Just Rhubarb.

It’s rhubarb season!  And so I’ve gone and made some rhubarb treats.  They’re nothing original, but they are simple, tasty, and fresh from the garden!!!

The first was adapted from a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine.  It can be found here.  The original recipe calls for raspberries, but I left those out.  The other change I added was sprinkle the top with chopped almonds and raw sugar before baking.  This was a delicious and fresh sweet treat!

The second thing I made was very, very similar.  But individual, aaaaaaand gluten-free.  Though I’m not gluten-free, I have attempted to begin baking at times gluten-free.  I have found that gluten-free baked goods do NOT taste good raw….but once they are cooked, they are deeeee-licious!

I used a gluten-free pie crust recipe found on epicurious.  And then for the compote, just boiled down some rhubarb, sugar, cinnamon, and citrus juice until it was thick.  Then made little pies from my imagination.  Let’s just call them mini, gluten-free, rustic, rhubarb tarts.  For a spring-time, Montana potluck, with local vanilla bean ice cream they were quite the hit!


Bread ‘N Jam – Yummy!

There’s nothing like bread and jam.  Homemade.  I was recently inspired by a plum preserves recipe I found in an old issue of Food Network Magazine.  I’m not typically a huuuuuuge fan of this magazine, but when I travel, I seem to indulge in more entertainment-like magazines.  While doing some spring cleaning I came across this recipe, and with the plethora of plums available in my town at this time, I got super excited  and inspired to create my own plum jam, which in the end, I called Spiced Plum Jam, mainly because it’s quite different from this original recipe.

Aaaaaaaand, With the lack of good, whole grain breads here in Costa Rica, I have taken to making my own.  I wanted something beyond the typical whole wheat sorta flatbread bread that I always fall back  on.  I was craaaaaaaving a rustic, crusty-on-the-outside, holy-and-light-on-the-inside kinda bread.  So I went with Ciabatta.  Ciabatta is often called “Italian Slipper Bread” because it is a fairly wet dough and hence why it creates a slipper-like shape.  I did not realize that making ciabatta took so many steps, but it did, and in the end it was completely worth it.  Crispy, artisan bread and homemade sweet, fresh spiced plum jam.  Pure, simple goodness.

So first, here is the recipe for my version of the jam, which is super duper easy, by the way.

Spiced Plum Jam

6 cups sliced plums
1 cup sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
Juice of one lime

Place the plums, sugar, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and allspice in a large, wide saucepan.  Squeeze the lime through a strainer into the pan.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, and the mixture boils, about 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer registers 220˚F, about 25 minutes.  (To be sure that the mixture has reached the gel point, spoon some onto a chilled plate and put in the freezer until cool. The liquid should set; if not, continue to cook and retest after a few more minutes.) Remove the pan from the heat and let cool 30 minutes.

Enjoy fresh, and store in the refrigerator up to 10 days (if it lasts that long)!  Otherwise, prepare for canning procedures, which can be found here.

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As for the bread recipe, I used this one, and the only difference I did was substitute the last 25 ounces of bread flour for whole wheat bread flour.  The rest I followed to a T.  And it turned out great.

Enjoy the bread toasted with cream cheese and jam, or butter and jam!  Also sliced bananas on it tastes great also!



On Cupcakes

Cuuuuuuuupcaaaaaaaaaaaakes!

Who doesn’t love them?!?!

In the past few years there has been a huge influx of cupcake-only bakeries where those delectable, trendy, perfect little servings of cake with a perfect size dollop of frosting on top are the main feature behind pretty glass cases.  It’s almost like they are works of art waiting to be devoured by serious gourmands and Betty Crocker mix lovers alike.  Google the terms ‘cupcake bakery’ and it yields nearly 12 million results of places where cupcakes are the main feature.  This place in Portland, Oregon for example serves up such flavors as malt ball, pumpkin spice, and peanut butter cookie.  In Beverly Hills flavors such as chai latte, lemon coconut, cinnamon sugar, ginger lemon, mocha, and red velvet are featured at this place.  Not only has the craze taken to cupcake-only bakeries, but also exist thousands of websites and blogs devoted just to those who are fanatic about cupcakes.  Even SIGG has picked up on this recent craze, offering this in their new product line.

I mean, how could you not love cupcakes?  They come in all flavors and different sizes, and It’s your own perfect little size piece of cake!  I’m sure wherever you live, there is a cupcake bakery somewhere close.  Look it up and go buy a cupcake.  Right now!

These are some of my latest creations (though I do not claim to be a cupcake artist nor strive to create works of art like those in the cupcake bakeries, and my seriously gourmand sister would probably claim I have no idea how to make red velvet cupcakes).


That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

It’s not very often food bloggers write a post about a failure – a recipe gone awry, a kitchen disaster of sorts.  But I am going to do it.  Go ahead, judge me, and my baking skills.  But I’m sure even the greatest of cooks had many failures before creating that perfect recipe.  And since lately I have been getting into creating my own recipes and adapting from others, this is one lesson learned.  So here it is. Okay so maybe it’s not thaaaaat bad. in fact it was quite good.  Just not perfect.

I attempted to make a chocolate-dipped lemon almond cookie (inspired by Cannelle et Vanille’s Lemon and Almond Meltaways), which also happens to be gluten free.  And for me there’s nothing more delectable than the combination of almond and chocolate (hence why I made them chocolate-dipped).  That’s where I think I went awry, an unexperienced gluten-free baker attempting to fuss over new recipes…what was I thinking!?  But I’m not going to lie – although these cookies still taste delicious, they wouldn’t pass any beauty contest nor texture contest.


Now, like I said, I’m no gluten-free baker, so perhaps AAANNNNNYYYYONE out there who knows anything about gluten-free baking would be so kind to enlighten me.  The problem with these cookies is that they were a little too dry and crumbly, and I think that may be due to the rice flour combined with the almond meal.  When attempted to be chocolate-dipped, they nearly fell apart, in the chocolate.  However, after they had cooled a bit in the fridge, they seemed a bit more substantial, but still dry when bit into.

I know it appears that half of these cookies have had a bite taken out of them.  Well, they haven’t, that’s just my baking mistake of crumbly cookies.   A few strong survivors made it….far enough from the oven to the chocolate to the plate to someone’s mouth.

So there you have it – I learned my lesson in gluten-free baking.

Inexperience of gluten-free baking+creating and adapting recipes=dry cookies.

I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

I’m going to post the recipe anyway for those brave souls out there that want to try and alter it to make it a tiny bit better.  And like I said, they are quite delicious!  If I were to make these again (and I may one day to perfect them), I would just cut out all the gluten-free stuff and substitute regular flour (it’s not like I need gluten-free).  Perhaps this recipe also needed an egg??

Chocolate-dipped Lemon Almond Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup very finely ground almonds
1 1/3 cups rice flour (more if needed)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup finely chopped, good quality chocolate
2 Tbsp butter

Cream together the butter, powdered sugar and lemon zest. Add the lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well.  Place almonds in food processor and ground until a very fine powder. Combine all the dry ingredients (including the almonds) and add them to the mixer. Cream until all comes together to a semi-hard dough that no longer sticks to the bowl.  If not hard enough, add more rice flour.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment and shape it into a log that is about 2 inches in diameter. Use the parchment to tighten the log and form a long cylinder.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours until firm.

Cut the log into 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake at 350F for about 16-18 minutes until firm and not quite golden brown. Let them cool on the baking sheet.

Melt chocolate over a double broiler with butter, until smooth and creamy.  Dipped cooled cookies in chocolate halfway and place on parchment paper until hardened and cool.


Citrus, Avocado, and Olive Oil Cake – A Heart-Healthy Treat

This cake is heart-healthy!  I know what you’re thinking…how can cake be heart-healthy?  But hear me out…though this cake may have sugar and eggs, like any old cake, its two main ingredients – avocados and olive oil give this cake it’s heart-healthy antioxidants.

Introduce Citrus, Avocado and Olive Oil Cake.

Avocado is a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure and can guard against stroke.  Additionally, one cup of avocado has about 23% of the Daily Value for folate, a nutrient important for heart health.

The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels.

I was inspired to invent this cake after attending an Avocado Festival.  Everything imaginable was made with avocados there – ice cream, smoothies, ceviche, tacos, guacamole, candy, bread, etc.

So, having four avocado trees in my backyard, I have an endless bounty of this green, healthy produce, and you can only make so much guacamole.

Citrus, Avocado, and Olive Oil Cake

*1 1/3  cup flour
*1 1/2 tsp baking powder
*4 eggs
*1/2 tsp salt
*1 1/3 c sugar
*1 tsp citrus rind
*Juice of one small lime/lemon/orange
*1/3 c olive oil
*1 medium, ripe, Haas avocado, mashed

Preheat oven to 350º, grease and flour a round 10-inch cake pan or spring form pan.
Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl.  Whisk the four eggs until frothy in another bowl.  Gradually add the sugar while whisking.  Add the salt, citrus rind, citrus juice, olive oil.
Add the liquid mixture to a well in the flour mixture.  Stir well, but gently, almost folding the egg mixture into the flour.  Finally, mix in the mashed avocado and stir until no more green pieces can be seen.
Pour into prepared pan, and bake for about an hour, or until light golden brown on top.  Let cool in pan.  Run knife around edges and invert onto wire rack.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  This cake can also be served with a  simple citrus glaze, but it is fantastic on its own.


Black-bottom Chai-Spiced Oatmeal Cookies

Okay, so I’ve been on a chai kick lately, obviously (2nd chai post in two days).  Well,  tis’ the season!  I created this recipe one day in my head and had to try it out.  I was impressed with the results, as were those that were lucky enough to be gifted some! (The actual cookie base was adapted from the Joy of Cooking’s Classic Oatmeal Cookie).

Black-Bottom Chai-Spiced Oatmeal Cookies

Steep:

3-4 high quality chai tea bags in 1/4 cup boiled water for 10 minutes, covered.  Remove tea bags and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile wisk:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose baking flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp cinnamon
4-6 grinds of fresh black pepper

In a separate bowl, blend:

2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

Add chai tea concentrate to butter mixture.  Gradually add flour mixture until smooth.

Stir in:

3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Place dough in refrigerator to stand overnight or 12 hours, covered (this step is important for flavor, do not skip this step).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with the rack in upper third of oven.  Grease cookie sheets.  Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, 3-inches apart on greased cookie sheets.  Gently press cookie downward to create a semi-flattened disk.

Cook for 8-10 minutes.  Let stand 2 minutes on tray before removing from cookie sheet.

Meanwhile, in a double boiler, melt and cool to tepid:

12-14 ounces of high-quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate, chopped

Once the cookies are completely cooled, spread the bottom of each cookie with sufficient chocolate to coat.  Place face down on wax paper or tin foil and place in a cool area to harden.  Do not remove cookies from wax paper until completely hardened, otherwise you will lose the chocolate from the cookie.  Store in a cool location for up to one week.

And of course, enjoy!