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Cool and Refreshing Natural Spicy Soda

I gave up soda years ago but I still want a cool, fizzy drink everyone once in a while. To satisfy that craving I make my own soda mixing natural juices with seltzer so I can control the sweetness. It’s a lot easier than you think and much more healthy with none of the added chemicals or preservatives!

hibiscus-soda2

What’s great is you can adjust the amount of syrup you want based on how sweet you like it. Also, the flavor combinations are endless! This ginger hibiscus spicy soda doesn’t burn as you might think but does give the drink a nice kick that will perk you right up. I also made lime ice cubes for a little added tartness.

hibiscus-soda

Making simple syrup is easy, just equal parts sugar and water and heating it up until sugar is dissolved and mixture is clear. Just think of all the natural flavors you can add. Get a little creative too and make a mojito soda by infusing mint leaves and limes when making the syrup or ginger and basil! It’s a wonderful alternative to the sugary stuff that’s out there now!

Spicy Ginger Hibiscus Natural Soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
handful of dried hibiscus flowers
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, smashed
2-3 slices of serrano chile
seltzer water

1. In a saucepan on medium heat add sugar and water and stir. Add the hibiscus flowers, ginger and serrano chiles and continue stirring until all the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil then remove from stove and let mixture cool off.

2. Strain mixture so you are left with just the syrup. In a tall glass, add ice, 2 ounces of syrup and top with seltzer.

Store the remaining syrup in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

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Spicy Crispy Chicken Breasts with Kale Salad

Crispy and crunchy chicken without deep frying? Of course, just follow this quick and easy recipe for crisp, hot and spicy chicken breasts. It’s a more healthy alternative to frying, doesn’t require much prep time and is tender and juicy.

breaded-chicken

The key to achieving that crispy texture is to double dip chicken in the wet and dry mixtures.  Browning the chicken on stove top with just butter and finishing it in the oven maintains that crunchy texture and also doesn’t leave with the oily mess you get from frying, never mind the extra fat too.

sauteed-chicken

Since white meat tends to get a little dry, soaking the chicken in the milk mixture for several minutes will also give you a tender and moist piece of chicken.

sliced-chicken-kale

Serve it on a bed of kale salad for a healthy dinner.

Spicy Chicken Breasts and Kale Salad

2 chicken boneless breasts
1 tsp Adobo, divided (found in supermarket Spanish food section or bodega)
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp pequin pepper flakes
salt & pepper
1/2 stick butter

1. Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp of Adobo and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Set three shallow bowls in front of you and in first bowl add the flour. In the second bowl beat the egg, add milk and season with salt & pepper and mix. Add the bread crumbs to the third bowl, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, the pequin pepper flakes, the remaining Adobo seasoning and mix well.

3. Dip the chicken in each of the bowls starting with the flour first. Coat the meat with flour on both sides. Then add the chicken to the milk mixture and let it sit for about five minutes. If you have a little extra time let it soak in the milk mixture and leave in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Lastly, dip chicken in the seasoned bread crumbs until well coated.

4. Repeat step 3 except don’t let chicken soak in milk just dip quickly and cover in bread crumbs.

5. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat, add butter. When butter has melted, saute the chicken until you get a nice brown color on both sides.

6. Finish the chicken in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked all the way through. Remove from oven and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Slice chicken and serve over kale salad.

Feta & Red Onion Kale Salad

Chop a bunch of kale greens and toss with a little red wine vinegar, olive oil, thinly sliced red onion and crumbled feta cheese.

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Meatless Monday: Buttery Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts! They used to be the vegetable I avoided until a friend of mine made me try them years ago. I always thought they would taste like cabbage, which I’m not a fan of, but they were surprisingly different and only resemble cabbage in appearance. Brussel sprouts are nutty, buttery, nutritious and so filling. They are the perfect accompaniment to grilled meats and seafood but can also be enjoyed alone. They are also one of the healthiest of vegetables, packed with all sorts of nutrients.

roasted_brussel_sprouts

Brussel sprouts are high in protein and fiber, low in calories and loaded with anti-oxidants to help protect against heart disease and cancers. Also, according to doctors and nutritionist, adding a little extra kick from spices will also help rev up your metabolism.  Sometimes I will have these after getting home late from a good work out at the gym. They are light, and quick and easy to make. They are so tasty there is really no reason not to add them to your diet.

Spicy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 lb brussel sprouts
1-2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
dash of salt & pepper

1. Rinse the brussel sprouts in water and peel off a layer or two and cut each in half. Heat up a cast iron skillet or heavy bottom pan on medium heat and add butter. As butter is melting toss in brussel sprouts and stir.

2. Add the garlic, pepper flakes and the salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook for about 8 minutes until the brussel sprouts are tender and nicely browned.

Enjoy in a bowl with a glass of white wine!

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Healthy Superbowl Snacks – Spicy Quinoa Cakes

This quinoa bites recipe has been on my Pinterest board for over a year now. I’ve made it a couple of times and decided to tweak the recipe for a spicier option. What can I say, I just can’t help myself! Adding a little spice here and there can really elevate a dish, even if it’s just a few pepper flakes.

quinoa_poppers2

These spicy quinoa mini cakes are a healthy alternative to the numerous fried and cheese laden appetizers that will be consumed during next weekend’s super bowl. If you’re looking for ideas on what to make and want to balance out your menu, this is it! Quinoa is a grain used in many dishes across South America and has gained popularity across the US for it’s high protein content and health benefits. It’s the super food of choice for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. It’s high in fiber, rich in iron and has been known to regulate insulin levels in your body. How could you not want to eat this?!

quinoa_poppers

These are great little snacks you can munch on between meals, as appetizers or just serve up as a side dish. The original recipe called for a sauce but these are moist enough that you don’t need one. If you do want something extra, serve with a salsa. You can also use regular size cupcake pans and serve as a side with vegetables or grilled chicken.

Spicy Quinoa Mini Cakes
adapted from So Very Blessed
yields 48 mini cakes

2 cups quinoa, cooked
2 egg whites
1/4 cup Gouda cheese
1 jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 small onion, diced
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt

1. In a small bowl add all the ingredients and mix well.

2. Grease a mini cupcake pan and spoon in the quinoa mix into each mold.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Note: The recipe calls for 2 cups of cooked quinoa. You can cook 1 cup of quinoa in about 1 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock for extra flavor. I used a low sodium chicken stock and boiled quinoa for about 15 minutes. You want the quinoa to crack open and be light and fluffy.

Quinoa has too many health benefits not to include in your diet. Use any leftover cooked quinoa to toss in your salad or add some texture to your smoothies. Enjoy!

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Breakfast Under Five Minutes – Coconut Almond Oatmeal

Looking for a quick breakfast to make during the week? This is it! You will not see oatmeal quite the same again. This coconut almond oatmeal breakfast is creamy, spiced up, flavorful, delivers a nice crunch and you can make it in under five minutes. It will also keep you full for hours!

coconut_oatmeal

My intention was to make a black rice coconut risotto as part of Bon Appetit’s foodies cleanse but did not have over half of the ingredients. As a home cook you just have to learn to improvise in the kitchen and make things work! It’s what leads to great recipes sometimes, just remember to write it down!! Nothing’s worse that making something great and then not being able to make it happen again. I know this is just oatmeal but I’m talking about all recipes in general. Start with the basics and then tweak and experiment until you have something special of your own.

Coconut Almond Oatmeal with a Twist

1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp almonds, chopped
1/8 tsp cinnamon
few dashes of nutmeg
1 dash of merken
drizzle of maple syrup

1. Add the first five ingredients to a small saucepan and stir. Set heat to medium and let mixture come to a boil. Continue to stir for another minute and remove from heat.

2. Stir in the chopped almonds and top with cinnamon, nutmeg, merken and a drizzle of maple syrup.

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A Foodie’s New Years Recovery through Food

Have any of you seen Bon Appetite’s new Foodie Lover’s cleanse yet? The plan aims to help food lovers get back on a healthy food track after a holiday of feasting. This isn’t a boring diet, or a “diet” for that matter, made up of bland foods but the the kind of menu you can look forward to eating. It’s a menu you would imagine chefs preparing but the appeal is that the recipes are easy enough for home cooks to make. The only drawback is the long shopping list and some of the ingredients aren’t items you would normally stock but hey, you can substitute items so no big deal. The idea is to eat healthy and enjoy every minute of it!

yogurt_cilantro_chicken

I reviewed the entire list and found I had about 75-80 percent of the items which wasn’t too bad so decided to make a few dishes. It’s a two week plan of fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood and poultry, and all the sides the body needs to recover from a few weeks of parties, dinners, cookies and cocktails! I actually don’t like following meal plans or getting on a schedule but do understand the value and benefits it can bring in the long run so will be making a few and adding my own. I, of course, had to go through the entire plan and find all the dishes with a good amount of spices and will be sharing some with you here.

yogurt_cilantro_chicken2

I made the yogurt chicken with ginger cilantro chutney the other day and have found a new favorite recipe! The flavor was pretty amazing. The chicken had a little tang from the yogurt and the ginger cilantro chutney had a nice spicy bite. This sauce would be great as a dip, with shrimp or spread on a sandwich as a condiment. I’m not going to post the recipe since you can get it from the Bon Appetit site, besides I just substituted a few items and didn’t change the process much. I did however up the hot paprika and cayenne on the chicken…yes, I used both and it was gooood! Here is what I did with the rest. I substituted the black rice for brown rice and added crushed pistachios instead of almonds and apricots and it all worked just fine. The rice dish would be great with golden raisins which I may try the next time.

yogurt_chicken_salad

Another thing I like about this plan is that leftovers can be used for completely new dish the next day. I made a kale salad using a sherry vinaigrette found in the plan as well to go with the chicken and carrot leftovers the next day! Check the cleanse out and left me know what you think.

If you have seen the plan already, did you find the shopping list overwhelming? We’re you discouraged from making any of the dishes because you didn’t have ingredients in stock?

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Easy Weekday Dinner: Spicy Kale with Turkey Kielbasa

I started working out again about a month ago to try and shed a few pounds packed on in the last six months. I’m not a big fan of working out but it’s a necessary evil if you love to eat like me! Actually, its the gyms and treadmills that I don’t like and prefer any outdoor activities. Also my trip to Argentina and Chile is fast approaching so that’s even more motivation to get in shape! Yes, I’m taking a trip soon so let me know if there are any great food places to try in Buenos Aires, or in the Santiago, Chile area.

So part of the plan is to make more low or no-carb dishes for dinner. Low carb meals are so much better for your digestive system if you’re going to eat late. Try to have heavier meals during the day so you’ll have the rest of the day to use those carbs for energy. Besides, who wants to go to bed feeling full and bloated anyway?

I made this spicy kale dish with turkey kielbasa because I knew it was quick and easy to make. I’m usually starving after a good workout so anything I can make under 30 minutes is fine by me. This dish may not look like much but its so filling. Kale is a hearty, leafy green that’s got a nice crunch even when cooked down a bit and the kielbasa will add the much needed protein after a tough workout.

Kale and Kielbasa

The kielbasa gives this kale a nice smokey flavor similar to what ham-hocks do for collard greens but this is a little healthier with the turkey kielbasa.

Kale and kielbasa in broth

The extra added spices will help boost your metabolism as well which is another benefit of spicy foods. This dish is healthy, gluten free and the kale provides disease fighting antioxidants too. Kale also packs a healthy dose of fiber, vitamin A, calcium and beta-carotene, it’s up there with broccoli as one of the super foods!! If you’ve never had it before give it a try with this easy dish.

spicy kale and kielbasa in a bowl

Spicy Kale and Turkey Kielbasa

1/2 lb of Kale, or half of 16oz bag
1 link of kielbasa, sliced thick
2 cherry chile peppers, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp chile pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup chicken stock

1. Add washed and rinsed kale to an enamel pot and turn heat up to medium. Let kale sweat for a couple of minutes.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Let kielbasa and kale cook for about 10-15 minutes.

You can serve this as a side dish as well, just serve a little less. Enjoy!

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Coconut Ginger Ice Cream To Beat This Summer Heat

July is National Ice Cream month and to celebrate I made a spicy coconut ginger ice cream. Actually, I’ve been celebrating national ice cream month since May when the temperatures started to rise here in the Northeast but who is counting? This ice cream has fresh pieces of ginger to give it a nice bite and creamy coconut milk to make it all go down smoothly!

Ginger has many benefits, from treating inflammation to helping tame nausea. I always recommend fresh ginger to expecting moms because it’s a natural way to ease morning sickness and has worked wonders for me when I’ve had an upset stomach. Coconut is also great if you’re looking for an ice cream with less dairy, it does not have any contrary to what some think…I think its the “milk” that throws some off. I used light whipping cream in this recipe instead of heavy cream and substituted the regular whole milk with the coconut milk. Coconut also has the good saturated fat and has been known to aid in weight loss, especially when consuming coconut oil as part of your diet. It’s gluten free as well for those watching their gluten intake. I’ve been reading about its benefit for years but as always, do your own research, I’m no expert here but do know what works for me.

So get out that dusty ice cream maker and surprise your friends and family with a sweet and spicy treat! It’s pure and natural and perfect summer dessert for these hot, humid days!! Get creative if you like, add shredded coconut or some crushed nuts or fresh fruits…you could always blend them in after you make the ice cream.

Coconut Ginger Ice Cream
recipe adapted from the Big Chill ice cream maker, which I’ve had forever, and yes, it was dusty. 🙂
yields 1 pint

1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup light whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar until light then add the coconut milk, cream and vanilla. Continue whisking until well blended. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Pour mixture into your ice cream maker and following the directions according to your ice cream maker. Add the ice cream to a container and freeze if you’re not serving immediately.

If you want more, just double up the recipe for a quart of ice cream.

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Thin Healthy Pizza to Enjoy Over and Over Again

Who said pizza can’t be healthy? It’s one thing if you’re ordering it with extra cheese and loading it with various meats but if you’re making it at home you get to control the ingredients and can enjoy the flavors while still watching your waistline. Pizza is my all time favorite fast food, actually it’s my only favorite. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good burger but only if it’s homemade and comes off the grill. Pizza on the other hand is something I’ll never get tired of eating and love that there are more gourmet pizza restaurants sprouting up around the city. Nothing like hot saucy pizza coming out of a brick oven with fresh, quality ingredients. I wish I could have it several times a week but I can really do without all the calories and well you know, gourmet doesn’t come cheap! So every once in a while I make these thin pizzas on flour tortillas or wraps for a perfect low calorie alternative.

I made a salami, cheese and jalapeno mini pie and a prosciutto, baby arugula and shaved parmesan pie. It’s perfect for lunch or dinner and won’t have you feeling extra full and heavy afterwards.

Add a thin layer of sauce on tortilla and just top with ingredients. The less meat and cheese you use the better the other flavors will come through. It’s true especially with the prosciutto and arugula pizza, the mild sweetness of the prosciutto  and the peppery arugula are delicious and the citrus infused chile olive oil bring it all together.

These would also be great for entertaining as well and you won’t be slaving in the kitchen! Just cut the pizzas into quarters for sharing and pair with some wine, maybe a Syrah or a Chianti?

Prosciutto & Baby Arugula Tortilla Pizza
Pizza Sauce, see recipe below
Parmasean Cheese, shaved
Baby Arugula
Prosciutto, thinly sliced
Citrus habanero infused olive oil
Flour tortilla

Salami, Cheese and Jalapeno Tortilla Pizza
Pizza Sauce
Mozzarella, shredded
Hard Salami, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
crushed red pepper flakes

Pizza Sauce
Tomato sauce
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
Oregano, dried
Basil, dried
red pepper flakes

Season the tomato sauce with all the ingredients to taste. Make as much as you need based on the number of pizzas you want to make. For the two pizzas above all you’ll need is about 1/2 cup of sauce.

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Easy Sunday Dinner: Grilled Chicken and Spicy Mexican Corn on the Cob

Here’s an easy Sunday dinner for you, perfect for when you want simple, flavorful foods without having to spend the whole day in the kitchen. This took me about 20-30 minutes to make, seriously. It’s healthy, gluten free, low fat and the leafy greens are low in calories and high on vitamins. Oh, and the spicy corn on the cob, the kind you find at Mexican fairs, balances this dish on flavor. In Mexico they use crema but I didn’t have any so I used sour cream instead which is very similar. If you never had this spicy corn you have to try it. Simply out of this world!

Happy Sunday and enjoy this glorious day!!

Grilled Chicken with Spicy Mexican Corn on Cob

chicken breasts
corn on the cob
escarole bunch
seasoned chile salt
sour cream
Tajin (or your favorite chile pepper powder)
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 tbsp butter

1. Season the chicken with with a mixture of chili salt. Grill the chicken until cooked all the way through.

2. Grill corn with or without husk. Grilling with husk makes it much more plump and juicy, just make sure to get rid of all the silk. Slather on the sour cream and sprinkle as much Tajin as you like.

3. Saute the escarole in butter and garlic with a little chili salt until wilted on medium heat. Remove from heat.

Enjoy your Sunday dinner!

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