Mexican Cold Brew Coffee

There's a popular grocery chain, we will call it "Whole Paycheck".. I really like Whole Paycheck, I find lots of yummy things there.. but as you might have gathered from it's nickname those yummy things usually aren't cheap and that can be a problem. So several months ago I stumbled upon this delicious cold brew "Mexican" coffee that had flavors of cinnamon, vanilla and almond (yum!) but also came with a price tag close to 4 bucks for one serving (ouch!). Being ever thrifty at heart I decided I would just need to make this coffee at home so I could enjoy it's deliciousness without selling a kidney. I usually make this on Sunday then I have coffee for the week which makes life so easy on busy mornings; this recipe makes just under half a gallon which is perfect for me during the week days, the hardest part is trying to keep yourself from downing it all in one day!

Mexican Cold Brew Coffee   (Print Me)
Yield: Just under half a gallon

1 1/3 cup coarsely ground coffee 
6 cups cold water
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
Pinch salt 

Place all ingredients in pitcher or large jar, stir then let sit in refrigerator overnight. The next day strain large ground using fine strainer, then strain again lining strainer with cheesecloth for best results (alternately use a french press to strain). 

Serve coffee over ice with milk or cream if desired (I love Califa better half). Store left over coffee in refrigerator. 

Adapted from: The Velvet Bird


The Best Guacamole

I have eaten A LOT of guacamole in my day, it's pretty much the base of my food pyramid so trust me when I say, I know good guac, and this guac.. oh it's good! It's so good in fact, that it's my favorite, it is the guacamole recipe that has made me forsake all other recipes. So now that you believe me, lets move on. This recipe does require some effort, but it's minimal; you basically throw a bunch of yummy ingredients in a blender or food processor to make a super fresh pico, then mix it in with some fresh avocado and bam, you're in heaven. And as a bonus, you will have some left over pico so serve on the side... fresh guacamole AND salsa.. yes, this is real life.

The Best Guacamole    (Print Me)
1/2 red onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeno, seeds removed
1 cup cilantro, loosely packed
2 plum or roma tomatoes
3 hass avocados
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon each)
1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)

Peel and quarter red onion, place in the bowl of food processor or blender. Pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Remove the seeds from a jalapeno, cut into quarters and add to blender. Add the cilantro and pulse a few more times until coarsely chopped. Cut tomatoes in half, remove the seeds, and add to the blender. Pulse a few more times until finely chopped.

Pit avocados and scoop flesh into a separate bowl; add lemon and lime juice, salt, pepper, and cumin if desired.

Add all but about one cup of the pico to avocados and stir until just combined to the taste and consistency of your choice. Enjoy!


Oatmeal Cookie Jam Bars {Gluten Free}

Back in North Carolina there is a little bakery by the beach that would blow your mind; whenever I got the chance I would head in and stock up on lots of delicious goodies. Now, usually something labeled "jam bars" would not quickly draw my attention (just not my jam, I suppose) however, luckily for me, they did happen to draw the attention of my dear friend Tiffany. Let me tell you, jam bars, well now they are my jam! I've been looking for what feels like an eternity for a recipe that would capture their simple, delicious essence, and I've finally got it! It's not too sweet, and showcases the flavors of the jam, perfection.

Not only are these super easy to make, and delicious enough to leave you dreaming of them, but they are also quite impressive sounding when you tell people the jam is homemade. Don't start freaking out like, "Brooke, you didn't tell me I had to MAKE the jam", because jam is so easy to make! Promise. I made these with a strawberry fig jam, because that is what sounded good, but you could make whatever delicious jam makes you happy (I'm trying some version of blueberry next). If you absolutely do not want to make it, be sure to buy some good quality jam (no Smuckers jelly here, sorry!) or even better, find something at the local farmer's market, still homemade.. just not in your home! So go on with your jam-making, bar baking, bad self!

Oatmeal Cookie Jam Bars {Gluten Free}  (Print Me)

Strawberry Fig Jam:
1 lb fresh or dried figs (*if dried see below), cut into small pieces

1 lb strawberries, washed, stemmed & cut into small pieces
3 Tbsp sugar 
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Jam Bars:

½ cup rice flour
½ cup gluten free oats
½ cup almond flour
⅓ cup potato starch
⅓ cup sugar

1 Tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅓ cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla

For the jam:
Place sliced strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar in a bowl and allow to rest for 20 minutes. When ready place strawberries and figs in a pan over medium heat to simmer, stirring often. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the jam has thickened to a nice consistency.  Set aside to cool.

*If you use dried figs, as I did, start by cut the hard stem off and chop the figs into very small pieces, place in pan with just barely enough water to start to cover the fig pieces, simmer for about 10 minutes until figs are very soft and water is absorbed, then proceed with adding the prepared strawberries and making the jam.

For the bars: 

Preheat oven to 375ºF and line an 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the sides, set aside.

In medium bowl combine rice flour, oats, almond flour, potato starch, sugars, salt, baking soda, xanthan gum, and cinnamon. Stir in melted butter and vanilla until mixture is crumbly.

Press just over half of the oat mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Spread enough of your prepared jam over the top to have a nice thick layer (I like my jam layer just over about 1/4" thick). Sprinkle on the remaining oat mixture, do not pressed down.

Bake in prepared oven for 45-55 minutes until top is lightly golden brown. Allow to cool completely then remove from pan by pulling the sides of the parchment paper, pulling the entire thing out. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Bars from: Recreating Happiness

Jam: See Brooke Cook Original 



So I've been kind of obsessed with this recipe for several months now, I end up making it every few weeks or so because it is just too easy to make and it is really delicious! Not to mention it makes a ton and the leftovers are great, which is pretty much right up my ally since these days I pretty much live off leftovers during the week. Another great thing about this recipe is how flexible it is, you can easily adjust the spicier ingredients for your taste, you can make it so spicy you sweat eating it, or keep it nice and mild if you don't like to burn your tastebuds off. I generally make this with turkey sausage so it's healthier (though arguably slightly less delicious),  you could also throw some shrimp or additional veggies in to suite your mood. Plus, my favorite part is you can really make it easy on yourself by batch cooking some chicken to throw in the freezer every once in a while, then all you have to do is thaw it and throw it in (plus you can use it for a ton of other recipes).  It's about being delicious and simple folks, and this recipe has it all! Enjoy!

Jambalaya  (Print Me)
2 Tablespoons oil, divided (I prefer coconut or olive)
2 Tablespoons cajun seasoning (more or less to taste)
10 ounces andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces*
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16 ounce) can crushed Italian tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes with ~1 Tbsp Italian seasoning)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional, to taste)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon file powder (if you can't find, skip)
1 1/4 cups uncooked white rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth


Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy pan or such oven over medium heat. Season the sausage and chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning. Saute sausage until browned. Remove with slotted spoon, and set aside. Add remaining tablespoon oil, and saute chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

In the same pot, saute onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in crushed tomatoes, and season with red pepper, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce and file powder. Stir in chicken and sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

*Alternately use precooked or rotisserie chicken and add with sausage in step two

Source: Allrecipes


Cranberry Orange Moscow Mules

Lets make room for just one more thing on your holiday table, a little something to add some Christmas cheer(s), luckily for you I've got just the thing. Enter.. Cranberry Orange Moscow Mules.. and if you don't have the mules, no worries, these will be just as delicious in a regular 'ol glass. Here's to hoping your holidays are  stress free, and if they aren't, here's to hoping you can at least have a few of these!

Cranberry Orange Moscow Mule  (Print me)
Ingredients (per drink):
*note 1 regular shot glass holds 1.5 oz

1.5-3 oz (1-2 shots) vodka
1.5 oz (1 shot) triple sec
1.5 oz (1 shot) cranberry juice
Ginger ale/ginger beer

Club soda (optional)
Orange slice

Add ice to mule/cup until 3/4 full. Add vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, ginger ale/beer and club soda if desired, stir gently to combine. Garnish with orange slice and enjoy!

**If you are looking for a vodka recommendation, I would suggest Chopin or Kettle One.. just don't drink cheap vodka.. it's bad.

Source: See Brooke Cook Original


Perfect Macaroni & Cheese {Gluten Free Option}

It's no secret, I have always been a sucker for mac & cheese, it's like the culmination of carbs and cheese.. which are two of my favorite things! In my younger years the blue box was my friend, but these days if I'm going to indulge, then I like to do it right. And this is mac and cheese done right!

The options are really limitless here, the ingredients are merely a suggestion; I have made this as is or with smoked cheddar and gouda, any number of cheesey combinations would be tasty.  It would be a great base for add-ins, like bacon or pulled pork, you know whatever floats your boat. I'm a bit of a purest when it comes to my cheesy carbs, but I don't judge. Oh, and I will tell you it will feel like an awful lot of cheese for the amount of pasta while you're making it but.. it's not. Enjoy!

Perfect Macaroni & Cheese {Gluten Free Option} (Print Me)

~ 1 cup breadcrumbs (gluten free option)
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
5 ½ cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (gluten free option)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ½ cups (~18 oz) sharp white cheddar
2 cups (~8 oz) Gruyere (or substitute your favorite cheeses here)
1 pound elbow macaroni (gluten free option)


Shred cheese an mix together, set aside. Heat the oven to 375º F. Spray a 3-quart casserole dish with non-stick spray and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter, toss in breadcrumbs then remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, or in microwave, heat milk.

Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and 4 ½ cups of cheese . Set cheese sauce aside

Fill a large saucepan with water and salt lightly. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle on remaining 2 cups cheese, then scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Source: Martha Stewart


Fresh Green Beans with Bacon & Onion

Sometimes we take for granted the little things in life, like really good green beans. I made these on Thanksgiving, and they we fantastic! Now, I'm not going to lie, adding bacon to your vegetables definitely takes them down on the healthy scale.. but life is about balance right?! Besides tasting amazing, these are really easy to throw together, I actually cooked the bacon and onion, took the pan off the heat, then just when dinner was about done put the pan back on medium heat, threw in the green beans and finished things up while they were cooking. Voilà! Fresh, crisp, yummy veggies that will not be taken for grated!

Fresh Green Beans with Bacon & Onion  (Print Me)

Oil (I prefer olive or coconut)
~1 lb fresh green beans, washed & trimmed
3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced

Heat a large pan over medium heat, add just enough oil to have a light coat over the bottom of your pan, add chopped bacon and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and releasing fat. Add onions and cook until soft and browning (~ 5 minutes or so). Add green beans and garlic, cover pan, and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until done to your liking (~10-15 minutes).

Source: See Brooke Cook Original