Almond Clusters

almonds

These little bite size gems are decadent, and dare I say-kinda healthy.  If my kids beg me for dessert, this is what their going to get.  In order to get the most health benefits from your chocolate, you want to opt for 60% cacao or higher.  I added organic/unsweetened coconut to some of them because we happen to be a family that loves Almond Joy’s.  I use roasted-unsalted almonds, but raw almonds would be a better choice for those that are truly trying to maximize the health benefits of these yummy treats.  I am not sure how soaked nuts would taste in this recipe, but again, it might be worth a try.  For those of you not familiar with this method, soaking nuts is supposed to make them easier to digest, as well as make their nutrients more readily available.  I am not a huge fan of soaking, unless it’s to make things like cashew cream, which is delicious!  Anywho, Skip the double broiler, and melt the chocolate chips in the microwave-it’s much more convenient! I’m not going to give measurements because honestly, it’s just not necessary.  Pile your almonds into cute little mounds on parchment  paper, and cover with your melted chocolate.  And if your feeling jazzy, dust a sprinkle of chunky kosher salt, or sea salt over the top.  Voila! 
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clusters

coconut

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Xo-Tara

Shakshuka

The name of this Israeli tomato and egg dish is now one of my new favorite words.  I simply cannot stop saying it-I think my husband wants to punch me in the face.  Though I do love saying Shakshuka (Shack-Shooooooka), I much rather eat it.  Usually my family doesn’t need an invitation to toast a baguette, and shove it into our face holes, but with this dish it’s practically a requirement! Praise be to Jesus, I thought the day would never come that someone would advise me to dip hunks of bread into a tomato based sauce and plow them into my mouth.
shak1I had never heard of this dish before, until seeing it one day in a magazine.  I’m sure it was fate, because instantly I had an immense craving for this mysterious Shakshuka, and had make it.  It was like my mind cut and pasted all the different flavors from a Rolodex of previous food experiences, and shot some imaginary concoction of what this recipe might taste like right into my mouth.  Seriously, ya’lls-I could taste it!

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The ingredient list is simple, and other than poaching the eggs in the broth, which might make some people uncomfortable (poaching is either love or hate) it’s a really easy dish to prepare.  I followed this adaptation by the amazing Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen.  I heart her big time.

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Go make Shakshuka for dinner and tell me if you loved it as much as I did!

XO-Tara

Raw Nut Balls (yes, you heard me correctly)

ImageThey have a rather unfortunate name, although I admit I like asking people if they want some of my Raw Nut Balls.  They elicit quite a reaction.  Forgive me, I can have a naive sense of humor.  Let the puns begin.  Trust me I never thought there would come a time when raw balls would be so trendy, but alas! So, I made these for the first time over the weekend, and they are off the chains delicious.  And, just one or two can cure a bout of a hunger, no joking.  

Now, I have told you before that I rarely measure, so if you need exact measurments you might have to go look elsewhere.  But don’t say I didn’t forewarn you that god knows what will show up in a google search for raw nut balls.  I searched several different recipes, before deciding the base was relatively the same in all of them, so I just winged it.  I knew I wanted something with a lot of vanilla flavor.  

So basically, I threw some almonds (maybe a cup) into my food processor until it resembled a course ground powder. Then I processed some pitted Medjool dates (about 9-10) with a generous amount of vanilla, until a sort of paste formed.  Then I incorporated the two, mashing with a spoon until it was combined.  I added some salt and organic unsweetened flaked coconut to it, as well as some chia seeds to amp up the nutritional boost, then rolled into balls, and tossed in some more coconut.  Yum! These are such a great snack, and vegan too! 

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Lime Dressing

Quinoa is having quite the moment in the super grain spotlight, and it’s not hard for me to see why.  I have dabbled in all sorts of  adventures involving this complete protein.  Quinoa casseroles, quinoa burgers, quinoa salads, and quinoa fritters to name a few.  For people like me (90% vegetarian) what?  I still like bacon, OK.  Don’t judge.  Quinoa practically came down from the heavens in a glowing orb of light.  One of the few grains that essentially is a grain with the genetic blueprint of meat, because it’s loaded with all the amino acids, and is chock full of protein.  I think its real shining talent though, is that it is mild tasting and easily adaptable.  

quinoa

This salad was just slightly adapted from This one I found on where else, but the mecca that is Pinterest.  In her recipe she uses a cup of quinoa, but I use the whole package, because my family will eat it throughout the week.  It is so delicious, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t make enough for leftovers.  

I use a 12 ounce package of organic pre-rinsed quinoa, cooked following package directions.  I use a large bunch of cilantro, half of a sweet onion in place of red, I add a cup or so of grated cheese,  a whole pint of cherry tomatoes, two red/yellow bell peppers, and two chopped jalapenos.  For the larger salad I think about 1/4 cup light EVOO, emulsified with the juice of two limes and a  tablespoon of sugar works nicely.  I add cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and S&P directly to the salad instead of the dressing because it can get a little grainy and thick.  I never measure, but lets just say I am generous with my spices.  If your comfort level in the kitchen isn’t so daring, add a little at a time, tasting as you go.  I have also added corn and freshly grated lime zest to this salad with wonderful results.  The brightness of the limes transforms this salad.  The balance of acidity and sweetness is delightful, so don’t be put off about adding the sugar.  So that’s it, you pile all of your ingredients into a bowl, and toss with your dressing.  I will advise you that this meal is best when washed down with a crisp Sanpellegrino grapefruit soda.   

Scoop a heap of this onto a tortilla chip, and say hello to your new favorite summer salad.  

Creamy Polenta with Peas and Fried Eggs

polenta

polenta and eggs

Is there anything better than a bowl of creamy Polenta on a cold dreary day? Of course not, and lucky for me it was my lack of meal planning and grocery shopping for the week that led to this little gem of a recipe.  Nothing like hunger and a previous days laziness to spur you into culinary creativity.  I never follow a recipe, but I certainly never make them up on a whim either, or at all really.  I had made basic Polenta before, usually using it as soft cushion for a heap of roasted vegetables, and it was always divine.  But this dear creation eaten in tandem along side a cold winters day is pure bliss.  And if you’re not in the habit of putting over easy eggs on top of everything, then it is possible our friendship will have to end here.  Now I am going to warn you this can only loosely be described as a recipe, for my rebellious nature in the kitchen shies away from anything so formulaic as following a recipe.  I can only say that if you mess this up, and it tastes awful-its your fault.  

 Here is what I use:

  • Parmesan cheese aprox 1 cup but I always use more!
  • Corn Meal (I use Quacker) 
  • Vegetable Bouillon base 
  • Green onions (1 bunch) sounds like a lot, but trust me!
  • Butter
  •  half and half or milk
  • fresh or frozen peas
  • fried over easy eggs (optional but highly recommended)        

So here’s the run down, Polenta is pretty quick cooking, so not only is this meal friendly on the wallet it’s also is a cinch to prepare. For every cup of corn meal, I add about 2 cups of liquid, maybe a little more.  I dissolve about a tablespoon or two of bouillon into 2 cups of warm water, throw that into a large bottomed pot, and add 2 more cups of water and bring to a boil.  Then lower the heat to medium (watch for splattering) and pour in your polenta.  I generally pour it straight from the container, no measuring, and I constantly whisk to avoid lumps.  Once it gets to the consistency that you like, let it cook for a few more minutes and then take it off  the heat.  Add a couple of tablespoons of butter, the cheese, chopped green onions, salt and pepper, and milk or half and half to up the creamy factor.  Then add in your cooked peas, either steamed frozen peas in the bag or blanched fresh peas.  Then fry a couple of eggs over easy, and put them atop your mound O’ Polenta. Voila! One word of advice, put a smaller portion of this on your plate than you might at first think about, otherwise you might end up feeling like you ate a brick.  It’s a heavy meal, prefect those dark winter days when you want to eat yourself into oblivion.  You do have those, right?!

XO-Tara