11/28/14

Jalapeno Fudge

If you've never tried the unusual combination of chocolate and hot pepper, be open minded - it really works! I love both individually, and the combination is unusual but great tasting.

This fudge recipe itself is a winner. Unfortunately, I can't find where I copied the original recipe from, to credit it, but I've tweaked it now so I guess I can claim it. If fudge can be healthy, then this is it. Coconut oil has a long list of nutritional attributes, and unsweetened chocolate is hailed for its antioxidant value. Or am I just justifying an indulgence?!?!

As with all of my recipes, quality ingredients are suggested to attain excellent taste. The jalapeno powder used here is one I make from my own homegrown organic jalapenos, harvested only after they ripen to red. (See my instructions on this previous post.) You might get a similar product if you buy hot pepper flakes - the kind used to spice up pizza - which are actually the seeds of hot peppers. Grind these into a powder. You'll need to experiment with the amount you add to this recipe, since the "heat" may vary. Or you can contact me and I'll share my powder with you. 

In addition to the fine jalapeno powder, I've used locally harvested honey, vanilla extract I make with whole beans soaked in vodka, organic peanut butter which I grind fresh at our supermarket, and pecans from a farm in Georgia. For the unsweetened cocoa powder, I used about 1/8 cup of something called "black cocoa powder" which I bought from a store in a Mennonite community in Muddy Pond TN. As its name suggests, it is much darker in color than any cocoa powder I have ever seen, and very strong tasting. Adding just a bit imparts the intense bitter chocolate taste that I love. For the remaining cup of cocoa powder, I used Ghiradelli® unsweetened cocoa powder, which is good quality too.

Jalapeno Fudge

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 c coconut oil, melted
  • 1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 2 t jalapeno powder
  • dash salt
  • 1/3 c peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
  • 1/2 c chopped pecans

INSTRUCTIONS

Grease a 9"x6" foil fudge pan with coconut oil.

Put all ingredients except the peanut butter and the pecans into a food processor. Process for two minutes. Scrap down the sides and add the peanut butter. Process again for two minutes or long enough to be certain the powders are well incorporated with the liquids. You can also do this in a standup mixer, beating to totally dissolve the powders.

Stir the chopped pecans into the mixture. It will be very liquidy. Pour it into the prepared foil pan. Set the pan in the refrigerator for 2 hours or until firm. Cut into small pieces. A plastic knife works well for this, just as I've learned to use to cut homemade brownies. Be sure to keep these refrigerated until serving, since the coconut oil softens at about 75 degrees and you'll find this fudge becomes finger-licking good if left at room temperature.

11/20/14

Judy's Hearty Granola


I posted my original granola recipe four years ago, and since then I've refined it a bit. The old version is still very good and easy, with few ingredients. But I've gradually added more nuts and seeds, and I found that maple syrup makes the mix less sticky than honey. I like the flavor - and the extra nutrients - of molasses too. Our southern version of molasses is sorghum syrup, and, after a visit to a Menonite community which specializes in sorghum production (in Muddy Pond TN), I have an ample supply of their delicacy. All this has evolved into my new granola, presented here. Still pretty simple, just a few more ingredients than the original - and more nutritious.

You can process this granola into finer crumbs in a food processor and use it as you would a graham cracker pie crust, mixing the crumbs with melted coconut oil, which will stiffen the crust when refrigerated. See how I use it in my chilled fruit pie recipe.

INGREDIENTS

6 c old fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking oats)
1 c raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 c raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 c raw sesame seeds
1 c chopped raw nuts (pecans, almonds and cashews are my favorite choices for this recipe)
1 c unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 c coconut oil, melted
1/2 c maple syrup
2 T molasses or sorghum syrup

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix the coconut oil, maple syrup, and molasses or sorghum. Spoon wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to coat the mixture evenly.

Spread the mixture in an even layer in shallow pans (I use 2 large pizza pans). Bake for 15 minutes, stirring with a spatula if the edges brown faster than the center of the pan. Rotate pans from top to bottom oven rack and bake 8-10 more minutes, until everything is toasted golden. Remove from oven. When cooled, spoon into a container with a lid to store.

You can also add grated orange peel, raisins or other dried fruit after baking. Great as a breakfast cereal with fresh fruit, and we like it sprinkled as a topping on baked fruit or yogurt.

11/14/14

Pumpkin Chai Snickerdoodles

The first baking lesson in my 7th grade Home Economics class with Mrs. Hamel was Snickerdoodle Cookies. This is a great variation on the classic, especially made with homegrown pumpkin. Did you know you can use butternut squash in place of canned pumpkin in recipes? When making your own, just be sure to drain the liquid off the cooked squash or pumpkin, to get that similar thick consistency to canned. More on using fresh pumpkin in a future post....

These are gluten-free, to fit my lifestyle diet, but certainly can be made with wheat flour to produce the same delicious results. 

Remember, ingredients shown in red are described in more detail on the Ingredients page of this blog.
 

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles with Chai Spices (makes about 15 cookies)

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 c fine almond flour or (part almond and part all-purpose gluten-free flour)
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice or chai spices*
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1/2 c fresh pumpkin puree, drained to make it thick
  • 1/4 c melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1 T psyllium husk powder (makes a firmer cookie texture)
COATING:
  • 2 T coconut palm sugar
  • 2 tsp chai spices*

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut parchment paper to line your cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients. (Make sure your pumpkin is at room temperature so the coconut oil does not harden.)

Mix the coating ingredients, sugar and spices, in a small bag.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mix and blend by hand. The dough will be thick, so mix to moisten everything well. Form one tablespoon of dough into a ball (wet hands if necessary to prevent sticking), roughly golf ball size. Drop it into the bag of sugar and spice coating and shake to coat. Reach in and shake off excess, then place the dough ball on a cookie sheet. Flatten the ball with your fingers to about 1/2" thick. These cookies don't expand much except to puff up a bit, so you can place them close. Repeat with rest of the dough.

Bake for 20 minutes until bottoms are golden and the tops begin to crack.

* You can substitute cinnamon for chai spices. I mix my own chai spices, mimicking the traditional chai tea flavors:
4 parts ground cinnamon
1 part ground cloves
1 part ground nutmeg
1 part ground cardamon
1 part ground allspice
1 part powdered ginger root
1 part ground black pepper

10/9/14

The Pumpkin Tree

This photo is for those who think milk comes from a supermarket... a pumpkin tree, ready for harvest! I spotted this unusual sight at an apple farm in New England two weeks ago.


8/17/14

Fiesta Black-Bean Salsa

This is a good summer harvest appetizer, served with corn chips, which I derived from different salsa recipes my friends have made. The proportions are not critical, and you can mix it with different veggies than those on my list. My ingredients make it very colorful, in addition to being really tasty, thus the name. Of course you can use fresh corn and/or your own cooked beans where I've suggested canned. Adjust the "heat" to your taste.
Ingredients
  • 1 14-oz can of black beans
  • 1 15-oz can of organic corn (or 1-3/4 c of fresh cooked corn kernels)
  • 1/2 c chopped red onions
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno, including seeds
  • 1 cup of loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • one roma tomato
  • 1 cup of chopped sweet peppers (all one variety or a mixture of colors)
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t salt (omit if your beans have salt)
  • 1/2 t hot jalapeno powder *
* I dehydrate and grind my home-grown red jalapenos into a fine powder, but you could use chili powder or hot pepper drops instead.

Directions
Rinse and drain the black beans and the corn, and put them into a mixing bowl. Chop the jalapeno (carefully) and add. Chop the cilantro and other veggies. Add them and all the other ingredients, and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving so the flavors can blend. Nice served with corn chips.
 

Keep in mind that much of the corn (and available garden corn seeds) grown in the US are now genetically-modified (GMO). Not only are there potential health and environmental problems from GMO crops, but the ability to save and replant seeds is denied by these Monsanto-produced seeds. Growing your own corn from heirloom seeds or buying organically grown corn and corn products can help you avoid GMO corn.

6/22/14

Easy Yummy Nut Cookies and Biscotti - A Theme and Variations

My friend Diane gave me a simple recipe for a Peanut Butter Cookie she had made for a gathering of friends. "Only 4 ingredients," she noted, and it makes for a delicious, easy dessert. After tasting one, I got her recipe. If you ever need a baking project with children, I'd recommend these cookies… fun and yummy! The original cookie recipe is at the top of this post, followed by recipes based on the original which I've created. The biscotti variation is my claim to fame, however - Rick judged them the best biscotti I've ever made (and I've made many)! These are all gluten-free too. (NOTE: Ingredients in red type are detailed on my "ingredients" page.)


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Peanut n’ Honey Cookies (makes a dozen 2-1/2" cookies or 20 small cookies)
- original recipe from: 7 Secrets Cookbook by Neva and Jim Brackett, called Peanut Butter N Honey Cookies

2 cups dry roasted peanuts (lightly salted; if not salted add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt) *
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (or one cup of flour)
1/2 cup honey (warmed in microwave - this is a critical step; it needs to pour like water and if too little the mix will be dry and if too much the cookies will be tough.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place peanuts and oats in food processor and whiz for 1 minute until they are the texture of fine bread crumbs. Pour into bowl and add salt if using. Mix in honey and vanilla. Stir together and then mix with your hands. Dough should hold together nicely. If dry and crumbly add a bit of water; if too wet add a bit of flour (gluten-free flour, if GF is a concern for you).

Make walnut size balls and flatten on parchment-lined cookie sheet, then use fork to press down (use a cup of water to dip the fork into). The cookies don't spread while cooking, so they can be fairly close on the cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Putting them on the top rack of the oven helps keep the bottoms from browning too fast. Watch them and remove from oven when they are just beginning to brown on the edges. You can take them out before they look like they are done. They over-brown quickly. Cool on a wire rack.


* Check the ingredients on your purchase of roasted peanuts. I assumed the ingredients would be just peanuts, salt, and perhaps some oil… but then I detected a sweet taste. Not only did the jar I had used include sugar AND corn syrup, but it even had added monosodium glutamate. Yuck! My next trip to the store revealed there is such a thing as a jar of roasted peanuts which only includes peanuts, so that's the one I stick with now.

 JUDY'S VARIATIONS:
1) Mix chocolate or carob morsels or broken pieces of hazelnut candy into the batter before baking and flatten the ball of dough with your hand, not a fork. Bake.
2) Make Thumbprint Peanut Butter and Jelly cookies: Instead of flattening and pressing the raw dough with a fork, press your thumb into the unbaked round dough ball, just enough to make a well while flattening the ball (not so deep that you go to the cookie sheet). Bake cookies as directed above for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill the well with 1/2 to 1 tsp of your favorite jam. Return to the oven to finish baking.
3) Add chopped dried banana chips to the dough before baking
4) Flatten unbaked dough ball with your palm before baking, then press a chocolate candy kiss onto each cookie as soon as you remove them from the oven
Be creative and make your own version!

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Judy's Almond Gingersnap Cookies (makes a dozen 2-1/2" cookies or 20 small cookies)

2 cups raw or unsalted roasted almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (or one cup of flour)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 c molasses or sorghum syrup
1 teaspoon ground ginger root
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 1 tablespoon dried fine orange peel; 1/2 cup currants, raisins, or chopped dried plums

Place nuts and oats in food processor and whiz for 1 minute until they are the texture of fine bread crumbs. Pour into bowl and add salt and spices. Mix the maple syrup and molasses and warm them in a microwave - this is a critical step; it needs to pour like water and if too little the mix will be dry and if too much the cookies will be tough. Mix maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla into the dry ingredients. Stir together and then mix with your hands. Dough should hold together nicely. If dry and crumbly add a bit of water; if too wet add a bit of flour.

Make walnut size balls and flatten on parchment-lined cookie sheet, then press down to flatten the ball slightly. The cookies don't spread while cooking, so they can be fairly close on the cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Putting them on the top rack of the oven helps keep the bottoms from browning too fast. Watch them and remove from oven when they are just beginning to brown on the edges. You can take them out before they look like they are done. They over-brown quickly. Cool on a wire rack.

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Judy's Peanut Butter and Jelly Biscotti

2 cups dry roasted peanuts* (lightly salted; if not salted add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt)
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup honey (warmed in microwave- this is a critical step; it needs to pour like water and if too little the mix will be dry and if too much the cookies will be tough.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup jam (I used St. Dalfour's Red Raspberry, which is sweetened with grape juice, not refined sugar)

Place peanuts and flour or oats in food processor and whiz for 1 minute until crumbly. Pour into bowl and add salt if using. Mix in honey and vanilla. Stir together and then mix with your hands. Dough should hold together nicely. If dry and crumbly add a bit of water; if too wet add a bit of flour.

Separate the dough in 2 pieces. Working on a piece of parchment or waxed paper, shape one piece into a log about 2-3" in diameter, then flatten it to about 1/4" thick. Spread the jam to within 1/4" of the edges. Roll from the long side, making a log again. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Move each log to the parchment covered baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Cut the logs on a diagonal into 1/2 inch thick slices. Return slices to the baking sheet, on their sides, and bake again for 10-15 minutes or until desired crispness. They over-brown quickly so watch them for doneness. Cool completely on a rack.

6/4/14

Life is but a bowl of cherries!

Not to be outdone by my strawberry harvest, my lone sour cherry tree is heavy with ripe fruit. The photo is this morning's harvest (minus those I ate while picking) and I've picked that much previously. The tree is a montmorency tart cherry. It's the only one of 4 cherry trees we tried to grow which survived. This one was planted about 8 years ago, and it's the only dwarf fruit tree which stayed short for us… the apples, pears, and peaches all grew 20+ feet. Without ever doing any drastic pruning, the cherry tree stands about six feet tall. At that height, it's very easy for me to trim, spray, check, and pick! I've read that sour cherries are easier for home orchards than sweet cherries, and my little tree has had no serious pests or diseases.

Montmorency is the most popular sour cherry variety for pies and preserves. I hand pit the cherries, which produce so much juice it looks like a scene from the opening credits of "Dexter!" If someone has a good cherry pitting tool, please let me know - I expect my harvest will grow in future years, so it will be worth investing in one. Once pitted, I either freeze the cherries in zipper pint bags, or use them fresh on granola or in smoothies. For a little sweetness, I use a combo of my own stevia extract (made from organic stevia leaves I grow) with a touch of maple syrup… wonderful mixed into Greek yogurt, our used in a pie. Cherries are high in nutrients and particularly good for sufferers of gout.

I've read recently about a cherry shrub called Nanking cherry, which I'm tempted to buy and plant. I've only found them online, not at any nurseries. If you are interested in sharing an order with me, just let me know!