Plum Muffins with Cinnamon, Cardamom and Orange Zest

Plum Muffins

Yield: 12 Muffins

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup whole roasted and salted almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon orange zest (zested on a Microplane)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 whole eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 (medium-sized) ripe plums, quartered, pits discarded

Set an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

Place the sugars and almond in a food processor with the blade attachment. Run for 1 minute until it begins to clump. Add the flour, zest, baking powder, spices and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter. Pulse 5 to 7 times, until it starts to resemble wet sand. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Pulse until the texture turns into a uniform, thick batter.

Fill each muffin tin equally, with 2½ tablespoons of batter. Gently press a quarter plum into each muffin, skin side up or skin side down – both ways are equally delicious!

Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Test readiness by poking a toothpick or knife in the middle of a muffin; if it comes out clean, it’s ready.

Remove from oven. Place tin on a cookie rack and let the muffins cool in the tin for 15 minutes before removing the muffins from the tin.

Frisee and Traviso Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

Salad Blood Orange Evoo

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

 

1 large shallot, peeled and diced small

2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 small heads of frisee, cored and leaves cut in half, lengthwise

1 head traviso, cut into 1/3 inch slices on a bias

kosher salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 medjool dates, pitted and quartered

3-ounces chevre, torn into small pieces

½ cup pomegranate seeds

½ cup marcona almonds

 

In a small container with a tight fitting lid, combine the shallot, sherry vinegar and olive oil, close the lid tightly, and shake well to combine. Or, whisk to combine the ingredients in a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, combine the frisee, traviso and vinaigrette. Mix together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the salad equally among plates. Equally divide the dates, chevre, pomegranate seeds and marcona almonds among the plates.

Toasted Almonds – Your Way

It’s not a particularly sexy recipe, but it makes a world of difference in terms of taste, texture and freshness when you toast your own nuts (heyyyy-o – who said this post wasn’t sexy?!).

Toasted Almonds

 

Toasted Almonds

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread out raw nuts on a sheet pan in a single layer.

Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 17 minutes, stirring occasionally for even cooking, until lightly colored. Be sure to set your timer. To test for doneness, break one nut in half and check for color. It should be a light golden brown color on the inside.

Remove from the oven and transfer the toasted nuts to a plate to cool, or toss in a bowl with a very light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a good sized pinch (or two) of kosher salt.

 

 

 

Spiced Carrot Almond Bites

A few months ago, I had an excess of carrots (and by excess I mean about a 20 pound surplus) and a bit of a sweet tooth. Well, what to do? Throw some carrots, fruit, nuts, spice and cocoa in my food processor and minutes later, my sweet tooth problem was resolved! Hooray! As far as my surplus of carrots, well, I made a very small dent with this dessert snack, but I can say that I did enjoy a lot of carrot juice that week. Win-Win! (Did I mention these are raw, gluten free, vegan and DELICIOUS?)

P.S. You can see a video of me making these on my Facebook Page.

 

Spiced Carrot Almond Bites

 

 

Spiced Carrot Almond Bites

Yield: approximately 16 balls

 

3 small carrots, peeled and chopped into the size of whole almonds

1 teaspoon orange zest

15 deglet noor dates, pitted

5 dried black mission figs, chopped roughly

1 tablespoon old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup toasted almonds

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon grade B maple syrup

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1-ounce good quality dark chocolate, 65-70% cocoa solids, chopped roughly

¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

 

Place all ingredients, except coconut, in a food processor and process until well combined and the ingredients stop moving about in the bowl.

Place shredded coconut on a large plate.

Using your hands, roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll balls in the coconut to coat.

Refrigerate 30 to 45 minutes to firm up before serving.

 

 

Gluten Free Granola Bars

Have you ever made your own granola bars? It’s super easy and you have the added bonus of making something delicious AND healthy! My version is gluten free and the sweetness comes from maple syrup and dates – even more reason to bake some off and share with your friends (if you feel compelled to share, of course!).  #freshfoodsdiet

 

Gluten Free Granola Bars

 

Gluten Free Granola Bars

Yield: Approximately 15 2- x 2-inch squares

 

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup whole toasted almonds

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup pitted deglet noor dates (approximately 20), chopped roughly

¾ cup dried blueberries

½ cup dried cranberries

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup grade B maple syrup

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a 7 x 11 baking dish with parchment paper, allowing the paper to come up on all sides. (This will make for an easy transfer out of the pan).

Combine oats, almonds, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and pulse 15 times, until the oats and almonds are broken up into small pieces. Transfer contents into a large bowl.

Stir in the dried fruit, breaking up any fruit clumps. (I like to use my hands!)

Place butter, maple syrup and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until butter is melted and ingredients are well combined. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Transfer wet ingredients from saucepan into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and fruit. Stir until well combined.

Place granola mixture in the parchment filled baking dish and pat down so that the granola is packed together and evenly spread throughout the baking dish.

Bake for 50 minutes until the granola is lightly brown on top.

Remove from the oven and let granola cool completely before cutting.

 

 

Spiced Amaretto Peaches

Warmed peaches, brown butter, Amaretto, mint, almonds, cinnamon. Sounds like a perfect summer dessert to me. What more is there to say?!

 

Spiced Amaretto Peaches

Spiced Amaretto Peaches

Yield: 2 servings

 

3 ripe peaches, washed, cored and sliced thinly

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1  2- to 3-inch stick cinnamon

¼ cup Amaretto liqueur

5 fresh mint leaves, chopped finely

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

 

Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter begins to brown after 2 or 3 minutes, add the sliced peaches, stir and simmer until tender.

Warm the liqueur in a small saucepan. Carefully add the warmed Amaretto to the sauté pan with the peaches and ignite by tilting the pan away from you. The flames will subside in seconds as the alcohol burns away. Heat and stir until glazed.

To serve, divide sautéed peaches among bowls. Spoon any remaining sauce from the pan over the peaches. Garnish with sliced almonds and some mint.

Strawberry Kale Salad

In California, we are spoiled. Not only do we have kale year round, but we have strawberries as well. So, it seems only natural to pair the two: beautiful green, slightly bitter kale with bright sweet vibrant strawberries. So, here’s my take on it. One caveat: how you cut your kale will greatly affect the flavor of this dish. Some people massage their kale with a little olive oil and salt to relax the tough leaves and remove some of that bitterness. Although this does work, for this salad, I like creating a light, fluffy (yes, fluffy) texture from the curly kale I use. How do you achieve such fluffiness, you may ask? Chiffonade your kale. Remove the stems, stack the leaves, roll them tightly into a cigar shape and slice ever – so – thinly. The taste and texture turn out remarkable.

This is what I’m talking about – super thin/chiffonade – it may take a few more minutes in prep time, but once you try your kale salads this way, you’ll never do otherwise!

Kale Chiffonade

 

And here’s the salad of the hour:

Strawberry Kale Salad Overhead

 

 

Strawberry Kale Salad

 

 

Strawberry Kale Salad

 

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

 

Vinaigrette:

1 small shallot, peeled and diced small

1 ½ tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

 

In a medium container with a tight fitting lid or medium bowl, combine the shallot and vinegars. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add the olive oil, close the lid tightly, and shake well to combine, or, whisk to combine the ingredients if using a bowl.

 

Salad:

1 bunch curly kale, stems discarded, leaves stacked, rolled and sliced finely (chiffonade)

½ cup sliced almonds

¼ cup roughly chopped pitted deglet noor dates

8 ounces strawberries, hulled and sliced thinly

2 ounces ricotta salata cheese, crumbled

kosher salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

In a large bowl, mix the kale, almonds and dates. Add the vinaigrette and mix to combine. Add the strawberries and cheese. Fold gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide into bowls and serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

 

Dueling Muffins.

Last night, I cooked up a batch of my double chocolate toasted almond orange zest cranberry muffins from my cookbook (in the chocolate, yes chocolate, season) to deliver to the crew at KTLA (channel 5) in the morning.

Getting ready for a warm oven:

Truth be told, I have a meeting scheduled with their makeup artist to get some makeup tips since I’ll be hitting the road filming my new show and, well, I’ll be the makeup artist. (Hey, this bald head can get shiny, what can I say?) I wanted to do something a little special for the crew because they so graciously hosted me for a morning cooking spot on March 2nd, which was a lot of fun.

To mix things up a bit, I tried subbing out the almonds with pecans. (Okay. Maybe I was toasting the almonds and got a little sidetracked and they overcooked… a bit. Like burnt popcorn. I’m not saying that’s what happened, but it is a definite possibility.)

Well, one thing I have found again and again – it’s the little mistakes in life that, if embraced, can lead to even greater things. As one of my friends from back in the day used to say, “there are no mistakes, only outtakes.” This is one of the things I love about life and love about cooking. As it turned out, pecans were a delicious substitute for almonds. Dare I say, better? Maybe.

Warm melty chocolate pecan delight:

Well, you’ll have to let me know. Idea! You whip up a batch of the muffins with toasted almonds, I’ll bring the pecan version, and we’ll discuss this with a muffin in one hand and double shot Latte in the other hand. Deal? Okay, deal. In fact, let’s shake on it.