Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dark Chocolate & Espresso Cookies with Smoked Sea Salt for #theleftoversclub

I may be tardy to the party, but have you discovered smoked, flaked sea salt? Have you ever sprinkled it on chocolate chip cookies? The flavor combination is amazing! The smokiness of the sea salt adds a depth of flavor you don't get with just regular flaked sea salt. Now add dark chocolate and espresso to the equation and you have a cookie that means serious  business.  
These cookies right here are my new obsession...

My partner for this month's Leftover's Club is Kathia from Basic and Delicious. Kathia and I have been partners before and she actually lives in the same city (well county) that I do...San Diego! I was really excited that my partner lives so close, because let's face it, stale cookies are no fun. I knew these cookies would arrive to her while still fresh and I am a stickler for freshness when it comes to baked goods. Honestly, I could have just hand delivered them straight from my oven to her door. Why didn't I think of that sooner?
I think Kathia will really enjoy these cookies. They're bold, sophisticated and fun!
If you'd like to join in on the fun and swap baked goods each month with a fellow food blogger, please sign up at Alwayz Bakin. We'd love to have you in the group!

Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies w/Smoked Flaked Sea Salt
Adapted from Alice Medrich
Makes approx. 20 cookies

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup coconut oil
4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 ounces of dark chocolate cut into chunks
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp espresso powder


Place the coconut oil and unsweetened chocolate chunks in a bowl placed over a pan of barely boiling water. Heat until melted stirring often. When completely melted, remove the bowl from the heat and allow the chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature.

Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and espresso powder in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a large bowl and your electric hand mixer). Mix on med-high speed until light and fluffy (approx. 5 minutes). The mixture should stream from the paddle in thick ribbons.

Using a rubber spatula fold in the cooled chocolate mixture, then fold in the flour mixture, then fold in the dark chocolate chunks.

Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, preheat your oven to 350f and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a small cookie scoop, place scoops of dough onto the prepare cookie sheets approx. 2" apart. Sprinkle the cookies with the smoked, flaked sea salt.

Bake one sheet at a time (unless you have double oven) for approx. 10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet front to back halfway through the baking time. Sprinkle a little more sea salt on each cookie halfway through the baking time if needed.

Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool directly on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheet and place on a wire cooling rack.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Healthier Alternative to Starbucks Loaf Breads

Ok, I know it's the time of year when we should be dieting, and part of me is per se, but one thing I have probably mentioned before is I have a very, very hard time giving up bread! Any type, any kind, I LOVE them!  
So, in keeping with the healthier eating goal, I had to find a way to stop going to Starbucks for coffee and piece of loaf bread or muffin every other day :-).  
For this recipe, I was actually inspired by an episode of Trisha Yearwood's Food Network show.  She made a lemon loaf that looked so delicious I had to try it! I started there and revised the recipe to fit what I wanted it to be...a healthier, delicious replacement for my Starbucks obsession :-)  
I have been working on this easy and delicious loaf bread recipe for a few weeks now (trust me, I have baked plenty of loaves these last couple of weeks!) and I have finally perfected it! Now that I have my perfect recipe, I can bake it on Sunday and have my breakfast bread for the week which I enjoy with yogurt or maybe a boiled egg and coffee I brew myself at home.
Oh, I still miss my morning Starbuck runs, but now they  have at least decreased and I actually enjoy it as a special treat. Plus I'm satisfying my craving for bread with a recipe that is probably better for me while saving some money in the process!

So now about the bread.... it's s hearty, flavorful, and perfect for coffee.  I have made it most often with banana, not the brown mushy kind more suited for banana bread, but with a perfect yellow banana at just the perfect ripeness for eating  (picture below).

I have occasionally switched out the banana for blueberries and the bread is just as good. Trust me, the base recipe is what counts! Switch out the fruit and use your favorite.

I hope you enjoy the recipe. Happy Cooking Everyone!

1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 cup Wheat Flour
3/4 Sugar (I have used 1/2 cup if you want to make it less sweet.
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Bananas (cut into 1/2" pieces) or 1 cup of blueberries
1/2 Pecans (optional)
1/4 mini Chocolate Chips
2 large eggs
1/3 cup full fat or lowfat yogurt (I prefer vanilla, honey or maple)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup melted butter  (unsalted, if you use salted, remove the 1/2 teaspoon salt above)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup lowfat milk (I have used both 2% and 1%)

1. In large bowl, whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined.

2. Add the chopped banana (or blueberries), nuts and chocolate chips.  Stir with a spoon until everything is coated in flour.

3. Create a well in the middle of flour/banana mixture and set aside.

4. In a second bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs, yogurt, oil, melted butter ,vanilla and milk.

5. Once combined, pour into the well you created in the flour mixture. Stir with a spoon just until all of the flour has been blended into egg mixture. DO NOT OVER MIX.

6. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.

7. Bake at 350 for 1 hour

If you would like to add a simple glaze... just combine 1/4 cup powder sugar and 1 tablespoon milk and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pour over slightly warm bread.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Slow Cooker Turkey 2-Way Chili

I'm excited to start a new Healthy (Mostly) Slow Cooker Recipe Series on the blog. I'll be sharing (mostly) healthy recipes you can make in your slow cooker with a few decadent recipes thrown in every once in a while!
This first recipe I am calling "Turkey 2-Way" Chili. I incorporated 2 types of turkey, ground turkey and smoked turkey sausage, for extra flavor. I love using smoked meats in chili and this recipe does not disappoint!

I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to spices, so if you like your chili on the spicy side, feel free to add more chili powder, however I encourage you to taste the chili after a few hours of cooking first and then adjust the spices to suit your taste. The 2 tablespoons of chili powder plus the cayenne pepper might be enough for you...

I'd also like to point out that the consistency of my chili was thicker than I would have liked. I recommend adding some broth to loosen it up, which I have added to the recipe below.

The beauty of this chili is that you can customize it to suit your taste! If you prefer thicker chili, like the photos, you can leave out the broth or you can judge the consistency about 3/4 of the way through the cooking process and add the broth at that time if you prefer chili with more liquid like me.
However you prefer it, I hope you enjoy!

Turkey 2-Way Slow Cooker Chili
Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb smoked turkey sausage, diced
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 15oz cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 15oz cans petite diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 15oz can fire roasted corn or regular corn
1/2 cup pickled jalapenos
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper


In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the diced smoked sausage and cook until browned. Remove from pan and add the ground turkey. Cook, breaking apart with a wooden spoon, until browned and no longer pink. Try to get some good brown color on the ground turkey meat for additional flavor. Remove from pan and place the meat into your slow cooker.

Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to combine.

Cook on low for 6 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve topped with cheese, tortilla chips, sour cream, diced green onions, avocado and cilantro if desired. Of course, if you add the cheese, sour cream etc... it makes the chili less healthy : )

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cookie Butter and Raspberry Jam Heart-print Cookies

Who doesn't love Valentine's Day? I'm a sucker for anything heart shaped (as you can tell from the blog logo). This month's Creative Cookie Exchange theme was Hearts/Love....totally up my alley.

I had a total baking fail with my Raspberry Palmiers so I went with these Cookie Butter and Raspberry Jam "Heartprint" Cookies. The heart shape makes them perfect for Valentine's Day, but really they would be cute for any occasion especially if you're a cookie butter fan like I am!

Cookie Butter & Raspberry Jam Heart-print Cookies
Makes 24 cookies

Note: This recipe requires a total of 30 minutes of chilling time

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup Trader Joe's Cookie Butter (or Speculoos Cookie Butter)
1 large egg, room temp
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam


Place the raspberry jam in a small bowl and stir to loosen. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Place the butter and both sugars in the bowl of your electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use your electric hand mixer). Cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy (approx. 1 minute). Scrape down the beater and the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the cookie butter and mix on low speed until combined.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix on low speed until combined. Scrape down the paddle and bottom & sides of the bowl again.

Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Refrigerate the dough for 10 miunutes to make it easier to handle.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into 1 1/2" balls.

Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place 12 balls approx. 2" apart on each cookie sheet. With the palm of your hand (or bottom of a glass), flatten each ball into disk approx. 1 3/4" in diameter.

Using your finger, or the bottom of a wooden spoon, make a heart pattern into the top of each cookie. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350f

After 20 minutes, place the baking sheets in the oven and bake approx. 10 minutes. The cookies should look slightly set but should not be all the way done.

Remove from oven. At this point, the heart pattern will probably have faded quite a bit. Using your finger, or bottom of a wooden spoon, reshape the heart pattern. Fill each heart with raspberry jam and return to the oven to bake for another 2 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Cool on the cookie sheets for 30 seconds then remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

These cookies are best the same day they are made/. Store leftovers tightly covered in an air tight container for up to 1 day.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Brown Butter & Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars with Fleur de Sel for #TheLeftoversClub

For this month's Leftovers Club, I was paired with Michele! Michele has a great blog called Always Bakin (love the name!) and has recently taken over the reigns as fearless leader/organizer extraordinaire of The Leftovers Club!  Our previous fearless leader, Elizabeth from Food Ramblings, just had an adorable baby boy just a few days ago! Congratulations, Elizabeth!! Thank you so much for all you have done for the club.
This month, I had a really tough time deciding which recipe I wanted to share. I actually sent Michele 2 different options because I was so indecisive... these Brown Butter & Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars and a loaf of Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake. Well, Michele was absolutely no help at all because she loved them both! Haha....

I decided to share the recipe for the bars because well...brown butter+nutella+chocolate+fleur de sel = duh! Need I say more? I will definitely post the recipe for the Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake later, but for now here's a preview pic...
I really enjoy being a part of The Leftovers Club. Swapping baked goods with fellow bloggers is a lot of fun! If you'd like to sign up to be a part of the club, I highly recommend it. Check out all of the details here....


Brown Butter & Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars w/Fleur de Sel
Makes 1 9"x13 pan, approx. 18 bars
Note: This recipe requires chilling so plan ahead
2 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup nutella
Fleur de Sel for sprinkling
Make the brown butter
Place the butter in a sauce pan, and melt over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally. Continue with this process...the butter will foam up and have lots of bubbles, then the foaming will gradually subside, the butter mixture will become translucent and brown bits will form at the bottom of the pan. The butter will also become fragrant and smell nutty/caramel-y. Once the brown bits have formed, remove the butter from the heat and pour into a glass bowl. Cool the brown butter completely. approx 1-2 hours. I like to wait until mine has somewhat solidified.
Once the brown butter has cooled completely, scoop/pour it into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Make sure you get all of the brown bits, that's the flavor!
Add both sugars to the bowl and mix on low speed until well combined (approx 30 seconds). Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Add the eggs, vanilla extract and sour cream. Mix on low speed until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Refrigerate the dough for 3 hours or overnight.
Line a 9x13" pan with nonstick foil or spray regular foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Place 2/3 of the dough in the pan and press into an even layer. Tip: Since the dough is somewhat stiff when it comes out of the fridge, I found it was easier to place small chunks of the dough all over the bottom of the baking pan (they should be close together) and then press them together in an even layer. If you put one huge chunk of dough into the pan and try to press it out into an even layer that way, it's a lot harder to do.
Heat the nutella in the microwave for a few seconds to loosen it up, then scoop/pour it into 3 rows across the length of the pan. Tip: Imagine cutting the bars into 3 rows along the length (the 13" side) of the pan. You want to place your 3 rows of nutella in the center of those 3 rows so that the streak of nutella is in the center of each bar when you cut it.
Crumble the remaining cookie dough randomly over the top. Tip: Don't cover up the stripes of nutella too much, you want those to be peaking out a bit when they're done baking so you see little puddles of nutella.
Bake at 350 for approx 15-20 minutes. Do not overbake! The dough should look lightly golden brown but should still be somewhat what (not completely set or dry). Tip: If you overbake, the cookie bars will be dry but don't worry, there's a fix for this! Just microwave the bars a few seconds before you eat one to warm it up and make it gooey.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire baking rack to cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, sprinkle a touch of Fleur de Sel over the top (try to get some of it on the puddles of nutella peaking out of the dough).

Allow to cool completely, then remove from the pan using the foil as your handle. Cut into bars & serve!
Leftovers can be stored in an air tight container at room temp for up to 2 days or send some to your Leftovers Club Partner like I did! : )


Monday, December 28, 2015

Italian Sausage, Orzo and Spinach Soup

I have this strange superpower. I'm really good at making things that I can't (or don't) eat. Cheesecake for example. That's my shit. I can "put my foot" (southern expression meaning something is remarkably cooked) in some cheesecake. Just ask my family and friends. I can also make a killer soup, although I'm not a big fan of it. It needs to be a really cold, rainy day in order for me to crave soup, which is rare here in Southern California. My husband, on the other hand, could eat soup every day. Any kind, any day, any time, doesn't matter...

Last weekend, we had our Annual Christmas Cookie Bake. Here's a photo of some of the delicious cookies we baked this year.
While I normally share a cookie recipe from the cookie bake, I decided to do something different this time...
We have this tradition every year where I make a new soup for us to eat for lunch. Over the years I have made some really great soup and I never make the same kind twice. My White Bean Chicken Chili/Soup has become "legendary". Everyone I have given the recipe to loves it and I still get requests for that recipe. As a matter of fact, Yvonne just called me this morning asking me to resend it to her because she has a cold and wanted to make it. It's definitely a "feel good" type of soup. I'll have to share that recipe one of these days.
For this year's cookie bake, I made Italian Sausage, Orzo and Spinach Soup.
In these photos, I didn't have the Italian Sausage, so I used smoked turkey sausage links
The girls really enjoyed it (Teresa even made it for her family a few days later!) so I promised I would share the recipe on the blog. I'm almost embarrassed at how easy it is to make, but hey, there are days when easy isn't a bad thing, right?
So here's my recipe for super easy, super simple, super delicious Italian Sausage, Orzo and Spinach Soup. I hope you enjoy it!

Italian Sausage, Orzo and Spinach Soup
Serves 4

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3-4 links Turkey Italian Sausage (casing removed)
** Feel free to sub any sausage you like
1 small onion, diced
4 carrots, diced large
2 -3 stalks of celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 14oz can fire roasted tomatoes
7 cups of chicken stock
1 1/4 cup dried Orzo pasta
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1 bag of baby spinach
1/4 tsp fresh chopped rosemary


Heat 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned and no longer pink, breaking up into chunks with a wooden spoon as you cook it. Remove sausage to a bowl and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 20-30 seconds or until fragrant.

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, pasta and seasonings. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure the pasta doesn't stick. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes (you may need to stir occasionally during this process) to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom.

After 10 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings then add the spinach, the chopped fresh rosemary and the cooked sausage. Cook stirring just until spinach is just wilted (approx. 1 minute).

Enjoy immediately while still hot.

Store leftovers refrigerated in an air-tight container.

Note: Over time, the orzo, as with any pasta, will absorb a lot of the liquid. When reheating, you may need to add additional chicken broth to reach desired "soup" consistency.

To make ahead: Cook pasta separately and add to the broth when reheating the soup just before serving.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gingerbread Shortbread #greatfoodbloggercookieswap2015

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is an event I look forward to every year. It's right up there with Thanksgiving and my annual Cookie Bake. For this event, organized by Julie from The Little Kitchen and Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil, thousands of fellow food bloggers from across the globe, bake and swap cookies through the mail with other food bloggers, all to raise money for Cookies for Kids Cancer, a non-profit organization committed to funding pediatric cancer research.

For this year's cookie swap, I baked Gingerbread Shortbread. Shortbread is always a classic during the holiday season, but gingerbread shortbread is even better! Instead of cutting the shortbread into small shapes, I decided to bake them into wedges! Pretty cute, huh? Now that I think of it, cutting them into actual gingerbread men/women shapes would have been cute too!
My cookies were shipped to Ashley from Couture Palate, Susan from A Less Processed Life and Tracy from Pale Yellow. I hope they enjoyed them!
I included some Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice Tea to compliment the spices in the cookies. After all, what's shortbread without tea?

In return, I received Southern Molasses Crinkle Cookies from Rachel at A Southern Fairy Tale, Chai Spiced Oatmeal Cookies and Funfetti Biscotti from Mel Bakes Things and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Forty Cakes. All of the cookies I received were super yummy! Thanks Ladies!
I have to give a special thanks to Lindsey and Julie. Each year they spend countless hours of their time organizing this event. I personally have a lot of fun baking, packaging and shipping the cookies and waiting to see what I receive in the mail in return. But, at the end of the day, it's not about the cookies, it's all about finding a cure for pediatric cancer.
If you are a food blogger and are interested in participating in the 2016 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, be sure to sign up to receive notifications about next year's event here. You won't want to miss it!
Now onto the recipe for these delicious Gingerbread Shortbread....

Gingerbread Shortbread
Makes 16 cookies
Adapted from BHG

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup cold butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces
2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
Turbinado Sugar for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 325F

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

Combine the flour, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.

Add the butter and molasses to the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Knead the dough to form a ball. Divide the dough in half and place one ball of dough onto each prepared cookie sheet. Pat into an 8" circle. Using your fingers, create a scallop edge.

Sprinkle each round with turbinado sugar, then prick with the tines of a fork (about every inch or so). If desired, make a heart shape on the top of each wedge using a toothpick or small cookie cutter (just make an indentation, do not cut all the way through the cookie).

Cut each circle into 8 equal wedges leaving the circle intact.

Bake at 325f for 15-18 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown and the center is set.

Remove from the oven and recut the wedges while still warm using a sharp knife.

Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Store tightly covered in an air tight container for up to 3 days.