Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Join My New Years Resolution Challenge

It's that time of year again...the time to make your New Years Resolution! Can you guess what the most common resolution is? You got it...weight loss. But, this year I would like for you to change your thoughts about weight loss. Instead of promising yourself to lose weight, why not promise yourself to get healthy? By changing your lifestyle and becoming more aware of your all around health, you will naturally lose weight. Not to mention, your entire body will feel the benefits of a healthy lifestyle! This goes for anyone wanting to improve their overall health. 

This is going to be the start of my New Years Challenge. Starting on January 1st, I will be posting weekly nutrition tips and advice on how to eat healthy during our busy schedules. I will also post more on how to prepare delicious and nutritious foods while also maintaining an appropriate workout schedule. Balance is key!! Please feel free to comment and email me questions throughout the year to help you stay on track. Lets bring in 2015 the right way!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Best Gingerbread Cookies

If you're like me, then you LOVE gingerbread! While typical gingerbread cookies can be hard and crunchy, I prefer ones that are soft and chewy. This recipe will give you a perfectly indulgent cookie!

3 cups All-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1½ sticks of softened butter (12 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons of milk
Icing for decorating (optional)

In a food processor, process the flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds. Drop in butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is "mealy," like sand, about 15 seconds. With food processor running, add molasses and milk through the top process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass.

Divide dough in half and use a rolling pin to roll into ¼ inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper. Place in refrigerator at least two hours (or overnight) or place in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm.

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Once dough is firm, remove parchment from dough and cut out cookies using a gingerbread man cutter or any other holiday cutter. Place cut outs on baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake until centers are just set and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 2 minutes.

Gather scrapes, and continue rolling and cutting until all of the dough is used.

Use icing to get creative with decorations! Kids will love doing this!

Joule Cafe and Tupelo Honey in Raleigh, NC

Soy latte from Joule Coffee in Raleigh
Amazing NC Mountain Trout with Roasted Tomatoes and Salad from the new Tupelo Honey Cafe in Raleigh, NC

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas from my Family

Hello everyone! Just in case you missed it, my family and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Every year we create a "special" Christmas Card to send out to our family and friends. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pumpkin Soup

Hurry and get your pumpkins while you still can! You don't want to miss out on this recipe! Chilly weather is ahead of us and there isn't much that is better than a hot bowl of soup on these cold nights. 

For garnishing seeds:
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For soup:
4 cups of pureed pumpkin
6 cups of vegetable broth (chicken broth would work too)
1 cup of chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, mined
1 teaspoon of chopped parsley (or a few dashes of dried parsley)
1 teaspoon of chopped thyme (or a few dashes of dried thyme)
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
A few dashes of black and/or white pepper (I used a mixed peppercorn grinder and put in a few "twists")
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream

Spread pumpkin seeds into a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and dash with salt and pepper. Back at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes or until toasted. Set these aside for garnishing!

Now, in a large pot, combine the broth, pumpkin, onion, thyme, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

Next you will have to puree the mixture. I used a blender, but a food processor will work just as good. I small batches, puree the soup and put in a separate bowl. Once all the mixture has been pureed, but back in the pot and bring to a boil once again.

Blending the soup

Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and serve in small bowls! Remember to add the toasted pumpkin seeds!

Cream has been added
Pumpkin is by far one of my favorite seasonal crops. It is flavorful, versatile, low-calorie, and loaded with vitamins; especially vitamin A, coming in with 12231 IU (245% daily value) in 1 cup! It also only has about 50 calories in 1 cup! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hazelnut and Chocolate Meringue Cake

This week I was invited to a potluck with my co-workers. I wanted to make something new and seasonal, but I was stumped. After searching the web for new ideas, I came across this amazing recipe from Food & Wine and adapted it to fit my own cooking style! Meringue is a very technical thing to make. I had never made it before, but I decided to give it a shot! Below is the recipe and outcome. 

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups finely grinded hazelnuts
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips 
6 ounces melted dark chocolate
3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Chocolate shavings, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Spread the hazelnuts on a third baking sheet and toast for 12 to 14 minutes, until browned. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a towel and rub to remove the skins. Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Lower the oven temperature to 225°.
In a bowl use a standing electric mixer if you have one fitted with the whisk (if you have one) or just use a regular electric hand mixer fitted with a whisk (Which is what I did) and beat the egg whites with the salt at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. 

Before being beat
After being beat! I love seeing the change!
Gradually beat in the granulated sugar at high speed until stiff. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Fold in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the melted chocolate down the side of the bowl and gently fold until the meringue is lightly marbled.
Folding in hazelnuts and mini chocolate chips
Marbling with the melted dark chocolate
Spread the meringue into three circles (approximately 8 inch diameters) and bake for 2 hours and 30 minutes, until crisp; rotate the pans halfway through baking. 

Before going into the oven: 8 inch meringue spreads
Turn off the oven, slightly open the door, and let the meringues cool completely.

In the bowl of the standing mixer, beat the cream with the confectioners' sugar until firm. 

Homemade whipped cream is so easy to make!
Remove the meringues from the parchment paper. Spread the whipped cream on the layers and stack them. Garnish with chocolate and refrigerate or freeze the cake overnight. When ready to serve, cut into wedges and serve at room temperature. 

Finished cake with meringue/whipped cream layers

Original Recipe Source: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/hazelnut-and-chocolate-meringue-cake

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Caprese Skewers

It's the holiday season and I'm sure you're getting invited to all kinds of parties, whether they be with co-workers, friends, or family! This simple, yet elegant Hors d'oeuvre will be a hit at your Christmas party!

2 pints of cherry tomatoes
one container of small mozzarella balls
Fresh basil leaves
Drizzle of olive oil
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar 

You will need:
Hors d'oeuvre spears

These are probably one of the easiest things to make. All you have to do is spear a cherry tomato and follow that with a mozzarella ball. Once you have enough spears, slice the basil leaves and sprinkle over the top. then drizzle the dish with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. These are great and can be made ahead of time if needed. just refrigerate until ready to serve!