It is Tuesday morning. I am sitting at my new desk in my new office staring out at my new neighbors’ backyard. The multi-colored pinwheels that dot their yard are spinning slowly. The rhythmic swoosh of cars that drive down the main road remind me that the day is passing, slowly, but steadily. Downstairs, the…
It is Tuesday morning. I am sitting at my new desk in my new office staring out at my new neighbors’ backyard. The multi-colored pinwheels that dot their yard are spinning slowly. The rhythmic swoosh of cars that drive down the main road remind me that the day is passing, slowly, but steadily. Downstairs, the living room is bathed with the warm sunlight that continuously pours in all morning and even though I can’t see it yet, the brand new leather couch is fading away under this bright light.
We have been here for one month and eight days; I am still learning the rhythms of our new home. John and I are also learning our own rhythms here in this house. This year will mark our fourth year of marriage, and I am certain that it has been our best year yet.
For the past four years when we were renting, everything had felt temporary: Why buy a new couch if we are just here for a year or two? Why paint that wall? Why invest in this or that relationship, if we might move soon? But now, with a thirty year lease to prove it, I feel that we are in this for the long haul.
At work too I am finding my rhythm. I am a fourth year teacher now. It is the first time in 8 years that I am not searching for the next job, or the next thing. My school, my students, they too feel like home. In fact, I love my students so much that I am considering spending a week in another country with them this summer for fun. All these things have been a blessing from the Lord. I have been so thankful for the first month of this new season in our lives.
Last week, in my new kitchen, these amaranth bars came to me rather serendipitously. When I was younger, my mother had always bought tiny, popped amaranth kernels in plastic bags, so I was astonished to find that you could buy amaranth grains “pre-popped” (or that the amaranth that I bought was even “popped”).
One quick look at the bag of amaranth I’d purchased from Whole Foods revealed that these grains were not at all like the grains my mom bought. An alegría recipe on the back of the bag explained to me that the amaranth I’d seen all my life was in fact already popped. Intrigued, I set out to pop amaranth. Two tablespoons of burned amaranth grains later, I was popping these grains like a pro.
Amaranth seeds come from an amaranth plant that can also be consumed as a green like in this soup I made last summer. When boiled, the grains remind me of tiny quinoa with a subtle popcorn taste. When popped, they are often turned to sweet treats called alegrías, which I had always thought of as old lady candy when I was a kid. Alegrías consist of popped amaranth, piloncillo (brown sugar), and assorted nuts and dried fruits.
Apparently, as an old lady myself now, I was craving alegrías last Sunday when I popped my amaranth, but upon seeing and smelling the tiny popped grains filling my kitchen with the smell of quinoa popcorn, I had a new idea. What if I made chocolate “rice” krispy treats with them? Or chocolatey alegrías? Lo and behold, these luscious, five ingredient, chocolate amaranth krispy treats were born.
The process is simple: while you pop your amaranth, melt down coconut oil, chocolate, honey and tahini into a sauce in a small saucepan. Then, combine the popped amaranth with the sauce, pour it into a greased container and pop it in the refrigerator until it sets.
These amaranth krispy treats are delicious and healthy (ish). They are refined sugar free, vegan, and gluten free. Thanks to the amaranth, they are also high in protein, fiber, a ton of minerals and vitamins (like iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B) and most importantly, utterly delicious!
I am currently eating some with zero guilt. Let me know if you make them. Also, let’s have a conversation: let me know, what do you feel like you are learning in this stage of life?
Notes: Popping amaranth is easy once you follow a few basic rules. First, allow saucepan to heat on medium-high heat. If you sprinkle water on the pan, it should sizzle and dance around the pan. Add amaranth, no more than a tablespoon or two of amaranth grains at a time and cover with lid to prevent amaranth grains from popping out of the pan onto the rest of your kitchen. Wait until most of the amaranth has popped, about 30 seconds. Immediately remove from heat and place popped amaranth in a container to cool. Keep popping!
Chocolate Amaranth Krispy Treats
Yields: 12 small bars
- 2-2.5 cups of popped amaranth
- ½ cup of your favorite dark chocolate
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons of honey, or your favorite sweetener
- Optional add ins: sesame seeds, chocolate chips, nuts
- If you are not working with popped amaranth, pop amaranth according to directions on the bag or look at my notes above.
- In a heavy bottom small saucepan on low heat melt coconut oil. Then add chocolate and once it’s melted down add tahini and honey. Stir until uniform consistency. Turn heat off and remove pan from heat.
- Stir in popped amaranth and optional add ins.
- Pour into a greased, or lined container and smooth out top.
- Allow to set for 20 minutes in fridge.
- Cut into your preferred size and enjoy!
Hey, guess what????
John and I bought a house.
The story of how we found and bought the house is an amazing story for another time but since then life has been CRAZY. Packing and unpacking all of our worldly possessions was not fun but we love our new home and it feels like such a tangible reminder of God’s grace every day.
Our new home is spacious and full of windows and makes me long for loooong summer days to truly fill the house with sunlight. I can’t wait to know what each room looks like at different times of day and which rooms have the best light for photographing at what times. We have a long porch and a backyard and lately I’m dreaming of porch swings and rocking chairs and garden tomatoes and maybe even eating garden toamtoes on the porch.
Which reminds me, two weeks ago, I taught a course on Rural American Cuisine titled “American Culinary Perspectives: Diversity and Continuity” during my school’s January Term and it was one of the highlights of my teaching career.
Each January the small Christian private school where I work investigates a region of the world for a week through food, music, and seminars in order to learn how to better love our neighbors. This year our region was Rural America and my cooking group explored the questions: What is American food? Where does American cuisine originate, in rural areas or in the cities? We met for three hours at my house each day of the week and explored native american ingredients, Native American cuisine, Southern cuisine, Appalachian cuisine, and European and African influence throughout. Some of you expressed interest in the course readings and recipes on instagram so I plan to share a few recipes from the course on the blog in the weeks to come.
But for now, salad! This salad was birthed in my kitchen about a year ago. I had a surplus of grapefruits due to THIS cake and so, naturally a salad was the perfect destination for citrus.
Initially, I simply added grapefruit chunks to the salad but I wanted the grapefruit flavor to be more pervasive, so one day I juiced the grapefruit directly into the salad and tossed it with olive oil. The salad was delicious but it I thought it would be even better with some creaminess so I added almonds to the dressing and a few versions of the salad later the result was this Kale Citrus Salad with Grapefruit Dressing.
I have to admit that for a long time I enjoyed kale salads in restaurants without knowing what made restaurant salads so superior to my own. That is, until I was introduced to the olive oil massage via my friend Grace. After trying it, I was astounded by the way in which a quick massage with olive oil could completely transform a bitter and tough green into a pliable and delicious salad base. Massaged kale is now one of my favorite salad bases and one that I prepare often in our home!
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much I don’t like recipes. I prefer loose formulas and suggestions and that is ultimately the way I treat recipes anyway. Usually, I read over a recipe once or twice and then try to cook the recipe on my own. Recipes are a source of inspiration but not something I follow religiously (disclaimer: I am very meticulous my FIRST time trying a new recipe or my first time cooking something I have not tried before and I am especially careful when it comes to baking). This salad is something like that, there are a few ingredients I strongly recommend you use but there’s also freedom to tweak the ingredients based on what you have and the end result can vary a little.
I rarely make this recipe exactly the same but it is a kale base with apples, citrus, nuts, cheese and a grapefruit vinaigrette. The dressing is made with grapefruit juice which yields a tart and bright flavored dressing that also ends up a beautiful pale peach hue. The dressing combined with the salad is crunchy, fresh, creamy and sweet all at once! I usually add at least three different types of citruses: orange, clementine and grapefruit work well.
Grapefruit Vinaigrette Recipe
Yields: 1 cup
- ½ cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
- ¼ olive oil
- ¼ toasted almonds
- 1 tablespoon of sweetener, sugar or maple syrup
- Salt and pepper to taste
Kale Citrus Salad
- 1 bunch of kale, washed and drained
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 tart apple, cut into bite sized pieces
- 2-3 different types of citruses, cut into slices or supremes
- ¼ cup toasted nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts)
- ¼ cup crumbly cheese (goat or feta are my favorite)
- Occasional Add ins: pickled red onion, jicama, korean pear
- Dressing: combine all of the ingredients for the grapefruit vinaigrette into blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
- Take kale and roll up as you would for a chiffonade. Cut into thin slivers. Then cut slivers into bite size lengths.
- In a large bowl combine kale and one tablespoon of olive oil. Massage until kale is soft and your hands are slightly green (1-2 minutes)
- Combine all of the salad elements into one bowl and toss with grapefruit vinaigrette.
Things have been crazy busy around here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. October-November is my least favorite stretch of the year. It’s slow, it’s hard and it seems to never end but once it’s over, the school year gets significantly easier and I am able to do normal people things like go to the gym every now and then, eat meals that consist of something other than cereal and maybe even share a little something with you.
Today I am sharing a second mochi bar recipe and my holiday gift guide for foodies! AKA What I want my husband to buy me for Christmas (hint, hint). I’m starting with humble gifts and working my way up to a bigger splurges. Some of these are favorites that I already own and others are things I still dream of purchasing.
TSK Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies
- Bench Scraper: I cringe every time I see someone scraping up onions or tomatoes off their cutting board with a knife. Not only does it make a bad sound but it also dulls your knife! Bench scrapers can be used to clean up your cutting board, to get straight lines on a cake, or to perfectly divide dough into equal portions. A cheap but awesome gift.
- Off set spatula: not just helpful for frosting cakes but also for getting perfect swooshes to hold your oil drizzles on hummus and other delectable spreads. I use this pretty often.
- Scale: I bought this after a pasta class this spring and it has been game changing. I find that it makes baking much faster because I can just pour everything into a bowl and stop once it reaches the right weight. Perfect for a pasta or pan dulce aficionado.
- The Fearless Baker Cookbook: The second cookbook I’ve ever pre-ordered because of this trailer (*drools*). I made three recipes in the first week I bought the book and they’ve all been excellent! I love the pro tips and diagrams that Erin includes for each recipe. It helps me to feel confident tackling complex recipes like her delicious Caramel Cider Pie which I made twice last week. Recipe in cookbook and also here.
- Pastry Board: OK. So I don’t actually own this one (yet) but I’ve been wanting one for two years. First, as a photo prop, and now, many pies and pastries later, as a super useful tool for making pastries. It makes rolling dough and pastries out smooth and easy because it helps to keep things cool. And also it makes for really beautiful food photography.
- Pepper Grinder: When I got married I was not as much of a foodie as I am now and I really regret not putting a nice pepper grinder on my registry. I did get a pretty nice one anyway (thanks Micah!) but if I did it again I would do something like this or this. Something as simple as freshly ground pepper instead of the pre-ground stuff will make your food tastier and will add delicious texture to your food.
- Gift Card for a cooking class: I started taking cooking classes this year and they have totally revolutionized my confidence in the kitchen. There are so many small tips that can only be learned from experts. I find that the most useful advice is often in the small details that they might not even know they’re sharing. Like the subtle flick of a hand when dropping a tortilla onto a hot comal. Or the precise motion needed to roll a small ball of dough into a perfect boule. Or adding pasta water to your oil sauce to prevent your garlic from over crisping. Just small nuggets of brilliance. I really loved this cooking class in somerville. I’ve been dying to try a class at Eataly. And if you have a smaller budget I’ve taken two Craftsy cooking classes this past month and they were so enlightening!
- Kitchenaid Artisan Mini: I got the black one as a birthday gift and it has been game changing, in a good and bad way. The downside is that I’ve gone up a pant size since receiving it. The upside is that I’ve been baking a lot more! It’s so nice to just be able to make a cake on a whim. I especially love the small footprint of this appliance. It’s possible to beat a single egg white or ½ cup of whipped cream due to the deep bowl. Plus, it’s easy to move around but you won’t have to because it takes such little space on your counter top that you can permanently keep it out. One word of caution, if you double recipes often you should go for a bigger mixer.
All of these are excellent gifts but perhaps one of my favorite gifts to give or receive is a tin of Christmas baked goodies. These Matcha Mochi Brownie bites would be the perfect gift for any lucky friend or colleague. The crumbly swirls of chocolate brownie contrast perfectly with the gooey matcha mochi swirls and drizzled with dark chocolate ganache they are pure bliss.
They came before the dulce the leche mochi bars and they are in some ways my favorite mochi bars. A word of caution about matcha: Remember that matcha is green tea and that it has caffeine! One time John and I ate too many of these and we stayed up until 6 AM eating ramen. That was the day we learned nothing is open after midnight within a 20 minute radius of our house. Also, when buying matcha, make sure you buy green tea powder and not whole tea leaves in sachets, unless chunks of green tea in your white mochi bars is your cup of tea (so cheesy, I know, but I had to do it).
Check out the recipe below and let me know if you make them or if you buy someone a gift from the list above!
Matcha Mochi Brownie Bars
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Matcha Mochi Batter
- 1lb Mochiko, or any other sweet rice glutinous flour + ¼ cup
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 cups of milk
- ¼ cup of melted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt (only if butter is unsalted)
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 1 heaping tablespoon matcha powder
Adapted from Epicurious Fudgy Double-Chocolate Brownies Recipe
- 3 Sticks unsalted butter
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Matcha Mochi batter: Mix 1lb of sweet rice flour, matcha, sugar, egg, milk , vanilla and salt. Then, add melted butter. Stir until you have a uniform and thick batter.
- Brownie batter: Combine 3 sticks of butter, chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in microwave safe bowl and microwave in 20 second increments mixing each time until combined. Set aside.
- Whip eggs sugar and salt on high speed until tripled in size. Then fold eggs mixture into chocolate mixture in three batches being careful to keep the volume. Add sifted flour in a few small batches taking care not to over beat.
- Alternate dropping dollops of the matcha mochi batter and the brownie batter into your greased baking pan. Then create swirls using a knife or chopstick.
- Bake at 375 for 50 minutes. Mochi bars may seem a little soft and goopy and this is OK; they will get firmer over time.