Food Bloggers Unite: Feed South Africa

Easy Peasy Nut Butter Cookies 1I’ve always been a pack your lunch kind of girl. In elementary school my mom stuffed my lunchbox with a sandwich, a bag of chips, and two homemade cookies – one of which I always gave to a friend. Even as a grown up, I still take my lunch with me to work and school, because I realize the link between being well fed and having brain power. When I have a healthy, nourishing lunch, I am able to focus and think – two important components of learning in school.

Did you know that 4 million children in South Africa don’t have access to lunch at all? I can only imagine how their schoolwork suffers. This is why I decided to join a whole mess of food bloggers who are dedicating today’s post to help raise money to feed these children. Through The Lunchbox Fund, our goal is to raise enough money to feed lunch to 100 children for a whole year. Watch the video below to help you decide if you’d like to join us. Then visit the donation page here.

The Lunchbox Fund from Leigh Wood on Vimeo.

For all of my childhood, cookies represented lunchtime and sharing. That makes this a perfect opportunity to share with you my favorite, super easy and gluten free(!) cookie recipe. The chocolate drizzle is totally optional, but really fun. I used a combo of peanut and almond butters for these – it was a bit of a clean out the pantry moment – but any nut butter will do.

 Easy Peasy Nut Butter Cookies

1 c. nut butter (I used peanut and almond)
1 c. sugar (I used sucanat, coconut sugar would be good too)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 oz. dark chocolate (optional)

 Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix first five ingredients together with a mixer (or by hand if you’re super strong like my mom!). Scoop out tablespoon sized balls onto the baking sheet, making sure to leave an inch or more between them. Using the tines of a fork, squish the balls down a bit. Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until they’ve spread and just set up. Let them sit for 5 minutes while you melt the chocolate in a double boiler. I use a metal bowl atop a small saucepan filled with water.

When the cookies have set and the chocolate has melted, use a spatula to flick the chocolate onto the cookies, Jackson Pollack style. Let them sit until the chocolate has mostly set up.

These are soft and chewy on the inside, and slightly crispy on the outside, and best the day they are made. They still taste pretty darn good for about 6 days in an airtight container.

makes about 24 cookies

Easy Peasy Nut Butter Cookies 2

Smoky Sunchoke Soup with (gasp!) Bacon

Smoky Sunchoke Soup 1As you may have noticed from the title of this post, there have been a lot of changes in my little world since the last time we spoke. The first one being … I’m eating meat now. I could write a complete post on that alone, and maybe soon I will, but for now I will be brief. I didn’t eat meat for 8 years or so. When I began the experiment I noticed that I felt better after eating, less heavy and better able to digest my meal. So I stuck with it. After a number of years, however, I started to get tired and run down easily, and noticed that I just didn’t have the strength and stamina I used to. After many experiments with food, herbs, acupuncture, etc., I painstakingly made the decision to add small amounts of high quality meat back in to my diet. I think it’s helping.

Believe it or not, that’s not the only change around here. I’m much farther into my acupuncture studies, as well as studying herbs on the side, and I want the content I share with you to reflect that. Along with the changes in my diet, I have also been experimenting with herbs, meditating and reading (a lot!) on a wide range of topics related to health. I’m not completely sure yet how it will all play out in this space, but stay tuned to find out along with me!

With all this talk of changing, and the Chinese New Year approaching (this Friday), I think a brief discussion of yin and yang is in order. Yin is the dark, still, substantial matter that makes up our world. It is cold and wet, and some call it the feminine because of it’s connection with the moon and the earth. Note that feminine is being used in a larger context, not necessarily corresponding to a female. Yang is the opposite, bright, active energy. It is hot and dry and more masculine in quality, associated with the sun and heaven.

Yin and yang never exist independently of each other, and nothing can be only yin or yang. Every thing in this universe is made of both, it’s just the amounts of each that differ.When we say something is yin, it just means that it has more yin than yang. Let’s take the seasons for example. Right now it is Winter, the most yin season, as it is dark and still and cold. However, there is yang being stored – in the seeds that are sitting in the ground, pure energy waiting to sprout. Right now it seems very still and yin, but there is still movement. And in a few months the yang will take over, and plants will be blooming and the sun will shine warmly.

Now, we might have a tendency to think, “The cold is bad and the warmth is good”,”I like the yang better than the yin” “Why does the yin even need to exist?” And this time of year, I don’t blame us. But we can’t have yang without yin, because it will burn itself up. In fact, because yang is energy and yin is matter, without the yin we wouldn’t even exist!

But what does this have to do with our daily lives? While we all crave light and warmth and movement – pushing ourselves to do more, staying busy, always on the go – we also need the stillness and the dark. We need balance to flourish. This means taking time for sleep, for meditation and to just be and not do. I can’t think of a better Chinese New Year’s resolution.

SunchokesNow on to the recipe. Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, are the roots of a type of sunflower.  It is a root vegetable, but doesn’t have all the starch of potatoes. If you can’t find them, a rutabaga or turnips would be a good substitute. However, you may just want to bookmark this recipe for when you do inevitably stumble upon them, so instead of saying “These look cool, but what do I do with them?”, you think “I’ve got a great recipe for these!” For those of you still eschewing bacon, you can make it without, just use olive oil to saute the onions and chokes in, and use a veggie stock or water. The smoked paprika will be important in that case to bring the smoky flavor.

Smoky Sunchoke Soup

6 slices of bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 lbs. sunchokes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 qt. stock (I used a bone broth)
2 c. water
sea salt to taste
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Slice the bacon thinly and cook in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot over medium heat until crisp, 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pot and dispose of any extra bacon fat, but leave enough to cook the rest of the soup (I left it all – it was delicious!).

Add the onions to the pot and saute a few minutes before adding the sunchokes and spices. Once the onions are starting to turn translucent, tip in the stock and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sunchokes are tender, anywhere from 20-30 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree the soup, either in batches in a blender, or with an immersion blender (my preferred method). I like it pureed for a few minutes to make it super creamy and smooth. Return the soup to the heat and add the vinegar and salt and let the flavors meld for a few minutes.

Serve topped with the bacon slices and parsley if you’d like.

Serves 4-6

Smoky Sunchoke Soup 2

 

 

 

Mustard Greens Galette

mustard-greens-galette-Right now the Northeast is oscillating between beautiful, warm, sunny days, and grey rainy ones. As far as the weather is concerned – it’s officially Spring. However, markets around here won’t start showcasing their  spring produce for at least another few weeks. I’m jealous of those of you who have  access to fresh, local peas, ramps and asparagus right now.

I’m having a hard time being inspired by the same old broccoli, kale and sweet potatoes I’ve been using for that last 5 months. So naturally I turned to the internet for ideas. This recipe is a riff off Sarah’s A galette of winter greens, and it’s delightful. Feel free to use any greens you have access to, or even throw in some spring veggies if you’re lucky enough to get ‘em.

dough

greensMustard Greens Galette

1 c. flour (I used whole spelt)
a pinch of salt
1/2 stick (2 oz.) butter, cut into chunks
3-4 T. cold water

1 T. olive oil or more butter
1 large leek, white and dark green parts only, sliced into thin half moons
1 bunch mustard greens (or other greens), de-stemmed and chopped into small pieces
1-2 T. creme fraiche (Sarah used cream)
a few tablespoons for chopped fresh thyme
parmigiano reggiano
fine grain sea salt

First make the crust. Place flour, salt and butter in bowl of food processor. Pulse until the butter is the size of small pebbles. Add one tablespoon of water at a time and pulse again, until dough comes together. Do not over process. Transfer the dough onto some plastic wrap (I have a reusable hemp and beeswax wrap), wrap tightly, and store in the fridge for about 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Heat the oil or butter in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft and creamy, 5-7 minutes. Add the greens in batches, stir to wilt. Cook until the greens are very tender, about 10 minutes. Add creme fraiche and cheese, and season with salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 400. Remove dough from wrap and place on floured surface. This amount of dough will make 2 smaller, personal size galettes (as you see in the pictures). Divide the dough in half and roll each out into a rough circle about 1/8″ thick. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, heap half the filling into the middle, then spread out until you have a 1 1/2 to 2 ” perimeter of dough. Fold outside of dough around the filling, leaving a spot on the middle for the greens to peek out. Sprinkle with thyme. Repeat process for 2nd galette.

Slide baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Slice and serve.

serves 2

mustard-greens-galette-2

 

Green Risotto

green-risottoLike most of us in the states, my cultural heritage is mixed. I’ve got Italian from my dad, and Irish (and a bunch of other things) from Mom. So what better way to celebrate St. Patricks day than to mix the two together.

I took risotto, a very Italian dish, made it green, and added beer. The green comes from a peppery bite of baby arugula, with a dollop of basil pesto from the freezer. If you don’t have any pesto don’t fret – some chopped fresh herbs will make a delicious substitution. Use a light colored beer, like a Blue Moon or Hoegaarten, so preserve the color of the rice. Serve hot, with the rest of the 6-pack to wash it down!

Green-Risotto-2Green Risotto

1 T. butter
2 shallots, finely minced
2-3 garlic, minced
1 c. risotto rice (like arborio or carnaroli)
1 c. light colored beer
3 or more c. water or stock
2 T. pesto, or chopped fresh herbs
a few large handfuls of arugula, finely chopped
1-2 T. creme fraiche, sour cream, or cold butter
sea salt to taste

garnish with toasted pine nuts (or almonds) and a shaving of parmesan

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pot or skillet over medium heat. Cook the shallots for a few minutes, then add the garlic and a few pinches of salt. Once the shallots become soft, stir in the rice to coat in butter. Let this cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes, until the rice becomes translucent around the edges.

Pour in the beer, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen anything stuck to the bottom. Simmer until most of the beer is gone, and you can drag a wooden spoon through the rice and the liquid doesn’t fill in the trail. You may have to play with the heat to keep it softly simmering, but not boiling – you don’t want too much liquid to evaporate.

Once the beer is mostly gone, add water or stock, a 1/2 c. at a time, stirring frequently and waiting until the last bit has simmered away before adding the next bit. When the rice is almost done, but still firm and a tiny bit chalky when you bite into it, stir in the pesto. If you’re using fresh herbs wait – and stir them in with the arugula.

About 20 minutes and 3 – 4 cups of liquid later, your rice should be done. It should be tender, but still a little firm to the bite. Remove from heat and stir in the creme fraiche and arugula until the greens wilt. Taste and add salt if necessary, enough to make the flavors pop. This will vary depending on whether you used water or stock, and pesto or herbs. Serve topped with the parmesan and pine nuts.

serves 3-4 as a main, 6 as a side

Broccoli Soup with Garam Masala

Broccoli-Soup-with-Garam-Masala-and-Maple-Creme-Fraiche

It’s been a crazy couple a months. I’ve have school four or five days a week, and work 4 days a week. The last day off I had was the first week of January.

Those infamous, lazy days saw me spending time with an old friend. He invited me to a new friend’s home for dinner. This is the dish that stood out to me, a creamy Broccoli and Asparagus soup, flavored with the Indian spice blend garam masala, and topped with a sweet maple creme fraiche. Nafeez’s garam masala was fragrant, spicy, and homemade by his mother. I had all intentions of making my own as well, but with the 8 days a week of school/work, I took a short cut and used store bought. I added a bit of cayenne, since the blend I found wasn’t spicy, but feel free to leave it out – or add more if you prefer to burn your tongue off.

I changed the recipe a bit from the original, because no one wants asparagus in February. I also veganized it – using coconut milk for the cream, and veggie broth for the chicken. As for the maple creme fraiche – I imagine a vegan yogurt could sub in with good results, if you’re looking to make the entire recipe dairy free.

broccoliBroccoli Soup with Garam Masala

1 tbsp. coconut oil, or olive oil
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large, or a few smaller, heads of broccoli, stems and florets roughly chopped
3 c. vegetable broth or water
1/2 – 3/4 c. coconut milk
sea salt, to taste
toasted, sliced almonds for garnish

1/4 c. creme fraiche
1 tbsp. maple syrup
pinch of sea salt

Warm the oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium low heat and add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, until they start to turn translucent, then add the garam masala and cayenne. Cook for another minute or two, and when it starts to smell amazing, stir in the broccoli.

Coat the broccoli in the oil and spices and add the broth or water. Bring to a boil, cover, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is very tender. Take the soup off the heat and blend until smooth. I used an immersion blender to make quick work of it, but you can also transfer batches to a blender, making sure it is vented to let steam escape. Return to the pot, stir in the coconut milk and taste for salt. Add as much as you need to perk up all the flavors, then let it simmer for a few minutes to meld all the flavors together.

Meanwhile, mix the creme fraiche, maple syrup and a pinch of salt together and set aside.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with toasted almonds and creme fraiche mixture.

serves 4

Broccoli-Soup-2

 

 

Indonesian Rice Bowl

indonesian-rice-bowl

Back to school. Back to work. Back to quick, easy bowl foods for dinner. This one makes great leftovers for lunch, too. I don’t think I’m the only one who looks at a bowl of red (or brown) rice, assorted veggies, some nuts, tofu and sauce and gets excited for dinner.

This one is special to me. I don’t normally make a dish more than once, but this has been in regular rotation for years. I think it’s the coconut milk, chilies, ginger and macadamia nuts that make it really sparkle. If you can’t find (or afford) red rice for this, it tastes just as good with brown rice. And I’ve made it with all manner of vegetables to match the seasons: asparagus in the spring, green beans for summer, brussels sprouts in the fall…

Don’t be scared away by the list of ingredients, it actually comes together fairly quickly.

rice-and-nutsIndonesian Rice Bowl

1 c. red (or brown) rice
8 oz. firm tofu (my belly likes the sprouted kind the best), cubed
1/3 c. macadamia nuts, chopped
1 T. coconut oil (or any other oil you like)
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 in. piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chili, seeded, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground coriander
a couple carrots, sliced on the bias
1 head of broccoli florets, sliced thin
1/2 c. coconut milk
2 T. shoyu
juice of one lime
chopped cilantro, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350. Start the rice in a heavy bottomed pot with 2 c. water. Bring to a boil then cover, turn down to low and simmer until tender. Depending on the type of rice, that could take anywhere from 30-50 minutes. When it’s done, the water will be gone, then let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and slide into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until browned and fragrant.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu in a singer layer and let it sit until it forms a crust and doesn’t stick to the pan, it may take up to 5 minutes. Flip the cubes and let at least 2 sides get brown, maybe more. It took me about 15 minutes altogether. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat more oil in the same pan if you need to and add the shallot, garlic, ginger, chili and coriander. Fry for about a minute, then add carrot and broccoli. Cook them until they are tender, or “crisp-tender” if you prefer. Add the tofu back in the pan.

Pour the coconut milk, shoyu and lime juice into the pan. Let everything simmer together for a few minutes, then stir the whole thing into the cooked rice.

Serve topped with the macadamia nuts and cilantro.

serves 4

indonesian-rice-bowl-2

Perfect Guacamole

perfect-guacamole

I usually prefer to purchase my produce from the local farmer’s market. However, avocados don’t grow in these parts, and a girl can’t live without a little avocado on occasion.

So, for a treat, I made myself some guacamole for New Year’s Eve, to go alongside a few Grapefruit Margaritas. I know you may disagree with me on this, but in my humble opinion, the perfect guacamole needs just 5 ingredients: avocado, lime, cilantro, garlic and salt. No crunchy raw onions for my tongue to stumble upon, and definitely no hard, watery greenhouse tomatoes to chew on. And even though many Latin foods are spicy – my perfect guac is a cooling refreshment, to balance the rest of the meal.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you the exact ratios of all these ingredients. Avocados are different sizes, some limes are juicier than others, and salt is definitely not just salt. So, you’ll have to taste as you go. Start with the least amount of lime, garlic and salt, then taste and add – taste and add – until the flavor just explodes in your mouth.

perfect-guacamole-2

Perfect Guacamole

2 avocados
juice of 1/2 a lime (give or take)
a small handful of cilantro, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, or part of a big one (to start out with, then taste and add more as needed)
fine grain sea salt to taste

Cut the avocados in half, take out the seed, then scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl. Pour in some lime juice and add the cilantro. Mash it a bit with a fork, leaving plenty of big chunks.

Finely mince the garlic, then sprinkle the salt on top. Using the side of your chef’s knife, mash the garlic and salt into a paste. Add the paste to the avocado mixture and stir well. Taste. If it needs a little tang, add more lime. If it needs to bite a bit more, add some garlic. And if it just tastes watery and flat, you need more salt. Keep adding and tasting until you get the perfect guacamole.

serves 2

Grapefruit Margarita

grapefruit-margaritaNew Year’s Eve in New York City. That’s just one too many “new’s” for me. Instead of going out  to a packed Manhattan bar or party, drinking ’til 3 a.m., then waiting an hour for the subway to take me home, I’m spending this new year’s at a small friendly gathering – whipping up a few grapefruit margaritas and some perfect guacamole (recipe to come). I’ll (hopefully) have only a few drinks, make it home at a reasonable hour, and be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to start the year 2013.

The days of making all sorts of resolutions has passed me by. I figure that if I really want to change something, I don’t have to wait for the new year to do it. Every day is equally ripe for transformation. That being said, I’m really hoping to work on being more mindful, living in the now, from now on. Wish me luck.

These margaritas are very simple to put together, not too sweet and not too full of liquor. I’m a bit of a lightweight (but don’t go telling all the cute boys what a cheap drunk I am!). Feel free to add a bit more tequila (or triple sec or Cointreau) if you prefer a boozier drink.

grapefruit-margarita-2

Grapefruit Margarita

1 juicy grapefruit
3 limes
agave nectar to taste
3 oz. tequila (about 1/3 c.)
to serve: a few tablespoons of sugar (coconut sugar’s great if you have it), or salt, and some ice cubes

Juice the grapefruit and two of the limes (it’s ok if some pulp gets in, just avoid the seeds). Add a little agave to make it as sweet as you like. I like mine fairly tart, I used about a teaspoon. Cut the third lime into wedges.

Pour a little sugar on a small plate. Take a lime wedge and run it along the rim of your serving glass. Dip the rim into the sugar. Place the ice cubes in the glass, then pour in half the tequila. Top with half the juice. Repeat the process for the second drink.

serves 2

p.s. – here’s a little preview of the next post

perfect-guacamole-2

 

Homemade Curry Powder

Curry-Powder

This year I celebrated an early, low-key Christmas, with beaches, pizza and presents. While the rest of the world went crazy worrying about what to wear and take to another fancy party, rushing around for last minute presents, or making sure the holidays go smoothly for their family – I was relaxing in my Dad’s hot tub, in his small, Southwest Florida town. I highly recommend it.

During the gift-giving festivities, I realized that I was more excited to see if everyone liked the presents I got them than seeing what was under the tree for me. I’m pretty sure that makes me an official adult now. That being said, I did receive a few pretty things for this space – as you can see from the photos. The enamelware measuring spoons are so classy, and this small handmade wooden spoon from a woodworker in Brooklyn just melts in your hand. I wish you could feel it. Lovely. There are a few more gems that will be popping up here in the next few weeks, I’m very excited to share (again – how adult of me).

I’ve always wanted to make my own curry powder – it just seemed like a lot of work from something you can buy in a jar. Why buy 8 spices and spend time mixing them together when you can just buy the one jar? Well, I finally found out. Freshly toasting and grinding your curry makes all the difference in the world. The taste is extraordinary. So bright and flavorful I may never go back to buying my curry powder again.

Many of these spices are easy to find in bulk at a health food store – which is what I recommend. You can purchase a small amount of each, guaranteeing that they remain fresh, and saving some cash. Just make sure you shop somewhere with a high turnover. Stored in a jar with your spices, this curry powder will stay at the height of freshness for a few weeks, after that it may lose some of it’s zing. You’re still welcome to use it – it won’t kill ya – it’ll just taste like the stuff you buy at the grocery store.

spices

Homemade Curry Powder

1 scant T. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. peppercorns
1 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more for extra spicy)

Combine the coriander, cumin, fenugreek and mustard seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Toast for a few minutes, until fragrant and just starting to pop. Careful not to burn them.

Transfer to a spice grinder and add the peppercorns, tumeric, ginger and red pepper flakes and grind into a fine powder. Store in a tightly sealed jar.

makes 1/4 cup

Curry-Powder-2

Roasted Carrot & Wild Rice Salad

roasted-carrot-&-wild-rice-salad

An enormous bunch of carrots called out to me last weekend at the market. I had a few in salads, made carrot soup, and somehow was still swimming in them. I like carrots as much as the next girl, but I can only eat so many. It would take quite a bit to inspire me to finish off the bunch. So I brought out the big guns.

This grain salad makes carrots (or you could use squash or sweet potato) sexy. Carrots roasted in garlic, wild rice, toasty hazelnuts, briny feta, maple dressing…whoa. Lay it out room temperature in a grand holiday spread or eat it warm for lunch.

carrot-&-wild-rice

coriander

Roasted Carrot & Wild Rice Salad

1 c. wild rice
4-5 medium carrots, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
olive oil
fine grain sea salt
1/2 c. hazelnuts, roughly chopped
4 oz. block of feta, cubed or crumbled

1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, or 1/4 ground coriander
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp. maple syrup
1-2 T. walnut or hazelnut oil (or more olive oil)
fine grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 425.

First start the rice by placing it in a heavy bottomed pot covered with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. When most of the grains have split open, it is done. You may have to drain off the excess water, then set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the carrots, garlic, a few glugs of oil and a little salt on a baking sheet. Roast until just starting to shrink and turn golden, 25 minutes or so. Check on them every so often and flip at least once.

On a separate baking sheet, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer and slide into the oven under the carrots. These should only take 7-8 minutes to get toasty and fragrant. Then pull them out and set ‘em aside.

Next make the dressing. If you have whole coriander seeds, crush them up. Add the lemon juice and maple syrup and whisk to combine. Whisk in the oil, then salt to taste. You want the dressing to be quite strong tasting, because it will get watered down when tossed in the grains and carrots.

Combine the cooked rice, carrots and most of the nuts and cheese in a serving dish. Pour the dressing over top and toss gently to coat. Top with the rest of the hazelnuts and feta and serve.

serves 4-6

roasted-carrot-&-wild-rice-salad-2