Farmer’s Market Citrus

28 Mar


No-Guilt Meringue Cookies

10 Dec

Bubble Gum & Peppermint Meringue Cookies

Ok so here’s the thing. I love sweets. I don’t care if it’s a tart, a slice of cake, cookies, candy or a hunk of chocolate. Just love it all. I have a secret obsession with vanilla bean ANYTHING, but I will take down a cup of rich, intense drinking chocolate like it’s my job. Since we are in the full swing of holiday season, there has been a lot of discussion amongst my friends and loved ones about the subject of dessert. For me, making the sweets portion of a meal is absolutely awesome (if I have the time). Needless to say I’m usually bringing dessert. But the funny thing is, I’m realizing that people are craving small bites of sweetness. It’s almost like they don’t have the time (or the room) for a slice of dessert after, cocktails, apps and dinner. So I decided to start making these awesome meringue cookies for dinner parties or family gatherings. It’s usually not the only thing I bring, but I find they are the perfect item to hold in your hand while sipping the last of your champagne.

The other thing I love about these little guys is that they can be flavored with anything. And I mean anything. The versions I made here were peppermint and bubble gum, but you can make classic vanilla, cocoa, citrus zest, cinnamon…hell even brown-sugar & bacon. It really doesn’t matter how you flavor them, just give them a whirl. Trust me, they’re sooooo easy.

Lastly, they are fat-free (aka guilt-free). The most basic bones of the recipe are egg whites, sugar, salt and cream of tartar. That’s it!! Of course you have the creative liberty to add whatever your heart desires. But honestly? Everyone has those 4 ingredients in their home. I promise, they’re simply awesome. No worries, you already have the ingredients in your kitchen.  So do yourself a favor and whip up a batch won’t you?


This is how your meringue peak should look!

No-Worries Meringue Cookies

makes approximately 60 cookies

3 large egg whites (at room temperature)

3/4 cup of sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of flavoring (vanilla extract, citrus zest, flavored oil or extracts)

1-2 drops of food coloring (optional)

  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
  • Combine the egg whites and the sugar in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir this mixture until the sugar dissolves and is warm, about 3-5 minutes. – I can tell it’s ready if the mixture is no longer grainy and when drizzled over my finger, it feels like my body temperature.
  • Pour the egg white-sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, and add the cream of tartar and salt. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until the mixture is stiff and glossy, about 7-10 minutes. (I like to stop the mixer around 7 minutes and detach the whisk. Turn it upside down and the peak of the meringue should stand up straight and just fold over at the tip. If not, continue whisking for 2 more minutes.) Whisk or stir in your flavoring and food coloring. If you want your meringues to look swirled, just barely stir in the food coloring (leave streaks-don’t fully incorporate it). Otherwise you can make colored cookies by fully stirring the coloring in.
  • Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets. Fill a piping bag (or large Ziploc) with the meringue mixture. Pipe 1 1/2 inch circular rounds about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake the meringues until crisp on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.


Kale and Flax Doggie Treats

14 Nov

Before baking!

I always seem to have leftover kale in my fridge. If you took an unannounced picture of my refrigerator’s content once a week, kale would be a consistent member. I’d like to say, we eat it as quickly as I buy it, but I would be lying to you. We don’t. I try my damnedest to incorporate it into as much as possible. But after days of chicken (and kale) enchiladas or yet another soup featuring the perky green,  I start to get bored. There is someone in our household who happens to adore kale though. He will even eat it totally raw and practically beg me for it. Crazy I know. Honestly, if it wasn’t for our dog Pete, I would forever feel guilt about the wilting kale sitting in the corner of the fridge. Thanks to him, we don’t have to worry about that.


Pete beggin’ for a Kale Treat

So to return the favor, I decided to make him some homemade doggie treats. This is something I really enjoy doing for the little guy. To tell you the truth, I don’t think the ingredients in those store-bought dog treats are all that fresh or wholesome…but I could be wrong. It’s just a wild guess. With that being said, I like the fact that I can create snacks for him, with a minimum of ingredients and freshness guaranteed. I wonder if I will be this crazy with my human babies? Only time will tell. I digress.

So there I am staring at a bunch of languishing kale in my fridge and I ask myself out loud “What am I gonna do with this kale?” I notice Pete’s ears perk up at the question. So I said to him “Kale?” and he sits up. Now I usually talk to Pete while I’m cooking. It’s really so I can get away with talking to myself while I cook (which I do often) and my neighbors won’t think I’m crazy. Besides, Pete is usually at the edge of the kitchen, waiting for me to toss him a kale leaf or for a rogue piece of carrot to fall. This little guy loves veggies, which is good because Mike and I could survive on pasta and potatoes if we really needed to – not that we would, that wouldn’t be healthy at all.

Now we all feel good, because there are no greens in the trash, Pete has a treat he loves, and Mike and I don’t have to eat scrambled eggs with kale in the morning. I decided to incorporate one of my pup’s favorite veggies into a crunchy treat that I can feel really good about feeding him. All the ingredients are very good for dogs and most likely better for them than a Beggin’Strip. Just sayin’.


Kale and Flax Doggie Treats

makes about 100 treats (I made mine bite-sized but if you cut larger treats this recipe would yield less)

1/4 cup hot water

1 package dry yeast

1 1/2 cups kale juice (I make my own by blending 1 bunch of kale in a blender with 4 cups water)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups wheat germ

1 cup oat flour (I make my own by processing rolled oats in a food processor until powdery)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the water and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Add the kale juice, all-purpose flour, wheat germ, oat flour and whole wheat flour. Mix well until combined (dough will be very stiff). Dump the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper. Place another sheet on top of the dough and roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut the dough using a pizza wheel or sharp knife into desired shape. Prick holes into the tops of the treats with the tines of a fork. (You can skip this step, if so your treats will not be flat, they will puff up like little pillows!).

Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through cooking. Turn the oven off and leave the sheets inside to dry-out the treats, about an hour. Once dried-out, pack in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.

(No-Butter) Meyer Lemon Pound Cake Muffins

13 Nov


I am not a breakfast eater by any means. I know it’s the frowned-upon meal to miss, but I simply would rather have those extra minutes of sleep (sorry, what can I say).  Usually coffee is even too much work in the morning, which is why Mike usually ends up making it. He makes a better cup of coffee than I do anyway, and for that I am extremely grateful -I repeat, I am not a morning person. Needless to say, I love all breakfast foods. Waffles, bacon, eggs, oatmeal, bacon, pancakes, croissants, BACON; you get the picture. So when I’m heading out the door in the morning, it just makes sense to have a little something to nibble on during my drive to work. I like something portable, slightly sweet and just filling enough. Because after all, I have to eat something or else I get light-headed and awfully cranky.

I love pound cakes for this very reason. They are not overly sweet and perfect with morning coffee or tea. I only have one issue, okay maybe two but we’ll get to the other in a second. Most pound cake recipes I’ve come across contain an insane amount of butter, which always makes me feel kinda guilty about my go-to breakfast. Don’t get me wrong. I love butter. I was the kid who would stick my finger into softened butter on the counter and lick it off. Ask my mom, I’m sure she remembers. I hope not. Anyway, I’ve come up with an interesting alternative. I have substituted fat-free greek yogurt and (heart-healthy) olive oil for the butter. I loved the result.


Okay, now my next point of contention. I love the look of a traditional pound cake loaf. And by all means, if you’re having guests over for breakfast or brunch, bake it in a loaf pan. It sure looks pretty. But like I said, I need something portable that I can eat on the run. The problem with a slice of pound cake is that I always end up having to wrap it in a napkin and when I’m on the go, I always end up losing a corner of the cake to my lap, bottom of my car, or the sidewalk. And I want to enjoy every inch of my homemade treat. I guess when I’m in my car I’m a tad messy.  So I decided to bake these muffin style. That way I can peel a little of the paper back and eat my way through that baby. And the paper liner catches the crumbs for me, which makes the crevices of my car seats much tidier.

So if you’re like me, go ahead and try these lovelies. I promise they’ll get you through to lunch without any guilt or shame. I know without a doubt that the combination of fruity olive oil and fragrant meyer lemon zest is a sure way to jump-start your taste buds for the day. Plus these pound cakes contain yogurt, so they’re healthy right? Right.

No-Butter Meyer Lemon Pound Cake MuffinsIMG_0916

makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon meyer lemon zest (can substitute regular lemon)

3/4 cup fat-free greek yogurt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

For the Glaze (Optional):

1 meyer lemon zested and juiced

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. (If baking in a standard loaf pan, coat with non-stick cooking spray).

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl to combine. In a large bowl add the sugar, meyer lemon zest, greek yogurt, olive oil, vanilla extract and eggs. Whisk well to combine. Add the dry ingredients all at once. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in dry ingredients until just combined. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full. (If using a loaf pan, pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top).

Bake until the tops are lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. (If baking in a loaf pan, bake until golden brown, until a toothpick comes out clean, about 50 minutes).  Let cakes cool on a wire rack.

To Glaze:

Whisk together the meyer lemon zest, juice, and powdered sugar. The mixture will be thick, but if it needs to be thinned you can add a few drops of water. Pour a spoonful of glaze over the cakes and allow to run down the sides and set up.

9 Jul

Some food for thought…

anna brones

Originally published here.

An organic dinner of farm raised ingredients. A table full of jovial guests and local wine. A summer night to appreciate good food and where it comes from. There’s a lot of talk about farm-to-table, and most of us living in high paced atmospheres have a tendency to romanticize pastoral images of happy cows and organic tomato plants. “If only I could be a farmer,” we think, forgetting the hardships that go into devoting a life to agricultural production. But part of having a better appreciation for what we eat, means having a better connection to where it comes from, and at the simplest level, that means eating there.

That’s the idea behind Plate & Pitchfork, an Oregon based business that helps people have a better of understanding of food and where it comes from, by serving it to them in the same place that…

View original post 705 more words

Stress-Free Chicken Dish

8 Jul

If you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal, try this chicken recipe. A pan-seared chicken breast topped with a versatile fresh salsa is the perfect solution to getting dinner on the table in a flash.

The great thing about this recipe is that the chicken can be swapped out for thin pork chops or even lamb chops. The method I’m using for the chicken is a pan-sear, but you could just as easily grill it (outdoors or in), whatever works for you. As for the salsa, I’m using red grapes, as we have a great selection currently in California, but try swapping

green grapes, cherries or even pomegranate seeds when in season. Feel free to change up the ingredients to your liking. Dig a little heat? Add some thinly sliced red or green chiles. Want to add cheese? Any dry, crumbly, salty cheese such as feta, cotija, halloumi, or ricotta salata would be a beautiful addition. Even the herbs are a toss up. Tarragon instead of cilantro would enhance the licorice flavor of the fennel; if you’re like me you likely have fresh parsley in the fridge at all times, add it in!

Of course the original recipe is sweetly satisfying…just as is.

Seared Chicken Breasts with Red Grape-Fennel Salsa

Serves 4

1 large bulb of fennel, green stalks removed

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

2 green onions, finely sliced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 teaspoons honey

salt and pepper to taste

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Cut the fennel in half through the core, then separate each layer. Slice each layer into strips, then cut the strips into small chunks. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the fennel and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer fennel to a bowl and add the grapes, green onions, cilantro, lemon zest and juice, and honey. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while you cook the chicken.

Place one chicken breast flat on a cutting board. Place your knife parallel to the cutting board with the blade in the center of thickest mass of the breast. With long, slow strokes, slice the chicken into two equal pieces. Now you should have 2 thin breasts, from one thick breast. (Keep practicing this technique, once you have it down, it will save you cooking time and money! – Of course you can just ask your butcher to halve the breasts for you.) Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until very hot. Season your halved chicken breasts with salt and pepper and pan sear each breast, until golden brown on the first side, about 5 minutes (don’t turn the meat over until you have a nice golden brown color and it releases on its own). Flip and sear on the second side until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let rest, loosely covered for a few minutes. Serve the chicken topped with the reserved salsa and enjoy!

Salsa Ingredients

Dinner Party with the “Cooking Cuties”

26 Jun

One of the things I have learned that I love most about my job is being able to talk about food everyday. I work for a culinary event company in Redondo Beach, California called Simple Gourmet. We cater parties, host culinary team building events and my favorite, teach cooking classes. It is so fulfilling to spend an evening discussing food, demystifying techniques, creating delicious meals and meeting new friends. In the beginning of the year, I taught a Cooking Fundamentals course, which met every Wednesday for five weeks, and was introduced to four lovely women who were enrolled in my course. At the end of our five-week time together, Pam, Denise, Irene, Cathy and I had exchanged emails and planned to continue to meet up for a dinner party one Wednesday of every month to continue our cooking adventures together. Well, our first dinner party (dubbed Cooking Cuties) was last Wednesday and our theme was Mexican cuisine. We met up at Pam’s beautiful beach cottage, and began the night with cool and refreshing margaritas. We were so excited to see each other and catch up on life and especially eat! Denise brought steaks which she seasoned with a Southwestern spice blend and grilled them on a cast-iron stove top grill pan. She made a bright & colorful salsa (with perfectly uniform knife cuts!) to serve over the top. Irene brought all the fixing for shrimp tacos and I have to say her homemade tomatillo salsa was seasoned perfectly! My favorite dish of the night was Cathy’s Mexican Corn on the Cob which was the perfect mixture of spicy, buttery and salty. She even gave a great tip: Grate the Cotija cheese instead of the usual crumbling, it adheres to the corn more easily (brilliant!). For dessert I made a Cinnamon-Sugar Puff filled with Mexican Chocolate Mousse and Tequila Cherries. It has all the flavors of a Mexican dessert in one dish. I’m so excited to see what the “Cooking Cuties” will whip up at our next dinner party. I was so proud of all the girls. Their confidence in the kitchen had grown so much and I know they will continue to take risks and have fun creating memories in their kitchens. In the meantime,  if you’re in the mood for a Mexican inspired dessert, here’s the recipe!

Cinnamon-Sugar Puff stuffed with Mexican Chocolate Mousse & Tequila Cherries

Serves 6

For the Puff: 1 sheet of puff pastry, very cold

3 tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons of melted butter

For the Mousse:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 large eggs, (whites and yolks separated)

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup heavy cream, very cold

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

For the cherries:

1 pound of fresh cherries, pitted

1/2 cup tequila

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves (if you have them!)

To make the Puffs: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut rounds of dough and place onto a greased cookie sheet. Brush each round with melted butter. In a small bowl, stir together the cinnamon and sugar to combine. Using your fingers, sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar liberally over the rounds. Pop the sheet into the freezer for  5 minutes (you want the pastry to be very cold when it goes into the oven- the heat from the oven & the cold butter create steam and that’s what gives you a beautiful puff!) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.

To make the Mousse: In a microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate & butter and warm until melted (stopping to check and stir every 10 seconds). Remove from the microwave and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until pale yellow in color and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Slowly whisk the chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking vigorously until incorporated. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form (you can check this by lifting the beater out of the whites and turning it toward the ceiling, if the tip of the whites bends back down, you have soft peaks.) Gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar  & cinnamon, and continue beating until you reach stiff peaks (the egg whites will stand straight up when the beater is turned upside down.) In a chilled bowl, beat the heavy cream until it begins to thicken. Add the 2 remaining tablespoons sugar  and the extracts and continue beating until the cream holds soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the whipped cream gently. Scoop into a resealable bag and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the Cherries: Combine the pitted cherries, tequila, brown sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves in a small pot. Cook over medium heat until the cherries have released some liquid and the tequila becomes slightly syrupy, about 12-15 minutes.

To assemble the Puffs: Using a small paring knife, pierce a small hole into the side of each puff. Snip a small hole in the corner of the resealable bag and pipe the chocolate mousse into each puff. Top with the tequila cherries and enjoy!