Vanilla Bean Cashew Macarons

Cashew macarons bursting with vanilla flavor and filled with vanilla bean buttercream. The cashew base allows the vanilla flavor to shine and become the star of the show!

Vanilla Bean Cashew Macarons

I’m sorry. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m totally not. This is not a healthy recipe by any means, and I’m not even a little bit sorry. I haven’t posted a single dessert recipe in 2014, and that is kind of a problem. I mean, we’re only a month in, but let’s be honest, I’ve missed cookies. A lot.

Vanilla Bean Cashew Macarons

Can I tell you one of the best stories of my life? I made these to bring to a cookie swap. The problem with going to a cookie swap when everyone knows you have a food blog is that you feel like you have to be super impressive. Okay, maybe only feel that way, but I spent a lot of time figuring out the perfect thing to make. Macarons are always a good party trick. ;)

Vanilla Bean Cashew Macarons

After a failed batch where the feet weirdly went off to one side (over whipped egg whites, and under mixed batter), I got it right, and showed up with these (and a nutella variety that I’ll be sharing with you sometime soon). Halfway through the party, my coach came up to me with a fellow runner who found her and said she “had to find the person who made the macarons”.

Vanilla Bean Cashew Macarons

Elena went on to tell me how perfect these macarons were, and she even said that she spent time in France eating macarons all the time, and that these were some of the best she’s ever tasted! I mentioned the macarons at Essence (I love them!) and she said mine were even BETTER! I couldn’t get over it. I promised her I’d share the recipe on here, but I spent most of January focusing on healthy dinners (ya know, tryin’ to give the people what they want ;) ), and I got a message from her on facebook asking about the recipe! Well I’m so proud to share them with you guys today because they were so dang popular!

Vanilla Bean Cashew Macarons

The cashew base provides a more neutral flavor that let’s the vanilla just do its thang. I, personally, am a vanilla lover. Like, sometimes (often) more than chocolate. There are few things more perfect than bright, intense vanilla flavor, and that is what these babies are all about. Vanilla bean in the shell, vanilla bean in the frosting, vanilla bean all up in your business. I’m telling ya, if you want a cookie that will really impress everyone, this baby is for you. And I promise they’re not as hard as you think!

Vanilla Bean Cashew Macarons

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 12 macarons

Serving Size: 1 macaron

Vanilla Bean Cashew Macarons

Cashew macarons bursting with vanilla flavor and filled with vanilla bean buttercream. The cashew base allows the vanilla flavor to shine and become the star of the show!

Ingredients

    For the shells:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cashew flour*
  • seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • For the filling:
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In your food processor, combine powdered sugar, cashew flour, and vanilla bean seeds. Process until very fine. Sift mixture into a large bowl. You may need to reprocess any large chunks that can't make it through the sifter.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites using the whisk on medium speed until light and frothy. Reduce speed to low and slowly add sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form. Be patient, it will take a few minutes.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to egg whites and gently fold together using a spatula. Once ingredients are combined, fold for just an other few turns of the wrist--this is where you need to be very careful! Under-mix and you will have pointy shells and weird feet; under-mix and you will have a soupy mess. You want the batter to just barely stream off the spatula when you remove it. I err on the side of caution and smooth out points later if they arise.
  5. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" round tip. Carefully pipe mixture into circles about 1 1/2" in size. If tops are pointy, you may run your finger under water and gently smooth them. Let them stand for 30 minutes until tops are glossy and smooth to the touch.
  6. Bake until just set, about 10-12 minutes.Place baking sheets on wire racks and allow to cool completely.
  7. To make the buttercream, beat butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds and beat until well combined. Add vanilla extract and milk if necessary (if the texture seems good, leave out the milk) and beat for an other minute. If you prefer a thinner buttercream, add addition milk 1/2 tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  8. Gently remove macarons from baking sheet and place a small spoonful of filling on half of the shells, then top with remaining halves. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week.

Notes

*If you cannot find cashew flour, you can make your own in the food processor or using a nut grinder, or you may sub almond flour. *Macarons are best the next day. Make 24 hours in advance if possible. *Adapted from Oh Sweet Day

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Caprese Stuffed Chicken

A simple, healthy dinner with smooth & melty mozzarella, sweet roasted tomatoes, and a decadent balsamic glaze. Looks impressive, but it’s so easy anyone could make it!

Pssssst….Stick around for a sweet giveaway at the end of this post!

Caprese Stuffed Chicken: Simple, healthy, delicious and elegant with melty mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and a sweet balsamic glaze

Can you believe it’s almost February? I always forget how quickly February comes after the holidays. I feel like I’ve just finished celebrating Christmas and New Years, and before I know it everyone is asking what the plan is for my birthday, and I have no idea because February feels sooooo faaaaarrrr awaaaayyy.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken: Simple, healthy, delicious and elegant with melty mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and a sweet balsamic glaze

It’s okay though because Target refuses to let you forget. I swear someone comes in at midnight on Christmas day and explodes sappy Valentine’s Day pink and chocolate all over the place.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken: Simple, healthy, delicious and elegant with melty mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and a sweet balsamic glaze

You know what I do miss? Valentine’s Day at school. Like, in elementary school. You know when you were forced to make them for the entire class, and the day was so fun because you’d have parties in all of your classes, and you went home feeling totally sick after eating nothing but chocolate for 7 straight hours? I miss that.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken: Simple, healthy, delicious and elegant with melty mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and a sweet balsamic glaze

Usually these days we keep things pretty low key, and make dinner at home because we are both kind of anti social and avoid crowds at all costs. Plus, I love making something healthier and fancy at home where I can control what goes into it and get exactly what I want.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken: Simple, healthy, delicious and elegant with melty mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and a sweet balsamic glaze

Like this chicken! It’s seriously so healthy, but so impressive and it beats the pants off your average steakhouse dish. With melty mozzarella cheese and roasted tomato coming out in every bite, and the ridiculously good balsamic glaze drizzled on top, this dish will win anyone over for any occasion.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 servings

Serving Size: 1 chicken breast

Caprese Stuffed Chicken

A simple, healthy dinner with smooth & melty mozzarella, sweet roasted tomatoes, and a decadent balsamic glaze. Looks impressive, but it's so easy anyone could make it!

Ingredients

  • 2 x 6 oz chicken breasts
  • 1 roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 oz mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, chopped*
  • 1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray a small baking sheet with nonstick spray. Lay tomato slices in a single layer. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes start to bubble and brown, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to 375. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper, then either butterfly the chicken or pound out until thin. Fill each chicken breast with cheese and tomatoes. If you butterflied the chicken, then fold the top over and secure with toothpicks. If you pounded it out, then roll the chicken around fillings length-wise and secure with toothpicks. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and bake until chicken is fully cooked and juices run clean, about 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile make the balsamic glaze by pouring balsamic vinegar into a small sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium-medium high to simmer. Stir occasionally until sauce approaches desired thickness (it will continue to thicken when removed from heat). This took me about 30 minutes for a very syrupy glaze. 20-30 minutes should be all you need.
  4. Once chicken is finished cooking, top with fresh basil and balsamic glaze. You want to time the glaze so that it is ready when the chicken is cooked so it doesn't harden while you wait. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Notes

*To chop fresh basil, roll tightly then thinly slice just before serving. It wilts very quickly, so you want to save it until the last minute.

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So to celebrate Valentine’s Day (or just celebrate our love for jewelry ;) ), I’ve teamed up with some of my favorite food bloggers to give away a $500 Tiffany’s gift card giveaway! This giveaway is furnished by, well, US! As a special gift for you guys to say I LOVE YOU!

 

Giveaway details:
The giveaway will be open from Monday January 27th, 2014 until Sunday February 2nd, 2014 (@ 11:59pm EST). You must be 18 years old to enter and you must live in the USA. One winner will receive a $500 Tiffany’s gift card.

Please check out my fellow recipe blogging buddies that are also hosting! They all have amazing recipe, beautiful photos, and lots of greatness to share with you!

Sponsored by: The Marvelous Misadventures of a FoodieAri’s MenuThe Wanderlust KitchenCountry CleaverAround My Family TableCrazy for CrustMacaroni and CheesecakeHealthy Seasonal RecipesYankee Kitchen NinjaEat. Drink. Love.Peanut Butter and PeppersCookie Monster CookingThe Messy BakerFabtastic Eats

Weekend Ramblings

1. Yesterday I checked out this new-to-me place called The Main Event in Tempe. Apparently they have a bunch of locations in Texas also? Anyway, they have bowling, arcade games, laser tag, and pretty much everything else you could think of. We went bowling and had a blast! The best part was that after your turn, a little face pops up with the number of pins you got, and they were ridiculous.

2. Today I’m going to a food truck festival! I can’t wait to eat all sorts of creative food truck deliciousness.

3. All my favorite tv shows ended, so I’ve started re-watching Desperate Housewives. Okay, so what you want, but I freaking LOVE that show. I love how every single episode is named after a song from a Stephen Sondheim musical (#musicaltheatrenerd alert…), I love the drama, and I really freaking love Lynette’s character. I just feel like I get her, and the only other character I remember feeling that strongly about is Princess Anna from Frozen.

4. Speaking about Frozen, I can’t get enough. I’ve seen it 3 times, and would pay money to see it again. I think it might be my favorite Disney movie. I cried a little inside when I realized the sheet music wasn’t available yet. At least not in choral arrangements. When it is, you better believe ALL my kids will be singing it.

5. So I guess every endurance junkie gets to a point where this happens.

photo (33)

There was a big bang/crash/etc. I asked my husband what happened, to which he responded “You have too many f**king medals”. He’s so eloquent.

6. I have a really sweet giveaway coming your way tomorrow. It’s Valentine’s Day themed. I actually kind of think Valentine’s Day is stupid, but it doesn’t keep me from enjoying all the sappy love crap. To be honest, I’d rather just treat it like any other day with a cute little quirky gift and funny card. I usually get Steve things that are dachshund and bicycle themed.

photo (32)

7. I’m kinda in love with Vine right now. Last weekend I made 4 videos that are probably only funny to me, and these two.

8. I have kind of a crazy couple of weeks coming up. Next weekend we head out to Huntington Beach for the Surf City 1/2 Marathon which leads right into Birthday-week (okay, I basically celebrate the entire MONTH of February–I freaking LOVE birthdays!), and then the day after my birthday (which is February 6th in case you’re curious ;) ) we leave for NYC!! My brother got accepted into an international orchestra (out of tens of thousands of people!) and will be playing at CARNEGIE HALL!

9. That means I get to spend my birthday with this guy for the first time ever. So freaking stoked.

10. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to work with personal trainer and pain specialist Cecilia Ticktin. Full disclosure: she offered me three sessions to share about my experience. Anyway, she has a truly amazing and inspirational story, and I absolutely loved my sessions with her! Here’s a little bit about her:

Health and Human Performance Coach Cecelia Ticktin Uses Lessons Learned in Her Personal Rehabilitation Experience to Teach YOU to Alleviate Chronic Pain, Overcome Injury, Optimize Athletic Performance, and Lose Weight / Keep It Off For Good.

 Call (609) 658-5551 today and mention offer code ARISMENU for a $37 evaluation!

Visit The StudioRead Some Testimonials or Inquire About Out Corporate Fit Program

“I am exceptional at what I do because I stayed purposefully tuned in through 8 years of severe chronic pain caused by a devastating car accident and the development of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), so that I could have emotional access to experiences that allow me to genuinely identify with and appreciate many of the difficult experiences my clients bring to me. I learned everything the hard way so you don’t have to.” – Cecelia

 

And that’s all for this weekend folks. So tell me, what show do you watch reruns of over and over and over?

Honey Almond Ricotta Dessert Pizza {Recipe Redux}

A simple, sweet and healthy take on pizza with an almond meal crust, ricotta cheese, chopped fruit and a sweet honey drizzle. This dessert is unique, elegant, and a great snack for a party or get together.

Honey Almond Ricotta Dessert Pizza: Simple, unique, healthy and incredibly easy! Have I ever told you guys my pizza problems? Okay, first of all, I really love pizza, but I can never photograph it. Seriously, half the time I make pizza, I never post about it because I just find it near impossible. So much so that when I found out the theme for The Recipe Redux was pizza, my first feeling was dread, no matter how much I love the stuff. Honey Almond Ricotta Dessert Pizza: Simple, unique, healthy and incredibly easy! First I tried to make a gluten-free crust, but no matter how delicious it tasted (and the flavor was SO spot-on!), the texture was awwwwwful. It would not stay together at all, and it ended up pulling apart in small pieces. Didn’t stop us from digging in, but definitely not something I would share with you guys. Total bummer, Honey Almond Ricotta Dessert Pizza: Simple, unique, healthy and incredibly easy! The good news is that this little gem has been floating around in my mind for months. Ever since I made these scones, and the first batch was too thin and crispy, I really wanted to recreate it as a dessert pizza crust. The better news? It was even more delicious than I imagined! Dangerously good, in fact. Honey Almond Ricotta Dessert Pizza: Simple, unique, healthy and incredibly easy! Not only delicious, but with simple, healthy ingredients, and no grains or refined sugars + the protein from the almond flour and cheese, this dessert pizza could even be eaten for breakfast! Honey Almond Ricotta Dessert Pizza: Simple, unique, healthy and incredibly easy! You can use any fruit/toppings you’d like. I used dried figs, but fresh figs would be great, or dates, or sliced apple or banana. Or if you wanted to be a little crazy, some chopped dark chocolate would also be amazing. Feel free to modify and make it your own!

Honey Almond Ricotta Dessert Pizza

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 12 servings

Serving Size: 1 slice

Honey Almond Ricotta Dessert Pizza

A simple, sweet and healthy take on pizza with an almond meal crust, ricotta cheese, chopped fruit and a sweet honey drizzle. This dessert is unique, elegant, and a great snack for a party or get together.

Ingredients

    For the crust:
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • dash salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tbsp honey or agave (or liquid sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • For topping:
  • 2/3 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 6 figs, chopped*
  • honey for drizzling

Instructions

  1. To make the crust, preheat oven to 350. Line a medium baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together almond meal, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch. Add almond milk and honey. Mix until combined.
  3. Split dough in half, and roll each half into a ball, then press each ball down to about 1/4? thick disk. Bake as if for 10-12 minutes until golden and set. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  4. Spread ricotta over completely cooled crusts, then top with figs and drizzle with honey. Slice each "pizza" into 6 equal pieces. Serve immediately. Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Notes

*Feel free to sub fresh figs, dates, apples, bananas, or anything you'd like!

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BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

A healthy, simple, gluten-free weeknight meal that makes you feels elegant, but easily comes together with practically no working time!

BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: An easy, hands-off and healthy weeknight dinner that makes you feel like you're at a fancy restaurant

You.Guys. I have fallen in deep, deep love. Like, I just made this a couple of weeks ago, but every time I look at these photos, I just want to eat it all over again. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert…whatever. I don’t care. I want it all the time. 24/7.

BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: An easy, hands-off and healthy weeknight dinner that makes you feel like you're at a fancy restaurant

I don’t like to brag, but I do have to say, I roast a mean sweet potato. It seems easy enough, right? Just toss it in the oven for an hour? Well yes…and sweet potatoes are so delicious all on their own that they will still taste amazing, but if you want the most delicious sweet potatoes you will ever taste, then I’ll let ya in on my little secret. ;)

BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: An easy, hands-off and healthy weeknight dinner that makes you feel like you're at a fancy restaurant

Have you ever had a baked potato at Outback? They skin is coated with big flakes of sea salt. I’m pretty sure they also coat it with butter before they bake it, but whatev… That little touch takes it to the next level, so every time I roast sweet potatoes, I brush them with a little olive oil and sprinkle them with coarse sea salt.. You will be amazed how much that little step amplifies these bad boys!

BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: An easy, hands-off and healthy weeknight dinner that makes you feel like you're at a fancy restaurant

The only way to make a perfectly roasted sweet potato even better? Stuff it with some delicious bbq chicken, then top it with some freshly crumbled goat cheese and green onion, and you have a dinner that will leave you dreaming about it for weeks afterwards!

BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Serving Size: 1 stuffed sweet potato

BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

A healthy, simple, gluten-free weeknight meal that makes you feels elegant, but easily comes together with practically no working time!

Ingredients

  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • 6 oz chicken breast, cooked and shredded
  • 3-4 tbsp bbq sauce (preferably all natural & low sugar)
  • 1 oz freshly crumbled goat cheese
  • thinly sliced green onion for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Use a fork to poke several holes into sweet potatoes. Brush each sweet potato with approx 1/2 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle to coat lightly with sea salt. Roast until fork tender (meaning a fork easily slides right into the sweet potato), about 45-60 minutes depending on size of your potatoes.
  2. Heat chicken and bbq sauce in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat until warm, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Slice cooked sweet potatoes down the middle leaving about an inch uncut. Stuff each potato with half the bbq chicken, then top with goat cheese and onion. Serve immediately.

Notes

To reduce cooking time, heat sweet potatoes in the microwave for 2-3 minutes before cooking. This usually reduces my cooking time to about 40 minutes.

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