Sunday, October 30, 2011

Heaven in my cereal bowl: Speculoos Granola

Do you ever fly Delta? When they offer you peanuts, pretzels, or cookies, do you choose the cookies? If you choose peanuts and pretzels, is it because you haven't ever had the Delta cookies and thus don't appreciate the transportive culinary experience you are missing when you let that ship sail? Because really. The Biscoff cookies that Delta serves you in-flight are some of the best cookies ever. They are v. European-tasting, and that is because they are indeed European. They're crisp spiced cookies made by the Belgian bakery called Lotus. They are the only thing I like about flying (unless you count eating at the MSP airport's mini-French Meadow Bakery across from Gate F4, which might not count because that isn't really "flying" so much as hanging out at the airport - oh and I know there is also a larger, table-service French Meadow Bakery at the opposite side of the Lindbergh Terminal near the entrance to Gates E, D, and C, but I don't like that one as much).

I'm really lucky that Northwest and Delta merged because before they did I didn't like anything about flying.

So in the foodblogosphere, there's been talk here and there about this European spread called "Speculoos spread". It's sometimes compared to peanut butter. Or, probably more aptly, on account of its decadence, and European-ness, Nutella. Speculoos spread is notably different from peanut butter and even Nutella, however, in that it is entirely lacking in nutritional value. No peanuts. No hazelnuts. Not a lick of protein or fiber in this stuff. That's because it is made of COOKIES. It's cookie spread. Or, as David Lebovitz called it, awkwardly, "gingersnap paste". It's Biscoff cookies, mixed with more oil and more sugar than are already in the cookies to begin with, which you use to spread on your toast or apples. Or cookies. Naturally, I've been wanting to get my hands on this for years. I was waiting for the right time, and that time arrived when my husband and I, during our daily research on how to earn Delta miles (we're going to Italy next year and would like to get a flight or four for free if possible, and I assure you our dedication to the cause is making it seem more and more possible every day), discovered that you can buy Biscoff cookies as well as Biscoff (Speculoos) spread through the Delta Skymiles Shopping website, for several miles per dollar.

It arrived last week. I don't really have to tell you that it's WON-DER-FUL, do I? It's cookie spread, for heaven's sake. Of course it's wonderful.

That said, it's an odd pantry item to incorporate into one's meals, at least if such meals exclude my new favorite bedtime snack: a heaping spoonful of Speculoos spread. I've wanted to bake with it but feel kind of weird making cookies out of something that used to be cookies... so I opted for granola.

jarred granola

Um. DANG. So good. And, you know, kind if redeeming, since the way I combined it with grains and seeds and plan to serve it with plain yogurt and some sliced bananas or roasted apples allows the flavor of Speculoos spread to work its magic while being more than just cookies.

granola collage

Oh and you don't have to order it online. They had it at the Lunds across the river last week. On sale, no less!

Biscoff at Lunds!

I basically used Mark Bittman's formula/ratio for granola. I think even more Biscoff spread and oil would have been even more delicious, but I was committed to making this as breakfast-worthy as possible. If you are one of those people who can eat anything and remain healthy and thin always, go to town and double both.

Here's what I did.

1. Preheated oven to 300 degrees.

2. Placed following ingredients in a bowl:

3 cups oats
3 cups puffed millet
1 cup King Arthur Flour harvest grains blend
1 cup King Arthur Flour malted wheat flakes
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup oat bran
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup rice bran oil (any oven-proof oil would be fine here)
1 heaping cup Biscoff spread
1 teaspoon coarse salt + cinnamon or other spices (I had Cinnamon Salt. It was perfect.)

3. Mixed it all with my hands. A spoon would work but hands are fun and then you can form big clumps, which I quite like in my granola.

4. Spread mixture on two baking sheets.

5. Placed on racks in oven, put oven on convection bake setting at 300 degrees, tossed granola carefully every ten minutes and rotated pans (both shelves and direction), baked for 30 minutes total, allowed to cool.

6. Put some in a jar for a friend (Hi, Friend!) and the rest in a big IKEA cereal container for my family.

I can't stop eating it. It's salty-sweet addictive breakfast heaven.
P.S.!!!! Speaking of salty-sweet addictiveness! Christina Toki's Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is finally out. I am not allowed to buy any more cookbooks this year. But my birthday is in about 60 days.

P.P.S. Biscoff (American) = Speculoos (European). Just to clear up any confusion.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Seasonal Soup for Wellness: Lemon-Rice Soup with Winter Squash and [You Fill in the Blank]

This weekend my husband took care of me and our under-the-weather family. I was sick and exhausted and needed it so, so much. He did a good job. He's a good carer. He beat himself up on Sunday, however, because he took our toddler with him to the grocery store with a mind to return with chicken noodle soup. He wanted to ease me back into food consumption slowly, healthily. He rightly anticipated that I'd probably overdose on animal crackers once I got my appetite back if there weren't chicken noodle soup available to me as an alternative. He knows me well. (But he forgot to actually buy the chicken noodle soup.)

I'm feeling much better now, despite the absence of chicken noodle soup from our home. But ever since he mentioned it, repeatedly, because he really felt way more terrible about it than he ought to have, I've been thinking about chicken noodle soup. I've heard and read that there is truly something healing about chicken noodle soup. And, you know, whatever, I believe it enough. But as my body was striving to recoup, it wasn't really craving chicken and noodles. It craved broth, for sure. But it wanted ginger and lemon and herbs and rice. It wanted heaps of vegetables, specifically mild, seasonal ones that would be easy on our still-sensitive bellies.


Randomly, annoyingly, I ended up making a huge amount of steak in the midst of our stomach flu, not because we had any desire to eat red meat at the time but because I'd thawed it a few days before and felt it should not stay thawed and uncooked in the refrigerator for too much longer.

So the combination of my body's cravings and the necessity to use up cooked steak resulted in a pot of soup this afternoon. Sadie and I enjoyed it v. much. It was brothy and lemony and it smelled and tasted and felt so nourishing. I'm glad we were out of animal crackers at lunch time because I might not have thrown this delight together otherwise. It's so much better for us than animal crackers. And so much better than chicken noodle soup.

P.S. You'll super like this even if you're not sick.

toddler servingmama serving take 2

Lemon-Rice Soup with Winter Squash and [You Fill in the Blank]
From me
Yield: 4-6 servings

2 tablespoons sesame oil or olive oil
1 cup chopped winter squash (I used peeled butternut; a single, unpeeled delicata squash would be great here)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped carrots (about 2 small carrots)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 teaspoons ground cumin (or more)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or more)
5 cups water or broth or combination (I used 1 cup chicken broth + 4 cups water)
1/2 cup dry white or brown or wild or whatever rice (I used red rice - it's v. pretty)
1 cup chopped, ground, or shredded cooked meat* or beans**
Dashes of the following: Persian limes, sumac, coriander, red pepper flakes (optional)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

Optional: Top with avocado slices and hard-boiled eggs

Heat the oil over low-medium heat in a soup pot. Add the winter squash and carrots, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and saute until softened a bit, about 4 minutes. Add the lemon zest, ginger, garlic, cumin, and oregano and stir for one minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the rice and meat or beans, simmer until rice is cooked through (time will depend on what kind of rice you use - follow package instructions or check after 20 minutes and then again every 5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, cilantro, any other spices you'd like, 1 teaspoon salt, and a lot of freshly ground pepper. Ladle into bowls and eat with a lot of crusty bread to soak up all that fantastic broth.

* Lamb, beef, chicken, turkey, whatever
** Cooked chickpeas or white beans would be good, or uncooked lentils or split peas

Monday, October 24, 2011

Elsewhere (when creativity eludes me)

I swear. We've been cooking and baking (even canning) up a storm here in the Cameron household. The decidedly autumnal turn the weather's taken in the Twin Cities has facilitated a domestic streak.

Wait. Maybe by "domestic streak" I mean homeboundedness (a word, do you think?) and by "decidedly autumnal turn in the weather" I mean stomach flu. Ugh. The least sexy food blog intro ever.

We still get food on the table during these periods of malaise, but that food is at best inspired by someone else's creativity rather than my own, and at worst delivered to our condo in a large cardboard box.

Here are some of the successes we've had relying on the brilliance of others in the foodblogosphere (oh and Ms. Garten, of course). Notwithstanding the commentary below, (you'll see), I believe I'd recommend them all.

white chocolate baguettes

White Chocolate Baguette - Maybe if you've vacationed at Club Med you're familiar with this? At any rate, it's even better than it sounds, and I assure you it sounded REALLY good to me. My breadmaker husband adapted the recipe so that it was a 2-day process, there was a soaker/biga/whatever, and the bread ended up much airier than the one in the Love & Olive Oil pictures.

purple potato chips

Rori's Potato Chips made with some cute little purple potatoes. I basically used the recipe on p. 77 of Barefoot Contessa Parties, only with half the oil and a lot more spice. They were good.

kale chips

Not as good but nearly: Kale Chips. I used Joy the Baker's recipe, though there are a million out there. It worked. As evidenced by toddler consumption. I seasoned with cinnamon-salt and a cayenne-tellicherry pepper blend.

Butternut squash crusted quiche

Butternut Squash-crusted Quiche - Inspired by my friend Nicole (hey, maybe if I link to her blog she'll blog again?), I made this when we went gluten free for five minutes. I butchered the recipe in a valiant yet misguided effort to be resourceful. I also was trying to be considerate of my husband's preferences, which exclude mushrooms. The recipe is excellent. I am sure it is excellent. What is not excellent is cabbage in a quiche. This is probably why you don't often find cabbage in quiche. I wasn't expecting to create the next big culinary thing here. But still, I was thrown by how strong the cabbage flavor was after such a long time in the oven. Despite its cabbaginess, I (mostly singlemouthedly) ate the whole thing and (mostly) enjoyed it.

cabbage pizza with magic sauce

Japanese Pizza - This is what I should have done with ALL the cabbage, since Heidi never lets me down. This is delicious. My 2-year-old liked it. I liked it. I want it again. It's like a giant cabbage fritter. But surprisingly delicious, and then even more delicious with 101 Cookbook's Magic Sauce.

Quark cookies

Quark Cookies - compromised Cream Cheese Cookies, because I can't leave well enough alone. These were tasty, with quite a tang to them - but then quark is tangier than cream cheese. I feel they got better on days 2 and 3 of their short lives. They ended up quite flat, so not as pretty as in the Food 52 picture, but still lovely.


Until I get my act together, hopefully soon,

Edith xoxo