Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Superbowl Brownies

My mom loved chocolate and that included brownies, one of her favorite desserts.  Lucky for me, I inherited Mom's cookbooks and I've tweaked her favorite brownies with a local flavors.

The flour is from Nash's; the walnuts from Grouse Mountain Farm, and I might have used eggs from River Farm, but Liz had her baby and they weren't at the market last week, so I used flax seed egg replacer.

So disappointed brownies aren't for dogs.  I vote for carob next time.

This recipe actually came from and old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but brownies are timeless. It's hard to improve on the old school recipes, unless you add more nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips.

Superbowl Brownies
(Makes 12 brownies)

1/2 cup vegan shortening or local butter
2 one-ounce squaares of baking chocolate
3/4 cup Northwest flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Flax seed egg replacer for 2 eggs (2 tbs. ground flax seeds blended with 6 tablespoons water)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup Northwest lightly toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil an 8-inch baking pan. Melt shortening and chocolate together in a double boiler over hot water.  Cool.

Sift flour and baking powder together.   In another bowl mix egg-replacer and sugar.  Blend with shortening and chocolate, then stir into flour mixture with walnuts and chocolate chips.  Stir just until blended.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  When a toothpick comes out clean, remove from oven and cool on cooling rack.  Serve with coconut sorbet.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Meyer Lemon Biscotti

Some people think black eyed peas will bring good luck in the new year.  I've always been a dessert first kind of person, so I thought why not start the year off with biscotti?  It could start a new trend.

This time it's my mother's recipe altered with Meyer lemon standing in for the orange and anise and local flour and walnuts replacing the store bought varieties.  It's not the first biscotti recipe I've posted and it definitely won't be the last.

When I was perusing photos for this post, I found this one taken when my book first came out.  This was at the Edmonds Bookshop, where owner Mary Kaye made carrot hummus and set up this table for my book.

The thing about biscotti is they are easy to make, they freeze well and also make great gifts, if they last that long.

Local whole wheat pastry flour is the way to go with these, but you can use unbleached white flour and they'll turn out just fine.

Walnuts are best and local walnuts even better, but it's a splurge and local walnuts could be scarce this time of year.  I've done hazelnut biscotti in the past, and you could substitute pecans if you want.

No one can resist these twice baked wonders.  In case you're interested here's a bit of biscotti history.  Seems these dry cookies were made for traveling. 

Here's to everything sweet in 2015!

Meyer Lemon Biscotti
(Makes 36 to 45 cookies)

4 cups flour (add enough for a stiff dough)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs, beaten, or flax seed egg replacer for 3 eggs, whipped
1 cup Florida Crystals, or sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest and juice from 1 Meyer lemon
1 cup toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Sift flour with baking powder and soda.  In another bowl mix eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla extract and lemon zest and juice. Combine the flour and liquid ingredients, adding enough flour for a very stiff dough.  

Form 2 or 3 long rolls about 14-inches long.  If you make 3 rolls, the cookies will be much smaller and you'll get more cookies.   

Place rolls on baking sheet.  Flatten with the tops slightly with your hand. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Slice cookies carefully on the slant, about 1/2-inch thick.

I was promised biscotti.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ranger Cookies

One of my resolutions this year was to cut back on sweets and only eat treats if I make them at home.That means setting aside time, getting ingredients and since I like to eat as locally as possible I already had Nash's flour, Grouse Mountain walnuts and dried cherries from Ayers Creek Farm.  I probably could have found oats, too but three ingredients seemed enough and cookies seem the perfect way to start the new year.

Local flour is gaining popularity and the variety that grows best west of the Cascades is soft wheat, which is perfect for quick breads and cookies.  Nash's flour seems to have even less gluten than the store brought variety.  I usually add a bit more flour to the baked goods.

This was my walnut supply last fall.

The supply is dwindling.

This is my begging Cooking Assistant.  He's a pro, and a good counter surfer, so he's not usually allowed in the kitchen when we're cooking.

I found the perfect cookie recipe in an old Betty Crocker cookbook that my dad once owned. I was surprised to see a cookbook on a shelf at house after he passed away.  Dad was a great cook but he rarely used recipes. The was a mystery until  I spotted the sticker on the front that said the book was a complimentary copy from Glendale Federal Savings.  

Another thing dad liked was deals and freebies.  He actually had two cookbooks from banks, making me wonder if banks today offer free cookbooks as incentives to investors. 

Perhaps it's an idea that needs reviving.

Here's the recipe:

Ranger Cookies
(Makes about 3 dozen cookies )

1/2 cup Earth Balance (butter sticks) or butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flax seed egg replacer (1 tbs ground flax seeds plus 3 tablespoons water, whipped together until frothy) or use 1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut or toasted walnuts
1/2 cup dried fruit (optional)

Heat oven to 375F. Mix thoroughly Earth Balance and sugar.  Blend in egg replacer and vanilla.  Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonson an ungreased baking sheet.  Each cookie should 2 inches apart to allow for expansion.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Orange-Ginger Carrot Soup with Lemon Cashew Cream

After the rich holiday treats and meals, I'm ready for something healthy, but I need delicious too.  That's how I invented this citrus-ginger flavored carrot soup with lemon cashew cream.

Carrots are in season about 9 months a year in the Northwest and my favorite time for carrots is winter. Like Brussels sprouts, carrots get sweeter in cold weather.  The citrus tones from blood oranges and Meyer lemon in the cashew cream make this a dreamy treat.  I honestly never knew carrot soup could be so good.  

Get your carrots at the market if you want fresh carrots.

You see this sign when carrots are back at local markets in the spring.  New crop carrots are very sweet and tender.  Larger winter carrots are often sweet with more carrot flavor. 

In the end, we got local carrots.  My Cooking Assistant loves the size of these northwest winter carrots.

The lemon-cashew cream has possibilities beyond this soup.  It is simply amazing and would enhance desserts as well as hot whole grain cereal in the morning.  Though the recipe mentions organic blood oranges and lemons (because the recipes lists zest), I also prefer that all the other ingredients be organic as well, if possible.

Orange-Ginger Carrot Soup with Lemon Cashew Cream
(Serves 4)
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 pound carrots, washed and sliced
1 1/2  tablespoons freshly grated ginger root
4 cups water or vegetable stock
2 organic blood oranges, outer skin grated and juiced
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt to taste
Lemon cashew cream (see recipe below)

1. Sauté onion in olive oil, in a heavy skillet, until onions soften.  Add pressed garlic and celery.  Stir and cook for a few minutes.  Remove from heat.
2. Combine cooked vegetables, carrots, ginger and water in a soup pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until carrots become very tender.
3. Add orange juice, orange zest, brown rice and pepper flakes.  Blend in a blender, 2 cups at a time until smooth and creamy.  Add sea salt to taste.  Drizzle each serving with lemon cashew cream.

Lemon-Cashew Cream
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons organic Meyer lemon zest
1 tablespoon organic Meyer lemon juice

1. Soak cashews in apple cider for at least an hour. 
2. Blend cashews, apple cider, lemon juice and zest until smooth and creamy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ethel's Sugar Cookies

Every year around the holidays I make these cookies.  But this year I feel so overloaded with sweets, I nearly skipped the tradition. 

But when my friends gave me these cookies and the biscotti and gingerbread were both made with Nash's flour, it got me thinking how much I love Nash's flour!  Nash Huber's farm is on the Peninsula, just beyond Sequim. You can buy Nash's flour at the University District Farmers Markert, Nash's Farm Store or PCC Natural Markets.

My thoughts returned to my holiday favorites--Ethel's Sugar Cookies. I found the recipe long ago. I was about ten years old when I found it in an old Betty Crocker holiday cookie pamphlet. 

My thoughts about ditching sugar disappeared as I got out the butter, flour and I used a flax seed egg replacer this time around. I'm hopelessly devoted to the sweet tones of life.

I forgot the sugar sprinkles, but I like these buttery cookies plain anyway.  

Ethel's Sugar Cookies
(Makes about 45 cookies)

3/4 cup Earth Balance buttery sticks (or butter)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds blended until frothy in 6 tablespoons water (or 2 eggs beaten)
2 1/2 to 3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Blend sugar and butter until creamy.  Whip in vanilla extract and flax seed egg replacer. 

Blend flour and baking powder in a separate bowl .  Combine wet and dry ingredients, adding more flour for a stiff dough.  

Refrigerate dough for 1 hour or longer.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Roll dough to 1/4 inch on a floured board.  Cut in shapes.  Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.  Bake for 6 to 8 minutes.

Even my Cooking Assistant thinks these cookies are addictive, and with Nash's flour they are even better!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cranapple Walnut Cake

This picture was taken about 7 or 8 years ago at the U-District Farmers' Market. This is what the cranberry harvest for farmers' markets looked like the first few seasons farmers started bringing these local treasures to the market.

The tables have more berries now and the price is higher these days. It isn't easy to grow cranberries. They grow on bushes that need bogs, and with all that water, cranberries are susceptible to fungus

Chemical fungicides aren't allowed for organic cranberries, so growing them is more challengine. You might say it's an act of love.  One farm Starvation Alley is doing just that. They are the first certified organic cranberry grower in Washington state. And they sell berries in the U-district market. Check out their story, then support their farm.

For this recipe, apples help balance the sweet tones with the tart cranberries in Cranapple Walnut Cake, a recipe I found in Mollie Katzen's Heart of the Plate

Someone isn't interested unless we're testing actual recipes.
Of course the third ingredient that grabbed my attention was walnuts, another northwest treasure.  I happen to have a significant amount of my walnuts from Grouse Mountain Farm. Once you've eaten the best walnuts, you'll never want the store bought variety again.  I'm hoping this box of local walnuts will last through the winter.  I may have to hide them.

Nash's flour is available and it's worth the extra cost.  How many people can say they've ever really had fresh flour?  Just a ferry ride away in Sequim, Washington, Nash's organic farm has been grinding out flour for eight years now.

Recipe adaptation

I started with Molly Katzen's recipe and I made a few alterations along the way. I increased the flour measurement because Nash's flour has less gluten and seems to have more moisture.  I used darker brown sugar, so the recipe turned out significantly darker than the photo in the book that appears to have been made with very light colored sugar.

I could have used less sugar, but I wasn't sure because the cranberries were very tart and the Granny Smith apples were also tart.  Also I cut down on the amount of apples and I chopped as opposed to slicing them.  I find with Nash's flour, pastries don't always hold together as well, but the flavor makes up for that minor problem.

Cranapple Walnut Cake
(Makes one 9 by 13-inch cake or about 10 servings)

1 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten, or flax-seed egg replacer for 2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (if using fresh local flour use 2 1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 large apple, peeled and core removed, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup toasted walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly oil a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

2. Beat together eggs, brown sugar, oil and vanilla.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, in a separate bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients, adding the fruit and nuts.  Mixture will be quite thick.  Spread in the prepared baking pan.  

4. Bake for 45 minutes or until lightly browned on top.  Test with toothpick before removing from the oven.  Allow to cool on cooling rack before slicing.  Top with whipped topping, coconut sorbet or ice cream.