Monday, December 31, 2012

Pomegranate Lemonade

If you're still looking for a sassy cocktail to ring in the new year, look no further.  A little sweet and a little tart, this pomegranate lemonade is ready to be made sparkling!

Pomegranate Lemonade
recipe by Shannon

1c water
1/4c honey
3/4c meyer lemon juice
1/4c lemon juice
1c pomegranate juice
2-6c seltzer
sparkling wine, if desired
pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Begin by making a honey simple syrup.  Add water and honey to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the honey dissolves.  Remove from heat and set aside.

To a pitcher, add lemon juices (strain if necessary), pomegranate juice and honey simple syrup.  Begin by adding 1c of seltzer, mix and taste.  Adjust to taste with more seltzer, as desired.  Serve with sparkling wine, if desired.  Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds.

May 2013 be filled with tasty eats and fitness milestones!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shortrib Risotto

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday!  As luck would have it, we got just enough snow for a white Christmas :)  A few days at home with my family was fabulous, but all too short...

While I tend not to make meals that take 4 hours to cook, I apparently got stars in my eyes when faced with a few days at home!  Awhile back I had seen Dan's recipe and was intrigued by the shortribs + chocolate + cauliflower.  While it was a bit intimidating, I knew the three hours of braising time was hands-off and with a good plan of attack it would be totally do-able.  This is definitely not a weeknight meal, but was perfect for a nice dinner with some good friends.  I bet it would also be perfect for your new year's eve dinner as well!

Here was my plan of attack:
Prep veggies and sear ribs (30min)
Braise ribs (3hr)  [prep remaining ingredients during braising time]
Make broth (30min)  [put cauliflower in to roast once broth is boiling]
Make risotto (30min)

It worked out to be about 30min on the front end, then about an hour once the braising was done.  Understanding the recipe beforehand and mise en place were the keys to success!  I've also included a few tips, including the option to make this into a weeknight meal by braising the shortribs ahead of time (on the weekend).

Shortrib Risotto w/Chile Chocolate Cauliflower
slightly adapted from Food In My Beard
Serves 4

For the braised shortribs:
1T extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2lbs bone-in grass-fed short ribs
3 stalks celery, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme sprigs (I used a small bunch)
1t yellow mustard seed
2t coriander seeds
1 parmesan rind
2 dried chiles (I used 1 pasilla negro and 1 new mexico chile)

Preheat oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Dry off your shortribs and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Add to the hot pan and sear on all sides, a few minutes on each side.  Remove ribs from the pan and set aside in a dish.

Preheat the oven to 300deg.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add celery, carrots and onion to the pan.  Stir and cook until they soften and start to brown.  Add garlic and cook another minute or two.  Return the shortribs to the pan along with any accumulated juices.  Add remaining ingredients and then enough water to come ~1/2 way up the meat (mine was probably 2/3, and could be as little as 1/3 of the way up the ribs).  Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.  Braise the ribs for ~3hours.

This was my first time braising, so I had to do some reading to figure out what the heck I was doing.  In case you're in the same boat, the goal here is to heat the liquid to a gentle simmer and have steam forming inside the dutch oven to aid in cooking.  I checked mine at one point and it was at a robust boil, so I cracked the lid ever-so-slightly (perhaps it was ok or maybe I should've just lowered the oven a bit).

Tip: While the shortribs are braising in the oven, get the rest of the ingredients ready and then go do a load of laundry, hop on your bike trainer, or do whatever else needs taking care of!

When the meat is done braising, remove the pot from the oven.  Place the ribs onto a plate and let cool a bit (mine had completely fallen off the bone at this point).  To make a stock from the braising liquid, put the pot on the burner and bring to a rolling boil for ~20min.  Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a fat separator.  Press on the solids to remove as much liquid as you can, and then discard the solids.  Let the liquid settle for ~5min, and then strain off the fat.  Add broth to a medium saucepan and put on low heat for the risotto.

While the braising liquid is boiling, pull off the meat from the shortribs.  I don't like fat on my meat, so I was quite...  precise ;)  I have since read a tip that you can cool the ribs in the fridge overnight for easy removal of fat.  Reserve the meat for the risotto and discard the fat.

Tip:  This could be prepared in two steps- day 1 braise the shortribs and make the stock, day 2 reheat stock and make the risotto and cauliflower.

For the risotto:
1T extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1c arborio rice
3/4c red wine
1/2c grated parmesan
1oz dark chocolate (70% or higher, I used Taza)
shortrib stock, see above
extra stock, if needed (I used vegetable)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-low heat (I used the same dutch oven after the stock was ready).  Add onion, stir to coat, then saute for 5-8min, until softened but not browned.  Add garlic and rice, stir to coat and cook a few more minutes.  Add wine to deglaze the pan, scraping off all the flavorful bits at the bottom of the pot.  Stirring frequently, add ladles of stock each time the liquid cooks off (I used some vegetable broth once I was out of the homemade stock).  Cook until rice is al dente, ~20-30min.  dd the shredded beef back to the risotto, and a little more stock so the risotto is nice and creamy, not too dry.  Turn off the heat and add the parmesan and chocolate, stirring until melted and well combined.  Serve, topped with chile chocolate cauliflower.

For the chile chocolate cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower
2T butter, melted
1-2t chile powder (mine is pretty spicy so I used 1t)
11/2t cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 400deg.

Chop up the cauliflower into florets and add them to a large bowl.  Add chile poder and cocoa powder, then toss to combine.  Add the melted butter and toss until coated.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake 20-30min, or until tender.  Enjoy on its own, or on top of shortrib risotto.

Have you ever made shortribs before?  What are your New Year's Eve plans?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spicy Chocolate Almond Cookies

While it is true year-round, I find that baking becomes more than just the act of measuring out some flour or butter, whisking egg whites or adding sugar.  It's a way for me to show how much I care, how grateful I am for those who have touched my life.

After spotting these cookies last year, they were at the top of my baking list this year.  I changed up the recipe a bit and added just enough heat to make each bite interesting.  I hope everyone that received these loved these as much as I did, and I suspect this will be the first batch of many!

Spicy Chocolate Almond Cookies
adapted from Saveur
yield: 5-6 dozen

The spice level of your cookie depends on the chocolate you use.  Mine was chipotle cinnamon, and there was some definite heat in the finish (Taza has similar flavors).  Feel free to adjust according to your tastes- try cinnamon or orange flavored dark chocolate for a less spicy cookie.

8oz almond meal (finely ground almonds)
1 1/2c evaporated cane juice
6oz spicy semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (*see headnote)
1 1/2t ground Vietnamese cinnamon
1/2t ground cloves
2 lg egg whites, lightly beaten

In the bowl of a food processor, add almond meal, sugar and chocolate.  Pulse until chocolate is finely ground and well distributed.  Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to make a thick dough.  Wrap dough tightly and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

When you're ready to make the cookies, take half of the dough and place it between two sheets of parchment paper.  Transfer the remaining dough back to the fridge while you roll out the first half.  Roll out the dough to ~1/8" thickness.  Using cookie cutters, cut dough to your desired shape (the size will determine how many cookies you get).  If the dough is too sticky, pop it into the freezer (still in between parchment) for 10-15min and then try cutting again.  I found the warmer my hands got, the tougher the dough was to work with, so keep that in mind when handling the dough.  Transfer cut cookies to parchment lined baking sheets, spacing them 1" apart.  Re-roll scraps and repeat, then start with the second half of the dough from the fridge.

Let the dough dry for 3 hours.  (note:  I've seen some recipes that forgo this step, so I'm not sure it's completely necessary)

Preheat the oven to 300deg.  Bake until slightly puffed, 12-15min.  Let cool completely on cookie sheets.  Store in an airtight container.

Have you been doing any holiday baking??  If so, what have you been making?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Beef Stew

While I'm all for variety in my diet, I've recently come to appreciate cooking in larger quantities.  The more meals I can get out of an hour of cooking, the better!  As the temperatures start to drop, warm meals become the norm and soups/stews have been making an almost weekly occurrence.  This soup surprised me with its flavors, and because I so badly wanted to share it with you I snuck a quick picture before I brought the last serving to work for lunch!

Beef Stew w/Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms
adapted from Joy the Baker
Serves 6

Feel free to use fresh mushrooms if you have those on hand!

3/4c white whole wheat flour (AP or whole wheat pastry will also work)
1 1/4lb stew beef (local, grass-fed if you can), cut into 3/" chunks
1/4c extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced/pressed
3T tomato paste
1/2c red wine  (or beer)
3 medium sweet potatoes, diced
100g/3.5oz diced dried mushrooms (I used a medley from Job Lot)
1 bay leaf
3t fresh thyme, coarsely chopped (or 1t dried)
1T worcestershire sauce
8c broth (I used a mix of beef and vegetable)
1T sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper
cooked whole wheat couscous, for serving (if desired)

In a ziploc bag, add flour and season with a big pinch of salt and pepper.  Add diced beef and close the bag.   Shake until all the beef is lightly coated in flour mixture and set aside.

Heat 2T olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven.  Add beef in a single layer (it all might not fit) and cook until browned on each side.  Repeat with remaining beef, then remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

Add 2T oil to the dutch oven and heat over medium-low.  Add onions and carrots and cook until onions are translucent, ~8min.  Add garlic and cook for another minute or two before adding tomato paste.  Stir well and cook another minute before deglazing the pan with wine, scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the sweet potatoes, dried mushrooms, bay leaf, thyme, worcestershire sauce and beef.  Cover with stock.  Turn the heat to low and gently simmer slightly covered for ~45min, until the veggies are cooked through.

Taste and add 1T sugar, then season with salt and pepper, adjusting as necessary.  Serve over couscous (or other grain), if desired.

Why not throw a batch of this on the stove, and while it simmers away whip up a batch of cookies?  Perfect December weekend if you ask me :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Green Beans w/Goat Cheese Mushroom Sauce

This is not your mothers green bean casserole.

While that means you probably wouldn't want this on your Thanksgiving table, I'm almost certain you'd enjoy it any other night of the week!  Since I've never liked the traditional dish, I simply used the parts I liked- green beans, mushrooms and onions.  Onions got caramelized, green beans got roasted, and then I made this killer goat cheese mushroom sauce... that I would eat on it's own!

Goat Cheese Mushroom Sauce
adapted from Cake, Batter & Bowl

This is great over some pasta or roasted veggies (like green beans!)

1T butter
1T white whole wheat flour
1/2c almond milk
5oz goat cheese
12oz sauteed or roasted mushrooms
1/2t sea salt

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk well, then continue to cook for a minute or two.  While whisking, slowly add in milk.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat.  Crumble in goat cheese and whisk until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.  Add in mushroooms and salt, then taste and adjust seasonings.  Keep warm until serving.

ps- My apologies to the 5 Star Makeover crew for not getting this up last month, but be sure to check out everyone's makeover of this holiday classic over at Lazaro Cooks!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

You may have noticed that my posting schedule has become less frequent of late.  Indeed, there has been a lot going on this past year behind the scenes.  Not the least of which includes my involvement with Boston's chapter of Girls on the Run.  Girls on the Run is an amazing non-profit organization whose mission is to help young girls develop healthy habits and self-esteem, all the while training for a 5k.

image source

I'm sure you can imagine that working with 20 girls this season has been extremely rewarding, if not slightly challenging at times ;)  They cease to amaze me with their insights on difficult topics and boundless energy.  Many girls are surprised by what they can do with a little encouragement (or a lot!), and I know there will be some very proud coaches and families at the finish line of the run.

wordle from a lesson earlier this season

As the girls are wrapping up their season this Sunday at Walter's Run, I wanted to bake up a quick treat for their last practice.  I'm guessing none of the girls suspected they were healthy, and the requests for seconds makes me think they were quite a hit!

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Live Well 360 (which may not exist anymore)
yield:  2 1/2 dozen

For a nut-free version, I bet oat flour (oats ground in a food processor) would work in place of the almond meal.

3 large bananas
2t vanilla extract
1/4c melted coconut oil
2c rolled oats (I used Extra Thick, use GF if desired)
2/3c almond meal
1/2t cinnamon
1/2t sea salt
1c mini cinnamon chips

Preheat the oven to 350deg.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas.  Add in vanilla and coconut oil and whisk well to combine.  In another bowl, mix together oats, almond meal, cinnamon sea salt and cinnamon chips.  Add to the banana mixture and stir until combined.  Using a small cookie scoop (or a 1T measure), drop cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet ~1" apart.  Press down gently with your fingers to get a flatter cookie (they won't spread while baking).  Bake for 12-15min, until they're not too soft to the touch and the cookies don't look wet anymore.  Let cookies cool completely on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container.

Sound like a cause you'd like to help out?  There are many ways to get involved!!
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