Homemade Peppermint Patties

Keeping with my annual tradition of finding a fun and easy recipe for Valentine’s Day, this week I decided to make one of my husband’s favorite treats – peppermint patties.  I must say, they were a BIG hit when customers sampled them yesterday and I gave out a record number of recipes! 

I found a great recipe on Taste of Home that only used five ingredients – sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar, peppermint flavor, chocolate chips, and some shortening (all of which you can buy organic and trans-fat free at the Co-op).  This recipe is fun because you can shape the peppermint dough however you like, something I realized after I had made all my patties for my recipe demo – I’ll pat the dough flat and use a small cookie cutter to shape them as little hearts for the holiday!  It also comes together relatively quickly – it took me about 20 minutes to make the dough and shape the patties, plus chill time, and then it took me about 10-15 minutes to coat them with chocolate, plus chill time.

© Sassy Sampler 2013

© Sassy Sampler 2013

One thing I learned from this recipe is that I will always put a little oil in my chocolate from now on if I am using it to cover candies – I’ve always had difficulty with getting a nice even coating of chocolate when I make things like this, and the shortening added to the chocolate in this recipe really makes a difference.  If you are averse to vegetable shortening (we carry an organic 100% palm oil version), or just don’t have any on hand, I think that coconut oil would be an acceptable substitute.

If you are vegan and are craving some of these homemade candies, I suggest making this coconut version of sweetened condensed milk created by Sunny B on her gluten/dairy-free recipe blog – I think it would work great in this recipe.

…I’ll also mention that our Bakery has developed a vegan peppermint patty that will be available soon – I got to sample one and they are yummy!

Mmmmm...organic peppermint patties! © Sassy Sampler 2013

Mmmmm…organic peppermint patties! © Sassy Sampler 2013

Homemade Peppermint Patties

adapted from Taste of Home

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 c organic sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 t organic peppermint flavor (use less if you use real extract)
  • 3—4 c organic powdered sugar (up to 1#)
  • 3 c (18 oz) organic fair-trade dark chocolate chips
  • 2 t organic vegetable shortening (or organic coconut oil)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a bowl, combine milk and peppermint flavor.
  2. Stir in 3 c powdered sugar, to form a stiff dough. Once you have initially incorporated the sugar into the milk mixture, it is easiest to finish mixing with your hands.
  3. Knead enough remaining sugar to form a dough that is very stiff and no longer sticky.
  4. Working quickly, shape into 1” balls (really compact the dough) and place on a waxed paper or parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Flatten balls into 1 1/2” disks.Place cookie sheet in the freezer for half an hour, flipping them after 15 minutes (don’t freeze them for longer than that).
  6. Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over about 1” of boiling water, stirring frequently. The chocolate is easiest to work with when it remains hot, so once the water is boiling and the chocolate has melted, turn off the heat but keep the bowl on the pot to keep the chocolate warm.
  7. Place a fork under a patty and dip in the chocolate mixture; tap fork against the side of the bowl gently and scrape excess chocolate off the bottom of the patty using the side of the bowl.
  8. Place patty on waxed or parchment paper to harden—you can either do that at room temperature or in the fridge.

These have a great shelf life—keep them in an airtight container (separate layers with parchment paper) in the fridge for up to a month.

Chocolate Peppermint PattiesPDF

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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).

The Eat Local BBQ is this Saturday!

Readers of my blog know that the Co-op has partnered with Sustainable Connections for the Eat Local First! campaign.  Last week we co-sponsored an event with Village Books and Sustainable Connections to benefit the Co-op’s Farm Fund (Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet came to town to promote her book EcoMind: Challenging the Way We Think to Create the World We Want with a reception at the Leopold Ballroom) and this week we are having an Eat Local BBQ at the Cordata Co-op.

Even if the weather doesn’t fully cooperate, it should still be a really fun event.  We’ll have beef or veggie kabobs (the grass-fed beef is from Matheson Farms in Bellingham and the veggies are local too!), grilled local corn on the cob (with flavorful butter choices, also local), local grilled greens or salad, and peach iced tea with Okanogan Farmer’s Co-op peaches.  We’ll also have local music, provided by Pretty Little Feet, an acoustic duo that plays old-timey American music and are a lot of fun.

There will also be a few local authors at the BBQ sampling recipes from their cookbook or blog.  Seattle author Debra Daniels-Zeller will be here sampling a recipe from her book The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook (she also writes a great blog called Food Connections, and I have blogged about one of her recipes from her cookbook).  Local blogger Nancy Ging (Whatcom Locavore) will also be here sampling a recipe from her blog.  Her blog is a great place to get ideas and recipes for eating local in Whatcom County year-round.  And it wouldn’t be complete without Bellingham author and nutritionist Tom Malterre of The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook fame.  He and his wife Ali collaborated on the cookbook and also write an informative blog with many recipes not found in the cookbook.  Jennifer Hahn, local author, blogger and WWU Fairhaven College professor may also be here promoting her book Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine.  Foraging is looking to be the next big foodie trend, so stop by to pick up a copy.  We will also have the supplemental material to the book available – The Pacific Coast Foraging Guide, which is a pocket-reference guide for quick identification of wild foods.

So stop by the Cordata Co-op tomorrow – not only will it be educational, but it will be local-icious as well!

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


Pico de Gallo

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, this week I wanted to prepare a Mexican recipe. Even though you wouldn’t know it was May by looking outside in Whatcom County, everyone is craving a bit of freshness that this month usually brings – anything that might trick our brains into thinking that we might eventually see two full days of sunshine in a row! I know that I am already waiting eagerly for more local produce to start arriving, so I chose a recipe that is fresh and tastes like warm weather – Pico do Gallo.

Pico de Gallo is a common condiment in Mexico. It is commonly a tomato/onion base but can also be a fruit salad tossed with chili powder (in parts of Mexico where this is common, the tomato/onion version is referred to as salsa picada). It is a dry salsa, so it can be used in many different ways without creating sogginess. I’ll focus on the tomato version – where it gets its name from is slightly disputed according to Wikipedia, but translated it means “rooster’s beak”, and is thought to be called that because it was “originally eaten with the thumb and forefinger, and retrieving and eating the condiment resembled the actions of a pecking rooster”. While you can certainly eat it that way, you can also use it in tacos, as a chip dip, in fajitas, and even sandwiches.

Pico de Gallo is a really pretty condiment – the red from the tomatoes, white from the onion, and green from the jalapeño and cilantro conjure images of the Mexican flag.The lime gives it a sunny citrus-y aroma to complete the palette pleasantry. I used hot-house tomatoes grown in British Columbia and an organic red onion grown in Washington, but a couple of my ingredients fittingly came from Mexico – an organic jalapeño and an organic lime. Round that out with some organic California cilantro and you’ve got sunshine in a bowl!

To make this salsa “dry”, you have to seed the tomatoes. This is easily done by cutting the tomato in half and then using a spoon to scoop out the seeds into a bowl, letting the juice run out as well. After preparing my tomatoes, I dry roasted the jalapeño whole in a low-sided skillet over medium-high heat until the seeds started popping, to give it extra flavor. If you have never done this before, it can be a little startling when the seeds pop because the pepper will jump in the pan. Be sure you turn it often when you are cooking it so it doesn’t burn. This should only take a few minutes.  Once the skin starts to wrinkle and you don’t hear so many “pops” from the seeds, take it off the heat and tent some foil over it while you cut up the rest of your ingredients.

Once I had the lime juice squeezed and the onion and the cilantro diced, I added them to the bowl with my diced tomatoes and added a little salt. When the pepper was cooled, I cut it in half and seeded it, then chopped that up and into the bowl it went (don’t rinse the pepper to get the seeds out, otherwise it will lose some of the oils you released when it was cooked). It went into the fridge to chill for an hour or so and it was good to go (although this isn’t necessary). Pico de Gallo is best when consumed the day it is made, although you can eat it the next day – keep it in the fridge and drain out any liquid that has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl before serving for the best results.

¡provecho!

Pico de Gallo

adapted from www.mexicanfoodrecipes.org and Wikipedia

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-6 ripe tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 c finely minced cilantro
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño
  • ~ 1 t sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat a skillet (cast iron works best) over medium-high heat and toast the whole jalapeño, turning it often until you hear the seeds start to pop and it is slightly wrinkled.
  2. Tent jalapeno with foil and allow to cool.
  3. Once pepper is cool enough, remove the stem and seeds and finely dice.
  4. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, adding jalapeño to taste—the pan roasting will intensify the flavor of the jalapeño, so add about half of it at first and taste it before adding more.
  5. Serve with corn chips, tacos, nachos, black beans, fajitas, etc.

You can add other ingredients to traditional Pico de Gallo, like minced garlic, minced roasted peppers (either Bell or hot peppers), cucumber, hard fruit like mango, jicama, or radish for a slightly different flavor profile.

Pico De Gallo PDF


Gluten-free Granola

Last October at the Bellingham Gluten Intolerance Group’s Annual Community Awareness Event at St Luke’s Community Health Center, Seattle-area author Karen Robertson spoke.  She stopped by the Co-op’s table, introduced herself, and gave me a copy of her gluten-free granola recipe.  When I was looking for a good granola recipe to demo, I remembered I had gotten one from her and contacted her about using it.

Karen wrote a gluten-free cookbook filled with great recipes a few years ago that is available for purchase on her blog in a digital format (the books are out of print, but you can still find them on Amazon).  She teaches cooking classes at South Seattle Community College, has taught at Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC), and posts recipes and tips on her blog.  Check it out and support another great local author and cook!

Her granola recipe was very simple to make (and smelled divine as it was cooking) – simply mix all your dry ingredients (I used Bob’s gluten-free rolled oats, unsweetened shredded organic coconut, chopped organic almonds and walnuts, and organic cinnamon – you can also add ground flax seeds) and heat up the wet ingredients in a small saucepan (organic canola oil, local raspberry honey, and organic vanilla extract).  Mix them together until your dry ingredients are fully moistened, and then spread evenly in a large jelly roll pan or baking sheet with ridges.  Cook at a low temp for 1 1/2 hours (stirring every 30 minutes or so) and you are good to go!

The granola was very popular (one of my most popular demos) and would be very easy to adapt to your specific diet.  Not gluten intolerant?  Just use regular oats.  Don’t like to use canola oil?  Substitute with grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, or your favorite cooking oil.  Are you vegan?  Well, omit the honey and use agave syrup (or brown rice syrup) in its place.  A customer said they were going to make the granola and add some diced dried apricot and pineapple to it (after it had cooked) and that sounds yummy.  I’m going to make a batch for myself this weekend, and I plan on adding peanut butter to the oil and honey mixture.

I served the granola with Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy’s 2% milk (it’s on sale right now) from up the road in Lynden, and Karen recommends eating it with Greek yogurt.

Enjoy!

Gluten-free Granola Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

 New Gluten-free Granola

from Cooking Gluten-Free! by Karen Robertson (used with permission)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 c unsweetened coconut
  • 2 c Bob’s GF Rolled Oats
  • 2 c finely chopped almonds
  • 1 c finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 2 T finely ground flax seed (optional)
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1/2 c canola oil
  • 2 t vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 225°F.
  2. Lightly oil a jelly roll pan (12 ½” x 17 ½”) or a large, rimmed baking sheet with a bit of canola oil.
  3. Combine coconut, oats, almonds, walnuts and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan combine the honey, oil and vanilla.  Heat until the honey is as thin as the oil.  While mixture is on the heat source, watch it very closely as it can bubble up and boil over.
  5. Pour honey mixture over oat/nut mixture and stir until it is mixed evenly and is thoroughly moistened.
  6. Spread mixture in an even layer on your prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 1 ½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
  8. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Gluten-Free Granola PDF

5/10/11 update – I made the granola this weekend at home, but I went for a sweeter version.  I threw a small handful of chocolate chips into the honey/oil/vanilla mixture and let them melt (once it was off the heat, stirring frequently) and then tossed in a few more chocolate chips when I mixed it all together.  It made delicious chocolate granola, much like the one from Erin Baker’s (of Baker’s Breakfast cookies fame) that we have in bulk – a granola I have missed since finding out I was gluten-intolerant!  I’m going for the peanut butter version next…

Buttercream “Eggs” with Royal Icing Flowers – Part 2

Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Buttercream eggs, also known as fondant eggs (although they really are neither) are very easy to make.  Just four ingredients (plus nuts if you add them) and chocolate chips for coating them, and you are on your way to sugar heaven!

As I stated in my last post, my mom used to make these when I was a kid, and this must have been a well-used recipe in the 70’s and 80’s as I had many customers exclaim that their mother or grandmother used to make these for them every Easter.  I don’t know where my mom got the recipe, but it’s one that will always be in my arsenal.

The recipe I have doesn’t have many instructions, so it is good they are so easy to make!  I started by melting a stick of butter and then I let it cool completely.  You put two pounds (yes, I said pounds) of powdered sugar in that largest bowl you have, and then drizzle the melted butter, sweetened condensed milk (we have Santini Organic at the Co-op) and a tablespoon of vanilla and then mix it all together – I tend to start with a wooden spoon and then use my hands once the bulk of the powdered sugar is mixed in.  If you are adding nuts (I used organic roasted almonds) you mix those in and voilà – you are almost done.

Form the dough into egg shapes using your hands – the dough is very pliable and should do this easily.  I like to let them harden in the fridge for at least a couple of hours (or overnight) so the melted chocolate doesn’t make them too smooshy.  I melted two bags of Tropical Source semi-sweet chocolate chips (dairy and gluten-free) in a large bowl over a barely simmering pot of water, and then removed it from the heat.  The dipping method that worked best for me was to place the egg on a fork and then lowering the fork into the bowl so the egg was resting on the chocolate.  Then I spooned chocolate over the egg and smoothed it out.  I lifted the fork out and let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and carefully transferred the egg to a parchment lined baking sheet.  If you made Royal Icing flowers, this is the point you need to place them on the egg, otherwise the chocolate will harden and they won’t stick.

Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

That’s it – aside from letting the chocolate harden, which you can do on the counter or in the fridge.  Once they are made, they should be good for about a week or so (kept in the fridge and wrapped up tight – especially if you have cut into it, although I think they are best at room temperature so I leave them out for a little while before I eat them), if you can keep them around for that long!

Buttercream “Eggs” Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Buttercream “Eggs”

(recipe for Royal Icing drop flowers can be found here or in the PDF at the end of the post)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb powdered sugar
  • 1 stick melted and cooled salted butter or margarine (8T)
  • 1T vanilla
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2c chopped nuts (optional)
  • 12-18 oz chocolate chips for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Form about 10 eggs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Refrigerate for a couple of hours (or covered, overnight) for best results.
  4. Take eggs out and melt chocolate in a double boiler.
  5. Either dip the eggs in the chocolate (using either turkey nails or a wide-tined fork in the bottom to hold the egg) and place them on the baking sheet (be sure to let the excess chocolate drip off) or place a spoonful of chocolate on the baking sheet and place egg on top—then spoon another couple spoonfuls of chocolate over it and spread until even.
  6. Place your icing flowers on the eggs while the chocolate is still soft.
  7. Let eggs sit until chocolate hardens (you can refrigerate them).
  8. Use leftover Royal Icing to write the name of the recipient on the eggs before serving.

(I also used the leftover chocolate – I put little blobs on some parchment paper and put a Royal Icing flower in the middle for tasty little candies.)

Buttercream Eggs with Royal Icing Flowers PDF


Apple Crisp (with gluten-free and vegan options)

Today has been a beautiful day in Bellingham – it has been a couple of months since we’ve had a “mostly sunny” day, and people around here are ready for blue skies, myself included.  Most of us are used to rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon in the Spring, but we have had a serious lack of that this year (especially the sun part).  It is so nice to see all the signs of Spring – cherry trees are flowering, daffodils, crocus and tulips are blooming, and you can almost watch the grass grow when the sun does come out.

The view from the Cordata Co-op Local Roots Room. Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful place to cook at the Cordata Co-op – the kitchen is really nice, and there is a fantastic view of Mt Baker and the foothills when the majestic Koma Kulshan shows its face.  Whenever the sun comes out around here, everyone remembers why they love living here, and people come out of the woodwork to go hiking, window shopping Downtown, or head up to the mountain for a little late season skiing or snowboarding (I hear they got over three feet of snow in the last week!).

With yesterday afternoon’s sunshine and the beautiful morning I woke up to today, I started craving a little taste of summer. We currently have Washington grown Pink Lady apples on special (98¢/lb for members of our co-op), I decided a little apple crisp was in order!

I love cooking with Pink Lady apples – they are tart while still being sweet, and are crisp without being mealy so late in the season.  They are my apple of choice if Honeycrisps from Bellewood Acres aren’t in season because they work well in every recipe I have tried with them.  I inherited my grandma’s apple parer/corer/slicer, so prepping a mound of apples is a piece of cake!  If you don’t have one and are an apple lover, I highly recommend going out and getting one – either at a yard sale/second-hand store or at the Co-op (we carry them seasonally).

Goldilocks’ apples – not too soft, but not too hard – just right! Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

After your apples are prepped, you want to start the cooking process.  This recipe doesn’t have a very long cooking time in the oven, so it is important to cook your apples down enough so they will be able to finish in the oven without cooking them down so much that they disintegrate when you bake them.  It’s not as hard as it sounds – and the best part is that the most reliable way to make sure they are oven-ready is to taste them!  Once they are soft enough to cut with a spoon but still hold their shape, they are good to go.

“baked” streusel topping Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

I used a technique from Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for Quick Dutch Apple Crisp (the recipe is available to subscribers of their website) – they recommend baking your streusel for a few minutes first and using melted butter rather than cutting cold butter into your flour/oat/sugar mixture, and I thought I’d give that a try.

Once it was all prepped, it went in the oven for about 12 minutes, and presto – delicious apple crisp in April!  I served it room temperature with some slightly sweetened “cream on the top” whipped cream from our local Twin Brooks Creamery (the one in the glass bottles).  I thought that since I had a 9×13 baking dish full that the sampling might last for a couple of hours, but boy, was I wrong!  64 samples and 55 minutes later, my dish was empty but I was full with the knowledge that I had a hit on my hands!

Melissa’s Apple Crisp

INGREDIENTS

Streusel Topping:

  • 1 c all-purpose or GF flour blend
  • 1 c GF or regular rolled oats
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 c packed brown sugar
  • 8 T salted butter, melted and slightly cooled (use margarine for vegan option)

Apple Filling:

  • 5 # peeled, cored, and sliced apples (1/4” thick)
  • 1 T butter (or use margarine for vegan option)
  • 1 T honey or agave syrup (use for vegan option)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • Large pinch ground nutmeg
  • Whipping cream or ice cream for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Apple Filling: Heat butter over high heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan large enough to hold all the apples (and still have room to stir them) until foaming subsides; Add the apples, honey/agave, vanilla, and spices, and stir to coat.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook covered,  stirring periodically, until apples become tender and the spices have bloomed, about 10 minutes.  Taste the apples mid-way through to make sure that they are sweetened and spiced enough for your tastes.
  4. Pour (mostly) cooked apples into a 9×13 baking dish and distribute evenly.
  5. Streusel Topping: In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
  6. Slowly pour the melted butter over the flour/oats mixture and toss with a fork until evenly moistened and it has formed pea-sized chunks throughout the mixture.
  7. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and pour streusel evenly over it.  Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  8. Cool baking sheet on wire rack until the streusel is cool enough to handle.
  9. Cover apple mixture with streusel mixture.
  10. Bake for 10-15  minutes, until apples are all the way tender and they are bubbling, and the top is golden brown and crisp.
  11. Serve warm in a bowl with ice cream, or cold on a plate with some whipped cream.

Apples:  Ideally you want a mix of sweet and tart apples.  Sometimes one apple will give that to you (like Pink Lady) and sometimes you may want to use a mix of apples (like Macintosh and Granny Smith).

* This can easily be made vegan if you substitute margarine for the butter and use agave syrup instead of honey.

Apple Crisp PDF

Roasty-Toasty Black Beans

Black beans (or turtle beans) are tasty and healthy – they are packed with protein and dietary fiber, and are loaded with antioxidants.  They are a great choice for diabetics, and could help lower anyone’s risk for cancer and heart attacks.  All in all, a lot of goodness is packed into that small package!

I ran across an article in last month’s Real Simple magazine about the top foods you should eat, and of course black beans were on the list.  They suggested roasting them in the oven for a crunchy and healthy snack, and I was intrigued – I’ve worked in the natural foods industry for almost 15 years, and I had never heard of anyone preparing beans this way before – I had to try it!

The method is simple – rinse and dry cooked black beans, toss them with some olive oil (a fantastic healthy fat) and your favorite spices, and bake them until they are crispy and dry.  Through a little research, I found that they are a popular snack in Korea – you can buy them pre-packaged and seasoned and are popular because they are mild-tasting.  If you are looking for big, bold flavors, then this isn’t the snack for you, but if you are looking for a tasty snack that is packed with protein and fiber and is allergen-free (unless you can’t eat legumes!) then look no further.

Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

I found that you can make this recipe using any bean, you just may have to adjust the cooking time.  I also found that they soak up a ton of spices – I wanted to make a Cajun version, but that didn’t work out quite like I had planned.  I added spice to it before cooking, during cooking, and after cooking, and they never exceeded the “mild” rating from tasters, with the exception of the few “surprise” beans that were eye-watering!  If you like spicy snacks, then I would recommend blooming the spice in the oil first to try to amp up the heat.  To bloom a spice, you would heat the oil and the spice in a pan over medium heat for just a couple of minutes (until it is fragrant).  Let the oil cool before adding them to your beans.  I will note that I put about a Tablespoon of granulated garlic (I do love the garlic!) over a couple of cans worth of beans, and they were delicious!

Everyone who tried them liked them, and quite a few tasters went home with cans of beans (it helps that the Westbrae beans are on sale this month!).  You can also use dry beans, just be sure to cook them first!  These are also great on salads and in burritos.

photo roasted black beans

They may not be pretty – but they are pretty tasty! Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Roasty-Toasty Black Beans

INGREDIENTS

  • Black beans (or your favorite bean) – either a 15 oz can, drained and rinsed OR any amount of soaked and cooked black beans
  • Olive Oil for coating beans (about 2 t per can of beans)
  • ~ 1-2 t Spices of choice — Garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, chili powder,   sea salt, cumin, etc.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Dry cooked beans with a paper towel.
  3. Place them in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over them.
  4. Add desired spices to taste.
  5. Toss beans with oil and spice(s).
  6. Spread in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Take out baking sheet and toss beans.  Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until beans are crispy.
  8. Store in an air-tight container for a few days.

This mild-flavored snack is a favorite in Korea, and you can also use it to top salads, etc.  Use your imagination!

You can use almost any bean in this recipe — they don’t have to be black beans!  Garbanzos, or chickpeas, are the only ones that could be a little too hard (because of their size) to turn into a crunchy snack, but some enjoy that aspect.  Cook for closer to an hour if you give them a try.

You will need to use a lot of spices if you want a bolder flavor — be prepared to use more than you think will be necessary!  Blooming the hotter spices in oil first will help achieve a stronger flavor.  To bloom the spices, add them to the oil and cook over low heat for a couple of minutes.  Let oil cool before mixing it with the beans.

Roasty-Toasty Black Beans PDF