Pickled Red Onions

I have always strongly disliked raw red onions. Even though in small amounts they can be tasty and cooked they are delicious, nothing can ruin a salad or a burger like huge chunks of raw red onion. Maybe its just me, but that sharp taste will stay in my mouth all day no matter what I eat or how many times I brush my teeth. Ick.

But pickled red onions. Those are a whole other story.

Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Red Onions

Two essential things to make raw red onions more palatable are slicing them thinly and adding an acid. For this picked red onion recipe you do both. How handy.

Pickled Red Onions

Don’t judge my handwriting.

For some reason when I think of pickling I think of boiling jars and pickling salts and all kinds of other things that I don’t really want to pursue. But luckily you really only have to do those things if you want your pickled whatevers to last more than an year. With this simpler pickling method they should be good for 3 weeks, which is fine by me.

RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS:
1 large red onion
1 1/2 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
3 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 cinnamon stick

1. Thinly slice the onion and set apart. If you have a mandolin this would be a great time to bring it out.
2. Set aside the onions in a small bowl.
3. Bring all the other ingredients to a boil.
4. Pour the boiling mixture over the onions in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight (or until completely cool).
5. Once its cool, transfer it to a jar and keep in the fridge. It will keep for three weeks.

Pickled Red Onions

Pickled red onions have even more tang and sweetness, they retain their crunch yet that sharp lingering taste is gone. Plus they turn a lovely pink color and look quite nice on everything.

Pickled Red Onions

It’s such an easy recipe and I’ve been adding them to everything. Made a stir fry with broccoli + cauliflower + kale with ginger and garlic then added the pickled onions on top. Also made a salad with arugula, roasted squash, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, and added the pickled onions to that too. Lastly, have not made this yet (am currently waiting on the good will of the avocado ripening on my counter)but plan to make carnitas tacos with guacamole and pickled red onions. That jar will be gone in no time 🙂

TIPS:
1. Feel free to customize the spices. Thyme, rosemary, jalapenos and lime would be great additions as well depending what you’re going for.
2. And the amount of sugar.
3. If you want your onions a bit softer you can throw them into the boiling vinegar mixture for 20 seconds before draining and letting it sit until cool.
4. If you don’t have white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or another more neutral tasting vinegar would work nicely.

Bouchon Chocolate Covered Eclairs with Dulce de Leche Coconut Filling

Filled Eclair

Filled Eclair

So the Bouchon cookbook is amazing. The writing is extremely detailed and if you follow it step by step you will most likely obtain perfect results. Minus a little calibrating for finicky ovens.

Eclair

Whereas I stuck to the Bouchon recipe for the eclair dough and ganache topping I wanted to make my own filling. Having some leftover dulce de leche and coconut pudding I thought that would make a great filling. This recipe is based on Manjar de Coco, a Brazilian coconut pudding that is normally topped with prunes and prune syrup. Which sounds quite dismal but is actually pretty tasty. Here’s a traditional recipe for Manjar de Coco from Chronic Cravings.

In the traditional Manjar de Coco recipe you use a can of sweetened condensed milk but I substituted a can of dulce de leche for the condensed milk.

Manjar de Coco with Dulce de Leche

INGREDIENTS:
1 can of dulce de leche
whole milk
3/4 cup of coconut milk
4 tablespoons of corn starch
1/2 cup of coconut flakes

1. Add dulce de leche, coconut milk, coconut flakes, and corn starch into a pan.
2. Take the empty can of dulce de leche and pour two cans worth of whole milk into the pan with all the other ingredients.
3. Turn on stove and cook it on medium heat continuously stirring until its thickened.
4. Chill in fridge.

Remember that the mixture will thicken as it chills so cook until its a little runnier than you want it to be.

Now the Bouchon recipe is quite long and detailed, here is a link to it:

Bouchon Eclairs

Eclairs Cooling

Eclairs Cooling

Obviously did not use a pastry piping bag as was instructed but besides that the only other modification I had to make was that my eclairs were still not airy enough after the baking process was done so I had to leave them in for 8 minutes longer. I blame this on my oven as it tends to undercook things to a certain extent…

Slicing Eclairs

Slicing Eclairs

Filling Eclairs

Filling Eclairs

Ganache

Ganache

Finishing up Eclairs

Finishing up Eclairs

Last step:

Eclair Innards

Eclair Innards

The last step is perhaps quite important because eclairs do not stand the test of time. Every moment they are sitting they are getting soggier so please make sure to assemble them right before you plan to eat them all!

TIPS:
– If you can’t find dulce de leche you can just make it yourself either by cooking it over a saucepan or by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk, see this link here.

Bouchon Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

So naturally after a healthy post I follow up with something on the other end of the scale. My mom got me Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook and having heard really great things about it I was excited to try something. I started off with the TKO cookies and the Nutter Butter’s but thought a more unique thing to share would be the Flan Tart! I slightly adapted it by omitting the apricots and adding a chocolate ganache to the top of it.

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Look at that thing. I personally love flan, crème brûlée and all sorts of custard based desserts. This filling isn’t exactly flan per se as it does not include condensed milk which is typical of flan but more of a simple custard based simply on whole milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar. It has a pâte brisée crust and you can use Bouchon Bakery’s recipe or one that you are more familiar with, as long as it fits a 9 inch round pan.

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

The recipe’s in Bouchon Bakery are very exact and contain a lot of useful information. If you follow directions closely you will end up with a great product. One of the tips I really liked is to let muffin batter sit for a day as this soaks the flour and produces a more moist final product. Having made countless batches of dry-ish muffins despite vast amounts of oil or buttermilk this might be the clue I’ve been missing all these years! I plan on trying one of the muffin recipes and reporting back here to see how that goes 🙂

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

One important thing to note is that they call for Bird’s Custard Powder for the recipe. Coincidentally had this as I had been to Cost Plus World Market and they had this in their section of international foods a while ago (custard powder is quite popular in the UK). If you don’t have it I looked at the ingredients and it is entirely cornstarch with flavoring and food coloring. So you can most likely sub cornstarch for it and maybe add some extra vanilla. Your final custard might be less yellow but taste should not be too highly affected.

INSTRUCTIONS:

FOR THE PATE BRISEE RECIPE SEE INSIDE THE BOOK HERE

FOR THE FLAN TART RECIPE SEE INSIDE THE BOOK HERE

FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:

INGREDIENTS:

– 8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
– 1/2 cup whole milk or cream

1. Melt the chocolate and milk together over a double boiler or by microwaving for 30 second increments with whisking in between.
2. Spread over the cooled flan tart.

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Flan Tart with Chocolate Ganache

TIPS:
– As before, if you do not have Bird’s Custard Powder you can order it online, find it at Cost Plus World Market or substitute for cornstarch and extra vanilla flavoring.
– Incorporating coconut in this, whether by subbing in coconut milk or topping with toasted coconut would be quite good.
– Another option is omitting the chocolate ganache and topping with fresh berries.

Slice

Slice

Honey-Rhubarb & Greek Yogurt Parfait with Dark Chocolate

So. This is the first time I have ever cooked with rhubarb. But fear not,  it turned out quite nicely! I love rhubarb in desserts, it adds a great tang to pies and ice cream and pairs beautifully with strawberries or white chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Shavings

Dark Chocolate Shavings and a Swirl of Honey on the Parfait

It might seem intimidating at first because its a stalk-y vegetable that looks a lot like celery that is dyed bright red and you normally do not consume it raw or without cooking it with sugar. But cooking with it does not take very long at all and with the results you get a jammy sweet-tart confection that can be mixed into muffins, swirled into ice cream, mixed into a cocktail or dolloped on yogurt. I chose that last option.

Honey-Rhubarb & Greek Yogurt Parfait with Dark Chocolate

Honey-Rhubarb & Greek Yogurt Parfait with Dark Chocolate

Spoonful of the Parfait

Spoonful of the Parfait

I based my rhubarb on this recipe. I made some modifications and decided to add thyme to it. Thyme is such a nice woodsy herb that adds complexity to the honey-rhubarb compote. If you want it to be even more woodsy you could add rosemary even!

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rhubarb - Doesn't it look just like celery?

Rhubarb – Doesn’t it look just like celery?

INGREDIENTS:

Honey-Rhubarb Compote with Thyme

3 cups fresh rhubarb
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tbsp honey
1 sprig of fresh thyme

1. In a saucepan, bring the orange juice to a boil.
2. Add rhubarb, honey, and thyme and stir until everything is well mixed.
3. Cook mixture slowly for about 8 minutes. Taste for sweetness and add more honey if desired.
4. Let the compote cool completely. It can be stored in a jar for up to a week.

Honey-Rhubarb and Greek Yogurt Parfait with Dark Chocolate

Honey-Rhubarb and Greek Yogurt Parfait with Dark Chocolate

Honey-Rhubarb and Greek Yogurt Parfait with Dark Chocolate

honey-rhubarb compote
plain or vanilla greek yogurt
dark chocolate bar
honey

1. Layer the honey-rhubarb compote with greek yogurt
2. After each layer do a drizzle of honey and shave some dark chocolate on top of it.
3. Repeat.

Honey-Rhubarb Compote and Greek Yogurt Parfait

Honey-Rhubarb Compote and Greek Yogurt Parfait

The end result is a delicious mix of creamy yogurt, tangy-sweet honey rhubarb, and a touch of bitter from the dark chocolate. Its low-carb and satisfying (especially if you do big shavings of dark chocolate!). It made for a lovely breakfast today and tomorrow I’m thinking of adding the compote to some oatmeal with almond milk, coconut shavings and fresh sliced strawberries…

Honey-Rhubarb Compote and Greek Yogurt Parfait

Honey-Rhubarb Compote and Greek Yogurt Parfait

TIPS:
– You can substitute the honey in the compote recipe for a sweetener like sugar or the cup-for-cup Splenda! If you use a no calorie sweetener this would be a pretty healthy (and virtually zero carb) recipe.
– Adding in sliced strawberries or fresh blackberries to this parfait would also be lovely.
– If you don’t like dark chocolate, white chocolate pairs really well with rhubarb.
– Naturally you can use any kind of yogurt you like, and adding granola to this would really take it over the top!

Smudgy Honey-Rhubarb and Greek Yogurt Parfait Cup

Smudgy Honey-Rhubarb and Greek Yogurt Parfait Cup

5 Minute Healthy Salad – Strawberries, Feta, Almonds, Turkey + Thyme

One of the best ways to eat healthy during the work week is to BYOL – Bring Your Own Lunch. Cooking a bigger portion ensures you have extra leftovers to bring to work. However there are days when there are no leftovers to be had and very little time in the morning to prep something to take to work. Even though I have turned to Trader Joe’s frozen meals and PB&J’s, I also learned how to make tasty, filling salads that I can throw together in 5 minutes. I love salads with berries and this an easy strawberry salad that requires minimal cooking and will be ready to go in your trusty tupperware in less time than you take to shower in the morning.

strawberry, salad

Strawberry Salad

The best part about this recipe is that the basic concept is there but you can substitute whatever you have in your fridge: if I don’t have strawberries I throw in blueberries, if I don’t have feta I use goat cheese…No turkey? A tiny bit of bacon is not going to kill you. It’s all good 🙂

strawberry, salad

Strawberry Salad

INGREDIENTS:

Mixed greens
5 strawberries
2-3 slices of roasted turkey breast (not the cheap rubber-y kind please)
Handful of almonds
Feta
3 sprigs of thyme
2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat up a small frying pan and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to it.
2. Rip up the turkey in small pieces and add it to the hot pan. Season to taste and let it get crispy and brown around the edges.
3. While the turkey is browning fill your plate/bowl with the mixed greens and slice up your strawberries and place them on top of the greens.
4. Add almonds, thyme leaves, then crumble feta on top.
5. Add the turkey thats browned.
6. Combine the 2 tbsp of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and honey in a small bowl then whisk together and season to taste. If you are eating this right away pour it on top and toss to combine. If taking to work add it to the bottom of the container so everything doesn’t wilt and you can toss it all together before eating.

Amounts in this recipe are fairly loose because you should not be measuring things that early in the morning. Just add however much you want of each ingredient. I recommend adding A LOT of toppings so that the salad feels like a meal and you’re not just eating greens by themselves like a rabbit :/

You could also always add more meat like chicken breast. I like using meat as just an accent as opposed to the main ingredient in this salad because reducing your meat intake is good for you (but hard to do!) and although we tend to cook full meals for dinner (complete with steaks or salmon filets and whatnot) there are so many tasty ingredients you don’t miss it in this salad.

Strawberry

Strawberry

A great way to make salads more flavorful too is to use herbs like salad greens. If you have ever had tabbouleh or fattoush or other Middle Eastern salads, they use parsley and mint as if they were salad greens not just accent herbs. So have herbs on hand! I grow rosemary, basil, parsley and thyme. All are doing pretty well except for the parsley which apparently cats like to eat…

For this salad basil, rosemary, or mint would also pair beautifully with the strawberries.

Thyme

Thyme

Basil

Basil

Rosemary

Rosemary

So this is a lovely 5 minute salad for spring, look out for future posts on a super fast nicoise style salad and citrus-avocado based salad…

TIPS:
– If you don’t have strawberries: blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries would all do – just make sure its fresh fruit!
– We used fat free feta but using real feta makes the salad creamier and using goat cheese even more so!
– If you don’t have almonds, hazelnuts would be particularly good here. Or else pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachio and most nuts would work…perhaps not peanuts.
– Candied nuts always are really good in berry salads as well! Those have a lot of calories so we stayed away from them this time.
– Any mixed greens maybe with the exception of iceberg lettuce could be used as a base – butter lettuce, romaine, spinach, etc.
– If you use a pre-made low fat dressing that would save you even more time!

The Healthy Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

This is the perfect post-gym or late night snack when you’re craving something sweet but don’t want to actually indulge on sugary sweets. It’s creamy and peanut butter-y with a swirl of fresh strawberry that will hit all the right spots. And the best part is that its almost fat free and just about 160 calories!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

The magic that makes a peanut butter smoothie so low calorie is a product I recently purchased called PB2. Its powdered peanut butter and you essentially can mix into anything and it will taste like peanut butter but with none of the fat! I have not had it on its own or on bread (that might be pushing it) but I love mixing this stuff in smoothies or even in my morning cereal. If you do want to just eat it on bread (or by itself) you just have to mix it with water. The other day I made a quick stir fry with shrimp, kale, and bok choy to which I added soy sauce, grated ginger, coconut flakes and 1 tablespoon of the PB2. I was skeptical of it working in savoury dishes but it was so GOOD!

powdered peanut butter

PB2

Whereas regular peanut butter has about 90 calories per tablespoon, this stuff only has 15 calories per tablespoon and is all natural with no weird additives:

PB2 label

PB2 label

I ordered it from Amazon and it was $4.60 for a 6.5 oz jar (buy it here).

So the smoothie has fairly simple ingredients besides the PB2: greek yogurt for creaminess, almond milk, oats, strawberries, and you need some kind of sweetener. Thats it. Read on for the recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup of greek yogurt (this could be frozen for a thicker smoothie)
1 cup of almond milk
3 tbsp of PB2
2 tbsp oats
1/2 cup of strawberries (could be fresh or frozen)
Sweetener (We used Splenda, but you could use stevia or if you don’t mind the extra calories real sugar, agave, honey etc.)

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Blend the strawberries with some of the sweetener. Alternatively if you like more texture, crush them with a fork with the sweetener until they are thoroughly smashed to bits. Set aside.
2. Now blend all of the rest of the ingredients with your desired amount of sweetener until smooth. The oats add fiber but will leave a bit of a grittier texture so if you are not a fan of this feel free to leave out.
3. Pour the peanut butter mixture into a large cup.
4. Pour the blended/smashed strawberries over it and give it a swirl with a knife.
5. Drink up!

peanut butter, jelly, smoothie, healthy

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

TIPS:
– Instead of 1/2 cup of strawberries you could add real sugar free jam if you have it at hand
– I have done this smoothie with banana instead of strawberries and highly recommend this as well.
– Other great additions would be coconut, dark chocolate or a big swirl of honey on top.
– This could also be made with regular milk, soy milk, etc. I just love the taste of almond milk and its extremely low calorie
– You can easily make this vegan by substituting soy or any other non-milk based yogurt for the greek yogurt!

peanut butter, jelly, strawberry, swirl

Swirl!

Now I’m just waiting for someone to come up with powdered low calorie Nutella….

peanut butter, jelly, smoothie, strawberry, healthy

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

If you prefer a Healthy Peanut Butter Banana & Chocolate Smoothie

Or a Healthy Berry & Peanut Butter Parfait with Granola….

This is PB2’s company website http://www.bellplantation.com/

They also have it with chocolate!

PB & BCH Toast

If you are currently at a loss for breakfast we have the simplest recipe for you. It involves no cooking (is toasting cooking?) and it will be ready in about 5 minutes, depending on how fast your slicing skills are.

As much as we would love to have a full breakfast everyday, one rarely finds the time to make rashers of bacon, crispy potatoes and scrambled eggs on weekday mornings. And breakfast is, as most of us are tired of hearing, the most important meal of the day. Although we too are guilty of occasionally skipping breakfast, many studies have shown that people who eat breakfast eat less throughout the whole day. Almost on par with skipping breakfast is having an unsatisfying breakfast. Although many times cereal will do just fine, if you are pressed for time and want something hot you need nothing more than 4 or 5 ingredients.

Peanut Butter Banana Coconut Honey Toast

Peanut Butter Banana Coconut Honey Toast

INGREDIENTS:
Loaf of country whole wheat bread (We like Trader Joe’s Demi Miche bread)
Peanut butter (we are partial to crunchy but we know this is a controversial topic)
1 banana
Honey
Shredded or flaked coconut (or any other topping of your choice!)
Coconut oil

Directions:
1. Slice some of the bread to your desired thickness.
2. Toast. Spread coconut oil on both sides then pan fry until golden on each side.
3. Spread the peanut butter generously on one side.
4. Slice the banana and layer on top of the peanut butter.
5. Drizzle with honey.
6. Top with coconut flakes.

Should you follow these ridiculously simple (almost to the point of being unnecessary) directions: The toast will be hot, crunchy on the outside, and will smell coconut-y and butter-y at the same time. The peanut butter will begin to melt where it touches the bread and ooze over. The bananas and honey will add sweetness and lastly you’ll have some more texture and flavor from the coconut. So good! This would also be a perfect afternoon snack.

TIPS:
– If you are allergic to coconut you can use butter instead of coconut oil and omit the coconut flakes.
– This would be also delicious with just plain white bread or super dark rye bread.
– This is what the Trader Joe’s Demi Miche bread looks like (here).
– Instead of the coconut flakes you could also top this with dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, dates…), chocolate chips, cinnamon, nuts, or berries!

Strawberry Vanilla Pound Cake with Almond Crumble

There are certain flavors that can really take a dish the extra mile and at the same time it’s hard to put your finger on what’s missing when it’s not there; nutmeg in cream sauces, a squeeze of lemon to brighten up roasted asparagus, and almond in vanilla-based baked goods. This pound cake is a simple pound cake recipe to which we add fresh strawberries, almond extract, a glaze and almond crumble. Nice to serve with ice cream for dessert or just lightly toasted for breakfast.

Strawberry Vanilla Poundcake

Strawberry Vanilla Pound Cake

RECIPE:

STRAWBERRY VANILLA POUND CAKE WITH ALMOND CRUMBLE

Pound Cake & Glaze:
1 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups self-rising cake flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup of chopped strawberries tossed with 2 tablespoons of flour
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of almond extract

Almond Crumble:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cold butter, diced
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sugar

– Preheat the oven to 350C and grease a loaf pan.
– In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then add the lemon zest.
– Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each.
– Then gently mix in the rest of the flour.
– Add the lemon juice (saving 2 tbsp for glaze), vanilla, and finally almond extract.
– Mix in the chopped strawberries then add to the loaf pan.
– Pulse all the ingredients for the crumble in a food processor until you have a crumbly/granola consistency. Set aside.
– Sprinkle the loaf with caster sugar (about 2 tablespoons should do it) and then the crumble as it goes into the oven. Then bake for 1 hour or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
– Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the tin before turning out.
– Whisk the confectioner’s sugar with 2 tbsp of lemon juice until the glaze is smooth. Add lemon juice/sugar as needed to adjust the consistency.
– Once its cooled swirl the glaze on top.

Based on Nigella’s Madeira Cake

The final product is a nice mix of rich pound cake with tartness from the strawberries, extra sweetness from the glaze and crunchy texture from the crumble. The almond perfumes the loaf and the strawberries get the tiniest bit jammy from being in the oven. Try it out 🙂

TIPS:

– You can sub out the strawberries for other berries, fresh or frozen.
– Be sure to toss the fruit in flour so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.
– You could also use dried strawberries if you don’t like how fresh/frozen fruit can bleed into the cake.
– Tastes even better the day after.