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For a few weeks, I’ll be cross-posting links to my new blog, It Was Just Right. Come on over to my new home and subscribe for email updates to keep receiving my recipes, reviews, and how-to’s. Today’s post features a how-to for making yogurt at home, with a few of my favorite tools of the trade.

homemade yogurt how-to

How to Make Homemade Yogurt

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Sweet Earth Za’atar Burgers

These veggie burgers made for two healthy and filling lunches — I’ll definitely be getting them again. I loved the pop of whole sesame seeds and the generous hand with za’atar spice mix — it was kind of like falafel on steroids! I enjoyed one burger simply on a whole wheat hamburger bun, and another broken up into a bowl with julienned, sauteed zucchini, shredded cooked beets, and sliced avocado.

Kiss Me Organics Matcha Powder

First, I’ve gotta give props to my adventurous husband for sipping the banana matcha smoothie I placed in front of him without a second of hesitation. A dull shade of tannish green, it tasted far better than it looked! I really enjoyed the tiny hint of bitterness from the matcha (I used a teaspoon for two servings), and it paired well with plain soymilk and ripe bananas, no extra sweetener required. I look forward to trying it out in savory recipes as well — a half teaspoon mixed into a tablespoon of salt, and you’ve got a topping for poached eggs, popcorn, and more.

Ayurvedic Roast Coffee Substitute

I’m a huge fan of coffee, but once I’ve gotten my morning cup of caffeine, any more during the day just makes me jittery. An afternoon cup of decaf often sounds like a good idea, but my stomach doesn’t like the extra acid, and I’ve dealt with acid reflux issues in the past. For a while now, I’ve been trying to find a good coffee substitute for those times when I want a nice warm mug of coffee minus the caffeine and acid.

I’m happy to say that Ayurvedic Roast is a great option! It’s a 100% organic mix of roasted barley, chicory root, and rye mixed with Ayurvedic herbs. I tried brewing it a couple of ways, and extracted the most flavor by boiling it on the stove for ten minutes, one heaping tablespoon per cup of water. I’ve been enjoying it with a splash of whole mlik, and it really hits the spot. It comes in two varieties, original and vanilla.

CocoaPlanet Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate

These disks of chocolate are perfect for a portion-controlled desert. The chocolate and caramel flavors are so intense that you’ll be happy with a small portion. The dark chocolate has little spherical pockets of caramel throughout (they call them “pearls of flavor”), so each bite has a burst of caramel, and it doesn’t squeeze out all over the place like other liquid-filled treats. CocoaPlanet also recommends dissolving the chocolate disks in a cup of hot milk for instant, flavored hot chocolate.

Sur La Table Coupe Cereal Bowl

I just love the size and shape of this bowl. It holds 16 ounces, perfect for my morning bowl of oatmeal or an afternoon strawberry snack. The coupe line is basic but modern, with shallow, sloping sides and a low profile that’s great for food photography, too. I picked up a pair of these, along with a couple dinner plates (you can see one in the photo of lettuce cups above), and I’m glad to have such basic but stylish pieces in my collection.

Where To Buy

1. Sweet Earth Za’atar Burgers via their Facebook Store Locator App

2. Kiss Me Organics Matcha Powder at Amazon

3. Ayurvedic Roast Coffee Substitute at AyurvedicRoast.com

4. CocoaPlanet Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate at Amazon

5. Sur La Table Coupe Cereal Bowl at Sur La Table

 

Whether I’m sent a product free of charge or have purchased it myself, all opinions are my own. Samples provided by Sweet Earth, Kiss Me Organics, Ayurvedic Roast, and CocoaPlanet.

 

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This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Organic Choice for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

In my last post featuring Miracle-Gro Organic Choice line of products, I told you all about my plans to create a little herb garden, and I’m happy to say I did just that. A couple months ago, I headed over to my local nursery and purchased a pretty planter, along with organic seedlings of rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme.
Planting the herb garden was super-easy. I filled up the planter about a third of the way with potting soil, nestled the seedlings in gently, and then added more soil to fill up the planter. Next, I sprinkled a couple tablespoons of plant food evenly over the top and used my fingers to mix it into the first inch or so of soil. Finally, I watered the plants. It seriously couldn’t have been easier, well, except for keeping my busy-body beagle from eating the plant food and digging everything up.
For a little while, the herb garden had a place indoors, sitting in the sunny window of our living room. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, it began to attract tiny winged creatures (fruit flies, maybe?), so I had to relegate it to the backyard. Luckily, it’s been thriving out there. The sage, thyme, and oregano are super happy, but the rosemary is a little brown in places — I may replant it in the ground and replace it with another herb if it gets any sadder. But hey, 3 for 4 ain’t bad, especially for my first try at organic gardening!
I’ve been snipping fresh herbs into lots of recipes lately. Cooking from Eggs On Top, I made Sage-Brown Butter Eggs with my Berggarten Sage. Fresh thyme has found its way into pasta salads and vegetable sautés. And as for the oregano, I just love how it pairs with crimini mushrooms in this simple pasta recipe, the perfect thing to throw together on a weeknight after a long day.
Weeknight Pasta with Mushrooms and Oregano
Serves 2.
4 ounces spaghetti (whole wheat or regular variety)
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/8” thick
1 5-inch sprig fresh oregano, destemmed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup marinara sauce
1. In a medium (2-quart) saucepan, boil a quart of water seasoned with one heaping teaspoon of sea salt.
2. While the pasta water comes to a boil, sauté your mushrooms: In a large (12-inch) skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add the oregano and sea salt and saute for another 2 minutes, until aromatic.
3. While you are sautéing the mushrooms, boil the spaghetti according to package directions, until just al dente.
4. Drain the pasta, but not too thoroughly — leave a little bit of water to help bind with the tomato sauce. Add the pasta and marinara sauce to the skillet with the mushrooms, turn off the heat, toss to combine, and serve.
Have you ever grown an organic harvest using Miracle Gro Organic Choice products? It’s easy — you can find tons of useful instructions and information at Miracle-Gro Learn And Grow. Tell me all about what you’ve grown, or what you’re planning to plant this summer!

Visit Sponsor's Site

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Chocolate and Walnut Sablés

chocolate-walnut-sables

This recipe comes courtesy of Pierre Hermé via Dorie Greenspan, as interpreted by Deborah Perelman and modified beyond recognition by yours truly.

Hermé’s recipe first appeared in Greenspan’s 2000 publication, Paris Sweets: Great Desserts From the City’s Best Pastry Shops. Back then, she dubbed them Korova Cookies, or Sablés Korova en français. Hermé’s version includes ingredients with impressive pedigrees — he uses fleur de sel from Guerande and Valrhona Guanaja chocolate, neither of which I keep on hand. The recipe also calls for Dutch-process cocoa powder, which a.) I also don’t have in my cupboard and b.) is curious given that it also calls for baking soda. Non-alkalized, natural cocoa powder reacts with baking soda to create a leavening reaction, while Dutch-process cocoa does not.

In fact, baking soda was the only ingredient I didn’t futz with in this entire recipe. Instead of using both white and brown sugars, I used Zulka’s Morena cane sugar, which has just a hint of molasses flavor. I threw in a half cup of walnuts because, well, I like walnuts. I nixed the all-purpose flour and used Giusto’s Whole Wheat High Protein flour to get a little extra nutrition in the mix (though really, who are we kidding). Dutch cocoa powder and Valrhona chocolate were out — Trader Joe’s provided all of the chocolate, with their baking chunks and unsweetened cocoa powder. Oh, and I used salted butter. And fine sea salt instead of the fancy stuff. And a wonderfully concentrated, aromatic Tahitian Gold® Vanilla Paste instead of liquid extract.

Despite all of my substitutions, changes, and general heretical refusal to follow the original recipe, I still ended up with a batch of tender, sandy sablés with just the right amount of sweetness and salt. They’re perfect with a cold glass of milk as an afternoon pick-me-up, allowing for a moment of stillness in your busy day.

chocolate-walnut-sables-2
Chocolate and Walnut Sablés (printer-friendly version)

makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons salted butter, softened at room temperature
1 scant cup (a cup minus four teaspoons) organic cane sugar
1/2 tsp. Madagascar vanilla paste
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

1 1/4 cups whole wheat high protein flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1/2 cup walnut halves and pieces, chopped coarsely

Directions:

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, vanilla paste, and salt. Use a balloon whisk to stir vigorously for a minute, until butter and sugar are thoroughly combined and the mixture is a bit whipped.

2. Add the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Use a dutch dough whisk to combine, just until all of the flour is absorbed. The dough will be very crumbly.

3. Add the chocolate chunks and walnuts, and stir just to combine.

4. Pour out half of the dough mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap, then use your hands to shape it into a log about 2 inches in diameter and 9 inches long. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Repeat process with remaining half of the dough. Refrigerate overnight, or up to 48 hours.

5. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 325F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator and place on a cutting board. Using a serrated bread knife, cut the dough into 1/2-inch slices — if the slices crumble, simply push the dough back together. Space the dough slices an inch and a half apart on the lined baking sheets.

7. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, one sheet at a time. They will emerge from the oven looking doughy and soft, but they will firm up as they cool. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing. Cookies will keep in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.

This recipe includes samples I received free-of-charge from Zulka®, Tahitian Gold®, and Giusto’s Vita-Grain®. 

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sourdough-wheat-waffles

Sourdough Whole Wheat Waffles

For the last couple months, I’ve been trying out different recipes with my favorite birthday present, a Breville Smart Waffle Maker. The thing is a beast, weighing in around twelve pounds. It makes consistently fantastic, evenly-cooked waffles, no matter what recipe I use.

Cook's Illustrated Whole Wheat Waffles

Cook’s Illustrated Whole Wheat Waffles

After trying out a few road-tested recipes, I decided to branch out and develop my own riff on Nancy Silverton’s Sourdough Waffles. Hers are absolutely delicious, and they made for a knock-out dessert on Valentine’s Day. I topped the crispy, hot waffles with French vanilla ice cream and Grade B maple syrup. The slightly tangy sourdough flavor paired perfectly with the sweet toppings, resulting in a can’t-stop-won’t-stop dessert.

sourdough-waffles-with-ice-cream-3

Nancy Silverton’s Sourdough Waffles

In a perfect world, nutritionists would declare Nancy’s waffles the latest superfood. Unfortunately, they are (SPOILER ALERT) high in cholesterol and saturated fat, and made with refined flour. I gave her recipe a healthy spin, making a batch of waffles I would feel good about eating on a regular basis. Sugar, butter, and egg yolks were out, and whole-grain flour and tangy fully-developed sourdough flavor were in.

sourdough-waffles-with-ice-cream

Breville Smart Waffle Maker

In order to make these, you’ll need a sourdough starter. I got mine from a friend, but it’s actually fairly simple to cultivate your own. Fed weekly with a 50/50 mixture of flour and water, it’ll burble along happily in your refrigerator indefinitely.

Sourdough Whole Wheat Waffles (printer-friendly version)

makes 8 waffles (1/2 cup batter per waffle)

Ingredients:

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup Whole Wheat High Protein Flour*
3/4 cup Baker’s Choice All-Purpose Unbleached Flour*

3 egg whites
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

1. Measure the coconut oil and milk into a medium, microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave on high for one minute, until coconut milk is almost melted and milk is warm but not too hot (about 130F). Let stand at room temperature for five minutes to allow the coconut oil to melt fully.

2. Add the sourdough starter and flours to the mixing bowl, and whisk to combine. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap, then set aside in a shaded, cool place for 8-14 hours. The longer the batter sits, the tangier the sourdough flavor.

3. When you are ready to make the waffles, vigorously whisk the egg whites and salt into the batter until thoroughly combined.

4. Heat your waffle iron and cook waffles according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 1.11.42 PM

*I received samples of flour from Giusto’s Vita-Grain, a mill based in South San Francisco.

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Earlier this week, I strapped on my extrovert shoes and headed to Moscone Center for the 2014 Winter Fancy Food Show. I spent the day walking through the enormous show rooms and trying out new products while getting to know food producers and vendors from around the world. Here are a few of my favorites.

Mrs. May's Vacuum Fried Veggie Chips

Mrs. May’s Vacuum Fried Veggie Chips

These veggie chips from Mrs. May’s are their newest offering. Vacuum frying is done at much lower temperatures than traditional frying, and so it preserves more of the flavor, color, and nutrients of the vegetables. The chips were not too salty, and packed a lot of crunch.

grapefruit sage búcha

grapefruit sage búcha

This year’s show included lots of entries in the not-too-sweet beverage category. I especially liked this take on kombucha, flavored with tangy grapefruit and a subtle herbal note of sage. Extra carbonation is added for a nice fizz, and the ‘buch flavor is quite muted.

Oatworks peach mango smoothie

Oatworks pomegranate blueberry smoothie

These smoothies contain oats, but the texture is smooth and the fruit flavors are bright. You’d never know there were grains in here. If you’re looking for ways to add more soluble fiber to your diet, try ‘em out! I particularly liked the peach mango flavor.

winter-fancy-food-show-2014-4

Healthee USA Organic Turmeric Drink

Turmeric is all over the place these days, being touted for its numerous health benefits. While I didn’t see a ton of turmeric-infused products at the show, it has been popping up in the blogosphere a lot in recent months, and I can only imagine it will end up in more retail products in 2014. This drink was mildly spiced and lightly sweetened, and can be enjoyed chilled or warm.

winter-fancy-food-show-2014-5

Olivier Napa Valley Herbes de Provence Mustard

There were *a lot* of mustards to try, and this one was a favorite. With bold, herbs de provence flavor, it’d be perfect on a chicken sandwich, or mixed into a marinade with white wine and olive oil.

winter-fancy-food-show-2014-6

SweetLeaf® Peach Mango Sweet Drops™

The peach mango combination turned up in all kinds of products, including this “water enhancer.” If you’re looking for an alternative to aspartame and sucralose sweetened beverages, Sweet Drops are a good option, as it relies on stevia extract for its sweetening power. The flavor is subtle, and you can decide how much to use in a bottle of water.

winter-fancy-food-show-2014-8

Juice It! by Robin Asbell

Chronicle Books had a booth full of their latest cookbooks, and this one jumped out at me right away. I’d love to try out some of the unusual combinations in here, especially the more savory juices containing herbs, cucumbers, and greens. Juice It! will be out mid-April 2014.

winter-fancy-food-show-2014-9

Robert Rothschild Farm Hatch Chile Jalapeno Jam

My parents are big fans of the Roasted Pineapple & Habanero Sauce from Robert Rothschild Farm, and I think they’d love this Hatch Chile Jalapeno Jam as well. Its full, well-rounded pepper flavor was a welcome change from the sweeter, less pepper-packed varieties I’ve seen in stores. There were actually a lot of great pepper jams at the show, and this was my favorite.

winter-fancy-food-show-2014-14

Lotus Foods Rice Ramen

I’m a big fan of Lotus Foods’ rices, and so I’m excited to try out these new varieties of ramen made from different varieties of rice. The beautiful green variety is made from jade pearl rice, which I’ve used for sushi. The ramen noodles come in packs with different miso soup bases to match the flavors of the rice grains, and you can also buy the noodles in multi-packs without the soup flavoring packets.

winter-fancy-food-show-2014-27

Manitou Paella Rice and Butternut Squash Risotto

These packaged, seasoned rices from Manitou Trading Company are straight off the manufacturing line. The brightly hued paella caught my eye — its vibrant color comes from luxurious saffron, and there are multiple patents on the process used to infuse the spice into the grains for through-and-through flavor. I can’t wait to try this out when it arrives in stores in my area.

Check back in a couple days for more new products from the Winter Fancy Food Show!

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cranberry-chocolate-orange-bread-3

Growing up, one of my favorite books was Cranberry Thanksgiving. Despite it being one of my favorite childhood reads, I couldn’t tell you much about the plot. The real reason I liked it so much was that, on the very last page, there was printed a recipe for Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread (subtitled, Get Mother to Help).

My mother “helped” make more than a few batches of that cranberry bread over the years. It’s a great recipe, producing a loaf closer to pound cake than anything I’d call “bread.” Perfumed with orange zest and studded with chopped cranberries and golden raisins, it’s the perfect sweet and tangy dessert cake.

In my updated version of this classic, I’ve added a little bit of whole wheat flour (why not, right), upped the quantities of cranberries and orange zest, and halved the berries instead of chopping them into smaller pieces. This makes for a more dramatically pretty loaf, with big jewels of cranberry throughout. Oh, and I also added semisweet chunks of chocolate instead of golden raisins. Use the Trader Joe’s chocolate chunks as I did, or coarsely chop your favorite dark chocolate bar.

cranberry-chocolate-orange-bread
Cranberry Orange Chocolate Loaf Cake (printer-friendly version

Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 C. bread flour
1/2 C. whole wheat pastry flour
1 C. organic cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 C. butter, cut into small pieces
1 jumbo egg
zest and juice of 1 Navel orange
1/4 C. water
2 C. whole fresh cranberries, halved
2/3 C. semisweet chocolate chunks or chips

1. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Measure the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt into a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together until throroughly combined.

3. Add the butter, and use your fingers or a pastry blender to cut it into the flour mixture until it resembles dry sand and all of the butter is incorporated. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

4. Add the egg, orange juice and zest, and water to the well in the center of the dry ingredients. Use a dough whisk to stir everything together until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated and you have a fairly stiff, wet batter.

5. Fold the cranberries and chocolate chips into the batter. Pour the batter into the parchment-lined loaf pan and let sit for 15 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake the loaf for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until it is golden brown on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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