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!

Fourth of July: Not-so-traditional Brisket Tacos

by Nina Z

When I hear 'brisket,' I think of the Jewish holidays. No meal was ever complete without this melt-in-your-mouth dish. Typically braised over a long period of time with tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, red wine and savory rosemary and thyme, brisket is nothing short of spectacular.

When I hear 'tacos,' I think of Mexican food. Mexican cooking incorporates all kinds of meats cooked low and slow: beef, pork, chicken, you name it.

Why not combine the two?

As the fourth of July holiday approached, I wanted to make something familiar, but "with a twist," as I always say. I wanted to make something you could eat with your hands, could be easily customized by my guests, and required minimal day-of cooking. Tacos fit the bill.

My friends declared, "It's the fourth of July... you should be making American food," and "No BBQ!?" My rebuttal: "The slow-cooker is very 'American'," and "Who doesn't like tacos!?"

After 7 hours in the slow-cooker, brisket is ready to shred!

After 7 hours in the slow-cooker, brisket is ready to shred!

Here's what you need to make the brisket for Brisket Tacos:
Serves 8-10 people easily with lots of leftovers; can serve up to 16-18 people

Spice rub:

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 TBS adobo sauce from canned chiles in adobo
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 TBS paprika
  • 1/2 TBS salt + pepper to taste


  • One 7lb brisket - you may not be able to find this whole, so you can buy multiple packages of brisket that add up to 7lbs
  • OR, 4-5 lbs brisket and 2-3 lbs short ribs - this is what I did since I could not find enough brisket; worked out perfectly!

Sauce for the brisket:

  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 TBS tomato paste
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup


  • Corn tortillas
  • Your choice of toppings (see below)

Combine all spice rub ingredients in a bowl. Rub generously over the brisket, wrap brisket in saran wrap, and marinate for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight.

When ready to cook, place marinated brisket into the slow cooker. Set a sauté pan over medium heat. Heat vegetable oil until shimmering, and add in the rest of the sauce ingredients except for the water, vinegar and ketchup. Cook until the onions and garlic have softened, about 5-6 minutes.

Transfer onion mixture to the slow cooker, add only the water, and set for 6-7 hours on high, or 9-10 hours on low.

When the brisket has finished cooking, transfer from the slow cooker to rest on a wooden cutting board. If you used short ribs too, remove meat from the bones and add to cutting board. Tent with foil for 15-20 minutes. This will let the juices re-incorporate into the meat. While the meat is resting, let the sauce in the slow cooker rest for 5 minutes, and skim off as much fat as you can. Whisk in apple cider vinegar and ketchup.

After the meat has rested, shred with two forks and add back into the slow cooker with the sauce. Then, back away from the brisket as your guests may run you over.

Top with your favorite taco toppings - guacamole and slaw are my two favorites!

Top with your favorite taco toppings - guacamole and slaw are my two favorites!

For a quick taco topping, I made red cabbage slaw, tossed with apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, celery salt, and a dash of salt and pepper.

On the side: Snap pea, radish and red onion salad [on the blog soon!]; black beans and rice; peach and mango salsa; guacamole; red and green lettuce with a lemony-garlic vinaigrette.

This may seem like a lot of work, but I promise you it's not. While the brisket is cooking practically all day, you have time to make side dishes and get ready for your guests to arrive. You can probably even squeeze in a nap. Then, you can decorate for the festivities:

With lots of food you need lots to drink! Mojitos and margaritas galore!

With lots of food you need lots to drink! Mojitos and margaritas galore!

We spent the rest of the night lighting sparklers to celebrate our nation's holiday and the beginning of a much-needed long weekend.

For your next gathering, let the slow-cooker do all the work so you can join your own party!