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.

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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?

Stir-Fried Zucchini & Not so Christmas-y thoughts

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I feel like those cuckoo clocks where every hour on the hour, a lady and man come rolling out on a track, bow to each other and then do a spastic dance, moving one way then abruptly turning the other way, then changing midway and bowing in the other direction again. That’s literally what’s happening in my mind right now – a crazy explosion of movement and panic and contradictions. I’m unable to focus on one thing for very long because there’s so much to do and so much I want to tell you!

I sucked it up and went with Rabin to the midnight premiere of the Star Wars movie last week. While I can’t bring myself to really like the Star Wars franchise, I really admire the fandom and the level of commitment of the fans. I feel that way about Harry Potter & X-Men, so I get it. I get the excitement, the joy, the anticipation, the fear that comes with the release of a new movie or chapter in the series. I get the pure excitement when I see a trailer or pick up a nod to a previous movie or event that feels like it was written in just for me. I understand the goosebumps when you hear a few lines from the theme song, or the relief and elation that comes when the movie ends up being great, and the thought-provoking-ness of the theories that bounce around the internet before and after the movie releases. I get it, geeks. Respect.

A few other things bouncing around in my head:

  • I failed at wrapping the gifts I did buy, which reminds me once again how amazing gift bags are.
  • Poor, poor Steve Harvey. I can forgive reading a card wrong, but I can’t forgive not spell-checking an apology before you Tweet it. I also can’t forgive those suits he wears on Family Feud.
  • Storm is the most useless X-woman (?) I’ve ever seen.
  • Grinding your own cardamom without a spice grinder is stressful but totally worth it. Prepackaged ground cardamom doesn’t even come close.
  • Pet peeve #75: When people say ‘cardamoN’.
  • Enough with Trump and the Kardashians!
  • Rabin ages well. Like a fine wine. Or Scott Bakula.
  • I’m okay with not meeting a lot of my personal challenges this year. I’m ending the year feeling content and at peace with my life choices, and it hasn’t stopped me from making lists about 2016.
  • Oh, and this recipe if you have a hole on your Christmas menu and want to fill it with a vegetable:

 

Quick Stir-Fried Asian Zucchini

  • Servings: 4 as a side
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 Medium Zucchini

1 tbsp Sesame Oil

1 tbsp Soy Sauce

1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

1/4 tsp Black Pepper

1 Medium Onion, sliced

1/4 cup Pine Nuts

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Roughly cut Zucchini into sticks. Warm sesame oil in a skillet and add onions. Cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add zucchini, soy sauce and peppers and stir to thoroughly coat with oil & soy sauce. Cover and let cook for 1 minute. Add pine nuts, and let cook for another minute or two, stirring regularly to ensure that nuts do not burn.

This recipe keeps well so you can even prepare it a day ahead of your meal. Like today.

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So enjoy Christmas if you’re celebrating it, enjoy the Boxing day sales, or the drama and excitement that normally accompany family gatherings. Enjoy the solitude if you choose to have a quiet day, the food, the compelling yule log on TV, the spiked drinks and your special traditions. Happy Holidays!

Asparagus Parmesan Tart + Do you feel festive yet?

I’m ashamed that it’s been almost a month & a half since I last posted. A lot can happen in roughly 45 days. Birthdays were celebrated, liquor was consumed, Christmas spirits were found and lost and found again, life altering decisions were made, parties were attended, deadlines were met, shopping carts were filled, wallets were consistently emptied, and of course, food was there the whole time.

And it’s only the first week of December.

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November and December are months where everything seems to go off the rails. I don’t post, I eat like sh!t, I “forget” to exercise even more than usual, and I even write on my calendar with black ink instead of blue! Madness, I tell you. Madness!

I also realized that my new seasonal conversation opener is “So. Do you feel festive yet?” Ugh. Nerd. I think I feel about 40% festive. I’m currently way more concerned with shopping and debating whether I should invest in a Madeleine pan. I mean, our tree is up, but there are no decorations on it. Those are in the storeroom and I have literally don’t have the energy to unlock the door to find them. I have Christmas playlists that I haven’t taken in to the car as yet, and I haven’t even touched my David’s Tea Advent Calendar. Which began on December 1st.

Anyway. As I said, food endures and one recipe I wanted to try for a very long time finally came to fruition. It’s funny because it’s the easiest thing you will ever make – An Asparagus Parmesan Tart. The food stars aligned and I realized that I had Asparagus, Puff Pastry, Parmesan cheese and time (the tick tock type of time, not the delicate herb kind). It was something I had seen on Martha Stewart, but I’m not fancy with the Gruyere cheese or with the perfect rectangle shape making, but I think my less classy version still has that buttery, flaky, salty, delicious vibe going on because seriously…isn’t that all we really want in life?

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Asparagus Parmesan Tart

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients
1 sheet Puff Pastry, thawed for approx. 40 mins on counter
1 bunch Asparagus, wooden ends removed
3/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
3/4 tsp Black pepper
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tbsp Olive Oil

Flour, for dusting

Instructions

Thaw pastry on counter for approximately 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Gently unfold pastry and on a lightly floured counter, roll into a 14 x 14 inch square & trim uneven edges. Using a sharp knife, score a light border about 1 inch away from the edges of the entire square. Using a fork, pierce inside the border markings, about 1/2 inch away from each other. Bake in oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Sprinkle parmesan cheese liberally on tart (except for borders). Place trimmed asparagus on tart in any design of your choice (I went for basic and neatly lined them up although Martha suggests alternating ends and tips). Brush with olive oil and sprinkle remaining cheese, adding more if necessary (extra cheese is always necessary, in my opinion), along with peppers.

Return to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Note: If you were so afraid to cut too deep into the pastry and ended up having the middle rise much higher than you anticipated, just cut it again when when you take it out of the oven the first time. The middle will fall inward, and just proceed as normal. If it looks messy, just remember that “rustic” is a real thing.

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What’s been cooking in the Hotspotgy Kitchen: October

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It’s been a great first month over at Hotspotgy. I’ve been enjoying creating recipes that are simple, nutritious and filling. In case you missed any, hop over the the page and check it out!

Plantain, Blackeye & Barley Soup

Sweet Potato, Channa (Chickpea) & Broccoli Hash

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Blend

Honey Mustard Roasted Carrots & Onions

We have a lot of exciting things planned for the rest of the year and we can’t wait to share them with you. We’re always interested in hearing your thoughts on what we’ve posted and what you’d like to see, so email us at info@hotspotgy.com!

Have a wonderful weekend, a happy Halloween, and a great 1st of the best month in the year! [Spoiler Alert: It’s November :)]

Puppy Yoga, Energy Bites & Co-Hosting Fiesta Friday!

As I was doing the Lazy Gal’s training (mostly jumping jacks during TV commercials) for a hike I did a while back, some days I ended up exercising and even doing yoga in my backyard. My puppies would crowd around me and stare with their heads cocked to the side and their mouths open, and I could just see them thinking “what is this crazy lady doing?” They also used to try to run on the yoga mat when I was already on it, presumably to show me the right way to do downward dog. Nowadays they just play nearby but tend to join me if I decide to walk or take a jog around the yard. Puppy aerobics. What a serious endorphin booster.

Yes, that is my 8 year old iPod. It has served me well.

Yes, that is my 8 year old iPod. It has served me well.

Today I’m thrilled to be Co-hosting Angie’s Weekly Fiesta Friday Party with Judi over at Cooking with Aunt Juju. I hosted once before and it was so much fun that I couldn’t wait to do it again. Thanks Angie and thanks to all of you great bloggers who joined the party this week! Guys, now’s your chance to check out what everyone else brought to the party this week. You can check out the linkup here.

The recipe I’m sharing with you this week is quick, healthy and a great alternative to a standard granola bar, although in the past, I was been a huge fan of oats in anything but oatmeal. Yup, just your average uncomplicated gal over here. It’s a staple in my baking. I’ve actually taken to making overnight oats recently, so I pack that a few times a week for breakfast. I like oats so much that a good friend of mine (and a regular recipient of my baking) told me the other day “if you give me anything with oats again, I will throw it against a wall.” Lol. I get it. Food fatigue is a real thing. I’m pretty tired of Indian food and will only order it on occasion when I really crave it, or when I’m with people who love it. I can’t even cook Indian food properly. Remember my Channa Saag-ish? Yea.

Anyway, I challenged myself to make something without oats that was still healthy. Cue these energy bites.

4 Ingredient Energy Bites

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Ingredients

1 cup Dates, pitted
1 cup dried Cranberries
1 cup Almonds
1/2 cup Sunflower Seeds

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Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread Almonds on a baking sheet and toast in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Keep a close watch to ensure that nuts do not burn. Remove and let cool.

Add all ingredients to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process on high for about 5-8 minutes, until all ingredients are sticky and have formed into a ball. It’ll take a bit of time, but trust me, it will form. Roll out between two sheets of wax paper to about 1/2 inch thickness. Place in fridge for about 30 mins to an hour. Remove and cut into squares. Store in fridge.

So check out some the awesome things that my Fiesta Friday friends brought to the party. My blog buddies are so cool :). Have a great rest of the weekend!