“the croccoli” cracker with fresh ginger & roasted garlic

Maybe it’s the obligatory recovery period after the Christmas and New Year holiday that’s made me crave green stuff lately, even more than usual. But cold raw salads are not exactly compelling when the temperatures finally start feeling wintry.  I want huge platters of steamed green stuff slathered in some kind of goopy brown garlic sauce a la American Chinese food, in the excessive quantity only an American can appreciate.

Thus, the croccoli was born– a crunchy cracker not shy on nutty broccoli flavor, but matched with fresh ginger and some roasted garlic.

Broccoli is a “no-brainer” health food, packed with compounds found to fight cancer, and in combination particularly effective at detoxifying the body. Read more about that at one of my favorite no-frills nutrition sites, World’s Healthiest Foods.  The croccoli will be available at City Market, The Juice Laundry, and other select retail locations throughout the spring (May-June), and late fall.

ingredients: organic golden flax, locally grown broccoli, organic millet, organic raw sunflower seeds, filtered water, organic dates, Braggs raw apple cider vinegar,  roasted locally grown garlic, fresh ginger, himalayan pink salt

sunny solstice cookies with cacao

If there’s any holiday I can get excited about in winter, it’s the one reminding me that winter, with all it’s darkness and erratic weather, will end. On the solstice, I am all too eager to celebrate, helping push the pendulum towards longer days, and the spring to come.

This recipe attempts to honor everything about this time of year, when the body craves density and creaminess, and the soul craves color and light. The interweb is bloated with holiday cookie recipes that involve rolling, cutting, sprinkling, or glopping with icing, so I see this as a simple healthy alternative that can save you time but still satisfy the sweet tooth. These guys are dairy, grain, and nut-free (not an easy feat for a cookie), so they can make a nutritious homemade treat packed in a school lunch, or to take to parties in which there may be nut, gluten, and/or dairy allergies. Plus, there’s no messy icing, meaning they can travel or ship without congealing into a disastrously UNfestive mess more unwelcome than a fruitcake. There are people out there I am lucky enough to still call friends who have been in the receiving end of such messes. P.S. I am so sorry guys. I know it was, like, 10 years ago, but I should have known better.

Not only does the sunbutter make the cookie exteriors glossy (the refrain to REM’s ‘Shiny Happy People’) has been running through my head ever since I took them out of the oven), but the little crunch of cacao nibs is like a little surprise inside! If you prefer dried fruits or actual dark chocolate chips inside, swap out the nibs in their favor. Enjoy!

sunny solstice cookies with crunchy cacao
Yields 14
A completely grain and nut--free treat that's creamy, delicious, portable, and fun to eat despite not being covered in sticky frosting.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
38 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
38 min
149 calories
12 g
13 g
10 g
4 g
1 g
39 g
105 g
9 g
0 g
9 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
39g
Yields
14
Amount Per Serving
Calories 149
Calories from Fat 88
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 10g
16%
Saturated Fat 1g
5%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Cholesterol 13mg
4%
Sodium 105mg
4%
Total Carbohydrates 12g
4%
Dietary Fiber 1g
5%
Sugars 9g
Protein 4g
Vitamin A
3%
Vitamin C
2%
Calcium
2%
Iron
5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sunflower seed butter
  2. 1 egg, beaten
  3. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 1/3 cup local honey
  5. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  8. 1/4 tsp salt
  9. 1 cup cacao nibs
  10. 3/4 cup chopped dried dark cherries (optional)
  11. Coarse sea salt, to sprinkle on top (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all of your ingredients except the chocolate chunks until they come together and mixed thoroughly.
  3. Once the batter comes together, fold in your cacao nibs and optional dried cherries.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and scoop your batter onto the baking sheet to form 12-14 cookies.
  5. If you're in the mood, arrange a few nibs and/or dried cherries on top to make a smiley face.
  6. If you like a little sea salt on the top of your cookies, sprinkle a little onto each cookie before putting it in the oven.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
Notes
  1. Here is a good resource on making your own sunflower seed butter:http://www.tessadomesticdiva.com/2012/09/homemade-sunflower-seed-butter-extra-creamy.html.
  2. Also, my title is a mouthful (I have a weakness for alliteration), so feel free to change it. Shiny Happy Cookies works, too.
Adapted from PaleOMG
beta
calories
149
fat
10g
protein
4g
carbs
12g
more
Adapted from PaleOMG
https://goodphytefoods.com/

carrot chia muffins with coconut & ginger

#paleo, #grainfree, #nutfree, #vitamin a

Early iterations of our paleo mini muffins at City Market were probably a little underwhelming. I have my son’s third birthday to thank for getting serious about making a grain-free cupcake that would pass muster in his preschool class rather than cause a dozen little faces to contort condemningly. Applying some of the cupcake principles to the muffin formula, including eliminating tapioca flour, gives them a little more “lift.” I got a lot of great feedback from customers on August 29th, when I sold these for the first time. The greatest part of these guys, though, is that they are literally mostly eggs and carrot, like a vitamin A-packed frittata, sweetened only with dates and raisins and packed with fresh ginger.

I tell everyone unfamiliar with paleo baked goods to be aware that a truly grain-free muffin will have a denser, moister, eggier texture than the fluffy, cake-ish muffins we’ve grown up on. But won’t sit in your belly like a load of bricks!

Ingredients: local pastured eggs (Modesto Farm), locally grown carrots, organic coconut oil, organic coconut flour, organic dates, filtered water, organic chia seeds, baking soda, sea salt, fresh ginger, vanilla extract, ginger powder

paleo zucchini mini muffins

Months ago, I swore to myself I would never again use coconut flour. In fact, I said it out loud, in the presence of others, more than once. Frustrated with weird, unreliable textures characterizing many a baked good I tried to make in the pursuit of nut-free paleo baked goods. If you read sites like Paleo Mom, Against All Grain, or other grain-free food blogs, then you probably know that coconut flour brands matter, as does the quantity and temperature of the eggs. Well, I couldn’t handle all the variables, knowing that coconut flour is very non-local (in fact, much of it comes precisely from the opposite end of the planet) or explaining to people why my muffins had the spongy texture of frittatas, and I back-burnered the challenge to make completely grain-free muffins that were primarily locally grown ingredients. But knowing how much kids love muffins, I set to work again, and think I’ve created the ideal morning treat that’s perfectly sized for little hands! By weight, the proportion of coconut flour to other ingredients is pretty small, and the eggs pack some quality protein, too. Applesauce and dried figs add a subtle sweetness, with no other added sugars.

Ingredients: local pastured eggs (Modesto Farm), zucchini (Little Hat Creek Farm), organic applesauce, organic coconut flour, organic dried currants, organic dried figs, coconut oil, tapioca flour, sea salt, vanilla extract, baking soda, cinnamon, fresh ginger, nutmeg

 

superstar & mighty mint bars

This is the perfect portable “treat” for the kiddos (you don’t have to tell them that there’s little bits of kale inside), or a great chewy re-fuel after a workout. In slightly more than 200 calories, each bar is a good source of protein (10 grams!), iron, Vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, & manganese, a very good source of Vitamin K, and contains about 1,900 mcg of omega-3 fatty acids from four kinds of seeds. Since just enough certified organic raisins and dates are used to hold the bars together, it wouldn’t technically be lying to call this a “chewy raisin bar” for the little ones particularly wary of new foods.  This is nutrient density at it’s best! 

mighty_mint_omega_bar
mighty mint omega bar

Flavors include superstar (vanilla rosemary) and mighty mint (cacao nibs with peppermint)

Ingredients (superstar bar): organic raw sunflower seeds, organic raw pumpkin seeds, organic seedless raisins, organic medjool dates, organic flax seeds, organic chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, local organic kale, sea salt, vanilla extract, lemon extract, fresh rosemary

 

Order here.

Mint Mayhem

Minty Superfood Saucers with Kale (Beta)

We have a small bed in our garden that gets full sun, drains very quickly, and has come to be known as the “death bed.” This is partly an homage to Patton Oswalt* as well as an admission that every time we’ve attempted to plant even heat-loving vegetables there (sweet peppers, eggplant, and basil), each are met with a stunted, slowly dessicating demise.  So when I came into a chocolate mint plant at a Master Gardener sale a couple years ago, I knew exactly where to put it.  I discovered chocolate mint about 15 years ago, on the organic farm where my husband and I both once worked (when we had spry knees, hideous tan lines, and could be bribed into long hot hours of heirloom tomato transplanting with cans of Natty Boh). There, it sprawled vigorously along the outside walls of the greenhouse, out-competing other weeds. Sometimes, at the end of a hot day, I’d grab a sprig and rub the crushed leaves on my neck so that I could hide from my own stench for a while. It made a refreshing, richer-than-peppermint sun tea, too, which I guess is what I should have been drinking more of instead of Natty Boh. In any case, no one who has ever tried to grow a little mint will be surprised when I say our little chocolate mint turned the death bed into a vibrant purplish-stemmed jungle of fragrance, even creeping several feet out into the lawn. Even I can’t drink this much tea.

Thus, my inspiration for a Minty Kale Superfood Saucers was born. I had debuted the saucer at City Market this past Saturday, but wanted to experiment with new flavor that didn’t come out of a bottle, or resort to adding cacao nibs. Who wants to risk a potentially napless afternoon with an energetic toddler simply for a snack that had even a tiny bit of caffeine? Caffeine can be mommy’s little helper, sure; but only when it’s in HER hands.

If you haven’t heard my empty calorie rant, or my frustrations with “energy bars,” then I will only say briefly here that these saucers, like all my experiments, are designed to have a significant amount of vegetables (organic kale from Brightwood Vineyard & Farm) and lots of healthy essential fats from whole food ingredients. No isolates, syrups, sweeteners, unpronounceable preservatives, gluten, nuts, or dairy.

After getting some feedback from vegans on Saturday, I made a few changes in this beta recipe (Mint Modification V1.0), that allowed to me make a completely raw, vegan version. That means the texture is slightly different, with the sunflower seeds, chia, and flax more thoroughly puréed. Nevertheless, I am always looking for ways to improve size, texture, shape, and other attributes in order to make things most appealing to kids. Who cares how many vitamins are in something if it never gets to their mouth?

Ingredients: organic raw sunflower seeds, organic pumpkin seeds, organic unsulfured apricots, organic medjool dates, organic flax seeds, local organic kale, organic chia seeds, organic virgin coconut oil, chocolate mint, sea salt, organic vanilla extract

By now I understand why most energy bars are in opaque packaging. They are ugly, and I lack the food-porn photoshopping skills or hipster craftiness to make them look sexy with a little jute twine and parchment paper. Little help, anybody?

Until I find the magic packaging solution for these, each bag has four saucers, which are about 100 calories a piece and packed with vitamins and healthy fats from seeds. Order here for pick up at ACAC downtown on the mornings of Tuesday June 2nd or Thursday 4th. Add a comment if neither of those times work for you and you want to arrange another meet-up.

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*If you have read this far and are afraid to raise your hand and ask what the heck Patton Oswalt has to do with gardening, well, he doesn’t. But please watch his “Death Bed” stand-up sketch after the kids have gone to bed. There are rather superfluous F-bombs.

good neighbors & nutrient density

I’ve been so preoccupied in the last few weeks with a) scrambling to catch up with spring in our slacker vegetable garden and b) brainstorming logistics for my pilot subscription program this summer, that I’ve been lax with posting recipes on the site. Though most of my recent experiments in the kitchen have yielded success (flavor, toddler appeal, proper mouthfeel, etc.), others left me questioning myself not only as a baker, but as a competent adult: a crumbly fail of what I intended to be a chewy nutrient bar (not photographed because my hands were too coated in chia seeds, dehydrated kale, and tears to operate my phone’s camera); and a whole sheet of deliciously sweet quinoa beet crackers which ended up in the compost bin, charred and black, after I decided to “crisp them up” really quickly in the oven. Long story. In any case, I look forward to bringing my newer secret recipes to scale. After taking samples around to my favorite vendors at the farmers market, Caromont Farm is interested in replacing her Carr’s crackers with some of mine for her cheese samples. Baby steps!

As the streets of Baltimore (home to some of my closest family) erupted with misplaced frustration about persistent economic disparities, I came home Tuesday last week to find a surprise wedged between our screen and front door. A leaky red box of imported cocoa powder, aside an unopened box of Whole Foods’ 365 brand “Quack’n Bites.” The kind my kid recognizes inexplicably and steals from other kid’s snack bags as I sigh disapprovingly (is there a gene for brand recognition, somehow?). I hid the box in the darker part of the pantry until I could regift it again to someone more appreciative.

I didn’t need to ask who left these items, for two reasons. First, our next door neighbors had already made clear that they “don’t eat organic,” quick to bring over any cereal branded to vaguely convey health properties, whether or not they had an organic label. I was told, at one point, that they “don’t eat that healthy stuff, honey.”

They are kind, generous people living in a small one story concrete house, patient with a landlord that seems to ignore nearly every aspect of maintenance. They mow their grass with a regularity that puts us to shame. Raising their 5 year old grandson, they receive some public assistance (I think), and get food donations every once in a while. When deer season comes and they get lucky, you can bet our freezer gets stocked, too, especially if I’m willing to help process the bigger cuts. Reciprocation is impossible– when we still had chickens, they persistently refused offers of eggs. “We don’t eat them rich brown eggs.” I tried meekly to share some local apples once, and it was only (after my third attempt at persuasion) that the boss (mom) of the house finally conceded they might be good fried with pork chops. I considered it a huge success that they reluctantly accepted a pre-made meal of plain pasta with sauce and cheese this past weekend as a thank you for the cocoa and crackers. I felt like I was acting out some kind of sketch comedy, standing in their smoky doorway trying to “sell” something so plain and inoffensive. Secondly, I deduced the gifter because the boxes reeked of cigarette smoke, as anything would after 30 seconds or more of exposure to their interior atmosphere.

While our opaque recycling bin hides wine bottles, theirs hides cans of Mountain Dew. They shun organic for their own reasons, as I seemed to snub the Quackers for my own.

As days went by, the whole situation bugged me. I didn’t share a skepticism about organic foods, so what could I possibly have against innocuous goldfish crackers (even their overpriced organic equivalents)? Did I just resent major retailers’ lucrative attempts to “organic-wash” what was essentially junk food? Had I turned into a party-pooping, home-baking snob, or worse– a proselytizing (and hypocritical) dietary zealot? After all, red wine is about as empty in calories as Mountain Dew.

So I snuck into the pantry and looked more closely at ingredient and nutrition label:

  • 17+ ingredients (the top three by weight being white (organic) flour, vegetable oil, and natural cheddar cheese flavor)
  • 130 calories for a 68 cracker serving
  • 21 grams of carbohydrate (only 1 being dietary fiber, 0 grams sugar)
  • 2% each of daily values of Vitamin A, Calcium, and Iron
  • Despite a seal on the front (designed, I’m sure to cue the sensation of authenticity) which claimed inclusion of “Real Organic Cheddar Cheese,” said cheese came AFTER salt, by weight, on the list of ingredients, right before paprika

That pretty much validated my assumptions, though, in the poor Quack’n Bites’ defense, there were no added sugars. I guess I’m not the only party-pooper, though: Quack’n Bites earned a C grade on Fooducate, a rating web site on which “minimally processed, real foods with intrinsic nutrients will score better than processed foods that are poor in built-in nutrients.”

I compared the Quack’n Bites’ nutrition label with one of my newer kitchen inventions, for which I used my new best friend, Recipal. It generates nutrition labels for recipes (a function it performs much more expertly than a lot of the free versions out there, which I’ve also tried). It. is. awesome. And I swear they are not paying me to say so.

Curried Sweet Potato & Flax Crackers are one of my simpler recipes, grain-free and packed with baked organic sweet potatoes and golden flax seeds. First of all, even your toddler can probably pronounce the ingredients, and the vitamin content is much higher, with more protein and fats (mostly omega 3s), less sodium, and more than 50% fewer carbohydrates.  And, somehow, ten 1.5 inch square crackers have 20 fewer calories than the 68 Quack n’ Bites, though their serving weight is identical. This is a classic case of nutrient density, which is going to be the next drumbeat coming from dieticians, many of whom are advocating for a standardized “nutrient density score” to help people make better decisions about how to “spend” their calories. Ironically, Whole Foods has an Aggregated Nutrient Density Score (ANDI) on their web site (as does the CDC, and DrFuhrman.com, among others). Keep in mind that any “ranking” rubric is misleading, since EVERY food has some unique nutritional properties, and the less domesticated versions of crops tend to have more beneficial phytochemicals (as Jo Robinson’s Eating on the Wild Side explains in detail). Watercress scores more highly than sweet potatoes in CDC’s scoring, for example, but if I’m interested in getting more Vitamin A, you can bet I will opt for the latter. It depends on what nutrients that matter to you; and whether you trust pill vitamins to make up for the nutrients lacking on the plate.

Party-poopery aside, it comes down to this: I don’t resent empty calories (hey– we all have our vices), but I reserve the right to resent empty calories that are mass-produced, over-packaged, and branded to convey wholesomeness to busy parents who don’t have time to scrutinize nutrition labels in the store aisle. This reminder, after a week of aforementioned “ooopses” in the kitchen, is enough to keep me moving forward with a mission to make nutrient-dense snacks that are tasty enough for kids and grown-ups alike. When it comes to feeding children with developing brains– and with, like mine, an impatience for seated mealtime, I don’t want “cheese” crackers to be my only healthy option for food on the go. Until my guy is old enough to wield the power of consumer choice on his own, I will not let snack-time be wasted.

Bears Share: A Snow Day Baking Tale

I thought we were done with snow days for the year, but alas. It was raining and 40+ degrees when the City of Charlottesville decided to cancel school due to a winter storm warning that would supposedly turn the rain to ice and snow later in the day. Spoiler alert: it happened, despite my fervent disbelief, and it’s sleeting buckets as I write this, safely at home.

Fortunately, Thursdays are not school days for Fionn anyway, so we pretty much operated as normal, waking about 6:15, eating breakfast, sitting on the potty, and finding socks that could pass for matching at 20 feet. Plenty of time to get ready and to head to the gym where he could play with all the other preschoolers off from school.

Sam & his mama wrapping cakes
Sam & his mama wrapping cakes

At an afternoon trip to the library this week, I picked up a book called You Can Do It, Sam by Amy Best and Anita Jeram. As usual, I was judging books by the covers when I made a series of quick grabs because before Fionn disappeared down an aisle or dumped a pencil container. I’m also just superficial like that, despite being an English major who should know better than to judge literature by its cover art. Upon getting home, though, my method proved fortuitous: the book features a mama bear and her son Sam, who together bake twelve little cherry cakes before sunrise on a snowy day. They wrap each one and drive out into the pre-dawn snow, delivering them to the doorsteps of their friends and neighbors, Sam hopping out of the passenger side of their beat-up green pick-up truck at each house.  I can practically hear the door creaking on its hinge into the cold air each time. The sun is just rising as they get back home, and they enjoy the two remaining cakes with some cocoa, Sam proudly recounting his baking and delivering, hoping his friends liked their surprises. This story brought back memories of my mom’s holiday candy-making (she was a maven of fudge, sugar-coated pecans, chocolate covered peanut butter balls, and just about anything so full of sugar that your teeth would get a migraine after two bites). Every year before Christmas, she would fill little boxes and bags with her treats and urge me off to the neighbors for delivery. I HATED it. Oh, I get nostalgic now, sure, but I HATED it, and I could empathize with little Sam as his mama nudged him out of the truck to go leave his cake surprise at the first house. Then he got into it, of course, just as I did… after about seven years.

So, with two hours before needing to get on with our day and head to the gym (where we both get to play, SEPARATELY, which is key), we got busy with Mollie Katzen’s recipe for Orange-Cherry Cornbread Muffins in the Sunlight Café cookbook, subbing honey for the sugar and using whole wheat flour. I also made my own buttermilk with raw milk and apple cider vinegar, because who keeps buttermilk handy? Fionn’s stirring of the dry ingredients resulted in only minor flour casualties, a triumph he made up for by dumping vanilla extract all over the counter while I grated orange peel. I swabbed it up and used it as cologne to prophylactically disguise my eventual sweat stank at the gym. Little dab for him, too, since toddlers always seem to smell a little weird.

I’m not the type to get fancy with gifts (my wrapping jobs often get mistaken for a man’s), but we managed to fashion a humble sharing receptacle out of an old Amazon Prime box. You should know that I am sheepishly looking away as I type “Amazon Prime,” by the way. Of course, in our version of the story, Fionn didn’t hesitate to stuff his face with two muffins before sharing. Gotta taste test, right? And hell if we were going to hand-deliver each muffin all over town. 

The box survived a couple accidental overturnings on the way (I’m a klutz), and eventually found a home on the kitchen counter in the ACAC Kidzone, where I am sure the staff were happy to see baked goods from me that didn’t include turnips or spinach. Yes, I brought paleo turnip spice muffins to share a few days ago. “Dude, just TRY one! Even Fionn says they’re nummy!” was met with skepticism.

NOTE: If a recipe says “10 muffins,” just trust it rather than trying to squeeze out another one with the batter.  Ours would have been fuller, with coveted muffin tops, if I had followed instructions. Great recipe, Mollie, as always. The orange zest is crucially delectable.