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It’s finally Fall- my favorite season! Although it certainly came late this year. Just two weeks ago, Tony and I went to “the country” for a weekend in Virgina and it was still 80 degrees! We pretended it was cool and crisp and the leaves were changing, nevermind the fact we were still in flip flops. It was a great weekend.

 We stayed at the Marriott Ranch B&B in Flint Hill, VA. We’ve stayed here before and it’s a great place!

We hiked around and played on tractors…

and had some close encounters with these guys!

We also went wine tasting and had a picnic.

And we went apple picking!

       

   

We came home with about ten pounds of apples, so I tried to find the most versatile recipe to make with them. I found a recipe for a “Breakfast” Apple Granola Crisp here and it was perfect- something you can eat for breakfast and dessert or really anytime of the day. It’s essentially an apple crisp, but the topping is a bit more “granola-y” so it passes for 1) healthy and 2) a breakfast food. Works for me! 

Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds* apples (any mix of apples) (peeled, cored and cut into medium chunks**)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (I used a mix of brown and white)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss apple chunks with lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and pinch of salt.

Add to a 9×13-inch baking dish. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the honey. Stir in the flour, oats, almonds, coconut and another pinch of salt until clumps form. Sprinkle evenly over the apple mixture and bake in the oven for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the apples are softened and bubbly. The granola will probably start to brown to soon, so cover the baking dish with foil for the last few minutes (as you can see I did it too late). After you remove the foil, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes to help the granola re-crisp. Cool to room temperature and keep in fridge for about a week.

Tastes great by itself or with plain yogurt (see- breakfast!):

*three pounds = approx. 9 medium apples.

** very helpful if you can get your husband to do this part

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Ratatouille

The summer is over and the start of my favorite season is here- FALL! Therefore, it is fitting that my last (and only!) post this September is for Ratatouille- the perfect recipe for all of those end of summer vegetables. In fairness, I’ve probably made this every week this month so it’s ok that it is the only thing I’ve posted…

It’s a really easy recipe that can be adapted a million different ways depending on what ingredients you have on hand and how you want to eat it. I’ve had it over rice, couscous, bread, salad… you name it. I know a lot of recipes have you cut the veggies in round slices and bake them in layers, but I prefer more of a mash up of veggies that you can cook directly on the stove top.

So here is my recipe:

Ratatouille

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant (peeled* and cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 yellow pepper (chopped)
  • 1 red or orange pepper (chopped)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes (chopped) or 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium squash or zucchini (or both) (chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced or chopped)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh basil (about ½ cup) (chopped)
  • 1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Optional: toasted pine nuts, cheese (ricotta salata, goat cheese or mozzarella are all good!)

Directions

Add olive oil, eggplant, and squash/zucchini to large skillet over high heat and sauté until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add onions and, if needed, more olive oil, and cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add peppers and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until everything is tender, about 20 minutes. Once everything has cooked down and all of the veggies are tender (but not too mushy), add fresh basil. If you want, you can serve it topped with cheese and/or pine nuts.

*I’ve used both peeled and unpeeled eggplant and it definitely tastes more bitter when you leave the skin on- so take the extra time to peel it.

Scalloped Tomatoes

Go make this right now. Seriously. It is THAT good. 

If you have an end-of-summer abundance of tomatoes from your garden like we do (or just couldn’t control yourself at the farmer’s market) you might be thinking outside the tomato-basil-mozzarella box. I know, it’s ridiculous to think one would even have this problem, but we did. We can’t eat them fast enough and I will not let the birds have them!

That’s how I came across this recipe and am forever grateful. Fresh tomatoes are wonderful just by themselves, but I promise you’ll be happy with this dish! At first I didn’t know why it was called “scalloped” tomatoes. But then I realized it is sort of like a gratin or scalloped potatoes dish- but not as cheesy. It’s more like a tomato bake. It’s so simple- only four main ingredients- and just tastes like summer. Enjoy!

Scalloped Tomatoes

source: Smitten Kitchen adapted from Ina Garten 

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cups French bread, cut 1/2-inch diced (I included crusts)
  • 2 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or any good tomatoes will work)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (you could use less since the cherry tomatoes are already sweet)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly slivered basil leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high. Add the bread cubes and stir, making sure they are evenly coated with oil. Toast the bread cubes, tossing frequently, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are toasted, add the tomato mixture to the pan and cook them together, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the basil. Pour into a shallow baking dish and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly.

 

These cookies are so good I’ve made them twice in the past month! The first time I made them to take on a boat trip with friends (they are excellent breakfast “cookies”) and then I made them again to take to a friend’s BBQ! They are so easy and yes, “healthy,” but they taste so good you can’t tell 🙂  It’s amazing- there is no flour, butter, eggs or sugar in these cookies (as a result, they are also gluten-free) and yet they are still delicious! Trust me. I used chocolate chips in the first batch, but I didn’t have enough when I made them the second time so I divided the dough and made half with chocolate and half with raisins (and extra cinnamon). I’m not sure which I liked better so in the future I will probably just do half and half again!   

Healthy Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients

  • 3 large, ripe bananas, mashed (about 1.5 cups)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or safflower, or coconut oil)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup almond meal*
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened or sweetened)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (I added more to the raisin cookies)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 6-7 oz. chocolate chips (or raisins)

*Almond meal is easy to make yourself-  just pulse almonds in a food processor (I used my Cuisinart Mini Prep) until it’s the texture of sand. I used blanched almond slivers (found in baking aisle) but whole almonds would work too. Almond meal is sold in stores, but it’s pretty expensive. Just make your own.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine bananas, vanilla and oil. Using a fork or potato masher, mash the bananas and mix together. In a separate bowl, mix together oats, almond meal, coconut, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. If you want to do half chocolate/half raisin cookies, now is the time to separate the batter into two bowls. Fold in the chocolate chips and/or raisins. Drop a tablespoon of dough, about an inch apart, onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until just slightly golden on top and underneath.  

We took advantage of the long 4th of July weekend and went up to my parents’ house in NY, aka “Camp Croton”- because going there is like “summer camp” for our city dog, Bailey, with all of the hiking, swimming, and playing he does, not to mention the treats (Dad…).  It’s also like “camp” for us humans too (for all of the same reasons) so the name has stuck! This time, in addition to hammocking (yes, it’s a verb), swimming, canoeing, and indulging in whatever delicious baked goods my mother decided to make that day, we took a day trip to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY and took a pesto making class! Stone Barns is a “farm” (which is a complete understatement) that also has an education center, hiking grounds, cooking classes, and a farmer’s market. Its mission is “to celebrate, teach and advance community-based food production and enjoyment, from farm to classroom to table.”  

The Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant is also on the property, which doesn’t have an actual menu but instead offers a 5 or 8 course dinner customized by the chef based on the table’s preferences and what is fresh and seasonal that day. We snuck a peek inside and it looked like they were setting up for a wedding that day! We opted for iced tea and scones at the less formal, but equally lovely (not mention more financially appropriate), Blue Hill Cafe. 🙂

But first, we met our group and learned how to make farm fresh pesto! 

 The first stop was the drying cellar where the garlic is stored. We selected a number of cloves- I had no idea how many varieties of garlic there are! We did a tasting but to be honest, I couldn’t really tell the difference. The type we used for the pesto was Music Garlic.

Next stop was the garden where we picked our fresh basil…

Then we headed into the kitchen/classroom where we split up into groups and were assigned tasks.

We got off easy- our job was slicing the bread!

The instructor put all of the ingredients into a blender and then  passed the pesto around for everyone to taste.

The product of our hard work! 🙂  

At the end of the class each person received a bulb of garlic to take home and plant, store, or eat!

On the way out we saw this sign posted on the wall and thought it was hysterical!

We hiked around the property afterwards and found these guys out in the pasture.

They didn’t look like they were moving anywhere (sorry, lea…).

They handed out recipe cards at the end of class which included a number of different pesto recipes. One that caught my attention when the instructor mentioned it was Kale Pesto. As luck would have it, we received a huge bunch of kale in our CSA delivery the next week. Naturally, we decided to make Kale Pesto! So we got ourselves a crusty loaf of bread, dusted off the blender, and employed our newly honed pesto making skills to make this electric GREEN Kale Pesto: 

Kale Pesto

  • ¼- ½ cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • ½ -1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ pound kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped (2-3 bunches)
  • 1 cup basil (1 large bunch)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Black pepper to taste

Add all ingredients except oil to blender or food processor and blend until combined. Slowly drizzle in oil and continue to blend until you reach the desired consistency. *my note: all measurements are really just estimates and depend on your personal taste-if you like it spicy, add more garlic; if you like a more chunky pesto, use less oil; etc… I want to try it with walnuts next time!  

In addition to just slathering it on bread and devouring enjoying it, we also made a simple pesto pasta by tossing it with some cherry tomatoes (from our garden!) and spaghetti rigate. I mention the pasta type because this kind has little ridges in the spaghetti which really catch and hold onto the pesto! Delicious!

Last week, we received a large bunch of leafy mustard greens in our CSA bag. I’ve never had mustard greens before and wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. I rinsed the greens and took a bite- whoa! it was spicy! I didn’t expect that. So I did a little research and found this recipe for a bulgur salad with dates that seemed like a good way to compliment the bitter, spicy green. It was delicious! I will definitely make this again this summer. It’s an easy recipe to modify too- I made a number of changes including using buckwheat instead of bulgur (because it’s what I had in the pantry); I added chick peas (for more satiety/protein); and sprinkled freshly grated parm on top (just because!). I imagine this would work with kale or swiss chard too, but I think the mustard greens and the dates are a magic combo!  

   

Mustard Greens and Bulgar

from EatingWell (January/February 2008)  

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup bulgur (I used buckwheat, but any grain would probably work)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 can chick peas, optional (I threw these in for extra protein)
  • 6 teaspoons walnut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil, divided (I used evoo)
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 12 cups thinly sliced mustard greens, (about 1 bunch), tough stems removed
  • 1/3- 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates (I used ½ cup because I love dates!)
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • 4 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese  

Directions

Prepare bulgur or buckwheat according to package directions. Transfer to a colander and rinse under cool water; drain. Toast walnuts in a small pan over medium-low heat, stirring, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes (I did this is the toaster oven).

Place 5 teaspoons oil and shallots in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until the shallots start to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add mustard greens, dates and 2 tablespoons water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender and the water evaporates (add another tablespoon of water if the pan is dry before the greens are tender), about 4 minutes. Stir in vinegar, salt and the prepared bulgur or buckwheat; cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Drizzle with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, sprinkle with the walnuts and grated parm before serving.

Key Lime Meltaways

For Father’s Day this year, I sent my Dad some Key Lime Meltaways. My parents went to Key West recently and upon our recommendation, experienced the magic of chocolate dipped frozen key lime pie. Yes, that’s right- a slice of key lime pie, frozen, dipped in chocolate and served on a stick! What could be better?!

When Tony and I were in Key West last summer we had one everyday. On the day we left we even had one for breakfast- literally while driving in our convertible rental car- the perfect exit!

I realized shipping a frozen key lime pie to New York was not economically feasible ($115 for 12 bars here, anyone?), so I decided to make the next best thing- key lime cookies! These are great summer cookies- small, light and refreshing!

adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Grated zest of 2 key limes (or two regular limes)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

 In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream butter and 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar until pale and fluffy. Add lime zest, juice, and vanilla; beat until fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add to butter mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined.

Divide dough in half. Place each half on an 8-by-12-inch sheet of parchment paper. Roll in parchment to form a log 1 1/4 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log. Refrigerate logs until cold and firm, at least 1 hour (I refrigerated the dough overnight).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Remove parchment from logs; cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space rounds 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake cookies until barely golden, about 13 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. While still warm, toss cookies with remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a re-sealable plastic bag. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 weeks.

I debated dipping them in chocolate, but it was late and I didn’t want to ruin my hard work! Next time when I’m not under a holiday deadline crunch, I will experiment!