My friend Sarah brought a pear frangipane tart to my house for dinner one day and I initially was not wowed by the look of it. Until I tried it. And then I became obsessed with recreating it at home because it was one of the most delicious desserts I had ever tasted (and you know how much I love chocolate!) I successfully came up with a recipe that was just as tasty, almondy, not too sweet, and a hit with everyone who tasted it!Continue reading
Do you know the difference between a crisp, a cobbler, a slump, a grunt and a brown betty? I hear the terms used interchangeably, when of course, they’re not the same at all. A cobbler has a biscuit topping, a crisp has a crunchy oat and sugar topping, a slump/grunt is like a cobbler, but it is finished on the stovetop so that the biscuits are steamed, rather than browned, and a brown betty is topped with buttered bread crumbs. Just so we’re all on the same page. And just so you don’t go ordering a cobbler at a restaurant thinking you are getting something with a buttery, crunchy, oat topping only to be served a bowl of cooked fruit with a biscuit on top. I hate when that happens.
Not that a cobbler is bad. Oh no, friends. Cobblers are very, very good. Especially when strawberries are in season and they are about as luscious as can be. When strawberries debut at our local farmer’s markets, I feel like a bear coming out of hibernation, like I’m taking a breath of fresh air. It’s spring! Weeeee! I can finally tell Mr. Picky, “Yes, it’s finally strawberry season!” I swear I have been buying strawberries lately like they’re never coming back. They’re in the kids’ lunches several times a week, in breakfast smoothies and acai bowls and chopped into pancakes. I even did a crazy thing and added a little bit of chia seed and water to some mashed up strawberries and let it thicken into a raw jam/spread. I thought it was really good. Then I smeared some in between two slices of whole grain bread and made a stuffed strawberry French toast, if you will. Really tasty!
I was feeling spunky last weekend and thought I would surprise everyone with a special dessert, which I knew had to have strawberries in it. So I started pulling together my favorite cobbler with strawberries as well as whatever berries I had in the freezer. I had this moment of genius when I thought, I bet I could do this in a slow cooker! I bet no one in the world has ever done a cobbler in a slow cooker. I am going to revolutionize the food world with this brilliant idea! Of course, one quick search on Foodily and I saw that 20 other people/websites already came up with that same idea. I hate when that happens. Grumpy face. Although one of the recipes called for a can of apple pie filling and a box of yellow cake mix. I mean, is that even a recipe? That is such a gross idea. Don’t even think about trying it.
Why would you when you can have this wholesome, fresh, clean and YUMMY cobbler for just a little more effort? I have two versions here, one baked in the oven and the other in the slow cooker. The oven cobbler has a much prettier presentation, with the classic, nicely browned “cobbled” texture on top and baked in a dish you can actually bring to the table. But it’s nice to know you can can use your slow cooker for more than just shredded meat. I was thinking it would be great for the summer so you don’t have to turn your oven on to make a fruit dessert. The look wasn’t quite as lovely since I spread the dough on the bottom of the insert and laid the fruit on top. I wanted the fruit to stay intact and not get cooked into a pot of mush. Which it did not.
Either way, the ingredients stay the same for both. I have used whole spelt flour, whole wheat pastry and white whole wheat all with success. I know that you can use gluten-free flour like Kind Arthur with a little added xanthan gum and achieve an equally tasty result. If you’ve made cobbler before, you might think my recipe doesn’t have enough sweetener. But I promise, give this a go and you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy tasting the actual fruit and not just sugar. Of course, a little ice cream on top doesn’t taste bad. Or, I look forward to leftovers the next morning with a dollop of sheep’s yogurt. Unless someone ate it all and left me none when I couldn’t stop dreaming about it all night. Ooooh, I hate when that happens!
¼ cup coconut palm sugar organic cane sugar or brown sugar
3 Tablespoons flour, such as spelt or your favorite GF flour such as rice flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest, not packed
1 ½ cups whole spelt flour, whole whet pastry, white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour OR King Arthur Multi-purpose GF Flour + 1 tsp. xanthan gum
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup OR organic cane sugar (if you use maple syrup, add to buttermilk; if you use sugar, add to flour)
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter or organic Earth Balance, cut in small pieces + more for greasing baking dish
¾ cup buttermilk (or unsweetened non-dairy milk + 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter or organic Earth Balance, melted or 1 Tablespoon buttermilk*
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9–or 10-inch square shallow baking dish or pie plate.
In a medium bowl, gently toss the berries with 3 Tbs. flour, ¼ cup sugar and zest. Transfer berries into the prepared pan. Set aside and reserve the bowl.
To make the cobbler topping, blend the 1 ½ cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, 2 Tbs. sugar (if using), salt and butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender or pulse in a food processor just until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to the same bowl used to mix the berries and stir in the buttermilk and maple syrup (if using) until well combined.
Using your fingertips, rub the buttermilk mixture until it begins to clump together. Take a heaping spoonful of dough and place it on top of the berries. Don’t cover the berries completely. Brush with melted butter or buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden and cooked through.
*For a golden glaze, brush the biscuits with melted butter. For a more brown crust, brush them with buttermilk.
You can use either maple syrup or cane sugar (not both) in the cobbler topping. Pick one sweetener! Please read the directions carefully since the maple syrup is added with the buttermilk and the cane sugar is added to the dry ingredients.
To increase the recipe to serve 12, multiply all ingredients by 1 ½ and use a 13 x 9–inch baking dish. Bake for an additional 5 minutes.
To Make in the Slow Cooker: Follow all directions for cobbler in the oven except dollop the cobbler topping on the bottom of the slow cooker insert and pour the fruit mixture on top. Cover and cook on LOW for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until biscuit mixture is cooked through. The time will depend on how wide your slow cooker is.
We’re baaaack! What an amazing trip. The five of us had an unbelievable 3 1/2 weeks together in Europe. We shared so many great experiences, met interesting people and really grew together as a family. People have been asking me what was the best part of our trip and I know it sounds corny, but what I enjoyed most of all was the five of us just being together. Most importantly, and this is the mother in me talking, no one got sick, hurt or lost and we made it home in one piece. Hooray!
I learned a new expression on this trip and it’s not in a foreign language. My daughters kept saying to me, “YOLO, Mom. YOLO.” Huh? Is that Dutch? Apparently YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once.” This often came up in regard to food. The first five days of the trip I was able to avoid bread, pizza (except for that tomato and cheese pancake in Amsterdam), pasta and desserts, but my family was going for it. Big time. Eventually, I think around Copenhagen, I gave in and basically had a carb fest for 2 1/2 weeks. It was fun while it lasted, but it also reinforced what I already know about wheat and refined foods — overdoing it is never a good thing. And I’ve got my tight jeans to prove it.
Although it was a nice break to be out of the kitchen for a few weeks, I am happy to be back, cooking the food that makes me feel good. I especially have a craving for fish and vegetables since the last half of our trip focused mostly on apple strudel, meat, apple strudel, potatoes, apple strudel, and bread. This fish in parchment recipe is one of my favorite, easiest and most healthful ways to prepare fish. It’s also the perfect light dinner for summertime, especially if you have some herbs growing in your garden. Feel free to change the herbs in the recipe to suit your tastes or you can even add some thinly sliced, quick-cooking vegetables to the packets. I used baby spinach leaves in these photos, but I also like diced fresh tomatoes and zucchini. Or if you have some roasted or grilled vegetables from last night’s dinner, throw those in. You really can’t go wrong.
Lucky for me, only Daughter #2 is still holding out on seafood, but everyone else loves fish, including this preparation. Wild, cold water fish is high in important anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats, which help support brain and cardiovascular function, as well as balance inflammatory influences in our lives, both from diet and lifestyle. Steaming the fish in parchment actually helps to protect those fats from oxidation since the temperature inside the packets is low. I am eager to start cooking for family again the way I know they and I should be eating. Because like I always say friends, YOLO.
½ teaspoon sea salt (you can use an extra pinch if you like salt)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
6 4-6 ounce portions of wild fish, such as halibut, salmon or mahi-mahi, defrosted, if frozen
6 14-inch squares of unbleached parchment
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper in the bowl of a mini-food processor and process until the herbs are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and process until well combined. Add lemon zest and pulse once or twice.
Place each piece of fish in the center of a sheet of parchment. Spread a heaping spoonful of the herb mixture on top of each piece of fish.
Bring 2 opposite sides of the parchment together and fold. Continue to fold all the way down until you reach the fish. Twist both ends of the parchment so that it looks like a hard candy wrapper. Place each packet on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes based on the thickness of the fish.
Transfer each packet to a plate and use caution when opening – the steam will be very hot!
You can make the fish packets in the morning if you like and keep them refrigerated. If you cook them straight out of the fridge, add an extra minute or two to the cooking time.
Other suggestions: you can also add to the packets quick-cooking vegetables such as baby spinach leaves, julienned zucchini or finely diced tomatoes. For longer-cooking vegetables, blanch or steam them first, then add to packets.
If you enjoy this, check out my other recipe for Halibut in Parchment with Cilantro and Ginger! There you can see step-by-step photos for how to fold the parchment paper.
I am a sucker for traditions most likely because I grew up with so many, most of which are still alive today. In my family, Christmas Eve is the biggest night of the year. Despite the fact that I moved from New York 20 years ago (gasp!), I have never missed it once. And in all these years, it hasn’t changed much except for the fact that it has grown considerably from a sit-down dinner for 40 to a sit-down dinner for up to 80. We’re so many people, that we even have a priest come to the house to perform mass in the living room. Someone still dresses up as Santa and comes down the stairs after dinner to sit with the children who still believe. There are a few hundred gifts to be given and carols to be sung. It is truly a magical night.
As far as food goes, it’s the biggest potluck you have ever seen in your life. Italian Christmas Eve dinners usually revolve around fish and ours is no different. There are usually several versions of codfish, as well as eel, scallops, mussels, octopus and linguine with clam sauce. Would it surprise you that my husband’s Christmas Eve tradition is to stop by Sal’s pizza before coming to dinner? Thankfully I have a mother who loves vegetables as much as I do, but she’s usually the only one who makes any, except for salad. The long-standing tradition on Christmas Eve is that if you are pregnant, you get a break. You only need to bring a salad since that is much easier to make than almost anything else. In years past, my aunts, and now my cousins and my sisters and I have announced our pregnancies by entering the dining room with a salad. It’s always a very joyous moment.
Because I usually arrive on December 23rd and there are dozens of gifts from Amazon that need immediate wrapping, I usually make a pan of gingerbread to bring and call it a day. But also my parents are usually monopolizing their small-ish kitchen with eel prepartion and that’s enough for me to stay the heck out of there. This year I arrive on December 22nd and I have a whole extra 24 hours to play with, so I thought I would make something a little more interesting for Christmas Eve, something that showcases the kind of food I love to share. I immediately thought of this Brussels sprout leaf salad, which is such a different and delicious way to eat this incredibly nutritious and tasty vegetable that seems to get roasted more than anything else. I also think it’s just perfect for Christmastime because the green from the leaves and the red from the dried cherries are just so festive. The blanched leaves do not taste much like brussels sprouts at all, but in fact very neutral. The salad goes beautifully with turkey, pork, beef and fish. I would normally not recommend making this salad for an enormous crowd since you have to core each sprout and separate all the leaves for blanching. But I have it pretty well down to 30 seconds a sprout, with 2 pounds taking me about 20 minutes. My sisters, my daughters and I can likely tackle 10 pounds of sprouts at the kitchen table and catch up on all the gossip. We’ll do all the prep the day before, as well as make the vinaigrette and I’ll dress the salad just before serving on Christmas Eve.
So it looks like I’m starting a new tradition, which is that you can bring a salad if you want, especially if you are trying to get your family to eat more healthfully. But for the record, I am absolutely, positively, most definitely NOT pregnant!
Author: Pamela, adapted from La Grande Orange Cafe as printed in the Los Angeles Times
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, washed, cored and leaves separated (discard the core)
1 Tablespoon finely chopped shallot or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon lemon zest (do not omit this – it makes the salad!)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon raw honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon whole grain or Dijon mustard
½ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 Tablespoons dried cherries or cranberries
6 Tablespoons whole raw almonds, toasted and chopped or sliced
Prepare a large bowl of ice water. In a large pot of salted (about 1 Tablespoon kosher salt) boiling water, blanch the brussels sprout leaves just until they are a vibrant green and barely tender (less than 2 minutes). Drain and immediately submerge in the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and dry well. You can do this in a salad spinner.
In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, lemon zest and juice, honey, mustard, sea salt and pepper. Continue whisking while slowly drizzling in the olive oil until the oil is emulsified or put everything in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously.
In a large serving bowl, toss the Brussels sprout leaves, dried cherries, almonds and just enough vinaigrette to lightly moisten. Taste for seasoning and serve.
Hazelnuts or pecans can be substituted for the almonds. Dried blueberries can be substituted for the dried cherries, so can pomegranate seeds. Diced, roasted beets are a complementary addition. Shaved Manchego cheese can be added, as done in the original.