Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale and Lemon

Hunger strikes, your wallet is slim and your patience is running low - who can you turn to? Meet Pasta. A great sort of lazy-night kind of dining. Easy to prep, inexpensive, extremely versatile, and heck - plenty of fun shapes and colors to choose from. Last night was one of those kinds of nights in the Gaudet-Sayre household. I hadn't made much in tips from the day at the cafe, was tired, but still wanted to mess around in the kitchen once I got home. I picked up a little bundle of kale and a sampling of Merlot-soaked Sartori Bellavitano cheese (now a favorite!) from my local Whole Foods and trekked home to match them with their new mates - whole wheat spaghetti (49 cents at Trader Joe's!), olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. The result - a beautifully simple, fragrant, delicious dinner in about 10 minutes time.

As long as you have pasta, olive oil, garlic and some salt on pepper on hand (and maybe a good parm), you can't go hungry. It may not sound extravagant, but something so simple can yield unexpectedly pleasing sensations to the taste buds. I've found that "less i
s more" often rings quite true in the kitchen. It was a great dish. Light, a little salty, a little crunchy and everything tasted as it should - no masking of flavors. And the lemon - brilliant. Found it really complimented the otherwise bitter kale, and really rounded out the meal quite nicely. Freshly grated cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a little bit of freshly ground pepper, served with a side of salad - we were completely content after wards and I even hummed my way through the dishes.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale and Lemon

Yields 2-4 servings

Ingredients

- Half package of Whole Wheat Spagh
etti
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for tossi
ng)
- lemon juice from half a lemon
- 3-4 medium-sized stalks kale, coarsely chopped
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- hard cheese for grating on top (optional)


While waiting for your pasta water to boil, warm the olive oil over low to medium-low heat in a skillet (big enough to fit the chopped kale).
Add minced garlic and let cook, but not burn.
Add pasta to water.
Chop kale and add to the olive oil and garlic. Wilt, but do not overcook as you want to keep it's crunchy texture somewhat alive.
Once the spaghetti is cooked to your liking, strain, run through cool water and put back to keep warm. Combine the kale and garlic mixture and toss. Add lemon, salt, pepper and olive oil to
taste.
Serve with freshly grated cheese on top, or a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Great for a crowd, or a lazy-night's supper.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Green Goddess Salad Dressing: Vegan Remix

Normally, I would consider myself to be a simple salad dressing kind of girl - olive oil, a squirt of lemon and maybe some shallots and balsamic if I'm feeling especially jazzy. However, there is one restaurant's salad dressing that will always remain as one of my tastiest memories, and for only having had it once, have yet to lose a single ounce of the memory, now 4 years later... In June of 2005, my aunt Erica took me to Chez Panisse as a gracious graduation gift. I remember ordering the butter lettuce salad with Green Goddess dressing. Simply adorned with beautiful, bright ruby-red clusters of pomegranate seeds, it was one of the prettiest salads I'd ever seen. It was first time I experienced a salad that seemingly melted away in my mouth. Thickened up and beautifully colored by avocado - it was sensational.

Growing up, I had always been so curious about what went on behind the dark wood front, with the trellises covered in vines (it was in a house on a main stretch in Berkeley - Shattuck Avenue). Little did I know, it would become one of the most fascinating eateries to me, and probably, most influential for it's take on California-cuisine. I knew the the woman who started it, Alice Waters, was also the woman who started what would become my most prized memory at Martin Luther King middle school - the Edible Garden & kitchen. Among my grandparents, Tom and Nancy; my parents, Bill and Amanda, and my Aunt Jennifer, Alice Waters too, would make the cut in who I felt had made the biggest influence on my life in the kitchen growing up.

At the moment, I'm reading (and thoroughly enjoying) 'Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution'. It got me thinking back to my one visit there, and the salad dressing I've never been able to make quite right. I decided to look harder and give it another go the other day. I made it a little bit of my own (substituting the raw egg for silken tofu), but was quite happy with the turnout. Enough so to share. This is my version of Chez Panisse's Green Goddess Dressing tossed in Boston (butter) lettuce.

Green Goddess Salad Dressing


Ingredients

Yields 1 1/2 cups

- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced

- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoon Silken Tofu (or, in CP version - 1 large egg yolk at room temperature)
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (may want more to reach desired consistency)
- 1/2 ripe avocado

- 3 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon

- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives

- salt and pepper (to taste)

Tools

- blender or Cuisinart (either are best if using Silken Tofu)



In a small bowl, combine the shallot with the garlic, vinegar and lemon and lime juices. Let stand for 5 minutes.

If you are using Silken Tofu, I would recommend blending all of the ingredients together for a consistently smooth texture. Otherwise, combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Mash avocado with fork and gradually whisk in first mixture of shallot, garlic, vinegar, lemon and lime juice.

I served mine over a bed of butter lettuce, which has a very mellow, buttery and soft flavor that compliments the creamy dressing well. I then topped it off with some fresh, pink radishes for a bit of a bite. It would also be great with a light sprinkling of fresh peas.

Chez Panisse - Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California

(Photo courtesy of Barista Magazine)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The 'Less Is More' Healthy Cookie

Here's one for you: flour-less, egg-less, butter-less (and potentially sugar-less) cookies! I know what you may thinking, "You're losing it, Liz", but as unappealing as it may sound (for a cookie), I was intrigued by the ingredients (or lack thereof). Honestly, as much as I wanted to try them, I didn't think that they were going to be this good (and that I'd keep going back for more)... Sweetened and held together by overly ripened bananas and almond meal; mixed with rolled oats and chocolate, they really are a treat. And one that you can feel good about eating, at that.

I'm so happy to have found this recipe, as it's going to have to become a regular when I'm craving a chewy , delicious treat. Filled with chocolate and smelling of sweet, ripe bananas and Cinnamon - you can't go wrong. I owe it all to 101 Cookbooks (once again) and her article on her friend, Nikki's 'Healthy Cookies' recipe. In my version, I used both dark chocolate chunks and carob chips; coconut oil was replaced with olive oil since it would be one less thing to buy, and almond meal/flour was out of my price range, so I made my own by pulsing raw almonds in my Cuisinart to a fine, sand-like consistency (beware not to over do it, or else you'll end up with almond butter).

The 'Less Is More' Healthy Cookie (Nikki's Cookies)

Yields about 3 dozen bite-sized cookies


Ingredients

- 3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- 1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm - so it isn't solid (or alternately, olive oil)
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 2/3 cup almond meal

- 1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 6 - 7 ounces chocolate chips, carob chips or dark chocolate bar - chopped

Preheat oven to 350*F, racks in the top third.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut/olive oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips. The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough, but don't worry about it. Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto an oiled pan. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes. I baked these until golden brown on top, but soft on the inside. They were perfect. About 17 minutes baking time in my oven.

Black Bean and Corn Tuna Cakes

I love tuna, but seemingly not enough to keep cans of it from stacking up in our pantry. I think my mom has called me three times since our last Costco trip wondering if there was anything I needed, and just until the other day, all I could think of when she would ask that was, "How am I going to use up all of this tuna..?" It then dawned on me that being that I do love a good seafood cake (salmon, crab, halibut)- why not give tuna cakes a go! Little did I know then, that I would be nibbling on them with my tea the following morning...

Over the summer I had made salmon cakes with black beans and corn and highly enjoyed them, so I incorporated those two ingredients into this concoction. This recipe is especially good for entertaining since you get quite a bit out of it. I probably got about 12, good burger-sized patties. Great on their own, but would be just as tasty sandwiched between some wheat toast or two, thick slabs of browned sourdough bread. As the warmer months draw near, I can only guess how good they would be fresh off a grill. I served mine over a bed of lettuce with a side of salad and two patties later I was perfectly content and pleasantly surprised at how good they had turned out.

Black Bean and Corn Tuna Cakes

Ingredients

- 4 cans solid Albacore tuna in water, drained
- 1/3 white onion, finely chopped

- 1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
- 1 can black beans
- 1/2 can corn - plain (if cannot find fresh)
- 4 stems kale, coarsely chopped
- about 5 slices whole wheat bread or 1/3-1/2 baguette (preferred, but any kind will work)
- olive oil
- salt (to taste)
- freshly ground pepper (to taste)


Tools

- Cuisinart (blender should work, too)



Preheat oven to 300*F (this will be to keep them warm during the process).

Pulse bread in food processor to make crumbs. Be careful not to make them too fine. Pour in shallow bowl.
Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat.
Combine tuna, onions, green peppers, black beans, corn, kale, olive oil, salt and pepper in bowl. Mix well.
Put half of mixture into food processor and pulse until mixed well.
Combine box tuna mixtures (this ensures there is a bit of texture, but helps the patties keep their form).
Mold patties by hand and move to bread-crumb b
owl to be covered evenly.
Place the patty in the skillet and brown evenly on both sides. Keep patties on cookie sheet in oven to stay toasty, and repeat process until mixture is gone.
Before serving, I like to give them one more go on the skillet.

Serve as an appetizer, or make them the star of the show. Either way, they're tasty!

Chickpea and Leek Soup with Basil and Goat Cheese Bread Sticks

Spring has arrived cool and wet here in Seattle. Naturally, with the changing of the season, my palette changes as well. Craving something light and refreshing, I knew I wasn't ready to give up the warmth of a piping hot soup, to a cool salad (not yet, at least) so soup is exactly what I did. A clean, hearty, yet light-tasting Chickpea and Leek soup. Could act as a great starter for a dinner, but I personally think it's great as a meal itself; served alongside a thick slice of toasted sourdough bread, or in this case, Basil and Goat Cheese Bread Sticks. Regardless, it's a no muss, no fuss, easy-going and delicious soup. Top it off with freshly grated parm and you'll find yourself spooning it out of the pot while you're attempting to do your post-supper dishes (as I did).

Soup is one of those things that I've found hard to go wrong with. It is also great for those who are looking for a better way to stretch their dollar in the food department. I usually just make a big batch ahead of time, and freeze the rest in single-serving sized tupperware containers, or small plastic baggies. Whenever I want some, I just grab it from the freezer and put it on the stove to cook up. Ingredients in soup are usually so simple - stock that you can either make or buy; veg, beans, rice, noodles or meat depending on what you are hankering for. I know I could make a big, beautiful pot of it for under $5. How is that for a deal!

To be honest, this was my first time cooking with leeks, so I looked up a great, little how-to video on cleaning and prepping them. Click here, if you too are a first-time-leek-user, as it was very helpful to me!

Chickpea and Leek Soup

Ingredients


- 1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
- 1 medium potato
- 3 leeks, finely sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- few sprigs of basil
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- salt (to taste)
- freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- 850 ml chicken or vegetable stock (you can use more or less depending on the consistency you want)
- 2 handfu
ls Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
- extra virgin olive oil (as needed)

Tools

- Blender or Cuisinart


Boil water for potato and cook for about 30 minutes, or until tender with a fork.
Remove the outer skin of the leeks, cut off dark green top, root and toss. Slice lengthwise from the root up, wash carefully and slice finely.
Warm a skillet, and add the tablespoon of oil. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan, and sweat gently with a good pinch of salt until tender and sweet.
Add the chickpeas and cut-up potato and cook for 1 minute.
Add about two-thirds of the stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add basil and purée half the soup in a food processor or blender and leave the other half chunky. This gives a lovely smooth and comforting feel but also keeps a bit of texture.
At this point, I found I had too much soup for my Cuisinart to hold, so feel free to transfer it all to a large pot over low heat and mix together. You can go back and forth between pot and Cuisinart/blender to achieve your desired texture.
Add enough of the remaining stock to get the consistency you like.
Check for seasoning, and add Parmesan to taste. Top with finely chopped basil.

Basil and Goat Cheese Bread Sticks

Ingredients

- White Whole Wheat Pizza Dough - will need to be made ahead of time (use as much or as little as you like and refrigerate/freeze the rest)
- few sprigs of basil, finely chopped
- sprinkling of goat cheese crumbl
es
- any other herbs if wanted
- cornmeal for dusting (optional)


Tools

- rolling pin (or wine bottle!)


Preheat oven to 425*F.
Thinly chop up your basil.
Roll out dough flat.
Sprinkle cheese and basil evenly. Fold in half. Roll out flat. Sprinkle, fold and roll, once more.
Now, with a sharp knife, cut dough into long pieces.
With hands, shape/roll into bread sticks and pat with cornmeal.
Place on cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Knockout Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing With Homemade Croutons

Some days, I love a big salad. I usually just toss it with some olive oil and lemon out of simplicity's sake, but this time around I was craving something with a bit of a bite, and a little more substance. I stumbled across a recipe last week that I tweaked and have managed to have a salad at least once a day since because it's just that good. I'm most certainly a fan of the caesar salad but I've always felt weird about it's ingredients such as raw egg, and mayonnaise - possibly one of my biggest adversaries. I discovered vegan caesar dressing about two years ago at my local co-op, PCC, and have been smitten with it ever since. But, just last week was the first time I took it upon myself to create my own rendition of the recipe that I had come across. It called for all things I was comfortable with, practically favorites - tofu, olive oil, garlic, mustard powder - a heaven-sent dressing! Then, came the capers. Capers always found their way into our pasta dishes growing up (Mom...), so I almost completely disregarded the capers in the recipe, but then decided to just give it a go, and go with the flow. $1.79 later, capers are in hand and we're en route back to the kitchen. A few minutes later, and a couple pulses on the Cuisinart, I was set for a week and a half worth of delicious, vegan, zesty caesar salad dressing just waiting to mix and mingle with my other tasty-salad contributors: homemade croutons, garbanzo beans and sweet peas, all spread over a bed of baby romaine and frisee lettuce. Needless to say (after tasting), I went back for thirds.


Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing

- 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3/4 cup silken tofu
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 heaping tablespoon capers
- 4 teaspoons caper brine
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
- salt to taste


Tools

- Cuisinart or blender

Blend the garlic, tofu, and oil in the food processor or blender until creamy.
Add the lemon juice, capers, caper brine, and mustard powder, and pulse until blended. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste.
Put into container and allow dressing to chill in refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, optimally 1-1 1/2 hours.


Homemade Croutons

- any loaf of bread (I prefer a couple-day-old sourdough baguette, or something like rosemary ciabatta), torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
- olive oil (to taste/cover croutons)
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- salt & pepper to taste

- freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

Preheat oven to 425* F
In a medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredients and mix with hands until blended well.
Pour mixed croutons onto baking sheet and spread evenly.
Bake in oven until golden brown (10-15 minutes).
Let cool and store in plastic bag or airtight container


This salad is great plain, as a classic caesar with croutons and dressing, but if you're looking for something a little heartier, consider throwing in things like chickpeas/garbanzo beans, grilled tofu or soy beans for an extra fill and a protein boost.


Fluffy Baby Bran Muffins

I'm a sucker for a good bran muffin. I don't normally cruise the pastry case at cafes, but if I see the silhouette of a dark brown, moist, chunky bran muffin in the corner of my eye - it and I, are sold. Unfortunately, a majority of them are loaded with copious amounts of refined sugars and butter, so I took it upon myself to find a healthier version that I could mess around with. This recipe was adapted from from a bran muffin recipe in The New York Times Natural Food Cookbook published in 1971.


Baby Bran Muffins

Yields two dozen baby brans, or one dozen lar
ger muffins

Ingredients

2 cups white whole wheat flour OR stone ground whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran

3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons raw natural cane sugar OR brown sugar
2 cups full fat yogurt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey, preferably a light honey such as clover
2 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup of add-ins of your choice - raisins, chopped dried fruit, nuts, etc (optional) - I used apricots for a tang, and plump raisins for something sweet

Preheat oven to 425* F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, wheat bran, salt, baking soda and sugar.

Beat together the yogurt, egg, honey, and butter in a second larger bowl. Add the dry ingredients and fold in until everything comes together. Fold in any optional add-ins, raisins, nuts, and the like. Resist over-mixing.

Either grease a mini-muffin tin with butter or line the tin with small muffin papers. Fill each 3/4 full and top off with a little bit of honey on top for a sweet, caramelized top. Bake 10 -15 minutes, until muffins are golden on top and cooked through. You can also make larger muffins in a standard size muffin pan with this batter, you just need to bake them about 5 minutes longer.

These babies are so great right out of the oven with a little jam and a spot of tea!

White Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

If you asked me what my favorite thing to make was, I'd have to say - pizza. Hands down. Pizza can be pretty versatile, and there is always room for experimenting. It's quick, easy, fun and a great way to get rid of the random veg-stash in your refrigerator. Be it solo, a meal-for-two, or for a crowd, you can count on a homemade pizza to please. Growing up, I have fond memories of making pizza with my mom. I remember the way the Boboli pre-made crusts smelled and loving to spoon on just the right amount of marinara and topping it off with motz and meat-free pepperonis. Growing up was good in the Gaudet house. Then, as the years progressed, so did the family's pizza-making-methods. I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in their darling Greenlake home in Seattle during my middle school years and seeing those heaping plates of assorted homemade pizzas with homemade crusts and knowing that it was truly, love at first sight. Then came the bite - I was hooked. We all were. With tweaks of her own, my mother's pizza became my very favorite nibble, as well as the continuously requested birthday-dinner special.

Now, out on my own, and naturally, with my own twist, homemade pizza has made itself comfortable under our 'Favorites' list, as we make sure to have it at
least a few times a month. After seeing Trader Joe's offering ready-to-go pizza dough at $1.99 a pop, I got pretty comfortable just taking credit for my toppings. That was until last night - I had forgot what I was missing out on by not making the dough my own! And how simple it was at that. I woke up, went straight to the kitchen and took 10 minutes to mix the couple of ingredients/roll everything out, and enjoy my morning tea, all at the same time. Threw it in the refrigerator, and let it do it's "thing" while we enjoyed our Saturday. Come nightfall - it was time, and now, I really couldn't go back. Hooked, once again.

Thanks again, to 101 Cookbooks, I've fallen in love with a remix of
Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough. Rolled extra-thin it lends the perfect crunch, a drool-worthy flavor and a beautiful, rustic presentation. I'm personally a big fan of keeping my pizza simple -
an olive oil base, little or no cheese, and a good spread of veg. Last night's olive oil based, herd-infused pizza was adorned with roma tomatoes, red onions, roasted corn, red kale, green onions, roasted peppers and a crumbling of goat cheese. I prefer a stronger cheese like feta, goat, blue or a nice parm, because you just need the smallest bit to make a statement.


White Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Yields six 6-0unce pizza crusts, or 2 full-cookie sheet sized crusts

Ingredients

- 4 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons sal
t
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
- a few tablespoons chopped herbs (optional)

- Cornmeal for dusting

Tools

- Electric mixer with dough hook, or Cuisinart with dough blade (however, I'm convinced that you can knead this all by hand)
- Cookie sheet of bakin
g/pizza stone

Preheat oven to 450* F.

Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer.By hand stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed. Add the herbs. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl (I just threw mine in my Cuisinart for a couple of minutes). Add a touch of water or flour to reach the desired effect (if needed). The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.

Transfer the dough to a floured counter top. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (for single servings) or in half for two normal-sized pizzas. Mold each into a ball. Rub each ball with olive oil and slip into plastic sandwich bags. Refrigerator overnight.

Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal and get ready to shape your pizza dough. Uncover or unwrap the dough balls and dust them with flour. Working one at a time, gently press a dough round into a disk wide enough that you can bring it up onto your knuckles to thin out - you should be able to pull each round out to 12-inches or so. If the dough is being fussy and keeps springing back, let it rest for another 15-20 minutes. Place the pulled-out dough on the prepared sheet pan, and jerk the pan to make sure the dough will move around on the cornmeal ball-bearings (you don't want it to stick to the pan). Add your toppings (less is more!) and slide the topped pizza into the oven. Bake until the crust is crisp and nicely colored.

Add your toppings (less is more!) and slide the topped pizza into the oven. Bake until the crust is crisp and nicely colored. Enjoy with a nice tossed salad or side of soup as a great, light meal!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies (sweetened with Agave Nectar)


This recipe excites me. Not just because it was right up my experimental alley (black beans, come on!), but because it gave me an opportunity to bake with something I've been really curious about using as of late: Agave Nectar (also known as "Nectar of The Gods" or "honey water"). Agave Nectar is made from the same cactus plant that tequila comes from, and is considered to be a healthier alternative to refined white sugars and other common sweeteners. It is also great for those on a vegan diet as it works as the perfect replacement to honey. I've seen Agave Nectar at the store, but never really stopped to check it out, until I saw that my Trader Joe's was selling Organic Blue Agave Nectar (not actually blue) for $2.99 for just under 12 ounces (you don't need to use much). Now, it is something I highly recommend!

I found t
his amazing Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownie recipe from the recipe journal, 101 Cookbooks (of which I adore). This recipe was discovered from the cookbook, 'Baking with Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature's Ultimate Sweetener'. I wish I could take credit for this concoction as it's sheer genius, but author Ania Catalano really deserves a round of applause. I know, you must be thinking "Black beans as a brownie base? Ick. Get outta town.", but honestly - these were one of the better brownies I have ever tasted. If I served these babies at a party, and didn't tell anyone - you wouldn't have guessed their "special ingredient" - yes, a different kind of "special ingredient". They're chewy, rich and due to the the coffee substitute (instant coffee, in my case), they just taste like decadent, little espresso brownies. For those of you curious enough to grab the can-opener, here is the recipe:

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies

Yields 45 2" brownies

Ingredients

- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- 2 cups soft cooked beans (canned is fine - I bought 2 - you should have a 1/2 cup leftover)
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup granulated natural coffee substitute (or instant coffee for those for the more gluten-sensitive)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cup light agave nectar

Tools


- Cuisinart (blender might work, too)

(I tweaked my recipe a little by not using walnuts, and adding 2 tablespoons of flax seed for the heck of it.)
Preheat oven to 325* F.
Lightly oil baking pan(s).
Melt chocolate and butter together.
Place beans, 1/2 cup walnuts, vanilla and a couple spoonfuls of the chocolate/butter mixture in Cuisinart. Mix. Should be thick and smooth.
In a large bowl, mix remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, remaining chocolate/butter mix, coffee substitute and salt. Mix well and set aside.
Beat eggs in a separate bowl until light and creamy. Add Agave and beat well. Set aside.
Add bean/chocolate mix to coffee/chocolate mix and stir.
Add egg mix (reserving 1/2 cup). Mix and pour into pan(s).
Beat remaining 1/2 cup of egg mix until light and fluffy. Drizzle over batter and create a marble effect using a knife or toothpick.
Bake for 30-40 minutes.
Store in refrigerator and enjoy!




Saturday, March 14, 2009

Regaining Confidence in Myself (in The Bulk Section): Making Easy, Crispy, Gluten-Free, Hemp Seed Crackers

With all of this new-found time on my hands (which ends as of this morning - cafe world, here I come!), I've been experimenting a lot in the kitchen. Since out of work, I've gotten back into making batches of things ahead of time (ie steel cut oats for the morning and snacks, brown rice with black beans for dinners and lunches). I've decided to take the extra 5 minutes (literally) to measure out my goods and set them on the stove for 30 minutes while I'm doing other things, because eating this way makes me feel better! I feel everything is working in a very harmonious manner. The state my body has reached in terms of energy, mind-clarity, mood - it's as if I keep reaching a sort of natural high on a daily basis. My body feels well oiled, powered and taken care of, and when that's where you're working from, there is little that can tear you down. I've always been pretty conscious about what I put in my body, and would have considered myself a "balanced" health nut, but sometimes felt like the instant-oatmeal packet was all I could afford (time-wise). Oh - so wrong! I've found that as our priorities shift (like tending to our mind, our body, our soul, our Self), that taking these extra couple of steps to ensure you're giving your body what it needs, becomes normal (and easy to accommodate!). It's a little thing called time management, my friends, and the willingness to investigate what you're really doing to your body. It doesn't have to be hard!

Throughout the past couple of years, I've had a growing interest in letting go of the processed foods in my diet. We haven't made it there - yet, but changes have been made. Things such as cereal, pastas, sauces, (most) chips and crackers, any boxed/microwavable/pre-made meals, will rarely find their way into our cart. It's been a process, but we've found some cool alternatives along the way, and now I know, I could never go back. Lately, I've become infatuated with the bulk isle at my local natural grocer. Ok, I don't know about you guys, but I always had the weirdest thing with the bulk isle (especially at the health food stores). I always felt lost, unprepared, and like I didn't belong or didn't know what I was doing (or what I was looking at). However, a couple items here, a couple items there, some winners in the kitchen, and best of all - a much cheaper grocery bill (!), I was turned on big time and now the beginning of a beautiful, healthy relationship is being born!


Now this is where I come in - say you're still a little uneasy with that section, you feel a little
awkward scooping mounds of "what is that..?" into foggy, little bags - that's ok! I've done the research! I've found some very simple recipes that call for less mainstream ingredients, and for the most part are cheaper (if bought in the right quantities), and they're so satisfying to make!

Yesterday, I tried making crackers for the first time (huge cracker fan right here - huge). I've noticed that I think I have somewhat of a baby wheat allergy, so I found a gluten-free recipe that I liked, courtesy of the blog, Daring to Thrive: Gluten-free cooking, wellness, nutrition, and living a positively thriving, engaged life. These babies were so simple to make, so delicious and left you feeling empowered, like "Yeah! I make my own snacks!" (try that on for size, Nabisco!). I tweaked their recipe a bit, to suit what I could find at the store and to make them more my own, so feel free to do the same!


Crispy Gluten-Free Hemp Crackers

Ingredients:

- 2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (contains the tapioca and sorghum flour that the original recipe called for - brilliant!)
- 1/4 cup flax seed (soaked in water for 5-10 minutes)
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (can grind or leave)
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper

- 1 teaspoon red Cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons hemp seed
- 2-3 teaspoon (to taste) of olive or grapeseed oil (the oil really flavors the cracker, so use what you like)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- about 2 tablespoons warm water

Tools:

- parchment paper
- cookie sheet
- rolling pin (or a wine bottle!)

Preheat oven to 400* F.
In a large bowl mix flour(s) pepper and salt.
Add flax seed, hemp seed, Cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar and oil. Mix until coarse and pebbled dough forms.
Add warm water a little bit at a time and knead into an even textured ball. Should be moist, but not sticky. If so, add more flour.
Put half the dough between parchment paper on baking sheet. Flatten with hands and roll out to b
e paper thin. Carefully peel off top layer of parchment paper and either cut dough carefully into desired shapes before baking, or break up after baking.
Bake for 15 minutes (until golden and crispy). Repeat with other half of dough.

There are many other things you could incorporate into these yummy crackers, such as: strong, sharp cheeses, herbs (rosemary would be great!), other seeds and spices, scallions, green onions - go wild and get creative!

To go with mine, I also made my own hummus. No, not hard at all! I purchased ground up garbanzo bean mix from my local co-op grocer for $1.08 (and it's something that'll last me a little bit, as I only need to mix it up when I'm feelin' the urge!). It's very simple. The ratios are, for 1 cup of mix, add 1 1/2 cups warm water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and voila, you're set! Super simple and you can make as little or as much as you want and it still tastes fantastic! A little dry the next day - just add a smidgen of oil and you're golden!


Enjoy! And Happy Experimenting! Remember: both you and your body are worth it!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Torte and Stout

For all of you chocolate devotees, this flour-less chocolate torte passed down from my grandmother, is sensational. Moist, rich and oh-so-decadent, you really only need a sliver. Top it off with a little bit of fresh fruit, or a dusting of powdered sugar, and you're set! I made this awhile back for when we were having a friend from New York come stay with us. With how good it came out, you wouldn't have been able to guess how simple it actually was to construct. Paired with a piping hot cup of herbal tea, you really couldn't get much better. All I will say is that the boys did a pretty good job at devouring it...


La Pigna's Chocolate-Almond Torte

This rich, dense cake develops a fuller flavor if made a day ahead. It is marvelous topped with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream. This country-style torte is famous on the Isle of Capri and the recipe is from LaPigna Restaurant, 30 Via Lo Palazzo.

Ingredients:

- 6 1/2 oz. (squares) unsweetened chocolate (you can get away with using a 12 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chips)
- 2 C whole, blanched almonds (or walnuts for a cheaper alternative, however I didn't use any)

- 7 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 stick + 5 tablespoons unsalted, room temperature butter

- powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Tools:

- 8-inch spring form pan
- blender or food processor

1) Preheat oven to 350*F. Butter the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan and line with parchment paper. Lightly flour sides and bottom.
2) In a food processor/blender, grind 2 cups whole blanched almonds and 6 1/2 oz. (squares) unsweetened chocolate) to a medium/fine consistency.
3) In a medium mixing bowl, beat 7 egg yolks and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy (if working by hand, just do your best, i know it can be a workout!). Add 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter plus another 5 Tbs., softened to room temp and beaten until smooth.
4) Add nut-chocolate mix and beat until well blended. Batter may be dense; scrape into prepared pan.
5) Bake in the lower third of the oven for 45 minutes, or until fork comes out clean.
6) Let cool for 5 minutes, pop out of pan and after cooled, serve with powdered sugar on top.

Enjoy!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Vision of Vignettes


When it comes to decorating, I love little nooks and crannies - the little spaces provided for setting trinkets and what-nots in a thoughtful manner has always been somewhat of a hobby of mine. Incorporating complimentary textures, shapes and colors - I thought it would be a dream if I could do this for a living! Later on, through a friend coming to visit, I realized what I referred to as a sort of "nook and cranny" style of decorating was actually something called a 'vignette', which is a small groupings of objects (thanks, Katje!).

Using vignettes in your decorating is not only a simple, ascetically pleasing way to decorate, but a way to keep things tidy, while showing off some of your most prized, yet small, possessions.

Through some browsing, I found the design blog, Apartment Therapy, and they had laid out a couple of tricks, I thought helpful in putting some of your little objects to work (in a vignette!):


- Group objects in odd numbers - this is the most pleasing to the eye.
- Group objects together by color - put objects together that are all the same color and suddenly, your collection goes from messy to ordered. You can also group objects by tone - warm colored objects (reds, oranges, yellows), cool ones (greens and blues), neutrals or metallics.
- Group objects together by kind -
for example, a group of square picture frames, balls piled in a basket or curvy perfume bottles.
- Perfectly balanced isn't necessarily a good thing - better if some objects are taller and some are shorter. Different levels also work.

- Take a step further: bring in one object that stands out from the rest of the group in some way but still ties in. Try mixing two groups together.

Don't limit your groupings to a coffee table or a book shelf; try it in your linen closet, under your sink or in your clothes closet to bring order to these often messy spaces. - Apartment Therapy

I thought for the sake of inspiration
and fun, I'd take some pictures of what I've done with some of the things around our apartment, just to give it a little more "us" flair...









Happy Placing!

ChocolateChunkCoconutCranberryCookies!


Baking always puts me in a great mood. There's something very meditative about it (that and organizing my refrigerator - I know, I know). In celebration of getting my very first job call back in weeks since I've been laid off, I decided to celebrate by making a batch of experimental goodies! The past couple of days, through various baking blogs, I've come across these gorgeous recipes for chocolate chip cookies with cherries. Brilliant! A little sweet, a little tart - just what I've been hankering for! However, upon pulling up to the bulk section in my local grocery store, I realized, for the sake of my bank account, I should opt for dried cranberries as a cheaper alternative, which would still give me that great tang. I also decided to pick up some coconut flakes, as I just discovered I love the texture they lend to baked goods since trying my aunt's banana bread over for the weekend (have a look at her, and friend Lisa's delicious business - Sweet Eva's!).

Once home, I went straight to Martha, and chose to use her 'Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip' recipe. A little bit of this and a little bit of that, later, I had my own one-of-a-kind-Liz-creation! Hands down, guys, best cookies I have ever made in my life. I was so proud. They were soft, and almost cupcake like with their thickness, with the perfect ratio of sweet and sour and a great bit of extra texture to break up those big bites!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cranberry Coconut Cookies

Yields 3 dozen

Ingredients:

- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups chocolate chips/chunks
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (to taste)
- 1 cup dried coconut (to taste)

Preheat oven to 350*. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (don't worry if you don't have an electric mixer, I just whisked it by hand!). Set flour and other dry ingredients aside in a bowl together. Mix vanilla and eggs in with the butter and sugar and add coconut. With a wooden spoon, mix dry and wet ingredients together. Add chocolate and cranberries.

Spoon cookies onto a non-stick/buttered cookie sheet and put in oven for about 8-10 minutes (you may want to check midway to see if you need to rotate your sheet).


Voila! Beautiful, yummy, fluffy cookies at your disposal. I've really enjoyed this experiment and now can't stop thinking about all the other wonderful things I could incorporate into cookies - dried blueberries, dried apricots and peaches - the possibilities are endless! So please, if you ha
ve any brilliant ideas, please feel free to share them with me!

Until then - happy baking!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sentiments With Style

As Spring draws near, the thought of stationary makes it's comeback. For me, at least. Don't get me wrong - my obsession with perfectly packaged papers and goods lasts all year long, but come Spring is when I seriously stake out my next set of paperie goodness. Maybe
it's the fact that my
birthday is looming in the near future, and 'Thank You' cards are always a sweet, snail-mail kind of way to show your appreciation. Or, maybe with that breath of fresh air, and loads of Spring cleaning done, the thought of having a pretty, sweet treat on your newly organized desk seems like it only make sense. Either way, I've found my next one-of-a-kind set thanks to Pink Loves Brown.

What better way to say 'Thank You' than to say it in French! These babies in their goldenrod envelopes run at $3.50 a pop (comparable to that of your Pharmacy finds!), and $12.00 for a set of 6. Most certainly a sweet addition to your recipient's mailbox.

I am also a rather large fan of sweet note cards with blank inlays. I will usually always just purchase a box of them, because they're just so handy to have around the house! You can personalize a
nd dress them up for any occasion, be it a birth, a get well wish or, "Just thinking of you!", Pink Loves Brown makes some very darling blank cards.

Among some of my favorites are her Periodic Table of Sentiments, as well as these:




Pink Loves Brown was handed down to me by one of my readers (thank you!), and I've been gobbling it up ever since. Not only does the owner, Nicole Balch, offer delectable stationary, but other goods and gadgets like pins and magnets. She also has a really fun blog that I've been following called Making it Lovely, where you can watch her and her husband as they transform their home and see all of her neat, little ideas put into play! Nicole is also the owner of Smart & Lovely, where she offers web and graphic design services.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Dose of Daily Candy

Most of our emails these days consist of unwanted soliciting and forwards that we don't always get to. So why not treat yourself to a daily dose of something sweet? The hip (and aesthetically pleasing) newsletter known as: 'The Daily Candy', will surely give you something to look forward to, as well as quench your craving for all things good, entertaining and delicious! The 'Daily Candy' covers topics to please: Arts & Culture, Food & Drink, House & Home, Lifestlye, Fashion, and Beauty & Fitness. Intrigued? Custom your newsletter to your closest major city. Featured places include: Atlanta, Boston, Miami, San Fransisco, Dallas, Los Angeles and Seattle (just to name a few!).

All of their articles are quick reads, with witty headings and yummy pictures. I usually keep tabs on the Food & Drink section to see if a new bar or eatery has opened in the Seattle area if I'm looking for a new place to meet friends, or what clever ideas they have in store for their weekly "What To Do This Weekend" guide. They'll give you in the inside scoop on everything from sales to shop, musicians to hear and art to follow. It's also a fun resource if you are in fact looking to travel somewhere else and are looking for neat things to get into, yummy bites, or stores to poke around in.

Although not everything mentioned may be affordable to the frugal-minded, there are plenty of deals to be had and it's a free source of entertainment, inspiration and and a good place to dream (and get the inside scoop on your city's latest digs).

Click here to find out more and to subscribe to your Daily Candy!