Category Archives: Eggs

Daring Bakers: Tiramisu

This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by two of the most talented bakers I’ve seen in the blogosphere: Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. And what a doozy of a challenge this was! Not only did we have to make tiramisu, but we had to make the mascarpone cheese and the ladyfingers from scratch! (Of course, I’d have to make ladyfingers from scratch regardless; I’ve yet to come across gluten-free ladyfingers in the store.) This was definitely an exciting (albeit a bit daunting) challenge. I am so glad it was chosen: I had only tried tiramisu once before, and wasn’t too impressed with it. I was chatting with a friend of mine about this (as I know she loves tiramisu), and she told me that I just must have eaten tiramisu at the wrong place, because it’s the most amazing thing ever.

You know what? She was right. This dessert is the perfect pick-me-up. Both decadent and light at the same time, rich, but not too rich, with such a layer of complex, yet seemingly simple flavors. It was delightful. Aparna and Deeba definitely know how to choose a good dessert. I had to take most of my creation to the office to share, lest I be tempted to eat the whole thing. It was that amazing.

Prior to this challenge, I’d never made cheese of any variety. Not sure why I waited so long. Making mascarpone, while it takes a bit of time, is SO simple. I’m now inspired to move on to other fresh cheeses – the mascarpone set up so deliciously thick and creamy, it far surpasses store-bought. I can only imagine how a freshly-made ricotta or goat cheese would taste.

As for the ladyfingers, I followed a gluten-free recipe from The Art of Gluten-Free Cooking. I was a bit concerned when my batter was rather thin (I think my eggs were a bit too cold, and the whipped egg whites didn’t stiffen as much as they should have), but I pressed on. The resulting cookies were a bit thin, but they were deliciously crisp, with a slightly soft center. In the tiramisu,  they performed beautifully – they didn’t fall apart or get extremely soggy. Heaven.

While it was a bit of work, I’d definitely make tiramisu again – likely for special occasions. (to the family: put in your birthday requests now!) It was definitely worth the time and effort. Note: If you choose to make this, allow yourself enough time for preparation. The mascarpone needs to be made a day in advance, and the zabaglione and pastry cream need 4 hours to chill. Your ladyfingers will also need to be completely cool before you assemble the tiramisu. (I made my cheese two days in advance, and made the zabaglione and pastry cream the day before.) Enjoy!

 

For the mascarpone cheese, adapted from Baking Obsession

2 c heavy whipping cream

1 T fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to boil in a large skillet. Reduce the heat to medium. Pour the cream in a medium stainless steel bowl and place in the simmering water. Heat the cream, stirring often, until it reaches 190 degrees (this will take some time). Add the lemon juice and continue stirring until the cream curdles. (You won’t see actual “curds”, but it will get a lot thicker, coating the back of a spoon.) Remove the bowl from the water and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a fine-meshed sieve with 4 layers of dampened cheesecloth and place over a bowl. When cool, pour the cream mixture into the sieve. Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Keep refrigerated and use within 3-4 days.

For the ladyfingers, adapted from The Art of Gluten-Free Cooking

4 eggs, separated

1/2 c + 1 T sugar

1 1/2 t vanilla extract

1/4 c sorghum flour

1/4 c + 1 T arrowroot powder

1/4 c tapioca flour

1 t baking powder

1 t guar gum

1/8 t salt

1/2 c confectioner’s sugar (if you can’t tolerate corn, you can always put regular sugar in a food processor and process until fine)

Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until creamy and the yolk falls from the whisk in ribbons. Stir in the vanilla. Set aside. Beat the egg whites until stiff and add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and whisk for about 30 seconds, making sure the egg whites cast off a glossy sheen.

Add the sorghum flour, arrowroot powder, tapioca flour, baking powder, guar gum and salt together and whisk. Add to the egg whites in three separate batches, folding gently with each addition. Then fold in the egg yolk mixture. Spoon your batter into a pastry bag with a 1-inch tip. (You could even just use a plastic ziploc bag and cut the tip off of it.)

Pipe fingers that are about 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide on your parchment-lined baking sheets. Dust tops with confectioner’s sugar. Place the sheets in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Switch the baking sheets and bake for another 10 minutes or until ladyfingers are lightly golden on the edges. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Makes 1-2 dozen ladyfingers.

Tiramisu, adapted from The Washington Post

Ingredients:
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

Method:
For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8″ by 8″ should do) or one of your choice. (I used my 8-inch springform pan, lined on the bottom with parchment paper.)
Mix together the warm espresso, rum and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Working quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Kids in the Kitchen: Breakfast Tacos (Taquitos)

This morning, my husband and I were awakened at 7 AM. The kids were awake already. For a Saturday, that’s pretty early. You see, Matt was excited about making breakfast this morning. We had agreed on starting at 9 AM, but by the noise eminating from the living room, he was obviously ready to go well before then. Breakfast tacos (Or taquitos, as they’re called in our house – why? I have no idea.) are Matt’s favorite breakfast treat, and I often make them on weekends. These babies trump any other imagined breakfast food, including donuts, coffee cakes, pancakes – I bet they’d even win over ice cream. When we modified Kids in the Kitchen to include breakfast, it was immediately Matt’s dream to make them.

Of course, the version of breakfast tacos enjoyed at our house are not authentic Mexican by any stretch. A straightforward mix of scrambled eggs, cheddar, and spicy pork sausage, wrapped in a tortilla (corn for me, but the kids prefer flour) – there’s nothing pretentious or complicated about this meal. But when you’re feeding hungry teenagers first thing in the morning while still trying to clear the cobwebs from your head, complicated is not what you need.

So after a mandatory cup of coffee (for me, not Matt), we started. In the pan went some slices of bacon, and Matt set to grating cheddar. (The hardest part of preparation – he groaned about the task!)  After the bacon was removed from the pan, things came together fairly quickly. We browned sausage and drained it, and scrambled the eggs along with the cheddar and sausage. Once the eggs were cooked through, we filled tortillas with the egg-cheese-sausage mixture and rolled them up. The kids could opt to slide a piece of bacon inside, or sprinkle it with Tabasco. I opted for a bit of cilantro. And just like always, there were no leftovers.

You can always change up the ingredients in breakfast tacos to your liking. I would love a vegetarian version – black beans, chopped tomato, and jalapenos, or another favorite – nopalitos con huevos. The beauty of a recipe like this is that there really is not a recipe – it’s so versatile and forgiving that you can throw in any combination of ingredients. My favorite kind of recipe!

Breakfast Tacos/Taquitos

8 oz pork sausage

12 eggs

1/4 c milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 c grated cheddar cheese

12 tortillas, warmed (I lightly toasted corn tortillas in a cast iron skillet)

Pan-fried bacon, for serving

Tabasco hot sauce, for serving

Cilantro leaves, for serving

Heat a large skillet to medium heat. If making bacon, go ahead and fry it now and set aside to drain on paper towels. Add the sausage into the pan and crumble with spatula. Brown sausage crumbles until no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Remove and set on paper towels to drain. Scramble the eggs along with the milk; season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to medium-low and pour in the eggs. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add in the cheddar and sausage crumbles, and continue to cook, stirring fairly often, for about 6-8 minutes or until eggs are cooked through.

Fill tortillas with about 3-4 tablespoons of the egg mixture and fold over or roll up. Serve with bacon, Tabasco, and cilantro.

Serves 5-6.

Don’t Forget! There is still time to win some free Xagave nectar and the Where Delicious Meets Nutritious cookbook! Check it out here!

Also, check out Chocolate Covered Katie, she’s giving away a Vita-Mix!

Kids in the Kitchen: Spaghetti Carbonara (Gluten-Free, of course!)

Matt loves pasta. Spaghetti, lasagna, and macaroni and cheese? These three dishes alone could make this boy happy for a long, long time. Italy was his country of choice this time around, which, naturally, pleased Matt. We discussed various Italian dishes, both pasta and non-pasta, but the mention of bacon and spaghetti – two of his favorite things in the world – made spaghetti carbonara the choice for dinner tonight.

Truth be told, spaghetti carbonara is not among my favorite Italian dishes. It’s a bit on the rich and heavy side, in my opinion. As this was the case, I have not made spaghetti carbonara prior to this evening. Nevertheless, I sought out a recipe that was sure to please. Emeril saved the day! (Every Emeril Lagasse recipe I have followed has turned out beautifully!) I followed the original recipe pretty closely – it’s relatively straightforward and simple – and it was pretty darn tasty, if I do say so.

Not one piece of shell was dropped in the eggs!

Matt enjoyed it a great deal. Of course, eggs, bacon, cheese, and spaghetti – what’s not to like?

Gluten-Free Spaghetti Carbonara, adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1/2 lb bacon, diced into 1/2 inch pieces

1 T chopped garlic

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb gluten-free spaghetti, cooked until al dente (I used Tinkyada Pasta Joy Brown Rice Spaghetti)

4 large eggs, beaten

Salt to taste

1 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 T chopped fresh parsley leaves

In a large saute pan over medium heat, fry the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon with slotted spoon or spatula and allow to drain on paper towels. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, and season with pepper. Add back the bacon and pasta and saute for 1 minute. Season the eggs with salt. Remove the pan from heat and add eggs, stirring quickly, until eggs thicken but do not scramble. Add the cheese and taste; adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. Serves 4 generously.

Banana Souffle for Holiday Food Fest

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Liz at Hoosier Homemade is hosting Fall Desserts this week for Holiday Food Fest. Be sure to check out her blog and link up your favorite fall dessert! She’s giving away a Pampered Chef Pie & Tart Cookbook and a cool candle.

My submission for Holiday Food Fest this week are these banana souffles. While they aren’t typical “holiday” desserts, they are so rich in flavor, so comforting, that they would surely be a delightful end to any special dinner throughout the holiday season. They also take very little time to prepare, so they’re a doable dessert to throw together at the last minute. The best part is – they are much lower in calories and fat (and are of course, gluten-free!) than most desserts, since they only use egg whites, and rely a great deal on the natural sweetness of the bananas. (I haven’t tried to completely omit the sugar, but I imagine it would be possible to replace it with a lesser amount of agave nectar. If you do so, let me know how they turn out!)

Stay tuned, for next week, I will be hosting Fall Dishes for Holiday Food Fest! Be sure and check back, because there will be another chance at a giveaway!

 

Banana Souffle

2 ripe bananas

3 T water

1/3 c plus 1 T sugar

1/2 t cornstarch

pinch of cinnamon

4 egg whites

pinch of salt

Butter and sugar 4 4-ounce ramekins. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the bananas, and puree in a food processor until smooth. In a small saucepan, bring water and the 1/3 cup of sugar to a boil. Simmer 4 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Add banana puree, cornstarch, and cinnamon to sugar syrup, and stir until incorporated. Set aside to cool completely. (this is important – if you rush it and the mixture is still hot, it won’t fold into the egg whites correctly.) In a stainless steel bowl, beat egg whites and salt until foamy. Add remaining tablespoon of sugar and beat to soft peaks. Fold cooled banana puree into egg white mixture. Pour into ramekins and place ramekins on a baking sheet.

Place baking sheet in oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until puffed up and browned. Don’t open the oven to peek! If you must look (and I always want to!), use your oven light and peer through the window. If you don’t have one, trust your timer. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake

tres leches

Tres leches cake is not normally something I associate with this time of year. Around this time of year, I am usually focused on pecan pies, pumpkin everything, and soups of all kinds. Tres leches is usually the furthest thing from my mind.  

Of course, that all changed when we made last-minute plans to spend Hallowe’en evening with friends. They were planning a Mexican-themed dinner. (serving carnitas tacos, Mexican rice, and bacon-wrapped, cheese-and-jalapeno-stuffed shrimp. YUM.) I decided to bring along some homemade refried beans, a homemade salsa, and if I could pull it off, a gluten-free tres leches cake.

If you have never experienced the wonder that is tres leches cake, let me tell you, it’s amazing. Essentially, it is a sponge cake, baked and then poked full of holes, and soaked with three milks (hence the name) – whole milk (or cream – I used half-and-half), evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. And then, to top it off, it’s frosted with sweetened whipped cream. It’s moist without being soggy, and ever-so-creamy, rich, and delightful. Set your diets aside, because this certainly isn’t a “healthy” treat. But sometimes, you just need a bit of decadence. And this cake is so worth it.

When I started to make this cake, I honestly wasn’t sure if it would turn out. I’m still somewhat of a novice when it comes to gluten-free baking, but recently, I’ve become a bit more confident in understanding how certain gluten-free flours behave, and the role that xanthan gum plays in binding. My confidence has allowed me to break free from strictly following a recipe, and instead “feel” my way through baking. (something I wasn’t even comfortable doing when baking before going gluten-free!) Of course, when something turns out, I’m still so astonished. After I made this cake, and ate a piece, I exclaimed “Wow, this doesn’t suck!”

Aah, such high hopes I have, for these experiments of mine.

But truly, it didn’t suck. In fact, the flavor is absolutely wonderful, and the cake is not soggy in the slightest. I think that next time, I’ll reduce the milks by about 1/2 cup (I’ve written the recipe below making this change for you), because it was almost too wet, but the cake held up just fine, in spite of the amount of milks it was holding. But honestly, I could stuff myself silly with this sweet treat. It’s that good.

Tres Leches Cake, adapted from Baking for John, No Recipes, and Masa Assassin

For the cake:

5 eggs, separated

1 c sugar

3 T butter

1 t vanilla extract

1 t orange zest

Pinch of cinnamon

 ½ c sorghum flour

½ c masa harina

1 ½ t baking powder

1 t xanthan gum

¼ c milk

½ t cream of tartar

Pinch salt

For the milks:

1/2 c half-and-half

12 oz can evaporated milk

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

For the topping:

1 c whipping cream

¼ c sugar

1 t vanilla

Sliced strawberries and mint leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 13X9 baking dish. In a large bowl, beat ¾ c sugar, egg yolks, and butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in the vanilla extract, orange zest, cinnamon, sorghum flour, masa harina, baking powder, xanthan gum, and milk.

In another large bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks, adding cream of tartar after about 20 seconds. Gradually add the remaining ¼ c sugar and continue beating until egg whites are glossy and firm, but not dry.

Gently fold the egg whites into the cake mixture. Pour this batter into the baking dish, spreading out evenly.  Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Pierce cake all over with a toothpick.

Whisk together the milks, and pour evenly over cake. Allow to cool for a bit, and cover and place in refrigerator for 4 hours, up to overnight.

Before serving,  place the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer bowl and whisk to stiff peaks, and nice and thick. Spread over cake and top with strawberries and mint leaves.

Allow to chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

tres leches2

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Farm Fresh Egg-Stravaganza

chickenEarlier this year, during a little visit to Local Harvest,  I stumbled upon a local farm. This farm happened to be relatively close to my house, and they offered farm fresh eggs. Curious, I contacted Cindy Telisak at Jacob’s Reward Farm. Little did I know that over the coming months, I would gain so much. Not only have we enjoyed a wonderful bounty of the freshest of eggs, but I gained a friend and a new level of appreciation for the hard work and devotion of our local farmers.

Cindy bottle-feeding a baby lamb

Cindy bottle-feeding a baby lamb

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Cindy and her family own Jacob’s Reward Farm, a small farm north of Dallas, where they raise sheep, alpacas, and chickens. Over the past few months, I’ve regularly visited Cindy to pick up fresh eggs from her farm, during which we have been well-acquainted. Last weekend, I was honored to cater to her “Spinning Yarns: Cowboy Stories and Song” event. So this month, when I submitted an idea to conduct an interview with Cindy as part of a Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 event, I was ecstatic to find out that my idea was selected. Cindy has been an inspiration to me, and has been a key influence in my decision to actively support local farmers whenever possible.  

Alta: How did Jacob’s Reward Farm get its start?

Cindy: “Jacob’s Reward” got its start before I even left the suburban life in Plano.  I’ve always loved sheep and longed for a homesteading lifestyle, but for many years we had to tough it out in the composite-roof-privacy-fence jungle.  In order to get as close as I could to the shepherd’s life, I learned to knit, crochet and spin, and I struck a friendship with a local couple who raise Jacob sheep.  I lived the life vicariously through them for several years.  When the opportunity arose to buy 4.5 acres here in Parker, we jumped at it.  And though there have been many significant challenges, we’ve not looked back.  The name “Jacob’s Reward” refers to the story in Genesis when God blessed Jacob with vast herds of sheep and goats as a reward for his years of faithfulness.

Alta: What made you decide that raising sheep, alpacas, and chickens was your calling?

Cindy: I love animals and have always thought a farm would be a dream come true.  Once I learned to knit and spin, it only made sense to raise my own fiber animals.  Chickens and fresh eggs are integral to a farm, and they contribute to a healthy diet.  And chickens are really fun to watch!

Alta: Tell me about a typical day at Jacob’s Reward Farm.

Cindy: I am not a morning person, so I have my animals trained not to expect their breakfast at the crack of dawn.  But my usual round of chores takes about 45 minutes, depending on the weather.  Muddy conditions make everything more complicated.  I give a little grain to the eight sheep on the north end of the property, and hay.  The front yard chickens are released from their coop to wander the property in search of bugs, seeds and various greens.  I feed Smokey the barn cat so that she’s fortified for a day of rodent patrol.  On the south side of the property, I feed my six alpacas and two Jacob sheep, and release three other sets of chickens.  I top off all the water buckets and fill the hay feeders.  I do a similar set of chores morning and evening, ending with locking up the free-range chickens in their coops every night to protect them from predators.  Between sets of chores, I take care of my house and my family, teach classes in my studio, and keep up with my farm supporters on my blog, website, podcast, newsletter and other social media.  I also try to squeeze in some knitting and spinning of my own.  There’s never a dull moment.

Breakfast time!

Breakfast time!

Alta: Tell me about your chickens.

Cindy: I have a handful of breeds of chickens that I have raised from day old chicks.  Right now, the flock numbers around 37 total, though 15 of those are just babies.

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Free-Ranging Buffs

Alta: Why are free-range, farm-raised chickens so much better than even the premium eggs you can purchase at the grocery?

Cindy:  “Free-range” is a buzz word that may or may not mean what the consumer thinks.  It may mean that your pricey grocery store eggs came from chickens who can see outside, or who have access to a tiny concrete slab outside.  My free range chickens do just that.  I let them out in the morning and they have complete freedom to roam the property, resting in the shade of the native landscape plantings or sunning themselves in the herbicide-free lawns.  They gather their own food, following the instinctive promptings God gave them.  I do supplement them with commercial grain to round out their diet.  My eggs don’t sit very long once they’re laid, either.  (Alta’s note: there have been times I’ve arrived and helped Cindy gather a few eggs to fill my dozen – eggs laid just hours earlier. Now that’s fresh!) No telling how old those grocery store eggs are!

Alta: Jacob’s Reward Farm has a new Fiber CSA. Could you tell me a little about this?

Cindy: This is our first year to offer CSA shares, so we are feeling our way a bit, and we are under the mentorship of a highly successful CSA fiber farm in the New York area. As a CSA (community supported agriculture) fiber farm, we sell shares of our fiber harvest roughly based on the amount of fiber we hope to get from this year’s shearing of alpacas and sheep, distributed to a limited number of shareholders.  But just like vegetable CSAs, we can’t guarantee an exact amount of fiber we’ll end up with; there are too many variables involved.  Vegetable farmers call it a “shared risk proposition.”  However, by limiting the number of shareholders, we believe we can safely assure each shareholder of a satisfactory amount of fiber once the distributions are made.  Also, we’ll be processing our fiber only into spinning roving, rather than yarn, because of the extra expense. I do teach spinning, and a spinning lesson and drop spindle are included in the price of the share.  Also, we offer lots of opportunities to come out to the farm and participate in the life and care of the animals, in community-building days where we knit or spin together, shear the sheep, picnic together, or other fun events. A CSA share will not result in “bargain” yarn, but the other included benefits bring the price down well under retail levels.  And many of my shareholders tell me that participation in the Jacob’s Reward Fiber Farm life and community is actually a priceless reward that they would pay for alone, with the fiber as “icing on the cake.”

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Alta: What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome here at the farm?

Cindy: One hurdle we haven’t encountered is lack of interest in what we’re doing.  The response has been fantastic.  There are vibrant knitting and spinning communities in this area who find my fiber irresistible, and I have more egg customers than I can handle at some times of the year.  But since this is my first farming experience, I am learning a lot, and I’m learning every day.  The jobs around here are so varied that there is no excuse for being bored.  The farm also sits on the banks of Maxwell Creek, and heavy rains sometimes bring the water level a little closer to the house than we’d like.  But that hasn’t stopped us.  I’m continually working on ways to deal with lots of water on the place.  The farm is hard work, but it’s the kind of hard work that gives us a delicious, bone-weary sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.

Cindy’s undying optimism, drive, and determination have allowed her to influence a great number of people, including our family. Our kids have loved visiting the chickens, sheep, and alpacas. I’ve enjoyed learning so much about farm life from Cindy, and visiting the farm has brought me a sense of connectedness with the Earth and the changing of seasons.

Of course, making the side trip to pick up eggs at Jacob’s Reward Farm rather than just picking them up at the grocery does take extra time and planning. Depending on the weather and the season, the supply fluctuates. But for us, it’s well worth it. We trade convenience for a lot of worthwhile benefits. Not only are the eggs are fresher, tastier, and better for us, we are choosing to support our local farmers – farmers who practice ethical and sustainable treatment of their animals.

In an effort to celebrate the fresh eggs we’ve received from Jacob’s Reward Farm, I planned a Farm Fresh Egg-Stravaganza dinner for my family. Each dish was carefully planned, so that I could highlight the eggs throughout the entire meal.

The meal began with a small appetizer: Chinese Tea Eggs. These eggs, a typical dish for Chinese New Year, were steeped for 5 hours in a black tea, soy sauce (tamari, actually, so they were gluten-free), cinnamon, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, and dried orange peel. They were gorgeous to peel, and a tasty first bite. I’ll definitely make these again. For the recipe, visit Steamy Kitchen’s beautiful blog.

chinese tea eggs

The second course? Gluten-Free Egg and Pancetta Tarts. I found a lovely tart crust recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, a new cookbook from Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry. The crust was a mixture of almond flour, grapeseed oil, salt, agave nectar, and baking soda. Easy as pie tart! I pre-baked mini-tarts for 8 minutes, and then filled them with scrambled eggs, tomato sauce, sauteed pancetta, and shredded white cheddar, and baked them until the cheese was melted and bubbly. These tarts were tasty, although next time, I think I may add some herbs to the tart crust (Elana has an herbed tart crust recipe in her cookbook as well), which would work to increase the savory taste of the tart.

egg and pancetta tart

Gluten-Free Egg and Pancetta Tarts

1 recipe gluten-free tart crust (recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook)

4 miniature tart pans (I used 5-inch pans)

6 oz pancetta, diced

1 T olive oil

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 c milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c tomato sauce (use seasoned jarred tomato sauce, or your favorite tomato sauce recipe)

1/2 c shredded white cheddar

2 T chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Divide tart dough into 4 balls, pressing one ball into each tart pan. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden. Remove and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, bring a large saute pan to medium heat. Add pancetta and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is crisp. Remove and set aside.

Add the olive oil to the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Whisk the eggs and milk together, and pour into pan. Whisk occasionally, and allow to cook until eggs are just set. (Don’t cook all the way – you don’t want the eggs to dry out.) Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

To assemble the tarts: With a spoon, spread a little of the tomato sauce into each tart crust. Top with eggs, and sprinkle cheese and pancetta over. Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle parsley on top as garnish.

Serves 4.

The third course was the most “daring” for me to attempt – Soft Egg Gluten-Free Ravioli. Until yesterday, I had never made handmade pasta, much less gluten-free handmade pasta. I found a pasta recipe from Living Without that sounded promising, so I set out to make my own ravioli. But these ravioli weren’t just “normal” ravioli – inside each of these babies laid an entire, unbroken, sunny egg yolk. In my opinion, these were the ultimate way to celebrate the intense yellow yolks the Jacob’s Reward Farm chickens created.

egg ravioli

The flavor of these ravioli was tasty and rich, especially as they were topped with a white truffle butter sauce. However, I did learn that rolling out pasta by hand is hard – and I ended up leaving the pasta sheets too thick, which resulted in heavy, dense ravioli. Not a perfect dish, but I would definitely try again, using a pasta machine to ensure thin, light pasta. (note to self: put pasta machine on wish list!) These were served with sauteed swiss chard, which was delightful.

Soft Egg Gluten-Free Ravioli, adapted from Living Without and Epicurious.com

For the filling:

1 c whole-milk ricotta cheese

2 egg yolks

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

1/8 t freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta dough (these instructions are for the use of a pasta machine – if you don’t have one, instead use a rolling pin and roll out sheets as thinly as possible.):

½ c tapioca flour or sweet rice flour

½ c cornstarch

⅓ c potato starch or arrowroot

⅓ c fine brown rice flour, more for rolling out

½ t salt

2 T xanthan gum

4 eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 egg yolks

1 egg white, beaten (for egg wash)

For the butter truffle sauce:

1 stick salted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1 T white truffle oil

Mix ricotta, 2 egg yolks, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, and pepper in a small bowl. Refrigerate until needed.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend using the paddle. In a separate bowl, lightly beat together the 4 eggs and oil.

While the mixer is on, slowly add eggs/oil mixture to dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Dough will be soft like play dough. If it’s not, add water, one tablespoon at a time. Lightly dust your counter with cornstarch. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and cover 7 with a tea towel or plastic wrap.

Lightly dust a piece of dough with rice flour and flatten. Roll through the widest setting of the machine. Continue to roll it through, folding it in half each time and lightly dusting with rice flour if the dough is tacky. Do this until the dough begins to hold together and seems smooth. It may take 5 to 6 times. Then decrease the thickness one notch at a time and roll through until desired thickness is achieved. Cut out a 5-inch circle from parchment paper (or use another tool to measure a 5-inch circle - I used my tart pans), and cut out 16 5-inch circles from pasta dough. 

egg ravioli assembling

Place the ricotta mixture in a pastry bag (or do as I did, place it in a quart-size ziploc bag, and snip a corner off of the bag). In the center of eight of the pasta circles, make a circle with your pastry bag/ziploc bag full of the ricotta mixture, leaving about 3/4 inch from the edge of the pasta, as if you’re creating a nest. Place an egg yolk in the center of your ricotta “nest”. Brush the edges with egg wash. Top with another pasta circle, pressing together to seal the edges. (You can use a pastry wheel or the tines of a fork to seal the edges as well.) Place pasta on a cookie sheet. If layering the pasta, dust it with rice flour. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

To prepare the butter truffle sauce, place the butter and truffle oil in a small saucepan. Bring to medium heat, stirring, until bubbling. Reduce to low, and stir occasionally.

To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a dash of salt. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slide into boiling water. Cook until al dente. Fresh pasta cooks in just a few minutes. When the raviolis are done, drain and rinse it under hot water.

To serve, place two raviolis on a plate, and lightly drizzle with butter truffle sauce. Serves 4.

Of course, no “Egg-Stravaganza” would be complete without a dessert. But after the rich ravioli, a light dessert was in order. We enjoyed a pavlova – a lovely light-as-air meringue dessert that is popular in New Zealand. Pavlova has a meringue base, topped with whipped cream, and typically decorated with summer berries and kiwi. Since it’s not berry season, I opted to top it with pear slices, figs, banana, and clementines. It was very likely the best part of the meal – a lightly sweet, fresh, and airy finish to a wonderful evening.

pavlova

Pear, Fig, Banana and Clementine Pavlova, adapted from Saveur.com

4 room-temperature egg whites

pinch of salt

1 c plus 2 T superfine sugar (I placed sugar in my food processor to “pulverize” it)

2 t cornstarch

1 t white vinegar

few drops of vanilla extract

1 c heavy cream

1 banana, peeled and sliced

1 ripe pear, such as a Red Bartlett, peeled and sliced

2 clementines, peeled and sectioned

4 oz Black Mission Figs, quartered

2 T honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then trace a 10-inch circle on the paper. Put egg whites and salt in clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, and beat on medium-low until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until egg whites form stiff but not dry peaks. Gradually add 1 cup sugar while whisking, then increase speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy. Sprinkle cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla over egg whites, then gently fold in.

Fill traced circle with meringue, smoothing top and sides. Put meringue in middle of oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and leave meringue inside until completely cool, 3-4 hours.

 Remove paper and place meringue on a cake plate. Whip cream and remaining sugar to soft peaks, then pile on top of meringue. Arrange cut fruit over whipped cream, and drizzle with honey. Slice into wedges to serve.

Serves 8-10.

Chocolate Chip Meringues

meringues

My husband and I took the week off last week so we could hang out with the kids. Nothing too exciting (a staycation, if you will), we basically just took them swimming, bowling, shopping, and did a lot of hanging around the house. Not to say that we weren’t busy – one of the projects we tackled was the making of ice cream throughout the week.

Each kid got a chance to prepare ice cream, whatever flavor they desired. As I presented this opportunity to them, I imagined we would be preparing all sorts of creative, never-seen-before ice cream concoctions. Nope. Chocolate, Vanilla with chocolate, and chocolate with chocolate swirl. I suppose I had forgotten that sometimes, the simplest answer is the best, at least when it comes to our kids and food. (This also means that most of my culinary experiments are lost on them…oh well.)

So after making batch after batch of ice cream, I wondered what to do with all of the leftover egg whites. I threw some into breakfast tacos (along with a whole egg or two – I’m not a fan of “egg white only” scrambled eggs). But I still had leftovers. Hmmm…what gluten-free baked goods could I make with egg whites (without a trip to the store)? The signs all pointed to one solution – meringues.

Meringues are one of the easier desserts to make, as they only use a handful of ingredients. At their most basic, they only contain egg whites and sugar. This recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for Forgotten Kisses. My only change was that I eliminated nuts from his recipe, and used miniature chocolate chips, as they were on hand. They came together pretty quickly, and since the oven is turned off after preheating to bake them, I felt comfortable diverting my attention elsewhere for the remainder of the afternoon. Of course, after several hours had passed, I returned to remove them from the oven, and “taste test” one of the meringues. These treats are sweet and light, and delightfully melt in your mouth. The kids enjoyed them as well. Brittany exclaimed more than once while eating them “Wow, these are really good!”

 

Meringues, aka Forgotten Kisses, adapted from Emeril Lagasse

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 t cream of tartar

2/3 c granulated sugar

1 t vanilla extract

1 c miniature chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until fluffy but not dry. Add the sugar gradually. When half of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla extract. Continue beating and adding sugar in batches, until all of the sugar is dissolved and the meringue is very glossy and tight. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Working one teaspoon at a time, push a teaspoonful of meringue from the tip of one teaspoon with the back of another teaspoon onto the lined baking sheets. Space meringues 1 inch apart. Place baking sheets in oven and turn the oven off. Leave the cookies in the oven for at least 2 hours, or until cookies are crisp and dry. (don’t disturb or open the oven for 2 hours.)

Makes about 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.

Butterscotch Ice Cream

Picture 025

A few weeks ago, the much-anticipated ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer arrived! You see, I have never made ice cream prior to its arrival, so I’ve been dreaming up amazing flavors, researching, and dreaming of my first batches of ice cream, mouth watering all the while. But when it actually arrived, I couldn’t decide which flavor to make first.

To be 100% honest with you, however, this butterscotch is the second batch of ice cream made in our home. The first? A not-so-remarkable mint chocolate chip. (I forgot to buy whole milk, so along with the cream, I used 2%, which made it sort of icy. Also, I used fresh mint leaves, rather than extract, which was a subject of much debate between my husband and I. His opinion? Too earthy tasting, and too strong. Mine? I wanted to make something with natural flavors, and I kind of liked it. It was pretty strong, though.) Regardless, it wasn’t the “amazing” ice cream recipe I wanted to share with you.

So, ice cream attempt #2. Butterscotch ice cream. See, I love anything butterscotch. During my ice cream research, I came across Deb’s recipe at Smitten Kitchen, and well, I was smitten! I even went out to purchase a little bottle of scotch, (If you live in Texas, then you know that this isn’t always an easy feat – purchasing liquor. It’s not just in every store. Many areas are dry, or only sell wine and beer. This means that liquor purchases require planning and special trips.) just so I could make my ice cream be the best it could be.

And boy, was it! This ice cream was so deliciously creamy, and the butterscotch flavor, while not overwhelming, was complex, so each mouthful seemed new and intriguing. The familiar flavor of vanilla, with hints of honeyed spice, seems to develop into such a pleasing sensation that I had to practice considerable self-restraint in order to not consume it all. I did imagine, however, that this ice cream would become even more amazing if accompanied by a gingersnap-like cookie. (so if anyone knows of a gluten-free gingersnap recipe, please let me know! Otherwise, I may be experimenting with one at some point.)

An added bonus? The liquor in this ice cream (and maybe the butter too, I’m not sure) allows it to remain creamy and soft enough for scooping, even after days in the freezer. If it lasts that long in your house, that is.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen:

1 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 T butter
1 T vanilla
2 t scotch or bourbon
1 1/2 c whipping cream
2 c half-and-half (light cream)
6 large egg yolks

In a 1- to 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stir brown sugar and butter until butter is melted, sugar is dissolved, and mixture is bubbly, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in 1/2 cup whipping cream until smooth. Remove butterscotch mixture from heat. Add vanilla and scotch.

In another 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, combine remaining 1 cup whipping cream and the half-and-half; bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat egg yolks to blend. Whisk 1/2 cup of the warm cream mixture into egg yolks, then pour egg yolk mixture into pan with cream. Stir constantly over low heat just until mixture is slightly thickened, (it should coat the back of a spoon) 2 to 4 minutes. Immediately remove from heat.

Pour through a fine strainer into a clean bowl and whisk in butterscotch mixture. Chill until cold, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours; or cover and chill up to 1 day.

Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

Makes 1 quart.

Nopalitos con Huevos (Nopal Cactus with Eggs)

food-1200Living in Texas my whole life, it’s little surprise that I love Mexican food. However, because I live in Texas, I have Mexican food readily accessible, and it’s not often I really cook a lot of it at home. Not real, authentic Mexican food, anyway. I’ve had a Diana Kennedy cookbook in my collection for years, and rarely tried a recipe from the book. So there it sat, gathering dust, and not getting the love it deserved.  I decided that it was time for a change…time to crack open that book!

One of the first recipes I marked with my “must make soon” sticky note was the Nopalitos con Huevos recipe. Why? A friend of mine the other day was talking about nopalitos. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: I’m excited about lunch, I have nopalitos!

Me: Nopalitos? What are those again?

Friend: Cactus.

Me: Oh, yeah. I think I’ve seen those before at the store. What do you do with them?

Friend: I’m eating them cooked with eggs. My grandma is making them.

(side comment – my friend’s grandma is an amazing cook. Every Christmas, she makes tamales, and I kid you not, they are the best tamales in the world. And she makes some darn tasty enchiladas too!) 

Me: Interesting. I wonder what they taste like!

Friend: You should totally try to make them!

And so…here we are! Nopalitos, or nopales, are the pads of a Prickly Pear Cactus. Yes, cactus. (You have to wonder how, exactly, some guy came to decide to actually eat something that has spines on it. Must have been really hungry. But I suppose you could pose that same question about a lot of the foods we eat.) You can find either the whole pads or even prepared nopalitos (already cleaned and chopped), at Mexican/Latin grocery stores. I found mine at Fiesta, a Latin supermarket here in Texas. If you can only find the whole pads, you will have to peel and remove the spines (wear a thick glove!) and chop. Learn more about nopalitos and the cleaning process here: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/nopalitos.htm. Me, I bought them already prepared. I’m usually not a huge fan of convenience products, but bypassing the task of removing spines seemed worthwhile in this instance.

As for the other ingredients, Mexican chorizo is fresh (not cured), spiced sausage. It is usually made from pork. I wouldn’t suggest substituting Spanish chorizo in this recipe, as Spanish chorizo has an entirely different consistency. If you can’t find Mexican chorizo (which is also available at a Mexican/Latin grocery), you can use bacon or another breakfast sausage as a substitute, or omit it entirely. Cotija cheese is a Mexican cheese that is dry, crumbly and pleasantly salty. This is also found at Mexican/Latin groceries, or you could substitute another cheese, such as feta, or even Monterey Jack. They will change the flavors a bit, but I imagine it will be just as delicious.

I’m sure there are many, many variations of this recipe. Mine is a variation of Diana Kennedy’s. I added chorizo, and used jalapenos instead of serranos.

6 oz Mexican chorizo (if you need this recipe to be gluten-free, check the label. You could substitute sausage if need be.)

12 oz nopalitos, cleaned and diced

1 large tomato, unpeeled, diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/3 c white onion, finely chopped

1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

4 large eggs

 

8 corn tortillas, warmed

4 oz cotija cheese, crumbled

¼ c cilantro, chopped

 

Heat a large saucepan to medium-high. Remove chorizo from casings, crumble, and brown. Remove chorizo from pan and set on paper towels to drain. Drain most of the oil from the pan. Add nopalitos, tomato, garlic, onion, and jalapenos to pan. Cover the pan and cook over medium flame, shaking the pan from time to time, for about 25 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, and add chorizo. Break the eggs into the nopales and stir until set.

 

Spoon egg mixture into warmed tortillas, topping with cheese and cilantro.

 

Serves 3-4.

Avgolemono (Greek Lemon and Egg Soup)

food-993So now that you’ve made Angel Food Cake, what do you do with all those leftover egg yolks, exactly? Well, I wondered the same thing. A really dense omelet? Nah. Ice cream? Well, for the past few days it has been 35-40 degrees and raining, so I’m not exactly craving ice cream. I got to searching, and this soup was a perfect, easy solution. Not to mention it was something that was very inexpensive, and I had all of the ingredients at home already. Sounds like the winner!

I have never tried this soup prior to creating it here at home, although I had heard of it and could imagine the creamy feel of it in my mouth. After reading a bit about it, many also add cooked chicken to this soup, and some make it with whole eggs rather than just egg yolks. But the core ingredients are the same…chicken broth, eggs, and lemon. It’s a tasty, simple dish that’s perfect as a first course, or as I did, an accompaniment to a big salad.

This recipe is based off a recipe from Barbara Kafta’s “Soup: A Way of Life.” I found it through epicurious.com, although a book entirely devoted to soup sounds intriguing…I might just have to seek that out!

6 c chicken stock

1 c orzo

12 egg yolks

2/3 c fresh lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped fresh parsley

 

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Stir in the orzo and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest together in a large bowl.

When the rice is tender, slowly ladle half of the hot broth into the yolks to temper them, whisking constantly. (this is done to prevent curdling of the eggs) Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the broth and place over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, just long enough to thicken the soup. Do not boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle fresh parsley over and serve. Makes 6 servings.