Hazelnut chocolate chip cookies

I spend a significant part of my day talking about how important it is to eat a healthy, whole-foods diet. Food is medicine. In Chinese medicine, eating a healthy, balanced diet is often the best way to have good health.

I think too many people think a healthy diet is about self depravation and no enjoyment. They’re totally wrong. My personal approach is to eat the healthiest meals that I can–whole grains, beans, lots of kale and green things, fresh fruit, nuts, all delicious, no depravation–then I’m free to indulge a little every day. It’s totally guiltless, and that lets me enjoy it so much more.

Here’s a recipe for one of my indulgences. These cookies are super rich because they’re mostly hazelnut meal, so don’t overindulge. I think they’d be equally good make with almond flour, but I like the sweetness that hazelnuts add. The thing I love most about these cookies is that there are so many things here that are good for you. That’s my most favorite treat–tasty and healthy. Balanced.

Sadly, I have no pictures of this treat, but I’ll post some next time I make them.

Hazelnut chocolate chip cookies

2 cups hazelnut meal
1/2 cup buckwheat flour (or flour of your choice)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, Earth Balance or coconut oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup agave, honey, maple or a combo
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cp chopped pecans
1/2 cp chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, cover with parchment paper and butter the paper.

Combine hazelnut meal, buckwheat flour, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Whisk together until well blended.

Beat butter/Earth Balance/coconut oil and liquid sweetner until creamy and well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

Add flour blend in several small quantities, beating after each addition. Dough should be fairly thick, but might still seem very moist. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips

For best results put dough into refrigerator for at least an hour, but as long as 24 hours. You can also bake them right away–they will just spread out more. The rest time lets the buckwheat flour absorb some of the moisture.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of cookie batter onto prepared pan, leaving some room for them to spread. Bake for 15 minutes.

Veggie burgers

I’ve finally finished by 10-month yoga teacher training, and while it’s bitter sweet to be done, I’m looking forward to having more time for my blog. I have a lot of recipes to post, and Chinese medicine and yoga to discuss.

Today’s post is for my homemade veggie burgers, which are a constantly-evolving, free-form food that I change based on my whim and what I have on hand.

veggie burgs

I’ve been experimenting with a couple of different recipes and found a nice combo in my last batch. It’s an amalgamation of Molly Katzen’s Tofu Nut Ball recipe (from The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest) and Mark Bittman’s Nut burger (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian).

My version is pretty flexible for the proportions of rice/nuts/tofu–the key is to add enough whole cooked rice at the end to be able to form nice burgers.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own burgers, we love Sunshine Burgers. They are gluten-free and made of sunflower seeds and other tasty things.

Cathy’s Veggie Burgers

1 cup raw almonds
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 onion
1/2 block Chinese-style tofu (about 8 ounces)
1-2 tbsp tahini or peanut butter
Sriracha hot sauce to taste (we like a lot–1/2-1 tbsp), or any other hot sauce or ketchup (optional)
Soy Sauce to taste (about 1 tbsp)
1 egg

Grind almonds in a food processor to make a coarse meal. Add about onion, tofu, tahini or peanut butter, Sriracha, soy sauce, egg and about 1/2 of the rice. Pulse to form a thick, fairly uniform puree.
Dump puree into a bowl and add enough brown rice until the mixture is mold-able but still a bit wet (not sopping wet, just a bit wet).

I like to cook these on my double-burner cast iron griddle, but I think they’d also do well in the oven.

To cook on your stovetop: heat a thick griddle or skillet to a medium to low temperature. Mold 1/2-3/4 a cup of mix into patties (easier to do this with wet hands). Cook on griddle for 5-10 minutes per side. Turn your burgers carefully–they should hold together pretty well, but need to be handled gently. The idea is to slowly evaporate the liquid out while cooking the egg to hold it together. Keep the temperature low so that your burgers don’t burn while they slowly dry out.

To cook in the oven: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place patties on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until patties are crispy and brown on the outside and cooked through.

Serve with whatever burger toppings you like. My favorite toppings are avocado, dijon mustard, and tomatoes. My husband usually likes to melt some cheese on his burger just before it comes off of the griddle.

Quinoa for dinner

quinoa-kale pesto

Tonight for dinner I decided to try the Quinoa with Spring Vegetables and Walnut-Kale pesto recipe from this new blog I’ve been reading, Gluten Free Girl and Chef. I adapted the recipe to what I had on hand, and produced something that I think uses the structure of the original, but with a bit different result. I think the key to this recipe is the pesto. You can play with the other details to put more flavor into them, or you can keep it simple and serve a dollop of the pesto over simply cooked quinoa and steamed veggies. I’ve also made a vegan version of this by using a bit of nutritional yeast to replace the romano cheese. Here’s a link to the original posting.

Here’s my version, devoured by my quinoa skeptic husband:

Quinoa and broccoli with cilantro-kale pesto

For the Quinoa:

1/2 yellow onion
1/2 Tbsp Butter or Earth Balance
1-2 Tbsp olive oil, more if needed when you add the Quinoa
1.5 cups quinoa, rinsed
3 cups veggie stock (I used Imagine Foods No-Chicken Broth)
1/2 tsp salt

For the Pesto:

1/2 cup pecans
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch or more cilantro
1 bunch lacinato kale, aka Dinosaur Kale, or any other kale
1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
optional: 1-2 tbsp grated romano or parmesan cheese (or, add 1 tsp nutritional yeast for vegan version)
Salt and fresh-ground pepper

For the Veg:

2-3 crowns of steamed broccoli florets
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 bunch cilantro
Olive oil

To make Quinoa:

Add butter and olive oil to a hot pan, and add onions when butter has melted. Saute until tender, then add rinsed quinoa. Saute until quinoa is dry and smells slightly toasty, adding more olive oil if needed to keep quinoa from sticking. Add 3 cups of stock and 1/2 tsp or more of salt. Put the lid on the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Removed lid when done to let some of the steam out.

To make pesto:

Puree pecans and garlic in food processor until uniformly chopped. Add cilantro and kale (you might need to add it in several small bunches). Puree until everything is uniform and drizzel olive oil in while machine is running. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure the pesto is uniform. Add more olive oil if necessary to achieve a silky pesto consistency. Add optional romano or parmeson and lemon juice, blend. Taste for salt and pepper.

To prepare veggies and bring it all together:

Saute the other 1/2 onion in olive oil. When it starts to soften, add cilantro and toss briefly. Add steamed broccoli and toss until reheated. Add quinoa and peraps a bit more olive oil, gently stirring to combine and maybe brown some of the quinoa.

To serve: either toss quinoa/veggie mixture with all of the pesto, or spread a small amount of pesto on the plate, and top with the quinoa-broccoli mixture. Top with 2-3 tablespoons of kale pesto, or to taste. Top with some grated cheese, if desired.

Best brownies ever

I’ve been playing with this gluten-free brownie recipe that I found at Gluten Free Goddess, and it really is one of the best brownie recipes I’ve ever made. It uses almond flour and some rice flour, and it’s completely delicious. I’ve made it using a combo of almond flour and a gluten-free flour mixture (which includes brown rice flour, quinoa flour, coconut flour and potato and tapioca starch). Even though they are gluten-free, I would confidently serve them to gluten eaters, and not feel like I was giving them a second-class pastry.

The Goddess includes directions to make your own almond meal, but it’s available in my local Whole Foods. I use Bob’s Red Mill brand. They also make a hazelnut flour which would probably be equally lovely in this recipe.

I’ve been playing with the chocolate, and have gotten good results by using 1 tablespoon of Ghirardelli’s cocoa powder plus 3 tablespoons of coconut oil to replace 1 ounce of chocolate. Any oil will do–I like coconut oil because it’s a healthy fat, and adds only the slightest hint of coconut flavor (which I really like). I also like to use this chocolate substitute because I can make it dairy-free. You could also use melted butter or margarine, olive oil, safflower oil, or really any oil with a mild flavor.

In the last batch I made, I used 2 ounces of Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons of Ghirardelli’s cocoa powder plus 9 tablespoons of coconut oil. The flavor of these brownies is screaming for some sort of alcohol flavoring, so I’m working on a way to include brandy or maybe some Kahula to give them an extra depth of flavor.

Good quality chocolate or cocoa powder makes a difference here, so don’t skimp!

Here is the recipe, as it appears on Gluten Free Goddess. You can read the Goddess’s original post here.

Dark Chocolate Brownies.

5 ounces Belgian dark chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup butter or vegan margarine such as Smart Balance (or Spectrum Organic Shortening)
2 organic free-range eggs
1 cup packed organic light brown sugar
1/2 rounded cup almonds, processed into a fine meal
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla plus 2 teaspoons peppermint extract)

Optional:

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired
1/2 cup extra semi-sweet chocolate chips for the top, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with foil and lightly oil the bottom.

Using the microwave, melt the dark chocolate and butter in a large (microwave safe) measuring cup. Stir together to combine. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs on medium high till frothy. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Add the melted chocolate mixture into the egg-sugar mixture a little at a time – incorporate it slowly- and beat well for a good minute. The chocolate will look smooth and glossy.

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: almond meal, rice flour, fine sea salt and baking soda; whisk together. Add the dry flour mix into the chocolate mixture and beat well for a minute. Add the vanilla, beat another half a minute or so.

You now have your brownie batter.

If you are adding nuts, stir in the nuts by hand and spread the batter into the prepared baking pan [this brownie batter is much thinner than any brownie mix batter I’ve tried- don’t worry, it’s going to be wonderful]. Shake the pan a little bit to even out the batter.

Layer the semi-sweet chips all over the top of the batter and press them in slightly, if adding.

Bake in the center of a preheated 350 degree F oven for 33 to 35 minutes, or until the brownies are set. Don’t overcook. (Err on the side of gooey, if you must- that’s what I do; I find gluten-free brownies taste better slightly undercooked and soft in the middle than over-cooked and crumbly.)

Cool on a wire rack; and remove the brownies from the pan by gripping the foil edges. Chill before cutting. We saved out two squares, and wrapped the rest for freezing.

These brownies were outstanding slightly chilled. Intense, chocolaty and tender. This is a fabulous recipe. And I have to Clare to thank for it.

Makes 9-12 servings. We got nine squares out of it.

Dr. Weil’s Carrot Cake

carrotsI can’t wait to try making this healthy Carrot Cake recipe that Dr. Weil posted recently. Carrots are really good for you, but carrot cake is loaded with sugar and fat. In this recipe, he’s replaced refined sugar and butter with honey and olive oil. Honey is still very sweet, and shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities, but it is a better choice than white (or brown) sugar. Olive oil might seem like a strange thing to put in a desert, but it’s actually quite nice and will not make your cake taste like Italian food. carrot cakeIt has a wonderfully rich taste making it a good substitute for butter. This recipe includes walnuts, but in my hometown of New Orleans, we would use pecans instead. Both nuts are rich in essential fatty acids, and in Chinese medicine, help build your Kidney energy.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups firmly packed finely grated carrots
Juice of 1 large orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup light olive oil
1 cup honey, liquefied in microwave (30 seconds)
1/2 cup crushed or chopped pineapple, drained
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the carrots, orange juice, vanilla, olive oil, honey, and pineapple until well blended.

3. In another bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda, and spices. Mix in the walnuts.

4. Blend the dry ingredients into the carrot mixture, stirring until just mixed.

5. Pour the batter into a nonstick 8-inch-square baking pan and bake for 45-60 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and remove from pan.

From Dr. Weil. Carrot cake image borrowed with gratitude from English food blog A Merrier World. Go there for recipes for carrot cake (a more traditional version) and other tasty goodies.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin_Pie

I’ve recently been using more coconut milk in my diet, and was excited to see this recipe for pumpkin pie, from foodie blog Eat This!. This recipe replaces the evaporated (or condensed) milk with coconut milk to make a dairy-free alternative. While coconut milk has a lot of fat, they are medium-chain fatty acids, which aren’t as bad for you as the saturated variety that’s in dairy and meat. Don’t look at coconut milk as a “health food” exactly, but rather simply a great alternative to milk. And that’s a godsend if you’re lactose intolerant!

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

    3/4 c. granulated sugar
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. ground ginger
    1/4 tsp ground cloves
    2 large eggs
    1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
    1 can coconut milk
    1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Directions

Preheat overn to 425 degrees.

Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves. Gradually add coconut milk while stirring.

Pour into pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack for 2 hours.

Read more at Eat This!.