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Rocher Nutella Cupcakes.

September 10, 2014 by Carolina

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My sister recently had a birthday & I took the opportunity to bake the best cupcake I’ve ever made: Rocher Nutella! Ferrero Rocher has always been one of my favorite chocolates to enjoy & this cupcake recipe elevates their taste even more — seriously incredible cupcakes. From the very first bite my family was ooh-ing & aah-ing, licking their lips, you name it, everyone loved this recipe! Are you ready to please the cupcake lover in your life? Here we go!

Ingredients (makes 24 cupcakes)

Gluten Free Cupcake Recipe (my go-to gluten free option but you can always go the pre-made vanilla cake route)

24 Ferrero Rocher chocolates

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups powder sugar

3/4 cup Nutella

3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chopped nuts for decorating (almonds or hazelnuts)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Follow cupcake recipe to create the batter. Spoon one tablespoon or so of the cupcake mixture into baking cups then add one Ferrero Rocher chocolate per cupcake & cover with the remaining batter. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes, remove from heat & cool.
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In a bowl, beat unsalted butter until fluffy with a stand alone or hand mixer. Add the powder (confectioner) sugar & continue mixing. Add the Nutella, vanilla extract & mix until fully integrated. Begin adding one tablespoon of heavy cream at a time, mix completely before adding the other, & continue mixing until you reach a butter cream frosting consistency.
Pipe nutella icing on the cupcakes (if you don’t have a pipping bag, place icing in a zip-lock bag & cut the end off to pipe) & place a Ferrero Rocher chocolate on top. Sprinkle nuts around the top for decoration & enjoy. Buen provecho!
nutellacupcakes
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PiYo Strength.

September 9, 2014 by Carolina

piyo

We noticed several of you searching for PiYo Strength & finding our blog lately, we’re glad you have! Since PiYo is a program I recently checked out I figured I’d share my experiences with you. Come on another fitness adventure with me!

First things first, what is PiYo? Simply put, it’s a strength series class combining your favorite pilates & yoga postures (sun salutations, etc) with exercises like push-ups (among many more), all done to the latest music. For those of you who think yoga is a little too mellow, PiYo may be just the workout for you. It’s full of the poses you know but with a twist that really crank up fat-burning, toning & flexibility. This workout packs a punch while keeping you humming & singing to fun songs & cooling you down with really great stretches.

I’ve practiced PiYo a couple of times before & a few weeks ago was lucky enough to take a class with the always awesome Katy Widrick. Now that at home DVDs are available the workout is really taking off, not just as a great option for at home workouts, but across studios & gyms nationwide. I’ve noticed some of our local gyms starting to add PiYo to the schedule which tells me there’s probably a PiYo class in the city you live in & you should definitely check it out.  Make sure to bring a mat, a towel (you’ll be sweating. A lot!) & a bottle of water, no need to bring sneakers since you do the class barefoot. You should also be ready to try new things, a lot of the moves in PiYo are really unique, challenge & honestly a ton of fun.

Have you checked out a PiYo Strength class yet? If so, what were your thoughts? Would love to hear them!

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Taste of the Nation Orlando 2014.

August 18, 2014 by Carolina

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What’s better than great food? Great food for an even better cause! I have been fortunate to attend Taste of the Nation Orlando for several years now & am always blown away by the event, not only due to the great food & drinks but also because of the amazing contributions it makes to Central Florida. Funding solutions for hunger relief in the area for the last 25 years, Taste of the Nation Orlando has raised almost $3 million for the Coalition for the Homeless & the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida — amazing! This year’s event was bigger & better than ever.

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My guest & I had an incredible time sampling offerings from the best local chefs & spirits. Because I have such a sweet tooth I began with desserts: cheesecakes, local fruit & pastries as far as the eye could see. We couldn’t help ourselves & paired desserts with delicious wine. A wine aficionado, tasting different wine offerings is always one of my favorite things to partake at Taste of the Nation. This year my favorite wine was Barefoot‘s Sparkling Pinot Grigio, it’s the perfect drink to have on a hot summer day. Make sure to grab a bottle next time you’re at the market, give it a taste & tell me I’m not right. Heaven.

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As a vegetarian, I’m always nervous I won’t have many options at events but at Taste of the Nation that’s never a problem — there are plenty of delicious plant based options! And even if a dish is listed with meat in it, most chefs are happy to accommodate vegetarians by excluding the meat. The JW Marriott station had shrimp with grits & as soon as I informed the chef I was a vegetarian he had his team prepare a non-shrimp version for me that was to die for. I’ve never been a grits fan but after that dish I’m a convert. Bring on the creamy, buttery, southern grits!

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In addition to all the delicious food & drinks I had the incredible opportunity to meet Food Network’s Melissa D’Arabian. I’m happy to report she’s as nice as she looks on TV, super approachable, friendly & engaging. I would expect nothing less from a fellow Alpha Chi Omega (shout out to my sorority!); we couldn’t help ourselves & took a picture representing AXO.

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In all, Taste of the Nation Orlando 2014 was a delight. If you have never attended make sure to put this event on your calendar for next year. It’s a must do in Central Florida!

 

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Cauliflower Rice Bowl.

July 23, 2014 by Carolina

cauliflower rice bowl

Have you tried to make cauliflower rice? The first time I made it was for a stuffed peppers recipe Katie & I created while I visited her in Boston. I have been making cauliflower rice often ever since, it really is a good alternative to rice when you’re trying to cut down carbs. If you haven’t tried making cauliflower rice yet I think this recipe will convince you to, because this cauliflower rice bowl is to die for. It’s packed with fresh vegetables, made in one pan (easy clean up), simple to make & it’s finger licking good. This bowl is good either hot or cold, though I enjoyed it right off the stove. Make this for lunch or dinner this week!

Ingredients (makes 2 servings)

1/2 head cauliflower, chopped

1 tablespoon coconut oil, divided

1 cup white onions, chopped

1 cup white mushrooms, chopped

1 cup zucchini, chopped

1 cup carrots, shredded

Juice of 1 lemon

Sprigs of fresh thyme

Splash of vegetable stock

Salt & pepper

Place chopped cauliflower in a food processor & pulse until it reaches rice consistency & set aside. In a skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil & cook the onions for 3 – 4 minutes until caramelized. Place onions on a plate & use the same skillet to cook the mushrooms with a few sprigs of thyme & a splash of vegetable stock. After mushrooms are tender (3 – 4 minutes) remove them for the skillet & cook the zucchini for 3 – 4 minutes with the juice of half a lemon. Remove zucchini from skillet, add the carrots with a splash of vegetable stock & cook for 2 – 3 minutes until al dente. Remove the carrots & add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil & cauliflower rice, salt, pepper, & cook for 2 – 3 minutes until cauliflower is warmed through & remove from heat.

Place the cauliflower rice in the middle of a bowl & pile the onions, mushrooms, zucchini & carrots all around. Serve with a few thyme leaves, 1/2 fresh lemon & salt & pepper to taste & enjoy! If you rather mix all ingredients together go ahead, still a beautiful dish that tastes amazing. Buen provecho!

cauliflower rice bowl 2

 

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National Dance Day.

July 22, 2014 by Carolina

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This is an invitation to all of my fellow Central Floridians to come dance with me. And I’m serious. I grew up dancing, from ballet classes to cheerleading, dancing was a big part of shaping who I am today. Dance teaches you character, perseverance & most importantly teaches you how to have fun! A few years ago So You Think You Can Dance (Go Ricky!)  instituted National Dance Day, an annual celebration of all forms of dance aimed to introducing people to dance & furthering the love of the art all around.

I was happy to discover Orlando is hosting a National Dance Day celebration this Saturday, July 26, completely FREE. 15 classes offered at the Orlando Ballet campus completely free of charge to anyone who wants to participate — how awesome is that?! The day will be filled with classes like beginning ballet, improvisation, jazz, swing, hip hop, contemporary, salsa, Afro-Latin, Broadway & even dance fitness. The instructors teaching the classes are well respected in the Central Florida community & are part of some of the best dance studios in town. If you like dance this is the perfect way to discover dance studios around you & experience for yourself what they have to offer!

I plan on attending several of the classes on Saturday & am hoping all you dance lovers out there will join in on the fun. Who’s ready to dance? Let’s get to it!

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Mushroom Hash.

July 21, 2014 by Carolina

mushroom hash

Sometimes the best dishes are the easiest to make. When you use fresh, organic ingredients you don’t have to do much to them in order for whatever you’re making to taste good. That’s why I’m sharing this mushroom hash recipe with you — it’s super simple but the flavors of the vegetables really shine. If you’re trying to avoid eggs, or simply don’t have any in your fridge, but want to have all the flavors an omelette or scrambled eggs have this is your dish. It’s vegan, gluten free, super healthy & very satisfying. Let’s get cooking!

Ingredients (makes one large serving)

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1/2 cup white mushrooms, chopped

1/2 cup green peppers, chopped

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 green onion, diced

Fresh cracked black pepper

Fresh cracked Himalayan salt 

In a skillet, heat coconut oil then add mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, green onion, salt & pepper & cook on high for 5 – 7 minutes until mushrooms are tender. It’s that simple! Buen provecho!

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Honey Roasted Brussel Sprouts.

July 14, 2014 by Carolina

honey roasted brussel sprouts

I have a confession to make: For as far as I can remember I hated brussel sprouts. The good news is after learning how to prepare them I’m a big fan, I mean, what’s not to like? Brussel sprouts have a rich nutty flavor that makes them super satisfying & absolutely delicious to enjoy as a side dish or even in salads. By far my favorite way to make them is with honey, it really brings out the nuttiness of the brussel sprouts! If you’ve never been much of a brussel sprout fan make this recipe & become a convert. It’s delicious!

Ingredients (makes 4 side servings)

1 pound brussels sprouts

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, toss brussel sprouts with honey, vinegar, oil, salt & pepper then lay them on a cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, serve & love brussel sprouts. Buen provecho!

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Lemon Mustard Salad Dressing.

July 11, 2014 by Carolina

grainy mustard salad dressing

I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: when it comes to salads it’s all about the dressing! One of my favorite dressing ingredients is grainy mustard — it’s packed with flavor! This dressing recipe I’m sharing with you today is probably one of the easiest dressings you’ll ever make, which makes it all the better. Plus, it’s great in a mason jar salad (pictured above). The secret to a good mason jar salad is to place the dressing at the bottom & greens at the top — try it, it’s fail proof. So is this lemon mustard salad dressing!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons grainy mustard

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/ teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

In a mason jar or lid container mix all ingredients together & give it a good shake. Enjoy with your favorite salad ingredients. Buen provecho!

grainy mustard salad dressing 2

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Food for a Cause.

July 10, 2014 by Carolina

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What’s better than attending a delicious food event? If the event is for a good cause! Taste of the Nation brings together foodies in Central Florida together the area’s top chefs (who donate their time) to end childhood hunger. I have been fortunate enough to attend the event twice, once in 2011 & another in 2012, & both years I had an incredible time. We’re talking delicious wine, hand crafted cocktails & a sampling of the best food in Orlando — a foodie’s dream! If you’re a vegetarian you need not worry, there are plenty of options at Taste of the Nation. Plus,everything that is left over is donated so absolutely nothing is wasted — how awesome is that?

This year the event takes place on August 9 at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Since it’s the 25 year anniversary they’re upping the stakes by having Food Network‘s Melissa d’Arabian, join the event. If you’re anything like me this is awesome news, I love Melissa’s shows on the Food Network & Cooking TV, I’m really looking forward to seeing her in person (plus she’s an Alpha Chi & well, I’m biased. Always an AXO)! I would also love to see you in person, lucky for all of us that can happen at a discount this week! Taste of the Nation Orlando is running its final discount code. So if you’re in the area (or want a great excuse to come to town) & you’d like to support an incredible cause, this is the time to get your tickets. Just use the discount code below.

orlando taste discount code

If you’re not entirely convinced yet I’m going to seduce you with restaurants.  Check out who’s coming:

Bahama Breeze
BB Kings Blues Club
Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine
Cafe Tu Tu Tango
Capa at Four Seasons Resort Orlando
The Capital Grille
Captain’s Grille @ Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Cress Restaurant
Crimson Tavern at Orlando Airport Marriott
Cuisiniers Catering
Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
Emeril’s Orlando
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
Empress Sissi Cake & Pastry Specialties
FreshPoint
Journeys Catering
JW Marriott Orlando – Grande Lakes
K Restaurant and Wine Bar
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse
LongHorn Steakhouse
Marlow’s Tavern
Pirate Chefs of Central Florida sponsored by Nestlé Professional
Orlando World Center Marriott
Red Wing Restaurant
Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld
SeaWorld Orlando
Second Harvest Food Bank Culinary Training Program
Soco Southern Contemporary Cuisine
Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, A Land Remembered Restaurant
Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, Cala Bella Restaurant
Sushi Pop Restaurant
Taverna Opa
Three2OH
T-Rex Orlando at Downtown Disney

Are you drooling already? I sure am! Get your tickets today & help end hunger in Central Florida…& come hang out with me. Promise it’ll be the best of times!

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Adzuki Bean Soup.

July 9, 2014 by Carolina

adzuki bean soup

I recently discovered adzuki beans & it was love at first taste! Have you ever had adzuki beans? They are some of the most nutritious beans in the market, full of protein, fiber, minerals & vitamins. Though it’s really hot in Central Florida right now it’s been raining almost every day & to me nothing is better than soup on a rainy day. Don’t you agree? This adzuki bean soup is perfect for a night in & very tasty, I have a feeling you’re going to love this recipe. I recommend you buy dry adzuki beans & soak them, for this or any bean recipe, you’ll notice the difference in the taste immediately! Plus, you’ll feel better about avoid any preservatives that may be in canned beans. It’s a little extra work but trust me, well worth it!

Ingredients (makes 5 – 6 servings)

2 tablespoons coconut oil, separated

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cups squash, peeled & chopped

1 3/4 cups adzuki beans, soaked overnight & rinsed

4 cups vegetable stock

5 cups water

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 cups kale, chopped

Himalayan salt, to taste

Lemon juice, to taste

Wash the adzuki beans & soak overnight. In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil & add the turmeric, saute for a few seconds before adding the onions, squash & beans. Mix completely then add the vegetable stock & water, bring it to a boil. Cover, lower the heat & simmer for 30 – 40 minutes until beans are soft.

In another pan, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Add the garlic & kale, saute for a couple of minutes until kale begins to wilt. Remove from heat, mix into the beans & fully incorporate. Taste, add salt accordingly.

Serve warm with a squeeze of lemon juice on top. Then let me know how much you love this soup. Buen provecho!

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