Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad

triple choco mousse cake

Triple Chocolate Mousse cake

May is always a month of chocolate for me – both my husband’s and my birthdays are in May, along with five other family members (plus both of our cats) and everyone is a chocolate fan. For my husband, I made a truly scrumptious triple chocolate mousse cake, and for myself I made ganache filled “ultimate” chocolate cupcakes.   Both recipes came from Cook’s Illustrated and turned out fantastic.  If you would like a copy of either then let me know!  The mousse is (naturally) gluten-free and I adapted the cupcake recipe to be gluten-free.

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

Due to my sweet-filled month, for my first demo in a while I thought it might be good to prepare and share a more wholesome recipe, and I found it in Tracy Hill’s cookbook Delightfully Free (she’ll be at Seattle’s Pike Place market today signing copies, and you can also buy it at the Cordata store).  Not only are the photos mouth-watering, but the recipes are pretty awesome too, and they are all gluten, dairy, and refined sugar-free!  I knew when I saw the photo for this salad that I wanted to prepare it – it would be a great salad to bring to a graduation party or BBQ, and would also serve as a well-rounded main course because of the combination of brown rice, beans, nuts/seeds, and vegetables.

We’re still at the beginning of our growing season here in the great Northwest, but I was able to purchase some local garlic scape to use instead of the green onions in the original recipe – I sliced them very thin (garlic scapes are typically cooked, but if you don’t overdo it then they are great in a salad) and they added just the right amount of fresh tasting garlicy-ness.  We have local basil in stock, and I also used some of the local roasted hazelnuts that we carry in our bulk department.

The salad was very popular with customers and those that tasted it wanted to know how soon they could buy it pre-made in the deli (I did give a sample to our Cordata Deli Manager with the feedback…hopefully you’ll see our version soon!).  I’ve included instructions on how to cook brown rice and beans from scratch, but you can always grab some pre-cooked rice from the Deli’s Grab and Go section and a can of beans to cut down on your time in the kitchen.

Enjoy!

Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad

adapted from Delightfully Free by Tracy Hill

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 c cooked (and cooled) brown rice
  • 1 1/2 c navy or cannellini beans, cooked from dry or 1 can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 c chopped celery (I sliced them pretty thin)
  • 1 1/2 c chopped yellow or orange bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
  • 1/3 c chopped green onion or garlic scapes
  • 1/2 c fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped (or chiffonade cut)
  • 1 c halved cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 c Balsamic Dressing, or more to taste
  • 2/3 c chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, and/or pumpkin seeds

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing  (makes about 1 1/2 c)

  • 1/4 c red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 c grapeseed oil
  • 1/8 t sea salt
  • 1 t agave nectar
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed or minced
  • 2 T water
  • Small pinch of paprika
  • Pinch of xanthan gum

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Shake all dressing ingredients together, except xanthan gum, in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Add the xanthan gum and shake again.  For smoother flavors, emulsify the dressing by mixing all ingredients, except xanthan gum, in a blender on high for 30 seconds.  Add the xanthan gum and blend again for 10 seconds.  Store in the refrigerator.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients, with the exception of the nuts/seeds and dressing.
  3. Toss salad with about 3/4 cup of dressing (or more if you like!) – be sure to give it a few good shakes to re-mix.
  4. Sprinkle the salad with the nuts/seeds when it is served, or you can mix them in just before serving.

Note from the cookbook author — This salad is extra tasty made a day ahead of time (keep the nuts/seeds set aside until you serve).  It is also a great topper for green salad.

Note from the Sassy Sampler – Customers commented that this salad would be great with parboiled green beans or with feta cheese sprinkled on top…and I agree!

To cook short grain brown rice:

Thoroughly rinse 3/4 c rice.  Add to a small bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid and cover with 1.5 cups of water and sprinkle about 1/2 t of sea salt.  Allow to come to a boil and then cover with the lid, turn heat down to low and allow to cook undisturbed for 1 hour.  Remove from heat and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes, remove the lid, fluff, and enjoy!

To cook navy/cannellini beans:

Note—beans will expand to 2.5 times their normal size, so you will only need to cook 1/2 c beans for this recipe

  1. Go through the beans on a plate to remove any stones, dirty or damaged beans, etc.
  2. Pour the beans into a medium bowl and cover with water—remove any “floaters”.
  3. Drain beans and cover with at least 1 1/2 c of COLD water.  Soak the beans overnight (you can do this on the counter), or at least six hours.
  4. Rinse the beans three or four times until the water runs clear.
  5. Put beans in a pot and cover with fresh water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 60-90 minutes, until beans are tender.  Add salt (if desired) only in the last few minutes of cooking time or your beans will take longer to cook.
  6. Cooked beans are best the next day and can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Visit Tracy’s website at www.delightfullyfree.com and check out her cookbook of the same name!

Balsamic Rice and Bean Salad PDF

Kevin Gillespie’s Root Vegetable Soup

Last summer Top Chef Kevin Gillespie came to our co-op because he was hosting a video series sponsored by Stronger Together, being filmed for the International Year of Cooperatives.  Our co-op was chosen to take part in the series because of our involvement with our community.  He attended our summer party and visited Heritage Lane Farm, Misty Meadows Farm and Bellingham Urban Garden Syndicate (BUGS) to talk about their relationship with our co-op and our community.

Kevin Gillespie 7.31.11Before he left town, I got to go out to dinner with him and the film crew and we talked a lot about food (of course!) as well as his upcoming (and now published) cookbook Fire in my Belly.  It’s a great read – lots of photos, a fun layout, and anecdotes from the author.  He told me I could demo any of his recipes any time and with the icy fog abounding in our region, I thought his Root Vegetable Soup recipe would be just about perfect for my recipe demo this week.

© 2013 Community Food Co-op

© 2013 Community Food Co-op

This is a recipe he created based on a dish his grandma used to make.  It is very simple to make, although it does require some knife skills as all the veggies need to be cut into the same size pieces to cook correctly.  I must admit that it was my first time preparing some of the root vegetables in this dish, and it was also a great excuse to use some of the delicious local produce we still have in stock (organic Jerusalem Artichokes, aka sunchokes, from Rabbit Fields Farm in Everson).  The recipe calls for turnip greens, which we do carry occasionally but are out of currently, so I substituted collard greens.  Other than that I was pretty true to the original recipe, except for cutting it down to 4 servings (you can find the original recipe for 8 servings in Kevin’s book).

ChiffonadeOne of my favorite cutting techniques is chiffonade – you roll your leafy greens into a roll and cut thin little ribbons.  They are so pretty and you can cut through a pile of greens in no time.  As for cutting the various root vegetables into a small dice, you will have to expect some waste as you first have to square off the edges of the veggies so you are left with flat edges to cut your dice from.  If you need a little guidance for safe and effective cutting techniques, you can check out the video and photos at Stella Culinary.

Root Vegetable Soup © 2013 Community Food Co-op

Root Vegetable Soup © 2013 Community Food Co-op

Root Vegetable Soup

adapted from Fire in my Belly by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim, used with permission

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 oz Pancetta or unsmoked bacon, diced into 1/4” pieces (vegetarian option below)
  • 1 1/4 c onion, diced 1/4”
  • 2/3 c rutabaga, peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 1/2 c celery, diced 1/4”
  • 1/3 c carrots, peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 3/4 c sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichoke), peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 3/4 c turnips, peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 1/2 c parsnip, peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (a mandolin works great for this task)
  • 3 c chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1/2 pepper
  • 1 t sea salt
  • ~ 2 c Turnip greens or Collard greens, sliced into chiffonade (thin strips)
  • Juice from one lemon

GARNISH

  • ~1/8 c Italian parsley, minced
  • ~1/8 c chives, very thinly sliced
  • ~1/8 c celery leaves, minced

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat a large enameled cast-iron pot or other soup pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the pancetta, stir, and cook until the pancetta is golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the onions, rutabaga, celery, and carrots and cook until the vegetables start to soften and the onions become translucent, about 6 minutes, stirring now and then.
  4. Add the sunchokes, turnips, and parsnips and cook for an additional 8 minutes, stirring a few times.
  5. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the chicken stock, pepper, and salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then cut the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.  The vegetables should be just tender.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the turnip greens and about 1 T lemon juice.  Taste and season as needed with additional salt and lemon juice.
  8. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the parsley, chives, and celery leaves.

Tips from the Top Chef:

  • Don’t be tempted to mince the garlic here.  It should be sliced. If you mince it, the small pieces will cook faster and develop a bitter taste.  The slices also contribute to the texture of the soup.
  • If you want to make the soup ahead, prepare it up to the point of simmering the vegetables in the seasoned stock.  Cool it down, and refrigerate it for up to 2 days.  Then reheat the soup and add the greens and lemon juice just before serving and garnishing.
  • If you don’t have the root vegetables listed, then you can substitute with what you do have.  The most important thing is to dice all the vegetables the same size so they cook quickly and evenly before the liquid is added.  The vegetables retain better shape and flavor this way.

Root Vegetable Soup PDF

For a vegetarian version, use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock; sauté 4-5 shiitake mushrooms (cut into thin slices about a 1/4″ wide) over medium heat in 1-2 T butter or a fatty oil until they are soft, about 7 minutes, and proceed with the rest of the recipe.  Alternately you can use vegetarian bacon, prepared and cooked just like the pancetta in the recipe.  Neither will give you the same rich flavor of the pork, but either should add some umami to the dish.

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).

Zesty Marinated Asparagus

It’s May, and that’s means that it’s asparagus season in Washington.  Our state produces about 40% of the asparagus grown in the US, according to the Washington Asparagus Commission, and we recently started receiving beautiful organic asparagus at the Co-op.  This is a vegetable that is best enjoyed in season – it’s at its least expensive price and most delicious flavor.  In honor of that, I picked a recipe to sample with customers this week that is both easy and tasty – Zesty Marinated Asparagus.

Marinated asparagus is incredibly easy to make.  Simply rinse your asparagus, chop into bite-sized chunks, and blanch in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes – just until it turns a vibrant green.  Immediately plunge the spears into ice-cold water to stop the cooking process, and mix with marinade in a zip-top bag or leak-proof container.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and you have a delicious snack or side dish that tastes complex but is simple (and quick) to prepare.

I chose to marinate my asparagus overnight in a balsamic vinaigrette – this dressing is also easy to make so it doesn’t add much prep time to the recipe (although you can always use a bottled dressing in a pinch).  Customers really enjoyed the dish – they said it was indeed zesty, had a nice crunch from the blanching, and had a nice flavor that would suit a variety of dishes. Kids even loved it – I had just as many of them asking for seconds as I do when I sample something sweet!

I would recommend using a good quality balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil – you really taste the flavors and a higher quality product will make an impact.  I say good because you need 3/4 c of each for the 2 pounds of asparagus in the recipe, so unless you’re feeling reckless, save the expensive stuff for another time.  I used Lucini 10-year Reserve Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (on sale right now for $10.89), because of its flavor and body.  I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite olive oils that we carry at the Co-op is the Mihelakis Family Greek olive oil, so I used that as well.  However, no matter what ingredients you choose to use I’m sure you’ll love this recipe.

Enjoy!

Zesty Marinated Asparagus © Sassy Sampler 2012

Zesty Marinated Asparagus

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 c good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 c good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 T Dijon or stone ground mustard
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 1/2” pieces
  • 2 t grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t fresh ground black pepper

To make the balsamic vinaigrette:

  1. Combine the vinegar, garlic and mustard in a bowl with a whisk.  Add a pinch of sea salt and whisk.
  2. In a steady, slow stream add olive oil to the mixture, whisking constantly.  Set aside and proceed with recipe.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch asparagus just until tender and bright green, about 1 minute.
  2. Plunge asparagus into a bowl of ice-cold water to halt the cooking process.
  3. Drain asparagus and place in a large resealable plastic bag (or leak-proof container).
  4. Pour in vinaigrette and seal bag.  Mix asparagus with vinaigrette thoroughly.
  5. Refrigerate at least 3 hours (or overnight), turning bag occasionally.
  6. Just before serving, drain vinaigrette into a bowl.
  7. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter and sprinkle with lemon zest, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  8. Serve reserved vinaigrette in a small dish on the side.

Don’t leave out the parsley and lemon zest – they add the extra “zesty” to the dish.

You can also make this with store-bought balsamic vinaigrette—use 1 1/2 c.

Zesty Marinated Asparagus PDF

Don’t forget to pick up your Proud Co-op Member yard signs to help us celebrate the International Year of Cooperatives – we still have them available at both our stores, or you can also pick one up at the GaPac Credit Union on James St. and at the Industrial Credit Union on State St.  We’re also holding a photo contest on Facebook – take a photo of the sign in your yard, post it on our page, and be eligible for a prize giveaway!  Deadline is May 14th.  Go Co-op!

Carrot Ginger Salad

April can be hit or miss in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and luckily this year is more of a hit – we have had great luck with beautiful weather on the weekends this month and it’s making all of us excited for summertime.  For my recipe this week, I wanted to pick something that tasted fresh and summery and I found what I was looking for in Organic Farm & Garden magazine (a Popular Gardening Series “magabook” by Hobby Farms.com).  They offer several recipes in this issue (along with great organic gardening advice) and I thought their recipe for Carrot Ginger Salad would be a winner.  (Note – we are sold out of the magazine at the Co-op, but you can get it online at either of the links above.)

Photo courtesy of Jerry Janeway © 2012

We still have delicious and sweet  local carrots from Hedlin Family Farm, a third generation organic farm in the waterfront town of La Conner (home to author Tom Robbins).  The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is in full swing right now, and this would be a perfect weekend to spend some time outside tiptoeing through the tulips (they won’t actually let you do that, but you get the idea).  But I digress…back to the carrots!

A lot of carrot salads are soaked in mayonnaise and have added sugar, and I didn’t want to go in that direction; this recipe is flavorful, fresh, and tastes like summer – the carrots give a nice sweet crunch and the dressing and fresh ginger add a dimension that you wouldn’t expect, as it leaves you with a subtle succession of flavors. I was hesitant to combine some of the ingredients that were listed – cumin and mint with ginger…are they crazy?  Turns out they are brilliant, as the flavors work really well within the acidic dressing and compliment the carrots and ginger perfectly.  This salad is also really simple to make and would be perfect to bring to a potluck or gathering, as it keeps at room temperature for several hours.  Enjoy!

Carrot Ginger Salad © Sassy Sampler 2012

Carrot Ginger Salad

Serves 6

adapted from Organic Farm & Garden magazine, Volume 1, 2nd edition

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 large carrots (about 2.5-3#) , grated diagonally or cut julienne
  • 1 T fresh grated ginger

Dressing:

  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 heaping T  fresh mint, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, combine carrots and grated ginger.  Cover and refrigerate for about a half hour so the flavors can combine.
  2. In a jar with a lid, mix lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper and cumin, and the mint.  Shake to combine.
  3. Add dressing to carrots and mix well.  If time permits, allow the salad to sit on the counter for about half an hour before serving so the flavors can combine.

For best flavor, allow the salad to come to room temperature before serving.  (Dressed) salad will keep for several days in the fridge.  Cover tightly.  You can also double the dressing recipe if you want a spicier version.

You may be hesitant to add the cumin and mint to this salad, but don’t skip (or substitute) those ingredients—they add complexity to the salad and are an important factor in the overall flavor.

Carrot Ginger Salad PDF

Chocolate “Lollipops”

One of my favorite recipe demos of the year is always the one before Valentines Day – mostly because it means I have an excuse to make a chocolaty confection!  A couple of months ago I was watched the Food Network’s special “Barefoot in London“, which covers the Barefoot Contessa‘s foodie trip to London.  She visited a chocolatier while there, and they made chocolate lollipops…all I could think was “Yum!”

I used the Cordillera 65% chocolate coins that we carry at the Co-op, but you can use any high quality chocolate.  I recommend using South American chocolate as it tends to be more ecologically and socially responsible.  Chocolate sourced from Africa has been under fire for the last decade+ due to rampant child labor and slavery issues, so it is best to make sure that the chocolate you buy is Fair Trade certified.  You can find an article by the BBC here and videos from their investigation here.

For best results, you need to temper the chocolate although this isn’t as hard as you might think it is – all you need is a thermometer and a little confidence!  The difference between tempering the chocolate and skipping the step is that tempered chocolate doesn’t melt at room temperature, so if you decide to skip the tempering steps then you will need to keep the lollipops in the fridge until you serve them.  The Barefoot Contessa offers a white chocolate version of the recipe where you temper the chocolate in the microwave – I haven’t done that myself, but if she says you can do it then I believe her!

Once you have the chocolate melted, the fun starts.  To make the lollipops, you simply spoon a portion of the chocolate onto a prepared baking sheet, horizontally twist a pretzel stick into the chocolate (I used Snyder’s gluten-free pretzel sticks), and top with goodies like nuts, dried fruit, sprinkles, etc.  After that, you pop them in the fridge to set and voilá – chocolate lollipops!

That’s really all there is to it – I was able to make about 85 of them in a little over an hour, from start to finish, so this treat doesn’t require much time in the kitchen.  These are incredibly cute little confections, and if you are crafty in the kitchen then you could also use a pastry bag (or a gallon zip plastic bag with the corner snipped off) to pipe the chocolate into heart shapes.

Chocolate Lollipops © Sassy Sampler

Chocolate Lollipops

1 pound chocolate = about 40 lollipops

INGREDIENTS

  • 12-16 oz Cordillera Chocolate 65%, or other high-quality South American chocolate
  • Bag of pretzel sticks (the Co-op carries gluten-free pretzel sticks)
  • Various toppings, like dried fruit and nuts

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Temper the chocolate—chop the chocolate coins coarsely.  They don’t need to be very fine, but make sure you don’t have any large chunks.
  2. Place about 2/3 of the chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler (or make your own using a heat-proof bowl set over a small pot of water 1” deep).  Securely clip a chocolate or instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan/bowl.  Heat water until simmering (keep water a slow simmer—you may need to adjust the heat).
  3. Using a wooden spoon or plastic spatula, stir gently, but steadily as the chocolate melts.
  4. Bring the chocolate to 115°F.  Try not to allow the chocolate to exceed this temperature.  Remove from the heat, wipe the bottom of the bowl/pan, and set it on a heat-proof surface.  Keep the water simmering, as you may need to slightly reheat the chocolate as you are making your lollipops.
  5. Add the reserved chocolate and stir gently to incorporate—this will start to cool the chocolate.  Stir until smooth.
  6. For the lollipops—prepare two baking sheets by covering them with parchment paper or foil (or silicone baking mats).
  7. Drop a tablespoon-sized circle of chocolate onto the baking pan with a spoon, and immediately take a pretzel stick and place it horizontally in the middle of the chocolate round, twisting a few times to cover (make sure you leave a “handle” outside the chocolate).
  8. Add any toppings—chopped nuts, chopped dried fruit, etc.
  9. Place baking sheets in the fridge for about a half hour to set.
  10. Remove and enjoy!

If the chocolate is tempered correctly, then you will not need to store these in the fridge.  If you don’t mind storing them in the fridge, then you don’t need to worry about tempering the chocolate first—tempered chocolate holds its shape at room temperature, and un-tempered chocolate tends to get melty.

Chocolate Lollipops PDF

Purple Passion Lavender-Mint Punch (and bonus Spiced Lemonade recipe)

Holidays are all about being with friends and family, and everyone gets thirsty, right?  That was my line of thinking when I set out to pick this week’s recipe.  I wanted to find an easy punch, and I ended up selecting one that may not be something you would think about serving during the holidays, but could actually be really helpful this time of year.

Both lavender and peppermint have been used as folk medicine in many cultures – peppermint is said to ease digestion problems (common this time of year) and lavender is thought to increase relaxation (commonly needed this time of year!).  The combination of the two flavors blend really well, and when you add Concord grape juice (thought to increase mental acuity) and ginger ale (also helpful for the tummy) you get a lightly spiced floral punch that tastes really refreshing.

In season, you could make this punch using almost all local ingredients – peppermint and lavender can grow just about anywhere that isn’t arctic tundra, and concord grapes grow really well in Washington (which is probably why we are the top producer in the nation).  Because it’s winter, I didn’t have all fresh ingredients at my disposal (aside from fresh spearmint, which I cleaned and froze leaves into ice cubes for garnish), so to the bulk department I went!  Santa Cruz organic Concord grape juice is on special right now (nice bonus) and I decided to use Blue Sky organic ginger ale to round out the punch.  You can use spearmint instead of peppermint in this recipe if you aren’t a fan of the pungency of peppermint, as spearmint is milder.

If you are looking for a “spirited” punch, then some high quality vodka added before serving would certainly add some cheer!

Purple Passion Lavender-Mint Punch © Sassy Sampler 2011

Purple Passion Lavender-Mint Punch

adapted from Lavender Association of Western Colorado

makes about 9 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 c + 1 t dried peppermint*
  • 6 c water
  • 1 heaping T dried lavender flowers*
  • 1 liter ginger ale (cold), about 2 1/2 cans
  • 1 c concord grape juice (cold)
  • Bunch of fresh mint, for garnish

Note—if you are using fresh herbs to brew the tea, double the amounts

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare your minty ice cubes—rinse fresh mint and place a leaf in each section of an ice-cube tray and fill with water —freeze until solid.
  2. Boil your water in a large pot and then turn off the heat.  Add the dried peppermint, cover, and allow to steep for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the lavender flowers and allow the tea to cool.  You can cool it in the fridge if you are crunched for time.
  4. Strain your tea  through a metal strainer into a pretty punch bowl or pitcher.
  5. Add the ginger ale, grape juice, and ice cubes.
  6. To garnish, float lavender and mint springs on top.

*Pregnant women should consult with their doctors before ingesting peppermint and/or lavender

Purple Passion Lavender Mint Punch PDF

BONUS Recipe – I wanted to make this Spiced Lemonade recipe because I think it sounds delicious, but since I am allergic to citrus I figured it was best to leave this one to my readers.  I urge you to make it and tell me if it was delicious or not!

Spiced Lemonade

You can make this lemonade ahead of time, simply store in the refrigerator. Serve warm or cold.

Ingredients

  • 9 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1/2 t ground cloves
  • Lemon Slices

Instructions

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan.
  2. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. When the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat to a simmer.
  4. Allow lemonade to simmer until fragrant.
  5. Serve with lemon slices.

Tip: The longer it sits, the more you’ll taste the spices

By Stacie Naczelnik

http://stacienaczelnik.hubpages.com/hub/Non-alcoholic-Holiday-Party-Drink-Recipes

Gazpacho (made with all local ingredients!)

For this week’s recipe, I wanted to try to make something that used as many local products as possible. Another major part of my criteria was to make something that required little (or no) time to cook because it is decidedly summer in the Northwest right now (better late than never!).

There is so much local produce available right now – I toured the Produce department and found no less than 35 different items that were grown (and brought to us farmer direct) from Whatcom County farms.; I settled on creating a recipe for Gazpacho – a chilled vegetable soup that originates in Spain. There is no cooking involved and it is quick and easy. I’ve never made it before, but that didn’t stop me!

I started with gorgeous organic tomatoes, an organic English cucumber, and organic basil from the Growing Garden in Bellingham (grown by our own long-time Board member Brent Harrison).; Organic red garlic came from Rabbit Fields Farm in Everson.; I rounded it out with some extra virgin olive oil (pesticide-free) from Bija that is bottled in Lynden and Bellewood Acres apple cider vinegar, also made in Lynden from local apples. A little Himalayan pink sea salt from Salt Works in Woodenville (the farthest away of my ingredients – they process the salt in-state). I did put some ground black pepper in the soup as well, which isn’t local, but I won’t tell if you don’t!

Tomatoes are in season right now, so while I did peel them, I didn’t bother de-seeding them – the seeds in fresh in-season tomatoes are generally soft and not as bitter as off-season tomatoes.; Other than that, you basically chop your ingredients up, throw them in the food processor, and let them chill in the fridge until you are ready to eat. The longer you can let it chill, the more complex the flavor becomes.  Fumar con fruición!

Gazpacho in a cucumber cup © Sassy Sampler 2011

Gazpacho

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 large tomatoes, peeled and rough cut
  • 1 large English cucumber
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-6 large leaves of basil, chopped
  • 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar (Bellewood Acres)
  • 1-2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (BIJA)
  • 1/2 t sea salt (SaltWorks)
  • Black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add your cucumber to food processor and process until only a few small pieces remain.Pour cucumber purée into a large bowl.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the food processor and process until only a few chunks remain. Add to cucumber purée and stir to combine.
  3. Add the minced garlic and about 4 leaves of chopped basil to the purée. Add sea salt.
  4. Add olive oil and cider vinegar. Add pepper to taste and mix well.
  5. Cover bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. The longer it sits in the fridge, the better the flavors will have combined.
  6. Serve ice-cold with a sliced and toasted baguette (Against the Grain Gourmet makes a great GF baguette). Garnish with more chopped basil before serving.

If the tomatoes you are using are out of season, you may want to remove the seeds either before you purée the tomatoes, or strain the tomato purée after processing. If they are in season, chances are you won’t have to take this step.

All ingredients in this recipe were either grown or processed locally (in Whatcom County or WA State, in-season), with the exception of the black pepper.

Gazpacho PDF

Agua Fresca

I love talking food with my friend Michael M. at the Co-op – he is also an avid cook and is really good about making all kinds of things from scratch, including his own tortillas and refried beans (which I will be trying myself very soon).  Late last week he was telling me about how he makes Agua Fresca – a refreshing drink that is common in Mexico and Central America.  It is essentially a fruit, grain, and/or flower flavored beverage that is great on a hot (or warm, in our case) summer day.

Yummy local veggies!

The forecast predicted warmer temperatures and sunny skies for this weekend, and I thought that Agua Fresca sounded like a great recipe to demo.  We have so much delicious Washington grown fruit right now to choose from that the biggest decision was deciding what flavors to make!  With Michael’s sage advice, I decided on a couple different ones – watermelon, donut (or Saturn) peach and lime for the first and cantaloupe, cucumber, basil and lime for the second – and all ingredients except the lime were grown in-state.

Agua Fresca is extremely easy to make – simply peel and rough cut your chosen ingredients and throw them in the blender.  Once they are puréed, you strain it through either cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, add it back to the blender with a little sugar, and then into your pitcher with some water.  Once it is chilled (very important – it is best when served ice-cold) you are good to go – one sip and you feel like you should be sitting on a beach with a good book – you can almost hear the waves crashing in the background!

You can use any soft fruit (or vegetable) for this recipe, and you are only limited by your imagination.  This is a great way to use overripe fruit, as it will purée that much easier!  I’ve included the recipes for the two versions I made to sample for customers (who loved it – kids especially), but don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

Agua Fresca photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

Agua Fresca

Recipe courtesy of Michael Marques

INGREDIENTS

Watermelon/Peach

  • 1 “personal” watermelon, chopped
  • 3 donut peaches or 1 large peach, pitted and chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-4 T sugar *
  • Water

Cucumber/Cantaloupe

  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cantaloupe, seeded and chopped
  • 3-6 large leaves of basil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-4 T sugar *
  • Water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare your fruit/herbs/vegetables.
  2. Add fruit/herbs/vegetables to blender and purée.
  3. Strain purée through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into your pitcher.  Get as much of the juice from the pulp as possible; discard pulp.
  4. Strain again, but back into the blender this time.  Add sugar, starting with 2T and blend until combined.  Taste mixture to see if you want to add more sugar.
  5. Pour mixture back into your pitcher.  Add enough water to fill container and mix.
  6. Chill completely and serve icy cold, preferably with crushed ice.

* you can use just about any sweetener – if you choose to use a liquid one like honey or agave syrup, then you should dissolve it in a little bit of hot water before mixing it into the purée.

Can’t you see the beach?

Agua Fresca translates literally as “fresh water”.  It is served all over Mexico and it very simple to recreate at home.  It is hard to mess up—you can add as much water as you like to make it thinner or thicker, depending on your personal tastes.  Comer con gusto!

Agua Fresca PDF


Shanghai Cucumbers

One of my favorite dishes that I’ve had at a restaurant is PF Chang’s Shanghai Cucumbers.  The first time I had them, I went home and recreated them.  It is a quick and easy recipe that is delicious with a number of dishes.  All you need is a cucumber, toasted sesame oil, tamari or shoyu, and gomasio (toasted sesame seeds).  I found out recently that PF Chang’s also adds a small amount of white vinegar to the sauce, but I don’t tend to do that when I make it, although it does add a slight amount of tang (that isn’t unwelcome) to the dish.

Shanghai Cucumber ingredients

I believe that cucumber choice is the key to success with this recipe.  I am a huge fan of the local Dominion Organics Middle Eastern (or Persian) cucumbers and feel that this variety tastes the best, especially for this recipe.  English cucumbers are my second choice, when the Middle Eastern ones are not in season, and the nice thing is that those are generally local year round (they are grown in BC in a hot-house).  If neither of these varieties of cucumbers are available to you, then you can of course use your standard cucumber!

Another key ingredient that I use is the Ohsawa brand organic gluten-free tamari.  We don’t carry it at the Co-op, but owners can special order it in quantities of 3 (it works out to be about $9.60 a bottle – I saw it for as much as $21 a bottle on Amazon!).  It is much pricier than other tamaris on the market, but it is vastly superior so it is worth the extra cost.  We carry Ohsawa Nama Shoyu at the Co-op (if you can tolerate wheat) which is also pricier than other shoyus, but again, it is vastly superior.  It is the only unpasteurized (and therefore raw)  shoyu on the market – and neither the shoyu or the tamari is made with grain alcohol.

Anyway, back to the recipe!  Start by peeling strips off the cucumber – this is more for looks than anything else!

Once you have done that, hold your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber and slice into bite-sized chunks.  Rotate cucumber a 1/4 turn and slice again – repeat until you can’t cut any more off!

Next, mix your sauce ingredients in a small measuring cup or in a small bowl.  Pour over your cut cucumber, sprinkle with gomasio, and you’re done!

This dish takes about 5-7 minutes to make (depending on how quick you are with your knife!) – if you make it ahead, I like to reserve the sauce and add it right before serving.  If you have leftovers, they will still be delicious (and slightly more intense!) the next day, although they won’t look as pretty.  I make these at home to go with steak, Asian cuisine, and just for a snack.

Shanghai Cucumbers

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Middle Eastern or English Cucumber
  • ~ 2 T GF tamari or shoyu
  • 1/4 t toasted sesame oil
  • Gomasio (to taste)
  • Optional—1 t white vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Wash your cucumber of choice.  With your vegetable peeler, peel strips off the cucumber, being sure to leave some of the skin.
  2. Holding your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber, slice cucumber into mouth sized pieces, rotating a 1/4 turn after each cut.  Place cut cucumber into a bowl.
  3. In a small measuring cup or bowl combine tamari/shoyu and toasted sesame oil.  Add vinegar if using.
  4. Toss cucumber with the sauce.  Sprinkle gomasio to taste.
  5. Enjoy!

To make your own gomasio:

  1. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add raw sesame seeds to pan, and shake continuously until the seeds become slightly browned and become very aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from pan; Optional—sprinkle sea salt (to taste) over seeds and mix well.
  4. Keep in airtight container in the fridge.

You can use any kind of cucumber in this dish, but Middle Eastern/Persian and English cucumbers work the best.  If you use a regular cucumber, then you will need to peel the whole thing and deseed it first.

Shanghai Cucumbers PDF