chocolate almond yogurt loaf cake.

I was in the rare mood to bake recently, and since I’m trying to eat healthy, I decided to make this as a gift. You see, my aunt recently passed away unexpectedly, so I thought I would make something to take over to my grandparents. Food is such a comfort to many of us, and since I know my grandparents (my grandmother in particular) are dessert people, I thought this was the perfect opportunity. Hello, chocolate almond cake.

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Although it is 2016, I STILL bake with all manual tools; i.e., no fancy mixer for this girl! Give me a bowl, a spatula, and my arms, and I’m good to go! A mixer would probably make my life easier, but because I don’t do a whole lot of baking, I just can’t justify. Yet.

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If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while or have perused the (admittedly skimpy) desserts sections, you’ll know how much I love a pound-inspired cake. I say pound-inspired because I rarely if ever cook a true pound cake. That would be a super special indulgence! This cake is rich and have an unexpected flavor boost from the addition of the almond extract. If you don’t like or can’t eat almonds, simply swap out for vanilla or a flavoring extract of your choice! Peppermint, raspberry… let your imagine run wild! You could even add in nuts to the batter of this cake if you wanted, I just decided to keep it simple this time. Serve with an espresso and a good book. Delectable!

chocolate almond yogurt loaf cake.
adapted from epicurious.com. 

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ingredients
1 3/4 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened dutch processed cocoa powder
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (white is also fine)
1 cup plain 2% greek style yogurt
1/3 cup brewed coffee, cold or at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 eggs
1/3 cup blanched, sliced almonds – optional

directions
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray, then dust with cocoa powder, shaking to remove excess.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Whisk yogurt with coffee and almond extract in another bowl and set aside. Beat butter with sugar in a large bowl using a whisk (or an electric mixer at medium speed) until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, whisking or beating after each addition. Add half of flour mixture. Add yogurt mixture, then remaining flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Batter will be very thick.

Transfer batter to pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

Makes one loaf. Serves 6.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible** 

raw corn + grilled zucchini quinoa with smoky lime vinaigrette.

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This salad is so simple and perfect for hot late summer days. It makes an amazingly simple dinner, and is even better the next day for lunch. I like this both warm and at room temperature. The salad is both gluten free and vegan, but if you wanted to add some additional protein, I think grilled shrimp would be divine.

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I didn’t even cook the corn for this, I simply cut it off the cob and added it to the bowl. If you prefer, you can cook the corn, but I love the simplicity of sweet, raw corn. I also thought the juxtaposition of the grilled zucchini and raw corn was just lovely.

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The vinaigrette really takes this over the top though. The dressing gets some smokiness from the cumin, but we’re going to up the ante by grilling the limes. Yes! The squeezed juice will retain some of that smoky, caramelized flavor and will punctuate the finished dressing. Only a minute or two is needed on the grill (or grill pan!).

raw corn and grilled zucchini quinoa salad with smoky lime vinaigrette. 

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ingredients
2 cups cooked quinoa
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cobs
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

dressing:
1-2 limes, grilled (see note below); 3 tablespoons of juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

directions
Preheat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Lightly brush olive oil onto zucchini slices. Grill 2 minutes per side, oiled side down first. Oil the other side. Once barely tender, remove from heat. Slice down the middle vertically, and then rotate, cutting the slices into 1/2 inch pieces.

While the zucchini is grilling, cut the lime(s) in half. Grill the lime, cut side down, for 1 minute per side. Remove and juice the grilled lime halves. (*I had a very juicy lime, so one lime yielded more than enough juice).

Once you’ve juiced the limes, make the dressing. In a blender, add the lime juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, sea salt and pepper. Turn the blender on, and stream in olive oil until well combined.

In a large bowl, add the cooked quinoa, raw corn, grilled zucchini, cilantro, salt and pepper. Pour 2/3 of the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. Taste, and add the rest of the dressing if needed. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.

Serves 4 as a side.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

green beans with roasted bell peppers.

This recipe just epitomizes summer to me. Easy, fast, fresh and bursting with flavors, thanks to local vegetables, adorned simply with good olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. That’s it. An incredibly simple side dish that is sure to become a mainstay on your dinner table, just like it is on mine.

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The most difficult part of this recipe is the blanching of the beans. You want to cook them until they are crisp tender, and then shock them in ice water, immediately stopping the cooking process. Once they are cool, you toss with the roasted peppers and onions and season with an extra drizzle of olive oil and pepper. So. Easy.

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This is great for a summer potluck or picnic, as it’s equally good warm or at room temperature.

green beans with roasted bell peppers.
barely adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris.

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ingredients
1.5 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 sweet onion, large dice
1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
1 red bell pepper, large dice
sea salt
black pepper
2.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the ice bath. In a large bowl, fill with cold water and 3-4 cups of ice. Once water is boiling, add green beans and blanch for about 4 minutes. Remove from pot and plunge into the ice bath, stirring to make sure all bean are submerged. Once they are cool, remove and drain.

Arrange the peppers and onions on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper until seasoned to your liking. Mix together until they are well combined. Roast for 12-15 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Remove from oven.

In a large bowl, gently toss the green beans and the peppers and onions together; drizzle with remaining one tablespoon of oil. Season with extra salt and/or pepper if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**

 

kale + pineapple green smoothie (my favorite!).

I’ve been over indulging myself recently. On a recent trip to Boston, I lived on lobster, wine, lobster, bourbon, and lobster. And octopus. Which was AMAZING. I didn’t want to leave. Then when I got home, it was a dreary and rainy day, so I made one of my most favorite comfort foods, homemade marinara sauce and ate that with copious amounts of warm crusty bread. Delicious. Who needs pasta? Not this girl — I am content to dip my bread in red gravy that has simmered all afternoon.

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Despite all of that delicious and wonderful indulgence, I knew I needed to get back on track. My favorite way to do so also happens to be my go-to breakfast every day: my favorite green smoothie. Full of super healthy ingredients? Check. Vegan and gluten free? Check. Filling? Check! Now, I understand green smoothies aren’t for everyone, but I love the bright, intense green color of the finished smoothie. It’s vibrant and I feel great just looking at it! Luckily for me (and you!) it tastes as good as it looks!

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Now, I love love love fresh ginger, so I usually add in about an inch long piece. It does make the finished smoothie have a bit of a spicy bite to it, so scale back according to your preferences. Fresh ginger is so good for you, and has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties. Combine that with the intensely hydrating cucumber, kale that is chock full of vitamin K, and pineapple is an incredible source of vitamin C and manganese, and this is as healthy as it is delicious!

green kale + pineapple smoothie. 

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ingredients
2 cups curly kale
1 frozen banana, sliced
3/4- 1 cup frozen pineapple
1/4 English cucumber, sliced
1/2-1 inch piece ginger
3-5 mint leaves (optional)
1/2 -1 cup water (I err on the side of 1/2 cup, as I like my smoothies thick)
1 tablespoon flax seeds

directions
Combine all ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend on low for 20-30 seconds, and then on high for 1-2 minutes, or until smooth and well combined. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Makes one generous serving, or two regular sized servings.

**Please use all organic ingredients**

 

 

pineapple cucumber agua fresca.

It’s the last day of July, and the hot and steamy weather seems to be here to stay. Since (week)daytime drinking is most likely frowned upon where you live and work, how about a delicious and refreshing aqua fresca to cool you off?

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Aqua fresca is Spanish for “fresh water”, meaning any water that is flavored with fruit, herbs and a simple syrup or other sweetener. This take on it should be incredibly tart due to the pineapple and lemon, but it is tamed by the cooling vegetal taste of the cucumber, resulting in an incredibly mellow and soothing drink that will cool you off on days that are chokingly hot.

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Make sure to refrigerate this after straining, as the flavors are ideal served ice cold. It’s wonderful as is, but I think it’s even better topped with sparkling water. To make this adult-friendly, try adding some light rum or tequila, garnished with some fresh pineapple. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.🙂

pineapple cucumber agua fresca.
from Family Table cookbook. 

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ingredients
2.5 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
2 cups fresh pineapple (frozen, thawed will also work)
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water, plus 2.5 tablespoons

directions
To make the simple syrup: combine the sugar and 5 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and cool.

Working in batches, puree the pineapple and cucumbers with 4 cups of cold water, the simple syrup, lemon juice, and salt in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher or bowl and refrigerate.

This pairs nicely with rum or tequila. For a kid-friendly/non-alcoholic option, serve as is, or top with sparkling water.

Makes 3 cups. Keeps for 3-4 days in refrigerator.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**

spinach + strawberry salad.

As mentioned in the previous post, today’s recipe is dedicated to my favorite way to serve this luscious poppyseed dressing.

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I hesitate to even call this a ‘recipe’. A quick search on Google will show you a plethora of spinach berry salads, but for good reason! They are so, so delicious and seasonal.

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Strawberries out of season? No problem! Simply substitute blueberries, blackberries, or even peaches! Don’t like almonds? Simply use walnuts or pecans. What I’m trying to say is that this is incredibly flexible to suit your taste buds and pantry items. I like to add cool cucumbers to offset the sharp onions, and some shredded carrots to complement the sweet and ripe strawberries.

The combo of tender spinach, berries and that sweet and tangy dressing is a beloved classic for a reason.

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All tossed together with the dressing and ready to devour.

spinach + strawberry salad.

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ingredients
4 cups baby spinach
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup raw almonds, sliced
1/4 cup cucumbers, sliced into half-moons
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup carrots, shredded
sea salt and pepper to taste
poppyseed dressing

directions
In a large bowl, add all salad ingredients, and spoon over some dressing (two tablespoons is plenty for me, but I like my salads lightly dressed). Toss gently and serve immediately. That’s it!

Serves 2 for a main dish salad.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**

vegan poppyseed dressing.

I’ve been in a bit of a salad dressing rut. As much I love my tried and true balsamic vinaigrette and super simple drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar, I’ve been craving something different for my salads. I brought home a huge box of baby spinach last week with the intent of switching up my green smoothies from my usual kale (a girl’s gotta have some variety!). Soon I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to consume the entire box in smoothie form before it went bad, and the need for spinach salads was born. I usually only eat spinach salads in restaurants (for no good reason other than I’m a creature of habit), but upon making one, I decided that the tender leaves needed a dressing all their own.

I was reminded of an absolutely delicious poppyseed dressing that my aunt used to make and bring to every Christmas Day dinner when I was growing up. She mixed it with pears, oranges, cheese and romaine lettuce, but I was in love with that dressing. Sweet, but not cloying, and thick enough to lightly coat each salad ingredient. Yum! I decided to recreate it.

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Upon doing some research, I found that many recipes included mayonnaise or some yogurt to thicken and provide a creaminess. I’m no stranger to yogurt-based dressings, but I wanted to keep this dressing lighter and more acidic so it wouldn’t overwhelm the spinach. I think we have a winner! This is thinner and lighter than you’d usually expect from poppyseed dressing, but that unmistakable sweet flavor is there. I used a blend of red wine and regular ol’ white vinegar for this, but you can definitely use white wine or champagne vinegar in place of the white.

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This is perfect over tender baby spinach. Look out for my favorite way to use it in the next post!

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A sneak peek of the salad!

vegan poppyseed dressing.
adapted from culinaryhill.com.

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ingredients
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white vinegar (can substitute white wine vinegar)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1.5 teaspoons poppyseeds
1 tablespoon sweet onion, grated (or approximately 1/2 inch piece tossed in whole)

directions
Combine everything but oil in a blender or food processor. With the blender on low/medium, remove the top of the blender and slowly stream in the oil until well combined.

Transfer dressing to a jar or container with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**