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fig & almond energy bites

June 10th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

As I write this, I’m snuggled in my favorite chair, with one cat curled next to me, the other on my lap. We sit this way a lot, especially in the mornings, and again in late afternoons, or on solitary days of hours stretched ahead with little plan. This is for us, to re-group.

Lately though, I think they do this for the warmth. Because as we sit here today, it’s raining. Again. It’s cold. Again. Or still, if it matters. June has arrived, and still there is no sign of warmth or heat. There is no hair curling humidity. Temps struggle in the 60′s, I still pull on a fleece sweatshirt and thick slippers in the morning, and just yesterday, I came across a new skirt in my closet, pulled excitedly off a store rack back in April, that is adorable, summery and perfect. Except I’ve only worn it once, and I’d forgotten all about it.

It’s utterly gorgeous outside though, in the deep, deep green that’s arrived with the constant rain. Walking through the trees surrounding our lake home this past week, I was struck with how lush the land has turned, and when the sun does show itself, the effect is more stunning than I’ve seen in recent years. But that sun is fickle, and the thick gray clouds hover; we don’t see enough sunshine to spur the baby plants growth, to coax seedlings from the ground or warm our starving skin. The Spring that never was in Minnesota is segueing in to a Summer that refuses to arrive.

Along with the weather woes, the farming season is deeply behind schedule, and the open air markets have begun with meager offerings. Even so, vibrant stalks of asparagus and ramps, bunches of pea shoots, the deep red rhubarb and clumps of fresh herbs aren’t necessarily inspiring a lot of cooking when I’m still thinking about soup, and warming dishes that steam as I lean over them.

But I am hungry beyond belief. Both for light, fresh sustenance, and for Summer. For heat and sunshine and bare skin.

I’ve been hard at work since February, pushing myself through 2 weekly Body Pump classes -on occasion paired with a bike ride to the Y, plus swimming 2-3 times a week and with all the work, the calories burned and energy gained, I have been just famished. I will eat a good breakfast, spend an hour in the pool or hefting weights, then devour lunch. A few hours later, my belly is loudly protesting again and still, there’s time to pass before dinner. Dinner comes and a few hours later, there’s the rumbling again. For those in-between times, I’ve been on the hunt for a snack that sustains and feeds my ever-raging internal furnace without being too heavily caloric, or outright junky. I have zero will-power against anything with a salty crunch, so having a better option on hand really helps.

These raw Fig & Almond Energy Bites are so satisfying and delicious. They’ve got the texture of cookie dough, with enough sweet to kill a craving, and the right amount of salt to balance fluid loss from an intense workout. I keep the mixture in a container in the fridge and will scoop out a small amount when I wake up to have with my coffee, as I’m usually not ready for breakfast right away. Post work-out, I always drink a protein shake for recovery, washing down a few of these with it to help stabilize muscle fatigue. The mixture can be stirred in to yogurt too, or sprinkled on top of ice cream for a real treat.

There is supposedly some sunshine coming our way this week, with a coinciding rise in temperatures. I’ve got my fingers crossed; our local Farmers Market opens this week and I’m excited to get back in to strolling the stalls and seeing my favorite vendors.

 

Fig & Almond Energy Bites

1 c. whole rolled oats (other grain flakes are a nice option, like barley or rye- I’ve used a commercial 5-Grain cereal from Bob’s Red Mill too and love the result.)
1/2 c. unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1 c. dried figs, minced
1/2 c. chocolate chips (or use half cacao nibs for a terrific crunch)
1/2 c. ground flaxseed
1/4 c. chia seeds
2 T. finely ground almonds (or use packaged almond meal)
1/2 c. peanut butter (of course you can use almond butter!)
1/2 c. honey
1 t. almond extract
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. sea salt

Place the oats, coconut, figs, chocolate, flaxseed, chia seeds and almond meal in a bowl and stir to combine. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the peanut butter, honey, extract, cinnamon, ginger and salt until smooth. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well with a heavy spoon, or your hands. Chill for several hours. It should hold together firmly when you pick up a small amount and squeeze it, but if not, you may need to add a touch more honey for cohesiveness.

I keep the mix in a container as is, but you can form it in to balls too.

The best part about this recipe is it’s endless versatility. Add, subtract and play with it for a personal mix that you love. Dates would be a fine substitute for the figs, but you might need to adjust the amount of honey used, as dates are notoriously sweet.

Original recipe from Ecosalon, here with modifications.

roasted cauliflower, shaved fennel & beluga lentil salad

March 25th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

The daylight was fading fast, with a raging hunger, this simple idea, untried and uncertain was forming in my head. I had no idea if it was even going to taste good or not. I put it all on a plate, and crossed my fingers.

Come in to my kitchen…

simply sugar cookies

November 26th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

This is one of my ‘tried and true’ recipes; the one to turn to for comfort and understanding that you know will never let you down. Not that I can’t find a million cookie recipes at the touch of my fingers, for cookies that look amazingly thick, decadent, and pillowy, with that perfect blend of crisp edges and soft interiors and I’m certain that they would be delightful and all, but there’s this thing about cookies and my taste for them; I don’t like to stretch myself all that much. I don’t need fancy in a cookie; I crave basic and and elementary. I might sub in a fancy ingredient, like good quality chocolate chunks for a bag of chocolate chips, but there’s a ceiling of cookie indulgence above me and it’s solidly in place. Give me a straightforward cookie, please.

These Sugar Cookies are perfect. They’re quietly uncomplicated, yet worthy in flavor of bringing back memories of a Sugar Cookie I loved as a child. I’ve passed this recipe on to many people and all the feedback I’ve had has been nothing short of glowing. Stellar all on their own, they accept decorative toppings in any form, making them a must for holiday cookie-making. You can scoop the dough or roll it out and use cookie cutters too. It freezes beautifully too, as do the finished cookies themselves.

 

Basic Sugar Cookies

1 c. softened butter, no substitutes (reserve one of the wrappers)
1-1/2 c. white sugar
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 egg
2-3/4 c. AP flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder

Heat the oven to 375° and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place about 1/3 of a cup of white sugar on a small plate and set aside.

Cream butter and the 1-1/2 cups of sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla extract and blend thoroughly until smooth and creamy. You really can’t overmix at this point. You want a base that is smooth and creamy as it makes the end result stupendous. Stir together flour, baking soda and powder, and with mixer on low, gradually add to butter until fully incorporated and mixture is in large, somewhat dry chunks. It will not be a smooth batter, but granular, like pie crust. The dough should hold together when pressed between your fingertips. If it doesn’t, give it a few more turns with the mixer. Here’s where you don’t want to mix more than necessary. The dough will come together when it bakes.

Using a small scoop (I used a #60 sized) press dough tight into a ball and drop onto cookie sheet. With your butter wrapper, wipe the bottom of a smooth glass, then dip the glass onto the sugar you’ve set aside. Gently press down on the cookie dough, dipping the glass before each one. If any dough falls loose, lightly push the pieces into the sides of the cookie. Bake for 8-10 minutes, reversing trays from front to back, and swapping top to bottom about halfway throughAllow to cool slightly on the sheet, then remove to a cooling rack.

 

KATE’S NOTES: I find that the super fine bakers sugar elevates the texture of these cookies quite a bit. You can mix up white and wheat flour if you wish, the end result will be darker though. I have substituted 1/2 c. of honey for the white sugar and love how tender it makes them.

baked pizza gnocchi with greens

April 15th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

It’s been almost a year since we eliminated meat from our eating. I’m ecstatic over the way I’ve felt in the last year; I’ve got more energy even when I have a terrible time sleeping; my belly is superbly happy, and my skin looks so much better. Those pesky hot flashes are only a minor occurrence these days too, and I love that part of it the most.

I love the variety and simplicity of our meals too, the ease at preparing them now that we don’t have to wait for meat to cook, and it’s been wonderful to see Griffin expand the foods he eats and also to see that he’s learning to enjoy meatless meals so much more than I ever expected. I’m really proud of how he’s adapted to the changes; he still gets his meat too, so he has the best of both worlds.

One food item that he’s still on the fence about is greens. Mike and I have come to love greens like chard, beet greens and kale, but Griffin is still wary, only eating them in dishes where other flavors can mask their tastes. He’s trying greens, at least. That’s good enough for me right now. He’s also not a huge fan of gnocchi due to the texture, and that’s too bad all around because this Baked Pizza Gnocchi dish that I created is utterly divine in every way.

Recipes inspire me in the most fascinating way. I can read dozens of them and not have a spark of interest, and yet come across one that stirs my imagination and I’m suddenly inside my head putting ingredients together and dreaming of an outcome. That happened to me recently as I was browsing through my news feed on my phone and came across an article about using chard. One recipe for a Skillet Gnocchi with Chard sounded really delicious, and my creative spark was ignited.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot more about meals with greens in them as I received an entire box of a wide variety of packaged and cleaned greens from Cut N Clean Greens to try out and it was probably the most exciting food stuff that’s landed on my door step because I just LOVE this product. It is so ridiculously easy to use greens with Cut N Clean Greens in your refrigerator. They’ve done all the work for you and the greens are ready to open and cook with. You don’t need to prep them, clean or do anything but enjoy. And for roughly the same price you’d pay for a bunch of greens, you get a great deal more yield and it goes a lot farther. Yet another wonderful thing to love about them.

(disclaimer: I received all the greens for free yet all opinions here are solely mine)

But…. back to this Gnocchi. Very simple and quick, rich with flavor and texture, this gratin came out fragrant, bubbling and with that perfect crunchy top to it. Grab a favorite pizza sauce (whether scratch or homemade) a package of shelf stable gnocchi (or…. knock yourself out and make a batch from scratch) and about a pound of good greens like chard, spinach or beet greens and give yourself about 15 minutes while the oven springs to life and heats up. It’s like pizza but it’s not; it resembles lasagna, but it’s better because it’s easier. The gnocchi become so incredibly soft and tender in the oven and it’s gorgeous enough for a special occasion, classy enough to taste like you really put out some effort.

I’ve noticed lately that when I write out my recipes here that I’m posting all sorts of side notes (in blue!) on what options you might do with your own version of the recipe. I hope this isn’t annoying. Is it? Because, here’s the thing; I don’t have the ego to think that the way I make anything would be exactly how someone else would make it. We all have our own tastes, right? We like different foods, flavors and we all have different methods, ovens that work differently, cookware and utensils that we love (go ahead, use that garlic press if it’s your way) and these recipes that slip through our computer screens in to our minds, making our mouths water, well they might mean something else entirely to another person. If I mention to saute your onions for 10 minutes and you think they should be cooked longer, or shorter, or if you don’t even like onions and don’t want to use them, then by all means, trust those instincts. Make the recipe your own. Learn the ways of your own stove, the cut of your favorite knife, dig through your cupboards and add your own flavor, spice, extra something that you love. This is how cooking should be. I’m thrilled to just be one of the stones you traverse in your own journey in the kitchen.

Baked Pizza Gnocchi with Greens

1 lb. gnocchi
1 15-oz can prepared pizza sauce (I love Muir Glen Organics)
2 small shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-3/4 lb. greens of choice (can be beet greens, spinach, chard or kale or a mix)
1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese (for a richer taste, use ricotta)
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
2 T. melted butter (i used coconut oil)
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. mixed fresh herbs, like parsley, thyme, basil, oregano

Heat oven to 400°. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Or live a little and rub butter in it.

In a deep skillet with a lid, heat oil of choice and add shallots, cooking for about 5 minutes while stirring over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a few minutes, then begin adding the greens, a handful at a time and stirring so they begin to absorb some of the heat and oil and start to get a bit of wilt to the leaves. Once all the greens are in the pan and they’ve collapsed and are starting to soften, crumble in the goat cheese and stir to break it down. When it’s pretty well incorporated, add in the pizza sauce and about a half cup of water. (add the water to the can and swish to collect any remaining sauce). Stir the pan well, then bring it to a gentle simmer and cover it. Cook the greens until just tender. The timing will depend on which green you are using. Taste often so they don’t get away from you. When the greens are just tender, stir in the gnocchi, and turn off the heat. I used a mix of beet greens and chard and cooked them for maybe 10 minutes. 

Mix the panko crumbs, butter and parmesan cheese together. Scrape the gnocchi in to the baking dish and sprinkle the top with the panko crumbs. Bake in the middle of the oven until bubbly, and the crumbs have browned nicely. Mine took about 20 minutes, and I rotated the dish a few times to brown the top evenly. Once removed from the oven, allow the dish to stand about 10 minutes before serving.

KATE’S NOTES: You can divide the gnocchi between individual ramekins if you want something fancier. But please keep in mind that your baking time will be drastically reduced. I baked a few ramekins, placing them on a baking sheet lest they rise up and bubble over the top. They didn’t. (whew)

You can double this for a crowd, baking it in a 9×13 pan. That’s a lot of greens, so add them patiently to the pan.

smashed potatoes with olive tapenade

March 24th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

Long ago, through some rather perfect serendipity, I came across this recipe (method, really) in both a cookbook I happened to pick up for browsing in a bookstore, and again, in an New York Times article just about the same day. Both times, reading of softly boiled red potatoes topped with briny tapenade, my mouth did that sort of happy dance that one gets when a food is particularly appealing. I made them. Once. And then, every time I see tiny little red potatoes I think ‘Why have I not repeated that dish?’

I don’t have much of an excuse, really. And it isn’t that it’s even that difficult. You can use prepared tapenade, instead of making your own and you’ve got half the battle done, right there. And really, does boiling little red potatoes take up SO much of my time? Who am I?

The flavors marry in the most unusual way. Soft and simple, a boiled potato isn’t a whole lot all on it’s own; it needs a friend to help wake it up, make someone take notice. That’s the tapenade’s job. It’s a loudmouth, all right. Sharp, briny and out there, it sidles up next to the humble boiled potato and says ‘Hey, let’s make some noise’ and pretty soon, with the addition of half a jalapeno pepper languishing in the fridge, and a shallot for good measure (potatoes and onions are so utterly complimentary) you’ve got yourself a plate of something that’s risen to greater gustatory heights. It’s humble and basic, still. But fantastically more. It’s the type of dish that soothes the rough spots out of your week, gives you pause. A forkful raised to your mouth is at once sharp and fragrant, then through the bite of olive, lemon and caper, soft in the way only a perfectly boiled potato can be.

Best part about making this simple and humble dish is that you’re likely to have leftover tapenade, and spreading that on a bit of toasted bread is one of my most memorable treats. In fact, eyeing the simmering pot of potatoes while I scooped tapenade on freshly toasted asiago cheese bread, I quickly calculated the merits of actually finishing the recipe, versus sitting down with the remains of the bread and the tiny dish of olive spread, but soon realized how boring that would sound. I’d had enough of boring, and it was time to make a little noise.

Smashed Potatoes and Olive Tapenade

For the Tapenade:
1 c. kalamata olives, minced
2 T. capers, minced
1 t. grated lemon zest
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 t. fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper

Mix everything together in a bowl and allow to stand for a while to blend. You can whiz everything in a food processor to make it easier. Don’t skip the lemon zest and juice. It’s delightful in this.

For the Potatoes:

About 1-1/2 pounds of waxy small red or white potatoes,
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
Salt

Wash potatoes. If not uniform in size, cut to size and boil, with all added seasonings, until tender. Drain and discard seasonings. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly, then gently crush them with your palm so they break open, but don’t bust them apart too much.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cast iron works beautifully for this. Add a small amount of butter and oil and swirl to coat the pan. When hot, place potatoes in a single layer in the pan. You may not use all of them. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until a good crust forms on the bottom. Dot the top with about 1/4 cup of the tapenade, and carefully turn the potatoes over. Allow to cook on the other side for an additional 5-10 minutes. Serve with tapenade on the side.

NOTE: You can add a finely minced shallot and jalapeno at the same time you add the tapenade. These added a nice dimension of flavor to the finished dish.

Original recipe: “Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way” by Francis Mallman and Peter Kaminsky (via the New York Times Dining Section, 5/20/09)

know gnocchi?

November 18th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

I started using gnocchi a few years ago and love how it can make such a quick seamless meal. A few sauteed veggies, a protein option and a bit of sauce makes dinner in less than 15 minutes. This quick little potato dumpling is mainstream now, on dinner plates everywhere. I suppose it’s pretty simple to make, but the few times I gave it a go from scratch it came out gluey and heavy. Now I just purchase packages of shelf-stable gnocchi and save myself the time and energy.

My favorite method for cooking gnocchi is to sauté them in a skillet with a bit of butter and olive oil until they plump up and brown on the outside. The texture is a bit better than what you get from boiling them. I’m not a huge fan of dousing these with sauce either, as the texture gets too soggy so when I use them in a meal, it’s a little more spartan.  A plate of gnocchi, with sauteed greens and roasted chickpeas sounds really good right about now, but this is the recipe in my archives, which is golden for versatility.

Gnocchi In a Flash

 

1 pkg shelf stable gnocchi
2-3 boneless chicken breasts, cut to strips
1 medium red pepper, cored and seeded, cut to strips
1 bunch spinach, washed and de-stemmed* (equal to a 10-oz bag)
1/4 c. canned diced tomato with italian seasonings
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella, cut into small dice
1/3 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil to garnish

Season chicken breast strips with salt and pepper. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet, add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until strips are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove to bowl. Add red pepper and cook 3-5 minutes until tender. Add to chicken. Wipe out skillet with paper towel and add about a teaspoon of oil. When hot, add gnocchi and cook about 5 minutes until browned and slightly puffy. Add chicken and pepper to pan, and in bunches, add in spinach, stirring quickly until it’s all wilted. Toss in diced tomato and mozzarella cubes and shave some parmesan over the top. Stir to mix and allow to cook for 3 minutes or so until hot. Serve immediately topped with fresh basil.

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month??

baking bonanza, quick bread style

November 13th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

There are dozens of recipes in my Recipe Index. I’ve been writing this blog for 5-1/2 years, and the content is huge, but my audience doesn’t go back that far. I could write forever about what’s been covered in the past, but instead, for this post, I’m culling together an entire array of quick bread baking options- muffins and tea breads alike- for you to enjoy. There are a lot of really good recipes for warming up your kitchen on these chilly November days.

I think there is nary a food item more perfect than a muffin; and I don’t mean a muffin so sweet and cloying that you might as well slap buttercream on it and call it a cupcake, I mean a MUFFIN. I real, honest to goodness muffin, made for breakfast, or a snack. I mean a substantial, hand held baked good. I’m talking MUFFINS, one of the baking world’s most perfect little foods, in my well-explored opinion. I love a good muffin, and have no less than eight in my Recipe Index. Muffins lend well to just about any flavor, take only a few minutes to put together and let’s face it, everyone loves them, right? Got flour, baking powder and a few spotty bananas? Make a muffin. Leftover grains from dinner? Make muffins! Blueberries? Raspberries? Nuts? Oats? Bulgur?? It’s all good for going in a muffin.

And oh, how I do love these fragrant and simple little things!!

 

Oatmeal Sweet Potato Muffins

 

Apple Bran Muffins


Fig Muffins with Honey-Lemon Cream Cheese

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins

 

Squash and Quinoa Muffins with Toasted Coconut

 

Chocolate Graham Muffins

 

And then there are a few recipes without photos:

Pumpkin Maple Muffins
Apple Cheddar Muffins 

And….. because quick breads are created the same way, only baked in a loaf pan, they too can be stellar muffin options and I have plenty of those as well.

Applesauce Banana Bread
Banana Chocolate Chip Bread
Cherry Fig Tea Bread
Moist Date Nut Bread
Harvest Tea Bread
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Cranberry Orange Date Bread

 

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month??

sugar cookie love

November 2nd, 2011 | 3 Comments »

It’s November, so that means one thing in the blogging world.

 

What’s on YOUR plate for November??

{{And you thought I meant Thanksgiving, didn’t you?}}

That’s my cute little badge for NaBloPoMo 2011, which is blog lingo for National Blog Posting Month. You post every day for a month. That’s all it is. It’s also National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, an epic adventure in which you write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. If I had the month free with zero obligations, I might give that one a shot. That’s a lot of words, isn’t it?

I’ve done NaBloPoMo twice; in 2008, when I highlighted a different food holiday each day for the month of November, and again last year, in 2010 when I culled through the 4-1/2 years of archived posts on my site and re-introduced some favorites. That’s my plan this year as well. There is A LOT of good content in my archives, recipes that are perfect for this time of year that no one finds anymore, plus with Just Write Tuesdays, I’ve got more than enough content to fill 30 days in a row. Piece o’ cake.

{{by the way, my sweet husband Mike made that sweet badge for me. He’s awesome that way.
And he accepts food for payment!! Hi honey!!}}

Today is about cookies, though. Sugar Cookies to be exact. It is, hands down, my all time favorite cookie and I don’t say that lightly. There are a lot of amazing cookies out there; chewy Oatmeal Raisin, decadent Chocolate Cookies, Pumpkin cookies with thick cream cheese frosting. There are no limits to what can be scooped up and baked on a sheet pan. But a good sugar cookie is one of life’s simplest pleasures; buttery, chewy and rich with vanilla, I can tell a sugar cookie made with love over a mass-produced butter-flavored fake any day of the week. My Sugar Cookies evoke sighs of joy, and eye rolls and ‘Mmmmmm’ responses from everyone who tries them. And it’s a well honed taste too, going back to my childhood, and a beloved bakery from the golden days of neighborhood bakeries, where a sugar cookie always waited for me. If you want to read the whole story, please go <HERE>

And if you just want the recipe, here it is.

 

Sugar Cookies


1 c. softened butter, no substitutes (reserve one of the wrappers)
1-1/2 c. white sugar  (plus more for rolling)
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 egg
2-3/4 c. AP flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder

Heat the oven to 375° and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place about 1/3 of a cup of white sugar on a small plate and set aside.

Cream butter and the 1-1/2 cups of sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla extract and blend thoroughly until smooth and creamy. You really can’t overmix at this point. You want a base that is smooth and creamy as it makes the end result stupendous. Stir together flour, baking soda and powder, and with mixer on low, gradually add to butter until fully incorporated and mixture is in large, somewhat dry chunks. It will not be a smooth batter, but granular, like pie crust. The dough should hold together when pressed between your fingertips. If it doesn’t, take the bowl off the mixing stand and turn the dough gently with your hands, pressing any loose flour in to the dough to incorporate. Chill the dough for 20-30 minutes before scooping. It’s a lot easier to work with that way.

Using a small scoop (I used a #60 sized) press dough tight into a ball and drop onto cookie sheet. With your butter wrapper, wipe the bottom of a smooth glass, then dip the glass onto the sugar you’ve set aside. Gently press down on the cookie dough, dipping the glass before each one. If any dough falls loose, lightly push the pieces into the sides of the cookie.

The cookies will bake up just fine if you don’t wish to flatten them; that’s just my preferred method. Bake for 8-10 minutes, reversing trays from front to back, and swapping top to bottom about halfway through. I’ve tried this with the convection feature on my oven and they browned too quickly so I don’t recommend that method.

I like to remove the cookies right way, on the parchment to a cooling rack. These are pretty sturdy once baked, and will slip off the parchment easily with a gentle nudge. You simply must eat at least a few of them warm. Of course, a glass of cold milk, or a nice cup of coffee or tea is an excellent accompaniment. The cookies will become firmer as they sit for a day or two.

 

KATE’S NOTES: I began using the super-fine baking sugar for all my baking needs and find that it makes for better creaming and a nicer crumb on the finished product. Most grocers carry it in the baking aisle, in a sturdy carton. It’s called ‘Bakers Sugar’ and it’s very, very fine grain. I used it in these cookies and they were even better than I recall.

The addition of a bit of nutmeg (about 1/2 a teaspoon) in the batter makes for wonderful flavor, or you can add ground nutmeg to the sugar used for rolling the cookies in. 

eggplant & chickpea curry

October 1st, 2011 | 4 Comments »

Truth:

I could be accused of purchasing eggplant simply to make this dish. Not that this is a bad thing.

Truth:

I have a wooden spoon permanently stained from turmeric.

Truth:

I may have, just a wee bit, tried to hide the remains of this dish in the back of the fridge where my husband can’t find it.

Admission:

I love curry.

The first time I ever tried any kind of curry flavored dish was in college when a roommate and I shared an amazing meal at an Ethiopian restaurant. She warned me that I would sweat curry the next day and she wasn’t kidding; the warmth that exuded from my skin was unreal. It was heady, and deep with the memory of the fragrant meal we’d consumed the night before and I would lift my arm to my nose repeatedly over the course of my morning to remind myself of the flavors. It’s no surprise that any type of curry dish, whether red or green or yellow, is at the top of my list in terms of my favorite taste. With or without coconut milk, whether searing hot with a heat that makes my heart beat just a bit faster and sweat bead at my eyebrows, or a mild gentle tease that touches my tongue, curry flavored dishes are tops.

Eggplant. Chickpeas. Red onions. Fresh curry powder whisked with a splash of oil and just a bit of dark brown sugar to aid in caramelization. A hot oven. And 30 minutes. That’s it. From that point, all you need is a fork.

Your house will smell truly amazing, and I’m telling you, it will be darn right difficult to resist eating the roasted curried chickpeas right off the baking sheet when it’s all done. They become dense and crispy, especially if you take a few moments after you’ve drained them to spread them out and pat them dry with a paper towel, and I’m sure you’ve heard by now that roasted chickpeas make a perfectly addicting snack? I’ve experimented with them already, and have, more than once, gazed at the enormous #10 foodservice size cans of them in consideration of purchasing. Crazy? Maybe. But once you try this, you may understand why that’s not so dumb a thought.

But this dish? It’s a ‘Wow’ factor of 10. And an ‘Easy’ on the preparation scale. You’ll spend 10 minutes cutting and prepping, then you’ll pace for the 30 minutes it sits in your oven. Give the baking sheet a shake halfway through and that’s about it. The eggplant cooks to a creamy dream, onions settle in soft and caramelized and those chickpeas…… oh those chickpeas. Hold me back.

Good thing I’ve got that permanent turmeric-stained spoon. I’m going to need it.

 

Eggplant and Chickpea Curry

1 medium eggplant, diced
1 large red onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, cored and seeded, chopped
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (spread them and pat dry for extra crispness)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 t. good quality curry powder
1 t. dark brown sugar (sub molasses, muscavado or honey too, can use light brown sugar as well)

Preheat your oven to 400°

Whisk together the curry powder, sugar and oil in a small bowl. Combine the eggplant, onion, pepper and chickpeas, then pour the curry oil over and carefully toss together to combine. The eggplant will soak up the oil but don’t add anymore. Eggplant is a sponge; too much oil and it will be too soggy.

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice about halfway through, for 30 minutes. This dish can be consumed immediately, but takes on deeper flavor if allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Serve with naan or pita bread, over brown rice or on crisply toasted baguette slices.

KATE’S NOTES: For additional amazing flavor, add two large tomatoes that have been roasted as well, but don’t place them with the eggplant. They take far less time. For a good method, check this recipe.

 

Original recipe from Food & Wine, here with modifications

 

 

upon further exploration of chard……

September 15th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

One night last month, amidst the gorgeous August that made it’s way in to Minnesota and on a night that seemed as supple as velvet, I was home by myself, bored and restless. Feeling the urge to experiment with some of the food laying about the refrigerator, I poked through the stuffed bags from the Farmers Market, eyeing the three overflowing bags of chard.

I’ve been crazy for chard. Really crazy. Thankfully, this is a good thing. It’s not like an addiction that’s harmful, unless you can OD on vitamins. My blood won’t be anemic any time soon. And after this particular evenings playtime with my food, I was excited to share my findings so I propped up the computer on the island and found my voice to tell you this story.