Friday, January 25, 2013

Vegan Teff Spice Cookies

I don't know if it's the cold weather but I've been in severe hibernation mode.  Instead of hiking or engaging in any winter sports, my weekends have mostly been spent curled up with my dogs on the couch with blankets and tea and a massive pile of books that have been on my reading list since last summer. 

Sure, a hot cup of tea is great on it's own, but it's much better when accompanied by a little something sweet. Lately, I've been craving all sorts of cookies but instead of breaking out the butter, sugar and flour I try to keep things on the healthy side. When I was cleaning out my freezer the other day, going through various flours, nuts and frozen fruits, I came across a bag of teff flour that had been kicking around for a year or so, since my failed attempt at making injera, a spongy, yeast risen flatbread.  Since this was the only way I've ever seen teff used, I wondered if I could somehow incorporate it into a muffin, quickbread or cookie, because my injera making days were o-ver. Since teff is a gluten free grain, I wasn't sure if I could substitute it for all or part of the flour in any given recipe.

So, naturally I went on wikipedia and here's what I found...

Teff is a teeny tiny ancient grain native to Ethiopia that is packed with protein, calcium, iron and fiber. There are few different varieties that vary in color from light to dark. White teff has a chestnut like flavor while the darker varieties are more earthy reminiscent of hazelnuts. More common is red teff which has more iron and has gained popularity in recent years due to it's amazing nutritional profile.

In some recipes, it can be used to replace all the flour with the exception of baked goods that depend on gluten for struture (i.e. bread), in which case up to 25% teff flour can be substituted.  I happened to come across a recipe for a spiced teff loaf that looked pretty amazing but settled on a these teff spice cookies, due to the fact that they took less time to throw together and I already had everything on hand to make them.  Bonus.. they were vegan and gluten free, which somehow makes me think I can eat more of them without the calories going straight to my ass.

Teff Spice Cookies (Makes 1 dozen cookies)
Slightly adapted from Natural Noshing

1/4 c. + 1 T. unsweetened applesauce
1 t. chia seed meal (ground chia seeds)
3/4 c. teff flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

small pinch ground cloves
1/8 t. sea salt
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. peanut butter (or almond butter)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix together the applesauce and chia seed meal and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the teff flour, sea salt, spices, and baking powder and set aside. 
In a separate bowl, heat the peanut butter in a double boiler (a small glass bowl placed over a pot of simmering water) until softened, about a minute or so. Stir in the maple syrup, vanilla, and applesauce-chia mixture into the warm peanut butter.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients, then stir to combine.
Use a cookie scoop to portion the dough into 12 cookies and roll each one. Set them on the prepared cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart from each other. Use the tines of a fork to press down the center of the cookie (optional, or you can slightly flatten). Bake for 10 – 13 minutes until the cookies are set, mine took 10 and a 1/2 minutes.
 *Make sure not to overbake, the cookies will be soft in the middle and chewy.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature or freeze.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chai Tea Mix

This post goes out to my mom... a true chai addict, with the hopes that she will one day read this handy post and make a batch all by herself.

But...  I know my mom better and I've accepted the fact that it's probably never going to happen.

So for the rest of you die hard fans out there, I'm going to hook you up with a recipe for the most delicious chai tea mix... ever.

I recently did a post on how to make masala chai tea from scratch. It's super awesome.  But..... it's one of those things that takes a little advance planning (steeping spices in water for a period of time before adding your tea, milk and sweetner). This chai tea mix is one of those things that you can make a big 'ol batch of so when a craving hits, you can have a mug of hot, milky, spicy tea in less than ten minutes.

If you've ever prepared any type of curry you've most likely come across recipes that call for toasting and grinding whole spices before adding them to the final dish. Toasting spices in a dry pan or oven helps to release their essential oils and intensifies the flavor of the final dish.  The same logic applies to making chai.

Cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, cardamom pods, coriander seeds, black and pink peppercorns and star anise are toasted in the oven for five minutes.  After the spices have cooled a bit, you're going to crush 'em up a bit (trying to cram a whole cinnamon stick in your tea bag isn't gonna work).  Then, all you have to do is stir it in to some black tea.  Ginger is commonly used in most chai tea blends, but using ground or fresh ginger was a little impractical in this preparation. The next best thing: crystalized ginger!  Chop it up and add it to the tea and spices and you have one badass jar of chai tea!

Chai Tea (makes approximately 12-16 teabags
From The Kitchn

12 green cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon whole red peppercorns (optional)
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves and/ or star anise
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup loose black tea

Preheat oven to 350°
With a sharp knife, split the cardamom pods in half. Place in a pie tin along with the peppercorns, fennel, coriander, cloves and cinnamon. Toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant. Remove and cool.
Crush spices lightly with a rolling pin or in a mortar and pestle. You may have to crumble the cinnamon stick with your hands.
In a bowl, toss the spices, candied ginger and tea together until blended.

Brewing Instructions
tea for one
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of milk (I use almond milk)
1 tablespoon of Chai Mix placed into a tea bag
Honey to taste

Bring the water to a boil and add the teabag. Turn off the heat and let steep for about 5 minutes. Add the milk, turn on the flame and reheat until hot. Remove from heat, discard teabag, sweeten to taste, enjoy!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chermoula Eggplant with Bulgar and Yogurt

Eggplant is soooo not in season right now, but when I saw the recipe for Chermoula Eggplant in Yotam Ottolenghi's beautiful new cookbook, Jerusalem, there was no way I could hold out until summer to make it.  Chermoula is a marinade used in North African cooking, usually used to flavor fish and meats but it is also a wonderful brushed over vegetables as well. This delicous marinade usually incudes preserved (pickled) lemon, fresh herbs, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, coriander and salt; the propotions and spices vary from region to region.

I love eggplant in all forms, grilled, fried or roasted to death and made into the ever popular dip, baba ganoush.  My husband on the other hand had a difficult time with the texture and has only ever really enjoyed it when fried and slathered with sauce and cheese to make eggplant parmesan.
Despite his fickle attitude towards eggplant I went ahead and made the recipe anyways...

The eggplant it brushed with a mixture of preserved lemon, olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, chili flakes and paprika then baked until tender.  A delicious bulgar pilaf studded with toasted slivered almonds, golden raisins and green olives with fresh herbs was spooned over the eggplant and served with a side of thick greek yogurt.

Although this was meant to be served as a meal on its own I felt like I needed something else to round out the dish.  I tossed some cauliflower with lots of spices, cumin, black pepper, turmeric, coriander, crushed red pepper, olive oil and breadcrumbs and roasted until crispy.

....and the husband approved...


Chermoula Eggplant with Bulgar and Yogurt
From Jerusalem

2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon peel (recipe below)
2/3 cup olive oil, plus extra to finish
2 medium eggplants
1 cup fine bulgur
2/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup golden raisins
3 1/2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 ounce (2 teaspoons) cilantro, chopped, plus extra to finish
1/3 ounce (2 teaspoons) mint, chopped
1/3 cup pitted green olives, halved
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. To make the chermoula, mix together in a small bowl the garlic, cumin, coriander, chili, paprika, preserved lemon, the olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Score the flesh of each half with deep, diagonal crisscross cuts, making sure not to pierce the skin. Spoon the chermoula over each half, spreading it evenly, and place the eggplant halves on a baking sheet, cut side up. Put in the oven and roast for 40 minutes, or until the eggplants are completely soft.

4. Meanwhile, place the bulgur in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water.

5. Soak the raisins in the warm water. After 10 minutes, drain the raisins and add them to the bulgur, along with the remaining oil. Add the herbs, olives, almonds, green onions, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

6. Serve the eggplants warm or at room temperature. Place 1/2 eggplant, cut side up, on each individual plate. Spoon the bulgur on top, allowing some to fall from both sides. Spoon over some yogurt, sprinkle with cilantro and finish with a drizzle of oil.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Almond Meal Cookies with Coconut and Cacao Nibs

I'm usually not a huge fan of sweets, but once in awhile I get a fierce craving, which can easily be satisfied by some good quality dark chocolate or a couple dates stuffed with almond butter or a mug of hot cocoa.  When I'm feeling particularly energentic, I'll even bust out some cookies.  Sometimes I'll go all out and make something like triple chocolate chunk cookies.. the kind with a pound of butter and entirely too much sugar.. Paula Dean style. Most of the time, though, I like to use more nutrient dense ingredients in my sweet treats so I can enjoy them with a little less guilt.

Whether it's using coconut oil, chia seeds or dates to replace butter, eggs and sugar I'm always looking for ways to make things a little bit healthier.  Eating a cookie with butter, sugar and refined flour is going to make you feel way different than a cookie made with almond meal, coconut, eggs and raw cacao nibs.  Sure, the latter of the two might not taste AS decadent but it also won't give you that weighed down, spaced out feeling that often accompanies eating sweets.

I ran across this recipe in The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook and instead of bookmarking it to make sometime in the near future I immediately preheated my oven and got to work. This was exactly my kind of cookie, mostly because I had everything in the kitchen to make it and it looked mad simple to throw together.

The base of these cookies consists of almond meal, an ingredient that is becoming more common in gluten free baking.  Almond meal is essentially finely ground almonds and when added to baked goods it adds a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.  Coconut flakes, muscovado sugar, coconut oil, an egg and some raw cacao nibs thrown in for crunch made these little cookies a great afternoon snack with a cup of tea or coffee.

Almond Meal Cookies with Coconut and Cacao Nibs (makes 20 cookies)
From The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

1 1/4 c. almond meal
1/4 c. cacao nibs
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. sea salt
1/3 c. muscovado sugar
1 egg
3 T. coconut oil, melted
1/2 t. vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the almond meal, cacao nibs, coconut, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In another bowl, beat the egg very well until it is a uniform color and doubles in volume. Whisk in the coconut oil and vanilla extract.  Add the wet to the dry and and mix until just combined.  Put the bowl in the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Using your hands, roll the chilled dough into balls no larger than one inch in diameter and place on a baking sheet with 1 1/2 inches of space between, giving them a gentle press on the tops to flatten just a bit. Bake until edges just begin to brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.