Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle

Winter Solstice is always exciting in our beautiful corner of the Northwest because it means the days will start getting a little longer again. Leaving for work in the dark and then coming home in the dark (especially when it’s only 4pm!) always leaves me a little unsettled, so I get excited when I know that we are moving in the direction of more daylight!

When I first started thinking about what recipe I would like to demo today all I could think of was darkness – dark chocolate pudding, dark chocolate brownies, a delicious chocolate truffle Bûche de Noël (one of my FAVORITE recipes, and naturally gluten-free). After talking with my coworker Marc, I decided I was being too gloomy, and he suggested making a non-peanut brittle. We pow-wowed for a few minutes, and decided that a local hazelnut and cranberry brittle would be a delicious experiment to try.

I have never made brittle before, and it is very easy as long and you prepare all of your ingredients ahead of time (or mise en place for those of you into cooking terminology). I looked at a few recipes for guidance and got started. The brittle came together pretty quickly – I was done and ready for it to start cooling in about 20 minutes. You will need a candy thermometer, but that is the only special equipment you will need to make this yummy candy.

There are a couple of things I would like to stress about this recipe – make sure you have all your ingredients measured out and have a sink full of HOT water ready for your cooking implements when you are done making the candy – both of these things will make this brittle recipe easy and quick!

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle © Sassy Sampler 2012

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle © Sassy Sampler 2012

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle

Recipe is a collaboration between the Sassy Sampler and Marc Westenberger (a cashier at our Cordata store and all-around great guy)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 c organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c packed organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c organic light corn syrup
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 c raw hazelnuts (I recommend the local hazelnuts from Holmquist Orchard)
  • 1/2 c dried organic cranberries
  • 2 T unsalted organic butter, softened
  • 1 t baking soda

Special Equipment:
Candy thermometer

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mise en place (“everything in place”)—roughly chop the hazelnuts and measure out all ingredients.  Gather them around your stove for an easy reach, as the end of the recipe comes together very quickly and you won’t have time to measure or chop anything.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil and grease it with butter.  Place baking sheet in a warm oven (170°-200°F).
  3. In a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat, combine sugars, corn syrup, sea salt, and water.
  4. While stirring with a rubber spatula, bring to a boil and continue to stir until sugar is dissolved (it will suddenly start to foam up).  Immediately add the hazelnuts and stir continuously until the temperature reaches 300°F.
  5. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the butter, baking soda, and cranberries.  Grab your cookie sheet out of the oven (it’s hot, wear gloves).
  6. Pour immediately onto the baking sheet as evenly as possible (depending on how thick your mixture is—try to pour it in a circle starting at the center) – ideally, it is best if you don’t have to mess with it too much—you can use a couple forks to gently spread it into an even layer on your cookie sheet.
  7. Cool completely, and snap into pieces.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

I recommend having a big pot of boiling water or a sink full of really hot soapy water ready to put all your cooking instruments into after you are done making the brittle—if you don’t wash your dishes RIGHT AWAY then anything left in the saucepan will harden in the blink of an eye and become next to impossible to clean.

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle PDF

Homemade Almond Milk

Almonds are one of the healthiest “nuts” you can eat (they are related to the peach, and are technically considered a seed). They are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as protein, and they also contain amino acids, manganese, and Vitamin E.   The US is the world’s leading almond grower, and essentially 100% of those almonds are grown in California.

Commercial versions of almond milk contain preservatives (which I feel affect the flavor), although they also tend to be fortified with calcium and Vitamin D which is a plus.  The biggest downside, however, is the sugar that is added to them.  Keeping this in mind, I set out to create a simple almond milk recipe that didn’t require any special equipment and didn’t have any added refined sugar.  After looking at dozen different recipes/methods, I decided to get into the kitchen and get working!

I started by soaking the almonds overnight in the fridge, covered.  This is an important part of the process because the soaking really brings out the milky-ness quality of the almonds and also makes them more digestible, resulting in better absorption of nutrients.  Another great benefit of soaking almonds (or any nut) is that it removes the tannin from the skin, which gives nuts their bitter flavor.

The next morning, I halved and pitted some Medjool dates to use as a sugar alternative, and also set them to soaking (so your blender is able to process them).  Once those had soaked for about 45 minutes, I got out the blender and started processing – first a heaping cup of soaked almonds went in, then 2 cups of water.  It only took a minute or two for the almonds to grind down, and then I added the dates (tasting the concoction after every two dates to see how the sweetness was progressing).  I decided that five was the perfect sweetness – not so sweet that it was overpowering but sweet enough to compliment the amazing almond flavor.  You can choose to omit the dates entirely, or add up to seven if you really like the sweetness of commercial almond milk.  The nice thing about using dates as the sweetener is that they are also high in fiber and are easily digested.  I added the last two cups of water, plus a pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt (my favorite) and I was ready to strain my milk.

You can strain the milk in a number of different ways, or if you are going to use the almond milk strictly in smoothies, then you can choose to omit this step (leaving the almond pulp in the milk gives you the full benefits of the almonds and is protein rich).  I chose to use a jelly straining bag, as it fit perfectly over the opening of my pitcher and has a super fine weave so I knew that my milk would be very smooth.  You can also strain the milk using a nut milk bag or a fine mesh metal strainer (I would suggest putting a few layers of cheesecloth in the strainer – that way as you finish you can gather up the corners and squeeze the last of the milk out of the pulp that is left over.  The almond/date pulp that you are left with can be used in many ways, including adding a bit to your morning oatmeal, adding it to smoothies, or dehydrating it and using it as a flour alternative.

Success – for about $1.33 a serving I had four cups of the most delicious organic and fresh non-dairy milk I have ever tasted!

Homemade Almond Milk © Sassy Sampler 2012

Homemade Almond Milk © Sassy Sampler 2012

Homemade Almond Milk

Recipe by Sassy Sampler

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c raw, organic almonds
  • 4 c filtered or spring water (cold)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3-7 fresh Medjool dates  (optional, for sweetness), split in half and pit removed, soaked for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours
  • Vanilla bean, cut in half and one side scraped and reserved (optional) OR 1/2 t pure vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Soak almonds in fresh water for at least six hours or overnight (if you choose to soak overnight, then cover and refrigerate the almonds).
  2. Drain and rinse soaked almonds.
  3. Using a blender or Vitamix, add almonds to blender with 2 cups of water.  Blend until it is relatively smooth (all the noticeable chunks are gone).  Add the sea salt.
  4. Add dates and blend to fully combine—3 dates will be slightly sweet and 7 dates will be similar to store-bought almond milk sweetness.
  5. Add remaining 2 cups of water and blend to combine (depending on the size of your blender, you may need to hand mix in the remainder of the water).
  6. Add vanilla bean seeds or extract if using and blend to combine.
  7. Strain mixture into a large bowl or pitcher, either using a metal fine-gauge strainer set over the bowl or a nut milk bag/jelly strainer bag.  If using a strainer, I recommend adding a square of folded cheesecloth and straining through that—you can gather up the corners and squeeze out all the milk much more quickly than using just a strainer.
  8. If using a strainer and no cheesecloth, use the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to gently push the milk through the strainer (don’t push down too hard or you will get some of the pulp in the milk).
  9. Refrigerate for up to 4 days in a covered container.  Because this is a raw drink, there may be separation after it sits—just mix and enjoy!

Almond Milk PDF

You can use the leftover pulp in many ways:

  • Put it in a dehydrator and you will get almond flour
  • Mix a tablespoon or two into your oatmeal/hot cereal.
  • Mix with a little honey or agave and spread it thin on a baking sheet—bake at 350°F until crunchy.
  • Add to smoothies
  • Check out Pinterest for more almond pulp ideas!

Almond milk is a tasty way to add heart-healthy fats to your diet!

Your leftover dates can be used for future batches of almond milk, or can be made into a yummy “caramel” dip…or you can just eat them!  I recommend pitting them and then putting a walnut in the center (great suggestion for an appetizer from a customer).

Flourless Chocolate Cookies, and a Bellingham Gluten-free Restaurant Guide

Chantel holding a plate of yummy chocolate cookies made with Dagoba organic and fairly traded cocoa powder.

Chantel holding a plate of yummy chocolate cookies made with Dagoba organic and fairly traded cocoa powder.

We’ve been busy over the last year redesigning our website, and one of the new things we are doing is picking a staff favorite item to feature on the site as well as in our print ads – for December, long-time staff member Chantel was selected (who is our Membership Coordinator and also works on the Front End at our Downtown store).  She loves to cook and bake, and one of her favorite recipes features her staff pick of the month – Dagoba Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Powder.  We thought it would be fun to tie that into the Sassy Sampler blog this month, so the recipe was an easy pick since Chantel had already chosen it!

These flourless chocolate cookies are scrumptious – they come together very quickly and contain no added fats (although plenty of sugar, so don’t get too excited about the basically fat-free status!).  They taste like a meringue brownie – they are a delicate cookie that is packed with chocolate flavor and only contain a few ingredients.  They are similar to the Triple Chocolate Cookies that I have blogged about before, but these are much easier to make and don’t contain any flour at all.  Customers loved their flavor, and also loved their simplicity…and the fact that while they contain egg whites, you don’t have to whip them for this recipe!

One other new addition (to my blog) is that I have created a list of restaurants in town that offer gluten-free selections/substitutions.  I urge anyone to comment on them and to offer suggestions to add to the list – you can either email me (address is located on the bottom of the About page) or use the form – most of the restaurants listed are ones that myself or my coworkers have personally eaten at so it is by no means a comprehensive list.  You can find the PDF document (and places to comment) here.

Flourless Chocolate Cookies © Sassy Sampler 2012

Flourless Chocolate Cookies © Sassy Sampler 2012

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

adapted from www.kumquatblog.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 c organic powdered sugar
  • 2/3 c organic cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 4 large organic egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 t organic vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4—1 1/2  c organic semi-sweet chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (and sprayed lightly with oil) or Silpat mats.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and sea salt.
  4. Stir in the egg whites and vanilla until the batter is well combined (if the batter seems too thin you can add more powdered sugar until it reaches school glue consistency).
  5. Spoon thick fudgy batter onto cookie sheets in 12 small, evenly spaced mounds (about 1 T).  Chill for 5 minutes or so to keep them from spreading when they bake.  Refrigerate remaining batter.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked.
  7. Slide the parchment onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before removing from the sheet.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 with remaining batter.

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to three days and taste just like brownies!

There are many variations of this recipe on the web—you can use anywhere from 2-4 eggs (depending on how thick you want the batter—I definitely think the thicker the better) and some recipes use as much as 2 cups of chocolate chips.  Nuts can be added to these cookies as well—hazelnuts, walnuts, or pecans would be a great choice.

Flourless Chocolate Cookies PDF

1/3/13 – Since posting this recipe I’ve made a batch using Dutch processed cocoa powder.  They turn out much darker (in color) and have a slightly richer chocolate flavor – give it a try if that is your preference!

I just have to mention that when I made the cookies, three of my four eggs had double yolks!!!  Just thought that was weird...

I just have to mention that when I made the cookies, three of my four eggs had double yolks!!! Just thought that was weird…

Apple Coffee Cake (with gluten-free option)

Autumn is in full force now, and that only means one thing to me – the crispy and juicy farmer-direct honeycrisp apples that we get every fall from the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-op.  As I do every fall, I had to pick a recipe that showcased these delicious apples.

I looked around for an apple bar recipe that I thought sounded good*, but couldn’t find anything that struck my fancy.  I was feeling kind of daring, so I decided to just wing it and create a recipe of my own.  I love coffee cake, and haven’t had much opportunity to eat it since becoming gluten intolerant, so I thought that would be fun to try.  I wanted my cake to be moist and have a very distinct apple flavor without being too sweet, and I feel that I achieved that with this recipe.

With great trepidation I removed the cake from the oven and could hardly wait to taste it because it smelled so good!  I let it sit for about 20 minutes and then just couldn’t wait any longer…the cake turned out moist and had that bold apple flavor I was looking for.  Success!  Customers and staff that tried it loved it, and I handed out many more recipes to shoppers than I usually do (which is one of the ways I measure the success of a recipe demo).

This is a very easy recipe, especially if you have an apple parer/corer/slicer (which if you don’t and you love apples, you should get one – they are usually pretty easy to find at garage sales, although you can buy them new as well!).  I didn’t add any nuts to the one I made for sampling in the Co-op, but I bet some of the Holmquist Orchards locally grown roasted hazelnuts would be excellent in this recipe, either in the batter or in the streusel topping.

photo of apple coffee cake

Apple Coffee Cake © 2012 Sassy Sampler

Sassy Sampler Apple Coffee Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 c butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 2 large honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 c chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2 c flour (all-purpose wheat or gluten-free blend)
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t tapioca granules

Streusel topping

  • 1 c flour (gluten-free blend or all-purpose)
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 c finely chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 c cold butter, cut into 1/4” squares

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9”x13” baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter, sugars, vanilla, and the eggs until fluffy. Stir in applesauce.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sea salt, baking powder and soda, and cinnamon.
  4. Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture until just blended. Fold in the apples and nuts (if using).
  5. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking dish.
  6. Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top.
  7. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack, and then slice into 24 slices. Cover tightly once they are completely cooled.

They will keep at room temperature in an air-tight container for several days, or you can refrigerate them for up to a week.

Streusel Topping Instructions:

  1. Combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle butter chunks over mixture and use either a fork or a pastry knife to “cut” butter into flour mixture until it is completely worked in. Mix in nuts, if using.

Apple Coffee Cake PDF

* I’m going to try making the Peach Almond Bars with the honeycrisp apples too, because I think they will be super yummy!

Provender Alliance conference and Co-op Month

I’ve had a busy last month or so, and haven’t been able to demo any recipes for the last five weeks, so I thought I’d update you on what’s been going on with me and with our co-op!

Smoke plume from the Hood River fire in September. © Melissa Elkins 2012

The Co-op is a dedicated member of the Provender Alliance, a group of natural food distributors, manufacturers, co-ops, and natural food stores in the Western Corridor (WA, OR, CA, ID, and MT) interested in networking, education, and inspiring their communities.  I was asked to serve as the Conference Kitchen Liaison for this year’s annual conference (held Sept 26th – 28th in Hood River, OR) and it was a fantastic experience.  The Best Western Hood River Inn hosted us, and it was my job to secure the donations of ingredients that their talented Chef and kitchen staff turned into delicious meals for conference attendees.  The hotel is unique in that they allow us to create the menu with them and source our own ingredients, and they were able to accommodate meals for just about everyone by offering gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options at every meal.

There was a forest fire 2 miles from the hotel during the conference – this is the view of the smoky haze from outside my room! The view is of the Columbia River, with WA on the left and OR on the right. © Melissa Elkins 2012

While my main focus was the food, I did get to attend some of the fantastic workshops offered as well as attend the amazing (and slightly scary – check out the links to see what I mean!) keynote addresses given by Maude Barlow from Food and Water Watch (if you drink water, you should watch her in the movie FLOW, which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it) and Matthew Dillon of Seed Matters.  Both of these individuals are doing incredible work in raising awareness and fighting for two vital issues that impact our entire planet and should be on the forefront of everyone’s minds – access to fresh, clean water and access to organic seeds.

Happy customers! © Community Food Co-op 2012

On another note, October 1st marked the start of National Co-op Month (as well as Non-GMO month, and Organic Harvest Month), and we always have fun things going on to celebrate – unfortunately I was on a two-week vacation so I didn’t get to be here for the festivities.  We held two owner appreciation days earlier this month (one at each store) where we had food demos, giveaways, and a raffle for great prizes.  Both were a great success, and are a fun way for us to say thank you to all of our owners.

© Community Food Co-op 2012

We also co-sponsored showings of In Organic We Trust at the Pickford Film Center on October 22nd and Shift Change (also at the Pickford, and the filmmakers will be on hand to answer questions after the showing) coming up on November 3rd.  We held a plant pot collection day as well, where customers brought in their used pots to be recycled/reused by a local farm (see the photo on our Facebook page).  All in all, we’ve had a great month appreciating staff and owners for all that they enable us to do for our community.

Wynne Marks, Cordata Produce Manager, sampling local apples for customers during Owner Appreciation Day this month. © Community Food Co-op 2012

Next week I’ll be back to blogging about recipes…stay tuned!

Green Bean and Tomato Salad; Eat Local Month

September 1st was the kick-off for Sustainable Connections annual Eat Local Month.  The first event was a BBQ featuring local grass-fed beef burgers from Matheson Farm and locally grown portabella mushroom burgers, held at the Downtown Co-op and we have another BBQ scheduled for tomorrow at the Cordata Co-op from 11am-2pm featuring both vegetarian and beef kabobs.   There will also be live music from Kuungana marimba band and lots of other delicious local food.  There are many other events scheduled this month, including the annual Whatcom Harvest Dinner, held this year at Bellewood Acres farm and store.  Check out Sustainable Connections website for more information on upcoming Eat Local events happening this month.

Mama Jay and some happy customers

Me at my demo station inside the Cordata Co-op

Today at the Cordata Co-op, KAFE 104.1 came to promote Eat Local Month.  We asked local BBQ sauce guru Mama Jay to come to sample her delicious sauce with local pork, and we featured a local lunch special (a meatball sandwich with Breadfarm hoagies and Matheson Farm beef, plus an Italian-style coleslaw made with local ingredients).  A few of us gave interviews to be aired as part of the promotion, and in honor of the festivities I decided to make a salad using as much local produce as possible.  It didn’t turn out to be too hard, since we have over 50 local produce items in stock right now!  I settled on Green Bean and Tomato salad, a recipe I found on Epicurious via Yummly.

Scotty from KAFE 104.1 and me, hamming it up for the camera.

The salad came out fresh and delicious – I used organic green beans from Moondance Farm, organic cherry tomatoes from Spring Frog Farm, organic slicing tomatoes and organic Italian parsley from the Growing Garden, and organic hard necked white garlic from Rabbit Fields Farm.  It’s pretty simple to make – just blanch the green beans (and plunge them in ice water to stop the cooking process), chop your tomatoes, mix up the herb dressing and toss.  Everyone who sampled the salad really loved it, even a couple picky kids.  The green beans stay crisp and the two kinds of tomatoes lend to the overall flavor.  I don’t usually put oregano in my balsamic dressings, but this tasted great so I will remember it in the future.  Enjoy!

Green Bean and Tomato Salad © Sassy Sampler 2012

Green Bean and Tomato Salad

Serves 8; adapted from http://www.epicurious.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 # green beans, snapped (or cut) into 2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 c tomato, chopped and seeded
  • 1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1/4 c Italian parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the green beans  until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
  2. Drain beans, and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool.  Drain again, and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes to the bowl.
  4. In a measuring cup, mix the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and oregano.
  5. Pour dressing over salad and mix.  Add the cherry tomatoes and parsley as garnish.  Season with salt and pepper.

Green Bean and Tomato Salad PDF

Peach Almond Bars (gluten-free and vegan options)

August heralds the arrival of sweet, tree-ripened, farmer direct peaches from the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative at the Co-op, and they are delicious once again this year.  These are the best peaches money can buy because not only are they organic, but they are picked and delivered by the farmer’s co-op directly to our co-ops, so at no time are they sitting in some warehouse waiting to be delivered to the consumer.  I knew I wanted to feature them this week, and I found the perfect recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s Best Summer Desserts edition.

Every recipe I have ever made from Cook’s Illustrated or America’s Test Kitchen (one of the best shows on PBS, it you ask me!) has turned out fantastic, and they don’t disappoint with their recipe for Peach Bars.  I’ll note that both of their websites have limited free content, but I gladly pay the subscription fee because they don’t allow advertising in their magazines or their websites. Their Peach Bar recipe was easily adapted to being gluten-free (it should turn out pretty identical whether you make it with all-purpose flour or a gluten-free flour blend), and if you replace the butter with margarine or coconut oil you can make a vegan version as well.

This was a simple recipe because the bulk of the work is done by the food processor – you don’t even have to carefully cut the peaches.  I used a couple large and juicy white peaches and one yellow peach, as well as Nature’s Hollow Peach Preserves for a little extra peachy kick.  These bars aren’t overly sweet, and I really wish I could have taken photos of people trying them to illustrate how yummy they are – they don’t look very exciting on the plate, but the look of surprise on people’s faces once they tasted them was priceless!  I highly recommend whipping up a batch – they taste like the best part of summer and you will be exceptionally popular with those you choose to share them with!

Peach Almond Bars © Sassy Sampler 2012

Peach Almond Bars

makes 24 bars

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 c sliced almonds (6.5 oz)
  • 1 1/2 c flour—can use either all-purpose or gluten-free blend
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c packed brown sugar, plus 1 T
  • Sea salt
  • 12 T unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2” pieces (you can substitute margarine for a vegan version of the recipe)
  • 1 1/2 # peaches (about 3 large), peeled, halved and pitted, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c peach preserves
  • 1/2 t grated lemon zest, plus 1t lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Make a foil sling for a 13×9 baking dish—fold 2 long sheets of foil; first sheet should be about 13” and the second should be about 9”.  Lay sheets of foil over pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges.  Smooth foil flush against the pan.  Spray with veggie oil spray.
  3. Process 1 1/4 c almonds, flour, sugar, 1/3 c brown sugar, and 1/2 t sea salt in a food processor until combined, about 5 seconds.
  4. Add butter and pulse mixture until it resembles coarse meal (some pea-sized pieces of butter will remain), about 20 pulses.
  5. Transfer 1/2 c of the mixture to a bowl and set aside.  Press remaining mixture into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Mix 1T of brown sugar into reserved mixture and put it in the fridge (if your kitchen is warm).
  6. While crust is baking, remove blade from processor and wipe out your work bowl.  Pulse peaches and preserves in the processor until mixture is in 1/4” chunks, about 5 pulses.   Cook peaches in a large non-stick skillet over high heat until thickened and jam-like, about 10 minutes.
  7. Take peaches off the heat, and add a pinch of salt and the lemon zest and juice.  Stir to combine.
  8. Pour peach mixture over hot crust.
  9. Using your fingers, pinch reserved flour mixture to create dime-sized clumps and sprinkle them over the peaches.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 c almonds over the top.
  10. Bake until almonds are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature, at least two hours.
  11. Using foil overhang, lift from pan and cut into 24 squares.  Enjoy!

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.

Peach Almond Bars PDF

Pop Fly Popcorn and an award from Puget Sound Energy

Michael Elkins, Colin Clark, and Aaron Longstreth accepting the PSE award on Safeco Field (they are the three on the right) © Sassy Sampler 2012

Many of our shoppers know that you can recycle all kinds of things at the Co-op, including batteries, plastic bags, and CFL light bulbs.  This past Wednesday, eight of us Co-opers got to travel to Safeco Field in Seattle to accept an award from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) for being the largest recyclers of CFL light bulbs in their service area – more than any place in Seattle even.  Our staff, owners, and customers brought in over 2500 bulbs to be recycled, just in the last three months!

from left: Cordata Store Manager Terry Parks, Cordata Facilities Manager Colin Clark, and Cordata Front End Assistant Manager Nate Wright in the Mariners Press Room. © Sassy Sampler 2012

Michael and Colin with the Mariners Moose © Sassy Sampler 2012

It was an exciting event – we got to go into the Mariners press room to take photos (and got to sit in the chair that our beloved Ichiro Suzuki sat in a couple of days before to announce that he was traded to the Yankees).  After that we exited to the field where three of our staff accepted the award on behalf of the Co-op and our shoppers, and we also got to pose with the Mariners Moose before the third game of the Mariners/Yankee series got under way.  PSE provided us with fantastic seats behind home plate, and while the Mariners didn’t win, we all had a really amazing experience!

Myself and my husband Michael © Sassy Sampler 2012

I got to go to the be official photographer, and my husband (who is a huge baseball/Mariners fan) got to go as well.  It was an experience we never thought we would have and we thank PSE, the Co-op, and all our fantastic customers for allowing us this opportunity!  It was a chance of a lifetime that we won’t soon forget.

In honor of this experience, I thought a baseball themed recipe was in order.  I found a recipe on Taste of Home for Pop Fly Popcorn (essentially a fancy Cracker Jack recipe) that sounded like a good starting place, so I made the changes to the recipe that I thought were needed (like cutting waaay back on the sugar and fat, adding some locally grown nuts to the mix, and using organic ingredients) and came up with a winner – customers thought it was delicious with just the right amount of sweetness and the samples were gone before I knew it!

Pop Fly Popcorn © Sassy Sampler 2012

Pop Fly Popcorn

makes twelve one cup servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 c organic popcorn kernels
  • ~1 c roasted hazelnuts
  • ~1 c organic roasted almonds
  • 6 T organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c salted butter (or soy margarine)
  • 1/4 c organic light agave syrup
  • 1/2 t organic vanilla
  • 1/4 t cream of tartar
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • Sea salt (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Pop your popcorn, ideally in a hot air popper.  You should have about 12 cups of popped popcorn.
  3. Pulse nuts in a food processor 10 –12 times to break them up (you can also chop them).  Pour them on top of the popcorn, but don’t mix them in (they will sink to the bottom of the bowl/bag if you do).
  4. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine butter, brown sugar, and agave syrup.  Bring to a slow simmer and stir frequently with a rubber spatula (being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan) for about 5 minutes, until mixture has thickened.
  5. Remove caramel mixture from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Add the vanilla and mix well, and then sprinkle the cream of tartar and baking soda in a mix well.  The caramel mixture should lighten in color.
  7. Drizzle over your popcorn mix—if you have a very, very large bowl then you can use that, or you can use a large, clean paper shopping bag.  Mix carefully, as the caramel will still be very warm.
  8. Immediately spread the popcorn over two baking sheets (lined with parchment paper or greased).
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, mixing popcorn about halfway through.
  10. Remove from oven an allow to cool for about an hour.  Optional—sprinkle with sea salt.
  11. Break apart popcorn and serve—best  when served the day you make it, but it will keep in an airtight container for a few days.  You can crisp it back up by putting it in the oven for a few minutes.

Pop Fly Popcorn PDF

Poached Cherries with Ricotta

July means cherry season, and the Okanagan crop this year is delicious.  I wanted to find a recipe this week that would utilize fresh cherries in an interesting way, and I found what I was looking for on MarthaStewart.com – Poached Cherries served with ricotta cheese.

I read through the recipe and thought it sounded amazing and simple – the hardest part was pitting the cherries (if you have a cherry pitter then this task would go much more quickly, but alas, I did not!).  Wine is the main ingredient in this dish (aside from the cherries, of course) and after consulting with our “Wine Guy”, Tim, at the Cordata Co-op I settled on Bookwalter Winery’s Notebook Red Blend ($9.95 and new to the Co-op – a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah).  This wine blended very well with the basil, vanilla, and lemon zest that also went into the poaching liquid, and is made 30 minutes east of Seattle, WA in Woodinville from Columbia Valley grapes.

The recipe was a hit with customers – the cherries ended up tasting almost like they were soaked in brandy, but without the overpowering taste (or burn) of alcohol. The spice was subtle and the ricotta complimented the cherries very nicely – I served them with Organic Valley whole milk ricotta, as well as Tofutti Better Than Ricotta (a dairy-free version) for a vegan option.  I would also suggest serving them over vanilla ice cream on a warm summer night.

Enjoy!

Poached Cherries with Ricotta Cheese © Sassy Sampler 2012

Poached Cherries with Ricotta Cheese © Sassy Sampler 2012

Poached Cherries with Ricotta

Serves 6

recipe adapted from marthastewart.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 # cherries, pitted, room temperature
  • 2 c dry red wine
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 three-inch strips of lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 c fresh ricotta cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place cherries in a large, shallow, heat-proof bowl and set aside.
  2. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out (and reserve them).
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine wine, sugar, vanilla bean (and scraped seeds), basil, and lemon zest.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  (hint—I pitted my cherries as the poaching liquid was coming up to temperature—I just kept it at medium-low instead of medium-high heat).
  5. Pour the hot liquid over the cherries.  Set aside until the mixture is room temperature and cherries are slightly soft, about one hour, stirring occasionally.
  6. Drain cherries into a colander, reserving liquid.  Discard the basil, vanilla bean, and lemon zest.
  7. Return cherries to the bowl.
  8. Place reserved poaching liquid back into the medium saucepan.
  9. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue to boil until the liquid has reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes.
  10. Pour hot liquid over cherries.  Chill for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight.
  11. Serve in shallow bowls, topped with a spoonful of ricotta.

You can choose to use something other than cane sugar, but be aware that it might change the flavor profile of the dish if it’s a strong flavored sugar, like honey.

Poached Cherries with Ricotta PDF

Strawberry Chocolate Mousse Torte, oh my!

It’s finally strawberry season in the Northwest, and I wanted to make something special (yet simple) for this week’s recipe demo.  I found what I was looking for on Allrecipes in the form of a Strawberry Chocolate Mousse Cake.

This recipe is deceptively simple and looks like something you would buy in a professional bakery, and the only special equipment you need is a standard 9″ springform pan.  This is a beautiful summer dessert that comes together quickly (you just have to wait for it to set for a few hours) and will be sure to please everyone, whether they follow a gluten-free diet or not.

I will mention that I changed the name to “torte” – this is not a cake, nor a pie, and torte seemed more descriptive since they are typically made with no flour and lots of cream.  I’ll also note that the recipe calls for 2 pints of strawberries, but I only ended up using one pint and felt it was plenty – you could always serve extra sliced strawberries on the side.

Strawberry Chocolate Mousse Torte © Sassy Sampler 2012

Strawberry Chocolate Mousse Torte

serves 12

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2 T agave syrup (you can also use light corn syrup)
  • 1 c chocolate cookies, crushed (I used Pamela’s Gluten-free Extreme Chocolate Mini Cookies – a food processor works great to pulverize them)
  • 3 T melted butter
  • 2 pints fresh strawberries
  • 2 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 T sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place chocolate chips in a blender or heat proof bowl.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix water and agave syrup and bring to a boil.  Simmer for one minute.
  2. Immediately pour sugar-water over chocolate chips and blend until smooth (be careful if you do this in the blender—let the sugar-water cool slightly first).  Allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. In a bowl, mix cookie crumbs and butter thoroughly.  Press evenly into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.
  4. Cut enough strawberries in half lengthwise to fit around the edge of the pan—arrange them with the cut sides towards the pan and the points sticking up.
  5. While the chocolate mixture cools, in a large mixer bowl beat 1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream to stiff peaks.
  6. With a rubber spatula, carefully pour cooled chocolate mixture over the whipped cream and gently fold together until no streaks remain.
  7. Pour mousse into pan, leveling the top.  The mousse shouldn’t come to the tops of the berries.  Be careful when spreading that you don’t knock over any of the berries lining the edge.
  8. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
  9. Up to 2 hours before serving, beat remaining 1 c heavy whipping cream in a medium bowl until soft peaks form.
  10. Sprinkle sugar over cream and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.
  11. Remove the side of the springform pan and place cake on serving plate.
  12. Pipe or dollop whipped cream onto the top of the cake.
  13. Arrange remaining strawberries on top of the cake—you can either cut these in half lengthwise as well, or slice them thinly depending on the design you wish to create.
  14. To serve, cut into wedges with a thin knife, wiping blade between cuts.

Strawberry Chocolate Mousse Torte PDF