Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush

baba-ghanoush

It’s an appetizer, a side dish, a sandwich spread, and more. Plus roasted eggplant is a flat-out delicious way to enjoy that beautiful, purple veggie!

Ingredients

  • eggplant(s), approximately 1 pound
  • 3 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 1/2 T lemon juice (or the juice of 1 lemon)
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 t black pepper

Process

  • Roast the whole eggplant(s) at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. When roasting make sure to prick the eggplant with a fork or make several incisions in the eggplant; both methods work well. In the last 10 minutes toss in some unpeeled garlic cloves. Some I use for this recipe and others I save for later use.
  • When the eggplant is cool to the touch, peel off the skin and discard it. Place the eggplant flesh, all of it even the seeds, into a blender, food processor or Vitamix.
  • Unpeel the roasted garlic cloves and add them to the blender.
  • Add everything else and blend until smooth.
  • To thicken place in the refrigerator a few hours; this also sets the flavor.

 

Credit

The above recipe was inspired by cookbook research and two online versions found here and here.

Chocolate Pots de Creme

Chocolate Pots de Creme

chocolate-pots

It’s a quicker, low sugar way to make that quintessential French dessert. Adding a dash of espresso powder enriches the chocolate flavor. The truffle-like texture is equally delicious when compared to it’s sugary, pudding-like sister, plus it allows for more servings. Excellent with whipped cream and coffee. It’s a perfect dainty dessert after a big meal.   

Ingredients

  • 1 C half and half (cream works too but if you are using a high percent chocolate 80%-99% use half and half)
  • 4 oz chocolate, as high a percent possible since this is source of sugar, I suggest 85%
  • 2 t xylitol or coconut palm sugar, with guests I use coconut palm sugar as some are sensitive to xylitol
  • 2 t espresso powder
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • A dash of cayenne may be added for a subtle, lingering heat (optional)
  • 3 beaten egg yolks
  • 1/2 t vanilla

Process

  • Tip = this recipe is very quick to make and overcooking can ruin your high cocoa percentage chocolate. Before starting with step one, have all the other steps prepared to allow for speed. All in this recipe takes about 7-12 minutes to make and the majority of the time you are stirring at the stovetop.
  • Set your ramekins out (4 large or 6 small) for quick pouring, prep the alumni foil for covering and create a space in the refrigerator for them to cool.
  • Beat the egg yolks and set them to the side.
  • Then in a small, heavy sauce pan add the half and half, chocolate, sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. While continually stirring, cook over medium heat about 5-10 minutes or until the mixture comes to a full boil and thickens.
  • The nanosecond the mixture thickens drop the heat to low. If you have an electric or flat-top range you may want to lift the pan off the stove until the temperature drops.
  • Then slowly, while stirring, add the beaten egg yolks.
  • Cook and stir over low heat for, at the most, 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Pour into ramekins. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

Almond Flat Bread

Almond Flat Bread

Almond Crackers

This flexible, easy and adaptable recipe works with almost any meal. I customize flavors to accompany the main course or use it for a hearty appetizer. Cooked longer for crackers and cooked less for flat bread it’s a sure crowd pleaser.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 4 t (rounded) of seasonings
    • some possible combinations: oregano/mint, basil/oregano/rosemary, chive/onion, etc.
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup softened (like butter not fully melted) coconut oil

Process

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Mix, using a whisk, the dry ingredients.
  • Add wet ingredients (there isn’t a need to premix them).  Mix together until a ball is formed.
  • Pour the ball onto a silpat (or other baking surface) and, using wax paper to cover the dough, roll out to desired thinness.
  • Use a pizza roller pre-score the sheet to desired size; smaller for crackers, wider for flat bread.  Then place the silpat onto a baking sheet for baking.
  • Bake for 7-10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.
  • Enjoy!
  • Tip = this is delicious as a “bread” side dish however you may add toppers, like goat cheese and chives as shown above, for a beautiful and tasty appetizer.

Credit

The above recipe is a modified recipe from a friend who starts by pulverizing almonds. Unfortunately, the specific recipe details have been lost to time.

Protein Smoothie

Protein Smoothie

Protein Smoothie

Probiotic and protein happiness! This simple smoothie gets your day started right. I make a big batch and put the rest the refrigerator for an even quicker “grab and go” breakfast the next day.

Ingredients

  • 32 oz plain kefir (1 container)
  • 13.5 oz coconut milk (1 can)
  • 1/2 cup hemp protein powder (other protein works but you’ll want to adjust based on their recommendations)
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 10 oz frozen fruit (1 package): raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.
  • 5 oz frozen fruit (1/2 package); mango, strawberries, etc.
  • 1 banana

Process

  • Note = I use a large Vitamix liquid container for my smoothies. The large containers hold 8 1/2 cups.
  • Add kefir, coconut milk, hemp and vanilla.
  • Blend on a low setting to assure your protein doesn’t clump, this is especially important if you use egg white protein.
  • Add the fruit.
  • Pulverize.
  • Enjoy!

 

  • Tip = if you want a sweeter smoothie you may add honey, maple syrup or another banana.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh

This tasty gluten free tabbouleh satisfies. Quinoa beautifully substitutes the typical cracked wheat base and unlike other substitutions to gluten free recipes this one doesn’t diminish, it enhances the flavors, especially if you can make it ahead.

Ingredients

  • 3 C cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 1 bunch parsley chopped, approximately 1 C
  • 1/2 cup scallions or green onions, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, large sized chopped
  • 2 T mint, chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T basil, minced
  • 1/3 C lemon juice
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/4 t salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 t white pepper, or to taste

Process

  • Make quinoa according to package directions and set aside to cool.
  • Toss all ingredients together with the cooled quinoa.
  • Chill for at least one hour, over night is better.
  • Enjoy!

Credit

The above recipe was listed on the back of a Bob’s Red Mill bag of quinoa; it’s listed online here. I’ve slightly modified it above to address moisture and flavor preferences.

Mediterranean Turkey Stir Fry

Mediterranean Turkey Stir Fry

Turkey

Dinner in a bowl? Lunch on the go? Yes! This uniquely flavored dished is always a hit. I serve it atop rice and sprinkled with feta. Then I pack up leftovers for lunches. Often I double the recipe and freeze half.

Ingredients

  • 2 T olive oil
  • Coarsely grated zucchini (from about 2 to 3 small zucchinis or one medium zucchini)
  • 1/2 coarsely grated onion (medium or large) or 3 green onions, thinly sliced, with onion greens included
  • 2 T Mint (or spearmint)
  • 2 T Cilantro
  • 2 t ground Cumin
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1/2 t Garlic Flakes
  • 1/2 t Black Pepper
  • 1/2 t Cayenne
  • 1 pound ground Turkey

Process

  • Saute veggies with all seasonings.
  • Once the veggies have cooked down add meat.
  • Finish cooking and serve hot.
  • Tip = Feta cheese is a delicious topping!

Credit

The above recipe is a variation of a SimplyRecipes recipe which was adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  Desiring a “bowling” recipe, I took a stir fry approach rather than burgers and eliminated the sour cream sauce. 

Surprised by Dickens

Surprised by Dickens

A Tale of Two CitiesA Tale of Two Cities
By Charles Dickens
Public Domain – read Nook edition, 380 pp., $0

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English author and critic, wrote an intertwined historical fiction 45-chapter serial turned novel about London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. He starts in 1775 and concludes mid-revolution 1794, during the Reign of Terror.

The majority of research for A Tale of Two Cities was two cartloads of books from Thomas Carlyle, who wrote one of the definitive books on the French Revolution; it’s still in print today. He shared them with Mr. Dickens’ when asked for reference materials. The story flips between cities and centers on Lucie Manette. Her father, Doctor Alexandre Manette, was imprisoned for 18-years in the Bastille. Believing him dead, Lucie, living in England, learns of his imprisonment upon his release. She and Dr. Manette’s trustee, Mr. Lorry find her father physiologically and psychologically broken, with little memory, living with Dr. Manette’s former servant, Ernest Defarge. They depart for England where she nurses him back to health. On the ship to England they meet Charles Darney, an abdicated French aristocrat. He’s changed his name, hiding his identity from all, and moved to England finding work as a French tutor. Charles is later accused of treason against the British Crown. Dr. and Lucie Manette are called as witnesses during the trial. Acquitted the legal team of Mr. Stryver and Mr. Carton, as well as, Charles Darney and Mr. Lorry and Lucie’s governess, Miss Pross, form a long lasting friendship in England.

Lucie and Charles marry, the doctor regains health, yet with missing memories, and life continues along until news arrives from France. The family chateau burned to the ground and a long-term faithful servant imprisoned at the hands of the citizens. Charles’ identity stays confidential however he believes by revealing himself to those in power he can quickly help the servant, so he leaves for France without alerting the family. Within a few days of his arrival the people hold him accountable for his deceased family’s actions. Imprisoned and likely to die, he reaches out for help. Family and friends gather to offer assistance. They live in France for 15 months and appeal to the people in their attempt to save Charles from La Guillotine.

The book surprised me. Certainly, a few chapters could be cut without loss yet the paid per word stereotype didn’t ring true for me. The well-developed characters, numerous rich themes, and the story itself hook you. Mr. Dickens’ powerful “boots on the ground” view of France shows the commoner’s life. The terrifying, bitter mob scenes and justice leave you trembling. Then a lighter, if not, sweet scene follows to offset the pain. He also uses humor in an unexpected manner. In one of my favorite scenes Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry destroy the shoemaker’s bench. It’s set up to appear as if a crime occurred. His outrageous descriptions continue to entertain. For example when describing a bank he states, “When they took a young man into Tellson’s London house, they hid him somewhere until he was old. They kept him in a dark place, like a cheese, until he had the full Tellson flavour and blue-mould upon him” (page 55).

A Tale of Two Cities is reading for mature audiences. It shines a bright light on the harshness of the France and the Revolution. The engaging story captivates and challenges the reader asking, how should one respond injustice, a question we’ve still not adequately answered.

Chicken Thighs

Chicken Thighs

Chicken Thigh Meal

I’m almost embarrassed to share this “recipe” as it’s really just short instructions. The chicken is juicy and delicious.  No one will know you didn’t do anything.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of 5 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (bone in and skin on works too!)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Add desired seasonings for flavor.  Get creative as almost everything tastes good with chicken!
    • Roasted Chicken style with garlic, onion, and sage
    • Italian style with basil, garlic, rosemary and oregano
    • Mexican style with chili, cumin and paprika
    • On busy days I use premixed seasonings like Mrs. Dash, Tony Chachere’s, Slap Ya Mama, Konriko, etc.

Process

  • Place raw chicken in bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Salt, Pepper and season, as desired, to taste.  I season in the same amounts as if grilling the chicken.
  • Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Most chicken will be done at 3 hours, however some of the larger thighs may take up to 4 hours.  The thighs will contract and the juices will be clear when cooked.

Additional Option

  • Allow the juices/drippings to cool, then pour into a freezer safe container. Freeze. The fat will rise to the top once frozen and is easily scraped off, if you desire. The next time you need chicken broth or are making a soup, use your own seasoned drippings!

Living Right On

Living Right On

imgresHannah Coulter
By Wendell Berry
Shoemaker & Hoard, 190 pp., $14.95

Wendell Berry, a modern day renaissance man, delivers a 70-year tour de force of life in a rural farming community as experienced via a widow named Hannah Coulter. Mr. Berry, author, poet, essayist, University instructor, recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, environmental activist, cultural critic and farmer, created the rural town of Port William in 1960. It’s the center of the majority of his fiction writing and includes 44 short stories, numerous poems, and books. Thus far, the town narrative, of which Hannah Coulter is the 7th of 8 novels, spans from 1864-2008. This unique story covers a larger swath of time, from 1930 to 2001, and it’s told from a woman’s perspective.

Hannah begins with her poor childhood and upbringing. Her mother died and her father’s second wife brought with her two boys from whom her Grandmother protected her. Grandmam realized they’d not focus on Hannah so she raised her, taught her how to work, and then helped her leave. In the city, Hannah works and ultimately meets and marries a farmer from Port William, who, like almost all young men from town, fights in World War II. Missing in action, while Hannah bore their child, he never returns. She remains with his family, works on their farm and silently mourns with the community the multiple town losses and the now distant veterans. Nathan Coulter returns home from the Battle of Okinawa, meets Hannah, and they marry. They buy a rundown farm and, over the next five plus decades, work the land that shapes their lives.

On the surface it’s a slow memoir-like novel until Hannah’s conversational cadence and the manner in which she describes people, places and events captures you. Surprising and beautiful, the topics and her thankfulness mature with her chronological memories.

She offers sophisticated, insightful reflections about topics including married love; community, specifically a concept called “The Membership” and employment vs. self-employment supported with community assistance; farming – changes, the role of machines, the role of land, modern day techniques with unintended consequences; child rearing and the role of education when pursuing the good life; World War II and civilian costs; as well as, technology and its impact.

The interwoven and well-paced story allows for breath and depth of topics. A personal favorite, the of idea of “live right on,” meaning you live right through the sorrowful, the suffering and the hard times, resonated with me. Given the careful crafting, though, the Okinawa section appeared sparse. It’s limited to one chapter and the first two pages of the novel, so, while it frames her narrative and adds insight into Nathan, it felt a bit underdeveloped.

Hannah Coulter offers a unique glimpse into rural America. It points out changes and gently admonishes the past, all the while encouraging the future with thankfulness, hope and charity found in human resilience.

 

 

 

Banana Bread Muffins

Banana Bread Muffins

Banana Quinoa Muffins

Delicious, spiced, protein packed muffins (or bread) will jump start your day.  This nut and gluten free recipe is quick to make with very little added sugar.  The spices best meld, if you can wait a day to eat it.  Easy to make ahead and freeze too!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C quinoa flour
  • 1/2 C quinoa flakes
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/8 t (a pinch) ginger
  • 1/8 t (a pinch) allspice
  • 1/8 t (a pinch) cloves
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 ripe bananas (the riper, the sweeter – you call the sweetness)
  • 2 eggs

Process

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Lightly oil pan (I use coconut or olive oil).  If using baking cups, lightly oil them too.
  • Mix, using a whisk, the dry ingredients.
  • In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Mix until well blended; you can’t over-mix.
  • Pour mix into muffin tin or bread pan.
  • Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes.  Bake bread for 40-45 minutes.  As with all bread watch for a firm golden top and edges pulling away from the pan.

Makes 10-11 muffins or one well rounded magic pan (7.5 by 3.5) loaf.

Credit

The above recipe was inspired by recipe found on a Quinoa Flakes box; it’s available online here.