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Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Time: 10 minutes to prepare; approximately 15-20 minutes to cook.

Serves: 4

Inspired by: My good friend Jeanette brought these to the Thanksgiving dinner I hosted this past year. That dinner reminded me how much I love them and I’ve been making them much more often ever since. I don’t know why so many people turn up their noses to brussel sprouts. It makes me wonder if they’ve had them cooked properly. When they get roasted like this with olive oil, they get soft and even a bit sweet. I think the key is to cook them really well – I don’t even mind if they get pretty charred – yum!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups brussel sprouts, washed and cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss the halved brussel sprouts with the olive oil on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish – keep them spread out well.
  • Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes.
  • How fast they cook depends a bit on your oven. If one side seems to be cooking much faster than the other, you can flip them over with a spatula or thongs about half way through cooking.

Kahlua Coffee Sauce over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Kahlua Coffee Sauce over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Kahlua Coffee Sauce over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Time: 10-15 minutes to make; 1 hour to cool.

Serves: 8-12

Inspired by: My mom made this for me as a kid and I loved it. I never forgot it! I have no idea where she got the recipe. These flavors are very December “holiday-ish”.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons espresso (or, the original recipe called for 1 teaspoon instant coffee)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1 quart of your favorite vanilla bean or french vanilla ice cream

Preparation: Boil sugar and water  for 5-10 minutes until it begins to thicken. Add spices and espresso and continue boiling for about 5 minutes. Take off heat and stir in Kahlua. If you prefer the alcohol to burn off or want it to thicken a bit more, you can continue to boil it for another minute or two. Let cool to room temperature and serve over ice cream.


Papaya-Cucumber Salad

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Papaya Cucumber Salad

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Inspired by: Tony Khalife, amazing musician/artist. He taught me so much about the beauty and nuances of food.  This was one of those many salads that he just threw together one day because it sounded good and we had the ingredients. It has become a favorite because it balances out many of the spicy dishes I love to make, and when I’m in Mexico, which is quite often in the winter, I can easily find all the ingredients at a tiny market. It is often my contribution to potluck parties there with friends.

Ingredients – Salad:

  • Papaya  – 1 cup diced
  • Cucumber – 1 cup diced
  • Slivered almonds – 1/2 cup
  • Jicama – 1 cup diced (optional)
  • Avocado – ripe but firm (optional) – 1 cup diced

Ingredients – Dressing:

Preparation: Put all ingredients into glass bowl and toss gently (if you include avocado add this at the end). I do not normally add the spice, but this is fun if you want to add some zing.

Notes: This is an easy salad to bring to a party. Use the entire papaya with the same cucumber and almond proportions. Dice the cucumber and papaya in advance and add the almonds and dressing near serving time.



Spicy Shrimp – Pan Fried

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Spicy Shrimp - Pan Fried

Time: 5 -8 minutes

Serves: 2 – 4

Inspired by: Minimal ingredients in the kitchen and being so hungry that I want to make something yummy in minutes! These are great on salad, pasta and quinoa or just to nibble on their own. Normally I prefer not to cook during a party, but I hosted a party last night and it was so easy to make these while everyone was hanging around the kitchen because it just took minutes.

Ingredients:

Preparation: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet or saute pan. Once it is hot, add the shrimp. Sprinkle with the spice (any amount to your liking – a small amount goes a pretty long way) and cook for about 2 minutes on each side and serve.

Wine Suggestions: These are yummy with any off-dry white such as a Riesling or possibly a Viongier or Condrieu. They are also nice with a medium-bodied red with some nice fruitiness or spice such as a fairly ripe Spanish Rioja, Southern Rhone or Merlot.


Easy Chocolate Mousse

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Easy Chocolate Mouse

Easy Chocolate Mouse

Time: only 10 minutes to prepare plus 5 minutes to make the whipped cream; chill for 50 minutes or longer.

Serves: 10 very small espresso cups or 6 larger servings per above picture.

Inspired By: This is a Rachel Ray recipe. I was watching a show once that had her on at the end and she whipped these up in less than 5 minutes. I love easy so I had to try it. She calls these “Chocolate Cups with Whipped Cream”. I think they are very chocolate mouse-like although perhaps a bit denser/richer. One of these days I’m going to try this with white chocolate or even butterscotch chips – I’d probably use a bit of amaretto when I do that.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi sweet chips
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons booze; amaretto, Kahlua, dark rum, hazelnut liqueur or whatever sounds good – I prefer Kahlua
  • 2/3 cup boiling milk
  • Whipping cream (plus a little sugar and vanilla to add in when whipping it)
  • Four mint leaves

Preparation:

  • Put your milk in a small pan on the stovetop and heat to a boil.
  • Put first five ingredients into a blender. Blend well – about 1 minute. Then stream in the boiling milk and blend until smooth – about 1 minute. The hot milk will cook the egg.
  • Pour into cappuccino or espresso cups and refrigerate for 50 minutes (or more – you can make these hours ahead, or even a day ahead).
  • Whip the cream with some sugar and vanilla (usually only 2-3 minutes).
  • Chill for 50 minutes. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and mint sprig.

Notes: These are very rich so I think they are even better with strawberries. Dip the strawberries into the chocolate – yum!!

Wine Suggestions: I would skip the wine – these are so rich, but I’ll add the same notes here I included with the chewy cherry brownies. I often hear people say they like red wine and chocolate. I can see how this might work in some unique cases of overripe, almost sweet wines, but I prefer my wine to be a bit sweeter than my dessert. I think a late harvest zinfandel or a tawny port could be awesome with chocolate, and fortified fruity wines like Banyules and Ruby Ports typically have cocoa or chocolate in the nose, as well as other berry fruits like cherry and raspberry and are classic companions to chocolate.


Fettuccini with Asiago, Lemon & Parsley

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Fettuccini with Asiago, Lemon & Parsley

Fettuccini with Asiago, Lemon & Parsley

Time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: As many as you’d like

Inspired by: I grew up with an Armenian grandmother who always made me pasta with butter and muenster cheese. It was soooooo yum! I love those memories of her feeding me the yummiest of foods. I’ve continued to make various versions of pasta with cheese and butter ever since. It’s really one of the few things I could make before I decided to learn to cook 10 years ago! Now I’ve begun using olive oil much more often than butter, and I love adding other fresh flavors, such as lemon and parsley, to many things. This has become one of my favorite pasta dishes now when I don’t have much time to cook or get to the store. Even though I keep very little food in the house, I almost always have these ingredients. I usually prefer fresh pasta, but like most days, today the fridge is virtually empty so I’m using some dried Fetuccini.

Ingredients:

  • Pasta of your choice – any shape or size – my preference is usually a wide noodle
  • Olive oil – a high quality fruity flavored extra virgin olive oil is best
  • Grated asiago cheese (or other hard salty cheese such as parmesan)
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans (optional) – this is my favorite protein souce to add to this pasta that I always keep on hand as well

Preparation: Boil water with a bit of salt for flavor. Add the pasta and a bit of olive oil so it doesn’t stick together. Cook according to instructions and drain in collander. While draining, heat garbanzo beans if you plan to include them. Toss pasta in a bowl with some olive oil, fresh lemon juice, grated cheese, chopped parsley and optional garbanzos.

Notes: I’m not really sure this should be classified as “moderately healthy”, but in the pasta world, this does use some very healthy ingredients. It’s of course best to keep your pasta serving light and to go easier on the cheese and heavier on the parsley! There are some pretty decent quinoa pastas these days and I use them often.

Wine Suggestions: If you use a lot of lemon, a high-acid wine with some lemony flavors such as a White Burgundy is a perfect pairing.


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