Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies

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

Deconstructed Stuffed Potatoes from Jerusalem

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
Serves 4-6

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

Blueberry Apple Jam

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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dukkah Spice Blend and October Unprocessed

Today I’m thrilled to be contributing to October Unprocessed! Andrew Wilder created this marvelous challenge on his blog, Eating Rules, and this is my third year to take the pledge and eat only unprocessed food for a month. Each year, I learn something new from the creative, inspiring posts that are shared daily for the month of October, and am motivated to further “un-process” my food while still keeping it delicious.

I’m sharing a recipe today for one of my favorite spice blends, dukkah. You can read the full post and get the recipe here. And please consider joining me in taking the pledge!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nori Quinoa Salad

We are avid sushi fans and love to eat nori when it’s wrapped around seasoned rice and fish or veggies. But lately, toasted seaweed has emerged as a go-to snack on its own, which got me thinking beyond the sushi bar. Nori is a wonderful sea vegetable. It contains protein, fiber and vitamins, plus it tastes good! So working more seaweed into our meals is an easy decision.

With fall’s arrival, a hearty grain salad is ideal for supper. I’ve made a warm rice salad with spinach several times, the hot grains wilting the fresh spinach just enough. This last time, though, I tossed in some toasted nori along with the spinach. I quickly discovered that nori sticks together in a mass when it hits the heat! So I made a pot of quinoa and tried again, this time adding small squares of nori and stirring to blend it in without clumping. Success!

Carrot ribbons, sliced green onions, sesame seeds and cooked salmon went into the bowl next. This salad is one of those “bits and bobs” recipes, where you can toss in any leftover veggies like broccoli or peppers, or another protein such as tofu or chicken. A lively dressing of lemon juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce and ginger finishes the salad.

The salad components can be prepared ahead of time, allowing you to toss and serve it quickly for a weeknight supper. Full of texture and flavor, you get a little taste of the sea in every bite.

Nori Quinoa Salad
Serves 4

1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked quinoa (I used a mix of red and white), kept warm or reheated
5 sheets of nori, toasted and torn into strips or squares
6 ounces fresh spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped
4 ounces carrots, grated or peeled into ribbons
1 bunch of green onions, sliced
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted (I used a mix of white and black)
1 cup cooked or smoked salmon, flaked (optional)

Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger and black pepper. Place the warm quinoa in a large serving bowl. Add the squares of nori a few at a time, gently stirring to wilt them and being careful that they don’t clump up. Add all the spinach and stir to wilt, too. Mix in the carrots, green onions, sesame seeds and salmon and then drizzle the dressing over and toss gently. Serve warm.