International Cuisine: Chrov Plov

My oldest two sons were born in Kazakhstan. We feel so blessed to have the chance to celebrate and explore another culture. And we truly love the country, people, and food (!) of Kazakhstan. March 22 marked the Kazakh New Year (Nauryz) and so we enjoyed celebrating with friends and eating some traditional dishes. This was one of my absolute favorites but I will be sharing four different recipes throughout the coming weeks – they were all delicious.

The recipes were adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2 – my mom and I both have recipes in the book as well as many other talented cooks (how is that for a shameless promo! :)). Please feel free to check it out – the fundraiser is put on by Two Hearts for Hope and all proceeds from the sales of the cookbook benefit orphans in Kazakhstan. And the cookbook features many different types of recipes in addition to several Kazakh recipes.

CHROV PLOV
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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1 c. rice, uncooked
¼ c. almonds, chopped
2 T. currants
2 T. raisins
6 dried prunes
3 T. dates, chopped
4 T. butter
¼ c. dried apricots, cut into strips
1 T. honey
2 c. water

Soak dates, currant and prunes in warm water for 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry, mix with apricots and raisins. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat and add the fruit mixture and almonds. Reduce the heat to low and stir for four minutes. Stir in the honey, rice, and water. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, serve hot.

*I very successfully made this in my rice cooker by adding the sautéed fruit, almonds, butter, and honey to the rice and water in the cooker.

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Weekend Fare: Granola

I’m pretty excited to bring you this post! It isn’t the first time I’ve made granola but it had definitely been a few years since it had made my make-from-scratch list. I combined ideas from a couple of recipes and made a great big batch. Cereal is a staple at our house and we go through it entirely too quickly, so I am looking forward to adding granola to our breakfast menu! This is seriously good and makes a lot (you can halve the recipe). Go and make it!

GRANOLA
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9 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 c. coconut
1 1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds
3 1/2 c. dried fruit (I used 2 c. cranberries, 1 1/2 c. golden raisins)
1  1/2 c. raw nuts (I used a combo of almonds, pecans, and a few walnuts)
1 Tb. cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
1 Tb. vanilla extract
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
3/4 c. honey
3/4 c. canola oil

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine oats, coconut, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and nuts in a big bowl. Add cinnamon and mix. In a measuring cup or another bowl, mix together the salt vanilla, maple syrup, honey, and oil. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients. Thoroughly combine. Divide between two large bake sheets. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Rotate trays about half way through baking.  

Cool completely and store in an air tight container. Enjoy as cereal, as a topping for yogurt or ice cream, with fruit, or as a snack.

Gluten-Free Goodness: Double Chocolate Mocha Biscotti

The other evening my husband and I were invited to some friends for dinner. They asked if I would bring dessert. I was feeling particularly lazy and didn’t want to make a trip to the grocery store for any ingredients. So, I went to my pantry and pulled together a pleasant winter-time dessert tray: biscotti, chocolate-dipped dried fruit, and my homemade hot cocoa. The four of us demolished the tray of treats.

The biscotti recipe is from Elana’s Pantry and therefore is made with almond flour (by the way, if you’re new to almond flour, Honeyville makes particularly good blanched almond flour and is available on Amazon). I made this biscotti recipe for Christmas gifts last year and it was well received. It’s equally delicious dipped in coffee or cocoa.

The chocolate-dipped dried fruits idea came from my mom. They were incredibly easy and a lovely addition.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE MOCHA BISCOTTI
(from elanaspantry.com)
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2 1/4 c. blanched almond flour
1/4 c. cocoa powder
2 Tbsp arrowroot powder
1 Tbsp coffee, espresso grind
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c. agave nectar
1/2 c. dark chocolate

In a food processor, combine the almond flour, cocoa powder, arrowroot powder, coffee, salt, and baking soda. Pulse until ingredients are well combined.

Pulse in the agave nectar until dough forms a ball. Remove the dough and work in the chocolate with your hands.

Form dough into 2 logs on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 hour.

Cut logs into 1/2-inch slices on the diagonal with a very sharp knife. Spread slices out on a baking sheet and bake at 300°F for 12-15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool until crispy.

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED DRIED FRUITS

assorted dried fruits (I used dried cherries and dried apricots)
chocolate chips for dipping (I used both semi-sweet and white chocolate)

Melt chocolate in the microwave, start with 45 seconds, then at 15 second intervals until melted. Dip fruit in the chocolate and lay on a wax paper or parchment paper lined baking sheet until dried.

I went so far as to double dip the cherries–first in white chocolate, and when dried, dipped in semi-sweet chocolate. Yum!

Holiday Treats: Truffles & Sugar Plums

(Alaina) I’ve made these truffles a few times but they seemed extra good this year – I think the original recipe might be from Taste of Home but this is my variation on it. The not-too-sweet Raspberry Cream Truffles are a beautiful addition to any goodie tray and would make perfect gifts! You do need to refrigerate them so keep that in mind.

The truffles were easy to change up – I dipped some in dark chocolate, rolled some in coconut and some in almonds. You could also dip them in white chocolate or milk chocolate or roll them in cocoa powder. For a different flavor, try another kind of preserves – I’m thinking strawberry with melted white chocolate chips instead of the semi-sweet chocolate chips would be delicious! It’s very important to refrigerate them for the specified amount of time before rolling them. I used a holiday mini muffin cup for each chocolate – it made for a pretty presentation.

RASPBERRY CREAM TRUFFLES
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1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips melted
1 c. crushed graham crackers or vanilla wafers
1/2 c. seedless raspberry preserves
finely chopped toasted almonds, coconut, cocoa powder, or melted chocolate (dark, milk, or white)

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the melted chips, wafer crumbs and preserves. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until easy to handle.

Shape into 1-in. balls; roll in almonds, coconut, and/or cocoa powder or dip in melted chocolate. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes about 3-3-1/2 dozen.

(Stephanie) In the hopes of finding a different and slightly less sweet treat for the holiday season, I set out to find and test a Fruit and Nut Ball recipe. In my researching, I discovered that these tiny sweets are also called Sugar Plums. And to be honest, I quite like that name.

I initially had some trouble with this recipe being too corase to stick together. I added a bit of orange juice and a little extra honey and still had troubles. You know what the secret is? Using a food processor. The recipe didn’t specify this method, but some quick research showed many other recipes do. It’s too difficult to get the fruits and nuts fine enough to become one mixture. Once I dumped it in the food processor, it worked perfectly. So my advice, use a food processor if you don’t want to be frustrated.

As I didn’t have dates, I used a combination of dried cranberries and dried cherries. Any combination of dried fruits should work. I was pleasantly surprised by the combination of flavors and love that these will keep for so long. I hope you enjoy these healthier, sweet treats (bonus, they are naturally gluten free!).

SUGAR PLUMS (or Fruit and Nut Balls)
(from Saveur Magazine online)
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2 c. whole almonds
1/4 c. honey
2 tsp orange zest
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c. chopped dried apricots
1 c. chopped dates
1 c. confectioner’s sugar or toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange almonds on baking sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Cool and chop.

Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, and spices in the bowl of a food processor. Add chopped nuts and chopped fruits. Pulse to combine. Mixture should be thick and stick together.

Pinch off rounded teaspoon size and roll into balls (rinse hands often as the mixture is very sticky). Roll balls in powdered sugar, ground toasted coconut, or finely ground nut meal. Makes 60-70 balls.

Store in an airtight container in single layers divided by wax paper in refrigerator for up to a month.