Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pecan pie with Maple-Brown Sugar Filling

I researched various pecan pie recipes and worried a bit over what I should put in mine. It seems that there were tales of doom for so many different pecan pie recipes…and I have tasted bad ones before and it is just sad!! 

 I could not decide if I should just use sugar, or use maple syrup or go with corn syrup, even with its bad reputation. I did not want it to be too bland (corn syrup alone) or too maple-y as much as I love maple, I wanted the pecans to be the stars. 
Since I could not seem to come to a decision, I just decided to use a bit of them all!!

I know that some of you will not want to use the light corn syrup but there is only a bit in here.  I believe it helps keep the sugar from crystallizing.  If you want to skip it try adding an extra TBSP of syrup and 2 TBSP of brown sugar.

You could use a pie crust purchased frozen or refrigerated but I will give you the recipe for super easy pie crust which you can make ahead!

Pecan pie with Maple-Brown Sugar Filling

      3 eggs, beaten
1 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
¼  cup light corn syrup
1/4-1/2  teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves or mixture of halves and pieces

      Prepared pie crust, you own* or  store bought variety ( recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350°

 In a large mixing  bowl or bowl to a mixer, combine melted butter, and brown sugar and blend well. Add beaten eggs, maple syrup, corn syrup, and vanilla. Blend well.

Stir in 3/4 of the pecans, reserving some nice looking pieces to place on top after the filling has been poured into pan.

If desired, keep pie crust from getting soggy by brushing with egg wash or egg and milk wash.
Place on a foil covered baking sheet and pour filling into pie shell. Top with reserved pecans in a circular pattern. 

Carefully put into oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until set, using a pie shield to protect crust edge if it gets too brown.  (You could prebake pie shell for 8 minutes if you desire but it is not really necessary with the egg white wash)

Let pie cool a bit before serving or serve at room temperature. It pairs nicely with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.  

No Fail Pie Crust*

3 1/3 cup unbleached  flour or pastry flour
1 1/2 c. butter flavor shortening, no transfat (Crisco)
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. very cold water
1 egg
1 tbsp. vinegar
Combine flour, shortening and salt. Mix well with pastry blender. Mix together water, vinegar and egg. Combine 2 mixtures and mix lightly with fork and/ or a wooden spoon. Separate into four pieces and roll into 4 balls. Place the dough you want to use right away in air tight covered container. Wrap the dough you will want to save for later in plastic wrap and store in a ziplock bag or airtight container.
 Refrigerate dough for at least 20-30 minutes then place on lightly floured surface or between two pieces of wax paper, plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Roll it out to the right size for you pan. You can use extra from another ball of dough if you pan is larger. Put into pie pan and trim. You max use an egg or egg and milk wash to give the crust a next exterior.
Note: This can be rolled out more than once or patched together and still comes out tender and flaky. Stores well in refrigerator for a couple weeks or freeze for a couple months .  Makes 2 smaller double crusts.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Stuffing with Onions, Celery and Sage

Thanksgiving Stuffing

One of my favorite thanksgiving dishes is the stuffing or dressing. But stuffing is one of those dishes that can be very different from one family’s table to the next.  While I love the way I make my stuffing I really dislike some of the stuffing that is served elsewhere. It is not that my recipe is better it is just that there is a big difference in personal preference in what people look for in stuffing. Turkey is more straightforward. Most other thanksgiving dishes can be very different and people sometimes cling to their cherished favorites with a vengeance. Stuffing can cause kitchen wars when various families come together to make thanksgiving dinner!!
The great debate—Do you like your stuffing moist and fluffy with a bit of a crisp on top OR very very  ?  I like the lighter stuffing that is never gummy or gray looking. But others think this kind of stuffing is “dry”. The key is the ratio of fat to liquid as well as how much liquid one adds. It can also be affected by ( gulp*_*) adding in giblets or other ingredients . Now as I said, this is all about personal preference, I am not trying to diss your family favorite. So I will share how to adjust this or any recipe to match your thanksgiving ideals.
In the following recipe, I use a good amount of butter and go easy on the broth until I see how much it will need. For lighter less gummy stuffing I look to butter to add moisture and just enough broth to hold it together.  This is the key to good stuffing around our table. 
But the amount of butter and broth must be adjusted to how you like your stuffing as well as how dry your bread crumbs are and other factors so taste and adjust as you cook! . Try making stuffing before Thanksgiving to see how you prefer it.

There is also a little test to help you determine what the finished product will be like.  Test it by taking a small spoonful of stuffing, just after adding broth and put it in your hand. Squeeze it lightly. For my favorite stuffing, it will stick together but just barely! So for fluffy and moist with a slightly crispy top ,the stuffing should hold together lightly yet still have noticeable texture and bread bits and not cling solidly together in a heavy ball.  If you like very moist stuffing, the spoon/ squeeze test results in a ball that really sticks together well like a dough. You may also be one who likes it drier, in which case you do not want it to just lightly stick together.

As I said, this is not my personal preference but if you like your stuffing super moist, you may add up to 2 ½ -2 ¾ cups or more broth but note that Too much broth makes stuffing gummy and heavy- beware! I believe adding more butter or even an egg is a better option for added moisture unless you are worried about the fat and calories, which is not as necessary for one holiday meal in my book!. However, some people like higher liquid content
I always bake my dressing /stuffing in a dish while the turkey rests after roasting. I never put this in the turkey, it is risky and I don’t even like it as much. Plus, I put aromatics like lemon, onion, celery and herbs inside the turkey while it is cooking. So this is technically called dressing I believe but most Americans still call it stuffingJ  

What kind of bread crumbs?

I have made this with various kinds of bread. I have used all store bought stuffing, not the cubed variety but the crumbed. I have used the cornbread varieties. You may like the cubed variety, especially if you are using extra broth. 
 I have made it with French or Italian bread or with corn bread, day old and then dried.  Most often, I mix it up with any variety of  these. 

Honestly, they are all good options and I think you should use whatever feels best to you. If you are making the whole meal for a bunch of people, store bought is your friend—it can be great! I used to cook a thanksgiving dinner for 300 so it was always store bought herb season classic stuffing all the way and they raved over it. Don’t make more work for yourself on a stressful day.

Still if you have time and want to use your own bread or corn bread that is an excellent option too. You can use a loaf or two of day old French bread or corn bread instead of store bought stuffing mix. Day old bread is better than fresh. Or use 1/2  store-bought mix and 1/2 freshly dried . . You would need about 7-9 cups of dried bread cubes. To dry fresh or day old bread cut 1/2 lb. loaf of French bread in 1/2" slices then cube into 1/2 " or smaller cubes. Dry in 250' oven for a couple hours, turning occasionally until brittle but not brown. Or toast dry, stale bread in 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.

I think the classic onion, celery and sage stuffing with some toasty nuts is delicious but there are other wonderful things to add-in.
I love the apple, sausage variation. You may add things like peeled, chopped apple, dried cranberries, sausage, chopped fennel,  fresh herbs- I usually add parsley.   Some people prefer to add a beaten egg to dressing. If you would like to add egg, you may reduce broth or even butter a bit.

Stuffing with Onions, Celery and Sage

Recipe by Denise Birdsall
Serves about 10  
  14 oz. store bought dressing or stuffing mix-not stove-top* or cubed bread or corn bread or any mixture (about 7-9 cups)
2/3 -   ¾  cup Butter (may use more or less as desired, see above note)
1 -1½  cup Onion, Chopped
1 -1½  cup Celery, Chopped
1/2 -¾ cup fresh parsley, flat leaf preferred , optional
2 tsp sage ( use less sage and more other  herbs if you don’t like sage)
1 tsp, Salt Free Herb Seasoning (such as poultry, or herbs d’provence)
  ½ +     Tsp. each Marjoram, Thyme -- Optional
   Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup chopped Pecans or Walnuts -- Optional
   2   cups  Reduced Sodium Chicken(or veggie ) Broth,  low-fat or homemade -- more if desired but beware too much broth makes a gummy paste stuffing!!! You can always add more broth after everything is mixed or even while baking but you cannot take it out! See the notes above.

    Heat butter in large pot and add onions. Cook 5 minutes. Add celery and spices. Cook 4 minutes. Add nuts. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Add broth and heat well. Remove from heat and add breadcrumbs and parsley. Mix well.
Taste and adjust seasonings. If stuffing is very dry add more butter or more broth.
Put into buttered pan and cover. Bake in 350 oven for 25-35,  until soft and fragrant. 375 degrees can work too, but only bake about 20-30 minutes.    May be uncovered for last 5- 10 minutes to get crisp on top.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cream Scones

This week I wanted to bake up scones that were light and simple with a delicate crisp exterior and a tender crumb.  I had a nice little jar of pumpkin butter and another of raspberry preserves so I wanted a make up a good vehicle to enjoy them. I am not such a big fan of the heavy, dry scone I sometimes encounter. These are light and moist because of the cream and the egg helps them to stay that way for a day or two. I have tried making scones with milk and with buttermilk but I think cream makes the best texture. There are many cream scone recipes on the web with slight variations. I think I will have to keep experimenting!!

Cream Scones 

2 cups (9 ounces) All Purpose Flour*
1 TBSP. baking powder
4 TBSP. sugar (may add an extra TBSP)
1/2 tsp. salt
4-5 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup heavy cream (may add an extra 1-2 TBSP)
1 egg slightly beaten
1 tsp. of vanilla
2 TBSP of sugar for sprinkling ( may use raw, Turbinado sugar, spices like cardamom or grated lemon peel)
Cream to brush on tops

* Unbleached Gold Meadow flour is a good choice as it is slightly lower in protein which keeps the scones tender. It is best to weigh the flour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the large bowl of a food processor add flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and very cold butter cut into pieces.  
Pulse several times for about 3-5 second intervals until everything resembles coarse meal. Or by hand, use a pastry cutter or two butter knives to cut butter into flour mixture until the butter is finely cut in and the mixture resembles a course meal.

In a large bowl blend in heavy cream, beaten egg, and vanilla. Add in flour mixture and gently mix by hand using wooden spoon until it forms a mass of mostly moistened dough then turn a few times with hands in the bowl until it is a uniformly mixed ball of dough.  

Flour a board and make 4 balls of dough.  Pat and flatten each ball to about  ¾ “ high in the center and slightly thinner towards edges. 
Brush with cream and sprinkle with a bit of raw or turbinado sugar ( or regular white sugar) and cardamom or other spice.
Cut each circle in quarters. You should have enough dough to make 4 circles and 16 scones.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a slipat. Bake for 12- 15 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove scones from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 16 small scones

Monday, April 21, 2014

Toasted Almond Torte with Ganache

           I love almond and dark chocolate together. I have a couple signature desserts that I have made hundreds of times for celebrations, Holidays, birthdays, weddings or other special meals. Dessert is not an everyday thing in my house but I do love it to finish off a special dinner.  

           Almond torte with ganache probably tops my list, along with lemon squares, carrot cake,  fruit crisps, pumpkin cake or various quick breads and cookies. I am not a great baker so I like to have a few recipes that I know will turn out. Almond torte is easy to make and turns out delicious and  lovely.   I usually will make one well known dessert and one first time, that way in case one does not turn out, I will still have my tried and true.

           That is what I did for our Easter lunch meal with my daughter's future "In-Laws".  Her fiancee's extended family has graciously included us in their holiday celebrations for more than a year. It is wonderful to be a part of this big and friendly family! 

              I have found that this torte is best made a day or two ahead of time. It gets moister and tastes even better. This cake is called a torte because it has more ground nuts than flour in it. While the chocolate goes great with this cake, it is also great with a simple glaze, a raspberry coulis or even plain. I think it is best with a complementary flavor but even plain it is not overpoweringly almond tasting. 

I have been making this so many years and changing it as I go but the idea for the plain almond cake came from a Sunset magazine 25 or 30 years ago. I am not sure how much I have altered the recipe but I want to let you know that a Sunset magazine back in the day was the original inspiration for this recipe!

Toasted Almond Torte with Ganache

1  cup   whole raw almonds, toasted       

   3/4  cup  Butter – Softened*
   3/4 cup sugar
  2   Large  eggs
  ½- 1  Tsp  almond extract
  1/2 Tsp vanilla extract
  3/4   cup  Flour

Chocolate Ganache
 1/3  Cup  Heavy Cream
  2/3  Cup+  Semisweet Chocolate, chopped  squares or chips if you must.  For deeper chocolate,  use a square or 2  unsweetened chocolate and the rest bittersweet
½ Tsp Vanilla Extract
Toasted sliced almonds for garnish 

*You may use softened coconut oil along with the butter. I used about a ½ c butter and ¼ cup coconut oil last time and it was great.

To toast almonds- You may use slivered almonds, sliced or blanched almonds if whole raw almonds are not available. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, watching carefully and stirring often, until golden inside. Cool

Grind almonds in a blender or food processor, about a ¼-1/3 cup at a time. Grind until almonds are meduimly ground, courser than flour but careful not to grind too long or they will become paste.. You may need to stir once.  

Preheat oven to 350 and butter or grease 8"-9" spring-form or cake pan, preferably with a removable bottom. Use parchment paper cut into a round to fit the bottom of your pan, especially if you are using cake pan without removable sides. 

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Add extracts. Either on lowest speed or by hand, gently fold in flour and ground almonds.

Scrape mixture in buttered parchment paper lined 8"-9" spring-form  or greased,lined cake pan.

BAKE at 350F for 20-25 minutes until center springs back slightly.  Cool 15 minutes. If using spring-form pan, remove sides and continue to cool . Once cool, flip onto plate and peel parchment paper.  If you did not use parchment paper, run a thin knife between pan bottom and cake and very carefully use spatula to remove cake to serving platter.

   To prepare chocolate glaze.   In a small saucepan on low heat, heat cream and add chocolate and blend.  Remove from heat and stir until melted. Blend in vanilla. Pour warm glaze over cooled torte, starting at the center and working out toward the edges.  Just smooth glaze with a rubber spatula to the edge of the torte, not down the sides. Sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds if desired. 

Refrigerate until glaze is set and serve at room temperature.   

Store cake in an airtight container. 

Variation: You may add 1 1/2 tsp. finely grated, chopped orange zest to batter with flour, If desired.
You may top with Chocolate ganache or if preferred, make a simple glaze of powdered sugar, almond extract and a bit of water or leave cake plain. If leaving cake plain, you can sprinkle with almond slices before baking.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Green Velvet Smoothie with Avocado, Pear and Spinach

  I love to make smoothies for a healthy meal or snack, don’t you?  I love the taste and texture of this green velvet smoothie as well the nutritional punch it packs! Green smoothies are a delicious way to add veggies along with fruit. 
While this creamy smoothie is thick, it is easily drinkable

           This one is the creamiest, silkiest smoothie I have had and it tastes awesome too—gently sweet and satisfying. A Green Velvet smoothie makes the perfect breakfast or lunch and it can be a filling snack as well but it probably has around 230 calories so be aware.  It has such an awesome blend of nutrient dense foods yet is feels like a decadent milk shake. I think having a green velvet smoothie as a meal a few times a week can help me stay on a healthy, weight loss plan because it is so satisfyingly filling with good fats and protein along with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants from the vegetables and fruit!

           I don’t usually think of following any recipe for smoothies, I just throw in some fruit and kale or spinach along with yogurt or protein powder.  But this combination is so incredibly wonderful that I had to write it down so I would remember! I just love the silky consistency lent by the creamy avocado, yogurt and pear. The spinach and avocado add a beautiful green color but don’t make it too vegetal tasting. To me it is smoothie perfection!

          Even so, the ingredients here are all suggested amounts and optional items. I think I may change this up at times including something like a tart apple instead of a pear along with some ginger root. Or I may try a refreshing addition of citrus such as lime juice or part of a lemon.  Or perhaps a sweeter version made with a frozen banana or a greener version with a leaf of kale and some mint and parsley. This could easily be made vegan and dairy free by skipping the yogurt and adding more avocado with a bit of sweetener and vanilla. The vegan protein shake mix helps with texture, taste and nutrition but it can be omitted. I think the main things that must be here to make a green velvet smoothie include avocado and spinach with some kind of fruit.

Green Velvet Smoothie with Avocado, Pear and Spinach

2 servings

2 1/2  -3 cups fresh spinach, washed
5-6 oz. Greek yogurt (2 % or non-fat) vanilla or plain with  ½ tsp vanilla
1 pear, peeled and cored
½ avocado large, peeled (more if desired)
1 scoop Vega protein smoothie powder, vanilla (vegan protein)
10 grapes, optional
1/2 cup or more water or almond/coconut milk
2/3 cup crushed ice, more or less as desired

Combine and blend all to smooth,velvety consistency. This can be made all together but I like to split the ingredients into two single serving cups to blend.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Crispy Granola with Clusters

     I have been practicing the art of fine granola making…playing with ingredients and textures, spices and sweeteners, nuts and fruits, grains and flours, temperatures and time… and I have found that there are many ways to make a great granola and perhaps different ideas on what is the best kind of granola.

     I know for me, I was looking for a granola that was lightly crispy- not a painful hard crunch nor a moist chewy texture but that delightful delicate crispy crunch. I love the texture of this recipe, which is created by the ratios and the temperature. Adding the fruit later means it will not harden into little pebbles.

     I like my granola to be sweet, although this recipe can be easily adapted to have less sweeteners and fruit. I want mine to be full of nuts with an impressive protein and nutrient ratio, which will mean there are more calories, so the calorie conscious may want to reduce the nuts in this.

   I really like having clusters of granola that can be eaten like a snack but I also like the bits that can go on top of yogurt, fruit or cereal. This recipe gives both because about half can be broken into clusters while the rest will naturally break into smaller spoon-able bits.

      I realize this recipe has many ingredients but it can be simplified. Let me explain some of the whys, as I understand them.

      I begin with grinding up some oats, almonds and flax seeds. Grinding them into a flour like consistency helps to cement the granola together a bit for clusters. You could skip the flax, but it is very nutritious so I hope you won’t. Almond meal adds both a binder and a bit of oil. If you do not have a blender or food processor you could buy flax seed meal, almond meal and substitute  1/3  whole wheat flour for the ground oats.

      Next I add two kinds of oats, and sometimes other things like buck wheat. Old fashion oats look nice and have a great texture; they can get crisp or add a little chew. Quick oats, not instant, are broken down so they help to bind and keep things from being too crunchy. In a pinch you could use just one or the other.   A little flour of some kind also helps with cluster making but can be omitted.  

    Next…spice in granola? Yes, I love cardamom in it best of all. Get it fresh and just let the fragrance of it in your baking granola drive the house crazy. Originally I was trying different mixes with various combos of spice and flavored oils along with fruits and nuts. Cardamom was added to a pistachio cherry blend but I liked it so well I began adding it to every batch and now I am hooked!

    For sweeteners, the maple and brown sugar really are kind of crucial. I think you can add honey instead of the maple syrup but I love the flavor of maple. Find a pure maple syrup and enjoy! You could use less sugar for sure, but again. I have a sweet tooth or two as does my family.

     For oils, you could use a half cup of anything but I really love the combo of coconut and olive oil. I think they are good for you and tasty, giving the granola its wonderful texture. I tried using a few TBSP of blood orange infused olive oil from We Olive in the mix and I have to say it was awesome!

   Extracts can be substituted or left out altogether, but I love the flavor!

   Using a pan liner is a very good idea. Pressing it all done as well as you can is great for cluster making. You could skip cutting and putting the pan back into the oven but again, it really does help.

   If you prefer big clusters, don’t add any fruit later. Just leave it in the oven for a bit longer, then let it cool for a longer time before cutting or breaking. If you want fruity granola, adding fruit later is best so it does not get overdone.

   All this to say, feel free to play with this recipe to find your own sweet granola! I am sure you will find willing test subjects to help you sample each batch and find the very best for you!

Crispy Granola with Clusters

For the blender or food processor:

½ cup oats, either old fashioned or quick cook

¼ cup flax seeds (or use premade ground flax seed meal)

1/3 cup almond slices or almond meal

Into the mixing bowl:

1 ½ cups old fashioned oats

1 ½ cups quick oats

¼ cup whole wheat flour or gluten free flour

¾ tsp. cardamom (If you don’t want cardamom, use cinnamon or other)

½-1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (Or cinnamon and ginger)

½ tsp. salt

½ cup sliced almonds

 ½-3/4  cup seeds, pumpkin or sunflower

1- 1 ½  cup other nuts—mix ½ cup each  2-3 of these or choose—pecans, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, brazil nuts, etc.

Optional nuts and seeds--½ cup shredded coconut, optional 1/4 cup sesame seeds optional

For the pan:
1/2 cup maple syrup

½ cup+ brown sugar (you can add a bit more if you like it sweeter)

¼-1/3  cup mild oil, olive oil is great, esp. orange infused olive

¼ cup coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract ( You may use half vanilla and half maple or other extract)

¾ cup chopped dates

OTHER OPTIONAL FRUIT TO ADD IN –1/2 cup of any-- dried cherries, cranberries, coconut chips or raisins

Line 9 x 15 ish pan with parchment paper or heavy duty foil

Heat oven to 300F

Using a blender or food processor, finely chop the ½ cup of oats, flax seeds, if using, and ¼ almonds until very finely chopped.

In large bowl mix together the oats, flax seeds, and almonds you just ground up along with the quick and old fashioned oats, flour, spices, nuts, seeds, optional coconut  but DO NOT ADD IN dried fruit, syrup, sugar, oils and extracts.

In small pan, heat syrup, sugar until smooth and bubbly. Lower heat and add oils. Mix well and cook for a minute. Add chopped dates and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and add extracts, if you are using them.

Pour over oat mixture and stir very well.

Turn out into  foil or  parchment paper lined pan and press into pan smoothly with the spoon.

Bake in 300F oven for 35-40 minutes or so, turning pan half way through if needed.

Note: If you are adding dried fruit Remove granola from oven after 20 minutes and after and press any dried fruit you are using into granola. Return to oven and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes until starting to crisp.

After granola has baked 35-40 minutes and is starting to get crisp and firm, remove from oven and let cool. Cut it up a bit or break up into clusters and leave them in pan or place them back in the pan and bake for another 5-10 minutes.

Let cool uncovered for a couple hours until completely cooled.

Maple Almond Granola Clusters

For those of you who love the clusters!


  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (I made my own. See below for easy instructions.)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/3 vegetable oil (or melted coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark, but light brown sugar will work too)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 300F. Line 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In large bowl, toss together oats, almond flour, whole wheat flour, slivered almonds and salt. Pour canola oil evenly over the mixture and stir.  Set aside.

Combine maple syrup and dark brown sugar in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.  Pour sugar/maple mixture over oat mixture and stir until everything begins to come together. Break up any lumps and make sure the wet ingredients are evenly coating the dry. The granola will be VERY sticky.

Press into prepared baking pan, flattening the top so it is perfectly even. I used the bottom of a spatula (sprayed with nonstick spray) to flatten down the top.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pan every 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for a couple minutes. Cut into squares and break up into smaller cluster pieces - the granola will be hot so be careful! Throw the clusters back into the baking pan and bake the clusters for 10 more minutes at 300F.

Remove from oven and let the clusters cool completely - make sure they are cooling uncovered because the air will help give them a nice crunch. Enjoy!

Homemade Almond Flour

  1. Pour 1/2 cup almonds into a food processor or blender. Pulse a few times until they are finely ground. Do not let it grind for too long or the nuts will release too much of their oils and get pasty (which is what you would want if you were making almond butter.)
  2. Once the nuts are ground, pass them through a sifter.  Any larger pieces that didn't make it through can be ground up again.

*1/2 cup of almonds = a little more than 1/2 cup almond flour.  Any leftover flour can be eaten - I threw mine into a smoothie!

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Kale, broccoli and cabbage salad with sweet poppy seed dressing

I love kale but have been a bit apprehensive about using it as the main ingredient in a salad. I sometimes add a leaf or two but I was nervous a larger amount of raw kale in salad would be bitter, as some had experienced. Well my worries, about that at least, are over!

I was on visit to my brother and sister in law’s a month or two ago and we had a wonderful salad there. She told me it was from Costco but since we don’t have a Costco store here I took a quick look at the salad ingredients and tried to remember them. I used of few of the same main ingredients here but did not have or could not remember all of them. So this is not quite the same but it is even better tasting to me.

I made a poppy seed dressing to go on it but you could use store bought dressing if you prefer. However, this dressing is incredibly good and I now make it often for all kinds of salads. It is so tasty people who don’t like salad will eat their greens up without complaint! I know it has a lot of honey/sugar in it but it really does help the kale and broccoli taste great. The olive oil is actually good for you! The key to using a dressing like this is not adding too much to your salad. Mix the dressing into the salad before serving and use just a small amount! It is a condiment not the star!

 I used a delicious  apple balsamic vinegar which was purchased on our trip to California at a We Olive store. What a great place to get authentic California olive oil and tasty vinegars. You can order this online from their website or find an olive oil store near you. But you can substitute a combination or cider and balsamic vinegars.

One more tip for a great salad- use the freshest and best quality kale, broccoli and cabbage you can find. Organic is great.  Older stuff that you have left in the fridge for several days after purchase are better cooked, if you are seeking a mild flavor!

Kale, broccoli and cabbage salad with sweet poppy seed dressing 

1 ½  cup  Kale, cut from  stem and cut into small bits-choose  Lacinato/Tuscan or curly kale
1 cup cabbage, finely shredded and chopped
1 cup broccoli stems, trimmed, peeled and cut into small julienne strips, use fresh stems.
1 cup spring mix, including chicory, chopped to same size as other greens. (You may also use a mix of romaine and chicory or any other lettuce, greens you want to try)
Optional- add one chopped or thinly sliced apple
Toppings:    Roasted pumpkin seeds, Slivered almonds, Dried Cranberries, and Golden raisins. Feel free to try other seeds, fruits and nut combinations. Use however much you want; I use about a 1/3 cup of each.
Light coating of Poppy seed dressing or other sweet dressing, recipe below

Prep everything and make poppy seed dressing. 10 minutes before serving, mix in a little poppy seed dressing  into large bowl of the salad ingredients.  Toss well. Add a bit more if needed but don’t overdo. This dressing makes more than you need for this salad and keeps well in the refrigerator.
Make topping then either sprinkle onto the top of the salad in a large bowl to serve or make up individual plates and garnish with topping. You may place topping ingredients in small bowls for people to add at table.
If you use a heartier lettuce like romaine you can save left overs for the next day lunch! The kale, cabbage and broccoli stems hold up well.

Poppy seed dressing
3-4 TBSP Apple balsamic vinegar,( if you cannot find this use 1 ½  TBSP balsamic and 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar. We Olive has an excellent Apple balsamic!)
1 TBSP white wine vinegar
3 TBSP  sugar or honey, more or less to taste
½ - 1 tsp. salt
 5 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1/3 cup mayonnaise, light with olive oil or other favorite mayonnaise

In a blender, mix vinegars, honey/sugar, and salt. Pour in olive oil slowly while blender is on low. Once emulsified together, add poppy seeds and mayonnaise. Taste and adjust to preference. This should have an intense flavor with a generous  sweetness to compliment the slightly bitter greens. This can be made several days ahead, Use leftovers in other salads such as plain spring mix with dried fruit and pecans or a coleslaw.