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Wednesday
Mar072012

PANTRY STAPLES: COCOA COCONUT BITS

These may be the new favorite treat around here. I tried a brand called Hail Merry coconut macaroons at a friends house last weekend and with their simple ingredient list, I knew I could recreate them myself. A small ingredient list, all in one bowl AND delicious. I don't like selling people on recipes, but decadence doesn't often come by so simply.

In keeping up with the proposed Pantry Staples series, I am adding a few notes on my most frequently used fats. The list is pretty short, but there are controversies over canola, grape seed, corn and other vegetable oils, so I stick to the few mentioned here. Again, I am not a dietitian nor do I have any nutritional degrees. These are my opinions based on experience and light research.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is a monounsaturated fat which is said to be a "good fat" that can help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. The range of flavors in olive oil is pretty impressive. You can get under ripe, grassy, creamy, fruity and more. Depending where you live, there may be a local brand at your farmer's market, but there are a ton of markets and specialty stores with great brands as well. I typically have two bottles - one moderately priced one that I use for cooking (which should only really be used for moderate heat for the integrity of the flavor and nutrition), and another slightly pricier bottle that we use for dipping and homemade salad dressings, where the flavor is truly appreciated. Speaking of dressing, I love using this lemon oil from Stonehouse. Not overly lemony, just perfect. It usually has a shelf life of about a year, and should be kept in a cool, dark place to keep it as fresh as possible.

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: This is my quickest answer to a non-controversial, high heat fat. It is a saturated fat, so it has made a strong come back from a history of being frowned upon for that reason. There are studies that say it is easier to digest than other fats, and the presence of certain acids make it good for skin care, stress relief, weight loss and immunity. It is a solid at room temperature, much like butter, so can be gently melted to be used in baked goods or warmed in a pan for a sauté.

There are some brands that smell more coconut-y to me, but for the most part, I find the flavor pretty versatile. You want to purchase an extra virgin, unrefined version. I keep mine in the pantry because I use it pretty often, but if you don't, it lasts longer in the refrigerator.

Nut Oils: These babies come with a higher price tag and distinct flavors, so I mostly use them as finishing oils or in salad dressing. A nice drizzle of hazelnut oil on some roasted squash, or pistachio oil in a quinoa salad - they have the essence of their nut, while also giving that moisture to the overall texture. The flavor changes with heat, so if anything, only use them with low heat. Like nuts in their whole form, they can go rancid fairly quickly, so should be kept in the fridge if you don't use them often. Be sure to check the dates where you purchase these oils too, as you want to buy from somewhere with a quick turnover to help ensure you're getting a fresh bottle.

Organic Butter: While dairy is composed of saturated fats, which affect cholesterol levels, butter is a natural food, so it still comes out as a better option than some of the other oils marketed as "healthy fats."There is no substitute for this flavor, first and foremost. I like butter on fresh, crusty bread or on top of weekend pancakes, but try and be conscious about using it in moderation. Because of the milk solids, butter burns at high heat, so is best used with lower heat cooking or in baked goods. The work around for this heat specific temperment is to clarify the butter, which is a simple process that removes the milk solids, so you can cook with it at higher temperature. My New Roots has a great post on how to make it and why. I do my best to buy organic dairy whenever possible. These days, it's pretty easy to find.

Sesame Oil: This oil has both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and several vitamins and minerals. Like any of the other oils, these health benefits are still to be considered with a high caloric content, so should be used in moderation. The flavor is pretty assertive, so I use sesame oil when that flavor is welcomed, mostly Asian inspired meals. It can handle higher heats, but definitely has a nutty flavor to it. You can purchase plain or toasted sesame oil, and while I love the flavor of the toasted, it is pretty strong, so with cooking, I often go half toasted sesame and half coconut oil to mellow it out and avoid any burning smells or flavors. I keep the toasted variety in the fridge for a longer shelf life.

COCOA COCONUT BITS // Makes 20

Because these are vegan, they can also be enjoyed raw. You can scoop them into balls, chill them for about an hour, and enjoy as such. I baked mine at a low heat, because it gives them a texture of somewhere between truffle and cookie and I really love that. A crisp crust and a soft center. Perfection.

1 1/2 cups dried, unsweetened coconut (sometimes tough to find at markets, easy to get online)

1/2 cup natural cocoa powder

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup grade b maple syrup

1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

In a mixing bowl. Combine the coconut, cocoa powder and rolled oats together. Stir in the maple, coconut oil, vanilla and optional dash of cinnamon. Mix to coat everything evenly. Set in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 215'.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a mini scooper or your hands, make 1 inch balls and set them on the baking tray (they don't spread, ample space between is not important). Bake them on the middle rack for 20 minutes. Remove to cool.

Monday
Feb272012

BROCCOLINI + CHARRED LEMON FLATBREAD

I went to college thinking I wanted to write for a health and fitness magazine. I would major in journalism, maybe take an internship after school and try not to live in New York City (the hub of most magazine companies) if I could help it - no offense New Yorkers, I'm just not a city girl. But as the story usually goes, I changed my mind at some point in those four years. To tell you it changed to wanting to write a cookbook and dabble in freelance recipe development would be lie. I never planned to be doing what I am doing now. I wouldn't know how to tell someone how to write a book on cooking and I don't even have a concrete answer as to how I learned to cook myself. Sometimes things sort of happen, and you learn the hard way while it's all happening, and it just works out. I've mentioned before that the learning curve with this whole book process has been a rocky one for both Hugh and I. We ate a lot, argued, did a TON of dishes and I cried when frustrated...which may have been often, but it recently occured to me that I'm on the other side of it now. The contents are still in the design process, but the book is available for pre-sale on Amazon. Me! Us! On Amazon! Like the place where we buy all our books and most other items I am too lazy to go to a store and buy myself! This is the thrill I was waiting for - the moment it feels like the learning curve evened out and there is fruit to the labor. I am sure the fear and self consciousness will creep back in at some point, but for now, I am so excited to share with you, party people.

In the way we sort of fall into jobs and oportunities and figure them out as we go, homemade pizza has the same story. I usually just pile things on, flavors that make sense to me, and while it may not be perfectly articulated with a clear expectation, it turns out just fine. And maybe even better than planned.

BROCCOLINI + CHARRED LEMON FLATBREAD // Serves 2 as entree, 4 as an appetizer

No Knead Pizza Dough recipe from Jim Lahey in Bon Appetit

I halved the published recipe to yield two crusts and the toppings mentioned are written for one pizza. I made mine with unbleached white whole wheat flour and it came out a bit dense...as expected. Next time I'd halve it with bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour.

I am giving general amounts for the toppings, but pizza should most definitely be made to your preference, so I suggest winging it. My only tip is to use more cheese than appears necessary, it always seems like less once it comes out of the oven.

Crust Recipe from Jim Lahey

(I halved it and got two 13'' thin crust pizzas)

1 small bunch broccolini

1 small meyer or eureka lemon

2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot

6-8 oz. soft goat cheese

1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

sea salt and pepper, for topping

// roasted garlic spread //

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

pinch of salt and pepper

1 head roasted garlic (helpful instructions here)

Make the crust according to instructions. I usually start it the night before so it's ready for the next day - takes some forethought, I know, but you can do it!

Preheat the oven to 500'.

Steam the broccolini for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove to a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Give it a rough chop and set aside.

Cut the lemon into as thin of slices possible with a serated knife. Remove any seeds.

To make the roasted garlic paste, put the olive oil and pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of the head into the oil and smush fiercely with a fork to create a paste. This could also be done in a mini blender for smoother consistency. You want it creamy? Add a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.

Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface (I used 1/4 of the published recipe I linked to for one pizza). Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal or flour on a cookie sheet and transfer the dough to the cookie sheet. Evenly spread the garlic paste, desired amount of broccolini, shallots, generous amount of goat cheese, lemon slices and the grated parmesan. Drizzle the top with olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and put it in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 13-15 minutes until brown spots start to show on top. Remove, slice and enjoy warm. If you feel you went too easy on the cheese, sprinkle a bit more parm.

Monday
Feb132012

BUTTERMILK FRENCH TOAST

My most valued moments with my love are the morning time. My hair is everywhere and there are creases on my face from the pillow. Hugh wears comfy pants and recently some slippers I picked up for him at Target. The uniform is so decieving for the seriousness with which he takes his coffee process, I feel like there should be a lab coat or at least an apron for all the measuring that goes on. He makes the coffee, I make a quick breakfast, eggs for me and a sweet for him. Sometimes it's a piece of a quick bread or muffin, or other days it's french toast (it seriously doesn't take as much fuss as it sounds). We can't pull it off every day, but most days we breakfast together and it is my favorite part of the day.

It's been a big week. Highs and lows. In all the ideas I thought of posting, breakfast seemed like my safe spot. It's where I get to love him through french toast and be loved through good coffee. It's a small thing, but so big.

BUTTERMILK FRENCH TOAST // Serves 2

I tried buttermilk merely because the use by date is tomorrow, and I really loved the subtle tang. We follow this same ratio for everyday french toast, and simply substitute regular milk or almond milk as desired, so don't feel like you need to make an extra trip to the market.

2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. honey
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 slices whole grain bread (1/2'' slices if using fresh, left out over night to dry out)

2 tsp. extra virgin coconut oil or butter
2 tsp. natural cane sugar
1 large banana, sliced on a bias
toasted pecan pieces
powdered sugar, optional
maple or agave nectar, optional

In a glass pie pan or square pan whisk the egg and vanilla very well. Whisk in the honey, cinnamon, salt and buttermilk until completely combined.

In a cast iron or pan of choice, warm a small pat of butter or coconut oil over medium heat, to coat the bottom of the pan. Dredge the pieces of bread in the custard, flipping a few times to be sure they're coated. Allow any excess to drip off, and add the bread to the hot pan. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes on one side, when the bottoms are golden and toasty, flip it to the other side, cover and cook another 2-3 minutes until the bottom is toasted dry and when you push on the center, you can tell it's not soggy. It will be tender, but no liquid should squish out.

While the toast is cooking, in another pan, warm the 2 tsp. of coconut oil and sugar. Add the sliced bananas and give them a quick saute just to warm through, about 1-2 minutes.

Serve each portion with some of the bananas and their sauce, pecan pieces and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Depending on the breads moisture, add a drizzle of agave or maple as desired.

Thursday
Feb092012

HEY THERE.

I don't like routine. Never the less, I settle into one to a certain degree. The days change between working at home and away from home, meeting up with friends, and getting some exercise, but give or take, the pace is pretty similar. I was under a bit of pressure this past week, as far as responsibilities raining on me/us a bit, and I am relieved things are starting to clear up. Amongst other things, Sprouted Kitchen got kicked off the internet. We got booted by our old host, and Hugh managed to transfer everything to this wonderful new place (the fact that he teaches himself how to do these things is beyond impressive in my opinion, as all the back end stuff seems like a foreign language). You will notice the design is quite simple and parts will be updated as we figure things out, but we at least wanted to have the existing content up for you. There will likely still be some glitches in the next month, so bear with us. It feels refreshing, and while not exactly what we hope for the site to be yet, it exists! So that's a start.

We are heading to Mammoth Mountain for the weekend with some friends, and next week we'll be back on our game with a new post that has nothing to do with pink and red valentines things.

Michael Chan!

Wednesday
Jan252012

BLACK BEAN + BUTTERNUT SOUP

I spent the evening with my grandma last night. I gave her tickets to see the LA Philharmonic for Christmas, as she mentioned years ago that she had always wanted to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It really is a gorgeous building with impeccable architecture. When I picked her up, she told me she spent the entire day getting ready - polished her jewelry, painted her nails, trimmed her own hair, tried on all her clothes and took in her pants. I couldn't say the same for myself. I'm trying to grow my hair back out and we're at an incredibly awkward stage of shoulder length curls. And my outfit? A collection hand-me-downs from my younger sister.

It took just a moment, as she was telling me about her day, to recognize how the perspective of time is so relative. I try to accomplish as much as I can in a day - to make a list and cross things off so that I feel success when the day is done. Maybe it's her age; at 82 you have neither the need nor the energy to hustle around. Or possibly the wisdom that those lists aren't the things she tells me about when she talks about her younger years. She was an only child, but on the ride home, she reminisced about Sunday dinners with extended family, poker nights and her favorite uncle who had a garage with all sorts of gadgets and toys. The cheer in her voice was never about privilege or a life of luxury, but how great it was that her dad was close to his brothers and their families spent time together. "It was a really good life."

It put me in my place. Whatever I am trying to prove to myself by being busy, is not necessarily the mark of success. Could I spend an entire day primping myself for a night out with my grandma? It's unlikely, but every so often, some circumstance like this nudges me to cool it just a bit. I'm not saying I'm the most task oriented person in the world, but I do allow those tasks to qualify a good day. Something tells me a long list will not be what I tell my granddaughter about when I recall it being "A good life."

This soup is easy to pull together and a nice change from the smooth soups I've been making. It's almost stew like, and I felt like I could pour some over a bowl of quinoa or brown rice, like a curry of sorts. I do love my beans, but it is different to have the chopped cabbage and butternut to break up the texture. With enough garnishes, you can shine a bowl of this up to really look like something great, cause last time I checked, a chunky soup wasn't much of a looker.



BLACK BEAN + BUTTERNUT SOUP // Serves 4-6
Inspired by Coconut and Quinoa

Some of my measurements are pretty vague, but in a stew-like soup, perfection is not necessary. Taste as you go, add more spice if necessary but beware that both chipotle and cayenne are SPICY, so start small. You can cook your beans from scratch or used canned for the sake of time.

1 Tbsp. coconut or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 a small head of cabbage, chopped (heaping 2 cups)
3 cups cubed butternut squash (sweet potato would be good too)
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cocoa powder
pinch of chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
2 cups cooked, black beans (about one can, rinsed and drained)
salt to taste

avocado, for garnish
cilantro, for garnish

// tortilla crispies //
3 corn tortillas
scant 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt



In a heavy bottomed pot, warm the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until just beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, cabbage, squash and broth. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 15-20 minutes for the vegetables to cook.
Add the spices and the beans and stir. Let everything continue to cook another ten minutes for the flavors to blend. Salt to taste. At this point, I did a few pulses with my immersion blender through the soup, because I wanted to thicken up the broth a bit. This is optional, but makes it seem a bit thicker. You could alternatively, run just a bit of the soup through a blender or food processor, and add it back in to the pot. OR a sprinkle of cornmeal will help thicken it as well.

For the tortilla crispies, preheat the oven to 375'. Stack them and slice into thin matchsticks. Spread on a baking sheet, dirzzle with the oil, sprinkle the salt and toss gently to coat. Spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes until they are light brown and crispy, giving the pan a shake halfway through.

Garnish each both with some diced avocado, a handful of chopped cilantro and some of the tortilla crispies! A sprinkle of goat cheese would be quite nice as well.