Monday, December 30, 2013
An abundance of winter greens lies ahead! Eating locally during the colder months doesn’t offer nearly the bounty of the warmer seasons, but fortunately we have a wide variety of hearty greens such as chard, kale and collards to keep us going.
Around now, after a bit (or rather, a lot) of indulgent eating during the holidays, I am usually craving crunchy fresh greens and lately this salad of Collard Greens with Pickled Pears has been topping my list.
Eating collard greens uncooked in a salad was new to me until introduced by my friend Deb, a truly talented cook. She made Collard Greens with Pickled Apples and I think I had at least three servings over the course of our dinner together! Pickled apples? I was shaking my head wondering why I hadn’t thought of doing this sooner. I’ve since made the salad on a few occasions and this last time decided to use pears in place of the apples.
The sliced pears are steeped in a warm bath of apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and water. When ready to eat, they are tossed with thin ribbons of grassy green collards, a drizzle of fruity olive oil and a scattering of toasted seeds or nuts.
A tempting wedge of blue Stilton cheese (always tasty with pears) was on the kitchen counter, so I crumbled some in for a luxurious touch.
This hearty salad is a bold one – sweet and tart, crunchy and creamy. It is virtuous eating at its best and will deliver you into the new year happy and satisfied.
Wishing you all a delicious 2014!
Collard Greens with Pickled Pears
Adapted from Epicurious. com
3 medium sized, firm pears (I used red and Bartlett)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and thinly sliced across into 1/4 inch ribbons
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt and pepper to taste
Small wedge of Stilton cheese, crumbled (optional)
Core and slice the pears into eighths and set aside in a heatproof bowl. In a medium sized saucepan, bring the cider vinegar, water, coconut sugar and salt to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the pears and return to a boil, then pour the whole mixture back into the heatproof bowl. Chill the pears uncovered for at least an hour. If using later, cover and keep cold for a day or two.
To assemble salad, drain the pears and reserve a few tablespoons of the pickling liquid. Gently toss the pears, seeds and greens together in a serving bowl. Drizzle on a little olive oil, add a couple tablespoons of pickling liquid, salt and pepper to taste and gently toss again. If using, crumble some Stilton cheese over the top and serve.
Friday, December 20, 2013
Christmas lights are twinkling around town, snow is falling, we’re going to see Little Women performed at the local theater and, best of all, Sam is home from college and our family is together for winter break! It’s a happy time and I’m delighted to be here in the valley for this festive season.
It’s also time for seasonal treats! Isaac’s girlfriend made incredible homemade eggnog for us and let me just say, it’s the best eggnog ever and I’m never going back to the carton stuff (I may have snuck spoonfuls of fresh cream off the top when no one was looking, too).
More indulgences that somehow make their way into my shopping basket during this time of year are peppermint bark and peppermint stick ice cream. I really can’t resist. Peppermint stick and chocolate are a classic combination no matter the season. When I was little my favorite ice cream cone at Brigham’s was always peppermint stick with chocolate jimmies. But in December they are especially tempting flavors, which led to this mousse.
Coconut cream has been my go-to dessert topping for some time. It whips up light and creamy, and (like many things!) when chocolate is added it becomes sensational. With peppermint on my mind, I blitzed some candy canes in the food processor, added chilled coconut cream, cocoa powder and maple syrup and gave them a whirl.
What emerged was billowy and downright decadent. This mousse also happens to be vegan, raw and gluten-free and would be especially nice as part of a holiday dessert buffet. Luscious and rich, with creamy chocolate and little hits of refreshing mint, it’s deeply satisfying and so easy to make. I spooned it into tiny bowls with a sprinkle of crushed candy cane and then dove in.
Wishing you all a warm, happy Christmas!
Chocolate Peppermint Stick Mousse
3 candy canes, wrappers removed
1-14 ounce can thick, unsweetened coconut cream (I find it at Trader Joe’s) or 2-14 ounce cans whole, unsweetened coconut milk, chilled overnight in the fridge
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Break two of the candy canes into smaller pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz the candy canes until they form a fine powder. Dump the peppermint powder into a small bowl and set aside. Break the remaining candy cane into pieces and pulse it in the food processor a few times until smaller rough pieces form (this is for garnish). Dump this into another small bowl and set aside.
Open the can of chilled coconut cream and scrape it into the bowl of the food processor (no need to clean after the candy canes). If using coconut milk, open the 2 cans and carefully scoop out the solid coconut cream from each into the food processor. Reserve the clear liquid to use in smoothies. Add the remaining ingredients and whiz until smooth and creamy. Stop a couple of times to scrape down the sides and make sure any chunks of coconut are blended. Sprinkle in the powdered candy canes and pulse a few times to mix in.
Spoon the mousse into small bowls. It can be eaten right away or kept covered in the fridge overnight. When ready to eat, sprinkle with the crushed candy cane pieces to garnish (if you do this too early the candy canes start to soften and cause red streaks).
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
December slipped in when I wasn’t looking. Last week, Thanksgiving was a cozy blur of happy times with Sam home from college, football, good food, and celebrating with family and friends. And now we’re nearing the end of another festive holiday, Hanukkah. I can’t keep up!
Before I flip my calendar page to December, I want to share with you what we were cooking with for Tasting Jerusalem in November. Pistachios! Pistachios are quite popular in Middle Eastern cooking and baking. The best baklava I ever tasted was a version with green pistachios at the Abulafia Bakery in Tel Aviv. Truly a decadent treat. Another delicious sweet that I enjoyed while in Israel was malabi, a milk-based pudding. There are several names for this luscious custard, including muhallabieh (as it’s called in Jerusalem), sutlaj or sutlach. No matter what it’s called, it’s creamy and wonderful and I can eat it by the bowlful.
When I spotted the recipe in Jerusalem, I knew I had to make it. Traditionally, malabi is flavored with rose water and topped with a drizzle of sweet syrup and pistachios. Since I had Thanksgiving flavors on my mind when I was dreaming about a dish of malabi, I came up with a variation using cranberries and maple syrup as a topping and swapped out the rose water for vanilla. I also used cream in place of water with the milk, making it rather like a rich panna cotta. The pudding here is made with milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and cornstarch and whisked together over heat until smooth and custardy (this happens quickly, so be sure to remove from heat the moment it thickens to avoid lumps).
For the topping, I stirred together fresh cranberries (such pretty little jewels!) and maple syrup over medium heat until the berries were bursting and bubbling away. Both the pudding and topping can be made ahead and chilled before layering. I spooned the pudding into wine and champagne glasses for an elegant dessert and then topped each with a smooth layer of the cranberries and a scatter of chopped pistachios.
The bright, tart flavor of the cranberries contrasts nicely with the creamy sweetness of the pudding, while the pistachios add crunchy texture. The cheery red and white colors make this a merry dessert for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, too. And with the frigid cold we’re having outside now, I don’t need any reminders that December has indeed arrived!
Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
By Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
For the pudding, whisk the cornstarch together with 6 tablespoons of the milk until it forms a paste. In a saucepan, stir together the rest of the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla and warm it over medium heat until it begins to steam. Whisk in the milk/cornstarch paste and keep stirring until it turns to custard. I found this happened very quickly, so be ready to pull it off the heat. Pour the pudding into 6 pretty glasses or dishes. It’s nice to use clear glass so you can see the contrast in colors. Cover and place in the fridge to chill.
For the topping, stir the cranberries and maple syrup together in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes. The berries will start popping, so stir often to prevent sticking and mash them gently against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. When the sauce has thickened, remove from heat and chill.
Both the pudding and sauce can be made the day before. When ready to serve, divide the sauce between the 6 custards and gently smooth. Garnish each with a sprinkle of chopped pistachios and serve.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Last year I started making homemade cheese crackers and they instantly became my favorite savory treat to serve during the festive fall and winter months.
A long-time fan of Cheez-It crackers, I was delighted to be making a healthier version with real cheddar cheese and whole wheat flour. For most of 2013, though, I’ve been baking gluten-free so these homemade cheese crackers have not appeared and I’ve missed them. I enjoy the tastes, textures and nutrition in other flours such as coconut, almond and buckwheat and find I feel much better eating them. So, with the holiday season approaching quickly, it’s time to recreate these cheesy nibbles!
I pulled out my hand grater and a started grating cheddar cheese. The cheese went into the food processor along with some almond flour, turmeric, a bit of cayenne pepper, butter, salt and an egg. After pulsing a few times, I dumped the rough dough out and wrapped it up to chill. At this point, you can keep the dough in the fridge for a couple of days until you’re ready to bake.
After rolling out the dough, I started cutting different shapes. This week, we are celebrating both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah (they won’t overlap again for 79,000 years!) so in honor of this I cut out turkeys and dreidels. You can also cut the dough into the more “traditional” Cheez- It square shape. But no matter what shape you choose, be sure to sprinkle the tops with a healthy pinch of flaky sea salt before baking. That salty punch is just delicious and one of the reasons I can’t stop eating these once I start.
I’ve also rolled, cut and frozen the dough ahead of time, making it easy to pull out and pop into the oven for a quick appetizer. This is especially helpful when prepping ahead for Thanksgiving. Early in the morning, before the turkey goes in the oven, just bake the frozen dough (add a minute or two to the baking time) and you’ll have a great snack to hold hungry guests over until the big feast is ready.
Happy Hanukkah and Happy Thanksgiving!
Cheese Crackers with Almond Flour
Quantity depends upon what size cookie cutter you use or size of squares you cut
2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
2 cups finely ground, blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or Aleppo pepper (optional)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into smaller bits
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cheese, almond flour, egg, turmeric, cayenne, butter and kosher salt together until a rough dough forms. Remove the dough, shape into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill the dough for at least an hour and up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters. Place one quarter of the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll out into 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into squares or use your favorite cookie cutters. Place the cut outs on the prepared pan and sprinkle a pinch of flaky sea salt on top of each. Bake until crispy and just beginning to brown, about 12-15 minutes. Remove and let cool. Repeat with the remaining dough. You can also roll and cut the dough, then freeze on a baking sheet. When baking, add a minute or 2 to the baking time.
The crackers are lovely on the day they’re baked or keep well overnight at room temperature in a well-sealed container.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
We had our first snowfall of the season last week! We woke up to the hush of snow-blanketed ground and it was just beautiful. Of course, it also meant the chickens’ water was frozen so I needed to get one of those warmers to put their water container on, and Bob hung a heating light in their coop so they can be toasty warm for the winter months. We’re still adapting to living full-time in the valley!
One of our dogs, Boots, found the warmest spot in the cabin to spend her day. I think she’ll be spending a lot of time there!
The snow was a reminder that winter is nearing and, since we could easily be snowed in for days at a time, I’ve been filling our shed shelves with staples such as beans and grains for those snowy days we can’t make it out.
It’s also time to start thinking about holiday gifts, especially since Hanukkah begins the night before Thanksgiving this year. I like to give (and receive!) homemade gifts, and a jar of granola tied with a festive ribbon is always welcome. Granola is also something that can be made with those pantry staples, so I plan to keep a jar ready on the counter all season.
I’ve made many batches of my Blueberry Maple Granola, but this last time decided to mix it up a bit and made a chocolate version. I stirred together honey, coconut oil, vanilla, cocoa powder and a big pinch of flaky sea salt before mixing in oats, cacao nibs and chia seeds. After baking, a handful of dried cherries finished it off.
A scoop of chocolate granola is hard to resist for breakfast and I don’t expect it to last long. We’re expecting more snow this weekend so I may be making another batch soon!
Chocolate Cherry Granola
Makes about 4 cups
1/3 cup raw honey
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dried cherries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the honey, coconut oil, vanilla and cocoa powder until smooth. Add the chia seeds, cacao nibs and salt and mix in. Gently fold in the oats until just coated. Spread the mixture out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake the granola for 9 minutes, stir the edges to keep from burning bake for another 8-9 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Stir in the dried cherries and store the granola in a sealed container at room temperature.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Crisp air, sunny skies, vibrant leaves and beautiful squash...the autumn season is truly splendid. Remember when I mentioned I was picking up forty pounds of squash from Farmstr? Well, I now have a gorgeous variety of winter squash in my shed to dig into! Time to indulge in some festive fall cooking.
The first squash I grabbed was delicata. Delicata squash are marvelous and quickly emerging as my favorite. This squash is quite pretty with its green and yellow stripes (important football colors in our family these days with the Oregon Ducks and Liberty Bell Mountain Lions!). Unlike other types of squash such as butternut, there’s no need to peel delicata, making it quick and easy to prepare. Just cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, slice into half-moons and roast until it’s sweet and delicious.
To top my roasted squash, I made a vinaigrette by simmering apple cider until it reduced (filling the kitchen with fall coziness) and whisking in maple syrup, cider vinegar, Dijon and olive oil.
We’ve had boxes of apples stacked in the kitchen for applesauce, so when the squash came out of the oven I tossed some apple slices on the roasting pan and popped it all back in. It turns out that when roasted, the apples caramelize and are irresistible. I could eat an entire pan of them! I may have to try a batch of applesauce with them next.
I tucked roasted apples in with the cute little squash slices and finished the whole thing with a drizzle of cider vinaigrette and a sprinkle of fresh parsley. We had friends coming for dinner and we gobbled it all up – always a good sign. With Thanksgiving coming, I’m adding this to our menu. And now back to the shed for more squash!
Delicata Squash and Apples with Cider Vinaigrette
3 delicata squash, sliced in half lengthwise, seeded and sliced into 1/2 inch half-moons
3 medium sized apples, cored and sliced into eighths
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Flaky sea salt
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter the squash slices evenly in one layer, sprinkle a pinch of flaky sea salt over and roast for about 20 minutes, until soft and nicely browned. Remove the pan from the oven and use a spatula to gently move the squash to a serving plate. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the pan and scatter the apple slices in an even layer. Roast until soft and browned, about 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.
While the squash and apples are baking, make the vinaigrette. Bring the cup of apple cider to a boil in a small sauce pan, lower the heat to medium and let simmer until it reduces by almost half, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Whisk in the cider vinegar, Dijon, maple syrup and remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
Gently tuck the apple slices in among the squash slices. When ready to serve, drizzle some of the cider vinaigrette over and scatter the parsley. Serve room temperature.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Boo! It’s time for pumpkin patches
and spooky deviled eggs.
And, of course, treats! In the past I’ve made pumpkin cookies, but this year I decided to try making cookies with sweet potatoes. I simply love sweet potatoes and appreciate all the healthy goodness they bring.
First I roasted the potatoes to bring out their caramelized sweetness. After mashing, I added a combination of oat and almond flours and sweetened the dough with maple syrup and brown sugar. A big handful of chocolate chips was absolutely necessary, too! This dough is soft, so I chilled it for an hour to firm it up a bit and make for easier scooping.
Fresh out of the oven, the cookies are ultra-soft with gooey chocolate. With their hint of orange hue and touch of cinnamon, they are perfect for an autumn celebration. Or, cozy up with a plate of these wholesome cookies after a day of raking leaves. And if you’re looking for something to nibble on the next morning, they make a fine breakfast with a piping hot cup of coffee.
Wishing you all some ghostly fun! Happy Halloween!
Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 17 cookies
1 1/4 cups roasted, cooled, mashed sweet potatoes (from 1 large or 2 small)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups oat flour
1 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
In a large mixing bowl, beat the sweet potatoes and butter together until smooth. Add the eggs and beat again. Stir in the brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla.
In another bowl, stir together the oat flour, almond flour, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt. Add this dry mix to the wet mix and gently stir together. Add the chocolate chips and stir just until mixed.
Pop the bowl into the fridge and chill for at least an hour. This makes scooping easier.
Preheat the oven 375 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop large rounded scoops of dough (I use a small ice cream scoop) onto the pan. I fit 9 on the first batch, and 8 on the second. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until puffed and lightly brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before gently removing and baking your second batch. These are very moist, soft cookies and keep well at room temperature for a day or two.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
October is all about tamarind in our Tasting Jerusalem cooking group. Tamarind has quite an exotic appeal and conjures up tropical visions for me. Sure enough, tamarind trees grow in tropical areas and produce pods with an edible fruit pulp. The pods are available in some markets or you can easily find the dark brown paste on store shelves. Tamarind is popular in Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines and the tart, sour taste can go either sweet or savory.
When perusing the recipes in Jerusalem that contain tamarind paste, I was intrigued by the Stuffed Potatoes. Hollowed out small potatoes are individually stuffed with a well-seasoned meat filling and simmered in a tamarind and tomato sauce. The recipe cautions, though, that it is time consuming and best to have someone help with it. With this in mind, I decided to make a deconstructed version: meatballs simmered in sauce and served over mashed potatoes. This way I could get the benefit of all the delicious flavors in a rustic, homey fashion.
I began by making the sauce. Chopped tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and tamarind pasted simmered away, seasoned with fragrant cumin, paprika and allspice. A dash of crushed red chile added a nice little kick. While the sauce cooked, I made meatballs with ground beef, almond flour, parsley, cinnamon and garlic. The meatballs gently cooked in the flavorful sauce, filling the kitchen with its enticing scent. One of the most comforting sounds is a bubbling pot on the stove!
Once the meatballs were cooked, I spooned them over bowls of mashed potatoes, drenching it all in the rich, brown sauce. Something about eating mashed potatoes and meatballs is just so soothing and lovely. This cozy dish explodes with spice and taste, the tamarind adding a deep note of flavor. It warmed our bellies while we watched the sun set over the valley, pockets of color from the changing leaves peeking out here and there. Truly one of the most gorgeous Octobers ever!
Deconstructed Stuffed Potatoes
Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
By Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile peppers
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon allspice
1 28 ounce can tomato puree
1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Hot mashed potatoes for serving (I mashed Yukon Gold potatoes with olive oil and some of the potato water)
To make the sauce, warm the olive oil over medium high heat in a large Dutch oven and add the garlic, onion and carrots. Cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, make the meatballs. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients and gently mix (I use my hands). Scoop out enough of the mixture to make roughly a 2 inch ball. Place in the simmering sauce and repeat until all the meat is used (you should have 12 or so meatballs). Use a spoon to gently move the meatballs around so they are not too crowded and are covered with the sauce. Let cook for about 20 minutes, until the meat is fully cooked.
To serve, scoop some mashed potatoes into a bowl and ladle a couple of meatballs and some sauce over.
Friday, October 18, 2013
My friend, Janelle, is up to something. Something big! I had the pleasure of meeting Janelle a couple of years ago and have since followed her blog, Talk of Tomatoes. I’ve also tracked the progress of the awesome urban farm she is creating with her family in Seattle. Janelle is warm, gracious and talented. And she drives the coolest truck ever! Now she’s taken her enthusiasm for eating local food a (huge) step further and started Farmstr.
Farmstr is an online marketplace connecting small farmers directly with consumers in the Pacific Northwest. Janelle is spending time meeting farmers in Washington and Oregon, getting to know their farms and families and helping them promote their sustainable, local produce, eggs and meat to interested buyers (like me!).
Last month, when I was in Seattle for the International Food Bloggers Conference, I picked up ten pounds of beautiful frozen blueberries through Farmstr. The berries are from Bow Hill Blueberries, an organic, family-run farm north of Seattle. Now that October is here, knowing I have this stash of blueberries in my freezer makes me very happy!
This Blueberry Apple Jam is the first thing I made with these luscious berries. The jam combines summer and fall together, honey sweetened blueberry goodness with a fresh bite of autumnal apple. Apples contain natural pectin, so I kept the prep easy and left the peels on which allowed the jam to thicken a bit more. I popped a jar in the fridge for immediate devouring and the other two into the freezer for a later treat.
The next time I’m in Seattle I’ll be picking up forty pounds of squash, which has me very excited for some fall cooking. Farmsr also has honey, potatoes, pears, eggs and chickens available so please check out their site and help spread the word.
Blueberry Apple Jam
Makes 3 half pint jars
2 pounds blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
2 medium apples, cored and diced (keep the peels on)
3/4 cup raw honey
In a large pot, bring the blueberries, apples and honey to a boil and lower to a bubbling simmer. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until it cooks down and thickens into a jammy consistency and apples are soft, about 55-60 minutes. Let cool and ladle into jars. Store the jam in the fridge for up to a month or freeze for future use.