Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cranberry Ginger Oatmeal Bars

Ho ho ho!  Merry Hakwanza everybody.  The holiday season is upon us whether we're ready or not.

Apart from all of the decorations and lights and road-raged parking lots that give us such cheer every year, the holiday season also means many festive parties to attend.  Although it certainly is a time to gather with family and friends, it's also a time to brainstorm what to bring to the party when you're a guest.  This causes a problem for some.  What to contribute?  We tend to lean towards wine or some sort of booze as a go-to, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that.  But I think it's time to broaden our horizons.

Sure, we all love a good drink, but food is an equally important part of a good shin-dig.  That's why I look to homemade baked goods when I can.  It shows you went the extra mile - spending the time to take on a recipe and bake it - and it adds a sweet finish to the party that you know everyone is looking for, even when they wont admit it.  We need something to accompany that mug of holiday-mix-of-liquors-from-the-punch-bowl, am I right?

These oatmeal bars are not only tasty, but they trump cookies in difficulty level too.  You mix a batter, spread it in a pan, and put it in the oven until they're done.  No dropping spoonfuls on baking sheets, waiting for 12 minute intervals near the oven, having to use all of the pans in your kitchen.  Once cooled you simply cut them into bars, and you instantly have individual portions of the tasty treat.  I will give you fair warning though; I wouldn't count on each person to eat just one, so plan accordingly.

Cranberry Ginger Oatmeal Bars

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup craisins
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place rack in middle position.  

-  Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

-  Beat butter and sugars together in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix in.

- Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture with the machine on low and mix until just combined.  Stir in the oats, craisins, and chopped ginger.  

- Spread batter in an ungreased 9x13" pan.  Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Let completely cool on a wire rack and cut into bars.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pitza Time

Now posted on Local In Season as well!  Check it out.  

Although we don’t associate this time of year (tell me how it came to be the end of November again?) with bountiful harvests from the garden, there are still some edible gems left in the surviving vines that keep us going throughout the winter. They are the brave warriors who withstand the cold fall nights when other vegetables bow out until next season. I’m talking about winter squash of course, and they’re about to take center stage on your table during the holiday season.

If you think about it, even our favorite ways to cook winter squash remind us of their seasonality; roasted slowly in a hot oven that first warms our homes from the cold outside, and then warms our bodies once we devour the soft, sweet, and nutty roasted flesh of the squash. It comforts us as we hunker down for ski-jacket and window scraper season.

Recently though, I have been thinking about how we tend to be set in our ways on how we use winter squash. Butternut squash? Soup. Acorn squash? Stuffed. Pumpkins? Jack-o-lanterns and pie. I realized it was time for a little more culinary exploration of these cold weather combatants.

Enter the Curry Pumpkin Apple Pitza. I created this recipe one night when I wanted something different and delicious, but without requiring a large amount of time or energy. The solution? Mini pizzas made out of pitas instead of dough (hence Pit-zas…get it! gosh I love food word puns) and topping them with flavor combinations that you’re definitely not going to find at your local pizza joint. Pairing ingredients like pumpkin and apples with curry, coconut, and lime, I went around the world and back with my first taste. Now you can enjoy an exotic spin on classic fall flavors too with every bite of this pita-pizza hybrid.

Pair with a fresh green salad.

Serves 6


¾ cup pumpkin puree 

¼ cup ricotta cheese 
¾ teaspoon curry powder 
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/8 teaspoon salt

¼ cup coconut milk 
1 teaspoon lime juice 
½ teaspoon lime zest

6 whole-wheat pitas (see Tip)
1 medium apple, thinly sliced (about 1/8” thick) 
1 ½ cup grated gruyere cheese 
3 tablespoons chopped scallion


Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Set oven rack to middle position.

In a bowl combine the pumpkin, ricotta, curry powder, cayenne, cinnamon, and salt.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, lime juice, and lime zest. Set aside.
Spread pitas out on a large baking sheet and place in preheated oven. Toast pitas until slightly crisp and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.

Remove pitas from oven. Evenly spread 2 tablespoons pumpkin mixture onto each pita, following with a single layer of apple slices, and topping with cheese. Place pitas back into the oven and cook until the cheese melts and starts to bubble, 3-5 minutes.

Remove pitzas from oven and place on serving plates. Let cool at least 5 minutes. Drizzle each pitza with 1-2 teaspoons of the coconut-lime milk and evenly top with chopped scallions. Serve immediately.

Tip: Cut a small 2-inch slit on the side of each pita so steam can escape while in the oven.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bread & Cookies

Sometimes I go through food streaks.  They come over me every once in a while, and there's no stopping once they've started.  I zone in on one type of food or dish, and I cant stop making it in every form it comes in.  Recently I've been on a baking streak, and I fear the end is not in sight.

On baking streaks I read every book on baking I have, fascinated by all of the complex processes that occur when heat meets batter.  I think that every recipe I pass over MUST be tried, as if there was no other alternative.  I MUST try it and I MUST bake it.  Or else I will NEVER know what it's like to make it or what it tastes like.  (!!!)  You can imagine the anguish.

My oven gets a workout and my kitchen becomes dominated by smells of browning sugars and butter.  Before I know it the counters are overflowing with full cooling wracks and dirty measuring cups.   I feel kind of like the Cat Lady...  But instead of cats and milk bowls all over my house, they're treats from the oven.  Maybe that just makes me the Crazy Food Lady?  Anyway, all I have to say is God bless the freezer.

My latest fixations have been Bread and Cookies.  I think that the smell of freshly baked bread is next to hallucinogenic, let alone eating a warm slice, and cookies... well, cookies are just delicious.  If you don't like cookies, I don't know if I can trust you.  That's all.

With these food streaks come marathons of photo shoots of the final products.  The other day I baked a loaf of bread and ended up with 75 photos on my once blank memory card.  What?  How did that happen?  I didnt know whether to be embarrassed or impressed.  Not many people could have 75 different visions of a loaf of bread.  We'll call it special.

The following are some of the recent recipes I've made with their respective photo shoots.  Enjoy, and seriously try these recipes out.  Theyre as delicious as they look.

Multigrain Molasses Bread

1 large loaf, 14 slices
Active Time: 
Total Time:


  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/3 cups unbleached bread flour, (see Note)
  • 1 cup bran flakes cereal, crushed into fine bits (see Tip)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon yellow or white cornmeal, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant, quick-rising or bread-machine yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups ice water, (see Tip), plus more as needed
  • 1/3 cup mild molasses, (not blackstrap)
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil


  1. Mix dough: Thoroughly stir 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, bread flour, bran cereal, 1/3 cup oats, 1/4 cup cornmeal, salt and yeast in a 4-quart (or larger) bowl. Thoroughly whisk ice water, molasses and oil in a medium bowl. Vigorously stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides and mixing just until the dough is thoroughly blended. The dough should be moist and a bit sticky, but fairly stiff. If the mixture is too dry, stir in just enough additional ice water to facilitate mixing, but don’t overmoisten. If the dough is too wet, stir in just enough whole-wheat flour to stiffen slightly. Lightly coat the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  2. First rise: Let the dough rise at room temperature (about 70°F) for 12 to 18 hours; if convenient, stir once partway through the rise. For convenience (and improved flavor), you may refrigerate the dough for 3 to 12 hours before starting the first rise.
  3. Second rise: Generously coat a 9-by-5-inch (or similar large) loaf pan with oil. Vigorously stir the dough to deflate it. If it is soft, stir in just enough whole-wheat flour to yield a firm but moist dough (it should be fairly hard to stir). Transfer the dough to the pan. Lightly coat the top with oil. Smooth and press the dough evenly into the pan using a well-oiled rubber spatula or your fingertips. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon each oats and cornmeal and pat down. Using well-oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife, cut three or four 1/2-inch-deep, evenly spaced slashes diagonally in the top of the loaf. Cover the pan with plastic wrap.
  4. Let rise at warm room temperature until the dough nears the plastic, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. (For an accelerated rise, see Tip.)
  5. 15 minutes before baking: Position a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°F.
  6. Bake, cool, slice: Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Bake the loaf on the lower rack until the top is lightly browned, 60 to 70 minutes. Continue baking, covering with foil if necessary to prevent overbrowning, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs on the tip (or until an instant-read thermometer registers 204-206°), 10 to 15 minutes longer. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the loaf out on the rack and let cool to at least warm before serving. The loaf is good warm but slices best when cool.


  • Make Ahead Tip: Wrap airtight and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
  • Note: Milled from high-protein wheats, bread flour develops strong gluten, resulting in well-risen loaves. It helps give breads with a high percentage of whole grains better structure and a lighter texture. Find it near other flours in most supermarkets.
  • Tips: The easiest way to crush bran flakes is to put them in a small sealable plastic bag, close it tightly, then press down with a rolling pin or the palm of your hand.
  • To prepare “ice water” for this recipe, add a heaping cup of ice cubes to cold water and stir for about 30 seconds before measuring out the water.
  • You can turn your microwave into a warm, moist environment to help accelerate the second rise of the bread dough. Begin by microwaving 1/2 cup water in a 1-cup glass measure just to boiling. Set the water in one corner of the microwave, place the pan of dough on the other side of the turned-off microwave and close the door. The dough will double in size in 45 minutes to 11/2 hours.


Per serving: 163 calories; 4 g fat (0 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 275 mg sodium; 207 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Iron (15% daily value).

Homemade Oreos

Let’s talk about the sugar for a minute, shall we? This is a sweet cookie. A good, sweet cookie. Yet, if you think of an actual Oreos, the wafers are fairly un-sweet and actually on the slightly salty side, which contrasts with the super-sweetness of the filling bringing harmony, happiness, yada yada. If you want your cookie closer to that original, you can take out a full half-cup of the sugar. If you want to make the cookie by itself (as I did a while back for ice cream sandwiches), go ahead and use the full amount.
Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar [see recipe note]
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
  5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Paonia and Excelsior Best Of Pics, Summer 2010

All of the pictures took up a bit too much memory space for one blog post so I put the whole album up on Facebook to browse in full.  Click here to check them out!  And feel free to share your feedback

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Proper Farewell

Recently I have found myself at a crossroads during visits to farm stands.  The other day, for example, I walked down to Verrill Farm in Concord, MA and stood in their outdoor produce section presented with a predicament.  To my left I saw crates of butternut, acorn, and delicata squashes, practically asking me to crack them open, roast them, and make soup…all next to a warm fire, and probably while watching a football game.  Then, to my right, I saw crates of the last ears of corn, and an entire table of…what’s this?  The last-man-standing summer tomatoes?  I must’ve looked like the most conflicted shopper the produce section had ever seen. 

Do I let summer go and embrace fall, or hang on until Mr. Frost makes me let go?  I decided that that moment at the stand was probably the last living breath these summer treats would have before becoming compost, and I had to act accordingly.  With that, I reached for the tomatoes – the more delicate of the two summer options – and filled my up my basket.  Sure, technically it was fall, but that didn’t mean I still couldn’t give summer a proper goodbye.

That’s when I knew what I had to make; a sandwich so simple in principle that it would showcase the pure tomato justly, but with enough room for alteration to make it worthy of the fruit’s final bow (or vegetable’s, depending on who you ask).

That’s right, we’re talking about The Ultimate BLT.  This is when you go for the best of the best for every ingredient; bakery fresh bread (thanks Nashoba Bakery!), farm fresh lettuce and tomatoes (thanks Verrill!), high end bacon (thanks Vermont Smoke and Cure!), and an ultimate dressed up mayo spread (ingredients also thanks to Verrill).  The end product leaves you with a sandwich stacked so high with quality ingredients that the symphony of flavors in your mouth will lead you into a meal of silence.  Homemade black pepper candied bacon?  Lemon-garlic-herb mayo?  A slight tang of warm sourdough?  A refreshing crisp of lettuce, with a final hurrah of that juicy, sweet, and meaty tomato?  Go get a napkin and wipe off your drool, then get to the kitchen and give the tomato the proper farewell it deserves.  

Ultimate BLT Recipe
Serves 4

1 loaf of bakery fresh sourdough bread
1 head of fresh leaf lettuce
3 large garden tomatoes, cut into ¼” slices
1 lb package of bacon
¼ c. packed light brown sugar
Black pepper
1 c. mayonnaise
½ c. packed fresh basil leaves
I TB chopped fresh chives
1 clove garlic
Zest of one whole lemon plus the juice of half of it
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place an oven safe cooling rack on top.   Cover rack with strips of bacon.  Generously sprinkle cracked black pepper over each strip of bacon.  Then sprinkle brown sugar evenly over bacon slices.  Bake in oven for around 20 minutes, depending on how you like your bacon.  Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place the mayonnaise, basil, chives, garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a food processor or blender.  Blend - while pulsing to chop all the ingredients - until everything is evenly distributed.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Slightly toast 8 slices of bread.  Spread each side of bread with herb mayo, and layer on the slices of tomato, bacon, and lettuce leaves.  Devour immediately. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Long Live the King

Another article posted on Local In Season, catch the specific link here.  Slightly belated, but enjoy!

Every year when summer time approaches, there are specific things I really look forward to.  There are of course the longer days, the warm rays of sun, the nightly ice cream cones.  It just wouldn’t be summer without these things.  But, I must tell you, there are few things that get me as excited as what I consider one of the Kings of Summer.  He’s tall, he’s strong, his history lies within the roots of this continent.  He is Sir Sweet Corn.  And not just any sweet corn, but local sweet corn.  Those imposters available year round in the grocery store simply will not do.  When I take my first trip to the local market and find those green treasures piled high on produce stands, I know the epitome of summer’s treats are upon us.

From then on I cannot resist eating straight up roasted corn on the cob every night for dinner for days straight.  Seriously though, it’s a problem.  Each year I become more and more nervous that I will overdose and never be able to eat corn ever again.  The horror!  In light of this though, I try to mix up the menu as much as I can while still incorporating the golden seasonal treat.  This salad thankfully has enough supplemental ingredients – and delicious ones at that - to ensure me that I will still be able to eat dozens upon dozens of ears every year without losing touch with my love for every sweet, crunchy, and summery morsel.

Take some to your next summer potluck.  That is, if there’s enough left after you can’t stop eating it straight from the bowl.

Summer Corn and Black Bean Salad

(serves 6 as a side dish)

6 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 can of black beans, drained
1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼” dice
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced, ribs and seeds removed for less heat if desired
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon cumin
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (red wine vinegar would be fine too, I just love the hint of sweetness in the rice vinegar)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

If you are using fresh ears of corn, cut off all the kernels on each ear with a sharp knife.  Preheat a skillet over medium high heat and add some oil to coat the pan.  Sautee all of the corn kernels in the skillet, stirring often, until they are cooked through – I even like to get a bit of char on them for extra flavor.  This recipe is also perfect for leftover ears of corn from an earlier-in-the-week dinner. Simply cut the kernels off of the leftover cooked ears and save them until you make the salad.  

Add the cooled corn kernels to a large bowl.  Add the rest of the prepped ingredients and mix to combine, adding salt to taste.  Enjoy the gifts of the King.