Paleo Chocolate Cream Tart with Fresh Figs

 

Doesn’t that sound just dreamy? It is hard to believe that something so sexy as a chocolate tart with fresh figs can be grain, dairy and refined sugar free. You also wouldn’t guess that it is extremely easy to make, not very time consuming and requires no baking! This is such a no-brainer it could be a weeknight dessert, but you might want to leave it for the weekend so it feels more like an indulgence.

I based this tart on a recipe from a new cookbook called Paleo Indulgences. Like I said the Paleo Gods have been shining down on me and put me in the good graces of the folks over at Victory Belt Publishing who send me the latest and greatest in Paleo cookbooks for review. I have really been so fortunate to receive these books free of charge. The books may be free, but the opinions I have are all my own. The good thing is that I have not been disappointed yet. These books have all helped me to eat Paleo for the past three months and given me such a variety of wonderful recipes to use in my kitchen, I don’t feel like I am missing a thing!

For the first month and a half of going Paleo I hadn’t eaten any sugar outside of fresh delicious summer fruits. But my mom came to visit in mid-September and I wanted to make some treats while she was here. So we looked through Paleo Indulgences and decided on the chocolate tart, mainly because Roberto is such a fan of chocolate. After the sweetness of my palette had changed it was nice to have a dessert that serves 8, yet only has 2 TBSP of sweetener, and maple syrup at that! But I am sure it will satisfy any sweet tooth, especially if you are a chocolate lover.

Paleo Chocolate Cream Tart with Fresh Figs (adapted from Paleo Indulgences)

INGREDIENTS:

Tart Shell:
1 ½ cups almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 TBS pure maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt

Filling:
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TBS pure maple syrup
1 can of coconut milk
1 TBS of Frangelico

Garnish:
Pint of fresh figs, sliced
Cinnamon for dusting

METHOD: Chill the can of coconut milk overnight or at least a few hours, this separates the fat from the water.

Place all tart shell ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until well incorporated and starting to stick together. Place mixture into a tart pan (or you can use 4 mini tart pans). Press firmly along the bottom of the pan(s) and part of the way up the sides of the pan(s). Place on a baking sheet and chill for about an hour, or until firm.

Meanwhile, place the filling ingredients, except the coconut milk fat into the food processor and pulse until well mixed and smooth. In a separate bowl, whip the coconut milk fat and Frangelico together – scoop out the fat on the top of the can, leaving the watery part in the can and whip the fat and Frangelico just like you would whipped cream. Then fold this mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Pour filling into the tart shell(s) and refrigerate for another hour. Serve with sliced figs on top.

Will store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for 3 months.

Entered into the Fig Love Blog Hop.

Curing Olives at Home: Part 3

This is the third entry in the series about curing fresh olives at home. Through a program by The Foodie Blogroll and Penna Gourmet Foods, I was selected to receive a free five pound box of olives for home curing. Penna was looking for bloggers who were into preservation, canning, etc. and since that sort of thing is right up my alley, I was happy and honored to participate.

You can read about my first experience curing olives a few years ago. It didn’t go very well. But it did set me up with a lot of knowledge for this time around, which was very helpful. One of the main issues with my first batch was that the olives were mushy. So instead of pounding or cracking them to release the bitterness, I sliced them. The results are much firmer and crunchy olives. The second major issue I had the first time was with the olives remaining bitter even after soaking them in water for almost 2 months. Most olive curing recipes tell you to soak in water for 2-4 week max, but even after 2 months the olives were still inedibly bitter. I fear that extra soaking time didn’t help in the soggy olive department either.

To start this off right, I must say that the olives I received from Penna were absolutely gorgeous. Bright green and gigantic! There were only a few that had bruises or imperfections that I discarded right away. So I have to say the quality of these olives were fabulous. So a day or two after the olives arrived I began preparing them for curing.

This time I decided to follow the instructions from Penna that they have on their website for Mediterranean Partida Style, which looked similar to the recipe I tried the first time. But alas after almost two weeks of soaking them in water and changing out the water each day, when I tasted the olives they were still very bitter.

I have to say, I love my facebook readers. They are always an invaluable source of information and help when I need it. So I put a call out to my readers asking them if any had ever cured olives before and I got some very helpful advice from Maha from Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine . She rescued me and this batch of olives by telling me how they cure olives in Egypt. Since I had already soaked the olives in plain water for 10 days, I decided to just follow her directions from there. But if you are just starting with your fresh olives, you can skip soaking them in plain water, and just start at step 1:

Always rinse the olives in fresh water prior to preparing and discard any olives that are terribly bruised or have any holes.

1) Make a couple of cuts with the knife on each olive and then soak the olives in salted water : use ½ cup salt to each liter of water, for one week covered on the counter.

2) Then take the olives out of the salted water and put it in jars with alternating layers of the following mix: chopped garlic cloves, diced Chinese celery, hot green peppers sliced (jalapeño will be good here) & slices of carrots.

3) After filling jars with the layers of the previous mix and layers of olives, prepare the following liquid to fill the jars with: 1 cup salt+2 cups lemon or lime juice+3 cups water (all mixed together) I use the lemon or lime shells that I used for lemon juice to cover the top of the jars and press very hard then I fill the jars with the above liquid of lemon juice, water and salt.

4) Leave some room in the jars to cover with some olive oil on the top because the oil will keep everything from rotting. Also don’t be shy on the salt because the salt will preserve everything and will not let it be mushy. Cover with a plastic wrap then cover tightly with the lid of the jar. Leave on the counter for 2 weeks and then you can eat the best pickled olives in your life.

These olives are very delicious and fresh tasting. I did mostly layers of hot pepper and carrots. I am not a fan of celery, so I omitted that. Would I cure olives myself again? It is really fun to cure olives at home, but I am not sure that I am the best olive maker but if I do it again in the future, I am definitely going Egyptian!

Other posts in the series:
Curing Olives at Home: Part 1
Curing Olives at Home: Part 2

Practical Paleo: Duck with Cherry Sauce

 

One month ago, today, I started eating Paleo. I guess I should really say, Primal, but I’ll get to that later. My reasons to try the Paleo way of eating (I will never say diet!) are many-fold and something I had wanted to try for a while now. But let’s just say that I was recently diagnosed with a thyroid problem which caused me to put on some pounds in a very short period of time. During that time, I received a review copy of Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle from the publisher. A few months ago I had done a review of Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids by The Paleo Parents, and I got on the publisher’s list. That turned out to be very fortunate for me, because in Practical Paleo, Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC, a nutrition consultant, and blogger at Balanced Bites, gives 30-day meal plans for many health issues, including but not limited to Thyroid, MS, digestive health, blood sugar regulation, heart health and cancer recovery.

It felt like fate that this book basically fell into my lap right when I got my diagnosis. So I decided to try it. I thought it would be a challenge. I remember back when I was doing the 4-Hour Body Slow Carb program, it was a struggle. Often I did not feel satisfied after meals and I was craving sugar a lot. I figured with Paleo, and cutting out beans, it would be worse. But I really wanted to try it and see what the fuss is all about. Paleo is touted as being so healthy and life changing by those who love it, and hated with such fervor by those who don’t. I never let other people’s opinions sway me, instead I figure out the truth for myself. Granted, before I started the plan, I ate many Paleo meals throughout the week. Plus I have been used to eating whole foods, since I follow Weston A. Price Foundation Guidelines.

I found a lot of things that surprised me about eating Paleo. For one, I was satisfied after every single meal. I found the dishes easy to cook and actually taking less time in the kitchen to make than I normally would. Plus the food is delicious and varied (like you don’t eat the same dinner twice for a whole month!). But the most surprising thing about it is that I found myself eating WAY MORE vegetables than I used to, and I am already a big veggie lover. But each day I was surprised to discover how many different varieties of vegetables I had on my plates of food. Shopping for food was focused on produce. Granted, we do have a lot of meat in our freezer, but still, I was pleasantly shocked by the amounts of fruit and veggies I was eating. Paleo is not all about bacon people, in fact we normally have bacon only once a week (on Pancake Sunday). Another surprise was that although I didn’t eat any sugar other than fruit for 3 weeks, I found I didn’t crave it. Until my sauerkraut fermenting away started making the room smell like brownies…but I have found some really delicious Paleo brownie recipes!

After 2 weeks, I went back to the doctor, and I had lost 3 pounds (don’t know what I weigh now, as I have to go back to the doctor to find out. We have no scale in the house). I feel less tired and run down and it feels like I am starting to develop a store of energy reserves. Something I haven’t felt in a long while. I feel more alert. I am never ever bloated after meals. I really didn’t think by limiting all grains and beans, I was going to feel all that different. But I do.

One thing I have not done is cut out dairy products, which is why I mentioned earlier that I should probably say I am Primal as opposed to Paleo. I have tried several times cutting dairy out of my diet and to no effect. It just wasn’t the magic bullet for me. Plus, dairy is absolutely part of my ancestral diet, and isn’t that what Paleo is all about? Although through this Paleo experiment, I don’t eat as much cheese as I used to, and I am only eating sheep and goat milk products on a daily basis. I drink kefir every day, use raw goat milk and often have a little raw goat milk cheese…And on Fridays, as is tradition at our house, we still have gluten-free pizza night, with real local mozzarella (cow), which is a nice treat and hasn’t seemed to bother me at all.

Even Roberto has been enjoying this way of eating, which is a huge shocker! He stopped eating bread and pasta for a little over a week and now he finds he doesn’t crave it anymore. He might have a slice or two of local sourdough bread every other day or so, but he used to eat near half a loaf every day! So this has been really good for all of us.

I have even found on the occasions that we go out to eat; I don’t even really want the grains, I am not tempted by them on the menu. So I always order Paleo dishes, even my sushi rolls (I order without the rice). I have found that this has really cut down on cross-contamination (with gluten) issues. So I never come home with swollen fingers or toes. Another really nice perk.

If you are brand new to Paleo or even cooking and eating a whole foods diet, this book is very helpful. There is a whole section on stocking a Paleo pantry, why everything we have been taught about good nutrition is wrong, a guide to fats and oils, how to eat Paleo at restaurants and parties or on the road, there is also a very detailed FAQ. All sections are super useful and easy to understand for non-scientific minds like mine.

So what about the food? I know that is the most important part. I have already said it is delicious. But here are some of my favorites so far: Spaghetti Squash Bolognese, Sweet Potato Pancakes, Zucchini Pancakes, Lemony Lamb Dolmas, Pumpkin Pancakes ( we have these every Sunday), Chinese 5-Spice Lettuce Cups, Braised Short Ribs with Candied Carrots, and this delicious recipe for Duck with Cherry Sauce. So if you have been thinking about trying the Paleo way of eating, I highly recommend Practical Paleo. Even if you don’t want to go Paleo, but just like good, nourishing easy to prepare, family friendly meals, I highly recommend it! Who knows, maybe you’ll find you love being Paleo, too!

I don’t know how long I will eat this way. I haven’t really gotten to that yet. For now, I am just going to enjoy all the recipes in the book and worry about the other stuff later.

Duck with Cherry Sauce (from Practical Paleo)

INGREDIENTS:

2 duck legs (I have also used duck breast for this recipe, in fact that is what is pictured)
¼ tsp each of dried rosemary and dried sage
½ tsp sea salt
¾ cup frozen or fresh cherries or ½ cup dried cherries that have been reconstituted in warm water for an hour (I used dried cherries, but I think it might be better with frozen or fresh)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary

METHOD: Preheat oven to 320 F. Season the duck generously with the spices. Place duck in an oven safe skillet or roasting pan and put in the oven. Roast for about 60-80 minutes until the skin is brown and crispy and the internal temperature of the duck reaches 165 F.

While the duck cooks simmer the cherries with the rosemary sprig in a small sauce pan over medium heat until the shape of the fruit begins to break down. Once the cherries have a soft consistency with liquid around them, remove the rosemary sprig and mash the fruit with a fork, or blend for a smoother texture. Set sauce aside.

Top the roasted duck with the cherry sauce to serve. A lot of fat from the duck will remain. Strain the fat and save it in the fridge for cooking later. It is ideal for roasting potatoes or other root veggies. Serves 2.

Eat Like a Dinosaur Book Review (and giveaway!)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Eat Like a Dinosaur for free in exchange for a review of the book. This in no way influenced my review, which is true and honest.

CONGRATS to Kelly, the winner of the book giveaway!

I was very excited a few weeks ago to be contacted by the Paleo Parents asking if I would be interested in reviewing their new book, Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids. This is a cookbook geared towards gluten-free kids and their families. The recipes in this book are all free of grains, dairy and legumes. But it is so much more than that – it is a guide to helping parents navigate the murky waters of raising children with multiple food allergies, learning how to overhaul the SAD (Standard American Diet) as a family and having a great time preparing and eating good food at the same time!

I don’t often agree to do cookbook reviews because frankly, most cookbooks don’t cater to my dietary needs and the needs of many who read this blog. I don’t mind doing extra leg work to translate standard recipes into gluten-free, allergen-friendly, WAPF eating but I don’t expect that everyone who reads this blog has the time or inclination for that. So it was really fun for me to read through this book and realize that I could eat everything in it – and so can many of you! Not only that, but the recipes are interesting, simple, fresh and delicious looking. Although I do eat dairy, legumes and some grains, it is refreshing to have a cookbook where I don’t have to think; I can just make it, worry free.

So I am obviously not a kid, nor do I have young children living at home with me (yet!) but when it comes to food, there is a kid in all of us! We all enjoy comfort and nostalgic foods, so many of which come from our past and are not allergen or traditional food friendly. I think some of these recipes will hit that childlike sweet spot in all of us: spaghetti with meatballs (using spaghetti squash), shepherd’s pie, sweet potato fries, chocolate chip cookies, milkshakes, puddings and cupcakes as well as recipes for ketchup, barbecue sauce and mayonnaise. There is also something in each section for more mature tastes: lemon dill salmon, curried mussels (not muscles), black olive tapenade and several recipes for making jerky at home (how cool is that?).

For families that have children with allergies beyond grains, gluten and dairy, Eat Like a Dinosaur is super handy, there is a key for the top 8 allergens: fish, shellfish, tree nuts and eggs and although there is no dairy, wheat, peanuts or soy in any of the recipes, their icons have also been included on the side of each recipe just for reassurance! So you can see at a glance the recipes that are perfect for you and your family! There is also a helpful guide to ingredients at the front of the book explaining what various ingredients are and resources for getting them. Honestly, even if your kids don’t have allergies but you are a busy parent looking for healthy foods that your kids will eat, you should really consider this book as well. The farther away we can get from the SAD and start cooking more at home, the better off we will all be! This book takes the guesswork out for you.

Some other great features geared specifically towards the kids are a section in each recipe showing steps that kids can participate in to help create the meal, making mealtimes a true family event. There is also a very cute illustrated story about food allergies and health just for the kids – to help them understand in a fun way why eating like a dinosaur is super healthy!

I really like this book, not only do the recipes look great but you can tell that the Paleo Parents really care, not just about their own family but about yours as well. They know first-hand how difficult a transition from the SAD to a whole foods diet can be and they have made themselves a resource to you every step of the way, from how to talk to your kids about it, to ways to deal with family and friends that just don’t understand your new eating habits or maybe don’t understand how serious defaulting on that diet can be.

I thought about giving away my copy of Eat Like a Dinosaur to one lucky reader, but you can probably understand now why I want to keep it! But I do want to get this book out to more people and support the Paleo Parents and all their hard work in preparing this great resource for all of us. So I am going to give away a copy of this book to one of my readers. Please let me know why you need this book and I will pick a random winner!

How to Enter The Eat Like a Dinosaur Giveaway:

Anyone is welcome to enter, provided doing so does not violate any local laws of your place of residency. US entries only for this one, due to shipping restrictions, and all participants must be over the age of 18.

Please remember that for your entry to count, you must leave a separate comment for every entry you make and make sure to include your email address in the spot provided when you fill out the comment form so I can get in touch with you if you win.

1) DO THIS FIRST (REQUIRED): In the comments, tell me why you need this cookbook.

Optional ways to get more entries:

2) Blog about this giveaway describing why you want to win the book, and link your post to this giveaway. (1 extra entry)
3) Subscribe to The Leftover Queen RSS feed. (1 extra entry)
4) Enter your email address (on right hand sidebar) to Subscribe to Email Updates. (1 extra entry)
5) Subscribe to my newsletter (see box on top right of my blog). (1 extra entry)
6) Tweet and tell your friends to “sign up for @leftoverqueen Daily Emails or RSS feeds”. (1 extra entry)
7) Fan The Leftover Queen on Facebook. (1 extra entry)
8) Follow The Leftover Queen on Twitter and tweet @leftoverqueen and @PaleoParents with a link to the giveaway. (1 extra entry)

If you are already a fan of The Leftover Queen and have done all or some of the above, and wish to enter the contest just write that you already subscribe to the newsletter, facebook page or RSS feed, by email, etc. Make sure to leave a separate comment for every entry.

Why Enter?

1) Because it is free
2) This cookbook is awesome
3) To support bloggers!

The winner will be announced on this post Friday, March 16, 2012. The winner will be drawn at random and contacted on March 16th. The winner has until Monday, March 19, 2012 by 10 AM, EST to respond before another winner is chosen.

Grow Your Own MUSHROOMS Giveaway!

CONGRATS to the winner SUSAN B.!

 

Yes, that is right, you heard correct – you can now grow your own mushrooms at home, and one of my lucky readers will get a kit to do just that!
Recently I was contacted by a wonderful company – Back to the Roots asking if I would be interested in sampling their product, for free and if I liked it, doing a giveaway on my blog. I was definitely into this – we love mushrooms in this house, but not only that, I really liked what I learned about the company and its founders.

From their website: “Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009. Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world of investment banking & consulting, they came across the idea during a class lecture of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages & fresh, local food, … from what was an urban waste stream, Back to the Roots has since grown to create the Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, across the country, grow their own gourmet mushrooms at home as well!”

This is the kind of company, people and efforts I can easily support. I just love the ingenuity of Alejandro and Nikhil to come up with such a creative way to use waste products to produce food – and GOURMET MUSHROOMS at that! Who doesn’t love that?

Not only that, but they are using their success to help others! They have a facebook campaign going on where if you post a picture of the grown product on our wall, they will send a sustainability curriculum and donate a kit to an elementary school of your choice.

Features of the Grow Kit:

• Grow up to 1 1/2 lbs of tasty pearl oyster mushrooms
• Multiple crops (at least 2, though some have got up to 4!)
• Grow your first crop in as little as 10 days!
• Just 3 Easy Steps – Open, Mist, and Harvest (spray mister included).
• All indoors – just set on a kitchen window sill and mist twice a day (mister included)
• The soil inside is 100% recycled coffee grounds – safe & sustainable
• 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

BABY MUSHROOMS!

You can learn more about their community efforts on their blog or follow them on Twitter for more updates! – these are two guys you definitely want to keep up with!

So, onto the “review” part of this post. I really love this product – it is fun and easy to use! We got our first harvest in about a week, and I am currently working on the second. Everyone that came over to our house and saw the kit was really intrigued by it, and even more so when they found out it was made from recycled coffee grounds. Who wouldn’t be? That is just awesome!

We decided to use our first harvest to make some delicious GF (gluten free) mini pizzas. I have found a wonderful millet, flax and brown rice flat bread (kinda like a tortilla) and we make mini pizzas once or twice a week. For this version, we used the mushrooms from the kit as well fresh bufala mozzarella and some prosciutto and fresh basil from the garden. They were delicious!

 

I think this would be a great gift to send to someone for their birthday (if they are a foodie) or maybe for the holidays – any family that has kids will love this!

So who wants to win a kit of their own???


How to Enter The Back to the Roots Mushroom Grow Kit Giveaway:

Anyone is welcome to enter, provided doing so does not violate any local laws of your place of residency. US entries only for this one, due to shipping restrictions, and all participants must be over the age of 18.

Please remember that for your entry to count, you must leave a separate comment for every entry you make and make sure to include your email address in the spot provided when you fill out the comment form.

1) DO THIS FIRST (REQUIRED): Tell me what you would like for me to make with my second harvest – if you have a link to a recipe, even better! I will make the winner’s recipe, and link to your blog, if you have one (provided that it is gluten free!)

Optional ways to get more entries:

2) Blog about this giveaway describing why you want to win the kit, and link your post to this giveaway. (1 extra entry)
3) Subscribe to The Leftover Queen RSS feed. (1 extra entry)
4) Enter your email address to Subscribe to Email Updates. (1 extra entry)
5) Subscribe to my newsletter (see box on top right of my blog). (1 extra entry)
6) Tweet and tell your friends to sign up for @leftoverqueen Daily Emails or RSS feeds. (1 extra entry)
7) Fan The Leftover Queen on Facebook. (1 extra entry)
8) Follow The Leftover Queen on Twitter and tweet @leftoverqueen with a link to the giveaway. (1 extra entry)

If you are already a fan of The Leftover Queen and have done all or some of the above, and wish to enter the contest just write that you already subscribe to the newsletter, facebook page or RSS feed, by email, etc. Make sure to leave a separate comment for every entry.

Why Enter?

1) Because it is free
2) You can grow your own mushrooms at home!!!
3) Because mushrooms rule!

The winner will be announced on this post Friday, July 29, 2011. The winner will be drawn at random and contacted on July 29th. The winner has until Monday, August 1 2011, by 10 AM, EST to respond before another winner is chosen.

PS – if you are a Foodie Blogroll member, you also have a chance to win a kit! Check out the details here

Posted to Simple Lives Thursday

Summer Solstice 2011

Happy Summer Solstice to all my readers in the Northern Hemisphere!

 

The Summer Solstice marks the beginning of summer and is the longest day of the year! Here in Northern Vermont, it began getting dark around 9:30 PM. Sitting out on our side deck enjoying the mountain views and listening to all the sounds – barnyard animals, birds, frogs, insects made me think about past Solstices, and I recalled my time living in Norway when it was still bright as day at 2 AM! Very different but both great experiences!

 

I like to celebrate my Northern European roots on the Solstices and usually we toast with a local sparkling mead. Unfortunately we were not able to find the mead yesterday, so we settled on Sah’tea by Dogfish Head Ales. I was drawn to the graphics on the label – as it features my favorite animal, the Reindeer. Sah’tea is based on a 9th century Finnish recipe, Sahti. It is brewed with rye and juniper berries. They break with tradition by adding chai tea at the end of the boil. The flavor of the ale was intense with the chai spices tickling the palette. The color was a darker amber than we are used to seeing in an ale. It is a very unique brew, not something I would want every day, but it was definitely a good choice for a celebratory meal!

As for the nibbles, we decided on an antipasti of sorts. For proteins we had prosciutto, fresh marinated anchovies, duck rilettes and 2 types of cheese – a raw cow’s raclette and a sheep’s milk Lancashire. We also had assorted olives, peppadew peppers (which were delicious stuffed with rilletes), artichoke hearts homemade pickles – daikon radish and carrots. For dessert we had fresh, local, organic strawberries with fresh whipped cream!

 

We had a great evening, enjoying our al fresco meal and ending the night by “tucking in” all the animals. It is quiet moments like this that make everything feel right in the world. Hope you enjoyed yours too!

Mother’s Day Brunch

 

(mom and me)

 

I know I am a little late with this. Mother’s Day has come and gone for this year. But I have had some things on my mind. For the past month or so, when it comes to blogging, I have been standing on my soapbox, discussing issues related to food, that are close to my heart – body image, omnivorism, homesteading, food sovereignty… But I am back to recipes now, and even though I made this for Mom on Mother’s day, this would be a great menu for any Sunday brunch and why not have one this weekend?

Baked Homegrown Eggs with Local Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and White Truffle Oil
Local Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Local Maple Sausage Patties
Grain-free Coffee Cake
Homemade Yogurt and Berries with Maple
Fresh Brewed Coffee with Local Cream
Pear Bellini

I was blessed this Mother’s Day to have my mom in my company. See, she lives in Florida, and with us in Vermont, it isn’t easy to get together to celebrate all the special days in the year. But this year she decided to come to visit us for Mother’s Day and I wanted it to be special and memorable. I searched all around for a local place doing the typical nice Mother’s Day Brunch buffet, but was disappointed with the offerings. I was lamenting this on facebook, and someone suggested I make brunch myself, and that is exactly what I ended up doing. It ended up being great!

 

(Grain-Free Coffee Cake from The Spunky Coconut)

I recently purchased a copy of The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts: Gluten Free, Casein Free, and Often Egg FreeHealthy Diet Cooking Books) and I was really excited to try some baked goods. Kelly, the author, and The Spunky Coconut herself, uses a lot of white beans in the base of her baked goodies. Since I like to cook as grain free as possible, this really intrigued me. It has literally been YEARS, since I had a coffee cake, but I used to love them, so I decided to try Kelly’s grain free version. The cake was delicious and power-packed with nutrients– between the beans, the eggs and the nuts, it is full of good for you goodness, but not at the expense of flavor or texture – one of the biggest issues I have had with gluten-free baking. The only thing I would change about the recipe is to cut the amount of nuts. It was a bit too crunchy, where we would have preferred cakey.

 

(Baked Homegrown Eggs with Local Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and White Truffle Oil)

The other main dish I prepared was a baked egg dish with eggs from our sweet hens, chanterelle and local oyster mushrooms, fresh chives from the garden and local goat cheese, all drizzled with the last of the white truffle oil we got in Italy, while with Roberto’s mom. It seemed a fitting way to honor her in the meal, even if she couldn’t be with us to share it.

We also had roasted potatoes, maple sausage from Applecheek Farm delicious locally roasted brewed coffee from Barista’s Beans, and homemade yogurt with local blueberries and currants (both harvested last year and frozen for winter eating), drizzled with local maple syrup and to top it all off, pear bellini (sparkling wine/champagne and pear nectar).

 

(Farmchic Tablescape)

It was an elegant (for us!) and casual brunch all at once and we had a lot of good laughs and enjoyable conversation all together. We had flowers on the table and fresh linens, which is about as fancy as we get here on the homestead!

Grain-Free Coffee Cake from The Spunky Coconut

Set oven to 325 F

Add to food processor:
2 cups of room temperature cooked beans – navy or great Northern.
6 eggs
¾ tsp vanilla liquid stevia *
1 tsp vanilla extract*
1/3 cup honey*
*I didn’t have the liquid stevia, so instead I just used a little extra honey with the vanilla extract
Puree well

Add:
¼ cup coconut oil, liquefied
1/3 cup coconut flour
½ tsp sea salt
¾ cup baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
Puree well, pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan

Crumble Topping:
Puree:
3 cups walnuts (I used soaked almonds, since I am allergic to walnuts, and next time I think I will use @2 cups instead)
2 TBS ghee or coconut oil
½ cup coconut sugar
1 TBS cinnamon
Spread the crumble over the top of the batter. Using a fork or knife, really swirl the topping into the batter, and pat the topping down. Bake for about 25 minutes. Great hot, or cold from the refrigerator, store in the fridge.

Baked Homegrown Eggs with Local Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and White Truffle Oil

INGREDIENTS:
2 large fresh oyster mushrooms
A palm full of reconstituted dried chanterelle mushrooms
2 TBS butter
2 TBS fresh chives
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
5 large fresh eggs
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
Salt & pepper
1 TBS white truffle oil

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium sized cast iron skillet sauté the mushrooms with the butter. Add one TBS of the chives. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on the bottom of a silicon round cake pan. Scramble eggs in a separate bowl with salt and pepper, add the sautéed mushrooms and chives to the eggs and then pour into the cake pan and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the egg is cooked and drizzle with the truffle oil.

Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi

Even though I grew up in an Italian household, I have never been a huge fan of pasta. Don’t get me wrong, I love the filled pastas – tortellini, ravioli, cannelloni, etc. but just regular ‘ol pasta…meh. However, when it comes to gnocchi, I just can’t get enough of it. Maybe that is because I have always loved potatoes, and those soft pillows that just soak in the sauce, have always been irresistible to me.

When I became gluten-free, my pasta options reduced significantly. Pasta is such a quick and easy meal to prepare when you don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen as you would like, and it is so easy to dress up with veggies, meats, cheeses and various sauces. Plus my husband, born and raised in Italy grew up eating it 2 times a day.  Like Roberto always says, you can eat pasta twice a day your whole life and never get bored of it because of all the various ways it can be prepared.  I can’t say I agree, but I do enjoy the convenience of it once in a while. Commercially I can get corn pasta, in two shapes – spaghetti and elbows. That is fine, but sometimes you want something a little different!

(The First Attempt)

For New Year’s Eve 2011, when my step-daughter Gwen was visiting, we decided to try our hand at homemade gnocchi. I made a big mistake and mixed it in the food processor the first time. It turned out kind of gummy, but was still pretty good. We made the gnocchi gluten-free by using potatoes and potato starch. However, for me, the consistency was still too gummy – it wasn’t just the fault of the food processor.

Gwen was visiting again last week and wanted to make gnocchi again, this time instead of the potato starch, I suggested we use gluten-free oat flour. This made the gnocchi much more like I remember – a bit firmer and toothsome. We served it with a tomato sauce that Gwen and Roberto made on New Year’s Eve – it made a lot, so we froze the leftovers.

I also like these gnocchi served with brown butter cream sauce with truffle oil. When Roberto and I were in San Gimignano, in Tuscany, almost 2 years ago, we had the most amazing truffle gnocchi, and since then, I have been dreaming about it. The version we make at home comes pretty darn close!

Tonight we are going to have the leftovers with butter, peas and prosciutto. Like I said, so versatile!

Making homemade gnocchi is very easy and straightforward and much less time consuming than other types of homemade pasta. Since we have made it a few times, we no longer use a recipe, but this is a good starter recipe from Italian: The Definitive Professional Guide to Italian Ingredients and Cooking Techniques, Including 300 Step-by-step Recipes..

A note about the book – this book includes all the Italian classics, and has detailed process pictures as well. Roberto loves this cookbook because everything we have made from it turns out like an Italian in Italy made it.

Gnocchi di Patate


INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs waxy potatoes, scrubbed
1 TBS sea salt
2 – 2 1/2 cups of flour (we use gluten-free oat flour)
2 TBS butter

METHOD:

Place the un-peeled potatoes in a large pot of salted water, Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, but not falling apart. Drain, and peel the potatoes as soon as possible, while they are still hot.

On a work surface spread out a layer of flour. Mash the potatoes with a hand masher directly onto the flour. You can also use a food mill or ricer if you have those.  Sprinkle the top of the potatoes with about half of the remaining flour and mix lightly. Begin to knead the dough, drawing in more flour as you knead.  Keep doing this until the dough is light to the touch, no longer sticky or moist, and can be rolled easily. Do not overwork the dough, or the gnocchi will become too heavy.

Divide the dough into 4 parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a snake about ¾ inch thick, and cut the dough into ¾ inch long pieces.  Hold an ordinary table fork, with long tines sideways.  Once by one press and roll the gnocchi onto your thumb, making ridges on one side and a depression from your thumb on the other side.

Bring large pan of salted water to boil. Then drop about ½ the gnocchi in.  When the gnocchi rise to the top, after about 3-4 minutes they are done. Scoop them out, allow them to drain and place in a serving bowl. Dot them with butter.  Keep warm while remaining gnocchi are cooking. AS soon as they are done, stir in with other gnocchi and more butter. Then serve with extra butter and Parmesan cheese, tomato sauce or any other sauce you wish.

Serves 4-6