Food

Fresh Herb and Tomato Farro

10

Posted on Aug 8, 2014 in Food

One Pot Fresh Herb and Tomato Farro

IMG_1063

For, uh, obvious reasons, I’m kinda obsessed with one-pot/one-bowl/please-don’t-make-me-do-lots-of-dishes meals lately. If pretty much all I have to do after dinner is rinse out one pot and pop it in the dishwasher, I’m a very, very happy girl. As much as I wanted to stock pile my freezer with lots of meals while I was pregnant, it just didn’t end up happening to the extent I wanted (it’s amazing how quickly that 40 weeks of pregnancy flies by), so, for now, we’re living on one-pot miracles.

farro

I did a lot of research and cooking with all kinds super whole grains for my second cookbook, and while there are lots of yummy grains out there (and in the book), all that cooking just reaffirmed that my absolute favorite whole grain is farro. There is something magical about farro. When cooked, it’s chewy, creamy and nutty. It actually reminds me a lot of a whole grain version of Aboriro rice (the rice used in risotto). The magic part is that it manages to taste creamy and smooth, and have a slow-cooked flavor with barely any work. Quite literally, I just put everything in the pot for this farro, turned on the stove, and ignored it for a half hour. I came back, stirred in some Parmesan and scooped it into bowls. And the result was this totally luxurious dinner that tasted like I spent hours slaving away at it.

farro

Since we’re trying to keep things simple, this was a main dish for us, but, of course, this farro would make an awesome side dish if you aren’t trying to avoid doing dishes. I think this would be a beautiful companion to chicken or eggplant parmesan. Or even just with some simple grilled chicken seasoned with Italian herbs. Yum.

farro with tomatoes

I used fresh herbs in this dish because they are pretty much banding together and invading the little herb garden we have outside our kitchen door (seriously, no matter how much I clip off, they’ve doubled in size the next day), but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work out decently to try this with dried herbs, too—just make sure you use enough to really get the herb-y flavor!

Enjoy.

Fresh Herb and Tomato Farro

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Fresh Herb and Tomato Farro

This one-pot vegetarian grain dish tastes like it takes hours worth of work, but it's ready in about a half hour and takes little effort more than just some chopping.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup each fresh minced basil, parsley and oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring all ingredients, except the cheese, to a boil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender and has absorbed all the cooking liquid. Stir in the cheese, taste for seasoning and serve.
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Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Do you have any one-pot meals you can share with me to add to my repertoire?

How to Make Mayo at Home

11

Posted on Aug 7, 2014 in Food

How to Make Mayo at Home

mayo

Mayonnaise gets a lot of hate in the healthy eating world, but I actually love mayo. Sure, it’s high in calories, but I think it’s delicious, packed full of nutrients, and it’s 100% “real” food. What’s to hate? I’m not saying you should take a spoon and down a bowlful of the stuff, but spreading a couple of tablespoons on a sandwich or adding a half cup into a dressing isn’t the health no-no that I think a lot of people feel like it is.

mayo

And mayo is even healthier when you know exactly, 100% what’s included in it, and you can do that by making it at home. Mayo is so incredibly easy to make at home, and you get to have complete control over the flavor and ingredients. I tend to use fresh lemon juice and olive oil in my homemade mayo because I love the bright and fresh flavor that it makes, but you could easily use whatever combination of ingredients makes a mayo that you and your family love. Either way, the process is the same.

mayo ingredients

Back in the olden days, the key to good mayo was a steady whisking hand and a decent dose of patience, but I’m all about using technology to get good mayo now. You can use a stand mixer, hand mixer, or a food processor, but I really like using an immersion blender and the little cup that comes with it. The tall, narrow cup works really well for small amounts of mayo, and it helps the mayo come together really quickly.

mayo

First up, in the cup, whisk together two egg yolks, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a hefty pinch of salt, and a tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice (you can also use white vinegar for a more mild flavor).

mayo

The next part takes some patience. Put 1 1/4 cups of olive oil (canola oil, avocado oil, and grapeseed oil all work, too) in a spouted measuring cup. And with the immersion blender going on low, drip a drop of the oil in. And then another drop. And another drop. Keep dripping the oil in a drop at a time, until the mayo starts to thicken up a bit. Don’t rush it! Just put in a drop at a time while the immersion blend does its work.

mayo

Once the mayo starts to look about like the thickness of melted ice cream, you can start streaming in the oil in a more steady stream. Keep the immersion blender going.

mayo

It seems counterintuitive, but the more oil you add, the thicker and thicker the mayo will get. Until all the oil is in, and you’ve got some beautiful, thick, creamy mayo! It’s like magic. Beautiful, delicious, kitchen magic.

mayo

Taste the mayo for seasoning (you might want to add more salt), and then store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Use it just like you would store-bought mayo. It’ll keep a few weeks no problem. Although, it’s pretty tasty stuff, so it might not actually last that long!

mayo

This makes about a cup and a half of mayo, and you could easily half this recipe if that’s too much to keep around. If the raw eggs wig you out, you can use pasteurized eggs (which are available at many supermarkets), although, I don’t worry too much about it. Unless you are immunocompromised, the chances of getting sick from raw eggs is extremely slim—but, obviously, that’s a decision for you to make for yourself and your family.

Now go make yourself some mayo!

Have you ever made your own mayo before?

Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

4

Posted on Aug 5, 2014 in Food

Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

vanilla ice cream

I think you can tell a lot about a person based on their favorite ice cream flavor. Like, for example, you can probably get a good indication of my ever-so-flighty nature based on the fact that I have a really hard time narrowing down my favorite scoop to just one flavor. I’m the kinda girl who gets a three-scoop cone, not because she wants three scoops of ice cream (okay, well, maybe sometimes) but because she can’t decide on just one flavor. It also probably says something about me that I tend to go for the most tricked out ice creams available. The more chocolate, chunks of candy, and swirls of flavors it has, the more I’ll probably love it. Bring on the triple chocolate brownie with raspberry swirl, please.

ice cream

My dear husband, on the other hand, is an ice cream purist. He doesn’t like things in his ice cream. And if he had his druthers, either plain ole vanilla or plain ole butter pecan (without chunks of pecan) would be the only ice cream flavors on the market. It’s interesting, because if you saw my tattooed, hipster-glasses wearing husband walking down the street, you probably wouldn’t think he’s a plain ice cream kind of guy, but he certainly is. I think his love of simple ice cream goes hand-in-hand with is dependable, hard-working, back-to-nature mentality. It fits. Although, maybe not at first appearances.

ice cream

So every now and again, when I pull out my ice cream maker, I do it to make my husband a batch of plain-and-simple, run-of-the-mill, but still totally delicious vanilla ice cream. It takes pretty much every ounce of willpower in my body to not throw in a handful of candy or swirl it with some crazy fun flavor (like feta, anyone?), but the end result is actually something pretty spectacular for something so simple. It almost makes me want to hang up my quadruple brownie batter, chocolate chip cookie dough, caramel toffee ice cream eating spoon. Almost.

Enjoy (and feel free to toss in a handful of something chocolate, I won’t tell).

Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

Total Time: 4 hours

Yield: 1 quart

Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

Just because this ice cream isn't packed with add-in, it doesn't mean it's low on flavor. The classic, simply flavor of vanilla is the perfect partner for a warm bowl of cobbler!

Ingredients

  • 1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 cups 2% milk, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and two tablespoon of the milk. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the remaining milk, half and half, sugar and honey until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Do not boil.
  3. Remove milk mixture from heat, and stir in the cream cheese and salt. Continue stirring until the cream cheese is completely dissolved (using an immersion blender can help speed up this process). Stir in the cornstarch mixture.
  4. Return the milk mixture to medium-low heat, and heat until the thickness of melted ice cream, about five minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla.
  5. Transfer the ice cream mixture to a heat-proof bowl, and refrigerate until cold, about three hours. Once completely cold, spin in an ice cream maker per manufacturer's directions. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until solid, about an hour.
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More Ice Cream Recipes:

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Grilled Herb and Tomato Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

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Posted on Jul 31, 2014 in Food

stuffed mushrooms portabella
I think a lot of people approach grilling as a meat-only area of cooking. I get it. I love a good hunk of grilled meat as much as the next carnivore, but the flavor of grilling can be applied to so many meatless dishes, that it’s a shame more folks don’t try it.

stuffed mushrooms portabella grill
Of course, grilling veggies takes some practice. Veggies go from firm and delicious to mushy and unpleasant in a hot second, and all their natural sugars mean they burn really quickly (skip the highest setting on your grill if you’re just doing veggies).

Portabella mushrooms are an awesome place to start with meatless grilling. The mushrooms hold their shape well, and they take on the smoky, meaty flavor and texture that is so pleasant in grilled food. A lot of people use grilled portabellas as a delicious vegan substitute for a burger, even. Yum!

stuffed mushrooms portabella
Here, I took to stuffing the mushrooms with a fresh herb, tomato and mozzarella stuffing that definitely feels a little pizza-y. These mushroom boats are so incredibly satisfying, that they could easily work as a main dish (I’d serve up two of them as a main, with a nice side salad and a big hunk of hearty bread). These also work as a side dish—their strong flavors would make a great partner to any grilled meat or fish.

Enjoy!

Grilled Herb and Tomato Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Grilled Herb and Tomato Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Stuffed with a cheesy, herbed tomato filling, these flavorful grilled mushrooms work as a side dish to a great vegetarian main dish.

Ingredients

  • 4 large portabella mushroom caps
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 Roma tomatos, diced
  • 1/4 cup each minced fresh basil, parsley, and oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the grill over medium heat. Carefully remove the stems from the mushrooms, dice finely, and place in a bowl. Using a spoon, carefully scrape out the brown gills of the mushrooms, dice finely and add to the bowl with the stems.
  2. Brush one tablespoon of the olive oil onto both sides of each of the mushroom caps. Place caps, stem side down on the preheated grill. Grill for about 5 minutes, or until just beginning to soften.
  3. Meanwhile, mix all remaining ingredients (including the remaining olive oil) in the bowl with the diced mushroom stems and gills
  4. Flip the mushroom caps over on the grill, and fill each cap up with 1/4 of the filling, making sure to really pack it in. Close the grill lid, lower the grill to low heat, and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are very soft and the cheese is melted.
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What’s your favorite veggie to grill up?

Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake with Blue Diamond Almonds

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Posted on Jul 28, 2014 in Food

There is an orchard on our homestead. And when I say “orchard” I mean “area of grass that will someday hopefully hold fruit trees,” because, the truth is, our orchard produces pretty much nothing but crabgrass and dandelions now.

That didn’t used to be the case. When I was a little girl growing up here, I remember rows and rows of fruit trees. And right smack in the middle was an old, knotty, twisted cherry tree. My family never had much luck growing tree fruits (hence the empty orchard now), but we could always count on that cherry tree to produce gallons and gallons of vibrantly red cherries. There was no need to have more than one tree—that sucker kept us in cherry pie and cherry preserves all year ’round.

cherries

I think my love for all things cherry comes that workhorse of a tree. I have so many fond memories of picking the low-hanging fruit as a little girl and some not-so-fond memories of “pick cherries” being on my chore list as a teenager. Even though I wasn’t happy about going out and picking the fruit as a 13-year-old (with my head wrapped in a white t-shirt, so my dark hair wouldn’t get too hot in the summer sun), I sucked it up because I knew there were many, many delicious things to come from all that effort.

And, honestly, I always liked picking cherries a heck of a lot more than I liked pitting cherries. That’s an annoying country kid chore that’s right up there with filling mole holes, carrying firewood and snapping pole beans. Although, if you use the ole pastry tip trick (use a pastry tip to poke the pit out—works every time), it makes pitting cherries much easier! In fact, it makes it a little bit fun, even.

pitting cherries

Even though we always had enough cherries stashed in the freezer to make the world’s largest cherry pie when I was a kid, we actually didn’t have dessert much growing up in my house. Dessert was definitely a treat reserved for birthdays, holidays and visitors, and you knew something special was happening (or someone special was coming over) when Mama fired up the oven and started working on a dessert for after supper. In my world, when company is coming over, you vacuum the rugs, put on some music, and bake them something delicious for dessert. And in summer, that meant cobblers, pies, and maybe even a fruity cake!

cherry almond cake

My friends over at Blue Diamond Almonds asked me to use some of their all natural almonds in a dish that would be perfect for summer entertaining, and my mind immediately thought of dessert. Because, still, to this day, you know we’ve got company coming over when I make a dessert!

To me, desserts in the summer have to be fruit-based. I’m as big of a chocoholic as the next girl, but save your triple fudge brownie chocolate cheesecake buttercream surprise for the middle of winter. In July, I want something fresh and fruity. Maybe that’s because I had so many delicious, delicious fruit-based desserts during the summers of my childhood (and many of them thanks to that old cherry tree). There is something about a dessert made with fresh fruit, preferably picked the same day, that just feels like quintessential summer.  And when combined with the natural, nutty flavor of almonds, this cake is a perfect option for serving to guests on a hot summer day (especially if you have some freshly-churned vanilla ice cream to plop along side).

blue diamond almonds

Unfortunately, that cherry tree from my childhood succumbed to old age a few years ago. Even though it wasn’t alive anymore, we still kept its twisted trunk and branches in the middle of the orchard out of respect for how many years and years of delicious fruit it produced for us. And then, last year, I was mowing in the orchard, and happened to bump one of the branches of the tree and the whole thing came crashing down—it was completely hollow from rot. Maybe one day, we’ll plant another cherry tree in that same spot and our daughter will have as many good cherry-flavored memories from it as I do from that old tree.

Enjoy!

Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake

The cherries turn into a gooey, syrupy topping for the dense almond cake, making it a perfect partner to a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a warm mug of coffee.

Ingredients

    For the Topping:
  • 4 cups cherries, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • For the Cake:
  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground almonds (about 4 ounces of whole almonds)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a non-stick cake pan or springform pan liberally with cooking spray, set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together all the topping ingredients until cherries are well-coated. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and spread into one even layer, set aside.
  3. Whisk together the flour, almonds, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl, set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar, butter, and coconut oil until smooth. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, and then the almond extra and yogurt.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions, making sure it is well mixed between each addition.
  6. Pour the batter over top of the cherry mixture. Spread evenly using a spatula.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before inverting onto a cake plate.
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What’s your favorite dessert to serve to company?

Coffee-Banana Smoothie Packs

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Posted on Jul 23, 2014 in Food

smoothie packs

Smoothies are a new parent’s best friend. Seriously. Being able to pack tons of nutrients and goodies into something that can be “eaten” with one hand is pretty much life-saving when you’re busy taking care of a little one. I think all parents should register for a high-quality blender on their baby registry.

Thankfully, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might enjoy some one-handed eats and managed to whip up a big batch of smoothie packs before I went into labor. If you’ve never made a smoothie pack before, basically, it’s all the ingredients for a smoothie portioned out for an individual serving all ready for a trip in the blender. I’m the first to admit that there is nothing complicated about making a smoothie the regular way, but being able to shave a few minutes off with smoothie packs has been a total lifesaver during these itty bitty teeny tiny newborn baby days. All I do is open up one of these packs, dump it into the individual serving cup of my blender with some milk, and—bam!—smoothie.

smoothie

It probably comes as no surprise to you, but my favorite of the smoothie packs I made is this banana-yogurt smoothie that’s spiked with some fully-leaded coffee. I’ve always enjoyed coffee, but I’ve never been one of those folks that needed a daily jolt of java. But now, I’m quite liking the little bit of pick-me-up that I get from coffee, and being that it’s the middle of summer and hot as heck here in the Midwest, I really enjoy getting my burst of energy in cool, creamy, frosty smoothie form.

My smoothie packs have three ingredients—frozen vanilla yogurt cubes, frozen concentrated coffee cubes, and frozen banana pieces.

smoothie packs

To make them, I first just portioned out the yogurt into an ice cube tray. I went with vanilla yogurt because I like the added flavor and the little bit of sweetness, but you could obviously use plain yogurt or whatever else sounds good to you.

yogurt smoothie pack

And then, in another ice cube tray, I froze some highly concentrated coffee. I made this coffee about twice as strong as it would be if I was just drinking the coffee, because I only put two coffee cubes per smoothie. I really wanted that coffee flavor (and well, the caffeine) to come through in the final smoothie. You could also make espresso and freeze it if you have an espresso machine.

coffee smoothie pack

And then I also froze banana pieces into large chunks. For each smoothie pack, I put in two yogurt cubes, two coffee cubes, and about half a frozen banana into pint-sized freezer bags.

smoothie packs

And then, when it’s time to make the smoothie, I just dump the pack into the blender with about a cup of milk and blend it all up until smooth. This gets me about a 12 ounce smoothie, which is a perfect hold-me-over option until I can procure a real meal. I then rinse out the freezer bag and hang it up to dry for the next time I want to make smoothie packs.

This method of smoothie pack making works for all kinds of flavors. I have other packs in the freezer with yogurt cubes, frozen strawberries, frozen bananas and these booster packs—which is nice for when I need to get in some real nutrition. I’m also thinking I might make some with chocolate milk (yum!), banana and peanut butter.

What’s your favorite kind of smoothie?