Chicken Salad Pasta Shells

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When I saw Giada making these on TV I knew it would be a hit in my family. I never eat regular chicken salad or tuna salad because I strongly dislike mayonnaise and other processed condiments heavy in preservatives. This chicken salad is a genius concoction of fresh and flavorful ingredients such as  sun dried tomato, olives, lemon juice, fennel and parsley. The creaminess is imparted by the use of deliciously healthy avocados, olive oil, and feta cheese. Giada uses arugula in her original recipe but I opted for parsley to stick to the mediterranean flavors I was combining and I really like the earthy bite it adds. I also have made this with chopped baby spinach and fresh tomatoes which also tastes incredible! The lemon juice and spices bring this all together nicely. 

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You need some cooked chicken  breast, so you could use a roasted or rotisserie chicken, pan sear some chicken breast, or poach some breasts in a pot. I think its juicier and more flavorful when roasted. One time I made this with small chopped chicken tenderloins that I cooked in the pressure cooker with tomatoes and onions and that was quite juicy and quick! Your options are many. Just get some cooked chicken breast your favorite method.

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I first made these and served them at an afternoon tea party baby shower I threw for my sister, and these shells went like hot cakes and everyone was asking for more. Fortunately it is easy to make yourself at home and is the perfect thing to put together when you have left over rotisserie chicken that you do not know what to do with! (Am I the only one with that problem?) So here is the recipe, enjoy!

Chicken Salad Pasta Shells
A fresh and delicious chicken salad packed with mediterranean flavors perfect for entertaining!
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb pasta shells (about 30 shells)
  2. 2 lbs cooked chicken breast, cut into small cubes
  3. 2 avocados, cut into cubes
  4. 1/2 c sliced sun dried tomatoes
  5. 1-2 tsp minced garlic
  6. 2 c chopped parsley
  7. 1/2 c thinly sliced fennel
  8. 1/2 c sliced kalamata olives
  9. 1 c feta cheese
  10. 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  11. 1/4 c olive oil
  12. 1/2 tsp salt
  13. 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  14. 1/4 tsp cumin
  15. 1/4 tsp paprika
  16. radicchio leaves
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta shells according to directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Be sure that none of the shells are inside one another as once it dries it will be difficult to separate.
  2. Line each pasta shell with a radicchio leaf.
  3. Combine all other ingredients and toss.
  4. Scoop a spoon of chicken salad into each shell.
  5. Serve on a platter.
Notes
  1. You could use arugula or spinach instead of parsley or along with the parsley; it will be a different flavor but it still works well with these ingredients!
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Afternoon Tea

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I love afternoon tea. It’s such an elegant form of appreciating food and socializing. A tea enthusiast myself, I really love to just sit back and sip tea leisurely refilling my teacup with various flavors.  I also love to try a little bit of everything which is why “afternoon tea” or “high tea” is perfect with the set-up of a variety of petite desserts and cute dainty sandwiches that give you a good sample of each and every flavor on the spread. 

So, needless to say, I jumped at the chance to throw a “Baby is Brewing” tea party baby shower for my sister who is currently expecting her first baby. The theme is a lot of fun to work with and the set up of tea cups, tea pots and flowers make for a gorgeous tablescape in it of itself. With the help of my sister’s  BFFs, my mother, and sister in law we were able to gather more than enough tea cups and saucers and a beautiful array of tea pots, tiered platters, and pitchers. An intimate gathering of close friends, good food, and silly games, this was a lovely baby affair to celebrate a beautiful mommy to be!

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We had such a yummy and gorgeous array of tea party treats:

Sandwiches: beef and mushroom mini baguettes, chicken salad stuffed pasta shells, cheese pies and spinach pies, and cucumber dill sandwiches (recipes coming soon!)

Desserts: French macarons, tea bag shaped shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate, rubber ducky cupcakes (my favorite!), scones (of course!), and a delicious variety of  petite desserts including eclairs, cookies, brownies, and mini pecan pie tarts! YUM!

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We hung some paper lanterns and made a banner that said ” A baby is brewing”. All the beautiful china we had set out on the table scape, with a few tea pots, tea cups, and pitchers filled with large blooms of hydrangeas and roses were enough to set the lovely and dainty decor. I found adorable little cake plates that looked like real porcelain plates from shopsweetlulu.com and matching “scrumptious” pink napkins. For the take home favors, which always need to be a functional and useful gift in my opinion, I found beautiful glass coasters with the design of a lace doily within it. Perfect! We scattered some rubber duckies and ABC block candles throughout the table to keep with the baby aspect of the theme. It all came together quite nicely without being too over the top with decor and departing from the usual balloons, banners, centerpieces, etc. 

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Tea bag cookie

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A baby is brewing! These personalized tea bag cookies were the perfect treats and favors for our afternoon tea themed baby shower. These cookies were so delicious and really added to the theme. I set them inside each tea cup or on the saucer, beside the tea cup. The tea bag label said the last name of the parent’s to be and the date, with the expected baby’s initials on the other side. These are so easy and fast to make and perfect to have with tea. The details and personalizing are what take some time and attention. The most time consuming part was cutting out the tea bag labels which I designed on the computer in MS Word, and threading the labels onto string and into the cookie.

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I used this great recipe for shortbread by Ina Garten. The key to getting a perfect dough is to use softened room temperature butter and to beat it until it is fluffy. If you do so and then slowly stir in the flour mixture, you will not have any issues with the mixture being too crumbly or dry. Another problem reviewers may have had is not measuring the flour properly. Flour should not be packed into the measuring cup, but scooped loosely by a spoon and into a cup for accurate measurement. If you have too much flour, the cookie will  be dry. I refrigerated the dough for about 30 minutes so that it is easier to work with and cut into the shape. 

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Be sure to cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating…

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You could cut the cookie into the tea bag shape by using a rectangular cookie cutter and cutting off the top 2 corners. 

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Sprinkle with some sugar…

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I used a large straw to poke out a hole at the top of each cookie, which you need to do BEFORE baking if you plan on getting a tea bag label through your cookie 😉 

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The cookies were still fairly soft after baking so I was able to cut the edges smaller and straighter if necessary to achieve the shape I wanted and to poke the straws through the hole again to define the opening (the dough puffs out and expands while baking). But this must be done while the cookie is still hot and malleable. Once the cookie cools, you cannot cut it without cracking the whole cookie. My husband and I had no problems dealing with all those scrap edges! Yum!

Once the cookie cooled, I melted some delicious dark chocolate in a double boiler ( a pyrex bowl sitting over a pot of simmering water does the trick) and dipped each cookie in and laid it on parchment paper to cool and harden overnight. The next day I threaded each cookie with its label.

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Rubber Ducky Cupcake

There are so many reasons to have a rubber ducky at your party. Maybe you’re having a Sesame Street birthday party (Ernie’s favorite toy!), maybe you are having a cute baby shower, or maybe you’re just having a pool party….regardless the reason, rubber ducky cupcakes are so cute, so fun, and easy to make. Oh and they will totally wow all of your guests- children and adults alike! These make such fun take home edible favors too!

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The cupcake design is inspired from the book, What’s New Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Being on the cover of the book, this really is an impressive cupcake!

To build it you need:

cupcakes

donut holes (for the head)

marshmallows, cut in half diagonally (for the tails)

vanilla frosting (white)

yellow food coloring

mini m&ms ( I could not find mini anywhere! So I have giant dilated duckie eyes)

soft orange candy such as Airheads, Starburst, or Tootsie Rolls (cut or molded to shape the beak)

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Having all of your materials ready ahead of time is essential because once you dip your duck into the melted frosting, you have just a few moments before it starts hardening to add the eyes and beak. It is also absolutely necessary to REFRIGERATE the ducks after you attach the head and tail and let it harden. I did not do this step at first so every time I dunked the little ducks into the yellow melted frosting, my duckies became decapitated…no need for those pictures!

You will need a firm frosting to attach all the pieces of the duck’s body and to coat it in yellow. I whipped up this heavenly, fluffy, melt in your mouth vanilla bean frosting I make from scratch. Don’t worry. It’s very easy, and more importantly, so worth it. Seriously, it is amazing. Sure, you could always use store-bought frosting, but check out the ingredient list. It’s scary. Homemade is way better!

First, attach the donut hole as the duck’s head and the half marshmallow as the tail. Use plenty of frosting to get it stuck on well, and coat it up the sides of the pieces to “seal” it in. Set it into the freezer for 15 minutes so that it hardens and does not fall apart when you dunk it into the melted frosting later.

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Meanwhile, as the newly assembled ducks are cooling and hardening, stir some yellow food coloring into the remaining frosting and melt in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Do not overheat!

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Once they have hardened and the donut hole-head and marshmallow tail is secure, dip the ducks into the melted frosting. Rotate the cupcake carefully and slowly to fully cover all parts.

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Add on a dot of white frosting to stick on some eyes (m&ms) and the beak (the orange taffy candy).

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Best Guacamole Ever

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This is my all time favorite snack! I became addicted when we lived in Miami and had avocados in abundance, and it was served in many dishes. I use guacamole as an appetizer when entertaining almost every time, as a snack for my kids, and as a snack or salad for myself! Avocados are excellent sources of healthy mono-saturated fats, which are essential for keeping healthy cholesterol levels, improving blood pressure, and preventing heart disease. Avocados are also rich in potassium, vitamin K, vitamin B, vitamin C, and folate. Avocados are also one of the few foods rich in both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is essential because it helps cleanse your body and will aid in the prevention of colo-rectal cancer as it flushes out and cleanses the colon quite well. Soluble fiber is great for your body because it remains in your body and make you feel fuller longer, preventing a person from eating more unnecessary calories and fats. Avocados have also been shown to significantly increase the body’s absorption of lycopene and beta carotene, so go ahead and add them to your salads and sandwiches!

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With all of that said, I could eat this guacamole every day. And its a good thing it is extremely easy to make! Please, don’t bother buying it from a store! Please! A fresh avocado tastes SO much better and you will be so happy to see how easy it is to prepare. Sometimes I make it with only tomato and lime if I am missing the other ingredients and it still tastes just as wonderful! My general flavoring ratio is 1 lime and 1/2 tomato  per avocado, and optionally, 1 tbsp of chopped onion per avocado. Any more onion or tomato and it will be too liquified and saucy, which still tastes great as a salsa or dip, but will lack that nice, thick, and creamy texture of guacamole. The cilantro just gives it that perfect kick and flavor, so I always make sure to add it if I have it! I usually omit or limit the jalapeño if I have the kids eating with me, because that can get quite spicy for them!

To pick an avocado, touch and press it gently, if it yields to your touch and is still firm, it is probably not ripe yet. And on the contrary if it is quite soft, has indentations, or is smushy it will be overly ripe or spoiled! You want it to be soft enough to give way a little bit under your fingers but still have firmness. You could also pull off the stump of the stem and check for a nice yellowish green color. Check out this useful post I pinned on Pinterest to help me pick avocados. 

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Guacamole
Serves 4
A delicious and healthy dip bursting with fresh flavor and nutrition!
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 ripe avocados, sliced open, seed removed
  2. 1 clove of garlic, minced
  3. 1 tomato
  4. 1/2 c cilantro
  5. 2 limes, juiced
  6. 2 tbsp onion, chopped
  7. 1-2 tsp chopped jalapeño (optional)
  8. 1 tsp cumin
  9. 1/2 tsp paprika
  10. 1/2 tsp salt
  11. pinch of pepper
Instructions
  1. Scoop out the flesh of the avocado and combine all ingredients into a blender. Pulse gently until you reach desired consistency.
  2. Serve with chips, pita, tacos, quesadillas, or burritos!
Notes
  1. Depending on your blender or food processor, you might want to pulse the tomato and onion first so that it is chopped finely, before you add the already soft avocado. This way you can avoid making the dip too fine and liquified.
  2. * I love to add roasted corn if I have it on hand; just roast the corn on the cob over the grill or a fire and slice the kernels off.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Strawberries and Cream Cupcake

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 Some red and pink cupcakes were in order for Valentines Day, and even though we never really celebrated the day, my perfectly “pinkalicious” cupcake obsessed three year old was really excited about pink+ strawberries+sprinkles+hearts+cupcakes. So this baking extravaganza and a princesses in tutus cupcake playdate was the result! These cupcakes were such a hit with my family and friends, it will definitely be used in a few future parties! Try this for any pink, girly themed parties! Strawberry Shortcake obsessed kids? This will be the perfect treat for their next birthday party!

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I made a strawberry-raspberry cupcake from scratch topped with an amazingly fluffy strawberries and cream frosting that melts in your mouth! For the cake, I use pureed raspberries or strawberries (you can frozen or fresh) as well as some freeze dried strawberries, which you can find at specialty food stores such as Whole Foods. The freeze dried strawberries are essential for getting that pure, concentrated strawberry flavor, and you will also need it for the frosting. The strawberry scent and flavor is so natural and intense in each bite, you might think you are really biting into a strawberry! So the dried strawberries are really necessary! 

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(Clockwise from top left) Powdered sugar, granulated sugar, freeze-dried strawberries, vanilla yogurt, olive oil, cake flour and almond flour mixture, eggs, and frozen berries (before pureeing).

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First beat the eggs with the sugars and oil.

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Then add the pureed raspberries or strawberries.

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Sift all your dry ingredients together (flour, almond flour, baking powder, ground dried strawberries, and salt) and gradually add to the wet part of the batter.

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These cupcakes bake up nice and moist from the almond flour, olive oil, milk, and yogurt used, and are so fluffy and berry delicious!

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For the frosting, I basically use my vanilla bean frosting and add some of the freeze dried strawberries ground into a powder. The strawberry flavor is so intense, and combined with the creamy vanilla it makes for the perfect strawberry and cream topping!

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I’m no piping expert, but to make the task of frosting your cupcakes a cinch, fold over a pastry bag or plastic zip bag over a cup, as shown below, and fill the cup with frosting. 

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Seal the bag, push all the frosting down to one corner and snip off a 1/2 inch from the corner to pipe out the frosting.

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Strawberries and Cream Cupcake
Yields 2
So full of strawberry deliciousness, these moist fluffy strawberry cupcakes topped with the creamiest melt in your mouth frosting will have you addicted!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
33 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
33 min
For the cupcake
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  3. 1 1/3 c sugar
  4. 1/4 c powdered sugar
  5. 1/2 c olive oil
  6. 1/4 c vanilla or plain yogurt
  7. 1 1/2 c cake flour
  8. 1/2 c almond flour
  9. 4 tsp baking powder
  10. 1/2 tsp salt
  11. 1/2 c pureed strawberries or raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  12. 2 tbsp milk
  13. 1/2 c freeze dried strawberries
For the Frosting
  1. 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  2. 3/4 c unsalted butter ( 1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  3. 3/4 c heavy cream
  4. 3 tbsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 vanilla bean
  6. 1/2 c freeze dried strawberries
  7. red food coloring (if desired)
For the cupcakes
  1. In a large bowl,whisk the eggs with vanilla extract. Add the sugars and whisk for about 1 minute until frothy.
  2. Add the oil, the the pureed berries to the egg mixture.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift and combine the cake flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Grind the freeze dried strawberries in a blender or by crushing against a sieve and combine with the dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry mixture into the wet mixture in the larger bowl.
  4. Add the yogurt and milk and combine well, but be careful to not over mix.
  5. Pour into cupcake pans and bake for 16-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean. Do not open the oven before 15 minutes of cook time, or cupcakes with collapse in the center.
For the Frosting
  1. Pour the cream into a small pot over medium- low heat. Slice open the vanilla bean vertically down the length of the bean, and use a knife to scrape out all the beans and add to the cream. Add the remainder of the bean pod to the cream. Simmer for only 5 minutes until fragrant and do not allow to boil or evaporate. Remove the bean pod and strain the cream with a fine sieve if necessary to remove any woody strands from the cream. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Whip the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla extract. Whip at medium then high speed for 1 minute.
  4. Sift the powdered sugar once or twice to remove any clumps and to aerate.
  5. Add the sifted powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing well.
  6. Add the vanilla bean infused cream and stir well.
  7. Grind the freeze dried strawberries in a food processor, blender, or by crushing against a sieve and blend into the frosting. Add red food coloring if deeper pink color is desired.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Vanilla Bean Frosting

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This is fluffy, delicious, melts in your mouth, and perfectly vanilla! This makes enough frosting for about 3 dozen cupcakes (with generous and lofty peaks of frosting!) or a double layer 9 inch cake.

This easy recipe involves slicing open a real vanilla bean pod, scraping up all the lovely vanilla specks and simmering them in some cream. Your kitchen will smell AMAZING.

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Meanwhile,  whip the butter until it is pale and fluffy!

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When you whip the heavenly vanilla infused cream into the butter and sugar, you will have one amazing vanilla frosting to top your cakes with! 

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Vanilla Bean Frosting
So creamy, so vanilly, this frosting melts in your mouth and is the perfect go to recipe for frosting!
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  2. 3/4 c unsalted butter ( 1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  3. 3/4 c heavy cream
  4. 3 tbsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 vanilla bean
Instructions
  1. Pour the cream into a small pot over medium- low heat. Slice open the vanilla bean vertically down the length of the bean, and use a knife to scrape out all the beans and add to the cream. Add the remainder of the bean pod to the cream. Simmer for only 5 minutes until fragrant and do not allow to boil or evaporate. Remove the bean pod and strain the cream with a fine sieve if necessary to remove any woody strands from the cream. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Whip the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla extract. Whip at medium then high speed for 1 minute.
  4. Sift the powdered sugar once or twice to remove any clumps and to aerate.
  5. Add the sifted powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing well.
  6. Add the vanilla bean infused cream and stir well.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/
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Passion Stars

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We really enjoyed pretending to be at a beach laying out and sipping our Tropical Paradise smoothies we went for it again. I got some lovely fragrant passion fruits from Whole Foods (they are ripe when starting to wrinkle) and juicy starfruit.  Passionfruit is a very nutrient rich tropical fruit. It is high in vitamin A (carotenoids), antioxidants, iron, fiber and protein. The flesh, seeds, and pulp of the passionfruit provides about 5 grams of protein and 24 grams of fiber! So I just scooped the entire fruit out of its skin and into the blender; no need to strain the juice as others may suggest. Star fruit is also very high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. If you can find an organic one, its great to just toss it in with its waxy peel which has many nutrients within it. Star fruit is believed to improve the flow of milk in nursing mothers and to suppress cough. In this concoction, I also add vitamin C packed oranges and use a ripe banana as the sweetener and a potassium and fiber boost. 

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Passion Stars
Serves 3
SO refreshing and packed with vitamin C and potassium, this starfruit and passionfruit combination will energize you and whisk you away to your tropical fantasies.
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 oranges (peeled)
  2. 2 passion fruits
  3. 1 star fruit
  4. 1 ripe banana
  5. 1/4 c water
  6. 1/2 c ice
Instructions
  1. slice a piece of the star fruit and the orange for garnish and reserve.
  2. Slice open the passion fruit and scoop out the flesh and seeds.
  3. Combine all ingredients into blender and blend on high for about 45 seconds.
  4. Garnish with a slice of fruit on your glass and enjoy!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Tropical Paradise

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I always get the winter blues, but this winter is just brutal! I’ve been snowed in too many days to handle 2 small children in a not so spacious home. My daughter’s school has been cancelled enough times to make me lose my mind, and I just really want to feel some warm Sun. We whipped up a deliciously refreshing vitamin boosting smoothie to  help ward of the cold and other ailments spreading around. Sipping this ice cold refresher made us feel like we were sun bathing on a beach to help us get through these “rough” days.

This was actually my first time trying papaya, and it was not my favorite when I ate it on its own. I could only assume it is because the fruit was not in season nor very ripe. But in this smoothie with the banana and pineapple, it was heaven! The papaya is a tropical fruit rich in an enzyme called papain which helps digest proteins. Papain also provides anti-inflammatory effects shown to heal burns as well as reduce inflammation caused by trauma, asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Papaya fruits are also one of the most highly concentrated fruits in vitamin C,  providing more than the daily value, is very high in vitamin A, and is also rich in potassium, fiber, lycopene, and folate. The nutrients from the vitamins A and C help prevent heart disease as it prevents cholesterol from oxidizing and sticking and building up on blood vessel walls (read more here). Potassium is essential for maintaining a healthy heart beat, maintaing a normal blood pressure, and promoting health of the muscles. Papaya is also a source of the antioxidant lycopene which is essential to reducing the risk of cancer, macular degeneration (age-related loss of vision), and heart disease.

The wonderful thing about making smoothies is that you are allowing your body to consume a larger quantity of fruits and vegetables, increasing your intake of all of these wonderful nutrients. Including smoothies, purees and dips,  and soups of raw and whole produce into your daily diet is an excellent way of improving your health and intake of necessary vitamins and minerals! Just be sure to stay away from adding sugar and other unhealthy additives. I usually add a banana, dates, or a tablespoon of honey if added sweetness is necessary but in most cases the produce picked at season tastes fabulous on its own!

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Tropical Paradise
Serves 2
A refreshing blend of papaya, banana, and frozen pineapple giving a huge dose of vitamin C
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 papaya, seeds removed
  2. 1 banana
  3. 1/4 c water
  4. 1/2 c frozen pineapple (or fresh, plus ice)
Instructions
  1. Slice the papaya in half and scoop the flesh out with a table spoon.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree on high for 45 seconds.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Chicken Tikka Masala

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I will admit, I have never been very into Indian food because of the overpowering smells and what seemed like overly greasy foods to me. But I think I was just getting food at the wrong places at the wrong time (big overcrowded fundraising dinners anyone?) And painful vomiting followed by appendicitis after my first dive into Indian biryani left me with a bad taste and negative association that lasted me all through high school and college. Anyways, a few years ago I discovered lemony fresh charred tandoori chicken and I LOVED it. I feel the need to explain my very LATE discovery of good Indian chicken because it is really delicious and I cannot believe I have been missing out for so long! I still avoid the other greasy looking dishes (lol), but I do love the tandoori chicken and tikka masala; so fresh and flavorful! I started asking my Indian friends for a recipe and found one that I just LOVED and could not wait to try! With garlic, ginger, and plenty of lemon and tomato at the top of the list, how could I resist? My 100% authentic Indian girlfriend, Farheen, recommended this recipe from SeriousEats, and I just made a few adjustments to suit our diet and preferences (e.g. reduced the butter and cream!)

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The spices involve a very fragrant and delicate preparation of toasting whole spice seeds of cumin and coriander, then grinding them. Combine those with paprika and turmeric and you get the awesome flavor imparted to tikka masala. 

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The preparation involves a deliciously zesty yogurt-lemon-spice marinade that the chicken bathes in for 1-4 hours. I used chunks of chicken breast because it is a lot less preparation and eliminates the whole step of chucking the meat off of the bone after it cooks. Because this recipe uses a flavorful marinade and simmer sauce, juiciness is not compromised at all. 

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Once all those flavors get well acquainted with the chicken, you char grill it or broil it in your oven. Sadly, we no longer have a grill since we recently moved. But we will definitely have that at the top of our to-buy list for the summer, and I wouldn’t prepare this dish without grilling it if I could! It still tasted fantastic coming out of the broiler, but a girl just needs some tasty charring on her chicken!

tikkasugarandgarlic2014-18 The chicken does not need to be cooked through after grilling or broiling, as it will still simmer in the tikka sauce. Which, by the way is an awesome combination of toasted spices, sautéed onions, shallots, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, a lot of cilantro, and a dash of milk or cream! YUM!!

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I use a tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil + a tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter or “samna”) to impart the essential buttery flavor, without having to use the 4 heaping tablespoons of ghee originally called for! 

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let it sizzle…

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 …until nice and caramelized with some tasty burnt parts!

Tomatoes, lemon, and cilantro are then added and pureed with an immersion blender.

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Add milk or cream- whatever your dietary preference is.  Cream and butter are traditional and necessary for the classic creamy and buttery taste, but even I feel that would be too heavy. I prefer a dash of cream or milk with lemon and tomato being the dominant flavors of the sauce.

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Add the chicken and the remaining chopped cilantro and serve with rice or naan. SO GOOD.

 

 

 

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Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 6
A hearty and flavorful chicken dish, full of lemon, garlic, and fragrant spices!
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Prep Time
1 hr 15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
1 hr 40 min
Prep Time
1 hr 15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
1 hr 40 min
Ingredients
  1. 7 pounds chicken breast pieces, skin removed
  2. 4 tablespoons toasted ground cumin
  3. 3 tablespoons toasted paprika
  4. 3 tablespoon toasted ground coriander seed
  5. 2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  6. 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  7. 12 cloves garlic, 8 whole, 4 minced
  8. 4 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  9. 3 cups plain yogurt
  10. 1 cup fresh juice from 6 to 8 lemons, divided
  11. Kosher salt
  12. 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
  13. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  14. 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  15. 1/4 c sliced shallots
  16. 3 cups diced tomatoes
  17. 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
  18. 1/4 c cup heavy cream (optional)
  19. 1/4 c milk
  20. 1/2 c vinegar for washing (optional)
Instructions
  1. Wash chicken pieces with vinegar and salt. Place in a large rimmed baking dish.
  2. Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a pan over medium heat, moving around frequently so that it does not scorch. Grind in a food processor or spice mill. Toast the paprika over medium heat in pan.
  3. Combine cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside 4 tablespoons of spice mixture.
  4. Combine remaining 7 tablespoons of the spice mixture, 8 whole garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons ginger, yogurt, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until combined, and garlic and ginger are minced. Pour marinade all over chicken pieces, stirring well to ensure good coverage. Cover and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
  5. GRILL: If cooking on a grill, preheat the grill and spray olive oil onto the grill tray. Scoop up chicken pieces and shake off excess marinade off of chicken and place over hot side of grill. Grill without moving until well charred, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip chicken and cook until second side is charred, another 2 to 4 minutes. (Chicken may not be completely cooked through, which is fine as it will cook more in the simmer sauce). BROILER: If cooking in the oven under the broiler, line a pan with heavy duty aluminum foil (to prevent charring and stuck on stains) and preheat the broiler to high with the rack set as close to the top broiler as possible to fit a pan under. Shake off excess marinade off of chicken and place on foil-lined pan. Broil until charred and blackened on surface, about 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven (chicken may not be completely cooked through, which is fine as it will cook more in the simmer sauce). Be careful not to dry out the chicken!
  6. Meanwhile, heat ghee in a large pan over medium-high heat until melted. Add onions, remaining 4 cloves of grated garlic, shallots, and remaining 2 tablespoons of ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, until dark and beginning to char in spots, about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add the olive oil and allow to heat then add the reserved spice mixture stirring frequently for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and half of cilantro, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a spoon. Simmer for 15 minutes until tomatoes are juicy and soft. Puree using a hand blender.
  8. Stir in cream and milk and remaining half cup of lemon juice. Season to taste with salt, then set aside until chicken is cooked.
  9. Transfer chicken chunks to the pan of sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro, then serve immediately with rice or naan.
Notes
  1. *The marinade yields a large quantity. I save half of it for later and cook only 3 pounds of chicken at a time for my family, but make the same amount of the simmer sauce for 3 pounds of chicken as it is so delicious and good on the rice or naan! Make the entire quantity if cooking for 6-8 adults.
  2. *Cream and butter may be completely omitted and the dish will still taste fantastic but this will take away from the traditional and characteristic creamy Indian tikka masala flavor. I substituted some milk and used just a bit of ghee to impart the buttery flavor. Making ghee at home is very easy and smells/tastes amazing! If you are interested in seeing this method, leave me a comment below!
Adapted from Serious Eats J Kenji Lopez-Alt
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/