August 28, 2011

DB Candylicious! (Honey-sweetened Confections)

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

Tempering chocolate is something I can't quite master but when the Daring Bakers ask I have to give it a whole-hearted try.  This month we were given the task of making candies and one at least had to be a chocolate confection.  So I attempted to recreate a favorite in our house, Heavenly Organics Honey Mint Patties.  Made with raw honey and unsweetened chocolate they are fantastic, and dairy and gluten free to boot!  Though I didn't do a perfect job tempering, the homemade version was fairly easy and just as tasty.  I also am submitting some delicious brittle I've been making for a travel snack lately.  The whole family is ecstatic when we have this in the house.  Thanks for the challenge Lisa and Mandy! 

Honey Sunflower Brittle
Inspired by Greek Pasteli. Roasting your own sunflower seeds makes all the difference!
Makes about a pound and a half of candy

3 cups raw sunflower seeds
1 cup honey
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
flaky sea salt or kosher salt

-Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
-Spread your sunflower seeds in an even layer on a large baking sheet.  Roast in the preheated oven checking and stiring the seeds every 5 minutes until dark golden brown and nutty.  This should take 15-20 minutes.
-Set the seeds aside and line the baking sheet with parchment paper or grease well with oil.
-In a saucepan, heat the honey to soft crack stage, ~290 degrees F.  Be careful to watch for scorching and stir to prevent.  Don't be like me and walk away from cooking sugar, it will always bite you in the rear if you do!
-When the honey has reached the correct temperature add the baking soda and stir to mix.  Then dump in all the sunflower seeds and mix well to coat.  If your seeds have cooled a lot you may need some low heat to get the honey to distribute evenly.
-Spread the brittle mixture on your prepared baking sheet in as even a layer as possible.  Sprinkle on salt to taste.
-Allow the brittle to cool and then snap into serving pieces.  Store in an airtight container, ideally in between layers of parchment paper to keep the pieces from sticking together. 

Honey Mint Dominoes
My homemade version of the Heavenly Organics Honey Mint Patties
Make as much as you'd like

Unsweetened chocolate (aka baking chocolate, see links for my source)
Honey, ideally a thick raw honey with a light flavor
Peppermint oil
Shallow chocolate mold

-Temper your chocolate, directions here, and line your molds.  Chill.
-Mix your honey and peppermint oil to taste.  Fill the chilled molds and chill again.
-Top the filled molds and chill once more.
-Pop out and enjoy!  They are very good eaten right from in the freezer. 

-The challenge candy recipes can be found on this download pdf or visit our hosts Lisa at Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive or Mandy at What the Fruitcake?!.
-I buy my unsweetened chocolate from Santa Barbara Chocolate Co. Their Pure Cacao Medallions are perfect for chopping up as a chocolate chip replacement or melting to drizzle/coat things.
-I used Champion Hill Farm star thistle honey in the brittle and tupelo honey from the Savannah Bee Company in the dominoes.
-Find more candy creations submitted for this challenge by browsing the sites listed in the Daring Baker Blogroll.
And now back to the garden harvest

August 23, 2011

Garden Shots

It's so good to be back in the garden. I'm not spending nearly enough time weeding but Penny and I have been picking plenty and Alex has been busy hunting for grasshoppers, aka "chicken treats".
Scarlet runner beans are a new favorite.  They are SO good stir fried with garlic!
Alex's sugar baby melons are larger than softballs. Will they ripen in time?
Lots of big grasshoppers this year. On the beans.
On the beets. Detroit dark red beets that is.
Sour puss Penny
Smirks crunching on cucumbers.
*Thanks to Hometown Seeds, who sent me one of their Survival Seed banks to try in exchange for advertising their company on my site.

August 17, 2011

Fragrant Beef Salad

It's been awhile since I've put forth an entry for the Mother's Kitchen Spice Rack Challenge, but her entertaining post and my love for cumin were inspiration to get me moving.  This past winter I was trying to think up new ideas to use the ground beef from the steer share we purchased.  I remembered the spiced beef from a Middle Eastern bakery near one of our previous homes in Sterling Heights, MI.  This bakery served spicy beef on top of brick-oven fired pizza dough with slices of fresh tomato.  (They have to-die-for cheese breads as well but those are now merely daydreams from my previous life as a dairy eater.)  I used my memory to try and recreate the flavor of the meat and it became a favorite dish this past winter.   The main spice is cumin so this is a perfect dish for this month's challenge.

Fragrant Beef Salad
Inspired by the meat flat breads from Maatouk Bakery.  This is my taco salad use for the spiced meat, of course you could use the beef on top of pizza dough like they do or like taco meat in tortillas.
Makes 2-4 servings depending on your hunger

1 pound ground beef, ground lamb is also wonderful
1 large onion, chopped
~6 cups greens (spinach, arugula and kale all work well)
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
good extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper (or a pinch of cayenne)

-Brown the meat, preferably in a cast iron skillet.
-When browned and mostly cooked add the onion, spices, salt and pepper.  Add a little olive oil if needed to lubricate the onions so they will cook well.   Stir and cook over medium high heat until the onion is soft and browned a little.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper and spice as desired.
-Wash, chop and dry your greens.  Top the greens with the beef mixture and then top with the tomatoes.
-Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle over olive oil to dress the greens.  Enjoy!

Even though I miss the ocean there are some pretty great consolation prizes here at home- the tomatoes, kale and onions in this salad are all fresh from my garden.

August 16, 2011

Update and some Peeled Snacks (giveaway too!)

We're back from the beach. Our week of fun in the sun is over and fall looms ahead. Instead of waking up to sunrises like this and going for a walk on the beach.
We're back home and waking up to this!  It turns out one of our supposed to be pullets is a rooster and started an oh so lovely crowing ritual while we were gone.  We've renamed him Hawkeye by the way.  Votes are being taken about his soup pot status.   
Travelling with our food restrictions is always tricky but some homemade beef jerky and lots of dried figs saw us through.  While we were travelling, I received an email offering a sample from a company called Peeled Snacks.  Since giving up refined sugar myself and cutting down on it for the while family we've really been appreciating the sweet kick dried fruit gives.  So I accepted the offer to try some of their goodies. 
They were waiting for me when I got home and today we gave them a try. We received apricots, pineapple and their farmer's market trio (apple, cherry and raisins.)   All were delicious with no added sugar.  The trio was especially kid friendly and I liked the small package size of the pineapple, since I am known to go a little overboard on dried pineapple and need the portion control. 
For more about their products, Peeled Snacks has the trifecta of Facebook, Twitter and Website.  Samples will be available at Costco stores on Thursday (8/18) and Wednesday (8/24), for you lucky southeast Michigan folks who can go.  They also have a cool recipe contest going on right now, details can be found on Facebook and HERE.

**Giveaway** Now Closed
In addition to my free samples Peeled Snacks has offered to give one of my readers an Organic Fruit Picks Variety Pack.  So drop a comment here before midnight Tuesday August 23rd.  If you like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter you can drop an extra comment or two for a better chance at winning.

*I received these samples free of charge in exchange for reviewing them here and running a giveaway.  No other compensation was given and the opinions are mine and honest.