Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dreamy Creamy Peach Pops

It’s summer. It’s hot. It’s a perfect time for frozen pops!

This past week, the Cowie Clan enjoyed visiting family on the sunny coast of South Carolina. During our stay, we packed in lots of good times. 

We took several bike rides on the paths that wind through the Southern scenery; 
we walked on the beach in search of seashells 
and we took a boat ride through the inter-coastal waters in search of dolphin and other sea creatures. 

We checked out a couple of local eateries in the area, 
Java Burrito - LOVE!
but mostly we enjoyed hanging out at home, barbecuing and cooking our own creations.

For dessert one of the evenings I made fruit popsicles using fresh local peaches. Most popsicles found in the market are not worth buying, let alone eating, loaded with artificial colors and sugar (and by that I mean high-fructose corn syrup). These Creamy Dreamy Peach Pops are made with real fruit, fruit juice, yogurt and milk making them a nutritious and refreshing dessert or snack.

The Peach Pops are layered goodness- one layer is sweet and citrusy with the addition of orange juice, the other tangy and creamy with the addition of almond milk and Greek yogurt.  I used home-made vanilla extract in the creamy layer to go along with this month’s “Spirited” Recipe Redux theme. Vanilla extract is super simple to make and gets better with age (recipe here). 

For more healthy pop options, check out the June 2014 issue of Cooking Light. I'm wanna try the Cucumber-Chili-Lime Ice Pops using a few cukes from my garden!
until next time...

Dreamy Creamy Peach Pops

  • 2 cups Peaches
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice
  • 1 cup Almond Milk (or any type milk)
  • 3 ounces Plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Peel and chop peaches.
  2. Blend together 2/3 cup peaches and orange juice. Fill popsicle molds halfway and freeze for at least an hour. For a fun effect, tilt mold sideways while freezing.
  3. Blend together remaining peaches, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract. Fill the pop molds with the milk mixture. Insert the sticks. Freeze until solid, about 5 hours.
  4. Remove from freezer, let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before removing from molds.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kitchen Sink Soba Stir-Fry {a Recipe Redux}

The Cowie Clan likes stir-fry…a lot. Here are reasons I personally like stir-fry:
  1. Its quick!  It takes no time at all to prepare, especially when serving with soba or udon noodles.
  2. It’s healthy! I can throw in just about anything and the family gobbles it up, assuring that  we’re getting in several servings of vegetables in one meal.
  3. It’s sneaky! It’s a great way to “hide” some less favorite vegetables (turnips were in this stir fry but don’t you dare tell my kids, or my hubby).
  4. It’s local! It is a great way to use some of the local vegetables that we get from the farmer’s market or our CSA.
  5. It’s versatile! It allows for many variations depending on what I have on hand.
  6. It’s happy! Nothing’s better than hearing the compliments on how good it tastes.

This month’s Recipe Redux Challenge asks members to use edible flowers in their cooking creations. There are soooo many ways one could go with this challenge. So many. And believe me, I contemplated many different options. I ended up deciding to make a savory dish using garlic flowers, better known as garlic scapes, as my edible flower element.

I grow garlic in my garden every year, partly because it is so easy, but also because it seems to keep the pests away (and vampires I suppose). About this time of year, planted garlic bulbs send out a little shoot with a “flower” at the end, the garlic scape. Cutting the garlic scape is a win-win: the scape is edible, resembling somewhat of a cross between garlic and a chive. And apparently it helps the plant too: cutting back the scapes helps send nutrients down to the garlic bulb, producing an even bigger end product.

If you don’t have garlic scapes available, no problemo- just use fresh garlic and/or chives instead. Remember, this type of recipe is quite forgiving and versatile. Just about any vegetable can be chopped up and thrown in and generate the same fab results. And if tofu doesn’t work for you, try adding cooked cubes of chicken breast, pork, or beef instead. The only part of the recipe that I would suggest remain constant is the sauce, otherwise throw in everything but the kitchen sink!

Kitchen Sink Soba Stir-Fry (Recipe inspired by Kitchen Sink Soba in July 2014 issue of Food & Wine)
1 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp lime juice
3 Tbsp. soy sauce (we used Ozark Forest Shiitake Mushroom Soy Sauce)
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
12 ounces dried soba
1 package extra-firm tofu, drained, water pressed out and cubed
3 Tbsp. oil (I used half coconut oil, half grapeseed oil)
½ cup garlic scapes, finely chopped (if you don’t have scapes, use fresh garlic and/or chives)
½ cup broccoli, cut into small florets (ours from Green BEAN delivery)
2 carrots, cut into small pieces (ours from Green BEAN delivery)
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced (also from Green BEAN delivery)
2 large turnips, peeled and cut into matchsticks (ours from Kenny Duzan’s Farm, Columbia, MO via Local Chef StL)
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, rough chopped (ours from Local Chef CSA)
2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds

1. In a saucepan, simmer the orange juice until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 15 minutes. Whisk in lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and sugar.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add soba noodles and cook to al dente, about 4 minutes.  Drain and rinse in cold water.
3. Transfer noodles to a large bowl, add ½ of the sauce. Add the tofu to the remaining sauce.
4. In a wok or large skillet, heat oil. Add garlic scapes, broccoli, carrots and ginger and stir-fry until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add chard and cook until wilted about 2 more minutes.
5. Add vegetables to the bowl with the soba, top with tofu and black sesame seeds.

until next time...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Putting on the Ritz ~ A Reimagined and Memorable Dining Experience

I promise to get back to some locally inspired healthy recipes very soon, but in the meantime, please allow me to share with you a delightful dining experience I just had on Tuesday evening.

A few weeks back, I received an invitation to attend a tasting hosted by the Ritz-Carlton here in the Lou. The Ritz St. Louis Grill has been busy reimagining their menu, and this event was an opportunity to showcase their new dining concept to the media while unveiling to the public. Now, I don’t know about you, but this gal doesn’t get asked to dine at the Ritz too often, so when this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to attend.

I invited my healthy-food-loving friend Dawn to join me. Upon entering, we immediately felt welcomed and assured that over the next several hours, we would be quite cared for.  We made our way to the bar to enjoy a couple of innovative specialty cocktails prepared with fresh herbs and fruits, shaken, not stirred before our eyes. Christie, the Director of Sales and Marketing, warmly greeted us with a smile as effervescent as our newly-poured cocktails.

After a few minutes of mingling with the other guests, it was time to sit down and really start the new dining experience. Course after course of samplings were placed before us. With a thick French accent, beaming with pride, Grill Chef Damien Faure explained every dish to us as if he was presenting his first-born child.  And Chef had every reason to be proud.

House-infused oils are at the heart of the newly designed menu. Several bottles of oils adorned the table to be used however we desired: with small slices of focaccia offered at the table, over our salad, or as a flavor boost to any of the dishes. Flavors included:
Bacon and Porcini Mushroom
Black Garlic
Purple Basil & Brandywine Tomato
Spring Onion & Chipotle
Black truffle
Lemon Verbena & Avocado oil

Other evening tastings included:
A bowl of creamy polenta topped with perfectly seasoned shrimp, chorizo and red pepper. It was a perfect combination of French and New Orleans influence stemming from the Chef’s background and his wife’s hometown.

A salad of kale and baby greens topped with local cheese, strawberries, oranges, hearts of palm, and almond slivers was dressed with a delicate vinaigrette.

Warmed Medjool dates with bacon and Cambozola cheese- by far my unexpected favorite.

The main course plate included three protein choices that any carnivore would crave: BBQ’d chicken good enough to give one goose bumps; salmon smoked in-house, and a filet medallion, all done to perfection.

Quite often at other dining establishments, those with special dietary needs are given substitutions that are sub-standard to the original. Not so at the Ritz. The vegetarians and gluten-free diners in our group were given alternative food selections that rivaled the beautiful presentation of the evening’s highlighted dishes.

National award winning pastry chef Nathaniel Reid prepared two remarkably beautiful desserts. The first: a rather large Baked Alaska, meant to be shared with others. Layers of berry sorbet, almond cake, white chocolate ice cream were covered in a lovely meringue dome, and swarmed with fresh strawberries and strawberry flavored ouzo.

The second dessert featured hazelnut profiteroles filled with hazelnut ice cream and drizzled with a warm chocolate sauce.

Far too soon the dining experience came to a close. As parting gifts, we were each given small bottle samplings of each of the infused oils. I look forward to experimenting with these flavorful oils for weeks to come so be on the lookout for future blog posts using these amazing oils.

We left the dining experience pleasantly full but not unpleasantly stuffed, yearning for one more bite of everything we tried.  Would everyone that experiences the new menu at the Ritz feel as welcomed and taken care of as we were at this event? It’s hard to know. But one thing is for certain; it is a dining experience that will remain on my mind for a long while.
until next time...
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