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Deliciously Organic: April 2010

Deliciously Organic

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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Potato Gnocchi Tater Tots

I haven't had this much fun making a recipe in a long time.  I noticed these little treats in Food and Wine Magazine and hoped they would taste as good as they looked - they were better! What a blast kneading the fluffy potato with a little flour and arrowroot, rolling it into tiny logs, boiling then frying them to golden brown perfection. They taste way better than the tots you find in a bag. 

These tater tots aren't something I'd make every week, but make a great, fun break from the every-day . . . You could make them with your kids or friends while watching a game on TV, then celebrate victory with crunchy, heavenly potato bites. Coconut oil would be great to fry with, but can be very cost prohibitive. In my research, I've discovered peanut oil is good when frying occasionally.  Serve the tots with a good organic ketchup or use this delicious recipe from "Kiss My Spatula" for the homemade variety.

Potato Gnocchi "Tater Tots"
adapted loosely from Food and Wine
Serves 4

3 large baking potatoes, about 2 pounds, scrubbed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons arrowroot
6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg, beaten
Peanut oil, for frying
Organic ketchup

Preheat oven to 375°F and adjust rack to middle position.  Place potatoes in oven and bake for about 1 hour until a knife can be inserted without resistance.  Cool potatoes. 

Cut the cooled potatoes into large chunks and press them through a ricer into a large bowl.  Discard the skins (I baked them in the oven with a little butter and salt until crispy - a great snack!).  Add the arrowroot, flour, cheese, salt and egg to potatoes and stir until combined.  Knead the mixture with your hands until it forms a soft dough.  Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it rest for 15 minutes. 

Bring a large pot of water to boil and also fill a large bowl with ice water.  Divide the dough into 4 portions and roll each piece into a long rope about 1-inch thick.  Cut the rope into 1 1/2-inch long pieces.  Repeat with remaining 3 pieces of dough.  Add 1/2 of gnocchi pieces to boiling water and cook until the dough rises to the top, about 45 seconds.  Immediately remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and place into the bowl of ice water.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Using a slotted spoon, remove gnocchi from ice water and place on a dry, clean dish towel.  Allow gnocchi to dry, about 30 minutes.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a large saucepan to 375°.  Carefully add 1/3 of the gnocchi to the oil and fry, turning the gnocchi until golden brown.  Remove from oil and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.  Repeat with remaining gnocchi.  Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with ketchup.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Oatmeal Cream Pies

Every once in a while I get nostalgic and like to eat an oatmeal cream pie - you know, the ones that come in the little wrappers? I loved eating the little packaged snack cakes and cookies as a kid and want to find ways to make them at home without all of the extra additives and preservatives. So I'm today I'm beginning a "Little Debbie Series" where I will re-create these little treats for the home cook. My kids are thrilled with the idea as you can imagine, and I think my neighbors are going to like it too since they are the recipients of the sweets I bake.     

These pies are moist, chewy, and filled with a decadent buttercream - sweet, buttery, and melt-in-your-mouth perfect.  Put one in a little package, and take it to work or stick it in your child's lunchbox without an ounce of guilt.  Now that's my idea of a mid-day treat. 

Oatmeal Cream Pies

This recipe calls for two types of whole wheat flour. Whole wheat pastry flour is used in this recipe because of its buttery flavor, and whole wheat flour is used for its high protein count that gives structure to the cookie. Both flours are available at most grocery stores.
Makes: about 24 2-inch pies

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup muscovado (a rich dark-brown sugar)
1/2 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat (click here to read more)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (this one is a good brand to use)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups rolled oats, pulsed in a food processor until coarsely ground
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to middle position. Place butter, muscovado and whole cane sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using beater attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. With mixer on low, add egg and vanilla. Stir together flours, oats, baking soda, sea salt, and cinnamon. Turn mixer on low and slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture until incorporated.

Scoop dough using a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop (if you don't have this kind of scoop you can scoop it out with a spoon, just try and scoop the balls evenly) and put on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 11 minutes. Cool to room temperature.  

Buttercream filling

2 eggs
1/2 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
1 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt
2 sticks butter, softened, each stick cut into tablespoons

In the bowl of a standing mixer whisk together, eggs, whole cane sugar, vanilla and pinch of salt. Set bowl over pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees, about 5 minutes. Beat egg mixture on medium-high with whisk attachment until light and billowy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add butter one tablespoon at a time. When all of the butter is added it might look curdled, but keep mixing. Turn mixer on high and beat for 1 minute until light and fluffy.

To assemble cookies: Spoon buttercream into a pastry bag with a large tip attached. (If you don't have a pastry bag, simply spoon the buttercream into a ziploc bag and snip one corner off of the bag.) Pipe about 2 tablespoons buttercream onto half of the cookies. Top the frosted cookies with another cookie to create a sandwich.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

National Food Bloggers Bake Sale and Mexican Quinoa Salad

The bake sale last weekend was a huge success! Our group in L.A. raised $2,456.50, and the total raised for Share Our Strength across the country was $16,500!!

My girls (who worked very hard on the poster behind them) passed out fliers and yelled, "Bake Sale!" to the people passing by. 

A few of the ladies: from left Jen, Rachael, Gabi, Jenny, Cathy, and me

It was a great time to work together for such a great cause. Thanks so much to Gaby for heading it up and making it such a huge success! 

This week I've been working night-and-day finishing up the final edits of the manuscript. The designer sent a few drafts of the design with Helen's photos laid in, and it's absolutely gorgeous!  I can't wait for you all to see (in September!).

I wish I had more time to write, but instead I'll share a wonderful quinoa salad with you. This Mexican quinoa salad can be eaten as a side-dish, scooped and eaten with tortilla chips, or tossed with shredded chicken for a healthy meal.  Enjoy!

Mexican Quinoa Salad
Serves 8-10 as a side dish

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup corn
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Melt coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add quinoa and saute 3-4 minutes until the quinoa just start to turn golden brown.  Pour in 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes until quinoa is cooked.  Cool to room temperature.

Pour quinoa in a large bowl and add cilantro, tomatoes, corn, black beans, lemon juice, sea salt, olive oil and stir to combine.  Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Avocado Salad Dressing

I've been busy baking up all sorts of sweets for the first  Food Bloggers Bake Sale.  The bake sale is happening all over the country and I'm excited to be part of the Los Angeles event.  I've filled the last few days scooping and freezing cookie dough balls so they'll be ready for the oven Friday afternoon.  

I needed something healthy and refreshing for lunch today after days of making sweets, so I came up with this dressing using ingredients from my fridge.  It's quick and will compliment just about any kind of salad greens and vegetables (it would actually make a fabulous dip too!).  I had some grilled chicken and baby romaine on hand, ready for a quick, delightful lunch.

Please make sure you find the Bake Sale site nearest you, meet some food bloggers, and pick up some of their delicious baked goods.  You'll be glad you made a salad for dinner ;).  I hope to see you there!

Grilled Chicken and Baby Romaine Salad with Avocado Dressing
Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, grilled and thinly sliced
5 ounces baby romaine leaves
15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

3 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 avocado
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup greek yogurt
3/4 teaspoon salt

Arrange chicken, salad, and cherry tomatoes on individual plates. Puree all ingredients in a blender and pour over salad.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fresh Apple Cake

You must make this cake.  Even if you don't really enjoy apple cake or coconut.  This cake is the bomb.  I know it's spring, and I should be posting something with strawberries or freshly snapped peas, but I just couldn't wait until fall to share this treasure with you. 

It begins with a pretty darned good cake, moist and sweet with bits of coconut and pecans.  Then it adds an extra step.  When the cake comes out of the oven, you pour over a mixture of butter, buttermilk, whole cane sugar, and vanilla and let it soak in.  The result?  A caramel-like buttery outside everyone will fight for.

My friend Anna served this for dessert last week while we were visiting in Monterey.  After the first bite, I practically begged her for the recipe.   I thought it surely contained white flour and white sugar, but she assured me she'd made it with all the "good stuff."  It's meant to be served at breakfast, but I think it's well suited for dessert.  You'll thank me when you try it.

Fresh Apple Cake
Keep in mind - you need to pour the sauce over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.  I haven't come up with a "soaked" version of this yet, but I will make sure and post it as soon as I do.
Adapted very loosely from Paula Deen
Serves 16-20

2 cups organic whole cane sugar or sucanat (to read more about this sugar click here)
3  large eggs
1 1/2 cups coconut oil
1/4 cup orange juice
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (freshly ground preferred)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups grated fuji apples (I left the skins on)
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup organic whole cane sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325°F and adjust rack to middle position.  Stir together whole cane sugar, eggs, oil, orange juice, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla in a large bowl.  Fold in apples, coconut and pecans (if using). 

Pour the batter into a buttered bundt pan.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours until cake tester comes out clean.

Sauce:  Put butter, whole cane sugar, buttermilk, and baking soda in a medium pan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.  As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour butter mixture over hot cake. Let the cake stand for 1 hour and then turn it out onto a cake stand.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

We've tremendously enjoyed visiting friends in Monterey, CA this week.  We started the trip with a slow, meandering drive up Highway 1, stopping to see elephant seals and pick up fresh lemons from a roadside farm.  Our close friends Brian and Anna welcomed us into their home with open arms.  Their four precious little girls embraced our daughters and they all immediately ran off, playing on their bikes, reading together, and constructing crafts.

It's been a wonderful week watching the kids play, visiting the Aquarium, taking long walks, and enjoying great meals and conversation around the table. 

We celebrated our daughter's 9th birthday with a specially-requested lemon meringue pie instead of cake.  Wow, 9 - probably half of her time in our home is gone.  Just like that.  I remember my days caring for a toddler and newborn thinking I'd never get a minute to wash my hair.  Now the kids run off for hours playing and giggling, giving me time for experimental cooking.  Their growth continues as we watch and enjoy, marking the transitions.  She's grown into a sweet young girl. 

In our family, the Birthday Girl gets to set the menu for her special day.  The girls contemplate their choices all year long.  Several times a week, my youngest asks me "Can you make this for my Birthday?" I always answer "yes" because I know she'll forget her request after a few days and move on to another yummy food.  This year, my oldest requested whole wheat coffee cake for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, tacos and lemon meringue pie for dinner.

Anna graciously allowed me to commandeer the kitchen and cook for everyone.  As I pulled out the ingredients for the pies, I decided to make one following the original recipe and one with honey and unrefined ingredients.  After our oldest blew out the candles, we served the kids' slices and I asked the adults to taste-test with me.  I honestly didn't think my organic version was going to be a success.  Surprisingly, my recipe won a unanimous decision!  The fluffy and light meringue covered a deep yellow custard of bright, sweet, intense lemon flavors.  Our stop at a California coast roadside farm yielded a birthday treat for the ages in Monterey.

Lemon Meringue Pie
It's best to use a light honey for this recipe.
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Makes one 9-inch pie

1 pie shell (click here for the recipe)

1 cup honey
1/4 cup arrowroot
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups water
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice from 2-3 lemons
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup honey
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and adjust oven rack to middle position.  Generously sprinkle work area with 2-3 tablespoons of flour.  Place dough on floured work surface.  Roll dough into a 13-inch disk and then transfer to 9-inch pie plate.  Tuck overhanging dough under so the dough is even with the edge of the pie plate.  Using your index finger and thumb, press a dent on the outside of the dough and repeat all the way around the pie shell.  Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork and line the pie shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 15 minutes, until crust is set.  Remove the foil and weights and continue to bake for another 10 minutes until crust is golden brown.  Adjust oven to 325 degrees.

For the filling:  Whisk together honey, arrowroot, salt, and water in a large nonreactive saucepan.  Simmer mixture over a medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture begins to thicken.  When the mixture begins to simmer, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.  Whisk in zest, lemon juice, and then butter.  Bring mixture to a simmer while whisking constantly and continue to simmer for 1 minute until mixture is very thick.  Remove from heat and place a round piece of parchment paper directly on the surface of the filling to prevent a skin from forming.

For meringue:  Whisk 1 tablespoons arrowroot with 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture begins to simmer and thickens.  When mixture turns translucent, remove from heat.  Set aside. 

Whisk honey and cream of tartar together in a small bowl.  Beat egg whites and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until frothy. Whisk in honey mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time until incorporated. Add arrowroot mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time until meringue forms stiff peaks.

Remove parchment paper from lemon filling and pour into baked pie shell (mixture should still be hot). Pour meringue on top and using a spatula, spread merinuge out evenly on top of filling.  Bake for 20 minutes until meringue is golden brown.  Cool pie to room temperature and serve. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Homemade Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole

This weekend, some friends threw a neighborhood Easter Egg hunt and picnic.  Over the years, we've learned if it's a party with military families, you show up on time.  The invitation said 4 pm.  I laughed (hard)when we walked around the corner (at 3:59pm) and saw orange cones blocking off the street, kids lined up with baskets, and Moms waiting with cameras for the egg hunt to start at 4pm sharp.  The children were "briefed" on the rules (only 12 eggs until everyone had gathered a dozen), then "released" in three age-grouped waves.  By 4:08, the eggs were all collected, baskets were all full, photos were taken, and we were on to other things . . . like swapping recipes.

I love revisiting the classics.  It's such a blast taking recipes I made as a kid, ridding them of the processed "convenience" foods, and cooking them using only organic ingredients.  I'll bet we've all seen Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole at a potluck or family gathering.  How can you not love the creamy combination of cheese, potatoes, and sour cream baked together until brown and bubbly?  Unfortunately, the recipe uses a can of cream of chicken soup - usually full of preservatives and additives.  Instead of the can, I came up with a quick recipe for cream of chicken soup and then stirred in potatoes, cheese, sour cream and herbs.  I think it tastes better than the original!

Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole
Serves 10

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 sprig parsley
1 spring fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup cream
1 teaspoon sea salt

2 pounds russet potatoes, grated
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sour cream
2 cups raw cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and adjust rack to middle position. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened. Add flour and cook stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer. Tie the parsley, thyme and bay leaf together with kitchen twine and add to broth mixture. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove broth from heat and stir in cream and sea salt.  Pour soup into a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour soup into a large mixing bowl.  Add potatoes, butter, sea salt, pepper, sour cream and 1 cup of cheese to soup and stir until combined.  Pour mixture into a large baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup cheese.  Bake for 40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.  Ensure you arrive at the party on time!

this post is linked to Real Food Wednesdays

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Daydreams and Kiwi Sorbet

The other day, my daughter had a wistful look on her face as she gazed out the car window saying, "Mom, I wish unhealthy food was healthy and healthy food was unhealthy."  I smiled . . . I have those days too.  There are moments when I've seen a commercial for, let's say, a granola bar with "10 added grams of fiber and added antioxidants" and I've really wished I could succumb to advertising.  Wouldn't it be nice if that granola bar actually contained the same nutrients as a fresh salad packaged nicely in a bar, ready for storage in my pocket?  Life would be so much easier if I could just get all my daily nutritional needs from the "stuff" added to my food.

Don't get me wrong, I love cooking the way I do, but I'll admit I have those moments, wishing the advertising was completely true.  It would take a lot less thinking and planning on my part. 

A few years ago, when reading through "Nourishing Traditions," (pg. 551) I was shocked to read a list of common ingredients found inside ice cream cartons:

"Diethylglycol: A cheap chemical used as an emulsifier instead of eggs; is the same chemical used in antifreeze and paint remover.
Piperonal: Used in place of vanilla.  This chemical is used to kill lice.
Aldehyde C-17: Used to flavor cherry ice cream.  It's an inflammable liquid also used in aniline dyes, plastic and rubber.
Ethyl Acetate: Used to give ice cream a pineapple flavor - and as a cleaner for both leather and textiles; its vapors have been known to cause chronic lung, liver and heart damage.
Butyraldehyde: Used in nut flavored ice cream.  It's one of the ingredients in rubber cement.
Amylacetate: Used for its banana flavor.  It's also used as an oil paint solvent.
Benzyl Acetate: Used for its strawberry flavor.  It's a nitrate solvent."

Are you surprised?  Fortunately, an increasing number of brands offer ice creams with only a few ingredients - and none ending in "aldehyde" or "acetate."  They're not making unhealthy foods healthy, but they're real foods, delicious even without the added solvents.  I've learned to make my own.

Kiwi Sorbet
You can substitute just about any fresh fruit for the kiwi in this recipe.  Try strawberries, peaches, or pineapple, just to name a few.
Serves 4

3/4 cup water
1/3 cup honey
2 cups peeled and pureed kiwi (about 8-10)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat water and honey over low heat in a small saucepan until honey is dissolved.  Pour honey and water mixture into a blender or food processor along with kiwi and lemon juice.  Process or blend until smooth.   Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.