Hazelnut Orange Pilaf

This rice salad reminds me of fall– the flavors seem warm and comforting!

In the old days (yes, I’ve been cooking a long time), we had to get raw hazelnuts in bulk, with the skins on. That meant roasting them and then rolling them in a towel to get the bitter skins off. A tedious job. Or, my mom had another method, adding baking soda to some boiling water and soaking them in that. How much easier now, that I can just pick some up, already toasted and ready to use, at Trader Joe’s!

Bulgar Wheat w/Hazelnuts & Orange ZestThis is a hearty side dish that goes well with roasted chicken around the holidays. Prepare much of it ahead of time, mixing it all together just before serving. Serves 9.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 c. boiling water
  • 2 c. cracked wheat or bulgar (found at health food stores)
  • 1 c. hazelnuts
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley
  • 1/2 c. almond oil (or Virgin olive oil)
  • 2 TBS. frozen orange juice concentrate (or substitute freshly-juiced, and reduced)
  • Zest from 1 orange (or 2 drops orange extract)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 TBS. salt

Prepare the cracked wheat the morning or the night before serving, letting cool in the refrigerator with the lid on, without stirring. Add the following to a large bowl: > 2 c. boiling water > 2 c. cracked wheat or bulgar (found at health food stores)

Cover and let sit 10 minutes before refrigerating. Next, toast the following nuts at 400° for 10 minutes or so, until golden. Rub off skins inside a clean towel afterward (they don’t all slip off; some skin will probably remain): > 1 c. hazelnuts

Chop nuts coarsely, by hand or in food processor, after they cool. (Already toasted, chopped hazelnuts are convenient. If available, skip the above steps.)

Set aside nuts, then process coarsely in food processor (or chop by hand): > 1/2 c. raisins > 1/2 c. fresh parsley

All the above, and the dressing below, can be prepared ahead of time. To serve, mix all the above with a mixture of the following: > 1/2 c. almond oil (or Virgin olive oil) > 2 TBS. frozen orange juice concentrate (or substitute fresh squeezed orange juice, boiled some to reduce) > Zest from 1 orange (or 2 drops orange extract) >  Juice of 1 lemon > 1/2 bunch green onions, chopped > 1/2 TBS. salt

Peach Ice Cream (Peachy KEEN!)

It isn’t surprising that this ice cream tastes awesome. After all, how can you go wrong with sugar, cream, milk, and fresh peaches?! Take it to the next level with organic peaches… so good.

Homemade Peach Ice Cream, EasyI tried a few different sources for good organic peaches, since I just can’t seem to grow ’em in the Bay Area (not in my yard, anyway…). Nope, the ones in the farm box I received at my doorstep were not ideal. And Trader Joe’s weren’t so hot either. Of all places, Safeway had ’em. They must’ve been picked at just the right time- they were so fragrant and delicious.

I had some extra, and we added them to this recipe. I figured it was just a bit healthier since we were adding organic peaches to the mix. And we used organic cream and milk. A treat!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 c. milk
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/3 c. approx. mashed, peeled peaches (about 4 or 5)
  • 2 c. cream
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Microwave 4 minutes, or heat in pan: > 2 c. milk > 3/4 c. sugar

In separate bowl, stir well: > 1 egg

Stir hot milk mix into eggs, stirring well. Microwave 30 seconds, stir, repeat (or reheat in pan just until cooked, but not boiling).

Add to the above: > 2 1/3 c. approx. mashed, peeled peaches (about 4 or 5) > 2 c. cream > 1/8 tsp. salt

Fresh Mozzarella Salad (w/Salt-Infused Garlic)

Some folks think there’s something magical about our Italian dressing at the deli. Well, it’s true that food can often taste better when someone else makes it. But still, why is that homemade New Deli Italian dressing so dang good?!

I think part of it is that the garlic and herbs are mixed together with the salt first. The garlic absorbs some of the salt, and the saltiness dissipates into the dressing. The salt seems to be a vehicle to carry the flavors along.

Sounds kind of mystical! But, try it. If not in the Italian dressing recipe, try on a small scale with fresh mozzarella. So delicious!

Salted garlic + olive oil + fresh motzCostco carries an imported fresh buffalo milk mozzarella that’s deluxe. Or, regular fresh mozzarella will do! Serves 6-8 or so, as a side salad.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • several fresh basil leaves (or sub other green herbs)
  • 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella
  • 6 oz. spring greens
  • 3 tomatoes, wedged

Marinate the garlic in salt, letting it steep for at least five minutes. Use: > 2 cloves garlic, minced > 1/2 tsp. salt

After steeping, add: > 1/3 c. olive oil > parsley > fresh cracked pepper > 1 lb. fresh mozzarella

To serve, put a handful of spring greens on salad plates, top with the marinated mozzarella and tomato wedges.

Paella: Rice Dish w/Seafood (or Fave Meat)

Rice-cooker, step aside. There is more than one way to skin a cat (ew- sorry, PITA). What I mean is, there’s more than one way to cook rice!

Paella is a Spanish rice dish, typically made in a “paella pan”. (My iron skillet works just fine.) I add a bit of turmeric to this too- it’s got many benefits, including being anti inflammatory. Plus, when turmeric is coupled with black pepper, its healthy effects are squared to the tenth power! (Or something like that…)

Paella w/ Saffron, New Deli StyleCoax flavor out of a pinch of saffron threads by steeping it first (like a tea infusion). Also, use leftovers, if desired, in place of seafood in this dish. Makes around 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS

  • Pinch of saffron (about 18 threads)
  • 1 lb. uncooked sausage
  • 1/2 c. onion
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 TBS. paprika
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary (or to taste)
  • 1 c. tomato pieces (or sub red pepper)
  • 1 1/2 c. rice (short grain or Aborio)
  • 3 c. boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. green peas (or 1 TBS. parsley, for color)
  • 1 lb. scallops, shrimp, or other favorite

PREPARATION

  1. Steep saffron in boiling water in small bowl; set aside. Use: > pinch saffron (about 18 threads) > 1/4 c. boiling water
  2. Cut raw sausage into pieces and grill in iron skillet, setting aside when browned. Use: > 1 lb. uncooked sausage (of choice)
  3. Cook the onion and olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat until tender. Use: > 1/2 c. onion > 1/4 c. olive oil
  4. Add to onions, heating until fragrant, stirring well: > 1/2 TBS. paprika > 1 tsp. oregano > 1/2 tsp. turmeric > 1/2 tsp. black pepper > 2 cloves garlic > 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary (or to taste)
  5. Add the tomatoes to the onion/seasoning mix and heat, stirring occasionally, until liquids are reduced and tomatoes caramelize some. Use: > 1 15-oz. can tomato pieces (or sub red peppers, diced)
  6. Add the rice and stir well. Use: > 1 1/2 c. white rice (short grain or Aborio)
  7. Add hot water, cover pan with foil, and simmer for 20 minutes. No need to stir, but shake the pan a bit, so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Use: > 3 c. boiling water
  8. Add to the pan last, burying the raw seafood under the rice, so it’ll cook. Also add the saffron water. Simmer without stirring for another 8 minutes or so, until rice is al dente. Use: > 1 lb. scallops or shrimp > the saffron water
  9. After 8 minutes or so, stir in the salt, and add green peas for color (or some fresh-chopped parsley). Also add the reserved, cooked sausage. Use: > 1 1/2 tsp. salt > 1/2 c. green peas (or 1 TBS. parsley, for color) > reserved, cooked sausage
  10. Let rice finish cooking, until fluffy and moist. When done, turn heat up for half a minute or so, to lightly toast the bottom layer of rice. Serve with a side of lemon wedges.

 

Apple Dutch Baby: Special Occasion Breakfast Recipe!

A favorite family memory has been enjoying a giant apple pancake at The Original Pancake House in Birmingham, Michigan (after standing in the very long line).

My sister was trying to duplicate this years ago, before the internet. More recently, I’ve scoured the web and tried countless variations, finally concluding that this particular recipe comes pretty close to the pancake house recipe. Whew! I wasn’t sure how many more of these we could eat! (We really suffer for our art, ha…)

Popover Batter, Caramelized Apples & CinnamonA popover-type batter rises up as it bakes in the caramelizing apples. And it can be convenient to serve for company, since the batter can be prepared ahead of time.

Serves 3-4.

INGREDIENTS

  •     3/4 c. flour
  •     1/2 tsp. nutmeg (fresh-grated is nice)
  •     1/2 tsp. salt
  •     3/4 c. milk, room temperature
  •     4 eggs
  •     1/3 c. butter
  •     1/3 c. brown sugar
  •     1/3 c. sugar
  •     2 tsp. cinnamon

PREPARATION

1. Make batter the night before, if possible. (Or let it rest at least 10 minutes.) For the batter, whisk milk into the flour and salt in a bowl (small lumps are OK). Use: > 3/4 c. flour > 1/2 tsp. nutmeg > 1/2 tsp. salt > 3/4 c. milk

2. Add eggs one at a time: > 4 eggs

3. Refrigerate the batter overnight, or let rest (up to several hours) at room temperature.

4. The cinnamon and sugar can also be mixed together ahead of time. Use: > 2 tsp. cinnamon > 2/3 c. sugar

5. To prepare the pancake, bring batter out of refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

6. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Use: > 3 c. sliced, tart apples

7. Turn iron skillet* on medium high heat and add to the pan: > 1/3 c. butter > 3 c. sliced, tart apples > the cinnamon/sugar mix

8. Stir the butter, apples, and cinnamon sugar for 2-3 minutes, until apples have softened some and the mixture is bubbling.

9. Pour the pancake batter on top of the apple mixture.

10. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until lightly browned.

11. To serve, turn upside-down onto plate; sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar.

*If skillet isn’t available, use a Pyrex pan and heat the butter/apple/sugar mix in the oven for 10 minutes.

Castle Cake: Great Fun for a Boy’s Birthday!

This was a really fun cake to make for our grandson Benjamin’s fourth birthday. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? So… you can use the picture below for ideas.

Castle Cake- Use Cones for TowersWe got the whole family involved. We scavenger-hunted at various stores for the supplies (mainly the frozen yogurt shop, and Trader Joe’s). Here are the goodies we used to pull this together:

  • We got this catapult on Amazon, which worked great with chocolate malt “cannon” balls
  • We got both kinds of cones from the yogurt shop- cake cones for the base, and pointy cones for the top
  • We were also able to get rock candy at the yogurt shop
  • We got Panda licorice at Trader Joe’s, to use for windows
  • We had some Trader Joe’s rosemary crackers on hand- a piece of that was perfect for the castle door
  • And graham cracker crumbs worked for the “dirt” pathway

I’ve since lost the sheet we did the math on, to have a larger square of cake for the foundation, plus the smaller squares of cake on top of that. But you can figure it out!

The non-baker (my husband) worked out the math with our older grandson, while the bakers (my granddaughter and myself) baked the cake. And everyone was able to help decorate! A memorable birthday. And birthday cake, haha…

PS We used a simple chocolate glaze for frosting. Warm the mix again after adding the chocolate chips to the melted butter, if necessary. Also, cool the frosting, if necessary, to get it to the right spreading consistency. Use: > 1/2 c. butter, melted > 1 c. chocolate chips (stirred in until melted)

Brazil Bark (For Fast, Healthy Smoothies)

If you scour the web for nutritional info on super foods and health and such, you may already know how cod liver oil is even more effective when mixed with grass-fed butter. You may have noticed that the quality supplier, Blue Ice, carries a product called “Royal Butter/Cod Liver Oil Blend“. (If you love scientific details, check out Sally Fallon’s article here.)

And you know me- always looking for ways to save time and money. Hence, “Brazil Bark”. I take my morning shot of cod liver oil, but also have a smoothie made with a hunk of this bark stuff. It looks like a confection, and it actually is pretty tasty. But also- so convenient!

Mix coconut spread, butter, and Brazil nuts- add chunks to smoothiesThis recipe makes making smoothies EASY. You can add your coconut and nut milk and that side o’ butter (if you’re taking cod liver oil), all in one easy step. The coconut (oil or spread) is for those great MCTs that contribute to brain health and energy. The butter is because it works so well with the cod liver oil we should be taking, to maximize results. And the Brazil nuts are good to include because they give us our daily selenium, which can be hard to come by.

Yes, you could just buy cartons of almond milk for your smoothies. But- larger carbon footprint! You pay for a lot of water and a little nut meat, plus the extra container. Why not just puree a few nuts fresh, right?

But is that box of almond milk so great? There’s also the fact that nuts contain a lot of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats), which messes with our Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio. Yes, I know, “but they’re healthy for you, aren’t they?”

Well… we usually get assaulted with too many PUFAs in our modern diet. So this Brazil Bark stuff is actually more balancing to the system that almond milk and the like.

Just one more note: For smoothest results, puree a week’s worth of Brazil Bark with some boiling water in the blender. Process it, then store in a jar in the fridge; it will keep for a week or so. Add a hearty spoonful of it to all the other great smoothie ingredients, for some good, quick nutrition.

Brazil Bark

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. (or one 15-oz. jar) coconut butter (or “coconut manna“, coconut cream concentrate, or coconut spread, which are all 100% coconut meat, ground to a puree)
  • 1 lb. butter (grass-fed, like Kerry Gold. “Organic” is not necessarily grass-fed)
  • 1 lb. Brazil nuts

To get hardened coconut cream out of the jar, set the jar on a folded cloth in a small pot of hot water. Let it warm gently on low heat.

Mix the softened coconut butter with the butter in a small pot, until melted. Use: > 1 lb. butter, melted

Last, stir in: > 1 lb. Brazil nuts

Cover a cookie sheet with a piece of heavy-duty foil, making edges by crimping up sides. Pour mixture on foil; refrigerate overnight.

Next day, break bark into pieces and store in glass jar. (Or leave on the foil, to break up as needed.) Will keep a few months in refrigerator.

If desired, blend some with boiling water in the blender until smooth. Keep refrigerated, using in smoothies or hot drinks as needed. It makes “smoother smoothies” this way!

 

 

Chicken, Moroccan Style

When I was a newlywed, we didn’t just eat Sunday dinners at Tom’s folks’ house. We lived there! So we ate dinner with them most every night. I got to hone my cooking skills on the family, since most evenings, no one else was too keen on preparing anything. I had bookmarked all the Betty Crocker recipes I was planning to try, and most of the meals I made were well-received.

But my in-laws were classic meat-and-potato folks. So the first time I made an ethnic dish with raisins and green olives, Tom’s dad looked pretty alarmed. He was very polite, but I knew I had gone beyond his threshold for culinary adventure.

I’ll admit, Betty Crocker’s version of “ethnic” didn’t seem totally authentic. Years later, I’ve discovered a Moroccan recipe we really enjoy. It’s exotic. It’s different. It’s delicious!

Olives, Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Make Tasty Morrocan ChickenEnjoy the savory/sweet flavor combination of green olives, lemon peel, and raisins, with extra texture from the toasted, slivered almonds.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 free-range chicken
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 TBS. fresh rosemary
  • 2 TBS. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. green olives, pitted
  • 1/3 c. slivered, toasted almonds
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
  • 2 TBS. fresh mint, chopped

PREPARATION

A day ahead (or several hours earlier), prepare chicken by cutting whole fryer into pieces (or use 5 lbs. or so drumsticks, thighs, etc.). It helps to cut chicken breast pieces in half, as they will cook better that way.

Use potato peeler to get the peel off the lemons. Set aside several lemon peels to use later for garnish.

Prepare marinade. Add the following to a dish, to marinate chicken in: > Peel from 2 lemons (reserve some though) > juice of 2 lemons > 1 tsp. salt > 1 tsp. cinnamon > 4 bay leaves > 2 TBS. fresh rosemary > 2 TBS. olive oil

Coat the chicken pieces with the mixture and let marinate in refrigerator overnight, or at least several hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange marinated pieces of chicken in large pan for baking. Bake until done, about 25-35 minutes.

Set baked chicken aside to rest; deglaze pan by adding liquid: > 1/4 c. red wine or water

Add raisins and olives to pan, stirring on medium heat until heated through.

To serve, spoon pan juices over chicken, garnish with the chopped almonds, parsley, and mint.

Orange Kefir: Bubbly Sunshine

It’s nice to imbibe in a refreshing, bubbly brew that makes my gut happy! Not as nice- a flat, sour kefir that no one wants to drink… So- here’s some secrets for making a great “natural orange soda”- delicious!

Grateful-Table-Kefir-Orange-SodaA good Kefir (or Kombucha) soda will need more than just the brew itself. Once the kefir has fermented in its original container for a couple days, it can be poured into bottles. However! One then needs to add more sweetener for it to feed on, to build up the carbon dioxide. (Ya know, AKA fizz!)

When I first started making “water kefir” a few years back, I was very enthusiastic. I juiced the plentiful Concord grapes I’d harvested that summer, and froze ice-cubes of the juice, to add to my brews. Ditto for the apples we got off our tree. Couldn’t eat that many apples as-is, but the juice turned the overabundance of fruit sugar into more probiotics. It was great!

For awhile, I was also into buying fresh ginger. I would cut it into match-stick sizes, rolling up portions in aluminum foil for the freezer, so I’d also have the makings on hand for Kefir Ginger Ale. If I wasn’t adding any other sweet thing, I found it best to bottle the “2nd ferment” kefir while it was still somewhat sweet, so some of that sweetness would feed the carbonation.

After awhile, I wanted more ginger zip, so I started juicing the fresh ginger, freezing ice-cubes of that potent, zesty juice, for future brews. That was an exciting drink!

As with many things, I started looking for an easier way out. I buy pomegranate juice when I can- it makes a wonderful addition to kefir or kombucha. And I like having organic black cherry concentrate and tart cherry concentrate on hand, since it keeps well. If nothing else, I’ll use that for flavoring and sweetening the 2nd ferment.

However! Now we have an abundance of oranges on our tree. Nice organic oranges. So I’ve been processing the peel, adding the orange juice and sugar. I’ve created my own “orange concentrate” to flavor batches of kefir. I can make a bunch of the concentrate at a time, since it keeps about a month in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS

  • Peel from 2 organic oranges
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • Juice from 6 oranges

PREPARATION

Process the peel from 2 oranges in a Vitamix or other blender, until fine.

Add the sugar, process again.

Add freshly-squeezed juice from 6 oranges.

Store in glass jar in fridge. Use about 1/2 c. per bottle (more or less, according to taste).

Jun Kombucha, My Fave Probiotic Drink!

How did I not know about a different kind of scoby that thrives on green tea and honey?! It just popped up on my Amazon page as one of those items I might like, and, well… I DO! I purchased a “Jun Scoby”, and am now brewing this new kind of Kombucha. It’s less sour than regular Kombucha, and has a wonderful fizz and smooth flavor. And it’s still full of probiotics. Awesome..

Use Green Tea & Honey in Jun KombuchaThere are many ideas on how to brew Jun Kombucha, which leads me to believe one can’t ruin it by following the recipe a bit loosely. I didn’t do it this way, but Christina at “Cultured Honey Nectar” says it is best to make a very sweet brew for the first batch, using 4 tea bags and 2 c. honey to 3/4 gallon boiling water. She suggests fermenting that 4 weeks. Then the initial brew is discarded (“too sour”). But then one finally goes on to “regular brewing”.

And Chloe from Conscious by Chloe says to let the tea brew 20 minutes or so.

But I did not follow either of those directions! I got this Jun Scoby and Starter Tea from Amazon, then mostly followed the directions that came with it, which were simple and pretty right on- they suggested brewing 4 tsp. loose green tea  (or 4 bags) in 8 cups boiling water for two minutes, letting it cool before adding the honey. After mixing the honey in, the starter tea and scoby get added.

I made two adjustments to the recipe. I brewed the 4 tsp. green tea in my tea pot for two minutes, but I only added half the boiling water to the tea. After the 2 minutes, I removed the tea ball and added ice until it was up to 8 cups- that way it cooled quicker and I could easily finish the project on the spot. (Sometimes I’m in a hurry and don’t want to wait for the stuff to cool off…)
The other thing I did was to use raw organic honey, like this raw, unfiltered honey on Amazon. Glory Bee Honey also sells an excellent raw honey, which I get in an 11 lb. tub. In my research, some folks mention using raw honey, and some don’t. I didn’t want to take any chances. The raw honey works amazingly well for me!
After five days, my first brew was lightly fizzy and delicious, and a new scoby had already grown! This has become my favorite probiotic drink. I think it easily wins out over regular kombucha or kefir. They call it the “champagne” of probiotic drinks. And who doesn’t love champagne?!

Maybe part of my success with this stuff is that Jun is supposed to thrive more in cooler weather. Ideal for me, living in the Bay Area. I still like regular kombucha, which thrives in warm weather, but we don’t get too much of that.

I’m wondering if another part of the success was using a coffee filter to cover the jar opening. I’ve used clean washcloths before, but maybe they don’t let in enough air. The coffee filter seems ideal. At least it worked for me.

Below is the recipe- hope yours turns out as good as mine!

JUN KOMBUCHA

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 tsp. loose green tea (or 4 bags)
  • 4 c. boiling water
  • 4 c. ice water (or ice)
  • 1/2 c. (.32 lb) honey (preferably raw, organic)
  • 1/2 c. starter tea (or about 10%)
  • Jun Scoby

PREPARATION

Pour boiling water over tea, steeping on a couple minutes. Use: > 4 tsp. loose green tea (gunpowder or regular green) > 4 c. boiling water

After steeping 2 minutes, remove bags. Add enough ice (or ice water) to bring the water amount up to 8 c.

Mix honey in well: > 1/2 c. honey

The sweetened tea should now be room temperature. Then it can be added to the starter tea in a continuous-brew jar, or just add 1/2 c. starter tea and the scoby to this new brew.

After 3 days or so, the tea should have fermented enough to put into bottles with ceramic stoppers. This will keep the carbonation in, as any remaining sugars are converted into soda-pop-style fizz. When bottling, add your choice of flavors- pomegranate juice, organic cherry juice concentrate, ginger, vanilla bean, almond extract… your choice!