Saturday, October 24, 2015

Grapefruit, Avocado and Smoked Salmon Salad: The Four Seasons

Four Seasons Salad

I can't say enough wonderful things about this salad dish.  It's healthy, it's beautiful, it's delicious.  There's a little bit of everything from each of the four seasons.  The smoked salmon reminds me of cold winters in Alaska, the avocados remind me of summers in San Diego, the pepitas and pomegranite seeds are signs of fall, and the spring mix salad greens tie it all together. 

But the star of this show?  The star of the show here is the ruby red grapefruit. Grapefruit is a rich source of vitamin C, and the pink and red hues contain the beneficial antioxidant lycopene. Studies have shown grapefruit helps lower cholesterol, and there is evidence that the seeds have antioxidant properties.*  Today, I'm using the Ruby Red grapefruit, often considered to be one of the most sought after varities, with its sweet, acidic flavor and beautiful, dark red color.

This salad only takes about 15 minutes to make and is a GREAT start to any healthy meal.  It's great with a light, fresh Riesling wine!

Four Seasons Salad

Four Seasons Salad
  • 1 large ruby red grapefruit, sectioned
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced
  • 4 oz. Alaskan smoked salmon
  • 5 oz. baby spring mix salad greens, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tbsp. yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp. agave nectar
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each sea salt and cracked black pepper (plus more for garnish)
  1. Section the grapefruit by cutting off the top and bottom, then slicing next to the inner endocarp (edible fruit section), removing all the white pith around the edges.  Next, slice inbetween the white membrane sections, removing ONLY the edible fruit sections.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Peel, seed and slice the avocados into 1/2 inch slices, set aside.
  3. Roll the salmon slices into 1" rolls, set aside.
  4. Arrange the slices of the avocado, grapefruit and salmon onto a large serving dish around the edges of the plate.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl add the chopped spring mix, pomegranate seeds and pepitas.  Toss to combine.
  6. In a separate small bowl, combine the mustard, agave nectar, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Whisk to combine and add to the salad mixture.  Toss the salad and dressing together until combined.
  7. Place the salad into the center of the serving dish with the salmon, avocado and grapefruit.  Garnish with a light dusting of salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons with truwhip Filling

Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons with truwhip Filling

Macaroons?  Or Macarons?  Whichever spelling you prefer (the single "o" is the French spelling), these are coveted as one of the most difficult cookies in the baking world.  Temperamental and delicate, these little babies are not for the lighthearted kitchen goer.  You've got to be committed for I'm gonna break it down for ya!

The recipe base I use is from Food Network Magazine.  I like it because it gives fairly simple instruction, and the steps don't scare the crap out of first time Macaron-ers.

I LOVE that these cookies are made from just a few ingredients. They're also gluten-free, and actually have a little protein from the egg whites!  You can fill them with just about anything from jelly, to whipped topping to frosting. But, like I said, be committed, and be patient...verrrrryyy patient.

In my Macarons today, I also used some strawberry baking emulsion.  Emulsions are great, because they act just like extracts, but the flavors don't bake out of the emulsions like extracts sometimes do.

But let's face it.  Cookies are all about what's in the center, right?  I mean, I've NEVER met anyone eat the outside of an Oreo and throw away the center.  That's just wrong.  So today, I used just a bit of cream cheese, a little powdered sugar, and LOTS of truwhip!

truwhip (shown frozen) in regular and "skinny" varieties

I've always LOVED the light, airy and fluffy texture of store-bought whipped toppings, but I hated the JUNK that was in them.  I just thought that was the only way for them to get that texture...through some kind of gross, scientific GMO experiment.  Not so... and truwhip is here to let everyone know that!

Made mostly of tapioca syrup and palm kernel oil, this non-GMO product is free of high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, trans fats AND gluten!  SIGN.ME.UP.  Make sure you visit their nutritional page for more info.  I LOVE how they break down each ingredient with a little cloud and some helpful into as you hover over them.  OH, and did I mention that they also have a SKINNY VERSION?!  Yep.  That just happened.

So here's what I'm going to do.  This is Food Network's recipe, and I'll give some notes in bold, red italics as I go:

  • 1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour (I like Trader Joe's the best, but Bob's Red Mill is okay too)
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar (regular granulated sugar works just fine)
  • 2 to 3 drops gel food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, almond or mint extract (this is where your baking emulsion would go)
  • Assorted fillings (see below for truwhip Strawberry Cheesecake filling)
Special Equipment:
  • Oven with convection setting
  • 4 baking sheets (2, I'll tell you why below)
  • 3 silicone baking mats (2)
  • Fine-mesh sieve
  • Pastry bag with 1/4-inch round tip (a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off works too)


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees using the convection setting. Line 3 baking sheets with silicone mats. (I flip the baking sheet over and place the silicone mat (or Silpat) on top.  PLEASE use silicone mats, or Silpats.  I know they're expensive, but they make a HUGE difference, and REALLY help keep the cookies in a perfectly round shape. NOTE:  You CAN just use parchment paper, but don't expect perfect circles for your cookies). Measure the confectioners' sugar and almond flour by spooning them into measuring cups and leveling with a knife. Transfer to a bowl; whisk to combine.

Sift the sugar-almond flour mixture, a little at a time, through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing with a rubber spatula to pass through as much as possible. It will take a while, and up to 2 tablespoons of coarse almond flour may be left; just toss it.  (If you're a crazy perfectionist like me, you CAN run the almond flour through the food processor first, to make the grind even finer).

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt with a mixer on medium speed until frothy. Increase the speed to medium high; gradually add the superfine sugar and beat until stiff and shiny, about 5 more minutes.

Transfer the beaten egg whites to the bowl with the almond flour mixture. Draw a rubber spatula halfway through the mixture and fold until incorporated, giving the bowl a quarter turn with each fold.

Add the food coloring and extract. Continue folding and turning, scraping down the bowl, until the batter is smooth and falls off the spatula in a thin flat ribbon, 2 to 3 minutes (don't over stir the batter, or you'll end up with flat little frisbees.  Not that I've EVER done that or anything.  Someone told me.)

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip (or just the plain old ziploc I told you about earlier). Holding the bag vertically and close to the baking sheet, pipe 1 1/4-inch circles (24 per sheet). Firmly tap the baking sheets twice against the counter to release any air bubbles (drop it like its hot).

Let the cookies sit at room temperature until the tops are no longer sticky to the touch, 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the humidity (if you live in Florida, it may take a week. I would just go to the store and buy some). Slip another baking sheet under the first batch (a double baking sheet protects the cookies from the heat) (I just flipped the baking sheet upside down.  This prevented the Silpat from having a lifted edge and did the same thing they mentioned above).

Bake the first batch until the cookies are shiny and rise 1/8 inch to form a "foot," about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Repeat, using a double sheet for each batch. Peel the cookies off the mats and sandwich with a thin layer of filling (see below).

Read more at:

truwhip Cheesecake Filling

Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons with truwhip Filling
  • 10oz. truwhip, thawed
  • 4 oz. Cream Cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar 
  • 1/2 cup chopped, fresh strawberries

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whip on low speed until sugar is incorporated.  Increase to high speed and mix until creamy and combined.

Spoon about 2 tsp. filling into the center of one of the cookies.  Top with another cookie and serve!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo: Grilled Papas Arrechas!

Grilled Papas Arrechas
It's Cinco de Mayo, which means it's almost summer, and summer reminds me of vacations in San Diego, which reminds me of Mexican Food.  I try to duplicate the amazing Mexican Food I eat in San Diego after I get home, but there's just something about those little hole-in-the wall restaurants that just can't be copied.  It may the the animal lard they cook with, the three month old oil they fry things in, or maybe just a touch of the Tijuana water.  Whatever it is, I don't want to know, but I sure do want to eat it!

Today's recipe is a close second to one of my favorite breakfast restaurants.  Instead of boiling and then frying the potatoes in butter, I sealed mine into a foil envelope with all the spices, veggies and just a bit of olive oil, and then I threw them on the grill.  These are simple and delicious, spicy and savory.  They're great with barbequed chicken or steak, and the left overs are PERFECT with some scrambled eggs and salsa the next day!

Grilled Papas Arrechas

Prep Time: 10 minutes / Cook Time: 45 minutes / Servings: 4

Grilled Papas Arrechas ready for the grill
  • 6 large Russet Potatoes, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 large jalapeños, chopped (you can remove the membrane and seeds for a milder flavor)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh cut salsa (for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (for garnish)
  • a few sprigs of fresh cilantro (for garnish)
  1. Preheat grill to high heat.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well until combined.
  3. Place two large sheets of aluminum foil onto a flat surface.   Divide the potato mixture in half and place them into the center of each of the foil sheets.  Enclose the potatoes by first folding the foil lengthwise and folding over several times.  Fold the ends over into the center, creating a tight envelope.
  4. Place both envelopes on the grill for about 45 minutes, turning over about half way through.
    Remove from the heat and allow them to cool for a few minutes before unfolding.  Transfer to a serving dish (be sure to scrape the foil for all the good stuff!).  Top with your favorite salsa, sour cream and cilantro.  Serve immediately.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easy Knock-Off Navy Bean Soup

Easy Knock-Off Navy Bean Soup

The day's almost as good as the day before.

We had a HUGE spring gathering on Easter Sunday, complete with giant ham, scalloped potatoes, LOTS of fresh fruits and veggies and even an Easter egg shaped cake!  Needless to say, there were lots of friends, family, laughs and tons of leftovers!  Today I should be exhausted, but somehow I felt like cooking!

Navy bean soup always reminds me of my grandmother.  She made it all the time and I always loved the smell that the fresh bay leaves and thyme made in her house on the days she made it.  Today, that same smell is emanating from my kitchen, but I'm making way less effort!

I made sure to leave plenty of meat on the ham hock for starters.  I had plenty of left over celery, carrots and green onions from our veggie tray, so those all got cut up and thrown in the pot.  I still added the traditional parsley, thyme and bay leaves, but who has time to soak navy beans these days?!  With all the giant serving platters and dishes I had to wash in the last 24 hours, the last thing I was thinking of was to soak beans! I'm using canned white beans today, and I'll be just fine, thank you!

So, what's the difference between all these white beans?  The truth is...very little.  It's mostly a shape issue.  Navy beans are just a bit smaller than Cannellinis and Great Northerns, and they're just an oval shape as opposed to the familiar kidney shape.  They all have a slightly nutty taste, with thin skin and creamy inside texture.  You can read more here.

Easy Knock-Off Navy Bean Soup

Prep Time: 20 minutes / Cook Time: 2 hours / Servings 6-8

  • 1 large hamhock (from an 8-10lb. ham)
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 (15oz.) Great Northern beans
  • 1 (15oz.) can Cannellini beans
  • 8-10 baby carrots, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 large, fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
Easy Knock-Off Navy Bean Soup, meat and veggies ready for browning

  1. In a large dutch oven combine the olive oil, hamhock, carrots, celery and scallions.  Cook on high heat for 4-5 minutes to soften the veggies and brown the hamhock, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the chicken broth, beans, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.  Stir the bottom of the pan to deglaze any browning left in the bottom.  
  3. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Be sure to remove any remaining meat from the hamhock bone before serving.
  4. Remove the bay leaves, thyme stems and bone before serving.

Easy Knock-Off Navy Bean Soup

Rustic Italian Turkey Ragu with Tasti-Lee Tomatoes

Rustic Italian Turkey Ragú

We're closing out Tasti-Lee week with one of my staple recipes.  I make my Turkey Ragu once a week without fail.  It's great with pasta (of course), but for more grain-free dinners, we stuff it inside acorn squash, or use spaghetti squash in place of pasta.

Most recipes call for a touch of nutmeg, but the Pumpkin Pie Spice gives it an amazing, deep flavor!  I also use a sweeter wine, such as a California red mixture or a dark, red blend.  You can use your own perference, but remember this...if you won't drink it in a glass, then don't cook with it either.  Of course, if you drink it in a glass WHILE you cook with it...that's just fine.

I've REALLY enjoyed working with these DELICIOUS and BEAUTIFUL tomatoes.  I got SO many compliments on them, as they were a big part of our family's Easter feast.  Thank's so much Tasti-Lee!  You've been a fantastic journey!

Click here to request a Tasti-Lee coupon!

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Rustic Italian Turkey Ragú

Prep Time: 15 minutes / Cook Time: 1-2 hours / Servings: 8-10

Rustic Italian Turkey Ragu Stuffed Acorn Squash
  • 3 lbs. Tasti-Lee tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3 large scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 lb. Italian Turkey Sausage
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • a pinch of pumpkin pie spice
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel the tomatoes first.  This can be done either by boiling them for a few minutes first, or by placing them in a hot iron skillet and lightly rolling them around for a few minutes until the skin begins to fall off.  I prefer the second method, as boiling them can make them mushy and watery and harder to work with.  When the tomatoes are peeled, chop them roughly and set them aside.
  2. In a large dutch oven or boiling pot, heat the olive oil on high heat.  Add the bell pepper, garlic, scallions and mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften them.  Add the meat, season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium and cook for 7-10 minutes until the meat is browned.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, pumpkin pie spice, basil, bay leaves, brown sugar and oregano.  Stir until all ingredients are combined, adjust salt and pepper, reduce heat to a simmer and stir occasionally for 1-2 hours.  When the sauce is ready it should be a thick, reduced and concentrated ragú, with only a trace of liquid left in it.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Veggie & Lox Stuffed Tasti-Lee Tomatoes!

Veggie & Lox Stuffed Tasti-Lee Tomatoes

 You can stuff just about anything you want inside of a delicious Tasti-Lee Tomato.  But, this weekend for brunch, I’ll be stuffing my face with the perfect mixture of fresh veggies and lox! It’s a great, grain-free alternative for those who love bagels and lox, without sacrificing ANY of the flavor!

The beautiful tomatoes give this dish great color and make for the perfect serving size.  They’re easy and quick to make, super healthy and most of all…DELICIOUS!  The creme fraiche is easily subbed out for sour cream, and if you’re more of a smoked salmon person as opposed to lox, that’s just fine too!

Veggie & Lox Stuffed Tasti-Lee Tomatoes

Veggie & Lox Stuffed Tasti-Lee Tomatoes
Prep Time: 10 minutes / Cook Time: 0 minutes / Servings: 4 tomatoes

  • 4 Tasti-Lee Premium Vine-Ripened tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh baby dill, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 4 oz. lox or smoked salmon, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
  • zest of 1/2 lemon

  1. Slice the tops off of each of the tomatoes and hollow out the centers.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lox, cucumber, green onion, baby dill, capers, creme fraiche, garlic powder, lemon zest and salt & pepper.  Stir until combined.
  3. Stuff each of the tomatoes with the lox mixture.  Garnish with left over creme fraiche and baby dill.  Serve with left over lemon slices, cucumber slices and capers.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sweet and Spicy Tuscan Tomato Jam with Tasti-Lee Tomatoes!

Tasti-Lee Premium Vine-Ripened Tomatoes

Tomatoes.  They're a staple in our house.  I remember it was one of Bodhi's first foods, and by far his first FAVORITE.  They come in all shapes, sizes, types and brands, but I've found my new's why:

Tasti-Lee Tomatoes® ( have the highest levels of lycopene in any tomato variety in the United States. These GMO-free and sun-ripened tomatoes naturally have 50% more lycopene than traditional tomatoes!  Tasti-Lee® tomatoes proudly carry the Heart-Check Mark food certification from the American Heart Association that helps people identify foods in stores that meet the nutritional standards of the American Heart Association to promote heart-healthy eating habits.
The Tasti-Lee® variety of round crimson beefsteak tomatoes are also ultra flavorful, beautifully red, and perfectly juicy. he flavor and freshness of Tasti-Lee® is that of a just-picked backyard garden tomato, but without all the work.

Almost 20 years ago The American Heart Association designed the Heart-Check Mark that is placed on products that have been screened and certified to meet the proper nutritional criteria.  Tasti-Lee® tomatoes are proud to promote heart-healthy eating habits to people across America.
Grown nationally by leaders in the farming community, Tasti-Lee® tomatoes come in both Organic and Conventional These tasti tomatoes were created as a premium, vine-ripened tomato picked when.  Tasti-Lee® Tomatoes are never artificially ripened or gassed with ethylene for color.  Tasti-Lee® tomatoes are available in leading natural supermarkets and mainstream grocery chains around the nation.

Now...what to make with all these wonderful, red beauties?!  Something I can put on EVERYTHING! 

Tomato jam is so delicious and can be used as a great condiment on hamburgers, hot dogs or anything else that would require ketchup.  It's also a GREAT topper for crostini, savory waffles and all kinds of appetizers!  I had mine for lunch today with some fresh, home made bread, a little Burrata cheese, some peppery baby arugula and sliced chicken sausage!

Sweet and Spicy Tuscan Tomato Jam

Sweet and Spicy Tuscan Tomato Jam
Served Here with Burrata Cheese, Baby Arugula and Sliced Chicken Sausage
  • 1 lb. Tasti-Lee Premium Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. dried lemon peel
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch, dissolved in 2 tbsp. cold water
  1. Combine all ingredients together in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and allow the sauce to reduce for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the corn starch and stir until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes.  
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Transfer the jam to mason jars, cover, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Makes two 8 oz. mason jars.

Sweet and Spicy Tuscan Tomato Jam