Saturday, June 14, 2014

Nibbles for new mommas (and other hungry folks)

I've been a mom for 4 weeks now.

I'm usually exhausted,  sometimes frustrated, always learning and completely in love with my new little girl. I've learned that I should say yes as much as possible when folks offer to help.  So I've gotten more rest, meals and encouragement than I ever would have gotten otherwise.

I've also learned that my life has changed in a hundred little ways. But one thing hasn't changed: my love of good, fresh, nourishing food. I just have to plan ahead a bit more to have some snacks and meals on hand that I can grab before a nap or as I get ready to pump.

So for all of you mommas out there looking for tasty food to keep your energy going as you breastfeed, pump or chase after your little one, here are two recipes you'll enjoy. Any hungry folks will like this baked oatmeal packed with berries and studded with walnuts or these energy bites made of sweet dates, apricots, walnuts and almond butter.  So share them with your family; actually, you'd better double the recipes so there's enough for everyone!

Baked Oatmeal

This hearty breakfast is a cross between a bowl of oatmeal and chewy oatmeal cookies. With both oats and flaxseed, this will help nursing mothers increase their milk supply. Nuts provide protein, but you can layer on more with milk or greek yogurt for serving.  I make this year-round with blueberries I freeze each August, but it's also delicious with seasonal fruit like apples in the fall, dried apricots and figs in the winter or raspberries in July. You can make it advance and warm the whole dish to serve or single portions as I've done all week long. It's a big hit at potlucks and brunches - you'll find eaters of all ages scraping their dishes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 inch pie dish or 9 inch square baking dish with the same oil you use in the recipe below.

In a large bowl, whisk together:

1/2 cup walnut oil, olive oil or melted coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 eggs (NOTE: you can use flax eggs if you want this to be vegan)

Then add:

3 cups local rolled oats
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1 3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
zest of one organic orange or lemon
1/4 t salt
1 t vanilla
3/4 c milk (almond milk works well, too)

Stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Fold in 1 generous cup fresh or frozen blueberries. Pour into the greased dish. Press 1/2 cup walnuts/pecans/almonds into the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes until fairly firm on top, like you'd expect from a sturdy oatmeal cookie or bar.

Serve warm topped with greek yogurt, fresh fruit, seeds...

PLAN AHEAD: Make 2 of these and freeze one right in the pan by covering tightly with foil. When you want to eat it, let it thaw on the counter and warm in the oven.

Energy Bites

These quick snacks are packed with fiber, protein, chia seeds and healthy fats to keep your energy up. The recipe is very flexible and can include any dried fruit, nuts and nut butter of your choice.  Nursing moms will find the oat flour and flax seed help with milk production while the dried fruit helps keep your digestive system regular.  I did not measure any ingredients, so the amounts below are approximations. What you want to end up with is a sticky "dough" that can be rolled into balls, so if it's too mealy and dry, add moisture through dried fruit, nut butters or honey/maple syrup and if it's too wet, add more nuts, seeds or dried coconut. These are best after refrigerated for an hour or two to firm up.  Enjoy with a cool glass of your favorite milk!

In a food processor, chop up some rolled oats to make oat flour. You can keep what you don't use in the refrigerator and use in baking. Remove the oat flour. Now combine about 1/2 cup dried dates and 1/2 cup dried apricots with 2/3 cup toasted walnuts to create a grainy meal.  Then add a tablespoon or two of coconut oil, a few tablespoons of almond butter, a good drizzle of honey, a few tablespoons each of chia seeds, flax meal, cocoa powder and coconut.  Process to combine. Then add enough oat flour to get the consistency you need to roll your energy bites into balls (kids love to help with this part!). Place them on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper or parchment and refrigerate to firm up. Then you can store the in a mason jar or other container with a lid.  

PLAN AHEAD: Make a double batch. Then pack away 1/2 of these treats in a mason jar and freeze. Let them thaw on the counter and then store in the refrigerator to keep them firm.

Monday, March 3, 2014

My love letter to pumpkin seeds

Dear pumpkin seeds,

When I was little, I loved scooping you out of pumpkins, all bathed in slimy goop so I could carve a scary jack-o-lantern for Halloween. But it wasn't until I grew up that I realized how scrumptious you are! I love you roasted with olive oil, cayenne and salt or cinnamon, sugar and walnut oil. I can't resist sprinkling you on top of my veggie nachos and tucking you into my burritos.  And what would chocolate bark, laced with spicy cayenne and dotted with bits of candied orange peel be without some of you scattered across the surface?!  Not to mention my favorite granola and oatmeal recipes that often include you with your other seedy friends.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that you are packed with healthy perks!  Besides being a wonderful source of protein and fiber, you give me a healthy dose of zinc to support my immune system as well as magnesium. As an expectant mom who is warding off everything from leg cramps to constipation, I welcome you, oh delicious source of magnesium!! So in your honor, I've got a few new recipes to showcase your best features.

One of your biggest fans,

Sweet & Spicy Munching Mix (aka "no more leg cramps" magnesium mix)

This tasty mix is packed with nuts and seeds, all great sources of magnesium, including sunflower seeds and walnuts, which are also high in vitamin B6 (another leg cramp fighter). Plus, I included figs and dark chocolate, which also include magnesium, as well as cayenne, which reduces swelling and improves circulation (my legs and ankles are feeling hopeful!

In a large skillet on low medium/low heat, toast equal amounts of walnuts and pumpkin seeds with 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp each of cinnamon and cayenne (use spices to your taste; I use Saigon Cinnamon, which has a higher cinnamon oil content and is therefore stronger than standard cinnamon; remember that a little cayenne goes a long way!). 

After a few minutes of gentle stirring, add in a half portion of sunflower seeds and a half portion of slivered/sliced almonds. Stir frequently as you continue to toast. You should be able to smell the spices and the nuts as they toast. If they brown too quickly, turn down the heat and stir more often.  Once the mix is fragrant and a light brown color, drizzle on 3 - 6 T of maple syrup (enough to barely coat the mix) and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with a few pinches of kosher salt

As the mix cools, stir the mix a few time to separate clumps.  Add in a handful of chopped dried mission figs. When the mix has completely cooled, add in a handful of chopped, quality *dark chocolate (I used Callebaut).

*NOTE to my prenatal yoga friends: I added in the chocolate after class as an afterthought and it really kicked the mix up a notch!!

Enjoy as is or sprinkle on plain yogurt - delicious!

NEXT blog post: kale and red cabbage salad with pumpkin seeds!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chocolate energy boost

I have always been one to eat several small meals throughout the day.  I could never make it from breakfast at 6am to lunch at noon without a few snacks in between!

Now that I'm feeding a growing baby, my snacks are even more important.  I'm always looking for more protein, fiber and energy to get through the day.

When I found these delectable, chocolatey brownies, I knew I had to add them to the snack rotation!  I came upon the recipe in a wonderful cookbook called Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen. It is packed with healthy recipes to keep your body strong and your taste buds satisfied.  The first time I made these treats, I sent them off to a friend in the midst of chemotherapy.  When I looked at the ingredients (and realized how delicious they are), I knew they'd be great for pregnant moms, athletes, nursing moms, and busy folks who eat on the go, too. They're packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and antioxidants.

They're easy to make (you just need a food processor) and they are very versatile. You can put in any combination of nuts and dried fruit that suits your fancy.  Just remember to get good quality bittersweet or dark chocolate! The darker it is, the more antioxidants you'll get!

If you like them fudgy, like I do, then keep them in the refrigerator. If you like them warm and gooey, then warm one up for a few seconds in the microwave. Then pour yourself a glass of you favorite milk and enjoy!

Happy eating!

Chocolate Energy Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x9 inch pan with coconut oil.

1 12oz package of bittersweet or dark chocolate chips (Ghiradelli is good)
3 T unrefined coconut oil
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed (I use Eden's organics - BPA free cans)
3 *flax eggs 
3/8 cup local maple syrup
generous 1/2 cup rolled oats (you can get local!)
2 t baking powder
3/4 cup pecans and walnuts, mixed
1/2 c dried cranberries
dash of salt

Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil in the microwave or on the stove. Transfer to a food processor. Add all remaining ingredients except nuts and fruit. Blend until smooth. Stir in nuts and fruit. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool. Serve warm or refrigerate for several hours before serving if you want a firm, fudgy brownie.

*whisk 3 T ground flax seeds with 9 T warm water and let sit for five minutes to thicken.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Who needs a bowl when you have acorn squash?

Friday night we gobbled up Thai food.

Saturday night we dug into Vietnamese food.

Tonight we savored a blend of Indian & Thai.

And fortunately, there are leftovers!

I found a recipe for winter vegetable dal in the latest issue of my Eating Well magazine and decided to give it my own twist. Rather than making the coconut curry lentil soup with squash in it, I decided to serve it in half of a roasted acorn squash.  Delicious!

It's rich with coconut milk and warm spices with chunks of veggies just made for curry dishes: cauliflower, sweet red pepper, and baby kale. The lentils add a nice, hearty texture to the soup, soaking up the flavorful broth. Packed with fiber, protein and a variety of vitamins, lentils round out the dish, making a single bowl satisfying as a meal.

And with plenty of leftovers, I have plans to doll up this warm, fragrant dish in a variety of ways later this week.  I'll serve it in bowls with warm slices of spiced halloumi on top, I'll ladle it over roasted sweet potatoes and if there is any left after that, I think it would be delicious over ginger mashed carrots & rutabaga.  Try your own variations!

Happy eating!

Winter Vegetable Dal

2 small acorn squash OR 2 1/2 c cubed, peeled winter squash/sweet potato

2 T coconut oil (or safflower oil)
1 t brown mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 T curry powder
12 fresh curry leaves or 1 large bay leaf (I had neither & it was still flavorful)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 serrano chile, finely diced (use fresh, canned or dry chiles soaked in hot water - any medium heat chile would be work here)
3 T finely chopped fresh ginger 
4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 1/2 c water
1 1/2 c red lentils (I used brown, but red would cook faster and lend a nice complimentary color to the warm spices)
1 14 ounce can "lite" coconut milk
1 1/2 t salt 
1 t ground turmeric
2 c cauliflower florets
1 medium or large chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (I used crimini)

2 c baby kale leaves (or winter greens of your choice)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Split each acorn squash in half either way, scoop out seeds and nestle into a baking dish. Rub insides with coconut oil and sprinkle with curry powder, salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven until tender and brown around the edges (about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the squash).


1. Get all veggies and other ingredients chopped and ready to go.  One time saver is to put the onion, ginger, chile, and garlic in your food processor and pulse to mince. 

2. Heat oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over low medium heat. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry powder (plus curry leaves, if using). Stir and cook until seeds start to pop (this happens fast - in about 20 - 30 seconds). Add onion, ginger, chile and garlic to pot, stir occasionally until onion softens and browns (about 4-5 minutes).

3. Add water, lentils, coconut milk, salt, turmeric (and bay leaf, if using). Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent the lentils from sticking. Add cauliflower, red pepper, mushrooms (and squash/sweet potato, if using instead of acorn squash bowls) and return to a boil.

4. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered until veggies are almost tender - about 15 minutes. Add kale and stir to submerse the leaves. Cook for an additional 5 - 10 minutes until all veggies are cooked through.

Serve dal in acorn squash bowls.  I topped mine with toasted cashews and coconut flakes.  You can also squeeze lime juice on top and sprinkle on fresh cilantro.

Post here to let me know what variations you try at home!

Friday, January 10, 2014

High-fiving myself in the kitchen

These are the best pumpkin muffins I've ever made.

I mean it.

And that's not bragging, it's just honesty.

They are moist, tender, fluffy and not afraid to flaunt their pumpkin goodness. I wanted to eat at least half a dozen with a cool glass of milk and then the other half with hot ginger lemon tea.

Alas, my stomach would not allow such indulgences, so instead, I settled for one each morning, sometimes slathered with almond butter, but most often naked and slightly warmed in the microwave.

Family and friends lucky enough to share these muffins will never know that they're packed with whole grain flour, flax meal and olive oil - they'll just gobble them up. And I really can't blame them.

I have dreams of pouring the whole bowl of batter into a bundt pan.  Hello, my new brunch favorite!

Doughnut Pumpkin Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a bit of olive oil on a cloth to grease 10 muffin cups or line them.

In a medium bowl, whisk together:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup ground flaxseed (grind your own from seeds or buy flax meal)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (Gryffon Ridge makes a lovely blend)

In a large bowl, whisk:

1 1/3 cups pumpkin puree (roast your own pumpkin - you won't be sorry!)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup agave
2 egg yolks

Whip the 2 egg whites until fluffy and full of peaks that hold their shape.
Roughly chop 1/2 cup dried tart cherries.

Mix dry ingredients into wet just until combined. Gently fold in egg whites and cherries. Divide batter between the 10 muffin cups (they'll be very full).

Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven).

Cool until no longer hot and steamy.  Then dip tops into melted coconut oil, followed by a mixture of cane sugar, cinnamon and ground ginger. Eat warm!

And is if that wasn't enough, I had my sights set on making a batch of soft, gingery molasses cookies - big and bold with a nice crunch of turbinado and a spicy bite of real ginger. 

The mix of intoxicating spices filled the entire house as the oven transformed the generous balls of dough into the best friend a glass of cold milk could ask for.

In fact, the cookies were so big, I had a tough time fitting them into my cookie jar.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Spiced Molasses Cookies

Place one oven rack in the middle of the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line 2 cookie sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together:

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (also called Vietnamese cinnamon) OR 1 t standard cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

In a standing mixer, whip:

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature until light and fluffy

Then add:
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons fresh, grated ginger

Mix well on medium speed to combine.

On low speed, gradually add in the flour mixture, mixing to combine.

Spread about 1/4 of turbinado sugar on a plate. Roll almost 1/4 cup of dough into a large ball and then roll in the plate to coat with sugar. Repeat with remaining dough, placing balls onto cookies sheets with 2 inches of space in between (you'll need to bake a few rounds of these).

Bake cookies one sheet at a time for about 14 minutes until tops are fairly firm, but still soft in the center, and there are gorgeous cracks on the surface.

Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, transfer to a rack to cool completely.

I got 17 cookies out of this recipe, though the original states only 14. Perhaps I used a scant 1/4 cup of dough - they were still mammoth.

These are amazing warm and delicious right out of the cookie jar. They keep very well in an airtight container or covered jar for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow, cast iron and pears

Snow in Maine - duh, right?  Not this year.  We've been snow-deprived for weeks.

And then came Nemo.

This meant a snow day on Friday and over two feet of fluffy, gorgeous flakes piled outside our home in layered mountains, carved by the wind.

This also meant extra time in the kitchen to bake, cook and poke through recipes, which makes an all-around awesome weekend.  From Heidi's Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread to turkey veggie soup with homemade stock and roasted red peppers stuffed with scrambled eggs, topped with pepper jack and broiled to golden deliciousness - it's all good.  But I'm most excited about the recipe mash-up I did to create my winter upside down cake.

I am reading Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life (read it now!) and immediately tagged the recipe for fresh ginger cake with caramelized pears. I know - big surprise for those of you who know me well as ginger is one of my food obsessions.  I've also been hankering for an upside down cake made with pears in one of my cast iron skillets.  Mom's memories of her mother making pineapple upside down cake in the same cast iron skillet each time have been lingering in the waiting room of my brain for weeks.  Now that I have a few of the cast iron pieces that my Oma and Opa cooked with for decades, I have no excuse to make that upside down cake wait any longer. So I took Molly's recipe and found a few others for upside down cakes and did a real mash up.  What came out of the oven was exactly what I was looking for and it tasted heavenly!  If you love gingerbread and melted brown sugar goodness (seriously - you just said,"bring it on!" - right?), then bake this immediately and enjoy a warm slice with ice cream melting down the sides.

Even if you don't have piles of snow outside your window.

Pear Ginger Upside Down Cake with Walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a *9 inch cast iron skillet, melt:

4 T unsalted butter on low
1/2 cup dark brown sugar

Stir to combine for about 4 minutes.  Then add:

2 sliced pears, firm ripe
1 cup walnuts (or a nut of your choice - pecans would be good, too)

Saute to coat and dissolve sugar - about another 5 minutes.  Watch the temperature, though so it doesn't caramelize and harden into taffy like clumps (I'm speaking from experience!).  Then turn off the heat, even out the mixture in the bottom of the pan with a spoon and turn to your cake batter.

In a small bowl, whisk:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flax meal (you could use nut meal here as well)
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 t ground cardamom

In a medium bowl, whisk:

1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
4 T melted, unsalted butter (slightly cooled)
1/4 c maple syrup
1 egg
2 T grated fresh ginger
1 t vanilla
zest of 1 orange

Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and stir to combine.  Pour the batter over the pear mixture in your skillet. Bake for about 35-40 until the cake springs back.  Cool in pan on rack for 3 minutes, then loosen edges, cover pan with plate and turn out cake.  Replace any pears or nuts that have stuck to the skillet.  Sprinkle the cake with 2 T dark rum.  Cool 10 more minutes and slice to serve warm with fresh whipped cream or ice cream of your choice.

*If you don't have a 9 inch cast iron skillet from Oma and Opa (or anyone else), then use a regular skillet to make the pear mixture as directed above, then scrape that into a 9 x 3 inch cake pan, pour batter on top and bake as directed.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Winter and fruit make friends

That's right - summer does not have a monopoly on fruit.

Winter is stepping up to the plate with pickled peaches, strawberry jam, flash frozen blueberries, preserved lemons, apple rhubarb chutney and my new favorite: dried fruit compote.

Picture this: plump figs, pears, cherries, dates and apricots swimming in sweet syrup turned dark from warm spices like cloves, star anise and cardamom. No extra sugar and it's a cinch to make.  Seriously - do you SEE the gorgeous figs strutting their stuff through the side of the mason jar?!

Ladle it over warm oatmeal for breakfast, thick Greek yogurt at lunch, or top with whipped cream and toasted nuts for dessert.  In fact, I would not blame you if you did all three in the same day.  

Go ahead. 
It's OK.  
It's fruit.  
It's good for you.

Dried Fruit Compote
adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe 

3 cups mixed dried fruit (natural, not coated with sugar)
*whole spices 
A few strips of citrus peel, just the outer layer (I used orange and grapefruit)
Boiling water, enough to cover the fruit - about 3 cups
juice of 1 orange

Mix the fruit in a large bowl, pottery or glass work well.  Put in the whole spices and strips of citrus peel.  Pour boiling water over everything until submerged.  Put a plate on top of the bowl so the fruit can steep and stew.  After an hour or two, check to see if your fruit is plump and tender.  If so, then take out the whole herbs and citrus strips and stir in the orange juice.

Mollie suggests you serve it room temperature or chilled, but I envision it delicious warmed on ginger ice cream.  We enjoyed ours this morning on baked oatmeal with thick Greek yogurt and toasted nuts.  I intend on having more this week on various hot cereals from bulgur wheat to quinoa to steel cut oats.  With the yogurt and nuts of course.

Store your compote in jars in the refrigerator for a week or two (as long as their is enough liquid to cover the top of the fruit).  I'm going to try freezing a small jar as well.

*I used a few star anise and a tea ball filled with cloves & cardamom pods. A cheese cloth bag would've worked fine, too.  Use the spices you love.  I would've thrown in a cinnamon stick if I'd had one on hand.  Slices of fresh ginger would be nice, too.