April 24, 2013

Meyer Lemon Curd

Meyer lemon season is nearing an end, and I have a few meyer lemon recipes to share. Meyer lemons have one of my favorite scents. I love lemon scent, but there is something magical about Meyer lemon.

I've been wanting to try a curd recipe for a while. This one was easy and delicious. I mainly ate it with some Meyer lemon crepes that I'll post - simply delightful.

Meyer Lemon Curd
from Craving Chronicles

1/2 cup granulated sugar
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 3-4 large lemons)
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

Add all ingredients except butter to a saucepan over low heat. Whisk to combine. Add butter. Continue whisking gently but constantly, heating slowly, until curd thickens and reaches 160°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from heat.

For the smoothest curd, pour through a fine mesh strainer. Transfer to a storage container. Cover and refrigerate overnight before use. Curd keeps up to 1 week in the fridge.

April 23, 2013

Almond Milk

I'm happy to announce I found a cow's milk replacement - homemade almond milk! I've tried it in several recipes so far and can't tell the difference at all.

Why homemade and not just buy it at the store? Well, as you may have guessed the almond milk in the carton has several added ingredients that don't sound good. Homemade is really not too hard at all - even with my sub-par equipment. All I have is an immersion blender. Because the almonds are soaked for 8 hours, they become much softer and my blender handled them just fine. Because the blender works best using the cup it came with, and it only holds 2 cups, I have to blend it in several rounds, but no big deal. If you have a full-size blender or food processor, this should be a piece of cake.

I will be updating old recipes on which I try out the almond milk substitution. Some I've tried: Cinnamon Rolls, Whole Wheat Buns, (there are probably more, but I can't remember...), smoothies, and oatmeal.

Lastly, this recipe leaves some almond meal behind. I've tried baking with it in recipes that call for almond meal, but it doesn't work. I'm pretty sure after 3-4 attempts, it's not my mistake, but the defunct almond meal. I'm still trying to come up with some ideas to use it up (I've been storing it in the freezer).

Almond Milk

1 cup whole, raw almonds
3 1/2 cups filtered water

Soak the almonds in enough water to cover them for 8-12 hours. Add the almonds and 3 1/2 cups water to a blender and blend on high until the almonds are finely ground.

Prepare a fine mesh strainer over a bowl or a cheese cloth in several layers secured around a quart-size mason jar. Pour the almond milk into the prepared container and allow it to sit for several minutes to strain out the almond meal. Stir the meal in the strainer to help release all the milk. If using the cheese cloth, carefully bundle up the almond meal in the cloth and squeeze to release the milk.

Store in the fridge for about 5 days in a sealed container. Shake before using.

**Note: I've been using the fine mesh strainer method. Some almond meal leaks through, but since I'm not drinking the milk, I leave it in. Nut milk bags are available for purchase to make the straining process easier. I may end up getting one.

April 22, 2013

Cider-Baked Apples

I used up my remaining apple cider in this delicious baked apple recipe. This winter I've tried a few baked apple recipes, but this one is my favorite. My apples were not of the firm variety, as specified by the recipe, so they ended up collapsed and mushy, but still so tasty.

Cider-Baked Apples
from Food 52

2 cups apple cider
4 firm cooking apples, like Braeburn, Gala, Fuji or Granny Smith
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 pinch salt

Heat the oven to 375°F. Pour the cider into a small skillet and bring it to a boil. Continue to boil over medium heat until the liquid reduces by slightly less than half. It should be vaguely syrupy, but it will not be too thick.

While the cider is reducing, peel the skin from the top third of each apple. Use a melon baller to dig out the apple core, leaving about 1/3-inch of the apple intact at the bottom. Place the apples in a pie pan or baking dish. Stir the cinnamon, butter and brown sugar into the cider syrup. Pour it into the apple cavities, allowing it to overflow into the baking dish.

Bake the apples for 40 to 50 minutes, until they are pleasantly soft but not collapsing. Baste the apples occasionally in the cider syrup, and add more cider if the liquid starts to dry out completely. The exact cooking time depends on the variety and size of the apples—some take longer than others. Serve the apples warm in dessert bowls with the extra syrup spooned over them. If you want to dress them up, drizzle them with some heavy cream, or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

April 18, 2013

Dutch Gingerbread Cookies

In my small town, we have a few grocery store chains that offer typical products. Then we have the corner health food/local crafts store in the middle of the town. I love that place! It took me a while to realize just what a gem it is. While they sell a wide variety of things, I mostly go for their bulk foods and spices and local eggs. Most of the bulk items are prepackaged by the store staff in small quantities, but a few items are left for you to scoop up, like the spices. They have all the spices you'd find at the grocery store, but the surprise is at a much lower cost. I can fill a tall spice jar for $2 or less. And then, of course, if it's a spice you don't use much, a smaller quantity may be $.50. I sure do love having many spices and herbs on hand.

These cookies are full of spice (but I'm sure you can omit one or two if you don't have it on hand) and very delicious. My husband especially liked them. The white chocolate topping is optional, but it compliments the spice very well.

Dutch Gingerbread Cookies with White Chocolate
adapted from Food Doodles

2 cups white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground anise (I had whole anise seeds that I ground myself)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp cardamom
Scant 1/2 tsp salt (or a full 1/2 tsp if using unsalted butter)
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp milk (slightly more if needed)
white chocolate for dipping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet and set aside.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, spices and salt.

In a separate bowl beat together the butter and the sugar. Add the dry ingredients and beat together. Add milk as needed until the dough comes together (you may need to use your hands).
Break off small pieces and roll into balls - about 1 inch diameter. Place on the baking sheet 1″ apart.

Slightly flatten the dough balls, just with your fingers. Place in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until they are cracked on top and golden on the bottom. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely before dipping in melted white chocolate, if desired.

April 11, 2013

Roasted Poblanos Stuffed with Black Bean Quinoa Chili

I'm not a big fan of traditional stuffed green peppers, so I was in for a surprise when the poblano pepper variety really won me over. Seriously, stuffed poblano peppers are the way to go. They're not too spicy either, as that mellows with cooking.

Roasted Poblanos Stuffed with Black Bean Quinoa Chili
adapted from What's Cooking Good Looking

4 large poblano peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the chili:
½ cup quinoa, rinsed (uncooked)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 cup red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne
salt, to taste (if using home-cooked beans, you'll need more salt than if using canned beans)
1 cup cooked black beans, with 1/4 cup liquid (or water)
1 cup diced tomatoes (canned is best for this)
1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)

optional topping: chopped cilantro, greek yogurt, feta cheese, or monterey jack

Preheat the oven to 475º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Line up the poblanos on the baking sheet and rub them with the oil.  Roast them for about 15 minutes until they start to turn black and are tender. Remove from the oven, put the peppers in a bowl, and cover with a towel.

Allow peppers to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, begin to gently remove the skins by peeling them back. You can also use a paring knife to do this. Once the skins are removed, make a slit down one side to open them up and remove the seeds. Place the peppers in a roasting pan and set aside.

In a saucepan, add the quinoa and 1 cup of water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit until you're ready to add to the chili.

In a large pan (cast iron preferably), heat the oil over medium heat and then add the garlic and red onion and sauté for about 8-10 minutes, until softened. Add the chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes. Then add in the salt, black beans with the reserved liquid and the diced tomatoes with their liquid. When the chili starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid reduces by a half and the chili starts to thicken.  Remove from the heat and stir in the corn and the cooked quinoa.

Stuff the chili into the peppers so they are filled but not overflowing. Top with cheese if you are using.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove and let them cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve the stuffed poblanos warm with additional toppings, if desired.

April 7, 2013

100% Whole Wheat Bread

My friend Carolyn gave this recipe to me a while ago. She had tried many wheat bread recipes before she found this keeper. She makes a lot of bread for her family of eight, so I knew this recipe would be excellent. And it hasn't failed me yet. I've even tried most of the listed variations for the oil and sweetener; all were good. I think this bread was my first time using coconut oil in a non-treat, and I couldn't taste it. Virgin coconut oil tends to shine through, but it worked wonderfully in this bread.

100% Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour by Cooking for Seven

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) lukewarm water
3 tablespoons melted butter, coconut oil or olive oil
2 tablespoons honey, molasses or maple syrup
3 1/2 cups (18 3/8 oz) Hard Red (traditional) or Hard White (17.5 oz) Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons flax meal, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

To Prepare the Dough:
(Hand Method) Combine all of the ingredients, and mix them till you have a shaggy dough. The dough will seem wet, but remember: wetter is better. Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes, then knead till smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

(Mixer Method) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine all ingredients and mix them till you have a shaggy dough. The dough will seem wet, but remember: wetter is better. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, then knead by machine until fairly smooth, about 10 minutes. Allow dough to rise, covered, for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

To Shape the Loaves:
After the dough has risen, gently deflate the dough, shape it into a log, and place it in a lightly greased large (9×5 inch) bread pan or two small bread pans. Cover the pan with a towel or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow it to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes-1 hour, till it’s crowned about 2 inches over the rim of the pan. Preheat your oven to 350°F about halfway through the rising time.

To Bake the Loaves:
If desired, brush top of loaf with milk or egg white and sprinkle with oatmeal, poppy seeds, nuts, etc. Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until it turns a deep brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Yield: 1 large or 2 small loaves