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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Cold Avocado Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil

 

I don’t always love cold soups, sometimes I find them to be weird or odd. I almost hate the word soup being used at all since once chilled, it is hardly anything close to a classic soup recipe. I had a puree similar to this a couple of years ago at a local restaurant that has since closed, Juniper, and it was super delicious, light and full of flavor. I am obsessed with avocados, so short of sticking a straw directly into an avocado, it really doesn’t get much better than this. I had wanted to recreate that soup for so long, but kept forgetting about it, but I ended up running across the recipe that I pulled to work from, while moving our studio home a few weeks back. I couldn’t wait to try it out.

I knew I would be on my own with this one though, Mark refuses to try cold soups, he thinks they are “stupid”, haha. So on a work day a week or so ago, I prepped the soup and oil during my lunch time break and allowed everything to cool the rest of the day, while I worked. It was such a nice treat on a hot day where I didn’t feel like cooking. I have also been getting to a ton of yoga classes every week, so this was perfect the following day after a hot and sweaty yoga class. This soup has all the flavorings of a great guacamole recipe in each spoonful. It’s refreshing but adequately filling. The cilantro oil drizzled on top is loaded with a beautiful, fresh, clean finishing flavor and I especially love the subtle heat from the poblano pepper. I went pretty light on the sour cream, as it really didn’t need much, but a small drizzle was nice, especially in contrast to the heat from the pepper. If you love avocado as much as I do, I know you will love this soup. I served it with a handful of organic corn tortilla chips on the side, which ended up being delicious dipped right into the soup. Obviously if you are vegan, simply skip the sour cream or crema at the end and you have a beautiful, tasty vegan dish.

Chilled Avocado & Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil
serves 4-6
adapted from Gourmet Magazine, May 2005

2 fresh or frozen ears of corn, shucked
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups chopped white onion
1 fresh poblano pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped (including seeds)
3 firm-ripe California avocados
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup crema or sour cream

For cilantro oil
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Make soup:
Roast ears of corn on rack of gas burner over high heat, turning occasionally with tongs, until kernels are charred in spots, 4 to 5 minutes. (Alternatively, heat a dry well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and roast corn over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.) Transfer the ears of corn to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobs with a sharp knife, then cut cobs into thirds.
Bring kernels, cob pieces, 4 cups water, garlic, salt, and 1/2 cup onion to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan and boil until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, uncovered. Discard cob pieces.
Purée corn mixture along with the poblano pepper and remaining 3/4 cup onion in a blender, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids. Return broth to cleaned blender.
Quarter, pit, and peel 2 avocados, then add to blender with 2 tablespoons lime juice and purée until smooth. Transfer soup to a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill soup at least 1 hour.

Prepare cilantro oil while soup chills:
Purée cilantro, oil, and salt in cleaned blender, scraping down sides of blender several times. Pour oil into cleaned fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and let drain 15-20 minutes (do not press on solids). Discard solids.

Assemble soup:
Halve and pit remaining avocado and cut into 1-inch cubes, toss gently with remaining tablespoon lime juice in a bowl.
Whisk together crema or sour cream and remaining 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth.
Season soup with salt and ladle into 4-6 soup bowls. Divide avocado chunks among bowls, then drizzle with crema and cilantro oil.

Notes:
Soup can be chilled up to 1 day ahead.
Cilantro oil can be made 3 hours ahead and chilled, covered.

Grilled Corn for Cold Avocado Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil

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Gluten-free Whole Grain Pizza with Asparagus, Parmesan and Eggs

I’ve been using the same gluten-free pizza dough recipe for sometime now and though I do like it, I wanted to try something a little different and without the gums. I came across this recipe on Gluten Free Girl and The Chef a while back and when I saw that it contained no gums and it was flexible with the flours you can use, I was very intrigued. Shauna has a formula she created to make your own gluten-free all-purpose flour without gums and by weight instead of volume, plus it is very easy to make it a whole-grain mix by using different flours. Here is the original post about their pizza recipe that they changed a bit since their book came out. There are a few different flours you can choose from if you have sensitivities to things like corn or potato. I used their whole grain flour mixture that they featured in their post for whole grain muffins. I don’t have a ton of experience with baking, it is something I have only learned to love in the last year or so, but with the little bit I have done, I find that weighing your dry ingredients as opposed to measuring really gives you a consistent result, time and time again.

I decided a nice way to try out this new pizza dough recipe was to really let it shine, by not loading it with ingredients and sauces. I wanted a simple, tasty spring pizza that featured asparagus and eggs. The only thing I may change next time would be to use some mozzarella in addition to the parmesan to give it a bit more melty of a cheese base since the parmesan tends to not get super melty, however the dough was so delicious it honestly didn’t need it. Overall it was full of flavor from the asparagus and the fresh chives and the eggs were a wonderful compliment on top. The runny yolk was perfect for dipping the delicious crust into. You’ll be so surprised when you taste this crust at how it tastes just like real pizza crust – you’ll never know it’s gluten-free.

I know this post is large and contains a lot of info – but I promise it is all worth reading through. I am happy to finally have a good all-purpose flour mix to have on hand for different things and an even better pizza dough recipe. Play around with different toppings and flour combinations and please feel free share, I’d love to hear what you come up with.

GLUTEN-FREE GIRL’S ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR MIX

Here is the original information on the all-purpose flour mix (all content and info contained in both the flour mix and the pizza recipes is copyright of Gluten Free Girl and The Chef)

Want to make a whole grain AP mix in your kitchen? Here’s how.

We’re working with 70% whole grains/30% starches. We might someday go to all whole grains for some baked goods, but this blend works well for us now.

If you want to make a big batch for all the baking in your kitchen?

Choose 700 grams of any combination of the following flours:

Almond

Amaranth

Brown Rice

Buckwheat

Corn

Millet

Oat

Quinoa

Sorghum

Sweet Brown Rice

Teff

Almond is not a grain, but it is a whole flour, so I’ve thrown it in there. You might notice that I have not put in garbanzo (I don’t like it) or coconut (I don’t like the way it tastes or the way it sucks all the moisture out of a baked good) or soy (I’m having a hard time finding a good gluten-free one). You might like those. Substitute if you want.

This means that you can make your own blend. If you are allergic to corn, and you know you can’t eat the certified gluten-free oats, blend up 100 grams each of almond, brown rice, buckwheat, corn, millet, sorghum, and teff. (I want to write more about this later, but the flavor you find by blending all these different taste is fascinating. It’s amazing how boring regular AP flour seems after you use this.) Find your own favorite combination.

And then throw in 300 grams of any combination of the following:

Arrowroot

Cornstarch

Potato Starch

Tapioca Flour

White Rice Flour

We like using 150 grams each of arrowroot and potato starch, at the moment.

Combine the 700 grams of whole-grain flours with the 300 grams of starches in a big container. Shake it all up. You have whole-grain flour mix.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

For my AP mix I went with 175 grams each of Almond, Millet, Sorhum and Teff flours and 150 grams each of potato starch and tapioca flour. It was super simple to mix up and it made 1000 grams of all-purpose flour so I have enough to make pizza again.

The flours brought so much flavor to the crust and it was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy inside. This was by far the best crust I have ever made at home and it was simple. I’ve noticed that some gluten-free crusts get abnormally puffy and airy and don’t taste like usual pizza, others are so thin and crusty that it’s almost like eating a large cracker. I also really love

GLUTEN-FREE GIRL’S WHOLE GRAIN PIZZA CRUST

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed or ground chia seeds

500 grams whole-grain gluten-free flour mix

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

15 grams (4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast

50 grams (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

85 to 190 grams (1/2 to 1 cup) warm water, about 110º

olive oil for brushing on top of the crust

Making the flaxseed or chia slurry. Mix the flaxseed (or chia seed) into a bowl. Pour 2 tablespoons of boiling-hot water over the seeds. Whisk immediately and quickly until you have a thick paste. Let this set aside and cool down.

Combining the dry ingredients. Put the gluten-free flours and the salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix them up together.

Activating the yeast. Put the yeast, olive oil, and half the warm water into a small bowl. Stir gently. Let them sit for a moment to activate the yeast.

Making the dough. Add the slurry to the dry ingredients and mix for a moment. Pour the yeasty water into the dry ingredients. With the mixer on medium, whirl for a few moments, until the dough comes together into a soft ball around the paddle of the stand mixer and feels soft and pliable. If the dough feels too dry, add more of the warm water in small amounts until the dough feels right. (You might not need all the water. You might need more. Yeast doughs can differ from kitchen to kitchen.) Set the dough aside in a warm place and let it rise for 1 hour.

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 450°. (If you feel comfortable with heat, take it up to 550°. Just watch the dough in the oven, carefully.) If you have a pizza stone, make sure it is in the oven. If not, sprinkle a pizza tray or baking sheet with gluten-free cornmeal.

Rolling out the dough. Grab 1/2 of the dough and put it between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Through the paper, roll out the dough to your desired thickness. (We like super-thin crust around here. You might like it thicker.)

Pre-baking the dough. Take the parchment paper off the dough, then transfer the dough to the pizza stone or prepared pizza tray. Brush the top with olive oil. Bake until the dough has started to crisp up and browned at the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. (And less if you have the oven cranked up to 550°!)

Take the crust out of the oven. You now have a pre-baked pizza crust. Top with anything you fancy and continue baking until the cheese is bubbly and melty.

Makes 2 – 8-inch pizza crusts or 1 – 16-inch pizza crust. I went with 1 large round pizza. Don’t worry too much about the shape, enjoy the rustic wonkiness of handmade pizza dough.

SPRING PIZZA WITH ASPARAGUS, PARMESAN AND EGGS
Makes 1 large pizza or 2 small pizzas

Gluten-free Girl’s Whole Grain Pizza Dough Recipe (above)
Olive oil
Kosher flake salt
Black pepper
10 asparagus stalks
1 clove garlic, minced
1 – 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or mozzarella (or both)
1 bunch of fresh chives, chopped
2-4 local farm fresh brown eggs (I put 2 eggs on one large pizza, but you could certainly put 2 eggs each on 2 small pizzas)

Prepare dough according to above instructions (or whatever instructions come with your dough recipe). Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Rinse the asparagus, snap off the tough ends and cut in half or thirds depending on how long they are. You want to end up with 20-30 3-inch pieces. Take each 3-inch piece, cut in half on the long side, and then again to quarter. Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat , saute the asparagus slivers and the minced garlic with black pepper and a large pinch of kosher salt until tender and still bright green. Remove the asparagus from the heat and set aside.

Brush the pre-baked pizza crust (pre-bake according to above directions) with olive oil. Sprinkle the crust with the cheese, reserving a small amount for sprinkling on top. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer over the cheese. Crack two eggs into the center of the pizza, sprinkle fresh chopped chives over everything and top with another light sprinkle of cheese. (If you are making two small pizzas, divide all the ingredients in half over the two crusts and arrange in the same order)

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the egg whites are cooked and the pizza is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly for a few minutes, then cut and serve while still warm.

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White Bean and Chive Patties

Since we’ve closed the store and now work from home, I really look forward to the time of day when I can take a break from working and prepare a healthy dinner for us. Many nights we finish dinner, do up the dishes, feed the pets and then return up to our offices to work for a few hours, which is something we never did before, but somehow it is all so much more relaxing and laid back. Working from home has allowed me to really play with my schedule, make it more flexible and find even more time for yoga, dog walks and other fun and physical activities. I think the pressure of having to be at the studio set hours because of the store really put an unnecessary amount of self-imposed stress on both of us. We were always very happy and content before and we definitely miss the store some days, but I really find myself loving my life and my job more now than ever before. I feel so lucky.

One of my other favorite things about the new schedule is being able to take on more involved dinners during the week, that require more prep time or even down time for things to cool or set, etc. Now during the “wait times” in recipes, I can just walk upstairs and get more work done. Both last night’s dinner, Spring Pizza with Asparagus and Eggs that featured a homemade gluten-free multi-grain pizza crust and tonight’s Spring Pea and Goat Cheese Tart, with a homemade tart dough, are perfect examples of that. (Don’t worry those recipes are coming soon.) This particular recipe isn’t nearly as involved or time-consuming, but having to pan fry the patties in batches can take time and patience and it is certainly something I wouldn’t have made after a long day of work at the store and getting home around 7pm.

These patties are simple, healthy and full of flavor. They have a wonderful crispy crunch on the outside and a nice soft inside. They are naturally gluten-free and vegan, too. The original recipe features them with sage instead of chives and amidst a delicious spring brunch menu topped with a roasted tomato sauce. I thought the sauce would take away from the lovely crisp, so I instead envisioned them atop a lovely mix of baby spring greens salad as a meal in and of itself. I made a quick lime cilantro vinaigrette and served it as dinner.

You could definitely play around with different herbs and even different veggie additions, the big thing to keep in mind is to make sure the patties aren’t too moist or dry to where they will fall apart in the pan and to make sure you have your pan is hot enough to get that initial “searing” to create a nice crust on the outside and to keep the patties together. Use a spatula to look at the face-down side before you flip to make sure it is adequately browned before you flip.

We tossed some baby spring greens with the vinaigrette, put the patties on top and drizzled those with a bit more dressing and topped everything with more fresh chives. A perfect spring-time dinner.

White Bean and Chive Patties

White Bean and Chive Patties
makes 12 patties
Adapted from Whole Living, June 2011

1 19-oz can organic white beans
1 shallot, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely grated
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus more for serving
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Drain beans, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Transfer to a bowl and mash. Stir in shallot, carrot, cornmeal, and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon reserved liquid. If mixture is too dry, add the other.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Form mixture into 12 patties (about 2 1/2 inches diameter each) and saute in batches until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve topped with a tasty dressing, yogurt sauce or atop a salad.

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Thai Chicken Soup

I absolutely love Thai food! The layers of flavors and the spices are so amazing and there are so many naturally gluten-free options. One of my favorite things are the different soups. The flavors are always so distinct in Thai soups from the curry pastes, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, etc. I have wanted to try making a Thai coconut milk soup at home with all the fresh herbs and spices. With the lingering chilly weather, last week was the perfect time. The original recipe I found was a bit basic, so I added in mushrooms, fresh ginger, fresh lemongrass and jarred kaffir lime leaves (which I was very excited to finally find), I also went with a light coconut milk instead of the full fat version and I used more of it, I find it is still quite creamy and it has a bit less fat and calories. I also added a bit more broth, curry paste, fish sauce and noodles so I would have more leftovers for lunches and dinners on some of the busy nights we have this week. Don’t worry if you can’t find lemongrass or the kaffir lime leaves, the soup will still be really great even without them. The curry paste really has a lot of flavor. I just find that adding those extra fresh ingredients makes this soup more authentic. I know from eating a lot of Thai food that lemongrass can be a bit annoying to eat, since they are a bit tough to chew, so I decided to cut the stalk in large pieces so that I could easily pull them out just before serving.

Since we normally buy whole chickens from the farm we get all of our meat from, I just grabbed two organic chicken breasts from Wegmans, I honestly can’t tell you the last time I bought meat from the grocery store. Thankfully Wegmans has a great selection of organic and grass-fed meats, though it just isn’t the same as getting it from a local farm. You could also roast a whole chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken and shred some of the cooked chicken and add it in to the soup at the end. This soup could also easily be made vegetarian/vegan with vegetable broth and by skipping the chicken or you could make a seafood version and add shrimp or scallops.

Serve the soup with lime wedges and maybe even a little Sriracha if you want a bit more heat. Enjoy, this soup really is incredible.

Thai Chicken Soup
serves 6
loosely adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb of sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons green curry paste (If you don’t like spicy, start with 2 and go from there. It seems some curry pastes are spicier than others)
8 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
2 15-ounce cans organic lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
6 ounces thin rice noodles, broken into pieces
2 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts preferably local and hormone and antibiotic free (about 1 pound), very thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon kaffir lime leaves (I used were jarred, you can also find them fresh or frozen, use about 3 or 4 leaves)
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often until they begin to soften and get a bit brown, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Add a bit more oil if you need it and add the onion to the pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and curry paste, cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk and fish sauce; cover and bring to a boil.

Add the mushrooms, bell peppers and noodles and simmer, uncovered, until the noodles are al dente, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer until just cooked through, about 3-5 more minutes. Stir in the lime juice, kaffir lime leaves and cilantro. Remove the chunks of lemongrass just before serving. Add more fish sauce and lime juice, if desired.

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Fried Black Rice With Ginger Tofu and Baby Arugula

I came across this recipe in a recent issue of Whole Living and couldn’t wait to make it. I love black rice so much, it is full of flavor. I always keep a pound or two of Black Japonica in the pantry, a unique field blend of medium grain black and short grain mahogany rice. It’s so nutty and sweet, perfect in many different dishes.

This recipe is so healthy and fresh, simple to make and full of so many flavors. The original recipe called for spinach but since I still had some baby arugula on hand, I figured that would work just as well. I was pleasantly surprised how much more delicious the rice was after frying it up in the pan, it grabbed all the little bits of ginger and garlic and the Sriracha left in the pan from the tofu. The tofu had a nice crisp outside and it was full of flavor from the ginger and Sriracha and the arugula brought a beautiful peppery crunch. I hope to plan spinach and/or arugula in our garden this year so I have a feeling we’ll be eating this dish a lot this summer.

Fried Black Rice With Ginger Tofu and Baby Arugula
Adapted from Whole Living, March 2011
Serves 4-6

3/4 cup black rice (I used a blend of black and mahogany rices)
1 1/2 cups water
1 bunch organic baby arugula, rinsed and roughly chopped (spinach will work here, too)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into six 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
Lime wedges, for serving

Bring rice and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Steam baby arugula, covered, in 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes; set aside. Saute garlic, ginger, and scallion whites in remaining oil until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tofu and Sriracha and cook until tofu is golden, about 6 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Add rice to skillet and cook over medium-high heat until crisp, about 2 minutes. Serve with baby arugula and tofu. Garnish with scallion greens and serve with lime. Add more Sriracha when serving, if you like.

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Gluten-Free Banana Bread

For some reason the smell of overripe bananas drives me crazy. There is no specific reason for it, it’s just so strong and obnoxious to me. Any time they are on the counter and past the point of eating on their own, I always think ‘banana bread’. The perfect use for those little stinkers. This is a very simple gluten-free recipe that requires very little thought and only a  few ingredients. If you hate measuring and buying multiple flours, Bob’s Red Mill makes a great all-purpose gluten-free flour. Of course, you can always create your own all-purpose flour mix, as well.

The great thing about this recipe is you can always change it up, you can add dried fruits like raisins, cranberries or cherries, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, etc. You can even come up with a sweet glaze to drizzle over the top and make this a delicious and simple dessert. This time around I kept it simple and just went with chopped pecans. I also have read you can substitute apple sauce for the oil in this recipe, I will have to give it a try to see how it works out.

This bread is just like the “real thing”, moist and light and it browns nicely on the outside. It has a nice sweetness and has the perfect amount of banana flavor without overpowering. It is equally as nice for breakfast toasted and topped with a smidge of butter alongside a cup of your favorite tea as it is served as dessert with a bit of cream cheese spread over it (I have fallen in love with Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese).

Gluten-Free Banana Bread
adapted from Bob’s Red Mill
serves 10

1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2/3 cup organic dark brown sugar, packed
2 large local farm-fresh brown eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe organic bananas (I used 4 small bananas)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Other ingredients you could add:
chocolate chips
raisins
dried cranberries
blueberries
peanut butter chips
coconut

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Use a bit of grapeseed oil to grease a 9×5-inch non-stick loaf pan. You can also make smaller loaves, use three 5×3 inch loaf pans.

Cream together oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl. Add flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg to egg mixture, alternating with bananas.

Beat until smooth. Stir in nuts and any other add-ins. Transfer to pan(s).

Bake 9×5″ loaf for 1 hour, 5×3″ loaves for 45 minutes. Make sure a cake tester or knife comes out clean.

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Baked Sweet Potato Chips

This is a super easy and healthy treat you can make at home that is perfect for a mid-day snack or for the road trip munchies. I made these for our drive to NYC a couple of weekends ago, they were perfect for the car.

You can certainly leave the peels on, though the potatoes that I had on-hand were looking a bit rough, so I decided to peel them. I used organic white sweet potatoes but any sweet potato or regular potato would work just as well. You can have fun with spices, oils and other flavors. I kept it simple with just salt and pepper and a good olive oil and topped them with a squeeze of lime and a bit of chopped cilantro. You could add chili powder, cinnamon or any other spice or herb you desire. I made these again today, for a mid-afternoon snack, and this time I used applewood smoked sea salt! WOW, it was incredible.

Once you get into making your own chips, you’ll really laugh at the thought of eating them out of a bag. These are so much more filling and have a great flavor. You will still have the great crunch but without the insane amount of fat from frying and all the chemicals and preservatives.

Once thing I recommend highly when it comes to making your own chips at home is to slice the potatoes (or whatever you are making the chips from) with a mandoline slicer. This ensures a consistent thickness on all the chips so they will cook evenly, plus it is incredibly easy to use. You can go-it by hand with a sharp knife and a steady hand, but it isn’t easy.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips
serves 4

2 medium organic sweet potatoes, scrubbed well or peeled, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

lime wedges for serving
fresh chopped cilantro for serving

Preheat oven to 400º F.

In a large bowl, add the potato slices, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss gently to evenly coat.

Place the potato slices on two rimmed baking pans, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gently toss to coat evenly. Arrange in a single layer between the two pans.

Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the potato slices are golden brown, crisp and cooked thoroughly, turning a couple of times to crisp evenly. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper a squeeze of lime juice and the chopped cilantro just before serving.

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Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

I am so ready for it to just be spring already. This chilly, dreary weather is getting a tad bit old and we’ve gotten a taste of the warm weather already, so I just wish it would stay. It was near 80º when we were in NYC last weekend and apparently it was in the 70s here in Buffalo at the same time. Today it is in the low 30s and it’s snowing again. Don’t get me wrong, I love the snow and the change of seasons, but this has been one of the longest and nastiest winters I can ever recall here.

I guess since the weather isn’t cooperating the only thing to do is to bring the spring to our bellies via delicious spring inspired dishes like this one! Once again this risotto, like the pasta recipe I posted yesterday, was inspired by what looked best in the produce section when we went to the market. I had actually hoped to find fresh sweet peas, but I guess it is still a bit early, so I went with frozen organic sweet peas. You can certainly substitute fresh peas here, you’d just want to quickly blanch them first.

This risotto is so creamy and satisfying it is hard to believe it is healthy. There is very little cheese and really since arborio rice creates such a creamy risotto, if you wanted to make this vegan you could simply leave out the cheese and it would still be incredible. The leeks bring a nice fresh but subtle onion flavor, the mushrooms a nice rustic earthy aroma and taste and the peas are a nice burst of brightness to finish it all off. The fresh tarragon was the perfect unique compliment to all of these flavors, bringing subtle scent and taste reminiscent of anise. You can play with adding in some white wine or vermouth as well as different cheeses, mascarpone or heavy cream, different herbs, lemon zest, etc. There are so many variations on classic risotto and you really can’t go wrong.

I had a dozen local farm fresh eggs that I picked up and want to use while they are at their freshest so I decided to fry up an egg for each of us to serve on top of the risotto. I had never done this before, but I knew it would be incredible and I was right. Such a nice way to finish it off. The yolk was a tad runny and it was just perfect.

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas
serves 4-6

5-6 cups of organic mushroom broth
2 tablespoons organic olive oil
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms, I used baby bellas
2 leeks, rinsed very well, slice thinly white and green parts only*
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/2 cups frozen organic sweet peas (I would have preferred fresh, but they weren’t yet at the market)
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt, sauté until tender and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan over a medium-low heat. Add the leeks and garlic, sprinkle with salt. Sauté until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and increase the heat to medium. Stir until the edges begin to look transparent, careful not to brown the rice or leeks. Add the mushroom broth, 2 ladles at a time (or approximately 3/4 cup); stirring constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. Always adding enough just to cover the rice. Continue stirring and adding broth, waiting for it to absorb and then adding more. Cook about halfway, which should be about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the sautéed mushrooms. Continue adding broth until the rice is tender but has a bit of a firm bite and the risotto is creamy, another 10-15 minutes. Add the frozen peas and fresh tarragon with just a few minutes remaining, stir to combine. The peas will cook very quickly. Once cooked, turn off the heat. Taste the risotto and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in approximately 1/4 cup of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, reserving the remaining for serving. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl, top with fresh ground black pepper and a pinch or two of freshly chopped tarragon. Serve with the remaining grated parmigiano-raggiano. This risotto is incredible with a fried farm-fresh egg served on top. If the yolk is just a tad bit runny, it is absolute perfection! Trust me, try it.

* a quick note on cleaning leeks: leeks tend to have a lot of dirt and grit in them. If you aren’t careful when cleaning them, you may think they are totally clean, start cooking with them and find your entire dish has a nasty grittiness to it. This can ruin a dish After trimming off the ends (called the beards) and the dark green tops (save these for stocks). You can run them under cold water at this point, or even better, you can submerge the leeks in a large pot of cold water. Swirl them around to really remove all the grit and dirt. Drain well and then cut.

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

Oh and one last thing to mention, this is what was going on outside my kitchen window while I crafted up this beautiful spring dinner. Ironic, isn’t it?

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Spicy Spring Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Arugula (Gluten-Free)

Pasta is definitely my go-to comfort meal, it rarely disappoints. I almost always have a couple of pounds of dried gluten-free pasta in the pantry and enough ingredients to throw together a tasty and seasonal dish with it. Plus, I really love how little effort it takes. In the time it takes to preheat the oven and make a horrible processed frozen pizza, you can have a delicious main-course pasta made with fresh ingredients. With all the traveling we’ve had going on and how busy we’ve been I have been craving one of my homemade pasta creations, so last week after we got home from NYC and before we left again for Pittsburgh, I thought up this dish and threw it together for us.

Besides the beautiful spring produce that is finally showing itself at the grocery store, what inspired this dish was a jar of hot pepper spread from Wegmans in my refrigerator. We always have it on-hand for things like sandwiches, soups, eggs, pizza etc. It has a mere 5 ingredients, all natural, and it’s the perfect condiment. It caught my eye the other day and I realized that I had never made a pasta dish with it. I decided to take a trip to the grocery store and let the fresh produce decide the rest. I was definitely craving a spring inspired dish! Though the choices are still limited and it isn’t all necessarily local, I was happy to see more green in the produce section. It feels like we are finally through the winter and onto brighter things, literally.

The asparagus and baby arugula both jumped out at me in the produce section and I thought paired with the spicy peppers, a nice parmigiano-reggiano and some lemon, they would be perfect. Certainly skip the hot pepper spread if you don’t care for spicy or if you can’t find anything like it, or you can substitute it with a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes. Have fun with it and always start out slow with the spicy ingredients if you don’t like the heat, you can always add more. This pasta just explodes with fresh flavors, the heat from the hot pepper spread brings a nice zing, but it’s not too overpowering, the subtle peppery crunch from baby arugula is fresh and welcomed after a long winter, along with the brightness from the lemon. It is a very light and healthy, but certainly satisfying, spring dinner. If you are looking for a nice vegan spring pasta dish, just leave off the cheese or substitute with your favorite cheese substitute, it will still be delicious.

After a winter of root vegetables, frozen vegetables and just plain ‘blah’ produce, it really is nice to start seeing better fresh produce options again at the grocery store. The farmers market opens in less than 3 weeks (I am counting down the days) and shortly thereafter I will be starting our garden.

Here’s to the spring, more green and a lot sunshine!! (FYI – as I type this, it is snowing)

Spicy Spring Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Arugula (Gluten-Free)
serves 4-6

1 lb asparagus
3 tablespoon organic olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 lb organic gluten-free brown rice pasta (you can use any shape you’d like and certainly you can use regular pasta here, as well)
2 cups organic baby arugula roughly chopped or torn
2 cloves organic garlic, minced
1 tablespoon hot pepper spread (I buy Wegmans brand, but you can also substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or leave it out)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Lemon zest
fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400º F.

Clean your asparagus and snap off the tough ends. Cut into 2-inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan and place in the preheated oven. Roast for 15-25 minutes until tender, but still a bit crisp.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, reserve approximately 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and rinse in hot water. Place the rinsed pasta in a large serving bowl, immediately add the baby arugula and toss, so it begins to wilt. Then add the minced garlic, hot pepper spread (or red pepper flakes), 2 tablespoons of olive oil and as much cooking liquid as necessary to make the pasta a bit creamy. Toss carefully to combine all the ingredients, add more cooking liquid as needed. Once the asparagus is done, add this to the pasta along with most of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, reserving a bit for serving. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the pasta, taste the pasta and salt and pepper to taste. Toss everything carefully one last time. Plate the pasta individually and top each serving with fresh lemon zest and the remaining cheese.

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Winter Squash Risotto with Radicchio

After a few months with our butts parked here in wintry Buffalo, it’s that time again, we are hitting the road. We leave Saturday morning for Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest Music Festival and Flatstock 29! I love this trip not only because we drive down, and I love a good road trip, but we also get a great dose of some much-needed sunshine and warmer weather plus great music, hang outs with our good friends, good food and so much more. As with all of our trips, though they are an escape from the every day and a bit of a vacation in that sense, they are very much about work and business, so the weeks leading up require a lot of long days and nights of prep. We have to wrap up any client projects we have on deck and we also have to pack and restock all of our handmade goodies, print stuff, sew stuff, etc. I have been trying in these two weeks before, to make meals that require one day of prep and cooking but gives us many meals. I have made pasta Bolognese, vegetarian shepherd’s pie, italian sausage, white bean and escarole soup, slow cooked black beans for tacos and this risotto. It’s been great because we have a ton of leftovers and we’ve been able to just focus on work and when need be, take breaks, heat up some dinner and then get back to work. I love it. Home cooked meals are most important to me when life gets busy and stressful.

This risotto is a nice, hearty winter dish that is comforting, while being light. I love all the different flavors, a good quality vegetable broth in itself has so many layers of flavors, the sweetness from the squash really compliments the sharp bitterness from the little bit of radicchio and the creaminess from the milk and the cheese finish it all off, perfectly. The rich, creaminess from the squash really makes this risotto feel sinful, but you can enjoy it, guilt-free. We served it as our main dish but it is light enough to be a side-dish. If you don’t care for radicchio you could add in baby spinach instead.

Winter Squash Risotto with Radicchio
serves 6
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

1 butternut squash (about 4 pounds)
6 cups organic low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups sliced radicchio
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons organic butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2  cups uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
1/4  cup dry white wine (I didn’t have any so I used dry vermouth)
3 tablespoons organic half-and-half or whole milk
fresh ground black pepper
kosher salt
3/4 cup  (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise; discard the seeds and membrane. Place squash halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet; bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until squash is tender. Cool. Peel squash; mash pulp. Set aside 1 1/2 cups pulp, reserving remaining pulp for another use.

Bring vegetable broth to a simmer in a large saucepan. Keep warm over low heat. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat until hot in a large pan or dutch oven. Add radicchio; sauté 2 minutes or until wilted. Place radicchio in a bowl. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon each of pepper and salt, set aside. Melt butter in Dutch oven. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add rice; sauté 1 minute. Stir in wine and 1/2 cup broth mixture; cook 3 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of liquid is absorbed before adding the next (about 15 minutes total). Stir in squash pulp. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/4 cups broth mixture (about 9 minutes total). Stir in radicchio mixture and half-and-half. Season to taste with black pepper and kosher salt. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Sprinkle with a bit more cheese and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

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