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?

The Best Brownies Ever (with Cherries!)

Paleo Brownies (with Cherries!)

(gluten free/grain free/ dairy free/ paleo)

I did not title these Paleo, or Gluten -Free or even Grain-Free, because that might give you the impression that I believe these are the best PALEO (or GF ) brownies ever, when what I really mean is what the title says  - they are THE BEST brownies EVER.

I should have posted these for Valentine’s Day, but of course I didn’t make it. I did actually make them ON Valentine’s Day, so that should count right? But really these brownies are not for a special occasion, they are for every day. They are so good that they are considered one of the staples at our house and I am not even really a fan of chocolate desserts. They take only a few minutes to put together and they are packed with protein and have very little sugar. So they are actually quite good for you! Roberto even tries to get me to let him have them for breakfast and of course they are healthy enough for that, I just prefer them as an evening indulgence.

I have tried a ton of different paleo and gluten free brownie recipes because Roberto loves chocolate and I do enjoy brownies, if I am going to have something chocolate. Through this process of trying various recipes I came up with my own recipe. These brownies are pretty dense, so although they don’t rise much when baking, they are satisfying. If you like them really moist and fudgy cook them a little less.

The main ingredient is almond butter, so make sure to use one of good quality. My favorite is Barney Butter . Barney Butter is smooth and rich and doesn’t separate like so many almond butters on the market. It also doesn’t rip whatever you are trying to spread it on. Barney Butter is also certified GMO free, which no one can complain about. I lived on this stuff when I was pregnant with my daughter – stirring it into yogurt, mixing it into smoothies, putting it on top of ice cream, eating it with bananas or just right off the spoon if I needed an extra little boost. So if you know someone who is pregnant, get her a jar of Barney Butter, she will love it!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup almond butter, I use Barney Butter
½ cup full fat coconut milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup cacao powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 TBS. raw honey
1/3 cup chocolate chips, I use Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips – they are Gluten, Dairy, nut & Soy Free,
Optional: 1 tsp of Dandy Blend or espresso powder
1 cup of cherries (frozen or fresh)

METHOD: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8×8 pan. Mix all the ingredients together, except the chocolate chips and the cherries and then fold in the chocolate chips and cherries. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes (20-22 minutes if using the cherries).

Orange Olive Oil Bread (paleo, gluten-free, dairy free)

 

Orange Olive Oil Bread

This is my first post in a very long time, but recently I have been inspired to start blogging a bit as I have made some very delicious recipes from some cookbooks I have received over the last month that I wanted to share with my readers, if you are still out there J

As I prepare to give birth to my first child in about a month, I have been looking for recipes that are easy to make and can be frozen. I plan to stock my freezer with these kinds of foods for the first few weeks after the baby is born – and this delicious recipe is definitely in the mix! If you have some great ideas, please come on over to my facebook page and add links to the thread for your favorite freezable items – casseroles, breads, muffins, etc.

I love this bread and I can’t wait to make it again. It smelled so good while I was mixing and baking it. It is moist, soft and extremely fragrant with the oranges and the olive oil – a classic Mediterranean flavor combination. I have been enjoying it all week for breakfast slathered in butter and served with a bowl of homemade goat yogurt and fruit. It is very filling and perfect for these hot summer days. In the winter I can see this bread going well topped with a rosemary compound butter.

This recipe comes from the book Paleo Indulgences: Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes to Satisfy Your Primal Cravings. I have modified the recipe somewhat. First, I doubled the recipe so that it would fit in a normal loaf pan (the original recipe is for 2 mini loaf pans). I also used almond flour instead of hazelnut flour, because I didn’t have any hazelnut flour and finally, I used honey instead of maple, and I didn’t increase the amount when I doubled the recipe, in fact I lessened it. For one, I think honey pairs better with the Mediterranean flavors of olive oil and orange and secondly, 2/3 cup of honey would be too sweet for this recipe, by my taste buds. Go ahead and taste the batter before you decide for yourself the level of sweetness that you need.

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup coconut flour
2/3 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
10 eggs
1/4 cup honey
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest and juice from 2 medium oranges

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350F. Place dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add wet ingredients and blend well with a hand-mixer (I used  my Kitchenaid for this recipe and it worked great – so I mixed the wet ingredients first and then added the dry).  Grease a loaf pan with coconut oil or butter. Bake 35-40 minutes or until the center of the loaf springs back when lightly pressed. Cool 10 minutes in the pan and turn onto a wire rack to cool. Store in fridge, but can be frozen for up to 2 months.

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.

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

Homemade Pumpkin Coffee Spice and Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

Do you enjoy pumpkin spice coffees but don’t want all the chemicals and corn syrup? You don’t have to miss out on this favorite seasonal treat; consider making your own spice blend!

I started this kick by accident two years ago when I was grinding a special spice blend for my Pfeffernusse Shortbread Cookies  in my coffee grinder and forgot to clean it out. Next time I made coffee it had this wonderful spice that brought me right back to Yuletide in Norway. So I started making more and putting a pinch in my coffee in the morning all winter long.

Just this morning I was lamenting the fact that I can no longer enjoy Pumpkin Spice coffee drinks when I go out (I have been lamenting this seasonally for years now), since the syrups are full of corn syrup and other artificial flavors. I love Autumn, I love pumpkins and I love pumpkin spice everything this time of year! So I decided to make my own spice blend!

I have been enjoying Teecino as an alternative to coffee, it is an herbal coffee comprised mostly of ground roasted roots, like chicory and dandelion and nuts as well as dates and carob. The one I get is called Dandelion Vanilla Nut and it is 100% gluten free (unlike some of their other flavors). This lends itself nicely to the spice blend that I created, making a delicious, warm and seasonal beverage!

Of course no gourmet coffee experience is the same without a nice delicious treat to go along side, so here is also another recipe from Practical Paleo for Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Cranberries! The perfect healthy Autumnal treat!

Pumpkin Coffee Spice Blend:

INGREDIENTS:

2 tsp whole cloves
2 allspice berries
½ star anise
2 tsp cardamom
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon

METHOD: Place all ingredients in a coffee grinder and pulse until ground. Don’t worry about cleaning out the grinder!  Makes about 6 servings, use about ¼ tsp of spice blend per cup of coffee. Place spice mixture in the coffee filter with your coffee grounds for brewing.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins adapted from Practical Paleo

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs
¼ cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup butter or coconut oil melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 TBS pure maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut flour
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup fresh cranberries

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all ingredients (except cranberries) in a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer. Then gently fold in the cranberries. Scoop evenly into a muffin pan (line pan or use a silicon muffin pan). Bake for 35-40 minutes. Serves 6.

My Favorite Treat of the Season

 

I have really been into smoothies and chia or avocado puddings this summer. Since going Paleo 6 weeks ago, my sugar intake has gone way down, and I have found myself being drawn more towards fresh fruit this season. Some of my favorite smoothies have been papaya with cardamom and cinnamon and this one, which is actually more of a pudding than a smoothie.

Roberto is the smoothie maker in the family, I just tell him what I want in mine and he whips it up in the vitamix. We usually have a smoothie after dinner on most nights.

Once papaya season was over, I started getting mangoes. For some crazy and fateful reason, the day Roberto made the first mango smoothie, he added an avocado to the mix. The result was amazing, the best treat of the season! As anyone who has made a smoothie with avocado knows, the consistency is more of a pudding that a smoothie. With the addition of lime juice, and the color of the avocado, this dessert is reminiscent of a key lime pie filling. As the season draws to a close, be sure to get in one of these delicious smoothie-puddings! You won’t regret it!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup coconut milk
1 mango
1 avocado
2 pitted dates
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp cinnamon
Ice

METHOD:
Place all ingredients in the blender in the order they appear (except the ice). Go from low speed to high slowly to make sure that all the ingredients blend well together in a smooth consistency. Once it has been blended add 1-2 ice cubes at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Serves 2.