Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bacon Broccoli

Ever get in a rut where certain foods just don't sound appetizing?  That was broccoli for me this fall/early winter.  Until I made this dish, which quickly become a weekly staple and go-to dish for sharing with friends.

Bacon Broccoli
adapted from Anna
serves 2-4

I don't measure anymore and the recipe is pretty forgiving, so if it looks like you need more bacon, use it (the thickness of slices can be deceiving).  Mix it up with cauliflower or brussels sprouts instead of broccoli.  Use pecans or pumpkin/sunflower seeds instead of walnuts.

8c broccoli florets
2-3T chopped walnuts
1 1/2t garlic powder
1/4t fine sea salt
~3T olive oil
3-4 slices nitrate-free bacon

Preheat oven to 400deg.

In a large bowl, combine broccoli, walnuts, garlic powder and salt.  Pour in olive oil and toss, adding enough oil so that the broccoli isn't dry.  Transfer to a cookie sheet (or two) so it's in a single layer.

Using scissors, cut bacon into ~1/2" slices and sprinkle over broccoli.  Bake, 30-40min, stirring every 15min.  Transfer to a dish and serve.

What's your favorite way to enjoy broccoli?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Old Forge Tri

{Please excuse my very belated race report... from 8/18/13}

Location: Old Forge, NY
Distance: Intermediate (1000m s, 22mi b, 4mi r)
Time: 8am
Weather: low 50s at the start (cloudy)
Total Participants: 219

Going into the race, I would be remiss not to mention that I was nervous for the swim.  I could count on one hand the number of times I had gotten into water during the summer.  Nevertheless, I jumped at the chance to spend a weekend with some of my favorite people (my family) and do some of my favorite things (swimming, biking, and running) in the Adirondacks!

Even though this race takes place in August, I had failed to recognize that by the third weekend in August, nights have already started to cool off up there.  I got to the race site early that morning so I could get a good parking spot and spend as long as I could in my car.  Brr.

Given the air temperature, it actually felt great to be in my wetsuit, and even to jump in the water.  It definitely took me awhile to calm myself down and settle my breathing (see above).  There were very few buouys, making it a little tough to sight on the angular course. I'm sure I didn't take the most direct route on the way out, I must've gotten into some sort of groove as I started passing people towards the halfway point.  It wasn't my fastest swim, but I had finished in 20:14 at 2nd in my AG.

There are some decent rollers in the front half of the course, but no crazy hills.  I got a boost as I was passing the all the tri bikes and aero bars.  And then I dropped my chain and they all passed me back.  Sigh.  I tried to be quick as I put it back on and pedaled along, distracted by the smell of breakfast being cooked in nearby homes (namely: bacon).  You're pretty much in the woods for the back half of the course, and it's pretty flat.  After enjoying the scenery, I pulled into transition in 1:18:37 (17mph).

must've been enjoying myself!
I got off the bike with my legs feeling great, but quickly realized that I had to slow down.  I'm guessing I had an asthma attack (it's only happened once before in my life so it took me awhile to realize what was happening).  I walked a lot trying to get my breathing under control, and as frustrated as I was I tried to keep things in perspective and just enjoy where I was.  The turnaround had a great view, on a bridge over a river, and I started to jog slowly again.  I was able to keep it up for awhile longer and by the end of the race was able to pick it up, finishing in 36:35 (9:06 pace).

My focus on the beauty of the course paid off, as I wasn't complaining even after finishing with gas left in the tank.  It probably helped that I finished 3rd in my age group...  an unexpected end to the morning!

Me, Dad, Sweets

Clock Time: 2:18:50
AG 4/10
Overall 135/219

Mom & I

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Macarons

Every season (except winter) seems too short.  I always end up longing for the fruits of seasons long before they come around again.

I created these beauties to celebrate the fall, but since they use freeze dried apples you can enjoy them year-round.  The caramel sauce was a little thin for macarons even straight from the fridge, so perhaps using it to make a bourbon caramel cream cheese frosting would make for a better filling?

Oh, but wait!  I almost forgot.  YOU CAN MAKE CARAMEL IN THE MICROWAVE.  I know.  It blew my mind, too.

Apple Cinnamon Macarons with Salted Bourbon Caramel

190g almond meal
22g powdered freeze dried apples
212g powdered sugar
2t vietnamese cinnamon
82g & 135g egg whites, divided
354g sugar
237g water
Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce, see below

Preheat the oven to 350deg and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.

Combine the almond meal, freeze dried apples, powdered sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk together to blend well and break up any clumps.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the 82g of egg whites and blend into the dry ingredients until evenly mixed, forming a thick paste.

Combine the 354g granulated sugar with the water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Keep a candy thermometer attached to the side and be watchful! We're heating up the syrup to 248deg, but when it hits 200deg, begin whipping the 135g egg whites with a pinch of granulated sugar in a mixer on medium low speed.  Continue whipping the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form.  If soft peaks form before the syrup reaches 248deg, reduce the mixer speed to low to keep the egg whites moving.

Immediately remove the syrup from the heat when it hits 248deg.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow drizzle until fully incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the meringue until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Add the meringue to the almond mixture in thirds, folding in each addition gently until smooth.  You may not use all of the meringue, so add it gradually.  The desired end-point is a smooth batter that runs in thick ribbons off your spatula.

Add the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip with a 1/2" opening (or a ziploc bag with a corner cut off to a 1/2" opening).  Holding the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet, pipe rounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  I find a template slipped under the parchment works well for even piping, just be sure to remove the paper before putting it in the oven!  Small peaks that you may see immediately after piping should smooth out if the texture of the batter is correct.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325deg.  Bake for 9-12min, until the tops are smooth and set and feet have formed around the bottom.  Let the shells cool briefly on the baking sheet (~5min), and then peel them away from the parchment and place on a cooling rack.  They should come away easily and fully intact.  Repeat as needed with the remaining batter, replacing the parchment paper with each batch (I was feeling thrifty and used both sides) and bringing the oven temperature back up to 350deg before each batch.

Once the shells are baked and cooled, match them up in pairs by size.  To one macaron shell, add a bit of salted bourbon caramel sauce, then top with the paired shell.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  These get better with a little time in the fridge, so don't hesitate to make them a ahead of time.

Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce
adapted from gimme some oven
yield ~1c

1c evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
2T Lyle's Golden Syrup (or make your own sugar cane syrup)
2T water
1/4t fresh lemon juice
1/2c heavy cream, heated (I just warmed a bit
1T unsalted butter, softened
1t fleur de sel
1/4c bourbon vanilla (if you don't have any vanilla beans soaking in bourbon, just add 1/2t vanilla extract to your bourbon)

In a large glass measuring cup (or other microwavable bowl), add the sugar, sugar syrup, water and lemon juice.  Whisk together and cook on high for 5min.  Be careful not to overcook as it can burn!

Remove from the microwave and place on a kitchen towel.  Let cool for 3-5min, the color will deepen a bit more as it sits.

Begin by whisking in 1T cream, keep whisking as it will bubble and froth.  Continue whisking as you add in the rest of the heavy cream in a slow stream.  Finally, add bourbon, butter and salt, whisking well to combine.

Serve warm or transfer into a glass jar and let cool and thicken in the fridge.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Better Butters

Isn't it great when you re-discover something you already have and fall in love all over again?  Well, that has happened to me recently...  with my food processor.  It had taken a bit of a backseat to the Vitamix, but lately has been churning out delicious goodies at least once a week!

nuts and seeds

It all started when I finally broke down and tried Nutzo.  As delicious as it might be, I needed to come up with my own nut and seed butter that I could afford.  You could certainly play around even more with the combinations of nuts and seeds, but you'll find my go-to recipe below.

The next treat I discovered was coconut butter.  Coconut, toasted until a nice golden brown, then whirred in your food processor until creamy.  I usually add a pinch of salt, and would say that you should, too!  One batch also got some dark chocolate tossed in...  oh my.  This could take the place of dessert for me any day of the week.  You can find step-by-step pictures here.

Roasted Nut & Seed Butter
Yield ~2c

1c almonds
1/2c cashews
1/2c brazil nuts
1/4c pumpkin seeds
2T hazelnuts
2T ground flax seeds
2T chia seeds
1/2t fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 170deg.

Place almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and roast for ~5hrs.  If you want to remove hazelnut skins, you can do so easily after roasting, they slip right out.

While still warm, transfer nuts/seeds to the large bowl of a food processor.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times.

If you're fortunate enough to have a food processor, what have you made in it lately??
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