Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Raspberry whole wheat bars

In a constant effort to perfect camping, hiking, and road trip food, I'm always focused on the snacks. When taking to the road and spending hours romping in the splendid outdoors, quality snacks are a must. I love snacks. Especially sweet ones, which are more like dessert, but sort of healthy.

Right now I'm testing out recipes for our annual Utah desert road trip in May. This time we will be exploring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, and diving further into the San Rafael Swell. The desert is calling and we must go. 

We have already planned the menus. The first night, in celebration of Blake's completion of law school, we will be making camp beer cheese fondue. That's right you can have fondue and all the fixings while camping or so says Sunset's The Great Outdoors Cookbook. There will also be camp pesto pasta, thai red peanut coconut curry noodles, frittata, and pancakes. We will snack on M&M cookies, homemade chex mix, beef jerky, nut butter, Annie's cheddar bunnies, and these bars. These snacks are becoming tradition and traditions make camping under the stars all the more special. 

The reason for these bars is a childhood love of Nutri-Grain bars. As with all food things in life now, I believed a version of Nutri-Grain bars could be homemade with less unpronounceable ingredients and more whole food ingredients. I'm talking whole wheat, oats, raspberries, sugar, and butter. That list right there makes for an energy filled food, maybe a little decadent, but a great tasty hiking snack. These bars revived me after a 20 mile training run this morning and they will revive me after hiking miles in the desert in May. And darn are they good and easy. Good things in life should always be embraced. 

Raspberry whole wheat bars
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pods

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
1 1/2 cups thick rolled oats 
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted) or canola oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2" cubes 
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup raspberry jam or any favorite fruit jam 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, oats, brown sugar, and salt, about 3-4 pulses. Add the coconut oil, butter, and water and pulse until the dough holds together when pressed. If dough seems dry, add water a tablespoon at a time until it holds together. Alternatively you can whisk the flour, oats, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and add oil, butter, and water using a fork to combine and break up pieces of butter into the dough. 

Grease a 9" by 13" baking pan with nonstick spray, cover the pan with parchment, and spray the parchment with nonstick spray. Pour half the dough mixture into your baking dish and use your hands to press it into a layer. Using a spatula spread the jam over this layer. Sprinkle the other half the dough over the top and use your hands or the spatula to press into a layer. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.

Let cool before cutting into whatever sized bars you please. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hoisin pork rice bowls

Spring has kicked me into high gear. I spent the entire weekend outside doing all the garden projects I have been meaning to do since we bought the house. That was four years ago. In those four years, weeds reclaimed pretty much everything. My back lawn is one big dandelion patch and since I'm one of those darn tree huggers, I refuse to spray anything nasty on them. So I have bequeathed the yard to those lovely yellow weeds. Go ahead dandelions. It's all yours.

This weekend I laid weed barrier in the weed infested planter beds. I could no longer stand for the weeds threatening my tulips and irises. I also pulled up old mummified tomato plants from days of yore. Peas and carrots are successfully in the ground. I stained the deck. I gave myself a high five. 

After all the backbreaking work, I even manage to make dinner. These hoisin pork rice bowls are like the homemade version of Tokyo Joe's. They are simple to make. The hoisin sauce with peanut butter, and sweet red chili sauce is the best part. It coats the pork and vegetables in a sticky sweet delight. The pork does need to sit for an hour in the dry brine or overnight, if you want to plan ahead. After letting the pork marinate, the recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes. 

Hoisin pork rice bowls 
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest, serves 4

1 lb pork chops, cubed
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of brown sugar 
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce 
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (can sub white wine vinegar)
1 red bell pepper, sliced 
6 green onion, chopped 
1 small head of green cabbage, rough chopped
1 lime

Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup hoisin (found in the Asian aisle of the grocery store) 
2 tablespoons peanut butter, melted
2 tablespoons sweet thai chili sauce 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

3 cups steamed white rice
2 large carrots, cut in to matchsticks
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup crushed peanuts 

In a large tupperware, stir pork together with garlic, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Let marinade in the refrigerator for an hour to overnight. 

While pork in marinating prepare your hoisin sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together hoisin, peanut butter, sweet thai chili sauce, and crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside. 

In another small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and rice vinegar. 

Right before you are ready to cook the pork prepare the rice according to the package directions. 

In a large saute pan over high heat, add olive oil until it's almost smoking hot. Add the pork and brown on all sides, 4-5 minutes a side. Add your bell pepper and cook for a minute. Add the cabbage and green onions and cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted, 3-4 minutes. Pour the soy sauce mixture over the top and stir for 3-4 minutes until everything is coated. Squeeze half the lime over the top, stir, and remove from the heat. 

Over the rice layer pork and vegetables, carrots, cilantro, peanuts, and a dollop of hoisin sauce. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lentil crusted grouper with saag and lemon zest sauce

I made you something light, springy, and wonderful. Does spring make you really happy? I know I have said this in the past but I have recently discovered spring as a new favorite season. I have forgotten this lovely season in the past. I pretty much skipped it and went right on to summer. But as Blake and I were walking this weekend in 70 degrees, I turned to him and made this profound statement, "this season just makes me really happy." The flowers, the sun, and the hope spring brings with it are too wonderful. I refuse to skip it anymore.

The changes in the weather also dictate changes in my appetite. When the sun starts to warm the earth, I no longer find myself craving chili. I want lighter, brighter ingredients. This grouper is from Farm, Fork, Food, a cookbook by local chef, Eric Skokan. Skokan sources many of the ingredients in his restaurant from his own farm. As a result, his cookbook is broken down into recipes that reflect what can be sourced in Colorado in each season. Yummy, local food is close to my heart.

I love the lentil crust on this fish. Since it's just lentils and spices, it's gluten free (if that's something important to you) and crispy. The saag is made with yogurt instead of the classic cream, which makes it tangy and lighter. The highlight of this dish for me was the lemon and orange zest sauce. A little lemon and orange zest, pureed with a little sugar and olive oil are outstanding on top of this fish. Really lovely.

Lentil crusted grouper with saag and lemon zest sauce
Adapted from Farm, Fork, Food

Lentil crusted cod
3/4 cup red lentils
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 1/2 pounds grouper
4 tablespoons olive oil

Lemon zest sauce
2 lemons
1 orange
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
5 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of ginger, minced
3/4 of pound spinach
1/2 cup yogurt

In a blender, combine lentil, coriander, cumin, and mustard powder. Blend on high speed until a coarse powder forms. Set aside for the fish later.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel long strips of peel off the lemons and orange. In a small saucepan over high heat, cover the strips with water and bring to a boil. Drain and repeat one more time. This makes the peel less bitter. In a blender, add the peel, sugar, olive oil, and water until smooth. Set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add onion, curry, garlic, and ginger. Cook about for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion turns slightly translucent. Mix in spinach until it wilts, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt. Add salt to taste.

Pour lentil mixture into a flat dish. Salt both sides of the grouper. Dredge the fish on both sides through the lentil mixture. You want the fish covered. Heat 2 large saute pans over high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in each pan. Heat until the oil is hot. Crisp fish on both sides until golden brown, 4-5 minutes a side. Serve drizzled with lemon zest sauce and the saag on the side.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Chocolate stout cake with a whiskey caramel layer and Bailey's cream cheese frosting (aka the Car bomb cake)

Today we hiked to the top of a little mountain in Boulder County. The mountain overlooked a complete 180 degree view of 13ers and 14ers in the Front Range. It was 70 degrees. We saw two other people the entire the time. We found ourselves a little secret place in a world where few secrets still exist. Back at the car we pulled out a picnic of roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, potato salad, an orange, and this cake. A perfect day.

Oh boy, this cake. Do yourself a favor and make this cake or better yet come over to my house and eat some. Save me from consuming this entire cake in 2 days. It's so good. It's got all your Irish favorites: stout, whiskey, and Bailey's Irish Cream. The chocolate cake with compliments of the stout is super chocolate goodness with a light crumb. A layer of whiskey caramel in between and Bailey's cream cheese frosting is dreamy. Really dreamy.

Chocolate stout cake with a whiskey caramel layer and Bailey's cream cheese frosting 
Serves 18-20

Chocolate stout cake
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cocoa powder
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup stout

Whiskey caramel sauce (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
1 cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whiskey (I used Jack Daniels but Jameson would be more Irish)

Bailey's cream cheese frosting 
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9" cake pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each egg. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add half your flour mixture and beat until combined. Drizzle in buttermilk and stout and beat until combined. Finally, add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Pour batter into cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans and let cool completely before assembling and icing the cake.

While the cake is baking, make your caramel. In a medium saucepan, pour in water and sugar. Cover with a lid and let come to a boil. Once boiling remove the lid and boil until it reaches 300 degrees, about 15 minutes. Once it reaches 300 degrees, turn heat down to medium and cook until it reaches 350 degrees, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, slowly drizzle in your cream, add your salt, and whisk. Whisk in your whiskey. Let cool (I put mine in the fridge to cool completely).

For the frosting, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and Bailey's on low until incorporated. Put in the fridge until ready for use.

To assemble: Trim on cake layer to have a flat top. Pour 1/2 the caramel sauce on top of this cake layer. Spread caramel evenly over this layer with a cake spatula. Place next cake round on top of the caramel layer. Next spread frosting over the cake. My method is to start with all the frosting on the top of cake and spread it out to and eventually over the edges. But really who cares how it looks, since it tastes so awesome.

Serve with an extra drizzle of whiskey caramel sauce

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Garlic white pizza with roasted chicken, candied lemons, and spinach

I have so many moments in life where I will look over at my husband and think that right there is the best decision I ever made. For example, the other week we were at the Banff Mountain Film Festival screening in Boulder. We were watching a film about a ninety year old man who goes back to fish the rivers in France, where he fought in World War II. Him and his wife are sitting in France and he is telling her how much it means to him that he gets to show her the places he went in the war. In the next scene, he is being gifted a beautiful handmade fly rod by a man in France. It makes him cry. It also makes me cry. When he finally makes it to the river to fish, my husband and I are both moved to tears. Or at least I certainly am and Blake is pretty close. And I'm thinking how lucky I am to share this life with someone who also gets sentimental over an old man fly fishing.

Then the next week I'm watching Boyhood. At the end of a movie the characters are sitting in Big Bend National Park overlooking a sunset. The dialog goes a little something like this:

Girl: "You know how everyone is always saying seize the moment? I don't know, I'm kind of thinking it's the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us."

Boy: "Yeah, I know, it's constant, the moments, it's just- it's like it's always right now, you know?"

Each of us uses our own frame to interpret things. My frame is eternally and optimistically romantic. This quote reminds me of how many times the moment has seized me with my husband. Those moments look something like this: turning the corner amongst red rocks to the most awe inspiring arch tucked 5 miles into the corner of the desert, sitting together on a mountain top able to see miles in all directions without another soul in sight, climbing straight up to a beautiful mountain lake and sharing a peanut butter and jelly, and camping surrounded by sheer canyon walls in the company of desert snakes, each other, and little else. All outdoors, all with my husband, I have been seized by the moment time and time again.

So there I go again letting another sentimental ramble get the best of me and making you listen. What does all of this have to do with pizza? Blake is 2 months from finishing law school and about to start prepping for the bar. It's a stressful time for him and stressful times call for us to be seized by little moments. I can't do much to ease his stress but I can feed him pizza and take him to get frozen yogurt. This pizza will most certainly conquer what ails you. Zesty and rich roasted garlic white sauce complimented by the slight sweetness of the candied lemons is most awesome. This pizza does require a little time to prepare each component but it's so very worth it. You can also prepare the candied lemons, sauce, and chicken the day before to have everything ready to go into the oven for dinner.

Garlic white pizza with roasted chicken, candied lemons, and spinach
Serves 3

Candied lemons (adapted from The Kitchn)
3 lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup sugar

Shredded chicken
1 chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme

Roasted garlic white sauce (adapted from Emeril) 
1 head of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper

3 cups spinach
1/2 cup parmesan
1 (8 oz) fresh mozzarella ball, sliced
Pizza dough (a lot of grocery stores sell already made dough or you can use my recipe here)

*Read the whole recipe through first. You are going to get the next component going, while the previous is cooking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the top of your garlic, wrap in foil, and roast for 50 minutes. Leave the oven on, after you take out the garlic.

While the garlic is roasting, peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler into long strips. Fill a medium sauce pan halfway with water and the salt. Add the lemon peels and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and drain.

In the same sauce pan, add cold water and sugar. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon peel and simmer on medium low for 40-45 minutes. Remove the peel with a fork and let them cool on a piece of parchment or wax paper.

While the lemon peel is simmering, prepare your chicken. Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray. Whisk together the salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, and thyme. Rub both sides of the chicken breast with seasoning. Your oven should still be at 400 degrees from the garlic. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Let cool and shred with two forks.

Increase oven temperature to 550, after you pull out the garlic and chicken.

When you put the chicken in the oven, start your sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Whisk for a minute and then slowly whisk in your milk. Whisk for 3-5 minutes. The sauce should thicken. Once thick, put in a blender or food processor with roasted garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Puree on low.

Spray a 16" pizza pan or cookie sheet with nonstick spray. Roll out your dough a little larger than the pan. Fold in the edges for your crust. Spread your garlic sauce over the dough with spatula. Layer your spinach over the top of the sauce, then spread the chicken and candied lemon over the top. Finally, evenly distribute the mozzarella and parmesan over the top.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fontina, roasted garlic, and kale toast with an over easy egg

Once upon a time, I didn't like my eggs any way but scrambled and even then, I didn't like them all that much. Now I want to put eggs on everything. I've also been having strong cravings for oatmeal. I think I have eaten oatmeal about 5 times in entire life. What are these cravings? Does it have something to do with getting old? Last week I realized that there are a number of things in my life that happened a decade ago. I can now measure things in decades. Crazy.

This dinner came at a time when I needed something easy for dinner and something centered around my beloved egg. Throw some garlic in the oven for 40 minutes, saute up some kale and mushrooms, put it on toast, throw some cheese on top, broil it in the oven until bubbly, and toss a fried egg on top. Boom! That's what I call 30 minute meals (minus the hands off garlic roasting time). Take that Rachel Ray.

Fontina, roasted garlic, and kale toast with an over easy egg
Adapted from How Sweet It Is, serves 4

2 whole heads of garlic
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 bunches of kale, rough chopped
1/2 pound of crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded fontina cheese
8 eggs
Crusty bread
Hot sauce for serving, if you wish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut of the top (narrower part) of the garlic bulbs and wrap in foil. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the cloves are soft. Let cool. Once cool, push the garlic cloves out and smash with a fork. 

While the garlic roasts, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add kale and mushrooms and stir until softened, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir until combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

Put oven broiler on high. Toast generous slices of bread in a toaster. Place toast on a baking sheet. Spread roasted garlic over the bottom of the toast. Stack kale mixture on top and sprinkle with cheese. Put in the oven and keep a close eye on it. You want the cheese to get bubbly, which takes about 2-3 minutes but can go quickly to burnt, if you don't watch it closely. Pull out of the oven. 

In the same skillet you cooked the kale in, heat the last 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Carefully crack your eggs into the skillet and let cook until the egg white sets, about 2 minutes. Flip the egg and cook, until your desired doneness. Medium soft took about 4 on the other side for me. Put on top of your toast and splash some hot sauce on top. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tilapia cake cobb salad stacks

One of my favorite parts of the weekend is waking up, remembering it's the weekend, and realizing I can do whatever I want with my day. Usually on the weekends we are up and out the door to hike in the mountains, but with the cold weather and the record breaking amount of snow in February, we have been taking it a little slower in the mornings. 

This weekend we woke up leisurely, ate breakfast, read, and relaxed. Or at least we relaxed for a little, before I began to demand some outdoor activity. We bundled up and took the dog on our favorite little stroll up the trails by our hours, wound our way to downtown for some hot chocolate, and then took a little self-guided historic Boulder homes tour. It was all very lovely. 

We ate a lot too. Cold snowy days inevitably seem to contain a lot of good eats. Last weekend when we were getting pummeled with snow, we went to my favorite restaurant, Bru, and ate breakfast pizza swimming in sausage gravy, fried apple rings dunked in a maple creme fraiche, and then to top it off the restaurant gave us a complimentary chocolate beer cream filled donut. It was a really spectacular meal and way more food than two people should ever consume for brunch, but don't think I regret it. Not for minute. 

This tilapia cake wedge salad stack also graced one of our snow day menus. We absolutely loved it. The tilapia cake could also be made with crab or salmon. Tilapia is just more cost effective and with all the other flavors going on here, tilapia works well. This meal is easy and fun. It also includes bacon and blue cheese so there's that. Stack the bacon and blue cheese with a really tasty tilapia cake, hard boiled egg, some lettuce for good measure, and a red wine vinaigrette, and I promise you will be happy. It's a weekend delight.

Tilapia cake cobb salad stacks
Adapted from Seriously Delish, serves 4 

2 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
6 slices of bacon, cooked and cut in half 

Vinaigrette (you could use a store bought dressing too but this is pretty delicious)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey 
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Tilapia cake
1 pound tilapia
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
8 multigrain crackers, crushed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon greek yogurt, sour cream, or mayo
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

To serve
1 large tomato, sliced
Red onion, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
1 head of romaine lettuce
Blue cheese crumbles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Start by cooking your bacon and hard boiling your eggs. Set these aside. 

Put all your vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake until combined or whisk together. 

Place tilapia in a baking dish and bake 10-15 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. In a large bowl, flake tilapia into small chunks and combine with bell pepper, red onion, garlic, and crackers. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, mustard, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Add the egg mixture to the tilapia mixture and stir well to combine. 

Form 4 patties with the tilapia mixture. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with the olive oil. Add tilapia cakes to the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. 

Layer lettuce with red onion, tomato, hard boiled egg, tilapia cake, avocado, bacon, and sprinkle blue cheese on top. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Yum!