Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dark Chocolate Covered Apricots

· 1 bar of dark unsweetened dark chocolate (100% Cacao)
· 1/2 cup heavy cream
· 3 tbsp. agave nectar
· about 30 dried apricots

· create a double boiler on the stove top by simmering 1 cup of water in a large pot and
placing a bowl on top that doesn't touch the water. (the steam from the simmering water
will slowly melt the chocolate; preventing it from burning)
· break apart chocolate bar and place in bowl over simmering water
· add the agave nectar and slowly add the heavy cream
· stir slowly until all ingredients are incorporated together and the chocolate is nice and smooth
· in the meantime, cover a sheet pan with parchment paper
· remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the stove and dip each apricot in the melted
chocolate so that half of the apricot is covered
· place on parchment paper
· once all 30 apricots are dipped, place sheet pan in fridge to chill for about an hour

I adapted this recipe from a recipe I found on-line because I accidentally bought unsweetened chocolate at Whole Foods. I saw the 100% Cacao on the chocolate bar and in an attempt to fulfill my craving with something healthy, snatched it right up so fast I didn't quite read the entire label. I had plans to make chocolate dipped something but I wasn't quite sure what. I always love when my friend Lizzie makes chocolate dipped apricots, so I thought I would give it a shot. The agave nectar was added to sweeten the bitter chocolate, and boy was it bitter... I broke off a piece to give it a little taste and I couldn't get it down with our some water. Not only did the agave nectar add the perfect amount of sweetness while still letting the earthy cacao shine through, it made the chocolate so shiny and smooth. These apricots turned out very rich from the dark chocolate. If you are not a dark chocolate fan, I would not suggest this recipe. It is only for true chocolate lovers.

Homemade Granola Bars

recipe: barefoot contessa

· 2 cups old-fashioned oats
· 1 cup sliced almonds
· 1 cup organic coconut chips (unsweetened)
· 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
· 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
· 2/3 cup honey
· 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
· 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
· 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
· 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
· 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
· 1/2 cup chopped dried papaya

· preheat the oven to 350°. butter an 8 x 12 inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
· toss the oatmeal, almonds and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. (be careful not to burn!). transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
· reduce the oven temperature to 300°
· place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the oatmeal mixture. add the dates, apricots, and the papaya and stir well.
· pour the mixture into the prepared pan. wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly golden brown. cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares.
· serve at room temp or cut into individual portions for a quick snack or breakfast on the go.

These granola bars are chewy and crunchy at the same time. They are wholesome and full of 'good for you' ingredients. You can mix up the dried fruit portions and add your favorites. Barefoot Contessa's original recipe called for dried cranberries, but I didn't have any in the pantry, so I subbed them out for dried papaya. I ate on these bars for two weeks and will be making another batch soon! They're yummy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuna Nicoise Lettuce Wraps

· 2 cans tuna
· 1/4 red bell pepper chopped
· 2 green onions chopped
· 8 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
· 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
· 2 tbsp. slivered almonds, for crunch
· 1 tsp. olive oil
· 1 tbsp. dijon aioli (can make yourself, but I used the jar I bought from Williams-Sonoma)
· kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
· head of butter lettuce

· drain both cans of tuna and empty into a medium size bowl
· add all other ingredients
· mix well
· pull off a few lettuce leaves from the head of butter lettuce and place a nice size heaping of the tuna nicoise salad

I love the idea of Tuna Nicoise; how each ingredient is individually prepared and then arranged by group. But, this recipe mixes all of the vegetables into one tuna salad. The salad is traditionally served with butter lettuce and a dijon vinaigrette. I decided to use the lettuce instead of bread and then mixed the dijon right in the salad. This recipe is my own take on a French classic. And it's perfect for a weekend lunch!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Aromatic Oatmeal

I was on an oatmeal kick a few weeks ago. The temperatures were a bit cold and the pantry was a bit empty. Since I invested in the 20 lb. box of oatmeal from Costco, I will never go hungry. It really has a way of just warming you right up and sticking to your ribs. I have always loved oatmeal because it's classic, healthy, and easy, but it was beginning to bore me. I would normally just throw about 1/2 cup of old fashioned rolled oats into a small pot with 1 cup of water and when it is cooked and creamy, spice it up with either cinnamon and agave nectar or a little honey. (I've noticed how much creamier the oatmeal gets over stove top versus in the microwave.) On a whim, I pulled some star anise out of a spice jar and decided to drop it in the pan while the oatmeal was cooking. The heat of the stove really infused the oatmeal with that sweet, almost licorice flavor. I sweetened the anise flavored oatmeal with some agave nectar and sprinkled it with slivered almonds. Suddenly, oatmeal wasn't feeling so dull.

Salmon Cakes and Tabouleh

recipe: Barefoot Contessa

· 1/2 lb. fresh salmon
· good olive oil
· kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
· 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
· 3/4 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
· 1 1/2 cups small diced celery (4 stalks)
· 1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)
· 1/2 cup small-diced yellow pepper (1 small pepper)
· 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
· 1 tbsp. capers
· 1/4 tsp. hot sauce
· 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
· 1 1/2 tsp. crab boil seasoning (Old Bay)
· 3 slices stale bread, crusts removed
· 1/2 cup good mayo
· 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
· 2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten

· preheat oven to 350°
· place salmon, skin side down, on baking sheet. brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until just cooked. remove form oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil to trap heat. allow to rest for 10 minutes and then refrigerate until cold.
· place t tbsp. butter, 2 tbsp. olive oil, onion, celery, red & yellow peppers, parsley, capers, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a large saute pan over medium heat and cook until veggeis are soft. (15 to 20 minutes) cool to room temp.
· break the bread slices and process in food processor until you have about 1 cup of bread crumbs. place bread crumbs on a sheet pan and toast for about 5 minutes until slightly browned.
· flake chilled salmon into a large bowl. add the bread crumbs, mayo, mustard, and eggs. add the vegetable mixture and mix well. cover and chill for 30 minutes inthe fridge.
· shape into 10 (2 1/2 to 3 oz.) cakes
· heat remaining 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. add the salmon cakes and fry for about 3-4 minutes on each side. drain on paper towels and keep them warm in a preheated 250° over. serve hot.

Frying the salmon cakes for a few minutes kept the outside crispy while the inside of the cakes
turned out moist and delicious. The extensive list of ingredients in this recipe is completely necessary. These salmon cakes have the most amazing flavor. That Contessa knows what she's doing! I just do what she tells me.... I served the salmon cakes with the dijon aioli sauce I bought at Williams Sonoma after Christmas. It was perfectly smooth and tangy, perfect for a fish cake.

The freshness of the tabouleh balanced the dish well. Sorry I do not have a recipe for the tabouleh. I basically followed the directions on the box and just added mint, parsley, feta, tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil.