Monday, October 31, 2011

Roasted Harvest Butternut Squash and Kale soup

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace

As I have seen in one autumnal face.

~John Donne

I love when someone holds the door for me.  It reminds me that kindness, manners, and generosity still exist.  I love when I hold the door for someone, I feel like I am reminding the world that kind gestures still exist and matter.

All kindness aside, there is also an element of awkwardness present in the "door holding protocol".  Every time I walk through a door I check behind me to see if someone is following through behind me.  Here enters the awkwardness.  There is a person, but they are not super close to the door, but clearly headed to the you a) ignore them, and decide they are too far away and let the door close...or b) hold the door and wait looking like a crazy person, and the person you are holding the door for feels sorry for holding you up and they speed up their pace.

What do you do?  Are you a door holding person?  Are you a guy?  If you are a guy and you don't hold the door, don't tell me, because I might have to lecture you on is not dead...hold the is a good thing to do...and make this soup, it is also a good thing to do.
I visited my sister and her husband in MA last year and they made a pumpkin soup with kale for dinner one night.  It was delicious and when I was faced with butternut squash and kale I decided to play around with the concept.  I was very pleased with the end result, and highly recommend making this healthy soup for dinner this week.  I made mine with chicken broth, but you could also use vegetable broth and make this a vegetarian meatless dish.  This is the perfect soup to make before a night of trick or treating, or to enjoy while the snow is falling down around you.

Roasted Harvest Butternut squash and Kale soup
adapted from simply recipes

2 butternut squashes, peeled, seeded, and cut into small/medium chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1 onion, cut into 8 pieces
6 cloves garlic, peel on

Salt and Pepper
Olive oil
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 bunch of Kale, washed and chopped finely
1 can Northern White beans, rinsed and drained

1 Preheat oven to 400°F.  Arrange carrots, squash, tomatoes, onion, and garlic on sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast vegetables until they are brown and tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

2 Pick out squash and carrots and set aside. Peel garlic cloves; place in food processor. Add tomatoes and onion; puree until almost smooth. Pour 1/2 cup broth onto the baking sheet; scrape up any browned bits. Transfer broth and vegetable puree to large pot. Add 6 cups broth, kale, thyme and bay leaf to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered until kale is tender, about 30 minutes.

3 Add carrots, beans, and squash to soup. Simmer 8 minutes to blend flavors, adding more broth to thin soup if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf.
Serves six.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Homemade Lara Bars

This week I started my new job.  I cannot tell you how excited I am to have a steady pay check again...the list of things I need to buy/fix/save for is extensive, and I plan on using every last penny.  I also plan on banking and saving my money like crazy!  My new plan is to work, work, work, save save save, and then revisit my bakery plan.  Financial stability is something so many of us take for granted, and I really missed it.  I am hoping that after getting a nice chunk of money into savings I will be fueled with courage for the self employment route.

Until then I am back to the 9 to 5 schedule and  am back to packing lunches.  I decided that now was as good as ever to try making my own Lara bars.  I can't believe I waited this long to try them out!  They turned out stupendously!  I made the traditional cashew version, and then made a coconut version...of course I like the coconut version is encoded in my DNA to do so.

I am completely enamoured with the simplicity of Lara Bars.  The original cashew version has 2 ingredients: cashews, dates.  Boom.  Enough said.  I am happy to see Lara Bars becoming more and more available to the general public.  It is basically the only thing I will eat at airports, so I am glad it is available to me. : )

Apparently making Lara Bars is a heck of a lot cheaper then buying them...about .75 cents a bars if you make them, and 1.50/bar if you buy them.  I didn't check the prices of the ingredients and figure it out, but it seems like it would be cheaper, and I honestly really like the addition of salt that I put in my bars.  Lara bars are famous for being a raw food bar, but next time I plan on toasting the nuts and coconut before making them...doesn't that sound divine? : )

FYI: If you have kids and are looking for something to send them to school with...this is it!  I haven't met a kid yet who doesn't like Lara Bars!

Fun Facts about Lara Bars:

1.  The lady who invented them is named Lara Merriken and is from Denver

2.  General Mills now owns the Lara Bar brand, but they were originally owned by Humm Foods

3.  There are 20 Lara Bar flavors...including Cocoa Mole...which is no longer on the market

4.  If you move fast you can order Lara Bar minis to hand out to your trick or treaters this the raisins my mom used to hand out when we were kids : )  Sorry Mom.

5.  You can enter to win their sweepstakes for some cool prizes here

Cashew Lara Bars

  1 1/2 cups chopped dates
1 cup cashews
1/4 tsp kosher salt (optional)

In a food processor pulse the dates until they have turned into a paste...they will clump together in a ball.  Remove from processor.  Pulse cashews a few times until finely chopped.  Add date paste back to processor and blend with the cashews and salt until combined. 
Form into a block packing the edges tightly and wrap with plastic wrap, or scoop out into balls.  Cover and chill...if you went the block way cut into bars.  Store in refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap.

Coconut Lara Bars

1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup nuts (I used almonds and cashews)
1 tsp coconut oil
1/8 tsp kosher salt (optional)

Use the same process as with original Cashew Bar recipe.

Open the windows in your house on these lovely Fall days we are having, bake something with cinnamon, be thankful for what you have, and listen to this song.

Do you like my new tag line?  I spent many many moons trying to come up with something and then one day this just hit me.  

Emeril Lagasse already has "kick it up a notch" and "Bam"
Rachel Ray says "Yum-o" and "EVOO"
Paula Deen says "I send you best dishes and love from my kitchen to yours"

So I had to come up with something : )
Eat your heart out,


Monday, October 24, 2011

Crunchy Brownies and Weathered Hands

 Texture is a beautiful thing.  It adds so much depth, so much character, and so much beauty to everything.  A pair of old withered hands with unending wrinkles holds so many stories.  Each line adding another dimension and another layer of history. 

My favorite hands are my Papa's.  He has had a hearing problem his whole life so in order for him to understand what you are saying you have to sit close to his good ear.  While doing this he always reaches for the hands of the person he is speaking with, and gently holds their hands in a loving grip.

His kind spirit and beautiful soul have been a gift to us all, and I pray everyone is as lucky as I am to have a grandparent as loving as him. 

I recently went to visit him in Louisiana, and was saddened to see his health so deteriorated.  When I entered the room and went to his side he reached for my hand, and said hello.  He had a confused look on his face and I could tell he was trying to remember my name...never before, had he struggled with this.  He was extremely distressed and angry at himself for not being able to remember my name.  I couldn't help but cry knowing that his mind may not remember me, but his heart surely did.  I reminded him of my name, and he reassured me he had not forgotten me.  Irregardless of his failing memory, his hands remained the same, and he held mine as we chatted about food and poetry.

I inherited many things from my Papa...including his poor hearing...but I also inherited his love of good food.  He has a great palette, and we have shared many meals together analyzing and being food critics.  After years of visiting him in Lafayette I know where he likes to eat, and what dishes he likes to order.  So when it came time to order Thai food, he couldn't remember what he usually ordered from when I reminded him that his favorite dish was eggplant Thai his face lit up, and he was so happy that I knew what he liked.  I am grateful that we have been blessed to share so many meals together.

I hope to make these brownies for him one day, because like me he too likes to eat things with depth of flavor and texture.  These brownies are crunchy because of the turbinado raw sugar I used, and can be made even more crunchy by adding walnuts or pecans.  Make these brownies today and go visit an elderly person in your life, hold their withered hands, and share good stories and good food.  You won't regret it.

Eat your heart out,

Crunchy Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment or tin foil
In a double boiler melt together and stir just  until smooth:

6 TBS unsalted butter
8 oz (1 1/3 cups) semi sweet chocolate chips

Once butter and chocolate chips are melted remove from heat and add:

3/4 cup raw turbinado sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Stir until smooth and add 1 at a time, stirring after each addition:

2 large cold eggs

Once combined add:

1/3 cup plus 1 TBS all purpose unbleached flour
3/4 cup toasted and chopped (pecans or walnuts) (optional, I opted out)

 Stir until smooth and combined.  Pour into lined pan, and smooth out.  Bake 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs.  Cool.

 Look a leaning tower of brownies : )

 Guess what?  I finally caught on that having a print option for my recipes was probably a good idea!  So if you like a recipe and want to print it out just click on the printer icon at the end of each post.  Then you can delete any of the words and pictures you don't want printed.  Let me know if you have any problems with this new feature, and happy printing!

 Listen to this great song by JJ Heller - What love really means

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hemp Heart Smoothie

My Mom and I have recently become addicted to Hemp Hearts...and I know what you are thinking...and no it is not a drug.  This is what they look like...

Do you know what hemp hearts are?  They are shelled hemp seeds.  They are little nuggets of deliciousness!  They are good for digestion, increased energy, weight loss, less cravings for sweets, heart health including blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels,  and they also help control blood sugar levels.  The list goes on and on and this for more information about hemp hearts.

This is a nice delicious dairy free smoothie!  I have been making it a few times a week for either breakfast or lunch, and love it!  It is great before a workout, gives me lots of energy...
more energy = more calories burned = more cookies I am allowed to eat : )
Hemp Hearts Smoothies
serves 2, 
I drink 1/2 then freeze the other 1/2 and just blend 
with a little more coconut milk when I want the rest

1 frozen banana
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup coconut milk or any milk you prefer
4 TBS Hemp Hearts (I imagine you could swap in almond butter as well if you like)
1 TBS Honey
1 TBS Flax seed oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Blend together in a blender until smooth.

Hemp hearts can be purchased at most Health Food stores or online.

Eat your heart out,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Caramel Popcorn made without refined sugars

Popcorn is healthy.  Therefore, you can eat cups and cups of it without adding to your waistline.  I speak the truth.  Love me some popcorn!

I never knew that it was possible to pop your own popcorn until I met my friend Abigail.  I seriously thought that popcorn could only be made in the microwave in a bag with fake butter.  How wrong was I?  Thank you Abigail for bringing me to the light.  Watch this video if you don't know how to make stove top popcorn.

Every once in a while I get the extreme munchies and all I want is salty potato chips.  When this crazy attack hits me I reach for the popcorn.  I know it isn't the same, but somehow it takes my mind off Cape Cod kettle cooked still my beating heart.

Sometimes I also need to kill 2 birds with 1 stone, and no I am not talking about Angry birds...which I still have not played and my niece informed me that is her favorite game, wow I feel far as the 1 stone goes it is the sweet and the salty birds that I was aiming for here.

Game, set, match.
Make this popcorn, put on a movie, and enjoy these cozy Fall nights we are having.  Emma and I just watched "Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Roderick rules", and I have to admit I laughed out loud pretty much throughout the whole movie...

Caramel Popcorn

Pop your popcorn in hot oil using this ratio and then set aside:
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 TBS coconut or olive oil

In small saucepan bring the following to a boil:
1 tsp coconut oil or butter
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar,sucanat sugar, or brown sugar if you must
1/8 cup water

Boil 2-3 minutes over medium heat the add the following:
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

Whisk together and pour over popped popcorn, stir until evenly coated.If there is any leftover, store in an airtight container or bag.  FYI this popcorn makes a nice holiday gift : )

Have you carved your pumpkins yet?  Here are some tips for you!

Friday, October 14, 2011

German Chocolate Whoopie Pies

If I had a dollar for every Klutzy thing I did I would be a wealthy woman.

This week I get to add 3 new accomplishments to my Klutzy list.

1.  While cleaning my bedroom I stepped on a plastic hanger, broke the hanger, decided to kick it to the side, in retribution the hanger decided to slice my toe open.  Stupid hanger...I knew I hated hanging things on you for a reason.  Don't clean your room, it will only get dirty again.

2.  Trying to get out of a small parking lot full of pretentious people I backed my Mom's Lexus up into another Lexus.  Screaming ensued, not by me.  I panicked.  Made someone else drive.  That was one 5 point turn I was never going to make.  Pretty sure this means I am banned for life from the all fairness everyone was well aware of the fact that I am a bad driver.

3.  I was taking pictures of these lovely whoopie pies and I got caught on a loose nail sticking out of a chair...not my favorite shorts, please no...hello rip, goodbye shorts...rips.

Which leads me to these pies.  Word on the street is that Whoopie Pies are after the top dog position and are trying to push Cupcakes over the hill.  Technically these are basically cupcakes in a different form, but I would be happy with anything crushing the cupcakes to the ground.  Too much?  Well, that is how I feel about cupcakes.

I do love Whoopie Pies...sometimes...when they meet this basic criteria:

1.  No shortening
2.  No marshmallow or fluff
3.  No fakeness
4.  Not too sweet
5.  Not soggy

Do you know what a Whoopie pie is?

1.  Basically too pieces of cake like but cookie shaped masses sandwiched between a creamy filling
2.  The Amish call them "Hucklebucks", and the men would shout "Whoopie" when they found them in their lunch pails
3.  They are the official State treat of Maine
4.  People from New England are kind of obsessed with them

Last week we had a guest over for dinner so I decided to make pumpkin whoopie pies, they were awesome.  So this week I decided to make German Chocolate Whoopie Pies, they were awesome, so I am posting the recipe.  I now understand why Amish men shouted "Whoopie", I feel like maybe I was meant to be an Amishanian as well.  Eat these pies, shout "Whoopie", and you too will understand.

German Chocolate Whoopie Pies
adapted from a few recipes from Food and Wine and Epicurious
yields about 32 whoopie pies
Make the filling:

Measure out all the ingredients first, because once you add sugar to egg yolks you must constantly stir to prevent permanent clumping.  

2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup evaporated milk
3 TBS unsalted butter
1 cup unsweetened coconut, optionally toasted
1 cup chopped pecans, optionally toasted
3/4 tsp vanilla

In a heavy medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in the evaporated milk and then the butter. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and lightly coats a spoon, about 10 minutes; do not let it boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut, pecans, and vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely. 

Make the Cakes: 

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg

                                                                Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.  Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, scrape down bowl in between additions. 

 Scoop out about tablespoons of batter onto parchment lined pans, leaving 2-3" of space in between each cookie.  Bake 10-12 minutes until cooked through, and when the tops spring back lightly when touched.  Cool completely.

Make Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz chocolate, I used semi sweet but you can use whatever you like or have

Bring cream to a boil, as soon as it boils remove from heat and pour over chocolate.  Stir to loosely combine, let sit 1 minute, then whisk until smooth.  Put in fridge for ten minutes, stir, set on counter.

Assemble the Whoopie Pies:

Take 2 pieces of the cake/cookies.  Flip flat side up on both.  On one piece spoon one tsp of ganache.  On other piece spoon one tablespoon filling.  Sandwich together.  Voila, whoopie pies!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Leftover Oatmeal has a purpose, and a be put into a muffin!

It is shocking the amount of cooked oatmeal we have thrown away over the years.  You know how it is.  You make a pot of oatmeal and it doesn't look like it will be enough, so you add some more to the pot.  Then once it is cooked all of a sudden you have way too much leftover.  In my mind oatmeal is cheap so it is kosher to make too much, and throw the excess away.  I can't believe that after all these years of oatmeal making I am just now realizing this.

Fall has arrived in Houston, so I made oatmeal for breakfast.  It was the right and proper thing to do.  I think I was over excited for the dawning of a new season and I once again made above and beyond too much oatmeal.  I ate my portion then sat there starring at the pan with a good cup left in the pan.  Suddenly a light bulb went off and I realized I could probably make something with this goop like substance.  Then my light bulb started flickering as I started rambling off ideas in my head.  How had I never thought of these things before!  Then my light bulb fried and burnt out as I realized how much oatmeal I had thrown away over the years.  How wasteful.  How lame of me.

Where to start with my leftover oatmeal experiments?  Pancakes?  Muffins?  Smoothies?  Google?  Ahh yes, they always have the answers.  I was shocked to see so many great ideas for using this leftover blob of soggy oatmeal in wonderful ways.

Did you know you can use it to thicken soups and stews?  Hello.  Trying this one.

Did you know you can add it to smoothies?  I have added raw oats to my smoothies before, but the idea to used cooked oats never dawned on me.

You can add it to pancake/waffle batter, muffins, bread, etc...

You can always reheat it and make a nice little oatmeal stir fry...I heat up a tsp or so of coconut oil, add the leftover oats, some milk, some maple syrup, some raisins, so coconuts, and some cinnamon...stir, cook, enjoy!

My first attempt at using up leftover oatmeal was pure success!  I was thrilled with the results, and can't wait to try all the other recipes out that I found.  Now I want to make even more oatmeal so I have more reasons to cook with it!  This seems to be a pretty versatile recipe, so feel free to play around with the ingredients listed, I will try to list possible substitutions I think will work as well.  Try these out and let me know what you think!

Leftover Oatmeal Muffins
Adapted from the Sunday's hot pants blog
yields 16 regular sized muffins

In large bowl mix together the following until smooth:

1/2 cup melted butter (or melted coconut oil, if you want to make these even healthier try swapping in applesauce here instead)
1 grated apple (or 3/4 cup of grated carrot, or zucchini)
2 eggs
1 cup cooked oatmeal
1 tsp vanilla

Look how goopy the batter is...just like cooked oatmeal

In separate bowl whisk together the following and then add to the above wet ingredients:

1 cup flour (or of you are making these gluten free, use a gluten free flour mix)
2/3 cup brown sugar (or 1/3 cup agave...if you use agave, mix it in with the wet ingredients, not the dry)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup raisins (or any dried fruit you like)

Stir just until combined.  Do not over mix.  Pour into muffin lined pans, filling 2/3 full.

Optional topping:

In food processor pulse until broken up and grainy. 

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 TBS uncooked oats
1 tsp cinnamon
3 T butter, melted or soft

 Sprinkle topping over each muffin.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chocolate Honey Cakes

Every once in a while a get a hankering for chocolate cake.  Once I get this idea in my head I can't really accomplish much until I have fulfilled this craving.  However, I have really been making an effort to NOT have dessert every night.  I wasn't always like this, I swear I wasn't.  It all started back in high school when I lived with 2 sweet little old ladies for a year.  Every night after dinner there had to be some kind of dessert.  Usually they would take 2 Klondike bars and cut them into a few pieces so everyone present could have a piece.  After living with them for a year I found myself reprogrammed into thinking that dessert was an essential part of every meal.  Living out in the real world I was shocked to realize that other people don't think like that.  I have slowly been trying to wean myself off of this bad habit, and reserve dessert for only 2 or 3 nights a week.  Some days I really wish I didn't know how to bake, honest I do...what a double edged sword it is!

I am proud to say I made it through 1 week only making dessert twice.

Leftover desserts is a whole different issue.  Darn the system.

This recipe is adapted from the Sprinkle Bakes blog, thank you Sprinkle.

Chocolate-Honey Cakes                                                                                                    [
First adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe, then from Sprinkle Bakes

1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 sticks soft butter
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp.  unsweetened cocoa powder
4 oz. chocolate, broken into pieces, or chocolate chips
1 cup very hot water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease or line a jumbo muffin tin (should make about 8 jumbo cakes)
  3. Melt 4oz. of chocolate in the microwave at 30 second intervals until smooth.  Set aside.
  4. In mixer beat together sugar, butter, honey, eggs, flour, baking soda and cocoa until just combined. 
  5. Add melted chocolate and beat again briefly.
  6. With the mixer running, pour in the hot water.  Process until smooth.  Batter will be thin.
  7. Fill each cup 2/3 full and place into the oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  When done, the cakes will spring back when pressed in the center and a toothpick tester should come out clean.   Let cool completely.
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
6 oz.  Semisweet chocolate chips ]
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  1. In a small saucepan, bring water and honey to a boil. 
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips.  Whisk until well combined.
  3. Add confectioners’ sugar and whisk again until smooth.
  4. Remove the cakes from their pans and/or liners.
  5. Flips cakes upside down so they are sitting on their rounded tops.  Using a small sharp knife, cut a hole in the center of each cake making sure not to cut all the way through, remove the small piece.
  6. Pour glaze into each hole until it over flows.
  7. Let stand for 10 minutes so glaze can set a bit.

This cake was from the fridge that is why the center is so solid looking.  I had a fresh one I was taking pictures of (see photo at top of post), but then I turned around for one second and my puppy somehow got to the cake...I now know that if my dog eats chocolate she will not die.