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Pleasant Hill Grain Blog

Helping you achieve your culinary dreams.

A Tasty Appetizer for Summer Dinner

Appetizers are purely for fun. Hors-d’oeuvres the French call them: “outside of the works.” They are likely to have a wicked lot of calories but most people have come to expect them with cocktails. The French picked up the habit of pre-dinner snacking from the Russians, who call such tidbits zakuski. Italians have their little plates of antipasto, while Scandinavians serve all manner of spicy, pickled things on a smorgasbord and make a complete meal of them.

Hot hors-d’oeuvres are always a treat. You may have to spend the last few minutes with them, but they are worth whatever confusion they create. Some, such as tiny cream puffs, turnovers, and meatballs can be completely cooked well in advance, then popped into the oven just before the first guests arrive. Do keep appetizers bite-size. Their function is to titillate the appetite, not satisfy it.

This recipe of Crab Cakes is a great example of an appetizer for a summer dinner, simply amazing!

Posted: May 12, 2018
Recipe by: Yelena Strokin
Source: Cooking Melangery
Never made crab cakes? No need to fear, they're a lot easier than you think. First of all, start with good quality crab meat. Using organic or a good quality mayonnaise is also key. Remember not to over mix your ingredients, and you'll need to use your hands. Have fun!
Active Time
1 hour
Total Time
1 hour
Serves
6

Ingredients:

For crab cakes:

  • ¼ c. finely diced red bell pepper
  • ¼ c. finely diced white or yellow onion
  • 1 lb. jumbo lump crab, carefully picked through for shells
  • ½ c. mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 c. fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • Olive oil for cooking

For Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce:

  • 2 small avocados
  • 1/2 c. sweet peas
  • 1/2 c. green onions, chopped
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. tahini
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

Directions:

  1. 1. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add the bell pepper and onion, sautéing for approximately 5 minutes, until soft. Cool at room temp temperature.
  2. 2. In a large bowl, add the bell pepper and onion mixture, crab, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, egg, lemon juice, pinch of cayenne, parsley, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper. With a wooden spoon, mix until combined.
  3. 3. Form the crab mixture into 12 cakes.
  4. 4. Place a baking sheet in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250° F.
  5. 5. In the skillet, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, pan-fry the crab cakes until golden on one side, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip them and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Remove the crab cakes to the baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you continue with the rest.
  6. 6. To make a sauce: Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. 7. Serve crab cakes with the sauce and your favorite salad.

Images:

Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce
Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce
Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce
Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce
Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce
Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce
Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce
Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce
Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce
Crab Cakes with Sweet Pea & Avocado Sauce

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Yelena Strokin

Originally from Russia, Yelena traveled the world as a journalist, experiencing other cultures and capturing their essence through photography and cooking. Yelena's food blog "Cooking Melangery" is a medley of her favorites pastimes – cooking, photography and finding inspiration from nature and her life experiences.

Interview with Natalia Wrobel

Interview with Natalia Wrobel featured image

We’re happy to announce a new contributor to the PHG blog, Natalia Wrobel! Natalia’s blog Natt Wrobel, Wholesome & Healthy Living highlights a plant-based diet for eating what makes your body feel best. Although her blog is relatively new, Natalia has already filled it will scrumptious recipes full of gorgeous colors.

Originally from Poland, Natalia draws from her childhood as well as her world travels to influence the flavors of her cooking. Her posts about travels to France, Italy and Spain capture the beautiful places she’s seen in the most lovely ways, and yes, we want to travel to all of these places now too!

We asked Natalia a little about herself to help you get to know her. You’ll find links and examples of her work throughout the interview.

As a family run business, we’d love to hear about how your family relates to your cooking and adventures. Will you tell us a little bit about your family and background?

I was born and raised in Poland where food and eating habits were just different. Opposite to the USA, a Polish day contains five meals instead of three. We have breakfast in the morning, a second breakfast around 11 am, dinner around 2-3 pm (yes, that’s right! The biggest meal of the day), evening snack around 5 pm and supper at 8pm (it’s usually a sandwich or whatever’s left).

What’s more, we cook a lot of homemade meals. My mom is an amazing cook and baker and she would cook meals every single day for us.
Smoothie Bowl {Natalia}
Do your travels influence your tastes/recipes?
Yes, they definitely do. Every country has its own flavors. When I came to the States four years ago, I discovered so many new foods that helped me develop my taste and create different recipes. Traveling gave me a feel for many different tastes and ideas to implement into my own recipes.

How did you learn to cook? 
I was definitely around cooking all the time while growing up, however, I started becoming very passionate about it when I moved away from my parents and had the responsibility of cooking my own homemade meals. I don’t have any formal training, and developed my cooking techniques through the love of healthy food and experimenting in the kitchen.
Sweet Potato Waffles {Natalia}
Do you see your cooking and photography growing or evolving in any particular direction?
I’d love to continue on the path I’m taking, by coming up with many delicious, and nutritional recipes for people to enjoy. I’m hoping to inspire others to eat healthfully, and understand that “healthy” and “delicious” can be used in the same sentence. Hopefully that inspires others to jump in the kitchen and get started on their own creations!

You’ve told us you’re new to blogging. What made you decide to begin?
Yes, I started blogging in October ’17. Before that, I would work all day, make recipes after work, then take photographs the next morning. I realized that creating healthy recipes and photography is what I’m really passionate about, and should put it somewhere out there.
Kale Spirulina Smoothie {Natalia}
How did you get started on a wholesome and healthy lifestyle?
That’s a good question! There wasn’t a particular time that I decided to start eating wholesome foods. I have always been interested in a healthy lifestyle. Back in high school, I was always that girl who, instead of sandwiches, would bring a lunch container packed with all the “weird” and healthy stuff like quinoa, asparagus etc.

What are a few of your favorite ingredients?
That’s a hard one. There are so many amazing ingredients I use. However, what you can always find in my kitchen, and what I use on daily basis, is oatmeal, bananas, avocado, and eggs. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with those choices!

Which of your travel destinations has been your favorite?
I think one of the most magical places I’ve been was the South of France. The scenery, people, food, etc, were all amazing. You travel around the city enjoying all the breathtaking views while making stops at many beautiful restaurants filled with delicious food. It felt like the perfect place to be!
Vegan Coconut Curry Noodles {Natalia}

We’re excited for all of the talent Natalia has to offer our blog and we hope you’ll keep your eye out for her posts and recipes! For now, swing by her blog to find recipes to try at home! Below are a few links we think you’ll enjoy.

Homemade Whole Wheat Sandwhich Bread

Gluten Free Baked Chocolate Beet Donuts

Juice recipes using the Juicepresso

 

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Einkorn Tabbouleh

This dish allows you to enjoy the refreshing flavors of mint paired with chewy einkorn berries. Einkorn wheat is an ancient grain and many consider it to be more nutritious than modern wheat, with higher protein, vitamin B6 and potassium contents.

Posted: October 24, 2016
Recipe by: Granny Smith
Source: The Einkorn Cookbook
Enjoy the refreshing flavors of mint paired with chewy einkorn berries.
Serves
4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. (100 g) prepared einkorn berries
  • 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 c. (125 g) chopped cucumbers (about half a medium cucumber)
  • 3/4 c. (85 g) chopped tomato
  • 2/3 c. (16 g) chopped parsley
  • 1/4 (5 g) roughly chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 clove of minced or grated garlic
  • 2 tbsp. (30 mL) lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. 1. Soak einkorn berries in a medium-sized bowl. Use just enough water to cover them and add apple cider vinegar. Soak for a minimum of 4 hours, up to overnight. After soaking, strain and rinse the berries.
  2. 2. Once they have been strained and rinsed, place the berries into a saucepan with a cup of water and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30-35 minutes until the berries are slightly chewy and no longer hard. Drain the excess water.
  3. 3. Combine all ingredients into a sizeable serving bowl. Mix until everything is together and well coated with oil and lemon juice. Season to taste and let sit for 30 minutes (the longer it sits, the more the flavors come out).

Images:

Einkorn Tabbouleh
Einkorn Tabbouleh
Einkorn Tabbouleh
Einkorn Tabbouleh
Einkorn Tabbouleh

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Pleasant Hill Grain

Healthy Lentil Salad

When you’re not sure what to serve, this lentil salad with cherry tomatoes, red onion and fresh herbs provides the perfect solution. It’s suitable for an informal meal with your family, working lunch with colleagues where a full meal isn’t required, or even an after-theater supper with friends! Fresh, light and easily digestible, this salad is not only attractive but easy to prepare and sure to please.

-Yelena Strokin (recipe & photography)

Posted: March 27, 2018
Recipe by: Yelena Strokin
Source: Cooking Melangery
If you're looking for a rustic salad/side to your lunch or dinner menu, this salad with lentils has a nutty, peppery flavor and a firm texture that holds up well to cooking. This flavorful salad can make a delicious accompaniment to a simple roasted chicken or just hard boiled eggs. Lentil salad with cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs shows off bold tastes, textures and colors.
Active Time
20 minutes
Total Time
30 minutes
Serves
2-3

Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 1 c. lentils, uncooked
  • 1 c. chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • fresh cilantro or other herb like parsley/dill

For the dressing:

  • 2-3 tbsp. grape seed oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice

Directions:

  1. 1. In a large saucepan, bring the 3-4 c. of water and 1/2 tsp. salt to boil. Stir in the lentils. When the water returns to a boil, reduce heat to low. Cover partially and simmer until soft, but still crunchy, about 15 minutes. Drain into a fine mesh colander and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. 2. In a large bowl mix together all the vegetables, grains and fresh herbs.
  3. 3. In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, grapeseed oil, garlic, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad, lightly toss the salad. Sprinkle fresh herbs on top and serve. Serve with as many slices of avocado as you like and hard boiled eggs (optional).

Images:

Lentil Salad with Avocado
Lentil Salad with Avocado
Lentil Salad with Avocado
Lentil Salad with Avocado
Lentil Salad with Avocado

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Yelena Strokin

Originally from Russia, Yelena traveled the world as a journalist, experiencing other cultures and capturing their essence through photography and cooking. Yelena's food blog "Cooking Melangery" is a medley of her favorites pastimes – cooking, photography and finding inspiration from nature and her life experiences.

A Sweet Breakfast for Your Dear Mother

There’s something magical about making jam at home with ingredients that you planted and harvested yourself. For me it brings back memories of my childhood. We didn’t have sweets readily available at the store yea-round. Thus, my mother preserved berries for the cold and snowy winter days. It was bliss to have the fresh berries in syrup over homemade crepes for breakfast! As a mother myself I use different and unique recipes every year for my children. There are always various sweet pleasures in a jar stored in my pantry, such as strawberry with chocolate mint, sour cherry jam, pears with vanilla beans and apricot with lavender among others. In the fall I even make jams from different varieties of pumpkin. 

Sweet and fragrant, a strawberry in syrup nourishes the soul as well as the body. It’s ideal for relaxed weekend mornings when the family wanders in for breakfast. Just serve over crispy waffles or fluffy pancakes with rich cream and your favorite cup of coffee.

– Yelena Strokin (recipe & photography)

 

Posted: April 27, 2018
Recipe by: Yelena Strokin
Source: Cooking Melangery
This recipe is different from your everyday strawberry jam. Here the crystallized strawberries have stayed whole, you can see their pretty shapes in the syrup, and you can bite into each one, sending shockwaves of strawberry flavor mixed with cardamom and aromatic rose water to your jubilating palate.
Active Time
1 hour
Total Time
5 hours
Serves
6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. fresh strawberries (preferably organic)
  • 3/4 lb. sugar
  • lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 5-6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 tsp. rose water

Directions:

  1. 1. Rinse the strawberries quickly under cold water. Dry with a kitchen towel, and cut off their stems. Do not cut strawberries into halves, leave them whole.
  2. 2. Put the strawberries together with the sugar and the lemon juice in a porcelain/glass deep bowl.
  3. 3. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper, and let macerate for about 3-4 hours or overnight.
  4. 4. The next day, put the strawberry mixture in a large saucepan (copper pan or stainless steel pan), and bring just to a simmer. Add the cardamom seeds. Simmer for about 3 minutes. Take off from the heat. Cover with parchment paper, and let rest for few hours.
  5. 5. Repeat this process 2 more times. At the end add the rose water and take the strawberries off the heat.
  6. 6. Pour the strawberries with syrup into sterilized jars until they are full, wipe carefully if there was any spillage and close the lids tightly.
  7. 7. Let cool to room temperature upside-down on the counter, then store in a cool and dark place for a few months.

Author's Notes:

Note: The jarring method (boiling the jars then closing them tightly and letting them cool upside down) is one that's been commonly practiced in Russia and France for generations and generations. I use this method all the time for my jams and preserves.

Images:

Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water
Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water
Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water
Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water
Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water

PHG Products:

Pleasant Hill Grain products I used for this recipe...


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Yelena Strokin

Originally from Russia, Yelena traveled the world as a journalist, experiencing other cultures and capturing their essence through photography and cooking. Yelena's food blog "Cooking Melangery" is a medley of her favorites pastimes – cooking, photography and finding inspiration from nature and her life experiences.

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