Hotel Donaldson’s Signature Lavosh ala Suzanne


I’ve made a lot of pizza crusts in my life. Sometimes thick, sometimes thin, and all sorts of in between. But until a few days ago, I had never made a cracker thin crust or anything resembling lavosh (an Armenian cracker bread or flatbread, either yeasted or unleavened). Never really thought about making it either until I was inspired by the always inspirational Sarah Nasello. She and her husband Tony write a weekly food column in the The Forum, and this week it included a recipe for the Hotel Donaldson’s Signature Lavosh.

The Hotel Donaldson (HoDo for short) is a trendy boutique hotel in cool downtown Fargo, North Dakota (yes, I said cool and North Dakota in the same sentence!), that is home to both a great casual restaurant/bar and wonderful fine dining restaurant. No visit to Fargo is complete without a visit to HoDo.

After reading Sarah’s column, my mind immediately thought of combining the recipe with yummy Shaved Asparagus Pizza from the super talented Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook—one of the most used in my collection.

With it being asparagus season, I just made the pizza a few days ago and used smoked mozzarella for the first time, along with the addition of shaved fennel. Wow, did that rock! Figuring if I lightened up the topping volume and added some spring color from shaved radishes, this would make the perfect “Suzanne” version of Signature Lavosh.

I made the dough exactly as the recipe was written, with the exception of adding ½ cup whole wheat flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour—I just feel less guilt about anything in the pizza family if I can say, “But it’s whole grain.” And even though this is a yeast dough, there’s no need to let the dough rise when using instant yeast.

This is a really nice dough to work with, but not having a pasta roller, I was a bit worried about getting it rolled thin enough. No need—it rolled out beautifully. It’s probably not quite as thin as it would be through a pasta roller, but it’s darn thin and got nice and crispy like lavosh should be. My mom offered to bring the pasta roller they haven’t used in years when they come for Easter, and I think I will take her up on that. The difference will be interesting to see.

Sarah’s recipe also mentions running a dough docker, which I had to google to find out what it was, across each rolled out piece of dough. It’s a spikey roller thing that will help keep air bubbles from forming as your lavosh bakes. Instead I poked the dough all over with a large meat fork and it seemed to do the trick.

The cheeses you top the lavosh with can be switched up to your liking and/or what you have on hand. Directly on top of the flatbread I used a mixture of half smoked mozzarella and half regular, plus I sprinkled a little fresh parmesan over the vegetables.

Speaking of vegetables, you could vary them as well. Any spring veggies that can be shaved super thin with a mandolin or vegetable peeler would work. The combo of asparagus, fennel, and radish was delicious and pretty, and I could see carrot or red onion put in the mix as well. Just keep in mind not to top this like a more heartily-crusted pizza. The lavosh is light and somewhat delicate, so you don’t want to weigh it down with heavy toppings.

Another change from Sarah’s original recipe I made was to increase the oven temperature. I used half the dough the first night following the 350-degree instruction for convection ovens (375 for regular). When I made the remaining dough into lavosh the next night, I increased the temp to 400 in my convection oven, so non-convection would be 425 degrees F. My results were better with the higher temperature. And I did use a pizza stone.

This light, cracker-crisp lavosh with wisps of spring veggies and a light sprinkling of cheese is the perfect first-peek-of-warm-weather supper accompanied by a nice glass of rosé. Enjoy!


Hotel Donaldson's Signature Lavosh ala Suzanne

Adapted from the Hotel Donaldson’s Signature Lavosh and the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’s Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Lavosh:
1 cup water, lukewarm (not hot)

1 teaspoon instant dry yeast

1 ½ teaspoons honey

1 ½ teaspoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute up to ½ cup with whole wheat flour)

½ cup semolina flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. (400 for convection ovens). If using a pizza stone, place it in the oven now. Otherwise, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, place the yeast on the bottom and then add the water. Allow the water to fully saturate the yeast, then add the honey, followed by the melted butter (make sure it is not hot).

Add the dry ingredients one at a time starting with the flour, then the semolina and adding the salt and pepper on top. Use the dough hook attachment to knead the dough until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough becomes soft and pliable, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Portion dough into desired serving size (I portioned it into 4 servings, about 8 oz. portions each, and used 2 for the toppings below and refrigerated the other half to make more the next day). (The Hotel Donaldson uses 4-ounce portions to create a single serving approximately 4 inches wide and 12 to 14 inches long, and you can vary the size according to your needs.)

Gently knead each portion into a ball, then lightly flatten into a disk. Use dough immediately or wrap each portion in plastic and refrigerate for up to one week. To freeze, place wrapped disks in a plastic freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for at least one month. Allow dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

If using a pasta roller, the dough performs best when chilled first, so refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. If rolling by hand with a rolling pin, room temperature dough is best.

To make the lavosh, run each disk of dough through a pasta roller, starting on the #3 or #4 setting, and then decrease the setting and run through again until it is thin enough to run through the lowest setting, until the sheet of dough achieves a desired thinness of 1/8-inch or lower.

If not using a pasta roller, generously flour your counter (or a silicone baking mat) and use a floured rolling pin to roll dough super thin, no thicker than 1/8th inch, into the desired size. While you’re rolling, check occasionally to make sure dough isn’t stuck to the floured surface.

Place each dough sheet on pizza stone or baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between each. Before placing in the oven, run a dough docker across each sheet, or use a fork to gently create holes evenly over the dough.

Bake for 6 to 9 minutes until lightly golden on the edges. Remove from oven to a cooling rack until ready for your toppings.

Toppings for half a batch of the lavosh dough made into 2 flatbreads:
1/2 to 1/3 pound of asparagus spears, thicker stalks work best

½ a medium fennel bulb, trimmed

About 4 larger radishes

A couple teaspoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil (the kind you reserve for drizzling or bread-dipping)

A pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Three scallions, white and green parts, sliced

A total of about 6-8 ounces shredded mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, and parmesan (or other cheese(s) of choice)

Using the end of each asparagus spear that you would normally trim off as a handle, lay the asparagus flat on a cutting board and peel off thin “shavings” with a vegetable peeler. Once the spear gets too small to continue peeling, cut the rest of each spear into super thin strips, discarding the tough “handle” end.

Slice fennel and radishes a little thicker than paper thin on a mandolin, or if you don’t have a mandolin, use a sharp knife. Place all veggies in a medium bowl and toss with olive oil, red pepper flakes, if using, and salt & pepper.

Top each lavosh with a light layer of shredded cheese(s) (reserving some for sprinkling over the veggies). Place a layer of veggies (dividing evenly between the two flatbreads) over cheese and sprinkle with reserved cheese (I used freshly grated parmesan).

Bake 5-8 minutes, until cheese is melted and lavosh crisps a bit more. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions. Slice and serve. Makes 2-4 servings.

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Roasted Squash, Apple, Spinach, Caramelized Onion Pizza

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnyone who knows me or who reads my blog knows I love pizza. And the thing I love most about pizza is cheese. Sure, my pizza recipes are chock full o’ veggies, my crust is always whole grain (or whole vegetable in the case of cauliflower crust pizza), and overall, healthier than your typical pizzeria grease bomb, but cheese is consistently front and center. Until now.

The basis for this recipe popped up in Friday’s New York Times Cooking email and being it was from one of my favorite vegan chefs, Chloe Coscarelli, it caught my attention. What sealed the deal was everything this pizza called for was already in the fridge or pantry and there would be no need for a stop at the store to make it our Friday-night-after-work-dinner, prepared while enjoying a beginning-of-the-weekend glass of wine. I’ll stop with the hyphenated phrases now.

This pizza has no cheese, but I guarantee, you won’t miss it. The saucy white bean puree provides a tang and richness making cheese unnecessary. Yes, I said that. This cheese-is-the-best-thing-about-pizza person said that (okay, NOW, I’ll stop with the hyphenated phrases).

Experience has taught me to always read comments included after an online recipe and in this case, it brought a suggestion taking the flavors over the top. The idea of drizzling with a balsamic reduction when the pizza comes out of the oven is spot on and that made me think an additional drizzle of good quality olive oil (the kind you reserve for drizzles or dipping, not cooking) would be a great addition as well.

Most of this recipe can be made in advance, so you can eat at a reasonable weeknight time if you plan ahead. The white bean purée can be made up to a couple days in advance, the squash can be roasted the day before, and if you’re doing a homemade pizza crust, your dough will benefit from an overnight slow rise in the fridge. Even the balsamic reduction can be made ahead of time as well, and refrigerated until needed. The result is a hearty, filling, pizza-craving-satisfied meal, and you won’t miss the cheese! Enjoy!
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Roasted Squash, Apple, Spinach, Caramelized Onion Pizza

  • Servings: One 12-inch pizza
  • Print
Based on this NYT Cooking Chloe Coscarelli recipe

Garlic White Bean Purée:
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 large or two small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons water

Pizza:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 apple, diced

Dough:
Pizza dough, preferably whole wheat (store-bought is fine, or make your own)

Drizzles:
Balsamic reduction (in a small saucepan, bring 1 cup balsamic vinegar to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue simmering until reduced to 1/3 cup. Unused portion can be refrigerated for another use.)
Good tasting olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Make the Garlic White Bean Purée by blending the beans, oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in a food processor. Add water, as needed, until a smooth consistency forms. Set aside. Can be made up to two days in advance.

Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes until squash is fork-tender, turning once with a spatula. Remove from oven and set aside.

Turn oven heat up to 450 degrees F. Place pizza stone in oven, if using.

While squash is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté onions until soft and lightly caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Stretch or roll homemade or store-bought pizza dough into a 12-inch circle. Spread a layer of the garlic white bean purée evenly over the dough. (You will only use about half of the purée—use the rest as a dip for veggies or pita chips.) On top of the dough, arrange the spinach, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash and diced apple. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake on pizza stone or pizza pan at 450 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time, until the crust is golden. Remove from oven and drizzle pizza with balsamic reduction and good quality olive oil. Slice and serve. Makes one 12-inch pizza.

 

Tiramisu Cupcakes

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When I asked our three February birthday people at the office what they’d like for the monthly party, two deferred to the third, who responded “anything chocolate or coffee/chocolate.” That sent me in search of recipes and I settled on King Arthur Flour’s Tiramisu Cupcakes, plus a couple other coffee/chocolate treats, but the cupcakes were the stars.

Who doesn’t like a boozy dessert? Tiramisu, but in the form of a cupcake—a very vanilla cupcake, with a Kahlua espresso soak and a creamy amaretto mascarpone frosting dusted with cocoa. Yes, please! Homemade tiramisu without the need to hunt down a decent package of lady fingers (or figure out how to make your own!).

The recipe reviews are what sealed it for me—they were all great. And they were right. These are a special cupcake. Unique with the “soak” that provides that boozy bite in the middle of a really vanilla cake, and the frosting—oh, the frosting! A not-too-sweet, whipped cream-mascarpone cheese mixture spiked with amaretto (almond liqueur). Wow!

The original frosting recipe called for Instant Clear Jel, which, conveniently, you can order from King Arthur Flour. It’s actually modified food starch, which is chemically processed and not something I want in my food, so I used less processed corn starch. It still keeps the frosting, which contains a lot of whipped cream, from deflating. Arrowroot powder might work as well, but I didn’t want to chance it. Next time I make these at home, I’ll try it and will update the recipe if results are good.

Don’t skimp on the soak. After making a smaller test batch, I told myself to use more of the soak mixture. When I made the larger, “for real” batch, I thought I had used more of the soaking liquid (brushed each cupcake many, many times), and I was worried it was too much liquid (afraid they’d be soggy), but the cupcakes could have used even more of it, so be generous.

Keep in mind that because the alcohol in both the soak and the frosting isn’t cooked off, these should be adults only cupcakes. And all the adults at the office birthday party gave them rave reviews. Enjoy!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Tiramisu Cupcakes

Slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour

Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

3 large eggs, room temperature

3 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

Soak
3 tablespoons coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua

2 tablespoons espresso powder

3 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup hot water

Frosting
2 cups heavy cream

4 teaspoons corn starch 2/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup amaretto liqueur

1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature

Garnish
Unsweetened cocoa powder, to dust tops of frosted cupcakes.

To make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk into the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again, to be sure everything is incorporated.

Scoop the batter into paper-lined cupcake pans. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven and place the pans on a rack for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn the cupcakes out and return them to rack to cool completely.

To make the soak: Mix the espresso powder, liqueur, and sugar into the hot water.

Using a fork, poke the tops of each cupcake two or three times. Sprinkle or brush a small amount of the soak over each cupcake, and allow it to soak in. Repeat until virtually all the liquid is used.

To make the frosting: Beat the whipping cream until medium peaks form.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and corn starch and slowly add to the whipped cream, along with the amaretto.

Gently and briefly whisk in the mascarpone cheese by hand until the frosting is thick and creamy (this shouldn’t take more than 4 or 5 passes with the whisk); more than that and the frosting will get grainy.

Pipe the frosting over the cupcakes, then dust with cocoa. Keep refrigerated. I think the cupcakes taste best if they are removed from the fridge about 1/2 hour before serving.

Yield: 18-24 cupcakes (I got 18, but the original recipe said 24).

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Quesadillas with Homemade (or not) Corn Tortillas

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After a weekend of pain from an abscessed tooth and then a soft foods diet the following weekend (because of stiches from a surgical root canal), I’ve finally been able to enjoy eating again. Real food, not mush. Oh, the simple pleasures in life we take for granted!

Ever since I bought my tortilla press last fall, I’ve been wanting to incorporate homemade corn tortillas into a blog post. Looking through the archives, I found more taco recipes than I realized, so that led me in the quesadilla direction instead.

The homemade tortillas are extremely easy and bring a fresh aspect that I’ve never experienced in a corn tortilla before. But by no means do you need to make homemade tortillas to enjoy this recipe. Good quality, fresh store-bought tortillas will work just fine, as will fresh flour tortillas.

Corn tortillas are made with masa harina, which looks similar to corn meal, but is not the same thing. Do not substitute corn meal or regular corn flour—they’re produced from different types of corn and are processed differently and won’t produce the same results.

I’ve seen masa harina in the international section and the baking aisle of large supermarkets in 8 pound bags. Knowing it would probably take me years to use that much, I ordered a 24-oz. bag of Bob’s Red Mill organic masa harina from Amazon. With organic, you can be assured it’s made from non-GMO corn.

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For a time-saving convenience, I used a pre-shredded bag of slaw (Trader Joe’s organic), but if you have the time, by all means, shred your own. The slaw can be mixed up the day before (I think it tastes even better after a day in the fridge) and the caramelized onions and the mushroom mixture can all be made a day or two ahead of time as well. With all the bold flavors in this recipe, if you choose to go vegan by omitting the cheese, you’ll still have a delicious meal. Enjoy!
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Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Quesadillas with Homemade (or not) Corn Tortillas

Slaw:
One 9 oz. bag pre-shredded coleslaw (green cabbage, red cabbage, carrot), or shred your own

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon celery seed

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, maple syrup and orange juice. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, while whisking, until fully incorporated.

Place coleslaw mixture, scallions, and celery seed in a large bowl and toss to combine. Pour some of the dressing over and mix. Add more dressing as desired (you probably won’t use all of it). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill while you make the filling and tortillas, or overnight for even better flavor.

Tortillas:
1 cup masa harina (see my babbling above for more info on masa harina)

Pinch of salt

¾ cup hot, but not boiling water

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the masa harina and salt. Stir in the hot water until combined. Knead with your hands for about a minute. It should feel smooth, but not sticky, and easily form a ball. If dough feels dry and crumbly, add a tablespoon of water. If too sticky, add a tablespoon more masa harina.

Cover the bowl and set aside for about a half hour while you make the filling (recipe below). After the dough has rested and your quesadilla fillings are made, divide dough into 8 pieces and roll each into a ball (they will each be about the size of a ping pong ball).

Cut the sides open of a quart sized zip-lock bag. Open your tortilla press and lay open bag on press. Place a ball of dough in the center of press and fold the other side of the bag over the dough. Close the top of the press over the dough and push down the handle to flatten the ball.

Heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, lift the top half of the bag off the flattened dough and peel the dough off the other layer of plastic and place in the hot pan. Cook a minute or two and flip, cooking another minute or two more. Transfer to a clean tea towel and fold up to close.

Repeat with remaining dough, keeping cooked tortillas wrapped in the tea towel.

Filling:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 large onion, thinly sliced

½ tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

8 oz. cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ jalapeño pepper, minced (use as many of the seeds you’d like to get desired amount of heat)

Shredded cheese of choice, I used a Swiss/gruyere mixture, or omit cheese for a vegan version

Heat one tablespoon oil in a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and cook another minute or two. Add balsamic and cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Transfer onions to a plate and set aside.

Wipe out pan and place over medium heat and add second tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, add mushrooms and cook for several minutes, until they start releasing a little moisture. Stir in garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add minced jalapeño and cook another couple of minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

To assemble quesadillas, heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat, brush with a little olive oil. Top one tortilla with some of the onion mixture, followed by mushroom mixture, and then cheese, if using. Place in pan and cook several minutes (I cover the pan to help the cheese melt). Once cheese is melted and bottom of tortilla is getting a little crisp, place another tortilla on top and press down. Carefully flip quesadilla and cook other side for another several minutes.

Transfer cooked quesadilla to a plate and cut into wedges. Serve topped with chilled coleslaw. Makes 4 quesadillas.

Mushroom, Beet and Swiss Chard Crêpes

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This recipe came about with a need to use a few produce items in the fridge that wouldn’t last much longer. Swiss chard and mushrooms became a staple combination in our house last summer using the beautiful chard we grew. Missing those flavors, I picked up some chard and oyster mushrooms at the store with the intention of using them in that night’s dinner.

Fast-forward almost a week and I still hadn’t done that. Pete working overtime and then my being out of town for work got in the way. Last Thursday I remembered those delicious ingredients while at work and planned out that night’s meal in my head. A little fresh parmesan and some beets would go into the mixture, along with my new favorite, whole wheat angel hair pasta. It was a great week night dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day.

With beets being such a tasty addition to that Swiss chard-mushroom mix, I wanted to make it again, but amp it up a bit given the extra time I had for cooking on the weekend. Crêpes came to mind, thinking this would be the perfect filling for thin and savory French pancakes.

Because of the red and green color combination, it also seemed a fitting dish for the Christmas season. A dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkling of lemon zest on top, and you’ve got yourself one visually appealing and scrumptious meal. And it’s special enough for company, which I hope you’ll have lots of during the holidays. Enjoy!
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Mushroom, Beet and Swiss Chard Crêpes

If you want to give your crêpes an extra pretty touch, reserve a ¼ cup of the shredded beets and a little Swiss chard, chopped extra fine, to add along with the crème fraiche and lemon zest for garnish. The unfilled crêpes can be made ahead of time, wrapped and refrigerated for a day or two or frozen, tightly-wrapped, for up to a month.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ a large onion or one whole small onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz. mushrooms (maitake, oyster, crimini), or a mixture of all three, chopped

½ a large bunch, or whole bunch if small, Swiss chard, large rib removed and sliced into ribbons

1 large beet, peeled and shredded

Salt & pepper, to taste

8 oz. fontina cheese, shredded (gruyère or parmesan would work as well)

Crêpes, recipe follows

Crème fraiche

Micro-planed zest of one lemon

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Stir in the beets and mushrooms and cook about 2 more minutes. Mix in the Swiss chard and cook another 2-3 minutes or so, until the chard is tender. Add additional salt, along with freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

To serve, place a cooked crêpe in a skillet over medium heat and sprinkle about a quarter cup of the shredded cheese down the center (the first-cooked side of the crêpe is usually prettiest, so make that the outside). Cover pan and let crepe warm and cheese melt, about a minute. Spoon chard-mushroom filling down the center and roll. Top with a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkling of lemon zest.

Alternately, you could preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and fill crêpes with cheese and filling, roll, and place in a baking dish. Bake until hot, about 20 minutes. Move crêpes to serving plates and garnish as described above.

Crêpes
Recipe from Myra Goodman’s The Earthbound Cook, one of my favorite cookbooks.

1 cup plus one tablespoon, whole wheat pastry flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ¼ cup whole milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Additional melted butter for the crêpe pan

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add eggs and milk and whisk until mixed. Whisk in melted butter and continue whisking until the batter is very smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.

Place a cast iron skillet or crêpe pan over medium heat and when hot, brush with some melted butter. Pour or ladle ¼ cup of batter into the center of the pan, lift the pan off the stove, and tilt and swirl the pan so that the batter spreads thinly across the bottom of the pan in a widening circle; don’t worry if the crêpe isn’t a perfect circle (and in my experience, the first crêpe never turns out pretty, but the rest do).

Cook until tiny bubbles begin to appear in the crêpe batter; depending on how hot your pan is, the crêpe will be ready to flip in 30-45 seconds. With a spatula, lift up a corner of the crêpe to check if the cooked surface is lightly golden around the edges, and if so, flip. Cook the second side about 30 seconds. Remove crêpe to a platter, with a sheet of wax paper or parchment between each crêpe. Continue with remaining batter. Makes about 8 crêpes.

Crispy Tofu with Spicy Sweet Garlic Sauce


I’ve had tofu so bad I wouldn’t serve it to my worst enemy and I’ve had tofu so good I wanted it all to myself and wouldn’t even share with my best friend. This recipe is the “so good you won’t want to share” kind.

The secret ingredient that makes this tofu crispy like deep fried without deep frying it is the arrowroot powder/starch/flour (all the same, just different names). It ever so slightly coats each piece of tofu and enables the pieces to crisp up and taste like you’re eating something much less good for you. The spicy sweet garlicy sauce takes things over the top.

Arrowroot isn’t difficult to find—small bottles can be found with the spices at regular grocery store and larger bags can be found in the natural foods section of well-stocked grocery stores, at natural foods stores, and online. I like Bob’s Red Mill brand. You could use corn starch if you can’t get arrowroot, but corn starch is much more processed and most likely contains genetically modified corn (boo, hiss!).

The recipe is from a cookbook I purchased after seeing the author on one of the local Saturday morning news shows. Vegan chef Tess Challis was in town to present at the Twin Cities Veg Fest, which I wanted to attend, but just couldn’t fit it into my jam-packed weekend.

One of her cookbooks is called Food Love and I looked it up online to potentially order and ended up ordering the e-version, which was only $10; I got it immediately and no trees were harmed in the process. There are a number of recipes I’d like to try and this was the first. Based on how good this was, I’m excited to make more. Enjoy!

Crispy Tofu with Spicy Sweet Garlic Sauce

Slightly adapted from a Food Love by Tess Challis recipe
1 pound extra firm tofu, organic and non-gmo, sprouted if you can find it

2 tablespoons tamari (darker, richer and less salty than soy sauce, and wheat-free)

1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder/starch/flour (less processed and non-gmo compared to cornstarch)

1-2 tablespoons grapeseed or coconut oil (I used grapeseed for a more neutral flavor)

Sauce:
¼ cup sriracha sauce

¼ cup raw agave (honey [not vegan] or maple syrup would work as well)

2 tablespoons water

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

Sliced green onions, for garnish

Cut block of tofu into quarters, and each quarter into two slices. Lay slices flat on two layers of paper towel. Cover with two more layers of paper towel and lay a cutting board on top. Set something heavy, like a cast iron pan or a big can of tomatoes on top and let sit 30 minutes; this will remove moisture from the tofu.

While tofu is pressing, mix sriracha, agave, water and minced garlic in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cut each tofu slice into quarters and place into a large zip lock bag. Mix tamari and granulated garlic in a small dish. Put arrowroot in another small dish. Pour tamari mixture over tofu, seal bag, and toss to coat. Sprinkle arrowroot starch/flour, in several batches, over tofu, and shake bag after each batch.

Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon grapeseed or coconut oil. When oil is hot, lay about half the tofu pieces in the pan, cook for 3 minutes, turn, and cook 3 minutes more. Remove tofu to a paper towel lined plate.

Add another tablespoon oil, if necessary, to pan and when hot, add remaining tofu and cook the same as the first batch.

Serve with garlic sriracha sauce and green onions as garnish. Makes about 4 servings.

Homemade Peanut Butter

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Way back when I was a kid, the peanut butter in most households was Jif, Skippy or Peter Pan. That was pretty much it. Except if you were my family, then it was the natural kind that you had to stir to incorporate the oil. It wasn’t very common back then either, but once again, my parents were ahead of their time when it came to healthy eating. And I hated it!

I wanted nothing more than to have Jif or Peter Pan peanut butter like “normal” kids. Even Skippy, which wasn’t as good, was better than that natural stuff in my kid mind. I remember being over at a friend’s house and for a snack we had white bread (which we never had in my house either), toasted, with Jif peanut butter. I was in snack heaven!

My how our tastes changes as we grow up. I wouldn’t eat those name brand PBs filled with sugars, added oils (often hydrogenated) and preservatives now under any circumstances.

For years, I’ve purchased the “natural” peanut butters where the short list of ingredients was peanuts and salt. My adult taste buds loved the pure peanut taste that wasn’t masked by sweeteners and other oils. Trader Joe’s was my brand of choice. Just open the jar, pull out a butter knife and use your brute force to stir it up so the separated peanut butter and peanut oil were mixed together. Then keep it in the fridge. Only bad part was once you got down to about the last quarter of the jar, you had pretty hard peanut butter that was a pain to spread. I never thought much about it, but the stirring and bottom-of-the-jar hard PB kind of sucked. That’s just what you need to accept when you want “natural” peanut butter, right?

Then one day my co-worker Jill asked if I make my own peanut butter. Make my own peanut butter? Whhhaaatttt?!? I had never thought of it. Why had I never thought of it? A quick google made me laugh at how easy it is. Dump a bag of roasted peanuts in a food processor and turn it on. That’s it—after a few minutes you have your “natural” peanut butter with just peanuts and salt, or if you buy the no-salt-added, just peanuts. Put it in a jar, pop it in the refrigerator and you have silky smooth, no-oil-separated peanut butter whenever you have a hankering. Thank you, Jill!

I usually buy the 50% salt Trader Joe’s peanuts which gives the perfect level saltiness for my taste. And it never separates or becomes hard, even near the bottom of the jar. Who knew? And it’s cheaper than buying a jar of the same amount of peanut butter. I haven’t bought a jar of peanut butter since.
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A few people at work, besides Jill, have been as surprised as I was about this making-your-own-peanut-butter thing, so I thought it would be worth sharing in a blog post. I should note, this works equally well with cashews or almonds. But don’t thank me; thank Jill. Enjoy!
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Homemade Peanut Butter

  • Servings: 1 16 oz. jar
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I’ve used this in baking too–in cookies and bars–with good results

1 pound roasted peanuts (unsalted, lightly salted, or salted)

Salt, to taste (if peanuts are unsalted and you want salted peanut butter)

Put the peanuts and salt (if using) in the bowl of a food processor. Process for about a minute and stop it and scrape down the sides (be warned, it’s really noisy at first!). Process for a couple minutes more, until it is to your preferred consistency. You may need to scrape down the sides a couple times. The amount of processing time will vary on the power of your food processor—the right time will be when it looks right to you.

Scrape the peanut butter into a jar and refrigerate. Unless you rarely eat peanut butter, it will keep longer than it takes for you to use up the jar. Makes a 16-oz. jar.