C is for Cookie, and Courage, and Crescent City

C is for cookie, crescent city, carnival, and courage—respect and laud to all the women and men who joined in the important march this weekend. Saturday was a beautiful day for a protest in New Orleans, and I was heartened by the company of some 15,000 re(sisters) who together, in a procession two miles long, held fists high in peaceful dissent.

Carnivale Almond Crescents

Adapted from Food and Wine

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract (thank you Penzeys, for this, and for supporting women)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cups almond flour

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350° and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter with the granulated sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in both extracts. Reduce the speed to low and add both flours, mixing until just combined. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Scoop 12 rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Using your hands, roll each ball into a 4-inch rope, then shape into a crescent; return to the baking sheet. If the dough gets too soft, refrigerate until firm. Bake the cookies, rotating the sheet halfway through baking, until lightly browned around the edges, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Sift the 1 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar into a shallow bowl. Dredge the warm cookies in the confectioners’ sugar; return to the rack and let cool completely. Repeat the baking and dredging with the remaining dough. Dust the cookies with additional confectioners’ sugar before serving.

A Smoothie Bible, with Guest Review from my Smoothie Queen

Knowing my true place in the scheme of things, a veritable smoothie novice, I deferred the deep analysis of what I call the Smoothie Bible, the “300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix” by Robin Asbell, to my mother, the Smoothie Queen. In New Orleans we have Smoothie King, but in Portland, OR, we all know the Smoothie Queen is Andie. Her Vitamix hasn’t had a day off in years. I’m not sure there is one lone oxidant left in her trillion cells.

Of the “Blueberry Green Smoothie,” she reviews, “A good smoothie, much like my normal fare. The coconut water is sweet, so if you have green shake fear, this is a go-to, achieving a big swat at your five fruits and veggies per day. Also, the blueberries, make this ‘sea green’ not veggie green so that may be a plus for some.”

She also pressure-tested the Cherry Pomegranate Antioxidant Smootie. Dark cherries, as we know, are powerful anti-inflammatories.  Mom’s naturopath suggests them to her instead of Advil or Tylenol for aches and pains. Per Mom, “the smoothie itself tastes sugar-naughty and there isn’t a bit of sugar in it.  I subbed in coconut milk yogurt and can’t taste it, only those cherries.  Beautiful dark red color and worth repeating and a nice repentant act after I made beautiful sugar cookies only three weeks ago AND an chocolate espresso cake. “

There are almost enough recipes for you to try a new flavor each day of the calendar year.

I love it. I’ve been also experimenting with new smoothie recipes in efforts to close my nutritional gap in 2017. I noticed that a scoop of Vitamin C or Purity powder gives a righteous vitamin-y zing to my protein smoothies of late.

I’m excited to be partnering with MegaFood and their upcoming pledge drive—for each pledge submitted online, participants get a $5 off coupon toward MegaFood stuff and in turn, MegaFood will donate a bottle of MegaFood Multivitamins to those in need. Details on this will be in a post forthcoming next week, so stay tuned. You can also win a wellness retreat, ooh ooh la.

My thanks to Robert Rose Publishers for the chance to review this book!

Cream of Cauliflower Soup for Cozy Wintering

Super delicious soup—although looked like I literally made Whirled Peas. Baby food dinner for Adults. I used an ENORMOUS cauliflower that Rouses was selling (probably by mistake) for $4 –and this was a 7 pound head, possibly heavier and larger than my own. This with cooked down collard greens was a fabulous combo for this recipe.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Adapted from Penzeys Spices

4 TB. butter, divided

3-4 hand-sized russet potatoes, peeled and sliced (around 2 lbs.)

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

6 Cups chopped cauliflower

8 Cups chopped collard greens

1/4-2 tsp. salt, to taste

1/4-2 tsp. pepper, to taste

2 TB fox point seasoning

4 Cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 Cup milk (more or less based on how thick/smooth you want this to be)

Directions

Clean and chop the vegetables. Heat 2 TB. of the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the potatoes, onion, vegetables, salt, pepper and seasoning, if using. Cook a minute, stirring, then add the broth or water, reduce heat to medium and cook until vegetables are soft. Stir regularly to prevent sticking. Add the milk and pureè with an immersion blender or pureè in small batches using a regular blender. Add the remaining butter, taste for seasoning and add additional milk if you desire a thinner consistency.

Sportsing with Three Cheese Queso

There is more sportsing going on this weekend, I’m pretty sure. And then there is the Superbowl on the horizon. Perfect excuse to fine-tune your queso skills and score your own points with friends who will love you for the sake of cheese. And being together of course. But with cheese.

I was challenged today that instead of To Do lists for the New Year, we should be making To Be lists. Well, if it were possible, my list would go like this:    To Be:  1) Cheese.     I imagine if this were true, self-love would be so much easier. Because I LOVE cheese.

Three Cheese Queso Dip

Adapted from Food and Wine

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup skim milk

1 3/4 pounds white American cheese, sliced 1/3 inch thick and diced

1 cup coarsely shredded Manchego cheese (3 1/2 ounces)

1 cup coarsely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (3 1/2 ounces)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Tortilla chips

Chopped cilantro

Fresh salsa, for serving

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream and milk and bring just to a simmer. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the three cheeses and heat, whisking occasionally, until completely melted, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic powder and gradually whisk in the buttermilk; heat until thoroughly incorporated and the queso is very smooth, about 5 minutes. Keep warm over very low 
heat and serve with tortilla chips, cilantro and fresh salsa.

Enjoy, and happy sportsing.

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole for the Year of Books

To a new year. There will be books. Looking back on 2016, I will say that it was a failure somewhat from a resolution standpoint, but perhaps rightly so. It was to be the year of Chocolate, and I received some support from several chocolatiers to realize my goal of making one chocolate dish per week. My favorite here. And yet, “so stout at starting and so early lost,” says Dante. Well, you know, residency is a tad time-consuming. I think I made about two or three month’s worth of weekly chocolate dishes. I guess chocolate didn’t have the inherent drive for me like the haiku, which is a surprise, surprise. Not. I’m a Francie, not a Piggie.

I’ve been inspired by Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith’s heroine is made to read one page from a book everyday—the Bible and Shakespeare. The precocious girl ups the ante to one book per day, remarkable child. One page a day seems reasonable. I’ll check in periodically with updates on the reading, and of course, with reviews.

I’m also going to call this the Year of the Cookbook. I am loving all the requests Bake This Day has been getting lately for cookbook reviews, and I’ll try to keep up! Got some great titles in my latest stack—the food photography has me drooling.

KP and I made this for some friends while home for Christmas, and I’ll say it was like a healthy version bread pudding. You really can’t tell that there are any bagels in there—the egg dominates the texture. I added a bunch of spicy jalapenos and thai bird chiles on the top because I love spicy breakfast, and because red and green for Christmas. Super delicious, bakes very well.

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole

Adapted from Food and Wine

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing

10 large eggs

2 1/2 cups half-and-half

6 oil-packed Calabrian chiles—drained, seeded and minced

Kosher salt

Pepper

1 pound day-old everything bagels (3 large)—any kind of bagel will probably work, cut into 1-inch pieces (9 cups)

1 small bunch of curly kale, stemmed and chopped (5 cups)

1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/4 cup finely chopped basil leaves

2 tablespoons minced rosemary

2 scallions, thinly sliced

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (2 ounces)

Yet another shameless plug for Safeway Bagels in Portland, Oregon. The best bagels I know of on the planet.

Lightly grease a 3-quart oval baking pan. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the half-and-half, chiles, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in the bagel pieces and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and kale and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and wilted, about 7 minutes. Stir in the cherry tomatoes, basil and rosemary and cook until the tomatoes start to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the scallions; season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly.

Fold the vegetables and shredded cheeses into the bagel mixture, then transfer to the prepared baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the plastic wrap and cover the baking pan with foil. Bake for 40 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 45 minutes more, or until the top is puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

Thanks to all my family in the Pacific Northwest for hosting a fabulous Christmas!

And to my brother for hands down the best present of the year. Love you Dave.

Cascade Icetini – One Last Cocktail Before the New Year

After the holidays, I have the strange certainty that my organs are staging a mutiny against my person. I suppose there would be some justice to that, in particular with regard to my pancreas and liver. I feel ready for some kind of cleanse, but also know that I’m no monk. This year there will be more exercise, there will be more whole foods, and many dinners made with the pasta machine and spiralizer I got for Christmas. But first, there will be one more cocktail.

Cascade Icetini

To mix, use 3oz of Cascade Ice Cranberry Pomegranate, 2oz of vodka and the juice of a lime. Stir the contents in your shaker with a handful of ice and garnish with a candy cane.

This post was inspired and sponsored by Cascade Ice. Thank you for the beautiful rainbow of delicious beverages in the mail!

Blueberry Gingerbread for a Very Special Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas memories was in a New Orleans church service in 2007. The pastor proclaimed himself to be a “reformed musician” –having left the wild partying life, he still brought his saxophone into the pulpit to accompany the choir. That night it was an advent service and to kick off the hymn sing, a blind black woman was guided onto the stage. The pastor handed her a microphone and then picked up his sax. He began to play some intro notes and I smiled because it was a song I knew, didn’t even need to get out the hymnal. But what was it? “Hang all the mistletoe,” she began in a sultry gospel voice, “I’m gonna get to know you better…. This Christmas.” Wait a second, I smiled, is this a hymn? “Fireside is blazing briiiight. And we’re caroling through the niiiiiight.”

And then she belted out the chorus, and we all sang along, “And this Christmas, will be, a very special Christmas, for meeeee!” Amazing moment. Some churches hold candles and sing 19th century carols like Silent Night in the original German, others groove to Donny Hathaway 1970’s Greatest Hits. I know where I fit in the scheme of things. I hope you do too. May you be with some loved ones, critters, all.

Blueberry Gingerbread

Adapted from Penzeys Spice

2 Cups frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
2 TB. sugar
2 TB. blueberry vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
1/2 Cup sour cream, crème fraîche or plain yogurt
1 1/2 Cups flour
1/2 Cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. mace
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 TB. molasses
1/2 Cup butter (1 stick), melted

Directions

In a small bowl, toss the berries with the sugar and vinegar. Let stand for 1 hour so they get juicy.

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 1 1/2-quart baking dish and set aside. Drain the berries well, reserving the juice. Set the berries aside. In a large bowl, combine the reserved juice and the sour cream. In a second bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, ginger, salt, mace, and cinnamon. Mix well and set aside. Stir the eggs, molasses and melted butter into the sour cream mixture. Add 1/2 cup of the flour mix to the batter and beat well. Gradually add the rest of the dry ingredients to the batter and beat on high until smooth and a bit fluffy. Spread 2/3 of the batter into the pan. Arrange the berries evenly over the batter.

Spoon the remaining batter in mounds over the top of the berries. It’s okay if some of the berries are peeking through. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar and top with whipped cream if desired.

And this Christmas, will be, a very special CHRISTMAAAAAS for meeeeeee!