Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Roasted Sunchoke and Wild Rice Salad with Cherries and Toasted Pecans


The first time I ever saw a sunchoke in the produce section a few years back, I remember thinking...what is that, some sort of mutant ginger root?  Then of course I read the label above it which read "sunchoke", which sort of intrigued me.  Afterall, anything with the word sun in the title must have wonderful flavor right?  The curious person that I am, never being one to pass up trying a new vegetable I bought a few not knowing how to prepare them.  I looked in a few of my Vegetarian cookbooks and realized that there are many things that can be done with them.  But I decided to first try roasting them and trying them with just a touch of sea salt so I could get the full unaltered flavor.  They were amazing, like potato chips that tasted amazingly enough like artichokes!  I have ever since been hooked on them and I love to roast them until crispy then add them to salads or just simply snack on them.  I was all excited when I saw some locally grown ones last weekend so I bought a large bag.  Last night I knew I wanted to include them in dinner, and what I decided on was a grain salad that featured them. 


First I cooked off some wild rice, then roasted the sunchokes to perfection and added those to the bowl (the ones that didn't get snacked on and made it into the salad).  It was looking a bit uncolorful so I decided to add some dried cherries for color and a bit of sweetness. 


I thought the salad needed some crunch as well so I added some toasted pecans (which seem to end up in most of my salads this time of year).  Also, I had fresh rosemary for some savory fragrance as well as some shallots to make it even more delicious.  A cider balsamic dressing laced with dijon to complete it and voila, a delicious salad! 


It was hearty and filling, perfect for one of the last few days of November.  If you haven't tried sunchokes and you have access to them, you must!  Here is the recipe for my salad if you would like to try it!


Roasted Sunchoke and Wild Rice Salad with Cherries and Toasted Pecans
Serves 4

1 cup wild rice (uncooked), rinsed
3 cups sliced Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup toasted pecans
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

Dressing:
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp dijon mustard
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place wild rice in a medium stockpot and cover with plenty of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook rice until tender and starting to flower, about 45 minutes.  Drain and cool to room temperature.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 475 degrees, line a sheet pan with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss sunchokes with just enough oil to coat then roast until tender and starting to brown, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool and add to a large bowl along with rice, shallots, cherries, pecans and rosemary.  Whisk together dressing, then toss well with salad and serve!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Coconut Pecan Yam Cookies


I had gotten it into my mind Friday while at work that some cookie baking was in order for that night when I got home.  Afterall, one needs no reason to make cookies, all you need is the motivation to bake.  However, I didn't feel like having to buy any ingredients to make cookies so I knew I would have to raid the pantry and fridge in search of some delicious ingredients.  I had not chocolate or dried fruit, and I had the wrong kind of oatmeal for baking so chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies were out of the question.  I had no eggs, but that wasn't a problem since I make vegan cookies most of the time. 


What I did have in my fridge was yams leftover from Thanksgiving, large flake coconut and pecans!  Now, I know you might be thinking yam cookies sound a little odd, but they aren't really when you consider pumpkin cookies.  Yams are afterall sweeter.  I had some limes on my counter as well so I thought I could scent them with a little lime zest!  I decided to leave spices out of the equation this time and simply let the sweet yam flavor shine. 


The dough was amazing, and the lime gave it something extra, almost tropical! 


They smelled absolutely wonderful when baking as well, like brown sugar and sweet yams with fragrant coconut! 


Once cooled, they were much better than I ever thought possible.  I knew they would be good, but they were fabulous!  The sweet cakey yam cookie was scented lightly with lime and vanilla and the coconut and pecans added a nice crunch. 


They had tropical notes, and were somewhat exotic, not like any cookie I have ever experienced.  I was glad I didn't cave and buy chocolate chips at the store, these were so much better!  Sometimes it pays to raid the fridge and pantry!  Here is the recipe if you would like to experience them for yourself! 


Coconut Pecan Yam Cookies
makes 1 1/2 dozen

 Cookies:
1 cup maple sugar, or granulated organic sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp coconut oil
3/4 cup yam (or sweet potato) puree
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp lime zest
1/2 cup thick maple syrup or agave nectar 
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cups toasted large flake coconut

In a large bowl, combine coconut oil with sugar and beat until fluffy and well combined. Beat in the yam puree, vanilla extract, lime zest and maple syrup until well combined. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, then add to the large bowl, and mix until well combined. Mix in the pecans and coconut, cover, and place in the fridge to chill until firm (I like to leave it overnight). To bake, Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll balls into about 2 inch balls, and place on prepared cookie sheets a couple inches apart (refrigerate unused dough while baking the other trays). Bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed and just starting to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spiced Maple Almond Ice Cream with Orange Cranberry Swirl


On Saturday afternoon, I was staring out the window at the falling snow enjoying a cocktail in my pj pants and sweatshirt.  A relaxing way to spend it, and you would think I would have had something hot cooking on the stove for dinner, but instead I was churning ice cream.  A true Minnesota girl, I will eat ice cream year round, and winter doesn't stop me from enjoying it.  Besides I cannot have a piece of warm apple pie or a pear crisp if not accompanied by the cold sweet ice cream.  Hence the ice cream making Saturday, which was because I was going to be making an apple crisp soon and had to have it!  I don't buy ice cream at the store anymore, because half the fun of ice cream at my house is coming up with new and interesting flavors!  I decided that I wanted to make something with a cranberry swirl this weekend because it seemed festive and I love the beautiful ruby red color of cranberries.  I combined cranberries and a bit of orange and cooked them until jammy along the maple syrup, then added some vanilla for a sweet note.  All of this before I even decided on the ice cream base, which may seem silly but the cranberries were the real star here. 


Now, I suppose a simple vanilla ice cream base would have been good, but red and white seemed more Christmasy than fallish and I was thinking a nutty flavored base would be good.  So I went with maple almond spice.  Rather than blending up whole toasted almonds, I added almond butter because I have fallen in love with using it in ice cream lately.  It makes it wonderfully silky even more so than a plain coconut milk base.  I spiced it up with a little cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom, and laced it with maple syrup.  Upon tasting it before churning it was even delicious!  It was like a super rich smoothie, but I knew it would be fabulous once it was actually scoopable. 


It was hard to wait until it was done, but it was so worth it!  The cranberry swirl was beautiful and ruby red, sweet and tart, citrusy and jammy.  It was wonderful with the silky lightly spiced almond ice cream.  I will admit I ate a large bowl if it before I even made the apple crisp...because it is never too cold for ice cream.  Not for this girl.  Here is the recipe if you would like to enjoy some.


Spiced Maple Almond Ice Cream with Orange Cranberry Swirl
Makes 6 cups

Cranberry Swirl:
16 oz Cranberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
juice and zest of one orange
a pinch of sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
To make swirl, combine all ingredients (except vanilla) in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.   Cook until cranberries have burst, are jammy and have fallen apart, and juices have reduced about 45 minutes .  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and puree with an immersion blender.  Strain through a fine meshed strainer and let cool.  
Ice Cream:
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup organic roasted almond butter (no sugar added)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp maple extract
1/8 tsp sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until well blended.  Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Once processed, pour 1/3 into a freezable container with a lid, then drop a few large Tbsp cranberries.  Pour half remaining ice cream over, then more berries, then the remaining ice cream and more berries.  Swirl with a knife to distribute berries throughout and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cranberry Sauce Martini


Back as long as I can remember, when I used to go to Thanksgiving at my Grandparents house there was always the cranberry sauce in the shape of a can on the table among the delicious food that my Grandmother had lovingly made from scratch.  Funny how that one item was the thing nobody cared enough to make, but buy instead.  It would get passed around the table, maybe one or two of us would take a small spoonful to be polite, then the rest would get tossed.  Kind of sad really, the poor neglected cranberry sauce. Who am I kidding, I didn't take any so I really didn't feel that bad.  I can't say that I really ever liked cranberry sauce until I started making my own a few years back when I cooked thanksgiving dinner at my house.  No can in sight, just a beautiful bowl of ruby red sauce.  I lace mine with orange and vanilla and sweeten it with agave nectar, so delicious.  I made some a couple days ago because it sounded good to me, and I thought it would be delicious with ice cream.  But it made it onto and into many different things this week, including my martini. 


I decided that one would be nice this afternoon as I sat and stared out at the snow which was accumulating on my front lawn.  It has finally hit Minnesota and I have the idea that I might as well embrace it rather than
complain about it...afterall, it means I can go cross country skiing soon!  So I thought a little bit of a celebratory martini was in order while I enjoyed watching the beautiful snowflakes fall. 


Now I know people put cranberry juice in cosmos, but cranberry sauce is what I had so...I created the cranberry sauce martini.  Looking at the ingredients now, it is sort of a twist on a cosmo, but I don't want to call it that.  To some organic vodka, I added fresh orange and lime juice, vanilla scented agave nectar and some of my homemade cranberry sauce.  


It was delicious, the perfect balance of tart citrus and cranberris and sweet vanilla.  The perfect thing to enjoy while I watched the snow pile up outside like the inside of a snowglobe.  It is festive enough as well that it would be perfect to serve with Thanksgiving dinner, and your guests would be impressed!  I have included the recipe if you would like to enjoy one for yourself.  Let it snow...Cheers! 


Cranberry Sauce Martini
(Cranberry Citrus Martini)

Makes 1

Drink:
6 large ice cubes
2 oz orange juice
4 oz vodka
2 Tbsp smooth cranberry sauce (sweetened)
1 oz fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp vanilla bean agave syrup*
Citrus zest and cranberries for garnish

To make drink, in a martini shaker add the ice, vodka, citrus juice, cranberry sauce, syrup, and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into a the martini glass, and garnish with a bit of citrus zest and a few cranberries!Cheers! 
 
*Vanilla Bean Agave Syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
 
Heat water until boiling, remove from heat and whisk in agave nectar and vanilla beans, until nectar is dissolved. Chill well before using in drinks. Makes 1 cup syrup.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Cranberry Cheesecake Brownies


Brownies need no special occasion to be made, or excuse.  I was doing my workout a few days ago on my stationary bike and watching a baking show at the same time.  Dangerous I know...especially since they were baking brownies.  I suddenly started to have an intense craving for some.  The show ended and I still had a bit of my workout left, giving me time to think about what kind to make.  Afterall, I was making them... I couldn't not since I was so hungry for them!  I didn't just want plain chocolate.  I wanted something more interesting, possibly seasonal, maybe pumpkin?  But the thing is pumpkin just didn't sound interesting enough on its own.  Pumpkin cheesecake sounded a little better, but what if I threw in some fresh cranberries I had leftover from something else I had made earlier in the week?  A delicious combination is what it sounded like! 


So I got to work.  The batter itself had pumpkin in it to make it extra fudgy and moist as these would be vegan, but I also added some to the cream cheese mixture that was to be swirled throughout the batter.  I felt they neeeded a hint of cinnamon, and a bit of maple as well for good measure.  Lastly I stirred cranberries into the batter for tart pops of flavor in the sweet chocolatey dough.  As they were baking my house smelled of decadent chocolate cake! 


The only bad thing about brownies is you have to wait to cut into them to get clean slices...that was tough!  But when I was finely able to enjoy them I was rewarded.  Chocolate pumpkin and cheesecake are a delicious combination...add little red jewels of tart cranberries and you have something heavenly and special.  I was glad I saw that show and decided to make brownies on a whim, they were wonderful!  I might just have to make them again as part of my Thanksgiving spread!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try them!


Pumpkin Cranberry Cheesecake Brownies
makes 24

Brownies:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup coconut oil
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp maple extract
3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
16 oz fresh cranberries
Swirl:
16 oz vegan cream cheese (such as tofutti brand)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp maple extract
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
a large pinch sea salt
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, sea salt and set aside. In a large bowl, place chcocolate and oil. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between to melt the chocolate, until the chocolate and oil are smooth and well combined. Whisk in maple syrup, along with vanilla, maple extract and pumpkin, and whisk to blend until well incorporated. Whisk in vinegar until well blended and there are pale swirls throughout the batter. Stir in cranberries and pour into prepared pan.  Beat together filling ingredients and drop spoonfuls over the batter, spacing them out.  Swirl with a knife to make a marbled pattern.  Place in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes until set, starting to pull away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. Do not overbake! Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then lift foil out by the edges and cool on a rack. Let set for at least an hour, then cut into 24 bars (or larger if you are like me).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grape and Cranberry Crisp


I was minding my own buisness in the produce section last Saturday, picking out my grapes when I realized the man next to me was asking me a question.  "So, you like grapes?  Do you enjoy wine as well?"  He was about in his mid 40s wearing a motorcycle jacket and clearly  he was the type of guy who thinks he is younger than he really is.  Not sure where he was going with this I replied "yes..."  To which he said "Well, maybe you should let me take you out sometime for a glass!"  Really?  Did you really just hit on me?  Don't you think you are just a little too old?  Not wanting the conversation to go any farther, I simply replied "No thanks." and walked away.  He was kind of creeping me out.  Had he been about 20 years younger and not creepy I might have found that whole ordeal charming, but due to the fact that he was creepy, not so much.  I left the produce section so fast I had forgotten to pick up some apples, as I was planning on making a grape apple crisp, since I had seen a grape and apple pie in a magazine and thought it sounded like a good pairing.  Stupid uncle creepy making me forget my apples.  Oh well though, I came up with something better. 


I had picked up some cranberries prior to the grape episode and I decided to pair them with the grapes in the crisp, figuring the tart cranberries would balance out the sweet grapes beautifully.  I combined the two with a little maple and vanilla and baked them until they were bubbly, jammy and delicious and topped them off with a crunchy oat and walnut topping.  It smelled wonderful, and it was fabulous! 


Especially topped with ice cream.  I enjoyed it warm, it was the perfect balance of tart and sweet the grapes and the cranberries married together in the delicious filling baked to perfection.  The toasty walnuts and oats in the buttery topping were the perfect crown for the jewel toned crisp.  I guess I have one thing to thank uncle creepy in the produce section for, he forced me to create a new type of delicious crisp.  I guess everything happens for a reason, even unwanted flirting attempts.  If you haven't tried the grape and cranberry combination, you must!  It is delicious!  Here is the recipe for my crisp if you would like to try some!


Grape and Cranberry Crisp
Serves 2 generously

4 cups concord grapes 
2 cups fresh cranberries
4 Tbsp maple sugar
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp maple extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

Topping:
6 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tbsp maple sugar
4 Tbsp cold Earth Balance vegan butter
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup walnut pieces

Two 5 or 6 inch wide deep dish ovenproof bowls or pie plates

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with the rack at the center position. Place a baking sheet lined with foil on the rack. Spray two 5 or 6 inch wide pie plates or bowls with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together the grapes, cranberries, maple sugar, maple extract, vanilla, and 1/4 cup flour. Spoon into prepared bowls or pie plates, and cover with foil. Place plates on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes until fruit is cooked through and bubbling. Meanwhile, to make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender, or 2 knives, cut butter into the flour until it is in pea sized chunks and clumping together. Add oats and walnuts. With hands, squeeze the mixture together forming larger chunks as well as incorporating the oats and nuts until evenly distributed as you go. Place in the fridge until the crisps are ready to top. When the fruit has baked for 35 minutes, and is bubbling, remove from the oven and top with the crisp mixture. Place back in the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown and toasted. Remove from oven and let cool until warm...enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Baklava Ice Cream



I can remember my first experience with baklava.  I was about 12 and my Mom had brought home some food from a restaurant called the "Olive Tree" for dinner that night.  It was my first exposure to Middle Eastern food and it was all wonderful...the tabouli, the crunchy falafel in pita pockets, and the stuffed grape leaves. But my favorite was the dessert.  The baklava, which was incredibly sweet and honey filled, and so crunchy with the many layers of carefully placed filo dough and nuts.  I would often times ask if we could pick up dinner from there just so I could have the baklava for dessert.  Now as an adult, many baklavas are too sweet for my tastes.  I had some at the state fair a few years back and it was bathed in way too much honey and sugar...so sticky that the filo was no longer crisp. I guess I am pretty picky about my baklava now, and if I find some good baklava I am in heaven. I have made a few batches myself that met my standards, and I have to say it disappears quickly around my house!   I was browsing a cooking magazine last week and I came across a baklava cheesecake!  It sounded amazing, but I wasn't looking for something that rich to make at the time.  I had baklava on my mind after that though, and I decided that I must make something featuuring all of its delicious flavors. 


I was craving ice cream...so bingo!  Baklava ice cream would be perfect!  I thought I could even make some filo cups to serve it in so the wonderful crunchy filo part of it would not be lost. 


Now, I know traditional baklava has walnuts but I decided to put my own twist on it and use some almonds as well.  I included a bit of almond butter in the base to make it wonderfully silky and melt in your mouth as well as almonds in my crunchy nut mix that was to be mixed into the ice cream and sprinkled over it to serve. 


I added a good amount of cinnamon as well, and honey to give it the traditional baklava flavor.  It was wonderful!  Ok, so the filo cups were a little putzy, but once the dish was plated it was lovely.  More importantly though it was delicious.  All of the traditional things I love about baklava were there. Sticky sweet honey and the crunchy nuts and filo, but the ice cream added a rich element that made it even better!  I shared some with my Mom who is also a baklava lover and she approved.  We even talked about our past baklava buying and all the good memories associated with it.  I love it when I can put my own twist on a dessert and it brings back good memories!  I have included the recipe here if you would like to experience it as well! 

Baklava Ice Cream  
Makes 6 cups

Crunchy nuts:
1 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups walnuts
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp maple sugar or granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
 
Preheat oven to 375.  Lay out a piece of foil and spray with non-stick spray.  In a bowl, mix together nuts, honey, sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt and toss until well combined.  Spread out on sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes until nuts are fragrant and toasted. Remove from oven and let cool.  You will have extra for serving the ice cream.
 
Filo Cups:
6 sheets filo dough
coconut oil, warmed to liquid
maple sugar or granulated sugar
cinnamon
 
To make filo cups, lay out 1 piece of filo dough.  Brush it all over with coconut oil, then sprinkle with maple sugar and a little cinnamon.  fold in half and repeat.  Fold in half again and repeat, so that you still have a rectangle.  Repeat and fold in half so that you have a square.  Brush the top with coconut oil, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and fit into a muffin tin so that you have a cup.  Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of filo dough and when all the cups are formed, bake in a 375 degree oven until crisp and browned, about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool and remove cups from tin. 
 
Ice Cream:
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
3/4 cup local honey
1/2 cup smooth roasted almond butter (no sugar added)
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp orangeflower water
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup crunchy nuts from above
 
crunchy nuts, filo cups and honey for serving

Combine all ingredients in a blender (except crunchy nuts), and process until well blended.  Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Once processed, pour 1/3 into a freezable container with a lid, then scatter about 1/3 cup nuts over.  Pour half remaining ice cream over, then more nuts, then the remaining ice cream and nuts.  Swirl with a knife to distribute nuts throughout and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results. To serve, scoop some ice cream into a filo cup, top with some of the extra nuts and drizzle with honey!
 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Truffled Vanilla Scented Kettle Corn


When the weather starts getting chilly and the sun has set before six, I like nothing more than to stay inside and relax after a long day.  This often involves sweats, a glass of good wine and a chick flick or a large pile of cookbooks.  Last Sunday I had gone out for a walk in the chilly air after the sun had set and I was thinking of having one of those relaxing nights.  My TV broke this week, but I did have the cookbooks and wine.  I felt as though I was in need of a delicious snack as well though.  Popcorn!  That was it, and it would go perfect with my Sauvignon Blanc!  I love a bowl of warm popcorn, especially made with coconut oil, which is the only way I make mine now, since my Mom introduced me to it.  I was craving something a little sweet too though, so kettle corn came to mind.


I had had a delicious truffled kettle corn at The Red Stag in Minneapolis recently, and it was so good I ate a huge bowl of the appetizer myself.  I am sure they used truffle salt on theirs as well as white sugar and butter and that is what made it so addictive. It inspired me to want to make some of my own at home my way.  I don't have truffle salt, but I do have white truffle oil so I knew I could make something just as delicious myself. 


I use my whirly pop to make popcorn, and it is wonderful!  You get perfect popcorn with few to none old maids (unpopped kernals) in just about 4 minutes.  It was a great investment since I love popcorn. 


I always use coconut oil in mine and even though I would be drizzling the kettle corn with truffle oil, I still used the coconut oil to cook it.  When it was all finished popping and the aroma was unbearable it smelled so delicious...


I tossed it with truffle oil, maple sugar and a bit of salt as well as a last minute ingredient you wouldn't expect...I decided to add vanilla bean to the kettle corn as well, thinking it would be delicious with the sweetness.  You may be thinking truffle and vanilla?  Yes!  It was amazing! 


Oh my goodness, it was better than the stuff at the restaurant.  And I admit that I ate the entire huge bowl in one sitting.  The truffle oil gave it an umami like earthy quality, the vanilla beans provided a delicious aroma and the maple sugar caramelly sweetness.  It went perfectly with my wine, and kept me from getting hungry as I browsed my cookbooks on the couch.  I know I will be making this often during the cool months, because it is very addictive.  Here is the recipe if you would like to enjoy some for yourself! 


 Truffled Vanilla Scented Kettle Corn
Makes about 6 cups

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup unpopped white popcorn kernals
2 Tbs white truffle oil
seeds of one vanilla bean
2 Tbsp maple sugar or granulated sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste

Add coconut oil and popcorn to whirly pop and heat over medium heat.  Stir constantly with the crank and keep going until all of the popcorn is popped, about 4 minutes total.  (or if you make your popcorn in a pot, then cook it your way.)  Remove from heat, pour into a large bowl with a lid and drizzle with truffle oil, add vanilla bean, sugar and salt, then put the lid on and shake until everything is well distributed.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autumn Sunset Cookies


I am not going to lie, I miss running in the mornings, getting out the door before the sun shows its face and watching the sun rise as I do my long runs.  The colors are always so beautiful, pale pinks and blues...reminding me of why I love running so early in the morning.  Darn stress fracture preventing me from running...biking indoors to the sound of the TV just isn't the same.  But at least I haven't missed out on the sun's beauty entirely as of lately.  After work I often go out for a walk to clear my head and process the day, and ususally by the end of it the sun has begin to set and it is quite lovely.  There have been some pretty spectacular sunsets this fall, radiant pinks, oranges and purples. 


No matter how the day has gone, when I see a sunset of this caliber it makes me forget anything else.  Last week I was out for  a walk in the evening after work and I was trying to come up with an inspiration for what sort of cookies to make, because making them sounded like a wonderful idea.  I was thinking a buttery shortbread, but what to flavor it with was the question.  The sun was setting and it reminded me of citrus for some reason, so it dawned on me...citrus!  But of course it had to have a hint of autumn, so a little cinnamon was to be added for good measure.  When I got home from my walk I got started on these cookies....


Little pieces of the autumn sunset.  I wanted them to be pink and orange like the setting sun, afterall I cannot resist a pretty little cookie that is beautiful as well as buttery and delicious! 


I tinted the dough yellow, orange and pink, then rolled it into a log and covered the outside in sparkly pink sugars.  They needed a bit of chilling before being sliced because I didn't want them to turn out all wonky, they had to look like a perfectly round sun!  I am impatient sometimes, so this was a bit tough waiting for them to chill, but thank goodness they were sliced, baked and out of the oven in 20 minutes. 


My kitchen smelled of citrus and butter, as they were quite aromatic.  They tasted wonderful as well, melt in your mouth buttery with a light citrus flavor and a hint of cinnamon.  They were as beautiful as the sunset as well with their pale  warm colors. 


Thank goodness they were small, because I had quite a few by the end of the night.  It is a wonder I had any to share!  Here is the recipe if you would like to enjoy some for yourself, and if you don't feel like making cookies, at least get outside and enjoy the autumn sunset before winter hits! 



Autumn Sunset Cookies
(Citrus Shortbread with a hint of spice)
Makes about 40
2 sticks Earth Balance vegan butter, at room temperature
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp orange zest
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup maple sugar, or granulated sugar
plant based natural yellow and red food coloring
pink sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with the rack set in the center. Mix all shortbread ingredients together (except food coloring and pink sugar) in a large bowl until well blended, then divide dough into 2 pieces.  Add a few drops of red food coloring to one bowl and mix well, and add a few drops of yellow to the other and mix well (I kneaded it by hand).  Remove a half of each color of dough and combine the halves so you have orange, red and yellow dough.  Roll each out into a log then roll the logs together into one big 2 inch high log.  Roll the outside of the log in the pink sugar and place on a parchment lined baking sheet in the freezer.  Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes then slice into 1 1/2 inch thick rounds and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until set. Cool on a wire rack.