December 15, 2011

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

by Jen Wanous

She took a bite and her face crumbled. “I know my cookies and these are not my cookies.” I took a deep breath, searching for a solution.  “Throw them all away.” I braced myself in disbelief. One hundred pounds of cookie dough, a day’s work: trash. I stared at the mounds of chocolate studded dough, baffled. Although the taste was still fine, the little cookies were fluffier than they should have been and for the owner of this cookie company, that was unacceptable.

I arrived at Hope’s kitchen early in the morning, eager to work. My job was to make cookie dough in preparation for her busy holiday season. She handed me a recipe and showed me where things were. I started by weighing out the sugars, flour and other ingredients to the ounce, carefully taking out a teaspoon of flour if needed. I leveled the cup measurements to ensure everything would be exact. Each egg I cracked, I made sure to catch any stray shell fragments.

The one little word I failed to read correctly was “soda.” Instead, I thought, “powder.” You see, in my experience, when baking most cookie recipes, one always needs baking powder because of the lack of acidic ingredients. The chemical in baking soda will not activate fully unless there is an acid introduced. Come to find out, (through writing this post!), the molasses in brown sugar is acidic and activates the baking soda.

Here is a breakdown of how it works:

Baking Soda

– It is used in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient (e.g. vinegar, citrus juice, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, chocolate, cocoa (not Dutch-processed), honey, molasses (also brown sugar), fruits and maple syrup).

– Is four times as strong as baking powder.

– Baking soda starts to react and releases carbon dioxide gas as soon as it is added to the batter and moistened.

Baking Powder

– Has baking soda and one or more powder acid (cream of tartar and/or sodium aluminum sulfate)

– Most baking powder is double-acting which means it reacts to liquid and heat, in two stages. The first reaction takes place when you add the baking powder to the batter and it is moistened. The other acid reacts with the baking soda and produces carbon dioxide gas. The second reaction takes place when the batter is placed in the oven.

– You should replace your baking powder every 6-12 months as it loses its effectiveness.

Both are chemical leavening agents that give rise to baked goods.

When the mistake was realized, instead of losing my shit, I thought back to my culinary training: baking powder has baking soda in it. I could just add three times more baking soda to equal the chemical amount that was in the recipe. I was panicking inside, but still thought it could be pulled off.

Hope suggested I test bake a tray to see if they would still rise. Great idea! I popped a few rows on a cookie sheet and patiently waited the 10 minutes it took to bake. Through the hot glass window of the tall industrial oven, I saw the little cookies rise up and when I took them out of the oven, I thought, “Thank god, they look good!” Then I showed them to Hope, she took one bite and said they had to go in the trash. I tried and it tasted like a dang good cookie to me. Apparently, they had risen too much for Hope’s taste (because of the additional acid that was in the baking powder.)

It felt like a rash decision to throw them all away, but I understood it too.  She is a business owner, with a product brand to protect. On top of that, she had the stress of a ton of holiday orders and some serious lack of sleep. It was simply a nuance of fluffiness that sealed the fate of these cookies. Through her frustration, Hope was reasonable saying that she should have stepped through the first batch with me and she even offered to pay me—which I quickly refused.

As I walked back to the predestined cookie dough before me, I fought off tears. A boisterous New Yorker named Gloria, who also baked in the shared kitchen space, came over, grabbed a pinch of the dough and said, “Ooh, I’ll use some of this! My customers aren’t that picky!” Then a fellow cookie maker named Gael came over and gave me a hug, saying not to worry, that it happens to the best of us. You could tell that she had royally f*ed up a batch or two in her day too. These two women were the type of good graces that you can only hope for in a time like this.

It pained me to actually throw away perfectly delicious chocolate chip cookie dough—and in the middle of December—so with the remaining 50 pounds strapped in my bike basket, I took it home. I have now become Jonny Cookieseed, spreading holiday cheer in the form of cookies galore. I’ve baked dozens, the first batch going to my local bar. They love me there. It promises to be a chocolate-studded Christmas this year!

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December 8, 2011

Sweetening the Deal – How to integrate natural sugars and why

by Jen Wanous

The other night, I was perusing (desperately searching) the isles of Trader Joe’s for a sweet treat. This was not a time when an apple or any other non-crack-like sugar would do. I went for the dark chocolate covered marshmallows…seasonally peppermint, of course. I proceeded to eat nearly the entire box. I say “nearly” because I offered a few to friends, who just had one or two, and I left two, so that I didn’t eat the entire box.  Dizzy and crashing hard soon after, I realized (yet again) that this needed to stop.

Sugar is so addictive! I’ve been struggling with regulating my sugar intake for years. It’s a vicious cycle that feeds into itself: starting with just a piece of pie and then, before you know it, you’re in a dark ally looking to score a Twix hit. To wean myself off, I usually tell myself no chocolate for one week, no refined sugar for one week and then usually I’m back on track and not totally obsessed.

In culinary school, we learned the origins of sugar and its effects on the body. Refined white sugar is the extracted juice of sugar cane or beet sugar. It goes through an intense series of high-heat filtration processes that strips it of all color and most nutrients. The product is then pure sucrose, which is a simple carbohydrate and can easily throw your body’s balance out of whack. Here is an explanation from the founder of my school, Annemarie Colbin in her book, Food and Healing:

To metabolize refined sugar, [the body] draws the missing companion nutrients (needed in the digestive process) from other sources. These sources can be either other foods present in the same meal or the body’s own tissues. for that reason, when we consume straight white sugar, we lose B vitamins, calcium, iron and other nutrients directly from our own reserves. This siphoning effect of sugar is also what lies behind the gnawing hunger it can produce in some people; since the hunger is for the missing elements- fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, water-it can provoke great binges as the sugar eater searches to satisfy it.

One way to help your body out is to eat sweeteners that are closer to their natural state. These sweeteners below have more of their natural vitamins, mineral and fiber intact – they are also more flavorful. I have also included some technical baking information on how to use the sweeteners as a substitute for white sugar. Most of the liquid sweeteners, you need less of and you need to increase the baking powder. This information is from the baking master: Chef Elliot at the Natural Gourmet Institute.

Brown Rice Syrup – is half as sweet as white sugar

  • Baked goods made with rice syrup tend to be hard or very crisp. Use in cookies, crisps, granola, pies and puddings. Substitute 1 1/3 cups for every one-cup of white sugar. Per cup of rice syrup, reduce liquid by ¼ cup and add ¼ teaspoon baking soda.

Date Sugar – ground, dehydrated dates

  • Can substitute like amounts for white sugar. Can use in crisps, some baked goods and sprinkled as a topping. Careful as it tends to burn easily.

Natural Cane Sugars – Sucanat (pure dehydrated cane sugar) and Rapadura

  • Relatively low cost; Use one for one of white sugar. Replace ¼ teaspoon baking soda per cup Sucanat.

Honey – 20% – 60% sweeter than sugar

  • Can use in all baked goods. Use ½ the amount called for in white sugar. For each ½ cup of honey used, reduce liquid by ¼ cup but if there is no liquid, add 3-4 tablespoons of flour. Also add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda and reduce the oven temperature by 25°.

Maple Sugar – is from dehydrated maple syrup. Con is that it’s very expensive.

  • Can use in all baked goods. Use one for one for white or brown sugar. Per cup of maple sugar, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda.

Maple Syrup – it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup (that’s why it’s so expensive!)

  • Can use in all baked goods. Substitute 2/3 to 3/4 cup of maple syrup per cup of white sugar. Per cup of maple syrup: reduce liquid by 3 tablespoons and add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.

Other alternative sweeteners include: agave(preferably low-heat processed), coconut sugar and stevia.

Sweeteners to Avoid:

-Artificial sweeteners like: Splenda, Equal and Sweet’n Low

-Brown sugar (is just white sugar with molasses added back in)

-White granulated sugar

-High-fructose corn syrup

‘Tis the season to cut down on refined sugar! Not likely, but here are a couple non-refined sugar cookie recipes that you can add to your mix this year.

Peanut Butter Balls

These couldn’t be easier to make: no baking required! It’s fun for little helpers to make too. Yields about 20 balls.

Ingredients

1 cup natural peanut butter (creamy or chunky, your choice)

1/3 cup honey

¼ – ½ teaspoon salt (depending on your taste and weather or not your PB is salted already)

1 cup crisp rice cereal (I used “Koala Crisp”)

Coco powder or powdered sugar for sprinkling (hey, it’s only a little bit. ;)

Procedure

1. Add the salt to the honey then, in a large bowl, combine with the peanut butter. Add the rice cereal at the end.

2. Using a tablespoon or mini ice cream scooper, scoop out batter and roll in the palm of your hand.

3. Using a fine mesh strainer, add coco powder or powder sugar, holding above the balls and tap the side of the strainer gently until they are covered.

 

Almond Cranberry Cookies

Yield 20 cookies.

Ingredients

1 ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour (can use regular flour too)

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, room temp

1 cup sucanat

1 egg

1 teaspoon almond extract

zest of one tangerine or clementine or orange

¼ cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup slivered almonds

Procedure

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease two cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.

3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sucant until fluffy (about 5 mins). Add the egg and beat for one more minute. Add the almond extract and zest. Next, on medium speed, add the dry ingredients, gradually, doing 1/3 at a time. Once combine, manually stir in the cranberries and almonds (so you keep their shape intact).

4. On your prepared cookie sheet, place about 2 tablespoons of dough. Bake for 8-10 minutes until light brown. Remove from the cookie sheet and place on a cooling rack.

November 30, 2011

Why Kale is Such a Super Food

by Jen Wanous

If you’ve been to my house for dinner, chances are that you have had my kale chips. They are like caramelized brussels sprouts–you feel like it’s too good to be good for you. For my final cooking demonstration in school, I deep fried kale in coconut oil. It was a brave move for a natural foods school, but it lent the perfect hight and crunch I was looking for.

With winter quickly ushering in, let’s be thankful for one of the season’s best bounties: kale. Rich in nutrients and available all winter, this is one staple you won’t want to leave behind.

Kale is part of the Brassica oleracea family and shares kinship with cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and collard greens. (What a healthy family!) Now, we all know that leafy green things are good for you…but here is what makes kale so super fantastic: it’s rich in beta carotene, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium and lutein. Kale also has a super food chemical called sulforaphane that gives it cancer fighting power. As if that weren’t enough, kale also has a chemical called indole-3-carbinol that boosts DNA repair in cells and blocks the growth of cancer cells. Pretty good stuff, I’d say!

When shopping for kale, there are a few different varieties at our local grocery stores. I personally like the lacinato (or Tuscan) and curly leaf kales. Look for the brightest, biggest and perkiest bunch you can find. It will usually keep in the fridge for a week or so. If it goes floppy on you, you can still use it (just don’t use if it turns yellow). When you prepare kale, always remove the stem. The stem has a bitter flavor and tough texture.

Below is a simple recipe for my kale chips. You can also add things like parmesan, smoked paprika, tamari, curry powder, garlic powder–go crazy with your kale! I have used kale in a couple other posts like tuscan kale soup and a bacon sandwich with kale. Enjoy.

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

5-8 stems of kale

2-3 teaspoons olive oil

generous sprinkling of salt and pepper

optional: add ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

Procedure:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°. Rinse kale and shake off excess water. Tear approximately 2” x 2” pieces of kale away from the stem. Arrange on a large, rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (and smoked paprika, if using). Toss vigorously with your hands, making sure that each leaf has some oil.

2. Bake for 8 minutes then shuffle the leaves around and pop back in for 8-10 more minutes. They should be just slightly browned and perfectly crisp.

Eat alone or as a topping for any main course.

Here is a quote from my Aunt Arlette, who has a great raw kale recipe to share:

Hi Jen,
Read you Kale blurb.  Very informative, I like the info.  Wanted to tell you I’ve been into whole raw foods lately.  Kale makes a wonderful salad with fresh garlic, olive oil, fresh lime squeezed and whatever else I have in the frige to make a nice salad.  I remove all stalks and a friend told me to crunch it up with fingers to soften it, but I find by removing all stems, it is great as is.
Love reading your blogs.  You are a special person.  I love you.
 Auntie Arlette
November 22, 2011

The Story of How I Recovered Ruby – plus a Turkey Day leftovers recipe

by Jen Wanous

There is nothing like pumpkin pie that gets you thinking about all the things you are grateful for.

This year, one thing I am thankful for is a stolen item being returned to me. You see, this past summer, my 1980’s red bike, Ruby, was stolen from her U-locked spot on a busy Brooklyn street. I was so bummed; my gem of a bike was gone. Walking was way overrated and slow. Since the theft happened two weeks before my birthday, I had a: “Get Jen a New Bike for Her Birthday” fundraiser. The outpouring of support from friends and family heartened me. With over a dozen supporters backing me, I found Dusty Rose my new pink rider, the exact same make and model as her darker hued predecessor, Ruby. With summer in full effect, I was back on two wheels, cycling through the city.

I would sometimes think of Ruby and wonder where she was. My eye would catch on red bikes, and I even perused Craig’s List thinking someday I would find her. Well, that day came when one night I was walking on Flatbush Ave., one block from where she was last parked. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her. She mustered out a wink from the grime-covered stars on her handlebars. I stopped dead in my tracks, hardly believing my eyes. Much more dirty and now with a thick link chain wrapped around her, there was no doubt about it, that was my Ruby!

Overjoyed, I thought through the options that were before me. I could either a) get the cops involved and get her back, b) stake out the location and confront the thief, or c) let it go, and avoid any potential drama. I posted these options on Facebook and had an overwhelming response for option A. With friends and family urging me along, I marched into the local precinct, proclaiming that I had recovered stolen property! The uniformed woman at the desk hardly looked up, scoffing in that beastly bureaucratic way, where you know the odds are against you. She didn’t want to hear about how the bell is the same silver one or see the picture of my dog in the basket. She said that I had to have a receipt with a serial number to prove ownership. Since that didn’t exist, I decided to take the law into my own hands.

With the best lock money can buy, I went over to Ruby and reclaimed her as mine, locking her frame to a pole. I left a note that read: “Hi-this is my bike that was stolen. I want to avoid getting the cops involved. Remove your lock if you want to save it.” Low and behold, the next day, I went back and the bulky chain of conquest had been removed. Ruby was mine again!

Reconciling loss is no easy task. Even with replacements, you still miss the original that your heart fell for. With a deep tenacity of spirit and the support of loved ones, it is possible to discover hope in new openings of opportunity. And when the rare opportunity presents itself to take back what is yours, you fight for it. I have learned many lessons about loss in my life and I am so thankful to have this experience of recovery as part of my story.

Pumpkin Curry with Turkey

Here is an answer for what to do with some of your leftover turkey. This Asian-inspired dish gives a spicy American nod to the festive season. You can use any left over vegetables to add in. You can also easily use baked tofu for a veggie alternative.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

16 oz coconut milk

16 oz pumpkin puree

½ cup broth or water

2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 hearty pinch ground nutmeg

1 hearty pinch cayenne (could be more, up to you:)

ground pepper to taste

juice of one lemon

1 cup cooked, pulled turkey

1 cup kale (or other green vegetable)

cilantro for garnish

Procedure:

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until glassy, to really release the flavor. Add coconut milk, pumpkin, and broth until combine. Add seasonings: curry paste, salt, soy sauce, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, pepper and lemon. Then add the turkey and kale. Bring to a boil, simmer for five minutes.

2. Serve with brown rice or soba noodles. Garnish with cilantro.

November 14, 2011

A Birthday Brunch

by Jen Wanous

Scorpio season is in full effect! I spent the weekend celebrating these passionate and piercing people. Being the Gemini that I am, I accidentally double booked my Saturday night with two birthday dinners. Dang. As much as I have tried in my life, I actually can not be in two places at once. What’s a girl to do? Well, host a birthday brunch of course!

We feasted on both savory and sweet dishes. That morning, I found the most fragrant bunch of mint at the farmer’s market. Adding some slivers of the mint made for a special fruit salad with apples and persimmons.

~ Pumpkin Bread (gluten free)

~ Kale and Goat Cheese Frittata

~ Yam Home Fries with smoked paprika

~ Lemon and Thyme (star :) Biscuits

~ Apples and Persimmons with Mint

Jealous? Don’t be. Plan a brunch for your next special occasion. If you would like other brunch ideas or recipes, just ask, I’m happy to post them. A friend had requested a gluten-free, sugar-free pumpkin bread recipe. I took a try and it turned out soft and full of seasonal flavor. It stays moist in the fridge, thanks to the pumpkin puree. You can substitute gluten-full flour (2 1/2 cups ww flour) and real sugar if you would like. This recipe makes two small loafs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Bread ~ Gluten Free

1 ½ cup brown rice flour

½ cup coconut flour

¼ cup tapioca flour

¼ cup ground flax meal

2 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

(or ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom)

 

¾ cup melted butter (unsalted)

1 cup maple crystals (or date sugar, or any dry sweetener)

¼ cup agave syrup

6 eggs

2 tablespoons molasses

1 ½ cup pumpkin puree

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of one lemon

Procedure: 

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°. Grease a small loaf pan (7 x 4 x 3 inch).

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flours, flax, baking powder, spices and salt.

3. In a large bowl, combine butter, sweeteners, eggs, molasses, pumpkin, vanilla and lemon zest.

4. Add the dry mixture to the wet. Stir until combine. Pour into the greased loaf pans. Bake on 350° for 35 minutes rotating the pan midway through baking. Let cool in the pan for 20 mins after baking. If you’re feeling pro-sugar, frost it! If not, make a pot of tea and enjoy!

November 1, 2011

How to Have a DIY Spa Day

by Jen Wanous

At the first sight of snow, I retreated indoors for a DIY (do it yourself) spa day. Who better to do this with than two of my lady friends? We watched the snow fall out the window and shook our heads in disbelief. It was October after all. Who said it could snow before Halloween!? Cozied up on the couch, warm rose and chamomile tea in-hand, we let the easy conversation of friendship guide us on our day of self care.

We each brought a selection of pampering treats to share. I packed my bag with a mineral mask, Goddess taro cards, and a bunch of kale. My friend Aimee brought a homemade coffee body scrub. (It smelled divine and worked well to moisturize our skin.) Gretchen hosted and prepared a grounding root vegetable soup. Together, we helped nourish each other from the inside and out.

It seems so indulgent to block out an entire day for self-care but the restorative effects can reverberate for weeks. Your body deserves indulgent relaxation to heal from the stressors of everyday life. Your mind and heart need time to be in communion with friends to restore your perspective.

Below are some ideas on how to make the most out of your own spa day. I have also included  Aimee’s salt scrub recipe and a great aftershave tonic that is much cheaper than its beauty store counterparts. Even if you can just do one special spa-like thing for yourself, do it, offering gratitude to your body.

 DIY Spa Ideas 

  • Take a bath, as the water drains out, feel what you are energetically letting go of
  • Yoga- bust out your mat and do a few sun salutations
  • Do free writes on what you’re grateful for or what your soul goals are
  • Mani/Pedi- bring colors to share- your same-old pink could be your friend’s new fave
  • Watch woman-power movies. eg, Steel Magnolias; Thelma and Louise; She Devil; 9 to 5 or Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Give yourself or a friend a taro card reading
  • Cook a healthy meal together

 Coffee Body Scrub 

Courtesy of Ms.Aimee Brown

1/2 cup coffee grounds
2-3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons sea salt
1/3 cup brown or cane sugar
few drops of essential oil (try peppermint for a nice thin mint cookie / refreshing vibe)

It is easy to substitute a different oil or more/less salt and sugar depending on your desired consistency.

Shake well before using, ingredients will separate. Rub in circular motion on wet skin to exfoliate then rinse well.

 Aftershave Tonic 

This is an old gem I’ve made for years. When applied after hair removal, it wards off irritation. It does sting a little bit but the sting goes away quickly. You can even try a dab on a pesky pimple to dry it out.

30 uncoated or light coated aspirin
8 ounces rubbing alcohol
5 ounces  witch hazel

Crush the aspirin in a mortal and pestle, coffee grinder, or in a zip lock and roll a rolling pin over it. Crush until it is the consistency of a fine powder. Combine with liquids. Shake well before each use. Rinse hands after use.

October 24, 2011

How to De-Seed a Pomegranate & A Tasty Tart Too

by Jen Wanous

 

 

 

 

Pomegranates can be very perplexing (especially while wearing white!). I have a trick to share on how to get the tangy ruby seeds out without making a Dexter-worthy mess.

Walnut and Pear Tart with Pomegranate Glaze

This tart, full of fall’s bounty, will hit the spot for your gluten-free fans and everyone else too.

Ingredients

For the Crust

2 cups walnuts, raw

5-7 dates, pitted

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Fruit Topping

juice of one lemon

3 pears, thinly sliced

For the Glaze

1 pomegranate, seeded

CLICK HERE FOR HOW TO DE-SEED A POMEGRANATE 

1/4 cup sugar (brown sugar is ok)

1/4 cup water

Procedure

1. Oil and parchment line a tart pan or pie plate. Pre-heat the oven 350.

2. Toast whole raw walnuts on a cookie sheet for about 15 mins or until fragrant and a deep golden brown. In a food processor, coarsely grind the walnuts, dates, maple syrup and salt. Press into the pie plate/tart pan.

3. Toss pears with the lemon juice. Arrange in a Rocket circular pattern on top of the crust. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar on top. Bake for 25 mins or until pears are soft.

4. In a small sauce pan, combine pomegranate seeds, sugar and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 mins. Using an immersion blender or blender,  process the seed/water/sugar mixture for a min. Strain through a fine mesh colander. On the cooked tart, brush on the pomegranate liquid. Bake for 10 more mins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 18, 2011

Reflections on a Year’s Supply of Bacon

by Jen Wanous

Bacon changed my life.

It’s not often we’re handed pivotal moments on a platter… but one fateful day, one year ago, I won the Bacon Takedown of New York City. This set me on an irreversible path of culinary adventure.

I took the competition with my California-inspired concoction of goat’s milk avocado ice cream topped with candied bacon and sea salt. It was an ode to my home state and my favorite animal product, pork. I was an underdog novice and didn’t think I’d stand a chance against the reigning champ and fresh, fried bacon doughnuts. With a bright pink t-shirt proclaiming, “Bacon is the New Black,” in iron-on letters, I wowed the bulk of the 300 tasters who voted my dish their favorite against 22 others.

Part of my prize was a year’s supply of bacon, which quickly became my ingredient du resistance for the next 12 months. Dinner parties, potlucks, cupcakes and even Christmas stockings were tinged with the good grace of bacon. However, more than an endless supply of the rich pork product, I received an invitation to actualize my long-coveted dream of becoming a chef: the win was the universe saying, “Cook! Like, for real!”

Just after the competition, I remember sitting on the subway… coming home from my job managing events… still high from the thrill of the win… and I thought, If this one thing can bring me so much joy, I’ve gotta go for it! What was I waiting for?

I listened to the message. Just one month after the takedown I resigned from my job; 60 days after that I started culinary school. Now, after a 12-month whirlwind, my business card says, “Freelance Chef.” I love how life sends signals. I got it, loud and clear.

Today, at the annual event, I handed over my crown and sat in as an expert judge. It was an honor to be back in that role, tasked with deciphering which dish was most quintessentially bacon. The competition was stiff but I swooned for a bacon-wrapped s’more. It was the perfect salty pairing for this camping classic.

Navigating the world now, I know I’m one step further along the path of actualizing myself because I had the courage to listen to my heart (and the universe). The path isn’t always clear or easy, but it unveils many gifts along the way (some in the form of a BLT). I will anticipate the signs I know must lay ahead… trusting their returns will be just as savory.

I have included the recipe from my auspicious creation below. Enjoy.

Baco Avo Goat-Lato

(serves six)

Goat’s Milk Avocado Ice Cream

3 cups goat’s milk

1 cup goat’s yogurt

1 cup sugar

3-4 avocados

1 pinch sea salt

Procedure:

Combine all ingredients until smooth in a blender. Chill in the refrigerator until 40 degrees. Set according to your ice cream maker’s settings (about 15 minutes).

Candied Bacon Topping

1 pound bacon

1 cup dark brown sugar

Fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of coarse sea salt

Procedure:

Set oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cover bacon with brown sugar and pepper. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes (until a yummy-looking caramel dark brown color). Let cool and then chop.

Top the ice cream with the bacon topping and add a generous pinch of coarse sea salt.

October 9, 2011

On a Chilly Morning: Granola

by Jen Wanous

A fellow friend from California just told me that she is in denial about winter coming. We walked out of a dinner party, it was brisk out, but she didn’t put on her sweater. She said that if she put it on then it would actually mean that the season is changing–and she wasn’t ready.

I hear you sister! Winters are scary for us West Coasters. This will be my fourth galosh-wearing winter on the East Coast. Though my jacket that resembles a sleeping bag does give me great me peace of mind, I’ll never quite adjust. My mom has never owned an umbrella. I saw snow fall for the first time when I was 22. On a San Diego Christmas morning, I’d be playing on the driveway with my new toys, no jacket required.

Like my post from last week reminded me, there is magic that happens when you’re outside of your comfort zone–and by golly, if winter doesn’t get you out of your incubated comfort zone, then I don’t know what would. The gift of magic that comes with that trade off is a big one. Serenity, glitter and introspection. I’ll have to keep these things in mind as I zip up. For now, I know we’re not quite there yet, with an entire fall to savor.

Here is a recipe to make when you get up in the morning and it’s chilly but you don’t want to turn on the heater yet because that would mean that the cold has really come. It uses olive oil as the base, which I find I always have on hand, and the health benefits are far better than other commercial oils. You can switch it up to use different sweeteners like agave or brown sugar. You can also switch up the additions, like pistachio and apricot or cashew and cranberry.

Olive Oil Granola With Walnuts and Raisins

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or nutmeg

1/2 cup dried raisins

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, maple syrup, honey, olive oil, salt, cinnamon and cardamom/nutmeg. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

2. Transfer granola to a large bowl and add raisins, tossing to combine.

Yield: About 6 cups.

October 3, 2011

Where the Magic Happens

by Jen Wanous

It’s not everyday that you have the opportunity to meet a star. Friday night I went to the Food Network’s Food and Wine Festival in New York. I was there as a culinary volunteer for their annual “Burger Bash”. There, twenty of the city’s top restaurants were set up in stations and served bites of their burgers for a ‘best in show’ award. I was set up with a Brooklyn staple, Bark. I was working with a small crew flipping buns and cranking out burgers for 600 people an hour!

It is in the places where we push ourselves outside of what is comfortable that really special things happen. I barely motivated to ride my bike down to the event on that dreery Friday night. It would have been a whole lot easier to stay home with my puppy and watch Project Runway–but I rallied and tried something new–and look–magic happened–I met Whoopi!

The challenge then is to be open to the opportunities around you; say yes a little more and have radical trust that the universe will take care of you (usually with magical things).

Here is a quote that a friend recently shared with me. It was a good reminder for me and I hope it is for you too. Of course, “God” can be replaced with whatever serves you.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I have included a recipe for a warming soup to fill you and ground you through this change of season. As always, be gentle with yourself too. Enjoy.

Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup

Serves: 6 – 1 cup servings

Preparation Time: 8 hours  Cook Time: 1 hour 

Ingredients:

1 cup dried white beans, (Great Northern or Cannellini)*Soak for at least 8 hours

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 onions, small dice (1½ cup)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 sprig rosemary, minced (1 teaspoon) or 1 heaping teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

3 carrots, small dice (1 pound)

2 stalks of celery, small dice (½ pound)

1 pound kale, remove the stems, coarsely chop

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Parmesan, grated to taste (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

1.  In a medium pot, cover the beans with water and soak over night, or at least eight hours.  Drain and rinse the beans then return to the pot.  Cover with two inches of water, add salt and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

2.  While the beans are cooking, in a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and some salt stirring until the onions look glassy.  Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for 3-5 minutes more, being careful not to brown the garlic.

3.  Add in the stock, carrots and celery.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add in the beans.  Cook for 20 more minutes.  The beans should be tender.  In the last 10 minutes, add kale.

4. Top with fresh parsley and parmesan and serve with warm crusty bread.