Monday, September 29, 2014

National Coffee Day!

It's National Coffee Day! Celebrate by treating yourself to a quick and delicious mocha. 


One packet of Hot Cocoa mix
1 cup of milk
1 shot of espresso or strong brewed coffee
2 Tbsp of hot water

Start by brewing your espresso/strong coffee (I used my French press, but any method of brewing should work). While the coffee is brewing, heat 2 tbsp of hot water in a mug and stir in the hot cocoa mix. These ingredients should form a syrup-like chocolate mixture. Once the coffee is finished brewing, pour a shot (1 fl. oz.) of the coffee (or more if you prefer) into the mug with the chocolate syrup. Fill the rest of the mug with steamed milk (I used soy milk, but any type of milk will work).

VoilĂ , you now have a delicious mocha!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Himalayan Challah

Everyone can thank one of my wonderful Appalachian State teachers for this AMAZING recipe. I had never made a successful bread until I tried this recipe. This is the exact recipe she gave me...I don't want to jinx it and change the format!

This recipe is written for people who want to succeed at making a great yeast bread. It can be made into a traditional braided loaf or dinner rolls. Read through the whole recipe before you start. It is wordy so that you are secure at every step, but in reality it is an easy recipe.

Utensils needed: 2 cup glass measuring cup, 1 cup and ½ cup dry measuring cups, set of measuring spoons, butter knife, fork, med to large mixing bowl, large spoon or wooden spoon, baking sheet covered in parchment paper, pastry brush

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total recipe time with prep, proofing and cooking time: 3 hours and 15 minutes

1 cup cold whole milk
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick) cut into 4-8 chunks
3 Tbsp sugar

Microwave these 3 ingredients in a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup for 1 minute. Take out of microwave and smash any remaining butter clumps with a fork.

1 ½ tsp bread yeast (1 packet of yeast)
Add 1 ½ teaspoon of bread yeast (this is one packet of yeast if you bought the packet) to the measuring cup and whisk it in with the fork. Let stand while you complete the next step.

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, minus 1 tsp
1 ½ tsp salt
In a medium to large mixing bowl measure 3 ½ cups of all-purpose flour (minus 1 teaspoon of flour). Fill your dry measuring cup with flour and then level it off with the straight edge of a butter knife. (It seems extreme, but do take out the level 1teaspoon of flour before adding the salt.) Then add 1 ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix these together with a large spoon.

1 whole egg
Add 1 whole egg to the measuring cup with the milk, butter, sugar and yeast. Whisk the egg in well with the folk. Then add this milk/egg mixture to the bowl with the flour and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until dough ball forms. Knead ball for 5 minutes with hands over the bowl (no messy counter needed.)  It will be very sticky in the beginning and as you knead it your fingers will get to the point of non-stickiness. RESIST the urge to add any extra flour. Stay with the kneading until the dough is not sticking to your fingers. Trust the dough!! Put the kneaded dough back in the mixing bowl and cover with a towel. Put the covered bowl in a draft-free area or in the oven to proof, turn on the light in the oven to generate some warmth. Leave in oven for 90 minutes.

1 – 2 Tablespoons of melted butter
1 – 3 teaspoons of Himalayan or pretzel salt
Take out, punch down the dough and divide it into 3 even pieces. Roll out the pieces to 12 – 14 inches long. Pinch the ends together and braid the strands. Pinch at the end. Put the braid on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with melted butter and then sprinkle the loaf with pink Himalayan salt (or pretzel salt). Let rise in oven again (no towel) for 45 - 60 minutes. Take out and pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. When the oven is hot cook the bread for 23 - 26 minutes until browned.  Brush again with butter, if desired.

Note: excellent to use in either French Toast or bread pudding recipes

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lemon Artichoke Hummus

Need a quick and delicious snack to keep in the fridge? This lemon artichoke hummus adds a unique twist to your healthy snacking options. Hummus is a very nutrient packed snack that can aid in weight loss, and the management of cholesterol levels!

1 c. canned artichoke hearts (rinsed, dried & chopped)
4 Tbsp. lemon juice ( 2 lemons)
¼ c. water
6 Tsp. tahini (stirred well)
2 Tbsp. olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. fresh parsley

Combine the water and lemon juice. In another bowl, whisk the tahini and olive oil together.

In a food processor or blender, blend the chickpeas, 3/4 can of artichokes, garlic, salt, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper and lemon zest. Scrape ingredients off sides of bowl.

Turn the processor (or blender) on and add the lemon water slowly through the top. Scrape the sides again and continue to blend.

Again, turn the processor on, slowly add the tahini oil mixture, and process until smooth continuing to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Place the hummus into a bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of parsley before serving.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

Need something quick and easy to eat on-the-go? These granola bars are simple to make and can be made in advance. They are perfect to have as a quick breakfast or as a mid-day snack! One batch makes a fill 7-11" pan. 

Primary Ingredients:
2 packed cups of dates (I used 8oz bags of pitted dates)
½ cup of honey (Agave or maple would be appropriate substiutues)
½ cup of natural peanut butter (or almond butter)
2 cups of chopped almonds (I mixed chopped and whole almonds)
3 cups of old fashioned oats

Extras Ingredients:
I added a 5oz bag of cherry juice infused Craisins and a few dashes of cinnamon

In a food processor, chop the dates until they roll up in a ball (probably about 30 seconds).

Mix together the oats, almonds and dates.

In a saucepan or pot, heat the peanut butter and honey until it is mixed.

I didn’t do this, but next time I will break up the date ball into the peanut butter/honey mix so that it will stir easier.

Then mix all the ingredients in a bowl and add in the extras that you want (in my case, Craisins and cinnamon). I used my hands to mix it thoroughly.

To get the chocolate on the bottom, I melted a handful of semi sweet chocolate chips in a bowl and then spread it into a 7x11” glass pan lined with wax paper. I pressed the mixture onto the melted chocolate.

Let the chocolate harden.

They can then be stored in an air tight container, or frozen to preserve them for even longer!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Huevos Rancheros

Everyone knows that Sundays were MADE for delicious brunches. After taking a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I officially declared Huevos Ranchero as one of my favorite meals. In my attempt to create my own version, I found it to be quite an easy dish to make!

What you will need:
1 corn tortilla
1/2 cup of black beans (or pinto beans if you prefer those)
1/4 an avocado sliced
1 egg
1/3 of a small tomato, sliced
a handful of shredded lettuce
2 tbsp of salsa
a sprinkle of Mexican Blend cheese

To make this dish, start by heating 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Once heated, "fry" the tortilla until golden brown and cripsy. Set the tortilla aside and layer with beans, lettuce, and salsa. Add a little more oil in the pan, and cook you egg any style you like (I prefer over easy). Once the egg is cooked to your liking, put it over everything. Garnish the plate with your tomatoes and avacodo.

And there you have it!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

End-of-Summer Dinner Party

To celebrate the end of summer, my best friend Kate, of Sara Kate Styling, and I decided to host an "End-of-Summer" dinner party! With Kate's styling expertise, and my cooking skills, our party was nothing short of being fabulous!

While getting set up, we sipped on an amazing cocktail made of:
1 liter of lemon-lime soda
a quarter of a watermelon, cut into wedges
and a cup of frozen peaches (fresh peaches work as well)
*For an adult version, add a bit of peach flavored vodka*

As an appetizer, I got creative with your typical "caprese" flavors and made tomato stacks with sliced mozzarella and basil, finished with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil (this is one of my all time favorite flavor profiles)!

I then made duck as our entree. Now, I was a little bit nervous making duck. I had never made it before and had always hear that it was very technical (which it was). But, that being said, anyone can make it! You just have to pay careful attention as you cook.

I started pre-heating my oven to 375 degrees. I then covered an oven-proof pan in butter and turned my burner to med-high heat. As my pan was heating, I used a sharp knife to score the duck skin (about 3/4" deep). The trick to cooking a perfect duck breast is to render the fat. Once heated, I put the duck breast (skin side down) on the pan. as the fat renders, it will build up in the pan. It is important to drain the fat off as it renders (you can save this fat for later). Once the fat stops rendering and you no longer have to pour it out, flip the duck breast onto the meat side and sear for 1 minute. 

Once seared on both side, stick the duck in the oven (I left my duck in the pan and put the entire thing in the oven. If you do not have an oven-proof pan, you can transfer the breast to a baking sheet and cook it that way. You will bake the duck for about 12 minutes, until it reaches the internal temperature that you prefer. This comes down to personal preference. I cooked my duck a little more well-done and paired it with locally grown roasted cherry tomatoes and green beans!

It was a busy day, but also a fun one! Can't wait until our next party! Cheers!