Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cardamom Almond Shortbread

I love chocolate chip cookies.  I will probably never get tired of trying every corner coffee shop's variation on the old classic.  BUT.  Sometimes I want to be delighted by some different flavors in my cookies.  Ya know?

These cookies really hit the mark for me.  There are so few ingredients, and the end product is a crumbly, warmly-scented shortbread that goes great with an afternoon cup of tea.

Cardamom Almond Shortbread
Adapted from a recipe given to me by my friend, Cynthia Scott

2 c. white flour
1/8 t. salt
¾ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c. granulated sugar
4 ½ t. ground cardamom
½ c. sliced almonds 
3 T. powdered sugar
sliced almonds 

Position rack in middle of oven; preheat to 375˚ F. Grease 2 cookie sheets.

Combine flour and salt, set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar and 4 t. ground cardamom in another bowl until fluffy. Add flour mixture and beat at slow speed to incorporate. Stir in ½ c. sliced almonds. 

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and remaining ½ teaspoon of cardamom in small bowl.  Using your hands, form the dough into one inch flattened cookies.  (This will be a bit tricky, since the dough is really crumbly.)  Place cookies one inch apart on cookie sheet and sprinkle with powdered sugar mixture.  Bake until cookies are light brown, about 14 minutes. Let cookies stand on cookie sheets for 3 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely. 
Makes about one dozen.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Vegetable craftsmanship.
One of my favorite things about summer is salads.  In case you don't know me all that well, vegetables are kindof my specialty, so when it gets to be growing season, I kindof freak out and try to put them together in as many ways as I can.  Experimenting with different grains and sauce combinations gives me endless entertainment, and this recipe is no exception.

Last week I had a potluck and served Mark Bittman's Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad (which I'll share with you another time), and for this week's grill-out, I went with a little ditty from Molly Katzen, the vegetarian wizard and owner of the famous Moosewood Restaurant.  It's one of my life goals to go visit her someday.

Mediterranean Couscous [er, quinoa] Salad
Adapted from Molly Katzen's Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

1 cup quinoa
2 1/2 cups water

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 carrots, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 tomato, diced
salt & fresh ground black pepper, to taste
feta crumbes (optional)

Boil water, add quinoa and simmer covered until all liquid is absorbed.  Move cooked quinoa to a large mixing bowl.  Combine all dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake it.  Shake it good.

Boil 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Drop in the carrots and blanch for 8 minutes.  Remove and add to the quinoa.  Next, drop in the zucchini and bell peppers and blanch for 2 minutes.  Remove and add to the quinoa.  Add the rest of the veggies and the dressing mixture to the quinoa. Toss and serve.  A little bitta feta crumbles never hurt anyone either.  (Wait - unless you're lactose intolerant...)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


If I had known how easy it was to bake bread, I would have started to do it years ago. But you know how it is sometimes? You have it worked up in your head that something is so scary and then you finally do it and you think, "Huh.  Well that wasn't so bad."

So today I overcame my fear of bread.  And so can you.

I followed Mark Bittman's "Jim Lahey's No-Work Bread" from How to Cook Everything.  I picked this recipe because of the key phrase, "No-Work".  Obviously.  True to his word, this bread was not a lot of work.  But I will tell you, I did do a little bit of freaking out -- "Is this what it's supposed to look like?  What is the temperature in here?  Is it too cold?  Am I supposed to smoosh out all of those bubbles?  What if it turns out rock hard?  Then how am I supposed to fix it for next time??"

Well, as the kitchen gods would have it, the bread turned out perfectly. I mean, I don't mean to give myself too much of an ego boost here, but dang!  Did you see the picture?

Now you try:

Fancy Restaurant Bread
(adapted from Mark Bittman)

4 c. All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. (scant) Yeast
2 tsp. Salt
2 c. Water (room temperature - 70 degrees-ish)
Glug of Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. Cornmeal

Combine flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of your KitchenAid Mixer (or just a bowl is fine).  Attach the dough hook and let it start swooshing on low speed.  Slowly add the water until everything is blended.   It'll be sticky.

Generously coat a large bowl with the olive oil and transfer your dough hunk into the new bowl.  Cover it with plastic wrap and let it hang out in your home for 18 hours.  Yep, that's right - 18.

When you see the surface dotted with bubbles, the dough is ready.  Flour your countertop and flip the dough onto the floured surface. Flip it around a few times to get the outside coated with flour, then cover it again and let it stand for 15 minutes.

Now you're ready for the big time.  Form that dough into a ball and coat a flour sack cloth with the cornmeal.  Move that dough ball to the center of the towel, and sprinkle the top of the ball with more flour.  Fold the towel's edges over the top of your dough ball, then let it sit for just 2 more hours.  (Then I swear you get to the good part where it starts to smell yummy.)

After 2 hours, put a dutch oven into your real oven, and turn up the heat to 450.  (Be sure the handle to the lid is heat-safe up to this temperature.)  Once both pieces have reached 450, put the bread in the dutch oven.  Put the lid on.  Put the whole works in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Take the lid off.  Bake it for another 15 minutes.  Or until it looks toasty-lovely.  Take it all out of the oven and admire your work.  Let it rest for a few minutes before cutting into it so your knife can take hold of the crust more easily.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Banana Bread

Oh, BTW: I live in Duluth now.
This is my new baking view.
If you're like me, you've got about 14 different recipes in your cupboard for banana bread - one from Grandma, one from the other grandma, one from your favorite cookbook, one from the Lutheran Ladies Church Recipe Book... etc.  I know that there's one I prefer over all the others, but every time I see borderline rotting bananas on my countertop, I can never remember which one it is.

Well, finally.  I found a recipe I really like, and I saved it on my computer. Not only that, but I saved it as "My Favorite Banana Bread Recipe".  (Amazing it's taken me 31 years to figure things like this out...)

Anyway, this recipe is adapted from one I found in the cookbook, "How it all Vegan".  I made some changes based on my own dietary preferences, and voila!  It's nutty (without actually having nuts) and it has a wonderfully moist texture.  Darn near perfect, really.  And it's sugar-free! (If you can't live without the sugar - or can't get a hold of agave nectar, 1/4 c. agave = 1/2 c. sugar.)

My Favorite Banana Bread Recipe

3 mashed ripe bananas
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/3 c. walnut oil
1/4 c. agave nectar
1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. ground flax seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Moosh together the bananas, yogurt, oil, and agave nectar.  In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Stir until blended.  Pour batter into an oiled bread pan and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool.  Eat a piece while it's still warm.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Tuna Salad

Oops - all gone.
I'm not typically all that crazy about tuna salad.  But in the summertime, I need to make something that does not involve a stovetop, and I need to put in strange ingredients to make it worth the fact that I'm eating canned tuna.  This recipe satisfies both.

Also, in case you didn't know, lemon makes everything taste better.

This recipe was inspired by a salad I had at the Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth:

15 oz. chunk light tuna, packaged in water, drained
1/4 c. red onion, chopped
6 oz. jar of marinated artichoke hearts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 c. kalamata olives, cut in half
4 Tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon
salt & pepper to taste

I made this today and put it over fresh spinach.  TrĂ©s healthy.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Candied Pecans

Do you know how easy it is to make crunchy, sweet nuts?  Really easy.  I learned yesterday:

1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Put the above ingredients into a frying pan and turn the heat to a simmer (medium... medium-low?).  When it heats up, it will look kindof foamy for a while, but then it settles down.  Just let it bubble while stirring it until the sugar dries up.  (Trust me, if you've every had candied nuts, you'll know what it looks like.)

Pour the nuts out onto a piece of parchment paper to cool, and make sure to get that pan into some hot water right away so the carmelized sugar doesn't turn to cement.

That's it.  Really.  (No excuses next time you make a salad.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chocolate Souffle

I don't take failure very well.  I'm one o' those gals who gets right back on the horse and says, "Oh, yeah?  Well, watch THIS!"

In light of Tuesday's broth fiasco, I decided I needed to prove myself.  But not just with any recipe.  Oh no.  I had to do something daring.  So I went out to my favorite cooking store, Cooks of Crocus Hill (no, I am not paid to advertise for them) and bought some souffle cups.  And I made some frickin' souffles.

Check them out:

Gorgeous and delicious.

Just wanted to let you all know that I still "have it".  Carry on.