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Food for the Game & Love for the Food

As many of you may know the Super Bowl is next weekend AND as you may also know, the best part of the Super Bowl is THE FOOD. Okay the commercials are pretty fun, the game is cool, family, friends but c’mon…the food is the best part!? Pizza, tortilla chips and guac, chicken wings, potato chips, nachos, queso dip, I can go on and on. So of course I will be watching (i.e. stuffing my face) the game next Sunday! Any event that allows me a week in advance to begin a conversation with “let’s talk menu” is an event for me. This is exactly what I did yesterday, started planning the Super Bowl menu.

Here’s what will be causing me to miss the best Super Bowl commercials and the play of the evening next Sunday:img_4599

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp appetizers is making a comeback after being a hit during the football game on Thanksgiving. This time, however, they will be accompanied by a cilantro dipping sauce. People expecting to see the good ol’ buffalo chicken wings will absolutely forget about them (forever) after they taste these shrimp babies.img_5332

Mini Baked Empanadas will be sitting front and center when the game begins. I’m prepping these a day before since that can be an event of its own. Last time I made these they were amazing in their full empanada size so I imagine they will be even better when limited to only a few bites. For the filling I will attempt a cuban style picadillo using ground beef, pepper stuffed green olives, raisins, green bell peppers and spices. I’ve never attempted this filling, but I’ve had it many times at my favorite cuban restaurant. Wish me luck!fullsizerender-19

Ceviche is something I love to make during summer months because it’s refreshing and super easy. My dad taught me how to make ceviche and his is the best I’ve ever had so I’m letting him take that dish. All we use to make this is fish (any white fish works), cut in small pieces, lime juice (I like to use a lime/lemon juice combo), chopped tomato, onion ( I prefer red onion), cilantro and salt. My dad doesn’t know this, but I also use a little of paprika just to give it another layer of flavor. You can make the ceviche the same day, but my dad recommends letting the fish marinade in the lime juice over night. I’ve prepared it with much less time than that and can tell you that after about 40 minutes it’s pretty darn good! Once you strain the juice from the fish (otherwise it’s too sour), add salt and the chopped ingredients. Mix and sprinkle some paprika and start dipping your tortilla chips or better yet have on a tostada the way it’s meant to be had (not on game day).img_5337

Braised Brisket Loaded fries, is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while now. Since I’ll be totally over-eating I want to rescue some calories by baking the fries. I know, I know, but I’m going to make a paprika seasoning to make you forget the fries are baked and it will be absolutely delicious! I’m also going to make an cilantro chimichurri to add some freshness and some pickled onions for pizzazz, texture and pretty color. Okay, you can’t have loaded fries without cheese, so yes I will be using some cotija cheese to keep them light, but also very flavorful. Keep a look out for this picture, it’s going to be kind of amazing!img_5028

Baked Oysters Rockefeller, recently inspired during my trip to New Orleans, will be something I will be making for the first time. I’m a little nervous because I’ve never baked oysters in my life, but considering I use my oven quite often I’m sure I can figure it out (right?). My goal is to reproduce my favorite baked oyster from The Royal House in NOLA with a spinach, bacon, wine? and cheese? Well, as you can see I will be tasting as I go to make sure it turns out just as good as the ones I had in NOLA. I can’t wait!

Okay so I know you’re probably asking yourself where the game food is, right? I mean, what’s with all this fancy stuff? Bring out the potato chips and crack open the cheese dip. Well here’s the thing. This year one of my resolutions was to stop eating packaged foods and cook more (#cookmore). So I will be making everything from scratch. It’s just so much better to eat things we actually make and avoid all the artificial preservatives and extra pounds of salt and sugar found in packaged foods. So, I hope you share the love for clean, home cooked meals because this year is going to be filled with ’em!

Now that we have a plan, menu, strategy and incredibly delicious visuals. Let the games begin!

 

 

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Miss Your Grill Marks in the Winter

img_5197As I vacationed in New Orleans over the holidays I came to realize how much I missed having the option to have something grilled when I ordered at a restaurant. While I had an amazing time trying foods like fried alligator, fried dough varieties and fried oysters, I must say I immensely missed my grilled salmon, chicken, veggies! So, when I got back early this week all I wanted was some grilled chicken tacos (because I also missed having mexican food!)

Since I don’t have a grill at home, and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to use it during the winter rainy days I came back to, I got a little creative at home. Have you ever heard of liquid smoke? Well if you haven’t it’s a liquid that you buy that is highly intense in smoke flavor. It’s very potent by itself so the key is using it in small amounts (a little does plenty) and incorporate it when you want to take your food to that level of smokeyness. In my case, there were 3 things on my agenda (crave list) as I prepared my first meal back home. One, to have salad (MY GOD I missed fresh greens!), but I’ll get to that later. Two, grilled chicken (no more fried food please!), and three to use the dried pasilla chilis that I have been wanting to get into lately. So, here’s what did:

I took a dried pasilla chili and a garlic clove and boiled in about 2 cups of water. Once it was soft (about 10 min), I placed the chili, garlic and a little bit a water (excluding the seeds) into a blender and made into a pure/sauce. I used some of the remaining water to water it down a bit.fullsizerender-17

I cut up 2 chicken breasts into small slices (fajita style) and season with salt and pepper. Then I took some of the pasilla chili sauce and poured over the chicken. I poured about 1 table-spoon of liquid smoke and combined the sauce and liquid to make a marinade for the chicken. Let that sit for 30 min.

Using a grill mark cast iron skillet (you can also use a Panini press) I lightly drizzled some olive oil and I brought it to med-high heat. I place the chicken on my skillet and let the chicken cook evenly on all sides. [Make sure you don’t immediately turn the chicken so you give the skillet enough time to make its marks]fullsizerender-18

While that was cooking I turned my attention to my side. I wanted to make a salad, but also incorporate some of that grilled flavor. So, I sliced some white onion sautéed on a small pan until the onion was soft and a little black around the edges. Set that aside.

 

Now for the side salad.

In a plastic container I placed mixed greens, chia seeds, toasted flax-seed, chopped tomatoes, feta cheese and a dressing I made using turmeric, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I toss my salad by closing the container lid and mixing it by shaking the container to allow all the ingriendts to mix. Only the lid wasn’t secured enough as I began to shake the container, half of my salad completely flew across my kitchen and all over my (startled) face.

After a few seconds of shock, wiping my eyes from a turmeric dressing mess and removing spinach from my hair, I pushed forward and started again. Nothing was going to come in between my side salad and I, I’d come too far! Second time around there was no raining salad in my kitchen so I was able to plate it, cut up some avocado on top along with the charred onions. It was perfect!

So there, after being a little shaken up, I warmed up some corn tortillas, spread some of my pasilla chili sauce, then the chicken, and some chopped onions cilantro. Since it’s the new year and recently came back from a trip where I pretty much ate my way through each street in New Orleans, I figure it’s a good time to get back on track and focus on healthy eating and home cooking. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Happy 2017!

 

 

 

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Fall Inspired Cauliflower Fried Rice

img_4699This week was a tough one, but I can always count on cooking (and food) to make things all better. On Friday night the ingredients in my refrigerator were all indicating chinese food. Sometimes though chinese food can feel  too heavy and even unhealthy. So, I decided to go with my chinese food inspiration and make fried rice with a special twist, cauliflower. Yes, and I decided to use fall veggies to make my chinese food inspired dish. It turns out Trader Joe’s carries packaged rice cauliflower. I bought with the goal of making a cauliflower fried rice dish. I hadn’t got around to it though because I ran out of carrots just the other day and these of course are absolutely necessary to make fried rice…or are they? I was stumped for a moment, until I locked eyes with a sweet potato! I think you can imagine how this night was going to end, right? Here’s what happened.

I took that sweet (talkin’) potato and chopped it up in small cubes to simulate the carrots. img_4695On a pan drizzled with olive oil I sauteed the potato cubes with garlic and chopped yellow onion until the cubes were tender and the onion and garlic was cooked down. I then added the peas and cauliflower rice. (By the way, you don’t need to get the packaged cauliflower rice. You can easily make this using a food processor. Just cut up the cauliflower in small pieces and break down in processor until they resemble rice). Cook the veggies for a few minutes and add soy sauce (the soy sauce will replace the use of salt so taste to make sure it is to your liking!). img_4696

Now push all the veggies around the pan to create space in the middle (see picture). This is where the egg will be scrambled. img_4697Once it is mixed the veggies and egg together. You will see the rice will start taking form. Chop the green onions and add just before you remove from heat. This will allow the small pieces of green onion to still be crunchy and give you that nice bite. Yum!

Sometimes it’s nice to not have to do too much for dinner, especially when you’re starving like I was when I got home.

Here are the ingredients that made this come together so beautifully:

 

  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1/2 sweet potato, cubed
  • 2-3 cups of cauliflower rice (if you have a food processor you need 1 cauliflower head)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp. chopped yellow onion
  • 3 green onions
  • 3 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • olive oil

*The mandarin chicken in the background is from Trader Joe’s. There are 2-3 things in their frozen section that I would recommend and this is one of them. Especially to compliment an easy and quick dish such as this cauliflower fried rice. I hope you enjoy!

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A Salad is the Recipe for Long Lasting Love

A friend of mine recently asked for my help after she decided to change her eating habits from mostly carb filled-easy to make packaged and frozen foods, to whole and healthy ingredients. The truth is, it really can be difficult for someone who is very busy, someone who maybe doesn’t know how to cook or perhaps grew up eating anything just to act as fuel to not care about what they consume everyday. The problem with this is that it can cause a long list of health and issues long term that of course I want to make sure my friend avoids (but I will not delve into that today).

During this process, the shocker for me was the moment my dear friend said to me that she didn’t know how to make salads. I couldn’t believe it at first, but after laying down for a moment and a glass of water to calm my nerves, I realized that this could very well be possible if she didn’t understand ingredients. When I went vegetarian years ago my creativity kicked in when it came down to making salads that were delicious and exciting. I remember watching a lot of Food Network and seeing ingredients that I wasn’t familiar with or understood like saffron or sauerkraut. I wanted my salads to look as good as a plate with meat or better! So I bought the unknown ingredients and experimented. When I went to a restaurant I tried the meals that had stuff I wasn’t familiar with to determine how I could incorporate to my own meals. This is how I was able to make my dishes better and my salads more exciting and fulfilling. Thanks to this, now back to my carnivore eating habits, I still love salads and are a big part of my life. 

So today, I want to share a little bit about the construction of a salad. A salad doesn’t have to be boring, in other words a salad IS NOT just pieces of iceberg lettuce and slices of carrots and cucumber drowned in ranch dressing (bleh). A salad can be anything you want it to be and more!

These are my key components to make a delicious salad:
Chipotle Chicken Salad
  • Greens (Ex: spinach, kale, arugula, mixed greens)
  • Color (Ex: tomato, orange, red, green or yellow peppers, carrots, beets, red or white cauliflower, brussel sprouts, jicama, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, avocado, broccoli, red onion)
  • Crunch (Ex: almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews, croutons, tortilla chips)
  • Cheese(Ex:feta,blue cheese, parmesan, gorgonzola, romano, mozzarella)
  • Acidic (Ex: lemon juice, olives tangerines, strawberries, pomegranate, peaches)
  • Sweet (Ex: dried cranberries, raisins, watermelons, mango, apples, grapes)
  • Protein (Ex: meat, egg, tofu, quinoa, beans, couscous)
  • Herbs & More (Ex: cilantro, parsley, chili flakes, farofa, basil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, oregano, mint, hummus, olive oil, grapeseed oil, sesame seeds, balsamic vinegar)
All I am providing today are some examples of what you can use for a yummy salad. I suggest using a minimum of 3-4 components (any combination of them) to create a greens salad. The first and only rule is to always use greens, the darker the leaf the more nutritious and 50% or more of the plate should be greens. Unless you are making a pasta salad, quinoa salad or non-greens salad. Also, use colorful vegetables and ingredients that make sense to make the kind of salad you want. For instance, we’re all familiar with the ingredients that make a burrito taste amazing right? Beans, meat, pico de gallo, guacamole, rice, cheese and sometimes on the weekend when we’re being really bad we add sour cream (or is that just me?) Anyway, think about what types of ingredients you could use to make a delicious burrito or taco inspired salad. For sure I’d use tomatoes, red onions, beans (no, not refried!), grilled chicken or steak, avocado, cilantro and I’d crumble 1-2 tortilla chips top that with some feta cheese or queso fresco. In the picture above of the Chipotle Chicken Salad, I used some leftover brown rice that I had because I was out of quinoa, but it was only about 2 tablespoons. All of this in a bowl of mixed greens and there you have it! The dressing can simply be some olive oil mixed with lemon, salt and pepper. Or let some cilantro or oregano sit in some olive oil so the herb flavor can transfer to the oil, mix with some lemon, salt & pepper and that’s it. If you have a special love for spicy, then why not use your favorite homemade salsa as your dressing!

Summer Berry Salad
Personally, I’m not a fan of those store bought dressings full of sodium and sugar (ranch, blue-cheese, goddess, poppy seed). These dressings overpower all the other flavors and you can’t really appreciate the salad taste you create. I can do a lot with just some basic olive oil or balsamic vinegar in my pantry. Balsamic vinegar I like for salads like my Summer Berry Salad that have sweet ingredients like strawberries or blueberries, but it’s also great with some savory salads.  The thing to remember is that salads can be anything you want them to be. I’ve taken leftover dinner meals, tossed over some greens, added some veggies and yum! Also, salads do not have to be cold! I once made a warm salad by quickly sauteing kale, mixed with some fresh baby spinach, cut up some avocado, couscous, sprinkled some hemp seeds and chia seeds, feta, kalamata olives and grilled chicken on top. It was amazing.

Some people associate salads with lunch more than they do with dinner. Whenever I feel like I need some carbs for my dinner, I throw together a pasta salad. Just last night I cooked some brown rice penne pasta, let it cool. Using a mortar and pestle I crushed some chopped mint leaves in with some olive oil and let those flavors marry a bit. I mixed the pasta with some pitted kalamata olives (as you can tell I really love these!), feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, parsley (but it’s also delicious with basil), added some the mint-olive oil to dress it and we were so happy together.


So to my friend I say, be brave and taste different foods and ingredients. Let your creativity flow! A salad does not have to be boring. It should be colorful, fun, interesting and fulfilling – like a good first date! It should also be full of ingredients that fuel your health and love for yourself, not just as fuel to get through a busy day. You deserve so much more love than that!