Please sir may I have S’more Bars?

What is the quintessential summer food for you? Watermelon wedges? ice cream cones? BBQ grilled corn?

Well for me it’s s’mores.

Rich melted chocolate with fluffy, ooey-gooey marshmallows sandwiched between two squares of crunchy, slightly sweet graham crackers. I never made my first s’more by a bonfire until I was in college, and now it always brings back memories of carefree, warm summer nights by the Pacific Ocean. IMG_2165I wanted to bring dessert to a casual potluck/board game night and I thought this S’more Bar recipe from Averie Cooks would be perfect: transportable, sweet and simple, and doesn’t take itself too seriously!

You will need:

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • handmixer or standmixer
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • foil and cooking spray or parchment paper
  • 8 x 8 inch square pan
  • 1 stick or 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 packed cup of light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 full sheets of graham crackers, chopped (makes about 2 cups)
  • 1 full cup of mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

IMG_2143Start by pre-heating the oven to 350°F. I love that this is one of those throw-everything-in-1-bowl recipes, by the time the oven is done pre-heating, your batter will be ready to bake.

Best part: you don’t even need to soften the butter (which I always forget to do!).

Cut up the stick of butter into 4-5 slices and microwave in a small bowl for about 1-2 minutes. Pour into your mixing bowl and add in 1 cup of light brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Make sure the butter mixture is still not too hot, because you don’t want it to cook your egg.

Add in the egg and beat until well blended. IMG_2145Add in 3/4 cup of flour gradually and mix until smooth. The batter smells heavenly like caramel! IMG_2146Chopping up the graham crackers was not as bad as I expected. I thought cracker bits would be flying all over the kitchen.IMG_2147I left the crackers in fairly large chunks and saved the crumbs and added it into the batter. Now pour in 1 big cup of marshmallows + 1 big cup of chocolate chips. IMG_2149YYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSS.IMG_2151Fold gently until all the ingredients are well mixed and spread evenly on to a 8×8 in. pan lined with foil or parchment paper for easy clean up. IMG_2152It’s ready to go into the oven! The original recipe said “20-22 minutes or until bars have firmed up in the center and edges have set”. All ovens are different and you may have to use some visual judgement on this. For my oven it was not thoroughly baked until 26-29 minutes and the edges had just started to firm up. IMG_2154Let it cool for about 30 minutes. To make it easier to cut into squares, about 15 minutes in, place it in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes.

OR…serve it warm with vanilla ice cream – crazy idea…. I think so! IMG_2156Cut it up into bars for serving. IMG_2160The chunks of crunchy graham cracker, pillowy marshmallows and creamy chocolate give these bars great texture and taste. IMG_2158They will satisfy any sugar junky’s sweet tooth! IMG_2166These bars will make you understand why they are called “S’mores”! IMG_2161Oliver Twist wasn’t talking about gruel when he asked for more….he was taking about these S’more Bars!

Easy Creamy Spinach Dip

Summer means BBQs, pool parties, and picnics – and this is one of my go-to recipes for something fast and easy to make but also a crowd pleaser. This creamy spinach dip is great if you don’t want to show up empty- handed but want to bring more than chips and a jar of salsa.
20356543796_e5cb85f384_oThe first time I had this was 10 years (!) ago when my one of my roommates made it, I thought it was magical…she said it’s Knorr. I’ve been making it for BBQs every since. It uses simple ingredients that you can find in most major supermarkets, even the water chestnuts (Hint: they usually hide in the “Asian” or “Ethnic” food aisle.) 

20194822858_d971bd28e3_oThe best part is your shopping list is at the store, pick up a packet of Knorr vegetable recipe mix (there’s other brands of veggie mix out there but I just have not tried it.) and get started. 

  • 1 package of 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 16oz container of sour cream (use Lite if you’d like)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (again use a lite or “olive oil” version if you want)
  • 1 packet of Knorr vegetable mix
  • 1 80z can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 3 green onions (optional)

20194816858_fa0a4fc41e_oOkay, it’s not very pretty or appealing when you are making it and in such large quantities, if you are freaked out by how much mayo goes into this like I was, breathe….it’s worth it in the end! Super easy steps: prep all your ingredients, dump it all in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. Very important to give it the full 2 hours (or more) to chill and to really let the vegetable mix “meld” with the other ingredients.

A few tips:

  • make sure the spinach is “chopped” – you don’t want stringy leaves of spinach hanging from people’s mouths. Awkward.
  • use clean hands to squeeze out the water from the thawed spinach- it’s the best way to get all the water out and I’d usually squeeze in small fistfuls and at least twice
  • unless you or someone really loathes water chestnuts- I highly recommend adding them in. They really add texture to the dip and a great crisp crunch that balances out the creaminess.
  • This goes great with any sort of veggies (cucumbers, carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, celery) or crackers but my absolute favorite pairing is French baguette slices! I usually pick up two fresh baguettes from the store bakery section and ask them to slice them up for me.
  • Serve in a hollowed out bread bowl for extra fancy presentation! 20382795205_81dee26520_o

Hope you all are having a wonderful summer (with good people and good food)!

Mango Lassi

photo 1Lassi is a traditional yogurt drink really popular in India and Southeast Asian countries. It is absolutely delicious, refreshing and (sorta) healthy! Every time I eat Indian food I can’t help but order one. This is my own simple recipe I based on recipe research from Mango Lassi II and Veg Recipes of India

IMG_0575Makes 1 serving (~12 oz). You’ll need:

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 cup yogurt (greek or regular) -any flavor is fine
  • 1/2 cup milk (or your own preference of milk substitute)

Some recipes will suggest sugar or honey but since my greek yogurt is already honey flavored and the mango was very ripe- it was already very sweet.

IMG_0577  IMG_0579 IMG_0580Chop up the mango. I found a neat trick for cutting mangos, stand the mango up, slice off the sides and carefully score a grid without cutting through the skin, push it inside out, and cut off the cubes.

IMG_0581 IMG_0583Blend up the mango chunks first and add the yogurt and the milk and blend again. Add more milk if you’d like a more liquid consistency.

And just like that – a mango lassi drink! I was so excited to be able to make lassi at home and drink it whenever I want. With the warm summer weather, a lassi is a great alternative to smoothies!

Lassis can come in all flavors, you can use papaya, rose, or any flavor you want to try! photo 1

 

Overnight Oatmeal aka “Summer Porridge”

Summer is no where near Seattle right now but I am completely obsessed with overnight oatmeal and it’s a great breakfast any time of the year. When I first tried this, I couldn’t believe how amazingly delicious and easy this was. After the first time I tried it my only thought was: “Next time, must double recipe!”

The Yummy Life has a great starter recipe with five different variations like Blueberry Maple which so far is my favorite one.

For the basic recipe you will need:

  • 1 airtight container or mason jar (everything tastes better in a mason jar!)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats (do not try to use steel cut or other kinds)
  • 1/3 cup milk (e.g. soy, almond, hemp, rice, cow, coconut)
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon dried Chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoon pure real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
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Ch-ch-chia! These little guys are a great healthy, vegan source of Omega-3, minerals and fiber. When they come into contact with liquids, they form gelatinous coating and provides satiety.

2015-01-08 20.43.52For a busy grad student like me I need a meal I can throw together fast and overnight oatmeal is a dream come true. I grab a jar, throw in the oats, milk, yogurt, and chia seeds. Then I add the maple syrup and shake it all up! 

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Lastly add the fruit and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

2015-01-11 12.56.22Voila, you have amazing, delicious, healthy, satisfying, convenient breakfast for any time of the year.

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Basic Zucchini Pancake

My mom calls this an “Italian Pancake” – I have no idea what makes it Italian (Google ‘Italian pancake’ and this does not come up)! But with this super easy, über-basic recipe you can definitely give it whatever cultural spin you want. This savory pancake is similar to vegetable fritters (less crispy and oily) or Korean zucchini pancakes called Hobak Buchim. When my mom made this years ago, I was blown away and asked her for the recipe. As a true home cook, she never used precise measurements but attempted to give me some guidance:

You’ll need:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • chopped deli ham (optionally of course)
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of water (or broth for extra flavor!)
  • a large shallow pan
  • large spoon or small soup ladle
  • spatula
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Makes about 2-3 pancakes about 6″ in diameter

Start off by washing, peeling and grating the zucchini with a medium cheese grater- you don’t want it to be too fine or else it starts getting mushy.

Combine the flour, eggs, broth or water in a large bowl then add your vegetable or meat ingredients last. Make sure it is well mixed and the zucchini is coated with the batter.

2014-03-31 18.50.18Heat the pan to medium and add the oil, wait until the pan is nice and warm-hot and drop about 3/4 cup of the mixture into the pan and cook like you would a breakfast pancake.

2014-03-31 18.32.26When you start seen bits of golden brown (after about 5-6 minutes) you can flip the pancake over and cook for about another 5-6 minutes.

2014-03-31 18.36.19These pancakes are delicious and best served piping hot. You can eat it by itself or get creative and eat it like a crepe! Below I made zucchini pancakes and added ham afterwards for a quick lunch!

2014-03-31 18.54.58You can go crazy with the recipe and substitute or add other vegetables or experiment with different types of squash. I would, however, avoid vegetables that have a high water content, cheese, or extra sauces so the pancake does not get soggy. Some ideas for additions:

  • bell peppers
  • jalapeños (for a KICK!)
  • mushrooms
  • fresh herbs
  • thinly sliced onions
  • sun-dried tomato slices
  • artichoke
  • julienned carrots
  • spinach
  • hashbrowns (!!)

Note: if you do decide to add much more ingredients then you may need to adjust the batter to make sure its well proportioned.

2014-03-31 18.51.06Thanks ma!

 

Browned Butternut Squash Warm Quinoa Salad

Welcome to 2015! While we are all embracing our resolutions to eat healthier, it doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice taste and a full belly. Let’s kick off the new year with this recipe that I adapted from Chow’s Browned Butternut Squash Couscous recipeCHOW is one of my favorite foodie/recipe websites!

2014-11-27 16.35.41You’ll need:

  • 1 butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 2 teaspoon of cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups of vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 medium scallions

1/2 cup sliced or chopped toasted almondsphoto

Cook the quinoa and broth (or water) according to package instructions or with a rice cooker. Keep warm.

It might be a little tough but peel the skin of the squash with a vegetable peeler. Trim the top and bottom off and cut it open in half, then scrape out the seeds with a metal spoon (this was so much easier said than done). Cut into 1/4 cubes and set aside about 3 cups in a large bowl. Coat the squash in the cumin, salt, and pepper and toss.

2014-11-27 15.29.10Heat coconut or vegetable oil in a shallow pan at medium heat and cook the squash for about 30 minutes until the cubes are golden brown and tender.

2014-11-27 15.31.44In a heatproof bowl mix the warm quinoa, butternut squash, toasted almonds, and scallions together.

2014-11-27 16.28.48This recipe makes a great side dish or small meal that uses one of my favorite Fall/Winter vegetables: butternut squash. It’s full of textures from the crunchy toasted almonds, the “pop” of the quinoa, and the rich softness of the butternut.

2014-11-27 16.36.02The cumin spice in the recipe gives it a great savory flavor and has awesome healthy benefits (*fist pump*) it’s a powerful antioxidant that does all sorts of great things for your body such as boost immunity, lower blood pressure, fight colds- with the chilly winter we need all the help we can get right?

Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowls- Tailgate Snacks

I’m still learning a lot about my new home city, first thing I learned: Seattle loves the Seahawks. When professors walk into class wearing blue and green jerseys- you know this is serious. I was invited to my first tailgate party (well semi-tailgate, we watched the game from the comfort of the warm indoors). My first thought was “what should I bring?!”

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When it comes to football, I’m pretty clueless, but at least knew that tailgating entailed a specific type of food. This isn’t a fancy-chocolate-ganache-fruit-tart kinda thing, this is a nachos-chips-and-dip-burgers kinda thing.

I admit, I enlisted the help of Google: “tailgate appetizers”

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I found Picky Palate’s Baked Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowls and I was excited to try it out.

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  • 13.3 oz roll of refrigerated french bread loaf (Pillsbury is a good choice)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon of Trader Joe’s minced garlic)
  • 3 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili pepper powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Start off by preheating the oven to 350°F and spraying your mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Pop open the french bread dough package.

Anyone else get really freaked out when it *pops*?

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Slice the whole roll into about 1 inch thick pieces. The recipe said it only makes 10 but I managed to make about 1 1/2 dozen minis. Re-roll, flatten, and press the dough into each muffin cup.

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In a medium bowl: add the cream cheese, sour cream, parmesan cheese, chili powder, garlic salt, salt and pepper. 2014-12-14 10.49.48

Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and heat to medium. Cook the spinach for about 2 minutes and add the garlic then cook for another 1 minute. The spinach cooks very quickly so be careful not to overcook.

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Add the cooked spinach to the mixture- stir and mix until well combined. If the cream cheese was not quite softened it’s okay the hot cooked spinach helps melts it. Spoon the dip mixture into the dough cups.

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Sprinkle some shredded mozzarella cheese on each and bake for 16-18 minutes until the tops and edges just start turing brown.2014-12-14 10.58.35

I had a problem stopping myself from “taste testing” more than 1 because they were so yummy!! The creamy cheese and spinach was a perfect balance for the warm fluffy french bread.

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I made these for the first time so I stuck with the basic recipe but imagine the possibilities of adding sausage, artichoke, jalapeños, or bacon! 2014-12-14 11.34.21

These were a hit and redeemed me as a San Franciscan among hard-core Seahawks fans.