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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate with Whipped Coconut Cream


Hot chocolate is one of the most comforting winter indulgences, I think. Warm, creamy, delicious chocolate - perfect for curling up with when it's cold and snowy outside. I look forward to enjoying hot chocolate all winter long, and it's one of the only ways I truly enjoy chocolate. My husband loves it, too, and when I saw this recipe for peanut butter hot chocolate, I knew he'd be excited about it.


Chocolate and peanut butter is such a classic combination, and they marry well together in this lovely twist on classic hot chocolate. Growing up, my favorite topping was none other than the classic Fluff. I loved that stuff (well, I still do!) but it's not exactly fitting into the clean eating lifestyle. Enter: the genius happening over at The Gracious Pantry. Tiffany recently introduced her readers to a whipped cream alternative made from coconut milk. Given my recent addiction to all things curry, I had some coconut milk in stock and decided to try it out.


All I can say is coconut cream = awesome. I forgot all about Fluff once I topped my hot chocolate with this heavenly stuff. I'm sure you are wondering if you can taste the coconut. I could when sampling it alone, but I skimped a bit on the honey/vanilla. Once atop the hot chocolate, I couldn't pick out the coconut at all. Just lovely, creamy deliciousness to perfectly complement more lovely, creamy deliciousness.

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate with Whipped Coconut Cream
Source: Slightly adapted from Dolcetto Confections/Martha Stewart
Generously serves 2

2 cups skim milk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
3 tablespoons natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons sucanat
1 tablespoon whipped coconut cream

In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm milk until it just begins to simmer and bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Whisk in chocolates, peanut butter, and sucanat until melted and smooth. Cover and continue warming over low heat until warmed through. For a thicker cup of cocoa, simmer hot chocolate uncovered until desired thickness is achieved. Ladle hot chocolate into individual mugs, top with whipped cream.

Whipped Coconut Cream
Source: Reworded from The Gracious Pantry

1 14 ounce can regular coconut milk (do not use light milk)
1 tablespoon. agave or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut cream (recipe follows)

1. Identify which end of the can you'll open with the can opener (for some cans that's the bottom) and place it that-end-down in the fridge for at least a day. The longer, the better. Gently turn the can over and open it. The cream should be solid at the (now) bottom of the can, with a layer of clear liquid on top. Pour off the clear liquid (great for use in smoothies or added to juice for a tropical touch).

2. Scoop the cream out of the can and into a medium bowl. Add honey and vanilla extract. Blend or whisk together until well combined.

3. Refrigerate coconut cream for a few hours to set; it will thicken slightly when chilled.

Note: If you find that even after chilling, the cream won’t stiffen up, put it into a blender with 1 package of unflavored gelatin. Let it sit out for about an hour. Once it’s thick as it should be, put it back into the fridge to chill further.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mediterranean Vegetable, White Bean and Feta Penne

Loaded with fresh ideas, I pulled this recipe from my "to make" list for an easy weekend meal. When I showed the recipe to my husband, he requested that I add some chicken. I thought it would be a great addition, too, and decided that seasoning it with Herbs de Provence would be a great complement to the flavors in the dish.


This dish is not only delicious, but a cinch to throw together.  The flavors are great (of course, I am a huge fan of feta cheese), and we discovered an added bonus - it is also delicious as a cold pasta salad for leftovers! 

Mediterranean Vegetable, White Bean and Feta Penne
Source: Slightly adapted from Clean Eating Magazine, February 2011, Page 40

6 oz whole-grain penne pasta
1 cup cooked canned white beans, drained and rinsed well
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced, divided
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium zucchini, cut into eighths lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into thin strips, then cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breats (optional)
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence (optional)

1. Cook penne according to package directions, adding beans during the last minute of cooking.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, 2 cloves garlic, vinegar, basil, pepper flakes and salt; set aside.

3. (Optional if using chicken) Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat, tilting skillet to coat bottom lightly. Sprinkle chicken with herbs de provence, then add to skillet. Cook about 8 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove from skillet.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in same skillet over medium high heat, tilting skillet to coat bottom lightly. Add zucchini and bell pepper and cook for 4 minutes or until edges begin to brown, stirring frequently. Add remaining 2 cloves garlic and cook for 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in tomato mixture and drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp oil. Chop chicken into bite size pieces and add to vegetable mixture. Cover to keep warm.

Four: Drain penne-bean mixture, place in a serving bowl, sprinkle evenly with rosemary and all but 1/4 cup feta. Spoon vegetable/chicken mixture over top and finish with remaining feta.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Orange Chipotle Chicken

My desire to finally get back in the kitchen was greatly influenced by the arrival of the latest issue of Clean Eating Magazine. I can’t get enough of this magazine. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – I seriously love it! The latest issue is chock full of recipes I can’t wait to try (many of them are listed as $2 per serving!), but this one jumped out at me immediately. The flavors sounded perfect, and I knew my husband would love them. Already having the ingredients in stock also helped to make it attractive (getting to the grocery store is somewhat more challenging these days).


This meal has the perfect trifecta – quick to make, packed with great flavors, and easy on the wallet. I am sure we will be revisiting it soon!

I neglected to deseed the chipotles, and the dish was pretty spicy, so remember to remove them if you are sensitive to that.

Orange Chipotle Chicken
Source: Clean Eating Magazine, February 2011, Page 38

1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin (cumin haters like me can use coriander)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp safflower oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb), rinsed and patted dry, pounded to 1/2-inch thick
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (remove seeds to keep the heat down)
1 tsp orange zest
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro


One: In a small bowl, combine chile powder, cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Tilt skillet to coat bottom lightly. Season both sides of chicken with chile-cumin mixture and cook for 3 minutes per side or until no longer pink in center. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Two: Add orange juice and maple syrup to juice and bits left in skillet and cook for 1 minute to thicken slightly (until it measures 1/4 cup liquid) stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and orange zest. Add chicken back to skillet, return to heat and cook for 1 minutes on medium high turning constantly.

Three: In a medium bowl, combine rice, cilantro and remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Serve chicken over rice and spoon any excess glaze over top of chicken pieces.

Nutritional Information (per serving: 3 oz chicken and 1/2 cup rice):
Calories: 283
Fat: 4g
Sat. Fat: 1g
Carbs: 32g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 8g
Protein: 29g
Sodium: 337 mg
Cholesterol: 32 mg

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quick Chicken Fricassee

I'm a huge fan of Cook's Illustrated for trusted, tested recipes. I've been getting the magazine for a few years, but recently let my subscription run out because I think I'd benefit more from the online subscription the offer. I love to research products and having all of their tests and ratings at my fingertips is more beneficial to me, than getting new recipes sent to my door a few times a year. However, in the last magazine issue I received, there were quite a few recipes that seemed perfect for us. This was one of them. I happily added the ingredients to my grocery list, but somehow completely forgot to write down the mushrooms. I decided to make it anyway and it was still fabulous! We are huge fans of chicken with a pan sauce recipes, and this was just one more recipe for our arsenal.


Quick Chicken Fricassee
Source: Cook's Illustrated, November/December 2010, page 20

Two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley leaves may be substituted for the tarragon in this recipe.
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or a combination
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps wiped clean and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon (see note)

1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Heat butter and oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, place chicken in skillet and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip chicken and continue to cook until browned on second side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to large plate.

2. Add mushrooms, onion, and wine to now-empty skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add broth and bring mixture to boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Add chicken and any accumulated juices to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in breasts and 175 degrees when inserted in thighs, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Transfer chicken to clean platter and tent loosely with foil. Whisk sour cream and egg yolk together in medium bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly stir ½ cup sauce into sour cream mixture. Stirring constantly, slowly pour sour cream mixture into simmering sauce. Stir in nutmeg, lemon juice, and tarragon; return to simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Quinoa Vegetable Soup


The snow has been piling up around here, and that generally means one things: comfort food. In an effort to keep things healthy around here, I turned to this soup recipe for something warm, comforting, and most of all - filling!


I didn't have any marjoram (and wasn't about to go out to the store for some), but I found a spice blend in my cabinet that seemed like it would work well. I also used chicken broth, since that's what I had on hand. This is a delicious soup that is so easy to throw together. It's a great way to get in some vegetables and grains, so you can feel a little less guilty about some other comfort foods calling your name!

Quinoa Vegetable Soup
Yield: Approximately 4 quarts
Source: The Gracious Pantry

  • 8 cups vegetable broth + 8 cups vegetable broth on reserve
  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa (rinsed well, unless you buy pre-rinsed)
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small bunch celery, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 small head broccoli, washed and chopped
  • 2 lbs. mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1 tbsp. marjoram
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube


Step 1 – Saute the onions and mushrooms over low-medium heat in the olive oil until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have completely wilted.

Step 2 – In a large soup pot (a 4 quart pot), combine 8 cups of broth, carrots, celery, broccoli, onion/mushroom mixture, bouillon cube and spices. Bring to a boil.

Step 3 – When the soup is at a full, rolling boil, add the quinoa.

Step 4 – Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are soft and the quinoa is transparent.

Step 5 – Add extra vegetable broth as needed to maintain a soupy consistency.