Monday, December 30, 2013

Farro with Sweet Potato and Black Garlic


As the holiday break neared, Anna and I commiserated (with good humor) about how busy we were. "Eh, it's going to be a Trader Joe's week, right?"

I knew exactly what she was talking about. I had already planned for a Trader Joe's week to make the busy season a little easier. My menu plan was based on whatever good stuff TJ's had to make meal time as easy as possible.

Here's one of the dishes I made, perfect for the post-holiday detox. This grain salad makes up for the stale holiday cookies we're all still nibbling. Delicious warm or cold, it's on the sweet side — a nice bridge as I retrain my taste buds to be happy with less sugary fare. It's filling and full of good-for-you ingredients. The photograph doesn't do it justice. I'm not sure it's possible to take a good photo of farro.

Everything in it can be found at Trader Joe's: fast-cooking farro, sweet potato, pomegranate vinegar, and — my favorite! — black garlic.


If you're unfamiliar with it, black garlic is simply fermented garlic. It's savory-sweet, garlicky without the bite. TJ's just recently started carrying black garlic, but it isn't always easy to find. I didn't see it the last time I was there and was worried they had already dropped it. The manager admitted "it's been sort of a dog for us," but they do still stock it. You can find it in specialty stores and online (including Amazon).

131217_CPE_farro salad_2

If you can't find it, no problem. Just sub some regular garlic. And if you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, of course you can find these ingredients elsewhere.

Farro with Sweet Potatoes and Black Garlic

If you can't find black garlic, you can leave it out or substitute a clove or two of minced garlic, sautéed in a bit of oil. A bit of cooked sausage also would be a tasty replacement. Farro is one of my favorite grains, but if it's out of your comfort zone swap brown rice.

1 package Trader Joe's 10-Minute Farro (or 1 1/2 cups raw farro)
1 sweet potato, diced
1/2 head of black garlic, chopped
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
olive oil

4 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate vinegar (or other fruity vinegar)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Cook farro according to package directions (if you're using raw farro, cook it however you do that — I've only used TJ's!). Whisk dressing ingredients together in a bowl.

Warm a spoonful of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced sweet potato and cook until soft and slightly browned.

Combine farro, sweet potato, garlic, walnuts, and dressing in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If salad is too dry for your taste, add a splash of olive oil and stir.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mashed Potato Snowman

If you happen to live in a place where it doesn't snow,  like we do,  you might use this idea to make the kids have a little winter cheer with something else. It was the last hands on class I gave to second and third graders at school this year, after a series of edible craft sessions, which included sweet potatoes and green beans turkeys and a pea spread cemetery for Halloween.

The project to celebrate the end of the year was to make a snowman out of mashed potatoes and other foods, and the result was so much fun. We made those my son's classroom today with second and third graders. They were really thrilled to work on the project and eat it right away after finishing.

I baked the potatoes at home, and when I brought them to school, they were ready to be peeled with the tiny fingers and mashed easily with forks. Carrots became little noses, bell peppers for the mouths, but of course, some children's couldn't refrain to think outside the model and made...something completely different!

You will need: 

One medium organic baked russet potato per child
Enough mini carrots to make noses
Cooked black beans for buttons
Crimini  mushroom tops for hats
Red bell peppers for the lips
Cooked peas for eyes
Parmesan cheese to dust the snowman
Salt to taste

Invite the kids to peel and mash the potatoes, and use their imagination! You might be surprise that they might come up with something like this:

Or that:

The process is fun and can be a little messy, but they were so proud to see their artwork ready to eat with all their classmates when they finished:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Persimmon Cranberry Tea Bread (Vegan)


Persimmons and cranberries look like colorful jewels in these golden-colored little loaves. These make lovely gifts for neighbors, hosts, teachers and more during the holiday season. You can freeze them and thaw for gift-giving, or as a treat for your own holiday table.

Persimmons are one of my favorite California fruits and they’re plentiful and inexpensive. If you don’t have them near you, you can substitute apples or pears. I made one batch pairing persimmons with cranberries, with just a bit of candied orange peel, and a second batch with sweet potatoes instead of berries.


I’m baking vegan, nut-free loaves to minimize any awkward gift-giving issues. Don’t let the V-word scare you! These treats are perfectly tasty, though I admit they’re a little more crumbly than they would be with egg. You can substitute butter and egg for the vegan alternatives in the recipe if you prefer.

This is riffing off Mark Bittman’s master recipe for quick bread made with almost any fruit or vegetable. It’s a terrifically versatile recipe, much like buttermilk quick bread. You can tinker with fruit, veggies, and mix-ins as you like, and bake a full-size loaf, mini loaves, or muffins to brighten a wintry morning. If cranberries aren't your thing, try the sweet potato variation.


Persimmon Cranberry Tea Bread

Based on Mark Bittman’s Fruit-and-Nut or Vegetable-and-Nut Bread. To make the flaxseed egg replacer, blend 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons water, and let sit 5 to 10 minutes until gelled. 

4 tablespoons Earth Balance spread, or butter, chilled
1 cup white whole wheat flour, or all-purpose flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom or cinnamon
3/4 cup apple or orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon zest
flaxseed egg replacer equivalent to 1 egg (see note), or 1 egg
1/2 cup persimmon, peeled and diced
1/2 cup cranberries, chopped
optional extras: ½ cup chopped nuts, raisins, or other dried fruit (crystallized ginger would be tasty too)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three mini loaf pans or a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

Combine dry ingredients — flour through spices — in a bowl, then cut in Earth Balance until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (I do this in a food processor, pulsing it a few times. Or you can rub the spread in with your fingers until no large lumps remain.)

In another bowl, blend the juice, zest, and flaxseed egg replacer. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened — don’t overmix. Fold in the fruit and any extras.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake about 40 minutes for mini loaves or an hour for a full-size loaf, until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool before removing from the pan.

Persimmon and Sweet Potato Tea Bread: Substitute ½ cup grated, raw, peeled sweet potato for the cranberries, and ½ teaspoon nutmeg or cinnamon for the cardamom.

Muffins: Bake at 400°F for 20 to 30 minutes.


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