Sunday, April 27, 2014

Brownies on a Sunday

It is one of these Sundays. The work pile is sky high. The weather is dreary, cold and rainy, and all the new outdoor cushions only look good, and looking at them has to suffice. Plus, the new work week is near. One day ahead.


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With sadness I read this morning that friends from Switzerland had to put down their wonderful dog today. She was hanging in there, loving everyone and life, but had many health problems in her 16th year of life. I spent much time with them when they just adopted her, and fondly remember the days I spent ‘puppy sitting’.

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To infuse my day with a little bit of comfort, I baked brownies again. Typically I share my baked goods at work. but these I cut up into bite size pieces, and freeze them. They are really good, right out of the freezer with hot coffee. Or a dessert snack.

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Chocolate Brownies, almost vegan.
Makes large 17 by 11 inch cookie sheet of brownie, or 2 regular sized brownie pans.
  • 4 tablespoons +  4 teaspoons ground flax meal
  • 1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 cups pure cane sugar 
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (*)
  • 1 cup and 4 TB all-purpose gluten-free flour (e.g. Trader Joes or King Arthur)(*)
  • 1 cup oat flour (*)
  • (* or: 2 1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons gluten-free or regular flour instead of the other flours)
  • 1 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 9 ounces dark chocolate chips, about 1 1/2 cup standard sized chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 325* F and lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 17 x 11 pan.  In a small bowl mix the ground flax and water and set aside so that it can thicken and gel.
  2. In a medium bowl sift and stir together the flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together until fully combined.  Set aside.
  3. Melt the coconut oil and chocolate together in  a microwave-safe bowl in 30 second increments —stirring each time, until fully melted.  Stir to combine.
  4. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and the flax mix. Add the instant espresso powder, vanilla, and almond extract until fully combined.  Now, add in the melted chocolate/coconut oil mix, mix until fully combined.
  5. Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Use a spoon, and add spoon by spoon so that it does too much. Keep the stand mixer on low speed. A thick but soft dough will form. 
  6. Spoon the dough batter into the pan and evenly distribute to the edges with a spatula or your fingers.  The dough should be very soft and easy to press/spread.
  7. Place in the center of your oven and bake for ca. 35 minutes. The sides will rise slightly higher than the center.  Allow to cool for 30-45 minutes.
  8. Once cooled it can be cut into bite-sized pieces and frozen.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring smoothies

It is time for spring cleaning, and not just the house and the garden. The fast way for an physical energy jump? A smoothie.

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The vegan smoothies:

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An arugula  smoothie with seedless grapes.

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A classic baby spinach greek yogurt smoothie, a gentle introduction to green smoothies for everyone!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lemon Almond Teacakes (GF)

Within 2 weeks we went from 4 feet of snow and freezing temperature to summer. Yesterday it was so warm, people had lunch at the tables on the sidewalk. I put the patio chairs and the first umbrella on the deck, and cleared out the garden from winter debris, uncovering the first herbs. It was so warm it was time to wear shorts. Life is good.

For the first patio Saturday afternoon coffee and cake get-together, I made individualized GF lemon almond cakes and coconut rum cakes.

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The first cakes were inspired by the still ripening Meyer Lemons. One of them I had used in a wonderful lemon asparagus risotto. The zest would be wonderful in these tea cakes to infuse them with lemon aroma.

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The second batch was inspired by coconut and rum --- a similar base dough but with different flavors. The texture of both is wonderful fluffy, not too sweet and slightly caramelized on the outside.
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Individual cakes are a really good idea because not all of the cake might be eaten with a small group of friends, and the rest can easily be frozen for another time. Perfect to partition. The slightly bigger cakes are great to share for 2 people.
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Lemon Almond Tea Cakes (glutenfree)
special equipment: Nordic Ware Garland bundt pan
  • 5 TB softened unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup blond cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
  • zest of 1 organic Meyer Lemon
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2/3 cup glutenfree all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fleur de sel
Preheat your oven at 350 F. Spray your mold generously with a baking spray.
In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and Fleur de sel; and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one after the other, incorporated well before adding the second egg. Add the lemon zest, the lemon juice, and the almond milk.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until homogeneous.
Fill the molds 3/4 full and bake the teacakes for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out dry. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding (important! they are kind of soft and will fall apart otherwise), leaving them to completely cool on a rack.

Coconut Rum Tea Mini Cakes (glutenfree)
special equipment: Nordicware rosebud platinum pan
  • 5 TB softened unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup blond cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 TB almond milk
  • 3 TB dried unsweetended coconut
  • 1/4 ts of coconut extract
  • 1/4 ts of rum extract
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1/3 cup glutenfree all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fleur de sel
Preheat your oven at 350 F. Spray your mold generously with a baking spray.
In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and Fleur de sel; and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one after the other, incorporated well before adding the second egg. Add the almond milk, extracts, and coconut, and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until homogeneous.

Fill the molds 3/4 full and bake the teacakes for about 30 minutes, or until the toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out dry. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding (important! they are kind of soft and will fall apart otherwise), leaving them to completely cool on a rack.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lemon, Asparagus and Saffron Risotto

It was time to harvest the Meyer Lemons. Yes, growing lemons indoors in Maine in the winter. They had turned yellow in January, and felt soft when squeezed a few weeks ago. They never developed that deep fragrance I would smell when entering the house, their sign that they are indeed ripe, but the tree developed new blossoms. So, I saw this as a sign that it was time to harvest.
Spring time and lemons --- a nice asparagus lemon saffron risotto would be the dish to make.

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Meyer Lemon, Asparagus and Saffron Risotto 
Makes 2 servings
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 2 shallots or 1/2 white onion, peeled, small diced
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • juice of 1/2 Meyer Lemon
  • zest of one organic (home-grown) Meyer lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups of beef stock or vegetable stock (preferred: home made)
  • about 10 stalks of frozen, grilled asparagus (or fresh asparagus)
  • pinch of saffron
  • salt to taste
  • some grated parmesan
Preparation:
1) Preheat the stock so it can be added hot, and does not bring down the temperature of the risotto. Set aside.
2) Heat the butter a heavy bottom sauce pan (Le creuset pots are perfect for the task) on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sweat until translucent. Add the rice, stir and ‘toast’ for 30 seconds on medium heat. Now, add the lemon juice, and stir in until well-combined. 
2) Turn down the heat to medium-low, and start ladling in 1/4-1/2 cup of hot stock to the risotto. Also add the lemon zest and the saffron. Cook the risotto gently on low heat until the liquid is evaporated (4-5 min). Once the stock is cooked off, add another 1/2 cup of hot stock. Repeat until the rice is soft and cooked (about 25 min). During the last 10 minutes, add the asparagus.

3) Add the parmesan cheese and gently stir in. Taste for saltiness and either add more parmesan or salt to taste. Serve!
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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Baby (bundt) cakes

Sunday. Time to kick off the shoes, make coffee, and eat a mini bundt cake baked on Saturday. Enjoy a sun bath in the French door windows.

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The sun slowly melts the snow piles in the garden, the circles around the tree become larger every day. The deck floor emerges. It will still take weeks, …..weeks until there are buds on the trees. Last summer I planted a plum tree; it shed its leaves earlier than any other tree. With hope and slight concern I wait for it to come back to life this spring, to grow and blossom. Buds. Blossoms. Plums?

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The bird feeder was empty again this morning. Hoof marks around the feeder, leading into the woods in an elegant line. Likely one of the hungry deer that decided to look for alternate food resource after a too long, too cold winter.

Time to melt some chocolate, glaze the ‘mother’ bundt cake, and to type up the recipe.

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