Watermelon, Strawberry and Banana Sherbet

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Watermelon, Strawberry and Banana SHERBET

Ingredients:
1/2 of a small seedless watermelon, 6 cups of 1 1/2" chunks
2 cups strawberries, 1o ounces
1 large, ripe banana
1/2-1 cup coconut cream from a 13.5 oz can of full fat coconut milk, such as Thai Kitchen or Native Forest
1/3 cup lime
1-2 packets stevia, or 1-3 Tablespoons honey or sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
extra watermelon, strawberries and banana for garnish

Make the sherbet:
        The night before, freeze the cut up watermelon and strawberries on sheet pans or in large lidded containers. Place the can of coconut milk in the fridge as well.
        The next day or up to 2 weeks later, add all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. You may need to do this in batches. Taste for sweetness and add sweetener if needed. Place in small containers (1-2 cups) or ice pop molds and freeze. If using the pop molds, push a few pieces of the fresh fruit into the molds too. Freeze for 4 hours or overnight. If serving by the scoop, leave the container out at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to soften.
        Serve with fresh watermelon chunks, sliced strawberries and bananas.

Makes about 6 cups or 12 servings. YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. If you have the space in your freezer, you can spread the cut up watermelon and strawberries on sheet pans and freeze. I don't have that kind of space, so I just place the pieces in lidded containers. Just don't pack them in, and they'll be easy to break up.
2. Limes are sometimes hard to squeeze. Pop them in the microwave for 10-12 seconds and they'll be easier to juice. Lemon juice is a yummy option too.
3. If the fruit is very sweet, you may not need any sweetener at all. Taste first, and then add it if needed.
4. I use 1/2 cup of the coconut cream. To make it creamier you could add more coconut cream or use less fruit.
5. It's best to store the sherbet in small containers, from 1-2 cups, so it will take less time to soften and scoop.

Molly's Strawberry Rhubarb UPSIDE down CAKE

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Molly O'Neill's Strawberry Rhubarb UPSIDE down Cake

Ingredients:
For the topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds, optional
1 pint medium size strawberries, about 12 ounces or 2 1/2 cups, stemmed, hulled and halved
3 cups rhubarb, trimmed, cut across into 1/4 inch thick slices, about 4-5 stalks

For the cake:
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Make the cake:
        Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease a 9 inch round cake pan with at 2 inch high sides with softened butter. (Do not use a springform pan, it will leak!) Line it with parchment paper and grease the parchment as well.
        To make the topping, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar to the melted butter and cook over low heat until the sugar is just dissolved, stirring until smooth. Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Scatter the almonds, if using, over the brown sugar mixture. Arrange the strawberries over the almonds in concentric circles, cut-side up. Evenly top with the rhubarb and set aside.
        To make the cake, using an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Combine the vanilla with the milk. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined.
        Spoon dollops of the batter all over the fruit in the pan, and spread evenly. Bake until the cake springs back when touched in the center, about 1 hour. (Cover the cake with foil if the top browns too much before the cake is done.) Remove the cake from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a cake plate. Replace any fruit that sticks to the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8-10 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Do make sure to grease the pan well, layer the bottom with parchment, and then grease the parchment. You want to make sure that the cake comes out in one piece. But don't worry if some of the fruit sticks to the pan, simply place it back on the cake.
2. Molly's original recipe includes a layer of sliced almonds, 1/3 cup, sprinkled over the hot sugar layer. I prefer to omit the nuts, but it will be delicious with them too.
3. Hot sugar is very hot! So, be careful not to touch it, either with the bottom layer , or when you turn it out of the pan.
4. Try other fruits and berries. If rhubarb isn't your fave or you can't find it, try peaches and blueberries, or strawberries and blackberries.
5. To easily cover the fruit, drop dollops of the cake batter all over the fruit first, and then spread it in an even layer.
6. Flipping the pan can be a little challenging. Make sure to wait 10 minutes but no more. and to wear or use oven mitts, and this is important--make sure to check before hand that the plate you are using is big enough for the cake. Mine was just big enough. Phew!

Summertime FARRO SALAD

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Summertime FARRO SALAD
(inspired by chef Ryan Hardy's recipe at Charlie Bird's restaurant, NYC)

Ingredients:
1 cup pearled farro, about 6 ounces
1 cup apple cider, or juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon mild honey, optional
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh parsley or basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2-2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
4 cups arugula leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler, divided
1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachio nuts
Maldon or other flaky sea salt, for sprinkling, optional

Make the salad:
        In a medium saucepan, bring the farro, apple cider, salt, bay leaves and 2 1/4 cups water to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, and cook uncovered until farro is tender but still firm, about 30 minutes.
        Meanwhile make the dressing. In a small canning jar with a tight fitting lid, shake together the lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper. Add the oil to the jar and shake until well combined.
        Check the farro at about 25 minutes to see if all the liquid has evaporated before it is done. Add a little more water if necessary. Alternatively, if there is still liquid in the pot, drain it off through a strainer and return to the pot. Discard the bay leaves.
        Stir about 1/2 of the dressing into the hot farro and let sit until cool.
        Transfer the cooled farro to a large salad bowl. Add the herbs, cherry tomatoes, and radishes. Lightly toss. Taste and add more dressing as needed. Just before serving, stir in the pistachios and half of the parmesan. Lightly toss to combine. Sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan and some of the flaky sea salt, if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings.       YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure you buy pearled farro, not the unpearled kind with the husk.
2. The farro will be tender but still be chewy when it's completely cooked. Just make sure it's not hard in the center.
3. You will probably need to drain any excess liquid off after it's completely cooked. Plus, though less likely, check about 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, just in case you need to add more water, so it doesn't stick or burn.
4. Shake all of the dressing ingredients except the oil in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Then add the oil and shake again.
5. Make sure to stir about 1/2 of the dressing into the farro while it's still warm. Once the veggies and herbs are added, only add as much dressing as you want to taste. Just save any leftover for another salad.
6. Play with your food! Try different ingredients--oils, vinegars, juices, and whatever veggies and herbs are available, all summer long.

Easy Smoky Barbecue Vinaigrette

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SMOKY BARBECUE VINAIGRETTE
(slightly adapted from Grace Parisi)

Ingredients:
1/4 cup smoky barbecue sauce, I like Sweet Baby Rays Honey Barbecue
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste, optional
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
up to 2 Tablespoons of water to thin, if desired

Make the dressing:
        In a small mixing bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together, except the oil and the water. Slowly drizzle in the oil to combine. If a thinner consistency is desired, add the water a teaspoon at a time. Taste for seasoning. Store in the fridge for up to a month.

Makes enough dressing for 4-6 servings.
     YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. You can switch out the lemon juice for orange or a vinegar of your choice.
2. Try stirring in 1/8-1/4 teaspoon chili powder for an extra kick.
3. You can thin it out with up to 2 Tablespoons of water, if you like.
4. For a nice crunch, make sure to include croutons or crisped up cubes of cornbread.

Homemade Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies

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Homemade THIN MINT GIRL SCOUT COOKIES

Ingredients:
For the cookies:
1/2 cup finely ground almond flour
1/4 cup oat flour
3 Tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder, I like Valrhona
2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup almond butter
3 1/2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, or more if you like it very minty
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the coating:
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, 18 oz.
1 Tablespoon flavorless oil, I like safflower
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract

Make the cookies:
        Place 2 racks, evenly spaced in the oven. and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper.
        In a medium size bowl, add the almond and oat flours, cocoa powder, coconut sugar and salt and baking soda. Stir until well combined, and no lumps remain. Set aside.
        In a small bowl, add the almond butter, maple syrup, peppermint and vanilla extracts. Combine well.
        Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir until it comes together. It may be dry and crumbly at first. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. At this point you can immediately roll it out, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for up to a day.
        Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of plastic wrap, 1/8th inch thick, making sure that they are all the same. Using a 2 inch round cutter, stamp out as many as you can. You will be able to easily remove the cookies from the bottom sheet of plastic wrap, by lifting up the cookie and pulling back the plastic wrap. You can gather up the scraps and re-roll cookies as well. You should have about 36 cookies, 18 to a pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through the baking time, and cool completely before coating them.

Make the coating:
        In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the chips, oil and peppermint extract. Over very low heat, stirring constantly, combine until smooth. Alternatively, you could add the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, and stir every 30 seconds until almost melted. Then stirring until completely smooth. Taste the mixture. If you like, you can add in more peppermint extract to taste.

To coat the cookies:
        Place a large piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or flat surface. Use a fork or your fingers ( if you wear disposable gloves, it will be way less messy), place one cookie, top side down, in the bowl of chocolate and flip it over until coated. Drag the top and then the bottom of the cookie gently across the side of the pot or bowl to remove any excess, and place on the parchment. It's a pretty messy but fun job. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes until set.
        Immediately peel the cookies off the parchment. If you wait, and the chocolate softens to room temperature, they will be harder to remove. If that happens, just re-chill them. And even though they can be stored at room temperature, they will keep their shine and crispy texture best when stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.       YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Don't have oat flour? You can make your own, just whizz quick oats in a food processor until it's finely ground.
2. Make sure to roll the dough out uniformly, 1/8th inch thick, so they bake evenly. I have a rolling pin that is specially designed to roll out an even 1/8th inch. There are also inexpensive rings that can be placed on each end of the pin to insure an even thickness. Or, just come as close as you can.
3. Peppermint extract can be strong. Start with my amount in the liquid mix, taste and add more if you like.
4. This dough is easiest rolled out between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Once it's rolled out, it's easy to pull off the top sheet, cut out the cookies and peel them off of the bottom sheet.
5. Don't overbake! Because these are chocolate, it's hard to tell by eye when they are done---you can easily burn them. They will crisp up as they cool.
6. Although you can keep them stored at room temperature, they're best straight out of the fridge.

Spring Phyllo Asparagus Tart

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A Springtime Phyllo Asparagus Tart

Ingredients:
1 pound asparagus, thin or medium size spears, woody stems removed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper for sprinkling
-----------------
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons sour cream or heavy cream
1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
----------------------
2 Tablespoons olive oil 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
12 sheets phyllo, from one 1/2 package, covered
----------------------
3/4-1 cup Gruyere cheese grated, about 4 ounces
1/4 cup parmesan cheese plus 2 Tablespoons for sprinkling

Make the tart:
        Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Line a baking pan with parchment. Set aside.
        On a cutting board or flat surface, drizzle the asparagus with the olive and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Set aside.
        In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, sour cream, Dijon, parsley and thyme. In another small bowl, combine the olive oil and butter.
        Open the package of phyllo and keep covered with the wrapping or saran wrap. Place one sheet on the parchment, and lightly brush with the olive oil mixture. Place a second sheet on top of the first. It's easiest to lay it from the long side. Lightly brush, and continue with all of the sheets.
        Spread the egg mixture on top of the phyllo, leaving about an 1/2 inch border. Evenly sprinkle the 2 cheeses on top of the filling, and lay the asparagus in one layer on top. I like to alternate the tops and bottoms. Sprinkle with the 2 Tablespoons of parmesan cheese, and bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges are browned and crisp, and the asparagus are softened.

Makes 6 servings.       YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. It's best to defrost the phyllo by placing it in the fridge the night before. But if you forget, you can give it 3 hours at room temperature the day of.
2. You need to remove the woody stems from the asparagus. My preferred way is to hold one end in each hand and snap. It will break where the woody part ends. If you think you're discarding a lot, save the stems for veggie stock. And, thinner to medium size stalks are best. The really fat ones won't cook through.
3. Keep the phyllo covered. It dries out very quickly.
4. When layering the phyllo, it's easiest to stack them when you hold the longer ends. Don't worry about perfection, just stack them as best you can.

Springtime DEVILED EGGS

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Springtime DEVILED EGGS

Ingredients:
6 large eggs
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon sweet pickle relish, or just the juice, or to taste 1 teaspoon snipped fresh chives or minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 dashes Tabasco sauce or a pinch cayenne, optional
snipped fresh chives or minced parsley, and a sprinkle of paprika for garnish

Make the deviled eggs:
        Bring the eggs to room temperature, either by taking out a few hours before or by placing in lukewarm water for 30 minutes. Bring a medium size saucepan half-filled with water to a boil. Gently lower the eggs into the boiling water and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Drain and refill with cold water once or twice to stop the cooking and cool them slightly.
        Place a lid over the pot and shake the eggs vigorously until there are little cracks all over the eggs. Alternatively, you can crack them by hand. Peel them under running water. Cool in the refrigerator, covering loosely, for at least 30 minutes.
        Halve the eggs lengthwise, and carefully scoop out yolks. If you don't have a deviled egg plate, cut a thin sliver off the bottom of each half to make them stand up straight.
        Place the yolks in a small bowl, and mash with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, pickle relish or juice, mustard, salt, pepper, snipped chives or parsley and Tabasco if using. Gently stir until thoroughly combined.
        Using a pastry bag, ziploc bag with an half inch ccorner cut off or a spoon, fill each egg white shell with 2-3 teaspoons of the egg-yolk mixture. If you like, lightly sprinkle each top with paprika, and garnish with snipped chives or minced parsley.

Makes 8-12 halves, depending on how much filling you use (can easily be doubled or tripled).         YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Fresh eggs or not? Probably best to use older eggs, to encourage easier peeling.
2. Use room temperature eggs, because they are less likely to crack when they hit the hot water. And make sure to gently lower them into the boiling water.
3. Make sure that when you shake the cooked eggs in the pot that you end up with a lot of small cracks all over them before you peel. 4. If you don't have a fancy deviled egg plate with wells to hold each, cut a thin sliver of the egg white off the bottom to help them stand straight on your platter.
5. The easiest way to fill the egg white halves is with a piping bag. But it's not necessary to have one. You can easily create a piping bag by using a ziploc bag. Just fill with the yolk mixture, cut 1/2" off of one of the corners and squeeze in a circular pattern.
6. I like them sweeter, so sometimes I'll add about 1 Tablespoon sweet gherkin pickle juice or sweet pickle relish to the yolk mixture.

An Easy CHICKEN and PEA TRAYBAKE

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An Easy CHICKEN AND PEA "TRAYBAKE"
(slightly adapted from "At My Table" by Nigella Lawson)

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups frozen petite peas, about 1 pound
3 medium sized leeks, cut into 1-inch slices, about 7 ounces of cut slices
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
3 Tablespoons dry white vermouth, or white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1-2 more tablespoons for drizzling
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 of a small bunch of dill, large stems removes and roughly cut into 1 inch pieces
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 2-2 1/4 pounds

Make the traybake:
        Take the chicken out of the fridge, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
        While the oven is preheating, prep the leeks. Use only the white and light green parts of the leeks. ( reserve the rest for stock, if you like) Trim the outer leaves, and cut into 1" rounds. Rinse the cut pieces and check for any sandy soil trapped in the light green parts. You may need to trim off a few outer layers to remove the grit, and then thoroughly rinse again.
        Once the oven is up to temperature, add the frozen peas into an ungreased baking dish or roasting pan measuring at least 7" x 11", (although a little larger will work too. ) Break up any clumps of the peas. Add the leeks, garlic, vermouth, olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, a few grinds o the black pepper, and 3/4 of the dill. Combine everything well, and evenly spread it out on the pan.
        Evenly arrange the chicken thighs, skin-side up, on top of the peas and leeks. Try not to have the pieces touching. Drizzle with another 1-2 Tablespoons or more of the olive oil, and sprinkle with more salt.
        Roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and gently stir the peas, pressing any on the top down into the liquid so that they don't dry out. However, leave the leeks alone, because their tops that are peeking out will become caramelized and sweeter. Bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, (165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer,) and the skin is golden brown and crispy.
        Sprinkle the reserved dill over the dish. And serve with roasted, steamed or mashed potatoes. Or any grain of your choosing. Although you don't have to, I guarantee that you'll want something to soak up all of those juices in the bottom of the pan.

Makes 4 servings.         YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. The petite peas need to be frozen--right out of the freezer. Don't defrost them first.
2. Use the white and light green parts of the leeks. Rinse the cut pieces and check for any sandy soil trapped in the light green parts. You may need to trim off a few outer layers to remove that grit.
3. It's always best to remove the chicken from the fridge for about 30 minutes to bring it to room temperature before baking.
4. Try this with other chicken pieces--breasts, legs or even boneless breasts or thighs--just reduce the cooking time on the boneless ones.
5. This is easily doubled. Just make sure the pan is large enough, at least 11" x 15" or an half sheet pan size would work.

Low Carb, Low Sugar, Dairy and Gluten Free, Fudgy, YUMMY BROWNIES

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Low-Carb, Low Sugar, Dairy and Gluten Free, Fudgy,

YUMMY BROWNIES

(inspired by www.gnom-gnom.com)

Ingredients:
1 stick plus 1 Tablespoons unsalted butter or 9 TBS coconut, if paleo
1 cup xylitol or coconut sugar, if paleo
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder, I like Valrhona
1 Teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 Teaspoon Pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 - 1/2 cup stevia sweetened chocolate chips, such as Lily's
1/4 - 1/2 cup raw walnut pieces
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to sprinkle on top (optional)

Make the brownies:
        Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with softened butter. Line it with parchment paper on the bottom and up the sides (to use as handles for easy removal). Then re-butter the bottom of the parchment lined pan. Set aside.
        In a medium -sized heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the, xylitol or sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt. Turn the heat down to low, and stir constantly until the sweetener is mostly dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Scrape the mixture into a medium-size mixing bowl and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
        In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs and vanilla together. (don't overbeat) Pour the eggs into the chocolate mixture and whisk or stir just until combined and smooth. They will become cakey instead of fudgy if you over mix the batter.
        Stir in the almond flour until fully combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and evenly sprinkle the chips and nuts all over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the center is just set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out moist. Start checking at 15 minutes, just to be safe.
        While they are still hot, sprinkle with the flaky sea salt, if desired. Allow the pan to cool completely. Using the parchment sides, lift the brownies out of the pan and cut into 16 pieces or larger if you like. To get extra clean edges, you can place them in the freezer for about 10 minutes first before cutting.

Makes 16 fudgy brownies.         YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure to use an heavy-bottomed saucepan. Melt the butter first, and then add the cocoa, xylitol, salt and espresso powder, stir over very low heat until smooth and the sugar is mostly melted.
2. Dutch processed cocoa is my favorite, but natural cocoa powder will be delicious as well. When you measure, lightly spoon the cocoa into the 1/2 cup and Tablespoon measure, leveling off the top. Packing it in will result into much cocoa in the recipe.
3. Don't overbeat the eggs, just enough to break them up. Overbeating them will result in a more cakey brownie.
4. Start testing at around 15 minutes to make sure they don't over bake.
5. Placing the baked brownies in the freezer for about 15 minutes will make them easier to slice.
6. Try swirling in 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter into the batter before baking.

Vegan Raisin Rosemary SCONES

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Vegan Raisin Rosemary SCONES
(inspired by The Mud Club in Woodstock, NY, and the Minimalist Baker)

For the flax egg:
1 Tablespoon flax seed meal (I like golden flax seeds)
2 1/2 Tablespoons water

For the dough:
1 flax egg
3/4 cup almond milk ( see my homemade, or store bought)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup spelt flour, whole wheat pastry flour, or more all-purpose
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon organic cane sugar plus more for sprinkling on top
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
6 Tbsp solid, room temperature, coconut oil, not liquid or frozen, or earth balance coconut spread
1/2-3/4 cup raisins or currants

Make the scones:
        Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
        Make the flax eggs: In a small mixing bowl, combine the 1 Tablespoon ground flax seeds with the 2 ½ Tablespoons of water, and let sit for 5 minutes to thicken. Add the almond milk and vanilla. Stir to combine.
        In a separate medium-size mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, spelt or whole wheat flour, organic cane sugar, baking powder, salt, and rosemary. Whisk to combine. Add the mixture into a food processor, and pulse a few times. Add the coconut oil and pulse 5-7 times until only small pieces of the coconut oil remain. Alternatively, you can use a pastry cutter (or 2 knives). Place the mixture back into the medium-size bowl. Re-stir the flax-almond milk mixture once more. While stirring with a spoon, add the liquid to the dry ingredients a little at a time. Gently stir in the raisins until just combined.
        Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and use your floured hands to form it into a disc about 1 inch high. Use a large, floured knife to cut the circle into 8 -10 even wedges. Using a floured spatula or your hands, gently transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet with space between them. Generously sprinkle the tops with more cane sugar.
        Bake for 27-29 minutes until they are a deep golden brown all over. Let cool slightly before serving. Serve hot out of the oven. Any extras, once completely cooled, can be stored at room temperature in a foil-lined container for up to 3 days, and frozen for up to 3 months. You can also reheat them in a 300 degree F oven for a few minutes to re-crisp them.

Makes 8-10 scones.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. A few substitutions, but I still like these best with the original ingredients:
        a) If you don't have access to spelt or whole wheat pastry flour, you
        can use all all-purpose flour.
        b) Organic cane sugar is a little more coarse and lightly colored
        brown, and adds to the crumbly texture. Sub in regular sugar if you like.
        c) If being vegan isn't an issue, you can also substitute one large egg for
        the flax eggs, but it will change the texture a little bit.
        d) 1/3 cup fresh blueberries or frozen organic wild blueberries can be
        used instead of currants. or raisins.
2. Yes, rosemary might be an unusual addition, but it really is delicious. Not sure? Then give the 3/4 teaspoon a try first.
3. Depending on the time of year, your coconut oil may be of a more liquid consistency. It needs to be fully solid, but not frozen. Chill it for 20-30 minutes in the fridge to harden before using.
4. Don't over mix the dough, you want some small pieces of coconut oil to still be visible.


Whole Foods DETOX SALAD

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Whole Foods DETOX SALAD
(adapted from Jennifer Trennum's version)

Ingredients:
2 heads broccoli, stems cut off and cut into 1 inch florets
1/2 small head cauliflower, core cut out and broken by hand into florets
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/4" rings
3/4 - 1 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups dried currants
1/4 -3/8 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Make the salad:
        In the bowl of a food processor, working in batches if necessary, place the broccoli florets and pulse until finely chopped. Empty it out into a large bowl. Repeat with the cauliflower florets and the carrots. Stir together all of the veggies, until well combined.         Add the parsley, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and currants. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Combine well. Taste for seasoning, adding extra lemon juice, salt and pepper, if desired.
        Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

. Makes about 8 cups.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Fresh and organic is always best, if you can find it. Walk away from cauliflower with little black patches on the florets or wilted green leaves.
2. I'm using lemon juice, but apple cider vinegar would be delicious too. I like Braggs.
3. Try other raw veggies to make it your own, maybe Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes, dried cranberries, or sliced almonds.

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

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PAUL BERTOLLI'S CAULIFLOWER SOUP
(slightly adapted from Cooking by Hand)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter or more extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly, about 2 cups
a pinch of Kosher salt
1 head cauliflower (about 1-1/2 pounds, after green stems are removed), core removed and broken into florets
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or more to taste
5 1/2 cups water, divided
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper for sprinkling

Make the Soup:
        In a large heavy-bottomed pan with a lid, heat the butter and the olive oil. Cook the onions in the olive oil and butter with a pinch of salt over low heat without letting them brown for 15 minutes.
        Add the cauliflower, the 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, and 1/2 cup of the water. Raise the heat to a boil and then turn down to a simmer, cover the pot and simmer the cauliflower for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender.
        Add the rest of the water, 4 1/2 cups, bring to a low simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes covered.
        Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender, preferably high speed, until very smooth and creamy. Let the soup stand, covered, for 20 minutes, which will allow it to thicken a little more. To serve, if desired, drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Makes 8 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Fresh is best. Make sure that the cauliflower is pure white, with no dark brown spots or wilted green leaves, which indicates an older less flavorful vegetable.
2. Don't go crazy breaking up the florets. They will all cook down, so uneven size pieces are ok.
3. If you want to make this vegan, simply eliminate the butter and use 3 Tablespoons of olive oil.
4. You can halve the recipe or freeze any leftovers for another meal.

FISH CURRY

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Fish Curry
(inspired by an English guy on PBS from many years ago, Food 52,
and Cara Eisenpress's Vietnamese Fish Stew from "In the Small Kitchen")

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds cod, halibut, flounder or any flakey white fish, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
-------------------------------
3 Tablespoons, olive oil, unsalted butter or a combo of both
2 medium onions, thinly sliced 1/4" moons, about 5 cups
a pinch of Kosher salt
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, finely diced, about 2 Tablespoons, or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
pepper, more or less to taste
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger, or finely diced, about a 2" piece
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder, up to 2 Tablespoons>br> 2/3 cup white wine or mirin
1 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk, full fat is best, but lite is ok.
2 - 2 1/2 cups water
1 pound baby yukon gold potatoes, or regular size cut into 1 inch pieces
2 heads of bok choy, or 6 baby bok choy, cut into 1 inch pieces
2-4 Tablespoons Major Grey's Chutney, optional but recommended
more salt and pepper to taste
1 -2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus extra for serving

Make the fish curry:
        In a medium bowl, add the fish and sprinkle with the turmeric and salt. Toss to coat and let sit for 5-10 minutes, while you're prepping the vegetables.
        In a large heavy, lidded pot, melt the butter and oil, and add the onions with a pinch of salt. Toss to coat, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, ginger and curry powder, and cook for another minute or 2. Add the wine or mirin, and cook to reduce the liquid by about half. Add the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 12-14 minutes. (You can prepare this part up to a day in advance.)
        Add the bok choy and chutney, stir to combine, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the fish, pressing the pieces into the liquid so that they are submerged as best you can. Cover the pot and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. Stir in the lime juice. Ladle the stew into bowls and serve with an extra squeeze of lime if desired. Can be stored in the fridge for 2 days.

Makes 4-6 servings.         YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. It's best to buy your fish the same day that you plan to make the stew.
2. Full fat coconut milk is best, but you can substitute light coconut milk. Also this does not mean coco lopez which is sweetened.
3. You'll see a few ingredient amount choices. My preferences are listed first, but you can adjust to your taste.
4. The fish cooking time may vary, depending on how big you have cut the pieces of fish. But basically the fish will be done when it just begins to flake apart with a fork. Around 4-5 minutes.
5. If 4-6 servings is too much, you can easily cut the recipe in half.

Valentine's Peanut Butter Cup Bars

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Peanut Butter Cup Bars
(inspired by Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:
Peanut butter base:
1 stick, 4 ounces, unsalted butter
1 16 ounce jar creamy or chunky natural peanut butter, such as Smuckers (1 3/4 cups), not freshly ground
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 fine sea salt
Chocolate topping:
1 stick, 4 ounces, unsalted butter
12 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate chips, 2 cups
Heart decoration: (optional)
1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Make the peanut butter base:
        Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment that lines the bottom and goes up over the sides leaving a 2 inch overhang. In a medium size saucepan, over medium low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt, until well combined and smooth. Evenly spoon the mixture in the pan, and with a spoon or an offset spatula, spread it evenly and smooth the top.

Make the chocolate topping:
        In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Turn the heat down to low, add the chocolate and continually stir until smooth. Remove and cool for a 2-3 minutes. Alternatively, fill a medium size saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Combine the chocolate and the butter in a metal bowl that can fit over the saucepan without touching the water. Stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Remove bowl from heat and let cool slightly, about 3 minutes.
        Gently stir the chocolate, and pour it evenly over peanut-butter mixture. Using a spoon or off set spatula, smooth the chocolate evenly across the top.

Make the peanut butter heart decorations:
        In a small bowl, stir together the softened butter and peanut butter until smooth. Drop 1/4-to-1/2 teaspoon rounds of the mixture on top of the chocolate layer in 1-inch intervals. Starting about an 1/2 inch above the peanut butter round, drag the tip of a wooden skewer or toothpick quickly through center of each round and then off to one side to create a heart shape. Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.
        Run a paring knife along the edges of the pan on the two sides not lined with the parchment. Use the parchment overhangs as handles to gently lift the bars from the pan. It may take a little gentle nudging to loosen it.
        With a large sharp knife cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch bars, wiping the knife clean after each cut. Store the bars in the fridge until ready to serve. They will stay covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 16-24 bars.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. I use Smucker's natural smooth peanut butter, but you can choose any brand you like. Just don't use freshly ground, which will get too greasy.
2. I melt the butter/chocolate mixture in a heavy saucepan over very low heat. And, I stand over the pot, stirring constantly 'til smooth so it doesn't burn. But you can also more safely melt it in bowl placed over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. Just make sure not to get any water in the melted chocolate.
3. Don't forego the parchment "handles." You will need to be a little patient, but it's the best way to get the uncut bars out of the pan.
4. If you don't want to make the hearts on the top, decorate with any heart candies you like, or just keep them pure and unadulterated.

Loaded Bell Pepper NACHOs

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LOADED BELL PEPPER NACHOS
(inspired by The Hungry Girl)

Ingredients:
12-15 sweet mini bell peppers, 8-10 ounces
2/3 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup (or more ) grated Cheddar cheese or any other of your choosing, reduced-fat optional, about 2 1/2 ounces
2 Tablespoons seeded and minced jalapeño pepper, or more or less to taste
---------------
1/3 cup salsa
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tbsp. thinly sliced scallions
Optional garnish: avocado/guacolmole and chopped cilantro

Make the Nachos:
        Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, or line with parchment. I like parchment for easy removal from the pan.
        Cut off the stem end of each pepper. Cut in half lengthwise, and using a small spoon, melon baller or your thumb, remove the seeds and membranes. Lay them cut side down on the baking sheet with space between them, and bake for 5 minutes. Flip them over with cut side up, and bake for another 5-7 minutes until softened.
        Push them closer to the center with their edges touching. Top with the beans, cheese, and jalapeño pepper. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. And then switch to the broiler for another 2-3 minutes to lightly brown the top.
        Dollop all over with the salsa, sour cream, and scallions. If desired, garnish with the avocado and cilantro.

Makes 4 appetizer servings or 2 regular servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. If you can't find the mini bell peppers in your supermarket (although even here in the woods I can find them), cut the regular sized red, green and/or yellow bell peppers into 6ths or 8ths.
2. Use melon baller, small spoon or your thumb to remove the seeds and membranes from the mini peppers.
3. To keep this calorie conscious, opt for the reduced fat versions of the cheese and sour cream. But since the chips are gone, it will still be lower calorie even if you use the regular versions.
4. Kick it up another notch and add 8 oz. browned and seasoned extra-lean ground beef, shredded rotisserie chicken or cooked sausage
5. Nacho up any veggie. Roast broccoli or cauliflower florets, sweet potato slices, etc. and load them up!

VEGAN SPICE COOKIES

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Vegan Spice Cookies

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup quick oats, gluten free if possible
1/4 cup Tablespoons organic coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
-----------------------
Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
6 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Make the cookies:
        Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2-3 half size sheet pans with parchment. Reuse a pan if you don't have 3.
        Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, and process until finely ground, about 1 minute. Add the wet ingredients and process until well combined, about another 30 seconds. Before scooping, stir in any stray maple syrup into the dough in the bowl of the processor.
        Alternatively you could stir together all of the ingredients in a medium size bowl using 6 Tablespoons of oat flour for the quick oats.
        Spoon or scoop 2 Tablespoons at a time for large cookies, 6 to a pan, or 1 Tablespoon mounds with 12 to a pan. Bake the cookies for 6 minutes, take out and band a few times on a counter or the stove. Rotate the pans top to bottom and back to front and bake for about another 7-9 minutes, until a dark burnished brown. Cool completely on the pans. They will crisp up as they cool.
        Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 16 large or 32 small cookies. YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. If you don't have a food processor, you could sub in 6 Tablespoons of oat flour for the quick oats and combine everything in a mixing bowl. But the texture won't be exactly the same.
2. If you can, use gluten-free oats (not all oats are gluten-free), and these will be gluten-free too.
3. Make sure to rap the pan on the counter halfway through the cooking time.
4. Pay close attention near the end of the baking time. You want them to be a dark burnished brown, but not super dark or they'll burn.

New Years Lucky Lentil Soup

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NEW YEAR'S LUCKY LENTIL SOUP

Ingredients:
2 cups French green lentils, picked through and rinsed
1 large plus 1 medium yellow onion, small dice, about 3 1/2 cups
2 Tablespoons minced garlic, about 4 large cloves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 taeaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 large ribs of celery, small dice, about 1 1/2 cups
4 medium carrots, small dice, about 1 1/2
1 1/2 quarts ( 6 cups) low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon red wine or red wine vinegar, optional
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top, optional

Make the soup:
        In a large heavy pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, salt and pepper and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin and continue to cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 more minutes.
        Stir in the lentils, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 1 hour, until the lentils are tender. Taste to see if you need more salt or pepper. the seasonings. Stir in the red wine or red wine vinegar. Serve, sprinkled with some grated Parmesan, if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings.       YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. The hardest part of this recipe is finding the French green lentils. But most supermarkets and health food stores will carry them. There's always online too.
2. You can sub in the regular brown lentils, but it just won't be the same.
3. Make sure to pick through the lentils, you may find a few small stones or twigs.
4. Since you only need 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste, buy it in a tube.
5. This recipe is easily doubled, the extra can be frozen for a quick winter meal.
6. Don't eat my grandmother's lentil soup!

Royal Icing for the Magical Cookie Forests

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ROYAL ICING
Ingredients:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 Tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, optional-but I use it
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the icing:
        In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat all of the icing ingredients together on high speed for 4-5 minutes until stiff and glossy. Lift the whisk attachment up out of the icing.
        You've got the perfect consistency when the icing falls off and melts right back into the bowl of icing within about 5-10 seconds. If it's too thick, add a little more water a teaspoon at a time. If it's too thin, add a little more sifted confectioners' sugar. While using the icing, to keep it from hardening, cover the bowl with a damp towel.
        The icing will harden in about 3 hours at room temperature or leave to harden overnight. You can store any extra in an air tight container in fridge for 2 days. Bring back to room temperature, and stir well to reuse, thinning with a little water if necessary.

Makes 1 1/2 cups, and can easily be doubled.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. The canning jars and fairie lights are easy to find at lots of big box stores or online. I used Weck #743 3/4 liter jars and a 6-7 foot string of 20 fairie lights.
2. If you do make or frost your own cookies, which I highly recommend, you’ll have to plan ahead, because once they’re frosted, they’ll need to dry for a few hours or overnight.
3. Make sure the jars are sized small enough to support the cookies and keep them upright.
4. I like making royal icing with meringue powder instead of using raw egg whites, it also dries more quickly.
5. If you don't have a piping bag, put the icing in a ziploc bag and cut off a tiny piece of one of the corners. 6. Stand back and wait for the ooo’s and ahh’s.

Homemade Almond Milk

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Homemade ALMOND MILK

Ingredients:
1/2 cup raw whole almonds, preferably organic
water for soaking
-------------------
2 1/2 cups water
1-2 dates, preferably Medjool, optional
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, optional

Make the almond milk:
        In a medium-sized covered container, add the almonds and enough water to cover at least an inch above the nuts. Let the nuts soak overnight in the fridge, or for at least 8 hours.
        Drain the nuts, and add them with the dates and vanilla, if using, into a blender, preferably high-speed. If you’re using a regular blender or a something like a bullet, only blend one half of the nuts and water at a time, and then combine in the nut bag.
        Blend for 2-3 minutes. Place a nut bag, or a few sheets of cheesecloth into a medium-size bowl. Pour the blended nuts into the bag, and squeeze all of the liquid into the bowl. Pour into a container and chill. Immediately rinse out the nut bag to keep it unclogged.
        The milk will last for up to 3 days in the fridge. You can easily double the recipe. But, it’s best to make less more often.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Buy whole raw almonds (with the skins on), organic if you can. Not anything roasted or salted.
2. If you have a regular blender, blend smaller amounts and combine. Even in the high speed blender, I like to blend all of the nuts with 1/2 of the water first before adding the rest.
3. This will only last about 3 days in the fridge, so I make this smaller amount, but if you can use it all up, feel free to double the recipe.
4. If using a nut bag to strain the liquid, make sure to clean it right after you use it to keep it unclogged.

PUMPKIN Coffeecake

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Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar-Pecan Streusel
(adapted from Kim Laidlaw)

Ingredients:
For the streusel:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
a pinch of fine sea salt
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted (see below)

For the batter:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
---------------
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup full fat sour cream

For the glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons milk, whole or 2%, or more if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Make the Cake:
        Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan or any of the pans listed in Lessons Learned.

Make the streusel:
        In a bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and, using 2 table knives, a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut it into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a food processor. Stir in the toasted pecans. Set aside.

Make the batter:
        In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the pumpkin puree and sour cream and mix with the spatula. Stir in the flour mixture. The batter will be quite thick.
        Dollop half of the batter by spoonfuls into the bottom of the pan, and spread into a smooth layer. Evenly sprinkle half of the streusel over the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the streusel and spread the thick batter as best you can. Top with the remaining streusel. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, a few moist crumbs are ok., about 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire cooling rack and let cool for about 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge and remove the sides from the pan. Slide the cake onto the rack to let cool completely.

Make the glaze:
        In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla. If it is too thick to drizzle, add extra milk by the ½ teaspoonfuls until thin enough. To get thin lines, using a spoon, first start the drizzle in the bowl of icing, then draw lines in all directions over the top of the cake. Repeat as many times as desired. Allow some of the glaze to drip down the sides.

Makes 8-10 servings.     YUM!

Toast the pecans:
        Preheat an oven to 325°F. Spread the nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 7-9 minutes. Watch them closely towards the end of the baking time—they can burn easily. Immediately remove them from the hot pan, cool, and coarsely chop them.

LESSONS Learned:
1. To toast the pecans: preheat an oven to 325°F. Spread the nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 7-9 minutes. Watch them closely towards the end of the baking time—they can burn easily.
2. If you don’t have a 9 inch round springform pan.... you can use a 9” tube pan, a 10“ bundt pan, or make two 8”round cakes.
3. Make sure to get pure canned pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie mix.