Fresh Figs with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Reduction

Fresh Figs with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Reduction

 

Fresh Figs with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Reduction

I know it seems strange that my last two posts have been about wintery soups and now I am here slapping you in the face with a full-on summer dish. But that is the game that Mother Nature plays with us – bringing us out of those cold dark days and into days full of bright greens and colorful menu options. When we just can’t take any more cabbage, and root vegetables, Mother Nature bring us a summer bounty full of fresh baby lettuces, snap peas and later tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, stone fruits and these little beauties.

Just look at the color of that fig – if that isn’t a sexy show stopper on your spring and summer table, I don’t know what is! It is the perfect hue of spring green.

I am also pleased to tell you that this little snack is not just gorgeous, but also super easy to prepare and only requires 3 ingredients – figs, cheese and balsamic vinegar. There is very little prep work and it is absolutely delightful to eat. Win, win, win! Beautiful, fresh and elegant. Perfect for sharing with friends and family. There is just something magical about the pairing of figs and balsamic vinegar. The sweet, syrupy richness of the vinegar cutting through the sweetness of the fig is unparalleled.

asset_BestBloggersContest

I have entered this recipe in this month’s Better Recipes Best Blogger Recipes Ever contest featuring Potluck and Party Food. If you bring this to a potluck or party I can guarantee that it will be the hit recipe!

If you have a great potluck and party recipe, please enter your recipe too. The more the merrier! The winning blogger each month will win a full page feature in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine! That means if yours is one of them, thousands of new readers will discover your voice. You will also win a $1,000 cash prize and be guest editor for a day!

Please check out my recipe and if you like it, I would definitely appreciate your vote in the contest. You can vote every day, so if you really like the recipe, think about voting more than once. Thank you and enjoy!

Happy Spring!

 

Deviled and Scotch Eggs for Ostara

 

(Deviled and Scotch Eggs for Ostara)

I know I promised you all a soup recipe next, but I needed to take a pause here to welcome Spring!

It is officially spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, but when I look out my window it is to look at endless snow, with more expected over the next 2 days! It hardly feels like Spring here, although there are subtle differences if you look for them. Roberto was just remarking about how the sunlight coming in the window feels like Spring sunshine and I know I have felt that the air has taken on a softer nature. Of course there is another hour of daylight than just a few weeks ago. However, we have no buds on the trees yet, nor any flowers poking up through the snow, and the Canada geese have not passed our house on their way back home yet, but I know the root children are waking up under ground waiting for their big growth spurts.

I have a nice group of women in my community who meet once a month. We rotate houses and we also rotate the topic of conversation, it has gone from childbirth and what we all did with our placentas, to more community matters and then over to more spiritual topics, but it is always a wonderful evening.

I hosted this month’s meeting and I always celebrate Spring or Ēostre (Ostara) with Eggs, which is truly the most symbolic food of the season (see why here).

I made a nice platter of Deviled Eggs   (this time I spiced them with honey mustard, dill and chives) and Scotch Eggs and another platter with Smoked Salmon, pickles and olives. We had a nice spread, all of the women brought something different –  a nice effervescent bottle of white wine, a tray of chocolate covered strawberries, a sausage and veggie casserole, a gorgeous apple tart and a nice bottle of homemade ginger beer to wash it all down with. It felt like a very springtime menu!

What do you do to celebrate Spring?

Holiday Baking Series: Gluten Free Æbleskiver (also called Förtchen, Futtjens, Ferdons or Fritters)

I like talking about ancestral food. I have found through personal experience that by preparing ancestral foods you can connect to the cultures of your birth in a fun and enjoyable way. It is like living history, but with food. My spiritual practice focuses a lot on ancestor veneration, i.e. honoring your ancestors. I have found the most profound way for me to do that is to expand my culinary repertoire and skills to include foods that had significance to those ancestors.

One of the most important days of the year to celebrate the ancestors is December 20th, also known as Mōdraniht or Mother’s Night when the female ancestors of one’s family linse are celebrated and thanked for, well, nothing short of making our lives possible. This is one of my favorite days of the year and I am doubly lucky as I have so many ancestors to celebrate, both from my adoptive and birth families! I celebrate this night by creating a holiday treat, usually a cookie, reflecting a particular branch of ancestry. In years past I have made :

Cuccidata, Sicilian Fig Cookies

Polenta & Sesame Biscotti

Pfeffernusse Shortbread

Last year we made these. I have always known them by their Danish name, æbleskiver, but I came across this recipe for a gluten-free version last year in Pinterest  and when I read the blog post, I knew I had to make these for Mother’s Night as the blogger who created the recipe and I share heritage from Holstein (which has switched around between being part of Denmark and Germany).

Here is what Heidi, the creator of this treat has to say about its origins:

“Förtchen are a traditional Christmas pastry in parts of northern Germany, especially in Schleswig-Holstein and in Denmark. My family’s original fritter recipe is much like a very dense cake-style donut hole.”

And some more tidbits from her Aunt:

“Our German ancestors were from the most northern part of Germany, in an area called Schleswig-Holstein. That part of the country was once a part of Denmark and I suspect that this recipe is somewhat Danish in origin.”

Heidi has a wonderful step by step guide to making these on her blog  she also has a link to the original non gluten free version.

We flavored our æbleskiver by filling them with some chestnut cream we had bought when visiting Quebec City. It was a wonderful holiday treat! My hope is to make them sometime during the season this year, although not for Mother’s night as I like to do something different each year.

Deliciously Moist Bean Cake

 

As I type this I have 13 other recipes waiting in the queue, but I made this cake yesterday to take to a 4th of July dinner and we loved it so much, I wanted to post about it today. Plus we were having a lot of fun on my facebook page yesterday talking about homely looking cakes that taste better than expensive bakery cakes. So I just had to post another cake recipe today!

The crazy thing about this cake is that it is grain and dairy free, made mostly of beans, coconut flour and eggs. Sounds crazy I know, but baking sweets with beans is ingenious! I modified the recipe from The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts: Gluten Free, Casein Free, and Often Egg Free by using date sugar instead of coconut sugar and it gave the cake a bit of gingerbread flair. I also used pinto beans, instead of cannellini or navy, so the color of the cake was darker.

This cake is incredibly moist, packed with protein, fiber and folate. Even though there are a lot of beans in the recipe, the cake does not taste of beans. I asked everyone eating it what they thought the main ingredient was and no one guessed beans!

The trick with eating a large amount of beans and having no ill effects is in how they are prepared. I always use dried beans and cover them in a mixture of warm water and about a TBS of raw apple cider vinegar. I generally soak them for 2-3 days, changing the water daily (you don’t need to add more vinegar) and make big batches so I can freeze them for later use. Using this method, people who can’t tolerate beans very well have no problems eating them! So I strongly suggest doing it this way.

Since it was July 4th, I decided to top the cake with red, white and blue. I made an icing of raw soaked cashews, medjool dates, vanilla and some water and topped it all off with blueberries, raspberries and some crushed peanuts left over from last night’s dinner (another upcoming post).

It was delicious and totally hit the spot for our festive dinner, which was a combined effort : shrimp cocktail with prosecco, chips and dip, homemade buffalo wings, grilled chicken, potato salad and coleslaw all washed down with our friends’ home brewed hard cider.

Bean Cake (adapted from The Spunky Coconut’s Vanilla Bean Cake)

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:
2 cups room temperature beans (I used pinto, if you want a lighter colored cake try navy or cannellini)
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup date sugar
¼ cup coconut oil, liquefied
1/3 cup coconut flour
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder (aluminum free)

Raw Cashew Cream Icing (from Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free: 180 Easy and Delicious Recipes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less )
1 cup cashews
3 cups water, divided
3 large, pitted Medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

METHOD: Preheat oven to 325 F. Add beans, eggs, vanilla and sugar to a food processor and puree well. Then add to the bowl, coconut oil, coconut flour, salt, baking soda and powder and puree well. Pour into a springform pan, lined with parchment paper on the bottom and greased all around. Bake for about 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Cool completely.
In a small bowl cover the cashews with 2 cups of water and the dates in a separate bowl with one cup of water. Soak for about 20 minutes. Drain cashews and discard the soaking water. Add cashews to a blender. Add the dates along with their soaking water and the salt and vanilla. Start the blender on low and increase slowly to high. Blend for 1-2 minutes until creamy. Ice the cake and then put it in the freezer for about an hour before serving. Top with berries.
TIP: if using a regular blender soak cashews overnight to get the right consistency.

Butterscotch Pudding, with Scotch of course!

I have a new favorite flavor of pudding – butterscotch. I will admit that I never liked butterscotch anything for most of my life because most things labeled “butterscotch” just tasted like caramel colored super sweet sugar. Enough to make my teeth hurt just thinking about it. I changed my mind many months ago when I was at a whole foods store (not Whole Foods TM, but a similar kind of store). I saw some store made butterscotch pudding in the cooler and something came over me to try it. It was topped with whipped cream and it was like heaven on a spoon. I paced myself and ended up eating it on three different occasions just to stretch it. It was that good. I started to think about the name and realized that it contains two of my favorite words – butter & scotch. What a revelation!

I also must admit while I am admitting things that this recipe has been waiting to get posted since Thanksgiving, as this was the dessert du jour on that favorite of all days (mine at least).

So once I decided this was going to be dessert, I went on the hunt for a good recipe and found this one by David Lebovitz. According to David: “… You’ll also notice I add a splash of whiskey. One theory is that the name ‘butterscotch’ is a derivation of ‘butter-scorched’. Others say it that it meant ‘scotching’ or cutting, which they did to slabs of buttery, creamy caramels when making candy. Although the name implies it, it doesn’t have to have scotch or whiskey in it, but I find the flavors marry so well that I can’t resist adding a little shot.” Interesting, but I totally don’t care, I want scotch in my butterscotch and so be it! I am glad David agrees. He also says something else I absolutely agree with: “But one decision I refuse to let you make is to be one of those people that wants to press plastic wrap on top of the puddings to avoid that delicious, chewy skin that forms on top. If you don’t like pudding skin, why are you eating pudding in the first place?” Thank you, spoken like a true pudding lover!

Of course there is also butter in the recipe which completes the prerequisites for my butterscotch pudding. The only way I deferred from the recipe is in the sweetener; I used coconut palm sugar instead of the brown sugar and found it to be absolutely lovely. I also topped it with fresh whipped cream and cocoa nibs. Since this recipe contains scotch, it is not technically gluten free. I was happy to find that it didn’t bother me in any way. Must be one of the perks of Scottish genes! But if you are GF, you could skip it and maybe allow the butter to brown before adding the sugar to it, to give it more of a deep flavor.

David Lebovitz’s Butterscotch Pudding (adapted from Ripe For Dessert)

INGREDIENTS:


4 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
1 cup packed dark brown or cassonade sugar (I used coconut palm)
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2½ cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons whiskey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD:
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the dark brown sugar and salt, then stir until the sugar is well-moistened. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup (60ml) of the milk until smooth (there should be no visible pills of cornstarch), then whisk in the eggs.
Gradually pour the remaining milk into the melted brown sugar, whisking constantly, then whisk in the cornstarch mixture as well.
Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for one minute, whisking non-stop, until the pudding thickens to the consistency of hot fudge sauce.
Remove from heat and stir in the whiskey and vanilla. If slightly-curdled looking, blend as indicated above.
Pour into 4-6 serving glasses or custard cups and chill thoroughly, at least four hours, before serving.

Sticky Toffee Pudding (Gluten-Free!)

 

One of my favorite desserts of all time is Sticky Toffee Pudding. The first time I had it was in Galway, Ireland. But once I developed a taste for it, I had it every chance I could get, which considering where I live, is not very often, and since I had to stop eating gluten, not at all! To my good fortune, this has all recently changed!

For those of you who have not been bewitched by this amazing treat, I’ll give you a run-down of what it actually is. What it is not, is a pudding in the American sense of the word, but a tender, moist cake- a true pudding in the British sense of the word.

Now everyone knows that British/ Scottish/ Irish cuisine does not get its due credit in the world of gastronomy. In fact it is often looked down upon. But there is really no need for it – if you actually have the good fortune to try it first hand, I guarantee you will find much to write home about. The foods of these small northern European islands are quite good, lots of fresh vegetables, wild game, wonderful sausages and unexpectedly – dessert. I fell in love with the desserts when I traveled to Ireland and Scotland- cranachan, treacle pudding, Victoria sponge, custards and of course the queen of them all, Sticky Toffee Pudding (that’s why it is all in Caps, it is that good!).

Sticky Toffee Pudding is a moist, rich cake made with dates (sometimes prunes) and topped with a wonderful toffee sauce. Many times puddings are served with a topping of thin custard, like crème anglaise. I have seen Sticky Toffee Pudding served with both together. There is some mystery to the origins of this special dessert, some say it was developed in the south of England, and others say it was being served and enjoyed in Aberdeenshire, Scotland many years before if became popular in England. I think we should give this one to the Scots. I mean the English have laid claim to much that has belonged to the Scots these many long years, and why quibble over a dessert?

I digress, so for Burns Night I was looking for a festive dessert and I remembered Sticky Toffee Pudding. I started by searching on line for gluten-free recipes. I found a few, but none of them alone felt like it was going to yield a classic. So I forged out on my own. I must say that the one ingredient that makes the recipe is Lyle’s Golden Syrup - cane sugar syrup that has been made the same way for over 125 years (and another Scottish invention!) and a good substitute for evil corn syrup. Once I tasted it, I knew that it was this beautiful amber syrup that really lends the magical element that makes a classic Sticky Toffee Pudding taste.

So if you are gluten-free and want to try a new delicious and simple to prepare dessert, or are already a lover of Sticky Toffee Pudding, you will love this recipe! It was a huge hit at our Burns Supper!

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of organic chopped dates
1 ¼ cup water
1TBS pure vanilla extract
2 TBS whiskey
1 cup gluten free flour mix
1 cup almond flour/meal
¼ cup arrowroot
2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
¼ cup softened butter
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 eggs
¼ cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup Lyle’s Golden syrup
¼ cup coconut palm sugar

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 325 F
Simmer chopped dates in water for about 10 minutes. Drain the dates and place into a food processor, add the vanilla and whiskey and pulse a few times, until you have a chunky paste.
In a separate bowl whisk dry ingredients together: GF flour mix, almond flour, salt, and baking soda.
In another small bowl, beat together the butter, yogurt and eggs. Then combine all the dry and wet ingredients together and add ¼ cup of Lyle’s while mixing.

I used a muffin tin to bake my puddings, but you could use ramekins or a large baking dish to make a large pudding (cooking times will vary). I filled my muffin tin to the top with the batter – creating a large muffin sized pudding.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. In the meantime you can make the toffee sauce. Just heat the heavy cream, sugar and Lyle’s until it boils, then lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, while stirring often.
*Tip: Since I wanted to serve my puddings warm, but make them ahead of time, I made them, and then baked them for 10 minutes. Then I took them out of the oven. When I was ready to serve dessert later that night, I popped them back in the oven for another 10 minutes while I made the sauce!
Serve warm, serves 6.

Burns Night: Haggis

“Thus bold, independent, unconquer’d, and free,
Her bright course of glory for ever shall run,
For brave Caledonia immortal must be,”
~Robert Burns, Caledonia

Last night we celebrated Burns Night , the 25th of January, the birthdate of the famed Scottish poet, Robert Burns. It is a night when Scots all over the world celebrate his life, poetry and all things Scottish by hosting a traditional Burns Supper – haggis, neeps, tatties, and a whisky toast!
This is a treat I look forward to every year. Living across the pond, in the US, haggis is not readily available, but I have been lucky to find Scottish Gourmet USA an online retailer of not only some of the best haggis in the US, but many other delicious Scottish products as well, like honey, cheese, smoked salmon, teas, etc. If you love Scottish food, I suggest you check them out!

We started the night off with homemade oat cakes, slices of Dubliner and chunks of Bergenost . I figured since I didn’t have any Scottish cheese lying about, I would seek close relatives, so we went with Irish and Norwegian (learn about the relationship between the Vikings and the Scots in regards to cheese here). We washed the first course down with some Thistly Cross Hard Scottish Cider.

Then it was time for the main course, haggis, neeps (mashed rutabaga) and tatties (mashed potatoes).

Looks innocent enough, doesn’t it?

Now before you all start in with that “yuck” or “ick” word again, like when I talked about my love for black pudding , let me tell you that haggis is really nothing more than a wonderfully spiced sausage. The haggis by Scottish Gourmet USA, contains lamb, liver, oats and spices, nothing else…and YES, I have had the “real deal” in Scotland, and honestly it tastes very much the same. It has a wonderful creamy texture and the aroma is tantalizing. This is real, hardy, stick to your bones kind of food, for real, hardy people! This is traditional, ancestral food at its best! Burns makes this quite clear in his famous address and I must concur! :

“But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He will make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will crop
Like tops of thistle.
You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland want no watery ware,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But is you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her a Haggis!”
~Robert Burns, Address to a Haggis (standard English translation)

(Me with friends Bob and Suzanne, all enraptured by The Address)

Of course before eating, the haggis must be addressed (to see the whole address performed excellently, I suggest checking out this one performed by Andrew of Scottish Gourmet USA) and then toasted with whisky. This year we toasted with a 15 year Dalwhinnie. It was a good one.

As always it was a wonderful evening full of joking, sharing memories of trips to Scotland, etc, such a great yearly tradition. I suggest to all of you, especially if you are Scottish, love Scotland or just love ‘Ol Rabbie Burns, to join us next year in celebrating his life!

Want to know what to do with Haggis Leftovers? Try Balmoral Chicken.

Next UP: Sticky Toffee Pudding!

Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Parfaits

 

Today I am really excited to share with you this perfect autumn dessert that I was inspired to create for a dinner party recently. It features preserved fruits and is sweetened with maple. This cute dessert is perfect to take with you to any upcoming holiday celebration, whether you are celebrating Autumn, Harvest Season, Halloween, Samhain, Thanksgiving, etc.

Made in small mason jars, not only is this dessert rustic chic, but highly portable! Just screw the lid on and you are good to go! It is also a great dessert for groups since it is allergen friendly, as it is dairy, egg, refined sugar and gluten free. If you experiment by using agar-agar, it is also vegetarian and vegan friendly. You can also play with the flavors by using different sweeteners, like raw honey or stevia and by using different spices and various types of preserved fruit. If you don’t have preserved fruit, a small layer of homemade jam would be perfect, or how about some sweetened pumpkin puree and topped with crumbled candied nuts?

The most important thing about this dessert is that it tastes delicious, it is luscious, creamy and dreamy, not too sweet but easily satisfying those with a sweet tooth and you can play so much with the basic recipe to make it your own. It is so versatile that you can make it for more than one celebration by making it several different ways! So whip some up today and enjoy this beautiful harvest season!

INGREDIENTS:

2 ½ cups canned coconut milk (regular, not lite) – I use Native Harvest because they have BPA-free cans
¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp of cinnamon or crushed cardamom (or a combination!)
¼ cup water
1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 pint of preserved fruit – I used plums from last year’s larder
2 or 3 gluten free cookies – I used some leftover pfeffernusse shortbread (use nuts to make the dessert grain free)

METHOD:

Pour the coconut milk into a small pan and heat on the lowest setting until small bubbles form on the edges of the pan. In the meantime, in a small bowl pour a quarter cup of water and add the gelatin, whisking briskly until thoroughly combined. Set aside until the coconut milk has started to bubble, add maple syrup, vanilla extract and spices to the coconut milk once it has started to bubble slightly.

Remove the coconut mixture from the heat and add a quarter cup of it to the gelatin whisking briskly to incorporate, making sure there are no lumps. Add this back to the pan with the rest of the coconut milk, whisk to combine and then remove pan from heat.

Using ½ pint mason jars, place some preserved fruit on the bottom of the jar, then cover with some of the coconut milk mixture. You will be doing this layering one more time, so make sure to save enough. I just eyeballed it. Put the rest of the coconut milk mixture back on the stove on the lowest heat possible. You want to make sure that it doesn’t cool all the way and start to congeal, so using a whisk stir once in a while.

Put the mason jars in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes, until softly set. Remove from freezer and let the jars come to room temperature (ish). You want to make sure that you aren’t adding hot liquid to frozen glass, as this will cause the glass to break. Then add another layer of preserved fruit, and then the rest of the coconut milk mixture, add another layer of preserved fruit and then crush some cookies on top and put in the fridge for about 2 hours until top layer sets. Keep in the refrigerator until it is time to serve. Serves 6