This Page

has been moved to new address

Awake at the Whisk

Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Awake at the Whisk: February 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Purple Potato Wedges with Apple, Gorgonzola & an Amber Ale Marinade

Baked potato for dinner? Sounds perfect to me! Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t always agree. My latest solution: add blue cheese and beer. Instant success!

If you like bold, knock-you-in-the-mouth flavors, start making this dish immediately! It’s bound to become a dinner staple. From cutting board to oven, you’re done in 10 minutes; from oven to mouth another 5 minutes. Even Rachel Ray longs for such speed.

What to expect when eating this dish: Your mouth will be knocked from the right with the caramelized, full-bodied roasted garlic (both in minced and whole clove form to add double-power). Then, your mouth will get socked from the left with bitey blue gorgonzola. Next, experience the crisp, sweet of apple, dancing merrily along. Everything is coated in a silky salty marinade perfect for bringing in the earthy, comforting potato. Flavor upon flavor upon happy, enticing flavor!

Double bonus: Since this recipe requires less than a full bottle of brew for the marinade, you’ll have to suffer through and finish off that beer while you’re cooking. This recipe is torture!

Did I mention? You’re also getting a hearty helping of fiber and vitamins. Don’t you love it when indulgence is healthy?

Purple Potato Wedges with Apple, Gorgonzola & an Amber Ale Marinade

2 lbs. purple potatoes, quartered lengthwise into wedges (you can use other potatoes, but the purple ones are so delicious!—and they’re only $3 at the farmers’ market)
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
10 additional garlic cloves (whole, skins removed)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup amber ale (such as Hoppy Face Amber or Boont Amber)
2 crisp apples, such as Fuji, diced
¼ heaping cup gorgonzola cheese crumbled

Farmers' Market fare: potatoes, garlic, olive oil, apples
Locally sourced from California: amber ale
Grocery store (non-local) products: soy sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss potato wedges into a large mixing bowl. Toss both minced garlic and whole garlic cloves into the same bowl.

Pour ¼ cup each olive oil, soy sauce, and amber ale over the potatoes and garlic. Toss until potatoes are coated with the marinade. Dump the contents of the bowl onto a large baking sheet and place in the oven for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are soft when punctured with a fork.

Remove potatoes from oven. Dump the contents of the baking sheet (including any marinade) back into the large bowl. Dice the apples and toss them into the bowl with the potatoes. Add the gorgonzola cheese. Toss until apples are coated with marinade and the cheese is just slightly melted. Serve with more amber ale.

As you can see from the photo, the potatoes will soak up the dark soy sauce and caramelize in the marinade as they cook. Yum!

This makes more than enough for two large helpings, plus leftovers for lunch the next day. You could also serve this as a side at your next BBQ. If you don’t LOVE this dish… well, I just don’t know if there’s help for you.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, February 22, 2010


Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Oh boy! These little treats combine my favorites: cupcakes and beer. Rarely does the occasion present itself where the two meet gracefully… until now. Enter the Chocolate Stout Cupcake. These have rich chocolate flavor with notes of creamy coffee from the stout (and a hit of instant coffee grounds). Add local walnuts, and you’ve got one satisfying cupcake!

Beer lovers and cupcake lovers rejoice!

Don’t forget to support your local brewer and select a stout made nearby. You don’t have to travel to Ireland to get good beer.

Locavore note: When it comes to baking supplies, most will likely be traveling some distance. Vanilla and coffee, for instance, come from tropical climates. But compared to shipping cases of beer, spices and coffees come in a smaller mass and last much longer. By sourcing dairy locally, these cupcakes stay fairly “green.” And depending on where you live, you may even be able to find locally-sourced flour.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

1 cup stout beer, such as Sierra Nevada Stout
1 ½ sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 scant cup Valrona cocoa powder (this type of cocoa has a richer, deeper cocoa flavor)
2 cups organic granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
½ cup organic buttermilk
1 teaspoon instant coffee grounds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts

Farmers’ market fare: eggs, walnuts, butter
Locally sourced from California: buttermilk, stout
Grocery store (non-local) products: cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, coffee, vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine stout and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Allow butter to melt, stirring occasionally. When butter has melted, remove pan from heat. Whisk in cocoa powder and set aside.

Lightly grease cupcake pans.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and instant coffee. Pour this into the cocoa mixture (which should now be cool) and whisk together until combined. Add this to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Mix in the walnuts.

Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full. Do not over-fill them, because the batter will expand outward (not upward) and make sloppy-looking cupcakes. It also helps to allow the filled pans to rest for 10 minutes before baking. This creates a perfect peak on each cupcake.

Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Allow to cool in the cupcake pan for about 5 minutes, and then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. When they are cool, frost with chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
1 cup chocolate chips (I use 65% cocoa, or dark chocolate chips)
½ cup hot coffee, or water with 1 Tablespoon instant coffee grounds

Using a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips for about 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir with a spoon. Return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir.

If some of the chips have begun to melt (they won’t melt into a liquid, which is why you need to stir to determine whether they’re beginning to melt), stir in about 2 Tablespoons of the hot coffee and stir again. If the chips do not melt completely, return to the microwave again for about 15 seconds. Remove and stir. Do not overheat! Chocolate will become hard and impossible to melt if you overheat it. Continue to add hot coffee a few tablespoons at a time, stirring until the chocolate becomes creamy.

You should have a creamy chocolate that can be spooned onto each cupcake. Drop about 2 Tablespoons onto the top of one cupcake. Using the back of a clean spoon, evenly coat the top of the cupcake with the ganache. Repeat until all the cupcakes are topped.

You may want to make the ganache a ½-batch at a time to ensure the chocolate doesn’t harden before you are done.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Beer: Is Your Beverage Green?

Thirst-quenching, delicious beer! The beverage of football players and frat parties has finally become refined. Farewell, watery light beer! Hello, American craft ales!

I am a proud beer snob. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Yet, I’ve come a long way in my journey. When I drank my first beer (a tasteless brew from a giant corporation), I doused my cup with Mt. Dew. Yes, I hated it that much. A few years later, I had the good fortune of living in Denmark, where I was introduced to a finer lager. And thus my taste for good ale blossomed.

Today, I stick to microbrews. (No Mt. Dew needed.) Smooth amber ales will win my heart over any time! I’m also quite fond of good pale ales and hoppy IPAs. I like my beer to slap me in the face with bold flavor. Or, on a hot summer day, I’ll grab a lager and throw in a twist of lime to cool the heat. And while others are clinking glasses of wine, I’ll opt instead for a frothy brew any day.

Yes, I shall forever remain a true beer fan. And in celebration of Sacramento Beer Week, which kicks off tomorrow, I’m putting my beverage-of-choice to the ultimate locavore test. Is it green enough?—and I don’t mean adding food coloring as they do on St. Patty’s Day.

All hail my green beer experiment! I have done the research for you so that you might drink in peace. Grab a pint and let’s celebrate!!

Green Beer Tips:
1) Head to the Nearest Pub (on bike!): Beer containers maximize their environmental footprint. All those bottles and cans start to add up. The greenest beer container? The keg! So, pedal on over to your local pub to keep your brew green.

2) Order Local: Now that you’re comfortably seated at your local bar, order the local brew. For those of us here in Sac Town, ordering locally is easy. From Rubicon to Hoppy, we’ve got some wonderful beers to choose from. You can even remain safely within the 100 mile locavore radius by choosing popular Sierra Nevada ales from Chico, CA. Hell, even if you’re feeling really naughty and want to order one of my favorite brews (Arrogant Bastard) out of San Diego, you’re still lightening the carbon load by not ordering that bicyclist’s beer from Colorado or that Irish brew from across the ocean. Cali’s got it going on when it comes to local beers.

3) Go Organic: Crops of hops are ubiquitously doused in fungicides. If you want to reduce the amount of pesticide use on our planet, opt for locally-brewed organic ale. Here are a few you might like, conveniently located at a brewer near you: Butte Creek (Chico, CA), Bison Brewing (Berkeley, CA), and Eel River Brewing Company (Fortuna, CA).

4) Go Solar: You can minimize your beer’s carbon footstep even further by buying from a solar-powered brewery. Boont Amber Ale is one such delightful beer, and it’s crafted in Boonville, CA—just a stone’s throw away (well, only three hours—still closer than Colorado!). Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is also solar powered. Now doesn’t that just make your favorite beer taste better!

5) Cool Your Own Beer: Cut down on the amount of energy used to keep your beer cold in the grocery store cooler. Buy room-temperature beer (as they sell it at Trader Joe’s) and throw a few bottles in your frig at home. And for Pete’s sake, don’t run an extra frig just for your cold beverages. Keep only what you need in your kitchen frig. If you’re having a party, buy some ice and throw everything in a tub to save energy.

There you have it: proof that you really can go green while drinking beer! For more reading on the matter, check out this fine article.

All this good news is making me thirsty. I hope to see you at the Colonial Theater opening event for Sacramento Beer Week tomorrow at 6pm! I’d love to raise a glass with you. I’ll also be passing out samples of my tasty Chocolate Stout Cupcakes.

Afterwards, meet me back here throughout the week for brew-inspired recipes like my aforementioned cupcakes and some tasty Purple Potato Wedges marinated in Amber Ale. Cheers!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, February 15, 2010


Complete Farmers’ Market Meal: Double Jack Quesadillas with Honey & Seasonal Fruit Salsa

Utter delight awaits with this flavor-packed, blissfully fresh meal. Intensely delicious, bursting passionately with wet, bright aromas, this dish will have you licking your fingers and mumbling sweet nothings under your breath. You may even drool. It’s just that good.

The salsa alone could be gobbled feverishly. It’s packed with the season’s best fruits: crisp apples, luscious strawberries, and tangy orange. Add sinfully sweet dates, crunchy grated carrots, and a few sprigs of grassy cilantro for a harmoniously zestful fruit salsa.

I pair this with soft, fresh tortillas packed with a hint of salty Dry Jack cheese, a slice of creamy Jersey Jack, a sprinkle of earthy walnuts, and a drizzle of wet, sweet clover honey. Put the two together, and you just might begin imagining that you’re sliding down a rainbow into wonderland.

Pinch yourself. This is real.

Serve this as a light lunch, brunch, or even a snack. Go ahead. You deserve it!

Double Jack Quesadillas with Seasonal Fruit Salsa

4 large strawberries, diced
½ small carrot, grated
1 small apple, diced
2 dates, diced
1 small orange, peel zested and fruit diced
2 sprigs cilantro, chopped fine
2 whole wheat tortillas
2 pumpkin spice tortillas
4 slices Jersey Jack cheese
2 Tablespoons grated Dry Jack cheese
4 Tablespoons walnuts, chopped
4 Tablespoons clover honey

Farm Fresh Ingredients: all of the above!

Use a spoon to mix the first six ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

On microwave-safe plates, lay the tortillas flat. Top each with 1 slice Jersey Jack cheese and a half tablespoon Dry Jack cheese. Place each plate in microwave and cook for about 45-seconds each, or until the cheese is melted. Remove and immediately sprinkle 1 tablespoon walnuts and 1 tablespoon honey over cheese. Fold tortilla in half to form a quesadilla. Slice each quesadilla into smaller sections and serve with ½ cup fruit salsa. Feel free to “ooh” and “mmm” as you chew!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Chocolate Waffles with Chunky Strawberry Sauce & Whipped Cream

Strawberries and chocolate are almost mandatory ingredients to help celebrate Valentine’s Day. Chocolate has an historical reputation as an aphrodisiac. Because it contains small amounts of caffeine and plenty of sugar, chocolate certainly helps get your blood pumping. The strawberry itself was a symbol of Venus, the goddess of love, in ancient Rome. 

Whatever their magical qualities, you can be sure everyone adores the combined flavors of these romantic treats. Here’s a delightful Valentine’s Day dessert fit for Venus herself. Serve one chocolate waffle piled with strawberry sauce and whipped cream as dessert to share from a single plate, or divide the sections and serve one to each person on a tiny plate. You’ll have plenty leftover to serve up romance for breakfast the next day.

Chocolate Waffles with Chunky Strawberry Sauce

4 cups chopped strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch
¼ cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup oat bran
1/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon instant coffee grounds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 ½ cups buttermilk
¼ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup heavy organic whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sugar

Farm fresh: strawberries, walnuts, almond meal (grind whole almonds in a food processor), eggs
Locally-sourced from California: buttermilk, cream
Grocery-store (non-local): sugar, corn starch, flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, coffee, baking powder & soda, salt, canola oil, vanilla extract, oat bran

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Plug in and preheat waffle iron. Place a medium, metal mixing bowl in the freezer (you’ll use this later to make whipped cream).

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and water. Stir occasionally, bringing mixture to a boil. Turn heat down to low and cook another two minutes. Turn off heat and set aside to cool. It will thicken as it cools.

In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients (beginning with the flour and ending with the salt). Whisk together.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Pour about 2/3 cup waffle batter onto waffle iron and bake according to the instructions in your waffle iron. When each waffle is done, set it directly on the oven rack. Do not overlap the waffles, or they will become soggy.

Make the whipped cream: Remove metal bowl from freezer. Pour heavy whipping cream into the bowl. Using an electric mixer beat the cream on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the vanilla extract and sugar. Resume beating on medium speed until firm (not stiff) peaks form.

Serve waffles with strawberry sauce and a big scoop of whipped cream and love!

Makes about 8 waffles.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Tips on Making a Complete Meal from the Farmers’ Market

I recently attended an event on sustainable food. A supporter of the movement told me, “My problem with farmers’ markets is that you can’t make a whole meal from shopping there.” [Insert the sound of my jaw hitting the floor here.]

Yet, when I think back a few years, I certainly wasn’t making the farmers’ market my main grocery supplier. Back then, I wasn’t thinking about the distance my bell peppers had traveled to get to my table in the middle of winter. I wouldn’t have hesitated to grab a jar of pasta sauce made in Italy off the grocery store shelf. I’ve come a long way since then. It’s been a wonderful journey from my former life as a robotic grocery cart pusher to someone fully awake at the whisk.

Perhaps others just need to know the tricks I use to make local eating practical. After all, I do this in addition to my 50-hour per week job—just like other busy folks.

Going Local—My Latest Undertaking to Convert the World to Shopping Farmers’ Markets
This recent conversation gave me an idea: I will share my farmers’ market secrets so everyone can begin to see how easy it really is! From here on out, you’ll see a new twist to my recipes. I’ll be dividing ingredients according to those you can find at your local farmers’ market, those I’ve picked from my own garden, and those supplemental ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, black pepper) that I’m required to buy at the local supermarket.

My recipes already focus primarily on seasonal, locally grown fare. Now, you’ll find it easier to trace the food back to its place of purchase so that you, too, can believe in the power of making complete meals from the farmers’ market. Believe me—it’s well worth your trip, even on a crisp, rainy, winter morning. You’ll feel so glad that you’re trying!

Practical Tips to Being a Full-Blown Farmers’ Market Shopper
Let me begin by providing my most basic tips:

Make a shopping list: I keep a running list every time I run out of an item. That way, I don’t have to guess when I arrive at the market about whether I have enough eggs at home.

Visit the farmers’ market first: Take your shopping list straight to the farmers’ market. Deplete as much of your shopping list here as you can. Head to the grocery store afterwards. You’ll be surprised by how many items you can purchase—and even substitute—right from your local farmers. They’ve got it all: olive oil, cheese, bread, jams, rice, eggs, herbs, and even meats, not to mention fruits and veggies.

Make substitutions: Do you have bananas on your grocery list? Why not buy some seasonal fruit instead? We’re lucky here in California. We can eat fresh fruit year round: berries in Spring, stone fruit in Summer, pears in Fall, and oranges and apples all Winter. Do you have orange juice on your list? Why not buy a bag of fresh oranges and juice them yourself?

Think outside the box: We tend to get trapped in a food rut, making the same familiar meals over and over again. Why not step outside the comfort zone? Instead of making another cold cut sandwich for lunch, how about making a fried egg sandwich with eggs from your local farmer and bread from the local baker? You can even find all the ingredients for a classic PB&J at the farmers’ market, but you’ll need to swap your typical peanut butter for local almond butter.

Ease into it: Don’t purchase five vegetables you’ve never seen before and don’t know how to cook. You’ll end up frustrated once you’re at home, and will probably throw half those veggies away because you get busy and return to the recipes you’ve been cooking for years. If you see something new and interesting, purchase just one. You’re more likely to use it, and you’ll feel more accomplished. I like to try one new veggie each week: a dikon one week, an opo the next. Little by little, you’ll start to incorporate them into your everyday recipes with ease.

Commit to one farmers’ market-only meal a week: "If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That's not gallons, but barrels,” (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver). As part of the “ease into it” plan, try making just one meal a week that’s completely purchased from your local farmer. You can buy corn tortillas, onions, and cheese (yes, all from the market!) for an easy quesadilla supper. Or you could buy croissants, honey, and quark for a gourmet farmers’ market breakfast. After you’ve tried one meal a week, you’ll want to make it two meals, then three! But start with one, and see how truly easy—and delicious—it can be!

Limit recipes to those that are seasonal: If you’re trying to make peach pie in the middle of January, you’re going to miss out on the wonders of a fresh, seasonal apple pie or orange muffins. And I challenge you to find delicious peaches in January that stand up to the quality of a peach purchased in August. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to start with the right tools: a seasonal recipe is essential. This very blog is laid out by month, which makes it easy for you to click on a date and find something seasonal that tempts your palette.

You’re Not Eliminating—You’re Adding!
I’m not a die-hard hippie who chokes down flavorless food mindlessly. I’m a passionate foodie who believes any good meal should engage all your senses: sight and presentation of a dish; smell and the aroma that fills your kitchen and your nose; sound and the noise of a sizzling sauté, touch and the textures that move through your mouth; and of course, taste and the powerful flavors of a well-cooked meal!

Eating locally is not at all about what you’re eliminating. Indeed, it’s about the richness you are adding to your life and your diet!

Join me!
What are you doing on the Internet? Grab a re-useable bag and let’s get out to the farmers’ markets! Check back here for recipes, to post questions, and to find more tips about making farmers’ markets practical. Upcoming features include ideas for a seasonal, romantic Valentine’s meal, ideas for making the farmers’ market fun and engaging for kids, and in celebration of the upcoming Sacramento Beer Week, recipes that include locally-brewed beer!

(Adjacent photo by Johanna Carson)

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Cilantro Pesto Dip

Just in time for The Big Football Game, here’s a seasonal dip fresh from the garden that the toughest of guys will love. My giant, 6'4" husband loves it!

There’s nothing like the bright, grassy flavor of cilantro in the middle of winter. Out here in Cali, winter is when it grows best. It’s wonderful for adding to stir fries, fish tacos, quiches, salads, you name it! But when I think about cilantro, my mind automatically wanders to salsa. Sadly, we don’t have ripe tomatoes or peppers right now.

So what else can we do to get that cilantro onto a dipping chip? The answer: Cilantro Pesto Dip. This dip gathers all the freshest flavors of the season for a tangy, zesty, creamy dip worthy of your finest tortilla chips! This recipe has it all: bright grapefruit (juice and zest) ripe from my neighbor’s tree; walnuts, onion, and garlic from the farmers’ market. The only “naughty” ingredients are the black olives (those are from a can) and the jalapenos.

Cilantro Pesto Dip

1 large bunch of cilantro (about 3 cups), chopped roughly, including stems and leaves
1 cup walnuts
1 cup black olives
½ a large onion, roughly chopped
3 jalapeno peppers, roughly chopped in quarters (use less if you don’t like the heat—but remember, this is being added to sour cream later, so the heat will mute)
Juice & zest from one large grapefruit
1-2 cloves garlic (again, use more or less depending on how much you like garlic)
3 Tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil (use the best quality you can find)
Salt to taste (about ¼ teaspoon—remember, your chips will have salt)
1 16-oz container light sour cream
Organic blue or yellow corn tortilla chips for dipping

Add all the ingredients (except for sour cream and tortilla chips) to the bowl of a food processor. I find it blends more easily if you put the liquid ingredients on the bottom, followed by the non-liquid ingredients, because you’ll end up scraping down the sides less often.

Turn the food processor on and blend until you have a creamy mixture. Turn off the processor and scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are incorporated and pulse again. Now, you have a bold cilantro pesto.

Remove one cup of the cilantro pesto and add it to a medium bowl. Add the sour cream to the bowl. Stir the two together. Voila! You have a delicious dip! Grab your chips and dig in!

Note: if the dip is too strong for your tastes, add more sour cream.

You’ll have lots of pesto left over. I store it in an airtight container in my fridge and use it to make more dip for up to a month. You can use the dip to top tacos, nachos, or anything else where you would otherwise add a dollop of sour cream. You could also add the pesto (without the sour cream) to Southwest-style pastas, soups, or stir it into a bowl of black beans to serve as a side dish.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]