Parmesan Zucchini Rounds

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Summer means farmer’s market finds + fresh garden spoils – which are undoubtedly some of my favorite foods. The labor of love that goes into growing and preparing food from garden to table is filled with far more flavor and love than any store bought item I’ve tasted (local co-op fare aside.)

Zucchini deserves far better, in my opinion, than a restaurant side dish of a quick sauté in EVOO or in a pasta primavera. A beautifully fresh summer variety of squash, I love to cook it so that it retains a bit of it’s crunch. I’ve been making this side dish for years and it’s quickly become mine and my husband’s favorite summer alternative to fries. It’s loaded with flavors, and sometimes I like to add in fresh herbs readily available from the garden like dill, chives or rosemary.

This recipe is a great canvas for layering flavor. I’m particularly fond of the sharp hint of parmesan cheese and crunch from the gluten free bread crumbs. If you’re not running with the gluten free crowd, panko bread crumbs are a lovely substitute. Enjoy the spoils of summer + all their beautiful bounty!

Recipe yields 2 sheet pans – or approximately 32 rounds,
depending on the size of the zucchini.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 medium to large size zucchini, sliced about 1/8″ thick
  • 2 gluten free bagels or 4 slices of gluten free whole grain bread – I love using Canyon Bakery Everything Bagels
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 beaten eggs + splash of milk, whisked together
  • Salt + pepper to taste

 

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Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Slice the zucchini into 1/8″ rounds.
  3. Using a food processor, pulse the gluten free bread, parmesan cheese + a pinch of salt and pepper until it resembles bread crumbs. Place in a glass container.
  4. Whisk together the eggs + splash of milk until incorporated. Place in a separate glass container to use as a dredge. (see above photo)
  5. Coat each zucchini round in the egg + milk dredge, followed by a thin coating on each side of the breadcrumb + parmesan mixture. I gently press the crumbs to each round while applying to ensure it’s properly breaded.
  6. Place each round on the lined baking sheets + bake 25 minutes, noting that smaller rounds will bake quicker than larger rounds (read as keep your eyes on the little darlings as they bake.) I like to flip mine over halfway through the baking process, though not necessary. They should have a nice golden brown hue, but still be firm enough to hold. No soggy vegetables here.
  7. Eat as is, or with your favorite sauce. My husband enjoys a horseradish sauce on occasion.

Enjoy + thanks for stopping by Girl Meets Kitchen!

~Julia

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Chocolate Almond Peanut Butter Bars

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My husband has a soft spot for these bars – the bars that go by many names. Depending on with whom you’re speaking, they may be called Special K bars, Scotcharoos – or in my case fat bars. I’m not sure who coined the name fat bars, but growing up at my grade and high school everyone called them by this name. Made in their original recipe, I imagine it’s because we all knew they were laden with sugar, processed items and a large dose of fat. I remember them being sticky and so sweet that they got you in that spot in the back of your throat and jawline. $.50 got you a full square and they were the most popular item on the Ala carte line.

These are a much less sugary version, and so simple to make. 5 ingredients (plus a sprinkling of Himalayan salt if you so desire!) and so delicious. The dark chocolate is what makes these better than the original, in my opinion – though if you’re similar to my husband and prefer milk chocolate, substitute away!

I made this recipe to fit within our dietary restrictions and was really happy with the results. It’s an adaptation from a number of recipes and comes together in 10 minutes or less, plus refrigeration time. Enjoy it with friends or family (or by yourself over a cup of coffee!) Happy Independence Day to you all! I hope your memories are as sweet and easy as this dessert.

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Ingredients:

For the crust

  • 2 cups organic, raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup

For the chocolate + peanut butter layer

  • 8 oz. organic dark chocolate (I used 80%)
  • 1 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • Himalayan salt for topping (optional)

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Method:

  1. In a food processor, blend the raw almonds until they are semi-finely ground
  2. Add the avocado oil and maple syrup and pulse until combined
  3. Spread evenly on a parchment lined 8×8 pan.
  4. Roughly chop the chocolate and microwave in a glass bowl for 30 second increments until melted.
  5. Stir in the maple syrup and peanut butter until combined. Spread over the almond crust + sprinkle with pink Himalayan salt (optional.) Refrigerate 4 hours.
  6. Cut, serve, enjoy! (These will be best if stored in the fridge.)

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Spring vegetable + bacon soup

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A Mother’s Day trip to the Farmer’s Market this weekend filled my heart with memories, and my fridge with beautiful, seasonably fresh produce. It was a great morning filled with sunshine, coffee + family!

One of my favorite purchases was from a local farmer selling the most delicious asparagus. His eyes shimmered when he spoke to families walking by, and he was so sure of the quality of his product that he handed out samples to anyone willing to meet his glance. His passion for what he did was evident, and his joy for sharing it with others pure. I stood watching for minutes before approaching, because this man was clearly in his element and there’s nothing more lovely than to witness this kind of energy in others. Passion. Mindfulness. Love. Joy.

We are each given a variety of gifts by which we can bless others. It’s the things you do that while they may be hard work, don’t feel anything like hard and bring others (and also yourself) a great amount of joy. This joy isn’t derived from a place of selfishness to fulfill your own needs — but more it’s the joy that radiates from fulfilling a purpose that God has graciously given you pouring out to others.

For some, it’s teaching, coaching or mentoring; for others building, crafting or organizing. For me, it’s serving – most frequently via my kitchen. A few weeks ago while prepping for dinner, I had a very vivid image of our lives in heaven and the roles we would have that are tied to our gifts. I envisioned preparing a meal alongside my grandma and serving it to the Lord. It stopped me in my actions and a sense of pure joy and emotions washed over me, leaving me enormously grateful for a glimmer of what’s to come. Until that day, I will continue honing my gift to serve others – both in and outside the kitchen.

This soup is warm and vibrant, and reminds me of the new life and beauty spring brings upon it’s arrival. I’ve always been a fan of more rustic soups in texture, this one reminds me a bit of a warm, green version of gazpacho. It’s beautifully flavored with green vegetables and herbs – as well as rendered bacon fat for a great depth of flavor. (Vegetarians, feel free to omit the bacon fat + topping!)

Happy Spring, from my kitchen to yours!

(Yields 4 bowls of soup)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. pure organic coconut oil
  • 1 pound of fresh asparagus
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 10 oz frozen organic spinach
  • 10 oz frozen organic peas
  • 2 cups organic vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. chopped basil
  • 4 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat
  • 1 lb. bacon, cooked + cooled
  • 2 tsp. garlic salt + black pepper

Method:

  1. Cook the bacon on a large sheet pan at 400 in the oven until desired crunchiness is achieved. Set aside to cool, reserving the rendered fat in a cup to cool.
  2. Trim the asparagus 2″ from the bottom and discard. Cut the remaining lengths into 3″ pieces.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium high heat and sauté the onions until translucent – approximately 5 minutes.
  4. Add the asparagus, frozen spinach, green onions and peas; cook another 5-7 minutes. The asparagus should be al dente. Season with garlic salt and pepper.
  5. Add the basil, vegetable stock + rendered bacon fat. Simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. In a Vitamix or similar blender, puree the contents of the pan 2-3 minutes until no large chunks remain.
  7. Serve hot + garnish with diced bacon, 2 slices per bowl suggested.

 

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Oatmeal Cream Pies

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We were recently having dinner with friends and the topic turned to favorite childhood snacks – specifically the ones that concluded a sporting event’s win or defeat. My memory was swift and sweet. Summer nights for me were filled with softball. From the moment I could toddle my father had me holding a bat and glove, and what began as coaches pitch led into a love for the game through early adulthood.

Memories of teammates on the field flooded my mind – the smell of the infield dust and broken in baseball gloves still ripe in my nose. Each family would rotate turns bringing snacks – typically the boxed Little Debbie numbers on rotation. Star crunch were my personal favorite.

As every one recalled their favorites, both men mentioned Oatmeal Cream Pies as one of their top choices. Naturally, I had to follow up by making these for them!

I created a version of this recipe years ago for my husband, but have tweaked the recipe since. I love this version and none are the wiser it’s gluten free. That being said, feel free to substitute a mixture of 1 cup unbleached + 3/4 cup whole wheat flour if you prefer them to be made with flour.

May your memories be sweet, and shared amongst friends.

Recipe yields approximately one dozen sandwiches.

~Julia

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Ingredients:

For the Cookies

1 stick butter, room temp
1/2 cup organic pure cane sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup no sugar added applesauce
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup gluten free 1:1 flour mix
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sprouted brown rice flour
1 cup rolled oats (not the instant)

For the Filling

3 cups powder sugar
1 cup Nutiva brand palm shortening (or vegetable shortening)
1/4 cup almond milk (or whole milk)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners.
  2. In your Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together about 3 minutes. Add the applesauce and vanilla, mix.
  3. Add the baking soda, cinnamon, flours and oatmeal: mix until combined. Do not over mix or the batter will become gummy.
  4. Drop teaspoon sized dollops onto lined cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.
  5. While cookies are baking, using your whisk attachment on the Kitchen Aid mixer, add 1 cup of the powder sugar, shortening, milk and vanilla to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.
  6. Add remaining 1 cup powder sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and cream of tartar and mix on medium speed for an additional 5 minutes.
  7. Once the cookies are completely cooled, spread a layer of filling on the bottom of a cookie and top with a second cookie to form your sandwich. Finish with remaining cookies and filling.

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Savory Waffles with Prosciutto, Arugula + Over Easy Egg

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Brunch: it’s technical definition is a late morning meal eaten instead of breakfast and lunch and categorized as a noun.

In my book, brunch is a verb. Done with enthusiasm and best when shared amongst friends. Weekends and brunch go together like coffee and chocolate, where adequate time can be spent enjoying all varieties of food sweet and savory.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so savory dishes are my jam at any brunch table. This dish satisfies every tastebud – and can be tailored to anyone’s liking quite simply. The slight crunch of the nutty waffle (a perfect mix of almond, brown rice + teff flours) provides a perfect canvas to the peppery arugula, salty prosciutto + buttery yolk of the over easy egg. Top it with a pure maple syrup and you’ve hit every tastebud with a powerful punch.

Wether you enjoy this for breakfast, lunch, dinner or brunch – you’ll walk away both full and satisfied. Enjoy while sipping an iced coffee or Bloody Mary (I have my favorite recipe here.) Recipe yields three waffles.

Enjoy + happy brunching!

xo,
Julia

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My kitchen companion perfecting her angles
Ingredients:

For the waffles

  • 1 cup almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/4 cup sprouted brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup teff flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole milk (or unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

For the toppings (per waffle)

  • 1 egg, cooked over easy
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula
  • 2 pieces of prosciutto
  • Maple syrup for drizzling

Method:

  1. Preheat waffle grill to medium high heat.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Whisk together all wet ingredients and stir into the dry mixture, making sure not to over mix.
  4. Generously spray the waffle maker with nonstick cooking spray. Pour 1/2 cup of the batter atop the bottom iron and cook until brown.
  5. Place waffles on a cookie rack if serving immediately, or place on a baking sheet in a preheated oven set to the keep warm temp.
  6. Cook the eggs over easy  (or fry if you’re not fond of the runny yolk, but note the yolk adds the creamy, buttery flavor that rounds out this dish nicely.)
  7. Top each waffle with the arugula, layer the prosciutto atop the arugula and finish with the over easy egg. Drizzle your preferred amount of maple syrup atop and enjoy!

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When Your Gut Speaks

What’s your gut telling you?

How often have you been asked that question, and under what circumstances: a career move, choosing a mate, investing in a new home, selecting a school? Interestingly enough, it isn’t your gut making those decisions at all, but the limbic part of your brain which is responsible for processing and controlling emotions. When we face big decisions, there is definitely a response of emotional pull in our “guts.” It serves us well and leads us to choose with emotion and with facts.

But really, what’s your gut telling you?

So much of my passion revolves around preparing food and gathering around the table with loved ones. Food plays an integral part in the nutrition of our bodies. Food nourishes; feeds our many organs and delivers a variety of important nutrients to all the components that make us whole.

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PC: Studio Laguna

A down and dirty science lesson

Did you know that what makes us whole is comprised of overwhelmingly more microbiota than DNA; and that we also need food to feed our microbiomes?

The human body has just over 21,000 genes, the DNA that makes us unique. But these are not the only genes that make us human and pale in comparison to the microbes living in and on our bodies, which total 100 trillion. Comprised of bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea (a group similar to bacteria), these microbes depend on the cells of one another to replicate and give life alongside our genes. When you compare those numbers, the importance of feeding our microbiome becomes clear.

The bacteria in our body plays a key role in development, digestion, immunity, skin and even behavior and mental health. There is also strong evidence that a healthy microbiome affects the developing child’s brain during the first 5 years of life.

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PC Studio Laguna

 

How do we feed our microbiomes? Fermented foods are an excellent source of probiotics, as well as kombucha and kefir yogurt. Miso soup is another great avenue, full of lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria. On the whole, Americans consume a diet laden with processed sugary foods, high in saturated fats. Pair this diet with the rise of prescribed antibiotics over the past 20 years and overuse of antibacterial soaps + hand sanitizer, we now have a recipe for a very malnourished microbiome.

Not surprisingly, because our microbiomes haven’t been well fed mixed with the lifestyle changes mentioned above, we’ve seen a rise in the following conditions:

  • Poor or weakened immune health
  • Leaky gut disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Allergies (both food and environmental)
  • Poor Digestion
  • Poor amino acid + vitamin synthesis

Probiotics: My journey to a healthy gut

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An apple + probiotic a day

Probiotics are now a staple in my diet, as well as that of my family.

As some of you have followed me for some time, you may recall my journey in food took a sharp turn upon the birth of our first daughter in 2011. We had a healthy pregnancy and were set to deliver mid May naturally. At 39 weeks, I fell and landed partially on my stomach. No damage was done to baby or mom, but the fall caused her to turn into a breach position the next day. This led to a C-section delivery three days later.

The downfall of our cesarian delivery meant that her first contact with bacteria were those in the hospital’s delivery room and on the doctors’ and nurses’ skin in lieu of through the birth canal and mom’s skin. Babies who don’t inherit a robust microbiome from mom are more at risk for contracting illnesses as soon as they are born.

In our story, her biome was weakened and we spent the next 5 months experiencing a baby with severe reflux, failure to thrive, intense gut discomfort and multiple food intolerances. It was not until we met with a Pediatric Gastroenterologist that we discovered a plan of action to attempt to ease her tummy troubles. Fast forward to the birth of our second daughter in 2014, we saw ourselves going down the same path of discomfort, reflux and sleepless nights for both baby and parents.

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It’s about educating ourselves as parents + investing in their whole health

That’s where my deep dive into the pool of “what’s in our food, and what is it doing to our bodies” began. In the name of convenience and mass production, our foods are stripped of their naturally derived healthy ingredients and laden with sugars, fillers, preservatives and GMO’s. This paired with an unhealthy biome has led us to be a population looking at more cases of juvenile diabetes, depression, obesity and autoimmune diseases than ever before.

It wasn’t until recently that I was introduced to the concept of our bodies as a microbiome, and our total health is not only tied to the quality of food we feed it – but also how critical it is to feed our biome of bacteria and fungus a healthy diet. In today’s fast paced world, it’s become more and more difficult to obtain the nutrients our biomes require to maintain good gut health.

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My simple start to each day

I had certainly attempted a number of probiotics for myself and my girls as infants – but finding one that had multiple strains of healthy bacteria (vs. 2 or 3) – moreover the right strains for our bodies at the appropriate age was difficult. Pair that with the multiple food intolerances they had, finding a line that was allergen free and non-GMO was also important to me. We used probiotics when our digestive tracts were in distress or while on antibiotics, but I can’t say that we ever experienced a real change. I was neither a strong opponent or proponent of probiotics.

When Lifestyle meets Life Change

This winter, I was given samples from a relatively new to the market probiotic company called LoveBug. First of all, the name struck me as we have always referred to our first born as our little love bug – to this day her nickname is “bug.”

I immediately looked up information on the company and discovered the very reason they exist is because their CEO had a very resonating story from the birth of her first son and the health problems they encountered post birth. I was drawn to the quality of ingredients, noting that they are non-GMO, allergen free, sugar free + include no chemicals, artificial flavors or preservatives. They even go so far to pack their bottles with organic cotton, because quality of ingredients matters to them.

Believing in how they manufacture their products is great, but the proof is in the pudding. When I received the products, both my girls had recurring bouts of ear infections and were on antibiotics for the better part of the month. Two days into the LoveBug probiotics, we noticed a dramatic change in their gut and digestive health. I myself noticed a drastic change in my gut health and even noted changes in my skin for the better. (Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want a cleaner + more glowing complexion?)

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Such a simple way to enhance your daily self care routine

Fast forward 2 months: my family has noted many benefits from taking a daily probiotic. What I had hoped for from other brands, we have experienced with LoveBug. I have noticed a stronger immune system in both girls, regular BM’s (they’re cleverly noted for being #1 at #2), less tummy discomfort, changes in our skin and the beginning benefits of healing their biomes from previously mentioned issues. As a mom, I am constantly seeking out ways to provide my family with healthy nutrition. This now also includes nutrition for our biomes; after all – it’s 90% of our composition.

I was so passionate about this company and LoveBug’s vision to be the voice of change and health to our babies and lifestyles that I engaged in discussions with the CEO to work for LoveBug. What began as a happenstantial meeting quickly morphed into a merging of passions between two moms with plans to educate and encourage healthy bodies of families everywhere – a critical portion of this being healthy microbiomes.

I’ll never forget the discussion she and I had about purpose and passion. As we chatted about health, motherhood and the current landscape of overall health, she looked at me and said “If trends continue, the current generation of babies being born to millennial moms will be a generation that suffers most from cancer, diabetes, kidney failure and poor health. That means we, as moms will be the generation that sits back and lets it happen. I refuse to sit back and let that happen.”

Cue the goosebumps and the beginning of what I’m sure will be the most purpose driven career platform of my life.

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When passion + platforms merge

To learn more about LoveBug + their entire line of probiotics, visit www.lovebugprobiotics.com

I’m confident you’ll love their products + vision, and I’m so excited to share my journey with you.

Cheers to your good health!

xo,
Julia

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LoveBug Probiotics. The opinions and text are all mine.

Recommended Resources:

  1. Collen, Alanna. 10% Human. How your Body’s Microbes hold the key to health and happiness. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print
  2. Sugar Coated, 2015 Michele Hozer. (Documentary via Netflix or IMDb)
  3. Fed Up, 2014. Stephanie Soechtig. (Documentary via Netflix or IMDb)
  4. http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/08/15/acne-eczema-psoriasis-you-need-to-look-at-your-gut-health/
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/aug/01/is-your-gut-making-you-sick
  6. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/antibiotics-and-c-sections-may-mess-with-babies-gut-bacteria/
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/25/gut-reaction-surprising-power-of-microbes
  8. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/breast-feeding-the-microbiome

Cranberry Orange Gin Fizz

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Winter in the Midwest can be both beautiful and fierce. There are days that boast sunshine and snowy hills that beg to be slid down, and ponds smooth as glass that beckon you to skate until you can no longer feel your toes. You haven’t lived until you’ve adventured in a winter wonderland, calm and peaceful where animals slumber and the earth covered in a fresh blanket of snow.

But then there are days when the wind is so fierce it cuts like freshly sharpened knives the moment it touches your skin. Where temperatures drop too far below zero and the best adventures are meant to be had inside, surrounded by laughter and cuddles of those you love most.

On such nights as these, I adore curling up on the couch watching cooking re-runs or playing a game of scrabble with my husband – a night cap in hand.

Even though temperatures outside can chill to the bone, I don’t always gravitate to hot drinks to keep warm. It’s the flavors of this drink that warm the insides combined with memories of every holiday, November to February. The cranberry and citrus are reminiscent of Thanksgiving, the juniper from the gin represents Christmas, and the bold red color perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Sip it with those of whose company you enjoy most! As with all infused liquor, the longer you let the flavors infuse, the better. I recommend a minimum of 5 days, with best results from 10-14 days.

As a side note, this infusion works beautifully in vodka or an aged rum as well. Mix the drinks the same method noted below or shake over ice and drink straight up in martini fashion.

If you’re feeling really fancy, throw a sprig of rosemary as garnish; it provides great aromatics and enhancement to the gin.

Cheers!

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Ingredients:

For the infused gin

  • 1 lb bag of fresh organic cranberries, setting aside a few for garnish
  • The juice from 5 oranges (blood oranges would be lovely as well)
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup, medium amber
  • 1 liter Gin (note: use your favorite. I used Plymouth, but I would not advise Hendricks due to the cucumber notes.)

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For the cocktail

  • 2 oz. of the infused gin
  • 2 oz. of sparkling water
  • 1 oz freshly squeezed orange juice (don’t used store bought juice! It’s the sweet + pure juice from the fruit that makes the drink.)
  • Orange slice for garnish

Method:

  1. Reduce the cranberries, freshly squeezed orange juice + maple syrup in a saucepan on medium/medium-low for 10 minutes until the berries have split, stirring occasionally.
  2. Transfer the reduction to a large glass container (I used a large mason jar) and pour the gin over. Gently stir and cover with the lid. Let infuse for 5-14 days, gently swirling occasionally.
  3. Strain the infused gin over a fine sieve and place in a glass vessel of your choosing.
  4. To make the cocktail: fill a low ball with ice. Measure out 2 ounces of the infused gin and pour over ice. Add the 1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice and top with sparkling water. Garnish with cranberries + an orange slice (rosemary sprig optional) and serve.

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Garlic + Dill Potato Wedges

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Since the onset of my struggles with gluten earlier this year, I have learned to satisfy my cravings for carbs in a variety of ways. Potatoes are definitely one of the vehicles that delivers this carb satisfaction – though I’ve always had an affinity for potatoes. We are Midwesterners, after all!

I recall thoroughly enjoying wedge potatoes from the deli often as a child; the crispy outside + the fluffy insides covered in copious amounts of salt + seasonings…they were the ultimate comfort food. I wanted to recreate them in a healthier version that was gluten free, and did so completely unintentionally the other evening.

The end-result was an evening where my two blonde babes and I sat around the dinner table on a mommy/daughter date night and devoured said potato wedges in a state of giggles and bliss. While the recipe is perfectly satisfying, the memories of that night spent with my girls will be the one I think of every time I make these going forward.

The key to the wedges turning out with the crispy exterior and fluffy inside is the ice bath. When it comes to your seasonings of choice, I recommend using what you love most. For me, it was a combination of garlic, salt, pepper + dill. Happy cooking, friends – from my kitchen to yours.

Yields approximately 24-30 wedges.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 medium sized organic potatoes, peeled and cut into equal sized wedges.
  • ½ cup organic corn starch
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half
  • Salt + Pepper for seasoning
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

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Method:

  1. Soak the peeled + diced potato wedges in an ice water bath for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper + set aside.
  3. Combine the corn starch, garlic salt + pepper in a medium sized bowl and stir. Strain the potatoes and toss them in the seasoned corn starch. (I gently tapped each coated wedge on the side of the bowl to ensure they were not over coated before placing them on the lined baking sheet.)
  4. Bake 20 minutes on the center rack of the oven. Remove and lightly drizzle the wedges with 1 tbsp of the EVOO. Return to the oven for 10 minutes.
  5. In a large sauté pan on your stovetop, heat the remaining EVOO (the ½ cup less 1 tablespoon) over medium high heat. Add the garlic clove and sauté for 1-2 minutes to season the oil. Remove the garlic clove from the oil + discard prior to pan frying the potatoes.
  6. Sauté the wedges in small batches until each side is a light to medium golden brown. Place the batches on a paper towel lined plate + season immediately with salt and pepper.
  7. Transfer to a serving plate or bowl and garnish with chopped dill. Serve immediately.

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Loaded Mashed Potato Pouches

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In my humble opinion, appetizers and the Holiday Season pair together much like wine and cheese. November and December bring family + friends alike together with greater frequency, all of which makes my heart sublimely happy.

Following our Thanksgiving dinner, we had an excess amount of mashed potatoes (thanks to you CostCo + your 15 pound bag of love!) While we usually have no trouble consuming the leftovers, the amount we had was a bit more daunting than usual and I hated to waste them. I also had a fair amount of bacon from hosting Thanksgiving morning breakfast and a variety of cheese + herbs I wanted to utilize. The end result was putting these little pockets of love together for a neighborhood gathering.

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If you’re seeking a low carb, low calorie option — try hitting up Cooking Light, because you aren’t going to find anything of the sorts in these. But my position on food is that it should be real, high quality and meant to not stress over the calories when enjoyed in moderation. I also think eating low fat foods stripped of their nutrients and overly processed in the name of “health” is 1.) an oxymoron and 2.) a huge disservice to both your body and tastebuds. This recipe calls for real butter, whole fat milk, nitrate free bacon and a good quality gruyere. Trust me when I suggest shortcuts would produce a less flavor-packed punch.

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I made two versions of the appetizer to appeal to carnivores and vegetarians alike. Each was delicious, but the bacon delivers a perfect salty crunch if you’re entertaining the first mentioned group. Start to finish, the apps take about 60 minutes unless you use leftover mashed potatoes. Just be sure to warm the potatoes prior to baking them in the filo cups. Substitute to your hearts desire with a cheese or herb that tickles your fancy.

But do enjoy with loved ones and pause to drink in the moment deeply.

There’s beauty in the gathering.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays from my kitchen to yours!

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Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs organic yukon gold potatoes, peeled + diced into 2″ cubes
  • 8 oz organic butter, divided
  • 1 cup organic whole milk
  • 1 wrapped packet (1/2 the box) of frozen filo dough, thawed per directions on the package
  • 1 lb. nitrate free bacon, cooked + chopped
  • 6 oz freshly grated gruyere cheese, or a preferred alternative
  • Freshly diced chives
  • Salt + pepper to taste
  • 2 muffin pans

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 Method:

  1. Cook the bacon + set aside to cool slightly. Chop into small pieces.
  2. Preheat oven to 300.
  3. Cook the peeled + diced potatoes until fork tender, drain and return to the pot.
  4. Add 7 oz of the butter, cubed and 1 cup milk. Mash the potatoes and season with salt + pepper per your preference. Cover and set aside in the pan to remain warm.
  5. Lay out the thawed filo dough and cut into thirds, horizontally. Cut the thirds in half, resulting in 6 square shaped piles. Place a slightly damp towel over the filo dough to prevent from drying.
  6. Select 4-6 filo squares at a time, fanning them out with the centers aligned. Gently press them into each muffin tin. Complete until all 24 tins are lined.
  7. Melt the remaining 1 oz of butter and use a pastry brush to moisten the bottom of each filo filled muffin tin. Gently brush a little butter up the sides and tops as well, but the goal is not to soak or oversaturate the dough.
  8. Take a freezer bag and put the mashed potatoes into the bag, creating a piping bag. Use a scissors and cut a small opening in the bottom corner of the freezer bag and pipe the potatoes into each filo lined tin.
  9. Top with the grated gruyere, followed by the bacon.
  10. Bake 30-40 minutes until the filo cups are gently browned on the tops and the cheese melted.
  11. Let sit 5 minutes, then using a spoon or cake spreader remove each pouch from the muffin tins. Top with chives + serve hot.

 

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Fried Rice

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I have scoured the internet for the quintessential fried rice recipe that brings me back to my childhood years with no luck. While there are a lot of great ones out there, very few hit all my criteria of what it ought to taste like. Memory has a strong attachment to flavors, which is why so many people tend to never stray from favorite recipes passed down from generations.

 Growing up, we were fortunate to have friends that lived nearby and also worked with my mom who’s heritage was Vietnamese. Her recipe for fried rice was, far and away THE BEST recipe I’d ever tasted. Her recipe is the standard by which I judge every other fried rice.

I grew up playing with her kids that were near my age I have fond memories of performing “on stage” in her basement for all of her family, playing dolls and laughing a lot. Those play dates also included so much love via her mom’s kitchen, where the scents of spices and ingredients made with love made you float into the kitchen on an aroma cloud, much like any cartoon scene. My mom would often come home with fried rice and egg rolls made that morning because her friend knew just how much we loved her cooking.

We’ve been asking for this recipe for years, and just recently the blessing of memories washed over us as she shared it with us. We made the simple + unmistakable version of the dish, and what struck me most was its simplicity. Real ingredients and simple technique shared with people whose company you cherish. It was a sweet couple of hours spent with my mom and family reminiscing and reconnecting. I hope you enjoy – the recipe offers a very minor tweak or two, but every ounce of delicious goodness I so vividly remember.
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Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of uncooked Jasmine, long grain rice
  • 1 frozen bag of peas & carrots mixed, thawed
  • 1 lb. protein of choice, cut into 1″ pieces. I used chicken breast, though shrimp or pork are wonderful options as well. Vegetarians — skip the protein altogether!
  • 3 eggs, scrambled
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 large bunch green onions, diced. Use the entire onion, greens included
  • 2.5 tbsp. soy sauce

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Method:
  1. Cook or steam the rice per the package instructions and set aside.
  2. In a small nonstick saute pan, cook the eggs until scrambled and set aside.
  3. Heat the canola oil in a separate large frying pan on the stove top over medium heat. Season the protein with the 2 tsp. of salt and saute until fully cooked.
  4. Add the thawed peas, carrots, and yellow onion to the chicken and saute 3 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat, then add the cooked rice, butter, sugar, black pepper and soy sauce. Stir until combined, noting the rice will still be relatively light in color. The soy sauce should merely act as a season to the rice. (note: bean sprouts would be a lovely addition to this, or any other favorite vegetable you prefer. Just ensure anything you add is similar in size to the peas and carrots.)
  6. Stir in the diced green onions, saving some to garnish atop and serve hot.

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