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?

Happy Spring with Vegetable Dyed Eggs!

Happy Spring! Blessed Ostara/Eostre! Happy Easter!

Eostre Eggs_bunny

 

It has been such a long time since I posted anything. I do apologize and I promise that I have a good reason, but I am keeping it close for the moment.

Even though we have about a foot of snow on the ground outside the week before the change of the season was very tangible. It has retreated for the moment, but I am still trying to hold onto that energy.

Eggs are always associated with this time of year no matter what holiday you celebrate and I love the tradition of dying eggs this time of year, but I do not like the food coloring normally used for this purpose, which is why this year I wanted to try some truly natural dyes, made from plants.

Beets stain everything and so that is why I decided to go with beets. The eggs our hens give us range in color from light to chocolate brown and so I knew we needed something dark to see any results.

We started by placing peeled and frozen beets in about 2 cups of water with some vinegar and let it sit for about an hour. I pre-boiled all the eggs we were going to use for this project. I warmed the water/vinegar solution up and we put a few eggs into this beautiful pink water and let it sit for about 10 minutes. There was no result. So we tried going a little longer and nothing. Then we cut the beets into pieces to release more of the pink juices and then boiled them in the water/vinegar mixture for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the beets had lost most of their color and tried again. Again, no result.

I went to my facebook page and asked my knowledgable readers and someone suggested leaving them in the solution overnight. This morning I was worried when I pulled them out because it looked like a thin layer of  shell had peeled off. But what it left us with after we washed them off was what you see above (and below) – this very cool tie-dyed effect! It wasn’t what I thought they would look like, but they are quite beautiful in their own right.

Have some fun with your family this Springtide and experiment with dying eggs using vegetables. Please leave comments letting us know of your successes and failures, so we can all learn something new about this process!

Eostre Eggs

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.

Scotch Eggs for Spring Equinox (Ostara)

 

The Spring Equinox is tomorrow and there is no better symbol of this day than the egg. Long held across many cultures as the utmost symbol of fertility, birth and new beginnings the egg, humble yet a perfect food should be featured on your menus tomorrow. If you happen to have chickens this is a good day to thank them for all the hard work they have done keeping you well fed with nutrient dense fuel – as the days have been getting longer since the Winter Solstice, our chickens have been producing more and more of nature’s perfect food.

Ēostre is the name of an Anglo Saxon Goddess of the Dawn who was celebrated during the month of April and so her name has been given to the festival of Easter. This connection with the Spring Equinox and Ēostre is why the Christian celebration of Easter includes decorating colorful eggs, egg hunts and the like.

Scotch eggs are a beautiful culinary tribute to the equinox. A hard-boiled egg, covered in a shell of sausage, cracked open and devoured- now there is a great way to celebrate! We made our Scotch eggs using eggs from our own hens and homemade sausage we made from our pigshare this fall.

While we are talking about history, the origin of Scotch eggs is not known. The earliest printed recipe is from 1809, although the London department store Fortnum and Mason claims they invented in in the mid 1700’s. What we know for sure is that Scotch eggs are a popular picnic food in the UK. They are usually served cold, although in the US and other places they are served in gastropubs hot and usually with some kind of accompanying sauce.

Scotch eggs are simple to make (see the step by step instructions with photos below in the recipe). Just boil some eggs and mold a nice layer of sausage around them. I coated mine in a little bit of cornmeal, and then browned them in a hot skillet with olive oil. Then I transferred them to a hot oven to cook evenly for about 10 minutes. They are a delicious breakfast or a nice snack, definitely perfect for a spring equinox picnic.

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs
1 tsp salt
Glug of vinegar
¾ lbs sausage
½ cup cornmeal or 1/2 cup almond meal to make it paleo
Olive oil

METHOD:

Boil the eggs. To make perfect boiled eggs, place eggs in a pot of cold water (use enough water to cover the eggs), to the water add a tsp of sea salt and a glug of vinegar. Put a lid on the pot and put on a burner over high heat. Once the water begins to boil, turn the heat off and set a timer for 12 minutes. Immediately remove the eggs from the water and run them under cold water or place them in a bowl of cold water. After about 5 minutes they will be cool enough to touch. At this point peel the eggs and set them aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 F and start heating up a cast iron skillet over low heat. Next take ¼ of the sausage and make a flat pancake out of it and place one egg in the center and carefully wrap the egg entirely in the sausage, then roll the whole thing in corn or almond meal. Do the same procedure using the rest of the eggs, sausage and corn or almond meal.

Add some olive oil to the cast iron skillet – enough to cover the bottom about ¼ of an inch. Place the Scotch eggs in the skillet and brown on all sides. Then place in the oven on a cookie sheet and cook for about 10 minutes. Can be served immediately, or cooled and refrigerated for picnic food!

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.

Black Bean Brownies (gluten, grain and dairy free!)

After my rant last week, I decided to start off this week with something sweeter and right in time for Valentine’s Day! Black Bean Brownies. If you have been following blogs for any amount of time, it is likely that you have stumbled across these guys at some point. Maybe if you are like me, you have been intrigued to try them, but haven’t quite gotten around to making them yet.

Well I am here to tell you that if you think beans have no place in baked goods; you are seriously missing out on some deliciously protein packed healthy treats. Don’t think these are for you? How about if I say you can have brownies for breakfast? Do I have you attention now?

I am actually no stranger to baking with beans, if you have the The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts cookbook (and if you don’t I would seriously consider getting it!), Kelly bakes a lot with beans, and this cookbook has literally changed my life. Instead of feeling full and tired after eating baked goods, I feel energized! Her recipes are amazing, easy to make and so tasty, they are also “fool proof” if you are new to gluten or grain free baking and trying to learn how in the world you can bake without either of these ingredients, this is a great book!

I did a search through some cookbooks and several blogs looking for the perfect recipe for Black Bean Brownies, but as usual, I didn’t find the perfect one, so of course, I kind of went out on my own and created a recipe inspired by the many that are already out there.

See, in the great debate about brownies, I fall in the cakey vs. fudgy side of things. If you don’t like cakey brownies, I think you will still love these, and it will become a go-to recipe for making healthy and delicious chocolate cake. In fact I plan to make them in the very near future as a cake, and use some kind of wonderful real food icing on top.

I brought these to a social gathering and everyone absolutely loved them! They couldn’t believe there were beans in them for one, but were equally surprised to find out there are no gluten or grains either! Personally, I love the super dark, rich look of these brownies. Plus, they are so good for you; you can absolutely have them for breakfast with no guilt. So make a batch for your valentine’s this year.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups black beans cooked
1/3 cup coconut oil
½ cup honey, warmed
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp Dandy Blend – Instant Dandelion Beverage Single Servings – 25 Packet(s) (an instant caffeine free coffee substitute or you could use instant espresso)
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking soda (if you like your brownies “fudgy” you could experiment by leaving this out)
¾ cup dutch processed cocoa powder

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a prepared 9×9 inch baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Your knife may not come out clean, but the top will look crackly like brownies usually do.

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.