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

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Whole-Grain Gingerbread

Yesterday I took Noah to the orthodontist.  His appointment was at lunch time and so while he was having his braces tightened, I made my way up the street to Kneaders Bakery to grab a sandwich for lunch.  I sat in my car eating my sandwich and listening to a podcast while I waited for him to emerge with his new and improved bright blue rubber bands wrapped around those little silver brackets. 

I made the decision to only eat half of my sandwich and to save the rest for lunch the next day (which was today and not the wisest decision).  My leftover sandwich was not quite the sandwich it was yesterday.  It was really quite a sad and dried out sandwich and I'm not sure why I decided to finish it.  It unfortunately left me feeling like I needed something more and that something more was Megan Gordon's whole-grain gingerbread. I could not get that gingerbread out of my head and so between showering and having to leave to help in Stella's class, I whipped that gingerbread up in record time.  It came out of the oven just as I had to walk out the door.  To be honest, while I was helping in Stella's class all I could think about was gingerbread, gingerbread, gingerbread. 

Whole-Grain Gingerbread
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Zest from 1 large orange
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 large egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, orange zest, and pepper.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter.  Add the molasses and honey and heat while stirring until the mixture is combined and just warm.  Pour into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Add the milk, yogurt and beaten egg and whisk together until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the edges pull away from the pan slightly and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.  Let the gingerbread cool completely in the pan before removing.  Give it a good dusting of powdered sugar and serve.
Recipe adapted from Megan Gordon's Whole-Grain Mornings

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Kale, Orange and Feta Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

This time of year is always a bit hard for me.  I love the holiday season and all the excitement that comes swirling around with it.  New Year’s often leaves me feeling a little down and deflated.  I had a conversation with my mom about these very feelings and wondered why I often feel like this and why I don't look at the beginning of the year in a different light.  Instead of feeling sad that the holiday season is over, maybe I should look at this time of year as time for renewal and becoming a better version of myself.  I'm not the best goal setter and that possibly might be because I'm not the best goal achiever.  Maybe the expectation of the New Year and achieving great things adds to my deflated feeling.  Maybe this year instead of great, big expectations and dreams, maybe it's about taking baby steps towards the better version of me.  Maybe instead of doing the things that are good and better, making a choice each day to do the things that are the very best and most important.  Maybe some days it will be easier to make that choice and I will make great strides towards that better me and maybe some days it will be harder and I'll make small skips like choosing to eat a kale salad for lunch (and loving every single bite), but hopefully either way I'll keep moving forward.

Just a side note:  I told my husband a few days ago that I was craving a kale salad.  He seemed to think that the words crave and kale don't go together as well as maybe crave and potato chips.  I guess I see his point, but this so called craving came back in full force after I had eaten my weight in Chex muddy buddies on New Year’s Eve.

Kale, Orange and Feta Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed and leaves shredded of finely chopped
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1 pomegranate, arils removed
3 oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds
5 radishes, thinly sliced
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup pepitas, toasted

Honey-Lime Dressing

3 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 2 small limes)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium jalapeno, membranes and seeds removes, minced
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Dressing:  Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl or place ingredients in a small glass jar with a lid and give it a good shake.  Set aside.

Place shredded kale in a large salad bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and massaged the leaves with your hands until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.

Drizzle salad dressing over the kale (you may not need all of the dressing) and toss well to lightly coat the kale.  Add the avocado, pomegranate, oranges, radishes, cilantro, feta and pepitas to the bowl.  Toss the salad gently to combine and serve.

Adapted ever so slightly from Cookie + Kate.