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Gazpacho & Breadsticks

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Breadsticks and bread were already in the "oven". Their aromas were filling up all corners of the house and I was like a little kid checking on them every half an hour to see if they were ready to eat. Be ready for your home to smell at least as lovely as your favorite bakery that you walk into on a Saturday morning when the crisp, baked-to-perfection pastries and rolls, etc. are just taken out of the oven. I promise I'll post the bread recipe next. So much rain and gloomy skies (and my lack of lighting) make it a bit difficult to take pictures so if you're inpatient, talk to Mother Nature and put in an order for some sunshine in the Bay Area, thanks! While it's been pretty chilly lately, last weekend's temperatures still allowed for some cold soup. As I said, breadsticks were already in the making and I had to make something to eat them with, right? So I did, and here are the recipes.
Back in August, when I was in Barcelona, I couldn't get enough of the tomato based veggie soup, Gazpacho. I just love that stuff. In a bowl, a cup, out of a bottle, served up any way I'll have it all. I've experimented with it over that past few months and it's really fun to change it up with different herbs added. Here are the approximate proportions for the version I love the most:

(Serves maybe 2)
2 large tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
1 small carrot
1/4 red bell pepper 
1 green onion / chunk of onion
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1 stalk celery
salt & pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 cup water

*Add some berbere (typical Ethiopian spice mix) to turn up the heat on this savory bowl of blended veggies.
Blend all the ingredients until you get the smoothest juice-like soup, just as it's served traditionally.
Alternative: I sometimes run the blender for a shorter period and let the soup stay somewhat chunky. I told you I like to experiment with it and I really like it with the rougher texture too. Good for days when you feel like chewing ; )
Pour the soup into serving bowls, drizzle some olive oil on top and offer breadsticks (recipe follows) or crackers/chips with it. Oh so good.

1 cup buckwheat groats*
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup flax seeds 
  2 stalks green onion
1 stalk fresh spring garlic / 1 clove garlic
 splash of olive oil
 ~ ½ tsp (or more) salt
basil, oregano to taste

*The buckwheat groats need to be soaked overnight and then sprouted for a day. Then, you can use the "buckwheaties" to make the breadsticks....so plan ahead!
Process all of the ingredients until they're evenly mixed. Taste test your mixture, add more herbs, salt, other ingredients, if needed, and process a little longer, then spread it out about half an inch (1.2-1.5 cm) thick on a teflex sheet. Score it to get sticks of the desired width and dehydrate at 115 ˚F (46˚C) for a couple of ours before flipping it onto a screen and dehydrating it 1-3 hours longer. Dehydration times depend on so many things so just keep checking on the sticks or if you're away don't worry because leaving them in there for a couple of hours longer will not hurt them. It will at least keep them warm. They're the best fresh out of the "oven"! These are great with salads and to take them along for a snack at work/school or when you're on the road, so you might wanna make an extra batch or too. The truth is, you'll probably end up with half as much as what you put in the dehydrator, especially if you have a big family and many walk by the "oven" every now and then. Good luck and enjoy! : )

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Brownie Bombs

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Need an excuse to eat chocolate? Well, let's review the health benefits of cacao and cinnamon. Just kidding! I'm not going to put you through any of that and delay your work in the kitchen. I've already talked about the goodness cacao, cinnamon, and nuts have to offer so I'll jump to dates, the main ingredient of these precious brownies.

Dates Health Note
Rich in magnesium, iron, potassium, B-vitamins, the naturally sweet and moist fruits can help you build blood cells, strengthen your bones, and balance your blood pressure. They have tons of fiber too so it's a very good idea to introduce your friends to raw foods by offering them desserts made with dates. You know they will thank you for it! Dates will also come to your rescue whenever you need an energy boost. Carry a bagful of them with you to have something to reach for when you forgot your pre-workout snack or whenever you just need an afternoon "pick-me-up". Of course, an even better alternative is to take along some brownie balls ; )

(Makes 13-14 walnut size balls)
12 medjool dates
1/2 cup pecans (or walnuts/almonds)
2-3 tbsp almond butter (or walnut/pecan butter)
1/4 cup cacao powder*
~ 1 tbsp cacao nibs*
small pinch of salt
cinnamon/shredded coconut/lucuma powder/ground nuts, etc. for rolling

*if your body doesn't respond well to cacao or you just want to avoid caffeine, use carob powder instead of cacao and skip the cacao nibs

Remove the pits from the dates and place all ingredients but the cacao nibs in the food processor. Process until you get a fairly smooth texture. When you pinch some of it in between fingers it should hold shape. Add the cacao nibs and process for a few more seconds just to mix them in there without braking them down. Using  your palms form the paste into small balls and roll them into cinnamon, etc. They're very soft freshly made and firm up quite a bit in the fridge.
Serve them as is or with vanilla ice-cream. Yes, it is Heaven on Earth.

Apple-Cinnamon gRAWnola

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I couldn't resist taking advantage of having such a beautiful yard and I decided to take pictures outside in the morning sun.
Sometimes it takes months for me to make a recipe that I come up with. This is one of those cases. For some reason, I never got to it until last weekend. I've been looking forward to making this for two reasons: it's a great snack that's easy to take along and I know that this way I'll eat pumpkin seeds. Don't ask why but I prefer them toasted and I just don't feel like eating any raw, unfortunately, because they're incredibly good for you. Yep, adding pumpkin seeds to my daily menu is the main reason I've been wanting to make this.

Pumpkin Seed Nutrition
Like all nuts and seeds, if you're on the lookout for some high quality protein, these green seeds are an excellent snack to reach for. Very high in protein but it doesn't stop there. Pumpkin seeds are among the most nutritious seeds out there. Manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, zinc, and potassium are all present in incredible amounts. All of these minerals are essential for bone health and as most of us have heard it over and over, zinc plays an important role in keeping your immune system strong and might even play a role in supporting prostate health. If a loved one is fighting arthritis be sure to tell them about the anti-inflammatory properties of pumpkin seeds, or even better, don't start lecturing them just make them a nutritious yummy snack like this gRAWnola or something else they'll be happy to munch on daily. The phytosterols found in pumpkin (and sunflower) seeds also support your immune system, help lower cholesterol, and lessen the development of cancer. Need I say more? Eat your nuts and seeds and don't forget to remove (and eat) those from your pumpkin.   

Apple Cinnamon gRAWnola
1/2 cup almonds (I used soaked/sprouted ones)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (I used soaked/sprouted ones)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (I used soaked/sprouted ones)
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4-1/2 cup dried currants/raisins (or any dried fruit you prefer)
1 apple
sprinkle of salt
cinnamon to taste
sweetener to taste
optional: vanilla

Put the nuts, seeds, and currants in a bowl. Grate the apple (I didn't peel mine but you may want to) and add to the bowl along with the salt, cinnamon, sweetener, and vanilla if you're using any. Using your hands, mix it well and spread the mixture on a dehydrator sheet. Dehydrate at 115 ˚F (46˚C) for a couple of hours or longer depending on how soft or crunchy you like them.
Store your gRAWnola in a jar or container and if for some reason you don't finish your batch within a few days you might want to put it in the fridge.

Serving suggestions:
For breakfast, serve it dry or with fresh fruit and/or nut mylk added. Store bought cereals out of a box are not the greatest way to start the day. Here's an alternative. Serve it to your little ones because even if it takes adding extra sweeteners to their bowl you started them with a much healthier brekfast. Pack some dry into their lunch box for a mid-afternoon snack.
Another alternative is to add more sweetener to your already somewhat dehydrated mixture and press the gRAWnola into a square dish. Refrigerate it, cut into bars and wrap the individual bars into wax paper or plastic wrap. VoilĂ , you have gRAWnola bars to pack and send your kids off to school with. Ok, you better get to work now. I hope to give you one of my favorite recipes this weekend. All I'm going to tell you is that it's a dessert! : ) Have a great weekend in your apple-cinnamon-aroma-filled home and stay tuned...