February 22, 2013

cocoa sunflower seed butter

Lately, for variety's sake, I've been trying a simple homemade sunflower seed butter in my smoothies. For whatever reason, for me the sunflower seed butter tends to have a certain aftertaste I don't like, making it a less favorable choice than the almond or cashew butter I also make at home. I don't remember where I came across the suggestion to combine the flavors of chocolate and sunflower seeds, but when I did I filed it away for an opportune moment to experiment. Certainly, mixing chocolate with nut butters is fairly common, such as chocolate and hazelnut, or chocolate and peanut butter, but somehow I didn't think it would work with sunflower seeds too. As it turns out, chocolate works very well; with a few other complementary ingredients, it nicely rounds out that pesky aftertaste, and then some.

Cocoa powders, from L to R: natural, dutch-processed, and raw

February 15, 2013

mini almond cakes with lemon ganache

Technology, when it makes life simpler, is a very helpful thing. I've finally, at long last, gotten the latest version of that phone, the one that when first introduced proceeded to revolutionize the world's mobile habits, and I'm so very happy with how much easier it is to organize my life with it. And because it is so much easier, that underlying frustration that comes with having to tolerate something that didn't work well is gone, gone, gone; and good riddance to it.

Similarly, I'd like to suggest that these little cakes might just have the power to make a bad mood go away, or really improve a so-so one. They're an uncomplicated cake to make, turning out very tender and sweet, and appropriately glazed with a lemon zest-tinged chocolate ganache. You'll also find this dessert is an elegant solution to finish a special dinner, should you be making it for two, or four, or just yourself, in which case, you will be very happy.

February 8, 2013

simple soup to salve the soul

Well, folks, I had different intentions in mind for this week's post, but those intentions were waylaid by an unwelcome visitor that caught up with me at the beginning of the week. Though the flu season is reportedly waning, the wicked virus flicked its forked tail on its way out and pulled me along with it. Not wanting to be the bearer of bad germs, I spent most of the week hunkered down inside our house, exiting only once to buy groceries. The good news is that I had a secret weapon stored that served me well, and you can make and store this little powerhouse too.

The secret weapon is this; homemade bouillon cubes, super sources of healing gelatin, and ready to use at a moment' s notice. This genius idea comes from Nourished Kitchen's Jenny McGruther, and though I posted a link on my Facebook page several months ago, it's worth sharing again. I've slightly adapted Jenny's recipe for the homemade bouillon cubes, using this recipe for classic chicken stock from Food&Wine magazine, and freezing the cubes instead of letting them dry out. When you need to make a quick, nourishing soup, these deep amber-colored cubes will bring sweet comfort to your beleaguered flu-laden soul.

February 1, 2013

an omnivore's quandary

I am an omnivore, through and through. I've never subscribed to removing an entire category of food from my diet, (aside from the overly-processed kind), though from time to time I eat less of something or take a break from it for a season. For me, cooking is life, and sharing a good homemade meal is true joy. If you're like me, and you read a lot about food, you may be weary of the changing tides of nutritional advice. Nutrition tends to be a rather inexact science, given the very individual response to food, and even though we all need the basics (protein, carbs, fat), there's never a diet that's perfect for everyone. What is important is that you listen most carefully to your own body and determine what works for yourself.

Nonetheless, in conversations I keep hearing of more and more people who have difficulty with gluten, dairy, or both. They feel better or eliminate chronic symptoms when they eat less of these two things, or not at all, which may indicate the presence of a developed sensitivity or allergy to that food. And although as I stated above, I like to eat everything, unfortunately my husband and I find ourselves dealing with this problem as well; he with dairy, and myself with wheat. With that being said, we don't feel the absolute necessity to completely eliminate either wheat or dairy from our diets, but rather reduce the amount we consume and find better alternatives. In our case that means using wheat with less gluten, eating more grains with no gluten, using raw cow or goat milk, and making alternatives such as nut milks and coconut milk. In any case, I do believe it's worth trying a period of time without eating gluten or dairy to see how you feel, and you'll find my reasoning in this low-key and informative post. If you find that entirely eliminating gluten and dairy works better for you than simply reducing the amount you eat, then by all means, do what your body responds best to.