Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Traveling Treats

"blooming" tea
I've been lucky in the past few months to be able to travel outside of the lovely little {BIG} state of Texas and try some amazing food. I started my journey in the great state of Colorado. I was here for a long weekend and went to some pretty great places. If you have never been to Boulder, Colorado specifically - put it on your list. It may be a small college town, but it has got a lot of character. It's a town very similar to Austin, Texas but stuck between a lot of beautiful mountains. Apparently, Boulder is THE town to visit/live if you are a foodie. This was a shock to me, I had been to Boulder before but never got the chance to experience the true Boulder food scene. Unique, stylish and delicious can only begin to describe it.

Here we go:

Here is a brief summary of what we got into one morning... Pancake flights, an entire plate of hashbrown goodness, yes an entire plate. Hasbrowns, cheese and two toppings of your choice. Bloody Mary's, Brewmosas (belgium trippel beer and orange juice) and a specialty egg benedicts every month at a place that solely serves brunch (Snooze, an A.M. Eatery). Needless to say - we didn't eat till quite later that night.

Imagine this, sweet corn - on a PIZZA! so delicious. Pizza Locale was a quaint pizza shop where pizzas are made in an in-house brick oven. As an appetizer we had fried saffron risotto balls....probably could have just had about 10 of those and would have been completely satisfied.

An adorable french inspired creperie serving sweet and savory crepes along with a delicious americano, thus starting my terrible, terrible americano addiction.

We ended our trip at a place called Oak at Fourteenth. Here we royally indulged ourselves. We basically had the entire menu; potato gnocchi, burrata cheese with olive & kumquat tapenade, the best kale salad I have ever had with  apple, candied pecans and an amazing fresh lemony dressing, a calamari salad with grapefruit and toasted pistachios, pork belly and tomato braised meatballs (the last two I didn't have - well maybe a bite... woops). All of these dishes were shared/small plates so the four of us just shared bits and pieces of everything. Dare I say it... the best meal I have ever had?
I was also able to travel to California where I had an amazing seared tuna and a scallop and shrimp pasta topped with julienned squash and zucchini. Although I'm not elaborating on the meals, they were stellar, especially paired with a glass (or two) of wine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Whole Living Recipes

If you are an avid cook, veggie, wellness, yoga lover you need to check out the website Whole Living.  The site features lot of amazing recipes and tips on staying healthy and maintaining a good balance through fitness, food and community. One day I came across a post about smoothies that offered more than 40 different recipes. This kicked me into "whole living" high gear. Over the past couple weeks I have been on a smoothie kick. I went to the store, stocked up on fruits and veggies and went to town. Seriously, it's gotten a little out of control.

You'd be surprised how many different combinations you can come up with, and you definitely have to be adventurous. There was one recipe that called for carrot juice and yogurt, among other things. (uh.. carrot juice and yogurt...What?) Smoothies are great because if made right, are pretty healthy, easy to make and easy to clean-up, definitely beneficial when you're really busy and don't have time to cook. They don't have to be only for breakfast either.  I must admit it is hard to maintain a strictly smoothie diet for more than a few days, but I have been feeling healthy and energetic, especi

I've been blowing up Twitter lately with all the crazy combinations I have come up with, I am sure my followers are over it. The best combination I have tried is almond milk (homemade), pineapple, banana and kale. Sounds weird, but it's seriously delicious.  This smoothie intrigued me even further because of the homemade almond milk recipe it featured. I drink almond milk all the time as well as have a stock of almonds always in my pantry so I decided to give homemade almond milk a shot.

Almond Milk

1/2 cup almonds (soaked overnight & skin removed)
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch cinnamon
pinch of salt (very small pinch)
2 cup water

Throw everything in a blender and mix for 1 minute.

I accidently put a little too much salt in my first batch, so I just added a few more almonds to adjust the taste. Obviously, homemade milk doesn't taste like the kind you get in the store, but it's definitely drinkable and worked really well in the kale, pineapple smoothie.

Another great recipe I found from this site is a vegan banana, coconut and cashew pie. This was amazing. I've made it twice in the past two-weeks, and I usually don't repeat recipes that quickly.

 Banana, Coconut & Cashew Cream Tart {Whole Living}

  • Filling: 

    • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and thoroughly drained
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, and more to taste
    • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (I used a splash of vanilla extract)
    • 3/4 cup desiccated coconut
    • 3 or 4 ripe but firm bananas
  • Tart Shell

    • 1 1/2 cups whole pecans (almonds)
    • Pinch of coarse salt
    • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
    • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup (honey)

    Start with making the tart shell. The second time I made this recipe I didn't have pecans so I replaced them with some almonds - still worked - still delicious. I also used honey instead of maple syrup (this cut back on a bit of the sweetness).  Ok so put the pecans and salt (or almonds, or nuts) in a food processor for a bit and then add the dates (15-20 seconds according to Whole Living). Make sure it's all well combined and then add the syrup. Press shell into a 9 inch pie pan or individual sized dishes. 

    For the filling. Throw the cashews in a food processor or blender and mix until you get a nice paste is formed. Next add water, syrup and vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour in as much or as little coconut as you want and continue blending. Pour the filling into the shell.  Slice some bananas and arrange them nicely on top of the filling, or you can just throw them in a big heaping pile - whatever suits your fancy. Sprinkle with coconut. 

    Since I have made this recipe twice I would recommend you throwing this delicious treat into the fridge before consuming. I know this will be hard, but trust me it tastes way better when its chilled. 

    For you vegans or adventurous folks out there. If you didn't know already, cashews are a great substitute for any kind of cream sauce. I have made an alfredo sauce and an avocado cream sauce for enchiladas. To make a simple basic cashew cream sauce all you combine is the raw pre-soaked cashews and water or veggie broth, then you add whatever other flavors go well with what you are making. It's unfortunate cashews are so expensive, but I'm telling you... it's pretty worth it. 


Monday, February 4, 2013

Homemade Pizza with Lemon-Thyme Olive Oil

Everyone loves pizza. You can't escape the little spell that melty cheese puts on you. Even vegans can't escape, trust me I have seen and tried plenty of vegan pizza's.

Pizza gets a bad rap because it's known to be pretty unhealthy for you. The only way to avoid this catch-22 situation is to make your own. Another benefit is that it's a lot cheaper than going out or ordering in. 

The other day I was having one of those days where pizza was calling my name. It wouldn't leave me alone! My original intent was to avoid the cheese and make a vegan pizza with hummus, somehow between deciding I want pizza and my trip to the store that intention disappeared. I decided some fresh mozzarella cheese would make much happier than hummus that day. I also wasn't really in the mood for tomato sauce - I know this is sounding weirder and weirder considering this post is dedicated to pizza but totally defying all the pizza rules. Instead I got creative, and honestly, I don't think I am ever going back to tomato sauce again. I found some frozen pizza dough that was only $1.50, so naturally I stocked up. 

I had a little bit of a brain fade with the frozen pizza dough. Wanting pizza that night, I forgot that when things are frozen you have to defrost them. It is recommended you defrost the dough in the fridge overnight. I decided to cheat,  and began scouring the internet for a quick way to defrost pizza dough. A lot of sites recommended throwing the dough in the microwave, but that didn't sit well with me. I decided to out the packaged dough in a hot water bath. The package had a lot of air in it so I had to put a pan on top of the packaged dough to be able to submerge it appropriately. This process took about 30 minutes. The middle of the dough wasn't exactly defrosted all the way but it worked out. 

Homemade Pizza 
lemon-thyme sauce
  • 1 package Il Fornaio frozen wheat pizza dough 
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • dried thyme
  • squeeze of lemon
Pre-heat the oven to 450. 

While the dough is defrosting, mince one clove (or two if you want more) of garlic. Combine with olive oil, thyme and a squeeze of lemon. Let marinate while prepping everything else. The lemon is the secret key ingredient here. Just writing about this makes me want to make another pizza with this "sauce."

When the dough is defrosted, roll it out on a floured surface to about 12 inches. Put the dough on a lightly oiled pan and cover it with the lemon-thyme olive oil goodness and layer on your toppings. I chose artichokes, black olives and spinach, along with my fresh mozzarella. 

Put the pizza in the oven for about 12 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the cheese is melted. 
Voila - easy and so delicious. 

I honestly don't know if I will ever order pizza from a restaurant again. This was the cheapest, most delicious pizza I have ever had. I probably spent less than $5 on the whole thing. Obviously the mozzarella was the most expensive ingredient but that was for the whole package, so I am not sure what the actual calculation might be.