Cinnamon Almond & Cashew Butter (Refined Sugar-Free)

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I love ALDI. Practically everyone knows that. I love the fact we can get in and out in under 25 minutes due to the fact that I know where everything is, and I can build my grocery list based on the store layout (don’t act surprised). They carry a lot of organic produce, gluten-free products, and I always find something new- like extra virgin olive oil from Greece, or grass-fed bison. However, today I was disappointed to find that their only almond butter option contains both cane sugar and palm oil. Womp womp.

I have a fancy pants Vitamix that I love using for smoothies and soups, but I’ve been afraid that an attempt to make my own nut butter would result in a burnt out engine. Standing in the aisle condescendingly shaking my head at that jar of refined-sugar full almond butter, I decided it was time to give it a go.

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In order to make nut butter at home, you’ll need either a fancy pants blender or a food processor. I would say that any blender is fine, but I don’t want you cursing my name if its motor can’t handle nut butter 🙂 If you do use your food processor, the time it takes to get to nut butter consistency may vary.

A couple things to note; roasting the nuts at a low temperature before blending is an important step that you shouldn’t skip, because it brings out the oils in the almonds and cashews, making it easier to blend into butter. You can also adjust this recipe to use all almonds or all cashews if you want. I like the blend because the almonds lend a lot of flavor while the cashews are creamier, and make the butter easier to blend. However you choose to combine, just be sure to stick to the ratios below.

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Cinnamon Almond & Cashew Butter

Makes about 3 C of nut butter

2 c raw unsalted almonds

1 c raw unsalted cashews

2 t melted coconut oil

2 t kosher salt

2 t vanilla

1-2 t cinnamon (optional)

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Method:

Preheat oven to 250°. Spread nuts in single layer on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven for 10-15 minutes, until they are warm to the touch. Remove baking sheet from oven. Add nuts to blender or food processor and blend at 30 second intervals.

Tip** If your blender starts to smell like it’s overheating, give it a break for a minute before blending further. Try starting with a lower power setting and increasing as you go.

As you blend, you’ll notice the nuts change to a flour-like consistency, and then start to stick together and change into butter consistency (this took about 5 minutes in my Vitamix). If mixture is too dry, add melted coconut oil and continue to blend.

When nut butter is smooth, add salt, vanilla, and cinnamon if desired, and blend for an additional 30 seconds. Store refrigerated in airtight container for up to two weeks. Enjoy!

Our Favorite Chili

We’ve had a couple weeks of unseasonably warm weather here in Chicago, but just today, flurries and terrible wind chills are back reminding us that it’s definitely still Winter. It’s days like today where I feel an especially strong obligation to provide you with comforting recipes like our favorite chili.

This recipe is special to me specifically because of how long it has been in the works! Matt and I have tried countless variations of this recipe, and this last batch was The. Best. Ever. All of our attempts have ranged from decent to way too spicy to totally delicious, and I’m ready to share the deets.

The secret lies in the 50/50 mixture of meat, and the balance of acidity and spices. You can definitely alter this recipe based on what kind of beans you prefer (replacing the pinto or kidney beans with black beans if that’s all you have on hand), or by swapping out the red bell pepper for another color, but let me tell you – I am writing this recipe exactly how I made it this last time. This is one recipe where I’ll encourage you to make as written 🙂

Note: Chiles de Arbol are small, dried spicy red peppers that you can find in the Hispanic aisle of most grocery stores. They add an amazing, smoky spice to the chili. If you can’t find them, increase the chili powder by another 1/2 T or to taste.

Try our favorite chili recipe and let me know how it works for you! I love packing the leftovers for weekday lunches, knowing that the protein will keep me full all afternoon long and through my workout. I hope you find this perfectly spicy chili to be as warm and comforting as we do!

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Our Favorite Chili

Makes 6-8 servings

1 lb ground turkey

1 lb grass-fed ground beef

1 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno (I removed half of the seeds, but omit all seeds if you do not like spice), small diced

1 T chili powder

1/4 t cayenne

1 t dried oregano

1/2 t cumin

2 dried Chiles de Arbol

Handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

2 8 oz cans tomato sauce

2 15 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes

1/3 c tomato paste

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Avocado, fresh cilantro, cheese for serving

Method:

Heat large dutch oven over medium heat and add ground turkey and beef. Stir frequently, breaking the meat up as it cooks. Once all pink is gone, drain fat and discard. Add meat back to pan along with tablespoon of olive oil and add onion. Cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add garlic, bell pepper, jalapeno, spices, and dried chiles, stirring for another 2-3 minutes.

Add parsley and all tomato ingredients and stir until combined. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Lastly, add beans and cook for 15 minutes before serving. Top with dairy-free cheese, avocado, and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

Tip** Let your chili simmer as long as possible to give the flavors time to develop. Chili always tastes better the next day because the ingredients have had plenty of time to mingle!

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I tried Trader Joe’s vegan cheese shreds for the first time and they melt really nicely! Great for topping a steamy bowl of chili.

Orange, Fennel & Arugula Salad with Honey Dijon Salmon

Hello and Happy 2019! I hope your year is off to a great start. I spent the past few weeks totally engrossed in new cook books (thanks Mom, Pam, and Janice!) thinking a lot about what I’d like my relationship with food to look like this year, and how to translate that into blog posts/recipes to share with you.

This year, I hope to share more weeknight-friendly meals with you, including more vegetarian and vegetable-heavy options. Check out my new Weeknight Meals tab for more recipes to come!

That being said, what better way to start off than by sharing my favorite salad and salmon recipe? Oranges, fresh fennel slices, and peppery arugula come together for a bright and refreshing salad that’s great on its own, but even better paired with my honey dijon marinated salmon for a healthy weeknight dinner.

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I made this salad for dinner on New Year’s Eve and it was a hit. It is so crunchy, fresh, and delicious.

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I have been using this salmon marinade for years, and love its flavor and versatility – you can use this marinade on lots of other proteins, like chicken! The longer you let the protein marinade, the better, but it can be whipped up and thrown in the oven or on the grill within a half hour if needed.

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Honey Dijon Salmon

Makes about 4 servings

1 lb filet salmon

1/3 C Dijon mustard

1/4 C honey

1/4 C coconut aminos, Tamari, or soy sauce

Method: 

Whisk marinade ingredients together in bottom of glass baking dish. Add salmon flesh side down. Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight. When you’re ready to cook, preheat oven to 350°.  Flip salmon over, flesh side up, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until internal temp of salmon is 145°, and salmon flakes easily with fork.

Tip** If using same cold glass pan to cook salmon, put pan in oven right away before oven is preheated. This will prevent the glass pan from breaking due to temperate change.

Orange, Fennel & Arugula Salad

Makes about 4 servings

For the salad:

3 oranges, peeled and sliced into half moons + 1 orange for vinaigrette

1 bulb fennel, rinsed, halved, and thinly sliced

4 C fresh arugula

Fennel fronds for serving (optional)

For the vinaigrette:

1 shallot, finely diced

1 T Dijon mustard

1/4 C good olive oil

2 t orange zest

Juice from 1/2 orange

Juice from 1/2 lemon

2 T honey

Method:

Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and set aside.

Assemble salad with fennel on bottom, then oranges, and arugula on top. Lightly drizzle vinaigrette and toss together. Serve immediately.

Tip** If you want to make the salad ahead of time, keep vinaigrette on side until you’re ready to serve.

Ristorante Franchino, Praiano, Italy

As the year comes to a close and I search for some 2019 inspo to share with you all, I thought I would revisit one of the highlights of my past year. At the end of May, our amazing mother (#mommamoll) took us on a girls trip to Paris and Italy. It was a trip we’ll never forget, where we met the friendliest people, enjoyed delicious food, and took in breathtaking views. The very last night of our trip, we splurged and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Ristorante Franchino, where we took in the sunset and polished off 2? 3? bottles of local white wine, and where my little sister earned her alter-ego as “Masha.”

We flew into Paris because it was the most affordable flight, and only stayed for two days before hopping on our next flight to Naples, Italy.  From there, we traveled to our final destination, Praiano. A lot of people visit the Amalfi Coast, and stay there because it’s more well-known than surrounding areas. However, Praiano is just a 30 minute drive west of Amalfi, and I would argue just as beautiful, but much more relaxing. Praiano is home to numerous local artists, a “world famous” night club (sorry, another joke meant for my sisters), and amazing sunsets like the one below.

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The view from our Air Bnb patio on our first full day in Praiano

Looking back on our trip, I realize we spent 6 days basically taking pictures of every single thing we saw because no matter where you looked, it just got prettier and prettier. The beach was beautiful, but very rocky and full of sea glass. I spent a few afternoons hunched over collecting different glass and pottery pieces, effectively tanning only my upper back. We rented a small boat to take us out for a day, navigated by our friend Carmelo, and seeing the different coasts from the water was spectacular. This was arguably the best day of the trip.

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The view from our daily walk to the beach (photo cred: Masha)

Although we enjoyed many memorable meals in Paris and Italy, our dinner at Ristorante Franchino stands out for a few reasons- the views, the service, and the mouth-watering food. We ate at normal “American” dinner time most of the trip, so we were the first to be seated on the patio overlooking the water and coastline. We were brought little, soft pillows of dough that reminded me of focaccia bread, but sooo fresh and flavorful, along with complimentary Prosecco to start. We ordered a bottle of white wine from Ravello, and toasted to the last night of our trip.

I ordered calamari fritti, and was happily surprised that it was a mix of different fish because I learned to love sardines over the course of the trip. I learned that sardines come with most calamari dishes in Italy, and are something I would never order at home, but my God were they good. Then, I did the typical Annie move and instead of ordering my own entree, put my fork in everyone else’s meal so I had room for dessert.

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For dessert, we ordered hazelnut gelato covered in chocolate ganache, and I fought everyone’s spoons off because it was the most decadent dessert I’d ever had. It was simple, but so beautifully put together. This was definitely not dairy-free, so I enjoyed every second of it.

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This was definitely a trip we will never forget, and our last dinner spent at Ristorante Franchino was the perfect way to end it. If you are traveling to or near the Amalfi Coast, please don’t hesitate to reach out- I have so many recommendations!

I will be back in January with new focus and LOTS of new recipes to share with you. Happy New Year and thank you for all the support and feedback over the past few months. I wish you all health, peace, and happiness in the upcoming year!

XOXO, Annie

Pork Posole (GF & Dairy-Free)

Lately, I’ve been receiving complaints from my roommate (husband) that we don’t eat enough Mexican food. This isn’t true, but I humored him because I’m nice, and thumbing through my new copy of  Ina Garten’s latest cookbook Cook Like a Pro gave me some ideas. I came across her Pork Posole recipe and it sounded soooo much better than making tacos again. 

I think I mentioned in my Pork Carnitas recipe that I was never using boneless pork tenderloin again, but I lied! This is the perfect cut of meat for this hearty, healthy take on the traditionally slow- cooked pork soup. Cutting the pork before cooking it sounds messy- and it is, but it really speeds up the cooking process and results in perfect bite-sized pieces.

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If you aren’t familiar with hominy, don’t leave it out! They are essentially little puffy, tender, delicious corn things. I don’t really understand, but I love them and they really make the posole what it is. You can find hominy in the Hispanic/International aisle of most grocery stores, and it usually comes in a big 25 oz can. If you can only find 15 oz cans, use two!

Ina adds corn chips to the soup before it simmers so they can break down and become part of the liquid, but I prefer just adding them at the end. Do whatever sounds good to you! Whichever way you make it, this posole is sure to earn a spot in your weeknight rotation. Top it with avocado slices, lime wedges, fresh cilantro, and cheese if you like and enjoy this flavorful bowl of comfort.

Pork Posole

Makes about 6 servings

Good olive oil

1 1/2 lb lean, boneless pork loin 1/2 inch cubed

1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and small diced

2 orange or yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 t chili powder

1/2 t dried oregano

4 C chicken stock

1 C salsa verde

25 oz can white hominy, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

Sea salt & pepper

For serving:

Corn tortilla chips

Avocados

Lime wedges

Cilantro

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Method:

Heat 3 T olive oil in dutch oven over medium heat. Add pork and saute for 10 minutes until lightly browned on all sides. Move cooked pork and juices to a separate bowl. Heat another 2 T olive oil in dutch oven and saute onions for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add jalapeno and bell peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and oregano and cook for another minute. Return pork and juices to pot.

Add chicken stock and salsa verde and bring to a low boil. Stir in hominy, black beans, 2 t sea salt, 1 t pepper, and simmer partially covered for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with corn tortilla chips, sliced avocado, lime wedges, and cilantro. Enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal (GF & Dairy-Free)

Baked oatmeal has been one of my favorite breakfasts for years because you can use any kind of fruit, it’s good hot and cold, and you can pack it for weekends at the lake or weekdays at work! My friend’s mom shared this recipe with me in high school and I’ve been making it ever since. However, it was hard to skip the step where you spoon brown sugar all over the top and broil it to caramelize, and still get the same delicious result. Remember a few posts back where I discovered coconut sugar? It works here, too!

This is another very customize-able recipe where you can use whatever you have on hand and alter to your dietary needs. Use whatever milk works best for you, omit the nuts if you have to, pick whatever fruit’s in season, and you have yourself a delicious pan of steamy, crunchy, fruity oatmeal  ready to enjoy!

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I used fresh cranberries this time since I still had some in the freezer from Thanksgiving, but I’ve used everything from fresh apricots to Trader Joe’s dried cherries in the past and have always gotten delicious results. You can use any combination of fruit that’s in season or whatever you have frozen on hand! Blueberries, peaches… try any combo you like. Just be sure to keep the ratios similar per the recipe below.

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Baked Oatmeal

Makes 4-6 servings

2 C old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 C milled flax seed or Chia seeds

2 C fresh fruit (I used 1 diced apple and 1 C frozen blueberries)

1/4 C dried fruit (cranberries or cherries work best)

1/3 C slivered almonds

1/3 C agave syrup or honey

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 C milk of choice

1 t vanilla extract

1/3 C coconut sugar

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Method:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray 8 x 8 pan with nonstick spray. Measure oats into prepared pan, then sprinkle flax or Chia seeds on top. Add fruit next, in even layer, and almonds next if using. Squeeze agave syrup or honey evenly over everything in your pan.

In medium bowl, whisk eggs, and add milk and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Carefully pour over oatmeal and fruit mixture. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes, until set in middle.

Set oven to broil. Sprinkle coconut sugar evenly on top of baked oatmeal and put back in oven for 2-3 minutes. Do not leave the kitchen!!! The broiler can make your oatmeal go from beautiful and caramelized to burnt in a matter of seconds. You just want the sugar on top to melt a little bit.

Serve warm and enjoy! This is great cold, too.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers (GF & Dairy-Free)

The weeks sandwiched in between holidays feel so hectic and full of dining out, wine-sipping, and cookie-filled gatherings. No complaints here. But on weeknights when we don’t have much going on, I find myself looking for easy and healthy options to balance our holiday diets. I became a huge fan of stuffed peppers when I completed the Whole30 last January, because they’re super versatile and come together easily, and thought switching them up with fresh Mexican flavors would do the trick.

These Mexican stuffed peppers are not Whole30-approved, but can be adapted by removing the beans and corn and maybe adding tomatoes or other vegetables instead. You can also alter this recipe based on you and your family’s dietary restrictions- for example, my husband has a way better relationship with dairy than I do, so I covered his peppers with shredded Mexican cheese. For my vegetarian friends, use quinoa instead of meat! This would be an awesome meatless dinner.

This recipe was the perfect amount for two dinner portions and two letover lunches, so it should be just the right amount for a family of four. I made some extra brown rice on the side, so I’d have enough to pack for the lunches. These peppers would be extra delicious with avocado crema or guacamole, but the avocados I had on hand were very unripe 😦 we topped our peppers with Frontera’s green salsa and it was delicious that way.

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Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Makes 4 servings

1 lb natural ground turkey

1/2 t ground pepper

1/4 t cayenne

1 t smoked paprika

1/2 t chili powder

1 t garlic powder

1/2 t cumin

4 whole bell peppers, seeds removed and cut in half lengthwise

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Method

Preheat oven to 425°

Cook the ground turkey until no longer pink. Add ground pepper, cayenne, smoked paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder and mix to combine.

Arrange bell pepper halves in 9 x 13 casserole dish and fill with turkey mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes until peppers have softened.

Top with parsley, cilantro, salsa, guacamole, or all the above. Enjoy!