Snacks

Lemon Bars, For The Travelers (at Heart)

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I’ve been cooking and baking my way through Green Kitchen Travels, a beautiful cookbook written and photographed by the same couple behind the blog, Green Kitchen Stories.  I’ve been mesmerized by their life, their travel inspired stories and the beautiful colors and images that fill the pages.  As I’ve read and eaten my way through this book, I’ve felt my heart yearning for more adventure, and more life.  There has been a lot of reflection on my part, and I feel as though I have lived in a constant state of reflection.  While I have a fierce longing to see, taste, touch and smell every square inch of this earth, this is not what I crave most.  I long to be the person I am when I’m traveling.  I want to be her now, as a wife and mother.  I miss the person who could lose her passport and plane ticket and not get too bent out of shape.  I miss the person who would sit with the sunrise and sunset and never run out of enough praise for such beauty.  I miss the person who would intentionally go on walks only to get lost and found and lost all over again.  I miss the person who surrendered to every moment and gave gratitude for it all.

Unlike every year prior, I have had little intention or focus for the year, only a mantra that has rushed in and transformed every cell.  A mantra that was once my, fake it til’ you make it, pep talk.  You know, the pep talk you give yourself when both children are melting down, you are running on a few lousy hours of sleep and you wake to dirty dishes, laundry and blueberry stained surfaces (ALL surfaces.) Give in, give gratitude, these words happened quite accidentally, after a rather rude awakening.  I was once a spontaneous, go with the flow, anything in the world could happen to me and you will still find me smiling, seeker of joy. But I woke up this fall a huffing and puffing, tired mama, nagging wife, an out of touch stealer of joy.  Seeing myself become these unattractive things was both humbling and earth-shaking.  I wallowed in this realization for a day, maybe two and then I took a good hard look at myself and I started to give thanks.  I listed, spoke and meditated on my gratefulness.  It just seemed like the most natural thing to do, a remedy for healing, a road to getting back home. I gave thanks until it became contagious, almost addictive.  Then, just like that, I woke giddy to find yet another thing to be grateful for.  The most simple things like an apartment facing east and babes who rise early, became something to celebrate.  My sense of awe and wonder was reborn.

I used to wonder why it was so much easier to surrender to even the greatest catastrophes abroad and so much harder to remain open and grateful for an equally growing experience back home.  I’ve found that it’s easier to surrender when your days feel numbered or when you know you will find yourself in a new place sometime next week.  Abroad or domestic, land or airborne it is all just as fleeting, but there is something about the day in and day out monotony of domesticity that can dull your senses, and tell you that adventure and life are found elsewhere.  The things that once sparked your attention and received your thanks become old news when you start to see that it will all happen again tomorrow.  It’s like saying, tomorrow I can celebrate, tomorrow I can give thanks.  But the spilling of shredded coconut out of eager helping hands, and another happy baby chasing her mess, or that mesmerizing sunrise, they only happened once in that unique way. Just once.

I’ve been given an informal invitation to take back the every day, to chase beauty and find joy in the little things.  I don’t need a new city or suitcase, in fact I don’t have to go anywhere.  I can even stay inside our little apartment because traveling does not have to be something I do, it can be a state of mind.  I believe more adventure and life are waiting for me in bubble baths and dishes, fort making and cookie baking.  This year I am giving in and giving gratitude. This year I’m becoming a traveler inside my very own home.

Lemon Cashew Date Bars

Recipe from Green Kitchen Travels

Makes 6-8 bars

1 cup raw cashews

15 soft fresh dates, pitted

1/2 cup of shredded coconut

1/4 cup of lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)

Place all ingredients into a food processor or high-powered blender. Pulse for about 20-30 seconds or until the ingredients turn into a thick, slightly tacky dough.  Press the dough firmly into a small 4 x 6 rectangle pan, or a mini loaf pan, like pictured above.  Leave in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.  Cut into bars or using a knife small butter knife, gently pop them out from the molds.  Wrap in parchment paper and keep in the fridge for up to a few weeks, (they probably won’t last that long!)  

Lately

We’ve been blessed by family and friends bringing us meals in this postpartum season. If you are reading this, and that is you, thank you, thank you, thank you! Bijou is now 3 1/2 weeks old and life is starting to get real. Meaning, I am completely perplexed how anyone can cook dinner with TWO children. I know it will get easier and so I am trying to remember that no season is forever. Snuggling with my ladies is far more important than eating good food right now. However, on the nights when I’ve had help from my mom and mother in law, we’ve managed to make some pretty yummy grub over here. The nights they haven’t been here?  Complete and utter chaos, crying babes and burned frittatas that are so inedible that your husband opts for another bowl of granola.  But, here are some of things we have enjoyed lately…

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1. Pork dumplings, recipe HERE//

2. Mango Avocado Salsa: 2 ripe avocados, 1 ripe mango, handful of chopped cilantro, a few glugs of olive oil, juice from 1/2 lime, a few pinches of sea salt. 

3. Maple Balsamic Roasted Carrots:  Cut in half  and drizzle with equal parts olive oil and maple syrup (I probably used 4 tbsp each for a small bunch of carrots.)  Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.  Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until roasted to your liking. 

4.  The long anticipated Margarita!!  One of my favorite recipes HERE

5.  Some of the Best Burgers I’ve had in a long time (inspired by Crumbums) 1 1/2 lb. ground beef, 1 tsp. sea salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1/4 tsp. white pepper, 1 egg, 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese. Mix together, form into patties and grill.

6.  Iced Americano’s, an absolute daily necessity for a tired new mama.  Espresso in my bialetti is my absolute favorite!

 

Favorite Homemade Granola

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“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call it forth its riches.” 

-Rainer Maria Rilke

The Last Granola…
(you will ever make)
Slightly adapted from Marge Granola
3 cups old-fashioned oats
2 1/2 cups nuts
1/4 cup seeds
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup dried fruit
This is the basic recipe with the perfect ratios that any nut, seed or dried fruit will taste great in.  In the granola pictured above I used 1 1/4 cup almonds, 1 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, and 1 cup dried cranberries.
Preheat oven to 250.  Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  In a small saucepan,  using low heat, warm olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla until it is slightly warm to the touch(3-4 minutes.)  Pour on top of dry ingredients and mix until all the dry ingredients are saturated with liquid.  Pour mixture on a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Use a spatula to pat down the oats.  Keep everything nice and close together if you like clumpy granola or want to make granola bars.  Otherwise you can spread the oats and nuts out a little more.  Bake for 75 minutes or until golden and crispy.  Let the granola cool for 15-20 minutes.  Cut into bars or break apart for granola.  Store in an air tight container for up to a week.

Raw Goji Berry Bites

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These Goji Berry Bites are an energizing raw snack full of superfoods that are super easy to make and even easier to eat!  When I first think of superfoods I think of cacao.  Most people know this superfood and remind themselves just how good chocolate is for them as they devour a bar,(myself included.)  I know the truth about my sugar filled bar of chocolate though.  It may be good for my soul it is not really good for my body.  When you hear of chocolate being good for you, this is the kind…raw cacao.  Full of magnesium, calcium and iron and known for giving you a natural energy boost.  Lucuma is another superfood that is not so commonly know.  It is a peruvian grown fruit that was known as Gold of the Incas.  It resembles the size and shape of an avocado only more yellow in color.  It has a maple or caramel-like flavor to it and adds great flavor and nutrients in treats, smoothies and snacks like this.  Full of potassium, zinc and iron, this superfood tastes great and makes you feel just the same!  Goji Berries are one of the most nutrient dense fruits on the planet.  They are high in potassium and contain more iron than spinach, while also being full of antioxidants.  Hooray for a snack with not 1 but 3 superfoods!  The rest of the ingredients you probably know and they don’t need any explanation.  These bites are great for toddler snacks, breakfast on the go, post work outs, and even treats.  They resemble a larabar if you have had those but have a much more interesting and inviting flavor, in my opinion.  Larabars tend to get old half way through but these are something I could eat again and again and can’t stop at just one.

Raw Goji Berry Bites

Makes 18-20 Bites

2 cups raw cashews or almonds

2/3 cup goji berries

22 medjool dates

2 heaping tbsp. cacao

2 heaping tbsp. lucuma

1 tbsp. raw honey or agave

Pinch of sea salt

Splash of water, if necessary

In a food processor combine cashews and pitted dates and pulse for 15 seconds or until it starts to stick together.  Next add cacao, lucuma, honey and salt.  Blend until combined, about 10 seconds.  Last, add in goji berries and pulse only  a few times.  You want to leave the berries in bigger chunks so you can get a nice punch of flavor now and then.  Because the date sizes and freshness can vary slightly you may need to add a splash or two of water.  You will be able to tell when you go to roll the mixture between your hands.  It should not crumble.  Using a tablespoon, scoop out mixture and with your hands roll into a smooth bite size balls.  Repeat until all bites are formed and keep in an air tight container in the fridge or freezer.

* Our natural foods store did not carry some of these ingredients so I ordered them online from Sunfood.

Squirrely Cheese Crackers

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In  few days we are traveling to Atlanta to celebrate a family wedding.  Octave has flown many times in her 15 months of life but now she is a walkin’/dancin’ machine and she hardly ever sits still unless she is eating.  I know this time will be much more challenging so I am planning ahead of time, preparing snacks that I know will entertain and be good for her little belly during our flights.  There was once a day when happy puffs made her happy but she has moved on and wants whatever I want.  I wanted to make a cheese cracker, because who doesn’t love cheese?  They seem like the classic toddler snack and yet I love them too.  There are Annie’s organic cheddar bunnies that are pretty tasty and cute, but nothing can beat squirrels, fresh out of the oven!  These will be enjoyed during our flights but I know they will soon become a family favorite that we will eat again and again.  This recipe was inspired by The Homemade Pantry cookbook.  I used oats instead of white flour, mixed up the cheese and added some apple cider vinegar.

1 cup oat flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. dry mustard powder

3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut in cubes

4 oz sharp cheddar, grated

2 oz parmesan, grated

(you can use all cheddar but since we had both I wanted to mix it up!)

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar + 3/4 cup water + 1 ice cube

Mix apple cider vinegar into 3/4 cup water, with 1 ice cube.  Let sit to chill while you begin the recipe.  You can grind 1 cup rolled oats in a food processor to create the flour.  Mix flours and salt together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low.  Add in butter and mix until it resembles a crumbly texture (about 30 seconds.) Add in cheese and mix until all ingredients are combined. 1 tbsp. at a time pour vinegar mixture in while mixing on low.  You will repeat this process until dough forms(about 6 tbsp.) Mound dough into a square and wrap in plastic and place in fridge for 30 minutes. Once it is chilled you can preheat your oven to 350.  On a lightly floured surface roll out dough 1/8 inch thick.  If the crackers are too thick they don’t have that crispy cracker quality to them.  Cut into your favorite shapes.  I am have a friend who gave us this awesome cutter for Christmas and I can’t get enough of it! Transfer dough to a baking sheet and bake for 22-24 minutes.  Let them sit on the warm baking sheet, out of the oven so they get crisp.  They are even crispier once cooled completely and that is when they taste best.  Store crackers in an air tight container for up to a week.

Lemon Mango Poppy Seed Pound Cake

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Before Chris and I were married I lived with two great gals in NE Portland.  We called our house the ELK lodge because that is what all our initials spelled.  I have great memories in this house.  It was the first time in my life I felt like I lived a normal life and I loved it.  I woke up, walked to coffee, drank it in house to savor it, walked home, wrote on my type writer, watered my tiny garden, taught dance in the evenings, came home to two awesome ladies, and finished with some wine as we shared our days.  It was simple but it was rich.

Our house sat equal distance between whole foods and new seasons with about a 15 minute walk to each.  In the summer I would walk to whole foods, no phone, no purse, some days no keys, just cash or card, to buy a champagne mango.  Just one.  I would do this every morning while the air was still cool.  I would come home, make a mango smoothie and drink it on the stairs of our front porch.  I could have easily bought 7 mangos so I had enough for the week, but I didn’t.  Buying just one thing, going home and enjoying it felt simple and rewarding.  This only lasted a few weeks because I grew tired of these mango’s and then soon after the sun went away.  I have not used them since, so when I saw them at our grocery store I had to get them.   They really are unique and very different from other mangos, almost creamy, if that is even possible for a fruit.  The desire to make a pound cake seemed a little out of the blue for what I usually make, but I saw a recipe for a ginger pound cake on a design blog I like to read.  I woke up the next morning wanting to make one but using what we already had and of course adapting it like I love to do.  These mangos came to mind and poppy seeds have been a staple in our spices while I have been tinkering around trying to create a new salad dressing.  And lemon, is just always good.  This cake is moist and flavorful and best of all reminiscent, leaving be unable to eat just one slice.

Lemon Mango Poppy-Seed Pound Cake

1 cup flour

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. sea salt

¼ cup poppy seeds

3 eggs separated

1 cup sugar

¼ cup butter

¼ heaping cup coconut oil

2 champagne mangos

½ cup whole milk yogurt

1 lemon(zest and juice)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. lemon extract

Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

3-4 tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter and coconut oil. Set aside and cool.  Meanwhile, separate eggs, putting the whites in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. You can also use a hand mixer.  On medium speed whisk until white and frothy.  This took about 6-8 minutes.  Add sugar and whisk together for another 3-5 minutes.  While whites are whisking, peel and slice mangos and place in food processor with yogurt, lemon juice and zest. Blend until smooth.  Add egg yolks, butter and coconut oil, lemon and vanilla extract.   Pulse a few times until everything comes together.  Pour into large bowl.  In another bowl add flour, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds.  Set aside.  Add egg whites to liquids by using a spatula and folding them in.  Once combined, add in the flour mixture and fold until combined.  Oil a 9×5 loaf pan with butter or coconut oil and pour in batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Let cool completely (about an hour,) remove from pan and pour glaze on top.

Homemade Graham Crackers

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After a weekend away and a snowy and stressful road trip back from Denver, I could not wait to bake something to warm up our kitchen.  I was recently given a gallon of raw, unfiltered Wyoming honey  from a dear friend, so I wanted to make something with honey being the key ingredient.  I have made graham crackers before but have never had success quite like this.  These are incredible! Hands down, the best graham cracker recipe I have tried yet.  I thought it was worthy of sharing and worth the time it took to roll out and bake.  They are not difficult, just a little more involved than buying them in a box, but I promise it will be so worth it.  The honey could have played an important role in making the best graham crackers ever. So, if you have access to raw, unfiltered honey, use that.  My motto with food is buy the real stuff or just don’t use it.  Real honey can be rather expensive so when budgets are slim I prefer to just go without.  I am thankful for a friend who knows me well and knows that honey is the way to my heart.

This recipe is adapted from smitten kitchen.  I wanted to use more honey than brown sugar and substitute some vanilla for almond. Both were good choices, ending my search for the perfect graham cracker recipe!

Dry ingredients…

1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup+2 tbsp. all purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. sea salt

7 tbsp. cold butter, cut in small cubes

Whisk wet ingredients…

1/2 cup raw honey

1/3 cup whole milk

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. almond extract

*Cinnamon, sugar, and a pinch flaky sea salt for topping

In a food processor mix dry ingredients. And butter and pulse a few times. You don’t want to over mix.  You should see small pebbles in the dough.  Add already whisked wet ingredients. Pulse a few more times until all the dough has come together. Wrap in plastic and place in fridge for at least 1 hour.  After dough is chilled, pre heat oven to 350.  Split dough in half, putting one half back in the fridge.  Cold dough rolls out much better. On a well floured surface or piece of parchment paper roll out dough to be about 1/8 inch thick.  The dough is really sticky so it is a little tricky. Use flour as needed.  I used a pizza cutter to cut and shape my crackers. You will have scraps of dough after cutting. Combine them all together and place them in fridge while you bake the first batch.  Transfer  crackers to baking sheet.  Make designs on crackers if you wish. I used the end of a chopstick but you can get creative with what you have around too.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and salt.  Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden brown.  Repeat process with the second half of dough as well as the scraps left over.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Store in an air tight container for a week.

Oat Grove Crackers

DSC_0031I often crave crunchy savory snacks.  Meaning crackers or chips.  Meaning crispy goodness that come in a bag.  Chris does too, and he almost always comes home from work asking if we have snacks.  My goal this past year has been to try  and not buy anything processed. But my even stricter new goal is to just NOT.  Even the good quality brands I love like Food Should Taste Good, have few and great quality ingredients (I love their lime chips,) are still not as good as straight out of your oven.  Today I was craving something crunchy and savory and opening our cupboards seemed hopeless, until my craving became so strong that I got determined.   This recipe was born from a random cup of oats lying around and spices that begged to be used when I opened the drawer. I think they turned out pretty tasty, that is if you aren’t expecting a salty and buttery wheat thin. They do have a hearty “healthy,” taste.  I happen to love and crave that but, to each their own. Regardless, making crackers from scratch is incredibly rewarding. Using what you already have in your kitchen is resourceful and choosing your oven over a factory can never be a bad choice. Use the ratios as a guide but try using what you already have in the kitchen.  If you have a food processor or high-powered blender you can grind oats or any nut or blend of nuts you have lying around and use as flour.  So, my answer to if we have snacks tonight was definitely a yes, and that feels really good! Even better, they reminded Chris of Christmas as a child in Asheville, NC at the Grove Park Inn.  Hence the name of these crackers were inspired.

1 cup oat flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 tbsp. flax seeds

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

1 tbsp. rosemary (fresh is best)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp ground pepper

3/4 cup filtered water

1/4 olive oil

Combine dry ingredients and then add in wet ingredients. Mix well and shape into a square(this makes it easier to roll out.) Wrap in plastic or place in Tupperware and put in fridge for about at least 30 minutes.

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On a piece of parchment paper roll out dough. This way you don’t use as much flour and the dough is already on the parchment paper ready for baking. The goal is to get the dough as thin as possible. The thinner the dough the quicker it bakes and the more satisfying the crunch.  It also just tastes better and feels more like a store-bought cracker.

Use a pizza cutter to shape crackers how you prefer. Sprinkle dough with a little more sea salt OR pink Himala salt. It is a little more pricey but totally worth it.

Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

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