Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hearty Greens Pie



Despite the cold, icy weather, snow days and sickness, (not to mention the early Thanksgiving) we've gotten a lot of holiday fun in this season. I've never been big on Christmas, but having my son has made it a bit more twinkly. We go to local Christmas festivals, make cookies, read holiday books, and of course, trim a tree. Even still, we keep it pretty low key. The tree is usually a teeny tiny thing from our yard--there is a hillside with them sprouting out which we would clear anyway. I thought my son, now five, would request a larger one when we went to the hillside this year, but he picked one and wouldn't have anything else. I wonder if it had anything to do with reading A Charlie Brown Christmas this year (my very own copy from childhood). Presents are usually few, and we parents don't exchange them at all. I know more and more folks who are toning down their Christmas routine. Even cards have been nudged out of rotation. I feel it makes the season quieter and more intimate, but I know some people might disagree with me.

We do a lot of rich eating this time of year, and sweets are certainly everywhere. That's why we welcomed this onto our dinner table the other night. It was gone by the next afternoon. Chock full of so-good-for-you greens, and a light pastry made with olive oil, you can't help but to be completely fulfilled by a wedge of this pie. It's just as good cold the next day for breakfast or lunch. And then, maybe you can follow it with a few cookies or caramels from your holiday stash.



Hearty Greens Pie

I used this brilliant pie crust recipe from the NY Times. It comes together so nicely in the food processor, and it was a dream to roll out. You can't imagine how nice and flaky it was!

2 large bunches of greens
a good sized chunk of feta (around 8 ounces, give or take)
1 large onion
Fresh herbs
breadcrumbs
grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 350. Have a glass pie dish at the ready. You can make the greens mixture while the dough is resting in the fridge.

Remove the tougher ribs and chop greens roughly. Blanch them in batches for a few minutes, then transfer to a food processor and chop them finely. Once you have them all in a large bowl let the mixture sit a few minutes, and you will see you can easily drain off some water. Press the mixture on the side of the bowl to get out as much water as possible.

After you do the greens, process the onion and herbs together finely, then sauté them in a good splash of olive oil in a large pan. Once they have become translucent, add the greens and toss gently. Heat them through and cook for about ten minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and crumble in the feta. Again, toss gently, because your pan should be quite full.

Roll out a circle for the bottom layer of the crust. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the bottom to soak up any moisture from the greens. Then add the greens; it should fill up the pie to the top. I think the amount of cheese depends on your taste; I added more at the end making a layer on top of the greens. Then I sprinkled more bread crumbs, and some parmesan. Cover with the top crust, make a few slits to let steam escape. I brushed my pie with buttermilk; an egg wash might have shined it up more.

Bake until crust is golden, about 50 minutes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cranberry Sauce Bread


My brain is a busy place. That's not to say I'm particularly smart. Just a "busy body," as my mother used to say. I'm forever talking to people in my head. Do you do the same thing? I talk to friends, I talk to strangers, I talk to this blog. I compose snippets and phrases too, but they often get swished around and lost, along with the conversations. Busy, busy, busy!

This week, I had some car problems. Actually, I have been having problems with my car for a while. When we drove we'd hear this sound my son and I have named the "boomerang sound." You can imagine it's not a sound you want your car to be making. I was finally able to bring the car in on Monday. On Tuesday, when it was supposed to be ready I found the wrong part had come in. Leaving me carless for the day. And I sort of had a hissy fit. On the phone with the garage. Which I am very embarrassed about and have since apologized for. The thing is, I was upset because I suddenly had SO MUCH to do. And having no car was SUCH an inconvenience. But, given a few adjustments, it's all worked out. What was I so busy with?

This morning, instead of driving to the bus stop, my son and I walked there. And we noticed all the frost covered everything in a fine fuzz, like a buck's antler. We hopped on our feet and blew plumes of steam from our mouths. We counted cars. Once he was on the bus, I walked back home and it was early. Enough time to clean the house, polish candlesticks, and bake this bread. It's perfect for an afternoon tea, not too sweet. It's a bright sunny day, crisp and cold. I might take a walk down the block and visit a friend if she's home. Bring her some of this bread. Take deep breaths.



Cranberry Sauce Bread
makes one small loaf

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8" loaf tin.

3 tablespoons of room temperature butter
1/2 cup of sugar (or 1/3 cup of honey)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg
1 cup of cranberry sauce

1 cup AP flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat the butter and sugar together well. Add the cranberry sauce and egg; beat well. Blend flours, baking powder, soda and salt. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Smooth into prepared pan (I like to sprinkle some coarse sugar on the top at this point), and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.

Note: You can add 1/2 cup of dried fruit (apricots or raisins would be nice) or 1/2 cup of nuts (pumpkin seeds or walnuts). I left it out because I am hoping my son will eat this, and he's not into a lot of texture. Sigh.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Instant Shrub


Oh, goodness. I've been sick three times already this fall! They were all more of the fighting off kinds of sickness, not full blown luckily, but still, I've been battling and it takes the energy out of you. Is it kindergarten? Is my child bringing me home all sorts of strains of viruses? The last few days I've been battling a bit of a stomach bug. I don't want to talk about food just yet, you know? I'm trying to hydrate. I haven't wanted anything sweet, so now that I'm feeling better I'm sort of craving it. A little toast with jam hit the spot. The last of the raspberry jam, which is my favorite. After I scraped the jar almost clean, I stashed the jar on the side of the sink, because as we all know, a little water or seltzer in the end of a jam jar not only cleans the jar, but affords a frugal and refreshing drink. And you don't have to waste a spot of those precious raspberries that you hand picked in September. My only problem with jam-water (what is it called, anyway?) is that it needs a little brightening. A splash of apple cider vinegar does the drink and boom you have instant shrub. Instant shrub is going to get you, you know.

One of my favorite drinks in the fall is apple cider, a splash of apple cider vinegar topped with seltzer. When I was in Seattle last year, I was lucky enough to be taken to Bar Sajor and they had so many drinking vinegars! It's a big west coast thing. Did I have a rhubarb? I can't recall because there was so much good food eaten, but take a look at their lunch menu, it's all amazing stuff. I don't think I've seen any shrubs up in these parts, but I'm sure Brooklyn is all over it. Do you like shrubs? Or a vinegary drink? I love them!

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Ax to Grind


You know, I've never picked up an ax and split wood before. The other day I tried it out. We had some logs that were small, but they had nice cracks in them and looked like they could be split in half easily. Granted, it was oak, which is a hard wood, but that was some tough business!! I think I split 6 logs. My arms were all weak afterwards, and it messed with my quince prep (as I mentioned yesterday). What people used to have to do to survive always blows my mind. I am so thankful for my comfortable life! Comfort aside, there's always something to work on, and things to feel anxious over, and things that don't get done.

With that said, I am handing in my NaBloPoMo badge. I'll still write every day, but I think I'm going to  keep it in my personal files. It didn't use to bother me, but now just hurriedly writing something just to post it is starting to wear thin. I wonder why it was decided to hold this writing event in November, when everybody is starting to freak out about the holidays? Why not February, when there's absolutely nothing to do? Ah well, it's been fun! I'll see you next week, with something I've worked a little harder on.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Quince Slices in Light Syrup with Cardamom and Clementine


Let the quincing begin! Today I worked with 7 pounds of quinces, slicing them down into twelfths in order to can them in a light syrup. I do believe quinces, though heavenly, are a difficult fruit. They do not yield, and they're tough as a winter squash sometimes. After I peeled them all--with an apple peeler that worked quite nicely, see above--I cored and sliced them all. My hands were trembling with exhaustion afterwards. I'm usually not that delicate, but my arms were a little tired from chopping some wood the other day. Now there's some really tough work.

First I poached them in a gallon of water with a tablespoon of lemon juice, letting them simmer lightly with the lid on. When they were just tender I let them sit while I readied the water boiler and brought the syrup to a simmer. Into the syrup went the zest and juice of two clementines and about twenty cardamom pods, half of them whole and half opened so the little seeds swam could swim about. When the syrup was at a good simmer, I skimmed the slices of quince from the water bath and dropped them in. When they were all in, I let them simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Into pint jars they went, to be processed for twenty minutes.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quinces



These beauties came in my life the other day, and I must attend to them. I will be coming back to post about how I've prepared them! Do you get quinces in your parts? If you are local, there is a wonderful small orchard overlooking the Hudson river in Milton that has an orchard of old quince trees, among many others things. They are called Locust Grove Fruit Farm. They also sell at Union Square Market, and have been for 35 years! I hope you get some of their gorgeous quinces before they are all gone.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On Writing


A funny thing happens when you do NaBloPoMo. As you rack up ten or so days, you start to realize the absurdity of it all. It's like a marathon or contest, and one wonders, why do it? Or at least I do. For me it's not to prove my writing prowess (ha!), or certainly not to compete with other bloggers (again- ha!). It's more for the practice of it. So, what do you take away from that practice, that staring at the page, that reaching within and maybe coming up with something sadly imperfect?

I've been thinking about writing a lot, well, actually I've been thinking about writing all my life. Lately, I'm fascinated by novel writing. How the hell do people do it? It's such a huge amount of work, it seems to me. How do novel writers keep going? Why don't they quit? My biggest qualm is with a question that often plagues me when I start a piece of fiction: is this worth it? Is this the right story to be spending my time on? That's why writing a food blog is (somewhat) easy for me. It's comforting. Here's a topic, write about it, there's a picture here for you to focus on if you stray. There are clear steps, tidy beginnings and, best of all, endings. The question I have when I write fiction is the same question that starts to bubble up now that I'm writing here every day and that is: why am I doing this? That question is really a lesson in faith.

Those words make me pause and stare out the window at a school bus driving by. At the smoke trailing from my neighbor's chimney. At the russet oak leaves still hanging on at the top of the trees, waving in the sky. I begin to feel as if I may be biting off more than I can chew with this post. I like order, and when things start to veer off into chaos I get a little nervous. This is when I choose to close the laptop and head out into the chill wintry day. Thankfully, it was time to pick up my son from school. Now, I'm back, it's after dinner, the table is clean, the sink full of dirty dishes, and I'm here at the computer again. Staring at the "page." What was that about faith? I want to go read by the fire!

Right now I want to push this post to the middle of my queue of posts, and drum up something else, like a post I have sitting around for such emergencies on home made gifts for the holidays. It's making me feel a little wiggly. Do I have faith in my writing? I must, seeing as how I'm still writing. But to be honest, it doesn't feel like how I think faith should feel. I still question the writing. I still question the page. Maybe that's what faith is. Maybe I've had it wrong all these years thinking faith makes you impervious to questions. Maybe faith helps you ignore the whys, so you can keep on moving forward.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Yogurt


After a couple of years of making yogurt, I finally feel the groove. I tried all sorts of ways to find that sweet temperature that yogurt cultures need to thrive, finicky little things that they are. I've evolved from mason jars sitting in a little Playmate cooler filled with warm water to using a yogurt warmer that you plug in.

My yogurt "maker" is a Cosmopolitan Yogurt Maker by Salton. I bought it in a thrift shop for $4. I see on eBay it's vintage! What's funny is that for years I was collecting these little white glasses that I thought were antique milk glass, but when I bought the yogurt maker, I found that all along I had been collecting yogurt warmer jars. I still love them, and actually they are more useful to me now. If I ever break one, I have back up. For the record, the Cosmopolitan is a champ, although I do start plug it in when I start heating the milk. It needs some time to warm up, like most things born in the seventies.

I've found that my favorite yogurt is thick and tangy. The texture I like is achieved by whisking a little milk powder in the milk before heating it. The tangy part comes from a long sitting period: 24 hours. I used to always pull the yogurt at 8 hours, until a friend, who makes excellent yogurt, tipped me off. It also firms up a little more, and I hear tell is necessary if you use yogurt as a starter and you don't buy cultures, which is what I do.

Yogurt was on my mind today because, like buttermilk, I start making it again when the temperatures plunge, and I'm back inside. It seems silly, because yogurt seems like such a summertime thing, right? But summer is so busy, I find I have to let go of some things to make room for others. I'm glad to have these things back in my life!

Yogurt with Cray-pas. Don't you love Cray-pas?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pumpkin Purée


Now that local sugar pumpkins are on sale, I've been trying to store them up in the freezer. Of course, I cook it first! Just cut one in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast it cut side down until it's tender. After taking it out of the oven, let it sit and cool for a while. Then the skin peels right off. Basically, it's a such a little bit of work for so much return. I ended up with 6 cups of purée from this medium-sized pumpkin. And it freezes beautifully. I put it in ziploc bags in 2 cup amounts.

But what to make with all this lovely pumpkin purée?

Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts: I made these today, and because I don't have a doughnut pan they didn't really come out looking like doughnuts. But everyone ate them up fast. They were light and moist, and I didn't feel so bad about letting my son eat two. I'm not sure if they really count as doughnuts though…

Pumpkin Ice Cream: I've been craving this lately and who to turn to but David Lebovitz?

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi: I love gnocchi, and each winter I make a squash variety with a sage browned butter. I usually use the Joy of Cooking's recipe as a guide. But this one featured on Simply Recipes by Hank Shaw looks like a winner.

Pumpkin Granola: When I made Quinoa-Nut Granola, Kaela from Local Kitchen said she was going to try it with pumpkin instead. I like that idea! (I think she made pumpkin beignets the other day…hmm) And then that makes me think of these Pumpkin Butter Oats from Food In Jars.

There's pumpkin bread, pumpkin custard, pumpkin pie, of course. Pumpkin purée (or squash purée) is always good in mac and cheese. Pumpkin soup. What are you making with your pumpkin (or squash)?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Buttermilk Bread


I must admit how pleased I am when my kid says he's hungry and asks for toast with jam and says, "Make sure it's that bread you made!!" I don't really bake much over the summer, and so just yesterday I finally baked off some loaves. I was indifferent to the idea initially, but once the bread came out of the oven it clicked in me as it does every year: oh, this is so worth it! This buttermilk bread recipe came from Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, which is one of my favorite bread books.

This picture below was my Friday night still life. And the reason why I didn't post yesterday. I'm amazed that now that I have time (my son is in kindergarten--there's so much time now!) I can't get my act together and post everyday. But when he was home with me all the time, somehow I did. I think it's because this blog was all I had to make me feel like a human being, and I kept this space sacred as a place where I could hold onto my identity. Now it's not so pressing, which is nice. So, last night there was warm bread, and some red wine, and a fire going in the wood stove and I thought: you know what? It totally doesn't matter if I throw something up on the blog. And I promptly watched some terrible show on Netflix, then fell asleep. It wasn't heroic, but it felt nice.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Volunteer Cilantro Bed


Oops! I missed a day. Usually it takes a while before I miss a day, but this year I went and did it early. I sort of forgot and sort of didn't. It was one of those: I-don't-really-feel-like-doing-this-thing-I-said-I-would-do-and-it-doesn't-matter-if-I-don't-do-it-so-I'm-going-to-forget-about-it-conveniently. How's that? Do you ever do that? I bet you do.

Do you love this little cilantro patch? Probably not as much as I do. (I still can't understand the cilantro haters---obviously, I'm not one of them.) The cilantro I purposely plant is never this lush. This little bed is so happy, and I really didn't have much to do with it. This is how it happened: some seeds got mulched in this rich spot that I used to compost in. It's a sunny spot so it stays warm, and these tender greens have now made it all the way to November! Granted, with a little help from a cobbled green house: an old piece of plastic floor covering (the kind my grandmother used to cover the high-traffic areas on her rugs) draped over some wire fencing and covered at night with one of our "ghost" sheets.

This is one of my favorite things about gardening: the small discoveries that you make all the time. It's watching life bounding up heedlessly, with or without you. It's this relationship with green things that I've been cultivating all my life. It's a friend of mine, wherever I go, that I always learn from.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Elderberry Vinegar


I think this year was the year of the fruit-infused vinegar for me. Partly because of my laziness. Every time I had something starting to molder, I would toss it in some vinegar and that would be it. One of my favorites of the season was elderberry vinegar. Usually, I save all the precious elderberries for syrup. But there was an errant pint of them sitting in my fridge a little too long, so I poured some cider vinegar on top of them. They sat in the vinegar for a while. I forgot about them. Then I drained the vinegar off when I got around to it. It sits in a jar in my cupboard with no further ado. And now a splash of the vinegar (drained of the berries) in a cold glass of cider is my tonic for the day. Especially since I'm fighting off this horrible bug. Wish me luck that I can get outside and enjoy this brisk fall weather soon!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Quinoa-Nut Granola


Here's my latest master granola recipe. It changes every so often, and this new incarnation features quinoa. I'm not sure if I've ever posted a granola recipe before. I always felt that there were too many in the world. It's such a simple thing! Why do we need so many recipes? Well, just like many simple things the slightest adjustment does change things. And we all like to have things just so, don't we?

They say adding applesauce adds a clump factor to granola, but I'm not sure if I entirely buy that. I do like adding it for sweetness and texture though. I think the best thing to do to induce clumping is to let the granola sit after baking until it cools. I usually add a mixture of honey and maple syrup to my granola; honey for sweetness and maple syrup for a deeper flavor. Keep in mind that if you use just honey it will be a tad sweeter than maple. And of course, you can use sugar if you want, which will put the sweetness power somewhere in between the two. I've taken to adding a bit of almond extract to almost everything these days because I love it so much. FYI to quinoa lovers: I have tried to up the quinoa in this recipe and it gets too birdseed-y. You might like that, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Speaking of things being just so, I don't put any fruit in my granola anymore; I like straight-up nuts. This seems silly to admit, but it had never crossed my mind until I tried this guest-post recipe at Eating Rules from Winnie at Healthy Green Kitchen. The post contains not only good advice on saving money on unprocessed food but a very reliable granola recipe to boot that has only nuts. Aha! I do like fruit with my granola, however: my favorite breakfast these days is a bit of yogurt sprinkled with this granola, with a spoonful of concord grape jam. It's amazing how happy it makes me!

Quinoa-Nut Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 cups uncooked quinoa (I used equal parts red and white)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2+ cups of nuts (I like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and slivered almonds)
½ cup applesauce
½ c. oil (olive, coconut or vegetable)
1 teaspoon vanilla (and/or 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract)
1/3 cup maple syrup or honey or sugar
1 teaspoon salt


Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Spread in a cookie tray lined with parchment paper and bake in a 300 degree oven for 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes until golden brown, and fragrant. I like to grind a little sea salt on top before it cools. Remember: let it cool fully!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fall Findings

Fall findings showcased on a platter by MONDAYS.

I have noticed that even though the peak leaf change has long passed that the Japanese maples are just now at their peak. It's perfect because they really stand out against the trees that have lost their leaves or the other late changers, like oaks which are usually more muted in color. The colors were brilliant yesterday offset by the bright daytime blue sky. Fire orange, scarlet red, and deepest burgundy. On my drive into New Paltz yesterday, every where I looked was another stunning Japanese maple. It was a gorgeous day.

Last night the beauty continued at a friend's house. As the sun went down, the sky turned that winter-time cobalt blue, and Venus twinkled low on the horizon. Kids were running around (make them run around so they won't get up too early!), venison grilled on an open fire pit, and I served up the paté I made yesterday with sourdough toasts and grape mostarda. The zippy acidity of the mostarda cut the silky richness of the paté. We ate the tender venison sliced on a cutting board resting on a bench, just a piece of bread to wrap it up.

When it was fully dark (which is now 5 p.m. people!) a sky lantern was lit, and we all stared up into the night sky as it floated, tentatively at first, with determination as it got higher and further away. The baby, who was in her stroller was thrilled, her imperative shouts paired with pointing not gleeful, but serious and awestruck. The bigger kids all ran to follow the sightline of the lantern, standing at the edge of the road, until it was snuffed out.

Today we woke at 6 or 7, depending on whether you set your clocks or not. It's a quiet, homey day. If it wasn't already, it certainly is now the season to start hunkering down, and I'm still stuffing things in the freezer. Whenever I see late fall local produce, I buy a bunch and preserve it one way or another. The other day that meant blanching and freezing lots of broccoli. Today it means a pile of green Italian frying peppers. I've got caraway sauerkraut ready to be jarred and put in the fridge (I find that this is the best time of year for sauerkraut production) and a plum shrub (drinking vinegar) ready to be bottled. What projects are you working on for the winter?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chicken Liver Paté


Watch out--I'm doing NaBloPoMo again! I was planning on doing it, but then yesterday suddenly was November 1st. What's up with that? Good thing I posted. I thought I had more time! Writing every day really jumps starts me, and a little extra pressure always helps. Every day I'll be talking about what's on the menu and other assorted things.

Today is about this chicken liver paté. I bought these lovely livers the other day; couldn't resist the little half-pound containers from Bell & Evans at the grocery. Although I used a recipe from Jacque Pepin on Food and Wine, I used a tip from the pate recipe on Simply Recipes and soaked the livers in a little milk. Instead of pouring the milk down the drain before cooking, I gave it to my cat. She licked the bowl clean, and proceeded to sit around the kitchen waiting for more scraps. I don't blame her--the kitchen smelled fabulous from just the livers simmering with onion, garlic, salt, thyme, bay leaf and water. My only other deviation from the recipe, aside from the milk soak, was to use applejack instead of cognac or whiskey. Everything else I followed to a T. It tastes incredibly good.

It sounds glamorous, making paté on a Saturday morning, doesn't it? But it's really very down home. Especially when it's me, my hair in a sloppy pony tail, yoga pants on, and my son downstairs in the TV play room watching Bob the Builder giving me the 45 minutes to bang this out. But the richness comes later, when I'll be hopefully sharing this with some friends, alongside some grape mostarda and a good baguette.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cabbage Gratin


It was a dreary and rainy Halloween. But I really didn't mind. I had the oven on with this gratin in it. Dinner was pork chops, tomato-apple chutney and this crispy topped goodness. There was apple cider (will it be hot, spiced or with rum? see below to find out what we did!*) and a lot of candy. This year we trick-or-treated in our own home. My son, who is now in kindergarten, was given the choice to go out to our friend's house to trick or treat like we've done for the past few years, or stay home. He picked home, and home it was.

It's funny how it takes you a while to really know who your kids is. I mean, you've always known, of course, but at this age they can talk and make choices, and they might even know themselves a bit more. I always find that my son knows himself so much better than I do. So I try to listen. After a few years of taking him out for trick or treating (and I'm not hugely into Halloween, but I thought that's just what you do, right?) he can finally tell me, "No, I'd rather stay home." So, we stayed in: put on the Monster Mash, carved another pumpkin, lit some candles, and yes, ate some candy! I got a huge bowl of all different kinds of candies, and we had our own trick or treating fun knocking on the porch door and then going to the front door for more. We had so much fun!!

This gratin was real winter time fare. So hearty! I used this recipe from the NY Times as a guideline. While I was searching for a recipe, I found this one that looks promising, as well, which had cornmeal and dijon mustard in it.

Cabbage Gratin
adapted from this recipe from the NY Times

1 head of cabbage, sliced
1/2 cup water
olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed
salt

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup brown rice
1 cup buttermilk
handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup (or .25 pound) shredded gruyere cheese
grated parmesan cheese
nutritional yeast flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 3 quart glass dish. (It will fit in a 2-quart dish if you squish it in like I did, but I will now be shopping for a 3-quart dish.)

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Add cabbage and slowly wilt, adding the water as needed so there's just wilting and no browning.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs with the rice, buttermilk, parsely and 1/2 cup of the gruyere. When the cabbage is looking good (to me this means a mix of really wilt, almost yellow-y cabbage, and some still crisp, bright chartreuse) add it to the egg mixture and toss gently. Put the mix in your prepared pan, and sprinkle with the rest of the gruyere, a liberal amount of parmesan, and the nutritional yeast flakes.

Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, until browned and bubbly.

NOTE: This makes a large amount of gratin. It's great for a group, but it also works well in leftovers. We had it the next night fried up in the cast iron skillet, for a crispy hash that was served with some bratwurst and mustard. Then I used to riff on this recipe for Italian Cabbage Bread Soup. Instead of the veg and cheese, I layered this gratin on the bread. It came out really very good!

I hope you had a Happy Halloween!



*Note: We ended up having hot toddies. They were SO good. Heat two cups of apple cider with a cinnamon stick (a little orange zest would be good, but I forgot it!) When it's just simmering, turn off the heat and add 3 ounces of applejack and one ounce of the King's Ginger. Throw in some crystallized ginger, pour in a Liberty mason jar mug and cheers!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Savory Buttermilk Bread Pudding



I've been singing the praises of buttermilk for a while now (see here), and it looks like buttermilk is finally getting it's due. I see it soon getting pantry status, as it is in my house during the winter months. Buttermilk does take a back seat during the warmer months because I don't do as much baking. And just like soups and stews, I get so excited to see it back in rotation after its long absence. So much so, that at the moment I have an over-abundance and have needed to make something every day with it. Which is not that hard: pancakes on Sunday, Irish soda bread on Monday, and this for dinner on Tuesday. This made a lot, so you get leftovers the next day. It would be a great addition to a holiday meal.

The above was a mix of challah rolls and a cheddar-jalepeno sourdough loaf. I love buying day-old bread! The extra cheese and spicy pepper were a good foil to the sweet challah and kale. I think it goes without saying that creativity is welcomed in this dish. Varying the types of bread or vegetables will be a welcome change in your dinners.

If you are serving this as a main dish, you might want to go luxe and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top, with some extra fresh cracked pepper, as you plate it up. I served it alongside steamed romanesco broccoli. It was an amazing meal!

Savory Buttermilk Bread Pudding
yields one 3-quart casserole (although I used a 2-qt. and a 1 qt.)

1 large onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, smashed
1 head of kale (red winter kale), de-stemmed and chopped finely
1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup milk

4 ounces of feta
pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Day old bread, cut in 1 inch cubes, about 8 cups (cheddar-jalepeno sourdough and challah rolls)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until golden.
2. Add the kale in large handfuls, mixing to coat with the oil. I like to add a little water to steam the kale down, or if you just washed it, the water clinging to the curls will help this. Add the salt when it has wilted down.
3. In a separate bowl beat the buttermilk, milk and eggs together.
4. With the bread cubes in another separate large bowl, add the hot vegetable mixture and toss gently, adding pepper to taste.
5. Add feta and toss gently.
6. Add egg-milk mixture. Toss gently and let sit for 15 minutes to an hour.
7. Put in a buttered glass or porcelain casserole dish, sprinkle generously with grated cheese and bake in 350 degree oven for about 45-50 minutes, until it has puffed out, has golden edges and feels firm when you gently rest your palm on it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Grape Mostarda


Is there anything more succulent than a cluster of dusty yet shiny, tight purple globes hanging on the vine? Whenever I go grape picking, I  really have to restrain myself: I want to just grab them all. It's such a textile event. There is something about grapes that you just want to squeeze. Their weight and firmness feels good in your hand, and of course biting into them is a pleasure of their own. The chewy and slightly tannic skin starts sweet and ends a touch bitter. It yields to the gelatinous yet tensile flesh inside. Both are an almost obvious pleasure, followed by the gratifying separation of the heart-shaped bitter pit with your tongue. Even the spitting out of the seeds is satisfying.

I was thinking of a sweet preparation for these particular red sheridan grapes, but was intrigued by a suggestion from a friend on Instagram. She said chutney. My mind doesn't normally think of a chutney when thinking of grapes, but it was a brilliant idea. I almost made it. In particular, this one from the Cozy Herbivore. But instead I started thinking of mostarda, that fabulous fruity mustard (mustardy fruit?) that hails from Italy. 


Grape Mostarda
Adapted from Grape Mostarda, Bon Appetit
Yield: 2 half-pint jars

About two pounds of local red sheridan grapes (I'm betting any local, sweet variety would do well)
1 small white onion, chopped finely
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon of dried red chili pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon of candied citrus (or you can use citrus zest)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard

First, prep the grapes. Slip the innards from the skin into a saucepan. Reserve the skins in a bowl. Simmer the grape innards for about ten minutes--you will notice the flesh separate from the seeds. Turn off the heat and let it cool a bit. Then press it all through a food mill to remove the seeds. Add the flesh to the skins. Sauté the onion in a small bit of olive oil until just softened. Then add the grapes, and the rest of the ingredients, except the mustard. Get it to a good simmer, and let it cook for about twenty minutes, until it looks glossy and thick. Add the mustard. Turn off the heat and pour into clean jars. Keep refrigerated.

I think this mostarda is best after sitting a few days, and it should keep in the fridge for quite some time. The recipe makes two half-pint jars, and a little goes a long way, so you might want to gift some of this to a friend or serve it at a party with cheese. The color is amazing, and it's slightly zingy due to the red pepper. The little mustard seeds give it a caviar-like pop in each bite. I couldn't resist and we had some for dinner the day I made it: a baguette, a creamy French bleu cheese, soppressata and a bottle of wine. Aren't those the best dinners? The next day I had the leftovers in a sandwich. Heaven! But upon tasting it again today, it's much better now that the intense flavors have had time to mingle.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Apricot Pit Vinegar


Yep. You saw that title right. Remember when I made this citrus cleaner? Well, this summer when I was up to my elbows in apricots, and their pits, I considered making that pit liqueur, Noyaux. As you might know, apricot pits (and cherries) are related to almonds, and impart an almond flavor when steeped. But, do you know how many little jars of strange liqueurs I have? And, you know, they just sit there. Because for the most part, I'd rather have a glass of wine at the end of the day than fussing with a cocktail, truth be told. But all those pits! What to do with them? I don't throw anything out unless I know I can't do anything with them.

So, I did what any crazy preserver would do: I filled a half-gallon jar with the pits and covered them with white vinegar. I stuck it in the basement and forgot all about it. Almost three months later I've given them a sniff and have declared them a success. Now along with my sour orange cleaner, I also have the option of an exquisitely almond-scented cleaner. The vinegar is a subtle secondary tang to the primary almond scent. And I love that smell!

I guess I could dress a winter salad with it as well---maybe a wilted greens salad with toasted nuts and some figs?

P.S. Do you know how hard it is to make a jar filled with pits and brown liquid look pretty?
P.P.S. As EL notes in the comments below, there is some controversy whether apricot pits are good or bad for you. Click over to the link for the liqueur above for more information on that topic.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Plum Conserve




I have been wanting to write a post for about a month now, but this amazing late summer/early fall we've been having in the Hudson Valley has me busy with other things. I'm not complaining! But today, as I soak in the hot sun--it's hitting 80 today--I realize we are very close to the end. I am almost done with closing the garden up, the fig trees have been replanted in their winter pots, and stink bugs are crawling everywhere. It's inevitable that every time we have a last burst of heat, some bug frenzy happens. Last year it was lady bugs, this year, stink bugs. I can feel it everywhere as I walk around my yard. The maples are turning yellow, the purple asters are lining the hill, the goldenrod surrounds the pond, and the bees are busily making haste. I have heard from various places that this year is going to be a snowy and cold winter. Have you noticed all the woolly bear caterpillars out this year? I am seeing them everywhere: fat black ones, little fuzzy black and brown ones, and one huge white one. I haven't seen so many in years.

There is a small cool breeze that underlies the heat of the sun today. It riffles the leaves, and they slowly fall, lazily coating the ground. The neighbor's rooster crows, and the buzz of the bugs seems muffled. Birds call, and dogs whine, chainsaws buzz and trucks lumber by. It's lazy but focused, it seems. The word portentous comes to mind. Everything seems to remind me that quite soon I won't be sitting on the porch sipping a beet-carrot-apple-ginger juice in a t-shirt and shorts.



Even the preserving has slowed down a bit, although this batch of plum conserve is on the stove top as I write. Made with some gleaned tiny blue prune plums, I was looking to make something that was rich and cozy for the coming winter. I asked folks on my Facebook page what I should make, and there were a few good ideas! I have saved some plums to make the kuchen that Rosemary posted.

I adapted this from a recipe for Nutty Plum Conserve from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I removed a bit of sugar (and must admit, it still seems a bit sweet), used currants instead of raisins, and added Pisa liqueur, which is a nutty liqueur similar to Amaretto.

Plum Conserve
yields 5 half-pints, with a little extra for the fridge

2.5 pounds of blue prune plums, halved and pitted
2 cups sugar
1 cup dried currants
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 cup candied citrus peel
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup coarsely chopped mixed nuts
1/2 cup Pisa liqueur

If your plums are large, quarter them. If they are small, keep them halved. Put plums, sugar, currants, juices and peel in your jam pot and bring them to a boil. While this is cooking, soak the nuts in the liqueur. Let the plum mixture boil for about twenty minutes; they should foam up a bit, and then get glossy and thick. Add the nuts and liqueur, bring back to a boil, and cook for another ten minutes making sure not to scorch the bottom. Process for ten minutes.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fruit Season Has Begun!



Whoa. It's been a long time! I wasn't really thinking about it until my friend Michael politely pointed out that he's a little tired of seeing little red cranberries in a pot (see: last post, or don't, it's been up so long!) A friendly nudge is always what I need. I've been doing a bit of traveling and preparing for my third season making jams as Half-Pint Preserves. It's a busy time of year when the fruit starts happening! Rhubarb has been on my cutting table as of late, and soon strawberries will be firmly in my grasp.
In my garden, the strawberries are ripe, but it's a small patch just for snacking. We can't wait to hit the bigger farms, in our case either Greig Farm, Fishkill Farms or Thompson-Finch Farm. I've been baking up a storm: strawberry rhubarb pie, and rhubarb jam quick bread (using this recipe for marmalade quick bread). I think tomorrow I will make this custardy rhubarb pie that I've been making for years. It's amazing.
Another exciting thing is new vegetables and herbs! My favorite herb in the garden these days is salad burnet. Have you tried it? It's very cucumber-y tasting. It's delicious on eggs with some chive blossoms. 


And I finally roasted some radishes, in particular these local long reds that were rumored to be very spicy. A slow roast with their greens were the perfect foil to some roasted homemade sausages and chicken.
And don't forget other things that are growing! This guy is almost five! And trying to figure out his bicycle. Good times in the Hudson Valley these days. How about you? I'd love to hear from my friends out there, what are you making these days?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cranberry Molasses and a Giveaway: Put 'em Up! Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton




Cranberry molasses! Is this a great idea, or what? I absolutely love pomegranate molasses and use it all the time. Mostly drizzled on salads. So vibrant, so tangy! When I saw this recipe in Sherri Brooks Vinton's newest canning book, Put 'em Up! Fruit, I knew I had to try it. Especially since I had some cranberries languishing in the freezer. And it's a little more local than pomegranates for us easterners.

If you are a canner, you've probably read Brooks Vinton's first book, Put 'em Up, which was structured by the fruit or vegetable to preserve. This book moves in a similar way, but focuses on fruit, and for each recipe of a preserve there is a companion recipe to "Use It Up!" There's a chunk of preserving information in the beginning of the book, and then the fruits start alphabetically, with apples, of course, and everything has a color-coded tab at the top of the page, so you can quickly thumb to a section. The book is colorful and easy to dive into, with beautiful pictures by Hudson Valley photographer, Jennifer May.

It's very obvious that Brooks Vinton has been at this for a while, and her enthusiasm for local produce and making eating well accessible to everyone is immediately evident. She's bubbly about cool things like gastriques and making cider vinegar, but still includes stalwart recipes for applesauce and classic jams. This book truly is for beginners and pros alike.

The cranberry molasses that I tried from the book is so simple! Next time I would probably try lowering the sugar because that's my thing these days, and it might help the ability to cook it longer without it jelling. The only thing I'll take Brooks Vinton to task for is not giving you an idea for the left over cranberry pulp. The book is chock full of little tips like this, so I'll let it pass! I used a cup  in some muffins, and I put the rest in a smoothie. I hope to try the molasses with the companion Use It Up! recipe: duck confit salad with cranberry molasses. Could that sound ANY better? No, it can't!

Cranberry Molasses
adapted from Put 'em Up Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton
Yield: 2 cups

4 cups of water
1/2 pound of cranberries
2 cups dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)

Bring the water and cranberries to a boil, and let them simmer for about 15 minutes, letting the berries pop and soften. Strain the juice through a fine sieve to get all that gelatinous pulp and seeds out. The juice is brilliant red!

Bring the juice (it will be about 2 cups worth) and sugar to a boil in your jam pan. Let it simmer until it coats the back of the spoon. Brooks Vinton recommends 10 to 15 minutes, but I went longer, about 30 neglecting to notice the comment: "the molasses will thicken as it cools." Mine was thick and lovely, but did jell slightly upon cooling. It is so soft though, that a few stirs with a fork turns it back into syrup. You can process this in a boiling water bath for ten minutes, or stash in the fridge for up to three weeks.

 

Please visit the book's webpage where you'll find a trailer, and videos to some of the recipes in the book. There are other chances to win a copy of the book! Some are over already, but some haven't even started yet. Check out this list of folks on the book blog tour:

April 8: Food In Jars
April 9: Punk Domestics
April 11: Local Kitchen
April 12: Mission: Food

Congratulations to the winner: Deborah Rosen. Many thanks to all who entered! There's still time to win at The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking and From Scratch Club!

Thanks to Storey Publishing, I have one copy of Put 'em Up! Fruit to give away. To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment on this post. Comments will close at 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, April 19, 2013. The winner will be chosen at random and be posted to the blog the next day. With Blogger it seems I can't email commenters directly (your email address remains anonymous to everyone, even me), so if you are not linked to a blog please leave a way for me to reach you, or check back to see if you won. And my sincere apologies, but only U.S. residents are eligible.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of Put ‘em Up! Fruit free for the purposes of review and participation in the blog tour. One copy will be provided to the giveaway winner, courtesy of Storey Publishing. I received no monetary compensation and all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Eight Lunches


What do you eat for lunch? It's something I think about every day. I'm know I'm not the only one! This is what I think: How can I eat healthily and inexpensively? And mostly: quickly. I'm always curious what the heck people actually eat. I mean, we all have our ambitious ideas--big recipes that are usually meant for dinner. Lunch is sort of forgotten territory. I wish I didn't neglect it as much as I do, and I'd love to get more of a system going on. When I make a good lunch, I take a picture so I can remember it. Sometimes, it's a little too late, like the above picture.  A few pickled beets chopped up, some crumbled feta, salad greens, olive oil and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds make a great salad.
Of course, leftovers. I made a lot of squash dumplings for dinner and sauteed them with onions and a hearty handful of chopped parsley. They were great fried up the next day. I don't understand people who don't like leftovers. I love them!!
 A toasted baguette, a can of sardines in olive oil spread with a fork, topped with chopped dill and parsley, salt and pepper, more olive oil. Perfection. Always keep tinned small fish on hand: sustainable, good for you, inexpensive, tasty.
My favorite. Smoked salmon, capers, two fried eggs, salad, pita. I'd eat this even without the salmon. Eggs are a mainstay of my lunches.
Leftover turkey and gravy on toast with capers. Hot open faced sandwich. So. Good. You might have noticed that I put capers on just about anything. They are a must in my kitchen.
Summer rolls. They are pretty easy. Really!! These are sort of on the ugly side, but they still tasted great. Looks aren't everything, as they say. Shrimp are bonus, but not necessary. Another way to get a good bunch of veg in you. Lately, I've been buying Maine shrimp, sold frozen in a local grocery store. They come in handy to throw into something like this, or a salad, or something more ambitious, like dumplings. (Pictured are not those shrimp, though.)
Leftover pancakes rolled with smoked salmon, salad, Greek yogurt (and some capers, I'll bet). You can see I like smoked salmon on everything, too. A little bit goes a long way.
More eggs, capers, and salad. And I am a big fan of Ak Mak. This is a perfect lunch, in my opinion.

What about you? What do you eat for lunch? What staples give it flair or substance? When I had a full-time office job, I usually made my lunch the night before. It actually took a lot of the guesswork out of lunch-making. I might even consider doing it again, but I know I'd look at my lunch and think: oh, I could make something more yummy. One of the problems of working near your kitchen!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Orzo and Chickpea Soup and Buttermilk Crackling Cornbread


I wanted to just write about this soup, which is very good, but the pictures I took were pretty bad. To be fair, the cornbread was a revelation, but it was a recipe from Joy of Cooking that I didn't change a bit.  I put the soup photos here just to illustrate what it looked like, but I'm aware that they are not pretty shots. I would like to absolve myself here by saying I'm not a photographer! I don't practice it, and I don't try to get better at it; not proud of that fact, rather just stating it. I never stage shots, I just take them when it seems right. At most I take about ten photos of a thing, usually it's just a few. I wish I were more focused (ha, ha) but I'm not. I really admire all my friends who take photography seriously and get better at it every day. I am trying to learn how to practice things and get better at them. It's a fault of mine that I don't. I fly into things with good intentions, and end up being a little sloppy about them because I've got twenty things like it going on.

I do, however, enjoy practicing cooking every day, and I'd say I always get better at it. (That doesn't mean I don't still make lots of mistakes!) Yesterday, I was working in the yard---finally!! I transplanted some trees, chopped some gnarly poison ivy vines, and cleared the perennial garden--and something obvious dawned on me, as I thought about all the things I like to do. In my life, I've gotten sidetracked by enjoying doing so many different things. There were so many things I wanted to be and to do! A musician, songwriter, photographer, writer, photo editor, film maker, actor--the list goes on. There were things in that list that I got good at, and worked really hard at, but they didn't seem to really take off. I was thinking yesterday as I raked--such good meditation--that in order to be good at something, you must not only put the work in, but really, you should enjoy the work involved. Obvious, right? Isn't it funny how something so obvious can suddenly seem so clear to you? Forcing yourself to put in the work that you don't truly enjoy to get to an end that you desire, well, that's just not going to work. At least not for me. 

Recently, I started to unclutter my life: getting rid of things that have been piling up, not being used. Another facet of this de-cluttering is to remove the doing of activities that might be better left to others. I'm trying very hard at streamlining my life, and to not desire to do things that might dilute the other things in my life. For example, I recently gave my chickens to my neighbor. I miss the chickens, but they took up brain space (and money) that perhaps gave me less time to spend on my garden and fruit trees. I still get great eggs, but now I am focusing on treating my trees a little better. I also sold my serger (a finishing sewing machine). I decided: you know what? I'm not a sewer! I like the idea of making something I dream up, but I'm not good at it!! I don't want to put in the work. So I retired the idea of being a sewer. I kept my old Singer for small jobs--hemming and the like--but I allowed myself to let go of making ambitious quilts or a clothing line. 

You catch my drift here? It doesn't mean that I'm putting down my guitar or camera, but you know the saying "Jack of all trades, master of none?" 

What I'm focusing on these days: the freezer and the larder. Using things up, although we still have a few months before true bounty is upon us, is one of my priorities. A couple of true gems I made this year were pesto, oven roasted tomatoes and salt pork. Pesto and oven roasted tomatoes have been standbys for years, the salt pork is new. Instead of freezing all the back fat I got from our half-hog for sausages, I made it into salt pork, cubed it, and froze it in ziploc bags. It has proven indispensable. But the best thing I have made with it is this buttermilk crackling cornbread. Oh, my. This fresh out of the oven with syrup and (redundant) butter was heaven. It was equally good the next morning, and aside this soup. (The recipe for the cornbread is in a link below, if you don't have Joy of Cooking. Let me know if it doesn't come up; it was a preview of the book.)




 Orzo and Chickpea Soup

Can you tell me when people started thinking that soup had to be the consistency of pudding? Whenever I stop in a diner and have soup, it's gloppy and horrible. Why?? This is a hearty soup with a nice broth. The way it should be. Soup, to me, isn't a science but an amalgamation of some good things in the fridge. It always starts with good stock. The ingredients here are just a guideline. Soup loves creativity and turning leftovers into gold.

A few cloves of garlic
1 onion
6 or so white mushrooms
2 carrots
Salt, Pepper, dried Italian herbs
6 cups of stock, chicken or vegetable
1 cup of roasted tomatoes
1 tablespoon of pesto
1 can of chickpeas
1/3 cup of orzo
About a 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley

1. Saute one medium onion and a few cloves of garlic, diced up, in good olive oil.

2. Add some veggies, here I finely diced some mushrooms and added a few carrots, peeled and left in big spears.

3. Add salt, pepper, some dried Italian herbs.

4. Slowly add about six cups of room temperature chicken stock, letting it heat up before you add more.

5. Add about a cup of oven roasted tomatoes. It doesn't matter if they are frozen or not. I chose to leave them whole, but you can coarsely chop them too.

6. A heaping spoonful of pesto. Mix it in.

7. A can of chickpeas. (I like keeping a can or two of beans around to put together a quick meal.)

8. Have the soup simmering for about fifteen minutes to let everything mingle. Then add about a 1/3 cup of orzo. Let it continue to simmer on low to cook the pasta.

9. Add a bunch of chopped fresh parsley.

10. Serve with this cornbread. (Joy of Cooking, Buttermilk Crackling Cornbread, page 778.) And have any leftovers toasted with butter and maple syrup!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Citrus Cleaner


The only large parcel of citrus I ordered this year were two big boxes of sour oranges from my mother's neighbor's tree. After juicing them all, I froze the juice for later use in the summer when porch-side cocktails are in order. I find that this method keeps the citrus flavor a little fresher, but I still stand by my sour mix! After making more candied citrus peels than should be normal, I still had a large amount of peels left over. Rather than compost them right away, I squished them into two half-gallon jars and covered them with white vinegar. They sat for a month, and just the other day I drained the bright gold liquid off into one of the jars. It was very concentrated, so I then filled the jar with more white vinegar. Now I have sour orange vinegar, which I certainly could use for some interesting pickles or dressings, but what I intended for them was household cleaner. There's a strange sort of pride in making a cleaner that you could cook with!

I usually fill a spray bottle halfway with vinegar, then add water and a drop or two with dishwashing soap. That's it. But now when I'm cleaning, it will smell slightly of Florida, which is just what you need in the tail-end of winter.

Do you use homemade cleaners in your home? What do you make/use?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Coconutty Bars


This little bar I came up with today was a total winner. I love bars--last week found me making Kind bars. Do you know the bars I'm talking about? I love them, but yes, they are a tad spendy. Ends up they are crazy easy to make. Just like Lara bars, which I like, but they're more like a breakfast bar, whereas Kind bars are more of a treat. And I like treats, as you know. Here are two links, among so many, that I liked:

Homemade TRIO and Kind Bars: The recipe I worked from for the Kind bars I made.
Lara Bars:  I loved the thoroughness of this post from The Kitchn.

But I was in search of a coconutty kind of bar. That's what I thought to myself: I need something coconutty. Do you live your life like that? Thinking of what you are craving and finding a way to cook it? It doesn't always come out well, you may know, if you are like me. There is a moment I have when I'm mixing something, and I say to myself: This is going to be so good! But I'm not always right. This time, I was right. I was inspired by this recipe for Almond Coconut Bars by The Paleo Mom, which doesn't look far off from my final product, but mine's a bit different.

I mistakenly said hashtagged these as Paleo today on Instagram, and the way I made them (with brown rice syrup) they are not. They also won't work with a GAPS diet, for the same reason. Somehow, I don't think these would hold together well with honey, but it might be worth a try. Let me know if you do! I wonder how these would come out without any sweetener at all? Brown rice syrup does have this magical glue quality when baked. I think without the syrup, you could just chill the pan, and call it a Lara bar kind of thing.

Coconutty Bars

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8x8 square pan with olive oil.

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups mixed nuts (I used a mix of almonds, walnuts, and pecans)
1 cup deglet dates
1 tablespoon of olive oil or liquid (warmed) coconut oil
1 tablespoon of brown rice syrup

Put coconut, nuts, and dates in a food processor, and run it until they are all very finely ground, a minute or two. Then, while the machine is on, slowly pour in the oil. I used very good olive oil, but I'm sure coconut would be tasty. Then, because the brown rice syrup is so gloopy, stop the machine, add it, then turn it on to fully blend. Tip: Use the oil-slicked tablespoon for the brown rice syrup--it will slide right off the spoon. Then, pat the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for fifteen minutes, or until the sides are golden. It will have puffed up a little, too. Take it out and let it cool a good fifteen minutes or so. To get it out of the pan, I gently covered it with wax paper and inverted it on a cutting board, then flipped it again, so it was right side up. Do this gently! Let it cool.

For the chocolate layer on top, chop up about two ounces of dark chocolate and heat slowly until liquid. Use a double-boiler, or a microwave for a minute or two, if you have one. Spread it on top of the bar "cake" with a spatula, and let it cool and harden in the fridge for about an hour.