Quick and Easy Energy Bites

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How was everyone’s Labor Day holiday? I hope it was fun and/or relaxing. We didn’t do much this year. Had a typical day around the house, but made it a point to relax some and we grilled a little bit too. Also, decided to meal prep a bit for the work. I made a Thai curry soup with rice noodles. It was pretty good, but no one else ate it. I’m more of the soup person at our house. I love soups, even in summer! Only downside to me being the only soup person in the house is that I typically end up making way more than I will consume. I need to check into freezing some of my soups and see how they turn out.

My daughter also found a recipe on how to make brown sugar lemonade. So, she made that with little help from me. She was pretty amazed at how many lemons it actually takes to make lemonade. It was cute 🙂

I decided I needed to prep some snacks for work. These little energy bites are delish and easy to throw together. Also, you can easily customize them to your liking which I really dig. My son likes these a lot, but my daughter doesn’t like chocolate or coconut so these are on her “no” list. You could opt out of the chocolate drizzle, but I think it compliments these well. Perhaps I will try with a non-chocolate drizzle next time.

Also, if you want to make these vegan you can sub out the honey for agave or maple syrup and use Enjoy Life chocolate chips. Nut allergy? No prob! Sub out the nut butter for sunbutter. Easy peasy 😉

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Ingredients

  • 1 Cup old fashion oats
  • 1/2 Cup of nut butter (I used all natural peanut butter)
  • 2 T honey or (agave or pure maple syrup)
  • 2 T unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Drizzle:

  • 1/4 Cup dark chocolate chips (optional, for drizzle)

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl mix all of the ingredients together aside from the chocolate chips.
  2. Once everything is incorporated well take a 1 tablespoon sized cookie scoop and scoop out balls of the mixture. Use your hands to roll them into compacted balls and set aside of parchment or wax paper.
  3. Once you have all of the balls formed place them in the refrigerator to firm up. While they’re firming up take your chocolate chips and melt according to the directions on the bag until chocolate is smooth (I melted mine in the microwave).
  4. When the chocolate is all melted and smooth take you energy balls from the refrigerator and drizzle with a spoon the chocolate on top of the balls.
  5. Place the freshly drizzled balls back into the refrigerator for about 10-15mins to let the chocolate set. You can store these in the fridge or in an airtight container outside of the fridge. They taste great cold or at room temperature!

 

Ottolenghi’s Spinach, Date & Almond Salad

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Hi everyone! I’m sorry the blog went dark last week, but I had a good reason. I was on vacation! Like, just 2 adults and 0 kids vacation. I think prior to this it has been 6yrs or so since I’ve had an adult only vacation. It was nice, but I missed my big babies and my pups.

Now that I’m back to reality. It’s back to grocery shopping, cooking and meal prepping. This salad is one of my favorite salads. The flavor combinations in here are amazing! The texture is on point as well. Perhaps it’s the seasoning or the toasted pita bread that sets it off. I’m not sure, but it’s amazing!

For this recipe I slightly adapted it from Ottolenghi’s cookbook: Jerusalem, which I highly recommend if you are looking for veggie heavy, flavor packed recipes. There are meat and dessert recipes in the cookbook as well. So, far everything I have tried of his I absolutely love! Fair warning though – some of his recipes can be labor intensive, but the end results are always phenomenal.

This salad has a sweet, yet tangy flavor with a slight spiciness to it. The dates give it the sweet vibes and the quick pickled onions and dressing give it a bit of a bite. This is a match made in heaven to me. Top it off with the seasoning blend and I’m in salad heaven.

Ingredients

Salad Base:

  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 medium size red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 Cup pitted Medjool dates, sliced into quarters lengthwise
  • 2 T unsalted butter or ghee
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 small pitas torn into roughly 1 to 1.5 inch pieces
  • 1/2 Cup sliced unsalted almonds
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5oz baby spinach
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp plus 2 pinches of salt, divided

Directions

  1. Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the onions and dates and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain away any residual vinegar and discard. Onions should has softened up by this point.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the butter or ghee and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pita and almonds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring the entire time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool.
  3. When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, *the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt*. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

*Dressing alternative: The olive oil and lemon juice works great on this salad, but when in a pinch I use balsamic vinaigrette and it compliments the flavors very well.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

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Let’s talk biscuits today! Flaky, tender, buttermilk biscuits. A good buttermilk biscuit pulls on my heart strings. I immediately get taken back to my childhood. We would have biscuits for breakfast with eggs and bacon or sausage. We would have biscuits for dinner served with sausage gravy. We would have biscuits as a dessert with some butter and honey or jam.

Basically I ate a lot of biscuits growing up. I have zero biscuit regrets!

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The only thing that has changed from my childhood biscuits to the biscuits I make as an adult for my children is the quality of ingredients. As a kid growing up on a farm we had cheap, refined white flour. Flour was flour, right? Now, I only use unbleached flour with no added in suspicious ingredients. Organic is even better. Bobs Red Mill flour is typically what I use.

Growing up a common ingredient used was shortening or lard. You get nice flaky biscuits this way! Again, it was cheap and it worked. Butter works just as well if not better, but we saw using so much butter in a dough as a waste. Why waste the butter in a dough when you can use it to smear onto the finished biscuit? I use a good quality butter such as Kerrygold butter. This butter is made from grass-fed cows and the taste is superb. I believe happy and healthy cows will produce a much higher quality milk/butter than sad, unhealthy cows. The same goes for buttermilk. Get a good quality thick buttermilk.

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Can you see those little chunks of butter in the dough above? Those are the secret weapons that make a flaky biscuit! Here are a couple of tips to making awesome biscuits. First, make sure everything is very cold. Your butter, buttermilk, eggs, even the bowl you mix it in. Cold = good. Next tip is how you “cut in” the butter. You can cut up the butter into little squares before you mix it with the flour. Or you use a cheese grater and grate your butter as if it was a block of cheese. The cheese grater trick works great! Just remember to keep your butter cold before cutting or grating.

I use a pastry blender to “cut in” the butter to the flour. This the easiest and most efficient way to do this. Push down the butter into the flour with with pastry blender. Move it all around to incorporate the butter and flour all the while you are pushing (aka: cutting) the butter into the flour. After you do that you will end up with a buttery ball of tacky dough like shown above. Now after the butter has been cut in you will want to cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for at least 45mins to chill the dough. You can leave it overnight and have the dough ready to roll out in the morning for quick homemade biscuits.

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Here’s the dough after it’s been chilled. My daughter is helping me “smoosh” out the dough. I tape down some parchment paper to a clean a counter (this makes clean up so much faster) and sprinkle some flour onto the parchment paper and flour my hands. Then I plop the buttery dough ball down onto the floured surface. I knead the dough and add a sprinkle of flour as I go until the dough is no longer tacky. This doesn’t take long. A couple of minutes worth of kneading should get the job done. I don’t use a rolling pin to roll out the dough. The dough is tender enough to do this by hand. I generally shape it into a circle with it being about 1/4 of an inch thick.

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Use a biscuit cutter and cut out the biscuits. Quick tip: Always flour your biscuit cutter before cutting out the biscuits and re-flour it as you go to prevent sticking. After I cut out first set of biscuits I gather up the dough scraps and re-roll out. I do this no more than 2 times or the dough will become too worked and warm.

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Brush the tops with an egg wash mixture. This gives them that nice golden color while baking. I place the cut out biscuits fairly close together. This guarantees a higher rise on the biscuits.

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And there ya go! Fresh, hot, buttermilk biscuits. Ready to be devoured.

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Look at that tender, flaky goodness! My mouth is watering all over again.

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So there you have it. Homemade southern buttermilk biscuits. Cut them in half and serve with a pat of butter. Or my personal favorite way: a pat of butter and drizzle of honey! Or make up a skillet full of sausage gravy to serve over the biscuits. The possibilities are endless. I will have to share my sausage gravy recipe with y’all later. I promise it will be worth the wait!

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 sticks or 24 Tablespoons very cold, salted butter (grated or cut into small cubes)
  • 3 large eggs, divided
  • 1.5 Cups buttermilk, plus 1 T

Directions

  1. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients.
  2. Take the grated or cubed butter and cut into the flour mixture. Use a pastry blender  to cut in the butter with the flour until the dough comes together and the butter is pea sized.
  3. In a separate small bowl beat 2 of the eggs. Pour the eggs in with the dough and fold in well with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until incorporated.
  4. Pour in the 1.5 cups of buttermilk into the dough mixture. Mix until well combined and the dough is tacky. If it seems too dry add 1 tablespoon of buttermilk at a time and mix well until dough becomes sticky/tacky.
  5. Cover the bowl and place into the fridge for a minimum of 45mins or up to overnight.
  6. After dough has chilled for at least 45mins, pre-heat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. While oven is heating, tape down a good sized sheet of parchment paper onto your work surface (or make sure work surface is very clean). Sprinkle a liberal amount of flour on to parchment paper covered work surface. Plop dough down into the center of the floured work area.
  8. Flour hands and knead the dough until it’s easy to work with and no longer sticky. You may need to add a sprinkle of flour. This should only take a minute or 2 to have the dough come together.
  9. Start pressing out and shaping the dough into a circle that comes out to be 1/4 of an inch thick.
  10. Flour your biscuit cutter and cut out biscuits. Place the cut out biscuits close together onto lined baking sheet. Take the excess dough pieces and re-roll back out to another circle and cut out biscuits again. You can do this one more time if need be.
  11. Take the last egg and beat in a small bowl with the tablespoon of buttermilk. Brush the egg mixture onto the top of each biscuit.
  12. Place baking sheet of biscuits onto the middle rack in the oven. Bake for 15-20 or until golden brown.
  13. Take the baking sheet out of the oven to cool for 10mins. Now, enjoy the biscuits while still warm. Best served with butte and/or honey.

Roasted Veggies with Lemon Garlic Orzo

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Do you like vegetables? I’ve had a love/hate relationship with them for most of my life. It wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s before I realized you could make vegetables taste good based on how you prepared them. Except broccoli – broccoli is still my arch nemesis. That little crusty tree will not be be found in my house unless it is blended up and masked in a green smoothie that someone else has bottled and prepared for me! Bleh! Now, with that being said I think broccoli has awesome nutrients and is very beneficial for you. I just have to have mine hidden in a green smoothie of sorts 🙂

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Now, back to the yummy veggie talk! I like to season and roast vegetables or saute them. In this particular recipe I chop them all up and roast them with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. Another tid bit of info about me: I don’t like fresh tomatoes, but I like them prepared any other way. Roasted, cooked, stewed, sun dried, fried, you name it! Just not fresh. Weird, right?

Now to the good part. After the veggies have roasted you’re going to prepare some orzo. First, you are going to lightly toast the orzo in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Then you are going to add in some vegetable stock. Cover and simmer until the orzo is tender. Once tender remove from heat and set aside.

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While the orzo cooks you are going to prepare and simple dressing of olive oil, lemon and garlic.

After the orzo has finished cooking and the dressing has been prepared – take the roasted veggies and mix in with the orzo. Add in the dressing and feta and top with fresh basil. Easy Peas-y!

This dish works great as the main course or as a side dish. Personally I like to have it as it is for lunch or as a side at dinner with some baked fish.

Ingredients

For the Orzo and Veggies:

  • 1/3 Cup slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1.5 Cup button mushrooms sliced
  • 1 Cup mix of red, yellow and orange baby bell peppers, de-seeded and diced 
  • 12oz fresh green beans cut into 1 inch pieces 
  • 12oz cherry tomatoes cut in 1/2
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 Cup shallot, chopped
  • 3T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Cup orzo
  • 1.5 Cup vegetable broth 
  • 1/2 Cup feta, crumbled

For the Dressing:

For the Garnish:

  • 2-3T chopped fresh basil

Directions

Roast the Veggies:

  • Pre-heat oven to 425F. Line 1-2 two sheet pans with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Lightly spray or coat with extra virgin olive oil. Place the chopped and/or diced mushrooms, bell peppers, green beans, tomatoes and shallot on one pan. Sprinkle with 2 Tbs of olive oil and the 2 tsp of minced garlic. Using a spatula, mix all the veggies together with the olive oil and minced garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then stir again. Move half of the veggie mixture to the other sheet pan (if 2nd sheet pan is needed). Spread the veggies in one layer, making sure there’s no overlapping on both pans. Roast in oven at 425F for 35-40 minutes. Some possible charring is fine (and yummy). Rotate pans half way through roasting to ensure evenness. Keep an eye on the veggies – due to variants in ovens and how thick the veggies are chopped/diced – cooking times may vary.

Cook the Orzo:

  • In a large saute pan, heat 1T of extra virgin olive oil on medium heat until simmering. Add the orzo and stir, coating the orzo thoroughly. Stir occasionally for about 3 minutes or until the orzo is toasty and lightly golden. Add the vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer, turn down the heat to low and cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Make the Dressing:

  • In a small bowl add the olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

Put it Together:

  • In the large pan that the orzo is in, add the roasted veggies, stir in the dressing, feta, and almonds. Garnish with basil. Serve immediately and enjoy! Leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge.