Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Gorgonzola & a Balsamic Reduction

20140107-183652.jpgLike almost every kid, I detested Brussels sprouts growing up. They were like baby heads of steamed cabbage that seemed to turn to mush as soon as I put them in my mouth. Gross! But working for a restaurant in college I discovered that Brussels sprouts actually can be delicious!

The key is to cut them up into smaller pieces and roast them. Cutting them up exposes the layers of leaves inside so they can get brown and crunchy and absolutely delicious. Even if you’ve never liked Brussels sprouts before, I urge you to give these a try! The marriage of balsamic vinegar and creamy Gorgonzola with these is surprisingly perfect.

How do you like to make Brussels sprouts?

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Gorgonzola & a Balsamic Reduction

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 lb. of Brussels sprouts
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 tbl. Gorgonzola cheese crumbles

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the bottoms off of your Brussels sprouts and peel off the outer 2-3 leaves. Chop each one into quarters. (Smaller ones can be cut just in half.) Rinse them gently and dry thoroughly.

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In a bowl, mix the chopped Brussels sprouts, olive oil, sea salt, and ground pepper until evenly coated. Spread evenly over a foil covered baking sheet.

20140107-183618.jpgPlace in the oven and roast for 20 minutes or until as deliciously browned as you want them. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool slightly. To serve, place in a bowl, drizzle with balsamic reduction (directions below), and sprinkle on the Gorgonzola cheese.

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Balsamic Reduction

On medium heat, boil 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar until it is reduced to 1/4 of the original amount, about 1 tablespoon.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Apple Butter

apple butter w.spoon(rd) Merry Christmas to all of you!!! Thank you so much for joining me on this StrictlyDelicious journey! I hope you are having a wonderful holiday with your loved ones and that you enjoy today’s recipe: Homemade Apple Butter. It is perfect for this holiday season. ūüôā

Although I’ve only tasted apple butter once before, I just knew making it homemade would be the perfect final element to my Christmas homemade goodie baskets. Along with homemade vanilla, citrus salt, and rosemary salt, this smooth apple butter made oh-so-sweet gifts. This was my first canning experience, but it really is as simple and addicting as they say.

Once I made this apple butter, I couldn’t stop eating it! It’s so creamy and flavorful and delicious. I paired it with everything I could, including a spoon. I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as mine!

Homemade Apple Butter

  • Servings: 8 1/2 pints
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

6 1/2 lbs. apples (I used a combination of unwaxed Fiji and local Gala apples)
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 tbl. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt

After washing, peel, core, and slice all of the apples. I cut mine into thin slices, but I’m sure you could cut them any way. Put the slices into your crockpot dish.

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Combine the sugar, spices, and salt in a bowl, and pour over the apples. Stir the apple mixture with a spoon to coat all slices until evenly covered.

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Put the lid loosely on the top of your crockpot dish. By this I mean do not latch it closed as you usually would. I put my lid on a little crooked, leaving space on each side between the lid and the dish. This will allow the apples to cook down. Set the crockpot on low and cook the apples for twelve hours. Whenever you walk past the pot, stir the apples to recoat in the spices and liquid.

After twelve hours, add the apples to a blender and blend until smooth. You will need to do this in batches about 1-2 cups of apples at a time. Add a tiny amount of water if needed to help your blender. (You could also execute this step with an immersion blender.)

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If desired, pour the apple butter into a pot and cook on low heat on the stove to thicken it. Stir consistently. This will not take much time at all, and it is easy to burn the apple butter, so do not walk away!

Once it has reached the desired thickness, it is ready to store. You can store it in a lidded container in the fridge for up to three weeks, or can it for gifts and to store for up to two years. (For canning pints and half pints: fill to 1/2 in. below the rim, seal, and process for 15 minutes.)

Enjoy, and have a blessed holiday!

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Citrus Salt

20131220-123333.jpgThis year, my dad asked for “homemade goodies” for Christmas, and I decided to make extras of everything to give as work and neighbor gifts! In addition to bottles of homemade vanilla, I gave little jars of this elegant pink citrus salt, fragrant rosemary salt, and homemade apple butter (recipes to come)! I will claim those projects as the reason I haven’t blogged in so long…

This salt, to be used primarily as a finishing salt, smells so good, looks so unique, and tastes excellent on veggies, poultry, and fish. To make it you can use any combination of citrus fruits and any kind of sea salt. For my recipe I used lemons, limes, oranges, and this course pink Himalayan sea salt that is so pretty and good for you! (Read about the benefits of Himalayan sea salt here.) You can make any amount of this salt, just use 2 tbs. zest per cup of salt. My recipe filled about 8 adorable half pints jars.

Citrus Salt

  • Servings: 8 1/2 pints
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 cups pink Himalayan sea salt
1/2 cup citrus fruit zest

Let your fruit sit in a vinegar water bath (1 part white vinegar to 10 parts water) for 20 minutes to wash off all the toxins, pesticides, and who knows what that are on the skin of the fruit. Since you are using the peel in this recipe, this step is highly recommended.

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Zest the fruit until you have the equivalent of 2 tablespoons of zest per cup of salt. (I didn’t have a grater so I used a peeler and a paring knife…. Obviously, it’s much better to use a grater.) Pour the salt and citrus zest into a baking pan and spread it out until it covers the bottom. Bake at 225 degrees F for 1-2 hours, or until a piece of zest crumbles between your fingers.

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Let the salt cool, and process in a food processor until the zest and salt have reached the consistency that you desire. Store in whatever airtight containers are most adorable and best for your use! I loved these quilted half-pint jars for Christmas presents.

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Product Review: Mini Pops

Learning that I was allergic to corn was a hard blow for two reasons: 1. Learning how corn is used in the manufacturing of almost every food, including meat and fresh produce, made me realize how difficult it would be to avoid it. 2. I was a popcorn ADDICT. Truly. Every day after work I made myself a large bowl of stove top popcorn. Sometimes I would even have another bowl for dessert! (It’s a whole grain! I told myself I was being healthy…) If a few days went by where I didn’t have popcorn, my whole world felt out of balance.

But the gaping hole that popcorn left in my life been filled with the discovery of MiniPops. MiniPops is a corn-free company that sells popped sorghum grain. To find out what sorghum grain is, click here. These tiny grains pop like a mini version of popcorn, resulting in delicious, crunchy “kernels” that are legal for me to eat!

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MiniPops come in a variety of flavors. Since I used to make my popcorn using simple olive oil (or occasionally butter) and sea salt, I think I will stick to the more simple flavors of MiniPops: Subatomic Sea Salt and Itty Bitty Butter. They come in packages ranging in size from 1 oz to 16 oz. The 1 oz packages that came in my order are entirely filled with the delicious treat (no empty space at the top like most snack packages) and are easy to take on the go for lunch, a snack, or a movie. Just remember to shake your bag before you open it, because the seasoning has usually settled to the bottom.

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At the risk of sounding dramatic, this tiny popcorn replacement has made my life. No longer will I wallow in misery and self-pity at the absence of my beloved snack. God bless you, founder Ari Taube! And God bless MiniPops!

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage, Balsamic, Brown Butter Parm Sauce

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Unfortunately, learning I’m allergic to white potatoes does not make my love of gnocchi disappear! Fortunately, sweet potatoes are another story and NOT on my list of illegal food. (I will¬†find ways to eat delicious foods legally!)

So tonight, wrapped up in fuzzy sweaters and socks against Richmond’s first “winter storm” of the season, I have decided to embark upon the path of sweet, decadent comfort food.

Makes 6 servings (If cooking for one like me, the extra gnocchi can be frozen and saved for later. And the sauce is easy to cut down for smaller servings.)

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 cooked sweet potatoes (I used 3 small ones)
1 egg
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. sea salt
2 c. King Arthur flour, plus more for kneading

Peel cooked sweet potatoes and put them in a mixing bowl. Blend with the mixer until the sweet potatoes are pureed. Add the egg, and then the salt, pepper, and flour. Mix until combined. Put dough onto a well floured surface. Knead the dough until it comes together well and is not sticky.

Fill a medium sized pot halfway with water and set on medium high heat to boil. Divide the dough into four equally sized sections. Roll each section into a long rope, about 1/2″ thick. Cut the coil into pieces about one inch long and press all around with a fork. (This will help the gnocchi hold your sauce later!)

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Drop gnocchi into the boiling water. You will have to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Gnocchi is done when it rises to the surface. With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked gnocchi and place in a bowl. (Note: If you are making this dish for less than six people, the gnocchi freezes well, so you only need to cook as much as you need. To make the frozen gnocchi later, simply drop, unthawed, into boiling water and cook as normal.)

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Sage, Brown Butter Parmesan Sauce

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

8 tbs. butter
6-8 leaves of fresh sage, chopped (plus additional leaves if desired for garnishing)
3 tsp. King Arthur flour
6 tsp. organic balsamic vinegar
3/4 c. milk
6 tbs. parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. (If you will be garnishing your dish with fried sage leaves, go ahead and fry them in the butter now. When you are done frying your leaves, add the chopped sage and stir continuously. When your butter begins turning a light brown color and starts smelling nutty and delicious, turn off the heat. Add the flour and stir into the browned butter.

Add the balsamic vinegar and milk to your roux (butter/flour mixture), stirring gently and consistently until combined. At the last minute, add the parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

Add the gnocchi to the sauce pan and stir until all pieces are fully covered in sauce and reheated. Serve, garnish with fried sage leaves if desired, and enjoy!

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Corn-Free Cosmo

photo 1I, like any girl out there, certainly enjoy a good cocktail. One of my goals in eliminating allergens from my diet was to create cocktails that were legal for my allergies.

I purchased Chopin potato vodka to make homemade vanilla after finding many resources that named it corn-free. I decided that while I had it, I would try my hand at making a corn-free cocktail. I’m sure I will perfect this over time, but here was my delicious first try.

Edit: After learning I am also allergic to potatoes, I now use Kettle One or Ciroc to make cocktails!

Corn-Free, Healthier Cosmo

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Corn-Free Cosmo

2 oz. Ketel-One vodka (can also use Ciroc)
2 oz. Trader Joe’s 100% cranberry juice
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker that is full of ice. (Since TJ’s cranberry juice is so tart, I also added 1 oz. simple syrup- be sure to use a corn-free sugar like Domino or C&H.) Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Enjoy!

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Lentil Soup

Nearly every weekend, one of the items on my To Do list is to make lunch for the upcoming week. I never have time in the morning (and I never make time in the evening) to make lunch for the day. It is so much easier to just have it all pre-packaged at the beginning of the week so that all I have to do in the morning is grab a container on my way out the door.

For my first allergen-free lunch-for-the-week, I looked in my pantry to see what allergy legal lunch items I had. Lo and behold, something simple, super quick, and oh-so-easy! Lentils! And I had just discovered on Delphi Forums that Trader Joe’s jasmine rice is confirmed corn-free, and I knew it would go perfectly with the lentil soup.

Lentil Soup

Unfortunately, I’m used to cooking every other type of bean except lentils, so without reading the package first, I rinsed and dumped the entire bag into my dutch oven! You do not need to replicate my silly mistake. Follow the directions on the package and cook 1 cup of dry lentils.

1 c. dry lentils
5 c. water
3-4 cloves of fresh garlic (being Cuban, I LOVE garlic, so adjust your amount of garlic to taste)
1 large onion, peeled
1 medium sized carrot, washed
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
dash of olive oil

Jasmine Rice

1 c. Trader Joe’s jasmine rice
2 c. water
dash of olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

Rinse your lentils in a wire mesh sieve a few times. Add the rinsed beans and water to a Dutch oven.

Chop your carrot and onion. These pieces can be relatively large and rough. Throw those pieces into a food processor with the garlic and process until all the ingredients are diced well. Add your diced vegetables, a generous dash of olive oil, and ground black pepper to the Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil, then turn down to medium-low and cook for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt to taste.

About halfway through the cooking time for the beans, add 1 cup jasmine rice, 2 cups of water, a dash of olive oil, and sea salt to a pot. Cook on medium-high heat until it reaches a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, stirring often.

Add rice to a bowl and top with lentils, or package in individual containers for lunch. Make sure you get enough of that delicious lentil broth!