Sweet and spicy BBQ sauce

Sweet n spicy BBQ sauce
My dad and uncle are fantastic barbecue connoisseurs, so I grew up eating some pretty amazing Q. I’m talking ribs and roasts, smoked low and slow to BBQ perfection, right in my backyard! My dad always concocts rubs with his own blend of spices and serves up his Q with a variety of different homemade sauces. I still remember the hours my dad spent on the smoker to make pulled pork sliders for my high school graduation. To everyone who didn’t come to my party, you missed out (and you suck).

Anyway, I’ve adopted many of my dad’s cooking habits, but I haven’t really dabbled in the barbecue world–until now, that is! I wouldn’t say I’m ready to enter myself into a BBQ cook off, but I can make a pretty good sauce. My favorite style of BBQ sauce is sweet with a little heat. The best part about making homemade sauce is that you can tweak it to your preferences. If you like a tangier sauce, add more acid. If you like it spicy, bump up the cayenne. Sweet? Brown sugar is your friend. It’s so versatile and super easy to make because you probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry. So, next time you pass by the condiment aisle, keep walking. Give homemade a chance.

Enjoy.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • garlic powder
  • black pepper
  • red pepper flakes (or cayenne)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Let cool before storing in the fridge.

 

Lox breakfast sandwich

Lox breakfast sandwich
When most people think of breakfast, they picture an All-American meal with a stack of fluffy pancakes, crispy strips of bacon, and some style of eggs. But for me, it’s all about the smoked salmon. My ideal breakfast consists of layers of smoked salmon and fresh veggies, piled high on a bagel with loads of cream cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, but let’s be honest, it’s just not that healthy. Trust me, I work at a breakfast joint, I’ve experienced the aftermath of eating copious amounts of bagels. About 10 pounds later, I decided to figure out a way to lighten things up, without ditching my beloved lox sandwich.

Instead of using a bagel slathered with cream cheese, I swapped it for a single slice of whole wheat toast with a light layer of greek yogurt cream cheese spread–it’s half greek yogurt, half cream cheese, but you can’t even taste the difference! You could also just use reduced fat cream cheese. Traditionally, smoked salmon is accompanied by red onion, tomato, and capers, but I like to add spinach and cucumbers for a cool, crunchy element. I top it off with a squeeze of lemon, which cuts through the richness of the salmon and balances out the saltiness of the capers. This sandwich is simply magic.

Enjoy.

Ingredients 

  • Smoked salmon
  • Whole wheat toast
  • Greek yogurt cream cheese
  • Red onion
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Tomato
  • Capers
  • Lemon (optional)

Instructions

Toast the bread and spread with cream cheese. Layer on your fixings and top it off with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Die in ecstasy.

Berry banana smoothie

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I love to start my day with a cold fruit smoothie, especially in the hot months of summer. I know, I know, it’s October. But here in Southern California it still feels like July, so I often opt for a cold smoothie over a pumpkin spice latte (sorry, world).

Smoothies are perfect because they’re so versatile. You can basically use any fruit you have on hand, fresh or frozen. I love using banana as a base to get a thick consistency and fresh berries to really bring out that fruity flavor and vibrant color. Although there are endless fruit combos when making smoothies, I found this one particularly tasty (and pretty)! I used mostly fresh fruit because I think it packs a bigger punch flavor wise, but feel free to use frozen if that’s your style.

Enjoy.

Ingredients 

  • Ice
  • Banana
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Frozen mango
  • Vanilla greek yogurt
  • Almond milk

Instructions 

In a blender combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. For a thicker consistency add more yogurt, and for a thinner consistency add more almond milk.

If you don’t like almond milk, coconut milk and coconut water are good substitutes. And if you don’t like those, use whatever liquid your little heart desires.

Quatro leches

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When I was going to school in Minneapolis, my friend Urmila made this amazing cake called tres leches. I swear I died and went to heaven that night. Best cake I’ve ever had, hands down. I’m not a huge cake person, but I would give my right arm for one more piece of that. Urmila runs this awesome YouTube channel now, called Mila Makes, and I asked her to make the tres leches, so I could try to recreate it. She not only made tres leches, she one-upped my request and made quatro leches. Do your thing, girl.

Now, as all of you should know, I’m not a great baker. Seriously. My brother and I tried to make a pie without a recipe the other day—just terrible. So going into this dish I was a bit nervous, but after a glass (or bottle) of wine, I was feeling pretty confident. It was fun mixing up the batter and getting messy with the flour. Like, really messy–it was everywhere. I don’t think I’ve fully mastered the hand mixer, yet. I’m definitely a fan of licking the spoon (and the beaters, and the bowl), but as for the final outcome, I’m not so sure my cake stands up to Urmila’s.

Mine is definitely a little more dense than I remember her’s being. I blame this in part on my impatience. I don’t think it was quite ready to come out of the oven, but I was definitely ready to move on to the next step, so I pulled her out. Aside from the denseness, the flavors were on point, so I’ll give myself 2.5 out of 5 stars for this dish.

Don’t forget to check out Urmila’s rendition and more of her videos, here!

Enjoy.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • vegetable oil
  • 6 3/4 oz cake flour (a little more than 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 oz unsalted butter, room temp
  • 8 oz sugar (about 14 tbsp)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze

  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half

For the topping

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 8 oz sugar (about 14 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Oil the pan and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Beat the softened butter until it’s creamy. Add the sugar gradually, then the eggs and vanilla. Finally add the flour  mixture in three separate batches. Pour the batter and make an even layer in the bottom of a cake pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown (make sure you wait until it’s golden brown, this is the part I messed up by pulling it out before it was ready).

Let cool for about 30 minutes. Stir together the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and half-and-half for your glaze. Once cooled, poke a ton of holes in your cake (EXACTLY ONE TON). I used chopsticks to do this. Pour the glaze over your cake and let it soak in for 5 minutes. Cover with saran wrap and let sit in the fridge for 8 hours. Make the topping by beating the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla. Spread over the top of your cake and then devour that shhhhh.

*WARNING: This dish is extremely unhealthy. 

Gazpacho

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At the restaurant where I work, we always have a soup de jour. If you don’t know what soup de jour is, watch Dumb and Dumber—my friend Flo will fill you in. A few weeks ago the cooks made gazpacho and I fell in love. Hot soup isn’t always appealing in the summer (especially in Southern California), so this was perfect. The cool crunch of the vegetables and cold tomato juice is super refreshing on a hot day. A bowl of this gazpacho could cure even Lana Del Rey’s summertime sadness—it’s amazing.

There’s a ton of ways to make gazpacho (I’ve even seen recipes using watermelon), but I got the cooks’ recipe and went with their version. It’s a really simple and fast process, so it’s a good go-to recipe when you want something quick. Basically, you just chop up all the vegetables, dump everything in a pot, pop it in the fridge, and bam—ya done.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups tomato juice (Campbell’s)
  • 3-4 cups water
  • juice of a lemon
  • 3 medium roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 large cucumber
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 2-3 small avocados (I love avocados)
  •  cilantro
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • salt and pepper
  • hot sauce (optional)

Instructions

Pour the tomato juice and water into a large pot and stir to combine. I like to use a 2:1 ratio of tomato juice to water to cut down the saltiness of the tomato juice. Next, chop up all your vegetables into bite-size pieces. I like my gazpacho to be nice and chunky, so I didn’t dice them too small. Add the lemon juice, ketchup, and freshly chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add hot sauce (if you’re going that route). Give it one last stir and pop in the fridge. Serve cold.

As always, feel free to eliminate, add, or cut down on any of the vegetables.

*This recipe serves a lot of people. If making for yourself or a small number of people, I suggest cutting the recipe in half. 

Pineapple turkey brown rice bowl

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One of my favorite things to do is create recipes using a bunch of random ingredients I have in my kitchen. This is especially fun when trying to use up food that’s going bad. It’s like a game and the more ingredients I use, the more points I score (yes, I’m aware of how cool I sound).

As I was poking around the kitchen today, I realized I needed to use up a whole pineapple I bought last week. My boyfriend is probably shaking his head right now, because when I brought home said pineapple his reaction was, “What are you going to do with a whole pineapple?” to which I cleverly responded, “eat it.” I win.

Anyway, after choosing the pineapple as my next victim, I randomly grabbed some things to pair it with and created this surprisingly tasty brown rice bowl. Brown rice is all the rage in LA as it’s figure friendly, which is clearly a big concern for Los Angelenos. Luckily, it can be as equally delicious as it is healthy.

The sweetness of the pineapple paired with the savory flavors of the turkey, garlic, and onions make this dish perfectly balanced. The cinnamon and cayenne give an interesting, somewhat Caribbean kick to the dish. And the freshness of the lime  juice and cilantro pull everything together. I added the cucumbers at the very end to give it a cool crunch, but they can easily be omitted without detracting from the dish.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • pineapple chunks (fresh or canned)
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 large cucumber
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • lime juice
  • cilantro
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

Combine brown rice and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 35-45 mins (or until all water is absorbed). Let rice cool.

Heat up the coconut oil (or any oil you’d like) in a skillet over medium heat. Chop up the onions and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, until soft. Brown the turkey in the pan along with the garlic and onions–season with cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Once the turkey is almost completely cooked, throw in the pineapple and cook for another 2 mins. Add the brown rice and lime juice and cook until everything is heated through.

If using cucumber, cut into rings and then quarters. Toss in with the brown rice mixture. Plate and top with fresh, chopped cilantro.

Open faced breakfast sandwich

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Breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day. I’m convinced that if brunching was an olympic sport (and I didn’t have to work every weekend), I would take home the gold medal. So on my days off, I take full advantage of a hearty breakfast. This morning’s was an open faced sandwich with spinach, tomato, and turkey, topped with a beautiful sunny side up egg. For the bread element I used half of a whole wheat bagel from Brooklyn Water Bagel.

Apparently LA’s bagels aren’t good (according to East Coasters), so my boyfriend and I decided to hit up this place that engineers their water to be similar to that of the water used in New York’s famous bagels. If you weren’t aware, what separates good bagels (and pizza) from meh bagels (and pizza) is the water. I guess Chicago and New York got all the good water and the rest of us are just doomed. Anyway, I didn’t have much to compare Brooklyn Water Bagel to, as I’ve only had a bagel from New York once (5 years ago–I think it was alright), but they were pretty good, so we decided to take half a dozen home.

It was perfect for my open faced sandwich, but a slice of bread or english muffin are some other acceptable substitutes. This sandwich is super versatile, as you can top with any veggies, cheese, meat, and egg style you want. Some advice, if you don’t like messy food or are afraid to eat messy food in front of people, I suggest going with a different egg style–over hard or scrambled, maybe. As for me, bring on the yolk (it was legitimately up my nose at one point).

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • Half a whole wheat bagel
  • Low-fat vegetable cream cheese
  • Spinach
  • Tomato
  • Sliced turkey
  • Egg
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

Heat up a non-stick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Once your pan is heated, cook eggs as desired. I cooked mine sunny side up. For this style, crack an egg in a pan and season with salt and pepper (I’ve been trying to use less salt, so I just put pepper on mine). Once the whites looks almost completely opaque, cover the pan with a lid and turn off the heat. You want the whites to be fully cooked, but the yolk to stay runny. This method takes time to perfect, so don’t give up if it doesn’t turn out the first time around.

While the egg is cooking, pop your bagel in the toaster. Spread with cream cheese and layer on your toppings. Gently lay your egg on top and serve.

 

Banana pancakes (two-ingredient)

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These banana pancakes aren’t your average, run-of-the-mill, Bisquick pancakes, which is exactly why I love them. See, unlike many fellow humans, I’ve never really been a fan of pancakes. Unless they’re drenched in butter and syrup, I really don’t see the appeal. They’re just flattened pillows of blandness that get stuck to the roof of your mouth. I’ve only come across two kinds of pancakes I’ve liked in my life besides these ones.

They are:

1. My dad’s French pancakes, a.k.a. crepes. I’m a savory gal, so any pancake that allows me to stuff bacon and avocado inside, I’m on board with.

And..

2. The pancakes at OP Cafe in Santa Monica. My boyfriend’s sister introduced them to me, describing them as crunchy.  Although I wasn’t really sure what she meant by that, after one bite I totally understood. They’re flatter than most pancakes I’ve encountered and they have these crunchy edges that taste like heaven. I honestly can’t even describe them in a more technical way. Just go try them, you’ll know what I mean.

Anyway, I found the basic recipe for these pancakes on Pinterest. They’re known as “two-ingredient pancakes” because, well,  you only need two ingredients to make them (duh). The ingredients are eggs and bananas. I love this recipe because it’s a good way to use your overripe bananas without having to bake. My old roommate’s dog ate the only loaf of banana bread I’ver ever been proud of (hashtag horrible baker).

These pancakes are super thin and their texture is a little more moist than traditional pancakes. One thing I will admit, is that they usually aren’t too pretty. They don’t have that handsome golden-brown color of regular pancakes, but what they lack in looks, they make up in flavor. And you can ditch the syrup (sorry, Aunt Jemima). I like to top mine with fresh fruit and peanut butter, but you could eat them solo and your taste buds would still be singing.

Enjoy.

Ingredients 

  • Eggs
  • Bananas
  • CInnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Pancake toppings: Berries, fruit, almond butter, peanut butter, whip cream, syrup (if you must), etc.
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Instructions

Heat up a non-stick pan on medium heat and spray (or oil) the pan. Mash one ripe banana in a bowl and beat with an egg until well combined. The texture should be smooth, but slightly lumpy. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg to the mixture and stir.

Ladle the mixture into the heated pan forming silver dollar-sized pancakes. I‘ve found that smaller pancakes are easier (and less messy) to flip. Once the pancakes are completely cooked on one side (about 3-4 mins), carefully flip over and finish cooking on the other side (an additional 2-4 mins).

Once the pancakes are fully cooked, plate and top with your favorite toppings. Here I used fresh kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries with a dollop of peanut butter.

*These portions are for one person. The banana-egg ratio is 1/1 so if cooking for two people, I suggest using two eggs and two bananas.