Antipasto Sausage Skewers

Inspired by Skagit Valley Co-op’s great success in making homemade sausage, our Meat departments have perfected their own sausage blends.  We’re using whole pork shoulder from Salmon Creek Farms and a blend of herbs and spices (never any preservatives) to create our mild Italian, Breakfast, and Chorizo sausages – available as links or in bulk packages.  All three varieties are available at both of our locations, plus you can also purchase hot Italian sausage at our Downtown store.

Photo © Sassy Sampler 2013

Photo © Sassy Sampler 2013

For my recipe demo yesterday, I decided to feature the mild Italian sausage.  After searching the web for a fun way to serve it, I ran across a recipe for antipasto (Italian for “before the meal”) skewers and thought I’d put my own spin on it.  Not only are these easy to make, but they look great on a plate and make a fantastic appetizer since you can serve them hot or cold.

I started with a specially made 18″ link of sausage (talk to our Meat department if you’d like make a request like this) and paired it with bocconcini mozzarella (those little balls of fresh mozzarella), Mediterranean Organics sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, and some organic local basil from the Growing Garden.  I pre-sliced the sausage (with a really sharp knife) before cooking it in a frying pan over medium heat, and I let the slices drain and cool slightly before assembling my skewers.  They came together very quickly, and flew off the plate equally fast!  They smell divine and are very eye pleasing – a great combination in any dish!

Antipasto Sausage Skewers © Sassy Sampler 2013

Antipasto Sausage Skewers © Sassy Sampler 2013

Antipasto Sausage Skewers

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package Co-op house made Italian Sausage, cut into ~1/2” chunks
  • sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into quarters—you won’t need the whole jar, just a piece for each skewer
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, washed and dried
  • Fresh mozzarella—either bocconcini or a log that has been cut into small chunks
  • Toothpicks or short skewers

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a skillet, cook sausage chunks until browned and fully cooked, about 8 minutes total.  Use a very sharp knife to make the cutting easier.  You can also cook the whole sausage and slice it afterwards.
  2. Drain sausage on a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Slide a basil leaf onto your skewer/toothpick.
  4. Slide a sun-dried tomato onto the skewer/toothpick until it almost touches the basil.
  5. Add the mozzarella to the skewer/toothpick.
  6. Finish by setting a flat side of sausage on the plate and skewering it so everything sits up vertically.
  7. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  8. Serve immediately, or chill and serve at room temperature.

Variations:
Try substituting one or more of these items:

  • Roasted red peppers
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Smoked goat cheese
  • Spicy sausage
  • Fresh Roma tomatoes

Antipasto Sausage Skewers PDF

Advertisements

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.

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle

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

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

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

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

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle © Sassy Sampler 2012

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle © Sassy Sampler 2012

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle

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

INGREDIENTS

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

Special Equipment:
Candy thermometer

INSTRUCTIONS

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

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle PDF

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!

Green Bean and Tomato Salad; Eat Local Month

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

Mama Jay and some happy customers

Me at my demo station inside the Cordata Co-op

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

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

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

Green Bean and Tomato Salad © Sassy Sampler 2012

Green Bean and Tomato Salad

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

INGREDIENTS

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

Green Bean and Tomato Salad PDF

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

Vanilla Chia Pudding

Working in the natural food industry, we see all kinds of food fads – some of them are perfectly legit and are eventually accepted into the mainstream, and some fade away for a host of different reasons.  One fad that I hope will develop into mainstream diets are chia seeds, which are considered to be a ‘superfood’.

“Why a superfood”, you ask?  Most of us know chia seeds only because of Chia Pets (which are a non-food grade version of the seed), but they pack a lot of punch in a really small package.  Chia seeds have been traced as far back as the Aztecs, who valued them because of their high nutritional value.  These teeny tiny seeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants and also contain a respectable amount of protein, Omega 6 fatty acids, and calcium.  They help you stay hydrated (they hold over 10 times their weight in water) and are a great snack if you need a little pick-me-up.  Chia seeds are also great for diabetics because they help slow your body’s conversion of starch to sugar.

My glass of chia water from this AM!

So….how do they taste?  Pretty boring, which is a good thing.  They have a slightly nutty flavor and are pretty bland, so they mix well into a variety of different foods – you can mix them into just about any cold liquid (try stirring a spoonful into water, milk, iced tea, juice, smoothies, etc.) and you can also incorporate them into your bowl of oatmeal or yogurt.  The biggest complaint I hear about them is the gelatinous layer that forms around them when they have soaked in liquid – it can be a little strange if you haven’t tried them before.  I personally like that quality about them – it definitely makes them more interesting!

A great use for them is chia pudding – you can make a “pudding” with the seeds simply by putting some in milk and letting them hydrate, but this recipe adds some additional healthy foods like raw cashews and Medjool dates and doesn’t contain any added sugar.  It is appropriate as a snack, breakfast, or dessert and has the consistency of tapioca pudding (although it isn’t nutritionally deficient like tapioca pudding is).  It’s also really easy to make, since you are basically just throwing everything in the blender – no cooking involved!  This naturally gluten-free and vegan pudding was a huge hit with everyone who tried it (except for one small boy whose father was very disappointed because he liked the pudding so much!) and will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days – so make some all for you or to share with those you love!

Vanilla Chia Pudding photo © Sassy Sampler 2012

Vanilla Chia Pudding

Serves 6-8

From Martha Stewart Living (there are some great recipes on her website that are gluten-free – just type “gluten-free” into the search box for related videos, articles and recipes)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 c organic chia seeds
  • 1 organic vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped—reserve seeds and pod
  • 1 c (5 oz) organic raw cashews, soaked in filtered water for 2 hours or overnight, at room temperature
  • 4 c filtered water
  • 7 organic Medjool dates, pitted
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 T organic raw coconut butter, such as Artisana
  • 4 t pure organic vanilla extract
  • 2 c mixed berries—raspberries and blueberries are great
  • 3/4 c organic maple syrup for drizzling

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place chia seeds and vanilla pod in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Drain the cashews and rinse them well.
  3. Add cashews, water, dates, salt, cinnamon, coconut butter, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds to a blender.
  4. Gradually bring up to high-speed and blend for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour mixture into the bowl with the chia seeds and vanilla pod—whisk well.
  6. Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent the chia seeds from clumping.  The pudding should thicken quickly (it won’t come to pudding consistency until it has been chilled in the next step).
  7. Refrigerate pudding until cold, about 3 hours.
  8. Remove from fridge and discard the vanilla pod.
  9. Whisk the pudding.
  10. Divide pudding among 8 bowls.  Top each with berries, and drizzle with maple syrup, if desired.

You can find almost all the ingredients in our bulk department, including organic chia seeds.  I served them with Remlinger Farms Berry Jubilee, grown in Carnation, WA and organic bulk maple syrup.  The berries are in our frozen section year-round.

The pudding can be refrigerated for up to 5 days in a covered glass container.

Soaking the cashews first  makes them more digestible by deactivating the enzyme inhibitors that are naturally present.  They also won’t turn into a really smooth paste if they are not soaked.  Don’t soak them for more than a day as the nuts will disintegrate into a gelatin-like substance.

Vanilla Chia PuddingPDF

Kale and White Bean Soup

This time of year can be especially hard in the Pacific Northwest – the days are getting longer, the trees are budding, and the crocus and tulips are peeking out at the sky – doesn’t sound that bad, right?  However, the thing we usually forget is that even though the calendar says it’s spring, the weather doesn’t always cooperate.  We’ve been in the throes of rain and wind storms this last week, so I thought that some delicious soup utilizing the local produce we currently have might help us get through it.

The Whatcom Farm-to-School program highlights kale as their Harvest of the Month item for March, and I have been trying to post a recipe each month to coincide with their program.  We are lucky enough to be getting weekly deliveries of beautiful organic red kale from Hedlin Farms in La Conner, WA as well as some sweet and delicious organic winter carrots, so I started looking for recipes to utilize both.  I found the answer on Epicurious in the form of Kale and White Bean soup.

The soup is delicious and very easy to make – it is also very hearty and this recipe makes six main-course servings.  Customers who tasted the soup in the Cordata co-op today loved it and quite a few people went home with the recipe and ingredients in hand – the smoky flavor from the kielbasa works really well with kale, and there are tons of veggies to fill you up.  I adapted the original recipe so there is less prep time by using canned Great Northern beans, but you can also follow the link to the original recipe if you want to use dried beans.  This is a very veggie-heavy non-vegetarian soup (is that an oxymoron?) – I know it will seem like there is too much when you prep the carrots and kale, but trust me, don’t skimp!

Kale and White Bean Soup
photo © Sassy Sampler 2012

Kale and White Bean Soup

Makes six main-course servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cans o white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carton low-sodium chicken broth (4 cups)
  • 2 qt water (8 cups)
  • 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about 3”x2”) (see note below)
  • 2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 package smoked kielbasa, 12 oz, sliced crosswise 1/4” thick
  • ~2 1/4 # carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2” pieces (if the carrots are large, then you can quarter them)
  • 1 bunch kale, preferably black (but you can use any kind), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Drain beans in a colander and rinse well.
  2. Cook onions in the oil in an 8-quart pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 or 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (while stirring), about 1 minute.
  4. Add the beans, broth, 1 quart water (4 cups), cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary.  Simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. While the soup is simmering, brown the sausage, in batches, in a heavy skillet over medium heat, 1-2 minutes per side.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  6. Raise the heat and stir the carrots into the soup.  Simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in kale, sausage, and the remaining quart of water and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender, 12-15 minutes.
  8. Remove cheese rind and bay leaf before serving.
  9. Season soup with salt and pepper

Notes –

To save time when you are preparing your soup, prep the onion and garlic first, then wait to prep your carrots and kale while the soup is simmering in step 4.

This soup is best when made 1 to 2 days in advance.  You can thin it with water when reheating if necessary.  I’ll note for those that tasted it in the store that I did make it the day before serving.

Don’t skip the Parmesan rind—it adds great depth to the soup.  Save them in your freezer—they add flavor to a variety of soups.

If you use homemade chicken broth, or choose to not use low-sodium, be sure to adjust how much salt you add to the soup, as you might not need as much.

Kale and White Bean Soup PDF

Whatcom 4H Super Saturday (Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag)

4H kids enjoying the fruits of their labor!

For the third year in a row I taught a kid’s cooking class today at the annual 4H Super Saturday, held at Meridian High School.  It’s always fun looking for a good recipe that any age of child can make, and for this year’s class I found one that proved to be immensely popular – Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag.

The recipe is from www.familyfun.com, a website full of fun recipes and activities for kids.  The basic idea is that you put your ice cream ingredients in a plastic sandwich bag (cream, sugar and vanilla), and then you put that bag inside a gallon bag half full of ice and coarse salt and then you shake it for five minutes.  Guess what?  It totally works, tastes delicious, and is an appropriate recipe for kids of any age!

I knew this would be a hit for the 4H event, and I was right – normally I have about 12 kids in my class (along with a few parents), and this year I had 22 kids sign up ranging in age from 3 to 16!  The kids and parents loved the recipe because you don’t really need any special ingredients or equipment (oh, and because it was ICE CREAM!).

The recipe calls for half and half (we used local Fresh Breeze organic half and half), but you can use regular milk and I have even made it using coconut milk (and coconut sugar).  The coconut milk version is delicious and comes out tasting light and has a very nice texture.  I haven’t made the recipe with other alternative “milks”, like almond or soy milk, but I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t work.  You can also use just about any sweetener in this as well, so it is only limited by your imagination!

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag – chocolate and coconut © 2012 Sassy Sampler

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag

serves 1

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 T organic sugar
  • 1 c organic, local half and half
  • 1/2 t organic vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c coarse salt
  • Ice cubes (enough to fill the gallon size bag about half full)
  • 1 pint-sized resealable plastic bag
  • 1 gallon-sized resealable freezer bag
  • Mittens, gloves, or a dishtowel

Mix-ins (optional):

  • Chopped nuts
  • Candies (like SunDrops)
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chocolate or berry flavored syrup (add after making the ice cream)
  • Pretzels

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine sugar, half and half, and vanilla extract in the pint-size bag and seal it tightly.  If you have smaller children preparing this recipe, prop the bag inside a glass so it is easier for them to fill or hold the bag for them.
  2. Place the salt and the ice in the gallon-size bag, then place the tightly sealed pint-size bag inside the gallon bag.  Seal the gallon bag tightly.
  3. Shake the bags until the mixture hardens (about 5 minutes).  This is when you should put on your mittens, or wrap the bag in a dish cloth.  Feel the smaller bag to decide when it’s done.
  4. Take the pint-size bag out of the gallon bag and rinse in cold water to remove any salt residue.
  5. Add any desired mix-ins and eat the ice cream right out of the bag!

Tips

  • You can also use milk in place of half and half in this recipe.
  • You can use alternative sweeteners as well, just be sure they are in granulated/powder form.  You will also have to adjust the quantity depending on the kind of sweetener you use.
  • You can use table salt in a pinch, but you should increase the quantity to 3/4-1 c.
  • You can make a chocolate version using dry cocoa mix.  Check the directions to see how much to add for 1 c of milk and add it with the half and half before you shake up the bag and you may want to omit the vanilla.  You may want to omit the sugar if your cocoa mix is sweetened.
  • You can also make this using coconut milk (I used unsweetened Coconut Dream from Imagine in the aseptic container) and coconut sugar to sweeten it for a light tasting and textured ice “cream”.

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag PDF