Friday, February 25, 2011

Peanut Butter Bran Muffins

Behold, the mighty muffin. When done well, it's a perfect snack in my book. Energizing, filling, portable, delicious. I found this recipe on the lid of a Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butter jar. Thank you, Santa Cruz, for bringing such a tasty snack into my life.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beet Walnut Salad

Beets are one of those beautiful root veggies that I love, but often forget about. When I remember to buy them (or when they show up in my winter food co-op) I feel happy. Their taste, color, and texture are all things to feel glad about. I must admit, though, the one thing I don't like about beets is peeling them. But all the good things about them more than outweigh the 10 minutes it takes to get their skins off.

Beets are low in calories and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The vivid color of beets scream antioxidants. They also have high levels of niacin, vitamin C, and potassium. Beets are good for the blood: they help fight coronary artery disease and stroke. Their texture is firm and smooth, and their flavor is rich, earthy, and slightly sweet.

I found a simple recipe by Alice Waters for Beet Salad that allowed the main ingredient to shine through. I added some goat cheese and walnuts because A) they pair so well with beets, and B) they're delicious. Plus, the goat cheese turns a shocking shade of pink, which I love.

I used walnut oil in this salad because I recently bought some as an impulse buy (you can just imagine my delight when I found a way to use it!). If you don't have it, you can use olive oil instead. If you happen upon beets with the greens still attached, wash the greens, chop them, and saute them in oil. Toss them with the finished salad.

Beet Walnut Salad
Adapted from Alice Water's recipe for Beet Salad
Serves 4


1 pound beets
Scrub beets. Place in casserole dish and add 1/8 inch of water to the bottom. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-60 minutes, depending on how large the beets are. Beets are done when you can pierce them easily with a fork. Let cool, then trim the ends and "slip the skins off." (I have not had luck with "slipping" the skins off. I usually resort to a paring knife as an aid, but hopefully you'll have better luck). Chop beets into small wedges and add to large bowl.

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons walnut oil (or olive oil)
Mix together and toss with beets.

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup goat cheese
Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for about 7 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool. Toss with beets, and crumble goat cheese on top.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Honey Graham Cookies

I love butter. I do. It took me a while to realize it. I shunned it out of health-nuttiness, and although I still consider myself a health nut, I do allow for some butter in my diet. Not "diet," but eating habits. You know what I mean. Toast with butter and jam. Butternut squash with butter and brown sugar. Steamed broccoli with butter and salt. COOKIES. The ultimate indulgence. The only time I don't like butter is melted with lobster or when I put it on a hot griddle and it smells kind of gross.

When I bake, I tinker with recipes to try and make them healthier. I swap out yogurt for part of the butter or oil in muffins, I use olive oil in my granola instead of butter, and I cook mainly with extra virgin olive oil. But when it comes to cookies, there are no substitutions for butter. Cookies should be an indulgent treat, not something you try to make healthy so that you can eat them all the time.

Let me tell you about these cookies. The flavor is so rich and deep. They look rather unassuming, but when you bite into them, you're hit with complex honey graham layers that -- could it be? A graham cracker? No! Yes. These, my friends, are Martha Stewart's Homemade Graham Crackers. My Aunt Diana gave me the recipe, and she made them into cookies instead of getting all fancy with the rolling pin and fluted pastry wheel (which the original recipe calls for). I liked the sound of cookies, so I did the same. They are so delicious, and nothing like store bought graham crackers. I rolled the dough into balls and then flattened them onto the pan. Alternately, you can roll out the dough and cut out shapes if you'd like. I did hearts for Valentine's Day (not that I really celebrate it, but any excuse to use cookie cutters!)

Honey Graham Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe for Honey Graham Crackers Makes about 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups oat flour (or white whole wheat flour)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whisk together in medium bowl, set aside.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (Yes, it's worth it! And I'm pretty sure I used salted instead of unsalted. Still tasted great.)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons high-quality honey (I used wildflower honey, but I bet buckwheat honey would be amazing)
Cream together in electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add flour mixture, mix on low until combined. Divide dough into 1 tablespoon balls and press down on greased baking sheets. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 8 minutes. Let cool.

What is your "worth it" indulgence that you only have once in a while? How do you like to use butter?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

African Meatballs

This is a guest post by my dear friend Candice. We both share a love of cooking, baking, and all things food-related. We're also part of a meal exchange group with two other couples. Every week, we each pick a recipe and quadruple it. Then, we pack up portions to trade. One cooking session turns into four weeknight meals. Genius! When I tasted the African Meatballs that Candice made for this last exchange, I immediately asked her to do a guest post. They're so good!

When Becky first asked me to share my African Meatball recipe, I couldn't be more delighted! For my husband, Matt, and I, this is the only way to eat meatballs. What makes these meatballs so special? Well, for one thing, they are more like a faux-meatball, in the most delicious sense. They incorporate a large quantity of sesame and pumpkin/melon seeds, which help keep the meatballs together, and this also gives them a special flavor that is uniquely satisfying.

Now, I will admit, I've never been a huge fan of meatballs. I hate the way they would make the bread soggy on sandwiches. I didn't appreciate their presence in bowls of Chef-Boy-R-Dee. And I didn't enjoy those greasy fried blobs lurking in my spaghetti noodles. But these African meatballs have changed my mind and they've quickly become one of my favorite ways to use ground meat. Plus, if you're looking to reduce the amount of meat you consume, these meatballs are actually less meaty (and tastier, in my opinion); you will get the savory flavor with the meat, and you get more meatballs too!

So I will stop my proselytizing and get down to the recipe. Feel free to substitute ground pork, chicken, turkey, or lamb for beef (last time I made these, I used a 1/2 pound of pork sausage and a 1/2 pound of beef). I haven't tried it with soy crumbles or any other vegetarian substitute, but I am curious if using bulgur or quinoa would work. You can substitute pumpkin or squash seeds for the melon seeds (I usually substitute roasted and salted pepitas because they are easier to find and they are salty enough that I don't need to add that much more salt to the mixture). Feel free to adjust the amount of water in the sauce, depending on how thick you want it. If you have a cookie scooper, this would be a great time to use it when forming the meatballs.

African Meatballs (Chad)
Also known as "Kanda" (KAHN-dah)
Slightly adapted from "Extending the Table" by Joetta Handrich Schlabach
Original recipe submitted by Thamar Nelimta (of Bitkine, Chad) and Anita Hostetler (of N'Djamena, Chad)
Makes 4 servings.

Meatballs:

1/4 cup green onions, chopped (50 ml)
1/4 cup celery, chopped (50 ml)
4 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped (60 ml)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 lb ground beef (500 g)
Grind in meat grinder, food processor, or blender.

1 cup sesame seeds (250 ml)
1 1/2 cup melon seeds (pumpkin, squash, pepitas, etc.) (375 ml)
Put through food processor or whirl in blender. Add a bit of water if needed to make blending possible. Be careful not to over-blend or you may end up with a butter-like consistency, which makes mixing with the meat a challenge. Combine meat and seed mixtures together.

1 to 1 1/4 teaspoon salt (5-6 ml)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (1 ml)
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
Add to meat mixture. Heat a little oil in a pan or heavy bottomed cast-iron skillet. Form and cook a small meatball. Taste and add more salt to mixture if needed. Form the rest of the mixture into meatballs. Heat more oil in the skillet. Cook meatballs and onion together; brown and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from pan and prepare sauce in same pan.

Sauce:

scant 1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste (50 ml)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 ml)
1 bouillon cube (omit if using chicken broth)
corn starch, if desired
Saute together in pan. If you like a thicker sauce, you can add a bit of corn starch.

2 cups water (500 ml) (or chicken broth)
Add to pan and bring to a boil. Place meatballs in sauce and cook 10 minutes. Serve alone or over rice, quinoa, or couscous. Meatballs and sauce pair nicely with sauteed garlicky greens (mustard, kale, collards, etc.) or roasted beets (pictured).