cherry almond granola bars (vegan + gluten-free)

I started a recipe journal several years ago. It’s more of a sketchbook than a journal though since most of it is written in code: ingredients list, notes, scratch outs, rewrites, coffee stains, musings. Months go by without pulling it off the kitchen shelf, until the day comes along when I need to make granola bars, stat as the boxed variety just won’t do.

almond cherry granola bars

I tested a cookie-like bar and wrote something about those cherry almond bars. Yep. Here they are. Butter toasted oats, almonds, and cherries dunked in a maple brown sugar caramel-y syrup. The little one approves and can’t wait to get his face into these. A few more months I tell him, he has to work the pancake angle first, I say. Not a bad place to be, not at all.

the little one makes his move

Cherry-Almond Granola Bars

makes 16 square bars

1/4 cup vegan butter

2 cups gluten-free rolled oats

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup toasted almonds

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Leave a 1-inch overhang around the sides of the pan to help remove the granola bars.

Melt the vegan butter in a wide sturdy-bottomed pot or cast iron skillet. Turn the heat to medium, add the oats, and cook for 6 minutes or so, stirring frequently. The oats should be evenly toasted with a nice golden brown hue to them.

Empty the toasted oats into a large mixing bowl. Wipe down the pot or skillet and set aside to use again for the syrup. Add 1/2 cup of flaxseed meal and the cinnamon to the bowl. Mix the dried cherries and toasted almonds with the remaining tablespoon of flaxseed meal and chop finely (the flaxseed meal prevents the cherries from clinging to the knife as you chop). Scrape them into to the oat mixture.

Pour the maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt into the reserved pot. Stir to combine then cook the syrup over medium heat until gently boiling throughout, about 6 minutes.

Add the cooked syrup to the oat mixture, using a spatula to scrape out all the syrup from the pot, and stir well. Be sure to coat all the oats with syrup.

Turn the oat mixture out into the prepared pan. Add a bit of butter to your hands and press the oats evenly into the pan to form the bars.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The bars should have a shiny coating with the edges slightly darker than the middle. Remove from the oven and cool or 10 minutes before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container.

(Inspired by Kim Boyce’s Granola Bars from “Good to the Grain”.)

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look back (summer with the holga)

Hanging out at Mortal Muses today with Holga shots of last summer. Come on over.

summer holga 1

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the poetic

winter interiors 1

winter interiors 2

The Poetic

Words between the hours,
morning. Novels read slower than slow. Letter
by letter we advance. Eight and a half months and counting.
Read out loud, Montana 1948. Recommended twice. Some nights
the story gets tangled in sheets, pressed into
paper and bound with glue. Something I wanted to tell you, lost
between coffee and diapers.
The camera remembers our untouchables
Look back, it’s all here.

Hasselblad 500cm | Kodak Portra 800

p.s. Though you might enjoy this list: Top ten food artists who turn edibles into elaborate art. I’m rather fond of Julie Lee’s food collages as well as Sarah Illenberger’s witty and clever food creations.

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‘roid week

Today is the last day of ‘Roid Week 2014 (round one) on Flickr. Polaroid Week dates back to 2006 as a place to celebrate instant film, push the boundaries of Polaroid images, and make some great work in the process. For a quick shot of Friday film inspiration, check out the talent from ‘Roid Week.

A few images I shot this week as part of a new black and white instant film project titled, Fleeting.

from the sea
from the sea | polaroid one | 600bw

 

our future
our future | polaroid one | 600bw

 

blossoms in window
blossoms in window | polaroid one | 600bw

 

weeping cherry
weeping cherry | polaroid one | 600bw

 

Tuesday Market (looking down)
tuesday market (looking down) | polaroid one | 600bw

 

found: triangles
found: triangles | polaroid one | 600bw

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‘chef,’ an indie culinary comedy

Last week I went to the movies, alone. Alone! It was so decadent. I went to an advance screening of “Chef” followed by a Q & A with writer/director/star Jon Favreau at Amherst Cinema.

JPCHEF-articleLarge
From left, John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in “Chef.” Credit Merrick Morton/Open Road Films

You may remember Favreau from “Swingers,” the hit indie comedy-drama he produced, wrote, and starred in back in 1996. Since then, he shifted to big budget films including “Elf,” the “Iron Man” series, and “The Avengers.” With “Chef”, he returns to fast-paced small budget filmmaking — the film was shot in a month — and a subject he’s passionate about, food.

In his new film, Favreau plays chef Carl Casper, once infamous for his soulful cuisine, turns out food to please the restaurant he’s worked in for the past ten years. He caves under pressure from his boss to serve the kind of banal restaurant food regular clientele expect: undistinguished French fare. Carl suffers from his mediocre routine, both professionally and personally, until food critic/blogger extraordinaire (Oliver Platt) reserves a seat for dinner. His boss (Dustin Hoffman) demands Carl prepare the regular menu, without flair. He plays it safe, dinner flops, and life tailspins from there. What follows is a trip with his ex-wife (Sofía Vergara) and son (Emjay Anthony), food truck, road trip, and reconciliation with his past. “Chef” is heartwarming and funny and takes us along on Carl’s noble albeit feel-good journey.

It’s the kind of film strangers bond over. After the credits rolled, I stood in line in the Ladies’ room. A woman struck up conversation with five of us waited near the door. “Did anyone see Chef?” The others replied no. “I did,” I said. “Didn’t you just love the film? It was so enjoyable to watch,” she said. “Yes and funny and well written. Plus Jon Favreau worked the line in Chef Roy Choi’s (Koji BBQ) food trucks and restaurants to get the life of a chef right.” She dried her hands and waved.

I left the theater thinking about beignets and barbecue.

chef poster

p.s. To learn more about the making of “Chef,” Jon Favreau talks food, family, and filmmaking in this interview at CNN’s Eatocracy.

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film friday in black and white

Hanging out over at Mortal Muses today with Black & White Impossible Film. Stop by if you like.

Trek in Black & White 1

Trek in Black & White 2

Trek in Black & White 3

Trek in Black & White 4

Trek in Black & White 5

Trek in Black & White 6

Trek in Black & White 7

Trek in Black & White 8

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order in (american hustle and finding vivian maier)

It’s 9:30 a.m. Coffee and water are on the kitchen table along with an empty baby bottle. Last week’s flowers wilt at the stems as pink petals turn pale. High flute notes play from a radio shelved almost out of arms reach. The little one is off for a walk with David, Luke is off at school likely belting out “White and Nerdy” from Weird Al on the playground (or at least I hope that’s the version he’s singing, earlier it was “white and dirty,” and I’m left with an unsettled quiet.

spring morning light

Through the curtain slips, clouds pull across the sun like taut silver balloons. They swell with gold confetti that will shower us on a whim. I fall in and out of daydreams easily given my seven plus months of interrupted sleep. We remind ourselves how temporary it is and well, coffee is a fine antidote to parental “spaciness”.

We drove to southern New Hampshire last weekend for a short getaway and spent the entire time indoors. Both kids were under the weather (one with a head cold, the other with newly sprouted teeth) so we ordered movies and Chinese food in and camped on the couch between naps. The basement double feature was American Hustle (directed by David O. Russell) and Finding Vivian Maier (directed by John Maloof). I liked the story premise and cast of American Hustle, a crime comedy-drama set in the late 1970s about two con-artists who in the course of reinventing themselves, they wind up involved in an FBI sting operation on corrupt politicians including the Mayor of New Jersey. Slow and confusing at times, American Hustle is still a smart homage to American film, you just have to wade through the sluggish plot points to uncover the truth in the end.

With all the buzz around Vivian Maier’s work over the past few years, I couldn’t wait to see this telling film. Finding Vivian Maier is a documentary about a career nanny whose previously unknown stock of 100,000 photographs has earned her the reputation as one of America’s most insightful street photographers. Filmmaker John Maloof traces the story of her secret photographs, homemade films, recordings and collections that were hidden away in storage lockers, and discovered decades later when he purchased an unmarked box of 40,000 negatives at a Chicago auction house in 2007. Since then, Maloof has tried to piece together the mystery of Maier, a woman who spent five decades taking photos that she kept private from the world, through her artifacts and stories told by those who knew her, marginally or more intimately. Maier’s story is undoubtedly difficult to tell and while the film falls prey to mythmaking at times, it succeeds in creating a portrait of an enigmatic figure who escapes anonymity by chance.

The next morning we packed our bags and drove back to Massachusetts, still thinking about the films. This morning, sun broke through without an afterthought. The little one returns. Soon enough the school bell will ring and our house will be filled with the call of the wild.

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in search of scoby (the kombucha experiment)

Hello, Friends. On Sunday we drove to Vermont for Easter brunch, an egg hunt, and a stroll up a wooded mountain road. Sun poured in through the cars windows. I wrote two sentences before David turned onto the highway. In the backseat, Luke sounded out “huh-oh-emm-ee” (home) while reading a train book, and Cody sputtered “eehmmmeun” from his chair. I forgot to pack the kombucha (a fermented sweet tea drink) and a jacket for the day. All normal stuff here.

Bing Kombucha 1

Except forgetting the kombucha wasn’t as flippant as leaving behind a jacket on a warmer day. A few ounces a day is a new average for me and not having that smoky sweet tea on the ride to counter many sleepless nights meant a sluggish and possibly allergy riddled day ahead. A few weeks ago I decided to solidify my kombucha habit and make it from scratch. Two cookbooks suggested I needed to purchase or inherit a special SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, aka “mother” or “mushroom”) to brew the tea. Yet I wanted a simpler process. I had read somewhere online about growing a scoby from a bottle of raw organic kombucha you can find at the store. I also wanted the scoop on the effervescent tea and to answer my list of questions. One, what’s the history of kombucha; Two, what are the benefits and risks of brewing it at home; Three, can I grow my own scoby?

Bing Kombucha 2

I turned to the interwebs for answers. Normally I begin with a Google search to get background details on a story subject. Since I recently discovered Bing, I switched. Type in “History of Kombucha” in both search engines and you’ll find the results are similar. What I like about Bing is the clean interface and design; simplified option to view web, image, and video searches; and credits earned through Bing Rewards, a program that gives Bing users credits for each search (think frequent flyer points for the interwebs). Credits can be redeemed for gift cards to Amazon, Sephora, Starbucks, and more or donated to a charity of your choice. Available for both Android and iOS, Bing Rewards lets you search across platforms and on the go. Which is where I find myself most often.

Bing Kombucha 3

Kombucha is traditionally made with a brew of black tea and cane sugar and then fermented with a SCOBY. Its exact origins are unknown but most speculate the tea dates back to the Qin Dynasty (220BC) in China where it was known as the “tea of immortality” although a number of cultures around the world have a similar fermented drink. Over time, the tea made its way into Russia, Germany, India, and beyond.

According to online sources, the benefits of drinking the tea have long outweighed the risks. Kombucha has a rich history of health benefits that claim to prevent and fight cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases. Other benefits include detoxification, joint support, digestive support, and immune booster. The tea is packed with B-vitamins, antioxidants, and glucaric acids as well.

Bing Kombucha 4

To date, there isn’t conclusive medical evidence supporting the health benefits of drinking kombucha tea in US. I suppose like most food and drink, moderation is key.

Bing Kombucha 5

Brewing kombucha at home was once the only way to sample the drink. Now major supermarkets and health food stores carry it. A homemade supply means you choose your own flavor options according to taste. I prefer a smoky kombucha made from Lapsang Souchong tea but you can choose your black tea of choice and add raw juices, extracts, herbs, and spices. It also means a watchful eye on the fermentation process to keep your brew clean and safe.

Here’s the method I followed to grow a SCOBY:

1. buy a bottle of organic raw kombucha

2. pour contents of the bottle into a quart-size wide-mouth glass jar (SCOBY will grow to the diameter of the jar)

3. cover the jar with a clean tea towel and secure with a rubber band to keep unwanted pests and debris out

4. store at room temperature until the SCOBY grows to 1/4″ thick

Bing Kombucha 6

In a week or so I should have my own brew to report back to you on plus a few extra rewards points from all my research. Have you made kombucha at home? Any tips to share?

I’m required to disclose a sponsored partnership between our site and Bing. I have been compensated in exchange for this post in the form of payment, product or experiences.

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favorite cook/food books (april 2014)

The past few months I’ve carried this small collection of books from my nightstand to kitchen counter and back. While I’ve clung to warm bowls of oatmeal or soup as a winter routine, I found some quiet evenings when the boys were sound asleep and I was in the kitchen alone to sample recipes from The Southern Vegetarian, Honey & Oats, Isa Does It, Gluten-Free & Vegan Pie, and One Simple Change. They’ve since found a spot on my overcrowded bookshelf which is testament to how much I like each one.

april books to read

1. The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table by Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence

Burks and Lawrence are the same duo behind the charming and prolific recipe blog, The Chubby Vegetarian where they turn out classic southern fare into vegetable laden dishes from their Tennessee kitchen. After spending a handful of months cooking from The Southern Vegetarian, I’m hooked. Bold flavor and creative flair define the recipes which hold technique and simplicity hand in hand.  I haven’t been this smitten with a cookbook since Ottolenghi’s last hit Plenty splayed across storefront windows. I started with these five recipes and am still cooking from the book: Easy Horchata, Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie, Smoked Coconut Bacon, Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Eggplant, Vegetarian Chicken and Waffles. The seasonal food is joyful and downright good. Keep a copy near the stove, mark your favorites, try a new one, then repeat. Final note, many of the recipes can easily be modified to fit a vegan diet and shouldn’t be shied away from by any means.

2. Honey & Oats: Everyday Favorites Baked With Whole Grains and Natural Sweeteners by Jennifer Katzinger

The author, who started Seattle’s Flying Apron Bakery with her father in 2002, set a place for organic baked goods made without refined flours and sweeteners. The bakery grew in size and popularity, from a small take-out window in the University District to a large cafe in the city’s Fremont neighborhood, and is a tribute to Katzinger’s talent for turning out healthy treats. She sold the still thriving bakery in 2010 to pen cookbooks and we should all celebrate this move since home bakers across the country are now able to sample her goods.

Honey & Oats, Katzinger’s fifth book (see #4 on this for another one of her titles), includes 74 recipes for elegant and wholesome timeless sweets made with whole grains and natural sweeteners. Oats, teff, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, einkorn, and barley flour stand in place of white flour while honey, coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, and Sucanet replace refined sugar. One might think nutritious baked treats lack flavor and texture, not in this author’s hands. Maple syrup sweetened carrot cake with einkorn flour and vanilla maple frosting is a worthy afternoon treat and the Barley Walnut Boule is a sandwich staple. A few other recipe to try include Granola Bars (gluten-free or vegan variation), Animal Cookies (vegan), and Strawberry and Macadamia Nut Crisp. The photographs and recipes are equally lovely and approachable, for kids (especially my five year-old) and adults alike.

3. Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

In her latest vegan tome, bestselling author Isa Chandra Moskowitz shares 150 plus recipes for the busy home cook to make in a snap. If you’re familiar with vegan cooking, you likely read her blog Post Punk Kitchen or have cooked from one of her books including Veganomicon (co-authored with Terry Hope Romero), Vegan Brunch, or Vegan with a Vengeance, among others. Isa Does It, highlights ways to transform daily cooking into easy routine. Moskowitz delves into cooking savvy with quick ways to char vegan proteins, incorporate umami ingredients, build flavor depth, and use enough healthy fats to get the most flavor bang for their buck. The author’s Recommended pantry ingredients and cooking techniques offer simple and satisfying meals. Written in her signature style and wit the book is an entertaining read alongside the stunningly beautiful images from Vanessa Rees. Each recipe gives total and active cooking times making it a cinch to fit those 3o minute dinners into a hectic schedule with two young kids, a mister, and cat for example. Starred favorites include: Bistro Beet Burgers, Quinoa Caesar Salad, Roasty Soba Bowl, New England Glam Chowder, and Nacho Night.

4. Gluten-Free & Vegan Pie: More than 50 Sweet and Savory Pies to Make at Home by Jennifer Katzinger

In Gluten-Free & Vegan Pie, Jennifer Katzinger proves how to fit both in a traditional-style pie with delightful results. Introductory chapters detail necessary equipment and ingredients as well as pastry dough tips and techniques to make your pie making dreams come true. Featuring fresh fruits and vegetables, the recipes are arranged by season, from spring to winter. With more than 12 crust recipes to swap fillings with and ways to handle and dress each one, creative possibilities abound. Once again Katzinger shows us that baked goods without the use of dairy, eggs, gluten, or animal products is not only possible but also simple and delectable. Pies to bake first: Apricot and Cherry Crostata, Fig Frangipane Tart, Chaussons aux Pommes, Banana Cream Pie, Savory Provencal Tart.

5. One Simple Change: Surprisingly Easy Ways to Transform Your Life by Winnie Abramson

As a regular reader and fan of Winnie’s blog Healthy Green Kitchen, I was excited for the publication of her new book. Smart and practical, One Simple Change is a new kind of wellness guide that favors age-old culinary wisdom, green living tips, modern nutrition tips, and 15 recipes to help you feel their best. Each one of the 50 tips has a dedicated chapter that can be worked through week by for a year long practice or anytime that’s good for you. As expected, Winnie’s engaging prose along with her nutrition and lifestyle tips are not to be missed. Five must-try tips and recipes: Pay Attention To Protein/Coconut Tempeh and Vegetable Stew; Ramp Up Raw Foods/Blended Raw Tomato-Basil Soup; Load Up On Leafy Greens/Mixed Green Salad with Apple, Goat Cheese, and Soft-Boiled Eggs; Get Some Culture/Spicy Lacto-Fermented Pickles; Drink Healthy/Walnut Milk.

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roll with it (vegan soup and blondies)

This sweet potato soup and sunbutter chip blondie night happened twice last week. I wish you could have been here. The first time, I made them at home and the next, I made them for a cooking demo at the Worcester VegFest. Both times, the pot and pan were emptied in a hurry. Though the second drew a much larger crowd (6,000+ attendees and 100+ exhibitors).

David and I hauled six bags of cooking essentials, two crock pots, plus the little one and his stroller and gear into the downtown convention center on Sunday morning. We needed a covered wagon, or any kind of large cart on wheels for that matter, to contain the cutting boards, bowls, whisks, blender, etc. sticking out every which way.

After circling the building in search of an unlocked door, we finally found our way in. Then it was wait, set up, demo recipes, pack up, and go home. This was no small feat as you may imagine (thanks Mister, I owe you one), yet somehow we pulled it off. I have no photographs to show for it, unless you count the ones I shot in our kitchen.

spiced sweet potato soup

The cooking demo happened anyway. I laughed my way through the mishaps and attempts to handhold a microphone while chopping. If you were there, thanks for coming, and you know what I’m talking about. I made the peanut butter version of the blondies for the demo (see recipe notes below), although I think the sunbutter one is my favorite. The little one sat in his stroller and with a little help from the audience (thanks Sarah and Nicole!) and festival volunteers, the recipes were made and as promised, I’m sharing them here. Thanks also to the fine folks who run VegFest for inviting me and for putting on a terrific event. I hope to see you all again next year.

sunflower seed butter chocolate chip blondies

For now, Happy Wednesday!

 

Spiced Sweet Potato Soup
makes 9 to 10 cups

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium chopped yellow onion, about 1 ½ cups
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
cayenne pepper
2 ¼ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, about 8 cups
10 thin rounds of ginger
5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (homemade or store bought)
½ cup fresh orange juice
garnish: coarsely chopped cilantro

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and sauté about 5 minutes, until it begins to release its juices, then add the garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, and a few pinches of cayenne. Cook until the onion is very soft, about 10 minutes, adding a little stock if it sticks to the pan.

Add the sweet potatoes, ginger rounds, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 quart stock. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the sweet potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth, adding a little extra stock if needed. Return to the pot, add the orange juice, and thin with stock until the desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary and, for a bit of heat, add a pinch or two of cayenne. Serve the soup in bowls with chopped cilantro.

 

Sunflower Seed Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies
makes 12 bars

2/3 cup vegan butter, melted
½ cup creamy sunflower seed butter*
1 cup turbinado raw cane sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
¼ cup vanilla almond milk

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the vegan butter, sunflower seed butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir in the almond milk. Add the flour in batches until everything is mixed together. Fold in the chocolate chips. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan using a spatula or your hands.

Bake until browned, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars. Store in a covered container.

*These are equally good if you want to substitute 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter in place of sunflower seed butter (which I did for the Worcester VegFest). For the peanut butter version, I like to add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chopped peanuts to the recipe which can be folded in with the chocolate chips.

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