Dark Chocolate Raspberry Granola

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I hate pedestrian crosswalks.

Not the ones you can cross by your own free will, but those that require you to press a button.

I just…can’t.

When I look at it, I see the man who didn’t wash his hands, the child who just wiped their nose, or the woman who picked up after her dog.

I see a germ here,

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here,

Button2

and here.

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And then exponentially increased because we all know there’s an epidemic of gross going on down there.

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So I adapt.

I cover my hand with my shirtsleeve. Sometimes I use my purse. I’ve even used my hip to press that damn button.

And yet.

If I’m at party, and there are communal snacks, I’m ok with it.

Hands diving into a bag of chips? No big.

Only want half of that cookie? That’s cool, break it in half and we’ll share.

Grab a handful of granola? Just make sure you have it with some coconut yogurt too.

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Just don’t ask me to hit the crosswalk button on our walk home.

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How to Make Almond Milk

Last week I tweeted about my new found love for Peanut Butter Cheerios with homemade almond milk.  I was a bit surprised when a few of my friends asked me for a recipe, because, well hello, these Cheerios are life changing.  And almond milk is you know, just this slightly nutty, creamy medium with a hint of vanilla for the Cheerios to swim in.

Ok, so it’s a bit more than a medium.

I also promised I would post this week, so here I am, sharing my version of “How To Make Almond Milk.”

Because that’s what I, will do for you.

And by you, I mean myself, because that’s what a narcissist gets, as no one wants to read material that’s all about me me me.

But isn’t that what blogging is all about?

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Breakfast Under Five Minutes: Quinoa with Dried Cranberries, Golden Raisins and Slivered Almonds

I am not Bethenny Frankel.

I don’t even watch The Real Housewives of Whatever.  (My mother on the other hand loves that series.)

Some may even say she’s a better example of a human being than me.

Like, she’s a hardcore yogi.

Her arms are way more jacked than mine.

She’s either one of the best business women of 2011 or her agent/manager is Yoda.

What I owe in interest every 10 days for my student loans is probably what she makes per hour.  Correction, minute.

She owns an obedient, little dog while I have two cats that love to overeat and have tried to ruin Christmas by knocking over the tree.

But.  But!

I recycle.

Ok, I don’t know if she recycles or not, and quite honestly, even I don’t recycle sometimes.

I’m a terrible person, I know.

However, I hope that this quick and easy breakfast will convince you to forgive me for my non-Bethenny arms, drowning in student loan interest and occasional recycling ways.

This warm bowl of quinoa is creamy from the soy milk, has a hint of sweetness from the maple syrup and chock full of different textures with bright, sweet-tart cranberries, slightly plumped golden raisins and crunchy slivered almonds.  Quinoa is also a complete protein, so put down your cold, chalky protein powder shake and treat yourself to a warm breakfast that almost tastes indulgent.

Seriously.  You deserve more than that shake (despite what Sue Sylvester tells you).

*Roo was extremely dubious when I placed this in front of him from breakfast, not knowing how to deal with a non-savory quinoa dish (he suddenly forgot that he’s eaten it in a cake before).  Just try it.  I promise you it won’t taste like a quinoa patty with maple syrup on top of it.  Pinky swear.

Adapted from Bethenny Frankel

Makes One Serving (recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, etc.)

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Ingredients

Half cup of cooked quinoa

3 tablespoons of soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Half tablespoon of dried cranberries (or whatever you prefer as a yummy dried fruit)

Half tablespoon of golden raisins

1 tablespoon of slivered almonds (or whatever nut you prefer)

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Equipment

A bowl

A clean spoon (or whatever you plan on eating the quinoa with, to mix the ingredients)

Microwave (or if you don’t own one, a small pot)

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Add the cooked quinoa, soy milk (or other non-dairy milk), maple syrup, golden raisins, cranberries (or whatever you prefer for dried fruit) and slivered almonds to a bowl.  Mix together with a spoon (or whatever eating utensil you have on hand) and throw in the microwave to heat through for a minute or two (depending on how strong your microwave is).  If you don’t own a microwave, dump the ingredients after mixing into a small pot and place on you burner on medium low heat.  Cook till heated through, stirring occasionally.  Serve warm.

Quinoa with Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Parsnips, Carrots and Butternut Squash

Did you…

come home to see that the cats had knocked down your Christmas tree?

get your hands covered in wretched, sticky sap after putting the tree back up?

curse under your breath as you were washing off your hands, because you forgot that this also happened last year?

hysterically accuse your cats of hating Christmas while they just stared at you?

then find two green beans in your sneaker the next morning?

Coming home to a disaster in the living room isn’t exactly what I want to deal with before making dinner.

Instead, it makes me want to pour myself a glass of wine; throwing some items onto a baking sheet and into a pot, being just an after thought.

Thankfully this recipe is just that (sans wine).

Most of the work comes from prepping the veg: peeling, cutting, tossing with a bit of olive oil.  Then throwing them onto two baking sheets and roasting them while the quinoa cooks in a pot.  (Or rice cooker. And if you’re lucky, it’ll sing to you when it’s done.)

It’s also very easy for it to look lovely in presentation: quinoa placed on a platter with assorted roasted veg on top; all their caramelized edges facing outward, just asking to be snatched up and popped into hungry mouths.  It’s quite possibly the easiest way to impress guests for a meal that took less than an hour to make.

I love the sweetness from the roasted veg and golden raisins, crunch of the toasted almond slivers, and basically any excuse to eat quinoa.

It’s so good that it almost makes me forget that the cats tried to ruin Christmas.

Serves 4

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*This recipe is so simple to add flavors to that you’re craving during the winter months. Feel free to add, for example, a sprig of rosemary to your quinoa as it cooks. Or for example, for added richness, a tablespoon of butter.*

Ingredients

One cup of quinoa, rinsed

Two cups of low sodium stock (I used homemade vegetable) (*if using a rice cooker, fill the bowl to the “1” with stock after adding the quinoa)

2 – 3 tablespoons of mild tasting olive oil (basically enough olive oil to lightly coat the veg before going into the oven)

1 teaspoon of fine sea salt salt

Half a small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into half inch pieces (the smaller the chop, the faster it’ll cook!)

1 pound of brussels sprouts, halved

1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into one inch chunks

Two large carrots, peeled and chopped into one inch chunks

One third cup of golden raisins

One third cup of almond slivers, toasted

Salt and pepper to taste

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Equipment

A small pot to cook the quinoa with a lid, or a rice cooker (this is what I used)

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

(At least) Two cookie sheets

Two large bowls (or one, and after tossing the veg with olive oil clean it out and use it to serve the meal with)

A small pan (to toast the almonds with)

A spatula

A platter/very large plate to serve the dish on

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Place your oven racks to the middle upper and middle lower positions in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a small pot add the quinoa and stock.  Place over a burner on medium high heat and bring the liquid to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients for about ten to fifteen minutes, covered, or until the curly-q tail (you’ll know it when you see it) is visible.  Remove the pot from heat, fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside.

If using a rice cooker, add the quinoa and then stock, filling the bowl to the “1 cup” marker.  Cook on “quick cook,” or whatever similar setting you have on your rice cooker.  When the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and set aside.

In a large bowl add the brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots and butternut squash.  Add the olive oil and salt.  Toss all the ingredients together (I used my hands) till well coated with the oil and salt.

Throw all the veg onto your cookie sheets and place in the oven on the upper middle and lower middle racks.  Roast for about thirty minutes.  Halfway through roasting turn all the veg over so that they can be browned on both sides, and rotate the cookie sheets, placing them on different racks.  The veg will be done when they’re browned and soft when pierced with a fork/knife.  Remove the veg from the oven and set aside.

In a small pan add the almond slivers and place over a burner on medium heat.  Watching the nuts closely, swirl them around over the heat until they are browned.  Remove from heat.

In another large bowl (or the one you tossed the veg with, cleaned), add the quinoa, roasted veg, raisins and almond slivers.  Toss the ingredients together till combined.  Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.

Scoop out the quinoa onto a platter then place the roasted veg on top.  Serve immediately, being sure to scoop up all sorts of veg and quinoa onto your plate.

The Best Veggie Burger Roo Ever Had

I hate veggie burgers.

Roo hates veggie burgers.

I think this is why we get along so well.  Well that and our love of cookie dough.

But lately I’ve been curious about making a meatless burger.

For me to even admit that, to the one reader I have (Hello, self!) is a bit of a feat.  Yes, I’m probably exaggerating, but I love the dramz*. And by dramz, I don’t mean “the situation.” Which, by the way, I 1. hate myself for knowing that catch phrase/title (that sound hear right now is my soul crying), 2. did Abercrombie really pay him to not wear his clothing?  Can I also be labeled “bad for the brand,” and be paid?, and 3. Yes, I like CBS news (although I don’t know what this “Celebrity Circuit” crap is). It’s right before Matlock.  Or Columbo.  Or…

Ramblings aside, it’s taken a lot for me to think about beans.  In a burger.  And it tasting delicious.

Having been scarred by all the commercial ones that tasted akin to a cardboard box that previously housed ten cats, I knew I didn’t want it to have ingredients similar to this.  And if you happen to love those, well, just you wait, I have found you something better.

Thankfully a lot of the….vegan world, has been all about making a homemade meatless burger.  So there were many, many recipes to look at, judge, make snarky comments about, to my only audience at the time, the cat that loves paper bags more than me,

laugh shrilly, because I was still in disbelief that my life of loving thinly sliced, right on the diagonal, grilled flank steak, appears to be coming to an end (not really), and then picked one.  Sometimes a girl is manic about choosing the right meatless burger.  Most often times not.

*One of the words I’m obnoxiously trying to get going again.  But not fetch.  Never fetch.

Recipe Adapted, a little, from Oh She Glows

Makes Six Large Burgers

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Ingredients

1 onion, diced

1 large garlic clove, minced

Olive Oil (about a tablespoon) for sauteing the onion and garlic

2 large egg whites

1 cup oats, processed into flour (I used old fashioned oats)

One and a half cups bread crumbs (I pulsed two end pieces of whole wheat Pepperidge Farm bread in a food processor)

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup cooked black beans, mashed up (I pulsed them in the food processor)

Half cup of slivered almonds, toasted

1 tablespoon Olive Oil (for the burgers themselves)

1 tablespoon reduced sodium tamari (you can use reduced sodium soy sauce)

One and a half teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt to taste (I used half teaspoon coarse sea salt, and I use Diamond)

Another couple tablespoons of olive oil for pan frying your burgers

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Equipment

A large saute pan

A food processor (optional)

A large mixing bowl

A small mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatula/tongs

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Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the large saute pan and place over medium heat.  When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and cook until lightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds to one minute).  Remove from heat and let cool for about five minutes.

Add all other ingredients (egg whites to tamari) except spices and salt to a large mixing bowl.  Scrape the onions and garlic with a spatula, into the large mixing bowl.  Wipe the large saute pan clean with a paper towel (or if you must, clean it) for use later.  Mix the ingredients in the large bowl until combined.  Add spices and salt to the ingredients in the large bowl.  Mix until combined.

Start making the patties.  Grab a handful of batter and flatten with palms of your hand.  Don’t be afraid to pat them tightly so they hold together.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil (or basically enough to coat the pan) to the saute pan that you used for sauteing the onions and garlic with.  Place on a burner over medium heat.  Pan fry the burgers until they’re browned, about five to seven minutes on each side.

Serve on my favorite, brioche buns, with sliced tomato.  It’s kind of epic.

Cherry Tomato Quinoa Salad

This past weekend Roo and I spent the day at Peggotty Beach in Scituate to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  Leading up to that point had been a bit worrisome as the birthday girl wanted to spend it at a roof deck pool.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we were not cast members of The Hills and didn’t have access to such amenities.  Suggestions were thrown about via email for a few days, as well as a trend of useless facts (“40,000 Americans are injured by toilets each year,”), but thankfully we found a desirable destination due to Roo.

Roo and I drove down to Scituate together, parking the car at his mother’s house.  J was the first to arrive, and we were able to catch up a bit before the birthday girl – driving the rest of the group – showed up.  And she did not disappoint.  She was actually still in party planning overdrive; spending the day before at KMart and The Christmas Tree Shop, buying practically everything one could think of to bring to the beach.  There were beach chairs, towels, coolers filled with drinks, snacks (including a vegetable and a fruit platter) and even an easy-up tent.  Hours before we were to leave for Scituate, she called me with concern, wondering if I had a boom box to keep everyone entertained as we lay there in the sun.  It kind of made me love her more.

Sunbathing, rummaging through the coolers and not talking about work was how we spent our day.

No boom box necessary.

Only when the sun started to go down and the shore nearly cleared out, that we began to pack everything up.

(photo taken by B)

Today I couldn’t help but think of the salty air, pebbly sand beneath my feet, and the hiss and pops of bottles being opened from wonderfully overflowing coolers.  Our third floor apartment is once again hot – and air stubbornly stagnant – despite three fans blowing full blast in the kitchen.

I made another salad.

Like all salads I make, it may not be the prettiest, but it had what I was craving for the day.  A salty bite from feta, juicy, just picked tomatoes, and crunch, with a bit of sweet, from toasted almonds, only to be balanced by a lemony herbaceous oregano vinaigrette.

If you’re run down from this heat – that seems more and more inappropriate, like creepy Uncle Stan when he puts his hand on your knee – then take the day off from the kitchen.  Salads are the new spa day.  Maybe.

Ok, not really, but they’re delicious.

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Serves two generously

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Ingredients

One cup cooked quinoa, cooled to room temperature

Quarter to half a head of lettuce (how hungry are you?), washed and dried well, torn or cut into easily edible pieces

A pint of cherry tomatoes, or three beefsteak (or whatever you have on hand that’s ripe) tomatoes, cut into easily edible pieces

1 cucumber (about the length of your hand, from the tip of your middle finger to the wrist), peeled and chopped

3 scallions, thinly sliced (not terribly necessary, just trying to use up my CSA)

One handful of slivered almonds, toasted and cooled to room temperature

Juice from one lemon

Quarter cup of olive oil

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of dried oregano

Sea salt to taste

Cracked pepper to taste

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Equipment

A very sharp knife

A small pan

A salad spinner, if on hand (but it’ll make your life so much easier for only $30!)

A rice cooker or a medium sized pot (can hold up to four cups)

A small bowl that can hold up to a cup of liquid

A whisk

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I find that cooking a half cup of quinoa yields about two cups of quinoa.  In a pot add half a cup of quinoa and one cup of water to a boil.  Reduce the heat so that the contents simmer for around 20 minutes or until the quinoa opens up.  The quinoa will reveal a little curly cue tail (like a spiral) and it will be soft to chew (softer than cooked barley).  Drain any remaining liquid and set aside to cool to room temperature.  If you have a rice cooker, throw the quinoa in, adding the water to the “white rice” 0.5 cup level, and press quick cook.  If you and your dinner guest are absolutely famished, you may want to eat a cup of quinoa each over your salad.  I typically serve half a cup of quinoa per person.  With the leftovers you can always make quinoa patties.

While the quinoa is cooking, prep the veg.  Make sure that your lettuce is absolutely dry so the vinaigrette will adhere to it to make a properly dressed salad.

In a small bowl, juice one lemon.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil into the bowl as you whisk.  You should use about a quarter cup for the two to come together, but not all lemons yield the same amount of juice, so keep adding until the mixture is emulsified.  Add the oregano, whisk together and add salt to taste.  Set aside.

Put a handful of slivered almonds into a small pan over medium heat.  Toast the almonds, shaking the nuts in the pan about twice a minute until lightly browned.  Keep an eye on it as it can burn quite quickly from the toasted stage.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

To plate up your salad, put down the lettuce as your base.  Then add the diced cucumbers, quartered tomatoes, cooled quinoa, and top with the toasted almonds.  Sprinkle a bit of feta on top.  Serve with cracked pepper.

Green Bean Salad with Pickled Red Onions and Fried Almonds

I have been anxiously waiting spring’s arrival and with that there have been cravings for something bright.  Lemon blueberry cakes have been nibbled on with lady grey tea in hand, various fruit smoothies have been blended after dinner, and I even made my own Limoncello for the first warm night we have; ready to be corked in a month!

But tonight I needed something acidic.

Perhaps it’s because I’m half Japanese, but I love bright, acidic flavors. Pickled cucumbers, pickled plums; it all gets piled atop a little bowl of white rice.  Luckily for Roo, it didn’t come down to me sitting on the floor (because everything is tastier when you’re not sitting in a chair), eating bowl after bowl of white rice topped with mysterious pickled items.  I think if he found me with my back against the wall, belly bloated, with bits of rice in my hair, that that would be a deal breaker.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

One pound green beans

1 medium red onion (this gives you a lot, if you don’t think you’d like a lot of onion, go with 1/2)

1/2 cup red wine vinegar (I’m an acid addict.  If you’re weary, start with a 1/4 cup and adjust to taste)

1/4 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (I used raw cane sugar)

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt (I used Diamond, if you have something finer, please use 1/2 tablespoon)

1/3 cup whole almonds (I realize that whole almonds are a bit pricey. I have used slivered almonds, and these also work)

1 tablespoon olive oil

*Keep your olive oil around if you want to balance out the acidity of your salad (about 2 tablespoons)

*Keep your salt around for boiling your green beans

Equipment

A very sharp knife

Tongs

A Cutting board

A large pot (that can fit your pound of green beans and about eight cups of water)

A sautè pan (medium sized, does not need tall sides)

Two large bowls

One smaller bowl (like one you use for eating cereal with)

A heat resistant (ie not plastic) plate (covered with one or two paper towels)

In a small bowl, combine red wine vinegar, water, sugar and salt.  If you started with 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, whisk the ingredients together and taste.  If the acidity is sufficient, leave it.  If not, adjust to taste.

If you’re using a whole red onion, cut it in half, then slice (both halves, one at a time) very thinly.  If you’re only using half an onion, great, you can skip a step and start slicing it thinly straight away.  Add the onion slices to your small bowl with the pickling solution.  Let it sit for at least a half an hour.  I usually let it sit for an hour (as it takes me about an hour to finish cooking dinner).

Put about 6 – 8 cups of salted (I add a few tablespoons) water into your large pot and bring to a boil.  Wash your green beans and trim the tails.  Add the green beans when your water is at a rolling boil.  Cook 4 – 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your ice water bath in one of the large bowls (I add about 10 – 12 ice cubes to a large bowl of water, filled halfway).  If you don’t want to use an ice water bath, then cook the green beans a minute less, since they will continue to still cook when you remove them from the boiling water.

After 4 minutes, turn the burner off, and remove the green beans from the pot with your tongs, into the ice water bath.  After all the green beans have been “bathed,” drain the green beans into a colander.  They can hang out in the colander until you assemble the salad.

Over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil into a sautè pan.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the almonds.  Roll the almonds around the pan (if whole 2 – 3 minutes, if slivered, ~1 minute) until coffee (black, no milk) colored.  Be careful to not let the almonds sit in the oil for too long in one spot as they will burn.  Remove the almonds from the pan, and move to a plate lined with one or two paper towels to pick up any excess oil.  Season with a pinch of salt (if desired) and let cool.

After an hour (or at least thirty minutes) of the pickling solution working its magic on those red onions, you can assemble your salad.  Plate the salad by picking up a mound of green beans with your tongs.  Add the pickled onions (don’t forget about the pickling solution, it’s delicious!) and top with the fried almonds.  I will admit that I grabbed a handful of the almonds (sorry Roo) and spooned about two tablespoons of the pickling solution on top of my salad.  If you find it too acidic for your palate (the pickling solution alone), you can mellow it out with a tablespoon (or two) of olive oil.