Oct 252015

I am definitely a creature of habit. Every morning I get up at the exact same time, get on the same subway car, go to the same gym class after work, and sit in the same spot on the couch to watch the same TV shows. Food is no exception, especially when it comes to snacks—I eat an apple with peanut butter almost every single day. While there’s nothing wrong with my apple and PB (in fact I think it’s one of the most perfect snacks in the universe), I decided to give it a little twist. The apples were upgraded to cinnamon-apple chips, and the pb promoted to a maple-yogurt-pb dip.
Now here’s the disclaimer about this recipe. While these chips were definitely incredibly delicious, with tons of apple-cinnamon flavor, they were pretty labor intensive. First, you have to slice the apples super thin using a mandolin, which resulted in a pretty nasty cut to my thumb (those things are dangerous, be warned). Then you have to cook them very slowly at a low temperature to dry them out until they’re crispy, which takes about 2-3 hours. Although it’s pretty hands off, it’s still a lot of time, and you can’t fit that many chips on each baking sheet. I loved every bite of these chips, but not necessarily THAT much more than if I had bought some apple chips at the store, just saying.
But, if you have the apple chips, why not go a step further and make some apple nachos. Yep, I said it, and I did it. Just cover a layer of apple chips with a drizzle of the pb-yogurt sauce, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, chopped nuts, and chia seeds (or any other toppings you can think of) and enjoy your new favorite sweet nachos.
Nutrition highlights: The phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not that ridiculous given the apple’s nutrition stats. They’re packed with fiber and vitamin C, and recent research has focused on polyphenols found in apples, which may serve as antioxidants, blood sugar regulators, and cholesterol reducers. And keep the peeler in the drawer–the skin has most of nutrients! This snack made even more well rounded by adding the greek yogurt-pb dip, which has plenty of protein and a little healthy fat to keep you fuller longer.
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Cinnamon-Apple Chips with Maple-PB-Yogurt Dip
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What’s in it:
3 apples (a firm apple like honey crisp or granny smith are easiest to slice with the mandolin)
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Pinch of salt, to taste (optional)
For the dip:
1/3 cup plain yogurt (greek or regular are fine)
2 tablespoons creamy peanut or almond butter
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Optional garnishes for dip: fresh apple slices, chopped peanuts, drizzle of maple syrup
If you’re making nachos, some topping ideas include: chopped nuts/seeds, pomegranate seeds, dried fruit, shaved coconut, chia seed

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 200F degrees.
2. Wash and thinly slice the apples using a mandolin (being very careful not to cut yourself like I did!). Spread the apple slices in a single layer onto two baking pans, being sure they don’t overlap. Sprinkle with lots of cinnamon and a pinch of salt (optional).
3. Bake for 1 hour, flip the apples over, sprinkle the other side with cinnamon and a tiny bit of salt (optional) and bake for another hour. Turn the oven off and keep the apples inside as the oven cools down (for another hour or so), which helps maximize crunchiness.
4. While they’re baking, make the sauce. Combine the yogurt, maple syrup, and peanut butter. If you prefer it to be thinner, add a tablespoon or two of almond milk to thin it out to your desired texture. Transfer the dip to a small bowl/ramekin. If you want to make it look fancy, you can stick a few fresh apple slices in there, sprinkle with chopped peanuts, and drizzle with a tiny bit more maple syrup!
5. Serve the apple chips with the maple-pb-yogurt dip and enjoy! To make apple nachos, lay the chips out on a dish, transfer the dip to a ziplock baggie and cut off a tiny corner. Drizzle the sauce all over the chips, and then top with your toppings of choice!
– Notes: You can also skip steps 1-3, go to the store, and buy some apple chips, and gain back 3 hours of your life…
That’s it for apple recipes for now, but don’t worry, I’m sure there will be more to come (especially since I’m still not even halfway through my apple picking proceeds!). Let me know if you have any favorite recipes!

Oct 182015

It’s apple week on cook tush! After a big day of apple picking last Saturday, followed by lugging approximately 20 pounds of apples back from Westchester to Manhattan, I had to make good use of our loot. That means I have not one, but TWO apple recipes for you this week. Here’s the first (and don’t tell the other recipe, but my favorite of the two)– Apple Pie French Toast Bake with Almond Crumble. Yes, you can eat this for breakfast. You’re welcome.
4 things will happen if you make this recipe: 1) you will be shocked by how easy it is, 2) your house will smell like heaven, 3) your family will love you, like a lot, and 4) I forget, I’m too busy eating french toast.
Something about french toast seems decadent and naughty…the kind of breakfast that leaves you needing a sugar-induced nap about an hour later. But, if you think about it, the staples of french toast are just eggs, bread, and milk. Sure, some people choose white bread, half and half, and add a whole lot of sugar, but in this version I used a multigrain loaf, unsweetened almond milk, and virtually no sugar. Oh, and apples. Lots of apples.
I used 3 different types of apples just because I had a good variety from my apple picking adventures, and wanted a mix of sweet and tart apple flavor, but you can really use any you have on hand. While the apples are sauteing, you let the bread cubes soak up a mixture of almond milk, egg, cinnamon, vanilla mixture. Then you toss in those tasty apples, top with a little almond-sunflower seed-brown sugar mixture for a crunchy topping, and you wait for the magic to happen.
Nutrition highlights: There’s absolutely nothing to feel guilty about when it comes to this recipe, and I actually can’t think of a much more balanced breakfast option out there. The combo of hearty multigrain bread, nuts/seeds, eggs, almond milk, and apples provides the perfect mix of complex carbs, fiber, protein, healthy fat, and vitamins to get your day started right and keep you satisfied until lunch. If you can keep your family from devouring the whole thing (good luck), you can also pack it up into tupperware to eat for breakfast throughout the work-week. The only way this recipe can go wrong (or right?) is by covering it in maple syrup, or dare I say, vanilla ice cream. But let the record show I’m not suggesting that. I’m not doing it right now either. Definitely not.
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Apple Pie French Toast Bake with Almond Crumble
Makes about 6-8 servings*
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What’s in it:
For the french toast-
– 1/2 large loaf of multigrain bread, ideally a few days old, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 5 cups cubes)
– 4 large eggs
– 1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk**
– 1 teaspoons cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the apples-
– 3-4 apples, thinly sliced
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1 tablespoon coconut oil
For the topping-
– 1/3 cup roughly chopped raw nuts and seeds (I used almonds and sunflower seeds)
– 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (depending on your sweetness preference)
– 1/4 teaspoon salt

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Fill your casserole dish with the cubed bread.
2. Mix the eggs, almond milk, 1 tsp cinnamon, vanilla, and 1/4 tspn salt in a bowl. Pour over the bread cubes and toss and press down on the bread cubes with a fork so they soak up all that goodness.
3. While it soaks, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick pan and add your sliced apples. Sprinkle with 1/2 tspn cinnamon and saute for about 5-7 minutes until slightly softened and beginning to caramelize.
4. Add the apples to the casserole dish and toss so they are well distributed throughout the bread cubes. Make sure a few slices end up on top because it looks pretty. If you want, you can also set aside a few of the sauteed apple slices to use as a garnish for serving.
5. Prepare the topping by combining the chopped nuts/seeds of your choosing with the brown sugar and salt. Set aside.
6. Bake the casserole for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the nut-brown sugar topping, and bake for an additional 15 minutes (40 minutes total).
7. Serve with a little maple syrup (or vanilla ice cream as a dessert!) and enjoy!

*I used a medium sized “gratin” casserole, but you can also double the ingredients and bake it in a 9×13 casserole dish to serve a bigger crowd.
**I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk to keep this dish very low sugar, but if you want it to be slightly sweet, use regular vanilla almond milk or add a few tablespoons of maple syrup to the egg/milk mixture.
This is the perfect fall breakfast for any day of the week, or to impress guests with. I have a feeling it will be making a day-after-thanksgiving appearance in my house this year!
Stay tuned later this week for apple picking recipe adventure #2. It’s another healthy one, to make up for all those apple cider donuts we may or may not have had at the orchard.

Oct 042015

It’s very simple: I love brussel sprouts. I also love tacos. I’m actually pretty disappointed in myself that I didn’t think to put the two together sooner. I can’t take credit for the idea, either–I stole the concept from an amazing dish I had at Dirt Candy, a magical mecca for the trendy, vegetable-loving New Yorker. I might be biased (ok, I’m definitely biased) but I think I may like this version even more.
As fancy as it looks, this dish only took about 20 minutes to make from start to finish. Here’s how it works–you saute thinly sliced sprouts with garlic and shallots until it’s just the perfect amount of charred, and you add some black beans. You fill some warm corn tortillas and top with cilantro, and, wait for it…pomegranate seeds and goat cheese. I know those last two ingredients sound weird, but they truly make the dish. Just try it and you will thank me.
Nutritional highlights: This is probably the first of many b.sprout recipes you’ll see from me this fall, and it’s 50% because they’re delicious, 50% because they’re crazy healthy. Brussel sprouts (and their cruciferous friends) have been associated with decreasing inflammation in the body, acting as an antioxidant, and helping the liver out with the detoxification process (because of glucosinolates found in the sprouts), all of which may help prevent cancer. If that’s not enough, they are also packed with vitamin K, C, folate, fiber and about 20+ other vitamins and minerals. Need I go on? I hate to say it but your mom was right–you should eat your brussel sprouts. This recipe adds another powerhouse, the black bean, to give fiber and protein to make this a well rounded, filling vegetarian meal.
Another general tip for your taco making adventures–go with corn tortillas rather than flour, since they have about half the calories, a little more fiber, and a lot more flavor (in my humble opinion)! They can crack easily if they get dried out, so I like to spray both sides with olive oil spray and quickly heat them up in a skillet or grill pan to soften them up.
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Brussel Sprout-Black Bean Tacos with Goat Cheese & Pomegranate
Makes about 8 tacos (3-4 servings)
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What’s in them:
3 cups brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
Juice from 1 lime
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
8 corn tortillas
Optional: your favorite hot sauce (my green jalapeno hot sauce went great with these)

How to make them:
1. Prepare all your ingredients and toppings. Heat a cast iron skillet (or another heavy skillet) over medium-high heat. Once it’s very hot, add the olive oil, shallots and garlic, and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the brussel sprouts and sautee for about 5-7 minutes. Stir only occasionally so the sprouts have time to get a nice little char going.
2. Add the black beans and season with the chili powder, salt, and lime juice. Saute for another 2 minutes, taste and add additional seasoning as needed.
3. Heat your corn tortillas on a grill pan, griddle, or in the microwave. Fill the tortillas with a generous scoop of the brussel-bean mixture and top with cilantro leaves, pomegranate seeds, and goat cheese. Drizzle with hot sauce (if using) and enjoy!
So grab a sweater, put on a scarf and pick up some brussel sprouts. Fall is officially here, and I’m not mad about it.
Also, I’m planning on upping my instagram game–follow me at cooktush for all my newest photos and recipes!