Mother Earth Living

Food Matters

All about fresh, flavorful food


2/6/2014

If you are up for something different this Valentine’s day, then make sure to save room for dessert! Pots de crème translates to jars of cream in French. This dessert is a type of custard that is velvety smooth and traditionally served in an adorable petite pot with a lid.

Dress it up for your sweetheart with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, grated chocolate, a drizzling of My Favorite Salted Caramel Sauce and a few of your favorite cookies.

Chocolate Pot de Creme
Photo by Victoria Greenstreet

Chili Chocolate Pots de Crème Recipe

Ingredients:

• 4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
• 4 tablespoons sugar
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream, plus more
• 1/3 cup whole milk
• 1/2 cinnamon stick
• 1/2 dried guajillo chili pepper
• 3 large egg yolks
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
• Garnish: whipped cream, grated chocolate, My Favorite Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below), cookies

Special Equipment:

• Two 8 ounce ramekins or  four 4 ounce ramekins

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Put the chocolate and the sugar in a medium heat-proof bowl and set aside.

3. In a small saucepan bring the cream, milk, cinnamon and guajillo chili pepper just to a boil, cover with a lid and let sit for 5 to 20 minutes, the longer you let this mixture steep the more spice you will detect, so adjust time to your spice preference.

4. After steeping is complete, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass measuring cup and add more cream if necessary to measure 1 1/3 cup.

5. Discard the chili pepper and the cinnamon stick and put the cream back into the small saucepan, bring the mixture just to a boil. Remove from heat and pour the mixture over the chocolate and sugar.  Let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes then stir until well mixed.

6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla and salt. Whisk this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Strain the mixture once more through a fine-mesh sieve.

7. Pour into two 8 ounce or four 4 ounce oven proof baking vessels. Bake in a water bath at 300 degrees until the center is nearly set, about 25 to 30 minutes. (You are aiming for firm sides and a touch wobbly in the center).

8. Carefully remove the cups from the water bath and let cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

9. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours prior to serving. Makes 2 large or 4 small servings

When ready to serve top with freshly whipped cream, grated chocolate, a drizzle of My Favorite Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below) and your favorite cookies.

My Favorite Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:

• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1/2 vanilla bean, seeded
• 3/4 teaspoons fleur de sel

Tools:

• Large heavy-bottomed deep saucepan
• Long-handled heat resistant spatula
• Clean pastry brush
• Cup of water
• Oven mitt (please wear if you are concerned about burning yourself with the steam or the hot sugar)

Instructions:

1. In a large heavy-bottomed deep saucepan, add the water to the sugar. Put over medium flame and let the sugar dissolve, about 5 minutes, do not stir.

2. Once the sugar is melted, turn the flame up to medium-high and boil uncovered. Resist the urge to stir, if the sugar is crystallizing on the sides of the pan, simply use the clean pastry brush dipped into the cup of water and brush down the sides, this dissolves any sugar crystals.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil until the sugar turns a deep amber color, pull the pot off of the burner and slowly stir in the cream and butter, the mixture will rise and splatter so pay special attention not to burn yourself with the steam (this is when your tall pot comes in handy!) Stir until well mixed. The caramel may harden a bit, that's okay.

4. Stir in the vanilla bean seeds and fleur de sel.

5. Put the pot over low heat and stir constantly until the caramel is melted, about 2 minutes.

6. Let cool to room temperature and it will thicken up a bit, about 3 hours. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes 1 3/4 to 2 cups


Victoria Greenstreet is inspired by seasonal ingredients. Her focus is whole foods and gluten-free cookery. She is a classically trained chef, freelance food writer, stylist and photographer.  She is currently working on her first cookbook due during the winter of 2014-2015. Visit her blog Honey Dumplings for more recipes and culinary adventures.



1/20/2014

We opened a bottle of champagne for New Year’s and didn’t finish it! Lucky for us, we had just enough left over to make a half batch of these blushing poached pears. They are a festive addition to any brunch, serve chilled or warm with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. If you are craving something a bit more savory, then slice the pears into wedges and toss with arugula, olive oil, Champagne vinegar, goat cheese and toasted nuts. Of course they always make an elegant dessert, garnish with a quenelle of vanilla ice-cream and voilà!

Champagne Poached Pears
Photo by Victoria Greenstreet

Champagne Poached Pears Recipe

• 1 750 ml bottle rosé champagne or sparkling wine
• 2 1/4 cups water
• 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, split
• 6 whole peppercorns
• 4 firm pears, peeled with stems intact

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat warm the champagne, water, sugar, vanilla bean and peppercorns until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.

2. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the pears and make sure that they are fully submerged in the liquid, put a small plate over the top to weigh down if necessary.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until soft and cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid for about 20 minutes.

4. Remove the pears from the liquid and bring the liquid to a boil, reduce until about 1/2 of a cup of liquid remains. Drizzle the sauce over each pear and serve with plain Greek yogurt for brunch or vanilla ice-cream for dessert. Serves 4

Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Rewarm or serve chilled.

*Tip: If you want your pears to stand tall then slice the bottoms off and serve upright.


Victoria Greenstreet is inspired by seasonal ingredients. Her focus is whole foods and gluten-free cookery. She is a classically trained chef, freelance food writer, stylist and photographer. She is currently working on her first cookbook due in the winter of 2014. Visit her blog Honey Dumplings for more recipes and culinary adventures.



1/10/2014

For the sake of a lengthy explanation, this recipe is the compliments of my fabulous “almost-sister-in-law” Shelby. She made this as a side dish for Thanksgiving and I have since made it three times...and then again tonight. Ha!

It is amazing and delicious. It works well as a party appetizer, a light lunch or a side dish. Plus, this salad is packed with flavor thanks to fresh arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, nutty almonds, salty feta cheese and a fresh basil vinaigrette.

Orzo Salad Setup
When you're prepping your ingredients, I like to give the arugula and the julienned sun-dried tomatoes a rough chop.

Shelby’s Sensational Orzo Salad Recipe

• One 16-ounce package of orzo, cooked and drained
• 5 ounces arugula, roughly chopped
• 3 ounces julienned sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 6 ounces slivered almonds
• One 8-ounce block of feta, crumbled

Basil Dressing

• 1 ounce fresh basil leaves
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 to 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Red wine vinegar (optional)

1. Start with cooking your orzo pasta to the directions listed on the box to the tenderness of your pleasing.  Keep in mind this makes a HUGE portion.

Basil Dressing In Progress
Adjust the amount of lemon, garlic, salt and pepper to your taste in this Basil Dressing recipe.

2. While the pasta is cooking, go ahead and make your Basil Dressing. Put basil in the food processor along with the lemon, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and set aside. You can play with the measurements so that the dressing meets your taste buds. While I love lemon and garlic, you could omit either. I tend to go easy on the salt because the feta cheese, which we will add a little later, is super salty all on its own.

Salad Dressing
Set aside the dressing and only add it when serving your orzo salad so that the salad doesn't dry out.

3. Back to the pasta. After cooking the pasta, drain and rinse it with cold water. Let it cool a few minutes, then put the pasta in a large bowl.

Orzo Salad Ingredients
Stir everything together for a delicious medley of flavors.

4. Add the arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and slivered almonds, and stir together. Then add the crumbled feta cheese. Finally, add the dressing to the dish directly before serving. Toss the dressing with the salad and ENJOY!

Note: If you chill the salad overnight with the dressing on it, it loses some of that fresh flavor and dries out.

Orzo Salad Recipe
This orzo salad is ready to serve and enjoy.
Photos by Jennifer Rose

The crunchiness of the almonds and the leafy arugula is so satisfying! You will love it! Try some other variations on the dressing and see what new flavors you can come up with! 


Jennifer RoseJennifer is a lover of all things yummy. After traveling the states for five years, this Mississippi native planted her southern roots in funky, easy-to-love Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she resides with her husband, Phil, and two dogs. She is an avid cook, baker, gardener and creator of all things wonderful. She loves being in the kitchen, gardening, hiking, biking, traveling, yard work, anything DIY, good beer and great food!



12/30/2013

If you are entertaining for New Years or need to bring a quick appetizer to an upcoming party then these Parmesan and Bacon Bites are the perfect snack for you.

Parmesan and Bacon Bites
Photo by Christy Kenyon

Parmesan and Bacon Bites Recipe

My family first tried these little bites of amazingness at a Christmas party years ago, and they are still a family favorite around the holidays. They are pretty versatile as I've also made them during the summer. Maybe it's just me, but when you pair these with a glass of red wine the flavor seems to be even more enjoyable. As an added plus, my two kids love them and it helps to expand their usual mac-and-cheese cravings around dinner time.

Here is what you will need. Prep time is about five minutes. For the bacon I usually plan on making bacon for breakfast that morning or the morning before and saving two pieces for this recipe.

• 2 cups Parmesan cheese
• 1/2 cup chopped green onions or chives
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 2 tablespoons sour cream
• 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
• 1 loaf party rye bread (or 2 loaves to double the recipe for a larger crowd)

Mix all of the ingredients together and spread on the party rye. Place in the oven under broiler for 3 to 5 minutes until bubbly. Make sure to check them after 3 minutes as they sometimes brown quickly.

To serve, place on a tray or platter and serve alongside a glass of wine, beer or your favorite cocktail. Voilà— you now have a quick, easy and delicious appetizer that your guests are sure to enjoy!


Christy Kenyon HeadshotFreelance writer, sales assistant and mother of two, Christy Kenyon hails from Ann Arbor, Michiagn. Christy is an avid gardener and nutrition enthusiast who loves learning about how to improve the health of people, animals and the planet. 



12/27/2013

This recipe is a great way to get your vegetables in for the day. The vinaigrette complements the vegetables well and “spices” things up a little. Serve this with your favorite side—with salsa or just as is—either way, they are delicious and healthy for the whole family—even the kids will enjoy them. These can be made gluten-free using corn tortillas.

Roasted Vegetables Quesadilla

Roasted Vegetables Quesadilla Recipe

Ingredients

4-5 cups of vegetables, approx. (fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
8 6-inch corn or flour Tortillas, approx.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place vegetables on baking sheet in a single layer.

3. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until vegetables are fork tender and have slightly browned. Half way through baking, mix and redistribute on baking sheet.

Roasted Vegetables

4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine balsamic vinegar and mustard and whisk until well combined.

5. Continue whisking, slowly adding olive oil.

6. Once vegetable have cooked, remove from oven and place vegetables in bowl with vinaigrette.

7. Toss to lightly coat.

Coated Vegetables

8. Heat up a cast iron or non-stick skillet on medium heat.

9. Once hot, place a corn tortilla on skillet.

10. Sprinkle enough cheese to lightly coat the tortilla—about 2 tablespoons.

11. Add some of the vegetables to cover the cheese and then sprinkle another light layer of cheese over vegetables.

12. Place another corn tortilla on top.

13. Once the cheese on the bottom tortilla has melted and the tortilla has toasted, carefully flip the quesadilla with a spatula.

14. Toast the second side for about 2-3 minutes until toasted and cheese has melted.

15. Remove from the skillet cut into quarters and serve while warm with your favorite salsa or just as it is.

Cooking Tips

• Don’t over fill the quesadilla. It’s harder to handle when there is too much filling.

• The cheese acts like glue—it helps hold everything together.

• Create an assembly line for yourself. It makes for a smoother process.

• If you feeding a crowd—turn your oven on low and place a cooling rack inside a baking sheet. Once you have finished toasting each quesadilla, place it on the cooling rack in the oven. This will allow your quesadillas to keep warm and prevent them from getting soggy until you are ready to serve.

• If you prefer to make this vegan, omit the cheese, toast the tortillas just as they are on both sides and fill with vegetable mixture and other desired fillings. Fold and enjoy!


Sam PierreSam Pierre loves everything that involves the kitchen and the process of preparing food.  When she is not in the kitchen, she’s thinking about new recipes and flavors that would complement each other. Between running around after her daughter and maintaining a healthy household, she blogs about her food adventures and experiences in the kitchen on delishious food.



12/23/2013

When you have children there is a never-ending call for snacks. Their growing bodies require frequent munching, car rides go more smoothly with food in tow, you want to send a birthday treat to school, and the list goes on.

Busy parents often rely on the grocery store to supply options for easy snacks for their children. While we have come a long way in what the store shelves offer, many snacks can be made quickly at home. Making your own snacks cuts down on the salt, sugar and unhealthy fats that are found in most packaged goods. Granola bars are a perfect example. Usually loaded with refined sugar and fat, the homemade version uses healthy fats from nut butter and sweetness from honey. Best of all, they can be tailored to fit what your family enjoys and there is no baking required!

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars Recipe

2 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup organic, juice-sweetened dried cranberries
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup unsalted, sugar-free peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Stir together oats, cranberries and pumpkin seeds in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl, mix together honey, peanut butter and salt. Heat slightly in the microwave for 30 seconds or until the mixture loosens up.

3. Add the honey mixture to the oat mixture and stir together until everything is well coated. If the mixture seems too dry, add additional honey, 1 teaspoon at a time.

4. Line a 9-inch pan with parchment paper. Press the granola into the bottom of the pan. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

5. Once set, turn granola onto a cutting board and cut into small squares.

There are endless combinations for this recipe. Agave nectar can replace the honey, almond butter can stand in for the peanut butter, or try swapping slivered almonds and dried cherries for the pumpkin seeds and cranberries. Whatever you decide you can feel good knowing you’ve given your family a healthy snack and you didn’t have to spend all day in the kitchen.


Jessica BurfieldJessica is a stay-at-home mother of three. She enjoys learning how to make things from scratch. She can be found with her nose in a book or sharing her life on Daftly Domestic.



12/18/2013

The snow is falling, the fire is crackling and soon most of us will be entertaining! If you are hosting a party this year or bringing along a dish to share for the holidays, give my Winter Verrine recipe a whirl. Verrines are a French delicacy traditionally layered in a glass, much like a parfait and served as hors d’oeuvres or dessert. They are equally delicious sweet or savory, either way they are a breeze to assemble!

Creating a verrine is a cinch! Firstly, select a serving vessel; it should be glass so that all of your layering efforts will shine. Secondly, pair your favorite ingredients together; ideally seasonal flavor combinations. Next, make sure you have a few different textures; for example, a burst of crunch sets off a mousse-like creaminess. Lastly, make sure to consider color; you may want to add a pop of color at the finish or simply create layers that are complimentary colors.

Verrine Dessert
Victoria's Winter Verrine; Photo By Victoria Greenstreet

Verrines can be as simple or as complex as you care to make them. In many cases the fillings will hold for a few days in the refrigerator, making the actual assembly easy to do the day of the party. So why not whip up a verrine for your holiday entertaining?

In addition to the recipe below here is a list of a few of my favorite winter combinations:

Beet + Orange + Goat Cheese

Quail + Lentils + Truffles + Aioli

Apple + Cranberry + Vanilla + Cinnamon + Ice Cream

Chocolate + Banana + Caramel + Crème Fraiche

Victoria’s Winter Verrine Recipe

Serves 6-8

Roasted Squash Apple Puree:

• Glug of safflower oil or other high-heat cooking oil
• 1/2 small butternut squash or winter squash of your choice
• 2 granny smith or your favorite cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 

Cubed Squash:

• 1/2 small butternut squash or winter squash of your choice, peeled
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• Sea salt, to taste
• 3/4 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar 

Mascarpone Cream:

• 1 cup mascarpone cheese
• 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
• 1 orange, zest 

Verrine Assembly:

6 thin slices prosciutto
Cubed squash
Sea salt, to taste
Roasted squash apple puree
Mascarpone cream
1/3 cup toasted &/or spiced nuts
Fleur de sel, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Add a glug of safflower oil to a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Halve the butternut squash, scoop out and discard the seeds and place one half of the squash, flesh side down on the oiled baking sheet and bake until fork tender and beginning to caramelize, about 1-1 ½ hours. Once roasted and slightly cooled, scoop the flesh out and mash by hand or puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.

3. Peel the other squash half and cut into bite sized cubes. Toss with melted butter, salt, chile pepper and brown sugar. Roast in the 375 F oven until tender, about 45 minutes-1 hour.

4. In a small baking dish, toss together the apple wedges, melted butter, spices, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Bake the apples at 375 degrees F until tender, about 45 minutes. Once baked mash by hand or puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Fold this mixture into the squash puree to make the Roasted Squash Apple Puree.

5. In a bowl, whisk together the mascarpone cheese and heavy whipping cream until light and fluffy. Fold in the orange zest.

6. Warm a skillet over medium-high and cook the prosciutto until caramelized and golden on each side. Once cooked, blot with paper towels.

To assemble the verrines:

1. Divide the cubed squash between 6-8 serving glasses.
2. Spoon a large dollop of mascarpone cream over the squash.
3. Divide the squash apple puree evenly amongst the serving glasses as the next layer.
4. Add another large dollop of mascarpone cream.
5. Sprinkle with nuts and a pinch of fleur de sel.
6. Garnish with prosciutto and serve immediately.


Victoria GreenstreetVictoria Greenstreet is inspired by seasonal ingredients. Her focus is whole foods and gluten-free cookery. She is a classically trained chef, freelance food writer, stylist and photographer. She is currently working on her first cookbook due in the winter of 2014. Visit her blog Honey Dumplings for more recipes and culinary adventures.





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