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).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Better Than Your Grandma's Chocolate Chip Cookies (Grain-free, Vegan, No refined sugar)

Chocolate chip cookies. I mean, unless your an alien, who doesn't LOVE this classic dessert? For me, cookies have always taken the cake (well in this case, the cookie). And homemade chocolate chip? A favorite dessert since childhood. Whether warm, cold, frozen, dunked in milk....they never fail.

I have tried many gluten-free chocolate chip cookies out there and I have never been blown away by the taste or the ingredients. Most cookies are loaded with sneaky sugar or unhealthy fat --- providing a whopping 10 grams of fat per cookie or 200+ calories. Might as well buy a carton of Ben & Jerry's. Or how about the cookie that tastes like cardboard? No thanks, I'll pass.

So yesterday I was inspired not only come up with a grain-free version of my favorite childhood dessert, but also free of refined sugar and dairy. So in other words, vegan! And to my pleasant surprise, they taste DELICIOUS. Yes. Magic happened. Not only delicious, but according to my ultimate taste tester (husband, Carlos Albir), they are better than the real thing.

I have tried these cookies at room temperature as well as chilled in the fridge. Both versions are equally delicious providing a slight crunch on the outside, but a soft, gooey inside where you will find yourself not being able to stop. WARNING, these are super addicting.

The recipe below makes these cookies in "portion control" size (believe me you will need it), which is equivalent to your traditional "famous amos" cookie. But way more delicious :)

I hope you enjoy these amazingly delicious (and good for you) chocolate chip cookies. And yes, they are better than your grandma's.

3 cups of almond flour (or almond meal)
1/3 teaspoon of salt
3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil (non-vegans can use butter or whipped butter for less fat content)
4 1/2 tablespoon of agave nectar (or honey if following a Paleo diet)
3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of almond extract
3/4 cup of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl mix together your dry ingredients: almond flour, salt and baking soda. In a separate large bowl, combine your wet ingredients: coconut oil, agave nectar, vanilla extract and almond extract. Mix well with a large wooden or plastic spoon. Make sure the coconut oil (or butter) is melted so you don't get any chunks in the batter. (*Side note: I mention in the ingredient listing that non-vegans can use butter instead of coconut oil. I have tried both versions and each way comes out equally delicious. I have also tried using 1/2 coconut oil and 1/2 whipped butter, which also comes out perfect).

Next add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix well either using a wooded spoon or electric mixer. Make sure to scrape along the sides so everything is evenly combined and mixed. Now stir in your delicous chocolate chips :)

If you find that your batter is a little too wet or sticky, it helps to place the bowl in the fridge for a bit before scooping the dough onto cookie sheets. Since this isn't your average cookie dough, it will be more on the wet side versus doughy side. But don't add more flour. Just place in the fridge for about 20 minutes or so to firm up a bit and then it should be easier to scoop out.

Next, line your cookie sheets (I used two) in parchment paper. Using a tablespoon ice cream scooper (which I think is easiest) or just a regular tablespoon measurer, scoop your cookies! For the "bite-size" portion that I have in this recipe make sure you pack in and level the tablespoon with each scoop then slightly press down each ball of dough. I find that each cookie comes out the perfect shape and size this way. (If you find that the dough is sticking to the inside of the scooper, a helpful hint is to sprinkle the inside of your scooper with a gluten-free flour (I used arrowroot flour) and then wipe off with a paper towel in between scoops.

Bake cookies for 8-9 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. LET THE COOKIES COOL on the cookie sheets for at least 15 minutes. Try and restrain yourself from eating them right out of the oven as you want them to set first (and not fall apart), plus they taste way better at room temperature :)  You can store them in an air tight container in the fridge or freezer as they taste just as yummy cold!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chicken Paillard with Arugula and Strawberry Salad

A simple go-to meal that is healthy and budget friendly. The fresh arugula salad on top is mixed with juicy strawberries, heart of palm, toasted almonds and shaved queso fresco, and goes a long way to compliment your everyday piece of chicken!

Chicken Paillard (in most cases), is breaded before being cooked in a skillet ---however my gluten-free version does not have a breaded coating and tastes perfectly delicious simply seasoned with salt & pepper and high quality olive oil. Easy peasy, right?

Hope you enjoy this easy-to make perfect Summer dish :)

1 chicken breast (no skin or bones)
3 handfuls of fresh arugula
2 whole heart of palms (sliced)
3-4 strawberries (cut into 4ths)
2 tablespoons of blanched sliced almonds, toasted
1 tablespooon of fresh grated queso fresco (or goat cheese or feta all work great)
Good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice

Let's start with pounding out your chicken breast. On a cutting board, take your chicken and with a sharp knife cut horizontally into the side of it, but not all the way through. The easiest way to explain this is to pretend the chicken is a book. You want to cut into the side and open it up like a book so there is now two halves, but still attached (like the binding of a book). Make sense? If not, photos below will hopefully explain :)

Next, take a piece of plastic wrap and wrap it once around the chicken (top and bottom). Using a meat pounder (or the back of a heavy skillet), pound out your chicken till it's about 1/2 inch thick. POUND! You will see above a faint white line in the middle (this is the 2 halves of the chicken - like two pages of a book, mentioned above).

Now coat your medium sized skillet with your GOOD quality olive oil (the better quality, the better the flavor). Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the skillet over medium-high heat. You will cook the chicken on both sides about 5-6 minutes per side.

While your chicken is cooking, prepare your simple summer salad. In a medium bowl mix together your arugula, heart of palms and strawberries. In a separate small bowl whisk together your dressing of 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and your fresh squeezed lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the arugula salad with the dressing.

Once your chicken is done cooking, plate it. Add the arugula salad on top and sprinkle your toasted almonds and shredded cheese overtop. BOOM! Easy, healthy, affordable.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Garden Fresh Kale Salad

This is my go-to, every week salad that is packed with nutrition and tastes market fresh. I kid you not when I say I make this every week for dinner and switch it up by topping it with steak (for my husband) and fish or grilled portabellas (for me).

It has all my favorite salad ingredients with tons of avocado and fresh basil and mint to brighten everything up! Make sure you get the freshest produce possible and feel free to add whatever protein or grilled veggies to top it off!

It's also a great salad to serve as a side dish at a fun summer BBQ or at a dinner party all season long :)

*I don't provide measurements for this salad because you basically just toss everything together using as much and as little of the ingredients as you want. For instance I love a lot of avocado and sun-dried tomatoes as well as the fresh herbs, but you may want to adjust to your preference (and group size!)

Fresh kale roughly chopped (green, purple, or mixed all work!)
Mini cucumbers, sliced
Avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
Grape tomatoes, halved
Sun dried tomatoes (I use the ones soaked in olive oil)
Hearts of palms (cut into 1/2 inch slices)
Black olives (sliced)
Fresh basil, chopped
Fresh mint, chopped
Olive oil (high quality for optimum flavor)
Minced garlic

Start by taking your kale and placing it in a large salad bowl. My secret trick with kale when making raw salads is to add the dressing first and massage the kale with it. This is what softens it a bit and removes that bitter flavor that some people dislike. The dressing that I use for this is a combination of 1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice and two parts olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic to taste. I whisk this all together and then drizzle over the kale. Then using my hands, I toss and gently massage the kale for about 30 seconds or so. Next, add the rest of your ingredients (in no particular order), although I like to add the fresh herbs at the end before tossing it all together. Do a taste test to see if you want to add any extra dressing or salt/pepper, and then your done! Top with your favorite meat or fish, or enjoy as is on those meatless Monday nights!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pesto Noodles with Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula (Grain-free, Vegan)

I am happy to report that I have a new favorite recipe. And possibly a favorite to top the charts. My Pesto "Noodles" will happily satisfy any of you pasta lovers out there without the gluten, carbs, dairy, high-fat....sound too good to be true? I know.

For anyone who knows me, pasta is something I absolutely adore. And it was also the hardest thing I had to give up after realizing I felt like death after eating it. So I'm sure you can imagine my excitement at the discovery of this recipe and most importantly the main ingredient: Kelp Noodles.

What are these magical noodles you ask? They are simply a sea vegetable in the form of an easy-to-eat raw noodle. Kelp Noodles are fat-free, gluten-free, and very low in carbohydrates and calories. Most importantly, they are highly versatile and take on any flavor/style you wish, whether you are craving an Italian pasta night, or you want to travel East for a Thai noodle bowl.

In this particular recipe, I also add the newly popular zucchini "noodles" and follow suit with carrot "noodles" to add a bit of texture, color and flavor to the dish. Let's face it, noodling veggies is so hot right now. Right!?

These veggie noodles also serve as a great substitute but I personally think are best when mixed in with Kelp Noodles as the vegetables sometime can get a little soggy. The kelp has a stiffer texture (resembling noodles) as opposed to the veggies (when cooked) tend to be a bit softer. 

I added my all-time favorite Vegan Pesto to this dish along with sweet roasted tomatoes and peppery arugula. But of course feel free to add whatever sauce, veggies, protein, etc. that your little heart desires. I ate this for dinner last night hot, but it was possibly even more delicious for lunch today cold. Like I said, VERSATILE. 

Enjoy this guiltless beyond yummy "noodle" dish and have fun experimenting with the life changing Kelp Noodles! Bon Appétit friends. Bon Appétit.

1 package of Kelp Noodles
1 medium zucchini
1 large carrot
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cipollini onions (sliced thin)
1 big handful of arugula
4 tablespoons of Vegan Pesto  (you can make ahead of time)
Olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss your tomatoes and onions with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Spread across a cookie sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes and onions are soft and roasty toasty. Set aside.

Next take your kelp noodles in a medium bowl and soak them for about 15 minutes with warm water. (This will soften them up a bit). While the noodles are soaking, make "noodles" out of your zucchini. There are a few ways to do this, but I highly suggest buying this spiral vegetable slicer. It's only $30 and makes great noodles. For this dish, I used the blade that makes the thinnest (spaghetti-like noodles). Alternatively if you don't have this device, you can try using a vegetable peeler as I do for the carrots, but they will be thicker and flatter noodles (like fettuccine). For the carrot use a vegetable peeler (as I just mentioned) and thinly shave off pieces to resemble noodles. (Side note: I find it difficult to use the spiral veggie slicer for carrots because they are skinner than zucchini. To get a better noodle, your traditional veggie peeler does the job).

Add veggie noodles to a colander in the sink and sprinkle with a small handful of salt (as mentioned before, your veggie noodles tend to get a bit soggy. This process will release some of the water). Set aside for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, drain the kelp noodles and shake out excess water. If the noodles look too long, feel free to cut them with kitchen scissors to shorter strands.

Take a large skillet on high heat and add about a tablespoon of oil. Take your veggie noodles and squeeze out any excess water. You should release quite a bit. Shake them back into shape and throw them onto the hot skillet. You want them to brown up a bit before adding the kelp noodles. This will add some texture back to them. Let cook for about a minute or two, just until you see them start to brown slightly. Next, add your kelp noodles and toss around evenly with veggies. You may want to add another tablespoon of olive oil if the pan seems dry. Let cook for about 5 minutes and lower the heat to low. Toss in your pesto sauce. Make sure to stir around well as it takes a couple minutes to get the kelp noodles coated evenly. Next toss in the tomato/onion mixture and turn the heat down to simmer and cover the pan.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a smaller skillet over medium heat. Add your arugula and let cook up until just soft (about 5 minutes). Lastly, add your arugula to the noodle pan and toss everything evenly. Serve with some freshly grated parmesan (or vegan parm) and enjoy!