True Citrus Zing Salad Dressing

True Citrus Zing Salad Dressing

When Virtual Potluck was approached to work with True Lemon, I was hesitant.

As a native Californian (only transplanted in the Pacific Northwest) citrus is like home to me. The idea of NOT grabbing a fresh lemon or lime for a recipe seemed, frankly, a little nuts to me.

I grew up with a lemon tree in my Granny Jason’s backyard in sunny southern California, from which she would make the most insanely delicious lemon meringue pie. (No, I won’t be trying it with True Lemon– granny’s pie is sacred!) (more…)

Gluten-Free Lemon Chia Seed Teacakes

Gluten-Free Lemon Chia Seed Teacakes

The REAL Chia plant (not its imposter Salvia carduacea)

I love a good lemon poppy seed cake. Not all the time and not all lemon poppy seed cakes, but when I find a good one– I’ll certainly dig in. So when I was trying to think up a recipe for Bob’s Red Mill’s Chia Seeds (which remind me of poppy seeds when they’re in food, at least in looks, if not flavor) my favorite poppy seed dish sprung to mind. To make the challenge all the more difficult, I have been abstaining from gluten recently (and seeing great results energetically and in terms of digestion) so I needed to come up with a recipe that would be gluten-free, delicious and taste similar to a lemon poppy seed cake but with the added health benefits of Chia seeds. (more…)

Easy Homemade Calzone: A Tasty and Healthy New Year

Easy Homemade Calzone: A Tasty and Healthy New Year

It’s no secret, we love Italian food around my house — specifically, a great homemade pizza. I have perfected the art of pizza making in The GrooVy Foody household, trying out tons of dough recipes until I came across one that is, our idea, of perfection. So for my last recipe entry in Bob’s Red Mill(BRM) and California Olive Ranch(COR) Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge I decided to put that crust to the test — in a Calzone.

Crimini mushrooms, red onion and Italian herb blend

An Un-Whole-y Confession

Red onion, Crimini mushrooms, spinach and herbs

Though, we prefer and mostly eat whole food, cooked from scratch in our house, I will confess, that after a busy day, I have been known to pop into Trader Joe’s for pre-made doughs (in whole wheat, regular and herb), a jar of their vodka sauce, a package of nitrate-free prosciutto and some free range chicken in order to throw together my chicken, prosciutto and vodka sauce pizza, topped off with TJ’s fresh-in-the-bag organic arugula. This pizza is a crowd pleaser and it’s some that if you make it for guests, they will think you are something of a culinary mastermind, when indeed you just threw together some high quality, but pre-packed goods for a quick and easy, tummy pleasing meal.

Layered filling ingredients

Best, Quick Pizza (Calzone) Dough EVER!

But, had you just a few minutes more or a wee bit more energy, you could make your own crust and sauce (or as I do, pull some of my famous Bolo-Nessie sauce out of the freezer or grab that jar of organic sauce off the shelf at TJ’s) for a truly memorable pizza experience. Not surprisingly, the best pizza crust recipe I have EVER come across for the quick and easy variety, is one by Bob’s Red Mill (told you, I was a fan before they sponsored me!) TIP:they also sell a really great gluten-free pizza crust mix.

Into the oven

Now, there are many crust recipes on BRM’s website (many contributed by fans) but let me tell which one I prefer out of all of them — it’s Bob’s own Quick and Easy Pizza Dough and here’s why:  it’s quick AND easy just like it says. Plus, it has a wonderful chew to it, as well as the perfect texture for folks, who like a thin, floppy, New York style crust with a good pull to it.

But the REAL secret to good pizza dough is in the yeast — and BRM’s is some of the freshest, most active yeast I’ve ever worked with. Just beautiful and it lasts a long while. One 8oz bag, when stored properly, can last you for months. (If you can keep it that long because once you learn how easy this great crust can be, you’ll never call out for pizza or as in this case, Calzone, again.)

 

Finito

I used BRM’s Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and COR’s Arbequina Olive Oil for a Calzone that high in flavor but also packed full of fiber and good nutrition. My hubby and son love pepperoni, so we filled our Calzone with a thin layer of soft goat cheese, the nitrate-free variety of pepperoni you can find made by Applegate Farms or Hormel’s new preservative-free line of products, sautéed red onion and Crimini mushrooms, and topped it with a layer of grated whole milk mozzarella. I serve  this with a marinara or Homemade Bolo-Nessie sauce on the side for dipping.

Mangia!

QUICK & EASY PIZZA or CALZONE DOUGH

Adapted from: Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods 

  • 1 cup Warm Water (110°F)
  • 2 tsp 1/4 BRM’s Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp  sugar
  • 2 cups to 2 1/4 cups  BRM Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Tbsp California Olive Ranch Olive Oil (plus more for top and pan)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease pizza pan with a light coating of COR olive oil; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water — let bubble for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Beat vigorously 20 strokes and let rest 5 minutes.

FOR PIZZA:

On a floured work surface with a floured rolling-pin, roll out the dough until it is the size of the pan you will be using.

Place dough on prepared pan. Spread sauce over dough and top with your favorite toppings. Bake on middle rack of oven for 15-20 minutes. Makes one 16-inch pizza crust (12 slices).

FOR CALZONE:
  • Tear or cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out dough on floured surface or stretch and toss by hand until it is double the desired size of your Calzone.
  • Fill with cheese, herbs, veggies and desired meat of your choice, keeping a 1 inch lip around the edge of the dough, filling-free so that you will be able to seal it properly. Be sure to take care not to over-stuff your Calzone and to get a nice balance of flavors.
  • Next, crimp, fold or otherwise seal the edge of your Calzone with a fork along 1 inch lip all around the edge. This will ensure your filling stay tidily inside.
  • Then, lightly coat the outside of you Calzone with olive oil using either a pastry brush or your hands and cut three venting slits in the top of your Calzone and place it on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake on middle rack of oven for 12-16 minutes.  Makes 4 medium-sized Calzones.

YOUR LAST CHANCE TO WIN!!!

A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge Giveaway

Each week, the VP bloggers will challenge you to find (and use) the secret code word of the week, posted in the contest tab labeled “Virtual Potluck” on the California Olive Ranch Facebook page.

Each blogger will pick a single winner per week to receive a pack of the featured products from Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch.

That’s right- four weeks, 12 winners each week! That’s like 48 chances to win! The more blogs you visit the more chances you have to win~ so what are you waiting for?! Let’s get cooking (and eating!) A Tasty and Healthy New Year!

For more information on how you can win– visit the host page for links to the other sites!

Best Chocolate Cupcakes EVER! (made with quinoa!?!): A Tasty and Healthy New Year

Best Chocolate Cupcakes EVER! (made with quinoa!?!): A Tasty and Healthy New Year

Best choco-cupcakes in Bella Cupcake Couture Wrappers (Meisha Bird & Blossom)

Now, you’re probably thinking, “OK, GF, now that’s a mighty big claim you’re making — BEST. . .EVER? and did you say, with QUINOA!??!”

Yes, I did and BTW, did I tell you it’s flourless and gluten-free?

No, I will not back down from my claim.

These cupcakes are so rock-your-socks delish that I cannot see me making a traditional chocolate cupcake ever again.

Yes, you read that right.

Yes, I put these on a pedestal –one by Sarah’s Stands http://sarahsstands.com/

The Search for the Best Chocolate Cupcake

For years, I have been looking for the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe and though I have found some great cakes along the way, none even comes close to this one.  That’s because I am SUPER and I mean, SUPER picky about chocolate cupcakes. It can’t just be chocolate and sweet. And frosting — I hate traditional buttercream– too sweet and heavy for my tastes and it overwhelms the kind of cake I prefer.

When it comes to chocolate cake, I need depth of flavor in my chocolate– midnight black, preferably. I want to taste the night sky that the cacao pods grew under in each dark mouthful. But that density cannot come at the expense of the cake’s crumb or moisture. I would rather not have cake than eat a dry piece, trying to choke it down with lots of milk. I have ditched many a cupcake over this issue.

Naked cupcakes — In food porn, this is the money shot (Bella Cupcake Couture’s Lu Lu Damask)

My Chocolate Cupcake Criteria:

  • Deep, dark chocolate flavor (night sky, remember?)
  • Delicate crumb but not crumbly
  • Moist, but durable enough to frost and carry without a crumby trail following you
  • The frosting must be rich in flavor and mouth-feel without being greasy, heavy or over-sugared

I told you I had high standards. 😉 

Which is why, when I tell you this is IT — you’d better believe me.

Grab your notebook and jot this recipe down or turn on your printer and print it out. . . NOW!

I’ll wait.  I am not joking. I wouldn’t joke about a thing like this. I take it —much– too– serious.

Cocoa, quinoa and sugar– the new cupcake trinity

A Happy Accident

I fell into this recipe, sort of by blissful accident. As you may know, me, and the 12 other VP bloggers, are spending the month using Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch products in recipes for the Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge. At the same time, most of us have also pledged to Build a Better Me (our own year-long effort to get healthier in 2012) — for my part, I decided to go gluten-free for a while. (Which was fine,because my recipes containing flour for BRM/COR promo had been completed in December, before I went gluten-free.)

Except . . . in a twist of fate, 30AEats blogger, Susan, found herself out of town (and away from her BRM products) when she needed to post last week. She ran out to procure her ingredients for last week’s challenge, except she couldn’t find the Grande Grains that were scheduled. Being resourceful, Susan opted for this week’s grain, Quinoa (read all about her adventures here) and as luck would have it, unbeknowst to Susan,  decided to make the same dish, I was going to share with you this week — Quinoa Tabouleh.

I had to start from scratch, again. I wanted to do something out of the box, something that maybe none of my other blogger friends would be doing. I thought– dessert! But the obvious choice (a grain pudding) I just did last week.

Quinoa batter before dry ingredients

Meanwhile, being gluten-free for going on three weeks was beginning to take its toll– I craved cake, cookies, bread and pasta. I knew there were gluten-free cakes made with quinoa flour and thought maybe I could make the flour myself from the dry quinoa.

I began to search for gluten-free recipes online, typing in “gluten-free cakes” and “quinoa flour cakes.” There were a lot of ingredients in these recipes and a variety of match-ups of different kinds of gluten-free flours — I couldn’t decide.

But then, I accidentally forgot to type in “flour” on my next search. I just typed “quinoa cake,” and found myself staring face to face with, what looked in pictures, to be the richest, moistest, chocolatey-ist cake I’d ever seen.

I read the post on babble.com, it said it was delicious. But, you never really know about these things. I read the comments, people were extolling the virtues of this cake– still, I wasn’t sure. There wasn’t a morsel of flour in this recipe. Just whole grain, fully-cooked quinoa and the other usual suspects– cocoa, eggs, butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla. Really? REALLY??

Now, I’ve been a fan of quinoa for years but as a replacement for rice or cous cous — never in baking. I was intrigued. Would it work as cupcakes? Or would they dry out too much? Would it be chalky, gritty or flavorless. Would there be a lingering bitter bite?

What the heck, I thought, I decided to dive in.

After the dry ingredients

I admit, I tweaked the recipe, just a smidge along the way, substituting some of the butter for California Olive Ranch’s Everyday Fresh Olive Oil to bring a few extra flavor notes and some heart healthy goodness to the recipe. I also whipped up a frosting (after tasting how great the cake was) that would complement the cake, but not overwhelm it.

The results were amazing! Thank goodness (like Bob Ross used to say) for happy little accidents.

If Susan had not forgotten her grains, if we had not decided to make the same dish — I may NEVER have found the world’s most perfect chocolate cupcake, which means, I woudn’t be passing it along to you. (Thank you Susan!)

Into the oven

I KNOW you want to kill me now — “Where’s the damn recipe!!” you’re shouting.

OK, OK pipe down — here it is.

But when you taste this and you inevitably swoon with delight, remember who brought it to you and think of me kindly from time to time –the girl with the perfect cupcake.

Best Chocolate Cupcakes Ever w/Honey-Cocoa Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

The frosting is entirely my own creation and something I just whipped up out of thin air, tasting as I went until the desired consistency and flavor was reached. It is very much like a fluffy, light, chocolate mousse — rich, chocolatey with a touch of honey-kissed sweetness. It glides on smoothly and floating on top of the moist, light but deeply flavored chocolate cakes.

Cupcake Batter

  • 2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quinoa
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup soymilk (you can use dairy or sub other milks if you like)
  • 4 large organic brown eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup California Olive Ranch Everyday Fresh Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Rinse and prepare the quinoa according to directions using the water measurements above. Once the quinoa is done, turn off the heat and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow the quinoa to cool. (Do not rush this.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the cups of two 1 dozen non-stick cupcake pans (no flour) or use cupcake wrappers.

Combine the milk, eggs and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Add 2 cups of cooled, cooked quinoa and blend until smooth. Add the oil and melted butter and blend to incorporate.

In the meantime, mix together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in your mixer bowl. Add the contents of the blender and mix well. scoop the batter with an ice cream scoop into the cupcake pans and bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.

Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan before serving. Frost if desired (these are delicious without frosting as well.)

Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Frosting

4oz cream room temp cheese

1/2 cup room temp butter

1/4 cup honey

1tsp pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup cocoa

1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered sugar (depending on desired consistency)

1tBsp almond milk

Cream butter and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl, slowly adding your honey as you continue to mix. Then add carefully add the cocoa and powdered sugar, bit by bit, alternating between the two. Add vanilla and almond milk until desired consistency is achieved. I like mine light, fluffy and mousse-like. If you like yours a bit more stiff add more powdered sugar or cocoa to firm it up a bit.

Frost cupcakes when cooled.

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

Frosted Per Serving — Calories: 234, Dietary Fiber: 3.2g, Sugars: 15.3g, Protein: 4.5g
Un-Frosted Per Serving — Calories: 158, Dietary Fiber: 2.0g, Sugars: 8.4g, Protein: 3.7g

Trust me, 3 year olds are picky and he LOVES ’em!

A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge Giveaway

Each week, the VP bloggers will challenge you to find (and use) the secret code word of the week, posted in the contest tab labeled “Virtual Potluck” on the California Olive Ranch Facebook page.

Each blogger will pick a single winner per week to receive a pack of the featured products from Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch.

That’s right- four weeks, 12 winners each week! That’s like 48 chances to win! The more blogs you visit the more chances you have to win~ so what are you waiting for?! Let’s get cooking (and eating!) A Tasty and Healthy New Year!

For more information on how you can win– visit the host page for links to the other sites!

A Tasty and Healthy New Year: Whole Grain Kheer (India Rice Pudding)

A Tasty and Healthy New Year: Whole Grain Kheer (India Rice Pudding)

I have an affinity for the layered, exotic flavors intrinsic in Indian food — heady mixes of Garam Masala or curry, the darkly- scented lushness of cardamom, coriander and caraway and the vibrant colors of turmeric, saffron and red chilis — these warm me, belly and soul. But it wasn’t always so.

I grew up tasting Italian, Chinese, Mexican, German, French and American style dishes, home-cooked, lovingly by my mother. While this is much more variety than some (like  my husband) grew up with, it still excluded many kinds of food that my son is  growing up with the tastes and smells of, such as Indian, Korean, Middle Eastern, Greek,  Japanese, Soul Food, Vietnamese,  Ethiopian, Thai and just about anything else we can get our hands on.

No South Asian spice for this girl - GrooVy Foody pictured here in Bamberg, Germany age 3

The point is, I never tasted Indian food as a child, so the spices used regularly in these dishes, tasted, fittingly, foreign to my tastebuds. They had a depth that my palate was not yet able to decipher. So at 24, when a dear friend of mine, who was also a vegetarian began telling me how great Indian food was, I was interested — but reluctant. The smells were strong, oniony and sweaty, I was unsure of the tofu curry dish he had whipped up but I gave it try. It was, in a word — icky.

Spices in the open air market in Arles, France

No disrespect to my friend, but he wasn’t a culinary wizard and that dish contained improperly drained tofu (bitter) and way too much curry, as well as carrots and peas that were still — crisp. I didn’t try Indian food again until I was 31 and backpacking throughout Western Europe. Sick of bangers and mash, roast and veg, jacket potatoes and the Ploughman’s served up at every pub throughout England and Scotland, I decided to give Indian food another go. No better place (except India, of course) to dive into the sensual flavors of Indian food, than the UK.

Unwittingly(and thankfully), I just happened to pick a restaurant  that is considered one of the Top Ten Indian food restaurants in Scotland for my second taste — Pataka.
Pataka Indian and Bengali Restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland is unlike any other Indian restaurant you may have been too, mostly because of its odd choice of decor, which is completely resplendent in  Glasgow native, Charles Rennie Mackintosh‘s artwork, with beautifully carved wooden booths and high back chairs. But it was the food served there that made me a believer. If you’re ever in Scotland, I highly recommend stopping by Pataka.

The dish I’m making here is based upon Kheer (also known as Payasam or Payesh depending on the region it’s being served in) which is a loose pudding, traditionally made with rice and sometimes vermicelli (I like to use shredded coconut in place of vermicelli.) It’s often served during or at the end of celebratory meals and accompanied by raisins, saffron (for color), cashews, pistachios or almonds. To me, the milky richness and sweet, dusky flavor of this dish makes it great for ending a spicy meal, as it both calms and revives the mouth and tongue after doing battle with the heated flavors of well-seasoned Indian food.

The beauty of making Kheer at home is that you can also eat it for breakfast the next morning, a meal time that I always feel speaks of comfort to begin with.  For additional health benefits (and 5g fiber 6g protein), I decided to put a spin on this soul-satisfying dessert.

Since the Grande Whole Grains from Bob’s Red Mill are whole grains ranging from wheat, rice and barley to oats, buckwheat and sesame seeds you will have some additional thickening, due to the continued absorption of liquid, making for a slightly thicker pudding (this is why the arrowroot powder/cornstarch is less than a TBsp for a pudding.) This also means that the grains need to be pre-cooked before entering your pudding batter.

The balanced flavor of California Olive Ranch’s Miller’s Blend, with its fruit and spice, pairs perfectly in this toothsome treat.

Whole Grain Kheer (India Rice Pudding)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Grande Whole Grains (cooked)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp butter (or ghee)
  • 1tbsp California Olive Ranch Miller’s Blend Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 shredded coconut
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 tsp Bob’s Red Mill Arrowroot Powder (or cornstarch) to desired thickness
Optional: 1/4 cup raisins, dried cherries, dried apricots, almonds, cashews or pistachios.

Directions:

Follow the basic cooking instructions on the package for BRB’s Grande Whole Grains.

Once done cooking remove from the burner and leave the lid on as you begin to assemble the other ingredients — this will ensure the grains continue to soften, as they absorb any leftover liquid.

Combine 1.5 cups of the milks, brown sugar,  salt and COR Miller’s Blend into a pot and bring to a boil.

Add the BRB Grande Whole Grains and return just to a boil over medium heat.

Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in coconut (and/or raisins, dried cherries or dried apricots cut into small pieces, if desired), allowing it to cook uncovered for 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. The grains will still retain some of their chewiness but should be cooked through and quite a bit softer now.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and remaining 1/2 cup of combined milks and 1-2 tsp of arrowroot powder.

Remove 1/4 cup of the hot grain mixture, whisking it, little by little  into the egg/milk mixture.

Once incorporated, pour the egg mixture into the rest of the hot grains, whisking to mix it quickly and keep the egg from scrambling.

Cook, stirring constantly, for one to two minutes or until to desired thick and creamy consistency.

Remove from heat, stirring in butter, vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon.

Breath in that luscious scent and lick the back of your stirring spoon — you deserve this taste.

You can serve this dish warm, room temp or cold ~ it’s delicious no matter what but my favorite is when it’s set but still warm. Happy Eating!

Makes 6 servings.

A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge Giveaway

WINNER Announced!

Each week, the VP bloggers will challenge you to find (and use) the secret code word of the week, posted in the contest tab labeled “Virtual Potluck” on the California Olive Ranch Facebook page.

Each blogger will pick a single winner per week to receive a pack of the featured products from Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch.

That’s right- four weeks, 12 winners each week! That’s like 48 chances to win! The more blogs you visit the more chances you have to win~ so what are you waiting for?! Let’s get cooking (and eating!) A Tasty and Healthy New Year!

For more information on how you can win– visit the host page for links to the other sites!