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.

Any Butter (but butter) Cookies

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

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

Sunbutter Cookies © Sassy Sampler 2011

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

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

photo nut butter cookies

Any Butter (but butter) Cookies © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Any Butter (but butter) Cookies

INGREDIENTS

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

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

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

Slightly increase cooking time if you make larger cookies.

Any Butter (but butter) Cookies PDF

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

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

Gluten-free Granola

Last October at the Bellingham Gluten Intolerance Group’s Annual Community Awareness Event at St Luke’s Community Health Center, Seattle-area author Karen Robertson spoke.  She stopped by the Co-op’s table, introduced herself, and gave me a copy of her gluten-free granola recipe.  When I was looking for a good granola recipe to demo, I remembered I had gotten one from her and contacted her about using it.

Karen wrote a gluten-free cookbook filled with great recipes a few years ago that is available for purchase on her blog in a digital format (the books are out of print, but you can still find them on Amazon).  She teaches cooking classes at South Seattle Community College, has taught at Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC), and posts recipes and tips on her blog.  Check it out and support another great local author and cook!

Her granola recipe was very simple to make (and smelled divine as it was cooking) – simply mix all your dry ingredients (I used Bob’s gluten-free rolled oats, unsweetened shredded organic coconut, chopped organic almonds and walnuts, and organic cinnamon – you can also add ground flax seeds) and heat up the wet ingredients in a small saucepan (organic canola oil, local raspberry honey, and organic vanilla extract).  Mix them together until your dry ingredients are fully moistened, and then spread evenly in a large jelly roll pan or baking sheet with ridges.  Cook at a low temp for 1 1/2 hours (stirring every 30 minutes or so) and you are good to go!

The granola was very popular (one of my most popular demos) and would be very easy to adapt to your specific diet.  Not gluten intolerant?  Just use regular oats.  Don’t like to use canola oil?  Substitute with grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, or your favorite cooking oil.  Are you vegan?  Well, omit the honey and use agave syrup (or brown rice syrup) in its place.  A customer said they were going to make the granola and add some diced dried apricot and pineapple to it (after it had cooked) and that sounds yummy.  I’m going to make a batch for myself this weekend, and I plan on adding peanut butter to the oil and honey mixture.

I served the granola with Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy’s 2% milk (it’s on sale right now) from up the road in Lynden, and Karen recommends eating it with Greek yogurt.

Enjoy!

Gluten-free Granola Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

 New Gluten-free Granola

from Cooking Gluten-Free! by Karen Robertson (used with permission)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 c unsweetened coconut
  • 2 c Bob’s GF Rolled Oats
  • 2 c finely chopped almonds
  • 1 c finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 2 T finely ground flax seed (optional)
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1/2 c canola oil
  • 2 t vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 225°F.
  2. Lightly oil a jelly roll pan (12 ½” x 17 ½”) or a large, rimmed baking sheet with a bit of canola oil.
  3. Combine coconut, oats, almonds, walnuts and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan combine the honey, oil and vanilla.  Heat until the honey is as thin as the oil.  While mixture is on the heat source, watch it very closely as it can bubble up and boil over.
  5. Pour honey mixture over oat/nut mixture and stir until it is mixed evenly and is thoroughly moistened.
  6. Spread mixture in an even layer on your prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 1 ½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
  8. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Gluten-Free Granola PDF

5/10/11 update – I made the granola this weekend at home, but I went for a sweeter version.  I threw a small handful of chocolate chips into the honey/oil/vanilla mixture and let them melt (once it was off the heat, stirring frequently) and then tossed in a few more chocolate chips when I mixed it all together.  It made delicious chocolate granola, much like the one from Erin Baker’s (of Baker’s Breakfast cookies fame) that we have in bulk – a granola I have missed since finding out I was gluten-intolerant!  I’m going for the peanut butter version next…

Bouchées Parmentier au Fromage (potato-cheese “mouthfuls”)

A few weeks ago I read Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. I enjoyed it so much more than the movie – the “real” Julie was so likeable to me in the book (maybe it’s because I love that she loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer – in our opinion one of the best TV shows ever!), whereas I wish they had just made the movie all about Julia Child and left the Julie parts out because she just rubbed me the wrong way!

The one recipe that I just had to make after reading her book was for Bouchées Parmentier au Fromage – decadent potato-cheese “mouthfuls” that made me salivate just reading about them. My husband read the book after me (and surprise, surprise) guess which recipe he wanted to try? Yup – the one and the same!

I went to the internet and found a copy of the recipe, although you can also find it in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, of course. It seemed simple enough, so the next weekend I prepared a batch to go with our steak and braised carrots – YUM!

Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

I substituted sharp cheddar cheese for the Swiss called for in Julia’s recipe. We aren’t nutmeg fans at my house (and I can’t eat cayenne) so the flavor profile is slightly different from in the original recipe, but they were super fantastic and I knew that I would be sampling them at the Co-op very soon.

Well, that day was yesterday, and they were a hit with customers and staff. I usually try to avoid recipes that are too technical so they will appeal to the broadest audience (this one uses a pastry bag to pipe the sticks), but I don’t have a ton of experience using pastry bags myself and I got along fine, so I figured it was worth the “risk”. This recipe does take a lot of elbow grease (I got a doozy of a blister the first time I made them – I wore an oven mitt when I beat the dough this time and avoided another dreaded blister), but I feel that it is well worth the effort.

While I do own pastry bags, I ended up using a plastic freezer bag with a corner cut out to pipe the cheese sticks because it was larger, and it worked pretty well for me. Be sure to exert even pressure or the seams on the bag could split, and if you have plastic gloves to wear (so you can pipe while the dough is still really warm) they are also helpful. I had some minor blow-out trouble the first time I made these (I was squeezing the bag too hard!), but by the second time I was piping like a pro.

Bon Appétit!

photo of potato cheese sticks

Bouchées Parmentier au Fromage © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Bouchées Parmentier au Fromage

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 # Russet Potatoes (2 medium potatoes)
  • 1 c sifted all-purpose flour or GF flour blend
  • 1 stick softened unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

The original recipe created by Julia Child has the following differences:

  • Replace the cheddar with Swiss cheese
  • 1/8 t white pepper (instead of black pepper)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F and place oven racks in the upper middle and lower middle positions. Butter two baking sheets or cover with parchment paper.
  2. Peel and quarter the potatoes. Boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan in salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, then put through a ricer (or mash them by hand—just be sure to get all the lumps out!) back into the saucepan. You should have about 1 cup of potatoes.
  3. Stir the potatoes over moderate heat for 2-3 minutes until they form a light film on the bottom of the pan, indicating that most of their moisture has been evaporated. Turn heat to low.
  4. Beat the flour into the potatoes; then the butter by fractions; then the egg, cheese, salt, pepper, and seasonings (if using) in order. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  5. Fill dough into a fluted pastry tube 1/4” in diameter, and squeeze the mixture into 2 1/2” lengths spaced 1/2” apart onto the baking sheets. You should either let the dough cool a moment first, or wear gloves so you don’t burn your hands.
  6. Bake both sheets at the same time for about 15 minutes, or until the sticks are lightly browned. Halfway through the cooking time reverse the sheets so they cook evenly (switch racks and turn them 180°).
  7. Serve hot or at room temperature (I think they are best served hot, my husband likes them best at room temperature – you decide!).

Bouchées Parmentier au FromagePDF

You can find Julie’s blog from Julie and Julia called The Julie/Julia Project, here and her post about the potato cheese sticks here.

As a side note, I took Arabic (in elementary school) and German (in high school), although I can only speak a few words of either anymore, so I was a little daunted to say the name of the recipe out loud to customers. After a little dictionary.com verbal translation recon and practicing on my co-workers, a French-Canadian shopper told me that I did a pretty good job with my pronunciation! Say “boo-shay pahr-men-tyey oh fro-mazh and you’ll sound like you’ll know what you’re doing too!

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

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

Gluten-free Naan

Naan is one of the things I miss the most since I stopped eating wheat.  It is a versatile bread, and makes great mini pizzas for a quick snack!

In October, I tabled for the Co-op at the 9th annual Bellingham Gluten Intolerance Group information fair at St. Luke’s Education Center.  Next door to me was Josh from Flax 4 Life (who make delicious gluten-free flax muffins locally), and we started talking about the gluten-free lifestyle and he told me his wife Karissa was also a blogger.  Then he told me the news I was waiting to hear – that she had successfully made gluten-free naan.  Guess what I did?  Yup, you got it – after I went back to work I looked up her blog straightaway!

I will be the first to admit that when I saw that the naan recipe contained yeast, I was discouraged.  I don’t have a great history with successfully completing recipes for yeasted breads – I can never get them to rise properly, even when following the directions to a tee, and my kneading leaves a lot to be desired!

As my last recipe demo of the year got closer and closer, I decided to finally put my fears aside and tackle the naan recipe with only thoughts of success – what a good way to end the year, right?  Guess what, it worked…and not only that, it was delicious and super easy!

I think this recipe works best in a cast iron skillet.  You do need a lid, and I didn’t have one, so I just used a cookie sheet to cover the skillet and it worked just fine.  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet (you should really get one, you know!) then you should probably use a little more fat than I did for frying the naan so they don’t stick.  A well-seasoned cast iron skillet won’t require as much lubrication as you cook as stainless steel or other pans, so you can use less as you go through your batch of dough.  The original recipe called for a whole tablespoon of butter for each piece of dough, but I used considerably less than that.

The recipe was originally created by Artisan Bread in Five, and the same dough can also be made as a crusty boule with a few changes to the recipe.  You can find videos and step-by-step photos on their blog of the process.  They have a GF section in their cookbook that I really want to check out after making this recipe, and I will be exploring their blog for more gems.  Karissa at Gluten Free, Frugally adapted the recipe and essentially gave me the courage to go for it.  You can freeze both the dough and the cooked naan, so it is a great recipe to make in a big batch and then just pull them out of the freezer as you need them.

The next time I make these (which will be soon!) I am going to try to tweak it a little by using olive oil instead of the canola, as well as frying them in a little olive oil.  I am a huge fan of butter, and I’m sure that I will make them with butter again, but changing those two components ups the healthy factor a bit – plus I also love the flavor of a good olive oil!

Happy New Year, and enjoy the naan!!!

photo of gluten free naan bread

Gluten-Free Naan © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Gluten-Free Naan

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c brown rice flour + more for sprinkling the dough
  • 3/4 c sorghum flour
  • 1 1/2 c tapioca flour
  • 1 T granulated active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1 T xanthan gum
  • 1 1/3 c lukewarm water (110°F)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 T + 2 t canola oil
  • 1 T honey
  • Clarified butter (ghee) or butter

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix the flours, yeast, salt and xanthan gum in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl, if you are preparing by hand).
  2. Add the water, eggs, oil, and honey to the dry ingredients.  Mix with the paddle attachment (or with a large spoon) for a few moments until the dough has fully come together.  It will be very soft and airy.
  3. Put the dough in a large, clean bowl and cover it with a clean towel.  Put the dough in a warm place and leave it to rise for about 2 hours.
  4. Take the dough and break off a chunk about the size of your fist.  Place it on a floured  silicone baking mat or a piece of plastic wrap.
  5. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the lump of dough and flatten it into a round shape with the heel of your hand.  Peel back the plastic wrap and sprinkle a little brown rice flour on top of the dough.
  6. Replace the plastic, and gently roll dough out to about  1/8” – 1/4” thick disc (depending on your preferences).
  7. Heat a small pat of clarified butter over medium heat in a skillet that has a lid (cast iron works the best).  If you don’t have clarified butter, you can use regular butter, but you will have to take care so it doesn’t burn (clarified butter doesn’t tend to burn) – you will have to wipe out the pan after you cook each naan.
  8. Carefully peel the dough off the mat/plastic and place it in the skillet.  Put the lid on to keep the heat in and cook for about 2 minutes.
  9. Flip it over and cook for about another minute or two, until cooked through.
  10. Repeat steps 4-9 until dough is gone!
  • If you don’t have a cast iron skillet with a lid, but have the skillet, use the bottom of a cookie sheet as a make-shift lid.  Just be sure to wear an oven mitt—it will get hot!
  • Let the naan cool on a wire rack.  If you are freezing them, wait until they are fully cooled and then put them in a large freezer bag with parchment paper in between them so you can pull out one or two easily from the freezer.
  • A friend of mine has a tortilla press and is going to try using this recipe to make tortillas – after working with the dough a couple times now, I think he will have great success with that and I will eagerly be awaiting a sample…

Gluten-free Naan PDF