Thursday, December 11, 2014

Brandied Raisin and Ricotta Crostini Bites

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Raisin Marketing Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.


We are in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, a time when it’s easy to temporarily lose a grip on our typical healthy eating routine.

Last week, I gave a presentation on “Healthy Holiday Eating” with parents of preschoolers. I offered a few tips to help the parents feel well through the holiday season. One tip I suggested the parents try at their next holiday party: rather than automatically taking a scoop of every food available, try instead scanning the table and choosing foods that have some nutritional value.

These Brandied Raisin and Ricotta Crostini Bites offer a great deal of nutritional value and are a welcomed guest at the healthy holiday table. California raisins are fat-free, cholesterol-free, have no added sugar and are high in fiber, potassium, and iron. The whole wheat raisin bread offers fiber, and several B vitamins. And the ricotta and toasted almonds are high in protein and calcium. 


And just like a gift that keeps on giving, these Brandied Raisin and Ricotta Crostini Bites leave you feeling good, rather than setting you back like more indulgent holiday bites might do. California raisins lend just the right touch of natural sweetness to the crunchy raisin bread crostini and brandied raisin topping. Smooth, rich ricotta adds creaminess to the bites, and the almonds add a toasty crunch.
until next time...
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Brandied Raisin and Ricotta Crostini Bites (makes 20 bites)

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup California Raisins
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. whole allspice
  • about 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 5 slices whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sliced almonds
  • flake sea salt (optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a small saucepan, add brandy, raisins, cinnamon stick and allspice; simmer on low heat about 5 minutes until liquid cooks down and raisins plump. Turn off heat. Discard cinnamon stick and allspice berries.
  3. Meanwhile, cut each slice cinnamon raisin bread into four quarters. Spray bread with cooking spray; arrange on baking sheet and toast about 8 minutes until golden and crisp (the little toasties will crisp up when start to cool).
  4. To assemble crostini, dollop about 1 tsp. of ricotta onto each toast. Spoon the soaked raisins on top and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Roasted Sweet Potato and Fennel Soup

I make a LOT of soup in the colder months. This one so far is my favorite! It is packed with nutrition, and loaded with flavor. 

The soup prep starts by placing freshly cut vegetables under a broiler for a few minutes. Broiling the veggies before tossing into the simmering soup pot really brings out the natural flavor of each vegetable. 

The varied seasonings add a subtle heat kick without being overpowering. And the light coconut milk makes this soup silky and creamy without adding loads of saturated fat and calories like most cream-based soups have.
Here’s a tip if you hate dirty dishes: use a good quality aluminum foil to line your baking sheet so you can carefully lift the broiled veggies right off the baking sheet and dump right into the large soup pot- one less thing to wash!

And a serving suggestion: we enjoyed this Roasted Sweet Potato and Fennel Soup topped with thinly sliced scallions, chopped fresh cilantro and fresh avocado. The next time I make this soup, I might try adding less water and serving it over rice.


Either way, I’m not kidding, you've gotta try this soup!

until next time...
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Roasted Sweet Potato and Fennel Soup (recipe inspired by wholeliving.com)

Ingredients
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels (ours from Local Chef StL CSA)
  • 2 small carrots, diced (ours from Green BEAN delivery)
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 14 ounce can light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • 2 scallions, chopped for garnish
  • 1 avocado, sliced for garnish
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat broiler to low, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. 
  2. Arrange the chopped sweet potato, onion, corn, carrots, fennel, garlic, bell pepper on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. 
  3. Broil about 12 minutes, tossing halfway though.
  4. Lift foil off baking sheet and carefully transfer broiled vegetables into large soup pot. 
  5. Stir in spices, wine and about 1 quart water. 
  6. Cover with a lid, bring to a simmer and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes. 
  7. Remove soup from heat, stir in coconut milk and garnish with what you fancy.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies {a Recipe Redux}

I know. It’s unusual to find a cookie recipe on Eating Local in the Lou. If you have been a long-term reader of the Lou, you know that I am not a baker. I have pretty much ruined every cake and cupcake I’ve ever attempted. But I can make cookies. 

These Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies remind me of my childhood, standing beside my mom in the kitchen, helping her make holiday cookies (and by helping, I of course mean licking the dough off the beaters!)

There is something about the frigid temps and anticipation of the upcoming holidays that brings many of us back to our beginnings, and makes us reminisce about the days gone by.  So much of what we choose to eat originates from our culture, our customs, our family traditions. This seems to be particularly true during the holiday season. Our tables are set with identical foods, year after year. We might not eat these foods the other 364 days, but boy, do we ever look forward to them when that one day arrives!
Most cookies are not considered health food, but certain ingredients can boost the nutritional value, making them more a “sometimes” treat rather than a “seldom” indulgence. These Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies contain a bit of black pepper and cayenne, both offering disease fighting compounds. Dark chocolate is the star ingredient, offering a plenitude of anti-oxidants. Semi-sweet chocolate works well too, but the higher the cacao percentage is better for your health (and taste if you ask me). I found the original recipe to be too sweet for my taste, so I cut back on amount of sugar.

I’d love to hear what your favorite holiday tradition and/or food is. Please share in the comment section below.

Oh, and before you go…if you happen to live in the St. Louis area (AKA, the Lou), be sure to check out SweetologyLast week, the owners invited St. Louis food bloggers to experience the fun of do-it-yourself cookie, cake and cupcake decorating. 


We had SO MUCH fun enjoying a glass of wine while creating our sweet masterpieces. Here are mine: 
A cookie to represent each of us in the Cowie Clan- a musician, a golfer, a boy that loves the outdoors, and the pink one for the only girl in the house, me!

until next time...
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Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies (adapted from Cooking Light, Dec '09)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: 24 cookies
Ingredients
  • 5 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (ours from Kimker Hill Farm, St. Clair MO)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • dash black pepper
  • dash ground red pepper
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg (ours from Rose Valley, New Hope, MO) 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (try making your own!)
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with knife.
  3. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  4. Combine butter and sugar in a separate large bowl, beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add in egg and vanilla until just blended.
  5. Melt chocolate in a small glass bowl on high for 1 minute. Add melted chocolate to sugar mixture, then slowly add flour mixture and beat until just blended.
  6. Use an ice cream scoop to drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, remove from oven, cool cookies on wire rack.
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