Cranberry Hazelnut Guaya Bars

Makes 16 squares

This is another variation of the original Energy Bars I posted ages ago…well, it seems like ages ago anyway.  It’s adapted from Rebecca Katz whose recipes are just delicious.  As head cook (most of the week anyway) in our home, I’ve taken charge of my hubby’s diet as he trains for the NYC Marathon.  Snacks are often the downfall of any program so it’s important to make those snacks work for you despite what regimen you’re on.  (Pregnant and nursing moms, these are great for you too.)  And, snacks are another opportunity to capitalize on serious nutrition and real energy.  We should never underestimate the power of a snack.  They get us through to the next meal and if done right, your body will be thankful all day long.

Hazelnuts, sometimes referred to as Filberts even though they’re actually different nuts, are native to Turkey.  (Most of our hazelnuts now hail from Oregon.)  These nuts are high energy nuts! They’re rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids including the essential fatty acid linoleic acid.  These fats are key to our health because they lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol which is what we want.  Hazelnuts also pack dietary fiber along with several vitamins and minerals into itself.  Most notably are folate (unique for nuts) which is why these are super for expectant mommies to snack on.  They also pack in other B-complex vitamins making it a pretty awesome little nut. They are high in Vitamin E, that lovely fat soluble anti-oxidant that does wonders for cell integrity and is great for the skin!  It’s an important vitamin for runners because as they increase their training, the oxidative stress also increases.²  Vitamin E keeps that in check.

They are second only to almonds in their calcium levels.¹  Some minerals include magnesium which plays a critical role in endurance performance such as long distance running.  “Magnesium mainly exists in muscles and bones, where it assists with muscle contractions and energy metabolism.”³  Other biggies are iron and zinc.  Iron is a necessary mineral for the production of hemoglobin, which “carries oxygen from the lungs to the working muscles”.²  Without enough iron, which is lost through sweat, fatigue starts to get the better of you.  Zinc is key for a healthy immune system.  Excessive exercise depletes zinc and thus can reduce immunity.  (The body is busy repairing itself.)  A little goes a long way…so take these squares on your next long run!

I’ve mentioned moms-to-be and runners in this post because I made these for my runner husband and a pregnant friend, but really these are super for everyone.  There are even suggestions to make these beauties both gluten-free and vegan!

On your marks, get set…bake!

You’ll need:

1/4 C spelt flour (For a GF version, use 1/4 C oat flour.)

2 T flax seeds, ground (or chia seeds)

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 C rolled oats

1 C hazelnuts

1 C walnuts

2 T quinoa puffs (optional-I got these from Nuts.com which is a great site with great products.  Shredded coconut works beautifully here, too!)

2 C whole dried cranberries (alternatively, you could do 1 C of cranberries and 1 C of your choice of dried fruit)

1/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional-if you want to keep your sugar consumption in check, omit these)

1 egg (For a vegan version, add 3 T water to 1 T flax meal (in this order) and then refrigerate for minimum of 15 minutes…up to an hour is ok, too.)

1/4 C maple syrup

2 T coconut oil

To make:

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Place nuts on a sheet pan and toast for about 7 minutes or until fragrant.  Let cool.  (This toasting step can be skipped and you’ll still get super yummy Guaya Bars, but the toasting adds a nice depth of flavor.)

2. In the meantime, add first 6 ingredients to a food processor and process for 5 seconds, until well combined.  Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Add cooled nuts to food processor and process for about 5 seconds to roughly chop the nuts.  Add quinoa puffs and dried fruit and process for another 10 seconds or until a coarse dough is formed.  Add chocolate chips and process for another 5-10 seconds.  Add to flour mixture.

4. In a separate bowl, combine egg, maple syrup and coconut oil and whisk well.  Add to flour and nut mixture.

5. Using your hands, squeeze the dough so that all ingredients get fully incorporated and sticky.

6. In a baking pan (I used 2, 9X9 pans) lined with parchment paper, add 3 or 4 generous handfuls (I have small hands so play with the right amount for you.) and flatten evenly.  (I prefer them thicker but cut smaller, but this part is entirely up to you.)

7. Bake in the oven at 350° for about 20 minutes.  You’ll want to check on it to make sure it doesn’t get too browned or dry.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

8. Remove the entire block using the parchment paper and cut into desired shapes/sizes on a cutting board.  Let cool completely before serving.

9. Enjoy…again and again!

*The bars will keep for 4-5 days in a ziploc bag, but they freeze really well…I’ve kept extra batches for over a month and they’re still chewy and yummy and ridiculous!

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-242-300–12314-2-1-2,00.html

³ http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-242-300–670-0,00.html

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What a Frittata!

Serves 4

The egg is incredible.  It’s the one food I could never give up to become vegan.  Not that I ever wanted to become vegan, but I came close whenever I chose to forgo dairy so the question was always there.

The egg is so many things.  In the kitchen it is indispensable.  It acts as an emulsifier and as a leavener.  Its whites become glaze, its yolks become soufflé.  They make pasta, hollandaise and mayo.  In desserts they provide moisture and structure.  (Which is what makes vegan baking so challenging and fun!)  Yes, the egg is talented.

Eggs are also full of wisdom.  Some say they are perfectly shaped and sized.  In that little shell you’ll get about 6 grams of protein, the highest biological value of any food.¹  Being that our human structure is built on protein, this comes in handy.  While I was in my first trimester, eggs were the only thing I could stomach as far as protein was concerned.  (As far as a lot was concerned actually!)  I ate them a lot, all the time.  While I was a bit worried with overdosing on eggs, my midwife was more than happy that I could keep them down and actually enjoyed them.  Now I know why.  Eggs are wonderful sources of choline.  First off, a deficiency in choline could lead to a deficiency in folic acid; a super NO-NO for pregnant mamas.  Choline is also an essential part of “fat-containing structures in cell membranes, whose flexibility and integrity depend on adequate supplies of choline”.²  There are 2 fat-like molecules in the brain which make up a lot of its mass, so choline is pretty important for brain function and health…not to mention the brain you’re growing when pregnant!  Lastly, it’s a component of acetylcholine, the primary chemical means of sending messages between your nerves and muscles.²  Pretty heavy stuff for a little, fragile egg.  Oh, and choline is also anti-inflammatory!

As if this weren’t enough to make it stellar, here’s another tidbit.  The yolk which is high in protein and fat also contains iron, vitamins A, E and D.  Yet another reason egg yolks are a great food for babies…and everyone!  A note to my vegetarian friends:  The Vitamin B12 found in eggs could potentially keep you from taking it in supplement form.  Hello healthy metabolism and happy central nervous system…naturally!  Of course, the egg eaten whole (yolk and white) is best!  (I just discovered the “skinny egg” which is just egg whites…bleh!)

Please click here for a guide on how to choose truly healthy eggs.  All the terms stamped on cartons are confusing and often misleading.

Now let’s get to some egg cracking!

You’ll need:

3 T Extra virgin olive oil

2 small red potatoes, sliced

1 small red onion, sliced

2 handfuls baby spinach, (about 2 cups – not packed)

Fresh mozzarella, sliced (optional-I got a little excited about the mozzarella because it’s been almost 9 months since I’ve had any, but I’ve been making this without cheese and it’s delicious still!)

6 eggs

A small bunch of basil leaves, chiffonade

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To make:

1. In a stainless steel sauté pan, add 1 T olive oil, sliced potatoes and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat.  Flip potatoes over so they are well cooked on both sides.  They may get a bit browned, but this is up to you.  Set aside.

2. Caramelize the onions in the same sauté pan with another T of olive oil.  Set aside.

3. Sauté the spinach in the same pan until just wilted.  Set aside.

4. Whisk the eggs gently and add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Heat the sauté pan over low-medium heat and add eggs.  Using a spatula, scrape in the edges of the eggs as they cook allowing the runny part on top to fill the gap.  Keep doing this all around until the top isn’t so runny (but still wet).

5. Add your toppings.  I did potatoes then onions then spinach and cheese last.

6. Place the sauté pan under the broiler on low, and in the center of your oven, for about 5-7 minutes to cook the top and set the toppings.

7. Garnish with threads of basil leaves.

8. Enjoy!  (We usually do a green salad on the side…yumma!)

¹ http://www.rodale.com/free-range-eggs?cm_mmc=TheDailyFixNL-_-932340-_-05312012-_-the_truth_about_your_eggs_title

² http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=92

Guaya Updates

Well, somehow Claire and I have been blogging for about 4 months now!  We’ve been able to post twice weekly and while it has been challenging, it has also been very rewarding.  In 4 months, as you might imagine, Claire has changed a lot.  I can no longer wear her while I cook and instead enjoy her babbles and giggles (what I consider valuable inputs) from wherever she may be!

We’ve also been very fortunate to have many readers join us on our food and kitchen journeys.  We’ve made some “blog friends” as well as some new twitter and Facebook friends.  The virtual world is quite amazing and very friendly!

Through all these interactions, we’ve gotten great feedback and great ideas on how to move forward with our blog.  For now there will be one main change:  one post per week instead of two.  The main reason for this is that I just haven’t been able to devote enough time to the pages on the blog to fill them with essential, juicy info.  In addition to the Pantry page, there are a few others in the works, namely “Knife Skills” and a “Basics” page where I hope to post basic recipes such as homemade mayo (with vegan options), sauces, stocks, etc.  (Another reason is I’m slowly but surely learning how to navigate the world with a semi-mobile almost 9 month old infant!  I’m also slowly but surely getting back into the teaching kitchen.)

So, even though you’ll only be getting one email per week from me, there will be a bunch of stuff going on.  Be sure to check back often and see how things are shaping up.  Please feel free to leave me a comment here on the blog, on the Guaya Gourmet Facebook page or send me an email at guayagourmet@gmail.com.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Be well, enjoy the summer and cook your hearts out!

Love,

Nathalie and Claire Berlin

Golden Beet Slaw with Tahini Dressing

Makes 3 C

Variations on classics are never ending in the kitchen.  It’s one of the reasons I so enjoy cooking and sharing what I cook.  We don’t usually think of beets in the midst of the summer heat.  Especially not when there are berries and lovely greens all over the place.  It seems like we should just leave these root veggies alone, till fall.  Seems!  Beets are actually harvested through summer.  Golden beets are a delightful sunny color (or sometimes they conceal a beautiful orangey fuchsia in their center) and have a crisp refreshing crunch especially when eaten raw as in this recipe.  (They’re also delicious pickled!)  The main reason I got these beets?  Claire.  It just felt like a good time to introduce her to what Tom Robbins calls “the most intense of vegetables”.  He also said, “beets are deadly serious”*.  Let’s find out why.

They belong to the chenopod family, along with chard, spinach and quinoa.  (The beet greens are not only edible, they’re delicious, too! Sauté or eat raw in salads.)  Beets are special in that their overall phytonutrient content has a special, beneficial relationship with our nervous system.  Their pigmentation is a result of betalain antioxidant pigments (as opposed to beta-carotene for golden beets or anthocyanins for red ones) which makes them very unique.  They are also high in Vitamin C and manganese (also antioxidants) which further enhances their potency.¹  To refresh our memories, antioxidants protect our cells from free radicals roaming around. Free radicals occur as a result of the food we eat, the air we breathe, the stress we manifest, etc.  Thank goodness beets are deadly serious!  They are also serious about being anti-inflammatory which wards off everything from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to cancer.  Additionally, they’re incredible detoxifiers and therefore essential to any detox program. Beet juice anyone?  And finally there’s our buddy fiber keeping things in check.  It seems that the fiber in beets is pretty special, too.  Extra good news for our digestive and cardiovascular systems.¹

Put simply:  Super unique antioxidant power + incredible anti-inflammatory power + special fiber = serious anti-cancer!  (“Betanin pigments from beets have been shown to lessen tumor cell growth through a number of mechanisms, including inhibition of pro-inflammatory enzymes.”¹)  We should throw beets a party!

Given all this, I figured these beets should be treated with a certain amount of respect.  The dressing was my way of doing just that.  Another influence from my family’s sojourn in the Middle East, tahini is likewise special and this dressing is sure to wow your palate.  Trust me on this one!  (More on tahini for another post.  I use it often.)

In the meantime, get serious about making this slaw.  Happy tastebuds, happy body, happy spirit!

You’ll need:

3 C beets, julienned or shredded (about 3-4 medium beets)

1/4 C golden raisins (optional)

2 T parsley, finely chopped

1 T sesame seeds, toasted

For the dressing:

2 T tahini

1 T brown rice vinegar (I’ve also used champagne vinegar and apple cider vinegar with equal success.)

1 T maple syrup

1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 t ground cumin

Sea salt, to taste

To make:

1. Trim ends of beets and peel with a vegetable peeler.  I chose to julienne the beets instead of shredding them this time.  I used a mandolin to get even planks and then cut 1/8″ rods using a chef’s knife.  I think it looks a bit nicer and I love the extra cutting practice.  (I have many times shredded the beets in a food processor however, and it’s just as delicious!)

2. Combine julienned/shredded beets with raisins and set aside.

3. Mix all dressing ingredients together and whisk thoroughly until well combined.

4. Add dressing to beets and raisins.

5. When serving, top with sesame seeds.

6. Enjoy!

*Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

¹ http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49  (There’s some great detailed info on this site about the phytonutrients and overall health benefits of beets.  Enjoy!)

Cannellini Bean Dip

Makes 3 C

So, remember I said something about minimal cooking?  Well, doing what I can to minimize turning on the stove or oven?  This is another example.  Dip!  Bean dips are such a great way to get a good snack (or sometimes meal…let’s be real about this!) in the middle of the day.  They are also a wonderful appetizer.  I took the opportunity and cooked twice as many beans as I needed because it had been a while since we’d had these and a summer white bean salad had already made an appearance in my dreams.  Of course I dream about food!

Beans and I…we’re good friends.  I’m Colombian and like anyone of Latin origin will attest, beans are part of our everyday and sometimes several parts of our day!  As a vegetarian, I was more than grateful for this.  I relied heavily on various beans for protein, which much like animal protein, builds and repairs body tissue.  They are super blood sugar regulators and thus an excellent choice for anyone with insulin issues.  They’re low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, folate and other B vitamins.  They are also a wonderful source of dietary fiber.  There are 2 types, insoluble and soluble, and both are critical for our health.  Insoluble fiber does not dissolve so it acts as a sponge, literally “cleaning” up by ushering toxins out.  (That’s why our gut and colon stay healthy!)  Soluble fiber dissolves and becomes gel-like in our gut making us feel full, longer. Overeating, while tempting, is never good.  Quantity destroys quality in anything!  (I might have said that before.)  Anyway, thank you fiber and thank you beans!

For the record, Latinos aren’t the only ones with a bean habit.  Beans and legumes, “one of the earliest and most important cultivated crop, are grown everywhere that people farm”.¹  Indeed, most places I’ve traveled, I’ve run into some kind of bean along the way.  Honestly, I can’t wait to encounter more!

You’ll need:

1 C dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1 1″ piece of kombu

1 bay leaf

2-3 cloves garlic confit*

3 T olive oil (from garlic confit)

1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice

To make:

1. Get the beans cooking!  Drain and rinse the beans, then add to a saucepan with water to cover.  Boil over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, skimming the foam that forms.  Reduce heat to medium-low, dd thyme, rosemary, kombu and bay leaf, a pinch of sea salt and partially cover.  Cook for about 45 minutes or until beans are tender.

2. Remove the herbs and kombu from beans, drain and let cool.

3. When cooled, add remaining ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.  You may want to adjust the garlic, oil, lemon and salt so play with it until you get it to your liking.  These measurements worked great for me:)

4. Serve with crudite (my go-to choice for a super healthy snack that sometimes turns into lunch) crispy country bread, pita bread or flat bread.  Gluten-free crackers are also delish with this dip!

5. Enjoy!

*The Garlic Confit adds depth to the garlicky flavor.  It’s umami-ish which translates into deliciousness.  However, this dip comes out lovely using fresh, raw garlic as well.  Start with 1-2 cloves and adjust from there;)

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

Robusto Pita-nini

Makes 4 Pita-ninis

In this summer heat, I’m drawn to the simplest meals.  (Read: the less I have to turn on the stove, the better!)  That often means lots of salads; grain, bean, green, etc.  Sometimes the salad sneaks itself into sandwiches, or this case a pita-nini.  My family spent a lot of time living in the Middle East (my grandfather worked for the United Nations) so the pita became a staple in our home.  It seems more manageable to me than chunky slices of bread which seem more suitable to the colder months.  In any case, thinking about the fig spread in the fridge brought about this experiment.

There are 3 stars in this show:  the fig, the robusto* and the arugula.  I’d like to concentrate on the dark leafy green that is also known as rocket.  It’s one of my favorite of the cruciferious veg (if you stick around long enough you may find I say this often) and in early summer it’s positively addicting.  Cruciferous vegetables are widely known anti-carcinogens.  Their potent phytonutrients help the enzymes that “ward off carcinogens and other outside invaders, inhibit cancer formation, detoxify carcinogens and protect against colorectal, stomach and respiratory cancers”.¹  Like other dark leafy greens, arugula is an excellent source of calcium, iron, copper, magnesium and anti-oxidant vitamins A and C.  They are also wonderfully endowed with the B-vitamins, especially folate.  And, let’s not forget fiber.  There’s plenty of it here!

What’s amazing about a food that is so nutritious is that it is bursting with delicious flavor!  It’s peppery and spicy even.  It’s amazing raw in salads, in sandwiches, in pesto (move over basil!) or, when cooler days arrive, cooked in stir-frys and soups.  However you choose to incorporate arugula into your diet, your body will be thankful as will your palate.  Love it when everyone is happy!

You’ll need:

4 large whole wheat pitas

1/2 C fig spread

4 large handfuls of arugula (Of course, you judge how much is good for you.  I always overdo it when it comes to fresh greens!)

sliced robusto cheese (Again, how much is up to you…I went light with the cheese because it’s packed with flavor and a little goes a long way.)

butter or olive oil for grilling

To make:

1. Cut off about 1″ off the top of the pita and open the pocket.

2. Spread 2 T (approx) onto bottom half of pita then top with arugula and cheese.

3. If using an actual grill (lucky), brush some olive oil on each side of pita bread and place on grill (medium heat) with a plate or pan on top to hold it down.  If using a sauté pan (medium heat), do the same or use butter.  Each side will take about 4 minutes or until bread is crispy and cheese is melted.  Lastly, if you have a panini maker, put it to good use with this yummy pita-nini!

4. Serve warm.

5. Enjoy!!!

*Robusto – I ran into this cheese not quite sure what I was looking for.  I should say then that the cheese found me because once I tasted it, I knew it had the right amount of sharpness with soft edges for this pita-nini.  It’s a bit sharper and harder than a gouda.  Super yummy though!

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

Fig Spread

Makes 1 C

Figs are one of those fruits that evoke a sense of mystery.  Its very shape, the thread like center surrounded by hundreds of seeds in the cavity, is unlike anything else.  They’re chewy (flesh), crunchy (seeds), and smooth (skin) making them a culinary delight to play with.  They are also succulent, juicy and delightfully sweet.  Figs are known to be delicacies in their own right.

Figs have been found in myths throughout the world.  There are images of the fig tree in the Garden of Eden and it has associations with Dionysus (Bacchus for the Romans), and Priapus, a satyr associated with sexual desire.  But my favorite comes from India.  According to Buddhist legend, Siddhartha Gautama (or the Buddha!) achieved enlightenment while sitting under the bodhi (bo is a type of fig) tree.¹  I can just picture it.  That was back in 528 B.C.

What can figs do for us today?  Dried figs (what’s used in this recipe) have more dietary fiber than prunes.  Remember that fiber benefits our gut (improves digestion) and our colon.  It also makes us feel fuller so we are less likely to overeat.  According to Rebecca Wood, dried figs are higher in calcium, “ounce for ounce” than cow’s milk.²  They are also high in protein, iron (for red blood cell formation), copper (necessary for production of red blood cells), potassium (vital component of cell and body fluids that help control heart rate and blood pressure) and phosphorous (works closely with calcium for strong bone development).*  And apparently, they are also helpful to those on that inward journey.  Would anyone like some enlightenment with their figs?

What to do with this jar of bliss?  Spread it on a piece of millet toast with some cultured butter, put a dollop on your granola or in your yogurt and top with nuts or get creative and let me know what you come up with!

Namaste fellow gourmands.

You’ll need:

1 C dried figs, chopped (I used about 9 Turkish figs)

1 C water

1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of sea salt

To make:

1. Place figs and water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until they reach a simmer (light bubbling), then reduce heat to low and cook until water is almost completely evaporated.  (You still want a tiny bit of liquid…it will be thick like a reduction.)

2. Once the figs have cooled, place them and the lemon juice and salt in a food processor and process until smooth.

3. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.  It will keep for 7-10 days.  (Though I’ve used it after 2 weeks with no problem;)

4. Enjoy!

¹ http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Fi-Go/Fruit-in-Mythology.html#b

² Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

* http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fig-fruit.html