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June 2014

Easy Homemade Toasted Almond Butter

IMG_2131 Toasted Almond Butter Jar

So I guess I’m a little late the party, but I’m hooked on almond butter, especially now that I’m making it myself. Peanut butter has long been my go-to snack, but recently almond butter has emerged as my healthier alternative. Almond butter, in my opinion, is not only equally delicious (if not better), but is also more nutritious. One of the first things you’ll discover when you research the health benefits of almond butter is that it is good for your heart. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, which are the type of fats that reduce levels of cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease and heart-related ailments. It is also known for lowering blood pressure because it can decrease cholesterol levels. Apart from that, almond butter contains calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which are effective in reducing blood pressure.  Almond butter can even help control levels of blood sugar in your body by reducing the sudden increase in blood sugar and insulin which usually happens after you eat a meal loaded with carbohydrates.  You can find almond butter in most grocery stores, and a few of them even have grinding stations so that you make your own right in the store. I find it easiest to just buy the raw almonds and make it at home with a food processor. It only takes a few minutes to make and you can create your own version by adding a bit sea salt, honey, agave nectar or maple syrup, and grinding to a crunchy or smooth consistency – whichever you prefer. 

Download Easy Homemade Toasted Almond Butter


Homemade Toasted Almond Butter

2 cups raw almonds

¼-3/4 sea salt, optional

2 teaspoons honey, agave, maple syrup, or to taste


1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat to 350 degrees F.

2. Spread almonds on rimmed cookie sheet and bake until fragrant 5-7 minutes, remove from oven and cool completely.

3. Transfer almonds to the bowl of a food processor and process for 6 – 8 minutes or until the consistency is smooth. Stop the machine a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4. Sprinkle sea salt and sweetener (if using) over top and process to combine.

5. With a rubber spatula, scrape the almond butter from the work bowl into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

IMG_2097 toasted almond butter sheet

IMG_2101 Toasted Almonds whole processor 

IMG_2102Toasted Almond Butter grind 

IMG_2107 Toasted Almond butter spatula 

IMG_2110 Toasted Almond butter food processor 

IMG_2112 Toasted Almond Butter salt 

IMG_2115toasted almond butter smooth

Easy Summer Salsa Verde

Tomatillo salsa verde1 

Salsa Verde makes a perfect dip during the summer and also adds a refreshing burst of flavor to all type of dishes. It is a great marinade and topping for grilled fish, seafood, chicken, beef, and lamb. Some recipes call for boiling the tomatillos, but roasting adds more flavor to the sauce and is worth the extra step. When selecting tomatillos, always slightly open the husk to inspect the flesh color and tone inside.  The flesh should be firm and without major blemishes and the color should be bright green, with a fresh, fruity smell.

Download Easy Summer Salsa Verde recipe

1 pound tomatillos, husks and stems removed, rinsed well and dried

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, halved, and seeded

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon sugar or agave nectar

Salt to taste

1. Place oven rack 6 inches from broiler and heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss half of tomatillos with vegetable oil and transfer to prepared sheet. Broil until tomatillos are spotty brown and skins begin to burst, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer tomatillos to food processor and let cool completely.

2. Halve remaining tomatillos and add to food processor with broiled tomatillos. Add onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse until slightly chunky, 16 to 18 pulses. Transfer to salsa bowl and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Stir in olive oil and season with salt and sugar to taste. Serve. (The salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days; return to room temperature and season with salt and lime juice to taste before serving.) Makes about 2 cups


Tomatillo ingredients bowl1

Strawberry Avocado Summer Salad


Sweet summer strawberries at their peak flavor combine with the buttery creaminess of ripe avocados to deliver one stunning salad. Just toss it all together with a simple lemon vinaigrette for a great seasonal salad.

Simple Lemon Vinaigrette

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar

½ teaspoon mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

Pinch cayenne

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk lemon juice, zest, shallot, honey, mayonnaise, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in nonreactive bowl until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in oil. (Dressing should appear homogeneous, glossy, and slightly thickened, without any pools of oil on surface.) Store dressing in a small mason jar until ready to use. Shake well before using.

Strawberry Avocado Salad

2 avocados peeled, pitted and chopped

1 cup fresh strawberries finely chopped

1 tart apple, cored and chopped

1/2 jalapeno minced, seeds removed

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

2 cups fresh arugula, optional

1. Gently combine salad ingredients in large bowl and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of vinaigrette and toss to combine. Serve on its own, or over a bed of arugula.

Best Spanish Sangria

Spanish Sangria1


I generally don’t care for Sangria, except for when I’m in Spain - it just seems to taste better there. Sangria makes a perfect summer drink when entertaining, because you can make large batches ahead of time. This recipe is based on one I received during my stay at Le Meridien Barcelona (click here for Le Meridien Barcelona) from the General Manager, Gonzalo Duarte Silva. They served his sangria during a wonderful cooking event which I attended at the hotel called "Paella Atelier" where their chef Eugeni Cortés demonstrated how to prepare a traditional paella. The recipe below is very similar but I've added a few "enhancements". Choose an inexpensive Spanish Rioja, I like to use Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza, but a fruity Merlot will work as well. Be sure to allow time for the flavors to blend, it really does get better as it sits. 

Download The Best Spanish Sangria recipe

4 large juice oranges, washed; two orange sliced; remaining oranges juiced

2 large lemons, washed and sliced

½ cup granulated Superfine sugar

½ cup Cointreau or Triple Sec

½ cup brandy

1 apple, sliced thin

1 small handful of red grapes

2 bottles inexpensive Spanish red wine, chilled

1 liter bottle of seltzer or Orange soda (like Orangina)

1. Add sliced oranges, lemons, and sugar to large container; mash gently with wooden spoon until fruit releases some juice, but is not totally crushed, and sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Stir in orange juice, Triple Sec, brandy, apple slices, grapes, and wine; cover and refrigerate for at least 2, and up to 8 hours. When ready to serve stir in seltzer (or orange soda) and serve with ice and fruit.

Sangria fruit wine

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Red pepper hummus1 

Makes 2 cups


Hummus makes a great appetizer to keep on hand and has a wide variety of uses. It’s perfect as a dip with pita chips or veggies, great as a spread on sandwiches and wraps, or as a side dish with grilled chicken or lamb kabobs.  The popularity of this Middle Eastern dish continues to grow; in fact,The New York Times reported that the hummus industry has grown from just a $5 million dollar business 15 years ago, to one that totaled $530 million at U.S. food retailers in 2012. While basic hummus is a classic, I like to add a little extra flavor with additional ingredients like roasted red peppers or grilled artichokes. If you are having a large gathering, make a variety of flavors and serve with crisp homemade pita chips. (Pita Chips recipe)

Download Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus recipe


3 tablespoons water

¼ cup tahini, stirred well (Joyva or Krinos brands)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

¼ cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, optional

2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds, for garnish

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish


1. Combine water and lemon juice in a measuring cup; set aside. Whisk tahini and oil together in second small bowl or measuring cup. 

2. Process chickpeas, roasted red peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne and smoked paprika until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With food processor running, slowly add lemon/water mixture until incorporated and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down bowl again with rubber spatula. With food processor running, slowly add tahini mixture until incorporated and process until creamy, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

3. Transfer hummus to serving bowl, sprinkle almonds and parsley over surface, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Red pepper mixed