Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Poached Egg on Spicy Lentils Recipe from The Healthy Slow Cooker

I don’t use many small kitchen appliances that do the same type of work as my stove and oven. I’ve never been a huge fan of toaster ovens taking up my valuable counter space, and while I wouldn’t want to be without my microwave, it’s used for quick reheating, not so much for cooking. 

But things change when we start talking about the slow cooker. Yes, I can cook beans, soups and stews on the stovetop, but I’d rather not be in the kitchen for hours. I’m amazed at how much I still use it, even now that I’m back working at home again (with extra time to cook dinner that was once spent commuting).

I have to admit that about the only thing that comes out of it these days are beans. Delicious beans, but even I can get tired of them every now and then.

A few weeks ago I received The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson. It was perfect timing because I was so ready to get out of my slow cooked bean rut.

This book is a revised version of one published in 2006. The front cover states that the book has “135 Gluten-Free Recipes for Health and Wellness,” so I had plenty to explore from cover to cover.

A highlight for me is that many of the recipes in this book can cook for 5 to 6 hours on low. This is something I look for in slow cooker recipes because if it cooks in an hour or two the idea of slow cooking while you are away for the day kind of goes out the window. That being said, the recipe instructions include a low and high setting. So if you will be around and want to speed things up, you can decrease the cooking time by setting it to high and the recipe tells you how.

The recipes are also light on the pre and post cooking. To me, there is no reason to use a slow cooker if you are going to spend an hour cooking the food before you…cook the food. The recipe I chose to make is a good example of this.

I didn’t stray too far from beans, but these Poached Eggs on Spicy Lentils were a huge hit around here. The recipe says that it is a great cold weather dish, but I could eat this any time of year.

The lentils are full of flavor and you can make them as mild or spicy as you wish. With the coconut milk, they cooked into a rich and creamy stew that was perfect with an egg on top. The recipe requires about 5 minutes of stove cooking time before adding everything to the cooker. About 30 minutes before you are ready to serve, you stir in coconut milk and make the poached eggs to go on top. It was super simple.

The book contains everything from breakfast and appetizers to sauces, dinners and desserts. Only 134 recipes left to make and with things like Maple Sweetened Congee and Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Shrimp on the list, I might just do it.

Poached Eggs on Spicy Lentils

Courtesy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

This delicious combination is a great cold-weather dish. Add the chiles if you prefer a little spice and accompany with warm gluten-free Indian bread, such as Yogurt Flatbread, and hot white rice. The Egg and Lentil Curry (see Variation in the book) is a great dish for a buffet table or as part of an Indian-themed meal.

Medium (approx. 4 quart) slow cooker

1 tbsp    olive oil    15 mL
2    onions, finely chopped    2
1 tbsp    minced garlic    15 mL
1 tbsp    minced ginger root      15 mL
1 tsp    ground coriander    5 mL
1 tsp    ground cumin    5 mL
1 tsp    cracked black peppercorns    5 mL
1 cup    red lentils, rinsed    250 mL
1    can (28 oz/796 mL) no-salt-added tomatoes with juice, coarsely chopped
2 cups    vegetable stock    500 mL
1 cup    coconut milk    250 mL
1    long green chile pepper or 2 Thai bird’s-eye chiles, finely chopped, optional
6    eggs    6
1⁄4 cup    finely chopped parsley leaves    60 mL

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add lentils, tomatoes with juice and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.

2. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 4 hours, until lentils are tender and mixture is bubbly. Stir in coconut milk, salt, to taste, and chile pepper, if using. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until heated through.

3. When ready to serve, ladle into soup bowls and top each serving with a poached egg (see Tip). Garnish with parsley.

To poach eggs: In a deep skillet, bring about 2 inches (5 cm) lightly salted water to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Break eggs into a measuring cup and, holding the cup close to the surface of the water, slip the eggs into the pan. Cook until whites are set and centers are still soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Makes 6 servings
Can Be Halved

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easy 4 Ingredient Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Recipe

When a holiday occurs on the same date every year, I’m usually pretty good at being prepared. But Easter? Easter gets me every time. 

As seems to be the tradition, it snuck up on me once again. I just hate to miss making something for a day that can be celebrated with chocolate, so I got busy and put together some super simple, 4 ingredient peanut butter cups. 

A little while back, I was sent these colorful, BPA-free silicone baking cups from The New York Baking Company. These flexible little guys turned out to be a candy cup making dream. They are oven safe up to 475 degrees F as well as freezer, microwave and dishwasher safe. I used them to form and freeze my peanut butter cups and they peeled off so easy for a perfectly ridged edge. They are such a great thing to have around for both baking and candy making.


I tried to keep these peanut butter cups as simple, clean and unrefined as possible for a better treat. While they only contain four ingredients, I do want to note that natural peanut butters can vary widely in texture. If your jar is brand new, you may have some extra oil to deal with, but if it’s been in the fridge a few days it will likely be firmer. Textures can vary by brand as well. 

Right now I use the natural crunchy Kirkland brand peanut butter from Costco – just peanuts and sea salt. My peanut butter was thick after being refrigerated. If you are using a just opened jar, you might need to add a little more powdered sugar when making the filling. You want it to be like a thick cookie dough that you can form into a small disk. 

These cups are large and super rich so one can easily serve two people. But I promise not to judge if you eat the whole thing. 

Easy 4 Ingredient Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Makes: 8 large peanut butter cups

1 cup dark chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli® 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
2 tsp virgin coconut oil
½ cup crunchy natural peanut butter
2 tbsp powdered sugar (I use Trader Joe’s Organic)


Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and add the coconut oil. Microwave on high until melted, about 2 minutes, but be sure to stir it every 30 seconds. 

Arrange 8 silicone baking cups on a baking sheet. Transfer 1 tablespoon of melted chocolate to each cup. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes. 

In the bowl of mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the peanut butter and powdered sugar. Mix on high until combined, about 45 seconds. It should resemble a firm cookie dough that can be shaped by hand. 

Form the peanut butter into 8 small flat disks. Place a disk in each cup over the bottom layer of chocolate. 

Pour 1 tablespoon of the remaining chocolate over the peanut butter disks. Go back with any remaining chocolate and fill the cups so that the chocolate covers all of the peanut butter.

Gently tap the baking sheet on the countertop to smooth out the surface of the peanut butter cups and release any air bubbles. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm. 

Peel away the baking cups and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Disclosure: The silicone baking cups mentioned in this post where provided by Rizzi from The New York Baking Company for review purposes. I was not required to write about them and received no compensation for doing so.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Savory Profiteroles with Asparagus and Goat Cheese Recipe

Back in early March we vacationed in Antigua. It was our second trip there and I highly recommend it -- gorgeous island, friendly people and outstanding food and drink. I did a post on the food highlights from our last trip, but this time I brought back some ideas to recreate in my own kitchen.

We’re no strangers to digging into the local foods, but often the resorts where we stay come up with some delicious things as well. I spotted these profiteroles on the menu our first night and I was bound and determined to try them before the trip was over.

Not only did I want to try them, I knew as soon as I spotted them (and I'm pretty sure I said it out loud to my husband) – that’s what I’m making with the goat cheese!

Right before we left for the trip, I received a package overflowing with products from Redwood Hill Farm in Sebastopol, Calif. A Certified Humane goat dairy, Redwood Hill Farm is a small family farm that has been producing goat milk products since 1968.

My generous package contained -- Chèvre (including roasted chile chèvre!), Bucheret, Camellia (camembert), raw milk feta, goat milk yogurt in flavors like apricot mango and mango orange pineapple kefir. I also received some lactose-free products from their sister company, Green Valley Organics – yogurt, kefir and sour cream.

The kefirs have made a delicious addition to breakfast and those aged goat cheeses have been a true treat for the cheese plates my husband and I like to snack on over the weekend. But let’s talk about this chèvre.

First of all, I have not seen it in re-sealable packaging like this, and I love it! Usually I’m dealing with the log wrapped in messy plastic that is a pain to store in the fridge. This makes it so much easier to keep the fridge stocked.

Unlike the other treats that have been a joy to eat and drink as they are, I wanted to make some with the chèvre. When I saw those profiteroles on our trip, I knew that was it. I had the goat cheese and we were coming into asparagus season. Perfect.

These profiteroles are the answer to the traditional finger sandwich. I would take this light, puffed pastry filled with goat cheese over a roll with ham salad any day. They are also easy to make. I know puffy baked things can be intimidating, but even with my past baking challenges, I can make profiteroles without fail. They are not at all as complicated as they seem. Promise.

Redwood Hill Farm chèvre is ideal for this recipe because it has a creamy, almost whipped texture. It blends well with the steamed asparagus. Speaking of the asparagus, be sure to steam it until it is almost mushy and then chop it before adding it to the food processor. This will ensure the asparagus purees and blends into the goat cheese so you have a smooth filling.

Savory Profiteroles with Asparagus and Goat Cheese

Makes: 12 profiteroles


1 cup water
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
1 cup white whole wheat flour
4 eggs

6 stalks asparagus, steamed and chopped
8 oz. chèvre
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Add the water, butter and salt to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

As soon as it comes to a rolling boil, stir in the flour and reduce the heat. Continue to stir vigorously until a smooth dough is formed. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the eggs. Stir quickly until they are completely mixed in and the mixture returns to a soft dough.

Use a tablespoon to scoop and drop the dough onto the baking sheet to make 12 large profiteroles. You can also use a pastry bag to pipe the dough onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until they are puffed and golden brown. Let cool completely.

To make the filling, combine the asparagus and chèvre in a small food processor. Pulse until combined into a smooth green spread. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chives, salt and pepper.

Use a serrated knife to cut open each profiterole like a bun. Spread an even amount of the goat cheese filling inside each profiterole and serve.

Disclosure:  The products mentioned in this post were provided by Redwood Hill Farm. I was not required to post about them and received no compensation for doing so.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A visit to St. George Spirits in Alameda, CA

As you cautiously weave the car around the blocks of abandoned buildings you will ask the question -- are we headed in the right direction? This is a sure sign that you are almost there. 

When you reach the water’s edge and the San Francisco skyline comes into view, three airplane hangars will emerge. Welcome to Booze Alley. Also affectionately known in the local media as Alcohol Alley and Distillery Row. 

The first of these hangars is Rock Wall Wine Company, the second is Faction Brewing and the third is St. George Spirits – home of Hangar 1 vodka. 

This area beckons for a visit. Not only for the high quality beverages, but for the views and the history. 

We’d checked a visit to Rock Wall and Faction Brewing off our list, so last Saturday we hopped on our bikes and headed out to tour St. George Spirits.  

Small scale alcohol production in airplane hangars is a brilliant idea. Plenty of room for processing and distribution, a wide open space to tour, and tasting rooms that have the appealing vibe of old warehouse meets modern design. 

I love it when food and drink tours load me with new information and the St. George Spirits tour did not disappoint. Put it on your list for a must-do when you visit the East Bay. These are few tips to help and some of my favorite highlights from our afternoon. 

A few tips for a visit:

  • Visitors have three options. A tasting, a basic tour with a tasting and a more in-depth tour and tasting. We chose the second option and it was perfect. More details on that below.

  • You have to purchase a tasting to try the vodka. Unlike Faction Brewing next door (excellent beer, by the way), you can’t just swing in for a shot or cocktail, although we really wish you could!

  • Book your tour online and get there 10 minutes early. There were only a couple spaces left in our tour which we booked about 30 minutes before leaving the house. We were on the printed list when we arrived, but we got there about 3 minutes before the tour started. Because of the line to get in, and people buying the tastings, we were late to join the tour.

  • Take your camera. They have some creative displays for their vodkas, the warehouse has original redwood ceilings from the 1940s and the view of the city from the area is gorgeous.

  • Visit in the fall. Our guide showed us a photo of the warehouse full of California and Colorado pears that are used to make the pear brandy. Apparently you can witness the warehouse full of fruit if you visit after they are shipped in during peak season.

  • We biked the 10 miles from our house. If you live in the city or anywhere that you can get in on the ferry to Alameda Main Street Station, bring your bike. It’s an easy 5 to 10 minute ride from the ferry terminal.

  • Plan to shop. They have a gift shop with some things that are difficult to find elsewhere. Some of the brandies were available in smaller bottles and they had a great 3-pack sampler of their gins. The bourbon was also available in the gift shop.


The tour, interesting facts and product highlights:

  • Our tour lasted about an hour and included a tasting of five St. George Spirits products that were selected for us and then we selected one other option to try. 
  •  Hangar 1 vodka is made from viognier grapes and wheat. There were four varieties available – Straight, Buddha’s Hand, Kaffir Lime and Mandarin Blossom. 

  • St. George Absinthe Verte was the first released after the ban was lifted in the U.S. in 2007. 

  •  Hangar 1 vodka is incredibly smooth. Something that is pleasantly unexpected for a vodka. They get major bonus points for the creative flavors. I mean, who else would think to infuse vodka with Kaffir Lime? While sipping it I had visions of a spicy vodka martini with Thai chilies.

  • Their gins are outstanding. As described by our guide, the Bontanivore (I love that name!) has 19 botanicals that taste like a gin and tonic before even adding tonic. 
  •  The next on my list to try is the Terroir Gin, made from California botanicals foraged on Mount Tamalpais (Mt. Tam). To date, my only experience with Mt. Tam was the most difficult trail race I’ve ever endured, which I’d rather forget. I’m hoping the gin will change my perspective.

  • The Spiced Pear Liqueur tasted exactly like someone had gathered everything from the holiday season, distilled it and poured it in my glass. Despite being made from pear brandy, it tasted as described – like apple pie.

  • Two things I didn’t get to try that I hope to in the future are the NOLA-style coffee liqueur and the single malt whiskey. 

I’ve added St. George Spirits to my arsenal of options that I present when asked -- what is there to do in Alameda? One sip and you won’t dare underestimate the potential of a quiet island or abandoned warehouses again. Three cheers for repurposing old buildings, local products and some fine craft spirits!