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Almond Date Bars

These are really tasty bars for a breakfast or a snack. They are not too sweet–more like a granola bar than a dessert. The original recipe called for honey, but I decided to try them with some date syrup I needed to use up, and I liked them even better that way.

almond date bar

2 cups (about 300g) dried pitted dates, chopped

2 1/2 cups quick cooking rolled oats

6 Tbsp whole wheat flour

2/3 cup wheat germ

1 cup sliced almonds

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup almond butter (I measure out 130g, or just over 1/2 cup, of almonds and turn them into almond butter in the food processor)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup date syrup or honey

1/2 tsp freshly grated orange zest

1/2 tsp almond extract

Mix the dates, oats, flour, wheat germ, sliced almonds, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix together the almond butter, oil, syrup, orange zest and almond extract. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until they are evenly mixed.

Line a 9 x 13 baking pan completely with parchment paper so that there is parchment hanging over the edges to use to lift out the bars (use 2 pieces if needed). I used clothespins to hold the parchment in place on the pan while I filled it. Spread the batter in the pan and press it down firmly with a piece of plastic wrap.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until browned around the edges. Cool in the pan and cut into squares when completely cooled. Wrap individually or in packs of two and store in the freezer (they don’t take long to thaw), or in an airtight container.

(Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)

Casatiello (Brioche with Salami and Cheese)

This has got to be one of the richest, tastiest loaves of bread I’ve ever made. You can toast it, or pack it for a picnic instead of sandwiches (the meat and cheese are already built into the bread!).  On the one hand, I’d like to make this again tomorrow, but on the other hand, I know I shouldn’t. I think I need a rich bread rotation…casatiello one year, pulla the next, etc.

Anyway, this is delicious and very much worth making.  There are quite a few options for ingredients. I used hard salami, gruyere cheese, and buttermilk, but you can use other meats and cheeses and regular milk too. You can also cut the butter by half if you want, and just add a little extra milk if needed (I did not try that).

casatiello

Sponge:

1/2 cup bread flour

1 Tbsp instant yeast

1 cup whole milk or buttermilk, lukewarm (90 – 100 degrees F)

Dough:

4 oz. dry-cured salami, or other flavorful meat (pepperoni, crumbled bacon, pancetta, crisped chorizo, Italian sausage, or even smoked tofu cut into bits), diced in small cubes

3 1/2 cups bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup (6 oz.) coarsely grated or shredded gruyere, cheddar, provolone, or gouda (or other similar cheese – avoid mozzarella or jack, or parmesan or other hard cheeses, unless using a combination of hard and soft cheeses)

First, make the sponge by stirring together the flour and yeast, then whisking in the milk. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for an hour. It should be foamy.

Saute the cubes of salami or other meat until slightly crispy, and set aside to cool.

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and sponge and mix until all the ingredients form a coarse ball. Mix for about 1 min. (by hand or using a paddle attachment in an electric mixer on low speed), adding a little water or milk if there is loose flour.  Let the dough rest for 10 min.

Divide the butter into 4 pieces. Work the butter into the dough one piece at a time, stirring vigorously or mixing on medium speed.

Keep mixing the dough until it forms a smooth, tacky dough, about 12 minutes. If using a mixer, scrape down the bowl and switch to a dough hook after 4 min. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl. Add a little more flour if needed. (If mixing by hand, keep your hands floured as you knead the dough.)

Once the dough is smooth, add the meat and mix or knead it in, then gently mix in the cheese. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. Place the ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl and roll it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If you want to bake it the next day, put it in the fridge immediately. If you want to bake it the same day, let the dough rise at room temperature for 90 min, or until it has more than doubled in size.

Oil an 8-inch round cake pan, or 1 large loaf pan, or 2 smaller loaf pans. Lightly flour your hands and the dough and shape the loaf (or loaves) and place in the prepared pan(s). Mist the top of the dough with oil and cover. Let sit for 60-90 min. The dough should just be at the top of the pan.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the lower third of the oven. Bake for 20 min, rotate the pans and bake for another 20-30 min, or until the center of the bread reaches 185 – 190 degrees F. Remove the bread from the pan to a cooling rack. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing.

When the bread has cooled completely, you can wrap some slices and put them in the freezer to save for later.  It just might make your day to find them a few weeks after you thought the bread was all gone.

toasted casatiello

(Recipe adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)

 

Apple Dip – Four Ways

We have so many apples right now, and most of them are honey crisp, so they aren’t good for baking. I thought some fruit dip would be nice since we are eating so many apple slices. I couldn’t decide which one to make, so I made four different flavors of cream cheese-based dips to see which I liked best. All of them were good, but I think the first one is my favorite (and it’s the simplest). I didn’t try it with the toffee chips, but I’m sure it would be even better.

apples and dip

Clockwise from top left: Taffy Apple Dip, Pumpkin Dip, Maple Fruit Dip, Peanut Butter Dip.

Taffy Apple Dip:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

(optional- 1 bag of toffee chips)

Mix ingredients until smooth. Add toffee chips just before serving.

Maple Fruit Dip:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp maple syrup

Beat all ingredients together until smooth. (I found it easier to use an electric mixer for this one.)

Pumpkin Dip:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

2 tsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Beat all ingredients together until smooth. (I used an electric mixer for this as well.)

Peanut Butter Dip:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

Mix all ingredients until well blended.

(Recipes from Fix-it and Enjoy-it! 5-Ingredient Recipes by Phyllis Pellman Good)

Mom’s Chili

This is a fairly sweet chili, with just a little bit of spiciness. I use the medium hot chili powder from the Spice House. If you have a milder chili powder, or like your chili spicier, add some cayenne powder.

chili

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 (28oz) can tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can pork and beans
1 ½ Tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp chilli sauce (or ketchup)
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Brown meat and crumble with fork. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour, or put it in the slow cooker for several hours. Serve with sour cream.

Dilly Beans

I’ve done quite a bit of canning so far this summer. Last weekend it was three kinds of salsa (tomatillo, spicy tomato, and basic tomato), as well as yellow tomato jam (which tasted like honey), marinara sauce, and peaches. Earlier this summer I canned wild raspberry jam, currant jelly, blueberry butter, roasted peach butter, pickled watermelon rind, grainy white wine mustard, and dilly beans!

jars of food

And we’re still working on eating up batches of orange marmalade, vanilla rhubarb earl gray jam, cherry wine jelly, herbes de province wine jelly, and pear butter from earlier this year. I finally had to dedicate a shelf just to canning jars because they were taking over the bookshelves.

canning shelf

I’m posting the dilly bean recipe today because I know I will want to make this one again–they are delicious!

2 pounds green beans (trimmed so they fit in the jars)

2 1/2 cups white vinegar

1/4 cup pickling salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

4 tsp dill seed

4 garlic cloves, peeled

Prepare 4 pint jars and their lids for a boiling water bath. Combine the vinegar, 2 1/2 cups water, and pickling salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Pack the beans into the clean, hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 garlic clove, and 1 tsp dill seeds to each jar. Pour the hot brine over the beans in each jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Use a chopstick to dislodge bubbles and check the headspace again. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 5 min. Let sit 5 min before removing, then let sit undisturbed on the counter for 12-24 hours. Remove the rims, wipe the jars, and let cure 2 weeks before eating.

(Recipe from Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan)

Poached Baby Vegetables with Caper Mayonnaise

This was part of our main course for our recent Picnic Contest. I picked this recipe because it was kind of rustic looking with the vegetables not trimmed too much, and I thought it would go with our theme.  But I was surprised at how tasty it was. I would make this again. Just add a rotisserie chicken and you’ve got a nice meal!

chicken, veggies, and hand pies

Poaching liquid:

2 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 cup olive oil

2/3 cup lemon juice

2 bay leaves

1 small onion, cut in half

2 celery stalks

1 tsp salt

Vegetables: 

1 bunch small carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise

8 baby zucchini, cut in halves or quarters lengthwise

4 baby fennel, cut lengthwise

asparagus, baby leeks, baby turnips, green beans, or other baby vegetables

Mayonnaise: (measurements are approximate – adjust to taste)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (store bought or homemade)

2-3 Tbsp finely chopped capers

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

zest and juice of 1 lemon (or less–it may not need that much juice)

small garlic clove, pressed

salt to taste

Prepare the vegetables, washing them thoroughly but not trimming off all the ends of the stalks/leaves. Cut them in pieces that are roughly similar in size for even cooking.

Make the poaching liquid: Boil the wine for 2-3 min. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Add longer cooking vegetables such as carrots, fennel, and turnips first. After about 3 minutes, add zucchini, asparagus, leeks, green beans and cook for another 3-4 minutes. The vegetables should be cooked but still a bit crunchy.

poaching the vegetables

Serve the vegetables with some of the poaching liquid spooned over top and a dollop of mayonnaise (and maybe some chicken too). You could serve it warm, but it’s also good cold/room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Cheesy Zucchini Bake on Rye Toasts

Besides the zucchini we receive in our CSA box each week, we also got a 3.5 lb + zucchini the other day from a friend. I haven’t run out of zucchini ideas yet, but I may be getting a little closer. This one is a nice change from zucchini bread and sauteed or grilled zucchini. I had a loaf of this bread in the freezer that I needed to use up and it was very good with the warm zucchini mixture spooned on top.  It was also good on the plain pizza crust I baked when I ran out of sauce and cheese, and would be good on crackers or other kinds of bread.

zucchini bake and rye bread

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

bread or crackers for serving

Toss zucchini and salt in a bowl; let stand 1 hour. Rinse, drain, and press out excess liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients to an 8×8-inch baking dish. Stir in the zucchini and mix well. Bake at 375 degrees F until bubbly, 15-20 min. Serve warm with bread or crackers.

(Recipe adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce. 3rd Ed.)

Chocolate Banana Bran Muffins

I saw this recipe in an advertisement for All-Bran cereal in a magazine. I already have a banana bran muffin recipe that I like, and so I thought I should try this chocolate (actually, double chocolate) version. It’s very good!  The original recipe called for 1/3 cup chocolate chips, but I doubled that amount. I also substituted about half the milk for buttermilk, so don’t think it matters which kind of milk you use.

In other muffin news, I recently tried parchment paper muffin tin liners and they work great. It’s easier to get them off the muffins than regular paper liners.

chocolate banana bran muffins

1 1/4 cups All-Bran cereal

3/4 cup milk

1 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 large ripe bananas, mashed, with 12 slices reserved for topping

2/3 cup chocolate chips

Combine cereal and milk in a medium bowl and let soften for a few minutes while mixing other ingredients. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Before mashing the bananas, reserve 12 slices of banana to top the muffins. Beat egg, oil, and mashed banana into the cereal mixture. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and scoop into a paper-lined or greased muffin pan. The batter will fill the cups to the top. Top each muffin with a reserved banana slice.

Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until they test done.

Slush

Slush is a frozen punch that my grandma used to make when I was a kid. It’s a lot like making granita, but then you add 7-up or Sprite to a glass full of the frozen bits and serve it with a straw and a spork. Or a spoon, which is all I have, but a spork would be more fun.  How often do you get to use a spork?!

slush

4 black tea bags (I used decaf Red Rose)

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 can frozen orange juice concentrate

1 can frozen lemonade concentrate

26 oz. rum, vodka, or gin (optional)–I prefer it without…the way I remember it

7-up or Sprite, for serving

Combine 2 cups water and tea bags. Bring to a boil and set aside to cool. Remove tea bags when tea is dark. Boil 7 cups water and sugar. Cool and then combine with tea mixture. Add orange juice and lemonade concentrates. Stir in 26 oz. rum, if using.  Freeze mixture. It is easier to scoop if you stir it a few times with a fork while the mixture is freezing.

To serve, fill each glass 3/4 full with slush and then fill with 7-up or Sprite. Add a straw and spork/spoon.

Spicy Sesame Green Beans

This recipe came with our batch of beans from the CSA last week, and it is my new favorite way to eat green beans (or purple beans, but they turn green when you cook them). It’s pretty spicy, so reduce the red pepper flakes to just a pinch if you don’t want it very hot!  The beans are cooked just enough so they stay nice and crisp.

I’m not giving up Maple Mustard Green Beans as an out-of-season bean recipe, but this is great for when the beans are nice and fresh. I also think that these beans would be delicious in sushi.

sesame green beans

1 1/2 lb green beans, washed and trimmed
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or less)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
coarse salt to taste

Steam green beans covered in 1/2 inch boiling water for 2 minutes.  Transfer beans to a colander and run under cold water.  Drain and then dry them well on a clean dish towel. (Any water will cause the oil to splatter all over.)

Heat skillet over high or medium-high heat, add cooking oil, sesame oil and crushed pepper flakes.  The pan will smoke.  Add beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and coarse salt.