Category Archives: Snacking Staples

Comfort on a cold day: Toasted Anise Cake

frozen_fennel

During the coldest days of the year, I make frequent trips out to the chicken coop. The hens are fine of course, they’re rated to about -20F (-30 if you speak Celsius), and a few of them will happily wade around in snow up to their egg-holes as long as the sun is shining — but the eggs freeze solid and explode if left in the nests for too long.

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I’m nowhere near as cold-hardy as the chickens, but once I’m outside I marvel at the stark beauty of the icy yard and almost manage to forget about the cold.

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In the end I’m always glad to be forced out into the elements, because it makes the house seem that much warmer when I come in.

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Especially when I have a batch of these toasted anise cake slices fresh out of the oven. They make the house smell heavenly, and the crunchy texture (similar to biscotti) is perfect alongside a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea. Or a bowl of sorbet, when the days get warmer again.

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Toasted Anise Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: About 12 cookies

Toasted Anise Cake

These toasty cake slices are similar to biscotti, and are delicious with a hot cup of coffee or a bowl of lemon sorbet.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds, finely crushed
  • Special equipment:
  • mortar & pestle
  • stand mixer
  • 8 1/2 by 4 1/2" loaf pan

Instructions

  1. Put rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350F. Lightly butter and flour loaf pan.
  2. Crush anise seeds using mortar and pestle.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, anise, and salt in a small bowl.
  4. Beat eggs and sugar in a mixer bowl at high speed until tripled in volume, and thick enough to form a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to fall apart when beater is lifted (about 12-18 minutes)
  5. Sift flour mixture over egg mixture in 3 batches, folding in each batch.
  6. Gently stir in butter, and immediately pour batter into loaf pan and smooth top.
  7. Bake until loaf is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto a cutting board (right side up) and cool for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400F.
  9. Trim ends and cut loaf into 1/2-inch-thick slides. Arrange slices on a baking sheet and bake until undersides are golden brown, about 7 minutes. Flip and bake until the other side browns, about 5 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

Adapted from Gourmet.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/toasted-anise-cake/

Quick Pickled Green Beans

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This year, we have so many green beans (and purple, and yellow) that it’s a little hard to keep up. Between a 4′ x 4′ plot of bush beans and a couple trellises of climbing beans, I’m lugging a big basket of pods into the house every morning.

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And when I find myself staring at a pile of fresh beans that I don’t feel like blanching and sealing for the freezer, I turn to the easiest possible method of preserving them, quick pickled green beans:

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Note that these pickled green beans are not the standard hot-processed “Dilly Beans,” which I’ve tried to embrace on many occasions but always found limp and aggressively vinegary. These beans are another story altogether. I included instructions for hot-processing these as well, if you feel you must, but I almost never bother canning my beans.

Quick pickles are great for two reasons: First, they aren’t all limp like their boiled counterparts. And more importantly, they couldn’t be easier. Just cram your vegetables and some spices into a jar, add vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio, and pop it in the fridge. They don’t keep for years like hot-processed pickles, but once you taste them they won’t be sticking around longer than a month anyway.

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3 quarts

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Delicious, crunchy, and perfect alongside a Bloody Mary (or a sandwich).

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds green beans, stems intact, washed and dried
  • 9 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
  • 6 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 9 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
  • a handful of washed fresh grape leaves (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pack green beans evenly into quart-sized jars, along with garlic, salt, spices, and grape leaves if using.
  2. Fill jars halfway with white vinegar, then top off with cool filtered water.
  3. Put lids on jars and flip upside down for a few minutes to distribute the spices.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 3 days to develop flavors. Pickles will be at their prime in 2 weeks, and will last up to a month.
  5. To can:
  6. Heat vinegar, water, and salt to a boil first, and pour over beans and spices in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, adding time for altitude (I process for 15 minutes here at 6,000 feet).

Notes

Adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/quick-pickled-green-beans/

Allen Lim’s Rice Cakes

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If you know me in real life this won’t be news to you, but I love bikes. Whether I’m exploring country roads or rolling across singletrack, I’m happiest on two wheels. It’s so much fun that it doesn’t feel like exercise, but it counteracts the cake and keeps me from needing to buy larger pants.

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And with it being Tour de France season, it’s a perfect time to share with you my very favorite bike snack, also a favorite in the pro peloton (or so I’m told.) This is adapted from The Feed Zone Cookbook, which I’d highly recommend if you’re any sort of athlete, or just looking for portable snack ideas.

These rice cakes are a great “real food” replacement for bars or gels, and the sweet-and-salty combination is just what I need for the return trip of a long ride. They’re fast-burning and easy to digest, and they taste like bacon, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Can you imagine anything better?

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Tamari Roasted Almonds

tamari_almonds

I spent almost the entire weekend outside with my sister — weeding and tilling, planting flowers, and laying down plastic to keep the weeds at bay. There’s still a long list of things to be done yesterday, and I feel like I’ve been hit by a train (but in a good way.) I think we’re off to a solid start on our best garden yet, and I can’t wait to get back out there.

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We took a break yesterday for a visit from our Mom, who is the source of our green thumbs. So of course we celebrated Mother’s Day with a trip to our neighborhood garden store. And also a special cake that my mom requested, which turned out even better than expected. That one will be making an appearance on the blog later this week.

But for now, I bring you something that only takes a little bit of effort: Tamari roasted almonds.

in_the_garden

I got hooked on tamari almonds working at a health food store in college, and for years paid way too much to buy them already roasted. I attempted to make my own a few times, back when I was first learning to cook, and always ended up with almonds that were either chewy or burned (usually both.) After you’ve ruined a few pounds of raw almonds, the pre-roasted ones start to look like a bargain.

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But last year, I revisited the idea and finally figured out how to make my own. And not only is it really simple, but much less expensive. Only I eat more of them than ever now, so I suppose it all balances out.

Tamari Roasted Almonds

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3/4 pound

Tamari Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound raw almonds
  • 3-4 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Spread almonds in a single layer in a large baking dish.
  2. Set oven to 325 and put almonds in, don't bother preheating. Set a timer to check them in 8 minutes.
  3. Stir and check the almonds every 2-5 minutes, gradually they will start to get a little more color and give off a toasty aroma.
  4. Sprinkle soy sauce over almonds and stir to coat; they should be a little wet but not swimming in it.
  5. Place almonds back in the oven for a couple minutes with the door cracked, stirring occasionally. When the liquid is almost all absorbed, transfer almonds to a dish to cool. Store in an airtight container.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/tamari-roasted-almonds/