December 31, 2012

Almond Chocolate Thumbprints

In my search for new Christmas cookie recipes, this one stood out. Almond shortbread with chocolate made my day. I made them too big, so they weren't quite as cute as they could have been, but lesson learned - next time I'll use my small cookie scoop. Don't limit yourself to just Christmas on these - they'll work anytime.

Almond meal is also known as almond flour, but is just ground almonds. You can buy it at Trader Joe's or make it yourself by grinding whole almonds in a food processor until fine.

Almond Chocolate Thumbprints
adapted from Alice Medrich via Being a Bear

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. almond meal (see note above)
1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into chunks and slightly softened
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
3 c. flour

3/4 c. coarse sugar (like turbinado)

7 1/2 oz. (1 1/4 c.) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Mix sugar, salt, and almond meal together in a large bowl. Add butter, vanilla extract and almond extract to mixture and mix with beater until smooth. Add flour. Mix until dough begins to come together.

Pour coarse sugar into a shallow bowl. Line several cookie sheets with waxed paper. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in coarse sugar to cover completely. Set balls on prepared cookie sheets, with a slight space between each cookie. With the finger of your choice, press down the center of the cookie to make a deep divot. You may need to dip your finger in flour or water to keep it from sticking to the dough. Cover cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or, even better, overnight.

When ready to bake cookies, heat oven to 325 degrees. Take cookies out of refrigerator and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch of space between cookies. Bake cookies for 10 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and quickly use the end of a wooden spoon's handle to gently tamp down cookies' divots. Return cookies to oven and cook until barely beginning to turn golden, another 8-10 minutes.

Remove cookies from cookie sheets and place on cooling racks until cooled completely. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt together semisweet chocolate and Butter, stirring frequently, until smooth. Using a small spoon, fill divot in each cooled cookie with chocolate filling. Let stand until set.

December 13, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

These cookies had the X-factor of food. What is that called? Not sure. Anyway these minty-chocolately cookies stuffed with chocolate, white chocolate, and candy canes were very addicting. Sorry the photo does not look that great, but don't judge a book by its cover. Wait, how do you say that in food terms?

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies
from Sarah's Cucina Bella

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
5 peppermint candy canes, crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and peppermint extract on medium speed until well mixed (about two minutes). In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. With the stand mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients a little at a time until just incorporated. Stir in the semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and crushed candy canes.

Using a medium cookie scoop (or a tablespoon), drop cookie dough in balls onto the prepared baking sheet leaving about 2-inches between dough balls. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are cooked through. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

December 9, 2012

Brownies with Ganache

Many times I'd rather search out a new recipe instead of make one tried and true. Yes, often it ends in something unmemorable, though usually satisfying. I think it's my brain rather than my taste buds that are seeking a new challenge. This time, I was highly rewarded. This recipe for brownies on first glance may seem uninspired, but for me, I can't wait to make them again.

These brownies were fudgy, but also airy and, in a word, amazing. My first love in desserts is of the heavy and rich variety, but as I age I lean more towards light. These magical brownies satisfied both of those loves, in a way. Maybe you'll make them and think I'm crazy, but I'm sure I wasn't imagining the fluffy density provided by these dichotomous morsels.

Oh, yes, then there's the ganache... I think I've found the perfect chocolate dessert.

Chocolate Lovers Brownies
adapted from Milk and Honey

2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1/2 c. dark chocolate, finely chopped (semi-sweet chocolate chips work well)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain flour OR white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 c. dark chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8x8-inch square cake pan, line the base with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at half power in 30 second intervals, stirring between each heating. Continue until both are completely melted.

Sift sugar and cocoa powder. Add to the butter/chocolate mixture. Beat in (by hand) the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla extract until smooth. Fold in flour and salt.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on cooling rack.

For the Ganache:
Place the chopped chocolate into a small bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter and cream over medium heat, stirring constantly. When mixture is almost boiling, pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds. Then, stir until smooth.

Pour ganache over cooled brownies and spread evenly.

Allow ganache to firm before cutting brownies.

December 3, 2012

Chicken Soup with Lemon, Orzo and Chard

I often make classic chicken noodle soup, but it does get a little boring sometimes. The lemon twist in this chicken soup recipe is just the thing to give it new life. I love the simplified method for preparing it too - done in no time.

Chicken Soup with Lemon, Orzo and Chard
adapted from Tartelette

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup roughly chopped fresh chard or spinach
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup orzo
salt and pepper
8 cups chicken broth (or water if you prefer)
Zest and juice of a lemon

In a large pot (4 quart or more), heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the carrot, celery and onion pieces. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken breast, spinach, oregano, broth and season with salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, half covered for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile cook the orzo in a separate pot according to the package directions.

Remove the chicken breast from the soup. Let cool enough to handle and shred it into pieces. Return the shredded meat to the pot. Add cooked orzo and then lemon juice and zest. Stir and serve.

November 28, 2012

Roasted Turnips

There are some root vegetables I'm not that familiar with; turnips are one of them. They're similar in texture to potatoes and can be prepared with similar methods: roasting, boiling/mashing, adding as chunks to soups, even making turnip fries!

So far, I've only tried roasting and am definitely excited to try more turnips. Although, roasting any vegetable seems to make it delicious (except radishes...): brussels sprouts, green beans, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and even kale.

Roasted Turnips
from Taylor Takes a Taste

1 large or 2 medium sized turnips (peeled)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 415F. Cut your peeled turnip(s) into about 1 inch or bite sized rectangles. Place cut turnips into a large bowl. Pour olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a dash of salt and several turns of a pepper mill into the bowl. Mix turnips with other ingredients, so they are well coated. Spread turnips onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast in the over for 25-30 minutes until fork tender.

November 24, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

I am so out of the cooking mode. Being away from home and not having to cook dinner each night really gets me out of the habit of being in the kitchen. I'm slowly returning, and in the meantime, I feel pretty hungry.

I made this bread quite a few weeks ago, but I want to make it again soon. Pumpkin bread is the best, and this may be my new go-to recipe. It is sweetened with only honey or maple syrup (I used maple syrup), but the lack of sugar is an improvement. I'm gradually learning to be more in tune with my body and am actually connecting eating poorly, like too much sugar, with not feeling well. I'm hopeful that natural, unrefined sweeteners really are better for me than refined white sugar. This bread doesn't give quite the sugar rush that the traditionally sweet pumpkin bread does. If you make it, let me know if you miss the sugar or not.

Spiced Honey Pumpkin Bread
from The Flour Sack

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly-ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
2 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 8 1/2 x 5-inch loaf pan with olive oil. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin puree, olive oil, honey, and eggs until well-combined. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk for 10 seconds, just until the flour disappears and the batter is mostly smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Let the bread sit in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove bread and finish cooling on the wire rack. Slice the bread once it has cooled for at least 1 hour.

October 23, 2012

Fish Tacos

I apologize for the lack of posts. I had a visitor and now am visiting my parents. My mom left my dad and me tonight to fend for ourselves, but suggested we make fish tacos. She had a recipe which was easy and delicious. I often order fish tacos when they're on the menu in a restaurant, so I'm glad to have my own recipe now.

Someday I will post my method for homemade corn tortillas made from masa harina. They're really easy and way better than store-bought corn tortillas. You can buy a bag of masa harina (corn flour for tortillas) in the mexican area of the grocery store. You add water, knead, roll out, and cook in a pan. The directions are on the bag. Totally worth the effort anytime you need corn tortillas.

Fish Tacos
adapted from Pampered Chef

1-2 limes, juiced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. milk
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. thinly sliced cabbage
1 avocado, sliced
8 6-inch corn tortillas
1 lb. tilapia filets
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil

For salsa, combine 1 Tbsp. lime juice, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

For sauce, combine 1 Tbsp. lime juice, mayonnaise, milk and garlic in a another small bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

Heat saute pan over medium-high heat. Season tilapia filets with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to pan. Add tilapia and cook a few minutes until lightly browned, and flip over. Cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove from pan and flake into bite-size pieces.

Warm corn tortillas. Top with fish, sauce, salsa, cabbage and avocado.

October 9, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream

I found a recipe similar to this one - chocolate and coconut milk - but it had sugar as the sweetener. Then this recipe came across my screen, and I was sold. Ice cream with only honey as the sweetener?! I've been on a natural sweetener kick lately; if I'm gonna talk the talk, I better walk the walk, right?

This ice cream was excellent! I definitely didn't miss the sugar, though my local raw honey is super fragrant, and I could taste it. That's not a bad thing, but it added a dimension that less complex honies may not. Seriously, this is the most delicious honey I've ever eaten. It's like I can taste the many varieties of flowers that the bees touched. Back to the ice cream...the texture was less creamy than custard-based ice creams, but still very acceptable.

Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream
from A Couple Cooks

1 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk (refrigerate before using if possible)
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk (refrigerate before using if possible)
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cans coconut milk and 1/2 cup honey. Whisk in 1/3 cup cocoa powder until it is fully integrated (it will take about one minute to mix in). Then mix in the remaining 1/3. Add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of kosher salt.

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker (it helps if the mixture is cold before freezing; as noted above, keep cans of coconut milk in the refrigerator so they are already cold). Or, make it without the machine.

You can eat the ice cream right away for a soft serve texture, or freeze it for about 2 hours for a harder texture.

October 7, 2012

Canning Tomatoes

A few weeks ago I scored a bucket of roma tomatoes for six dollars at the farmer's market. I canned tomatoes last year, but never posted about it. Those canned tomatoes didn't last long. Here's this year's yield, but I just received more tomatoes from my cousin's beautiful garden, so more canning this week.

It took almost 2 hours to prepare the tomatoes (blanching, peeling, coring), but the rest of the process was much less labor intensive. If you've never canned before, you'll need more information than this recipe, especially about preparing the jars. Also be sure to use bottled lemon juice, not fresh.

Raw-Pack Canned Tomatoes
from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Laruen Devine

bottled lemon juice or citric acid
salt (optional)

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

2. Working small batches, immerse tomatoes in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until the skins start to loosen or crack. Immediately plunge into a bowl of cold water and slip the skins off. Remove cores and any bruised or discolored portions that become apparent after blanching. Leave whole, halve or quarter.

3. Prepare tomatoes for packing: Bring about 4 cups water to a boil and keep hot (you will use it to fill the jars). Do not heat the tomatoes.

4. Before packing each jar of tomatoes, add lemon juice or citric acid to the hot jar in the quantity specified below:

bottled lemon juice
pint - 1 Tbsp
quart - 2 Tbsp

citric acid
pint - 1/4 tsp
quart - 1/2 tsp

5. Add salt, if using, in the quantity specified below:
pint - 1/2 tsp
quart 1 tsp

6. Pack tomatoes into prepared jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle boiling water into jar to cover tomatoes, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles by inserting a wand into the jar several times. Adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot liquid. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

7. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process pint jars for 40 minutes and quart jars for 45 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

September 29, 2012

Chocolate Cake (with beets...shh)

Of course, this is my favorite beet recipe so far - chocolate cake! There was just a hint of beet earthiness in this super moist cake, which gave it depth. I never told my husband the secret ingredient, and he said it was the best chocolate cake I have made. Also he gave a piece to a co-worker who said "This is so good I'm going to hug myself."

I'm overloaded on beets right now from my CSA, so to preserve them I think I'll make some more beet puree and store it in the freezer. That way, I can make this chocolate cake any time!

Here I made the ganache as posted by Naturally Ella, where I got the recipe. However, it was a little runny, and I'm not sure what went wrong. This cake would be excellent with any topping you'd like: powdered sugar, chocolate buttercream, ganache, etc. Pictured here is my favorite ice cream: salted caramel.

Chocolate Beet Cake
from Naturally Ella

1 cup butter
1½ cup brown sugar or sucanat
3 eggs
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 cups pureed beets (roughly 3 large beets)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour or white wheat flour
½ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoons salt

Pull butter and eggs and bring to room temperature. Also, butter and flour two 8″ cake pans.

First, peel the beets, cut into small pieces and cover with water (just enough that the beets are barely covered) and cook until beets are tender (30-40 minutes). If you have a lot of excess water left, drain so that only ½ cup remains with the beets. Puree beets in a blender until no large chunks are left. Set aside to cool.
While beets are cooking, combine ¼ cup of the butter with the ounce of chocolate. Melt and whisk the chocolate and butter together. Set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 375˚.

In either a large bowl or your stand-mixer bowl, combine remaining softened butter and brown sugar, beating with a paddle until well combined. Next, beat in eggs and vanilla until the mixture comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in melted chocolate/butter and beet puree and continue to beat. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the batter, beating until everything is well combined.

Pour evenly into cake pans and bake for 25-35 minutes (a toothpick should come out clean when the cake is checked.) Set aside for 10 minutes, then loosen both cakes around the edges and flip onto pieces of parchment to let cool.

To assemble the cake (once the cakes are cooled), take one cake and place on your serving plate. The cake is really moist and you may have to take a knife to loosen the cake from the parchment paper. Cover the first cake with a layer of desired topping and place the second cake on top. From here, take a healthy scoop of topping and crumb coat the cake with a thin layer. Place in refrigerator for 15 minutes, remove, and cover cake with remaining topping. If using ganache, keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

September 27, 2012

Curry Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Soup

I saw eggplants at the farmer's market and thought I should be dutiful and buy one. Eggplants, like beets, are not something I grew up eating, but I'm convinced I can learn to like them. This soup was quite delicious, but the eggplant flavor was almost undectectable. So this may not have helped me learn to like eggplant, but three cheers for anything flavored with curry!

See this salad for another adventure with eggplant.

Curry Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Soup
adapted from Pinch of Yum

2 small/medium eggplant (or 1 large)
1 red bell pepper
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons tahini or natural peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon curry
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
optional: 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, cayenne for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 450. Chop red peppers and eggplant into 1-inch pieces. Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil and spray with nonstick spray. Put vegetables on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes.

In a large saucepan, saute onion with oil until translucent. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add 2 c. broth, tahini, and spices. Add roasted vegetables. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer to a blender (or use an immersion blender right in the saucepan). Puree until soup reaches desired consistency. Add more broth if needed to thin out soup. Stir in lemon juice. Sprinkle with cayenne and serve with warm bread.

September 26, 2012

Broccoli Quinoa Salad

I thought this recipe would just be ho-hum. I was so wrong! The roasted, seasoned broccoli was the star of this delicious vegetarian dish. So yummy! I just joined Costco for the first time and bought a big bag of quinoa. I'm glad to be eating more of this amazing grain.

Broccoli Quinoa Salad
adapted from Beloved Green

1 bunch of broccoli
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
dash of salt
dash of pepper
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 tomato, diced

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Take a stack of broccoli, cut the florets while leaving the long stalk attached. Place them in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Squeeze half of a lemon over top of the broccoli, and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Make sure the broccoli is coated and line them up on a baking sheet.

Place the baking sheet into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the broccoli begins to brown.

Meanwhile, on the stove bring the vegetable broth (or water) to a boil and add in the quinoa. Lower heat to barely simmering and cover. Cook until the quinoa absorbs all of the stock (about 15 minutes), and using a fork, fluff it into a bowl. Add in the broccoli, feta cheese, and diced tomatoes. Squeeze the remainder of the lemon over top before serving.

September 17, 2012

Beet Green Salad

Beets! I'm not totally in love with beets yet, but I'm working on it. Once peeled, the gorgeous ruby red color tries to tell me it's going to taste so good. I asked my mom the other day if she ever served beets to us, and the answer was no. So I need some more exposure to beets to learn to appreciate them. In any case, beets are quite economical - you can eat the beet greens and the beet. Both parts of the vegetable are used in this salad. More beet recipes coming...

Beet Green Chopped Salad
from Sprouted Kitchen

1 bunch of beets, including fresh looking greens
olive oil for cooking
4 scallions, white and light green parts
1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa
1 small avocado, diced
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds

Tahini Dressing
2 Tbsp. tahini
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1-2 tsp. agave nectar, depending on desired sweetness
3 Tbsp. water, or as needed
hefty pinch of salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic finely minced
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. finely chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 450'.

Cut the greens from the beets at their stem. Rub a bit of olive oil on the skin of the beets, sprinkle with salt and wrap them all in a foil pack. Set on the middle oven rack and cook for 45-55 minutes until you can easily piece through with a knife. Set them aside to cool.

While the beets roast, clean and dry the greens. Chop off and discard the long red stems. Chop the greens and put them in a large mixing bowl.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, vinegar, agave and water. Mix in the garlic, hearty pinch of salt and pepper and drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Add more water if you prefer it thinner. Mix in the chives. Adjust to your taste and set aside.

Once the beets are cool enough to touch, you should be able to just push the skin off with your fingers. Use a paring knife to help it along. Dice the peeled beets. Thinly slice the scallions. Add the beets, scallions, quinoa and avocado to the mixing bowl and toss with a generous amount of dressing (note: the salad will turn pink from the beets. If this bothers you, you can toss everything without the diced beets, and sprinkle them on top). Sprinkle in the sunflower seeds, give it one more toss.

September 12, 2012

Eating Philosophy

I've been wanting to write this post for at least a year now. I've fretted over my words, but I'm not submitting this as a college essay and decided to just put it out there.  It's long, but so important to me, and hopefully to you. I hope you'll read it!

taste the rainbow - fresh veggies from the farmer's market

I am not a very opinionated person. It is a rare topic that gets me excited or angry. But if you start talking to me about food, you may have a hard time getting me to stop. I love recounting my latest cooking experiments, telling about a new cookbook or ingredient I've discovered, or going all preachy and giving you my eating philosophy. I actually don't talk to people very much about why I eat the food I do, because I find that I can't relate to most people. When I overhear people talking about their attempt to be healthy with low-fat this or that, Healthy Choice meals, low-calorie snack packs, substitute sweeteners, and worst of all, margarine, I have to leave. It is amazing to me how many people still have such a skewed view of what is healthy. I don't even try to talk to most people about it, because they just don't get it. And I understand, because I was sort of there at one time.

I was a lucky child with a mother who cooked dinner every night and with a lot of fresh ingredients. Now my memory may be failing me a bit, but about the worst thing I remember is occasionally eating rice-a-roni and coveted Little Debbie snacks for a lunchbox snack, though she made plenty of homemade treats. I had grown up with the common misconceptions that slowly built up over the last few generations - for breakfast people eat boxed cold cereal, margarine is healthy, fatty food makes you fat, etc. However, in my late high school years, my parents were introduced to the book The Schwarzbein Principle by Diana Schwarzbein. This book advocated balanced meals - a proper amount of redefined food groups of protein, fats, green vegetables, and carbohydrates (includes grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit) - and eating them in their most natural state possible, while avoiding those things that are not natural - preservatives, refined sugar, refined flour, low-fat, hydrogenated fats, etc. The reason the author gives for eating this way is that it has the power to prevent and REVERSE degenerative diseases, especially type II diabetes. As a doctor, she was able to put this into practice with her patients and see the results.  The real value of this book was it really got me to start to question commonly accepted views about healthy eating.

So it all comes back to the simple truth that diet (meaning the food we eat) and how much we move are the two most important elements of a healthy lifestyle. Not really surprising. But, even though most people know this, they are confused about what eating healthy really means. The labels say low-fat, low-calorie, high in antioxidants, whole grain, lowers cholesterol, etc. But the real secret is eating food with no labels at all, or at least minimal labeling - fruits and vegetables, legumes, quality meat, poultry, and fish, eggs, whole grains bought in bulk. Michael Pollan really summed it up with his eating recommendations in In Defense of Food: eat food (food must be real food, not processed food, which means we have to spend some time in the kitchen), not too much, mostly green. Mostly green? That means vegetables! It's sad that many American's least favorite foods are vegetables: peas, brussels sprouts, broccoli.

A while ago I read French Women Don't Get Fat. I was highly impacted by the author's pure delight in eating fruits and vegetables. The secret is to eat them fresh, in season, and ripe - and the place to get these, short of your own backyard, is a farmer's market. France thrives on farmer's markets. So eventually I found a farmer's market near me and started going. It took me a while to fully warm up to them, but once I did, I became forever hooked. And thankfully, many others agreed with me, as farmer's markets are becoming more available (including winter markets) all over the country.

After browsing the markets, I joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) where I pre-paid for 20 weeks of the farm's harvest. I picked up my bag every week and then tried to figure out how to use it all. I used it as a learning experience to help me learn how to like vegetables better. I documented what I received each week and then what I made in my CSA series on this blog. The CSA introduced me to kale, chard, garlic scapes, beets, and as of this year kohlrabi, delicata squash, and fennel. CSAs are economical in that the amount of food received is cheaper than buying it a la carte, but if you don't eat it all, then maybe not.

Now that I have a baby who's about to start eating solids, I am determined to feed her with whole foods and help her learn to love vegetables (along with my husband and me). I still have much to learn and need to change some aspects of the way I eat (abominable sugar), but as Diana Schwarzbein emphasized, ANY change in the right direction will still benefit your health.

As I've learned more about food over the years, the principles that resonated the most with me were ones I could support with the health guidelines provided by God. This food quest is at it's base spiritual - the stewardship we have to take care of our bodies, having healthy, strong bodies so we can serve others, respecting the earth and all of God's creations, teaching our children truths, developing self-discipline by controlling appetites, and taking care of my family as a wife and mother.

In summary, here are some things I live by and some things I still have to work on:

1. Eat food in season and locally grown.
2. Preserve food when in season.
3. Eat less meat - most meals should be vegetarian. When meat is eaten, it is more for flavor than the main attraction.
4. Make as many items from scratch as possible, using whole ingredients.
5. Use a wheat grinder for freshly ground flours.
6. Grow a garden.
7. Enjoy eating - not just the treats.

And here are the books and resources that have gotten me to where I am. There are many more worthwhile resources, but these are the ones I have encountered. Please share if you have recommendations.

The Schwarzbein Principle by Diana Schwarzbein
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Food Matters by Mark Bittman
French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

Food, Inc.
Forks Over Knives
Food Fight
Super Size Me


recipe blogs or cookbooks
Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
Tender by Nigel Slater
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

September 5, 2012

Maple Walnut Cream Cheese

Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S. So to immerse myself in Vermont culture, I bought this:

Yes, that's a whole gallon. Once opened, long term storage is best in the freezer. I bought grade B, as the maple flavor is very strong, which is good for baking. Of course it's so good on waffles too!

When we first arrived in Vermont, we visited the Maple Candy store on Main Street. There my mother-in-law bought me the Official Vermont Maple Cookbook. It contains all sorts of recipes, including main dishes and salads. I can't wait to try more recipes soon (butternut squash, apple and fennel salad with maple vinaigrette sounds amazing).

This simple cream cheese dip tasted delicious with apples. I need to tackle homemade bagels. When I do, a batch of this cream cheese will accompany them.

Maple Walnut Cream Cheese
from The Official Vermont Maple Cookbook

4 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 c. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. walnuts, chopped

Mix ingredients in a food processor until smooth, or leave the walnuts a little chunky.

September 4, 2012

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

My goodness, these cookies were so good. The wheat added texture and flavor in ways that were only positive. My husband and his co-worker both enjoyed the cookies, the only complaint being they were a little sandy. So don't make these for a healthy option (because they're not), but do for a twist on a classic.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl, adding any large bits of grain or other ingredients that remain in the sifter.

Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, until just blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition, then add the vanilla extract.

Add the flour mixture and beat until barely combined. Stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed just until evenly distributed.

Now scoop your cookies by the tablespoon. Flatten the cookies slightly on the baking sheet. Put cookies in freezer for 15 minutes. Bake cookies in oven for 10-12 minutes or so, until the cookies are golden brown on the outsides and fragrant. Let them cool for a bit on a cooling rack.

August 31, 2012

Take 5 Bars

I wish I could call these something other than Take 5 bars, since I'm not even sure if I've had a Take 5 candy bar. But what else to call them? Peanut butter pretzel bars with peanuts, caramel, and chocolate? So, Take 5 it is. I have no idea if these resemble Take 5 candy bars, but they are so tasty.

Take 5 Bars
adapted from Pixel-Whisk

3 cups small pretzels
1 cup peanut butter (natural works fine)
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 heaping cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sea salt flakes or crushed pretzels for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8" pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the pretzels, peanut butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar until the pretzels are crushed into small bits and the mixture clumps together. OR crush the pretzels in a ziploc bag using a rolling pin and stir into the peanut butter and sugar in a large bowl. Press firmly into the pan and bake for 10 minutes.

In a saucepan over medium hear, stir remaining 1 cup of sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil sugar for about 5 minutes, or until the color begins to darken. Swirl caramelized sugar to mix and continue to cook until it's a medium amber color. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream (it will bubble violently, so stir carefully) and vanilla. Set aside to cool.

Pour caramel over the pretzel crust, then top with chopped peanuts. Lastly, cover all the peanuts with the chocolate chips and bake for 10 minutes.

Use an offset spatula or knife to smooth out the chocolate chips while they're still warm and top with sea salt or crushed pretzels. Let cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for a couple hours, or until chocolate hardens. Slice into bars and serve.

August 30, 2012

Summer Panzanella

I first made this panzanella (bread salad) 2 years ago. Somehow I missed making it last year, and it has haunted me ever since. This salad is gorgeous with bright colors, but also so delicious. I used some homemade whole-wheat bread from my freezer, but it would have been better if the loaf was a little stale so the bread would have crisped up a little more.

Summer Panzanella
from Smitten Kitchen

3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule or sturdy whole-wheat loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 bell peppers (try not to use green) seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

August 29, 2012

Nutella Brownie Bites

If you need a quick chocolate fix - this should do it. This is a simple recipe with quick cooking time. The centers on these mini brownies stay a little gooey, kind of like these molten chocolate cakes.

Nutella Brownie Bites
adapted from Abby Dodge

1 cup Nutella (280 g or 10 oz)
2 eggs
10 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a mini muffin pan.

In a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and mix.

Divide the batter evenly in the muffin tray (makes 24 mini muffins). If using, sprinkle each brownie cup with a few chocolate chips.

Bake for 6 minutes - the center will not be all the way set. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

August 22, 2012

Insalata Caprese

Promise me to make this easy salad in the next few weeks before the ripe, fresh tomatoes are gone...

It's most fun to be artistic with the presentation for the salad. Use heirloom tomatoes for unexpected color, arrange the plate in a geometric design, chiffonade (cut into fine strips) the basil, whatever you'd like!

Here's my version:

Insalata Caprese

sliced ripe tomatoes (if using grape or cherry tomatoes, keep whole or halve)
fresh mozzarella cheese
drizzle of olive oil
fresh basil
salt and pepper

Arrange the tomatoes and cheese artfully on a plate. Sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

August 18, 2012

Fennel-Apple Slaw with Spicy Almonds

Have you tried fennel? I talked about it once before when I made fennel-arugula salad. It has the texture of celery but tastes like licorice! This specimen from my CSA was extra licorice-y.

Here's a photo of fennel:

You usually eat the white bulb part, not the green stems or fronds. However, you can use those to flavor chicken or vegetable stock. The bottom of the white bulb is usually a little tough, so I don't use that part either. You know you're to the good stuff when sliced bulb has the shape of boomerangs.

Fennel-Apple Slaw with Spicy Almonds
adapted from The Endless Meal

1 large or 2 small bulb fennel, sliced thin
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced into small pieces or matchsticks

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Spicy Almonds:
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper

Toast almonds in a dry frying pan over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Quickly add water, sugar, salt and pepper and stir. Continue to stir occasionally until water has evaporated. Remove from heat to a sheet of wax paper, spreading out the almonds. Set aside and allow to cool.

Combine all dressing ingredients together and set aside.
Toss fennel and apple with half the dressing and toss. Add more dressing as necessary. Top with almonds.

August 17, 2012

Whole Wheat Buns

I'm so grateful I have the skills and time to make most of my food from scratch. There are so many bad products being sold in grocery stores - too many weird, unnecessary ingredients.

Previously I posted light brioche buns, and those are fabulous, but I also wanted to try a wheat version. This recipe turned out great - tasty and soft. When I make a recipe like this, I use a few buns and then put the rest in the freezer - individually wrapped in a large ziploc bag. Then I can just pull out what I need later on.

Whole Wheat Buns
adapted from Chocolate and Carrots

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 cup milk or almond milk
1 egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
wheat germ or sesame seeds (optional topping)

Set aside a large bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine the sugar, salt and yeast. In a smaller bowl, microwave the milk for 15 second increments until it is about 100°F or feels like bath water.

Slowly whisk the milk in to the sugar, salt and yeast and stir until the yeast and sugar are basically dissolved (a couple of seconds). Add the egg, butter and 1 cup of the flour and stir until there are no clumps. Slowly add in the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour until the dough is covered enough to start kneading with your flour covered hands. Knead for about 3 minutes.

Transfer the dough ball into the bowl that you set aside earlier. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough down, reshape into a ball, recover, and let it rise again for another 1 hour, until it has doubled in size again.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Shape the dough into 8-10 balls (flatten slightly to form bun shape) and let them rise while the oven is preheating. In a small bowl, beat the egg and tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash on the tops of the buns. Sprinkle with wheat germ or sesame seeds, if using.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove buns from pan to a rack to cool.

August 15, 2012

Roasted Delicata Squash

Growing up as a somewhat normal American when it comes to vegetables, they were my least favorite part of a meal. I would usually eat them first so that the memory of them would be long gone by the time I finished the rest of my plate. What a terrible attitude! I have since changed...

Really it just started with knowing that I'm supposed to like vegetables because they are good for my body, but over the last couple of years, I really have come to enjoy them. I really do love exploring new vegetables and finding the tastiest ways to prepare them.

A CSA (community supported agriculture) is a great way to force new vegetables into your kitchen. I don't get to choose what produce I take home, so it can be a challenge at times to incorporate everything into my meal planning. My farmer has included some recipes with her weekly emails, and I've discovered some great recipes and online resources. She sent a link to the recipe I'm sharing today.

Guess what? This simple preparation for delicata squash is DELICIOUS. The squash are fairly small, and I only received one in my share. I was so sad to not have more, but hopefully I'll receive more another week. You can eat the skins of this squash as they are not too thick, and the flesh is super smooth.

Roasted Delicata Squash
adapted from Chez Pim

delicata squash
melted unsalted butter
brown sugar
fine-grain sea salt

Rinse squash. Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and pulp, save for another use (like roasted seeds). Cut each half lengthwise on a diagonal to make triangles. Arrange squash on a cookie sheet or other pan. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and salt.

Roast in 450 oven for 35-40 minutes until caramelized and the flesh is fork tender.

August 14, 2012

Chocolate Sorbet

This is super rich and chocolately, but with no milk or cream. Simply divine if you love chocolate. David Lebovitz is an ice cream/sorbet genius. Truly.

Chocolate Sorbet
from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2 1/4 cups water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the water with the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a boil whisking frequently. Let it boil, continuing to whisk for 45 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's melted, then stir in the vanilla extract and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend for 15 seconds. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. If the mixture has become too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.

August 8, 2012

Pizza with Prosciutto and Balsamic Onions

I make pizza just about once a week. Usually I'm lazy and just pile on toppings I already have, which ends up being like a supreme pizza. I do have a few favorite topping combinations (Socrate's Revenge and Edgar Allen Poe), but this one is also going to be added to the list.

Look for prosciutto in the gourmet meat and cheese section, or try the deli for freshly sliced. If your deli has it, I'd go that route, as you can get exactly the amount you need - for this pizza, that's less than a quarter pound. If you have leftover prosciutto, try pairing it with cantaloupe for a delicious snack.

Try my favorite pizza crust recipe and baking method.

Pizza with Prosciutto and Balsamic Onions
adapted from Epicurious

2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons cup olive oil
1 12-ounce red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 large red bell pepper OR 1/2 c. jarred roasted red peppers
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
4 thin slices prosciutto, sliced crosswise into thin strips
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until golden, about 12 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until liquid cooks away and onion is very tender, about 4 minutes; season onion with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and sauté just until garlic begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Pour garlic oil into small bowl.

If using fresh red bell pepper, char bell pepper over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag; let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and slice thinly.

If using jarred roasted red pepper, slice into thin strips.

Roll out pizza dough. Brush 1 tablespoon garlic oil over dough, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Sprinkle with mozzarella and balsamic onion. Top with pepper strips. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly. Open oven and quickly arrange prosciutto atop pizza. Bake until prosciutto softens, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle with thyme.

August 3, 2012

Kale Salad with Lentils

Another salad with raw kale and lentils! This was simple but delicious, and not to mention gorgeous. You really should try a salad with kale if you haven't yet. Here are some of my other kale or lentil salad recipes:

Warm Lentil Salad
Raw Tuscan Kale Salad
Kale Barley Salad

Kale Salad with Lentils
from Food 52

2 bunches curly kale, center ribs and stems removed, washed, dried, and chopped finely
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 cup Puy or beluga lentils, (substitute brown lentils if they’re what you have), rinsed and picked over
1 cup red cabbage, shredded

Whisk together olive oil, apricot preserves, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper.

Turn kale into a large mixing bowl, and massage 6 Tbsp of the dressing into the salad. You’ll need enough dressing for the salad to be well coated and start taking on a “wilted” texture. Set aside.

Place lentils in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them by 3-4 inches (approximately 2 1/2 cups). Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat, add a pinch of salt, and let the lentils simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy.

Allow lentils to cool slightly and add them, along with the cabbage, to the kale, and add another 2 Tbsp vinaigrette. Use hands to combine. Add extra dressing as needed, and season to taste.

July 31, 2012

More Cardamom Love

We're pretty boring when it comes to beverages at my place - water is it. When I was revisiting the amazing Super Natural Every Day last week, I noticed the recipe for this Indian beverage called for cardamom and was alcohol-free. So I gave it a try. Super good and spicy. The only problem was that "sediment" collected at the bottom of the cup, so I kept stirring it while drinking. Also, you'll notice I have no ice. No beverages served means no ice kept in the freezer.

The flowers pictured are from my CSA.

Sparkling Panakam
from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

1/4 cup fine-grain natural cane sugar or muscovado sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
4 cups/1 liter sparkling water, chilled
Ice cubes

In a medium pitcher, make a thick paste by stirring together the sugar, ginger, cardamom, lime juice, salt, and a small splash of the sparkling water. Stir until any lumps have dissolved. Add more water, a little at a time, stirring all the while. The mixture will get quite fizzy, so just take it slow. Serve as cold as possible with as many ice cubes wedged into the pitcher as possible.

July 26, 2012

Cardamom Currant Cookies

In the past, I have had trouble finding dried currants for sale. So when I found some in the bulk section of a cool grocery store, I got some. Just browsing for recipes on the internet, I found this recipe for cookies with cardamom and currants. I am fascinated with cardamom, and these cookies have cardamom in the dough and are rolled in it too.

If you can't find currants, you can substitute raisins, but chop them into smaller pieces. Raisins are more sweet than currants and less elegant, but I'd bet they'd work just fine in these cookies.

Cardamom Currant Cookies
adapted from Food52

1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried currants (or chopped raisins)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (for cookie coating)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (for cookie coating)

Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the sugars, flour, 1 tsp. cardamom, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.

Whisk the eggs into the melted butter, then stir in the vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients and the currants into the flour mixture, stirring just long enough for everything to come together into a dough.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the 3 Tbs. sugar and 1 tsp. cardamom for the coating. Take out the chilled dough, roll it into 1 ½ inch balls, roll each ball in the sugar coating, then place onto ungreased cookie sheets with about 2 inches of space in between them.

Bake for 8-9 minutes, until they look golden and cracked on top but still a bit doughy in the middle. Transfer immediately from the baking sheets to a cooling rack and allow to cool.

July 23, 2012

Kohlrabi Apple Slaw

What is kohlrabi? I honestly had no idea before I received some in my CSA. Turns out kohlrabi is like cabbage, only it's solid instead of a bunch of leaves. It would be a nice addition to a plate of cut-up veggies. The farmer sends a weekly email update, often with recipes, which is where I got this one. It was delicious!

Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw
from A Veggie Venture

1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon good mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt & pepper to taste
fresh mint, chopped

1 pound fresh kohlrabi, trimmed, peeled, grated
2 apples, peeled, grated

note: aim for equal amounts of kohlrabi and apple

Whisk cream into light pillows. Stir in remaining dressing ingredients, and then the kohlrabi and apple. Serve immediately.

July 18, 2012

Spicy Barbacoa Beef

This recipe couldn't be easier. Throw the meat and spices into a crockpot, let cook, shred. You can use the beef for tacos with corn, salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, or whatever fillings you like. This turned out pretty spicy, so if you don't want it that way, try only using half the can of chipotle peppers and sauce.

Spicy Barbacoa Beef
adapted from Bev Cooks

2 pounds beef chuck roast (any major fat trimmed)
1 (7 oz) can chipotle peppers in their adobo sauce
1 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs. oregano

Place the beef, chipotle peppers in their adobo sauce, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder and oregano into a slow cooker. Add a pinch of salt and pepper too. Turn it on medium and cook for 6 hours. Flip the meat every 2 hours or so. During the last hour, take two forks and shred the meat, right there in the pot. Close the lid and let it finish cooking.

July 15, 2012

Simple Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar snap peas can be eaten raw, but I recently discovered cooking them is quite delicious. I gobbled these up like candy.

Simple Sugar Snap Peas

sugar snap peas
garlic, minced or sliced
olive oil
salt and pepper

Remove the strings from the peas and slice each pod into 2 or 3 sections. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the peas and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes; the peas will still be crunchy.

July 13, 2012

Black Raspberry Chip Ice Cream

I found this recipe for black raspberry ice cream one or two summers ago and have been patiently waiting for black raspberries to cross my path. Finally this ice cream and I were meant to be when I found black raspberries at the farmer's market recently. If you can't find them try red raspberries for a pink version.

Black Raspberry Chip Ice Cream
from In the Little Red House

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
a few drops of pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
7 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups black raspberries, rinsed
2 oz dark chocolate, cut into small pieces

Over medium heat, bring cream and milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk together sugar and yolks until pale and thickened. When small bubbles have started to form on the surface of the cream mixture, slowly whisk in to sugar and yolks, then return to the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat--stir continuously until mixture is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add vanilla, stirring to combine. Allow to cool completely in the refrigerator. While mixture is cooling, place berries in a saucepan and cook on low heat so they start to get nice and juicy. Smash with a fork, and allow to cool.

Once cream mixture and berries are cool, mix together. Add to ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions. After the ice cream has been churning for about a half hour, add chocolate chunks. Transfer to container and freeze for a few hours.

July 10, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Oreo Buttercream

In Cincinnati, there is an amazing cupcakery called Abby Girl Sweets. I admire their cupcakes for always being moist and delicious. They make a cookies-n-cream cupcake that is scrumptious. I'm going to put it out there - I think these cupcakes rival Abby Girl!

I posted the chocolate cupcake recipe previously. This time I undercooked one pan of cupcakes a little - the centers did not look all the way set. The final product was just right. So, one secret to moist cupcakes is to not overcook them.

Chocolate Cupcakes

Oreo Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Tide and Thyme

1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons Oreo cookies, finely crushed

In the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer) cream the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, until thoroughly mixed. Add the Oreo crumbs; mix well. Frost cupcakes as desired.

July 9, 2012

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Kale

I joined a CSA in Vermont and am on week 3 of my shares. Having received the CSA stand-by, kale, I wanted to try a new way to prepare it. This simple recipe was a great way to add more nutrition to standard mashed potatoes.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Kale
from 101 Cookbooks

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
sea salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, large stems stripped and discarded, leaves chopped in small pieces
1/2+ cup warm milk or cream
freshly ground black pepper
5 scallions, white and tender green parts, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish (optional)
fried shallots, for garnish (optional)

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil and continue boiling for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chopped kale, a big pinch of salt, and saute just until tender - about a minute. Set aside.

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or fork. Slowly stir in the milk a few big splashes at a time. You are after a thick, creamy texture, so if your potatoes are on the dry side keep adding milk until the texture is right. Season with salt and pepper.

Dump the kale on top of the potatoes and give a quick stir. Transfer to a serving bowl, make a well in the center of the potatoes and pour the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with the scallions, Parmesan cheese, and shallots.

July 6, 2012

Strawberry Glace Pie

I am so fortunate to have a produce farm right down the street from my new home in Vermont. I drive by it every day and could not resist their big sign "Strawberries: Pick Your Own". I wasn't sure how it would work with baby in tow, but I was able to put her in the stroller while I picked strawberries. I went twice, and the second time the strawberries were super ripe. They were absolutely divine. All fruit should be eaten like that - ripe right from the source.

I knew I had to make my mom's favorite - strawberry glace pie. It's very simple if you can make a pie crust (I can't), but even in a bad pie crust, this is a dessert you can't get wrong. Especially if the strawberries are perfect.

Strawberry Glace Pie
from my mother

6 cups strawberries, washed, dried and hulled
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (9-inch) baked pie shell

Beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Spread into baked pie shell.

Mash enough strawberries to make 1 cup, and set aside.

Fill the pie shell with the remaining whole strawberries, points up.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, water, and the reserved mashed strawberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Cook for 1 minute. Cool slightly.

Pour the cooked strawberry mixture on top of the strawberries in the pie shell. Refrigerate for 3 hours, or until set.

July 3, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I have several treats to post soon, but thought I should post something healthy first. Beans are something I need to eat more of, and hummus sure is a delicious way to do so. My mom bought the ingredients for this hummus when she visited me in April, but I finally had my act together enough this past week to do it. So glad I did - this hummus is a welcome twist on classic hummus.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
posted by Our Best Bites from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

1 15-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup drained and chopped roasted red bell peppers
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (or 1/4 heaping teaspoon of red pepper flakes)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

Place all ingredients except for the oil and cilantro in the work bowl of a food processor or in the jar of a heavy-duty blender. Process until smooth, then add the oil in a steady stream and process until desired consistency is reached. Add the cilantro and pulse a few times until the cilantro is evenly distributed. Chill for at least an hour if possible before serving. Serve with pita chips and fresh veggies. Makes about 2 cups of hummus.

June 22, 2012

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake

So the past few months have found me adjusting to a new baby and moving to a new part of the country. Needless to say my cooking has been very sparse. I'm finally settled in a place and am slowly getting my kitchen stocked back up. Now to find uninterrupted blocks of time in which to cook. Okay, maybe in a decade?

I had some hazelnuts from Trader Joe's in Cincinnati (how I miss you TJ!) waiting to be used up, and turned to Smitten Kitchen for some inspiration. Hazelnuts and chocolate are such a good combination, and this cake was delicious. I only regret it made such a small cake as it was gone in no time.

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts, blanched to remove dark skins
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 extra-large egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell nutty. Wrap the warm nuts in a dish towel. Let steam for five minutes and then vigorously rub them together to remove the skins.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan. Brush the pan with a little melted butter and line the bottom with the paper.

Place 1/2 pound butter in a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, using a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. To make sure not to lose any of the seeds, run your vanilla-coated knife through the butter. Add the vanilla pod to the pan, and cook the butter until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Set aside to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.

Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until they’re finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the granulated sugar and mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture forms very stiff peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold. Transfer the whites to a large mixing bowl.

Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites, a third at a time. Remember to scrap the bottom of the brown butter pan with a rubber spatula to get all the little brown bits.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool on a rack 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the paper, and turn the cake back over onto a serving platter. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar or cover with ganache.


4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or finely-chopped chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream

Melt the chocolate and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of the cake.

May 8, 2012

English Muffins

As you may have guessed, baby girl has arrived! My husband and I adore her and are so glad to have her in our family. My friend did a photo shoot which turned out so cute! See more of her work here.

While my mom was here helping out, she made lots of yummy food. She made English muffins one morning, which is something I've wanted to try for a long time. My sister-in-law is the one that discovered this recipe. I can't wait to try out this recipe myself.

English Muffins
from Alton Brown

1/2 cup non-fat powdered milk
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup hot water
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl combine milk, sugar, butter, and 1/4 tsp of the salt with the hot water. In liquid measuring cup, proof yeast in warm water with 1/8 tsp of sugar. When foamy, add proofed yeast to the bowl along with with the flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 40-60 minutes.

Add remaining 3/4 tsp salt. Mix well.

These muffins are cooked on the stove (try a cast iron skillet) or on a griddle at 350. The key to not burning them is low heat. When the pan is hot arrange canning jar rings in the pan (don’t over crowd them) spray with cooking spray and use a cookie scoop to fill them up, but not too full as they will rise a bit as they cook. Cover with lid and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and let cool a few minutes. To open, split them with your fingers or a fork.

April 6, 2012

Muffins That Taste Like Doughnuts

I've seen this recipe for muffins that taste like doughnuts on several blogs, always with a glowing recommendation. I finally decided to try them, and, wouldn't you know it, they do resemble doughnuts. My husband even ate one and said, "These are really good. They taste like doughnuts." No kidding.

I think the secret to the flavor connection is the nutmeg in the batter which I'm fairly certain is common in cake doughnuts.

Muffins That Taste Like Doughnuts
adapted from lemanada on Tasty Kitchen

1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. oil
3/4 c. white sugar
1 whole egg
3/4 c. milk

1/4 c. butter
1/3 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Combine oil, sugar, egg and milk. Add dry ingredients and stir only to combine. Spoon into well-greased muffin tins (silicone pans work well).

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl. Combine the white sugar with the cinnamon in another bowl.

Shake muffins out while still hot. Dip muffins in butter, then into the sugar/cinnamon mix. Let cool.

April 3, 2012

Blue Cheese Dressing

Bottled salad dressings have not been seen in my fridge for several years now. My tastes have adjusted, and if I have bottled dressing now, it tastes bad. Too sweet, too salty, too something. Homemade dressings usually take just a few minutes to mix together. They usually store well in the fridge for a week or so, at a minimum.

I've made this blue cheese dressing several times now to go with buffalo wings and celery. It is amazing, really.

Blue Cheese Dressing
from Our Best Bites

1 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. minced garlic (1-2 cloves)
A couple tablespoons of milk or buttermilk (optional)

Combine ingredients. If you’d like, thin to desired consistency with milk or buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.