Organic Vanilla Bean Pudding

organic-vanilla-bean-pudding-recipeThis luscious vanilla pudding is a lesson in why you should use organic milk and eggs in a custard. The USDA’s 2011 decision to deregulate genetically engineered alfalfa raised concerns among organic dairy farmers, who rely on organic alfalfa to feed their herds. Certified organic fare–including milk and eggs–is still your best bet to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Heck, I even found GMO-free cornstarch to thicken this custard. And, of course, you’ll want to use organic sugar, made from sugar cane to steer clear of sugar made from GE sugar beets.



Crispy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

With a combination of rolled oats, whole wheat pastry flour and all-purpose flour, these healthy chocolate chip cookies strike a nice balance between whole-grain virtue and traditional flavor. If you want to really boost the flavor, try making them with our DIY Ghee instead of regular butter. It takes the flavor and texture to a whole new level. You can change these cookies in any number of ways–substitute raisins or dried cherries for the chocolate chips, use different nuts, etc. When I have dried blueberries on hand, I’ll throw them in along with the chocolate chips and nuts. Have fun with it!


Meyer Lemon Ricotta Scones

The combination of whole wheat pastry flour, seasonal Meyer lemon and ricotta yields moist scones with a tender crumb. Grating the cold butter makes it easy to cut into the dry ingredients. This not-too-sweet treat works for breakfast or a snack.


Eggnog Flans with Maple and Toasted Walnuts

Premade eggnog gives you a head start on this easy holiday dessert, while using maple syrup saves you the trouble of making caramel to coat the bottoms of the ramekins. You’ll need to make these flans at least 1 day (and up to 3 days) ahead, so the custard has plenty of time to infuse with the maple flavor.

eggnog-flans-with-maple5 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2-1/2 cups low-fat eggnog
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons toasted chopped walnuts

Position 1 rack in middle of oven; position second rack in top. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Whisk together the first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Place eggnog in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat; heat to 180 degrees F or until tiny bubbles form around the edges (do not boil). Gradually pour eggnog into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a large 4-cup measuring cup or clean spouted bowl. Skim any foam from surface of custard.

Arrange 8 (5-ounce) ramekins in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet. (This will make it easier to maneuver the pan in and out of the oven.)

Pour maple syrup evenly into ramekins. Top evenly with custard. Skim any bubbles from surface of custard. Fill pan with hot water to a depth of 1-1/2 inches. Place pan on middle rack of oven. Place a second baking sheet on the top rack (this prevents the tops of the flans from browning). Bake 45 minutes or until set. Carefully remove ramekins from pan. Cool to room temperature. Cover, and refrigerate 24 hours or up to 3 days.

To serve, run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of each flan. Place a dessert plate upside-down over each flan. Invert to unmold flan, allowing maple to drizzle over flan. Garnish with nuts.

Serves 8

Saffron Cardamom Coconut Macaroons

This recipe, adapted from Monica Bhide’s Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen, is for simple, coconut-y cookies that look like little snowballs. Even better, it uses two spices Bhide loves for holiday baking: saffron and green cardamon, which she calls “diva spices” because of their heady flavor and aroma. For the best results, she recommends buying whole green cardamom pods; grind the skin and seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. When buying saffron, choose whole threads.

saffron-cardamom-coconut-macaroonsNonstick cooking spray
1 (14-ounce) package shredded sweetened coconut
10 ounces sweetened condensed milk from a 14-ounce can (about a scant cup)
1-1/2 teaspoons ground green cardamom
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Lightly spray with nonstick spray.

Combine coconut, condensed milk, cardamom, saffron and salt in a large bowl. (It will form a mixture that is not like typical cookie dough.  But once the egg whites are folded in, the mixture will stay together during baking.)

Place egg whites in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Gently fold whipped egg whites into coconut mixture. Using a spoon, mold the mixture into tablespoon-size balls and place 1 inch apart on the prepared pans.

Bake at 350 F for 14-16 minutes or until the exterior is very slightly brown, the middle is still soft and the bottoms begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes on the baking sheets as they will be too fragile to move when hot. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Yields about 3 dozen macaroons

Cardamom Gingersnap Cookies

Inspired by Monica Bhide’s suggestion, we’ve updated traditional gingersnaps with the addition of freshly ground green cardamom for a sweet pungency that underscores the warmth of the ginger. We also use maple syrup instead of traditional, stronger-flavored molasses so the spices can really shine. And for deeper flavor, I’ll use our DIY Ghee instead of regular butter.  A 2-teaspoon cookie scoop is ideal to portion out the dough. Gently flattening the dough with the bottom of a sugar-dipped glass gives them a uniform shape and lends a pretty sparkle to the finished cookies. Or, if you like your gingersnaps thin and crispy, roll the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness and cut it out with a cookie cutter for a spicy spin on traditional sugar cookies. When rolling the dough out, I find it helpful to roll it between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper and chill it for 15 minutes before cutting out shapes. This makes it easier to remove the paper and to cut the cookies cleanly.

cardamom-gingersnap-cookies-recipe1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter OR DIY Ghee, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for shaping cookies
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon water
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk together the first 6 ingredients; set aside.

Place butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer until thoroughly combined. Add maple syrup and water; beat until thoroughly combined. Beat in flour mixture. Chill dough for 15 minutes.

Drop dough in 2-teaspoonful mounds onto 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Place about 1/4 cup sugar in a shallow bowl. Dip the bottom of a small glass into regular or turbinado sugar, and use the bottom of the glass to gently flatten each cookis to a 2-inch diameter. (Continue dipping the glass into the sugar as needed to prevent it from sticking to the cookies.) (Or roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness between 2 sheets of parchment or waxed paper, chill 15 minutes, and use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Then sprinkle cookies with regular or turbinado sugar.)

Bake at 375 F for 12-14 minutes or until light golden-brown. Cool on pans for 2 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Yields 18 cookies

Pumpkin-Oat Bread with Golden Raisins and Walnuts

This quick bread uses several of the nourishing nonperishables–canned pumpkin, oats, walnuts and whole-grain flour–that Ruthi Solari of SuperFood Drive encourages people to donate to food banks. Enjoy this anytime of day–for breakfast, an afternoon snack or even dessert. It’s also nice baked as muffins or into little 5 x 2-1/2-inch loaves to give as gifts. (Use the leftover pumpkin to make a batch of our Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal with Toasted Pecans.)

pumpkin-oat-bread3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled (a k a old-fashioned) oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

Combine sugars, pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until thoroughly combined. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring with a spoon just until combined (don’t overmix or your bread will turn out tough). Gently fold in nuts and raisins. Scrape batter into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove loaf from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Serves 12

Pumpkin Tart with Maple Whipped Cream and Toasted Walnuts

This is the Nourish version of a classic pumpkin pie. A Graham cracker crust is an easy option if you don’t feel like making pastry. If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice on hand, use 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger. Bake the tart up to 2 days ahead, cool completely, and refrigerate. Toast the walnuts a day or two ahead and store them in an airtight container.  You can whip the cream on Thanksgiving morning and pop it in fridge.

1 cup Graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
Cooking spray

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup half-and-half

Remaining ingredients:
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To prepare the crust, place crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and butter in a small bowl, tossing with a fork to combine. Use the bottom of a small glass to evenly press mixture into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Increase oven temperature to 425 F.

To prepare the filling, place pumpkin puree and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer until thoroughly combined. Beat in 3/4 cup sugar, flour, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and salt. Beat in half-and-half. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 F (do not remove tart from oven). Bake 45 minutes or until filling is set. (Shield edges of tart with foil, if necessary, if they start to look too brown.) Cool completely on wire rack.

Place cream in a small bowl. Beat with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Beat in maple syrup. Cut tart into 8 wedges. Garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon whipped cream and about 1 teaspoon walnuts.

Serves 8

Spiced Pumpkin Harvest Bundt Cake with Pecans

By Linda West Eckhardt

Pumpkin makes a terrific addition to Bundt cake. It adds rich autumn flavor, plus fiber and vitamins A and C. Start with a fresh 2- to 3-pound sugar pumpkin or winter squash, cook it in the microwave until tender (about 10 minutes), then scrape out the flesh, peel and mash. Or even simpler,  use 1 (15-ounce) can of pumpkin (make sure you pick up pumpkin puree and not premade pumpkin pie filling). Buy the freshest nuts you can find; the cake will have a lovely caramel color and bright, complex flavor from the marriage of squash and spices dappled with this season’s nuts.

pumpkin bundt cakeCake:
4 large eggs
Nonstick cooking spray with flour (such as Spectrum Canola Spray with Flour)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1-1/4 cups canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups mashed pumpkin OR 1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans

Place eggs in a bowl of hot tap water (to quickly bring them to room temperature so they beat to maximum volume). Position oven rack in the middle of  oven. Preheat  oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with cooking spray.

To prepare cake, sift together flour and next 6 ingredients (through ground cloves) onto a sheet of wax paper.

Place oil and eggs in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer to combine. Add granulated sugar and vanilla; beat well. With the mixer running, gradually add flour mixture. Beat 2 minutes at low speed. Beat in pumpkin, zest and 1 teaspoon juice. Fold in 3/4 cup nuts.

Scrape batter into prepared pan (pan will be very full). Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of pan; carefully turn pan and rack to gently remove cake from pan. Cool cake on wire rack.

To prepare glaze, place butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer to combine thoroughly. Add powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix thoroughly. Scrape glaze over the top of  still-warm cake and spread over the top with an offset spatula (glaze will drizzle down the sides of the cake). Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons nuts.

Serves 16

Linda West Eckhardt is a James Beard Award-winning author of more than 20 cookbooks, including Cakes from Scratch in Half the Time (Chronicle Books).

Maple Caramel Popcorn

Think of this caramel popcorn recipe as Cracker Jacks with an upscale theme. I’m into Chinese five spice powder these days and like the bright note it lends to the caramel. If you don’t have it on hand, you can substitute ground cinnamon. Because this caramel is made with maple syrup and agave nectar, it doesn’t change color dramatically, so this is a good recipe to use a candy thermometer or digital thermometer. You can break this popcorn into bite-size pieces or form it into popcorn balls.

maple-caramel-popcorn-balls10 cups plain popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup unpopped)
3/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons raw organic blue agave nectar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place popped popcorn and peanuts in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Combine salt, Chinese five spice and baking soda in a small bowl. Lightly oil 2 silicone spatulas or wooden spoons. Set aside.

Combine sugar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Place a heatproof bowl in the top of the saucepan for 2 minutes; the condensation will wash away any sugar that has crystallized on the side of the pan. Remove bowl. Cook sugar mixture until it registers 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the salt mixture (the caramel will bubble).

Pour caramel over popcorn mixture. Toss to combine with two lightly oiled silicone spatulas. When the mixture begins to set (it should be cool enough to handle; otherwise wear a pair of latex gloves), lightly oil your hands and, working quickly, break it apart into bite-size pieces or form it into 2-inch balls. Place on a baking sheet to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Serves 20-25