Cookin’ Shortcuts for Busy People

Hello C&K readers! I truly apologize for my long absence from posting. I am humbled by your continued support and feedback. Being busy is no excuse, but we all know the challenges of keeping up with work, family, friends, and of course, basic needs.

Speaking of basic needs, eating is something I’m still making a conscious effort to do (actually, it’s a no-brainer). Lately, I’ve been cutting corners with my recipes since I am typically pressed for time. Multi-step recipes have almost gone out the window in my house! Plus, if you’re like me and cooking for one most of the time, it’s even harder to muster up the motivation to go out and buy ingredients for a fancy Pinterest recipe.

If you’re with me on this, then stay tuned. Below, I’ve listed some of my go-to recipe hacks and tricks so you can keep eating healthy, save money, and are not running out to pick up food so much!

  1. Think of at least THREE recipes you’ll realistically make this week, and grocery shop accordingly. While I usually am that wide-eyed girl meandering around the grocery store and just grabbing whatever looks good, I save dollars and time by mapping out at least a few meals for the week.
  2. Frozen food is your friend. No, I’m not talking about Lean Cuisine or ice cream (although ice cream is always a good choice). If you are buying fresh produce but not using it quickly enough, then you are familiar with finding a wilty, slimy mess in your fridge. To avoid this, aim for frozen fruits and veggies! Many varieties of frozen veggies cook up in the microwave in no time and are not necessarily less nutritional than their fresh counterparts.
  3. Prepare breakfast/lunch the night before. I know what you’re thinking — the last thing that you want to do at the end of a long day is prepare food. That seems like MORE work! But, if you’ve followed tip #1 and have groceries stocked up, then this should not take you very long. And, if you’re in the midst of making dinner, you can do this while you’re waiting for something to bake! I tend to keep my lunches simple but exciting. I often make salads with lots of fun ingredients like cheese, chicken, deli meat, a veggie patty, sundried tomatoes, etc., or a sandwich or wrap. Leftovers from dinner also make for minimal lunch prep. Throw in an apple, string cheese, or some nuts with your main dish, and you’ll be set!
  4. Three words: Hard Boiled Eggs. I’ve recently made the discovery that hard boiled eggs keep me full for a long, long time. While making dinner or doing laundry, boil some eggs and keep ’em in the fridge to eat for a filling, quick breakfast or a snack all week long.
  5. You don’t have to make everything from scratch. I am a big believer in eating natural foods, but sometimes you gotta take shortcuts! While I occasionally take the time to make homemade sauces, you can minimize some time and save a little energy by buying some pre-made stuff. I love Kirkland brand pesto from Costco and Trader Joe’s frozen sweet potato gnocchi (check out the photo below of my latest gnocchi creation)!

Readers, do you have any hacks for time-crunched peeps? Share with me in a comment, Facebook post, Tweet, or on Instagram @coneysandkale.

Sweet potato gnocchi with Shiitake mushrooms and Fairytale eggplant

Sweet potato gnocchi with Shiitake mushrooms and Fairytale eggplant in a sage butter sauce

Detroit Discoveries

Happy Fathers’ Day to the C&K fan-dads out there! I hope you are enjoying this glorious Michigan morning and have some fun food adventures planned for the day — there’s no such thing as Father’s Day without good eats, right?

I wanted to share some killer restaurant discoveries that I’ve stumbled upon recently that I think you C&K readers will love (can’t beat the prices, either)! I like to think of these spots as some of metro Detroit’s best kept secrets, so share wisely…

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1. The Zenith, located in the Fisher Building, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit

Can you say, funky-licious? The Zenith is a one-of-a-kind establishment, filled with

Made my own burrito with a side of chipotle sweet potatoes

Made my own burrito with a side of chipotle sweet potatoes

eccentric artwork and statues scattered throughout the place. It feels almost like you’re sitting in a wacky antique shop filled with odds and ends, but with the added bonus of amazing food! The Zenith has a definite Mexican flair, serving up tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and the like for carnivores and vegetarians/vegans. You can customize your own “Lightning Fast” meal or pick one of their standard creations. Cocktails are tasty, too!

2. Michigan By the Bottle29932 Woodward Ave, Royal Oak OR 45645 Hayes Rd, Shelby Charter Township

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Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or just looking to discover some new Michigan wines, Michigan By the Bottle is a must-try. It’s casual, non-pretentious, and perfect for a fun night out with friends or a new spin on date night. I went to the Royal Oak location, right off of Woodward and 12 mile road, and had a tasty flight of 5 2 oz. pours, which come with “flight bites” (a dainty plate of cheese and chocolate)! If you’re extra hungry, try their cheese and charcuterie board, which features delectable samplings from local farms and restaurants. The waitstaff will walk you through the various wine options and will gladly help you make selections based on your preferences. Yay, Michigan!

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What are some of your favorite Detroit Discoveries? Share with me in a comment, Facebook post, Tweet, or Instagram shot @coneysandkale!

Springtime = Sprinkletime

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I think just about everyone in Michigan is excited about this warmer weather. Even though it’s not quite as balmy as we’d like, I think winter has received the message that it’s time to leave the building for awhile. Or at least I’m trying to think positive.

Needless to say, spring is officially here as of Friday, and I know my mind is not only focused on sunshine, but also on spring-themed food. And Easter candy. Those darn Reeses eggs…

Anyways, lets get back on topic. If you checked out my black bean brownie post, you can probably guess that I tried a different rendition this time. I felt adventurous again, so I made brownies with Greek yogurt instead of butter and eggs. Not a bad way to keep these bad boys slightly less guilty than the norm, right? Plus, yogurt creates an airy, fudgy texture, which I prefer. No judgment if you like ’em cakey (that’s just not my style).

So, if you’re feeling as celebratory as I am about spring, or if you’re just looking to create a killer Easter menu, my springtime brownies are sure to be the best dessert at the party. With mint green frosting and excessive amounts of sprinkles on top of dense, chocolaty goodness, you can’t help but smile as you take a bite.

Share your thoughts with a comment, or send me a Tweet, share a post on Facebook, or tag a photo on Instagram @coneysandkale!


Brownie recipe adapted from “Cinnamon-Spice & Everything Nice”

Serves: About 12-15

For the brownies:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 + 1/3 cups plain Greek yogurt (I used fat-free)

For the frosting:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1-2 tsp peppermint extract
  • A few drops of green food coloring (optional)
  • Sprinkles to add on top of the frosting layer!

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Grease an 8x8x2 baking dish or line with parchment paper.

3. In a large bowl, combine flour and baking powder, and set aside.

4. In another bowl, melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips in microwave in 20 second increments, stirring as you go until smooth. Then, stir in the sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, and yogurt.

5. Fold in the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Add in the rest of the chocolate chips (and feel free to add more if you desire)!

6. Pour batter into the ban and bake for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

7. While the brownies are baking, use a hand or standing mixer to beat the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and milk, and then beat for an additional 2 minutes on medium. Add mint and food coloring, and beat on low for another minute until everything is combined.

8. When the brownies are done, remove from oven and let cool. Frost the brownies, add lots of sprinkles, and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.

Brownie Bliss

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Fudgy, cake-y, gooey, chocolate-y…are just some of the words we often use to describe one of America’s favorite desserts: Brownies! Who doesn’t love a good brownie? Well, I guess unless you are allergic or strangely opposed to chocolate. But, most people I know are definitely pro chocolate, including myself.

As my readers have probably noticed by now, I like experimentation when it comes to cooking and eating. I even take risks while baking, which has never been my specialty. So, I recently decided to forgo my Ghiradelli brownie mix (which is amazing, by the way), and try something totally out of the box: Black bean brownies.

You may be thinking, how could these possibly taste good? They sound utterly disgusting! But, believe it or not, you can’t even tell that the beans are even in the picture once the brownies are done. You can probably fool all of your friends and family! It’s actually kind of fun.

The majority of my taste-testers said, “These are very fudgy and chocolate-y.” But not one person I surveyed could guess the secret ingredient or thought something was a little strange. And no one really cared too much once I revealed the truth, because there is still plenty of chocolate involved. And really, they’re just brownies!

This recipe is from one of my favorite food bloggers, Chocolate Covered Katie, and really just goes to show that breaking away from the traditional can be sensational.

Were your friends or family able guess the secret ingredient? Share with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @coneysandkale


Serving size: About 9-12 brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup, agave, or honey (I used agave)
  • A pinch of uncut stevia or 2 tbsp sugar (or omit and increase maple syrup/agave/honey to 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips (I think I used way more and advise you to do the same)!

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F

2. Combine all ingredients except for the choco chips in a food processor. Make sure you blend until very, very smooth!

3. Stir in the chips, and pour batter into a greased 8×8 in. pan. Sprinkle extra chocolate chips on top and bake for 15-18 minutes/do the toothpick test to make sure they are done.

4. Let the brownies cool for at least 10 min. before cutting. It’s the hardest part, ’cause you’re going to want to dig in asap!

C&K Tip: These make a perfect sweet treat for Valentine’s Day! 

Sweet n’ Savory Salad

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While I have already posted a couple of salad recipes so far, I feel it is truly necessary to share my latest salad invention with you. With cooked kale as the star of the show, my Sweet n’ Savory Salad will warm your soul and satisfy you with every bite.

I’ve noticed that the mason jar salad thing is all the rage these days, and I definitely can’t knock it until I try it. But in the winter months, I tend to opt for loads of roasted veggies, gooey cheese, and toasted nuts.

My Sweet n’ Savory Salad is surprisingly simple to prepare, and only requires a little bit of baking and toasting that you can always do ahead of time. It also makes a perfect starter or can stand alone as a meal (feel free to add a protein). I made it for dinner recently, and I felt like I was eating at a fancy restaurant. It’s that good!

Chat with Coneys and Kale: Would you make any changes to this recipe, or leave it as is? Share your opinion here, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @coneysandkale!


Serves: 2-3 appetizer-sized portions

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • About 1/3 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, cut into rounds and halved
  • About 5 segments of brie cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil for coating/greasing/cooking

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400°

2. Place sweet potato slices on a greased baking sheet and coat slices with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, or seasonings of your choice. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

3. When potatoes are done, add pine nuts to baking sheet and toast for about 3-5 minutes/until golden brown.

4. In a pan over medium-high heat, add about 2 tbsp olive oil. Sauteé onions until lightly golden.

5. Add kale to pan until it is cooked to the consistency of your liking (I like mine a little on the crispy side).

6. Turn down the heat slightly and add brie segments for about 2 minutes until slightly melted.

7. Arrange all finished ingredients on a plate as desired. Serve with dressing of your choice!

 

 

New Year, New Coffee Spot

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Tell me about your favorite café. And no, I don’t mean the Starbucks drive-thru that you hit up on the way to work. In my mind, a true café transports you to another city, town, or even world, providing a brief escape from reality. I am talking about a place that smells of steaming espresso and warm scones. It’s a place where people stop in and stay for awhile, just to read a good book or catch up with friends. It’s a place where the baristas view their work as a craft and a joy, and are eager to greet customers when they stop in.

When I traveled in Europe, cafés in cities like Paris and Budapest always took me to that faraway place. But as U.S. citizen, I have to settle for the next best thing. In my area, that would be known as Commonwealth in Birmingham. Commonwealth opened four years ago, and has now become a popular breakfast and lunch spot for business-folk, families, and the like.

Commonwealth serves a variety of coffees, in addition to speciality coffee drinks. The “C” Latte is my absolute favorite, and I had to recently force myself to try something new. The “C” Latte is basically heaven in a cup – it’s the perfect amount of steamed milk, espresso, and sweetness, and the baristas always add a special touch with latte art.

The "C" Latte

The “C” Latte

In addition to being experts on coffee and beverage-crafting, Commonwealth offers amazing breakfast, brunch, and lunch items. Their menu is ever-changing with new, fresh dishes popping up regularly.

Commonwealth has everything from poached eggs to a tandoori chicken salad. I especially enjoy their breakfast items, such as the fried egg sandwich, which consists of two eggs over-easy, topped with cheddar, tomato, guac, and just the right amount of hot sauce, cushioned beneath two warm slices of Dakota multigrain bread, served with a side salad (a nice touch).

Fried egg sandwich

Fried egg sandwich

Their baked goods are all homemade according to Alexander, a friendly employee who has worked at Commonwealth since “the beginning.” He says that everything is made fresh – from the food, to the specialty beverages. As I ordered my Chai latte today, Alexander mentioned that Commonwealth makes its own Chai in-house. Watch out corporate coffee chains – your artificial flavors and ingredients don’t even stand a chance here.

Another great quality about Commonwealth is that it is small and intimate. Magazines line the wall as you enter, allowing you to feel right at home. As I commented on the quaintness factor, Alexander noted that sometimes it gets “crazy” when the crowds rush in, and he is eager for the store’s upcoming expansion (so keep an eye out)!

Macarons

Macarons

If you’re looking for a little escape in your hometown, or simply want your New Year’s resolution to be, “drink better coffee,” make sure to stop in at Commonwealth the next time you’re in Birmingham. Also check out their Detroit location in the Shinola store.

Readers, tell me about your favorite little coffee place! Share with me on Facebook, send me a Tweet, or post on Instagram and tag @coneysandkale. Thanks for reading, and get ready for a food-filled 2015 with C&K!

Price range: $11-30

Location: 300 Hamilton Row, Birmingham, 48009

Hours: Mon.- Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Sat – Sun. 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Phone: (248) 792-9766 *No reservations. Their current size isn’t great for big groups (2-4 is probably ideal)

View their menu here!

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Can’t Do Without Condiments!

Hey C&K fans! From time to time, I will feature some of my favorite store-bought items that I use on a regular basis that are perfect for when you don’t want to cook from scratch. Today, I am featuring four of my can’t-live-without condiments. I use these all the time, and I’d recommend that you try them out! They are reasonably priced, have relatively long shelf-lives, and all are versatile!IMG_2562

1. Sabra Hummus – About $3 for 10 oz at most stores: This is my FAVORIMG_2542ITE store-bought hummus. I usually get the roasted pine nut flavor, but they also have classic, basil pesto, roasted red pepper, and so many other unique varieties. After traveling to Israel where the hummus is simply irresistible, I found that as store bought hummus goes, Sabra comes closest to the texture and taste of authentic hummus. I eat it with just about everything – veggies, crackers, pita, atop quinoa and grains, in sandwiches/wraps, and sometimes, just as is! You can find this at most grocery stores.

2. Hannah Tzatziki Yogurt Dip – About $7 for 32 oz at IMG_2552Costco: This dip is so creamy and filled with dill and cucumber chunks, that you probably will assume that is has to be “bad” for you. On the contrary, this tzatziki amounts to just 40 calories/serving (2 tbsp) and 3.5 grams of fat. Not too shabby! I use it as a salad dressing, for dipping veggies and crackers, and I often serve it alongside spicy/savory dishes, like my stir fries. And of course, it’s great on gyros! I get mine from Costco, but it may be at your basic grocery store as well – ask a store clerk!

3. Bonne Maman Fruit Preserves – $3.99 at Target: If you’re looking to perk up your PB&J or morning toast, run over to your nearest grocery store for this stuff! You can’t get bored with flavors like cherry, fig, orange, four fruits (what I have in my fridge right now), peach, and more. They claim to have no artificial flavors, and I like that the ingredient list is minimal. Check out their website for recipe ideas and more information: http://www.bonnemaman.us/about/IMG_2555

4. Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter – $4.45 plus shipping on Amazon: I buy this every fall without hesitation. It is just heavenly if you are a pumpkin lover like me. It’s a little on the sweet side, but the sweetness diminishes a bit when mixed with yogurt, oatmeal, or spread on a piece of toast or muffin.

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Now, I’d like a spoonful of your favorite condiment(s)! What is a MUST for your fridge? Share right here on the C&K blog, or hop on Facebook, Twitter, or tag me on Instagram @coneysandkale to show me your favorites!

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