Gaga over Tahini

Mornings can be hectic. There are days when I am lucky to get out the door wearing matching shoes—let along eat anything.  It’s at those times in particular I know I must grab something to eat along the way—and hopefully it’s beneficial.

Here’s my latest solution to eating on the run. It’s not designed as a meal replacement; it’s a tasty energy booster with food value that keeps me going until real food surfaces.

tahini bites

These wholesome raw bites are jet fueled morsels of sweet dates, toasted oatmeal, and my current fascination, tahini.  Since I’ve gotten pretty gaga over tahini, I thought it best to do a little more research—and was amazed at its nutritional value.

Call it a seed butter, in that tahini is made from roasted sesame seeds which give it a high oil content. In a 2-tablespoon serving, this powerhouse contains 178 calories, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams carbohydrates and 5 grams of protein; with no sugar and 3 grams of fiber.

What that means, is tahini is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats known to lower harmful cholesterol levels, as well as lower the risk of heart disease and strokes. It is rich in thiamine (30% of daily requirement), magnesium (24%), phosphorous (22%), iron (14%), and calcium (12% daily requirement). Tahini’s list of benefits goes on.   It naturally helps lower blood pressure, aids in bone health and arthritic issues.

Yes, moderation is important, but in a full recipe of 20 or more Tahini Date Bites, only 1/3 cup of tahini is used. These are so satisfying that two or three sweet bites will certainly get the job done. I’m fortified, and ready to go the distance.

 Tahini Date Bites

Few ingredients and simple to make, these hold well and improve with age.  Suggested variations are noted.

Ingredients
1 cup Medjool dates (var include 2 Tbsp candied ginger), seed and chop well
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1-3/4 cup oats, (var part almonds or other nuts) toasted
Finishing options
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (var pinch cinnamon)
1 tablespoon matcha tea powder
¼ cup raw coconut flakes
½ cup diced pistachio/pumpkin seed blend

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl combine the dates, tahini, honey, vanilla and salt.
  2. Stir in the oats, it will be sticky.
  3. Divide into approximately 20 portions and shape into 1” rolls.
  4. Allow to chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to set.
  5. To finish, dust tops finish as desired. Yield: about 20.

Friday Night Special

There are times when admittedly, my meals are a little wacky.  They can be downright self- indulgent and make little sense to others.  Especially on Friday nights.

It’s the end of the official work week and it’s time to relax. There are no rules!  My refrigerator looks deranged with a mere mishmash of odds and ends and pathetic leftovers. Since I will likely do a grocery shop over the weekend, I resist a stop—and prefer to pass on fast foods.

In my experience, there’s always a pizza in the works. Like another stand-by, the taco, a few toppings can become a full meal.  To that end, I like to stock at least one pan-size portion of pizza dough in the freezer. It easily defrosts in the microwave and is ready to go in no time. Occasionally, I have even stashed a pre-baked crust in the freezer. It’s a matter of gathering up a few compatible toppings and tucking it all in the oven for a quick bake.

That was the situation this past Friday night, between Christmas and New Year’s. Thanks to the holidays, my fridge was ripe pickings for fabulous toppings. No pathetic odds and ends here; I had a little hard Spanish chorizo, a collection of fontina and other cheeses, pasilla peppers, sweet onion, Greek dried olives and — fresh green tomatillos.

Tomatillo Sauce 1Whatever.  I treated the 8 tomatillos as if they were treasured San Marzano tomatoes. I removed their husks, chopped them up, and made a fast sauce with onion, garlic, jalapeno, oregano. I simmered it briefly, then ran the immersion blender through it until thick and cohesive. The results: a light, bright sauce worthy of this splendid occasion.

Turns out, the sparkling sauce brought all of these disparate characters together.

The final topping was another gift that kept on giving, too.  I had a little cheese mixture left from making stuffed mushrooms earlier in the week: a combination of shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, green onion, garlic, herbs and Panko. These amazing bread crumbs kept the stuffing light, absorbed moisture, and allowed for a beautifully browned top. Who knew it would one day end up on my pizza?

20171229_194857

It’s another Friday Night Special…  and that’s the way it goes.

Friday Night Pizza

Ingredients
1 pizza crust
Tomatillo Sauce
2 tablespoon olive oil
½ onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, partially seed, chop
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
8 fresh tomatillos, husk and chop
½ teaspoon.dried thyme (or Herbes de Provence if available)
½ cup chicken bouillon
Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings
1 pasilla pepper, seed and cut into strips
½ cup hard Spanish chorizo, cut up
½ smoked ham chunks (if available)
½ sweet onion, cut into strips
A handful of dried Greek olives, or other
1 handful shredded fontina cheese
1 cup cheese combo: mozzarella, parmesan, green onion, garlic and @ ¼ cup Panko
Dried oregano

Instructions

  1. For Tomatillo Sauce: in saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté the onion until soft. Add the pepper and stir, then the garlic and allow to cook until aromatic.  Add the dried herbs, then stir in the chopped tomatillos.  Just barely cover with chicken bouillon and allow to simmer until thick, about 7 minutes.  With immersion blender, whirl until the sauce is thick, cohesive and still has texture.
  2. Prebake pizza crust at 425° in lower 1/3 of oven to set, about 7 minutes.
  3. To assemble: cover the crust with a coating of some of the sauce. Top with a layer of green pepper, then the meat selection, the onion, olives, and cheese.
  4. Sprinkle with dried oregano and bake another 12 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Cut into portions and serve hot.  Serves 2.

 

A Chocolate Chip Cookie, à la minute

Here’s a cheap thrill to remember when the snack shelf is bare and you are in deep need of a little personal indulgence.  There’s nothing like your own rich, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie, à la minute, for a boost of comfort and happiness.

That’s right, it’s another microwave steal.  Grab an oven proof cup, mix up a few basic staples (of course, that would include chocolate chips), and pop it into the microwave for maybe a minute.

The trick here is in not over baking.  After about 45 seconds the batter will look bubbly and raised, but certainly not set and firm.  No matter.  Take it out,  let it rest for 5 minutes, and it will solidify into the familiar cookie we all love.

This is not a bake ahead item.  Enjoy it warm straight out of the cup or pop it out and have at it.  Of course, a scoop or two of ice cream is an obvious consideration…

A Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie

Inspired by One Bowl Baking, Yvonne Ruperti

Ingredients
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Pinch baking soda
1 tablespoon bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Spread a dab of butter on the bottom and sides of an oven proof cup or mug.
  2. Place the brown sugar, butter, salt, water and vanilla in mug and give it a good stir.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda and chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the cup.
  4. Microwave on high, just until the dough puffs, bubbles form, and it doesn’t look wet—about 45 seconds, depending on oven.
  5. Remove from the microwave and let rest for 5 minutes, until set. Enjoy while warm.  Yield:  1 serving.

A Lovely Bunch of Radishes, Part 2

Anyone who has had a radish right out of the garden knows that a radish needs very little else; maybe a little salt to emphasize its flavor, but it’s hard to improve on perfection.  Perhaps strange to Americans, the French love their radishes with butter.

Here’s a variation on a tea sandwich that bumps that idea up a little bit more.  Use a good firm bread such as a baguette, rye, or pumpernickel sliced fairly thin—this is merely a platform for the radish.  Make a quick herb butter and spread it across the top of each bread slice.Baguette_herb butter

Layer on thinly sliced radishes and sprinkle with a few radish sprout leaves or more fresh herbs. Leave them open faced to enjoy the radish’s simple beauty, or top with a second slice of buttered bread for enclosed sandwiches.  Either way, just looking at them is enough to cause your fingers to travel in their direction!Radish teas

Serve anywhere you would enjoy bread with a hit of healthful crunch: with soup, salad, as a snack with drinks, or straight out of the garden.

Radish and Herb Butter Sandwiches

Ingredients
10   slices firm bread, such as baguette, rye, or pumpernickel
6     radishes, thinly sliced
Sprout leaves for garnish
Sea salt
Herb Butter
3         tablespoons butter, room temperature
2         teaspoon parsley
1/2      teaspoon thyme, minced
1/4      teaspoon lemon juice
1/4      teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  1. Prepare the herb butter:  combine butter with herbs, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt to taste.
  2.  Slice the radishes thinly.
  3. To assemble: spread the top of each bread slice with herb butter.  Layer with radishes, top with sprouts if available.   Serve with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Super Bowl and… Buffalo Wings!

Chicken wings aren’t something I thing about eating very often, but I dearly love them.  They are one of those foods that I always link with good times, like the Super Bowl.

I love chewing on the tips and bones until there is absolutely nothing left. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy wings with the wing tips included… Such was the case when I set out to purchase wings for Super Bowl snacking and had to settle on just drummies. They are still good, but just not the same. Cooking wings can be a greasy mess, so I try and keep the process as simple as possible.  Here’s my Buffalo wings solution.Wings(640x480) I brine the wings overnight and precook them ahead. When ready to eat, it’s a simple matter of gathering everything together and finishing them on the grill or in a hot oven. The most important trick to their success is to saturate them well with wing sauce while they are as hot as possible. It soaks in and does not make them soggy.wing plate

I especially like homemade blue cheese dressing with the wings, but any will work. It is the perfect balance with their hot spiciness, as well as an excellent dip with crunchy celery and broccoli. With just a few vegetables thrown in, somehow we can believe we are eating healthy.

For an add-on, serve these with the smashed creamer potatoes mentioned in the previous blog entry.  Enjoy, because it wouldn’t be Super Bowl without wings.

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Ingredients
2 lbs. chicken wings, or more, cut at elbow; rinsed well
2 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
water to cover
Wing Sauce
1 part butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 parts favorite hot sauce
soy sauce, to taste
vinegar, optional

Directions

  1. In a sealable container or zip lock bag, combine the salt and enough warm water to dissolve, add the garlic and water to cool.  Add the wings and water to cover.  Let stand overnight in brine.  The next day, drain and air dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 450° and line baking sheet with foil.  Precook the wings for 30-45 minutes until they begin to color. Set aside until ready to finish.
  3. For sauce, melt the butter, add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes, add the hot sauce and adjust flavors with a bit of soy sauce and vinegar.  Set aside until ready to finish.
  4. Finish the wings on the grill or in 450°oven for approximately 15-20 minutes, until well browned and crisp, turning as needed. While hot, toss the wings with sauce and serve.
    Traditionally served with celery stick and other fresh vegetables and blue cheese dressing.   Serves 6.

Super Bowl Creamer Potatoes, Locally Sourced

If you have had a chance to shop mega supermarkets in other states, then you have experienced the buying power these large chains wield: Publix in Florida or HEB in Texas, for example. Prices may be low, but since their distribution networks are constantly working in mind-boggling quantities, they rely on the largest producers to grow and deliver the goods.

At a mega market, meeting the person that grew your herbs or picked your carrots is like winning the lottery. But even in sprawling metro areas, that possibility does exist when you seek out local markets with local connections and farmers’ markets where growers stand behind the food they grow.

baby carrots (640x450) Roths produce

As with farm stands in more rural areas, you can meet and talk with the real faces actively involved in the growing process. They are committed and they know that a happy customer will return.

The same is true with small batch bakers, artisans, craftsmen, and local markets vested in supporting local growers.   In Oregon, we are fortunate to have a reliable group of independent grocers who make it their business to know and support local producers. There are many, but in the mid-Willamette Valley, Roth’s has been taking care of their neighbors since 1962.

A recent find at our neighborhood market: colorful creamer potatoes.

fresh creamers, rosemarysmashers(640x480)
Available pretty much year round, red, purple, and white creamer potatoes are young immature potatoes averaging about 1″ in diameter. They are thin skinned with a high moisture content yielding flesh with creamy texture and flavor.

Just in time for Super Bowl 50, these smashed creamers were a big hit:  informal individual bites, perfect companion to chicken wings and other hearty snacks. Dab a little blue cheese dressing on top, if you’ve included it!

Smashed Creamer Potatoes

Inspired by from Sarah Copeland’s Feast

Ingredients
1 lb. purple, red and/or white creamer potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh fresh rosemary
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thickly

Directions

  1. Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water to cover; bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook until tender when poked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain and let the potatoes cool, then pat dry and toss lightly with olive oil.  On a cutting board, flatten with a chef’s knife or small flat pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Move the potatoes to a lightly oiled baking sheet and drizzle with more olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, fresh rosemary and garlic. Roast at 450° for 20-25 minutes, turning with spatula after 10 minutes.  Serves 3-4