Friday, April 18, 2014

Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies

Sometimes you just need to have a cookie for breakfast.  At my job I'm tempted with delicious cookies, bars and muffins every morning. But with some willpower and my desire to eat healthy foods I usually pass up those treats for something that my body actually NEEDS. Nutrient dense grub that will not only taste good but make me feel good as well. My morning fare is pretty simple; a sprouted grain English muffin with almond butter or a scrambled egg, maybe a homemade muffin or energy bar.  In order for me to function at work the first order of business is a cup of coffee.  Once the caffeine has made it's way into my bloodstream I need something to fuel me through a fast paced, busy morning. I need something with fiber, protein, fat and carbs.  If anyone of those key elements is missing from the equation, I'm usually hungry again in two hours and my blood sugar is out of control and I get cranky and turn into a space cadet.
These millet cookies have the perfect ratio of everything I need to get me through the morning.  You get a dose of healthy fat with coconut oil, fiber from whole grain flour, bran and millet, and protein from pecans and walnuts.  They are lightly sweetened with maple syrup and studded with sultanas and currants giving you natural sugars that won't cause your blood sugar to spike and crash two hours later. 
So this time, go ahead and have that cookie for breakfast.. For once, your body will actually thank you.

Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies (Makes 12-14 cookies)
Slightly adapted from Whole Grain Mornings

* you may substitute all white whole wheat flour for the barley and teff flour.

1 c. white whole wheat flour
2 T. teff flour*
2 T. barley flour*
3/4  c. rolled oats
1/4 c. millet
1/4 c. wheat bran
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t.. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted 
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/3 c. pecans, toasted and chopped
1/4 c. currants
1/4 c. sultana raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two sheet pans with parchment parchment paper.
Combine the first 12 ingredients (flour through the salt) in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, maple syrup, egg and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine.
Fold in the nuts, currants and raisins.
Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.
Scoop out 2-3 tablespoons of dough and working quickly roll into small balls. Place on the prepared sheet pans 1 1/2 inches apart and flatten with the palm of your hand to about 3/4 inch thick.
Bake until golden brown and edges firm yet slightly soft in the center, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on a baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. If kept in an airtight container they will keep well for 3-4 days.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spiced Brown Butter, Oat and Pumpkin Seed Cookies

Most cookie lovers fall into one of two categories: soft and chewy vs. crispy and crunchy. I'm normally one of those people that has very strong beliefs about a particular type of food. For example, in MY opinion tomatoes and mayonnaise are foods of the devil (not really, but the thought of eating them makes me cringe) but give me a bowl of kimchi and a funky raw milk cheese and I'm one happy camper. So, yeah... I'm not gonna lie, I can be one picky eater, but when it comes to cookies, I simply can't choose between soft and chewy or crispy and crunchy.. I love 'em all! Whether it be chocolate chip, peanut butter, thumbprints or oatmeal raisin....  Sugar cookies, gingersnaps, or pecan sandies. 

When it comes to baking, I usually make something that's uber healthy: chia seeds, raw cacao, coconut oil and almond flour or something that's purely decadent: sugar, flour, butter, chocolate. Sometimes I find something that falls somewhere in between the two categories and this cookie happens to be one of them. 

Any time I come across a recipe calling for brown butter, I'm usually sold.  This one calls for that aforementioned delicious butter, oats, eggs, pumpkin seeds, sugar and warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.  These cookies are thin and chewy, with a bit of crunch from the pumpkin seeds. And...... since they are so light and airy you can eat 3-4 of these without doing to much damage.

Spiced Brown Butter, Oat and Pumpkin Seed Cookies
From Good Things Grow

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
1 T. buckwheat flour* (may substitute all purpose flour if you don't need them to be gluten free)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cardamom
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 egg
1/2 c. cane sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once melted it should start to foam, then start to watch and smell as light brown specs form and you smell and nice light nutty scent. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about a minute, before stirring in the rolled oats.

While the butter is browning, combine the buckwheat flour, baking powder, spices, salt and pumpkin seeds. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and egg together until the mixture becomes creamy and batter-like. Whisk in the flour mixture, then stir in the butter and oat mixture, stirring until just combined. The dough will be loose and runny.

Drop level tablespoons of the dough (no more that this.. the cookies will spread like wildfire) on your prepared cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 8-10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through cooking time. Let sit on baking sheet several minutes (this step is important!) before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Chickpea Crackers with Za'atar and Maldon Salt

Do you ever have those days where it feels like your cupboards are completely bare and there is nothing in the fridge besides condiments, a couple of beers and some limp vegetables, but the mere thought of grocery shopping is completely out of the question? 
Well... that was me this past weekend. It was cold and I was hung over as hell and had no intention of leaving the house for any reason whatsoever.  I decided to challenge myself to make some snacks and come up with dinner based on whatever I had kicking around the kitchen.  Now, keep in mind I am not one of those people that stockpiles soup, casseroles and meat in the freezer, so I can have dinner ready at the drop of a hat.  Take a peek into my freezer and you will find a large bottle of Bombay Sapphire, flax seed, a giant jar of walnuts and some spelt flour.  So, pulling something out of the freezer for dinner wasn't really an option.  Staring bleary eyed into the cupboard for what felt like 30 minutes, I was finally able to get my brain to work and figure out what I was going to make as a snack to accompany the beer I had in the fridge.  Sure, I could have just whipped up a bunch of popcorn and called it a day but I figured if I wasn't going to leave the house, I should be somewhat productive and make something fun.

Weeks ago while riding my stationary bike I came across a recipe for these chickpea crackers with zaatar spice.  Of course I told myself to write down the name of the blog AS SOON as I got off the bike.  Did that happen? No, of course not. I found a big ass jar of za'atar and a large bag of chickpea flour in my cupboard and spent a good 20 minutes searching for the recipe.  Fortunately, I had everything on hand to make them and got to work!

Chickpea Flour (also known as gram flour, besan or garbanzo bean flour) is made from ground, raw or roasted chickpeas, commonly used in Indian or Pakistani cooking to make papadum (lentil wafers), and pakoras (vegetables fried in chickpea flour batter).  Chickpea flour is also used in Southern Europe to make an oven baked flatbread of sorts called Farinata (Italy) or Socca (France).  I've used this awesome flour to make besan ka cheela and socca with leeks and herbed almond spread, and now these delicious crackers that are vegan, gluten free and high in protein and fiber!

Making crackers from scratch can be a little labor intensive but the taste difference between store bought and homemade is like night and day.  The trick to perfect crackers is to roll out the dough evenly; If the crackers are too thick they will take forever to cook.. too thin and they will burn. 
These are great as is, but pairing them with hummus (chickpea madness!!) will give you a super healthy, protein rich vegan snack... and if you have everything on hand, you don't even need to leave the house!

Chickpea Crackers with Zaatar and Maldon Salt (makes 32 large crackers)
From Dolly and Oatmeal

2 cups garbanzo bean flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup + 1-2 tablespoons warm water, plus more if needed
2-3 tablespoons za'atar 
maldon sea salt for garnishing

In a large bowl, whisk the garbanzo bean flour with the salt and baking powder until combined. using your hands, rub the olive oil into the flour to distribute evenly; about 2 minutes - make sure there are no large clumps.
Transfer the flour mixture to a food processor.  With the processor running, drizzle the 1/3 cup of warm water until the mixture comes together.  If your dough is still dry, add more water by the 1/2 tablespoon until dough ball has formed
Knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Divide it into two pieces and wrap each piece with plastic wrap. let it rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper

Prepare a flat work surface with two pieces of parchment paper.  place one piece of dough on top of one piece of parchment, wet your hands a bit and flatten the dough with your palm.  Cover dough with second piece of parchment and roll out to an 1/8-inch thickness with a rolling pin.

Trim edges and set scraps to the side, sprinkle with za'atar.  Use your rolling pin and roll over the dough once more to push za'atar into the dough's surface.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush tops of crackers with olive oil, sprinkle with maldon sea salt.

Transfer the crackers to prepared baking sheets and bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Crackers will be lightly browned on the edges when done.  Remove from oven and let crackers cool.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Crackers can be stored in an air-tight container at room temp for up to 4 days.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon


Lately, I have become obsessed with preserved lemons. Maybe it's due to their beautiful, intensely yellow color, a respite to this gloomy, cold weather that at this point is making me rethink WHY THE HELL I moved back to New York in the first place. 

Commonly used in Moroccan cuisine, preserved lemons are basically whole lemons that have been packed in salt and sent to chill out for a month or two. Over time, the peel softens and the flavor intensifies resulting in a tangy, sour, salty condiment that can be added to foods.  These lemons are commonly added to the infamous Moroccan tagine, a slow cooked savory stew made with meat, poultry of fish paired with vegetables, fruit (fresh or dried), and spices such as cinnamon, cumin, saffron, coriander and paprika.

Unless you are making Moroccan food on a regular basis, it's not too often that you will come across a recipe that calls for this delicious condiment. I first tried preserved lemons on a dare.  Having no idea what they tasted like, I shoved a quarter of a lemon in my mouth and instantly my tongue started burning and my eyes were watering from the overwhelming salty, sour flavor.  I quickly learned that these are best enjoyed in small amounts, cut into thin strips and simmered with broth, aromatics, spices and dried fruit to make a lovely sauce for chicken or fish.  You can make them yourself or buy them in an ethnic market or specialty shop and they last forever! I have had the same jar in my fridge for months, using a bit here and there to top off a plate of slow roasted root vegetables or adding a bit to a vinaigrette for a tangy salad dressing. 

This Moroccan chicken dish that I came across on Food 52 had all my favorite flavors on one plate: ginger, garlic and onions, olives, currants, buttery couscous and lots of spice... and of course preserved lemon.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon (serves 2)
Adapted from Food 52

2-3 T. safflower oil
2 lbs. chicken (I used 2 legs)
sea salt
black pepper

1 1/2 c. yellow onion, diced
1 t. ginger, minced
1 t. garlic, minced
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. ground coriander
1 1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. turmeric
1/8 t. cayenne
2-3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c. green olives (I used castelvetrano)
3/4 whole preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind cut into thin strips
1/3 c. currants
2 T. chopped cilantro

3/4 c. couscous
3/4 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 t. sea salt
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. butter

Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Brown the chicken on all sides and transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 T. oil.  Add the onion and sautee until slightly softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne and cook an additional minute or two. If the mixture starts to stick, add a splash of chicken stock.  Add the chicken back to the skillet and coat both sides with the onion/spice mixture. Pour the stock into the skillet so that 2/3 of the chicken is submerged.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. While the chicken is simmering place the couscous, sea salt and olive oil in a medium sized glass bowl. Bring 3/4 c. stock to a boil. pour over the couscous, mix with a spoon and cover with a lid or tightly seal with plastic wrap. Set aside for 15- 20 minutes.

After the chicken has simmered for 20 minutes, add the olives and preserved lemons and cook for an additional 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the skillet.  Add the currants cook over medium high heat until the sauce until it reduces by half, about 6-8 minutes.

To serve: Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the butter. Mix again and divide between two shallow bowls or plates. Place the chicken on top and spoon the reduced sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Almond Amazeballs

Despite the fact that I work in a kitchen, there are some days I come home with the realization that I've consumed nothing more than a cup of coffee, a spoonful of soup, 5 black beans, 3 cubes of roasted sweet potato, a couple bites of a raw kale salad and MAYBE a piece of fruit. Even though I'm surrounded by food 10 hours a day, I'm so focused on making sure that customers are getting fed that I sometimes forget that this girl needs to eat too! 
I usually have myself a pretty healthy breakfast, but if I haven't had a chance to have anything for lunch, the low blood sugar, headache and crankiness starts setting in around 4:00, which coincidentally happens to be the busiest part of my day.  I'm way too consumed to even THINK about eating, but know that if I don't get some nourishment ASAP I will end up stress eating an entire bag of chips when I get home. Not so good.
I'm a big fan of energy balls, bites, bars or whatever you want to call them.  Packed with healthy fats, natural sugars and protein they are just the thing that helps tide me over until I can have a more substantial meal.
These energy balls are packed with dates, almonds, coconut, peanut butter, oats, and lots of seeds (pumpkin, flax and sunflower).  They are amazingly good and good for you. They're AMAZEBALLS!

Almond Amazeballs (Makes 12-14 balls)
From Dishing Up The Dirt

1 c. raw almonds
1 c. dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 c. ground flax seed
1/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 c. almond butter (I used peanut butter)
1 T. coconut oil
1 t. cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

1/4 c. mixed seeds (I used pumpkin and sunflower)
1/2 c. oats

Place almonds in a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Add the dates, flax, shredded coconut, nut butter, coconut oil, cinnamon and sea salt and process until uniform, but still a little chunky.
Place the seeds and oats in a large bowl.  Add the date mixture and mix well to combine. Roll into balls and refrigerate at least 45 minutes before serving.
Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fire Cider

Fire cider is a delicious health tonic made with fresh horseradish root, ginger, garlic, raw onion, and turmeric (among other things) that is infused in a base of raw apple cider vinegar and sweetened with raw honey.  Containing roots, fruits and herbs that have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, this delicious concoction can help boost the immune system, stimulate digestion and improve circulation.

Most people reach for fire cider at the first sign of a cold or flu, hoping to kick the immune system into full gear. Speaking from experience, I've definitely put the breaks on a cold with this stuff, along with plenty of rest, liquids and clean eating. 

I've gotten into the habit of making a large batch in October, so I'm well prepared when heading into cold and flu season. It's worth nothing that making fire cider takes a little advance planning. Whereas it only takes 10 minutes to prepare all of your ingredients, you must wait at least two months for all of those herbs, roots and fruits to fully infuse the apple cider vinegar.  Once the 60 day wait is up, you simply strain the liquid into a large mason jar and add raw honey. 

You can take fire cider by the spoonful (I try to take 1 T. every day, or 1 T. every three hours if I'm feeling under the weather), or by adding to some hot water (with or without some whiskey) to make a hot toddy. Although I've never cooked with it, I've read that you can use it anywhere you want a little added heat.. fried rice, salad dressing, stir-fry... or even throwing a shot into to your next Bloody Mary!

Fire Cider
(Makes approximately 5 c. )

1 head garlic, peeled and smashed
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 c. grated ginger
1/2 c. grated horseradish root
1/2 seeded habanero, chopped
2-3 sprigs rosemary
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 orange, zest and juice
1/2 c. finely chopped turmeric root
1 liter apple cider vinegar
raw honey, to taste (I used 6 T.)

Divide the garlic, onion, ginger, garlic, horseradish, habanero, rosemary, lemon and orange juice and zest, and turmeric between two quart sized mason jars. Divide the apple cider vinegar between the two jars. Cover with lids, give it a good shake and place in a cool dry area, giving it a shake once a week.
After two months, strain the liquid into a large pitcher and stir in the honey.  Transfer to glass jars and store in the fridge for up to two months.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mung Bean Hummus with Za'atar

I've made (and eaten) ALOT of hummus in my day.  This wonderful chickpea based dip is one of the first foods I started incorporating into my diet when I started experimenting with vegetarianism in my teens.  Finding hummus in the grocery store fifteen years ago was almost unheard of, you had to venture to a health food store and even then the choices were very limited. So, from a young age I started making my own and began to prefer the taste and texture of homemade versus store bought even when I had the opportunity to get my hands on the stuff.

I basically lived off of the stuff in college (you know... that and cheap beer), using it as a dip for crackers or vegetables or smearing on a bagel piled with vegetables for a lunch that could be thrown together in the matter of minutes.  The less time I had to spend cooking or thinking about meals, the more time I had for studying... and drinking.

After seven years of eating hummus day after day I began to tire of it...shocking, I know.  I decided to take a break from what is thought of as "traditional hummus" consisting of chickpeas, lemon, garlic, sesame tahini, salt, and maybe some cumin or cayenne.  I thought, why not add some fresh herbs, or roasted garlic, maybe some kalamata olives. Or... instead of chickpeas, use cannellini or black beans. 
For several years in my twenties, I worked in a vegetarian restaurant where I made a different flavor of hummus each day of the week, so I made more variations of this bean based dip/spread that you could ever imagine.

It wasn't until recently that I came upon this recipe for mung bean hummus and my mind was blown.. why the heck didn't I ever think of that??  Mung beans have been used for thousands of years in both sweet and savory dishes, originating in India then cultivated all throughout Asia.  They were used medicinally, dispelling heat from the body and aiding in detoxification.  They are one of the main staples of an Ayurvedic diet, helping to bring balance to the body by improving digestion and enhancing overall health and vitality.  Today, mung beans are consumed for their amazing health benefits, helping to lower cholesterol, control diabetes and help protect against breast cancer.  Like most other legumes, mung beans are also high in fiber and low in fat.

Combining these beans with lemon helps to boost your vitamin C intake, sesame tahini gives your body a dairy free calcium boost and the garlic will help boost your body's immune system... not too bad for a snack food!

Mung Bean Hummus (makes 2 c.)
From 101 Cookbooks

1 1/2 c. cooked mung beans
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. sesame tahini paste
1 large clove garlic, peeled & smashed
1/2 t. sea salt
1/3-1/2 c. water

Za'atar spice and extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on top

Pita chips for serving*

Start by adding the mung beans to a food processor and pulse until a fine, fluffy crumb develops, at least a minute. Scrape the bean paste from the corners once or twice, then add the lemon juice, tahini, garlic, and sea salt. Blend again, another minute or so. Don't skimp on the blending time, but stop if the beans form a dough ball inside the processor. At this point start adding the water a splash at a time. Blend until the hummus is smooth, light and creamy. Taste, and adjust to your liking - adding more lemon juice or salt, if needed. Top with a sprinkling of za'atar and a healthy swirl of extra virgin olive oil.  Serve with homemade pita chips.

* To make the pita chips, cut a couple rounds of pita breads into squares or triangles. Toss with a glug of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and arrange in a single layer on a large sheetpan.  Bake at 350 until light browned and crispy (about 8 minutes each side), flipping them over halfway through.