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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ultimate Chewy Fudge Chocolate Brownies

SO much better than boxed brownies! I'm not above reaching for the boxed stuff when in a rush, but these are on a whole other level. They have a depth of flavor that you just can't get from a mix, and come together very quickly. The tops are crackly and the insides are soft...they are usually devoured by the next day but I hid a piece to see how long they would stay fresh and 5 days later it was still soft and delicious. Depending on the chocolate you use, you can alter the cocoa flavor from milk to dark or anything in between. I usually stick to milk chocolate because that's what most people like. Personally, my favorite addition is adding some salted caramel chips to the batter, but just like with a lot of my other recipes, you can customize to your liking.

Those orange specs of salted caramel are pure heaven

If you look at the ingredients you'll notice that this batter is made with mostly chocolate with just a little bit of flour to provide a soft crumb. I use melted chocolate in addition to cocoa powder to provide a moist base for the brownies. These are not dry (unless you over bake them) and they are definitely NOT cakey. Butter adds delicious flavor and oil keeps the batter dense and fudgy. There is no baking soda or baking powder to preserve the integrity of the bar and to avoid rising into a cake like texture.  Since there is so much chocolate in the batter, the quality you use will affect how good your brownies get the good stuff! I either use Trader Joe's milk chocolate from the 1 pound size bar or Guittard milk chocolate chips (my absolute FAVORITE milk chocolate chip). No Hershey's chocolate in this batter ;)

This is a great project to get your kids in the kitchen for, especially if you go crazy with the fun mix-ins!  I find myself turning to these brownies when a I need a quick last minute dessert as kids and adults gravitate to them equally. Grab a glass of cold milk and enjoy these bites of chocolate-y bliss!

Makes 24 small squares

*Read the paragraphs above to understand why each ingredient is used before you try substituting*

-8 ounces chocolate (I like to use a combination of milk and dark, use the best quality you can)
-5 tablespoons butter
-2 tablespoons oil
-3 eggs
-1 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup flour
-3 tablespoons cocoa powder
-1 cup milk chocolate chips

Optional Mix-Ins
Up to 1 cup of:
-walnuts, hazelnuts
-salted caramel chips
-peanut butter chips
-broken up candy pieces: oreos, m&m's, snickers, reeses, etc.
-swirled marshmallow cream

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 7x11 inch pan (or 9x9) with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
-In a microwave safe bowl, melt 8 ounces chopped chocolate with butter in 30 second increments, stirring after every 30 seconds. Allow the mixture to cool before you add it to the wet ingredients.
-In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla until well combined. Slowly stir in cooled chocolate/butter mixture.
-In a third bowl, mix together the salt, flour and cocoa powder then slowly add it to the wet ingredients. Mix JUST until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
-Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan and bake in your preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes (I don't recommend exceeding 35 minutes because brownies should be fudgy). The brownies are baked when the edges are dry and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few crumbs attached.
-Allow to cool then cut into bars and serve.

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Looking for more decadence? You can't go wrong with these other delicious desserts!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nut and Seed Granola Bars

 I like to call these my energy power bars. They are LOADED with (healthy) fat so I treat them as a meal or substantial other words, I don't just munch on these. When I have a bar I'm full for hours, making them an ideal on-the-go meal for a busy day.

In an effort to be awake as little as possible during suhoor this Ramadan, I've prepared these for our early morning meal. I love that they're nutritious, filling, extremely satisfying and will not make us thirsty throughout the day!

I wanted to stay true to the essence of these nut bars and chose to omit any dried fruit, but you can easily customize these to your taste. Some delicious add-ins include: shredded coconut, dried fruit (chopped apricots, figs, cranberries, cherries, raisins...), and a dash of cinnamon would make these super yummy.  Try your favorite combination of nuts, anything should taste great! Of course it should go without saying that the addition of chocolate chips would be divine ;)

I made my own almond butter, but if you prefer you can use 1/2 cup of ANY nut butter in place of the 1 cup whole almonds I used below to make my nut butter.

Makes 12 bars

-1 cup old fashioned oats
-1/2 cup honey roasted slivered almonds (Trader Joe's)
-1/2 cup whole almonds
-1/2 cup pepita seeds
-1/2 cup sesame seed cashews (Trader Joe's)
-4 tablespoons chia seeds
-2 tablespoons flax seeds

-1 cup whole almonds
-1/2 cup maple syrup (sub honey)
-1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional, will make the bars more moist)
-1 tablespoon vanilla
-1/4 teaspoon salt

To make
-Turn oven on to broil setting. In a large roasting pan, combine oats, slivered almonds, whole almonds, pepita seeds, cashews, chia seeds and flax seeds. Roast on LOWER RACK of oven (to prevent burning) in 5 minute intervals, checking and tossing the mixture around to get an even roast. I roast mine for about 10-15 minutes.
-Meanwhile, combine whole almonds, maple syrup, optional coconut oil, vanilla and salt in a powerful blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
-Line a 7x11 inch pan with parchment paper and give it a light spray with non-stick spray. Add the creamy almond butter to the roasting pan with the nuts and use your hands to mix together well. The mixture will be sticky, but keep combining until everything is well coated with the almond butter. Taste your mixture and adjust maple syrup content, adding more if you feel it isn't sweet enough.
-Press the mixture tightly into the prepared parchment lined pan until you have an even layer. Cut into bars and enjoy. I keep this out of the refrigerator for about 3 days then transfer to the fridge. It will keep for weeks when refrigerated.

I'd love to connect with you! Like SavvyChef on facebook and follow Savvy_Chef on instagram. Tag Savvychef in your creations and pin the recipes on pintrest :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Carrot Cake Muffins + Brown Sugar Cinnamon Cream Cheese Glaze

I realize things have been getting a little dessert-heavy around here....I'm not sure if I should apologize or accept your thanks?? As far as I'm concerned, if it's sweet, tastes good and IS good for you, then I've done the world a favor with each additional recipe! I'm often part of discussions about whether it is more satisfying to indulge in a few bites of something decadent or enjoy a whole slice of a wholesome treat that may be compromised on flavor. Here's my take: I'd rather eat a cookie and feel like I ate dessert for breakfast than a lumpy bowl of oatmeal. If I've already made the treat, they'll last a couple days and that means less prep time. When I'm in a rush I can eat a muffin on the go, as its a little hard to drive and eat a bowl of oatmeal.  So the reality is that I'm treating these sweet delites as breakfast, not dessert, and in which case its a win-win.  Want the decadent stuff? One of my fav's are these red velvet cheesecake brownies!

My new secret ingredient in baking is molasses. It adds such a depth of flavor, color and moisture to these muffins. I've been throwing it into my banana bread and muffins too and I'm really in love!

Another trick up my sleeve in this recipe is homemade buttermilk. I love what it does for baked goods but I feel pressured to keep baking whenever I have an opened carton in my fridge. Turns out this little homemade version is even better because I can control how much lemon to add and determine how thick my buttermilk gets. I've found 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1/2 cup milk to give me the nice thick consistency I like.  It's VERY simple to prepare: the first thing you do when you start baking is mix your milk and lemon juice in a cup and leave it aside for at least 5 minutes. Go about your business preheating the oven and mixing the other ingredients and when you're ready for the buttermilk, give it a quick stir and use it. That's all.

A third bonus I have for you today is if you're out of applesauce, all you need to do is finely shred an apple! You don't even need to peel it first (but I hope it goes without saying that the apple needs to be washed...). Using shredded apple (aka quick applesauce) helps add moisture to the muffins and allows us to remove fat. It doesn't do much for flavor, so don't worry, this is a carrot muffin through and through.

I like to keep my muffins on the counter and the glaze in the refrigerator and frost my muffins right before serving. That way my muffins stay extra moist on the countertop and the glaze stays fresh in the fridge :)

Makes 12 muffins

-1/2 cup milk
-1 tablespoon lemon juice
-1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
-1 medium apple, finely shredded (1/2 cup)
-1 egg
-1 tablespoon vanilla
-1 teaspoon molasses
-2 tablespoons coconut oil
-3/4 cup brown sugar

-1 1/2 cups flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
-1 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon cloves
-1/2 cup raisins
-1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

-1/2 cup chopped nuts (I love using pecans)
-2 tablespoons flax seeds

To make
-Mix milk and lemon juice and set aside.
-Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with 12 liners. I also coat my cups with non-stick cooking spray, just in case.
-Mix together the shredded carrots, shredded apple, egg, vanilla, molasses, melted coconut oil, and brown sugar until well incorporated.
-In another bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon powder, ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
-Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet, stirring only until they are mixed together. Do not over beat your mixture or your muffins will be dry.
-Stir in raisins and shredded coconut. Add optional nuts or flax seeds.
-Scoop 1/3 cup of muffin batter into lined cupcake pan and bake in a preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack.
-Store muffins tightly covered for up to 1 week. Move the the refrigerator after 3 days.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Cream Cheese Glaze

-8 ounces softened cream cheese
-1/2 cup white sugar
-3/4-1 cup brown sugar
-1 teaspoon cinnamon powder (use up to 1 tablespoon)
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To make
-Mix the ingredients in a bowl until smooth and creamy. I usually do this by hand but you can also whip them with a stand mixer. Taste and adjust cinnamon content and brown sugar to desired sweetness.
-Store extra glaze in the refrigerator.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Strawberries n' Cream Trifle

Everything in trifle form is better, especially when the cream layer is this tasty. Think cheesecake meets shortcake with a generous dose of strawberries and you'll understand how amazing this strawberries n' cream trifle is.

This is a great dessert when entertaining because it tastes BEST when its eaten about 2 days after making...overnight refrigeration is a minimum for great flavor. If you try to serve this right after assembling each of the layers will stand on their own, but if you let it set overnight then the cream softens the cake and the strawberries sweeten the whole trifle  mouth is watering as I type this!

I've been making trifles ever since I first started baking and have been through many, MANY this point I try my best to keep the ingredients as natural as possible. Pudding mixes taste great and are easy to use, but they're not that healthy and are used to mimic the flavors of the real go ahead and use the real stuff to make your dessert wholesome and delicious without the extra use of preservatives, I promise, it doesn't take much more time and you'll feel better about what you're putting in your body!

Serves about 12

-8 ounces softened cream cheese
-1 can sweetened condensed milk
-8 ounces cool whip (or make your own by whipping 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla)
-16 ounce loaf of pound cake
-2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed and cut into slices

*OPTIONAL: sometimes I like to alternate a layer of butter cookies instead of the pound cake. It really emphasizes the shortbread flavor in the trifle and the texture of the cookies after being refrigerated is soft yet dense and incredibly satisfying.

To make
-Using an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese (to soften quickly microwave in a bowl for 15 seconds), then add sweetened condensed milk and blend until well mixed and there are no lumps of cream cheese. Add the cool whip (or whipped cream) and mix together.
-Slice the pound cake into 16 thin slices.
-Wash, remove the stems and slice the strawberries into slices (about 4 slices per strawberry).
-In a trifle bowl (or another deep bowl) place a layer of pound cake slices to cover the bottom. You may need to break some of the slices up to make them fit.
-Spread about 1-1 1/2 cups of the cream topping and then add a layer of strawberries.
-Repeat this process until you have used up all of your pound cake, ending with a layer of strawberries. I usually end up with 4 layers.
-If you have any extra cake (or butter cookies) crumble it on top of the top layer before adding the strawberries.
Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.
-Serve and enjoy!

I'd love to connect with you! Like SavvyChef on facebook and follow Savvy_Chef on instagram. Tag Savvychef in your creations and pin the recipes on pintrest :)

Looking for more trifle inspiration? Try my decadent and heavenly chocolate trifle heath bar ranks as one of my favorite indulgences!

Chocolate Trifle Heath Bar Cake

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mamuniyeh: Brown Butter and Mozzarella Cream of Wheat

I'm excited to share another classic Syrian breakfast dish with you guys. When we were kids my mom would call this 'candy' and we were thrilled to eat candy for breakfast...we gobbled it right up and I really appreciated the sweetness in the meal. As an adult my mouth waters at the salty and cheesy complexity that the mozzarella adds. Serve this hot and fresh as soon as its ready and you'll watch with giddy anticipation as the cheese stretches from the serving dish all the way to your plate.

Mamuniyeh is a decadent dish that will warm you up in the morning. Making it involves a bit more butter and sugar than how I normally start my day so when I make this its either for a brunch or a treat for the kids. This dish's saving grace in terms of health is that Semolina is a fine hey, complex carbs and all ;) It's quick and easy and the last time we ate it a few days ago my 10 year old made it from A to Z with minimal assistance. The sizzle of the toasted semolina when it hits the sugared water is fun to hear and it literally goes from a soupy mixture to smooth and creamy perfection in about a minute.

Serves 4

-5 cups water
-1 1/4 cup sugar
-4 tablespoons butter
-1 cup semolina
-1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, to be divided
-1 tablespoon cinnamon powder

-any salty cheese to be eaten on the side

To make
-In a saucepan combine water and sugar on medium heat until the mixture boils. Stir to help dissolve the sugar into the water.
-While the water and sugar are heating, place butter and semolina in a skillet on medium heat. (**OPTIONAL: Brown the butter before adding the semolina for a hint of caramel in the Mamuniyeh. To do this, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk until it turns brown and releases a nutty fragrant smell. Immediately lower the heat and add the semolina to toast.**) Move the butter around and melt it while gently stirring it with the semolina. Continue to saute the mixture until the semolina has browned into a golden color instead of the pale yellow it was. Keep stirring it around to avoid burning it! You may need to lower your heat as it starts to color.
-When the semolina has browned and the water/sugar mixture has come to a roiling boil, carefully add the toasted semolina into the boiling water. It will sizzle as it drops in and may slightly foam up, I love this part!
-Reduce the heat to low and stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Turn off the heat and mix it for a minute, it will thicken up into a porridge.
-Place into a serving bowl and top with extra shredded cheese and sprinkle with cinnamon powder.
-Serve hot with a cup of tea and enjoy!

I buy the semolina from Middle Eastern markets

Perfectly toasted semolina and ready to be dropped into the sugared water!
 Looking for more sweet breakfast recipes? Here are a few of my personal favorites!
PB Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Vegan Orange Poppy Seed Muffins

I'd love to connect with you! Like SavvyChef on facebook and follow Savvy_Chef on instagram. Tag Savvychef in your creations and pin the recipes on pintrest :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Asparagus and Zesty Lemon Grain Salad

I created this salad as a challenge to myself to go beyond simple grilled asparagus. Every time I buy the green stems I feel like I cook then in the same manner...which although is delicious has gotten a little boring for me. I didn't want to waste their integrity and puree them into a soup or lose them in a pasta. Asparagus represents the Spring season...refreshing, breezy and bright...and that's exactly what you'll get from this salad!

We've had this as dinner, I've taken it to potlucks and it's been my go-to lunch whenever I've had it in the fridge. I LOVE IT. I love the way I feel when I look at it with the bright green from the asparagus and the red from the tomato, I love all the textures going on in here from the crisp of the asparagus to the crunch of the walnut and the chewiness of the barley. Don't even get me started on the explosion of're going to have to find out for yourself on that note, but I will tell you that stiring the lemon zest into the hot cooked barley will release the natural oils in the zest and let the barley absorb all the flavor...yum!

Serves 3-5

-2 cups water
-1 cup rinsed barley
-1/2 tablespoon salt
-1 teaspoon oil
-1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons)

-1 bunch fresh asparagus
-2 cups chopped tomatoes
-1 cup chopped walnuts
-1 cup chopped parsley
-3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 squeezed lemons)
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
-salt to taste

-1 cup valbreso feta cheese
-1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
-1 large chopped avocado

To make
-Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a pot and drop in rinsed and drained barley, salt and oil. Reduce your heat to medium low then cover the pot and cook about 20-25 minutes or until the water is absorbed and your barley is soft and fluffy. Remove from the heat, uncover and add lemon zest and stir. Leave your barley to cool completely before adding other ingredients.
-While your barley is cooking, heat another pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Lightly salt your water and rinse asparagus. Gently snap off the bottom of your asparagus and drop into the boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes then immediately remove and drop asparagus into a bowl filled with ICE and water. This is called an ice bath and is done to stop the cooking process and shock the asparagus into retaining its vibrant green color. Leave the asparagus until it has cooled and then remove from the water and pat dry with paper towels. Roughly chop at a diagonal angle into 1 inch pieces.
- When your barley has cooled, place it into a bowl and  layer chopped tomatoes, asparagus, walnuts and parsley. You can now add optional toppings. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle black pepper on top. Drizzle the olive oil around the edges of the bowl.
*If you are making this ahead of time cover and place in your refrigerator until ready to use.
-Mix when ready to serve and taste to adjust lemon and salt content. Place into a platter and serve.

I'd love to connect with you! Like SavvyChef on facebook and follow Savvy_Chef on instagram. Tag @SavvyChef in your creations  :)

Looking for more salad inspiration? Try some of my favorites here! I especially enjoy
Mexican Bean and Corn Salad
Pomegranate + Green Bean Lentil Salad

Middle Eastern Tabbouleh 
Arugula and Roasted Beet Salad

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Kishkeh Khadra: Yogurt, Whole Grain and Walnut Spread

Kishkeh Khadra is a protein and fiber packed dish that is a traditional breakfast item in Syria. I love preparing it because it comes together very quickly, can be made in advance, has versatile uses and is HEALTHY. I make a batch of this right before the weekend and we enjoy it for SavvyChef's legendary Sunday brunches and then as quick sandwiches throughout the week.

Traditionally the preparation process was lengthy and had to be planned for in advance. Fine bulgur (cracked whole wheat grain) would soak on a counter top for a few days until the bulgur had softened and the yogurt had soured. Then the "green" ingredients (onions and parsley) would be added and the toppings (Greek kalamata olives, walnuts and olive oil) would complete the meal.

Around these parts I've condensed the process into as little as 30 minutes...without compromising flavor or authenticity! I've done this by providing an optional hot water soak of the bulgur to soften it before adding to the yogurt and by adding a splash of lemon juice to achieve the sour tang to the yogurt that typically takes a couple days to accomplish.  Most days I'll quickly mix the yogurt, bulgur, salt and lemon juice the night before and pop it back into the fridge until I'm ready to add the rest of the ingredients. This is a handy meal for entertaining because of its "make-ahead" qualities.

Kishkeh Khadra always finds a place on my brunch displays and most people who haven't grown up eating it still love it and request the recipe. I can't tell you how many times I've texted it to friends or sat around a table as the hostess verbally shared the steps involved. Everyone's way varies slightly. Some people replace the yogurt with sour cream (don't try this, its not good) but here I'm going to give you the quickest and most authentic method. Warm pita bread and a sweet cup of tea take this this dish to higher levels of bliss :)

I go out of my way to expose my children to foods that are out of their comfort levels and to treat wholesome eating as a way of life, not as an effort that needs to be made. Knowing that my children are consuming high amounts of protein (yogurt and bulgur), whole grains and fiber (bulgur), healthy fats (walnuts and olive oil) and iron (parsley) really encourage me to keep this option available. This also makes a great post workout snack with some carrots, cucumber or celery sticks!

Serves 4-6

-2 cups plain yogurt (Full fat really makes a difference in the creaminess and flavor)
-1/2 cup fine bulgur (cracked wheat, labeled as #1)
-1/2 tablespoon salt
-1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
-1 cup chopped parsley
-3/4 cup diced greed onions
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts

**If using 30 minute preparation method you will need 1/2 cup boiling water**

-kalamata olives
-chopped walnuts
-extra virgin olive oil

To make
-Mix together yogurt, bulgur, salt and lemon juice in a container. Return to fridge and leave overnight (or up to 1 week). QUICK OPTION: Soak bulgur in boiling water for about 25 minutes (or until soft) then mix together with yogurt, salt and lemon juice.
-When you are ready to serve stir in chopped parsley, green onions and walnuts. Taste and adjust salt and water content. If the mixture is too stiff add water or yogurt 1 tablespoon at a time until you have the consistency of a chunky dip or something resembling hummus.
-Spread mixture on to a serving platter or bowl and top with kalamata olives, chopped walnuts and a drizzle of olive oil.
-Serve with pita bread and tea, veggie sticks or as a spread in sandwiches.

I'd love to connect with you! Like SavvyChef on facebook and follow Savvy_Chef on instagram. Tag @SavvyChef in your creations  :)

Looking for more brunch items? Try my other go-to dish: A delicious yogurt, pita and garbanzo bean dish called Tisi'yeh!