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!

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).

How I Approach Baby Led Weaning

Alba Eating
(Alba Rose enjoying mashed avocado with egg yolk)

I will start off by saying I am a rebel. I was never good at following directions. I never follow anything to the letter. I like to read all about a subject from all angles and then take an approach that makes the best sense for my situation and me. This is how I approach feeding my 5-month-old daughter, Alba Rose.

I had a great discussion on facebook the other day about Baby Led Weaning and other ways of feeding babies. Before I became a mom I had pretty much decided that I wanted to feed Alba Rose using the Baby Led Weaning approach. It seemed the most natural way to go about things – give baby food right off your plate. Let them be in control of their eating and readiness to eat. Don’t force babies to eat what they don’t like, just try giving them those foods a little later on and see how they fare.

My ultimate goal with feeding Alba is to try and foster a diverse palate in her. We are adventurous eaters in this family and so I want to give her the best start in becoming adventurous too!

It started when we in Italy when she was just over 3 months old. Somehow she put it together that when we sit at the table something amazing and flavorful happens. She started following our forks and spoons with her eyes as we were eating and then that evolved into her starting to open her little mouth as we put the food in our mouths. So we started giving her little tastes – some broth here, a little pizza sauce there, a taste of gelato when we were out and about. She even got a little taste of black truffle sauce (what a lucky girl). At that time it was all about having a sensory experience., we would just dip her “ciuccio” (pacifier) in something we were eating and she was content having a flavored pacifier. After a week or so she even developed her own sound to ask for this flavoring.

After we got home we started giving her runny egg yolks, mashing some banana or avocado for her and she came to expect those treats as part of her daily routine. I call them treats because she really only tasted small amounts. She was learning to chew and swallow something other than breast milk.

Well in the last two weeks, she would start to cry and get frustrated if we only gave her a little bit. So we started making her larger amounts. She still nurses as often as she ever did before, but now she also gets 2-3 “meals” in between nursings in addition. She has always been in the lower percentiles for weight (and the highest percentiles for height) so we are hoping this might bridge the gap a bit.

Since I want to develop her palate, I started to think about how I could give her variety, but also feed her during the day when we weren’t having a meal (so we couldn’t just feed her off our plates). I got a wonderful book Bébé Gourmet: 100 French-Inspired Baby Food Recipes For Raising an Adventurous Eater from a friend of mine before Alba was born and so I decided to start making some purees for her to enjoy throughout the day. Her pediatrician recommended meat as a first food, since the composition of meat is most similar to breast milk. She also advised against using any baby cereals because a baby’s gut is not totally developed until one year of age and that gut permeability can lead to health issues if a baby is not eating easily digestible foods like meat, egg yolks, vegetables and fruits. Apparently babies don’t have the enzymes to break down grains until they are over a year old! Plus rice for example has no real nutritional value, so why start your baby on a filler food when you can provide them with nutrient dense alternatives?

LiverandSweetPotatoPuree
(Liver and Sweet Potato Purees)

Alba is so enjoying her daily snacks. She eats a wide variety of things now: egg yolks, banana, avocado, ground beef, liver, bone broth, sweet potatoes, green peas and today for the first time, pears. She also enjoys drinking a little coconut water from time to time. We never have to fight with her to eat her little meals, she chows them down with gusto and she can really pack it away! She is definitely a foodie in the making. This process has all come together by taking her lead. I think that is why it has been so enjoyable for all of us instead of being rife with complaints or difficulty. Since becoming a mom I have already learned that things go so much easier when I don’t cling to certain ideas if they aren’t working for us. By letting go I have been able to enjoy her so much more than I would have constantly fighting to keep my pre-conceived notions intact.

Now that I am a mom, I might be adding some recipes to this blog from time to time featuring baby food recipes. My plan is to introduce her to a wide variety of nutrient dense foods and slowly start adding spices and flavors over time. When making baby food, rule number one, if it is something savory, don’t forget to add a little bit of flavor – a little salt and some herbs and spices! If you feed baby straight from your plate s/he would be getting these things anyway!

Today I made her a sweet potato puree with a pinch of salt and some turmeric and curry powder. Very small amounts, but enough that she can taste there is something complex going on there. I also made her a very tasty pear puree. I added some vanilla and cinnamon to it and it was so delicious that I wanted to eat the whole batch myself! It would be delicious stirred in yogurt or smeared on top of toast.

I gave her some of the fresh warm pear puree and she gobbled it right down. She absolutely loved it! She also tried the sweet potato. She wasn’t as excited about it, but I will try again later for her dinnertime snack.

I made small batches of these purees and using the great little BPA-free freezer trays from Mumi&Bubi it is easy to just pop a few out the night before, giving them time to thaw so she can enjoy them the next day,. I still haven’t figured out an easy way to warm them up for her yet, anyone have some suggestions?

Remember, always consult with your pediatrician regarding introducing solid foods to your baby and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.

What is your experience feeding your baby? Do you use Baby Led Weaning or some other practice all your own? What are your baby’s favorite foods?

PearPuree
(Pear Compote)

Pear Compote with Vanilla and Cinnamon
Adapted from Bébé Gourmet

INGREDIENTS:

3 pears, I used a combination of Anjou and Bosc
water
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract

METHOD: Wash and peel the pears, remove the cores, seeds and stem and cut u p into cubes. Place pear chunks into saucepan and cover the fruit halfway with water and bring to a boil. Cook the pears uncovered over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until they are very tender. Sprinkle with cinnamon and pour the vanilla in. Using an immersion blender blend everything together to desired consistency.

Makes about 10 1 oz. servings.

Experimental Scoops for #ElleAPalooza: Hard Cider and Plum Sherbet #ElleAPalooza #Scoopapalooza

Elles_Sorbet

 

#ElleAPalooza is an even that any blogger can join! This is our community’s way to remember a wonderful friend, mentor and blogger that passed out of our midst suddenly and sadly, Elle of Elle’s New England Kitchen. Foodies celebrate with food and we also grieve with food and that is what this event is all about, remembering our dear friend Elle in a way she would have loved, with food!

scoopa

Elle and her friend Heather from He Cooks, She Cooks started an event called #Scoopapalooza and I just found out there is also a facebook page. This is the inspiration for Scoopapalooza in their words: “The idea is to pick up a new, unusual, or super fresh ingredient from the farmers market, grocery store, or even your own garden–and incorporate it into an ice cream recipe. Because that is what summer is all about! Fresh ingredients and ice cream!”

Well it isn’t summer anymore, but I decided what better way to honor my friend’s memory than with making my own crazy concoction! I was going to go straight up and just make Elle’s amazing Woodchuck Cider Sorbet  but I didn’t feel that was really in the spirit of Scopapalooza! I needed to mix it up – do something different, bold and a little crazy. So I decided on making a sherbet, using yogurt and of course that key ingredient, Woodchuck’s Cider. I know, sounds weird, but that is what Scoopapalooza is all about, getting creative with ice cream!

Talking to Heather the other day and remarking on her Hard Apple Cider Cranberry Sorbet  and how the color looked like Elle’s hair, I knew I wanted to add a pink element to this creation. So I added some plums I had frozen over the summer. I think the plum and the apple go well together, their sweet and tart flavors, mixed with the yogurt is definitely a delicious combination. For extra sweetness and more pink I also added some Swedish lingonberry concentrate. The sherbet didn’t get as pink as I would have liked, but I am happy with the result.

I learned a valuable lesson too, while making the sherbet. I wanted to use some delicious jarred morello cherries in juice that I get from Trader Joe’s – for the sweet and for the pink. We don’t have a TJ’s near us so when I come across one in our travels I always get a jar of those cherries (more if we have lots of extra room). They are precious because I love them so much and they are so hard to come by. So I dole them out sparingly, trying to save them, make them last longer. Well I guess I let these wait a bit too long, when I opened the jar there was a fizzy sound, meaning the cherries had spoiled. So I had to throw half the jar away. Instead of enjoying the cherries while they were good and fresh. By hoarding them, I lost half the jar. Lesson learned was to enjoy things in the moment because you never know what tomorrow will bring. Enjoy life NOW. If Elle’s passing taught us anything it is that life is precious and way too short. Follow your dreams, do what you love, be passionate about what you do, or don’t do it. Live each moment in the fullness of your being.

I think Elle would have been proud of my experiment and the lessons learned in its making. I wish I could have a dish with her right now to celebrate the sweetness of life. I am sure she is making delicious ice cream and treats in the great beyond. I love you, Elle.

If you would like to join the food blogging community in supporting Elle’s family, please join Friends of Elle on facebook to learn more about the auction be held to benefit her family. It is also a place where you can share your thoughts about Elle and gather with friends old and new who all loved this beautiful woman.

Hard Cider and Plum Sherbet

INGREDIENTS:

2 c. plain yogurt
1 bottle Woodchuck’s Hard Cider (Elle’s Favorite!)
1 plum, cut in half and parboiled
4 TBS lingonberry concentrate (can also use black currant or pomegranate)

METHOD: Place all ingredients in a high powered blender, like a Vitamix. Blend until mixed thoroughly. Place in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions. I let my sherbet mix for about 25 minutes.

Stone Fruit Tart (grain and dairy free)

 

IMG_8159

I made this delicious and seasonal stone fruit tart a couple of weeks ago and I have been meaning to share it with you all!

My forays into the kitchen have slowed down a bit due to my protruding belly which has me bumping into things and being generally less graceful than usual, however when it comes to baking, I seem to be a bit more motivated it seems another thing that has come along with this pregnancy is a bit of a sweet tooth.

I have never been into really sweet desserts and I am still not, but I do find myself craving something sweet after dinner. Sometimes it is yogurt with fruit and honey or cajeta (goat’s milk caramel), sometimes-delicious organic whole fat ice cream or some other concoction I make in the kitchen, like this tart.

I found the tart crust and pastry cream filling on Pinterest. It is from DeliciouslyOrganic.net . Carrie made a strawberry tart, but with all the beautiful stone fruits in season, I decided to change it up a little. The result was wonderful. Using coconut sugar as the sweetener gave the pastry cream a bit of a caramelized flavor, which added some depth, and the crust was perfect – flaky and delicious. It held up to the cream nicely and it seemed like the flavors of the tart got better each day that it rested in the fridge in between servings!

Have fun with this recipe – use what fruits are in season and what you have on hand and you won’t be disappointed!

Stone Fruit Tart (adapted from Deliciously Organic)

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups almond flour
2 TBS coconut flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 tsp arrowroot
3/4 tsp sea salt
8 TBS unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

1 1/2 cups coconut milk
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup coconut sugar
3 TBS arrowroot powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 large plums, sliced thin
2 apricots, sliced thin
Handful of currants as garnish (optional)

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350ºF and adjust rack to middle position. Butter a 9-inch tart pan. Place almond flour, coconut flour, sugar, gelatin, arrowroot and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times to combine. Add butter and pulse 10 times to combine and then process until mixture forms dough. Press dough on bottom and up sides of tart pan.

Place tart pan on top of a baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until just turning golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes, then place tart crust in the refrigerator.

Pour the coconut milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, place the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using a whisk attachment, whisk mixture on medium-high for 3 minutes until very thick. Reduce speed to low and add arrowroot. Whisk until incorporated. With mixer on low, slowly (very slowly) add the hot coconut milk to the egg mixture.

When all of the coconut milk has been added, pour the coconut milk/egg mixture into the saucepan and heat over low heat. Whisk constantly until mixture forms a thick pudding. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, butter, and almond extract. Pour pastry cream into a large bowl. Place a piece of parchment paper directly on the pastry cream (this will prevent it from forming a skin). Chill for about 45 minutes.

Pour cooled pastry cream over the crust in the tart pan and spread evenly. Chill for about 3 hours. Place sliced stone fruits on top of pastry cream and serve. Serves 8

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.

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.