Monday, August 27, 2012

Chocolate 'Milk'shake

It's been quite some time since I posted anything chocolate related, and I don't want to give off the impression that I don't get my chocolate fix on, because I do.  Here's how I've been doing it lately.  Meet the updated chocolate 'milk'shake, which doesn't include milk at all, or ice cream, or sugary syrup for that matter.  It does however; make use of raw cacao, which contains both iron and magnesium.  If you can imagine drinking a rich and dark chocolaty fudgsicle (though much less sweet), you'd be on track.  It's a silky smooth decadent shake without the cloyingly thick factor traditional milkshakes have.  It may be a little more intense on the chocolate front than what you're used to.  So if you find the cacao too bitter, as some people do with raw or dark chocolate, you could certainly sweeten it with honey or agave if the sweetness of the banana isn't quite enough for you.  But me?  I think it's heavenly.  So go on.  Get your chocolate fix on.

~Chocolate 'Milk'shake Recipe~

1 frozen banana
1 1/4 cup almond milk
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp ground flaxseed
few ice cubes

Combine frozen banana, almond milk, raw cacao, flaxseed, and ice cubes in blender.  Let the blender go until all the ice is processed and the shake is smooth.  Use 'milkshake' button if your blender has one.  Pour into a glass.  Serves 1.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Baked Potato Plate

Every weekday throughout my entire childhood, my mother wrapped four baked potatoes in tinfoil.  She slid them in the oven while keeping one eye on Oprah, who beamed from the thirteen inch TV that sat in the corner of our kitchen.  I grew up with Oprah and I grew up with potatoes.  Mind you, this was pre 'live your best life' mantra, pre favorite things, pre Dr. Oz, and pre car giveaways.  This was an Oprah of oversized hair and multi toned eyeshadow.  My mother must have been paying close attention because I watched the way she brushed her own eyelids with powder blue eye shadow all the way up to her eyebrows.  But I also watched the way she made our baked potatoes.  

Before I knew anything about cooking, I always trusted I could make a baked potato without fail.  I'd seen it done so many times before.  Wash, scrub, wrap, and poke.  This came in handy during my college years.  The first time I cooked baked potatoes in my tiny apartment kitchen I thought, I'M COOKING.  And I'm cooking BY MYSELF.  It was a start.  It was a solid base.  Potatoes gave me that dose of comfort I was craving.  They brought me back to my mother's kitchen, a place I longed for while away for any length of time.  Unwrapping the baked potato from its foil always felt right, the steam hitting me in the face.  It had the ability to wrap me up like a warm blanket. 

I consider baked potatoes to be sturdy vehicles for toppings.  We're talking butter and salt first and foremost and from there, anything goes.  In this version, I've done kidney beans, tomato, scallions, and Greek yogurt.  I always try to add some protein into the mix.  I make versions with adzuki beans, cheddar cheese, guacamole, and couscous.  And versions with black beans, red onions, and salsa.  Oh... and versions with Parmesan cheese and spinach.  I could go on and on here.  I use up whatever is lingering around in my fridge and pantry.  I start by smashing the baked potato, or two, on my plate.  I've never been very good at the jacket style presentation, where you push the flesh to the top and create a pocket.  I usually burn my fingertips, so I gave up on that years ago.  I prefer the smash and make a mountain method.  And whatever you do, don't forget to eat the crispy skin.  A baked potato plate is a fine stick to your ribs lunch.  It's one I turn to quite often these days, probably because the bottom drawer in my fridge is overflowing with all types of potato varieties at the moment.  And one can only handle so much potato salad in the summer.

~Baked Potato Plate Recipe~

4 small, or 2 large sized potatoes
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2-3 green onions, snipped
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash, scrub, and dry potatoes.  Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, rolling the potato to distribute it along its skin.  Sprinkle each potato with sea salt and wrap in aluminum foil.  Poke a few holes in each potato.  Cook for about 1 hour, to 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on the size of your potato.

Warm beans in a saucepan over medium heat.  Remove potatoes from the oven.  Divide among two plates.  Cut down the center of each potato and use the back of a fork to mash it flat.  Add a small amount of butter and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste.  Divide the beans among the potatoes on the two plates.  Layer on chopped tomatoes and 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt on top of the beans and sprinkle with green onions.  Serves 2.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Baked Apricots

I've had my fill of blueberries and I've eaten my weight in raspberries.  In fact, the last time I went raspberry picking, I got stung by a bee on my foot.  Maybe this was the universe's way of saying enough's enough.  I think I was being punished for my greed.  Donny told me I screamed like I was starring in a horror movie, and this was after he managed to pull the stinger out with his hands.  I dropped my pint of raspberries, mumbled something about wishing we had baking soda, and cursed my strappy-toed sandals for likely attempting to step on that bee in the first place.  The dropped raspberries were recovered and that was the end of this season's berry picking.

Post berries, I came home with a brown bag of apricots.  This was about a week ago now, when I was in a dismal space waiting for the peaches to ripen among the trees.  I think it was the color of the apricots that drew me in because I never buy fresh apricots.  I usually opt for the dried snacking kind because I know how fickle, mealy, and lackluster apricots can be.  But I also know how much apricots like the oven.

So I buttered those puppies up and into the oven they went.

The heat has the ability to transform even the most hard, bland apricots into a sweet delectable treat.  

I topped them with full fat Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey.  The following day, I reheated the rest and ate them with scoops of vanilla coconut ice cream.  Both did the trick.  I've since moved onto peaches, and if you haven't yet experienced a juicy peach dribbling down your chin, now is the time.  But for now, here's the best way I know how to handle those apricots, should you find yourself in their company.

~Baked Apricots Recipe~

Slice apricots open and remove the pits.  Place them in a baking dish, cut side up.  Add a small pat of butter inside each hole.  You can also drizzle some honey on them at this point if you'd like to go a little sweeter, or if your apricots are particularly bland.  Bake at 325 for 25 minutes.  Serve warm with pillows of Greek yogurt and honey or ice cream.  Serve 2 halves per person. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Easiest Black Bean Salad

I like bags of dried beans.  They're cheap and easy to store.  Sure, you have to soak them and all that business, but I quite enjoy the process.  However, I've been ignoring those bags this summer, replacing them with cans.  Maybe it's the heat.  We'll get acquainted again in the fall, those bags and I, when tending to them feels right.  For now I want the lazy man's route.  Grabbing a can of beans is a good place to start.  And knowing how to transform a can of beans into a substantial lunch is even better.  I consider it an important life skill.  I'm not afraid of popping open a can every now and then, especially when I can get lunch on the table in less than ten minutes.   

The ingredients in this salad are some of my favorite.  There's tomato, avocado, cilantro and green onion.  I've been getting some big ripe beauties in my CSA and I like to show them off alongside the beans.  I've only dressed it with lemon juice, no oil, to keep things light and fresh.  It feels festive.  It's a celebration of an effortless meal, the essence of summertime cooking.  To make more of a meal out of the black bean salad, serve it alongside quinoa or brown rice if you don't mind turning on your stove.  With all that time I saved, I can get back to more important matters like sitting on our outdoor swing and getting lost in a good book.  I'm not ashamed of my priorities at the moment, or for that matter, opening a can of beans.  Expect to see some more lazy recipes around here real soon.

~Easiest Black Bean Salad Recipe~

1 can black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 very large tomato, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
handful of cilantro, chopped
juice of 2 lemons, or to taste
salt to taste  

Add black beans, tomato, avocado, scallions, and cilantro to a large bowl.  Mix until combined.  Squeeze lemon juice over top and add in salt.  Toss again and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Serves 4.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Quick Homemade Pickles

I made a jar of pickles for my brother, an individual who devours salt and vinegar potato chips and chases them with pickle juice.  I never understood this.  I also never understood the need to purchase barrels of neon cheese balls.  He assures me they're made with real cheese.  I'm skeptical.  I'm confident his stomach is made of lead or else he's on the fast track to an ulcer.  Regardless, he seems unaffected by this extreme daily dose of vinegar, sodium, and acid.  I know he's waiting for a batch of these, green tomatoes so vinegary, they kick you right in the mouth.  I like a vinegar punch with my green tomatoes too, but wanted to try a slightly sweeter version.  I was looking for everyday pickles, the kind meant for stuffing inside sandwiches and nibbling straight from the jar.  I came across a recipe for Danish cucumbers while reading Robin Mather's The Feast Nearby.  

The Feast Nearby is an account of one woman's quest to eat local and seasonal food, preparing only home cooked meals, all on forty dollars a week.  Hard times brought her to these circumstances.  Mather was a food journalist at the Chicago Times who lost her job the same week her husband asked for a divorce.  She returned to her roots in Michigan, to a modest lake house, and found strength in the face of challenge.  She stretched the idea of having a well- stocked pantry to a whole new level, canning, preserving, dehydrating, freezing, you name it.  She even keeps chickens for eggs.  The story is both humorous and insightful and made me take a closer look at how I could stretch my own budget.   

When I drove by a farm stand over the weekend, I found pickling cucumbers and remembered her recipe I'd bookmarked the previous day.  We had some cucumber stragglers from our pots, misfits that could find a home in the batch.  I've adjusted Mather's recipe just a smidgen.  The brine is made with apple cider vinegar, water, natural sugar, and pepper.  They're quite easy and quick to whip up.  Let them hang out in your fridge and shake them up once in a while.  The sweetness mellows out over time and a nice vinegary twinge surfaces.  I thought they reached their peak by day five.  My brother thought so too.  Inspired by Mather's story, I also picked this book up at my library and currently have sauerkraut fermenting in my basement.  Somehow this might not surprise you.  This is a first for me.  Let's hope I don't poison myself.  Fingers crossed. 

~Quick Homemade Pickles Recipe~
Adapted from Robin Mather

8-10 small pickling cucumbers
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
few onion slices
1 mason jar

Cut cucumbers into very thin slices.  Stuff into a mason jar, along with onion slices until they reach the top, right before the neck of the jar.  Combine apple cider vinegar, water, and sugar in a small bowl.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Add in pepper.  Pour liquid over the pickles.  Give the jar a good shake and place in the fridge.  Pickles can be eaten in a few hours.  However, they are much better in about three days, even better by day five.  Makes one jar.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Poached Eggs Over Tattie Scones

Hi friends.  We're going to get right down to business today.  We need to talk about this breakfast, a breakfast so superb it's replaced this old favorite as the current reigning champion.  I suggest making it on a Sunday.  You'll want to slow down and savor it.  It's a breakfast consisting of farm fresh poached eggs cascading over tattie scones as they're called in Scotland, or potato scones.  They're like a potato pancake if you will, creamy, yet dense, with a crispy exterior, dutifully sopping up the oozing, yellow yolk.  It's homey comfort food, requiring only a little know how and minimal ingredients.

I was introduced to tattie scones at a Bed and Breakfast in Edinburgh, called 23 Mayfield, where I had a memorable, knock-your-socks-off, kind of breakfast.  It was easily the best I had during the trip.  I had a vegetarian version of a full Scottish breakfast, including poached eggs over tattie scones, vegetarian haggis, and grilled tomatoes with thyme.  One pot of tea down, with my belly gloriously full, I asked the proprietor Ross about his scones.  He told me they're made from a simple dough of mashed potatoes, butter, flour, and salt.  The dough gets rolled out into thin pancakes, then cut into triangles and pan-fried.  Traditionally, I believe it's dry fried, but I like to fry mine in a little olive oil.  He mentioned they could be formed into circles or any shape you like, really.  I would imagine you could use a cookie cutter if you wanted to get creative.

I started tinkering with a tattie scone recipe as soon as I got home, playing around with the consistency of the dough, getting the right ratio of mashed potato to flour.  It's dough you really get a feel for, not unlike making homemade pasta.  Your hands tell you when it feels right.  Fortunately, it's very forgivable and pliable dough.  I'm confident you can replicate it.  As far as the preparation goes, I choose to boil my potatoes the night before.  Once cooked and drained, I mash them with a potato masher and set them aside to cool.  It's one less step to do in the morning.  With the coffee pot dribbling and the teakettle hissing, I tackle the tattie scones while Donny tackles the poached eggs.  

I'm a sucker for poached eggs and my husband makes the absolute best.  I would take his poached eggs over chocolates or flowers any day.  A perfect poached egg easily woos me.  When I asked him if he had any egg poaching secrets he told me with confidence, "I just cook them."  But I've been watching him over the years and he doesn't just cook them, there's a technique involved.  I've included some notes for you in the recipe down below.  After breakfast, I keep telling myself I should save any leftover scones for the following morning, but I inevitably find myself unwrapping them from their tinfoil, eating them straight from the fridge later in the day.  I could happily go on eating tattie scones for eternity, or at least most Sunday mornings in the near foreseeable future.  

~This just so happens to be my 100th post!  Thank you for following along and bringing your appetite.  It's been a great journey so far.~

~Poached Eggs Over Tattie Scones Recipe~

Potato Scones:
2 cups mashed potatoes, cooled to room temperature
3 tbsp melted butter
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup all purpose, unbleached flour
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for frying

In a large bowl, add butter and sea salt to mashed potatoes.  Use the back of a fork to incorporate, getting any remaining lumps out of the mixture.  Slowly add in flour, using the back of the fork, mixing as you go, until all the flour as been incorporated.  At this point, you can also use your hands.

With floured hands, shape mixture into a large ball.  Divide into two equal portions, yielding two smaller balls of dough.  Turn the first ball onto a well-floured work surface.  Roll the dough with a floured rolling pin into a flat pancake, 1/4" thick.  Cut the dough into 4 equal portions with a knife, making a cross, yielding four triangles.  

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat with a little extra virgin olive oil.  I like to brush a little of the olive oil right onto the pan.  You don't want too much or it will saturate your scones.  Fry on each side for about 3 minutes until dark and golden brown.  Repeat with the second dough.  Makes 8 scones. 

Poached Eggs:
8 organic/farm fresh eggs
fresh snipped chives, sea salt, and pepper for serving

Bring water in a medium saucepan almost up to a boil.  Create a whirlpool by stirring the water.  If your water has started boiling too hard, dial it back a bit.  Crack each egg, one at a time into a small bowl or ramekin.  Slide the egg gently from the bowl into the whirlpool.  Don't mess with it.  Just breathe.  The egg will set itself up but still remain a little wobbly.  Allow to cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until they're the consistency you like.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Continue until all of your eggs are cooked.  Serve each egg on top of a tattie scone.  Serves 4 (2 eggs and 2 scones per person).