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Deliciously Organic

Deliciously Organic

A blog devoted entirely to simple, wholesome, organic cooking.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Baking Together No Matter the Distance

(My daughter's list)

It all started a few weeks ago. I told my oldest daughter (let's call her H) that I was going to the BlogHer Food conference. She asked who would be there and when I told her Shauna from Gluten Free Girl would attend her jaw fell to the floor and she blurted, "You mean I could meet the Gluten Free Girl?" When I said "yes," she began jumping up and down. You see, the book Gluten Free Girl and the Chef had just arrived at our house a few days earlier and H had spent a few hours on the couch thumbing through it. To her, authors are like movie stars.

Fast forward to the conference. H met Shauna and was shy, but thrilled. Then, out of the corner of her eye H spotted Dorie Greenspan. She pulled my arm and quietly said, "Mom, she's the lady who wrote the Baking book." I walked H to the front of the room where Shauna and Dorie were seated. H looked into Dorie's eyes and said, "I love your cookbook." Needless to say, Dorie melted.  She pulled out her camera and snapped a few pictures of my girls.

A few days later, a group gathered at Dolores Park for a gluten-free picnic. Shauna asked H if she bakes. H said not yet. So Shauna told her to start baking and then send pictures of her creations. I didn't realize the spark was ignited in H's mind. As soon as we got home, she ran to find Dorie's book, Baking, and spent over an hour making a list of what she wanted to bake first. When she decided, she proudly walked in the room and presented me her list. I smiled. She's so much like me. She picked the Blackout Cake featured on the cover of the book. She never fails to aim high!

Through Twitter, I told Shauna H was baking the cake on Saturday. Shauna said she, Danny, and Lu would bake a gluten-free version simultaneously. Even though we were hundreds of miles apart, we baked a cake together on Saturday morning. You can read Shauna's account here.

It was interesting for me to step back and let H have the reigns in the kitchen, trying to figure things out on her own. I know every new baker goes through this, but it's been so long since I first learned I'd forgotten many of my initial struggles. The first sentence directed her to, "Adjust the rack to the middle position." H started opening cabinets. I asked her what she was doing and she replied, "Looking for a rack." I realized then that maybe I should stick a bit closer to the kitchen for the morning.

For the next few hours she cracked, mixed, sifted and whisked. We conversed with Shauna over Twitter periodically. Because Shauna was making a gluten-free adaptation, we compared the cakes as we went. Normally when I bake I modify as I go to incorporate whole wheat flours and other unprocessed ingredients, but this time I bought the ingredients listed so H could follow the exact recipe. She thoroughly enjoyed the experience and baked a beautiful, delicious cake!

This process made me realize that even though our family is far away, we can still bake and cook together. If you miss your mom or grandma, call her up and Skype while you make some cookies. Or simply talk on the phone while you and a friend cook a family favorite together. Even though so many of us live far apart from those we love we can bring back cooking together. If you've wanted to try a new way of cooking such as gluten free or dairy free but you've been intimidated to start on your own, find a friend or loved one who's also interested and try together.   

A fantastic book to start with is Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. It's a wonderful collection of restaurant-style recipes that can take your cooking up to a whole new level. Many of the recipes are perfect for a dinner party such as the Roasted Chicken Roulade with Goat Cheese and Arugula, Frisee Salad with Oranges, Almonds and Garlic Dressing, or Smoked Duck Breast Ravioli. If you're looking for simple homespun dishes make sure and try the Parsnip and Celery Root Puree and Crusty Gluten Free Bread. Two of my favorites from this book are Pasta with Anchovies, Lemon and Olives and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownies. I wasn't sure if the family would go for the strong flavors of the pasta dish, but they ended up licking the plate. And the brownies? The brownies are to die for! Honestly, it's worth buying this book if only for the brownie recipe. I actually had to hide them in fear of eating the entire pan. (no exaggeration) Another lovely aspect of this book is that not only do you get a gorgeous cookbook, but a beautiful love story laced between the recipes. It's one of those books you want to curl up on the couch and read with a good cup of tea.

I'll be back in a day or two with new recipes to share. Until then, call someone you love and start cooking!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Creamy Eggplant Soup and a Blogher Food Recap

"You write to live twice".

Shauna spoke those words last weekend at the Blogher Food conference in San Francisco. The conference brought together 300 food bloggers from around the world to mingle, share, and learn from one another. 

My weekend started with media training at Ketchum. I had my first experience trying to articulate my mission, even when asked difficult questions in an unnerving way. It was a fabulous and very humbling experience. If you need some training, this is the place to go. I made several friends at the training, too. It's amazing how much you can learn about someone during an afternoon of mock interviews and mutual critiquing!

I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with Marla, Amanda, and Natanya on Friday morning. It was a blast giving new bloggers tips and trying to pass on as much practical advice as possible.

Friday evening, Helen, Kristen, Stefania, and Jane threw a party at Blue Sky Studios. The studio was set in a lively hot shade of pink with plenty of food, drink, and laughter flowing.

Saturday after our morning session, Pete and the kids joined a group of us for a lunch-time excursion to the Ferry Building. Katie and Susan, two new friends, came along (if you haven't checked out their blogs, you really must).

Saturday was my birthday, so I got to pick our lunch spot. As we walked through the ferry building I saw "Prather Ranch Meat Company" selling grass-fed meat and organic trimmings. I got myself a huge preservative-free, hot dog, slathered it with mustard, piled on the sauerkraut, and smiled a happy birthday smile. Afterwards, we stopped by Miette for a few macarons and ate them on the pier while watching the Fleet Week airshow.

Saturday afternoon I attended the session entitled "Do you have a cookbook in you?" Before the session started, my daughters got to meet Shauna and Dorie. The girls were thrilled to meet two ladies they admire so much.

As I thought about this gathering of people who enjoy enjoy expressing themselves about food, I kept returning to the idea, "You write to live twice." How wonderful for me to tell you about the weekend, and "live twice".  

After a wonderful (and tiring) trip, I needed some comfort food. This roasted eggplant soup was exactly what I was looking for. The vegetables are roasted to bring out their sweet flavor and then combined with chicken stock, cream and spices. It's blended together to make a creamy, satisfying dinner.

Creamy Eggplant Soup
My husband and kids are not huge eggplant fans, but they loved this soup. So if eggplant isn't your favorite I encourage you to give this one a try. Serves 8
Adapted from Abundant Harvest

1 (32-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon organic whole cane sugar or sucanat

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 small onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic, not peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
basil, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°F and adjust rack to middle position. Place tomatoes on an oiled baking sheet in an even layer. (This should take up about half of the baking sheet). Evenly sprinkle the tomatoes with whole cane sugar. Fill the rest of the baking sheet with the eggplant, onion, and garlic. Drizzle the olive oil over the eggplant, onion and garlic (rub the oil into the vegetables with your hands) and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes, until tender. When the vegetables are tender place them in a large stock pot (make sure and remove the skins from the garlic). Pour in the chicken broth and add the thyme. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes until a knife can be inserted into the eggplant with little resistance. Puree the soup using a hand immersion blender or you can also blend until smooth in small batches in a blender. Stir cream into soup and season with salt and pepper if needed. Ladle into bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Peanut Butter and Caramel Bread Pudding

Sometimes you want to indulge. Big time. And if you've been a skeptic thinking that organic desserts made with unrefined ingredients can't taste like your Grandma's cooking, this dessert may change your mind. The sourdough bread is smeared with peanut butter, egg and whole cane sugar custard, then topped with a sweet peanut crumble and drizzled with homemade caramel sauce. If this dessert can't convert, I don't know what can.

It's a great dessert for Friday movie night, Sunday afternoon while cheering for your favorite team or for a dinner party. Who wouldn't want a bowl all to themselves of rich, eggy, sweet bread pudding?

With all of the excitement surrounding my book I forgot to announce the winner of the kombucha giveaway! Congrats to Shannon from Tri to Cook! Please email me your info at deliciouslyorganic {at} yahoo {dot} com and I'll get your kombucha culture out to you!

Peanut Butter and Caramel Bread Pudding
Adapted from Southern Living Magazine
Serves 6

Bread and Custard:
1 large loaf sourdough bread, cut into thick slices
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
1 3/4 cups heavy cream

Peanut Butter Topping:
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter, cold
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Spread half of the bread slices with peanut butter. Top them with the remaining slices of bread. Cut sandwiches into 1-inch pieces and divide between 6 lightly buttered 8-ounce ramekins. Whisk together eggs, whole cane sugar, and whipping cream. Slowly pour custard mixture over sandwich pieces in ramekins, dividing evenly.

Pulse flour, whole cane sugar and maple syrup in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and peanut butter and pulse until combined. Add peanuts and pulse 2-3 more times. Sprinkle streusel topping over sandwich pieces in ramekins. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for 2-24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F and adjust rack to middle position. Bake puddings for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and puffed on top.
While the puddings bake, heat organic whole cane sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 8 minutes, whisking frequently until sugar reaches 220°F. Whisk in heavy cream (mixture will bubble) and whisk constantly until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour caramel into a bowl or small pitcher and let cool for 10 minutes.

Serve puddings with caramel sauce.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Deliciously Organic Presales are Here!

So here's your first look! I've been patiently waiting to unveil the book's cover for many months and ... here it is! The book includes over 88 recipes and over 100 (mostly full-page) photos taken by Helen Dujardin from Tartelette.

A few of the 88 recipes you'll find in the book:

•Breakfast/Brunch: Lemon Sour Cream Pancakes with Blueberry Puree ... Strawberry Coconut Smoothie ... Tomato Basil Quiche

•Salads: Roasted Red Onion and Pear Salad ... Thai Steak Salad ... Cherry Tomato Caper Salad

•Sides: Spinach Madeline ... Mexican Rice Casserole ... Grilled Potatoes with Lemon Aioli

•Entrees: Tuscan Lemon Chicken ... Tuna Steaks with Avocado and Tomato Salsa ... Cottage Pie (old favorite) ... Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

•Desserts: Chocolate Chip Cookies (best ever!) ... Strawberry and Cream Tart ... Creamy Lemon Ice Cream

Order here today and receive a personally autographed copy and free shipping!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

We don't have an official fall out here in the high desert. The mornings and evenings begin to cool then around Halloween it gets cold (very cold) and windy. We haven't had any rain since March, but the last few days the skies were filled with clouds. I love blue skies, but until we moved to the desert I never really appreciated the joy of clouds overhead. The spectacular sunsets drew our whole family onto the patio to witness the sky in all its glory.

We've done a lot of celebrating recently. Two weeks ago, we found out Pete was selected for promotion to Lt. Colonel. Just telling you makes me feel old! We were married when he was a 2nd Lieutenant and I remember thinking the Lt. Colonels' wives were so old. Now I'm one of them! He's worked crazy hard to get to this point, and I'm very proud of him.

After many, many months of work with the editors, designer, and publisher, my cookbook finally went to print! I'm not sure, but I may have had an out-of-body experience when the magic words came through the phone: "OK, that's it, it's done." We popped open a bottle of champagne and thanked God for bringing us through the whole process.

This week also included Pete and my youngest daughter's birthday. Around here, the birthday person gets to specify the family menu for the entire day - food is important to us! They share a birthday, so they get the unique opportunity of planning the special meals together. I intended to take pictures and blog about the food, but all the dishes they requested come from my cookbook. What a huge compliment!

(The "old guy", and my daughter celebrating her new scooter)

Since I can't share those recipes with you yet, I decided to make Pumpkin Whoopie Pies to say "Happy Birthday" to two precious people in my life. I adore pumpkin and these soft cakes blend pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a slightly puffy and soft mound. They're filled with light-as-air, sweet, maple cream cheese frosting. It doesn't get much better than that. As I worked, the smell of "fall" perfumed the house and the kids were giddy because I was baking dessert in the middle of the afternoon. Whether you're celebrating a professional landmark, a double birthday, or just a beautiful cloud-filled desert sunset, I think you'll enjoy these sweets.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Maple sugar (used in the frosting) can be found at most health food stores and also at Amazon. It's a sweetener I use sparingly mainly because of the price. When it's finely ground, it looks and feels much like powdered sugar.
Makes 12 pies

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup maple sugar, ground into a fine powder (I usually do this in a coffee grinder)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to middle position. Whisk together melted butter, coconut oil, and whole cane sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, and vanilla. In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Pour flour mixture into wet mixture and whisk until just mixed.

Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, drop 12 mounds this will only make 6 pies, since you need 2 mounds per pie batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 12 minutes, until springy to the touch. Cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter.

Whisk together the butter, cream cheese, maple sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting and top with another cake.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kombucha and a Giveaway

I never thought I'd write a post about kombucha. In fact, I've had a running list of things "I'll never try".
Five years ago, my "never do" list looked like this:

1. I'll never grind my own grain. (Bought a small mill 3 years ago, totally converted now)
2. I'll never drink raw milk. (One taste and I was hooked.)
3. I'll never make my own sauerkraut. (I do now, on a monthly basis)
4. I'll never make homemade kombucha. (Well, you see the evidence of this)
5. I'll never make my own sourdough bread - on a regular basis. (Still haven't done this one)
6. I'll never have my own chickens. (I'm seriously considering it)

Apparently, my definition of "never" can be fuzzy.

If you've never tried kombucha, you must. It's a naturally effervescent, sweet fizzy tea (very sweet, in fact, I add a little water). It's so sweet you feel like you shouldn't be drinking it, like it's not allowed. But it's full of probiotics, live active enzymes, polyphenols (fight free radicals), glucuronic acid (a powerful detoxifier), and many other powerful nutrients.

A few months ago when the FDA pulled kombucha off of the shelves temporarily, I had to choose between going without or putting aside my pride and making my own. I ordered the culture and gave it a whirl.

Two weeks ago when my culture arrived in a little test tube I still wasn't so sure I wanted to go through with this. I had a feeling that once I started I might not ever stop. I boiled the water, added the sugar, brewed the tea, added the culture, and then safely tucked the jar away in the pantry to ferment. Seven days later, my kids were giddy to find out what it looked like. To my amazement, the culture had grown into a huge mushroom-like substance perched above sweet, fizzy tea!

I've tried two different recipes for kombucha, each with their own attributes. If it's your first time drinking kombucha then I'd try this recipe. If you've had it before and prefer a drink that's not quite as sweet, use the recipe below. You can purchase a kombucha mushroom here. If kombucha resides on your "I'll never make that" list, I recommend looking for Synergy Kombucha at your local health food store. They mix their teas with raw fruit juice for a fizzy, fruity flavor.

I'd like to give away a kombucha culture so you can start making your own. Please leave a comment between today (9/28/10) and Sunday (10/3/10). I'll draw a number at random and announce the winner on Monday. (Only one comment per reader please, and I can only ship to the United States)

While I don't use white sugar in my cooking or baking, the experts say it is essential for this recipe. The white sugar reacts with the tea and kombucha culture to produce acetic, lactic and glucuronic acid.
Recipe from Sally Fallon's, Nourishing Traditions (used with permission)
Makes about 2 quarts

3 quarts filtered water
1 cup organic white sugar
4 organic black tea bags (I used Newman's Own black tea bags)
1/2 cup kombucha from a previous culture (go to your natural foods store for this)
1 kombucha mushroom (or starter culture)

Boil water in a large pot. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and add the tea bags. Steep tea bags until water has completely cooled. Remove tea bags and pour cooled liquid into a 4 quart or larger glass bowl (not plastic). Stir in 1/2 cup kombucha and place the mushroom on top. Cover loosely with a clean cloth or towel and transfer to a warm, dark place. Let mixture sit for 7-10 days. When the mixture is ready the mushroom will have grown a spongy pancake and the tea should be slightly sour and fizzy. Remove the mushroom and store in a glass container in the refrigerator until you are ready to use again. (After your first time making kombucha the mushroom will have grown a second spongy pancake. This can be used to make other batches or you can give one away to a friend.)  Pour kombucha into a glass jar or pitcher with a tight fitting lid. Store in your refrigerator.  Don't forget to cross kambucha off your "I'll never do that" list!

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Cheesy Beef and Pasta

How many of you have purchased a cardboard box with pasta and a "seasoning mix" hoping for a quick but wholesome meal? I think we might all be able to raise our hands. I bought them early in my marriage, even though I was already an experienced cook. I look back now and I can't really understand why I did, but I think the convenience allured me. Let's admit, the concept is pretty fabulous - brown some meat, pour in water, milk, seasoning, and pasta. Twenty minutes later you have dinner. Plus they come in so many different flavors. Have you read the ingredients though?  

Last week I was working on recipes that are healthier than the boxed versions and can still be on the table in 20 minutes. The first one I came up with is Cheesy Beef and Pasta (I'm working on other flavors). It's not gourmet, but it tastes so darned good and will probably take you back to your childhood a little. It was a huge hit with the kids, they ate every last piece of pasta left in the pot. It's a great meal for those hurried nights when you want to get something on the table without all the fuss. Make a quick salad while the pasta's cooking then scoop ladles full in bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream. Dinner. Done.

Cheesy Beef and Pasta "Hamburger Helper"
Serves 6

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 pound ground beef

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces whole wheat or rice pasta
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add beef to pan, break apart meat, and cook until browned. Make a well in the center of the pan and add the garlic, paprika and salt. Stir in the middle of the pan until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and then stir spices into the beef mixture. Whisk together hot water and arrowroot and pour into beef mixture. Stir in milk, cream and pasta. Bring to a boil and then decrease heat to low and place lid on top. Cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Remove pot form heat and stir in cheese and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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