simplelittlespaces

Keeping things simple in a not so simple world


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extra special, extra simple

I am always looking for recipes that are nicer than your average chocolate chip cookie, nice enough to give as a gift, but are simple too. This is one of those recipes: cherry anise, chocolate-dipped biscotti.

(Note: my parents were here at Thanksgiving and gave us our Christmas gifts early. For me, that was a Kitchen Aid stand mixer – I promptly used it to make whipped cream for the Thanksgiving Dinner and have had a baking spree each weekend since. I will never use a hand blender again! This also means that I have a lot of baking recipes to share with you!)

The anise flavor here is subtle. Very light in the midst of the heavy, sweet cherry flavor. Make sure to get good dark or bittersweet chocolate – you will be able to tell the difference in the choice of chocolate. We made our own ground anise by grinding star anise in my spice grinder (coffee grinder) – it was much stronger than store-bought so I used less.

Cherry Anise, Chocolate-Dipped Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free is what I used)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground anise (use more or less to taste)
1/2 cup dried, unsweetened cherries, chop finely
1/4-1/2 cup milk (of your choice)

2 cup chocolate chips or chocolate shavings
1/2 cup milk of your choice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In your mixer, blend the flour, baking powder, ground anise and brown sugar.
Add the egg and blend.
Add a small amount of milk while blending until the dough just begins to stick together and is somewhat smooth.

On a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, mold the dough into a rectangle about 1-2 inches thick.
Place in oven and bake until you see just a bit of golden brown at the edges.
Remove from oven and let cool for about ten minutes on the cookie sheet. Decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees. Then transfer the “cookie” to a wooden cutting board and slice – 1/4 to 1/2 thick.
Place each slice back on the parchment lined paper on one of the cut sides.
Bake until the bottom sides begin to crisp and turn a light golden brown color. Flip and repeat for the second side.

Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes on a rack. Do NOT discard the parchment paper!
In a saucepan on low heat, melt the chocolate in the milk. Remove from heat. Take one biscotti at a time and gently dip one long side into the chocolate and then lay chocolate side down on the parchment paper.
Place dipped biscotti in the fridge or freezer for the chocolate to harden. Eat or freeze!

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my favorite applesauce

I’m a huge fan of applesauce.  Many people no longer eat applesauce as adults, but I think you are missing out.  I love having a small bowl with my dinner…it is a bit of dessert and happiness all in one bowl.

I also use applesauce to bake.  But this recipe is not about that.  When I want applesauce for baking, I use my food mill.  Simply peel apples, quarter, boil in a small amount of water and then run through the mill – seeds and all.  The sauce is smooth and thin.

No, this is not that recipe.  This recipe actually starts in early October when we do our annual trip to an apple orchard with friends (and then an afternoon of food and fun in Princeton.)  Like most kids, mine get super enthusiastic about picking apples and we usually end up spending much more money than our friends or what is budgeted on apples.  Think: seventy-five dollars worth of apples.

Most years, we can barely make it through half the apples before I need to make sauce out of the soft apples.  This year, I only made two quart-sized jars.  My little girl loves her fruit!

The orchard we go to in Lawrenceville has a specific variety of apple that we love.  It is called Styman Winesap and is great for pretty much any which way you like apples – sauce, pies, plain eating, you name it.  But we also pick up a fair number of Granny Smiths because I love nothing better than a tart apple.

This recipe is both Granny Smiths and Winesaps.  It is tart with just a hint of sweetness.  It is rich with dark brown sugar and good Vietnamese cinnamon.  It is chunky, but with the perfect size chunks.  I do hope you will give it a try.

Applesauce

8 medium to large sized Granny Smith apples
6 medium to small sized Styman Winesap apples (substitute: golden delicious)
cinnamon
dark brown sugar

Peel the apples, remove stems and cut into large quarters.
Fill a very large stock pot (8-10 quart) with a cup and half of water.
Place the apples in the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Boil until apples are soft. This DOES NOT TAKE LONG! So keep an eye on them. If they boil too long, you will have mush!

Don’t drain, instead, use a spoon to transfer apples to a large mixing bowl. Don’t worry if you get a bit of the water in the bowl, just try not to have too much.

Add cinnamon to taste and 1/4 cup dark brown sugar. Using a potato masher, mash the apples until you get bite-sized pieces of apples. Yes, there will also be some completely mashed apples too.

Feel free to can the finish product or place in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to eight months.


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vegan desserts

For some reason whenever I Google gluten-free lately, a whole bunch of vegan, gluten-free ideas come up. I have been going low dairy lately, but I love milk and butter, especially in desserts, so I was a bit hesitant to try anything vegan.

BUT, friends, do I have some treats for you! Not only are the following recipes vegan, they are raw and super simple…oh and tasty, did I mention tasty?

The following recipes call for the same crust – which is:

Vegan, gluten-free dessert crust
In your food processor, add the following:
8-10 pitted dates (depending on size)
1 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts and almonds, etc.)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Optional, depending on dessert: add a spice – cinnamon, cardamom, etc. or some cocoa powder. You could also use a nut butter in place of 1/2 the dates – add a tablespoon to two.

Process until the mixture sticks together well. If it doesn’t, you can add more dates or a bit of coconut oil. The mixture is a thick crust for a 8×8 pan, a thin crust for a 9×13 or moderate thickness for two pie plates. I recommend either greasing your pans with coconut oil before spreading or lining the dish with parchment paper for easy serving.

Avocado Pie
Prepare two pie dishes with the crust.

Rinse your processor and add the following, blending the ingredients together until smooth.

6 avocados (preferably ripe, but unripe will simply take longer to process smooth)
juice of 5 limes
juice of 4 lemons (add more or less lemon or lime to your citrus preference)
1/2 cup coconut oil
4 tablespoons honey or agave (to taste)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Once smooth, spread over crusts and place in freezer for 4-6 hours until frozen through.

Variation: substitute 2 large bananas for every 1 avocado.

Chocolate Nut Butter Banana Bars
Press crust above into a 9×13 dish.

In food processor, blend the following ingredients until smooth:
6-8 ripe bananas
1 cup nut butter (almond or peanut)
1 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey or agave, to taste

Spread over the crust and place in freezer for 1 hour.

In a saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of coconut oil until melted and add 4 ounces dark chocolate (I prefer a less sweet chocolate). Drizzle on the semi-frozen bars.
Freeze for an additional 2-3 hours until solid.

Pumpkin Banana Bars
I recommend using a bit of cocoa powder in the curst above for this recipe. Place the crust mixture in an 8×8 dish.

In your food processor, blend until smooth:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2-3 ripe bananas
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey or agave

Spread the pumpkin mixture on crust and sprinkle with coconut flakes. Freeze for 2-4 hours until solid.


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greetings from Nashville

Hello Readers!

Yes, as you can tell from the title of this post, we are in Nashville – for two weeks!  I love exploring a new city and Nashville has certainly not disappointed.

The kids and I have had several adventures over the last week.  Maybe when they are older they would enjoy things like the Country Music Hall Fame, but right now, they are focused on parks and playgrounds and pools.  We had a bit of fun at the Nashville Zoo yesterday and plan to head to the Adventure Science Center and Bicentennial Park over the next week, amongst other things.

What I did not realize about Nashville, is that it is a foodie town!  Great restaurants, of all different types and often clumped together so if you stay in one area, you can try many without having to drive all over the city.

Some favorites!

1.  Best Coffee (and I’m not a coffee drinker!) at Hot & Cold.  They also have great ice cream and las paletas (popsicles).  I am also very much impressed with their variety of teas and the different blends they offer.

2.  Great pizza!  New York style, thin crust pizza, Pizza Perfect is great!  An amazing blend of spices in the sauce with just the right amount of cheese.  While not close to my favorite pizza, Fricano’s in Michigan, it is truly good.  (Fricano’s stands alone.  It is like no other pizza in the world!)

3.  Best Thai I have had in a very long time at The Smiling Elephant.  And they do their best to make it healthy.  (It is also great that it is reasonably priced!)


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avocado dressings

As a way to boost flavor and add nutrients, these two dressings are amazing.  One sweet, one savory and both so very perfect in their own way.

Savory avocado dressing – Avocado pesto
This recipe is really simple! Homemade pesto is much better than store bought. I make mine vegan, without parmesan and sometimes with walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts.

Half one avocado and add it to a blender or food processor with 1/4 to 1/2 cup pesto (depending on how strong). Blend.
We served this over a bed of millet with lentils and lightly sautéed zucchini and kale.  But it would be good with anything – including pasta.

Another variation would be to make a coriander pesto version:  In a food processor, blend a bunch of cilantro with 1/2 cup almonds, olive oil and a small amount of jalapeno.  Mix the pesto with an avocado.

Sweet avocado dressing

In a food processor or blender, mix:
1 avocado
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
2-3 tablespoons grape fruit juice
Touch of agave, if needed

Adjust the dressing liquid to preferred consistency.

We served this over a bed of arugula with roasted red and golden beets. I found this a bit on the sweet side. While it was good with the beets, I would have preferred it to be on a salad with more savory items. But if you like sweet on sweet, I highly recommend it. And so do my kids, who totally inhaled it!

This would also be awesome on ice cream!