Nicci Morris

Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Want skin that glows? Head to the pantry

In Beauty, Lifestyle, Recipes, Zaftig-Approved on June 29, 2011 at 1:48 am

When it comes to skin care, there is nothing like a good scrub. Over the years, it feels like I’ve tried everything. Some weren’t coarse enough. Others left an oily residue which, in my eyes, defeated the entire purpose of exfoliation.

A good scrub removes layers of dead skin and grime, encourages cell renewal and keeps outbreaks at bay. Skin naturally renews itself every 28 days or so when you are young. But things tend to slow down with age and scrubs help rev up your youthful appearance and can diminish fine lines. Exfoliation is also great for something I’ve been experiencing as of late: post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Sounds pretty scientific, huh? If you’ve ever found yourself unable to resist the urge to pop a pimple, you’re familiar with it. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH, refers to the skin discoloration that follows inflammation or infected skin. In what is a natural response to trauma, PIH appears as a dark area of skin where the eruption was. In my case, I recently had a problem with acne on my forehead and chin. Although I know far better, I popped them when I should have just let them dry out and heal on their own. The result was several dark spots on my face. Not cute, let me tell you. I’ve always been proud to walk out of the house without a stitch of makeup on, but doing so when I had tons of hyperpigmentation would have had people running away from me at the store, for fear that I was contagious or something.

Thankfully, the acne healed and the eruptions stopped. (A huge thank you Shea Moisture acne treatments! That stuff saved my skin. More on them to come in a future post…) But I needed a little extra help to help with the dark spots. I remembered my grandmother telling me about the magic of brown sugar, baking soda and honey. I mixed up a batch a week ago and have already seen dramatic improvement in the look and feel of my skin. It’s magic, I swear. Try it on your face and your body at least 2-3 times each week and let me know how much you love your results!

Brown Sugar Scrub

1 cup dark brown sugar

4 Tablespoons of baking soda

1/2 cup of honey (optional – you could also use extra virgin olive oil)

Stir until combined. Final product will be shiny and thick. Add in more sugar and honey (or olive oil) until it has the texture of peanut butter. Store in a covered plastic container. Be sure to use clean hands or a spoon when you scoop it out. Apply it to damp skin.

Make a big batch, use it as often as you need to and prepare to knock people OUT with your glow…



Mmm… Chocolate Chunk Banana Muffins

In Food, Recipes on March 13, 2011 at 8:57 pm

My family loves my Chocolate Chunk Banana Muffins and they never miss the eggs or the dairy. I don’t think you will either when you dive into these golden, tender morsels of deliciousness. The bananas make them beyond moist and the oats lend an addictive element of chewiness. The rich, complex flavor of dark chocolate adds a subtle and unexpected layer of sophistication. They’re perfect for any occasion or (the way I prefer them) no occasion at all.

Chocolate Chunk Banana Muffins

1 1/4 cups flour

1 cup oats (I use The Silver Palate Oatmeal, Thick and Rough)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup vanilla almond milk, unsweetened

1/3 cup vegan margarine, melted (I use soy-free Earth Balance)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (anything over 70 percent is non-dairy)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or liners.

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.

In another medium bowl, whisk together bananas, almond milk, Earth Balance and vanilla. Combine with the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate.

Fill each cup of muffin tin 2/3 of the way with your batter. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins. Enjoy!


Life (and cooking) is all about trial, error…

In Food, Recipes on March 11, 2011 at 2:34 am

It must be a great day if I break out the measuring cups...

My cookbook will be a beautiful combination of plant-based recipes, beautiful photography and useful information. But before I can present the finished product to you, I have to test recipes. Argh… I cook and I write, therefore I test. It’s lots of work, but it is a true labor of love. I relish the chance to blend familiar and unique flavor and texture combinations. My goal is always the same: to prepare food that makes the people eating it furrow their brows, nod and mumble. All at the same time. Raised or furrowed brows signal pleasure. The nods affirms that, yes, this is one of the best things ever. And the mumbling? Well, that just means the food is so good that Miss Manners’ advice is out the window. Cooking is fun, exciting, a bit unpredictable, and I’m great at it.

Baking, on the other hand, ranks right up there with physics for me. I get it, but I don’t get it all the time. Far more exacting and about l,000 times less forgiving than cooking, baking simply is not natural for me. I almost always forget something. Or I inadvertently grab the baking soda when I really want baking powder. Cooking is an art, but baking is a science. Although I am accomplished in some realms of science (shout out to cellular biology, anatomy and chemistry…), I am far more comfortable doing something artsy and free-flowing my way to deliciousness.

So on days when I decide to pull out my measuring cups, teaspoons and preheat the oven, I’m in pretty good darn mood. Today was one of those days. I went to bed last night with a recipe idea on my mind: Vegan Grapefruit Muffins. I turned over, nuzzled into my pillow and thought, “It just… might… work…”  before I drifted off to sleep.

I went to work on the idea today. I’ve had good luck with vegan baking in the past, so I was hopeful. I started by sectioning juicy, ruby red Texas grapefruit.

I put my dry mixture together, combining whole wheat pastry flour, unbleached all-purpose flour, oats, brown sugar, white sugar, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.

For the wet, I used vanilla extract, vanilla almond milk and melted soy-free Earth Balance.

With a gentle hand, I folded the wet ingredients into the dry mixture. I tasted the batter and it was divine. I had to exercise control just to keep from snacking on it. I was elated! My vision was coming together… I could almost see the perfect little muffins that were in my near future. I popped the muffin tin into the oven and waited.

This is what I got:

In a word? Awful! Hahahaha!

I did my best to salvage what I could. It ended up looking like an exotic, citrusy twist on bread pudding. It was ugly, but “belicious” (as my 2-year-old niece would say, meaning delicious) all the same.

Why am I sharing my failure with you? I wouldn’t want to take advice from someone who never made a mistake. So just as I share some of the fabulous recipes I create for my cookbook, I will also post about the occasional flop. Afterall, cooking (and baking) is just like life. There is no progress without some setbacks.

Here’s to licking the bowl any damn way, regardless of what life throws at you…


And… we’re back!

In Entertaining, Food, Lifestyle, Recipes on May 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

First things first: I dropped the blog ball. I know better. While I don’t believe in excuses, there is an explanation… I’ve been busy (with a cross-country move and a great new job, just to name a couple of things), but I still should have made time to tend to The Zaftig Life. But my commitment to building “The Zaftig Life” brand remains. I’ve missed blogging, snapping photos and interacting with all of you. So… let’s get back into it, shall we? This weekend is a great time to do it. Tomorrow I’m hosting a poolside brunch for a bunch of girlfriends. I’m preparing two savory dishes and mango mimosas. My girls are bringing fruit, bagels, crudités, etc… to round out the menu.

Brunch has always been my favorite meal of the day. I love the blend of sweet and savory, and I adore that it lends itself to an easy-going, lazy mood. You don’t have to wake up early for brunch, and there is no end to the options when it comes to dishes you can serve. I’m still deciding on what I’m going to make, but I will post recipes as soon as I test a few more things… I’ll also post pictures of the food and the brunch tomorrow!

Make it a fabulous Saturday…

A once-a-year kind of treat…

In Entertaining, Food, Recipes on November 27, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Happy Holidays, all! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

I’ve talked with many of you who feel that gaining weight is inevitable this time of year. But I am here to encourage you to not buy into that lie. I have managed to not only keep holiday heft at bay but to even lose a pound or two the last two years. It is feasible and you can do it too. If you implement The Zaftig Life mantra of “Moderation. Balance. Health.,” I know that you, too, can maintain or even lose a few pounds this season.

The Zaftig Life is not about restriction. It is, however, about moderation. Instead of throwing in the towel from November to December and vowing to eat better in 2010, start today. Enjoy some holiday treats, but only in small amounts. You simply cannot indulge in cake, cookies, alcohol or turkey sandwiches every day (or even every other day) for a month and a half and not expect your pants to get tight. (Don’t even try to blame it on the dryer!) But you can make smart choices when it comes to food, beverages and exercise and still have delicious goodies while maintaining a healthy weight or even shedding extra pounds. And the good thing about the occasional treat is that you are less likely to go off on a fat and sugar bender when your cravings are out of control.

Yesterday I made a pecan pie with chocolate and bourbon. I know what you might be thinking… “That does NOT sound figure-friendly.” That’s because it’s not. It is well over 600 calories per serving. That is insane. But it’s also insanely delicious… I can (and I did) indulge yesterday. It’s full of butter, sugar, 90 proof bourbon, and has a ridiculous calorie count, but it’s a once a year treat. If you decide to indulge in this pie, I recommend you make it a once a year treat, too.

Photo by Nicci Morris

By Nicci Morris

Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Pie

1 store-bought pie shell (I use and highly recommend Marie Callender’s deep-dish pastry shells)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup salted butter

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup bourbon (I used Ezra Brooks 90 proof)

1 teaspoon good vanilla extract (never use imitation)

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cup pecan halves

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter or margarine melts and sugar is completely dissolved. Cool slightly (you don’t want to scramble the eggs in the filling).

In a large bowl combine eggs, bourbon, and vanilla and mix well. Pour cooled sugar mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in chocolate and pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until set and crust is golden. If the crust starts to brown too much before the filling sets, fold pieces of foil over the crust while it finishes.



Recipe inspired by this version of the recipe on AllRecipes.

A pom addiction…

In Entertaining, Nic's Picks, Recipes on November 11, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Pomegranate arils

It happens every year. Brisk mornings come, the leaves change, and I wait… And then the day comes: Pomegranates arrive at the market. When the poms came in this year, I loaded the conveyor belt with them, salivating at the joy to come. The cashier picked one of them up as if it was coated in slime and asked, “What in the world can you do with these?!” Plenty.

I am an unabashed pomegranate addict. From the shape of the fruit to the glistening rubies nestled within, I adore everything about poms. The sweet-tart flavor and the brightly-colored juice lure me in each fall and winter. The taste and texture is unlike any other fruit I’ve had the pleasure of devouring. At about 230 calories for an entire pomegranate, it’s a wonderfully nutrient-dense vitamin C-packed superfood.  Pomegranates contain polyphenols, tannins and anthocyanins, all beneficial antioxidants. Studies show it contains more antioxidants than most other fruit juices, red wine or tea. There is also some evidence that drinking pomegranate juice can reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

While I am perfectly happy to eat a big bowl of arils (the proper name of the fleshy covering of the pomegranate seeds), my foodie brain won’t always let me keep it that simple. So yesterday I decided to make a “bruschetta” using a sourdough baguette, pomegranate arils, fresh mint, gorgonzola cheese and honey. The result is something beautiful, fragrant and delicious. Interesting to look at and a perfectly-portioned mouthful of flavor, these would be great for a cocktail party, a wine tasting or as a starter.

Pomegranate Bruschetta 1 - By Nicci Morris

Photo By Nicci Morris

Pomegranate “Bruschetta”

Sourdough baguette

4 ounce container of Gorgonzola cheese

1 1/2 cups pomegranate arils

Fresh mint


Preheat broiler and line baking sheet with foil. Cut bread on the bias into ½ thick slices. (The bias cut will give you a bit more surface area for the goodies.) Layer slices on baking sheet and place under broiler until lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sheet and flip slices before returning them to the broiler until lightly toasted. Remove and add gorgonzola to each piece of toasted bread (about ½ teaspoon of cheese to each, more or less if desired). Top with pomegranate arils. Return to oven and broil until cheese has just melted, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from oven. Tear mint leaves and top each baguette slice. Drizzle lightly with honey.



Banana bread with a delicious twist…

In Food, Recipes on October 22, 2009 at 2:23 pm
I started making this a few years ago. I was using up old bananas to make a quickbread when I decided to add toasted hazelnuts and cocoa. I’m going to make some this weekend. It freezes great, too, which makes enjoying it in moderation easier! Yum…

Chocolate-Banana-Hazelnut Bread
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (can use substitute, of course)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 too-ripe-to-eat bananas, mashed
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped (or more if you like)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan with a non-stick/flour spray. (Or you can, of course, butter and flour it.)

Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Let cool. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the bananas, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Fold (don’t beat) the banana mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. (Batter will be chunky. Don’t fret.) Fold in hazelnuts. Scrape batter into pan. Bake about 50 minutes, or until cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool.

And just try not to pick at the edges while it cools…

Smarter snacking…

In Food, Recipes on October 7, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Given the choice between sweet and savory, I’ll go with the latter every single time. So when I’m in the mood to snack, I often reach for something crunchy, salty and packed with umami.

How about baked garbanzo beans? I think of it as super-portable and poppable hummus. They’re perfect for on-the-run snacking or eating during a movie or a game. They’re delicious, simple and a more healthful way to satisfy your craving. So put down the potato chips and the pretzels and grab a handful of these instead. Oh, and I challenge you to eat just one handful…

Hummus Crunch
2 (16 oz.) cans garbanzo beans
Non-stick cooking spray (or you can use olive oil, just enough to coat)
Garlic powder to taste
Lemon pepper seasoning (regular or salt-free) to taste
Chili powder to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Rinse and drain beans. Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the beans on the baking sheet. Give the beans a quick spritz. While the beans are still moist, sprinkle with seasonings. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, stirring every ten minutes or so for even browning.

What’s for dinner? Pork Chops with White Wine-Caper Sauce

In Food, Recipes on October 2, 2009 at 2:46 am

When it comes to cooking, I am all about ROI. I love to create simple recipes that taste as if they took lots of work. And if a recipe is labor-intensive, it better be well-worth the toil and trouble. Today I made something that tastes like it took lots of time and work, but it actually requires little effort.

Whenever I’m short on inspiration, I head directly for the refrigerator, the freezer and the pantry and pretend I’m competing on “Iron Chef.” What do I have on hand that I can make look, feel, smell and, of course, taste amazing? What will be the perfect foil of the day? That’s what led me to make this dish for the first time years ago. I adore tart, bright and briny flavors so I always have a jar of capers on hand.

I know an incredibly gifted chef who taught me his concept of “the perfect bite.” It’s an exacting balance of flavor and texture, a miniature representation of everything on the plate… and proof positive that you have created a perfect and delicious meal. And that is what I strive to attain each time I fire up the stove: The Perfect Bite. Tonight that consisted of pork chops served with a sauce of white wine and capers. I served it with garlicky roasted red potatoes and asparagus.

Nicci Morris

By Nicci Morris

Pork Chops with White Wine and Caper Sauce

1/2 cup olive oil

2 pounds pork chops, fat trimmed (chicken breast cutlets would also work well)

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (plus more for seasoning meat)

3/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning (plus more for seasoning meat)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 medium onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. While oil heats, combine flour, garlic powder, lemon pepper seasoning and thyme. Season each pork chop with garlic powder and lemon pepper seasoning. Dredge seasoned chops in flour, lightly coating each. Place chops in hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer chops to a foil-lined baking sheet and place in oven to finish cooking through, 15-20 minutes.

While chops finish in the oven, put butter in a small saucepan. When butter has melted, add onion and garlic. Saute over medium-high heat until onions have just started to caramelize and garlic is fragrant. Add capers, pepper and wine. Let the sauce come to a gentle boil to help the sauce reduce and thicken, about 8 minutes. Serve sauce over pork chops.


Time to slow it down…

In Entertaining, Food, Recipes on September 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm
Photo by Susan Boyer

Photo by Susan Boyer

As I look out of the kitchen window, I’m amazed at the beauty of the changing leaves. What was once supple and green is now crisp, red and orange. The tree tops contrast sharply with the gray, cloudy sky, as if they have been set ablaze by Mother Nature.

It’s time to fire up my slow cooker.

I feel the need for serious comfort food as the temperature outside drops. One of my favorite slow-cooker meals is country ribs and beans. I start by seasoning and searing the meat in a super-hot cast iron skillet to get nice color and flavor and then put it in the slow cooker with the beans, a little hot sauce (for the salt and the heat), more spices, water and some chicken stock. By dinner, it is falling-off the bone perfection. I also serve a big salad and cornbread to round out the meal.

Are you ready to turn on your slow cooker? Do you have an old-school version, or is yours a newfangled, stainless steel one, replete with the digital settings? More importantly, what are you putting in yours? Try my recipe for white chicken chili. It’s sure to warm your belly and satisfy your comfort-food craving. I often serve this on big game days. I love to put a line of bowls filled with garnish near the slow cooker so people can top their chili with their favorite add-ins.

White Chik’n Chili

1 package Morningstar Meal Starters Chik’n Strips

2 large onions, medium chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

Three 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (one can reserved)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Three 15 oz cans low-sodium chicken broth

Hot sauce to taste (I use lots! About 1/4 cup)

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Two 4 oz cans green chilies, chopped

Garnish (optional):

Grated cheese

Sour cream

Green onions, sliced

pickled jalapeno pepper slices

Tortilla chips

A spicy, cheesy jalapeño cornbread (I’ll share my low-fat recipe for this soon…)

Using a stick blender, blend one can of the beans and add mashed beans to thicken the chili. Place all ingredients into the crock of your slow cooker, about 2-5 hours depending on your slow cooker. Ladle into bowls and add desired garnish and serve hot.