avocado crostini

1. pop 4 slices of crusty artisan bread in the toaster, or on the middle rack of an oven set at 350 degrees F, until crisp and golden brown.

2. while the bread is toasting, peel and mash 1 ripe avocado in a small bowl.

3. spread the avocado on the toasted bread and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and sea salt. enjoy!

so simple and so delicious :)

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spring risotto

i found this spring risotto recipe on the dinner files and it sounds so delicious i’m sure it’s worth the time that goes into making it. and it just looks pretty :)

here’s what you need:
1 to 2 pounds fava beans
1/2 pound sweet peas/garden peas/english peas
1/2 bunch asparagus
2 green garlics
5 cups broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 cup aborio rice
about 3/4 cup freshly shredded pecorino cheese

directions:
– first you need to double shell the fava beans – if you don’t know how, there’s a step-by-step guide here.
– shell the peas and set aside with the shelled fava beans
– snap the asparagus spears where they break naturally and discard the ends. cut the asparagus into relatively thin, angled slices, leaving the 1-inch to 2-inch tips intact, and set aside.
– cut off the root ends of the green garlics. cut the white and light green part of the stalks in half lengthwise – the darker green top will hold the whole things together. chop the white and light green parts

– put the broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. keep it at a very low simmer.

– meanwhile, heat another medium saucepan over medium high heat. add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil. when the butter is melted and stops foaming, add the chopped green garlic and the salt. cook, stirring, until the green garlic is wilted, about 2 minutes.

– add the rice and stir to completely coat it with the butter and oil. cook, stirring until the opaque rice grains turn a bit translucent around the edges.

– add about a cup of the warm broth to the rice and cook, stirring as you like. when most of the broth is absorbed add another 1/2 cup broth. continue cooking, with some stirring, and adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until the rice is almost tender to the bite – approximately 15 minutes.

– add the asparagus and more broth and continue cooking and stirring and adding broth as needed until the asparagus is almost done and the rice is tender. add the peas and fava beans.

– continue cooking, adding a bit more broth and stirring, until the peas and beans are warm – just a minute or two. stir in the cheese and remaining tablespoon of butter and taste – add more salt if you want.

the recipe’s author recommends trying it with some more cheese and grated pepper on top, and an egg- which i would never have thought of but looks yummy!

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homemade vegan pizza

i may be alone on this one, but i think pizza is so much better homemade than when you have it delivered from somewhere.  it always tastes so much fresher and never seems as greasy.  i thought this recipe for whole wheat vegan pizza sounded delicious and healthy!

for the dough:
1 ¼ cups warm water (105°-115°)
2 pkgs dry yeast
1 tbs honey
3 tbs olive oil
3-4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp kosher salt

toppings:
3/4 cup store-bought marinara or pizza sauce
6 button mushrooms, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes halved
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
fresh basil leaves

directions:
1. for the dough: mix together warm water, yeast, honey, and olive oil. let sit for about 5 minutes. make sure that the yeast is foamy. using a dough hook or a mixer, or by hand, slowly add in 3 cups of flour and 2 tsp salt.  knead the dough on low speed, or by hand, for 10 minutes. add flour as needed if the dough is sticky. dump dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand 12 times. put dough in a well oiled bowl, roll dough around so that all sides are lightly coated in olive oil. cover with a clean cloth. let rise until double in volume, about 30-50 minutes. divide the dough into equal parts, make 2-6 pizzas depending on how big you want them. roll dough into balls and cover with a damp towel to rest 10 minutes. on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick. sprinkle a light layer of cornmeal on baking sheet or pizza stone.

2. spread out pizza sauce evenly over pizzas, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the outside of the dough. evenly top pizza with toppings. sprinkle on dried oregano and drizzle over olive oil last. bake 10-15 minutes at 400° f (or 500° f if you like the crust extra crispy). remove from oven and top with basil leaves. let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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easy vegetarian sandwich

i am a vegetarian, and i am constantly on the lookout for really good meat-less sandwiches.  so when i saw this recipe on lifeflix and read that it was supposedly the best sandwich EVER, i was really excited to try it out.

you’ll need:
2 slices of oat nut bread (whole foods brand) toasted
handful of mixed greens
slices of red bell pepper
thinly sliced cucumber (skin on)
sliced tomatoes (seasoned with salt + pepper)
sliced swiss cheese or whatever cheese you like
mayonnaise
balsamic vinaigrette*
honey mustard dressing*
salt & pepper

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup quality extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 to 1 tsp sugar
1/2 pinch of black pepper
1/2 tbs water (tap)
*optional tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice

mix everything but the olive oil. while mixing with a fork or a small whisk, drizzle in the olive oil into your vinegar mixture. taste and season according to taste.

honey mustard:
mix equal parts yellow mustard + honey

putting it all together:

prepare both dressings.

toast bread. they highly recommend the whole foods nut oat bread (green bag). in the meantime, cut all your veggies.

spread mayo on both slices of bread (one side only). spread about a teaspoon or so of the honey mustard dressing (both slices) on top of the mayo. layer one side with the cucumber slices, then the peppers, tomatoes and mixed greens. slowly drizzle balsamic vinaigrette over the mixed greens OR you can toss the greens with dressing in a separate bowl. top with cheese and the other slice of bread. that’s it!

my verdict? delicious!!! the dressings blend perfectly and the sandwich is as fresh as a bite out of spring!

down by the seaside

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the house where our team stayed in essaouira (and shot several images in the book) was so special it deserved its own post.  named “atlantic,” the house is located right off of essaouira’s medina and looks so cozy and relaxing i would never want to leave.  wooden stairs climb towards the sky and rooftops fade into mountains on the horizon while the atlantic ocean laps against the shore.  an opening in the roof allows natural light to flood the space, and even an occasional sprinkle of rain. when the heat of the sun is replaced by a cool evening breeze, there’s a fireplace to curl up next to and a cozy nook awaits to fall asleep and dream about what the next day will hold.

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from the rooftop

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when you wake up in the morning head to chez driss for some coffee, orange juice and potates! they might look like potatoes and the name sounds like potatoes, but these are potates- one of our team’s favorite things to eat in morocco.  these little almond flavored pastries are not easy to find- they are actually unique to essaouira, where you can find them at a bakery located on the place moulay el hassan called chez driss.  another neat fact – orson welles filmed several scenes for the 1952 film othello in essaouira, and it is said chez driss is where he would sit and have his morning cup of coffee at a patio table.

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a taste of morocco

much like the culture itself, moroccan cuisine is extremely diverse – a literal melting pot of berber, moorish, mediterranean, arab and african influences.  spices, dried fruits and vegetables are used extensively in most dishes, often served with couscous.  meals are also typically served with bread, which is used as a utensil for scooping up food and soaking in its rich flavor.  our team told me they ate a lot of tagine- morocco’s most popular and common dish. tagine is a slow cooked stew that combines meat, vegetables, sometimes fruit, and loads of spices.  they’re usually served in really neat looking pots called tagines, like the one above, from which the meal gets its name.

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cauliflower buttermilk soup

it may seem a little odd, with all this talk of spring and warmer weather, to post a soup recipe. but this cauliflower buttermilk soup sounds so heart warmingly good i couldn’t resist…great for a chilly evening.

cauliflower buttermilk soup
1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 t salt
4 c water or stock
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 c parmesan cheese
large pinch of dried dill weed
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
salt & pepper

place the cauliflower, potatoes, onion and garlic into a large pot. add in water or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. lower heat and simmer (no lid needed) until vegetables are quite tender (about 30 minutes). puree with a hand blender or transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.

add in the buttermilk, parmesan, dill and mustard and stir until combined. season with salt and pepper if necessary. serve in deep bowls. this should make about 4 large servings.

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homemade granola

i love granola – but it has never occurred to me to try and make my own! i found this recipe on the kitchn and they raved about it, so i think i might try it.  plus granola is a great energy-boosting snack that is perfect to bring along on hikes or other outdoor activities you might be doing on a nice day like today…

ingredients:
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raw pistachios, hulled
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup coconut chips
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

fresh berries, for serving (optional).

directions:
1. preheat oven to 300 degrees. in a large bowl, combine oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut chips, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

2. transfer granola to a large bowl and add apricots, tossing to combine. serve with yogurt or fresh fruit, if desired.

*makes about 9 cups.

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st. patrick’s sweets

these st. patrick’s day goodies look so delicious! on the left are cupcakes brought in by our office coordinator with yummy apple sprinkles that were quickly gobbled up. on the right are oreo truffles made by our senior store manager to share with customers at our paramus, nj store – so if you’re in that area stop by and grab one before they’re gone!