Quick Chive & Dill Crackers

Enjoying a bowl of Minestrone soup the other night, I ran out of crackers.

This is clearly a Red Alert situation. Dipping crackers into soup is a life necessity. Along with access to a Sephora and daily coffee.

Rather than heading to the store, I decided to see if I could whip up my own. I knew this recipe was delicious, but I was looking for something a little more crisp and cracker-like, and less chewy.  Spoiler alert: I also had fresh dill and chives.

After 30 minutes, I was back to cracker dipping and all was right with the world.

To the recipe!
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Quick Chive & Dill Crackers
1 c. Almond Flour*
1 c. AP Flour
1 tsp baking soda
.66 oz pkg (or a small bunch) fresh chives, minced
.66 oz pkg (or a small bunch) fresh dill, minced
4 tbs extra light olive oil or vegetable oil
4 tbs water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Oil spray
Parchment paper
*I like the texture the Almond Flour provides; but I think this could work with all
AP flour. If you try it, let me know!

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In a food processor or stand mixer (with paddle) add flours, baking soda and herbs. Sprinkle in salt and pepper. Stream in oil. Add water (up to 4 tbs) until dough comes together. Taste dough, add more seasoning as needed.

Transfer dough ball to large piece of parchment paper. Roll out dough to 1/4″ thickness,  (in a rectangular shape). Using a pizza cutter, lightly cut dough into squares (4 vertical slices and then 8 horizontal slices depending on the size of your dough). Crackers should be about 1″. Transfer entire piece of parchment to a baking tray. Lightly spritz crackers with oil spray.

Bake for 15 minutes. Flip crackers over (removing any corners that are getting too brown), and bake for another 7-8 minutes until lightly brown. While still hot from the oven, sprinkle a bit of sea salt over the tray. Allow to cool and serve.
Makes about 3 dozen crackers.

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My crackers and I are heading to Sephora.

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Shrimp, Grapefruit & Avocado Salad with Endive

Saturday, while racing through the aisles of the Kroger to collect things for Diner En Blanc, I decided I wanted to make another seafood option to go with the smoked salmon feast I was preparing. I was staring at fish counter hoping for shellfish-induced inspiration (its a thing, really).

I then remembered an old boyfriend’s mother used to buy cans of “tiny shrimp” to make summer salads; and something about a shrimp salad sounded perfectly elegant to go with this evening.

I grabbed three cans of the “tiny” and ran like hell for the cash register. #classyshmassy.

The shrimp salad had to be picnic-friendly, so no mayo and no dairy.  Enter avocado, that creamy, dairy-free vixen. Citrus is a such a natural pairing for shrimp; adding grapefruit  felt like a no-brainer. Finally, I also wanted to use endive spears to keep this a little lighter in calories and I knew it would make a beautiful presentation. See classy.

So the verdict?
Kind of freaking awesome! The citrus and the shrimp paired perfectly together as suspected and the avocado added that luscious creaminess without making the dish soggy. Absolutely elegant.

Shrimp, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Endive
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Ingredients:
2 avocados
3 cans tiny shrimp (about 12oz)
1 large ruby red grapefruit
1/2 c. fresh parsley
2 tbs extra light olive oil
1 small lemon, zested and juiced (optional)
Salt, Pepper to taste
6 heads of Endive lettuce

Prepare ingredients:
Peel avocado, remove pit and dice
Rinse and drain shrimp thoroughly
Peel and segment the grapefruit, reserving juice
Remove stems from parsley, and chop roughly
Trim bottom from endive and remove the bruised outer layers. Wash thoroughly and pat dry. Peel individual spears off each head and set aside

Directions:
Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in grapefruit juice and olive oil until salad is coated. Depending on how much juice the grapefruit yields, add additional lemon juice. Taste here. I prefer this salad very citrusy, so I added the lemon zest as well (I find grapefruit zest too bitter) but adjust the citrus level to your preference. Add salt & pepper to taste. Once plated, fan endive spears around the bowl. Serves 6-10 as an appetizer.

Notes: You could serve with pita chips or crackers rather than the endive.
If you’re shrimp adverse; this would be delicious with lump crab meat as well.

#classy

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Diner En Blanc: 2014

Since I moved to Cincinnati in 2011, there haven’t been many things I’ve done consistently. I’ve changed jobs, boyfriends, running routes, friends, gyms and hair colors, all with aplomb. Save for running this road race a few times, I’ve kept my Cincinnati game changing year to year. And I’m cool with that.

So it was with surprise that I realized I was heading to Diner En Blanc for the third year in a row. Could it be? Consistency, wow.

For those of you who missed the 2013 and 2012 recap, here’s the deal

  • Diner En Blanc is basically a “pop-up” picnic that started in France 26 years ago.
  • The event is held at a public, but undisclosed location; the guests don’t know where it is until just before the event.
  • Attendees dress in all white (no cream, no ivory) and bring their own WHITE table, chairs, decorations, 3-course picnic dinner and champagne.
  • After everyone enjoys their dinners and drinks; there’s dancing, sparklers and debauchery.
  • At the end of the evening, everyone packs up all their stuff (including trash) and leaves the location as if the event were never there.

After attending this party for the past two years, my white dress and I knew the drill and were ready to roll.

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(Diva shot)

This year, the location was Fountain Square, certainly public and significant to our little city; but my oh my, was it crowded.

1000+ people, all their white table set ups and all their food?
Made for a tight squeeze for sure.
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(getting close with strangers new friends)

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(view from the street)

After getting set up with in a long row of friends and strangers alike; it was time to break out the diner of the diner en blanc! My group decided to make big platters of easily shareable food to pass around versus everyone trying to create individual 2-person menus; this worked out so well!

We shared amongst 12 of us:
Beef tenderloins (2)
Orzo salad
Crudite
Crackers, cheese
A HUGE Antipato platter of meats, cheeses, olives and marinated vegetables
Lots of cocktails and drinks
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And my contributions:
A smoked salmon platter with cocktail rye (instead of bagels) and all the fixings
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and a Shrimp/Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Endive boats (recipe to follow)
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Much as in year’s past; the food, champagne and conversation was flowing.
The sparklers being lit marked the opening of the dance floor.
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And open it did. The dance floor, made up for its wee size with some crazy booty-shaking.
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Um, yeah, that happened.  I was clearly feeling the tunes.

Another year of Diner En Blanc awesome? Check.

I don’t know what 2015 will look like; but chances are; there might be a white dress and a bottle of champers in it.

Hungry for more Diner En Blanc? More pictures of me?
Diner En Blanc 2013
Diner En Blanc 2012

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Blueberry Coconut Swirl Ice Cream

And we’re here. After Labor Day.
Time for wool sweaters, boots (boots!) and all the pumpkin things.

Oh wait….Cincinnati didn’t get the message as it’s currently 85 degrees out and will be in the 90s for the rest of the week. I can’t say I’m sorry about that.

Let’s ease our way out of summer by making one more ice cream treat.
My sister gifted me an ice cream maker earlier this summer, and I’ve been having a blast experimenting with it (Raspberry Trifle, Salted Caramel and Double Vanilla recipes to name a few).

But today’s recipe is all about those little August beauties: blueberries.

I had some gorgeous blueberries on their last leg, so I wanted to incorporate them somehow. You know I love me some coconut, so Coconut & Blueberry felt like a perfect summery fit. I also pitched in a bit of lemon zest, because I can (I’m wild like that).

I love using Coconut milk and Almond/Coconut Milk as the base; it provides richness without drowning in heavy cream.  I also used sweetened condensed milk here to play with the texture; but you can substitute regular sugar.  The result? Creamy, dreamy coconut ice cream with bits of luscious blueberries and a slight lemony tang.

And who doesn’t want to send off summer with a tang?
(see what I did there?)

Blueberry Coconut Swirl Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

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What you’ll need: Fresh blueberries, Coconut milk, Almond/Coconut Milk Beverage, Shredded Coconut, Vanilla extract, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Lemon Zest

Ingredients:

14oz (1 can) Sweetened condensed milk*
14oz (1 can) Light or Regular coconut milk
1 c. Unsweetened coconut almond milk beverage
1 tbs Vanilla extract
2 c. Blueberries (fresh, washed)
1/2c. Coconut, shredded (sweetened or unsweetened)
Zest from 1/2 lemon
* In place of condensed milk, add 3/4c. cane sugar and increase Coconut Almond Milk Beverage to 1.5 cups

Directions:
In a blender, combine milks and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour 1 cup of vanilla base into a freezer safe bowl. Set aside. Add blueberries to the blender and whir until berries are roughly chopped. Chill both the bases in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Following your manufacture’s instructions, churn the vanilla base for about 15-20 minutes (just to a soft-serve consistency).

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(what we’re looking for)

Turn off machine and scoop vanilla ice cream back into freezer-safe bowl and return to the freezer. Turn on machine and churn the blueberry base until ice cream forms, about 25 minutes. At this point, slowly add in the lemon zest and coconut; and churn until blended (should be about 5 minutes).

In a freezer-safe ice cream container (I like to re-use Talenti containers or freezer-safe aluminum loaf pans), spoon in a few spoonfuls of vanilla, then a few spoonfuls of blueberry, continue alternating until containers are full (do not stir).

Place containers in freezer for another 30 minutes to an hour and you should be ready to serve. Garnish with lemon zest or coconut whipped cream. Makes about 1 quart.
IMG_9904Recipe Notes:
– Because of the higher sugar/lower fat content, this is best “churned and served.” The  consistency will be like a rich soft-serve. However, once completely frozen, the mix may be icy when re-serving. You can soften and re-churn when you want to re-serve.

- Be sure to read your manufacturer’s instructions on your ice cream maker; but I’ve found on mine (an earlier version of this ) that the base container needs to be completely frozen, like at least 24 hours in the freezer (I usually wash, dry and store mine in the freezer so it’s always ready to go).

- Make sure your ice cream mix is COLD. I usually blend and stick the mix in the freezer for at least 30 minutes (as my directions indicate) to make sure its COLD. If not, your mix may form a disastrous layer of ice that will not CHURN and you’ll be sad. Trust me. IMG_9906

Farewell summer, you served us well deliciously.

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Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter Protein Bites

Summer is drawing to a close and I for one, am NOT into it. As much as I love Fall, I want to keep Summer around for as long as possible (Pumpkin Spice Latte, I’m looking at you. You are TOO SOON).

While August has been hot and lazy days, my weekdays have been taken up with a new Boot Camp class and Meal plan. Five days a week, I pull myself together for a 5:30am class of Inchworms, Planks, Mountain Climbers, Burpees and other horrors fun.

Along with Boot Camp, I’ve been following the coordinating meal plan: 6 small meals a day of clean eating. Think lots of chicken, greens and berries. No sugar. Nothing processed.
While it makes for an easy plan to follow; it does not make for an exciting food blog.
Sorry, friend.

But fear not, over the weekend I was yearning to make something sweet. A treat that would fit in the meal plan but still satisfy as a treat, darn it, I have standards.

I found inspiration in Annie-Eats Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bites.
I loved the simple ingredient list and I had most things on hand.

But…..
I don’t really like chocolate
I didn’t want to add honey
I wanted to increase the protein content

So after a bit of tinkering, I made…

Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter Protein Bites

The verdict? These came out more like a delicious toasted Butterfinger candy bar than a granola bar. The texture had that melt-in-your-mouth, slightly crunchy quality of a buttery shortbread cookie. Toasting the oats, coconut and almonds really pulled out the flavor. Plus, peanut butter.  I had some Sugar-Free Salted Caramel Torani syrup at home, so I added some to amp up the sweet/salty contrast, but it’s completely optional.

These are on the healthy side with lots of good fat and protein and they’re perfect as pre-workout fuel or an after-dinner treat.  Or you know, taking to the beach as a snack.

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Because Summer ain’t over yet.

Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter Protein Bites
Adapted from Annie’s Eats  ~ Makes 24 – 36″ bites
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What You’ll Need: A positive attitude, you know, just in general. Shredded Coconut,
Sea Salt, Peanut Butter, Coconut Oil, Quick Oaks & Almonds. Torani syrup, optional. Decorative vase of lemons, not needed.

Ingredients:
2 c. Quick Cooking Oats
1/2 c. Unsweetened or Sweetened Coconut, shredded
1 c. Raw Almonds (Slivered or Whole)
5 tbs Coconut oil (plus one extra)
1/2 c. Creamy Peanut Butter (or Almond Butter)
1 scoop Vanilla Protein Powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 tbs Torani syrup (Sugar-free Salted Caramel, optional)
Coarse salt for sprinkling

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350.  Line two baking sheets with tin foil.

On one of the baking sheets, spread oats, coconut and almonds, each in its own layer (ok if they overlap). Toast for 3 minutes, take pan out, shake/rotate and toast for another 1-2 minutes. The coconut and oats will toast FAST so do not leave these, they will burn and you will be sad. Once lightly toasted, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

In a food processor, quickly pulse toasted oats, coconut and almonds together until roughly ground. Pour toasted mix into large bowl.

In a medium saucepan, melt coconut oil and peanut butter, whisking until smooth. Stir in protein powder, vanilla (Toroni syrup if using) and pinch of salt and whisk until completely incorporated. You may want to add another tablespoon of coconut oil here to help everything smooth out.

Remove saucepan from heat and pour the peanut butter mix over the toasted mix and combine well (once it starts to cool, you can mix by hand to ensure all the liquid has been absorbed).

Shape dough into 1″ balls and place on the second baking sheet.
Sprinkle coarse salt over the tops. Refrigerate until set-up, about an hour.
Store in refrigerator or freezer.  Makes 24 – 36 bites.

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My artistic (shadowy) attempt at food styling.

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Get in my face, you gorgeous, non-chocolate, summery thing, you.

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You Say Banana, I say Muffin

I hope summer has been treating you right. The last few weeks have been stuffed with champagne, sunny neighborhood runs and lots of delicious meals. There were also trips to Vegas and Cabo in there, but we’ll get to that another time.

Today, we’re talking about muffins.  Fruity, slightly sweet and crunchy muffins.
It all started last Friday afternoon. My office very generously provides fresh fruit every day (so nice); but by Friday, most of the bananas are sad looking. I took a few sad bananas and made happy muffins over the weekend.

I love it when things work out.

These muffins have definitely been funked up. But I know you like your muffins funky (what?). In addition to the banana base, I used coconut oil and coconut sugar.  There is hype around the wunderkind of the oil world, as a health powerhouse, but I like that it adds a slight coconut flavor while also adding moisture to the muffins. I used coconut sugar…because I had it. You can absolutely substitute vegetable oil and cane sugar. I’m just a fool (for coconut). I also experimented with Almond Flour for part of the four. I think it added great texture and a bit of moisture; but again, using All-Purpose flour is totally fine.

Now for the really fun part: I split the batter, and added MORE coconut in the form of shredded coconut to one batch, and fresh blueberries, a bit of ginger and a stresuel topping to the second batch. Both equally delicious, with a tender crumb and tons of flavor. A fantastic way to use sad bananas (and get in your coconut fix).

Let’s make these.

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Banana Base Muffins
(Triple Coconut & Blueberry Ginger Streusel variations)
Makes 20-24 muffins

1.5 c. Almond Flour (or All-Purpose Flour)
1.5 c. All-Purpose Flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly (or vegetable oil)
1-1/2 c. coconut sugar (or cane sugar)*
1 tbs vanilla
2 eggs
4 very ripe bananas, mashed

IMG_9698Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl, sift together: flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat coconut oil and sugar together until smooth. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Stir in mashed bananas until the bananas are incorporated into the mix (I like leaving a few larger pieces, but you could whisk until smooth if you prefer).

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, until just combined. Do not overmix.
At this point, you can bake as-is and have delicious Banana Muffins. Or you can stir in your favorite mix-ins as these muffins are equal opportunity delicious. However, keep reading for the variations I made.

Split the batter into two bowls and add the following to make the variations:

Triple Coconut Banana Muffins
1 c. shredded unsweetened coconut (*if using sweetened, lessen the amount of sugar)
1/2 tsp rum extract (optional)

Blueberry Ginger Streusel Muffins
1 c. fresh blueberries
1 tsp ground ginger
Streusel Topping (to be added after the batter has been scooped into the tin):
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. AP flour
pinch of ground ginger
3 tbs cold butter, cut into small cubes
In a small bowl, whisk sugar, flour and ginger together. Cut in the butter until crumbles form.

Prepare muffin tins: either insert muffin liners or coat with non-stick spray.

Fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way with batter. For Blueberry Muffins, sprinkle streusel topping on just before baking. Bake 10-14 minutes until tops are golden brown. Makes 20-24 muffins.
IMG_9700I’m sorry, did someone say these bananas were once sad?  IMG_9702 IMG_9704

I didn’t think so.

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Shrimp, Tomato & Zucchini Pizza with Herb Pesto

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The best thing about summer produce is that EVERYTHING is delicious.
The local corn from Kroger? Excellent! The peaches from the office fruit bowl? Fresh!
The tomatoes from the farmer’s market? Outstanding!

You can’t go wrong with summer produce.

Which is why tonight’s dinner is going to be delicious. Promise.

Fresh green pesto, farmer’s market tomatoes and zucchini (so fresh! so crunchy!), delicate Gruyere cheese and a few baby shrimp all slathered on a rustic whole wheat pizza crust.
YES.

Let’s talk pesto: Pesto is traditionally a basil, garlic and olive oil spread. Pesto to me is usually “whatever semi-wilty greens I have that need to be blended to make something delectable to spread on bread”. Tonight’s pesto is cilantro, parsley and green onion. But you can pesto (yes, its a verb) other sturdy greens: basil, baby spinach, arugula, kale or even collard greens.

And for the pizza. Ah homemade pizza. I know you. I’ve loved you. I have even tried cooking you on a pizza stone. Oh the STONE: One pizza came out doughy, the next one burned and the third involved an unfortunate incident where half the dough ended up on the stone and the other half on the floor. The stone and I? Not cool. I finally threw the pizza stone in the trash can with such a satisfying crash I almost wish I had another one to do the same with.

Ahem…..if you have a pizza stone, by all means, use it! (and you have my utmost respect). For everyone else, a baking sheet and oven work just fine!

Shrimp, Tomato & Zucchini Pizza with Herb Pesto

Herb Pesto
1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 small bunch parlsey, stems removed
1 green onion, diced, green & white parts
1 tbs pine nuts
2 tbs Parmesan cheese, shredded or shaved
2 garlic cloves, peeled
zest of 1/2 lemon
2-3 tbs olive oil
Black Pepper

Pizza:
1 whole wheat dough ball (or make your own)
1-2 tbs AP flour for rolling
10oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
8oz Shrimp (de-veined, tails off)*
4-5 baby zucchini or 1 medium zucchini, cleaned and sliced into rounds or half-moons
5 mini heirloom tomatoes or 1 large heirloom, sliced into rounds or half-moons
Extra cilantro and lemon juice for serving
Sea Salt, Black pepper
*To make this super easy, I used frozen (thawed) pre-cooked shrimp. You can also lightly saute your fresh shrimp in a little olive oil until just opaque if you prefer.

Pre-heat oven to 350.
Make pesto:  In a food processor; combine all ingredients except oil. Sprinkle in some black pepper (but hold off on the salt until you see how salty the cheese makes the pesto).
Whir until a paste forms.

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Slowly stream in the oil until pesto comes together. I prefer my pesto on the drier side, so I only used 2 tbs of oil, you may want to use 3 or even 4 tbs, up to you!
Taste here, add salt or pepper as needed. Set aside.  IMG_9258
For the pizza:IMG_9261Sliced tomatoes, zucchini, tails-off (cooked) shrimp, lemon zest, pesto and Salt and Pepper (un-pictured Gruyere).

Preparing the dough:
Line a baking sheet with a silpat or spray with olive oil. Flouring your hands/rolling pin, roll dough out to about 1/2″ even thickness. Using the back of a spoon, spread your homemade pesto evenly over entire pizza (don’t forget the corners!)

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Sprinkle cheese evenly over entire pizza. Next layer on zucchini, tomatoes and shrimp.
You can be all nerdy like me, and make rows of each; or you can simply toss all your toppings on there. Either way, it will be delicious.

Finally, sprinkle lemon zest and black pepper over the pie. IMG_9264
Bake for 20 minutes until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.

To serve, sprinkle with more cilantro and lemon juice; it gives it that extra pop of flavor.

Speaking of lemon, I want to share my lemon trick for getting zest and juice out easily:
Using a hand-held microplane, zest lemon to desired amount. Flip the plane over (to the non-rough side) and squeeze the lemon. Juice goes through the plane, seeds stay on it. Genius! (in my book)IMG_9277

Slice pizza into thick squares and dive in. IMG_9272Summer produce, never leave me.

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