30 November 2013

Sustenance

 

Before we left for the holiday, I decided to make some granola bars. I figured they'd be a good thing to bring in my overnight bag for a Thanksgiving mid-morning nosh, would keep well and be prime for sharing. I've made this recipe based on Deb's before and liked them lots, but realized I overlooked a key point  to use quick cooking oats! They are remarkably better as such--texturally more cohesive and bar-like, with a chewier chew, are easier to cut and more amalgamated once baked. Much more like those famous Whole Foods ones that they smartly sell in baskets on the way toward the check out line... from which these bars are inspired. But if you've got some oats, nuts and sweeteners on hand and heck, chocolate and coconut flakes, you can make your own and bypass that basket.


These granola bars are not only easy to make but pretty foolproof. There's no worry of over-mixing, no ingredient temperature issues, it's a one or two-bowl affair and you can wrap them and keep them a few days at room temp. For longer storage I hear you can freeze them, too, if needed. One thing's for sure, I do promise that these will be the best granola bar you've eaten. They just don't compare to what you get in a box. They are also one of those things you can tuck into your lunchbox and remember when that afternoon sustenance call sounds at work and the last thing  you want to do is stand on line at Whole Foods.

And: before I close, in the spirit of sharing, I must plug a muffin worth making: Sara from Sprouted Kitchen's Brown Butter Espresso Chip Muffins. Just say that a few times and you'll be craving one.


I love when I come across a recipe that sounds so coffee-shop-ish and slightly decadent but boasts whole, substantial ingredients, and this is one of them. I'd had it on my Pinterest board for awhile and finally got to it on this lazy Saturday afternoon, upon coming back from the holiday to a relatively "fruitless" kitchen primed for these pantry-based muffins. They are keepers. I haven't done much baking with coffee, (imbibing of it, yes) and upon a bite, I was crazy about the fact that the pinches of cinnamon, fine-ground coffee and vanilla sort of synergized into more of a perfume for the spelt-almond-oat flour batter. Studded with shards of dark chocolate and topped with a little buttery-oat streusal, just... yum. Even though they didn't need it, I slicked a small slather of Buckwheat honey (a dark honey) on a just cooled-down half, and Ed chomped on one without any spread, or halving, but lots of vertical nodding. Wheat-free, and just sweet-enough from coconut sugar (or brown), these definitely qualify as sustenance. If you haven't seen it already, head on over to Sprouted Kitchen for the recipe.  And see below for my adaption of the granola bars. Til soon, MN

Chewy Granola Bars Recipe

Adapted from Smitten and Orangette

1 cup quick cooking oats (I used Quaker)
1 cup add-ins (I used lightly toasted almonds, raisins, pepitas and coconut flakes)
1/4 c chopped dark chocolate 
1/4 tsp. fine salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp almond butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp honey   (or all honey or maple)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly butter a baking pan with butter, (I used a loaf pan 9 x 5 as this is a halved recipe) and line the bottom with parchment paper in a sling for easy pick-up Grind 2.5 Tbs of the oats into oat flour then stir together the remaining oats, oat flour, sugar, add-ins salt, and chocolate. Then whisk together the almond butter, vanilla extract, melted butter, honey, and water well. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir well, until the mixture is evenly moistened.

Transfer to the prepared pan, pressing the mixture firmly to ensure that it molds to the shape of the pan. 
Bake the bars for about 30-38 minutes and start checking at 25. It may seem almost underbaked if you press on it, but it’ll set as it cools. Cool several hours in pan if possible. You can also chill the pan for a bit. When cool, run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan and cut the bars into squares.

26 November 2013

Wanderings


I tend to get kinda anxious this time of year for no solid reason. I'm not hosting a Thanksgiving gathering, and I'm still at the weird age in my family where as the next of kin of the organizers, it always feels a little extra to bring along dishes and figure out how to make them out of my own kitchen. But I never feel right showing up empty handed. So in a nutshell, I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to share at this year's festivities.

But beyond the holiday--are you feeling this weird rush at all? That panic that so much is happening so fast, you've got to buy this and make that, now, see this person, make all this dough in advance, and while you're at it why not make a bit more...! Etc. Oh and the Internet is constantly reminding you of all this. Sales, here and there...way too many brilliant Pinners to follow, and all of the sudden it's 7 pm and you've got to make dinner for that day and it is Cold out.

I find that the people I admire most are able to make decisions firmly and not hem and haw or get other people involved too much in their decisions. "Decide what you are doing."

Ah if only it were so easy. But if I have one aim for the next month or two, it's to just decide things, and sit back and go through with them. If a decision doesn't work out, you can make another decision (thanks, Louise Hay :) )

A good decision though?  Making these little pumpkin streusal loaves from Honestly Yum.  I was piqued by the pic on Pinterest and promptly got to it. I used homemade butternut puree and half-spelt in the batter and loved them. Next time's alteration: do not halve the streusal nor the recipe.

 

They both disappear pretty quickly...

And in other news, I am happy to be contributing to Shop Rite's Potluck blog about once a month. This month's topic was a Thanksgiving Side. With all the orange and yellow bound to be on the table I opted to throw in a trusty roasted cauliflower dish with parsley-arugula pesto. Head on over there to check out the recipe, as well as all the other sides bloggers are bringing to the table!

And in Salvegging spirit, I find it worth mentioning that the leftover cauliflower and pesto is well enjoyed beneath a fried egg with some kale tucked in. Have a great holiday : ) xo MN



Lead Photo: Palisades, on the Hudson

18 November 2013

Petite Pumpkin Pecan Scones



Hello friends. This pumpkin scone post, which is not meant to emulate Starbucks, was also meant to come sooner during pumpkin love season, but I just had to hack it a little more before sharing with you. My first batch was a little too damp inside for my taste and also lacked pecans, pumpkin's perhaps most trusted accomplice. Both versions lacked a glaze but that is just what brought them into decided breakfast territory and granted permission for a honey or maple butter spread instead. Now before you tell me I overuse the word lack, let me tell you just why these little scones are so plentiful in and of themselves. 


Slightly fall-spiced and just a little sweet, the thicker, half-spelt dough comes together quickly like a biscuit. While there are lots of popular drop-biscuit style pumpkin scones out there, I wanted something more traditional for this round. The inner crumb here is hearty yet light and every other bite or so you'll find a toasty piece of pecan. I think smaller is better here for a few reasons. Pumpkin puree in scone dough tends to, no matter what, add moisture, which therefore can trick you into when they are in the finished zone. The outside may be crisp and the inner still too damp if you make big scones, and I think things are just better off when the object to bake is smaller in stature. Less time let these little things bake up and rise just right.




In addition to that, smaller ones are great for accompanying an egg on the side. As I mentioned, I skipped the glaze in favor of some honey butter, letting these shine almost more like biscuits would. In terms of technique, another thing brow-furrowing with sweet potato or pumpkin biscuit dough is the fact that you do need to knead a little to fully incorporate the orange goodness, otherwise you'll end up with orange streaked flour biscuits. So don't be afraid to. But it's a question of finding the best way to work the dough because as we all know, scone dough doesn't respond well to too much work. With that in mind, I opted for the cut/flatten/stack technique of the dough, which helped incorporate all orange hue possible, and guaranteed some layers, without messing with the butter.


With all this talk of size, I feel the need to tell you that I was also a bit low on ingredients so making a very small batch wasn't purely deliberate, but turned out to be great for the aforementioned cooking chemistry reasons.  The only thing is, they are now all gone. Time to make more : ) You can certainly double or quadruple the recipe below, but I find more and more I like working with small amounts of dough at a time. 

Petite Pumpkin Pecan Scones

Note: The dough is on the thicker side. Don't fret. Just stack/fold and flatten to incorporate all the pumpkin. I used homemade butternut puree which is also probably a bit denser than canned pumpkin but I believe canned would work too. But homemade puree is great!

Makes four mini scones.
Inspiration from Chez Us

1/4 cup/32 grams unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup/30 grams spelt flour
1 Tbs coconut sugar, or light brown sugar
Scant 2 Tbs toasted, rough chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspooon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cloves, smashed or 1/8 teaspoon ground
1.5 tablespoons / 21 grams Irish butter, diced and very cold
1/8 t vanilla
2 T/ 30 grams  pumpkin or butternut puree- cold
2.5 T/ 20 ml  heavy cream-cold

Oven to 425.

In a large bowl whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, salt spices and half of pecans. Toss in butter pieces.With pastry cutter work in butter until pieces are no larger than small peas. Add rest of pecans in and toss. Work quickly. In small bowl mix vanilla, cream and puree. Scrape that into dry mix and fold together with spatula to moisten. Don't worry about some dry patches. Dump dough out onto a board (I always use a piece of plastic or parchment) and start to flatten with heel of your hand. Use a bench knife to square the sides as you press. Slice straight in half and stack one piece onto the other, rotate it 90 degrees, press again. Repeat this once or twice more. Shape the dough into a rectangle 3/4 inch high. Cut in half then cut the two halves into triangles. Brush tops with just a touch cream.

Place them on a parchment-lined sheet, and send to freezer for a few minutes. Place in oven. Set timer for 10-11 minutes but they will probably need a few moments more. Mine bake in about 12. Cool on sheet pan a few minutes, then cool completely on rack. While not hot but slightly warm, serve with honey or maple butter.


13 November 2013

Just Enough


Friends, this is a shot of my refrigerator that I snapped this morning before a grocery trip was made, while a few whole beets were roasting. No doubt it will not stay like this, but minimalism is the aim this week. We've got 1/2 a head red cabbage, cream, almond flour, some on-the-verge milk reserved for baking on the bottom, 3 eggs, 1/2 a breast leftover chicken, butternut puree, pecorino, leftover butternut chunks in the middle, a probiotic, a little leftover gluten-free beer, the fridge baking soda, homemade vegan coconut caramel sauce and a newer mini-milk for coffee purposes on the top.


And in the spirit of minimalism, I thought I'd share the cookies I'm currently crazy about from Minimalist Baker. I love their site and often feel inspired by their under-7-ingredient approach to baking, especially during times when I'm in no mood for fumbling. They turn out great stuff and these cookies are no exception. Not only are they mostly Paleo and Grain-free (well, with the exception of my splash of oat flour I'll discuss shortly) they are also quite hearty and healthy. 

The base recipe is the almond meal cookies from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook, which contain coconut-oil, a little sugar (I used coconut sugar), shredded coconut, dark chocolate and almond meal bound with just a tad egg. They are super easy to mix up, and delicious in their own right. I made them like that last week. Then I discovered Dana from Minimalist's samoa hack on these same cookies and it makes them even better. I happened to have some coconut caramel sauce I'd made, on hand, so naturally, the samoa version was meant to happen. 



One thing to note is the use of almond meal versus flour. The recipe specifies meal. I use Honeyville almond flour which is very fine--less mealy. But in order to "meal-up" the dry ingredients more, I used a little less almond flour and supplemented with a hint each ground almond and ground oats. I found this worked well.

Also, there's another recipe you may find interesting if you haven't already seen it. I've baked it twice in the last few weeks. These ridiculously minimalist and healthy buckwheat-date muffins from Anja's Food For Thought. Gluten-free and sugar-free, these muffins are sweetened with dates only, risen with baking soda, moistened by olive oil and egg and based off just a little buckwheat flour- I'm shocked that just 1/4 c buckwheat flour yields four muffins but it does!


I love them particularly with a soft boiled or fried egg on the side for a breakfast as they are that perfect middle road muffin that can accompany eggs but not distract by being that sweet and solo berry muffin or decadent scone that deserves the spotlight. In fact, they are quite light. Her technique is a little similar to these bran muffins I like so much. She has you make a hot date paste by simmering dates with milk and baking soda, then pureeing it before adding in everything else. Definitely worth a try if you're looking for another gluten-free morning treat.


 And served with honey-butter, always. Be back soon with a new recipe : ) xx

09 November 2013

Coconut-Charged Granola


Before we go further I may as well say: this is some granola we've wanted to munch and munch on. I really like it. Granola is granola, but  here, an exotic little affair with coconut goes a long way. You may be wondering, do you really need a new granola recipe from me? Yes! Because you've got to try it with coconut oil, and coconut chips for that matter and just a pinch coconut sugar for good measure.

But beyond the hint of tropic with which coconut oil perfumes anything it touches, it was also the toasty hue of this granola that had me swooning even before it had completely cooled, and that comes from the low and longish bake. I watched it come out of the oven, hot, and undergo it's final transformation from tannish to orange-tannish and it was at that point I became convinced that some diced bright orange apricots would only enhance the situation.



The inspiration here comes from the amazing Melissa Clark, yet the base recipe isn't anything new. But as goes with granola, it's how you accessorize, that defines how it will be. Case in point here, coconut chips, rolled oats, whole cashews and sliced almonds get tossed with equal splashes maple and melted coconut oil, a hint of vanilla, that malty coconut sugar (just a pinch) and a bit of lemon zest.


I left the cashews whole and don't fret if at first they aren't toasting when you stir. They do get toasted by the end of the bake. And I'm particularly a fan of the coconut chips here. Don't leave them out. Just trust me. Get some unsweetened ones, and let them toast and sweeten up in the oven with your maple and oil. I served this with a little milked down yogurt and more apricots. It is pretty crunchy so it holds up well to a thinner milk/yogurt counterpart. But I probably don't have to tell you how and where to sprinkle this crunchy orange bliss ; )


 Double Coconut Granola
 Adapted from Melissa Clark
(Vegan/Gluten-free. Makes about a heaping Pint Jar)

1 c (about 100 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cups (80 grams) mixed raw cashews and sliced almonds
1/3 c coconut chips/flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
40 ml pure maple syrup
40 ml coconut oil, barely melted
Slightly heaping 1 T coconut sugar
Pinch fresh lemon zest
2 T diced dried apricots or another dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 300. Lightly sweep a rimmed baking sheet with coconut oil on your fingers.

In a large bowl mix together oats, nuts, salt, coconut chips. Whisk together barely melted oil, maple syrup and vanilla, pour over the oat mixture, and stir very well until very evenly coated. Spread the mixture onto the prepared pan and pat into a single layer. Bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the oats are toasty and lightly browned. Note: After 55, I turned off the oven and left the pan in there an extra few minutes with the oven door open, maybe 5 mins. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with apricots and stir to combine. When the granola has cooled completely, store in an airtight container for up to a week.

06 November 2013

Like Salmon for Chocolate


One quick and easy but so satisfying thing I turn to often around now is a huge ole' piece of salmon.

Last winter I often picked up a cut on my way home from work when it was getting dark way too early, knowing it would take super little time to get on the table once I took off my coat. But on Saturday, I made it for lunch when this gorgeous light was breaking through the window and realized it was a good moment to share about it. 

Sophisticated and no-nonsense enough for a weeknight or weekend dinner, official enough for a big get-together,  served warm or allowed to cool a little for a flaking atop salads, it's pretty much my favorite...

A while back I troubled myself over how to make good salmon in a pan. What sauces- to marinate or not to-when is it done...etc. And then there was trying to make it in college in my tiny dorm kitchen on a ridiculous (but actually kinda decent) teeny tiny panini-maker-ish grill. What a nice smell that created...

Always trying to emulate restaurants, playing with the miso, the soy sauce, never quite nailing it.
 



Little did I know the best way I liked it was actually one of the simplest and most hands off. Moist, flakable, sea salt and pepper seasoned. No fancy shmance sauces.

And yet, even in the most foolproof situations, salmon can still have even a certain elusiveness, but nothing you have to be a pro to hack. Depending on the cut, temperature to the touch going into the oven, its last moments of cooking are largely connected to intuition.

For me, with this type of fish, reading recipes  doesn't always help. "Until cooked through... until just opaque in the center... after 20 minutes..."


My favorite formula lately: 425-ish oven 10-15 mins, generously seasoned salt and pepper, drizzle of oil, sprig of herb, couple lemon slices, and resting fish at room temperature while the oven heats. And then, the last minute or two: if the center was thick and the top is still a tad raw, broil setting for the last minute to hit the top. If the sides are slightly stiff and flakeable, and the center is pretty much opaque when a knife is inserted, after the 10-15 minutes, just rest it for a minute or two under a little foil tent. 

Either way, too, that final minute rest under foil is a good thing. Check that it is opaque, then flake.


And now for the chocolate part...



As I mentioned in the last post, we went to a friend's vegan eats evening last week. I toted along this tart for dessert. As karma has it, I've had my eye on making a straightforward non-gluten-free bittersweet chocolate tart  like this one for quite awhile, even managing to stock the heavy cream, whole wheat pastry flour, dark chocolate and brown sugar at the same moment, but something always supplanted it- like eating the chocolate I'd reserved for baking or using the cream for scones...and then, it was berry season.

And when I finally thought about it again, it had to be both vegan and paleo friendly. So it became pretty Pinteresting (couldn't help it!).

Lucklily I already had this one on my board, from Sylvie at Gourmande in the Kitchen.

Ever since incorporating almond flour into baking, I've been curious about how it fares in tart dough, but knowing it tends to lend more moisture and softness, didn't dive in. This is a good place to start. The maple syrup helps keep the crust snappy and the coconut oil is a good fat for short doughs. It also lends a nice perfume. The coconut milk and dark chocolate center sets up beautifully in the sturdy, pre-baked shortbread cookie-ish crust and the whole thing is topped with some toasted coconut and almonds (the original featured mac nuts but I wanted to keep the almond-coconut theme going).

One look and taste of this tart and you'd not even know at first it's gluten, grain-free and vegan. Now that's a triple whammy if I knew one.

Things that are brilliant about this little tart:

The shortbread crust perfumed with coconut.
Make it the day of a few hours ahead.
No rolling out dough.
Totally unrefined
Looks pretty and tastes incredibly rich.
It's not super-heavy and you're even getting quite a nutritional punch from almond flour, coconut oil, dark chocolate, etc.

Go check out the recipe here!


03 November 2013

In the Morning, Scones


Last night we found ourselves at a lively, tiny vegan dinner party hosted by my friend Laryssa. The entire evening left me dwelling in that lovely old-timey spirit that you don't always have to go out to bars and restaurants and events to connect. Crowded around a little table, nine of us learned, discussed, debated, drank wine and ate plant-based morsels for a few short hours. It was that kind of night where you don't know where the time went. When we got home past one, it was a ripe moment to kick off shoes and fall into bed. And as I closed my eyes, I thought, in the morning, scones. I fell asleep thinking of cinnamon and nutmeg, of warmth and cold butter.

I've said it once and I'll say it again; almond flour is a different animal than grain-flours but nonetheless delicious in it's own right. I'm on a seemingly endless rotation with what I put into this basic almond flour scone recipe and today, it was about pears and sliced almonds. It was also about making biscuit shapes with a cutter instead of cutting them into wedges with a bench scraper as I'd normally do.
It's the little things, literally.
 

Two things take these biscuits up a notch: toasting the almonds and "dry" roasting the pears, a trick I picked up from Kathryn in London that both dries them out and concentrates their flavor. Trust me, a semi-dehydrated pear bud holds its shape and moisture much better than a juicy, raw, steamy one when it comes to scones.

And it's also a step to do the night before. Simply dice, bake, cool a little and store in the unheated (or cooling down) oven overnight. In the morning, the pear buds, as I call them, await.

Warm spices are thrown into the batter too, but just to hint, not overwhelm, and they are baked as usual, cooled in a little cloth, and split for spreading. We topped ours with a little clotted cream (from the top of a new milk bottle!) and some local honey from Ed's mom.


Pear Spiced Almond Flour Scones
Makes about 7 biscuits

1 1/2 cups Blanched Almond Flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch cloves
Pinch nutmeg
2 Tablespoons butter (very very cold and diced into several chunk)
1 large organic egg
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Small handful chopped toasted sliced almonds
2 small pears, roasted and dried overnight**

The night before: With your oven at 350, dice up and peel (I peeled some but not all pieces) 2 little pears. Place on parchment lined sheet, bake 15-20 minutes. Turn off oven, let pear cool a bit. When you go to bed, place the sheet pan with the pear on it in the oven and store there.

Toast some sliced almonds if you haven't got them already.


In the morning: Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, spices. Cut butter in with a pastry blender until it resembles both cornmeal and peas. Toss in almonds. Set the bowl in the freezer.

In a small bowl, combine egg, honey, vanilla, vinegar and mix very well. Set that in the freezer for a second too while you line a sheet pan with parchment, set it aside.

Make a well in the center of the dry bowl, pour in the wet slowly while working from the outside to the center, moistening the dough with your fingers or a spatula. Throw in pears and mix lightly until a nice chunky dough forms that holds together. Don't spend too long on this.

Dump it onto a piece of plastic wrap. Use a bench scraper to push the sides of the dough in to form a rectangle and the heel of your hand to flatten a bit. Now fold it in half over itself. Repeat. If things get sticky, use plastic on top of the dough as well.

Shape into a rectangle again 3/4 inch thick, then place in freezer for a few moments (I cleaned out a bowl during this time : )) Now cut out as many circles as you can with a biscuit cutter (don't twist the cutter) re-scraping scraps together lightly and using all dough, and place on parchment-lined sheet. Sprinkle with a shake of turbinado if desired. Bake about 20 minutes (My cutter was 2 inches or so). Cool and enjoy.