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blissful eats with tina jeffers: Chicken, black bean and sweet potato chili

The weather has turned here with a vengeance.  While I’m still wistfully longing for the days of sunshine and barbecues I must admit that I have a certain fondness for the fall.  Curling up in front of the fire with a good book or talking a walk and feeling the leaves crinkle beneath your feet it makes this one of my favorite seasons.  Rainy weather makes me crave something to chase away the chill and wet.  We love chili in our house because I can make a huge pot of it over the weekend and we can enjoy it on nights when we are getting home late from work or basketball practice. 

I prefer to use dried chili’s that are toasted, soaked and then pureed in my chili recipes; they add a depth and richness to the chili that is more intense than dried chili powder.  If you don’t want to bother with this step you can substitute 2 tablespoons of good chili powder for the puree.  Be creative with the toppings for your chili, we like a little sour cream, cheese and fresh lime juice, but radishes, chopped onions and fresh cilantro are just a few other suggestions.  This recipe also makes a wonderful vegetarian chili if you omit the ground chicken.  Like with most chili the longer you cook it the deeper the flavor and it tastes even better the second day.

Chicken, black bean and sweet potato chili


Serves 6




3 whole dried ancho chiles

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 ½ pounds ground chicken breast

2 cups chopped red onion

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 bottle (12 ounce) of mild lager beer

1 can (15-ounce) fire roasted tomatoes

1 can (15-ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups diced peeled sweet potato

salt and pepper to taste


Toast dried chilies in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant and blistered, 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Remove stems and seeds; discard.  Transfer chiles to a small saucepan and add enough water to just cover roughly 1 cup.  Bring the chiles to a boil and add the apple cider vinegar.  Let soak for 30 minutes and then puree in a blender.

Heat a large pot over high heat.  Add one tablespoon oil.  Season chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.  Cook the chicken about 8-10 minutes or until it begins to take on color.  Transfer to a plate. 

Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot and add the onions and garlic and cook over medium-high heat until onions start to caramelize and take on color about 8-10 minutes.   Add cumin, cocoa and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute.  Add beer and cook for a minute scraping the bottom of the pan.

Stir in chicken and chile puree.  Add tomatoes, black beans, sweet potatoes and ½ teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer gently partially covered for at least 1 hour or up to 2, the longer it cooks the more the flavors develop.  If chili seems dry add a little water to the mixture.  Serve with sour cream, diced herbs, shredded cheese and wedges of lime if desired. 


blissful eats with tina jeffers: Vegan Carrot Cake with coconut whipped cream

I have found that having a few vegan dessert recipes in my arsenal come in handy.  I have several friends that are vegan or dairy free and I always feel a little sad that they are left out of dessert.  One of my complaints about vegan cakes is that they tend to be too dense and heavy.  I have to admit that I had to make this cake twice to get results that were worth sharing with you.   I am happy to say that I have found the solution to insure that your cake is light and fluffy.  The trick is to grind flax seeds mixed with water in a blender until you achieve a thick batter like consistency.  The first time I made this cake I used flax seed meal soaked in water and the cake came out more like a hockey puck.    I had always heard that flax seeds make a good substitute but blending the seeds with liquid is really vital to achieving the right texture in the cake.  I drained the liquid off the can of pineapple from the recipe and soaked the flax seeds in that along with a little water. 


I also wanted a frosting recipe that didn’t use vegan cream cheese and artificial butter and had a few recipes on my Pinterest board for whipped coconut frosting and wondered if it would be a worthwhile substitute.  It was super easy and whipped up to be light and fluffy with just a subtle coconut flavor.  I used coconut cream, so make sure not to use coconut butter or coconut milk.  Coconut milk will work but you won’t get the same yield and I found it a little too thin and watery.  I sweetened it with just a little maple syrup and vanilla and would be happy to use it wherever I whipped cream is called for.  This is a cake that anyone would be happy to eat and I have been gifting slices to all my friends, whether they are Vegans or not.  Visit me the rest of the week at www.scalingbackblog.com!


Vegan Carrot Cake with coconut whipped cream

Serves 12




1 ½ cups flaked coconut

6 tablespoons golden flax seeds

1 cup water

1 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons good quality vanilla

3 cups shredded carrots

1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

2 2/3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 cup sugar

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon kosher salt


2 14-ounce cans coconut cream (you can use coconut milk but it will yield less and be slightly thinner)

¼ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla

pinch of salt



Chill the cans of coconut cream for two hours or overnight.  Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Oil and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.  


Spread the flaked coconut on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-12 minutes until the edges are slightly golden brown and fragrant.  Let cool while you prepare the rest of the cake.


Place the flax seeds and water in a blender and let soak for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, process the flax seeds until the mixture thickens.  You want it to be nice and thick, this is what will give the cake a nice light texture.  Add the oil and vanilla and blend until thoroughly incorporated.  In a large bowl add the flax mixture, carrots and pineapple and mix to combine.

 In a separate bowl mix all the dry ingredients together and add to the wet mixture in three separate additions. 


Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Invert the cakes onto a wire rack and let cool completely. 


Turn the cans of coconut cream upside down, open with a can opener and pour off any liquid at the top.  Add the cream to the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and blend on high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy, it should hold soft peaks.  Add the vanilla, maple syrup, salt and mix until well combined. 


Place 1 cake layer on a cake plate and spread 1 cup of frosting on top.  Place remaining cake layer on top.  Spread top and sides of cake with a very thin layer of frosting and refrigerate for 20 minutes to set the crumb coat.  Once the base has set frost the top of the cake with the remaining coconut cream and swirl the top to coat. Press the toasted coconut into the sides of the cake and serve.  Refrigerate leftover cake for up to 5 days.


blissful eats with tina jeffers: Carrot and beet salad with pistachio butter

I am fortunate to live in Portland with its amazing food and restaurant scene.  I get a lot of inspiration from dining out and trying new dishes that I’ve never seen before.  One of my new favorite restaurants, Ava Gene’s was picked this month as one of the Top 10 best restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit magazine.  They do amazing things with vegetables and when I had this carrot and beet salad I couldn’t wait to try and recreate it at home.  The most unique thing about this dish is that is tossed with a homemade pistachio butter that gives it an amazing rich, sweet nutty flavor.  Leftover pistachio butter can be sweetened with a little honey and used anywhere you would use peanut butter.   Visit me at www.scalingbackblog.com during the rest of the week for more recipe ideas!


Carrot and beet salad with pistachio butter


Adapted from Bon Appetit




1 garlic clove crushed

¾ cup golden raisins

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

4 medium carrots, peeled, julienned

3 medium beets, peeled, julienned

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


for the pistachio butter


2 cups raw, shelled pistachios

¼- ½ cup hot water

pinch of kosher salt




Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread out the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Reserve ¼ cup of pistachios to garnish the salad.  Transfer the nuts and the salt to a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.  Process until nuts form a smooth paste, 5-6 minutes adding the hot water to thin the mixture.  You may need to stop the processor once or twice to scrape down the bowl.  You can store the pistachio butter in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.


Combine garlic, raisins and vinegar in a large bowl: let sit for 1 hour.  Remove garlic from raisin mixture and discard.  Add carrots, beets, reserved pistachios, mint, lemon juice and olive oil; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Add ¼ cup of pistachio butter and toss gently. 


blissful eats with tina jeffers: Tomato, corn and avocado salad

Summer is coming to an end and our weather is really reflecting that.  It’s been hot muggy and rainy, not my favorite weather combination.  Since tomato season is slowing down I want to enjoy every last minute of it and this is one of my favorite ways to do so. Freshly picked tomatoes still warm from the garden, sweet corn, basil and avocado, this is the very definition of summer to me.  I can eat this everyday and have been whenever I get the chance. Trying to make this out of season is possible but there is no replacing the taste of tomatoes in season and it’s so much more satisfying knowing that the ingredients came from my own garden.  So make the most of what’s left of summer, take 5 minutes and enjoy the bounty while you still can. 

Tomato, corn and avocado salad




2 ears of corn, husk and silk removed

1 pound cherry or heirloom tomatoes

½ red onion, sliced thinly

1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced

2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup fresh basil

kosher salt and pepper




Stand the corn in a large bowl and with a sharp knife carefully slice downward to remove the kernels.  Discard the cob.  Slice the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl along with the onion, avocado, basil, lime juice and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss gently to combine.


blissful eats with tina jeffers: Peach and cardamom galette

I’m off to Bend for a few days and I’m hoping to spend some time with the lovely French family while I’m there.  It’s so nice to get away, relax and enjoy the great outdoors.  Now that summer is winding down I’m looking forward to getting back into our routine but I’ll miss all the wonderful produce that’s available this time of year. 


I have to admit that I’ve never made a pie before, amazing right?  My boys aren’t really into fruit desserts so I’ve just never ventured there.  I had a staff meeting at work this weekend so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try something new and bring along a treat for everyone to enjoy.  I’ve always been a little nervous about trying to make pie dough but this was really quite easy to pull off.  I chose to make a galette since it seemed easier than shaping and cutting a pie crust and I actually love the rustic look of them.


The crust was rich and nutty with the addition of the hazelnut meal.  If you can’t find hazelnut meal, you can process one cup of hazelnuts in a high-speed blender or food processor.  The crust was rich and flaky and the addition of the sugar added a lovely crunch and sweetness.  The peaches were so sweet only a little sugar was needed and the cinnamon and cardamom added a lovely spicy note.  We enjoyed it warm from the oven with a little vanilla ice cream on the side.  Now that I’ve gotten over my fear of pie crust I think I see some savory variations coming soon!  Be sure to vist me at www.scalingbackblog.com for more recipes!

Peach and cardamom galette




1 cup hazelnut meal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cold

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar



2 ½ pounds peaches (about 5)

pinch kosher salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons turbanido sugar


vanilla ice cream for serving



Prepare the dough:


Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Cut the butter into ½-inch pieces and add them to the dry mixture.


Working quickly, rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller pieces.  Add the vinegar and 8 tablespoons of ice water to the flour mixture.  Work the dough with your hands until it just comes together but it doesn’t need to be smooth just hold together.  Add additional water, one tablespoon at a time as needed. 


Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.


Unwrap the dough onto a floured surface.  Pat the dough into a square and then roll it into a rectangle about 8 ½ -by-11 inches.   Fold the dough into thirds like a letter.  Turn the dough so the seam is at the top and parallel to your body. 


For the second turn, again roll the dough again into an 8 ½-by-11-inch rectangle and repeat the previous step. 


For the third and final turn, repeat the previous step, then wrap the dough in plastic and chill for 1 hour or up to 3 days.

To assemble the galette:


To peel the peaches, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, slice an X into the bottom of each peach.  Lower the peaches into the boiling water for 15 seconds and then remove.  The skins should slide off easily.  Peel the peaches, remove the pits and slice them into ½- inch wedges.  Combine the peaches, sugar, cornstarch, cardmamom, and cinnamon in a large bowl. 


Divide the dough into two pieces and return one to the refrigerator.  Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a circle roughly 14 inches in diameter.  Transfer the circle of dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Place half the peach mixture in the middle of the dough, dot with the butter.  Fold an edge of the dough toward the center to cover the fruit leaving a 3-inch border.  Continue folding the dough toward the filling and over to create folds. 


Whisk the egg to form an egg wash.  Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash, and sprinkle with half of the turbanido sugar.  Bake the galette for 50-60 minutes or until the crusts are a dark golden brown and the juices are sticky and caramelized.  Serve the galette warm with ice cream.

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