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Deliciously Organic: June 2010

Deliciously Organic

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Milky Way Tart

I've spent the last several months thinking about words and how they work. In college, I took the required english and grammar classes, but I was majoring in music so I mainly took them because I had to. I remember eagerly watching the clock in grammar class because, quite frankly, I could not have cared less about the reasons behind proper sentence structure. Now, I think about writing constantly. I bring this up because I've been working closely with my editors for months now revising the manuscript for my book before it goes to the printer next week. I've learned how to better write recipes, how to structure sentences, and why a conversational writer (such as myself) has such a hard time weeding through all the words I want to put on paper. I'm learning that less is more and I've also started doing writing exercises - voluntarily!  No chance of that happening 15 years ago.

After working with two of my editors, I bought their books and read them, wishing I'd studied them years ago. Dianne Jacobs who wrote, "Will Write For Food" was my recipe editor and it fascinated me to see her take my recipes and write them clearly and concisely. I learned that many cooks don't know terms such as "blanch or fold" and that it's very important for the cook to have all the ingredients listed in the order in which they are used.

Paula Laroque was my copy editor and has a fabulous book titled, "The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well." I learned many wonderful pieces of wisdom from her throughout the editing process. She encourages writers to do an exercise using only single syllable words. Little did I know how difficult that would be. Her writing is so eloquent, I've kept all the emails she sent me while corresponding so I can go back and review her advice.

I also learned from my book designer that now-a-days we're only supposed to put a single space after the end of a sentence. I was astounded when she told me and thought, "Where have I been?" I still haven't gotten used to that one and before I post I have to manually go through and take out all the extra spaces.

I've laughed many times in the last few months at my suddenly newfound interest in writing, just as I'm wrapping up my first book. I have a long way to go and can't wait to see the developments in my writing over the next many years.

This tart features a subtle chocolate crust, sticky sweet caramel, a soft, cloud-like nougat topping, and a dusting of cacao. It really does taste like a Milky Way bar. I think it's great for kids, adults, a dinner party, a casual get-together - honestly I can't think of a situation where this rich dessert wouldn't be welcome.

Milky Way Tart
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 8

Whipped Chocolate:
3 ½ ounces bittersweet organic chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup organic whole cane sugar or Sucanat
3 tablespoons cacao powder
½ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup heavy whipping cream
½ stick unsalted butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
3 tablespoons water

Cacao powder (for dusting)

Place chocolate in medium bowl. Simmer 1 ½ cups cream in a small saucepan. Pour hot cream over chocolate; let stand 1 minute, then whisk until melted and smooth. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until cold, at least 4 hours. (This can be done the day before)

Pulse flour, cane sugar, and cacao powder in a food processor until mixed. Add butter and pulse 15-17 times until dough begins to come together. Add a tablespoon of water and pulse 2-3 more times until dough is moist, but not tacky. If dough is still dry, add one more tablespoon of water. Pour dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and press into a ball. Wrap plastic around dough and then flatten into a disk. Freeze dough for 10 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350˚ F and adjust rack to middle position. Roll dough onto lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thick rectangle large enough to fit your tart pan. Place rolled dough over tart pan and press gently onto bottom and up sides of pan.  Freeze for ten minutes. Line the crust with parchment paper and then fill with pie weights or beans. Bake crust for 15 minutes. Remove weights and parchment paper and bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Place ½ cup cream and butter in small saucepan and stir over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from the heat. Stir whole cane sugar and 3 tablespoons water in another medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Increase the heat and bring sugar to a low boil without stirring. Boil until temperature reaches 235°F swirling pan frequently. Immediately whisk in hot cream-butter mixture (mixture will bubble vigorously). Remove from heat and whisk until smooth. Transfer caramel to small bowl and chill until slightly firm (semi-soft), stirring often, about 40 minutes.

Spread caramel in an even layer over cooled crust. Set aside.

Beat chilled milk chocolate-cream mixture with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Spread evenly over caramel and chill at least 2 hours. Just before serving, lightly sift cacao powder over tart. The tart can be made 8 hours ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

This week my husband and I are on vacation at Lake of the Ozarks. We made the scenic drive from California in 2 1/2 enjoyable days. The kids loaded into the car with an atlas, books, binoculars, and a camera. They took turns looking out the window with the binoculars and snapping pictures at anything interesting they saw.

I'm thankful my kids find the simple things interesting. We played games, listened to lots of music, and laughed at the silly things the girls said. 

I packed lots of food and homemade snacks for the road trip, but after three days I was ready for a large salad. Though I enjoyed some great restaurants along the route, surprisingly none served organic vegetables.  This is a problem because if I eat a non-organic salad, I'll get a migraine headache so severe I won't be able to walk the next day. Carrots in a sandwich bag only take me so far, so I rely on extra ingenuity to get proper vegetables while traveling. It's difficult at times, but research, planning, and flexibility help when venturing out. 

After we dropped the kids off at camp we made a beeline for a wonderful organic grocery store and stocked up on vegetables, fruits, eggs, kombucha, and meat. This fresh sugar snap pea salad was just the thing I needed after many days of snacks and sandwiches.

It was evening when we finally made our way to the lake house. We had the music turned up and the countryside sparkled with the twinkling lights of fireflies. These captivating little creatures escorted us to our lakeside retreat. The lake house is beautiful, the moisture in the air is heavenly, and I find the sound of tiny waves against the docks mesmerizing. We're anticipating a few days of lazy mornings on the deck, afternoons in the water, and lots of reading. 

Sugar Snap Pea Salad
Serves 6

2 pounds sugar snap peas, trimmed
4 red radishes, sliced thin
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 medium cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil. While water is heating, fill a large bowl with ice and water. Place beans in boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the peas with a slotted spoon and transfer the beans to the ice water. Lay a clean dish towel on the counter and, using a slotted spoon, transfer beans onto towel. Pat dry and pour peas into a large bowl. Stir in radishes, red onion, cucumber, feta cheese, vinegar, and olive oil.  Toss gently.  Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bulgur Salad with Parsley Pesto and Grilled Chicken

This week is busy as we prepare to leave for our vacation. My week was filled with packing, shopping, and planning and more packing.  My kids are attending summer camp for a week so I've written names on each and every belonging. I'm now making healthy lunches and snacks for the road. I'm thrilled to get out of the desert for a while, feel the damp air on my skin, watch a thunderstrom roll in, catch up with old friends, and rest!

Our first destination is a place that holds very special meaning for our family. It's a camp in the southwest corner of Missouri called Kanakuk. I spent 8 summers there as a kid and it was always the highlight of my year. The days were filled with sports, crafts, hanging around down at the lake, and of course, friendships that have lasted years. My husband also went to Kanakuk as a kid, but we never crossed paths. Probably better, because he was such a cute kid - I would have been heart sick during the fall and winter months wishing I could see him.

When my husband graduated from college and I finished my freshman year, we both chose to work at camp for the summer. Just after camp started I spotted a very tan, handsome guy working at the tree-tops course. While we strapped the kids in and sent them up into the trees, Pete and I enjoyed a conversation that was the beginning of the rest of our lives.

It was a quick romance. After a few mornings sailing on the lake and a beautiful evening watching fireflies and sharing our stories, we knew we were going to get married. Fast forward 14 years later and we have two little girls who are packing their things, practicing their cheers, and completely thrillled to spend a week at the place where their parents first met.

The other day my daughter was eating watermelon when she looked at me and proclaimed, "Watermelon is like all the best parts of summer combined into one bite."  She exactly captured my feelings when I tasted this salad for the first time last week.  It's summertime on a plate . . .

Bulgur Salad with Parsley Pesto and Grilled Chicken
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 4

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/2 cups flat parsley
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup shallots, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
4 apricots, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Pour 3 cups water into a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Add bulgur, reduce heat to low, and cover.  Cook until bulgur until tender.  Drain and rinse under water until cool.  Pour bulgur into a large bowl.

Place parsley, almonds, shallots, 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse 5-6 times until parsley is finely chopped.  With machine running slowly add olive oil and process until pesto is a chunky puree. 

Stir 3/4 cup of pesto and remaining lemon juice into bulgur.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Preheat grill on meduim heat.  Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Brush apricot halves with coconut oil.  Grill chicken and apricots until chicken is cooked through and apricots are slightly charred. 

To serve: Divide bulgur salad among 4 plates.  Place 1 piece of grilled chicken on each plate and top with a dollop of pesto.  Place 2 apricot halves on each plate.  Serve immediately.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Plum Crisp

Over 40 plums arrived in my CSA (community supported agriculture) box this week. Looking at the abundance of beautiful fruit, I thought of a lovely plum crisp. I actually took a full twenty-four hours to decide if wanted brandy or almond extract in my crisp. I went with brandy . . . I'm glad I did.

I tossed the plums in some organic whole cane sugar, honey, and arrowroot until the plums began to soften and the juices thickened. The topping is a rustic mixture of flour, oats, almonds, whole cane sugar, and butter. Next time I might just make the topping, bake it, and eat it by itself.  Who needs plums, right?

When the crisp came out of the oven, the kids were outside riding bikes with friends so I sat alone, enjoyed the silence, and ate a bowl of sweet and sour plum crisp. If you need a little breather this week, slide a batch of these in the oven and then enjoy a little solitude with a wholesome bowl of goodness.

Plum Crisp
If you'd like to make individual servings simply spoon an equal amount of cooked plums into 6 8-ounce ramekins and top with oat mixture. Serves 6

1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup organic whole cane sugar or Sucanat
3/4 cups rolled oats
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small dice-size pieces

3 pounds plums, pitted and cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup organic whole cane sugar
1/4 cup light honey
4 teaspoons arrowroot
1 tablespoon brandy

Preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to middle position. Place almond meal, flour, sugar, 1/2 cup oats, maple syrup, salt, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse until dough begins to come together and is moistened. If the dough looks dry, add a tablespoon of water.  Pour dough into a small bowl and stir in remaining 1/4 cup oats.

Place plums, sugar, and honey in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved. Stir in arrowroot and cook until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.  Take off heat and stir in brandy. 

Pour cooked plums into a 11 x 7-inch baking dish and top evenly with oat mixture.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until bubbling. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Price of Chicken

Several times a year, a friend asks me to come over, look through her kitchen, point out the unwholesome foods, and advise her on practical steps she can take to build a whole foods pantry and refrigerator.  I always get excited at these requests because it means someone new wants to make changes and I have the liberty to share new information with them.  After spending the morning helping a friend revamp her pantry last week, I realized I'm often asked the same questions.  The one I get most often is "How can I buy organic on a budget?"  Instead of giving a quick answer, I've started opening the pantry to show how.

1. Instead of buying boxes of fruit snacks, baked fruit/oat bars, processed and sugar-laden granola bars, chips, and pretzels for snacks - start snacking on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and cheese.  I walked around the kitchen and showed her the real food she already had for snacks, making the "snack foods" unnecessary for her family.  This cuts down on costs and it is also much more nutritious. 
Organic "Apple Bar"               $0.92
Organic Apple                         $0.59

2. Don't buy bottles and bottles of salad dressing - make your own.
Organic salad dressing bottle     $7.92
8 oz olive oil and vinegar           $5.30

3. Instead of little snack-size yogurts (that are usually filled with sugar) buy large 32 oz. containers of plain yogurt and sweeten it with honey, maple syrup, or berries.
Organic snack yogurt             $0.75
32 oz. plain + honey              $0.42

4. Instead of boxed drinks - just drink water.  Your kids don't need juice boxes.  Buy a few water bottles, and fill them up with water throughout the day.  
Organic juice box                 $0.82
Water                                      free

5. Don't buy boxes and boxes of popsicles in the summer - make your own.  Popsicle molds are a one-time buy and you can fill them with all sorts of nutritious juices, yogurts, and fruit.  Get creative! Let your kids create their own flavors.  They'll enjoy the responsibility of making their own, too.  Here's the popsicle mold I just bought.

Organic popsicle                         $0.94
Homemade organic Popsicle       $0.16

6. Yes, I know kids and adults alike love the famous "chicken nugget" so instead of buying factory-made nuggets, you can make your own at home.  It's easiest to make a large batch, cook them, and put them in the freezer.  This way, when it's been a long day, you can turn on your oven, throw in a few nuggets, toss a salad, and you've got dinner!

Eliminating "chicken nuggets" from your diet       priceless

**Congratulations to Kim!  You won the drawing for the stainless steel water bottle.  Please send me your contact information at deliciouslyorganic [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Chicken Tenders
In this recipe I use toasted Ezekiel bread to make breadcrumbs.  I make large batches of these breadcrumbs and store them in the refrigerator so I can have them on hand when I cook.  The chicken can be fully cooked, frozen, and baked straight from the freezer (350°F for 15 minutes).
Serves 4

3 pieces Ezekiel bread, toasted
1 1/2 lbs. chicken tenderloins, or chicken pieces cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 200 °F and adjust rack to middle position. Pulse toasted Ezekiel bread in the bowl of a food processor until fine crumbs. Pour crumbs into a pie plate. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper and then coat each piece of chicken with bread crumbs. Heat a large skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add butter and olive oil to pan. When foaming subsides place 4-5 pieces of chicken in the pan, making sure the pieces of chicken do not touch. Saute for 3 minutes, until golden brown and then flip and cook on second side until golden brown. Transfer cooked chicken to a baking sheet with a cooling rack placed on top. Place pan with chicken on it in the oven to keep the chicken warm. Repeat cooking process with remaining chicken. Serve immediately. 

Option: If you'd rather bake the chicken, instead of sautéing simply place the breaded chicken on an oiled baking sheet. Melt the butter and combine with the olive oil. Using a pastry brush, brush a little of the oil over the top of each tenderloin.  Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. 

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Traveling, "Cracker Jacks" and a Give Away

The kids are roaming free around the neighborhood, the blue jeans and jackets are quietly tucked away in the closet, and the ice cream maker hums its happy tune. Ahhh . . . it must be summer. In a few weeks, we're embarking on a month-long road trip to several different states. I can't wait to catch up with old friends, stop at roadside stands for ripe, fleshy peaches, and sit on the beach with my toes in the sand. One issue I experience when we travel is "How do I eat a wholesome organic diet?" I'm not at all opposed to indulging, but I simply cannot do it for an entire month or I'll start carrying extra pounds and feel terrible. Over the last few years, I've come up with some helpful techniques for keeping my family eating heathfully on vacation.

The first thing I always do is pack our meals for the car, instead of stopping at a resaurant for lunch while on the road.  I usually pack sandwiches, fruit, washed and cut vegetables, something sweet like my wholesome cracker jacks, and lots of water. I try to book reservations at a hotel with a small kitchen so I can cook breakfast for the family.  I scope out the nearest organic grocer and buy food as soon as we arrive. It's been an adventure doing this - I've found some really great stores!

Travel food kit:

Jars of dehydrated nuts
Sunflower seeds
Granola (can double as cereal)
Granola Bars
Organic fruit leather (kids love these)
Bottles of water
Larabars (these come in all different flavors, here is a recipe for homemade larabars)
Cans of wild salmon or tuna
Hard boiled eggs
Dried Fruit
Whole Grain Crackers
Beef Jerky

One item I can't live without is my Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottles.  These water bottles are made purely of stainless steel (no inner lining) and are leach and toxin-free.  They're also dishwasher safe.  Over the last year, I bought small ones for my kids and a few larger ones for my husband and I and we use them constantly.  Another great thing about them - if you leave them in a hot car, the water won't taste like plastic!  I'm giving a 40-ounce bottle away to one lucky reader.  All you need to do is leave a comment between today June 7th and Thursday June 10th.  I'll draw a number at random and announce the winner on Friday. Good luck!

Homemade "Cracker Jacks"
Sweet popcorn is a great snack to have in the car on long trips because it will satisfy your sweet tooth without all of the added preservatives and fillers.  I used almonds in this recipe but you can exchange them for the traditional peanuts. If you'd prefer to dehyrate the mixture instead of bake it, you can leave it in the oven at 170°F for about 4-5 hours or until mostly dry (it will fully dry and harden after it cools).
Makes about 16 cups

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup organic whole cane sugar or Sucanat
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
16 cups popped corn (I usually pop mine in coconut oil)

Preheat oven to 250°F. Stir together butter, whole cane sugar, maple syrup and almonds in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat.  Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla.  Pour over popped corn and stir until popcorn is evenly coated.   Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour.  Cool completely before serving. 

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chicken and Pecan Quiche

Are all eggs equal? I used to think so. Recent studies say conventional eggs differ nutritionally from organic, pastured eggs.  A 2007 Mother Earth News study concluded that hens raised on pasture may produce eggs containing "1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2x more omega-2 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E and 7 times more beta carotene." I find that pastured eggs are much richer and more flavorful than conventional eggs.

True "free-range" or pastured chickens freely roam outside to peck at the ground and eat plants, insects and worms along with their feed. How is this different from a "free-range - conventional" egg? The USDA defines "free range" as "allowed access to the outside". The key word here is "access". It doesn't mean the chicken ever saw the light of day, only that it had access. Conventional chicken feed consists of corn and soy (usually genetically modified), cottonseed meal, and antibiotics.

So, where do you buy pastured eggs? I've gotten them from some Whole Foods stores, local farmers markets, or straight from a local farm. Since my husband is in the military, we move every few years and many times I've thought I wouldn't be able to find the eggs I want, but I've learned to ask around - someone will know where you can find the ingredients you're looking for. Local Harvest and Eat Wild are also great resources to find pastured eggs in your area.      

Once you find the eggs you're looking for, whip-up this fabulous quiche. The mixture of whole wheat flour, cheese, pecans, and butter creates a crispy, cheesy crust good enough to eat on its own. The savory filling of chicken, eggs, sour cream, mayonnaise, and dill has a splash of tabasco sauce for a little kick. I usually serve it with a salad and hope we'll have leftovers for breakfast the next morning.

Chicken and Pecan Quiche
Serves 8-10

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup coconut oil

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cups boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
3 drops Tabasco Sauce
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup onions, minced
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to middle position.  Place flour, cheese, pecans, salt, paprika, and coconut oil in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse 8-10 times until mixture comes together.  Pour mixture out into a round 10-inch tart pan and press dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.  Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 10 minutes, remove pie weights and parchment paper and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs, broth, sour cream, and mayonnaise in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the chicken, Tabasco, cheese, onion, and dill.  Pour into baked crust and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped pecans.  Bake for 45 minutes until center is set. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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