Archives for category: Gluten Free

Personal chef Quinoa Bars 122

A common mental image of a “hacker” is a computer geek who uses his computer to get unauthorized data.  Thankfully. the term “hacker” no longer applies only to computer geeks.

This term has a completely new meaning that I embrace and embody in my everyday life and my career.  It is a beautiful thing.

The term hacking can also be used to describe someone who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities.  Now that is what I am talking about!

My darling friend Cesar asked me to make some food for a retreat he was organizing.  He wanted some delish and healthy meals and snacks.  I wanted to try something new for snack ideas.  Here is a picture of Cesar enjoying one of my meals at the Unreasonable Institute retreat this summer.

ui graduation 038

My other darling friend Pascal has a recipe on his fridge for quinoa snack bars.  I did not have a copy of the recipe but could remember the basics of the recipe and decided to give it a hack.  You should check out Pascal’s website Make Awesome Shit Happen.

pascal wagner

Using ingredients I had in the pantry and pulling out my food processor I got to work.  I was surprised at what a “healthy hack” this snack turned out to be.  “Healthy hacking” means when you get a result in the kitchen making fantastic food with beautiful ingredients that does not take hours of time or years of skill.  I delight in finding recipes that are similar to expensive convenience items and are simple to make and cost a fraction of the retail price.

These healthy and tasty bars are a great “kitchen hack.”    Packed full of ground flax seed, organic toasted nuts, dried organic fruit, dried coconut flakes, Justin’s almond butter and agave nectar this is a powerhouse snack.

Personal chef Quinoa Bars 123

TRY THIS RECIPE.  Kids love it, you will love it and give some to your friends and they will love you more!

I urge you to step into your kitchen and hack away.  No, I do not mean you should wield you knife in an unsafe manner but approach your cooking with a mindset that  embodies excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration.  Have Fun!

This a gluten free, paleo snack that is also vegan.

Quinoa Fruit and Nut Bars

Makes 12 Bars

Prep time 10 minutes

10 minutes to set

20 minutes to enjoying a yummy and healthy snack.

Lara Bars and Bread 009

Ingredients:

3 cups dried fruit, you can use apricots, cranberries, raisins, dates or any other moist dried fruit

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 cups nuts, I used almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds and you can toast them or use them raw for a healthier hack

1/2 cup organic quinoa

1/2 cup organic flax seeds

1/4 tsp sea salt

2 tbs agave nector

4 tbs Justin’s Almond Butter, I could say to use any almond butter but for best results use Justin’s.

A great kitchen hack for baking and prep is to use a flexible cutting board, silpat baking sheet or parchment to measure out your ingredients.

Then you can just lift up the flexible surface and pour into your food processor or mixer without a mess or losing any ingredients.  So easy and simple

1.  Grind the flax seeds for about 2 minutes.

2.  Add Nuts, Quinoa and dried fruit then grind for another 2 minutes.

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3.  Add coconut, salt, agave and nut butter and mix for 2 more minutes.

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4.  Line a 11 x 7 inch rectangular pan or any other similar size pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Spray lightly with non-stick spray.

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5.  Add quinoa bar mixture to the pan and press it flat.

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6.  Set pan in freezer for 10 minutes or refrigerator for 1 hour to set the mixture and make it easier to cut.

Lara Bars and Bread 032Bars may be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month or in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Personal chef Quinoa Bars 126 About a week after the retreat I received this email from Cesar.

Connie,

Here is a photo of both my sisters and one of their fiancees with your snack bars in Argentina!  I brought the left over ones as a travel snack and had enough to share, and the girls loved them  would you mind sharing the recipe with us?lara bars girlsThis was a very nice email to receive.  I love the fact that those healthy bars made it down to Argentina to these beautiful young people!!!

Since we are on the subject of hacking let me tell you about a happy discovery in my life.  My husband recently found a hacker space in our town.  Solid State Depot is the hacker space here in Boulder Colorado.

What is a hacker space?

From the website LifeHacker I found this description of a hacker space.  They also list hacker spaces around the country.

“Great DIY projects  are often easy to do at home, but many require tools and space that you may not have. Just because you don’t have a basement workshop doesn’t mean you don’t get to scratch your DIY itch. Odds are there’s a hackerspace in your community, stocked with tools, plenty of space, safety gear, and knowledgeable people willing to help you. These spaces offer would-be makers a place to go and safely experiment, tinker, and dream. Here’s how you can find and get involved with one near you.”

Check out your local hacker space today!

Pad ThaiLast week I cooked for the folks at the Unreasonable Institute again.  You gotta love catering for a group of people where most of them give you a big hug when they see you!   Makes the job so much nicer.

I decided to make Pad Thai.  This is one of my favorite foods.  Quick and easy, Pad Thai is a great week night supper.  This dish may seem complicated with its unique Thai flavors but is actually a pretty simple dish to make.

Since Pad Thai makes use of the veggies you have on-hand and eggs it is a simple and inexpensive dish.  Eggs are a great source of cheap protein.  You can also prep your ingredients up to a day before and assemble and heat the day you serve the dish.  I will make up a bottle of Pad Thai sauce and keep in the fridge for 2 weeks to make salad dressing and other Asian dishes.

To further simplify this dish you can buy a roasted chicken at Whole Foods or one of those yummy cheap ones from Costco and even go so far as to buy the pre-cut veggies in the produce section.  This way you can  cook the noodles, saute your veggies and make sauce.

How to cook rice noodles:

Rice noodles cook differently than wheat noodles.  They are more delicate.

Bring a pot of about 4-5 quarts of water to a boil.  In another pot add your noodles.  Pour hot water over noodles and let sit for about 8 minutes.  You want to under cook your noodles a little bit as the noodles will finish cooking in the sauce when you stir fry your Pad Thai together.

Give your noodles a taste after 5-6 minutes and drain when they are tender but still seem a bit underdone.  Toss with sesame oil, canola oil or olive oil and set aside.  Make sure to toss noodles well in oil as you do not want them to stick together in a huge clump!

Prep what ever veggies you may have on hand.  I shred carrots on a cheese grater with the big holes.  Thinly slice celery, onions, bell pepper, mushrooms or bok choy.  If I add broccoli I will par cook the broccoli ahead of time until just tender crisp and pull apart the broccoli to make small pieces.  Wash your mung bean sprouts, cilantro and fine dice some cucumbers before cooking.  Toppings on Pad Thai give it bright flavors and intriguing crunchy bits like fresh cucumber or chopped peanuts.

I like to use chicken thighs in Pad Thai.  Roast bone-less  skin less  chicken thighs in the oven and dice them in a small dice.  This step can be done up to 1 day ahead of time.  I will usually plan to make a dish with chicken the day before and reserve 4-5 thighs for the Pad Thai the next day.

You can use shrimp, roasted chicken, sautéed and diced cooked chicken breasts or any other protein you enjoy like diced extra firm tofu.   Pad Thai is a great dish to clean out the fridge and just use what you have on hand.

Recipe yields about 3 cups sauce.  Use within two weeks or freeze for later.

1/4 cup Yoshida Sauce or other sweet teriyaki sauce

1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup good tomato paste

2 tbs soy sauce

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

2 tbs fish sauce

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

1/4 cup minced fresh green onions

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tbs good toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup canola oil

1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce (just one chili not the whole can!) This adds a nice smokey and sweet taste to your pad thai sauce.   It is not traditional but very yummy.

Put everything in a blender or food processor and pulse until blended but still a bit chunky.  I will add the cilantro and green onions at the end and just pulse a few times after adding the herbs if I use a food processor.

Pad Thai Recipe

1 box thick rice noodles like Annie Chung brand.

4 eggs lightly scrambled

Veggies diced all the same size if possible up to 4 cups

I will use bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, carrots, onions, chard, cabbage or anything else  you have on hand.

4 cooked chicken thighs diced

2 tbs canola oil

Cook noodles as per directions on box and set aside.  Make sure to toss noodles in 1 tbs oil so they do not stick together.

Sautee veggies in 1 tbs oil in wok or large skillet.  When veggies are tender crisp but not fully cooked add chicken and sauce.  Stir to mix.  Bring to a simmer and add noodles.  Toss to coat and serve.

I like to serve Pad Thai topped with ground peanuts, mung bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, fresh lime wedges and diced cucumber.

March 28 2013 154

For the past 5 or 6 years I have been working 60+ hour weeks.  I did not get much time to spend with my kids.  I have remedied that.  It is important to me to spend as much time with both of my kids as I possibly can.  I am also spending as much time exercising as I can.  I have decided to combine the two activities and so my son and I are starting to hike the trails around Boulder nearly every afternoon.  Like all 12-year-old boys my son loves sweets.

March 14 2013 084I can often tempt him on a long and arduous hike if I promise a treat.  My son loves Gelato.  This is always a good temptation.  He wants to tour Italy and review Gelato.  Seriously, and he is only 12.  I love this kid.  I told him that we first had to start reviewing local shops that serve Gelato.  Our first choice was Lucky’s Bakehouse in North Boulder.

March 14 2013 069First we hit the trail above Wonderland lake and after a one hour hike headed for gelato.

Lucky’s Bakehouse opened in our neighborhood last year in November.  We have been there several times.  They make all of the baked goods from scratch with great ingredients.  Everything is creative and pretty.  The Chef Jen Bush is a creative baker who designs beautiful as well as tasty pastries, cakes, pies, bars and other treats.

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Ben sampled several gelato and ice cream flavors.  Lucky’s makes all of the gelato and ice cream in-house from scratch and uses local ingredients as much as possible.

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Ben chose Mango Gelato.  Ben described this gelato as not too sweet and a little tangy.  He said it was cool and refreshing after his hike.

March 14 2013 093Light and fluffy he said the gelato had a strong mango flavors and tasted as if it were made with fresh fruit.

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Next week sampled Two Spoons Gelato Shop on Pearl Street.   This place is really great.  Every flavor we sampled was excellent.  They also use local ingredients and organic as well.

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Ben chose  the raspberry lemon gelato.

March 28 2013 157Ben says this gelato made him feel alive.

March 28 2013 151He said it was bright with clean raspberry and lemon flavors.

March 28 2013 148Powerful flavors and not too sweet.  Very tangy and lively.

March 28 2013 174He said there was the right amount of sweet and tangy.  This gelato got two thumbs up!

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Before visiting Two Spoons we walked up the Boulder Creek trail for over an hour.

As for the two gelato shops Ben’s opinion was that he liked Two Spoons better.  Maybe it was the bigger serving?  Ben also said he liked Lucky’s since he could get other things as well, like a donut.  This kid loves his donuts.  We have heard that the Justin’s Peanut Butter ice cream at Lucky’s is literally to die for so maybe another long hike and visit to Lucky’s needs to be scheduled.  When going for gelato we will be heading down to Pearl Street to visit Two Spoons.  When my daughter read this post she wanted to leave and go to Two Spoons right away.  I am making her hike Mount Sanitas first!  For those of you familiar with this hike you know she will be earning her gelato.

I love to combine exercise, time with my sweet kids and food reviewing all in one.  It just does not get any better than this.

March 28 2013 180I have made many flourless chocolate cakes in my career.  I love the ease of a flourless chocolate cake and when you use exceptional chocolate the result is a dense and flavorful cake that all of your guests will love.

I can finally say that I have developed the perfect flourless chocolate cake recipe.  I have made many recipes from Martha Stewart to Rose Levy Barenbaum and this recipe takes all of the best parts of those recipes to create not only a delicious cake but an easy cake.

This cake is so easy you would not say it was unreasonable at all.

The people who I served this cake were definitely unreasonable in the best possible way.

I was catering recently for a group from the Unreasonable Institute.  If you have not heard about this group, check them out.  Amazing….is all I have to say.  I spent at least 3 hours just looking at all of the entrepreneurs they have helped with their program the first time I went to their website.

This is what it says on their website:  “We get world-changing ventures and entrepreneurs what they need to scale their impact. Each year, we unite 10-30 entrepreneurs (called “Unreasonable Fellows”) from every corner of the globe to live under the same roof for six weeks in Boulder, Colorado. These entrepreneurs receive customized training and support from 50 world-class mentors, ranging from a Time Magazine Hero of the Planet, to the head of user experience at Google X, to an entrepreneur who’s enabled over 20 million farmers to move out of poverty. In the process, they form relationships with corporations and international organizations, receive legal advice & design consulting, and get in front of hundreds of potential funders. Our goal is to bring all the resources to accelerate these ventures so they can scale to meet the needs of at least one million people each.”

How cool is that..

Here are a few of the ventures they have helped out:

Worms 4 Change

Replicable vermicomposting production and training model to promote health and development in rural and urban communities

Initiative for the Development of Former Child Soldiers (IDEFOCS)

Restoration of peace & security in West Africa through Former child soldiers’ rehabilitation & reintegration.

Lili Dairy

Empowering Women Through Dairy Farming

The list goes on and on.

I had the privilege to cater for this group and the one dish they raved about most was the flourless chocolate cake.  I agreed to share the recipe.

Very Simple Flourless Chocolate Cake

8 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
8 oz 60% cacao chocolate chips (I used Costco Brand which I love..)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup very hot and very strong coffee
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons unsweetened organic cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli again)
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tbs vanilla extract
1 tbs whiskey (I used Jack Daniels)
Instructions:
 Pre heat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 10-cup Springform pan by lining the bottom with buttered parchment
Break up the unsweetened chocolate into pieces and put the chocolate into the bowl of the food processor or blender. Add the chocolate chips as well.  Pulse until the chocolate breaks up into small bits. Add the sugar. Pulse until the chocolate and sugar turns into a sandy grain.
Pour the hot water or coffee slowly into the feed tube as you pulse again. Pulse until the chocolate is melted.
Add the butter pieces and the cocoa powder, and pulse to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla, whisky and process till smooth. The batter will be liquid and creamy.
Pour the batter into the lined Springform pan. Wrap the outside of the whole pan with a big piece of foil. Bake at 350º  in the center of the oven, till puffed about 45-55 minutes.
Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove from pan and let cake cool on rack for 1 hour.  Best when refrigerated over night wrapped in plastic wrap.  Top with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar or berries.
March 28 2013 184

Poppy Cafe Scallops, brussels, etc 366

I would step into the kitchen when I worked at Lucky’s Market my eyes would narrow when seeing Fernando.  You could cut the tension in the air.  He would glare back at me.  We would work together with minimal pleasantries but only because that was the professional way to handle our mutual dislike of each other.

Lucky's Deli case, latkes, las 166

Here is Fernando making  perfect potato latkes.

Why did we dislike each other? I am not going to venture to guess.   Too many chefs in the kitchen?

We are now the best of friends.  It is funny to see the look of confusion some people at Lucky’s Market get when I come in to see Fernando and usually bring him a treat like some home-made bread or caramel candies.  I am  glad we are now good friends.

Fernando is a talented chef whose palate is educated.  I love eating with him because he has great input on reviewing food.

When we were eating at a local restaurant recently we decided to go out more often and then I said “why don’t we do reviews on my blog together?’

Any excuse to go out to eat with friends.

Poppy Cafe Jan 21 2012 066

The restaurant we visited on Tuesday evening is a newer restaurant in Boulder.  The Poppy Cafe opened in November of last year.  The menu is designed as mostly gluten-free but you cannot tell unless you are looking for gluten-free.   The Poppy Cafe offers healthy, scratch made food using only the best ingredients.

Poppy Cafe Jan 15 2013 075

Fernando and I agreed that of the dishes we tried the brussels sprouts were our favorite.  Honey glazed brussels sprouts with rosemary and walnuts are a sublime combination.  The sprouts were roasted to perfection.  The sweet glaze and earthy rosemary mingled in my taste buds.  This is truly a happy making dish.

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We also tried the crab stuffed, bacon wrapped shrimp.  Of course this dish was excellent. The slightly crunchy and salty bacon gives way to sweet shrimp and then you taste even sweeter crab meat.  All of this deliciousness are napped in a pesto cream sauce.  Oh my….

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The sesame scallops were seared perfectly with a light sesame flavor that still allowed you to taste the fresh flavor of the sea in the scallops.

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We had a small plate of gorgonzola cheese, olives and walnuts which are some of my favorite foods combined.  I think I ate most of that dish.

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The petite Beef Wellington in a demi glace were delicious.  This classic dish with tender beef  wrapped in puff pastry with mushroom duxelle and served with demi glace is made perfect at the Poppy Cafe.

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The quality of the food is not reflected in the prices.  This restaurant offers fantastic food at very reasonable prices.

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During happy hour they also offer bottomless glasses of wine.  The house wine is Douglas Hill so those bottomless glasses of wine go down easy!

The Poppy Cafe is located at 38th and Arapahoe in the beautiful Peleton complex in Boulder Colorado.

March 5 2013 161

I happened to hear a conversation my daughter was having with one of her friends.  The girl who was visiting us said to Maddy, “You guys don’t have any snacks?”  They were looking for something to eat in the cabinet.  My cabinet is filled with foods to make snacks but nothing prepared.  Sure, we sometimes have chips or pretzels but not all of the snack foods most people have in their houses.

This statement made me laugh because I remember when I was about 14 and my friend Jenifer was over to visit.  We stood in our huge dry storage area of the converted farmhouse my family lived in.

This was my mother’s domain.  For those of you who do not know my mother she is a formidable force of nature.  We grew up on a 5 acre subsistence farm.  We grew or raised most of what we ate.  My mom did most of the work.!

Jenifer was saying, “your family does not have any snacks.”

Our dry storage contained big huge bags of flour, big bags of beans and beautiful canning jars full of produce from our garden.  I remember loving to see how the light played off of the different colors in the jars.  Red tomatoes, dark green beans, yellow summer squash and purple beets all lined the shelves.  There were no Doritos.

When I would go to Jenifer’s house I would feel as if I stepped into the Plaza Hotel.  They had individual slices of cheese in plastic, single yogurts and chips and crackers.  How very fancy it seemed to me.  Don’t get me wrong, Jenifer’s mom fed her great food but it just seemed so fancy to me to have snacks.  My family could not afford these things for all 5 of us kids.  Sliced deli meat was a luxury that only came once or twice a year.  Grapes from the grocery store were descended on like a fallen gazelle by a pack of lions when my mom dared to bring them home from the store.

My need to make snacks from scratch also arises from not wanting to pay the grocery store prices for snacks but also that I want my family to eat well.

Making chips from scratch is a breeze if you have a mandolin. This is the one that I have but there are much cheaper ones that work great as well. French Mandolin.   I use my constantly.  It makes things much easier.  If you hand cut chips or fries it takes too long!  At least for me as a chef I cannot stand tasks that are too laborious or slow.  I am usually moving in high-speed.  I will slice the potatoes and let rest in extra cold water for about an hour.

Then I will place a rack over my sink and let the potatoes drain for an hour or so.  I also do this for fries. March 5 2013 159

Then you do not need to pat the potatoes down with a bunch of paper towels and all of the water evaporates off.

I pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Oil a pan with coconut oil.  Do not use too much oil.  Coconut oil is great because you do not need to use much.  I only oil the bottom of a cookie sheet and do not toss the chips to coat.  When they are half way done I just flip the chips to crisp the top when the bottom is crisp.

This will take about 15 minutes.  When chips are hot out of the oven add garlic, shredded parmesan and salt or any other creative flavors you can think of but add when hot so it sticks.

Let cool on a rack and enjoy.

March 5 2013 174

Andy B-day in Jimtown 074

Last weekend I catered a lovely little party in Jamestown.  My friend Andy had asked me a couple of months ago to cook for his birthday party.  I knew it was coming up but did not realize that he didn’t have my phone number.  I was in Jamestown the friday before dancing at Town Hall to a great line up of local bands including the Gasoline lollipops.  I went out on the porch to cool off because the place was packed and the music had us all dancing and started talking to Nolan Farmer.  Andy rents a room in Nolan’s’ beautiful house nestled in the mountains above Jamestown.  Nolan asks if I am coming to Andy’s party on Sunday.  SUNDAY!  I told Nolan I better call Andy in the morning because I am supposed cater the party for him.  I called Andy in the morning a we worked out a quick and healthy menu.  Andy is committed to eating healthy and he is doing a great job.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 109Here is the birthday boy telling a joke.

I arrived at Andy and Nolan’s on Sunday and had a great day cooking with Andy and listening to the talented Nolan Farmer playing his guitar and singing some of the wonderful bluegrass songs he has written.  Does it get any better than that?

I made a kale and cabbage slaw with oven dried apples.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 056A light platter of salami and olives with some delicious fresh oranges.

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My whole wheat carrot cake cupcakes were a hit.

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Andy made a fantastic guacamole.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 089I also made some yummy goat cheese and veggie flatbread.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 088The center dish was an oven roasted salmon fillet with marinated baby heirloom tomatoes with garlic and fresh basil.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 040The guests loved the food but I think I had the most fun just watching my friends enjoy food cooked with love.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 113Andy B-day in Jimtown 119

Oven Roasted Salmon with Marinated Tomatoes

This dish is simple and delicious

2 lb Fresh Salmon Fillet

1 Pint heirloom Grape Tomatoes or Regular Grape Tomatoes

1 Garlic Clove Sliced Thinly

8-10 Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Lemon Sliced into Rounds

Sea Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

8 Hours before cooking marinate Tomatoes slice in half, Garlic and Basil with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Slice the salmon fillet down the center and then slice into the salmon about 1 inch on each side of the center cut so that the salmon will open up.

Rub the salmon with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Open the top and pile in the tomato mixture.

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Top with slices of lemon and bake until salmon is fully cooked.  About 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Serve hot or cold.  The roasted tomatoes take on a bright and sweet flavor.

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Mothers Day is coming up and this dish would be a hit.

A la greqce cauliflower 012

I was thinking of Thomas Keller when I was trying to figure out what to do with all of this lovely cauliflower I had in my refrigerator.  I usually roast cauliflower, or make a soup or just steam it, but I wanted to do something new.

Thomas Keller has a  recipe for vegetables a la grecque.in his cookbook Bouchon. I love bistro food and preparing food ahead of time to be eaten later.  This recipe is perfect for making a day ahead and enjoying it all week.

You gently cook veggies in a court bouillon with olive oil, aromatics and lemon juice.  After cooking you store the veggies in the refrigerator in the cooled cooking liquid and reduce the liquid and make a vinaigrette before serving.  Genius.

I tweaked the recipe a little bit and substituted  butter for olive oil and  white wine for lemon juice.  The result was amazing.  I have been eating little happy bites of cauliflower lightly scented with herbs and wine for days now.  Heavenly.

This is a wonderful recipe for a party since most of the work can be done up to 2 days ahead of time.

A la greqce cauliflower 010

Start by cutting up your cauliflower.

Feb 27 2013 019In a large pot add 2 cups water, 2 cups white wine, 1/4 cup butter and aromatic herbs.  I used thyme, sage and rosemary.  I also threw in a garlic clove sliced into rounds.  Season the water with 1 teaspoon sea salt.

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Bring water to simmer and add veggies.

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Cook until tender crisp.

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Rinse veggies in very cold running water to stop the cooking process.

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Cool the cooking liquid and store veggies in the cooled cooking liquid for up to 1 week in your refrigerator.

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I suggest you try both my method and then go out and buy the Bouchon cookbook and try Thomas’ recipe as well.  I am sure I will be making this dish all summer when it is hot because the veggies, right out of the fridge are cool and packed with flavor.

Feb 27 2013 044

I bought a couple of pounds of roma tomatoes at the store.  They were a wonderful color and looked yummy.  These tomatoes were not very yummy.  As a fresh tomato these little fruits were completely useless.

Being frugal I could not throw them out.  Oven drying was the only solution.  This way the sugars in the tomatoes would be concentrated and the flavor enhanced.  I do not like to waste food.

I had some fresh thyme that I had frozen when I realized I would not use it up by the time in turned.  Freezing thyme is a great way to preserve it when you are not going to use the whole bunch.

I tossed the tomatoes in a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Threw on some sea salt and pepper and tossed some garlic and fresh thyme on top.

Feb 23 2013 053I set my oven and 250 degrees and let the tomatoes roast for 3-4 hours.

Feb 23 2013 079I took out the thyme stems and saved them in a bag in the freezer for stock and packed the dried tomatoes and garlic in a jar with some olive oil.  The tomatoes last in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks or 2 months in the freezer.  Use the oil to coat veggies, for a tasty salad dressing or spread on some fresh-baked bread.  Do not throw out the oil after you have used the tomatoes as it has a great flavor for the herbs, garlic and sweet tomatoes.

Feb 27 2013 046

These sweet dried tomatoes are very versatile.

Here are 10 ways to use oven dried tomatoes:

1.  Pizza topping

2.  Toss with pasta, olive oil, garlic and a good cheese

3.  Antipasti

4.  Top a salad with bacon and blue cheese

5.  Add to mayo and it is great in a sandwich or as a dipping sauce with fresh veggies

6.  Add to your favorite pasta sauce to punch up the flavor

7.  Add to stew at the end of cooking for a sweet complexity

8.  Add to soup with kale, white beans and garlic

9.  Blend tomatoes, oil that you stored the tomatoes in, and more fresh herbs with some balsamic vinegar for a delicious salad dressing

10. Toss with feta, kalamata olives, olive oil and grilled veggies

What do you use your oven dried tomatoes for?

Check out Lucys Friendly Foods for a great antipasti salad recipe.

Carmels 2 015

My kids love caramels.  When we go to the store they have caramels that cost about a dollar each by the register.  They are lovely and tasty and expensive.  I decided we needed to make our own.  Time consuming, this recipe is worth the work.  You don’t need to stand over the stove and stir the whole time but you do need to be in the kitchen for a few hours so you can make other things when the caramel are cooking.  I made some granola bars and some bread at the same time.

Some of my recipes call for corn syrup.  One of the DIY projects that I have undertaken recently is making “corn” syrup out of cane sugar.  Corn syrup is expensive and after reading “The omnivores Dilemma” by  Michael Pollen, I have been committed to reducing the amount of corn products my family consumes.  Not an easy task.

It is very easy to make your own “corn” syrup from cane sugar.  This will substitute in any recipe that calls for corn syrup.  For example, it works great in my granola bar recipe.

Here is the recipe I used to make “corn” syrup.  Cupcake Project, How to make corn syrup.

You should make these caramels because they are worth the work and this recipe yields 120 caramels which will last a long time if kept in the fridge.

Carmels 2 008

Ingredients

  •                                         4 cups heavy cream
  •                                         1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  •                                         4 cups home-made “corn” syrup
  •                                         4 cups sugar
  •                                         1 teaspoon salt
  •                                         1/2 pound unsalted butter
  •                                         1 tablespoon home-made vanilla extract
  •                                         Vegetable-oil cooking spray

Directions

  1.  Spray a cookie sheet or half sheet pan with vegetable-oil spray.
  2.  In medium saucepan, combine cream and sweetened condensed milk; set aside.
  3.  In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, combine “corn” syrup, 1 cup water, sugar, and salt. Clip on candy thermometer. Over high heat, cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring with a wooden spoon, 8 to 12 minutes. Brush down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals if needed.
  4.  Stop stirring, reduce heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250  degrees (hard-ball stage).  You need to have a candy thermometer for this recipe because you cannot guess about the temperature.   This will take about 45 to 60 minutes.
  5. Cook cream mixture over low heat until it is just warm. Do not boil.
  6. When sugar reaches 250  degrees. slowly stir in butter cut into chunks added one at a time, and warmed cream mixture, keeping mixture boiling at all times.  Take your time with this step as you do not want the mixture to stop boiling.  Add the butter very slowly.

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  1. Cook over medium heat until thermometer reaches 244  degrees (firm-ball stage), and this will take around 55 to 75 minutes.

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  1. Stir in vanilla.
  2. Immediately pour into prepared pan without scraping pot. If you scrape the bottom of the pot dark brown bits will end up in your candy.  Just leave the bottom of the pot alone and throw out what is left after you pour the candy into the pan.
  3. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for 24 hours without moving.
  4. After candy has hardened cut into 1 inch pieces and wrap with waxed paper.
  5. These will keep for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.  Keep the candies in sealed bag or jar so that they do not pick up any odd flavors from the refrigerator.

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