Friday, February 28, 2014

I've Moved!

Hi all! I would really appreciate it if you would hop on over and visit me at my new website:

Hope to see you there :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Blooming Brunch

Several weeks ago I attended my second photography course at the Santa Fe Workshops. The focus of the class was studio lighting, and while I decided that artificial lighting is quite technical and not something I want to focus on right now, I came out of the experience with a greater understanding of light in general. It is always surprising to discover how complicated this one aspect of photography can be and I feel as though I will never stop learning how I can better manipulate the light in a particular setting. 

While attending the workshop, I stayed in a room at a retreat center next to a monastery. It was so quiet- only the sound of the old furnace clanging away, a solitary bird's song just out the window and the muffled silent falling snow. For me, it seems like being alone is much more difficult in the winter. I think it is something to do with the fact that spending more time indoors contributes to the feeling of  isolation. But as the weather warms and I can open the windows and step right outside, being by myself doesn't bother me nearly as much.

Now spring has sprung and I have enjoyed seeing the arrival of new wildlife and blooming fruit trees. The sunny, temperate days have inspired me to cook with fresh and bright ingredients- juicy red strawberries, tart citrus, tender leafy greens like kale (perhaps one of my favorite foods of all) and crisp, colorful root vegetables. I can begin baking with fresh eggs again as our chickens lay more often, making sweet treats like shortbread dusted with powdered sugar. And there is no doubt I will use the new rabbit casserole every chance I get :) 

Kale and Tomato Strata (GF)
Serves about 8 

2 cups whole milk
8 large eggs
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound gluten free bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 8 cups)
2 bunches of dinosaur kale, chopped
8 Italian plum tomatoes

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, 2 cups Gruyere, cayenne, salt and pepper. Add the bread cubes and kale and toss to coat. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish, then top with tomatoes. Cover dish and refrigerate overnight.
The next day,  preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle strata with remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere and bake, uncovered, until golden brown and slightly set, about 45 minutes. Turn off the oven, but keep the strata in the oven for 10 minutes more before serving.

Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine

Shortbread with Grapefruit Curd and Strawberries (GF)
makes 12 shortbread "scones"

3 cups almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1 cup strawberries, hulled and cut in fourths
grapefruit curd
powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Whisk together almond flour and baking powder. Mix in the oil, honey, vanilla and eggs to create a soft dough. Dust a sheet of parchment with almond flour and roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 12 rounds and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Sandwich the shortbread with grapefruit curd and sliced strawberries. Dust with powdered sugar.

Recipe for shortbread "scones" from Theresa Cutter of Healthy Chef: Purely Delicious 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A St. Patrick's Day Inspired Meal

I'll have to admit that this time of March can often feel a bit discouraging as winter seems as though it will never come to an end. But this year, with the unreasonably warm weather, blooming apricot trees, irrigation ditches full of new water, green shoots peeking through the soil in the apple orchard and birds singing everywhere, spring is indeed in the air. 

With my Irish roots, I always feel at least in some part obligated to celebrate St. Patrick's day. Granted, the dishes that I am posting are not completely Irish, but they are inspired by the traditional cabbage and potatoes that we are so used to eating on St. Patrick's day here in America. 

I was very happy with the soda bread, which was quite believable as a non gluten free loaf. I used a recipe which I came across on Gluten Free Goddess- I am always satisfied with her recipes for baked goods. They are not too complicated and always turn out quite like their gluten containing cousins :) The salad was a great way to utilize the first of the tender spring peas. A slightly tart and sweet dressing of clementine and honey balanced the bitterness of the radicchio quite brilliantly. 

It is a family tradition to have a grasshopper pie on St. Patrick's day. Yes the recipe may not be the healthiest you have ever seen, but it is one that feels okay to make on the rare occasion. Coconut milk and Earth Balance are used in place of the cream and butter and the variation worked incredibly well. 

After being absent from my blog for quite a long time, it feels a little difficult coming back into it but I hope to return to share some great recipes and photography.

Spring Pea and Radicchio salad
serves 4

juice of 3 clementines
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper
1 small head radicchio, shredded
large handful snap peas, cut into thirds
1/2 cup spring peas
large handful baby pea shoots

In a small bowl whisk together the clementine juice, olive oil, shallot, honey and salt and pepper to taste. On 4 separate plates, arrange the radicchio, snap peas, peas and pea shoots. Drizzle each salad with dressing.

Potato Egg Bake with Herbs
Serves 8 to 10

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 1/2 pounds (6 large) russet potatoes, peeled
5 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup gluten free table crackers, finely crushed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine 4 teaspoons coarse salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Oil a 2 1/2 quart baking dish and sprinkle bottom with some salt and pepper mixture. Cut potatoes into 1/8 inch thick slices and arrange slices vertically in baking dish. Wedge in shallots and sprinkle herbs throughout. Brush with oil and place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Whisk together eggs, broth and remaining salt and pepper mixture in a medium bowl. Add cracker meal and stir to combine. Pour mixture evenly over potatoes, tapping baking sheet on the counter so that the mixture settles to bottom of baking dish. Cover with a piece of parchment, then with foil, and place in oven. Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and parchment, rotate baking sheet, and continue baking until potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 40 minutes more. Increase heat to broil and broil until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Garnish with more herbs and sea salt.

Recipe very slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living April 2013

Grasshopper Pie (GF)
serves 8 

25 gluten free chocolate cookies
1/2 cup Earth Balanace, melted
1 container vegan marshmallow fluff
1/4 cup creme de menthe
1 can full fat coconut milk
shaved chocolate

Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator and let sit overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pulse the chocolate cookies in a food processor until they are finely ground. Transfer crumbs to a bowl and stir in the Earth Balance. Press the cookie mixture into a 9 inch spring form pan. Bake for about 8 minutes, remove from oven and let cool. In a large bowl, whip together the marshmallow cream and creme de menthe until well combined. Take the can of coconut milk out of the refrigerator, scoop the opaque white from the top half of the can and transfer to a medium sized bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped coconut milk into the marshmallow mint mixture. Whip it together until smooth, then pour it into the pre-baked crust. Spread the filling evenly in the crust, then freeze the pie for at least 2 hours. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Winter Wonderland

Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Herbs
Tim and Tom
Valles Caldera

Usually by mid January I have had it with winter. Daydreams of warm, sunny, long, laying- in- the- grass- under- a- tree days are not far off. But this year, maybe because I am not in school or maybe just because I am willing time to go more slowly, I have a little more appreciation for the winter season in its entirety.

Last weekend, on a snowy cold Sunday, my family drove to The Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains. The preserve was initiated through a trust to preserve the historical and ecological nature of a huge heritage ranch nestled in the crater of a collapsed volcano. For a reason unbeknownst to me I had never previously been there- though I had heard of its reputation as an amazing place to hike, spot rare wildlife and enjoy meadows bursting with wildflowers in a relatively isolated location. I also had heard many a time about the sleigh rides that take place in the Caldera throughout the winter months and I was determined to go this year.  

And it was amazing. Despite it being freezing, it was quite unlike anything I had ever experienced. In New Mexico it is usually blue skies all the time (not a bad thing). But winding up the mountains, there was a misty surreal haze, with snowflakes gently falling onto the thickly carpeted white forest floor. 

We were greeted by the horse drawn wagon near a cluster of cabins only accompanied by a few silhouettes of pine trees in the vast whiteness. The sound of the jingling of silver bells as the horses trotted through the muffled silence of the falling snow was just how you would imagine. 

I am sure that most of you would agree that the best way to end a day of playing in the snow is to go inside and enjoy something toasty. Something like muffins fresh out of the oven and tomato soup made with tomatoes that have basked in the oven for hours mingling with herbs to become their tenderest, thickest, juiciest, tomato-iest version of themselves. The beautiful vermilion red soup and fluffy, half-cornbread-half-pumpkin bread muffins are sure to make the best winter days even better. 

Slow Roasted Tomato Soup

3 pounds Italian plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Ground coriander
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup flame raisins
2 to 3 cups vegetable broth

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Trim the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them in a bowl and toss with olive oil, then lay them face side up on the baking sheet. Sprinkle a pinch of coriander, salt and pepper over every 4 tomatoes.
2. Roast for about 3 to 4 hours until the tomatoes start to become wrinkled yet juicy in the middle. Sprinkle the fresh herbs and raisins over the tomatoes and continue to roast for about 1 hour. Remove from oven.
3. Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor with 1 cup of broth, to start. Add more broth, 1/2 cup at a time, whirring until the soup is smooth and desired consistency.

Pumpkin Corn Muffins (GF)
makes 12 muffins

1 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup gluten free cornmeal
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup warm almond milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
Pumpkin seeds

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, cornmeal, potato starch, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and cinnamon.
2. Beat in the eggs, canola oil, almond milk and pumpkin with a hand mixer. Spoon batter into muffin cups, smooth out the tops and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Bake for 20 minutes until domed and golden. Test doneness by pricking them with a toothpick.

Recipe slightly adapted from Karina's of Gluten Free Goddess

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Try the Unexpected

I really don't have an aim for this post other than to encourage you to try something new. I suppose this relates to cooking and life in general.

When I saw chioggia beets in the store I immediately knew I wanted to make a tart with a polenta crust, showcasing the vibrantly hued candy- striped vegetable. However, time got the best of me and I knew the beets would age more quickly than the time it would take me to scrap everything together and actually execute the tarts. 

I pondered if there was anything I could do with the beets in less than 10 minutes. They were sitting wearily in the refrigerator, limp and altogether not very promising on the outside. One was nearly crushed under the neck of a full bottle of wine, placed there days ago to prevent the wine from leaking out. The others were in nearly just as poor shape, deteriorating under bags of lemons and celery root. 

For the first time in a while, I was throwing together vegetables with no plan of what the outcome would be. I know, its just a salad, but I have become so used to meticulously planning dishes that I want to make.

The salad was fresh and beautiful. It also made me notice each ingredient. The beets were crisp, yet tender and very sweet. Its pretty amazing to think about how a root that originated on the rocky coasts of the Mediterranean, named after a fishing village in Italy, came to be in my refrigerator in New Mexico. I know I take for granted the access that I have to so many incredible varieties of food. 

My conclusion: try mixing things up a bit. Combine two items in your refrigerator that you never thought of combining or if you want to go bigger, change up your schedule. Try squeezing something in that you always wanted to do, but never thought you had time for. Check out One by One on the sidebar :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Valentine Black Forest Cake

When I was younger my family lived in a house just on the outskirts of downtown, so growing up I was used to a somewhat "urban" lifestyle. Since we didn't have much space to garden, the concept of being able to grow our own food was very new to me when we moved to the country. We did however have two large healthy fruit trees- one plum and one sour cherry- sandwiched between our house and our neighbor's. I remember how exciting it was to climb up the tall ladder to pick the cherries and bring them inside to bake a pie with my mom and brother, encasing the tart gems in a messily patched together lattice crust.

Ironically, when we moved to the country and had the intention of growing many fruit trees, we were actually much less successful than we were in the city. The condition of our current soil being packed clay makes it extremely difficult to grow anything. Of all our stunted fruit trees, only a single little sour cherry produces. So in the summer I watch the tree very carefully over a course of weeks, picking each cherry when it turns its ruby hue and freezing it.  Perhaps a little obsessive, I know, but I believe that a single one of these cherries cannot be wasted. 

I knew I had to wait for the perfect occasion to bake something staring the summer bounty. I believe that Valentine's day was a fitting one for a cherry studded sweet and decadent dessert, like a black forest cake.

The cake itself is deep, dark and chocolaty. It is completely gluten, grain, sugar and dairy free, yet retains a moist texture because of the almond flour and honey. If you do not have access to sour cherries, you can use frozen bing and add more lemon juice, like 1/4 cup, for extra brightness. 

With its intense layers of crumbly cake, snowy whipped mascarpone cream, and delectable ruby compote, this cake seems like it came right out of the forest in Germany for which it is named, a region renowned for its sour cherry trees.    

Dark Chocolate Almond Cake (GF)
makes two 6-inch round cakes

2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted
2 eggs
1 tbs. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 6 inch cake pans with nonstick spray and dust with cocoa powder. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the rest of the wet ingredients.
2. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into cake pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool completely in pans before removing and cutting.

Recipe slightly adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook via Comfy Tummy 

Sour Cherry Compote
makes enough for one 6-inch layered cake

2 cups sour cherries
1 cup bing cherries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
2. Pour cherries into a sieve and return juice to saucepan. Continue to simmer until it becomes a thick sauce. Take off the heat and mix in the cherries. 

Mascarpone Whipped Cream
makes enough for one 6-inch layered cake

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the mascarpone and powdered sugar together until smooth. Using a spatula, gently fold the sweetened  mascarpone into the whipped cream until fully incorporated. 

Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Assembling the Black Forest Cake 

1. When the cakes are cool, slice them in half. Place one half on a serving platter. Top with 1/2 of the sour cherry compote, then 1/3 of the mascarpone whipped cream. Repeat the laying process, using 3 halves of the cake and ending with the whipped cream. Top with fresh cherries, if desired. You can make mini cakes using the remaining cake half, or create an extra tall Black Forest cake.