I’ve always enjoyed just about any eggplant dish. I love using it as “noodles” for Italian dishes and substituting it for meat to create a healthier, but just as filling and delicious, meal. This dish was created on a whim the other night when it was too cold and stormy for me to make a trip to the grocery store. I knew what I had to work with, and I figured I’d attempt to make a light version of a hybrid between eggplant parmesan and eggplant lasagna. I was quite pleased with the end result!

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 small onion, minced

1/4 cup of red bell pepper, minced

1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

14 ounce can of organic tomato sauce

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 teaspoon of dried basil

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, shredded

 Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In an even layer, arrange the eggplant slices on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt to draw out some moisture.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Sauté onions, peppers, and garlic for a few minutes until tender. Add sugar and sauté for a few more minutes until the veggies are caramelized.

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Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, and oregano. Reduce heat to medium, stirring frequently until the tomatoes begin to break down.

I love using cherry or grape tomatoes for my sauces because they are sweet and tender – perfect for any tangy, rich tomato sauce.

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Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Then add the tomato sauce and paste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

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Cover the bottom of a shallow baking dish with a thin layer of the tomato sauce.

Pat eggplant dry with a clean paper towel and layer half of the slices so they overlap. Season with fresh ground pepper. Top with tomato sauce and cheese. Repeat with a second layer.

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Sprinkle the top cheese layer with basil and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.

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You will love this simple meal that tastes too good to actually be good for you. And I promise, you won’t miss the ground beef or breaded chicken.

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Tangy, rich tomato sauce is the key to the success of this dish. The balsamic vinegar and caramelized veggies add a depth of flavor that just cannot be found in even your favorite jar of store-bought marinara. And the gooey cheesy goodness speaks for itself. Am I right?

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Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Vegetarian

 

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PB2 Banana Smoothie

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Ever tried PB2? You should. 

This stuff is awesome. I had always heard about it, read about it, saw countless pins on Pinterest raving about this healthy peanut butter alternative, but I never actually bought the whole concept of “healthy peanut butter.” I don’t know about you, but peanut butter is one of those treats that is only good when it’s the real thing. It’s so easy to tell the difference between creamy, sweet, gooey peanut butter and the fat-free, sugar free, oil free, blah blah, alternative. It’s just not the same!

PB2 proved me wrong. PB2 is powdered peanut butter with only three ingredients: roasted peanuts, sugar, and salt. Mix two tablespoons of this stuff with one tablespoon of water for a seriously delicious, and authentic, peanut butter experience. Only 45 calories (13 from fat) and 0 grams of saturated fat.  I am SO hooked – especially since traditional peanut butter contains 190 calories (130 from fat) and 3 grams of saturated fat…that’s not to mention all the hydrogenated oils and additives like glycerides (fatty acid emulsifiers, typically from animal fat).

So as of lately, I’ve been experimenting a lot with PB2. One of my most recent favorite recipes is a smoothie I made after a pretty intense cycling class. Post-exercise meals are super important if you want to get the most out of the work you put in to better your body. Smoothies can jumpstart recovery by providing carbs, protein, essential fatty acids, electrolytes, and antioxidants. I loved the addition of flaxseed to this smoothie because it’s such a rich source of fiber, B vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Whether you have this smoothie after a gym-sesh, as a breakfast boost, or as a healthy mid-day snack, you can’t really go wrong. It’s great tasting, great for your body, and super easy to make.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 ripe banana

1 tablespoon of PB2 powder

1/3 cup of almond milk (unsweetened)

1 tablespoon of flaxseeds

1/3 cup of ice

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients until smooth and frothy, making sure there are no chunks of ice.

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Add a tablespoon of honey if you like your smoothies sweeter (depends on the ripeness of the banana).

You could also add a scoop of protein powder, which will help keep you full for longer!

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The options are endless. PB2 also comes in a chocolate flavor, and I have a feeling I won’t be able to resist that purchase for much longer.

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Enjoy!

- Kelsey 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on November 8, 2014 in Drinks

 

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Zucchini Bread (Grain Free)

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Preparing for the holidays can be a little stressful.

Entertaining, cooking, cleaning, trying to see just how long you can fake a smile to cover up the fact that you’re really ready for everyone to leave…it happens. The holiday season is among us, which means everything I just mentioned is about to go down.

But something else about the holidays can often cause a bit more stress in all of ours lives as we prepare for what’s to come: staying fit.

Just thinking about the amount of food and alcohol that will be consumed between now and the start of 2015 is a bit overwhelming. It’s nearly impossible to avoid this reality when surrounded by friends, family and an abundance of delicious treats. When celebrating, it’s really, really hard to say no.

Here’s a recipe you can make for any celebration. Serve for breakfast with some jam or toasted and topped with ice cream for dessert – whatever you do with it, you can feel better knowing it’s doing your body right. Not to mention, it will make all your gluten-free guests happy as well, which is not always an easy feat this time of year.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Adapted from Against All Grain

1 1/2 cups of almond flour

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of ginger

3 eggs

1/4 cup of honey

1 banana

1 cup of zucchini (unpeeled), shredded

Coconut oil, for greasing pans

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and ginger.

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In a standing mixer, or in a large bowl with an electric hand-mixer, beat together the eggs, honey, and banana until smooth and frothy. Before adding the zucchini, place it in a double layer of paper towels and squeeze out all the excess liquid. This will keep your batter from being too watery.

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Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients while mixing.

Once the batter is smooth, pour into two mini loaf pans that have been greased with coconut oil.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Did I mention how much I love mini anything? These mini loaves also make perfect gifts!

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Two slices of this delicious healthy bread contain only 100 calories, 4 grams of fat, 14 carbs, and 11 grams of sugar. 

Enjoy, and happy holiday preparation!

- Kelsey

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Breads

 

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