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Filtering by Category: Recipes

MIXED BERRY SMOOTHIE BOWL

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Having lots of antioxidants in my diet is important because I believe in their benefits, mainly the protection of our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are thought to cause inflammation, and inflammation is thought to be a root cause of many diseases such as cancer. Açai berries have become extremely popular because they’re high in antioxidants and they taste great! I became addicted to açaí bowls from Juice Generation. That addiction was short-lived once I reviewed my Amex bill after a month of daily consumption, so I started purchasing frozen açaí and making them at home…

Until one day I was out and still had that craving. Fortunately, I had bags of frozen mixed berries—blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Unlike açai, they’re available almost anywhere AND they’re also high in antioxidants, especially blueberries. So I decided to start making mixed berry smoothie bowls for breakfast, even when I have a supply of frozen açaí. Mixed berry smoothie bowls are simple, quick, and extremely tasty—so delicious that you’ll forget you’re eating something healthy.

You can use regular milk, but I’ve been trying to minimize my dairy intake. I recently discovered NuMilk “Make Your Own” Fresh Almond Milk available at Whole Foods. It has a clean almond taste, is dairy-free, and is free of the ingredients I can’t pronounce that are required to keep shelf-stable almond milk shelf-stable. Nature’s Path makes a wonderful hemp granola that my younger son and I love as a topping. And the best part of a smoothie bowl is that you can top it with anything you desire. Just try to keep it healthy. My younger son asks me to make smoothie bowls for him at all times of day. Have one for breakfast, or take a clue from him and consume it as a healthy snack or lunch.

1 SERVING

                      1 ½ cups                  frozen mixed berries
½                  banana, preferably ripe
  1 heaping tbsp                  almond or cashew butter
  1 tbsp                  honey or agave nectar
2 tbsp                  almond or coconut milk

   ¼ cup                  hemp plus granola
  1-2 tbsp                  unsweetened fresh coconut
 as desired                  sliced fresh banana
as desired                  fresh blueberries
as desired                  sliced fresh strawberries

Use organic ingredients where possible. Combine frozen berries, ½ banana, nut butter, sweetener, and milk in a high-speed blender and blend/purée until smooth but NOT liquid. This may require stopping and stirring a few times and/or shaking the blender to break up chunks of frozen fruit. Scoop into a bowl and top with granola, coconut, fresh fruit, and any other healthy topping desired.

"IRONWOMAN" SMOKY BBQ VEGGIE BURGERS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Lately I have been trying to focus on being healthier from within. I’ve started working out again—a serious workout at Orange Theory Fitness—and I’m trying to go two or three times per week. For any of you who have tried OTF, you’ll know they monitor your heart rate. And my heart rate monitor has proven that I am really out of shape. That must change, especially since I am now halfway through the decade toward 50. And my boys are only 4 and 7 years old. This mama needs to stay healthy and fit for many more years so I can chase them, literally and figuratively.

But along with exercise comes eating better. Many years ago, one of my sister’s best friends beat Stage2/3 breast cancer. Yes, she had surgery and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. In addition, she made a strong, conscious effort to think positively—she would imagine her tumor shrinking every night as she held her son who was less than one year old at the time. But she also dramatically changed her diet after a lot of research about what many believe causes tumor growth. She concluded there were two huge culprits—refined sugar and animal protein—so she eliminated both from her diet and has never looked back. I am happy to say that over a decade and a half later, my sister’s dear friend is as healthy as can be. While it wasn’t until the past year or so that I’ve begun to make huge changes, my concerns about refined sugar and animal protein have been in the back of my mind all of these years.

Animal protein provides a lot of nutrients. Red meat, specifically, is a great source of iron. But I’m not a huge fan of red meat on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. Recently, my youngest son was found to be iron deficient. So we went to see a nutritionist to help optimize his diet in an attempt to increase his iron levels without supplements…because iron supplements for kids taste awful and are extremely difficult to mask. Luckily, there are many great sources of iron besides red meat, although plant-based sources of iron are not absorbed as well and as easily as meat sources. To assist with the absorption of iron, you can do a few things. First, Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron, so eating strawberries, raspberries, citrus, and red peppers in the same meal with iron-rich foods will help. On the other hand, calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, so steer clear of foods like cheese and milks that are rich in calcium (even many non-dairy milks are now fortified with calcium) when consuming iron-rich foods. It’s best to consume your calcium and iron at least two hours apart.

Luckily for you (and me), these veggie burgers are loaded with iron, as quinoa, chickpeas, and pepitas, aka pumpkin seeds, are all rich in iron. The original recipe is from The Minimalist Baker Everyday Cooking cookbook, and I’ve adapted it to add pumpkin seeds, use a store-bought BBQ sauce, and optimize the ingredients to take the guesswork out. In my opinion, the most important factor in making this recipe delicious is to use a really smoky BBQ sauce. The pumpkin seeds add a little more crunch and a little extra saltiness, but if you don’t like the added crunch, you could always grind the pumpkin seeds in a food processor or Nutribullet before including. My four-year-old LOVES these burgers and would eat them every day of the week if I served them. They’re that good! And they’re super simple. Did I mention they’re healthy and a great source of plant-based protein and iron? You’re welcome!

SERVES 4

          1        15-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed & drained
¾ cup        cooked quinoa
½ cup       plain bread crumbs
1 tsp       garlic powder
  1 ¼  tsp       ground cumin
1 ¼ tsp        smoked paprika
1 tsp        chili powder, plus extra to sprinkle           
  1 ½ tsp        kosher salt, plus extra to sprinkle
 1 heaping tbsp         coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
¼ cup         smoky BBQ sauce*, plus more for serving
¼ cup        roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

  about 3-4 tbsp        grapeseed oil (for frying)
  4        good buns, such as brioche or potato rolls
as desired        fresh cilantro  
 as desired        red onion, sliced

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. But it’s usually a 2-to-1 ratio of water to quinoa. I measure about 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, which yields a little extra than required when cooked.

 
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Add garbanzo beans to a medium bowl, and using a pastry knife (or fork), mash, leaving a few whole. Add the entire first group of ingredients. Stir and mash together with a wooden spoon and then your hands to combine. Form a huge ball with the dough, divide evenly into 4 pieces, and shape into burger patties. Don’t make them too thick, as you want them to fill the bun. Place on a plate and sprinkle with salt and a little chili powder, if desired. 

 
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Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add enough grapeseed oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Place burgers seasoned side down and cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the top side with more salt. Flip and cook another 3 minutes. Place on a paper towel to cool. Place on a bun with cilantro, red onion, more BBQ sauce, and anything else you may want to add. 

 
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These can be made ahead of time up to the cooking step and stored for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. Before cooking, allow to sit out at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

*I use Trader Joe’s Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce (you can pronounce all of the ingredients). 

CASHEW? I DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU!

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I just couldn’t resist that title. I may live to regret it since someone reading it without a photo or any context won’t have the first clue what this post is about. When I was a kid, my mom used to say, “Tissue? I don’t even know you!” when we asked for a tissue. That mom of mine is a funny gal! No wonder I love her so much. (Did I mention she would also pump the gas pedal to the beat of the music while driving down our back road if a song came on that she liked?)

Let me get to the point because this post shouldn’t take up too much of your time. When I was a kid, I got a recipe for peanut butter, honey, raisin, and oat snack bites from my Sunday School class. Don’t ask me how or why it was part of the lesson or materials, but they were a favorite snack of mine. I used to make them myself at 8 years old. I attempted to look for that recipe about 10 years ago at my mom’s house without any luck. Fast forward, a nutritionist I worked with gave me a recipe that I thought was very similar. But with all of the peanut allergies (including Kai’s), I decided to try these with cashew butter and make a few little tweaks. I need a healthier way to satisfy my cravings as I try harder to cut refined sugar. These little bites are packed with protein, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids. They are a perfect healthier treat when your sweet tooth is calling!

Before I get to the recipe, allow me to provide a few health benefits for consuming these treats, other than just satisfying your sweet tooth. First, there’s protein. I’m often tired…exhausted, truth be told. I need energy, and I usually do the wrong thing and pick up something loaded with sugar and other carbohydrates. Naughty girl! Since protein takes longer than carbohydrates to break down in the body, this treat will provide a longer-lasting energy source. Next we have fiber, which is great for controlling blood sugar, helping with digestion and regularity, and helping to lower cholesterol. That’s just to name a few. And the benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids (plant-based in this recipe) are almost too many to list. But a few that are important to me are helping to reduce the risk factors for heart disease, fighting depression and anxiety, improving eye health (as I can’t see a thing any longer without my readers), and fighting inflammation, which is believed to be a root cause of so many diseases. For those of you who are pregnant or have kids, Omega-3s can promote brain health for your unborn child during pregnancy and for infants once born, and it can also reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.

And best of all, this baby couldn’t be simpler to make. If you want, you can increase the amount of ground flax seed and chia seeds, but I always like to provide a lower amount, and then you can increase as desired. For flax seed, I like to purchased whole flax seed and then grind it in my Nutribullet. I just think it’s fresher and perhaps a little more beneficial that way, but that’s probably just my crazy brain and not based on anything I’ve read. If you use a food processor, it’s much easier, but just be aware that your bites won’t look exactly like the photo above. If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll be just fine, as those pictured above were mixed by hand and I survived the stirring. I promise you’re going to love these, and in my opinion, they taste so much better than using good ole peanut butter.

MAKES 20-24 BITES

1 cup       cashew butter
¼ cup                honey (organic preferred)
1 cup                  organic quick oat
2 tbsp                ground flax seed
1 tbsp                 chia seeds
¾ cup                raisins
¼ cup                 unsweetened coconut flakes
¼ tsp                  kosher salt
 

Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until combined OR combine everything in a bowl and use a spatula to combine. Roll into balls about 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter and refrigerate for one hour before eating. Store in refrigerator or freezer in an air-tight container. 

 
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MAKE IT AHEAD: COQ AU VIN

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Nothing says come in from the cold more than this one pot meal. It’s comfort food. It’s delicious. But I feel like the name itself…maybe the fact that it’s French…sounds intimidating to many. Over the years, I’ve tried lots of recipes for this fabulous dish, including one from Ina (of course). The good news is that’s helped me create my own version. One that’s really easy. It’s prepared completely on the stovetop in about 30-40 minutes of active prep and cooking time. (The braising takes longer but you can relax during that time.) And the best news of all? It’s actually better if served the next day. So it’s a great dish to make ahead if you’re expecting guests and would rather spend time with them than in the kitchen once they arrive.

I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Free range/organic. I think chicken thighs are best for braising—they get nice and tender and you can actually cut them with a fork once braising is complete. But you can also use a whole chicken cut into pieces or any one cut if you have a favorite. Remove as much of the fat as you can before browning so it’s not a super fatty/greasy dish.

A few tips. When you make coq au vin, which translates to “chicken with wine,” contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to use expensive wine. (But you can drink it once it’s served!) A $10-12 bottle of dry red wine will do the trick. As for prep, I typically like to prep all of my ingredients ahead of time. Things like cutting vegetables and herbs. But in this case, since the first step is to brown the chicken and that takes time, you can cut all of your vegetables and measure your liquids while that’s happening to be more efficient.

If you choose to make this ahead, you won’t be disappointed, as it actually tastes even better the second day. (But don’t worry if you want to eat it right away…it’s still delicious!) And the best news is that when you remove it from the refrigerator the next day, you’ll see that a thick solid layer has formed on the top. That’s fat. Pick it off with a spoon or fork and discard it before reheating. You’ve just made your dish a bit healthier.

SERVES 6-8

About 2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (preferably organic)
                            to taste               kosher salt
to taste               black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
2 tablespoons                 unsalted butter
2 teaspoons                freshly minced garlic
1 large               Vidalia onion, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 pound (about 4) carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick, diagonally
about 10               cippolini onions
4 slices                thickly sliced bacon, diced
1 ½ cups                dry red wine
1 cup                chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons                  good brandy or Cognac
1 tablespoon                 tomato paste
10 sprigs                  fresh thyme (preferably tied with kitchen string)
½ pound                  crimini mushrooms, stems removed and quartered if large
1 tablespoon                   all-purpose flour or corn starch
2 tablespoons                   water

Remove excess fat from chicken. Pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Brown the chicken in batches in a single layer, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set aside. 

 Add bacon, carrots, onions, and garlic, and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in red wine, broth, brandy, tomato paste, and thyme and stir to mix. Add chicken back in, including any juices on the plate. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

 After 20 minutes, heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms to the chicken pot and simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan. In a separate bowl, blend flour or corn starch and water. Add to pan, increase heat to high, and stir constantly for 2 minutes to thicken sauce. Add chicken back to pan. Serve. 

 If making ahead, allow to cool, place in refrigerator overnight. The following day, remove the thick layer of solid fat. Then reheat covered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. 

 
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MEXICAN CHICKEN SOUP

Jennifer Mejia

 
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A few weeks ago, a chef I follow on Instagram posed a question to her followers about minimizing food waste. I commented that I often like to prepare a meat dish that serves more than we can eat in one night, and then I use the leftovers to create something new the following day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually like to eat the same thing two days in a row. I need variety to keep things exciting. Doing it this way saves time so you’re not starting from step 1 every night.

If you’ve roasted a chicken and you’re wondering what to do with all of the leftovers, look no further for a solution. While this delicious and easy recipe is not my creation (I got the original from a friend who got it from a book), I have shamelessly stolen it and made it my own over the years.  It’s a really tasty and ridiculously simple soup that is perfect for a cold winter day. But the best part is that you won’t spend all day preparing it. Instead, you can relax by a warm fire and cozy up with a good book or watch an old movie. You can obviously prepare chicken for the soup if you don’t have leftovers, but I like to make my Roast Chicken with Lemon-Butter Sauce and then save the leftovers for this soup the next day. Enjoy life! Don’t spend it all cooking.

SERVES 4

About 1 pound       cooked chicken off the bone, roughly chopped
1 cup                  Vidalia (sweet) onion, medium diced
¾ teaspoon                  fresh minced garlic
  ¼ teaspoon                  ground cumin
  ¼ teaspoon                  chili powder
14.5 oz can                  diced tomatoes with herbs, undrained
4 oz can                  diced green chiles, undrained
32 oz                  low sodium chicken broth
1 ½ teaspoon                  kosher salt
1                  ripe avocado, sliced
1 bunch                  fresh cilantro, leaves only
1                  fresh lime, cut into wedges
1 cup                  grated Mexican cheese blend
  ½ cup                 sour cream
  4                 corn tortillas
  3 tablespoons                 extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a pastry brush, spread olive oil on one side of corn tortillas. Sprinkle with salt. Cut strips about ½ inch wide, place on cookie sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on desired crispiness.  

In a large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, drizzle 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Add onions, garlic, cumin, and chili powder and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in chicken broth, diced tomatoes,  green chiles, and chicken. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with 1½ teaspoons salt or as desired. Place in serving bowls. Squeeze a fresh lime wedge over soup. Add toppings as desired—cilantro, avocado, cheese, tortillas, and sour cream.

 
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FUDGEY GOOEY CRINKLE COOKIES

Jennifer Mejia

 
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If I have one weakness in life, it’s chocolate. These ooey-gooey cookies are like crack (just an expression…I’ve never actually tried crack). And they’re beautiful to boot…almost like they’re topped with a freshly fallen snow. But that still doesn’t make me feel guilty about devouring them. The inspiration for this recipe actually came from a pastry chef in the Washington, DC area. My sister makes these cookies at Christmastime (she’s about the best cookie and pie baker I know), so I wanted to try them with a minor twist. They are like brownies but in a cookie form. The key is not to overbake them so they maintain their gooey-ness!

Most crinkle cookie recipes I’ve seen use cocoa and granulated sugar. I think the use of chocolate chips and brown sugar instead makes them perfectly moist and fudgey. Make sure you allow time for the dough to be refrigerated. I make the dough, which is super easy to prepare, the night before. Be careful, it’s tempting to forego the cookies and just eat the entire bowl of dough. Your friends and family will love them. And with a little help from my Christmas tree, a few holly berries, and jute twine, you can make beautifully festive gifting bags.

MAKES 72 COOKIES (Recipe can be halved.)

 2 cups                 semi-sweet chocolate morsels*
  1 cup                  dark chocolate morsels*
1 cup                  canola oil
  6                  large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons                  pure vanilla extract
  3 cups                  all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon                  baking powder
  1 tablespoon                  kosher salt
½ cup                 confectioner’s sugar for rolling

Place two inches of water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Combine the morsels, brown sugar, and oil in a heatproof glass bowl wide enough to sit over the opening of the saucepan. (You can also use a double boiler, but I don’t think many people have them. I have an All-Clad that I love if you’re in the market.)

 

I use Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet and Dark Chocolate Morsels.

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Melt the mixture, stirring occasionally.

 
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Once melted and consistently smooth, remove the bowl from heat. Using a wire whisk, mix in the eggs and vanilla until completely combined.

 
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In a separate bowl, use a wire whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then gradually add this dry mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring by hand to combine.

 
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Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

The following day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a wide, shallow bowl, place confectioner’s sugar (sifted if necessary…you don’t want lumps). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit for about 15-20 minutes (the cookies bake better this way). Scoop the dough and form balls about 1 ¼ inches in diameter. Roll the balls in confectioner’s sugar to coat completely. Don’t shake off the excess. Place balls about 2 inches apart on the parchment paper.

 
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Bake 12 minutes. The cookies will be soft and appear slightly cracked/crinkled. Do NOT overbake or they’ll be crispy and lose their gooey-ness. Remove from oven and allow to rest on the pan for 1 minute. Move to a wire rack to cool completely.

 
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To make for a wonderfully festive gift presentation, stack several cookies in a food-safe clear plastic goodie bag. I use these from Party City. Then use jute string and festive plants like holly berries and/or pine branches (I clipped them from my own tree!) to tie the bags.

 
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COCO-CHOCO BARK

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I’ve always said, you can’t trust a person who doesn’t like chocolate. I’m only half serious. Maybe you just can’t trust them when it comes to dessert. (Insert wink emoji.)  But would those who say “no” to chocolate change their mind if that chocolate dessert was somewhat healthier for them? This version of chocolate bark was inspired by a recipe from a nutritionist who helped me make small changes to eat healthier and satisfy my sweet tooth at the same time.

This recipe is SO simple. It’s made with raw cacao and coconut oil. Raw cacao is high in antioxidants, which absorb free radicals that cause tissue damage and disease like cancer. The benefits of coconut oil come mainly from healthy fats called medium chain fatty acids (MFCAs). MFCAs are easier to digest, have anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, and are processed by the liver so they are immediately converted to energy instead of being stored as fat. And there are many other believed health benefits of coconut oil like a reduction of inflammation and arthritis and prevention of heart disease and high blood pressure. You can google coconut oil benefits and find a world of information.

This treat is sweetened with 100% pure maple syrup, which is slightly better than sugar, in my opinion, since it has small amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, and potassium. You can make this coco-choco bark your own by adding whatever ingredients tickle your fancy. Or you can use my favorites listed below.

2/3 cup                   unfiltered coconut oil (liquid measure)
2/3 cup                   sifted raw cacao powder
1/3 cup                   100% pure maple syrup
big pinch                   sea or kosher salt
amount desired                   dried cranberries, blueberries (preferably juice-sweetened)
amount desired                   nuts or seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pepitas
amount desired                   unsweetened coconut flakes         

 

Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. Scatter desired toppings evenly across paper (this will also help hold the paper in place). 

Sift raw cacao powder into a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and immediately add maple syrup. (You don’t want to heat maple syrup because it loses some of its sweetness when heated.) Stir vigorously with a wire whisk until well combined, about 1 minute. (If it’s not blended well, you’ll have parts of your bark that are not sweet.) Add the sifted cacao and salt and whisk briskly another minute to combine. Immediately pour sauce over toppings, encouraging the liquid to spread evenly and evening out toppings. Sprinkle the top with a little extra salt. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Break apart and store in refrigerator. 

Note: You can simply change the ratios of the first three ingredients to make a larger batch for a larger sheet pan if you have space in your freezer.

 
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Ingredients: Cacao Powder from Amazon, others from TJ’s

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sprinkle evenly across the pan

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sifted raw cacao powder

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coconut oil

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NOT properly mixed — keep whisking if yours looks like this

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raw cacao powder added

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spread the chocolate mixture and ingredients evenly

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ISLAND FISH TACOS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I am a huge fish lover! On occasion, I’ve actually considered becoming a pescatarian. Thankfully my kids love it, too! I think some people fear cooking fish because they’ve had a fishy experience. I know that sounds funny, but fresh fish isn’t supposed to smell or taste overly fishy. To prepare, fresh seafood doesn’t need to be fussy, either. Sometimes the simpler the better to let its natural flavor do all of the work. Personally, my favorite way to prepare fish is with citrus, olive oil, and fresh herbs. Perhaps the biggest bonus of serving fish is that it cooks rather quickly, whether it’s on the stovetop, oven, or grill. And did I mention that it’s also really healthy? It’s actually recommended that pregnant women eat two servings of low mercury fish a week. What better endorsement do you need?

A few months ago, an all around awesome woman named Debra Sandler launched a line of sauces and marinades under the brand Bazodee. Debra knows food—from the amazing recipes created by her family in Trinidad to her 35 years of experience in the food industry with companies like PepsiCo, Mars, and Johnson & Johnson, the original makers of SPLENDA Brand Sweetener. Lucky for me, Debra led the company during one of the best times in my career, and she also served a wonderful mentor to me and so many others. This lady knows food and how to make people happy through their bellies. So I couldn’t wait to get my hands on these products and give them a try.

Pronounced BAH-ZO-DEE, the word means “head over heels in love.” With that and Debra at the helm, I knew their line of sauces and marinades had to be good. My first order was for Marvelous Marinade. I’m a big believer in taking short cuts by using prepared ingredients, so long as you recognize everything on the label. And it doesn’t get much simpler and cleaner than this on a label: onions, cilantro, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, scallions, and a few others that didn’t frighten me or that I didn’t have to struggle to pronounce.

When I think islands, I think fish. I decided to try Marvelous Marinade with fish tacos because my week was a little crazy, so I needed something easy to prepare that was still big on flavor. These fish tacos are amazing! And the best part is that they are super simple and will be on your table in a flash. Make things easy on yourself and use a store-bought fresh pico de gallo. Again, it’s really okay as long as it’s made with ingredients you know and without any artificial ingredients. In addition, I topped them off with pickled onions from a blog I love to follow, Lena’s Kitchen. Give this recipe a try. My first attempt was with cod, and they were great. But I later tried them with halibut, a slightly firmer and meatier fish, and I think the win goes to halibut. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. I promise.

 
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SERVES 4

Don’t get hung up on the measurements of the marinade and toppings. You can’t go wrong. It’s a taco, so if you like one ingredient more than another, pile it on!

            1 tablespoon                  good olive oil              
1 ½  pounds                 firm white fish, such as halibut or cod, uniform in thickness
1 bottle                  Bazodee™ Marvelous Marinade
2                  fresh limes, quartered verticall
1 bunch                  fresh cilantro, leaves only
1                  ripe avocado, halved vertically, seed removed and sliced thinly
  1 cup                  fresh store-bought pico de gallo*        
1 cup                  pickled onions (easy recipe from Lena’s Kitchen)**
  12                  fresh flour tortillas (preferably “handmade”)
  kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Pat fish dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. Place fish in a glass dish and coat with Marvelous Marinade. Cover and place in refrigerator for 4 hours, ideally. 

 
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Just before cooking the fish, prepare the lime, avocado slices, and cilantro leaves. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle with olive oil. Add fish, flesh side down, to the pan. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, flip, and cook another 3-4 minutes, depending on thickness of the fish. Set aside. 

 
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Heat a griddle pan over medium high heat and place tortillas on it for about 2 minutes per side if you like them browned and a little crispy. 

 Place tortilla on a plate and add about 2 ounces of fish to the center. Top with a heaping teaspoon of Marvelous Marinade. Add 3 avocado slices, 2 teaspoons of pico de gallo, about 10 leaves of cilantro, and 6-8 slivers of pickled onions. Squeeze fresh lime juice and sprinkle kosher salt over fish and toppings.

 *I use Trader Joe’s Mild Pico de Gallo Salsa.

**Lena’S Kitchen Pickled Onions at www.lenaskitchenblog.com

 
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GINGER PUMPKIN SANDWICH COOKIES

Jennifer Mejia

 
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My beautiful sister’s baking inspired this creation. Every Christmas season, she makes a few varieties of cookies…and a ton of them! I’m fairly certain everyone counts the days until the holidays in anticipation of devouring her cookies. She might be the best pastry chef I’ve ever met. (She used to win the pie-making contest at work every year. Eventually it became unfair because everyone knew the best tasting and most beautiful pie would be hers.) She makes insanely scrumptious ginger-molasses cookies. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I couldn’t wait until Christmas, so I made my own version of these cookies and pumpkined them up so they’d be in-season a few months sooner. They are beyond delicious and fairly simple to make. This recipe can be halved to make 24 flat cookies, which can be simply iced on top if you don’t want to sandwich them.

A few tips. The cookies are best when baked on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I find the bottoms stay softer and don’t get that crunch that cookies can sometimes get when baked directly on the pan. It’s very important not to skip the cooling time for both the cookie dough and filling. The cookie dough needs time to firm up, and the filling needs to thicken. My advice would be to make both in the evening/at night and allow them to chill overnight. Then you can make them first thing in the morning. They’ll hold together better if refrigerated after assembled into sandwich cookies. For me, they’re a cold but not frozen version of the best ice cream sandwich you’ve ever had!

Around this time of year, pumpkin pie filling is well-stocked. Libby’s is the brand I grew up with, but Whole Foods carries a different organic brand that will also work. You could probably even try Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter instead of pumpkin pie mix if you can’t find it. Finally, the recipe calls for dark molasses, so use it (not light) because there isn’t any brown sugar in this recipe.

Ingredients for Cookies:

  1½ cups (3 sticks)                  unsalted butter, melted 
½ cup                  dark molasses
2 cups                  granulated sugar
2 large                  eggs
4 cups                  all-purpose flour        
4 teaspoons                 baking soda
2 teaspoons                 ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon                  ground ginger
1 teaspoon                  ground cloves

                                           
Ingredients for Filling:                  

1 pound                 cream cheese, softened, cut into pieces
6 tablespoons                  unsalted butter, softened, cut into pieces
2/3 cup                  pumpkin pie mix
5 cups                 confectioner’s sugar

With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, combine butter, molasses, sugar, and eggs, and mix until creamy.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Add this dry mixture to the wet mixture, initially mixing on a low speed. Mix until blended and smooth. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. (Fine to refrigerate overnight, as well.)

With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, blend cream cheese, butter, and pumpkin pie mix until smooth. Slowly add confectioner’s sugar, about one cup at a time, mixing continuously until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to thicken. (Can also refrigerate overnight.)

Once all have been sufficiently refrigerated, heat oven to 350 degrees. Using your hands, create balls about 1to 1¼ inch in diameter. Then roll the balls in granulated sugar. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, at least two inches apart. (I typically make one dozen at a time—4 rows of 3 cookies each.) Bake for 8-9 minutes. Allow to rest on pan for 2 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.

Once cookies are completely cool, place one flat side up, spread filling, and top with a second cookie, flat side facing the icing. (Alternatively, you can simply ice the round side of one cookie if you prefer less cookie.)

Store in refrigerator. 

 
 
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eggs, butter, sugar, molasses

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dry ingredients

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dry ingredients blended

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adding dry to wet ingredients

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the cookie dough

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filling prior to chilling

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cookie dough balls being dipped into sugar

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in the oven

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baked cookies cooling on the rack

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ROAST CHICKEN WITH LEMON-BUTTER SAUCE

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Years ago, I would have never dreamed of ordering chicken at a restaurant. My excuse was that it’s chicken, and you can get chicken anywhere, especially at home. But then one day, a client convinced me to order free-range roast chicken at a restaurant on the Upper East Side. It was amazing. Since that lunch, I have been determined to make any preparation of chicken anything but ordinary. This chicken is special because it’s seriously simple and so delicious. Well, maybe a big part of its deliciousness is the sauce it makes for itself. Butter makes everything better, doesn’t it?

 
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Free-range chickens really do taste better. I have to admit that I was a naysayer for quite some time until that fateful day on the UES. If you have a local farm or specialty butcher, check to see if they sell them. Fresh, free-range chickens that aren’t pumped with hormones and fed a vegetarian diet tend to be on the smaller side, usually between 3.5 to 4 pounds, and occasionally even smaller. But I promise, what you sacrifice in size will be made up for in taste.

For roasting, unless I have a ton of vegetables around the meat, I like to use a ceramic oval roasting dish that is slightly larger than the meat. If you don’t have one like the one pictured here, head to your local HomeGoods. I’ll almost guarantee you can find one inexpensively. With this chicken recipe, If the pan is too large, the sauce won’t collect and the lemons and sauce will likely burn instead of charring.

If there are leftovers, pull the meat off of the bone and store the sauce separately. The following day, the sauce will be solid. Not to worry, simply spoon some out and place around the chicken when reheating.

SERVES 4-6

1         3.5- to 4-pound roasting chicken (preferably free range)
2        lemons, quartered lengthwise
2        heads of garlic, cut in half horizontally
4        sprigs of fresh rosemary
12        sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons     butter
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove any giblets inside the chicken cavity. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels. Liberally salt and pepper inside the cavity. Insert 2 quarters of the lemon, 2 garlic halves, 2 sprigs of rosemary, and 8 sprigs of thyme into the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. (Don’t worry about counting the sprigs of rosemary and thyme—just grab some and throw in what fits. I added numbers simply because some people like exact measurements.)

Place the chicken in a small roasting dish (a little larger than the chicken) with sides, and tuck the wings under the body of the chicken. Liberally salt and pepper the outside of the chicken. Place the butter on top of the center of the chicken. In the roasting dish, place one half of the remaining garlic head, 4 lemon quarters, and remaining thyme and rosemary sprigs around the chicken. Place dish in the center of the oven. For roasting time, I use Julia Child’s formula of 45 minutes plus 7 minutes for each pound, and it has never failed me. So a larger or smaller chicken may be used, and roasting time should be calculated using this formula. 

When roasting is complete, remove dish from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. It will have a crispy skin and a delicious sauce of…you guessed it, lemon, butter, garlic, and herbs around it. Slice the chicken and spoon sauce over each serving. Don’t worry--the ingredients around the chicken will be a little charred, and that’s ok. The slightly charred flavor adds a little depth.

 
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Yes, I’m guilty. I tore off a little skin from that left leg before photographing.