Sweet Potato Chips

It is nearly fall.  Really, this just means I am excited for the return of pumpkin spice lattes and caramel pumpkin latte candles.  And of course, yummy sweet potatoes!  Between you and me, this is just a sneaky way to eat sweet potatoes outside of an official meal.

These are really easy and super healthy.  For those of you who are concerned about health or follow Bob Harper, you know he has published his book Skinny Rules, which gives 20 guidelines to help with overall health and wellbeing.  One of his rules is to say goodbye to white potatoes.  Though I did not usually keep white potatoes in my pantry, this was enough for me to embrace sweet potatoes and blue potatoes.  That combined with the fact that my household runs on chips – tortilla chips, pita chips, falafel chips, pretzel chips, oh my – inspired me to try baking a new, fresh twist on a chip.  And I love that it has very few ingredients!

Sweet Potato Chips

makes 2-3 servings

2 medium sweet potatoes

2T olive oil

1/2t paprika

1/2t chili powder

1/2t sea salt

1/4t cinnamon

1/4t nutmeg

Check out the seasonings and spices.  These could be switched up if you’d like, but I love this combination for sweet potatoes!

First preheat the oven to 400 then wash and scrub sweet potatoes, then slice thinly and evenly.  A mandolin would work well for this, but since I didn’t have one, I resorted to cutting them by hand with a knife.  I tried a potato peeler for really thin slices, but it only worked on the skinny ends of the potato, so I used the knife primarily.  This didn’t result in the most perfectly even cut, but I was pretty close.

You’ll want the slices as even as possible so they cook as evenly as possible.

Once the potatoes are cut, combine them with oil in a bowl or plastic bag and toss well to coat.

I used my fingers to ensure every piece had a light coat of oil on them.

Then, in the same bowl or bag add the spices and toss well to evenly coat.

Place slices evenly onto a baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, then flip them over.  This is how they look after about 10 minutes.

Continue baking for 10-12 additional minutes.  Some pieces were crispy after that, others needed up to an additional 10 minutes.  When they’re finished, they’re delicious hot or room temperature!  Store in a covered container for a few days – if they last that long.

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Yellow River Smoothie

Hubby and I were recently on vacation in sunny Central America.  At one of the resorts we stayed at we were introduced to this addictive smoothie!  It’s perfect for those last few days by the pool that Summer will give us.  It’s a nice refreshing treat as a healthy dessert, too!

Yellow River Smoothie

serves 1-2

juice from 1.5 mangoes

1/2 pineapple cut into frozen chunks

1 banana

ice optional

I used all fresh fruit, juicing the mango just before this photo was snapped.  I also cut fresh pineapple and froze it earlier in the day.  I have made this before with mango & pineapple juice with ice and the ice watered it down too much.  Since I didn’t add any extra sugar (the fruit is sugary enough) I didn’t want to fruit to have to compete with ice watering it down.  This time I froze the pineapple and it worked perfectly!

Combine all ingredients in a blender.

Since there is not a lot of liquid in this recipe, and I used a regular blender, I had to stop midway through and mix the top chunks in with a wooden spoon then resume blending.  And that’s it!

Enjoy while summer is still here!

Quinoa Salad

I feel like quinoa popped up overnight.  One minute I’ve never heard of it, the next it’s all over the internet.  I have grown very fond of quinoa and it is now a regular part of my diet.  It is known as an ancient grain and isn’t considered one of the “bad grains” I’ve written about earlier.  Quinoa has twice the fiber and protein of brown rice or any other grain.  It also has a nearly perfect blend of amino acids which helps keep stabilized blood sugar, etcetera, etcetera. I’m probably boring and not as qualified as the rest of the internet, so do your own googling!

This is one summer salad that is so easy to make and it’s light, healthy, and delicious!  The ingredients are easily interchangeable so the flavor profiles are endless.  It also packs well so it’s great on a picnic or the next day at work or school.

I used a tri-color quinoa of red, black, and white, but using simple white quinoa is just as tasty.  I love that quinoa is easily made on the stovetop or a rice cooker, with water or vegetable stock.  It is a great rice substitute and it goes well with so much.  I have given approximate portions of what I used, but this is the type of recipe that doesn’t need exactness, you just put a little bit of what you like and a lot of what you love.

Quinoa Salad

serves 2-3

2C cooked quinoa

1.5C cooked black beans

1 mango

1/2 bell pepper

2 scallions

zest from 1 lemon

3T lemon juice

5-6T olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

First, cook the quinoa if you haven’t already.  This would be a good time to make the dressing.  Simply combine the oil, lemon juice and zest, with the salt and pepper in a small food processor to combine.  Then, chop all the fruits and veggies of your choice.

Once the quinoa has cooled to room temperature, combine it with the black beans in a large serving bowl.

Toss the veggies and fruits in.

Look at the lemony yellow dressing.  It’s BEAUTIFUL!

Pour it over the salad and toss thoroughly to combine.

Rest for at least an hour to let the dressing soak into the quinoa and serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

Garlic Muffins

So…I haven’t been totally grain-free the past few weeks – uhhh, especially since hubby and I just got back from vacation and we kind of just ate the whole time…and maybe even had chips and pico every single day.  However, I have enjoyed experimenting with different types of baking with my new grain-free interests.

What you are witnessing is a complete experiment.  I wanted to make garlic knots and could not find a grain free recipe.  So I decided to create one.  Except, it did not turn out like garlic knots, so I improvised with these cute little muffins.  Not gonna lie, the texture is different.  They are very flaky, yet very dense.  And surprisingly very delicious!  I had a friend over for dinner who openly admits her “pickiness” towards food, but even she loved them!

A lot of grain free bread recipes call for a mixture of coconut flour and almond flour, so that’s what I went with, though I mostly guessed at the ratio.  From the research I’ve done, coconut flour is very dry so I used a bit less of that compared to the “oily” almond flour.  Here’s what I came up with.  If you find a way to improve this recipe, please let me know!

Garlic Muffins

makes 16 mini muffins

For the muffins:

1C almond flour

1/2C coconut flour

1 packet of active dry yeast

1C warm water, to activate yeast

2T olive oil

1t sugar

1/2t sea salt

For the Garlic Topping:

2T butter, I used vegan Earth Balance

2T garlic

2T fresh parsley

I first activated the yeast in the warm water, following the back of the yeast packet’s directions, pouring the yeast on top of the warm water.

Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and in one bowl I combined the flours, salt, and sugar.

Whisk everything together.

After about 5 minutes of the yeast resting it looked like this.

Then lightly whisk the yeast with the water.  The color and texture will look similar to almond milk.

Next, I made a well for the olive oil, cut through the muffin mix a few times, and then added the yeast.

I have yet to exactly figure out how to knead dough, particularly grain-free dough.  So I mushed it around for several minutes and eventually formed a large ball.

I left the ball in the bowl, covered with a kitchen towel to rise for several hours and nothing happened.  So I have figured out for you, that this particular combination of baked goods will not rise.  So you can skip that step…ahem.

So, using a cookie dough scooper, I placed the dough in each mini muffin tin well.

I then baked them for about 10 minutes.  Due to the nature of the dough texture, the way they are in the pan is the way they will come out, so you may want to take care in packing the scooper to get smooth, round muffin tops.

While the muffins are baking, begin to prepare the delicious garlic topping by chopping the garlic and parsley.

In a small saucepan on medium heat, combine the garlic and parsley with the vegan butter.

Keep on the heat for 1-2 minutes to melt the butter and to cut the spiciness of the fresh garlic, then remove from heat.

You’ll know the muffins are ready when the tops are slightly browned.

Allow to cool for a few moments before removing them from the muffin tin.  Once they are removed, brush the garlic sauce on top and serve immediately.

They were a great compliment to our spaghetti dinner!  (Try the quinoa noodles for a great grain-free pasta option!)

Grain Free “Granola”

 

In my search for grain free options, I stumbled upon this idea.  I have attempted making granola bars before with various ingredients and have never found the right combination for a bar with a great consistency.  Or any consistency for that matter.  Every “bar” recipe I’ve tried before turned into mushy crumbles.  With some inspiration from around the internet and Pinterest, I was able to create this lovely “granola.”  Some pieces turned out to be bar like, but most of it turned out to be a great granola.  It has a great flavor, great texture, and knowing that I put only wholesome ingredients makes me feel really great about having this available for me and my husband to have something quickly available.  There is a lot of time required to make these – but it’s not a lot of hands on time, so pick a day off you have and make these while you do something else around the house.

The flavor is so ridiculous that I had to hide some to photograph because my husband was gobbling it up!  We ate it as a dry snack and with almond milk as a yummy cereal.  The first cereal that doesn’t go mushy! Lovit!!!

I based my recipe off of this one, and know that you could switch out any nuts and seeds for others if you’d like.

Grain Free “Granola”

makes about 4 cups

1C almonds

1C pecans

1/2C sunflower seeds

1C of golden raisins or various small dried fruit of choice

1C shredded coconut

1/2C maple syrup

1/4C coconut oil

1/2t salt

1/2t vanilla extract

a few dashes of cinnamon

 

First I put 3/4 of the nuts and seeds with the coconut in a food processor

 

and pulsed several times until it was a fine chop.

Then, I roughly chopped the remaining nuts and seeds and preheated the oven to 200 degrees.

 

Stir the two nut mixtures together with the dried fruit.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil with the vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and maple syrup.

Once the mixture begins to boil, promptly remove from heat…

and add it to the fruit & nut mixture.  Mix well with a wooden spoon.

 

Press into a pan lined with parchment paper.

Press into the pan well with the wooden spoon, greased fingers, or another piece of parchment paper. Set in the oven for 3-5 hours.  The time will be determined by how thick your mixture is in the pan.  If the mix hasn’t had time to dry out enough, it will be moist and crumbly.  A few hours into the dehydrating process, most of the mix will be bar-like if you’d like to make nut bars out of the mix.  Continue dehydrating to create crunchy “granola.”

 

 

Or like me, kick back with a bowl and enjoy!

Add a little almond milk.  So delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Fruit Crisps

I feel like I have had an obsession with cherries and peaches lately.  And who can blame me?  It’s summer!  So I have allowed myself to entertain it and I started researching.  I knew I wanted to do a crisp, but I’ve been reading a lot lately about how grains are actually unhealthy!  Though I am not trying to be cynical, and may not be ready for a completely grain-free life, I am open to exploring new options and trying a few recipes to check it out.  I started with these crisps…and they were completely delicious!

I could not decide between the combination of cherries and blueberries or peaches, so I made both!  Even my husband loved them – hot and cold!

If you want to scar your idea of “healthy” whole grains, there are a lot of websites to read from, however, I like the way Katie writes about it here.  I “see the light” since I know a few people with celiac’s disease, so I try to cook gluten-free when I can, and this is further inspiration. Since I had to be creative and go grain-free, I got a lot of ideas from Kelly at Foodie Fiasco.  Here’s what I used.

Fruit Crisps

makes 4 servings – 2 peach and 2 blueberry-cherry

1 large peach

1 handful of cherries

1 handful blueberries

1/3C almond meal

1/4C shredded coconut

2T unsweetened applesauce

1t vanilla extract

1t coconut oil, divided

1t sugar, divided, optional

1/2t salt

Allow me to introduce you to rainier cherries.  If you have never had these, they’re worth the extra buck for a recipe such as these.  Compared to their darker cherry cousins, rainiers are lighter and sweeter and can only be described as golden.  They are definitely worth adding into your fruit basket!  Look at them!  They’re a blend of a lovely light yellow and pink.

Preheat the oven to 400.  After washing and drying your produce, cut the peach in bite size pieces and pit the cherries and slice them in half.  The rainiers are slightly larger than a normal cherry, so they were a bit difficult to maneuver into the cherry pitter, but it didn’t really bother me that the skins were a little scuffed up since they were cooked together with the blueberries and the scuffs weren’t noticed.

The original recipe called for shredded coconut.   Due to weird sensory issues from childhood, I don’t really love the texture of shredded coconut.  I decided to try to be an adult and try it, but I still chopped it up further so it was tiny pieces.

Meanwhile, I combined the almond meal, coconut, vanilla, salt, and applesauce which will serve as the healthy, gluten-free, sugar-free crisp topping.  Putting half the sugar and half the coconut oil in a pan on medium heat, let it melt.

Then I cooked the fruit in separate batches for 3-5 minutes each.

The blueberries will give off a blueish, purple juice, but don’t worry – since it’s not being cooked too long, the color doesn’t effect the light cherries too much.  Melting the other half of the coconut oil and sugar, I repeated this step with the peaches.

Separate the fruit into oven-safe ramekins.

Then top with the crisp topping.  Because this isn’t a traditional crisp with butter and flour, it will not be very crumbly.  I carefully and evenly placed the crisp topping onto each ramekin with my fingers and a fork.

Then baked for 20 minutes.  You’ll know they are ready when the fruit is bubbly and the crisp is lightly browned.  Cool for a few moments on a towel or cooling rack and serve.  For a non-vegan version, fresh whipped cream or even ice cream would pair well with these lovely crisps.  However, on their own they are a delicious, healthy treat and they showcase the delicious flavors of the fruit.  Despite the non-traditional ingredients in the crisp, I was pleasantly surprised with how crispy the topping turned out.  (And for all the coconut haters out there, you could probably up the almond meal if you wanted to ditch the shredded coconut.)  Here’s the peach crisp.

And the blueberry-cherry crisp.

I can’t decide which is my favorite!  They are both so good!

Oh, I’m sorry.  Did you want some?  Oops!

Black Bean Hummus

Hummus is a staple in our household.  (If you didn’t already figure that out from my Garlic Hummus recipe.)  We eat it with pita chips & vegetables, and also use it as a spread on sandwiches or tortilla wraps.  Hummus is so versatile you can make it fit with whatever flavor food you’re preparing.  I make black bean hummus a lot because I always have black beans in the pantry and we eat Spanish food so much, that this is perfect!  I love this recipe because it can be made in less than 10 minutes.  Plus, with all the Puerto Ricans we know who are a little shy of chick peas, this is a great gateway hummus.

I call this my Latin Hummus!  For the first six months of marriage, my husband didn’t know what to cook in the kitchen because I didn’t have Adobo – a Latin staple.  I learned to change it, and learned why all the Puerto Rican and Dominican cooks that I know love it!  So for all you Latin food lovers and hummus lovers alike, here you have it:

Black Bean Hummus

makes about 1 cup

1 C cooked black beans (if using canned, drain and rinse well)

1/8 C tahini

3T water

1T lemon juice, or about half a lemon

2 cloves garlic

1/4t salt

1/4t Adobo

1 small handful of either parsley or cilantro

Put all ingredients in a food processor.  I started with the beans, parsley, and garlic.

Then added the lemon juice, water, seasonings, and tahini.

Process until smooth and at a consistency you like.  To get it more thin you can add more water, lemon juice, or a small amount of olive oil.

Viola! Delicious, healthy snack.  I like to refrigerate mine before serving.  Enjoy!

Guacamole

Chips are a staple in our house.  The first time I crumbled them up and sprinkled them over my husband’s breakfast omelet, he nearly fainted in joy.  To accompany chips, you need something good.  Guacamole fits the bill.

I did not like avocados or guacamole for the longest time.  Perhaps I just had bad experiences with both.  The first time I tried guacamole and loved it was in Manhattan at Mama Mexico.  They made it fresh right in front of you, and you got to pick the ingredients that went in.  I had an aha moment: Guacamole is only great fresh!  The canned, tubbed, bagged stuff you can buy at the store does not hold a candle to homemade guac.  This converted me to be an avocado lover as well.  I’m grateful that food buds evolve as adults!

Homemade Guacamole

Makes 4 cups

4-5 ripe avocados

2-3 tomatoes

½ C scallions I’ve also used Spanish onion & red onion before

3-5 cloves of garlic

1 jalapeno

1 lime

Salt to taste

Because avocados brown quickly after air exposure, I saved those for the end and diced all my ingredients.  A note on the tomatoes: remove the seeds and liquid parts- they will water down and discolor the guacamole.  Thankfully, guacamole doesn’t require precise measurements, so if you like yours more spicy or garlicky or whatever, you can adjust as necessary.

Roll the lime under your palm before cutting it open to release the juices.

Then cut your avocados open.  Ripe avocados should be soft to the touch, but not mushy.  It’s ok if the skin is black, so long as there isn’t mold growing out of the peel.  I cut them in half first,

then slice squares without puncturing the peel behind it.

Then scooped the flesh into the bowl.  This can be done with a spoon or fingers.  To get the pit out, you can scoop it out with your fingers as well, or smack a knife into it and wiggle it out of the avocado flesh.

Toss avocado into a bowl.  You can mash with a large spoon or potato masher, but I usually use a fork so I can get the guacamole to the exact consistency I like.  If you’re in a hurry, or don’t mind really smooth guacamole, you could always toss the ingredients into a food processor.

Add the remaining ingredients and mash until it is a consistency you like.  I usually keep a pit or two in the guacamole mix – it keeps the guacamole from browning!  (I learned this at a party, thanks Kim!)

Refrigerate (either with the pit in and/or in an air tight container with parchment paper pressed down onto the guacamole to remove all air) for 30 minutes and serve!  This guacamole is great for dipping, topping quesadillas, or stuffing in burritos!  You can always store extra guacamole the same way you refrigerated it, though in our house there are rarely leftovers.

Baked Falafel

Oh, falafel. I could sing its praises for a long time. It is tasty, vegetarian and often times vegan, portable, and really easy to make! I fell in love with falafel when I lived in Israel, since it is the primary fast food in the Middle East – move over, McDonald’s. Falafel is traditionally deep fried and accompanied by hummus and tahina sauce. In Israel, it is served in a pita pocket, making it an easily transportable, quick lunch.

If you plan on frying the falafel (which is easily done on the stovetop with olive oil) it is better to use dry chickpeas and soak them for 2 hours, up to overnight. Canned chickpeas are too soft and tend to fall apart during the frying process. Since this recipe is baking the falafel, either canned or soaked chickpeas may be used.

I have tried several different falafel recipes, but I found one from a fellow foodie who spent some time in Israel, and I thought her recipe was so close to authentic! I made a few changes, and came up with this healthy version of the tasty falafel.

Baked Falafel

adapted from theshiksa.com

makes 12 falafel discs, serves 3-4

1C chickpeas, rinsed

1 small onion

1/2C spinach leaves

1/2C parsley leaves

3 garlic cloves

1T flour (I used spelt to keep these gluten free)

1t salt

1t cumin

1/2t ground coriander

1 pinch of cayenne

1 pinch of ground cardamom

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2t baking powder (to help them rise with the lack of gluten)

For falafel sandwiches:

Pitas

Hummus

Tahina Sauce

Chopped tomato

Spinach or lettuce

Chopped cucumber

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Assemble all falafel ingredients in a food processor.  Parsley:

Spinach & spices:

Baking Soda:

Roughly chopped onion:

Flour:

And Chickpeas:

Pulse until a course meal is formed. I personally don’t like my falafel to be the texture of baby food.

I used a cookie dough scooper -which to you might be a melon baller- to form the falafels on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake 15 minutes on the other side. Due to the baking nature, the falafels will only be crispy on the sides that touch the pan. Though you could probably bake them and maintain a round shape, I chose to smash them and make them discs for ease.

Serve them hot with either hummus or tahina or both, or in a pita as a sandwich.  I slathered my pita with hummus (see my recipe link above), stuffed it with falafel, spinach, tomato, and tahina sauce (recipe also above.)  Or they’re delicious on their own, served with a traditional Israeli Salad.  Yum!!

Here’s a picture that I took in Israel of a postcard.  The recipe is pretty close!

Israeli Tahina

Here’s a basic recipe composed of what I could remember from my Israeli cookbook that got lost in one of my house moves.  This thin, white sauce is a tart/tangy condiment that is designed to be paired with falafel.  Though many people use it to accompany hummus and other dishes, I love to pair this with falafel.  Bonus, it is vegan and gluten free, which in my book means you can have as much of it as you want!

Most recipes you’ll find entitle this “Tahini Sauce” to differentiate it from “tahini paste” (ground sesame seeds,) but I distinctly remember it being referred to in Israel as “Tahina” (pronounced tuh-(c)hee-na with a little back of the throat action on the hee part.)

Tahina Sauce

makes 1 Cup

1/2C Tahini paste

2/3C Water

Juice of 1 lemon

2-3 Garlic cloves

Handful of parsley

Salt to taste

1/2t Dill, optional

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

At this point, taste and adjust as necessary. Mine needed more salt to bring out the flavor, and more water to reach the desired consistency. Tahina sauce should be thicker than water, but thinner than tahini paste.

Enjoy with some yummy falafel!