Archives for October 2012

Healthier Halloween

HAPPY HALLOWEEN Y’all!
I just love this time of year! I associate Halloween with hay rides (even though I am allergic to hay and had many an allergic reaction on Halloween), jack o’ lanterns, tiki torches lining our driveway for the trick or treaters, oh and my cousins birthday. Side note: my cousin is a year younger than me and back in the day, he threw the first Jr. high party I ever went to in his garage. I believe that I wore those “oh my gosh I can’t breathe bell-bottom jeans” with my Tommy Hilfiger clog wedges. Yes, clog wedges. They were happening.
 Oh, and it was probably the first  (and last time) I wore lipstick and “ghetto-danced” with my classmates. There is one truth to that. Let’s just say I know how to get down on the dance floor. Hah!
 Anyway, I haven’t been trick or treating in years, but I do enjoy handing out candy to the all of the fairy princesses and superman’s on Halloween. Oh, and of course, eating the candy right from the bowl while I do that. 
We all know that my fave candy is Reese’s peanut butter cups. However, Reese’s always ties with Almond Joy’s. It’s like three of my fave things (coconut, chocolate, and almonds) had a baby. So, I thought to myself…I need to reinvent this classic…ya know, make it health(ier), emphasis on the “ier”, without getting rid of that fantastic almond joy taste.
Let’s do werk.
This recipe is soooooo simple.
You make the coconut base w/ 3 ingredients: coconut, coconut oil, and agave nectar.

Then, ya spread that coconut goodness into a pan.

Press in some almonds and freeze.

Then we pour a melted dark chocolate and coconut oil mixture over the top.
Then, we freeze again. 

Cut into uneven pieces and bada-bing!

Health(ier) Halloween candy without all of those nasty chemicals or “I can’t pronounce this” ingredients(es) :).

Absolutely delicious!
Almond Joy Bark (GF/V):
Ingredients:
5 c. unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
3 T. agave nectar (or honey)
1/4 c. of whole, raw almonds
3.2 oz. dark chocolate (about 1 whole bar of dark chocolate) 
1 T. coconut oil
Instructions:
1. Place the coconut in a food processor and process on high, about 2 minutes. 
2. With the food processor still running, slowly stream in the melted coconut oil, then add the agave. The mixture should look completely smooth. 
3. Spread the coconut mixture into an 8×8 in. square baking pan. Make “rows” with the almonds by lightly pressing the almonds into the coconut mixture.
4. Put the pan in the freezer and freeze until the coconut mixture is firm, about 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, place the chocolate and coconut oil in a small bowl and melt on 15 second intervals in the microwave, stirring after each interval. Do this until the chocolate mixture is completely smooth.
6. Once the coconut mixture is firm, take it out of the freezer, and pour the chocolate mixture evenly over it. Place the pan back in the freezer for an additional 30 minutes, or until the chocolate is firm.
7. Take the bars out and cut into small squares. I found that you get a few uneven pieces trying to cut into the chocolate, but this gives the bars that rustic “bark” type look. Fine by me 🙂
8. Devour!
Makes about 16 squares.
MANGIA!!!

Another day…another cookie.

Well, well, well, lookie at what we have here…another cookie recipe.
Surprise, surprise 🙂
I think we can all agree on one thing: I like love cookies. There is no doubt in my mind that I am a cookie connoisseur  snob. What can I say? I know what I like, and I like what I know. If that makes sense. My fave kind of cookies are the ones that just explode with everything but the kitchen sink in them.  A good cookie must have crispy edges, with a gooey center, and must always involve something of the chocolate sort within it. I don’t care what you have to do…make sure there is chocolate in my cookie. Oh, and something chewy too…raisins will do. But let’s get creative. Let’s step outside of the box here people. 
Let’s make some cookies!
It’s always good to have some yummy add-ins: dark chocolate chips, walnuts, coconut, and dried cherries (that is the creative part). 
The dried cherries and the chocolate balance each other out perfectly! 

Don’t eat the cookie dough Chels. Just don’t. 

Do you know how hard it is to portion these gooey little dough balls out without one bite?
Me neither. Because I’m pretty sure I had a good 1/2 c. of the stuff. 

Hello, beautiful!

The chewy, tart dried cherries, intense dark chocolate, and crunchy walnuts take this cookie to a whole notha’ level.
Oh, and of course there is my beloved coconut. Don’t forget him. 

Ahhhh. So good.

These are definitely milk and cookies type cookies.

Because no one ever had a cookie and o.j. type cookie. ?

I sprinkled the top with sea salt for kicks. 
Oh, and they are made w/ coconut oil. And gluten-free.
Boo-yah!
Salted Dark Chocolate Cherry Walnut Coconut Cookies (GF):

Ingredients:
1/2 c. coconut oil, softened 
3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 t. pure vanilla extract 
1 large egg
1 1/4 c. gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cocoa)
1/2 c. sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 c. dried cherries
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
sea salt, for sprinkling

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla together on high speed, until light and fluffy.
3. Beat in the egg.
4. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
5. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mix on low speed, just until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
6. Fold in the chocolate chips, coconut, cherries, and walnuts. 
7. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle each with a pinch of sea salt.
8. Bake for 5 minutes. Then, switch the pan positions and rotate each sheet by a half turn, then continue to bake the cookies until slightly golden brown, about another 5 minutes. 
10. Let the cookies cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack for cooling.

Makes 18 cookies.

MANGIA!!! 

Not So Sandy.

Happy Monday y’all!
I hope that any of you who live on the East coast are staying safe as Super storm Sandy moves in. I have a cousin that lives in NYC and he assured me via text yesterday that he is doing just fine, cooking up an assortment of steak, chicken, veggies, etc. Sounds like a party to me! I’m actually kind of jealous that a storm isn’t brewing round’ these here parts. I could use a little break. Storms always seem to do the trick, “forcing” you to stay inside, cook, bake, eat, sleep, play a few card games, cook, bake, eat, sleep, and repeat. 🙂 
I was thinking about the last big hurricane in Houston, which was Hurricane Ike. My dad stayed and watched over the apartment we were living in, while my sister, mom, and I traveled around 30 miles outside of Houston to stay with close friends. We were as prepared as we could have been, let’s just say that after the third day of living off cereal I was definitely ready for some real food. So, you can imagine how excited I was when the first thing to open after the storm was Sonic. Sonic burger with everything please, oh and a route 44 diet Dr. Pepper w/ lime. K, thanks. Now that I think about it, if and when a storm does hit, I will be prepared. By prepared I mean, baking and cooking a ton of food in advance. Starting with something like this…
you know things that start with bananas are always good things. 

Okay, maybe GREAT things.

Then, to make things 10 x’s better, we add Nutella. 

So, there you have it Nutella Banana Bread Snack Cake.
I used to be a Nutella hater, but you know that things involving chocolate always seem to grow on you.
 Nutella…for the win!
What would you cook or bake if you knew a huge storm was coming?
Nutella Banana Bread Snack Cake (GF):
Ingredients:
1 egg
1/3 c. raw coconut sugar
2 t. pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 to 3 large, ripe, bananas, mashed
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3 T. melted coconut oil, slightly cooled
1/3 c. Nutella
Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 in. square cake pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth. 
3. Mix in the banana until evenly distributed.
4. Add in the coconut flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
5. Mix in the coconut oil. 
6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. You can drop the Nutella by spoonfuls on top of the batter and mix in for a swirly type effect, or you can just mix the Nutella into the batter. Your choice :). 
7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
8. Once the cake is slightly cooled, using a serrated knife, slice into squares and serve. 
Makes 9-12 squares, depending on how you slice them. 
MANGIA!!!

My Life According To…

Okay, so there are some serious issues going on in my house this morning.
My parents, being the party animals that they are, went to a Halloween party last night, rolled in at “too early in the a.m. time” and are still asleep at 9!
Of course, this only makes sense seeing as I went to bed at 10:30, woke up at 5, ran, ate breakfast, and registered for my spring classes.
Something is definitely wrong with this picture. 
But this is totally normal, right? Riiiiight. 
In other news…winter has arrived round’ these here parts. 
This means better hair days for me

watch out world: I’m getting creative!

Colder weather means more of my fave cinnamon spice tea!

More bowls of soup too!

Oh, and comfort food for the win!

Just say yes to these biscuit cinnamon rolls.

Colder weather means sleeping in.
Well…at least for Annabelle.

 I voted this week! Because I’m a baller like that!
Have you?
MANGIA!!!

The Next Deen Team Blogger

Happy Friday y’all!
So, I have been wanting to do this for the past couple of weeks and finally decided to go for it! What I am talking about is becoming The Next Deen Team Blogger. Yes, people. I am talking the Paula Deen herself is looking for bloggers to join her inner circle of bloggers on her website. Of course I just jumped at this opportunity. I mean, why not, right? Plus, I’m 100% positive that I am the perfect candidate for the job :). Duh.

I mean, isn’t she just the cutest?

She could definitely be my grandmother. 

Let me list reasons why I am the perfect candidate for this opportunity.

Here goes nothing 😉
1. I have been following Paula Deen forever and I love the sense of community that she has built on her website. Seriously y’all, her website is so inviting, warm, and friendly, just like Paula! I feel apart of her family each and every time I visit it. You all know that I strive for the same goal on my website: to make each and every one of you, the readers, feel more like my family members. I feel that there is a more to offer on my blog than just a list of ingredients. My goal is to tell you a story with each recipe that helps you relate to me in some sort of way. I want my recipes to evoke past memories of sharing food with your family and friends. I want to be able to connect with you on every level and make you feel at home. I feel that it something that Mrs. Deen and I have in common. 
2. I have met Paula Deen and I already feel apart of her family. I mean, she even called my sister out at her book signing event. So, naturally, I feel that because I am already connected to her, I would have no problem fitting into her blogger circle. 
3. The word “y’all.” Like Paula, I am a southern gal and am not afraid to speak my mind, even if it means using words that are only in the southern dictionary, and probably foreign to the rest of the population. To me, the first time I watched Paula on television, y’all was the word that connected us. It was familiar to me and made me feel as though Paula was more of my grandmother making a sandwich for me in the kitchen, than a Food Network Star. To me, that word is a term of endearment, and more importantly, a word of hospitality. Hospitality is my middle name, and I seek to show that to each person that visits my blog. If I invited any of you to my house for dinner tomorrow, I can assure you that you would expect nothing less than good ole’ fashioned Southern Hospitality. 
4. Butter. Paula Deen taught me to never be afraid of butter, and although I like to keep my dishes on the “lighter” and “healthier” side, a little butter never hurt anyone. Yes, I did just say that butter is a reason why I should be considered the next Deen team blogger.

5. Last, but certainly not least, family. As many of you know, I come from a huge extended Italian family and at any given moment in time, I am most likely surrounded by food. Food isn’t just something on a plate, it’s a language, a language of love to be spoken every.single.day. Cooking and baking for others is how I show love. It gives me great pride and joy to know that with each dish that I make, I have the chance of making someones day even a little more brighter. To me, that is the best satisfaction in the world. I know that family is something that Paula holds near and dear to her heart, especially when it comes to cooking and baking. I would love nothing else to be apart of her family. 

On a final note, if awarded this opportunity to be the next Deen team blogger, I will stop at nothing to make each and every one of y’all feel right at home. One of my favorite Paula Deen-isms is when she says “It is out of this world” when describing the dishes she makes. I want to be able to share my “out of this world” experiences with food with each of y’all.

MANGIA!!!