raisins

Steven’s been complaining about my cooking lately. Well, maybe not complaining exactly but pointing out a bit clearly that we’ve been in a breakfast rut for a while—bread and coffee, bread and coffee, bread and coffee. Perhaps we’ve both been a little bored with this monotonous refrain. We do eat whole wheat, which is very healthy. He has his with jam and nut butter; I have mine with Earth Balance. Sometimes though what starts out as a virtue can become a culinary straightjacket.

nut and seed granola with date and pomegranate molasses

nut and seed granola with date and pomegranate molasses

Breakfast food is normally loaded with cholesterol so we try to stay away from eggs, cheese and butter as much as possible. Plus during the week, we have virtually no time to cook in the morning. Both of us want to maximize sleep so we get up and leave for work in about thirty minutes. That includes showering, taking out Clarence, getting ready and sharing a little breakie together. So forget cooking!

Granola is a Northern California stereotype and certainly I’ve seen more than one hiker whip out a pouch of the stuff or a few bars in the middle of the woods. Despite the silliness, just like Martha says, “it is a good thing.”

I adapted this recipe from Alton Brown and David Lebovits. I think they adapted their recipes from someone else because they seem fairly similar. You can vary the ingredients to customize your granola or improvise and just toss in whatever’s at hand in the pantry.

I had originally intended to use maple syrup like that other granola I wrote about years ago but realized at the last second that we’d run out. The date and pomegranate molasses were wonderful substitutes.

nut and seed granola with date and pomegranate molasses

5 cups organic rolled oats
2 cups chopped pecans
½ cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup cashew nuts, chopped
½ cup Brazil nuts, chopped
½ cup dried grated coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup raisins (or a mix of dried fruits)

2 tbsp walnut oil
1/3 cup rice bran syrup
¼ cup date molasses
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
½ cup warm water

Pre-heat the oven to 300F.

With exception of the raisins, place all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix and set aside.

Add wet ingredients to a separate bowl and whisk to combine. Pour over dry ingredients. Use your hands so it gets absorbed evenly. Spread the granola on two large baking trays and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Stir granola with a spatula every 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool a bit then add raisins and toss to combine. Let cool completely. Transfer to an air tight container and have it for breakfast with some soy milk, or on a hike to somewhere gorgeous.

do you feel the call of the wild

do you feel the call of the wild?

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carob balls

by Jasmine Turner on September 2, 2011

The idea to make carob balls was inspired from an exercise in a culture awareness class I recently took as part of the curriculum in my counseling/psychology program. Yes, I am studying to become a counselor. As you know food has a direct link to culture. The last assignment for the class was to make a recipe from your family of origin, which would be your mom dad and sister etc., and bring it to share with the other classmates.

carob balls

carob balls

So, I searched my memory and thought of tofu stir fries much like timely tasty tofu, and the traditional oatmeal with margarine we would always have for breakfast, because back in the ‘80’s everyone was using margarine on food instead of butter…even though now we find it has “trans-fats,” so all those years we thought we were doing ourselves a favor we probably should have been using real butter! Unfortunately I couldn’t really bring the tofu stir fry in for breakfast as it was a morning class and it would have needed to be heated.

I had an “aha” moment and recalled a dessert we would get when my dad wanted to give us a special treat, carob balls. Our parents made mostly health food items for us to eat and we weren’t really knowledgeable about chocolate goodies, so we always got the alternative, which happened to be carob. This was back in the day when people used to say, “Can you dig it?” so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone.

My dad said his recipe actually originated from trying to make frosting for a batch of brownies also made from carob. Carob comes from the ground up seed pod from the carob tree. It is commonly used as a substitute for chocolate (without the side effects)! Carob is very healthy and actually has nutritional value like protein etc. My dad learned about it as a boy because there was a carob tree on his block in N. Hollywood where he grew up. He used to gnaw on the pods and taste sweetness. He relearned about carob later when becoming health food conscience.

carob chips

carob chips

Anyway, the frosting he was trying to make was mixing up too thick and was much too dense to spread evenly on the brownies, so he and my mom just started eating it out of the bowl. Cooling it and rolling into balls was an afterthought to make the mix cleaner and easier to eat. Though now, I think of them as chocolate truffle alternatives. Overall, carob balls bring up recollections of a loving Dad making a treat for his family which kindles good spirits and connections channeled through a yummy family recipe.

carob balls

2 cups carob powder (found in bulk at most health food stores)
¾ cup softened butter or smart butter veggie margarine (now Trans fat free!)
½ cup honey, or as my dad says, a “glob” of honey!
Optional: raisins, carob chips (also available at health food stores), chopped walnuts, sunflower or sesame seeds, maybe even shredded coconut

Blend softened “butter” and carob powder in a mixing bowl. Blend in “glob” of honey. Mix until it’s like a thick frosting. Add optional ingredients(s) if using. Mix it all together and form into balls or cut into squares or lumps: whatever. Then put in refrigerator to cool or freezer to cool faster. These are best served cold, otherwise they might get messy. You can coat the ball with the shredded coconut or sunflower seeds for decoration! Enjoy compliments of my Padre!

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This delectable dish comes from the sublime Najmieh Batmanglij’s book, Food of Life. I made it with some success for a recent dinner party on a day when I felt little inspiration. Najmieh always cheers my mind and appetite.

basmati rice with dried yellow fava beans

basmati rice with dried yellow fava beans

Her recipe calls for dried peeled yellow fava beans, which I happened to have. Hegui picked them up at Mi Pueblo long before I’d considered this dish. She uses a special Persian spice mix for rice called advieh. The recipe can be found towards the end of the book, so I prepared my own. Made from cardamom, cumin, rose petal and cinnamon, it was quite aromatic. Since Hegui isn’t too into cinnamon, I reduced the total amount in my advieh and left out the additional ½ teaspoon that’s recommended for the yellow rice.

You’re supposed to use a non-stick pot and allow the rice on the bottom to burn and caramelize a bit. When you plate, you carefully remove the rice, which is served in a large platter in a cone shape with the garnish. Then you remove the burned crust and offer it on the side. I don’t have that kind of pan so omitted the extended cooking at low temperature and stirred my rice to try to prevent sticking. Too bad. The crust sounds quite interesting.

My only real objection to the recipe, since it was fabulous, is that she writes it “makes 6 servings.” This is absurd. I could have fed an army with the amount of finished rice. So be warned.

basmati rice with dried yellow fava beans

3 cups basmati rice, rinsed thoroughly
2 to 3 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp turmeric
2cups dried yellow hulled favas
1 tbsp or more salt
black pepper to taste
1 tsp advieh or Persian spice mix
½ cup olive oil
raisins and fried eggs for garnish

Soak beans in water for at least two hours or more.

In a deep pot, brown onions in vegetable oil, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add turmeric, soaked rinsed beans and warm water to cover (she says 7 cups). Bring to boil then simmer for about thirty minutes to cook beans. Add salt, black pepper and rinsed rice. Simmer for another 20 minutes to cook rice. Sprinkle advieh onto cooked rice then pour olive oil over it. Cover and let rest off the heat for about ten minutes.

Plate rice on a large platter forming a cone shape. Decorate with raisins and fried eggs.


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heartache tagliatelle custard

by Stevie on March 14, 2011

This recipe is part of a cooperative “cook-off” with my darling blogger friend, Heavenly, from donuts to delirium, and Christina, from Buenos Aires to Paris. I’ve been wildly excited about cooking with these two and remain thrilled to have been included. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out their cool blogs soon and often.

heartache tagliatelle custard

heartache tagliatelle custard

I call this custard “heartache” for several reasons. First, it is loaded with cream, butter and eggs, so cardiologists, beware. Next, I had trouble making it, which I’ll elaborate on more below. That caused me days on end of heartache and worry. But the dish turned out so flavorful and downright good, that everyone that’s tasted it has had heartache once they cleaned their plates. “You’re kidding! There’s really no more?” Lastly, today I’m bittersweet. This is the very day that my kitchen is to be demolished in preparation for renovation. That’s wonderful news in the long term but I’ll miss the wretched thing horribly while we suffer the remodel. And I won’t be enjoying more heartache tagliatelle custard anytime soon.

The recipe is a classic: fresh egg tagliatelle. It comes from one of Gino D’Acampo’s cookbooks. HH sent me the directions and urged me to “feel free to add any personal touches/sauces,” with which instruction, obviously, I’ve run wild.

The dish is straightforward and only uses a few ingredients. But it is labor intensive. Gino’s a cute guy, and I’ve no doubt that’s part of his appeal. Nevertheless, the pics accompanying the recipe of him in a T-shirt, flashing his biceps, smiling his stunning smile, as he pulls perfect, very long tagliatelle out of his hand-cranked pasta maker, isn’t just for show. I’ve a hand-cranked pasta machine, too, and I’ll tell you, making this is a real workout! I stripped some outer layers off myself. And I started sweating… heavily. (I couldn’t tell if G was, but suspect not. Some guys have all the luck.)

Gino offers two alternatives besides the original: a red tagliatelle made with the addition of tomato purée, and a green, made with fresh spinach. Initially, I wanted to try something American Southwestern, so made the “red” version with ancho chile purée instead of tomato. It tasted fine but looked a mess—sort of like teenage-me, covered in acne, irritated, with horrible bed-head. It didn’t photograph that well either, as you might imagine.

So back to the drawing board.

The texture of my disaster tagliatelle was rather fluffy, kind of like bread or rice pudding. And that, as they say, was that. Eureka! I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and try a pasta dessert.

I’m not especially creative with these things so feel back on a recipe of Heguiberto’s for bread pudding as my guide. I had to make some small adjustments to accommodate the hot tagliatelle. Otherwise, my dish is essentially the same as Gino’s for the “regular” egg noodles and the same as Hegui’s bread pudding recipe. In the first I traded canola oil for olive, thinking that would work better in dessert. In the second, I melted the butter and tossed it with the noodles and dried fruit instead of spreading it.

I made this twice. The first time, I didn’t cook the fresh pasta thinking that the custard would do that for me, thus eliminating a step. Alas, that proved to be a mistake. The custard was too dense.

heartache tagliatelle custard

My manual pasta machine.  See how I've gotten a new clamp to hold it in place.  What an upgrade!

My manual pasta machine. See how I've gotten a new clamp to hold it in place? What an upgrade!

300g “00” flour plus more to flour work surface
3 eggs
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil

3 cups half and half
4 tbsp butter, melted, plus more to grease baking dish
¾ cup raisins and currants
2 eggs and 1 additional egg white
3 cups half and half
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean pod
coarse sugar

 

To prepare tagliatelle:

Prepare Gino D’Acampo’s homemade egg pasta dough. I’ll summarize the directions. Mix flour, salt, and oil in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together three eggs. (Actually Gino recommends the traditional make-a-well-in-a-mound-of-flour-on-your-board method. I simply ignored that since I always make such a huge mess that way.) With a wooden spoon, fold the flour in stages into the egg. Once the dough is wet and somewhat together, pour out onto a floured surface.

Kneed the dough for eight (8) minutes. This is critical. And tiring and is the step at which I broke a sweat.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Once it is rested, press dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness that will fit your pasta machine’s widest setting. Crank the dough through. Dust with a bit more flour to prevent sticking. Adjust the machine setting to the next smaller size and process again. Continue until you’ve run it through all the settings to the most narrow (my machine has nine settings). The dough will grow enormously long and gets stickier as it grows. You’ll have to fold it so be sure to add a bit more four as needed to minimize sticking.

at this point, the pasta is about half-way flattened

at this point, the pasta is about half-way flattened

cutting pasta into tagliatelle

cutting pasta into tagliatelle

finished tagliatelle before cooking

finished tagliatelle before cooking

Change to the cutting rollers on your machine. The tagliatelle width is about a half centimeter. Gino sweetly writes that you can hand-cut the pasta if you’re machine doesn’t have the correct size, but I think that is perfectly insane. Use the machine and make due on the size.

Dust cut pasta with a bit of flour to prevent sticking.

At this point, you can cook and eat this in any of the traditional savory ways that you can imagine. March bravely forward for the custard.

To prepare custard:

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease a baking dish with butter.

Cut vanilla pod in half and scrape out seeds with a paring knife. Place pod and seeds with one cup of half and half in a small saucepan. Simmer for a few minutes to infuse vanilla flavor into liquid. Remove from heat and add remaining two cups of half and half to cool. Discard vanilla pod and set aside.

heartache tagliatelle custard with cream and dark chocolate Häagen-Dazs

heartache tagliatelle custard with cream and dark chocolate Häagen-Dazs

Cook pasta in boiling water for two minutes. Drain and toss with melted butter and dried fruit. Place into baking dish.

Beat remaining 2 eggs and egg white with sugar for a few minutes. Add vanilla-infused half and half. Beat for a minute more. Pour over pasta in baking dish. Sprinkle top with coarse sugar.

Bake 35 to 50 minutes until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Once firm, broil for a minute or so to brown top. Remove from heat and let cool.

Serve warm, with more half and half or some heavy cream, and/or with dark chocolate ice cream, like we did.


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My sister, Kris, makes wonderful cakes and quick breads. She lives back East so I don’t see her that often. Years ago she would make this zucchini bread around the holidays in large volume and give it as gifts to friends and family. I’ve never made it before now though I’ve had the recipe for a while. I managed to misplace it in our last move and have finally gotten around to having her send it my way again. It reminds me of her warm kitchen filled with aromas of baking bread, cookies and cinnamon. Aaaaa.

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

Her recipe doesn’t call for sesame seeds but I had some extra (leftover from Hegui’s yummy wakame salad) so threw them into the mix.

This quick bread is easy to make and a real crowd pleaser. I devoured some right out of the oven with butter melting on top. Heavenly! Thanks for this, Kris, and happy holidays!

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

2 cups Italian zucchini, shredded (about three medium zucchini)
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins
¼ cup sesame seeds
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

I used disposable wax paper cake pans. If using a regular baking dish, grease and dust with flour before use.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Fold nuts and raisins into egg mixture. Fold flour mix into wet ingredients in two stages until everything is moist.

Pour batter into baking dishes. I made a ring cake and a smaller loaf from this recipe. My sister says that it can make two regular sized loafs.

Bake about one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. My smaller loaf only needed about 50 minutes. Kris says that muffins might be ready after a mere 20 minutes.

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Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

Irene is my paternal grandmother, though she prefers “Granny” to “Grandma.” Apparently it makes her feel younger. For a year when I was a child, my family and I lived in Geneva, Switzerland where I attended a private English-speaking school in the Third Grade. I had a Scottish friend in my class who taught me this naughty “Granny” song:

O, you cannot push your Granny off the bus, off the bus!
O, you cannot push your Granny off the bus, off the bus!
O, you cannot push your Granny, ‘cause she’s your father’s mother,
O, you cannot push your Granny off the bus, off the bus!

My whole family loved it and I’ve fond memories of all of us riding down the Swiss highways, belting out the lyrics to a broken but lively tune. We even sang it for Granny when she came to visit from the States. Aah, good stuff!

What I’ve just recently learned is that Granny Irene has a recipe for zucchini oatmeal raisin bread! My sister sent it to me after I asked her for her recipe for zucchini bread (more to come on that soon).

This bread is easy to make and it will make you feel healthy, what with all of the freshly grated Italian zucchini in there.

Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

dry ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 cup oats
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt

wet ingredients:

3 eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 cups shredded zucchini (about four medium Italian)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease baking dishes. I used pre-made disposable wax paper formed dishes. Instead of greasing and worrying about removing cake at the end, I simply peeled the paper off like you might for a muffin and discarded the paper once the baking was done. Easy.

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Mix remaining wet ingredients into egg mixture. Fold egg zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients until batter is moist.

Pour batter into your baking dish(s). I made two small loafs and a larger round. Bake 30 to 50 minutes depending on the size of your cake. Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a rack and enjoy. We had ours over coffee for breakfast. Yum!

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Moroccan carrot salad

by Heguiberto on October 26, 2010

We bought a lot of carrots at our local TJ’s store the other day and forgot them in the fridge for about a week. By the time I rediscovered them, they were dehydrated and a bit shriveled, so I decided to prepare them all at once right away. Normally, I use carrots in other things, rather than featuring them as the main attraction. This salad has convinced me to change my tune.

Moroccan carrot salad

Moroccan carrot salad

This is very simple to make. It works great as a side dish. With some leafy greens and a bit of rustic bread or simple bowl of rice, it would be a wonderful lunch, too. Steven suggested that I make it for the holidays. Carrots are a mainstay at Thanksgiving, but so often, I find them overly sweet. Moroccan carrot salad gives the festive colors and aromas but without all the extra sugar. I can’t wait to eat our friend’s signature T-day dish, roasted Tofurkey, hopefully with the mushroom sauce that I recommended. I’m going to make this carrot salad as a side. What do you think?

Moroccan carrot salad

~1 lb Nantes carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ inch rounds
½ raw peanuts
¼ cup raisins
¼ tsp cumin
¼ paprika
dash cinnamon
salt
dash cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
fresh black pepper to taste
2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
~3 tbsp lemon juice
fresh cilantro leaves

Place peanuts in a skillet and toast for about 8minutes, shaking the pan continuously to toast them evenly and prevent burning. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Rub them with your fingers to remove skins. Discard skins. Set aside.

Meanwhile boil carrots in salted water until soft. Toss in raisins at the last minute to re-hydrate. Drain.

Prepare the dressing buy whisking together cumin, paprika, salt, cayenne and black pepper, crushed garlic, cinnamon, lemon juice and olive oil or just place everything in a glass jar and sake until it emulsifies. Taste and adjust flavors.

Pour dressing over carrots; add peanuts, cilantro and voilá!

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walnut raisin bread

by Heguiberto on April 19, 2010

walnut raisin bread

This recipe is in latest issue of bon appétit, in the reader’s favorite restaurant recipes section. I love making recipes from magazines. I think that it’s a real test of the magazine’s quality if it turns out well in my kitchen. I’ve dropped several food magazines (that shall remain nameless) after trying a few of the recipes and having them not turn out right. I know, I know, it’s easy to point a finger at the home cook and blame the problem on “operator error.” But I don’t think so. Aren’t these food ‘zines written for people just like me? Shouldn’t the recipes be designed for “normal” cooks? That’s our approach here at weirdcombinations: exciting food for regular people. Plus, not to be too grandiose, but I’m a good cook, period. So excuse me!

Well, despite all of that hoo-haw, I find baking a bit challenging. There’s all that kneading and raising and the exact oven temperature and, of course, you can’t boil the yeast as it will never grow. Ugh! So complicated! I’m a bit freestyle in the kitchen and this whole “scientific” approach to cooking is a real downer. But one reaps what one sows, so most times that I adventure into the realm of bread baking, the results aren’t that great. But I want to be good. I want to change. I know that I can!

This bread has been my first attempt at the new ME. Of course, I’m still the old me, too, so I made a little change, but a minor one. I left out the pecans because I don’t care for them. Sorry, Georgia. Everything else is THE SAME. I even used a thermometer to make sure the water temperature was ideal for the yeast to develop! Can you even imagine?

I liked the end result. But what I liked most was the wonderful lingering yeasty sweet aroma of bread permeating the house for the few hours after I finally took the thing out of the oven. It brought me back delightful childhood memories of my mom baking her signature bread, ‘rosca de trança,’ that looked a bit like a brioche, though is sweeter and less airy. I’ve tried to make it many times all to no avail. Perhaps, in light of this successful walnut raisin bread, I should try again?

Walnut Raisin Bread

2 cups warm water (~110F)
3 quarter oz. envelopes of dry active yeast
¼ cup canola oil
2½ tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Kosher salt
5½ cups flour (plus more kneading)
2 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts
¼ cup brown sugar

Mix 2 cups water and yeast together in a large bowl and stir. Let it stand for approximately 10 minutes so yeast will dissolve. Stir in oil, sugar and salt. Add 5½ cups of flour and mix until roughly blended with fluid ingredients. Flour your work surface, such as your counter top. Knead dough until it becomes smooth, about 8 min. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Add raisins, walnuts and brown sugar. Knead further until incorporated. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, line two baking trays with wax paper.

Split dough into two even pieces, and form each into 6-inch round. Make sure raisins are submerged in the dough, otherwise they will burn and impart a bitter flavor to the bread. Place rounds on trays lined with wax paper. Cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm and draft free place about 2 hours or until size has doubled.

Pre heat oven to 350F. Bake bread for about 50 minutes. To check for doneness tap bottom of bread and listen for a hollow sound. Remove from oven. The magazine encourages you to wait for it to cool before slicing. Whatever. We sliced into one loaf immediately and savored it with fresh salty, oozy, melting butter. Delicious!

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