Summertime Granola: Citrus Zest, Coconut Flakes and a pat of Butter

June 15, 2013 § 4 Comments

Southwest summertime mornings begin with a heavy mugginess and cicada songs.  By midday, streets and trees are empty.  Kids swim and eat popsicles; reptiles, birds and ground animals sleep in the shade of mesquite trees and behind/under big rocks.  By evening, we all venture out again: The birds take dust baths, the tortoises dye their faces maroon with prickly pear fruit and the people… we can be found moving slow or sitting in chairs with big floppy hats, ice cold beer or lemonade in hand.

We’re in the thick of summer down here in Tucson.  And in my long absence from recipe updating, I’ve been puttering around the kitchen, attempting to throw together simple, low-key meals that not only require a short-blast of oven/stove time, but also taste a little spring-like (think: fresh herbs, tropical fruits, citrus).  This recipe channels the tropical/citrus flavor profile with sweetened, thick coconut flakes and plenty of citrus zest.  While I’ve posted a couple granola recipes on this blog (lest we forget the clumpy granola addiction of 2010) — this one shies away from nut butters and embraces a sweeter, lighter ingredient list.  Below is my favorite summertime version, but as always, feel free to add/subtract to your liking.


4 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup large coconut flakes, sweetened
1/2 cup cashews, raw
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled & raw
1/2 cup walnuts, halved & raw
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

zest from 1 orange
2 tablespoons butter, salted
1/3 cup agave nectar


1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and toss.

2. In a small sauce pan, melt butter and agave.  Remove from heat.  Add orange zest and stir.  Pour liquids onto dry ingredients and toss until incorporated.

3. Spread oats onto a large baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake 15-20 minutes, tossing half-way.  Remove from oven when golden brown; the granola may still be damp to the touch.  Let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

DIET NOTES: gluten-free*
*GF oats required


Snappy Ginger Cookies, with Almond Flour

December 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

This weekend I’ll be traipsing around one of my old stompin’ grounds with two chums.  We’ll drink coffee, bundled up in a dozen layers, and ogle over this weeks’ farm bounty.  I made my ladies a batch of these snappy cookies (inspired by a favorite nook on the interwebs: ComfyBelly) so we have something to nosh while vegetable perusing.

I made a few batches of these cookies yesterday and left one sheet on the countertop for my family to nibble.  This morning, as I blearily headed into the kitchen to put on a pot of hot water, there wasn’t a cookie crumb to be found.  To put it another way: They’re addictive.  Hot, out of the oven, they’re chewy and soft; let them cool and they’ll harden and “snap.”

One thing to note: I grind my own almond flour.  As you can see from the photographs, my flour is chunky and not as finely ground as almond flour purchased at the grocery store or blended in a VitaMix.  Head over to ComfyBelly’s site to see how these cookies look with almond flour that is more finely ground.

2 cups almond flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon all spice
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup honey


1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees on convection.  Grease two cooking sheets and set aside.

2. Combine all dry ingredients, including spices, in a large bowl.  Toss with fork.

3.  In a small saucepan, melt butter on the stove.  Remove from heat, add honey and mix.  Combine with dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly incorporated.

4.  Shape dough into small, quarter-sized balls.  Flatten them, using your fingers, on cookie sheet, about an inch apart.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden around the edges.  Cool on the sheet pan at least 5 minutes to set.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, gluten-free

Scrumdiddlyumptious Heirloom Tomato Soup with Farmer Cheese Dollop

July 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Being a native Tucsonan, I’m not the kind to get sappy or nostalgic over summertimes.  I’ve bolted out of the desert each June and July since high school, fleeing to higher elevations, running water or — in the case of Guatemala — cities with giant floods and goosebump-nights.  About a month ago, shortly before I left for Santa Fe, I mopped my brow as I tried to yank out the pernicious mint crop that reappeared between my tomato plants.  It was nearly 8am and nearing double-digit temperatures; after some ferocious tugging (that proved futile), I stomped up the garden steps and told my sun-bathing dog that I’d like to fast-forward through the rest of summer thank-you-very-much.

As with all blanket statements, that one was spoken a bit hastily.  As tempting as Fall sounds at the heat of the day (or heat of dawn), it occurs to me that skipping summertime would yield a lifetime of mealy roma tomatoes from Safeway.  In the southwest, we eat our first tomatoes in May; along the east coast, we eat them in August.  Regardless of where you slice your tomatoes, you won’t be making salsa unless it’s toasty outside or you have a greenhouse at your disposal.

This soup is my summertime staple.  There are few ingredients, so make sure they’re high quality.  Heirloom tomatoes are key.  Here’s a tip: At $5.50 a pound, heirloom tomatoes can be pricy to chuck into a soup.  My remedy is to stop by the farmers’ market and ask for “sauce tomatoes.”  Sauce tomatoes are the squishy guys — the ones that are marked down to a buck-or-so a pound that farmers can’t sell alongside other pristine specimines.  These tomatoes may have a bug hole, a sunken top, a deformed edge or they might be a mutant.  Stock up on a few of these blemished fruits for your soups.  The flavor is outstanding.

P.S.  I like this brand of farmer cheese that you can find in specialty food stores.  (For those on the SCD diet, this cheese is a-okay.)

Ingredients for the Soup:
3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped (approximately 2 cups)
1 medium, yellow onion, chopped
10 garlic scapes (or 4 cloves), minced
½ tablespoon butter
½ tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons pesto
sea salt & pepper, to taste
few basil leaves, for garnish

Ingredients for the Farmer Cheese Topping:
8 oz. Farmer Cheese (dry curd cottage cheese)
2 tablespoons pesto
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 small cloves garlic, minced
sea salt & pepper, to taste


1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pot on medium-high heat.  When hot, add onions and garlic scapes and sauté approximately 10 minutes until onions are wilted, but not caramelized, and scapes are al dente, but not completely tender.  If using garlic cloves, sauté onion only and add garlic just before adding the heirloom tomatoes.

2. Chop tomatoes in large, ½” hunks.  Add to onions and scapes and reduce heat to a simmer (medium-low).  When the tomatoes have loosened and lost some of their liquid and shape, add the pesto.  Continue simmering for 10-15 minutes until scapes are tender, the tomatoes have completely lost their shape and the soup is liquidy.

3. While the soup simmers, prepare cheese topping.  Combine the farmer cheese with pesto, minced garlic, thyme and lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  (I often add an additional spritz of lemon or a pinch of sea salt at this stage.)  Set aside.

4. When soup has finished cooking, remove from heat.  Serve into individual bowls with a dollop of herbed cheese on top.  Enjoy leftovers up to three days; this soup also freezes and thaws well.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, gluten-free

GUEST POST: Aunt Kathi´s Butternut Squash Veggie Lasagna with White Sauce

July 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, my aunt Kathi had a few friends come over for a meal on a rainy day.  In her kitchen she had a small butternut squash, spinach and other ingredients on hand, so she combined 3 recipes into one and came up with this killer lasagna.  Kathi often experiments with vegan meals, and while this one isn´t strictly dairy-free, you´ll notice that the amount of cheese is quite minimal.  She also noted that she, like me, can´t stand to dirty every pot in the kitchen, so she combined her steps in the simplest way, to ease cooking and clean up.  I cannot wait to try this recipe when I get back to my kitchen and when butternut squash start popping out of my garden!  Bon Appetit!

2 cups butternut squash, chopped in bite-sized pieces
2 cups portobello mushroom
1 cup crimini mushrooms
2 cups fresh spinach
½ cup walnuts
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ small onion
lots of garlic
1 small, green zucchini
½ red pepper
½ green pepper
3 cups lactose free milk
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
pepper/nutmeg/salt to taste
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup mozzarella cheese
3 oz goat cheese  (1/4 of 11 oz tube)
12 lasagna noodles


Step 1:  Roast veggies

Place cut butternut squash, portabella mushrooms, sliced green zucchini and garlic (4 cloves or so) into roasting pan, rubbed with just a touch of olive oil, and bake for about 30 minutes in 375 oven.  While roasting, take sun-dried tomatoes, raisins and walnuts and soak in 1 cup of water. When veggies are cooked and slightly crisp,  drain tomato & raisin mixture and combine with roasted vegetables.

Step 2: Make white sauce and sauté the rest of the veggies

Next, take a pan (that will be used later for the white sauce) and add washed spinach (with a bit of water), onions and crimini mushrooms.  Sauté in the water for about 7 minutes, until vegetables soften and become aromatic.  Remove veggies and add to mixture of roasted vegetables.  To create the sauce or roux, add 2 tablespoons of butter to the now-empty pan and melt on medium heat.  Mix in the flour, seasonings and the Parmesan cheese (reserving about 1 tablespoon of Parmesan for the top for later), and add the milk slowly, so it won’t lump up.  Keep stirring until all lumps are gone.  Add goat cheese and mozzarella into this white sauce – reserve just a touch of mozzarella for the top.

Step 3: Make noodles and combine

Boil noodles according to packaging instructions and layer them into a pan, 4 across.  Split the veggie mixture into 3rds.  Put some of the white/cheese sauce onto the noodles followed by a third of the veggies. Repeat these steps for the second layer.  On top of the third and final layer, sprinkle a touch of parmesan and mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour.  Let sit before eating; if necessary, reheat for a meal later in the day.

Herbed Buttermilk-Quinoa Cornbread

May 14, 2010 § 5 Comments

This cornbread is a riff off of Heidi’s recent Skillet Bread recipe.  My version has no cream or sugar and isn’t remotely custard-like, but it’s the moistest, most savory corn bread I’ve had in eons.  I tip my hat to the dried herbs stirred into the batter for the good flavor.  The good texture is a result of two cups of buttermilk and a little something else: a cup-and-a-half of fluffed, hot-outta-the-pot quinoa.  That’s right!  Quinoa!

I have an off-and-on-again relationship with this spiral-y, complete-protein, high amino acid, pseudocereal.  I’ve recently rejoined the fan club.  A few weeks ago I made a salad featuring this grain speckled with crunchy nuts, mint, parsley and a handful of dried fruit, plumped-up with Meyer lemon juice.  I never thought I’d use the adjectives “lip-smacking” and “addictive” in the same sentence with quinoa, but the salad was both of those things.  It was killer.  And now this cornbread: the quinoa isn’t chucked in just for high-protein’s-sake, it truly enhances the cornbread.  I never thought I’d see the day!

The bread will be finished when the knife comes out clean and the bread has given away from the sides.  At this point, I popped it under the broiler (per Heidi’s suggestion) for about 2 minutes, just to deepen the color on the top.  Two other notes: I’d suggest to begin baking this bread about an hour before you’d like to eat it.  It takes about 50 minutes to cook, but the good flavor gets overwhelmed by the piping hot bread.  Let it sit a few minutes before serving.  Second, I like to make the quinoa just before baking the bread.  If you’re in a time crunch, feel free to make a pot of quinoa in advance.  But I’ve found that baking this bread with warm quinoa, plumped with water (leaving no time for any evaporation or drying-out in the fridge) makes the bread all the more moist.

1 cup white whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried herbs (i.e. mix of thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, basil, etc.)

1 + 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken
4 tablespoons butter, unsalted


1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees on convection or 350 degrees in a standard oven.

2.  Using a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio, bring water to a boil on the stove and add quinoa.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot with a lid and cook until tender (about 13-16 minutes).  Set aside one and a half cups for this recipe.

3.  Melt butter in your oven proof baking pan or cast iron.  Brush butter up the sides of the pan so the entire surface is coated.  Transfer remaining butter to a heat-proof bowl and let cool for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, mix together dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix well-shaken buttermilk and eggs.  When butter has cooled slightly, add to liquids.

4.  Gently combine flour and hot quinoa to the liquid mixture in alternating batches and stir gently, just until combined.  Pour batter into cast iron/pan and bake for 50-55 minutes until the knife comes out clean and the bread gives away slightly from the sides of the pan.  Once cooked through, you can pop it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes (keep a close eye!) to deepen the color on top.  Let sit 10-15 minutes before serving.

Diet Notes: Nut-free

Addictive Artichoke Gratin

February 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

I’m cozied-up on the sofa at home beneath a grey sky.  The heater’s humming in the background.  I have a seventh batch of candied citrus peels bubbling away on the stove and the house smells lived-in and fresh.  I’m in Regina-veg-out mode.

I’m recuperating: This past Friday through Sunday zipped by in a whirlwind of ooh-and-ahh Bellagio fountain shows, the best strawberry jam of my life, irritating casino music, back-to-back visits to a chocolate chop, a salon and a hotel with limp cucumbers and empty beer bottles on the patio and a beautiful wedding to boot!  Sadly, the Vegas-fun petered out a mere hour into our homeward bound drive when we got stuck at the Hoover Dam.  We crawled along the highway with the windows down for nearly two hours!  But, never fear, I made good use of the time…  While we inched, I recipe-planned!  And if I manage to make all the recipes I came up with in the car, I’ll eat approximately 5 meals a day for the next week and a half!

But!  Ta-DA!  I’ve crossed one recipe off my list and guys, there’s no better way to put it: this artichoke gratin is positively ADDICTIVE.  It takes no time to throw it together, either.

A few notes about this recipe: First, I prefer to make my own bread crumbs.  It’s cheap and a snap: I buy a 99-cent baguette from the store – often days or weeks before I intend to use it in a recipe – tear it into chunks and let them dry out on the counter for a day or two.  (If you’re pinched for time, simply toast 4-6 slices of bread in the toaster oven.)  Whirl stale/toasted bread in a Cuisinart or blender until the texture is fine.  While the Cuisinart is dirty, I often blend a few cubes of Parmesan cheese to avoid hand-grating.  I make bread crumbs (with or without the Parmesan cheese) in advance and store the crumbs in in the freezer.  It keeps wonderfully for at least a month and it’s convenient to have at-the-ready for a quick, mid-week dish.

Second, if you choose to use canned artichokes as I did, the artichokes are already soaked in a salty brine that lingers, even after a thorough rinsing.  The Parmesan cheese will add more salt to the recipe.  Because of this, I added no additional salt and I found it plenty seasoned.

2 cans (15 oz.) artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (in a pinch, use bullion)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup scallions, chopped (including the green part)
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter, melted & unsalted


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Prepare bread and cheese crumbs: Use stale or toasted bread and pulverize in a blender until finely ground.  Set aside.  Using the Cuisinart or blender, blend a few cubes of Parmesan cheese to yield approximately 1/4 cup.  (Eye-balling is fine here.)  Combine with bread crumbs.  Melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter on the stove or in the microwave.  Combine with bread crumbs and set aside.

2.  Rinse and drain artichoke hearts.  Chop in half.  Chop scallions and parsley and set aside.  Heat oil on medium in a brimmed pan and saute scallions until wilted (approximately 2-3 minutes).  Add artichokes and cook an additional minute.  Add vegetable broth and red pepper flakes and cook a few minutes until some of the liquid has evaporated, but not all.

3.  In a baking dish (I used 8″ x 8″) pile artichokes in the bottom of the pan.  Top with bread + butter crumbs.  Bake in the oven 10 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Diet Notes: Nut-free

Banana Crumb Muffins

February 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’ve been experimenting with a new muffin recipe.  While I promise not to walk you through each of my blunders, Cooks’ Illustrated-style, I thought I’d take a moment to share two distinct changes I made from the original recipe, and why I veered off course.

If you take a peek at the ingredient list below, you’ll see a 1/3 of a cup of vegetable oil.  The original banana crumb recipe – inspired by Marcia, a Tucson Bunco Babe – called for 1/3 cup melted butter.  While that recipe yields delicious, flavorful results, I found that when I swapped oil for butter, the muffin was so moist it seemed to melt in my mouth.  What’s more, when I used oil, the shelf life of the leftovers was longer and maintained the texture, while my buttery muffins grew stale and chewier in the same amount of time.

The second distinct change I made was the inclusion of brown sugar in the batter.  I recently learned from the latest Cooks’ Illustrated magazine that brown sugar – like corn syrup – is hygroscopic (meaning both corn syrup and brown sugar attract and retain water).  That’s why cookie dough that contains high levels of either of these two ingredients yields moister, chewier cookies. The original muffin batter calls for 3/4 cup of sugar.  I swapped out a third of the sugar and replaced it with brown sugar.  The results were wonderful: the muffins were moist with a subtle, warmer flavor that I attributed to the more molasses-y taste of brown sugar.

For the record: I love dense muffins (especially berry-bran!).  But this time, I wanted to create a light, airy muffin that you might eat with an afternoon cup of coffee or tea.  I was aiming for coffee cake, not pound cake.

Muffin Ingredients:
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 bananas, mashed (approx. 1.5 cups)
1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar
1/4 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease muffin tins.  In a medium-sized bowl combine flour, soda, powder, salt and spices.  Combine with a fork.

2.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg.  Add banana, sugars, oil and vanilla.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Slowly add flour mixture to liquid, gently stirring.  Stir just until incorporated; don’t over-beat.  (If the batter is over-stirred, gluten will form, yielding a denser muffin.)

3.  Prepare crumb mixture: combine flour, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.  Break in butter until the dough resembles coarse peas.  Set aside.

4.  Ladle muffin batter into greased tins.  Fill 3/4 of the way to the top.  Sprinkle with crumb topping.  Bake 15-18 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.  Let sit in muffin tins for about 5 minutes before removing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  These muffins also freeze and thaw wonderfully.

Diet Notes: Nut-free

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