As it is with bloggers, I receive requests to review products, most of which I decline as either it would not be something I would personally eat or use, like processed food or excessive kitchen gadgetry. I select those that I feel would be useful, healthy and valuable to share.
Recently I was contacted by Ethan Casucci, Director of Client Services at Thought for Food and Son who introduced me to Golden Girl Granola. As soon as I read that Golden Girl Granola is an all-natural, whole grain granola that is non-GME, dairy/cholesterol/casein/trans-fat/wheat free with no preservatives, artificial color or flavors.. I was all in!
It’s very important to me to know exactly what is in my food and with that, I prep ahead food to grab for lunches and quick meals. Plus I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. However, it seems like my make-a-heads keep increasing along with the my time involved, so when I read the ingredients on these granolas, I happily agreed to taste test their product and hopefully scratch off homemade granola from my list!
After hours of contemplation to select four to review, I chose Bluesberry, Truly Tropical (gluten-free), Creative Cranberry and Chocolate Decadence. You can check out their website to see the other tempting options…Pumpkin Harvest is definitely on my list to try before this seasonal favorite is sold out.
I love the cute package graphics and further reading of their story really captured my heart. Golden Girl Granola is a family based business out of Carlisle, MA. Starting with selling hand-sewn bags, to home-made granola, breads, cookies, scones and pies at farmers markets, these dedicated young girls continued to grow their business, finally focusing on their granola products. As the whole family became involved they are now in twenty specialty stores, six Whole Foods Markets, and online through their website. I just love a good success story…with passion, drive and surely a lot of effort, small businesses can succeed.
Now, I don’t need to tell you all how addicting a good granola is. My samples arrive and of course, I must taste them. Okay, I love you girls, however….I just couldn’t stop! Definitely right out of the bag is perfectly delicious. I cannot give you a favorite as I found each variety to be unique and flavorful, tasty blend, without being overly sweet.
The samples arrived with a mini cookbook of recipes you can also view on their website. After the out-of-the-bag approach, I mixed in Creative Cranberry in my yogurt and topped my soft serve banana ice cream with Bluesberry granola. Seeing their Chocolate Decadence Sundae and eying my abundance of avocados, I decided Chocolate Decadence needed to top chocolate pudding!
Avocado Chocolate Pudding is not my creation as it’s been seen everywhere, my first siting of this was Paelo at PaleOMG. Her five-ingredient recipe was easy enough for me, with slight adapting. If you have not tried Avocado Chocolate Pudding…you truly must! Will it taste like an avocado? yes, but sweeten it up, add a pinch of salt, taste again…sweeten to taste and there you go, Chocolate Pudding.
I have one more little treat to share with you using the Truly Tropical.. stay tuned!
Avocado Chocolate Pudding
2 avocados, just softly ripe
1/4 cup unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/4 cup organic milk of your choice
2 tablespoons nut butter (I’ve used whole almonds when I want to have a crunchy texture)
2 – 3 tablespoons sweetener of your choice, I have used honey, maple syrup or agave (note that agave sweetens with less the amount than the others)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
Add all ingredients into a food processor or blender and whirl away. Please taste, taste, taste to your desired level of sweetness. The ‘avocado’ taste will diminish with the addition of sweetener and salt. Chill for an hour or longer and up to two days ahead. Makes 4 1/2 cup servings.
It was one if those rare evenings, Gina was home, we both had plans for later but needed a quick meal. Together cooking in the kitchen, 20 something talk about life, mother talk about reality, sighing about differences, loving every minute.
Whenever I find a recipe or method that I feel can be recreated in a variety of ways, it becomes my go to method for pulling together quick, satisfyingly elegant meals. I’m hooked on this easy sauce I found on on Taste, a Williams Sonoma blog.
As the recipe stands, it is a perfect light dish when craving pasta. And, yes, I crave pasta and I no longer deny myself such a beautiful pleasure.
Another beautiful pleasure….a recipe requiring wine, 1/2 cup for the sauce, a glass for me.
We followed the recipe pretty much as is, however we used only 1/2 lb of pasta. Fresh shrimp, lobster mussels or firm fish could be substituted, a touch of cream would lighten the color and add richness. And when I want to avoid the carbs, spaghetti squash instead of the pasta.
Linguine with Spicy Calamari
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 large cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried, finely chopped or crumbled
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup, 6 oz, tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 lb. cleaned small squid, cut into rings and tentacles
1/2 lb. linguine (purchase Artisan pasta made in Italy, pay a bit more, think quality over quantity, it makes a huge difference)
2 tablespoons fresh Italian, flat leaf parsley
In a fry pan large enough to accommodate the pasta later, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the
shallots and garlic are softened but not colored, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir for about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and the wine and simmer until most of the wine has evaporated, about 3
minutes. Add the clam juice and continue to simmer until thickened and aromatic, about 20 minutes.
Add the squid and cook gently until tender, no more than 5 minutes. If the sauce becomes thin after
cooking the squid, remove the squid with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Cook the sauce over gentle heat until it once again thickens, then return the squid to the pan. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
In a large pot, bring 5 water to a rapid boil. Check the package directions for the cooking time, then add 2 Tbs. salt and the pasta to the boiling water, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is 1 minute shy of being al dente.
Drain the pasta, add to the sauce in the pan and place the pan over low heat. Add the parsley and toss the pasta and sauce together for about 1 minute. Some of the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta, but plenty will remain, keeping the pasta moist. Transfer to a warmed large, shallow serving bowl or individual shallow bowls and serve right immediately. Serves 4.
I just received a great little gift idea for the hostess or cocktail lover on your shopping list! A few weeks back I was contacted by Rizzi at Artic Chill to do a review for their Cocktail Muddler. I took a quick look at the product on their website and knew instantly this would not be just another gadget cluttering up my kitchen drawer, but one very useful and uniquely designed tool. The Arctic Chill’s muddler is made from stainless steel and features a grooved nylon head.
In my home, mixed cocktails are pretty much limited to dinner and holiday party entertaining when I like to offer a festive cocktail for the occassion. On a more daily basis, we love to make tea using fresh herbs, such as mint, rosemary or basil. So to test out this product, we made a cranberry, mint and ginger tea.
When muddling, you want to crush the cranberries and ginger yet gently bruise the herbs to release the flavor. The grooved rubber end worked so much better than the wooden dowel we normally use and the handle is sturdy with a comfortable grip. To continue to prepare the infused tea, bring water to just a boil and pour about 1 cup water to 1 crushed tablespoon of herbs per serving and let steep for 5-7 minutes. The portions you use and the allowed time to steep can vary depending on your taste.
After steeping, pour the tea through a strainer and discard the herbs. We have these cute tea cups with an infuser and lid; however, using a french press is another way to muddle the herbs in the beaker, allow to steep and then gently press down the plunger to separate the herbs and hold them at the bottom.
So good…but now I’m thinking it’s time to test muddle a mojito!
As I mentioned in my previous post with the Pomegranate Walnut and Apple Salad, I have been so fascinated with Moroccan foods, particularly with these salad plates. The display of colorful, healthy salads, for me, would be a meal in itself.
The salad to the right of the platter is my take on the Cinnamon Dusted Butternut Squash with Candied Pecans and Cranberry my daughter and I spotted at Whole Foods. For that salad I diced the butternut squash, sautéing it in olive oil until crispy on the outside and soft inside, adding in thinly sliced green onions, toasted pecans (not candied for my version) and dried cranberries. The seasonings were lightly flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, salt and fresh chopped parsley. So very good!
I found my inspiration for the Moroccan Carrot and Garbanzo Bean Salad from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks. I always love how she takes what she finds in the fresh markets and creates intriguing dishes always so beautifully photographed.
I seasoned the salad with my version of a Moroccan blend, not in any way authentic as I wasn’t sure my guests would want their long awaited holiday meal to be too out there and unusual for their taste. It was just enough to enhance this to being full of spice flavor without being extreme in any way. In fact, I love this blend so much, I mixed up a jar full to surprise season other dishes.
Moroccan Carrot and Garbanzo Bean Salad
1 lb carrots, organic preferred, peeled and coarsely grated
1 15 oz can Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup mixed fresh mint and parsley, chopped
For the dressing:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, with grated zest (choose organic when zesting)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey – add more to taste
1/2 teaspoon Sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
In a large bowl, combine all the salad ingredients. In a small jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well. Mix into the salad, taste to sweeten and season as necessary. Flavor improves when allowed to sit at room temperature or refrigerate if making the day ahead. Serves 6 as a side salad.
I’m trying really hard this year to slow down and enjoy the holiday season, eat light and healthy and enjoy every day. I seem to do fine with eating healthy because it’s just the way I eat, but the hard part for me is in slowing down my pace. It’s just the way I am.
I get so excited about the holidays, tons of ideas for decorating, tablescaping and gift wrapping. Holiday food to make, festive cocktails, Christmas cookies and desserts…my head is spinning with ideas.
This year I am making an effort to simplify the holidays. Going back to the basics and enjoying my time with my family. Oh, and also adding a Moroccan feel to the festivities because come on, I can’t dial down my creativeness all the way.
As soon as I saw this presentation of colorful Moroccan salads it became the inspiration for my Thanksgiving menu this year. Along with a Moroccan Spiced Turkey, my platter will include this Pomegranate Walnut and Apple Salad, Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Salad, Green Bean Salad, Sweet Potatoes with Ginger, Spiced Brussels Sprouts Salad and Roasted Acorn Squash with Pecans.
Oh, and wild rice, quinoa and sausage stuffing, cauliflower purée, cranberry maple cornbread and cherry port cranberry sauce. Yeah, just keeping it simple…
Pomegranate, Walnut and Apple Salad
1 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup celery, thickly cut, leaves included
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup apples, diced, I prefer a green tart apple
1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and the zest, about 1 organic lemon
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Keep it easy on yourself…combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl, drizzled on the lemon juice, olive oil, toss, taste, season. Can be made 1 day ahead. Serves 4 as a side salad.
As that big day comes closer, turkey talk increases, to brine or not to brine debates ensue and worries over making the gravy creep in. As there are so many recipes for turkey, the same seems to go for the gravy. I have switched up my recipe over the years as well, but no matter the recipe there are a few basic steps.
Making the roux is based on equal amounts of fat and flour. Cornstarch can be used instead of the flour, taking into consideration of what type of gravy I’m making. If I want to have a darker roux, I use flour as cornstarch will not darken when cooked longer. Also, if cooked too long, cornstarch will break down and the gravy becomes thin.
Because this post is about making gravy ahead of time and freezing, using flour is a better choice. I usually make my gravy when the turkey is resting, whisking away as I’m multi-tasking several dishes to get the Thanksgiving dinner on the table in perfect timing.
This year I’ve decided to prepare not just my turkey stock ahead of time, but also the gravy. In testing this out, freezing gravy is definitely a timesaving option. Defrosting the gravy a day ahead, it will look a bit odd, but slowly heating and whisking the gravy will pull it back together. As I note in the recipe below, if it seems a bit thin, making a slurry of cornstarch and turkey broth, then adding it in and whisking quickly will thicken it back up.
If making the gravy ahead and freezing is a bit overkill, I get it. But without a doubt, making the turkey stock is a must for my Thanksgiving. I will use the stock to flavor the stuffing, baste the turkey, and of course make the gravy. And leftover stock for next day turkey soup is rich and flavorful.
Herb Infused Turkey Gravy
Leftover Turkey Dripping, about 2 – 3 tablespoons
1/2 cup red wine
In a small saucepan, combine the turkey drippings, about 3 tablespoons and red wine. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer for approximately 7-10 minutes till reduced halfway. Pour into fat separator and set aside.
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons flour, I used white/wheat blend flour
4-6 cups turkey stock
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil. Add in the shallot and sauté a few minutes. Add in the flour and whisk briskly to make a roux. Continue for about 3-5 minutes as the mixture becomes thick and smooth.
Begin to pour in the turkey stock slowly, 1 – 2 cups at a time, whisking to incorporate well. Add in the herbs. Bring gravy to a boil, reduce to a simmer, whisking occasionally about 10 minutes. Stir in the dripping/wine reduction and continue to whisk and cook to desired consistency. Remove herbs and discard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If freezing, allow to cool and freeze.
Defrost gravy one day before. The appearance will not look right, but gently warm the gravy, whisking to blend well. If the gravy appears thin, combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon turkey broth to create a slurry. Add slurry to simmering gravy, whisk quickly to thicken gravy. Taste and season again to taste.
We are having some beautiful fall weather in South Florida! When fall comes to Florida, it’s more of a pretend season. It will be 80 degrees and locals will pulling out their boots, light sweaters and scarves…pretty silly looking to the vacationing Northerners who are walking around in their shorts and sundresses. When you live here for awhile, you feel the change of seasons and get very excited.
This weekend, we hit some low temps. The humidity is gone and just the most wonderful breezes are blowing through my open windows. The morning air is brisk, almost to a chill as my Chihuahuas make it short, quick walk. My morning walk is at a faster pace, my hands curled up in my sweatshirt to keep warm.
The skies were clear and the bluest blue, while the sun gently warmed the breezes creating the picture perfect day. As evening came, the temperature dropped further and as I planned for all day, a warming soup would be just what we needed to fully experience this Fall weather.
Basing this on my mom’s minestrone recipe, I just swapped out the potatoes for pumpkin. I kept it simple and did not add in any beans. The pumpkin seeds were a last minute thought while I was cutting the pumpkin. The seeds added an interesting bite and salty taste.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups raw pumpkin, about 1/2 small pumpkin, cubedubed
2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
2 cups zucchini, cubed
1 small bunch spinach, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped, about 2 cups
4 – 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Toasted pumpkin seeds and Parmesian cheese, grated for serving, optional
In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil. Add in the onion and sauté till tender. Add in the pumpkin and carrots and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Add in the zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add in the stock to just cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30-35 minutes. Add in the spinach and parsley and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Serves about 4 as a main dish. Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
And I love this soup. In fact, it will make a reappearance in December for a gorgeous red Christmas soup, minus the drips and fake bloody hand.
Halloween wickedly crept up on me this year. I’m usually all decorated for Halloween by now. Pumpkins, skulls, skeletons, witches and brooms tastefully decorating my home. Thousands of ideas, too little time.
Since Halloween falls on a Friday this year, I already know pizza will be on my menu. I’ll probably oddly shape it and let the sauce seep over the sides of the crust and top it with sliced pimento stuffed olives for a few creepy eyeballs…. just because.
Beets will always turn any dish the brightest red; including countertops, hands and dishtowels. They added the perfect compliment to this simple lentil soup. A bit of extra spiciness was needed for me, but my son loved it just as it was.
1 teaspoon butter and 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup red lentils
1 cup diced beets
4 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Dash of Sriachi Sauce, optional
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil. Add in the onion and cook for about 8 minutes until softened. Add in the red lentils, diced beets and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer for about 35 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool. Pour the soup into a blender to cream. Can be made ahead, gently rewarm to serve. Season to taste again and depending on your preference for spiciness, add a dash of hot sauce. Makes about 4 servings or 8 shot glasses of bloody soup.
How quickly time passes… last week I was vacationing in the beautiful surroundings of Italy and now…well, it’s all a cherished memory as I work my way back into the daily routines of my life. Yet, I brought back a different me from this trip. A woman who once feared venturing out alone, pretty low on the confidence pole and decision doubting, to a renewed, refreshed, totally in awe of life and beauty, humbled by my inner strength and a new amore la vita, love of life! Read more…