Chocolate chip buckwheat cookies with fleur de sel

  
In baking I’m sort of a traditionalist. I tend to stick to age old ingredients like butter, white flour, chocolate, white and brown sugar etc. My mother and grandmother are from Oklahoma and growing up that state seemed like a bastion of traditional cooking, the family recipes passed down to me were the age old tried and true ones, like home made noodles, banana bread, biscuits, chocolate chip cookies. 

That’s not to say I haven’t branched out, especially growing up in rural Colorado in the age of the Birkenstock craze and the Indigo Girls. My dad became a great cook post divorce and for years he made his own “healthy” version of good old fashioned chocolate chip cookies. They were made with whole wheat flour and honey instead of the sugar and we were addicted to them. He would bake massive quantities and freeze them and my brother and sister and I would each eat two per day. Over the years, however, the cookies started evolving, becoming healthier and healthier, eventually the chocolate chips were substituted by chunks of dried fruit and chia seeds, apple juice was used instead of sugar. Things had gone to an extreme. We try not to go to such extremes now. 

In our household we like experimenting with new flavors. My son was asking for cookies but we didn’t have quite enough flour so we topped off our measuring cup with buckwheat flour. Sprinkling fleur de sel on top of the cookies just before baking adds a nice contrast to the nutty-ness of the flour. Adding optional oats and nuts makes these cookies wholesome, but they still have that typical chocolate chip cookie look and feel.

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup butter
  • 12 oz chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts) optional
  • Fleur de sel to sprinkle just before baking

Combine flours with salt and baking soda and set aside. In a separate bowl cream sugars and butter together, then add eggs one by one and vanilla. Add flour mix gradually until incorporated then add nuts and chocolate chips. At this point you can refrigerate for 24 hrs. This is helpful and enhances the flavour. When ready to bake, drop in teaspoons on a baking sheet, sprinkle with fleur de sel and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until lightly brown on top. 

Fig Preserves

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For the first time in my adult life I am living in a home with a fruit tree. It is a fig tree. Growing up in rural Colorado we had apple trees and cheery trees and eating the delicious fruit right off the tree was an unforgettable part of the summer. I did not remember the hassles of fruit trees that we are learning about now, such as all the fruit that falls to the ground and gets squashed underfoot. We have been having this particular problem with the fig tree so I decided to try and make something of the figs. I called our entomologist landlord to ask what type of figs these are and apparently they are California brown figs, they are light pink inside and just slightly sweet, good for preserves, because my kids are picky about eating them raw.

To make the preserves I loosely followed this recipe (http://flouronmyface.com/homemade-fig-preserves/) from the Flour on My Face Blog as a rough guide, with a few adaptations. My main compliant with preserves is the large quantities of sugar. The recipe called for 7 cups of sugar and in my low sugar family this seemed overwhelming and I didn’t have 7 cups on hand, so I reduced both the figs and the sugar (by more than half). I used lime and lime zest in smaller quantities and I used low-sugar pectin. I have never used pectin before and the recipe called for “a packet” so I just added a couple of tablespoons. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the results were very good. We now have luscious fig preserves that we can spoon on ice cream or yogurt or eat with toast for breakfast. The best part about these preserves is the price. Since the figs grow in our yard the only real cost to this jam is the very cheap sugar and the time you spend cooking!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped figs
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 lime, put in both juice and the zest
  • 2.5 tbsp bell less sugar pectin
  • 3 tbsp water

Combine the figs and sugar in a pot and let them macerate together until the mixture is soupy and not too thick, about 20 mins. Add the other ingredients except the pectin and bring to a boil, boil for 15 minutes. Stir in the pectin and bring back to a boil. Remove from the heat and let sit for 30 minutes to let the jam set. Either can the preserves at this point in jars and boiling water bath or scoop it into a glass jar and let cool before refrigerating. If you want to can the jam, boil the jars and the lids while the preserves are cooking, using canning tongs to lift the hot jars out of the water. Once the preserves have set, fill the jars, place the lids on and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Then let the jars cool on the counter so that they seal properly.

The preserves should last at least a week in the refrigerator or a year if you can them. I got three 5 oz jars out of this recipe.

A high protein salad

  
I am very much on a salad kick this summer, probably due to the high heat (108 F), it doesn’t really bode well for baking anything or even eating hot food. 

But we still need our protein, so I’ve been trying to do this in a vegetarian way. It is easier on the budget and we already eat a lot of meat. 

This salad, with quinoa, eggs, and soy beans really packs in the protein. I also like the different colors, red radishes, greens, multicolored quinoa, carrots, feta cheese, I also added red beets, but corn or broccoli would be beautiful here.

Combine the following ingredients, toss and serve:

  • 3 hard boiled eggs
  • 4 oz frozen edamame boiled for 5 minutes and shelled
  • 1 cup multicolored quinoa boiled for 10 minutes with a prince of salt
  • Greens, lettuce, as much as you please
  • 4 radishes sliced paper thin
  • 1 carrot sliced thin or julienne style
  • 2 small beets previously cooked and peeled (canned ones also work)

Dress with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Beet pecan salad

  
I always like making salads, especially those that don’t require a lot of chopping. I also like crunchy things, like nuts and seeds, and since my kids are always more likely to eat things with cheese on top, we usually top all salads with cheese.

This salad is the result of cheap bunched beets at the farmer’s market, frozen pecans from my Grandmother’s tree that needed to be used, a half bag of frozen leftover edamame, plus a few other veggies that were floating around the vegetable bin in the fridge. I added quinoa to bulk it up and goat cheese for the kids. I topped it with olive oil but I think any light vinaigrette would be good on this salad. 

Ingredients.

  • 1 bunch of beets, trimmed,  boiled, and then peeled and placed warm in a sealed container with 2 tbsp vinegar and refrigerated until cold
  • 4 oz edamame previously boiled in salted water for 5 minutes and shelled.
  • 3 cups broccoli florets parboiled for 3 minutes, then cooled
  • 2 cups cooked red quinoa 
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 oz goat cheese / chèvre chopped in chunks
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl, toss the salad and top with olive oil and vinegar. Serves 4. 

Strawberry lime water

  
Since we have been in the States for a month now and it is getting hot, we are looking for good alternatives to all the juices, sodas and soft drinks that kids drink around here. Even 100% fruit juices have a lot of sugar. This strawberry lime infused water is perfect for summer, a sugar and calorie free alternative. It’s also a great way to stay hydrated and makes water way more exciting for the kids. 

In a glass or clear plastic pitcher, combine 1 liter of filtered or tap water and 5 large washed chopped strawberries and 1 chopped lime. Add 2 cups of ice cubes and serve. 

Carob pecan brownies

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Our family ate lunch recently with my mother and sister. I had asked them to take care of desert and they made and old favorite, carob pecan brownies. I hadn’t eaten carob in ages, in fact it seems like it went out of fashion after the 70’s, when it was a chocolate substitute. Now everyone knows that chocolate isn’t bad for you after all, so carob brownies have disappeared, and it’s too bad because it has a flavor all its own, more mild and lighter than chocolate. We had these with vanilla ice-cream and it was a perfect light desert after our big Sunday meal.

  • 1/2 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup carob powder
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 F/ 160 C. Melt the butter and stir in the honey and pour into a bowl, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Add salt and vanilla. Stir together well until smooth. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients. Sift them slowly into the liquid ingredients and mix well until smooth and well blended. Add the pecans. Pour into a 8 inch square or  round baking dish prepared with well oiled with olive oil or vegetable oil. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until firm in the center when pressed lightly. Do not overbake. Let cool and cut into squares. These will keep well in the refrigerator or covered in a cool place for a few days.

 

Chickpeas with Spinach

   
This is a traditional Catalan dish that is simple to make. 

  • 500 g cooked chickpeas
  • 1 bunch of spinach, thoroughly washe, stems removed and chopped. 
  • 1 tomato, grated and reserved with its juice
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of stock  (chicken or fish) or water 
  • 1/2 clove garlic chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and garlc, add the onions and cook over low heat until soft and golden, add tomato and reduce a bit, add stock and reduce a bit more, add spinach and cook 5 minutes until wilted. Add chick peas and simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 4 as an entree.

Linda’s Favorite Banana Cake

  

In my recipe box I have an old worn card from my grandmother for “Linda’s favorite banana cake”. Linda is my mother and this recipe card is from 1950’s rural Oklahoma. Boy have times changed, the recipe calls for white flour and 3 cups of white sugar, in addition to bananas, vanilla, eggs and such. The cake in the recipe was topped with banana vanilla frosting.

I felt this cake was too decadent to serve to my family on a week night, I made some “healthy” adaptations. I reduced the sugar and used brown sugar instead, and I substituted some of the flour for whole wheat and buckwheat. I also used mild olive oil instead of sunflower oil. The cake turned out just a bit sweet. I served it with whipped cream for desert and then we are some for breakfast. 

  • 3 (2 cups) mashed ripe banana
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup mild olive oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups flour (1 c white/ 1/2 c buckwheat/ 1/2 c whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix banana, vanilla, sugar, eggs and buttermilk and oil. Separately combine dry ingredients, then fold into the wet mixture. Add the pecans and spread into a buttered 9 inch loaf pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Baking times vary so be sure to test the cake by inserting a clean knife in the center and checking that it comes out dry. Serve plain or with whipped cream.

Tomato vegetable soup

  
It is starting to feel wintery so I am back to making lots of soups, especially those with veggies and those that can be puréed. I don’t know why but my kids are suspicious of chunky soups, it’s as though the vegetables are too conspicuous. This soup is vegetable based with tomatoes, and puréed, it’s a perfect comfort food.

  • 1 large onion sliced thin
  • 1 stalk celery chopped into small pieces
  • 2 carrots, cut into rounds
  • 1 small potato peeled and chopped
  • 1 15 oz can whole peeled tomatoes or 1 jar homemade canned tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and/or basil for serving

Sautee the onions, celery in the butter in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. When soft add the carrots and cook a few minutes. Add the potatoes, tomatos, tomato paste, salt and water and cook slowly for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Purée the soup, add salt and pepper and serve with grated Parmesan cheese and basil. Serves 4.

    Swiss chard, potatos, burgers and tomatoes

      
    This is a week night go-to dinner from my friend Marta, a mom of two living outside Barcelona who cooks both lunch and dinner daily for her family. 

    She also works, so I asked her how she has time to cook from scratch on a daily, much less twice daily, basis. Her answer is simple meals like this one made from fresh ingredients. She also plans big purchases of meats and poultry on a monthly basis, and honestly, I suspect she has a level of culinary knowledge that is a notch above most.

    • 3 large white or red potatos
    • 1/2 bunch of Swiss chard 
    • 2 or 3 fresh tomatoes
    • Hamburgers or sliders for the number of people you are serving
    • Salt

    Boil water and 1 tsp salt in a pot so that the water will just cover the potatos. Peel the potatoes and chop into 2 inch chunks, add to the broiling water. After about 20 minutes, when potatoes add the Swiss chard, pre-washed, atop the potatos. The steam will cook the chard. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Meanwhile chop the tomatoes and reserve. Fry the hamburgers in olive oil. Remove the potatos and chard and gently drain. Place on a plate and accompany with the burgers and tomatoes. This recipe takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.