Homemade Graham Crackers

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Last month Nick and I attended a birthday bash at Crater Lake for our bestest bud.  Neither of us had ever been there, although it has been on our list since the day we moved to Oregon!  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.  It was formed around 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama volcano collapsed and created a large caldera that eventually filled with rain and snow melt.  It is an understatement to call Crater Lake breathtaking.  There are really no words to describe how blue the water is.  I also loved the huge lava rock formations and the trees that surround the lake.

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There is a road that goes around the perimeter of the lake and twice a year the park closes part of that road to cars so cyclists can enjoy it all to themselves!  We enjoyed the 33 mile scenic ride, which included over 3,800′ of climbing, PLUS the 10 mile ride each way from our camp ground that included another 800′ of climbing.  By “enjoyed” I mean our legs and lungs were screaming with each climb.  However, at each break, our minds were BLOWN.  It was awesome in every sense of the word.

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We all took turns preparing the meals for the group and enjoyed a variety of campground gourmet.  The item that really topped my list, though, were homemade graham crackers that my lovely friend Christine brought.  They had a thicker texture than store-bought crackers and were way more flavorful.  An added bonus: we can identify all of the ingredients!  Of course, we took that health train off the tracks by making s’mores with these glorious crackers…but hey, what’s a camping trip without s’mores?

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Christine found her inspiration for these Homemade Graham Crackers from The Post Punk Kitchen, with a few additions and changes.  Below is her recipe.  I can’t wait to make these at home and enjoy as a snack with tea or fruit!

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Homemade Graham Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Graham Flour
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar (this adds some extra texture and crunch, you can also use regular sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon extract
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the over to 350* F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil, molasses and vanilla and cinnamon extracts. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry until well combined and crumbly.
  3. Add the milk and stir to combine.  Use your hands to knead the dough a few times until it holds together.  Christine recommends if the dough is dry and crumbly to roll out, you can try adding a tbsp or so more milk.
  4. Line your work surface with parchment paper.  Place the dough on the parchment paper and work dough into a rectangle.  Sprinkle with flour and use a rolling pin to flatten out the rectangle until it is about 10 x 14 inches.  The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick.
  5. Trim the edges and cut the dough into 8 crackers.  You may be able to get some more crackers from the trimmed edges, so roll it out and cut them up!  No need to waste good dough, right?  Very carefully transfer the crackers to the baking sheet.  Poke each cookie with a fork a few times.
  6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.  12 minutes gives softer cookies, that according to the Post Punk Kitchen, are better for making ice cream sandwiches!  What!  That sounds like something I need to do!  14 minutes gives you crispy cookies.  You decide how you like ’em.
  7. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.

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Nom.  Now let’s go camping!  Oh, wait…it’s winter now.  We can still camp in our living rooms, yeah?  😉

 

Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology

Hello there!  I hope you had a lovely weekend.  Portland continues to bask in summer’s glory with sunshine, delicious produce, and SO many weekend activities!  It’s hard to keep up with everything that goes on throughout the summer!  

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I am now in week 12 of training for the Portland Marathon and seriously can’t believe the race is only 7 weeks ago!  On Saturday my long run was 16 miles.  16 miles!  That is 3 miles longer than I have ever run before.  It was by no means easy.  It was hot, I got tired, and walked more than I would prefer.  I did, however, finish and that is my main goal for the race.  I’ll keep trucking along and putting my best foot forward with each run 🙂

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Last weekend, Nick and I picked fresh peaches on a farm on Sauvie Island.  We came home with a box of huge, juicy peaches that entice me every time I open the fridge!  With those on hand, along with the huge bag of blueberries I picked on Sauvie Island and froze, I had the perfect solution for lazy summer days.  To keep cool on Sunday before heading to the second day of MusicFest NW, I headed straight for the blender and whipped up a Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology.  Pure perfection.

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Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology Recipe:

Serves 2

For the first layer, combine in a blender:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 handfuls of frozen organic blueberries
  • 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
  • Ice

Blend and split between two large glasses.  If it’s really warm in your house, place the glasses in the freezer while you make the second layer.

 

For the second layer, combine in a blender:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 organic peaches
  • 6-8 (or to taste) fresh mint leaves
  • 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology

Blend and pour over the first layer in the glasses.  Stick a straw in there and enjoy!  ❤

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Baked Vegetable Tempura and Soy Glazed Salmon

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Recently, Nick and I booked a two-week trip to Japan.  This trip is to celebrate my completion of graduate school and to just get the heck out and see the world!  We have been asked by almost everyone we have told, “Why Japan?” and our answer is, “Why not?!”  There are so many places all over the world we want to visit, so we had to just start by picking one and this year, Japan won!  We are so incredibly excited!

The night we booked the flights, we wanted to celebrate with a healthy Japanese-inspired food.  We made baked vegetable tempura and it was absolutely delicious!

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To make, you will need:

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  •  A bunch of asparagus
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • Panko bread crumps

 

 

The amount of each vegetable depends on how many you are preparing for.

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  1. Preheat oven to 450* F.
  2. Toss the chopped vegetables in whole wheat flour to lightly coat
  3. Dip each piece in a bowl containing the eggs, scrambled
  4. Next time the vegetable pieces into a bowl of Panko bread crumbs
  5. Line the veggies up in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until browned

 

 

 

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We served ours with a ginger soy glazed salmon.

To glaze the salmon, you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 salmon steaks
  1. Simmer the soy sauce and grated ginger in a small saucepan.  Once it starts to simmer, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the honey and mustard.
  2. Cook the salmon skin side up on a lightly oiled pan for about 5 minutes
  3. Flip over and spoon some of the glaze over the top
  4. Transfer the salmon to a baking sheet that is lightly oiled or lined with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
  5. Stick the salmon in the oven at 350* F until done, about 5-10 minutes.

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Nick made a dipping sauce for the tempura with Dijon Mustard, honey, Chinese hot mustard and a little champagne vinegar, but of course he didn’t measure anything out!  Play around with dipping sauces, those are fun to create with whatever you have in your pantry or fridge.  🙂

If anyone has traveled to Japan and has suggestions of things we must do, please share!

 

Orange Black Bean Hummus

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My other half is allergic to peanuts and many of peanut’s relatives, including garbanzo beans.  This means that regular hummus is typically a no-go in our household unless its just for me (which is neither fun nor economical) or Nick wants to endure a stomach ache, itchy throat or other unpleasant side effects (also not fun, healthy or economical).  He likes the taste, texture and many ways to use hummus though, so this often leads to him risking it!  Not too long ago, I found a local brand (King Harvest) that makes a black bean hummus and it is really delicious!  Shortly after that, I was flipping through the book Quick Fix Vegan and came across a recipe for black bean hummus that uses orange juice to add an interesting flavor.  I immediately gave the recipe a shot and it has become a new favorite for snack and meal preps!

Black beans are an excellent source of:

  • Protein (a single one-cup serving of black beans provides almost 15 grams of protein, which is equivalent to the amount of protein in 2 ounces of meat!)
  • Fiber
  • Vitamin B1
  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Manganese and Magnesium
  • Phytonutrients
Fun graphic I found on Instagram :-)

Fun graphic I found on Instagram.  Click on the image to see larger version 🙂

Oranges add to the nutrition benefits with:

  • Lots of Vitamin C
  • More fiber and folate
  • Vitamin A and B1
  • Potassium and calcium

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, sesame tahini (sesame seed paste or sesame butter found in most health food stores) provides:

  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Folate
  • Riboflavin, niacin and thiamin (all of which help convert food to energy, maintain skin and keep your nervous system functioning well)
  • Sesame seeds are one of the best sources of copper, a powerful antioxidant and a necessary mineral for your immune system and for enzymes that produce energy, build connective tissue and metabolize iron
  • Iron and phosphorus
For more information: Nutritional Facts of Roasted Sesame Tahini, The World’s Healthiest Foods: Black Beans,  The World’s Healthiest Foods: Oranges

I purchase my black beans from bulk bins at my local food cooperative and cook about 1 cup (yields about 3 cups cooked) at a time to use to prepare a few meals or snacks throughout the week.  Not only is hummus incredibly easy to make, making it from scratch saves a lot of money!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice (about half of a medium sized orange)
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cup of cooked black beans
  • 2 tablespoons sesame tahini
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Chili powder and cilantro to taste

Place everything in a food processor and blend!

Enjoy as a dip for vegetables, a spread on sandwiches, with pita chips, or any other way you enjoy hummus 🙂

Life is too short to eat plain oats!

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Oats are a classic breakfast staple.  It seems like I am not the only one who feels a bit nostalgic about a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning.  That feeling reminds me of my grandmother and the warm cereal has been a necessity in my survival of Portland winter mornings (I know, it’s so obvious I am from Southern California when I complain about the winter here!  Go ahead and roll your eyes East Coasters, I won’t be offended!  (-: ).

There are several options for oats, including old-fashioned rolled oats, quick oaks and steel cut oats.  The various types are the same food, just cut differently, giving the oats a different texture and cooking time.  We know from Quaker brand commercials and packaging that cooked oats is a great food for those who are working to prevent or are currently dealing with heart disease or diabetes.  This is because oats contain beta-glucan, a fiber that has been shown to have positive benefits on cholesterol levels.  Beta-glucan also enhances the immune system and gives oats their blood stabilizing quality.  Their high fiber content also allows oats to remove cholesterol from the digestive system, thus keeping it out of your bloodstream.

Oats are also great for the following:

  • They increase appetite-control hormones
  • Oats may reduce asthma risk in children
  • They are low in calories and fat, but high in protein
  • Oats also contain lignans, which are thought to protect against heart disease and hormone-dependent cancers (i.e. breast cancer)
  • Oats contain unique antioxidants that prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Oats are a great source of carbohydrates too, which can prepare you for a work out or get you fueled for your long day ahead
  • Oats are also very inexpensive, especially when purchased from a bulk bin!

For 1/2 cup dry (1 cup cooked) of whole grain rolled oats, you get 190 calories, 3.5g fat, 32g carbs, and 7g protein.

For more information on all the amazing benefits of oats, head on over to The World’s Healthiest Foods and The Whole Grains Council.

Because oats are so low in calories, it makes them a great base for fun breakfast creations!  Here are a few of my recent favorites!

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Ginger Peach Oats with Raspberry Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 bags of Trader Joe’s Organic Ginger Peach Tea
  • 1 fresh peach or apricot
  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Splash of almond milk
  • Chia seeds
  • Sliced almonds

Steep the bags of tea in one cup hot water.  Meanwhile, microwave the frozen raspberries for approx 30 seconds or less (until melted and mushy).  Mix in the protein powder and chia seeds and splash of almond milk until desired thickness.  Next, cook oats in brewed tea on the stovetop until done.  Top the oats with sliced almonds and the fresh peach.  Pour the sauce over the top and enjoy!

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Chocolate Orange Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • Stevia drops to taste
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Almond butter
  • Fresh orange

Cook the oats in 1 cup water with the orange extract.  Once done, stir in the protein powder and cacao powder.  Top with almond butter (I used Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter by a company called Wild Friends….I can’t even explain how amazing this almond butter is) and an organic mandarin orange.

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Coconut Blueberry Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Frozen or fresh blueberries
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Coconut milk

Cook oats in 1 cup water and coconut extract.  Once done, add the protein powder.  Top with blueberries, shredded coconut and coconut milk to taste.

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Coconut, Strawberry and Banana Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2-3 fresh organic strawberries
  • 1/2 banana
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut

Cook oats in 1 cup water and coconut extract.  Once done, stir in the protein powder and top with fruit and coconut.  Could also add coconut milk as well.

The plain flavor of oats allows you to add ANYTHING your heart desires!  Play around, experiment and try new combinations!  Let me know how it goes!  🙂

Carrot Greens Pesto

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I cannot tell you how many times I have purchased a bunch of carrots and simply chopped off their top leafy part and tossed it in the compost.  Recently, after I received my home delivery of produce, I was about to chop and compost my carrot greens and then…a lightbulb!  Maybe the greens are edible!  Maybe they are healthy!  Maybe they are even tasty!  So I hopped onto good ol’ Google and found some mixed messages.  On the one hand, carrot greens are touted to be:

  •  Full of Vitamin K, which is lacking in the carrot itself
  • Rich in protein
  • Rick in minerals and vitamins
  • Loaded with potassium
  • High amount of chlorophyll, which has been shown in studies to combat the growth of tumors, as well as having cleansing properties that purify the blood, lymph nodes, and adrenal glands

On the other hand, some claim they are toxic.  From what I could tell, the concern over carrot greens comes from their close relatives: poison hemlock, water hemlock, and the wild carrot (a.k.a. Queen Anne’s lace).

According to The World Carrot Museum website, the main reason there is a conflict between whether carrot greens are edible or not is because there are poisonous look-a-likes that are often mistaken for wild carrot.  Therefore, you should be certain of what you are eating.  Furthermore, the bitter taste that makes some weary is reportedly from the high amount of potassium the greens contain.  They also contain flurocoumarins, which may cause an allergic reaction on the skin when touched.  According to the World Carrot Museum, this only affects people with allergies to the plant specifically, which are often the same people who have skin allergies to yarrow, ragwort, and chamomile (hopefully you already know if you fit in that category!).  The World Carrot Museum website also states:

“The toxicity linked to carrot tops is the same toxicity issue with any greens.  That is that all greens contain alkaloids.  When you eat the same type of greens all the time (like if you had spinach all the time or carrot tops all the time) then the levels of that plant’s alkaloids starts increasing in your system.  Alkaloids are toxic in high amounts.  Therefore the rule of thumb is that you need to keep rotating your greens.”

I am not a doctor and cannot speak to which side of the debate is correct.  I can say, however, that I ate them, felt great, and thought they were delicious.  If you are in any way hesitant or concerned, please ask a health professional.

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In any event, I used my carrot greens to make a pesto.  They tasted a bit like parsley and went really well with quinoa, black beans and roasted vegetables (beets, broccoli and rainbow carrots).

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For the pesto, combine the following in a food processor:Image-2

  • Roughly chopped carrot greens
  • A couple cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I am estimating here, I did not write down exact measurements but you can start with less and add as needed)

Pulse until well mixed and add to vegetables, fish, meat, pasta, whatever you’d add a pesto to!

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Other ways to use carrot greens include:

  • Homemade mouthwash (carrot greens contain antiseptic qualities) 
  • Mixed in with a mixed green salad
  • Add to coleslaw
  • Use for garnish

Baked Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad with Pearled Barley

I was headed to work that night, so I ate mine from a glass tupperwear.

I was headed to work that night, so I ate mine from a glass tupperwear.

Spring is in the air!  The weather has been treating us well in Portland, with less rain and more of that much needed sunshine, and the excitement of summer produce and festivities is making my heart so full it could burst.  In celebration of the warmer weather, I made this baked goat cheese and arugula salad with strawberries and pecans the other night.  Although it took a little over an hour to put together, the salad was so refreshing and light, yet still filling and absolutely delicious.  I typically test my cooking skills by how much hot sauce Nick uses, and he hardly used any on this dish!  Score!

I served it with a side of pearled barley seasoned with thyme.  Whole grain barley is a high-fiber, high-protein whole grain that boasts quite a list of health benefits.  Pearled barley, unfortunately, has been through a process that removed its hull and nutritious bran layer.  Barley groats are hulled but still have that bran layer.  Pearled barley is the most commonly used form of barley and is easily added to soups or cooked on its own as a rice substitute.  Some of barley’s health benefits include the following:

  • Barley is has a low glycemic index (measures how foods that containing carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels)
  • Good source of soluble fiber, which is effective at lowering cholesterol and is beneficial at slowing the absorption of sugar
  • Barley is also a good source of insoluble fiber, which may be beneficial in helping the body to maintain regular bowel function
  • Naturally cholesterol free and low in fat
  • Barley contains Vitamin B3, Vitamin B1, selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and copper.
  • Barley also contains antioxidants and phytochemicals, which studies have indicated may decrease the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

For more information, see Barley Foods and The World’s Healthiest Foods.

I had some pearled barley in my pantry from a soup I made a while ago, so I decided to use it as our grain with the salad.  Cooking it with thyme and onions made a tasty, yet mild, side to the flavor packed salad.  We had quite a bit of barley left over and used it the next day with black beans, lime, cilantro and avocado to make a power bowl.

Pearled Barley Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 1 small onion
  • Thyme (2 sprigs fresh or dried)
  • 3 cups water
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the pearled barley and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the barley is lightly browned.  
  2. Add the onion and thyme and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened.
  3. Add the water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed and the grain is tender.
  4. Fluff the barley with a fork.  If you used fresh thyme, remove the sprigs and serve.

Click here and here for other yummy-looking ways to eat pearled barley.  I may have to try these too 🙂

Baked Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad Recipe

Original Recipe from Clean Eating Magazine.

Serves 2.

  • Olive Oil (in a spray bottle would be best or you can use cooking spray)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon thyme (fresh or dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chopped raw unsalted pecans
  • Baby arugula
  • Fresh Strawberries
  1. Image-14To caramelize the onions, lightly spray a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high.  Add the sliced onions and stir frequently for about 1-2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, sticky and light caramel color (about 1 hour).  Remove the skillet from heat and let cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.

 

 

2.  While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In Image-11a small bowl, lightly beat the egg whites and set aside.  In a separate medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, thyme, salt and pepper.  Using your hands, press the goat cheese into 4 balls and then flatten each into 1/2-inch-thick patties.  Dip the patties in egg, turning to coat completely.  Next, dip each patty into the panko mixture.  Repeat the process twice with each patty.  Transfer patties to a small plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap and stick in the freezer for 20 minutes.

 

3.  Line a medium baking sheet with foil and mist with olive oil.  Arrange the cheese patties in a single layer and mist the tops with olive oil.  Bake for 6 minutes, flip the patties and bake for another 6 minutes, until golden.

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4.  Turn the oven heat off, add the pecans to the baking sheet and leave in the oven for an additional 3 minutes.

5.  For the dressing, whisk the lemon juice, dijon mustard, and some salt and pepper.

Plate the arugula with sliced strawberries, caramelized onions, pecans, dressing and two patties per person.  And…devour 🙂