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Archive for the 'Appetizers and Snacks' Category

The Episode in Which I Go Granola…Again

A few weeks ago, the Unicyclist was tapped to bring in food for an evening seminar he’s taking. He said the group has been on something of a hummus kick, so he decided to stick with the theme and whip up a batch of homemade hummus. I chose to balance it with a sweet treat and made a couple pans of granola bars for him to take along.

Apparently, the granola bars were a huge hit, as my husband came home with nary a granola bar and a heaping pile of requests for the recipe. Of course, when he delivered this news to me, the Unicyclist shook his head ruefully. He knows me and recipes…particularly where a staple like granola is concerned. All this meant, however, was that our household wound up with another batch of granola bars this week, as I had to make and measure in order to pass on instructions! So, without further ado, this one goes out to the hungry grad students. May you have long life and abundant supplies of granola. Wo0t!

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About Artichokes

Well, it’s been a busy couple weeks.

I have a new job.  I still have the old job.  (I.e., I work a lot.)  I finished the paper and presentation for the class I was taking on banned books and censorship.  And I have decided to love artichokes.

If you have ever prepared artichokes from their spiny, stiff, pigheaded original state, perhaps you can empathize when I say that they are not necessarily the easiest vegetable to love.  Fortunately, I believe in second chances.  And third ones.  And, in the case of artichokes, fourth ones.

This is something I enjoy about our (my and the Unicyclist’s) attitude toward food: we believe that pretty much anything can be delicious if prepared correctly.  He may not pine for okra, but he sure likes it when I make it sauteed with onion, tomato, cumin, and dried red pepper.  Likewise, up until a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t a rabid fan of fresh artichokes stuffed or boiled or drenched in butter (the first ways I tried cooking them).  However, I was certain they had to be good somehow.  Living so close to Cali, some of that Golden State artichoke passion has wafted over here.  Basically, it felt nearly criminal to fail to thrill to artichokes after I had seen The Giant Artichoke restaurant in Castroville, CA.  So I kept trying.

Last week, I found the sweet spot.

Hello, grilled ‘chokes.

So how can you join the artichoke fan club?  Read on for full instructions!

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The Unicyclist’s Standard Version Guacamole Recipe

If I were to become a hard-core locavore (not likely while my patoot is still parked here in ye arid desert), I suspect that I would bend the rules when it came to avocado.  Avocado and I have had a rocky relationship at times, due to my personal conviction that avocado belongs in the savory camp and not the sweet one, but I am still hopelessly devoted to this alligator-skinned fruit.  Never heard of a sweet avocado dish?  Besides avocado smoothies, custards, breads, and pies, there’s a simple breakfast in some parts of Latin America (such as Ecuador, where I spent about six months) that consists of avocado slices drizzled with honey, a slippery, sticky affair that doesn’t sit well with me.  And if you’ve ventured beyond the familiar, dark-green-to-black Hass avocados in the grocery store, you may have stumbled on a larger, bright-green variety that is naturally sweet, making for an odd sort of guacamole.  While it may just be that I’ve never had a really good avocado pie, I’ll confess: I think I can live without one.  After all, avocado fits so nicely in my salads, sandwiches, and guacamole benders.  Which, Gentle Readers, brings us to today’s recipe:

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Dark Days Challenge: Darn Good Hummus, Grilled Focaccia, and a New Broccoli Waldorf

For several years, I was something of an anomaly in the vegetarian world.

I hated hummus.  For those of you unfamiliar with hummus, it’s a staple in Middle Eastern and Greek restaurants, as well as in many vegetarian kitchens.  A savory spread of garbanzo beans puréed with garlic, lemon, garlic, and tahini (a sesame seed paste), it’s a healthy and convenient dip for vegetables or for use as a protein-rich sandwich spread.  I loved the concept of hummus.  I just hadn’t had the opportunity to understand what all the fuss was about.  Frankly, whenever I tried to make hummus, it just wasn’t…well…good.

I tried to make it at home.  I even stepped out of character and followed several recipes to a T in my attempts to make something palatable.

I failed.

Then one day, I discovered cumin, and the world was reborn.

Now, we almost always have some hummus in the fridge.  As I mentioned, it’s great for both sandwiches and high-protein snacks, it keeps well, and it’s full of garlicky goodness.  This week, I decided it was time to share my love of hummus with you, so that you all can enjoy it as well.

Although I’m posting my basic hummus recipe, I actually switched this one up today and used tepary beans instead of garbanzos to keep it local for the Dark Days Challenge.  I served it with herbed, grilled focaccia (which I made using our CSA wheatberries and garden herbs) based on the recipe in Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible and a fantastic, mostly local, reinvented Waldorf salad.  I’ll be posting the Waldorf recipe later this week.  Lunch was very satisfying: both light and hearty, sweet and salty, chewy and creamy and crunchy.  It was also healthy.

I love when that all comes together.


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About that Muhammara Recipe…

At long last, the moment you’ve been waiting for…or at least the one I’ve been promising you for the last several days.

But, really, this one is worth the wait.  Try it.  You’ll see.

First, what is muhammara? It’s a rich and tangy spread from the Middle East that complements pita triangles, roasted vegetable kabobs, and raw, crunchy vegetables beautifully. I bet it would even go fabulously with a chunk of meat if that’s your thing, but it’s so flavorful that I think the the warm chewiness of fresh pita and clean taste of vegetables are the perfect canvas for it.

The spread is tangy, sweet, rich, and bright, though you can add different notes to it with fiery peppers or smoked paprika if that’s more to your liking. In any case, it’s amazing. Make up a batch for a New Year’s party as a healthier alternative to creamy, heavy dips.  Your guests will love the color and unique hints of pomegranate.

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Dark Days Challenge Recipe: Sweet and Savory Kabobs

Early this morning, awakened by the dulcet tones of one Mr Hippo singing to the sunrise, I got up, got dressed, and headed to the farmers’ market to see what I could scavenge for our Dark Days Challenge meal.  The fridge was a little bare, since our CSA pick-up last week was canceled due to the holiday.  However, the Unicyclist and I had an inkling of what we wanted: kabobs.  Rich and savory kabobs to slather with the leftover muhammara from our Christmas Eve shindig.  Last night over dinner, just as we’d decided this, the Unicyclist was struck with a bolt of inspiration.

“What about dessert kabobs?”

Brilliant.  And timely.  As everyone knows, nothing makes a party like food on a stick, so consider these recipes my belated Christmas gift to you.  Both the savory and the sweet kabobs we made would be a wonderful, healthful addition to any New Year’s Eve fiestas.

Let’s get into it.  First: the ingredients.

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A Different Take on Granola

Because Miz Valerie has been asking about some rough-and-ready guidelines for granola for the faint of heart, in the interest of research, I riffed on my generic granola recipe and made some extra-nutty honey nut granola yesterday with twice as many nuts as usual, no millet or flax, buckwheat honey thrown in with the sweeteners, and a generous splash of almond extract.  Hello, deliciousness!

What prompted the out-of-season granola fest?  Well, a few things have been weighing on Miz Valerie’s mind about the granola-making process.  Specifically, she wanted some wet-to-dry ratios and the details on how long it would keep.  Miz V, this post is for you.

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Shiitake and Tatsoi Lettuce Wraps

Thursday is CSA day, and this week I was able to pick up a nice selection of goodies including a canary melon, an acorn squash, some red potatoes, a bunch each of beets and turnips, beautiful French breakfast radishes, I’itoi’s onions, and an Asian green called tatsoi (or tat soi).  I decided that three of these things belonged together; three of these things were kinda the same.  (Everybody sing!)

Now that all the Sesame Street geeks have been outed, let’s get back to the recipe.  I figured these Asian themed ingredients would go nicely together:

It was a warm afternoon in Phoenix today, so I decided to make them into something light: lettuce wraps.

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Mighty Morning Granola!

It’s the weekend, which means it’s probably a good time to cook up something delicious for the coming week. To help you in your endeavors toward deliciousness, I offer you the very first of an ongoing series of recipes. Here, to kick off the recipe portion of the Simple Spoonful, I present you with…Mighty Morning Granola!

Take a look–ain’t she purty?

Granola has become a staple here in our household. Either the Unicyclist or I cook up a batch on a biweekly basis, and it’s almost never the same. Granola is a very forgiving dish, not to mention a wonderful platform for experimentation. You want coconut? Toss it in! Hate cashews? Use peanuts! Want to find out what happens when you swap almond butter for some of the oil? Yee-ha! Want dried apples, raisins, and cardamom in this batch? Go for it! It is inevitably delicious.

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