March 29, 2012

Mango Popsicles

If you are concerned these may be too spicy for a child's palate, you can reduce the chile or omit it, fill a couple of pops containers with the unspiced mixture, then stir in a little to make the rest of the batch with kick. My suggestion: just go for it. The pops are sweet and you may find that your child enjoys them even with the spice. 

Mango Popsicles (with a kick)

1 Cup mango juice or nectar
1/4 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 large mango

Heat mango juice, sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 Cup water in a saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Transfer to a bowl. Chill in fridge.

Peel and seed mango and cut it into small cubes. Stir the chili powder and mango pieces into the liquid. Pour into ice pop molds. Insert popsicle stick. Freeze until solid (at least 3 hours).

Cranberry Duff

This easy dessert should be served while still warm. The recipe is from a Penzeys catalog.

Cranberry Duff

2 Cups flour
1 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or a little more if you are a particular fan)
2 Cups cranberries
1 Cup milk
1/4 Cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or scrape a bean)

How to:
Combine dry ingredients. And remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour into buttered 8 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

After duff has been baking for 25 minutes, whip up a sauce using these ingredients:
1/4 Cup butter
1/2 Cup sugar
1/3 Cup cream (or half and half)
splash vanilla
pinch cinnamon

Bring butter, sugar and cream to a boil in a sauce pan. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Simmer 10 minutes.

Serve the duff warm, drizzled with the sauce.

March 24, 2012

Maple Spice Ice Cream

CSugaring was a spring family project when I was growing up in New York. I know my son won't have that experience -- the climate in Alaska doesn't favor maple trees and birch syrup really isn't the same -- but he does love the syrup we bring back from our trips to New York. A splash of syrup in plain greek yogurt is one of his regular snacks (good with or without roasted pumpkin seeds stirred in). This maple ice cream is a special treat.

Maple Spice Ice Cream

1/2 Cup maple syrup
2 Cups heavy cream
6 cardomom pods
2 whole cloves
14-inch cinnamon stick
1 Cup milk

In a second saucepan simmer 1 Cup cream with the spices until the cream begins to simmer. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 20 minutes.

While that cream cools, use a separate small saucepan on medium heat to reduce the maple syrup by 1/2 (about 10 minutes).

After the spices and cream have stood for 20 minutes, strain the contents of that saucepan into a bowl. Discard spices. Stir in the reduced syrup, remaining 1 Cup cream, and all the milk. Put in fridge.

After the mixture is chilled, pour it into your ice cream maker. Churn. Transfer to a storage container and freeze until solid (a couple of hours).

Allow to sit for a few minutes at room temperature before serving.

March 23, 2012


This isn't quite a recipe as much as a resource.

We haven't been using eggs for Easter crafts because of my son's egg allergy. Last year we had great fun painting wooden and papier mache eggs (we found them at Michael's). Earlier this month I learned about eggnots, which are white ceramic eggs that you can dye just like chicken eggs. They are available on-line from .

Last night we used the basic water and vinegar recipe on the back of our package of food coloring (1 tsp vinegar, 20 drops coloring and 1/2 C water) to dye one set. The results were lovely.

March 20, 2012

Watermelon limonade

Three ingredients. Two steps. What could be easier?

Watermelon limonade

  2 lemons, peels removed
  1 lime, peel removed
  flesh of 1/2 a small seedless watermelon

How to:
  (1) Blend or food process to puree all the fruit together.
  (2) Strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Caveat: actually, the last step can get messy if you try to coordinate straining from colander or sieve into a pitcher. Trying to balance a funnel between a sieve and pitcher to keep the juice directed was an impossible balancing act. At least for me. The easier method (that dirties more dishes) is to use the sieve to strain the puree into a mixing bowl with one of those slight spouts or indents and then use that spout to pour from there into the pitcher or carafe. Or strain into your punch bowl and serve with a ladle.

March 17, 2012

Spicy Pickled Carrots

Alaska has long summer days that produce those enormous cabbages that set world records at the state fair. Lucky for me, the climate is also great for carrots. As of last summer, my new favorite way to pickle them is this recipe adapted from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'em Up!

Spicy Pickled Carrots

   4-6 garlic cloves sliced
   1 tsp red pepperflakes optional
   2 pounds carrots
   4 cups distilled vinegar
   1 cup sugar
   3 Tablespoons salt

Divide garlic & pepper among 3 clean hot pint jars.
Trim, peel and cut carrots into lengths 1 inch shorter than jars. 
Boil vinegar in large nonreactive pan. 
Add salt and sugar. Dissolve. 
Pour brine over carrots covering by 1/2 inch and leaving 1/ 2 inch of headroom. 
Preserve with hot water bath method. 
Process time at full boil is 15 minutes. 
Turn off and let sit for 5 minutes.
Remove jars and let stand 24 hours. 
Remove rings and store in cool dry place for up to 1 year.

These pickles taste great. Another plus: I usually already the ingredients on hand and can make a quick project of putting them up on a late summer or fall evening (after bedtime for children).

We keep them in the pantry to pull out as a quick zingy side dish at dinner. I have also given them as holiday presents to foodies I know will appreciate the novelty (and the kick).

They are spicy. They will be less spicy if you reduce the amount of red pepper flake, but I don't think you should. The contrast between the sweetness of the carrots (and sugar), the sourness of the brine and the heat from the pepper is what makes them wonderful.

Not just wonderful. Prize winning. These pickles won a blue ribbon and the coveted Judge's Choice Award at the 2013 Alaska State Fair.

Cherried Brandy

This one obviously isn't a family-friendly recipe for our preschooler.

Cherried Brandy

2 pounds cherries.
2 Cups brandy
1 Cup sugar
1 Cup water

Day 1:
Start with about 2 pounds of cherries (with stem).
Cut 1/2 the stem off each.
Soak the cherries overnight in 2 Cups brandy.

Day 2:
Boil 1 Cup sugar and 1 Cup water for 10 minutes.
Skim. Cool.
Add the brandy to the syrup and mix.
Pour back over the cherries.
Use clean jars and lids to jar up.
Tuck away in the pantry or root cellar and wait for winter.

About jarring and volume: This recipe produced 3 pints for us. Start with four clean pint jars with the possibility that you may need only three. Try to divide the cherries and brandy roughly equally between the jars. Some head room is fine.

How long to wait: 
If you check after a month, the brandy will soften and take on cherry taste. If you wait 3 months it will be drinkable. Wait six months and it's even smoother and better.

Make it in the summer when you have access to good cherries. Save it for winter. Wait until the kids are in bed to pair with biscuits like these Orange Mint Biscuits. Or incorporate a splash into whipped cream to top dark chocolate desserts.

March 16, 2012

Cucumber Salad

This is another salad so basic that it scarcely needs a recipe.

Tangy Cucumber Salad

2 cucumbers
1/4 Cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds

Peeling long strips from the length of two cucumbers to leave a striped appearance. Slice in half. Scoop out the seeds. Cut the hollowed halves into thin slices. Squeeze in a clean towel or double layer of paper towel. Dissolve sugar and salt in vinegar in a medium bowl. Toss in cucumber and sesame seeds.

For another layer of flavor, briefly toast the sesame seeds first. 

March 15, 2012

An Applesauce Un-Recipe

I love food so simple that you really don't need a recipe. Here's an example. After years of just using our slow cooker for soups and stews, I got around to trying to use it to make applesauce. Turns out, it's dirt simple:


Chop several apples into pretty small pieces. Peeled is good. Unpeeled is faster. Your choice. Put the apple pieces into your slow cooker. Leave on high for a few hours until they are quite soft. Use a potato masher or other blunt instrument to gentle crush some of the softened apples. It's a chunky applesauce. No stirring. No spending the morning at the stove checking to make sure nothing is burning or sticking.

Tasty variations:
Put a cinnamon stick or a small dash of ground cinnamon in at the start.
Or use a couple of pears along with the apples.
If you really want this to be a dessert, add a little honey at the start.

Warning: This technique doesn't work so well with Granny Smiths, which don't tend to disintegrate under prolonged heat quite as well as other apples.

March 13, 2012


The best part of making granola is being able to control exactly what's in it.
The second best part: it really is incredibly easy.
This is adapted from a granola recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

Basic Granola
2 Cups rolled oats
1/2 Cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 Cup chopped walnuts
3/4 Cup any combination of sunflower, sesame and/or pumpkin seeds
1/2 Cup honey or brown rice syrup
1/3 Cup canola oil
Optional: 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and/or a dash of ground ginger

In a big bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey (or brown rice syrup) and oil plus any spices you are using. Stir the wet into the dry until well incorporated.  Spread evenly onto a large well greased baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or so, stirring after 20.  When lightly browned, remove from oven and immediately turn out into a large piece of foil.  Let cool. Break into clumps. Store in an airtight container.

Use a combination of pecans and walnuts for more variety.
Stir in 1/2 Cup raisins and 1/2 Cup chopped dates when you remove from oven.

Note: This dish can be gluten-free if you source gluten-free oats.

Improvements: The recipe avariation based on the technique from the granola recipe in Alana Chernila's cookbook The Homemade Pantry. My new method: use parchment paper instead of greasing the pan. Once the granola is lightly browned, turn off the oven but leave the pans in the oven to slowly cool over several hours for a toastier crunch, then add any fruit after it has completely cooled.

Further improvements: The granola recipe in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day calls for maple syrup instead of honey and for added orange zest and currants. I don't follow her recipe exactly (for example, it calls for butter and I prefer using oil), but the orange zest is a great addition and way to mix up the flavor profile.

March 12, 2012

Roasted Beet and Fennel Salad

For this simple salad you need just a few ingredients:

One bunch of beets cut into thin wedges
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel bulb (cut bulb into wedges, save a few fronds)
splash of wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400. Puts beets in a baking dish with 2 Tablespoons water and 1 Tablespoon of the oil. Cover with foil and cook until tender. About 40 minutes.

After the beets have been in the oven for about 10 minutes, put fennel in small baking dish with another Tablespoon of oil. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 more minutes.

Put the vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in the beet juices. Add and toss the cooked beets and fennel wedges with a few reserved fennel fronds.

I like to bring this salad to potlucks because it tastes good at room temperature, is made of sturdy stuff that travels well and is unexpected (or at least it was unexpected before I kept showing up with beet dishes). It doubles nicely for a larger group, just use a larger dish so the vegetables aren't crowded or it will take a little longer in the oven.

Roast Pork Loin

2-3 pound pork loin
1 teaspoon salt
3-5 cloves garlic (crushed)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
freshly grated zest of one lemon
3/4 Cup vermouth
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

At least two and a half hours before you want to eat, tie the pork loin with kitchen string so it keeps its shape when roasted. Mash together the garlic and salt to make a paste. Mix in the oil, rosemary and lemon zest. Rub the mixture onto the pork loin (all sides) and let it sit in a bowl in your fridge for at least an hour. Longer is fine.

When you are ready to cook it, let the pork sit out on the counter while you preheat the oven to 375. Roast it in a heavy oven safe pot, turning once or twice until a meat thermometer reads 145. Roasting will take between 45 minutes and an hour depending on what container you are baking in, whether your oven maintains its temperature and how big a piece of pork you are using. I like to use a medium sized Le Creuset dutch oven that just fits the length of the loin. Use a pan you can comfortably move to the stovetop, since you'll do that at the end.

When the meat is hot enough, transfer it to a cutting board to rest. Reserve everything else in your pan. Add the vermouth and vinegar to the pan. Bring it to a simmer on your stove top over medium high heat, scraping up whatever is stuck to the bottom, for a few minutes to reduce it.

Remove the string. Slice the pork. Add any resulting juices to the sauce and serve with the pork.

Variations: You don't need to be too precise about the amount of garlic, citrus and rosemary. If you have other fresh herbs like oregano or thyme, you can use those too. If you have an orange instead of a lemon, that's fine. If you want to save the juice of the lemon to use instead of the vinegar at the end, that works too. If don't have vermouth then use white wine.

Leftovers: This preparation makes a lot of meat for a family of just three. Having leftovers of this pork is fine by me. The lunch I send with  my son to preschool is invariably composed at least partly from leftovers from the night before and I don't mind having more the next day myself. With that in mind, when I have cooked the loin I slice up just as much of the meat as we anticipate eating immediately and leave the rest of the meat in a more versatile hunk for leftovers. Tomorrow when I want more, I can easily cut very thin slices from the cold meat for sandwiches. Or I can cube it to cook in a quick soup or curry.

Sour Cream (or Yogurt) Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Mocha Topping

These were a hit when I brought them to the office for a coworkers birthday. Although I am not a coffee drinker, I do enjoy the layer of flavor that the instant coffee can provide to chocolate desserts.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Mocha Topping

Cupcake ingredients:

1 2/3 Cups flour
1 1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 C cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 Cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 Cup club soda

Sift together the dry ingredients. Combine the wet ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together. Add the dry to the wet and mix well. Fill your cupcake papers about 3/4 full  Bake for 18 minutes in a 350 degree oven. All to cool for 15 minutes or so before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before adding topping.

Topping ingredients:
1 pint cream
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Beat in remaining ingredients until combined. Dollop onto cupcakes.

March 11, 2012

Sophisticated Cookies for Adults (that your kids will love too)

Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals has been inspiring me to get some new whole-grain dishes into our routine. Yes, I have been using it for hearty entrees like the delicious rice dish we had for dinner. I have also been using the dessert section at the back. It has some real gems. This cookie recipe is based on her Orange-Rosemary Cookies with Olive Oil. These sophisticated little cookies are somewhat reminiscent of biscotti, but smaller and without the need for twice-baking. Plan ahead because the dough needs to chill at least an hour after it is mixed.

Orange Mint Biscuits

1 orange
3/4 Cup flour
1/4 Cup cornmeal
1/2 Cup hazelnut meal
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 Cup olive oil
1/4 Cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons sugar

Start with the orange. Finely grate the zest (a micoplane grater works well for this) and set it aside. Then squeeze the orange for 1/4 juice. Set that aside too.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, hazelnut meal and baking powder in a big bowl. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl vigorously whisk together the oil and brown sugar. The brown sugar will begin to dissolve after a minute. Then whisk in the orange zest, orange juice, mint and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.

Put a good sized piece of parchment paper on the counter (you'll want at least a foot of it). Scrape the dough on the parchment paper. Form it into a long log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll the log up in the parchment paper and park the tube of dough in parchment paper in your freezer for an hour or so.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the turbinado sugar on a small bowl or saucer. Unwrap the log of dough. Slice it into rounds 1/2 inch thick. Gentle press one side of each round of dough into the sugar and then place it on the baking sheet. Space them at least an inch apart.

Bake for 16 minutes. Then remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Wait a few minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. They'll firm up as they cool. 

Variations: The recipe by Maria Speck that was my inspiration called for almond meal and fresh rosemary. I  use hazelnut because my spouse is allergic to almond. I have used either rosemary or mint, depending on which I have had in the kitchen when I want to bake. Make these twice and try each. They are both good. 

March 10, 2012

Tapioca Pudding

I have very fond childhood memories of making (and eating) tapioca pudding made from the recipe on the box of Minute brand tapioca which called for a technique and ingredients that really appealed to the budding artist and kitchen scientist in me. Much of the joy of that experience stemmed from egg. Separating eggs without getting stray shell in the wrong places was a point of pride. The color of the yolk and milk cooked together was lovely. Whipping the whites from a liquid to soft foam was fun. I enjoyed observing the unsubtle changes of texture as the whipped whites were folded in with the thickening hot milk and then cooled to sturdy effect. And, of course, the results were sugary and delicious.
Although I grew up with family that kept backyard chickens, I have not been a big egg eater as an adult. More than one carton quietly passed its expiration date in my fridge to later generate questions as to whether the eggs might still be good. When I bought each carton in the first place, it was probably to make tapioca pudding.

Tapioca pudding was a dish that I hated losing when I learned my son was allergic to eggs. I knew that eggs played such a central role in my usual recipe that they could not just be subbed out with flax or applesauce the way I might with cookies or quickbread.
All was not lost. I eventually found a substitute. A new tapioca recipe to love. The Joy of Cooking is honestly not the first place I would expect to find a great recipe for eggless tapioca pudding. But there is it. I now use the Joy of Cooking recipe more as a technique than a strict recipe because it stands up wonderfully well to substitutions and experimentation.
Tapioca Pudding
   2 Cups milk or water (see 1 below)
   1/3 Cup quick-cooking tapioca
   1/2 Cup sugar
   2 Cups crushed fruit (see 2 below)
   2 Tablespoons lemon juice (see 3 below)
Get an inch of water boiling in the bottom half of your double boiler.
Meanwhile, in the top half of your double boiler, bring 2 Cups of water to a boil over direct heat. Then stir in the tapioca and sugar and bring it back to a boil.
Then move the top half of the double boiler (with the water, sugar and tapioca) over to cover the bottom half (which has the inch of boiling water in it). Cook the tapioca mixture, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.  Fold in the crushed fruit and citrus juice.

Transfer to one big bowl or to individual serving bowls or ramekins. Chill. Enjoy.
Notes and variations:
1. Joy of Cooking’s recipe uses just water to boil the tapioca and that works fine. I like to use cow’s milk for a creamier texture since we always have it on hand, but I have tried it with other milk alternatives as well and those work too. If you have rice, soy, almond or hazelnut milk in the fridge and want to use it to get another flavor, or a little more protein or calcium into the pudding then go ahead. The original recipe also called for 1/4 teaspoon salt, which I omit.
2. For the fruit, I have tried berries, stewed prunes and even canned mandarin orange pieces. Strawberries (chopped and crushed) are my favorite, but the other fruit works well too. Joy of Cooking suggests crushed pineapple, which I haven’t tried. If you use a very tart fruit, you may not want all of the lemon juice. If you use a really sweet fruit, you can cut back the sugar a little.

3. I also like to experiment with adding other layers of flavor as the tapioca is cooking. Depending on the fruit or fruit combinations you will fold in at the final step, it can be tasty to add a teaspoon of vanilla extract or a dash of a spice like cinnamon, ginger or cardamom to the cooking tapioca.

March 9, 2012

Crisp Fennel Salad

For years I never used fennel. Or really even knew what to do with it. Then I found a recipe for a Roasted Beet and Fennel Salad that became a real favorite -- soft and sweet, but with body and depth of flavor that I love. This post is about what I learned to do with fennel next: serve it raw to let its satisfying crunch and anise flavors really shine.

Both of the salads below come together so quickly that you can easily bring either to the table any night of the week. Both also have enough fresh snap to serve as side dishes for heavier more complicated meals, like Thanksgiving, when guests appreciate a light palate cleanser to keep it all in perspective.

Fennel Celery Salad
2 fennel bulbs
3 ribs of celery
1/4 Cup olive oil
juice of one lemon

Use a mandolin or food processor to thinly slice two whole fennel bulbs cut into quarters. Slice celery equally thin. Dress with oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Variations: My original inspiration was a recipe that called for topping this dish with freshly shaved Parmesan and reserved fennel fronds. Add them if you like. I usually leave them out. Why? The salad tastes great without the cheese and I don't really love the mouth-feel of the fronds as much as I love the texture of the vegetable slices. And there is something visually pleasing about the symmetry of the fennel and onion crescents alone in the dressing without ornament.

Apple Fennel Salad
2-3 fennel bulbs
1 or 2 Granny Smith apples (leave the peel on)

Use a sharp knife to slice fennel bulbs crosswise somewhat thickly to create rings or crescents. Halve the apple, pare out the core, leave on the skin. Slice the halves.

Dress with a mustard vinaigrette made by whisking together 3 parts canola oil, 1 part white wine or cider vinegar and a spoonful of good mustard. Add salt if you want. I usually don't. The mustard and vinegar make it astringent enough and we already have enough sodium in our diets without adding it here. You can use red wine vinegar and it will taste equally good, but will color the apple. This dish looks lovely and green at the table if you use a pale vinegar.

Other combinations:
Radish, red onion, and even jicama work well sliced with fennel. Use your imagination, or whatever you've got in the fridge that's fresh and crunchy, and be pleasantly surprised.

March 8, 2012

Collards with Raisin

Greens grow well in the long cool summer days of Southcentral Alaska. This preparation based on a recipe from the Martha Stewart website make a collard dish that is sweet enough to get our son to eat collard greens. And it's fast enough to serve for a weeknight supper.

Collard Greens with Raisins

2 bunches of collard greens -- remove stalks, cut across the leaves to make thin strips
1 Tablespoon olive or canola oil
1/2 Cup raisins
2 teaspoons white (or red) wine vinegar

Heat oil in large skillet. Saute collard greens and raisins together until collards are tender. About 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vinegar.

When I have raspberry vinegar, I use that instead to add a depth of fruity flavor. If all I have on hand is cider vinegar, I use that. It also works with kale, but you don't have to slice kale quite so thin.

The original recipe called for sprinkling the finished dish with toasted almonds. We don't use almonds these days, but if you do then you can add 1/4 Cup of toasted slivered almonds at the end. They provide contrasting crunch plus a little protein and fat to make the dish more substantial. Slivered almonds should be nicely toasted after just 5-10 minutes on a baking sheet in an oven on relatively low heat (325 to 350). If you preheat the oven before you start slicing the collards, then you can toast the almonds while the collards are sauting and it should all be ready at about the same time.  

March 7, 2012

Crunchy Golden Rice Salad

One of my favorite hearty salads is a variation on the Jeweled Golden Rice recipe from the June/June 2006 issue of Eating Well. This savory dish marries great celery crunch with the the sweet/tart flavors of citrus and fresh cherries and combines whole grains with enough fresh fruits and vegetables to call it a salad. Right now we've got several feet of snow on the ground to remind me that it's a long wait to cherry season. But whenever I see cherries at the market, this recipe springs to mind.

The original recipe starts with cooking brown basmati rice in low-sodium chicken broth. I can't use chicken broth to cook for my family these days, but this recipe works equally well with vegetable broth. In our house, that veggie broth also needs to be soy-free. There's a vegetable broth produced by Pacific Natural Foods that's OK and several stores here carry it. I prefer the flavor of Safeway's house brand, O Brand Organics. Safeway isn't our favorite store, but I go there to stock up on broth. This recipe is readily gluten-free if you use gluten-free broth.

Fair warning: This isn't a recipe you can throw together at the last minute. The flavors and textures really benefit from chilling for at least an hour after tossing the dressing on the rice. Or put another way, this is a good dish to make ahead if want to get the cooking done and the kitchen cleaned up before company comes over.

Crunchy Golden Rice Salad (With Cherries)

Ingredients to get started:
   1 Cup brown basmati rice
   2 Cups vegetable broth
   1 Tablespoon curry powder (I like the mild yellow curry powder from our local shop Summit Spice)
   1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
   one pinch crumbled saffron threads (if you don't have saffron add a bit more turmeric for color)

Bring the above ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan, cover, reduce heat and simmer approximately 35 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.

While the rice is cooling,  whisk together in a large glass bowl or plastic container:
   3 Tablespoons canola oil
   1/3 Cup lemon juice
   3 Tablespoons honey
   1 Tablespoon orange zest (a microplane grater works well for this)
   1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger (keep the microplane out and use it for ginger too)

Add in:
   All the cooked rice
   2 Cups chopped celery
   3/4 Cup chopped dried cherries (or don't chop them, your choice)

Stir to combine well. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour and as much as a couple of days.

Just before serving fold in:
   1/4 Cup chopped scallions
   1 Cup fresh dark sweet cherries pitted and chopped
   3/4 Cup pistachios

The original recipe suggested using a mix of unsalted pistachios, almonds, and cashews. My husband is allergic to almonds. I'm not a big fan of cashews. So I just use pistachios. I use salted pistachios and omit the salt called for in the original recipe. If you like almonds and cashews, use them. If you use unsalted nuts then add a pinch of salt to the dressing to brighten the flavor.

To make it prettier at the table, hold back half of the scallions and some nuts and sprinkle those on top at the end.

Sugar Cookies

Plan ahead for this cookie recipe because the dough needs to chill. But it's worth the wait. The cookies taste fantastic!

Sugar Cookies (variation of the recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar)

2 1/3 Cup flour
2 Tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 Cup butter softened (at room temperature)
1 Cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon other extra like lemon (or just a little more vanilla)
1/4 Cup milk

To make the dough:
Sift together dry ingredients into a small bowl and set aside. Then, beat the sugar and butter together in a mixing bowl. Scrape it down. Beat in the extract and milk. Beat in 1/2 the flour mixture. Then carefully mix in the rest of the flour to form a soft dough. Divide in 2. Pat each half into a 1-inch thick disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

To make the cookies:
Preheat oven to 350. Use parchment paper on your baking sheets. Roll out dough. Cut cookies. Use spatula to put on sheets with an inch between them. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until getting golden at edges. Remove cookie sheets from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Then use spatula to move the cookies to racks to finish cooling.

If you are also avoiding milk, use a vanilla milk alternative for the liquid and instead of butter use equal parts nonhydrogenated margarine and nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. I love the taste of citrus, but if you want to mix up the flavors you can use other extracts (like almond or even mint or coffee) instead of the lemon extract. To strengthen the vanilla flavor you can use double-strength vanilla extract or scrape in a vanilla bean when you add the vanilla extract.

Gingerbread Cookies

There are several cookbooks that I use frequently for eggless baking. Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar is one of my favorites. Co-author Isa Chandra Moskowitz maintains the Post Punk Kitchen blog (where you'll find lots of other good recipes). 

Many recipes for vegan baked goods call for soy milk, but that doesn't stop me from using the recipes. I generally substitute cow's milk for the soy milk in the original recipe. When entertaining folks who are avoiding dairy, substitute another milk alternative. Hemp milk works well in baked goods like this.

This gingerbread cookie recipe does require planning ahead because the dough works best if allowed to chill before being rolled and cut. But it's worth it. These are good!

Gingerbread Cookies (variant of a recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar)

1/3 Cup canola oil
3/4 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup molases
1/4 Cup milk
2 Cups whole wheat pastry flour, or all purpose, or a mix of both
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (in the original recipe, but we omit to reduce sodium).
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I think cassia works just as well as ceylon in this recipe)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

To make the dough:
Use a large bowl. Whisk together oil and sugar for a few minutes. Or at least a couple. It will thicken.
Whisk in the molasses and milk.
Sift in the dry ingredients, mixing a bit as you go.
Mix well until a stiff dough forms.
Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap.
Pop it in the fridge for at least an hour (much longer is fine too).

To make the cookies:

Take the dough out of the oven to let it warm on the counter for several minutes. While the dough rests, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and find your rolling pin and cookie cutters.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Try to roll it to a fairly even 1/4 inch thick.
Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to parchment covered sheets with a thin spatula.

Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool for just a couple of minutes on the sheets. Then gently transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Berry Cobbler

*I've been using (and tweaking) the Blueberry Spice Cobbler recipe from Irene Ritter's cookbook The Cobbler Crusade for years. I especially treasure it now as a no muss, no fuss dessert recipe that is naturally eggless and easy to make dairy-free when entertaining guests who avoid dairy. It's quick to prepare and dirties only one mixing bowl. 

Blueberry Spice Cobbler

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and grease an 8-inch-square baking dish.

Combine for the filling
5 and 1/4 Cups fresh or frozen blueberries *use some raspberries and/or blackberries to mix it up
3 Tablespoons brown sugar *or white sugar if that's what you've got
2 Tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
3 Tablespoons lemon juice *using lime juice instead is a nice variation
1 Tablespoon of canola oil  

Use a medium-sized mixing bowl to combine all of the filling ingredients except the oil. Transfer to the baking pan. Drizzle with the oil. If you are using fresh berries you can set aside at this point. If you are using frozen berries, put the baking pan into the oven while you are preparing the dough so they can continue to thaw.

Rinse and wipe the mixing bowl. Then use it to combine these ingredients for the dough:

1 1/2 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 Tablespoons sugar *a little less is fine
1 Tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon ground mace  (you can omit if you don't have it. but it's a great flavor in this dish)1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon *or a little more is fine. add a little ground ginger too if you love that.
1/4 Cup canola oil
1/2 Cup 2 % lowfat milk (or 1 %. or skim. or a milk alternative if you are vegan or avoiding dairy)

Stir together into a thick dough. Use a tablespoon to dollop the dough onto the filling, leaving some small space between the lumps of dough. Bake 25 minutes until crust browns. Cool at least 30 minutes. This is essential to the filling setting up as its still soupy when it comes out of the oven.

We like to serve topped with plain yogurt. Or yogurt with some fresh berries. Or just plain. 

March 6, 2012

Incredibly easy ciabatta

When cooking and baking to avoid allergens, I love recipes with as few ingredients as possible. As a working mother, it's great to find recipes that I can put together quickly and that my son will want to eat as much as I do. 

One real treasure that those categories is a very basic and incredibly easy ciabatta recipe published a couple of years ago by lifehack. It calls for just four ingredients (and one of those is water, which doesn't even really count), takes just moments of preparation and consistently produces a soft and delicious loaf. 

The Kitchen Hack: One-Minute Bread works from a wet yeasted dough left to rise for several hours and bake up to a soft loaf full of big airbubbles. No bread machine or special skill is needed. And there are none of the fillers or risks of cross contamination that commercially prepared breads can present.

The gist: Stir 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast into 2 Cups warm (not hot) water in a large bowl. Stir in 4 Cups flour and a pinch of salt. Cover and let sit for 8-12 hours.  When it's ready to bake, turn out on a floured baking surface and bake in a hot oven for 25 minutes. Once it's out of the oven let it stand at least 10 minutes before slicing or your loaf can deflate.

This recipe works for me as an overnight project. I have a bowlful of dough rising on the kitchen counter as I type this evening. By morning it will be ready for some heat. I'll pop it in the oven first thing so it can bake while we are eating breakfast and getting dressed and ready for the day. It will be finished before I head out to take my son to preschool and go in to the office. And we'll have fresh bread to enjoy later in the day. It should be out of the oven in time to cool the necessary 10 minutes so I can cut a slice to send with him for snack at school.

Optional extras: I like the crunch provided by sprinkling first flour and then a little cornmeal on the cookie sheet before baking, but it works with just flour in a pinch if you don't have cornmeal handy. And I do like sprinkle the dough with some dried herbs (like rosemary or oregano). Even if you just stick to the four basic ingredients, it's a tasty loaf.

Update: That loaf turned out lovely: