• Background Image

    RECIPES

December 8, 2015

Chocolate Peppermint Brownie Bites

Healthy Holiday Tip #3: Serve your favorite sweets in smaller portions. When there’s a big spread, a one-inch square of fudge or brownie is more than enough.  Remember most people would rather sample a bit of everything than commit to larger portions.  Serving bite-sized sweets and hors d’oeuvres sends a subtle signal about reasonable portions.  

Picture

Chocolate-Peppermint Brownies
from Food&Wine December 2015
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 candy canes, crushed (1/3 cup)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper; allow 2 inches of 
overhang on the long sides.
  2. In a heatproof bowl, combine two-thirds of the chopped chocolate with the 2 sticks of butter. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until melted. Scrape the chocolate into another bowl and let cool slightly. Add the remaining chopped chocolate and the peppermint extract to the heatproof bowl and melt over the simmering water; remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk 
the eggs with the brown sugar 
until combined. Whisk in the chocolate-butter mixture until glossy and thick. Sprinkle the flour and salt into the bowl and stir until just incorporated. Spread the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan. 
Dollop the peppermint chocolate onto the brownie batter and swirl in with a table knife.
  4. Bake the brownies in the 
center of the oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, 
until the edges are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let the brownies cool in the pan for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

This recipe appeared in Food & Wine December 2015.  It comes from Clarie Ptak, the California native who opened London’s hugely popular Violet Bakery.  If you’re looking for a new baking cookbook, the American edition of The Violet Bakery Cookbook could just be it.
December 8, 2015

Healthy at the Holiday Table

Picture

Keeping healthy habits can be a challenge at the holiday table.  In all the enthusiasm for making special memories and serving dishes we remember fondly, it’s all too easy to end up with a buffet of foods that offer mainly empty calories in unhealthy fats and sugars. Good enough while you’re caught up in the moment, but oh so regrettable when your body rebels the next day.  Moderation makes all the difference.  I don’t shy away from making special sweets and rich dinners at this time of year, but I’m sure to serve them alongside beautiful salads, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.  Keeping a base of solid nutrition is especially important at this time of year when festivities, busy schedules, and travel have us indulging day after day.

So today I’m sharing some easy tips and recipes to brighten your holiday table with good food that’s good for you, too.

Healthy Holiday Tip #1: Always serve a salad.  Make it colorful and interesting with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.  Start your meal with a hearty salad and you’re less likely to overdo it at the cheese platter or dessert cart.  If there won’t be a salad where you’re going, grab some raw vegetables or a green smoothie before you go.

Healthy Holiday Tip #2: Lighten up old favorites with whole grains, natural sweeteners, or more healthy fats.  The cheese balls pictured here swapped out cheddar and cream cheese for two lighter alternatives.  It’s easy to makeover baked goods, rice, dips, and dressings.  Try whole grain rice instead of white rice, white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, and plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Healthy Holiday Tip #3: Serve your favorite sweets in smaller portions. When there’s a big spread, a one-inch square of fudge or brownie is more than enough.  Remember most people would rather sample a bit of everything than commit to larger portions.  Serving bite-sized sweets and hors d’oeuvres sends a subtle signal about reasonable portions.  

Christmas Beets for an Hors d’ouevres or for a Salad
I served these at a recent party alongside assorted cheese, brownies, spiced nuts, olives, and biscuits.  The beets recipe was the most requested.  So they’re that good.  Because beets are high in antioxidants, folate, manganese, and potassium, they make a great immunity booster to counter the sugar at the holiday table.

This recipe makes a lot – about 6 cups – but they’ll keep well for a week in the fridge, and they make a beautiful gift – just fill small Mason jars with your beautiful red beets and tie a ribbon around the jar.  Pass along with a button of goat cheese for a delicious winter salad.  ​

​Spiced Pickled Beets
adapted from Food&Wine December 2015.
Makes about 6 cups

3 pounds medium beets
coarse sea salt
1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups sugar
3 bay leaves
one 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
¾ teaspoons whole cloves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Scrub the beets and put them in a large baking dish with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt.  (I used a combination of golden and red beets, but they were all red after being pickled overnight.)  Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife slides easily through the center of the larger beets.  Uncover and set aside to cool.  When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into ¾-inch wedges.  Transfer to a large Pyrex bowl or deep dish.

In a large saucepan, combine 1½ cups water with the sugar and vinegar.  Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, cloves and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.  Pour the liquid over the beets and let cool before covering.  Refrigerate over night or for at least 8 hours.  Drain before serving or some time within a day.  The drained beets will keep well in the refrigerator for up to one week.

These were a beautiful addition to a salad.  I served the beets over baby arugula and spinach with toasted walnuts and tiny rounds of seasoned goat cheese.

December 8, 2015

Hint of Lemon Mini Cheese Balls

Healthy Holiday Tip #2: Lighten up old favorites with whole grains, natural sweeteners, or more healthy fats.  It’s easy to makeover baked goods, rice, dips, and dressings.  Try whole grain rice instead of white rice, white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, and plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.  The cheese balls pictured here swapped out cheddar and cream cheese for two lighter alternatives.
I think “Hint of Lemon Mini Cheese Balls” is a terrible name, but the people who loved these most all remarked on the trace of lemon, and they really are just little bites of cheese.  I welcome comments offering a better name!
These make a great swap for a traditional cream cheese and cheddar cheese ball, and they deliver great taste for about half the fat of a traditional cheese ball.  Goat cheese, like almond cream cheese, is a healthier choice than the traditional counterpart.

Picture

Mini Cheese Balls
makes about 40 bite-sized servings

8 ounces Goat Lady chèevre or other mild goat cheese
8 ounces Kite Hill plain almond milk cream cheese
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Beat the cheeses, honey, and lemon zest together on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until smooth.  Freeze for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, blitz the almonds and thyme in a food processor or blender until finely ground.  Place the herbed nut mixture in a shallow dish.
Divide the cheese mixture into small portions, about 2 teaspoons each, and roll each into a small sphere.  Freeze 10 minutes.  Roll each cheese ball in the nut mixture.  Serve right away or cover and refrigerate for up to five days.  Note that the coating will lose its crunch over time.

These make a great hors d’oeuvres on their own or with rounds of toasted baguette, and they are a wonderful addition to so many salads.  Try them on a salad with roasted beets or with figs and caramelized onions.

Picture

December 7, 2015

Granola for a Special Day

Picture

There is always homemade granola in my pantry, and as much as I love it, that everyday granola is not much like this one.  Here is a granola worthy of birthday mornings, special weekend get-aways, and gift-giving.  I’ve adapted this recipe from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, and you can make it your own by changing the nuts, seeds, and fruits you use.

Granola for a Special Day
½ cup raw almonds
½ cup pecans
½ cup cashews
3 cups thick rolled oats
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup honey
1 cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup dried blueberries

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Coarsely chop all the nuts and combine them in a large bowl with the oats, and seeds.  In a small saucepan over low heat, gently warm the water, salt, oil, syrup and honey.  When it is warm, pour it over the nut mixture and stir until well combined.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the granola over it evenly in a thin layer.  If it is thicker than ¼ inch, spread it out on two baking sheets.
Bake the granola for 40 minutes, turning it and spreading it back out in a thin layer every 15 minutes.  Set aside to cool on a rack.
Five minutes after you remove it from the oven, stir in the dried fruit.  Leave to cool in the pan.  Store in an airtight container.
Enjoy this granola with your favorite yogurt or milk, or as a topping for a frozen dessert.