Do you like chocolate?

by Nina Z


I thought so!

If you like decadent desserts without all of the decadent ingredients, then these brownies are the perfect treat for you. 

Make these for your family holiday party, your friend's potluck, or your amazing co-workers who just love a mid-week treat!

I should be honest though... these brownies have avocado in them. Yeah, I said it. Avocado. Its mild flavor and high (good) fat content make it the perfect butter/oil substitute. It also gives these brownies a rich, velvety texture. Win/Win/Win.

Avocado Brownies - makes 9-12 square brownies, or 6-8 muffin-sized brownies:

  • 1 large avocado, mashed
  • 1 3-4oz dark chocolate bar, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup flour (any kind you want)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a large bowl, mix avocado, chocolate, eggs, vanilla, and maple syrup and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add in flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and mix until dry ingredients are completely combined with wet ingredients. The mixture will be thick. 

Spray an 8x8 brownie pan with non-stick spray. Pour batter in to pan and spread evenly. If using muffin tins, fill each cup until mostly full. Bake for 30 minutes, or until middle of brownie pan (or muffins) are set and firm.

Let cool before cutting and removing from pan.


What a delicious year 2015 has been! I can't wait to see what 2016 has to offer. Thanks for following along with my food + life adventures. Warmest wishes for a happy and healthy New Year, fellow foodies!


Learning to Balance

by Nina Z


When I was looking for an apartment, my non-negotiable was a decent-sized kitchen. I ended up with an amazing kitchen, which for the past four months, has been used mainly to heat up leftovers, cook Sunday brunch, and bake the occasional batch of brownies. Whenever I'm in my kitchen not cooking, I feel a pang of guilt: what is this kitchen doing here if I'm not going to be spending my free time cooking, taking awesome pictures, and then posting here for you all to learn new recipes?

But then I attempt to justify: Nina, you just moved into one of the most amazing cities in the country, so why would you spend all of your free time inside when there's so much to explore (and eat)!?

So herein lies my dilemma. As much as I enjoy grocery shopping at local markets and cooking up fun and interesting meals for myself, I also enjoy wandering around my new neighborhood(s) and sampling the amazing food they have to offer.

While I may feel guilty for not cooking as much as I used to, and for not posting here as much as I would like to, I shouldn't feel guilty for embracing my new home. 

Here is my confession to all of you: I, Nina, do not usually cook dinner. I like to eat leftovers from work, often having the same meal twice in one day. I like to go out to dinner, and brunch, and cocktails, and I unapologetically enjoy every single minute of it.

I know that eventually, I'll find the balance that's right for me, and for this blog. But for now, dinner will sometimes look like the above (I mean, who wouldn't want that!?), and sometimes, groceries will consist of a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, two bars of chocolate and a bottle of $5 wine.

This is only the beginning of my adventure and while I have lots of BK terrain to cover this summer, my love for cooking will still prevail.


New Beginnings for a New Year

by Nina Z


Do you notice anything different? Look up! One of my super talented friends, Grace, designed this logo especially for Nina Knows Food. I am thrilled with her beautiful interpretation of my passion for cooking and eating. I am also SO honored to display her work. Now I can move into the New Year with a new look to the blog, among other things!

The past two months have seen one BIG move, two major holidays, lots of cooking, and even more eating. My new kitchen has yet to be used to cook a real meal, but lots of delicious food was cooked in my family's home kitchen.

IMG_2738.JPG
IMG_2733.JPG

Thanksgiving is a time for my mom and I to bounce ideas off each other about how to make the meal even better than last year's. We stick with the classics, turkey and stuffing being two of them. Stuffing that does not fit into the bird goes into muffin tins to make what we call stuffin' muffins. For those who like their stuffing a little crunchy, these muffins are perfect.

Green beans with ginger and garlic was added to our menu last Thanksgiving, and made a repeat appearance this year because they're just so darn tasty. Thanksgiving foods are very savory and these green beans add a much-needed crunch and spice to the meal. My apple cake with lemon and ginger will always make an appearance - everyone knows to save room for dessert.

My leftover sandwich, piled high with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, spinach, guacamole and goat cheese, was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Ever. 

Chanukah came and went, but the lingering smell of sizzling latkes stayed for weeks. I learned how my mom makes latkes, and now I'm confident I'll be able to take on the task. Needless to say, I don't really want to eat another latke until next Chanukah.

My family does not celebrate Christmas, but that doesn't mean we won't help others celebrate! Chocolate-covered strawberries are WAY easier than you might think and they make a gorgeous gift to bring over to any holiday party.

Over a double boiler, melt dark chocolate chips (1/3 - 1/2 bag) with 1 TBS Crisco - this makes the chocolate shiny and smooth. Once melted, dip strawberries and place them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cool overnight, or at least for a few hours, to let the chocolate set. Repeat with the remainder of the chocolate, depending on how much fruit you have to dip.

You can use this chocolate to dip any kind of fruit or treat! I added Chanukah-themed sprinkles to our strawberries above because, well, why not?

I'm looking forward to more sunrises from my apartment window and more amazing meals to share with all of you. Cheers to the happiest and healthiest New Year yet!


Reflections

by Nina Z


It feels like I blinked and the trees went from lush green to tinged with yellow and orange, and the air shifted from hot to cool and crisp. Sweaters and boots and apples, oh my!

The last two months were a whirlwind, barely leaving me time to get to the gym, let alone spend time creating delicious treats in the kitchen. Things are settling down - kind of - so I'm taking this opportunity to reflect on the end of summer and the beginning of fall. What better way to do this than through pictures? Make sure to check out the comments in each picture - there may be a quick recipe hiding there!

My first lobster roll on Fire Island was a delicious success!

My first lobster roll on Fire Island was a delicious success!

I was so excited to get my hands on a fresh coconut finally at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, BK, NY!

I was so excited to get my hands on a fresh coconut finally at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, BK, NY!

Exploring Madison Square Eats - Spicy Pork Bibimbap left my mouth on fire, but so worth it

Exploring Madison Square Eats - Spicy Pork Bibimbap left my mouth on fire, but so worth it

The easiest pancakes you'll EVER make: 1 banana (mashed), 1 egg, 1/2 cup old fashioned oats, splash of vanilla, and a splash of (almond) milk; mix well in a bowl; heat griddle on low-medium heat and cook pancakes until no longer liquid on the inside; high protein, high fiber, low effort!

The easiest pancakes you'll EVER make: 1 banana (mashed), 1 egg, 1/2 cup old fashioned oats, splash of vanilla, and a splash of (almond) milk; mix well in a bowl; heat griddle on low-medium heat and cook pancakes until no longer liquid on the inside; high protein, high fiber, low effort!

The famous apple cake, the first one of the year! Head over to www.smittenkitchen.com and look for Mom's Apple Cake. My only variation was to add the zest of 1 lemon and 1-2 TBS fresh grated ginger to the batter.

The famous apple cake, the first one of the year! Head over to www.smittenkitchen.com and look for Mom's Apple Cake. My only variation was to add the zest of 1 lemon and 1-2 TBS fresh grated ginger to the batter.

Brunchin' in Gloucester, MA at Sugar Magnolia's. That's multi-grain bread with egg, arugula, goat cheese and fig preserves. I definitely have to re-create this masterpiece.

Brunchin' in Gloucester, MA at Sugar Magnolia's. That's multi-grain bread with egg, arugula, goat cheese and fig preserves. I definitely have to re-create this masterpiece.

The Blue Stone Pizzeria in Waterbury, VT. Local beer, local produce, fresh wood-fired pizza... perfection. There's three different kinds of mushrooms, local goat cheese and basil on that glorious pizza! Switchback to wash it all down.

The Blue Stone Pizzeria in Waterbury, VT. Local beer, local produce, fresh wood-fired pizza... perfection. There's three different kinds of mushrooms, local goat cheese and basil on that glorious pizza! Switchback to wash it all down.

Unbelievably spoiled and grateful to have eaten at The Hen of the Wood in Burlington, VT. This was only a portion of the meal: grilled octopus, romaine salad with sheep's milk pecorino, radishes, and a walnut vinaigrette. If you have the chance to go, GO!

Unbelievably spoiled and grateful to have eaten at The Hen of the Wood in Burlington, VT. This was only a portion of the meal: grilled octopus, romaine salad with sheep's milk pecorino, radishes, and a walnut vinaigrette. If you have the chance to go, GO!

Visiting the new tasting room at Switchback Brewery. We were told to sample from the bottom of the state to the top: the classic Switchback Unfiltered Ale, a new Brown Ale, a new Citra Pils, and a Roasted Red Ale. The classic will always be my favorite.

Visiting the new tasting room at Switchback Brewery. We were told to sample from the bottom of the state to the top: the classic Switchback Unfiltered Ale, a new Brown Ale, a new Citra Pils, and a Roasted Red Ale. The classic will always be my favorite.

Spent my last few hours in Vermont walking and taking in the foliage with one of my closest friends, Sara. It looks like a candy bowl of leaves!

Spent my last few hours in Vermont walking and taking in the foliage with one of my closest friends, Sara. It looks like a candy bowl of leaves!

Feeling thankful for the food, the friends, and the family during the shift of the seasons.