Saturday, August 1, 2015

Extra Fudgy Grain-free Brownies

Calling all chocolate lovers! These grain-free brownies are extra chocolately, extra fudgy and extra decedent. It's the kind of brownie that you take a bite and immediately want a glass of milk to go with. Or perhaps, vanilla ice cream. In fact, this is the perfect brownie-sunday brownie. The fudgy chocolate goodness just lingers in your mouth and nothing would pair better than a cold scoop of ice cream!

Did I mention these brownies are guilt-free? There is only 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in the whole batch (no butter!) Instead, I use unsweetened applesauce to make up for the liquid portion, and sweetened by low glycemic coconut sugar (read more about it here).  Coconut sugar is made from fresh coconut tree sap, collected from the cut flower buds. The sap is heated to evaporate moisture, resulting in the crystal or granular form of sugar. The taste is very similar to brown sugar, which makes it a great substitute! It is one of the lowest glycemic index sweeteners around and Dr. Oz says it’s “the best cane sugar alternative”.

The grain-free flour substitute for these brownies are almond flour - which I use in many of my recipes. That combined with unsweetened cocoa powder, you have yourself a guilt-free brownie party!

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of almond flour or almond meal
1/2 cup of unsweetened coco powder
1 cup of coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8 x 8 baking dish with parchment paper. (This avoids brownies from sticking to the dish and also, easy clean up!)

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together till combined. Then add your wet. Blend until smooth with an electric blender. Poor the chocolate mixture into the parchment lined baking dish and bake for 23 minutes and feels firm to the touch (fresh out of the oven below!)

Now the important completely! I know it will be hard not to go right in there and start cutting up chocolately fudgy brownies, but these brownies will fall apart if you don't let them totally cool first. The best way to expedite this process, is to immediately transfer to the freezer to cool - about 45 minutes to an hour. Once cooled, transfer the parchment paper to a cutting board and you can start to carefully cut the squares. Like I said, these brownies are very fudgy so they don't hold a perfect brownie shape. (Hence, why cooling first helps before cutting). It helps to use a sharp knife and to wipe it down in between slicing because the fudgy chocolate will stick to the knife. You can also sprinkle a little extra almond flour to the knife while slicing the squares which will take off some of the moisture :)

Regardless of their imperfect shape, the chocolate fudgy (guilt-free) goodness makes up for it!! I perfer to store them in the fridge in an air tight container rather than leave them out. Now go have yourself a brownie party!

Cheers xo

Monday, July 20, 2015

Crab Louie Salad

Meet my favorite salad of the summer, Crab Louie. If you are a crab lover, (like moi) I highly encourage you to try this deliciously fresh and healthy salad topped with succulent lump crab meat. Heaven on a plate if you will.

It's extremely easy to make and provides 4 dinner size portions with a more than generous amount of crab meat on each one. This salad is perfect for summer and all that yummy crab protein leaves you feeling full and satisfied but without the guilt! There is really nothing else to say other than I LOVE YOU CRAB LOUIE. And I hope you do too :)

1 pound of lump crab meat
3/4 pound of asparagus, bottoms trimmed
8-10 ounces of greens (I used romaine in the first photo, and the second was a mix of spinach and arugula)
1 cup of pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped.
2 avocados, halved, pitted and cubed
1 cup of roasted red peppers (or roasted tomatoes....can also use sundried), roughly chopped
4 eggs
Olive oil
Fresh chopped tarragon
Serves 4

Starting with the asparagus (after trimming off the white bottoms), cut the bundle 2 times in half so you have smaller pieces. I like to broil or grill my asparagus for a little bit of a crispy texture, however if you would rather just boil them, go for it. To broil, toss the asparagus in olive oil, salt and pepper and transfer to a baking sheet. Make sure to spread out evenly. Broil for about 5 minutes or so until cooked and a little crispy. Don't overcook. Transfer to a bowl and set aside (or in the fridge to cool).

Next, boil your eggs. Add eggs to a medium saucepan over high heat. Let come to a boil. As soon as the water starts to boil, turn the heat off and cover the pot. Let cook for 4 minutes (for a soft to medium boil like in these photos), or if you want a hard boil, let cook for about 5 minutes. Remove eggs from water and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool.

Prepare your salad by first tossing your greens of choice in a large bowl with the juice of 1/2 lemon, drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper. Don't overdress. Portion out the greens onto 4 large plates or bowls. Next take your cooled asparagus and arrange in the center on top of the greens. Next add the avocado. I happen to LOVE avocado so I prepare each plate with 1/2 of an avocado. You of course can use less if you want....but that's just a dumb idea ;) Sprinkle the cubed avocado around the plate. Sometimes instead of cubing the avocado, I just take the 1/2 and slice it, and then fan it on top of the asparagus (which you can sort of see in the first photo under the crab meat. The second photo has the avocado cubed). Next add your chopped roasted peppers or tomatoes to one side of the plate, and the chopped olives directly across on the other end. Remove your cooled eggs from the water and carefully crack and peel away the shells. Half each egg and arrange the halves on the other ends of the plate (across from each other like the photo above indicates. Each plate gets 2 halves, or one full egg).

Lastly, the CRAB! I like to use lump crab from chicken of the sea I find that this brand is super fresh and delicious. Make sure you get the freshest crab meat you can find, and that it's the refrigerated kind (not the cans you find on the shell). You can also use fresh crab meat and crack it yourself. Portion out the crab onto all 4 plates, and place in the center. This should give you a lot of crab meat.

For the dressing to drizzle on top, I like to combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, fresh chopped tarragon and salt & pepper. Whisk this all together and drizzle on top. Sorry, I don't really have measurements for this. It's usually a 2:1 ratio for the olive oil to red wine vinegar, a few squeezes of lemon and the rest is to taste. Another dressing that tastes FAB on this salad is my Orange Dijon Vinagrette which I used in the second photo. The sweetness from the orange and tang from the dijon mustard compliments the salad great. Always end with adding some fresh chopped tarragon on top and some fresh pepper.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Tuna Nicoise Salad

It's been a very busy summer....actually busy year. As you can see this is my first post since last October! However, my lack of posts does not equal lack of cooking :) This summer has been all about healthy and fresh ingredients especially in the form of yummy salads!

I love a great Tuna Nicoise. I think because it has so many goodies in it. The freshness of seared sushi grade tuna mixed with creamy avocado and salty nicoise olives with a pop of juicy grape tomatoes? I mean, you have yourself a winner.

The most important thing when making a seared tuna nicoise is to make sure that the tuna is the freshest sushi grade tuna possible. At the supermarket, it must say "sushi grade" tuna. If you want to cook your tuna well-done, then you can use regular tuna steaks. But for me, a perfect tuna nicoise is tuna that is just lightly seared. This photo is a good indication of how fresh the tuna should be. The filet on the left is perfect. The more red the tuna is, usually the most fresh. You want to always look for a filet that is a deep reddish color and without a lot of the white marbling running through it. The filet on the right is still considered sushi grade, but you can tell the color isn't as saturated and it has some of the white marbling which makes it harder to chew, and tastes less fresh.

Sear baby, sear! <3

Drizzle your nicoise with a bright and fresh herb vinaigrette (recipe below), and you have yourself a healthy and delicious summer salad!

1 6-to-8 ounce filet of fresh sushi grade tuna
Butter lettuce (8 to 10 large leafs)
1/3 pound of haricots verts or French green beans, stems trimmed
1 avocado, peeled and cut into slices
2 eggs
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved (I used heirloom in these photos)
1/3 cup of nicoise olives, whole and pitted
Olive oil
2 large servings 

Herb Vinaigrette:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

To make the vinaigrette: combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk vigorously to emulsify. Set the dressing aside while preparing the salad so the flavors can marry.

Start by boiling your eggs and steaming the green beans. Add the eggs to a medium sized pot filled with water so it just covers the eggs. Cook on high heat until boil. The second the water bowls, turn the heat to off and let the eggs cook in the pot for 4 minutes. This will give you a medium-soft boiled egg (which is the way I prefer). They will look like they do in the photos - a creamy dark yellow yolk. After 4 minutes, remove the eggs from the pot and let them cool in a bowl of ice water. (This stops them from continuing to cook). Set aside and let cool.

In the meantime, steam your green beans until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes over medium heat in a steamer basket over simmering water. Remove from heat and strain the beans. I like to put them in a bowl and stick in the fridge (or freezer) to cool down while preparing the rest of the salad.

For the tuna, rub both sides generously with good quality olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette over both sides. Lay the tuna filet on a hot skillet over medium-high heat and sear for 30 seconds on each side for a light sear. If you want a medium sear, then cook for a minute each side. For fully cooked through, cook for about 2 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove the tuna from the hot pan and transfer to a cutting board. Let cook while you assemble the salad.

Grab two large salad plates or bowls. Assemble the butter lettuce leafs down first so they cover the bottom of the plate. Next, add your green beans to the middle of the plate. Around the outside of the green beans, add the sliced avocado, halved tomatoes and olives. Keep ingredients separated. Grab your cooled eggs and carefully peel the shells away. Slice in half and place two halves together (again, outside of the green beans so the beans are surrounded by all the other "goodies").

Lastly, the tuna! Using a sharp knife, slice the tuna lengthwise (I like to slice fairly thin). Discard any pieces that have that white marbling as it's hard to chew. Arrange the tuna right on top of the green beans (splitting it up between the two dishes). Drizzle your salad with the herb vinaigrette and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Bars (Flourless)

Halloween is just two days away and I have been going pumpkin crazy! October is the start of my most favorite part of the year; "The Holidays!" And with Halloween being the first on the list, I always like to whip up delicious Fall treats :) In this case, Pumpkin Pie Bars! Not only gluten-free and grain-free but FLOURLESS. Yep. Read on folks, read on.

These festive bars are also super simple to make! No flour are in these bad boys - not even coconut, almond or any other gluten-free flour you would use. They are solely made with pure pumpkin puree, almond butter, a couple eggs, spices and sweetened with either honey or agave nectar. Easy peasy.

The important thing is to make sure these bars cool completely and set before cutting them into squares. If you eat them like this, they will taste sort of like a crustless pumpkin pie in bar form. Oooey Gooey and taste so delicious topped with vanilla ice cream. If you want more of a "bar" consistency, similar to a brownie, freeze them overnight or for a few hours. The will taste like a decadent pumpkin brownie (if that makes any sense). I have tried both versions, and it's a toss up which I like better (however my husband liked them frozen the best!). As an FYI - all the photos you see are the bars out of the oven (not frozen). We ate them this way one night topped with vanilla ice cream and was amazing. We stored them overnight in the freezer and the following day ate them too quickly to photograph again! Oh well....I guess you will have to see for yourself :)

Enjoy and Happy Halloween XO

3/4 cup pumpkin puree (no sugar or other ingredients added)
1/2 cup almond butter
1/3 cup agave nectar (or honey)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract (no corn syrup)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cloves
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
2 packets of truvia or stevia (optional, if you like things sweeter)
1/2 cup of chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8″ x 8″ pan generously with coconut oil. In a medium sized bowl, combine all the ingredients and blend with an electric blender (I just used a simple electric hand blender). Next stir in your chocolate chips. Alternatively, you can omit the chocolate chips and add walnuts and raisins (or cranberries), if you want to make more of a breakfast bar.

Pour batter into the greased baking dish and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are super golden and the middle is firm. Allow to cool completely and then cut into squares.

Serve with vanilla ice cream on top and eat with a fork, or freeze for a few hours (or overnight) and eat like a brownie/delicious bar! Hope you enjoy this new healthy recipe! No tricks, only treats ;)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Shrimp Scampi Spaghetti (Gluten-free, grain-free)

Pasta, pasta, pasta! I am currently having an obsession. An obsession due to the incredible kelp noodles that have changed my life. I can't get enough of them. My first "pasta" recipe with these incredible fat-free, gluten-free, low calorie and carb noodles was the Pesto Noodles With Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula. I continued to make that recipe almost every week....getting my pasta fix on! I am happy to report that I have a new (and equally delicious) pasta dish, Shrimp Scampi Spaghetti.

A healthy version of the classic pasta dish, which is simple to make but packed with flavor! And who doesn't love shrimp scampi over pasta? Tons of garlic and parsley with just the right amount of lemon and topped with fresh parm (or vegan parm depending on your diet restriction). This will be your new go-to #winning dinner recipe that everyone will enjoy.

It's so amazing to finally be able to eat my favorite childhood pasta dishes that I could no longer stomach (pun intended) and never feel like I'm missing out. So help yourself to seconds or even thirds! This guilt-free dinner will satisfy your pasta craving and keep you full and happy (and healthy!) each time.

1 package of kelp noodles
1 medium (fat) zucchini
1/2 pound of large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons of butter, whipped butter or palm shortening (if vegan)
2 1/2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
1/4 cup of seafood stock
4 garlic cloves, minced
The juice of one lemon
The zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of Vegan Pesto or regular pesto (optional)
Fresh parmigiano or vegan parm (optional)

Start by soaking your kelp noodles in a bowl of cool water (for about 10 minutes). While your noodles are soaking, make your zucchini noodles with your spiral noodler (adding the zucchini noodles is optional. The dish will come out just as great if you omitted and just stuck to kelp. I just like to combine the two for some added color and texture). Drain the kelp noodles and put aside in a medium sized bowl. Put your zucchini noodles also aside in a separate bowl.

Next, season your shrimp with salt and pepper. Over medium heat, add your olive oil and butter to a deep 12-inch sauté pan. Once the butter is melted, add your minced garlic and let cook for 1 minute while stirring occasionally. Now add the shrimp and the 1/4 cup of seafood stock. Sauté the shrimp until pink on both sides (about 5 minutes), making sure to flip the shrimp half way through. Once the shrimp have cooked, remove them from the pan put keep them covered and warm in a separate dish. Make sure to keep the sauce in the hot pan.

Next, add your zucchini noodles and sauté for about 30 seconds. Then add your kelp noodles. Toss everything together well, distributing the sauce evenly. If you feel like there isn't enough liquid because it evaporated with the heat, you can add another tablespoon (or so) of olive oil and/or butter. This is also where I like to add a tablespoon of pesto. This is optional, but I like adding a little bit of that basil goodness to shrimp scampi. Be sure to mix the sauce with the noodles well as it takes some time to distribute throughout the kelp noodles. Lastly, add the shrimp to pan along with the lemon, lemon zest and fresh parsley. Toss to combine and serve with fresh parmigiano cheese overtop and some additional chopped parsley. Viola! Enjoy this too-good-to-be-true "pasta" dinner.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche

It's mid-September in Miami and yesterday it reached 95 degrees. I am counting the days till I can break out my Missoni pancho and riding boots and enjoy sitting outside for 20 minutes without totally melting....aka "Fall in Miami". But in the meantime, nothing will cool you down more than refreshing beach-side food such as my Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche.

One of my go-to for parties or a weekend at the beach (these photos were from Labor Day weekend), my deliciously refreshing ceviche is a total crowd pleaser that is quite simple to make and will have even your anti-ceviche friend coming back for seconds, or thirds, or fourths.

I have made this recipe a billion times and never once posted it because it would disappear before I could take any photographs. Like I said, seconds, thirds, fourths.....very addicting. Although it is a killer snack, meal or appetizer throughout the summer months, it is really something to enjoy all year round. I first made it for a Christmas party and it was gone within minutes. There is something scrumptious about the marriage of flavors you get with the sweet mango, zing of cilantro and lime and hint of spice from the jalapeño.

Extremely healthy and packed with flavor, you will be surprised at how satisfied you are having this as your main lunch or dinner. Serve with delicious plantain chips and you've got yourself a winner.

1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled & deveined and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 pound of bay scallops (the small guys)
The juice of 2 lemons
The juice of 2 limes
The juice of 2 Oranges
1 cup of cucumber peeled and diced
1/4 cup of chopped red onion
1 cup of diced tomatoes
2 hass avocados, peeled and diced
1 mango, peeled and diced
2 jalapeños seeded and finely diced (leave seeds in if you want more spice)
1/4 cup of chopped cilatro
3 to 4 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
Salt to taste
Plantain chips

In a large bowl combine the shrimp and scallops with all three fruit juices (I ran the lemons, limes and oranges through my juicer rather than squeezing the fruit. You will get more juice this way but either option works). Add the cucumbers, red onion and jalapeños. Stir to combine. There should be enough juice to just cover the seafood. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. When you are almost ready to serve, add your avocados, tomatoes, mango and cilantro. Stir to combine. Lastly add in your olive oil and salt and mix well. You may want to add more salt and/or olive oil to taste. Spoon ceviche into martini classes and serve with crispy plantain chips!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (Dairy-free)

It's Miami Beach. It's the middle of August. It's hot as hell out there. Clearly, we are all in the need for a cool down. And in my case this past weekend, that came in the form of Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.

I think when it comes to making ice cream, a lot of people are hesitant to give it a try because it seems like a process. In fact, it's actually one of the easiest desserts to make. And especially if you have the Cuisinart ice cream maker which I highly suggest to purchase. For $70, you can make any sort of ice cream your little heart desires. It's really one of my favorite kitchen appliance :)

Howeverrrr if you do not have an ice cream maker (and don't plan on buying one), do not fear. You can still make this ice cream. Or any ice cream for that matter. Just follow the easy instructions here.

Now back to the ice cream. This deliciously creamy and refreshing Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream will hit the spot on a hot summer day. And the good news? It's dairy-free. It's also low fat, free of refined sugar and on top of it all, GOOD FOR YOU.

No cream? No dairy? How does it manage to hold up to the "creamy" reputation? I'm glad you asked. My secret weapon. And that weapon is the green-machine superfood of avocado. I know. Sounds weird/gross. BUT you will be shocked at how A) You can't taste a trace of avocado and B) How much it adds to the decadent creamy texture.

I didn't expect that the avocado would work so brilliant in this recipe. And I was beyond excited to happily indulge (guilt-free) all weekend, enjoying one of my all-time fav ice cream flavors. The "dairy" in this ice cream is the avocado combined with light coconut milk. Coconut milk is another fantastic dairy-free substitute for ice cream. However, it tends to be pretty high in fat. So I like to use light coconut milk instead of full fat. But when you do this, sometimes your ice cream will not be as thick and creamy, and will turn out more like a sherbet/sorbet consistency. This is where the avocado comes into play! I promise you can't taste it - at all! But it provides this amazing cream-texture to the ice cream. And (even better) makes it GREEN! Perfect for Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream :)

2 cups of light coconut milk
2 perfectly ripe avocados
1/2 cup of agave nectar (or honey)
1-2 teaspoons of peppermint extract (depending on how minty you want it)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
6 packets of truvia, stevia or splenda (or sugar/sugar substitute of choice)
1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of warm water
1 1/2 cups of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips 

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips. Blend well. Pour into your ice cream maker according to the instructions and let churn for about 15 minutes or until the ice cream is stiff. Pour the chocolate chips in about 5 minutes into the churning process so they are mixed in well. Serve immediately, or if you want a harder ice cream texture, freeze in an air tight container (I just used tupperware) for about an hour and then serve. You can store in an air-tight container and come back to it when your ice cream craving comes again! (The natural (and healthy) fat from the avocado and coconut milk will keep the ice cream perfectly creamy regardless of how long its in the freezer. Just make sure the container is sealed tightly).