Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chewy Flourless Chocolate Brownies



I adapted a flourless chocolate cake recipe to create these chewy beauties.  It is an incredibly simple recipe and the brownies improve over time so I recommend baking the day before you want to serve it.  Letting them fully cool helps them hold together and gives them the chewy texture that I look for in a brownie.

Happy baking!










Chewy Flourless Chocolate Brownies


Ingredients

5 eggs
1 c white sugar
1 c butter
8 oz chocolate chips (I prefer Ghiradelli milk chocolate)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and prep your cake pan with a cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat your eggs and sugar together and set aside.  Melt your butter in a saucepan in a double broiler or low heat in a sauce pan.  I like to cut the butter into tablespoon size pieces to expedite the melting process.  Make sure to keep a close eye on the butter, stirring occasionally.  When your butter is almost fully melted, turn heat off and add chocolate chips, stir until fully melted and incorporated.  Pour your chocolate-butter mixture from your sauce pan to your egg and sugar mixture in the large bowl, using a spatula to get all of the butter and chocolate.  Stir until combined.  Pour mixture into a round cake pan and bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until center is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  As tempting as it might be to eat them warm, I recommend fully cooling them before you cut with a spatula and serve.  Without the flour to keep it together they can be a bit flimsier than your normal brownie.

Store in an air tight container in your refrigerator.




Friday, February 27, 2015

Chicken Andouille Sausage in Tomato Olive Caper Sauce with Polenta



I'm always up for trying new recipes.  My friends and family know I love to cook so I have a lot of conversations that start with "I found this recipe that I bet you'd like..." or "We made this recipe last night, you'd love it, let me email it to you..."

This recipe is one of those!

I received this William Sonoma recipe on a Saturday night from my fellow foodie coworker.  That picture!  Mmm.  I put it on my to-make list for the following weekend.  Since my husband is allergic to shellfish we have to modify a bit when we get tasty looking recipes like this that include shrimp.  This Moroccan Style Shrimp recipe is one of our favorites that we've modified to use chicken instead of shrimp.

Instead of substituting the obvious chicken breast we decided to go with these Spicy Andouille Chicken Sausage.









Even though we both really enjoyed this recipe, next time I'll probably use brined (ya gotta brine!), cubed and saute chicken in place of the sausage.  The smoked chicken sausage was tasty but smoked pork sausage would've been better and chicken breast would've been healthier.  Cooking is trial and error though, right?

Chicken Andouille Sausage in Tomato Olive Caper Sauce with Polenta

Ingredients:

2 c water
2/3 c dry polenta (I like Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits known as Polenta)
1 tbps olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
A pinch of red pepper flakes
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 c dry white wine
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
3 fully cooked smoked chicken andouille sausages, cut into bite sized pieces (or other cooked meat)
1/4 cup Kalamat olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers, drained and roughly chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

To make the polenta, in a heavy saucepan, bring your water, oil, salt and pepper to a boil over high heat.  Gradually whisk in the corn grits.  Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, stirring frequently, until the polenta is thick, about 15 minutes.

While the polenta is cooking, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil.  Add the onion and red pepper flakes and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and boil until it is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.

While the wine and onions are cooking, pour your tomatoes and their juices into a large enough bowl and chop each tomato into about 4 pieces, removing the hard bits of the tomato near the stem.  Add the tomatoes with their juices into the sauce pan. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes.

Toss the sausage into the mixture (you can substitute any fully cooked meat you'd like or skip it altogether).  Cook until warm, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the olives, capers and thyme and simmer for another 30 seconds. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

When the polenta is done, stir in the thyme.  Divide the polenta between bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan then spoon the sauce over the top and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese if you're feeling it!

The sauce serves about 4 and the polenta serves 2.  We had it for two nights making fresh polenta both nights.

Have you found any good recipes that you love so much that you need to share?  I'm a decent listener and love to add new meals to my recipe book!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Long Hair, Don't Care


Chah right!  Growing long hair takes at least some care and effort to keep it looking healthy.  Here is a photo of my hair at its longest and healthiest (and prettiest, there I said it).  Thanks Mama Lesli for the photo!

Back to my point...

I have some tips I've picked up over the years that have helped me successfully grow healthy, long hair.  I thought I should share for two reasons.  The first is I have a pretty good regimen (that isn't that difficult) that keeps my hair soft, shiny and relatively not frizzy and maybe you'll like it too.  And the second is because I want to hear from you!  If you have any methods for maintaining healthy hair, let's hear it sista'!

Trim regularly:  Let's be realistic about what long hair is.  It is dead and old (sexy, huh?).  In order to keep your hair healthy, you have to stay up to date on your trims!  Every 8 to 12 weeks, possibly 6 to 8 weeks if there is a lot of breakage.  Four cuts a year isn't that much time and is a relatively cheap way to get healthy hair. 

Watch out for your purse strap:  Move your hair before you put your purse strap over your shoulder.  A stylist once told me that the majority of his female clients come in with one side of her hair shorter than the other and it is because she breaks her hair with her purse strap.  This one is easy, so for goodness sake, move your hair out of harm's way.

Don't shampoo everyday:  If you can help it.  I'm sure there are exceptions out there that need to or can wash her hair everyday and it's all good but I'm not one of them.  I try to schedule my work outs to line up with my shampoo schedule (I will sometimes hit up the 6am work out class just so I can wash my hair in the morning, ha!).  I always try to go for as long as possible without washing my hair but it never lasts that long, 2 maybe 3 days if I'm lucky.  Cooking is usually my downfall since the hood over my stove is ancient and doesn't do it's job and suddenly I smell like bacon and onions.

Speaking of Shampoo (and Conditioner):  Spoil yourself.  Just do it.  You get one head of hair to take care of so you might as well get the good stuff when it comes to shampoo and conditioner.  I'm aware that the good stuff is expensive, so what I'll do to make the cost more manageable is change things up almost every bottle.  Sometimes I'll use Herbal Essences shampoo with a Bumble & Bumble conditioner.  Or a Pureology Shampoo with Agadir Argan Oil Conditioner.  Right now I'm on Bumble & Bumble Thickening Shampoo and Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Conitioner.  I like them all but I like changing them better :)

Use a comb, not a brush:  I just learned about this one, which is kind of sad but better late than never I suppose.  Don't use a brush on wet hair, use a comb since they are gentler on your hair.  Even good combs are pretty cheap so make a $3 investment and only comb wet hair or use your fingers to remove tangles.  

Okay if you have to use a brush:  I use a round brush when I want to blow out my hair, so even I don't always stick to my ideals.  But if you must use a brush to style, choose one with widely spaced plastic bristles since they are smoother and kinder to your hair.  Still, natural bristles, like boar hair bristles, make it easier grip and to style hair.  I go with the combo bristles to try to damage less.  I also try not to twist or pull my hair to tight while blow drying

Use a heat-styling protective agent:  My stylists used Nectar Thermique on my hair about a year and a half ago and I can't imagine that I ever lived without it!  I use it after every shower, whether I'm going to heat style my hair or not.  This is one of the few heat protecting products out there that apparently is still nourishing even without heat.

Do a weekly hair mask:  With this dry winter weather, I've started a weekly hair mask.  I use Masque Force Architecte.  I've only been using this one for about a month but I look forward to the special treatment on Saturdays and it smells like candy and leaves my hair super soft.

Kerastase Fusio-Dose Homelab:  This is another favorite product discovery.  Kerastase has created a customizable, homelab treatment.  Apparently the active ingredients in the treatment deliver deep, target action to the transform your hair fiber.  I've been told that this treatment repairs inside of your hair rather than just the outside (most products and masks only work on the outside of your hair).  I don't understand exactly how it works, but it always makes my hair look and feel healthier, making it much easier to go the full 12 weeks between trims.

To buy this you can locate a salon near you to see who sells the homelab.  One treatment is $25 at Salon Vox and it only takes a few minutes.  Then I have the option to pay another $75 to take the other 3 treatments home.  I usually do this treatment every 3 weeks but I'll skip it if I don't feel like I need it.

Eep, only 1 left!



Since I think photos usually make a post more fun, I'm going to cross the line here.



This next part has zero to do with growing your hair out.  You've been warned.



This little one followed me to the bathroom when I went to take a photo of my homelab and he was being way too cute to resist a mini-photo shoot.






Eat your heart out ladies.



That was fun :)  Now back to business....what's your M.O. for growing and caring for long hair?

It's Citrus Season!


I mean, look at that grapefruit juice dripping down the side of the halfy....wow, succulent!

Citrus season arrived just in time for cold season too.  When I feel a cold coming on I tend to ramp up my water intake and citrus intake.  I don't usually get very sick so I like to think it helps.

I was noshing on a Moro orange (aka blood orange) while taking these photos this morning.  It is the perfect combo of tart and sweet for breakfast and half of the grapefruit will be my snack at work!

Sweet Scarletts Grapefruit

Do you try to eat seasonally?  I highly recommend going out to score some grapefruits and oranges, like, now.  YUM.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Whole Wheat Thin Crust Pizza



As I mentioned before, I take inventory in my kitchen.  I like to decide which meals to make based on what we already have but I'm all for picking up a few extras to really make it a meal.  Last week we had a ginormous wedge of Parmesan and an open jar of Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce and to me that just screams pizza!  I like to make a veggie heavy, wheat thin-crust pizza, but if you prefer a thicker crust, the dough I made for 'empanada, basically...' was bangin' and I would recommend using that dough recipe.

Since pizza dough takes a little time, I always start it before I prep any of the other the toppings.


I just dive right in with bare hands to turn and knead the dough.






Once the dough is resting I begin the veggie prep.  Mushrooms and peppers are a must!





Next, I slice the fresh mozzarella and grate some Parmesan.



Saute the peppers and onions in a swirl of olive oil.  I add the mushrooms after the onions become translucent (about 3 minutes) since mushrooms need less time to cook than the other vegetables.



After the dough rests for 30 minutes, I roll it out on my counter, covered with parchment paper and a dusting of cornmeal and flour to stop it from sticking.  I sort of smash the dough into a rectangle shape since I don't have a round pizza pan.  I use a rolling pin to thin it out, making sure it isn't sticking to anything the whole time.  Its the worst when you have a perfectly rolled out dough and then find it is stuck to the parchment paper...





Make sure to poke the uncooked dough with a fork so it doesn't have air bubbles a when you bake it.  Bake for 15 minutes until the bottom is slightly browned and getting crispy.


Top with sauce and cheese.



Add your cooked veggies and more grated Parmesan cheese.


Just 10 more minutes in the oven and we have pizza!  The parchment paper makes moving the pizza to a cutting board super easy.





Thin Crust Pizza

Dough Ingredients:

1 c warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 c white flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
cornmeal (optional)
extra flour for kneading

Topping Ingredients:

Sauce, Cheese, Sauteed Veggies, Cooked Meat...whatever you'd like!

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Before you do anything else, add the yeast to the cup of warm water and let sit for 10 minutes.  Next whisk your flours and salt together in a large mixing bowl.  Once the 10 minutes is up on the water and yeast, pour the olive oil into the water mixture, whisk with a fork and add to the flours bowl.  Turn and knead for 6-8 minutes or until the dough comes together.  Separate dough into two balls if you'll be making two pizzas and set aside to rest in a mixing bowl covered loosely with a clean dish towel for 30 minutes.

While the dough rests, prep your toppings, cooking your veggies and meat fully.  If your toppings are looking runny, don't hesitate to drain and set them on a paper towel lined plate to soak up some moisture (wet toppings = soggy pizza).  When your dough is done rising - don't worry if it doesn't rise, mine only rises half of the time, I'm sure it has to do with the yeast.  But since it is thin crust, I find it doesn't really effect anything!  Roll out your dough into the shape of the pan you'll be baking on and poke the uncooked dough with a fork.  Bake crust for 15 minutes.  Add toppings and bake for another 10 minutes to warm everything up and melt the cheese.

This is one of my favorite meals that is easy to throw together as an afterthought.  Even when we don't have the 'right' pizza toppings, really anything goes!  Leftover chicken breast?  Throw it on a pizza!  Don't have red sauce?  Try draining a can of diced tomatoes, slicing fresh tomatoes or drizzling your crust with olive oil and salt (and Parmesan) and skip tomatoes all together.  Don't have any veggies or cheese?  Thinly sliced potatoes, onions and smoked sausage or bacon is delicious on a pizza.  Only have rice and frozen peas in your kitchen?  Well, that might be kind of terrible :)  Make rice and peas (yes I've been there) and skip the pizza.

What are your favorite pizza toppings?  Anything weird we should try?  I have to say the potato sausage pizza was the strangest combo we've made but now I see potato pizza at restaurants so I guess we're not that original!