When I say these granola bars are magic, I really mean it. They are gluten-free (as long as you’re using gluten-free oats*), vegan and sugar-free, but still taste like the best banana bread you’ve ever had. No weird gimmicks or strange ingredients, just bananas, peanut butter, oats and your favorite mix-ins. Seriously. MAGIC.
How did I unearth this wondrous recipe? To make a short story long, I had a few bananas dying a long, slow death on my counter. Obviously, most people in this situation would turn to banana bread, but for the past week or so, I’ve been trying (and mostly failing) to cut back on my sugar intake. After getting called out on the staggering amount of sweets I ate in India, it became pretty apparent to me that I’m literally addicted to sugar. I can’t go more than a day without something sweet, and if I do try to give it up cold turkey, I literally cannot think about anything else. I become irascible, tired, sluggish — it’s really sad and scary and makes me actually kind of believe those studies that say the body reacts to sugar the same way it reacts to crack.
So, I’m trying to stick to only natural sugars for now, which obvi means no more cookies, cake, pudding and ice cream. But it also means no more cereal or oatmeal packets or granola bars, since those pack an absurd amount of sugar. Homemade is clearly the way to go, and when looking at recipes for granola bars, I wanted something with my favorite morning pairing: peanut butter and banana. (Seriously, I cannot get enough of these two together. I might even like them more than the combo of peanut butter and chocolate. Blasphemous, I know.) I also wanted something with no added sugar or weird sugar substitutes. High maintenance much?
Clockwork Lemon‘s recipe somehow hit all of those requests, while also being a one-bowl mash and mix affair. The bars are extremely flexible: you can use all oats or a combination of oats, puffed rice and other grains, and whatever nuts and dried fruit you have on hand. As long as you have 1-1/2 cups of grains, and 1-1/4 cups of nuts+dried fruit, you’re good to go. Next time I might use unsweetened cocoa powder instead of dried coconut, or toss in some chocolate chips, because you know, anything is better with chocolate. You could also use almond or cashew butter instead of peanut butter, but really, why would you?
As if it needs stating, they’re delicious — chewy and nutty and filled with peanut butter-banana goodness. The cherries add a touch of tartness, and the nuts add a nice crunch. Fair warning: they are pretty soft, so I’ve been storing them in the freezer so that they don’t crumble in my lunch bag. The only downside? These are good enough for you that I can easily justify eating the entire pan in one sitting.
*Oats are naturally gluten-free, but most companies process them on machines that also process wheat/rye/barley products, thereby exposing the oats to trace amounts of gluten. So if you have a sensitivity to gluten, just make sure to buy gluten-free oats, which should be free of contamination. Continue Reading →
Thanks to Alex at Chez Sasha, I’m very honored to be nominated for a Liebster Award! Liebster means dearest or favorite in German, and the award is given out by food bloggers to other food bloggers with less than 200 followers. There aren’t many rules beyond that, but since Alex nominated me, I’ll go with her rules:
1. Post 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you and create 11 questions for people you’ve nominated.
3. Choose 11 people (with fewer than 200 followers) to give this award to and link them in your post.
4. Go to their page and tell them.
5. Remember, no tag backs.
Remember that time I admitted to my fear of yeast and then resolved to get over it? Two-plus years later and it hasn’t happened … I still cringe every time I hear the word, and have yet to make a yeasted bread.
My excuse? There are plenty, most of which are exceedingly flimsy:
a) I don’t have time to sit around kneading and rising and kneading and rising. (Since I’m still sick and
watching episode after episode of The League resting, this is mostly untrue.)
b) There’s zero counter space for me to actually knead anything, which is why I haven’t made any pies or pizzas recently either. (This kitchen is actually bigger than my last one, as 1-1/2 people can fit in it at the same time.)
c) It’s starting to get warm out, which means keeping the oven on for hours is slowly losing its appeal. (As evidenced by this recipe, that’s not really stopping me.)
d) I’m trying to cut back on my bread eating, as part of an overall effort to shore up my diet for summer. (Trying and failing would be more accurate.)
e) There’s an abundance of bread recipes out there in the world that don’t require yeast, and a lot of them look pretty awesome.
That last reason is pretty compelling, as it turns out you don’t need any fungus to make a wide array of good bread. The Irish are all over this with their soda bread, but there’s also this gorgeous seeded bread, Mark Bittman’s beer bread, and this amazing flatbread recipe, which in its original form requires only three ingredients and three steps.
The recipe, from Top With Cinnamon (and courtesy of Nila), is amazing heavenly perfection and all the other superlatives in the world. It’s so easy that it is literally foolproof (trust me, I tried hard to break the recipe and still couldn’t) and can be gussied up a million ways — cinnamon sticks, pizza breadsticks, cheddar beer bread, rosemary-garlic focaccia … SO. MANY. IDEAS. In its almost-original form, it’s got a crisp and craggy exterior and a plush interior, with a nice balance between the malty, caramelly flavor of the beer and the savory herbs.
I topped the flatbread with a shaved asparagus salad and my new favorite discovery: goat’s milk ricotta. It has the creaminess of ricotta plus the tanginess of goat cheese, and paired nicely with the grassy, crisp asparagus. I bought it through Fresh Direct, but if you can’t find it, either regular ricotta or softened chevre will work too. The end result is a lovely spring lunch, no yeast necessary. Continue Reading →
Like the onset of spring (grr.), I too am woefully behind schedule. I made this pasta almost three weeks ago, and since then, have kept it a secret. Shameful, I know. If you knew how good it was, you’d be doubly pissed. Triple if you knew how easy it was to make.
I’d make profuse apologies with elaborate explanations for my delay, but I don’t even really know what I’ve been doing these past few weeks. You see, I just got home from a 5-day trip to San Fran with a suitcase full of laundry, plenty of memories and one knock-your-socks-off cold. And while the potent combination of Nyquil and soup has lessened the worst of my symptoms, it’s also wiped out much of my ability to form coherent sentences and do anything other than marathon old episodes of Friends.
So, instead I’ll just say that this broccoli rabe and sausage pasta is awesome — a perfect bridge between the hearty meals of winter and the lighter fare to come when spring finally decides to show face around these parts.*
*Maybe I’m being extra curmudgeonly because I’m sick, but these dreary gray 50-degree days are becoming torturous. I want sunshine and lazy breezes and ya know, to not have to carry a jacket with me everywhere I go. Please? Continue Reading →
Thanks to a tip from Mili, on Tuesday I went to a screening of “American Meat,” a documentary showcasing the way we raise pigs, cows and chickens for meat. The filmmakers visited a number of farms to showcase the different growing practices of both large industrial farms and smaller pasture farms. Ultimately, the film advocates for the smaller farms, highlighting their lessened environmental impact, the better treatment of their animals and the improved taste of the meat that comes from these farms.
While watching, the doc reminded me very much of Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan’s 2006 book on the food industry in America. (Filmmaker Graham Meriwether later explained that he was inspired by Pollan’s book.) But unlike similar movies about industrial farming, “American Meat” isn’t overly aggressive in its takedown of industrial farming. Meriwether said he wanted to focus on the farming practices rather than the farmers — according to him, the farmers aren’t evil, the system is the issue. Because of this, the movie isn’t too preachy or over-the-top, which is nice for people who are wary of sermonizing.
What struck me most afterwards was how doable it seems to move to a majority grass-fed system for raising livestock. There is ample land to raise enough animals to feed America’s healthy appetite for meat, but the biggest missing resource is human capital. Industrial farming is virtually labor-free (one of the farmers in the movie says it takes him just a few hours to monitor his thousands of pigs), as it relies on huge amounts of money invested in machinery, feed and ultimately, fossil fuels to power its system. But as the movie explains, while pasture farming is a monetarily inexpensive way to farm, since it requires little machinery, it is extremely labor-intensive, and there are not a lot of farmers out there to begin with, much less farmers willing to work as often and as hard as is required to run a pasture farm.
After the screening, there was a brief panel discussion with well-known local chefs and butchers: Mary Cleaver of Cleaver Co. and The Green Table, Jake Dickson of dickson’s farmstead meats, Bill Telepan of Telepan and Tom Mylan of The Meat Hook. Obviously much of the talk focused on taste, and how pasture-raised meat offers more depth of flavor and more richness than “conventional”* meat. To me, that should be pasture farming’s biggest selling point — the taste — since it’s a very tangible benefit, as opposed to the more invisible benefits of “more omega-3′s in grass-fed beef” and “less of a carbon footprint”, etc.
After the screening, Megha and I went to a bar to chat with the panelists and filmmakers. Since I wasn’t taking notes then, Meriwether re-responded to my questions in an email interview this week, and I’ve added them here: Continue Reading →