Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad

The end of June is always exciting because it heralds the beginning of cherry season in the Northwest, and this year’s (farmer direct) crop is as delicious as ever.  Although I demo’d a salad for my last blog post, summer is all about salads so I decided to try another one – Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa salad.

This salad is very easy to make, tastes great, and looks pretty as well.  I started with a recipe from the May/June 2012 issue of Eating Well magazine and adapted it to my liking.  I had never had wild rice and quinoa together before, and I’ve got to say that they taste fabulous.  The original recipe had you cooking the wild rice for a half hour and then adding the quinoa and cooking for another 15 minutes, but I’m in the habit of cooking quinoa with short grain brown rice for a full hour when I make it at home (in a pressure cooker, no less).  I cooked both grains together for 40 minutes and they both turned out tender and delicious!

Along with the WA cherries, I also used our locally grown and roasted hazelnuts from Holmquist Orchards in Lynden as well as Beecher’s Smoked Flagship Cheddar, made in Seattle at the world-famous Pike Place Market.  Both added a delicious element to the salad, along with the celery and apple cider vinegar dressing.  All in all, customers thought the salad had a nutty, smoky flavor made richer with sweet cherries…and I heartily agree!

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad

Makes eight 3/4 c servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 c wild rice
  • 1/2 c red quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 c halved & pitted fresh sweet cherries
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3/4 c coarse grated aged goat cheese or smoked cheddar (or you can dice it)
  • 1/2 c roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add wild rice and quinoa, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.
  3. While the rice is cooking, whisk oil, vinegar, sea salt, and pepper in a measuring cup and prep your other ingredients.
  4. Drain grains and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch; make sure you drain the grains well.
  5. Once cooled, add the rice/quinoa mixture to a large bowl.
  6. Add the cherries, celery, cheese, and hazelnuts and toss to combine.
  7. Add the dressing and toss to combine.
  8. Serve at room temperature, or cold from the fridge.

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is an ancient grain and was a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet.  Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin that needs to be rinsed off the grain before cooking (it can upset your stomach).  Rinse quinoa in cool water until the water is clear.  This is easiest done in a very fine sieve.

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad PDF

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Homemade Peppermint Patties

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

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

© Sassy Sampler 2013

© Sassy Sampler 2013

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

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

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

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

Mmmmm…organic peppermint patties! © Sassy Sampler 2013

Homemade Peppermint Patties

adapted from Taste of Home

INGREDIENTS

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

Chocolate Peppermint PattiesPDF

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).

Flourless Chocolate Cookies, and a Bellingham Gluten-free Restaurant Guide

Chantel holding a plate of yummy chocolate cookies made with Dagoba organic and fairly traded cocoa powder.

Chantel holding a plate of yummy chocolate cookies made with Dagoba organic and fairly traded cocoa powder.

We’ve been busy over the last year redesigning our website, and one of the new things we are doing is picking a staff favorite item to feature on the site as well as in our print ads – for December, long-time staff member Chantel was selected (who is our Membership Coordinator and also works on the Front End at our Downtown store).  She loves to cook and bake, and one of her favorite recipes features her staff pick of the month – Dagoba Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Powder.  We thought it would be fun to tie that into the Sassy Sampler blog this month, so the recipe was an easy pick since Chantel had already chosen it!

These flourless chocolate cookies are scrumptious – they come together very quickly and contain no added fats (although plenty of sugar, so don’t get too excited about the basically fat-free status!).  They taste like a meringue brownie – they are a delicate cookie that is packed with chocolate flavor and only contain a few ingredients.  They are similar to the Triple Chocolate Cookies that I have blogged about before, but these are much easier to make and don’t contain any flour at all.  Customers loved their flavor, and also loved their simplicity…and the fact that while they contain egg whites, you don’t have to whip them for this recipe!

One other new addition (to my blog) is that I have created a list of restaurants in town that offer gluten-free selections/substitutions.  I urge anyone to comment on them and to offer suggestions to add to the list – you can either email me (address is located on the bottom of the About page) or use the form – most of the restaurants listed are ones that myself or my coworkers have personally eaten at so it is by no means a comprehensive list.  You can find the PDF document (and places to comment) here.

Flourless Chocolate Cookies © Sassy Sampler 2012

Flourless Chocolate Cookies © Sassy Sampler 2012

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

adapted from www.kumquatblog.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 c organic powdered sugar
  • 2/3 c organic cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 4 large organic egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 t organic vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4—1 1/2  c organic semi-sweet chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (and sprayed lightly with oil) or Silpat mats.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and sea salt.
  4. Stir in the egg whites and vanilla until the batter is well combined (if the batter seems too thin you can add more powdered sugar until it reaches school glue consistency).
  5. Spoon thick fudgy batter onto cookie sheets in 12 small, evenly spaced mounds (about 1 T).  Chill for 5 minutes or so to keep them from spreading when they bake.  Refrigerate remaining batter.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked.
  7. Slide the parchment onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before removing from the sheet.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 with remaining batter.

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to three days and taste just like brownies!

There are many variations of this recipe on the web—you can use anywhere from 2-4 eggs (depending on how thick you want the batter—I definitely think the thicker the better) and some recipes use as much as 2 cups of chocolate chips.  Nuts can be added to these cookies as well—hazelnuts, walnuts, or pecans would be a great choice.

Flourless Chocolate Cookies PDF

1/3/13 – Since posting this recipe I’ve made a batch using Dutch processed cocoa powder.  They turn out much darker (in color) and have a slightly richer chocolate flavor – give it a try if that is your preference!

I just have to mention that when I made the cookies, three of my four eggs had double yolks!!!  Just thought that was weird...

I just have to mention that when I made the cookies, three of my four eggs had double yolks!!! Just thought that was weird…

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!

Gluten-free Cheesy Crackers (aka Cheese Straws)

I’ve been searching for a really good gluten-free cracker recipe – it’s something that I really miss since I started my gluten-free diet.  We sell a lot of great gluten-free crackers at the Co-op, but I have craved something that is cheesy and crunchy and I just haven’t been satisfied with what is available pre-made.

One of the things I really wanted to avoid was all the rolling involved with most cracker recipes, which is necessary to create flaky layers.  The layers weren’t as important to me as the cheesy goodness – I wanted to find a simple recipe that I could make really quickly.  I found what I was looking for on Food.com – an easy recipe for something called Cheese Straws.

I had no idea what cheese straws were (and still don’t, even after a Google search), but reviews on the recipe were fantastic so I figured it would be worth a try.  The recipe originates from Roben Ryberg’s cookbook The Gluten-Free Kitchen which utilizes gluten-free starches in all the recipes.  When I have made gluten-free crackers with a regular gluten-free flour blend in the past they were good, but they were more like savory shortbread cookies than crackers (if that sounds good, then you can find a recipe here – I just substituted GF flour for the all-purpose flour in the recipe) and since Roben’s recipe uses starches, I figured that I would get a crunchier result.

I was right…not only was the recipe very simple, but they were super delicious – I think they taste like the best Cheez-it you’ve ever had.  I have to admit that I was VERY tempted to sit and eat the whole plate myself they were so yummy, and I have a feeling I’ll be whipping up a batch just for me and my sweetie tonight!

photo gluten free cheese cracker

Gluten-free Cheese Crackers © 2012 Sassy Sampler

Gluten-free Cheese Crackers (aka Cheese Straws)

adapted from Roben Ryberg The Gluten-free Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 T unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c organic, gluten-free cornstarch (Let’s Do Organic brand)
  • 1/3 c gluten-free potato starch (can substitute tapioca starch)
  • 1/4 t xanthan gum
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3 T organic cream or whole milk
  • 4 oz organic sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

Optional:

  • 1/4 t ground red pepper/cayenne

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a medium bowl (or preferably in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) cream the butter until really smooth, about one minute in a stand mixer and about 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer.
  3. Mix the xanthan gum, sea salt, and the starches in a bowl.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the creamed butter, with the mixer on low.  Gradually increase the speed of the mixer until the starch has fully incorporated into the butter. Scraping sides of bowl as needed.  The mixture will be crumbly (kind of like powdered Parmesan cheese).
  5. Add the cream/milk and mix until dough is smooth.
  6. Add the cheese and mix until the dough is smooth and the cheese is fully incorporated.  If the dough seems too dry, add more cream/milk by the teaspoon.
  7. Roll out or pat the dough to 1/4” thickness on an un-floured surface.  If the dough is too sticky to work with then refrigerate it for a few minutes.
  8. Cut into thin 4-6” long “straws” and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or you can grease the sheet).
  9. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Let cool slightly before moving from baking sheet.  Serve at room temperature.

Alternately, you can make cheese crackers:

  1. Roll the dough thinly on a piece of parchment paper and move it to your baking sheet.
  2. Cut the dough (a pizza cutter works nicely) into small cracker sizes and bake for ~15 minutes, until golden.  You don’t need to separate the pieces.
  3. Once the crackers are out of the oven, break them apart.

The thinner you roll the dough, the crunchier the straws or crackers will be.

For a little flair, twist the straws as you place them on the baking sheet.

GF Cheese Crackers/Straws PDF

Kartoffelpuffer (German Potato Pancakes)

We have a really great program in Whatcom County called Whatcom Farm-to-School, which highlights a different local produce item each month in participating schools.  The program is important because it links the foods that children eat to the farmers that grow it, and introduces some local produce into school lunch meals.  This was made possible by a grant from another great local organization, the Whatcom Community Foundation.

Potatoes are the January Harvest of the Month item, so I decided to pick a recipe this month where potatoes are the star.  I chose to make Karoffelpuffer – German potato pancakes.  I thought they would be tasty  and great for a cold day (they are typically served at winter street fairs in Germany).  Since they are best served warm, I decided to cook them right at the demo table, which was a first for me.  It went really well, and made my demo extra fun!

They are very simple to make – simply grate some potatoes (Washington grown!) and finely chop some onion, and then mix them with a little flour, egg, salt, and pepper.  Then you smoosh them in a pan with a little oil, let them get golden and crispy, and then gobble them down!  I served them with applesauce (which is traditional), as well as with some sour cream (I chose the locally made one from Breckenridge Farms) for a more savory version.  I did find a recipe for a vegan version (although I haven’t made them myself) on a great vegan food blog called Seitan is my Motor.  There is also an intriguing recipe for vegan sour cream with olives.  Guten appetit!

Kartoffelpuffer © Sassy Sampler 2012

Kartoffelpuffer (German Potato Pancakes)

adapted from allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c flour (gluten-free blend or unbleached wheat)
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t ground black pepper
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 c finely chopped (or grated) onion
  • 1/4 c canola oil (or olive, sunflower, etc.)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper.
  2. Finely shred one potato.  Press potato in between paper towels, cheesecloth, or a clean dish towel to remove as much moisture as possible.  Mix into egg mixture.  Repeat with remaining potatoes.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  4. In batches, drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the potato mixture into the skillet and press to flatten with a wooden spoon (try to make them as flat as you can).
  5. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp.  Add more oil as needed between batches.
  6. Drain on paper towels.
  7. Serve warm (you can keep them warm in a low oven).

You can shred the potatoes into cold water, drain, and then squeeze out the excess water (see step 2) if you want to avoid the oxidation that occurs when you shred potatoes.  Note—The oxidation does not affect the taste.

There are many variations you can try:

  • Use 1/4 c shallot or garlic instead of onion
  • Add a 1/4 t nutmeg
  • Can be served savory with sour cream, cottage cheese, or yogurt.
  • Can be served sweet with applesauce, cinnamon and sugar (which is traditional at winter street fairs in Germany) or berry jam.
  • You can replace the flour with instant grits
  • You can also fry them in butter, or a mixture of butter and oil.
  • Shred an apple into the mixture (squeeze out excess water as you would with the potatoes).

German Potato Pancakes PDF

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

Local produce is still in full swing, and I couldn’t resist sampling another recipe with the Growing Garden’s organic tomatoes and bunched basil.

I chose to make tomatoes the focus this month for another reason as well – September marked the launch of a farm-to-school program in Whatcom County schools.  The idea is to feature one locally/Washington grown produce item at participating schools each month so there is a greater connection between local schools and farmers.  September is tomato month in the Northwest, so it was the obvious choice (next month is broccoli/cauliflower month).

While looking for recipes, I learned something new: bruschetta actually only refers to the bread once it has been toasted and rubbed with olive oil and raw garlic.  I always assumed it referred to the whole kit and caboodle!  Regardless, it is a popular antipasti (or appetizer) in Italy and is very easy to make.

In addition to the Growing Garden’s tomatoes and basil, I also used the locally produced BIJA Greek extra virgin olive oil.  For the bruschetta, I wanted to have a couple of options, so I used the local Breadfarm hoagies and Against the Grain Gourmet’s gluten-free baguette (which is my current gf obsession!).  My husband suggested the hoagies, which worked out really well and I definitely recommend giving them a try.  I must say, it was like flies being drawn to honey once I had the samples ready – they were gone before I knew it.  Usually only demos involving chocolate go that fast!

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta, made with local ingredients © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 large Roma tomatoes or 5-6 in-season  tomatoes
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil, + more for brushing bread
  • 2 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T freshly chopped basil, about 10-12 leaves
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t fresh cracked pepper
  • Baguette, cut into 1/2”-1” slices (Gluten-free – can use Against the Grain Gourmet baguette or the Olivia baguette, which is made in Seattle)
  • Grated Parmesan Reggiano

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Whisk the chopped garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper and basil in a large bowl.
  2. Add the oil in a slow drizzle and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the tomatoes and let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, toast the bread: put sliced bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Brush them lightly on one side with more olive oil.  Put them under the broiler for about 5 minutes, but watch them closely to make sure that they don’t burn!
  5. Take the bread out of the oven and rub one side of each piece with a clove of garlic.
  6. Top the bruschetta with the tomato basil mixture (drain any juice that accumulated).
  7. To serve warm, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, top with a little Parmesan, and broil until the cheese melts.  To serve room temperature, top with Parmesan and serve!

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta PDF

Agua Fresca

I love talking food with my friend Michael M. at the Co-op – he is also an avid cook and is really good about making all kinds of things from scratch, including his own tortillas and refried beans (which I will be trying myself very soon).  Late last week he was telling me about how he makes Agua Fresca – a refreshing drink that is common in Mexico and Central America.  It is essentially a fruit, grain, and/or flower flavored beverage that is great on a hot (or warm, in our case) summer day.

Yummy local veggies!

The forecast predicted warmer temperatures and sunny skies for this weekend, and I thought that Agua Fresca sounded like a great recipe to demo.  We have so much delicious Washington grown fruit right now to choose from that the biggest decision was deciding what flavors to make!  With Michael’s sage advice, I decided on a couple different ones – watermelon, donut (or Saturn) peach and lime for the first and cantaloupe, cucumber, basil and lime for the second – and all ingredients except the lime were grown in-state.

Agua Fresca is extremely easy to make – simply peel and rough cut your chosen ingredients and throw them in the blender.  Once they are puréed, you strain it through either cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, add it back to the blender with a little sugar, and then into your pitcher with some water.  Once it is chilled (very important – it is best when served ice-cold) you are good to go – one sip and you feel like you should be sitting on a beach with a good book – you can almost hear the waves crashing in the background!

You can use any soft fruit (or vegetable) for this recipe, and you are only limited by your imagination.  This is a great way to use overripe fruit, as it will purée that much easier!  I’ve included the recipes for the two versions I made to sample for customers (who loved it – kids especially), but don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

Agua Fresca photo © Sassy Sampler 2011

Agua Fresca

Recipe courtesy of Michael Marques

INGREDIENTS

Watermelon/Peach

  • 1 “personal” watermelon, chopped
  • 3 donut peaches or 1 large peach, pitted and chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-4 T sugar *
  • Water

Cucumber/Cantaloupe

  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cantaloupe, seeded and chopped
  • 3-6 large leaves of basil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-4 T sugar *
  • Water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare your fruit/herbs/vegetables.
  2. Add fruit/herbs/vegetables to blender and purée.
  3. Strain purée through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into your pitcher.  Get as much of the juice from the pulp as possible; discard pulp.
  4. Strain again, but back into the blender this time.  Add sugar, starting with 2T and blend until combined.  Taste mixture to see if you want to add more sugar.
  5. Pour mixture back into your pitcher.  Add enough water to fill container and mix.
  6. Chill completely and serve icy cold, preferably with crushed ice.

* you can use just about any sweetener – if you choose to use a liquid one like honey or agave syrup, then you should dissolve it in a little bit of hot water before mixing it into the purée.

Can’t you see the beach?

Agua Fresca translates literally as “fresh water”.  It is served all over Mexico and it very simple to recreate at home.  It is hard to mess up—you can add as much water as you like to make it thinner or thicker, depending on your personal tastes.  Comer con gusto!

Agua Fresca PDF