Today is the two year mark for my blog. I celebrated with some dog walking at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (I volunteer weekly), a salmon burger and romaine salad, rowing at the gym, and then some blueberries, strawberries, and mango with yogurt and All Bran (which really was quite good). Here’s to another year!



Chocolate Almond Biscotti

September 2, 2012

When I was younger, I didn’t really appreciate biscotti. I always thought of them as ‘the disappointing cookie’ (kind of like oatmeal raisin, when compared to chocolate chip). But then one day I decided to give them another try, and found that I actually really like them. And of course they’re perfect with coffee (one of my big passions!)

A while ago a friend of mine mentioned that she had a biscotti recipe, and told me about the double-baking process used to make them. Before that I hadn’t ever thought about how they were made, but that sounded intriguing. So I decided I needed to make some biscotti. I was having trouble deciding on what flavor to make, though. Should I do citrus? Something with nuts or dried fruit? Given that when I was ready to start, I still hadn’t made a decision, I went with the default — chocolate.

I glanced at a few recipes for a baseline, and then just started throwing stuff in. I went with some really good ground cocoa (Dagoba), almond and vanilla extract, and just a touch of espresso powder. I used a smaller amount of fat than most recipes called for, and supplemented with a bit of applesauce. As with most of my baked goods, I replaced a large amount of the sugar with erythritol to cut down on calories. The baking process wasn’t too difficult – they took a lot longer to ‘dry’ in the second baking than all the recipes I looked at, but they eventually did. And the taste? TURBO chocolatey!

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

makes about 20

1+3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c erythritol
1/4 c sugar
3 T olive oil
3 T apple sauce
5 T cocoa powder
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp espresso powder
1 egg + 2 egg whites

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil, and spray well with cooking spray.

In one bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In another bowl mix together the erythritol, sugar, olive oil and applesauce. Add the cocoa powder, almond extract, vanilla extract, and espresso powder. Next add the egg and egg whites. Gradually add the flour mixture (in about 3 batches), combining well.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti Dough

Chocolate Almond Biscotti Dough (really more of a dough/batter hybrid)

Divide the dough in half, rinse your hands in cold water and just shake (but not dry) them off. Form two skinny loaves between 2-3 inches wide and about 12 inches long. (The dough will spread a bit as it bakes.)

Biscotti Loaf Ready for First Bake

Biscotti Loaf Ready for First Bake (No, not very attractive at this point, but keep going – it’s worth it!)

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until it has the consistency of a loaf of bread (just a tiny bit of give when you touch the top).

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. As soon as you remove the biscotti, decrease the oven temperature to 275.

Sliced Biscotti Loaves

Sliced Biscotti Loaves

Slice each loaf diagonally with a serrated knife into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Wipe the aluminum foil with a paper towel to get rid of excess cooking spray, then arrange the slices on the baking sheets, and bake until the biscotti are dry. (Most recipes I looked at online indicated this would take about 8-10 minutes. But it seriously took a full 30 minutes for mine to be *mostly* dry). Remove from oven, and cool on a baking rack.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Nutritional Information:
per biscotti: 73 cals, 2.7 g fat, 2 g fiber

Last week Niwot restaurant Colterra graciously (and deliciously) hosted several local food bloggers other food media people for a talk about the restaurant, as well as several delectable small plates. Colterra has long been a favorite of mine in Boulder County, but gained even more esteem points after I had the chance to find out a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes.

Executive Chef Michael Drazsnzak spoke extensively about the philosophy espoused by both Colterra and Salt (both created by chef Bradford Heap), their relationship with local farmers, and the wonderful dishes that were provided for us to sample. The restaurants strive to provide food that is local, healthy, sustainable, and promotes humane animal husbandry. Recycling and composting are both near and dear to my heart, so more points were scored with me when I heard that Colterra has only one trash can-sized container for landfill, but multiple containers for recycling and composting.

I’m always thrilled to see restaurants sourcing their food from local farms and ranches, and Colterra definitely makes this a high priority. They acquire produce and meat from Full Circle Farms, Dooley Farms, Munson Farms and Long Family Farms (to name just a few), as well as from the small garden spread around the Colterra property. They have recently partnered up with a farmer to raise eight Berkshire hogs, contributing edible compost from the restaurant for feed. I love that! Another thing that impressed me was the fact that they visit the farmers quite frequently, allowing them to get an idea of what is growing and will be ready to harvest soon, so that they can plan new menu items.

The Patio at Colterra in Niwot, CO

On the Patio at Colterra in Niwot, CO

Now on to the lovely small plates we sampled. The first was Pork Rillettes (a dish similar to pâté) and quick pickled cucumbers with a bit of mint, on toasted bread and a bed of lettuce. The Rillettes was wonderfully rich, and perfectly complemented by the light, fresh pickled cucumbers. (As Chef Drazsnzak described the process of making the Rillettes, talking about the addition of butter, bacon fat, and extra-virgin olive oil, I had a quick mental image of my posterior expanding, but that didn’t stop me from finishing both pieces! All part of splurging one night a week, and eating healthier at home the rest of the week.)

Salad with Pork Rillettes and Quick Pickled Cucumbers on Toast

Salad with Pork Rillettes and Quick Pickled Cucumbers on Toast (You can barely see the Rillettes, but trust me, it was delicious!)

As good as the Rillettes was, the second course was actually my favorite. This was a salad made of local organic tomatoes and fried bread with sweet corn and green beans. Add to that some olive oil, wonderfully vibrant aged balsamic and a bit of basil, and I was really blown away by the clean, fresh, gorgeous flavors. This kind of dish really underscores how locally harvested produce can elevate food to new levels, because it’s packed with so much more flavor.

Tomato and Fried Bread Salad with Sweet Corn and Green Beans

Tomato and Fried Bread Salad with Sweet Corn and Green Beans

The final dish was a melon salad with prosciutto, mint, and peashoots. The cantaloupe and honeydew were local, and the prosciutto even counted as more local than most, hailing from La Quercia, makers of artisan cured meats, in Iowa. La Quercia (translated as ‘The Oak’) was the first to bring the tradition of acorn-fed pigs to the United States with their ‘Acorn Edition’ meats. Completely delicious!

Melon Salad with Prosciutto

Melon Salad with Prosciutto

In addition to providing wonderful food at both Colterra and Salt, the Bradford Heap Restaurants brand also does catering, as well as offering cooking classes. I think I may just have to attend one of their classes in the near future!

I had been wanting to make some crackers for a while, since I haven’t done so for years and years, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Then last week, while I was chopping fresh rosemary for a fish rub during a cooking class at the Boulder Sur la Table, the fragrant smell overtook me and I thought ‘I need to bake bread. No – crackers!’ So I went out, bought some rosemary, and set about making some.

I love to make crackers with some kind of cheese for extra flavor, so I took a look at our cheese supplies, and determined that the pecorino romano would probably go best with rosemary. I decided to use a bit of olive oil, and to use milk instead of water for a richer taste. I really wasn’t sure how much rosemary to use, since it can be somewhat overwhelming, especially in dried form, but I threw in a tablespoon of minced leaves, and it worked just fine.

This was a bit of an unusual result for my making up a recipe for baked goods. Normally I have to tweak whatever it is I’ve done several times before I’m really happy with it. But these actually turned out great the first time! I think crackers, being so simple, are pretty forgiving. All you have to do to make these is mix the ingredients together, roll the dough out and cut it into pieces, and bake it with one break in the middle to brush with oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. So simple! Which is fortunate, because they’re so delicious, they end up disappearing in just a few days. On to the next batch!

I used some gorgeous Black Lava Hawaii Kai’s Palm Island Sea Salt from the Savory Spice Shop for the top of these, but you could use any coarse salt.

A bunch of white ingredients that don't photograph well

A bunch of white ingredients that don’t photograph well

Rosemary Pecorino-Romano Crackers
makes about 25 crackers

1+1/2 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/2 oz finely grated pecorino romano (or parmesan**)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1/3 + 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp olive oil for brushing
coarse salt for sprinkling

*I bake with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour, since it has more fiber than regular white flour. You should be able to use all white flour or a combination of white and wheat without any problems.

** Really any strong-flavored hard cheese will do. Omit the rosemary or use a different herb that goes well with whatever flavor you choose.

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients as well as 1/3 cup milk, and mix well. Add the additional 1/4 cup milk as needed, one Tbsp at a time, to form a very stiff dough (I used all 4 Tbsp).

Stiff Cracker Dough

Stiff Cracker Dough

Roll out the dough on a very floured surface (flipping the dough over a few times as you roll it, so that you can re-flour the surface as needed), to about 1/8 inch thickness (or a bit thinner if you’d like). Cut into squares 2 to 3 inches on a side. Place on two baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray.

Crackers ready for baking

Crackers ready for baking

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then take the pans out, brush lightly with the 1 tsp of olive oil (more if you need it), and sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt. Return to the oven, and bake until crispy, about 15 more minutes (but check every 5 minutes!). Remove the crackers and cool on a rack.

Finished Crackers - YUM!

Finished Crackers – YUM!

Nutritional Information
(per cracker, 25 crackers per recipe, and made with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour): 41 cals, 1.6 g fat, 0.7 g fiber

For other great baking recipes, check out the Love to Bake Global Carnival on The Family Feed!

Hurrah, Fava!

June 28, 2012

Fava beans made an appearance at the Boulder Farmers’ Market last weekend, so naturally I snagged some from Red Wagon Farm. Last year I made a great fava bean pesto, as well as a dish with favas, couscous, mushrooms, and potatoes. But this year I discovered something even better (and to my surprise, much simpler to make!).

I decided to use the fava beans in some kind of sauce on the Garlic Chive Pappardelle I picked up from Pappardelle’s. I did some searching online to check out what flavors went well with favas and was intrigued by a purée made with cream. Of course there was no way I would be using cream in my recipe (way too much fat), but what about Greek yogurt? A few more searches turned up some hits, plus mentions of pecorino cheese, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, and Moroccan spices.

I found myself going back and forth on which of the above to use, and not really making much progress, so I figured I would just start by puréeing the favas, and add stuff until it tasted good. So I put my favas in the processor with a bit of yogurt and some chicken stock, and puréed it. I added just a bit of salt and…Oh, My! Wow. It tasted incredible. Really? That was all that was needed? Fantastic! Granted fava beans are a bit laborious to prepare themselves, but for this result they were very well worth it! I sautéed a little chopped green (well, they were purple to be honest) onions and garlic in olive oil, then combined it with the pasta and the purée. Outstanding! (And nearly fat-free – only about 2 grams in a cup of purée!)

Some of the Ingredients for Pasta with Fava Bean Purée

Some of the Ingredients for Pasta with Fava Bean Purée. Why not all of the ingredients, you ask? Well, at this point I really had no idea what I was going to use with the fava beans. But I felt compelled to take a picture of something!

Garlic Chive Pappardelle with Fava Bean Purée
serves 4 (double for more*)

8 oz pasta
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
5-7 green (or small spring) onions, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
about 1+1/4 lbs fava bean pods
2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
3 Tbsp chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/4 tsp salt

* I have a small food processor. I’m thinking if you have a larger one, you may want to double this recipe just because the quantity of a single recipe might not be enough for the blade to reach!

First prepare the fava beans: Rinse the pods, and then remove the individual beans from the pods.  Drop the beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes, and then remove them with a slotted spoon, and put them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking.  Once they have cooled, peel off the outer covering of the fava beans (you can usually just rip the end and then squeeze the beans out).  The resulting beans should be a vivid green color at this point. Here are some pictures of the process:

Fava beans in the pod, removed peels, resulting beans

Next, make the purée: In a food processor, purée the fava beans, yogurt, stock, and salt until smooth. Set aside.

Fava Bean Purée

Fava Bean Purée

Start bringing the pasta water to a boil, and then heat the olive oil on medium low in a small sauté pan. (The sequencing here isn’t time-critical, you just want to finish sautéing before the pasta is done.) Once the oil is warm, sauté the onions for 30-60 seconds, then add the garlic, and sauté until fragrant, for just about 15-30 seconds. Remove from heat once done.

Drain the pasta, then return it to the now empty pasta pot, adding the purée and the onions and garlic. Turn the heat to low, and stir, just until the purée is evenly distributed. This should be enough to warm up the purée.

Garlic and Chive Pappardelle with Fava Bean Purée

Garlic and Chive Pappardelle with Fava Bean Purée

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