Food Bloggers Unite: Feed South Africa

Easy Peasy Nut Butter Cookies 1I’ve always been a pack your lunch kind of girl. In elementary school my mom stuffed my lunchbox with a sandwich, a bag of chips, and two homemade cookies – one of which I always gave to a friend. Even as a grown up, I still take my lunch with me to work and school, because I realize the link between being well fed and having brain power. When I have a healthy, nourishing lunch, I am able to focus and think – two important components of learning in school.

Did you know that 4 million children in South Africa don’t have access to lunch at all? I can only imagine how their schoolwork suffers. This is why I decided to join a whole mess of food bloggers who are dedicating today’s post to help raise money to feed these children. Through The Lunchbox Fund, our goal is to raise enough money to feed lunch to 100 children for a whole year. Watch the video below to help you decide if you’d like to join us. Then visit the donation page here.

The Lunchbox Fund from Leigh Wood on Vimeo.

For all of my childhood, cookies represented lunchtime and sharing. That makes this a perfect opportunity to share with you my favorite, super easy and gluten free(!) cookie recipe. The chocolate drizzle is totally optional, but really fun. I used a combo of peanut and almond butters for these – it was a bit of a clean out the pantry moment – but any nut butter will do.

 Easy Peasy Nut Butter Cookies

1 c. nut butter (I used peanut and almond)
1 c. sugar (I used sucanat, coconut sugar would be good too)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 oz. dark chocolate (optional)

 Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix first five ingredients together with a mixer (or by hand if you’re super strong like my mom!). Scoop out tablespoon sized balls onto the baking sheet, making sure to leave an inch or more between them. Using the tines of a fork, squish the balls down a bit. Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until they’ve spread and just set up. Let them sit for 5 minutes while you melt the chocolate in a double boiler. I use a metal bowl atop a small saucepan filled with water.

When the cookies have set and the chocolate has melted, use a spatula to flick the chocolate onto the cookies, Jackson Pollack style. Let them sit until the chocolate has mostly set up.

These are soft and chewy on the inside, and slightly crispy on the outside, and best the day they are made. They still taste pretty darn good for about 6 days in an airtight container.

makes about 24 cookies

Easy Peasy Nut Butter Cookies 2

Creamy Soft Scrambled Eggs

Do you really need a recipe for scrambled eggs? Probably not (or maybe you do – no judgement), but hear me out. With my (everybody’s) crazy schedule in December, I’ve been cooking less big recipes and more quick, on-the-fly meals. One of my favorite standbys is eggs. Scrambled is my favorite, but I don’t normally keep milk in the house, and every good scramble requires at least a splash of milk. So I improvise. And since I’ve been doing this for quite some time – I have a few tips for making my favorite, perfect scrambled egg.

First, only buy eggs with an orange (or at least bright yellow) yolk. It really makes a big difference in flavor. Also, by cooking the eggs slowly over low heat and stirring the whole time, you get a very creamy, just barely set scramble. And finally, since I never can find a splash of milk when I need it, I substitute some creme fraiche – which I always have around.

When I have the time, I like to serve these babies with some yukon golds roasted with herbs de provence. Just cut the taters into chunks, mix with olive oil, salt and a shower of herbs, spread on a baking sheet and roast on 425 until they are soft and browned, giving them a flip on occasion. If you don’t have time for that – toast works too!

Creamy Soft Scrambled Eggs

a small knob of butter
2 good quality eggs
1-2 T. creme fraiche
pinch of salt
a few grinds on the pepper grinder
some chopped herbs for garnish (optional)

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium low. While you’re waiting, crack the eggs into a small bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and whisk. I use a fork. It’s ok if there are still big pieces of creme fraiche in there, just make sure the egg yolks are broken up.

Pour the eggs into the skillet and let them sit for about 30 seconds or a minute, until the bottom just starts to set. Using a wooden spoon, scrape along the bottom of the skillet to loosen the cooked eggs. Keep stirring and scraping the bottom until the eggs have just a tiny bit of liquid left, then turn off the heat.

Sprinkle with herbs if using, and serve with potatoes, toast, or whatever else you like for breakfast.

serves 1

p.s. – If you’re cooking for more people, just use this amount per person and mix everything together in the same bowl. You can cook it all at the same time, just be very diligent about getting everything up from the bottom of the pan as quick as you can.


Black Bean Cakes with Roasted Tomato Coulis

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I’ve been here. It feels like no time has passed, yet it’s been so long. I spent most of that time visiting my Papa on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Clean air, hot sun and quick jaunts on the boat to visit empty island beaches. And to top it all off, I was able to cook for a few guests in a big, fancy, state-of-the-art kitchen. I cooked them this dish.

The first night, a few of Dad’s friends came over for dinner. About halfway through dicing the red pepper I diced into my finger pretty good. “How bad is it?” they asked. “Uh, got it pretty good,” I replied. I took a seat – I do have a tendency to faint in situations like this – and the damage was assessed. “Looks like we’ve got to go to the Emergency Room.”

So, after an hour and some fancy tape (no stitches!) we arrived back home – still without dinner. That night we had microwave dinners. However, we tried the whole thing again the next night, and success! Well, kinda. I actually wasn’t able to form the cakes myself, since the cut has to stay clean and dry, but I had help, and they tasted good – isn’t that what counts?

We had this with some rice on the side for dinner, but you could just as easily make smaller cakes and serve them as appetizers with the coulis as a dipping sauce. And letting the mixture sit is, unfortunately, very necessary if you want cakes not crumbles. I used these cute little heirloom tomatoes I found – but any fresh tomatoes will work.

Black Bean Cakes with Roasted Tomato Coulis

1-1 1/2 lbs. of tomatoes, quartered (or halved if small)
1 yellow onion, quartered
olive oil
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (1 15 oz. can, drained)
1 large egg
3/4 c. cornmeal, divided
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 T. maple syrup, or sweetener of choice
to garnish, chopped fresh cilantro and feta, crumbled or cubed

Preheat the oven to 400. Prepare the tomatoes and onions and spread on a baking sheet. Pour on a little oil and toss to coat. Make sure the tomatoes are sitting cut side up so the juices stay inside. Pop the sheet into the oven for 30 minutes.

Mash the black beans with a fork or potato masher. Mix in the egg, 1/4 of the cornmeal, the pepper, cumin, chipotle and 1/2 tsp. salt. Let it sit for 30 minutes to soak up the egg.

A minute or two before you’re ready to start frying the cakes, heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat. The oil should cover the bottom of the skillet in a thick layer.  Spread the rest of the cornmeal on a plate.

Take about 2 tablespoons or so of the black bean mixture and roll it between your palms. Flatten in a bit, then coat in the cornmeal. Place it in the skillet and cook about 5 minutes on each side. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, I got 8 smallish cakes out of it.

While the cakes are cooking, transfer the roasted tomatoes and onions to a food processor. Add the other 1/2 tsp. of salt, maple syrup, and a little drizzle of oil, and process for a few minutes, until you get a smooth sauce.

To serve, spread some coulis on a plate, top with a few cakes. Drizzle a little more sauce on top, and garnish with the cilantro and feta.

makes 8 cakes.


Fingerling Frittata

I used to think that fingerling potatoes were just small, overpriced, cute potatoes. I refused to pay so much more money for a potato, just because it was small. But when I found them in bulk at the farmers market, I decided to pick up just a few, so I could see what all the fuss was about. Well, I am here today to tell you that fingerlings are no small potatoes! (well, technically they are small potatoes – but just go with it) They are so smooth and creamy; I would go so far as to say they are buttery. I highly recommend you pick some up the next time you see them. However, if you can’t find them, you can sub any waxy potato (red and yukon gold would both be good).  Slice them thin enough and you can skip the steaming step. Just sauté them until they are soft. Likewise, feel free to throw in any other vegetables that inspire you. 

A frittata is kinda like a crustless quiche, a baked omelet, or a spanish tortilla. But it’s a frittata! Cook the fillings in an ovenproof skillet, pour in the beaten eggs and finish in the oven. Frittatas are pretty versatile. I made this for my favorite nostalgic treat, “Breakfast for Dinner”, but you can have it for actual breakfast. These guys also travel well, just wrap a chunk in parchment and have it for lunch or a snack.

Fingerling Frittata

1 lb. fingerling potatoes, halved (or other waxy potato, sliced thin)
1 T. unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
1 bunch of spinach or other greens, finely chopped
6 large eggs
1/4 c. whole milk
3/4 tsp. sea salt
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
handful of chives, sliced thin

Preheat the oven to 425.

Set up a steamer, pour in about 1/2 inch of water and bring to a boil. Steam the potatoes, covered, until tender, 10-15 minutes.

Melt the butter in an ovenproof skillet (cast iron or stainless steel work well), over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook until just starting to turn translucent, 3 minutes. Add the steamed potatoes and cook until everything has turned the slightest brown. Stir in the spinach.

While the onions and potatoes are cooking, prepare the royale (fancy chef speak for mixture of eggs and dairy). Combine the eggs, milk and salt in a large bowl and beat well. About 30 seconds after adding the spinach to the skillet, pour the egg mixture.

Swirl the eggs around in the pan to distribute evenly, then pop into the oven for 5 minutes, or until the eggs are just starting to set. Scatter the goat cheese across the surface of the frittata, and slide it back into the oven for another 5 minutes. Finally, to get a great brown on top, turn the oven to broil, and stick the skillet under the broiler for about 30 seconds or so. Keep an eye on it, it can go from yellow to black in the blink of an eye.

Remove from oven, sprinkle chives on top and serve. I like to cut it into wedges and lift them out with a thin spatula.

 serves 2-3