Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Evan's Marinade for Fish

We have access to great wild salmon at our weekly farmers' market. Given that I am the only person in the PNW who doesn't like salmon (at least it feels that way sometimes), Evan is our salmon chef. This summer, he came up with a new marinade, which works equally well on halibut (my salmon night alternative along with tofu).

You can use any kind of vinegar, but as I mentioned in the Drunken Sauce recipe, black vinegar was a particular hit.

After marinating the fish, we like to bring the sauce to a boil in a pan and then use it as a sauce for our usual sides of quinoa and veggies.

Taste the marinade before pouring over your fish and adjust the sweet, salty, tangy and savory flavors to please your own palate.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c. neutral oil
1/4 c. soy sauce (make sure to use GF soy sauce if needed)
1/4 c. black vinegar (or try rice vinegar for a cleaner, milder flavor, or sherry vinegar)
1/4 c. maple syrup (if you don't like things too sweet, you might want to use a touch less syrup)
1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder
A few grinds black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust flavors. Pour over fish and let marinate no more than 30 minutes or so. Cook fish as desired (we grill it). Boil remaining marinade and use as a flavorful sauce for your side dishes (I did a quick food safety search and as long as you boil it, this should be perfectly safe).

Updated Zucchini Bread

I read with great interest a recent Cook's Illustrated article on "reinventing" zucchini bread. I was intrigued by their idea of dramatically increasing the amount of zucchini in the recipe. Unfortunately, I didn't actually love the result and I determined to adapt my own favorite recipe using some of their ideas. Accordingly, I took my traditional zucchini bread recipe (origin forgotten) and decreased the oil and sugar and increased the zucchini. I made it into muffins rather than loaves for inclusion in lunchboxes or on-the-go snacks. No one missed the extra oil and sugar and this is my new go-to recipe.

INGREDIENTS
3 eggs
1/4 c. oil
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 to 2 lb (24-32 oz) zucchini
3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c. chopped walnuts toasted if desired (optional)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare one 12- and one 6-cup muffin tins by greasing or muffin liners (or one greased loaf pan)
  2. Wash and grate the zucchini (I use the grating attachment of my food processor) and then wring it out very well in a tea towel. You want the zucchini to be quite dry
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and then add the oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix well
  4. Stir in the zucchini
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, leaveners and cinnamon
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir gently
  7. Fold in nuts, if using
  8. Portion into the muffin cups (or pour into the loaf pan)
  9. For muffins, set timer for 30 minutes and then test for doneness. They might need a few more minutes. For a loaf, expect it to take about an hour
  10. These muffins freeze quite well and are very nice toasted

Spiced Plum Sauce

There is nothing complicated or even that special about this simple sauce, but my kids go nuts for it on their steel cut oats and would happily eat a bowl of it for dessert. I am not the kind of parent who goes in for making food art, but one small thing I am willing to do is to use this sauce to fashion a very abstract heart shape on their oatmeal; it always makes them smile. True to form, one child stirs the sauce in to flavor the whole bowl, while the other dives right into the heart and gets the biggest spoonful of it she possibly can.
As with my pear-clove sauce, there is no added sweetener here. The spices are so warm and tasty that sugar would be superfluous. I made up a big batch and will freeze it in cube-sized portions so we can enjoy through the winter.
A word to the wise, if you choose to scale up the recipe because you have truly an insane amount of plums (as I am lucky enough to have thanks to the bounty of my friend Melanie's tree), do not scale up the spice at the same rate or you will end up with a way-too-strong sauce on your hands. I would only double the spice if quadrupling the recipe, for example.
Finally, if you've got an Instant Pot you can throw the washed and halved fruit, 1/2 cup water or so  for a double or triple quantity of fruit and the spice into your Instant Pot and use the steam setting for 10-15 minutes and come out with a delicious end product ready to be puréed.
One particularly great use of this sauce is as a replacement for the applesauce in the Applesauce Oat Pancakes with Raisins recipe. I do this quite often and we all really enjoy it.

INGREDIENTS
6-10 purple-skinned plums or pluots (I used prune plums and Black Friar plums)
1/2 cinnamon stick
1-3 whole allspice berries
Seeds from 1 green cardamom pod
Splash of water

DIRECTIONS
  1. Wash and slice plums into uniform pieces
  2. Place plums and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan. The splash of water is just to keep the plums from burning before they start giving up their juices
  3. Cook over medium-low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring somewhat frequently at the beginning so that the fruit doesn't stick to the pan. I cover the pan but that's optional
  4. Once the sauce smells delicious and the plums have basically disintegrated, remove from heat and let cool. If fruit flies are a problem in your kitchen, be sure to cover the pan
  5. Discard the cinnamon stick and any of the allspice berries you can find--the cardamom seeds can stay
  6. Whiz up in a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender to make a smooth sauce
  7. Serve over ice cream, pancakes or waffles or stir into hot cereal or yogurt. Would also be delightful with some toasted crumble topping stirred into it

Drunken Sauce

Here is the sauce I mentioned in the Crispy Baked Tofu post. I made very few modification to Andrea Nguyen's recipe from the excellent Banh Mi Handbook. The first time I made it, the sauce didn't thicken as much as I like, so I increased the cornstarch by a teaspoon. I also reduced the ginger as my older daughter felt it was too pronounced and I, being similarly sensitive to ginger in savory food, totally saw her point and was happy to dial it down a bit.

My local Vietnamese grocery store didn't have Chinkiang vinegar (which I have used and loved in the past) but instead of using Nguyen's recommended substitute of equal parts balsamic vinegar and cider vinegar, I got some Koon Chun brand black vinegar. This worked very well and is a new house favorite. My husband used it in his fish marinade and he and the kids preferred it to the same marinade made with rice vinegar.

This sauce obviously goes great on the crispy tofu but would also be good anywhere you might enjoy a sauce that, to me, is a cousin of good homemade teriyaki sauce.

INGREDIENTS
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 1/2 TBSP rice wine such as Shaoxing (or sake or dry sherry)
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 inch section unpeeled ginger, smashed with the flat side of a knife (or to taste)
3 TBSP sugar
3 TBSP Chinkiang or black vinegar (or half balsamic, half cider vinegar)
6 TBSP water
1 TBSP cornstarch dissolved in 2 TBSP water

DIRECTIONS
  1. Combine all ingredients except cornstarch mixture in a small saucepan
  2. Taste and adjust to your desired blend of sweet, tangy and savory
  3. Bring to simmer over medium heat and let simmer very gently 1-2 minutes until you start to smell the ginger and garlic (and you start to think, mmmm, I'm hungry)
  4. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and increase the heat a little bit
  5. Bring to a boil and as soon as the mixture is very thick (though in my experience even with 1 TBSP cornstarch it wasn't as thick as I expected), remove from heat
  6. Let cool in the pan 5 minutes then strain and discard solids
  7. Either pour over and stir into your tofu or just pass the sauce around the table and let everyone drizzle (or pour) it on

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Crispy Baked Tofu

While I love our standard go-to tofu recipes Orange Tofu and Miso Tofu and the new Lemon-Garlic Tofu, I'm always on the look-out for something new. I had noticed The Kitchn's post on crispy tofu but not paid much attention because I can't be bothered with pan frying. Then, a few weeks ago, I read the comments and realized that it might be possible to skip the pressing and to bake the tofu in the oven. Instead of pressing, the tofu is briefly immersed in hot salted water. As for the baking, the magic is to coat the tofu in potato starch and then bake at 400 degrees. The potato starch puffs up and creates what our family now calls tofu marshmallows. Even though the crispness diminishes with time, we love the chewy, puffy texture in leftovers as well as the first day.

One of the biggest revelations in Andrea Nguyen's Banh Mi Handbook, a super awesome cookbook that I may need to own, was a recipe for Crispy Drunken Chicken Banh Mi. Of course, not only was I not intending to put the results in a sandwich, I also had no plans to deep fry chicken. Instead, I thought the drunken sauce would be fabulous on my tofu marshmallows, as indeed it is. Recipe for the drunken sauce at http://eatseats.blogspot.com/2014/10/drunken-sauce.html.

Other than the drunken sauce, this tofu would be delicious topped with almost any sauce you can think of.

You can either just coat the tofu in some potato starch or you can make a slurry of potato starch, rice wine and soy sauce. I tried both methods and the tofu puffed equally. I have now found that I prefer to use Eden mirin instead of rice wine for the slurry, as it gives a more balanced flavor to the tofu. I still use rice wine in the drunken sauce, however.

INGREDIENTS
2 14-16 oz blocks of extra firm or super firm tofu
3 TBSP potato starch
1 tsp soy sauce (if using a wet slurry)
2 TBSP rice wine such as Shaoxing or mirin (if using a wet slurry)
1 TBSP oil (if using a wet slurry)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare 2 baking trays with Silpat or parchment
  2. Cut the tofu into approximately 1 inch cubes
  3. If using the slurry method, mix the potato starch, soy sauce, rice wine and oil in a bowl big enough to fit all of the tofu cubes
  4. Fill a medium saucepan 2/3 of the way full with water (about 2 quarts) and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add 2 tsp salt
  5. Slide the tofu cubes into the hot salted water and let sit 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon into a large bowl
  6. If using just potato starch, pat dry the tofu cubes and then, using a sieve, sift the 3 TBSP of potato starch over the tofu and stir to coat evenly
  7. If using slurry, pour the tofu cubes into the bowl of slurry mixture and gently stir to coat--the hot water bath will help the tofu not to disintegrate too much
  8. Put the tofu cubes on the two baking trays and bake for 20-25 minutes. I don't bother to flip the tofu at all
  9. Tofu is done when it is well puffed and golden brown. Serve with drunken sauce or the sauce of your choice

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fruit Torte

I admit, I'm a bit obsessed with this torte. Someone in the dessert-sharing group to which I belong posted a photo of her strawberry version and I filed it away for Seattle strawberry season. It's a BBC Good Food recipe (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2304/strawberry-and-cinnamon-torte) and I liked both how easy it was and also how suited I imagined it would be for making gluten-free. While I usually use American volume-based recipes, I have a good digital scale and am not intimidated by baking by weight.

The first time I made this, I made it exactly as written.... except that I used whole wheat pastry flour (since I always do this, I don't even consider it a tweak to a recipe) and forgot the leavening. Self-raising flour just isn't common here and I will never manage to keep track of yet another type of flour. My plan was to add baking powder and salt, but the girls were cooking with me, I got flustered and left it out. Oops! I was worried that one pound (450ish grams) of the most gorgeous farmers' market strawberries would be wasted. Thankfully, the "torte" just turned into a "tarte", with a shortbread-like crust and top that were delicious. I think the texture was related to the lack of leavening and the fact that my butter wasn't very soft. I rather like making mistakes like this in the kitchen, because it's an opportunity to model a good attitude for the children. How wonderful for them to see that even most baking mistakes turn out edible and if we do have to throw the whole lot away, we talk about what we've learned and try not to make a crisis into a drama, as they say.

The second time I was determined to use softer butter and remember the leavening, which I did. But I also used gluten-free flour and swapped in raspberries for strawberries and vanilla for cinnamon. It was as if I'd made an entirely different, but equally delicious, dessert! This time the torte was a light and fluffy cake with the same jammy berry filling. This made me determined to try a third time with the softer butter and whole wheat pastry flour to see what texture I'd end up with. I knew the GF flour  would yield a softer texture no matter what so I wanted to reduce my variables. Also, this torte is damn good and we certainly don't mind eating it often.

The third time I used some frozen (but thawed) cherry halves, whole wheat pastry flour, soft butter and the proper leavening. I've permanently abandoned the cinnamon, I think. I like almond and vanilla better with berries. The texture was almost identical to the GF raspberry version, which goes to show what a difference the temperature of the butter can make. Next weekend, I will be making it a fourth time for family dinner with GF flour and blueberries. I think I will add some lemon zest to that one. This is truly a versatile, easy and tasty torte!

My go-to gluten-free flour mix is 2 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca starch

INGREDIENTS
175 g almond meal or ground almonds
175 g whole wheat pastry flour, gluten-free flour mix or self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder (omit if using SR flour)
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using SR flour)
175 g sugar (I use evaporated cane juice)
175 g (about 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp almond extract (or to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or to taste)
2 eggs (original recipe called for 1 egg plus 1 yolk but I cannot be bothered with that)
450 g (about 1lb or 2 c.) fruit, sliced if necessary

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch Springform pan and line the bottom with parchment
  2. Put all ingredients up to but not including butter in a food processor and pulse until there are no clumps and it's combined
  3. Add butter and pulse until combined
  4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, lightly whisk eggs and extracts together just to break up the yolks
  5. Add egg mixture to food processor and blend until combined. It should look like a cross between batter and dough
  6. Do your best to spread half the mix in the bottom of the pan you prepared. The batter/dough is very sticky if you've used soft butter, so I've had the best luck taking clumps of it and flattening it in my hands before laying it in the pan
  7. Scatter (or heap, as the case may be) your fruit evenly across the torte base, trying not to do too much fruit right at the edges
  8. Cover fruit as best you can with remaining dough/batter using same technique as above. Expect to see fruit peeking out
  9. Bake one hour but start checking around 40 minutes. If the top is too brown cover loosely with foil. The torte is done when a knife comes out batter-free when inserted (expect to see some fruit just no batter)
  10. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream as desired. We have always eaten it plain but will serve with homemade vanilla ice cream next week at the request of the birthday boy 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Super Simple Coconut Cake

I'm part of a dessert photo-sharing group, one of whose members recently posted a recipe for a four ingredient cake, using one cup of each. It's referred to as 1,1,1,1 cake. A little research yielded the source as http://www.4ingredients.com.au/. I was very skeptical that this cake would be any good, but I needed a little something after a dental appointment and the ease of this recipe inspired me to try it. I was delighted with the results. The cake is perfect alongside a cup of tea--very moist and flavorful. It may not be the most sophisticated cake in the world, but given that you can make it in half the time it takes the oven to preheat, I'm sold. In addition, I thought this would be a great recipe for my 6 3/4 year old to try making all by herself. We've made it together twice now, each time with me talking and helping less. By the end of the summer, I feel confident that she will only need help pouring the milk from the heavy glass bottles we get and getting it into and out of the oven (being on the petite side, it's too far a reach for her to get the baking tray in and out). The cake needs no icing, but was splendid with some mashed, very ripe, unsweetened strawberries on top. I foresee this as a regular in our repertoire.

At the recommendation of the fellow baker who posted the recipe, we used only 1/2 cup of sugar rather than 1 cup. We used whole wheat pastry flour and, since we never have self-raising flour on hand, added baking powder and salt. We also whizzed up the shredded coconut in our coffee grinder (that's never used for coffee) the second time we tried it. This made the texture less chewy and if you've got the time and equipment it's a worthwhile trick. Finally, we added the zest and juice of one lemon. I love the combination of the lemon and coconut. Someday when I have an orange on hand, I will use the zest of one whole orange--I would think that the juice of a whole orange would be too much but you might be able to use half the juice and then just top with milk to make 1 cup. Orange cake is one of my favorites and I think this would make a satisfying one.

INGREDIENTS
1 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 c.  whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 TBSP (1 1/2 tsp) baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. sugar (I use evaporated cane juice)
1 c. milk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 180 degrees C)
  2. Line a loaf tin with parchment (I'm going to try just greasing sometime to see if appear is really necessary, especially as I have a silicone bread pan)
  3. If desired, grind up shredded coconut a bit so it's a flour-like consistency
  4. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well mixed
  5. Pour into loaf tin and bake 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  6. Cool on a wire rack and serve at any temperature, topping with berries if desired. Keeps quite well since it's so moist



Monday, June 30, 2014

Finger-Licking Crispy Chickpeas with Lime and Sumac

I have tried crispy chickpeas before but have yet to find the ultimate version to please the kids and me and my husband. The most recent attempt was crispy chickpeas with honey and cinnamon, which tasted ok but not ideal. Then my husband and I went to West City Kitchen on a date night and tried their crispy chickpeas with sumac and lime. My taste buds went crazy. It was like those lime and chili Tostitos from the 90s but oh so much better. When we went back with the kids a week or so later, the toddler was equally enamored. I just had to find a way to make these at home, though I knew I wouldn't be frying them. I hadn't got around to sourcing sumac when I saw a tower of world spice mixes at Trader Joe's. While I knew I'd want better-quality sumac at some point, I also knew that if I waited to obtain it, the chickpeas of my dreams could be months, rather than hours away, so I bought the TJ sumac. In typical fashion, I decided that the sumac needed to be paired with (any guesses?) smoked paprika. After a few tries at different temps and doing the spices before baking and after, I have hit on a recipe that works for us. These are just the perfect cocktail snack--crunchy, salty, moreish morsels that grade-schooler and toddler also devoured.
I've found it difficult to crisp my chickpeas evenly--some crunch like crackers while others are soft in the middle. The addition of lime juice further compromises crunch. I don't care. I could still eat a can's worth of chickpeas without blinking and the rest of the family seems to agree, this is also why, though they're best on the first day, I'm happy to polish off any leftovers the next day. If your looking for optimal texture on each  and every chickpea, you'll have to do your own testing. Please let me know what you find out!

INGREDIENTS
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas drained, rinsed and well dried
2 TBSP oil of your choice
4 tsp ground sumac
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt (I use kosher salt)
1/2 tsp sugar
Juice of 1-2 limes, to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a half-sheet pan or baking tray with Silpat or parchment (you could also try an unlined tray)
  2. Spread the rinsed, drained and dried chickpeas evenly on the pan and bake until crunchy, 30-40 minutes (your cooking time may well vary--start checking around 30 minutes)
  3. Turn off oven but leave tray in there
  4. Heat the oil over medium-high in a large skillet
  5. Stir in spices, salt and sugar and cook briefly until fragrant, 1-2 minutes
  6. Add hot chickpeas to pan and coat them with the spice mixture
  7. Dump into a small to medium sized bowl and stir to coat. Add lime juice to taste
  8. Try to prevent yourself from eating the whole batch in one go


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Another Beet and Carrot Salad

The first beets have come in at the farmers' market and I wanted to see if the toddler would enjoy them. I thought of making the original beet carrot salad I published on EATS! years ago, but thought my older child might prefer something with a more interesting flavor profile. A quick search yielded this Epicurious recipe that sounded appealing--using the suggested modifications from reviewers, it had a similar ingredient list to our go-to Easier Orange Tofu recipe, with less emphasis on the orange and more on the ginger. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about Asian flavors with beets but it worked extremely well.

As usual, because I had no shallots on hand, I simply added an extra clove of garlic. I also reduced the oil quite a lot, as we like a tart-ish dressing. (Even doing this, the dressing did not make me pucker). Finally, I am reducing the quantity of vegetables here because 3/4 lb each of beets and carrots makes a LOT of salad, even for a family of four. The good news is it holds beautifully for several days. Paired with Evan's grilled halibut and salmon with a garlic-soy-maple syrup marinade (recipe to follow), broccoli, and red quinoa, we had a great Sunday dinner.

I used red beets and orange carrots and blithely mixed them (instead of keeping them separate as Epicurious recommends). The market vendor and I joked that next time I should use purple carrots and golden beets, which were also available! Joking aside, doing that might keep the colors more distinct.

INGREDIENTS
3 TBSP unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce (if you need a gluten-free dish, make sure your soy sauce is gluten-free)
2 cloves peeled garlic
Zest of one mandarin orange or half a full-sized orange or 1 lemon (optional)
3/4 to 1 tsp honey (optional)
1 TBSP grated fresh ginger
3 TBSP olive or other oil
1/2 lb trimmed beets
1/2 lb trimmed carrots

DIRECTIONS

  1. Using a blender or mini food processor, blend rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and zest and honey if using until garlic is finely chopped and ingredients are well mixed
  2. Add oil in a steady stream if possible or just dump into a mini food processor and blend until oil has been well incorporated. Set aside
  3. Using the grating attachment on a full food professor, grate the carrots, then the beets, putting them in a large bowl when done. If you don't mind sore arms, of course you could use a box grater
  4. If your dressing has separated, give it another whiz and pour over the beets and carrots. Stir well
  5. Let marinate in fridge or on counter at least an hour. Keeps very well for several days

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

LaurelBars

Here is another recipe (or set of recipes) adapted from Camilla V. Saulsbury's Power Hungry. We are big Lärabar fans in this house and I was delighted to see a knock-off in Saulsbury's book. My eldest told me I should call my version LaurelBars and I loved her word-play and agreed.
For the most part I follow Saulsbury's proportions but I've made a few tweaks and created some of my own flavors. I have not yet experimented with them, but I'm thinking of adding pumpkin seeds to a bar at some point. I may also experiment with using some soaked and dried nuts, as the littlest in the family seems slightly sensitive to walnuts and may well prefer to have some of the tannins soaked away.
The method is the same for all the bars: only the nuts, fruits and other mix-ins differ. I have never yet soaked my dried fruits as I'm using ones from Trader Joe's that have a bit of oil on them or are very moist because of how they're packaged. If you use drier dried fruit, you may wish to soak in warm water 5-10 minutes and then dry off well before proceeding. However, I do find that my food processor is happier if I snip the larger fruits like dates and apricots before adding. In addition, I urge you not to be afraid to process the nut-fruit combo very, very well, almost until the food processor starts to balk a bit. If I don't do this, I find my bars end up too crumbly.

APRICOT-COCONUT BARS
1 c. raw unsalted cashews (whole or pieces)
1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut (more if using large flakes)
1 1/3 c. dried apricots snipped into smaller pieces

BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE BARS
1 c. walnuts and/or pecans
1/2 c. rolled oats (no need to use quick-cooking oats)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c. dried blueberries
1/4 c. dates, snipped into smaller pieces

CRANBERRY-ORANGE BARS
1c. walnuts and/or pecans
1 tsp orange zest
1 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. dates, snipped into smaller pieces

CHOCO-COCO-CHERRY BARS
1 c. almonds
2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
3 TBSP mini chocolate chips
1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
1 c. dried tart cherries
1/4 c. dates, snipped into smaller pieces

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP BARS
1 c. dry roasted peanuts
1 1/4 c. packed pitted soft dates
3 TBSP mini chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
  1. Line as many loaf pans as batches of bars you're making with parchment, waxed paper or plastic wrap, leaving some overhang
  2. Place nuts and any other ingredients except dried fruit in the food processor and pulse until finely ground
  3. Add dried fruit and pulse A LOT (or even run the food processor on full for a minute or two) until the mixture is very well integrated, starts to clump, and your food processor starts to complain a bit
  4. Dump mixture into loaf pan and spread as evenly as you can. Using overhanging parchment etc, press down very firmly to compact the bars throughout the loaf pan
  5. Refrigerate bars at least one hour, then cut into whatever sized pieces you like (I usually do 1-inch squares so the girls can have several flavors at a time)
  6. If you want to keep the bars more than three days, wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and store in a zipper-top bag in the freezer. I actually use an old cream puff box to store multiple varieties and it works great. Defrost for a half hour or so before eating or throw them in the microwave for a few seconds

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kale Crispy Treats

This one recipe made the purchase of Camilla V. Saulsbury's energy bar cookbook Power Hungry worth every penny, though the recipe failed for me every time I tried to make it! Despite the failures, the flavor was so good and so surprising and more-ish that I kept trying. These bars are like a health nut's fantasy of a Rice Krispy Treat: the kale and puffed rice add crunch, while the nut butter and honey coating and dried cherries add chew. Every person in the family adores these, from the toddler upward and when I say the words "kale bars" to my first-grader she shouts hooray. Who knows (or cares) what her classmates think!
I admit to feeling relieved when my friend Stacey had the same problems with the recipe I did. The problem is the sweetener and nut butter ratio. Following Saulsbury's recipe religiously using both DIY glucose syrup and brown rice syrup, the mixture wasn't fluid enough and so the end result was a bar with lots of funky-tasting crumbly bits and a few nicely-coated chewy/crispy bits that gave me the patience to keep trying.
In the end, I looked to my own recipe, Safe-for-School Granola Bars, for the answer. I knew that the sweetener/seed butter ratio worked there, so I applied a similar ratio to Saulsbury's recipe. Voilà! I could tell just by the texture of the liquid mixture in the pan that I had a winner. I've made them twice now and foresee many years of tucking them into school and work lunches.
I like to use roasted almond butter, though raw would work just fine. The kind I use has a bit of salt that goes nicely with the other ingredients. I use dried (sweetened) tart cherries instead of the cranberries in the original recipe and I increased the amount of them, but other than that I basically follow the original.
If you're a kale-hater, these may not convert you, but if you already like kale chips, I think you will go crazy for this sweet-savory, chewy-crispy, delectable bar. If you wanted to mess with perfection, some unsweetened shredded coconut would be a nice addition.

INGREDIENTS
1 large bunch kale, stems and center ribs removed, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 to 1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 c. quick-cooking oats
1/3 c. pumpkin seeds
3 TBSP sesame seeds
1 c. unsweetened brown rice puffs
1/2 c. dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. brown rice syrup
3 TBSP honey
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c. almond butter
1 TBSP vegetable or coconut oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment, foil or waxed paper
  2. Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment. You really need to use two baking sheets to make sure that all the kale pieces cook evenly
  3. After washing and tearing the kale, dry it very well in a spinner or with kitchen towels
  4. Place in a large bowl and drizzle on the oil. I like to use the lesser amount. Rub the oil into the kale. You could do this directly on the trays but I find that awkward. Wash and dry the bowl to use later
  5. Distribute the kale leaves evenly over the two trays and make sure that none overlap
  6. Bake for 12-17 minutes or until the kale is uniformly crispy
  7. Remove from oven and slide the Silpat or parchment off the trays to cool (you need the trays for the next step). Leave the oven on
  8. While the kale cools, spread the oats, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds on one of the trays or do as I do and double the oats and seeds, storing half in an air-tight container to speed up the bar-making process the next time
  9. Toast the oats and seeds for 5-8 minutes or until lightly golden
  10. Using the large bowl from earlier, mix the oats and seeds with the rice puffs and cherries. Crumble in the cooled kale and give it a stir. If you run across any pieces that don't easily crumble to dust, set them aside. If you put them in your bar they'll go from addictively odd to downright nasty. I usually get at least 98% good crumbles
  11. In a small saucepan, combine the brown rice syrup, honey and salt. Heat on medium-low until is reaches a boil
  12. Add the nut butter and oil and whisk, making the mixture as smooth as you can. It should drizzle nicely off of your whisk or wooden spoon
  13. Pour the warm mixture over the dry ingredients and begin to mix with a wooden spoon. After a minute or two, I always abandon the spoon and use my hands to get everything really well blended. Be careful of the heat of the liquid mixture, but I find it's not a problem if I mix with a spoon first
  14. Transfer the mix to the square pan and press down very firmly.
  15. Refrigerate at least one hour and then cut into 1/2 to 1 inch square bars. If you don't gobble them up in ten minutes, store the leftovers in an air-tight container

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lemon-Garlic Marinade for Meat or Tofu

This is a modified version of a May/June 2014 Cook's Illustrated recipe originally for pork tenderloin. Though their recipe wasn't difficult exactly, I used farmers' market pork and it wasn't the size or shape of the kind they used and I only had one, not two, etc etc. In addition, nothing on earth will convince me to use mayonnaise under any circumstances. Even with the flagrant disregard for the recipe, we gobbled it up. However, I realized that pork tenderloin is kind of boring no matter what. We all loved the marinade, though, so I'm using it tonight for chicken breasts. I reserve a bit of it as a sauce for quinoa and, as we are roasting, rather than grilling the chicken, I expect we may have some chicken-y sauce to spoon over it, as well.

In August, I found myself tired of our standbys Orange Tofu and Miso Tofu and decided to see what would happen if I used this lemon garlic marinade instead. Somewhat to my surprise, it was delicious! The second night I paired it with soba noodles and vegetables and it was very well-received. Tonight I'm making it again and will make a noodle salad of sorts with rice stick noodles, green veggies like broccoli and green beans, and some sweet pepper. There should be enough marinade left over when I bake in a relatively slow 350 degree oven to coat the noodles and veggies with lemony goodness. Perfect for the last of the summer heat.

MARINADE INGREDIENTS
Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 c. lemon juice (2-3 lemons--start with what you zested but you might need another one)
3 garlic cloves, put through a garlic press or finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c. oil (I used refined avocado oil both times, which can withstand high heat)
1 TBSP honey
1/2 TBSP (1 1/2 tsp) fish sauce
A few sprigs of thyme, minced

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine lemon juice and zest, garlic, salt and oil, whisking to emulsify a bit
  2. Remove a few tablespoons of this if desired to spoon on quinoa or rice
  3. Whisk in the honey, fish sauce and thyme
  4. Pour over desired meat and let marinate in the fridge 30-45 minutes
  5. Cook as desired

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Grain-Free Ginger Molasses Crinkles

These grain-free cookies do not rely on a secret bean or legume ingredient for their success. Rather, a combination of almond butter and coconut flour stands in for the wheat flour (and butter, for that matter). I was tempted to try these because I really wanted a Christmas cookie that my celiac uncle-in-law could eat since I'm unwilling to convert my traditional cookie recipes in any way. Now he can eat these as well as my homemade toffee while the rest of us indulge in the wheat-based cookies.
I discovered these via Texanerin. When I first made her version just as plain, un-filled cookies, I wasn't super excited as I tasted them right out of the oven. They were so ethereal that they weren't very satisfying and the flavor was elusive. Then I tasted them a day later, when they had gained some substance, and I was hooked. I felt they needed more molasses, though, so I went back to Texanerin's source recipe. The flavor was much more to my liking, but the extra molasses made them fall apart when I tried to remove them from the baking sheet.
Today I created my own amalgamation of the two recipes in double-batch form, since I wanted to make a bunch and freeze them to use in lunches. I'm pretty delighted with the results and we are stocked for a good while if I can keep my hands off them. The dough is super sticky, there's no way  around it, but I had good luck using my small scoop dipped in water.

INGREDIENTS
2/3 c. coconut flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp sea salt if using unsalted almond butter
1 15- or 16-ounce jar roasted unsweetened almond butter
3 TBSP unsulphured molasses
4 eggs
1 1/3 c. coconut (aka palm) sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking trays with parchment or Silpat
  2. Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl
  3. Put the almond butter, molasses, eggs and coconut sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. You could mix by hand but it would be tough. I think that the almond butter would make the motor of a food processor balk
  4. Beat the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined
  5. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until blended
  6. Scoop walnut-sized balls onto the baking tray, with about 1/2 inch all around to allow for spreading. You can use a portion scoop or two spoons or wet hands. Remember that the dough will be very sticky
  7. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the cookies have puffed and the edges are firm. The cookies are likely to crack (hence the name crinkle) and may do so more upon cooling
  8. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking tray then cool on a rack. To freeze, lay the finished cookies on a baking tray in a single layer and freeze it. Then you can out the cookies in a freezer bag and they won't stick together. Makes about 3 doz cookies