Friday, December 27, 2013

Polenta Bites with an Arugula Olive Tapenade

Photograph taken by Joanie Schwarz

This is a great hors d'oeuvre anytime of the year but I especially like to make it during the holiday season.  They are perfect little bite size morsels that are packed with flavor.  The salty olives with peppery arugula and crispy polenta make for a really delicious bite.  If you are looking for a New Year's Eve appetizer to serve, this one is excellent.  It's vegan, gluten free (of course) and so tasty.  I found this recipe in Food and Wine last year and changed it up a little.  http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/crispy-polenta-bites-with-arugula-tapenade    
Please give it a try, I think you'll love it!  My version of the recipe is listed below.
The best photographer in the world and a good friend of mine, Joanie Schwarz,  came over one afternoon to take some photos of the food I was making for this post.  She is wonderful.  There are people in life that you know you're just destined to be friends with and for me, she is one of those people.  Check out her website: http://joanieschwarzphotography.com/  and enjoy some of her amazing photos below.    
La Recette:
Ingredients-
1 - 16 oz. log of prepared polenta, room temperature - Trader Joe's has a good one that is organic.
1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs, you can buy these or make your own.  I prefer to make my own.*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup arugula, chopped
1/4 cup green olives, chopped
Pinch Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 radishes, thinly sliced, I like to use a mandoline.  If you don't have one, you can practice your knife skills :)  Try to get the radishes really thin. 
Directions-
-Cut the polenta's edges into a rectangle.  (I like to reserve the cut pieces and put them into an egg white scramble for breakfast.)
-Slice the polenta vertically (the long way), so you have two pieces and then vertically again so you have four long pieces.
-Spread the breadcrumbs out into a shallow dish and press the outer sides (not the top and bottom) of the polenta into the breadcrumbs so that it is coated. 
-In a saute pan, on medium high heat, heat the olive oil.  Cook the polenta about 3 minutes per side. 
-Make sure the olive oil coats the entire pan and a spatula is helpful when flipping sides.
-In the meantime, combine the arugula, olives, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
-When each side is slightly golden, remove from the pan and let them rest for 5-10 minutes.
-Cut each section into five small squares. 
-Top each square with a teaspoon of tapenade and garnish with two radish slices. 
* To make your own gluten free bread crumbs, use the ends or slices of your regular gluten free sliced bread.  Just put it into a blender or food processor.  It's cheaper than buying bread crumbs and a good way to use up the ends.  Let them sit out uncovered for about a day so they get crispy.   

Photograph taken by Joanie Schwarz

Photograph taken by Joanie Schwarz

Photograph taken by Joanie Schwarz

Photograph taken by Joanie Schwarz


last one...



A rare photo of the cook :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with white chocolate chips




This is quite possibly the most perfect holiday cookie ever!  You must try this recipe and I won't lie, I found it on the back of a chocolate chip package.  I fixed it up a little and made it gluten free.  I don't know if it's the mini white chocolate chips on top that reminds me of snow but they shout winter time to me.  Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside with the best chocolate combination.  Super chocolaty cocoa mixed with sweet white chocolate makes an excellent bite.  It's like a chocolate fireworks party in your mouth ;)  A plate of these cookies are a great hostess gift for any holiday party you have or just simply served as dessert.  They are so tasty and it's almost impossible to only eat one!  


This is a great tip for any kind of baking that you are doing…use European style butter.  The higher butterfat percentage just makes everything better.  If you are dairy free Earth Balance works really well.


One of my favorite brands for all things chocolate.


This dough will be thicker than your typical cookie dough.


Use a tablespoon to roll into little balls.


Perfect for any party!


I made these cookies in Mason's class and they were a big hit!


La Recette:

Ingredients -
2 1/2 cups gluten free baking mix - I like Bisquick
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant decaffeinated coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fleur de sel - french sea salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature and preferably European style
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 extra large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
2 1/2 cups mini white chocolate chips, divided

Directions - 
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  
-Line three standard size cookie sheets with silpat or parchment paper
-In a medium bowl, whisk together the baking mix, cocoa, coffee, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1 1/2 cups of the mini white chocolate chips.  Set aside.
-In a stand mixer or with hand held mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  2-3 minutes.  
-Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again until well combined.  
-Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated.  Make sure you take a spoon or spatula half way through and give it a couple of good mixes to make sure everything is coming together.  
-Chill the dough for at least one hour or overnight.
-Put the remaining cup of chips in a shallow bowl.
-To form each cookie, roll a tablespoon of the dough into a ball, then roll the top of the ball in the bowl of chips to coat.
-Place on the baking sheet.  *In the picture above I put 12 cookies on a sheet and I recommend only putting 9 cookies on a baking sheet.  Otherwise, they are a little crowded.
-Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Just until the outside becomes slightly firm.
-Let them cool completely, then transfer to a serving dish or airtight container for storage.  
-Enjoy :)

-Makes about 3 dozen cookies
-If you have a dairy allergy, use earth balance baking sticks.  Also, instead of white chocolate, you could use dark chocolate chips and drizzle melted dark chocolate on top.  Another idea would be to add dried cranberries or cherries.  
-I am working on the vegan version.  
-If you can't find mini white chocolate chips, regular size will work.  You'll just have to play with the chip placement on top.  
-If you don't need this recipe to be gluten free, just substitute regular flour cup for cup.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with a Manchego Crostini


It's been a while since I've posted but I've been working on blog improvements.  I hope you like the new look.  It would not have been possible without the help of an excellent blog designer - Carrie.  She was wonderful and I highly recommend her.  Check out her site: http://www.carrielovesdesign.com   So, for my first recipe back, I thought I would post something that will warm you up.  It's been so cold!  There is nothing like homemade soup and this one is probably my favorite in the winter time.  It's perfect on a cold night and the flavor combinations work so well together.  It's savory with a touch of sweetness.  The cayenne pepper and ginger gives it a subtle kick and the best part about this recipe is that it's vegan.  In the picture there is a sour cream garnish and cheese on the crostini but it's not necessary, and you can really use whatever  you like.  If you eat cheese, any kind will work here, but I love Manchego.  Manchego is a sheep's milk cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain (central but south of Madrid).  It's buttery, creamy flavor works well with the subtle sweetness of the soup and it has a fairly mild flavor.  I made this soup on Thanksgiving and it was a big hit.  Typically for the garnish, I use paprika, sour cream, fresh sage and pomegranates.  Other options that would work are blue cheese, apples, or flat leaf parsley.  It's a great starter or it can be a meal on it's own.  It's very easy to make and you can store it in the freezer up to three months, so you can have soup on the ready when it gets really cold in January and February.  My kids are just starting to try soup.  My daughter enjoys this more than my son, but I'll just keep putting it in front of them ;)  One day they'll eat it up!      

Butternut Squash peeled and ready to chop after the seeds are scraped out.

For this recipe I use 8-10 cups.

Lots of spices…paprika, sage, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ginger, and nutmeg.

Pomegranates are one of my favorite fruits.  They are perfect in so many things. 

La Recette:

Ingredients-
10 cups Butternut Squash, peeled, seeds scraped and roughly cubed (8-10 cups will work well)
1 medium red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium apples, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 - 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and roughly chopped
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Garnish - 
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup manchego, shreaded
1 gluten free baguette, sliced thinly - I love Schär
Sprinkle of paprika 

Directions -
-Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
-Line a standard sized cookie sheet with aluminum foil making sure it is completely covered.  Place the squash, onion, apples, garlic, ginger, shallot, salt, pepper and two tablespoons of olive oil onto the lined cookie sheet and give it a good mix.  As the Barefoot Contessa says - clean hands work best.
-Roast the veggies for 40-45 minutes.  Giving it a stir halfway through.    
-Put the veggies in a blender or food processor.  You might have to work in batches depending on the size of your appliance.  With the motor running add in 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (split it up if you are working in batches).  Make sure that the mixture is completely smooth.  If you are working with a blender, make sure you keep a tight hand on the top.  Substances expand when heated and it can splatter and burn.  This part should take 2-3 minutes.  
-Put the puréed veggies in a medium sized sauce pot and slowly stir in the 4 cups of vegetable stock.
-Add in all of the spices and mix until completely incorporated.
-Let the soup simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes.  Garnish with the ingredients listed here or choose some of your own. -This recipe serves about 8-10 adults.  
-I divide the garnish between servings.  
*For the baguette, cut thin slices on the bias.  Rub each piece with a drizzle of olive oil and toast in the oven or toaster oven until just slightly brown.  Remove and sprinkle each piece with a little cheese.  Toast again for 2-3 minutes until golden and bubbly.  Enjoy!   


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cranberry Basil Blintzes


I recently reconnected with one of my college roommates, Emily Wilson, who works for a fabulous company - Cooking Planit. http://www.cookingplanit.com.

They have an amazing website that makes cooking multiple dishes and planning meals a cinch! I saw these delicious blintzes that Emily created and decided that I had to make them gluten free. The experiment was a success and they were delicious. I just had to substitute the same amount of gluten free baking mix for the amount of flour the recipe called for. These blintzes have an amazing combination of sweet and salty with just the right amount of creaminess. The cranberries are my favorite part of this dish. It gives it the perfect zing of sweetness. This makes an amazing breakfast, lunch or dinner and all of the colors and ingredients compliment the holiday season so well. You'll love this recipe and the Cooking Planit site. Remember, to make it gluten free, just substitute your favorite gluten free baking mix (I make my own but also love Bisquick's gf mix) for the corresponding amount of flour. Cup for cup exactly:)

It's so fun reconnecting with old friends especially when they are great chefs! Thanks Emily!

http://cookingplanit.com/recipe/cranberry-basil-blintzes

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Candied Pumpkin Seeds


J'aime l'automne (I love the Fall). The weather, the colors, the clothes, and especially Fall foods - pumpkins and butternut squash top the list. These pumpkin cupcakes are so delicious you'll want to make them throughout October and November. They are the perfect Fall dessert. The pumpkin purée adds a nice earthiness to the cake and the rich cream cheese frosting is sweet and tart - it's a great compliment. The crunchy, sweet pumpkin seeds are an ideal topper, making a delightful palate combination of soft, creamy and crisp. Mason and Gabrielle love them and I think these cupcakes will help them acquire a taste for pumpkin, squash and other Fall flavors and spices. I made mini versions for Mason's soccer team as an after game snack and the kids really enjoyed them! If you make these cupcakes, they will definitely become a Fall dessert staple in your home. Enjoy and Happy Fall!

My favorite brand.

Gabby loves the mini version.

Any good recipe starts with quality ingredients and the pumpkin purée from Farmer's Market is my favorite.  It's organic, the can liner is BPA free and it's verified non-GMO.  It doesn't get much better than that!

I made a version of these cupcakes in Mason's pre-school class last year.  Contrary to the date on the photo, this was taken last Fall before we moved.  We loved this class.  Mason's teachers Ms. Courtney and Ms. Robin were wonderful!  We miss them a lot.  Kids are so interested and excited about cooking and baking.  They love to learn about the ingredients and what they do.  I love the curiosity.

*This recipe is very easy to make dairy free. Just use traditional frosting instead of cream cheese and Earth Balance sticks in the cake and frosting as well. I am still working on the egg free version.
 
Mason's class last year.  He is right next to me.
Two of Mason's friends, Kayla and Brooke.
La Recette:

Ingredients


Cake

2 1/2 cups gluten free baking mix - I like Bisquick
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting the top
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3 extra large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1/4 cup 2% plain greek yogurt, room temperature
1 - 15 oz. can pumpkin purée


Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar


Candied Pumpkin Seeds

1/4 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, cleaned
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

Directions


Cake
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two traditional cupcake trays with liners.
  • In a medium bowl mix the GF flour/baking mix, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the flat beater attachment, combine the butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. 
  • Next add the eggs yolks one at a time (reserve the whites) and then add the vanilla. Mix until well incorporated. 
  • Then add the pumpkin and yogurt and mix until just combined.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. I always take a spatula halfway through and scrape the bottom to make sure all of the ingredients are getting incorporated.
  • Meanwhile, take the egg whites in a medium sized bowl, and with a handheld mixer beat the whites until stiff peaks form. 
  • Gently fold the whites into the pumpkin mixture (don't over mix) and fill the liners 3/4 full.
  • Bake for about 20-22 minutes and the tops are golden
  • Remove from the oven and let them cool completely

Frosting

-In a stand mixer with the flat beater attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter and mix until combined. Next add the powdered sugar and mix well. 2-3 minutes. The frosting should have some consistency to it and not be too soft. You can spread on the cupcakes with a knife or pipe on with a pastry bag. Either way it's delicious, just make sure the cupcakes are completely cool :)


Candied pumpkin seeds
  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well making sure all of the seeds are covered with the mixture.
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. Dump the seeds onto the baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely. They will become hard. When the cupcakes are ready to be finished after frosting, I break off a small cluster on the top of each cupcake. After the seeds go on, I sprinkle the top with a little cinnamon.

*Makes at least 24 cupcakes. You can always freeze extra dough in an airtight container for three months.
*If you want to cut down on the sugar, these are delicious without the frosting as well!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Giving Thanks for Giving

This holiday season, I am partnering with Cooking Planit to celebrate the givers in our lives and communities. Do you know someone who gives to others without looking for recognition or reward? Tell us about him/ her in a short, inspiring story and five stories will be selected for a $250 reward. The grand prize winner will win $1000 for the charity of their choice. Five winners will be chosen from all of the entries based on how inspiring their story is and how they empower others through their efforts.

In 300 words or less:


*Recognize an individual who is making a difference in the lives of others in your community.
*Share how they donate their time, energy or love with a focus on helping others without necessarily thinking of themselves.
*Give details on how they are working to improve the lives of others.

If your inspiring person is chosen, they will receive $250 gift card to help them celebrate Thanksgiving, and you will win $100 as our way of saying thank you. So warm up your pens and warm up the hearts of all of us this Thanksgiving.

Enter your inspiring story on Facebook: http://bit.ly/thanks-fb or on the Cooking Planit Giving Thanks page: http://bit.ly/thanks-blog

Check out the details on how you and your nominee can win a little something to make this holiday season brighter.

Because my blog is participating in the contest, I am not able to submit a personal story of my own, but I thought I would share one here as an example.

If I was able to nominate someone for this contest, it would be my parents, Mike and Patty Newton. I realize that if I were really writing this story for the contest it should just be about one person; however, I think of them as a team. They are unconditional givers and two of the most selfless people I know. When I was younger, I definitely took all of their wonderful acts for granted. Being young, immature, and naïve, I just figured that all parents were the same and always acted in a giving way. As I grew older and a little wiser, I've realized how incredible they are and what a support they have been and always will be in my life. We've moved quite frequently in the past few years and they are there every time, helping us pack, watching and playing with our kids, doing our laundry, cleaning or offering a shoulder for me to cry on when needed. My kids, Mason and Gabrielle, call my parents Nana and Nonno (Italian for Grandfather). Nana and Nonno visit us all of the time. They love to be with Mason and Gabby and it gives Jake and I a break. They give a very tired Mom and Dad a much needed reprieve. Their help, love, and guidance is so invaluable. They help me to be a better Mom and I love them more than I can express. They have set a great example and I will always do the same for Mason and Gabby. They are not only like this with family but with their friends and neighbors as well. Thanks Mom and Dad for everything. You truly are the best.

Thanks everyone and I hope to read your inspiring stories soon! xoxo!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Penne with White Beans and Escarole and Crispy Asparagus


This is my new favorite fall dinner! The pasta has so many scrumptious flavor combinations. The salty briny capers, sweet tomatoes, toasty garlic and crisp escarole - it's so hearty and really warms you up on a chilly night. A great part about this is that it can be made vegan - you just leave off the Parmesan cheese. I also found it's a great way to introduce new flavors to your child's palate. For some reason, my kids seem to hesitate eating tomatoes and anything green. Call me crazy but I think this is a common problem. If your kids eat green vegetables readily, I am jealous! It's hard work for me. I start with fixing them a noodle dish with a little butter and cheese. I sauté the garlic and throw in the capers (pickled berries). My kids love capers because they remind them of pickles. Once, they are comfortable with those flavors, I add in the beans and then try to sneak in the tomatoes and escarole. I love the asparagus too. I am still working on my kids to eat this veggie but the bread crumbs and Parmesan make it more tempting for them to take a taste. Enjoy!

La Recette:


12 oz. gluten free pasta - I like Bionaturae. If you don't need gluten free pasta, regular pasta works here too.
1 head escarole, washed, dried well, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, I like San Marzano
1 14ish oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for serving

Directions:

  • Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a sauté pan and turn the burner to medium high. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley and cook until fragrant - about 2 minutes.
  • Next, add the cannellini beans and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Then, add in the tomatoes. Quickly squeeze them with your hands to break them apart and use your spoon as well (make sure you are wearing an apron because the tomatoes will squirt). Add in the bay leaves and let it cook and reduce down for about 10-15 minutes.



  • In the meantime, bring a large saucepan with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to boil (the salt helps to flavor the noodles and the oil helps the gluten free noodles from sticking). Cook the noodles al-dente, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  • While the noodles are cooking remove and discard the bay leaves and add the escarole to the tomato mixture. It will look like a lot but it will cook down quickly.




  • Once the escarole starts to cook down (5-8 minutes), add in the capers and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the salt and pepper and mix well. Turn the heat off.
  • Try to time the pasta so that it is finished shortly after you put the capers into the tomato/escarole sauce. I would put the pasta into the boiling water about 10 minutes after you add in the bay leaves while the tomato sauce is cooking.
  • Drain the pasta and add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to the tomatoes and escarole. Reserve the remaining 1/2 cup and use only if the sauce is too thick (1-2 tablespoons at a time).
  • Add the pasta to the tomatoes and escarole and mix well.
  • Mix 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese into the pasta and reserve the other 1/4 cup to sprinkle on each serving. Enjoy!


*Serves 4

Asparagus:

1 medium bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 gluten free bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions:


  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
  • Place the asparagus on the baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, making sure they are coated well.
  • Combine the bread crumbs (I've mentioned this before but never buy breadcrumbs. Use the ends of your bread and put them in the food processor), cheese, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle the mixture over the asparagus.
  • Bake for 15 minutes


*To start my kids out with this dish, I reserve a quarter of the pasta, 2 tablespoons of the beans, and use an extra tablespoon of capers. Using the same saucepan that I cooked the noodles in, sauté 1/2 teaspoon of garlic until fragrant - 2 minutes. Add the noodles and 1-2 tablespoons of pasta water and 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil. Next, add the beans and capers and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. They love this and I can slowly work in the tomatoes and escarole.

*This entire recipe is so easy to make vegan. Just hold all of the cheese and it won't compromise the integrity of the recipe in any way.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vegan Gluten Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fleur de Sel


A few months ago, I posted a recipe for gluten free chocolate chip cookies with sea salt and I thought that it would be a good recipe to try vegan. We recently had some of our good friends over, Rich, Stacy and their adorable kids. Stacy is vegan so I experimented with the recipe and they came out great. The texture was good and they were full of flavor. I was thrilled with the results. It makes me so happy when I can make something where everyone can eat together- in fact, this is a main reason why I started this blog! Consequently, Stacy has inspired me to try to eat at least one vegan meal a day. It is slightly challenging but I am creating some good recipes. Please try this one! The cookies are rich and chocolaty and the touch of sea salt really enhances the chocolate taste - these cookies rock! Enjoy:)

La Recette:

2 sticks Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks (love these), room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup applesauce, room temperature
2 1/4 cups gluten free baking mix - I make my own but until mine is for sale, I recommend Bisquick :)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel plus more for sprinkling on top
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups dark chocolate chips


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • With a handheld mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until soft and creamy - about a minute
  • Slowly add in the sugar and beat until smooth and incorporated, about 2 minutes
  • Add in the applesauce and the vanilla. Mix until everything is smooth. Scrape down the sides and the bottom with a spatula halfway through.
  • In the meantime, combine the gluten free baking mix, baking soda, fleur de sel, and cinnamon. Mix a few times to combine.
  • Next, toss in the chocolate chips. Mix sure the chips are coated in flour mixture. This will help to hold their place in the dough.
  • With the mixer running, gradually add in the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  • Mix the dough a few times with a spatula or wooden spoon to make sure that everything is combined on the bottom.
  • Using a tablespoon, drop 12 cookie balls onto a standard sized lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle a few granules of sea salt on the top. I use less sea salt on top than in the other recipe with the milk chocolate chips. Because dark chocolate has a more bitter taste than milk chocolate, the flavor is better if you use just a touch of fleur de sel on top.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes and let them cool completely on the baking sheet. I like to keep an eye on these in the oven just to make sure that they don't get too brown. Then transfer to an airtight storage container.


*I find that they are best within three days of making them. If you don't eat them all within three days, freeze them.

*Fleur de Sel is a hand harvested sea salt. It's a little pricey but totally worth it. Speciality foods stores like Williams Sonoma will carry it as well as Whole Foods.

*On a side note, my cousin Allison had a fabulous baking blog, www.thebakingyear.wordpress.com

Please check it out when you have a chance. She is adorable. I think it's so great when a love of cooking and baking is developed at a young age.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

After School Snack


I know, I know...whose kids eat radishes? And honestly, I can't answer that question. Mine don't - yet, but I'm hopeful that they will! If I put it in front of them enough, they will. That's my theory and I am sticking to it. So when we get home from school, I munch on the peppery radishes with sea salt and they love the creamy, lemony herbed butter and warm baguette. This is a recipe adapted from the fabulous Barefoot Contessa - Ina Garten. She is amazing and my kids love this recipe. It's the perfect snack to hold them over until dinner. Enjoy!

La Recette:

1 bunch radish, washed and trimmed
1 gluten free baguette - I like Schär
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme - chopped
2 teaspoons fresh dill - chopped
2 teaspoons Italian parsley - chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Sea salt or kosher salt for dipping the radishes

Combine the butter, zest, lemon juice, thyme, dill, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl and mix until everything is incorporated. I like to warm the baguette in the oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees and then thinly slice. I also sprinkle about one tablespoon of sea salt on the plate to dip the radishes.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Quick Kitchen Tip

This is a fantastic tip. Whipped cream is a great topping on so many desserts and it's much cheaper and tastier if you make your own.

 You can use an electric or stand mixer, but I think it comes out better if you whip it by hand. Here is the good part - you can drastically cut down your whipping time by putting the bowl and whisk in the freezer about 15 -20 minutes before you want to use it.

 Add a little sugar, and you have a fluffy, sweet addition to your dessert that only takes about 5-7 minutes. It's also a great arm workout :) I usually use a cup of cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar. I gently fold the sugar in at the end.

 Definitely use the heavy whipping cream because the reduced fat products don't whip very well. The best part is, you only need a little dollop and if someone has a dairy allergy, you just leave it off. It keeps in the refrigerator for about 3 days.

 Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bouillie Froide - Cold Oatmeal


I first came across a version of this recipe when I was in college, doing an internship at a health and fitness club.  Needless to say, it was very popular.  It's a great, easy, and flavor filled summer breakfast.  You prepare it the night before and it makes about six servings.  It is essentially oatmeal that sits in the fridge overnight and it's served cold.  It's simple to make into a vegan dish and it's one of my favorites.  I love oatmeal but in the summer, sometimes it's just too warm outside for a hot breakfast.  This definitely hits the spot.  It's creamy, sweet and you can add any toppings you like.  I also make it with honey or agave nectar which eliminates any processed sugar.  It's a super tasty breakfast to try over these last few days of summer.  Enjoy!   

La Recette:
3 cups Gluten Free Oatmeal - I like Bob's Red Mill quick cooking oats 
4 cups skim or soy milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey

-Mix everything together in a large bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  Cover it with a lid or plastic wrap.
-For toppings, you can choose whatever you like:  almonds, walnuts, bananas, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, prunes, raisins, cranberries, etc...Gabby suggested swedish fish but I had to put my foot down with that one ;)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mac and Cheese Cups

Little hands are ready to eat
Just out of the oven
A perfect dinner and they pop out of the trays so easily        

I love this dinner and the best thing about it is that there are hidden edamame inside!  My kids love these mac and cheese cups too and I, like many other Moms out there, always struggle to get my little pumpkins to eat their veggies!  By putting a random number of edamame in each mac and cheese cup, I make a game out of eating the "green stuff".  Whoever gets the most edamame gets a prize.  The prize can be a book, game, or even a popsicle.  Regardless, it gets them exited to eat veggies.  That being said, this is the most creamy, gooey, mac and cheese you have ever eaten.  It is so good!  I've combined sharp, rich cheddar with nutty gruyère.  The crunchy, buttery bread crumbs and crisp grape tomatoes are a perfect topper.  I'm still working with Mason and Gabby to eat tomatoes but I'll have to take one step at a time :)  Please make this dinner for your kids and you'll have them excited about the edamame game too!  If you are serving adults as well, a simple mixed greens salad on the side is a great compliment.   I like to play the edamame game too but my prize is a glass of Pinot Noir.  The Rodney Strong 2011 Pinot paired perfectly!  Enjoy.   

La Recette:
*Two non-stick muffin trays
Kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil
12 oz. gluten free pasta (regular pasta will work here too) - I like to use Penne
2.5 cups 2% or skim milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup rice flour (all purpose flour works too if you don't need to make it GF)
8 oz. gruyère, grated
8 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup grape tomatoes cut in half
1/2 cup of frozen shelled edamame, rinsed and thawed
1 cup fresh gluten free bread crumbs

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray two muffins trays with canola oil spray.
-In a large pot of water add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.  Bring the water to a boil and cook the noodles al dente (firm but not hard).  Drain well.  
*Don't let the pasta sit drained for more than a minute or two.  Try to time it so that you drain it and put it into the cheese mixture.  If needed, add a splash if extra virgin olive oil so the noodles don't stick.  
-Meanwhile, in a medium sized saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter.  While the butter is melting, heat 2.5 cups of milk in the microwave for 2:00-2:30 minutes.  I like to use a large glass pyrex measuring cup here- it minimizes clean up.  
-Set the milk aside and add about 2 tablespoons of the rice flour mixture to the melted butter.  Whisk well and continuously.  The mixture will become thick.  Slowly add in the milk, and continue to whisk.  Do not let the milk boil.  Slowly add in the rest of the rice flour and keep whisking.  The sauce will become smooth and thick.  Remove from heat.  *You are really making a bèchamel or white sauce.  This part should take 5-8 minutes.    
-Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt.  Add and the grated cheese and mix well.  Finally, add the edamame and mix until incorporated.  The cheese mixture should become smooth.  Add in the drained pasta and mix until combined.
-Spoon the pasta into the muffin trays.  
-Put 1-2 slices of grape tomatoes on top
-Put a tablespoon of breadcrumbs on each cup.
*For the breadcrumbs - 
-Mix a cup of fresh breadcrumbs with a tablespoon of melted butter.  Add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 freshly ground pepper and mix well.  *Never buy breadcrumbs!  I take the ends of my bread loaves, 2-3 pieces, and put them into my food processor.  A perfect way to use up those ends!  
-Bake for 20 minutes until golden and bubbly.
*Makes 18-20 cups.
*These freeze and reheat really well in the microwave or oven. 
*This recipe is very versatile.  You can also put the pasta in a 9x12 inch baking dish, leave out the tomatoes, etc...
 Bon appétit!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Lime Vinaigrette


This salad is so refreshing!  It's a great starter to any summer meal.  The cool, sweet watermelon and the salty feta create a match made in heaven.  Combined with the zing of red onion and lime, and garnished with a chiffonade of fresh mint - a summer salad doesn't get much better!  My kids love the watermelon/feta combination and it's completely palate pleasing for adults too.  Enjoy this taste bud tantalizing dish!

La Recette:
 4 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
2 cups feta cheese, cubed
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffonade 

Vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon shallot, minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (or any white wine vinegar)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon agave nectar or maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste

-The salad serves four so place a cup of cubed watermelon in each bowl.  Next arrange the 1/2 cup of feta in each of the four bowls and throw on a few slices of the thinly sliced red onion.
-For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously until well combined - about 15-20 seconds.  Drizzle the dressing over each salad and garnish with the mint chiffonade.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hamentashen in July, porquoi?


Hamentashen are the traditional cookies you make for the Jewish holiday of Purim.  Purim is usually in the spring but Mason's summer camp was having a fun Purim party in July, so I volunteered to make the gluten free version.  The ones pictured above are strawberry chocolate chip and they came out perfect.  The dough is light and buttery, the strawberries and chocolate are sweet and rich and you get a little taste of everything with each bite.  It's really a scrumptious cookie.  They are easy to make dairy free and you can fill them with whatever you like.  I will post the recipe with instructions when the real holiday comes around.  Stay tuned ;)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Gazpacho with homemade garlic croutons


This is one of the most refreshing savory dishes you will eat all summer.  It's over-flowing with flavor and the best part is - it's healthy!  C'est parfait!  The cool, crisp cucumber, combined with sweet tomatoes and the crunchy zing of red onions makes for a perfect bite topped off with crusty garlic croutons. Sometimes I put a dollop of crème fraîche on top to add a bit of creamy richness to the soup.  It's a great lunch or a mouth watering starter for a summer barbecue.

La Recette:
1 English cucumber, cut in half vertically, seeded scraped (I use a spoon to do this), then dice -do not peel.
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, chopped (I cut the sides off of the tomatoes leaving the seedy core intact.  The seeds will make the soup too watery.
3 1/2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar - I like Napa Valley Naturals.  If you can't find champagne vinegar, any white wine vinegar will work.  *I happen to use this type of vinegar with so many recipes.  It's worth searching for :)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
4-6 dashes tabasco sauce - optional
Dollop of crème fraîche - optional

Garlic Croutons-
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
4 slices bread, toasted - I think Udi's makes the best croutons
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
 1 clove garlic

-Chop all of the vegetables and garlic.  Put them into a large bowl.  Add the tomato juice and mix well.  Add the champagne vinegar, olive oil, tabasco sauce and salt and pepper.  Mix until combined.  Chill for a least 2 hours or preferably overnight.  The longer it sits, the more the flavors can develop and come together.  

-For the croutons,  line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.   Place the bread on the foil and drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the bread.  Using your fingers, gently rub the olive oil into the bread - it should be covered with the olive oil.  
-Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toast in a toaster oven or regular oven until crisp and golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.
-Take a clove of garlic and put it on the end of a fork.  While the toast is warm, gently rub the garlic over each piece a few times.  Let the toast cool, then slice it into cubes.  Enjoy!

*Serves 4-6

*Crème fraîche is a soured cream containing 30-45% butterfat.  It is less sour than U.S. style sour cream, has a lower viscosity and higher fat content.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Æbelskivers

Æbelskivers are traditional Danish pancakes.  They are sort of a pancake crossed with a popover.  I guess you could call them pancake puffs ;) These little morsels are so scrumptious.  The version shown below are chocolate chip filled with Nutella and they are so good you'll want to make them everyday.  I wouldn't suggest making them everyday for waistline purposes but they are great for a special breakfast.  Everyone is a huge fan and the best part is you can fill them with almost anything...strawberries, bananas, blueberries, apples, any kind of jam, etc...



  

Mason and Gabby love Æbelskivers!


The center is filled with creamy Nutella.

La Recette:
*You will need an Æbelskiver pan:
1 1/4 cups gluten free baking mix (I recommend Bisquick gluten free baking mix)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (you can use milk or semi-sweet - I like Ghirardelli)
10 1/2 teaspoons Nutella 
Dusting of powdered sugar

- In a small bowl, whisk together the baking mix, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips - set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, butter, and milk.  Stir in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Do not over mix.
-In another large bowl, with a handheld mixer or whisk, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Slowly, fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture and mix until just combined.
-Put the Æbelskiver pan over medium low heat and spray each well of the pan with canola oil or use a dab of butter.  Add 1 tablespoon of batter to each pan.  Then add a 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella.  Finally top each with 1/2 tablespoon of the batter.  Let them cook until the bottoms are golden, about 3-4 minutes, then flip (I use wooden chop sticks to flip them over) and continue cooking for about 3 more minutes.  Transfer to a plate and keep them covered.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately.  Enjoy :)

      

*Makes 20 - 22
*These are very easy to make dairy free.  Replace the butter with Earth Balance, and use soy milk.  You can also use dark chocolate or a fruit filling!  To make nut free, just use fruit or chocolate that is nut free.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chicken Tacos with fresh pico de gallo and Radish Cucumber Salad


These chicken tacos are so light and fresh.  It makes a perfect summer dinner.  The chicken can be made a day before and the salad is super easy.  This whole dinner is a cinch to make and mouth- wateringly good.  This is an excellent meal to add to your dinner line up!






Mason really loves this dinner!

La Recette:
*I like to make the tacos in stages.  The first being the chicken and the sauce.  Preferably, I  make the chicken and sauce the night before.  Also, the pico de gallo can be made up to two days ahead.  The red sauce can be made up to one week ahead.  The rest of the dinner takes about 25 minutes tops...

Chicken and red sauce-
8 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
1- 28 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes (I love San Marzano)
1 cup grated carrots (on a box grader)
1/2 cup grated onions (on a box grater)
2 cloves garlic - minced
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

-Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
-Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you put it into the oven.  Rinse each thigh and trim any excess fat.  Pat dry, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper to taste.  Place each thigh into a large baking dish making sure that it isn't too crowded.  If it's too tight, use two dishes.
-Grate the carrots and onions on a box grater.  Finely chop the garlic and combine all three ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Sauté for 8-10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and quickly use your hands to squeeze all the tomatoes apart and use a spoon to break them down further.  Definitely wear an apron when working with the tomatoes ;) Scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add the salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar.  Simmer for one hour.  Stirring occasionally.  Let the sauce cool for 15 minutes then put it into a food processor or blender until smooth.  While the food processor is running, add the quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Blend until smooth.
-Take 3 cups of the tomato sauce and dump over the chicken in the baking dish.  Make sure the thighs are covered well (not completely covered but each piece should be surrounded with sauce).  
-Bake for about 25 -30 minutes at 400 degrees.   At 25 minutes, I always take one piece to check that the chicken is done.
-Once the chicken is done, remove from the oven and let it cool.  Place the chicken in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Tacos: 
8 corn tortillas - I like Heath is Wealth ( it a great size tortilla - not too big or too small)
2 cups pitted Kalamata olives - halved
2 cups crumbled goat cheese
2 avocados - sliced
Drizzle of creme fraiche or sour cream
Pico de Gallo-
4 medium sized tomatoes (I like to cut the sides of the tomatoes off cutting around the seeds.  This way you can avoid having a pico de gallo that is too watery.)
3/4 cup red onion
1/4 cup Italian Parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

-Combine all the ingredients and mix well.  Use immediately or refrigerate.  Note that the flavors come together really well if the pico de gallo has a few hours to marinate.      
*You can assemble the tacos any way you like.  I like the chicken cold but you can re-heat at 300 degrees for 15 minutes if you like the chicken warm.  I roughly chop the chicken and then spoon on the pico de gallo, olives and goat cheese - finishing with the sour cream and avocado.

Salad:
4 cups of romaine - chopped
1 English cucumber - cut in half vertically, seeds scraped, and 1/2 inch slices cut horizontally.
8 radishes - cut very thin, preferably on a mandolin http://www.surlatable.com/search/searchContainer.jsp;jsessionid=ABE4A38E5031D3693A6D7BBEA88205F4.slt-app-02-p-app2?q=mandolin&s=true
Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon of shallots - minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of freshly found black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup

-Combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk vigorously until smooth .  Enjoy!
-Makes 8 tacos,  4 adult servings

Friday, June 21, 2013

Quick Kitchen Tip


I absolutely love ice coffee in the summer but I never think to make it.  I've found a new favorite coffee, La Colombe Torrefaction, and now I have a system to guarantee ice coffee on demand.  About thirty minutes before I go to bed, I brew a pot of coffee.  As soon as it brews, I turn off the coffee pot, put the carafe on the counter and let it cool for about 15 minutes.  I pour the pot into a glass pitcher, cover the top and let it sit in the fridge over night.  In the morning and throughout the day, I have ice coffee ready to go.  It pairs perfectly with a madeleine or a lemon meringue tart and it's great when you have friends over on a hot day!   

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