Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Homemade Ginger Ale and Taco Bowls

About a month ago Todd and I went to dinner at Communal in Provo.  A neighbor friend highly recommended their homemade ginger ale and I can say without reservation that after my first swig I was officially obsessed.   

After a couple of weeks of ginger ale on the brain it was time to make my own version at home.  The recipe I found makes a ginger ale that is refreshing, light, and leaves a slight burn in the back of your throat; it's perfect and was the perfect thing to wash down our taco bowls inspired by Smitten Kitchen.

I love making a meal that has no meat, but is completely satisfying, delicious and leaves no one complaining (except for Noah who doesn't like rice. (Who doesn't like rice?)). 

I am also obsessed with anything I can top with sour cream, diced onions, pickled onions and jalapenos, cheese, avocado, and cilantro (oh and some crunched up tortilla chips).

This meal came together in a flash thanks to my handy, dandy pressure cooker that makes cooking brown rice a snap.  Without the pressure cooker it would still be a breeze it would just add a little extra cooking time for which ever grain fits your fancy. 

Homemade Ginger ale

1 1/2 cups peeled, diced ginger (7 ounces)
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
Chilled club soda
Fresh lime juice

Cook ginger in water in a saucepan at a low simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, turn off heat and let steep, covered, for 20 minutes.

Strain ginger/water mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on ginger.  Discard ginger and return liquid to saucepan.  Add sugar and a pinch of salt.  Heat over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.  Chill syrup in a covered jar until cold.

To assemble ginger ale, gently mix together 1/4 cup ginger syrup, 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, and 3/4-1 cup chilled club soda.  Pour into a cold glass jar with lots of crushed ice and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Recipe from Epicurious

Red Bean and Green Grain Taco Bowl

2 fresh poblano chile peppers
1 cup cilantro leaves (I just chopped off the leaves and a few stems from one bunch)
1/2 large white onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
*3 cups water (amount needed for wheat berries, adjust if needed)
*1 cup uncooked wheat berries
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 finely chopped chipotle from a can
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
2 15-ounce cans small red beans, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt to taste

Minced white onions
Pickled onions
Pickled jalapenos
Shredded Cheese
Sour cream
Sliced Avocado
Crunched up tortilla chips

In a blender, combine poblanos, cilantro, onion, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher with a splash of water and puree until smooth.  In a medium saucepan, combine wheat berries, 3 cups of water, 3/4 of green poblano puree and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 1 hour or until grains a chewy-tender.  Add remaining green puree and cook 5 minutes more.

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until sizzling and fragrant.  Add chipotle, cumin, oregano, and tomato paste and cook together for one minute.  Add water, beans, salt to taste, and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 10 minutes on low.

To assemble, add a scoop (or two) of beans and grains side by side to a bowl.  Top with whichever topping float your boat (I say go big or go home, but my kiddies think otherwise).

*I used brown rice instead of wheat berries because it is what I had.  I cook my brown rice in a pressure cooker because it's faster and I use 2 1/2 cups water, 2 cups brown rice, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and for this recipe I added 3/4 of the green poblano puree.  Right before serving I added the remaining puree.

Recipe barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lunch for Two

Todd works from home unless he is meeting with a client.  This gives us the chance to each lunch together every few days, it's pretty great.  Usually our lunch consists of turkey sandwiches with pickles, cheese, and mustard (extra mustard on the side for me please) and some sort of fruit (clementine’s) and vegetable (carrots and cucumbers).  Usually once a week I try to make something other than the standard turkey sandwich or leftovers (I eat a lot of leftover for lunch).  Last week I made Cookie and Kate's spicy kale and coconut stir fry and I'm obsessed.  Todd and I joked that this stir fry was like his bag of potato chips because I could not stop taking bites.  I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day and made it again yesterday to share with a neighbor.  Hurray for delicious healthy food!
Spicy Kale and Coconut Stir Fry
2 tablespoon coconut oil
2 eggs, beaten with a dash of salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 red bell pepper julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
5 Brussels sprouts very thinly sliced
1 medium bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves finely shredded
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
2 cups cooked and chilled brown rice
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 lime halved
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on contact, add 1 teaspoon oil.  Pour in the eggs and cook until the eggs are scrambled and lightly set.  Transfer the eggs to an empty bowl.  Wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the garlic, onions, and additional vegetables.  Cook, while stirring until the vegetables are just tender.  Add the kale and salt.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently until the kale is wilted and tender.  Transfer the vegetable mixture to the bowl with the eggs.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan.  Add the toasted coconut flakes and rice and cook,
stirring frequently, until the rice is hot.
Pour the vegetables and eggs back into the pan.  Add the tamari and sriracha.  Stir to combine and break up any large clumps of scrambled egg.  Squeeze the juice of half of a lime over the dish and stir to combine.  Pour the stir fry onto a serving plate and garnish with fresh cilantro.  Serve with lime wedges and extra sriracha for those who like it extra spicy.
Recipe slightly adapted from Cookie and Kate

Monday, February 2, 2015

Maple Spiced Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Monday and Friday mornings I'm up before the crack of dawn.  Noah has basketball practice at 5:45 am and because Todd is the assistant coach he goes with Noah.  I normally don't leave our house until 5:40 am, but because Preston is not in love with the idea of being home alone with just Stella in the wee hours of the morning my alarm goes off at 4:20 am on basketball practice mornings.  This gives me enough time to run and be back as Todd and Noah are leaving for practice.  4:20 am is early, really, really early, but I kind of have a love-hate relationship with being up at that time of day.  I'm tired, yes, but I really like being done and home from running by 5:45.  It's amazing what you can accomplish in the early hours of the morning.  The past couple of Friday mornings I've made this banana bread and my house smells heavenly by 7 am and no one except Preston complains when we get to have warm banana bread for breakfast.  (Noah usually grabs a thick slice with a great deal of butter on it (can you guess what books Stella and I have been reading...Mercy Watson) as he hustles out the door to catch the bus for school.)  

Maple Spiced Whole Wheat Banana Bread

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 large bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup hot water
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and line with parchment with parchment overhanging the edges of the pan.

In a large bowl, beat oil and maple syrup together.  Add eggs and beat well.  Stir in vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom.  Add bananas and mix until just combined.   

Add baking soda to hot water, stir to mix.  Add to the baking soda water to the banana mixture and mix to combine.  Next, stir in the flour until just combined. Stir chopped chocolate into batter.  Be careful to not over mix.  Spread batter into greased loaf pan and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the bread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Let the bread cool for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan.  Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing if you can wait that long (we couldn't).

*This recipe is inspired by Cookie and Kate's whole wheat banana bread

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chocolate-Mint Cashew Milk

My kiddies (husband) gave me a Vitamix for Christmas last year (2013) and it has been the gift that keeps on giving.  Oh I love my Vitamix!  It wasn't too long after I received it that I started trying my hand at making nut milks.  Cashew milk happens to be my favorite because of the whole not having to strain it ordeal.  Making cashew milk is quick (besides the soaking part) and easy and I love that all those soaked cashew pieces just blend right up into deliciousness that doesn't have to be strained in a nut milk bag.  (Did you know that a nut milk bag even existed because I didn't until I embarked on this nut milk adventure?)  Amen to no straining!  For the past few months I've been on a chocolate cashew milk kick that I just can't seem to quit.  I love having a jar of it tucked back in the coldest part of my fridge and sometimes when I get it out to take a swig, I have to stop myself from guzzling it down until it's gone.  Portion control right??  But sometimes it just tastes too good to stop!  Lately I've been adding a bit of mint extract to it and my kids seem to love it best this way and while I'm more of a straight up chocolate kind of gal, I do like the hint of mint to shake things up a bit.

Chocolate Mint Cashew Milk

1 cup raw cashew pieces
4 cups of water (plus more for soaking)
4 large pitted dates
3 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon mint extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Soak cashews in water for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Drain cashews in fine mesh strainer and rinse well.  To a blender add the cashews, 2 cups of water, dates, cocoa powder, mint extract, and salt.  Start on a low setting and increase to high.  Blend until cashews are completely pulverized.  Blend in an additional 2 cups of water.  Pour into jars and refrigerate until cold.  Give a good shake before drinking. 

*This is the way I like it, but you can add more or less dates, chocolate, and/or salt to make it taste just how you want it to.
*I also like pouring the milk into 8-ounce jars with lids to make them the perfect individual sized portions for an afternoon snack or to grab and go if you're in a hurry, but still want a healthy and delicious snack.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Homemade Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

This ice cream is amazing and while I am usually a diehard chocolate girl, this ice cream gave chocolate a run for its money in the ice cream category.  It's unbelievably creamy and has a slight tang from the crème fraiche.  My first spoonful gave me that tight, happy feeling and I reluctantly shared a spoonful with everyone within the sound of my voice and then quietly and discreetly tucked the rest of it in the back of my freezer for me to consume at a later time (preferably when my kiddies were in bed and I wouldn't have to share).  Todd and I ended up eating it for dessert for our date night in a couple of weeks ago and topped it with fresh raspberries and broken pieces of almond butterscotch cups.  It was heavenly.

Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
A big pinch of kosher salt
1 vanilla bean
5 large egg yolks
2 cups crème fraiche (see note)

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.  With a knife halve vanilla beans lengthwise. Scrape seeds into a saucepan and add vanilla bean pod. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Pour the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Pour the custard though the mesh strainer that has been set over a medium sized bowl.  Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Once cool, whisk in the crème fraiche, and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.

Note:  You can buy crème fraiche at most grocery stores, but it is so easy to make and less expensive, it just takes a little planning ahead.

Recipe slightly adapted from Alexandra Cooks

Crème Fraiche

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup buttermilk

Combine buttermilk and whipping cream in a quart size jar.  Stir to combine.  Place cheesecloth over the jar and secure it with a rubber band or kitchen twine.  Let sit on counter for 48-72 hours.  Once thickened place crème fraiche in the refrigerator.  Refrigerate for up to two weeks. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Granola No. 2

Granola is a favorite around our house.  Whether its eaten by the handful after it's been pulled from the oven and sits on the counter cooling; or from a glass jar with ice cold milk before bed; or in a disposable cup with yogurt, berries, and sliced bananas for breakfast as Noah rushes out the door to catch the bus, a double batch is sure to be devoured in less than a weeks’ time around this house of mine.  

Granola No. 2
3 cups rolled oats
2 1/2 cups nuts (I use a mixture of sliced almonds, slivered almonds, & pecans)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Mix the oats, nuts, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom together in a large mixing bowl.  Add the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla and stir to combine.

Spread the granola out onto a 13 by 18-inch baking sheet and spread in an even layer.  Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking time to make sure the granola cooks evenly.  After 20 minutes remove the baking sheet from the oven and stir in the flaked coconut.  Return to the oven and continue baking until the granola is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking time.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.  (I like to keep the granola in a big ziploc bag in the freeezer.  I love it when it's really cold.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Potato Chips and the Beginning of Date Nights In

A couple of months ago I pre-ordered Ashley Rodriguez's cookbook Date Night In.  It came a few days before Christmas and I could not have been more excited (Merry Christmas to me)!  Its pages are filled with beautiful and inspiring food and words and I devoured every bit of it over Christmas break.  After finishing the book, I committed that 2015 would be the year for more date nights in.

Well last Thursday I decided sort of spur of the moment that I would have our first date night in that evening.  I decided on homemade potato chips (from Ashley's book), KBR (kale bacon & ricotta) sandwiches from Ashley's blog, an orange and raw pickled beet salad, and homemade crème fraiche ice cream with raspberries. (It worked out well that I had already made the pickled beets and ice cream a few days before.)

That afternoon I used my mandoline to slice potatoes paper thin and then gave them a quick dunk in a bath of cold water.  After being drained and patted dry, I watched them bubble around in a pot of hot oil and transform into golden, crisp potato chips.  I couldn't help but stand back and admire my lovely pile of potato chips.  Do you ever get that really tight excited feeling?  That feeling for me often accompanies really great food, Christmas time, and seeing my kiddies soundly sleeping and now for date nights in with Todd. 

While in the middle of frying my chips, Preston came home from school he asked me what I was making potato chips for.  I told him that it was for a date night in with Dad.  After tasting a few of the chips he asked me if I would do a date night in for him.  Someday Preston.

Potato Chips

Serves 2 to 4 depending on how many chips you want to consume

2 large russet potatoes
4 cups canola or vegetable oil
Kosher salt

Slice the potatoes into very, very thin rounds (about 1/16 inch thick) using a mandoline.  Place the potato slices in a large bowl of cold water and let soak for 5-10 minutes. 

Drain the potato slices.  Place the slices in a single layer on a triple layer of paper towels and then roll it up to lightly dry them.  Keep the slices rolled up in the towel as you cook off batches to keep the potatoes from oxidizing. 

Add the oil to a large saucepan.  It should be about 2 to 3 inches deep in the pan.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees.

Fry the potatoes in batches of 10 to 15 slices.  Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Carefully move the chips around with a slotted spoon or spider until the chips are golden brown and the bubbling oil has calmed.  If there is still frantic bubbling, there is still moisture in the chips (moisture equals a not so crunchy chip). 

Transfer the fried chips to a paper towel or brown paper sack lined baking sheet to dry.  Season with kosher salt while the chips are still warm.  Bring the oil back to 350 before adding the next batch.  Eat and enjoy.

Recipe slightly adapted from Ashley Rodriguez's Date Night In