Category Archives: Snacks

Parmesan Baked Tomatoes

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The frost is almost upon us!  That means it’s time to harvest the herbs!

I work at The Celtic Cup Coffee House in the small town of Tullahoma, Tennessee.  I don’t have my own herb garden, but The Celtic Cup does.  I love getting to use the fresh herbs when I bake quiches, casseroles, and savory scones.

Today I harvested all the basil for the winter months.  If you’ve never processed herbs before, you probably think it’s really complicated.  At least, that’s what I used to think.  I know there are a couple different ways to do it.  Drying herbs actually does take a while, so I prefer freezing them.  I think it preserves the flavors better, too.  It’s really a lot easier and faster than I imagined.  All you have to do is snip the entire plant, wash, pluck the leaves, and freeze  on a towel-lined sheet pan.  After about half an hour, the leaves should be stiff enough to store in a plastic freezer bag for the winter.  It’s that simple!


While we’re on the subject of basil, last week I made some delicious parmesan baked tomatoes.  I love how all the local markets are just bursting with fresh fruits and veggies from the garden this time of year.  I bought some beautiful plump red tomatoes and thought I would get creative.  All they needed was some leftover basil pesto and a hearty sprinkle of cheese.  Voila! Parmesan baked tomatoes! So fast and simple, but delicious and comforting.  They taste like pizza!  You can make them as a side dish or just a healthy snack.

I’m not religiously gluten free or anything, but I think I feel better when I stay away from bread.  So, to accompany the tomatoes, I baked some chicken and made fresh broccoli salad.  This broccoli salad was at my friend’s wedding last weekend.  It was so good I had to make it for myself.

Together it was the perfect guilt free/gluten free dinner!  It only takes about 30 minutes to make, so I hope this meal will find it’s way into your week as a tasty and stress free option!

Abby Hughes

Parmesan Baked Tomatoes
 
Prep time
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A quick and tasty side dish or snack.
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 12 slices
Ingredients
  • 3 ripe medium tomatoes
  • ½ cup basil pesto
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 415 degrees.
  2. Thick slice the tomatoes and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan
  3. Spread about a tablespoon (more or less to taste) of basil pesto on each slice.
  4. Bake for about 8 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and broil on high until the cheese is lightly browned (about 4 minutes).
  6. Enjoy!

 

 

Broccoli Salad
 
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A light brunch or dinner side.
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 medium red onion
  • ½ c. Craisins (dried cranberries)
  • ½ c. roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
Dressing
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • ¼ c. white distilled vinegar
  • ½ c. mayo
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
Instructions
  1. Chop broccoli and cauliflower into small bite-sized pieces.
  2. Small dice red onion.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, mayo, salt, and pepper.
  4. Add chopped broccoli, cauliflower, onion, craisins, and sunflower seeds.
  5. Toss to coat all ingredients.
  6. Enjoy!

Vegan Dark Chocolate

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This is my initiation post, so I thought it would be fitting to share a couple of things about myself.  First of all, I really like eating healthy.  I love working out and running and eating well because it makes me feel good.  Second, I REALLY love chocolate.  Especially DARK chocolate.  Almost anything with chocolate in it is irresistible to me.  I think most of my teeth are sweet teeth.


You may think these two loves are contradictory.  For a long time, I did too.  But do they have to be???  I’ve recently been learning a lot about nutrition from my boyfriend, Tim.  He’s a personal trainer who is way more committed to eating healthy than any sane person should be. But, he showed me that one of the keys to a healthy diet is making sure you get enough of the “good” fats. WHAAAAAAT??? There are good fats!?!?  Good fats are like a fun little diet cheat code.  There are even some diets that require you to eat a tablespoon of oil twice a day… it’s pretty gross, don’t try it. Anyway, healthy fat is found in things like avocados, coconut oil, olives, and nuts.   I think fat gets a bad rap because of it’s unfortunate name. But, contrary to popular belief, fat doesn’t make you fat!  When used in moderation, it can actually aid in weight loss! Maybe we should rename it “phat” so people will think it’s cool again.  Really the only two things you need to be cautious about is making sure it’s the right kind of fat (not the grease dripping off your pizza, unfortunately), and to regulate the amount (because it is calorie dense, but still crucial to a healthy diet).

So, one day I remembered this recipe from my good friend, Mr. Fleisher. Back when I was in college, he would make me this heavenly freezer chocolate.  The only ingredients are coconut oil, cocoa powder (antioxidants), and a little bit of honey! It occurred to me… that fits my macros!  It’s a great way to get healthy fat in my diet AND curb my abundant chocolate cravings!

It’s a super simple recipe with just 4 ingredients that you probably already have. Plus, it’s easy to adjust amounts because it works off ratios!  People are always saying “try this recipe, it’s THE BEST.”  But they just say that.  THIS ONE REALLY IS THE BEST!  If you like chocolate, you have to try it.  That is all.  If you don’t try it, it really doesn’t affect me.  But I just always have this in my freezer and I think it could easily be a staple for your family too.  🙂

Between my brother and me, chocolate doesn’t last long at our house.

Before I give you the map to paradise (aka, the recipe), just a few things.  You can easily change the sweetness by adjusting the honey.  It won’t effect the chocolate setting up.  If you like it dark, add less honey.  If you don’t like bitter chocolate, add more! — it’s that simple.

I usually make a 1-1-0.25 ratio of coconut oil, cocoa powder, and honey.  That is sweet enough for most dark chocolate lovers.  However, I believe the original recipe was a 1-1-1 ratio (very sweet).  If you aren’t sure where you fall, I would recommend making a smallish amount the first time for a taste test.

The second thing is that you can get creative with the flavorings!  It’s fun to add sliced almonds or chopped pecans, and you don’t have to use boring old vanilla.  If you want to get really crazy, there are a plethora of flavors to choose from!  Orange, Baileys, Jack, caramel… just use your imagination.

Finally, I would LOVE to see someone try this recipe in a cute little mold! Someday I’m going to grow up, get fancy, and invest in some nice molds, but for now I’ll eat chocolate no matter what shape it’s in.  However, if you are one of those “Pinterest Perfect” people that I envy,  PLEASE send a picture or leave a comment of the mold you use!  I know you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as I have!

 Abby Hughes

Vegan Dark Chocolate
 
Prep time
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A delightful not-too-sweet treat to always keep on hand.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert, Snack
Serves: 15 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 TB vanilla
Instructions
  1. Line two sheet pans with wax paper or parchment.
  2. Melt the coconut oil over low heat just until almost melted.
  3. Whisk the honey into the coconut oil for about a minute until the honey is warm and all the coconut oil is melted and well mixed. Take off heat [if it gets too hot it will get grainy (seize)].
  4. Whisk in the cocoa powder and vanilla.
  5. Pour chocolate onto the prepared sheet to evenly distribute into a thin sheet.
  6. Freeze on a level shelf until the chocolate is set. Break into pieces and store in a sealed container in the freezer.
  7. Enjoy!
Notes
Also works well in cute little molds, but I really like the texture and melt-in-your-mouth effect of the thin chips.

 

 

 

Homemade Cheese Balls with Crushed Pecans

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Cheese Ball Crackers Plated

I haven’t ever made a cheese ball before now. Sigh. I know – crazy huh?  I had company coming and thought some cheese and crackers would be nice upon their arrival since it was too late for lunch and too early for dinner.  When I stopped by the cheese ball counter at my local grocery store  there was one.  One cheese ball. Take it or leave it.  Cheddar.  I picked it up and on the way to the basket my eyes fell upon the ingredient list.  There were a zillion ingredients I couldn’t even name, and no sign  of  “cheese”?

That was it.  I decided to make my own cheese ball, with … cheese!


But wait there’s more! Click to continue reading

Almonds, Sometimes I Feel Like A Nut

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20100916almondsFor five years the Chief and I lived in a rural and agricultural area of California.  We lived in a small town of Kerman about 25 miles outside of Fresno.  The town is surrounded by vineyards and almond orchards. Neither the Chief nor I knew much about how almonds were grown until we lived there but we quickly discovered the United States is the largest producer of almonds in the world.  In 2013 the U.S. produced 80% of the world’s almonds!

Almond Orchard
Almond Orchard

California has often been called the breadbasket of the world. In fact, the California Department of Food and Agriculture notes that California is the world’s fifth largest supplier of food and agriculture commodities. Living in central California I can attest to driving miles and miles and the only view was food being grown as far as the eye can see.  It is really quite amazing!

But the almond tree caught me by surprise.  First, the locals say “a-mond” as if the “l” is silent.  In the Midwest we are a little nutty and say “all-mond”.  My speech always gave away I wasn’t a local!  Add in my husband’s slightly southern twang … and you get “aaaa-mond”!

Almond Tree in Bloom by jeffwalker.wordpress.com
Almond Tree in Bloom by jeffwalker.wordpress.com

“I said to the almond tree,
‘Sister, speak to me about God,’
and the almond tree blossomed.”

Greco, famed Greek-born Spanish painter

The almond tree has lovely blossoms and were a sign to me that spring had sprung.  However, I must say my biggest surprise came in the fall when the trees are harvested.  Let me put it this way – there is a lot of shakin’ going on!sweet-almond-mandaline-300x300Machines move through the rows of almond trees mechanically and fiercely shaking the tree causing the almonds to fall to the ground. The nuts are raked into windrows and allowed to dry naturally.

PikiWiki_Israel_7025_Amond_blossomHarvesting was my least favorite part of the almond growing cycle because the process fills the air with a dull-driving sound of the machinery and dust from the process billows for miles around.  This is the time I had to close up my windows and just wait it out.

But oh the end product … so tasty, healthy, and wonderful to use in baking.  Did you know Almonds are actually stone fruits related to cherries, plums and peaches?

I like almonds for the simple fact they are very good for me.  I’ve inherited high cholesterol and almonds are believed to help lower cholesterol, help reduce heart attack risk, help build strong healthy bones and teeth and a whole lot more!
crushed almondsRecently I tossed a whole big bag of almonds into my food processor and let ‘em go.  I ended up with these tiny chopped nuggets of nutrition.  Here are just a few recipes we sprinkle with almond goodness.

healthified baked oatmealBaked oatmeal is a staple at our house! Sprinkling in some chopped almond really give this already healthy dish an even bigger boost.

granola panfulAdding slivered almonds to my homemade baked granola is a no-brainer.

Granola bowlThe nuts stay crunchy and really enhance the flavor of the granola.

Nuts can be pretty expensive depending where you buy them.  I always buy in bulk and have found nuts.com to have an excellent selection for good value.  Click HERE to check them out!

Scripture cake panfulAlmonds are a must-have in my Scripture Cake.
The Bible has a lot to say about almonds.  You can find many scripture references to the blossoms and the nuts, including this one.

They are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—Ecclesiastes 12:5

 Sometimes I feel like a nut … and I always keep almonds, pecans, and walnuts handy for the moment!

Happy Baking!
~Catherine

A few fun facts and health benefits of almonds can be found here:

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-health-benefits-of-almonds-king-of-nuts.html

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