Are You Waffling?

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Today is one of those days of indecision. It happens from time to time. Soooo many recipes soooo little time. I frequently change my mind, but hedge my bets that you’d prefer two recipes brought to the table instead of one. Having options is a good thing! Both recipes are a bit twisted and are brought to you by a tasty gift sent from my friend, Maryann.

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As a side note, Maryann is one of the dear friends and colleagues I miss most since leaving my job at The Taft School in Connecticut. As a physical therapist and director of the athletic training room Maryann and I worked closely together caring for injured athletes. Smart as a whip, selfless and caring she did whatever it took to get the students well and safely back in the game. Mutual respect and our love for the kids we cared for made us fast friends on and off the field. William adored her.

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Maryann and her husband, Kennie, winter in Arizona. When they came across Queen Creek Olive Mill luckily she was missing me, too. ❤ She sent me a gift box of liquid gold. Pesticide free and non-GMO fruits like blood oranges, meyer lemons and Mexican limes are cold pressed with hand-picked fresh olives to create the most flavorful and aromatic oils I have ever had the pleasure to bake with. Perfect for savory dishes, as well, the oils impart a fresh fruity flavor without any bitterness. These oils are now pantry staples.

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First up are these waffles. Made with ricotta cheese and buttermilk they bake up fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside with a twist of blood orange flavor.

Blood Orange Ricotta Waffles

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh orange zest

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons blood orange olive oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup part-skim milk ricotta cheese

1 cup buttermilk

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.In a small bowl, mix sugar and orange zest until the zest is coated in sugar. Add the orange sugar to the bowl with the dry ingredients. In a bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together butter, eggs, vanilla, ricotta, and buttermilk. Whisk until combined well. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t overmix. It’s ok if a few lumps remain. Heat waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drop batter into the waffle iron; cook until golden brown.  Serve immediately.  These waffles can also be individually wrapped and frozen.  They’re great heated up in the toaster directly from the freezer.

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You can thank this photo on IG for this banana bread recipe. Too many requests for the actual recipe, so thought it best to share it here. What’s the sign of a perfectly baked quick bread? It’s that crack down the center! Moist on the inside with a bit of crunch on top its a flavor bomb of banana, lime and a touch of ginger. Don’t like ginger or almonds? Use any warm spice or nuts you prefer. No waffling!

Banana Bread with a Lime Twist

2 cups all purpose flour

1-teaspoon baking powder

1-teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt

½ teaspoon ground ginger (or if you prefer, cinnamon)

2 eggs

2/3-cup sugar

¼ cup sour cream

½ cup Mexican lime olive oil*

2 large over-ripe bananas, peeled and smashed

1/3-cup chopped or sliced nuts of your choice

2 teaspoons turbinado or demera sugar

Heat oven 375F. Coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan with baking spray (or grease and dust with flour). In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger; set aside. In another bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, sour cream, oil and banana; set aside. Using a rubber spatula, stir wet ingredients into flour mixture until blended and dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with nuts and then sugar. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. There should be the classic quick bread crack down the center. Transfer loaf to wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

*½ cup light olive oil plus the juice and zest of ½ lime can be substituted

Note: if you prefer your quick breads sweeter up the sugar to 1 cup

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Self Help or Counseling/Butter or Olive Oil

I love the flower of fresh Thai basil and how it mimics the color of the blackberry jam

I love the flower of fresh Thai basil and how it mimics the color of the blackberry jam and that is a spoonful of Greek yogurt on the side.

Do I need help? That is a question one in mourning may ask over and over again. While there is no universal answer to that one question the chances are if you are asking yourself, “Do I need help?” then you probably do. As a medical professional and prior to my own son’s death I often referred patients to mental health counselors and supportive groups. While in uncomplicated cases one may only need a supportive, nonjudgmental listener to facilitate the normal grief process there are others that need much more. Here are a few questions one should be asking themselves as they travel the grief road.

  • Am I stuck or making progress towards a more joyful life?
  • Am I using addictive substances like alcohol or smoking more than I ever did?
  • Am I over-eating or not eating at all?
  • Do I talk of my loved one as if he/she is still alive?
  • Can I manage my anger or am I self-destructive?
  • Have I thought about harming myself?
  • Have others told me that they think I need help

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions don’t hesitate to seek out grief self-help groups like Compassionate Friends or deeper therapeutic intervention with a professional mental health care provider. There is no shame in seeking help. Remember that losing your loved one is a complete assault on your body, mind and heart. There is no pain like it. If you felt this kind of pain for any other reason you would be running to the doctor. There would be no hesitating. Get what you need to facilitate healing and support your experience.You have a choice.

always loved a good camp fire

lots of healing took place around this firepit

Butter or olive oil. There is a choice when it comes to baking. I love them both, but clearly there is a big difference in taste and texture of the finished product. This recipe was inspired by a lovely bottle of blood orange olive oil. Have you ever gone into one of those shops where you can sample all kinds of olive oils and vinegars? So fun and so filling because I taste many before settling on 1 or 2 to take home.

the one with olive oil

the one with olive oil has a thinner, more fragrant batter

Not quite sure of the science behind it, but the cake made with the olive oil was more moist in a way I can only describe as “juicy”. It was a bit surprising to get that burst of bittersweet blood orange. The butter cake, however, just melted in the mouth with the slightest hint of citrus. It was the hands-down favorite. Speaking of “hands-down” do you remember that board game? I used to love playing that with my kids, but I digress. SIGH.

baked with butter--see the difference in the batter?

baked with butter–see the difference in the batter?

Here is the recipe. Take whichever direction suits you best…..and with those leftover egg yolks make a pudding or custard pie or ice cream…..sounds like a future blog post.


Little Blackberry Almond Cakes

4 egg whites

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla bean powder

1 cup almond flour

1/3 cup all purpose flour

½ cup blood orange olive oil or flavored olive oil of your choice

12 teaspoons blackberry preserves

¼ cup sliced almonds

garnish: powdered sugar, fresh berries

Heat oven 350F. Line a cupcake tin with foil liners or use little mini loaf size baking containers. Beat egg whites and salt to just stiff peaks. With mixer running, gradually add sugar and vanilla bean powder; blending well. Add almond flour, all-purpose flour; blend just until mixed. Add oil and blend until incorporated. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Spoon 1 teaspoon preserves into center batter. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden and wooden pick inserted into cake comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature. Dust cakes with powdered sugar and garnish with fresh berries. Makes 12 cakes

For Butter version:

Replace oil with ½ cup melted unsalted butter and add grated zest of 1 orange

Scallops, Shrimp, Calamari, Oh My!

Scallops with fennel-apple salad

scallops with fennel-apple slaw

No words of wisdom today. Just recipes from my 7 fishes Christmas Eve feast as requested by a few readers. Since there were so many courses I did small plates, so I recommend 3 scallops per person for the first dish.

Hint: only buy wild-caught “dry” sea scallops. DO NOT buy scallops sitting in a preservative. Ask your fish monger if you are not sure. The difference in taste is incredible. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Season them (both sides) with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Swirl a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil (I have been using avocado oil lately as it has a high smoke point, but vegetable oil will do) in a skillet (I like cast iron) over medium-high heat. Sear your scallops about 2 minutes per side or until just opaque. Serve with the slaw which I found on Epicurious.com. I did swap out apple cider vinegar for the rice vinegar only because I wanted the slaw to be a little sweeter. And to get really thin slices of vegetables use a mandolin if you have one. Mound some slaw in the center of the plate and place the scallops around the slaw. Your taste buds are going to be so happy. You are welcome.

Fennel-Apple-Celery Slaw

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala, or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add celery and celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel and chopped fennel fronds, and apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shrimp & Stuffed Calamari Fra Diavolo (sauce is adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

prepare the stuffed calamari first (see recipe below)

1 1/2 pounds (26 to 30 count) shell on shrimp, peeled and deveined, reserve shells

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dry white wine (I like Bogle Chardonnay)

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (just depends how spicy you like it)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 anchovy fillets

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Toss shrimp with salt; set aside. Pour tomatoes in a fine mesh colander set over a bowl to drain for about 5 minutes. Transfer drained tomatoes to a bowl and reserve the juice. Do not rinse colander. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add reserved shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 4 minutes or until skillet starts to turn brown. Carefully, add wine and simmer 2-4 minutes or until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Add reserved tomato juice to skillet; simmer for 5 minutes. Pour contents of skillet into colander set over a bowl. Discard shrimp shells; reserve liquid. Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano, stirring for 1 minute. Add anchovies, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Add tomatoes and reserved tomato juice mixture. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add stuffed calamari, cover and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, turning once, or until tender. During last 5 minutes of cooking time add shrimp. Stir in basil and parsley. Serve over pasta or with a nice piece of crusty bread. Fry up some tentacles as a garnish to really gild the lily. Serves 6.

shrimp & calamari fra diavolo

shrimp & calamari fra diavolo

Stuffed Calamari

6 tablespoons butter

2 cloves, minced garlic

1/4 cup squid tentacles, minced

1/4 cup chopped clams

juice of 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

6 squid bodies

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Melt 5 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, tentacles and clams; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Scrape contents of skillet into a medium bowl. Add lemon juice and panko; mix well. Fill the squid bodies with stuffing (use your hands); secure ends with wooden toothpicks. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add stuffed squid and brown on both sides–just a minute or two per side.

P.S. I know you all are wondering about that framed Christmas card–it was made by my very talented friend Betsy.