Friday, May 31, 2013

Nutella Brownies

I first saw the idea for Nutella brownies on Pinterest, although, when I went to click on the link to the post it was marked as spam. I looked up another recipe for proper cooking time. It was a bit more complicated, so, filtering out the extras, I was able to decipher the very simple way of baking Nutella brownies.

I made these for my best friend Alicia for her bridal shower, since one of her favorite foods is Nutella! She spent some time in Italy studying abroad and she would bring Nutella to our dormitory, where we would eat it out of the jar with pretzels and spread it on croissants.

I wrapped the brownies in blue wrappers to match her wedding colors. They were a big hit: chewy, soft, melt in your mouth chocolately hazelnut goodness.

The brownies will look too soft and not quite done--don't panic! This is how they are supposed to be. Don't cook them too long!

P.S. These are not dairy free. Nutella is made with skim milk. However, I ate one at a time with no lactose intolerance problems. These are extremely rich, so I recommend eating one at a time anyway! My ultimate goal is to create dairy free chocolate hazelnut brownies. Will start working on that asap.

1 cup Nutella
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 eggs


Using a rubber spatula, mix 1/2 cup + 2 level tablespoons of flour with 2 eggs and 1 cup of Nutella until just combined. Divide batter equally into a 12 cup muffin pan. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 12 minutes. Centers will be soft. Allow to cool before eating and store in refrigerator.


Charred Citrus Broccoli

For anyone who has a child, or a husband, who won't eat plain vegetables, this is a flavorful way to serve broccoli as a side dish. I made it most recently to go with a pulled pork tenderloin recipe. For awhile I was cooking broccoli by lightly steaming in the microwave or steam cooker then adding a little SmartBalance and Mrs. Dash all-purpose salt free seasoning. I could only get Eric to eat about two pieces--which he claimed was a full serving of vegetables--then I usually ate the rest. I love broccoli in any form!

At some point Eric started coming home from work raving about the vegetables they served at Google. Well, I'm no trained chef, but I wanted to give some dishes a shot. I asked Eric for the best descriptions he could possibly give. This was hard to work with, but I did my best. I know that Google chefs post typed ingredients above each dish served in the food places. If I asked a woman to figure out the ingredients for me, she would probably take a picture on her Android, or even ask the server in person, jotting it down and shooting me a quick text. However...

I made due with the description of crisp, crunchy, charred, and tangy. I immediately recognized why Eric loved this brocolli--he loves crispy, toasted, burnt things. When he asks for toast he means it better have some black on it. I looked up some recipes and experimented. What I came up with was apparently correct and "better than Google," which makes me feel accomplished. This is the simple broccoli that he will get another serving of, or eat right out of the pan. I have broiled this recipe as well as baked it and the result is great either way.


1 head fresh broccoli
1/2 1 lime
1/2 1 lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil
sea salt
black pepper


1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and drain broccoli, shaking dry. Cut off the stem and discard, then break up the head into bite size pieces and place in a medium size bowl.

2. Coat broccoli pieces in the juice of half a lemon and half a lime, olive oil, then sprinkle with a dash or two of sea salt and black pepper. Stir to coat. The broccoli pieces will turn a brighter shade of green when evenly coated in citrus juice and oil, and liquid will be absorbed.

3. Line a baking sheet with foil and place broccoli pieces, spreading them apart (not on top of each other) so that they can charr evenly. Cook for 10 minutes, checking often. They are done when they are slightly blackened. Should be crisp, crunchy, charred, and tangy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Benefits of Sea Salt

I've always been a big advocate of using sea salt when cooking meals, rather than your average table salt. Recently I read some articles online that tried to tell readers sea salt was no better than table salt. If you happened to read those articles as well--please don't believe them. The only positive thing I can say I got out of them was that they got me to think more about sea salt vs table salt, which is important. It's not smart to just chase after the new fad ingredient or food without doing some research and thinking about it first. Why is it better? Why should I use it? Will it really benefit me in anyway? What's the best way to incorporate it into my life so I will benefit from it?

I generally try to use fresh ingredients or products with no added sodium. I add other spices into recipes so I can skip salt altogether. Spicy things like red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper can add so much flavor I don't find a need for salt. The same thing goes for potent flavors like garlic, onion, and basil. But sometimes I add a dash of sea salt to bring out those flavors, and it comforts me to know sea salt is better to use than regular table salt.

Yes, by weight, sea salt and table salt contain the same amount of sodium. Sea salt does not have less sodium than table salt. This was the point of those articles. Moderation of salt intake is one of the most important considerations in maintaining a healthy diet. However, because sea salt is not refined and usually coarse, you end up using less salt in measurements. Sea salt has a saltier, more potent flavor as well, so for less salt you get more flavor, therefore not missing the extra salt. One grind of the sea salt shaker provides more flavor than a few shakes of the table salt shaker-so true!

One of the greatest things that makes sea salt better than table salt is it's mineral content. Here's a paragraph from my favorite low-sodium diet cookbook "Muscle Chow," by Gregg Avedon:

"Sea salt is obtained by the simple process of concentrating sea water under the sun. Up to 5 percent of sea salt is composed of naturally occurring potassium, calcium, and magnesium, the minerals that are responsible for the salt's mild flavor and good taste. Because sea salt is naturally occurring, your body can readily assimilate its minerals--they're just like the nutrients from food. Table salt, the salt most people use, is mined from inland salt deposits, heated to extremely high temperatures, and refined with chemicals. Potassium iodide or sodium iodide is added to create iodized salt. Dextrose (sugar), sodium bicarbonate, and sodium silicoaluminate, are often added to  keep the salt white and easy to pour."

Still wondering what's the best salt to buy at the super market? Get the coarse sea salt! And here is a tip I often provide in my recipes: it is always healthier to add your own amount salt. If you don't want the no salt added canned vegetables, tomato sauce, and cooking stock because of taste, you should buy them anyway and add your own salt. You can decrease the sodium content of your meals by buying no salt added canned foods and add sea salt instead, judging the flavor by your own taste. By doing this and switching to sea salt you can drastically decrease the amount of sodium in your diet, which can help maintain water retention in your body and decrease your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.