It’s tough to truly enjoy “eating healthy.” Let’s be real here: when I’m snacking on red bell peppers and non-fat yogurt-based tzaziki, I’m not sighing with giddy delight. Grilled chicken breasts aren’t at the top of my favorite foods list. And if you can tell me with a straight face that you prefer [insert healthy alternative dessert] over a crisp, chewy, chocolate chip cookie… then you’re a very talented liar.
That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy the accomplishment of eating healthy. I’m sure that we all feel like Rocky at the top of the steps when we deny ourselves those same cookies in lieu of a healthy alternative. But being proud of yourself and truly loving every bite of whatever you’ve chosen to eat are two different things, especially in today’s health-conscious society.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that kale chips fill in that deep, heartfelt desire that we all have… which is to eat potato chips until our mouths are numb from the salt. (Or is that just me and my inner fat kid?) But I will say that if you love kale–or even if you’re okay with kale–chips are a great alternative.
I decided to combine my (relative) love of kale chips with my (undeniable) love of sriracha… and so came this recipe! It’s not rocket science by any means, but I hope you like it as much as I do–and by that, I mean that I ate the entire thing in one sitting after taking pictures of it.
Definitely cut down on that extra ½ Tbsp. of sriracha if you’re not into spice… as I’ve mentioned before, James & I are spice fiends, so my taste buds are probably a little sunburnt. The sugar goes a long way to temper the spiciness, but certainly not enough if you order your wings or Thai food “mild”. Also, I should mention that it is very easy to burn these chips–so don’t take the bake times as absolute, and do check on them a few minutes before the time listed just in case! Every oven is different.
And now, if you’ll excuse me… eating all of this kale has made me feel like I should contemplate working out…
It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? And like any other repentant blogger, all I can offer in the way of explanation is ‘life.’ But having a life is overrated, am I right?
‘Tis much better to have something ridiculously addictive and easy to make instead.
Can I interest you in my version of Rice Krispies treats?
Nothing overly fancy or fussy here, I promise. Honestly, I think this version adds 5 minutes to the original recipe, tops. And you’ll be amazed at what a huge difference these small changes make. Browning the butter creates a nutty, mellow flavor that gives complexity to the normally-bland sweetness of marshmallows. Cinnamon and nutmeg enhance the nuttiness of the brown butter while lightly spicing the flavor of toasted rice. And the sea salt sharpens each flavor, leaving you craving more with each bite.
I’ve had the chance to make these several times for family and friends alike, and the general consensus tends to be “oh, they’re all gone already?” whenever a few hours have passed. So I’m confident that you’ll not only enjoy them, but crave them like I do after you make them for the first time.
The treats in the pictures were made in a deep 8×8 pan, but this recipe will fit the standard 13×9 pan as well–they’ll just be thinner. And I’ll mention this below in the recipe, but definitely wait to eat them–ideally overnight, but an hour in the fridge will do the trick if you’re in a hurry. (Don’t leave it in the fridge or it’ll get soft, though.) Use a sharp knife; blunter knives will crush the toasted cereal and you’ll lose the crunchiness!
I’ll be moving on to healthier treats in the spirit of the new year… just consider this one last gift from 2014 since I was absent for the latter part of it online.
I know that I always talk about how picky of an eater I used to be, almost to the point where I’ve become redundant. But the more I cook and the more I expand my tasting horizons, the more I realize how much I’ve missed out on over the years by being finicky. For example: this salsa would’ve been Nopes-ville for me a few years ago, thanks to its inclusion of raw red onions, green peppers and (the dreaded, soapy-tasting) cilantro. And now, I can’t get enough of it. After begging for the recipe, I’ve made it three times within the past month alone!
The reason I love this recipe so much is because it represents how far I’ve come; now when people ask me if I’m picky about food, I can proudly say “no”! Well… I still can’t stomach raw celery, blue or goat cheese… but I’m working on it.
Actually… I’m pretty sure I’m always going to hate celery, so we can just leave that off the list… please.
Whoops, I digress–let’s get back to the salsa! It’s best with fresh or frozen corn, but if you’re in a pinch you can definitely used canned corn… don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. I’ve used both canned and cooked lentils with similar results, so long as you drain both very well. And if you’re a fan of heat, feel free to mince half a jalapeno pepper (de-seeded of course) and toss it into the mix. I prefer to leave it out in case people are not heat-inclined.
Lastly: I know that the pictures feature yellow bell pepper, but that was during one of my trial runs for this recipe. I definitely recommend green bell pepper instead.
Isn’t it funny how we seem to be much more productive when we have less time to do everything? Now that I’m on a regular work schedule again, I find myself making to-do lists left and right. I’ve also opted to do less time-consuming recipes than usual–less preparation, fewer dishes, easier techniques… and I’ll admit that I’m definitely prone to eating a frozen pizza when I’m really lazy. (Totino’s forever! …I hate it, but I love it.)
Wings fall into this category, simply because they require little in the way of preparation in order for them to be–simply put–damn delicious. They’re pretty cost-effective for how tasty they turn out to be if you cook at home, too! I recently picked up ~3 lbs. of wings at the local Asian supermarket for $5.00 and used the entire bag to make this recipe. One dirty skillet (yes, only one pot to cook!) and an hour later, James and I had enough wings to feed us for the next two meals.
These wings are so, so good–savory, sweet, sticky, spicy… all things amazing. They re-heat in the oven well, too! The ginger, star anise and cinnamon (yes, cinnamon!) go a long way toward making these wings pack a spiced punch that is delightfully exotic. Honestly, the original recipe (featured on Andrew Zimmern’s blog) is practically perfect the way it is written. The only changes I’ve made were to enhance the ginger and star anise in the flavor profile, as well as ramp up the spiciness and the intensity of the savory glaze. Seriously, talk about umami–this recipe has that essence in spades.
I know that my pictures feature a skillet, but I would recommend using a pot instead–you don’t have to worry about stirring carefully, and the high sides of the pot will catch the oil when you’re initially pan-frying the chicken wings. And I found it helpful to have the wings closer to room temperature before cooking, as it reduced the cook time and the oil splatters. I ate the wings with some cucumbers and rice, but feel free to eat them as a stand-alone!
Recipe adapted from andrewzimmern.com.
I know what you’re thinking, especially if you follow this blog with any kind of regularity: Kris, where hast thou gone? My only (poor, to be frank) excuses involve a new job, a constant stream of visitors, so on and so forth… so I won’t bore you with any of them. You, my friend, are not here for idle chit-chat. You are here for cake! Or perhaps recipes, and possibly cake? Let’s backtrack a little, shall we? A certain friend of mine from San Francisco that shall remain nameless–you know who you are!–is quite crazy about cake, despite her normal lack of love for desserts. To make a long story short, I promised her that if ever she came down to LA to visit me… there would be cake with her name on it. So where’s her name? It’s a little more subtle than that. She can drink me under the table in mere minutes; mere mortals dream of having her tolerance for whiskey. Therefore, I figured the best way to personalize this cake for her was to make said cake as alcoholic as tastefully possible. Ta-dah! Two shots of Crown Royal and one shot of Bailey’s swim in a delicious chocolate/cream cheese dream of cake. Yes, you can definitely taste the alcohol in each bite. Is it jarring? Well… not if you like whiskey as much as we do The best part about this cake is its not-quite-sweetness. It’s chocolate-y without being cloyingly sweet–thanks to the inclusion of freshly-brewed coffee and use of cocoa powder as opposed to chocolate chips or bars. I loved the inclusion of black pepper and cloves–it complimented the honeyed tang of the whiskey that you faintly detect in the cake. And the cream cheese paired with Bailey’s Irish Cream is a match made in heaven; the soft sourness of the cream cheese goes very well with the milky-sweet Bailey’s. Don’t worry about how liquid the cake batter is when you pour it into the cake pan–it will solidify into a moist, rich cake during the bake time. I would highly recommend you take the baking time in the recipe as more of a suggestion than the rule as well; everyone’s oven is different and cake can be so finicky! Start out with 35 minutes, then start using a toothpick through the center to test for doneness. The tops of the cakes may crack, but that’s okay–that’s what frosting is for! Just make sure that you allow the pans to mostly cool before removing the layers; since the cake is very moist, it’s also delicate and will break off if too much force is applied. The original recipe is for a 9-inch springform pan, but I dressed it up as a layer cake to pair it with the cream cheese frosting. I used 2 6-inch round layers to create a 4-layer cake, and ended up with a bit more batter to spare. Since there is a decent amount of batter leftover, you could always fill a coffee mug halfway with it and microwave it for a minute and a half for instant chocolate cake… which is a terrible, terrible idea, and I definitely did NOT do that. (I totally did, and it was awesome.) She loved the cake, and has since emailed me to tell me how much she misses it since she couldn’t smuggle it on the plane at the end of the weekend. If you’re willing to put some time into creating it, I just know you’ll have the same reactions! Good luck! Original recipe from The New York Times.
Trying to bake or cook in someone else’s kitchen is always a tough order. I wanted to make something fresh for my friend’s Memorial Day BBQ, but was baffled as to what I could bake without sacrificing quality or consistency. Fortunately, I remembered that I had this recipe up my sleeve and came prepared… or so I thought. When I came in with my skillet and voiced my intentions to bake a cake in said skillet, everyone joked about how they wanted to have the cake to themselves (or at least a good half of it). The host talked up my baking skills–to my embarrassment–and pretty soon, a genuine excitement around how the cake would turn out was buzzing in the air. Imagine my dismay, then, in the midst of this anticipation… to realize that I had left out a large portion of the sugar when mixing the batter! I can’t even tell you how or why–just that I can be a bit addle-brained once in a while. The exact moment of realization was horrible: as the batter refused to spread evenly onto the skillet, I realized that something was missing and gasped aloud. In a tizzy, I threw in the sugar and stirred vigorously, hoping that it wasn’t too late to salvage the cake. And guys… it was fine. The cake was demolished in record time. The only sign that I had deviated slightly from the recipe was the cake’s tendency to stick to the skillet a little more than usual… but the flavor itself was still spot-on. Thank goodness! The moral of this story is: don’t be like me. Well, probably more along these lines: this recipe is so easy and forgiving that you can mess up, sloppily fix it and still end up with a damn good cake for a summer BBQ. Hooray! I found the original recipe far too sweet for my tastes and dialed back the sugar to allow the fresh blueberries to sweeten the cake on their own. The turbinado sugar is mostly for show, but adds a nice, subtle crunch of flavor to each bite. And the best part about this recipe is how versatile it is–raspberries, blackberries, strawberries… even a mix of berries will taste wonderful on this cake! I’ve made it several times with a varying mix of the above and it’s turned out quite well. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you can still use a glass or aluminum pan–I’ve provided alternate instructions below. I definitely recommend using the skillet if at all possible; just make sure that the skillet is seasoned before you attempt to bake in it, or you’ll have quite a time trying to scrape all of the cake from the pan. Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
The first few times I made quinoa at home, I was thoroughly unimpressed.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it–I just didn’t understand what the hubbub was about. I knew that quinoa had a higher protein and vitamin content, thus making it an effective substitute for “empty” carbs such as white rice. But I couldn’t get over the slightly-bitter taste at the end, nor the slightly-slimy consistency. The little strings, or the germs, that extended from each individual grain were also not appetizing. At the time, I decided that the nutritional value of quinoa did not trump the less appealing parts of eating it.
Everything changed when I read this article on CNN’s Eatocracy site, written by America’s Test Kitchen. Apparently, I (and many other cooks) have been instructed to cook quinoa incorrectly! Armed with this knowledge in hand, I decided to give quinoa another shot; the result was absolutely delicious. Now I go through bags of quinoa quite easily, and most of them are used for this particular recipe.
When cooked correctly, quinoa is chewy, toasty, and nutty–flavors which I found very complimentary to milk and a touch of sugar. Although the use of milk instead of water makes this recipe more finicky, I believe the result is well-worth the effort. The mouthfeel of chewing on toasted quinoa instead of mushy oatmeal is fantastic–I haven’t gone back to making oatmeal in months. And as I mentioned above, quinoa is a great nutritional alternative to oatmeal or to cereal, both of which are largely empty in protein.
I will admit–there is a bit more effort involved since you’ll need to stir the quinoa consistently throughout its cooking time, but I believe it’s worth it for the flavor it will create. Make sure the heat only goes to medium at the highest and that the milk never goes above a light simmer; these precautions will go a long way in making the consistency, as well as the flavor, just perfect.
I’ve used strawberries for this particular photoshoot because they were what I had on-hand, but any ripe berry will do! I think you’ll be surprised by how much you like quinoa for breakfast, and I hope you’ll give it a try.