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Wednesday
Feb102010

CHOCOLATE & PUFFED GRAIN MORSELS

CHOCOMORSELS_01

I appreciate that there is a day to honor your love, but I am cynical as to what Valentines is as an adult. It seemed so fun to exchange candies in grade school and overdose on conversation hearts. In my younger years, my Dad would come home from work with those GIANT greeting cards (do you know what I'm talking about? They are seriously gigantic and sometimes I still see them at gas stations) and mylar balloons for my sister and I, or maybe a new set of cotton pajamas with hearts on them. My mom, the art teacher, made, and still makes, beautiful hand crafted cards with thoughtful messages of how we, as daughters, have changed her life. It feels pretty great to be loved. What I gathered from those gestures, was that this holiday isn't about the bloated flower prices, waxy chocolates and pre-set dining menus that make me cringe, it is best celebrated not for one person, but valuing love for the sum of it's parts.

This chocolate morsel experiment was kind of a shot in the dark, but I think they are just precious in their crafty glass jars. I cleaned old jars I have held on to from sauces, jams, fancy yogurts and what not. These morsels travel better and last longer than a baked good, which would also make them an excellent wedding favor or thank you gift. I am giving my measurements, but this recipe is extremely adaptable. You could use any kind of puffed cereal (they are inexpensive at a health food store) and the nuts and fruit are yours to choose. Next time I'll try toasted pistachios and dried cherries, or maybe chewy candied ginger and sliced almonds. Whatever your way, show love. CHOCOMORSELS_02CHOCOMORSELS_03

CHOCOLATE AND PUFFED GRAIN MORSELS // Makes 24
When melting the chocolate, I suggest using a larger glass bowl than you think you'll need. This way you can put all the goodies in that one bowl to make less of a mess.

12 oz. Dark Chocolate Chips (milk if you prefer)
1 1/3 Cup Puffed Millet, Rice, Kamut (found in the cereal isle)
1 Cup Dried Cranberries, Chopped
1/2 Cup Toasted Pecan Pieces
Sea SaltCHOCOMORSELS_04CHOCOMORSELS_05

1. Place chocolate it in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Allow it to melt slowly, giving it a stir to distribute the heat. In the meantime, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
2. Remove the chocolate from the heat and gently add in the puffed grain of choice, dried fruit and nut and fold everything to combine. Allow everything to sit for about five minutes to cool.
3. Using a spoon and your fingers, dollop hefty tablespoons of the chocolate mix onto the baking sheet. Repeat, washing your fingers every now and then because it will be easier to work with the chocolate. This step gets messy, but as they cool you can form their shape better. Sprinkle them liberally with sea salt.
4. Put the tray in the fridge for about 15 minutes for the morsels to set completely. Put them in cute packaging for a charming presentation! IMG_7342 copy

Thursday
Feb042010

DECONSTRUCTED BEET STACK 

BEETSTACK_01It was really only a handful of years ago when I learned beets don't come from a can in that lovely shade of neon purple. You've seen them at salad bars, shredded and soggy next to the baby corns and greasy croutons. I discovered that this rooted vegetable was easy to roast, and it felt so 'pioneer' of me to figure my way to the tender sweetness through the mass of tangled greens and nubby, hairy exterior. If you can bake a potato, you can roast a beet.

I know that people either love or hate beets. Same goes for horseradish, so I am not expecting this recipe to appeal to the masses. I find that with whole milk yogurt, the horseradish is not too strong amongst all the other vegetables. The layers are attractively bitter, spicy and there is the expected earthiness that beets bring. When I actually host the dinner parties that I dream of, this will be on the menu. I think colorful, fresh food plated vertically, looks beautiful. If my guests don't like it, please push your plate my way thank you very much. BEETSTACK_02

DECONSTRUCTED BEET STACK // Serves 4 as a side
I think this would make a wonderful complete meal with some thin slices of lox or smoked tofu between the layers, or maybe a poached egg on top. Note that our pictures show a regular navel orange, though I highly recommend the color contrast of a blood orange here. I didn't want to go back to the store.

3 Golden Beets (larger ones, as close to the same size possible)
1 Blood Orange
1 Cup Watercress
1/2 Cup Thin Slices of Red Onion

Dressing //
1 Cup Whole/Lowfat Plain Yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp. Prepared Horseradish*
2 Tbsp. Champagne/Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. Agave Nectar
2 Tbsp. Fresh Chives
Pinch of Salt

*Prepared horseradish is different that 'horseradish cream' at the grocery store. If you don't like the taste of horseradish, an alternative suggestion would be to mince a shallot and add some extra white pepper for a bit of spice.BEETSTACK_03

Oven to 425'
1. Cut off the beet greens close to the actual beet part. Give the beets a few pokes with a fork and wrap completely in foil. Bake for an hour, depending on the size of the beet. It feels similar to a baked potato when done.
2. In the meantime, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, horseradish, vinegar, agave and pinch of salt. Add the chives and set aside.
3. Cut the skin and pith from the orange, and slice into max 1/4'' thick coins.
4. When the beets are done, set aside until they are cool enough to handle. With a paring knife, peel off the skin gently as they can get slippery. Slice the beets into max 1/4'' thick coins, just like the orange.
5. To assemble, put a dollop of sauce on the bottom of the plate, then a beet with another dollop of sauce, then a few leaves of watercress and a slice of orange and a dollop on top of that. Repeat: beet, dollop, watercress, orange, watercress, dollop to however high you'd like your stack to go. Scatter the slices of red onion and if you'd like, maybe some toasted walnuts around the plate. Top the stack with a dollop of sauce and a grind of fresh pepper. Note that the pretty presentation is quickly demolished once you start cutting into it :)BEETSTACK_04

Friday
Jan292010

THE COOKIE PERSON.

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At some point in my life, after I master the art of self control, I would like to perfect an incredible cookie of my own. By that, I mean the kind of cookie where when you go to a picnic or potluck, they request that you bring 'your' famous cookies. I imagine that would be the ultimate compliment. Now, I am always the 'salad person', which seems fitting. I have been craving a cookie with the ideal personality; slight crunch of the crust, soft center, studded with chocolate and/or oats. The ladies below seem to have one of those famous cookie recipes I speak of, and when I trust that I would not eat all two dozen of them myself, I will make each of these. That may be a ways off from now, but I wanted to pass on the links to you, who I assume has less of a cookie binging complex.

** The reputation for these Chocolate Chip cookies have made their way through blogs, twitter and what not. This lovely lady is hosting baking classes of her own in Seattle now, so if you live anywhere near there, I suggest you hone your skills in one of Ashley's classes. She clearly knows what she's doing.

** When I saw Tara's Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cherry Chip cookies, I sent this link to every sweets lover I've ever known, as I had never seen such a tempting cookie picture. Seriously, look at that and tell me you don't want a glass of milk and one of those beauties. I must mention, her poetic writing is reason enough to read through every single entry.

** Because I always have my gluten free people in mind, Joy's Peanut Butter Cookies look decadent with that little chocolate goodness on top. Or, if you are a friend of gluten, I trust Dana's stamp of approval on this version as well (and appreciate that she halved the sugar!).

** Lastly, because this recipe restored my personal baking confidence, you should probably try these Oat'Nana Pucks and then bring me some.

As much as I encourage these as written, remember to use unbleached flours, aluminum free baking powder, and natural cane sugars when you can. Happy weekend. Stay warm, hug people and eat well. In that order, specifically.

Tuesday
Jan262010

MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA BOWL

QUINOA_01

We needed something straight forward. Last week's attempt for a post of braised leeks and romesco sauce ended up looking overcooked and sloppy. We tried to plate it nicely, and Hugh dug around trying to find the perfect dish to distract from the mooshness, but it wasn't happening. We stared at it, eating the finished product while deliberating a nice presentation. Call it coincidence, but we'd eaten 'our post' just as we decided the mooshness did not have a place in the blogsphere. I was left no other option but to make something that would undoubtedly be nice and clean.

Simple as this is, I know there is a need for recipes that come together quickly, are nutritionally well rounded and require no fuss. This salad of sorts is gluten free, high in plant protiens and is just as good, if not better, the next day for lunch over some salad greens with another little squeeze of lemon. All these ingredients are pretty well received, so I think it would be a great make ahead dish for a luncheon, bridal shower or what not with all the pretty colors. There are circumstances where you don't want to take a risk, and this bowl is as reliable as they come.QUINOA_02QUINOA_03

MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA BOWL // Serves 2 big eaters, maybe 3 medium eaters

1 Cup Quinoa, dry
4 Broccolinis
4 to 6 oz. Block of Feta Cheese, cut in cubes
1 Cup Roasted Red Peppers, cut in slivers (I use jarred in the off season)
1/4 Cup Capers, rinsed and drained
1 Cup Chickpeas, cooked
3 Tbsp. Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp. Dried Oregano
Generous pinch of Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Meyer Lemon
1 Tbsp. Good Quality Olive OilQUINOA_04QUINOA_05

1. For the quinoa, typically, bring two cups water and one cup dry quinoa to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Place the broccolini right on top after ten minutes (who wants to dirty another pot?) and cover to finish the quinoa and the broccolini will steam on top. Remove the broccolini to a cutting board, and transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
2. Toss the red pepper slivers, chickpeas, capers, dried oregano and salt and pepper to the quinoa and stir. Give the broccolini a rough chop and toss it in the bowl. Squeeze the juice of the entire meyer lemon (avoiding seeds) and the olive oil, stir again.
3. Lastly, cut the feta into small cubes (easiest if done straight from the fridge or even let it sit in the freezer for a few minutes). Add the cubes and the parsley to the quinoa and give it a gentle fold. At this point, it is probably a tad warmer than room temperature, which is great. If you'd rather it cold, let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool down.QUINOA_06

Thursday
Jan142010

MULTIGRAIN MAPLE MINI MUFFINS

MUFFINS_01

I could have sworn up and down that I hated maple, until I met these mini muffins. I find that maple is one of those particular flavors that people love or hate. Like black licorice, grape candy, the consistency of cottage cheese or fennel. The fact that it's a natural sweetener, makes me feel like I should like it, but it's just not for me. Hugh is pro-maple so I figured if we made these and I hated them, at least someone would eat them. I hoarded a majority of them.

There is an entire cup of real maple syrup in the recipe, which sounds like a lot, but with all the dense flours, the strength of it dissipates. I used a pretty lengthy list of ingredients, but if you don't think you'll ever use a whole bag of buckwheat flour, try to find a store that sells flours/grains in bulk and you can buy just what you need by weight. Or, as I've suggested before, make extra and give some away. I mean, they taste pretty healthy for a muffin, but it's January, people are into that sort of thing. MUFFINS_02MUFFINS_03

MULTIGRAIN MAPLE MINI MUFFINS// Makes 12 or 24 Minis

1/2 Cup Buckwheat Flour
1/2 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Wheat Bran
1/2 Cup Oatmeal (plus extra for garnish)
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
1 Tsp. Fresh Grated Nutmeg (if you have it)
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Real Maple Syrup
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Lowfat Cottage Cheese (I blended mine up a tad, but this is optional)
1 Cup Pecan Pieces, divided MUFFINS_04

Oven at 350'
1. In a large mixing bowl, sift all flours, the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together. Grate the ginger right on top. Spray or butter your muffin tins and set aside.
2. In two other bowls, seperate the egg yolks from the whites. In the bowl with the yolks, add the maple, vanilla and buttermilk and whisk to combine. Beat or use an electric mixer to whip up the egg whites until they just start to hold shape.
3. Mix the wet into the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the cottage cheese and 1/2 cup of the pecan pieces and gently fold in. Lastly, just before you're ready to put batter into the tins, fold in the whipped egg whites. Because the dough is somewhat heavy, try to fold from the outside of the bowl in, to not deflate the egg whites.
4. The mini tins hold about two spoonfuls of mix, if using larger tins, fill them about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the top with a few chopped pecans and a few oat flakes. Bake on the middle rack for 20-23 minutes (cooking times may vary depending on tin). Remove and cool. I recommend a little spread of plain greek yogurt. MUFFINS_05