Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Cookies

Have you baked with browned butter?  It might be my new fav ingredient.  I don't usually indulge in all these, let alone all at once, but my spouse loves to bake and 'tis the season.  Happy Solstice!

Molasses Crisps with Candied Ginger

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 pound butter, cut into pieces
1 3/4 cups evaporated cane sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift in the cocoa and set aside.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time; then beat in the vanilla.  Beat in the dry ingredients just until combined.

Roll the dough into quarter-sized balls. Roll the dough balls in the remaining cane sugar, then in the powdered sugar until covered. Place the balls about 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets.

Bake at 350°F until they are crackled and puffed, 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.  Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Variations
Substitute the vanilla with peppermint extract or ground cinnamon
Roll the dough around around a piece of candy (chocolate, caramel, candied fruit, marshmallow) before rolling it in sugar

Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies stuffed with Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
1/2 pound butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sour cream or yogurt
2 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate raindrops, organic and direct trade from OB People's
1 jar of chocolate hazelnut butter - organic at OB People's
flaky sea salt for sprinkling (I like Murray River from Salt Farm at the Little Italy Farmers Market)

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it begins to foam, whisk constantly until the butter begins to brown and has a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Allow to cool and blend in the sugar. Beat in the egg and egg yolk, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla and sour cream. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Chill your dough and chocolate hazelnut butter for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Once dough is chilled measure about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough into a disc in your palm.  Make a depression in the middle and place a rounded 1/2 teaspoon of chilled chocolate hazelnut butter and fold dough around it; gently roll into a ball. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and gently flatten, just slightly.

Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown (they will look under cooked in the middle). Sprinkle each cookie with a few flakes of sea salt right after they come out of the oven, and cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen.  Adapted from Clara Persis

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Crostini Trio

I recently attended a holiday potluck and was inspired by ingredients from the Little Italy Farmers Market to make crostini.  I had a Prager Brother's olive rosemary loaf of beautiful bread that I sliced thin, drizzled lightly with olive oil, and toasted until crisp.  And I made these three toppings:

Cannellini Bean & Roasted Garlic Spread
a head of garlic from the Schaners
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves from Suzie's, minced
sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cup cooked cannellini beans (Suzie's Farm seasonally has them fresh in the pod or dried), saving the cooking liquid
juice of a small lemon from Honeymoon Ranch

Separate the garlic cloves, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and roasted at 350 degrees until soft and golden in color (this can be done on a cookie sheet, in a terra cotta garlic roaster, or wrapped in foil), about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool, remove skins, and set aside.

Over medium heat, saute the sage in a tablespoon of oil with a pinch of salt until fragrant.  Put all ingredients in a food processor, (start with just 1/2 the juice and add more to taste) including 1/4 cup bean broth. Blend until smooth. Taste and add salt to taste, and add more bean broth if it's too thick.

Makes about 1&1/2 cups.

Top with a drizzle of your favorite olive oil, fresh chopped parsley, caramelized onions, and/or some nice olives.

Sauteed Greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, quartered and sliced thin
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale, destemmed, sliced into ribbons
1/2 bunch mustard greens, destemmed, sliced into ribbons
a couple big handfuls of spinach
fresh parsley, chopped
sea salt
red wine vinegar

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add onion, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring, until onions are soft. Add greens, garlic and another pinch of salt; cook until wilted, 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in parsley and a splash of red wine vinegar, season with salt to taste.

Artichoke & Mushroom
a can of quartered artichokes, drained and chopped
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
a large shallot or 1 small leek, sliced thin
a pinch of red pepper flakes
sea salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, sliced thin
freshly ground black pepper
thick, aged balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and allow to cook until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and browned, stirring occasionally.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt, and allow to cook until the shallots soften, stirring occasionally.  Then add garlic and thyme, and cook a few more minutes, stirring.  Remove from heat, stir all ingredients together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Simple Soups for Healthy Holidays

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can often be difficult to want to spend the time to meal plan and cook. With stresses and flu season, we know this is a time of year when it’s very important to feed ourselves and our loved ones wholesome, quality foods. Between shopping, parties, family obligations, normal life and increased pressures, fast-food options may be increasingly tempting and good intentions for eating healthfully can go out the window. But with just a few ingredients and minimal prep time, you can have a healthy, home-cooked soup. Warm and comforting on a cool winter day, soups can easily be turned into a meal by serving them with a loaf of crusty, whole-grain bread and a salad.

Don’t want to make a big mess in the kitchen? You don’t need much equipment to make these soups:
  • a cutting board 
  • a good chef’s knife (or whatever knife you like to chop with 
  • a pot with a lid, preferably a heavy pot, such as enameled cast iron 
  • a hand-held immersion blender, which is the easiest and safest way to blend hot ingredients for smooth soups
Making these one-pot recipes means that clean-up is quick and easy, too.

These soup recipes are simple, hearty, comforting, delicious, inexpensive, and easy to put your own spin on. You could make your own stock by saving your vegetable trimmings, which can be collected and frozen to be used at a later date. Or for a quick, ready-made option, use bouillon or boxed vegetable broth. Because most of these soups are blended smooth, the veggies that need to be prepped can be coarsely chopped into roughly 1-inch cubes to get these soups going fast. Don’t want to peel the vegetables? Scrub them clean and leave the peels on for a more rustic soup, which works great with most root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, as well as thin-skinned winter squash, like kabocha, delicata, maybe even butternut.

Each recipe is enough for a family, to be reheated and enjoyed throughout the week, or frozen in individual servings to eat later. These recipes are also gluten-free and offer options so that they can be made dairy-free.

Want a little bit more advanced version? These recipes include ideas for different variations to mix things up to suit your tastes. Fancy them up with suggested garnishes. Holiday Bonus: soup poured into shot glasses and garnished with a pinch of microgreens are a great party appetizer!

Winter Squash Soup

Leek & Potato Soup

Carrot Ginger Soup

Tomato Soup

Vegan Chili

...or find even more soups here!