In our home, eating nourishing and sustainable foods is just one part of our quest to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Dustin and I have shifted towards using minimally processed ingredients not only because of their rapport but because these foods help fuel our active lifestyle. We both typically engage in some sort of exercise every day. While our fitness obsessions have varied over time, from climbing, to yoga, to cycling, running, soccer and HIIT training, this vast cornucopia of exercises all have one thing in common. Each sport or hobby we take on requires that we power our bodies with clean burning fuel.
Back in our climbing days Dustin and I munched on countless cliff bars and downed an endless flow of vitamin water. But these bars and sports drinks, while not exactly abysmal, are far from clean and healthy. Vitamin water in particular is packed with processed sugars, artificial dyes, and chemically engineered flavoring. Clif bars were fine, at the time, for providing an immediate source of fuel to push us through laps at the gym, but with most varieties clocking almost 25g of sugar mostly from the primary ingredient, brown rice syrup (which, as an ingredient, boasts virtually no nutritional merit) these aren’t exactly a healthy option for most athletes.
There is a place for consuming quickly digestible sugars and other carbs in endurance heavy events, where you might be working out for multiple hours and might deplete your glycogen stores if you do not refuel. These bars could be used in this way – although, with about 7 grams of fiber in each bar you probably would not want to eat too many of them on a very long run. We’ve been using them as a pre-run fuel (taking advantage of the natural fruit sugars and complex grain carbs) or as a post-workout recovery snack (utilizing the 11 grams of protein from the nuts, seeds and protein powder).
What initially caught my eye in this post’s featured recipe was the lack of added sugar. Typically, granola bars or power bars contain a boatload of honey, maple, or molasses to sweeten and bind. Not so here! Also exciting to me was the fact that you don’t need to bake them. You may have a moment of doubt as you peer into the food processor wondering how on earth these things are ever going to stick together. But persevere – once the juice is added at the end the mix should start to resemble a piecrust dough, crumbly but clumpy at the same time. Like with a piecrust, go easy on the juice, adding a little at a time until you sense that the mixture will just bind when pressed into the pan. As with pastry, finding the right balance may take a batch or two to master.
I adapted the original recipe a bit to include some protein powder. I used an unflavored rice-based protein, which, I suspect, may have aided in the binding process. While I am fairly certain that any type of protein powder could be used here, it may alter the texture a bit. I am picky when it comes to buying dried fruit. I strongly prefer to buy organic as dried fruit are truly just shriveled versions of whole fruit and can carry with them the same residues from conventional growing practices, only in increased concentration. Trader Joe’s typically has an excellent selection of dried fruit and I find that their prices are far lower than large box stores.
I really like the R.W. Knudsen Family line of juices. I used their black cherry juice in this recipe. It is a simple juice made from only one ingredient! I imagine that any of their single fruit juices would work well in its stead. The black cherry is the only one I have found in small, 8oz, servings. If you have never come across quinoa flakes before, they are quite similar to rolled oats. I am fairly certain that oats could be successfully substituted but if you can find the quinoa flakes they are worth a try as they are much higher in protein content than oats and are likely a bit easier/faster to digest.
The amounts of the various dried fruits can be toyed with and adjusted to suit your specific preference. I used what I had on hand and I ended up really liking the balance of fruit in the end-product, but I imagine that there are many other dried fruits, from mangos, to figs, to dates, that would work well. Just as in other aspects of your diet, picking a variety of fruits from various different families (i.e. berries, stone fruit, pomes etc…) will provide, not only a well balanced flavor profile, but a broader nutritional profile as well.
Quinoa Fruit and Nut Bars – Adapted from “He Needs Food”
Recipe – Makes about 12 Bars
84g (1c) Quinoa Flakes
112g (1c) Almonds, Roughly Chopped
15g (¼ c) Desiccated Coconut
120g Dried Apple Rings (About 30 Rings)
130g (1¼ c) Dried Cherries
130g Dried Apricots (About 20 Apricots)
30g (¼ c) Zante or Corinth Currants
40g (¼ c) Dried Blueberries
75g (5T) Vegan Rice Powder (other powder may be substituted, see note above)
120g (½ c) Cherry Juice
70g (½ c) cup Pepitas (divided)
Line a 7 × 11 inch baking pan with parchment paper (no need to grease or spray the pan.) Paper should hang over the sides; you will later use this overhang as “handles” to remove the bars from the pan. Set the pan aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place quinoa flakes, chopped almonds, and coconut on a large, rimmed baking tray and toast in the oven until just golden and fragrant. You may need to stir the mixture once or twice in order to ensure reasonably even toasting.
Roughly chop all of the dried fruit and then pulse once or twice in batches in the food processor until minced. Make sure you stop well short of turning it into a fruit paste!
Place the cooled quinoa flakes, almonds, and coconut in the processor and pulse briefly until it becomes a coarse meal. Add the protein powder to the bowl of minced fruit pieced and toss them together with your hands to distribute the powder and “unstick” some of the fruit clumps. Add this to the food processor along with half of the pepitas and pulse once or twice to combine with the nut/quinoa meal.
Drizzle over about half of the juice and pulse once or twice, continue adding the juice in TBSP increments, pulsing in-between until the mixture just starts to come together. When the mix is ready it should still contain discernable pieces of fruit and nuts and hold together if pinched between thumb and forefinger.
Dump the mixture into the lined baking pan and distribute evenly across its surface. Tear off a piece of parchment large enough to fit over the pan and place on top of the mixture. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, start at one corner and press down firmly on the mixture to compact the mix and even out the surface. Remove the parchment and sprinkle the remaining pepitas over the top. To adhere these to the surface, replace the parchment and press again, lighter this time (so as not to crush the pepitas.)
Cover the mixture tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the bars to solidify. The next morning, lift the sides of the parchment to remove the bars and place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife and a smooth vertical cutting motion (no sawing!) cut the bars into 12 even pieces. These keep well for a week or two in a tightly sealed Tupperware container in the fridge.
It’s hard to believe, but after scouring Whole Foods and the Internet I was unable to find a single box of graham crackers that could be considered “FODMAP friendly.” Even gluten free varieties were chock full of potential IBS trigger foods like honey, garfava flour, inulin, and agave. I cannot claim a childhood fondness for the crackers, or point to any specific source for my hankering for these old-school American classics. But as with so many of the projects I have taken on in the past, I had caught the whiff of a challenge and was determined to see it through.
For home bakers wanting to try their hand at homemade renditions of supermarket staples, the foreign sounding ingredients listed on the side of the carton may make the product seem impossible to replicate in ones own kitchen. But as with so many grocery store treats, modern graham crackers can find their roots in a simpler historical classic. Graham crackers were the brainchild of 19th century Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham. Perhaps taking inspiration from centuries old beliefs in the power of certain foods to enliven sexual appetite, Graham felt that a diet chock-full of bland grain based biscuits and breads would relieve America’s youth of their “unhealthy” urges and enable them to be better citizens and more diligent contributors to the Great American Society. While no scientific evidence has ever surfaced that upholds Graham’s theory, his crackers certainly caught on and have become an American classic.
To me, even more interesting than the genesis of Graham’s “crackers” is the special Graham flour from which they are made. Unlike a traditional whole wheat flour, which is made by finely grinding the entire wheat kernel to form a fine flour, Graham Flour is separated into its composite parts and the endosperm is finely ground as though to produce a traditional white flour and the bran and germ are ground separately into a coarser meal. The ground bran and germ is then recombined with the white flour to form a dually textured whole wheat flour. Aside from his eponymous flour, Grahams initial recipe most likely consisted of very few ingredients and was almost assuredly less sweet than Nabisco’s famous modern spinoff. The recipe below was developed with a blend of white and whole wheat spelt flours to create the textural contrast that makes traditional grahams so interesting and irresistible. While the below listed recipe bears closer resemblance to the modern variety then Graham’s bland biscuits, they are not overly sweet, and with a decipherable list of ingredients these biscuits would hopefully be wholesome enough to entice Sylvester, himself.
Part of the beauty of making your own renditions of grocery store classics is that design and shaping of the cookies is entirely up to you. You can cut the crackers into long rectangles like the traditional variety with an indentation across the centerline so that the crackers can be broken in two halves. Alternatively, if you are planning to use the crackers for s’mores, you may want to cut the mass into ready-made 2″ squares. Smitten Kitchen provided much of the inspiration for this recipe. On her site, Deb gives great direction on the shaping of the grahams and makes a break from the “norm” by using a fluted pastry cutter to create a scalloped edge. Fluted cutters can be found on Amazon, I noted that Ateco also makes a fluted edge square cookie cutter, which would be great for making uniform crackers without the need for any careful measuring.
The more evenly you are able to cut the crackers, the better. Not only will evenly sized crackers look impressive, but they will bake at a more even pace. To make the pinpoint design in the crackers, snip the end off of a toothpick and lightly press evenly spaced indents into the dough. The cinnamon sugar topping is definitely optional, the dough itself is already a tad sweet (I think it is slightly less sweet than commercially made grahams) and the crackers make a beautiful foil for rich dark chocolate and toasted marshmallows. If you are planning to eat the crackers as cookies on their own you may want to include the topping in order to push them into the decidedly “sweet” category.
Wheat Free Graham Crackers
180g (1 1/2 C) White Spelt Flour
60g (1/2 C) Whole Spelt Flour
48g (~1/3 C) Buckwheat Flour
48g (~1/3 C) Oat Flour
1 TSP Baking Soda
1/4 TSP Kosher Salt
176g (1 C) Dark Brown Sugar (Lightly Packed)
100g (7 TBSP) Unsalted Butter, Cut Into Small Cubes and Frozen
114g (1/3 C) Maple Syrup
77g (5 TBSP) Whole Milk
27g (2 TBSP) Vanilla Extract
For The Topping
43g (3 TBSP) Granulated Sugar
5g (1 TSP) Ground Cinnamon
To make the dough, place the flours, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse lightly to mix.
In a separate bowl whisk together the maple syrup, milk, and vanilla. Set aside.
Open the lid of the food processor, pull the butter out of the freezer and distribute atop the flour mixture. Return the lid to its upright and locked position and pulse until it resembles a fine gravel. Add the maple mixture to the flour and butter and pulse until the dough just comes together. Gather the dough together into a rough ball, being careful not to overwork it. Place the dough on a piece of plastic film and wrap tightly. Chill the dough for at least two hours or, alternatively, overnight. While the dough chills mix together the sugar and cinnamon for the topping and set aside.
Once the dough has sufficiently chilled and you are ready to begin rolling out the grahams, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a clean work surface (either a cutting board or flat counter space) and set out a pizza cutter, rolling pin, and ruler (the longer the better.) Dust the workspace with a light coating of flour. I typically keep a shaker filled with flour on hand to dust work surfaces when working with cookie and pie doughs, it also comes in handy for lightly coating fish or chicken fillets for pan frying. I personally like to fill a shaker with gluten free flour to minimize any potential FODMAP interaction but if you are not GF feel free to use whatever (white) flour you have on hand. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and separate out 1/3 of the mixture, re-wrap the remaining 2/3 and return it to the fridge.
Lightly dust the rolling pin and roll the dough mass into an evenly shaped rectangle approximately 1/8″ thick. While rolling the dough, periodically flip or turn the rectangle to ensure it is not sticking to the work surface. When you have obtained an even thickness across the entire mass trim off any uneven edges and determine a suitable size for the crackers. (Please see the note above for more insight on determining the right size and shape for your crackers.) Once the grahams have been cut, remove them to parchment lined cookie sheets leaving about 1″ between the squares.
If you wish to decorate the graham crackers with the traditional pinpoint perforated pattern, using a blunted toothpick or wooden skewer lightly indent the cookies in a regular pattern, being careful not to puncture through the bottom of the dough. Lightly dust the tops of the crackers with the cinnamon and sugar mixture and place in the preheated oven to bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until deeply golden. While the first batch bakes, roll, slice, decorate and top the remaining dough and repeat the baking process. Allow the crackers to cool completely on drying racks before packing away in tins or Tupperware.
In the last month so much has changed. After months of eating so well and yet feeling progressively worse, I was told that I have IBS and am likely having trouble digesting certain carbohydrates. This temporary fix of avoiding the ferment-able carbohydrates that have been wrecking havoc on my digestive system is simple enough on paper, but in actuality it involves avoiding many ingredients that I have long held near and dear. In a matter of weeks, I have gone from embracing essentially the entire world of whole and wonderful foods (in moderation of course) to working every cell of creativity in my brain to make something delicious and nourishing from of a very limited list of ingredients.
For the next two weeks I will be on the full-blown version of the Low Fodmap diet. Following that begins the challenge phase where small and then larger amounts of a specific type of carbohydrates can be added to see if they are the culprit responsible for irritating my poor tummy. For example, if large onslaughts of high fiber cereal, whole wheat pasta, breads, beets, and broccoli don’t make my stomach churn, it is safe to assume I don’t have problems with Fructans. If, however, a slice or 2 of bread lands me in pain, we can surmise that I do, in fact, have difficulty digesting Fructans and I can work to determine my threshold or tolerance for different Fructan containing foods.
To say that this has had an impact on my cooking would be a severe understatement. I realize now just how much I rely on handful of go to ingredients to build flavor in recipes. Without onions, garlic, or dairy, without the ability to combine nuts and fruits in the same meal, without bread, whole wheat and homey options are limited and I have to get pretty darn creative in order to produce wholesome meals for Dustin and I that comply with the “rules” of the low fodmap diet. Gluten-free recipes are a good place to start, especially for anything baking related. Low FODMAPers can also look to many paleo sites for ideas as there is substantial overlap between the ingredients not allowed in the two diets. I will caution that many Paleo baking recipes rely heavily on nut fours which, while technically allowed, can be a concentrated source of Galactans if eaten in large quantities. Also worth noting, paleo recipes typically incorporate agave and honey, both of which should be avoided on a Low FODMAP diet, maple syrup and regular sugar can be substituted, but, again, when combined with nut flours the recipe may in fact turn out an end product that is HIGH in FODMAPs.
This recipe was adapted from one I found in La Tartine Gourmande’s lovely cookbook. If you have not had a chance to peruse the book (or her fantastic blog) I highly recommend doing so. Her blog is full of sweet wistful recipes and beautiful photos and her book is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to reduce or avoid gluten sources in their diet. The original recipe called for apples, tahini, and muscovado sugar all of which I replaced with alternatives in my version. I am certain that the apples would be lovely and if you are not on a low FODMAP diet feel free to substitute these in equal amounts for the grated carrots listed below (the apples would also need to be grated.) As I am currently on the strictest part of the elimination diet I am working diligently to stick to the list of approved foods, I could not find information on Muscovado sugar so I substituted brown sugar for the Light Muscovado, again I am sure the Muscovado would work amazingly well but for the Low FODMAP dieters, light brown sugar is a safer bet.
As for why I use almond butter in my recipe instead of the tahini called for, it was simply what I had on hand. Even low Fodmappers should be safe to use the tahini paste called for provided that it is either home-made or there are no unapproved additives. I recently whipped up a batch of almond butter in our Vitamix blender. If you have a vitamix and have never tried making your own nut butter it is so amazingly simple. Any nuts will work, I used almonds but feel free to experiment with whatever you have on hand, or create your own custom blend from a variety of different nuts. I highly suggest toasting/roasting and then slightly cooling the nuts before processing as it will result in a much richer flavor. Simply place about 2 cups of roasted/toasted nuts in the blender and turn the speed to variable 1. Slowly increase the speed, using the plunger to push the nuts down into the blades as you go, until you reach variable 10. Process until you come out with a smooth and creamy butter. If you like your nut butter on the chunky side pulse the nuts until they are fine but not paste-y and then remove some to stir back into the final product. You can also add some sea salt at the beginning of the process for a slightly saltier nut butter.
I list weights below in grams. If you don’t have a kitchen scale I have provided approximate measurements for the ingredients but I cannot recommend enough buying a scale, it is way more precise and conveniently negates the need to clean gooey sticky substances from the corners of all of your measuring cups after each baking procedure (and who likes more dishes?) I use an OXO scale with a pull out display that is available at Target stores. The pull out display is particularly nice when you are trying to measure ingredients onto a large plate or bowl that would otherwise tower over and completely cover the display.
Another handy feature of this scale is that the g/oz conversion button is on the top. My old kitchen scale had the switch on the bottom so to convert you would have to remove whatever you were weighing, press the button, and hope not to lose the weight you were measuring in the process by accidentally turning off the machine and clearing the display. I think there are two similar OXO models, both of which are carried by Target, one has a ~5lb max weight threshold and the other goes to ~11lb. I suggest pony-ing up a few extra bucks for the larger weight capacity as it makes it easier to put large/heavy items on the scale for measurement. This is particularly useful if you bake bread and have to measure 1 KG of flour, plus water into a large kitchen aid mixing bowl. With the lower capacity scale, it is quite easy to exceed the weight limit and they you have to set about using, and dirtying, separate bowls to weigh out your ingredients.
Allergy Free Carrot and Oat Muffins – Adapted, Slightly from La Tartine Gourmande’s Millet, Oat, and Apple Muffins
Yield – 10 Muffins
175g Coarsely Grated Carrots
2 Large Eggs at Room Temperature
80g (~1/2 C Packed) Light Brown Sugar
60 g (1/2 C) Millet Flour
30g (1/4 C) Quinoa Flour
50g (1/2 C) Thick Rolled Oats (Really, Any Kind are OK, Just Like the Toothsome Bite that Thicker Oats Bring to These)
Pinch of Sea Salt (~ 1/8 TSP)
1 TSP Baking Powder
1/2 TSP Baking Soda
32g (2 TBSP) Almond Butter
50g (3 1/2 TBSP) Unsalted Butter, Melted and Slightly Cooled
1 TSP Pure Vanilla Extract
Preheat the oven to 350°. This recipe barely ekes out 10 standard (from a 12 muffin sheet pan) sized muffins. Gluten free muffins have a habit of sticking to paper muffin liners. I would advocate against using these if possible as you will likely end up losing a large portion of the muffin when you attempt to peel off the paper liner. Many gluten free bakers swear by using silicone muffin liners, I have not used them but imagine they would take care of the problem I just mentioned with the muffin batter adhering to the paper liners. I did not have silicone liners and could not find them anywhere so I sprayed the tins with organic canola oil spray and hoped for the best. For the Low FODMAP-ers out there, do not use baking spray as it has flour and other additives that may produce a reaction. Chose from the above listed options (spray, silicone liners, or paper liners) and prepare 10 out of the 12 muffin molds for filling. Set the tray aside.
Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer (or, if you don’t have a standing mixer, place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and grab and get an electric hand mixer suited up and at the ready – I would not really recommend doing this by hand with just a whisk, your arm may fall off and I cannot claim liability for lost limbs.) Get your stand mixer all fitted with the paddle attachment. Bring the machine up to medium speed, about a 5 on a kitchen-aid, and whisk until the mixture has significantly lightened in color and has at least doubled in volume. This should take a few minutes, so while it whisks away pull out a medium sized bowl and your handy kitchen scale (see note above) and measure out your dry ingredients. Whisk them together. Add the grated carrots and toss them with the flour, separating clumps of carrot shreds as you go until the carrots are evenly coated in the flour mixture.
Your egg/sugar mixture should be nice and fluffy at this point. Add the nut butter, melted butter, and vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds – one minute or until well combined. Scrape the bowl well and mix once more to ensure that all of the wet ingredients are well incorporated. Remove the mixer bowl from the stand and add the dry ingredients. Use a slightly flexible spatula and trace semi circles down and around the outside of the bowl folding gently towards the center as you go. You want to mix the ingredients without adding a lot of air or over mixing. As soon as there are no more visible clumps of dry ingredients in the mixture stop stirring and use a large spoon or ice-cream scoop to evenly distribute the batter into the 10 prepared muffin wells.
Sprinkle a few rolled oats onto the top of the muffins and place them in the center of the preheated oven. Bake for about 12 Minutes, rotate the pan so that the back is in the front and continue cooking for another 12-15 minutes. When the muffins are fully cooked (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean) remove them from the oven. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes before turning them out onto a wire cooling rack to cool. Enjoy the muffins as is or smear with your favorite spread (I recommend trying butter, peanut butter, and/or jam.)
The last few weeks in Nashville have been riddled with sweltering hot afternoons and equally steaming evenings. With little respite from the heat our garden began to look depressed and tired, its little green stems drooping towards the ground, leaves yellowing. Water as we would the veggies protested the heat, our cucumbers became warped and deformed from a lack of moisture, pinching in at their “waist”to resemble barbells. The tomatoes cracked under the pressure.
At a canning class organized by Delvin Farms (who run our CSA) the farmers asked the participants to pray for rain. And perhaps the power of those prayers – palms to palms, foreheads to ground, or swishing feet in dance – brought down upon us the rain that so swiftly ensued, but not more than two days after that class entered the deluge. Days and days of rain, almost unsettling amounts of rain poured down upon our city, a city already a bit wary of copious downpour following the recent flood that took out much of its low lying tenements, burying entire malls in water, closing roadways and barring much of Nashville’s commerce for days on end.
As humans, we have an amazing ability to adapt to changes, our bodies adjust to temperature fluctuations with relative ease, we weather the rain and snow, inhabit barren desserts, and marshy wetlands, indeed we are capable of so much variety. It always amazes me that with such an uncanny ability to thrive in almost any climate, almost any area, that many people are downright unreceptive to change in their own lives. Rather then spending the sullen sweltering days standing over the stove or grill moaning about the heat, I try to target my cooking to techniques that suit the hotter climate, saving steamier projects for those unseasonably cold days that take us by surprise during the summer months.
In our kitchen, one of those rainy day projects typically involves cooking a large batch of whole grains. Rather then spending time boiling and cooking grains like farro or wheat berries for a salad, I typically cook a large batch once or twice a month and freeze cooled portions in bags for later use. They defrost fairly quickly and, provided you cool them completely before freezing they should keep well for 3-4 months (not that they will last that long I would recommend running cold water over the grains or dunking them in an ice bath and then draining them well before freezing as this will keep them in the best condition possible throughout their time “on ice.” I do my very best to flush out as much air as possible before freezing the grains to keep them fresh.
With the grains cooked this salad is fairly easy to throw together on a sweltering summer day. It does require a fair bit of chopping, but I have a feeling that this is something that many produce lovers are well accustomed to – those veggies don’t chop themselves now do they. Personally, I would not used dried oregano in the stead of the fresh oregano listed here, if you cannot find it, I would reach for mint, or basil as a substitute before rummaging around for the dried oregano as it wont bring the zing that is needed to balance out the dressing. I love the sharp tang of Bulgarian feta in this dish, it is pungent and unctuous and adds a slightly gaminess to the otherwise straightforward dish. As the salad does follow fairly traditional “Greek salad” lines it would make a nice addition to a pot luck dinner or picnic, and may be a nice way to get new diners indoctrinated into the grain salad “movement” (I know its not really a movement but it should be!) So without further ado, I give you my new favorite grain salad – Greek style. Enjoy!
Greek Salad with Wheat Berries and Bulgarian Feta
This Recipe makes a large bowl – enough to feed a small picnic crowd or large family gathering, it can easily be halved for smaller get-togethers.
4 Cups Cooked Wheat Berries (Farro or other hearty whole grains may be substituted)
3 Cucumbers Cut into 1/2 inch Dice
2 Pints Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
1 1/2 Red Onions, Halved, Sliced Thinly, Slices Cut into Thirds or Quarters
2 TSP Sugar
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 TBSP White Balsamic or Good White Vinegar
4 Small Cloves of Garlic, Peeled and Sliced
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1 TSP Salt
2 Green Bell Peppers, Diced
2 TBSP Fresh Oregano, Finely Chopped
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Parsley
About 20 Pitted Kalamata Olives, Rougly Chopped
1/2 Cup Crumbled Bulgarian Feta (or substitute another brined feta)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Place the Cucumbers and Tomatoes in separate colanders and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt (don’t worry about the amount of salt, it will be rinsed off later) This salting helps draw some of the water out of the vegetables so they don’t make the dressing watery later on. Allow the cucumbers and tomatoes to sit and drain in the sink while chopping the other veggies.
Place the Onions in a large bowl with the sugar, lemon juice and vinegar and toss to combine. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes to take the bite off of the onions. Add the garlic and slowly whisk in the olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste.
Rinse the tomatoes and cucumbers well with water and drain. Add to the bowl with the dressing along with the bell peppers, parsley, oregano, wheat berries and olives. Toss well, seasoning as you see fit, remember that the feta will add a bit of additional salt. Crumble the feta over the top just before serving and toss lightly (if combined too early the feta will color and look murky.) Serve to friends and enjoy!
I apologize, ladies and gentlemen, for the lapse in our posting, but it has been a long week and a half. Since we last posted Dustin and I have packed virtually every item in our little home into boxes. We have meticulously planned our move, transferred utilities, found adequate transportation, and recruited assistance from very kind friends, only to find that on our planned moving day our road will be closed virtually all day for Nashville’s Music City Marathon. We will not have access to our street, or to the alley behind it, and will not be able to park within a 4 block radius of our current dwelling. So much for meticulous planning. After spending Saturday morning panic stricken, I came up with a slightly nutty plan B that will put our now free morning to use by installing the raised beds we have planned for our very first home vegetable garden.
A few weeks back I spent several hours perusing the Burpee catalog for the best possible array of organic seeds that could be direct sown into the garden. Just before ordering Dustin and I ventured out to Whole Foods, where we discovered that our local store had its own great selection of seeds, with no shipping required. Our current design is for four – four by four foot raised beds, arranged according to the length of the growing season (some we are hoping to get two seasons out of – be reaping, tilling, and resewing in late august) and the amount of water needed to grow the crops. We are also planning a salad table, a shallow, portable, and lightweight raised bed that can be used for growing delicate salad greens and have high hopes to grow “trash can” sweet potatoes.
I never used to be much of a fan of sweet potatoes. In my mind, they were part of the “potato” category, which I dismissed entirely as bland and starchy. It wasn’t until 2 years ago, on a camping trip in Kentucky, that I finally realized how wrong I had been to eschew this brilliant tuber. The powers that be that bestowed the name on this veggie got one thing right, they are indeed sweet, its hard to fathom that so many recipes for sweet potatoes call for additions of sugar, maple, or even, gasp, marshmallows. When roasted for long periods of time these bright orange gems literally ooze with sugary sweetness that is entirely their own.
In this dish, which was sparked by a sweet potato and quinoa side dish on Sprouted Kitchen, I combine sweet roasted sweet potato nuggets with smoky paprika, earthy lentils, nutty quinoa, and a zingy jalapeno dressing. The strong flavor components of the dish are inspired by the traditional smoky, hot and sweet notes of good southern barbeque. From a nutritional perspective this dish has it all covered. The sweet potatoes provide an almost unsurpassed source of Vitamin C which is best activated when combined with a small amount of fat, which can be found in the olive oil in our zingy vinaigrette. The lentils provide a great source of folate, iron, fiber, and protein. The quinoa is yet another great punch of fiber in this dish and a nice nutty and almost creamy texture to the salad. And I cannot even begin to sing the praises of Kale, it provides and excellent source of vitamins K, C, and A, as well as dietary fiber and has been hailed for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. So don’t hesitate to dig in and enjoy this super healthy, super delicious salad.
Super Foods Salad
For the Salad Dressing
2 Jalapenos, Cut in Half (Seeds In)
3/4 C Chopped Cilantro
3 Large Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Shallots, Minced
Zest (Minced) and Juice of 2 Limes
6 TBSP Olive Oil
For the Quinoa
1 Lg Onion, Diced
1/2 TSP Ground Corriander
1/2 TSP Ground Cumin
1/2 Cup Quinoa
1 C Water
For the Sweet Potatoes
2-3 Medium Sized Sweet Potatoes (1.5-2 lbs) Cut into 1 Inch Cubes
1 TSP Smoked Hot Paprika
1/2 TSP Kosher Salt
Olive Oil to Lightly Coat
For the Lentils
3/4 C. de Puy or Beluga Lentils
2 Bay Leaves
1 TSP Kosher Salt
1 Bunch of Kale Roughly Chopped
To make the Salad Dressing – preheat the oven to 425 degrees, rub the jalapenos lightly with salt, pepper, and olive oil and roast on a foil lined sheet pan for 15 mins, or until softened and slightly browned. Once roasted, place on a cutting board and allow to cool before mincing the jalapenos. Place the minced peppers in a small bowl along with the other dressing ingredients and mix well to combine, set aside.
To make the sweet potatoes toss the potato cubes with the spices and add just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Placed on a foil lined baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins, turning the potatoes over at least once during the roasting process.
While the potatoes roast make the quinoa. Add about a tablespoon of oil to a saute pan, add onion and sautee until softened and beginning to brown, add quinoa and spices and stir, allow spices and grains to toast, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes before adding the water, bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 mins, or until the liquid is just absorbed. Turn off the heat and set aside.
To cook the lentils, place lentils in a sauce pan and cover with 1-2 inches of water. Add bay leaves and salt and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until just tender (be careful not to over cook them as they will turn to mush.) As soon as the lentils are cooked, place the lentils in a colander and rinse with cool water (or shock in an ice water bath) until the lentils are just cooled (this will stop the cooking) allow to drain completely.
To serve the salad combine the sweet potatoes with the lentils, quinoa, and kale in a large bowl. Toss gently to combine. Add the dressing, a bit at a time, until just dressed (the kale will wilt slightly reducing the body of the salad, so err on the side of under-dressing as more can be added later.) Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes for the flavors to meld. Taste and add additional dressing, salt, and pepper as needed. Serve and Enjoy!
It’s a bit overwhelming to think we are moving again in less than two weeks. There are some ways in which I actually like moving. As a big proponent of the “use it or lose it” mantra, moving offers an opportunity to revamp, reorganize, and sift through any accumulated clutter. Having moved to Nashville within the last year, it was easy to determine which items we had not used since moving in and make judgements as to whether to donate them, recycle them, or hold out hope that we might find just the right use for that odd utensil, or the perfect occasion for a never worn dress.
The same clean out fervor carries over to the pantry. Spices that have not been used in the months that have eclipsed since the move in date should likely be tossed, especially if ground. And while I have a soft spot for “ancient grains,” the same does not apply to old stale ones. Nuts, too, begin to decline rapidly once they pass their peak. Dustin and I had a great wealth of couscous sitting in a Ball Jar on our grains shelf, and an old bag of shelled pistachios that were about to go over the proverbial hill. When I came across a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” for green couscous, that incorporated the tiny grains with a vivacious herb sauce and toasted pistachios, I knew I found a winner.
In the spring, more than ever, I love making bright herbaceous dishes. Perhaps it’s just that many of my favorite herbs are just starting to peek through the ground, and maybe it’s because green is the unofficial color of springtime, but bright punch flavors draw me in after the heavy stews, soups, and braises that dominate winters comfort cuisine. This salad actually pairs very well alongside a heavier dish like a Tagine, and is great a day (or even two) later over a bed of bright greens with grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu.
From a health perspective this couscous salad covers its bases. Couscous is made from semolina flour, traditionally the semolina was rolled into tiny pellets and then tossed in flour to keep the pellets from sticking together, before left to dry. While couscous is more akin to a pasta than a whole grain, a whole wheat variety may be substituted for the traditional white variety adding additional protein and fiber to this dish. If you want to go a step further and up the ante to a full on whole grain, cracked bulgur wheat, millet, or quinoa may be swapped in for the couscous. It will alter the flavor slightly but should be a delicious and nutritious dish nonetheless.
The pistachios in this dish provide a nice textural contrast to the chewy toothsome grains, leafy greens, and soft onion. From a nutritional perspective they add a great deal as a good source of healthy fat, B Vitamins, fiber, and pop of protein. I have upped the amount of parsley in this recipe from Yotam’s original 1/2 cup because, compared with cilantro, it packs a nutritional wallop. Not only is it high in dietary fiber, but is also a rich source of Vitamins K, C, and A. So go on and dig into this bright herbaceous dish, your body and your taste buds will thank you.
Green Couscous – from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “plenty”
For the Herb Paste
1/2 C Chopped Flat-leaf Parsley
1/2 C Chopped Cilantro
2 TBSP Chopped FreshTarragon
4 TBSP Chopped Fresh Mint
6 TBSP Olive Oil
For the Couscous
1 C Couscous
3/4 C Boiling Water or Stock
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1 Lg Onion, Thinly Sliced
1/2 TSP Fine Sea Salt
1/4 TSP Ground Cumin
1/2 C Unsalted Pistachios, Toasted and Coarsely Chopped
3 Scallions, Finely Sliced
1 Fresh Chile, Such as a Jalapeño, Finely Sliced (I Like This Spicy So I Substituted a Serrano)
1 1/2 C Arugula Leaves, Chopped
To make the herb paste combine all ingredients, save the olive oil, in a food processor and pulse. Add olive oil in a steady stream until the mixture resembles a smooth paste. Taste and add a bit of salt and pepper as needed.
To make the couscous, place couscous in a large bowl and add boiling water or stock. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand for 10 minutes. Fluff gently with a fork to break up any big chunks and set aside.
In a sauté pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, cumin, and salt and sauté until the onion is golden and soft.
In a large bowl, combine couscous and half of the herb paste. taste and add more herb paste a bit at a time until you like the balance of flavor. You can serve the remaining sauce on the side so that diners can adjust for individual taste. Add pistachios, scallions, green chile, and arugula and toss gently.
Lately we have developed somewhat of a rhythm to our weekend cooking plans. Each weekend we tend to make a main dish, like a soup or baked pasta, a side, which is typically grain based such as a broccoli and quinoa salad, two loaves of bread, using home made starter and a recipe from Tartine, and some sort of baked good.
There is something about turning out perfectly puffed baked goods that I find deeply satisfying. Likely, this joy stems from the fact that I have failed at baking so many times in the past. Much of my recent success stems from one key piece of advice that I have heard countless times and have never really followed. And that is, that I FINALLY read the directions. All of them. Sometimes twice. Until I actually understand what is going on. And then I get down to business.
Baking truly takes a lot of preparation. First you need all of the right ingredients, you need to carefully note what type of flour to buy, the size of the eggs called for DOES make a difference. Light and dark brown sugar are not the same thing, and no, honey is not a substitute for maple syrup. Please, whatever you do, do not substitute light butter or margarine for the butter called for in the recipe, and if they don’t specify, its pretty darn likely that they are calling for UNSALTED butter. And generally, if they call for milk, buttermilk, or yogurt, you can assume that the full fat version is required, unless the author explicitly states otherwise.
Sometimes it feels as though, given all of these rules, we must take off our thinking caps and turn off our brains when we bake. But I feel it just takes a great deal more mastery before we are able to make the substitutions and judgement calls that separate the good bake hands from the true innovators that are pushing the art of baking forward. Kim Boyce, author of “Good to the Grain” is, in my mind, one of these innovators on the forefront of the baking scene. With her book on baking with whole grain flours, Kim has forever changed the way I look at whole wheat and other whole grain flours. No longer do I see these as musky, mealy substitutes that only a health nut could love. Thanks to her recipes and to those of other bakers that have understood the many nuances of baking with quality milled whole grains, I feel as though I can hone my baking skills while producing hearty baked goods which will provide nutrition and sustenance to the loved ones around me.
I think Bran Muffins get a bad rap. Often times justifiably so as many of them are dry, mealy, and totally bereft of flavor. On the other end of the spectrum are bran muffins which purport themselves as a healthy breakfast food, but are really packed to the gills with cheap low quality oils and highly refined sugars. This recipe from Boyce’s “Good to the Grain” truly does the bran muffin justice. Her use of a home made prune jam, which acts as the main source of sweetness, provides an ingenious and natural source of fruit based sugars. There is only a slight 3 TBSP of butter in the entire recipe, the additional moisture comes from buttermilk, molasses, and fruit. These make a great breakfast treat, provided, of course that you don’t bake them into muffins the size of grapefruits, as some bakeries are wont to do.
Molasses Bran Muffins – adapted slightly from Kim Boyce’s Recipe in “Good to the Grain”
Emily’s Tip – Zest the Oranges BEFORE you squeeze them to make the Juice, it is infinitely easier than trying to hold a half of a squeezed orange and zest it, trust me.
1 C Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
1 1/2 C Dried Fruit, Cut in Half (Kim Uses Prunes, I Used a Mixture of Prunes and Figs, Raisins Would Also Work Well)
1 1/2 C Wheat Bran
1/2 C Amaranth Flour
1 1/2 C Whole Wheat Flour
2 TBSP Dark Brown Sugar
1 1/4 TSP Baking Soda
1/2 TSP Kosher Salt
1/2 TSP Ground Cinnamon
2 C Full Fat Buttermilk
1/2 C Molasses
3 TBSP Unsalted Butter, Melted and Cooled Slightly
1 TBSP Orange Zest (From Oranges Used for Juice – See Emily’s Tip Above)
To make the dried fruit jam, lay the pieces of dried fruit, cut side down, in a small sautee pan or skillet (that has a fitting lid), cover with the orange juice and bring to a boil. Turn off the flame/remove from the heat, cover with the lid, and allow to sit for about 30 minutes, or until the fruit is plump and has absorbed some of the orange juice. Puree in a small food processor, or use an immersion blender until you have a smooth puree.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin tins with baking spray. Measure the bran into a medium bowl, place the buttermilk in a microwave safe container and microwave in 10 second intervals until the buttermilk is just lukewarm (do NOT overheat as it will separate and look positively gross.)
Pour the buttermilk over the bran, stir, and set aside.
Sift the remaining dry ingredients (amaranth flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon) into a large bowl (if some does not pass through the sifter just dump it out into the bowl with the remaining dry ingredients.)
In a small bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients with 1/2 cup of prune jam (you will have left over jam, set it aside for another use or freeze it for a later batch of muffins.) Make sure the egg is thoroughly incorporated before adding the mixture to the softened bran and buttermilk. Add the entire wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir gently. Use as few strokes as possible. Once the batter is just mixed spook into alternating cups of the muffin tin (will make about 10 muffins.)
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, rotating half way through until they reach a dark golden color. Once the muffins are done take one out of the tin to make sure the bottom is dark and golden. Place the muffins upside down on a cooling rack to ensure they stay crisp and that the bottoms don’t become soggy from steaming in the tins. The muffins fare well in a container on the counter for about 2 days. Freeze any muffins you do not plan to consume during that period. Frozen muffins defrost well if left on the counter at room temperature for a few hours.
With just one episode of Good Eats, Alton Brown changed my views on broccoli forever. This life altering event occurred around the time that Dustin and I first moved in together. We were sitting on the couch one night studying for goodness only knows what classes and watching the Food Network when an episode of Good Eats came on that featured a better way to cook typically distained vegetables, like brussels sprouts and broccoli, which when steamed or boiled take on that distinctively stinky vegetable smell.
In his typically zany way, Alton described the benefits of high-temp roasting and grilling, in digestible chunks of chemistry. Essentially, it all boils down to the Maillard Reaction. What, you might ask, is the Maillard Reaction? The Maillard Reaction is the reaction which caramelizes sugars in food to turn it brown. There are many examples of the Maillard Reaction in modern cooking, from the browning of butter solids to form a nutty and complex browned butter to the charring of vegetables over an open flame. But really, when any browning of a food takes place, the Maillard Reaction is present, from grilling steaks, to making toast, to roasting vegetables or chicken, browning changes the flavor profile of a food in a way that most of us find delicious.
Why, you may ask, do we not get the same trans-formative qualities from steaming or boiling that we do from grilling and roasting? The answer lies in the presence of water (or lack thereof.) No matter how high you crank up your burners, water’s temperature will max out at around 212 degrees, after that it is transformed into steam. In order for the Maillard Reaction to occur you need to have amino acids (protein) a reducing sugar (like glucose) and temperatures over 250 degrees. Therefore, in the presence of lots of water, no browning will occur.
I bought these baby broccoli on sale at Whole Foods, broccoli, regular broccoli, or even Brussels sprouts, would work well in this recipe. The broccoli is divided and cooked two ways, quickly blanked for the pesto, and roasted at high temps till lightly browned to form the bulk of the salad. The salad is filled out by cooked grains, you can use any whole grain, wild rice, red quinoa, wheat berries, and bulgur will all be nice here, from a visual perspective adding some varied color into the dish may add some sex appeal to this homely looking side dish. I saved the broccoli cooking liquid (from blanching) and used it to cook the grains, not only does this save on water, but it allows some preservation of vitamins and flavor that leeched into the water during the blanching process. This dish pairs well with a lean protein such as roasted chicken, tofu, or pork for a healthy dinner or can be served as a dish of its own on top of some arugula with additional nuts and some crumbled tempeh.
Roasted Baby Broccoli and Grain Salad with Broccoli – Almond Pesto — slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
3 C Cooked Grains (I used a mixture of Bulghur, Quinoa, and Wheat Berries)
2 Large Heads Broccoli, Stems Chopped, and Tops Cut into Florets
3 Medium Cloved Garlic, Smashed
2/3 C Toasted Almonds
1/3 C Freshly Grated Parmesan
Pinch of Aleppo Pepper Flakes
2 T Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice (optional – zest of 1 lemon)
1/4 C Olive Oil
1/4 C Heavy Cream
Heat oven to 455 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a low boil.
Divide broccoli in half, toss half in a very light covering of olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Spread out on a sheet pan and roast until just browned, flipping half way through. Remove from the hot pan and place on a plate in a single layer to cool.
Place other half of the broccoli in the lightly boiling water for just a minute until just brightened, you don’t want these to be “cooked” we should just take the raw off of the veggies.
Cook grains in batches in the broccoli water according to cooking directions.
Place garlic and almonds in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times until “minced.”
Remove broccoli from the pot with a slotted spoon and drain fully in a colander. Add broccoli, Aleppo, lemon juice (and zest if using) several turns of freshly cracked pepper, and Parmesean in the processor and pulse again until small chunks appear (should not be a paste.) Add olive oil and heavy cream and process until it appears emulsified.
Place grains and roasted broccoli in a large bowl and toss. Add some of the pesto and toss until well incorporated. Add remaining pesto as desired and reserve any remainder for another use. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
At times, its hard to find inspiration for a new post. Or really to get excited about cooking anything at all. Writers block seems to strike at the oddest and most inconvenient of times and I find this only compounded during the winter. Its ironic, really, that during the season when we have the most time and desire to stay in the house, the availability of fresh crops is at its lowest point. During the summer months I tend to find my culinary muse in markets, the desire to write about a dish often stems from my interaction with its grower – from seeing tomatoes piled high in barrels, or melons, still covered in dirt, sitting in an old wheel barrel. We are so fortunate that during the spring, summer, and early fall, there is a weekly farmers market held on our block, local farmers bring their just picked crops,and locals make their way down to mingle, and seek out the week’s best wares.
Buying veggies from a supermarket, however nice that market may be, just isn’t the same. So much of the personal nature of the food buying experience, which, for me, really drives a connection to quality, sustainable wares, is lost. No wonder we Americans eat so much mass produced product, its hard to get excited about local, sustainable agriculture and humanely produced meats and dairy when shopping in a florescent lit, big-chain market. And, unfortunately, many of the smaller local stores in Nashville, can’t pull in enough volume to drive the turnover rates needed to keep local veggies at peak freshness. Alas, during the winter months, I find I need to dig for inspiration elsewhere.
A lot of times, when the season deals a blank hand, and am suffering from a lack of inspiration, I turn to my much neglected pantry for ideas. Surveying my shelves and jars for items calling out to be used, I noticed that an overwhelming wealth of grains had taken over my closet and sought out a recipe. I started searching the blog-osphere for recipes and came across a site I had never seen before called “The Yellow House.” Their stories and photos are incredible, and, for me it was an immediate source of the inspiration I so sorely craved. My eye caught on a recipe for “Greens and Grains with Browned Yogurt Topping.” The authors intro, with beautiful pictures, and a compelling story on recycling leftovers won my heat and I was sold on giving this odd sounding dish a try.
And, boy, am I sure glad I took the leap. This dish is certainly one of my new winter favorites. The combination of grains and creamy topping is at once homey and comforting – almost reminiscent of a holiday casserole – and at the same time it is a reassuringly healthy one pot meal. As I started to combine the ingredients, I noticed a lot of similarities between this dish and an old Greek Diner Staple, Moussaka. Moussaka is an eggplant and ground meat based dish, with a creamy and decadent bechamel topping and spiced tomato sauce. I have always likened it to a Greek sort of lasagna, minus, of course, the noodles. This wholesome dish embodies the same textural and flavor couplings as moussaka by contrasting the taste of a creamy topping against spiced filling and the sensation of smooth sauce and toothsome grains. Musing on Moussaka, I was inspired to put my own twist on the author’s recipe by incorporating Middle Eastern spices, such as hot smoked paprika, lemon, aleppo pepper, and sumac into the dish.
I purchased ground Sumac, which I use in this recipe, from Whole Foods, but it can likely be found at many middle eastern markets as well. The spice has a distinctive citrusy flavor and a beautiful burgundy color. While, from a flavor perspective, there is no real substitute, the sumac is not integral to the success of the dish and may be omitted if not available. The sumac used for culinary purposes comes from a variety of non-poisonous sumac that grows wild in the middle east. Aleppo pepper can be purchased at many culinary stores and gourmet food shops, I have seen it both at Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods, but if neither of these are located near to you it is also available for purchase online through Penzy’s Spices. Aleppo is a ground pepper flake made from a moderately hot Turkish pepper. It is far more flavorful than it is spicy, if none is available Ancho Chili Powder makes a fine substitute.
Greens and Grains Gratin Adapted from a recipe by The Yellow House
1 Large Bunch of Winter Greens (Swiss Chard, Kale, or Mustard Greens work best), Stems Separated from Leaves, Washed
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
2 Shallots, Minced
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
3 Cups Cooked Grains (I used a mixture of Quinoa, Wheat Berries, and Farro)
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon, Plus 1 TSP Finely Grated Lemon Zest
1/2 TSP Hot Smoked Paprika
1/2 TSP Aleppo Pepper Flakes
1 Cup Greek Style Yogurt (I used a 2% variety)
Ground Sumac for Sprinkling on Top
Preheat the oven to 350 degreese
To prep the greens, take the washed stems and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Stack the leaves of the greens on top of one another. Orient the leaves so that the long side faces you and roll into a long, tight bundle. Cut the bundle into 1/2 inch segments. You should be left with long ribbons. Keep these separate from the stems as they will be incorporated at different times during the cooking process.
Heat a large cast iron skillet (see note above for alternatives*) over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot add about 2 TBSP of olive oil until shimmering. Add shallots and garlic and saute until fragrant, if they start to really brown turn down the heat so that they become soft and translucent. Add the grain stems, paprika, and a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring occasionally until the stems are slightly softened- 2-3 mins. Add the leaves to the pan along with the Aleppo Pepper and sautee until the greens are just tender. Remove from the heat and place in a large bowl along with the grains.
Toss the grain and greens mixture with your hands. Add lemon juice and 1/2 of the Parmesan and mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Mix in one of the eggs until well incorporated and spread into the bottom of the cast iron skillet (if the skillet is not well seasoned, oil it before adding the grains.)
In a medium sized bowl mix eggs with yogurt and remaining Parmesan. Spread on top of the grain and smooth out the top. Sprinkle a light covering of sumac on top.
Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until the topping is set and slightly browned. Serve along side a light salad and enjoy this homey and healthy winter feast. The dish keeps well wrapped in saran wrap for 3 or so days.