Crispy Farro Bars

16 Apr Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

Yesterday evening as I was at the pharmacy picking up prescriptions I just may have purchased four Cadbury Eggs and two Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (vile I know… DON’T JUDGE ME!).  The pharmacist smiled, “Preparing for Sunday?”  I hung my head sheepishly.  I can’t and wont give Baby Bird chemical storm candy… but for me? Ugh… okay… So they weren’t a tiny Easter stash for my child, they were for a full grown a dult who knows better.

“I’ve got a toddler with hives… so they’re actually all for me.  Tonight.  Like, in the car,” I confessed, trying to shrink and disappear- digging in my purse for my sunglasses and any other suitable disguise items in case I ran into anyone on my way to the car (or as I sat in my car  binge eating candy eggs).

In lieu of judgement, he offered an earnest suggestion.  “Try making rice crispy treats!,” he said. “This started out as a rotten day.  I’ve had three rice crispy treat and somehow everything seems better!”

It didn’t prevent me from the impending Easter candy massacre, but is was a very sweet sentiment.

And I totally get it, because rice crispy treats are amazing!  Most of use grew up with them, they are inexpensive to make (even when subbing in the organic, non-GMO version of everything), and they will completely dominate a bake sale fundraiser.

Despite it’s lack of real nutritional value, the purist (organic, non-GMO) version of the rice crispy treat will always exist in my kitchen.  I’m an American.  I live in the South.  There will always be a place for it.

In our house, the humble rice crispy treat has also given birth to an elevated offspring- the crispy farrro bar!

It keeps its lineage’s simple gooey, square shaped goodness but gains depth and complexity thanks to the puffed farro and the addition of rich and slightly salty chocolate hazelnut butter.  I urge you to stay away from Nutella in this instance- eat it with a spoon and I wont judge you should you choose (remember the Easter candy debacle above) but it contains its fair share of unnecessary ingredients- including soy- which give it an unnatural smoothness and slightly mask the true flavors that make this bars a stand out.  Amidst the melty marshmallows, you want this fella to scream rich chocolate, sweet hazelnut, and malty farro.

And these will still clean up at a bake sale- even if, every once and awhile, you have to describe them as being “like eating a rice crispy treat with Nutella.”

And just like that, I have treat envy.  The pharmacist was right- I should have left the chocolate eggs and gone home to make some more crispy farro bars!

Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

 

Crispy Farro Bars

  • 3 tbs butter
  • 12-15 oz marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter
  • 4- 4 1/2 cups puffed farro cereal, unsweetened

Directions: Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper

In a medium saucepan, heat butter and marshmallows over medium low heat until marshmallows are melted.  Stir in hazelnut butter until well combined.

Remove from heat and stir in farro cereal.

Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and press down evenly with oiled hands (Careful- it’s hot!) or with another sheet of parchment.

Allow to cool before cutting.

 

 

Let’s Eat All the Carbs!- Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

15 Apr Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

So… when I last left y’all (a short five days ago, none the less) we were on the nutrition plan of champions in this household bearing down on Boston Marathon and leaving nothing to chance- or lack of micronutrient consumption.  To hell with “if the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything” we said.  We’re going to burn the best of the best in this house!

Until The Hubs got norovirus (which, apparently, is the stomach virus of champions) and created a bonded association between quinoa and nausea. Now the only thing that sound appealing to him is ultra-refined carbs.  Ugh!

I’ll admit that this is tough for me.  When he injured his achilles and we decided it make sense for him to healthfully and safely drop some extra race weight I invested myself into the task with gusto.  It meant extra market trips, extra late nights prepping meals and snacks, and extra adorable/neurotic texts about dining decisions.  It meant sometimes prepare separate meals for he and Baby Bird.  And it meant tossing out all our standard taper menus I’ve become familiar with to recreate the wheel.  When he steps on the scale and is on track for the race weight we’ve been targeting, I feel like it’s a win in my column.

So tossing it all out and saying ‘Totally, eat all the refined carbs you want!’ seems pretty cray at this point.  There are SEVEN. DAYS. TO. GO!

Would a cold pressed, green juice IV line be an unreasonable thing to invent?

Admittedly, eating refined carbs is far better than eating nothing- the only other alternative for my poor patient who turns pale at even a mention of kale right now- and so my kitchen has become an artisanal bakery with hyper-obsessive portion control.  That is… until I DNF out of a half marathon, down a quarter of a bottle of Cab, discover a cherry chocolate bock in the outdoor fridge and need a more sensible way to finish it off…

Then it’s “Forget it, y’all!  Let’s eat ALL THE CARBS!” time in the most awesome way possible.

Like… seriously awesome.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

No, wait…

When life gives you 3/4ths a bottle of Cabernet, a lonely bottle of chocolate cherry bock beer, and the thumbs up on ripping into a new bag of all-purpose flour- make boozy jam and bread!

Cherry Chocolate Bock beer is in its heyday during winter months, but a cherry wheat (or even cherry chocolate stout if you’re feeling bold) would work just as well.  Spread your warm bread with a simple, good-quality chevre, slather with jam and enjoy.  You might even momentarily forget about your DNF, your stomach virus, or the A race you have looming on the horizon.  Carb blinders are sometimes a good thing.

Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

 

Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cabernet Jam

Bread:

  • 1 package Rapid Rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Cherry Chocolate Bock + 1/4 cup water, heated to 120 degrees F
  • 1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries, roughly chopped
  • olive oil
  • coarse sanding sugar

Jam:

  • 3 cups of Cabernet
  • 2 cups frozen cherries, thawed, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 pouches liquid pectin
  • 4-6 cups of sugar

To make Jam: If you will be canning in a water bath, prepare jars. (This makes 2 16 oz jars + some additional for immediate use)

Add cherries and all but 1/2 cup Cabernet to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, slowly adding sugar cup by cu and stirring to dissolve (amount of sugar depends on your preference for sweetness).  Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until cherries are softened and wine has begun to reduce slightly.

Add the liquid pectin and remaining half cup of wine and stir throughly to disperse pectin. Skim off any foam and continue to cook over medium heat until jam mixture will coat the back of a metal spoon of mixture spooned onto a chilled plate will firm up and gel on the surface.

Ladle hot jam mixture into prepared jars and waterbath can (15 minutes at sea level) or store in fridge for 3-4 weeks.

To make bread: In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk together the flours, yeast, sugar, salt, and cherries.  Add the liquids and knead the bread until it forms an elastic ball.

Oil a large bowl with olive oil.  Form dough into a ball and place in the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise undisturbed for an hour until doubled in size.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Gently deflate dough.  Reform into a ball and place on baking sheet to rise once again undisturbed until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Gently slash the top of the bread with a sharp knife, taking care not to deflate it.  Brush top of bread with olive oil and sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Bake bread for about 35 minutes until brown.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Homemade Oat and Seed Granola

9 Apr Homemade Oat and Seed Granola with oats, salba, chia, pepitas, and flax

As I recently filled you in, I’m on a mission right now to keep The Hubs feeling full while watching his race weight as we continue the countdown to Boston.  This task is far more difficult than one might expect; on one hand he is the most relentlessly driven, self-disciplined person I’ve ever met, yet on the other- as soon as it’s territory he doesn’t have to dominate (read: any and all of the choices on the food he consumes)- he very willingly relinquishes all control.  Don’t read into this as a complaint, I take great pride in the fact that such a capable, intelligent person would entrust his diet to me fully.  It does mean that I have a very important job.

It also mean that my phone features a constant feed of questions about what he can and cant eat.  Which is pretty adorable:

text collage

A donut? Are you serious?

See… adorable.

In order to keep Mr. Adorable away from the donuts on the road to Boston, I try to send a variety of tasty, wholesome snacks along each day to help keep him feeling satisfied.  Granola is the absolute easiest option since it can be consumed a variety of ways- dry as trail mix, sprinkled over yogurt or cottage cheese, layered over sliced bananas and fruit, or in a bowl with alt-milk and a spoon.

For me, granola is one of those foods it make me sick to think of purchasing because the store bought versions are A) infuriatingly expensive in comparison to their raw ingredients and prep effort level, B) normally contain lots of unnecessary salt and refined sugar, and C) are always lacking just a little something that would make it exactly what you wanted… but that you could easily make at home in the perfect, custom manner.

Chances are, you have the basic raw ingredients hanging out in your pantry just waiting to be used.  See what I mean:

  • 2 cups whole rolled oats
  • 1/2-3/4 cup nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup seeds
  • 1/3 cup dried fruit (coarsely chopped if using apples or apricots)
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt or kelp flakes
  • 4-6 tbs of honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbs of coconut oil

From there you can get fancy with a pinch of this or a dash of that, but in the end it’s really all the same.  It ends up being a great way to use up odds and ends in the pantry- which is far more eco-friendly and budget conscious than buying store bought.

Granola making (and consuming) rarely looks the same way twice in this household, but I do have a favorite framework I like to work around that includes lots of fabulous seeds and other little nuggets of scrumptious goodness.  Give it a go in your kitchen, but don’t be afraid to change it up to your liking.  And- MOST IMPORTANTLY- don’t turn it into something that necessitates a trip to the grocery store… use up what you’ve got in that pantry.

Unless, of course, you aren’t yet someone who stocks oats, seeds, and grade B maple syrup. In that case, get thee to the market PRONTO!

 

Homemade Oat and Seed Granola with oats, salba, chia, pepitas, and flax

Homemade Oat and Seed Granola

  • 2 cups whole rolled oats
  • generous 1/2 cup raw almond, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 2 tbs salba
  • 2 tbs black chia seeds
  • 2 tbs quinoa (raw)
  • 2 tbs golden flax seeds
  • 2 tbs shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 tsp kelp flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbs grade B maple syrup
  • 2 tsp local honey
  • 2 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • slash of vanilla extract
  • splash of almond extract
  • generous pinch of sea salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and, using a silicone spatula, toss well to incorporate.  Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, toss, and return to bake for 10-15 minutes more.

Allow to cool completely on baking pan before serving of storing.

*Frequency of tossing during cooking as well as length of cooling time will affect the size of your granola clusters.  If you like chunkier granola, toss less and allow to cool completely undisturbed.

Will keep in airtight container for about 2 weeks in fridge.

#FirstontheFirst- Stuffed Naan with Candied Red Onion

1 Apr #FirstontheFirst- Naan stuffed with candied red onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

Last month’s First on the First (lobster wellington, anyone?!) gave my wallet fits.  And while his month wasn’t a budget buster, it provided challenges of a different kind.  We’re tackling naan which is 1) made with refined white flour, and 2) something I make with some frequency.  Let me expand…

If you are even an infrequent reader you’ve probably gathered that we aren’t a gluten free (or flour free) household at this point, so the “refined white flour” challenge might be slightly confusing.  The Hubs is currently battling an achilles injury less than a month away from Boston Marathon, so we are being very careful about his diet and ensuring that he not put on weight during this change in activity level.  So white flour/white sugar are no-no’s for him right now.  Given his lack of self control when it comes to home-baked goods, it also means it’s a big fat no-no in our kitchen if he is at home.

#FirstontheFirst- Homemade Naan

The thing is, I really didn’t want to explore naan baking with alt-flours.  It just didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.  So I needed to bake naan in our house when The Hubs was gone but there was someone other than just me and Baby Bird around to eat it.

The other problem that presented, however, was that good ol’ white flour naan wouldn’t be a real First on the First for me since it’s a pretty common menu item in our house.  Tikka masala, Indian slaw, and garlic naan fresh off the griddle stand as a pretty satisfying meal around these parts so trying something new would mean moving beyond my beloved basic garlic naan, brushed with butter and topped with parsley.

Since I wasn’t going to waiver on the flour type, I decided to make a stuffed naan… during a playdate so someone would be around to help with the consumption issue.  I originally wanted to stuff it with ground lamb, candied red onions, currants, and cilantro… but our playdate guests were vegetarians so the lamb had to go.  I also decided that I wanted to bake it in the oven instead of on the stovetop grill as usual because it seemed like a safer option with extra sets of tiny hands roaming about.

The mix of daytime guests and vegetarian stuffing ended up being the right mix, because there wasn’t a tray full of baked goods poised to taunt The Hubs when he returned from work.  And the filling was darn good!

When push comes to shove, my preference will still be the standard garlic naan grilled hot and fluffy on the stovetop- somewhere between oven-baking and stuffing the texture changes just a bit- but this was a nice, substantial treat to now have in my repertoire.

#FirstontheFirst- Naan stuffed with candied red onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro

Naan Stuffed with Candied Red Onions, Currants, Garlic and Cilantro

  • half a red onion, minced
  • 5 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs local honey
  • 2 tbs + 1 tsp white sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • salt

Directions:  Place a pizza stone in oven.  Preheat oven to 550 degrees F (convection).

In a heavy bottom sauce pan, melt 3 tbs of butter.  Add onions and saute until beginning to soften.  Add vinegar, honey, and 2 tbs sugar.  Over low heat, cook for about15 minutes until syrup is thick and condensed and resembles a chunky jam.

In a small bowl, melt 1 tbs of butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp salt and remaining sugar. Pour egg mixture into the flour and stir to combine.  Pour half of the warm water into the flour mixture, using a spatula to combine.  Add the melted butter and mix again to combine.  Using your hands to knead within the bowl, slowly add the remaining water until the dough becomes well incorporated but not sticky.

Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes.

In a clean bowl, combine candied onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro leaves.  Stir to combine.

Melt remaining butter.

Divide dough into 4 portions.

Working with the first portion of dough, roll out slightly into a circle on parchment paper.  Place 1/4 of the filling mixture into the center, allowing at least a 1/2 inch boarder around the outside.  Dampen the edges of the dough with water and pinch together in the center to seal as though you are drawing up a purse.

Invert the dough, seal side down, and roll out once again to flatten gently.  Brush top with butter and place directly on pizza stone for 4-6 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough portions.

 

These ladies also took on the naan challenge this month:

 

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl with The Mother of All Taco Seasoning

25 Mar The Mother of All Homemade Taco Seasoning

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl- Perfect for endurance athletes!

Here we are y’all… a month past Austin Marathon and I’m still avoiding writing about it.  I’ll get there, but there are so many other things going one and the fact that it doesn’t really count as a race because I basically strolled through the second half makes it feel pretty unnecessary to even recap.  Besides, I’m SO BEHIND on recipes right now it seems the recap will have to be squeezed in amidst far more interesting and yummy topics.

And, since I’ve currently got a backlog of recipes half written and ready to post, this is the perfect time to delay them further to write about what I’m making a this very moment in my kitchen.  Obviously, that makes perfect sense!

Boston Marathon is just a month away, so logically The Hubs is facing an achilles injury with less than four weeks before he has to line up in Hopkinton.  No bueno!  Luckily, we’ve got a little time and a lot of awesome resources so we aren’t concerned.   Who needs long road runs when you’ve got access to an AlterG and 3 hour aqua jogs (in a 25 meter pool none the less… The Hubs has deemed it the “actual insanity workout”)?  Dedication and hard work trump perfect circumstances every time, mostly because perfect circumstances don’t exist.

What does this have to do with food?  Major changes in training intensity this close to a race coupled with an injury mean we need to keep a careful eye on his weight and nutrition- even more than usual.  Every calorie has to count big time in terms of nutrient density.  Which means bye bye to refined carbs and the sugary treats that he loves to sneak!  I have to make sure he is satisfied and nourished enough that he doesn’t have the desire to snag a candy treat when I’m not around.

It also means making dinners that can be packed up as lunches for the next day because I’ve got my hands full at night ensuring I pack the right combination of snacks to keep him full… but not too full.

Last week, I brought a tray of my made-over mac and cheese to my friend Laura’s house for a lunch playdate, and she served me a quinoa side dish very similar to the one I feature here that I promptly mixed in with my serving of mac- and it was delicious.  I quickly realized that the concept of her quinoa side dish would be a versatile one that I could draw on for years to come.  As I made my menu plan for the coming week, the memory of that little quinoa side kept shouting at me in my brain “Top me with ground beef and serve me over salad!”

If you’re a distance runner or endurance athlete, you’re probably pretty familiar with skillet style meals- brown some meat, dump in beans and tomatoes, and serve over rice.  While easy, I’m not a huge fan because skillet meals lack texture or color interest- they are meals of necessity and not enjoyment.  This beef and quinoa taco bowl is just as easy, but far more flavorful and offers levels of interest for your eyes and your palate.

I make my own taco seasoning, and you should too.  Mine is spicier and smokier than the one my friend Laura makes and serves mixed straight into the quinoa , but that’s the beauty of making your own spice mixes- you can make them perfectly to your liking.  I served the beef and quinoa over mixed baby herb greens, but you can just as easily use it to stuff an tomato, a pepper, or an avocado… or wrap it up in a spelt tortilla.  Top it according to your nutritional needs and taste preferences- plain kefir (instead of sour cream), queso fresco, or diced avocado.

The Mother of All Homemade Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 2 tbs chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp organic sugar
  • 1 tsp Chihuahua de Mexico wood smoked salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked tomato powder

Directions: Mix all spices in bowl to combine.  Store in an airtight container.

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl- Perfect for endurance athletes!

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or veggie broth
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs+ of homemade taco seasoning
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 a small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 lb grassfed, lean ground beef
  • grapeseed oil
  • serving options: plain kefir, queso fresco, mixed baby greens, avocado

Directions: Rinse quinoa well and drain thoroughly.  Bring veggie broth or water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add quinoa and I smashed garlic clove to the broth.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until most of liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat, uncover and fluff with a fork.

Thinly slice remaining garlic clove. Saute sliced garlic in a dollop of grapeseed oil for 2 minutes until fragrant but not browned.  Over medium/medium-high heat, add ground beef  and break up into large pieces.  Add taco seasoning (add seasoning to taste, I like to start with 2 tbs) and cook through, breaking up into small pieces as you cook.  If desired, season with additional salt while browning meat.

Line a colander with paper towels and pour in ground beef to drain off/ absorb any unnecessary fat.

In a large bowl, toss together quinoa, corn, onion, tomatoes, and cilantro.  Squeeze lime juice into quinoa mixture and toss to mix thoroughly.

Serve quinoa on a bed of greens, topped with beef and additional toppings of your choice.

 

#BetterGoodThings: Mac and Cheese Makeover (Complete with Cauliflower, Squash & Kale)

21 Mar #BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

#BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

This month for Better Good Things, Evin and I decided to better up (that’s a phrase now… I’m totally making it a thing) mac and cheese.  Apparently her kids are addicted to the orange stuff from the box, and even though baby Bird can’t eat much of the boxed stuff (Because soy.  And because NO.) besides a few types of Annie’s, she was introduced to a version she could eat while she was staying with grandparents and was apparently on a major mac and cheese jag during her trip.  So much so that when she came home she asked for it at every meal.  Every single one.

Now, I shouldn’t pretend that N has never had boxed mac because she most definitely has indulged.  On oh-so-overwhelming toddler days I have on occasion broken out the Annie’s mac and tried to make myself feel better by lacing it with non-gmo corn, peas, and diced carrots.  She is partial to the one with the oozy, Velveeta-esque cheese that really freaks me out.  I get it… the texture is smooth and creamy… but cheese that oozes out of a pouch?  That shouldn’t happen.

But did I mention that I totally understand her love for the oozy cheese?  After all, I secretly binge eat queso in the closet.  Not often…. but sometimes.

I had almost decided that soy free pseudo-cheese could be our private, dirty little mother-daughter secret until my mom told me she had heard rumblings that you could make your own “processed cheese product” that was actually made with real ingredients.  After much poking around and experimenting, I settled on a recipe I’m quite pleased with based on the one developed by Cristina at An Organic Wife.  She is an awesome, real-food guru so I urge you to check out her purist version at the link.

I’ve used this “real-veeta,” as I’ve come to call it, in a less cheesy mac and cheese packed with veggies that doesn’t lose any of it’s cheese depth or flavor.  It also bares that beloved day-glow orangyness… NATURALLY.

#BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

So much orange food…

You may look at the turmeric and nutritional yeast and think “Hmmm… those a weird for mac.  My kids won’t eat it.  I’m skipping those!”  Be forewarned, that will dramatically change the color, depth, and flavor- and your kiddos will call your bluff.

The kale and turkey bacon on top are the icing on the cake and add a satisfying crunch and bite.

Trust me on the orangey goodness.  The flavor, texture, and color are there.  Your kiddo wont be the wiser of the fast one you just pulled!

#BetterGoodThings- Homemade Real-veeta (Velveeta) made with whole food ingredients

It’s a beautiful nightmare, y’all! Whole food block-o-cheese…

Homemade Real-veeta

(following An Organic Wife‘s proportions)

  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2/3 cup monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 package gelatin (2 tsp)
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 1/2 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 2/3 cup organic whole milk

Directions: In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and allow it to bloom for five minutes.

Add shredded cheese to a powerful blender or food processor (I used my Vitamix) and sprinkle in nutritional yeast. Line a mini loaf pan with parchment or plastic wrap.

In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent scorching.  Remove milk from heat once it reaches a boil and whisk in gelatin mixture until smooth.  Pour immediately into blender and process until smooth.  Pour cheese mixture into mini loaf pan.

Refrigerate for at least three hours.

#BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

Made-Over Mac and Cheese

  • 1 block of homemade real-veeta, cubed
  • 1/2 a head of orange cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 5 oz bag of frozen, cubed butternut squash (defrosted)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup monterrey jack/cheddar cheese mix, shredded
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 a bunch of curly leaf kale
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 a bunch of kale
  • turkey bacon, cooked and diced
  • 2 cups pasta

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the kale to bake. Rinse and dry very well. Cut leaves from stem and tear into small pieces.  Toss kale pieces with with olive oil, 1 tbs nutritional yeast, and a generous pinch of salt and spread into a single layer across a baking sheet.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake the kale for 15 minutes.  Toss kale, rotate, and return to oven for 12 more minutes.  Check the kale for dehydrated crispness before removing from the oven.  Return from oven for one to two minutes if needed, watching carefully, to ensure they are crisp but not browned.  Gently remove to a bowl to cool completely.

Raise over temperature to 375 degrees F.

In a small pan, saute the butternut squash in the butter to slightly caramelize the surface.

In a steamer basket, steam cauliflower florets for 5-7 minutes until soft but not mushy.  Add both the cauliflower and butternut squash to a blender or food processor.  Add salt to taste (about 1 tsp was good for us), 2 tbs nutritional yeast, and the milk and puree.

Bring a pot of water to boil.

Pour puree into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and add cubed real-veeta and 1/3 cup shredded cheese stirring to melt.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook to al dente according to the instructions.  Drain pasta and add immediately to the cheese sauce, removing from heat.

Pour pasta and sauce into a 3 quart baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.

Remove from oven and serve warm, topped with bacon and crispy kale chips.

Hankering for even more mac?  Check out Evin’s take right here.  She gussies her mama version up with Sriracha… oh the goodness!

#BetterGoodThings- Mac and Cheese Makeovers

#FirstontheFirst: Lobster Wellington with Colorful Vegetable Medley

1 Mar

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

Well March, here we are.

In a passive aggressive attempt to avoid writing my recap of my abject failure at Austin Half Marathon, I’ve avoided posting really much of anything this month after my Better Good Things post.  And though the race recap will inevitably make it’s way to the party at some point it’s been trumped by a very fancy food adventure that I embarked upon for this month’s First on the First challenge.

#FirstontheFirst- Wellington (Beef and Lobster variations)

This month we were challenged to Beef Wellington.  Super fancy, right!?  Thoughts of turning Chez Larson into a fancy, gilded steakhouse with two dapper, tuxedo-clad beagle waiters danced through my dreams. And though is a remarkably adorable dream sequence- two immediate problems emerge here: 1) We’re Texans, and we like our steaks grilled and sans frills so pastry coated filet just aint my cuppa tea, y’all! (You see what I did with the colloquialisms, there?); and 2) I stink at red meat preparation.

Let me be very practical- from the very beginning, this challenge stood there glaring at me with neon dollar signs behind it.  It was going to be expensive to attempt.  The thought of knowingly walking into a challenge where I would obliterate countless dollars worth of filet, pate, mushrooms, wine and puff pastry made me sick.  I ran through the options… Chicken Wellington?  That shouldn’t be a thing.  Seitan Wellington?  Too odd a juxtaposition.  Lobster Wellington?  It’s a real thing and a task I could feel more confident to tackle.

I did a lot of research beforehand in an attempt to lessen the chances of failure and settled on a recipe from the Battle House Hotel as a guidepost.  I also decided that I would make life easier and only work with tails, make individual servings, and save myself the headache of homemade puff pasty and seafood stock in this application  and instead rely on market ready shortcuts that I know provide consistent results.

This still holds the distinction of being the most expensive single course meal I’ve ever prepared: lobster tails (almost $40 for 4 at WFM), Dufour puff pastry ($10 for two sheets), a bottle of Groth 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (not a budget breaker on it’s own, but at $17 a bottle things are adding up), seafood stock glace ($7 for 1.5 oz), plus organic veggies…. by the end of my shopping trip I knew that this would either be a post about a really great recipe that I’d made once and hadn’t further road tested for bumps or a post about ruining the most expensive meal I’d ever attempted.  No room in the budget for do overs!

In addition to bearing to title of most expensive meal I’ve attempted, it also happens to be the meal for which I’ve taken the worst photos ever- a particularly interesting distinction given that we all know I taken generally terrible photos at all times.  So there you go.  They’re really bad.

But the Lobster Wellington turned out to be really good- shoddy photos aside.  Like, really good!

And I discovered that Baby Bird loves lobster.  And I discovered that she is a total food snob as she accused me of not making “real lobsters” since I just used tails.

Oh, the trials of raising a teeny gourmand.  Maybe I shouldn’t have introduced her to Rick Bayless so early in life…

#FirstontheFirst: Lobster Wellington with Rainbow Chard, Asparagus, and Purple Cauliflower

Individual Lobster Wellingtons with Colorful Vegetable Medley

(Method as written uses two ovens)

Lobster Wellington Ingredients:

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, leaves and stems separated

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 container More Than Gourmet Glace de Fruits de Mer Gold
  • 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 6 tbs cold butter, cubed

Vegetable Ingredients:

  • Stems of rainbow chard
  • 1 head purple cauliflower
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 tbs butter
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:  Steam the lobster tails for 6 minutes.  Remove meat and set aside to allow to cool.

Combine wine and shallots in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and reduce by half.

Bring a pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath.  Julienne the stems of the chard.  Blanch the chard leaves in boiling water for one minute.  Transfer leaves to an ice bath to stop the cooking and towel dry.

Dilute the Glace de Fruits de Mer with 2 1/2 cups warm water and stir to combine.  Add mixture and thyme sprigs to wine and shallots and reduce again by half.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F for lobster and 400 degrees F for cauliflower.

Cut cauliflower into small florets and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread cauliflower on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes.

Make an egg wash with 1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp water.

#FirstontheFirst: Lobster Wellington with Rainbow Chard, Asparagus, and Purple Cauliflower

Lay out chard leaves to form four flat sheets shaped like squares for lobster tails.  Place lobster tail in the center of each square.  Wrap lobster tails in chard leaves.  Cut each puff pastry sheet in two.  Lay chard wrapped lobster tails atop each portion of puff pastry.  There should be a portion at the end of each puff pastry segment that will be visibly unnecessary for encasing the lobster- remove this and set aside.  Seal each lobster tail portion inside the puff pastry, pinching to close.  Seal with egg wash.  Using a small star pastry cutter, cut stars from remaining puff pastry.  Adhere over seam with egg wash.

#FirstontheFirst: Lobster Wellington with Rainbow Chard, Asparagus, and Purple Cauliflower

Bake lobster tails for about 20 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Remove sauce from heat.  Remove thyme sprigs and slowly whisk in butter, tbsp by tbsp.  Pass through a fine mesh strainer.

Cut asparagus into small segments.  In a pan over medium high heat, saute asparagus in a tsp of olive oil until tender crisp.  Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and add 1 tbsp of butter in which to saute the julienned chard stems.

Toss together the asparagus, chard stems, and cauliflower before serving.

To serve, coat bottom of plate with sauce.  Slice lobster wellington in half.  Place the lobster wellington atop the sauce and garnish with vegetables.

Looking for some Beef Wellington options made from… well… beef?  Check out the options from our other First on the First ladies:

#BetterGoodThings: Colorful Veggie Bars

20 Feb #BetterGoodThings- Colorful Veggie Bars

This month for Better Good Things (on the Third Thursday… because Evin loves alliteration!) Evin, the mama in charge at Food Good Laundry Bad, and I decided to tackle a recipe that makes its rounds pretty frequently on Pinterest and holds a place near and dear to my heart.  Sometimes it’s called “veggie pizza”… sometimes “veggie bars”… but it always shares some commonalities- ranch dressing, mayo, and icky supermarket crescent rolls.

When I was little, my mom used to make this as one of her go-to potluck appetizer recipes.  It was oh-so yummy and stands as a fabulous nostalgia food for me but- despite the veggie variety on top (my mama used to do stripes of diced carrot, cauliflower, on broccoli)- it’s been a no-no in our house given the traditionally super-processed base ingredients.  Which means this one was destined for a makeover…

At first glance, it probably seems like the first thing to go should be the canister of crescent roll dough- I know that is the first thing Evin axed on her end- and that was my plan as well (because homemade crescent roll dough does sound like a fun baking adventure) until I happened on a serendipitous discovery… my favorite “cheat” brand of ready to bake goods -Immaculate Baking- makes crescent roll dough.  The best part is that a roll of Immaculate crescent roll dough is only $4.95 at Whole Foods making it $0.05 less than the $5 cap for specialty ingredients that Evin and I set for Better Good Things.  The grocery gods are smiling upon me!

#BEtterGoodThings: Colorful Veggie Bars made with kale, purple cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, and tomatoes at gorunningmama.com

For the most part, the rolls of crescent roll dough you purchase at the supermarket contain soy (tons and TONS of soy), red 40 (which has suspected links to cancer, ADHD, and allergies/irritants), and tertiary butylhydroquinone- a form of butane used as a preservative with links to tinnitus, asthma, ADHD, nausea, stomach cancers, and interruption to estrogen levels in women.  No biggie, right?  My lovely friends at Immaculate Baking leave out all of those nasties!  And just to be clear, they’re not really my friends… they just make a great product that is a better choice for my family.  Which makes them feel like family!  Full disclosure… this product does contain canola oil which is not my favorite choice, but here and there I excuse it in the name of brief and infrequent convenience.  And because I had a stomach virus last week which morphed into a cold this week and I just can’t imagine having to work through the rise and rest periods for yeast dough at this moment!

But if you’re standing firm on no canola oil (because you probably should), check out Evin’s Real Food Veggie Pizza that totally boycotts dough-in-can…

#BetterGoodThings- Real Food Veggie Pizza

Regardless of your crust choice, jump on board with me for my ranch dressing better choice-  In place of the usual ranch dressing topping (soybean oil, phosphoric acid- lowers bone density, calcium disodium EDTA- can cause kidney damage…) I opted for a kale pesto-esque spread made with cream cheese.  Want to keep it vegan?  Forgo the cheese; up the kale content; and add some olive oil, nuts, nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt!

#BEtterGoodThings: Colorful Veggie Bars made with kale, purple cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, and tomatoes at gorunningmama.com

(Note: This images show a half portion of the recipe I below)

Instead of doing my mama’s standard veggie stripes so beloved from my childhood, I tossed the veggies together so that no one has to miss out on any goodness.  The purple cauliflower?  A total essential in our house!  Not only does it look simply gorgeous, but it is also a surefire way to get my little girly girl to down veggies on even the pickiest toddler days!  (Need a go to girly snack? Pink hummus dyed with beet juice served with purple cauliflower for the win!)

#BEtterGoodThings: Colorful Veggie Bars made with kale, purple cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, and tomatoes at gorunningmama.com

If you’re like me and have a fridge stuffed with veggie leftovers that constantly need using, having a roll of family friendly crescent roll dough on hand could help you create and easy meal out of those leftovers by customizing the toppings.  Even better- it’s one of those meals that feels like an art project for little hands which can be a huge lifesaver on fridge cleanup day.

Sometimes playing with your food is such a good decision!

#BetterGoodThings- Colorful Veggie Bars made with kale, purple cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, and tomatoes at gorunningmama.com

Colorful Veggie Bars

(In the pictures above, I reduced my recipe by half to make a manageable size for just us three… the recipe I’ve included here will make an entire jelly roll pan worth which is perfect for take along snacks for your next playdate or extended family game night… or just a bigger family in general!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 rolls of Immaculate Baking crescent rolls
  • 8 oz organic cream cheese
  • 6 oz parmesan cheese
  • about a half a bunch of kale, ribs removed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 tbs plain kefir
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup purple cauliflower florets
  • 1 1/2 cup broccoli slaw
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Roll the crescent roll dough out to cover the pan and press seams together.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven to cool.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the kale and garlic together they form a paste.   Add cream cheese, parmesan, and kefir and pulse to an even, spreadable consistency.  Spread kale mixture on the cooled crescent roll base.

Finely dice the cauliflower, tomatoes, and bell pepper.  Toss with the broccoli slaw and sprinkle evenly across the kale spread, pressing lightly into the spread to keep in place.

Slice with a pizza slicer and serve immediately. Or store in refrigerator in layers separated by parchment.

#FirstontheFirst: Steamed Pork Buns

1 Feb #firstonthefirst Steamed Pork Buns- Go Running, Mama!

Unbelievably, it’s First on the First time yet again!  This month I was super-dee-duper excited about our cooking task because it allowed me to indulge in a little chefcentric excitement.  There are a few people’s cuisine that I get really excited about.  If you know me personally you might say this is an overwhelming understatement.  There are a few people’s cuisine that I get totally jazzed about and can carry on about for hours.  Literally hours.

At least it’s a short list.  And a respectable one at that:

  1. Rick Bayless- Given his theory on food and sustainability, this one should come as no surprise.  Full disclosure- I have a foodie crush on him.  Further important detail, I once stayed up super late making custom “Bayless Babies” onesies for Baby Bird and her infant friends complete with labels like “sustainable eater” and “locally grown” so we could dress our nuggets full on baby groupie style to watch his demo at the Green Market.  And RICK BAYLESS TWEETED A PICTURE OF THEM!  That’s right, Rick Bayless tweeted a photo a Baby Bird.  (Okay, when I read that it seems like a weird thing to be excited about.  That’s that strangest one, I promise!)

    Steamed Pork Buns- Go Running, Mama!

    But seriously, what celebrity chef WOULDN’T tweet this photo!?!

  2. Gordon Ramsey- The American television persona has no effect on me.  I don’t watch TV anyway.  Ramsey is responsible for the single best dining experience of my life at Maze in Prague.  We were fortunate enough to do the tasting menu.  I was unfortunate enough to do the wine pairings.  I cannot recall the very minutia of this meal, which irks me because I can normally remember every nuance of the meals I consider the best I’ve ever had.  Even with that, it was still undeniably the best meal I’ve ever eaten.  There was some sort of corn bisque… and a tiny muffin… and savory jam… and then it fades into foie gras course… Ommmmmm.  Nirvana.  I’m satisfied with this one remaining a blissfully euphoric haze and great wine and stellar food.

    Steamed Buns- Go Running, Mama!

    On our rooftop in Prague before heading out to dinner at Maze. And before the wine pairings.

  3. Eric Ripert- Ripert uses a holistic approach to food and cooking and truly believes it is a spiritual experience.  Like Bayless, he shares anecdotes and and expiences that prove food connects us.  How can you not be drawn to that.  Especially with that accent… and those eyes… (Okay, this one is getting weird too).  Plus, he provides the perfect counter balance to all the things I love about the dredge that is Anthony Bourdain.
  4. David Chang- And we’ve reached the enigma.  Chang majored in religion, taught English in Japan, and made a major career shift based on his love for the humble ramen noodle.  He is fully invested in food cultures and puts out a pretty sweet publication- Lucky Peach- with is my go-to in-flight reading (which is basically the only time I manage periodical reading).  And he does irreverent things with food sometimes.  And it’s awesome.

With that said, this post could have simply started with me highlighting my my interest in David Chang’s food but then I would have had no reason to share a pic of Baby Bird with Rick Bayless or The Hubs dressed like Heisenberg.

Back to those steamed buns…

When The Hubs and I were in NYC on a little business trip several months ago, we of course spent our first meal at the temple of Chang.  For steamed buns!  And after our meal we of course ran back to the apartment we were renting because The Hubs was on a streak… and our flight had gotten in late… and if we didn’t run back- with me in a dress- he wouldn’t have gotten his run in for the day and the streak would be over (Runners…shesh!).  While I do not recommend going for a run afterwards, I do wholeheartedly recommend experiencing David Chang’s steamed bun with pork belly.

So this, of course, is what I knew I just had to attempt to make for this challenge.

Luckily for me, Chang did a video tutorial with Martha Stewart on his humble, iconic pork bun!  Ummm, hello!? Martha and Chang in the same frame?  Someone come revive me, please!

Normally when we do these challenges, I get creative and push things.  I strike out with my own recipe.  I did not do that here.  I’m not going to make David Chang’s signature dish better in some way, so I’m not even going to pretend.  I basically used the recipe Chang provided for Martha Stewart.

I did make a few changes to adjust for portion, ease of preparation in a house governed by a toddler schedule (not really… but sort of), and because I made a measuring error.

I didn’t want enough pork belly for 30 servings because in a house of 2.5 full sized humans I knew 30 servings of pork belly would mean pork belly for lunch everyday for the week (which would have scale shattering, artery clogging consequences by week end).  I didn’t want to make the pork early to have the rendered fat on hand to make the buns only to have to bother with reheating the pork to serve for dinner… so I rendered bacon fat for my buns.  Oh, and I added a quarter cup too much flour because… Ooops!… so I had to counter the mistake with a tad more liquid.

But guess what y’all?  These are flipping delicious!

But remember, DO NOT go running right after you eat them.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

#firstonthefirst Steamed Pork Buns- Go Running, Mama!

Steamed Buns with Pork Belly

Steamed Bun Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tbs warm water (100-110 degrees F)
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
  • 4 cups bread flour
  •  1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Pork Belly Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 sup coarse kosher salt
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless pork belly

For serving:

  • hoisin sauce (if you want to keep it soy-free, find a soy free sauce)
  • thinly sliced cucumbers
  • green onions

Directions:  To dry brine the pork, mix together the salt and sugar and rub into the pork in a shallow dish.  Cover and refrigerate for about 5 hours.

Cook the bacon slices in a pan to render the fat.  Once cook, remove bacon and reserve for other uses and pour fat through a mesh sieve into a small glass container to use in buns.

In a glass measuring cup, mix together yeast, water, and bacon fat until yeast is dissolved. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together both flours, salt, and sugar until well combined. Add yeast mixture and mix until dough comes together. Once it comes together, knead for 8 minutes.

Coat a large bowl with olive oil; add dough and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

To begin cooking the pork, preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Rinse brined pork to remove salt mixture and pat dry; transfer to a roasting pan on a sheet or parchment. Roast pork until very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, cut out 30 square pieces of parchment paper (about 4×4).

Return to the dough and punch down. Roll dough into a log about 30 inches long. Cut dough into 30 golf ball-sized pieces. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap; let rise 40 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, press dough flat and, using a rolling pin, roll dough toward you into a 6-by-3-inch oval. Repeat process with remaining dough. Brush each piece of dough lightly with olive oil and fold in half. Place each piece of dough on an individual piece of parchment paper. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise slightly.

Once the pork has cooked for 2 1/2 hours at 300, increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Continue roasting pork until fat is golden, about 10 minutes more.   Slice pork across the grain and return to baking dish with its juices.

Set a large bamboo steamer in a large skillet with water about 1/2 inch up the sides of the steamer basket; bring to a boil. Working with 5 buns at a time, place buns on their parchment paper in the steamer basket; cover and steam over high heat until puffed and cooked though, about 10 minutes.

Brush hoisin sauce on the bottom half of each bun. Top with pork, cucumbers, and green onions. Serve immediately.

#firstonthefirst Steamed Buns

Looking for another steamed buns recipe?  Check these out:

Loriana’s Inspiration Miles… And A Call For A Marrow Match!

1 Feb I'll Be Your Strong- Loriana's WIn

My friend Loriana Hernandez began an aggressive dual chemotherapy protocol yesterday that will last 72 solid hours.  Being the warrior that she is, she immediately set a goal to walk the halls of her floor at John Hopkins 26 times each day.  0.04 miles in each lap.  26 laps in a mile.  I know that mile is 100 times more difficult than any distance race I’ve ever run- without question.

Inspiration miles... And A Call For Marrow Donor!

Think running a marathon is tough?  Walking a mile through the hospital ward while toting the machine that is obliterating your immune system is more extreme than any ultra marathon on my bucket list.  Yet Loriana remains dedicated to seeing this goal through, and in the past two days she has fallen only 6 combined laps behind her mile a day goal.

Just .25 miles short.

I think we can make up the deficit for her!

On my running plan this weekend is just six little miles, but I told Loriana that each mile would be filled with positive and intentional thoughts for her victory:

  • Mile One is for HOPE
  • Mile Two is for STRENGTH
  • Mile Three is for RESILIENCE
  • Mile Four is for PATIENCE
  • Mile Five is for TENACITY
  • Mile Six is for ENDURANCE
  • + another .25 miles for good measure

As you strike out on you weekend long run, keep Loriana in mind.  Donate a mile (or six) of your mental miles during your run to intentional throughs for her victory and healing.  Run an extra quarter mile to help her close the goal in her gap.  Or heck, log a PR with her in your heart…. and then take a moment to let her know via social media (see below) that we’ve got her covered.

We have the great privilege of being the running legs for a true warrior right now; don’t take a footfall of your run for granted!

How can you help Loriana’s battle?

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