Saturday, April 11, 2015

granola sans grains

sometimes I yearn for a spoonful of something sweet, spiced, nutty, fruity & crunchy to go with my Greek yogurt. you know: granola. I've been eating it since I was a young child, having been raised by parents who strongly believed in the health benefits of whole grain cereals. I'm grateful for their concerns about my health, though now I find I feel better not eating grains. when I feel that craving come on, rather than give in to the lure of familiar, tasty oat-based granola, I instead eat this equally delicious and nutrient-dense concoction, which totally satisfies that urge. this grain-free granola is comprised of toasted nuts and seeds, flavored with familiar granola-esque sweetness and spice, and enhanced with your favorite dried fruit thrown into the mix for good measure. try a few small spoonfuls to top your morning yogurt; you won't miss the oats for a second.

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons organic, unrefined coconut oil (the kind that smells of delicious coconut)
  • 1 cup of raw, whole almonds
  • 1 cup of raw, whole cashews (or pieces)
  • 1/4 cup raw, hulled sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (raw green pumpkin seeds)
  • optional: 1/3 cup chopped roasted pistachios (if you use salted pistachios, cut the salt way down or leave it out entirely
  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter (I used Kerrygold; if you want to keep it vegan, just use a total of 3 tablespoons coconut oil)
  • 1/3 cup honey or 1/2 cup maple syrup; whichever you have on hand/prefer. I used a light clover honey
  • 1/3-1/2 cup palm sugar, coconut sugar or brown sugar. I used palm sugar that I shaved off the pressed disc with my knife, so the measurement is not exact, as irregularly-shaped shavings of sugar are hard to measure perfectly without a kitchen scale (I should get one). I had about 1/2 cup of the shaved palm sugar, and after melting it down with the honey, it all told it came out to ~2/3 cup of liquid sugar. feel free to use more or less of the sweeteners (depending on how sweet you like your granola). if you don't have palm sugar, you can use coconut sugar (which is about 2/3 less sweet) or brown sugar (similar in sweetness to palm sugar, but easier to measure -- 1/3 cup would be about right). I chose palm sugar because it's so delicious
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon good powdered cinnamon -- the best you can buy -- or grind your own (I use and love 24 Mantra Organic Cinnamon Powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon or more sea salt (less or none if you use salted pistachios)
  • 1/2-2/3 cup of your favorite dried fruit -- I used a combination of dried tart Montmorency cherries and dried blueberries -- about 1/3 cup of each
how you make it: melt 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a medium-large skillet over medium heat, and toast the almonds and cashews, stirring fairly regularly, until they're almost as dark as you want them. remove skillet from heat and scoop the toasted nuts out into a big bowl. use a stick blender to roughly chop them into irregular shapes. it's fine if some stay whole, and if some get sort of powdered. irregular is good here. you can also pulse them in a food processor a few times, if you prefer -- that will give you a more even texture. I find the variation of large & small pieces more interesting, but you should make this how you want it. put your chopped nuts in a mixing bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients. 

next, melt 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil in the same skillet over medium heat, and start the sesame seeds toasting, stirring constantly. when they're almost a nice golden brown, add the pepitas and toast everything, stirring all the while, until the pepitas pop/puff up. remove from heat and add to the bowl of almonds and cashews. if you're using pistachios, add them to the bowl

now, add the butter and sweeteners to a microwavable glass measuring cup and microwave the mixture in 30-second increments, until melted (alternatively, melt it all in a small saucepan on your stovetop). be careful -- the melted sugar is hot. stir in the cinnamon and sea salt, drizzle it over your nut mixture and stir it all together. let it form clumps -- those are often the best pieces of granola. if you want, you can spread it all out on an oiled baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees F, stirring every 20 minutes, for about an hour, but I don't bother. maybe I should, but it tastes awesome just the way it is, so... I do it my way. whatever you choose to do -- leave it in the bowl, or bake it to crisp it further -- add your dried fruit after that step. choose whatever you have and love to eat. if it's large dried fruit, like pineapple rings or mango, cut it into reasonably-sized pieces. store it in a covered container and enjoy! use it wherever you'd use regular granola -- on yogurt, in a bowl of milk (cashew milk is particularly good here), etc. -- just remember, a smaller serving will fill you up, so adjust your serving size accordingly. this is very nutrient-dense food, just the way we like it.

*note: this recipe is extremely flexible; it's less an actual recipe and more of a framework for you to use whatever kind of nuts, seeds, fruits, sweeteners, etc. that you like. the proportions of the individual ingredients and the cooking technique is what works to make this taste granola-y. feel free to use pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, etc. whatever you like. sliced almonds are a great choice -- their flakiness reminds me of rolled oats. the seeds are flexible as well: you can certainly leave out the sesame seeds if you don't like them (I love their flavor, and also appreciate their nutritive value), or replace the pepitas with sunflower seeds. I recommend that you do use some seeds; they help bind the granola and replicate the feel of grains. the sweeteners are obviously easily swapped, as mentioned in the recipe. and of course, you should spice it however you like. I like pure vanilla and cinnamon, but you may want to add a touch of allspice or nutmeg, cardamom, or the ever-popular pumpkin pie spice. re: the fats -- I love the combination of unrefined coconut oil and grass-fed butter, but you can use either one alone, or try olive oil for a change of pace! and of course, use your favorite dried fruits. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

pickled red onions

a traditional garnish for cochinita pibil, these refreshing, tasty pickled onions liven up salads, tacos, nachos, ceviche and so much more. the marinade mellows the red onions and makes this pickle positively munch-able.

  • 1 large red onion, slivered on the x-axis (vertically) into 1/8” (or slightly smaller) slivers
  • 2 cups white vinegar (cider vinegar works well, too – but nothing milder)
  • ½ cup filtered water
  • zest and juice of 1 small tangerine (or orange)
  • 7-10 black peppercorns
  • 5 bay leaves
  • *optional: ½ teaspoon dried mint (or 1 teaspoon fresh mint) or a few sprigs of cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon salt

slice red onion on a mandoline set to 1/8” thickness (or a little less). once cut, run the knife through again on the same access if areas need to be made finer, to yield small shreds – not tiny enough to soften completely (the finished pickled onions should retain some crunch), but fine enough to be palatable. set aside.

place vinegar and water in a non-reactive pot. add zest and juice of tangerine (or orange), black peppercorns, bay leaves, mint and salt. bring to a boil, and add the onion slivers. bring back to a boil quickly, and allow to cook exactly one minute. remove from heat to a cooling rack. in the meantime, clean and sanitize a quart-size glass canning jar (a leftover pickle jar will work fine, as long as you get it scrupulously clean – soak in warm, soapy water to remove any labels). rinse in hottest water,  let air dry, then place onions and liquid into jar, seal and refrigerate. should keep at least one month in the refrigerator.

use in salads, as a garnish for nachos, chili, ceviche, guacamole, or any kind of Mexican food (especially of the Interior Mexican genre). branch out – try them in antipasti plates, on salads, on top of pizzas, in tacos, with Asian noodle dishes – wherever the flavor of piquant yet citrusy, refreshing and mild onion will be welcomed.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

try this pumpkin bread recipe from Baking Bites! you won't regret it.

so tonight, I decided to try a pumpkin bread recipe from Baking Bites, and yes! I am so glad I did. I don't think I've ever tried one of Nicole Weston's clearly brilliant recipes before, but I definitely will be checking out many more of them in the near future. when I first spied her recipe for one-bowl pumpkin bread with toasted pepitas, I knew I had to try it. it just sounded so scrumptious, yet was simple enough to mix up all in one bowl.

I did make a few changes, as is my wont, and while they worked out well, I have no doubt the recipe as written will come out perfectly as well. my changes: I baked a double batch, since I didn't want to store half a can of pumpkin puree. the cans I bought were 15 oz cans, so instead of a full 8 oz cup of pumpkin per loaf, I used 7.5 oz each and it was no problem at all. because I prefer its nutritional profile, I used melted butter rather than vegetable oil. to keep the one-bowl integrity of the recipe, I simply started it off my melting the butter in the bowl in the microwave. other minor changes: I used my own homemade pumpkin pie spice (using this super-easy and delicious recipe from The Kitchn. lastly, I didn't have coarse sugar on hand to sprinkle on top of the loaves before baking, so when they were about halfway done, I spooned a somewhat-uneven, rather sparse layer of white sugar over the loaves to form a crunchy, sweet topping that partially glazed for that touch of extra sweetness.

the results? incredible. make the recipe exactly as written, or customize it to your ingredients/preferences -- there are several variations suggesting in the recipe, or you can wing it (as long as you're comfortable with making successful substitutions in baking recipes). you're sure to be quite pleased with this pumpkin bread. it is now "my" pumpkin bread -- the recipe I'll be making for years to come.

when you try it, please leave me a note and let me know how yours came out! for now, I will focus on mustering up the willpower to wait until tomorrow morning for another piece. wish me luck!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

orange poppyseed bread

most of the recipes I've seen for this sweet, light tea bread call for artificial butter flavoring and lemon extract, neither or which are ideal ingredients, IMO. also, most of those recipes make two loaves, and I only want to bake one at a time. it's easy enough to double the recipe if you want an extra loaf.

for the bread:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk (just about any kind of milk will work; I used homemade almond milk, because it's what I had on hand)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange (or lemon) zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon into measuring cup and level off to get an accurate measure)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil*, warmed so it's liquid (I used refined, but if you want the flavor of regular coconut oil in this, feel free to use it)
for the glaze:
  • 2 tablespoons orange (or lemon) juice
  • 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh orange (or lemon) zest
  • a tiny pinch of salt
preheat oven to 350 degrees F. butter a 9" by 5" loaf pan. in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, citrus zest and vanilla. measure the flour and baking powder into a sifter or fine mesh sieve, and sift it into the liquid mixture. whisk just to combine. add the salt, then pour in the coconut oil while whisking to incorporate -- this prevents it from solidifying when it hits cool ingredients (which is why I never try to mix it into the eggs and milk first). mix just until combined, without lumps, but don't over-beat. pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes; until lightly browned. a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. place on a rack to cool.

in a small bowl, whisk the citrus juice, confectioner's sugar, zest and salt until sugar is dissolved. this will make a relatively thin glaze. while the bread is still warm, gently poke holes in the loaf at even intervals (about 1" apart), then spoon about half of the glaze over, distributing fairly evenly. allow a minute for the glaze to be absorbed, then spoon the remainder over. after the last bit of glaze has been absorbed, remove the bread from the loaf pan (I ran a butter knife around the edges to be sure it wouldn't stick, then placed a plate over the top of the loaf pan and inverted it, then flipped the loaf over so it ended up right-side-up). allow to cool. slice to serve.

this should keep for a few days at room temperature, covered.

*note: I'm especially perplexed at other recipes' use of imitation butter flavor, because I think the flavor of butter interferes with the floral citrus and toasty poppyseed notes here. refined coconut oil adds no scent or flavor, which is how I prefer it, but the tropical scent of regular coconut oil would be an interesting change of pace. butter just isn't the right flavor here for my tastebuds. however, if butter is the right flavor for you, substitute a stick of melted, unsalted butter for the coconut oil.

favorite fluffy pancakes

note: this makes a large batch of pancakes. you can freeze them (with sheets of wax paper in between the pancakes to keep them from sticking), refrigerate them for a few days, or scale the recipe down by 2/3 or 1/3 if you prefer. it will still work.
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 cup yogurt (Greek or regular) 
  • 2 cups milk 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned into measure and leveled) 
  • 6 tablespoons sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder, sifted or forced through a sieve 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt 
place the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl or jug and melt in microwave (30-60 seconds). add the yogurt and milk, then the eggs. whisk until smooth. add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, and whisk just until combined (a few lumps are fine, and even preferable).

cook over medium heat in buttered skillet. pour out ¼ – ½ cups of batter at a time, and cook until bubbles start to dry out on top and edges begin to firm. flip and cook 30-60 seconds longer, until middle of pancake springs back when you press it lightly with your finger. adjust heat under pan so pancakes get as brown as you'd like during this cooking process. stack on a plate until all are done.

photo courtesy of Charles Geiger

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

the perfect yellow cake

  • 1 stick butter, softened to room temperature 
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar 
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature 
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (warmed until liquid, then measured) 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk 
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (spooned into measuring cups, then leveled off with a knife – no need to sift) 
  • 3 ½ teaspoons baking powder, sifted or pushed through a sieve to break up clumps 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 

preheat oven to 340° F.

cut parchment paper in circles to fit the bottom of (2) 9 x 1 1/2-inch round cake pans. butter the pans, then place the parchment in the pans and butter the paper.

in a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition until completely incorporated. add the coconut oil and vanilla, and combine. mix in half of the flour (don't overmix, just incorporate), then half of the milk, then the rest of the flour, then the rest of the milk, beating until fully combined. sift in the baking powder, add the salt, and beat until just combined. pour the batter into prepared pans.

bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted near center of cake comes out clean (a few small crumbs are fine), or until cake springs back when touched lightly in the center. cool cakes on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

fresh raspberry mousse pie with lemon shortbread crust

a light, refreshing pie that surprises with hidden fresh raspberries and a lemony crust

lemon shortbread crust
  • 1 stick butter, softened to room temperature
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolks
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
raspberry puree:
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • ½ cup sugar (more or less to taste, depending on how tart or sweet your raspberries are)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons water
stabilized whipped cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoons gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
to assemble pie
  • 1 ½ cups fresh raspberries

make shortbread crust: preheat oven to 375 degrees F. butter a deep dish pie pan (or a 2-quart round glass casserole dish). using a wooden spoon, cream butter and sugar together in a medium-sized bowl. stir the egg yolks in one at a time, incorporating the first completely before adding the next. stir in the lemon zest. then add the flour and salt, and combine (but try not to overwork it). it may seem a bit dry, but a pinch of the dough should hold together nicely. press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the dish, making it as even as you can. prick the bottom of the dough with a fork three or four times, then place in oven and bake for 18-22 minutes, until edges just start to turn golden brown. set on a rack to cool completely.

make the raspberry puree: while the crust is baking, sprinkle the gelatin over the 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan, and let bloom for 1-2 minutes. place the pan over low heat and stir just until gelatin is dissolved. allow to cool (speed the cooling a bit by placing the pan in the freezer, or over an ice bath) to room temperature. wash and gently dry the raspberries, then puree them in a food processor or blender with ½ cup sugar, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. press the puree through a metal mesh strainer and discard the seeds. whisk in the cooled gelatin, cover the puree and refrigerate to allow it to thicken a bit while you do the next step. 

make the stabilized whipped cream*: using the same saucepan you previously used for gelatin, bloom 1 ½ teaspoons of gelatin in 2 tablespoons of water. place on a burner on low heat, and stir just until gelatin is dissolved. cool as you did before. pour the cream into the stand mixer’s** bowl and beat on low for about 30 seconds. increase speed to medium and beat for another 30 seconds. increase speed to high, and add sugar, salt, and then the cooled gelatin. continue beating for another minute or so, until it forms very stiff peaks. scoop about 1 to 1 ½ cups into a smaller bowl, whisk vanilla into this smaller portion, and set aside in the refrigerator. scrape the remaining whipped cream out into a large bowl.

make the mousse: pour the refrigerated raspberry puree into the stand mixer's** bowl and beat on high until foamy. scrape the puree into the large bowl of whipped cream and fold together thoroughly, working quickly and carefully to keep it from deflating as much as possible. refrigerate mousse for at least an hour to allow it to firm up.

assemble the pie: set 3 of the prettiest raspberries aside to garnish the finished pie. scatter the remaining fresh raspberries in a single layer on the the crust. scoop the finished mousse into the crust, on top of the raspberries. smooth the top with a spatula. fetch the vanilla-flavored whipped cream from the refrigerator and use it to decorate the top of the pie. I put it in a pastry bag and piped little mounds around the perimeter and in the center; you decorate it however you’d like. arrange the reserved raspberries in the center to garnish the pie.

*you need to stabilize the whipped cream (rather than using regular whipped cream) for several reasons: 1) it improves the texture of both the mousse and the whipped cream decorations on top of the pie, 2) it keeps it shape better, so the mousse won’t deflate; it will stay fluffy and be easier to cut.

**if you don’t have a stand mixer, either use a hand-held mixer, or a bowl and a whisk. it truly can all be done by hand, but it’s a bit of a workout, so be prepared.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mexican-spiced sweet potato oven fries

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes*, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick strips, lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
preheat oven to 425 degrees F. combine all ingredients in a large bowl, tossing to coat potatoes evenly. place potato strips on parchment-lined baking sheets in a single layer, leaving a little room around each strip so they can brown and crisp. cook for 15 minutes, flip the pieces over and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until nicely browned.

*note: you can use any kind of potato you want. a combination of sweet potatoes and russets is particularly good.

bright & citrusy braised, shredded Mexican beef for tacos

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 pounds boneless beef for braising (chuck roast, flank steak, boneless short ribs, or other suitable cuts)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (I use homemade -- will post the recipe soon)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (leaves and stems are fine -- it's all going to be pureed)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water or stock
preheat oven to 325 degrees F. heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large French or Dutch oven (or other burner- and oven-safe pot that's big enough to hold everything) over medium-high heat, add the onion and pinch of kosher salt and saute until nicely browned, about 10 minutes. you're not caramelizing the onion; you're actually searing it a bit to get lots of good flavor, so let the pieces get nice and dark around the edges.

while the onion is frying, cut the meat into large (1-2 inch) chunks. combine the paprika, cumin, chili powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, pepper, cilantro, garlic cloves, citrus juices, olive oil and water (or stock), and puree in a regular blender or with an immersion blender. add the meat and the pureed mixture to the pot and stir. bring to a simmer, cover with an oven-safe lid (or cover tightly with aluminum foil) and place in the oven. cook for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, until meat is very tender.

when it's nice and tender (shreds very easily with a fork), turn off the oven. using a slotted spoon, scoop the meat out onto a plate. place the pot on a medium-low burner and reduce the cooking liquid, uncovered, until reduced by about half (you just want to reduce it enough so the finished mixture isn't watery). while the liquid is reducing, shred the meat using two forks, then add the shredded meat (and any accumulated juices) back to the pot. combine and adjust seasoning, if needed. serve with hot flour and/or corn tortillas, and accompany with crumbled cotija cheese, chopped tomato, shredded lettuce, guacamole or avocado slices, sour cream (or crema fresca, or Greek yogurt) and wedges of lime. very good when served with Mexican-spiced oven fries (that recipe is coming next)!

Friday, July 18, 2014

best ever flour tortillas

make them; they are fabulous. a food processor fitted with an "s" blade works perfectly for the dough.