Monday, November 28, 2016

Happy National Chocolates Day!

Everyone LOVES Chocolates!

According to the website Foodimentary, November 29th is National Chocolates Day. I’m sharing yummy chocolate treats with Christine on Atlanta and Company today during the noon hour on NBC 11 Alive in Atlanta!

·      Chocolate comes from the Aztec word “xocolatl” which means “bitter water”.
·      Switzerland is one of the top countries for chocolate consumption. The Swiss consume about 22 lbs of chocolate, per person, per year. Americans come in 9th in the world, consuming about half or 11 lbs of chocolate per year.
·      Cocoa beans were used as currency by the Mayan and Aztec cultures. Perhaps this is where they saying, “Money grows on trees” came from.
·      Allowing chocolate to melt in your mouth produces the same or even stronger reactions as passionately kissing.
·      Most cocoa comes from West Africa.

How to choose chocolate that’s better-for-you? Its easy to find chocolate in any grocery store. Here’s the three tips to know
1.    Look for chocolate as the first ingredient
2.    Look for chocolate that is 60% cocoa solids
3.    Look for chocolate that is NOT dutch processed or processed with alkali

Chocolate Bark

4 (3.5 OZ) 70 – 85% Dark Chocolate Bars (I like Lindt Chocolate)
YOUR choice of toppings

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, or in the microwave. Pour the melted chocolate on a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle topping over the chocolate and place in the fridge until the chocolate hardens. Break the bark into small pieces and serve.

Chocolate Sugarplums

½  Cup Pitted Dates
½ Cup Dried Apricots
½  Cup Pitted Prunes, chopped
½ Cup Chopped Figs
1 ½  Cup Dried Cherries or Raisins
OR 3 ½ Cups chopped dried fruit of your choice – just make sure you have some sticky fruit like prunes or figs
½ Cup Chopped Dark Chocolate
1 ½  Cup Chopped Toasted Nuts, (Walnuts, Pecans or Almonds)
3 TBs Orange Zest
2 TBs Orange Liquor OR 2 TB Orange Juice
½ Cup Raw Sugar

Place the dried fruit, nuts and zest into the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped; add the juice or liquor and pulse until combined and you can shape the mixture into 1” balls. Roll the balls in the raw sugar and place on a parchment paper lined sheet tray. Let air-dry until no longer sticky about 2-3 hours.

***Want to make it even better for you? Instead of rolling the bars in raw sugar, roll them in finely chopped nuts!

Chocolate Dipped Fruit

2 (3.5 OZ) Chocolate Bars
About 24 Dried Figs, Peaches, Pears, Apples or Apricots
½ Cups Chopped Nuts if desired

Melt the chocolate over very low heat, in a double boiler or in the microwave. Dip the dried fruit in the chocolate and place on parchment paper until dried. (If desired, you can dip the chocolate in the chopped nuts after dipping in the chocolate.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Drink Wine, Get Organized!

Doesn't that sound fun? Wine and organization - Carrie Mixon from NeatSmart, (its smart to be neat!) and I came up with the idea over a bowl of ramen. This is our first time using FACEBOOK LIVE! We can't wait to share good food and wine pairing AND super tips for organization!

Its stuffed mushroom season! What season is that? All year round! Mushrooms are a great way to serve your favorite foods – all in a bite-size package. You can even use this recipe to stuff 2 to 4 Big Portabellas and cook them up on the grill.

This recipe can be made vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, and gluten free – you name it – it can be done with this simple and delicious method!

Pinot Noir would be an excellent pairing for these rich and flavorful mushrooms, but lets shake it up with a new pairing: Cotes Du Rhone.There are 22! Different grape varieties can be used to make the wine, but often you will see a classic blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.  Côtes du Rhône (CDR) is the basic AOC (appellation or place) wine of the Rhône region.

The two kinds of Cotes du Rhone you are going to see often are Basic, or entry level CDR, ones called Côtes du Rhone village next up, and finally Côtes du Rhone with the name of the village. (There are also Crus, or the highest level of Côtes du Rhône, ever heard of Chateauneuf-du-Pape? Delicious, but pricey!)
You can find Côtes du Rhône in almost any grocery or wine store. Give it a try for a fun and tasty alternative to Pinot Noir. It's got a little more density in the mouth and lots of juicy cherry flavor. Once you become a CDR convert, you’ll discover white CDR is tasty too!

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 (8 OZ) Pkg Baby Bella Mushrooms
1 TB Braggs Amino Acids or Tamari
2 Tsp Olive Oil
1 TB Minced Red Onion
1 Garlic Clove, Grated or Minced
3 TBs Panko or Crushed Rice Crackers
1 TB Freshly Grated Parmesan
2 TB Boursin or other Herb Cheese OR 2 TB Crabmeat OR 2 TB Toasted Chopped Nuts
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Step One Preheat the oven to 375F. Rinse the mushrooms and remove the stems, and reserve them. Place the mushrooms on a sheet tray and sprinkle with Braggs. Slide into the oven, and cook for 10 – 12 minutes or until the mushrooms have released liquid. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, pour off the liquid.

Step Two While the mushrooms are roasting, chop the stems. Sauté the stems and the red onions together in a large saucepan until the mushrooms have released all their liquid. Add the garlic and cook and stir for about a minute or until fragrant.

Step Three Add the panko, Parmesan, CHEESE OR… YOUR CHOICE to the mushroom mixture. Season it with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Slide into the preheated oven and roast for about 15 minutes or until cooked through.

When I am entertaining for dinner, I don’t like to put out a big spread of appetizers – I like to whet my guests appetites with just a little something… and these roasted nuts are perfect. You can use any spice you like – just follow the simple recipe below. Your guests will rave, and they are the perfect pair for a glass of luscious, palate cleansing CAVA.

Cava is my FAVORITE go-to bubbles for sharing all year round! Its Spain’s answer to Champagne, made in the exact same method as the more famous fizz, so it retains is crisp biscuit-y bubbles. You can find it made in a more traditional method – blended with three grapes you probably have never heard of: Macabeu, Parellada and Xarello. It can also be made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir – but this is more recent, staring in the 1980s.

Thank goodness – you can find Cava everywhere, and at a steal of a price. Don’t be afraid of the black bottle that you might have tippled in college, either. Its still good stuff, and less than $20 - which makes it very easy to share with others! Check out Rose Cava which has a small quantity of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache or Mouvedre added to make it a beautiful rose color.

Roasted Nuts

4 Cups of Your FAVORITE Nuts
Olive Oil Spray
1 Tsp Your Favorite Spice or Seasoning Blend (Smoked Paprika, Garam Masala, Five Spice Powder, etc. I even have a friend who uses Steak Seasoning on his roasted nuts!)
1 Tsp Fine Sea Salt

Roast the nuts on a sheet pan at 400F, checking on doneness starting at 7 minutes. When lightly browned and fragrant, remove from the oven and spray with olive oil and toss with the spices. Allow cooling before you serve them.

Here’s a salad that is wonderful anytime of the year – but especially when you have some leftovers! I created the recipe one year after Thanksgiving, when the turkey didn’t seem to stop appearing in the fridge, and we were tired of heavy meals. The Asian touch in the bright flavored salad comes from the water chestnuts, sesame oil and seeds and the Tamari, a welcome “green” change from heavier fare.

Albarino is a crisp refreshing quaff from Spain, that makes a perfect match to salads and light seafood dishes. Rias Baixas is the area its from, and its made with rich flavors of stone fruits like apricot and peaches with a clean fresh finish. If you’re an unoaked Chardonnay drinker or enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, get ready to fall in love with Albarino! Its easy to find in the grocery, and hard to resist with its about $15 price tag.

Crisp and Crunchy Asian Salad

1 Bag Baby Greens
1 Bag Baby Spinach
4 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
1 Can Water Chestnuts, Drained and Rinsed Well
2 Cups Shredded Carrots
1 Cup Thinly Sliced Snow Peas, Blanched
½ Cup Sliced Toasted Almonds
1 - 2 Cups Sliced Holiday Leftovers: Turkey, Duck, Pork or Beef, even Tofu
1 Recipe Asian Vinaigrette
Toasted Sesame Seeds for Garnish

Toss the first 7 ingredients together in a large bowl, dress with vinaigrette and top with sesame seeds.

Asian Vinaigrette

¼ Cup Rice Vinegar
2 TBs Light Soy Sauce or Tamari
2 TBs Lime Juice
Zest of 1 Lime
1 TB Honey
1 TB Natural Peanut Butter
1 Garlic Clove, Grated or Minced
2 TB *Dark (Roasted) Sesame Oil
½ Cup Peanut Oil (*Roasted Peanut Oil if Possible)
¼ Cup Grapeseed or CanolaOil
Sea Salt and Pepper to Taste

Combine all the ingredients in a jar or bowl. Shake or whisk til well combined.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

SUPER Salads for the Holidays!

Everyone has sides and salads that are family favorites – but here’s a couple of delicious, colorful, healthy sides to add to festive celebrations.

I can't wait to make up these salads on Atlanta and Company this morning. Christine and I will make a Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pomegranate Honey Dressing and a Sweet Potato and Red Grape Salad that are yummy and full of the flavors of the season.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pomegranate Honey Dressing

1 Butternut Squash, Roasted and Chopped
1 Cup Green Onions, thinly sliced
2 Cups Cooked Tri Color Quinoa
1 Cup Chopped Toasted Pecans
1 Cup Chopped Fennel or Celery
1 Cup Golden Raisins
6 Cups Baby Kale, Spinach or “Power Greens”
1 Cup Crumbled Blue Cheese or Goat Cheese

Place each ingredient separately on a large platter. When ready to serve, drizzle with the Pomegranate Honey Dressing.

Pomegranate Honey Dressing

2 TB Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TB Pomegranate Molasses
1 TB Honey
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Garlic Clove, grated
5 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Shake all the ingredients together in a jar.

Sweet Potato and Red Grape Salad

1/4 Cup Olive Oil Mayonnaise
1/4 Cup Nonfat Plain Yogurt
2 TB Orange Juice
2 TB Orange Zest
1/2 Tsp Garam Masala
1 Cup Grated Carrot
1/2 Cup Chopped Celery or Fennel
6 Cups Chopped Roasted Sweet Potatoes***
1 Cup Red Seedless Grapes, Halved
1/3 Cup Chopped Dates, Figs or Apricots
1/4 Cup Chopped Toasted Walnuts

Step One
Mix mayonnaise, yogurt, orange juice, orange zest and Garam Masala in a small bowl to blend. (You can prepare this dressing up to a day ahead of time)

Step Two In a bowl toss the grated carrot, diced celery, sweet potatoes, halved grapes and chopped dates. Add dressing to salad and toss. Sprinkle salad with walnuts and serve.

** To Roast the sweet potatoes, spread the chopped potatoes on a baking sheet, toss with 2 TB olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and 1Tsp garam masala. Roast in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are browned.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Happy National Deviled Egg Day - Tuesday November 2nd!

Everyone loves Deviled Eggs - they are great for the upcoming holidays, or for a grab and go snack and certainly qualify as a Southern Staple at any occasion. Who doesn’t like a yummy bite that’s easy to make, easy to serve, easy to fill with creative custom recipes?
Classic deviled egg recipes are loaded with fat and calories but you can easily create a yummy and fun egg that is HIGH in flavor and low in calories, just like the ones below.
By the way – did you know that In the 19th century the term “deviled” was used regularly when referring to spicy or zesty food, including eggs prepared with mustard, pepper or other ingredients stuffed in the yolk cavity?  

The biggest problem in cooking boiled eggs is that people can easily over-cook them, leading to a dark green color around the yolk and a tough yolk. Here’s a foolproof way to cook them, so they look and taste delicious. But before we fill them, a quick primer on how to make the best hard boiled eggs, ever:
  1. Place 6 large eggs in saucepan large enough to hold them in single layer. Add cold water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Turn the heat on to high and bring to a boil. 
  2. Slide the eggs off the burner and cover the pan. Let the eggs sit in the hot water about 12 minutes.  Remove from the pan, let cool completely and either peel or store in the refrigerator for a week.

I loved showing fun host Christine how to make these three recipes today on Atlanta & Company on NBC 11 Alive in Atlanta!

Guacamole Stuffed Eggs
1 Ripe Avocado, Peeled, Pitted and Coarsely Chopped
¼ Cup Prepared Salsa
½ Tsp Lime Juice
6 Hard Boiled Large Eggs, Yolks removed
Chopped Cilantro and Pickled Jalapeño Slices
Add the avocado, salsa and lime juice to a small bowl. Using a masher, mix the ingredients together until combined but still slightly chunky. Stuff the eggs with the mixture and top with chopped cilantro.

Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Paprika Spanish Stuffed Eggs
6 Hard Boiled Large Eggs cut in half
1 Roasted Red Pepper, minced
½ Tsp Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Smoked Paprika
¼ Tsp Fine Sea Salt
¼ Cup Finely Shredded Manchego Cheese
Add the egg yolks, pepper, lemon juice, paprika and sea salt to a bowl and mash with a folk until combined but still a little chunky. Stuff the eggs and top with the cheese.

Middle Eastern Inspired Eggs Stuffed with Hummus and Pita
½ Cup Cannellini Beans
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
2 TB Crumbled Feta
½ Tsp Grated Garlic
¼ Tsp EACH Fine Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
6 Hard Boiled Large Eggs cut in half
¼ Cup Crushed Pita Chips
Using a potato masher, mash the beans in a small bowl, along with the oil, lemon juice, feta, garlic and sea salt and black pepper. Add in the yolks from the eggs and mash again. Scoop into the eggs and sprinkle with pita chips.