Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Apple Hemp Muffins

Apples. I will never tire of them.

Weather it be in the form of hard cider, pie or just straight up snacking I will continue to eat the hell 'outta apples until citrus fruits come into the seasonal spotlight.

I've been fortunate to receive two massive bags of local, organic utility grade apples this fall, which automatically translates to lots of apple crisp.  To avoid falling into a complete sugar coma I decided to take the remaining apples and make a batch of unsweetened applesauce.

Then I realized... wait, I don't even eat applesauce.  It's not like I wouldn't eat it, but I would never go out of my way to buy it otherwise.  In the attempt to not let this beautiful jar of sauce go to waste I scoured through old cookbooks and recipe files for some sort of baked good that would put it to good use.

The recipe for these apple hemp muffins had been tucked away in one of my many random recipe folders for a good two years.  I would always pass them by because they had applesauce (which was something I never had the house), but now with my massive jar of apple mush, I finally had the opportunity.

With a couple modifications, these muffins came out great! The addition of hemp seeds gives these cake like, lightly sweetened vegan muffins a boost in protein and a healthy dose of essential fatty acids.

Apple Hemp Muffins
Makes 1 dozen
Adapted from this recipe

1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. oat flour
1/2 c. hemp seeds
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. sea salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground ginger
1 c. applesauce
1/2 c. maple syrup
3/4 c. almond milk
1 t. vanilla
3 T. coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients, sifting in baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, combine applesauce, maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla, and coconut oil and mix together. Add the wet to dry and mix until just combined. Spoon into lined or lightly oiled muffin tins. Bake 25-30 minutes, transfer to a cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Sesame Almond Nori Crunchies

I've never been much of a snack person.

I'm one of those three meals a day people. I eat when I'm hungry and that usually only occurs around my designated meal times.
When I do my shopping for the week, I'm great at planning what I'll have for breakfast, lunch and dinner but I always forget to throw some snack foods in my cart for those occasions when I find my blood sugar plummeting at 4 o'clock because I didn't have a substantial lunch.

Truth is, most foods targeted as "snacks" are prepackaged foods with a long list of ingredients, many of which are unrecognizable.
Most times I'll just reach for a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, but sometimes I wasn't something a bit more fun.. something that's a little more.... snackable.
My cupboards are almost always stocked with a variety of nuts and seeds (walnuts, pistachios, sunflower, pumpkin, flax, hemp, sesame etc..) to throw in baked goods, make milk, toss into granola, or add to a salad.  Not only are nuts and seeds super versatile, they're also packed with healthy fats, protein, and are nutrient dense.

I was checking out some of my favorite blogs this past weekend and stumbled upon a new site called "She Cooks Macro"; most of the recipes focusing on macrobiotic cuisine. Macrobiotics is a dietary regimen that focuses on using whole, simple, unprocessed foods to achieve balance within the body to promote healing. The diet emphasizes whole grains, seaweeds, legumes, fruits, vegetables, some nuts and seeds and fermented soy products like miso, tempeh and tamari.
One of the recipes that caught my eye was this sesame almond nori brittle. This was primarily based on the fact that I had everything on hand to make it, but it was also chocked full of healthy stuff and looked highly snackable.  The fact that it took 15 minutes to throw together didn't hurt either.

Sesame Almond Nori Crunchies
From She Cooks Macro

2 T. safflower oil
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. brown rice syrup
1 c. sesame seeds
1 c. almonds
1 t. tamari
6 sheets nori, torn into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the oil, maple syrup and brown rice syrup in a large sautee pan and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the almond, sesame seeds and tamari. Add the nori and mix well to combine. Spread on a sheetpan lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely, then break into pieces.
Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vegetarian Pho

Pho is a Viatnamese noodle soup consisting of a rich clear broth usually made with beef bones or oxtail with charred onion, ginger and spices like cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel, peppercorns and cardamom.  The sweet and savory broth is filled out with thin rice noodles and slim cuts of beef and topped with garnishes like Thai basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, scallions, sliced hot chilis, hoisin sauce, lime wedges and sriracha (a chili sauce). 
After indulging in pho several times at Viatnamese restaurants I decided to try making it at home. The challenge was to make it without using any meat in the broth, a task some die hard pho lovers would deem impossible. Meat bones, no doubt add a layer of flavor that is pretty hard to replicate, but after a little tweaking I think I nailed it.  Of course my version is in no-way traditional, adding shiitake mushrooms and bok choy (something you would typically find in miso soup) to give the soup a little more substance.  One thing that I kept in common was the rice noodles (a must) and LOTS of fresh herbs, hoisin and sliced chili peppers which add texture and layers of flavor.

Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients. Many of them are spices that are added to the soup and once you get your broth going, you can cook your noodles and prep your garnishes.

Vegetarian Pho (serves 2 large or 4 small bowls)
Adapted from My New Roots

2 lbs. onions, peeled and rough chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 inch knob of ginger, sliced thin
8 c. water
1 T. fennel seeds
5 cardamom pods, crushed with the back of a knife
3 star anise
5 whole cloves
1/2 t. coriander seeds
1/2 t. black peppercorn
1 cinnamon stick
1 T. salt
1 T. tamari

thin rice noodles
1 c. sliced shiitake mushrooms
couple large handfuls of baby bok choy

Garnishes: Use what you like and what you've got!

sliced scallions
sliced jalapenos
handful of thai basil leaves
handful of cilantro (leaves and stems)
mung bean sprouts
lime wedges
hoisin sauce

The broth:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the fennel, cardamom, star anise, cloves, coriander, and peppercorns on a sheetpan. Toast in the oven for 3-5 minutes until fragrant. Remove and set aside.
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to brown. Add the salt, spices and water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat, add tamari and let sit covered for 15 minutes. Strain the broth into another large pot using a fine mesh strainer, pushing down on the onions and spices with the back of a spoon to squeeze out every last drop.

Meanwhile cook your noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain, rinse under cold water and set aside (Most rice noodles only require a 5-7 minute soak in boiling water).

Slice your shiitakes and bok choy and prep any garnishes that you desire. I like to place all of my garnishes on a large plate so diners can add as much or as little as they eat their soup.

When you are ready to eat place the broth over medium-high heat until it begins to simmer. Add the shiitakes and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the bok choy and turn off the heat (The bok choy just needs to wilt a bit).
To serve, place the desired amount of noodles in each bowl. Top with the broth and add whatever garnishes your heart desires.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Turmeric: Natures Medicine

Turmeric is a quintessential ingredient in Indian cuisine, imparting a golden hue (to EVERYTHING it comes in contact with) with an earthy, bitter, peppery flavor. For years I've kept a tiny jar of the stuff in my spice cabinet, adding a pinch or two when whipping up a curry or lentil dahl. Beyond that, turmeric was never something that made an everyday appearance in my diet.

Several different cultures use particular herbs and spices in their cooking that we think of solely as a flavoring agents, but many of these were incorporated into their food for their amazing health benefits as well. The Italians use copious amounts of garlic which happens to have phenomenal immune boosting properties. Mexicans use all sorts of fresh chilis in their food, which stimulates digestion, improves circulation and increases perspiration, which may help to rid the body of toxins. Indian cuisine incorporates several spices that help improve digestion, such as fennel, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, and coriander. Turmeric, not really an herb or spice, but a rhizome (like ginger or it's close relative galangal) is prescribed as medicine in Ayurveda, the oldest form of medicine native to India.

Turmeric's health benefits are due to the presence of curcumin, the compound responsible for it's bright yellow color. Curcumin has powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It's known for inhibiting a number of cancer strains and the curcumin within turmeric can halt the advance of cancer cells or even downright destroy them. It can also improve digestion due to the phytochemicals that help assist the body's production of bile, which helps by breaking down the fatty components of foods. Due to it's anti-inflammatory properties, its also useful for several types of bowel issues such as ulcerative colitis.  Turmeric also helps to detoxify the blood and boost the immune system and is also extremely beneficial for anyone suffering from arthritis since it reduces pain and inflammation around the joints.

After a recent wrist sprain, I decided to consume fresh grated turmeric everyday rather than pump my body full of anti-inflammatory drugs to see what effect it would have. Within a couple of days I've noticed a reduction in pain and it has no unwanted side effects that come with taking NSAID'S.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy turmeric it is by making this ginger-honey-lemon turmeric tea, replacing the ground turmeric with a heaping spoonful of the freshly grated stuff.

Looking for some other ways to incorporate more of this amazing natural medicine into your diet?
Check out these recipes:
Chickpea and Swiss Chard Crepes with Mint and Ginger Raita
Saag Paneer
Paneer and Winter Squash Coconut Curry

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Recently, It came to my attention that I had been eating the same breakfast for an entire month straight.  I become obsessed with a particular food and eat it until the thought of it sickens me. Yeah, I'm weird like that.
So, I'm trying this new thing out called variety. I actually have no problem eating different foods for lunch and dinner (although, lets be real my mid-day "meal" is almost always yogurt, nuts and fruit), but for some reason breakfast always remains a constant.  So I've decided to switch it up a bit. Some of my new morning options include: Smashed avocado on toast with flakey salt, a poached egg on toasted sourdough with sautéed kale, and these here buckwheaties (think grapenuts), either served with almond milk or mixed into plain yogurt.

Roasted buckwheat groats (aka kasha) is commonly eaten in Eastern European countries as a porridge, either mixed with pasta or used it as a filling for knishes or to make blini (buckwheat crepes). Buckwheat flour is most commonly used in pancakes or used to make noodles, known as soba.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy buckwheat by making buckwheaties, soaked, sprouted and dehydrated raw buckwheat groats. 

Buckwheat is a gluten free grain (actually... technically a seed) that contains the eight essential amino acids, as well as high amounts of manganese, magnesium and fiber. It can be eaten to combat high blood pressure and cholesterol, and helps to stabilize blood sugar.

I've dehydrated these on their own and they tasted a little like sawdust, so this time around I tossed my soaked groats with some maple syrup, cinnamon, and two of my favorite superfood powders, maca and mesquite.  Maca is a root in the radish family grown in the mountains in Peru. It is sold in powdered form and is known for balancing hormones and increasing stamina (as well as sexual function.. wink, wink). It is rich in vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium and amino acids. Mesquite is a powder with a molasses-like flavor with a hint of caramel(we're not talking BBQ here!). It's high in protein, soluble fiber, calcium, iron, zinc and potassium and it is an excellent (partial) flour replacement in baked goods.

Barely adapted From Health Yeah!

1 c. raw buckwheat groats
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 T. mesquite powder
2 t. maca
2 t. cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

Soak 1 cup of buckwheat for 8-12 hours (or overnight). In the morning, drain in a fine mesh strainer and rinse really well because buckwheat releases alot of thick goopy slime that you will want to wash off. It's kind of gross.. in a fun way.
Place in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl for 10-15 minutes to fully drain. Place the buckwheat in a bowl and stir in the maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, mesquite and maca powder and mix well to combine.
Lay flat on dehydrator sheets and dehydrate at 115 for 8-10 hours or until crispy.

Store in an airtight container.

Sprinkle over yogurt, toss into homemade granola (after baking) or eat as a breakfast cereal with your favorite milk. 
If you don't have a dehydrator, set your oven to the lowest temperature and leave the door open a jar. They should take about 8 hours to dehydrate.