Dear blog,

It’s been a while, I know. Like, a long long while.

This is just to say that I haven’t forgotten you (well, ok, maybe I have a little, sometimes, but not completely, and not forever), and there should be some things* coming your way in the near future. Hang tight.

[*"Things" may include overnight oats, apple ice cream, nontraditional uses for store-bought butternut squash soup, and exciting adventures in miso and maple, among other surprises and mysteries.]

So stay tuned, if you’re still so inclined. And here, have some beets.

DSC_0296_beets

DSC_0870

A friend and I got the idea for this yesterday and knew that we’d have to test it immediately.  You’re probably familiar with peppermint bark, the candy cane-covered chocolate that’s pretty ubiquitous around holiday season these days.  Well, this is salty-sweet kale bark, or, as it has been unofficially dubbed, “bacon chocolate for hippies,” born on a snowy, cloudy drive through the winding roads of the western Massachusetts hilltowns.

This bark consists of kale chips crumbled onto melted chocolate with a hefty pinch of salt.  Pretty simple, and infinitely variable.  For our first attempt, we stuck with a simple salted kale chip, but anything goes, really.  Curried kale chips?  Flakes of coconut sprinkled over the melted chocolate as well?  The world is your oyster…. or your kale patch?  Whatever.

DSC_0806

We used curly kale, which I definitely recommend because it holds a light, crispy texture really well against the chocolate.  After several kale-size experiments, I can say it’s definitely best not to over-crumble your kale onto the chocolate because that compromises its texture.  We also tested out two different types of dark chocolate and found that we preferred the lighter of the two, with 65% cocoa, because it had a nice fruity flavor and didn’t overwhelm the kale as much as the 71% bar we tried.

This is pretty much a dream come true … kale vaulted into the dessert category.  It’s just as good as we hoped it would be.  Happy bark-making, hippies.

DSC_0873

Salted Kale Bark

First, make kale chips.  Wash and dry your kale, stem it and break it into smaller pieces, and coat it with olive oil.  It’s important to try to use as little oil as you can, because no one wants greasy kale on their chocolate.  We used half a tablespoon for about half a bunch of kale.  Don’t worry if some chips are more on the oily side, though, because you can always just eat those ones on their own.  Spread the kale out on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until crispy.  Let the kale chips cool completely.

Melt your chocolate in a microwave or over a double boiler, and spread it out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  You want the chocolate to be fairly thin so that it doesn’t overwhelm the kale flavor, but not so thin that it’s not a sturdy base.  Experiment.  Sprinkle the melted chocolate with salt and cover with kale chip pieces.  More kale is better; try to cover all the chocolate and don’t forget about the edges.  Harden in the refrigerator or other cold place (wintertime garages are excellent).  Cut the kale bark into pieces and store in the refrigerator.

DSC_0696

It snowed two feet the other night, and I believe baking is pretty much mandatory on snow days.  So that’s why these cookies exist.  I’m a big fan of tahini in general, but I’d never put it in cookies before.  If you take a moment to imagine halvah, though, you’ll understand why it’s such a good idea.

Basically, if you like peanut butter cookies (and even if you don’t, probably), you’ll like these.  They have a really similar crumbly texture.  The tahini flavor is just strong enough, and they’re not too sweet.

DSC_0725

After making the original recipe, I tried a couple variations — first, simply coating the bottom of the cookies with chocolate, and then experimenting with substituting honey for the sugar.  Neither of these struck me as necessary or better than the original.  Maybe I’ll try those experiments again sometime, but for now — there’s no need!

DSC_0767

Tahini cookies (from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)

Makes about 35 cookies

2/3 cup superfine sugar [I used granulated]

2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup light tahini paste [I don't think I used light; what we have seems more dark. But it doesn't seem to matter too much!]

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

5 tsp heavy cream [I used half and half]

2 cups plus 1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the sugar and butter in a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until just combined but not aerated much.  With the machine running, add the tahini, vanilla, and cream, then add the flour and beat for about 1 minute, until the dough comes together. Transfer to a work surface and knead until smooth.

Pinch off 2/3 oz / 20g of the dough [a little less than walnut-sized] and roll into a ball between your palms.  Use the back of a fork to push down lightly on top of the ball so that it flattens just slightly and takes on the marks from the tines.  Place on a flattened baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing the cookies 1 1/4 inches apart.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon on each cookie and then bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until golden brown.

DSC_0594

First off, if you’re not familiar with the band Guster, take a quick pause and go listen to Ramona.  Now you’ll understand why I’ve been singing to my granola a little excessively (albeit sometimes in my head) lately.  And now we can move on.

I don’t know why it took me so long to make granola.  I’ve been eating it for just about forever, and although there are some really good storebought granolas out there, nothing quite compares to homemade.  And when chewy/crunchy foods are an issue, as they often are in my house, it’s great to have complete control over just how chewy/crunchy your granola ends up.

DSC_0580

This recipe is from — take a guess — the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and it’s meant to be a granola with a higher ratio of large chunks, as opposed to mainly small pieces of oats.  This, to me, is genius, because really those big pieces are what elevate granola from being just a bunch of oats and nuts thrown together in a bowl.  I haven’t had luck getting the majority of the granola to clump together completely, but using the larger of the two maple syrup quantities given in the recipe does seem to help make more chunks (and it might be because I grew up in Massachusetts, but I’m firmly in the more-maple-syrup-is-always-better camp anyways).

DSC_0600

If you’re not the type to stop and photograph your food at every stage of its creation, I imagine this granola would be super quick to put together — the recipe is very simple.  Aside from one little mishap (pro tip: don’t get overexcited and just start throwing everything into the bowl at once, or you will end up picking all the cranberries back out of your oats individually), my granola-making went very smoothly.

Next up: yogurt?

DSC_0609

Big Cluster Maple Granola (from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp coarse salt

1/2 or 2/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large egg white

1 1/2 cups dried cherries or other fruit [i used just 1 cup of cranberries]

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Combine all ingredients but the egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly.  Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy.  Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout.  Spread it in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 44-55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola carefully, breaking them up as little as possible.  Rotate the pan if the granola is baking unevenly.  When it is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to the cooling rack.  Cool completely.  Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into clusters, and sprinkle in dried fruit.

DSC_0314

Okay, so by “first snow” I mean “first real snow,” because we’ve had other, less “real” snowfalls earlier in the year.  But shredded coconut looks a little bit like snow, so this loaf (cake? bread? it’s kind of in between) was totally appropriate.

DSC_0209

I’ve been wanting to try using coconut oil for a while, and this recipe was a good opportunity.  It also calls for coconut milk and shredded coconut, but it somehow manages to have only a subtle coconut flavor, which is perfect.  It’s just coconutty enough (is that a word? who knows), without being too loud about it.

DSC_0239 DSC_0244

I was intrigued by this recipe, but wasn’t really sure what to expect from it.  Turns out that it might be one of my new favorite loaves of the sort-of-cake, sort-of-bread variety.  It has a really nice crumb and good additional texture from the shredded coconut in the batter.  The glaze on top might seem unnecessary at first, but it does add a nice bit of sweetness and some moisture (although I didn’t use all of the glaze the recipe made).  It’s really quite an unassuming but sneakily delicious loaf.

DSC_0249

The recipe suggests serving slices toasted, with fresh blackberries alongside.  I can tell already that it will be great toasted, although I haven’t tried that yet.  In the absence of blackberries, I tried spreading some raspberry jam on top, which was nice, although a little overpowering in flavor at times.

DSC_0294

Coconut Loaf (from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook)

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted, plus more for the pan

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

3/4 cup turbinado sugar [I used granulated]

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8.5-inch loaf pan with a thin coat of coconut oil.

Spread the shredded coconut on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Set aside 1/2 cup for topping the loaf.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the toasted coconut and the sugar.  Sift in the flours, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs together, then whisk in 1 cup of the coconut milk, the coconut oil, and the vanilla.  Gently stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

While the loaf is cooling, combine 1/4 cup of the remaining coconut milk and the powdered sugar [it helps to sift it] and mix until there are no lumps.  Add more sugar or coconut milk to taste, depending on the consistency you prefer.  Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut on top.

DSC_0170

Hello, blog.  It’s been a while.  I never meant for this little hiatus to happen.  But let’s move past it, shall we, and talk about ice cream.  I’d originally wanted to come up with a Hanukkah ice cream that would be made with sweet potatoes (instead of the standard latke potatoes), sour cream, and applesauce.  But while I was doing some research to figure out what ratios of ingredients to use, I came across this recipe in The Perfect Scoop that I couldn’t not make instead.

DSC_0113

This ice cream doesn’t have any cream or eggs in it, just whole milk, but it is still perfectly creamy thanks to a whole sweet potato’s worth of puree.  (And it’d be really easy — and delicious — to make it vegan by substituting coconut milk).

DSC_0126

But, in some ways (or maybe a lot of ways), this ice cream is really just a vehicle for the maple-glazed pecans, which are amazing.  I’m surprised we managed not to eat all of them before they made it into the ice cream.  I almost want to put them in every single ice cream I make from now on, or just keep a giant vat of them around at all times for general snacking… would that be too extreme?

DSC_0134

Basically, this tastes like pie filling in ice cream form.  I meant to make Hanukkah ice cream and somehow ended up with Thanksgiving ice cream instead, but I’m totally okay with that.

DSC_0173

Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Maple-Glazed Pecans (from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled

1 cup plus 2 tbsp whole milk

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

A few drops lemon juice

For the nuts:

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp dark amber maple syrup

1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Big pinch of salt

Heat the maple syrup and salt in a small saucepan until it just begins to come to a full boil.  Stir in the pecans, then cook until the syrup returns to a full boil.  Stir the nuts for 10 seconds, then remove them from the heat and let cool completely.  They will still be wet and sticky when cooled, but the remaining syrup will have solidified a bit more.

Cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes, place them in a medium saucepan, and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until tender when poked with a sharp knife.  Drain the sweet potatoes and let cool to room temperature.

Put the milk, brown sugar, sweet potato pieces, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a blender.  Puree until very smooth, at least 30 seconds.  Add lemon juice to taste.  Press the mixture through a mesh strainer.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze in an ice cream maker.  Add the pecans near the end of the freezing time.

Blog post from a hurricane:  really, what are you supposed to do with a bowl of home-grown garlic other than photograph it in the pre-hurricane light?  If we end up without power for a while…. at least we have this garlic, right?

I don’t have any recipes or anything for you here….. just garlic.

[If it's possible to use garlic to ward off the worst of a storm like a vampire, or to make a battery in a power outage, or to comfort the trees after all this wind stops, I'd say we're all set over here.]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers