A million bucks – and, oh, chickpea nachos

A million bucks – and, oh, chickpea nachos

I woke up this morning feeling like A MILLION BUCKS. My alarm went off 6 A.M. (Emma needs to be on the bus by 6:33, insert a bunch of what the fucks here) and rather than throwing my phone off my nightstand in a fit of rage; I bounced out of bed. I swear, that isn’t even a bit of an exaggeration. I was like, excited to start my day. This NEVER happens. Mornings have just been relentlessly hard on me the last two years. Today, I sprang up, made my coffee and even used dry shampoo/attempted to make myself look pretty. No, I did not wear real pants, lets not start thinking crazy. Throughout the day, there were several fires to put out. The scope and magnitude of these fires would usually send me flipping the fuck out, threatening to staple someones face and give up on humanity. But, I felt level throughout the entire day. I felt I could manage the stress that was coming at me. My energy was solid. Come time to run, I layered my clothing like a champ and just went outside to get it done. Today was the first day in a long time that I didn’t feel sick and tired. And believe me, it has been a long stretch of just feeling completely sick and utterly tired. It could just be a one off. Who knows if this means anything. For right now, I will just take it as a sign that my plan to trace the origin of everything I put in my mouth, is working. Which drives my desire to find food/recipes that are simple and attainable.

I’m not going to lie, there are so many parts of watching my food intake that are hard. While grocery shopping, I find that 99% of packaged items are just unacceptable for consumption. Specifically dressings, nut butters and even items like trail mix. Everything is just sugar/wheat laden. At this point, I would rather just take a minute and make it myself. It means that meal planning is harder, going out to eat is tricky and life at the end of the day becomes just a little more exhausting. It’s no longer as simple as, oh just whip up some quick pasta. I have to plan if I want to stick to this and I have to research a vast majority of my recipes. (No worries, I am going to do LOTS of this work for you in the future, showing you how to easily whip items like salad dressing!)

See, I don’t want to Weight Watchers it up or throw a label on it. That’s just a way of skirting the system.  I want to actually KNOW my food. While losing a bit of weight is part of the goal, I refuse to eat a mangled pile of shit in order to hit a certain points number, just so I can lose weight. I want to continue feeling good. I want to know each ingredient intimately and forge a relationship that has staying power. I want to understand the relationship my body has with each individual food.

But does that mean giving up the things I love? No no no. I just need to reinvent the things I love.

So I made chickpea tortilla nachos because I wanted something crunchy and familiar. I found a recipe on-line and adapted it a bit. They were delicious BUT they do not taste like the tortilla chips you’re used to. No reinvention will be exact but, it was close enough. It made me feel like I was indulging and sometimes, that is all a girl needs.

Lets talk about chickpeas and what they are good at:

  • Help control blood sugar levels
  • Increases productive digestion and aids in weight loss
  • High fiber content (see above)
  • Protects against heart disease and cancer
  • Provides essential vitamins and minerals such as iron and calcium
  • Great source of plant based protein (12 chips equal 11 grams of protein!! WIN!)

Now you are convinced, right?? Chickpeas are the bomb and you should make this recipe. Pronto. I made these with regular chickpea flour but the word on the street is that sprouted chickpea flour is even easier to digest. I have that coming Friday. I will let you know the difference should I see one. Onto the recipe!!

Chickpea Tortilla Chips

Ingredients:
2 cups chickpea flour (sprouted or regular)
1 ½ teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
6 tablespoons water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Throw chickpea flour, salt, pepper and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add the coconut oil and mix with your hands until the dough is crumbly. 4 tablespoons warm water and stir until the dough comes together. If the dough is not sticking together add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until it does. Try not to overwork the dough too much although I had to work it a bit to get everything to stick together nicely.

2. Place the dough onto a sheet of baking paper and flatten into a disc. Place another sheet of baking paper on top of the dough and using a rolling pin, roll out as thin as possible – this is SO important. Thin, thin, thin. My first batch was on the thick side and the chips had an odd texture. The thinner the dough, the lighter and crispier your chips will be. Remove the top layer of baking paper and score the dough into triangles. Slide the baking paper and dough onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 10-13 minutes until the chips are golden around the edges.

4. Move on to make the nachos or store in an airtight container for later consumption.

Fresh Housemade Salsa

Ingredients:
8-10 tomatoes, ripe as you can grab this time of year (I use the Campari tomatoes at Whole Foods, it’s the best I can do in winter)
1 jalapeno, seeds and all
1/2 small red onion
1 handful of cilantro
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Simply throw into a food processor and pulse until it becomes a consistency you will enjoy.

Avocado Crema

Ingredients:
1 small clove garlic
2 large, ripe avocados
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, minced
Olive oil, coconut oil to thin out as necessary (use your desired oil)

Cut avocados in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh into the food processor. Add the garlic, lime juice, salt and pulse on high until smooth. Add olive oil to thin as needed, and blend. Next add the cilantro leaves and pulse just until combined. Season to taste, adding more salt or lime juice as desired.

Nachos

Simply place a layer of chickpea tortillas on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with black beans, sharp cheddar cheese (use vegan cheese here if you like), diced red peppers and red onion. Bake until cheese is melty and gooey. Then top with avocado crema, fresh salsa and some cilantro leaves.

the cereal aisle

the cereal aisle

The cereal aisle is a dangerous place. I spend roughly 8 minutes of my life each and every grocery trip arguing with my children about why they can’t have 99% of the boxes in the cereal aisle. Here is a fun fact, 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. So, for all my math nerds, lets do some simple addition. A typical serving of cereal is 3/4 of a cup and contains 9-12 grams of sugar. If you buy your kid Honey Nut Cheerios and they have 2 servings (because really, who the fuck eats 3/4 of a cup of cereal?); that equals 18 grams of sugar, or 4.5 teaspoons of sugar. Go dump 4.5 teaspoons into a small glass, you want your kids munching on that to start their day? I hope not. Now this is an argument I sometimes lose. This week, my kids won and I bought them Cinnamon Toast Crunch (9 grams of sugar per serving). Lucky for me, they barely finish one serving and round off the meal with fruit or a smoothie. (which I pack with spinach or kale to offset the sugar) Personally, I can’t eat that shit but they’re kids and no matter how hard I try, sometimes they just want plain garbage.

However, for me, the convenience of cereal has its benefits. It is something quick that I can eat in the morning and helps me to avoid getting something on the way to work. I’ve been shoving plain Cheerios with a banana in my face nearly every day but I’m hungry less than an hour later. It just doesn’t sustain me. Bottom line – from a box is bad. Homemade is good. But since my new project is all about being real – who the hell has time to make homemade cereal????

Unfortunately, in doing research for my new project I found that a lot of plant based recipes are a disaster. Millions of unknown ingredients, most VERY expensive. Picture me in Whole Foods searching for psyllium husks. Twenty minutes and $10 later I found them but I was super annoyed. My new motto is – it doesn’t have to be this difficult. This recipe takes 5 minutes to put together. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool so you can dig in!

The recipe for this cereal is typical of what you will find in my new project. Easy to shop for, make and conquer. And how about the health benefits of the ingredients:

Flax seeds: help reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, contain omega-3 (healthy fat!) essential fatty acids, lignans (antioxidants!!) and fiber (both soluble and insoluble)
Almond flour: low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and high source of protein.
Coconut Oil: high in natural saturated fats which increase healthy cholesterol in the body which assists in heart health.
Unsweetened applesauce: an especially good source of soluble fiber, the type that dissolves into a gel-like substance and helps maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Cinnamon: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, helps protect brain function
Coconut Sugar: coconut sugar contains inulin. Inulin has the ability to stimulate the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria, commonly found in probiotice, which can provide an overall boost to the immune system. Don’t be fooled though, I do want to point out that sugar is sugar so best to be cautious when using.

So, here you have it, housemade cereal! P.S. This recipe goes a LONG way. Don’t let it fool you. I put like 15 squares in a bowl with lots of fresh berries and I was full until lunch. In fact, I had to push myself to eat lunch. The fact that it is grain and gluten free also means easy digestion and a slow release of energy. Also incredibly helpful for our whacky hormones. One recipe should last you a full working week.

HOUSEMADE CINNAMON VANILLA CEREAL – MAKES 7 SERVINGS (1 serving, roughly 12-15 squares, with a cup of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries is 267 calories) (this does not count almond milk)

Note: I don’t think this is meant to be enjoyed alone, I would always have it with a little fruit

1-1/2 cups organic blanched almond flour (you can find this in the organic section of Hannaford)
1/2 cup ground flax seeds (I just bought regular seeds and through them in the blender)
1-1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup coconut sugar (I actually cut this in half to 2 tablespoons and added 2 additional tablespoons of almond meal to reduce the overall sugar but you can do whatever suits you)
1/4 cup organic, unsweetened apple sauce (use an extra dollop if you need to for moisture)
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 325°F

2. Combine all the ingredients into a bowl, adding a touch more applesauce if you need to in order to achieve a “dough” that sticks together. I used my hands, using a spoon just didn’t make sense. Gather dough into a rough ball.

3. Place dough on piece of parchment paper and flatten into a disk to make rolling out easier. Place another piece of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough as evenly as possible, about 2mm thickness (don’t go too thin here or it will easily burn). Remove top sheet of parchment paper, and using a paring knife, score the dough into small squares. (see picture below)

4. Place in the oven to bake for about 15-20 minutes until turning golden around the edges, then turn the oven off and let the cereal sit in there until cool (this will help dry it out and make them extra crisp). Watch the cereal carefully. My first tried burned pretty badly. I started looking in at about 10 minutes. At 15, I placed a piece of foil on top to prevent browning further. It won’t feel crisp at first, but will dry out and crisp as the pan cools, I promise. If you are nervous about the color, put a piece of foil on while it sits with the oven off.

5. Once the cereal is completely cool, break up the pieces into squares (this will happen very easily) and place in an airtight glass container. Store for up to one month at room temperature.

Love. Oh yes, and brownies.

Love. Oh yes, and brownies.

I find love to be, an incredibly tricky thing. I started off today, imaging all the ways that I could talk about love and its glory. Then I got into a stupid argument with my husband and realized that, yes, love can be blissful but it can also make you want to smash someones face in. (like multiple times) It brings forth a range of emotions that can only be described as catastrophic and slightly manic. Love is like taking acid. One minute everything is glitter and unicorns and the next, it’s thinking jumping off the roof is a swell idea. Is this too debbie downer? It wasn’t intended to be that way. I’m just being real. Because while I appreciate the eight million posts on social media that fool us all into thinking your life is perfect, guess what, everyone has highs and lows. Just the nature of the game. When you enter into the bond of love you are saying the following: yes we will kiss and have sex occasionally, sometimes I will crave you like a feral animal chasing dinner, but most of the time I will argue about something entirely meaningless for no reason, wear sweatpants to bed that have chinese food stains on them from eight dinners ago and at this point, I’m comfortable enough to snuggle up to you post run with no shower. (which is gross) This Valentine’s Day, Josh and I didn’t even exchange gifts. No card. No flowers. I think I murmured something slightly offensive to him this morning while pouring my coffee. After that, we put the kids on the bus and I made some brownies before work for Emma’s teachers. Which I should have done last night but just couldn’t bring myself to dirty one more dish. There wasn’t any romantic show of affection. I didn’t wake up to some grand gesture. Does this simply just happen as the years tick by? Who the fuck knows. At 6 in the morning, I don’t really give a single shit. I love him. We are in love. But sometimes, it’s not as glamorous as it looks on the big screen. Love is messy and intense. For me, Josh is the first person in my life that I have willingly sacrificed everything for without regret. I have never embraced compromise like I did when I met Josh. I had a lot of hard choices to make the first few months together. We took a lot of risks and thankfully they have paid off. The caveat to great love however, is that it can bring you up….and….take you right back down. Is it always worth it? Unequivocally, yes. I can’t tell you what my life would look like without him but I know this–it wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.

Outside of my relationship, the remains of love are scattered all over my heart. I love many things. I think love can motivate us in so many ways it’s almost inconceivable. If I love a particular food, I will travel an hour to eat it. If I love the way a piece of the world appears in a photo, I will imagine a way to go see it in real life. Sometimes it’s as simple as loving the way snowflakes fall and pulling myself out of a warm house to stand in the midst of it all. I feel love the most when I am in the kitchen and my children come in and discover something I have made for them. Their faces of sheer joy and delight are almost more than I can handle. In that moment, I am everything to them that matters in this whole world. And that memory; of that taste and my love, will hopefully linger within them for many years to come.

Take your tricky, over the top, sometimes annoying love and run with it today. It may not be cheap or easy but no doubt, it’s worth all the fuss.

Decadent Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients
5.5 oz (155 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2.5 oz (70 grams) bittersweet chocolate (62-70% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (1 & 3/4 sticks/200 grams) unsalted butter, melted
5 eggs
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Position the oven rack to the middle and preheat to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. (I lined it with parchmant paper with a little overhang, to make removal easier)

Place the unsweetened chocolate and bittersweet chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Place over (not touching) barely simmering water in a saucepan and heat, stirring continuously, until completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat, whisk in the melted butter until well combined and set aside to cool slightly.

Place the eggs in a mixer bowl and fit mixer with the whisk attachment. On low, slowly beat in the sugar for 1 minute, or until frothy and somewhat thick. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate mixture.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using the spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture into the egg-chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. Do not over mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer with the spatula. (Batter will be thick)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes- but start checking at about 20 minutes. They are done when a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few wet crumbs on it. If there is still liquid batter on the tester, they need more time. If the tester comes out clean, they are cooked through and will be just cakey (not fudgy too). Let them cool for 2 hours. They are so moist, they need this time to firm up enough to cut.

blizzard days call for homemade granola parfaits

blizzard days call for homemade granola parfaits

I know that everyone around me is hating this weather but I am really inspired by days like today. Standing outside this afternoon, with the wind hitting my skin; each snowflake quickly making its impression before melting away, carved out a type of happiness I didn’t know existed. Yes, it is cold but does anything else make you feel more alive? There are so many tantalizing components in winter; so many ways for our senses to be awakened. The sound of snow crunching beneath our feet, the glow of our skin as the cold creates a rosy exterior, the way it feels to step into a warm house–these are gifts given to make up for the harsh environment we often experience from November-February (and sometimes March). I also quite enjoy that on days like today, we are forced, no matter how much we kick and scream, to give up the hustle. Stay inside. Stay together. If you allow yourself to love it; today can become a coveted part of life.

miles

Josh and I did have to venture into work for a little while today but everything felt so relaxed. Today’s weather halts work in the construction industry so there is little for us to manage. It creates an air of anything goes and gives us a little time to play catch up. While the kids don’t always enjoy a trip to the office, we love that working for ourselves means they can come along. Before we left, I made myself some homemade granola, something I have been craving for quite some time. The brands sold in the store have so much sugar that I really can’t bear to purchase them. 1/4 cup can easily have up to 20g and at that point it’s like, why bother trying to behave? You also have to watch for ingredients like brown rice syrup and other creepy ingredients that can side track healthy habits. This took 5 minutes to whip up and was delicious on my favorite Icelandic yogurt with a side of strawberries and lots of honey from the fall harvest.

granaola-1

Josh bought me a new camera for our anniversary and I’ve been tinkering with it all weekend. We were supposed to go away but an unexpected health issue caused us to cut the trip way early. None the less, it allowed for some extra time with the kids, yummy food, a calmer than usual anniversary and lovely snow days.

emma-and-miles

Granola

Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cut almonds, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3 teaspoons cinnamon (this really comes down to taste)
3 teaspoons vanilla
1/2-3/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup chia seeds
Optional ingredients: sunflower seeds, raisins, cranberries, flax seeds

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix everything in a bowl until well coated. Place in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Cook until golden brown, checking often and stirring every 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool and enjoy.

chocolate + hazelnut sables

chocolate + hazelnut sables

Today had a rough start.  I was forced into having a frank discussion this morning with my daughter that left me in tears while sitting at breakfast. Crying over my egg whites is generally not the way I like to begin my mornings but when you have an 11 year old; sometimes that is just the way it goes. We have been struggling a lot in this house lately and I’m sure Emma’s emotional response is in direct proportion to the way I handle things. I allow people to push me in my life until I get to a point where I can no longer take it and then I cut them off. This type of reaction has left me with a pile full of regrets. I’m also very good at masking my emotions. When people die, I tend to show the world that I simply moved on, when in fact, I am pulling myself apart inside trying to figure out how this person I loved is no longer in my life. One of the people I never speak of is my father, whose death was incredibly hard on me. More than I wanted to admit to myself or to those around me. But I have decided that loss doesn’t have to feel so permanent and the last few weeks I have pulled out photos of him and actually put them out for others to see. Josh, until very recently, had never even seen a picture of my father and I have tried over the course of our marriage to limit the information. Why? I don’t know. Seems silly now.

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My father was a big nut person. Pecans were his favorite but hazelnuts took a close second. The only thing he could bake in the whole world was pie. But let me tell you, his pies were life changing. The texture, the flavor, the crispy crust, the crunchy pecans, the perfectly done apples….I mean….these pies would leave you longing for more. As a child, I would dream about his pies. Thanksgiving felt more like Christmas because it meant I could have a slice of my favorite, pecan pie. The best part was, no limits. Dad’s southern roots meant that “no” wasn’t in his vocabulary when it came to food. Sometimes, at 3 in the morning, when he couldn’t sleep, I would join him for a slice of pie and we would talk about life.  He had a difficult childhood and his only hope was to make my brother and I happy. I find that broken people try the hardest but make the most mistakes. However, I have reconciled all the dust and have only happy memories of him.

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Family, is whatever road you choose to pave for yourself. There are no rules and there are very few victories. People are universally damaged and we do the best we can not to hurt one another but sometimes it’s inevitable. I think the biggest take-a-way from the past five years is when it comes to family; you must make allowances. A critical way of being won’t produce anything positive. We have to accept the faults we are born with or manifest over time and move on. After all, our time here is temporary. Love does conquer all–so let as much into your heart as you can.

I sat down and had a cup of coffee in one of Nana’s teacups and admired a picture of my father holding me during my Baptism. He was a handsome man who was filled with passion. Everything I know, everything I am and everything I will ever be is deeply rooted in his genetics. This afternoon, I am thankful for that. And, I can only hope that one day my daughter will feel the same way about me.

Now on to the recipe.

Ingredients:
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
11 tablespoons room temperature butter
1 vanilla bean
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. melted 60% cocoa chocolate chips
ground hazelnuts and cocoa nibs to finish (totally options)

Place the sugar and the butter in a mixing bowl and beat on med-high until light and fluffy. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the bowl. Gradually beat in the eggs on low speed until well incorporated. Gently fold in the flour, cocoa powder and ground hazelnuts with a metal spoon. (a rubber spatula will not do the trick) Do not overwork the dough as it will drastically change the resulting cookie. Working the dough only as necessary will ensure a light, crispy cookie. Bring the dough together into a ball and place in the refrigerator for one hour. Preheat oven to 325, flour the surface of your counter and roll out the dough. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 15-20 cookies and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Toss your chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat on low for 1-2 minutes, stopping often and stirring the chocolate. Do not heat until the chips are all melted. Take out when they are still a tiny bit lumpy and stir until smooth. Continue stirring an additional minute. This will protect the chocolate and prevent overeating. Dip each cookie once cooled in the melted chocolate and garnish as desired.