“Healthy” energy bar treats

Let’s face it: “healthy” is a relative term. The Cheez-Its I love to eat don’t seem so bad since they’re not Twinkies. Twinkies aren’t as bad if they’re not deep-fried. I mean, life has got to be about more than just kale and quinoa.

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See where I’m going here? I’m about to make you feel good about eating marshmallows.

Rice Krispie treats aren’t so bad if they look like this.

Granolabars

This is a fast, easy, “healthy” snack that’s not super sweet. They’re packed with protein and fiber (and marshmallows) and my kids love them. I make a big batch, cut them and keep them in the freezer. This recipe makes one 9″ x 13″ pan.

Ingredients

2 cups Rice Krispies
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup diced dried fruit
1 cup peanuts, roasted and unsalted
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
10 oz. marshmallows

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Directions

Stir together dry ingredients.

Baringredients

In a large stock pot (large enough to hold and mix all of the ingredients), melt together butter, peanut butter and marshmallows.

Add dry ingredients to marshmallow mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon.

Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Press mixture into pan.

Cool, cut and enjoy!

Super Fast Fig Jam

It’s ten o’clock in the morning, and it’s already been one of those days. You know, the kind when the alarm pulls you so far out of sleep that you don’t know where you are. Or what you’re supposed to be doing. When I finally figured out that the alarm really was FOR ME, it took me twice as long to brush my teeth and get to the pool, where I promptly realized that I hadn’t grabbed my goggles or swim cap. For most people this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but for this pathetic swimmer, it meant mouthfuls of water and a significantly slower workout. Which had the cascading effect of making me almost late for my date with my trainer. And new training partner, Accidental Runner’s Melisa, who has been such a fantastic addition to my strength routine this week.

Days like this beg for simplicity. A padded room and blunt objects. Fig jam that requires only five ingredients, one of them being water.

Our desert fig tree is about the only thing in the yard that doesn’t seem to mind this drought.

Figtree

We gathered an initial harvest a few weeks ago, and look to have a second crop ripening on the tree now.

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This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine Magazine. See the original here. This filled a little more than two 1/2-pint jars for me.

Ingredients

2 pounds green or purple figs, stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup cognac

figquarters

Directions

In a saucepan, toss the figs with the sugar and let stand 15 minutes until juicy.

Add lemon juice, water and cognac and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer over medium heat until fruit is soft and liquid runs off the side of the spoon in thick, heavy drops, about 30 minutes.

Spoon into 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace at the top. Close jars and cool to room temperature. Store in refrigerator up to 3 months.

Soccer night heirloom tomato sandwiches

Tomatosandwich

I love the idea of the “soccer dinner”. The meal that you don’t have time to prepare, that needs to magically appear when you arrive home, tired and hungry after an afternoon and evening of practices, games, and driving around. Ideally this takes the form of a take-out container, one that, even more ideally, is delivered straight to your doorstep, hot and ready to eat. Living in New York City, we grew accustomed to that type of service. Unfortunately that is one benefit of city living that did not follow us out West. For those who, like us, can only take so much pizza delivery, I give you the heirloom tomato sandwich.

Now, before you see all of those tomatoes and think about the tomato haters in your life, hear me out. This is the anti-tomato tomato sandwich. My kids inhale these like there’s no tomorrow, and they wouldn’t touch a tomato with a ten foot pole. It must be the combination of ingredients that makes this palatable to even my picky eater. And it’s not just my kids. I’ve served this to friends who would not have been sheepish about pulling the sandwich apart, and they liked it in its entirety. It’s worth a shot. And if you do the slicing in the morning or before starting the carpool run, this meal comes together in no time.

Ingredients
This serves 4 people in my house

1 loaf good-quality kalamata olive bread
2 large heirloom tomatoes
1 1/2 avocados
Parmesan or other sharp hard cheese
Basil leaves
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

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Thinly slice the olive bread and toast. I use the broiler and only toast one side, partly because I can do a lot of bread at one time, and partly because I put the untoasted sides of bread on the outside of the sandwich to save people the mouth cuts from the potentially sharp edges of toasted bread. But that’s just me.

Slice the tomatoes and avocados. Shave pieces of cheese. Wash the basil leaves.

When ready to assemble the sandwiches, lightly drizzle olive oil over toasted bread. Add slices of tomatoes, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, then add avocado slices, cheese, and basil leaves.

Enjoy!

Summertime Blueberry Hand Pies

Tartlettes

There’s something magical about picking berries on a summer day with your children. Our first outing was a little less productive…

Colinberry

… but nine years later we’re like a well-oiled machine. Mike and I aren’t the only ones with a competitive streak. This year the 8-year-old was determined to outpick her older brother. Which she did.

Blueberries

The next problem, of course, is what to do with all of those berries. We decided on pie, blueberry being my favorite type. I had some leftover pie dough in the freezer, though not enough to make a full pie. I had a kid who was eager to help, and figured I’d lose some of that momentum stopping to make another batch of dough. So we went with hand pies. They are a little more work than full size, but the finished product is quite cute and would be great for a party. And isn’t everything more fun when eaten by hand? The following recipe makes 10-12 mini pies, and should also work if made into a 9″ pie.

For the dough (recipe based on a Julia Child recipe, hat tip to Metro Market Catering for introducing it to me):

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. unsalted butter, cold
1/4 cup cold water

Directions
Sift together flour, sugar and salt.
Cube cold butter.

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Using a food processor (ideally), stand mixer, or by hand, “cut” butter into dry ingredients. The cut-in butter method is the same technique you would use to make any short dough: pie dough, biscuits, scones, etc. The idea is to incorporate the butter into the flour with as little mixing as possible. Overmixing the dough, even at this stage, works the protein in the gluten, making it more elastic and creating a tougher, more chewy final product. If you are using a food processor, pulse until the butter pieces are the size of dry lentils. If you are using a stand mixer, mix on the lowest speed until butter pieces are the size of dry lentils. If you are mixing by hand, rub the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of peas (I leave the butter a little bigger in this case since it is warmer from your hands).

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Add cold water and mix just to incorporate the water throughout the mixture. The dough will still be crumbly. At this point, turn the mixture onto a cutting board or counter. Using the palm of your hand, smash handful-sized portions of the mixture into the cutting board to turn the crumbs into a dough.

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Gather dough into a disk and chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes. This allows the gluten to relax, and prevents the dough from shrinking as you roll it out.

For the blueberries (recipe taken from Allrecipes, find the original here):

4 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon, and toss together with blueberries.

At this point you can assemble a 9″ pie, or use a standard muffin pan to make minis.

For the hand pies (this recipe makes 10-12 mini pies):

Roll the dough to 1/8″ (or less) thickness. This is thinner than you would roll the crust for a regular pie, because you want a good crust-to-filling ratio. Since muffin cups vary in size and depth, you want to find a circular cutter (or template) that is 1-2″ larger than the diameter of the muffin cup. Spray muffin cups with nonstick coating. Cut rounds out of the dough, then press them into the muffin cup, leaving a bit extra over the edges.

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Fill cups with blueberry mixture.

Filledshells

Then roll and cut strips of dough to make the lattice top. Wet the edges of overhang with a little water, which will make the lattice stick, then arrange the lattice strips to your liking. This is a great job for a kid, if you can overcome your OCD enough to let it happen (I can only do this some of the time). Press them into the bottom dough to seal, and trim around the edges. Chill in the refrigerator 30 minutes. This allows the gluten in the dough to relax again, to keep it from shrinking as it bakes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Latticeshells

Bake in a 425 degree oven until crust is golden. Cool until they’re easy to handle, then unmold by carefully twisting to loosen, or running a knife along the edge.

To pea, or not to pea

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When the opportunity to investigate the recent Pea Situation presents itself, how do you not jump all over it?

In case you are unfamiliar with the kerfuffle,The Pea Situation involves this New York Times guacamole recipe:

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And has caused such a stir of negativity that even the president has an opinion.

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Now, I love Melissa Clark and New York Times recipes, and was a little skeptical about what I was reading, especially since it didn’t seem like anyone weighing in had actually made the recipe. So when this weekend’s dinner with friends involved a taco bar, there was no way we weren’t doing a taste test.

In the name of science, I made the Times recipe exactly as written, overcoming my usual tendency to hack the recipe (usually in the name of laziness). I roasted the jalapeño as directed, and whirred up a mixture of peas, jalapeños (roasted and raw), cilantro and salt, adding a big investment in labor with the use (and later cleaning) of the food processor.

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I was never able to get the mixture “almost smooth”, but that didn’t seem to impact the end product. The rest of the recipe involves the usual mashing of avocados and addition of lime zest, lime juice, scallions and salt.

I then made my go-to guacamole, a literal mash-up of unmeasured amounts of avocado, onion, lime zest, lime juice, diced tomato, and salt.

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The verdict? Unanimously in favor of the pea guacamole. There was a greater depth of flavor and brightness that was lacking in the control batch. This may have been due to the jalapeño, which was only included in the pea version. But no one could discernibly taste the peas. Which leads me to believe that perhaps the whole problem is nothing but a marketing issue. Leave the peas out of the garnish, and avoid the visual source of the objections. What you’re left with is a solidly bright, tasty guacamole.

Snap pea summer salad

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The locavore movement was SO five years ago. OK, maybe ten. Which is about the amount of time lag that I usually have when it comes to major trends. But five years ago I couldn’t even grow ivy (seriously, I tried). Our move to Bainbridge Island, WA (from Seattle) changed that. Not only did we find the sense of community and good schools that we were looking for, we also picked up an incredible side benefit: the ability to garden.

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In fairness, this really has very little to do with knowledge or talent, and just about everything to do with the fact that we have a sunny yard in which to grow things.

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But I’ll take the locavore credit when I can. Who needs the 100-mile diet when you can get within 100 feet?

This was the perfect salad for this week, adapted from a recipe from Food & Wine magazine.

Sugar Snap Pea Salad
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  2. 1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
  3. 1 garlic clove, minced
  4. 2 cups sugar snap peas
  5. 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
  6. 1 1/2 cup frozen peas
  7. 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  8. 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  9. 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  10. 2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped mint
  11. 5 oz. feta cheese
  12. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil, then add onion wedges and garlic and cook until golden and softened. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the snap peas, then add the edamame and peas. Immediately drain and cool under running water, so that snap peas are still crisp. Let drain.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice with the mustard and 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the snap peas, edamame, peas, onions, garlic, mint and feta.
  4. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Masters Mama http://mastersmama.com/

Rhubarb upside-down cake

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Those who can, run. Those who can’t, make cake. At least that’s what I did a few weeks ago when I was sidelined with a calf injury. If you have rhubarb growing in your yard, or are lucky enough to have a friend drop off eight pounds of stalks from their garden, make this cake. Right now. It is one of the best cakes you will have this year. This is a recipe by Melissa Clark from the New York Times and you can see the original here.

The main thing I have changed is that the original recipe calls for using a springform pan. In my time as a pastry chef, in the various kitchens in which I’ve worked, I have never seen a springform pan. Not once. Lining the bottom of any baking pan with parchment paper, and buttering or spraying the sides with a Pam-type of cooking spray works just as well. When you go to invert the finished product, place your serving platter over the top of the baking pan, run a knife around the edge to release the sides, then flip over and voila. I also substitute plain greek yogurt for sour cream, but only because I usually have yogurt stocked in my refrigerator. It seems to work just fine.

Here’s a trick to quickly cut a piece of parchment into the correct size of a round pan (mouse-over pictures for directions):

 

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  2. 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  3. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  5. 1 cup sugar
  6. Zest of 1 lemon, grated
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. 4 large eggs
  9. 2 cups cake flour
  10. 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  11. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  12. 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  13. 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  14. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  15. 1/4 cup unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round baking pan with parchment paper, and spray sides with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together rhubarb, cornstarch, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Set aside.
  3. Soften 1 cup butter to room temperature, and whip in mixer with paddle attachment for 2 minutes.
  4. With your fingers, blend together 1 cup sugar with lemon zest until uniform in color. Add to the butter and cream together until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl halfway through.
  5. On low speed, add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, also on low speed, mixing between each addition so that the mixture returns to the way it looked before the addition of the egg. By the fourth egg it may start to look curdled and this is okay.
  6. Mix in the yogurt (or sour cream), then the lemon juice. It will still look curdled and this is okay.
  7. Sift together the cake flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in three additions (or 1/3 of the dry ingredients at a time), scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition, and mixing only until it is incorporated. You do not want to over-mix the flour unless you like tough cake.
  8. Mix together the brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk together until smooth and bubbling.
  9. Pour brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Then spoon in the rhubarb and its juices. Spoon in the batter so that it covers the rhubarb. Smooth the top.
  10. Bake in preheated oven until the top of cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Check at around 45 minutes.
  11. Cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to release the sides, then place a plate upside-down over the top of the cake pan and invert cake onto plate. Do this while the cake is still warm so it doesn't stick.
Masters Mama http://mastersmama.com/

Salmon, with a side of moral superiority

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, this is the time of year when images like this grace the cover of your local paper.

(Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

(Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times, May 15, 2015)

It’s Copper River salmon season, the time of year when Seahawks and celebrity chefs will gather at an airport at the crack of dawn to usher in the arrival of the first of this highly sought-after fish. If I am being perfectly honest, I’m not sure that I could tell the difference between regular-old omega-rich, coral-hued sockeye salmon, and it’s (significantly more expensive) counterpart. But I like a good reason to celebrate. And who doesn’t feel the pressure to get in on something before it’s all gone?

This is also the time of year when I am equal parts amazed that I was able to get ANYTHING aside from weeds to grow in my garden, and panicked that I don’t have the time/energy/motivation put it all to good use.

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Which is a long way to say that this was a great week to dig out an old recipe that I clipped out of Cooking Light magazine a good fifteen years ago. Believe it or not, I actually have binders full of recipes that I cut and pasted – with actual scissors and glue – at a time in my life when I, apparently, had a lot more time on my hands. But this is a great way to make a meal that is local, sustainable, and packed with protein and good carbs. And since my kids actually like to eat this kind of fish, cutting it with pasta makes it a good way enjoy this year’s haul of Copper River salmon without breaking the bank since I, for one, am unwilling to spend $40 on a meal at home that I cooked myself.

I’ve adapted this from the original Cooking Light recipe, and like I mentioned in a previous post, it’s a recipe you can totally hack, adjusting the proportion of ingredients up or down to suit your tastes.

Salmon and Edamame Pasta Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 box (13.25 oz.) whole wheat pasta (farfalle or rotini work well)
  2. 1 1/2 cups shelled edamame
  3. 12 - 16 oz. salmon
  4. 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  5. 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  6. 8 cups chopped greens (swiss chard, spinach, kale)
  7. 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  8. 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  9. 2 Tbsp. honey
  10. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line cookie sheet with parchment or foil, and add boned salmon, skin-side down. Season with salt and pepper, then bake at 350 just until done (about 15-ish minutes, depending on thickness of fish).
  3. Remove salmon from skin, coarsely chop, and set aside to chill in refrigerator.
  4. Cook pasta in boiling water according to the package instructions. With 1 minute remaining, add edamame and let it finish cooking together.
  5. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until tender. Add greens and cook just until wilted. Drain any excess liquid.
  6. Add spinach mixture, dill, and salmon to pasta mixture.
  7. Whisk together mustard, honey, and salt and pepper and toss gently to coat.
  8. I serve this pasta salad cold.
Masters Mama http://mastersmama.com/

Summer Lentil Salad

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It’s like summer on a platter. It’s crisp and clean and fresh and is a fantastic source of protein. And one of the best parts about it is that it’s also an opportunity to clean out those little bits of vegetables that are about to rot away in your vegetable bin. I adapted this recipe from Skinny Taste – see the original recipe here – tweaking it to use the ingredients I had on hand.

A note about my savory cooking: I am a complete hack. I went to culinary school for pastry only, and do not suggest deviating much from pastry recipes if you want them to work. But take away the baking element and all bets are off. This salad works if you dial up or down any of the ingredients to suit your tastes. Take out the feta and make it vegan. Add or subtract veggies as you wish. I don’t have a huge taste for salt, so I only added about 1/4 teaspoon, to account for the salt in the feta. The sliced avocado made a nice richness to the salad. The take home point? Make it your own.

Summer Lentil Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup dried lentils
  2. 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  3. Water to cover lentils by 1-inch
  4. 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  5. 1/2 cup celery, diced
  6. 1 cup carrot, diced
  7. 1 sweet (yellow) pepper, diced
  8. 1 roma tomato, diced
  9. 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used a mix of chives and cilantro from my garden, but parsley is probably ideal)
  10. Juice of 1 lemon
  11. 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  12. 1 clove garlic, minced
  13. Salt (I used 1/4 tsp.) and pepper to taste
  14. 4 oz. feta cheese
  15. Sliced avocado
Instructions
  1. Combine lentils and thyme sprigs in a pot, then fill with enough water to cover lentils by 1-inch.
  2. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered until lentils are tender, but not mushy, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove thyme sprigs
  3. While the lentils are cooking, chop vegetables and herbs and combine in a large bowl. Add rinsed and drained lentils.
  4. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss with lentil/veggie mix, then add feta and mix to combine.
  5. Serve with sliced avocado.
Masters Mama http://mastersmama.com/

Tomato-Leek Pie with Quinoa Crust

Tonight’s recipe comes courtesy of this month’s Cooking Light magazine. It was fairly easy to put together, and despite it’s gluten-free, vegetarian nature, it’s pretty good. At least it was for the grown-ups in the house. The 10-and-under set chose the pasta marinara and meatballs that were served alongside. You can’t please everyone.
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