Chocolate Ginger Feel-Good Granola, Gluten Free and Vegan

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Fairy tales often deal with the issue of temptation, wanting what is bad for us or what we shouldn’t have. Snow White almost dies for a bite of apple, and Rapunzel’s mother loses her own child for a taste of bitter greens. For those of us with IBS, given into a craving often means physical punishment. This is true for both heavy fatty food and bright fresh ones. Feel good food sometimes feels like an oxymoron. The foods we associate with emotional comfort often stress our digestive systems.

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I created this granola for those times when you’re feeling tempted but don’t want to upset your digestive system. Ginger calms irritable bellies, while chocolate does away with irritable moods. It’s lower in sugar than most granola recipes, FODMAP friendly, gluten free, and vegan. This is a treat you can feel good about: tempting, nourishing and easy to digest.

I’ve found that many granola recipes contain as much fat and sugar as cookie dough, but you can achieve sweet and crunchy granola perfection with way less. I chose molasses as my sweetener for this recipe. It has a lovely dark color and rich flavor that complement the ginger and chocolate.

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Chocolate Ginger Feel-Good Granola

 3 cups gluten free rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup crystalized ginger, minced
1/2 cup dark chocolate mini chips (I used Enjoy Life brand)

Heat oven to 325°.

In a large bowl combine oats, seeds, nuts, and spice. Toss to combine.

Place oil and molasses in a small bowl and microwave 30-45 seconds, until coconut oil is fully melted. Stir to combine and pour over dry ingredients, tossing thoroughly until granola is evenly coated.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide granola between them, spreading in a thin even layer.

Bake 20 minutes, with baking sheets in the top and bottom third of the oven, switching and rotating trays after 10 minutes. Do not stir; you’ll end up with bigger clumps of granola.

Remove granola to wire racks and sprinkle with chocolate chips and crystalized ginger. Cool completely before eating or storing.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure Spelt Gnocchi

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When I think of spring produce I picture a verdant bounty: lettuce, greens, herbs, asparagus, peas. Add in some carrots and radishes and you’ve pretty much covered the bounty of the farmer’s market from April to June. The flavors are fresh, bright and clean, perfect for a salad or fragrant soup. Still, by June I’m desperate for something different and I was overjoyed by the first appearance of jewel toned cherry tomatoes. I bought them not because I had planned for them but because they were there and I desired them.

Spontaneous desire, whim, and excitement are some of my favorite things about cooking. I love buying ingredients that inspire me and figuring out what to do with them later. That’s not to say that I don’t love or use recipes, but I like to think of them as inspirations, not rules. The gnocchi I made was heavily influenced by Naturally Ella’s Spelt Gnocchi. I followed her measurements and instructions for the gnocchi itself to the letter. But Instead of peas and walnuts I used fresh tomatoes, oregano, and parmesan. I saved my peas and carrots for a delicate salad that I served alongside. If you’re interested in making both components, the salad recipe is at the the bottom of the post.

These gnocchi, like most pasta goes well with a variety of ingredients. Simply pick a vegetable, an herb and a cheese and you have dinner. I used cherry tomatoes + parmesan + oregano. Some other ideas…

zucchini + goat cheese + mint
asparagus + cheddar + chives
eggplant + smoked mozzarella + parsley

Combined, the two dishes told a story of transition between seasons, of brightness and richness. It was delicious, but instead of making it just the way I did I encourage you to bring a little of your own taste and available produce to the dish. Let me know how it turns out!

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Choose Your Own Adventure Spelt Gnocchi

1, 16 oz. container of ricotta
1 large egg
1/2 cup (50 g) grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon (1 g) salt
3/4 cup (108 g) spelt flour, plus extra for rolling
2 cups (1 pint) bite sized veggies (zucchini, tomatoes, asparagus, etc.)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
2 cloves garlic, one minced, one thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (oregano, parsley, dill, basil)
1/2 cup (50 g) cheese (parmesan, goat, cheddar, etc.)
salt and pepper to taste

Drain the ricotta in a cheese cloth lined mesh strainer for an hour. Dump into a bowl and add egg, parmesan, salt and flour. Stir until it forms a ball, then cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Check consistency, it should feel tacky but not too sticky. Add a bit more flour if needed.

Heat oven to 400° F/205° C.

Pour dough onto a floured surface and use a bench scraper to cut into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 1/2” log. Cut the logs into 3/4” hunks with the scraper, transferring cut pieces to a floured baking sheet.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, toss vegetables with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the diced garlic clove, and some salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and cook in preheated oven for 10-20 minutes, checking and stirring every 5 minutes, until softened slightly with charred spots. Remove from oven and set aside.

Add gnocchi to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes.

While gnocchi are cooking, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the sliced garlic, then the gnocchi.

Brown gnocchi on all sides, then add vegetables, 1/2 the herbs and half the cheese. Turn off the heat and toss. If it seems dry, add a few spoonfuls of gnocchi water.

Serve garnished with remaining herbs and cheese.

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Carrot Apple Salad

1 lb. carrots, peeled and shaved into ribbons
1 pint sugar snap peas
1/2 cup (75 g) english peas
1 apple, julienned
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) dijon mustard
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ( 4 g) salt
1/4 teaspoon (.5 g) freshly ground black pepper
basil leaves for garnish

Combine carrots, both types of peas, and apple in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk honey, vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper together. Pour over salad. Top with basil leaves.

 

 

Cappuccino Blondies and The Potluck Conundrum

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image by Ian Sargent

Before I develop an intolerance to modern wheat, I almost never brought something sweet to a party. Instead I brought salads, spanakopita, crudités.

I try to include vegetables with every meal and I find that they are often underrepresented at social gatherings, limited a few slices of mealy tomato and the sparse confetti of peppers and onions tossed into a bowl of cold pasta. It’s sad because vegetables can be so sexy. But as much as I love them, even the most alluring veggies have a hard time competing with dessert.

I can be perfectly happy with a handful of strawberries at the end of a meal, but only if I’m not surrounded by people noshing on brownies and mini cheesecakes. And this is often the situation I find myself in, one where an entire table is dedicated to sweets, but not a one is safe for me to consume. So, now I bring desserts.

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Ian Sargent

These blondies were a hit at the cookout where they made their debut. They’re sweet, chewy, and just a little bit unusual. While I love to experiment with odd flavors—like the pineapple, star anise, and sunflower seed granola I made last week—I keep it classic when serving a crowd. These blondies have espresso powder, white chocolate chips, and oatmeal. I made them with spelt flour which has a hearty sweetness and rich color that complement the white chocolate. Whole grain flours make desserts feel more satisfying and make me feel a little less guilty for abandoning my beloved vegetables.

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Ian Sargent

Cappuccino Blondies

 1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole spelt flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon coarsely ground coffee beans (optional)

 

Heat oven to 350° F. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with foil and grease lightly.

With a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.

Dump in espresso, salt, baking soda and spelt flour and beat until thoroughly incorporated.

Stir in oats and chips with a spatula or spoon until evenly distributed through batter.

Pour into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle coffee beans on top if desired and press into the dough.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is set and no longer wet looking.

Amaranth Spelt Bread

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Before going gluten free I didn’t realize how much I relied on wheat. I ate sandwiches and pizza occasionally, but I didn’t consider that wheat thickens béchamel, blankets wontons, and binds granola. Cutting wheat out of your diet doesn’t just change taste, it changes technique. You find new ways to thicken, add chewiness, make things fluffy. After spending the last month dairy free I’ve had a similar revelation.

I had stopped noticing all the ways I consumed milk products: yogurt for breakfast, milk in my tea, a sprinkle of parmesan every time I make pasta—actually a sprinkle of cheese over most meals. Milk and cheese bind sauces, smooth over rough edges. A month of topping tacos with cilantro and eating pasta sprinkled with toasted nuts made me realize how much I used dairy as a flavor crutch. Without it, I tasted other ingredients more clearly.

Wheat and dairy both flavor and structure most of our diets. Get rid of them and you have to find new methods, new tastes. When I began baking gluten free, I was obsessed with finding the perfect replacement for wheat flour, but as I experimented more I realized that the flours I was using could do far more than mimic wheat. They had their own tastes and textures.

Amaranth flour was one of the last ones I experimented with. Early in my explorations, I read on Gluten Free Girl that amaranth had a strong, grassy taste and tended to overpower other flavors, so I stayed away from it. But later on I encountered this article on the benefits of amaranth and I read elsewhere that this tiny grain made bread more tender and extended shelf life—crucial with gluten free baked goods, which seem to go stale almost immediately.

This bread isn’t gluten free, but if you don’t have celiac disease and simply find wheat difficult to digest you may want to give it a try. You can read more about why I eat spelt—and why maybe you can too—here. This boule is high fiber and high protein with a lovely earthy flavor that works beautifully plain, spread with jam, or made into a grilled cheese sandwich.

Please let me know how you like it and tell me about your own favorite alternative flours in the comments.

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Amaranth Spelt Bread

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) warm water
2 teaspoons (7 g) dry active yeast
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey (or maple syrup to make it vegan)
2 cups white (280 ml) spelt flour
1 cup (140 ml) whole grain spelt, plus more for rolling out
1 cup (108 g) amaranth
1 1/2 teaspoons (10 g) sea salt

Mix warm water, yeast, olive oil and honey and set aside for 5-10 minutes.Stir in flours to create a shaggy dough.Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.

Return to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes.

Heat over to 375°.

Turn dough out onto a lightly flour surface and knead for another 2 minutes, until smooth. Shape into a ball and set on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and make 2 shallow slices in the top surface. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, another 30 minutes or so.

Spray surface lightly with water and place in the center of pre-heated oven. Spray inside of oven with more water and bake for 40 minutes.

Cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

 

Magical Objects: My Great Grandmother’s Spoons

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Most modern meals require a fork, but they lack the simply beauty of spoons. Spoons are for stirring, scooping, serving, tasting. Spoons are symbolic: silver ones for prosperity, “spoon fed” for having it easy, “greasy spoon” for a diner. I collect spoons; for me they are a totem. It started with my Great Grandmother. She had two racks of decorative spoons hanging in her dining room. Some of them were from places she had traveled, others may have been gifts. When she passed my sister and I each inherited eighteen spoons.

My Great Grandmother lived 96 years. Until the end, she had rich auburn hair, wore pearls, and lived alone. She was the smartest woman in my family and the most liberal, an avid reader, news junky, who could beat anyone at cribbage. She was elegant, a dainty eater who loved beautiful serving dishes and always put a bendy straw in my Coke.

I wish I had started my own collection earlier, mapping out my travels with coffee spoons like J. Alfred Prufrock. Instead, there are haphazard additions: a spoon my sister brought from Rome, one decorated with a confederate soldier’s cap found by a friend at a thrift shop here in Georgia, a blue one salvaged from the beach at Dead Horse Bay.

When I inherited the spoons I examined each one, imagine the places they came from, noticing the fine details. One is adorned with a tiny pair of clogs, another has the raised veins of a leaf. Their beauty enchants me. I imagine them laid out on the tables of kings, traveling over the ocean, carefully wrapped in towels. I love the way they’ve aged, the dark rainbows of tarnish. I imagine their stories, as if each was a tiny world like a snow globe encapsulating a piece of my grandmother’s history.

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Blackberry Rhubarb Bran Muffins (Vegan) and Striving for Better-ness

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“In a time of destruction, create something.”
          —Maxine Hong Kingston

I’m job searching right now—or “on the market,” as they say in academia, which sounds a lot more optimistic. Revising my CV, compiling samples and writing cover letters raises questions about the line between self-acceptance and self-improvement. Is that article really cringe-worthy or am I just having a bad day? Should I include a photo? Do I need a more attention-grabbing format?

These are worthwhile questions, but under them lurks a sinister subtext: am I good enough? If I don’t get this job is it because I didn’t try hard enough/write well enough/present myself confidently enough? This self-doubt often comes when we strive to be better. Improving requires humility, an admission of flaws, room for growth. And there always is, but there are also pieces of every circumstance that are beyond our control.

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When it comes to my health, I generally try to accept my stomach issues. I stay away from trigger foods, but I try not to blame myself when I have a rough day. Still, I like to think that it is possible that one day I’ll be symptom free. So every so often I do something different, hoping for improvement. Currently I’m trying a month without dairy.

These muffins are adapted from a recipe shared by Deb on Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made mine with oat bran, whole grain spelt flour, a flax egg, and almond milk soured with a tablespoon of cider vinegar. For fruit, I chose seasonal rhubarb and not-so-seasonal blackberries. These feel just right for early spring, hearty enough for cold mornings with tart sweetness.  I eat them warm with a dab of vegan butter.

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Blackberry Rhubarb Bran Muffins
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/3 (315 ml) cups almond milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons hot water, mixed and rested for 5 minutes)
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup (50 g) packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups (90 grams) oat bran
1 1/4 cups (175 g) whole grain spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon Turbinado sugar
1/2 cup chopped rhubarb
3/4 cup whole blackberries

Heat oven to 425°F. Put a dozen muffin liners in a standard sized muffin tin.

Stir vinegar into almond milk and prepare flax egg. Mix together in a large bowl with coconut oil, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest.

In a separate bowl combine oat bran, spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir wet into dry and mix until no lumps remain.

Scoop about 2 tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup. add a layer of fruit, sprinkle with half the sugar, then top with remaining batter and dust with the rest of the sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, testing frequently with a toothpick. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

My Favorite Granolas

 

You’ve probably already figured this out but I love granola. I started making my own a few years ago and now I wouldn’t even consider buying a bag of the store bought stuff. Homemade granola is healthier, tastier, makes your house smell amazing, and you can make flavors that you’ll never find in the store.

Sometimes I like to keep it simple just oats, nuts and dried fruit. My go to base recipe is this one from Cookie and Kate. It has a good balance of salt and sweetness.

I change my granola with the seasons. In the winter I love this Grapefruit Cardamom Granola. Come spring I want something bright and fruity like this Strawberry Coconut Granola or my very own Fantasy Mango Granola. In the summer I sprinkle a big bowls of fruit with Berry Crunch Granola or stir some into my Magical Muscadine Chia Seed Jam. When the leaves start to change its time for Local Pecan and Sweet Potato Granola and during the holidays I crave Gingerbread Granola.

I also love coconut so I’m a big fan of this clumpy tropical one. And then there’s the decadent and so delicious Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola that I could happily eat every day for the rest of my life.

What are your favorite granola recipes? Any flavor combinations you’ve been wanting to try?

 

Scallion-Herb-Spelt-Einkorn Linguini and the Need for Needless Complication

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Sometimes it feels like I’m all alone in thinking “complicated” is a compliment. Many a man has dumped me with the phrase “I just want someone simple,” and I’ll admit that I’m not simple or easy. But really, I don’t think most people are. Some of us are better at hiding our internal mess, but complex is pretty much synonymous with human. I think that’s okay. In fact, I think that’s great.

We used to love mysteries and puzzles, but these days, simplicity is trendy. We like minimalist décor, meals that come together in 10 minutes, books that we can read just for the story. As a friend recently pointed out to me, in online dating “no drama” has become code for “I don’t want to deal with your emotions.” I understand the appeal of clean and simple but I must confess that I’m a lover of the complicated. I live for recipes that take half a day to prepare, books that reveal something new every time I read them, and friends that surprise me.

In that spirit, I recently took on a needlessly complex cooking project which involved 4 different kinds of herbs, a mortar and pestle, and a borrowed pasta press. The result were pretty, herb-flecked noodles. They were delicious. Honestly, probably not much more delicious than if I’d put the herbs in the sauce, but I enjoyed the complexity of the noodles themselves. It gave me a layer of flavor to play on top of. I topped them with melted butter, parmesan, shrimp, and kale.

Building flavor this way, in layers, is what makes restaurant food so delicious. Professional chefs find ways to use the same ingredients in different parts of the dish, to build flavor into every piece, creating intensity. Cooking at home, it isn’t always possible to make everything from scratch. There’s no shame in store-bought noodles or pre-made stock. But that doesn’t mean that doing it all yourself is useless. Complexity is beautiful, special, to be cherished.

 

Scallion-Herb-Spelt-Einkorn Linguini
(adapted from Gather and Dine )

 1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup oregano leaves, chopped
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 cup (140 g) all-purpose einkorn flour
1 cup (140 g) whole spelt flour
1 cup (140 g) white spelt flour
2 eggs
2 tablespoon (30 ml) olive oil
1-4 (15-60ml)tablespoons cold water

Place herbs and salt in a large mortar and grind until they are broken down and softened.

Dump einkorn and spelt flours in a large bowl and make a well in the center.

Drop eggs, olive oil, and crushed herbs in the center of the well.

Slowly incorporate flour into wet ingredients until fully combined. If dough is too dry, add water, one tablespoon at a time, just until dough comes together in a ball; it should feel dry and not sticky.

Knead dough for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Wrap in plastic and rest for 1 hour.

Roll out on a pasta press, working down to thickness no more than 1/8”. Cut into ribbons and dry slightly while bringing a large pot of water to a boil.

Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Drain and serve immediately, finished with desired toppings or sauce.

Let’s Get Together

I’m feeling a real longing for community lately. I think it may have something to do with the current political rift, but it’s also a plight of the writer, creating in seclusion. To combat this writerly isolation I’ve decided to join bloglovin’. My hope is to follow my favorite blogs more consistently and to find some new ones, to feell more a part of the blogging community. Who are some of your favorite bloggers?

<a href=”https://www.bloglovin.com/blog/18505259/?claim=xvsrcpx3e6t”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

 

Tahini Chocolate Snack Mix (gluten free)

Tahini Chocolate Snack Mix (Gluten Free)

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Hi! It’s been a while. My apologies. I have no excuses. I’ve been busy, but despite that I’ve cooked and baked a lot over the last month. The problem is, none of it has felt blog-worthy. I have been sticking to comfortable favorites or relying on trusted books and blogs to provide me with recipes that don’t need adjustment. Our new head of state, a new year, and other, more personal changes have left me in need of stability, and cooking—an area where I usually expend creative energy—has become a haven of predictable results.

I find that happiness for me is about balancing security and excitement, having a life that feels both safe and adventurous. Sometimes achieving a reasonable equilibrium means subduing my own wildness when the world feels out of control. In times of upheaval my creativity becomes subtler. This recipe is far from avant garde, but it is my own.

Tahini is trendy, particularly and surprisingly in sweet preparations. Back in December I saw a recipe for Tahini Brownies on Brooklyn Supper and since then I’ve encountered tahini confections on many food blogs including Tahini Scones on Well Floured and Ginger Tahini Cookies on Vegan Richa. Tahini is slightly bitter, making it a perfect accompaniment for chocolate. It’s also subtly nutty (though made from seeds, not nuts) in a way that doesn’t dominate other flavor’s like peanut butter can.

This snack mix is a chocolatey, lightly sweet, salty, crunchy, and makes a very satisfying snack. I plan on bringing it with me to AWP (The Association of Writers and Poets Conference) where I anticipate the need for delicious gluten free snacks. I think it would even make a tasty breakfast.

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Tahini Chocolate Snack Mix

1/4 cup sorghum
3 cups rice or corn Chex
2 cups gluten free pretzels
1 cup almonds
1/4 c cacao nibs
3 tablespoons sesame seeds (white, black or a mixture)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 175°.

Heat a heavy-bottomed sauce pan with a lid (glass is best) over medium-high heat until quite hot, but not smoking. (Test with a few drops of water, they should sizzle and evaporate almost immediately.) Add sorghum to hot pan and cover. Shake gentle back and forth over heat to pop, cracking lid occasionally to release steam. Stop when pops are 10 seconds apart and pour popped sorghum into a large bowl.

Add Chex, pretzels, almonds, sesame seeds, and cacao nibs to bowl with sorghum and toss to combine.

In a small sauce pan combine tahini, honey and butter and heat together until thoroughly mixed. Pour over Chex mix and stir until evenly coated.

Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly and sprinkle on chocolate chips. They well melt slightly spreading around chocolate goodness.