Recipe Share: Almond Butter Maple Cookies

18 04 2011

Bit of a dry spell on the blog as of late. This weekend I finally had time to spend in the kitchen, besides whipping up easy soups for work, at least I got that far the previous two weeks.

I have been wanting to start a post called ‘Recipe Share’ for awhile. I have a beautiful recipe book that my dear friends put together for my wedding shower. Each guest wrote down a favourite recipe and it was pasted into the book. Since then this book has become my recipe-food-garden journal. I have recorded menus for meals we have hosted, garden plans and progress and recipes in it. I save a lot of what I do digitally, but there is something nostalgic about writing it down. My grandmother has an amazing recipe book that was her mothers, and I hope that I will be able to pass mine down to someone one day. How do you save your recipes?

Anyhow, my goal is to write about the recipes I try from the book, from friends and blog readers. Today’s Recipe Share is from my sweet friend Emily. She gave me this cookie recipe to try, and it is yummy. It made for the perfect dessert Sunday night. I have recorded the original recipe below with my comments of course, I can’t help but give alternatives and share what I did. If you are looking for a semi-healthful sweet, these are for you.

1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (I used 1/2 cup pastry and 1/2 cup spelt to up the wholeness)
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt (use sea salt if you got it)
1/2 cup Chopped Almonds (I used slivered almonds)
1/2 cup Almond Butter (unsweetened)
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil (I used 2 tbsp and try using a light olive or sunflower)
1 tsp Vanilla or Almond Extract (invest in good quality, not imitation, they’re full of chemicals)

  • Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients together (although, I mixed the almond butter right into the dry and then added the mixed wet). Mix the wet and dry. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Pre-heat over to 350 degrees. Remove dough from the fridge. Pinch off and roll into 1.5 inch balls, press lightly onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 10-14 min. I give this range because the recipe calls for 10, my oven 14 was better. 12 worked and they were a bit chewier in the middle. Makes about 16.
  • Thanks Emily!!!

Besides making cookies and a nice meal on Sunday, I gave my new favourite kitchen appliance a try, my Vitamix. Oh yes, this is the shizzz. I have been blending perfection into my green smoothies since I got it, not a kale or swiss chard lump in site. Sunday I made almond mylk for the first time using it, I was saying out loud, ‘unbelievable’. How smooth it was. The almond meal left over is flour. Not that my old blender didn’t do a good job, it’s just amazing the difference the appliance makes. If you haven’t invested in one, think about it. I finally felt justified to retire my eight year old blender Tony so sweetly bought me (and fixed half a dozen times) for my birthday when we first started dating (ah). Plus, I got the smaller four cup container thrown in, how could I resist!

I hope everyone is having a nice Monday…have a great week!

Eat well, Be well

Nat

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Bread Project: Halusky

5 03 2011

The Bread Project continues to be so enriching and fun. These ladies know so much about feeding ourselves. I am grateful for the lessons I learned in the kitchen from my mom, grandma and baba growing up. It was like injecting me with a food gene. We take so much for granted when it comes to cooking. How do we learn to cook? I imagine kids and adults today that haven’t been around food, how would they know what to do? Following a recipe is one thing but the details that are left out can be disastrous. For instance, when a recipe calls for a soup to be blended and you don’t have an immersion blender, you naturally use your blender. If you don’t know to put a towel in between the lid and the blender or keep the lid loose and not air tight, there will be an explosion from the trapped steam (been there, done that). Recipes don’t tell you these things. I do think this is a benefit to cooking shows (the real ones where they cook, like Julia Childs back in the day). Cooks on shows like this tell you the inside scoop on how to do things, what’s not written down. How else do you learn unless you grew up in a kitchen? We talked about kids at school, taking home ec classes. I don’t think it is the recipes that are as important as becoming comfortable with food, and confident enough to experiment. Just knowing how to mix flour with a liquid is a skill that goes a very long way. If home ec isn’t offered anymore in our schools, this is a real problem for the future. The Bread Project is looking at ways to bring these lessons to schools and kids programs in the city, good work to be done.

 

That’s why this project is so important. We need to pass these lessons onto families and kids so they not only feel a connection to their food but confident to experiment, learn and feed themselves. We made a soup, Halusky (pronounced hal-oo-shkee) the other week with Vera, she is of Russian descent. It was the flavours of my baba’s kitchen. It was so easy and probably cost all of a dollar to make, just like the other recipes we are making. I don’t use a lot of flour in my kitchen, and I know that these recipes originated from stone ground grains that were much healthier for you. Something I will experiment with, replacing the processed white flour with whole grain. However, making this with all purpose flour is just fine. Families spend so much on packaged foods, some flour and eggs can get you a long way, much more healthfully. This soup is like a blanket, comfort.

Halusky

2-3 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp baking powder (but not necessary)
1 medium russet potato
2 green onions (scallions)
1 tbsp butter

  • Bring a soup pot of water to boil, 6 cups
  • While the water comes to a boil, peel and dice the potato, finely slice green onions
  • Add potato, onions and butter to the boiling water, turn down to low boil
  • Whisk the eggs, salt, pepper and baking powder together in a bowl
  • Add the flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough is sticky and a bit runny. If it gets too thick you can add a bit of milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time
  • With a teaspoon, scoop and drop small amounts of the dough into the water
  • The noodles cook very quickly, once they rise to the top and puff up, a few minutes, the soup is done
  • Interesting tid bit, in Hungary they use a grater type thing to run the dough through over the hot water and call the noodles Nokedli (pronounced no-ked-lee). Instead of adding to soup, you strain them and make a gravy for them. I love that our cultures are so connected.

How did you learn to cook? I would love to hear your experience.

Eat well, be well,

Nat





Bread Project: Csiga Noodles

21 02 2011

This past week was an extra special Bread Project because my grandma Anne was sharing her recipe for Hungarian csiga noodles. Anne makes bread, lots of it, I have never had anything but homemade bread at her house my entire life (all 29 years :)). She makes the most amazing white and whole wheat bread the old fashion way. Kneading, letting it rise, kneading it again. It has a crusty outside and is best toasted in her toaster oven. It takes too long to make the bread with the Bread Project but sharing flour related recipes with the other members is just as important. The other thing that grandma has always made from scratch is noodles, a few different kinds, matched for the dish they are reserved for.

Csiga noodles, or csigateszta, are one of the finest of them all. Csiga (pronounced chee-ga) are a basic egg noodle, but with a very unique shape, a ridged spiral. Csiga in Hungarian means ‘snail’ and the csiga noodle has been traditionally linked to fertility. I am guessing that is the snail analogy??? Small squares of finely rolled dough are rolled into spirals on a specially grooved csiga board that are made from wood or even bamboo. Hungarian women roll csiga together or on their own, to add to chicken soup. This chicken csiga noodle soup is especially made for weddings. When doing research on csiga I found a few church and Hungarian groups in North America that meet weekly to make csiga. My grandma is a csiga-making-machine, but it takes a lot to feed a family, never mind a wedding! Growing up this is one of the many jobs we had in the kitchen as kids, rolling csiga. I hadn’t done it in many years, but it only took me a few minutes to get the hang of it again. One of the csiga boards that grandma has is over 100 years old, compared to the newest addition in her collection, ones that Tony made for her.

Noodle making is a lost art. Like pasta, it is so easy to make, inexpensive and goes a long way. While making csiga we talked about this and how far a dollar can go when it comes to food. A couple of eggs, cups of flour, water and a few extra moments can make noodles to feed an entire family. We spend so much on a package of noodles, literally and the expense and industry that goes into that package of noodles. I know it is a time thing but if we think about how much time we don’t spend preparing the most important part of our day, sustenance, it makes you realize how our priorities have shifted over the years. It is inevitable that food prices, quality and access will become an issue  in years to come. Peak oil, climate change etc will have an impact. Projects like this are critical to passing on a connection to our food to generations to come. Sounds dooms day I know. In the least, thinking about food and the ‘slow food movement’ that is making its way to mainstream, has so much benefit, to ourselves, our communities and will be a critical part of our healthful existence and survivability.

2 eggs
2-3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp water
pinch salt

  • In a bowl mix the eggs, water and salt with small parts of the flour until the dough is a soft but firm texture, not sticky. There might be flour left over. By using egg it keeps the dough together, if only water was used the noodles would fall apart in the water
  • Knead the dough for 15 min
  • Let the dough sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, covered
  • Pinch off a golf ball size piece of the dough, flatten out by hand into a thick disc, but no wider than what can fit into the noodle roller
  • Using the noodle roller, roll it thin, with each roll adjust the roller to be a bit thinner, until the dough is thin, but not translucent and flimsy. If it feels sticky, then wipe a small amount of flour on either side of the dough before rolling
  • Cut into 1.5 cm strips and then 1.5 cm squares
  • Using a csiga board, roll each square using the csiga stick, going from one corner of the square to the other, ensuring the end is pressed into the noodle well, or they will unravel in the water when boiling
  • Dry the csiga well, over night, by leaving them on a cloth. They will shrink when dry. Csiga will keep in a container for months
  • The same dough can be rolled through the roller to make longer thin or thicker soup noodles. As well, the same dough is rolled out thin and cut into a 1.5 cm diamonds and even smaller squares for different types of soups.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Bread Project: Bannock

13 02 2011

This past Tuesday at The Bread Project we made Bannock, actually frybread, a bread associated with our First Nations people of Canada. What I didn’t know is that Bannock was originally made from oats and originates from Scotland. The Scots being the first to farm wheat in Canada. Charlotte shared her mom’s recipe for bannock and the techniques her mom passed on to her. Watching her, I imagined the technique and basic ingredients on the plains of Alberta. We learned that as the bison became less plentiful and the First Nation’s people were made to stay on reserves, instead of following the herds of animals in their traditional nomadic lifestyles, bannock became a staple. A survival food. Made from the rations provided to them by the government.

There is so much we don’t understand about our First Nations people. Many Canadians easily place judgement on them and never go beyond the surface to ask why so many of them struggle in our society. We have made many displacing decisions in regards to the First Nations people in Canada. The reserves,  residential schools and policies that undermine their success. Although with many hectares of land, wheat farming and ranching is not a leading economy for many of them. Government policies have made it difficult for them to establish farming practices, lack of access to equipment and technology in years past as well.

This Bread Project day was well timed, I had just finished reading the book Bad Medicine: A Judge’s Struggle in a First Nations Community. Judge John Reilly is a Calgary judge that saw first hand the results of our poor decisions over the previous centuries. He spoke out while a judge and continues to share his opinions and case work to shift our thinking about our native Canadians. I highly recommend this book. As a Canadian I think it is imperative that we understand our nations first settlers. I myself have been ignorant to their plight and through understanding have gained much respect. It will take generations to turn the tide and I’d like to be of the generation that begins this shift.

Making Bannock is so easy, it’s ridiculous. Give it a try. I can’t wait to make it this summer and toast it over an open fire like I did when I went to camp as a kid.

 

 

 

 

 

6 cups all purpose flour (makes about 8-12)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp baking powder
3¼ cups of water
1/3 lb melted lard or vegetable shortening for frying (Carrie, of Cree descent in our Bread group, said she makes frybread using olive oil instead, I like this healthier version)

  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a mixing bowl, mix well
  • Make a large shallow well in the middle of the flour
  • Add the water to the well
  • Mixing with your hands, gently fold the dough over, taking flour from the edges, incorporating it until the dough is not sticky. There might be flour around the edges left, leave this, you can add more water after you use the dough up and make more
  • Tear off small balls of dough, like the size of a large plum, and gently tuck or fold into rounds, place them down in the bowl, continue this with the rest of the dough so you are left with dough rounds in the bowl
  • Let the dough rounds sit a few minutes to rise while you heat a deep fry pan with lard or vegetable shortening over medium-high heat
  • Flatten out the dough rounds to about 10-12 cm wide and about 1-2 cm thick.
  • Place the flattened dough rounds into the hot oil, they will puff up a little, when the edges are browned, flip them over.
  • Serve with jam, as a side to soup or with breakfast

Eat Well, Be Well

Nat





Walnut Kifli

22 12 2010

‘Kifli’ is a very common Hungarian yeast dough pastry, cut into triangles and rolled up into a crescent shape. There are savoury ones and sweet ones. I grew up with a sweet one made with a walnut filling. Kifli are a staple during the holidays and I recently made kifli with my grandma Ann. When I first got the recipe for kifli from her she explained the dough needed to rest in the fridge overnight. I thought, great, i’ll make the dough and come by the next day and learn how to roll the cookies. Before the plans were solidified she says to me ‘I think you should come here and make the dough, I don’t trust you’ll know how to do it right’. She was right (head hung). When it comes to cookies, these are a bit labour intensive, but once you get the hang of it, and are well supervised :), time flies. I’ll do my best to explain, but I agree that it takes practice, a trained eye and taste experience to know what is a ‘good’ dough, filling and end product.

***Warning, these are not my typical no sugar, whole grain treat. The experience of learning tradition and spending time with a grandparent is the treat. And besides, these are simple ingredients, low in sugar and considering the recipe will make 85-95 cookies…well, do the math, you’ll live if you eat a few of them.***

Dough:

  • 2 cups Regular Flour
  • 1 cup Pastry Flour
  • 1 – 1/4 cup regular Butter
  • I tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 Egg Yolks (save the whites for egg wash)
  • 1 package of Dry Yeast, dissolved in 1-2 tbsp of warm milk
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Sour Creme (buy a small 250 ml container)
  • 1 tsp Salt

Filling

  • 1 lb Walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Rinds of 2 Lemons, grated

Sift the flour and salt together (that sifter of grandmas is older than ME!). With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture. Mix the sour creme, yeast mixture, lemon juice and eggs together. Add the wet to the dry, mix with a spoon, folding over until it is blended. Then with your hands form it into a ball. On a floured surface, kneed a few times to incorporate all the ingredients, not too much or it toughens. Cut into two pieces, put in fridge over night.

For the filling, grind the walnuts, check out that old grinder. A food processor will work, but be careful not to pulverize them into powder, they need to be a course grind. Mix in grated lemon rind and sugar. The cookies call for the evil white sugar – now i’ll experiment with alternatives one day, but 1/2 cup of sugar for 85+ cookies, i’ll live. My grandma makes them low in sugar because her mother watched her sugar intake. Nice.

After the dough has sat in the fridge overnight, no longer than 12 hours, take out and let rest at room temperature for a couple of hours so you can roll it out. Roll out on a dusting of flour, turning and flipping over until dough is about 2mm in thickness? Cut into triangles 3.5″ across and about 45 degrees. Again, this isn’t going to be easy to explain here. Fill the base of the triangle with a spoon of filling, tuck the corners in a bit, roll, stuffing the filling as you go, brushing extra aside. Tip of triangle needs to be on the bottom of the roll so it doesn’t unravel while baking. Brush with egg white and bake for about 20 min in 375 degrees until golden brown. To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

That doesn’t do it justice but I don’t expect a pastry beginner to give this a shot. If you do, let me know how you do. By the way, and although she might not admit it in public, grandma said (sipping her tea and watching me) that my kifli were perfect, like i’d been doing it my whole life. Perfect. That’s right, must be in the genes.

Eat well and Be well over the holidays,

Nat