Thursday, May 27, 2010

Banana Balls

I love bananas so much.  In fact, I probably eat enough bananas to better qualify as Gorilla Beringei than Homo Sapien.  Draw your own conclusions! ;)  Seriously though, I found THIS recipe last night, and I just knew I had to try it out. 

What's better than a fresh, ripe banana right?  Well maybe some creamy home made peanut butter.  Or maybe oats!  Oh how I love oats.  The beauty of this recipe is that you don't have to pick between these three wonderful things.  You get to combine them all into a healthy, super yummy snack full of fiber and potassium and folic acid.  It's perfect, bite sized, raw snack.

Sadly I don't have any pictures.  I don't tend to step by step document unless the recipe is actually mine, or at least adapted.  These didn't need any adapting whatsoever though, and the real truth of the matter is that I didn't get much of a chance to take pictures, because by the time I thought that I should maybe snap a picture or two, they were gone!

I see this snack often in my future.  I also see a lot of different variations.  I already have some ideas rolling around in my head.  Expect to see some recipes soon!  In the meantime, head on over and check out this amazing little snack!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Super Chunky Vegetable Sauce

I was looking around for something to have for lunch, and I was coming up blank.  One of the disadvantages to the "use it all up before we move" school of thought is that you end up with a lot of strange odds and ends that don't necessarily go together.  We've actually got quite a lot of food in the house; it's just that it's so diverse it's hard to combine it into a meal that makes sense.

I had a few fresh veggies, a few canned veggies and lots of bulk grains and pastas.  From that, this colorful, chunky oh so flavorful sauce was born.  It turned out pretty darned good for pure improvisation.

Super Chunky Vegetable Sauce

  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 large zucchini, quartered and sliced very thin
  • 5 artichoke hearts from jar of marinated artichoke hearts, diced
  • 1 can diced peeled tomatoes with juice
  • Splash of liquid from jar of artichoke hearts
  • Liberal shake of dried Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

1.  Spray large non-stick skillet with olive oil and heat over medium heat.

2.  Add diced onions and sauté until translucent.

3.  Add minced garlic and sauté one minute.

4.  Add sliced zucchini and continue to sauté for a minute or two more.

5.  Add diced artichoke hearts and can of diced tomatoes with the juice.

6.  Add a splash of liquid from the jar of artichoke hearts.

7.  Add a liberal shake of dried Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.  Stir well.

8.  Reduce heat to low and simmer sauce for eight to ten minutes, until zucchini is tender/crisp.

9.  Serve over hot cooked pasta or grains of choice.  I ate mine over Israeli couscous, but I imagine it would be great over quinoa or bulgur as well.


Vegan Italian Garlic Focaccia Bread

Tonight we're having a simple dinner of lasagna and a vegetable.  I made the lasagna a couple of months ago when I was stocking the freezer, and now it's time to eat it (once again with trying to use up the food we have before we move, so we don't have to attempt to move food!).  I always like to serve a nice home made bread with such a simple dinner, because it really dresses things up a bit and makes dinner a tad more interesting.

This is a pretty easy recipe, as far as bread recipes go.  It takes a bit of time, but most of that time is spent doing other stuff (packing, anyone?) while the bread rises.  This isn't quite as easy as the Super Fast Dinner Roll recipe, but it's pretty darned close.

Italian Garlic Focaccia


For the bread:
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 TBSP raw cane sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP vital wheat gluten
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
For the top:
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP vegan Parmesan
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1.  Combine yeast, warm water, and sugar in a large bowl.  Cover with clean dish towel and let sit for ten minutes.

2.  Add salt, flour, vital wheat gluten, and olive oil (1 TBSP).  Mix until everything is well incorporated.  Dough will be sticky.

3.  Turn out onto well floured surface and knead until smooth and shiny, about five minutes.

4.  Shape dough into ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover and let rise until double in size, about one hour.

5.  Punch down dough and divide in half.  Form each half into a ball, and place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed and lightly dusted with cornmeal.

6.  Roll each ball into an eight inch circle.

7.  Press fingertips into the dough to make indentions.

8.  Cover dough and let rise until double in size, about 20 minutes.

9.  Drizzle each loaf with 1 TBSP olive oil (I used my handy Misto oil sprayer; it makes things so much easier!).  Sprinkle 1 TBSP vegan Parmesan, 1 TBSP minced garlic, and 1 tsp Italian seasoning on top of each loaf.

10.  Bake at 375° for 20 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Savory Oats

This started out as a bit of experiment, inspired by a craving for grits I had last night.  I love grits, but I haven't had them in years, so needless to say, there were none in the house.  I started wondering if I could make oatmeal into a savory dish, like grits.  I broke out my Google-fu to see what Dr. Internet had to say about the subject, and I found a lot of people who like savory oats, but I didn't find any real recipes--just lots of statements like "Oh I love my oats with soy sauce" and "I make mine with green onions and cheese."

This morning I decided to try my hand at savory oats, catered to my own tastes.  I'm a HUGE fan of everything savory.  You've probably noticed that I don't really add any extra sweeteners to my recipes; the fruit or milk tends to have enough sweetness for me.  I've never had much of a sweet tooth, but I can put away the salty and/or savory dishes!

I made mine with water, but I would have used milk had I had any milk that doesn't have very distinctive flavors.  All I had on hand was coconut and vanilla soy.  We're moving at the end of the month, and I'm actually trying to stretch the food until then, so we don't have to try and move very much food.  But I digress...  Use whatever type of oats you would like, but follow the cooking directions on the package as to oat/liquid ratio and cook time.  Please excuse the wonky pictures.  It's cloudy outside today, so the natural light  wasn't so good.

Savory Oatmeal


  • 1/4 cup Steel Cut Oats
  • 3/4 cup water or milk of choice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt (I used Egg Beaters)
  • 2 TBSP shredded cheese
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 cup onion, diced

1.  Lightly spray medium sauce pan with olive oil and sauté onions and garlic, over medium heat, until just translucent.  You need to stir constantly so the garlic won't burn.

2.  Add the water or milk and the oats, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

3.  Once boil is achieved, turn down the heat to low and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.  Temper the egg by adding a spoonful of the hot oatmeal to the beaten eggs and stirring thoroughly.  Now do this again with a second spoonful of oatmeal into the eggs.  This brings the eggs to the temperature of the oats, ensuring that there won't be any big pieces of egg in your finished product.

 5.  Slowly add the eggs back into the sauce pan with the oatmeal, stirring well to incorporate.

 6.  Return heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until eggs are cooked through, about four minutes.

7.  Stir in half of shredded cheese.

8.  Top with a few grinds of fresh black pepper and the remaining tablespoon of shredded cheese.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How to Make Your Own Nut Butters

Making your own nut butter is far more healthy than than buying the typical jar of Jif at the grocery store, and it's far more economical than buying natural nut butters at health stores, or even at the grocery store if you're lucky enough to have a grocery store that sells natural nut butters.

The Jif website tells me that their peanut butter contains roasted peanuts, sugar, molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean), mono and diglycerides, and a metric crap-ton of salt.  Nut butters don't need any of that added stuff.  I don't even know what rapeseed oil is, and I have no idea why I'd want to consume anything that provides 150mg of sodium per serving.  The beauty of making it yourself is that you don't have to have any of that extra stuff, and if you want to sweeten it you can pick something way healthier than refined white sugar with which to do it--agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, etc.

Nut butter is fabulously healthy.  It contains fiber and essential fatty acids. It contains good quality, usable protein, without any cholesterol.  Nuts lower the risk of type II diabetes.  There are all kinds of benefits.  If you want to read further on the subject, here is a good place to start.

You can fancy up your nut butters, as well and make gourmet flavors.  Add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder to hazelnut butter for home made Nutella.  Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla to your almond butter.  Add a drizzle of honey to your sunflower seed butter.  Add a very ripe banana to your peanut butter.  Go where your imagination takes you.  I'm getting ahead of myself here though.  First the how to. 

All you need is a food processor and your nut of choice.  Many sites on the web will tell you that you've got to add oil to make your nut butter creamy, but this simply isn't so.  All it takes is a little bit of patience.  I made peanut butter for this how to.  I generally buy my nuts in bulk and raw.  This saves tons of money.  However, these particular peanuts came dry roasted, unsalted, and in a jar.  They were on sale for far to cheap for me to resist.  You can roast your nuts first, buy them roasted, or make raw nut butters, which are also amazing.  In fact, I prefer my almond butter to be raw.

1.  Put about two cups of your nut of choice in the food processor.  I've used peanuts, sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, and cashews, and they've all resulted in fabulous nut butters.  My absolute favorite is the sunflower seed.

2.  Turn the food processor on high, and cover your ears, because the beginning of this process is really loud.  The nuts will break down into a flour like consistency.

2.  Turn off the food processor and scrape down the sides.  Depending on the motor strength of your processor, you may want to rest it.  This is where the patience thing comes in.  You don't need to add any oil at all.  You just need to processes and rest, process and rest until the nuts begin to release their own natural oils.  This could take anywhere from a few minutes to 20 of them, depending on the strength of your food processor.

3.  The level of creaminess is personal preference.  The picture below is still a bit too grainy for my tastes.  I like my nut butters to be very smooth.  I also like to process them until they are pretty thin.  In this case, that's because I'm going to use this in Sesame Peanut Noodles.  I also like to process it somewhat thin, because you've got to store it in the refrigerator.  I don't know about you guys, but I don't have the patience to bring something to room temperature before I spread it, so I want it to come out of the fridge already spreadable.

This is still too thick and grainy for me, so I'm going to give it a few more minutes in the food processor.

4.  Once you've reached your desired smoothness and consistency, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  It lasts for a couple of weeks, at least.

Now it's getting there.



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Easy Cheddar Biscuits

I've never much liked traditional biscuits.  They are too heavy and too dense and too salty for my tastes.  I think it's all that shortening.  I've rather got a thing against shortening anyway, even when it's vegetable shortening.  Let's just call it an irrational prejudice and move on.

The only biscuits that I ever even remotely liked were the garlic cheese biscuits at Red Lobster.  They were lighter, and they did have the whole garlic thing going for them!  Needless to say, I don't eat there anymore, so it's been a long time since I've consumed a biscuit.

These are different.  They don't have any shortening or butter.  They are way less salty than your traditional biscuit, and they aren't nearly as dense, because they don't have to be rolled out and cut into shapes.  This is a simple drop biscuit with a surprise ingredient.

Easy Cheddar Biscuits


  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 2 TBSP mayo  (I used light Miracle Whip, because that's what we had.  I don't eat mayo, but this is what Drew keeps on hand.)

1.  In a small mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cheese. 

2.  Stir in milk and mayo until just moistened.  Don't overwork!

3.  Fill five greased/sprayed muffin cups 2/3 full. 

4.  Fill empty muffin cup(s) 1/2 full with water.

5.  Bake in a 425° oven for 18-20 minutes, until golden.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Banana Nut Bread Oatmeal Cookies

I thought about calling these "Super Healthy, Low Fat, Banana Nut Oatmeal, Stuffed Full of Omega 3s Cookies", but that's kinda long.  People would get tired of reading the title before they got to the super easy cookie recipe.  However, it's also all true.  The only added fat is from the nuts and the flax seeds, and that's the super healthy, full of essential Omega 3s kind of fat.  It's very important that you eat these cookies, actually, because you need those Omega 3s, and your body doesn't make them.  Cookies to the rescue!

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids: They are necessary for human health but the body can' t make them; you have to get them through food.  Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), Omega 3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. They have also become popular because they may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
Alright.  That's enough lecturing on why you should eat these cookies.  I also made mine sugar free.  The kiddo doesn't react well when sugar is involved (in fact, his father once termed his behavior on sugar as that of "a spastic robot on speed"), and it's not good for you anyway, so I do my best to limit sugar consumption in this house.  I used a sugar free maple syrup.  Let's not have the artificial sweetener debate right now, okay?  I use the only one deemed pregnancy safe by the FDA and my doctor (who has 12 letters behind his name), so I feel safe enough.  If you don't want to use a sugar free version, then feel free to use pure maple syrup.

Banana Nut Bread Oatmeal Cookies

  • 2 tsp flax seeds, ground
  • 2 TBSP cold water
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats, ground into flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped or crushed
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 1 heaping TBSP plain fat free soy yogurt

1.  Preheat oven to 375°.

2.  Grind 3/4 cups oats into flour using a food processor or blender.

It should look like this when you're finished.

3.  Mix ground flax (I grind mine in the Tribest Personal Blender with the grinder blade; you can use a coffee grinder, as well) with 2 TBSP cold water and set aside to thicken.

4.  Mix oats, oat flour, wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and walnuts in a large mixing bowl.

5.  To the flax mixture add syrup, vanilla, mashed banana (I just squish it around in the peel until it's mushy, and then drop it into the bowl), and soy yogurt, using a whisk to combine well.

6.  Pour wet mixture into dry mixture.

7.  Stir very well, until you've got a really thick batter.

8.  Drop by heaping TBSP onto a baking sheet that has been lined with lightly sprayed parchment paper.

9.  Flatten and smooth the tops with the back of the measuring spoon.

10.  Bake 10 minutes, or until the cookies are just slightly brown.


Better Than Oatmeal?

Impossible you say?  That's what I said too, until I tried this oat, rye, barley, and wheat mixture. I bought it on a whim at Trader Joe's.  I went in for THREE items, and I came out with two bags stuffed full, and $54.00 poorer.  Somehow that always happens to me in Trader Joe's.  But I digress...  This bowl of hot grain goodness was creamy and chewy all at once.  It was just slightly sweet, and so amazing.
  • 1/2 cup organic multi-grain cereal
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large banana
  • Extra dollop Greek yogurt for topping
  • Few chocolate peanut butter chips
  1. Place multi-grain cereal, coconut milk, and Greek yogurt into container with lid.
  2. Stir well, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Next morning, slice banana into medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat until it begins to melt and caramelize.
  4. Add soaked grains and 1 cup water to sauce pan, and cook until boiling.
  5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for three to five minutes more, until desired creaminess is achieved.
  6. Let cereal sit in bowl for a minute before serving.
  7. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a few chocolate peanut butter chips.

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