dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt

dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking

I am not a huge cookie person, and I hate to admit this, but I don't get into the whole holiday cookie baking thing. No cookie swapping for me. Don't get me wrong, I love a single good cookie every once and a while, but a plate of cookies hanging around during the holidays…...meh. Not my thing.  

Also, I  am not much of a popcorn person. Wait a second. I take that back. As soon as I sit down with a bowl of popcorn in from of me, then it's like .... ohhhhh, yes ....I get it. This stuff is crazy addicting. I can't stop shoveling popcorn into my face. 

I assume that you are well aware that the microwave popcorn that you and I grew up on, and that was a staple on saturday evenings in our home (with a movie, of course), is no longer a "good for you" snack. Microwave popcorn, which was once thought to be the perfect solution to low calorie binge snacking, is actually evil evil stuff. In fact, anything that goes in the microwave should probably not go into your body, but that is a long discussion for another day. I ditched the microwave years ago, and to be perfectly honest, I never miss it. The oven and stovetop can do exactly what the microwave does, and they do it better. So today, we are popping our popcorn on the stovetop, the old old fashioned way, and making this chocolate covered popcorn party mix. My alternative to the cookie plate this holiday season. 

 

I like to think of this popcorn party mix as something fun that you can put out in little bowls at a holiday party, or at the end of a dinner party. You could even take some ice cream out of the freezer and serve it with this popcorn. I was also thinking of handing out this popcorn in mason jars as gifts for over the holidays. I might even take it one step further and gift it with an extra side of the rosemary sea salt. A martha-stewart-ey homemade gift, that is  easy and impressive. Who doesn't love getting a homemade gift? You can even do it last minute, the night before….. solving any last minute gift idea panics. You know that is what I will be doing. 

dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking
dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt | what's cooking good looking

 

dark chocolate popcorn party mix + rosemary sea salt

MAKES several servings

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon of olive oil 
1/3 cup popcorn kernels 
1 cup of almonds
1 cup of pumpkin seeds
5 oz of dark chocolate (2 regular sized chocolate bars), broken up into small squares 

for the rosemary sea salt:
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 large sprig of rosemary (plus a little more for sprinkling over the top)

METHOD

Make the rosemary salt:

  • Using a mortar and pestle, grind the salt and rosemary. 
  • Then, transfer the salt mixture to a cutting board and mince the rosemary into the salt. Set aside while you make the popcorn. 

Pop the popcorn, and toast the nuts and seeds:

  • In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add a couple of kernels and cover. When the kernels pop, add the remaining kernels to the pot, cover, and give it a good shake to distribute. 
  • Once the kernels start to pop, wait until the popping slows down to 2-3 second between each pop. That's when you know it's done. Remove it from the heat immediately, and transfer the popped popcorn to a large mixing bowl. 
  • While the popcorn is popping, you can toast the nuts and seeds in a dry skillet for a couple of minutes.  Then transfer them to the same large mixing bowl as the popcorn. 

Melt the chocolate and coat the popcorn  party mix:

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Using a double broiler, melt the chocolate while stirring constantly. 
  • When the chocolate has completely melted, pour it over the popcorn mixture, and stir it to coat evenly. 
  • Pour the mixture out onto the parchment lined baking sheet and spread it out evenly. Place it in the fridge for about 15 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden, and the you can serve. 
  • This will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for at least a week (maybe more). You can also divide the mixture into individual mason jars are hand them out as gifts or use them as individual servings. 

 

za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | lemongrass rice | miso tahini

za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking

Since we are being bombarded right now with holiday shopping, shenanigans, and sweet recipes .... I am trying to take a step back and chill a bit before the real holiday countdown beings.  In other words, I am easing into the holiday spirit this year. So far, my only holiday purchase (and decoration) has been a pine tree scented candle.  I am hoping the smells from this candle will put me into the holiday spirit, and I will then be able to purchase a xmas tree and do some gift shopping. If you are one of those people who finish everything the day after thanksgiving, then just reading this might give you anxiety …. but this year I am taking my time and doing this last minute, and I am more than ok with that. I hope you are too. 

So .... since I am in pre-holiday chill mode, that means that I am keeping things pretty simple for the next two weeks before our house is filled with family, presents, and cookie dough. That means, making sure I fit in some "me" time at yoga, eating healthy, and simplifying. Bowls of delicious food cover eating healthy and simplifying. Bowls of delicious food are pretty much the answer to most things in life. All of the best casual meals at home come in one bowl. 

The beauty of the bowl meal is that you can throw in anything that is in your fridge (that makes sense, of course) and it's ALL good. You can have a delicious meal that usually requires not much more than a roasting pan …. and possibly a pot and a small bowl if you are feeling ambitious. Minimizing cooking and cleaning up in the weeks before the holidays is what I am all about, so bowls of food are the answer to that. Eating healthy in the days before I gorge on cookies and extra helpings of potatoes is what I am all about, so bowls of food are the answer to that. The night before my house fills up with family, I want to sit in front of the TV all night and watch a marathon of Scandal ….a bowl of food on the couch is the answer to that.  So as you can see …. BOWLS OF FOOD ARE THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.

 

And ….. so you can stop worrying, I am going to start my xmas shopping immediately after I send this suggested bowl of food recipe (that I've been loving so much) off to you. 

za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking
za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas | what's cooking good looking

za'atar roasted butternut squash + chickpeas |  lemongrass rice  |  miso tahini 

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

for the chickpeas:
2 cups of cooked chickpeas 
1 tablespoon of za'atar
a pinch of cayenne
a couple of pinches of paprika
salt + pepper
a generous drizzle of olive oil

for the butternut squash:
1 small - medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
1 tablespoon of za'atar
a pinch of cayenne
a couple of pinches of paprika
salt + pepper
a generous drizzle of olive oil

for the tahini:
1/4 cup of tahini 
1 teaspoon of miso
1/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of coriander
black pepper

for the rice:
1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil
1 small onion, diced
1 cup of basmati (long grain) rice
2 cups of water
2 lemongrass sticks
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Toppings: 1 green onion, minced + a sprinkle of gomacio

METHOD

Roast the chickpeas and the squash:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400º. 
  • Place the chickpeas onto a baking sheet with the spices and olive oil. You don't have to be exact, I would suggest being generous. Toss to coat the chickpeas evenly and place them into the oven, first, before you prepare the squash. Plan to cook the chickpeas for 30-40 minutes, you want them to be brown and crispy, but be careful not to burn. Check them occasionally. 
  • Then, prepare the squash in the same manner by placing the squash onto a baking sheet and tossing with the olive oil and spices. Bake the squash for 30-40 minutes (I like to put this in second because the squash will be nice and warm when everything else is ready). Feel free to time this however you like. 

While the baking is happening, make the rice and tahini:

  • To make the rice, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onions until they are soft (2-3 minutes). Then add the rice, water, lemongrass, and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes (you can also check the instructions on your rice package for cooking time).  When the rice is done cooking, remove the lemongrass and allow it to sit, covered, for at least 10 minutes, or until you are ready to serve. 
  • Then, to make the tahini, place the tahini in a small bowl. Then, in a separate small bowl, whisk together the miso and water. Add the miso and water mixture to the tahini and whisk until everything is combined. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk again until combined. Taste and adjust any seasoning you feel necessary. 

Assemble bowls + enjoy:

  • Place the rice at the bottom, then add a spoonful or two of the chickpeas and butternut squash and drizzle with the miso tahini. Finish with the minced green onion + gomacio.  
  • If you have any leftover, it's best to store the rice, tahini, and squash/chickpeas separately in air-tight containers in the fridge. 

turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk

turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking
turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking

Between now and all the holiday partying, we have a lot of in-between days to psych our appetites up for the inevitable holiday binging. It's those in-between days that are what keep us going, and feeling normal (and not like UG). It's a marathon, friends, not a sprint.  

After a night or two (or five) of eating and drinking, I like to reset with a smoothie, salad, soup, and generally lighter fare for as many days possible, until I have to do it all over again. Food that makes me feel light, happy, and healthy. A few days of happy food and I am game ON for another night that involves eggnog, cookies, and pie. On those reset mornings, I usually start off with a hot water with lemon and turmeric, and a green smoothie. This time I wanted to switch it up and put the turmeric into my smoothie, because it's always good to switch up the smoothie color, and we all can use more bright yellow on these cold, gray days. 

Turmeric is hands down my favorite spice. Sometime you hear about super-foods that are meant to do this or that …. sometimes I buy into it, sometimes I feel like it is just a small part of the bigger picture of living an overall, healthy lifestyle. But turermic is one of those magical ingredients that after incorporating it daily for a few days (with that healthy living to back it up), I can actually feel certain aches go away, and my body actually starts to feel a bit lighter. It truly does work wonders, and adding it to a smoothie makes it that much easier to incorporate it often. 

Sooo, hemp milk …. it's like almond milk, but 10 times easier to make. It does not require soaking, and you can get away with straining it through a fine mesh strainer if you do not have a nut milk bag handy. It's always good to switch up your nut and seed milks so that you're not drinking the same kind all of the time. If you're not already making hemp seed milk, get on that train. Hemp milk is loaded with omega-3s and will feed your inner-hippy soul. 

 

At first, you might think this is one of those smoothies you have to guzzle down and tell yourself "it's all for health". Don't worry, I wouldn't do that to you. This is one of those smoothies that you will drink up, and run back to the blender for seconds. I made this for a few testers, and after I placed the glass down in front of them, myself included, no one said a word until a few gulps were taken. Then we all chimed in with a big …… woahhhh. This smoothie is soooo good. The spice give it an earthy-ness that grounds the sweetness of the banana, and makes it totally crave-able. You are going to be sad when the hemp milk runs out, but you know that just means you will have to make some more. 

turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking
turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking
turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking
turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk | what's cooking good looking

turmeric smoothie + homemade hemp milk 
 

As with most smoothies, feel free to play around with the ingredients, depending on what you have available to you. If you do not have the extra few minutes it takes to make the homemade hemp milk, any unsweetened nut or seed milk will work as a substitute. 

MAKES
1 smoothie (recipe and easily be doubled, etc - depending on how many you want to make)
and 3 servings (cups) of hemp milk

INGREDEINTS

for the hemp milk:
1 cup of hemp seeds
3 cups of filtered water
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla exract
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1-2 dates, pitted and diced (optional)

for the smoothie:
1 cup of hemp milk
1 banana
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric 
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
a small pinch of cinnamon

METHOD

Make the hemp milk:

  • Place the hemp seeds and filtered water into a high powered blender and blend on high until the hemp seeds are blended (liquified). 
  • Pour the milk through a fine mesh strainer or nut milk bag into a bowl, and squeeze or push the milk through. Set aside or discard the leftover pulp, and pour the milk back into the blender along with the rest of the ingredients: salt, vanilla, coconut oil, and dates (if using), and blend until everything is combined. Transfer the milk to a container for storing (I like to use a glass milk jar). 

Then, make the smoothie:

  • Add the ingredients for the smoothie to the blender: 1 cup of the hemp milk, banana, turermic, coconut oil, and cinnamon. Blend on high until smooth. If you like, add a couple of ice cubes and blend again until smooth. Serve immediately. 

Storing notes:

  • The smoothie will keep for 1 day in an air-tight container in the fridge, or you can freeze it for about 2 months. The hemp milk will keep for 2-3 days in an air-tight container in the fridge. What I like to do is make the hemp milk, and then make a smoothie fresh every morning until the hemp milk is gone. Enjoy. 

coconut cream pie | pistachio + toasted coconut crust (gf+df)

coconut cream pie with a pistachio + coconut crust (gf+df)  | what's cooking good looking
coconut cream pie with a pistachio + coconut crust (gf+df)  | what's cooking good looking

You guys .... apparently I am having a coconut/tropical themed thanksgiving this year. Do you want to come? I have plenty of coconut chili brussel sprout slaw and coconut cream pie to go around. 

I am not really sure why I have gone on a coconut binge this year. Maybe it's the fact that it was 20 degrees last week in nyc, or maybe I am wishing I lived somewhere warm where the dead of winter will never arrive. Or ..... maybe I just love coconut. Not only is it my favorite substitute for dairy, it might actually work better than dairy in some recipes. Case in point, coconut cream pie. 

 

Last week we talked about how I like to keep it minimal for thanksgiving and the holidays, but PIE. Pie is where things get crazy. I will never make just one pie. I usually will make 2-3 (from scratch) depending on how many guests. There will always be an apple pie with an all-butter crust, and then something a little different. Last year, I purchased The Four & Twenty Balckbrids Pie Book, and if you're not already familiar, the book is filled with uncommon takes on traditional pies that are SO creative and so decadent. Granted, these are not the usual goods that are being baked up in my kitchen, so I always try and put my own dairy-free, etc etc spin on things. Sometimes it works .... sometimes it totally fails. Not everything was meant to be transformed into a healthier version of itself. 

This year, I tackled their pistachio coconut cream pie because .... well, coconut (apparently) ... and because the crust was an amazing 3 ingredient, gluten-free genius combination with toasted coconut and pistachios. I took it in my own direction and switched out the refined sugar in the crust for maple syrup and I added a little bit of melted coconut oil to hold it all together, and it turned out just perfect. Then, to tackle the filling, I took out the dairy (milk, and butter) and switched it for a quick cashew milk and some coconut oil, which is always my favorite fat substitute. I did leave the egg yolks because I felt they were necessary, and farm fresh eggs are always welcome in my home. But if you are vegan or do not want to use the eggs, I do not see why you cannot leave them out. It just might be a little runnier so you can use the freezer method I describe in the recipe below. Last but never least, instead of making the traditional whipped cream, you know that was a no-brainer sub with coconut whipped cream. 

So here we are, with a pie recipe that I am super proud of, but was very much inspired and helped along by one of my favorite (indulgent) cookbooks. It will certainly be one of the pies for my coconut-tropical themed thanksgiving, and very likely again over the holidays. 

coconut cream pie with a pistachio + coconut crust (gf+df)  | what's cooking good looking
coconut cream pie with a pistachio + coconut crust (gf+df)  | what's cooking good looking
coconut cream pie with a pistachio + coconut crust (gf+df)  | what's cooking good looking
coconut cream pie with a pistachio + coconut crust (gf+df)  | what's cooking good looking

coconut cream pie | pistachio + toasted coconut crust (gf+df)

Adapted and inspired by the pistachio coconut cream pie in The Four & Twenty Balckbrids Pie Book.

A few things to note: As I mentioned, I do feel like this pie can be made completely vegan by omitting the egg yolks, however, I did not try it so I cannot vouch for it. If you do try it, please let me know, but I would suggest following the instructions for freezing, because it will hold it together better. Also, I gave the option for white or coconut palm sugar for the filling. I tried it with both, and there was not much of a difference in taste, but the coconut palm sugar gives it a darker hue. SInce I am from the mindset that "sugar is sugar" I would recommend using the white here if you want a prettier color pie filling.  Lastly …. don't forget to put your canned coconut milk in the fridge the day/night before serving. 

 

MAKES a 9" pie

INGREDIENTS

for the crust:
3/4 cup of pistachios, shells removed + unsalted 
3/4 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons of maple syrup 
a pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
***add a tablespoon of coconut and pistachios to toast if you want them to top the pie. 


for the coconut cream filling:
2/3 cup of cashews
2 1/2 cups of water

4 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons of tapioca starch (or potato or corn starch)
1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar (or regular white sugar)
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of full fat coconut milk (the kind in a bpa-free can)
the zest of 1 lime

1 tablespoon of lime juice
2 tablespoons of coconut oil


for the coconut whip topping:
1 can of full fat coconut milk (refrigerated overnight)
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of almond extract (optional)

METHOD

Make the crust:

  • Toast the pistachios in a small pan over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant. Set aside in a bowl to cool. 
  • Then, add the shredded coconut to the same pan, and toast over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes until light brown. Add to the bowl with the pistachios and allow it all to cool for a few minutes. 
  • In a food processor, add the toasted coconut, pistachios (be sure to remove the extra tablespoon of each if you are reserving for the topping) and salt and pulse until you have a very fine consistency. Then, add the maple syrup and melted coconut oil and pulse a few more times until everything is combined and you have a sticky mixture. 
  • Place the mixture into the center of an un-greased metal pie dish, and work the mixture into the dish using your fingers. You will want to wet the tips of your fingers to prevent the mixture from sticking. Do this until it is pressed evenly into the pie pan and up the sides. 
  • Place the crust in the freezer for at least 10 minutes or until you are ready to fill. You can make this a few days ahead if you like. 

Prepare the filling:

  • Place the cashews and water into a high-powered blender such as a vitamix. Blend on high for a couple of minutes until you have a smooth milk-like consistency. 
  • In a large bowl, whisk the yolks until smooth and the set aside. 
  • In a medium sauce pan, combine the cashew milk (that you just made), starch, sugar, salt, vanilla, coconut milk, and lime zest. Whisk to combine the ingredients, then place it on the stove over medium heat. Bring it to a slow boil, while stirring constantly. Once the mixture feels thick and pudding-like, turn the heat off. 
  • Spoon the mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, a little at a time, whisking constantly to prevent the egg from cooking. Once the yolks are incorporated, you can pour in the rest of the coconut milk mixture and stir to combine everything. Then pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Keep the bowl nearby. 
  • Place the saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil and stirring constantly. Cook for 1-2 minutes longer, and then remove it from the heat and pour the mixture back into the large bowl. Add the lime juice and the coconut oil, and stir to combine. Allow it to cool slightly before adding it to the crust, stirring occasionally to prevent a film from forming. 
  • Once the filling has cooled for about 10 minutes, then add it to the pie shell, and place it in the fridge for 4 hours. OR you can place it in the freezer, you will just need to remove it to allow it to warm up for about 45 minutes - 1 hour before serving. 

Make the coconut whip + top the pie:

  • Do this step after you pie has set in the freezer or fridge and right before you are ready to serve. If your pie was in the freezer, you want it to defrost for at least 30 minutes before adding the whip to the pie. 
  • When you open the can of coconut milk, separate the coconut water from the thick coconut milk. Pour the watery coconut into a bowl and reserve it for another use. Then place the thick coconut milk that is left into a stand mixer, or a mixing bowl (and have a hand mixer ready). 
  • Add the powdered sugar, salt, and extract, and whip the coconut until you have an almost whipped cream like texture. It won't be as light and fluffy as whipped cream, but it will be kinda close. 
  • Using a spatula, spread the coconut whip over the top of the pie evenly. Top with some chopped toasted pistachios and toasted coconut and serve. 

 

chili + coconut brussel sprout slaw

chili coconut lime brussel sprout slaw | what's cooking good looking
chili coconut lime brussel sprout slaw | what's cooking good looking

I originally intended for this recipe to be a thanksgiving side dish, but after making it and devouring for lunch, I realized that this is an any-kind-of-day dish. However, it still will be gracing my thanksgiving table this year under the: need-something-raw-and-healthy-on-my-plate category.  

As thanksgiving goes, I don't like to get too fussy. I do fuss over the pie, and I do fuss over the stuffing, but as for everything else, not so much. I like to go with things that are familiar, things that I have made before, things that I can throw together easily, and things that are not going to leave myself and my guests feel .... overwhelmed. What makes the meal special is spending the day with family and friends, not having to worry about anything else except for being there and sharing a meal. In our home it's less about stuffing our face and more about being together.  

What sets the food apart from any other meal is that I will make one or two things more than a normal dinner party, and of course the turkey (because who actually roasts a turkey except for on thanksgiving), and that is it. I try to make just enough for everyone, because I certainly don't want to be eating thanksgiving leftovers for weeks.  

Since some of the items on the thanksgiving table are on the heavier side, I think it is always a good idea to balance things out by having at least one or two dishes on the lighter side. I always feel better when I have something raw and salad-like on my plate. This chili coconut brussel sprout slaw will do the trick. 

Even though this dish has a tropical/Thai kinda of feel, I know it will be the perfect balance to the butter and gravy, and might even afford some appetite for an extra since of apple pie. 

chili coconut lime brussel sprout slaw | what's cooking good looking
chili coconut lime brussel sprout slaw | what's cooking good looking
chili coconut lime brussel sprout slaw | what's cooking good looking

chili + coconut brussel sprout slaw

SERVES about 4-6

INGREDIENTS

2 cups of brussles sprouts, shredded with a mandolin
2 cups of purple cabbage, sliced super thin
2 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup of cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
1/2 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut (plus a little more to top if you like)
 

for the chili coconut lime dressing:
1/2 cup of coconut milk (the kind that comes in a can)
2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
the juice and zest of 1 lime
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
a pinch of salt

**** If you are the kind of person who like a little extra dressing on the side, I would double this chili coconut lime recipe. It certainly will not go to waste. 

METHOD

Make the dressing:

  • Place all of the ingredients for the dressing into a small bowl, and whisk to combine. Set aside until you're ready to dress the slaw. 
     

Then make the slaw and add the dressing:

  • In a dry frying pan, toast the coconut over medium-low heat until it turns light brown (for a couple of minutes). Remove and add to a large bowl where you are going to combine the rest of the ingredients. 
  • In the same bow, combine the rest of the ingredients for the slaw: the sprouts, cabbage, green onion, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Toss until everything is combined. 
  • Pour the dressing over top and massage the dressing into the slaw. Serve immediately, or shortly after dressing the slaw.