Butternut Squash Soup + Spicy Sausage, Corn & Wild Rice

We are right in the thick of squash season right now. I can't walk through a farmers market or grocery store without seeing them hanging out front and center!  Even though it's still annoyingly hot in SoCal, I jumped the gun and made soup anyways; butternut squash soup (with wild rice, corn and andouille sausage). This soup isn't your standard issue squash puree; it's got texture from the rice, crunch from the corn and heat from the sausage. The actual butternut squash seems intimidating but don't get fooled, it's a pretty simple veggie to handle. There's so many ways you can cook a butternut squash -- roast it, blend it, noodle it or casserole it. You can also save and roast the seeds ---> recipe here.  They're quite addicting. I'm not big on frozen foods, but this soup is an exception to my rule. The recipe makes a big pot and after two days of butternut squash soup I decided to freeze the rest. Luckily this soup can be called the "second day soup", it tastes just as good, if not better on the second day. The flavors have time to sit, get comfy and meld together.  It's the perfect mid-week dinner -- thaw and or re-heat in a pot, add crusty bread and boom!

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soup3
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I found and adapted the recipe from this website. I cut the chicken stock down, used less half and half and of course used andouille sausage instead of kielbasa.  Andouille is my go to smoked sausage!The garnish is important here. If you haven't already devoured your roasted squash seeds, top each bowl with the seeds, extra sausage, parsley and fresh cracked pepper. It will make for a better presentation than just the soup in the bowl. And you get extra goodies. 

Parmesan Bacon Rosemary Popcorn (Video Included)

This yummy recipe was filmed just for you! (volume needed) -- click the picture below and enjoy! [video_lightbox_vimeo5 video_id="107673997" width="640" height="480" anchor="http://www.picklesandpalmtrees.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-10.30.27-AM.jpg "]If you're a popcorn lover, you HAVE to make this! Remember eating Lucky Charms cereal as a kid when all you actually wanted were the marshmallows? The same thing happens with this popcorn, I caught myself fishing for the little bits of bacon. Everytime I reached in the bowl I hoped for a sliver of salty bacon.

As a kid, I grew up ridiculously healthy. No chips, candy, sweets, soda etc. But the one thing that wasn't banned in our house was popcorn! If there's a such thing, I'd say we overdosed on popcorn in my family. Well wait, there is a such thing as "Popcorn Lung" but we all made it out ok.  At least 4 nights of the week we were popping popcorn, it was our go to snack for years. Even during my college days I'd (sometimes) eat a bag of popcorn for dinner. I'm embarrassed to admit, I still do it now!

To keep from getting burned out on one of the best snacks ever, I've had to spice things up a bit. I add seasonings, herbs and surprises to my bowl of popcorn (bacon, little candy treats etc.)

This mix of ingredients wins every time though!

Ingredients: 

  • Popcorn Kernels
  • Oil
  • Melted Butter
  • Rosemary
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • 4 - 5 slices of cooked bacon (depending on how much popcorn you are popping). Save the grease.
  • Salt

Directions: 

Step 1: Drizzle 1 - 3 tsps of oil in the pot.

Step 2: Pour kernels in the pot and cook at medium high temperature. With the lid on, constantly shake pot so that the kernels do not burn. Keep shaking while the kernels pop.

Step 3: When popcorn has finished popping, pour into a large bowl.

Step 4: Pour melted butter and bacon grease over popcorn and toss.

Step 5: Chop your rosemary and sprinkle on the popcorn.

Step 6: Grate your parmesan cheese into the bowl and toss.

Step 7: Chop your cooked bacon and add it to the popcorn bowl.

Step 8: Sprinkle salt and toss all of the ingredients together.

Step 9: EAT

Chocolate Covered Grapes with Toffee & Sprinkles 

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I've been attracted to sprinkles lately. There’s something about these teeny rainbow pearls that screams Paar-taay!  They're eye catching and beautiful no matter what you put them on.

I was itching to use the sprinkles in some kind of way, but didn’t want to go through the process of baking cookies or a cake.  I've seen caramel apples covered in sprinkles, but I'm not a big caramel apple fan; soooo chocolate covered fruit (with sprinkles and toffee) came to mind!  It's semi healthy right?

The combo of the grape and chocolate is perfect and the toffee and sprinkles push it over the top!

This is the perfect dessert for a dinner party -- a one handed, one bite, sweet and delicious snack.

Note: Make sure your grapes are on the larger side so that they hold plenty of toffee and sprinkles.

Ingredients: 

  • Large red or green grapes (washed and de-stemed)
  • Milk Chocolate Chips
  • Oil (I used Canola)
  • Toffee Bits
  • Sprinkles

Step 1: Chop the bottoms off of the grapes (this is so they stand up on your tray).

Step 2: Place the toothpick through the top of the grape.

Step 3: Melt your chocolate and add 1 - 2 teaspoons of oil (this will depend how much chocolate you are melting) on low heat.  Your chocolate should be creamy and smooth. Be sure not to burn or harden your chocolate.

Step 4: Grab your grape by the toothpick and dip into the chocolate mix.

Step 5: Sprinkle your chocolate covered grape with toffee or sprinkles.

Step 6. Place flat side down on your platter. Chill in the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving (this helps set the chocolate).

Step 7. Eat Up!

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IMG_4358

Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds

seeds
seeds

I'm trying to be conscious about using and saving almost every part (if I can) of the fruit and vegetables I cook with, i.e. starting a plant from the top of a pineapple, saving egg whites or yolks, using bones for chicken stock... you get the point.

In the process of cooking my butternut squash soup (recipe here)last night, I started to toss the seeds. It dawned on me that these seeds were probably edible.  Pumpkin seeds definitely are and they are in the same family as the squash right? I saved them and decided to give it a shot. Talk about addicting! Who knew roasted butternut squash seeds could be this good?  Too bad they don't sell them in the market.

Ingredients:

  • Seeds from the butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Optional: Seasoning ( I used garlic salt)

 Directions: 

PreHeat oven to 275 -  300 degrees.

Slice your butternut squash in half. Using a spoon, scoop out the center section and place your seeds in a strainer and rinse. If you leave a few squash strings on the seeds, its fine. Pat the seeds dry with a paper towel. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle the salt and seasonings of your choice on the seeds. Place the seeds in the oven and roast for 15 - 20 minutes. Cool and Eat.

10 Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

Kitchen Gadgets
Kitchen Gadgets

Some gadgets make you say, “why didn’t I think of that?!” I’m a bit of a gadget freak; herb choppers, citrus squeezers, zesters, spinners, fryers, juicers, you name it I own it.  I’ve had to cut myself off from buying kitchen tools and gadgets for awhile, my cabinets and drawers are getting a little out of hand. Since I own the basics, I’ve moved on to collecting what I call ridiculous but necessary kitchen gadgets. I’ve narrowed down my Top 10 favorite gadgets. These make great hostess or holiday gifts.

1. Corkcicle Air: Chills your favorite bottle of wine in 15 minutes or keeps your wine cold for up to an hour. 2. OXO Egg Slicer:Slices hard boiled eggs for salads and sandwiches. 3. Himalayan Salt Block: This unique block enhances the flavor of anything you put on it. You can cook meat, seafood, veggies and serve cheese and fruit on it. For recipe ideas, check out this salt block cookbook by Mark Bitterman. 4. Citrus Press: Perfect for squeezing every drop of citrus from your fruit. Get the biggest size (the orange one) so that you only have to buy one. 5. Microplane Zester/Grater:This can be used for zesting citrus and cheese. 6. Herb & Spice Infuser: Don't forget the herbs! Keeps your herbs together while adding flavor to your stews and soups. 7. OXO Cocktail Citrus Peeler: This gadget makes the perfect citrus curl to garnish your drinks or desserts.8. Yolk Out: Separates the egg yolk from the whites in one easy squeeze.9. Pizza Stone:Take your homemade pizzas up a notch with a pizza stone. This makes your crust crispy like your favorite pizzeria. 10. Houdini Wine Opener: Cuts your foil and opens your wine in less than 30 seconds.

Rustic Blueberry Crostata

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This is a gorgeous dessert that can be made a million ways. Basically, whatever fruits are in season can be added to the crostata. Summer = Blueberries, Fall = Apples, Spring = Cherries, you could even go savory and add chorizo, chicken, cheese or veggies.

I chose blueberries because of their sheer beauty when cooked.

This recipe was inspired by Carla Hall from abc's The Chew. She knows her stuff, that's for sure! This pie crust recipe will definitely be my go to recipe this fall & winter.

Note: The key to a perfect pie crust is COLD butter and COLD ingredients! It’s best if you can let the crust rest in the refrigerator for 12 - 24 hrs. That's a rule of thumb for most dough, including cookie dough. If you don’t have a stand up mixer, no problem, use your hand mixer.

I had a lot of fun making her crostata recipe. Its simple and a low cost gorgeous dessert.

Carla's recipe is posted after the photos.

butter
butter

{COLD butter ready for the crumble stage}

blueberries
blueberries

{Blueberries, blueberries, don't forget the blueberries!}

mix
mix
blueberry
blueberry
vanillablueberry
vanillablueberry

{All mixed up ready to go}

bowlblue
bowlblue
brushanddough
brushanddough
crust
crust

{Turbinado sugar dust}

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blueberrypowderedsugar
slice
slice
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IMG_3416

{Blueberry Massacre!!! It's blueberry goodness, don't worry nobody was injured during the baking of this crostata}

PERFECT PIE CRUST

  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Table Salt
  • 1/3 cup Water
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold Unsalted Butter (cut into 1/2-inch dice)
  • 2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour (plus more for rolling)

----------------

  • In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt in the water.  Refrigerate until very cold, about 30 minutes. During that time, refrigerate your butter, flour, mixer bowl, and paddle, too.
  • Make sure your butter is cut into 1/2-inch dice.  Bigger pieces will make your dough puffy.  In the chilled bowl, combine the cold butter and flour.  With your hands, toss the butter in the flour until each cube is lightly coated.
  • With the chilled paddle, beat the flour-butter mixture on low speed to just break up the butter, about 30 seconds.  Add the water mixture all at once and raise the speed to medium-low.  Beat just until the dough comes together in big chunks, then immediately turn off the mixer.
  • Divide the chunks of dough in half and very gently pat each group into a round 1-inch-thick disk.  Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, before rolling.  You can refrigerate the disks for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 3 months. 

RUSTIC BLUEBERRY TART

  • Pie Crust (from above)
  • 1 1/2 pounds Fresh Blueberries ( I had blueberries left over)
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 1/2 an Orange (Juice and Zest)
  • 1 Egg (Whisked)
  • Water
  • Turbinado Sugar (For Garnish)
  • Powdered Sugar (For Garnish)

-------------

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Allow dough to come to room temperature while you prepare filling.
  • In a large bowl, gently toss together Blueberries, Sugars, Salt, Vanilla, Cornstarch and Orange Juice and Zest.
  • Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  Place dough onto a cookie sheet with parchment underneath.  Pour the Blueberry mixture into the center of the dough leaving a 2-inch border. Pleat the dough every 2-3 inches until you have created a rustic wall to hold the Blueberries.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together one Egg and a splash of Water.  Brush the exposed dough with the Egg wash.  Sprinkle the dough with Turbinado Sugar. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Garnish with powdered Sugar.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Tomato
Tomato

I'm unsure whether to be sad summer is almost over or excited that Fall is knocking on the door. I love both seasons in their own way. Summer's numero uno for mint lemonade, picnics, grilling and rose (wine that is) but fall has its pumpkins, apple cider, bourbon and football. I've got love for both seasons, but for some reason I'm looking forward to fall a lot more this year. Maybe its all of the holidays that land between September - November. Or it could be the need for a simple weather change -- the 7 months of 80 degree weather in Los Angeles is getting pretty repetitive, its time for a change!

The farmers markets around Los Angeles are slowly but surely introducing us to their fall crops. I'd say the month of September is definitely a transitional month for produce.

One thing I'm bummed about are the incredible tomatoes that will be leaving us. It's funny to hear myself say that because I was never a tomato eater growing up, this is something my refined adult palate grew to love. Five years ago I would have never sat down to eat a plate of tomatoes. No way.

salad
salad

But these, these tomatoes aren't your everyday average tomato, these are very special tomatoes, these are Heirloom Tomatoes. They peak in August/September and are one of the most beautiful pieces of fruit (or vegetable -- according to a Supreme Court ruling) in existence. Call it a fruit or a vegetable, I don't care, I just know I'll be scarfing these down until our markets sell out. My go to recipe melds heirlooms, fresh basil leaves, goat cheese and olive oil with flaking salt and cracked pepper ... juicy, salty, sweet and tangy!

salt
salt

 {Favorite Flake Salt: Maldon Sea Salt Flake}

Lets talk flaking salt for a second. This is not the same thing as the salt you probably have in your pantry or the stuff you would bake with. This is a soft flaky salt that is made the old school way. The seawater is boiled until salt crystals form then hand harvested to form the flake. It's not the cheapest spice, but its worth it. Maldon isn't typically used for cooking and baking, it's mainly considered a "finishing salt". You're probably asking, "what the heck is 'finishing salt' and why"? Well it means exactly what it says, it's the perfect finish to most savory dishes.  Perfect for topping salads, eggs, avocado toast and anything else that you want to bring to life. Finishing salts makes recipes 10 times better by bringing out the existing flavors of the foods.

tomato
tomato

Heavenly Heirloom Tomato Salad:

  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Goat Cheese
  • Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Sea Salt Flakes
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • Olive Oil

To make: Cut your tomatoes in slices or wedges. Arrange your tomatoes on the plate. Sprinkle goat cheese, chopped basil and finished with a drizzle of olive oil, ground pepper and sea salt flakes.

Don't procrastinate on this one or you'll have to wait until next season!

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IMG_3368

Passion Fruit Ideas

passion fruit
passion fruit

Passion fruit is a peculiar fruit. 90% of the time, we see it as a concentrate (fruit juice). I recently had dinner at a Taiwanese restaurant and on their menu they have an incredible iced passion fruit black tea. It's great because they actually use the passion fruit seeds and not the concentrate. They add the seeds to the bottom of the drink...everytime you take a sip...you get a surprise crunch of the tart passion fruit seed.

I went on a mission to find passion fruits here in Los Angeles. In the past 6 months, I've only seen them in two places (The Fairfax Grove and Gelson's). They are hard to come by and are pretty expensive. $3 - $4 for one small fruit. If you can get your hands on one, pick one up and try it out. They are high in vitamin C and potassium. Try and ignore the strange look of the seeds, they're tasty.

Passion Fruit
Passion Fruit
passionfruit
passionfruit

{Cut the fruit in half, scoop the yellow seeds out and throw out or compost the casing}

fruit
fruit

{I love the gorgeous colors and texture of this fruit}

ideas
ideas

{Passion Fruit Inspo: Tea by Donna Hay & Passion Fruit Cheesecake by Dulcie May}

There are a ton of ideas out there for using passion fruit, but these two seem to be my favorite. For the iced tea, you can use black tea or green tea. Steep your tea as usual, add a little simple syrup to sweeten the tea, mix in your passion fruit seeds, add ice, shake and done. For the cheesecake, make as usual and use the seeds as a topping. It will add a tart and sweet flavor to your cake.

passion plant
passion plant

{This fruit vine is one of the most unique and beautiful plants around}

If you plan on getting a passionfruit plant, make sure it has something to climb over and grow on. It's actually a vine. The plant likes full sun and a warm (not HOT) climate. Fresh clean soil with great drainage is this plant's best friend.

Strawberry-Raspberry-Basil Homemade Fruit Rolls

rasberrystrawberry
rasberrystrawberry

I was the kid that grew up in the NO junk food house. The extent of our junk food was fig newtons, ginger snaps and popcorn. Terrible I know. I didn’t realize what I was missing out on until college or possibly late into high school.

I like to blame my current obsession for candy (gummy candy to be exact) on my no sugar upbringing -- thanks Mom. I’m not big on cupcakes, pies and cookies…I’d rather act like I'm 12 and eat candy. I think I'm catching up on all of the years I missed out on junk food.

As an adult I still try to eat pretty healthy, but of course I have my occasional binges. I’ve banned myself from buying Fruit Roll Ups, or any of those gummy snacks that everyone else grew up on ...  I'll eat the entire box in one day. Pretty ridiculous…I'm aware.

The smartest thing I stumbled upon was HOMEMADE FRUIT ROLL UPS. Yes, that's right! Four ingredients and done. They are absolutely delicious. If you have the patience to let them "cook" for 7 hours, put this on your list. I plan on making a large batch and keeping them for quick snacks and candy cravings.  Try it out! Depending on what's in season, switch up the flavors and try new combinations.

strawberries
strawberries
raspberries
raspberries
basil
basil
Simmer
Simmer

{Simmer time}

prep
prep

{Blended fruit on the Silpat (Click the link to find a silpat)}

prep
prep
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IMG_3082

{Dehydrated fruit mixture}

Materials
Materials
fruit rolls
fruit rolls

{Roll it up! Secure with your twine}

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IMG_3095
fruit rolls
fruit rolls
air tight container
air tight container

{Store in an airtight container}

center of table
center of table

Ingredients:

2 - 3 cups Strawberries / 1 - 2 cups Raspberries / 3 Tbs Chopped Basil / 1/4 cup Organic Cane Sugar

Materials Needed:

Silpat / Parchment Paper / Food Scissors  / Twine or String

Directions: 

Preheat oven to the lowest temperature on your oven. Mine was at 175 degrees. In a blender or food processor, mix strawberries, raspberries and sugar together. To remove seeds, strain fruit mix. Add the fruit mixture to a pot and bring to a boil. As soon as the bubbles form, turn heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir.  Add the basil and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Pour contents onto the silpat. Let the fruit dehydrate in the oven for 7 - 8 hrs (until the mixture is no longer sticky to touch). 

Peel mixture off of your silpat. Cut the dried fruit and parchment paper into to strips (size depends on you). Lay the fruit strip onto of the cut parchment paper.  Roll your fruit strip and secure with your twine.

Store in an airtight container to keep them soft.

These are addicting. Careful.

Glazed Apple Fritters

Fritter
Fritter
Fritter

I’ve had these little fritters on my cook list for a while and finally fried them up. Don’t be scared of the “f” word ... in moderation folks.  These cute little fritters can be made for breakfast, dessert, dinner, brunch, whatever floats your boat. Semi-crunchy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.

Don’t be afraid of the glaze. It's a must and is extremely simple.

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IMG_2839

{Dry ingredients: Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Salt, Cinnamon, Nutmeg}

Add the Egg
Add the Egg

{Add the egg}

Egg to Dry
Egg to Dry

{Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients}

Mix Well
Mix Well
Fold in Apples
Fold in Apples

{Fold in the diced apples}

Scoop
Scoop

{Using a cookie scoop, scoop into batter balls}

Fry
Fry

{Add batter to your vegetable oil -- turning occasionally}

Glaze
Glaze

{Roll each fritter into the glaze and finish with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top}

Fritter Ingredients: 

1 cup all-purpose flour 1/3 cup sugar 1 tsp. baking powder dash salt 1 – 2 tsp. cinnamon 1/4 tsp. nutmeg 1/2 tsp. vanilla 1 T. butter, melted 1 egg 1/3 cup milk 1 – 1 1/2 cups chopped apple (any kind will do) -- chop into small pieces

Glaze Ingredients:

About 1 cup powdered sugar / 1 T. milk or more

Mix all dry ingredients together, slowly add the wet ingredients minus the apple. Carefully mix until well combined, carefully fold in chopped apple. Once the oil is ready (i always do the water test -- drop water in the pot, if it sizzles you're ready) use a cookie scooper or large spoon and place 4-5 balls of dough into the oil. Gently flip when one side starts to brown. All sides of the fritter should be browned. It will take about one to two minutes depending on the size of your fritter. Your oil should be around 365 degrees. I used a candy thermometer to read the temp.

*Glaze: Mix powdered sugar and milk together. To thin out the mixture, add more milk. To thicken the mixture add more powdered sugar.  -- TIP: to get the proper consistency, do not use all of the powdered sugar at once. Start with a small amount and add more as you mix.

When the fritters are cooked, place them on napkins to drain. When they are cool enough to touch, roll each fritter in the glaze. Top with a dust of powdered sugar.

Grape + Basil Cocktail

cocktail
cocktail
cocktail

This cocktail is super light and refreshing. It's the perfect drink for an at home Happy Hour with friends (or alone if that's how you roll).   You be the judge of how much vodka to add to your drink...adjust the recipe accordingly. If you're a gin drinker...replace the vodka with gin. There are no set rules here. Make it your own!

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IMG_2691
Muddle
Muddle
Grapes
Grapes

{Muddle the grapes to create your grape juice}

grapes
grapes
juice
juice

{Using a cheese cloth or a strainer, strain your juice}

Grape Juice
Grape Juice
Basil
Basil
Muddle
Muddle

{Muddle the basil leaf to release the oil}

Club Soda
Club Soda

{My go to club soda - Q CLUB Superior Club Soda}

Drink
Drink

INGREDIENTS

12 grapes

6 basil leaves

1 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. simple syrup

4 ounces vodka

2 cups soda water

  1. Place grapes in the bottom of a shaker/glass and smash with a cocktail muddle. Pour contents through a cheese cloth or strainer and reserve juice.
  2. Lightly muddle the basil in the bottom of the same glass to release the oils. Add the simple syrup (recipe here), grape juice and lemon juice. I used a mason jar with a top -- shake shake shake.  Add ice, vodka, honey and shake again.
  3. Pour your mixture in a glass and top with your soda water, lemon wedge and basil leaf.
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IMG_2782

CHEERS!

The Accidental Breakfast

Let me preface this post by saying I absolutely enjoy any kind of sausage, bacon and of course chorizo for breakfast.  It's rare that I’ll make a scramble or breakfast sandwich with out one of the fabulous three. This morning things went a little different. Fancy egg breakfast made sans meat and cheese.

This scramble is all vegetables with a side of vegetables. Now WAIT! Don't click off of this post just yet.  I’m sure you want to after reading that … but you have to trust me on this one.  The nuttiness of the Portobello and the crunch of the brussel sprouts just works! Cutting the Portobello into thick pieces tricks your brain into thinking its sausage. Well maybe not. But trust me just do it!

Here goes: (feel free to increase the recipe if you are feeding a crowd)

2 scrambled eggs — with “Slap ya Mama Seasoning” (any Cajun seasoning or seasoned salt will do)

Sliver of Butter Olive Oil Kosher Salt Cayenne Pepper for Heat Black Pepper 1/2 of a Large Portobello Mushroom 5-8 Brussel Sprouts Heirloom Tomatoes

1. Beat your eggs together with your favorite seasoning and let that sit to the side.

2. Put the butter and olive oil into the pan. Add the Brussel Sprouts and add a sprinkle of Kosher Salt and Black Pepper. Saute until the sprouts begin to soften.

3. Add the Portobello into the pan with the Brussel Sprouts until you see slight shrinkage. Saute the two for 2-4 minutes on low to medium.

4. When you are ready (depending on how crunchy or soft you want your brussel sprouts) add your eggs to the pan. Fold eggs into the mixture on a lowertemp so the eggs stay fluffy and do not burn. I repeat...cook eggs on a low temperature.

5. Slice your Heirloom Tomatoes and serve on the side. (You could also chop the tomato and add it directly to the scramble.) But, I like heirlooms on their own with a drizzle of olive oil and kosher salt and pepper.

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IMG_1828

This dish can also be made with out Eggs. Saute brussel sprouts with portobello for a decadent side dish.

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IMG_1479
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IMG_1487

Simple Syrup Recipe

Simple Syrup
Simple Syrup
Simple Syrup

Simple syrup couldn’t have a better name for its self. It’s so simple its ridiculous. Trust me, you won’t mess this one up.

Simple Syrups are amazing and can be infused with almost any and everything. Mint, lavender, ginger, rosemary...you get the point. It’s an easy way to flavor cocktails, teas, coffee, and fruit salads. Just steep your herb for a few minutes and strain it out when you have reached your desired flavor.

Simple Syrup
Simple Syrup
Simple Syrup
Simple Syrup

Simple Syrup Recipe:

(Can be multiplied depending on what you plan to make)

1 Cup water

3/4 - 1 cup granulated sugar

*Optional: Mint, Ginger, Lavender, Lemon Peel, Cinnamon Stick, Vanilla Beans ... experiment around and see what you can come up with.

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan bring water and sugar to a boil (the amount of sugar depends on you)
  2. Boil for a few minutes or until sugar has dissolved (if you aren’t adding   flavors…you are done)
  3. Add your optional flavorings and turn heat to low
  4. Steep for  20 - 30 minutes
  5. Strain your syrup into an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator

TIP: For a stronger flavor, chop your herbs before steeping.

Simple Syrup
Simple Syrup
Simple Syrup
Simple Syrup

Your syrups should last you a few weeks. 

Watermelon Fig Granitas

granita
granita

Growing up in the South we did everything we could to stay cool during the sultry summer months. Triple digit temps had us running through sprinklers, going to the pool and riding our bikes to the nearest Sno Cone Stand. In Texas we call them Sno Cones and in Louisiana they call them Sno Balls.  Sno Ball … Sno Cone, they both taste amazing to me. Technically a Sno Cone has crunchy ice and the Sno Ball has fluffy ice. Los Angeles isn’t really known for having Sno Cone stands. Quite frankly I’ve never seen one here …if i’m wrong let me know! To recreate the flavored ice that I love and often crave I decided to make a Granita. Granitas are the grown up Italian version of a Sno Cone. The sugary syrups that we use down South are omitted and replaced with natural sugars from fresh fruit and honey.

Its quite simple to make but you have to be near your freezer for the first few hours. Take a stroll through your farmers market or grocery store and see what fruits you can add to your granita.

Ingredients:

4 cups of large Seedless Watermelon 3 - 4 Figs (peeled) 1 Juicy Lime 2 - 3 Tbs of Honey (or to your taste, depending on how sweet your fruit are)

1. In a blender combine Seedless Watermelon, peeled figs and lime Juice. Blend together until frothy. 2. Add honey (amount will depend on how sweet you want your Granita). If you have a ripe sweet Watermelon you will probably need less Honey. Unfortunately for me, the melon I chose wasn’t the sweetest so I had to add more honey and a dash of Cane Sugar. 3. Pour the mixture into a pan (size of a small loaf pan) and freeze. 4. At the one hour mark take a fork and fluff the ice. Put the granita back into the freezer to finish. Depending on your mixture and freezer keep fluffing every 30 - minutes to an hour.

IMG_1789
IMG_1789

When your mixture is frozen and fluffy, its done and ready to eat!

A simple frozen treat to enjoy during the summer months ... or depending where you live, every month.

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Picking the Perfect Avocado

IMG_2136
IMG_2136

Here in SoCal we are fortunate to have an abundance of ripe Avocados year around. Avocados make an easy snack, meal or addition to a meal. It took me years to learn how to pick a ripe and ready to eat Avocado. Once I learned the easiest trick EVER, I can't seem to put down the Avocados. 

Let me show you how this works:

123avo
123avo

Remove the button or stem (whatever you want to call it).  The color that is under the button will let you know if its ripe rotten or ready.  The color of the skin will help you too.

If its Green it's a go if its Browning — it's not his lucky day, put it back!

avodouble
avodouble

Yes, it's that simple.

Avo2
Avo2

Sometimes its pretty obvious whats inside.

Avo3
Avo3

Hard + Green under the Button = WINNER, but give it a few days to soften. To speed up the ripening , store the Avocado in a brown paper bag for a few days.

Semi Soft + Green under the Button = WINNER and Ready to Eat

Semi Soft + Brown under the Button = Soft Seed and beginning to go bad.

Very Soft + Brown under the Button = Rotten

You get the point...

Take this advice and I promise you will become an Avocado picking pro!

Figgy Goodness Recipe

croissant
croissant
croissant
croissant

I’m lucky T’s mother is a self-proclaimed farmer-ess. She has a variety of amazing fruits and vegetables growing in her backyards here in Southern California and at her home in Botswana.

White Figs
White Figs

The local trees produce massive amounts of figs, lemons and mini mandarin oranges.

Fig trees bloom from mid May through early fall. Usually we can't keep up with the amount of figs it produces and the birds have a fig feast every summer.

Figs
Figs

This season I decided to fill up a bag and get to cookin'! It's hard to watch these fresh fruits drop and go to waste.

This recipe has an eclectic group of ingredients that all surprisingly meld well together. The croissant that I used made a HUGE difference in flavor too. I’ve been looking for a local bakery that makes everything in house. Lucky me — I found one! When you make this, I suggest buying the freshest  and flakiest croissant you can find. It's the base of this recipe, it makes a big difference.

Sandwich
Sandwich

This can be made for brunch lunch or a light dinner. If you choose to make it for brunch…of course pour a glass of Prosecco to pair with the sando. It will go well with  the goat cheese and prosciutto.

Pesto Jar
Pesto Jar

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Flakey Croissant
  • Prosciutto
  • Roasted Figs
  • Arugula
  • Pesto Sauce
  • Goat Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese Slices
  • Kosher Salt --> Tip: dump your table salt and start using Kosher salt. Table salt has a slight metallic flavor from the iodine. Kosher has no additives which gives it a light clean taste.

To roast the figs, mix equal parts honey and olive oil to make approximately 3 - 4 tablespoons of the mixture.

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IMG_1783

Drizzle the olive oil and honey mixture on top of the figs with a sprinkle of kosher salt.  Roast the figs at 200 degrees for 15 minutes.

Roasted Figs
Roasted Figs

Cut your Croissant in half. On one side of the bread smear your Pesto and on the other, your Goat Cheese. Assemble your sandwich with the Arugula, Prosciutto, Roasted Figs and Parmesan Slices.

plate
plate
sando
sando

Enjoy!

Antonia at Healthy Inspirations inspired me to make this beautiful sandwich.