Test Kitchen Recipe

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Cherry-Chocolate Almond Clusters

The Food and Nutrition test kitchen program’s collective cook-off recipe this month is Cherry-Chocolate Almond Clusters. This is a perfect recipe for Michiganders—70 to 75% of the Montmorency tart cherries consumed across the nation are produced in our fine state. Michigan is nationally recognized for its prized cherry production though fresh cherries aren’t quite in season yet. Our cooler climate only allows us to pick fresh cherries from late June through August.

The test kitchen’s original recipe uses fresh cherries which will be fun to try during the summer months. But, for now, I switched out fresh cherries for dried. Michigan dried cherries have a 6 to 12 month shelf-life in the pantry allowing us to eat Michigan cherries all year long. Though, being so delicious, they are typically eaten long before any expiration date.

Fresh cherries can be frozen, canned, dried or concentrated, and are abundant in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give cherries their ruby red color, sour-sweet taste and anti-inflammatory health benefits. Full of vitamin C, potassium and fiber, eating cherries in any form is an easy choice.

Once you make a small batch of Cherry-Chocolate Almond Clusters, you will want to double the recipe and share this delicious and nutritious treat.

 Cherry-Chocolate Almond Clusters
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¼ cup sea salt, dry roasted almonds, rough chopped
¼ cup dried pitted tart Michigan Montmorency cherries, chopped
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine almonds and cherries in a small bowl. Place chocolate chips in a separate small microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir with a rubber spatula and repeat until chips are melted. Pour melted chocolate into cherry and almond mixture; gently stir until evenly coated. Place heaping tablespoons on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Yield: 6 clusters

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

Test Kitchen

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As a Registered Dietitian, teaching nutrition through cooking has always been the best tool to promote healthy eating. My professional organization—The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—is now offering the Food and Nutrition test kitchen program. Every month there will be a collective cook-off of a themed product. My challenge is to tie the cook-off to our local Michigan food sources. The test recipe this month is Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops.

The rise in interest of local, organic and ethically raised animal products has risen dramatically. So much that consumers are willing to pay more and travel farther for local meat. Lucky for me, we have a farm right here in northern Oakland County called East River Organic Farm that offers a source for Michigan meats.

East River Organic Farm began in 1994 as a local source for fresh, high quality organic foods. Presently in Oxford, Michigan, they use environmentally sound farming practices that raise cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys and lambs for consumption. This week I purchase ground lamb for the monthly test kitchen recipe.

The original recipe used lamb chops with a spice rub. I choose to change it up to ground lamb for meatballs and serve it over couscous. If you want to cook along, check out the Food and Nutrition test kitchen.

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Meatballs
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Ingredients
1   pound ground East River Organic Farm lamb
1   whole large egg
½  cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
3   tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
½  teaspoon ground cinnamon
½  teaspoon ground cumin
½  teaspoon kosher salt
¼  teaspoon ground black pepper
1   tablespoon olive oil
1   small onion, chopped
2   cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 whole lemon
1   can (14.5 ounces) organic diced tomatoes with juice
1   can (15 ounces) organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½  cup chopped dried apricots

  1. Preheat oven to 350o.
  2. Place ground lamb, egg, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons parsley, cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl and gently combine. Shape into 8 evenly sized meatballs.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add meatballs and brown on all sides. Remove and reserve.
  4. Add onion and garlic to the hot pan and cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add lemon juice, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan; stir in tomatoes and return meatballs to the pan. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Cover Dutch oven and place in preheated oven for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and add chickpeas and apricots; continue to cook another 20 minutes.
  8. Serve meatballs with bean-tomato mixture on top of a bed of couscous. Garnish with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley if desired.

Yield: 8 meatballs

—Pam Aughe, R.D.