Friday, May 22, 2009

Golden Quinoa Memories (lemon quinoa salad)

Chop and I our first summer together, hanging in the living room that is home to us once again.

This sweet pad we are living in, has been home to me once before. It wasn’t nearly as “sweet” at the time, but was still really great housing and it came with (literally) a really “sweet” job. At the time I was baking and making lunch salads for the coffee shop downstairs from this place. I would wake up at 6 am and have the first batch of scones or muffins ready for Juice and Java’s 7 am opening. This was all done in my kitchen and I would walk each batch downstairs. After the morning rush was over I would move on to lunch.

I loved that job and I have to admit, I was not the seasoned cook I am today. This was actually my first experience preparing foods, and I was kind of wingin’ it. They asked if I was capable, I said yes and the menu was in my hands. The reception to the food was fantastic, and I have to admit that this is partly due to the lack of healthy affordable options on Block Island. It was by default that my food was received so well.

The following year, new owners took over the shop and kitchen access wasn’t available, leaving them to purchase more of their baked goods from off island sources. I was out of a sweet job. But the gifts that job brought me are irreplaceable. That one amazing summer, I had returned home to Block Island after living in San Francisco for 4 years, discovered a love and confidence in cooking, and met (and fell in love with) Mr. Chopper. I also reconnected with my old friends Madeline and Nicolas and their beautiful kids Jesse and Gillen (quite randomly I might add, they live in Georgia, but I ran into them on BI of all places) and had a pizza party in this “sweet” pad with them.

This is the beached whale that brought Madeline, Nicolas, Gillen, and Jesse back into my life. I think that may even be Maddie wearing the vest in this photo. Caught on camera, before I heard her voice and realized she was there.

Being back in here spawns memories from that time, although the place does look very different now. The smell of the stairway is the same, and having a bird’s eye view of the coffee shop and liquor store patrons (across the street), offers all the entertainment value as before. Yesterday, as I expressed to my friend Becky that I had “cooking block”, she pulled me out of it replying “noo, I’m sure you have dishes you haven’t made in years that you could pull out and they would seem like new”, and just like that, I remembered some of the dishes that I use to make on a daily basis in this very same kitchen. At the time, I didn’t think I would ever forget them.

Paul and Tonya owned the coffee shop at the time, and we lived together in the apartment. This was one of the rare nights we all got to unwind together, drink some wine, and hang out.

Those 3 pictures hanging in the photo above have been replaced with many more.

The bathroom then, with my friend and roommate at the time Kyle. Kyle and I had lived together in Berkeley for a short time, he loved spending time in the bathroom.

The bathroom now. Paint, curtains, and a new mirror spruce it up a bit. Kyle would love it.

So, yesterday I pulled out one of my oldies, this one happened to be Chop’s favorite. He used to come in and grab a container of it for dinner and I was so impressed with his taste (wow food has been such a part of our relationship. He even used to come up at the end of my day and help me with dishes, I hope that never gets old.) At the time I made it with cous cous, yesterday I raised the nutritional value a bit and made it with quinoa. You can make it with either, but if you eat a good amount of pasta and rarely get in the grains, try quinoa, it’s great.

1 cup quinoa (rinsed) or cous cous
2 med cucumbers peeled, de-seeded, and chopped
½ red onion diced
1 can of chick peas or pinto beans
1 cup of golden raisins
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa/cous cous according to box.
While grain is cooking, slice and dice cucumbers, and onion, then mix with raisins and beans.
Mix olive oil and lemon juice.
When grain is done cooking you can rinse under cold water in fine mesh strainer to chill it, or just let it cool a bit. Mix with all other ingredients and pour lemon and oil over top, mixing well.

Serve on its own or over a bed of baby arugula or spinach.

Fantastic, and ya got your protein (beans/quinoa), ya liver cleansing lemon and olive oil, ya sweet and tang flavor, perfecto!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chocolate (chocolate truffles)

Ok, this could either look really disgusting or really delicious. I'm going to assume delicious and continue. This is amazing, raw, vegan, no sugar added, fudge and I'm not sh*#%en you. Not only is it delicious, satisfying to the chocolate lover and fruit sweetened, but it is also an easy 3 ingredient recipe. You ready for it?

1. 1/3-1/2 cup Cacao- I'd suggest if you are going to make this, to splurge on the Raw Cacao. You could use cocoa powder, especially if you have some with your baking ingredients that you'll never get through otherwise, BUT...raw cacao (found in most natural grocery stores or in my sidebar) has all the antioxidant benefits of the amazing chocolate bean, has a rich smooth flavor, and is the power of chocolate as nature intended (it is a miracle super food you realize, hence the obsession).

2. 1 cup Dates- you can use medjool dates, make sure to pit them and then soak them for a few hours at room temperature. Or you can use date pieces, I still soak these, but only for about 10 minutes and then strain them in a fine mesh strainer.

3. 1 cup raw almond butter (no salt added). Again you can use non-raw almond butter, but to get all the Vitamin E, and protein from the almonds go with the raw.

Thats it!
  • First blend/food process the dates, till they are as smooth as you think you can get them.
  • Add almond butter and blend again.
  • Add cacao and just mix in a little before turning on the food processor (just to avoid a cocoa explosion)
You can add some fun stuff to these as well, to play around with the flavor. 1 tsp of vanilla, 1 tsp of soy sauce (yes soy sauce) or 1 T of melted coconut oil. All of these add a nice depth of flavor, but they aren't neccesary. And for every liquid you add in, add another T of cacao.

Refridgerate for an hour

Roll small balls and then toss them in a bowl with cocoa powder, dried coconut flakes, almond meal, or cinnamon till coated (each making pretty little truffles, and adding hints of different flavor). Lay on wax paper in fridge for a few hours till chilled. They will firm up.

By having these on hand you can avert any near chocolate disasters. Victoria Moran, who is an inspirational speaker, and someone I was fortunate to see speak says, "Chocolate is like a sexual experience. It can be the most sensual, and delicious experience like making love or it can be a disgusting violation like rape." The chocolate you get at the gas station or in line at the grocery store is the latter, I must say, this fudge is truly an expression of love.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Raspberry Linzer Cookies and Creative Inspiration

Another busy spurt these past two weeks. We've moved for another summer season. For those who don't know the hectic and fun, that can be our lives here on Block Island, we move every fall and spring from winter housing to summer housing. This keeps our clutter and belongings down to a minimum, because we have twice a year to entirely clean up and clear out our living spaces. Usually our housing is a real downgrade for the summer season, but not this year, we got very lucky!
Our new space is full of color, and artwork, and since spending the past 2 days here I am feeling the creative inspiration.
I am excited for creating some beautiful new dishes in this space. We have joined another CSA (Community Sustainable Agriculture) this year. This is where you by a "share" of a farm, guaranteeing the farmer vegetable sales, and guaranteeing yourself beautiful organic seasonal fruits and vegetables. The CSA we belonged to last year was on the mainland and with the help of a friend, we were fortunate enough to have delivery to the boat. This year we are very excited because the CSA we've joined is actually on the island! Food production out here has been slim to none in the past, but the Blazing Star Farm who started about 5 years ago, is at the point where they have the yeild to sell shares for their wonderful produce. It is nice to have food grown this locally, the island is only 3 by 7 miles so you know this food is fresh!

In between moves this week, I also gave a presentation at the Westminster Unitarian Church on eating for disease prevention. The turnout and response was a good one, and everyone especially loved the treats I brought (I have a hard time not bringing food samples to any and every

Raspberry Linzer Torte Cookies- These are made with almond meal, oats, and spelt flour for a gluten free cookie (you can use wheat if you'd prefer). The sweetener used is Agave nectar, for a low glycemic cookie (a good option for diabetics and to stear clear of sugar crashes). These are great with rasperry jam (fruit sweetened) but any preserve would do. Blueberry would be good, they would taste like little blueberry pies!

2 cups raw almonds
2 cups regular rolled oats (not quick cooking)
2 cups sprouted spelt four or whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup light agave nectar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup juice-sweetened raspberry preserves

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Place almonds in a food processor and grind to a fine meal, about one minute. Remove and set aside.
3. Place the oats in the food processor and grind to a fine meal.
4. Return the almonds to the food processor along with the flour, cinnamon, agave nectar, and canola oil. Pulse to combine all the ingredients.
5. Roll the dough into walnut-size ball and place on the prepared baking sheets. Using your thumb, press an indentation into the center of each ball.
6. Fill the indentations with preserves.
7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Watch the Blend-tec go, it turns the oats to a nice oat flour (you can of course use a food processor as well). Do the same with the almonds or you can purchase almond meal pre-ground.

The batter should hold together, but will be a little crumbly.

I used to be very careful to make nice even circular thumb prints, creating perfect little centers. Till I realized the cookies not only looked better, but also tasted better the messier they were. Big sloppy thumb prints leaves more room for big sloppy gobs of raspberry preserves, mmmm.