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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a bit of busyness

Two years, almost, since I began working again.  Only recently have I felt that I am not overwhelmed with managing a household, children, garden and work.  I’m sure there are moments when I will feel overwhelmed again, but for now, I am taking a moment to breathe.  I am also willing to begin blogging again and hope to have some fun recipes to share with you.

I have to say that if I didn’t care so much about what my family ate, I’d probably have a bit more time on my hands.  But being intentional about food is time consuming – though, fun and rewarding at the same time.

Today, I’d like to share a simple healthy bar that we’ve been eating around here.  It freezes well and is filling for active kids on the go.  It is nut free (though you could add some nuts), gluten-free and vegan and so very yummy!

Banana Oat Bars

4 rip bananas, mashed
1 cup paw paw puree or applesauce
1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sweet white rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix the wet ingredients together and then add in dry, mixing well. Add in the oatmeal, coconut flakes, chocolate chips (and/or nuts). Mix.
Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
Spread mixture into pan evenly.
Bake until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Let cool and serve.


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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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not an ordinary chili

Over the years, I have tried a variety of chili recipes. I make a great vegan chili – dumping all sorts of veggies in. We tried a new coconut butternut squash chili for a Holiday party this past December. A killer meat chili with organic ground beef and lots of ancho chili pepper…

The types of beans, veggies, meats – it varies every time. I’m sure yours does to.

Today, I have a chili recipe that is about flavor. Forget the veggies and meat. This is about savoring the balanced blend of smokey and sweet and bitter. The mellow with the fresh and robust.

I hope you try this. It is VERY simple. But certainly does not taste so…

not an ordinary chili

1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 gloves garlic, minced
sunflower oil
2 15 ounce cans of black beans (3 cups black beans)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
30 ounce can tomato puree
3 cups vegetable broth
8 ounces good quality organic dark chocolate, in smallish pieces
2 tablespoons chili powder (ancho is preferred)
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon oregano
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the onion and celery, cooking until just soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and golden.
Add the tomato paste, stirring until incorporated.
Add the beans and puree, mix well.
Add the broth and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.
Add the chocolate, stirring frequently until melted.
The consistency should be thick and saucy. The color should be a deep brown-red.
Add more chocolate if desired.

Leave to simmer…

In the meantime, make the cilantro pesto…

1 bunch of cilantro
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 cup walnuts
olive oil

In a food processor, add all the ingredients, drizzling with the olive oil. Pulse, adding more olive oil as needed.

Serve the chili with a dollop of pesto on top.

My kids inhaled this. It was a real hit!