Monday, April 20, 2015

Spiced Parsnip Cake with Cardamom-Cashew Butter for #CrazyIngredientChallenge #sponsor


Can this really be the first time I'm posting with this group?? It might be. I love the idea behind the Crazy Ingredient Challenge, hosted by Dawn of Spatulas on Parade; it's akin to the Improv Cooking Challenge that I joined a couple of months ago. We are assigned two ingredients to cook and create. So, here goes...

April's Crazy Ingredient Challenge = cardamom and parsnips


I wanted to experiment with some almond flour I need to review and opted to make a Spiced Parsnip Cake with Cardamom-Cashew Butter instead of frosting. And this cake uses no sugar and no butter; it's sweetened with honey and moistened with coconut oil. This was a hit!

Ingredients

Spiced Parsnip Cake
  • 2 C almond flour (I used Morning Pep*)
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t ground cardamom
  • 1 C grated parsnip
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C coconut oil, softened
  • 1/2 C local honey
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
Cardamon-Cashew Butter
  • 1 C raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 4 hours
  • 1/4 C local honey
  • 1/4 C unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t ground cardamom

*Disclosure: I received some complimentary almond flour from Morning Pep to use and review. I received no additional compensation for this post.

Procedure
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 8" round baking pans with parchment paper and lightly butter the pan and paper.

Place all of the cake ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Blend with a spatula till just combined and moistened. Divide the batter into two and spoon into prepared pans. Bake until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Then unmold and let cool completely on a wire rack.


While cake layers cool, prepare the “frosting”. Drain the cashews. In a blender on high speed, combine all the ingredients and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.


To serve, place one cake layer on a serving plate. Top with half the butter. Spread the cashew butter over the layer and place the second cake layer on top. Spread the remaining butter over the top. Slice into wedges and serve.


HunngryLittleGirl

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bacon-Bulleit Brownies for #SundaySupper

April 22nd is Earth Day and April 23rd is National Picnic Day so, today, the #SundaySupper crew is sharing recipes to enjoy while picnicking in the great outdoors. T.R. of Gluten Free Crumbly is hosting. What a timely theme! We have a lot of picnic dinners during the Spring and Summer.

I wanted to share a rich chocolate treat that is so rich that you just need a tiny piece. Small servings means less to carry in your picnic basket!


Ingredients
  • 1/2 C raw pecan pieces, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lb bacon (I use an applewood smoked, thick-cut, no nitrite bacon), cooked crisp
  • 1-1/2 C bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
  • 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 10 T butter
  • 3/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C organic dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 T Bulleit rye whiskey (use whatever bourbon or whiskey you have in your cabinet)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 t freshly ground sea salt (I used a smoked sea salt for added flavor)
  • 1-1/2 C flour

Procedure
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch round (or square) baking pan with parchment paper - with about 2" of paper overhang. Butter the pan and paper. Set aside. Finely chop the cooked bacon and mix with the pecans. Note: you can toast the nuts if you like; I used them raw. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine chocolate and cocoa powder with the butter and stir over very low heat, until melted.Transfer to a large bowl. Using a handheld mixer, beat in both sugars and the whiskey. Add the eggs and salt and beat until smooth. Sift the cocoa and flour into the bowl and beat until blended.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the bacon and pecans over the top. Bake until the brownies are set around the edges by still slightly gooey in the center, approximately 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the brownies cool completely. Lift the brownies out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into wedges or squares and serve.

What the rest of the crew put in their picnic basket...

Appetizers:
Beverages:
Main Dishes:
Sides:
Soups and Salads:
Desserts:
Sunday Supper Movement
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET.  Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Black Garlic Chocolate Cake for #NationalGarlicDay

National Garlic Day 2015
Calling all garlic lovers! 

Do you know what today is?!?

Welcome to National Garlic Day 2015, hosted by Heather from girlichef. April 19th is a day for garlic lovers far and wide to come together and celebrate the wonder of "the stinking rose".

Whether it's the ability to ward off vampires (and bugs), its numerous health benefits, or the way it lends flavor to a dish, there are so many reasons for singing the praises of garlic.


Okay, so if you've been following me for awhile, you'll know that I typcially go with a savory recipe for any cooking challenge. Almost. Every. Single. Time.

So, for this post - #NationalGarlicDay hosted by Heather at girlichef - you might be wondering why am I sharing a dessert? It's garlic...that automatically means savory, doesn't it?

Well, that's how I roll. I'm a maverick that way; I love the unexpected.

I wanted to use black garlic (click to read about it) because it has a softer, less pronounced garlic flavor. It's fabulously distinct.

I did have a little ingredient snafu when our local Trader Joe's told me that they no longer carried black garlic. "It didn't sell well," the greengrocer admitted. Whaaaat?!!? I also struck out at Whole Foods and a local Asian market. Thank goodness for the internet. Eureka! I included a link at the bottom of this post if you can't find any locally.

To help you get in the mood, check out these garlicky good recipes from this year's National Garlic Day bloggers:


Now back to my cake..."Mommy, what's the secret ingredient?" the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf asked.  Shhhhh...

Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 C butter + more for greasing pan
  • ⅓ C organic cacao powder* (I used Dagoba)
  • 1 C water
  • 2 C  flour
  • 1½ C organic granulated sugar
  • 1½ t baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ C sour cream
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cloves black garlic*, peeled and mashed to a paste
Mango-Ginger Sauce
  • 3 C mango chunks (I had some frozen ones)
  • 1½ T ginger spread*
  • ½ C organic granulated sugar
  • ½ C water
  • chocolate shavings for garnish
Procedure
Cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bundt pan. And set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, cocoa powder, and water. Heat until butter is melted. Stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and baking soda. Gradually pour in the chocolate mixture, whisking constantly smooth. Add the eggs - one at a time - whisking until combined. Fold in the sour cream, vanilla extract, and mashed black garlic until smooth.

Pour the batter into your prepared bundt pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the tallest part comes out clean, approximately 45 to 50 minutes.


Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the wire rack and let it cool completely. While the cake cools. Make the sauce. First a note about the sauce. I put out the question on social media: "Chocolate + ________________ [fruit sauce]. Go!!" My friends came up with some great suggestions that I have shelved for another day. For this cake, though, I opted for a mango-ginger sauce.


Mango-Ginger Sauce
Place all of the ingredients - except the chocolate shavings - in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until it comes to a chunky jam consistency. You can mash it with a potato masher if you like it more smooth. Cool slightly. This sauce is best served warm, in a dollop, on top of your chocolate cake. To serve, top the cake and sauce with chocolate shavings.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. I will only recommend products that I have used and loved...not for any compensation unless otherwise noted in the blog post. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item on your own.

      

Roasted Rockfish with Caramelized Ramps

I wanted a quick dinner that was largely hands-off. Oven-roasted fish is usually my go-to. Tonight the fish monger had some beautiful rockfish filets. Dinner!


Ingredients serves 4
  • 4 rockfish filets
  • 1 thinly sliced organic Meyer lemon
  • cleaned, trimmed ramps
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice

 Also needed: 4 piece of parchment paper and Caramelized Ramps.

Procedure
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay one filet on a piece of parchment paper, approximately 12" square - or enough that you can completely envelop your filet and create a parchment packet.

Cover the filet with lemon slices and lay the ramps on top. Drizzle the filet with lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground salt and freshly ground pepper.


Bring the sides of the parchment up around the filet and fold the edges together, rolling it down to the fish. Crimp the ends together, folding them in till fish is enclosed. Place the packets on a baking sheet. Roast for 25 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and let steam for another five minutes. Serve the packets on a plate and let each diner open his or her own.


To eat: open up the packets and let people top the roasted filets with Caramelized Ramps.

Caramelized Ramps (Wild Leeks)


Are you a ramp-fanatic? I eagerly await the week or two - yes, the season is very, very short - when you walk the markets and spot these pungent lovelies. Their aroma is somewhere between garlic and leeks; in fact, they are also called wild leeks. But they are actually a perennial wild onion. And their appearance is fleeting. Enjoy them while you can because they'll be gone before you know it.

Funny story...they are so elusive that the cashier at the market this evening didn't know what they were. I had grabbed them from the bins next to the fava beans, but they didn't have a code or price. 

"What are these?" she asked. Ramps, I informed her. She looked all through her code book. She even sent someone to get the code from the produce department.

"There is no code," he reported back. Yeah, I didn't see one either, but I just wanted to grab some since you don't carry them for very long.

In a complete surprise turn of events, she said, "Well, I guess I'll just give them to you...since we don't have a price in our system." Oh! Thanks. If I had known that was going to transpire, I would have grabbed a whole lot more of them. But I controlled myself and just nodded gratefully.


You can eat them raw, but I don't like raw onions very much. So I cook ramps. I caramelized these gems and served them over roasted rockfish.


Ingredients
  • 2 bunches ramps
  • 2 T butter
  • freshly ground salt

Procedure
To clean the ramps...fill a bowl with cold water, then place ramps in the water. Swirl them around to remove as much dirt as possible. Remove them from the bowl and give them another rinse under cool running water to remove any remaining dirt. Drain ramps on a dry paper towel, then blot out as much water as possible. Trim off the bottom of the ramps and peel away any part of the stems that might be slimy.

Heat butter in a large, flat-bottom pan until the butter is melted, frothy, and beginning to turn brown. Add the ramps to the browned butter and cook until the ramps are lightly charred and wilted. 

You can serve them as is for a nice Spring sidedish. Or you can use them to top your favorite meat or fish. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

$15 Dinners for Four

Earlier this week a friend of mine posted a challenge: "Dinner for 4 to 6 people for $15. What do you make?" I thought: $15 for a homemade dinner of 4 is pretty generous. $10 gets a little skimpy, but $15 is reasonable.

I suggested...
  • Pasta. Onions $1.00; ground beef $8.00 if you go organic + grassfed or as low as $5 if you don't; pasta $2.50, fresh tomatoes $4.00, olive oil (pantry); salad greens $2.00; dressing (fridge); parmesan cheese (fridge). $14.50 is you don't go organic, grassfed beef. Over budget if you do!
  • Roasted chicken thighs are always easy. Chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) 2 pounds $8.00; soy sauce, olive oil, spices (pantry/fridge); rice $2.00; $5 for veggies - zucchini, broccoli, etc.
  • Roasted pork tenderloin: pork $10.00; olive oil, spices (pantry); potatoes $3.00; salad greens $2.00; dressing (fridge).

Then I decided to put the theory to a test. For dinner that night, I made...

Leftover pork, $5.00 (1/3 of roast that cost me $15); quinoa, $1.00 (1/3 of $2.99 box); caramelized onion, $.50; charred shisito peppers, $1.00 (1/2 of $1.99 bag); roasted butternut squash, $3.00; roasted kohlrabi, $2.50; roasted carrots, $.50; black tahini (1 T of an $8.00 jar), estimating $.50; olive oil, spices, salt, pepper, and tomatillo salsa (pantry); parsley, $.50; lemon, $.50. 


TOTAL = $15!! Well, just the food. I cautioned that the budget was completely blown when I uncorked a $30 bottle of wine. Jake and I still had half the bottle, after dinner, so I'm calling that $15. Then I roasted $6 worth of rhubarb and served it over plain yogurt. So, really, I was closer to $40. But the main dinner was only $15. I don't know if that counts for my friend's challenge, or not.

The following evening I completely blew the budget goal by serving 2 whole sea bream that cost $20 on their own. The lemons were from our tree, the other produce was from our CSA, but the dinner definitely cost more than $15. Still, it was delicious. And watching my kids fight over the fish eyeballs...that's priceless!


The third evening, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and I made homemade ricotta gnocchi...


Again, the food came in at $12.75. But Jake and I polished off the rest of that $30 bottle of wine. And we had more yogurt and fruit for dessert. So, just under $35 for everything.

The fourth night, we were on our way to an evening at school. Dinner had to be quick! My go-to is almost always pasta, usually with some veggies from our High Ground Organics CSA. Dinner can be on the table in roughly the amount of time it takes for the pasta to boil.


The pasta bowl itself was $13 for all of us. Then I added a green salad with tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and vinegar. I'll call that dinner $15.

I began to think that a $15 complete dinner for four might not be as easy as I had initially thought. I can certainly get the main dish plate down to $15 for all of us. But when I add in dessert - even just yogurt and fruit - I'm over-budget. If I add in beer or wine for me and Jake, we're definitely over budget.

But, what I didn't calculate: we eat leftovers for lunch the next day. Thankfully the boys don't object to eating cold pasta et al for lunch at school. So, really that dinner figure should be cut in half, right? Maybe it's not as difficult as I thought.

I'm curious. 

What do you think about a $15 dinner for four? 
Do-able? Difficult?? Comment below.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus Pesto


Here we are at April's Improv Cooking Challenge hosted by Lesa of Edesia's Notebook. The idea: we are assigned two ingredients and are challenged to create a recipe with those two things. April's assigned ingredients: Asparagus and Eggs.

I thought about different way to incorporate these two and mainly came up with breakfast foods. I, first, planned to make an asparagus eggs benedict. Then I started to get creative; I considered a savory cheesecake with roasted asparagus. Finally, I ended up having my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf help me make Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus Pesto.

Che squisito!

Ingredients

  • 2 C whole-milk ricotta (1 pound)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided into 1 C + 1/2 C portions
  • 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1-1/4  to 1-1/2 C flour
  • 4 C asparagus, cut into 1-1/2" lengths
  • zest from 1 organic lemon
  • juice from 1 organic lemon 
  • olive oil
  • canola oil for pan-frying
  • fresh dill for garnish
  • freshly ground salt for garnish
  • freshly ground pepper for garnish

Procedure

Asparagus Pesto
Blanch the asparagus until it turns a vibrant green, approximately 1 minute. Set 1 C aside for serving. You will likely have to do this in two batches; I did. Drain and place 1-1/2 C of the asparagus and 1/4 C cheese in the blender. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil - just enough to achieve the texture you want. If you want it more thick, use less oil. Blend. Set aside. Repeat with the second half.


Ricotta Gnocchi
Stir together ricotta, eggs, 1 C cheese, 1/2 C asparagus pesto, and nutmeg. Add flour, stirring to form a soft, wet dough.


On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough into a cylinder. You may have to do this in batches.  Shape the dough into 1" thick ropes.


Cut rope into 1" lengths with a lightly floured butter-knife.


Move gnocchi to a lightly-floured, parchment-lined baking sheet.


To cook...bring water to a boil in a large pot with 1 t of salt and a splash of olive oil. Add a few gnocchi to the pot at a time. They are cooked when they float to the surface. They should take approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Lift gnocchi out of the water with a slotted spoon. Let drain in a colander.

Heat canola oil in a large, flat-bottom pan. Quickly brown the gnocchi in the oil. When lightly browned, remove them to a paper towl.

To serve...plate some of the blanched asparagus. Lay some browned gnocchi on top of the asparagus. Place a dollop of asparagus pesto on top of the gnocchi. Garnish with fresh dill, salt, and pepper.


Dakos for #OneYrGreek #sponsor #giveaway

When BenBella Books invited me to join the first anniversary book tour for It's All Greek to Me -- Transform Your Health the Mediterranean Way with my Family's Century-Old Recipes from Debbie Matenopoulos, I was excited.

First, I love Greek food. Second, I loved the cookbook when I reviewed it back in November (click to read my post Souvlaki from Debbie Matenopoulos' "It's All Greek toMe" {#sponsor Book Review & Giveaway}).

Five months have gone by and that cookbook is still near the top of my cookbook stack. Now that's saying something. I have a lot of cookbooks. And, after I review a cookbook for a publisher, it often gets shelved and not pulled out until I remember something I wanted to try. But this one excels in inspiring me with its vibrant photography and easy-to-follow recipes. So, it has stayed in my to-read, or to-cook, stack right next to the couch where I read and plan my recipes. Today, I'm sharing Debbie's recipe for Dakos.

Dakos
photo courtesy BenBella Books
Dakos (Greek Bruschetta) from It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos

Dakos is a traditional Cretan mezze salad that takes what I would normally serve as a just salad and makes it hearty enough for a meal. In Crete, this salad is served on top of a barley rusk, called a paximadi. A rusk is just a twice-baked bread toasted to crisp. I had originally dug up a recipe to make my own paximadi, but I ran out of time. So, I opted for a nice crusty round from a local bakery. Also, I went for smaller, appetizer sized rolls instead of the larger traditional ones. Someday I'll make my own paximadi!

Matenopoulos notes: "choose very ripe, almost overly so, tomatoes so that their juice will really soak into the rusk beneath them. To make this vegan, just add another tomato and omit the feta." I opted for organic cherry tomatoes in red, orange, and yellow instead of larger tomatoes because the larger ones weren't quite ripe enough; also, I used only fresh herbs.


Ingredients serves 4

  • 2 crusty rolls, sliced in half with the top sliced enough to allow it to sit flat
  • olive oil
  • 3 to 4 C diced organic tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
  • freshly ground salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste + more for garnish
  • 2 C brine-packed whole milk feta, crumbled
  • 2 T fresh dill, chopped + more for garnish
  • 2 t  fresh oregano, chopped + more for garnish
Procedure
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush the cut side of the bread with olive oil and place on a baking stone. Toast until crisped and golden, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Watch it carefully to make certain it doesn't burn.

In a mixing bowl, toss together the tomatoes and herbs with a splash of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.



To serve: Place a heap of the tomato mixture on top of the toasted bread. Add a layer of feta on top of the tomatoes. Garnish with more fresh herbs and grind fresh pepper around the plate.

καλή όρεξη
(Bon Appetit, in Greek)

I thoroughly enjoyed cooking from It's All Greek to Me and am looking forward to trying my hand are more Greek recipes in the future. Now on to the part you've all be waiting for - the giveaway.

Giveaway
photo courtesy BenBella Books

One of my lucky US readers - sorry, everyone else! - can enter to win a copy of It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos, courtesy of BenBella Books, Inc. Giveaway runs from today - April 16th - till April 27th at midnight, Pacific time. Please see terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget below.


Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Debbie Matenopoulos’s It’s All Greek To Me Cookbook to review plus the opportunity to give a copy away. Opinions are my own. I received no further compensation for my post or review.

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