Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pumpkin Custard

It's almost fall!  As much as I hate bidding adieu to the summer sunshine, I'm a huge fan of autumn.  That fabulous few months where you can pair a hooded sweatshirt with shorts, the days are still just long enough that there's a peak of sunlight after work, the leaves turn into a gorgeous array of sunset tones and food takes a seasonal turn to warmer flavors.  I agree that August is jumping the gun a little bit in regard to breaking out the pumpkin but what can I say, I'm excited.

These individual custards are gluten free, under 100 calories apiece and an absolutely decadent treat, even if it is a tad bit on the early side.  On top of that, their incredibly simple to make.

Pumpkin Custard

1 cup of almond meal
2 tablespoons hazelnut meal
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/4 cup ground flax seed meal
1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers and coat each one with nonstick cooking spray
- Combine nut meals and coconut oil until it forms a crumbly dough
- Press crust mixture into the bottoms of individual cups of a muffin tin lined with cupcake papers
- Bake for 6 minutes
- In a large bowl, combine, pumpkin, applesauce, egg, protein powder, flax seed, baking soda, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice and whisk together until well incorporated
- Add 1/3 cup of the pumpkin mixture to each compartment of the muffin tin
- Bake for 20 minutes
- Combine Greek yogurt, honey and cinnamon together
- Allow the custards to cook and top with the yogurt mixture prior to serving
- Drizzle with honey as garnish if desired

[Almost] Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

So one of the biggest issues we've encountered in our house with trying to convert to a Paleo-friendly kitchen relates to dessert.  James is not a huge advocate of coconut, which as any avid Paleo baker knows is a foundation ingredient in most recipes.  It's just hard to get around.  After some trial and error (and accepting that yes, I can use butter once in a while), we came up with a pretty solid chocolate chip cookie recipe that kills that dessert craving.  Before you ask, yes, you can substitute the butter for coconut oil or palm shortening, however let's face it - butter just tastes good.

[Almost] Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup hazelnut meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons almond butter, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini 100% cacao chips (I used Enjoy Life brand)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper
- Combine your almond meal, hazelnut meal, baking soda and sea salt in a large mixing bowl
- In a separate bowl whisk together your egg, butter, almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla
- Slowly pour your wet mixture into your dry ingredients, folding with a rubber spatula to fully incorporate
- Fold in your chocolate chips
- Portion dough using a small scoop or tablespoon and arrange on your cookie sheets, approximately 3/4 inch apart
- Press each cooking flat with your fingers; if you find the dough sticking to your fingers, lightly moisten them between each cookie
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges begin to take on a golden brown color
- Allow to fully cool before removing them from the parchment paper
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dinner via South Africa

Honestly, I can't believe I haven't shared my recipe for bobotie yet!  The Tipsy Cupcake is just over two years in the making [that's right, happy birthday to us!] and it's shocking to me that I never thought to blog one of my personal favorite dishes that really does hold a special place in my heart.

When I was starting out my restaurant career, I was managing a continental African-themed restaurant in Walt Disney World at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Up until that point, I thought I had a worldly understanding of food, but my three years here taught me I was a bit naive in my definition of "ethnic cuisine."  It wasn't the restaurant's menu itself that truly expanded my horizons, it was my staff - comprised of exchange students from South Africa, Botswana, Setswana, Namibia and Morocco.  While my overall experience at Disney was a roller coaster of ups and downs (that's a story unto itself), my time at the lodge was enhanced ten-fold because of the people I was privileged enough to work with.  Yes, the menu of the restaurant itself gave me a foundational understanding of African food, which prior, I was completely clueless about, but the dishes were adapted for an American palate.  It wasn't until I was inspired to travel there, prompted by my staff, that I really began to understand their food for the incredibly flavorful creations they were.

On of my favorite dishes I learned to make on my travels, and coincidently one of the signature dishes of South Africa, is bobotie (pronounced bo-boy-et-tee).  It's a warmly spiced meat and egg dish, similar to a loosely cooked omelet that has a slight sweetness and an incredibly rich depth of flavor.  It's a dish that's very easy to adapt to personal tastes as well - traditionally made with lamb or beef, I typically use bison meat.  I've also replaced the bread in the recipe with a paleo-friendly almond flour bread with great results.


1 lb ground lamb
1/2 lb ground beef
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
1/2 apple, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon ground cardamon, divided*
1 tablespoon cinnamon, divided*
1 tablespoon coriander, divided*
1 tablespoon garlic powder, divided*
1 teaspoon anise seed, divided*
3 slices bread
1/2 cup light cream
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon sweet curry powder
1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/2 tablespoon sea salt

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a large skillet, sauté the onion, shallot, apple and bay leaves in the olive oil until they begin to become translucent; remove the bay leaves and set aside
- Add your beef and lamb and simmer until fully browned
- Season the meat mixture with salt, pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, garlic powder, coriander and anise
- Soak your bread in the light cream and add remaining spices and add to the meat mixture
- Spread the mixture into an even layer in a 9x12 baking dish
- Stir in your raisins and almonds, evenly distributing them
- Whisk your milk, eggs, curry, turmeric and sea salt together and pour into the baking dish
- Garnish with bay leaves
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until your eggs are loosely set

*Penzeys Spices makes a blend called Balti Spice that is a perfect seasoning for bobotie and can replace  all asterix-ed  ingredients

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Paleo Almond Joy Cupcakes

When James and I started making the transition to eating more Paleo-friendly foods, dessert was obviously the first category to take a hit.  I've tried quite a few recipes for craving-curbing treats, but most ended up overly dense and heavy and severely lacking in flavor.  Let's face it - almond meal and coconut flour don't have the same "lift" as traditional grain-based flours, leaving you with an end result that more resembles a hockey puck than a cupcake.

It took about four or five attempts to really nail down the right balance of ingredients in this recipe but I'm pretty happy with the overall outcome.  Yes, these are a bit more dense than a traditional cupcake but don't leave you with a lead weight feeling in your stomach afterwards.  They have a subtle sweetness but are definitely leaning more to the decadent, rich side as opposed to sweet.  That is however, an easy adjustment if you have a preference for a sweeter dessert; in addition to the 3 tablespoons of honey, you can add as many as 3 tablespoons of raw coconut sugar to sweeten things up without disrupting the texture of the cake.

Paleo Almond Joy Cupcakes (makes 8 full sized cupcakes or 18 mini cupcakes)

1 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1/4 cup raw, unsweetened coconut, finely shredded
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 egg
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons coconut cream (you can also substitute almond butter)
3 tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
raw almonds (for garnish)

For the icing:
1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons raw coconut sugar]

- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
- Line a cupcake pan with paper cups
- Whisk together almond meal, baking soda, cacao powder and shredded coconut; set aside
- Melt the coconut oil and combine with egg, almond milk, coconut cream (almond butter), honey and vanilla and whisk until well incorporated
- Add the wet ingredients slowly to the dry, blending with a rubber spatula and scraping the sides of the bowl
- Portion the batter into cupcake tins and bake for 18-20 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and remove it cleanly
- Scoop the coconut cream off the top of the can (the coconut water should separate from the cream overnight in the refrigerator - be careful not to mix them back together)
- Using an electric mixer, whip the coconut cream with vanilla and coconut sugar together until smooth and fluffy
- Refrigerate the icing for 20-30 minutes
- Once cooled, pipe each cupcake with 2 tablespoons of icing and top with a raw almond to garnish

Monday, August 12, 2013

A New England Classic - Revived!

I've eaten at Concord's Colonial Inn on several occasions in the past.  It's never been something I sought out or looked forward to, to be completely candid; while the dishes were always solid and consistent: pot roast, meatloaf and chicken pot pie just never sparked my culinary intrigue.  Recently I was given the opportunity to have lunch with Executive Chef Cassandra Pianowski and experience the evolution the Inn's two restaurant have undergone over the past six months and I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Chef Cassandra has been with the inn for over three years and has progressed through the ranks to her current role as Executive Chef, giving her a distinct advantage of understanding the property's culture and history while putting a personal spin on the new, updated menu.  She's managed to take dishes that were stuck in time in a new, innovate approach without compromising the heritage of the property.

The Inn is comprised of two distinct restaurants and part of the revamp has been to give each their own unique identity.  The Liberty is their gastropub concept with casual indoor and outdoor dining while Merchant's Row is an upscale, white linen concept with separate breakfast, lunch and dinner menus and a more refined feel.  Since both restaurants are serviced from the same kitchen - both menus are [technically] available in both dining rooms.

We started our meal with the Smoked Maple Bacon bites from the Liberty Tavern menu.  Oh. My. Gosh.  First, the Inn now cures it's own bacon - which unto itself is incredible.  The pork is all raised free range, hormone and antibiotic free and I firmly believe that when you start with a great ingredient, you're working with a solid foundation.  From there, they slow braise the belly in duck fat.  Yes, duck fat.  Have you ever wondered how to make bacon better?  Cook it in duck fat.  (I never claimed anything about this meal being healthy).  Finally, it's glazed with a maple bourbon reduction, tossed with locally grown sweet potatoes and topped with diced scallions for an incredible appetizer that's bar none, worth returning for.

Next, we enjoyed the charcuterie platter, a combination of duck liver mouse and housemade chicken liver pate with olive oil toasted crostini and lightly sour pickled onions.  I'm a sucker for well prepared organ meat, but I'm also hyper critical when it comes to pate.  Both livers were prepared expertly with a texture that mimicked room temperature butter without a trace of graininess.  

One of the high points of the meal, was the Sooooo Good Mac & Cheese, a spiral pasta blended with Guinness, a blend of three cheeses and topped with toasty, butter challah crumbs.  It take a lot for a mac & cheese to really stand out in my mind and this one passed the tests.  The stout married perfectly with the rich, melted cheese sauce, adding an unexpected earthy component to the dish.  Rather than traditional panko breadcrumb topping, Chef Cassie uses a larger, more crouton-like crumb for a textural component.  It really does take a simple classic and elevate it to the next level.

In addition to the menu enhancements, the wine and cocktail lists have been brought up to par, offering some great selections to accompany the new dishes.  The entire concept really has taken a step to the next level, bringing a New England institution into the 21st century.  If you haven't given them a try recently, don't expect that pot roast of days gone by...

Bad, Bad Blogger...

To all my faithful readers - I apologize profusely.  I have been an awful blogger these past few weeks.  I could make excuses about how crazy things have been, however I'm just going to own up to the fact that I need to write more.  Over the next few days, you can expect some back logged restaurant reviews and recipes I've been really excited to share, despite my slacker-ness.

In the interim, I would love to share a recap of the [ocn] CrossFit 2013 Summer Games with you all (so you can at least see where a good chunk of my time has gone).  Here is the even recap and I have to say, I learned that I can push myself pretty damn far if I just try (a bit more on all of that to come).

Just to whet your appetite here's a few things that are in the works and on their way...

 *A New England classic Revived with a Modern Twist
 *Yes, Brussels Sprouts can be Delicious
 *Paleo Almond Joy Cupcakes
 *A Rare Coconut-Free Paleo Cookie
 *Finding Your Drive
 *The Best Values of Nantucket
 *Dinner, African Style