Monday, April 21, 2014

CHEVRE CHEESECAKE W/ STRAWBERRIES, EDIBLE FLOWERS, PISTACHIO CRUST (GLUTEN FREE)











Scenes from this past week:

Logan swishing disinfectant inside of a 20 gallon jug like a vortex, cleaning it out for a batch of beer he brewed last week. 

Pushing through the molasses-like crowds of people at the Saturday farmers market. Smells of fresh donuts, coffee, earth, tomato plants, pork barbecue. 

Me: holding the cheesecloth over the sink. Logan: pouring cultured goat milk over the cheesecloth. Tying it up to hang over the sink with a piece of string and a rubber band.

Eating plate-sized omelets filled with caramelized onions, mushrooms, red pepper, fancy gouda; Drinking mimosas out of glasses with gold rims marked "Irish Coffee." Sharing it all with Logan and two beautiful new friends. 

Me, crouched down picking tiny violet buds one by one out of my yard. Sounds of bees; watching a tiny spider whip off under a leaf; glimpsing the first blooming strawberry flowers. 

Me, taking down a sheer white curtain, spreading it over the chest-we-use-as-a-coffee-table in our living room. Instant tablecloth. 

Me: playing drums. Logan: playing stand-up bass. Our friend Ben: playing banjo. Our friend Eric: playing guitar. Wine glasses set on every table and windowsill. Harmonies ensue, like every Wednesday. 

Spooning chevre into a cuisinart. Adding sugar, eggs, vanilla. A whirring noise while processing. Evening light coming in through the windows. The sound of kids playing in the street outside. Oven preheat going bing
***
So this cheesecake is what I would serve to a fairy princess, or maybe to a bride on her wedding day. It's the sort of food that almost makes you feel guilty that you didn't wear a tea-length taffeta skirt or put on extra lipstick or even wear shoes to be in its presence. In other words, if someone made this for me for my wedding I would probably cry. Actually, scratch that. I think Logan would cry. In fact I am almost certain of this.

Logan asked me last night how much I would sell this cheesecake for. And I was like, "Hello this is made of CHEVRE and topped with wild flowers and berries. Ain't no way I'm parting with one of these for less than a hunny bones*." HAHA jk I would actually charge $50 for it. 

Unless I put gold flakes on it or something (actually not a bad idea). Then I could feature it in a way-too-expensive-for-you-ever-to-afford-but-totally-beautiful-to-stare-at-and-then-feel-inadequate-forever-about wedding style shoot. 

Anyhoo, that brings me to my next point: this cheesecake is all chevre w/ some complementary goat kefir thrown in there just to keep it all goat. We made the chevre ourselves (read: Logan made the chèvre and I ate the chèvre) out of milk we got for free which kept the cost really low in this. We (he) had to put the work in to make it a reality. But, if you have the chance to make SO MUCH fresh goat cheese DO IT. It's freaking God's gift to cheese eating mankind.

This ain't a cheap cheesecake to make if you're going to be buying cheese, kefir, etc. But, as I said before, it's perfect for a special occasion or just to really drive it in hard to your in-laws that you are the most perfect thing that could ever have happened to their son/daughter.

If you, you know, ever wanted to do that.

Recipe

Adapted from The Kitchn

pistachio oat crust

1.5 cups regular oats (or oat flour)
3/4 cups pistachios
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil
pinch salt

filling

1.5 cups unsalted chevre
1/2 cup turbinado or demerera sugar
1/2 cup goat milk kefir (cow milk works too)
2 tsp honey
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped of its seeds
pinch sea salt
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks

decoration
strawberries, green tops removed
edible flowers (I used violet and cherry blossom, but pansy, wild rose, and orange blossom would be lovely as well)

Preheat oven to 375F. Line the bottom of a spring form pan with a round of parchment paper.

For the crust, grind your oats into a rough flour in a food processor. Add pistachios and salt to the food processor and blend 1 minute, until you have a sandy mixture. While running, add maple syrup and coconut oil. Scrape dough out and in to your spring form cake pan. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake 10 minutes on 375F. While baking, making the filling. Let cool at least ten minutes before adding filling.

In that same food processor (clean it out first), combine chevre and sugar. Add kefir, honey, vanilla bean paste, and sea salt. Blend until well combined. Add eggs, blending until just combined (you don't want to overwork the proteins in the eggs).

Reduce heat on oven to 300F. Add filling to pan. Cook 30-35 minutes, until the filling has just set (you want the filling to be wobbly but not liquid). Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature on your countertop. Place in refrigerator and cool further a minimum of 4 hours to overnight.

To decorate, place strawberries around the center of the cheesecake and sprinkle edible flowers over top. Serve with coffee (pinky up).

xo

Renee

*hunny bones = one hundred dollars

Friday, April 18, 2014

A HAPPINESS LIST + FRIDAY LINK LOVE













































Lately I've been pinging back and forth between pouty and anxious emotional states. Not all of the time, but enough to make me feel unbalanced. I think that's pretty normal when you're trying to effectively work on and think on twenty projects at once -- while planning a wedding. IT'S CRAZY. Not talk-to-yourself crazy, but make-you-want-to-have-dance-battles-with-all-of-your-friends-to-work-out-your-frustrations crazy. As a response to that desire to dance battle, I think I need to start replacing my spinning (sometimes negative) thoughts with positivity. Inspired by Molly Yeh's Happy List, here are some things that bring me joy this Spring.

Doing Tai Chi with my dad.

Drinking coffee out of a hand thrown ceramic mug with a glaze that reminds me of Palominos.

The creamy blossoms on my pie cherry tree.

Still processing and unlocking meaning about the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage I hiked four years ago.

My yard carpeted in bright violets.

My baby coffee plant.

Drinking wine and playing music every Wednesday.

Yoga and stretching and taking time to just breath.

Avocados and toast.

The first bees of the season.

Planning trips and adventures (to collect mushrooms, and beyond!).

****

And here are badass links from this past week!

Let's hot cross every dang thing.

Easter picnics are my fave.

Sometimes the best people win. And get interviewed on Saveur.

Earth has a twin!

A gluten free baked almond pancake which makes my dutch baby dreams come true.

Sometimes all I want is a cake covered in big flakes of toasted coconut.

Also:

Favorite 'gram
Favorite pin
Favorite wedding

xo

Renee


Thursday, April 10, 2014

WALNUT BUTTER COCOA COOKIES (DAIRY FREE)





















The only proper way to make a batch of cookies is frantically, on the fly, with dough in-between your fingers and under your nails and a little bit above your eyebrow.  I often end up with flour on my face at 8 in the morning, stirring a bowl of batter furiously whilst flipping through a crumb-infused copy of Babycakes Covers the Classics -- or, of course, gumming up the keys on my computer with sugar and coconut oil. Why do I do this? Why does anybody wake up at three in the morning to bake bread or spend a Saturday evening rolling out dough for cinnamon rolls so that they can proof overnight? 

I like to reap the rewards of my labor through visceral experience -- that is, ripping into a steaming loaf of bread, scooping out cool spoonfuls of vanilla scented chocolate pots de creme, or soaking up buttery egg yolk with a bit of toast. 

But I also fail often. There are no rewards to be reaped. But I like it. It's like gambling, but with food. 

E.G. There's a 40% chance that the pizza dough I'm working on will be delicious. If it turns out well, I'm pretty happy with myself. If it's almost good -- but not quite right -- for some reason I'm STILL pretty happy with myself. Not as much as if I had succeeded. But enough to keep trying. Because I was SO close. Classic addict. 

So, at 5:00 PM on Sunday the light was fading fast. I hadn't attempted to put together a recipe for a blog post over the weekend, as I usually do. So I figured I could whip up a fancy nut butter, shoot it in the waning sunset, and do a little happy dance. 

Wrong.

"Why hasn't anyone posted a chocolate walnut butter on the internets?" I thought. Well, the reason = chocolate walnut butter is hella bitter. Painfully bitter, actually. Tannins exploding out all over the place. As Logan said, "Ack! Ugh, well… I'm sure it's really healthy."

Vote of confidence. 

I took a couple of photos of it anyway for practice, stuck the jar of bitter nut butter in the fridge, and let it go.

A couple of days later, I had a craving for cookies (one of the many things we don't buy or keep around the house). I had that walnut butter in the fridge, sugar, almond meal and einkorn flour in the pantry, and eggs around somewhere. I could see cookies on the horizon. I wasn't expecting much from the batch, as I found myself, once again, covered in cookie dough at 9:00 AM -- rather frantically attempting to get a batch in the oven before I had to head out the door. And I was already working with a handicap (hello nut butter). 

Good news for bitter nut butter, it makes a damn good cookie. I can't take much of the credit for this, though. I based the recipe on Molly Yeh's Molasses Walnut Butter Cookie Bars. And sugar and flour can do magical things, apparently, so I defer to their greatness. 

Instead of walnut butter I think Justin's chocolate almond butter would be a damn fine substitute -- if you're looking for a way to make these cookies on the fly. 

Walnut Butter Cocoa Cookies 

Recipe
1 cup chocolate walnut butter* 
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup spelt or einkorn flour

Preheat oven to 325F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine walnut butter, sugar, and egg. Mix well, then add almond meal and einkorn flour. Scoop out tablespoon sized dollops, and roll the dough between your hand into spheres. Place cookie dough balls onto baking sheet, and flatten slightly with the palms of your hands. 

Bake 15 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet once half way through. The cookies are done when the bottoms are slightly browned. 

Let cool 10 minutes. Serve with tea or a cold glass of almond milk. Enjoy! 

*Cocoa Walnut Butter

3 cups walnuts
8 oz chopped dark chocolate
1/8 tsp sea salt
5 tbsp grade b maple syrup 

Roast walnuts on 400 for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove, and add to cuisinart.

Blend 5 minutes. Add chopped chocolate, which will melt from the heat of the roasted nuts. Add in sea salt and maple syrup and blend 3 minutes more, or until the walnuts mixture is essentially liquid. Pour in a heat safe glass jar, and let cool 15 minutes. Cap off and store in refrigerator. Walnut butter will be quite solid when cool, but is spreadable at room temperature. 

If you're down with eating bitter things, the walnut butter is delicious spread on toast topped with lots of sweet strawberry jam. 

xo

Renee 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

TENDER EINKORN DROP BISCUITS WITH HOMEMADE STRAWBERRY JAM (VEGAN)














As of late I often find myself thinking about ceremony and ritual. I've decided I want to start thinking about the ceremony Logan and I will be reciting for our wedding sooner rather than later. My recently acquired addiction to wedding blogs has resulted in much stumbling over "what we would have done better" wedding advice. One of the recurring thoughts is: "we would have taken more time to think about and develop a beautiful ceremony. We were so caught up in the pretty details that our ceremony was rather short."

I want to savor our ceremony -- and I think everyone who attends the wedding wants to, as well. Not that I want it to be drawn out or boring (who does?). But when I attend the weddings of friends and family, I come to be part of their special sharing and profession of love and commitment. The dancing and delicious food and mingling are fantastic and I'm looking forward to all of that. But the sacred act of eternally yoking yourself to another person is the most important rite of our short human lives. (Although why there isn't a parallel ceremony + big dance party to celebrate babies being born, I'll never know.)

Of course, Logan and I have untraditional beliefs about God vs. our parents traditional beliefs (Catholic on my side and Presbyterian on his side). So this whole wedding vow thing is going to require more careful thought than it might otherwise. I follow Yogic Philosophy sans religion and Logan is Taoist at heart. How to show love to our families and honor their spiritual beliefs and yet remain true to ourselves? How to avoid offense and (even, potentially) ridicule? And, most importantly, how to communicate love and an eternal bond with your partner using terms that might be foreign to your audience?

So far, all I've decided is that we'll be doing readings from a number of mystic poets and writers from traditional Christian, Buddhist, Yogic, and Sufi sects. My idea is to focus on the commonality between the different religions at the heart of practice -- the desire for a love relationship and union with the divine, god, the clear light of the void, whatever.

Anyone have any ideas on alternative ceremonies? Any insight would be glorious.

On another note: these are the best damn biscuits I've ever made. And this is the best (and only) jam I've ever partially-made-with-my-friend-who-actually-made-it-because-I'm-totally-inexperienced. Good for those times you're craving something buttery, crisp, with a pull-apart quality topped with springtime.

Oh, and the jam. My friend Mary taught me all about the process of making and canning jam this past weekend. She has some fancy instruments for removing the jam jars and caps from boiling water which you can find at Williams Sonoma here, here and here. Here's a book on canning that I don't own but WANT. Here's a pretty good explanation of canning and how you should do it for this jam (dang people use SO much sugar for jam! Totally unnecessary!).

And, hey, I kinda just threw these biscuits together so the measurements are pretty French. And by French I mean a close approximation to my haphazard yet successful taste-as-you-go methods.

Tender Einkorn Biscuits Recipe (Vegan)

Adapted from The Minimalist Baker

2.5 cups einkorn (or spelt) flour
1 tbsp baking powder
scant 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp sea salt
5 tbsp solid room temperature coconut oil (that around 60F, folks).
1.5 cup non dairy milk (I used soy) + 1 tbsp white or rose wine vinegar (lemon juice works too)

2 tbsp coconut oil (or ghee) melted, for brushing the tops of the biscuits

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet w parchment paper.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl, aerating the mix as much as you can while you go. Cut in one tbsp at a time of coconut oil -- use either a pastry cutter, two butter knifes, or your hands to bring the oil and flour together. You want a nice sandy consistency, here.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, and, using a rubber spatula, stir gently while adding the milk + vinegar mixture. The mixture will be pretty sticky.

Using a tablespoon, scoop biscuit dough into 2 to 3 inch wide mounds on your parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake 15 minutes, brushing the tops with coconut oil or ghee at 10 minutes. Biscuits are done when tops are golden brown.

Strawberry Jam Recipe (Low Sugar)


4 cups mashed strawberries (I used frozen ones I harvested last summer)
1 to 1.5 cups organic sugar
2 tbsp pomonas pectin
2 tbsp citric acid dissolved in water or lemon juice

In a large jam pot (Mary had that awesome high walled copper pot shown above), boil strawberries 10 minutes. Add citric acid or lemon juice to strawberries. Mix sugar and pectin together in a small bowl. Add to strawberries, stirring constantly until it thickens up considerably.

Once thick, add jam to each of your clean, sanitized jam jars -- each jar should be fitted with your funnel before you add your jam. This helps avoid getting jam on the jar edges, which can later grow toxic mold. Take a clean paper towel and clean the edges of each jam jar. Fit with sanitized lids, tighten the lids, and boil to seal the lids.

CANNING TIP #1 You'll start to hear the lids *pop* when they've sealed. You may only get half of your jars to seal whilst boiling.
CANNING TIP #2 Allow all of your jam jars to rest beneath a kitchen towel, undisturbed, for at least an hour to overnight. This gives the jars time to seal completely.
CANNING TIP #3 Your jar tops are sealed when the divot in the center of the caps is flat. The caps that are not flat -- that have that divot in the center still convex -- should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within the week.

Again, I'm not expert at jamming or canning. But that's how we did it.

Enjoy!

xo

Renee


Friday, March 28, 2014

A LUXURIOUS BREAKFAST OF AVOCADO TOAST, SAUTÉED MUSHROOMS, EGGS, AND COFFEE (GLUTEN FREE)










Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. It's the meal Logan and I collaborate on most. To me, that makes it special on its own. But it's also the part of the day where we get to eat farm fresh eggs and toast and avocados as a meal. On top of all of that, it's when we drink our treasured cup of expensive black coffee that we (Logan, mostly) brew meticulously. Just the coffee part is a daily experimentation and practice with technique. It's been almost a year exactly since we started getting nerdy about coffee -- pour over, specifically -- and we're still learning!

For his birthday I got Logan one of those fancy, thin-spout coffee pots from Japan we both agreed were silly and too expensive (but secretly dreamed of owning).

He loves it and so do I. I was extremely skeptical that it would live up to the hype, but it really does extract the coffee beautifully.

So a little note on this breakfast: I do happy dance jumps in my kitchen when we make this. We've been getting schloads of mixed mushrooms from Sharondale Farm. So many, in fact, that we've had to get creative with all of the ways in which to eat them throughout the day. So, of course, mushrooms and eggs are typically pretty great. Oyster mushrooms and eggs and avocado toast and coffee is the best breakfast thing that has happened to us since ghee.

COFFEE TALK

We've been brewing with Yergacheffe Kochere beans for about as long as we've had our Hario V60. We're lucky to live right down the street from a coffee roaster that somehow has these beens on lock year round. The coffee you get out of these beens is mellow but lingering, with notes of sweet pipe tobacco, black tea, molasses and a floral, citrus aroma. It has a natural sweetness that I can't explain. I must admit, I've become a very particular coffee drinker. This is such a special (read: expensive) bean that Logan and I try to take extra care we don't waste it. And that we brew it really well. Best cups of coffee OF MY LIFE.

AVOCADO TOAST

It's the best. I use gluten free Sami's Bakery sourdough bread. Toast it up real good, spread ghee all over it, pile it up with ripe avocado, and dust it with fleur de sel (you heard me).

MUSHROOMIES

Pictured is a mix of shitake, blue, white, and yellow oyster mushrooms. Here's my process:

Place a cast iron pan on high heat.

Pluck oyster mushrooms from their foot, halving any particularly large mushrooms. Discard the foot (or save it to use in vegetable stock). Cut off the foot of the shitake mushrooms. Again, halve any large mushrooms.

Sautee mushrooms on a dry pan five minutes, until they've wilted. You're cooking off the extra water in the mushrooms.

Add 2 tbsp ghee to the pan. Fry 5 to 10 minutes more, until you've reached desired crispiness. Finish with a sprinkling of salt, to taste.

EGGSES, PRECIOUS

Farm fresh eggs are (typically) better than their store bought cousins. Everyone knows how to fry an egg, right? I generally fry mine on low temp, with about a tsp of water to steam the tops. I just keep watching them until the whites are still a bit wet on top and the yolk is still completely liquid.

How are you eating breakfast these days? This is my new favorite for any day of the week.

xo

Renee

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