Roasted Fruit with Spiced Dal

DSC_0022-1If you’re looking for a warm, comforting bowl of healthy goodness on these cold winter days, look no further. This easy-to-make Roasted Fruit with Spiced Dal is not only a super protein-packed way to start the morning (or end a day) but it’s also gluten-free, has no added sugar, and can be adapted to your favorite seasonal fruits.
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This idea of fruit with dal sprang from necessity back in October. Yes, it’s a bit of a strange combo, but I had just started a new healthier eating plan. For the first month I was supposed to avoid all carbs. Yep, you heard me. No fun right? So I was bummed to say the least when my go-to breakfast of oatmeal and fruit became verboten. Who can find fault with a hearty bowl of oatmeal and all the fixin’s? Well, perhaps it’s the “fixin’s” that may have become a wee bit excessive and got me into trouble! At any rate, I was going to be good and stick to the “plan”, so I needed to find a tasty substitute that would come close to my oatmeal bowl–just with more protein and less sugar. And since any and all kinds of legumes were A-OK on the Doc’s list, thought I’d start there.

DSC_0084-1  [Masoor Dal (lentil)]
Ultimately, I decided on Masoor Dal as my “oatmeal” base because if you slightly overcook the dal (I mean just a tad, nothing crazy here), it will fluff up and give you a texture similar to that of oats.  I liked its bright orange color too and thought it would work well with the autumnal spices and fruits. Dal or lentils are an edible pulse, which is part of the legume family. These tiny seeds pack a mighty punch with about 30% of their calories from protein. They have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. The neutral flavor of the seed allows whatever spices or seasonings you’re using to come through in the dish. To make it work with the baking spices and fruit, I opted to go with the aromatic notes of India: Cardamom, Star Anise and Cinnamon. This trio is a perfect way to infuse flavor into an otherwise bland pulse.
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Next the roasted fruit. This is so simple. I make a sheet tray at a time and then I can re-warm it throughout the week with the dal, or just on its own for a snack. I always like to include apples as they are so good for you plus they hold up well when roasting. My preference is Granny Smith as I like the tartness paired with the baking spices— we’ll get to those next.
I usually add one Honey Crisp or Braeburn too. The only variety I would avoid is Red and Yellow Delicious. They are softer-fleshed varieties and will get too mushy when roasting. Here I used Red Barletts but you can use any pear (just be sure it’s firm, not overripe). Try Asian Pear or Fuyu Persimmons too. In the summer, try a mix of nectarines, peaches, apricots and plums. The combinations are endless. For some texture and slight sweetness, I added these little nuggets: dried cranberries and my new favorite baking condiment: crystallized ginger chips from The Ginger People. You’ve seen me use these before, love these tiny morsels!
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Then before roasting, I finished it off with small pieces of chilled butter and an assortment of baking spices such as ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, and pumpkin pie spice. But use whatever spices you like, make it your own.
DSC_0154-1Spiced Dal
1 cup masoor dal (orange lentils)
2 cardamom pods, slightly crushed to release inner seeds
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of fine sea salt

Rinse and drain dal well. Add to medium sauce pan. Fill with enough water to cover the dal by about 2 inches. Add in cardamom pods, star anise, cinnamon stick and salt. Bring to a low boil over med-high heat and cook covered for 8-10 minutes. (Lentils cook fast so keep an eye on them so they don’t overcook). Cool and serve with Roasted Fruit or on its own with brown sugar or honey.

Roasted Fruits
2 green apples (granny smith)
2 pears ( red bartlett, bosch, or d’anjou)
1 red apple (honey crisp, braeburn or pink lady)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup crystallized ginger chips
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 stick unsalted butter, chilled and diced

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a standard sheet pan with foil. Cut fruit into medium-size chunks and spread out on sheet pan in an even layer. Add cranberries and ginger chips and toss gently to distribute evenly. Gently mix in all spices. Top with butter pieces. Bake at 375F for 35-45 minutes, or until fruit is tender and slightly browned. Spoon over spiced dal and enjoy! DSC_0010-1

Ginger & Coconut Milk Crème Brûlée

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Here’s a classic that’s been jazzed up for the holidays with the spicy flavors of ginger and creamy coconut milk to create a lactose-free delicious dessert. I made these Crème Brûlées for Thanksgiving, but used heavy cream as most of the recipes you’ll find call for. But I’m going to be making these again for Christmas and some of my family are sans-dairy milk, so I wanted to re-create the exotic flavors of the ginger, but just with a different “cream” base. First thing that came to mind was almond milk, but then upon further research, I learned that it doesn’t have the weight (fat content) and viscosity needed to create a custard that will set firm. So I rummaged through my pantry and found a can of full-cream coconut milk– bingo! — this would do the trick.

The other secret to this recipe is using ginger two ways. First,  I infused the coconut milk with fresh ginger slices and secondly,  added crystallized ginger chips to the bottom of the ramekins (for a little surprise). By doubling-up on the ginger, it really locks in that flavor,  but isn’t overpowering in the least. The final custard is a deep yellow color (due to the increased egg yolks) making this a rich and decadent treat!
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DSC_0032-1Ginger & Coconut Milk Crème Brûlée
1 cup full-cream coconut milk
2-3 large slices of fresh ginger root (skin on is fine)
4 teaspoons crystallized ginger chips (I like brand The Ginger People)
1 tablespoon softened butter
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/2 cup white sugar + 4 tablespoons for shell

Preheat oven to 325F. Get a full tea kettle of water on the boil. Add coconut milk and fresh ginger slices to a medium size saucepan. Warm gently over medium heat just until milk comes to the simmer. Do not let it boil. Once warmed through, take it off heat to cool and allow the ginger slices to steep in the milk for 20 minutes. Gather 4 ramekins (4 ounce capacity) and place on a rimmed sheet tray.  Use the softened butter to coat the inside of each one. Place 1 teaspoon of crystallized ginger chips into the center of each ramekin. In a large mixing bowl, add egg yolks, eggs, and sugar. Whisk until light and foamy. Remove the ginger slices from the coconut milk and add to egg mixture. Gently whisk until custard is light and frothy. Pour mixture into a 2-cup glass measuring cup (this makes it easier to fill). Gently pour custard into the ramekins being careful not to move the ginger chips around too much.

Place sheet tray in oven and then carefully pour the hot water onto the pan until it comes a quarter way up the sides of the ramekins. The water will help create steam during baking and aid in setting the custard. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Custard will have a slight jiggle when it’s finished, but a cake tester should come out clean. Chill covered for 6 hours- or even better- 1-2 days in fridge. When you’re ready to serve, remove chilled ramekins from fridge. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly across the top of one ramekin. Using your kitchen torch*, heat sugar until light golden brown and a hard shell has formed on the surface. Enjoy!
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*Note:
A kitchen torch may seem like an extravagant tool, but honestly, they’re not that expensive nowadays and you’ll get so much use out of it. It’s perfect for making the above dessert of course, but it’s also a whiz at finishing meringues, melting cheese, glazing a ham…. you name it. For this recipe, I borrowed the Bon Jour torch from a friend (as my Bernzomatic was on the fritz), and it worked a charm. It has a little more “umpf” (longer flame life) and you can also regulate the flame power depending on the size of the job. It’s on my Christmas Wishlist….hoping Santa thinks I’ve been a good girl this year!