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Candied Bacon Cashews…. Bow Chica Wow wow!

Every now and again, a recipe so brilliant and innovative comes along that it literally makes me take flight with joy. This is exactly what happened this past weekend after I boarded flight 400 from San Francisco to L.A.! I couldn’t help but take a peek at the good old ‘Spirit’ Magazine located in the backs of most Southwest chairs. Just as the flight attendant finished showing us where all four emergency exits were,  I came across this little number…. Candied Bacon Cashews. 

I’m still not sure if it was my heart literally jumping out of my chest , or if it was simply the feeling of being air born, but a wave of pure bliss encompassed me at the sight of such a recipe.

Bacon and cashews together? But of course! Why hadn’t I thought of this?

I am not a self proclaimed bacon lover, but this recipe just sounded so good…Three amazing flavors all combined into one sexy and sophisticated candy snack… could it really be?

I immediately  imagined these cashews being served in a cigar smoke-filled, dark mahogany wood laden, New York city bar. I also imagine they will be making an appearance at my Thanksgiving dinner party next month! (ahem!)

Now, I am a big advocate of giving credit where credit is due, so here is the deal… This recipe is the culinary work of Colin Lynch, Executive Chef at ‘Drink’ in Boston and here is how to make these naughty little gems!

~ Candied Bacon Cashews ~

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1  & 1/4 lbs raw cashews
1/4 cup diced bacon
Half the bacon fat (reserved for later)
1 tablespoon cold butter
Smoked salt (Sea salt will work just fine too!)

Directions:
1. Combine sugar and water in saucepan and heat until boiling.
2. Add cashews and stir continuously until the water evaporates and sugar is carmalized.

3. Stir in the bacon pieces!!

4. Turn off heat and add the bacon fat, butter and smoked salt to taste.
5. Transfer to a greased cookie sheet to cool, then break apart and serve!

Why I love this recipe:

I am a big fan of personalizing snacks or appetizers when I have people over… Attention to detail is important when you want to make a gathering extra special. Cashews by themselves are great, but why not add a delicious and personal touch by spending a little extra time to create this absolutely divine version.

Serve these bacon kissed cashews with a fancy drink, like a Kettle martini or a Manhattan perhaps, and I guarantee your guests will not stop praising your efforts!

Happy snacking! 🙂

Lemon, Basil and Goat Cheese Turkey Burgers

This is how to kick a burger up a notch! 😉

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of ground turkey breast
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, sliced in thin strips
  • The zest of half a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons of goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 7 grinds of black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 8 slices of sourdough bread
  • 4 tablespoons of garlic aioli  (If you want to get fancy!)
Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, basil, lemon zest, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, pepper and olive oil, and combine with your hands or a large wooden spoon.
2. Divide the turkey into four sections in the bowl, and taking one section at a time, make two thin burger patties per one second.
3. Lay one patty on a cutting board and add 1-2 tablespoons of goat cheese to the center, lightly spreading it out.
4. Now lay the top patty over the goat cheese topped patty and press the edges together creating one goat cheese filled burger.
5. Continue with the other 3 burgers.
6. In a sauté pan or grill, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the burgers. Cook 5 minutes on one side before flipping. DO NOT OVER-COOK. (If using a saute pan, try covering it during the duration of cooking.) Cook on the other side over high heat for 5 minutes or until fully cooked.
7. Make the garlic aioli if it sounds good.–> click on the recipe above
8. Toast the sourdough slices and put it all together!
Why I love this recipe:
It is a quick way to make a burger sophisticated and healthy! Did I mention it is also delicious!? If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, you can always sub feta and make it more Mediterranean! Bon appetite my friends!

A Simply Satisfying Spinach Salad with a Secret Dressing

There is no use denying the truth, I was a picky eater growing up, so picky in fact I didn’t touch a piece of lettuce until I was well into college. I remember thinking how wonderful and refreshing salads looked on a hot summer day, especially those crunchy salads covered with croutons and Parmesan cheese! But even still, I could not get myself to like the texture of what I considered to be ‘weeds’ at that time.

It took trying a light green salad tossed in an amazing ginger dressing at the ripe age of 20, to help bring out my inner herbivore! And since that special day I have been in love with greens! From romaine, to spinach and every green in between, I love eating and making salads!

We all know that to have a solid salad, you need a solid dressing. Store bought dressings tend to be high in fat and sodium and never seem to taste as good as the home-made versions. I have always been partial to the sweet, tangy and salty dressing combinations, and that is where the idea for my very secret salad dressing came from.

The salad itself is pretty basic, calling for whatever ingredients your heart desires, but here is my version of both the salad and the dressing below!

~ A Simply Satisfying Spinach Salad ~

Serves 4

  • 4 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1 large avocado cubed
  • Half a green apple, thinly sliced
  • Salted walnuts – A handful or so (optional).
  • 10 shaves of Parmesan cheese or parmesan curls ( I use a potato peeler for this)
  • 1 tablespoon of rich honey
  • 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic power
  • dash of sea salt
  • 4 grinds of black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – roughly 1/4 cup
Directions
1. In a medium-sized bowl, and in this order, add the tablespoon of honey.
2. Next add the Italian seasoning, garlic power, sea salt and pepper.
3. Pour in the balsamic vinaigrette, and with a small whisk or fork, fully combine the above ingredients.
4. As you continue to whisk, slowly pour in a narrow stream of the olive oil and whisk until fully combined. I tend to like my dressing a bit more on the balsamic side, so I rarely pour more than 1/4 a cup of E.V.O.O. Up to you though! 🙂
The dressing is now done so set it aside!
5. Next in a large bowl add the spinach, and pour in half the dressing.
6. Lightly toss.
7. Now add the avocado cubes, Parmesan curls, green apples, walnuts and the remainder of the dressing and serve immediately!
Why I love this recipe:
It acts as a wonderful side salad to any meal, especially when you want to lighten up those heavier ones! Super easy to make, and versatile, this salad incorporates three of my favorite things… Avocado, green apples, Parmesan and balsamic!
If you enjoy this recipe, or have a question, feel free to leave a comment below! Until Thursday my friends, Bon appetite!

…And That’s a Wrap!

Ever need a quick go-to lunch, or maybe a quick go-to dinner that doesn’t require three hours spent in the kitchen?… Well you have come to the right place! As much as I love quality time with  my pots and pans, it is nice to get out every once and again, and make a quick but nutritious meal!

Growing up, wraps were not a common item on our lunch or dinner menu, but I was always intrigued by them! Not quite a burrito, but no a sandwich. The closest thing I came to experiencing one of these baby’s was at a friends Birthday party, where pin wheels from Costco were one of the appetizers.  (C’mon, you remember them too!)

Any who, I typically bring my lunch to work and got tired of the everyday sandwich or left-overs from dinner the night before. I decided to take a few of my all time favorite ingredients and combine them together to make this delish, chicken, goat cheese, sun-dried tomato and zucchini wrap. Prepare your taste buds, because work week lunches just turned into a party!

~Chicken, Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomato and Zucchini Wrap ~

Makes 2 Wraps

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole wheat wraps (you can cheat and use tortillas, just warm them before hand, and no they don’t have to be wheat) —> I like buying mine at Trader Joe’s.
  • 4 tablespoons of herb goat cheese
  • 1 cup of cooked, and diced/shredded chicken
  • 1 small zucchini sliced into very small strips (aka: a Julienne cut)
  • 4 tablespoons of sliced sun-dried tomatoes
  • A little salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Lay your first wrap flat on a cutting board
2. With a butter knife, evenly spread the goat cheese making sure to not get too close to the edges.
3. Arrange your chicken, sliced zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes next.
4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
5. Wrap it all up like a burrito!
Here is how:
Fold at least one edge in (if you lay your ingredients out in a line rather than a pile it will help-make the first fold perpendicular to the “line of food,” then fold the opposite side in).Next rotate 90 degrees, and fold one edge over the fillings and pull back firmly, but not too much; and roll on itself.Cut in half or keep whole and enjoy or refrigerate!

Why I love this recipe:
I love this recipe because it is super easy to make as long as you have all the necessary ingredients! I also love taking it for lunch or for a picnic, and warming it the microwave for 20 seconds (if there is one around of course!) I don’t mind eating it by itself, but for you dippers out there, adding a pesto or ranch dressing to the mix might just take lunch to a whole new level!  ❤ ❤ ❤

Giada’s Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup

When it was normal to idolize popular athletes, pop singers or actresses, I was watching Food Network Chefs in awe… Britney Spears could “do it again” until the cows came home and I could not have cared less, because my idol was far less fame focused, and far more food focused. Her name is Giada De Laurentiis, and my guess is all foodies out there would recognize her from her Food Network show, ‘Everyday Italian.’

I was and still am extremely fascinated with the way she is able to take a few simple ingredients and create a quick, and healthy Italian meal. This fascination of mine became larger than life when I, (for the first time), had to cook for myself in college. My small apartment kitchen quickly became my playground, and to my roommates dismay, I attempted to cook every recipe of hers…A hobby which came with its fair share of dishes mind you!

Giada always has been able to add a modern and clean twist to old Italian favorites, and watching her interact with her Italian family reminded me of my own! Her recipes have been tried more times than I can count by yours truly, like this silky Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup. I take it one step further and make my own croutons with left-over San Francisco sourdough bread, and it is heavenly.

~ Giada’s Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup ~

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1-2 sage leaf
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of cannelloni or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • A sourdough baguette
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (if you have it on hand)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

Place a medium, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the butter, olive oil, and shallot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sage and beans and stir to combine. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the garlic and simmer until the garlic is softened, about 10 minutes. Pour the soup into a large bowl. Carefully ladle 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Be careful to hold the top of the blender tightly, as hot liquids expand when they are blended. Pour the blended soup back into the soup pan. Puree the remaining soup. Once all the soup is blended and back in the soup pan, or if you have an immersion blender use that and blend half of the soup! Next add the cream and the pepper, and keep warm, covered, over very low heat.

Cut half the baguette into cubes and place in a bowl. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and add the garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, Italian seasoning, and parmesan cheese, give a quick toss, and bake on a cookie sheet at a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Why I love this recipe: For one it is really easy for me to keep all the necessary ingredients on hand, and it is a very inexpensive soup to make! I also love how the texture can be played around with, blending it longer for a smoother soup! Personally, I like adding the croutons right on the top of my soup with an extra sprinkling of parm! I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do! Cheers!

Home-Made Pumpkin Spice Latte’s

It was raining out, the sky was gray and I was stuck at work for the next three hours. I needed a little cozy pick-me-up, and I couldn’t think of anything better than a steamy, pumpkin-spice latte from “the bucks,” to remind me of Thanksgiving and the holidays with the fam-bam down in La La land… (aka: L.A.) As I drank my seasonal caffeinated treat, a wave of fear came over me as  I realized that come January, this delicious beverage I was so carelessly enjoying, would be no more! I would have to wait until next September to get my fix.

So like any good caffeine addict, I decided that I would NOT have it, and came up with a plan to make it myself! “How hard could it be?” I thought! Well after doing a little research, I came to find out that it isn’t hard at all! (Phew, a sigh of relief!) After some trial and error, I think I came up with a not-too-sweet, not too spicy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte that you are sure to love from the comfort of your own home! (Side note: Wearing P.J.’s or slippers while making these latte’s only enhance the over-all experience!)

The key lies in making a proper pumpkin base to add to your coffee or espresso, because the rest is easy breezy! The great thing about this ‘base’ if you will, is that you can blend it all together it a couple of days ahead of time, and use it in the mornings when you’re slim on time and rushing out of the house! If you can make any old cup of joe, you can make this, I promise! I am also happy to say that this recipe is a healthier alternative to Starbucks’ version, which can actually run you 300-500 calories a pop!

Between the turkey and Christmas cookies up ahead, I don’t need to also worry about how many calories I’m drinking! I hope you find a way to sip up the fall season this with fun and easy latte recipe, and don’t forget to add a little spice to your morning  routine! 🙂

Thanks to Lauren Conrad for the inspiration behind this recipe!

~ Home-Made Pumpkin Spice Latte’s ~

Serves 2 snuggle bunnies

1 cup of water
2 tablespoons coffee
1 cup milk (regular, almond, rice, or soy)
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice blend
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey (or agave)
2 tablespoons of home-made whip cream
1 pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Brew one cup of coffee or 2 shots of espresso using water.
To Make the Syrup:
  1. In saucepan over low heat, whisk together milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, vanilla extract and honey. (Optional: You can also mix these ingredients in a blender first and then pour the mixture into a saucepan for heating.)
  2. Add in coffee and mix well.
  3. Stir mixture for another minute or two until hot.
  4. Pour half of the mixture into your favorite mug, top it off with home-made whip cream and a dash of nutmeg…Enjoy!

Why I love this recipe: To start, it is awesome in the mornings… It is also just as awesome in the afternoons when I need a sweet treat, or for ‘an after dinner’ dessert! Serve this little number with a slice of apple or pumpkin pie, and I guarantee you will glow with glee just like a jack-o-lantern! If you’re feeling super naughty, drizzle some rich caramel sauce over the top for an extra sweet surprise! YUM!



The Godfather’s Chicken Parmesan

 

“Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick.” – The Godfather

So okay, maybe cooking for 20 Italian men isn’t on your agenda anytime soon, but making this chicken parmesan should be! I sub the traditional Italian breadcrumbs for panko, and add lots of parmesan cheese! This recipe is sure to be a hit, but don’t just take my word for it, put on your nicest fedora, grab a friend, and make them a dinner that they couldn’t refuse!

The Godfather’s Chicken Parmesan

Serves 4 Mafia Members

Ingredients

  • 4 oz of panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 (6 ounce) skinless boneless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
  • 4 large basil leaves
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 jar good-quality mariana sauce (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) fresh or pre-shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons (1/2-ounce) shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a medium bowl pour in the panko crumbs, and toss with the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

3. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and milk together.

4. In a third bowl stir together the flour, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

5. Dip each piece of chicken, 1 piece at a time, in flour, shaking off excess, then egg, then the panko crumbs, shaking off excess.

6.  Place breaded breasts in a glass baking dish and spray on each side with cooking spray, about 5 seconds total per side.

7. Bake breasts until cooked though and crumbs are browned, about 25 minutes.

8. Top with marinara sauce, one basil leaf per cutlet, mozzarella and parmesan and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is bubbling. Serve with a fresh green salad and garlic bread, or a side of s’ghetti for a complete meal!

Why I like this recipe:

Whenever I need a go-to comfort food, chicken parm is at the top of my list! I like this particular recipe because I believe comfort food shouldn’t necessarily make you feel like you ate your entire childhood in one setting. This recipe offers a modern take and an old classic, shying away from the traditional greasy chicken parm’s that are typical when eating out. I hope you come to love this recipe as much as I do!

Bon appetite!

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