Zero Waste Tumeric Red Lentil Fritters Tomato Bowl with Tahini Dill Sauce

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Rumor has it that my co-worker’s wife makes the best lentil soup, and vegan friends have sworn that lentils make for an amazing alternative to meat, whether in burgers or in meat-less meatloaves. So when Mike came across a recipe for Lentil Fritters and voiced a willingness to try a vegetarian alternative to meatballs, I decided to give it a go. This recipe in particular included tumeric, a spice that previous to this post, I have not tried for myself, despite seeing it on every shelf at Mother’s Market and Whole Foods in every edible form imaginable. The benefits of tumeric still escapes me, so anybody able to shed light on this is entirely welcome to! Either way, while curiosity killed the cat, in this case, it got two humans to try a vegan meal in a normally very-non-vegan house.

Happily, I was able to get all ingredients in zero-waste fashion from the bulk aisle of our local Whole Foods. Initially, there was no inkling amongst the both of us that lentil was a grain. For some reason, I always imagined a leafy green. But we finally found it after a quick Google search, and carted away red lentils, chia seeds, and unhulled sesame seeds in self-brought containers. Determined not to buy pre-packaged tahini sauce, I decided to be generous in the sesame seed purchase, so that I could make tahini from scratch at home. And in my efforts to continue with the zero waste, we used some day old bread to create the bread crumbs that we needed to add some texture to the fritters. Biased-ly enough, any recipe that allows me to curb landfill waste is a great one! So I hope you enjoy the nutty, seedy, earthy fritters atop a refreshing bed of salad as much as we did.

Ingredients:

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Seedy Lentil Fritters
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/3 tsp or more cayenne
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, washed and drained
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup packed chopped spinach
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

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Tahini Dill Sauce
  • 3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
Bowl
  • Lettuce
  • Chopped tomatoes & cucumbers

The Process:

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. DSC05007
  2. Add all the spices and drained lentils. mix and cook for only a minute.
  3. Add salt and water and cook for 11 minutes partially covered. Uncover, fold in spinach and parlsey and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and all the liquid is absorbed. The mixture will be soft. Taste and adjust salt and heat.

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  4. Add chia seeds and sesame seeds and mix in. Chill the lentil mixture for half an hour (in our case, we just placed it right in the fridge!)

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  5. Meanwhile, make croutons from day old bread using our Basic Crouton Recipe. Once croutons come out of the oven, crush them using either mortar and pestle, or a rolling pin.  DSC05056
  6. Preheat the oven to 425 deg F / 220ºc. Mix in 1/4 cup breadcrumbs in the lentil mixture. The mixture will be soft but should get easily shaped into soft balls without too much sticking or squishing.

  7. Once the lentil mixtures have been shaped into fritters, place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to rub olive oil over the surfaces, for an extra crisp texture. Bake for 20 minutes.

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  8. Blend everything under tahini sauce in a food processor, starting with toasted sesame seeds and olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients after the tahini sauce has reached the desired consistency. Taste and adjust, adding salt and lemon as needed. For a garlicky dressing mix in 1/4 tsp garlic powder.DSC05040
  9. Assemble the bowl with greens, juicy tomatoes or cucumbers, and as many Lentil fritters as you like. Drizzle dressing generously.

This makes way more fritters than necessary for a party of two. Good news is that they refrigerate quite well. Reheating in a toaster oven makes them good as new, so batch cooking these babies can really come in handy on a busy day. I would also venture to predict that future self will be substituting these for beef patties, on the regular.

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Cherry Compote

With our recent bread baking habit, we have the privilege of having left-over starter around every single day. In case you are not familiar with baking bread using a live starter, a starter is pretty much a yeast culture in a mason jar that we feed on a daily basis on a set schedule so that the yeast continues to grow. We refer to our starter as our baby. And since feeding requires only a portion of the existing starter to continue growing, the rest is discarded in the trash. Or as is the case in our household, refashioned into a number of different baked goods, sourdough pancakes being one of them.

While the post regarding our entire bread baking experience will be saved for another day, this post is all about what we drizzle over that delicious pancake recipe. Cherry Compote! When I think of cherries, I think of warm summer days, with handfuls of this red, juicy fruit in a bowl, twined together by common, wispy limbs. I think of juice dribbling down chins, and fingers, and for some, shirts while we sit in basic tees and sneakers on the sidewalk or in the grass, picnic style. I envision a collection of pits, delicately eaten around, or more enjoyably, chewed and spit back out. I don’t associate the word cherry with the winter time, but winter time seems to be when I crave it the most.

This compote recipe is perfect for winter. Warm cherries should be as coveted as their cold summer counterpart, and the combination with something as earthy and aromatic as thyme really makes this recipe a simple yet special one. Even though we drizzle this mostly over our sourdough pancakes, it would also be a great addition to scoops of vanilla ice cream, a slice of cheesecake, or as a topping for a Thanksgiving pie. It’s officially Spring, but the weather is still cool enough that this recipe remains relevant, for another few months more. DSC02313.JPG

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of cherries
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • Pinch of Salt

Procedure:

  1. The first part is the fun part. Remove the cherry pits from the cherries! I usually just use a pairing knife, although a cherry pitter would probably be quicker. But you know, minimalist household. The less tools the merrier in our book.
  2. Slice the cherries into halves or quarters, depending on the size you want.
  3. Add the cherries, water, and thyme in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Make sure to stir frequently, and continue to cook until they start to break down (approximately 3 minutes).
  4. Stir in the honey and salt and remove from the heat. The compote is all done! Set aside until you are ready for use and rewarm as necessary. Sprinkle in some blueberries, and top with powdered sugar, more honey, or melted butter.

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Travel: Casa Jacaranda, A Must-Do Culinary Experience in Mexico City

Casa Jacaranda is a culinary experience led by the duo Beto Estua and Jorge Fitz. Not to be missed, it allows visitors and locals alike to experience the beauty of Mexican cooking. From shopping for local produce, to making delicious, traditional Mexican dishes in their beautiful home, cooks at every experience level can enjoy a wonderful afternoon with these two, whose genuine interest is to have others learn, as well as fall in love with, Mexican cuisine. The day ends with a meal on their rooftop garden, with the other foodie enthusiasts that you have met, eating the meal that you’ve all made together and bonded over. If there is one experience that I would recommend when visiting Mexico City, this is it!

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“At Casa Jacaranda, amazing things happen,” one guest prophetically proclaimed, raising a glass of the best Paloma I have ever tasted, and I thought to myself, “Isn’t that the truth!” When Mike and I were invited to join a group for a culinary experience, I was not expecting to be completely blown away by the love for food and culture that Beto and Jorge openly exhibit. It makes one fall in love, too.

Part 1: The Market

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To begin, we were to meet up with the rest of the group at 10 AM in the morning on the corner of Campecho and Medellin, where the Medellin market now stands. This mercado has been in existence for one hundred and thirty years. Located in Roma Sur, it has historically been known as the market that houses produce from all over Mexico, including items that were not as welcome in the markets in the city center, where Roma Norte now resides. Mexican cuisine is varied and wide-spread, and typically, mercados only wanted to house ingredients specific to that region. The Medellin market has always been of a different variety, welcoming foreign items so that immigrants from other parts of Mexico have a place to grab the things that remind them most of home. Its diversity makes this a great place to start learning about what Mexico has to offer.

Beto and Jorge arrived with a small cart in tow, all smiles. After friendly hellos, hugs, besos, and a few introductions, we went right to it. Everyone in the group was kindly asked if there are any allergies or foods that must be avoided for health reasons. Considering any accommodations that must be made, Beto and Jorge then think of what dishes we are going to cook using the produce that are currently in season. They considered an appetizer, starter, main course, and dessert for our particular group, although they do change it up frequently, so don’t be surprised if your particular meal is differently structured. The sorpresa is part of what makes it so fun. Once the group agreed upon the meal, off we went into the market. Beto took charge of picking up the ingredients we needed, while Jorge gave the group of eager students a tour.

 

I couldn’t help but feel completely jealous at the availability of the Medellin market to local cuidadanos. The ability to cook with the freshest of the season’s offerings, using ingredients that will never know packaging, is one of the biggest draws of this place for me. Living in a city where I struggle on the daily to avoid plastic packaging when shopping for groceries, this was absolutely an anti-plastic, fresh-loving, local-sourcing cook’s heaven. I could tell straight-away that the feeling was mutual for our two guides. Jorge nimbly maneuvered his way through the narrow aisles, saying hi to his favorite butcher and fishmonger, noting which stalls had his favorite produce, and which did not. With him leading the way, I knew we could not go wrong.

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Right when you walk in, the colors of the market reflect what you would see brightly painted on the buildings that make up this beautiful city. Vibrant fruits, vegetables and flowers. Dried peppers overflowing from the baskets, with skins as soft and supple as a beautiful leather, and quite unlike the dried up versions that take days (months?) to be exported to Californian markets. Containers stuffed to the brim with hibiscus flowers, otherwise known as flor de jamaica, from Mexico and Africa. The difference between the two being that the Mexican variety results in less color, but more flavor. We tasted different moles from a family that has been making mole and selling it at that particular market for years. Imagine a sauce so complex, yet you can single out a hint of almond. Or one that seeps of cacao and sesame seed flavor, nutty and bold.

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We visited a merchant that has been selling his Yucatan family’s hot sauces since 1968, and tasted his amazing hot sauce poured over salt flakes. I gobbled up my cracker as Jorge joked about the American way of pronouncing ha-ba-ne-ro as “ha-ban-nie-row”. The hot sauce was deliciously sour and spicy all at once, and left a biting sting at the tip of my tongue. We brought home two bottles, and I have been diligently dousing avocado toasts ever since!

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We were introduced to a friendly man who makes the best ice cream. Story has it that at some point, 80% of the market’s Yelp reviews were solely about the ice cream stand! Jorge had to take it upon himself to start this man his own Yelp business account. The ice cream was homemade, and there were a variety of seasonal flavors that one could try. We also stopped at a coffee shop and grabbed a shot of coffee, as well as Colombian bombolinos.

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But the absolute best stop of all, hands down, was a butcher shop that serves tacos only on Saturdays, and lo and behold, I happened to pick the experience on a Saturday! Fresh carnitas being cut up in front of you using the butcher’s meats, topped with acidic sauces and pickled red onions. That will forever stand in my memory as one of those WOW moments, and if I ever return, I will make sure to come back on a Saturday and to free up my entire afternoon because that is where you will find me. As we exited the market, I felt a piece of my heart being left at that carnita stand.

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Part 2: Becoming a Chef

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After the market tour, it was a short walk from Roma Sur to Roma Norte, where Casa Jacaranda stands on a wide street, behind a (you guessed it!) jacaranda tree, in full bloom. The purple flowers swayed in the wind, inviting us into their beautiful home, whose walls exhibited multiple art pieces, and which housed a large professional kitchen that makes the perfect setting for a cooking class. Beto had gone ahead of the group  after purchasing the ingredients from the market, so that by the time we arrived, all the ingredients have been washed and laid out in perfect proportions for our class.

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We all were asked to wash our hands, and then don our aprons. What happened next is a blur of activity. I can’t remember everything that we did, but rather, exactly how it felt. To cut alongside people from other countries who are eager to learn as much as you, to listen to Beto and Jorge’s advice, wisdom, and direction as they share their grandmother’s recipes, to laugh as we joke about technique, or lack thereof, this is what the afternoon was made of. Luckily, Beto and Jorge email the recipes to their guests afterwards, so there is really no pressure to remember much at all, allowing us to sincerely immerse ourselves into the projects at hand. No yoga session has ever had me living in the present moment as thoroughly as this cooking class. It was bliss, enveloped in being attentive, but in a very care-free environment.

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Beto and Jorge had us each working on a different task, with watchful eyes and guiding hands, and as a team, we created the dishes that we had decided on. At some point there were three people cutting up tomatoes, and one man on the grill. Two people were responsible of removing chili seeds, and two were responsible for blending the sauces. We had quite the production line with the tortilla making! Two people rolling up balls of dough, three people on tortilla press duty, and one gal at the stove, cooking them as they were being handed down to her. We helped each other prepare ingredients, handed each other things that had to be added to the pot, and taste-tested along the way. We each had a say as to how hot we thought salsas should be, how acidic or spicy or strong. We were creating masterpieces with our own hands, unbeknownst to us at the time. I remember eating the food later in the day and thinking in disbelief, “We made that?!”

 

Part 3: Sharing a Meal with Friends

As we finished our final additions to the sauces and salsas, Beto started serving us some of the sopes that we had made. Off course, we had the freedom to structure it whatever way we wanted. That left me wanting to pile all the ingredients on one unfortunate sope. I mixed red sauce with green sauce, because who was to say otherwise? It was glorious. I had three sopes (maybe four?) before I told myself to slow down, since this wasn’t even the main event yet!

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Luckily, it was then that Jorge brought out a tray of grapefruit Palomas, which I happily allowed to interrupt my ravenous sope-ingesting. As we sipped on grapefruit and tequila laden cups, we laughed and talked about our own stories and lifestyles, about what we like to do, and where we plan to go next. Nothing like a good cocktail to widen the smile and loosen the limbs. We were eagerly refilling our cups for more of that refreshing drink, whose recipe was also shared.

When we’ve all had our fill, we were invited to the rooftop garden, to enjoy our meal in the sun underneath the swaying jacaranda branches. The table was already beautifully set up when we got there.

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We were served a bottle of wine to pair with our starter, which was a brightly-colored tortilla soup. I have never had tortilla soup so bold in color, and so rich in flavor. The thick and creamy dish was topped with tortilla chips, chicharrones, cream, fried peppers, avocado, and cheese. If I had a do-over, I would surely double up on the chicharrones!

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As we opened another bottle of wine, we were served our adobo meat, served with rice and veggies. In my case, I opted for the pitcher of agua de jamaica instead of the additional glass of wine. I had no reservations about refilling my “water” cup throughout the rest of the meal. Can one substitute eight glasses of water with that lovely floral drink? Please say YES!

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I vaguely remember the dried peppers that we seeded so thoroughly to make the adobo sauce. It was absolutely delicious. I shared with the group the fact that we have an adobo in the Philippines too, however the Mexican adobo more closely mirrored what we called Caldereta. We discussed similarities and differences between cultures, and were reminded that we are of one human race, with intertwined and connected histories. Food kind of helps that discovery along.

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Lastly, for dessert, I tasted for the very first time a mamey fruit, served with mamey ice cream. I immediately regretted having to return to the States, where I will surely have an incredibly difficult time finding this beautiful fruit. It had the texture of a papaya and was sweet in the subtlest of ways, the way that almonds are sweet, almost fleetingly so. I was one of the two who had unabashedly taken second helpings of the ice cream, seeing as how it will be a while before I may get the chance to eat this again!

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And just when I thought I couldn’t do any more, a tray holding two bottles of mezcal and two bottles of tequila were brought up, with the artsiest shot-glasses to hold them in. One of the guests that had joined us from Rothenburg ob der Tauber just recently finished travelling in Columbia. He carried up a chocolate bar made from 100% Cacao from Colombia, to pair with the mezcal. Beto then proceeded to show us a video of him making chocolate by hand from 100% cacao, a process that entails constant grinding of the cacao for seven to eight hours without any breaks! My bread baking obsession looked pretty weak next to that. We also tasted Colombian rum, courtesy of our new friend, with hints of orange and chocolate. We were later joined by Beto’s two dogs, as we basked in the sun during our sobremesa and talked our way into the early hours of the evening.

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Unfortunately, good times, too, must come to an end. As the evening drew to a close, I thought to myself that I could not think of a better way to end our Mexico trip than to spend an entire day at Casa Jacaranda. There is no doubt in my mind that we had saved the best for last!

I would highly recommend reserving an entire day for this activity for anyone visiting Mexico City for the first time. Not only will you meet new friends, get a tour of the market, learn to cook, and have an amazing meal, but this is one sure way to take a part of Mexico home with you forever. I know that we will be replicating these recipes for years to come, and will be sharing them with family and friends on our occasional hosted dinners at home. A sincere thanks are in order to Jorge and Beto, for the wonderful experience!

 

This post is sponsored by Casa Jacaranda. All opinions are my own.

Coconut Flour Cookies with Chocolate Chips

After a day of perusing the bulk bins at our local grocery store, I decided to stock up on a mason jar of coconut flour. Prompted by mystical fairy dust, mingled with curiosity as to the gluten-free-craze sweeping the nation (and my friends), I decided to experiment with my new-found ingredient. I perused the web for a recipe that uses this ingredient, and found that chocolate chip cookies would be entirely useful, given that I also picked up a handful of chocolate chips from the bulk aisle. Additionally, I was able to find a combination of ingredients that were already at hand in our pantry, thus eliminating the need to purchase more goods. Hurrah for resourcefulness, with a little thank you to our roomie, who offered up a jar of her coconut oil for my experiments.

I first made this recipe about a week ago and found it to be quite satisfying. Having been the first time using coconut flour, I was pretty surprised at the cake-like consistency. What you get is a cookie-formed dessert, that tastes like chocolate chip cake. A combination of two wonderful worlds. Chewy cookie lovers unite! Gluten-free converts rejoice! Moms just trying to find a healthy(er) option for their kids, weep with joy.

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(Coconut Flour) Chocolate Chip Cookie Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil , melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

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The Process:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. Combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a bowl or a stand-mixer and then mix until you achieve a thicker, cookie dough consistency. Don’t worry if it looks runny at first, it’ll thicken up in a jiffy.
  3. After the correct consistency has been achieved, add in the chocolate chips, and stir to distribute them evenly.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop a tablespoon of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet. It is important to note that you must use your hands to flatten the cookies. Keep in mind these cookies will NOT spread on their own, so you’ll want to shape them how you’d like them to turn out.
  5. Bake at 350F for 13-15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Serve with a glass of cold milk, or with a bowl of home-made vanilla ice cream.

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French Macarons

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I decided to share my recipe for making French Macarons. I actually learned how to make macarons last Valentine’s Day, almost exactly one year ago. I took a class and went through the motions, without realizing how difficult it really is to make beautiful macarons! It seems easy when they’ve got everything pre-measured and walk you through it step by step, but there is a sort of intuition that is required to make them successfully. Like bread baking, it isn’t about numbers and timing, but rather, knowing how the texture is supposed to feel and how the consistency is supposed to look. Either way, it took me about 40 failed attempts before I could consistently produce good batches of macarons. With each attempt, I scribbled down notes on oven temperature, timing, texture, consistency, amounts of each ingredient weighed out to the tenth of a decimal in grams. It was a real process. It required multiple taste tests and trials, some of which ended in tears. Each batch takes approximately 3 hours to make, from beginning to end. Little did I know I was going to repeat the process again with bread making, which takes more than 12 hours from beginning to end. But maybe I am purposefully attracted to such processes – for the scientific approach, as well as for the greater reward.

It isn’t easy to do and it may take just as many trials as I to get this right. Don’t give up, because at the end, you can make 40 at a time, instead of spending $2 a piece (or more). Life hack: I made macarons as a side hustle after I graduated dental school. I still do take orders for parties, but mostly from family and friends. Try it as a Valentine’s Day activity with your loved one, or make a batch as a surprise gift!

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French Macarons

The Ingredients:

***Each ingredient has to be measured precisely with a weighing scale. I cannot stress enough the exactness required with this recipe.

  • 7 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 oz almond flour
  • 4.25 oz egg whites at room temperature.
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 3.5 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Grand Marnier (or alternative alcohol flavoring you’d like to use …. Baileys, Banana Cream Rum… )
  • Food coloring (I use liquid food coloring, amount of drops depending on the color I want to achieve)
  • Any dry powder flavoring you want to add to give the macarons flavor. I usually make it without additional flavoring, but some ideas would be cocoa powder, teas, and coffee. ***If adding additional dry powder flavorings, please mix with almond flour when you pulse through the processor on step #3. 

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The Process:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. (Every oven is different. Mine in particular is usually cooler than it says on the display. Originally, when I started this recipe, I was told to do 280 degrees F. However, the macarons kept coming out undercooked, so I finally found the temperature that works for me. Also, as a side note, the trays have to be in the center of my oven. The heat from my oven comes from the top, so if the trays are too close to the top, they will burn and end up being crunchier than I would like. Lastly, the difference between conventional ovens versus convectional ovens do matter too. My oven operates with the heat coming from the top, and a fan in the back of the oven distributing air. It may take a few tries, but find what temperature works for your oven. Don’t be afraid to change these numbers to suit your particular situation.)
  2. Prepare parchment paper to line the baking sheets/trays. You can buy a template, or you can make one yourself. I draw 1 inch circles spaced 1/2 an inch apart on a piece of parchment paper to use as a template. (Do not be greedy by trying to make larger macarons when you start. The larger the macarons, the more difficult it is to maintain their shape, therefore, the more likely that you will end up with flat, non-fluffy macarons. Try this size first, and when you feel confident enough, then go bigger and bigger.) This template paper lies underneath the parchment paper where I lay my macarons on. Parchment paper is thin enough to see through. It is not sufficient to replace parchment paper with wax paper, learned the hard way. ***Important note – the parchment paper must lay flat on the tray and not roll up at all. This may require cutting a piece of paper to exactly fit your tray. The macarons are very light and airy, so when they are pipetted onto the parchment paper, they will be influenced by the paper’s shape if it rolls up on the ends or what have you.
  3. Pulse powdered sugar and almond flour in food processor 3 times at 10 seconds each. After pulsing, sift the mixture through a metal strainer into a large bowl.
  4. In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whisk whites, cream of tartar and salt on medium speed until frothy and foamy. Return the speed to 2. Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg mixture. By gradual, I mean REALLY gradual. I would let the sugar sprinkle in at a constant rate. After adding all the sugar, keep at setting 2 for two minutes. Increase to setting 4, mixing for two minutes, and then setting 6 and mix for two minutes. Go all the way to setting 10, after which, stop the mixer and lift the head. There should be stiff white peaks when you lift the whisk attachment from the mixture. If that is the case, add the alcohol and food coloring, and whisk for 20 seconds more at speed 8. When I first started, this particular step gave me some trouble. It took me a while to discover the 2 minute intervals as the timing that worked for me. Just be aware not to rush the process. Time the 2 minutes with a timer or stop watch. And don’t overdo it either, lest the mixture completely deflates. DSC02815 DSC02819
  5. Sift almond sugar mixture (1/3rd at a time) into the egg sugar mixture. Fold the almond sugar mixture into the egg sugar mixture gently. The folding technique is quite difficult to explain. I use a soft rubber spatula, and I scrape the sides of the bowl twice, then scoop under. I continue to do this until the almond sugar mixture is completely folded in (until you can’t see it anymore). I repeat for the rest of the 1/3rd portions. Total, you may only want to fold 40 times. The best way to check if the consistency is right is to do the ribbon test. Take the spatula, scoop the mixture, and see if you can drip the mixture enough to do a figure 8 shape, without having a break in the dripping. If not, then it isn’t runny enough. You want to fold just enough to be able to do this, otherwise, fold too much and your macarons will be too runny and won’t hold their shape. DSC02822
  6. Transfer batter to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch round tip, and pipe onto baking sheets, making sure to stay within the confines of your one inch circles. You want the pipette tip to be about 1/2 inch from the tray. The closer the better. You want to start pipetting in the center of the circle, holding it still and letting the macaron expand around the pipette. Do not move the pipette around. To stop pipetting, pull the pipette straight up. Avoid trapping air bubbles as much as you can. DSC02827
  7. Rap the bottom of the baking sheet on the counter to release any air bubbles. By rap, I actually mean, drop onto the counter from 6 inches above, causing a loud BANG! You will see the bubbles rise to the surface as they are released. Bubbles can ruin your macarons when they rise. I bang them on the counters about 3-4 times, just to be sure that I’ve rid the sweets of all trapped air. Just make sure you drop it evenly, to avoid toppling all your hard work onto the ground.
  8. Let dry at room temperature for 15-25 minutes. You will know that they are ready to bake when you can touch the surface of the macaron lightly with a finger and it doesn’t stick.
  9. Bake in the oven at 300 degrees F for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake at 250 degrees F. Remove from oven and place parchment paper on a baking rack to cool. Macarons must cool completely prior to removal from parchment paper. If the macarons are not cool or are undercooked, they will stick to the parchment paper. If that is the case, then you know that you will need extra time to cook the macarons. Maybe you can try lowering the temperature to 200 degrees F after the 16 minutes, and allow to cook for a few minutes more. Just make sure you don’t burn the tops. DSC02833
  10. Once cool, you can use a dough scraper to separate the macarons from the tray. If they are cooked correctly, they may even lift from the parchment paper on their own, without any prying.

Macaron Berry Jam Filling

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*** You can use anything to fill your beautiful macarons with. For me, I am impartial to boysenberry jam, but substitute marmalade or strawberry jam and you’ll be just as happy. Or you can opt for chocolate ganache, in which case, scroll ahead to the chocolate alternative.

The Ingredients:

  • 4 oz unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
  • 9 oz powdered sugar
  • 3-4 oz jam or marmalade

The Process

  1. In stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth and fluffy (at Speed 2).
  2. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar.
  3. Add berry jam.
  4. Beat until just blended.
  5. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hr to allow it to stiffen up. I prefer this method because I like to spread them onto the macaron with a knife. If you would prefer to pipette, you can pipette onto a macaron right away. Note, if it is too runny, you can always add a bit more powdered sugar.

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Chocolate Ganache

The Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz white or dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3/4 oz unsalted butter (softened)

The Process:

  1. In a small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat to a simmer. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour hot cream over it. Let stand one minute.
  2. Slowly stir chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula to combine.
  3. Add butter and stir mixture until smooth.
  4. Let cool, stirring every ten minutes. Once ganache cools, pipe onto a macaron, and use a second macaron to gently spread the filling.

***One final tip! The trick with the filling is to put a very thin layer, so as to avoid detracting from the yumminess of a macaron. Macarons are light in flavor, and adding too much jam or chocolate can turn the macaron into a fruit-flavored or chocolate-flavored crabby patty. I add the thinnest layer I can muster with a bread-knife on the back of one macaron, and skip adding filling to the second side. This is just my personal preference, so go ahead and play around with it, and tell me what you end up liking best! 

Zuppa Toscana

While Mike and I continue to wait for winter to hit, we are doing away with some make-believe in this 85 degreee California heat. There isn’t much to complain about regarding these summery temperatures, except for the fact that the sourdough country loaves that I’ve been making have been with nary a partner-in-crime. And now, with Mike getting interested in the bread baking as well, with the plan to begin fermenting his own starter tomorrow, bread consumption must increase, preferably with the help of some accompaniment such as soup.

In light of that, we made Zuppa Toscana to pair with the bread batches that resulted from my two days off. Mike is not fond of soup as a meal, unless they are of a hearty variety. I, on the other hand, can eat soup for days, as long as it comes hand-in-hand with some gluttonous friend. Luckily, this soup fills one up quite nicely, leaving bellies satisfied and hearts full.

The Ingredients:

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  • 1.5-2 pds. bulk hot Italian sausage
  • 1.25 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tbs . garlic, minced
  • 5 (130z) can chicken broth
  • 4 Russett potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, tough stems removed

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The Process:

  1. Remove the skin from the Italian sausage,and cook with red pepper flakes in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crumbly, and no longer pink. I like to cook a bit longer until browned, usually about 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Cook the onions and garlic until onions are soft, usually on low heat so the garlic does not burn.
  3. Pour chicken broth into Dutch oven with onion mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Add the potatoes, and boil until fork tender, about twenty minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the heavy cream and the cooked sausage. Heat through. Mix spinach into the soup just before serving.
  5. Most importantly, serve with fresh, warm bread.

Overnight Oats

A late night post about a quick and easy early morning breakfast, just in case you are still in need of ideas at this hour. Overnight oats are one of the staple breakfasts that frequently grace our refrigerator doors. First discovered in an effort to keep wellness in mind, we have been consistently making them ever since. As with most other recipes, it was not created by yours truly in avant-garde fashion by any means, and in order to give credit where credit is due, I will refer you to Minimal Wellness’s blog, where you can also find the nutritional benefits of said recipe.

I’d like to say I’m not partial to it because of the mason jars, but that wouldn’t exactly be the whole truth. Either way, aesthetics aside, the taste itself is fabulous, a mixture of oatmeal with milk, but sweeter. Typically, I am not a fan of oatmeal unless there’s a lot of sugar involved, but I love this recipe, and I daresay it’s a bit healthier since I’m not adding sugar by the spoonful.

Additionally, it is so easy to make and requires very little planning. You literally throw all ingredients in a jar, top with a lid, shake to mix, and toss it in the fridge to allow the oats to soak up the liquid overnight. This recipe even works when prepared two hours prior to eating. Once made, you can top it off with anything, such as blueberries (our favorite) or peanut butter and banana. Below, you will find the recipe, with some of our preferences substituted, differing slightly from the original.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup gluten free rolled oats
  • ⅔ cup Strauss 2% Lowfat milk
  • ⅓ cup Saint Benoit Creamery Organic Jersey Cow French Vanilla Yogurt
  • 1 Tbl chia seeds
  • 2 Tbl shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup frozen berry of choice (Blueberries, typically. We try to only use these when we can buy them from a farmer’s market, without the plastic container. Otherwise, we opt for banana and peanut butter.)

The Process:

  1. Place all ingredients until the cinnamon in the mason jar.
  2. Put the lid on and shake to mix all ingredients thoroughly.
  3. Once ingredients are mixed, pour the frozen blue berries (if using) on top and replace the lid.
  4. Place jar into the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, stir the berries into the oat mixture and enjoy.
  5. (If you are using Peanut Butter and banana, top with a healthy scoop (or two) of peanut butter and a sliced banana.)

If I’ve solved your late night meal planning problem, well, you’ve only got Minimal Wellness to thank! The recipe is too good not to share.

Home-made Granola

There’s something special about sharing recipes from one person to another. Perhaps it’s the coming together that makes the whole thing so great. Acknowledgement that we need to share pieces of ourselves with each other, one of the most valuable being our time. Maybe its the activity producing something sustainable, a necessity ingrained into our very beings. Whatever it is, there is something to be said of gathering over the makings of a meal, the way it connects people on multiple levels.

I always feel joy when I learn a new recipe from someone I know. Even more so when I’ve already tasted said recipe and have decidedly fallen in love with the taste (smell, and sight) of it. Today, I had the privilege of learning my sister-in-law’s delicious home-made granola recipe. I’ve been asking her to come over and teach me how it’s done ever since she handed me a mason jar full of this home-made goodness a few months ago. We finished the jar in just a few days, strewn over yogurt, or eaten simply by the handful. Since then, I’ve been craving it, and so for the past few weeks, I’ve consistently asked for any spare moment she may have so that I might learn to make it on my own. Today was my lucky day.

She came over mid-afternoon, bearing all the ingredients we needed, with her own additional twist: Coconut flakes. The great thing about the ingredients in this recipe is that they can be purchased in bulk, allowing you to make the crunchy goodness without waste. Plus the recipe is flexible, in the sense that the maker can add whatever ingredients they want. Creativity can reign in the production of something as simple as granola. Some of her alternative suggestions included pecans or walnuts. Sometimes you can simply make do with whatever left over nuts and seeds you may have in the pantry. Either way, there’s very few ways to really mess this up. I mean, it’s granola!

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The honest truth: It’s more than granola. It’s magic. It’s versatile. It’s simple. It’s healthy. It’s a great arsenal to have in the pantry. Considered a year-round ingredient in our household, it seems appropriate that we address its production early on in this virtual recipe book. The greatest part is the ease with which the process can be executed. Once in the oven, there is nothing left for you to do, except to rotate the granola every 12 minutes. Now you’ve got time on your hands to read a book, write a novel, or chat like we did, over espresso in the waning afternoon light. Additionally, each batch makes a hefty amount (more than six cups of granola!), thus allowing you to be quite liberal with how you choose to spend it.

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Additional things I loved when making this:

  • The smell of brown sugar caramelizing on the stove top.
  • The sound of granola shifting, when raking it to get an even toasting. 
  • The scent of coconut toasting.
  • The earthy colors of the combination of grains, seeds, and coconut flakes.
  • The warmth of the baking pan as you take it out of the oven to cool. 
  • The “plink” of well-toasted pieces being transferred to a glass mason jar.
  • The crunch of your very first bite.
  • The subtle sweetness it lends to whatever meal your gracing with its presence.

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Home-made Granola

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)

The Process:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Boil brown sugar, canola oil, water, and vanilla extract for two minutes. Careful not to burn the mixture. We allowed it to heat over medium heat.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients until the sunflower seeds in a bowl. We will add the coconut flakes at a later time.
  4. Mix all ingredients (wet and dry) together and spread on a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake granola for 36 minutes, stirring the granola once every 12 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and turn the oven off (very important, lest you burn the upcoming coconut flakes).
  6. Sprinkle 1 cup of coconut flakes on top of the granola and return the baking sheet back into the oven and bake for an additional 12 minutes (or until desired crispiness has been reached), stirring once in the middle of the 12 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, and cool before transferring to a container of your choice.

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