Friday, December 30, 2011

Mashed Celeriac and Potatoes

Meet the celeriac root, the Charlie Brown tree of winter root vegetables.  He has a gnarly body and is covered in brown splotches.  Given his burly demeanor, it only seems fitting I refer to him as a male.  He's also a bit hairy, so that about seals the deal.  Always one to root for the underdog, I picked him up out of curiosity.  Celeriac is not actually the root of celery as one might think, but a close relative.  I learned this when I first inquired about celeriac from a grower at a farmers' market.  It's here I learn the tricks for working the unrecognizable, foreign, and sometimes scary into my meals.  I appreciate the encouragement and can-do-it- attitude that's exchanged with the passing over of a vegetable.  So, on this particular day when having an exchange over celeriac root, I gratefully accepted the tip to mash it with potatoes.  There's a first time for everything. Later that day, I found myself armed with my vegetable peeler, having flashbacks to this day.  It proved to be fairly effortless, as Mr. Celeriac was much more compliant than the cushaw squash.  Once I sliced him open, an ivory flesh appeared.  It reminded me of a potato, so it made sense to combine the two together.  

Celeriac tastes like a milder version of celery, almost nutty in flavor.  It's all the creamy goodness of mashed potatoes with a surprise flavor lingering at the end.  It's as if your mashed potatoes traveled abroad and returned with a French accent, an air of sophistication, and somehow became impeccably chic.  If mashed potatoes could wear a beret, these would be the ones to do it.  Oooh la la.  I used a hand masher because I prefer a more rustic consistency.  And please, don't leave out the shallot.  I beg you.  It's a little extra step that's worth the effort.  Merci beaucoup.  Have a Happy New Year friends.  Enjoy the night.  I'll meet you back here in the New Year with a healthy new recipe to kick it off.

~Mashed Celeriac and Potatoes Recipe~

1 celeriac root, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
3 scallions, chopped
sea salt and pepper
1 shallot sliced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Add celeriac root and potatoes to a large pot of water.  Bring to a boil.  While you are waiting, fry the shallot over medium  heat in olive oil until crispy.  It will take just a few minutes.   Cook celeriac and potatoes approximately 20 minutes, until both  are fork tender.  Drain.  Return to pot.  Add in milk, butter, and scallions.  Mash with a hand held masher.  Use your eye.  Based on how large your celeriac and potatoes happen to be, you may need more or less milk depending.  Also, this recipe could easily be adapted to a vegan version.  Just substitute vegetable stock for milk and olive oil for butter.  Once mashed, transfer to a serving bowl.  Top with crispy shallots.  Serves 2 generously, as a side.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Roasted Rainbow Carrots

Hello friends.  Welcome back.  I hope Santa was good to you.  I've been perpetually full for days now.  I'm sure you can relate.  Have you had enough chocolate and cookies for now?  I thought so.  Let's move onto something healthier, shall we? I'm really excited about these beautiful carrots at the moment.  After picking up a bunch at a winter farmers' market, I've had what could only be described as a carrot epiphany, a carrot ah-ha moment, if you will.  I tossed a bunch in some good olive oil and roasted them off one night for dinner.  I was heavily rewarded for such minimal effort.  I felt so sneaky.  They are easily the best tasting carrots I've ever had.  Ever.  That's no exaggeration.  If I had a blue ribbon, I would have pinned them down and made it official, complete with an award ceremony and photos to share with you.  I feel as though I've been spoiled, and will never again eat a whittled down bagged baby carrot with any sense of enjoyment.  I now know there is something better out there.  These carrots are my new gold standard.  The bar has been raised.  

I drove thirty minutes to pick up another bundle the following week, and truth be told, would have driven much further.  They are a gorgeous lot.  The yellow are thick and hearty, but yield the sweetest flavor.  The white and purple, slender and lady like, taste clean and earthy. 

I peeled and cut them in no particular order.  I cut them lengthwise, in half, into thick slices resembling fries.  It didn't matter to me whether or not their shapes were perfect and uniform.  They were so beautiful in fact that I didn't want to discard the shavings.  I sliced up an onion and promptly roasted up another batch.  The onions started to wilt, turning brown and crispy around the edges.  The carrots were transforming in the heat, the purple ones curling up at the ends. With a turning from my spatula, a purple hue bled across the pan, staining everything in its path.  I couldn't help but peer through the oven window in anticipation.  It was worth the drive and worth the wait.  I ate these sweeties right off the pan, scraping up the blackened crispy slivers of onions, leaving not a trace behind.  They are better than candy.  I never lie.

~Roasted Rainbow Carrot Recipe~

large bunch of carrots (6-7 of various varieties)
1 large onion sliced thinly
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and slice carrots into pieces resembling thick fries.  Place the carrots and onions onto a large baking sheet.  Drizzle oil over the top and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Using your hands, combine and coat the carrots with the oil.  Roast in the oven for one hour.  Turn halfway through the cooking process.  Serves 4 as a side.

~To get your hands on Michael's carrots from Winter Moon Roots of Hadley, MA, stop by the Somerville Winter Market at the Armory on Saturdays, or head to the Wayland Winter Market at the Russel Garden Center starting in January.~

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tamari Roasted Seeds

Christmas is just three days away, and in the spirit of giving, I have a gift for all of you.  It's a recipe for what could quite possibly be THE most addictive snack I make, not to mention one of the easiest.  I apologize for keeping it from you for so long.  Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are tossed with tamari and roasted in the oven, resulting in a salty, tangy, nutty and crunchy snack I adore.  I almost always have these three ingredients in my kitchen and it's a snap to whip them up.  They're ideal for soup and salad toppings, and could easily brighten up any number of dishes.  I often top rice, quinoa, and stir-fry plates with these guys.  Store them in a glass jar and I'm positive you'll find endless ways of incorporating them into meals, but only if you can stop yourself from gobbling them all up first.  Decorated simply in a glass jar, they also make a great last minute gift for a foodie friend or hostess.  Later tonight I'll start my wrapping.  These seeds, and a glass of wine, will be by my side.  Wrap, snack, sip, repeat.  Wrap, snack, sip, repeat.  I'm sensing a pattern.  Happy Holidays my greenthyme readers.  Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, food, and laughter. 

~Tamari Roasted Seeds Recipe~

1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp tamari

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a small bowl, mix sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds with tamari until well combined.  Spread in a single layer onto parchment paper.  Bake for 20 minutes, at which point the tamari will have just about evaporated.  I ear on the side of caution and toss them every 5 minutes or so.  Remove from the oven, and transfer seeds to a plate so they do not continue roasting.  Let cool and store in an airtight container.  They will keep for about two weeks (although they never last that long around here).  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Watermelon Radish Salad

I've managed to find a little slice of summer amid the chilliest of December days.  Have you ever seen a watermelon radish?  The exterior doesn't look all that enticing.  It's a pale shade of muted green and could easily be overlooked as a ho-hum turnip.  The magic of this little wonder however, lies on the inside.  Once you slice into this radish, a smashing and vibrant magenta appears, radiating from the inside out, resembling...well, a watermelon.  It's an ugly duckling turned beautiful swan situation, kind of like the summer you got your braces off and figured out how to tame your wild frizzy mane with hair products...or was that just me?

I scored this ugly-duckling-turned swan at a winter farmer's market, the only thing that will detangle me from my oversized blankets early Saturday morning.  While it does involve stepping out into the icy cold weather (nineteen degrees yesterday!), I'm just a hop, skip, and a jump away from blasting my heated car seats, which I'm not ashamed to say, will remain on notch five until April.  I pay no attention to the red splotches that have formed on my lower back en route to the market.  To those who ride their bikes there, you are braver than I.  The market, although indoor, is reminiscent of my summer farmers' market trips, and for a moment, I forget we are in the throes of the cruelest season.  I grab a cup of kombucha, listen to the echoes of a guitar playing overhead, and start perusing the goods.  If the smell of fresh baked bread doesn't warm you from the inside out, I don't know what will.  The thrill of the unexpected find at a farmers' market is a feeling that can't be rivaled by a weekly trip to the supermarket.  There was a great article in yesterday's Boston Globe and another in this month's Edible Boston about the surge of these winter markets, both with local listings if you happen to live in the area.  And even if you don't live in the area, they are popping up in cities across the country.

I chose to create a simple crunchy salad with my watermelon radish.  Despite its appearance, it's not fruity and sweet like it should seem to be.  It is a radish after all, with a lingering peppery kick.  Judging by the table at Winter Moon Farm, there is certainly a fan base following.  Like most of my recipes, I wanted to keep it basic and chose to pair the watermelon radish with a cucumber, the cool guy that would mellow out the radish.  I tossed in a few thinly sliced shallots with olive oil and lemon juice, and there you have it.   Watermelon radishes have such a distinct flavor and taste; I wanted to let them do their own thing.  A little of this goes a long way.  It's great as a starter, served with crackers and cheese or hummus.  It's also great served on top of a buttered crusty baguette.  A goat cheese baguette works too.  If you come across a watermelon radish, I hope you'll give them a chance, and keep this recipe on file for when you do.  In any case, enjoy the photos.  This one is a beauty.  Isn't nature clever? 

~Watermelon Radish Salad Recipe~

1 watermelon radish
1/2 large European cucumber, sliced
1 large shallot, sliced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
few grinds from a pepper mill
sprinkle of sea salt

Cut off the top and bottom of the radish.  If you have a mandolin, use it to make thin slices.  From there, you can cut the slices into wedges.  Otherwise, use a knife to thinly slice it. Combine watermelon radish, cucumber, and shallot in a bowl and drizzle with a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.   Serves 4-6.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Raw Cashew Cheese

I recently found a café north of Boston specializing in raw, vegan cuisine.  There's really nothing else like it around these parts.  It makes me swoon.  I suppose if you live in California, places like these are a dime a dozen.  I've never been to the West Coast, but I envision cafés of this sort filled with sun kissed faces, basking in the land of eternal sunshine.  I also picture people rollerblading up and down boardwalks.  Do people even roller blade anymore?  Probably not since spandex and the Discman went hand in hand.  For obvious reasons, we are better off without the two.   It appears my only frame of reference for my trite perception of California is a few teen movies I'll withhold the names of.  If you live in California, set me straight or send along some restaurant recommendations for my someday trip, because on a more serious note, Yosemite National Park looks breathtaking, and the thought of sipping wine in Sonoma Valley is mighty alluring.  Before sitting down to write this, I blasted the heat and peered outside at a looming gray sky, foreshadowing the rain that will likely follow.  You can see how this might be appealing.  

I have a friend who keeps what she calls 'magical itineraries', printouts and clippings stashed away in folders for trips she dreams of taking.  My approach is a bit less systematic and involves googling last minute airfare to remote islands I've just witnessed on the travel channel.  Surely, this is nonsense.  There are things like vacation time to consider, obligations, ever-dwindling funds; but always a dreamer, I get swept up and carried away.  My husband, (who I will now refer to as Donny from here on out, because we've gotten to know each other and you should be on a first name basis with him too), intentionally avoids the travel channel for this very reason.  Nevertheless, I'm going to get another trip jar going and see where it takes me someday.  But in the meantime, I'm here to tell you about something else I've gotten carried away with; cashew cheese.

The café I mentioned is where I first encountered cashew cheese.  I religiously order a bagel smeared with it each time I visit.  It's light and creamy, without the heavy, dense feeling dairy cream cheese has.  I've been using nuts to make milk, and recently used cashews to make a dairy free cheesecake.  The idea of making cheese with cashews seemed to follow suit with my endeavors as of late.  I've gone nutty.  Join me.  I made a handful of batches recently; the first for the purpose of recreating those bagels, then to make a gorgeous appetizer for no apparent reason.  With no party to go to, no gathering of any kind, I had the plate all to myself.  And for the record, whisper thin slices of raw beets topped with cashew cheese and a sprinkle of thyme is heavenly.  Finally, I made eggplant, stacking baked layers with cashew cheese and covering them in a cascade of tomato sauce.  I hope you'll give this new cashew cheese thing a whirl.  Pun intended.  Now excuse me while I attempt to shake California Girls out of my head and dig the loose change out of my couch to start that trip jar.

~Raw Cashew Cheese Recipe~
Adapted from Real Food Daily via Chocolate and Zucchini

1 1/2 cups raw cashews (be sure they are unsalted and not roasted)
1/4 cup vegetable stock/broth
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp chopped onion
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
3-4 grinds from pepper mill

Soak cashew overnight in enough water to ensure they are covered.  Drain soaked nuts and rinse in fresh water in the morning.  Add cashews to the food processor first, letting it go for a few minutes to really break them down.  Add vegetable stock, olive oil, and lemon juice.  Give it another whirl, scraping down the sides if necessary.  Add chopped onion, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper.  Give one last whirl until all the ingredients are combined.  It should resemble the texture of ricotta cheese.  Transfer to your fridge for a few hours so the flavors have a chance to come together.  I like this best served cold.  Use some of the ideas above as inspiration, or serve it on top of veggie burgers, in wraps and sandwiches, or with crackers or crudités.  Serves 4.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Magical Bean Soup

I hoped to test out holiday cookie recipes, intending to share a healthier version or two.  I envisioned cranberry pistachio biscotti perhaps, coconut snowflakes, gingerbread men lined in a row. But suddenly, December started flying by.  As I glanced at the date on the calendar, I thought, could that be right?  Are we less than two weeks away from Christmas?  My decorations were still sitting in boxes in our basement and we had yet to bring home a tree. Our windowsills were bare, without the usual glow illuminating from the candlestick lights in each window.  I began to feel a pang of jealousy at the beautifully decorated houses I passed each night driving home from work.  Not a single Christmas present bought, not a card mailed, nor a stocking hung by the chimney with care.  How did this happen?  I am by no means a procrastinator.  am the girl who prided herself on completing her fourth grade science fair project the same day it was assigned, puffy painted poster and all.  Sadly, it was definitely not beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.  I was lacking a sense of Christmas urgency. I hadn't felt it, really felt it yet.

Then something wonderful happened, a small gesture that kicked off a Christmas domino effect.  My mother dropped off a beautiful handmade floral arrangement on my front steps.  I promptly began blasting Christmas carols and set out to find a perfect tree; not too big, not too small, and hopefully not requiring tree trunk mutilation.  Snow globes made their way to end tables and pinecones garnished the mantle. Red and green sprinkled the house like fairy dust.  With a pine needle woodsy aroma enveloping our living room later that day, I couldn't help but smile as I unwrapped my favorite childhood ornament; a ceramic ballerina dressed in a silver tutu.  

The real magic happened the following day as my mother and I sat inside the Boston Opera House, watching the real Nutcracker unfold.  Little girls in velvet and satin dresses held their mothers hands waiting in anticipation for the show to start.  I've wanted to see it since I was a little girl myself.  Sparkle, glitter, snow, elaborate costumes, and an endless barrage of was magical.  There is nothing quite like watching a story unfold before a live orchestra.  I felt a bit transformed by the overdose of Christmas cheer.  In my mesmerized state of mind, I sat in my seat giving second thought to my dreams of one day becoming a real ballerina.  I should mention my ballet "career" was short lived and never extended beyond fifth grade.  While I do regret quitting before ever tying on Pointe shoes, I reminded myself that a.) I am just shy of six feet tall, b.) there are men in tights with more beautiful legs than me, and c.) I have stage fright.  A girl can dream.  My mother leaned over as the curtain fell and said, "I think you enjoyed this more at 29 than you would have at 7."  She was right.  She always is.  I walked through the door of my house later that night to a brightly lit Christmas tree and my new nutcracker ornament found its place next to the ballerina.  I finally felt that feeling I was missing.  I caught the Christmas bug.  I knew it would happen.

While I've yet to turn out a single batch of cookies, I have been turning out batches of this bean soup I thought I'd share.  I've gushed over the Nutcracker and left little time for a proper description of it, so bear with me, assuming you're still with me.  I've made consecutive batches of it over the past few weeks and have yet to tire of it.  Its straightforward and unpretentious, but feels healing and nourishing.  It's chock full of a variety of beans, edamame, and tempeh, and simmered in a vegetable tomato broth.  It's warm, hearty, and in my Nutcracker delirium, I'll go off on the deep end and say it's magical.  'Tis the season.

~Magical Bean Soup~

1 cup dried sixteen-mix beans, cooked * (this will yield 2 1/2 cups cooked)
1 cup frozen edamame beans
4 oz. crumbled tempeh
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
6 cups vegetable stock
14.5 oz can or jarred diced tomatoes in their juices
sea salt and pepper to taste

Cook beans if you have not already done so.  See directions below.*

In a large pot, add olive oil over medium heat.  Saute garlic, onion, celery, carrot, oregano and thyme for about five minutes, stirring often, until vegetables start to soften.  Add in vegetable stock and diced tomatoes in their juices and cook for a few minutes more.  Add beans and edamame.  Bring just up to a bubble and then reduce heat, simmering for 15-20 minutes.  Crumble in tempeh with your fingers.  Season with sea salt and pepper to your liking.  Serves 6-8.

*Rinse and sort through your beans.  Soak overnight covered in water.  In the morning, drain beans and place in a large saucepan and cover with water.  I add in a small piece of kombu (dried seaweed), to help tenderize the beans.  Bring the beans to a boil (skim off the foam that immediately forms) and simmer until the beans are cooked through and tender.  The process will typically take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours, even longer.  With the sixteen bean mix, the process takes me about two hours.  Remove from heat, strain, and discard kombu.  I typically cook big batches of beans ahead of time to make soups like this one.  You can keep the beans refrigerated or freeze them in bags too.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Winter Fruit Salad

I wouldn't mind enlisting a shovel for this one.  I can't get enough of it.  A clash between the exotic and everyday, it's an unexpected and interesting take on a summer favorite.  This salad is my attempt at utilizing the last of the season's fruit as we transition from autumn into winter.  After all, strawberries and watermelon just don't seem fitting this time of year.  And there's good reason for that.  A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to start eating seasonally whenever possible.  There's something very Zen about nourishing your body throughout the year.  There's a reason we eat blueberries in the summer and root vegetables in the winter.  Mother nature knows best.  Eating this way keeps me in sync; and eating this salad, keeps me happy.

This stunning festive winter salad is a heartier sort, with crunchy textures and sweet flavors.  It includes a honey crisp apple and yellow shinseiki pear, an Asian variety, that yields a very crisp and mildly sweet bite.  I highly recommend them if you see them in your travels.  The beautiful super fruit of the moment, the pomegranate, although not local, is my exotic ingredient.  The fruit is tossed with plump currants and pecans, a handful of fresh parsley, and light splash of balsamic-honey dressing.  I'm filing it under my breakfast category, but that's not to say it wouldn't make an interesting dessert as well.

The fun, or the challenge, depending on your viewpoint, is extracting the seeds from a pomegranate.  If you accomplish this without your kitchen looking like a crime scene, I'll be impressed.  Mess aside; I've grown to love pomegranates, having first encountered them on a trip in Turkey, where clumps of this softball sized fruit grew plentifully on small trees the size of shrubs.  Reveled for its beauty and recognized as a fertility symbol, I learned of its lengthy history from our tour guide.  She was a glamorous woman about my own age, with dark skin and beautiful shiny hair.  Ironically, she commented on how exotic I looked.  As a pale girl with blue eyes and freckled skin, it was the first time anyone had ever mentioned the word exotic in my presence.  Me, exotic, in Turkey.  I was flattered.  Truth be told, I'm more of the plain, vanilla, apple variety.

Pomegranates make me think of this memory and the days I spent there.  To this day, when I spot those plump beauties glistening in the store, they certainly do strike me as an exotic species sitting next to a bin of apples.  I pulled out my album and reminisced, thumbing through photos of ancient ruins, stunning backdrops of red poppy flowers, and flying storks.  Food will do that to me.  Fond memories triggered of my best friend and I in Ephesus, taking in spectacular views with our mothers.  I enjoyed a few bowls of this fruit salad with a cup of tea, nestled someone between ordinary and exotic.

~Winter Fruit Salad Recipe~

1 pomegranate, seeds extracted
1 large apple, chopped
1 large pear, chopped
3/4 cup pecans
1/3 cup currants
handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

For the dressing:
2 tsp honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

In a large bowl, combine pomegranate seeds, chopped apple, pear, currants, pecans, and parsley.  In a small bowl, whisk together honey, lemon juice, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar to create the dressing.  Pour the dressing over the fruit salad and toss until well combined.  Serve immediately.  You can make it up to a few hours ahead of time, but no more than that.  It's best fresh.  Serves 6.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bark

Tomorrow, I will turn 29 years old.  I am officially entering the last year of my twenties (sigh).  My father is reading this at his desk this morning wondering where the time went.  It wasn't all that long ago we danced together in the living room to Elton John's Tiny Dancer.  I would stand on top of his feet in my slippers, moving whichever way his feet shifted to the music.  It wasn't a serious dance, but a playful one.  The kind of dance where we belted out lyrics and stumbled around furniture.  I called my father at work on my tenth birthday, declaring I would never again be a single digit.  It would be double digits from here on out, until of course, I reached one hundred.  If only we could be so lucky.  This past year, my father walked me down the aisle, my slippers having been replaced with white satin heels, each adorned with three tiny buttons from my grandmother's wedding dress.  This time, to the sounds of a harp.  Twenty-eight was pretty remarkable.

In honor of twenty eight's closure, and twenty-nine's arrival; I decided to make something special just for me.  Only one thing would do.  Chocolate.  I used to have quite an attachment to Ritter Sport, the square bar made of milk chocolate garishly enveloping plump hazelnuts.  I tried it for the first time in Germany and it became my daily snack during a summer trip in college.  Yes, I said snack.  In fact, it was even washed down with a few beers on occasion.  Classy.  When I realized I could find this candy bar back home, it turned into a full-blown obsession.  I found myself driving out of my way to the few specialty stores that carried it, stocking up my emergency stash like a squirrel on the brink of winter.  I hid it in my nightstand drawer, which was odd.  No one was searching for it.  Chocolate paranoia.  I get this from my grandmother.  She stores boxes of truffles under her bed.  Ironically, no one is looking for her chocolate either.

I'd like to think my diet has changed for the better since my teenage years.  And while I no longer make a meal out of chocolate and beer, I'll still be indulging in a healthier...make that classier, version.  Dark chocolate.  Red wine perhaps.  It's so 29.  I'm just oozing with sophistication.  I've developed a deep love, or might I say passion, for dark chocolate.  If you are a milk chocolate person, give dark chocolate a try.  Its potent antioxidants are an added bonus, as is the euphoria that ensues.  I believe it's referred to as 'mood enhancing.'  I refer to it as 'necessary.'  

A no-bake dark chocolate bark studded with whole hazelnuts that comes together in a matter of minutes.  It takes only three ingredients, and clean up is a breeze.  Perfect.  Nobody wants to spend a birthday in the kitchen.  I'd like to think my eighteen-year-old self would also approve of this concoction.  I think it goes without saying that you could take this in any direction you choose.  Pick your favorite nuts, dried fruit, ginger, or orange zest.  Design it any way you like, but don't forget the sea salt.  Let it cool in the fridge and then break it apart.  It's that easy.  Don't worry about how your pieces break.  It's meant to look rustic and homemade.  You can't mess it up.  I suspect twenty-nine will be just as sweet as twenty-eight.  Who knows what's in store for this next year, but in the meantime, I'll be engrossed in dark chocolate bark, trying not to over think it.  Here's to twenty-nine.  

~Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bark~
Adapted from Whole Living, November

2 (3.5 oz) 70% dark chocolate bars, broken apart or chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, whole or roughly chopped
sprinkle of coarse sea salt

Line a baking sheet pan with parchment paper.  Melt chocolate in a double-boiler, or as I did with a bowl placed over a pan of boiling water.  Pour the melted chocolate onto the sheet pan.  Use a spatula to spread into a thin, rectangular shape.  Sprinkle with hazelnuts and sea salt.  Place the sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until it has hardened.  Use your hands to break the bark into rough pieces, any size you like.  These would make a nice hostess or holiday gift.  Bag a few pieces of bark and tie them off with bows.