Friday, June 20, 2014

Ice Cream Cone Explosion Cake

I used to HATE cake. For all of my birthdays growing up I would demand an ice cream cake (preferably from DQ). Unfortunately, I love cake now...but that doesn't mean I haven't forgotten my first love: the ice cream cake. I think I developed this love in part because my Dad is obsessed with ice cream. Almost every night he makes himself a large bowl of ice cream or a fancy banana split complete with his signature crunchy peanut butter and jelly. I knew I couldn't go wrong making him an ice cream cake for Father's Day. 

Whenever we go out for ice cream (sometimes for dinner) he usually sticks with his favorite chocolate chip mint. So I decided to make both layers his favorite! However, I love this cake because you can get creative with the kind of ice cream you use. So technically, you're making a completely different cake every time! Have fun and enjoy!

Ice Cream Cone Explosion Cake
Recipe adapted from A Beautiful Bite

1 pkg of oreo cookies (14.3 oz)
5 waffle cones
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 cups your favorite ice cream*, divided (4 cups per layer) and softened
Whip cream, sprinkles for garnish

Place oreos (without removing frosting) in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Prepare two 8"-9" round cake pans by cutting a piece of wax paper to fit in the bottom, then spray lightly with cooking spray. Divide the oreo crumbs between the pans and press firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the freezer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with a large sheet of wax paper. Break 3 of the waffle cones into pieces and spread evenly on the lined baking sheet. To melt the chocolate, fill a small skillet with an inch of water. Place skillet on a burner. Put chocolate chips in a small glass bowl and gently set into the skillet. Heat over low heat, stirring chocolate to prevent burning and aid melting process. Be careful not to splash any water into the chocolate mixture. Once melted, drizzle chocolate over the broken waffle cone pieces. Place cookie sheet in the freezer to firm. If there is left over melted chocolate, dip the tops of your remaining whole waffle cones in it (or just eat it ;)

Remove oreo crusts from the freezer and invert pans to gently remove. Place one of the crusts on a prepared serving platter and return the other to the freezer. Wipe out your two cake pans and fill each with 4 cups of softened ice cream. Place the ice cream filled pans in the freezer. After 1 hour (or when the ice cream is firm enough to handle) remove the ice cream pans from the freezer and invert one pan on top of oreo crust. Layer second oreo crust on top of ice cream, followed by the second layer of ice cream. Snap the bottoms off of the two whole waffle cones and gently press into the cake. Take the crushed cone pieces out of the freezer and pile them around the cones. Place the cake in the freezer again and allow to firm up (about 4 hours).

Right before serving, scoop ice cream into cones and garnish with whipped cream, sprinkles, cherries or whatever you desire!

*You can make the layers of ice cream different flavors if you want! Get creative :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sweet Potato Hash with Creamy Avocado Sauce

Sweet potatoes and avocados are two of those healthy foods that taste amazing. I almost feel guilty eating them because they taste so good they can't possibly be healthy. Well, combining these two delicious foods was a magical idea. This recipe is creamy, spicy, hearty, and it won't kill your diet. What's even better about this recipe is that you can eat it for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner (which is actually what I did...). Oh, another cool thing is that the avocado sauce doesn't turn a nasty brown! I left mine in the fridge for 4 days and the color didn't change at all. This sauce is also GREAT on burgers, sandwiches, or wraps. Or, if you're strange like me, I also made it into a salad dressing. Oh the versatility!

Sweet Potato Hash with Creamy Avocado Sauce
Recipe adapted from Cookin Canuck
    The sauce:
  • 2 avocados, skin and seed removed
  • 1/3 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tbsp minced cilantro
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • The hash:
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp cajun seasoning
  • 3/4 cup black beans (cooked)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
  • 4 strips cooked bacon, broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    The sauce:
  1. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the avocados, yogurt, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, water, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  2. The hash:
  3. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add sweet  potatoes and cook until just tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (preferably cast-iron) set over medium-high heat.
  5. Add onion and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes until they start to turn golden brown. Add garlic and cajun seasoning and cook for 1 minute more, stirring frequently.
  6. Stir in the cooked sweet potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes start to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
  7. Stir in the black beans, corn, bacon and cilantro.
  8. Divide between 8 plates and top with each portion with the avocado sauce. (I added a little hot sauce to mine too ;)

Nutritional Information: 8 (1 cup) servings with (2 Tbsp) sauce
Calories-210, Total Fat-11g, Total Carbs-24g, Protein-7.5g

Monday, June 16, 2014

South Indian-Style Vegetable Curry

I am always asked the question, "What's your favorite kind of food?" Well, quite honestly I think I go through phases. But recently, I've been addicted to Indian food. I think the thing that always disappoints me the most when trying something new, is lack of flavor. With Indian food I've NEVER had that problem. Indians know how to use spices. They may use some pretty boring foods most the time like potatoes, chickpeas, or lentils, but what really makes me fall head-over-heels for Indian food is the flavor. It can be overwhelming trying to make Indian food at home just because the list of spices takes up half the ingredients list...but don't be deterred! And by all means don't skimp on the spices. Truthfully, I usually end up adding more. But if you are a bit overwhelmed, go out to a good Indian food restaurant, and I promise you that'll be enough inspiration for your tastebuds to try out an Indian recipe at home.  

South Indian-Style Vegetable Curry
Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (1 Tbs.)
1 1/2 Tbs. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. garam masala
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 cups lower-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup light coconut milk
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
Small bunch curry leaves (optional)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small eggplant, cubed (about 3 cups)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (about 1 cup)
One 15-1/2-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium (or medium low if necessary) and cook until the onion is richly browned, 5 to 7 minutes more. Add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, for 1 minute to blend the flavors. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, chili powder, and cayenne; stir for 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add the tomato paste and stir until well blended with the aromatics, about 1 minute.

Add the broth, coconut milk, cinnamon stick, curry leaves, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low or low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the eggplant, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots. Raise the heat to medium high and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Stir in the chickpeas, peas, lime juice, and zest; cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes more. Season to taste with salt. Serve garnished with the cilantro over brown or white rice.

*You can really use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge! Cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes and spinach would be good additions to name a few.

Nutrition Facts: 10 (1-cup) servings
Calories-144, Total fat-4g, Total Carbs-23.8g, Sugar-3.6g, Protein-4.6g

Friday, June 13, 2014

Protein Pumpkin Pies with Honey Greek Yogurt Topping

Here I am again with the unseasonal foods. I just can't keep myself away from pumpkin! Thankfully the grocery store always has my back, stocking cans of beautiful, pureed pumpkin even "out of season". My new obsession is making SUPER healthy things. This just about beats any baked good I've ever made before health-wise. Without the topping it's only a mere 57 calories! CRAZY. Not only that, but they're gluten-free, no sugar added, are packed full of vitamins, and I have a vegan option for you. AND most importantly they taste fantastic. Can we get a round of applause ladies and gentlemen! See the rest of the nutrition facts at the bottom to be even more amazed (I suggest taking a seat first though to avoid collapsing in awe). 

Protein Pumpkin Pies with Honey Greek Yogurt ToppingRecipe adapted from Simply Tara Lynn

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce1 tsp baking soda1 Tbsp baking powder1 scoop vanilla protein powder1/4 cup ground flax seed1 egg white (if you want to make these vegan, replace egg white with 3 tablespoons of Chia seeds)1 cup non fat plain or vanilla greek yogurt1 tsp honey

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin pan with 10 cupcake liners (preferably aluminum liners) and coat with non-stick spray. Combine pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, applesauce, baking soda, baking powder, protein powder, flax seed and egg white in a large bowl. Drop 1/2 cup of mixture into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20-24 minutes. While baking prepare topping by mixing together yogurt and honey. Top cooled pies with a dollop of yogurt, drizzle with honey and sprinkle a little cinnamon on for good measure ;) These are great warm or cold. Store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts: Makes 10 piesWithout topping: Calories-56.9, Total fat-1.7g, Total carbs-8.3, Sugar-3.6g, Protein-3.4gWith topping: Calories-72.8, Total fat-1.7g, Total carbs-9.8, Sugar-4.8g, Protein-5.8g

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Popcorn Bar

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending my beautiful cousin's wedding! It was a fantastic affair. So perfectly decorated, super fun guests, and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. My wedding planner aunt asked me if I would do the popcorn bar for the after party and I immediately jumped on the opportunity. For one, I'm obsessed with is my most favorite food group. And secondly, I LOVE event planning sorts of things. I wanted to engage people partaking of the popcorn bar and I wanted to make sure they were getting a product that they personally wanted. With that in mind, I created a "make-it-yourself" experience. I made several large baskets of lightly buttered+salted popcorn, as well as caramel corn. Guests could then choose from 6 different shake on flavors and custom make their very own popcorn flavor! My absolute favorite combo was the chai-spice with caramel corn...I'm still having dreams about it...

Caramel Corn
Recipe from Recipe Girl

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 cups popped popcorn

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.
Melt butter in a 1 gallon pot over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer undisturbed for 4 minutes. Stir,then continue to cook for an additional 4 to 6 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is a deep golden color. Turn off the heat and whisk in salt, baking soda and vanilla. Set the whisk aside and stir in the popcorn. Scoop up the syrup from the bottom and over the top. Keep stirring and scooping the syrup over the popcorn until it is evenly covered and there is no syrup left on the bottom of the pan.
Spread the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the caramel corn has turned a deep amber color. Remove the caramel corn from the oven and spoon it onto a waxed paper-lined surface to cool. When completely cooled, store caramel corn in a covered container- it should stay fresh for up to a week.

Chai Spice - Mix together 1 Tbsp nutmeg, 1 Tbsp ginger powder, 1 Tbsp cardamom, 1 Tbsp black pepper, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves
Cinnamon Sugar - Mix together 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 Tbsp cinnamon
Mexican Chocolate - Mix together 3 Tbsp cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp           cayenne

Tequila Chili Lime - Mix together 1 Tbsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp garlic           powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp cayenne (more or less, depending on the amount of heat you like), 1/8 tsp sugar, zest of 1 lime
Ranch - Use ranch dressing mix
White Cheddar - I cheated and bought the pre-made powder at the store...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples and Pecans

Brussels sprouts is one of those foods that you have to grow up to start liking. Many people don't give them that second chance, but I am sure glad I did! I even went through a phase last winter where I craved steamed brussels sprouts for breakfast. Plain, steamed, brussels sprouts. You may call me strange, but that sure was the healthiest breakfast I've ever had! Their warmth was comforting to me on those cold winter days. Besides roasting, this is probably my new favorite recipes for brussels sprouts. I know it's kind of a "fall recipe", but I could eat it year round. I will definitely remember it as a must-have side for my Thanksgiving meal this year.

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples and Pecans

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
1 large tart apple, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and brussels sprouts, stirring to coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until onions start to turn a little golden. Add in apple slices and rosemary. 
Meanwhile, toast pecans in another skillet over medium heat.
Continue to cook brussels sprout mixture for another 5 minutes or until brussels sprouts are easily pierced with a fork. Spoon salad onto serving dish and garnish with toasted pecans.

*If you're feeling especially fancy, you can candy the pecans by adding a tablespoon of sugar and butter to the toasting skillet