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Simple Tahini Sauce

Thursday, Nov 17 2011 Cooking!

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 olive oil
1 teaspoon miso (optional)
3 cloves garlic
generous pinch of salt (to taste)
1/2 cup water

How easy is this? Add all ingredients to the blender. Hit blend.

File this one under: the basics.

This sauce has been a standby of mine many times during the phase of simplicity that directly follows a time of lackadaisical eating habits (read: the holidays). With some brown rice or quinoa in your pantry, and any steamed vegetable—in this case, purple kale—the sauce ever so simply elevates and delights what would be an underwhelming meal. It’s incredibly quick to make, has a bold, nutty flavor, and tahini happens to be packed with B-vitamins. This sauce is versatile—don’t be afraid to use it as a dip for your vegetable crudites or mixed in with some sauteed vegetables and warm rice noodles. (sub 1/2 creamy peanut butter for 1/2 the tahini and add 1 teaspoon grated ginger for an especially flavorful and less bitter tahini sauce).

 

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Chewy Granola Bars

Friday, Aug 26 2011 Cooking!

On the eve of my first vacation in quite some time—a long-anticipated coastal backpacking anniversary trip—I became fixated with the idea of creating my own snacks for the trip, specifically in the form of homemade, chewy, pecan-filled granola bars. Regardless of the more essential items on my to-do-list of packing, planning, and shopping, my need begin to border on obsession. It’s partly because working up to a vacation is extra taxing, and when my head is buried in the computer for far too long, my most essential outlet to maintain sanity is time playing in the kitchen. As a restorative practice, nothing comes close. (The only downside is that the more stress I have to work out, the more dishes I make.)

After exploring several chewy granola bar recipes, I understood the basics: the more liquids the more chewy the bar, the more stuff inside the more flavor, and that nearly anything sweet, crunchy, or chewy goes. I assembled my oats and what my palate considers the most reliable main players—roasted pecans, shredded coconut and dried cherries. Any combination of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, or even chocolate would do.

Since we were going to be hiking and packing all our food with us for our several day trip, granola bars were the ultimate dense and nutritious bring along food. It’s true that food tastes better while camping, and these were extraordinary—it’s easy to proclaim them the best granola bars I’ve ever had. Truth be told, I don’t even like most granola bars. Chewy, sweet, nutty—these little nuggets were undeniably closer to delicious treat than merely life sustaining food. Since long summer days require trips to the beach, river and mountains, packing easy to travel snacks are essential—so we can stay out there as long as possible without needing to reach the surface for a while. Read More »

Aguas Frescas

Thursday, Jul 7 2011 Cooking!

After your party devours half a watermelon for the evening, the remainder inadvertently sits untouched for some time, maybe eventually abandoned to the fridge, just hoping for another chance. If that condition plagues your watermelon in these early days of summer, I implore you to turn it’s sweet pink flesh into the classic, fresh, south-of-the-border beverage, aguas frescas. Sweet, non-alcoholic fruit coolers, agues frescos (translated, means fresh waters), is a sure bet to beat the summer heat and quench your barbecue thirst. Usually just fruit, water and sugar (with just a hint of lime juice), this beverage is a fabulous way to use past-it’s-prime or not quite perfect summer fruit and serves as a fabulous accompaniment to a plate of spicy tacos. My favorite so far is strawberry and watermelon (it truly tastes like summer, trust me), but aguas frescas can be used with any of the fruits that are in abundance this season. When you go for fresh and ripe, beverage bliss awaits.

Aguas de Fresa y Sandía watermelon and strawberries

1/2 watermelon, rough chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
8 cups water
few mint leaves
juice of 1 lime
15 drops stevia, or 1/4 cup sugar (or more, to taste, depending on the sweetness of your fruit)

Basic Aguas Frescas for any fruit

3 cups fresh fruit
8 cups water
sugar, 1/4 cup or more to taste
Juice of 1 lime (optional) Read More »

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Chickpea Fries

Thursday, Jun 2 2011 Cooking!

You might have had roasted chickpeas before, but have you had chickpea fries? I discovered these tasty morsels at my favorite food cart down the street, Garden State, where they are served flecked with parsley and garnished with lemon wedges. I was shocked to encounter a food item that seemed like a novelty, was also delicious, and was something I had never heard of! These fit nicely into a food novelty category known as “foods shaped like other foods.” These foods have gotten a bad rap, but I’m all for them. They represent ingenuity and invention—and besides, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Chickpea fries are crispy on the outside and creamy-starchy on the inside, just like a really good french fry. They have a slight bean-y flavor, but pleasantly so, and are a great substitute for french fries—garbanzos are loaded with protein and fiber and a great source of iron. Having made them at home, I can say they are delicious, but even better if you go the extra step to actually deep fry them. So if you have a fry daddy, fire it up for these.

Chickpea Fries adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

Ingredients
1 cup chickpea flour, sifted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
grapeseed oil for frying

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Roasted Red Pepper Harissa

Thursday, May 12 2011 Cooking!

My most notable memory of harissa was when it was served with my burger and fries, next to creme fraiche, as a clever substitute to catsup at Portland’s beloved Clyde Common. Its concentrated, rich flavor adds a bold punch to the most ordinary of foods: potatoes, burgers, eggs. It’s the sexy sidekick of condiments. After the briefest amount of internet research, I learned how simple harissa was to make—soak chiles and blend with spices, lemon, oil and salt—and it was instantly on the top of my food experiment list.

Harissa is a hot chili sauce originating from North Africa, consisting of any of several hot peppers (commonly birds eye chilis, but you could substitute for dried chiles available), and nearly always contains coriander, garlic, caraway and olive oil. Some recipes called for cumin seeds, mint, or regular red peppers, some did not. I love the smokey sweetness of roasted red peppers, so I decided to bulk up the recipe by using them. I’m not a big fan of caraway, so I skipped it this time. In the future I might use fresh cilantro, a bit of mint and a touch more garlic—but I love how my first attempt turned out.

I can already vouch for using this condiment’s sweet, tangy spiciness on burgers, with chickpea fries and on top of eggs in the morning.

Roasted Red Pepper Harissa

Makes about 1.5 cups

  • 2 red peppers
  • 4-6 dried birds eye chiles
  • 4-6 dried new mexico chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. sea salt
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon

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Sesame Rice Krispy Treats

Tuesday, Apr 12 2011 Cooking!

Like many nostalgic treats from childhood, the classic rice krispy treat sounds good in theory, but—highly processed and loaded with preservatives—is sorely lacking in ingredients befitting a healthy body.

But what if rice krispy treats were made out of… brown rice krispies from the co-op and creamy almond butter instead of yellow dyed margarine and horse hooves? I figured we could give these nostalgic treats a bit of an upgrade, and—on a sesame kick of late—make them even better with the addition of toasted sesame seeds. Here we have a nutty and crunchy treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. If toasted sesame isn’t your jam, just replace the sesame seeds with 1/4 cup toasted coconut or chocolate chips.

2 Tbls coconut oil (or butter)
3/4 cup almond butter (sub up to 1/4 cup tahini for extra sesame flavor)
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds (or other chopped nut)
5 cups brown rice crispy treats (in bulk at your fave co-op)

Combine coconut oil, nut butter and liquid ingredients in saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently until uniform and glossy. Allow to cool slightly before pouring over brown rice krispies, nuts, and sesame seeds.

Pour into greased 8 x 8 pyrex baking dish and flatten the top with your hands or the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight to firm. Cut into squares.

Note: These don’t firm up in the same way as the original krispy treats, due to the absence of marshmallow, but keep these in the fridge and they’ll stick together just fine.

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Sesame Kale Chips

Sunday, Mar 27 2011 Cooking!

There’s just no denying it, a threshold has been crossed. I have become the type of person who drinks “coffee” from dandelions, makes “sour cream” out of cashews and now, creates “chips” from roughly torn kale leaves. I’ve been known to make these out of desperation. With no other snacks in the house and a head of kale in the crisper, a snack deprived person will resort to almost anything.

Of course I recognize that “treat” is subjective, but these satisfy the desire for something crispy and salty—and to have a snack in the richest shade of dark green is surely a bonus.

1 head of kale
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Rinse kale and tear stems off the leaves. Spin, shake, blot ALL moisture off of the kale. If in doubt, let air dry for 10 minutes as well. Once dry, place in a large bowl and sprinkle the olive oil over. Use your hands and massage the oil into the kale, coating each leaf. If it’s feeling a bit dry, drizzle extra oil, remassage. Once covered, sprinkle 1/4 cup sesame seeds over the kale and toss to evenly distribute.

Lightly sprinkle with sea salt (it’s easy to oversalt, be conservative).
Spread out on two baking sheets lined with parchment, avoid overlaps and bake for 20 minutes. Don’t allow the leaves to brown or the chips will be bitter. Optional + Recommended: sprinkle with smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne.

Enjoy immediately.

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Walnut Brownie Bites

Monday, Mar 7 2011 Adventures!, Cooking!

While I was seeing health counselor Katie Decker, we would sit at her cozy second floor apartment with a rolling fire chatting about all things health and nourishment. I loved each week’s introductions to new flavors, cooking tips and what became some of my favorite new ingredients: dandelion coffee, umeboshi vinegar, and almond flour.

When she brought these dark chocolate little morsels to me, there was good indication I’d be a fan from the obvious high cocoa content. Dense, chewy and intensely chocolatey, these have since satisfied my cravings for a sweet bite more often than any other recipe. They were the first treat I experienced using almond flour, something I was intensely curious about, and an ingredient that has become a staple of my cooking since.

She let me take home a few and I ordered my first bag of almond flour from Honeyville the same day. Finding a baking staple that allows me to stabilize my blood sugar has been key for me, and this flour is naturally low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fiber. It’s also moist, easy to use and highly nutritious. I could do an infomercial about it without any rehearsal. Just ask.

This recipe is adapted from the lovely Ani Phyo’s Brownie Bites, and also modified for oven baking. If you can spare 12 hours in a dehydrator to wait for these incredible chocolate nuggets, then you don’t love chocolate as much as I do.

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