Ooey, Gooey, Chewy, Chunky Chocolatey Chip Cookies with Mac Nuts

You know what’s best after a long day?  Cookies.  I came home to the smell of chocolate chip cookies after a very long, tragic, and exhausting day at work.  Work started out great, but it ended on such a sad note.  I hate those days.  It puts me in such a funk.  I usually come home looking forward to zoning out to endless, trashy, but oh so good reality TV shows to erase the day from my long-term memory.  Instead, I came home to my favorite chocolate chips cookies, and that made all the difference.

Ooey, Gooey, Chewy, Chunky Chocolatey Chip Cookies with Mac Nuts (lightly adapted from Wing-It Vegan)

Flax Egg
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
3 tablespoons cold water

1/2 cup dried shredded coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup almond butter
4 tablespoon almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup toasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the flax seeds and water.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except for the chocolate chips and nuts. Beat for about 30 seconds or until a smooth dough forms. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet and slightly flatten with the back of a spoon. Leave about an inch of space in between cookies.

Bake for 13-14 minutes. Let the cookies slightly cool on the baking sheet before you transfer them to a cooling rack. Store in an air-tight container or a paper bag.

Makes 14 cookies.

Decadent Chocolate Mousse… Just Like the Real Thing, but Healthier!

Who knew tofu was so versatile??  I’ve only known tofu used in savory dishes… soups, stews, baked, grilled, fried, stir-fried, and sauteed.  But I’ve never heard of its use in desserts.  Until recently, that is.  As I peruse through different recipes, mainly vegan and low-calorie recipes, I am amazed how it is the perfect substitute for all things dairy and such.  I’m all for substituting anything that calls for some sort of cream, shortening, butter, and eggs as I work on getting my health back in order.  Of course, the real thing is ALWAYS better, but these dessert recipes calling for silken tofu is a pretty darn good alternative.

I was a little skeptical at first when I came across this recipe.  I mean, how can chocolate mousse taste good with silken tofu?  Well, I certainly ate my words today.  I was afraid I was going to be able to taste the tofu, like I did when I made vegan cheesecake.  But I didn’t.  In fact, if someone had me try this without telling me it was made with tofu, I would have thought it was the real thing.  The chocolate and port really do a great job at masking the flavors of the tofu.

Decadent Chocolate Mousse (adapted from Veggiewala)

1 package (12.3 ounce) of silken tofu, drained
2.5 bars (1.65 ounces each) high quality dark chocolate (72% cacao)
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon almond milk
2 tablespoons port
½ cup sugar
1 banana, sliced (optional)

Puree the silken tofu in a food processor until extremely smooth.  It should be the consistency of yogurt.

In double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water, add in the chocolate bar, the cocoa powder, almond milk, water, and port. Stir together until just melted and smooth. Remove from heat and slowly add in the sugar, stirring until smooth. (The mixture will not look creamy and smooth until the sugar is added).

Fold the tofu into the chocolate mixture, and mix together until completely blended.  Pour into a serving bowl or individual ramekins and refrigerate at least one hour.  The chocolate-tofu mixture will thicken up once refrigerated.  Serve with sliced bananas.

Makes 4 servings.

Calories per serving: 340.

Shish Taouk – Lebanese Chicken Skewers

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Spring is here!  Maybe not officially, but it seems to have finally come.  My favorite time of the year has to be Spring, while Fall is a close second.  I love when the trees and flowers start to blossom around town, and throughout the countryside.  It’s absolutely beautiful, but it wreaks havoc on my seasonal allergies.  But hey, that’s what medications are for :)  Here, I go, getting off topic again.  Anyhow, the Spring time offers the perfect weather for outdoor activities, such as cycling, running, hiking, and gardening!  The only problem with spring is that summer is right around the corner, which means hot, dry desert weather.  It can get up to 115 degrees during the hottest part of the day during the summer months.  Blech.  The thought of it is nauseating.  But the great part of spring and summer is the longer days, and the endless time spent grilling anything and everything!

My grill has been on a hiatus since late fall.  I wish I could be an avid griller all year around, but I’m just not hearty enough to grill during the dead of winter.  And plus, it’s too dark to grill outdoors during the winter months.  I suppose I could buy some lighting accessories, but I guess I’m not THAT motivated.  Besides, that’s what the broiler setting is for!  Anyhow, the weather is supposed to be in the upper 60s during the day for the next few weeks.  So it was the perfect time to redo my drip irrigation system around the front and backyard, plant some vegetable seeds and starter vegetable plants, and cleaned the grill!  Yes.  It was a busy day for me.  But I was really excited because I got to fire up the grill to make chicken kabobs as left overs for pita sandwiches, wraps, and as a topping for my lebanese fattoush salad.  Winning.

Shish Taouk – Lebanese Chicken Skewers

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into large cubes
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon paprika
3/4 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, or to taste
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

In a small bowl, mix the minced garlic, yogurt, tomato paste, olive oil and lemon juice. Add in the dried spices, salt and pepper, and whisk together. Coat the chicken with the marinade and cover bowl. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours up to 8 hours. Any longer and you’ll have mushy chicken because the acidity of the lemon juice and Greek yogurt will “cook” or break down the texture of the chicken.

Thread chicken on skewers and grill or cook under a broiler. Grill the chicken over moderately high to high, or broil for about 5-7 minutes per side, flipping once, until you see visible char marks and the chicken is cooked through.

Makes 2 servings.

Baked Lemony Kale Chips… A Guilt-Free Pleasure.

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Chips are my one vice in life.  I love chips of all forms… tortilla chips,  potato chips, pita chips, corn chips, banana chips.  It can be fried, baked, or air-popped.  Whatever it is, just gimme!  It’s almost a requirement to have a bag of chips with a side of sandwich.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It’s almost a Pavlovian response to want chips with a sandwich.  In my very honest opinion, sandwiches just don’t taste as good without the crunchy texture from the chips.

My most absolute favorite type of chips are the Flamin’ Hot Limon-Flavored Cheetos.  Mmmmmmm.  Those really are the tastiest.  I had a small bag of these each day at work with my sandwich.  However, an hour or two after consuming the Cheetos, I was parched.  And to remedy this, I would drink a few glasses of water, and then I would balloon up from all the sodium!  Check this, one small snack bag of Flamin Hot Cheetos not only contains 330 calories, but it also has 380 mg of sodium.  I knew this.  I would remind myself of how bloated I was, and that I was no longer going to consume it thereafter.  But alas, I found myself the very next day at the cafeteria, purchasing a small snack bag of Flamin’ Hot Limon-Flavored Cheetos.  Such a vicious, addicting cycle.

When I started my diet, I cut out the Cheetos.  For good.  It was difficult, but I succeeded!  Unfortunately, I soon found myself wanting something crunchy with my sandwiches.  Someone at work showed me the way to barbecue-flavored Pop Chips.  I was hooked immediately.  This was my new addiction.  And they were “healthier” than the Cheetos… 120 calories for a small snack bag of Pop Chips with 250 mg of sodium.  It wasn’t the most ideal for my diet, but it was a great substitute that satiated my chips craving.

Well, I recently made a decision to wean myself from the Pop Chips.  I seem to wean myself from a lot of things, but I digress.  I’ve decided to stop consuming Pop Chips because I just don’t need to spend $1.50 per bag each day at work.  I just need to stop eating chips all together if I want to continue succeeding on my diet.  However, I knew I would fail myself, because I’ll always long for something crunchy with my sandwich or wrap.  Fortunately, I knew what was going to be a guilt-free, healthier and cheaper alternative… baked kale chips!

Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch kale, strip out the center core or stalk, tear kale into small pieces, washed and dried
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Whisk together the olive oil, and lemon lemon juice.

Toss in the dry kale and coat them evenly. Arrange the kale in a single layer of the baking tray. Season with sea salt.

Roast the kale for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are crispy. Turn the kale once or twice for even crisping.

Calories per 1 cup of baked kale chips: 60

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Sleeeeeeeeeeeepy. I can barely focus.  You know what’s worse than not being able to cook and practice food photography?  Restless, sleepless nights.  Ones where you don’t fall asleep at all.  Tossing and turning, keeping yourself entertained with your laptop, iPhone, or TV to pass time.  Trying to lay still to not stir anyone from their dreamy night by counting sheep, but your mind races with thoughts that don’t make sense so you can’t really focus on the sheep.  Wanting to try a hot cup of almond milk to soothe and calm yourself, but it’s too damn cold to get out of bed.

I’ve had a lot of those nights lately.  So what do I do to remedy that?  Prescription sleep pills.  Something I didn’t think I ever needed.  Ever.  I was and still am a light sleeper, but I never had problems falling and staying asleep until the last few years, but it’s only gotten worse.  I used to poke fun at friends who couldn’t sleep without a prescription sleep aid.  Karma sucks.  I finally broke down and asked my nurse practitioner for a prescription sleep aid.  I told myself it was only going to be for when I absolutely needed it… like trying to fall asleep, but after an hour of trying and failing, then I could take the pill.  But then it got to the point where I would anticipate possibly not falling asleep, so I used it as a crutch.

I’ve recently decided to wean myself from the prescription sleep aid, and the result of this is lack of sleep.  I think this is going to be a long, painful process of little to no sleep for a long time while my body adjusts to the change.  It’s very interesting how your body can adapt and change to something easily, but takes a long time to adjust back.

So while I lay sleepless the other night, I came across a recipe calling for roasted beets with a honey roast garlic dressing that looked mouthwatering.  I thought it was going to be a great recipe to adapt with all the red beets that I just purchased from the farmers market.

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette (adapted from No Recipes)

For roasting:
2 beets
1 head garlic, top cut off

For salad:
2 D’Anjou Pears, sliced into O’s, core ones with seeds, and then slice in half
3 cups of Mache salad
Blue Cheese
Candied Walnuts

For vinaigrette:
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. I usually like to double wrap mine in foil. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a little salt onto the garlic bulb, and wrap tightly in foil. Place both the beets and garlic on a baking sheet. Roast garlic for about 30-40 minutes, and beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

While the beets and garlic are roasting, prepare the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Once cool to handle, peel “skin” off the beets. Slice beets into 1/8-inch slices. Dress the beets with enough vinaigrette to coat in a separate bowl. Do not do this in the same bowl where the vinaigrette was prepared, or else you’ll have a purple dressing. But if that’s okay with you, then by all means, go for it!

To assemble the salad, place three slices of beets on a plate. Place three slices of the pears onto each slice of beet, with the round shape of the pear facing out. Lightly dress the mache lettuce with the vinaigrette, and place a handful on top of the beets and pears. Top with some crumbled blue cheese and candied walnuts. Repeat the same process for three more plates.

Makes 4 servings.

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