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

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

Homemade Almond Milk

Almonds are one of the healthiest “nuts” you can eat (they are related to the peach, and are technically considered a seed). They are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as protein, and they also contain amino acids, manganese, and Vitamin E.   The US is the world’s leading almond grower, and essentially 100% of those almonds are grown in California.

Commercial versions of almond milk contain preservatives (which I feel affect the flavor), although they also tend to be fortified with calcium and Vitamin D which is a plus.  The biggest downside, however, is the sugar that is added to them.  Keeping this in mind, I set out to create a simple almond milk recipe that didn’t require any special equipment and didn’t have any added refined sugar.  After looking at dozen different recipes/methods, I decided to get into the kitchen and get working!

I started by soaking the almonds overnight in the fridge, covered.  This is an important part of the process because the soaking really brings out the milky-ness quality of the almonds and also makes them more digestible, resulting in better absorption of nutrients.  Another great benefit of soaking almonds (or any nut) is that it removes the tannin from the skin, which gives nuts their bitter flavor.

The next morning, I halved and pitted some Medjool dates to use as a sugar alternative, and also set them to soaking (so your blender is able to process them).  Once those had soaked for about 45 minutes, I got out the blender and started processing – first a heaping cup of soaked almonds went in, then 2 cups of water.  It only took a minute or two for the almonds to grind down, and then I added the dates (tasting the concoction after every two dates to see how the sweetness was progressing).  I decided that five was the perfect sweetness – not so sweet that it was overpowering but sweet enough to compliment the amazing almond flavor.  You can choose to omit the dates entirely, or add up to seven if you really like the sweetness of commercial almond milk.  The nice thing about using dates as the sweetener is that they are also high in fiber and are easily digested.  I added the last two cups of water, plus a pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt (my favorite) and I was ready to strain my milk.

You can strain the milk in a number of different ways, or if you are going to use the almond milk strictly in smoothies, then you can choose to omit this step (leaving the almond pulp in the milk gives you the full benefits of the almonds and is protein rich).  I chose to use a jelly straining bag, as it fit perfectly over the opening of my pitcher and has a super fine weave so I knew that my milk would be very smooth.  You can also strain the milk using a nut milk bag or a fine mesh metal strainer (I would suggest putting a few layers of cheesecloth in the strainer – that way as you finish you can gather up the corners and squeeze the last of the milk out of the pulp that is left over.  The almond/date pulp that you are left with can be used in many ways, including adding a bit to your morning oatmeal, adding it to smoothies, or dehydrating it and using it as a flour alternative.

Success – for about $1.33 a serving I had four cups of the most delicious organic and fresh non-dairy milk I have ever tasted!

Homemade Almond Milk © Sassy Sampler 2012

Homemade Almond Milk © Sassy Sampler 2012

Homemade Almond Milk

Recipe by Sassy Sampler

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c raw, organic almonds
  • 4 c filtered or spring water (cold)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3-7 fresh Medjool dates  (optional, for sweetness), split in half and pit removed, soaked for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours
  • Vanilla bean, cut in half and one side scraped and reserved (optional) OR 1/2 t pure vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Soak almonds in fresh water for at least six hours or overnight (if you choose to soak overnight, then cover and refrigerate the almonds).
  2. Drain and rinse soaked almonds.
  3. Using a blender or Vitamix, add almonds to blender with 2 cups of water.  Blend until it is relatively smooth (all the noticeable chunks are gone).  Add the sea salt.
  4. Add dates and blend to fully combine—3 dates will be slightly sweet and 7 dates will be similar to store-bought almond milk sweetness.
  5. Add remaining 2 cups of water and blend to combine (depending on the size of your blender, you may need to hand mix in the remainder of the water).
  6. Add vanilla bean seeds or extract if using and blend to combine.
  7. Strain mixture into a large bowl or pitcher, either using a metal fine-gauge strainer set over the bowl or a nut milk bag/jelly strainer bag.  If using a strainer, I recommend adding a square of folded cheesecloth and straining through that—you can gather up the corners and squeeze out all the milk much more quickly than using just a strainer.
  8. If using a strainer and no cheesecloth, use the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to gently push the milk through the strainer (don’t push down too hard or you will get some of the pulp in the milk).
  9. Refrigerate for up to 4 days in a covered container.  Because this is a raw drink, there may be separation after it sits—just mix and enjoy!

Almond Milk PDF

You can use the leftover pulp in many ways:

  • Put it in a dehydrator and you will get almond flour
  • Mix a tablespoon or two into your oatmeal/hot cereal.
  • Mix with a little honey or agave and spread it thin on a baking sheet—bake at 350°F until crunchy.
  • Add to smoothies
  • Check out Pinterest for more almond pulp ideas!

Almond milk is a tasty way to add heart-healthy fats to your diet!

Your leftover dates can be used for future batches of almond milk, or can be made into a yummy “caramel” dip…or you can just eat them!  I recommend pitting them and then putting a walnut in the center (great suggestion for an appetizer from a customer).

Zesty Marinated Asparagus

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Zesty Marinated Asparagus © Sassy Sampler 2012

Zesty Marinated Asparagus

INGREDIENTS

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

To make the balsamic vinaigrette:

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

Zesty Marinated Asparagus PDF

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

Carrot Ginger Salad

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

Photo courtesy of Jerry Janeway © 2012

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

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

Carrot Ginger Salad © Sassy Sampler 2012

Carrot Ginger Salad

Serves 6

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

INGREDIENTS

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

Dressing:

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

Carrot Ginger Salad PDF

Gazpacho (made with all local ingredients!)

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

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

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

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

Gazpacho in a cucumber cup © Sassy Sampler 2011

Gazpacho

INGREDIENTS

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

Gazpacho PDF

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

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

Roasty-Toasty Black Beans

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

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

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

Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

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

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

photo roasted black beans

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

Roasty-Toasty Black Beans

INGREDIENTS

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

Roasty-Toasty Black Beans PDF

Yup, burdock root tastes good – a kinpira recipe to please everyone.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a picky eater. It started in childhood, and coupled with my food allergies and sensitivities, it has caused some boring dinners for my very understanding and much more adventurous husband.

Working at a food co-op for so many years has made me much more open to trying new things – I will actually try things now that I never would have dreamed of as a teenager, and cooking the things that I don’t like has really helped open me up to all the delicious possibilities out there. Kinpira is something my husband Michael made a lot when we first started dating because he really loved it, and for the last decade I have effectively banned it from our household – until yesterday, when I made a batch of Burdock, Carrots and Leeks from Debra Daniels-Zeller’s Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.

Her recipe for Burdock, Carrots and Leeks (otherwise known, minus the leeks, as Kinpira gobo) intrigued me because it was a different flavor profile than I was used to regarding this dish. I still wasn’t sure that I was going to like it, but Michael was excited at the prospect of eating kinpira again so I went for it.

I decided to julienne the root veggies, as this is how he always made it (and, honestly, we’ve been watching the Food Network show Worst Cooks in America and I wanted to prove to myself that I could julienne with the best of them!).= I used mirin (a sweet cooking sake) instead of regular sake or white wine, and omitted the honey and (optional) butter so it would be vegan.= I was still skeptical until I put that first bite in my mouth and it was perfect – lightly crunchy, and slightly sweet while still being savory. Ooops, I had just made something I don’t like, and it was delicious!

Customers were also skeptical at first, but I am proud to tell you that I (and Debra’s recipe) changed a few minds yesterday when I sampled the dish. Not everyone knew what burdock was (until I explained how it grows all over the place here in the summer), but I didn’t have a single person who tried the dish tell me that they didn’t like it, and half of my tasters walked away with the recipe and plans on how they would trick their families into eating the plant that inspired Velcro!

photo kinpira burdock carrots leeks

Kinpira © 2011 Sassy Sampler

BURDOCK, CARROTS and LEEKS (aka Kinpira)

Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook (used with permission)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 c water
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 2 medium burdock roots (1/2—3/4 #)
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T butter (optional)
  • 1 medium leek, white part only, sliced into matchstick and washed thoroughly
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/4 c sake, mirin or white wine
  • 1 t honey (optional, omit if using mirin)
  • Nutmeg
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Finely chopped curly parsley

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine the water, salt and vinegar in a bowl.
  2. Peel and julienne (cut into matchstick-sized pieces) burdock root and place it in the bowl of water to soak while you prepare your other vegetables.
  3. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, butter (if desired), and the leek. Stir and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Drain the burdock and add to the skillet, along with the carrots.
  5. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the wine/mirin (and honey, if using).
  6. Cook until the alcohol has mostly evaporated and the burdock and carrots are tender, but still have some bite and texture to them.
  7. Season with nutmeg to taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

You can also grate the burdock and carrots for a quicker cooking time, although if you will be eating this dish with chopsticks, julienning the vegetables will work better in the end.

Traditional Kinpira uses sesame oil instead of olive oil (and no butter), and is seasoned with shoyu and mirin. Try adding the following to your dish if you use traditional ingredients (carrots and burdock, minus the leek): lotus root, arame, hijiki. You can also make this into a main dish by adding tofu, seitan, and/or pork.

Kinpira (Burdock, Carrots, and Leek Salad)PDF