Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Strawberry Rhubarb pies always make me think of Karla’s and my grandmother’s old house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was a super house: multiple levels of flowers in the front leading up to a colorful door and enclosed porch, a big living room with two pianos and an organ, a bathroom full of cat replicas, and a carpeted little staircase up to the third floor that was always lined with stuffed animals. It had all the requisite grandma’s house charm, and even a fluffy long-haired cat, rotary phones, and a scary basement.

The kitchen was something else. Stained glass on the walls, armies of magnets on the fridge, I can’t remember the details very well now, but it always seemed very crowded. I do remember using tiny little spoons, with presidents’ faces on them, to devour one of our grandma’s two specialties: heaping Schaum Tortes and pieces of Strawberry Rhubarb pie.

My “L” for Louisville pie. Something of a crust-design failure, but still a beautiful golden-brown! (Yes, my bracket won. No, I don’t know anything about NCAA Basketball.)

The rhubarb usually came from her garden, where the stalks burst out of the ground like weird red celery. I always remember thinking that it was the oddest looking fruit I had ever seen. (Fun fact: rhubarb actually IS a fruit. I quote Wikipedia: “Rhubarb is usually considered to be a vegetable, however, in the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.”)

So, nowadays, in April and May, when Rhubarb comes to town, (it’s very difficult to find fresh out of season,) I can’t help buying some and throwing together a pie.

I owed Bill a pie, so I made it Bill's Pie.

I owed Bill a pie, so I made it Bill’s Pie.

This recipe is a mish-mash of a few recipes I read. It’s mostly Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” Crust, with Smitten Kitchen’s “Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie, improved” filling. I have never used tapioca as a thickener, as I bought a can of cornstarch a long time ago and haven’t gone through it yet. I have never found a way of making a filling so solid that it doesn’t run all over the place, but this pie is freaking YUMMY, and the mess isn’t really a big deal.

Sculpting the crust of the pie is really my favorite part. I love working with the dough to make some lovely creations. Here are some ideas if you’d like to play around with making your pie really pretty. For advanced dough workers, I especially endorse the braided crust: Martha Stewart Ideas, Braided Crust, RecipeTips.com.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients:
For the crust (Note: you’ll need two crusts for a standard pie)
– 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp sugar
– 1 stick butter
– 3 tbs ice water (or more as needed)
For the filling
– 3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
– 3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, cut in halves if small; cut in quarters if large
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1/4 cup light brown sugar
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/8 cup cornstarch or 1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
– 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
– 1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Notes: 1) For the flour: If you want to make this healthier, you can replace about 1/3 up of the flour with wheat flour without affecting the taste. If you really want to be healthier, probably don’t make a pie. 2) For the ice water: I usually start off the whole process by taking some ice and putting it in a glass of cold water. That way, when you get to that step, you have a glass of really cold water hanging out. It’s pretty essential to keep the dough very cold. 3) For the strawberries: Many recipes want you to slice the strawberries. That will be totally fine. I just like the strawberries chunkier, since they really turn to mush once you cook them. At least the larger pieces still give you big bites of strawberry. 4) For the light brown sugar: If you don’t have light brown sugar, but you do have molasses, this is brilliant: !!!!!! 5) DO NOT skip the glaze. Also, use this glaze forever, for every pie you ever make.

  1. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the container of a food processor; pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine; process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds.
  2. Place the mixture in a bowl and sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over it. Use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to gradually gather the mixture into a ball; if the mixture seems dry, add another ½ tablespoon ice water. The water will seem insufficient to make the dough wet. Be patient and keep stirring. When you can make the mixture into a ball with your hands, do so. Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten into a small disk, and freeze the dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate for 30 minutes); this will ease rolling. (You can also refrigerate the dough for a day or two, or freeze it almost indefinitely.)
  3. While you’re waiting for your pie dough to cool, make the pie filling. This is an easy one: Mix together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca in a large bowl. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Sprinkle a countertop or large board with flour. Unwrap the dough and place it on the work surface; sprinkle its top with flour. If the dough is hard, let it rest for a few minutes; it should give a little when you press your fingers into it.
  5. Roll with light pressure, from the center out. (If the dough seems very sticky at first, add flour liberally; but if it becomes sticky only after you roll it for a few minutes, return it to the refrigerator for 10 minutes before proceeding. I find it infinitely more difficult to work with pie dough when my kitchen/the world is very hot. Try to do this somewhere cool.) Continue to roll, adding small amounts of flour as necessary, rotating the dough occasionally, and turning it over once or twice during the process. (Use ragged edges of dough to repair any tears, adding a drop of water while you press the patch into place.) When the dough is about 10 inches in diameter, hold your pie plate upside down over it to check the size. (If you have a really deep pie pan, like I do, make sure that your dough is a few inches longer in diameter than the pie plate.
  6. Move the dough into the pie plate by draping it over the rolling pin or by folding it into quarters, then moving it into the plate and unfolding it. When the dough is in the plate, press it into the bottom, sides, and junction of bottom and sides. Once you have the bottom layer down, leave the edges ragged and heap the filling inside. Then lay the crust on top. Trim the excess dough so that about ½ inch hangs over all around, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Decorate the edges however you want! The easiest way is to press little grooves into it with a fork. Cut ventilation holes or slits in the top of the pie.
  7. Brush the egg yolk and water glaze all over your crust. Really cover it, and don’t worry if a little of the glaze pools here and there. That’s unavoidable.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly.
  9. Let the pie cool to room temperature before serving. This will take several hours.

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Pigeon Peas with Spinach

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I know, I know, I know.

This is not very seasonally appropriate. But seriously, I was wanting to try new things, and it’s too good not to share. How beautiful are these little guys? I love discovering new and awesome things to cook, and this time my experimenting worked out pretty well. Karla et all, meet Pigeon Peas! They also go by the names Gandule bean, tropical green pea, kadios, Congo pea, gungo pea, gunga pea, fio-fio, mgbụmgbụ, or no-eye pea, toor dal, kandi pappu. They’re a staple in vegetarian indian diets, and they’re super yummy.

When I first bought 660 curries, I went to the store and bought a bunch of ingredients I knew I would use at some point as I cooked my way through the book. Different kinds of lentils, frozen spinach, chickpea flour, frozen peas… you get the picture. One of the things I picked up were these pigeon peas. They looked kind of funky, but a lot of recipes used them, so I went for it.

So, about a week ago, I decided to dive in. One package of frozen spinach, one cup of pigeon peas, a pressure cooker, and a flawless spice mix later, I was enjoying one of my favorite curries to date.

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There are two things that make this curry awesomer than it looks. First is the coriander. This spice has never been so good! Make sure you use whole coriander seeds for this recipe. They’re easy to find in the grocery store, and it’s quite literally not as tasty without them. The coriander seeds never get ground down in this recipe. They stay hard little spheres. In a mushy curry, this totally stands out–but that’s a good thing. When you crunch into a coriander seed, you get a tiny rush of citrusy-coriander flavor that is completely surprising and very yummy. I can’t quite describe it. You just have to try it. You only get one every five bites or so, so it’s always something of a surprise.

Second is the ginger. The last thing you add to this curry is some julianned ginger. This ginger doesn’t cook down, like the ginger paste you add at the beginning, so every once in a while you crunch into a little stick of ginger. This is also a fun and tasty surprise and results in a burst of spicy ginger flavor. Score!

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Dried Pigeon Peas

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Mixing the spices, garlic and chiles in the mortar and pestle

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Cooked spice mix

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Pigeon Pea and Spinach Curry

Whole Pigeon Peas with Spinach (Sabud Toor Aur Palak Ki Dal)
from 660 Curries

Ingredients:
1 cup whole pigeon peas (sabud toovar), picked over for stones
1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach leaves, well rinsed (or 1  10-oz block of frozen spinach)
1 tablespoon Ginger Paste (pureed paste with ratio of 1/2 cup water and 8 ounces chopped ginger)*
1 tablespoon Garlic Paste (pureed paste with ratio of 1/2 cup water and 50 medium cloves garlic.)*
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons rock salt (if using table salt, use a little less)
4 medium-size cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons Ghee or butter
4 lengthwise slices fresh ginger- each 1 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide, 1/8 inch thick julienned

1. Place the pigeon peas in a medium-size bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with water and rinse the peas by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water may become slightly cloudy. Drain this water and repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now fill the bowl halfway with hot tap water and let it sit at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, until the peas have softened, at least 8 hours or as long as overnight.

2. Drain the pigeon peas and transfer them to a pressure cooker. Add 4 cups water and bring it to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Add the spinach, several handfulls at a time, stirring it in until it is wilted. (I used frozen spinach, so I just let it de-frost on the counter and added it all at once.) When all the spinach has been added, stir in the ginger and garlic pastes and the turmeric. Seal the cooker shut and allow the pressure to build up. When the cooker reaches full pressure, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 1 hour. Remove the cooker from the heat and allow the pressure to subside naturally (about 15 minutes) before opening the lid

NOTE: It is very dangerous to open a pressure cooker if the pressure has not subsided. Make sure to follow all the directions that accompany your pressure cooker to make sure that it is safe to open.

3. Meanwhile, combine the cilantro, the 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, the rock salt, garlic, and chiles in a mortar. Pound with the pestle, scraping down the sides to contain the mixture in the center, until the blend resembles coarse-cut wet grass, feels gritty, and has large specks of red from the chiles. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a food processor, but the mortar and pestle method is easy and preferred.)

4. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and the oriander seeds. Cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell citrus-nutty, 10-15 seconds. Add the pounded herb-spice mixture and stir-fry until the garlic in the blend forms a thin brown layer on the bottom of the skillet and the medley smells pungent-hot, about 1 minute. Set the mixture aside until the pigeon peas are done.

5. Once the pigeon peas and spinach are ready, add the contents of skillet, and stir in the ghee and the ginger. Pour some of this mixture into the skillet and scrape the bottom to deglaze it, releasing every bit of stuck-on herbs and spices; add the washings to the curry.

6. Simmer the olive-green curry, stuffed with nutty-brown pigeon peas, over medium-high heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Then serve.

*Ginger and Garlic Paste: These pastes can be made and then frozen to use in a number of recipes. They’re very useful! When making the paste, make sure you add the water and THEN the garlic or ginger into your food processor or blender before pureeing. Raghavan Iyer has his reasons, but to read about them, you have to BUY THE BOOK!

This is great with rice or on bread, and it’s ESPECIALLY good with roti or naan.

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Saveur Food Blog Award Winners

Post from Thug Kitchen. Photo credit: Thug Kitchen

Post from Thug Kitchen. Photo credit: Thug Kitchen

Saveur just chose it’s top food blogs 2013!

Every year they give awards to the food blogs that have the best… anything! This year I was very surprised and happy to see that the best NEW food blog is… Karla’s and my favorite: THUG KITCHEN! It’s a great blog and you should check it out, if you haven’t already.

Some of my other favorites were there too! Not Without Salt got Best Food Blog, and Spoon Fork Bacon was a runner up (SFB is totally my favorite!) Green Kitchen Stories did well too.

Add all these awesome blogs to your RSS feed!

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Country-style Ratatoullie alla Genovese

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I’m sorry about my last post being just a multitude of pictures without any real explanation. I just get so excited by all the wonderful fresh produce in season, and farms, and farmer’s markets popping up that I get a little picture crazy. To me, one of the wonderful things about really fresh, just-picked produce, is that you can experiment a little with it.. the key being not to go overboard and let its true taste shine through. This is why I’ve come up with very few new recipes lately, and gone more for simplicity; letting the vegetables be the stars. Like in my Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette or my Vine ripe tomatoes with basil and chevre. Its true you don’t need complicated recipes to make food taste great, which I’m reminded of as I’ve been reading Alice Waters’s biography: Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, which by the way I definitely recommend to any foodie or person interested in how this local food movement got stated–all right here in San Francisco (Berkeley, actually).

Alice Water’s life and vision come alive in this book. Highly recommend!

But before you go searching for that in your local library…try this recipe. Yes, its a recipe, but also lets fresh veggies shine their brightest in a unison of rich flavors. This is a heartier dish, to be served with rice, thick country bread, any white fish (monkfish, halibut, flounder), or on its own sprinkled with some good parmesan or pecorino romano. Unlike some more typical versions of ratatioullie that call for an hour in the oven (you know I’m hesitant of heating my apartment while its 85 degrees outside), this is a stovetop ratatouille. Nothing fancy about it, but the result is something so homey, rich and delicious… you’ll forget your just eating vegetables.

After my most recent trip to the farmer’s market, I somehow got saddled with 3 lbs of vine ripened tomatoes, 6 baby zucchini, and a giant bunch of Genovese basil. So to use it all up, I made a big batch of ratatouille and saved it (for 3 days!) and ate it for lunch or dinner. I would definitely throw in some eggplant and yellow squash if you have it on hand. I like to leave everything in big chunks so the flavors dont completely blend together and it gets mushy. This way each vegetables holds up and at the end you can really appreciate and taste each one for what it is.

If you want a more refined ratatoullie recipe for a dinner party or just to try out your mandoline skills, like the one in the movie Ratatoullie (Remy’s recipes), click here for a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It has all the same ingredients and flavor, just a different look.

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Country-style Ratatoullie alla Genovese

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 7-10 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  • 2-3 lbs vine ripened tomatoes, halved or whole if small*
  • 6 baby zucchini or 3 large zucchini, cut into thick rounds
  • (Italian eggplant or yellow squash of you have them, cut into large chunks)
  • 1/4 lb baby carrots or carrots cut into thick rounds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 2 handfuls fresh Genovese basil leaves, rinsed
  • 1/2 can cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse black pepper & sea salt, to taste
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, for serving

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1. Add the olive oil, onion, and whole garlic cloves to a deep sided fry pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Stir until translucent, about 2-3 minutes, but do not brown. Add your tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, squash and/or eggplant to the pan and stir occasionally for the first few minutes until juices start to release. Add the bay leaf, kosher salt, and stir.  IMG_1608

2. As the juices begin to simmer, add a sprig of thyme on top, cover pan, and let simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes (or until all veggies are cooked through, but not mushy). Remove thyme sprig. Let cool for 7 minutes with lid off then stir in basil leaves.

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3. Let sit until just warm and stir in garbanzo beans, balsamic, thyme (leaves only), and salt and fresh pepper to taste.** Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, by itself or with one of the suggestions below.

Serve with thick country bread drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of salt, fresh pasta, brown rice, or simply prepared chicken or white fish.  The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity so don’t overdo it.

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*make sure your tomatoes are ripe, smell fragrant and sweet, and give them a good wash

**The reason for all the cooking times and waiting at the end is so that the stronger flavors of the herbs and vinegar do not overpower the delicate flavors of the vegetables (which they would if cooked too long). You also want to make sure the beans stay firm, so adding them at the end is important.

I imagine this dish would be served in the countryside in Italy as a no-frills, home-cooked and family-style dish with only the freshest of ingredients (hence the name). That was my inspiration and from Alice who is always reminding us to let things taste as they are– and not to fuss too much. Hopefully you find this meal as warm and comforting as I did, for three days in a row. Here’s so happy and simple eating! Boun Appetito.

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Filed under Blogs & Books, Local, Main Dishes, Seasonal, Sides, Vegetarian

Urban Gardening and My Basil Plant

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Happy Monday!

This weekend, I went to a workshop on urban gardening! Living in the middle of the city, I don’t have a lot of space to garden, but it was great learning about how easy it is to grow your own food and maintain herbs and vegetables inside your own home. We learned about garden mapping – how to plant different vegetables together in the most mutually beneficial way, and about how to start and maintain anything from a window unit to a community garden plot.

My personal favorite part of the workshop was putting together our own newspaper pots. It’s a great way to start new seedings. You can start the plant in the newspaper pot and then replant it, newspaper and all, into its more permanent home. I planted some marigolds, since the other seeds they have were for vegetables a little too big for my windows. Here are some pictures from the workshop:

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The one plant I do have at home, other than my little marigold seedlings, is my basil plant. Bill bought it for me last year for our anniversary. He knew I wanted to start a little outdoor garden, so he bought me two kinds of basil and a tomato plant. The tomato plant was a little more trouble than it was worth, but the basil plant – oh my god. It’s been pretty fantastic. First of all, basil costs way too much. If you find yourself cooking with basil often, you should have a basil plant. Ours has lasted through the winter inside, and is absolutely thriving. I took this picture after a serious harvesting last week:

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This baby makes a lot of pesto.

Which brings me to this recipe! Despite the fact that it looked like a beautiful weekend outside this weekend, it was SO COLD. On Friday night, it SNOWED. It’s almost May. This is insane. So, we decided to make some really decadent, wintery food. Meet Creamy Pesto Gnocchi. I went to a lovely Italian market a few weeks ago and picked up some pretty perfect looking imported gnocchi, so this meal was pretty simple. If you would like to make your own gnocchi, DO IT! It’s really simple and very rewarding when you bite into the pillowy fluffy goodness that is homemade gnocchi. Smitten Kitchen has a particularly good recipe: click here!

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Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

Ingredients:
Basil
Pine Nuts
Parmesan Cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic
Salt
Pepper
Heavy (whipping) cream

Gnocchi

Chopped cherry tomatoes (to garnish)

I didn’t put amounts on anything, because this is all about taste and desired level of creaminess. Also, feel free to use some greek yogurt with the cream, if you want a lighter, healthier version. Here is my general recipe: Throw about three packed handfulls of basil, one handfull of pine nuts, two to three inches off a wedge of parmesan cheese (cut in a few smaller pieces), two or three glugs of olive oil, two cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste into the bowl of a food processor. Process on high until the mixture looks like a light green paste.

In a heavy pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook on medium-high until the gnocchi float. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat up ~1/2 cup cream in a saucepan, stirring often. Once it’s steaming, stir in the pesto. Let the two meld for a minute or two. Add the cooked gnocchi and stir to coat.

Serve with some chopped tomatoes for a light garnish.

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

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Sticking to the Season: Farmer’s Market Madness!

Happy Dairy Cows at Deer Hollow Farm

Happy Dairy Cows at Deer Hollow Farm

Hey Lauren, I know it’s a little weird because what’s in season for me over in California has not yet reached the Mid-west. I’ve been going to farmers markets here, and I’m still blown away by the variety of fresh local produce that is already here! To give you an idea:

  • Strawberries
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Artichokes
  • Fava beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Spring peas
  • Green garlic
  • Spring onions
  • Oranges
  • Fennel
  • Kohlrabi
  • Nettles
  • Lettuce, mustard greens, arugula & spinach
  • Radishes
  • Herbs: basil, chamomile, mint, lavender, rose geranium, thyme
  • And much more….
My finds at the April farmers market in San Jose

My finds at the April farmers market in San Jose

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Tropical mint green tea

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Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette

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Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette

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Farmer’s fava beans

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Succulent strawberries and local walnuts

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Vine ripe tomatoes with basil and chevre

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Eating whole tomatoes with basil and chevre

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Fragrant basil bunch

Farm stand wildflower honey and strawberries

Farm stand wildflower honey and strawberries

Mint from my windowsill

Mint from my windowsill

Radishes from SMIP farm

Radishes from SMIP farm

Free range happy cows

Free range happy cows

Farmers market on Skyline

Farmers market on Skyline

Local Vendors

Local Vendors

My window garden

My window garden

New growth from my windowsill garden!

New growth from my windowsill garden!

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The Everything Cookie

 

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Just like you have an everything bagel, welcome to the everything cookie. More of the good stuff, less of the not-so-good stuff. These are not your typical flour, butter, sugar cookies. Because let’s face it, as delicious as they can be, who wants to be eating that? No, these little gems are great afternoon pick-me ups and have plenty of fiber and protein to boot. Better yet, you can make them with anything you have in your pantry… throw in any variety of nut, seed, dried fruit, you name it. And don’t forget the nut butter.. that’s the glue and what holds these together.

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The Everything Cookie (& Gluten Free)

1/2 cup coconut oil (or 1/4 cup butter at room temp)

3/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup brown sugar (optional, or add more agave)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1 cup peanut butter

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup nuts (chopped walnuts, whole cashews, pistachios)

1/4 cup dried fruit or seeds (dried cranberries, blueberries, chia seeds, sunflower seeds)

Preheat oven to 350. Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan. In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil (or 1/4 cup butter), agave, brown sugar, and butter and beat with a mixer until light and creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and baking soda, and mix well with a spatula. Add the peanut butter and fold in until fully incorporated. Stir in oats, chocolate, nuts, fruit and/or seeds. Place a rounded teaspoon of dough on lightly greased cookie sheets about 1-2 inches apart. Bake 9-10 minutes until lightly brown around edges for soft cookies (and leave in for 2 more minutes of you like them crispy).

1. Whisk oil (or butter) and sugarsIMG_1422

2. Add eggs, vanilla, & baking powderIMG_1424

3. Mix in Peanut butterIMG_1428

4. Mix in oatsIMG_1431

5. Mix in Nuts & seedsIMG_1434
6. Mix in chocolateIMG_1438

7. Spoon onto tray (1 tsp)IMG_1444

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8. Bake 9-10 minIMG_1448

9. Enjoy as dessert… or…IMG_1489

10. Give to friends!IMG_1453

Makes about 48 cookies, so you’ll have to share! I packed them up for my friends at the farm, my sweetheart, and my Stanford friend. Raving reviews from all! Hope you enjoy them too!

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