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Alicia Silverstone’s Raw Balls

21 May

These things – omg omg omg – are the tastiest little morsels ever. Friends who’ve tried them have said

“That’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted”

and

“Those cannot possibly be sugar-free”

and other things that were unintelligible.

Lately I’ve been making them to control my sugar cravings in the post-lunch lull at work. Dates and pure maple syrup provide benefits such as fiber, potassium, manganese, zinc, and other nutrients, and the fat and protein in the almond butter, walnuts, and almonds counteract their natural sugars, meaning I don’t have the spike (and crash) that I would with something like a cupcake. These are also very rich, so I’m satisfied with one or two. Win!

My only critique of this recipe is that it needs a better name. I had to put Alicia’s name in front of it to give it some credibility. As it is, whenever I say it out loud, I have to say it in a silly voice – because inside, I am a prepubescent. Raw balls. I digress.

I have made these two different ways. Originally, I used carob chips and processed them into a powder, because my closest health food store didn’t sell carob powder. These are sweetened with malted corn and barley. I also used toasted almond butter, which is sweetened with organic unrefined cane sugar. And, I suppose, not technically raw.

Then I wanted to make a truly refined-sugar-free version, so I processed a bar of unsweetened chocolate (100% pure cacao) and used raw almond butter, which is truly made from nothing but almonds.

Because of the fat and/or moisture content (?) in the chocolate, I wasn’t able to get a true powder consistency – it looked more like instant coffee that’s been hanging around too long – but it did the job.

The chocolate lent a bit more richness to this recipe than the carob, but I enjoy both. Of course, you could also sub unsweetened cocoa powder here. And you could use peanut butter or hazelnut butter instead of the almond… feel free to experiment!

Once all the ingredients are processed into a dough, roll it into 1″-2″ balls, then roll in a topping of your choice. I did half in unsweetened shredded coconut and half in a mixture of cocoa powder, cinnamon, and walnuts.

These get pretty mushy at room temperature, so I’d recommend eating them straight out of the fridge. And if transporting, be sure to do so in a hard, sealed container and not a Ziploc bag… not that you or I would ever make such a mushy mistake…

To your health!

RECIPE – Alicia Silverstone’s Raw Balls

Adapted from The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone
Makes 10 to 12 balls.

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup raw carob powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup almond butter
Optional: shredded unsweetened coconut, cocoa powder, instant coffee powder, spices, nuts – for rolling

Place the walnuts in a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Add the dates, and pulse until well combined with the nuts. Add the carob powder, syrup, vanilla extract, and salt. Process until mixture is thick and smooth. Add the almonds, and pulse a few times until combined; you want them to remain in crunchy chunks. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in almond butter with a sturdy spoon.

Form the mixture into golf-ball-size balls with your hands. Roll the balls in the topping of your choice. Place in a sealed container in the freezer until hardened.

VegWeek Day 6, Easy Banana Oat Bars

30 Sep

“None of us like to think that we can’t trust the institutions we’ve grown up with, but being a truly healthy person means exploring important issues deeply and thinking for yourself.”
-Alicia Silverstone, The Kind Diet

VegWeek_2011The Kind Diet is a book I happened upon at Borders a few years ago, but am just now getting around to reading. And so far, I love it. This is going to be a library-to-own book, for sure. I know some people feel that celebrity activists are annoying, that movie stars have no place talking about politics, or whatever. And to them I say, psshaw. Celebrities are people, too. (Yes, really!) If someone is passionate about a cause and can use his or her fame to make a significant impact in the world, I am all for it. Alicia Silverstone joins hundreds of celebrities in the vegan cause, people like Kelly Clarkson, Bill Clinton, Ellen Degeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio, Melanie Griffith, Paul McCartney, Alanis Morisette, Kevin Nealon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joaquin Phoenix, Liv Tyler, Barry White, Kate Winslet, and many others. Her book is worth checking out, and here’s why.

kind-diet

The Kind Diet is a great intro for those who are new to vegetarianism. Silverstone presents the issues in a systematic and comprehensive way, while keeping the tone relatively light. She writes in the conversational, friendly way you might expect from her. Of course, the decision to go veg is a big deal and not to be taken lightly. It’s not a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle change, and I feel that concept honored throughout this book. Silverstone offers gentle advice for people at every stage, whether “flirting” with changing their diet, ready to go vegan, or onto the “superhero” lifestyle (macrobiotic). She also provides fab recipes for each stage, a breakdown of commercial vegan products, and a primer on natural sweeteners.

Alicia-Silverstone-cookieThis is the adorablest picture in the front of the book.
And yes, dessert recipes are included!

Silverstone describes her transition to veganism and then the macrobiotic diet this way:

“I noticed that my whole body felt lighter. I was more vibrant and spunky. I felt like my heart had sort of opened a bit and my shoulders could relax, as if an overall softening had taken place. I no longer carried heavy animal protein in my body, which takes tons of energy to digest. Plus, I didn’t have the heaviness of the suffering in me; frightened animals produce lots of cortisol and adrenaline right before slaughter, and we can become stressed from eating their meat.”
-What’s so kind about dieting?, p. 10

I’ve read about this heart-opening, compassion-growing experience in multiple places now, and I have to admit, the idea is incredibly alluring. Who doesn’t want to be a more peaceful, loving version of themselves? The thought of eating the pain and suffering of animals also resonates more than any excuse I can make for eating meat. Check this book out. Let me know what you think.

You can listen to Alicia talk about her inspiration for the book here:

Easy Banana Oat Bars

Recipe Source: Adapted from The Kitchn

When I came across this recipe last week, I knew I had to try it ASAP. It’s so ridiculously easy, and so natural, so good for you! There’s no added, refined sugar, but plenty of natural sweetness coming from dried dates and super-ripe bananas. And I was happy to discover, the two combine to create a really fantastic, slightly gritty chewiness and substance that is oh-so-satisfying.

ingredients

There aren’t too many ingredients, at least not for me, but you can add or subtract from these however you see fit. The recipe below is my adaptation of the Kitchn’s adaptation. It can be adapted further still!

banana-oat bars

These bars are great for breakfast-on-the-go, an after-school snack, a little fuel before a workout, or a not-too-guilty dessert.

Makes one 8×8-inch pan.

2 large, very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Cinnamon and nutmeg

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 8×8-inch square baking dish with coconut oil or other fat.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid (a small food processor or hand-held blender works well for this). Mix in the vanilla extract and salt. Then stir in the oats, flax, dates, nuts, and coconut.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg and cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. When the pan is mostly cool, cut into bars and enjoy with a glass of milk or tea.

Double feature from our friends across the pond: British bird and muffins

10 Aug

Well up came that first cool cat,
He said: “Man, look at that!
Man, do you see what I see?
Well I want that middle chick”
“I want that little chick!”
“Hey man, save one chick for me”

Recipe source: Adapted from Elaine Lemm of about.com, original recipes here and here

Lemon Roasted Chicken

When my cooking club decided to have a British theme last month, I’ll admit, I raised an eyebrow. Among the many fond memories of my college semester in Cambridge, food did not feature. I thought about suddenly coming down with mad cow disease, or staying home to mourn the loss of my chances with Prince William and draw mustaches on the flawless Kate. But my friend Mary would have none of this, so I dubiously began looking up recipes.

This simple roast chicken was one I found, and although I don’t know how famously British it is, it sounded like a good opportunity for me to roast a whole chicken for the first time. Yes, embarrassingly enough, this food blogger had never roasted a whole bird.

Happily, I found the experience to be painless. I did modify the recipe slightly, to make it a wee bit more involved, but still brilliant. (I’m really working on all the English English I know, here.) I added carrots and onion into the pan and drastically reduced the amount of butter. Next time, I think I’ll mash some fresh herbs into the butter as well – perhaps rosemary or herbs de provence.

lemon roasted chicken

Jump to recipe, including my modifications, below.
Asparagus & Cheese Muffins

Although the chicken was lovely, it seemed a little pedestrian by itself, so I decided to make these muffins as well. With milk, yogurt, and cheese, if you’re in the mood to support dairy farmers, this is the recipe for you! It calls for Cheshire cheese, a cheese I’ve concluded is impossible to find in San Diego County. Wikipedia describes it as a “soft crumbly texture,” similar to a Wensleydale. But all the Wensleydale I found included fruit or berries, so I opted for an aged Irish white cheddar instead.

Kerrygold aged cheddar

Before folding the asparagus into the batter, the recipe calls for blanching the chopped stems. I love blanching green vegetables for the vibrant color they get, not to mention crispness. Green is my favorite color!

asparagus

The sad part about this recipe is that it makes about 20 muffins, although it is written for 12. The 12 spears of asparagus are enough for the batter, but not for decorating each muffin with a tip in the top. My suggestions for remedying this problem are as follows:

1) skip the decoration and just add the tips to the batter
2) cut tips off additional spears to make up for the recipe’s original sin
3) only give the decorated muffins to special people
4) sculpt eight lifelike asparagus tips from leftover green birthday candles
5) abandon recipe entirely and just eat the cheese

asparagus & cheese muffins

These muffins are pretty easy to make and would be lovely served at a brunch, as savory muffins are unusual and these have a slightly dry, biscuit-like texture. Of course, the muffins and chicken, served with a simple tossed salad on the side, would also make a nice dinner.

Jump to muffin recipe.

RECIPE – Lemon Roasted Chicken

1 3-lb 5oz/ 1.5kg roasting chicken
1/2 stick/55g butter, softened
1 medium lemon, halved
1 bulb garlic, skin on and halved across the bulb
2 carrots, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
3.5 fl oz/100ml dry white wine
1/2 pint/200ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon cold butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6.

Place the chicken breast side up in a deep roasting tin. Massage the softened butter all over the chicken breasts, legs, sides, and under skin. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Tuck one half of the lemon and one half of the garlic into the chicken cavity. Squeeze the juice of the second half over the chicken breast, and pop the squeezed lemon into the roasting tin with the second half of the garlic bulb, carrots, and onion.

Place the roasting tin into the oven and cook for 1 hr 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 170°F. Remove the chicken from the tin and wrap tightly in aluminum foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Place the roasting tin on a medium heat on the stove top and bring the juices up to a gentle simmer. Raise the heat to high and add the white wine. Stir the wine and juices thoroughly and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock, stir again and simmer until reduced by one third. Mash butter into flour, remove sauce from heat and vigorously whisk in flour-butter mixture to thicken.

Unwrap the chicken and add any juices released by the chicken into the sauce and bring back to the boil. Remove from the heat, and strain into a warmed sauceboat or jug. Serve the chicken immediately with the sauce on the side.

RECIPE – Asparagus & Cheese Muffins

12 spears of asparagus, British when in season
14 oz/400g all-purpose flour (about 2.5 cups)
1 tablespoon baking powder
7 oz/200g Cheshire cheese, cubed
4 oz /125g butter (1/2 cup or 1 stick)
1 small bunch chives, snipped into pieces
2/3 cup/150ml milk
1/2 cup/100ml plain yogurt
1 tsp English mustard
2 eggs
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas 6. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases and spray with nonstick coating.

Cut the asparagus stems into small pieces, about 1 cm in length, leaving the tips a little longer and blanch in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water, separating the tips from the pieces of stem.

In a large bowl, mix the flour and baking powder with the cheese. Melt the butter and pour into a jug. Add the chives, milk, yogurt, mustard and eggs. Mix well until combined and season generously with salt and pepper.

Gently fold the wet ingredients into the flour & cheese, and stir through the asparagus stems. Be careful not to over mix and stop as soon as the mixture is combined.

Spoon the mixture evenly between the muffin cases and push an asparagus tip into the middle of each.

Bake in the oven from 15-20 minutes until golden. Best eaten hot out of the oven, spread with a little cold butter.

Holiday treats: Sparking Cranberries & Spicy-Sweet Roasted Nuts

21 Dec

Recipe source: Sparkling Cranberries – 101 Cookbooks
Recipe source: Spicy Sweet Roasted Nuts – slashfood

Sparkling Cranberries

This post is written with many thanks to Heidi at 101 Cookbooks, for posting this recipe in the first place, and for her dedication to finding the just-right sugars for every step of the process. Better you than me, sister.

As with so many of my recipes, I found these little gems about a year ago and bookmarked them, only to forget about them. Then while I was scouring through my recipe-labeled emails to find an appetizer for Gourmet Friends, I discovered it again in an email I’d sent to myself. Thank you, Ghost of Christmas Past! These are a beautiful festive treat for a winter party, and very unique.

I’ve given only half the quantities of the original recipe here, because most people will only pop one or two each, for the novelty and intrigue. In general, people don’t go crazy over natural cranberries, and they’re sure to get some puckers from the kids, who think they look like candy. (Ha ha, suckers!) Rolling these berries perfectly is also incredibly time-consuming and laborious, and I think once you get to one cup, you won’t miss the second.

They really are pretty, though. I swear.

sparkling cranberries

To start, you’ll measure out a cup of fresh cranberries, making sure to pick out any shriveled or otherwise funky berries. Soak these overnight in a simple syrup (Heidi recommends making it with raw sugar, which gives a really nice molasses flavor).

cranberries

The next day, drain the berries. They should stay a little sticky and they’ll look really shiny and gorgemous. *ooooh, shiiiiiny*

While the berries are still wet, it’s time to roll them first in organic, unbleached sugar (a slightly bigger grain than your normal refined), and then in refined sugar. To set up a little station for yourself, you’ll need a bowl with your cranberries, a small bowl with organic unbleached sugar, a small bowl with regular refined sugar (and reserves of both), a slotted spoon, and the serving bowl for your finished cranberries. You’ll also want a comfy chair, ‘cuz this is gonna take a while.

cranberry rolling station

To coat, drop a berry into the organic sugar, shake off excess by tapping a slotted spoon against the bowl, then repeat in the refined sugar.

cranberry in sugar

Note: the sugar level in these bowls is too much. As you work through this process, some of the simple syrup will stay behind, creating lumps in your sugar. And that means lumps on your berries, which looks less like freshly fallen snow and more like the sludge the ice truck has pushed to the side of the road. You can see it starting a little in this picture, where I have attempted to roll entirely too many berries at once.

too many cranberries

In the end, though, with a little patience, you’ll get this very lovely result. I found that leaving these out, uncovered, made the sugar crunchy while keeping the inside delightfully juicy. Storing them in a covered bowl will soften the sugar some, and it’s not as nice. Over a couple days, the sugar will also start to clump and congeal, creating a weird cranberry-blob monster. So it’s best to roll these the same day you plan to serve them.

sparkling cranberries

Spicy-Sweet Roasted Nuts

This is a tried-and-true recipe I’ve made several times now, and it’s always a hit with a group of friends, or when I’m huddled away in my little work cubicle, storing up nuts for the winter. It’s also extremely easy to make.

nuts in measuring cup

You can use any combination of nuts for this, so long as they are raw. I usually buy raw nuts in bulk, but Trader Joe’s sells them as well, and for a decent price. My personal favorite mixture is cashews, almonds, pecans and walnuts. Sometimes I’ll use a few more cashews than almonds, as they seem to be the mildest and absorb flavor the best. And almonds are dry and they catch in my throat. *cough*

toasting nuts

Begin by dry-toasting the nuts in a large pan over a medium flame. Be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, and stir often. Eventually you will notice brown or black spots begin to appear; this is how you know they’re done.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and maple syrup together, then mix in fresh chopped rosemary and cayenne pepper to taste. Immediately pour this mixture over the toasted nuts, stir well to coat, and spread the nuts over a foil-lined baking sheet for easy cleanup. Sprinkle the nuts with sea or kosher salt and bake in a 350-degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Voila – you have it, a great party dish or gift.

spicy sweet roasted nuts

~ Happy Winter Solstice! ~

RECIPE – Sparkling Cranberries

For the simple syrup, raw cane sugar or real brown sugar lends a nice molasses flavor to the cranberries, but regular granulated sugar (or a blend of brown/white) will work.

1 cup cranberries, picked over
1 cup water
1 cup sugar (see head notes)
More sugar for coating: I do a mix of medium-grained organic sugar for the first coating, and then a second toss with regular granulated white sugar. You don’t want a huge grain for that first toss, just something larger than standard sugar, smaller than most turbinado sugars.

Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside. Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar just to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes and then pour it over the cranberries. If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them with larger grained sugar until they are well coated. I only use a scoop of sugar at a time, and small batches of cranberries, so the sugar doesn’t get too damp. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for a few hours.

Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour.

Makes 1 cup of sparkling cranberries.

RECIPE – Spicy Sweet Roasted Nuts

4 cups of raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less depending on your taste
2 teaspoons sea salt

In a large skillet, toast the nuts over medium heat, stirring occasionally so that they don’t burn. In a small saucepan, melt butter and maple syrup together. Once melted, add rosemary and cayenne. When the nuts are toasted (when the vast majority have darkened spots), pour the butter mixture over the nuts and toss to coat.

Spread the glazed nuts out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet (makes for far easier cleanup) and roast in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on your desired level of roast.

When you take the nuts out of the oven, sprinkle the salt over the top, so that it adheres to the still-sticky nuts. I like to use the flaky Maldon sea salt for these nuts, but in a pinch, kosher will also do just fine.

White Bean Dip

20 Nov

“What garlic is to food, insanity is to art.”
Anonymous

Recipe source: Everyday Italian by Giada di Laurentiis

As Michael Jackson said, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. My Black Bean Hummus recipe had a Mexican flair, while this recipe is Italian. See, it really is possible to promote tolerance and world peace through food! Amen.

Like the black bean version, this dip is a quickie to whip up in the food processor. Actually, slightly more quickie, because there are fewer veggies to chop. So when you’re done… you can have a quickie?

Moving on. My recommendation for the garlic is to peel it and chop in large chunks. Whatever you do, don’t use a garlic press for this recipe – the food processer will take care of chopping it up, and the more intact you keep the clove, the stronger the bite will be. This dip is great for raw veggies, I made it to get some carrots into my belly this week!

white bean dip

RECIPE – White Bean Dip with Pita Chips

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 pitas
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the bean puree to a small bowl.

Cut each pita in half and then into 8 wedges. Arrange the pita wedges on a large baking sheet. Pour the remaining oil over the pitas. Toss and spread out the wedges evenly. Sprinkle with the oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until toasted and golden in color.

Serve the pita toasts warm or at room temperature alongside the bean puree.

Pumpkin Pudding

4 Oct

Recipe Source: Skinny in the City email newsletter, Top 6 Skinny Foods for 2010

This is a really simple, unusual, delicious breakfast for the Fall and it’s full of fiber and protein. It’s rich, creamy and very satiating. Chances are good you’ll be satisfied far longer with a bowl of this than a bowl of your normal breakfast cereal. It also makes a nice post-lunch dessert if you’re a slave to that sort of thing… *cough*

All you do is combine 6 ounces of nonfat vanilla yogurt with 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin puree and a few spices (I like 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice). You can whisk it together or whip for a few seconds in the blender and voila! Pumpkin puddin’.

Black Bean Hummus

13 Jul

Recipe source: Julie via La Fuji Mama

It’s Summa-Summa-Summatime! Warm and sunny and time for picnics! This is a perfect dish to take to a picnic, or any other get-together where you have to bring along a side dish. (Jump to recipe)

I got this recipe from a great new food blog I found recently, La Fuji Mama (check out her Carrot Halwa – OMG! making soon…). I was really excited to find it, because I am completely burned out on hummus. Or, as my old roommate would say, “I am so over hummus.”

black bean hummus

I only changed the recipe a little – to make it more moist I added more lime juice, more tomatoes and a little bit of olive oil (though drastically less than traditional hummus).

All you do is throw black beans, cilantro, garlic, tomatoes, serrano chile, lime juice, cumin, cayenne, and salt into a food processor and blend away. Both times I’ve made this, I doubled the recipe, so you may want to have enough ingredients on-hand to do the same. One batch will be gone before you know it!

pita chips

To make homemade pita chips, I tear open the pita (I like my chips thin), cut it into triangles, brush one side with olive oil, and sprinkle on a mixture of fine-grain sea salt and Italian seasoning. You can use any seasoning you like on these, depending on what you’re serving them with. Then they bake at 350 degrees F for about 7 minutes, until lightly browned.

Ta-da!

(and thanks to Kim, my lovely hand model :))

RECIPE – Black Bean Hummus

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 serrano pepper
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Cut the leafy tops off the stems of your cilantro. Roughly chop the leaves, for an equivalent of about 3 packed tablespoons.

Cut your serrano pepper in half, width-wise. You only need one of the halves for this recipe. Cut the remaining half in half, length-wise, and remove seeds. Chop the pepper.

Roughly chop about 1/2 of a large tomato.

Add the cilantro, tomato, serrano pepper, garlic, spices, olive oil, and drained beans to a food processor.

Squeeze the lime juice into the processor as well. Puree.

This will yield close to 2 cups of hummus, which is about 4 servings as an appetizer. Serve with tortilla chips or pita bread.