Coconut Blondies!

Delicious coconut blondies, featuring both coconut oil and coconut flakes! Yum!

Delicious coconut blondies, featuring both coconut oil and coconut flakes! Yum!

Coconut blondies are one of our family’s ultimate quick and easy desserts! We hope you enjoy them!

Ingredients

  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2/3 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 2 c. Rapadura
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or carob chips, divided
  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes (more or less to taste)

Directions

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate large bowl, mix together the coconut oil and Rapadura (it should have a sand-like consistency). Then, in another small bowl, mix together the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture to the coconut oil and Rapadura mixture. Thoroughly mix. Slowly add the flour mixture to the coconut oil mixture just until blended. Pour into the 9×13 inch dish and smooth it out until it is an even layer. Sprinkle 3/4 c. of the chocolate chips on top of the batter. Then, sprinkle 1 c. of coconut flakes on top of the chocolate chips, creating an even layer of coconut flakes (add more or less as desired). Finally, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c. of the chocolate chips on the top of the coconut flakes. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until done (knife inserted into the middle comes out clean). Enjoy!

Coconut Curried Shrimp Salad

In the summertime we do simple meals. Our upstate NY home does not have central air conditioning and the heat often seems to drain the life out of us. Cooking in our kitchen during blistering summer heat is definitely not an enjoyable experience.

Summers are also busy. Between vacations, time at the pool, exploring the outdoors, gardening, and outdoor home improvements (because those are definitely tough to do in the wintertime in NY), it’s a hectic season. Maybe God knew we’d all be so busy outdoors in the summertime and that is why most of fruit and vegetables are ready then. We don’t have to cook, we just go pick our food right off the plant and eat it. It doesn’t get much easier!

So, in the summer, we opt for simple whole foods. For lunch today, I munched on some pistachios, cherries, yogurt, kale chips and a banana. Simple. Easy. Delicious. For summertime dinners, our family adores salads. Even our two year old eats her salad with gusto. So, today we are sharing a recipe for coconut-curried shrimp salad. It is one of our favorites. We hope you enjoy it too!

Coconut Curried Shrimp Salad

Mix together: 1/2 teaspoon of curry, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a pinch of black pepper, and 1/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut. Once mixed, toss the spice mixture with 1 lb of large shrimp (peeled). Coat thoroughly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat until melted. Add shrimp (in a single layer). Cook shrimp for four minutes on one side and flip. Then, cook for another three minutes on the other side. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Prepare a salad with toppings of your choice and add the shrimp on top. Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Homemade Fruit Tarts

When I was little, I loved helping my grandmother in her kitchen. Before we began baking she would always put on one of her floral print aprons. One time she even gave me my very own apron. It was just my size and on the front of it was a recipe for elephant stew, complete with a picture of an elephant. I was so proud of that apron and still have it today.

My grandmother was famous for her pies. All her grandkids loved her peanut butter pie the best, but she enjoyed making fruit pies more than any other type. Thinking back on it, I had no idea, at the time, how much effort she put into making those fruit pies. She usually handpicked (or bought from a farmer) the berries for each pie. Then, she made the sauce from scratch. I vividly remember the color of her blueberry pie sauce. Jet black. To this day I have no idea what she did to make that sauce such a rich, deep blue, but it was divine and brimming with blueberries.

Often, she would let me help her make the pies. Back then, I had little appreciation for pie-making. It was not making the pies I was most excited about, it was seeing what we would do with the extra pie crust. My grandmother, who grew up during the last few years of the depression, never let anything go to waste. She never threw away any extra pie crust. Instead she would always make something out of it. I was always fascinated to see what she would do with it. My favorite was when she would use the left-over crust to make homemade mini-cinnamon rolls. They were a perfect combination of crunchy and melt-in-your mouth goodness, and I often ate them by the dozens.

I continue to follow my grandmother’s tradition of never throwing away extra pie crust. Indeed, pie crust has many uses and one of my absolute favorite ways of using it is to make homemade fruit tarts. These tarts are a healthier version of the modern day pop tart. The pie crust is made with soaked grains and the filling is simply homemade jam made from last year’s berry harvest. I hope you enjoy it. Our family savors these and these tarts are wonderful reminder that one day soon berries will be in season once again.

Let’s first start with the dough. Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions (2001), strongly recommends soaking most grains to improve their digestibility and nutritional value. Here is our favorite pie crust recipe using soaked grains. This usually makes at least two to three pie crusts.

Soaked Pie Crust*

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt (I make my own. See here for recipe).
3 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp fine sea salt

Cream together butter and yogurt. Slowly add flour and salt until combined. Cover and leave on counter for 12-24 hours to soak. Then, either use the dough or divide into smaller increments and freeze.

When ready to use, roll out desired amount onto a floured surface. It usually takes 30 minutes or so to bake at 350 degrees.

Now, on to the fruit tarts!

Fruit Tarts

Pie crust dough, use leftovers or whatever amount of pie crust dough you’d like
Fruit jam, berries or whatever filling you would like

Roll out pie crust into a square or rectangular shape. Crust should be just as thin as if making a pie. Use a knife to cut crust into squares or rectangles. Then, fill one side with jam or desired filling.

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Fold one side over the next and seal edges closed. Cut a small line or tiny holes on the top crust.

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Then, place on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Bake on 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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*Recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions (2001) by Sally Fallon.

This post is shared on Real Food Wednesday and Tasty Traditions.

Root Vegetable Rendezvous

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Here in New York we are still in the throes and woes of winter. Just this morning, our grass which was just starting to peek out under the snow, was promptly buried yet again by several more inches of snow. Such is life just south of the Adirondacks. As I have mentioned before we try to eat seasonally, but what does that look like right now when the ground is buried by snow?

Two words: Root vegetables. Root vegetables are all those fall crops that typically keep relatively well through most of winter. Some examples are butternut squash, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets. We are also blessed to be a part of a CSA able to grow some foods in greenhouses throughout the winter. This means our table is often graced with the presence of kale, salad greens, spinach and bok choy even in the dead of winter when it seems impossible for anything to grow.

Even though there may not be a wide variety of vegetables available in the winter (if eating local, seasonal produce), there is a wide variety of things to do with each of these vegetables. Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy root vegetables.

Beets

Incredibly high in vitamin B and iron among numerous other nutrients and minerals, beets are a delight to cook with and a refreshing addition to numerous dishes. We typically roast beets (unpeeled) for two to three hours on 250 degrees. Then we peel the beets and either eat them as a side, sliced and topped with a hint of melted butter and salt or we use the beets in other dishes. They are a delicious addition in a salad (and pair well in a salad with walnuts). Another exquisite way to enjoy roasted beets is to slice them and then alternate slices of beets with goat cheese. Then, top with a balsamic glaze (or balsamic dressing if you do not want to make your own glaze). Oh so good!

Butternut squash

Butternut Apple Walnut Soup*

Ingredients: One butternut squash, two apples, 1/2 cup walnuts, three and a half cups chicken stock, one onion, one to two cups of milk, thyme (to taste), salt/pepper (to taste), olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of butter

Peel and remove seeds from butternut squash. Chop into one to two-inch chunks. Lightly coat with olive oil, thyme, salt, pepper and roast in oven on 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. Saute onion in butter until nearly translucent. Add apple and walnuts to onion and continue till apple is heated through (5-10 min). In a large pot add butternut squash, apple/onion/walnut mixture and two cups of chicken stock. Cook for 10-15 minutes on medium heat. Remove from heat. Use an immersion blender to puree soup. Add one to two cups of milk to desired consistency and return to low heat. Heat through.

Helpful hint: If you have an abundance of squash, double or triple the recipe and just after pureeing the soup, but before adding in the milk, freeze the desired amount. Then, when you would like a quick and easy meal just pull it out of the freezer and heat up on stove, adding milk once warmed.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are an incredibly versatile and easy to prepare vegetable. Our favorite way is to simply poke a few holes in the top of them and bake in the oven for 250 degrees for two to three hours. We also enjoy sweet potato fries (cut into strips, toss into a bag with a bit of olive oil/butter, salt and cinnamon and cook on a cookie sheet for 45 min on 400 degrees).

Carrots

Now that our girls are a bit older and we do not need to worry about carrots posing a choking hazard, we thoroughly enjoy taking along bags of carrot sticks to snack on when we are out and about. We also throw carrots into just about any recipe from soups to smoothies to Quiche. Here is one recipe showcasing this antioxidant rich vegetable:

Coconut-Ginger Carrot Soup

Ingredients: 1 lb of carrots (coarsely chopped), 1 onion (chopped), 1-2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of fresh, shredded ginger, 1 c. cream (or sour cream/creme fraiche), 4 c. chicken stock, 1 potato chopped, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes, salt/pepper to taste.

Saute onions in butter. Set aside. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Add onions, potato, carrots, ginger, lemon juice and coconut flakes. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes (or until carrots are tender). Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blended (or in batches in a blender/food processor). Once pureed turn to low and add either 1 cup of cream or 1 cup of sour cream/creme fraiche. Heat over low heat till warmed through.

Another option: Instead of pureeing the coconut flakes into the soup, hold the coconut flakes and add them to the soup at the very end (post-puree) for a more textured soup.

So, there you have a few of our favorite ways to rendezvous with root vegetables. How about you? Do you have any favorite ways you like to enjoy root vegetables?

*Recipe adapted from Butternut-Apple Soup (p. 60) in The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book (2001).

This post is shared on Real Food Wednesday, Tasty Traditions, Fight Back Friday, Old Fashioned Friday and Fresh Bites Friday.

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Hidden Ingredient Frustration Sparks Homemade Cheese Cracker Endeavor!

“I have a market stand over here,” I overheard my two-year old daughter telling her sister the other day.  “This is my family over here,” she proudly announced, still talking about her market stand. Our girls (ages one and two) love going to the farmer’s market each week. We always look forward to discovering what our CSA farm has available each week. This week our fun new food to try was Bok Choy (otherwise known as Chinese cabbage). I have found myself relying more and more on our CSA for items other than our evening vegetables. We have our CSA fruits, veggies and herbs for breakfast, snacks, and lunch too.

I recently discovered our favorite on-the-go snack, Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies, has MSG in it. The MSG in the tasty bunnies is not labeled as MSG on the package, instead it is hidden under the “yeast extract” ingredient label. Yeast extract contains MSG (see here for more information regarding Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies ingredient labeling). I admit I am a huge supporter of buying organic fruits and veggies. However, there are lots of organic foods available that are terrible for you. Junk food is still junk food, even if it is labeled “organic”. Food prepared in certain ways (even with quality ingredients) is still not good for you.

All that being said, Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies were the one item that we thought was relatively safe. After all, the crackers are baked using only ten, non-GMO ingredients. On the surface, all the ingredients seemed wholesome. When I discovered MSG was hiding in our girls’ favorite out-and-about snack, I was overwhelmed. It was the only store-bought/processed snack that was on our “approved” list for our family. After I got over my initial shock and frustration, I realized we would have to do a better job figuring out wholesome snacks for our family.

We already make so much from scratch and the thought of making one more thing was a bit overwhelming. However, continuing to give our girls MSG was simply not an option. I started to think about quick and easy snacks for ourselves and started to look at our CSA stand with fresh eyes. Suddenly, the cucumbers I would typically turn into pickles or put in a salad became the perfect snack for our girls. The more I looked around the stand (and the rest of the market), the more I noticed an abundance of snack ideas. Our girls are still a bit young to munch on the stereotypical carrots and celery sticks snack (choking hazard), but they certainly love fresh raspberries and cherry tomatoes. After unloading our market goodies from the car the other Saturday, I walked into the kitchen and found both girls munching on raw cabbage leaves! How is that for an impromptu, easy snack?

For days when I know I am going to be out and about and need a snack for the girls, I have figured out how to pack some of the fresh fruits and veggies so they do not get squished, mashed or destroyed in by the girls and their antics in the car. I have also been making my own cheese crackers using a recipe our babysitter shared with us. I had always been intimidated to make crackers in the past, but the Annie’s MSG fiasco gave me just enough indignation to motivate me attempt to make crackers, which, it turns out, are not so hard to make after all. Plus, guess what key ingredient of homemade cheese crackers we can buy at our local farmer’s market? Cheddar cheese! Hooray!

I usually mix up a batch of the dough and then store it in smaller batches in the freezer. Typically, I take the recipe below and divide the dough into thirds. I realized one-third of the dough equals about one cookie sheet full of crackers. This is enough to last our family several days. So, I use one-third of the dough on the day I made it and then pop the other two, one-third increments of dough in the freezer and then pull out as needed. The frozen dough takes a bit of time to thaw so I usually pull it out of the freezer the night or morning before I want to use it. Then, it is ready to use by the afternoon. This recipe is cheaper than buying Annie’s crackers, tastier to eat and very easy to make! Plus, you can customize it with all sorts of spices and other ingredients to make your own delicious variety of crackers!

Homemade Cheese Crackers

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup flour (we use whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cold water

Pulse everything except water in a food processor until dough resembles coarse sand. Add in water, one tablespoon at a time until mixed well. Remove dough from processor and divide into three flatten balls. Cover each ball with plastic wrap. Chill in fridge for twenty minutes (or put whatever you are not planning to use in the next few days in the freezer). Roll out dough as thinly as possible on parchment paper (crackers will puff up while baking if the dough is not rolled thin enough). If dough starts to stick to the rolling-pin before it is thin enough, simply put the rolled-out dough in the fridge on the parchment paper for a few minutes till it firms up a bit. Then, pull it out and continue to roll it out to desired level of thinness (1/8″ is the goal). Use a pizza cutter (or whatever else you would like to use) to cut dough into desired shapes. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes or until crispy.

Enjoy!

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Garlic Scapes to the Rutscue!

I am a sucker for a good rut! I fall into one and, before I know it, we have been eating the same three meals on a rotating basis everyday. This could go on for weeks until I realize, “Whoops! I’ve done it again.” After I realize I have fallen into a rut, I usually try to avoid whatever food item (or group) we have been living off. This is a slight exaggeration, but basically true. When it comes to cooking, I usually like to stick to tried and true recipes. It is easier, after all, than searching for new recipes online, making sure I have all the ingredients, trying to read the recipe on my handy-dandy phone, and then prepare the new recipe all the while simultaneously trying to keep two toddlers happy right before dinner (ahem- bed) time. Yes, that’s my life and that is why I find myself falling into mealtime ruts on a regular basis. It is much easier to just throw a few ingredients together for a recipe I already have memorized than juggle the fiasco that ensues whenever I decide to cook a new recipe.

Even healthy ruts are still ruts. Our bodies need a variety of foods and sticking with one food (or food group) too long can be unhealthy, not to mention boring. My tendency for falling into ruts is one reason why I am so thankful to be a part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It forces me to be creative. We eat what is in season, and so the types of food I have in our fridge is constantly changing. For dinner tonight we had garlic-herb roasted chicken, kale with spring onions, and diced turnips with garlic scapes. Yes, that is one meat with a whopping four veggies in one meal. It was delicious and, yes, both of our toddlers ate it with gusto.

I had heard of (but never cooked with) kale, onions, and even turnips before we decided to switch to eating more wholesome foods. Once we switched over to a more wholesome diet, kale, onions and turnips became staple items in our home. However, I had most definitely never heard of garlic scapes before last week’s trip to our farmer’s market stand. I grabbed a few as a part of our share and came home and promptly ruined a perfectly good batch of garlic scapes by trying to roast them in the oven. Perhaps my ratio of scapes to oil was off or maybe I cooked them too short or long in the oven. Whatever the reason, it was enough for our family to wonder why on earth everyone at our CSA was raving about garlic scapes.

I decided to give garlic scapes one more try this week and I am so glad I did. They were incredible! All I did was saute them in a bit of butter and olive oil with salt and pepper along with some turnips (I chopped and boiled the turnips to soften them a bit before adding them to the scapes). After ten minutes or so I added a half cup of homemade chicken stock and cooked the mixture till the stock reduced to a glaze. My O my, were they tasty! If you have never had them before, they taste like a cross between asparagus and green beans- only much, much better (and that is saying a lot coming from me- I am a passionate fan of asparagus!). With little to no fat, garlic scapes are loaded with fiber, calcium, iron and vitamin C. Have a look at the picture below to see what I am raving about and then go out and try some! Garlic scapes are a fabulous way to pull yourself out of whatever meal rut you may find yourself in and spice up your meals! They are a great addition to many dishes (especially mashed potatoes) and I have heard they make a great pesto! If you want an even easier recipe for scapes than the one I shared above, simply cut the scapes into the desired size pieces and saute them in butter/olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper for ten minutes or so. Delicious!

Garlic Scapes! Cook them like this or chop into desired sized pieces!

Ultimate Bean Recipe!

Here is our family’s favorite way of preparing beans. We usually make this recipe once a month and then freeze the leftovers to use in a variety of recipes, such as in our black bean tortillas with mango lime salsa recipe. Beans are a relatively cheap protein and easy to store in bulk. To save extra money, we typically buy them in bulk from Azure Standard or Amazon.

Ultimate Bean Recipe!**

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups black turtle beans
  • 1 cup of black-eyed peas
  • warm water
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 8 cloves of fresh garlic, mashed or chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • Optional: 2 lbs of hamburger meat, cooked

Step One: Soak the beans. Place 3 cups of the black turtle beans and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice in a bowl and cover with warm water. In a separate bowl, place one cup of black-eyed peas in a bowl and cover with warm water. Let the beans soak for 12 to 24 hours.

Step Two: After 12 to 24 hours has passed, drain and rinse the beans. Mix the two types of beans together and place in a large pot. Cover with water and cook on high heat. When beans begin to boil, scoop any foam off the top of the water. Reduce the heat and add onions, garlic, and optional hamburger meat. Season with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you prefer*. Cook for six to eight hours on low heat. Enjoy!

*Remember, if  you are intending to use these beans for other recipes be sure not to add in any seasonings that will adversely affect the flavor of those other recipes.
**Recipe adapted from Basic Beans Recipe in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.