Thursday, September 18, 2014

Guest Post | Spaghetti Squash "Noodle" Bowls with Spicy Chicken

Welcome back to A Clean Bake Weddingstravaganza (Part 1)! Today, I have the second of this week's wonderful guest posts for you, and before you ask, the drool running down your chin is courtesy of the amazing Justine, who runs the blog Cooking And Beer. The name pretty much speaks for itself: Justine is not just a whiz in the kitchen, whipping up everything from breakfast to dinner to dessert, she is also the single most informed and experienced beer aficionado I have ever met! With each dish, she suggests a beer pairing and I don't know how she finds some of these picks but they are all really interesting brands and flavor profiles that you probably would not have come across otherwise. At least I wouldn't! Beer is an area that I am not so well-versed in, so I rely on Justine to teach me a thing or two. She's a master! 

But her beer expertise hardly comes at the expense of the food, of course. She is so incredibly tuned in to interesting flavor profiles and ingredient combinations, and her food always demonstrates the perfect balance between comforting/familiar and interesting/unexpected With so much variety of dishes, ingredients and beer (!!) on her site, there really is something (or, actually, many things for everyone), so make sure you check out the rest of her wonderful recipes on her blog, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Although she typically doesn't adhere to the strict dietary guidelines that I do, she whipped up this "noodle" bowl like she's been making grain-free/dairy-free/sugar-free fare for ages. Who's impressed?? And, as though it's not versatile enough already, you can swap out the chicken for beans or tofu to make it vegan. Read on for the recipe!


Paleo Spaghetti Squash "Noodle" Bowls with Spicy Chicken

Hello everyone! I'm Justine, and I'm the brains, recipe creator and photographer behind Cooking and Beer. I was super excited when Nora asked me to do a guest post for her, as she is my go-to blog for all things healthy and oh so good for you! 

Nora inspires me to eat better and healthier, and I'm in endless awe at her baking skills!

I decided to go savory this time around, and I'm totally not sad about it. These spaghetti squash "noodle" bowls are one of my favorite current recipes. I make them all the time, subbing in different kinds of veggies, fruits, and protein...pretty much whatever I have on hand. The sky is the limit in what you can add to a noodle bowl, and here is one variation that I just adore.

Spaghetti squash is roasted to perfection in the oven. I scoop out the flesh and add it to a bowl with all kinds of other goodies. I add a spicy chicken breast (this can be eliminated for a vegetarian version), halved cherry tomatoes and steamed broccoli. Drizzled over top is the best avocado sauce in the history of mankind. I'm telling you, I could literally eat it with a spoon. It's that good. 

I love noodle bowls for a quick lunch (it's the perfect make-ahead meal) or dinner. It's hearty, healthy and delish.

Paleo Spaghetti Squash "Noodle" Bowls with Spicy Chicken

At this point over on Cooking and Beer, I would pair with a craft beer of some kind. For those of you who are just as obsessed with craft beer as I am, I suggest pairing this dish with a crisp pilsner which is just perfect as we near the end of summer!
I hope you guys enjoy the recipe! 

Paleo Spaghetti Squash "Noodle" Bowls with Spicy Chicken

Spaghetti Squash "Noodle" Bowls with Spicy Chicken

  • 2 avocados, pitted and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and stem removed, diced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 spaghetti squash (3-4 pounds)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 boneless and skinless chicken breast (eliminate for a vegetarian version)
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder (more or less to taste)
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, steamed
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

Cooking Instructions
  1. Begin by preparing your avocado sauce. To a blender, add the avocados, garlic, jalapeño pepper, green onion, cilantro, coconut milk, lime juice, lemon juice and a dash of salt. Blend until smooth and creamy. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add more coconut milk, lime juice or water until you get the consistency you desire. Set aside or refrigerate until you are ready to use.  
  2. Next, prepare your squash. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, and line a large baking sheet with foil. Slice your squash in half, lengthwise. Remove all of the seeds and gooey stuff from the center. Season the flesh with salt and pepper, and place the squash, flesh side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Poke the skin with a fork. Roast the squash for 40-45 minutes or until the squash is tender and soft. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before handling. Leave the oven turned on, as you will use it to bake the chicken. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh out with a spoon. It should be stringy and look "spaghetti-like." Set aside.
  3. While your squash is cooking, prepare your chicken. Line a large baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the wire rack with a non-stick spray. Cut the 2 chicken breasts lengthwise, so that you have 4 total pieces. Season both sides of the chicken generously with salt, pepper and chipotle chili powder. Place the chicken on the prepared wire rack. Bake the chicken at 400 degrees F for 15-17 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes. Slice the chicken into strips and set aside.
  4. Finally, assemble your noodle bowls by dividing the spaghetti squash, chicken, steamed broccoli and cherry tomatoes into 4 bowls. Drizzle the avocado sauce on top or serve on the side. Garnish with fresh cilantro and enjoy!
Recipe courtesy of Justine, who runs

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Guest Post | Pumpkin Butter Alfajores

Welcome to A Clean Bake Weddingstravaganza (Part 1)! When planning a wedding, there are certain periods of madness where the event demands 110% of your focus, and it's all you can do to get by/stay alive. This week and next is one of those periods, in which, although it is not the actual wedding, there are tons of appointments to be kept, arrangements to be made and exciting events to attend, and in the interest of really immersing myself in this experience and also not driving myself crazy, I have decided to take a brief hiatus from blogging. (The actual wedding week will be the same deal, but more on that later.) 

Luckily, I have a group of amazing blogger friends who didn't skip a beat before offering to step in and help out. I was considering letting the blog go dormant during these wedding-heavy periods but so many wonderful, talented and supportive women volunteered to pitch in to keep this space alive in my absence instead. I cannot find the words to express my gratitude, and I am so excited to share their beautiful and mouthwatering posts with you.

The first of these exceptionally wonderful women is Allie, who runs the phenomenally successful blog Baking a Moment. She hasn't been blogging long (I think her blog only recently celebrated its first "birthday") but her skills are, frankly, superhuman. If you have been following this blog for awhile, you have heard of her before (here and also on Buttercream Fanatic) and I'm telling you, if you don't already follow her work, you should start now (also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest), or else you might really miss out on something wonderful. Exhibit A: the cookies below. Allie typically bakes with conventional ingredients like wheat, dairy, sugar, etc, in her recipes, and I told her that it was fine for this guest post to stray outside of the normal A Clean Bake restrictions. But she wouldn't hear of it. I'm so touched by how much work she clearly put into this recipe, because it is not just outside of her typical comfort zone, but is as flawless as any of her buttery, gluten-y masterpieces. I'm telling you: there is nothing this woman can't do. 

On top of being a professional-caliber baker, an amazing teacher who breaks down these stunning (and frequently intimidating, at least to me!) dishes into totally un-intimidating and manageable steps that anyone can follow, she is a wonderful writer, a talented photographer whose pictures are never less than jaw dropping, and a selfless and supportive friend of the kind that you just don't come across every day. Sorry to gush, but it's true!

Allie, thank you, truly, for the support and friendship you have given me, and for this beautiful recipe which I know was a lot to ask, given the ingredient restrictions. As usual, you nailed it. Not that I ever had any doubt, of course! You are amazing.


Pumpkin Butter Alfajores (gluten-free, dairy-free, and no refined sugar)

Hey, everyone! I'm so happy to be filling in for Nora here today. I'm a huge fan of A Clean Bake and especially of my friend Nora. My name's Allie, and I usually blog over at Baking a Moment.
Nora and I met just about a year ago, when Mystery Dish was getting off the ground. Back then, she was blogging at Buttercream Fanatic, and the connection was instantaneous. We immediately bonded over our mutual love of indulgent desserts. As we emailed back and forth, sharing photography tips, our friendship grew.

Before long, Nora found herself in a different place. She started A Clean Bake, and we could no longer bond over sugar, butter, and flour. But you know what? Our friendship has been strong enough to overcome the challenge ;)

I just love Nora and I have so much respect for what she does. I honestly don't know how she is able to create the most magnificent breads, cakes, and treats without using any of those ingredients that I rely on so heavily. Every one of her posts just leaves me with my jaw hanging open, and my mouth watering. Reading A Clean Bake can get a little messy for me.

So, with Nora off taking care of last-minute wedding preparations, I really wanted to honor her, and take a walk in her shoes for a day. Gluten free, dairy free, and refined-sugar free desserts are not my area of expertise, but my boys and I really enjoyed this treat!

   Pumpkin Butter Alfajores (gluten-free, dairy-free, and no refined sugar)

Alfajores are a traditional South American cookie that is made with cornstarch, to give it a really tender, almost melt-in-your-mouth kind of texture. Traditionally, they're filled with dulce de leche, but, oh ya- hi, cream, butter and sugar. We're not going there today.
But it's all good yo. Pumpkin butter is really where it's at anyway. It is Fall (almost) after all! I added some bourbon whiskey to the cookies (in place of the traditional pisco), and a little maple syrup, and all the flavors get along so nice with the earthy pumpkin and warm spice.
Pumpkin Butter Alfajores (gluten-free, dairy-free, and no refined sugar)

Truth be told, I've never actually tasted authentic alfajores, so I really don't know how these stack up to the real deal. However, the original recipe really lent itself well to an allergen-free adaption. I don't have a lot of fancy specialty flours on hand, so I knew that I'd want to start with something that didn't have a whole lot of flour in it to begin with. From there, it was easy enough to swap the butter out for coconut oil, and the sugar for maple syrup.

The texture of these cookies is so light, and the flavor is just a leeettle sweet. They almost remind me of a Vanilla Wafer. You remember those from your childhood? Or, if you're a mom, you know those teething biscuits that you gave to your kids when they were babies? Sometimes they're called Zwieback? My boys used to gum on them and they'd just melt- perfect for their little toothless mouths.

And the pumpkin butter couldn't be simpler to make. Just throw the pumpkin puree in the pot with the spices and some softened dates, and simmer away. Sandwich the cookies with a generous dollop of pumpkin butter, and transport yourself to gluten-free-dairy-free-refined-sugar-free pumpkin pie heaven.
Pumpkin Butter Alfajores (gluten-free, dairy-free, and no refined sugar)

Pumpkin Butter Alfajores 
(Gluten Free, Dairy Free, and Refined-Sugar-Free)
Print this


For the Filling

  • 1 29-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 ⅔ cup apple juice
  • 8 dried dates, softened in hot water
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • pinch ground cloves
  • a few scratches freshly grated nutmeg
  • juice of half a lemon

For the Cookies

  • ⅓ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon whiskey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

To Make the Filling:
  1. Place the pumpkin, apple juice, dates, maple syrup, and spices in a large saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes.  
  2. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.  Process with a hand blender until smooth.  

To Make the Cookies:
  1. Place the coconut oil and maple syrup in a large bowl and mix on low speed until combined.  
  2. Stir in the egg yolks, bourbon, and vanilla.
  3. Place the cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a smaller bowl and stir with a whisk to combine.  Add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, to the coconut oil mixture, while stirring, until the dough comes together into a ball.  
  4. Wrap the dough tightly and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.  
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment, to a thickness of ¼-inch.
  7. Cut shapes with a cookie cutter, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Prick with a fork or toothpick to prevent them from puffing up in the middle.  
  8. Bake until just barely beginning to turn golden around the edges.  (Bake times may vary according to the size of the cookies.  A 2-inch diameter cookie will need approximately 12-14 minutes.)
  9. Cool completely and sandwich with pumpkin butter.  
(1) You will have pumpkin butter left over.  It will keep, refrigerated, for a few weeks, or frozen, for several months.  
(2) Both the pumpkin butter and the cookies can be made ahead, but I would advise you to wait 'til the last minute to assemble the sandwiches. Since the pumpkin butter has a high moisture content, and the cookies have such a meltaway texture, they will get soggy if you leave them sit for too long. That said, Mr. Allie still enjoyed the heck outta these for breakfast the next morning!

Recipe courtesy of Allie (, who adapted the filling from Tidy Mom and the cookies from Chow.  

  Pumpkin Butter Alfajores (gluten-free, dairy-free, and no refined sugar)

Nora, I hope you enjoy every minute of your special day! I can't wait to see the pictures! I'm so happy for you, and grateful for the opportunity to post here today. I hope you and your readers enjoyed!
  Baking a Moment Collage | Baking a Moment

Here are a few of my most recent recipes from Baking a Moment. I'd love it if you'd pop over and say hi! And if you like what you see, you can follow me by clicking the links below. :D

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Plum, Pear & Chia Compote

Easy sugar-free plum, pear and chia compote that is great for preserving summer flavors!

As far as I can tell, the only way to effectively prolong the memory of summer well into the misery of February is to act now. Gather up as much of summer as possible, cook it down, put it in a jar, and put a lid on it. It's a solid plan, or at least the best that I have right now. 

Even though the season is petering out, stone fruits seem still to be in abundance, and probably more affordable than they'll be for a long, long time. I bought a bag of plums and a bag of heavenly, perfectly underripe white peaches, but I couldn't bear to disrespect the latter with such violations as cutting and cooking them, so I am in the process of eating them over the sink instead. Luckily I had some pears to fill the gap.

Easy sugar-free plum, pear and chia compote that is great for preserving summer flavors!

All of this fruit was actually just a means to an end. Originally, the plan was to simultaneously learn how to can while making three different things to put in said cans (plum jam, pear compote, and stewed tomatoes). My friend and I, inspired by the desire to use up an abundance of mason jars (hers) and some sort of newfound desire to embrace all things June Cleaver-ish (mine; let's avoid the discussion of whatever unconscious Freudian reaction to impending wifehood this inevitably represents), decided to try our hand at canning. Never-you-mind that neither of us had ever canned successfully, because a) we had a book and b) I did a little research and found that the fruit we were canning has too high an acid content to allow botulism to flourish and c) um, did I mention the book? Well, it took us about 2 hours to actually figure out how to set up everything and to scrub the rust off of the canning pot rack that has been in a basement for 20 years. So, long story short, we ended up throwing all the fruit into one chunky compote (compote = larger fruit pieces = less chopping) and calling it a day. 

The pears, though an afterthought, surprisingly ended up being the star of the show because, unlike the plums that broke down as they cooked, the pears held their shape and tenderness, and studded the compote with big toothsome chunks that burst with sweet, slightly citrusy-sour flavor when you bite into them. The big chunks of pear are really why this isn't a jam. 

Easy sugar-free plum, pear and chia compote that is great for preserving summer flavors!

Of course, you probably already deduced that, to make this into more of a traditional jam, you could use softer pears (mine were under-ripe), chop them very small (instead of into bite-sized pieces), or, if they are firm and under-ripe, try shredding them. You may want to dial back on the liquid, as well, in order to produce a thicker consistency.

The chia is a weird ingredient that you cannot taste, but you can sense, a little, especially at first. Chia seeds are ultra-absorbent little nutritional powerhouses that contain omega-3 healthy fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants and apparently also calcium. But I used them here to take the place of pectin, which I couldn't find in any form that wasn't highly processed and laden with sugar and preservatives. That old story. The more the chia sits in the compote, the more liquid it absorbs and the less you can actually feel the chia on your tongue. So, have some patience if you don't like the texture at first, and if you really have an objection, use ground chia seeds instead of whole for the absorbency without the added texture. Personally, I enjoy the chai seeds once they have fully absorbed the liquid, and - full disclosure - I mostly like how they make the compote look extra-rustic, like something you might pay $9 for at a yuppie urban farmer's market. 

Easy sugar-free plum, pear and chia compote that is great for preserving summer flavors!

As for the preservation of this compote, I'm not, even for a minute, here to pretend I am some sort of expert when it comes to canning. This compote can absolutely be made and kept in the fridge or freezer until eaten, and you can skip the canning process. But since this was my first canning adventure, and it seems so far to have been a success (nothing rotten/no one violently ill), maybe we can split the difference and while I won't give you instructions, I will show you a few pictures. Half of these are from my friend's point of view, and they are all from our phones, so please excuse both the quality and, if you already follow me on Instagram, the repetition. Or feel free to just scroll straight down to the recipe.

Easy sugar-free plum, pear and chia compote that is great for preserving summer flavors!

Plum, Pear and Chia Compote

  • 10-12 cups finely chopped pears and plums
  • 3-4 cups water or fruit juice, such as apple, for more flavor and sweetness, if you prefer. 
  • Zest + juice of 1 large lemon (approx 2 Tablespoons zest and 1/4 cup juice)
  • 1/2 cup honey or agave
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 Tablespoons whole chia seeds, or the equivalent amount of ground (probably 3-4 Tablespoons) if you prefer
Cooking Directions
  1. In a stockpot large enough to hold all of the fruit with plenty of room to spare, bring the fruit and to a boil, then turn down the head and simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the fruit starts to soften and break down. 
  2. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, honey and cinnamon, and allow the mixture to simmer for another 30 minutes or more, so the flavors can blend
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in the chia seeds. Allow the compote to sit for a minimum of 30 minutes (but preferably more like an hour), while the seeds absorb the water and thicken the compote. 
  4. You can either can the compote, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pumpkin Baked Quinoa Bars

Pumpkin Quinoa Baked Breakfast bars (Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Sugar-Free, and Vegan-adaptable)

I really wanted to call this post "Pumpkin: The Reckoning" because, apparently, the return of pumpkin season stirs up all kinds of thoughts in me, but actually, mostly, the lunatic ones. Alternate titles included: "Now Would Be A Good Time To Stage a  Pumpkin-vention and "Pumpkin's Back - ALL RIGHT!" (please tell me you get that reference. Now I am guiltily watching the video. Join me? What is the deal with that dance? Were they paying homage to Michael Jackson or was it just blatant theft? Ok new potential title: "Anthropology 101: Unpacking The Symbolism of the "Everybody" Video".) 

Is anyone still out there? 

Right. Ok. Back to the topic at hand. 

Pumpkin Quinoa Baked Breakfast bars (Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Sugar-Free, and Vegan-adaptable)

Now that Starbucks says that this is a socially acceptable time of the year to re-introduce pumpkin to our diets, I think that is also a great cue to shake up the ol' breakfast routine. Because I don't know about you, but I could really use a break from my two-egg morning routine.

Baked quinoa isn't really as odd as it sounds when everyone and their mother is all about the baked oatmeal (including me), and this is really just a grain-free alternative. That said, since you are using cooked quinoa instead of dry, as you would with oats (which don't break your teeth in their uncooked state, like quinoa is prone to), these are more moist and therefore slightly less sturdy than their oatmeal counterparts. While they do hold up just fine to things like a morning commute, and being eaten with one hand while standing over a dresser applying makeup with the other hands (in case you were curious), don't expect them to be sturdy, like a granola bar would be. If you want a granola bar, bake this, this, this or this in a pan instead. But they do stand up well enough for a busy morning. 

These bars are ridiculously easy to make vegan, simply by eliminating the chicken egg and adding an additional Tablespoon of flax meal. As far as substitutions, you can use any kind of squash (except maybe spaghetti); I have found in the past that butternut puree stands in for pumpkin very well from a texture and moisture standpoint, but it gives the dish a little bit more "vegetable-ish" flavor, so you may want to increase the maple syrup to compensate. Acorn is also an excellent replacement because it has a similar sweetness. Oh, and of course, feel free to replace the pepitas with whatever you have around. Pecans would be an excellent alternative, as would walnuts, or...well chocolate chips never hurt anyone either. 

Oh, and if you warm them up and they taste like square breakfast porridge.  Break out the pumpkin, everyone, it's time for breakfast!

Pumpkin Quinoa Baked Breakfast bars (Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Sugar-Free, and Vegan-adaptable)

Pumpkin Baked Quinoa Bars
Print this


  • 1 3/4 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see note)
  • 1/4 cup quinoa flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 Tablespoons flax meal
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 large egg, or an additional Tablespoon of flax meal if vegan
  • 1 Tablespoon raw or toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for garnish

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 6"x9" baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, spice, flour, salt and flax meal. 
  3. In a small mixing bowl, stir together pumpkin, maple syrup and egg until combined. 
  4. Stir pumpkin mixture into quinoa mixture and allow to sit for about 5 minutes, which allows the flax to start to absorb some of the liquid.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle pepitas evenly across the top. 
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden and set. 
  7. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. 

(1) I realize a 6x9" pan is annoyingly specific and non-standard size, so you can feel free to use a standard 9" loaf pan (which will create slightly thicker bars and require a bit more baking time) or an 8" square pan (which will create slightly thinner bars and require a bit less baking time).
(2) Make sure you are using pumpkin puree, which is cooked and mashed pumpkin, instead of pumpkin pie filling, which is pumpkin puree mixed with lots of sugar and artificial flavors.
(3) I love pumpkin pie spice flavor so 1 1/2 teaspoons is a bit heavy handed. Dial it back to 1 teaspoon if you prefer a more subtle spice flavor.
(4) There are lots of add-in possibilities, if you want. Try more pepitas, dried cherries, chopped toasted pecans or walnuts, or chocolate or cinnamon chips.
(5) Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How To: Make Hard Boiled Eggs in the Oven

If you're going to make egg salad, you'll need some hard boiled eggs. (Natch.)

This is so quick and easy, I can't even in good conscience call it a recipe. But if you're like me, and live on hard boiled eggs, it's much faster and easier to make large quantities of hard boiled eggs in the oven, rather than boiling them. Hopefully this trick is as handy for you as it is for me! 

I have seen many variations of this trick all over Pinterest (and the rest of the internet), and techniques vary. But here is how I make mine:

1) Preheat the oven to 325F.

2) Place one egg in each cup of a mini cupcake tin. Bake for 20 minutes for a softer-yolk egg (like for this egg salad!) and 25-30 minutes for a completely cooked yolk.

3) Store in the fridge for up to a week. Makes a dozen hard-boiled eggs, but if you want fewer,  just leave some of the cupcake cups empty.

It's honestly as simple as that!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dill and Caper Egg Salad (Mayo-Free)

Now that we have entered the back-to-school portion of our annual program - we as a society, that is, not we as A Clean Bake readers - it seemed only fitting to pay homage to the chronically-under-appreciated school lunch. Is bringing your own lunch to school still kind of a lame thing to do? It was when I was in school, especially in high school where the buffet of fatty, salty, processed, cheesy and utterly delicious lunch options was seemingly endless. But now it seems like things have changed, if the current trend of Moms Spending Way Too Much Time Planning, Prepping and Assembling a Varied, Nutritious and Aesthetically Pleasing Kids' Box Lunch trend is any indication. (Example: This instagram account. It's mesmerizing.)

Personally, I was more the American-cheese-on-white-bread-with-butter-every-single-day-for-6-years kind of kid. That's just how I roll. 

Since entering the workforce, um, you know, a few years ago (move on.) I have become obsessed with bringing awesome lunches. Those kids who are eating all those Insta-Perfect box lunches can't honestly appreciate them as much as I would. Please, Weelicious, make me lunch? Since she hasn't started yet, it's up to me to make my own vibrant (and healthy and tasty) lunches, and I have to tell you, this egg salad hasn't let me down yet. 

Egg salad may have a reputation in some circles as lame or boring or, worse, not delicious. I can assure you that, if made right, it is none of those things. It's all about the flavor, and most people's gobs 'o mayo recipes just don't cut it. Creamy does not mean flavorful, flavor is what produces, well, flavor. So, in this recipe, I cut out the mayo, and replaced it with tons of flavor and texture from whole grain mustard, lemon juice, salty capers, and tons of herbs and spices. 

You can serve it on toasted bread (I like this one, but gluten-eaters with whom I may or may not share a home raved about this one) or on top of a salad, but straight, topped with an extra sprinkle of fresh dill, is my favorite way to devour this dish.

PS: Stop back on Thursday for my favorite trick to making hard boiled eggs (without a scalding pot of water that inevitably boils over)...

Mayo-Free Dill and Caper Egg Salad

  • 4 large hard boiled eggs, whites separated from yolks and chopped fine
  • 1 large or 2 medium/small stalks of celery, minced (about 1/3 cup - 1/2 cup)
  • Heaping Tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 Tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon water or oil (or more/less to achieve desired creaminess)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch each: salt, pepper, garlic powder (or adjust to taste)
  • Packed 1/2 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Cooking Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, toss together the chopped egg white, celery and capers. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mash the egg yolks with the back of a spoon or fork until smooth. Mix in the mustard, then the water or oil and lemon juice. Add more water or oil if your mixture isn't creamy or smooth enough for you (remember, this is going to be the binding substance taking the place of mustard). Once you have the desired consistency, stir in the salt, pepper, garlic powder and dill. Adjust seasonings to taste. 
  3. Carefully fold the egg/celery/caper mixture into the yolk mixture until combined.
  4. Serve immediately garnished with additional fresh dill, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Yield: About 1 1/2 cups egg salad

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Muddled Berry Arnold Palmer (Sugar Free)

Muddled Berry Arnold Palmers

Uh oh, it looks like we have another accidental theme week on our hands. Last week, it was chocolate, and this week is berries. I don't know where this berry infatuation came from. Maybe a subliminal swan song as summer comes to an end? Both berry-anything and Arnold Palmers are perfect summer foods. 

I don't know what kind of rock I have been living under, but the first time I ever heard of an Arnold Palmer was a couple of years ago when my coworker ordered one at lunch. It was an hour before a hugely important client meeting, so I was a little taken aback. I thought it was a(n alcoholic) cocktail. 

Turns out, it's not. But it probably would be great with some vodka or rum added. Just, you know, maybe not an hour before a huge client meeting. (The boozy version might be just the right thing to serve at your Labor Day picnic!)

Muddled Berry Arnold Palmers

It turns out that Arnold Palmers, minus the proper name, were a childhood favorite of mine that I had forgotten about, so I have been nostalgically making them at home all summer. They are great any time of the day, and if you aren't a big coffee person, are a great way to start a hot summer morning. I also highly recommend using a glass of this, including the soaked berries, in a fruit smoothie. 

Arnold Palmers are also naturally gluten-free, grain-free, and vegan, and my version below is also paleo and sugar-free. Ultimately, you can't go wrong if you have a pitcher of this in your fridge this summer!

Muddled Berry Arnold Palmers

Muddled Berry Arnold Palmer
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  • 4-5 black tea bags
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup honey or agave (adjust to taste; you can substitute stevia to taste)
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (see note)

Cooking instructions:
  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in the microwave or over the stove, remove from heat, add tea bags, cover, and set aside to steep and cool. 
  2. Bring 3 more cups of water to a boil and add lemon juice and honey or agave. Stir until honey is dissolved. Set aside to cool. 
  3. In a small mixing bowl, defrost the berries (do not discard the juices). Use the back of a spoon or fork to gently mash them to release more juices. 
  4. Add the berries to a pitcher, and pour the iced tea and lemonade over them. Stir to combine flavors and add more water if the flavor is too strong for you. Alternately, you can combine the iced tea and lemonade in the pitcher and then make the drinks one by one by adding the berries to each glass and pouring the drink over it. 

(1) I used honey but you can substitute liquid stevia if you wish. I don't know how many drops you will need; just add it little by little until it tastes right to you.
(2) I used a berry mixture consisting of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. You can use whatever you want and have on hand. As for fresh vs. frozen, I prefer the frozen ones because, once defrosted, they are already a little bit more broken down and have released some of their juices. But if fresh is all you have, give it a try. 
(3) Yield: 1 pitcher. Multiply as needed.