I accepted another cooking challenge from Melissa’s Produce! This box arrived with beautiful winter fruit including Korean pears, mandarin oranges, and red grapes. It also included a package of steamed and peeled chestnuts. I learned making a chestnut bundt cake that prepping chestnuts can be a pain in the butt. But I also learned how delicious chestnut puree can be. I used the same gluten-free cashew/almond crust I made up for a lemon meringue tart (using my meyer lemon curd.) It can be made with butter, but this time I used coconut oil, which inspired me to make the whole tart vegan. Normally I would’ve considered mixing the chestnut puree with some whipped cream, but coconut oil and coconut milk made for a delicious vegan chestnut cream. By sweetening with only a little maple syrup, the whole delicious dessert qualifies as practically health food!
This post was sponsored by Melissa’s Produce, who supplied the featured ingredients free of charge. Recipe and opinions are my own! The box also included steamed beets, potatoes and a copy of “DYP’s The Perfect Everyday Potato Cookbook.” Among the inspiring recipes was a chocolate potato cake. I experimented with a red velvet potato cake. Unfortunately, it fell far short of being blog worthy. Sometimes I can spin a failure, such as my zucchini bread pudding, but there are also many, many recipes that just don’t make the cut. Being a recipe developer means taking risks. I only share the best of the best recipes — ones I want to make again and hope you might want to try, too.
Fortunately, this chestnut tart was a keeper! If you, like me, look for opportunities to bring your children into the kitchen, this is also a perfect dessert recipe. This tart crust is simply pressed into the pans. No finicky pastry dough or rolling out. My three-year old enjoyed pressing the dough. She loved decorating the tarts with the fruit, and sampling the fruit as she went along.
5.0 from 1 reviews
Chestnut Tart with Fresh Winter Fruit (GF, Vegan, Low Sugar)
A gluten free almond and cashew crust holds an irresistible chestnut cream. Topped with fresh seasonal fruit. Using only a little maple syrup to sweeten yields a winter decadence you don't have to feel guilty about.
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup almond meal
1 cup cashew meal
¼ tsp salt
6.5 oz peeled, steamed chestnuts
½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon organic lemon zest
3 cups fresh fruit, such as mandarins, korean pears, grapes
Preheat oven to 350*. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the melted coconut oil, cashew meal, almond meal and salt. Using your hands, press the mixture into one 11 in tart pan or 5 4 in individual tart pans. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely.
In a food processor, mix chestnuts, coconut milk, coconut oil, maple syrup and lemon zest until very smooth. Add additional milk if necessary.
Spoon the chestnut cream into the cooled tart shells and smooth the top. Decorate with fresh fruit. Can be enjoyed immediately or refridgerated up to 3-4 days.
Happy Hanukkah! Hanukkah starts tonight, the evening of December 16th. And no celebration is complete without latkes! Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Whole Foods La Jolla, this year’s latkes are inspired by another Jewish tradition: bagels and lox. Papa Bird’s famous smoked salmon, a shmear of crème fraîche, capers and home-made pickled sweet onions topped our latkes.
My daughter’s favorite book right now is a silly story about runaway latkes that sing and roll off to see the town. She loved helping put the potatoes, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts and onion into the food processor. She also mixed up the eggs and the batter. Kitchen helpers get the spoils of tasting the first batch, hot in the kitchen!
Here are some of my top latke making tips:
Use a brown paper bag to soak up the extra oil.
Peanut oil is great for frying. I used a mix of peanut and Avocado oil.
My house usually smells of oil for days after making latkes. This year I closed off the kitchen from the rest of the house, opened the door from the kitchen to the outside, and had the exhaust fan on high. Success!
There is no need to make balls or patties. Just plop a spoonful of batter in the pan. The latkes will be lighter, lacier and crisper.
I’m happy to share one of my husband’s specialties: Smoked Salmon. After we enjoyed my uncle Bobby’s homemade smoked salmon so much, I gave my husband what we call a “Bobby grill” for his birthday. The Bobby grill is actually a Portable Kitchen Cast-Aluminum Grill and Smoker (Amazon link) but in my family, everything gets named and claimed!
This post was sponsored by Whole Foods La Jolla, who generously provided all the ingredients for this Smoked Salmon recipe and the following “latkes and lox.” Papa Bird points out that this recipe makes a “hot-smoked” salmon, even though it uses indirect heat. True lox is made with a cold-smoking process.
Although I usually seek out wild salmon, I found myself gravitating to the fresher-looking farmed salmon at Whole Foods. The woman at the counter explained that all of the wild salmon was previously frozen, as the Alaskan season has ended. The farmed salmon was fresh and had never been frozen. Usually I avoid farmed salmon as a big “no no,” but again I was educated. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (my go-to source of info) writes: “Most farmed salmon is on the “Avoid” list due to concerns such as the use of antibiotics important to human health and the potential for parasite and disease transfer to wild salmon populations. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies some salmon fisheries as sustainable.” Whole Foods lists which fish meets Marine Stewardship Council criteria. Their salmon farmers use recirculating aquaculture systems, which is a “Best Choice” for consumers. It is also a more affordable choice!
Adapted from "How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques, A Barbecue Bible! Cookbook" by Steven Raichlen.
1-2 salmon fillets (2-3 pounds)
1 cup dark, spiced rum
1¼ cup organic brown sugar
⅓ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
¼ cup honey
Remove the skin the salmon and remove any bones. Rinse the salmon in cold water and blot dry. Place the salmon in a baking dish and pour the rum over it, covering completely. Let sit for 30 minutes in the fridge. Then drain the salmon and blot dry.
Mix the brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Spread one third of the mixture in a clean baking dish. Lay the salmon on top and sprinkle the rest of the cure on top, patting it into the fish. Let cure in the fridge for 4 hours.
Set up grill for indirect cooking. The coals should be off to one side and the fish will go over to the other side. Place 4 cups of wood chips in a pan of water to presoak. Place a drip pan under where the fish will go, and preheat grill to 325*.
Rinse off the cure off the salmon with cold water and blot dry. Rub honey into the salmon on both sides. Toss 2 cups of wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Place the salmon on the opposite side as the coals, and over the drip pan. Toss 2 more cups of wood chips on the coals and cover the grill. Smoke the fish until cooked through, about 20 minutes. The fish should feel firm and break into clean flakes.
Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm, room temperature or cool. Keeps in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Papa Bird notes that salmon fillets work better than steaks. He prefers thinner fillets over thick, meaty ones. More surface area to come into contact with the cure and the smoke.
Click on any image in this gallery for step by step photos on how to make smoked salmon at home.
Papa Bird likes to use a mezza luna knife to remove the skin from the salmon. The kind people at the Whole Foods fish counter would be willing to do this for you, too.
Pour dark rum over the salmon and soak for 30 minutes.
Mix brown sugar, kosher salt and pepper to make a cure for the salmon.
Thank you Whole Foods La Jolla for the ingredients!
Bury the salmon in the cure and refrigerate for 4 hours. Rinse off well, so it won’t be too salty.
Enjoy with cream cheese and flatbread, or with latkes and creme fraiche, as in my next post!
Our citrus tree is bursting with Meyer lemons. Baby Bird, who is 14-months-old and walking, loved picking the lemons. Meyer lemons are sweet and juicy and made a great lemon curd.
I have been trying to feed us less refined sugar this year. I find that our taste buds are slowly adjusting. For example, my husband and I don’t sweeten our coffee anymore. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than a conventional lemon. This recipe came out delicious sweetened with just honey, and I used a fraction of the amount of sweeteners other curd recipes use.
Little Bird is 3-years-old now and is quite the pro in the kitchen. She loves cooking projects. She loves to taste all of the ingredients, but at one point I had to pull the honey away from her. I think she ate half the container. (So much for limiting our sugar!) The lemon curd was perfect over Papa Bird’s famous gluten-free blueberry pancakes. I also used it to make a quick lemon-meringue tart with a (gluten-free) cashew/almond crust. Since my curd uses only egg yolks, a meringue was a perfect way to use up all of the whites.
This version of a classic lemon curd uses honey to sweeten. I used grass-fed butter, but it could also be made with coconut oil for a vegan version. I recommend using organic citrus anytime you are using the zest or peel.
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from approx. 5-6 lemons)
1 cup lemon juice (the juice of approx. 5-6 lemons)
8 oz butter, room temperature
½ cup honey
8 egg yolks
Rinse the lemons and use a microplane to grate the zest of the lemons. Set aside.
Juice the lemons until you have about 1 cup of juice. Set aside.
Place water in a 2 quart saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Place a double boiler or bowl on top of it.
While the water is coming to a boil, place the butter in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the honey and beat well. Then add the egg yolks one at a time and mix in. Then slowly add in the lemon juice. It is okay if it is not totally smooth in the mixer, because the butter will melt in the next step.
Pour the mixture into the top of the double boiler or the bowl over the pot. Occasionally, stir gently with a heat proof spatula. Heat the mixture until it comes up to 170*F. At that point it should be smooth but not necessarily thick.
Pour into jars for canning, a crust for a meringue, or store in the fridge. Allow to cool completely. It will thicken as it cools.
Keeps in the fridge for 1 week and freezes well.
From this size recipe, I used two cups of the curd in a tart/lemon meringue pie and used the remaining 3 pints as curd. If you want a super smooth texture, strain the curd after taking it off the heat to remove the zest. I left it in and liked it.
Get all of the ingredients for this recipe ready ahead of time and then it will be easy to throw together. Just watch out for three-year-old honey swipers!
No fancy equipment is required, but a kitchen-aid mixer helps get a creamy texture and a microplane make zesting citrus much easier. A double-boiler let me not worry about scorching the bottom while it cooked and a thermometer let me know exactly when to take the curd off the heat.
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We finally have fall weather here in San Diego and I’m enjoying autumn vegetables. This side dish features butternut squash, chick peas and black rice, and is warm and cozy. The clementine vinaigrette gives it a sweet bite and pine nuts make it extra rich. I love the bright and warm combination of citrus and fennel. To me it tastes sunny and cozy and wintery all at once.
A fellow food blogger invited me to participate in a recipe challenge from Melissa’s. Melissa’s sent us a box of fresh and seasonal produce and we were challenged to come up with a recipe featuring at least 2 or 3 of the items, sort of like “Chopped.” (FCC Disclaimer: I received the box for free, but have not otherwise been compensated. Opinions and recipe development are entirely mine.) I immediately gravitated to a beautiful butternut squash, pine nuts and cranberries. Unfortunately, Little Bird also gravitated to the cranberries… and ate the entire bag in a few minutes.
I decided to add the garbanzo beans for extra protein. I usually cook with dried beans, and start from scratch, but the convenience of the vacuum sealed beans was nice and the taste was a step up from a can. Apart from throwing the rice in the rice cooker, the only “cooking” was chopping and roasting the squash. Little Bird enjoying shaking up the vinaigrette in a jar.