brown rice + almond butter granola bars

bars!

I was having a difficult time trying to figure out what I should call these. I’ve made them so many times, but each time, they’ve been a little different – which is, I suppose, a big part of the reason I love the recipe so much.

Essentially, you can make the granola bar to your taste by mixing in different combinations of dried fruit and nuts (or chocolate). I’m partial to dried cherries and almonds, so that is what I usually start with (and the recipe I chose to include here). In the past, I’ve also included dried apricots and pumpkin seeds – and am sure that dried blueberries, hazelnuts, or walnuts would be equally delicious. The key component that allows for their versatility is the honey-almond butter “glue” that holds them together.

In case the recipes here haven’t given me away just yet, I have a dairy and soy allergy. I have learned the hard way that when traveling, especially during the airport portion, eating can be pretty tricky unless I plan in ahead. Almost all of the time, the seemingly simple things like bread, oatmeal, and even organic whole ingredient snack bars have traces of milk or soy lecithin (if you have to read food labels for any reason,  you can relate). So since Jon and I will be traveling this weekend, I decided to make these to take along. They pack really well and are a good snack on the plane.

bars_2

Before you get started, here are a few things you should know about this recipe. 1) If you have the time and equipment, I highly recommend making your own almond butter. It’s very easy, and makes a world of difference in the final product. 2) If you exceed the amount of dried fruit or nuts/seeds listed, you’ll likely have to compensate with a higher volume of the almond butter and honey mixture. The ratio is roughly 3:2 (fruit/nut to almond butter mixture) 3) Toast the oats, seeds, and nuts separately. Each has a different optimal toasting time, and the turning point is often reached quickly, so watch them carefully. They will become fragrant and slightly browned when done.

almonds+seeds

brown rice + almond butter granola bars

(adapted from food 52)

1 1/2 cups gluten free oats*

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup raw sliced almonds

1 1/2 cups dried cherries

3 cups brown rice cereal

1 cup almond butter (see recipe below for homemade)

1 cup raw honey

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt (start with less, add more to taste — will vary if almond butter is salted or unsalted)

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

*This version also happens to be gluten-free, as the brown rice cereal is naturally, and the oats can easily be swapped for a gluten-free variety. Regular old fashioned oats work just as well.

Preheat the oven to 350. Toast the oats, almonds, and sunflower seeds separately. The oats should take about 15 minutes, sunflower seeds about 12-14, and almonds about 10-12. Meanwhile, measure the rice cereal into a large bowl. As you finish toasting the oats, seeds, and nuts, add them to the bowl with the cereal. Once everything is done and slightly cooled, add the cherries and mix well to combine.

Prepare a 13×9 pan by greasing it slightly. Alternatively, line the pan with parchment paper to prevent the bars from sticking.

honey

In a small saucepan, combine the honey and almond butter. Heat on low, just until the mixture thins slightly and small bubbles form on the sides. It’s important not to let the mixture boil, it will make it too dry and won’t hold the bars together well. Once it’s heated, add the salt and cinnamon and stir until incorporated. Pour the warmed almond butter and honey over the cereal mixture, and toss gently but thoroughly to make sure everything is combined.

jars

Pour the mixture into the prepared 13×9 pan, using a spatula to distribute it evenly. Once it is loosely in place, take a sheet of parchment paper the size of the pan and lay over top. Use your hands to press the bars into the corners, smoothing over the top as you go. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day (or at least 4 hours later), cut the bars however you like and store them in an airtight container.

almond butter

3 cups raw almonds

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Toss the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 12 minutes. Let cool slightly, but not completely. Put all three cups in a food processor, and process to a fine powder. At this point, the almonds will start to break down. Continue to let the processor run, stopping to scrape down the sides every 2 minutes or so. When it’s finished, it will be smooth and creamy, usually after letting the food processor run for at least 10-12 minutes. Add the salt and honey, and pulse to combine. Store in an airtight jar. You will use almost all of it for the granola bars.

Advertisements

all celebrations

cake_01

there is a lot for me to be thankful for already this year.

that said, 2012 was a pretty big one for me – and without even taking the first half of it into account (when some of the biggest and happiest events took place) – the six months that have passed since I moved out to san francisco have been a little bit of everything. I’ve been conference planning, job hunting, exploring the city & learning new bus routes, cooking a lot, working for a small chocolate company, meeting lots of very talented people, making new friends, recovering from injuries, and cooking some more. even though jon has called this apartment home for over two years now, I am starting to feel like it’s my home now, too.

I’m glad that at the beginning of 2013, when somehow everything feels like it’s starting again, that I am feeling settled in my place. I have been a little absent here, I realize, but I’ve been doing some brainstorming and a bit of changing things around, and I’m excited for those little changes. web designer I am not, but when I look back to when I started writing a few years ago, I am happy with the progress on this blog and hope to continuously improve. other than general layout, i’ve added a recipe page as a way to catalogue my cooking experiments (see below “about”). Rest assured – even though my posts have been sporadic, I definitely have not stopped cooking, and am looking forward to sharing some of my new favorites here in the coming weeks and months.

cake_03

on the topic of new favorites, this recipe definitely is high on the list of desserts – from bon appetit’s march 2012 issue. It’s actually a vegan cake (great for me), and has such intense chocolate flavor (while being incredibly light & moist, somehow – even better). it’s amazing, every time. it also halves really nicely, and goes well with a variety of frostings, or on it’s own.

for jon’s birthday last year, I made (dairy free, soy free) peanut butter buttercream to go on top. here’s to 2013, and all sorts of celebrations to come!

chocolate cake (slightly adapted from bon appetit)

*see note for making a layer cake!

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 t. kosher salt

1 t. baking soda

1/4 cup vegetable oil (plus 1 T. to grease the pan)

1 t. vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate

*I doubled the recipe & used a 9” round and 4” round cake pan to make a layered cake. baking times – for the 4” cake at 350 – roughly 20-25 minutes, rotating half-way through. for the 9” cake, plan on around 30-35 minutes. watch carefully, you don’t want to overcook this one & make it dry.

Preheat the oven to 350, and coat the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 x 2 pan with the oil, then line the bottom with parchment paper. whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda together in a bowl. add the oil, vanilla, and 1 1/4 cup water, whisk till smooth. fold in chopped chocolate. scrape into the pan, and bake until tester come out clean when inserted into the center – roughly 35 minutes. let sit until the pan is cool enough to touch, and carefully invert the cake onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

cake_02

peanut butter buttercream

(*bon appetit’s version is lighter than traditional buttercream & is great on this cake, but for jon’s birthday cake, I went for something a little different)

2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (non-natural peanut butter works better here)

8 T. (1 cup) soy-free earth balance, at room temperature

3/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 t. vanilla

1-2 T. almond milk (if needed)

in a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, vanilla and earth balance and beat until well incorporated, 1-2 minutes. with the beater on slow, add in the confectioners sugar in 1/4 cup increments, beat after each addition. if the frosting looks a little dry (will depend in part on the peanut butter you use), add 1 – 2 tablespoons of almond milk to make it smooth & creamy.

once the cake has cooled completely, carefully lift it to a plate or serving tray, and frost the sides and top with the buttercream. (you may not need all of the frosting). finish the cake with chocolate shavings.

cake_04

avocado BLTs

last weekend, jon and I drove to big basin redwood state park.

we made our way there and back on highway one, starting south out of san francisco on 280 – through pacifica and half moon bay – until we reached la honda road and wove east on skyline boulevard to highway 9.

it’s been a few months since our last trip out of the city. at the end of july, shortly after arriving in california (and newly married), we took a week to drive to and from portland. while the trip to portland is one that could be done in a day, we decided that we’d rather take our time and see the coast – stop at state beaches and visitors centers along the way, really take things in – so with a back seat full of camera equipment, books, and food, we set out across the golden gate bridge toward eureka.

10 miles shy of the oregon border, we cut east on highway 199 away from crescent city per the suggestion of a national park employee in orick. using our phones as a guide, we took a few turns off the redwood highway into jedediah smith redwood state park, and landed on an almost single-lane road that snaked through the giant trees. compared to being 10th in a line of cars along a two-lane highway, the byway felt like a well-kept secret – the ability to stop underneath the trees was something I’ll never forget about that drive. and just as easily as we had found our way onto this road, we made our way to the other end  – into oregon.

on this recent weekend trip, all it took was the thirty-minute stretch on skyline boulevard to make me feel the same as I had in jedediah smith state park. the narrow road linked jaunts through the tall trees with stretches along the crest of a hill by way of tight turns and ascents away from the ocean. when we arrived in the park, jon cooked bacon in our new dutch oven, and we made these sandwiches. every once in a while, it feels really good to get away.

avocado blts

makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices country bread (we used semifreddis sweet batard)

6 slices thick cut bacon

1 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see below)

1 medium avocado

sea salt

2 handfuls of arugula

We packed all of our ingredients – some prepared, some not. Start with the bacon – cook over the fire (or on the stove) in a cast iron pan (we cooked ours on the lid of the dutch oven) until crisp. While the bacon is cooking, mash the avocado slightly and season with sea salt. spread the avocado mash onto one side of the bread, layer with 1/2 of the roasted tomatoes, then arugula. When the bacon has finished cooking, break each piece in half and layer on top of the arugula – 3 slices per sandwich. Top with the other slice of bread & cut in half.

roasted tomatoes

(inspired by these from heidi swanson)

1 1/2 – 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 T. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2-3 T. olive oil

On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, then sprinkle with sugar and salt. Roast at 400 for 30-40 minutes. Once the tomatoes have cooled, store them in the fridge in an air-tight container.

making wheat thins

I wish I could take credit for this recipe. As an obsessive wheat thin eater, I knew when I saw Deb Perelman’s post on homemade wheat thins from earlier today that I had to try to make them too. (In my defense, while I do eat a lot of these crackers, I hadn’t realized until this was in fact posted today until I went to give her the credit for the recipe.) They taste a lot like the real thing – the thinner you can roll the dough, the crispier they’ll be. But like her, (and knowing myself) the yield to time spent ratio isn’t quite enough to keep me from buying family-sized boxes from the entirely, but I will definitely make these from time to time.

All credit goes to Smitten Kitchen! To read Deb’s post and see her recipe, click here.

*Deb mentioned that her crackers tasted butterier after sitting for a few days – but I noticed that mine tasted quite a bit butterier than the boxed wheat thins right out of the oven. This could be because I used Earth Balance in place of butter (recipe worked all the same.) In addition, I found that while I was rolling out the first half of the dough, the other half started to soften too much and became more difficult to work with. I would suggest keeping it cool in the fridge while you work.

roasted tomato ketchup

I love ketchup. And am not against Heinz, by any means.

But in the past year or so, I seemed to have developed this obsession with making condiments. That might stem from the fact that sauces, dips and the like have always been my favorite part of a meal. I love smoky hot sauce on over-easy eggs, almond and peanut butter with strawberry jam or concord-grape jelly on whole-wheat toast, and all kinds of salsa, hummus, mustards, and tapenades. For some people, a meal doesn’t feel complete without some kind of meat or animal protein. For me, it’s incomplete when I am not able to accompany the main deal with some kind of sauce – you get the idea.

So since I’ve crossed the line into making my own (aioli, mustard, salad dressings, etc.), I’ve discovered that there are some things that are definitely worth the time, effort, and cost, while others really are not. So this ketchup-making is a bit of a surprise, even for me, because I had long-since ruled ketchup out on the time-commitment qualifier.

A few years ago, in my college house on Hampton Street, I spent an entire Saturday making ketchup. I went and bought a food mill on Friday night, then 20-odd pounds of tomatoes at the farmers market the next morning. Back home, I proceeded to peel, seed, and mill the tomatoes, and eventually to reduce the seasoned mixture. In the end, I could not believe that my ketchup tasted nothing like ketchup (Heinz), and that the seemingly full and heavy 20-lb. box only filled three (tiny) jars.

For my second attempt, I believe the time was well spent. Skins (and some seeds) are in the jar, but the flavor is wonderful, and the 6 medium-size plum tomatoes yielded an entire 12-oz, Rainbow Co-op purchased bottle. No food mill required.

roasted tomato ketchup 

(adapted slightly from my new roots)

6 (medium) plum tomatoes – roughly 1.5 pounds

2 T olive oil

coarse grain sea salt

one large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 bay leaves

1 tsp. ground coriander

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar preheat the oven to 375, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. slice the tomatoes in half & core, then set on the tray, cut-side up. drizzle with 1 T of the olive oil and salt, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. add the onion and garlic, and cook until just translucent, 5 minutes or so. then add the salt, some black pepper, the bay leaves, and coriander. cook together for a few minutes, stirring, then add the balsamic vinegar to the pan. remove from the heat. in a food processor, puree the slightly cooled tomatoes. remove the bay leaves from the onion mixture and add to the food processor, pureeing until quite smooth – (leave it running for 1-2 minutes). once finished, put the entire mixture through a fine mesh sieve, using the back of a wooden spoon to get as much liquid back into the pan as possible. Heat the strained mixture on medium (careful, it will splatter) and bring to a simmer. Then lower the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, until slightly reduced. Stir in apple cider vinegar. Will keep for a little over a week in the fridge!

butternut and pesto calzones

a lot has happened since I wrote my last post over, (ahem), four months ago. when I last wrote, I had just settled into a new apartment in the south end of boston–and apparently, that’s when the fall semester took ahold of me. I researched and wrote about bagels last fall, a lot of research and a lot of writing, which also meant I ate a lot of bagels. also, at the end of october, jon came to visit me in boston and we got engaged! so between the gastronomy program, wedding planning, the holidays, multiple moves, and now, the start of my thesis project, time has been flying by.

this semester is my last in the gastronomy program at BU. in addition to my final project, I’m taking culinary tourism with dr. lucy long, which has been a great elective so far. it seems slightly fitting to my being in transition this spring too–with all of the moving around I kind of feel like a tourist myself.

so, to fill in the spaces, after the semester ended in mid-december, I packed up my apartment with the help of my parents, and made the twelve hour trip back to michigan. leaving boston was definitely bittersweet. I have a lot of friends there and it was hard to say goodbye, but the prospect of finishing my thesis was also pushing me forward. in a lot of ways, starting my thesis has helped me realize how all of my work since the start of the gastronomy program last january has been leading me to this point. as to not to give away too much too soon about my project, i’ll say this much for now. I’m in san francisco part-time, (and in kalamazoo the other part of the time), and working once again with la cocina. I’m looking forward to being able to share more of my work later.

on sunday afternoons, I have been enjoying making bread and other staples that can be used for meals throughout the week. this past sunday I made oatmeal sandwich bread, slightly adapted from orangette, and I will say it was the most successful loaf of sandwich bread i have ever made. It’s ever-so-slightly sweet, a tad dense, and really great for my lunch of choice, peanut butter toast. the loaf has almost lasted through the week; so adding it to the weekly sunday repetoire will work out nicely. the other thing I’ve been making a lot of is heidi swanson’s pizza dough, which I freeze in three or four sections and pop into the fridge as needed.

since jon and I have been eating a lot of pizza, I decided to make calzones, instead. 

butternut squash + pesto calzones (makes two)

1/4 batch pizza dough, recipe here (in her recipe, adding olive oil is optional, but i highly recommend it, it makes all the difference)

2-4 T. pesto, recipe below

1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (I used almond cheese, which melted and worked nicely)

1 cup butternut squash mixture, recipe below

salt and pepper

I bought pea shoots at the farmers’ market last weekend and wasn’t sure what to do with them. It turns out they make a pretty nice pesto.

pea shoot pesto

1 small bunch pea shoots, rinsed and dried

2 small cloves garlic

juice from one lemon

3/4 cup cooked white beans

1-2 T. fresh rosemary

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. salt

combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped and smooth. the pea shoots I used had a pretty strong flavor, so I adjusted slightly with more beans, more rosemary, and a touch more salt and tasted again. you won’t use all of it for the calzones, so freezing a portion of it might be a good idea unless you plan to eat it some other time that week.

roasted butternut squash

2 cups cubed butternut squash

1 red onion, cut into 6-8 wedges lengthwise

1 T. olive oil

salt

combine the onion and squash on a baking sheet, and toss with olive oil. sprinkle salt and bake for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees, until squash cubes are soft but don’t start to break down. set aside and allow them to cool.

assembly

cut the piece of dough into two equal sizes. on a floured surface, roll out each piece into a square or rectangular shape, whichever you prefer for working in the filling. once they are rolled out, divide the amount of pesto, cheese and squash between the two. spread the pesto on one side of the dough, top with the cheese, finish with the squash and season with salt and pepper. fold the empty side over and pinch the edges closed with your fingers. brush with olive oil and create small slits in the top of the calzone to release steam.

cook the calzones on an oiled sheet for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the edges begin to brown and the dough is no longer sticky.

 

new york + settling in

I have a new appreciation for hot plates and toaster ovens.

this weekend I moved from an apartment in inman square to a studio in the south end. trees line my new street, I’m a ten minute walk to my favorite espresso royale caffe and flour bakery, and am getting acquainted to the mini-fridge, microwave, and bed doubling-as-a-couch lifestyle.  although i may feel differently come december, it turns out my concerns about not having an oven were at least somewhat unwarranted. tonight for dinner I made quinoa with a few drops of olive oil, arugula, salt and pepper, and topped it with two eggs, chopped avocado, and grape tomatoes. all on a single-burner hot plate (the quinoa was made first). living here and cooking this way will force me to be creative with food, again. i’ll have to forgo some of the staples i’d ordinarily rely on this time of year like roasted squash, and baked oatmeal isn’t anywhere in the foreseeable future–but that’s alright. I’m just thankful to be here.

earlier in the week I went to visit my cousin, christina, in new york. turns out that megabus is amazing. I never took the bus to new york last spring, for some reason, but it was really easy and well worth the $26 round-trip ticket. I spent part of wednesday afternoon wandering around the east village and at ost cafe on the corner of 12th and avenue a, waiting for christina to finish work. this was my view from the cafe window. hopefully during the course of the fall I’ll have time to make a few more trips to the city. until then, i’ll be posting more of my toasted, re-heated and single-pot meals.