Thursday, December 20, 2012

Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Nuts

The holidays always bring an abundance of parties, dinners, and festivities. When you’re planning to host a party it so nice to prepare as many things as possible in advance. These Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Nuts can be made the day before and they are super quick, inexpensive and easy to make. If you’re not a fan of Moroccan spices, you can also easily use whatever flavors you prefer instead.

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a legume and a great source of protein, fiber, zinc and folate. Oh, and I’ll add that they are also low in fat. They can be made into hummus, added to grains and veggies, packed into falafel or in this case, eaten as crunchy little nuts.

* I suggest using two cans right off the bat because they shrink in size and are super addicting!

2 cans of organic chickpeas (or garbanzo beans)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Moroccan Spice Mix:
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of cumin
½ teaspoon of coriander
½ teaspoon of chili powder
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the garbanzo beans in a colander and rinse well with cold water. Let them sit in the sink to drain to about 5-10 minutes. If they still look slightly wet, transfer to a few sheets of paper towel and pat to dry. (If you’re feeling motivated, you can slip them out of their little skins).

While the chickpeas are draining, make the spice mix. Please note, you will have more than enough for this recipe so place the remaining mixture into a tightly sealed container for future use.

Next toss the chickpeas, olive oil, and spice mix (use your personal judgment) together. When the beans are evenly coated, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Roast for 35-45 minutes (or until golden brown and crunchy), stirring and rotating every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. These can be served warm or cool. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (a.k.a Nutella)

I could eat Nutella on almost anything. It is smooth, creamy, delicious and…oh yeah, I almost forgot, highly addictive and far from healthy.  I have seen numerous healthier-at home versions of Nutella and thought I’d share my take on the recipe. While this chocolate hazelnut spread is delicious, it is NOT Nutella. So, please don’t make this expecting the same results. This recipe uses 70% (or greater) dark cacao chips, dairy-free milk, and a fraction of the sweetener (notice I did not say sugar J).  In addition, I have eliminated all processed, refined, and artificial ingredients. Oh yeah, this is the real deal!

What I love even more about this chocolate hazelnut spread is the fact that it makes a fantastic DIY Christmas gift! I packaged it in cute little mason jars, tied with a twine bow and a homemade gift tag. Love!

One suggestion I have is to soak the hazelnuts overnight, let them dry and then continue with roasting in the oven. I did not do this but think it may give you an even creamier consistency.

2 cups of raw unsalted hazelnuts (sometimes called filberts)
1 cup of coconut milk (almond, hazelnut or evaporated would also work)
1 cup of dark cacao chips (70% or greater)
¼ cup maple syrup (add more if you prefer it sweeter)
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted (hazelnut oil would also work)
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a single layer, spread the whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Roast for approximately 8-10 minutes, until slightly fragrant and skin is cracking. Remove from oven and let cool.

Once the hazelnuts have cooled, place them on a kitchen towel and begin to rub the nuts together to remove the skin. Don’t worry if there are a few stubborn skins that won’t come off.

Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and begin to pulse and grind until you have something that resembles nut butter.

Mean while, heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Slowly add the dark cacao chips and stir until you have a smooth, creamy chocolate sauce.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the food processor, along with the other ingredients, and continue to process until you have a lovely chocolate hazelnut spread. Mmmm good!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Last February, a dear friend of mine gave me Heidi Swanson’s “Super Natural Every Day” recipe book for my birthday. Though I’ve tried quite a few of the recipes, there is one specific recipe that I have been waiting to try – baked oatmeal. I knew the recipe would make too much for just my fiancé and I so I have been waiting for the right opportunity to test it out. Last weekend, three of my girlfriends made the drive up to LA to check out our new digs. They spent the night, which means I finally had enough people at my house for breakfast! There was no contemplating what to make – Baked Oatmeal it was!

I did make a few changes to the recipe due to dietary restrictions and personal likes and dislikes, but overall, it was a hit! I love that based on the season this dish can vary so much. For example, in the spring you could toss in raspberries and coconut and cinnamon and apples in the fall. Oh yum! It is super easy to whip up and easily serves 6 people. I actually served it with a side of fresh fruit and everyone’s belly was happy J.

Did you know that blueberries rank only second to strawberries in popularity of berries? As they should! Not only are they delicious but also full of antioxidants and phytonutrients. In fact, blueberries contain more antioxidants than most fruits, vegetables and spices. Why are antioxidants important? They protect our bodies, cells and DNA from the damages caused by free radicals and have been shown to improve memory. Blueberries also have a lower glycemic index (GI), a way of identifying the impact a food has on our blood sugar level once we've consumed and digested it. Basically if you’re not eating blueberries – you should! J

2 cups of rolled oats (not quick-cooking oats)
1/2 cup of raw sliced almonds (substitute any nut here based on preference)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
A dash of sea salt
2 cups of unsweetened almond milk (soy milk, coconut milk, or dairy milk)
1/3 cup of pure organic maple syrup
1 large egg
3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Melted coconut oil or butter)
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla
1 ½ cups of blueberries (or other fruit)
2 ripe bananas cut into small slices (I left these out)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease or spray the inside of an 8-inch square pan or baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the almond milk, maple syrup, egg, EVOO and the vanilla.

If using bananas, arrange them in the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle 2/3 of the berries over the top. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the oats. Slightly jiggle the baking dish so the liquid seeps through the oats evenly. Scatter the remaining berries over the top.

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, until the top is nicely golden brown and the oat mixture has set (no more jiggling). Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.

* Drizzle with more maple syrup if you want it a tad sweeter.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Spicy Arrabiata Sauce

I LOVE pasta! In fact, I love all pasta! Ravioli, spaghetti, lasagna, manicotti, and gnocchi – the list goes on. What I don’t love is paying for pasta because it is one of the easiest and most inexpensive dishes to make at home. Sure, there is the wonderful ambiance of an Italian restaurant: the wine, low lighting and candles, the music, intimate seating, and of course there is the amazing smell of garlic! Well folks, I have good news for you! You can easily recreate this atmosphere in your very own home! AND…since you are in the privacy of your own home, you can even spice the romance up a notch J.

This arrabiata sauce is thick, spicy and oh so delicious! I always like to hide extra veggies when I can, so I’ve tossed in some chopped carrots and celery. Feel free to leave these ingredients out if you’d like. However, you cannot leave out the fresh tomatoes, handful of basil, and garlic. The fresher the ingredients – the better!

Once you taste this sauce and realize how easy it is to make, I can promise that you’ll never buy a jar of sauce again!

Most of us probably think of basil as an herb and nothing more but basil actually has unique health-properties that are very beneficial. The two main areas are basil’s flavonoids and volatile oils. The flavonoids in basil actually provide protection at a cellular level. They protect the cells and chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. The volatile oils on the other hand possess anti-bacterial properties and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies show that when produce is washed in a solution containing either basil or thyme oil that the number of infectious bacteria (that causes diarrhea) is reduced. So the next time you make a big salad, whip up basil vinaigrette to ensure the produce you’re about to eat is safe.

2 pounds of ripe tomatoes
½ of an onion, chopped
½ cup of diced carrots
½ cup of diced celery
Chopped basil, (I used a good handful)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon of Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the whole tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for just a couple of minutes, or until the skin starts to crack. Transfer them to a colander and gently remove the skin. Chop the tomatoes and set aside.

In a saucepan sauté the garlic, onion, carrots, and celery for approximately 5 minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper.

Simmer for 20-25 minutes until thickened. Serve over your favorite pasta or spaghetti squash (or a healthier, lighter twist!). Bon Appetito!

* If you prefer your sauce less chunky, transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender for a few seconds and voila!