Secret Ingredient Chocolate Pudding

IMG_5634Since I’ve been all about secret ingredients lately (chickpea muffins, anyone?), I figured I’d stick with the trend and post another delicious recipe containing an unlikely ingredient. After undergoing a gingival graft last week (in which a piece of soft tissue from the roof of my mouth was sliced off and sewn onto the gum line of my two front bottom teeth to counteract some recession most likely caused by my orthodontic work in middle school…for those of you who care to know), basically all I’ve been able to eat is yogurt, scrambled eggs, and smoothies. Well, and because I’m me, I’ve been eating blended-up overnight oats, mashed-up turkey meatloaf mixed with zucchini puree, and smashed-up avocado/shredded chicken salad. Hey, I’ve got to keep it interesting!

Anyway, lately my best friends have been soft, cold foods to ease my aching mouth. And what better best friend is there than chocolate pudding? I’ll tell you what: chocolate avocado pudding! It’s rich, smooth, chocolatey, full of heart-healthy fats, and doesn’t taste at all like avocados. At least, I don’t think it does–if you have sensitive taste buds, you might be able to detect a slight avocado-y taste, but the dominant flavor is definitely chocolate. Pure, smooth chocolate. Gahhh.IMG_5635

Not only is this pudding (fairly) healthy, easy, and delicious, but it only takes about 5 minutes to whip up! I highly recommend chilling it for 30 minutes or so, but if you’re feeling impatient you can eat it right then and there. I wouldn’t blame you.

Most of the measurements here are just ballpark figures–feel free to add more or less of the cocoa powder, milk, and sweetener until you reach your desired taste and texture. If you like your pudding a little more creamy and a little less intense, add a few extra tablespoons of milk. If you want a super-chocolatey flavor, add a bit more cocoa powder. If you’re trying to cut back on sugar, just use a tablespoon or two of agave or honey. Unlike delicate pastries or baked goods that require exact measurements, this recipe is highly adaptable and pretty darn hard to mess up. In the past I’ve thrown in a banana, left out the milk entirely, added peanut butter, and doubled (okay, tripled) the entire recipe. Each and every time, it was delicious.IMG_5639

Even if you’re not usually an avocado fan, I urge you to blend yourself up some Secret Ingredient Chocolate Pudding! It’s the ideal comfort food whether you’re recovering from a dental surgery like me, or just want to enjoy a no-bake dessert on a warm summer night. Have fun experimenting–and eating!IMG_5638

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Pudding

Makes 4 servings

2 small, ripe avocados

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup milk (coconut, almond, cow milk, etc.)

1/4 cup sweetener (brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, etc.)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate chips for topping (optional)

Directions:

Scoop out the avocado flesh into a food processor or blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend or process until very smooth. Spoon into bowls or small ramekins  and chill for 30-60 minutes before serving.

Note: this pudding should be served the day it is made for the best texture and flavor!IMG_5629

Recipe from Emma’s Baking Addiction

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Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette

IMG_4035Surprising as it may seem, I do actually make food other than dessert. Behind all the butter and sugar, I happen to follow a fairly healthy diet. Of course I taste everything I make (my motto is everything in moderation), but most of it ends up in the stomachs of my friends and family members. Unless of course it’s something like these healthy Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Balls which I may or may not hoard in secret tupperware containers in the way way back of the fridge. Strange as it is, I actually get more excited about stuff like this quinoa dish than I do about chocolate chip cookies. Who am I?!IMG_4037

Now, before you lose all trust in me as a baker/blogger and toss me to the curb as a pitiful soul who chooses quinoa over cookies, you’ve gotta try this recipe! Then you’ll see what I’m talking about. With quinoa as its base, this salad is loaded with sweet balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes, crispy roasted chickpeas, creamy avocado chunks, and nutritious baby spinach. Then it’s all tossed in a fabulous lemon-tahini vinaigrette–the recipe makes extra, so you can use it to dress other salads as well! My favorite way to serve it is slightly warm, but it’s also delicious at room temperature or straight out of the fridge. My family loves to eat this salad as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but you can also serve it as a side. Or you can do what I did and eat it straight out of the tupperware as a late-night snack!

If you’re looking for a fast, easy, meatlessgluten-free, and delicious dinner recipe, you have to try this! It’s got so many good things going on that I can’t pick a favorite…the juicy, almost caramelized tomatoes? The hidden pieces of smooth avocado? The slightly-nutty, slightly-sweet lemony dressing? Call me crazy to choose leftover quinoa salad as dessert instead of a cookie, but I just couldn’t get enough! The cookies can wait.IMG_4047

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette.

Makes 6-8 servings

For the salad:

1 & 1/2 cups quinoa (uncooked)

1 pint (16 oz) cherry tomatoes

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt & pepper

1 avocado, diced

2 cups baby spinach

For the dressing:

1/4 cup tahini

3 tablespoons warm water

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

1 teaspoon honey

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions. While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When the quinoa is finished, fluff with a fork and allow to cool as you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes and spread onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Add the chickpeas to the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the tomatoes are blistered and the chickpeas are golden and slightly crisp. Cool slightly.

To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a medium-small bowl. Place the cooked quinoa into a large serving bowl and add in the roasted tomatoes, chickpeas, and baby spinach. Pour on as much dressing as you like (the recipe makes about 1 cup and I like to use about 2/3 cup). Stir gently to coat, then carefully fold in the diced avocado. Serve warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

Chicken Fajita Salad

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Last spring, while on a shopping trip for much-needed summer clothes, I ate lunch at one of my favorite cafes. After much debating, I ordered the Chicken Fajita Salad and it. was. phenomenal. Being a hard-core lover of Mexican Food, especially chicken fajitas, I suspected that I’d love the salad, and boy was I right. Sautéed chicken, roasted pepper strips, garlic, and onions were served atop crisp greens and piled with avocado slices, fresh salsa, shredded cheese, and tortilla strips. The combination of fresh flavors was to die for, and I knew that I just HAD to re-create the salad at home. So I did.

My version is slightly different than the original, but I enjoyed it just as much, if not more. I decided to marinate the chicken in a mixture of lime juice and Mexican-style seasoning before sautéing it with sweet white onions. Then I stirred in roasted red peppers and piled the mixture onto fresh salad greens. For toppings, I went with avocado slices, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, broiled corn tortilla strips, chopped olives, and salsa, but you can adapt to fit your personal tastes. And there you have it! A fast, super-easy, low-carb, pretty darn healthy, utterly DELICIOUS lunch or dinner! I first made this re-creation back in August, and my dad promptly requested that it be his birthday dinner. His birthday is in March, so I took that to mean that this meal was a winner all around :).

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Chicken Fajita Salad

2 Tbs olive oil, divided

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground oregano

1/2 tsp ground coriander (or 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves)

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips

1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 12-oz jar roasted red peppers (or 1 fresh roasted red pepper), sliced into strips

To serve:

Fresh salad greens

1 avocado, sliced

Crispy tortilla strips

Chopped olives

Shredded cheese

Salsa

Directions:

Combine 1 Tbs olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, and coriander in a large ziplock bag. (If using fresh cilantro, wait until the end to add it in.) Put the chicken slices in the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the onion slices and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add in the chicken, including the marinade, and cook for about 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Stir in the red pepper and cilantro (if using) and cook over low heat until heated through.

To serve salad-style, spoon the chicken mixture over mixed greens. Top with shredded cheese, tortilla strips, avocado slices, chopped olives, salsa, and any other desired toppings. Serves 4-6.

(Recipe heavily adapted from this Chicken Fajita Salad)

Strawberry Mango Salsa

I live in a family of extremes when it comes to spice.  My dad and I are the spice-lovers, him even more than I, and have no problem with adding cayenne, jalapeño, and the like to various dishes.  My mom and brother, on the other hand, can’t stand heat in their food.*  Once I added 1/8 tsp–1/8th–of red pepper flakes to a stew that yielded 8 whole servings, and my mom finally admitted that her throat was on fire.  My dad, on the other hand, can eat a Thai dish with 7 out of 10 stars of spice and not even flinch.  What can I say, genes are funny things!  *Oh, and my beagle, who hates to be left out, would like me to mention that she will eat anything.  Be it spicy, mild, cooked, raw, fresh, rotten, she will eat it.  It’s quite handy for spills, actually.  I’ve trained her so that when I yell “Clean up on aisle 4!” her little claws come clicking into the kitchen and the spillage is scarfed up in a matter of seconds.  But I digress.

During my sophomore year of high school, I took an International Cooking class, which was a lot of fun.  When our Korean food unit rolled around, we were invited to take a field trip over to our island’s single Chinese restaurant, which was owned by a man whose origins were in Korea, to see how the food was prepared and sample various Korean dishes.  After the cooking demonstration we all sat around a huge banquet table and were invited to taste a plethora of kimchi, stir-fries, rice dishes, and more.  I had learned that Korean recipes include a ton of garlic and spice, two things I’ve always loved.  It was fun to try a whole new cuisine and see what dishes I liked and which ones were just too strong–kimchi for instance,which is basically pickled cabbage, may take me another try or two or ten before I can stomach more than a bite.

At the end of the meal, our gracious host passed around tiny slices of jalapeño pepper, just for fun.  Apparently it enhances the flavor of some of the dishes, but when you mix high school boys with an opportunity to simultaneously burn their tongues off while showing off to their friends, you end up with a table full of kids daring each other to eat raw jalapeños by the slice.  I just sat and watched for a while, with a mixture of amusement and disgust at my peers’ self-destructive qualities, before deciding to put my spice tolerance to the test.  I  had always enjoyed a little jalapeño pepper in things like soup and salsa, so why not try a tiny taste of the real thing?  I bit off just a tiny piece of my slice.  Now I can understand why those crazy people on daredevil TV shows get paid thousands of dollars to eat raw peppers for a living!  Just a tiny bite of jalapeño set my mouth on fire, and though it wasn’t terrible it lingered for about an hour.  It didn’t help that someone suggested getting rid of the spice by eating a spoonful of salt…and then spitting it out.  I missed that last little piece of the trick and ended up with the lovely flavor of fiery pepper combined with a whole teaspoon of salt.  I walked away with a throbbing tongue and a bruised identity as a tough spice-lover. Needless to say, jalapeños and I were not friends anymore.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I saw this lovely recipe for Strawberry Mango Salsa on Two Peas and Their Pod, one of my favorite cooking blogs.  The juicy strawberries, sweet, smooth mango, and creamy avocado sounded like an unusual but delicious combination.  The recipe only called for 1 Tbs of diced jalapeño, but I was a bit dubious at allowing my food-foe back into one of my recipes.  However, I decided to suck it up and add the pepper anyway, and I couldn’t be more pleased.  The salsa was a wonderful mix of sweet and savory, and had only the smallest kick from the red onion and jalapeño.  The mango and avocado gave it a smooth, silky texture and the strawberries and lime juice made it one of the most refreshing salsas I’ve ever had.  After a few chipfuls of this, I started to reconsider my fallout with jalapeños.  I’m thinking that maybe we can be friends again.  Maybe.

This Strawberry Mango Salsa takes all of ten minutes to prepare and is a great addition to any summer meal.  This salsa tastes best fresh, so try to eat it up quickly–that shouldn’t be too difficult! 🙂

Strawberry Mango Salsa

1 cup strawberries, hulled and diced

1 medium mango, peeled and diced

1/2 large avocado, peeled and diced

2 Tbs finely diced red onion

1 Tbs diced and seeded jalapeno

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt, to taste

Directions:

In a medium-sized bowl, gently stir all the ingredients together.  Add salt to taste, and let salsa sit for at least 10 minutes so the flavors can meld.  Enjoy this salsa with chips or crackers, or alongside chicken or fish.

(Recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod)

 

 

 

<–Cleo the food thief