Red Pepper Walnut Spread

OK, it’s not really red pepper/walnut spread, it’s really a Turkish dip called mahammura, and is widely known throughout the Middle East.  I love it for its “pantry” quality.  I can keep the items in my pantry and can dance the ingredients around in my food processor at the last minute, creating a fun and tasty dip or sauce or spread…you get the idea.

Try this on ciabatta bread with some green olives; stirred into vegetable soup at the last minute to heighten flavor; or simmered with a fillet of salmon or halibut.  Very quick and easy!

Mahammura

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, juices reserved

2 slices of toast, torn into pieces*

1/3 cup walnuts, toasted lightly

2 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 juice of one fresh lemon (seeds and all!)

2 teaspoons honey**

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place everything into a food processor, add the reserved red pepper liquid to get the consistency you desire.  For a sauce, use more liquid.  For a dip, use less.

* To make this gluten free, use rice crackers in the place of toast.

** Traditional mahammura calls for pomegranate molasses.  I use honey, as I prefer the taste.

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Teff “Oatmeal”

I’ve been tinkering with whole grain cereal recipes, mostly because the price of cereal is outrageous and yet it is so simple to make.  One of my favorites is fresh oatmeal.  Hot water, oats, 5 minutes on the stove and some flavorings (brown sugar, bananas, whatever).  Well, I stumbled onto  a bag of teff grains  http://www.bobsredmill.com/whole-grain-teff.html at my local wholepaycheck.  On the package was instructions to make teff porridge.  I thought the steps were laborious and I avoid laborious things so I used the grain as I would oatmeal.  I boiled some water, added teff and flavored it.  Perfect, warm and cozy “oatmeal” in about 20 mins.  Since I’m feeding an 8 month old, I also found this recipe to work for her newly developing taste for solid food.  Here is the recipe:

Teff Whole Grain Oatmeal

3 cups water

1 cup teff grains

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons of your favorite sweetener;  brown sugar, maple syrup, honey or agave nectar

1/4 dates, nuts, dried fruits, fresh banana, apples, peaches

Bring water and teff to a boil.  Lower heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  After 20 minutes, check for the desired consistency.  If you like your hot cereals thick, cook it about 5 minutes longer.  Add butter, sweetener, and optional fruits and nuts.  Serve warm with a splash of milk, if desired.  Leftovers heat up beautifully in the microwave and may be made as a puree for baby.

Popsicles!

What was your favorite popsicle when you were a kid?  Did you like the two-stick or single-stick variety?  My favorite was lime, on a single-stick.  It was both tart and sweet at the same time.  I loved the happy neon-green color…and no popsicle experience was complete unless it turned your tongue a vibrant shade!

Most popsicles are a simple combination of fruit and some type of sweetener.  You can add milk, yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk for variety.   Add heavy cream, you have a creamsicle….add chocolate you have a fudgesicle.

These recipes may be made in a food processor, blender or hand emulsifier.  (I used a food processor.)  Feel free to experiment and let me know if you come up something fun.   Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.

Favorite Fruit Popsicles

1 1/2 cups of your favorite ripe fruit, i.e. strawberries, raspberries or cherries

1/2 cup half and half

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

Process in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Spoon into a popsicle mold and freeze for 3 hours.  Don’t have molds?  Use small bowls, paper cups, muffin tins, ice cube trays…you get the idea!

Mango Banana Popsicles

2 mangos peeled and chopped

1/2 banana (eat the other half while you mix the ingredients)

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup sugar (or less)

Combine all but the coconut in a food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Mix in the coconut, spoon into molds and freeze for 3 hours.

Variations:

Add a banana to any fruit combination

Pure vanilla extract (about 1/2 teaspoon) can reduce the amount of sugar you need

Use honey instead of sugar

I’ve heard of margarita popsicles, I’ll save that one for another blog!

Empanadas with plantains, pineapple, and mango

Empanadas dough is very versatile, I will often fill the dough with leftover fish, veggies, cheese, fruits or anything I have on hand.  I once used this dough to make sauerkraut, apple and cheddar cheese pastries, they were wonderful!  Here is a fruit filled recipe, that takes minutes to prepare.  Serve with dinner or add a scoop of ice cream and call them dessert!

Empanadas Dough:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/4 cups white flour

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter (chilled) cut into squares

1 large egg

1/3 cup cold water (filtered refrigerator water is ok)

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Place the flour, salt and butter into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the mixture six or seven times until butter is mixed in.  Add the egg and water mixture and pulse a few more times until the dough is shaggy.  Turn the food processor work bowl onto a silpat (silicon mat) or sheet of plastic wrap.  Using the heel of your hand, knead the dough two or three times to form a disc.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or freeze for 10 minutes.

Filling:

1 tablespoon butter

1 plantain

1/2 of a pineapple

1 mango

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Peel and slice the plantain, place into a skillet with  the butter and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add pineapple, mango and brown sugar.  Lower heat to low, cover the skillet and let the fruit simmer for another 10 minutes.  Check the mixture and stir every so often.

Assemble and Cook the Empanadas:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Take the empanadas dough out of the refrigerator/freezer.  Unwrap from plastic wrap and roll out like a pie crust.   Use a large biscuit cutter or cut squares using a knife.  Fill the formed dough with a tablespoon of the fruit mixture.  Fold the other half of the dough over the fruit and crimp with a fork.  Stab the dough with the fork to create a vent and place pastry on a cookie sheet.

Repeat with remaining dough.  Bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes.  Check at 15 minutes and rotate the cookie sheet.  Empanadas will be brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Granola

Have you looked at the price of granola?  I went to Whole Foods and saw organic granola in their bulk section.  It looked wonderful, raisins, oatmeal, flax seed, honey.  Wow…everything I love, except for the price.  $9.00/lb!  Granola is easy to make, it’s a lot like making tuna salad.  Something we make a lot, but it comes out a little bit different each time.  Remember that this is not a solid recipe, use what you have on hand.  Alter the ingredients to match your tastes and your dietary needs.  Nothing is required.

1 cup oatmeal (not precooked or instant–Quaker Oats is good)

1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dates, apricots, coconut, cranberries)

1 cup nuts (peanuts, walnuts, soy nuts)

1  Tblspn honey

2-3 Tblspns peanut butter

Spray oil

Preheat oven to 350

Spray a rimmed baking sheet with the spray oil

Mix all ingredients together, spread out on sheet

Bake at 350 for about 9 minutes.  If it looks golden brown and smells wonderful, it’s done!

Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes (if you can wait that long!)