Archive | company’s coming RSS feed for this section

An untimely, or very ahead-of-its-time post: Hot chocolate spoons for foodie friends

19 Jul

Oh my gosh, I found this in my drafts folder. Written last December. Sigh…can you tell how neglected my blog has been? I’m posting it anyway, just to show myself that my blog has an update, no matter if it refers to a time when the snow was frozen, while we experience hot, sponge-like weather here. I’m not even going to spell-check it, lest I continue not to post anything because I’m fretting over letter misplacement. (It’s a dark sin, so don’t tell my fellow editors.) Is it still the thought that counts?

Via Quick post today; Stumble Upon has brought me this gem from these European chocolate makers, Chocolate Company, which would be a great gift idea–I mean, when Christmas, or anything else, comes along. A gift for a foodie, or from a foodie. But doesn't this look like something you could make at home, given a few molds? Find some high-quality chocolate, some fun mix-ins (doesn't the strawberry and pink peppercorn sound interesting?), and a few sturdy wooden spoons. You could go all Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and cover it with toppings–nuts, pieces of solid chocolate, colored candies, etc. I can think of all sorts of applications for this: white chocolate (okay, I know, it's not really chocolate, but "white candy that's not chocolate but melts and people call it white chocolate" is kind of long) with pink or blue candies for a baby shower, dark chocolate with red-hot cinnamon candies to give to your love for Valentine's Day, milk chocolate with blanched almonds and almond extract for Easter, a few for host gifts…and so it goes. (Easter here does not equal spring; it equals snow, appropriate for hot chocolate.)Voila! Christmas gift for the neighbors. And is there anything better than a homemade gift? I submit that there is not! You might, of course, need to test these out before you give them away. Ahem.


The Pink Peppercorn one looks interesting to me today, but that could also be the strawberry buttercream frosting that I just ate doing the talking. Via Green Wedding Shoes.

Spring indeed

24 Mar
Everything is better in a heart-shaped bowl.
Everything is better in a heart-shaped bowl.

Wouldn’t it happen that as soon as I let my guard down and decide to be excited about spring, we’d have a gray day with four days of snow in the forecast? Well. Let me tell you one thing. It might not look like spring outside, but it can be spring in my heart…aww. In lieu of that, it can be spring in my bowl and in my mouth. Even better.

 

Not knowing whether D would be available to come to our church St. Patrick’s Day party the Saturday before last (and, well, because we have an absolutely impressive reputation for making and breaking our own plans), I signed up to bring the least committal thing I could: dessert. Normally, I love cooking and baking for people, especially in my own house. But in potluck-type settings, there’s a part of me who knows that the offerings will be full of casseroles, Miracle Whip, Jell-O, and rolls picked up from the bakery, and that’s what people want and expect. I’m inclined to think that it’s not worth the while to rack my brain for some never-before-seen creation from the oven when either someone will slurp without tasting or a very cute, well-meaning child sticks their finger in the middle of. I know. I need a little attention when it comes to the food I make.

 

Despite these crucial, shattering circumstances, I thought anyway. I pondered, I prayed, I aspired to make Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding or bring a plate of homemade donuts or Chocolate Clafoutis. And thought some more, and then forgot promptly once church was over.

 

The Saturday of the St. Patrick’s Day party rolls around, and fifteen minutes before it, procrastination and forgetfulness catches up, sits on me until I cry for mercy, and pushes me in the direction of the fridge and cupboard. It also threatened me with a life of only canned green beans unless I bought several pints of strawberries (they were on sale). Obviously, I obliged. Forgetfulness is a hard master.

 

So with five minutes until takeoff for the party (hooray for living really close to the church!), I scrambled and searched for something to pair with the strawberries, and you’re looking (look! look!) at the results: a regular bowl ‘o cream with a few twists. Cardamom, strawberries, and orange are good friends, but a word of caution: cardamom can be a pretty strong friend. You know that one friend who’s always the center of attention at every party? Right. Cardamom. The funny friend, but still. Once in a while, a strawberry would like a chance.

 

I’ve tried this both with plain, slivered almonds and sugared ones, with the vote that plain is best—the sugared almonds provide a crunch that is great in some places, but is kind of the guy at the gym wearing jeans and flip-flops on the treadmill; a little awkward.

 

I can see this with a variety of fruits, though I definitely wanted to stay away from the typical fruit salad offering. Blueberries would be a great addition, as would be a swirl of maple syrup. Let me know what variations you come up with.

 

Welcome, spring! (Please stay! Please! I am not native to Minnesota and can only do snow so long.)

 

-Erin

 

Spring Strawberries and Cream Bowl

 

This recipe is best made a few hours ahead of time, though it was born in about five minutes. Making it ahead of time allows the cream to absorb the cardamom and orange flavors.

 

Kitchen tip: Cream whips best when you use a chilled bowl, preferably metal. (I don’t have a metal bowl, but I just refrigerate a glass or ceramic bowl at least half an hour.) If mixing by hand, choose a large, sturdy whisk to incorporate the maximum amount of air.

 

Lastly, though the cardamom might seem exotic, this recipe has been certified both kid- and adult-approved. Miracle.

 

Prep time: About 7 minutes

Difficulty level: Not even close

 

1 pt. strawberries, tops removed, sliced thinly

1/2 C heavy whipping cream

scant 1/4 C granulated sugar

1 1/2 C plain yogurt (fat-free varieties tend to be grainy; Old Home is slightly better)

2 dried cardamom pods, ground (or 1/8 t cardamom, to taste)

1/2 t dried orange peel (or zest of one medium orange)

handful slivered almonds, divided

 

Set aside strawberries.

 

*In a large serving bowl, whip cream to soft peaks (~3 minutes with an electric mixer). Fold in sugar gradually. Fold in yogurt, cardamom, and orange peel or zest. Fold in strawberries, reserving a handful. Fold in almonds, reserving a handful. Top bowl with reserved almonds and strawberries.

Another Fast Feast: Tomato Soup Provence

6 Jan
Topped with a bit of leftover summer herbs left dwindling...

Topped with a bit of leftover summer herbs left dwindling in a pot...

Hm, what can I tell you about this? Do you hate when you don’t know how to start a post and this prevents you from posting for, oh, a few weeks? Me too. All the time. Nevertheless, the job must be done, and I’m the one to do it, right? Right.

First, I love tomato soup, in so many forms. In fact, this is probably but one of at least a half-dozen tomato soups that I’ve made in my day (which is not a very long day, but still). The difference between this and other tomato soups is the flavor, oh, the flavor.

Have you ever used Herbes de Provence? It  is a blend of herbs originally from the southern part of France; which, I’ve read, does really have the aroma of some of the flavors in this blend. The blend commonly includes lavender, rosemary, bay leaf, basil, thyme, and in my blend, fennel. All this comes together in a very perfume-y mix, very flowery. Frankly, I could put it in my dresser drawers and be happy. But we’re putting it in soup today, where it lends a flavor that is just beautiful. Sorry to be a cliche food writer, but it’s true. And the aromas from the bubbling pot–you’ll want friends over just for that!

Besides the flavor, the second wonderful thing about this soup is its simplicity. As a maker of many, many soups, some of which have many, many ingredients, this is a great deviation from my usual habits. I often craft soups to be all-in-one meals, which necessitates a little thinking along the lines of including something from each food group and incorporating the major macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates). This soup departs from my habit, since it doesn’t have a sturdy protein backing; but America, most of us get enough protein in our diet that we could all be bodybuilders; too much, in fact. So consider this a healthy break! If you’re a vegetarian, of course, be sure to include a lean source of protein on the side or elsewhere in your day.

But back to simplicity. Once you’ve cut up your onions and garlic, you can have this soup on the table in twenty minutes, and since soups are easy to double, you might find yourself with several meals’ worth of food–where else do you get such a return on your investment? (And this is why I have an extra freezer.) Pick up some nice, crusty, whole-grain bread to serve on the side, and you’re set. I know you’ll be tempted to skip the goat cheese–it’s not in every fridge–but don’t. It is a perfect complement. (Hint: it’s most economical at Costco. Just find a friend to share it with, or plan on eating a lot of chevre.) Also fantastic–most of these items are things you’ve already got in your pantry or fridge! Aren’t I good to you?

As usual, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you! A very happy new year to you and yours. May this be the start of a healthy, delicious 365 days.

-Erin

Provence Tomato Soup

This recipe calls for two to three tablespoons Herbes de Provence; no, this is not a typo! The tomatoes can absorb a lot of flavor. Taste first with two tablespoons; adjust as needed.

Note: I topped mine with some stray herbs (oregano) still struggling in a pot on the kitchen table, but that was silly of me. Consider the green bits in the picture simply a clever color complement for photography.

From “raw” to eating: 20 min., appx.

Makes: a big pot full, enough for 8-10 servings+

Olive oil, for sauteeing
1 large onion (I used yellow because they’re cheapest and I’m like that), medium dice
2 large cloves garlic, finely diced
1 small can tomato paste
2-3 T Herbes de Provence
1/2 C white grape juice (my subsitute for white wine)
4 14-oz cans (I think that’s the size they are; the “regular” size, in other words) diced tomatoes
2 quarts chicken broth, preferably homemade, low-sodium (but cheat if you must…don’t say I didn’t warn you, though!)

cracked pepper & salt, to taste
chevre (soft goat cheese), for plopping onto the top of each bowl

In a stock pot or your favorite large soup pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat; it should be enough to film the bottom of the pot. When the oil is hot (this will depend on your stove; it’s about two minutes for me), toss in the onion and garlic. Turn the heat down to medium-high. Sprinkle salt in; this will help the onions to “sweat” out their liquid. Saute garlic-onion mixture until nearly translucent, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomato paste and Herbes de Provence, and grape juice; stir to incorporate. Add the tomatoes (including the liquid) and the broth. Cover and bring to a boil.

Taste and adjust for seasoning; to serve, ladle into bowls, top with a small scoop of chevre (it melts–so good!), and serve a piece of toasted whole-grain bread on the side.

Leftovers can be stored, refrigerated, for up to two weeks, or frozen, for two or three months. If they last that long!

Post-Election Day Chocolate Clafoutis With Chewy-Crisp Ginger Apples

4 Nov

Because we're Americans. And we deserve a reward!
Because we’re Americans. And we deserve a reward.

Let’s be honest. Or I will, since I’m the one writing here. This was the longest presidential campaign in United States history. I think it started in 1990, when I was eight. In the end, whether or not the candidate I vote for won, I still have that to celebrate–the end. No more commercials! No more negative campaign ads, slogans, dull debates, and endless media coverage! I’m shouting for joy here, with several sentences in a row ending with exclamation marks!

We’re in a bit of a rough patch economically, so most of the past month or two’s news reports have broadcast doom, doom, and the occasional proclamation of the end of the world. In other words, we need a break and a little indulgence!

I originally started out trying to adapt this recipe from Jamie Oliver’s recipe, but sadly, I could not bring myself to google every metric measurement to convert it to my US cups and spoons. So the idea is Jamie’s, but I suspect that’s the end of the resemblance, much as I adore Jamie and his quirky ways.

Still having a few coveted apples left from our apple-picking adventure, I topped sauteed them in a bit of butter and candied ginger. It was an experiment, but oh, a delicious one.

Whether you’re nursing your wounds for your beaten candidate or celebrating the one you supported, you deserve this. Really.

Deviating from my normal emphasis on very nutrient-dense foods, I will make no comments about the nutritional content, except to beg you to remember that it is topped with fruit. And that even the healthiest people deserve dessert. Aren’t you proud to be an American? I am.

-Erin

Chocolate Clafoutis With Chewy-Crisp Ginger Apples

From “raw” to eating: 40 minutes (including prep time).

Makes: Two quite large servings, or four smaller ones.

This is a pretty rich dessert, so although some people may have eaten this in two servings (I’m not saying what people, but one of them has a food blog and the other is a Midwesterner), it’s probably a good bet that if you’re serving it to guests after a meal, it really serves four. Maybe more, if they’re pretty light dessert eaters. The blog owner and Midwesterner like dessert, I hear.

For the almond meal, I happened to have salted, roasted almonds around. I thought that they’d be way too salty, but they didn’t appear to harm the clafoutis at all. If you’re watching your sodium intake, feel free to skip the additional 1/8 t salt.

Also. This one is important: do not over-bake. The middle is meant to stay fudgy–if not, it’d be just another cake. And who wants that? No one, that’s who.

For the clafoutis:

½ C flour

2 t baking powder

1/8 t (a pinch) salt

1/3 C sugar

¼ C half-and-half

1/3 C chocolate bar chocolate (or the best stuff you have around)

½ C almond meal (almonds ground to the consistency of cornmeal, etc.)

Apple-ginger topping:

2 T butter

1 Cortland apple, sliced thinly into rounds

3 half-inch-cube pieces candied ginger (or the equivalent), chopped roughly

Make the clafoutis:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix flour, baking power, sugar, and almond meal together. Set aside.

In a double boiler on low or on a microwave at half power (I use the first method), gently melt chocolate and butter. Remove from heat and slowly add the half-and-half, whisking to combine.

Add chocolate-butter mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Pour into a buttered earthenware dish (I used a small bowl) and bake for 25-35 minutes or until it’s set on the edges but fudgy in the middle. That means it’s done!

Make the ginger-apple topping:

While the clafoutis cooks, make the topping. Make more than you think you need. Then sample it. Offer samples to anyone nearby.

In a frying pan or other non-pot-type pan (I am known for very technical directions), melt the butter over low heat. Do not let the butter brown. Add the chopped ginger candies and sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Finally, add the apples. Raise temperature to medium-high. Cook until apples are nearly translucent and skins are chewy-crisp. Spoon over entire clafoutis or individual pieces.

My Mighty Muffaletta

17 Sep
It makes a thick, juicy, tasty meal. Don't worry, somehow it ends up fitting in your (my) mouth.

It makes a thick, juicy, tasty meal. Don't worry; somehow it ends up fitting in your (my) mouth.

If, like me, you’re clinging to the summer glory days of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and the like, this recipe is a shout-out to you. I know I should probably be featuring pumpkin-themed recipes at this point and talking about the chill in the air and how the wind brings the scent of cinnamon and rising dough wafting from my neighbor’s window, but seriously, it’s only September. And besides that, I don’t even know if my neighbors have things to waft my way, besides fertilizer. I don’t know my neighbors, actually. (Yet. Yet, I said!) Additionally, the wind poses a few problems for people like me who love to cycle, and people like me who like to not be cold in the winter.

Now that I’ve talked about why this is a summer recipe, let’s get on with it. Like the panzanella I featured a while back, this one also came from my days at an upscale, university café. In the late morning, an aluminum pan would come to the café filled with roasted vegetables. To that we would add sautéed mushrooms and a fresh slice of tomato. This comprised the sandwich guts. It was served on a crusty ciabbatta (I believe; J-Dawg, you can correct me), which we slathered in a rosemary-spiked mayo.

At least a few of us, upon leaving that café, had a strong aversion to mayo; it was the life-blood of that place. The vegetables are still roasted, but the “spread” is a bit of melted feta. I also roasted the tomatoes, instead of using fresh, whole slices. I love the whole vegetables appearance of this sandwich—you know exactly what you’re eating, and the tomatoes actually serve to bind it together.

Traditional muffalettas use an olive salad and a heap ‘o meat and cheese, but there are plenty of sub sandwiches out there already. I wanted this to showcase the fresh vegetables, the heat to draw out their flavor and marry with leeks and fresh, pungent rosemary. I think you’ll like the results. Let me know what you think.

Note: this can be made ahead of time, and is ready for vegan-izing.

My Mighty Muffaletta

From “raw” to eating: 30 min., appx.

Makes: a pile, 4 servings

Inside:
1 lb. tomatoes, sliced into rounds or left whole if using cherry tomatoes (I used heirloom, Big Boy, etc. from the garden)
½ lb. zucchini, cut on the bias into planks
1-2 bell peppers, each cut in half or thirds (I used purple, green, and chocolate, also from the garden)
1 bulb fennel, sliced on the bias into ¼” rounds
2 T olive oil
1 large clove garlic, slivered
leaves from ½ twig rosemary, chopped finely
kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper, to taste

2” feta cheese (if in block form) or 3-4 T

4-6 ciabatta rolls (I get mine at Costco)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Combine vegetables in a glass baking dish, sprinkle leeks and garlic over top, and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Roast in oven for appx. 20-25 min.

While the vegetables roast, slice ciabatta rolls in half horizontally. Turn a pan on medium heat. When it’s heated up, toss in feta. Turn the heat down to low; the residual heat from the pan will melt the feta nicely. Spread 1 T (or however much you like; the Midwestern Meateater, who is also lactose-intolerant, is ironically always adding more cheese…I suspect because of its meat-like qualities).

When the vegetables have roasted, remove from oven and top each of the ciabatta rolls with vegetables, making sure that each sandwich gets some of each vegetable. You’re not going for a zucchini sandwich here.

Optional: For the meat-eaters, include two pieces cooked (not to crispy) turkey bacon on their muffalettas. The Midwestern Meateater has a metabolism to die for, so I’m always trying to bump up the calories for him. I always do it in a healthful way, though—so turkey bacon it was this time. It adds a few calories without sacrificing nutritional value. Said the Midwestern Meateater about this sandwich, which was meant to be filled primarily with vegetables, “Yeah,the bacon really makes it.” Well, I tried.

Heirloom tomatoes with basil and pink salt…because summer is not over yet

25 Aug
With the tomatoes stacked alternately, I nearly have my own Olympic games here.

With the tomatoes stacked alternately, I nearly have my own Olympic games here.

I know summer is rumoured to be on its way out, but you know what? We all say this every year, but I especially mean it this time—it has gone ridiculously, criminally fast. True, I have gotten one really good, painful sunburn, but I am nearly transparent and could get that in November, too. I feel like I have hardly experienced summer and I, for one, am not about to let it go without a fight. The good news is that the garden appears to agree with me. This is the first in what might end up being a slew of ideas using the red, pink, yellow, and green tomatoes, zucchini, basil, oregano, sage, chives, parsley, cilantro, bell peppers, sweet peppers, hot peppers…

I love this particular recipe because it does not get any simpler than this—the food naturally shines through just as it was meant to be, completely unfettered by anything I could’ve done to it. The licorice-lemon-pepper notes of basil complement (instead of mask or block) the flavor of vine-ripened, sun-grown tomatoes. These ones were fresh from the garden—you know, the ones that are so ripe that the seeds pop out with any pressure? Nearly there. The pink Hawaiian sea salt is surprising and crunchy, and definitely with a taste unlike grocery shelf salt. This was my first experiment with gourmet salt. If you’re shy about using large-grain salt or don’t happen to have any around (I wouldn’t either if I didn’t have family in Texas, where I found the salt), sprinkle with kosher or table salt.

These ingredients need no help with beautification, so the presentation is filled with just about as much color as the Olympic opening ceremonies. This would be great for company, as a last-minute side to grilled dishes, or as a simple substitute for green salad. We made a Sunday breakfast out of it, accompanying it with whole wheat popovers, sunny-side-up eggs, and thick banana-orange-soy drinks.

Heirloom tomatoes with basil
and pink salt

From “raw” to eating: less than five minutes (plus time to chill)

Makes: a platter, 4 servings

Inside:
1 large red heirloom tomato
1 large yellow heirloom tomato
handful fresh basil, including flowers (optional) washed and dried
pinch of pink salt or other gourmet, large-grain salt (I used pink Hawaiian sea salt, purchased in person here and also available here or here)

Slice tomatoes into thick rounds. Arrange tomatoes in alternating colors (red, yellow). Make a chiffonade of the basil (chiffonade is French for “ribbon”), or simply chop roughly, leaving flowers whole. Mine weren’t exactly…ribbony. They taste the same. Toss basil on top. Sprinkle with pink sea salt. Allow to rest for five minutes. Serve!

-E

Mango-mint lassi

17 Jul
Mango-mint lassi

Oh, so good, mango-mint lassi. If you're feeling hot and sticky, this is where it is.

First, let me start with an apology. I’m a little sorry not to have posted in quite a long time, but I promise I have been doing good things in the meantime, such as camping, searching for ticks, and getting ready with Midwestern Meateater to be first-time homeowners. That’s a project. While I was out, you missed something I’m actually known for bringing to share in the out-of-doors—cranberry & carrot couscous with salmon and herbs. Five minutes, and it was great. Take that on your next adventure and your friends will think you’re amazing. Maybe it’ll appear here someday.

I don’t promise to never slack again, just in case. (Someone once told me not to use the words “never” or “always,” since they have exceptions.) But I will come back, each time. Lassie and me, faithful as ever. Except that I bring food and Lassie brings a message about someone in trouble.

Hot times = cold drinks

These days around Minnesota, are hot. These are sticky, steamy, zapping, three-popsicles-a-day times. In other words, summer has finally arrived, and while I love how everything grows so well and turns an emerald shade, it becomes necessary to do a little cooling off. As someone at a fabric store recently told me, “if you have to sit in your car at a stop light for more than a few seconds, you have to turn the air conditioning on.”

On these sweaty, sweaty days, I don’t have the appetite or desire to stand over a stove or even come near an oven. When I come in from outside, I immediately want something cool, and it is nice not to eat another popsicle, especially when beautiful colors and flavors for a nice, cool drink are so easy to get.

Meet the lassi

The lassi is a traditional Indian drink, served up daily over ice at your local Indian restaurant. It can be flavored with cardamom, pistachios, rose water, or even cumin. Without googling, I cannot even begin to tell you where to find rose water. It’s frothy, smoothie-like, and best of all, chilled.

I first had a lassi at a restaurant here in the Twin Cities called Passage to India. On the menu was a “lassi,” and although I didn’t try it there, I have wanted to since. Names of dishes at ethnic restaurants like this one tend to be about as descriptive as hardware items, but I could imagine the lassi anyway. Yogurt, fruit, blended up? What’s not to like?

Nutritional low-down

The lassi is all good things: dairy, dairy, whole fruit, and sugar (well…I might have fibbed a little).

While I’m at it, a shameless plug for us all to be drinking our milk: Americans have gotten better in this area, but we’re quite bad overall. The worst group is kids and teens; this is where Pepsi and the likes are student body president and you’re not cool if you don’t like it. Or at least, it’s all too accessible, and when it’s not, a host of syrup-laden drinks flavored like “kiwi-strawberry” made by someone who’s never tasted either of those things takes the place of better beverages.

There’s an idea especially among teen girls through even through college-aged ladies that dairy will pool around your middle or other ungainly places bad things will happen; i.e. boys will not ask you out. In a nutshell, this is completely not true and can be quite devastating, in fact. There is a plethora of information out there available about osteoporosis, but let me give you this bit of information: your bones need vitamin D, calcium, and a few other things to be able to grow. And if you don’t give your bones those things early, you may have done the damage by the time you wise up. For females, the last stop on the bone train is age 30. Bones start to lose density after that. The denser the bone, the less likely to break and cause major havoc down the road; even an early death.

I talked with a professor once who was studying bone mass density among women, and used the students on campus as subjects. The results were scary—women whose long-term health was at jeopardy because of neglect.

Essentially, drink your milk! It’s so good for you.

Mango-mint lassi

From “raw” to eating: 5 minutes

Makes: 4-6 servings

I started with the classic mango lassi in mind, but when I remembered mint in the fridge just waiting to go bad, it had to join in.

Inside:
Flesh of one mango, cut into chunks
1 C milk
1 C water
½ C sugar (or less)
handful fresh mint leaves

Whizz this all in a blender on high for about 30 seconds (it’s okay if you see some green flecks from the mint). Serve over crushed ice.

Ah. So good, and good for you. Another day well-done.

-E

Serve over ice...which conveniently floats like a buoy on the surface.

Serve over ice...which will pop up, float like a buoy, and make you want to boat.