Pruning My Energy Bar Habit

#prune #chia #hemp #pumpkin #almond #coconut www.sharbaniroy.com#prune #chia #hemp #pumpkin #almond #coconut www.sharbaniroy.com  #prune #chia #hemp #pumpkin #almond #coconut www.sharbaniroy.com

Protein bars may already be on your radar, but you may have also noticed an explosion in the past year+ of “natural” energy bars that boast fewer ingredients and higher nutrient-density. Think LäraBar (started in 2000, focused on unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices with no more than nine ingredients per bar) and Kind Bars (started in 2004, sold in but not owned by Starbucks, focused on all-natural whole nuts, fruits and whole grains–although they do add natural sweeteners and still use soy). As I began devoting a significant portion of my daily snack income to these types of bars, diving into a world of chia and hemp seeds, dates and any type of nut I desired, I realized that I was paying more for some of these bars than the ingredients it would take to make 10.

That’s when I went online, got a bazillion hits for “homemade energy bar”, and began tinkering with my own. Many (most) call for dates, which I love, but frankly, all you really need are semi-dried fruits (moist, sticky) of some sort, to act as a binder, and your favorite seeds and nuts. If you’re looking for specific health benefits, do your research to understand which fruits, nuts and seeds should help you the most for your personal goals. Or, try your own n-of-1 trials and see what works best for your body.

Below is a version I came up with last week as I had extra prunes in my pantry. They’ve been lovely as my “sweet” to accompany my mid-morning coffee.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup (dried) prunes
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds
  • 1 cup almonds (or walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom

DIRECTIONS

Place the dried fruit into the food processor and pulse in 10-second intervals until it resembles a paste. You may need to scrape the sides during this process, as dried fruit can be a sticky mess. Then, add in the remaining seeds and nuts and continue pulsing until fully incorporated.

If you don’t have a food processor, first coarsely chop the prunes, then mash with a fork until as smooth as possible. In a separate bowl, add all the seeds and nuts, mixing well. Add in the seed mixture, a bit at a time, to the mashed prunes. Then, mix in the seeds/nuts by hand until evenly distributed.

To form these snacks, you can either roll into small balls with your hands or cut them into bars. To do the latter, place the mixture on parchment paper in a pan, mold into the desired depth, and slice off individual bars. Store in an airtight container.

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Edible Flowers

#edibleflowers #freshgreens #salad #pacificnorthwest#edibleflowers #rose #candiedbeets#edibleflowers #nasturtium

#edibleflowers #violets #pansy #baconeggsgrits#edibleflowers #giantchives#edibleflowers #violet #pansy #eggsbenedict#clover

#edibleflowers #beachflowers #

This summer, I’ve been inspired by the flowers in my garden and of the San Juan Islands. Gorgeous bursts of unexpected vibrance have been popping up on my plate all season–and the idea of even the clumsiest of floral additions isn’t growing old.

Edible flowers come in a variety of shapes, size and flavors. The most important thing to remember is that not all flowers in your garden are edible (e.g., foxglove and sweet pea flowers.) Like you’d suspect, the flowers of your favorite herbs, fruits and vegetables are generally edible.

What’s more, there are some flowers that we traditionally think of as only decorative that can be a delightful addition to both the taste and final plating of your dish. These include roses, marigolds, lavender, pansies (a.k.a. violets), nasturtium and many more.

Here’s a nice list of edible flowers from my local nursery that includes some warnings about what to avoid.

Zucchini ‘Pasta’ with a Romesco-esque Sauce

Zucchini "Angel Hair Pasta" with Roasted Red Pepper & Cashew Sauce (Romesco Inspired)
It’s important to me that anyone who comes to my house feels comfortable and well-fed. I’ve several friends with serious dietary issues related to wheat and dairy, and many who are vegan. I’m a fan of making my own pasta, but often, these friends can feel left out. This dish, a zucchini ‘pasta’ with ‘creamy’ roasted red pepper sauce, provides an easy substitute that keeps every type of eater included, even those that dislike the “slimy texture” of or have other complaints about zucchini (a.k.a. courgettes.)

Note: I have ordered the ‘pasta’ recipe first for purposes of the image flow on the blog, but when executing this dish, it’s better to make the sauce ahead of the zucchini ‘pasta’.

Using a mandoline to make zucchini "pasta" significantly reduces time. However, these noodles can be hand cut in a variety of shapes and sizes by hand.

ZUCCHINI ‘PASTA’
Serves 6. Prep time: 5-10 min Cook Time: 5-10 min
Zucchini’s mild flavor and texture make it a fantastic substitute for pasta. I recommend using a mandoline if you like finer cuts of pasta such as angel hair or fettuccine–or just want to save time. Note: the thicker the cut, the less your mind will be “tricked” into thinking it’s pasta. (It will never be fooled fully, FYI.) Regardless, if you have serious food restrictions or are just trying to reduce your carb intake, these noodles make a great dish that can be paired with any of your favorite sauces, including the one below.

INGREDIENTS
6 large zucchini
3 tbsp olive oil
dash of salt
pinch of pepper

TOOLS
Mandoline
Peeler
Fry pan

DIRECTIONS: Peel the zucchini and, using a cross-slicing mandoline, cut into angel hair sized pasta (or size of your choice.) Heat a pan to medium heat and add olive oil. Add pasta, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss until zucchini frequently for 3-5 minutes. (Tongs are useful for this step.) Once the zucchini is slightly limp, like a regular wheat-based noodle, remove from the heat. (Then, toss with warm sauce of choice.)

Zucchini pasta with romesco-eque sauce. Sometimes, the sauce is the star of my meal. For those occasions, I like to serve this dish in a bowl--almost like a curry.
Sometimes, the sauce is the star of my meal. For those occasions, I like to serve this dish in a bowl–almost like a curry.

CREAMY ROASTED RED PEPPER & CASHEW SAUCE
Serves 6. Prep time: 30 min Cook Time: 30 min
A take on a classic Romesco sauce, I replaced the almonds and hazelnuts with cashews for a softer taste that places more emphasis on the roasted red peppers. I also add thyme blossoms for a subtle note.

INGREDIENTS
6 vine ripe tomatoes (medium in size)
3 red bell peppers
1 bulb roasted garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 bay leaves (fresh or dry)
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp chili powder (paprika or cayenne, depending on your spice tolerance)
4 tbsp fresh thyme blossoms (or fresh thyme leaves)
sea salt
ground black pepper

TOOLS
Large pot for boiling water
Sauce pot
Oven with broiler setting (or grill)
Blender

DIRECTIONS: The steps you will take are to (1) roast the garlic (2) roast the peppers (3) peel the tomatoes (4) simmer the sauce (5) puree the sauce and (6) toss with prepared zucchini pasta and garnish. Some steps overlap others, so read ahead to save time.

(1) Put the small saucepan over a low heat with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and the entire bulb of garlic, peeled. Stir occasionally until a light golden color and soft in texture. (Quick way to do this, cut off the bottom of the bulb, place in a large container and shake vigorously for 30-40 seconds.) You can keep the garlic cooking while you prepare the peppers and tomatoes.

(2) Turn on your broiler to medium-high heat. Place the red bell peppers on the highest rack, closest to your broiler. Turn every 2-3 minutes, until you can see that the skin has bubbled up and darkened. Place immediately into a sealed container (the steam helps the skin separate from the flesh of the peppers) and let cool. While the peppers are cooling, complete step 3: peeling the tomatoes. Once you’re done with the tomatoes, the peppers should be cool. You can then, remove the top, seeds, and skin of the pepper with your hands (easiest). Dice and set aside.

(3) To skin the tomatoes, lightly cut (score) an “x” at the bottom of each tomato. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water ready. Drop each tomato into the boiling water for about 30-45 seconds, then remove and quickly plunge into the ice water. You should see the skin of the tomato curling back from the place where you made the “x”. Peel off the skin and remove the base of the stem. Dice and set aside.

(4) In the same pot as the garlic, remove all but 4 cloves of garlic and set aside for later use. Add the diced tomatoes, diced roasted red peppers, 3 bay leaves, 1 sprig of rosemary, a dash of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes.

(5) Remove rosemary & bay leaves from the simmering mixture, adding the remaining mix to your blender, along with the cashews and chili powder. Puree on high until it becomes silky in texture. Add additional salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste.

(5) Toss with the prepared zucchini ‘pasta’ and garnish with thyme blossoms and roasted garlic. Alternatively, you can store the sauce in a sealed container in your fridge for up to a week, or freeze if you’re truly planning ahead.
In springtime, and sometimes through the summer, my thyme plant often blooms. The flowers have a subtle taste.

In springtime, and sometimes through the summer, my thyme plant blooms.
The flowers have a subtle taste.

Alternative Farming

#seedlings #urbanfarming

Tito and I don’t have a backyard, but we do have a rather large patio. The first thing Tito announced when we moved in was that we were going to have a garden, an efficient, practical garden. (Flowers were later allowed for pollination, but only if they were edible.)

I select what we’re going to grow (within reason), help select pots, soil, composting bin, etc., and Tito magically makes everything grow. But what happens if you don’t have a Tito, accessible land (e.g., a backyard or community garden), a big patio, or any outdoor space at all?

If you value fresh herbs, flowers, fruits and veggies, you CAN grow and even compost (adventure level=high) for yourself, at home, indoors–even in tight spaces. This can be as simple as a pot for your windowsill or one that’s wall-mounted, but you can scale it up a notch with some of these more advanced, beautifully designed products.

fourcolumn-illustration-460x594 1_7windowfarmspump #hydroponic #whatgrowswell #windowfarms #urbanfarmingSaladJungleA

WINDOW FARMS

These amazing vertically-stacked, hydroponic gardens were launched by a Kickstarter campaign at the end last year. Prior to that, Window Farms showed people how to assemble these gardening systems using plastic bottles and a few other parts, but it took quite a bit of work and some McGyver-ing. Now, they’re beautiful and easy for almost anyone to put together. You can grow mostly smaller items, from salad greens and herbs to selected fruits and veggies–during any season. They start at around $200 for a single tower starter kit.

#urbanfarming #hydroponic #nanogardens

NANO GARDEN

Designed by Hyundai engineers, this hydroponic solution for growing vegetables, flowers and herbs in your kitchen in a footprint the size of your refrigerator. You won’t have to use pesticides or chemicals, or even sunlight for that matter (it has lighting built in.) You can also control how fast the plants grow – and the device lets you know when you provide water or nutrients! It supposedly also filters out unpleasant odors, but I’m yet to actually see one in person as they’re not yet available for purchase, as far as I can tell. In the meanwhile, there are two similar versions recently created by The Urban Cultivator (TM): one large and one smaller, similar to a wine-fridge,

#urbgarden #XavierCalluaud #urbanfarming #design

URB GARDEN

A clever name, this product (not yet available, but hackable) helps you grow herbs in tight spaces. It resembles cubby holes and integrates a fully-functional worm farm to help optimize the soil and act as a small indoor compost. It’s incredibly compact and has removable compartments to make it easier to switch out different plants.

HOW DO YOU EMBRACE URBAN FARMING?

What are some of the tricks you use or hacks you’ve created to bring farming to small spaces or city dwellings?

**Note: Photos of products are from respective companies’ or designers’ websites.

Rava Idli & Coconut Cilantro Chutney

#indianfoodisdelicious #chutney #coconut #idly #dosa #southindian #cilantro #mint #indianfoodisdelicious #chutney #coconut #idly #dosa #southindian #cilantro #mint #plainorvada

One of the things I miss the most about living in Bangalore is Brahmin’s Coffee Bar. It’s a tiny establishment, but the first time I ate there, it solidified my lifelong obsession with idli (a.k.a. idly or idldly), a savory steamed cake usually made of fermented urad dal (black) and rice.

A bit sour, a bit sweet, idlis are the perfect vehicle for one of my other favorite things in life, coconut chutney. They’re also perfect for a light breakfast – or pretty much anytime of day if you’re as obsessed with them as I am.

Other varieties of idli include vada (fried) and rava (wheat/semolina)–although you may be more familiar with their cousin, the dosa (crêpes also made with fermented dal and rice batter.) I often turn to rava idli (recipe below) for two reasons: shorter preparation time and easier access to ingredients than traditional rice-based idli.

As for chutney, there are endless varieties in Indian cuisine alone, including many variations with my beloved coconut. But my one of my favorite versions (recipe below) includes a burst of cilantro, an obsession of mine that you may recall.

SWEET COCONUT CHUTNEY

In a blender, mix the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 1/4 inch of tamarind or 1 tbsp of tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup pitted chopped dates (soaked raisins are an acceptable substitute)
  • 1 tsp whole cumin (toasted)
  • 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp roasted unsalted peanuts (can substitute with almonds or cashews)
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut

SPICY COCONUT CHUTNEY WITH CILANTRO

INGREDIENTS
for blending:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup unsweetened grated coconut (fresh is preferable)
  • 1/2 cup chana dal (a.k.a bengal gram, roasted)
  • 3 tbsp green chili
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, leaves removed from stems

for tempering:

  • 1 tbsp light-tasting vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 large red chillies, dried

DIRECTIONS
Blend coconut, chana dal, green chillies, salt and water in your food processor until it forms a smooth paste. Pulse in cilantro until fully incorporated.

Next, you’ll be tempering in the spices using oil so that this extra flavor is fully distributed throughout the chutney. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add in the mustard seeds and dry red chillies until their aroma is released.  Often times this recipe calls for toasting an extra 1/2 tsp or so of chana dal, but I prefer my chutney without.

EASY RAVA (WHEAT) IDLI

One of the more delicious idli houses in Bangalore, MTR, claims to have invented rava idli out of necessity during WWII when rice was in short supply and semolina was more available.

History aside, I’ve been impressed with how much “more” rava idli can hold. While rice idli are generally served plain, rava idli get jazzed up with all sorts of extra embellishments such as cashews, onions, and chillies thrown into the batter, making not only the flavor but textural experience markedly different from rice idli.

Rava idli is also significantly easier for cooks in North America to make for two reasons:
(1) Availability: Urud dal is not commonplace outside of Indian grocery stores
(2) Shorter Preparation Time: Regular idlis require you to make the batter and let it sit overnight to ferment. Rava idli can be made in a fraction of the time.

INGREDIENTS
Serves 3-4

  • 1 inch of ginger root, grated
  • 2 cups of buttermilk*(Can quickly make with 2 cups whole milk & 2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar.Sit aside 10 min or until it curdles.)
  • 1 cup cream of wheat
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp eno salt (Digestive salt. Baking soda may be substituted.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin (dry toasted)
  • light tasting vegetable oil such as grapeseed or sunflower oil
  • 1/4 cup minced vegetables (I prefer celery, onion, green chillies and sometimes leeks.)
  • 1/4 cup toasted cashews, chopped
  • 1 bay (laurel) leaf

DIRECTIONS
(1) Toast the Spices
Bring a pan to a medium-heat and add bay leaf, cumin, mustard seeds to 1 tbsp of vegetable oil until their aroma intensifies. Remove from pan to cool.

(2) Sweat the Vegetables
Add vegetables to the pan and cook until they become slightly translucent and are softened.

(3) Make the Batter
Add the cream of wheat and stir frequently, until they become lightly golden in color. Turn off heat and add the baking soda and eno salt. Mix well and let cool.

Next, add the buttermilk, mix well, and let stand 15 minutes, or until the cream of wheat (rava) is soft. Remove bay leaf.

(4) Cook the Idlis
An idli stand used in a pressure cooker is ideal, but in a pinch, I have placed individual cupcake tins on top of my steamer tray to make these tasty cakes. The second option may take a bit longer to fully cook the cakes – and may not produce as fluffy a final product.

Once you have your apparatus ready and lightly oiled, fill your pot with 1/2 inch of water. Place on stove over high heat. Place batter into each individual tray 2/3 full. Put the trays in the pot before the water begins to boil, cover, and cook for approximately 5-7 minutes.

There are a number of tests for doneness with idlis including “an evident fragrance” or when they are “firm to the touch,” but the easiest test for me is using a toothpick (as you would with a cake). Insert the toothpick and remove. If it is still clean, the idli is done.

(5) Cool & Serve
Remove the trays from the cooker and let cool a few minutes. (Caution: This takes a lot of willpower.) Serve with chutney of choice.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Rosemary, Cayenne & Coconut Oil

Roasted Acorn Squash with Rosemary, Cayenne and Coconut Oil #herbivore #vegan Roasted Acorn Squash with Rosemary, Cayenne and Coconut Oil #herbivore #vegan

Embracing squash is one of my favorite things about this time of year (and maybe the whole year.) I love the generally creamy texture, sweet flavor, and varieties of beautiful colors they bring to the colder seasons. I cannot recall a time I have turned down an item with squash on the menu – or left the grocery store without at least one member of the squash or gourd families. They’re also flexible to my sometimes temperamental meal planning as some squash can last up to one month at room temperature.

Today, I’m embracing my love of acorn squash, possibly one of the easiest and most ubiquitously pleasing. The execution is simple and takes approximately two minutes of prep time. Slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, rub with extra virgin coconut oil, 1 tbsp of maple syrup, sprinkle with cayenne and fresh rosemary. Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, or until you can insert a fork easily into the flesh.

Not a fan of these ingredients? Acorn squash is easy, but my general recipe for success involves an oil, an herb and/or spice and a natural sweetener. (Honey, agave, brown sugar and maple syrup have all worked for me.)

Roasted Cauliflower with Coriander & Pink Salt

#Roasted #Cauliflower #pinksalt #coriander #cilantroseed Cauliflower is one of my favorite comfort vegetables. I can happily eat it raw, curried, puréed or other. But roasted is my go-to cooking method when it comes to this friendly member of the cabbage family. 

I tend to be biased toward the Indian influences of my cooking when it comes to cauliflower, meaning I often add a homemade mix of garam masala or panch phoron – or at least cumin and coriander (and chili and turmeric.) But, I’ve recently been getting more into the world of salt after a friend wowed me with one of the more miraculous pieces of halibut I’ve had–cooked in her oven on a pink himalayan salt slab.

Roasted Cauliflower with Coriander & Pink Salt
Grind 3 tbsp toasted coriander with 1tbsp pink Himalayan sea salt (usually purchased in larger rocks/pebbles). Slice one head of cauliflower into 3/4″ thick pieces (2cm”), toss in a light-flavored oil and the ground spices.

Then roast at 425 degrees Fahrenheit (~220 Celsius) for approximately 30 minutes on a heavy-bottomed pan lined with parchment paper, or until both sides of the cauliflower have a golden color. The time will vary depending on how thick you cut your cauliflower.

This method generally works well for any combination of spices and oil. Make sure to toss then remove the cauliflower from the mixing bowl with your hands or tongs. If you pull too much oil onto the sheet, it will steam instead of roast the cauliflower, meaning you won’t get those gorgeous golden edges.