Nutty Chocolate and Date Granola Bars

Posted on: Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Inspired by Marni’s make-ahead morning oats, I too find myself on the go juggling day-to-day demands. One of my favorite ways to decompress after a long day is to go for a late afternoon stroll with Shiloh. Our pup waits patiently during the day (likely counting down the hours), and once she hears me approach our red front door, she is a jumpy bolt of energy.
To match Shiloh’s stamina, I often grab a handful of candy while tying up my sneakers, but lately have been opting for a healthier, make-ahead snack.
At the beginning of the week, I whip up a batch of granola bars and like Marni, usually stir in whatever nuts, dried fruits and seeds I have in my pantry. I often add chia seeds for a burst of energy, dates for natural sweetness, and cashews for a savory crunch. Once the bars are set in the fridge, I cut them into thick slices and wrap each in parchment - an easy grab-and-go snack while keeping up with Shiloh.
Nutty Chocolate and Date Granola Bars

2 T chia seeds
6 T water at room temp
12-15 Medjool dates, pitted
1 T coconut oil
1/4 c honey
1/4 c crunchy or creamy peanut butter (I love Teddie's Super Crunch)
1 1/2 c oats
1 c cashews, halved or loosely chopped
1/2 c dark chocolate chips
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt

In a small bowl, place the chia seeds and water and let sit. 

Meanwhile, process the dates in a food processor until a dough-like ball forms. About 1 - 2 minutes.

In a small saucepan, warm the coconut oil, honey, and peanut butter over low heat. Once melted and combined, add the dough ball and stir to combine.

Pour the warmed mixture into a large bowl and add the oats, cashews, dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Thoroughly mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon. Once combined, transfer the mixture to an 8 x 8-inch baking dish lined with wax paper, parchment or plastic wrap. Place another piece of wax paper or plastic wrap on top and firmly press down the mixture with your hands or a flat bottomed vessel.

With the wax paper or plastic wrap on top, place the dish in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 

With a sharp knife, cut the bars into slices sized to your liking and wrap them, or store them in an airtight container in the fridge. They last for a week or so in the fridge.
Grab and go! 

Mango and Blueberry Overnight Oats

Posted on: Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It’s the little things, like the first signs of spring, that can instantly add pep to your step. When I wake up, I open the windows wide, let the breeze flow in, tie up my sneakers and run around the daffodil and lilac lined streets of Cambridge to the Charles River. These runs rejuvenate my morning as I head into the city to start the day.
Instead of cooking breakfast after my morning jogs, I save time by prepping the night before. I’ve been obsessed with overnight oats lately. I line up a few mason jars, stir together oats for heartiness, chia seeds for a burst of energy, sliced almonds for protein, agave for a touch of sweetness, and almond milk for calcium. I screw the lids on the jars and head to bed. The next day, I pop one open, give the pudding-like oats a stir, and top with a colorful sprinkle of antioxidant-rich blueberries, Vitamin C-rich mangos, or whatever fruit I have on hand. These make-ahead morning meals are simple to prepare, satisfying to get you through to lunch, and oh so pretty!
Mango and Blueberry Overnight Oats

1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1 t chia seeds
2 T sliced almonds
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t honey or agave syrup
1/4 t salt
1/2 c milk (I used almond, you could use skim, low fat, water, just some kind of liquid)
1/4 c cubed mango
1/4 c fresh blueberries

In a mason jar or vessel of your choice, add the oats, chia seeds, almonds, cinnamon, honey/agave, salt and milk. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

When ready to enjoy, remove the jar from the refrigerator and stir the porridge-like oats together. Sprinkle the cubed mango and blueberries on top and dig in. Makes 1.
Have fun with toppings! I’ve tried banana, creamy peanut butter and dark chocolate; peach, spicy ginger and pecan; strawberry, salty pistachio and orange zest. If you’d prefer a warm start to the day, feel free to zap the oats in the microwave for 1 minute or so before digging in.

Moroccan Chicken

Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2017

A few months ago, my friend, Annie introduced the idea of a monthly cooking club. Every month, a group of foodie friends and I get together at one of our homes to create a potluck dinner, focused on a specific cuisine. We’ve “traveled” to Vietnam and India, and our most recent “stop” was a TBD “destination” at my home. While Greek and Italian foods are always fun, I decided to choose a type of cuisine outside of my comfort zone: Moroccan.
Leading up to the dinner, I researched a bit about the region. Moroccan food combines Arab, Jewish and Berber influences and showcases a myriad of warming spices and complex layering. A common main dish usually includes dried fruits, stewed meats, hearty vegetables, rich spices, cooked in a tagine (an earthenware cooking vessel) and served over couscous. After finding some Ras el Hanout- a common Moroccan spice blend- at Boston Public Market, I decided to make a chicken dish featuring the pungent spice mix. I added dates, shallots and carrots and allowed the flavors to stew in the oven, accompanied with a side of fluffy couscous. I set my table with deep red, gold and ochre fabrics, assorted candles and mismatched glasses. As my friends rolled in with their aromatic Moroccan dishes (carrot and chickpea salad, lamb tagine with apricots, homemade naan, and pistachio cake), we enjoyed a taste of a Morocco in quiet Connecticut.
Moroccan Chicken with Dried Dates (adapted from Bon Appetit, 2009)

6 whole chicken legs, skin on

2 T salt
2 dozen baby carrots, halved
1 c shallots, peeled, and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 t dried thyme
1 t finely grated lemon peel
2 1/2 T ras-el-hanout
3 c low-salt chicken broth
1 c dry white wine
10 dried medjool dates, pitted and cut in half
2 t red wine vinegar
Couscous (prepared according to package directions)

Arrange the chicken legs on a rimmed baking sheet and liberally sprinkle each side with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small mixing bowl, submerge the halved dates in hot water. Let them sit for about 15 minutes until they become slightly plumped. Drain the dates, and set aside until the end.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken (3 legs) to the skillet and sear until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Once browned, place the legs in a heavy roasting pan and add the remaining chicken legs to the skillet to sear. Once all the chicken pieces have browned, sprinkle a dusting of ras-el-hanout on each chicken leg. Meanwhile, add another 2 Tablespoons of EVOO to the skillet and add the carrots, shallots, garlic, thyme, lemon peel, ras-el-hanout, chicken broth, and white wine. Bring to a boil, whisking up the browned bits.

Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the mixture over the chicken in the roasting pan. Place the roasting pan over the medium heated burner and bring to a simmer. Cover with pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven to cook for 1 hour. 

Transfer the cooked chicken, carrots, and shallots to a baking sheet. Pour the pan juices into the large skillet and spoon off any layer of fat from the surface. Heat the juices in the large skillet to medium-high until the mixture has reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the dates and red wine vinegar and cook until the dates are just heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately with a side of couscous. Serves 6.

Looking forward to our next themed dinner! Where will we go next?

Butternut Squash, Sausage and Caramelized Onion Pasta Bake

Posted on: Monday, April 3, 2017

A new apartment means new reasons to entertain. Since moving into a new city dwelling a month ago, I have been updating recipes and sifting through my cookbook collection. This past weekend, I invited a few friends over for an impromptu dinner. While still settling in and a bit crazed, “make ahead” and “one-dish” were echoing in my head.

As I opened my newly organized pantry doors and looked out the window to a typical New England spring day of sleet and cold, a hygge-inspired dish of warm, cheesy pasta and sausage seemed necessary. To balance the salty, nutty Bechamel sauce, I added some butternut squash for sweetness, caramelized onions for depth and zing, and chopped parsley and lemon juice for freshness. I baked everything in my big cast iron dish with a simple salad, crusty Iggy’s bread and lots of vino.
Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Caramelized Onion Pasta Bake

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 t dried rosemary
1 lb cavatappi pasta
1 lb Italian sausage (I used sweet but could use spicy for a kick), casings removed
2 cloves minced garlic
5 T unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
2 c milk (1% or 2% are fine)
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/8 t fresh nutmeg
1 c grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 1/3 c grated Provolone cheese
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
1 T lemon juice (half a lemon)
Salt and pepper throughout

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a lined baking sheet, toss the butternut squash cubes, rosemary, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ t black pepper and a generous drizzle of EVOO. Roast for 40-45 minutes until the cubes are tender and lightly browned.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as directed. Drain and return the cooked pasta back to the large pot. 

In a large shallow pan, heat 1 T EVOO over medium heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the sausage and add it to the large cooked pasta pot.

In the same shallow pan, reduce the heat to low and add 1 T butter and 1 T EVOO. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook about 20 minutes until they become golden and lightly caramelized. Add the chopped garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Once lightly caramelized, add the onions and garlic to the large cooked pasta pot.

At this point, the butternut squash should be nearly finished roasting. Remove the pan from the oven and add the butternut squash cubes to the large cooked pasta pot.

Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make the Bechamel Sauce, bring the shallow pan back up to medium heat. Add 4 T butter. Once melted, whisk in ¼ c flour and continue to whisk until smooth. Gradually, drizzle in the milk while whisking. The sauce will be quite thick at first, but will thin out as you add more milk. Once all of the milk is added, add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for 5-7 more minutes.

Add the Bechamel to the large pasta pot. Add ⅔ c Parmigiano and 2/3 c Provolone, fresh parsley and lemon juice. Pour the pasta mixture into one large, 17-inch cast iron skillet or one 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano and Provolone. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and pasta around the edges are slightly golden and crispy.

Feel free to make this ahead of time! After you pour the pasta into the baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate. When ready, just sprinkle with the grated cheese and pop into the preheated oven.

Be Bold Blueberry Cockail

Posted on: Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Happy International Women’s Day! Since the 1900s, the holiday has been a global celebration of women’s achievements and a call for gender equality. We’ve witnessed some significant, historic shifts this year, and wanted to toast everyone’s courageous, unifying efforts … in the form of a cocktail.

Inspired by this year’s theme, #BeBoldforChange, we concocted a fierce, punchy, purple-hued cocktail using fresh blueberries and ginger beer. Dating back to the days of the suffrage movement, purple symbolizes justice and dignity. The addition of citrusy lime adds a touch of green, symbolizing hope. Here's our bold take on a classic to commemorate this day!
Be Bold Blueberry Cocktail

1/2 c fresh blueberries (plus more for garnish)
1 t granulated sugar
1/3 c water (to submerge the blueberries)
1 lime, wedged (plus 2 more wedges for garnish)
1 (12 oz) bottle ginger beer
3 oz vodka

In a small sauce pan, simmer the blueberries, sugar and water for 6-8 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the blueberries burst. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, sieve the liquid into a small bowl.

Fill two glasses with ice. Add 1 Tablespoon of blueberry syrup and a squeeze of lime juice to each glass. Add 1.5 oz vodka and half a bottle of ginger beer to each glass. Vigorously stir with a spoon or cocktail stirrer and serve with a lime wedge on each.  
"There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish." - Michelle Obama

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