We took a trip over to the USA last week (I live super close to an American border crossing-hey neighbours!) and brought back a certain brand of cookies, featuring certain little worker elves occupying a suspiciously chocolate-equipped treehouse/cookie factory. These were tagging along with some bottles of my favourite kombucha to keep it all in balance of course. Anyway these cookies were good. Too good. Thick cut graham-like crackers covered in fudge-y chocolate. Very simple goodness flavour-wise that unfortunately DID NOT translate to a simple ingredients list. Hydrogenated whatnots, probably 5 forms of sugar, the white flour, preservatives etc. Oy. And I ate how many? Too many.
Since I’m not one to dwell on less-than-virtuous eating incidents (I eat for pleasure first and always), I started dreaming up a healthier version of this crack-cookie as it were. There would be coconut oil for fat, hazelnuts for body (and to give off a bit of a nutella vibe), wholesome sweeteners, healthy garnishes for fun deliciousness and the like.
And it all worked out! I made my own hazelnut and coconut flour/meal in the blender and threw the dough together in the food processor. You could grind the flour in the food processor too, saving yourself some extra dishes/appliance usage. When grinding the nuts/coconut, you’e looking for the consistency of almond meal. A few stops short of nut butter does the trick. It should hold together when you pinch it, but still feel dry.
The dough will actually seem like a failure right from the outset. You’ll wonder how this sticky goop will become cookies-cookies that will actually be pleasant enough to eat at that. Flatten it out, stick it in the oven, maybe cross your fingers a bit and whoa! Spiced vanilla hazelnutty-molasses goodness that will take a bath in chocolate and get all smothered in sea salt, chopped nuts and cacao nibs. Oh. Yes. Protein, healthy fat, grain-free, sugar-free, satiating, vegan, tasty pretties… all that good stuff for wholesome, fancy-lady tea time. Sorry sweet little elves. Today, I win.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
After you’ve processed the hazelnuts and coconut, add the arrowroot powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt. Pulse a couple times to combine.
Add the maple syrup, molasses, coconut oil, non-dairy milk and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Place the lid back on and pulse until the dough starts to form a solid mass. If it isn’t clumping together, add hazelnut or coconut meal in tablespoon increments until it starts forming a ball as you pulse the machine.
Remove the blade and scrape the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Place a big sheet of saran wrap on top of the dough and flatten the dough out with a rolling pin. You want it fairly thin, around a 1/4 inch thickness. Transfer the parchment sheet with the dough to a baking sheet large enough to hold it all. Bake for about 12 minutes or until edges are quite brown and dough feels dry. Cool completely.
Cut giant graham into whatever size cookies you like, removing the super brown edges.
Make the ganache: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Lower it to a simmer and add the chocolate chips, maple syrup and coconut oil. Whisk until chocolate is fully melted, about 3 minutes. Keep warm until ready to use.
Line another baking sheet with parchment. Using a small spatula as a chocolate dry-walling tool of sorts, brush the ganache onto the cut grahams. Lay them on the parchment-lined sheet and garnish with whatever you like while they’re still wet. Repeat with remaining grahams. Place in the fridge to set chocolate more rapidly.
Much as I love the season of turning leaves, blushing summer fruits and full flavour veggies are at their peak in my little corner of southern Ontario. Time to get virtuous with the resources and do the right thing: eat it all. Pinterest is kind of exploding with pumpkin spice things and braises, hot toddies, pictures of cold mist washing over mountains, wool sweaters, ruggedly handsome dudes in puffer vests, ankle booties and the like. Resistance. Peaches. Iced tea. Summer. Forever.
I won’t deny the cool breeze floating around in the evenings though. This recipe is made for that coolness, that whisper of things to come. It’s a warm and hearty bowl-food kind of recipe that makes you feel good just knowing that it’s going to come about. There is toasty farro stirred in a risotto style with a bunch of summer veg, shallots, a heavy drizzle of white wine and the sweetest, most delicious thing ever: corn stock. Stock made from corn cobs. So simple. So game-changing.
September brings out the “clean it up, get resourceful, and move the hell on” side of me. It’s something fierce. I’ve been working a lot, so spending that precious leisure time in a cloud of clutter was making me somewhat grumpy. It was time to remedy that in a serious way. Along with getting all enterprising and such on those corn cobs, I’ve been on a bit of a clean-up tear.
There was a slight closet purging, major recycling efforts, a pantry consolidation (“Oh neat there’s farro in the back of this cupboard!“), a solemn promise to hold a yard sale (and an equally solemn promise to be more discerning on kitchen and book-related purchases) etc. How have I amassed so much stuff? It’s overwhelming, but I’ve been taking some giant steps, making it all happen and feeling way better. Room to breathe and move around. It feels good, friends. Like a shinier, sparklier, less hindered version of yourself emerging. All that and a bowl of farrotto. Summer can stick around a while longer as far as I’m concerned.
4 cobs of corn, kernels removed and set aside and cobs saved
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the corn cob stock: place the cobs in a large pot. Add a few dices of celery, onion and carrot if you like. Pour 6 cups of water into the pot over the vegetables. Place pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain stock through a sieve. Return stock to the large pot. Keep warm. There should be about 4-5 cups-worth.
While stock is simmering, line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Place whole grape tomatoes on the paper. Toss tomatoes with the 1 tsp of oil and some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until slightly browned and shriveled. Remove and set aside.
Drain and rinse the farro, trying to remove as much water as possible. Set aside. Start simmering the strained corn cob stock on a back burner.
Heat the 2 tbsp of oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and minced thyme. Saute until the shallots are translucent and browning slightly. Add the drained farro. Stir it around until it’s thoroughly coated in oil and starting to smell toasty. Add the wine. It should bubble up quite a bit. Stir the farro around until most of the wine is absorbed.
Add a 1/2 cup of corn stock. Stir the grains around until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process with the stock until the farro is just about cooked. I added about 3 cups of stock (in 6 additions) before I got to this stage. When you bite into a kernel of farro, it should yield to the tooth, but still have a bit of chew.
Add the corn kernels and one more 1/2 cup of stock. Stir vigorously to activate the starch in the corn. Once most of the stock is absorbed and the mixture appears creamy. Add the roasted tomatoes, basil, pine nuts and pecorino (if using). Season with salt and pepper and stir gently to combine.
Serve hot with more chopped basil on top if you like.
The beans in this recipe are not so typical and neither is the salsa. It’s different. Good-different. I purchased the Mexico issue from Saveur a while ago, read through it in about an hour and was so inspired by the flavours, colours, stories and intricacies of cuisine brought forth. Rick Bayless, one of my favourite chef personalities, has a fantastic piece in it describing the culinary landscape of the country. I find inspiration all around pretty regularly, but this is whole ‘nother level kind of stuff.
String beans usually get the steam-and-serve-on-the-side treatment so I was pretty stoked to get weird with them in this dish. Summertime makes us rich in this particular vegetable and since the heat is just raging on (I’m not ready to even contemplate pumpkin’s existence yet), I’m using them up.
I spent some time in more rural parts of Mexico when I was a teenager. I don’t remember eating anything exactly like this, but the boldness of the flavour, its vibrance and colour, the simple goodness of it, really brought me back to those quieter nights away from the hotspots. Warm tortillas scooping up homemade delicacies. Simple sweets that you only needed a teeny bit of. I can still see the sprawling, bare landscape and the small houses dolled up with strings of lights from all the way out here.
So anyway, there was a page in the issue on salsa called Special Sauce, describing the ubiquitous condiment as “an endless journey.” I was drawn in immediately. There’s a pretty typical formula we think of when we hear “salsa” in North America, but in its home country, the varieties that span the varying landscapes are in the thousands. Every home, every community, climate, state etc. makes it differently according to what is available and what particular food application is going to come about. Some types are universally used throughout the country, but this riff on a fried peanut-based salsa is more popular in and around Chiapas.
We didn’t have any peanuts, but almonds are always plentiful here and I love them paired with green beans. That combination is classic for a reason. The time had come to roast them to the edge of burnt with some hot peppers from the garden and then grind the whole mess up with oil, lime, salt and garlic. I toss some blanched beans and fragrant brown rice in that rich, fiery paste and top it off with more toasted nuts, soft and cooling goat cheese and fresh lime zest. It’s crunchy, fresh, rich, toasty, creamy and fairly hot. It’s wonderful. So much variety and influences on one plate taking you everywhere at once.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
Place the almonds on a small, parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the hot peppers and garlic on a separate parchment-lined sheet. Put both sheets in the oven. Roast almonds for about 12 minutes or until very brown and toasty. Continue roasting peppers and garlic for another 12 minutes, or until shrivelled and browned/blackened. Remove from the oven to cool.
Save for a small handful, place all of the almonds in a food processor. Remove the stem from the hot peppers and the skin from the garlic. Add these to the food processor along with the lime zest, juice, grapeseed oil and salt. Pulse until a smooth (but still textured) paste forms. Scrape out of the food processor and set aside.
Set up a large bowl with some ice in it for shocking the beans when they come out of the hot water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Add a good pinch of salt and dump the trimmed beans in. Simmer until beans are crisp-tender, about 8-9 minutes. Drain the beans and place them in the ice water. Stir them around until adequately chilled. Drain the beans and set aside.
Toss the drained beans and brown rice with half of the salsa in a large bowl until everything is thoroughly coated. Place beans and rice on your serving plate. Chop residual toasted almonds and sprinkle on top of beans and rice. Garnish with goat cheese and lime zest. Serve at room temperature.
The end of summer has all kind of gone along with that theme. A whole bunch of little, unassuming and wonderful things that make up the big beautiful and fill it with grace. Very simply satisfied with life at the moment.
What goes along nicely with little things that fill your life with shiny abundance? Oatmeal. Yep.
When we go on any excursion, not just the great-outdoors ones, food is my responsibility. Mark handles the fire building, wood chopping, the shelter construction, any navigation whatsoever, loading the canoe properly, lifting all the heavy things, tying our food up high in the trees at night like a pro (bears are a real deal possibility)… you get the idea. He does a lot and watching him carry on happily in that element, I couldn’t love him more.
So naturally I try to make the food aspect way good. Sure it has to be delicious, kind of easy to scheme up, slightly compact, but also crazy-fortifying. Hot oatmeal cooked over a campfire with a bit of hemp, vanilla sugar and fresh fruit on a cool woodsy morning fits the bill just right. I’m more of a steel-cut kind of gal normally, but for the sake of practicality this add-hot-water-and-stir number hits the spot and is just as tasty to boot. Sure I could have bought the little packets, but it’s crazy simple to make and ten times better. Actually.
A lot of the packaged brands include some kind of milk powder to achieve a sort of creaminess when the hot water is added. I wasn’t really all over this particular move, so I found a solution that I can deliciously live with. Justin’s and Artisana brands make some awesome nut butters in tiny packets for healthy peeps on the go. It’s brilliant. I boil up some water, dump in the pre-bagged oat goodness, add the packet of nut butter, stir stir stir over the fire, add some chopped fruit and voila. Tasty breakfast.
This is a pretty smart little strategy for the work week too. It’s easy enough to have access to a jar of almond butter (or whatever you like) and some hot water at the workplace so why not? Make up five little bundles of the good stuff on a day off, make sure no one’s snagging spoonfuls of your nut/seed butter at work and you’re all good for healthy, happy morning meals.
do-it-yourself instant oatmeal with nut butter
in the packet:
Place the oats, seeds/nuts, dried fruit, sweetener and salt in a bag or tupperware container of some type. When ready to serve, dump contents into serving dish of your choice.
Pour the boiling water on top and add the nut butter. Stir it all up until thoroughly combined. Place chopped fruit on top and serve.