Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sometimes a girl just needs a few croutons in her salad

I eat a lot of salads. I love salads of just about any kind. In the winter I particularly enjoy a salad with roasted vegetables. My favorite is a grilled chicken Caesar salad and I do miss a Caesar studded with croutons. But croutons aren't just for salads. Oh no, besides eating them by the handful as is, they are a great garnish for soup! Often times I have so much going on in the kitchen that I don't take the time to make my own. Recently I discovered a new gluten-free bread product that I really like called Against the Grain. I had my first taste of this delightful bread at the Ritz in Naples, a wonderful tuna salad sandwich. I couldn't wait to get home and track down a supplier. Whole Foods carries the rolls I like and I found the traditional baguettes at Tailor Make Nutrition, an out of the way speciality store loaded with GF products in Woodbury. I stocked up. I have missed a good baguette which lends itself to any number tasty treats. I make a darn good winter bruschetta. When ripe tomatoes disappear in the late fall I turn to "Winter White Bruschetta" a savory little nugget made with truffle oil, good Parmesan cheese and slices of garlic toasted baguette. I can't wait to try that with Against The Grains baguette. But today I tackled homemade croutons because we are having soup and salad for dinner. Double the reason for having some good croutons on hand.

We are having company for dinner, someone who loves Split Pea Soup as much as I do. I know, it isn't popular and Tina will be having something else but I love Split Pea Soup. I had a few ham hocks in the freezer and homemade chicken stock that was begging to be used. I have not made this soup in over a year as we are on a soup night sabbatical. It makes a huge pot but it has potatoes in it which means it does not freeze very well so I need an audience. Hard to come by I admit.

Anyway, I made the soup yesterday, it gets better with a day of sitting and this morning I roasted my vegetables for the salad. The croutons just came out of the oven and all I can say is I hope there are some left for dinner. I should have made more but I am rationing the baguette for other purposes.

These are simple to make, so simple that I really should make them more often and I am sure they will store well in an air tight container. I simply minced some garlic and drizzled the garlic with some good olive oil. I cut the bread into one inch chunks, tossed them them with  the garlic infused olive oil and then sprinkled with kosher salt and pepper. I cooked them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, tossing to brown evening, nibbling with every toss. Even Tashi Losar got in on the action and is stalking the croutons that are cooling on the oven. If they make it through the day they are going to be great tossed in the roasted vegetable salad and garnishing my Split Pea Soup. Now, onto a flourless chocolate something!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Homemade Marshmallow's

We are headed to Beaver Creek for a week of skiing! Well, actually I am going along as the condo chef. Until a week ago it had been over 30 years since I took to the slopes. So Tina took me to a local ski hill to see if I could get down a bunny hill. I grew up skiing, every single Saturday and Sunday from the time I was five until I headed to college. For years, all though grade school and junior high I took Otto Hollaus ski lessons, a rigorous training that focused on fundamentals. I never imagined how well that training would serve me and took to the hills like I'd been at it all these years. I am not nearly as good anymore. Back in the day I had a nice slalom and picture perfect parallel legs and ski. Today I can't keep the skis together as well but I can still get down any hill. I have my father to thank for my skiing abilities and for the record, at 80 he is still hitting the hills out west. This will be my first trip to real mountains as I also grew up in a sort of twisted sexist home and ski trips out west were "only for the boys".

Anyway, I will ski while I am there, probably just one day. Otherwise I plan to spend my time in the kitchen and at the spa. I am totally intimidated by cooking in the altitude and was completely unwilling to tackle baking so I did all the baking ahead of time. Cinnamon Scones, Blueberry Muffins and Chocolate Chip Banana Bread are just a few of the treats I am taking along. I have worked really hard to create menus and snacks that scream winter ski lodge including these homemade Marshmallows.

I am so not a marshmallow fan but was a total convert after I had my first homemade marshmallow at the Ritz! I wondered why I had never tried to make them myself. Shortly after that my favorite blogger, Katrina who writes the blog Gluten Free Gidget ( posted a recipe for homemade marshmallows. That was it, I wanted to give a try. Of course I had to do a dry run before committing them to the Beaver Creek menu and it was successful.

We are mostly having fresh fruit for desert but a ski trip isn't complete without homemade hot chocolate and marshmallows and of course I have to have S'mores. I had a few extra so I made some marshmallow pops with chocolate and toasted coconut as an airplane treat.