Cajun Bloody Mary

Cajun Bloody Mary

Bloody Marys are synonymous with football for me. I drink more Bloody Mary’s while yelling at the TV on Sunday mornings than any other time of year. Let’s face it, waking up and drinking is hard work. And a thick, savory Bloody Mary just…makes that responsibility a little easier.
When I’m back home in Portland on autumn Sundays I have to convince my family to turn football on at all. And the carrot at the end of that stick: is Bloody Marys. I found Emeril’s Cajun Bloody Mary recipe on one of these weekends and started from there. The only thing I changed was the amount of “Emeril’s ESSENCE” in a pitcher, to at least double what he calls for.
My mother, well versed in the Bloody Mary, told me this was the best Bloody Mary she’s ever had. That was more than enough for me to hold on to this recipe as “how a Bloody Mary should be made”. We ended up flying through one pitcher, as neighbors stopped by and stuck around…for football or Bloodys I’m not interested in speculating, but we ended up with a crowd, and that’s one of the best parts of football season.

So just in time for the playoffs, whether your team is still on the field or….not. A Bloody Mary will undoubtedly make the game better.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
3/4 cups vodka
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon horseradish (the real, spicy kind, not horseradish sauce)
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce (I used Cholula, but anything with a flavor you like will work)
1-2 Tbsp. “Essence” (see recipe below)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and Pepper to taste

Pickled green things for garnish
My favorites include: green beans, asparagus and olives. One time I was served a pice of pickled broccoli at Besaw’s. That, too, was amazing.

DIRECTIONS
-Combine. Chill. Enjoy.

EMERIL’S ESSENSE
– Combine the following spices: (makes about 2/3c.)

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Paleo Banana Bread

Paleo Banana Bread

I’ve been cutting a lot more grains out of my diet recently. All grains, to some extent, are hard to digest and I just feel better when I don’t eat them. Trying to dodge around diet restrictions, making gluten free cookies or ordering gluten free pancakes for brunch increasing feels like a thinly veiled lie to myself that I can bake a cake and eat it too…so to speak.
One type of flour that I—at least up to this point—seem to have no trouble with though is almond flour, which apparently lends itself beautifully to sweet breads. I found several recipes for zucchini breads, banana breads, pumpkin breads, etc. and the best part is how simple they are. You don’t have to mix 3 different kinds of flours (usually at least two of which I’m not supposed to eat anyway) along with xanthum gum (which just makes me feel like I’m running an elaborate science experiment) to concoct something that really does need gluten to give it the familiar consistency you crave. Loafs should be heavy and moist, and therefore can rely on ingredients other than gluten for structural stability. Almonds also make a flour with a mild flavor but one that compliments most breads.
This banana bread isn’t very sweet at all, which makes it a great on the go breakfast option, but can also be toasted and slathered in honey and almond butter, which is my go to for a healthier dessert.

INGREDIENTS
3 bananas
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. honey
¼ c. coconut oil
2 c. almond flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

DIRECTIONS
– Preheat oven to 350°f
– Blend bananas, eggs, vanilla, honey and shortening in a kitchenaid or food processor.
– Add almond flour, salt and baking soda and mix until well combined
– Pour batter into greased loaf pan (use 7½” x 3½” or similar for taller, loaf-life slices)
– Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes.

Welcome, 2014!

New Years Arches

I hope everyone is spending their new years day getting started on resolutions…or enjoying one last day before resolutions kick in (that can wait til the work week begins, right?) or at least in some way celebrating the turning of a new leaf.

I drug my self not only out of bed but out of the house today to finally catch up on the growing list of recipe posts I’ve been meaning to write for the past several months. So this is an announcement that new posts will be coming! And also an apology that some of them may be slightly holiday inspired…I’ll try to play that down given that January is much better for looking forward than back.

I am also planning to sort through all my photos from my Spain trip back in October (seriously, this is how late I’m running). And so in lieu of a food photo today, I’ve collected a few of my favorites above. Moroccan windows and archways are some of my most favorite architectural details, and to borrow a new years greeting I received myself from the ever caring and eloquent head of design at my alma mater: Here’s to opening new doors and windows in the New Year! That message resonated with me today, and thank you to Dan Boyarski for sending it to me.

And because I can’t completely abandon all recipes for this post, I will, of course, be making black-eyed peas this afternoon based on this post. This year I think I’ll add some butternut squash and, in a bit of a nod to 2013, kale. I think it will maximize my luck potential for the year!

The Best Big Cluster Granola (gluten free)

Best Cluster Granola
One of the many (oh so many) things I miss being gluten free is granola. I think a lot of my frustration comes from granola really not needing to have gluten in it at all, so I feel like I’m being robbed of yet another tasty comfort food, and one that rather successfully masquerades as “healthy”. Most of the ingredients in amazing granola are things I eat every day, almonds, dried fruit, honey, and so one particularly taxing Saturday in the midst of finals I decided to take a break from work and make a stress-relief comfort snack.
I started with The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’s Big Cluster Maple Granola recipe. While reading and mentally commiserating with Deb Perelman’s long search for a simple, not-too-sweet, extra clustery granola. The trick is in adding an egg white to bind, meaning you need less honey/maple syrup or other sweetener to do the job. The egg white also, when cooked to the right stage (more on that in a minute), makes for great crispy edges while keeping large clusters still chewy in the middle.

A note on taking liberties
The great thing about granola is that you can really add or subtract many of the ingredients to your taste. Maybe this is another reason I’m especially drawn to it. As far as I’m concerned, the nuts, fruits and spices listed in the recipe below are primarily notes for overall quantities. I found that almonds would fabulously, hazelnuts, on the other hand (and very unfortunately) I found really distracting taste-wise. The original recipe calls for a full 1½ cup of dried cherries. I combined some cherries with some cranberries and chopped dates. I highly recommend the dates. Finally, as you may have noticed, I double a lot of spice amounts in my recipe adaptations. For this one I actually halved the cinnamon and added a couple other things to make the kitchen smell a little less like Christmas. My point here is that I hope you take some liberties with the additional flavors to suit the season, and your own taste.

Gluten-Free Giant Cluster Granola
Granola close

Ingredients
3c. old-fashioned rolled oats (I used Bob’s Redmill Gluten Free)
1c. shredded coconut
1c. almonds, pecans, walnuts or your favorite nut combo
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. salt
2/3c. honey (substitutable for maple syrup or agave nectar. I had honey on hand and I’m not a huge maple fan, so that made my decision).
Pinch each of cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger
Splash (about ½ tsp) vanilla
1 large egg white
1½ c chopped dried fruit. I used a combination of cherries, cranberries and dates.

Directions
Preheat your oven to 300°f. Combine all ingredients except egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl and toss to coat. Whisk egg white in a small bowl until frothy and pour over granola and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Spread granola into a single layer over a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating tray about half way through. When granola is just starting to brown and feels dry to the touch, remove from the oven and let cool completely before breaking into pieces. (I can’t tell you how many times I have learned the hard way the value of letting something cool completely. Especially with brittle GF flours this makes a huge difference. Now when a recipe calls for patience, I just do as I’m told. In this case, your clusters will thank you.) Break granola into a bowl alternating with a sprinkle of dried fruit to mix throughout.
Granola can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about 2 weeks, or much longer in the freezer (believe it or not this stuff is even delicious frozen) which is what I have to do to stop myself from eating the whole batch in a couple days.
Granola pretty

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The Best Cheesy Kale Chips

Bowl of Chips

When my mother used to tear kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and bake them with olive oil and salt in a hot oven until just browning and slightly crispy I should have known she was on the cutting edge of yet another trend. While our family savored the simple yet oh so tasty and nutritious treat that allowed us to eek out just a few more minutes of eating-together time, the food trend mavens were cooking up a health snack trend to be reckoned with.
When I started seeing kale chip recipes in magazines on food blogs I was happily reminded of what I thought was my mother’s hidden gem. When I started seeing 6oz packages of it for sale at Whole Foods and Rainbow Acres for $11, I was just resentful that I hadn’t exploited the idea 15 years ago. Yes, now kale chips are the hottest fad in healthy (vegan and gluten-free) snacking. I cannot claim to be the first to get on board, but I am finally getting around to making my own, which, I will admit, will become a regular addition to my snacking repertoire. Thanks to Missy for introducing me to nutritional yeast, you are always an inspiration in flavors, especially secretly healthy ones.

Recipe Notes
I started out with a few nacho kale chip recipes, trying to figure out what was what, but by the third time I was so tired of making such a mess of my food processor and honestly, found the cashew (or almond, I tried both, stick with cashew) paste version a little heavy. Now my go-to flavoring is MUCH simpler and I think much more flavorful.

For the Seasoning
Combine in a small bowl:
1/3-1/2c nutritional yeast
1tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne
a few good sprinkles of dried garlic or garlic salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
a bit more salt than you think you should have. Start with ½ tsp, mix well and test again, you should be able to taste the salt (if you’re using garlic salt just keep an eye on the saltiness).

mix seasonings well, everything together should noticeably change the color of the nutritional yeast when you started, but specific measurements are definitely to your preferred taste.

For the Chips
In a large bowl toss:
1 bunch kale, torn in pieces with tough stalks removed
with some olive oil to coat.
Liberally sprinkle the cheesy mixture over the leaves, use your fingers to make sure to get the flavor in all the leaves. Toss a bit, then sprinkle some more until well coated.

Spread on a large cookie sheet (give the leaves some room!) and bake slowly, in a 300°f for about 12-15 minutes. After about 10 minutes pull the tray out, toss the leaves and check for brownness, you want to stop just as some of the smaller leaves are browning for maximum crispiness without burning.

Kale chips staged

The image below is from one of my test runs with the cashew paste version of the nacho sauce. The dressing is much heavier but this recipe should look pretty much the same with the orange of the nutritional yeast and density of the leaves on the tray.
before the chips

Spicy Spinach and Yogurt Dip

Spicy Spinach Yogurt dip
Superbowl snacking becomes a lot less fun when you’re avoiding gluten and anything fried. So I was determined to find something delicious when one of the dozen emails Food&Wine has sent me this week promised healthy Game Day recipes.
I adapted this recipe from them, Food&Wine has yet to steer me wrong, but I did tweak the proportions. I’ve detailed changes below but I like my yogurt dip fairly yogurty, Food&Wine, apparently, does not. I also tweaked the spice levels and used a brand new bottle of cayenne. Maybe I just haven’t had fresh cayenne for too long, but this dip packs a surprising punch.

INGREDIENTS
2 Tbsp EVOO
1/3 c. pine nuts
½ small-medium sweet yellow onion, minced
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cayenne
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed
1½ c. plain greek yogurt
salt to taste.

DIRECTIONS
Sauté onion and pine nuts in the olive oil until the just start to brown, 4-5 minutes. Add spices and stir well. Remove to a medium-mixing bowl.
Squeeze as much water out of the spinach as you can. Don’t worry about the volume, it won’t look like much, but it’s really quite dense. Add to the onions and pine nuts.
My recipe said to drain the yogurt until you end up with about ½ cup. While I drained it, the volume definitely didn’t decrease that much. And in the end I added much more until the proportions felt better to me. My suggestion is to use about 1½ cups yogurt, straight from the fridge. Add the yogurt and mix well. The spinach may be rather stubborn so make sure to disperse large lumps.
Sprinkle with salt and unless serving immediately let sit for at least an hour or two before tasting for salt again. This is a great dip to make ahead of time, say, the day before the super bowl leaving your Game Day morning one-item lighter, and allowing your free hand to crack open an early beer (you know you want to).

The Great Florentine Tradition

Morning Tea
As usual, I’m posting pretty late. The Christmas cookie storm has long been replaced by black eyed pea soups for the new year and vegan dips to help maintain resolutions, but this was the second year I made these bars for my family and this year my dad declared that they would have to become a holiday tradition.
My family doesn’t have a lot of recipe traditions. (Discovering the truth about the date balls I grew up thinking my grandmother made every time I visited coming crashing down when she permanently retired from cooking, but the date balls kept coming, brought this to light recently) So instating a cookie, or bar really, as a “family tradition” meant a lot to me. It probably had a lot to do with a few key ingredients that make this decadent dessert perfect for my intestinally challenged family: The original recipe I found called for gluten free flour. I have since become gluten free and so have tried it both ways. Notes on gluten-free flour follow but this was a huge plus for us this year. Also the recipe has always called for a drizzle of chocolate over the top. I have always intended to do this, get all the way through cooking, and realize how frickn good they are without chocolate. My dad, who is allergic to chocolate has always very much appreciated this last minute laziness and now that’s just how they are for me. Beyond that, almonds, apricots and cranberries smothered in gooey caramel? You really can’t go wrong.
So if they’re a family tradition they’re never really too late to share, right? I’m really just super early for next year. Or maybe I’ll make a batch for Valentine’s Day.

*gluten-free flour: I am still hoping to find the particular flour mix that magically can be seamlessly substituted for gluteny flour leaving cookies chewy, biscuits fluffy, and no one the wiser, but I haven’t found it. I like King Arthur’s Gluten Free Flour Mix a lot, but for this recipe used an Arrowhead Mills mix. It worked surprisingly well for the lobster pot pie we made but was pretty crumbly for this recipe. Make sure to chill the bars completely before you cut them to help with this problem.

Apricot Cranberry Florentine Bars
(adapted from Sweet Twist of Blogging)

INGREDIENTS
Crust
3/4 cup (a stick and a half) butter
3 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup gluten free or AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp orange zest

Filling
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1 cup sliced almonds
½ cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
½ cup dried apricots
1 tsp orange zest

DIRECTIONS
For the Crust
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 10 inch square pan with parchment paper and spray with non stick spray. Make sure the parchment reaches all the way up the sides of the pan.
Beat together butter and egg yolks until combined in a stand mixer. Add brown sugar and 1tsp zest and beat until light and creamy. Add flour and salt and blend until just combined.
Press the dough in to the pan. If you use gluten-free flour it will be extremely sticky, just stick with it, show it who’s boss. Bake crust 15 minutes, or until golden, remove from oven and let cool.

For the Filling
Heat butter, sugar, cream and honey over medium heat. Continue to cook until a candy thermometer reaches 240F, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in almonds, zest and dried fruit. Pour over cooled crust. Bake another 15 minutes.
Allow bars to cool completely before cutting. I left mine in the fridge for a bit just to make sure the gooey deliciousness is solid enough to keep the crust together when you cut through it. If you can remove the sheet of bars by pulling up on the parchment paper this will really help with the cutting process, but cutting in the pan is fine too, just be careful not to peel up the parchment too!

Florentines night

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