Monday, April 30, 2012

A Guest Post...and Spices Inc. Contest Reminder

Good morning, foodie friends! On the way out the door for work after a three-day weekend, so have to make this one quick! My dear blogger friend Becky from Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves recently lost her father, so she asked me to guest post for her wonderful blog. I'm sharing  a recipe for Fiesta Chicken Crostata with Chile-Lime Yogurt Sauce. It is full of zesty flavor and family-friendly...sort of like a Mexican spin on pizza! Go check it out...and say hi to Becky!

Also...a reminder about my contest with Spices Inc. You have until this Friday to visit their website and create your own six-jar custom spice it...and tell us how you picked your selections. The winner wins their spice set...and they will have it featured on the Spices Inc website as a Limited Edition product available for purchase. This is really cool, so I hope you enter. See Friday's blog post below for more details.

Off to work...why are Mondays always so hard?!?!?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Know Your Exotic Fruits: Cherimoya 101...Featuring Creamy Cherimoya-White Chocolate Phyllo Tartlets with Summer Fruit Medley

Good, I'm happy to introduce you to an exotic fruit that you probably haven't tried...or perhaps even heard of.  Until my friends at Frieda's sent me a couple of cherimoyas (sher-ih-MOY-uhs) to sample and create a recipe with, I had never seen or tasted one myself. I'm so glad that I had this opportunity, because this little-known fruit is FABULOUS! Cherimoyas -- also known as the custard apple --- are about the size of a softball and have a green exterior that looks a bit scaly. When you cut into it, you'll discover a creamy, soft interior with several inedible brown seeds. The lovely flavor is best described as "tropical"...there are hints of pineapple, banana, and berries.

I ate one of my cherimoyas straight from the fridge with a spritz of lime juice so I could get a feel for the flavor and what it might combine well with. I felt like I should be lounging in a hammock next to a turquoise-blue beach as I ate it! Besides being delicious, cherimoyas are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and magnesium.

I decided to create my own recipe featuring cherimoya. I combined the fruit with white chocolate cream cheese and vanilla bean paste. Then I piped the creamy mousse into mini phyllo cups and topped them with diced summer fruit and shredded coconut. In about 20 minutes, I had a perfect tropical-inspired dessert.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Spices Inc. Build-Your-Own-Spice Set Contest...and Yucatan-Spiced Chicken with Tropical Avocado Salsa

I get easily excited about food...this I readily admit! I’m sure most of you can relate. But, today? I’m even more excited than usual, because I have a really fun contest to announce! First, a little background: In the early months of this blog, I entered a contest that a food blogger friend of mine hosted (Louanne of Louanne’s Kitchen). I submitted a custom spice collection to Spices Inc. ...and my Wendy’s Wow Factor was picked as a winner! I recently discovered that more than a year later, it’s still available for purchase on their website...and that it’s actually quite popular. That absolutely floors me! What does this have to do with anything, you may be wondering?

Well...Spices Inc. is now partnering with ME on a similar contest! The rules are really simple, so I hope all of you enter this fun contest and showcase just how creative you are! To take part in this Build-Your-Own-Spice-Set contest, here’s what you need to do:

(1)  Go to the Spices Inc. website and browse their huge variety of herbs, spices, chiles, and seasoning blends.
(2)  Pick SIX different items to place in your spice set - spices, herbs, seasonings, or chiles.
(3)  Give your spice set a fun, creative name...something that helps it stand apart from the other entries.
(4)  In a sentence or two, tell us the inspiration for your spice set: how does it reflect the way you cook?
(5)  Leave your entry in a comment below; you have until Friday, May 4th at 11:59 PM to enter.

Greg Patterson, owner and Chief Spices Officer of Spices Inc., will judge all of the entries and pick the most creative spice set as the winner. The contest winner will receive their very own customized six-jar spice set to cook with in their kitchen. In addition, the winning spice set will be featured on the Spices Inc. website as a "Limited Edition Spice Set," along with name credit in the description. How cool is that?!?!? I know...VERY! Have fun creating your spice sets, and GOOD LUCK!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No-Stress Lemon Panna Cotta with Honey-Balsamic Berries...Featuring Chobani Lemon Yogurt

I have to admit that I wasn’t a huge yogurt fan until I tasted Greek yogurt...something about the thicker texture and extra protein made it more appealing to me. That’s why I was so excited when Chobani offered to send me some of their yummy Greek yogurt to try, share my thoughts with you, and share a recipe using their products. We eat Chobani all the time, but I tried flavors that were new to me apple-cinnamon, pomegranate, lemon, 2% pineapple, and 2% plain. I earmarked the lemon and plain to use in recipes, but we snacked on the other flavors over the course of a few days.

I enjoyed all the flavors, but my favorite was the pomegranate. You know the fruit is real, because it includes the pom seeds! This yogurt was creamy, thick, and just sweet enough to eat straight from the container. Michael’s favorite was the apple-cinnamon...he said it was reminiscent of apple pie without a crust. I used the 2% pineapple one weekend to make a fruit and granola yogurt parfait for a quick and healthy brunch. We paired the yogurt with fresh pineapple, banana, and berries. It was so good and really filling thanks to the extra protein!!

I wanted to find a really great recipe to showcase the lemon yogurt...I couldn’t decide whether to make a dessert or maybe lemon-blueberry pancakes. The problem with most lemon desserts I found was that they included non-dairy topping and/or condensed milk. I occasionally use those products, but I wanted to use natural ingredients this time to match this all-natural yogurt. Luckily, I stumbled upon Ina Garten’s recipe for lemon panna cotta with balsamic strawberries that used yogurt in the base. I subbed Chobani lemon and made a few other tweaks: I added lemon zest and juice and upped the gelatin to compensate for the extra acid. I also added a smidge more sugar and used half cream and half milk to lower the fat content just a bit.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April Secret Recipe Club...Featuring Risotto with Caramelized Onions, Rosemary & Thyme

Hey, friends! It’s time for another Secret Recipe Club reveal. I totally love being part of this amazing monthly blog’s such a fun way to meet new food blog friends AND spotlight some of your favorite blogs. My assigned blog this month was Eliot’s Eats, which is a blog I visit on a regular basis. The food shared on this blog is always tasty and approachable, and the stories and anecdotes that accompany each recipe always make me smile! I was so excited to try one of Eliot’s many wonderful recipes. Since I never met a risotto I didn’t love, I decided to play around with her Risotto with Caramelized Onions and Rosemary

My go-to risotto is from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook, but it’s not something I whip up all the time. It's got quite a few steps...and a cup of whipped cream and truffle oil added in at the end. It’s a once-in-a-while splurge for us. This risotto has a lot of the same flavors, actually...but it's a much better weeknight option. The measurements below reflect a half batch of 2-3 servings since it's just the two of us at Casa Garcia. 

I had some thyme and rosemary left from a few recent recipes, so I used both herbs to flavor the risotto...and I stirred in 1/4 cup cream and 2 tbs. butter when I added the parmesan at the end. The only other tweak I made to the original recipe was to add the herbs to the onions as they caramelized to infuse the flavor into the onions rather than adding them to the risotto just before serving.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Terrapin Ridge Farms Review & Giveaway...Featuring Cumin-Lime Salmon with Blueberry-Corn Salsa

One of the really fun things about being a food blogger is having the opportunity to review food products and share my thoughts with my readers. I’ve discovered several really great gourmet food vendors over the past year or so, and I’m really excited to share my latest “find” with y'all today! Terrapin Ridge Farms is a Clearwater, Florida-based gourmet food company that specializes in unique salad dressings, dips, and spreads. They recently sent me a few of their products to try out in my kitchen. My package contained the following yummy condiments:
  • Pomegranate-Citrus Dressing
  • Blueberry Honey Mustard Pretzel Dip
  • Sweet Pickle & Onion Burger Topper
  • Strawberry Cheesecake Dessert Sauce/Deip

I tried each of the products and was really impressed with the flavors! The dressing is sweet-tart and works really well with my go-to salad: field greens, candied pecans, feta, and sliced strawberries. It’s also a fantastic marinade! We tried the burger topper on cheeseburgers last has all the flavors I love in one yummy spread: mayo, mustard, ketchup, onion, and sweet pickles. 

It’s sort of like a Secret Sauce on steroids! All the burger needed was some fresh veggies and melted cheese to round it out. I enjoyed the blueberry honey mustard dip with pretzels during a recent TV’s sweet and tangy, with a nice kick from stone-ground mustard. 

I think this spread would also make a fantastic spread for a grilled chicken sandwich with caramelized onions and melted jack cheese! I sampled the strawberry cheesecake spread by dunking graham cracker sticks into it for a quick after-work was like eating strawberry cheesecake!  I’m saving the rest of the jar to combine with Philly’s white chocolate cream cheese and pipe into mini phyllo cups for a quick no-bake dessert.

I wanted to pick one item to showcase in a featured I decided to use the Pomegranate-Citrus Dressing to make a warm-weather seafood meal: Seared Cumin-Lime Salmon with Blueberry-Corn Salsa. I love salmon because it’s naturally healthy and full of Omega 3. This is my riff on a recipe that I found in Better Homes & Gardens. I took a lot of liberties with the recipe, but want to credit them with the inspiration for this dish. The sweet-tangy dressing pulls double duty in this recipe, acting as a marinade for the salmon...and a flavoring for the salsa. This definitely ain’t your mama’s salsa, though!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Garlic-Herb Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts & Pesto-Tomato Farfalle

One of the questions that people often ask when they hear that I’m a food blogger is, “How do you come up with the recipes that you write about?” I tell them that I don’t have one set method...sometimes I see something interesting on TV...sometimes a recipe in a magazine or cookbook grabs my attention. Then I play around with the recipe a bit to make it my own. Other times, I come up with something new based on what I have in my kitchen on a given day...and just let my imagination run wild. And then...sometimes? I stumble upon a fun product and build an original recipe around it. Which is exactly how I came up with the recipe I’m sharing today. When I was at the Pearl Farmers’ Market here in San Antonio last weekend, I bought some really yummy pesto from Humble House Foods, a local gourmet food company. Instead of the usual pine nuts, it's made with walnuts...along with lots of basil and parmesan!

The pesto was so fresh-tasting and yummy that I told them I was going to create a recipe using it and share it here on the blog. Locals can buy Humble House's full line of spreads on weekends at the Pearl Farmers Market or the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market...they don’t have retail or mail order at this time. I also had some of the amazing CKC Farms Herb Chevre left from the pork chops I stuffed on Saturday, so I wanted to use that in my recipe as well. What I came up with was Garlic-Herb Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts & Pesto-Tomato Farfalle. The chicken is simply seasoned and roasted in the oven. I wanted the flavor to be mild so the creamy goat cheese was front and center. The pasta is so simple: cooked farfalle (bowtie), Humble House Pesto, and Red Gold Italian-flavored tomatoes.

Garlic-Herb Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts & 
Pesto-Tomato Farfalle
a Weekend Gourmet Original

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 375. Layer the following ingredients in an oval casserole: 2 tbs. olive oil, 2-3 grated garlic cloves, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, and a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme. 

Step 2:  Cut a small, deep pocket into the meaty portion of three boneless, skin-on chicken breasts. Stuff @1 tbs. of your favorite goat cheese into the pocket and secure the meat with a wooden skewer or sturdy toothpick. Arrange the chicken breasts on top of the herb-garlic mixture in the pan. Brush each piece of chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and a bit garlic salt to taste. Roast the until the skin is golden and the chicken is cooked through...between 30-40 minutes.

Step 3:  While the chicken roasts, make the pasta. Cook 8 ounces farfalle pasta in well salted water until al dente. Drain and return to pan. Add 8 ounces of your favorite pesto -- homemade or prepared -- and half a can of well-drained Red Gold tomatoes with garlic, basil, and oregano. Toss to combine and spoon the pasta onto a serving platter. When the chicken is cooked, remove the skewers and arrange on top of the pasta. Just before serving, sprinkle the entire dish with a bit of shredded parmesan.

This combination of flavors in this dish worked together really nicely! The garlicky herb base that the chicken rested on while roasting infused a gentle flavor to the moist meat, but it didn’t overpower the creamy herbed goat cheese. We really liked the subtle heat the addition of red pepper flakes added in the background. The pesto-tomato combo on the pasta was really nice, and the flavors worked well with the chicken. Feel free to sub in your favorite homemade or commercial pesto in this recipe...but if you’re in the San Antonio area, try to get your hands on some of Humble House’s yummy pesto!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Perfect for Spring: Sparkling Cinnamon-Orange Sangria...Featuring Ayala's Sparkling Herbal Water

Warmer weather here in Texas means many things to me: more daylight hours, pedicures and sandals, lighter food, and refreshing drinks. I absolutely love sangria...and I love sparkling sangria even more! I enjoy inventing fun new flavors so I have lots of options to choose from for summer entertaining. When the nice people at Ayala’s Herbal Water sent me a four-pack of their new 12-ounce bottles of flavored sparkling water to sample, I knew that one bottle was earmarked to create some fun fizzy sangria!

Ayala’s organic herbal waters come in both still and sparkling versions of four flavors: Lemongrass Mint Vanilla, Lavender Mint, Ginger Lemon Peel, and Cinnamon Orange Peel. These waters are naturally flavored and contain no sweeteners. For my sangria, I used the Cinnamon Orange Peel. The cinnamon flavor isn’t overpowering, and citrus is the perfect sangria addition. This sangria features springtime fruits, white zinfandel wine, homemade cinnamon-orange simple syrup, and orange juice...Ayala’s provided the fizz! A pitcher of this sangria can be whipped up the morning of your next party...the flavors are even better after everything hangs out in the fridge for a few hours.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April Daring Cooks Challenge...Featuring Goat Cheese-Stuffed Pork Chops With Maple-Balsamic Parsnips, Apples & Potatoes

It's that time again...time for another fun Daring Kitchen challenge!! Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. They presented us with a very and unique challenge of forming our own recipe using a set list of ingredients. I LOVED this challenge, because it reminded me so much of Chopped, one of my favorite cooking shows!! We had three lists of foods, and we had to use at least one item from each list to create an original recipe.

List 1:  Parsnips, eggplant, cauliflower

List 2:  Balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, chipotle pepper

List 3:  Maple syrup, instant coffee, bananas

My immediate thought was that balsamic and maple would make a great sweet-sour glaze. But List 1 had me stumped...I'd never seen, much less cooked, a parsnip. Michael and I don't like eggplant, and Michael would sooner poke out his eyes than eat cauliflower. After a bit of research, I decided to give parsnips a try. A big part of blogging...and Daring stepping outside your comfort zone, so I was excited to try a new ingredient.

Since parsnips are a bit like carrots, I figured they would pair well with pork chops. I asked myself what else would go with pork chops...and apples immediately came to mind! I considered serving my pork chops over creamy goat cheese grits, but then decided to throw some diced red potatoes and shallots into the mix instead. I decided on the fly that the goat cheese would be fabulous stuffed into the pork chops. The goat cheese that I used is a fabulous herb chevre from CKC Farms, a fantastic vendor in nearby Blanco.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gearing Up for Fiesta San Antonio...With Bacon Guacamole & Garlic-Black Pepper Tortilla Chips

I’m not sure why I never thought of it before…I love bacon, and I love avocados. Why not combine them and make bacon guacamole? I’m a bit of a guacamole purist, so it had never occurred to me to combine two of my favorite flavors in one bite. Thank goodness my favorite celeb chef Rick Bayless is a kitchen genius and thought of it for me! I was flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks, Fiesta at Rick’s, this week and was immediately intrigued by his luscious guacamole topped with crispy bacon and diced tomatoes. I decided that I HAD to give it a try, and I’m so glad I did. This stuff is off-the-hook good…even if you’re a guacamole purist like me. What’s not to like about creamy avocado, crispy bacon, and smoky chipotle peppers? A bit of onion, lime, and cilantro adds just enough familiar guacamole flavors. Trust me…this stuff is AMAZING!

The only tweaks I made to the original recipe were to use finely diced purple onion in place of white onion since I had that on hand…and I reduced the amount of chipotle chile and cilantro to suit my personal tastes. This guacamole takes about 20 minutes to assemble, and most of that time is spent cooking the bacon. I paired this guacamole with one of my favorite Rick Bayless recipes that doctors up store-bought tortilla chips with garlic-infused oil and black only tweak is to use olive oil instead of vegetable oil for a more assertive flavor.  The technique is so simple, but it really takes plain tortilla chips to the next level. I told you Rick Bayless is a genius!!

Bacon Guacamole & Garlic-Black Pepper Tortilla Chips
adapted from Fiesta at Rick's

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road...Easter Weekend in Houston Featuring Crepes, Old-Fashioned Milkshakes, and Brennan's Easter Brunch!

After a brief cooking/blogging break to visit our families in the Houston area for the long Easter weekend, I’m back! Just because I didn’t do any cooking over the past few days, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t eat well...quite the contrary! Michael and I had some fun food adventures, and I documented them all so I could share them with you in here. We visited an authentic French creperie in my tiny hometown of Alvin, enjoyed handmade old-fashioned malts and straight-from-the-candy-kitchen saltwater taffy at LaKing’s Confectionary in Galveston, and we wrapped up our Easter visit with a three-course brunch at Brennan’s Houston...complete with live jazz, the Easter Bunny, and adorable baby bunnies in the courtyard.

We visited my parents for lunch on Saturday at Ooh La La, a crepe shop that opened recently in Alvin, my hometown. My Dad made a special phone call a few weeks back to tell me about how good these crepes were...both sweet and savory. I knew I had to visit during our next trip home, because I love crepes...but I never make them at home. We started out with the Celeste, a savory crepe containing prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, herb de provence, and olive oil. 

They crepes were made to order and served fresh and warm...such a great combo of flavors! We opted for two dessert crepes to share: Tarte au Pommes (apples, brown sugar, caramel, and butter) and PB avec du Chocolat (peanut butter chocolate chip). Both were totally amazing...the apple crepe was like apple pie’s French cousin, and the PB-choc chip tasted like a melted Reese’s cup. 

I can’t wait to go back to Ooh La La and try more of their fun flavor combinations...the Delicieux with nutella, strawberry, and banana is calling my name all the way here in San Antonio! Later that afternoon, we drove down I-45 to Galveston to drive up Seawall Boulevard looking at the beach before stopping at The Strand Historical District to visit one of our favorite destinations: LaKing's Confectionary.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pillsbury Bake-Off Blog Spark: Featuring Breakfast Crostatas...and a Fun Easter Giveaway! blog makeover is officially complete, so I hope you take a few minutes to look around and check out some of the new features. I now have a Print It button and Pinterest "pin it" button at the bottom of each post, after the comments section! We’re in Houston this weekend to celebrate Easter with our families, complete with Easter Brunch at Brennan’s Houston...I’m taking my camera and will be sharing all the details when I return to San Antonio. In the meantime, I have some fun stuff to share with you today!

My Blog Spark recently sent me a $25 Walmart gift card to purchase ingredients to share a finalist recipe from the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off contest with you. The winner was announced earlier this week.  Christina Virelli from Devon, Pennsylvania won $1 million for her amazing-looking Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream. The Bake-Off recipe that I decided to cook is perfect for Sunday brunch or breakfast-for-dinner: Breakfast Crostatas. The crostatas take about 20 minutes to assemble before baking in the oven for 20-25 minutes. They’re simple enough to whip us “just because,” but they’re fancy enough to serve to company.

The only changes I made to the original recipe were to use fresh herbs and a bit of garlic salt instead of dried...and I used low-fat breakfast sausage instead of ham per the recipes suggested variations. The recipe makes four nice-sized crostatas, but the ingredients can easily be doubled to feed 8 hungry people. This would be a welcome addition to any Easter celebration tomorrow!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: OXO Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer + Cheesy Potato-Shallot Gratin

To  me, one of the best things about being a food blogger is stepping outside of your kitchen comfort zone...trying new cooking techniques and never-before-used ingredients. Thanks to the kind folks at OXO, I had a chance to try a kitchen tool that I had been fascinated with...and a bit scared of...for years. As part of their blogger outreach program, they sent me a free hand-held mandoline for slicing. When it arrived, I thought about how I wanted to use it. I could slice perfectly uniform veggies for a salad...or make pretty squash ribbons to top pan-seared salmon...or I could make a killer potato gratin. It was a no-brainer: I decided to go for the carbs and cream!

I’ve only made a potato gratin once...because it was really difficult -- and tedious -- to cut all the potato slices a uniform thickness. With my OXO hand-held mandoline, I sliced two large russett potatoes paper-thin in about 3 minutes. The mandoline has a little foot that rests on the side of a bowl, so I was able to slice the potatoes right into my mixing bowl. Easy peasy! This gratin was assembled and into the oven in about 30 minutes. With something this easy, I might have to change my name to the All-Week-Long Gourmet! I found a great Tyler Florence recipe for potato grain on the Food Network website and gave it a few tweaks to reduce the fat and calories a bit...and up the flavor as well.

I subbed whole milk for half of the cream in the sauce...and I sprinkled a bit of 2% colby-jack cheese on top during the final few minutes of baking. I also added rosemary sprigs to the thyme that was steeped in the cream, along with adding some finely diced shallot to give the gratin a more pronounced onion-garlic flavor. This gratin is simple to pull together...but you need to allow about an hour for baking time to ensure the potatoes cook completely. Since that’s hands-off cooking time, that gives you time to pull the rest of the meal together and do other things around the house.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out: Mike's In the Village

This month’s featured restaurant in my The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out series takes us just north of San Antonio, to the small town of Bulverde (pronounced: bull-VER-dee)...a quick 20-minute drive up US 281 into the Texas Hill Country. Located in the center of this quaint town is a gourmet restaurant that many of my friends have recommended to me: Mike’s In the Village. Chef Mike Romano is from New Orleans...and the food on his menu has a definite Creole-meets-Texas vibe! He opened Mike’s In the Village four years ago, and judging from the full house when I was there last week? He’s got a lot of fans! My best description of the atmosphere at Chef Mike's restaurant is casual gourmet. The food is definitely upscale, but the atmosphere is totally laidback. Colorful art adorns the walls, and the staff is welcoming and friendly. That’s a winning combination in my book!

When I arrived for my tasting, Chef Mike and his staff greeted me with a warm smile and immediately seated me. Rather than order from the menu, I asked him to share his favorite menu items with me. Smart was really fun to see what delicious surprise would come out of the kitchen next! My tasting started with an appetizer that was beautiful to look at and delicious to eat: Blackened Tuna Stacks with Red Onion, Avocado, Ponzo & Wasabi Creme. 

A crispy wonton base triangle with a thin slice of avocado, purple onion, field greens, blackened tuna, and a wasabi-laced cream drizzle. I’m not normally a fan of seared tuna, but this appetizer won me over at first bite. Crispy...and a bit spicy...but the heat is nicely tempered by the avocado and cream in the wasabi sauce. I love Big Flavor, and this appetizer really delivered!

Next came two more appetizers: Tempura Battered Portobello Fries with Ancho Chile Mayo and Fried Panko Coated Shrimp Boulettes with Creole Remoulade Sauce. I enjoyed all three appetizers I sampled, but the Portobello Fries were my favorite...think fried mushrooms on steroids! 

The tempura batter was light and crispy, and the dipping sauce had just enough heat to be spicy without overpowering the flavor of the mushrooms. The balance was really nice! The delicious shrimp boulettes were made by combining boudin (a Cajun rice-based sausage) with diced shrimp...then rolling it into a ball, coating it in breading, and frying. They come topped with a fantastic remoulade sauce. I could have made a meal just on these appetizers...but more food was coming from the kitchen!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Review: 5 Steps to Healthy Cooking...Featuring Chewy Cranberry Granola Bars

I recently received some cookbooks to review from my friends at Robert Rose Publishing. Last week, I shared a recipe for yummy slow cooker Filipino Adobo Chicken from one of the cookbooks. Today, I have another great cookbook from their spring catalog to share with you: 5 Easy Steps to Healthy Cooking. Most of us know that we need to be cooking and eating healthier, but knowing exactly how to go about doing that can be frustrating and confusing. Author Camilla Saulsbury takes away the guesswork and makes cooking healthy delicious and fun! She shares the following five steps in the book, which are both simple and flexible:
  • Choose fresh, whole foods
  • Eat mostly vegetable- and fruit-based foods
  • Opt for healthy fats and proteins
  • Select superfoods (nutrient-dense foods)
  • Eat more whole grains
The cookbook provides 500 recipes from appetizers to dessert -- and everything in between -- that incorporate one or more of these five healthy cooking steps. Looking through the book, it quickly becomes apparent that eating healthy can also taste great! The recipes are divided into easy-to-navigate chapters...and each recipe features nutrition information AND insight into which health step(s) the recipe helps you meet. So many great recipes caught my eye, but I decided to focus on one health habit that I need to improve: eating breakfast.

Most days, if I do eat breakfast, I have yogurt or piece of fruit. I really should be eating more whole grains for sustained energy to take me to lunch. I also normally eat breakfast at my desk, so it has to be portable and easy to eat. I knew I had found just what I was looking for when I saw the recipe for Chewy Cranberry Granola Bars! Portable, easy to eat...and it helps me meet Steps 2-5 above. That's a whole lot of goodness in a compact form! I love granola bars, but most commercial varieties have a lot of sugar. These granola bars feature rolled oats and oat bran for fiber, dried cranberries and coconut, plus natural peanut butter and honey.