Homemade Candy Corn

I am a big candy corn fan, but don’t tend to eat it because of the ingredients.  While looking for a fun candy recipe to demo this week, I ran across one for homemade candy corn on Serious Eats and couldn’t resist contacting the author to see if I could use her recipe, mostly because the photo of the candy was so darn cute!  It was created by Jessie Oleson Moore, of Cake Spy fame – she is based in Seattle and her blog is awesome if you are into the sweeter side of cooking (like I am!).

I only made one small change to her fabulous recipe – instead of using corn syrup I used organic light agave syrup (I’ll note that we do sell organic corn syrup at our Co-op if you’d prefer to use that).  We also sell some really cool natural food dyes by India Tree – they are made from turmeric, beet and vegetable juice in a glycerin base.

These little candies were super easy to make (you just need a little elbow grease to get the food coloring worked in) and taste so much better than the commercial candy corn on the market…and they are organic (excluding the food coloring).  You don’t even need a candy thermometer!  Customers (and staff) who tried them thought they were very tasty and had a nice caramel-like aftertaste.  I will be making these again for sure!

photo of homemade candy corn in pastel colors

Homemade Candy Corn © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Homemade Candy Corn

recipe adapted from Serious Eats/Cake Spy

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 c organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 c organic powdered milk
  • 1 c organic granulated sugar
  • 2/3 c organic light agave syrup
  • 1/3 c organic salted butter
  • 1 t organic vanilla extract
  • Food coloring

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and powdered milk together.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, agave syrup, and butter over high heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, add the vanilla and continue stirring frequently for five minutes—the mixture will begin to reduce and thicken.
  4. Remove pan from the heat.  Stir in the powdered sugar/milk mixture a little at a time, stirring after each addition until all the dry mixture has been mixed into the wet mixture.
  5. You can either leave the dough in the saucepan or turn it out into a bowl sprinkled with powdered sugar until it is cool enough to be handled.
  6. Divide the dough into as many sections as you’d like to create colored segments for your finished candy, and place them in small separate bowls.  Mix each mound of dough with food coloring until you reach your desired color.  Hint—you may want to wear gloves so your hands don’t get stained, and the longer you wait the harder the dough will be to work with.
  7. On top of a sheet of waxed or parchment paper, roll out each color of dough into a long thin rope.  The thinner the rope, the smaller that segment of color will be in your finished candy.  I divided my dough into three colors and made four 17” ropes of each color (they were about 3/8” thick).
  8. Press together your ropes of dough in whatever color combination you’d like.  To make sure that each segment sticks together, press a second sheet of waxed or parchment paper on top and press with a rolling-pin or your hands.
  9. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough into triangle segments.  Keep a damp, clean cloth on hand to wipe off the knife if it gets sticky.
  10. Let the finished kernels set for an hour or two before serving.

Note from the original recipe author — up the cute quotient by placing a dab of green frosting in the inside of a lid of an empty baby food container and place 2-3 kernels on top, then screw the lid into the jar bottom-side up to create a magical forest of an Easter Corn terrarium.

Homemade Candy Corn PDF

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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!

Peanut Butter Cup Mini Cheesecakes

It’s December, and that always means I’m looking for some kind of delicious treat to make…’tis the season!  While I was perusing the web looking for a recipe to prepare today, I ran across Paula Deen’s recipe for Peanut Butter Cheese Cake Minis.  Game over.

These little confections are amazingly simple to make – no greasing, no chopping, and no special tools are needed (aside from a muffin pan and a mixer).  I wanted to make a gluten-free version, and that was also very simple.  For the crust, I used our Bakery’s gluten-free “graham” crust mix – this is a tasty mix that is super easy to use (simply mix in some butter or margarine and press into your pan).  I also used the too-yummy peanut butter cups from our bulk department, although I will note that while they don’t contain gluten they are made in a facility that also uses wheat flour.  A couple of packages of Organic Valley Organic cream cheese, some organic granulated sugar, and a couple organic eggs later I had beautiful little cheesecakes!

You have a few options when making this recipe – if you can tolerate wheat, you can just use crushed graham crackers for the crust; we also carry gluten-free “graham” crackers that you can crush to use for the crust; and as for the candy center, I’ve heard that Snickers minis also are fantastic in this recipe.  I did end up chopping up the peanut butter cups for the batch I sampled in the store (so they would be easier to cut into smaller portions) and it worked really well, so that is another option if you want chocolate in every bite!

This is my last post for the year, so I want to wish everyone a very happy and safe New Year (Glückliches Neues Jahr, Heureuse Nouvelle Année, etc.).

I also want to mention that 2012 has been declared the International Year of Cooperatives by the United Nations.  Our co-op was one of eight in the nation chosen to take part in a video series (starring Kevin Gillespie from Top Chef) highlighting different ways that cooperatives help communities thrive (our videos will be released in late February and in March) so look for those and other events throughout the year!  Go Co-op!  For more information on cooperatives of all kinds, check out Stronger Together, the International Cooperative Alliance, and the Northwest Cooperative Development Center.

Peanut Butter Cup Mini Cheesecakes © Sassy Sampler 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Mini Cheesecakes

INGREDIENTS

Crust

  • 1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs or Co-op Bakery gluten-free graham crust mix
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 12 bite-size peanut butter cups *

Filling

  • 2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/4 c flour, either gluten-free baking mix or unbleached wheat flour
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

*note—The peanut butter cups we carry in bulk do not contain gluten, but they are processed in a facility that also uses wheat flour so there may be trace amounts.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place a cupcake liner in each cup of a standard muffin tin.
  2. To make the crust—in a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until the crumbs are moistened.
  3. Press crust very firmly into the bottom of each muffin cup with the back of a soup spoon.
  4. Place one peanut butter cup in the center of each crust.
  5. To make the filling—beat the cream cheese with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy.
  6. Add sugar, flour, and vanilla and beat well.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  8. Spoon cream cheese mixture over peanut butter cups and graham cracker crust.
  9. Bake until set, about 20 minutes.
  10. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Mini Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecakes PDF

Plum Crisp

September is here…already!  More delicious local produce has arrived, and this time of year there is so much that can be had from backyard gardens and local farms.  September also marks the launch of Sustainable Connections new Eat Local First campaign – a year-round way to connect local farmers with local market support, and in turn raise awareness to consumers.  The Co-op has supported local products and farmers for over 40 years, and we were excited to partner with Sustainable Connections and become a sponsor of the campaign.

After talking this week with Wynne, the Produce Manager at Cordata, I decided that a recipe with plums as the focus was in order.  Not only does the Okanogan Farmer’s Co-op grow delicious peaches, but we also get all kinds of plums from them.  This week we have some beautiful and tasty Santa Rosa plums and a variety of pluots (a cross between a plum and apricot) that were also grown in Washington.  Fruit crisp is simple and delicious, and since I had never had any made with plums I thought it would be fun to try.

I used 8 Santa Rosa plums and 8 yellow pluots, and also decided that the locally grown roasted hazelnuts from Holmquist Orchards in Lynden would be a great substitution for the walnuts called for in the original recipe.  Because I wanted to be able to eat some myself, I also used Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats and our own Co-op Bakery gluten-free flour (made using Bob’s certified gluten-free flours) because it would be an unnoticeable substitution for wheat flour.  If you can tolerate wheat, then by all means use the locally milled Fairhaven Flour Mill flour.  We also have locally made butter from Breckenridge Farm in Everson at the Co-op.  The crisp came together quickly (the longest part was cutting 16 plums into small slices!) and smelled divine – it was a delicious mix of tart and sweet that customers really loved, across the board!

If you are looking for resources on eating locally grown and produced food, a good place to start  for Whatcom County residents (besides the Co-op!) is at www.eatlocalfirst.org – you will find links to the Whatcom Food and Farm Finder (also available at both co-op locations), a link to the Whatcom Locavore blog (which features recipes utilizing as many local ingredients as possible), and a list of local restaurants that are participating in the Eat Local First campaign.  If you live outside Whatcom County (and in the US), you can check out www.localharvest.org to find food that is locally grown in your community.

Plum Crisp

Adapted from www.food.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 3# plums (about 16), pitted and cut into 1/4” slices
  • 1/4—1/2 c sugar (depending on how sweet you would like it to be)
  • 1 1/2 T flour (GF or wheat)
  • 3/4 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t cinnamon

Crumb Topping Ingredients

  • 1 c oats (GF or regular)
  • 2/3 c packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c flour (GF or wheat)
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 7 T unsalted butter (or margarine)
  • 1 c roasted hazelnuts, chopped coarsely

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Prepare a 9×13 casserole dish by spraying it with cooking oil or butter.
  3. Combine the sliced plums, sugar, 1 1/2 T flour, vanilla and 1/4 t cinnamon in a large bowl.  Stir to combine.
  4. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. While the plums are sitting, prepare your topping.  Combine the oats, brown sugar, 1/2 c flour, 1/2 t cinnamon and the sea salt in a food processor and pulse to combine.
  6. Add butter/margarine by the tablespoon through the feeder tube and pulse to combine after each addition.  The mixture should be crumbly and resemble coarse meal when you are done.
  7. Add hazelnuts to the crumb topping and pulse until combined.
  8. Spoon the plum mixture into your baking dish.  Sprinkle the crumb topping by the handful until the plums are completely covered with an even layer.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

Serve with locally made vanilla ice cream from Lopez Island Creamery or from Whidbey Island Ice Cream Co. – available at the Co-op.

Plum Crisp PDF

Any Butter (but butter) Cookies

This week I “discovered” a new (to me) cookie recipe. I’ve come to find out the basic recipe has been around forever under many different names (Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, Easy PB Cookies, the Best PB Cookies – you get the idea). They all have gotten really rave reviews, and I love easy recipes that need ingredients that you already have in your kitchen. This cookie has no flour or butter, and you would never miss either ingredient. They are crispy on the outside and chewy in the center – the best combination for a cookie!

I decided to go a little outside the box when I baked up a couple batches for my recipe demo. I made the classic peanut butter version, but peanut allergies are very common, and I had heard that these cookies worked great with almond butter as well. Well, that’s too easy, so I decided to make some with sunflower seed butter. Sunflower seed butter is tasty, and something that a lot of people haven’t tried before. The one we carry at the Co-op (Sunbutter Sunflower Seed Spread) is produced in a nut-free facility, so it is safe to consume if you are allergic to any or all nuts.It is made with 100% roasted sunflower seeds, so it is also certified gluten-free. We carry a few versions of it, but I used the organic variety.

Sunbutter Cookies © Sassy Sampler 2011

Both batches of cookies were a great success and got high marks from my tasters. Personally, I have never tasted a more peanut buttery cookie, and the sunflower cookies were a big hit (I also toasted some sunflower seeds and added them to the batter). One other thing I did that might not be the norm – when I made the classic criss-cross pattern in the top of the cookies, I dipped my fork in sea salt for the “criss” and in sugar for the “cross”. Both cookies tasted great with the savory salt and the sweet sugar on top, but the sunflower version benefited the most.

You can use any nut or seed butter when you make these cookies (hence my new name for the cookie!).Pumpkin butter ones would be great during the holidays, and I’m definitely adding chocolate chips the next time I make them!

photo nut butter cookies

Any Butter (but butter) Cookies © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Any Butter (but butter) Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c nut or seed butter (peanut, almond, sunflower, etc.)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • ~1/4 t sea salt (only if your nut/seed butter is unsalted)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 t baking soda

Optional Extras (use about 1/3 c for dry additions)

  • Toasted sunflower seeds (if using sunflower butter)
  • Chocolate chips
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds (if using pumpkin butter)
  • 1 t vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and either lightly grease 2 cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.
  2. Beat together the nut/seed butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer (or in a stand mixer) until smooth, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add beaten egg and baking soda to any butter mixture and beat until well combined, about 3 minutes.  Add in any “extras”.  The dough will be crumbly and loose.
  4. Form 1 t of dough into a ball and place on cookie sheet, 1” apart.
  5. Flatten cookies with the tines of a slightly wet fork in a criss-cross pattern; dip fork in salt for “criss” and sugar for the “cross”.
  6. Bake until lightly golden/browned, about 8-10 minutes.
  7. Cool cookies on baking sheet for about 2 minutes and then transfer with a spatula to a wire rack to cool.

Cookies may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days.

You can decrease the sugar to 1/2 c or put in up to 1 c of sugar, depending on how sweet your nut or seed butter is and how sweet you want the cookies.

The egg is the “glue” in this cookie—you can use an alternate sugar (honey, agave, brown rice syrup, etc.), but you’ll have to adjust the amount of sweetener you add (depending on it’s sweetness).  Try about 1/3 c for a liquid sweetener.  Granulated coconut sugar isn’t recommended as the cookies aren’t in the oven long enough for it to bond with the nut/seed butter.

Slightly increase cooking time if you make larger cookies.

Any Butter (but butter) Cookies PDF

You can find a chocolate/cashew adaptation of this recipe at My Field Days – Yum!

Sinfully Simple Strawberry Sorbet

Ahhh – the local strawberries are finally here at the Co-op!

I must say that they seem extra good this year, but that could just be because we had to wait so long for them to ripen.

In honor of the holiday weekend, I wanted my recipe demo to feature these beautiful berries, but I wanted to make something other than the standard strawberry shortcake.  There are a ton of interesting recipes out there utilizing strawberries (including the delicious spinach and strawberry salad I demo’d a few weeks ago), and I wanted something that would be simple to make on a weekend when so many of us gather for barbecues and other festivities.

I found a winner with Strawberry Sorbet.  I have a tiny kitchen at home, so I always look for recipes that don’t need special equipment.  I found a winner on Food.com – not only did it only have 3 ingredients, but you don’t need an ice cream maker.

This recipe is so simple – all you do is wash and de-stem the strawberries, freeze them, then add them to the blender or food processor with a little sugar (or any sweetener) and a little water and then back into the freezer.  I only needed to use about 3 T of sugar instead of the 5 the recipe calls for.  Somehow it seems almost wrong that something this easy could taste so fantastic!  I’m exited to try this recipe with each berry as it comes in season – the only thing I might do extra is run the berry pulp through a mesh strainer to remove some of the seeds before the second freeze.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday, and get those local strawberries while they are fresh and juicy!

Strawberry Sorbet © 2011 Sassy Sampler

 Sinfully Simple Strawberry Sorbet

Makes about 3 cups / (6) ½ cup servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 quart (2 pints) fresh strawberries
  • ~5 T sugar or other sweetener
  • ~1/4 c water or juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prep berries (wash and de-stem).  Arrange them in a single layer in the largest tray that will fit in your freezer.  Cut larger berries in half so they all freeze evenly.  Taste your berries so you have an idea about how sweet they are.
  2. Freeze until hard (about 2 hours).
  3. Place frozen berries and about half the sugar in a food processor or blender and pulse until fruit is broken up.  Taste the pulp to see if you need to add more sugar/sweetener.
  4. Add water (or juice) and continue processing until you have a smooth puree.
  5. Transfer to a container/freezer bag* and freeze for about 2 hours, or until firm enough to scoop.  Stir the mixture a few times while it is freezing (every 30 minutes or so).
  6. If you let it freeze overnight, let it sit out for half an hour  and then stir it before serving—it will need to soften up a bit.

* The more you can spread out the sorbet when you put it in the freezer for the second freeze, the faster it will harden.

Any sweetener (or none, depending on the sweetness of the berries and your personal tastes/diet) will work in this recipe.  Be aware that some sweeteners have stronger flavors that sugar, so keep that in mind when you are adding them to the puree.

You can very easily double or triple this recipe—you are only limited by how large your food processor is! (or how many batches you want to make)

This will keep in the freezer for a few weeks, tightly sealed.  Let it sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes, stir, and serve.

Sinfully Simple Strawberry Sorbet PDF

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

Double Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

I realized yesterday, about 10 minutes before I was going to head home, that I hadn’t picked a recipe for my Friday demo.  I keep a stash of recipe ideas, so I delved in to see what I had already available to me.  Back in September, I found a recipe for cookies with no flour (hence they are also gluten-free) that were also vegan and I decided it was high time that I gave them a go.  After baking them and tasting them, I have to wonder why I waited so long to demo them!

I found this recipe on AllRecipes.com, and found out that the Almond Board of California had submitted it to the website, but that it was originally created by Elana Amsterdam in her cookbook The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook (she has a new cookbook coming out soon that is all about cupcakes made with almond and coconut flour).  I had somehow never heard of this cookbook, but I will be buying a copy soon (we don’t carry it at the Co-op, but I’ll check my favorite bookstore Village Books).  I love almonds, and they are a great source of protein and fiber, so a whole cookbook of recipes sounds great to me!

As always, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe according to my personal tastes – instead of grapeseed oil, I used organic canola oil (grapeseed oil gives me a stomach-ache, but it is a healthy oil that promotes “good” cholesterol and has a high smoking point) and I toasted the sliced almonds and the almond flour/meal as well.  You don’t have to do either, and I only indicate to toast the sliced almonds in the recipe – if you want to go the extra step and lightly toast the almond meal/flour, then make sure you cool it before finishing the recipe, and you’ll only need to toast it (stirring constantly) for about a minute.

I was a little concerned because the batter seemed really wet, but the cookies turned out to be soft and delicious!  They are pretty fragile when they come out of the oven, and you need to let them cool on the baking sheet for at least 20 minutes.  I put them in the fridge (still on the sheets) after they had cooled the allotted amount of time, and they became much less fragile but still stayed soft and moist.  They were loved by all who tried them, and are great if you can’t have grains, gluten, and/or dairy products.  They were super easy to make and I had the whole batch prepared and cooled in under an hour.

Double Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from The Gluten-free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 c gluten-free almond flour/meal (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 c grapeseed or organic canola oil
  • 1/2 c organic agave nectar
  • 1 T organic gluten-free vanilla
  • 1/2 c organic dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c sliced almonds

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper.
  2. Place sliced almonds in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Toast almonds until they are fragrant and slightly browned.
  3. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, sea salt, and baking soda.
  4. In a 2 c measuring cup (or a medium bowl) combine oil, agave, and vanilla.
  5. Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.  The batter will be very wet.
  6. Fold in chocolate chips and toasted almonds.
  7. Spoon dough 1 heaping Tablespoon at a time onto your prepared baking sheet, pressing down with your palm or the back of your spoon to flatten, about 1 inch apart.
  8. Bake for 8—12 minutes, until lightly golden.
  9. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 20 minutes, then remove and serve!

You don’t need to toast the sliced almonds—it just adds a little more flavor to the cookie, and if you are not gluten-intolerant (or don’t have access to organic versions of the ingredients) then you don’t need to be overly concerned with the specific ingredients listed.

Suggestions from Allrecipes.com members:  You can omit the chocolate chips and make jam thumbprint cookies with this recipe as well.  After you put the heaping T of batter on the cookie sheet, make an indentation in the center with your thumb.  Fill with a small scoop of your favorite jam and bake as directed.

Double Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies PDF

Candy Bars – gluten-free and vegan, but noone will ever know!

As I stated in an earlier post, Wynne, our Produce Manager at the Cordata Co-op, really wanted me to make candy bars for a demo, and today she got her wish (just in time for Valentine’s Day).

I found a recipe for “Three Amigos” candy bars on about.com – think Three Musketeers, except way better and more truffle-like.  This recipe looked super easy, and I was not disappointed!

I only used two ingredients: chocolate chips and a container of Suzanne’s RiceMellow Créme.  It took about 10 minutes (including melting the chocolate chips on the stove) to prepare the inside of the bars, and then you have to wait for it to set (at least 4 hours or overnight).  Then I just melted some more chocolate chips, dipped the bars in them, refrigerated them for about 10 minutes and voilá, I had super delicious candy bars that tasted like I’d slaved all day in the kitchen!  People couldn’t believe how simple they were to make and I gave out a ton of recipes to customers today – I have a feeling there are going to be some sugared-up households in Bellingham this weekend!

I used the new SunSpire Chocolate Dream Chocolate Chips, and with Suzanne’s “marshmallow” creme these candy bars are vegan (no dairy or eggs), nut-free, and gluten-free (there is soy in both the chips and the creme).  I used two forks to dip them into the melted chocolate – I made about 100 little cubes instead of cutting the filling into 10 bars (for sample purposes) – and found that it worked well to cover the bar/square in chocolate in the bowl and then gently push away the excess chocolate before moving them to my parchment lined baking sheet.  It’s a little cumbersome at first if you aren’t very experienced with dipping things in chocolate, but they’ll taste just as good even if they’re not pretty.

If you can’t find vegan marshmallow cream where you live, you can substitute regular marshmallow cream (and they still make Marshmallow Fluff!).  You could probably even throw plain marshmallows into the melted chocolate to get a similar result (you may want to add a T or two of water to the mixture).

I highly recommend that you whip up a batch this weekend.  In no time at all you will be everyone’s best friend!

photo homemade candy bars

Three Amigos Candy Bars © 2011 Sassy Sampler

“Three Amigos” Candy Bars

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 3 10 oz. packages of chips will work)
  • 1 container Suzanne’s RiceMellow Créme

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare an 8×8 pan by lining it with aluminum foil.  Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Put half of the chocolate chips in a double-boiler with simmering water and melt (you can use a heat-proof bowl on top of a small saucepan if you don’t have a double-boiler).  You can also place the chips in a microwave safe bowl and melt them in 45 second bursts (stir in between).
  3. Once the chips are melted, add the container of RiceMellow Créme and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Pour it into the prepared pan and smooth it to an even layer.  Refrigerate until chilled thoroughly, at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Once the nougat is completely set and firm, melt the rest of the chocolate chips  using the same method as in step 1.  Let cool slightly before starting step 6 (about 5 minutes).
  5. While the chocolate is cooling, remove the candy nougat from the fridge and pull up on the foil to remove it from the pan.  Place on a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, cut the candy in half, then cut each half into 5 bars.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  6. Using two forks or dipping tools, submerge one bar at a time into the melted chocolate.  Remove the bar from the chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to drip back down in the bowl (I found it worked well to lightly scrape the bottom of the bar on the side of the bowl to remove the excess).  Place the bar on the baking sheet.
  7. Repeat with remaining bars.
  8. Place the bars in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to set the chocolate.  Once set, the bars can be served immediately.

Three Amigos Candy Bars PDF