Sunday, November 23, 2014

Low & Slow Apple Butter



A friend of mine gave me a couple pounds of apples from when she and her family went apple picking in upstate New York. After contemplating what to do with all of the apples, I decided to spend an entire Sunday in the kitchen making apple butter. This was totally worth it. Not only was it super fun to make but my husband and I, as well as our friends, got to reap the rewards for weeks to come. Spiced with warm flavors of autumn, this apple butter is perfect for spreading on biscuits and toast, mixing in plain yogurt or even on its own as a snack. It's a celebration of autumn that's sure to please.

Ingredients
1 cup water
40 fresh apples chopped and NOT peeled (I used the braeburn variety)
zest from one orange + the juice from the whole orange
1 teaspoon salt
1 hefty tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 hefty tablespoon pumpkin spice (cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves, cardamon)
1/4 cup brown sugar


Required equipment
1 large stockpot (2 gallons)
hand (burr) mixer
crock-pot w/ lid
2 wooden spoons

Directions
Chopping 40 apples is totally worth it! This might seem like a bit of a chore but fear not! I actually found this step to be cathartic and stress relieving. Actually, this is the only "prep step" needed for this recipe. To maximize the cathartic stress relief that is apple chopping, make sure you have a nice sharp chef's knife and space to build your wall of apple cores (I found the apple core stacking was the best part...note in picture below). Don't worry about how you chop the apples as they will later be pulverized and smoothed by the hand mixer. Also, don't peel the apples. There are many apple butter recipes out there that call for peeling the apples, but because we are smoothing-out the entire mixture, I think it's best to keep the apple skins on for not only deeper flavor but also to retain all of the natural vitamins and nutrients found in apple skins.





Dump the chopped apples into a large stockpot and add 1 cup fresh water to the pot. Let the water and apples simmer at a medium heat with lid on for about 15-20 minutes making sure to check and stir apples and stir every 5 minutes or so (this will prevent the apples from burning at the bottom and make them incorporate the heat evenly). You will notice that the apple chunks will have softened and broken down.
At this point, add the spices to the apple mixture and stir well (keeping the heat at medium level). The mixture should be keeping a healthy simmer.  Cover the pot with lid for another 5-10 minutes to let the spices melt their flavors into the apple mixture.

Turn the heat off and start heating-up your crock-pot. While the crock-pot is heating-up, grab your hand (burr) mixer. Lower the hand mixer into the mixture and turn on (make sure the hand mixer is well under the surface of the mixture to avoid hot splatter). In a circular motion, start to pulverize and smooth out all lumps of apple. This should take a good 10 minutes or so. The mixture must be as smooth as possible to obtain that butter-like spread effect.



Once the mixture is perfectly smooth, slowly and carefully transfer the hot apple mixture into your heated crock-pot well. This should be a fairly easy step as the mixture won't splatter due to the smooth consistency. Once transferred, grab two wooden spoons and place them on the opposite ends of the crock-pot well.

Lay the crock-pot lid on top of the two wooden spoons and simply let the crock-pot do the rest of the work. The crock-pot will slowly simmer the apple mixture, reducing into thick apple butter. You'll notice the color turning from a light brown color to a deep dark molasses color. Let the crock-pot reduce the mixture for 6 hours.

Apple butter will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge in an airtight container. If you wish to keep
apple butter longer, please resort to a canning process.



Saturday, April 5, 2014

Yellow Curry with Forbidden Rice


I love curry dishes, especially at home, because I have the freedom to add as many fresh vegetables as I want. This recipe is pretty standard curry fare but it is accompanied with a little twist: forbidden rice (also-known-as black rice). I had never heard of this "illegal" rice variety until I discovered it last week at my local Trader Joe's.  This rice variety is packaged in its natural form which means it wasn't stripped of it's original bran layer. It's 100% whole grain and packed with fiber and antioxidants. Black rice also releases a natural blackish-purple hue once it's fully cooked which is a sign of all the anthocyanins--a pigment that's also found in berries. Yellow curry served with slightly sweet and nutty black rice is a hearty and healthy meal. It is sure to satisfy weeknight hunger!

Ingredients

Puree
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
juice from one lemon
stems from 1 bunch of fresh cilantro
1/2 yellow onion
1 shallot
4 cloves fresh garlic
1 inch long piece of fresh ginger
4 Thai chillies

Curry components
2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1/2 head of fresh cauliflower
3 fresh carrots, cut on a bias
2 fresh scallions, cut on a bias
1 can of light coconut milk
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
fresh cilantro leaves (add at very end)
1/2 lime (add at the very end)

Spices
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes
pinch of salt to taste

Directions

Puree the stems from one bunch of fresh cilantro with the onion, shallot, garlic, ginger, chillies and juice from half of one lemon. Add oil as necessary so that the mixture blends well. Chop-up the chicken into half-inch cubes. Marinate the chicken in a bag or bowl with half of the pureed mixture and the other half the lemon juice for about one hour in the fridge.

In a pot, cook-up some forbidden rice (or whatever rice you prefer). The rice should take a little longer than the curry so start this a bit before.

In a large dutch oven or wok, with hot oil, add the marinated chicken and saute. When some of the moisture starts to evaporate and the chicken starts to brown, add the remaining puree to the pot and cook. Let simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the spices (curry powder and crushed red pepper). Wait until everything is heated and well mixed, add the carrots, chicken stock and soy sauce. Once this comes to a boil, add the cauliflower. Simmer until cauliflower and carrots are tender. Add light coconut milk and return to a simmer. Turn off heat and add freshly chopped cilantro leaves (not stems), scallions and the juice from 1/2 of a lime.

ENJOY!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cranberry & Orange Protein Muffins Made With Almond Meal


Fresh homemade muffins (not to be confused with massive Costco "muffins") are just the thing to have about your kitchen when you wake up in the morning. Now that I am focusing on more strength and cardio training at the gym, I really want to upgrade my protein intake before I start the day. I am sharing this healthy twist on the traditional American muffin because, unlike the muffins we see in coffee shops that are merely un-iced cupcakes, this recipe offers a high-protein/low-sugar alternative to the standard fare. Whether you want to indulge in a tasty morning treat or focus on snacks that can help support your fitness goals, I would recommend baking a batch of these delicios cranberry and orange muffins. Unlike wheat flour, almond meal offers a unique texture and healthy boost of protein that can sustain you throughout the morning. The cranberries - which are tart and chewy - are deliciously paired with raw pecans and freshly grated orange zest. These little babies are the perfect fuel for a pre-workout or even an on-the-go morning snack.


Speaking of fitness goals, I actually have one that I would like to share. On March 2nd, I'll be supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's annual Climb to the Top event. This is a unique event that raises funds to help more than 10,000 New York City, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange and Sullivan county residents affected by multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system that has no known cause or cure. I am teaming up with my friend Lori, whom I befriended during my first month here in New York City, to support her mother, Debbie, who was diagnosed with MS in 2001. I am incredibly lucky to have met Lori and to also be part of the MS Climbers Team. Please consider joining us - The MS Climbers - or if you don't climb, please give to my personal fundraising page! Every donation, small or large, will help support those living with MS, research, and advocacy efforts.

With that said, I am in for some serious training! on March 2nd, I'll be climbing 66 flights of stairs to the top of the observation desk in Rockefeller Center where we will be rewarded with an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline. Let the training begin! 


Ingredients
4 eggs
3 cups almond meal ( I use TJ's "Just Almond Meal")
1/4 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp zest from one orange, with the juice
1/4 cup of vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup of packed dried cranberries
1 cup chopped pecans to top the muffins

Directions
Do the usual thing: mix the dry, mix the wet, and combine. Mix well together. Add to muffin tins (should yield about 12 muffins).  preheat 300 degree oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until firm at the touch. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Naked Rose Cake


My dear friend and fellow neighbor from Brooklyn, Julia, has shared her elegant naked rose cake recipe with The Guided Stomach. Julia is one of the most creative women I know. Not only does Julia work at one of the world's top art galleries, but she also honed her skills and knowledge of art history, painting, and crafting that led her into the jewelry making business. Creator of Bjorn and Bringly, Julia is the owner of a line of handcrafted jewelry that are inspired by her dreams of the wilderness, nature, and adventures in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, I am proud to say that our roots are from the Pacific Northwest and even though we currently reside in New York, the west coast will forever run in our veins. 

In addition to Julia's many artistic talents, she is also a baker. This cake is indicative to Julia's creative touch. It's not only good eating, but it makes for a stylishly delicious centerpiece. This elegant presentation will elicit a moment of stunned silence from your guests. 


Julia used the base of the cake's recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but with a few twists and tweaks, she made it her own. 


Ingredients 

CAKE

4 cups and 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (Julia uses Bob's Red Mill)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tteaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted soft butter
2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons rose syrup (Julia uses Royal Rose Syrup)
4 eggs
2 cups buttermilk


ROSE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING


3 cups confectioners sugar
1 cups butter
1 - 2 teaspoon(s) rose syrup
1 teaspoon whipping cream


Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch cake tins. Mix the dry ingredients first with hand mixer or Kitchen Aid, then added the wet ingredients to the dry. Pour cake batter into three 9-inch cake tins as evenly as possible. Bake for roughly 35-40 or until a tooth pic comes out clean. While the cakes are baking, the frosting can be made. In a large mixing bowl, add butter and sugar and whip until creamed. While mixing, slowly add the rose syrup and whipping cream to the creamed butter and sugar. Let cakes rest and cool in the fridge for a few hours before frosting. Decorate by frosting between each layer cake and the cake top. Add dried roses for decoration (Julia uses miniature dried tea roses) and dust the cake with powdered sugar. 

And just because I know everyone will love this, here's Julia's dog named Booka. It's a good life. :)


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Acorn Squash Bowl with Brown Rice, Feta Cheese, Walnuts, and Cranberries


This dish, I think, is a symbol of Autumn's abundance. Roasted acorn squash stuffed with a savory brown rice medley, tart dried cranberries, crunchy toasted walnuts, and creamy feta cheese. It's, so far, the most useful way to prepare acorn squash because you can not only serve it in it's natural form, but you can eat out of it as you would a bowl. This meal can be a weeknight staple or a lifesaver when you suddenly find yourself having to prepare an unexpected supper for guests. Whatever the situation may be, you can count on this meal to "wow" your family and friends. It's sure to impress, but most importantly, it's healthy and very tasty.

Ingredients

1 acorn squash
olive oil
1 cup (uncooked) brown rice (I used Brown Rice Medley from Trader Joe's)
1 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup cranberries
8 oz feta cheese
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon ground rosemary
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt
pepper
chicken/vegetable stock

Directions

Cook brown rice in stock (this will take about 30-45-minutes)

Prepping acorn squash: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the acorn in half and clean out the seeds from the center. Brush the acorn flesh with olive oil and place flesh side down in a baking dish. Place in preheated oven for 25-minutes or until tender.

Prepping stuffing: Dice the onion and saute it in a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil on medium until the edges turn brown.  Add garlic and let it cook for a minute or two.  Add spices and herbs.  Toast walnuts and roughly chop into fairly small pieces. Cut feta into cubes (skip this step if you have crumbled feta). In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked brown rice, chopped walnuts, cranberries, chopped (or crumbled) feta, and the onion mixture.  Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. With a spoon, stuff the mixture into the acorn craters. Once the acorns are stuffed, place back into the oven and set to broiler. Broil for about 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned. It's ready to serve at this point. You can serve half of the acorn to one person, or for a lighter meal, you can serve a quarter each.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuscan Bean Soup with Fresh Spinach and Baby Zucchini



This recipe is a tribute to the Pacific Northwest because I miss the cool days that signal fall's impending darkness (never thought I would be saying this)! Yes, I am feeling nostalgic for the gray and rain. Today, we say hello to October, but New York City seems too stubborn to let go of the summer sun. So as we continue to use our air conditioning on the "full blast" setting and strut around town with shorts and sandals, I couldn't stop myself from making this homemade soup. I think it's the perfect meal to welcome the fall season. It's a light and fresh soup, but it will fill up your body, mind and spirit.

Ingredients 

2 teaspoons cooking oil (I used grapeseed)
1/2 onion (or 1 small onion)
4 large carrots
4 celery sticks
5 cloves of garlic
4 baby zucchini (use regular zucchini if preferred)
1-2 strips of bacon, diced
2 32 fl oz chicken stock
2 15 oz cannelloni beans
parmesan cheese

spices (add however much/little as you like)
dried thyme
dried basil
dried rosemary
red pepper flakes
salt
pepper

Directions 

Dice the celery, carrots, onion (mirepoix), baby zucchini, garlic, and bacon. In a large stockpot, heat up cooking oil. Add the diced bacon and let crisp-up for about 2-3 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add salt (to sweat out the moisture), pepper, some of the seasonings and cover for about 4 minutes or until translucent and soft. Add the garlic to the mix. Cover for about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock to the pot and the add the rest of the seasonings. Cover for about 3 minutes. Add the beans to the pot (I included the juice from the can to add more starch and thickness to the soup). Bring to a boil with the lid off. Once everything is boiling, lower the heat and add the fresh spinach leaves. Stir together and serve with parmesan cheese.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Challenge To Simplify: Downsize, Uptown

George Carlin once said "Your house is just a place for your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house... you could just walk around all of the time. That's all a house is, it's just a pile of stuff with a cover on it." I guess Carlin was a minimalist, and as my husband and I prepare for our big move to the Big Apple,  we've discovered that stripping down to the bare minimum of what's necessary is a powerful act of freedom.

It often seems that the accumulation of stuff in our homes can lead to an environment brimming with clutter that's no longer regarded with it's original appreciation, but rather, with depleted and forgotten value. It's no lie that stuff accrues fast, and at some point, it's up to you to define the value of your things before they define you. The process of purging most of our belongings has allowed us to understand that less stuff equals more. 

Clearing out most of our stuff hasn't been easy and deciding on what needs to go and what doesn't is half the battle. We've learned, however, that if we own fewer things, we end up concentrating more value on the essential things for life. Welcoming a string of Craig's List buyers into our building has not only given us the opportunity to shed light on what really matters, but also appreciate the bare necessities we often take for granted. 


At the beginning of our downsizing process, we assumed that things like a comfy couch to lay on while reading a book or a table to display a bouquet of flowers on were essential to our everyday home life, but as more and more things were being cleared out, we started to realize that we actually had so much more than we needed. We are currently living in an apartment that consists of two tables, two chairs, two laptops, a few dishes, pots/pans, silverware, a bed and food.  As much as that sounds minimal, our lives are still very comfortable. As we moved closer to the minimum, we realized that a barebones apartment is still very comfortable, in comparison to what many have. Despite not having a table adorned with fresh-cut flowers or a comfortable couch to lay on we still have shelter, food, and most important of all, clean running water. 

Although you probably aren't facing a cross-country move, you still have the opportunity to find simplicity in owning fewer things. Imagine what your life would be like if you had less things. Imagine how much you could gain by simply purging just one unused item per day: freedom, clarity, space, money, etc. 

This challenge to simplify comes from not only me, but also The Overflow Project. We challenge you to simplify your life and commit to living with less. The Overflow Project is a Seattle-based non-profit organization whose goal is to change the world through simple living and generous giving. The organization brings communities together for collective change to help end poverty by supporting clean water projects in developing countries. 


As I mentioned in my previous posts, there's no better place to start a simpler lifestyle than with what you eat. A way of simplification that is in line with the interest of my food blog is preparing meals that require just a few simple, fresh and seasonal ingredients.  In the spirit of this blog post, I've shared a couple recipes that require very little cookware. I hope these recipes inspire you to simplify your life. 



Israeli Couscous with veggies


Ingredients

1 package Israeli couscous

2 large heirloom tomatoes 
1 can artichoke hearts 
12 oz bag fresh sugar snap peas
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus 
2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh lemon juice from two lemons
salt/pepper

Directions


Heat up olive oil in sauce pan (directions should be listed on the couscous box). Saute couscous in oil for about 5-7 minutes or until they turn a light golden color. Add water and let it come to a boil. Cover for 30 minutes or until couscous has absorbed the water and is light and fluffy. While the couscous is cooking, boil water in a separate sauce pan. Once the water is brought to a boil, add the asparagus (cut into 1/2 inch pieces) and sugar snap peas. Let cook for about 2 minutes and drain. Cut each artichoke heart in half. Cut the heirloom tomatoes into bite size pieces. In a large serving bowl (or mixing bowl), add the tomatoes, asparagus, sugar snap peas, artichoke hearts. Then add the hot couscous over the vegetables. Lightly toss. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the mixture and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.




Summer Tempeh Salad with Strawberries and Baby Lettuce


Ingredients


Salad


1 bag 5 oz baby lettuce mix
5-6 fresh strawberries
1/2 Fuji apple
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Tempeh

1 package 8 oz tempeh (good source of protein and iron)
1 tablespoon cooking oil (grape seed)

Dressing


1 tablespoon olive 

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
salt/pepper 

Directions 

Combine all dressing ingredients and whisk until well incorporated. Set aside. Cut tempeh steak in half length-wise. Then cut half. Cut further into half inch sticks.  Heat up oil in frying skillet, then pan fry the tempeh sticks on all sides. Let fry until all sides are golden brown. When finished, place tempeh sticks onto a plate and immediately season with salt. In a large salad bowl, add baby lettuce, thinly sliced apple, and quartered strawberries. Sprinkle sunflower seeds. Add dressing and toss well. Add warm tempeh last. Enjoy!

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