Video: Dark Chocolate & Espresso Pots de Crème

These ridiculously easy little creamy chocolate desserts have become my new favorite thing. I've made them about six times over the past couple months, most recently at the Mother's Day lunch I made for our mothers last week. Just a few ingredients blitzed together in the blender and you end up with something absolutely incredible (and never-fail impressive).

I filmed a quick 5-minute video demonstrating the recipe so you can see just how easy it really is. Take a look and give it a try! You can easily customize the recipe to your tastes, using liqueur in place of the espresso, milk or semi-sweet chocolate instead of the dark, and different types of extract (orange or peppermint, for example) to alter the flavor. Tomorrow I'm going to show you a fun variation for this recipe made with coconut and white chocolate.

Let me know what you think about the video!

Bagged Lunch Ideas: Deconstructed Hummus Salad

So I'm just going to straight up admit that I kind of feel like a douche for referring to a dish as being "deconstructed." It literally makes me cringe a bit. Even though all deconstructed means is that you use all the same ingredients for one dish in a kind of looser, less...er...constructed way.

But I think the term has been ruined by some of the more unpleasant contestants on shows like Top Chef and the like.

But that said, this is a VERY good salad. It's got all the flavors of hummus--the chickpeas, sesame, garlic, lemon, etc., but tastes a little bit fresher and lighter.

It makes for a great bagged lunch or even just to serve as a side with dinner. I made this as part of a Mediterranean-themed mezze spread on Mother's Day, when my mom, brother, and in-laws came over for lunch at our apartment (my dad missed out because he was in Puerto Rico visiting his mom that weekend so we don't feel sorry for him).

I prepared the entire menu in about 2 hours--not because I'm some kind of rockstar (although I most certainly am), but because the dishes were really just that simple. What I love about this type of food is that it doesn't require much fuss--you're simply celebrating the natural flavors that are already there. No need to mess with what God got right the first time.

In addition to the hummus salad (made in this manner, literally, because I just didn't want to have to wash the food processor), I also served a platter of roasted marinated eggplants, slow-roasted tomatoes, tzatziki, a big Greek cucumber salad, a version of this Mediterranean pasta salad, homemade pita chips, burrata topped with fresh basil, flaky salt, and olive oil, and a platter of savory keftedes (Greek meatballs). I'd say the meal was a success as the mom's were both happy, and even my notoriously picky brother served himself a rather generous helping of everything.

For dessert, I served my "cheater espresso pots de creme"--a super easy and oh-so-good chocolate treat that is always a hit. I actually filmed a little tutorial video for these, which you can watch HERE.

The leftovers of this salad keep really well, and actually even taste better the next day once the flavors have all had a chance to get comfy cozy together. They also last for about 10 days so make a big huge batch and enjoy delicious healthy lunches all week long!


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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes. Thanks for reading!



Deconstructed Hummus Salad

Ingredients
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced finely
1/4 cup tahini paste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 14-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed well under cold running water
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, vinegar, minced garlic, tahini, and olive oil. Add the parsley and chickpeas and toss to coat. Season with kosher salt and black pepper, to taste. Let chill before serving.

Video: Pain au Chocolat

I have another video for you today! It's a simple recipe for Pain au Chocolat (aka chocolate croissants). These aren't totally from scratch as I make them using frozen all-butter puff pastry, but the results are amazing and they are perfect for serving at you Mother's Day brunch (or any special brunch throughout the year!). Watch the video below to learn how to make them! (And scroll down to the bottom to view my STUNNING hand-drawn cutting guide.)

And remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel for updates on more videos!


Pain au Chocolat Recipe 

Ingredients 
Flour, for dusting surface
1 10 - 12oz package all butter puff pastry (such as Dufour), thawed
8oz (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips or 72% chocolate bar, broken into small pieces
Kosher salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (optional)

Directions 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Dust your surface with flour and roll out your puff pastry to about 1/4" thick. Use a pizza cutter to divide in half horizontally. Then divide each half into 6 triangles. Don't worry if they're not all the same size--more fun to fight over at the brunch table! (View video or my stunning illustration below for explanation on how to cut.)

Working with one triangle at a time place a few chocolate chips or pieces on the wide side of the triangle. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of kosher salt. Roll the triangle up, tucking the chocolate inside (again, watch the video for explanation). Repeat with rest of dough.

Arrange the dough triangles on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Whisk together the egg and water, and use a pastry brush or the back of a spoon to brush the egg wash over the tops of the croissants.

Sprinkle the croissants with a little bit of turbinado sugar (if using) and then bake for 18-20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Let cool 5- 10 minutes before serving.

Yes, this is an original Alejandra line drawing. Stunning. I know.

Video: How to Cook Shishito Peppers

I discovered these blistered shishito peppers with salt on a recent trip and had to come right home and reproduce them as they were just THAT good. I'm now totally addicted to this awesome  salty snack (I think I've eaten this twice already in the past week!), and I think you will be too.

Watch my video below for a quick 5-minute tutorial teaching you the easiest way to cook shishito peppers (you'll also learn where EXACTLY it was that I learned about these peppers).

I'm also excited to share that I've relaunched my YouTube channel and plan on releasing more videos regularly. I've already got 5 more in the queue covering topics from cocktails to tapas to dessert! I may even add some random vlogs...Oh yes!

So be sure to subscribe via YouTube so you can get updates whenever I post new videos!

(In the beginning of the video there are a few quick static-y blips--sorry about that; I think my sweater was rubbing against the mic.)

Like the video? Be sure to share it with your friends! Thanks for watching! Alejandra P.S. I think I figured out that the reason they were serving shishito peppers in this place is because they're a kind of cheaper version of padron peppers, but cooked in the same technique. What we ate were definitely shishito peppers, though! P.P.S. If the above sentence doesn't make sense to you, go back and WATCH THE VIDEO!

Jalapeño Poppers with Bacon (Low Carb Recipe)


Some people think Cinco de Mayo is just Mexico's version of the 4th of July. The truth is the day--which actually commemorates Mexico's win in a minor battle against the French--is barely acknowledged south of the Rio Grande!

It's here in the US where Cinco de Mayo has become a holiday, and an opportunity to celebrate Mexican heritage (and food!).

All that to say that I feel entirely justified sharing these not-in-the-least-bit Mexican jalapeño poppers with you today.

Totally American and perhaps even just a little bit cheesy (both literally and figuratively!), they're still a great party food and will go perfectly with your favorite margarita (yet another slightly-Mexican thing that became bigger than the original when it hit the US--we just really like to run with things here).

I've made jalapeño poppers before, but these are my low-carb version, and I actually like them even better! I've gotten rid of the breading and the frying, and instead split the peppers in half, stuff them with a seasoned cheese mixture and top them off with bits of bacon. I bake them in the oven until the peppers are roasted and the bacon is crisp.  This way you get the flavorful crunch, without the fuss of frying (or the carbs!).

Like all my entertaining recipes, these can be prepared several hours in advance and kept in the fridge until your guests arrive, and then simply baked for about 20 minutes. MUCH better than the high-maintenance fried recipes, which require you to hover over a fryer or pot of hot oil.

When you make these, I recommend that you either wear latex gloves OR coat your hands with some vegetable or olive oil before you start working with the peppers in order to keep from burning yourself with the natural oils of the pepper. And wash your hands well when you finish!

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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes. Thanks for reading!


Low-Carb Jalapeño Poppers
Makes 24 poppers

Ingredients
1 8-oz package full-fat cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
12 jalapeño peppers
4 strips thick-cut bacon (preferably nitrate free), cut into 1/4" pieces

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the softened cream cheese and smoked paprika until smooth and evenly combined.

Cut each pepper in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the center veins and seeds. Discard the seeds.

Fill the cavity in each jalapeño pepper half with a teaspoon or two of the cheese mixture and place cheese side-up on a baking sheet. Top each pepper with 3 or 4 pieces of the cut bacon.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp and the jalapeño peppers are fully roasted. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Tip: To protect your skin from the natural oils in the jalapeño pepper, which can burn or irritate, rub your hands with a tablespoon olive or vegetable oil as you would hand lotion before you begin working with the peppers.

Raspberry Vanilla Lemonade

I've got a fun beverage idea for you today! It's a Raspberry Vanilla Lemonade. I whipped this drink up on Monday when I had guests coming over for brunch because I realized that I didn't have anything else in the house but water! I only ever drink water, lemon water, or herbal tea (I don't like soda or sugary drinks and prefer to eat--rather than drink--my calories) so I never keep it in the house. When prepping for brunch, I thought about food, but completely forgot to get something to drink. Fortunately, I remembered the packet of frozen raspberries in the freezer and since I always have dozens of lemons and limes (I literally have a citrus drawer in my fridge), I got to work.

As gorgeous as it looks, this is a super easy drink to put together. Simply combine the raspberries (or sub any other kind of berry) with sugar and a little vanilla extract, and let them macerate in the bottom of a pitcher or large bowl for about 20 minutes or so (you can even prep this part overnight if you prefer). In the meantime, you can squeeze your lemon juice (PLEASE don't use those gross little squeezey bottles--that stuff is nasty). Then add the lemon juice, plus water and ice, give it a stir, and you're all set! I leave this drink pulpy and with the seeds in it, because I like it that way (plus, added fiber!), but if you prefer, you can certainly pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds.

I love the subtle twist the vanilla extract adds to this drink. It's not super noticeable, but it definitely adds a little something special. I also tossed a split vanilla bean into the jar for good measure (totally optional).

This is a great drink to serve at bridal or baby showers, or really just about any summer party. I love that it's so bright and colorful, yet completely natural.

Want to spike it up? Substitute part of the water for your favorite booze--I suggest either vodka or tequila.

Enjoy!

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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes. Thanks for reading!

Raspberry Vanilla Lemonade
Serves about 6

Ingredients

1 cup turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw; substitute granulated white sugar)
1 1/2  cups fresh or frozen raspberries
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 cups cold water
1 vanilla bean, split (optional)
2 cups ice

Directions
Combine sugar, raspberries, and vanilla in a large pitcher or bowl. Stir and let macerate for 20 minutes. Use the back of a fork to mash raspberries periodically.

Add lemon juice and water, and stir. Add the vanilla bean, if using, and ice. Stir and serve immediately.



Multi-Grain Blueberry Spice Muffins

I made these muffins on Monday, too. Along with the roasted chipotle eggplant and frittata and the raspberry lemonade and a big platter of roasted peppers and tomatoes and a bowl of chocolate and almonds. Because I had two people coming over and my brain was all like "THERE ARE PEOPLE COMING! PEOPLE I CAN COOK FOR!"

Because I love to cook for people. And sadly I don't get to cook for very many people apart from Eugene (lucky Eugene). This might sound a little bit lame, but the truth is that I don't have very many friends who live in the city, and not a single one nearby. (I do have quite a few friends who live in other cities. And states. And countries.)

I often think that it would be awesome to have a nearby friend. You know, someone within walking distance, or maybe just a train stop away, that I could grab a spontaneous cocktail with or invite over to help me finish a batch of muffins.

When I lived in DC I had a lot of nearby friends. In fact, two of my very best friends lived in my same apartment building (one upstairs and one downstairs), and another one was just a few blocks away. That was pretty awesome because I could call and say "Come by--I made tacos!" And then in a few minutes, she would be there, ready to eat tacos. Or after work on a Tuesday I would say, "Let's go get salty chips and margaritas!" And we would! Or I could wake up kind of hungover on a Sunday afternoon and send a "Want to get brunch?" text, and a few minutes later we would be happily sitting in a little Mexican place down the road, eating huevos rancheros.

(Hmm..I swear I also ate non-Mexican food while I was in DC.)

There was even one night when the friend downstairs showed up at my door at 2am; she'd had a terrible nightmare and asked if she could stay with me. So we piled into my bed and spent the rest of the evening giggling like schoolgirls. 

Eugene and I recently started watching Friday Night Lights. [I know we're way late to the party with this, but man! What an awesome show!] Anyway, one thing that I notice about that show is how often people drop by each other's houses. It's almost like phones don't exist in Dillon, Texas! Now I fully admit that I would be horrified if friends were to just show up at my house all the time with information they could have just as easily sent in a text, but I do appreciate the spontaneity.

These days, most of my (non-Eugene) outings are planned way in advance. I actually have dinner reservations for mid-May with a friend that I haven't seen since my birthday in February. These reservations were made in Mid-April. And he only lives about 15 minutes away on the subway. That's a little bit ridiculous, right?

All that to say that I got really excited to have company on Monday, hence the semi-elaborate spread. (I say semi because honestly it only took me about an hour to make it all. Shhh.)

The muffins were a major hit. I made a dozen and somehow by the time the ladies left, there was only one muffin remaining. And I'm not eating carbs right now, so I had nothing to do with it.

This recipe is a bit of a mishmash inspired by and adapted from two Dorie Greenspan recipes from her Baking book--the allspice crumb muffin recipe (from which I got the idea to use allspice) and her great grains muffin recipe (which I used as a base). But I took some things out and added other things, most notably, blueberries.

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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes. Thanks for reading!


Multi-Grain Blueberry Spice Muffins
Makes 1 dozen muffins. Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Great Grains Muffins recipe from the book Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients
1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or use all-purpose flour; I don't recommend regular whole wheat flour)
1/3 cup cornmeal (I used blue--use whatever you have)
1/3 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 rounded teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted and cooled unsalted butter
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen--don't thaw)
Raw turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, oats, sesame seeds, pepitas, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and allspice until evenly distributed.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, maple syrup, eggs, and melted butter. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring in gently until combined (don't worry if there are a few lumps--that's good!). Use a rubber spatula to delicately fold in the blueberries.

Divide batter between the 12 muffin cups and sprinkle the top generously with with raw sugar.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden and a tester inserted in the center of the largest muffin comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan. Best served within 24 hours (though leftovers do freeze well).

The Splendito (Low-Carb Mojito Recipe)

My mom and I went down to Miami for a few days a couple weeks ago. I had an audition to attend (more about that in the future, I hope!) and so she took a few days off and we made a girl's spa trip out of it. We stayed at The Standard Spa in Miami Beach--an incredible spa hotel featuring a Turkish-style hamam, saunas, steam rooms, scrubbing rooms, and all kinds of hydrotherapy pools, showers, and soaking tubs--all included in the room rate! It was absolutely heavenly and we pretty much spent our entire four days in Miami in the hotel soaking in the tubs, laying by the pool, and dining in the waterfront restaurant.


One of my favorite discoveries while there was a cocktail they had on their menu called "The Splendito." It's honestly just a mojito made with Splenda instead of sugar (so South Beach!), but I was ridiculously excited to see it because I've been following a mostly low-carb eating plan for the past few weeks because of the aforementioned audition + various other TV and on-camera projects I've been working on this month. [I'm a huge fan of low-carb because not only does it help my cheekbones come back from out of hiding, it also is the best way I've found to keep my ADD-addled brain focused so that I can properly say my intros on camera without getting all tangled up.]

Anyway, I'm almost a bit embarrassed to admit that until then I'd never even thought to replace the sugar in cocktails with Splenda (or Stevia), but now that I know about it I'm in so much trouble. At a recent brunch, I started ordering sugar-free mojitos and then sweetening them myself at the table with Splenda. So genius! It was like a whole world of delicious cocktails just opened up to me again. (Plus, how freaking cute is the name "Splendito"?)

Anyway, if like me, this is news to you, read below to learn how to make your own low-carb mojito (or Splendito).





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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes. Thanks for reading!
 

The Splendito 
Inspired by a drink at The Standard Spa, Miami Beach. Serves 1


Ingredients
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
8 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup white rum
1 packet Splenda (or Stevia)
1 cup ice cubes
Soda

Directions
Combine lime wedges and mint in the bottom of a large cocktail glass. Use a muddler or the bottom of a wooden spoon to crush the mint and lime together, releasing the jucies and oils. Pour in the rum, ice, and Splenda, and use a spoon to stir. Top off with soda water and serve garnished with an additional sprig or mint or lime slice.





Roasted Chipotle Eggplant

I came up with this recipe last November when I was co-hosting and cooking for the Women's Entrepreneur Retreat at Good Commons. Each day I was responsible for feeding an incredible group of women with very varied dietary restrictions and preferences.

For one of the meals--I think it was a lunch--I had planned to make grilled chipotle-marinated chicken breasts, but wasn't quite sure what to do for the vegetarians and vegan in the group. I started looking around for something to put the chipotle marinade on, and noticed a pile of eggplants in a bowl. I sliced them up thickly, brushed them on each side with the marinade, and popped them in the oven to roast.

The results were awesome! Tender, flavorful, and just the perfect amount of spicy. The two trays of eggplant disappeared long before the chicken did and I had an official new favorite.

Since the retreat, a group of my fellow NYC-based women and I get together about once a month to continue to encourage and help each other accomplish our individual goals. I was lucky enough to host the most recent meeting yesterday, and while deciding what to make for lunch, I remembered the eggplant dish. I made it again, and once again, it was a hit.

The key to this recipe is the chipotle-flavored Tabasco. It's one of my pantry staples because it adds incredible heat and smoke with just a few dashes. If you can't find it, you can also use canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, but I definitely encourage you to seek out the Tabasco--it's so worth it!

So here it is for you. I think this will be a great summer side dish and can be prepared in the oven or on the grill. Just as good hot as it is cold, and the leftover keep really well (if there are any). Make some extra and try them in a wrap or sandwich. Simply wonderful!

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Roasted Chipotle Eggplant

Ingredients
1 large eggplant
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chipotle Tabasco sauce (Like this) OR pureed chipotles in adobo sauce (like this)
 
Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
Slice eggplants into 1/2"-thick rounds and lay on baking sheet.
Whisk together olive oil and Tabasco or pureed chipotles. Brush onto the eggplant, then turn and brush the other side of the eggplant.
Roast for 15 minutes, then flip and roast an additional 10 minutes, or until completely cooked through and tender. Serve hot or room temperature. Sprinkle with a bit of salt before serving, if desired.

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