Crumbly Carrot and Rhubarb Muffins & Raspberry Chia Jam

Hi WordPress friends! I’ve been blogging over at Squarespace for about a year now and wanted to check in here to share my new blog URL and a link to a couple new seasonal recipes adapted from the My New Roots cookbook.  You can subscribe to Funky Beets by typing in your email on the right hand side bar of the site to get updates on what’s cooking in my kitchen. Check it all out at www.funkybeetsblog.com — thanks so much for your support!

In other news, I’ve been published! My food writing appeared in this Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Check out the link below to find the online version of my story on how to throw a laid back picnic party complete with light and tasty recipes to impress your friends without turning on the oven!

http://www.jsonline.com/features/parties/pick-fresh-light-dishes-for-perfect-picnic-party-fare-b99498244z1-304605071.htmlraspberry chia jam

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Sage, Arugula and Leek Omelette for Two (and one more CSA-inspired recipe!)

Happy first day of summer. I’ve issued myself a challenge: one blog entry per week showcasing the produce from our weekly CSA box. We’re two boxes in and I’ve yet to write a post about the awesomely fresh, local, organic veggies I’ve been cooking, eating and loving lately , so looks like this one’s gonna be a two-fer folks. These recipes will be more loose and versatile than others I’ve posted; they’re meant to inspire you to grab whatever’s fresh at the market and make from it something simple and delicious, that showcases the flavors of the season. Please interpret these with your own creative twist, and leave a comment about what you came up with, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s share some local love!

From some of the shining stars of our first box, which we conveniently pick up at the nearby Tosa farmer’s market every Saturday morning, I whipped up a tasty midday omelette filled with leeks, sage, baby arugula (not from the CSA ) and goat cheese.

sage, arugula and leek omelette

I’m no omelette pro, but the key to keeping it together seems to be touching the eggs as little as possible while they’re cooking. I’m sure they are plenty of excellent omelette-making tutorials on YouTube so I won’t go into great depth with the instructions.

Sage, Arugula and Leek Omelette for Two

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil (divided)
5 free range eggs (bonus if you can get them at the market)
salt to taste
1 tablespoon half and half (or whole milk, heavy cream, or coconut milk)
two handfuls baby arugula
about 8 sage leaves, chopped
1 small (spring) leek, sliced into half moons, rinsed
¼ cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled
fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

Heat ½ tablespoon of the butter or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted or oil runs loosely in the pan, add the leeks and stir until slightly softened. Next, add the arugula and sage, cooking until wilted. Turn off heat and remove mixture to a separate plate; cover with a bowl to keep warm. Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, and salt in a bowl. Add another ½ tablespoon of fat to the skillet.

When butter is melted or oil runs loosely in the pan, pour the eggs into it and swirl to cover the surface of the skillet. Let the eggs sit for a quick minute, until the bottom of the omelette is just firm. Then, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently peel back the cooked eggs and tilt the pan so the runny eggs run into the open space in the skillet. Continue this process maybe one or two more times until the eggs are mostly cooked but still soft.

Add the arugula mixture to the center of the omelette in a loose line, then sprinkle the filling with about half of the goat cheese. Carefully fold the omelette edges over the filling. Cover the skillet and cook for one more minute if you are concerned there may be some runny egg lurking.

Remove omelette from the skillet and serve topped with remaining goat cheese crumbles, pepper, and a sage garnish if you’re feelin’ fancy. Cut in two and enjoy with a loved one or save half for tomorrow’s lunch (cold omelette = delish).

sage, arugula and leek omelette

Week two’s box brought us strawberries, kale, leeks, radishes, asparagus, and more! Today, I whipped up a simple cooked salad of sautéed kale and asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and parmesan which we enjoyed alongside a rotisserie chicken and some good crusty bread (wine too).

fresh loca asparagus

Roasted Kale and Asparagus Salad with Nutmeg

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
1 bunch red Russian (or any other variety) kale, stems removed, leaves chopped
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan or other hard cheese
¼ cup pine nuts
salt, pepper to taste

sauteed kale and asparagus salad

Heat half of the oil in a large skillet, medium heat. Add the asparagus and sauté until bright green and still very crisp, about 4 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet. Add the chopped kale leaves and sauté until bright green and tender. Add the sun dried tomatoes, cooking minute or two longer. Remove skillet from heat and stir in parmesan and pine nuts. Salt and pepper to taste, add addition olive oil as desired.

In a large bowl or on a serving platter, first make a layer of the sautéed kale, then top with the asparagus, finishing with more parmesan and pine nuts for garnish.

Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

IMG_0454

Maple Vanilla Rhubarb Compote

‘Tis the season to find a random patch of rhubarb growing in your next door neighbor’s backyard. Don’t be shy; ask him if he plans to use it. If the answer is no, chop it down and make something that tastes precisely like the beginning of summer.
fresh picked rhubarb
I tend towards simpler preparations of rhubarb: the ones that let its tangy, uniquely rhubarbian flavor shine through. The stewed compote I made is scented with vanilla, orange zest, and a touch of cinnamon with just enough maple syrup to take off the pucker-inducing edge. You may like more sweetener, in which case, add it!

I like this compote best swirled into full fat, plain yogurt. The tanginess of both ingredients play well together, and the creaminess of the yogurt tempers the hint of bitterness in the ‘barb while playing up the sweeter notes of maple and spice. This morning I dolloped both on top of a steaming stack of coconut flour pancakes and declared a breakfast miracle worthy of sharing.
maple vanilla rhubarb compote
I didn’t want to be too greedy with the free rhubarb, so I only took about 6 stalks. This recipe could easily be doubled or tripled to accommodate a larger rhubarb haul.

Maple Vanilla Rhubarb Compote

makes about 2 small jelly jars full

Ingredients:

2 cups rhubarb stalks, rinsed and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
3 tablespoons maple syrup
zest and juice from 1 medium orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
dash of salt
summer fresh rhubarb
Method:

Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed skilled or saucepan. Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb begins to break down and become soft, about ten minutes. Taste compote and add more sweetener if desired.

Allow to cool slightly and pour into jars. Keep refrigerated for up to three weeks. Enjoy over pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, yogurt, ice cream or straight from the jar.
rhubarb compote on coconut pancakes
Lip-smacking summer goodness.

Syrian Sliha aka Nutty Pomegranate Wheat Berry Breakfast Bowl

I got this cookbook, see?

Grain Mains cookbook

And I’ve been browsing its pages over the past couple weeks, filling my head with visions of barley mac n’ cheese, polenta coffee cake, and quinoa date bread.  There has been a mini-miracle as well.  Do you ever have those quietly lovely internal celebrations when you read through an enticing recipe and realize you presently have every ingredient it calls for? I do. I did! And so I made this.

IMG_0054

The cookbook titles this recipe Syrian Sliha.  According to the authors, Sliha is a dish eaten by Damascus Jews to celebrate a baby’s first teething… interesting, no?  It wasn’t so much the name of the dish or its backstory that grabbed me, but the beautiful array of colors and textures boasted by the gorgeous full-page photograph.

…and the fact that I auspiciously had every last thing on the somewhat exotic ingredient list.

pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts

This grain salad of sorts brings some serious flavor to the breakfast table.  Its lead character is soft white wheat berries*, a varietal typically used to make one of my favorite flours: whole wheat pastry.

soft white wheat berries

Wheat berries are satisfyingly chewy and slightly sweet with a hint of nuttiness which echoes the toasty pistachios, pine nuts and walnuts. Then of course come the toasted fennel seeds, lacing the dish with a haze of anise, the shredded coconut, lending tropicalness and texture, and pomegranate arils: the perfect juicy-tangy foil for all those rich nuts. Cinnamon, maple syrup, and coarse salt round out the closest thing your taste buds may ever experience to a full-on breakfast rock symphony in surround sound.

Oh please, don’t let me forget the yogurt.  After everything I just said, this dish is nothing without a very generous dollop of whole milk yogurt atop its colorful peak.  I’m not kidding. If you don’t have access to yogurt, don’t even make this.  Sliha on, Wayne!

Syrian Sliha with yogurt

*Wheat berries are fully intact wheat kernels (aside from the inedible hull) and are the most unprocessed version of wheat you can buy in the supermarket. Wheat berries, like many whole grains, are an excellent source of fiber and B vitamins.  They also contain some healthy fats, yeehaw!  Because of their toughness, wheat berries typically work best when soaked before cooking.  Anywhere between 8 and 12 hours of soaking in lots of room temperature water should do the trick.  I like to soak and cook a big batch of grains on the weekend to help me through busy weeknight dinners.

Syrian Sliha aka Nutty Pomegranate Wheat Berry Breakfast Bowl

Note: I altered “Grain Mains’” recipe by reducing the amount of nuts by half (for calories’ and economy’s sake) while bumping up the coconut and pomegranate.  I chose maple syrup in place of white sugar and toasted the fennel seeds and added them at the end rather than boiling them with the wheat berries as the original recipe suggests.

Ingredients:

1 cup soft white wheat berries, soaked for 8-12 hours, drained and rinsed

2 Tbsp fennel seeds

½ cup shelled, unsalted pistachios

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup pomegranate seeds

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 Tbsp real maple syrup

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp coarse salt, like kosher

plenty of plain whole milk yogurt for topping

 Method:

1. Dump the soaked and drained wheat berries into a medium saucepan and cover grains by at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the grains are just tender, about 50 minutes. The wheat berries should barely dance in the water while cooking. Drain the grains in a small-holed colander.

2. While the wheat berries cook, combine the fennel seeds, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Toast the nuts and seeds, stirring occasionally and guarding them with a watchful eye and alert nose, until they are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Pour the wheat berries into a big bowl, maybe the same one you soaked them in. Then stir in the nuts, seeds, pomegranate arils, coconut, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. Let the Sliha come to room temperature before enjoying (with a giant dollop of plain whole milk yogurt, that is!) or “store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for breakfasts (or snacks) in the week to come.” –Grain Mains

Syrian Sliha with yogurt 2

Sliha with yogurt

Sliha beauty shot with yogurt, so good

Homemade Almond Milk and Almond Meal Thumbprint Cookies – plus Quinoa for Breakfast!

I love the fresh feeling that a new year swirls into life.  Even though I don’t have a laundry list of resolutions this go round, I’m laced with the desire to take small steps of self improvement.  One that’s been on my mind is increasing my self-sufficiency, becoming less reliant on convenience and ready-made products and more apt to make things myself or improvise with something I’ve already got.  It’s so easy for me to go to the store any time and buy most ANY thing I want or need, but what if I first comb through a few forgotten basement alternatives or YouTube how to fix the thing I already have, or gosh, even just hit up Goodwill before heading to Target?  I figure this could be good for my soul and my pocketbook.

Another small change I’d like to work on is generating less food waste.  This summer I read Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal which embraces economical cooking: not wasting the parts of food we tend to throw away.  I tried some of her tricks but then got a little lazy (and also tired of all the broccoli stems and cauliflower cores building up in my fridge), but I’m willing to try again with some New-Year-zaza energy!

The recipes that follow are manifestations of these two small changes: homemade almond milk to prove I can do it myself (without carageenan and potassium sorbate to boot!) and almond meal thumbprint cookies to showcase how delicious and worth keeping the “byproduct” of almond milk can be.  Then, in celebration of all our New Year clean-eating intentions, there’s a recipe for tummy-friendly quinoa breakfast porridge simmered with chocolate almond milk and topped with pecans and cinnamon.  Happy New Year.

freshly soaked almonds

Homemade Almond Milk

Ingredients: 

2 cups almonds

6 cups filtered water

pinch of salt

optional add-ins: cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, maple syrup

almond nuggets of joy

Method:

1. In a large bowl, cover almonds with 2 inches of water.  Let soak for 8-12 hours.

2. Drain and rinse almonds.

3. In a blender, combine 2 cups almonds and 6 cups filtered water. Blend on high speed for 3 minutes, or until almonds are completely pulverized and liquid is milky in color and consistency.  Add salt and any flavorings and blend on low until incorporated.

4. To strain almond milk, set a strainer over a large bowl or pitcher. Line strainer with cheesecloth.  Slowly pour the milk from the blender into the lined strainer, watching to make sure it doesn’t overflow.

5. Allow milk to drain for a minute or so.  Now, the fun part: gather cheesecloth ends to form a pouch, making sure the almond meal is totally enclosed in the cloth.  Next, with clean hands squeeze the pouch in all different spots, wringing out every last drop of milk.

6. Transfer your almond milk to an airtight container and store in the fridge.  Shake well before use.  It should last about a week!

*To utilize the leftover almond meal, heat your oven to 200°F.  Pour almond meal out of the cheesecloth onto a baking sheet with raised sides and spread it into an even layer.  Dry almond meal in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10.  Almond meal is done when fluffy and mostly dry but not crispy or sand-like.*

almond meal

Almond Meal Thumbprint Cookies 

makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup natural cane sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp almond extract

¼ tsp sea salt

almond meal from 3 cups almonds (~2 cups meal)

jam or preserves of choice (I used raspberry jam, because raspberry and almonds are the KimYe of baking, duh.)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine softened butter and sugar.  Whisk until light and fluffy.  Stir in the egg, vanilla, almond extract, and salt.  Add the almond meal and stir to combine, making sure there are no dry spots.

3. Gently roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place on your cookie sheet at least two inches apart. Make a “thumbprint” in the middle of each cookie.

4. Bake cookies for 9-10 minutes or until they’re just beginning to crack and brown slightly.

5. While cookies are still cooling, fill the thumbprints with about ½ – 1 teaspoon of jam.  Cool completely before serving.  I also made some without jam and they are almost as delicious.

almond meal cookies IMG_0746

Quinoa Breakfast Porridge

Ingredients:

½ cup quinoa, rinsed

¾ cup almond milk

¼ cup water

¼ tsp cardamom

½ tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

toppings of choice (see below)

Method:

1. In a small saucepan, combine quinoa, milk, water, spices and salt.

2. Bring mixture to a boil for a few seconds, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover, cooking for 15 minutes.

3. Turn off heat and allow quinoa to sit covered for another 15 minutes.  After sitting, remove pan lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.

4. Serve this quinoa porridge warm with more homemade almond milk poured over the top (chocolate almond milk preferred!).  Other yummy toppings include: chopped nuts, banana slices, maple syrup, and more cinnamon.

quinoa for breakfast

My Granola Brings All the Boys to the Yard.

And they’re like, it’s better than yours.
I could teach you, but I’d have to charge.

granola1

Nah, I’m just kidding. I won’t charge you for my awesome granola recipe.

I’ve been making my own granola for about as long as I’ve been cooking for myself. Cereal + milk is one of my most favorite comfort foods. It’s a meal or a snack or a midnight munchie. Unfortunately most cereal, even those posing as healthy, aren’t so great for us. They’re chock full of sugar, GMO corn and soy, and artificial colors and flavors, a few things I’d rather keep out of my body. (Unless of course it’s Halloween – then it all goes out the window for one night. Hello fun size pack of Skittles, blueberry Tootsie Pop and Reese’s peanut butter cup.)

I started making my own granola so I have could that satisfying bowl of sweet, milky, nutty, crunchy goodness at a moment’s notice. Since crafting my first batch, based off a recipe in Louisa Shafia’s “Lucid Food,” I’ve always just eyeballed my ingredients. Well, my pops recently “hired” me to make him big batches of granola to have at his office desk for healthy out-of-hand snacking. Score! Now it’s just a matter of slotting the time to churn out 4 pounds of granola every couple weeks. On behalf of this new “business agreement” I decided to finally measure my ingredients and write down the recipe. This helped me figure out cost as well as ensure a consistent product every time. And now, I get to share my “secret” method with you!

granola2

Ashleigh’s Granola

Ingredients:

4.5 cups oats
3 to 4 cups nuts and seeds, depending how nutty or seedy you are
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp coarse salt

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup canola or olive (non-virgin) oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extraxt
1/2 cup maple syrup

add-ins:
coconut flakes
chia or sesame seeds
dried fruit
chocolate, etc.!

granola3

Method:

Preheat your oven to 275ºF.

Mix the dry ingredients (oats, nuts, spices, salt) together in a large bowl.

In a small sauce pan, combine the wet ingredients (oils, extracts, maple syrup) and stir together over low heat.  Continue heating just until coconut oil is completely melted.

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir well until all the oats are moistened.  If the some of the oats are still a little dry, add a bit more olive oil or maple syrup to the mixture.

Distribute the granola onto two parchment-lined baking sheets (with raised edges is best) and spread evenly.

Bake at 275ºF for 15 minutes, remove the pans and stir the granola well. Return granola to the oven, rotating the pan positions.

Bake another 15 minutes (30 min total so far).  Remove the pans and add about a tablespoon of olive or melted coconut oil to each of the pans of granola. Stir in chia or sesame seeds, shredded coconut or other non-meltable mix-ins.

Bake 5-10 minutes more depending on how the browning is coming along. (35-40 min total bake time)

Remove granola from oven and place on cooling racks until totally cool.  Mix in any chocolate, etc. at this point.

Store your beautiful homemade granola in an airtight container and enjoy for up to a month, if it lasts that long.

granola4

Ashleigh's Granola Label

Three Seed Nutty Date Trail Bars

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Nutty Date Trail Bars

This weekend, there’s a camping trip on the calendar.  We’re headed to Buckhorn Lake State Park and this soul just can’t wait to sprawl out in the woods.  I’ll be hitting the trails with three amazing people and there’s going to be a great deal of delicious food.  My darling friend Chetney, a fellow dietetics student and a killer cook (who also blogs over at http://czesiaeats.blogspot.com/), and her husband Marc will be tenting alongside Brandon and I.  (camp food recipe series to come!)

Amid buzzing from task to task in preparation for the trip, I baked some hearty, nutty, just-sweet-enough trail bars to keep up our energy as we leg along the paths, float in the lake, or crush PBR cans by firelight.

This recipe is a slight modification of the “almond date breakfast bars” I found in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I used spelt flour in place of whole wheat, sunflower seed butter rather than almond butter, added flax, chia and sunflower seeds and vanilla extract in place of half the almond extract.  Thank you, Deb for the excellent recipe.

If you have any road trips or epic hikes in your future, or just lots of busy mornings, I highly recommend baking up a batch of these angels.  According to The Smitten Kitchen, they freeze well too, so make a double batch while you’re at it.

I like to get most of the ingredients in these bars in the bulk section of a natural foods or well-stocked grocery store.  It’s cheaper, uses less packaging and I find the staples like oats and wheat germ are always really fresh.

Three Seed Nutty Date Trail Bars

makes 32  two-inch square bars

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups chopped dried pitted dates

2 1/2 quick rolled oats

6 Tbsp whole spelt flour

2/3 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup cashew halves and pieces

1/4  cup flax seeds

2 Tbsp chia seeds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 tsp table salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup sunflower seed butter

1/2 cup olive or coconut oil

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp honey

1/4 tsp freshly grated orange zest

1/4 tsp almond extract

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat your lovin’ oven to 350 F. Line an 9×13 glass (preferably) or metal pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang off the end on two sides.  Or, if you have no parchment paper like moi, grease the pan generously with fat of choice.

Use your clean hands to combine the dates, oats, flour, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  The dates like to stick together in clusters, much like teenagers, but they must be convinced to venture out on their own into the world of oats and nuts, so break them up with your fingers and ignore the comments about how they’re never talking to you again.

In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the sunbutter, olive oil, honey, orange zest, and almond and vanilla extracts until smooth. Pour the wet over the dry ingredients, and muscularly stir them together with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients no longer dry.

nutty date trail bars2

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then use some plastic wrap or your clean hands to smush the mixture firmly onto the bottom, edges, and corners of the pan.

Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are light brown around the edges. They’ll still seem soft in the center but don’t fret – they’ll firm up nicely once completely cool.

Let the bars cool in their pan on a cooling rack.

Once cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares (or rectangles if you wish). If you start cutting the bars, and they begin to crumble, put them in the fridge for an hour or two and try again.  If this doesn’t work, congratulations, you just made some awesome granola.

nutty date trails bars3trails bars all bagged up

Happy trails.  ❤