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.    
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:  and enjoy some of her amazing photos below.    
La Recette:
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. 
-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:   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:

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!   

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