Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Power Bars

I’ve been a fan of Joanne Chang since her first book, Flour, was published. So, I knew I was going to enjoy reading her latest, Pastry Love: A Baker's Journal of Favorite Recipes. I started flagging pages right away and feel like I haven’t put the book down since receiving the review copy. The recipes are ones developed since that first book appeared. They’re based on items sold in Chang’s eight Flour bakeries in Boston, and some are inspired by the pastry chefs at those bakeries or might be things she bakes at home. The chapters corral types of pastries, and in each, the recipes progress from easier to more challenging. It’s interesting to find so many vegan and gluten-free options, and they’re not token additions. There are some delicious-looking things that just happen to fit into those categories. One of the first things I tried was the Sticky Bun Popcorn which of course is gluten-free. Joanne Chang is well-known for making the best sticky buns, and the flavors easily translate to a caramel popcorn. Next, I zipped back to the breakfast chapter for the Vegan Carrot-Ginger Muffins made with whole wheat flour, golden raisins, and carrot cake spices. Also in the breakfast chapter, I haven’t gotten to the Mushroom and Thyme Brioches or the Apple-Vanilla Pound Cake yet, but they’ve been on my mind. The I Knead Bread chapter also has me itching to try several things like Alina’s Milk Bread, Multigrain English Muffins, and Housemade Nutella Babka. For one of my home-baked holiday treats, I had to try the Mocha Chip Cookies made with rye flour, and they were delightfully crispy, chocolaty, and coffee-flavored. I’ve made the homemade Oreos from the Flour book, and now I have to try the Chocolate-Caramel Oreos included here. The cakes, pies, and tarts all look delectable. Then, the Time to Show Off chapter combines some items for plated desserts and has me very interested in the Rum Butterscotch Pudding Parfait with Ginger-Molasses Crumble. There’s even a chapter full of treats that make perfect gifts, and I still have the page marked for Almond Pistachio Cherry Honey Nougat since I ran of time to make that for the holidays this time. I’ll have to come back to it later. But, when January arrived and I needed something on hand for grab-and-go breakfasts, I turned to the Power Bars. 

I’ve lost count of how many variations on granola bars I’ve made over the years. I remember making the jam-filled granola bars from the Flour book. Those were cut into bars after baking in a sheet pan. Some are formed into bars before baking. And, I’ve made granola bark that’s broken into shards after baking in one large, thin piece. I was excited to try this recipe because it involves yet another method. First, almonds were toasted and coarsely chopped and added to a large bowl with toasted sunflower seeds. Next, cashews, dates, oats, and cinnamon were added to a food processor and chopped to a fine meal. That mixture was added to the almonds and seeds. Golden raisins, chia seeds, and maple syrup were also added, and it was stirred until completely combined. The mixture was pressed firmly into a parchment-lined loaf pan, and it was covered and refrigerated overnight. The next day, the parchment was removed, and the loaf form was sliced into bars. I hadn't made granola bars with that technique before. The bars were then baked on baking sheets and flipped halfway through baking. There’s a note pointing out that the bars don’t have to be baked if you prefer them raw, but I couldn’t resist the golden crisp edges. 

The bars are crunchy and chewy at the same time, and they’re more filling that you might expect. I loved that the sweetness came from just the dried fruit and a little maple syrup. I’ve always found Joanne Chang’s recipes to be well-tested, and that’s been true of this book too. Everything I’ve made has been fantastic, and I can’t wait to try more.

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Monday, January 6, 2020

Spicy Carrot-Grapefruit Juice

Happy New Year! I didn’t really mean to take a break from the blog, but that’s what happened when things got busy during the holiday season. Of course, I was still reading lots of food-related books, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them. Up first is the Cannelle et Vanille: Nourishing, Gluten-Free Recipes for Every Meal and Mood book by food blogger and photographer Aran Goyoaga. Early in my food blogging days, I became a follower of Cannelle et Vanille and always loved the beautifully presented dishes. I also enjoyed learning bits and pieces of Aran’s life like her upbringing in in a Basque town in northern Spain where her grandparents operated an artisanal pastry shop. She eventually moved away from Spain and from a career in food before later settling in Seattle where she now works as a food photographer and stylist. Her cooking is entirely gluten-free, but you’ll find lots of lovely baked goods here. There are sourdough breads, pies and tarts, cakes, homemade pasta, and even doughnuts. The ingredients are fresh and straightforward with something for every season. I’m looking at the Roasted Cauliflower, Swiss Chard, and Hazelnut Pasta dish right now and making plans to try it. There’s a chapter for entertaining called The Gathering Table, and it’s no surprise to find a delightful Chicken and Seafood Paella on an Open Fire recipe complete with instructions for building a fire. There are also options for Grilled Backyard Pizzas like the Leek, Fennel, and Pesto Pizza that I’ve been craving. Salads kept catching my eye including the Shaved Beet and Lentil Salad with Tahini and Preserved Lemon Dressing, and I keep flipping back to the Morning chapter to look at the Egg Tostada with Fennel, Radishes, and Yogurt made by cooking an egg directly on a tortilla as it fries. But, I couldn’t pass up the Spicy Carrot-Grapefruit Juice since it’s citrus season, and the first carrots were just appearing at farm stands. 

This is an easy beverage to prep provided you have a juicer handy. It’s a simple blend of three carrots, one peeled grapefruit, a half-inch piece of fresh turmeric, and a half-inch piece of fresh ginger. Now, I simplified the process a bit because I left the juice mixture at that and stirred in the half teaspoon each of cayenne and cinnamon. However, to follow the recipe precisely, the juice mixture should have gone into the blender, and the spices should have been added along with a tablespoon of sunflower seed or almond butter and a half teaspoon of honey. I liked the thinner, simpler juice as it was, but the added ingredients would have made it more filling. 

First, the color of this juice makes it impossible to resist. And, the flavor is fresh, bright, zesty, and delivers a kick from ginger and cayenne. It’s a great way to boost your energy level during a mid-day slump. 

And, what else have I been reading? One more food book I want to mention today is Grilled: Turning Adversaries into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry by Leah Garces. Often, books pertaining to the food industry point out problems and offer information about why we should be concerned but offer little in the way of workable solutions. Here, the problems of the chicken industry are made clear as are some positive wins in improving standards. Much of the book focuses on broilers or chickens grown for meat. Consumers became aware of the suffering and disease caused by the crowded, filthy conditions in which the birds are raised, but there was a lack of understanding of the genetics of the birds and how they were bred to grow too big too quickly. As a result of the tireless work of animal advocates, some of the largest companies controlling chicken farming are beginning to make changes to how the birds are housed and bred. The next step is to improve on the agriculture processes involved in growing feed for all those chickens. In April 2018, Tyson agreed to one of “the largest ever sustainable grain commitments for a US protein company.” They set a two-million-acre land-stewardship target for grains raised for chicken feed. One thing we all can do to improve conditions for animals raised for food and reduce climate pollution caused by animal agriculture is to cut back our intake of meat and support small-scale farms producing pasture-raised meats. The book mentions: “a drop in consumption of beef, pork, chicken, and milk contributed the most to the reduction of greenhouse gases over the period (2005-2014).” By finding ways to effectively communicate concerns and by having vocal consumer backing for such concerns, advocates and food policy organizations have convinced large companies to make improvements. Some positive steps have been taken, but there’s still more to do and every reason to keep up the good work in 2020.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 
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