Smoked Balsamic Honey BBQ Sauce

I have this deep fascination with making ingredients from scratch.

What’s the big mystery? Things didn’t start off in bottles on grocery store shelves. Someone, a long time ago, used to make these ingredients for their families. So, why can’t I? My first foray into making condiments is a BBQ Sauce recipe. Admittedly, I used store bought organic ketchup and organic mustard in the recipe. But, it’s a start, right? After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will my condiment collection be.

Another catalyst for my foray into condiment creation is the book Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss.

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Half of my friends already think I’m a bit of an extremist when it comes to my commitment to organic, local, and sustainable foods. After reading Michael Moss’s book, however, I’m about to become even more extreme. I don’t want to buy anything that comes in a box or package ever again, unless it comes from a reputable company who’s beliefs align with my own. I highly recommend everyone read this book. Consider yourself warned, though. It will change the way you see food forever.

On that note… I made BBQ Sauce!!! GF Guy was home for a few days so I pulled out all the stops and made one of his favorite dishes, Pulled Pork! I used my old stand-by recipe, but this time made my own BBQ Sauce. Next time, I will make my own ketchup and mustard first. 😉

Smoked Balsamic Honey BBQ Sauce

generously adapted from this recipe on Simply Scratch

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Organic Ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Organic Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Organic Honey
  • 1 Tblsp Organic Yellow Mustard
  • 1 Tblsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 clove Garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • pinch Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Liquid Smoke

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
  2. Reduce heat to low and allow to reduce for 20 minutes.
  3. Cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.
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Bested by an Egg

This morning I was bested by an egg… make that 2 eggs.

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I always post my recipe successes on this blog, but you rarely get to hear about my failures. Well, this morning, I failed!

I love poached eggs on toast. The way the silky yolk gently bursts forth coating each bite in rich perfection….. It is magical! Up until today, I had never attempted to recreate it at home. Why, you ask? Because it sounds so difficult! I read countless recipes entitled “The Perfect Poached Egg” online. Each recipe offered a different anecdote they claimed would result in the perfect, no-fail, poached egg. I finally selected what seemed like the best method and set to work. I filled a pot with 20 cm of lightly salted water. I brought the water to a simmer. I cracked my egg into a tiny dish, transferred it to a slotted spoon, and lowered it into the simmering water only to have the egg dissipate into dozens of slimy white ribbons the moment it touched the water.

Take 2! This time, I cracked the egg directly into the simmering water and attempted to create a swirling whirlpool in the water. This attempt almost make it, but the yolk broke at the last minute.

At that point, I was so hungry that a third attempt was not an option. I sadly fried a Sunny-Side-Up egg and slumped to the living room to take a picture. Then, I picked up my plate to eat and promptly dropped the toast on the floor…..

It’s going to be one of those days…..

 

Indian Spiced Creamy Avocado Chickpeas

Yesterday was a fantastic day! What made it so fantastic? Well, in honor of the brave men and women who serve our country, I decided to conquer when of my fears…. I painted!

I have always been a lover of art. GF Guy and I love going to art museums, galleries, and art festivals. It has always been a dream of ours to collect original works of art. We took our first step in that direction in November when we purchased 2 large photographs of Spanish street scenes that we fell in love with at an art festival. They were our first big art purchase and we love them!
That being said, I have always considered myself to be “art retarded” and unable to trace a circle. I tried painting once when I was young and immediately became discouraged because my tree didn’t look exactly like the tree I was attempting to recreate. So… I quit. I refused to even attempt my hand at painting again.

That has always been a pattern with me. If I didn’t immediately excel at something I quit. I was too scared of failure, of not being perfect.
One thing I have been working toward these past 6 months has been accepting my imperfections, loving them, and releasing my fears. All fear does is hold you back from greatness, be it in life, work, or simply great joy.
As a part of my “therapy”, I am releasing my fear and challenging myself to revisit all those things I “failed at” as a child and to accept where I am in these endeavors. Yesterday, it was painting. A friend and I set out a table in her backyard, soaked up the sunshine, chatted, sipped wine, and painted. We laughed and simply enjoyed the creative process.

So you see, my painting represents far more to me than just artistic expression. It represents conquering my fears and living life to the fullest!

Speaking of full…. my dinner was pretty fulfilling, too! While not the most photogenic, the combination of spices and cool, creamy avocado made this dish I stand-out, flavor packed winner!

Indian Spiced Creamy Avocado Chickpeas

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Dried Garbanzo Beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup Dry Sherry
  • 1/2 cup Water, as needed
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Curry Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Sweet Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cloves
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 Avocado, mashed
  • 1/4 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp dried Cilantro
  • 2 large handfuls Baby Spinach

Directions:

  1. Place soaked chickpeas and bay leaf in a saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water.
  2. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for one hour, or until chickpeas are tender. Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash the avocado and stir in the lemon juice. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, saute’ onion until soft and translucent. Add spices and cook about 1 minute until fragrant.
  5. Add the garlic and saute’ a minute more.
  6. Deglaze the pan with sherry and stir in the tomato paste.
  7. Stir in the chickpeas and mashed avocado. Add water to thin, as needed.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Add the cilantro and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted.
  10. Serve in a baked sweet potato.

This post is linked to Gluten Free Wednesdays at the Gluten Free Homemaker.

This post is also linked to Friday Foodie Fix and Diane’s The Whole Gang.

Curry Spiced Kale and Eggs

What I eat is generally pretty boring.

When left to my own devices (aka not cooking for anyone else), my meals are generally variations of 2-3 quickie recipes. You will probably recall seeing a very similar version of this same meal a few weeks ago. This time though, I spiced things up by adding two unexpected flavors, cumin and curry. The effect was delightful!

Curry Spiced Kale and Eggs

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Ingredients:

  • 2 handfuls Baby Kale
  • 1 Tbsp Water
  • dash of Cumin
  • dash of Curry Powder
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 Tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 Avocado, chopped
  • 1 large Egg

Directions:

  1. Place kale and water in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cover with a lid and cook 3 minutes or so until wilted.
  2. Remove lid and reduce heat to medium.
  3. Add spices and cook 1 minutes until fragrant.
  4. Add chopped tomato and cook 2 minutes more.
  5. Move kale and tomato to the edges of the skillet and crack your egg in the center of the pan.
  6. Cook until egg is cooked and yolk is warmed through.
  7. Slide onto a plate and garnish with chopped avocado.

Do you have a favorite go-to quick meal that you tend to eat once a week?

 

Avocado Chai Tea Cake

I turned a catastrophe into cake!

Friday during my lunch break is when I normally do my grocery shopping for the weekend. It gives me a chance to get out of the office and stretch my legs. This week, I ran up to a Super Target where they had perfectly ripe avocados on sale! I couldn’t believe my luck! That is until I got home and discovered one of the avocados had been thrown in the bottom of my bag and unceremoniously squashed…..

Not wanting to waste a perfectly good avocado, I set about creating a new baked good. Don’t ask me where this idea came from. Heavens if I know! It just occurred to me that the fat in the avocado could be a good replacement for butter or oil in a recipe. Then it occurred to me that Chai tea would be an fantastsically flavorful liquid component and the rest is history. I decided to freeze the leftovers so i will have decadant, spice-laden treats for weeks to come!

Avocado Chai Tea Cake

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe Avocado, mashed
  • 1/2 cup Maple Syrup
  • 2 large Eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup strongly brewed Chai Tea, cooled
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground Cloves
  • 1 cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 1/4 cup Sorghum Flour
  • 1/2 cup Tapioca Starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Xanthum Gum

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the wet ingredients and the spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until just combined.
  5. Pour batter into a greased 8×8 square pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until done.
  6. Cool completely before cutting.

This post is linked to Gluten Free Wednesdays at the Gluten Free Homemaker and to Allergy Free Wednesdays at Tessa the Domestic Diva.

Sugar Free Chocolate Mug Cake

It was a cold and rainy night. My cable wasn’t working. I wanted chocolate cake.

So, by golly, I made chocolate cake! It was the perfect addition to my pitiful evening!

I have a strict policy not to make cake unless I am taking it out of my house. I don’t need that temptation sitting on my counter. Since I had no occasions to take a cake to, I found a recipe on the web for a delicious sounding mug cake for one. This recipe was different because it didn’t call for an egg or egg replacer!

I modified the original recipe slightly to make it gluten free and sugar free and was very satisfied with the results. I served it atop some pumpkin puree for a surprisingly healthy dessert!

Chocolate + no guilt? Sign me up!

 

Sugar Free Chocolate Mug Cake

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan)

Based on this recipe by Get Healthy With Heather

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp Brown Rice Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • pinch of Sea Salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp Unsweetened, Plain Almond Milk (I need 4 because I am at a high altitude, but start with 3 and add more as needed)
  • 12 drops Vanilla Creme Liquid Stevia

Directions:

  1. Stir together all ingredients until smooth.
  2. Pour into a microwave safe mug lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Microwave on high for 1 minute.

 

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Amy’s blog Simply Sugar & Gluten Free.

Miniature Spinach Souffle

The strangest thing just happened…

I accidentally made a mini souffle!

I really don’t know how it happened. I just started layering random ingredients, like I always do, and voila, a souffle! I used a jumbo muffin tin to make 2 individual sized souffles, though I consider two of them to be one serving. It’s another simple, healthy meal I will be happy to add to my arsenal. It will also be fun to play with the flavors to make different varieties.

What ingredients would you add to your dream souffle?

Individual Spinach Souffles

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Egg plus 2 Egg Whites
  • 1/4 cup Unsweetened, Original Almond Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Vegan Gourmet Non-Dairy Sour Cream
  • Herbamare (or Sea Salt) and Black Pepper, to taste
  • 5 oz frozen, chopped Spinach, thawed and drained, divided
  • 2 slices Tomato, each about 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 tsp Nutritional Yeast Flakes, divided

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. (400 for high altitude)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, almond milk, vegan sour cream, herbamare, and pepper until smooth and frothy.
  3. Now it is time to assemble the two souffles. Using a Jumbo Muffin Tin, spray two muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Place one tomato slice in the bottom of each jumbo muffin cup.
  5. Top each tomato slice with half of the spinach.
  6. Pour half of the egg mixture into each of the muffin cups.
  7. Sprinkle 1 tsp of nutritional yeast over each of the souffles.
  8. Bake in preheated oven until puffed, golden, and eggs are set, about 30-40 minutes.
  9. Run a knife around the edge of each souffle to release them from the pan.

Sunny Side-up Spinach & Mushroom Skillet

Vegetables are a HUGE part of my life.

I eat them. I drink them. I decorate with them.

The thing is, I am a food snob, of sorts. I refuse to eat something unless it has color and beauty. Vegetables are beautiful. Vegetables are colorful. Vegetables are WONDERFUL!

Today’s dish features a colorful palate and my favorite inexpensive source of protein, the egg. (Cari… look away!) Full of lean protein, vitamins, and minerals, eggs are an excellent addition to any meal. Now, let’s get “crackin’!”

Sunny Side-up Spinach & Mushroom Skillet

(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup White Button Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/3 cup Baby Spinach
  • 1/2 large Organic Tomato, chopped
  • 1 large Organic Egg
  • Herbamare & Black Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Dry saute’ mushrooms in a skillet over high heat until they begin to release their moisture.
  2. Add spinach and diced tomatoes and cook until wilted.
  3. Move mushroom/spinach mixture to the sides of the skillet, creating a circle in the middle.
  4. Reduce the stovetop heat to medium-low, and crack the egg into the center of the skillet.
  5. Season with herbamare and black pepper and cook until egg is done.
  6. Gently transfer to a plate.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

Dairy-Free & Sugar-Free Fudgesicles

Who doesn’t love a good popsicle?

It all started with this recipe from the blog Maid In Alaska. I found it on Pinterest and have been meaning to make it for a few months. I finally got around to it this past weekend.

I tweeked it ever so slightly by using Vanilla Creme Liquid Stevia and omitting the Vanilla Extract. My overall impression was that they were a little icy for my personal preference, but still yummy. They certainly did the trick of curbing my sweet tooth!

Sugar-Free Fudgesicles

(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Coconut Milk
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Original Almond Milk
  • 3 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/3 tsp Vanilla Creme Liquid Stevia

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze 3-5 hours.

Southwestern Avocado Pesto Pizza w/ a Black Bean Crust

Monday, on my 6am flight, I had an idea for a pizza recipe.

….because that’s what normal people do on a 6am flight….

I finally had the opportunity to try it out this weekend, and was thrilled that it worked! In my opinion, if you can make a healthy, low-carb, high protein pizza crust, why not go for it? Any way to make pizza healthier and I’m in!

But first…. my wonderful Father In-Law came to town on business this week. He stayed an extra day just so we could have a Father/Daughter date night!

We went to a wonderful little restaurant, frequented by locals. It is a tiny, authentic Cuban restaurant, called Cuba Cuba, tucked quietly in a residential neighborhood. It masquerades as a little blue house with yellow trim. But, the moment you set foot inside, that perception changes. The place is alive with color and the sounds of laughter. Everyone is happy and relaxed, and the food….. How do I even begin to describe the food? Subtle and complex, each dish is as close to Cuba as you are going to get outside of Havana. And get this, they have a Gluten-Free Menu!!!!!!!

We started with drinks. He got a Mojito, and I went with the nightly special, a Paloma.

….Which I may have ordered because it was pink….

While we were deciding on our entrees, the owner, a firey Cuban woman who moved here from Miami, came over to chat with us. She and my Father In-Law (who is also Cuban) hit it off immediately, discussing the different dishes on the menu, etc… She recommended he try a thin, lightly breaded steak (I’m blanking on the name). He did, and raved over it’s authentic flavor. I, however, went with a light, spicy Seafood Stew served with rice. Scrumptious does not even begin to describe it! It was the nightly special, and I can only pray that they add it to the regular rotation.

Cuba Cuba is now our date night place whenever my Father In-Law is in town. AND if you are ever visiting Denver and in the mood for great food away from the tourist hustle and bustle, you MUST try Cuba Cuba.

Now, on to my recipe!

Southwestern Avocado Pesto Pizza w/ a Black Bean Crust

(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Southwestern Avocado Pesto (see below)
  • 1 recipe Black Bean Pizza Crust (see below)
  • 1 large Organic Tomato, sliced
  • Nutritional Yeast Flakes
  • Salsa & Dairy-Free Sour Cream, for serving

Directions:

  1. Spread Pesto over the par-baked pizza crust.
  2. Top with slices of tomato and sprinkle with nutritional yeast.
  3. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. (425 degrees F if at a high altitude)
  4. Serve with salsa and dairy-free sour cream, if desired.

Southwestern Avocado Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh Cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp Chives, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast Flakes
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Herbamare
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Hot Water (may use more or less)
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Combine Avocado, Cilantro, Nutritional Yeast, Garlic, Salt and Pepper, Olive Oil, and 1/4 cup of the Hot Water in a food processor.
  2. Process until smooth, adding more water if needed.

Black Bean Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Black Beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1/2 cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 1 large Egg
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Xanthum Gum
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Water, as needed (if cooking at a low altitude, you may only need 2 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 3/4 tsp Oregano

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (425 if at a high altitude)
  2. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  3. Mixture will be wetter than traditional pizza dough.
  4. Spray a round baking tray with non-stick cooking spray and lightly dust with brown rice flour.
  5. Using moist fingers, spread dough into a thin even circle covering the tray. Have a bowl of water nearby to re-moisten fingers frequently.
  6. Bake dough in the 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
  7. After baking, remove from the oven and proceed with the above recipe.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free.