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!