Latin Spice Roast Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

In the spring of my sophomore year at college, my group of friends decided to host an informal Passover Seder in our dorm. I'm not Jewish, but many of my friends are and so we decided it would be fun to celebrate together before heading off to our respective hometowns for Passover/Easter break. I'd already established myself as the chef in the group and so one-by-one, my friends brought by their mother's recipes for me to prepare. Instead of a recipe, my friend Jeff showed up at my door with an 8-pound chicken.

"I bought this...can you do something with it?" he asked as he handed over the cold, heavy bird inside of a plastic bag from the university grocer.

"Sure!" I said, not mentioning that I'd never actually cooked a whole chicken before.

I put the bird in the fridge and called my mom who detailed her method for cooking chicken; a method that included a wet rub of aromatics and spices, copious butter under the skin, an apricot glaze, and roasting the bird breast-side down.

I swapped olive oil for the butter to keep things semi-kosher, but followed the rest of her instructions with incredible results; my friends were literally gnawing on the bones to get the last bits of flavor. That became my standard chicken recipe, one that I've shared with friends who have now made it part of their own traditions. Every so often, I meet people who tell me "Oh, I make your chicken all the time!" It's even made it around the world thanks to my friend Alaina, who makes it for her friends in Melbourne, where she now lives.

For that recipe, you can check out this post, but TODAY I want to share with you my new favorite. Crispy Latin Spice Roast Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce.

This recipe is a little bit less involved than my other and produces a crispier-skinned chicken. The chicken is rubbed with a mix of smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, butter, salt and pepper, then the inside is stuffed with oranges and cilantro.

The whole thing is trussed and then left uncovered in the fridge overnight to "dry." This is how you get that super crispy skin. The oranges keep the inside moist and the paprika adds incredible smokey flavor and color.

This low-key bird is truly a perfect weeknight chicken. Prep it the night before and pop it in the oven when you get home from work. Then you can relax with a glass of wine or watch the evening news while the oven does all the work.

I serve it topped with a spicy, zesty Argentine chimichurri sauce and some roasted vegetables (rutabaga in this case) that I cook right in the chicken fat (dice them up and add them to the roasting pan about halfway through cooking). I then save the carcass to make a spicy Latin-inspired chicken soup for my husband to take to work.

If you like dishes with a little bit of spicy kick, definitely give this one a try.

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Latin Spice Roast Chicken with Chimichurri

Ingredients
For the Chicken:
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons smoked spanish paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large roasting chicken, about 5-7lbs
1 navel orange, cut into quarters
1 bunch fresh cilantro, trimmed, washed and dried.

For the sauce:
1 cup fresh parsley with only the bottom two inches of stems removed (about 1/2 average sized bunch)
1 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 rounded tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons apple cider (or other mild) vinegar
Juice of 1 whole lime
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping off

Directions
Whisk together the butter, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Rinse the chicken under cold water and then pat very dry. Massage the entire chicken with the spice rub, making sure to coat inside the chicken. Use your fingers to separate the skin from the breast and pour some of the butter mixture inside, using your fingers to push into all the crevices. Stuff in the inside with the orange, cilantro, and onion. Truss the legs closed and place breast side up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Place in fridge and leave uncovered to chill overnight.

When ready to roast. Remove chicken from fridge and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken in oven and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until skin is crisp and a knife inserted in the thickest part of the thigh produces only clear juices.

While chicken roasts, prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a food processor and processing until smooth.

Serve chicken with chimichurri sauce.

Hot Chocolate Protein Shake

Winter mornings make me especially thankful that I work from home. As Eugene bundles up in his layers to head outside, I pull on a warm sweater and fuzzy socks, and wander into the kitchen to make myself breakfast.

My routine lately has included a protein shake like this coconut almond one I shared earlier in the month, but a snap of cold weather last week called for something a bit more. You see, while I don't actually have to go outside, I've found that the temperature in my apartment can be completely unpredictable. Since most people are out during the day, my building occasionally does this thing where it keeps the heat on low.  

Too low.

So low that it is impossible to stay warm--I've tried layers, balancing mugs of hot tea in my lap...even burying myself under the covers with my laptop to work! Finally, I turned to the oven, keeping it blasting all day long as I produce a steady stream of homemade breads, cakes, and roasted vegetables. Late last week, I went so far as to buy a huge pork shoulder that I quickly marinated and shoved in the oven for 8 hours of guaranteed warmth.

And for breakfast, I started sipping this steamy concoction--my hot chocolate protein shake.

Though essentially a very simple chocolate protein shake, the trick is in the heating of the milk, which turns a simple smoothie into a rich, hot beverage. I also mix in an egg, which is gently cooked by the hot milk, and helps to turn the drink into more of a proper meal. I was actually inspired to add the egg after reading a long-ago article about what Marilyn Monroe supposedly ate for breakfast in the morning.

Lovely though she was, I can assure you that my version is much, much tastier.

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Hot Chocolate Protein Shake

Ingredients
12oz (1 1/2 cup) whole milk (substitute almond or coconut milk)
1 large pastured egg
1 rounded scoop unsweetened vanilla or plain whey protein powder (optional)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoon raw honey or other sweetener of your choice

Directions
Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat just until bubbles start to form. While the milk heats, combine the egg, protein powder, cocoa, vanilla, and honey in a blender and blitz a few times to mix. Gently pour in the hot milk and puree again until very smooth and thick. Taste and adjust sweetener, if desired and serve immediately. 
A banana or a scoop of peanut butter would make wonderful additions!






Giveaway: Win an Overflowing Basket of Chocolate Treats from Lake Champlain Chocolates

I have a pretty incredible giveaway for you today. The Be Mine Basket: This crazy gorgeous Valentine's Day basket of truffles, chocolate bars, and other treats from Lake Champlain Chocolates.

Here's what comes inside the Be Mine Basket ($105 value):
• 22 piece Grand Valentine Chocolate Heart Assortment
• 6 piece Valentine Caramel Collection
• 5 piece Valentine Chocolate Truffles
• 6.5 oz Raspberry Hearts Gift Bag
• 3 oz Signature Triple Nut Milk Chocolate Bar
• 3 oz Peruvian Organic Cherry Dark Chocolate Bar
Yup! Pretty amazing!

I first learned about Lake Champlain a few years ago from my church pastor. For Mother's Day, he ordered a bunch of chocolate hearts to give to every mom in the congregation, explaining that they were the BEST chocolates he'd ever had. My mom, who doesn't love chocolate (I get my sweet tooth from my dad), passed hers on to me and I had to agree that they were pretty awesome indeed.

A couple years later, I came across them again in a small gift shop up in Vermont, where the company is based. This time, I purchased a few different Vermont-inspired flavors--ya know...for research purposes.

I brought them on the 6-hour ride from Vermont to New York to share with Eugene, but for some reason there were none left by the time our bus rolled into the city.

(I suppose six hours on a bumpy bus will do that to a girl.)

The chocolates are good, but what I appreciate most about this company (and why I was happy to do this giveaway--I'm not getting paid to say any of this), is because it's a family-owned company that really values quality and tradition. Last year for Valentine's Day, Eugene ordered me a giant cookie from one of those "1-800" places. He knows I love cookies and comically-sized things (either super giant or super tiny), so he thought it would be a good surprise. Unfortunately, there were issues with shipping (due to excessive orders) and the cookie arrived a day late. When we opened it, it was covered in too-sweet waxy frosting and the cookie itself tasted dry and chalky. We took two bites and then threw the whole thing out. We both ended up feeling pretty sad and disappointed about the whole thing, which is not the way people should feel on holidays.

Which is why I very much encourage you to support high quality, family-owned businesses like Lake Champlain and the others that I've featured here on my site. (Check out the story of how the company was founded--love things that begin with a dare!)

To enter this Valentine's Day basket giveaway, leave a comment telling me one thing you are thankful for today.

You can get extra entries by doing any of the following and leaving a separate comment for each one you did. If you don't leave a separate comment, it's just going to count as one entry so LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT. You can leave up to 5 comments (entries) total.

1. Like" Always Order Dessert on Facebook. Already a fan? Leave a comment on the page to say hello, then comment here to say you did. 
2. Post about this giveaway on your own personal or fan page Facebook wall, tagging my FB page, then comment here to say you did. 
3. Post the following message or a similar one in your own words on Twitter: "Giveaway! Comment to win a HUGE basket of chocolate treats from @nandita & @LCChocolates: http://bit.ly/WQ62jd"
(then comment here to say you did)
4. "Pin" an Always Order Dessert recipe or DIY post of your choice on Pinterest and then comment here to say you did.
The winner will be selected via Random Number Generator. Your entry must be in by 5PM EST on Thursday, January 31, 2013. US residents only, please.

Low Carb Flourless Clementine Almond Cake

The day after making this cake, I forced myself to cut what was left into slices, wrap them individually and hide them in the back of the freezer. At which point I promptly pulled one slice back out of the freezer and ate it.

Because it is good!

This whole clementine cake is a classic Sicilian recipe, which I learned about by way of the incredible Nigella Lawson. Much like my whole orange bundt cake, this cake is made using whole clementines that have been boiled until tender and slumpy, then pureed into a smooth, intoxicatingly flavored paste.

Eggs, ground almonds, baking powder, and (in the original) sugar are added, then the whole thing bakes up into a moist, slightly spongy, and incredibly fragrant cake.

I think I mentioned earlier that I've been sticking to a fairly-strict low-carb diet in preparation for some upcoming on camera projects I have next month. The lack of sugar also helps me with my focus. (I have ADHD and the less refined sugar I consume, the better my brain works.)

Noting the lack of flour in this cake, I figured I could easily adjust it to be low-carb by replacing the sugar with a mix of erythritol and granulated Splenda. Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol with a scale of 0 on the glycemic index (my favorite brand is Zero by Wholesome Sweeteners); this means it has the equivalent of no effect on your blood sugar levels. Wonderful for baking, it's best when paired with another sweetener in order to create a synergistic effect that is most pleasant in the final dish. (If you already have a preferred sweetener alternative you use for baking, feel free to use that instead--I'm sure it would be lovely with sucanat or coconut palm sugar, too; this is a very forgiving recipe as long as the volume stays about the same.)
Apart from the sugar swap, I also played with the recipe by adding a touch of kosher salt and a couple teaspoons of almond extract to play against the bitterness of the clementines.

While the cake baked, the aroma of citrus and almonds wafted out of the oven and filled our apartment like some kind of delicious, intoxicating room perfume. I spent the last few minutes of baking time dancing around in front of the oven as I impatiently waited for the timer to buzz.

The results were even better than I'd imagined. (Hence my aforementioned disciplinary measure.)

Spongy, not-too-sweet, and just a touch bitter in the absolute most perfect way possible. Eugene tasted it and pronounced it "a very sophisticated cake."

I absolutely agree.

This is a lovely everyday cake, best eaten straight out of hand while cuddled on the couch with a mug of something hot. And it is a stunning cake to serve company--particularly if you know your guests prefer subtle sweets.

I think it would also be a perfectly acceptable breakfast cake. As it contains no flour, it is also a lovely gluten-free cake recipe.

If you're not watching your sugar, you can of course stick to the original recipe; I share both options below.


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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, 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. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!


Flourless Clementine Almond Cake Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson

Ingredients
4 clementines (about 13 oz)
6 large eggs
1/2 cup erythritol + 1/2 cup granulated Splenda (OR) 1 cup granulated white sugar
2 1/4 cups of ground almond meal (or 9oz of almonds finely ground)
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

Directions
Place the clementines in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and let simmer 1 1/2 hours, until very tender. Remove from water, then chop and remove seeds. Add the remaining boiled clementine (everything but the pits) to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line a springform baking pan (this is a sticky cake; you NEED a springform pan).

In a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs for 5 minutes until very light and frothy. Add the sweetener or sugar, clementine puree, ground almonds, almond extract, salt, and baking powder and beat again for 5 more minutes until very light. Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake 50 minutes to 1 hour or until set. Let cool in the pan, then unmold and serve.  I sprinkled it with some powdered sugar before serving, but it's also lovely plain.

Low Carb Note: Using the mix of sweeteners that I used, the cake works out to about 9g of net carbs per serving, which is fantastic. (The cake has 10 servings.)

Inspired Living: How to Create a Dream Board that Works!

A few weeks ago, I told you a bit about how I used a dream board (also known as a "vision board") to help me get out of a place where I felt stuck, and to move towards creating the career--and life--of my dreams. It almost seems silly that a simple collage could be so instrumental in creating such a massive transformation, but I assure you that it works.

Here's a bit more about why that is, and a few steps to help you create a dream board that works.

First up, let's talk a bit about what a dream board is NOT.
  • A dream board is NOT a wishlist. 
  • A dream board is NOT a to-do list. 
  • A dream board is NOT witchcraft or some kind of magic spell.
A dream board IS a visual representation of the dreams and goals we want to achieve in our life. It's less about stuff we want, than it is about who we want to be in this world.

For example, a photo of a pile of money can either represent just that--a lot of money--OR it can mean that I've reached a point in my career where I'm compensated generously for work that I genuinely love and enjoy. The first is cool, but the latter is definitely much more satisfactory in terms of using my God-given talents to achieve a whole and fulfilling life.

When crafting your dream board, I urge you to keep this idea in mind. Go beyond the simple material wants and think big picture. It's ok to start by listing the material things you wish you could have (and even including a few of them on your board), but use them as a jumping off point to dream bigger!

I find that a good way to do this is to ask yourself the following question:

"What would make me feel proud to 
overhear someone say about me?"

  • "She's a millionaire." OR "She's so good she's worth the big bucks."
  • "She has huge 6-bedroom mansion." OR "I love visiting her home; it's always so comfortable and full of love." 
  • "They're such a good-looking couple." OR "You can tell they really love each other."

This approach is important because it will help you see beyond what's in front of you and really push yourself to achieve your maximum greatness. It's also key because it allows flexibility in the process.

Say you want to improve your career situation. For you right now that might mean a promotion to the next level in your company. But if you focus intently on that promotion, it doesn't allow for the possibility that perhaps there is actually a bigger, better job waiting for you at a completely different office. Or maybe you miss the reality that in your heart you would actually be happier striking out on your own and starting your own business.

Specific, clear goals are definitely important, but I think it's also important to focus more on the feeling these goals will help you achieve--this way you will remain open to all the other opportunities that you have yet to even dream of.

How do dream boards work?

I believe there are few things that make dream boards so effective, but this is the easiest (and least "woo woo") explanation:

By taking the time to create a dream board, you are getting in touch with your intuition. In our fast-paced world, we don't always take time to really stop and think about the things we want to achieve in life. We ignore our gut feelings. We even forget about the things that makes us happy. As we grow, we change and often our desires change with us, but yet we keep barreling forward without even stopping to make sure we're still heading in the right direction. Or we divide our attention between so many things we think we should be doing that it's impossible to make any measurable progress in the ones that really matter ("jack of all trades; master of none").

Creating a dream board basically forces you to focus. It's a way of "checking in" with yourself, and figuring out what your real dreams and desires are. And once you know them and see them pasted clearly before you, your outlook and energy and attention shifts and points you in the right direction so that you can see and accept the opportunities that are meant for you.

So here's how you make a dream board:

You need:
  • A large piece of poster or foam board. You can also use a large bulletin board if you want something a bit more fluid. There are computer programs and apps that allow you to create "virtual" vision boards online, but I think it's really most effective when you engage the creative, almost child-like aspect of physically cutting and pasting. It works your brain in a way most of us aren't used to and brings forth new ideas.
  • Glue or pushpins to affix your images. I think rubber cement or Mod Podge work best. Elmer's makes the paper wrinkle and glue sticks tend to lose their stickiness and cause the paper to fall off after a few months. 
  • Magazines. Definitely use your favorite magazines (for example cooking or yoga magazines), but also pick up ones you don't usually read--they'll give you more images to choose from and you never know where your best ideas will come from. Grab magazines randomly at the supermarket, or take old ones from your kids or friends. O Magazine is usually great for words. Children's magazines usually have wonderful illustrations. You can also tear up old art books, or even search online for images that strike your fancy.
Choose your images:
As you leaf through the magazines searching for images, it's great to go in with a plan and include images representative of the goals you know you want, but also tear out pictures that just give you pleasure or that cause some kind of pleasant, visceral reaction in you.

If it catches your eye, cut it out--you can always toss it later, but there is probably a reason why a particular image spoke to you; you just don't know why yet!

Also remember to include words. I'm a writer and words are important to me, so I have quite a few on my board. You may only need a couple. (You can also just write with a marker directly on the board.)

My Latest Dream Board
Crush on your board
Paste the images onto your board in a manner that pleases you. That's important. It's not about art or creating perfection, but when you look upon the board it should make you feel good. You should have the desire to look at the board over and over again. I want you to fall in love with your board and what's on it. Fall in love with the idea of you at your greatest good.

I know I've created a good board when I find myself sneaking peeks at it throughout the day, the same way you might look at someone you have a crush on (or a cake you're dying to eat).

If anything on the board bothers you or makes you feel unpleasant, rip it off and put something else there. Everything about that board should make you feel happy and energized.

White space
I like to leave some white space on my board. It gives the eyes and mind a places to rest, and also allows room for growth. If you come across something later on that you'd like to add to your board, you can add it. Or perhaps the surprise will simply manifest in your life without you even expecting it!

Displaying your dream board
I keep my board in my bedroom propped up on my nightstand. It's both the last and first thing I see each day.  Occasionally, when I'm writing or trying to figure something out, I'll bring it into another room with me and just stare at it for a while. I kept my last dream board on the wall in my kitchen (it's actually still there as a reminder of all the amazing things that came true).

I also recommend taking a picture of it that you can keep in your phone. This way you can glance at it during the day when you need a boost of positivity. Or it'll give you something to pray on when you're stuck in a long line or a waiting room.

A final note: Some people prefer to keep their boards private, but I'm actually all for sharing it--especially with people who love and support you. Why? Because you never know who can help you achieve your dreams! So go ahead--put it out there! Let the world know what it is you want. All that positive energy in support of your dreams can only ever be a good thing.

In fact, if you'd like, you can send me a picture of it. Maybe I'll share some on a Pinterest board or in a Facebook album so we can all support each other.


I hope this has inspired you to create your own dream board. If you have any other questions about how to make one, how/why they work, or about my own experiences, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll answer! And if you'd like to share a picture of your dream board with me or the blog community, email it to me at alejandra@alwaysorderdessert.com. I promise not to post or share it without your permission.

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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, 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. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

Almond Croissant Oatmeal (Frangipane Oatmeal)

I was about 10 the first time I tried an almond croissant. It was from the Dunkin' Donuts we occasionally stopped at for coffee and breakfast sandwiches on the way to school, and chosen at the suggestion of my father, who was a big fan.

It tasted like heaven! The flaky, buttery outer crust giving way to gooey, sweet filling, generously perfumed with the intoxicating aroma of bitter almonds. I used to do a thing where I would eat all around the outside first and then leave a circle of croissant-sandwiched filling for my final, perfect bite.

Considering that as far as croissants are concerned, Dunkin' Donuts is hardly the be-all and end-all, my subsequent interactions with almond croissants really only got better as the years passed. With only a few minor exceptions (usually an ill-advised train station food court purchase), I've never come across an almond croissant I didn't love.

As a nearly-30-year-old, I try to avoid starting my days with what is--let's face it--essentially a glorified sugar sandwich. These days, I'm more of a protein in the morning kind of girl, but that doesn't mean that I still don't crave those flavors.

I'm not alone in this, and the other day on Twitter I saw a message float past on my feed, in which someone mused that while she's perfectly fine eating a wholesome bowl of oatmeal each day, she would not turn down an almond croissant if it were to magically appear on her desk (I assume she hoped her colleagues would read this).

And THAT is when I had the idea. Because I figured it would be entirely possible to create a bowl of totally wholesome oatmeal that tastes exactly like an almond croissant!

I will give you a moment to bask in my genius...

The secret to this is Frangipane--a French almond cream made with ground almonds, eggs, sugar, and butter. Usually used to make pretty tarts and pastries, it is also the fancy name for that aforementioned gooey almond croissant filling.

When swirled into a simmering pot of oats, the almond cream turns the fairly neutral-tasting oats into something people might actually fight over. (At least, I would. I totally would fight you for this.)

Creamy, hot, and every single bit as satisfying as the most decadent almond croissant--just my kind of everyday indulgence.

The recipe below makes enough filling for several bowls of oatmeal. It will keep well in the fridge, so you can make it on the weekend and use it all week long to stir into your breakfast before running out the door.


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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, 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. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!


Almond Croissant Oatmeal
From the name, this sounds like a "sometimes" treat, but in reality it's actually quite wholesome. The oats are cooked in almond milk, and the almond cream adds protein and additional nutrition from the eggs and nuts. Serves 2 (with leftover almond cream for future breakfasts)

Ingredients
For the almond cream:
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup granulated sugar (or honey)
1 large egg (see Note below)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

For the oatmeal:
2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or use water or whole milk)
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant or "quick cooking")
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
First make the almond cream. In a food processor, combine the almonds and sugar, and process until finely ground--about 2 minutes. Add the egg, hot melted butter, and almond extract and process for 2 more minutes, until smooth and creamy. Set aside. (Almond cream will keep in fridge, covered, for up to 1 week.)

Combine the almond milk or water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the oats, lower heat and let simmer gently for 5 minutes, until oats start to thicken (if you prefer a thicker oatmeal, you can cook the oats longer or just follow your favorite package directions). Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the almond cream. Divide into 2 bowls and drizzle each with additional almond cream and a sprinkle of sliced almonds. (You'll have extra almond cream leftover; save this for future bowls of oatmeal.)

Note about eggs:
The heat from the oats should be enough to sufficiently cook the eggs, particularly if you're using trusted ones from a good source. I always recommend using pastured eggs, which are raised in the healthiest manner possible. If you are hesitant about potentially consuming raw eggs, you can also use pasteurized eggs, which are available at most grocery stores.


Orange Rosemary Marinated Olives

I think one of the best things about the fact that I do most of my grocery shopping online via the wonder that is Fresh Direct, is that it helps me resist temptation. Because if I actually physically walk into a Whole Foods or a Fairway or any other "gourmet" supermarket, you can bet that I'm going to walk out of it with several bagfuls of ridiculousness.

The antipasti and cheese counters are where I seem to get into the most trouble, as I sample and sniff and place one luxurious thing into my basket after another.

"Why, yes, I DO need this imported marinated Moroccan olive mix!"

"Organic whipped avocado salsa spread? Yes, please!"

"Hand-crafted local artisan elephant milk* ricotta? I'll take 2!"

And then I get home and realize that I didn't buy the eggs I needed and that elephant milk is actually gross and that there is really only so much coconut chia kefir that a girl can drink in a week.

Sidenote: I wrote "elephant milk" because I wanted to pick something that sounded hyperbolic and ridiculous, but then I decided to Google it to see if it's a thing, and yes. It's a thing. But apparently it's rare because elephants aren't easy to milk. So now you know that.

Anyway, the other thing that drives me crazy about that part of the store is that I usually get home and realize that I actually could have easily made whatever it was I bought myself for a fraction of the price.

Hence this recipe. Marinated olives are a favorite of mine for both snacking on and entertaining, but there is no reason to purchase ready made varieties (no matter how exotic and alluring the handwritten descriptions at the olive bar sound).

It literally takes 5 minutes of prep to make them and you can do it well in advance (a God-send when hosting a party). The flavorful oil these marinate in is so good that you can serve it by itself with bread for dipping or even drizzle it over goat cheese for another delicious starter.

Three appetizers in one. So thrifty and useful.

The flavor combination below is my favorite, but you can of course have fun and play around with this recipe. Use lemon zest or sage, thyme, or even vanilla beans and honey for something sweet and salty.

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Orange Rosemary Marinated Olives
Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
Peel of one large navel orange, cut into thick strips
1 large sprig rosemary, cut into 3" pieces
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional; you can replace with black peppercorns for less spice)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups green olives, drained (such as castelvetrano or cerignola olives)

Directions
In a small saucepan, heat oil over low heat, just until bubble start to form on the outside. Add the orange peel, garlic, red chile, and salt, and let simmer for 2 minutes before removing from the stove. Place olives in a large jar or air-tight container and pour in the warm oil mixture. Let cool at room temperature before sealing and refrigerate. Best prepared at least 8 hours in advance, but can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to several weeks. The longer it sits, the better and more intense the flavors will become. Serve at room temperature along with bread for dipping. 


Cranberry Chocolate Chip Pull-Apart Bread

I'm assigning you some homework this weekend. Grab a piece of paper and jot down the ingredients, because you are making this Cranberry Chocolate Chip Spice Pull-Apart Bread this weekend.

Yes, you! No arguments!

I'm pushing you to try this one because it's good and it is fun, and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you pull out a loaf of homemade bread from the oven is like none other.

Never worked with yeast before? I firmly believe in trying new things (especially new things that scare you) on a regular basis.

Gave up carbs for January? I actually did, too! Bake the bread anyway and invite friends over to enjoy it with a mug of tea. Or give it your pastor on Sunday. Or your hairstylist. Or your kid's football coach. Make it and gift it to someone; you'll feel accomplished and make somebody smile.

Heck! You can even pull a Young Married Chic, and leave it with the receptionist at your gym (so evil!).

I served a few slices of my loaf to a group of friends and then sent the rest of it to work with my husband (where he proceeded to NOT share it because he "wanted to eat it all himself").

Now that I have you convinced, let's talk a bit more about pull-apart bread. If you've never tried it before, it's essentially a yeasted bread dough that is rolled out, cut into multiple squares, stacked like a deck of cards, turned over sideways into a baking pan, and baked that way so that the resulting loaf looks like a crazy accordion of delicious.

(See above for a before-baking shot.)

The name comes from the fact that you can just pull off each slice to eat it. No knives required. It's literally the best thing since sliced bread.

Better, actually.

It's a fun recipe to play around with, so don't feel married to these exact flavors. Here are some other fun possible combinations:
  • White chocolate chips and blueberries and lemon zest. Maybe even a dash of almond extract.
  • Or rum-soaked raisins, pecans, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Or raspberry jam, cinnamon, and crushed walnuts (like a ruggelah bread!)
  • Or go savory with grated parmesan and chopped rosemary
  • Oooh...or how about caramelized onions, bacon, and fontina?
It's a major crowd-pleaser--something about encouraging people to get in there and tear at the bread that always seems to get everyone excited.

(Bonus Entertaining Tip: people love food they can play with.)

This particular version is both tart and sweet thanks to the mix of fresh cranberries and semi-sweet chocolate chips. After the protein shakes and hummus I've been throwing at you this week, I figured it was time I offered up something a bit more decadent and this most certainly fits the bill.

Oh and the aroma? Intoxicating! The cinnamon, orange zest and cardamom perfumed my entire apartment as it cooled on the counter and it took all of my might to not spend the afternoon just peeling off slice after chocolatey slice and putting them directly into my mouth. (Hence why I told my husband to just take the whole thing to work.)

So you have your assignment. Let me know how it goes! (You can share pictures on my Facebook page or ping me on Instagram where I'm @nandita2483.)

P.S. I actually made this a vegan pull-apart bread recipe since one of the friends who came over is vegan. Just use almond or coconut milk instead of the regular milk.

P.P.S. While the end result looks crazy complicated, it actually only takes about 2 1/2 hours to make, with only about 15 minutes of those requiring you to actually do stuff (the rest is just rising and baking). When Eugene came home to find this on my counter after a busy day he asked, "How did you have the time to make that?"

"It was easy!" I explained. (And it is.)

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Cranberry Chocolate Chip Spice Pull-Apart Bread

Ingredients
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 cup warm milk (for vegan version, use almond or coconut milk)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup olive oil + more for filling
2 rounded tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup fresh cranberries (frozen is OK)
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 9x5" loaf pan
Parchment paper

Directions

Prepare a baking pan by greasing with oil and lining with parchment paper sot hat it overhangs.

Whisk together the yeast, milk, and sugar in the base of your electric mixer and let sit 5 minutes. Add the flour, oil, cinnamon, orange zest, cardamom, and salt, and use the dough hook to combine and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and not sticky.

If the dough is too dry, add a splash of milk. If too wet, add a sprinkle of flour.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Once the dough completes its rise, dust flour on the counter and turn out the dough. Roll into a large rectangle, about 1/2" thick. Drizzle the bread with oil and use a pastry brush or your hands to spread it so it completely covers the bread. Scatter the cranberries and chocolate chips over the entire square.

Fold the bottom half of the dough towards the center, then fold the top over the bottom two folds so that it forms one long rectangle. Use a pastry cutter to slice the package of dough lengthwise and then again vertically every 2-3 inches so you have multiple squares about the size of a deck of cards. Stack these on top of each other and lay them into the prepared baking pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes until puffed up high and dark golden brown. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then lift out gently with the parchment paper and serve warm. Keep leftovers, loosely wrapped at room temperature for up to 2 days.

The Best Kind of Kindness (Coconut Almond Protein Shake)


I once read a quote that said something along the lines of how if any of our friends talked to us the way so many of us talk to ourselves in our heads, we would not want to be friends with that person anymore.

We all have things we don't like. I'm always amazed by the insecurities we have. I once dated a guy who was super sexy and brilliant, but incredibly self-conscious about his looks. "I wish you could see yourself through my eyes for even a second," I once told him.

I occasionally stand in front of the mirror and pinch my arm chub back, thinking that I would look so much better if I had slender arms. It sounds kind of harmless, but if a friend were to come up to me and pinch my arm chub and say "You'd look better with slender arms," I'd probably smack her across the face.

We're so mean to ourselves. Unnecessarily so.

It's not wrong to want to make changes. In fact, it's a wonderful thing. But not in a way that denigrates all the good we already are and have. 

We live in a hard kind of world, have you noticed? It's present all year long, but especially in January when the ads and the gym posters are all about hard! and firm! and taut! I think this is meant to motivate and excite, but I don't like it.

Hard doesn't motivate me. It's too harsh. Extreme. Hard makes me want to dive back into bed. Preferably in the company of a warm baguette.

I'm more into words like soft and curve. I like the word energy. I like beauty and focus and inspiration. I like luscious. I think, in the long run, those words win out.

Slow and steady, you know?

This shake is what I've been having for breakfast these days. Lunch too sometimes if I'm not very hungry or running out the door. A sweet mix of almonds, coconut, and a touch of spice. It's full of protein and good fats, in a totally luscious, creamy, gentle way. It's a delicious way to do something good and kind for yourself.

This year, let's be kind to ourselves. Let's see ourselves through loving eyes. Let's treat ourselves like we treat our friends (and if you pinch your friend's chubs you need to stop that and be a better friend).



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Coconut Almond Ginger Protein Shake Recipe
Makes 2 servings
Ingredients
For the nuts:
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
2 cups warm water

For the shake:
2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon kosher or celtic sea salt
1 rounded scoop vanilla protein powder (with no added sugar)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut butter (or substitute coconut oil)
Honey, to taste (optional)

Directions
The night before: Combine almonds, coconut, 2 cups warm water, and salt in a container. Make sure the nuts are completely covered with water, if not, add more water. Cover and let sit 8 hours or overnight at room temperature. This is a key step as it will help you activate the nuts, breaking down the naturally occurring phytic acid which can cause bloating and other digestive issues. It also activates the enzymes in the nuts, again making them easier for your body to digest.

In the morning: To prepare shake, drain the almonds and coconut from the soaking water. Discard the water and add the soaked almonds and coconut to a blender. Add 2 cups filtered cold water to a blender along with ice, protein powder, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, and coconut butter or oil. Puree until very smooth (about 4 minutes with a conventional blender). If you prefer a thinner shake, you can pass through a fine sieve to remove the almond meal, though I like the additional fiber. Sweeten if desired and serve immediately. (I don't as the natural sweetness of the nuts, coconut, and whey is enough for me.)
Variation: If you prefer, you can skip using whole nuts and simply replace the 2 cups of cold water in the shake with 1 cup of boxed coconut milk and 1 cup of almond milk, and proceed from there. 

Listen to Your Body (Spinach Garlic Hummus Recipe)

One of the best bits of advice I've ever received in my life came from a high school teacher.

Mrs. Langlieb was an amazing lady who taught religion and philosophy classes at my school. These courses were a little different than the typical high school fare. For example, one of my favorites was called "On Death & Dying," which was based on the work of Elizabeth Kubler Ross and delved into everything from what happens to your body as it dies (death rattles, rigor mortis), the afterlife, caring for a dying person, and the grieving process. There were even a few classes on things like "how to write a sympathy card" and "what to do when attending a wake."

It sounds like an odd, depressing class to offer young students, but I think it was probably one of the most useful ones I've ever taken.

She also taught a class on sex, love & relationships. Again, not what you expect in high school--especially not a private Catholic high school, but this lady was special. I remember we once spent a week discussing the subject of intimacy in relationships during which she showed us a clip from Dawson's Creek. It was the episode where Pacey and Joey had sex for the first time. The clip showed Pacey standing behind Joey and lovingly brushing her hair, at which point she turns around and tells him she's ready to sleep with him, and they soon embrace and end up on the bed together. She explained that the intimate act in that scene was not the sex or the kiss, but rather the moment where he brushed her hair.

I think what made her so great was that once the doors to her room shut, it was like a whole different world. She made sure we covered all the things required by the curriculum, but she also made a lot of time to let us talk about other things that were affecting us--whether those be academic or personal--always without judgment.

And on days when we seemed high-strung or perhaps even just tired, she would shut off the lights, turn on soft music, and encourage us to meditate or pray silently for 15 minutes. I would sometimes fall asleep during these moments, awaking with a start and fabric creases on my face.

Mrs. Langlieb would silence my apologies and say, "It's OK. You have to listen to your body and do what it says." She then talked at length about the importance of checking in with yourself and figuring out what your body needs. A nap? A glass of water? A few minutes of quiet?

I've since used this phrase in my life over and over again, and find it particularly important these early weeks of January. December can be an exhausting time for many of us. There is stress. There are emotions. There is snow. Regular schedules go out the window. Not to mention the invitations, parties, and guests. And then there is the sugar--cookies and peppermint candies, fudge, and dozens of baked treats.

It's wonderful, but it is a lot, and by the time that January rolls around, many of us are ready to barrel in with good intentions and dramatic declarations.

But sometimes, I think it's important to stop and be quiet first. Take a little time to listen to your body, and find out what it really needs.

For those of you whose bodies need green and protein, give this little twist on classic hummus a try. Packed with spinach, it's brightened up with lemon zest and juice, and uses water to reach the perfect creamy hummus consistency. I know raw garlic can be harsh for some people, so I simmer it gently in the olive oil first--just enough to take the bite off while infusing the oil with great flavor.



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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, 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. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!


Spinach Garlic Hummus
Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients
2 cans chickpeas
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 10oz package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
Zest of one large lemon
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt, to taste

Olive oil, za'atar spice for garnish (optional)

Directions
Drain chickpeas and rinse well under cold running water. Add to food processor base. Combine olive oil and sliced garlic in a skillet and heat just until the garlic starts to sizzle and become fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into food processor. Add the lemon juice, tahini, thawed spinach, and zest. Puree until smooth, adding water slowly until it is creamy. Season to taste with kosher salt.

Transfer to a bowl, cover, and let chill in the refrigerator. As it chills, the flavors will blend together and intensify. Sprinkle with za'atar and a drizzle of olive oil before serving, if desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered. Will keep about 1 week.

Inspired Living: On Turning Thirty & Creating the Life You Want to Live

In exactly 30 days from today, I'll be turning 30!

I know a lot of people tend to approach this milestone with a certain sense of bad freaking-out-ness (totally a real word), but I'm just excited.

Why? Because I'm exactly where I want and need to be right now in my life. I created a career for myself that allows me to do all the things I love, and which has set me on the path to achieving all the things I dream.

Please note the use of the word "created." That's so key, because I really did create it. It was an active move on my part. I figured out the stuff that I love to do, and then I figured out a way to get someone to pay me to do them.

About 3 years ago, I made a dreamboard. A dreamboard (also known as a vision board or a treasure map) is really just a visual collage of all your hopes and dreams and goals. It's a way of concretely making a statement about the things that you want to draw into your life. I've been making dreamboards since I was a little girl. My mom, a life coach and psychologist, is BIG on them. I remember sitting at the table with her and my little brother cutting and pasting pictures of things we wanted.

The big dream on that board I made 3 years ago was the phrase "work from home." I pasted it over an image of a woman soaring through the air in a red dress, which to me looked like the perfect embodiment of freedom and success. By that point, I had figured out that working in an office was not for me. I hated having to report at the same time to the same place every single day. I hated having to sit in a chair for hours and hours a day, just because. I hated memos and meetings and things that took hours when they could have easily taken minutes.

Even though my job was pretty awesome and afforded me some incredible opportunities, I couldn't get away from the feeling that I was wasting my time and not doing what I was meant to be doing. I used to wake up feeling stressed and dreading the day ahead; on Sunday evenings, a feeling of depression would take over as I thought about the week ahead. I felt like I had very little time to do what I really wanted to do, and would resent anything that took away from my tiny bits of freedom--dinners with in-laws, phonecalls from friends, even weekend brunch dates! I was constantly calculating just how many hours I would have left to pursue my real dreams.


In the Fall of 2010, I started getting backaches. The pain started getting worse and worse, radiating down my legs until one afternoon at work I was in so much pain that I hobbled into my boss's office and tearfully asked her if I could go home. It hurt so badly that I had actually started to cry. I took a cab home that day, swallowed about 4 Advils, and fell asleep on the living room floor with a heating pad on my back.

A doctor discovered that I had a bulging disc in my lower back, and I soon started treatment. I worked out an arrangement with my employers that allowed me to work from home or leave early on days when the pain was too strong. I also would usually leave for a couple hours during the middle of the day for physical therapy. The funny thing is this: despite the massive amounts of physical pain I was in, I found that I was overall feeling much happier because I was spending less time in the office.

Yup, I was actually thankful for my super painful injury!

And that's when I realized I had to make a change, because it's never a good thing when horrific physical pain is actually the better alternative.  (Feel free to quote me on that.)

I started saving money and worked things out with Eugene so that I was able to leave my job about 6 months later. I admit that I left without a plan. I had vague ideas, but I just knew that I needed to get out of that "comfort" zone (as uncomfortable as it actually was) and force myself to go for something truer to myself.

What actually ended up happening was different (and better!) than I expected. I started freelancing and was even hired by my old bosses to write the food and cocktail pages for the magazine Cosmopolitan for Latinas, which launched last year.

I've gotten to travel to more places since I left my job, than I did in the previous 6 years combined.

I started doing more and more TV appearances and hosting, and realized that it's something that I both love and am actually very good at. I also made some great partnerships with brands that I actually use and respect to develop recipes or serve as a spokesperson.

There is a lot more on deck for the coming year and I am enjoying every minute of it.

And another (and probably the best) thing has happened. While I enjoy the free time and ease of the weekends, I find that on Sunday nights I'm excited for the week ahead. Sometimes, I can't even wait for it to start, because I know that each day brings another opportunity to do something amazing.

And that's the BEST THING EVER, because we have each been granted limited time on this earth, and I don't believe that any of that time should be wished away or dreaded. 

If I hadn't taken that major step a couple years ago, I would probably be facing 30 with a mix of depression and fear, but right now, I'm just ready for the awesome ahead.

Let's do this!


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New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, 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. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

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