Le Creuset Dutch Oven

After waiting and waiting and waiting, I finally took the plunge. I went to Williams-Sonoma and purchased my first-ever Le Creuset Dutch oven. My grandma had given me a gift card that had a substantial amount of money on it for Williams-Sonoma, and when I walked into the store last Saturday, the 3.5 quart Le Creuset ovens were on sale. It couldn’t get any better for me in that regard. I had been wanting one of these for a while, but didn’t want to fork over upwards of $300 for the oven. I brought it home and started thinking about what I could cook in it the next day.

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Me being silly, I didn’t take a picture of what I made because it smelled so good my husband and I just devoured it, but I made balsamic Brussels sprouts with bacon. They turned out delicious and I’ll be sure to take a picture of them next time, but you can see the Le Creuset Dutch oven I purchased at the store above.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of Brussels sprouts (I used the pack purchased at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 small red or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2-3 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

To Prepare

  1. Place Brussels sprouts in a microwave safe bowl. Fill the bowl with enough water that it’s covering the Brussels sprouts. Heat the bowl for 5 minutes (this will make the Brussels sprouts easier to cut).
  2. While the sprouts are heating, take your 2-3 strips of bacon and chop them up to your liking. I did little rectangle size bits. Place to the side.
  3. Once the Brussels sprouts are done, let it cool, then cut them in half and place in a bowl (they’ll cook better when they’re cut in half).
  4. Put the dutch oven on your burner on medium heat. Pour olive oil over the bottom of the oven and sauté your onions.
    1. Option: Cook the bacon in the dutch oven first, so the bits get super crispy then remove and begin cooking the Brussels sprouts in the bacon grease so they soak up the flavor.
  5. Once the onions have been caramelized, place your Brussels sprouts in the dutch oven and begin to sauté them, as well. Add your salt and pepper during this process to give them a little extra flavor.
  6. Add a little of the balsamic vinegar to the sprouts and onions and place the cover on the dutch oven to let cook more thoroughly, about 3-minutes.
  7. Remove cover, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the bacon bits. Make sure to mix often so they don’t stick to the bottom of dutch oven. Add the rest of the balsamic vinegar to coat the Brussels sprouts and the bacon. Once you see that the bacon is cooked and the Brussels sprouts have darkened, turn off burner and put the cover back on to let it cook a little more (another minute or two).
  8. Remove from burner (be careful as Dutch oven heat easily).
  9. Plate with chicken breast or on top of a salad.

I plan on making this again, so I’ll be sure to snap a photo next time. What’s your favorite thing to make in your Dutch oven? I’d love to know!

xoxo,

Leigh

 

 

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Recipe: Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

Now, I know today is St. Patrick’s Day, and while I don’t have a St. Patty’s Day-themed post, I do have a great foodie one. A majority of my food posts consist of soups or crockpot recipes, but little do people know, I truly enjoy baking. Come spring and summer it’s time to bust out my KitchenAid mixer and get to baking. Even though I love double fudge brownies, I try and opt for healthier baking options. While exploring the amazingness that is Pinterest a few years ago, I discovered these banana oatmeal breakfast muffins that were deemed healthy. Usually that means a Sucralose substitute, however, this recipe is a flourless, granulated sugarless, oil-free recipe. Super easy to prepare and bake, this is a perfect on-the-go snack. So when you’re running late and need a quick breakfast – or that mid-morning sweet treat – grab one of these. Note: these muffins are highly perishable, so be sure to eat them within a week or they will go bad. (Here’s the original recipe).

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

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Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup plain low fat greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • Optional: unsweetened dark chocolate chips
  • Optional: walnuts, sliced almonds

To Prepare

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grab a cupcake baking tin and spray with non-stick cooking spray or line with 12 muffin tins (with silicone or foil liners).
  2. Place your 2.5 cups of old fashioned oats in the food processor (or blender) and pulse for about 10-15 seconds. Add the 2 eggs, 1 cup low fat Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup honey, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla and the bananas into the food processor.
  3. Process until everything is mixed together and oats are smooth.
  4. At this step, you can either add unsweetened dark chocolate chips (which is what I did), walnuts, toasted almonds or any other nut or chocolate you’d like in the batter.
  5. Divide batter among cupcake liners, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Now if your bananas are getting too ripe, you can peel them and put them in a freezer bag and store until your next batch of muffins. These taste great with a warm cup of coffee. They are not high in caloric intake, so perfect for any bride-to-be or person wanting to curb that sweet tooth while trying to stay healthy with their diet.

Planning on making these? I’d love to see how yours turned out, so leave a comment below!

xoxo,

Leigh

Vegan Cran-Cherry Almond Power Cookies

Cran cherry cookies

During my 30 Day Challenge, I’ve been seeking out healthy snacks. While perusing the grocery store one day, I discovered these healthy cookies – they are so delicious, but I also thought that I could easily make them myself at home and control the ingredients (and of course it would be much cheaper to make them myself). I found this recipe online, and made a batch for my book club a couple of weeks ago. They had good flavor, but were very dry. I asked my friend Kelly (who happens to be vegan and an amazing cook) what I could do to help the cookies, and she suggested adding some applesauce for moisture, and a dash of vanilla for some more flavor and sweetness.

So I tweaked the recipe with her suggestions, and made a batch over the rainy weekend. I’ve got to say, the recipe is nearly perfect now. The added applesauce really helped to moisten them, and I decided to add in some dried cherries as well for extra flavor (I upped the amount of dried fruit and nuts a bit so the cookies had more texture). The biggest win was that they got the hubby stamp of approval 😉 I’m even going to make some for our long flight to New Zealand!

Tip: Besides using these as a snack, grab 2 or 3 for an easy breakfast, or pop one before a workout for an energy boost.


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats (traditional oats, not quick oats)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 3 tablespoons chopped almonds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, cranberries, cherries, almonds, and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together almond butter, maple syrup, applesauce, and vanilla.
  4. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix well. Adjust accordingly by adding more oats or more applesauce if needed to get to desired consistency. All of the oats should be coated in the wet ingredients, and should stick together to form a small ball when rolled in the hand.
  5. Drop cookies (about the size of a golf ball) onto a non-greased baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The recipe yields approximately 15 cookies.

Let me know if you give this recipe a try! Do you have any favorite healthy snack recipes?

xoxo,
Veronica

Recipe: Mom’s Baklava

finished-baklava

You can’t beat one of mom’s recipes, especially if that recipe has been handed down through generations. My mother’s baklava recipe, that she first learned while visiting relatives in former Yugoslavia, has become quite famous among family and friends and is always requested at dinner parties and celebrations. I have begun my own tradition with the recipe, making it for my husband on special occasions. He and his friends have claimed it is the best baklava they have ever tasted, and I have to agree.

If you’re looking for a treat to bake for your significant other this Valentine’s Day, why not take a break from the usual cookies or brownies and try this baklava recipe? There’s nothing like homemade baklava, and your sig other will appreciate all of the effort you’ve put into making something special for them.

{Mom’s Baklava}
Ingredients:
1 pound frozen phyllo sheets
1 cup melted butter

for the filling:
2 cups finely chopped walnuts or pecans or a mix of the two
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8  teaspoon cloves

for the syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

chopped-nuts

Directions:
1. Thaw phyllo pastry and separate the sheets according to package directions. Most packages will say to cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and a damp towel to keep the sheets from drying out.
2. Transfer half of pastry sheets one by one onto a greased cookie sheet or rimmed pan, brushing each sheet quickly and all over with melted butter (make sure to fully cover the edges with butter).
3. Combine nuts, 1/3 cup sugar, cloves, and cinnamon; sprinkle over buttered pastry (I made slightly more of the filling and did two layers).
4. Place remaining sheets on top, brushing each with melted butter.
5. Cut baklava pastry into squares or diamonds, but leave the bottom layers uncut. Bake at 350° until slightly  golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar, honey, 1 cup water, and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Boil baklava syrup for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until syrupy.
7. When both the syrup and baklava have cooled a bit, pour 1/2 of the syrup over the baklava. Let it soak in for about an hour. Then cut thru the uncut layers of dough, and pour the rest of the syrup over the baklava.
8. Let the baklava soak up the syrup about 5 hours or overnight before you serve them, either on plates or in cupcake holders.

work-station

{Phyllo dough work station}

brushing-phyllo

{Brush butter over the edges and work lightly inward}

filling-mixture

{Combine chopped nuts with sugar, cloves, and cinnamon}

filling-layer

{Once halfway through phyllo sheets, add filling mixture}

cut-baklava

{Cut pastry halfway through before baking – it will make for easier and cleaner cuts later}

baklava-syrup

{Pour syrup over pastry after it’s finished baking}

baklava-plated

Let me know if you try out the recipe! Do you have any favorite desserts to bake for loved ones and special occasions?

xoxo,
Veronica