January 30, 2011

Raw Coconut Cashew Butter

I almost feel silly posting about this because it's so simple, but I didn't think to make my own coconut butter until I read about it online (the internet is magical).  Instead, I'd walk through Whole Foods and stare longingly at $15 jars of Artisana Coconut Butter wishing I could rationalize spending that much money on what was sure to be (healthy) fatty bliss. 

If you're anything like me, you'll be happy to know that you can cheaply and easily make your own coconut butter at home! All you need is a bag of raw unsweetened shredded coconut and a food processor, and you're good to go.  I think the bag of coconut I bought was $2.99, which makes this recipe 100% worth it.  I decided to up the interesting factor and make Coconut Cashew Butter just for the heck of it.  Delicious.

Being a nut butter fiend and all, this success had to be followed up.  So last night I made Roasted Unsalted Cashew Butter, inspired by Maranatha's version, which I had just tried (and loved) at my friend's house.  Another (cheap) success, especially because I bought a whole bag of roasted unsalted cashews at Trader Joe's for only $3.99.  Buying the "Halves & Pieces" is much cheaper, and it doesn't matter when you're just grinding them up anyway.  In sum, I'm going to make my own nut butter a lot more often (oh the possibilities!); however, I'll still make an exception to purchase my first love-- Trader Joe's Creamy Sea Salt Almond Butter made with roasted almonds <3.

Raw Coconut Cashew Butter
The better your food processor (or blender) the smoother this will be.  Since I don't have the coveted Vita-Mix, mine wasn't as smooth as I'm sure the store bought version is, but I'm perfectly happy with it, especially since it was about a fifth of the price. If you want to make plain coconut butter, use the whole bag of coconut and omit the cashews.

2 cups raw unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup raw cashews

Pour the coconut and cashews into the bowl of your food processor. Process until smooth and velvety, scraping down the sides as necessary (about 5-8 minutes).  Pour mixture into a jar and store at room temperature.

January 28, 2011

Pizza Casserole

I don't know if this recipe is exactly "blog worthy," but it's one of the best ideas I've had in a while; it's also great way to re-purpose leftovers. What I'm talking about is Pizza Casserole. It's not really a recipe, but more of a method.

The first thing you need is leftovers.  I like leftovers just fine, but after two or three days of eating them the same old way, I'm much less interested.  This makes them new again, sort of.  Something with a grain works best for this recipe such as vegetables/lentils in rice or black beans and millet, which is what I used this time. You could even mix together some leftover grains and veggies or beans, and then use that.

Next you need pasta sauce, cheese, and maybe some nutritional yeast.  Grab an oven safe bowl (I love these glass pyrex "tupperwares") and scoop in a portion of your leftovers.  Add sauce and nutritional yeast, if you're using it.  Mix well and then microwave the mixture until it's heated through.  Then, sprinkle cheese on top and pop it under the broiler (I did it in the toaster oven) until the top is brown and bubbly. Still with me? That's it (but be careful b/c it's super hot when it comes out of the oven... obviously).

Maybe this doesn't sound appealing to other people, but I loved it (and so did my sister!).  It tastes a lot like pizza, which means it's a crowd pleaser, but it's also pretty healthy too.  And who doesn't need another creative way to use up leftovers?

Pizza Casserole
Inspired by Peas and Thank You's Pizza Quinoa Casserole

leftovers (something with a grain works best)
oven safe dish
pasta sauce (I like Rao's Marinara $$$ or Newman's Own Sookarooni $)
nutritional yeast (optional)
mozzarella cheese (I used part-skim shredded)

Scoop a portion of your leftovers  into your oven safe dish.  Add desired amount of pasta sauce and nutritional yeast, if using.  Mix together and microwave until heated through, about 45 seconds.  Mix again, smooth it out and sprinkle cheese over the top.  Place under the broiler (the toaster oven's broiler works well) until the cheese is browned and bubbly.  Give yourself a pat on the back.

January 21, 2011

Whole Wheat Fig Newtons

Sometimes, I get cravings for Fig Newtons.  I have no explanation for why this happens; I didn't particularly like them as a kid and, quite frankly, I don't think I'd particularly like them now, but they have some kind of hold over me.  Perhaps, it's their guise of wholesomeness or the fact that I'm actually 80 years old.  Who knows, but I've found that most of the processed foods I enjoyed when I was a kid don't do much for me now.  These, however, are a different story.

I haven't had regular Fig Newtons in a long time, so I can't give you a completely accurate comparison, but I can guarantee you these are 100% better for you.  They may be able to be improved with an egg wash or by being sliced before baking but overall, I was happy with how they turned out.  Not my favorite cookie (are Fig Newtons really anyone's favorite cookie?) but pretty darn good.  If you're in the mood for a wholesome treat, give 'em a try!

Filling some mini Newtons
Pressing the sides together
Ready for the oven!
All done :)

Whole Wheat Fig Newtons
Adapted from EatLiveRun, makes about 40 cookies

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 ounces butter, softened
1/2 cup + 2 T brown sugar, packed
1 T cream or half and half
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

For filling:
2 cups dried figs, stems chopped off
3/4 cup warm water
2- 3 tablespoons maple syrup

For Filling: Place the figs and warm water in the bowl of a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms.  Add the maple syrup to taste and process until incorporated.

For the dough:
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Cream together the brown sugar and butter. Add the cream and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, beating after each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add to the butter and sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough forms (be careful not to over-mix). Turn dough out onto a floured countertop and form a smooth ball. [Note: the original recipe said to let the dough chill 2-4 hours, or overnight.  I found that I didn't need to chill it, so I've omitted this step]

Cut dough ball into four parts.  On a parchment lined baking sheet, roll out one part into a large rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Spoon desired amount of fig puree down the center of the rectangle, being sure to save room around the sides.  Fold the long sides of the rectangle in and pinch together.  Then, repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake for twenty five minutes, until golden [I think I should have taken mine out a couple minutes earlier]. Let cool completely before slicing with a sharp serrated knife.

January 15, 2011

Skillet Socca

Have you ever heard of Socca?  I read about it for the first time a few days ago on The Edible Perspective and was intrigued.  Socca is basically a flat chickpea cake, which originated in Nice, France, and in its simplest form is a mix of chickpea flour, olive oil, water, and salt.  I just happened to have a bag of chickpea flour on hand (yes, who am I?) that deserved to be put to good use, so I decided to give it a go.

Since this was my first time making Socca, I kept it pretty basic and used a recipe inspired by this one on Pure2Raw.  The Pure2Raw girls actually have a whole "Socca Tribute" tab on their blog; I guess I'm a little late to this party...

My first attempt at Socca turned out fabulous.  For one thing, the recipe couldn't be easier and the preparation couldn't be simpler.  There was zero fuss involved in this recipe, which makes me like it even more.  Perfect for a quick dinner on the side of soup or a salad! What really sealed the deal though was the taste and texture.  Lemme break it down for you-- if you love hummus and you like doughy pancakes (or fudgey brownies?), then you'll probably love Socca.  Warm, doughy, fudgey, hummus-flavored flat bread AND it's healthy? Yes, please.

P.s- I can't wait to make a sweet version! Ashley already did if you don't feel like waiting on me.

Skillet Socca
Adapted from Pure2Raw

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
1 teaspoon salt
generous pinch garlic powder and Hungarian hot paprika (optional)
1 1/4 cup water

Preheat olive oil in a skillet or a cast iron pan over medium heat. In a medium bowl whisk together chickpea flour, salt, garlic powder, and hot paprika. Continue whisking as you add the water. Mix until no lumps remain (the batter will be very watery-- this is normal). Pour the batter into the hot oiled skillet and cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes on one side.  Flip and continue cooking until the other side has browned.  Enjoy hot.

January 13, 2011

Crystallized Ginger Granola

One thing I make all the time, but have neglected to post about is granola.  I know I've posted a recipe or two in the past, but that was before I had my own formula down.  It's not that I want to deprive you, but making granola has become such a habit for me over the past year or so that I rarely measure out my ingredeints or think to take pictures.
I like to make small batches (about 3 cups or so) every 3-4 weeks so I can play around with different flavor combinations.  I've made chocolate granola, buckwheat granola, spiced granola, and almost everything in between.  All this experimentation has led me to realize that when it comes to granola, I prefer simplicity.  Tons of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit make it more of an energy dense trail mix than a topping for yogurt or oatmeal.  I'm also not always in the mood for a particular flavor so a lot of times I'll do a plain or subtly coconut-y granola.

I decided to measure out my ingredeints and write up a recipe this time because this granola is definitely one of my favorites.  I usually find that store bought versions are either too expensive or too sugary to buy on a regular basis, especially since making your own is so quick and easy.  See for yourself:

Crystallized Ginger Granola

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup oat bran (optional, you could just add another 1/4 cup oats)
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/3 cup whole raw almonds, chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
2 teaspoons raw sesame seeds
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce, or any fruit puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
pinch sea salt


Preheat your oven to 325F. Mix the first 6 ingredeints together in a large bowl. In a small bowl mix the coconut oil, maple syrup, applesauce, vanilla and sea salt. Stir to combine.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry until the dry mixture is well coated. Pour onto a baking sheet (lined or unlined) and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10-15 to prevent burning. The granola is done when it's golden brown and fragrant.

January 6, 2011

Peppermint Marshmallows

 You may be sick of sweets, but if you're anything like me, even a self-imposed "sugar detox" occasionally calls for something sweet.  You see, I'm not big on 'cutting out' but rather on 'cutting back.'  So even though I may not want to eat three Christmas cookies, that doesn't mean I'm not up for a less indulgent sweet treat.  To fit the bill, I've enlisted homemade hot chocolate topped with one of these Peppermint Marshmallows.

This was my first (and second... we'll get to this) time making marshmallows, and though the recipes weren't very difficult, there were definitely a few bumps along the way. 

The first recipe I tried was from Martha Stewart and, now, I've got a bone to pick with her.  To make a long story short, no amount of effort would dislodge these marshmallows from the plastic wrap I used to line the pan.  In retrospect, I should have know that un-greased plastic wrap and an unbelievably sticky mixture were a bad combination, but I trusted Martha, and I'll blame her for this one.   After successfully salvaging six or so poorly shaped marshmallows from the plastic wrap, I gave up and tossed the whole thing in the garbage.  On to recipe number two.

The next recipe I tried was from Gourmet and thankfully, this one worked beautifully thanks to a greased pan liberally dusted with confectioners sugar.  I did have a minor issue with the second recipe, but it was mostly due to my lack of proper kitchen equipment.

I'm not sure if everyone knows this, but I don't have a stand mixer or a hand-held mixer-- just my hands and a whisk.  Unfortunately, this marshmallow mixture gets so thick and so sticky that hands and a whisk simply aren't very effective.  After a few minutes of working out my arms, I transferred the mixture to my blender-- within 5 minutes,  the blender started smoking. 
 All was well in the end, but my marshmallows probably would have been a bit fluffier had I been properly equipped.  They still taste great, though.  And the swirls of food coloring, no matter how unnatural, make me happy, as does a warm fire, a first snow, and a mug of hot cocoa (with a peppermint marshmallow, of course).

Peppermint Marshmallows
Minimally adapted from Gourmet

about 1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water (about 115°F.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites*
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
red and green food coloring (optional)

*if egg safety is a problem in your area, substitute powdered egg whites reconstituted according to manufacturer's instructions
    Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners' sugar.  In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.

    In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F., about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

    With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and peppermint extract into sugar mixture until just combined.

    Pour mixture into baking pan and dot with food coloring.  Using a toothpick, swirl the food coloring into the marshmallow mixture, working quickly.  Sift 1/4 cup confectioners― sugar evenly over top. Let the marshmallows sit, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day.

    Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into desired size cubes. Sift remaining confectioners' sugar into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat. Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.