Candied Pecans & a Scavenger Hunt

I always wanted to be a detective. I think I’ve said that before. I mean, I think I’d make a terrible one because my workout schedule may or may not include jumping to conclusions (glutes ftw) or running out of patience, so I might very well conclude that the thief was the victim’s long lost mother’s friend’s dog trying to reclaim what he believes is rightfully his. Sounds like pretty good TV show premise, right? I’d call it…Dog Dynasty. Or Ruff Robbers. Once they don’t talk though. Talking animals freak me out.

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‘Detective’ has evolved to ‘Explorer’ over the years, be it travel, cooking, reading, or exploring my inner psyche after one too many beers. It doesn’t help that my name is Indira and that Rabin likes to call me Indiana sometimes.

Anyways, for my Guyanese readers, Hotspotgy is hosting it’s first Scavenger Hunt! It’s called “Love Where You Live”, and is a Guyana Themed Scavenger Hunt in celebration of our 50th Independence Jubilee Celebrations in May. The Hunt will be held on May 5 (a National Holiday) from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., starting and ending at the 704 Sports Bar. The cost is GYD$2000 per person and is a family friendly event, so kids can play as well.

The Hunt will require teams to collect the specific items on the list we provide, as well as take selfies at popular landmarks and figure out poem type clues. The Registration fee entitles you to free drinks or special treats for the kids. We’ll also have exclusive Guyana themed activity books so they definitely wont feel left out!

If you’re interested in forming a team or would like to read more on the official rules, follow the link for the Registration form & Rules. You can also follow Hotspotgy on Facebook to keep updated with the latest developments and sample questions.

And now, for the recipe. This is once again, very simple, straightforward and makes a good snack for when you’re on the go…like driving around and collecting items as a fun game, perhaps?

The fact that it’s a stovetop recipe also eliminates the need for egg whites, which is something I often see in candied nut recipes. I have a fear of under cooking eggs and meat (which I shall explore after my next few beers), so using just a bit of water is totally fine. If you don’t have vanilla bean paste or pecans, that’s fine. I suspect it will work with regular vanilla extract & walnuts if you want to substitute.

Vanilla Candied Pecans

  • Servings: 2 (or 1 because it's possible to eat an entire bag when you're not paying attention...or so I've heard)
  • Time: 5 mins
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Ingredients
1 cup Pecans
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
1 tsp Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Water

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In a wide skillet, add pecans and turn the stove to low heat. Make sure the nuts are evenly spread out and are touching the pan (aka no bunches). In a bowl, add all remaining ingredients and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Watch the nuts constantly since they can burn easily. When the nuts start to become fragrant, pour your mixture into the pan and continuously stir until the nuts are all coated, and keep stirring until all liquid is dissolved. Let cool.

You can also add chocolate chips, toasted oats or coconut, but I was pretty happy as it was.

Have a wonderful week!

Green and White Soup & the Red Capes are coming!

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I’m calling it now: Henry Cavill as the next James Bond. To be honest, I first felt that way when I saw him in the Man from U.N.C.L.E., but seeing him in Batman v Superman reminds me of my pretty much definite prophecy. He is one good looking, suave, chiseled man and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. Guess you could see whose side I was on in the movie. But let’s be fair. Ben Affleck looked damn good as well – muscles work for him, and so does the silver-ish foxy-ness.

As for the content of the movie, I don’t know how I feel. I don’t actively hate it and I’m not full of rage at the story. But I didn’t geek out or get all fangirly either. Spoken by the girl who was deeply devoted to the Adventures of Lois & Clark as well as Smallville. I won’t spoil anything (and I’m posting this about two weeks after the movie’s release so if you’re a huge fan, you should have seen it by now), but I will say that I was the most disappointed by how annoyingly useless Lois Lane seemed to be. And I didn’t like Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor since I saw the ad (“I would not pick a fight with this person”). Smallville’s Lex is the only Lex.

That review had absolutely nothing to do with the recipe today. In fact, I created this recipe last year around July. But I couldn’t find a proper way to talk about it. I couldn’t find that hook. It kept getting relegated to the draft folder, taken out every other month, I’d start an intro and then just close it. I can be all deep and say that that’s how life is sometimes – it might not ever feel like the right time but sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and do it. Or I could just chalk it up to being indecisive. I don’t know. I can’t decide.😎

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It’s not that the recipe is crap. It’s actually the opposite. I wanted a proper post with cleverly written lines about the green-ness and white-ness of this soup to reflect how proud I am of it and how cool it is.

So.

How cool is this green and white soup? I came up with the concept long before I actually had the ingredients. I sat there, slowly listing the ingredients I knew that were green, then gained speed as my excitement increased as I thought of more and more white ingredients. “Tofu….RICE! Rice is also white! Oh! SESAME SEEDS!!!”

And that, my friends, is your exclusive behind the scenes peek of my cooking process. Amazing, huh?

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Green & White Soup

Ingredients
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 medium Onion, sliced
2 tsp Olive Oil
2 1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
6 cups Water
1/2 cup cooked Basmati Rice
3 tbsp low sodium Soy Sauce
1 package firm Tofu
3 cups Kale, chopped
1/2 cup Broccoli
1/4 cup frozen Peas
3/4 tsp Sesame Seeds
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

Instructions
Press tofu for 10 minutes either using a press or wrapping it in a few sheets of paper towel and placing a weight (such as a can) on top of the tofu. Cut into cubes.

Warm both oils in a 5 qt pot. Add onions and cook on medium heat until translucent. Add garlic & tofu and let tofu brown a little for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water, soy sauce and peppers and bring to a boil. Add kale and let boil for another minute, then add peas, broccoli & rice. Lower to a simmer for one minute.

Top with sesame seeds and serve.

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In my last post, I started a “Reading / Listening / Watching” Roundup and my friend Nadia took my book suggestion and loved “Me before You” by Jojo Moyes as much as I did. I have to say, I felt pretty great that she loved it so much and now I want to recommend stuff to everyone all the time! Thanks Nads!:)

Reading: You’re never weird on the Internet by Felicia Day. Loved her as Charlie on one of my all time favourite shows, Supernatural.
Listening: Cleopatra by the Lumineers [Apart from the awesomeness of their songs, They make songwriting look so beautiful and cool.]
Watching: Archer! [So wrong and yet so right.]

And that’s my take on pop culture this week. Oh yeah, and there’s the recipe, of course. Have a wonderful weekend.

 

Lucky Green Salad & Avocado Dressing

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What makes this post lucky? No idea. I’m jumping on the St. Patrick’s Day bandwagon. Excuse me while I go drink a Guinness Blonde (because boooo regular Guinness).

Before I go though, I’ll admit that I’m super into salad nowadays. Well…I have to be, because something possessed me to buy Romaine lettuce, Iceberg lettuce, Kale, Cabbage AND Purple Cabbage all in one week even though my crisper drawer war continues into 2016. And that’s just the greenery. I thought it would be fitting to post this today (St. Patrick’s Day), and not because the half written post was just there hanging out for weeks and the coffee hit the right spot this morning (which may or may not have been Irish).

I’ve been busy trying to step up the cooking game recently. The successful Hotpotgy Cabana Cocktail last month has apparently motivated me more than I expected and I’m excited about what we have planned for the rest of the year (and I can’t wait to tell you about it! Stay tuned next week for more details on our next event to be held in May).

Anyway, back to my food adventures. I tried jalapeno popper stuffed buffalo chicken meatballs, Unicorn poop cookies, Oreo cream cheese cookies, pumpkin peanut butter doggy biscuits (the puppies went INSANE over them), and spring rolls. (More about spring rolls soon!). Rab also splurged and bought me bamboo steamers. Dim sum day soon! Let me know if you want an invite – it’s BYORP (BYO Rice Paper).

I’m not showing off, I promise. The moral of the story is that sometimes all you need is one good event, motivator or memory to start an avalanche of great experiences. I mean, it happens to me with bad experiences too… Murphy’s Law and all that, but it’s nice to feel that it works the other way around as well.

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I’m feeling that positive avalanche with pop culture too. The Gilmore girls revival seems to be coming along great, Supernatural was renewed for a new season, three of my favourite authors are releasing books soon, my favourite singer and band both have albums out in April, and three of my favourite food bloggers have cookbooks out this year. Two superhero movies I’m obsessed with are out in a few months, and TV shows are back from winter break. I also found out that a vineyard is making an actual brand of Tituss’ (from the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) pinot noir! (The “Peeno Noir” song was one of my pop culture highlights last year. Check out the video if you haven’t already) Plus, John Stamos is on two different networks so I get to double lust over him. Life is good…or is it lucky?! (maybe this really is a lucky post.)

Also, on a blog a little while back I saw a list similar to what I have below and I thought that it was a cool way to document what I’m currently reading, listening to and watching. Do we have any in common?

Listening: Castle by Halsey [featured in the Huntsman Winter War Trailer and makes me feel somehow invigorated]
Reading: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. [It was on the list for a while, but seeing Khaleesi and Finnick Odair in the movie trailer bumped it to the top of my list. No spoilers but…damn.]
Watching: 11.22.63 on Hulu [Time travel & an unsolved mystery? Yes please]

Lucky Green Salad & Avocado Dressing

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients for the Salad:
2 cups Kale
2 cups Iceberg Lettuce
1 1/2 cups Cabbage
1.4 cup frozen Peas
1/2 tbsp Flaxseed
1/3 cup slivered toasted Almonds

Ingredients for the Dressing:
1/4 cup Avocado Oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed Lime Juice
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

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Instructions:
Chop lettuce & cabbage and add to a bowl. Chop kale and massage briefly to break down the fibers and reduce the tough texture. Add peas to a pot of water, bring to a boil. Drain and add to bowl. Sprinkle flaxseed and almonds.

Add all salad dressing ingredients to a jar. Cover and shake vigorously. Pour dressing over leaves and toss until everything is evenly coated.

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Bye for now. A certain Blonde Guinness is calling my name.

Poached Pears & 2 Years

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Yes, I am a poet. Pears & Years. Pure genius. It’s been 2 years since I created this blog. Happy Blogiversary to me! I feel like I only started the other day, yet when I scroll through my recipes and previous posts I’ve even surprised myself. I have talked a LOT.

To celebrate, I’m going to share a Poached Pear Recipe with you. This recipe is dear to me because I used two of my new favourite kitchen items: my Le Creuset Dutch Oven and Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste. Ugh. So fancy and snobby. I hate myself but also love myself.

Why Vanilla Bean paste? I think I mentioned this a while back (hey, it’s been two years. I’m allowed to repeat a story of two!) but when Rab and I went to a cooking class last year, the instructor mentioned that “be liberal with the vanilla. You’ve never heard someone say that a dish has too much vanilla, have you?” She then went on about Vanilla bean paste being like an intensified, more syrupy vanilla extract. Ugh. Consider me SOLD…until I saw the price. It is notably more expensive than regular extract, but cheaper than vanilla beans, I think. I couldnt justify it to myself the need to buy it at the time, and it’s taken up space on my dream ingredient list since then. Rabin finally persuaded me to buy it at Christmas, along with the Dutch Oven. It was a good day.

Right. back to the pears. Funny enough, this ingredient fits really well with the Blog-iversary theme. When I first started the blog, I was on a pear kick. I tried Pear Hazelnut Muffins & Pear Tartlets but never got around to actually poaching them even though I’ve seen lovely recipes over the years. I added cardamom because I recently discovered the intense difference between prepackaged cardamom and freshly ground cardamom (Gives my Cocoa Cardamom Baked Apples a whole new life) and I want to use it in everything, including using it as a perfume.

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Vanilla & Cardamom Poached Pears

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 35 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:
3 Pears (I used Bartlett)
3 whole Cardamom Pods, seeds removed
1/2 cup Sugar
2 cups Water
2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste (or about 3 – 4 tsp Vanilla extract / essence)

Remove skin from Pears (I used a potato peeler). slice in half and remove core / seeds. In a dutch oven or large pot, pour water, sugar, whole cardamom pods and vanilla and give it a stir. Place pear halves cut side down in the liquid mixture. The water should be about halfway up the sides of the pears. Bring to a boil then reduce immediately to a simmer. Cover, and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the pears are soft and the liquid has reduced into a syrup.

Serve with syrup, without, with ice cream, waffles, or whatever you want. It counts as a fruit, right?

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So back to the Blogiversary. I started writing partially for therapeutic reasons, and that reason still endures in addition to the new reasons that continue to pop up. Food is an even bigger part of my life now and I’m very happy about it. Thank you to those who have been there since the beginning, suggesting names and recipes, signing up, sharing the blog, making an effort to read the posts regardless of how busy you were, as well as those of you who, sometime since then, found this random collection of my thoughts and decided it was interesting enough to stick around.

Pistachio Pesto & my Personal Pensieve

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Well, I have no idea where last weekend went, and somehow we’re now in the middle of this week. I mean, I do know where the weekend went, but it’s not very dramatic if I say “I know how I spent my weekend”, now is it? It was a mix of fun events, spontaneous nighttime baking, intense worry (and eventual relief) over a missing puppy, and laziness. I didn’t get a chance to make any sort of lovely lunch for Monday. I basically made overnight oats 5 minutes before I went to bed on Sunday and opened the fridge on Monday morning to make sure we had enough stuff to scrounge up a meal or two for the day. I’ve had too many Sunday nights (and Monday mornings) like that before, and it made me think of a Pistachio Pesto I came up with a while back.

I’m currently a little sick of regular pesto (although if you’re not, check out my Basil Pesto Post from last year) , but I really like the concept of pesto. You can mix it into virtually anything (eggs, potatoes, and salads, for starters) and it dresses the meal up way better than I can dress myself. Even your lazy baked potato gets jazzed up with a spoonful of flavor *jazz hands*

Which brings me to this pesto. I had a ton of parsley in my fridge and wanted to find clever ways to incorporate pistachio nuts into my food, because my Pistachio intake lately has been limited to pistachio ice cream and pistachio cardamom cake (not that I’m complaining). Plus, I’ve found recently that I really intensely need to see green on my plate (insert fungus joke here) and I don’t feel happy until a meal has some fresh greenery in it. Without, it just looks depressing. And please don’t scoff and say I’m showing off about being healthy. I’m really not – it’s the OCD, colour neurotic freak side of me that is more concerned with how a meal looks.

I added this pesto to cooked cubed chicken I had in the fridge. The chicken itself was simply cooked and had very little seasoning. I had planned to make chicken salad or something along those lines, but the pull of the pesto was too strong.

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Bonus: Pistachio nuts also deliver a punch of fiber, protein, and heart-healthy fat. A perfect choice to regain your eating balance after binge eating Rice Krispie Squares (yes I made another batch) and coffee all weekend.

Pistachio Pesto

  • Time: 5 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients
1 cup fresh Parsley
1 tbsp. dried Cilantro
1 1/2 tbsp. Lime Juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/ cup Pistachio Nuts, roasted & salted
1 tbsp.Pistachio Oil (Optional. Can substitute regular Olive Oil

Instructions
In a food Processor, blend all ingredients until thoroughly combined.

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Also, I’m getting into including a random thoughts section in my posts now. They’re nowhere as well thought out as to warrant a long post, but they’re in my head and need to be pulled out and stored for later. Like a real life pensieve (#harrypotter ftw). But yes. So I think I’ll keep the thoughts section going until I get bored and will try to keep it at a minimum of three thoughts.

  • ABC’s Galavant is such a great show. I hope they get a third season. Either way, I’ll likely be singing the theme song for the rest of my life. I finally understand what an earworm is.
  • Zika is way more insane that I originally thought. Protect yourself, people!
  • What I’m reading: The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay. Sarah’s Key was sad and memorble, but with this book I’ve been bouncing between “it must be wonderful to love a city and house that much” and “get over it, woman”.

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Have a wonderful rest of the week and here’s hoping we all improve on today’s eating habits!

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Chestnut Rice Krispies Squares + a Kitchen Challenge!

It may be basic of me, but it needs to be said: Starbucks Chestnut Praline Lattes are life (cue that double hand in the air emoji, whatever the correct name is). They’re the best holiday drink and when I’m lucky enough to be in North America while the seasonal drinks are out, I drink these until I get sick. I’m like a kid that doesn’t know her limits. I sometimes even forget to drink water. Please don’t tell my Mom.

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Anyways, knowing that once the new year starts, Holiday drinks are on their way out, and I just cannot deal with such huge life changes. I started thinking that they should sell the syrup for junkies like me, so on my last vacation, we asked a barista whether they sold the praline syrup. They did!…But didn’t have any available at that branch. Sigh. However, later in December Rabin went on a work trip and stopped at a Starbucks to buy the syrup to surprise me. The store said that they don’t sell in the US, but Rabin explained our plight – that we live in South America and his wife loves Starbucks so much, she’d be so happy, and he’d earn eternal points . Plus apparently he told them I’m a caffeine addict so buying the syrup would in no way reduce the amount of coffee I actually did buy. The way he told me the story, I’m surprised that sad music didn’t play in the background while he persuaded the barista. But who cares! Hello syrup! 150 points to Gryffindor.

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Not to diminish the absolute awesomeness of this story, I later found out that chestnut syrup is also available on Amazon. Apart from the actual Starbucks brand, you’ll also find Torani syrup. I’ve been pouring it into my coffee and it’s been so wonderful. I’m saving actually making the praline latte for a rainy Sunday. I’ll know the day when I see it.

I also decided to experiment a bit with the syrup. My first attempt: Rice Krispies Squares. I seem to always have Rice Krispies & Marshmallows at my house for emergencies. Yes, emergencies. You know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, adding the syrup was actually pretty great. I mean Rice Krispies Squares are awesome on their own, I know. No need to fuss with a perfect thing. But I just had to know! I’m glad I did. The syrup gives the Squares a slightly nutty aftertaste, and to me, it tones down the sweetness a lot. Which fools you into thinking you can eat more. Which I did.

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Note: If you’ve been thinking “whoa she’s super (insert rude word of choice here)” because I’ve been talking about chestnut praline syrup, just know that you can use any random syrup that you come across, but be wary of sweetness. I would say that a nutty or aromatic flavor makes more sense than a white chocolate syrup, for example. I’ve also gotten into giving people flavoured syrups as gifts – that’s not weird, right?

Chestnut Praline Rice Krispie Squares

Ingredients
40 (large) Marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
1 tbsp. Butter
2 tbsp. Chestnut Praline Syrup

Instructions

Spray a 9 x 13 glass bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat and add marshmallows. Stir to combine with butter and continue to stir until the marshmallows have melted.

Add syrup and stir to combine, then immediately add rice to the pan and using your muscles, keep stirring until the marshmallows are evenly distributed and the mixture appears sticky. Transfer to the prepared pan immediately and use a spatula to smooth the mixture evenly.

Allow to cool. Cut into squares and enjoy!

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Random Thoughts currently in my head:

– RIP Alan Rickman. The Harry Potter Series holds a special place in all my feels and you and Maggie Smith are at the heart of it.

– Don’t overload your fridge door. Why? Because you’ll accidentally break a large glass bottle and shards will fly at least 10 ft. (I’m not kidding) in every direction and you’ll cut your foot and hand on separate occasions and will still be finding glass shards 3 days later.

– Puppy Instagram feeds are my new favourite thing.

– Current small changes that have made life infinitely easier?
– Bought an extra phone charger to keep at work.
– Enabled the left thumb recognition on my phone (only had the right hand before)
– Set the DVR to record my favourite show by series and not by episode.

–  While we’re on efficiency, check out the Hotspotgy Kitchen Challenge. It’s not too late to join. This month, we’re talking about ways to make your kitchen and cooking more efficient.

Kitchen L

Have a wonderful weekend!

Brussels Sprouts & Aged Cheddar Flatbread

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Hello 2016! This is the first time I’ve written the new date, actually. Well, typed it… but it still counts. Do you feel renewed and refreshed, ready to face the year ahead? Sometimes I do, and sometimes I end up eating half a tray of Rice Krispie Squares in one day because my stupid Catch-22 of a resolution was to bake more and try more things in the kitchen, but also be healthier. Technically, I didn’t actually make resolutions… I made a list of ways I can improve myself. And I came up with a list of 29 things. Which is pretty depressing when you think about it, especially because some of those items have sub-items.

I’m trying hard not to get swept up into the classic Resolution thing…especially since I’ve failed so hard before. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I definitely downloaded new apps and have hopes for myself this year. I just am trying not to let the fact that it’s a resolution push me to do better.

So let’s talk about eating well. My veggie of the year so far is Brussels Sprouts. They’re heavy duty, filling, durable vegetables. They keep for a while in the fridge and might look all sad and discoloured, but then peel back a layer, and hey! You’re good to go again. (Cue Shrek / Onion / layers joke). I came across the idea for a Brussels Sprouts Pizza at Cookie + Kate, but after the title of the recipe alone, I thought about what I had in my fridge and pretty much did my own thing.

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There’s something so freeing when you decide beforehand that your meal will be “rustic”. I purposely chopped the sprouts in various sizes because they’ll all be varying stages of cooked and therefore varying textures when you eat it, which totally works in this flatbread. I didn’t get obsessive about the neatness of the crust, and I sprinkled everything haphazardly and liberally. I ended up with a spicier pizza than I normally would have, and not to blow my own horn (I hate the word ‘toot’), it tasted something like I would order at California Pizza Kitchen or somewhere. I’m super proud of myself.

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Initially, I couldn’t decide whether to call this a pizza or a flat bread. I’ve decided on flatbread because it bothers me when people call a dish something that it in no way resembles, taste or appearance wise. Like I’ve seen a recipe for a vegan hot dog – which is really a whole zucchini. Carrot pasta is just spiralized carrots. Come on. That’s going a little too far. So Brussels sprouts does not come into my mind when I think of pizza. Flatbread it is! (Although I cut it like a pizza).

Rustic Brussels Sprouts & Aged Cheddar Flatbread

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Instructions

1 package Pizza Crust Mix
2 cups Brussels Sprouts, some finely chopped, some roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups aged White Cheddar Cheese
1/2 tsp freshly cracked Black Pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 Medium Onion
1/8 tsp Salt (to taste! optional)

Ingredients
Prepare crust according to package directions. Preheat oven to 425. Chop the Brussels Sprouts as haphazardly as you want, making sure that some bits are very finely chopped. Grate cheese and slice onions into rings. Sprinkle all cheddar cheese on top of the prepared pizza dough, followed by half of the black and red peppers. Top that with the Brussels sprouts, and arrange onions on top of that. Don’t be intimidated by the mountain of sprouts, it will shrink as it cooks.

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Sprinkle parmesan cheese and the remaining peppers and salt, if using. Feel free to add more pepper if you like your food a little spicier.

Bake in oven for 25 minutes. The crust should be crispy and the smaller bits of sprouts should be charred.

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Doesn’t it look all meaty and hearty? That’s the power of lazy chopping skills!

Remove from oven and eat immediately. It’s lovely when hot.

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So what are some of your resolutions? Apart from the regulars, are there any unique ones?