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.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sweet Potato-Walnut Biscuits

I meant to post this recipe for sweet potato biscuits last week, but we left for the beach and the truth was it was so relaxing, I never thought about posting anything after we got there.  Guilty of taking too many beach walks.

Washington winter storms chase most everyone away. This makes the beach is so inviting in winter, it's almost like having your own beach.  This lodge is offers three nights for the price of two.  I love the fireplaces in the room and just over the dunes is the beach.

The dogs get to play on the beach.  They don't mind wind or rain.

I like finding colors against the grey winter sky.

On another note, we have also just adopted another basset hound.  Meet Olivia.  She's not quite a poser like my Cooking Assistant but she now likes raw carrots and apples, no big surprise right?  It's baking season again so the homemade dog biscuits just keep coming.

You can buy sweet potatoes locally in the Northwest. These are so good, you may never buy store-bought sweet potatoes again.

They need to be cooked first.  You can bake them or steam them.  Remove the skins before adding the cooked sweet potatoes to the biscuit mix.

I found this biscuit recipe in one of my long-time favorite cookbooks, which as you can probably see has gotten plenty of use since it was published in 1990.

In the stores, I get the variety called Jewel or Red Garnet yams, sweeter varieties with more moisture.  We call some sweet potatoes yams, but true yams are found in Africa and are quite different than these sweet starchy vegetables.

I had a bit of Nash's whole wheat pastry flour (a local farm) left and I used that.  I always end up using more of this flour than store bought varieties, maybe because it's fresh and has more moisture.  If you haven't ever used fresh locally grown flour, you should at least try it once. The flavor is so much better than the bland store bought flour.

Here is my version of this great recipe:

Sweet Potato-Walnut Drop Biscuits
(Makes about 9 large biscuits)
Breakfast, lunch or dinner, these biscuits are good any time.  Thank you Susan Jane Cheney

1 orange
1/3 cup almond, rice or soy milk
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
3 tablespoons canola oil, melted Earth Balance baking sticks or butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup, plus enough for glazing

Preheat oven to 450F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with parchment paper.

Grate the orange zest and juice the orange.  Add almond milk to make 2/3 cup of liquid.  

Measure 2 cups sifted flour into a bowl, add baking powder and soda and sift together. Stir in walnuts.  In another bowl combine mashed sweet potato, oil and maple syrup.  Blend the dry and wet ingredients together. Add enough flour for a fairly stiff dough that can still be dropped by spoonful.

Spoon 9 biscuits onto a baking sheet, spaced as far apart as possible.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until biscuits are browned.  Place them on a baking rack and lightly brush the tops with maple syrup.

Meanwhile at the beach, the sun made an appearance.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Brussels Sprouts: Two Ways

The time to buy Brussels sprouts is when the weather turns cold.  And lately it's been cold enough to bring in the hummingbird feeder at night. Buy fresh sprouts, if possible. Frozen sprouts are often bitter and serving frozen Brussels sprouts can turn people off of this great vegetable. 

When the sprouts are on trees, they may be fresher than loose sprouts, but it's hard to tell how much you're paying when you buy a tree, which is discarded in the end. 

The price shown above is last year's price. This year, the price is between $5.99 and $6.99 for a "tree."  I have no idea how much a "tree" weighs but the tree is fairly heavy and compact, so the true price of the sprouts is probably about twice what the tree sells for, or about $10.99 a pound, making this a "special occasion food" for the frugal or $100 a week food shopper (is that really possible in the Northwest?).

Shallots are pricier than onions, so these are also for special dinners at our house. Could be, they'd both be perfect for Thanksgiving.

Brussels Sprouts, Leeks and Red Peppers with Lemon
(Serves 4)

1 large leek, sliced and washed thoroughly
1 tablespoon canola oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half
1/2 cup diced red pepper
3 or 4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon Mama Lil's Peppers, chopped, or use 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Sea salt to taste
Lemon juice, fresh (use a Meyer lemon, if possible)
Shredded coconut

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add oil and leek.  Stir and cook until leek begins to soften and brown.  

Add Brussels sprouts, stir and cook until sprouts begin to soften.  Add the diced red pepper and Mama Lil's.  Continue to stir and cook until sprouts are fork tender.  Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.  Drizzle with fresh lemon juice. Sprinkle with a small amount of shredded coconut. 

And keep them out of reach from your Cooking Assistant.

I cooked this Brussels sprouts recipe with shiitake mushrooms last year.  Now that I look at it, the simplicity of it is very similar to my Brussels sprouts and leeks and red peppers. I like the colors of this year's Brussels sprouts recipe.  

Use whichever version suits you.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shiitake Mushrooms
(Serves 4)

Brussels Sprouts from one tree (about 2 pounds sprouts)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 1/2  tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon Mama Lil's peppers, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon chopped red peppers
Smoked sea salt to taste
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, tough stems removed and sliced

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut sprouts in half. Toss sprouts and garlic in oil.  Stir in peppers. Layer sprouts in a baking dish. Sprinkle with smoked sea salt. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring once.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add mushrooms.  Stir and cook until they soften. In the last 10 minutes, add them to roasting Brussels sprouts.