Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Springtime Wreaths

Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. Spring is coming and all the beautiful flowers are starting to bloom, the colors are bright and cheerful and some of the best fruits and vegetables are in season. I was planning my Easter brunch menu the other day, and it got me in the mood to think about decorating the house.

I decided to make a few wreaths to hang on the door and bay window for the springtime. All you need is a grapevine wreath, dried or artificial flowers, ribbon (if using), scissors and a hot glue gun, all of which you can find a Michaels or any craft store. Some may say (my husband) that they belong in an old ladies house in Florida, but I think they look festive and nice for spring. I can't wait for the warm weather to come and to spend Easter with my family.

For other Easter entertaining ideas and recipe check out  my pintrest bored below:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

My aunt sent me this recipe for a pizza crust made out of cauliflower as gluten free and also healthy alternative to regular pizza. I was skeptical at first, how good could a pizza crust be made out of cauliflower? Well, the answer is very good but you should keep in mind that this is not going to be exactly like regular pizza. The taste is a bit different than a regular slice but the texture is great. I REALLY enjoyed how this recipe came out and I am definitely making this again soon!

The mozzarella cheese in the crust helps to make it crispy. I opted to add little cheese to the top of the pizza because there was enough in the crust. You can definitely top this "pizza" with any of your favorite toppings, but I decided a few roasted tomatoes and a little mozzarella and Parmesan cheese was perfect for me.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Makes one 9-10 inch pizza

1/2 head of cauliflower (about 2 cups riced)
Olive oil
1 cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.

2. Remove the stems and leaves from cauliflower and cup florets into chunks. Add to food processor (or a Vitamix) and pulse until the texture is similar to rice. If you don't have a food processor you can grate the cauliflower with a cheese grater or chop it very fine.

3. Add a small amount of olive oil to a non stick skillet and saute cauliflower "rice over medium heat and cook about 6-8 minutes.

4. In a bowl combine the cooked cauliflower with all remaining ingredients. Spread dough out evenly over cookie sheet; about 1/4" thickness. The pizza should be around 9-10 inches in diameter.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden, crispy on the edges and cooked through the middle.

6. Top the pizza with toppings of choice (be careful not to add too many toppings or it will weigh down the crust) Broil the pizza for 5 minutes, or until topping are hot and cheese is melted. Allow pizza to cool 2-3 minutes then cut and serve.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shakshuka: Peppers, Onions and Eggs

 Sometimes on cold rainy days when my husband and I are both feeling a little bored, we like to feed our addictions at Barnes and Noble. He heads to the CD department and I head upstairs to the cookbooks. This past weekend, I picked up a new book I've had my eye on titled Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. It's a book full of gorgeous vegetable recipe that can act as main dishes or side dishes. It also has a chapter on pasta and grains, fruits and cheese.

Every week, I like to make breakfast for dinner. It is usually an inexpensive meal, quick, easy and always enjoyable for myself, husband, daughter and dog. I came across a recipe in my new book that looks unbelievable in the picture. The name of this dish is Shakshuka, a North African dish with many different variations. It's basically caramelized onions, peppers, herbs with a runny egg. It came out really great and I am definitely making this recipe again. I would serve this with a piece of crusty bread or roasted potatoes. This is definitely a recipe worth trying. I hope you enjoy!

I am posting the original recipe below, as well as a few changes I have made.

Serves 4

1/2 tsp cumin seeds or 1/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil (I did not use this much oil, I just coated the bottom of the pan with oil and it was enough) 
2 large onions- thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2" strips
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/2" stripes (I used 1 yellow, 1 green pepper) 
3-4 tsp muscovado sugar ( if you do not have this type of sugar, use brown sugar)
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs-leaves picked and chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsely
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp saffron (I did not have this on hand, so I omitted this spice)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper-to taste
up to 1 1/8 cups water
4-8 eggs (depending on how many you would like to serve per person) 
Additions: You can add a variety of different ingredients if you would like, such as, feta cheese, preserved lemon or sliced Chorizo. If you are adding sausage, I would suggest cooking it separate and adding it to the sauce toward the end. 

1. In a very large pan dry roast the cumin on high heat for 2 minutes. Add in oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add in peppers, sugar, and herbs and continue to cook for 10 minutes on medium-high to get a nice color.

2. Add in tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning. You can prepare this mix well in advance.

3. Remove bay leaves, the divide the pepper mixture among four deep frying pans, or one large pan, big enough to fit eggs. Heat the pepper mixture on medium heat to warm up, then make gaps in the mixture and break eggs into each gap. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very gentle heat for 10-12 minutes until eggs have just set. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Healthy Breakfast or Snack: Waffles, Peanut Butter and Apple

Here is a quick and healthy breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack idea.

Toast one frozen waffle, spread on almond butter or peanut butter, top with 1 thinly sliced apple and drizzle with a bit of honey, cinnamon and sliced almonds or walnuts.

My absolute favorite frozen waffles are Nature's Path waffles. My favorite is the gluten free Chia Plus or Homestyle. Whether you eat gluten free or not, these frozen waffles are soooo good! I have seen them at Whole Foods, Wild by Nature and Stop and Shop. Enjoy!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Meatless Monday's

I have heard of Meatless Monday's for a while now but never really looked into the facts. After reading about the reasons to go meatless one day a week, I feel it is an easy thing I can do to reduce my carbon footprint and remain in good health.

I am not an advocate for vegan-ism or even vegetarianism, I do like to eat meat. However, I would like to share with you the reasons why reducing the intake of meat can help our planet.

I found the most informational website to be Please check out their Facts on a Plate below. These facts are just a few reasons why going meatless one day a week can help make a difference.

Adopting this way of eating one day a week is also heart healthy and saves money. The money saved can be better spent on buying better products, such as grass-fed/organic meat for the rest of the week.

More facts:
If everyone in the US went meatless one day a week the carbon savings would be the same as taking 19.2 million cars off the US roads for a year.
It would also save 99.6 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions, the same as 46 million round trip flights from New York to LA.

It's really easy to support this cause. All you have to do is eat meatless one day a week and spread the news to friends and family. The more people involved, the closer we get to helping out planet and reducing our carbon footprint.

This is an article about both the health benefits and enviormental benefits of going meatless one day a week:

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  • What’s for dinner at your house tonight? How about a meat–free dish? Just by reducing animal protein in your diet, you could lessen your risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. Many people have found that reducing animal protein consumption can help with low energy and sugar cravings. You can also improve the health of our environment by preserving natural resources like water and fossil fuels.
Join a growing number of people all over the country in the Meatless Monday movement and pledge to eat meat-free once a week.  What will you eat in place of your meat entrĂ©e? Try incorporating more vegetables into your meal, which are high in fiber and will make you feel full and satisfied. Beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds are also a great meat alternative. They are high in protein, iron and magnesium and contain little to no saturated fat.
You’ll also reduce your carbon footprint by cutting back on meat just once a week. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the meat industry generates nearly 1/5 of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide. Our precious water resources are exhausted daily and the demand continues to grow. Approximately 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. This total far surpasses the amount of water needed for vegetables and grains.
People are confused about how to start making improvements to their health, let alone make sizable changes to the environment. Start with what you put on your dinner plate. Start today. You don’t have to become a vegetarian to make a difference. Michael Pollan recently stated on the Oprah show: “Even one meatless day a week — a meatless Monday, which is what we do in my household — if everybody in America did that, that would be the equivalent of taking 20 million mid-size sedans off the road.”

Join the Meatless Monday Movement

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies
You will need: 2 1/2" to 3" cookie cutter plus a small heart shaped cookie cutter (I cut out the heart shapes with a knife) 

1 recipe for sugar cookie dough (you can use your favorite sugar cookie recipe, store bought dough or the recipe below)
1 egg white plus a splash of water, beaten 
Red decorating sugar 

1. Preheat the oven and prepare the dough according to recipe directions. Roll out to 1/4 thickness on a floured surface.

2. Cut out 2 1/2" to 3" circles and place them 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each cookie with egg wash, set remaining egg wash aside for later. 

3. Cut out equal amount of small heart shapes for each round cookie. Dip one side of the heart into egg wash (or brush egg wash onto heart shape) and than dip one side into the red sugar and place onto the round cookies, sugar side up. 

4. Bake according to dough directions and cool on wire rack. 

Sugar Cookie Recipe: Makes 30 three inch cookies

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs

1. Whisk together flour and salt in a small bowl. 

2. In a large bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until creamy; about 2 minutes. Gradually add in granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy; about 3 mins. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

3. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed. Gradually add in remaining flour mixture and mix until just blended. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into 2 large flat discs, cover completely with wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. 

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. 

5. Take one disc and roll to 1/4" thickness on floured surface. Cut out with cookie cutters. Decorate with sugars (or directions above) and place cookies 2" apart. 

6. Bake until edges are light golden brown about 10 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Maple Meltaway Cookies

If you are like me, snowed in up to 28 inches from the blizzard last night, try these simple and delicious cookies. I chose this recipe to share because all of the ingredients are most likely already in your refrigerator or pantry, which means you can have fresh baked cookies without going to the store.

I came across this cookbook while I was living in NYC. I bought it on the side of the road for $1.00. Something about this book caught my attention. It's titled Golde's Homemade Cookies, its full of a grandmothers favorite cookie recipes, I just knew it was going to be a good book. One dollar well spent.

All the cookies I have tried so far come out great. These maple meltaways are one of my families favorite. I have been making them ever since I bought this book 4 years ago. You can tell my the maple syrup stains on the page.

These cookies are simple, chewy with a hint of maple syrup, coated in sugar and melt in your mouth right out of the oven.

**This recipe makes a lot of cookies. You can easily half this recipe. To 'half" the egg, I usually beat the egg in a measuring cup and only pour half the amount into batter.

Maple Meltaways
Makes 65 cookies

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
Granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add in egg, syrup and vanilla, beating until well blended. Mix in flour, salt and baking powder. Blend well.

3. Shape into 1" balls and roll in some granulated sugar. Flatten slightly. Leave room for cookies to spread. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove cookies to wire rack and cool. Serve warm or a room temperature.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Golden Harvest Muffins

Another muffins recipe. I choose this recipe because I wanted another healthy snack idea for Layla. I like giving her one of these muffins in the afternoon when she wakes up from her nap, something to hold her over until dinnertime. These muffins are healthy and satisfying, filled with shredded apples, carrots and raisins. Tom also enjoys these muffins in the morning to keep him content until his second breakfast later that morning :)

These muffins smelled and looked amazing right out of the oven. I am definitely trying this recipe using gluten free flour. I will let you know how they come out. One muffin has 250 calories. Enjoy!

**If you have a shredding attachment to a food processor, it makes the process easier. If not, you can use a hand help cheese grater.

Golden Harvest Muffins (Recipe from Pillsbury Best Muffins and Quick Breads)
Makes 18 regular sized muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 cups shredded peeled apples (about 2 apples)
1/2 cup shredded peeled carrot (1-2 carrots)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans-optional
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten

1, Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners or grease muffin cups.

2. In a large bowl combine all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and cloves; mix well. Stir in shredded apples, carrots, coconut, raisins and nuts, if using.

3. In a medium bowl, combine oil, milk, vanilla and eggs; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.

4. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

Need a quick and easy idea for dinner? Try this recipe for creamy mushroom pasta. I am not a huge pasta eater but I found myself looking forward to eating these leftovers, even sneaking a taste at 9:00 am the next morning. This is one of Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals. The only addition I made was adding in some spinach that I had in my refrigerator.

I used a gluten free brown rice fettuccine pasta for this recipe but you can use regular fettuccine or spaghetti. Hope you enjoy!

Creamy Mushroom Pasta 
4-6 servings

1 pound of spaghetti or fettuccine
1 1/2 pounds of mixed mushrooms- button or cremini mushrooms
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, eyeball it as Rachel would say
2 leeks
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 cups baby spinach
Fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cream
Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese, for topping

1. Wipe mushrooms clean with damp towel. Remove larger stems and thinly slice mushrooms.

2. Heat a large deep skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in mushrooms and cook until deep golden color and tender; about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, get a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

4. While the mushrooms are cooking, halve the leeks lengthwise. Cut off a could on inches from the tough tops. Trim the root end. Thinly slice leeks and wash very well in a large bowl of color water. Making sure to rinse off all the sand and grit. Lift the leeks out of the water and let dry on a paper towel (You can do this step ahead of time if you would like)

5. Add the leeks to mushrooms along with garlic and spinach, if using. Season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Cook 3-4 minutes. Add in white wine and reduce for 1 minute then stir in cream and heat through. Toss pasta with mushroom sauce and adjust seasoning to taste. Top with grated cheese.