Mar 302013

Happy Eastover!  Last year my rice crispie egg post definitely favorited the Easter half of Eastover so I thought this year should pay tribute to the passover half.  I have to start off by making it clear that the future dietitian in me DOES NOT endorse this recipe.  But the inner fat kid in me?  She definitely endorses this recipe.  This Dark Chocolate-Toffee Matzo Bark is one of the most addictive things I’ve made in a while.

There are so many great things happening here. It’s crunchy, sweet, salty, and basically melts in your mouth.

A few of the toppings can give this a healthy disguise, but don’t be fooled…it is not.  The slivered almonds, dried, cranberries, pistachios, whole wheat matzo and dark chocolate- pretty healthy. The butter and brown sugar caramel hiding under the chocolate- NOT healthy.

Hope everyone has a happy healthy Passover or Easter.  Or if you’re me, BOTH!

Dark Chocolate-Toffee Matzah Bark with Pistachios, Almonds, and Cranberries

adapted from David Lebowitz

  • – 6 to 8 sheets unsalted whole wheat matzohs
  • – 3/4 cup  unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • – 3/4 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
  • – big pinch of sea salt
  • – 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • – 1 cup (160g) semisweet or dark chocolate chips (I used a mixture)
  • – 1/2 cup white chocolate chips for drizzle
  • – Optional Toppings:  1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds, 1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios, 1/2 cup dried cranberries.  (other options: toasted coconut, walnuts, orange rind, or anything else you can think of!)
1. Line a rimmed baking sheet (approximately 11 x 17″, 28 x 42cm) completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges. Cover the foil with a sheet of parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
2. Line the bottom of the sheet with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.
3. In a 3-4 quart (3-4l) heavy duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof spatula.
4. Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350F (175C) degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it’s not burning every once in a while. If it is in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325F (160C), then replace the pan.
5. Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.
6. If you wish, sprinkle with toasted almonds (or another favorite nut, toasted and coarsely-chopped), a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, or roasted cocoa nibs.
Let cool completely, the break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. It should keep well for about one week.
Note: If making for passover, omit the vanilla extract or find a kosher brand.
Mar 242013

Organic farm + cooking school + cabo + family = Marissa’s paradise.  Yep, you’re about to hear about what might have been my favorite day ever.  There were so many amazing parts of my vacation to Cabo last week–seeing whales from our balcony daily, amazing food (and drinks) with the family and boyfriend, absolutely perfect weather, but the highlight was definitely cooking school at Los Tamarindos.  It was lead by agriculturist turned organic farmer and chef and resulted in the most incredible farm to table meal:  chiles rellenos, chicken mole, vegetables roasted in “magic” oil, and herbed rice.  Take me back pleaseeeee.

Our day started with a brief tour of this 17 acre organic farm.  The chef explained to us the different methods they use for pest prevention and fertilization to keep the farm certified organic.  They grow just about every herb, peppers, tomatoes, mangos, and eggplants just to name a few. 

We were able to try many of these straight off the vine, including the sweetest tomatoes I have ever tasted, arugula flowers, and espazote, an herb very common in mexican cuisine.  

Seriously, does it get any better than this?

After our tour of the farm it was time to get to work.  This may have been the first time I’d ever seen my boyfriend, Jeff, hold a knife, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with his chopping skills.  He doesn’t know it yet, but now that he’s shown his skills he’s officially been promoted to my sous chef.  We started by chopping the veggies for our ratatouille-like filling for our chiles rellenos, made with carrots, zucchini, eggplant, onion, and squash. 

   I was put on stirring duty (and I  obviously took it very seriously).  To the left of me you’ll see a green vat of magic.  That was the key to this class-  a delicious oil packed with fresh herbs (oregano, espazote, rosemary, sage, basil, etc), garlic, and olive and sunflower oils.  We used this in almost every component of the meal, and I can’t wait to keep a jar of this stuff to use in my cooking at home.  Then we made a homemade fresh tomato sauce for the chiles, poached chicken and red mole sauce (no chocolate in this one which I loved), roasted vegetables, and herbed rice.  

Now all I need to recreate all this at home is a massive organic farm in my backyard and an oven like this one.  No problem.  

Drum roll please…the final product.  Here are the chiles rellenos. So fresh and healthy, with a little bit of crumbled cheese on top. These were sweet, smokey, a tad spicy, and I forsee myself dreaming about these for years to come.  

The main course was our chicken mole, which fell off the bone and was the perfect combination of about 40 ingredients in this sweet and spicy sauce.  Even the rice was special.  In mexico they fry the grains for a few minutes before adding the liquid so it doesn’t get too sticky, and we added tons of herbs to add flavor to the rice.  The vegetables were simply brushed with our magic oil and topped with extra garlic and fire roasted in the wood oven.  This was meal was amazing not only because of how tasty and fresh everything was, but also because we put in so much time and love into the meal…from picking the vegetables off of the farm only hours before to the very last bite.  This experience gave new meaning to “getting off your tush and cooking” for me, and if becoming and RD doesn’t work out you will likely find me working on the farm at Los Tamarindos.  Kidding.  But only sort of.   

Nutritional highlights:  Eat organic, support local farms, choose fresh/seasonal ingredients, get off your tush and cook.  The End.

Here’s the farm’s website in case you want to read more about it or visit if you are in Cabo.  

And here are the recipes for what we made(ish), although I can’t promise they will turn out quite the same without the fresh-off-the-farm produce and wood burning oven :)

“Magic” Herb Oil

Sorry, no specific recipe here, but just mix any fresh herbs you can get your hands on (we used basil, oregano, espazote, rosemary, and sage), some garlic, salt, pepper, and oil (we used a mix of olive and sunflower to raise the smoke point a bit).  As long as everything is cleaned well and there is no moisture in your container, you should be able to use this for a week or two without it going bad.  Proceed to cook everything you eat with this and prepare to be very happy.  

Chile Relleno with Vegetables

  • Dried Chile Poblano, 10 pieces
  • 4 zucchinis/yellow squash
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped (half for filling, half for sauce)
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 pound eggplant
  • 2 bell peppers (we used rainbow carrots instead of bell peppers)
  • 3 pounds tomatoes
  • 2 oz basil, chopped
  • 4 oz queso cotija
Directions:  Chop ingredients 2-7.  Heat olive oil and garlic or “magic oil” if you have it in a very large pan. Add vegetables in order of cooking time, starting with carrots or peppers, then onions, zucchini, then eggplant, then 1 lb of the tomatoes. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the mixture has softened.  Season with salt and pepper.

For the sauce, heat magic oil in another pan and add the rest the garlic and then the chopped tomatoes.  Cover and cook for about 20-30 minutes until sauce has cooked down.  Add chopped basil, salt, and pepper.  

Construction:  Soak poblanos for 20 minutes in warm water and cut a slit on one side and remove the seeds.  Stuff them with the vegetable filling and top with the sauce.  Sprinkle with the cotija cheese and bake in at 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  

Organic Chicken with Mole “Coloradito”

  • 2 large organic chickens (5 lbs each), cut into pieces
  • 2 large onions
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 garlic heads
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound coloradito mole paste (it has over 40 ingredients so best to buy it unless you are a super mole paste maker)
  • 2 QT chicken stock
Method:  In a large casserole, place the organic chicken pieces and cover with water.  Add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cover and let the chickens poach for 90 minutes.  (I think we only let them poach for about 40 minutes but finished it in the wood oven which must be why this recipe takes so long!)

Coloradito:  In a saucepan, break up the mole paste and cook at medium temperature for about 10 minutes.  add the chicken sauce and stir until you make a thick sauce.  Pour over the poached chicken and top with sesame seeds.  
Mar 162013

Twelve hours!  In twelve hours I will be in Cabo.  I cannot even express how excited I am for this much needed vacation. I can’t wait for a week free of work stress and grad school deadlines, and full of great food, sun, and family.  Only problem is that it’s tough to be bathing suit ready when it’s 30 degrees out and you’ve put on your winter hibernation suit.  So, to get ready for Cabo, I made an amazing csalad utilizing all the amazing citrus fruits that are great in the winter.    

When I saw blood oranges at the store, I knew I had to get a few.  I just love the color and sweet/tart flavor.  I grabbed a grapefruit and a navel orange too, as to not leave anyone out.  This salad  came together in minutes but is still impressive enough to serve to guests.  All I did was pare the skin off of the fruit, slice, and layer them on top of a bed of arugula.  I topped it with a little goat cheese, toasted pistachios, mint leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Sometimes the best meals are really simple ones like this, that highlight fresh ingredients without overpowering them with a thousand ingredients.  

Nutritional highlights:  Citrus fruit is a whole lot more than vitamin C.   It’s packed with other vitamins and minerals like Folate and Potassium and has antioxidant properties.  It’s also lower in calories and sugar than many other fruits and has high water content.  

Enough about Vitamin C…I’m off to get my Vitamin D on!!! See you all in a week :)

Winter Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Mint
adapted from Small Kitchen Chronicles

Makes 2 servings
For Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or other vinegar of choice
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
For Salad
  • 1 blood orange cut into 1/4 – inch slices.  I did this by cutting about a 1/4 inch of each end, removing skin with a paring knife, and then slicing the orange
  • 1 large navel orange, same proccess as above
  • 1 grapefruit, same process as above
  • 3 cups of greens (I used arugula but spinach, kale, or any green would work)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion (optional…I forgot to add it to mine but would like to next time for texture)
  • 1 ounce goat’s milk cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, julienned, plus a few extra for garnishing
  • extra sea salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions:  In a small mixing bowl combine dressing ingredients–red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together until well combined.  Set aside.
Place arugula or other greens on a platter and arrange the blood orange,navel orange, and grapefruit slices in a pretty pattern.
Sprinkle chopped red onion, goat cheese, and pistachios evenly over top of the citrus slices.  Drizzle dressing on top and garnish with the julienned mint leaves. Serve immediately with extra salt and black pepper . Enjoy!
Mar 102013

A glorious discovery was made in my kitchen this morning.  Potentially earth shattering, ground breaking, and other dramatic things like that.  Drum roll please…Quinoa for breakfast.  OK maybe some of you don’t find that quite as exciting as I do, but I was SO excited to see how great quinoa was as part of this baked oatmeal.  You can’t go wrong with the  combination of blueberries, bananas, walnuts, and cinnamon and added to super foods like quinoa, oats, and chia seeds, this is an amazingly healthy and delicious breakfast, brunch, or even healthy dessert.  

The other benefit of this dish (beyond the nutritional and flavor aspects) is that it makes about 6-8 servings making it perfect for a family or group, or for filling tupperware for a weeks worth of breakfasts (if you are me- party of 1).  It’s also super easy to put together.  You just layer sliced bananas and blueberries on the bottom of the pan, top with the dry ingredients, pour over the wet ingredients, and then top with a few extra banana slices, blueberries, and walnuts for a lil extra flair.  

Nutritional Highlights:  This is a crazy healthy meal.  Here are a few of the highlights: 

  • Quinoa: Apparently the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.”  Who in the world knows what that means, but it’s packed with protein and fiber.  
  • Blueberries and Bananas:  antioxidants, potassium, deliciousness.
  • Walnuts: omega-6 fatty acids
  • Chia seeds:  No relation to our grass covered pets of the 90’s…They’re so hot right now so I decided to throw in a few tablespoons.   They have omega 3’s, protein, and fiber, and they soak up a ton of liquid so they keep you full for a while
And I didn’t even mention the fiber filled oats or the skim or soy milk to get a little calcium in there.  There is really nothing bad I can say about this recipe, and I can’t wait to eat it at work every single day this week.  

Quinoa-Oatmeal Bake with Blueberries, Bananas, and Walnuts
adapted from Milk and Honey Living

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
3/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 T chia seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 1/4 cups milk (skim or soy/almond if you want non-dairy)
1 large egg
1 T butter
2 tsp vanilla
3 bananas, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups blueberries plus a few extra for the top
Preheat oven to 375 and grease 9×13 pan
  1. Mix together oats, quinoa, most of the walnuts (save a few for the top), baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl lightly beat egg and add in milk, vanilla, melted butter (let cool slightly).
  3. Cut bananas into slices covering the bottom of pan (reserve a few slices for the top).  Top with the berries (again, saving a few for the top) and cover with oat mixture.
  4. Pour wet ingredients to cover dry ingredients and top with remaining berries, banana slices, and walnuts.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup if you like it a little bit sweet like I do!  Enjoy!

Note:  If you like your oatmeal a little sweeter, feel free to add some maple syrup or honey into the bake (my version only has fruit to give sweetness).  Also, if you’re going to save the leftovers and reheat, I recommend adding a little milk or water for reheating as it dries out a bit.


Mar 012013

As you know from basically all of my previous posts, I have a moderate to severe cheese addiction and would prefer pretty much all foods with melted cheese on top.  If you don’t agree with me, you are wrong.  Sadly, we all know that cheese is one of the foods with the highest levels of saturated fat, so I’ve been trying to integrate a few more dairy free meals into my diet.  This one just so happens to be vegan as well.  The highlight was the wok-seared green beans, made with lots of sesame and garlic that brings your usual steamed green beans to a whole new level.  

The whole recipe only took about 15 minutes to prepare start to finish which is a big bonus considering I’m somehow busier than ever these days.  This is the perfect side dish to go with any asian meal, but I served mine with brown rice and some roasted tofu with a sweet and spicy asian glaze.  

Nutritional highlights:  I admit it, it’s sort of a weird time of the year for green beans, but I just had a craving.  Green beans don’t get a ton of press or labels as “super foods”, but they really are incredibly healthy and packed with antioxidants.  I also like green beans because I have found that a lot of non-veggie lovers (you know, the ones that cringe at brussels and kale) will eat green beans.  This recipe especially adds extra flavor but maintains the crunch of the green beans.  Plus, it’s a vegan recipe!

Wok-Seared Sesame Garlic Green Beans
adapted from Bon Apetit

1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 1/2 tablespoons oriental sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar – I left this out
2 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds, toasted

Optional: red chili flakes or chili paste


Start by blanching your beans: Bring a pot of water to boil and cook green beans briefly until crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes. Drain. Transfer green beans to large bowl of ice water to cool. Drain again. Pat green beans dry. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap green beans in paper towels and enclose in resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate.)  

Heat oil in heavy large wok or nonstick skillet over high heat. Add garlic and green beans and stir-fry until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and chili pepper if using. Stir-fry until sauce reduces slightly and loosely coats green beans, about 2 minutes longer. Add sesame seeds and toss to coat. Transfer green bean mixture to bowl and serve. Enjoy!