Shanghai Cucumbers

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

Shanghai Cucumber ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shanghai Cucumbers

INGREDIENTS

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

To make your own gomasio:

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

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

Shanghai Cucumbers PDF

Honey and Fromage Mousse with Wine Glazed Grapes

This Sunday is the Co-op’s Summer Party at Boulevard Park in Bellingham.  It is a really big deal this year because our co-op was one of a handful in the nation chosen to take part in promotional videos being produced by the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) for next year, which has been declared by the UN to be the International Year of Cooperatives.

A film crew is flying in from Austin, TX this weekend to shoot footage at both of our stores, at a few local farms (Heritage Lane Farm and Misty Meadows Farm are two of the farms being visited), and at our Summer Party.  Kevin Gillespie, who was a finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef season 6, was chosen as the host for the videos and he will also be at our Summer Party to talk to people about why they love co-ops.  Click here to read more about him.  I’m personally excited because my husband and I will be dining at the new Brandywine Kitchen Sunday night at a dinner party for Kevin – how much fun will that be? (A lot!)  He is our all-time favorite contestant from Top Chef and we were pleasantly surprised when we were asked to attend!

Chef Kevin Gillespie

In honor of Kevin’s visit, I thought it would be fun to prepare one of his recipes for my demo this week at the Cordata Co-op.  Kevin is an advocate for the Slow Food movement and uses locally grown foods at the Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, GA, where he is co-owner and Executive Chef.  I searched through his recipes from his season of Top Chef, and settled on his recipe for Honey and Fromage Blanc Mousse, with Glazed Grapes, Olive Oil and Sea Salt.

We don’t carry Fromage Blanc (a mild, creamy, soft white cheese) at the Cordata Co-op, but after doing a little research I found out that Quark would be a decent substitute.  Quark is a type of fresh cheese that is similar to cottage cheese, but the curds are much smaller and it is not made using rennet.  Créme Fraiche was easy to find at the store, and I rounded out the mousse with some local egg yolks, local honey and local heavy cream from Fresh Breeze.

This recipe is, shall we say, much fancier than I usually prepare for my demos, but it wasn’t really that hard to make (although I still don’t understand how he did this in under an hour on the show!).  When the recipe tells you to “whisk like crazy” while cooking the yolks and honey, it really is the best advice – the faster you whisk the shorter time it will take to complete the task.  On my trial run of the mousse (I wanted to make sure the quark would work before serving it) I didn’t whisk like crazy, and seemed like it took forever to get to the right consistency.  When I made the second batch I whisked like there was no tomorrow and it came together so much quicker!  Peeling the grapes before glazing was also a little tedious, but then again I was preparing many more than necessary for the recipe since I wanted to be sure that every sample had a grape.

This dish (Kevin lists it as an appetizer) was pretty amazing – it is sour yet sweet, salty and savory (umami!) all at the same time.  Tasters overwhelming loved the surprise flavors, and a family from France even took a copy of the recipe to bring home with them.  Enjoy, and I’ll see you at the party tomorrow!

Honey and Fromage Mousse with Glazed Grapes © 2011 Sassy Sampler

 Honey and Fromage Mousse with Wine Glazed Grapes

Recipe by Chef Kevin Gillespie

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz honey
  • 2 oz Quark or Fromage Blanc
  • 1 oz Crème Fraiche
  • 1 oz heavy cream
  • 1 c black seedless grapes (or your favorite)
  • 1 c Chardonnay wine
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 T butter
  • Fresh Thyme (garnish)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (garnish)
  • Sea Salt (garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cook yolks and honey in a double boiler over medium to medium-low heat.  Whisk (like crazy!) until a solid ribbon* forms—the mixture will get very thick and it will be a slow, solid stream when you lift the whisk from the bowl.  This will take 10—20 minutes, depending on how “crazy” you are when you whisk!
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Once it has cooled, add the Quark/Fromage Blanc, crème fraiche, and heavy cream and mix with your whisk.
  4. Season with salt to taste, and pour into serving bowls.  Place in freezer for 20—30 minutes (it will be more creamy than airy).
  5. Bring a pot of water to boil.  Score the grape skin and cook them into the boiling water for 1 minute.  Immediately plunge into an ice bath.
  6. Carefully remove all the skin from the grapes and cut in half lengthwise.
  7. Bring Chardonnay and sugar to a boil and reduce it until it has thickened into a syrup (about 20—30 minutes), stirring occasionally.  Make sure it doesn’t boil over.  Remove from heat.
  8. Add butter to a saucepan over medium heat and add the grapes.  Add the Chardonnay syrup to the pan and cook until the grapes are evenly coated and the sauce is bubbling.

To Plate:

  1. Remove mousse from freezer.
  2. Top each bowl with 4-5 grape halves.
  3. Sprinkle fresh thyme over grapes.  Drizzle a high quality extra virgin olive oil over the dish and finish with a sprinkling of sea salt.

This recipe is from Top Chef, Season 6, Episode 13, Quickfire Challenge.

*ribbon
A cooking term describing the texture of an egg-and-sugar mixture that has been beaten until pale and extremely thick. When the beater or whisk is lifted, the batter falls slowly back onto the surface of the mixture, forming a ribbon-like pattern that, after a few seconds, sinks back into the batter.

Honey and Fromage Mousse with Wine Glazed Grapes PDF

8/5/11 Update

Melissa, Kevin Gillespie and Michael (Melissa’s husband)

Dinner with Kevin was excellent and I got to talk quite a bit with him about cooking.  He is coming out with a cookbook next year, and gave me permission to use recipes from it, so look for that in the coming year!  I asked him about the mousse recipe and he gave me some further tips:

  • Make sure that your cheeses are room temperature before mixing with the egg/honey mixture (same goes with your eggs).
  • Whip the quark/fromage blanc with a mixer for added lift to the mousse before blending with the egg/honey mousse base.
  • During apple season, they make the mousse at the Woodfire Grill using the eggs and honey mousse base and omitting the cheeses – bake an apple (flavored with butter and cinnamon) and serve with the honey mousse.
  • Adding a sheet of gelatin also helps with adding lift to the mousse and to stabilize it – this is something they do in the restaurant that is not in the original recipe.  You can buy gelatin sheets online, or you can make them (that’s what they do at Kevin’s restaurant).  You pretty much just make gelatin and spread it in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and wait for it to dry.  Check out the other cool things you can do with it here.  I haven’t tried this, but if you are making the recipe and it won’t be consumed for a little while, then this might be a good option to try.

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

Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad

This week while searching for a recipe to sample for customers, I came across an intriguing sounding one, once again sourced from Yummly. If you haven’t checked out this website yet you really should – you can set up a profile where you can list foods you are allergic/intolerant of, foods you just don’t like, and whether you are following a specific diet (vegan, etc.). Once you have your profile set up, you can search for recipes using filters that will only show ones that fit the bill. You can also search the recipes according to taste (salty, sweet, savory, etc.), cuisine, preparation time, and course, as well as enter ingredients (one at a time) that you already have and it will find recipes to fit those parameters. You can also post photos of the dishes you make (I submitted a photo of the pesto I made last week and you can now find it on their website). It really is the best recipe website I have run across.

I found a recipe for Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad, and knew I had to try it. We currently have local bulk baby spinach (the same as I used for the Spinach Pesto last week), and some beautiful California strawberries (we won’t see local strawberries for a couple of weeks as least – check out the article in this month’s Co-op Community News). The recipe originally came from Allrecipes and had gotten really great reviews.

This is a really festive salad that would be great for summer potlucks (and the recipe is large enough to serve a small crowd) – the bright green of the spinach mixed with the vibrant red of the strawberries makes your mouth water, and everyone will be pleasantly surprised at the complexity of its flavor.

The daiquiri inspiration comes not from alcohol, but from the honey-lime dressing and toasted unsweetened coconut flakes (although if you were going to an adults-only potluck, a shot of tequila or rum might be a fun addition to the dressing!). The salad also includes some lightly candied almonds to add a little crunch and to compliment the sweetness of the strawberries. While the combinations may sound a little strange, everyone who tried it loved it, and someone even said it was the best salad ever!

As for execution, it was pretty simple to make, although more involved than tossing together a green salad. You have to candy the sliced almonds, which takes about 10 minutes (watch that you don’t heat the sugar too fast or it will form hard little sugar nuggets that will break someone’s tooth!) and you have to toast the coconut flakes (unless you have access to toasted flaked coconut, but it is a really simple process nonetheless). A little slicing and dicing, and you have the perfect summer celebration salad!

Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad

INGREDIENTS

Dressing:

  • 1/4 c lime juice
  • 1/4 c honey (use agave syrup if you are vegan)
  • 1/4 t poppy seeds
  • 1/4 t Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c canola oil

Candied Almonds:

  • 1 c sliced almonds
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 c sugar

Salad:

  • ~ 10 oz baby spinach, washed and dried
  • 1 # strawberries, sliced
  • 1 c flaked coconut, toasted
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine the almonds, salt and sugar in a large skillet.  Stir constantly (especially once sugar starts to melt) over medium heat until the almonds are light golden brown and sugar has melted, about 10 minutes.  Remove nuts from the skillet to cool.
  2. Wipe out the skillet.  Toast the coconut flakes over medium-low heat until lightly toasted.  Remove coconut from skillet to cool.
  3. Combine the lime juice, honey (or agave), poppy seeds, and mustard in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in the oil and set aside.
  4. Toss the spinach, strawberries, coconut, onions, and cooled almonds in a large bowl.
  5. Top with prepared dressing, and toss to coat.

You can also make the salad ahead of time: toss spinach, strawberries and onions in a large bowl and refrigerate.  When you are ready to serve, add the coconut, almonds and dressing and toss.

Spinach and Strawberry Daiquiri Salad PDF


Two kinds of Pesto – tastes like summer!

The sun is finally showing its face around these parts, and that means our first delivery of organic basil from the Growing Garden in Bellingham has come in.  We also currently have local lettuce (including butter/bibb lettuce – my favorite), arugula, mustard greens, salad mix, baby spinach, shiitake, shallots, chives and Italian parsley from a variety of farms in Whatcom County.  It was the basil that caught my eye though, and I knew pesto was just a few steps away.

I wanted to make a traditional pesto, but because we have so many other local greens right now, I thought I would also look for a pesto recipe that didn’t use basil.  I ran across a spinach pesto on Yummly (a great recipe site if you haven’t checked it out, especially if you have food allergies/sensitivities) and felt I had found a winner.

For the traditional pesto, I used the local basil (2 bunches), Nova Oliva Premium extra virgin olive oil (it’s on sale right now and is one of my favorite olive oils), Earth House Foods Organic pine nuts, organic white garlic, and a blend of Italian cow and sheep Parmesan and Romano cheese.  European pine nuts are a little hard to find right now for a couple reported reasons (the strength of the Euro makes them super expensive and blight/deforestation of wild pines has decreased the yield), and the ones we have at the Co-op are from China (read here for an idea of the issue with Asian pine nuts).  I decided to risk it, since the pine nuts we carry at the Co-op are certified organic by WA state and I really wanted to make a pine nut pesto!   It turned out delicious and my taste buds rejoiced.

For the spinach pesto, I used local baby spinach, local chives, and roasted local hazelnuts from Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards in Lynden.  A little of the Nova Oliva olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and garlic rounded out the recipe.  The recipe calls for Parmesan cheese, but I wanted to make this a vegan pesto, so I omitted it and I have to say that nobody missed it from the recipe – it still turned out creamy, thanks to the olive oil and hazelnuts.  People really liked the spinach pesto – I would definitely give it 5 out of 5 stars.  It is a little unexpected, but the flavors really work well together.

I chose to sample the pestos with some delicious crackers – Jóvan’s Pure Nutrition whole food artisan crackers made in Blaine, WA, which is located in northern Whatcom County right by the Canadian border.  They are made out of vegetables, seeds, herbs and spices and they are naturally gluten, corn, soy, dairy, egg and nut free, so just about anyone can enjoy them.  They are not available nationally, but they are a relatively young company and I’m sure that won’t be the case for long!  These are pretty amazing crackers from a pretty amazing company who we always love to work with at the Co-op (and customers love them too!).

Pesto Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011 Served with Jóvan’s Pure Nutrition Crackers – Spicy El Paso, Garden Pesto, and Zesty Tomato

Traditional Basil Pesto

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 cups blanched basil (packed)
  • 1/2 c toasted pine nuts*
  • 1 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4—1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Blanch basil and toast pine nuts.
  2. Put basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic in a food processor and pulse to blend.
  3. Slowly add oil through the feed tube until your paste reaches desired consistency.

Blanching your basil first (dunking the leaves in boiling water for about 20 seconds and then plunging them in icy water) keeps your pesto from turning brown as the basil oxidizes.  It does not affect the flavor of the basil.

Spinach-Chive Pesto

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

  • 2 c baby spinach
  • 1/2 c toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 t fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 oz fresh chives (chopped, about 1 1/2 c)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Process until finely chopped, scraping sides as necessary.

For a vegan version of either recipe, just omit the Parmesan cheese.

Parmigiano Reggiano (from Italy) is highly recommended for either of these recipes.  You can find this imported cheese in our specialty cheese section at the Co-op.  The rinds can be kept in the freezer and added to soups for extra richness.

*You can substitute almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts for the pine nuts.

Basil Pesto and Spinach-Chive Pesto PDF

4-H Super Saturday and Healthy Snacks for Kids

Today I taught a healthy snacks cooking class for our local 4-H kids.  Every year our local 4-H organization, run by the Washington State University Extension Office, holds a “Super Saturday” – a day full of fun classes that participants can take that is held at Meridian High School.  They can choose four classes (each a one hour “period”) ranging from decorating rocks, learning to tie fishing flies, bicycle safety,  how to raise backyard poultry, and of course, my Healthy Snacks class.

4-H kids (and parents) making their own trail mix

Those of you who have read since last year know that we made granola bars when I last taught this class, and while the kids loved it, it made for a very hectic hour.  This year I wanted it to be a lot less stressful (for me) but still fun, so I decided that trail mix would be a good alternative.  I also made a couple healthy dips for them to try, and then sent them home with the recipes so they could recreate them at home.  I had thirteen kids in my class this year, and some of them took the class last year, so it was fun to see them again.

First we made the trail mix –  I had organic almonds, walnuts and roasted peanuts, as well as organic raisins, banana chips and rolled dates.  I also supplied some organic sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and because trail mix is always more exciting with a little sweet stuff, I also had some organic dark chocolate chips and some blueberry yogurt covered raisins.  They had fun concocting their own mix, and everyone happily munched away!

4-H kids (and parents) trying the healthy dips.

Next I brought out the dips for them to try – the first was the “Raw” Caramel Dip from a past post, and the other was a Ranch-style dip that could easily be made at home.  I served the caramel dip with Lady Alice apples – grown in Washington, they are the most delicious apple I have tasted in a long time – you should definitely get into the Co-op to try these apples while we’ve got them!  I cut up some English cucumber (grown in British Columbia) and organic green and red bell peppers, and we had some organic baby carrots to taste the ranch-style dip with (recipe is below).  It was fun to hear all their comments on the caramel dip – one taster said it tasted like cookie dough (which she loves) and the kids gobbled it right up.  I of course waited until they had all tried it to tell them that it was made from cashews and dates!

All in all, I think the participants all had fun, and I know I did.  One student even gave me a painting she made of a tiger in a boat, which I thought was really sweet.  I will definitely be on board for Super Saturday next year!

Ranch-style dip

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 teaspoons granulated or minced garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 2 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1—1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.
  2. Combine 2 t mix with 1/2 c Greek yogurt.
  3. Store leftover mix in the jar and use as needed!

Healthy Snacks for Kids of all Ages PDF

5 a Day handout for 4H PDF

Butternut Squash Dip

In honor of the big game this weekend, I thought it would be fitting to make a healthy (yet still tasty!) dip to sample.

I’ll admit, we’re a baseball household (even when the Mariners are having a dismal season; we’ll miss you this year Dave!). I haven’t watched the Super Bowl since I was a teenager, and one of the main reasons I did was because my dad would let my brother and I get any snacks that we wanted for game time – can anyone say sugar overload?

This butternut squash dip is kind of in that vein – the flavor assemblage of squash and goat chevre makes for a sweet combination, with a subtle hint of roasted garlic. I know, sounds kinda weird, but it is delish!

I found the recipe on All Recipes website – it had gotten pretty good reviews and I thought it sounded intriguing. After asking a couple co-workers if they thought it sounded good, I went for it. It was extremely easy to make – you just roast the squash (cut in half and rubbed with olive oil) and the garlic and mash all the rest of the ingredients together with a spoon after it has cooled enough to handle. You can serve the dip warm or chilled (I elected for chilled when I sampled it for customers).

I used a couple small heads of the local red winter garlic since it was available. We only have the 8oz logs of goat chevre at the Co-op, so you can either cut back on the squash (I used a 2.25# squash with 11oz of goat cheese) and get the 8oz log, or I recommend trying a couple of the 5oz packages – either the plain or the pepper flavored ones. I served it with (gluten-free) Food Should Taste Good multi-grain chips and sweet potato chips – I had never tried their sweet potato chips before and found a new favorite!

Butternut Squash Dip

Makes about 4 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded (about 2 1/4#)
  • olive oil for brushing on squash
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 11 oz of goat cheese (chevre)
  • ~1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 c walnuts, finely chopped
  • Pinch sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.
  2. Brush the cut side of the squash halves with some of the olive oil, and place them oiled side down on a baking sheet/dish.
  3. Cut the top off of the head of garlic.
  4. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil, and place on the baking sheet/dish with the squash.
  5. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, or until the squash can easily be pierced with a fork.
  6. Scoop the squash out of its skin when it is cool enough to handle, and place in a serving bowl.
  7. Squeeze the cloves of garlic out of their skins, and into the bowl with the squash.
  8. Mash until smooth.
  9. Stir in the goat cheese, lemon juice, and sea salt until well blended.
  10. Sprinkle walnuts over the top.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a more mild flavor, you can substitute cream cheese for 1/2 of the goat cheese.

Butternut Squash Dip PDF

Simple Beef Stew

The weather has been chilly (and rainy, and windy, etc. etc.), and that means stew in our household.  I have made beef stew too many times to count, but had never actually written a recipe for it before so I figured today was the day!

It’s always interesting creating a recipe for something that you know how to make in your sleep – I have never measured any of the ingredients for my stew, I just add what looks (or smells) like the right amount.  The recipe has evolved over the years, as I have gained culinary knowledge and skill, but has essentially remained the same for over a decade.

I take the time to sear the meat correctly now – this was a step I ignored for many years and have found out that it is essential to making great beef taste FANTASTIC.  The secret is that you really do need to dry your meat before searing it over a high heat – it sears more quickly and leaves a delicious fond (the dark brown bits of meat left on the bottom of the pan) to season your dish as it cooks.  I used the local Bennett Farms grass-fed stew meat (in packs in the frozen meat section, and you can also buy it direct from the ranch in Everson) because it is the best tasting beef I have had since I was a kid and we “grew our own”.  The higher the quality of meat you use in your stew, the better it will taste, so I urge you to splurge on the good stuff!

Enjoy!

Simple Beef Stew © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Simple Beef Stew © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Simple Beef Stew

INGREDIENTS

  • ~1 # Stew meat, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 T butter or oil
  • 4 c water
  • 1 ½ cubes vegetable bouillon
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • ~½ t sea salt (Step 5—amount will depend on how salty your bouillon is — if you get a salt free version you may want to add a little more salt than recommended)
  • 2 largish Yukon potatoes, cut into ½” cubes
  • 2 large carrots, sliced in varying thicknesses
  • 3/4—1 c frozen corn
  • 2-3 T flour *
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*if you are making this gluten-free, add 1 T cornstarch to the flour

Optional:

  • Onions, fresh garlic

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pat stew meat dry with paper towels and place in bowl; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot over medium-high heat.  Heat butter or oil; add seasoned stew meat, making sure to not crowd the pieces in the pot.  Sear meat on twos ides (do this in small batches).
  3. Once all the meat has been browned, add 4 c water to the beef in the pot.  Add bouillon cubes and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil.
  4. Once water is simmering, cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours.
  5. When meat is almost done simmering, start prepping your potatoes and carrots.  Remove the lid from the pot and increase heat.  Add cubed potatoes and sliced carrots and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least 20 minutes (30-45 minutes is best).  Taste the broth to see if you need to add salt/pepper.
  6. Remove lid and add frozen corn.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least 15 minutes.
  7. Remove lid and increase heat.  Mix 2 T flour (and cornstarch if making GF) and just enough water to cover it in a jar with a lid.  Pour it into the stew, and stir for about a minute.  If stew doesn’t thicken as much as you would like, add another T of flour (mixed with a little more water).
  8. Remove from heat, remove the bay leaves, and serve with biscuits/rolls (GF or otherwise!)

Sassy Sampler notes:

  • You can add onion and fresh garlic to the recipe if you desire. Add these ingredients when you add the potatoes and carrots. You can also substitute frozen peas for the frozen corn, or add both!
  • This stew (as are most stews) is much richer the second day.
  • I recommend Rapunzel vegetable bouillon and the local Bennett Farms (frozen) stew meat. They combine for fantastic flavor.
  • You can make the stew in about two hours if you observe the minimum cook times.
  • I like to cut the carrots in varying thicknesses so some of them liquefy into the stew, but you are also left with nice chunks.
  • It is important to dry your pieces of meat so they sear correctly. If your meat is too moist, it won’t sear properly. It is worth it to take the time to complete this step.

Simple Beef Stew PDF

Vegan Pumpkin Mousse (for pies or on its own!)

We’ve got some beautiful fall squash in stock at the Co-op – the leaves are changing, we’re about to have our first big storm of the season, and that means it’s pumpkin time!

Making pumpkin purée from scratch isn’t really that much harder than opening a can, you just need a little time for it to cook.  The easiest way to make purée is to wash your pumpkin, chop it in half and remove the seeds and stringy pulp, sprinkle a little salt on the inside, put them on a baking sheet cut side down and cover with foil, and pop it in the oven for about an hour and a half.  All told it takes all of ten minutes (or less) to prepare a pumpkin for purée – once it comes out of the oven it is so soft the skin falls right off and you can mash it with a spoon.  If you get an in-season sugar pie pumpkin, you probably won’t even need to put it though a sieve!

That is exactly what I did for my recipe demo this week.  I was looking for a really easy from-scratch pumpkin recipe that could be eaten on its own or made as a pie filling.  This recipe came from Linden Hills Co-op in Minneapolis, MN.  The original recipe would be enough for two pies or a crowd of people, and you can double the recipe to create this kind of quantity.

I used Mori Nu Firm Silken Tofu (which is shelf-stable, so don’t look for it with the refrigerated tofu!) – if you were making this recipe to fill a pie shell, then you would want to use Extra Firm silken tofu.  Customers really loved the mousse, and many commented on how it was their first true taste of Fall!

Enjoy!

Vegan Pumpkin Mousse (served with a pie dough "cookie") Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Vegan Pumpkin Mousse

INGREDIENTS

2 packages firm* silken tofu

¼ c molasses

½ c maple syrup

2 c cooked pumpkin **

¼ c apple cider

1 ½t vanilla extract

1 ½t cinnamon

¾ t nutmeg

Sea salt

*Use Extra Firm silken tofu if you are making as a pie filling.

** A 4 pound sugar pie pumpkin will yield about 1 ½ c of pumpkin purée.

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Prepare your pumpkin(s) – wash outside of pumpkin and cut in half and discard the stem and the stringy pulp (save the seeds to dry and roast later!).

2. In a shallow baking dish, place pumpkin halves face down and cover with foil (you can choose to sprinkle a little sea salt on the inside if you wish).

3. Bake in a 375°  oven for about 1 ½  hours or until it is tender.  Let pumpkin cool, then remove the flesh and either purée or mash it.

4. Process tofu and pumpkin in a food processor until smooth.

5. Combine all other ingredients and add to the food processor.  Process until creamy.

6. Fill individual dessert cups or pour into a pre-baked pie crust and chill until firm.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:

1. Preheat oven to 300°.

2. Clean all the pulp and strings off your seeds (it is easiest right after you have removed them from the pumpkin).

3. Put some melted butter or oil in a bowl, along with any seasonings you would like to add, and add pumpkin seeds—toss to coat.

4. Place seeds (in a single layer) on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.  Keep an eye on them, depending on the accuracy of your oven, they may cook more quickly, or they may take longer to cook.

6. Enjoy hot out of the oven, or cooled!

Vegan Pumpkin Mousse PDF

Raw Caramel Dip – Yum!

Apple season is upon us, and it sure seems like they had a good growing season. All of the new crop apples I have tried have been crisp and delicious. For this week’s recipe demo, I wanted to be sure to include them for that reason. I check Ali Segersten’s blog (of Whole Life Nutrition cookbook fame, written with her sweetie Tom Malterre, which you can find at the Co-op) www.NourishingMeals.com from time to time, and came across her post for a raw “caramel” dip recipe and it sounded so good (and easy!!) that I had to try it.

I was not disappointed. The recipe calls for fresh Medjool dates, raw cashews, and a little bit of maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt. You soak the dates and cashews (separately) for 2-3 hours and then throw everything into a blender or Vita-Mix and presto – a delicious vegan, gluten-free dip that smells like cookies and tastes like caramel!

I sampled the dip with locally grown Bellewood Acres Jonagold apples – they are slightly tart and very crisp – a perfect complement to a locally created recipe! FYI – they give farm tours at Bellewood September 1st – December 31st between 10am-6pm. I spoke with a customer who just went out there with her kids and she said that they had a lot of fun, and so did she!

photo honeycrisp apples raw caramel dip

Raw Caramel Dip © 2010 Sassy Sampler

RAW CARAMEL DIP

http://www.nourishingmeals.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c raw cashews *
  • 1 c medjool dates, pitted (about 8-10 dates)
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 2 t vanilla
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Date soaking water as needed

* cashews are technically not raw because they are heated to remove the shell.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place the cashews into a small bowl and cover with water.  Let soak at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Place the pitted dates into a separate small bowl and cover with water.  Let soak for 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Drain and rinse the cashews, then place them into a blender or a Vita-Mix, along with the drained dates (save the date soaking water).
  4. Add the maple syrup, vanilla, and salt.
  5. Add about 6—8 T of the date water and blend all ingredients until ultra smooth, scraping down the sides if needed.
  6. Scoop into small bowls and serve with sliced, fresh apples.

Raw Caramel Dip PDF

Tom Malterre and Ali Segersten wrote the Whole Life Nutrition cookbook.  Tom is the Co-op’s nutritionist — you can find him twice a month at the Co-op. Check the most recent Co-op newsletter for dates/times.  He will be here to answer your questions about healthy eating, nutrition, and diets.  We are lucky to have them so accessible – a customer told me today that she learned about Tom and Ali while she was living in Arizona and followed her blog, and was so excited when she moved here and found out they were local!

Alissa Segersten received her Bachelor’s of Science from Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. She is the previous owner of a Personal Chef business in Seattle, Washington that successfully addressed the health and lifestyle needs of many families with her delicious, healthy cooking. She is currently a cooking instructor and author of the food blog http://www.nourishingmeals.com, empowering people with cooking skills and knowledge of whole foods so that they may reconnect with the pleasure in eating delicious, nourishing food.

Tom Malterre received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University and is licensed by the state of Washington as a Certified Nutritionist. Tom travels throughout the United States and Canada lecturing at conferences on topics such as Vitamin D, Gluten Intolerance, and Digestive Health. He empowers people through classes, seminars, and private counseling with his insight and depth of knowledge on the biochemical interactions within our body and their relationship to our diet .