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.

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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.

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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.

kid friendly (but still upscale) lunch: parmesan parsley fries + housemade chicken “nuggets”

kid friendly (but still upscale) lunch: parmesan parsley fries + housemade chicken “nuggets”

My kids know that snow days are the bomb in this house. It usually means I have the energy to make a delightful breakfast, a savory and scrumptious lunch and something sweet to end the day. Weekdays are usually me scrambling, shoving into their mouths some frozen waffles in the morning (I know, shameful) and the most nutritious lunch I can pack in less than 3-5 minutes. Dinner time in the Morrison household is sacred so everyone knows that at around 6:30 we sit around the table and eat something delicious. But it doesn’t always feel quite as leisurely as a day so icy and cold, no one dares to venture outside.

In general, I really try to monitor what my children put into their bodies. I try to instill a philosophy that is based around substance and ingredients rather than calories or weight. We talk a lot about what is in our food, how it makes us feel and the long term gain of eating local, well sourced meat, cheese and produce. My children know to look at sugar content and assess where the sugar is coming from rather than the number itself. A lot of people ask why I bother, they’re just kids after all?? Well guys, food these days is fucking scary. Everything has high fructose corn syrup, kids are gaining weight at an uncontrollable weight and diabetes is exploding in America. I want healthful, active, happy kids. Who yes, occasionally eat brownies, processed food and other shit we all enjoy. Again, not deprivation, moderation.

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Like most children, my kids love chicken nuggets and fries. After all, it is a staple for a lot of busy families with small children and picky palettes. Sometimes, my kids get the stuff out of a package but on days like today, I make them the real thing.

Right now, there’s a fire going, a pot of coffee on and happy kids doing, I don’t know, kid shit. (they lock themselves in their rooms at this age and play board games) Winter isn’t always fun but I do love days just like this.

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Ingredients: (this fed me and the kiddos, adjust id necessary)
3 large russet potatoes, cut into strips (try and keep them equal)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley minced
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 package of organic, all natural, boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into “nugget” size
2 egg whites
1 cup italian bread crumbs

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse your potatoes in cold water until the water runs relatively clear. Dry completely on a paper towel. (don’t short cut this step) Toss on a baking sheet with the olive oil and sea salt. Spread out the fries so they are evenly distributed over the baking sheet. Place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until they start to get golden brown. DO NOT TOUCH, flip and please try not to peak into the oven. This will cause them to stick and become a mess. Leave them be. While they are baking, toss the cut up chicken in the eggs whites and throw into a bowl with the bread crumbs. Toss to coat. Evenly distribute on a separate baking sheet. Quickly throw them in the oven. When the fries are golden brown, remove them from oven (they should easily move on the baking sheet). Toss in parsley and parmesan, serve immediately. By this point, the chicken should be golden as well. Serve with some ketchup or BBQ sauce and watch your kids come alive. (or in my case, shove your face and marvel in what a fantastic cook you are)

to die for black bean soup + some future plans

to die for black bean soup + some future plans

Up until last year, I loathed black beans. The texture and the color were two reasons I wouldn’t go near them. I’ve never been a huge bean person to begin with. I mean, they kiiiind of look like tiny terds. (I know, I’m not painting an appetizing picture before I launch this recipe but lets be honest, lots of things look like terds and we still eat them) I’m not sure what shifted but one day I suddenly became comfortable with this bean. (all beans really) Since then, I have found a multitude of ways to incorporate them in recipes I serve up everyday. They really are quite flexible and incredibly healthy. They are rich in fiber, potassium, folate and Vitamin B6; not too shabby for something resembling a tiny terd.

Now, I live with a bunch of finicky bitches. The worst one-my husband. He can sniff out a healthy dish from 20 miles away. You would think the 11 and 6 year old would be the issue–no–it’s Josh. He likes easy food, out of package that can be prepared in under 3 minutes. Sometimes, he will storm downstairs, whip open the refrigerator doors and promptly declare that we have absolutely nothing to eat in this house. (when in fact, the fridge is packed with fruits and veggies-all things necessary in creating a complex meal) Cooking isn’t his gig. Healthy eating, not his gig. He likes sodium, starch, meat and cheese. Lots of chemicals, don’t hold out on the difficult to pronounce ingredients–those are his favorite. Soooooo, I have to be creative in how I approach healthy eating. I also have to work within flavor profiles he enjoys. Black beans happen to be one of his faves. Hence, this soup.

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This recipe does require soaking your own black beans but I suppose if you are feeling lazy you could just chuck some canned ones in here. I think it makes a big difference to use fresh black beans. I also highly recommend using homemade chicken stock which I try and have on hand for occasions such as this. Anytime I have any chicken bones at my disposal, I make stock. It’s a wonderful thing to have shoved in your freezer. Overall, this is an easy to make recipe that requires one pot (after soaking the beans of course) and results in a deeply flavorful, cathartic experience.

In other news, you will see the photography here is a little different. That is because I actually put some effort in for today’s post. I’m by no means a professional photographer but I am hoping to learn enough over the next few months to produce beautiful photos that showcase my food in a delectable fashion. After having a long chat with Josh; I think this is the year I’m going for the cookbook which means a lot of effort into this blog. Literary agents want proof of an audience as well as an established brand. This means I have to refine my style, my recipe content and eventually come up with a pristine proposal that sells what sets me apart from the crowd. I’ll be focusing on desserts and breakfast items but don’t worry; I’ll keep posting savory items here on the reg. The goal is to have a minimum of 6 tested recipes to comprise an introductory chapter as well as all the other components necessary for a proposal in 8 months. In terms of this blog, I will post 1-2 solid, well photographed recipes every week. I know I have a voice and I know there are people out there that want to hear it. Life is too short not to go for it–so I’m going for it. What’s the worst that can happen? I get turned down? I probably will. But then I just keep looking for those who believe in me and chugging along. Better to know than to not. In general, I am so excited at the prospect of at least going for it.

empty-soup-bowl

P.S. As much as I make fun of Josh and his eating habits; he is the best cheerleader a gal could ever ask for. The cookbook is something he has pushed for years; citing that if I don’t go for it; I’m wasting my talent. He’s incredible. Fetches my camera when I need it, puts up with my chaos and tells me when my food is shitty (but also when it’s really fucking good).

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups dried black beans
2 tablespoons pork lard or olive oil (I highly suggest the pork lard, you can find it at Whole Foods)
1 red onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 red pepper, diced (seeds removed, obviously)
7 garlic gloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4-5 cups of chicken stock

Garnishes: anything you want. I made some fresh pico de gallo, placed it on top with cilantro, sour cream and some diced red onions. You can make this as simple or as complex as you like. Oh, and don’t forget a nice big squeeze of fresh lime.

In a sauce pot, toss in the black beans with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and remove from heat. DO NOT TOUCH, don’t even peak, don’t open that lid for anything until 90 full minutes have passed. Then drain the beans and put aside. (I cooked mine the day before when I had a little extra energy, that way they’d be ready when I finally wanted to make this soup). In a large saucepan (like the size you would boil pasta in), heat the lard over medium heat and throw in the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, pepper, oregano, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want them to be soft and slightly browned. Turn the heat up to high and cook until most of the moisture has been sizzled away. Now, add the vinegar, stir and allow to cook until you can no longer smell that sharp pang. Add the stock, bring to a boil. Add the drained beans, stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the beans are tender. Toss into a blender and pulse until the soup is a consistency you prefer. At this point, I usually add a little extra chicken stock just to thin things out a bit. I don’t like ridiculously thick soup. Season if necessary. Serve hot.

 

 

A better way to eat a brownie

A better way to eat a brownie

I have to be honest, the texture of some raw/vegan desserts makes my skin crawl. I know that they are better for me and my ass won’t jiggle quite as much when I consume them but the mind over matter thing just doesn’t work. Take my last vegan/raw brownie recipe, it was actually quite good but the texture of the top made me feel weird inside so I went in search of a better raw brownie. This is also why I don’t eat the following: jello, avocados, beef jerky and seafood of any kind. I have these mental barriers that I just can’t seem to overcome. And according to a lecture I watched today, your 20’s happens to be where it all goes down, all your opinions are formed in this decade. So if, approaching thirty (insert whiny face here) I can’t stomach seafood, it’s probably never going to happen for me. Anyways, I was surfing the great land of Pinterest the other night, where I am convinced most recipes go to die (green bell pepper stuffed with roast beef and then covered with american cheese and baked, ewwwwwww), when I stumbled upon this little gem. It led me to a site I am quite familiar with and happen to love love love: My New Roots. This lady gets it, food should be good and good for you. Labels are not necessary. And just because you are going healthy doesn’t mean you should feel like crying in the corner. My last vegan/raw brownie made me want to hit someone in the face. Reading the recipe, I was unsure, but I have tremendous faith in the author of this fabulous blog and her pictures looked amazing so I decided to give it a go in my kitchen.

It really is simple, you will need the following: Medjool dates (this will cost you anywhere from $9-$14 bucks, get over it, they’re worth it), walnuts, almonds, raw cocoa powder and sea salt. A food processor is also a must as there is no way any blender (not even my trusty Vitamix) can handle this business. Don’t skimp on ingredients, if you use some creepy regular grade cocoa powder, it will be obvious and then no one will want any part of these. I gave my almonds a nice little toast, as well as the walnuts, because my nuts don’t like to go naked, they like a little flavor. But to keep the brownies truly raw, don’t be doing any of that.

You start with the walnuts, pulsing them until they are fine. Then you add the silky raw cocoa powder  and the sea salt to the walnuts and give it a little additional pulse.

Then it’s merely dropping the dates in one by one until the mixture starts to come together. From there, I lined a square pan with parchment paper and threw the mixture right on in there. Then, I pulsed my almonds gently in the food processor (nope, didn’t even wash it) and then I combined the almonds with the date/chocolate mixture with my fingers. Once they were happy together, I pressed it all into my pan.

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After a nice deep freeze, I took them out, anxious to cut into them and see what they actually taste like. The texture is amazing. When you cut them, they look like real brownies. Which for me is just wonderful. It gets me excited. Deeply excited. But then I took a bite and was completely amazed. These really are good. Like really really good. They taste like a deeply rich, decadent, brownie. I think I just heard angels singing.

I’m telling you all, go and give these a whirl. They take zero time at all and they taste magical. Without the guilt.

The Raw Brownie, courtesy of My New Roots

Ingredients:
2 cups whole walnuts
2 ½ cups Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cacao
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. sea salt

Directions:
1. Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.
2. Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.
3. Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).
4. In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into a lined cake pan or mold. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store in an airtight container.