Chez Boet, Naples

Dinner at Chez Boet–Naples, FL

Now that my parents are retired, they get to spend about six months of the year in Naples, Florida. My sisters, Tommy and I are fortunate enough to get to visit them a couple of times a year. Not only is all the golfing we get to do wonderful, but my parents often treat us to delicious meals out in Naples.

Florida has a nice variety of cultural dishes. There are Cuban, Mexican, and Italian restaurants everywhere. There are also many seafood restaurants that serve freshly caught fish, crab, and oysters. There are an abundance of cooking schools in the region, and it definitely shows in the quality of their food.

On our most recent visit down to Naples, we checked out a restaurant that was knew-to-me, called Chez Boet. As the name implies, Chez Boet is French restaurant. It is actually owned by a French family and has a very authentic feel to it. We even saw a few dogs eating dinner on the terrace – how Parisian!

They serve classic French cuisine with favorites like escargot, steak frites, bouillabaisse and duck l’orange. They also had a nice wine list that included French and international reds and whites. One of the other things that I liked about the wine list is that it listed wines by price range and had about eight whites and eight reds all for under 40 dollars. My family ordered one red and one white wine. The red we ordered was a Malbec from Argentina. It was full bodied and dry and very delicious!

For the white wine, we took our waiter’s recommendations and ordered a Sauvignon Blanc from France. It was light, very easy drinking and was the perfect complement to the hot Naples night!

In addition to getting a recommendation on the wine, the waiter also guided us on what the best items on the menu were. To start, we ordered some escargot and a salad to split amongst the table.

The salad was actually a little on the bland side. It had some interesting ingredients including goat cheese and chickpeas, but needed some salt and I thought that the dressing was on the watery side. The escargot on the other hand was absolutely delicious and some of the best I have ever had. I find that sometimes the garlic that comes in the escargot butter sauce can overpower the whole dish. Chez Boet’s escargot had just the right amount of garlic in its sauce. The snails were also perfectly cooked and so tasty.

For our entrees, my mom, Kate and I split two dishes – the Yellow Tail Snapper en Papillotte and the Bouillabaisse. My dad ordered the Moules Frites.

The Yellow Tail Snapper en Papillotte was wonderful. Cooking fish “en papillotte” means roasting it with seasonings and a little liquid (think stock or citrus juice) in a parchment paper purse. This gently steams the fish while infusing it with the flavorings of whatever you cook it with!

The gentle steaming of the fish made this yellow tail so tender and flakey and it was full of flavor. Chez Boet also served the fish with some roasted vegetables (including bok choy which was both different and delicious!) and saffron rice. Between my sister, my mom and I, there was not a single bite left on this plate!

We equally enjoyed Chez Boet’s Bouillabaisse which was chock full of fresh local seafood and had incredible depth of flavor in the seafood stock.

This was a huge portion and although we were able to eat all of the seafood and potatoes in the dish, we regrettably had to leave behind some of the stock! I have no idea how Chez Boet got such a flavorful, mild and well balanced stock.

From the bites that I stole of my dad’s Moules Frites, or mussels with crispy French fries, I can tell you that this is definitely a dish I would order in the future.

The mussels were fresh and very well cooked. We think the key to the mussels was that they were cooked just until they opened and were not overcooked. Overcooking mussels can lead to them being gummy and unappealing, and these mussels were definitely not that! The French fries were also the perfect texture with a crispy exterior and a soft interior! They were the perfect accompaniment to the broth that comes with the mussels!

To end the meal, we opted to do as the French would and split a cheese plate. Chez Boet’s cheese plate included a rich Roquefort cheese, a tangy goat cheese and a creamy brie. A couple of bites of each cheese was a great way to end the meal!

I know that there are an abundance of wonderful restaurants in Naples (I hope to do a post on a couple others that I have enjoyed in my time here), but I would highly recommend checking out Chez Boet.

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Shaved Brussels Sprout with Bacon

Spectacular Side Dish – Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like to of late, but my New Year’s Resolution is to get back into it. With everything that is going on at school, it has been difficult to find time to make new and creative dishes, let alone blog about them, but the New Year has me inspired to get back into the creative cooking groove!

Shaved Brussels SproutOne of my first recipes of the new year features wonderful and healthy brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are the perfect winter vegetable because they are in season, hearty, and so rich tasting.

One of my favorite ways to prepare brussels sprouts is to shave and roast them until they are crispy and delicious.

Once roasted, I toss the shaved brussels sprouts in a bacon fat and red onion vinaigrette. Oh, and then I top everything with with crispy bacon.

It is a pretty fantastic side dish that would go well with steak, chicken, pork or fish.

The one thing I would recommend is using the prescribed amount of brussels sprouts. It might seem or look like a lot, but the brussels sprouts really shrink when roasted and caramelized in the oven.

Enjoy this side dish straight out of the oven or serve at room temperature (it holds up really well)!

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs brussels sprouts, shaved using the slicing attachment on a food processors or carefully with your knife
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (about 1.5 TB)
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon, diced
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • S+P to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice brussels sprouts until very thin. Spray two cooking sheets with cooking spray (you want to make sure that the b sprouts have enough room to roast and get crispy). Place the shaved b sprouts onto the cookie sheets and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the sprouts are crispy and slightly browned.
  2. Place the bacon in a large cold sauté pan and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Do not pour the bacon fat off! Depending on much fat your bacon rendered, you may want to add some olive oil to sauté the onion Given that this will be the “sauce” for the sprouts, you want to make sure you have enough to coat everything.
  3. Add the diced onion to the pan and cook over medium low heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions are softened but not browned. Add the garlic in the last 2-3 minutes so that it is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the sprouts from the oven and pour into a large serving bowl. Top with the bacon fat and onion mixture and stir everything to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Top everything with the diced crispy bacon and give it one more mix. Serve warm.
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Pork Milanese

Pork Milanese

It seems that many cultures have a breaded and fried preparation for chicken, veal or pork. The Germans have schnitzel, the Spanish have escalope and even Americans have chicken fingers. In American-Italian cuisine, it is very common to find chicken or eggplant parmesan (which is typically covered in lots of cheese – not that there is anything wrong with that!). In Italy, itself, I have also seen a lot of dishes for protein prepared in the Milanese style. The Milanese style is essentially a very thinly pounded piece of protein, that is dipped in egg, covered in bread crumbs and pan fried in olive oil.

I think it is a really easy preparation made easier by the fact that you can substitute any protein you like. When I made this last week, I used pork tenderloin, but chicken breast would be great too.

The other thing I often see when something is prepared Milanese style, is that it is topped with lots of fresh arugula and cherry tomatoes that have been dressed lightly with lemon juice and olive oil.

To me, the freshness of the arugula and cherry tomatoes really cuts through and heaviness you might find with a fried piece of meat. I like to serve extra salad on the side so that I get a bite of arugula and cherry tomato with every bite of pork.

Pork Milanese – Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin cut into four pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • S+P to taste
  • 8 cups fresh arugula
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup EVOO + 2 TB EVOO for arugula
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice for arugula + lemon wedges for serving

Directions

Using a meat mallet, pound the pork out until it is very thin (about 1/3 inch thin). If you don’t have a meat mallet, most butchers are happy to do this for you. Season both sides of the pork with salt and pepper.

Beat eggs in a large shallow bowl, big enough to dredge the pork in. On a plate next the eggs, combine the parmesan and panko bread crumbs together. Once you have your assembly line set up, dredge each piece of pork in the eggs (dripping off excess) and then in the panko and parmesan mixture. Allow pork to sit with the coating on for 10-15 minutes.

Once you have allowed your pork to rest with the breading on it, pour 1/4 cup of EVOO into a large sauté pan and heat over medium high heat. Once hot (almost smoking), cook the pork in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Allow to cook for 3 minutes per side until the pork is nicely browned.

Once finished, remove from pan onto a paper towel lined plate to remove any excess oil. Sprinkle with salt and place into a 200 degree oven to keep warm while you repeat the process with the other pieces of pork.

While the pork is cooking, dress the arugula and cherry tomatoes with 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 2 TB of EVOO and salt and pepper. Mix together until the arugula is lightly coated.

Once all the pork has completed cooking, place on a large serving platter and top each one with a generous portion of arugula salad. Serve with extra lemon wedges and enjoy!

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Ginger

Gingerbread Recipes

Gingerbread can be easily prepared in home. Here we have a simple recipe to make gingerbread. For this we have to take 350 g of plain white flour, 2 tablespoon of ground ginger, 2.5 ml ground cloves, 125 g butter, 175 g soft light brown sugar, 1 egg, 4 tablespoon golden syrup, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and 15 ml ground cinnamon. It takes only 30 minutes in preparing. First of all in the mixture of spices, mix the butter, flour and the bicarbonate of soda.After mixing these when it becomes like crumb, add sugar in it. Beat an egg, then in this slightly warm mixture add and mix until it becomes dough. On a floured surface make a ¼ inch thick dough layer and with the help of a cutter, cut different shapes of it. For hanging it make a hole in each. Put the shapes on in the baking trays on the non stick baking sheets. Bake it on 190 degree centigrade for at least 10 minutes until it become golden brown. For icing we need 1 egg white, food coloring and icing sugar.

In the beaten egg white, add the shifted icing sugar and if you like then add the colors in the icing for decorating the biscuits. In the last make the icing patterns you like on the biscuits and leave them for drying. See below easy gingerbread recipe for kids.

German Gingerbread Cake

German Gingerbread Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • raisins (1 cup)
  • honey (2/3 cup)
  • 250g sour cream
  • 250g butter, softened
  • baking powder (4 TSP)
  • ground ginger (2 TSP)
  • orange juice (1/2 cup)
  • wholemeal flour (1 cup)
  • ground cinnamon (1 TSP)
  • ground nutmeg (1/4 TSP)
  • ground cloves (1/4 TSP)
  • plain flour (1 2/3 cups)
  • orange liqueur (1/4 cup)
  • packed brown sugar (2 cups)
  • blanched slivered almonds (1 cup)

Method Of Making

  1. Flours, baking powder, and spices mix them.
  2.  Pour the butter with the brown sugar in basin.
  3.  Then mix eggs, honey, orange liqueur, sour cream, and orange juice in it.
  4.  Together flour mixture into the creamed blend, and then swirl in the raisins and almonds.
  5.  Transfer the batter into a greased and floured ring tin.
  6.  Bake cake at 180 degrees until it tests done with toothpick.
  7.  Ready To Serve

Zapisz

Zapisz

Zapisz

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Cosentino Ol’ Red, California, Non-Vintage

Cosentino Ol’ Red, California, Non-Vintage

Price: Suggested retail is $15.00

From The Winery: 14.6% alcohol, produced from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, and Solano County. Aged 36 months in American and European (some French) oak.

Cosentino Ol’ Red, CaliforniaImpressions/Notes: I don’t think that I’ve ever had a wine with so many different varietals going in to it–Pinot Noir, Syrah, Carignane, Zinfandel, Merlot, Sangiovese, Mouvedre, Petite Sirah, Dolcetto, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca and Tinta Cao. The nose on the Ol’ Red reaches out of the glass and nearly smacks you in the face with cherry liqueur, asian spiced, and cigar box. This wine spent 36 months in oak, so as one could imagine it has some serious oak influence. In the mouth, it’s a bit short on acidity and a bit big on alcohol, as it’s packing some serious heat. To me, this is the perfect wine for snow-shoveling, which we do plenty of in Colorado. A glass before going outside and the rest of the bottle after coming in should help to chase the cold out of your bones!

Rating: Not Too Shabby/Recommended (84-87), 2.5/5 Value

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Blendtect or Vitamix

What Blend Should I Buy? Blendtec or Vitamix?

Having a blender can prove to be one of the best decisions you can ever take. It can make your life healthier, because once you discover the nutritious and delicious juices it’s hard to let them go. These juices can be made from any fruit, a mix of some fruits or from vegetables. The protein you will drink every day will definitely turn your lifestyle into a healthier one.

In order to choose the best blender to buy, there are certain things you have to consider. First, one of the most important features that make a difference between certain blenders is the motor. If the motor is a powerful one, then that means that the blades are powerful enough to blend even the thickest mixes of fruits, a very important feature, because most blenders are used to make smoothies. In order to make a great smoothie , you need a powerful blender that can mix any type of fruits and ice cubes.

There are many useful blenders on the market out there, but it’s widely known that there are two main brands that are the best and that are constantly competing against each other and those are the Vitamix and the Blendtec. I am going to compare them based on more than a single factor, so in the end, you will make your own choice.

Vitamix

First of all, both of these blenders are known for their powerful motor. The Vitamix  has a 3 peak horsepower motor that can crush though anything, meaning that it even allows you to make your own peanut butter at home. Vitamix has 120 volts, 60 Hz 11.5 amps and all of this means that it’s possibly one of the most powerful blenders you can buy. However, all these features do not come cheap, as you need to empty your wallet by at least $400. All in all, it’s worth it.

The Blendtec is not so far behind, as this blender itself has a very powerful motor that has 1100 Watts of power. It also has a specific technology called “Total Crushing” that is designed for crushing fruits and vegetables with a strong exterior such as nuts and peanuts, but also ice. The powerful motor combined with the razor sharp blades makes sure that all the ingredients you add in the container will be crushed and blended perfectly.

Now, they both have powerful motors, but what about the noise level? Well, neither of them excels here, since both blenders are very powerful and make a lot of noise. The Vitamix’s motor makes it sound like you have a war machine and although the razor sharp blades and the motor make sure that all the fruits you add are crushed perfectly; it’s very likely that the whole house will know when you are blending something. The Blendtec doesn’t do all that well itself here, as the noise it makes is, like Vitamix, very likely to wake up every single person in the house. The powerful motor, although very useful, does have its downside. However, if the noise is something that bothers you quite a lot, there are always more expensive blenders with the features of these two, but with a technology that makes sure they are very silence. They are made by the same company, but of course, they are the best blenders to buy.

The battle between the two ultimately comes down to the design. The Vitamix is a heavy, tall blender designed for restaurants mostly. It most likely won’t fit in your kitchen cabinets, which is a shame. The full design is also something that doesn’t really impress, as it’s very industrial-looking and not very appealing. The Blendtec however, has a very beautiful modern look, enhanced by the digital touchpad and the lightweight. Although the fact that it’s quite light in weight might make it jump off your table at times, it’s not such a huge downfall, considering all the benefits this particular blender brings.

So, long story short, there are two main brands of blenders on the market today: the Vitamix and the Blendtec. They are both very powerful, their motors being able to crush through anything, including peanuts and ice cubes. The blades are extra sharp and all in all, the blending experience is amazing. However, if you compare them based on the design they have, the Blendtec definitely is the best blender to buy. But after all, it’s your choice!

Sources

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Osso Bucco

Osso Bucco Recipe

We like our routines in this family.  We go out to eat every Friday and have family dinner at home on Sunday.  But Sarah, Jess and I reserve Saturday night to do whatever for dinner—eat with friends or just each other!  My parents, however, can be found at home having date night.  My mom usually whips up a special meat dish that often takes a while to cook (making it perfect for a Saturday in the kitchen).

Recently, they’ve had an intruder on their date night and that intruder is me.  Ever since I started eating meat again (about a year ago) I’ve been able to fall in love with some of my mom’s best meat dishes all over again.  I have been known to change my Saturday night plans for one dish in particular: classic Italian braised veal shanks called Osso Buco. Ossobuco means “marrowbone” in Italian (thanks Google Translate) which is a perfect name for this dish because the best part is the marrow found in the veal shank bone.  In restaurants you’ll see this dish served in all sorts of ways, switching up the meat (I’ve seen beef used before), the vegetables and the starch (polenta is the most common).  My parents, being the routine people that they are, like white rice as the starch which is a great way to sop up the amazing sauce.

The other thing that makes Saturday night dinner special is the red wine.  My dad pulls out a nice bottle of red wine for every Saturday night dinner to match up to the amazing dinner.  I know my mom doesn’t mind me crashing the date night, but I think my dad might mind a little because I steal some of the nice wine that he opened for his honey.  But sharing is caring, Ed!  This Saturday we had a Cotes du Rhone.  Not exactly within the Italian theme, but we thought it would go along nicely with the veal.

Cotes du Rhone

I also know that my mom likes to have me around for date night because I help her out with the cooking!  This Saturday, we had Jessica’s help too.  When my mom and Jess were out running errands on Saturday, they got inspired to make pomegranate martinis to sip while we cooked (the recipe for 1 big cocktail is: 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce triple sec, 2 ounce pomegranate juice and 1/2 ounce lime juice.  Mix it all together in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and serve in a chilled martini glass).

Pomegranate Martinis

Not only was Jess inspired to spice up our cocktails, she also thought it was time to christen her new dining room table for the meal! This veal is definitely worthy of this beautiful setting.

This recipe is great for a special occasion or for a special someone on a casual night. See how dirty this page in my mom’s cook book is?

Cook book

You should always look for the dirty pages in a cook book because then you know you have a good one on your hands.

Osso Bucco – Serves 4 (inspired by the recipe found in Recipes: The Cooking of Italy)

Ingredients

  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrots
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ TB finely chopped garlic
  • 4 lbs veal shanks – we like to find a shank a person usually (depending on the size)
  • Flour to lightly coat veal shanks
  • ½ tsp of dried basil (we used 4 fresh basil leaves)
  • ½ tsp of dried thyme (we used 4 sprigs of fresh thyme)
  • 6 parsley sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • ¾ cup beef stock (chicken stock is a good substitute)
  • S + P to taste

Directions

In an oven safe casserole dish or Dutch oven, heat 2 TB of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic with some S + P (about 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of pepper).  Coat everything with the fat and let sauté for 10 to 15 minutes.  We turned the heat down to medium low heat after adding the veg because it seemed to be going too quick so keep an eye out to be sure that garlic doesn’t burn.

Osso Bucco - Step 1

As the veg sweats in the pan, check out your veal shanks. My mom usually cuts off any excess fat she finds. It doesn’t hurt to leave it on, but it just means your guests may have to do a bit more doctoring themselves to get to the meat.

Osso Bucco - Step 2

Osso Bucco - Step 3

In a separate skillet or cast iron pan, heat the last 2 TB of olive oil over high heat. Add S + P to both sides (1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of pepper). Coat the shanks lightly in some flour and shake off any excess. Once the olive oil is hot (test with a few sprinkles of excess flour if you aren’t sure), add the veal shanks to get both sides browned. Our shanks took just over 2 minutes a side to get a nice brown color.

Osso Bucco - Step 4

At some point during the browning process, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Once browned, add the veal shanks to the casserole/Dutch oven where your veg is still cooking away.  To the skillet where you browned the veal shanks, add the white wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up those browned yummy bits.  Let the white wine cook by itself for about a minute to let is reduce a bit.  Then add your diced tomatoes and beef stock.  Bring this liquid mixture to a boil then add to the casserole/Dutch oven over the shanks. With that, add the herbs.  Since we used fresh herbs, we tied them all together in a bouquet garni (French for garnished bouquet).

Osso Bucco - Step 5

This trick allows you to put the herbs in whole, stems and all, tied together by a string—this way it is easy to fish out after cooking and no chopping is involved.  My mom usually just has fresh parsley, so she’ll add a few sprigs separately and lovingly fishes them and the bay leaves out one by one before serving.  I think she liked this technique!

Lightly stir everything together.  You may need to add some extra stock or water at this point to get the meat fully covered with liquid (we added another cup of stock).

Osso Bucco - Step 6

Cover with a lid and put in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

As the meat cooks, you’ll have time to cook any starch you fancy. We started our rice 30 minutes before the shanks were set to be done.

At the hour and 15 minutes mark, take out the veal out and give it a fork test to be sure the veal is tender. Fish out your bouquet garni, scoop up some rice, a veal shank per person then generously pour the sauce over the rice and veal.

Osso Bucco - Step 7

In case you haven’t had bone marrow before, don’t be afraid. Stick your fork or knife in there and scoop out the treasure inside. The marrow is fatty and flavorful. I usually like to eat it with the meat to vamp up the meat flavor.

Osso Bucco - Step 8

Though this meal takes some time to make, it is actually quite easy to prep.  If you plan ahead, this dish can be a very impressive addition to your repertoire!

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Chocolate Smoothie

5 Chocolate Smoothie Recipes

Chocolate in your breakfast smoothie?  Sure, why not.  Some people even say chocolate is a superfood.

For sure, a chocolate bar is not a superfood.  A super-tasting food, yes, but not a superfood.  However, cacao beans have a lot of benefits.  But after they get processed in certain ways, and after you add sugar and low quality oils to them, they become not-so-healthy.  So the trick is to get good quality cacao.  Usually, when chocolate is refered to as cacao, it is in a more pure and healthy form.  When it is called ‘cocoa’, that usually means it has been more processed and added to.

So, once you find some cacao powder, you can start adding it to your smoothies, and still call them healthy.  And good cacao powder is quite strong, so you don’t need that much of it to chocolate-ize your smoothies.  Usually about 1 tablespoon is enough for one large smoothie.

Cacao powder is full of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, so don’t feel guilty about using it.  It does contain some caffeine, though, so don’t overdo it.  Also, cacao is a little bitter, so you might need to add a little more banana, apple, pineapple, carrot or beet to your smoothie to sweeten it back up again.  Or, you can experiment with making not-sweet chocolate smoothies, and see how you like it.  Just think of your chocolate smoothie as a variation on your fruit smoothie, and not as a liquid chocolate bar.

A lot of protein powders and smoothie powders come in a chocolate flavor.  They usually taste pretty good, too.  I use Vega protein powders because they are Vegan, they taste great, and they are full a good stuff.  Also, they are available at my local grocery store, so they are easy to pick up.  They have a chocolate protein powder that I really like.  But probably the best and cheapest way to enjoy a chocolate smoothie is to buy a bag of cacao powder from your local healthy food store.

These smoothies all use almond milk, bananas, and strawberries as their base.  The just add the cacao and the extra goodies, and you’re laughing.  If you cannot find cacao, you can use a dark cocoa powder instead.  All of these recipes make one large smoothie, or two small smoothies.

Berry and Chocolate Smoothie

Berry and Chocolate Smoothie

  • 1.5 cups almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • half cup mixed berries
  • half cup strawberries
  • 1.5 tablespoons cacao powder

Chocolate Coconut Smoothie

Chocolate Coconut Smoothie

  • half cup almond milk
  • meat and water from one young Thai coconut
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 cup pineapple
  • half cup strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon cacao

Sweet Chocolate Pineapple Smoothie

Sweet Chocolate Pineapple Smoothie

 

  • 1.5 cups almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • half cup strawberries
  • 1 cup pineapple slices
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder

Chocolate Acai Berry Smoothie

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  • 1.5 cups almond milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • half cup mixed berries
  • half cup strawberries
  • quarter cup acai juice (or frozen acai puree)
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder

Chocolate Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Chocolate Blueberry Banana Smoothie

  • 1.5 cups almond milk
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • half cup pineapple
  • half cup frozen blueberries
  • half cup fozen strawberries
  • 1 handful cashews
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder

The cashews in this last recipes are optional.  I sometimes like to hand a handful of cashews, almonds, or other nuts to a smoothie, to add some extra protein and creaminess.  Just make sure to use ‘raw’ almonds or cashews, not the roasted and salted kind.  If you soak them for a few hours, they get a softer texture, too.

If you want to go the cheap and easy way, you can also add peanut butter to your smoothies. A tablespoon of natural peanut butter, combined with the chocolate and banana flavor, is really good.  It is something that kids really enjoy too.

For the coconut recipe, you can use canned coconut milk, but it is healthier and fresher to get an actual coconut.  Get a young coconut, not a brown hairy coconut, because the meat and juice will be softer and more tasty.  You can buy Thai coconuts a lot of local asian markets.

Feel free to add more banana to these recipes, if you want them sweeter.  Or less banana, if you are wanting a low-sugar smoothie.  You can also add more strawberries, if you want them a little more tart or a little more pink.  I find that strawberries and chocolate are always a nice combination.  And you can never eat too many strawberries.

Hemp and chocolate go well together, too.  So pick up some hemp milk, hemp seeds (hemp hearts), or hemp protein powder, if you want to experiment with the hemp and cacao combo.  Those two, together with the strawberries, is something I really enjoy.

Happy smoothie making!

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Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad Recipe

I love cobb salad. The combination of creamy avocados, pungent blue cheese, salty bacon, tender chicken, fresh cherry tomatoes, crunchy nuts and crisp lettuce is fabulous. Cobb salad often get a bad rap from the calorie police. I can’t count the number of times I have heard “don’t order cobb salads because they have as many calories as a cheeseburger does.”

I think that there can be some truth to the above statement if you order a cobb salad out at a restaurant. Especially one that is doused in fat laden dressing and contains more bacon than it does lettuce. However, when you made a cobb salad at home, you get to control the quality and quantity of ingredients. And when made right, cobb salad can be a completely satisfying and healthy entrée.

To elevate the flavors of a normal, hum drum cobb salad, I marinate the chicken in a delicious mayo-mustard sauce, use good quality blue cheese, thick cut bacon and very fresh vegetables. I also like the slight crunch that comes from using pine nuts. They have a much milder flavor and texture than other nuts, and when they are toasted, they are the perfect compliment for the salad. For the lettuce, I opt for a combination of bibb (or Boston) lettuce and arugula. I like the pepperiness of the arugula combined with the the crunchiness and buttery-ness of the bibb lettuce.

I also prefer a simple balsamic vinaigrette on my cobb salad, but feel free to exchange the vinegar for lemon if that is your favorite combination. Tommy and I ate this for dinner alongside a delicious bowl of soup (recipe coming soon) and were completely satisfied. If you go without soup, either increase the portion size of the salad or add a crusty piece of bread to go alongside!

Cobb Salad – Serves 4 as Entrees

Ingredients

  • 3 TB mayo
  • 3 TB dijon mustard, divided
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 2 medium sized heads of boston lettuce (about 10 ounces total), trimmed, torn into bite-size pieces, washed and drained well
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 large avocado, cut into large pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup crumbled good quality blue cheese (Roquefort is a good option!)
  • 2/3 cup toasted pine nutes
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the chicken
  • S+P to taste

Directions

  1. To make the vinaigrette, combine the balsamic, olive oil, 2 TB of dijon mustard and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until incorporated.
  2. Next up is marinating the chicken. You only need to keep this marinade on for 10 minutes to infuse the chicken with flavor and keep it moist throughout the cooking process. Combine the mayo, 1 TB of dijon and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
  3. Slather the chicken with all of the marinade and allow to sit for 10 minutes. While the chicken is marinating, it is time to cook the bacon. Add the bacon slices to a large, dry pan and cook over low heat, turning occasionally, until crisp – about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Once cooled, crumb into large pieces and reserve.
  4. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to another pan and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken and cook the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes per side to get a good sear on the outside. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the chicken for another 3-4 minutes per side until it is completely cooked through. Allow to cool completely and then cut into large slices.
  5. While the chicken is cooling, you can toast the pine nuts. In a dry small pan, add the pine nuts and toast until slightly browned – about 3 minutes. Watch them carefully because they can burn quickly.
  6. Finally, it is time to put everything together. I think it looks nice to put the lettuce on the bottom of a large salad bowl and then place all the ingredients, in lines, across the top. This makes for a nice presentation. Once all the ingredients are on the salad, pour on the vinaigrette and mix well. Enjoy!
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Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese and Basil

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese and Basil

Let’s face it. Chicken breast, even on its best day, can be a little boring. Sure it’s can be delicious in some cases – breaded and fried, slow roasted with the bone in and skin on – are a few preparations that come to mind. But on it’s own, chicken breast doesn’t cut it for me. What does cut it for me is a chicken breast that has been stuffed with mozzarella and basil and wrapped in prosciutto.

Not only are mozzarella, basil and prosciutto a fabulous flavor combination, but the fat in the mozzarella and prosciutto also help keep the chicken moist throughout the cooking process.

The end product is far from dry and has the perfect mixture of saltiness from the prosciutto. Stuffing a chicken breast can seem intimidating, but actually, this process was extremely easy. All you do is take a chicken breast, cut it through the middle until it is nearly cut through, and open it up so it lays flat like a pancake (otherwise known as butterflying). If you are anxious about doing this (but don’t be!), you can also have your butcher do this for you. Once the chicken has been butterflied and seasoned with salt and peeper, you add your cheese of choice (blue cheese, brie, manchego and mozzarella are all great choices) and then top with a few leaves of fresh basil.

Once you have stuffed the chicken, you then simply place the cut half back on top of the bottom part of the breast.

Don’t worry if the stuffing is sticking out slightly, as mine is above. The prosciutto will cover it so that you avoid any melting in the pan or grill.

You can count on using about 2 pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto to cover each chicken breast completely. When you cook the chicken, the prosciutto will get slightly crisp and is a nice textural contrast to the tender chicken.

I served this chicken with kale chips (what else is new) and a fabulous sweet potato gratin (recipe coming soon) for a well-rounded, healthy weeknight meal!

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese and Basil – Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 6-8 ounce portions of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
  • 4 ounces prosciutto
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • S+P to taste
  • Oil for pan frying

Directions

Butterfly chicken breasts and sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese on the chicken breast. Follow with a couple of leaves of basil. Make sure you don’t overstuff the chicken, or you won’t be able to roll it back up. Once you have added the mozzarella and basil, place the top half of the breast on top. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Wrap each chicken breast with two slices of prosciutto so that it it is completely covered. Note, I think it is easiest for cooking the chicken if the prosciutto is wrapped in such a way that the ends, or seams, are on the same side of the breast.

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken BreastIn a large, heavy set pan (cast iron or stainless steal is best), heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken with the prosciutto seam side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the prosciutto starts to brown and you can easily loosen it from the pan. Cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continuing cooking the chicken, flipping occasionally, until it is completely cooked through or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute and enjoy!

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