Saturday, December 1, 2012

Spiced Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookie Bars

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Happy Fall!  I know that's a repeat statement, but fall has finally (FINALLY!) hit here in Southern California and I couldn't be more excited.  I've been on a scarf & boot jag like nobody's business.  I love me some scarves & boots, kids.  I've got it bad.

Another little something I've got it bad for lately is butterscotch chips.  I'm sure these have been around forever, but I am just getting around to discovering them and now I'm hooked.  I may or may not have several pounds of butterscotch chips in my freezer.  (Do you not remember the great pumpkin shortage a couple years ago?!  I'm not about to fall victim to another situation like that.  Call me Crazy Butterscotch Lady all you want.)

This year was my first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner.  With my parents-in-law the officially guests of honor, I took my title as Hostess very seriously and was determined to make everything from scratch. Thankfully everything turned out great (according to my in-laws ~ SCORE!) but I'm going to be honest and confess that I didn't make the pumpkin pie.  Every hostess has her secrets right?  Well this year my little secret was Costco's $6 pie.  Don't judge.

I did, however, throw together a quick festive dessert from scratch that I must share with you.  It's another one of those super easy ones, and surprisingly tasty.  Enjoy these babies with a cup of hot tea or coffee, a pair of cozy slippers and a fire in the fireplace!

Spiced Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookie Bars
| Yield: 12-18 cookie bars | Prep: 10 mins. | Bake time: 30 mins |
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1  1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
3 c rolled oats
1 1/2 c butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 13x9 baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy and fluffy.  Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three stages, mixing until just combined.  Stir in oats and mix well.  Finally, add in the butterscotch chips and mix until evenly incorporated.  Spread into the baking pan and bake approx. 30-35 minutes. 

Stay tuned for another yummy butterscotch recipe coming up!


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cantaloupe Agua Frescas

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Hello?  Anyone out there?  Yes guys, I'm alive.  And today I am back from a long and unexpected hiatus to bring you a delicious - and ridiculously easy - recipe for a refreshing drink, along with an explanation of said hiatus.

I actually made this agua frescas over a month ago, and then some exciting stuff started happening so I haven't had a chance to share it with you all until now.  Remember when I promised you that I'd explain our exciting family news?  I'm a girl who is true to her word, and today the wait is over.  Our family trip to San Francisco was to celebrate my beautiful sis-in-law's baby shower!  In February we found out we were going to have a little niece or nephew come fall, and believe me it has been so hard to keep the surprise a.... well, SURPRISE this long!

Apparently we weren't the only ones excited for fall to come, because our sweet nephew decided to make a summer entrance instead.  On August 21 our perfect little angel of a nephew was born.  Without further adieu, I present to you, Diego.

To say we love him in an understatement of epic proportions.  He melts my heart.  I cried when we met him and burst into tears when we had to leave.  So as you can see, I've been a little distracted by the preciousness for a few weeks.  You forgive me, right?

Along with welcoming our nephew, we also up and moved.  We've spent the past couple of weeks getting settled in our new place and it's starting to feel like home now.  Chico has decided that the stairs in the new house are much cooler than the stairs in the old house, and runs up and down them about 25 times a day.  He's a goof.

So now that the dust has begun to settle, I will be getting back into my cooking/baking/blogging routine and will be bringing you yummyness on a more regular basis.  You know I'm obsessed with fall, and I'm so excited that it's finally here!  YAY, scarves and boots!  Except that it's gonna be about 90 degrees here for the next several days...  womp womp.  Might need to make a couple more batches of agua frescas to get us through the heat wave.

Agua Frescas are very versatile.  You can make this with all sorts of fruits - pineapple is fantastic.  Some mexican restaurants offer this on their drink menu, and around here we indulge when it's Fiesta.  Fiesta (aka Old Spanish Days) is a celebration of Santa Barbara's spanish roots and includes tons of food, dancing, music and booths of trinkets and treats and carnivals for the kids that span across the town.  It's great fun.

I have been on a cantaloupe binge, but feel free to switch up fruits when you make yours.  I'd love to hear how you customize.

Aguas Frescas
| Serves 6-8 | Prep time: 15 mins. | 
1 ripe cantaloupe, cubed
1/2 c agave
1/4 c honey

Place cubed cantaloupe in a food processor (you may need to do this in batches) and puree until completely smooth.  Transfer puree to a large bowl or pitcher.  Rinse the bowl of the food processor and reassemble.  Strain the puree back into the bowl of the processor.  Depending on the fruit you use, the pulp can be a bit thick, so you may need to use a wooden spoon to coax along the straining process.  Discard the pulp.  Add the agave and honey to the strained juice and puree until completely mixed.  Taste for sweetness. Enjoy very cold/over ice.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Originally the idea behind this muffin was to broaden the breakfast horizon.  I'm a sucker for a baked good, and if that baked good happens to have a smidge of chocolate in it, move outta my way.  I'm goin' in.  So it shouldn't surprise anyone that we plowed through these muffins so quickly that they only made it to one breakfast. 

We had a bunch of zucchini on hand from making veggie pizza, so zucchini bread or muffins seemed the natural next step.  No different than using carrots in a cake, right?  Pretty much. 

This recipe makes six muffins, so if you're anything like me you may want to double it so you have plenty on hand for midnight snacks, pinterest surfing snacks, no wait!  I mean...  while dinner is cooking snacks, No really - breakfast.  Yeah, that's it.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins
|Yields: 6 muffins | Prep time: 5 mins. | Bake time: 20-22 mins.|
3/4 c AP flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c agave (a bit less if you're adding chocolate chips)
1 egg
1/4 c coconut oil, melted
1 c grated zucchini, extra water squeezed out
1/3 c slivered almonds or walnuts
1/4 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, or line with baking cups.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.  In a slightly larger bowl, whisk together agave, egg, coconut oil and zucchini.  Stor the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, careful not to over-mix. 

Fold in nuts and chocolate chips until just incorporated.  Fill cups about 2/3 full (I use an ice cream scoop for perfect measuring) and bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely if you have the willpower.
Adapted from taste of home


Friday, August 10, 2012

White Pizza with Pesto and Veggies

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This is another perfect recipe for Meatless Mondays - and one that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.  Who doesn't love pizza?  Crispy, crunchy crust with ooey gooey melted cheese... mmmmm...

I think I may be hungry.  It's really a shame that we devoured this entire pizza and dashed any hopes of leftovers.

Produce stands everywhere are overflowing with amazing summer goodies right now.  For the moment I've gotten the stone fruit obsession calmed, so now I'm on to things like summer squash.  There may or may not be another zucchini recipe lurking on the horizon...  You're on the edge of your seats now, aren't you? 

Hubby declared this pizza "really yummy" and I've got to say I agree with him.  This will definitely be joining our weekly rotation.  One of the great things about pizza is that you can top it with pretty much whatever your little heart desires.  It's a great way to use up some of the random unused veggies that tend to accumulate over the week. 

Happy Friday!

White Pizza with Pesto and Veggies
1 prepared pizza dough, at room temp
1/2 c (or so) of homemade or store bought pesto
1 1/2 c shredded mozzarella
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 c chopped asparagus
Garlic oil (recipe below)

Turn on your oven to the highest it will go (ours is 550) and preheat (with the pizza stone in) for about an hour.  In the meantime, let the dough come to room temperature and chop the veggies.

Lightly dust a sheet of parchment with flour.  Roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin until it's about 1/4" thick.  Spread pesto evenly across the dough.  Top with shredded cheese, chopped veggies and a couple turns of fresh cracked black pepper.  Drizzle whole pizza with a couple spoonfuls of garlic oil.  Bake for approx 8 minutes, or until cheese is brown and bubbly and crust is crisp.  Drizzle a tad more garlic oil over the top and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

For the garlic oil...
Pour about a cup of extra virgin olive oil into a jar and toss in several peeled garlic cloves.  Let sit for a couple days so the garlic flavor infuses the oil.  Use on pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, etc.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Stone Fruit Frozen Yogurt in Coconut Crisp Cups

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You all know that I'm a sucker for the fall and winter months, but I have to admit that summer has some pretty great characteristics as well.  Summer fruit is at the top of that list.  Peaches, cherries, nectarines and avocados are some of my favorite things in the world, and I kinda go stone fruit crazy when they are in season.  

Every summer for the past several years, we have tromped through carefully stepped over smooshed fruit on the walkway, never bothering to take a few seconds to figure out what kind of fruit tree we were dealing with.  Here's the funny/embarrassing truth: we have had a beautiful peach tree outside our door and never realized it!  What a bunch of goofs!  Now that we've figured out that useful little tidbit of info, I'm in a peach frenzy.

I've been looking for excuses to use our new ice cream maker since last month when mom & dad brought us those gorgeous cherries.  Instead of your typical sugary ice cream, this time I went for a much healthier frozen yogurt.  Oh, and did I mention it involves only three ingredients??  Okay, well, five if you include the two needed for the coconut crisp cups.  Fruit, yogurt and agave nectar are all you need to make this delish frozen yogurt, and if you're feeling fancy you can go the extra step (and the extra two ingredients) and make the coconut crisp cups.  Deceptively simple and delish?!  I'm in.

Everything you need for this recipe can be found at Trader Joe's.  Their Toasted Coconut Cookie Thins are so darn yummy, and make the perfect crumb for the coconut crisp cups.  The light coconut flavor is a great compliment to the tart and sweet peaches.

Stone Fruit Frozen Yogurt
2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
2 ripe nectarines, peeled, pitted and diced
1/3 - 1/2 c agave nectar (sweeten to taste)
2 c plain greek yogurt*

*Note: for a more ice-creamy/less tangy flavor, try making this with vanilla yogurt.  

Once you have the fruit diced, put about half of it in a food processor and process briefly, so that some of the fruit remains in tact and some is pureed smooth.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Add in diced fruit, yogurt and agave nectar.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Adjust the amount of agave to your taste.  Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

This is fabulous at the soft-serve consistency.  If you'd like it a bit more firm, place in a freezer-safe container and freeze in 30 minute increments.  Careful, cuz it will freeze solid pretty quickly.  If storing in the freezer, transfer to the fridge to soften for about two hours prior to serving.  

Coconut Crisp Cups
1 sleeve Trader Joe's Toasted Coconut Cookie Thins
1 1/2 tbsp melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

Pulse cookies to a fine crumb in a food processor.  Alternately you can place in a resealable bag and crush with a rolling pin.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the coconut oil.  Press crumb mixture into muffin tins, forming little cups.  Bake 5-7 minutes.  Cook completely before removing from tin.  (The best way to do this is to turn the tin over and lightly tap the back.)


Friday, July 27, 2012

Homemade granola {gluten free}

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Granola is one of my favorite foods.  I love granola with fresh fruit and some greek yogurt, and Hubby likes to top his smoothies with granola for a crunchy post-workout snack.  We've been buying tons of granola and the other day I realized that we could - and should - be making this at home.

Store bought granola can be loaded with oils, flavorings and preservatives, all of which I'd rather not indulge in.  Anything made at home gives you the ability to control what goes into your food.  In the case of this granola I used healthy coconut oil instead of vegetable or canola oil.

Coconut oil is something I'm only beginning to experiment with.  It is pretty easily found in most grocery stores - I get it at Trader Joe's.  It is high in saturated fat (hold on, don't freak out yet!) however the saturated fat in coconut oil is different from other oils in that it does not increase LDL levels.  Coconut oil has been found to be useful in losing weight, and increases metabolism by reducing stress on the pancreas.  It also strengthens the immune system and promotes healthy digestion.  Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so must be melted before being added to most recipes.

When it comes to granola, you can customize with whatever ingredients you like.  I added in ground flax seeds and raw almonds.  You could also toss in some dried fruit or shredded coconut.  I think I'll make this a fall treat next time and use some pumpkin pie spice in place of the cinnamon.  Yum!

Homemade Granola
2 c rolled oats (make sure they are gluten free if that is a concern)
1 tbsp cinnamon (scant)
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/3 c honey
1/2 c raw sliced almonds
1/3 c ground flax seeds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir together oats, cinnamon and salt.  Add in coconut oil and honey, stirring until thoroughly combined.  Spread mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (If you wanted the nuts toasted, add during the last 5-10 minutes and make sure to stir frequently to prevent them from burning.)  The longer the granola cooks, the crunchier it will be.  Cool completely before adding almonds (unless toasting) and flax seed.  Store in an airtight container.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Veggie & Feta Quinoa {Family Weekend}

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Like I mentioned last week, we've been busy little bees lately.  We had a fabulous family weekend in San Francisco, complete with city traffic and stunning views from the Golden Gate bridge.  Before we knew it the weekend was over and it was back to the real world.


Many Montalvos!

After a busy weekend I knew I wanted to keep dinner simple and light.  I made a nice big batch to have some leftovers for lunch the next day (it was great as a cold salad), and you could easily sub whatever veggies you have on hand to make your life easier.  This is a great dish for Meatless Mondays.

Veggie & Feta Quinoa
1 cup organic quinoa
1 medium (or 2 small) zucchini
1 1/2 c fresh corn
1/2 c crumbled feta

Cook the quinoa according to directions.  While the quinoa is cooking, slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/4" half moons.  That's the technical term, right?  Quickly blanch the zucchini so that it retains its beautiful green color and remains crisp.  Set aside.  Steam the corn, if desired (I left mine fresh).

Once the quinoa is finished, combine with veggies in a large bowl.  Gently fold in feta right before serving.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bars

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It's no secret that I struggle with fitting breakfast into my day.  We have been so busy lately that I'm completely shocked I haven't run out the door wearing pajama pants and heels.  There's always tomorrow!

We have been busy with great stuff, though, so I can't complain.  I got to attend my first Montalvo family reunion since becoming a Montalvo, and last weekend got to cheer on my Mister as he completed his second Tough Mudder challenge (can you believe?!).  We also got to spend 4th of July and the weekend following with great friends and their adorable girls, Noah and Piper.  This weekend we will be heading up to San Francisco for a very exciting family gathering (more on that in a later post) and I thought these bars would be a good snack to take on the road with us.

These would be great to make on a Sunday night to have on hand for weekday breakfasts/snacks.  Store the bars in an airtight container to ensure they stay nice and fresh.  I think next time I'll add in some chopped nuts for a little crunch.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bars
1 c flour
2 1/2 c oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c applesauce
2 beaten eggs
1/2 c honey
1/4 c brown sugar*
1 medium apple, peeled and diced

*Note: I somehow spaced adding the brown sugar.  The bars turned out okay but needed a little something, so I drizzled mine with additional honey for a little more sweetness.  It was super yummy, especially topped with a little bit of greek yogurt!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Mix the flour, oats, baking soda and cinnamon in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine applesauce, eggs, honey, brown sugar and mix well.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.  Fold in the diced apples.  Spread mixture into prepared baking dish and bake approx. 17 minutes, until lightly golden brown.  Cool completely, cut into bars, enjoy!

Snacks are better when shared :)


Friday, June 29, 2012

Red, White and Blue Sangria {White Wine Sangria}

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Happy Independence Day!  Are you all planning anything exciting?  Family get togethers?  Beach picnics?  Stay at home and avoid the holiday crowds?  No matter what your holiday plans are I have a great 4th of July recipe for you.

What's a summer holiday without a refreshing signature drink?  We all need something nice and cold to sip on during the hot summer months.  This white wine sangria is seriously yummy and is a snap to put together.  And it's healthy since there's fruit involved, right?  Right??

I used a Reisling since I wanted the end result to be nice and sweet.  It was a great compliment to the strawberries! Make this at least a day in advance - two days would be best - and you will be rewarded with a beautiful red-tinged sangria that is loaded with tangy and sweet fruit flavor.

That sounded like a commercial for Starburst.

Of course fruits that are in season are going to have the best flavor, so feel free to switch ingredients to your taste.  Summer strawberries are at their peak, so take advantage! 

White Wine Sangria
1 bottle white wine (not too dry)
1 pint strawberries, cut into quarters
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries
1 red apple, sliced
1 bottle sparkling water (Voss, Pellegrino)

In a large pitcher, combine wine and fruit.  Stir gently and let chill at least overnight.  Serve with a splash of sparkling water.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nutella Shortbread Bites

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Who doesn't love cookies?  Nobody I know.  There's something so comforting and homey about warm cookies and a glass of ice cold milk that makes everything in the world disappear for just a bit.

For as long as I can remember, my mom and I have made shortbread cookies at Christmastime.  Tiny little bites of shortbread perfumed with almond extract and then rolled in powdered sugar... so delish.  I decided to tweak the recipe and bit and turn it into a chocolatey treat.  It was a great decision, I have to say.

These Nutella shortbread cookies are little bites of Heaven.  Don't believe me?  Make 'em.  I dare you not to love them.  I rolled half of them in powdered sugar, and half of them in a combination of powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  These babies are dangerously yummy.

Nutella Shortbread Bites
| Yields: approx. 48 cookies | Prep Time: 10 mins | Bake time: 15 mins. |
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c Nutella
1/2 powdered sugar
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
Powdered sugar
Cocoa powder

Beat butter and Nutella until light and fluffy.  Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into butter mixture and mix thoroughly.  Add in the egg yolk and vanilla, beating until smooth.  In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.  Then add to the wet mixture and mix until a soft dough is formed.  (Dough will be a bit crumbly.)  Knead the dough lightly.  Chill for several hours.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Form the dough into teaspoon sized balls.  Note to self: take off your wedding rings prior to ball forming.  Bake for 15 minutes.  While the cookies bake, prepare two small bowls for rolling the hot cookies.  In one bowl pour about a cup of powdered sugar and set aside.  In the other bowl, pour 3/4 cup of powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of cocoa powder.  Stir until completely mixed.

The hot cookies are extremely delicate.  Gently roll the cookies a couple at a time in the powdered sugars, then set the cookies out on a baking rack to cool completely.  Store cookies in an airtight container.