Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Martini

All things pumpkin make me happy this time of year, and that means limitations of pumpkin only being included in desserts and entrees...drinks should be included as well!  I wanted to create a cocktail that was like a slice of really good pumpkin pie in a glass, and yet not have it be too overly sweet.  No pumpkin liquers here, just some real pumpkin puree to give the drink a little bit of richness.  And richness it added...a silky texture on my tongue as it went down, as if cream had been added.  I wanted this drink to be lightly spiced and have a delicate flavor, so I included vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, all things I consider essential to a pumpkin pie!  Maple syrup was my sweetener of choice, but not too much...just sweet enough.  For my liquor I chose bourbon and vodka, because bourbon is fallish and pairs well with pumpkin and spices, and vodka because it is a martini afterall!  It was fabulous!  The perfect fall drink and a great celebration of all things pumpkin!  So mix yourself a drink!  You know you love pumpkin!

Pumpkin Spice Martini
Serves 1

Spiced sugar:
2 Tbsp turbinado sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey

4-6 large ice cubes
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
a large pinch of ginger
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 oz Prairie Organic Vodka
1 1/2 oz bourbon
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp pumpkin puree
To make cinnamon nutmeg sugar, combine sugar cinnamon and nutmeg and blend well. Spread out on a small plate. Coat the rim of the martini glass with the agave syrup by dipping it into it on a plate, then dip the agave coated rim into the sugar and set aside. In a martini shaker add the ice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vodka, bourbon, vanilla, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree, and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into a chilled martini glass, and serve!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Creamy Balsamic Almond Dressing

I have a favorite creamy dressing that I make all the time, tahini with lemon.  Last night I was going to whip up a batch to serve on my salad, but I discovered I had no lemons!  No tahini either...hmmm, well I have a creamy peanut butter dressing I make as well, but it is more Asian flavored which I wasn't in the mood for.  So, I decided to come up with a new one using almond butter!  I wanted it to have the same sort of pop that the lemon gave the other dressing, so I decided that balsamic vinegar would do the trick.  I added some garlic and thyme for flavor, whazzed it all up in the blender and tasted it on a bit of lettuce.  It was wonderful!  It reminded me of fall, because it tasted like something that would go well on roasted fall veggies or squash.  Silky smooth, nutty from the almonds, a little tangy from the balsamic and savory from the addition of garlic and paired really well with a salad of greens and mushrooms with almonds I made for dinner.  You should try it out as well, and like I said it would go well on any autumn veggie...or maybe warmed slightly and served as a silky sauce over tofu...

Balsamic Almond Dressing
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2/3 cup almond butter
2/3 cup water
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  Serve over salad, tofu, or whatever your heart desires!  Store extra in the fridge in a tightly lidded container for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Orzo Pesto Fritatta with Dandilion Greens

Don't you just hate it when you make a dish and it turns out ugly...but then you taste it and it is amazing?  I guess you could close your eyes and eat it and imagine it was beautiful... I say better an ugly but delicious dish than a beautiful but disgusting one.   I made a frittata the other night and it wouldn't win any beauty contest, but it was scrumptious!  I had been busy all day and wanted to throw something quick together that would be tasty as well.  I had some orzo and basil pesto that I needed to use up, and although I could have just combined the two and made a simple pasta dish...I decided that a bit more protein would be nice in the form of eggs!  That is where the "fritatta" or quiche came into play.  I don't know if this dish could be called either technically, maybe a hybrid?  But I decided it was closer to a frittata than anything.  I also added some dandilion greens for extra color and vegetables, figuring they would combine nicely with the other ingredients.  Some shallots, garlic, and pecorino romano were added for extra zip as well, even though the pesto had already bumped the flavor factor way up.  It smelled wonderful as it was baking from all of the garlicy basil pesto...but when I opened the oven it was nothing beautiful to look at as the pesto had turned it a brown color.  But it tasted explosion of flavor, delicious comfort food with the pasta and eggs...the type of dish you get hungry for and keeps you full for many hours.  Try this out if you have some leftover pasta on hand...and if you don't have dandilion greens, use arugula or spinach! 

Orzo Pesto Fritatta with Dandilion Greens
Serves 2

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch dandilion greens, chopped

8 oz whole wheat orzo pasta, cooked
1/2 cup basil pesto* (home made or store bought)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 oz freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

Spray a glass pie plate with non-stick spray, and pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees.  In a medium non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add shallots.  Saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and dandilion greens and saute until just wilted.  Remove from heat, and place in a large bowl.  Combine with all other ingredients except for half the pecorino romano, and mix well.  Pour into prepared pie plate, top with remaining pecorino romano and bake for 40 minutes, or until set in the center.

*I used my basil pistachio pesto, here is the link to the recipe:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Dark Run and Deep Dark Granola

It has been very dark in the mornings lately when I go out running.  I miss the sun, but it is kind of nice to have the roads to myself being that it is early and not very many other people want to run in the dark. Yesterday I headed out for my run I was thinking I just wanted to crawl back into my warm bed...but once I got going I was glad I had gotten my butt up and gone out.  I often use the time to think, and yesterday among many other things, I was thinking about granola...probably because I was a bit hungry, and I knew I was going to make a batch some time this weekend. 

Then dates came to mind...dark, sweet, gooey dessert like and heavenly.  They would have to be included in my granola creation!  Maybe they came to mind because it was so dark out and the clouds were covering up the hunter's moon that had helped a few days before with being able to see in the morning.  The dark of dates... got me to thinking, how about a "dark" granola, with molasses and maple to flavor it.  Molasses in granola?  Yes, it is very good, add just a little bit to your granola and it deepens the flavor and gives it a wonderful darker color!  But of course I needed to think of some add ins as well...I was going to be rather selfish this time and make this granola with all of my favorite ones.  Walnuts, Pecans and coconut flakes.  Rather simple, but I enjoy the texture of walnuts and pecans in granola, above all other nuts.  I got to thinking how walnuts look like brains...but that is besides the point.  Who says I can't think randomly on my long runs by  myself?  Plus all this granola thinking was making me hungry, and the smell of baked goods being vented out of a nearby bakery wasn't helping!  I finished the run feeling good, and I was happy that I had come up with a cleaver granola to make! 

I always look forward to it, as it is something I crave, and I love it while it is still warm out of the oven.  This batch was no exception...I spoiled my appetite for dinner in the process of making this but it was all well worth it!  It was the most caramelly complex tasting batch of granola I have ever made, and I make it about every other week!  The gooey sweet dates were a nice contrast to the salty crunchy nut filled granola...maybe I thought this batch was particularily good because it contained all my favorites...but you could try making it for yourself and see if you agree! 

Deep Dark Date and Nut Granola
Makes about 14 cups of delicious granola

6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3 cups walnuts
3 cups pecans
3 cups large flake coconut
3/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp molassess
3 Tbsp maple sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp maple extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups dried medjool dates, pitted and cut into smaller pieces

Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil, and spray with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 and set rack at the medium position. In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, pecans, and coconut, and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together oil, syrup, molasses, maple sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, sea salt, maple and vanilla extracts until well combined, then pour over oat mixture and toss to coat until completely blended. Pour out onto prepared baking sheet, and spread out evenly. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes or so until the granola is evenly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Stir in the dates and enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Seitan in Mushroom Gravy with Fluffy Mashed Potatoes and Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Gravy...mashed was all sounding really good to me after running my butt off at work.  But not beef gravy, mushroom gravy!  I decided that I needed some vegan style comfort for dinner!  Fluffy mashed potatoes and all, not lacking in flavors or substance.  My Mom never made gravy with her mashed potatoes as a kid, and when I finally learned how to make it when I was in college, mushroom gravy became my favorite!  But I couldn't just eat mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner alone, so I decided that some seitan would be a nice protein addition to my mushroom gravy to be served over the potatoes.  My potatoes were made fluffy by sending them through a ricer, and adding soy milk and olive oil, and made flavorful with the addition of nutritional yeast and was almost as if they contained parmesan cheese!  Me, not being one to ever serve simple mashed potatoes with just salt and pepper.  Who needs all the heavy cream and butter, I certainly didn't miss it.  I also included crispy brussels sprouts in my meal, because I can't resist them when they are in season...all crunchy on the outside with a bit of sea salt, like savory candy!  The meal as a whole was satisfying and as I enjoyed it, I definately was feeling comforted, almost like the food was giving me a hug from the inside.  Now, you may be thinking, what was I doing preparing a meal if I was so tired from work?  Well, it was almost theraputic to make it and then enjoy it...I didn't even think about the work I put in to prepare it, and it was all worth it when I tasted it!  The creamy potatoes, the savory earthy gravy, and the crunchy salty sprouts, it was so wonderful! 

Seitan in Mushroom Gravy with Fluffy Mashed Potatoes and Crispy Brussels Sprouts
Serves 3

3 medium russett potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
sea salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup soy milk, or as needed 
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

sea salt and pepper
Seitan and Gravy:
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves
4 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups mushroom broth
3 Tbsp vermouth
1 Tbsp tamari
8 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 16 oz container chicken style seitan

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 brussels sprouts, halved
olive oil
sea salt

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees with the rack set at the top position.  Fill a large stock pot with water, and add about a Tbsp of sea salt.  Add potatoes and bring to a boil.  Cook until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain.  Send through a potato ricer into a large bowl (or mash by hand), and add olive oil, garlic, soy milk (more if a thinner consistency is desired), nutritional yeast, and sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Set aside, and keep warm.  Meanwhile (and this can be done while the potatoes cook), make the seitan and gravy.  Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium stock pot.  Add shallots, and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook a minute, then add the flour, and cook for about 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly to keep it moving so it doesn't burn.  Slowly add the stock, and whisk constantly to prevent lumps.  Add the vermouth, tamari, mushrooms, and seitan, as well as sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook a few minutes until thickened and the mushrooms are cooked.  Set aside and keep warm while you make the brussels sprouts. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss brussels sprouts with just enough oil to coat and spread out on sheet.  Roast until starting to brown and are crispy (about 15-20 minutes).  Sprinkle with sea salt.  To plate, mound potatoes on each plate, then spoon seitan and mushrooms along with gravy over each.  Spoon the brussels sprouts on the side, and serve!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Roasted Autumn Vegetable and Pasta Gratin

Sometimes indulgence is needed...I guess I was feeling like I was in need of a bit of comfort food tonigt, maybe it was the chill in the air or the lack of sun, but I decided that something creamy and with pasta would be nice.  So I dreamed up a roasted autumn vegetable and pasta gratin, and got set to making it! It was basically a fancy mac and cheese, but what would be the fun in calling it that?  Plus, my mac and cheese is always filled with vegetables.  Maybe I am not a purist, but I believe that they must be included.  You have to have some healthful element afterall!  When I need comfort food, I like it to be beautiful as well, so I roasted a wide range of colors of them...carrots, parsnips and brussels sprouts, as well as some leeks.  The orange carrots were the most beautful of course, but the green brussels sprouts and leeks, and yellow parsnips provided some variety.  It was almost like the colors of autumn leaves!  For my creamy sauce I used what I had on hand, but the theme seemed to be goat.  Goat milk, and goat gouda...that is why I say it had a goat theme.  Now, don't be thinking it was "goaty" in any was absolutely delicious and creamy!  I love goat gouda for its flavor and ability to melt into things like gratins!  I also added some pecorino romano as well for saltiness even though it is not made from goat milk, but sheep.  I topped my fancy mac and cheese off with a crunchy panko walnut mixture before baking to bubbliness, and it was all really wonderful when it emerged from the oven all gooey and cheesy!  But even more wonderful was taking a bite with the crunch of the topping and the richness of the cheese...Mmmm!  The roasted veggies lended a slightly sweet flavor against the saltiness of the cheese which was delicious!  This isn't for anyone who just likes regular old mac and cheese with noodles and sauce but no veggies, but if you want to take advantage of autumn veggies as well as have a big bowl of comfort you should definately try this out! 

Roasted Autumn Vegetable and Pasta Gratin
Serves 4

2 large carrots, thinly sliced
2 large parsnips, thinly sliced
12 brussels sprouts, halved
2 leeks, thickly sliced
olive oil
8 oz whole wheat penne pasta (or other short pasta)

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups goat milk
4 oz shredded goat gouda cheese
2 oz shredded pecorino romano cheese
1 tsp dried thyme
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 475 degrees, and line two baking sheets with foil and non-stick spray.  Toss carrots and pasnips with just enough olive oil to lightly coat, and spread out on one of the sheets.  Do the same with the leeks and brussels sprouts and place them on the other.  Roast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until browning at the edges and tender.  Remove from the oven and set aside, but keep the oven on.  Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, and keep warm.  To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a large stockpot, and add the garlic.  Saute until fragrant, one minute, then add flour and cook another minute to get the rawness out.  Add milk slowly and whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming.  Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cheeses, thyme and sea salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk until cheese has melted, then add the roasted veggies and pasta to the pot.  Mix well to coat pasta and veggies in the sauce and then spoon the mixture into 4 gratin dishes.  In a bowl, mix together panko, olive oil and walnuts, and toss well.  Top gratins with the breadcrumb mixture and place in the oven until they are bubbly, crispy on top and starting to brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from the oven, let cool a few minutes, and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Roasted Red Cabbage and Apple Pizzas with Carmelized Shallots, Walnuts, and Gruyere

There are some days when you just feel like you need a pizza for dinner...maybe a hard day at work perhaps?  Or just some comfort food in the form of a crispy crust with gooey cheese... today was one of those days for me.  I had some red cabbage and apples on hand, and since they pair so well together as a simple side dish, I thought they might be delicious on a pizza!  I like to try different toppings, and although I have probably tried hundreds of different combinations of fruits and veggies over the years, this one had escaped me.  But what to pair it with?  Some carmelized shallots sounded fabulous, and some nutty melty flavorful buttery gruyere was what I ended up chosing.  Toasted walnuts were a last addition for a textural contrast to all of the soft veggies.  When I pulled the pizza from the oven I knew it would be mouth was watering from the aroma of the melted gruyere and roasted veggies!  The pizza was beautiful with the red cabbage, and it tasted even better!  Like the classic side dish of red cabbage and apples it was tangy, but it had saltiness and richness from the cheese, and with the crunchy walnuts and savory onions, it was heavenly!  Red cabbage and apples are easy to find this time of year, so if you enjoy venturing out of the realm of cheese and meat toppings on a pizza you should try this!

Roasted Red Cabbage and Apple Pizzas with Carmelized Shallots, Walnuts, and Gruyere

Makes 2 10 inch pizzas

1/2 red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 small tart sweet apples, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
6 small shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
balsamic vinegar
2 whole wheat pizza crusts store bought or home-made*
1 tsp dried thyme
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
4 oz shredded Gruyere cheese

A good quality pizza stone is essential to a crispy crust. Place the stone on the highest rack in the oven, then crank up the heat as high as possible at least an hour before baking the pizza (but if you don't have a stone, still use the top rack, but you will need to leave the pizza on a sheet pan to bake). Line 2 sheet pans with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Toss red cabbage with just enough oil to coat and spread out on one pan, and roast until softened, and starting to brown at edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar and set aside. Spread out apples on other sheet and roast until just softened, about 5 minutes, and set aside.  Meanwhile, in a medium non-stick skillet, heat a little olive oil, on medium heat and add shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10-15 minutes until browned, softened and caramelly. Add garlic and cook for a minute more, until fragrant, and add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Remove from heat. To assemble pizzas, place one piece of the dough on a piece of parchment paper, spray rolling pin with non-stick spray and roll out as thin as possible (about 10 inches is best) Repeat with other piece of dough using another sheet of parchment. Sprinkle salt and pepper over crust, then thyme, then veggies, walnuts, mozzarella and gruyere. Using a pizza peel, or an upside down sheet pan, carefully slide the dough (keeping it on the parchment) into the oven. Bake for about 3-5 minutes, or until crust is starting to brown and cheese is bubbling. Carefully slide the parchment onto a sheet pan or pizza peel to remove from oven. Let cool a few minutes and serve!

*Amy's Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
Makes 8 10 inch crusts

4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp Salt
2 Pkgs rapid-rise yeast
2 cups warm water

To make the dough, in a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center, pour in the water and then dissolve the yeast in the water. Gradually stir the flour into the water mixture, until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface, then knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Oil a large bowl with olive oil, then place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm area, such as near the oven, and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk. When dough has risen, punch down and divide into 8 pieces. You can either freeze the dough in individual portions (just place in ziplock bags and take out the night before you want to use it, then it will be ready to use the next day), or set aside to use right away. If making the recipe above, you will need two crusts.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Red October Soup with Sourdough Croutons

At my work, I make a tomato cabbage white bean soup that is really simple, but very good.  It is hearty and satisfying and I like to make it during the summer and early fall because it is still light enough to enjoy when the weather is not quite cold yet.  I wanted to make some at home yesterday, but I realized that I didn't have green cabbage, which is what I normally use.  I also had some locally grown vegetables that needed to be eaten, and I thought what better way to use them in a soup?  This was quickly becoming quite different than the soup at work...leeks, shallots, and edamame were added in addition to the usual ingredients list.  I also added a bit of red wine I had on hand for flavor, and some tomato paste to make it a little thicker and give it a deeper flavor.  When it had all simmered together, it was a beautiful red hue thanks to the cabbage and tomatoes...hence the name "October Red" soup, because it was also made with veggies that are currently in season.  It was delicious as it was, but I like my soup with a bit of bread for dipping, or croutons, so I decided to make some to go atop it.  I cubed some sourdough, tossed it with a little olive oil, garlic and sea salt and baked it until crispy.  It was a wonderful textural contrast, and it was especially good when soaked in the flavorful broth!  If you would like a comforting soup, make some for yourself! 

Red October Soup with Sourdough Croutons
Serves 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium leeks, sliced
4 small shallots, sliced
1 medium red onion, diced
4 medium carrots, halved and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup red wine
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 small red cabbage, chopped
1 cup edamame, shelled
2 cups cooked white beans (I used navy)
2 Tbsp tamari
4 cups water or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp vegetarian Worchestershire sauce
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup tomato paste
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups cubed sourdough bread
olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt

To make soup, in a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add leeks, shallots, onions, and carrots, and saute until translucent and starting to brown slightly, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic, rosemary and thyme and saute until fragrant, 1 minute.  Add wine to deglaze and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Add tomatoes, cabbage, edamame, white beans, tamari, water, worchestershire sauce, agave nectar, tomato paste, sea salt and freshly pepper.  Bring soup to a low boil, then lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.  Taste for seasoning and add more sea salt if needed.  Meanwhile, make the croutons.  Heat oven to 475 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Toss bread with just enough olive oil to moisten, along with garlic and a little sea salt. Spread out on sheet, and bake until crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly.  To serve, ladle soup into bowl, and top with a few croutons. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October Pear and Spiced Pepita Salad with Chevre

As I am sure most of you know...pears are simply luscious this time of year!  I am enjoying the wonderful selection the markets and produce departments are offering as of lately.  I can't resist buying a few of each kind, although I will admit my favorite has to be the D' Anjou pear, because of its wonderful sweet flavor, and buttery texture.  Since I had a few types on hand, I thought it might be nice to make a salad showcasing a few different varieties.  So I grabbed some D'Anjou, because they are my favorite, Red Bartlett for their beautiful color and butteriness, and spice pears, for their tart bright flavor.  Of course if you were making this you could choose your favorites!  I paired the pears with peppery local greens and shallots, as well as some chevre because I love it with pears.  I had some spiced pepitas I had made earlier in the week, and I decided to throw those in as well, and they ended up being a tasty addition with their crunch and salty spicy sweetness!  For the dressing I chose what else...D'anjou Pear vinegar!  It is a wonderful sweet tangy vinegar, but if it is unavailable in your area you could use riesling vinegar or white balsamic instead.  The salad was wonderful when composed and we were enjoying it at the table...all the flavors together, tart, sweet, tangy, peppery...they were all there!  A pear party in my mouth!  It was almost dessert-like with the chevre pears and nuts, but still savory.  My only gripe, it was gone too fast so I will be making more soon.  Take full advantage of the wonderful pears this season and give this salad a try!

October Pear and Spiced Pepita Salad with Chevre
Serves 3

Spiced Pepitas:
1/2 cup pepitas
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp maple sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground chipotle powder

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp D'Anjou pear, or, riesling vinegar
1 tsp dijon
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp dried thyme
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

5 cups mixed flavorful greens such as arugula, mizuna and dandilion
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 D'anjou pear, sliced
1 Bartlett pear, sliced
2 small spice pears, sliced
2 oz chevre, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with nonstick spray. Toss pepitas with maple syrup, sugar, sea salt , spices, and chipotle and spread out on the sheet. Roast in the oven until fragrant and starting to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Meanwhile, whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Combine greens, shallots, and pears in a large bowl, pour dressing over, and toss with hands to coat. Divide salad between 3 plates and top with toasted seeds and cheese.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

5 Spice Honeycrisp Appletini

I am in love with all things honeycrisp right now...and although my favorite way to eat them is to simply take a big bite, I find uses for them in almost every sort of dish.  This includes beverages!  Today when I was at work, and just feeling tired and wanting it to be 4 o'clock so I could go home, I was thinking a cocktail might be fabulous this afternoon.  I am usually just a classic dirty martini girl, not going for the sweet drinks, but an idea popped into my head to make a Honeycrisp appletini!  Probably because I was also imagining how nice it would be to enjoy a nice honeycrisp apple, as I was also hungry at the time.  I am really not a fan of most appletinis people order in bars...they are way too sweet containing lots of artificial apple flavorings and lots of sugar.  What I like however is when bartenders make their own drink creations using fruit I thought I could create a honeycrisp appletini this way featuring the popular Minnesota  grown fruit!  I had a bag of small honeycrisps, about the size of large golf ball, and I thought one would be the perfect size to puree for a martini!  I added some Asian 5 spice because it is so wonderful with apples, some local Prairie Organic Vodka, because it is my favorite, and some Domaine De Canton ginger liqueur to spice it up a bit.  It was a wonderful refreshing drink...the essence of Honeycrisp apple!  All you Honeycrisp apple lovers out there, you must try this! It is 100x better than any normal appletini...

5 Spice Honeycrisp Appletini
Serves 1
Spiced sugar:
2 Tbsp maple sugar
3/4 tsp asian 5 spice powder
1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
4-6 large ice cubes
1 tsp asian 5 spice powder
2 oz Prairie Organic Vodka
1 1/2 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
3 Tbsp fresh honeycrisp apple puree
2 thin slices honeycrisp apple

To make cardamom sugar, combine sugar cinnamon and nutmeg and blend well. Spread out on a small plate. Coat the rim of the martini glass with the agave syrup by dipping it into it on a plate, then dip the agave coated rim into the sugar and set aside. In a martini shaker add the ice, cinnamon, nutmeg, vodka, ginger liquer, and apple puree, and place top on shaker.  Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into a chilled martini glass, adding the apple slice to your glass to garnish, and serve!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Amy's Autumnal Granola

 I was in the bulk section at the store yesterday looking at all of the different types of granola that have become available in our stores today from bars to the cereal, most of them nowhere near as good as home made, and full of sugar.  I have to say most of them looked rather unappetizing, and I was glad I knew how to make my own and that it was a relatively simple process to do so.  I learned how to make granola from my Mom.  I asked her when she started making her own granola, and she told me that back in the late 70s, because she didn't like what was available and how much sugar was added to the commercial stuff.  No, she wasn't a hippy, just someone who cared about the quality of the food she was eating.  Funny how a food considered "hippie" is now something that comes in gourmet varieties, and is mass produced.  But going back to the gourmet aspect, I enjoy making my own granola for the same reasons my Mom did, and because I simply enjoy being able to create a masterpiece of granola varying ingredients every time. 

This time I wanted something that spoke "autumn" when you looked at it or took a bite...which is why I was in the bulk section of the store in the first place yesterday.  The bulk granola section was a pit stop, or a distraction on my way to the goodies I would fill my granola with.  Of course I scooped up a big bag of thick cut oats...but as for add ins I was unsure.  I decided on walnuts and pecans, as well as some sliced almonds, because they all bake up wonderfully crispy and crunchy in a granola, not to mention that they are autumnal.  I grabbed some crasins, a classic fall fruit, golden raisins, because they are a beautiful gold color, and currants, because they remind me of something that would go in an apple crisp.  Dried apples were going to be included as well, because they are the essence of fall fruits!  The last thing I grabbed was not fallish...really, but simply an "Amy" essential ingredient to granola...dried large flake coconut.  I can't ever leave it out of my granola even if it doesn't seem like it will go with it, which it always has in the finished product.  It is like my signature ingredient to granola.  When I got home and was putting this together to bake it I needed to decide on sweeteners.  I ended up with maple syrup and molasses.  Just a small amount of molasses however, because I wanted this granola to have a deep caramel flavor but not taste molassesy.  The maple syrup, well that one is self explanitory, but it also makes the granola extra crunchy.  This granola needed some spice and flavors as well, so I added a good amount of cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg with some maple and vanilla extracts.  It all smelled so good together I had to taste it even before baking...but even better was after it emerged from the oven and filled my home to every corner with a heavenly spiced aroma!  A pan of granola cooling on the stove is quite dangerous, especially this walk past and have to "sample" every time.  I suppose it wasn't a good idea for me to make it in the hours leading up to dinner, because I ate so much I wasn't hungry, but who is to say you can't eat granola for dinner once in a while.  Anyways, you should make this being that it is fall, and this stuff is really good...the crunchy toasty nuts and coconut, sweet and tart fruits, and spices running throughout the whole thing, it is pure autumnal goodness!

Amy's Autumnal Granola
Makes about 14 cups of delicious granola

6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups walnuts
2 cups pecans
2 cups almonds
2 cups large flake coconut

3/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp dark molasses
3 Tbsp maple sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp maple extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups dried apples, chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup craisins
1 cup currants

Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil, and spray with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 and set rack at the medium position. In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and coconut, and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together oil, syrup, molasses, maple sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, sea salt, maple and vanilla extracts until well combined, then pour over oat mixture and toss to coat until completely blended. Pour out onto prepared baking sheet, and spread out evenly. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes or so until the granola is evenly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Stir in dried fruits and enjoy!