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Walnut Cookie Dough Energy Bites

October 12, 2017


I've been making energy bites almost weekly for the past few years, but usually make a variation of this recipe. My grandmother gave me a bag of fresh walnuts from a friend a couple of weeks ago and I added a few to my normal energy bite recipe and this happened! The higher oil content in walnuts makes a really creamy tasting bite, really not unlike cinnamon cookie dough. That's what it makes me think of, and whenever I have these in the house I go through them at lightning speed. Walnuts aren't as healthy as sunflower seeds - they have less magnesium, protein, iron, etc. really, lower levels of pretty much everything, and more fat. I use a mix of the two here. So these aren't my everyday energy bites, but I treat them more like a dessert. They're a great pick me up if you need a little boost and they taste like cookie dough, what's not to love?!

I really do prefer them over my normal sunflower seed based bites, but I just go through them way too fast to make them all the time, hah. Sort of like chocolate chip cookies and watermelon. These bites are an absolute dream to roll out, not sticky at all, and do better in the fridge than the freezer. I find that they hold their shape a little better when not refrigerated than normal energy balls too but they definitely taste best from the fridge. 

The sun is out, there are piles of butterflies flitting around our deck right now. Our fat foster cat, Lilly, is trying to hunt. Have you every had a cat that made little hunting noises? Every black and white cat I've ever met does that and Lilly is SO fat, it's the goofiest thing to see her trying to hunt through the glass door. She tries to jump and gets a centimetre off the ground, legs flailing. I think they only way she could ever catch anything would be to sit on it. If you're wondering, yes, she was very fat when she came to us, hah.


Walnut Cookie Dough Energy Bites
Makes about 25 bites

1/2 cup / 70 grams raw walnuts

1/4 cup / 50 grams sunflower seeds
1/2 cup packed / 120 grams soft dates*
2 tablespoons bee pollen (optional)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch sea salt

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the walnuts and sunflower seeds until a coarse meal forms. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until the dates are incorporated into a ball of dough. Form into small* balls, about 3cm, and refrigerate in a sealed container. They'll keep in the fridge for about a week and can be frozen.

Notes:
1. If your dates are hard, soak them in hot water for 30 minutes beforehand (drain before adding). I used deglet noor dates but of course you can use medjool.

Cozy Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

October 11, 2017

I remember when we moved here last year I was just in awe at how abundant the local produce was - that's not the case this year after a very cold and rainy summer and a late frost in the spring. Some things did pretty well despite the cold. On top of sweet potatoes, I've been knee-deep in apples from Omi's trees, mushrooms, rose hips, and hokkaido pumpkins. The mushrooms in particular loved the summer-not-summer weather and they're all over the place. I went mushroom picking for the first time last week and got a bunch of parasol mushrooms, and we're going to head into the woods again this week and see what we can find. I'm trying to collect and dry or jar more this year for us and to give away at the holidays. I've been doing handmade Christmas for a few years now and it's important to start early! 

It looks like our two foster cats are going to be adopted this week and I'm feeling a bit ambivalent about it. Graham's working 14-hour days right now so it's definitely more practical that they're going, and I'm thrilled that they're finding a permanent home, but I'll miss them. They're sweet cats. After they go, we're not going to foster any others while we're living here. We're dog-sitting after Christmas again and have a couple of trips planned, and we have to move out of our apartment in the spring anyway. The house we're living in is for sale right now as well so the realtor comes once a week (bleurgh) and cleaning up takes a lot longer with two cats lazing around getting everything all hairy, hah.

About the recipe - it's very simple, baked sweet potatoes stuffed with tabbouleh, greens, crispy chickpeas, hummus, and baba ghanoush. I used what I had on hand after shooting the dip recipes and it came together really easily. Of course you can use store-bought hummus or whatever else you have, but it really needs that creaminess or else it's a bit boring. The actual work involved in this recipe is minimal, it's just cooking the sweet potato that takes some oven time, but you can do something else while they're baking. I used traditional bulgur in the tabbouleh but you can sub quinoa to make it gluten-free if that's a concern for you. The bulgur is traditional, but the herb to grain ratio is not, because I want to fill my belly and save my wallet. This is the coziest meal ever and really perfect for chilly weather, especially during the shifting period into autumn, when we still have some late-season tomatoes.


Cozy Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2 as a main

2 medium sweet potatoes, washed
1 1/2 cups / 300 grams cooked chickpeas (or 1 can)
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon coriander

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F. Place the sweet potatoes onto a baking sheet* and bake for about an hour, or until they can be easily pierced with a fork.

To prepare the crispy spiced chickpeas, place the rinsed chickpeas into a baking sheet, preferably with higher sides. Add the oil and spices, then use your hands to mix until the chickpeas are fully coated. Place them in the oven halfway through the sweet potato baking time and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden. They'll crisp up more once you take them out of the oven.

Tabbouleh

1 cup / 250 grams bulgur, cooked
1 cup / 25 grams mixed fresh herbs*, chopped
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice and zest of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon sumac (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix all of the tabbouleh ingredients until fully combined. Keep any leftovers in the fridge for up to three days.

Toppings

Hummus
Baba ghanoush
Pomegranate arils*
Rucola or spinach
Extra herbs

To serve, cut the cooked sweet potatoes open but not all the way through. Mash the inside slightly with a fork, place some rucola inside, then add tabbouleh. Top with plenty of hummus and baba ghanoush, pomegranate, crunchy chickpeas, and additional herbs. 

Notes:
1. Don't place the sweet potatoes directly onto an oven rack, they'll get sugars all over your oven. I learned this by mistake and cleaning burnt sugar from your oven is a bitch.
2. I used a combination of mint, oregano, and parsley. Choose whatever herbs you prefer.
3. If you don't have pomegranate, you can use raisins for a little sweetness instead.

Apple Crumble Bars

October 07, 2017

I am obsessed with these. Yes I say that about a lot of the recipes that I post but I try not to share unless I really, truly love it. These are something I can see myself making for the rest of my life (seriously) and it seems like those recipes that I make constantly are the ones that end up being reader favourites. I've made these apple crumble bars a handful of times and I think I've finished each batch within a couple of days every time. They're supposed to be for Graham to bring to work with him - he recently started working in Bremen so he leaves at 6:30 in the morning and doesn't get home until 7:30 at night - but I've been keeping them for myself. Muahaha. 

Did any of you get those little apple crumble granola bars when you were a kid? I have no idea what brand they are but they were small and wrapped in bright green packaging. They were my absolute favourite but I only got them every once in a while because my mom was sort of strict about eating healthy. We'd eat whole pints of ice cream with a spoon but we didn't get fruit roll ups to bring to school, so you know, a bit mixed. I don't imagine I'd be able to get through one of those sugar-laden granola bars now but these are a healthy version of a childhood favourite, and I think kids would really like them too. Healthy because whole grain oat flour, date-sweetened (a little coconut sugar in the crumble), and fruit which = one of your five a day. Unless you eat like my grandmother and then it's more like one of your 37 a day. She will eat an entire crate of mangoes in one day (but she has no bathroom problems so maybe old people should eat more fruit?! Just pretend diabetes doesn't exist).

PSA it's currently apple season and you need to get your ass out there and pick some before it's too late!


One thing about these is that the filling takes a bit of time to make BUT you can substitute apple butter, bought or homemade, and then you can have a batch made in a few minutes. The filling is just apples cooked with some dates and then pureed with cinnamon but it's truly amazing, especially if you use local apples while they're in season (i.e. August until November). The base and crumble topping are the same mix, made in the food processor. It's made with oats and that means that it's 1. a perfectly acceptable breakfast and 2. gluten-free. The first time I made these I kept sneaking the crumble while the filling cooled and ended up with a lot less on the bars, hah. There's no pre-baking or any of that nonsense and this is a truly quick and easy recipe. You can also make extra filling and freeze some or keep it in the fridge as it's essentially thick apple sauce, and perfect for topping porridge.

I have a window sill crowded with apples and a lot more on the trees so prepare yourselves for more apple recipes in the foreseeable future. If you have something you'd really love to see then let me know! Cake, bread, savoury? ALL OF THEM?! Hopefully all of them because that's what you're getting.


Apple Crumble Bars
Makes 16 small bars

Base and Crumble Topping

2 cups / 220 grams rolled oats, ground into a coarse flour
1/4 cup / 30 grams coconut sugar
1/4 cup / 60 grams soft dates*
1/4 cup / 70 grams solid coconut oil (room temperature)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon non-dairy milk, if needed

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F and line* a 20cm square baking tin with parchment paper.

In your food processor, grind the oats into flour. Add the coconut sugar, dates, coconut oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix on high speed until a slightly crumbly dough forms. You should be able to press it between your fingers have it hold its shape. If it's too dry, add the milk and mix again. Don't add more than a tablespoon - if it seems like it's not quite coming together, mix it for longer and it will.

Using your hands, press about two-thirds of the dough (220 grams*) into the prepared baking tin and reserve the rest (160 grams) for the crumble topping. Try to make it as even as possible, as it will be quite thin. Spread the apple filling over the base and then top with the remaining crumble mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin before removing and slicing. I suggest placing the tin in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 30 minutes before slicing to keep the bars neat. Store the bars in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Apple Filling

3 medium / 500 grams apples*
1/4 cup / 60 grams dates*
1 tablespoon water or apple juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Core and dice the apples (don't peel them) and place them, along with the dates and water, into a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until soft. Stir in the cinnamon and cool slightly before blending* until smooth.

Notes:
1. If your dates are dry, soak them in hot water for half an hour first.
2. I always like to use fresh nutmeg. It's more cost effective, lasts longer, and tastes much better.
3. You really need to line the baking tin for this recipe, they'll be too hard to remove otherwise.
4. I did indeed weigh the dough for you. If you're a baking perfectionist, you're welcome.
5. Try to use a tart apple without a very high moisture content. I used boskopf apples.
6. For the filling the dates can be quite hard and dry because you're cooking them in any case.
7. If the apple filling is still warm when you're blending it, make sure you have the vent open (on a food processor at least) to keep it from getting really hot.
8. As I mentioned above, you can substitute pre-made apple butter for the filling instead of making it from scratch (not apple sauce, it'll be too thin) and save a good bit of time.

Lebanese Hummus and Baba Ghanoush + An Interview

October 03, 2017
 

First things first, I have news to share! I recently started a food podcast in cooperation with Mauudhi. My first episode is with Nina of Nourish Atelier (maybe you remember my post about her new book) and you can find it here

In a slight departure from my normal recipe post, this is based on a meal and interview with Khaled, a Lebanese immigrant to Germany. Khaled is a friend of a friend, Kristin, and they work together with refugees in a northern coastal city. He visited us a couple of weeks ago and we made Lebanese hummus & baba ganoush, and talked about food and living in Germany as a Lebanese immigrant. I've condensed the interview to share here (my recording was over two hours long) and you can read it below. 

Where are you from? 
I’m from Lebanon, and I’ve been in Germany since 2002. I came alone, and my brother and sister came a few years after me, but my other family still lives in Lebanon. It’s a beautiful place but there’s so much corruption there, and I can’t live with that.

Why did you move to Germany?
I came here to attend university. I studied electronics, chemistry, and physics at different times, but didn’t finish any of the programs. I’m planning on studying again, but nothing technical – I want to start pedagogy next year.

Have you experienced racist sentiment in Germany?
I think Lebanon is a lot worse, and that’s part of the reason why I chose to stay here. Lebanese people believe they’re superior to other Arabic people, especially Syrians. I haven’t personally experienced much. I would never live in the US now, though, not after they voted for Trump. There’s a lot of raw hatred for Syrian people in Lebanon. Before 1943, Lebanon and Syria were one country. In 1939 the French and English arrived; they stayed until 1943, and divided the countries. Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, etc. So before there was one country, and now there are 22 Arab countries. [Similarly to many other parts of the world that experience war and strife following colonialism, especially when they're separated with no regard to actual cultural differences.]

What did you eat growing up?
A lot of meat. French fries, but not frozen, always home made. My mother made hummus about twice a week. Arabic bread. Labneh for breakfast and in the evenings with olive oil and za’atar. Lebanese za’atar has a lot of citrus in it and it’s more sour. Lebanese pizza with white cheese or za’atar and oil, or a mix of tomatoes, onions, and fresh chili. We often eat hummus for breakfast. There’s also fava bean paste often served for breakfast, but that’s really hard on the stomach [laughs]. We eat a lot of rice as well.

What about sweets?
(Ooh.) There’s an Arabic sweet called kunafeh made with cheese, usually mozzarella, and coarse ground wheat. Then it’s usually baked and soaked in a sweet sugar syrup. We use the sugar syrup for every kind of sweet; it’s two parts sugar and one part water, and a little bit of rosewater or orange blossom water, and of course a little citrus. Baklava, but no one makes that from scratch at home. You can buy it everywhere and it’s always fresh. Kunafeh is a common breakfast food, served inside bread with more sugar syrup. During Ramadan there are more types of sweets and each one is better than the last. A lot of sweets are filled with dates but I don’t like them. (Graham asks about figs) I love figs! Only fresh figs – I eat dried here in Germany but only fresh in Lebanon. I’m so happy I’m visiting during fig season now [September]. There are figs in Lebanon that are white inside instead of red, honey figs, and they’re all kinds of delicious.

How can you compare the produce available in Germany to Lebanon?
There's a much bigger assortment of vegetables here. There are of course some in Lebanon that you can’t get here, but generally nowadays you can find everything. For example, light green zucchini is more common in Lebanon, and I prefer the dark green ones in Germany because they’re a little sweeter. In Lebanon we never eat something sweet for lunch or dinner, it’s always salty, except for kunafeh which is eaten at any time of day. In Germany it’s normal to eat sweets as a main meal [for example noodles with apple sauce] but in Lebanon it’s not normal, only for desserts. German pickles are also very sweet [I agree] everything that’s pickled in Lebanon is salty with lots of vinegar. I’m used to German pickles now and switch back and forth between them and Lebanese pickles depending on what I’m eating. With hamburgers I’ll have German, but with hummus I have Lebanese pickles (Kristin says that she can’t have Lebanese pickles because they’re far too sour). About two weeks ago we sold falafel in the city we work in, and I had pickles as a side, and Kristin couldn’t eat them. I also make falafel myself, but no one does in Lebanon. It’s available everywhere. You can get a sandwich for 25 cents and it’s really good. They do it properly, always fresh, with fresh vegetables and tarator, a tahini based sauce.

How do you make your falafel?
I add a lot of cilantro, but never parsley - usually fresh herbs and sometimes frozen, but it’s better if it’s fresh. Chickpeas, fava beans - about 1 kilo chickpeas to 600g fava beans - garlic, onions, and cilantro. No lemon or tahini, other than in the sauce. The spices are a little cinnamon dried cilantro, a little nutmeg, and paprika. You can get a pre-made spice mix for falafel. I add baking powder, it’s really, really important, so they fluff up. If you don’t add it they won’t taste right and they’ll be too hard. I add a tablespoon and a half of baking powder for every kilo of falafel dough and deep-fry them. This makes over 100 falafel. (He laughs at me for baking my falafel.)

How much time do you spend cooking?
It depends. If I’m really stressed I’ll spend about three hours in the kitchen; it’s my way of coping with stress. More normally about an hour a day and I make most of our food myself. My wife cooks every now and then, but for her cooking is work, and for me it’s a hobby.

Do you like German food?
Hmm. [Laughs] I like asparagus but prefer green to white, especially when it’s really young. I’m learning to like white asparagus. My wife really likes it (she was born in Germany) so I’m trying to learn some new recipes for it. My wife likes German food, she’s almost German [laughs]. I like pizza and spaghetti, but true German food includes so much pork, and I don’t eat pork. I don’t eat German meat because it’s either pork or not halal. German sweets are excellent. I’ve tried some of the food Kristin has brought to work and liked it a lot – a pear cake and quiche, which was new for me, which was good. German cakes and breads are good. I don’t drink or eat non-halal meat and Kristin tells me I’m not integrated properly, but what can I do [laughs].

I may do more interviews in the future and actually put my anthropology degree to some use, we'll see! This was a really fun one. Some of our conversation was in German but I'm pretty sure everything is translated correctly. That last comment from Khaled is something I think is really interesting in Germany - it's all about full integration here, even with foods (as if anyone would choose German food over literally any other option) but it's very different from the Canadian concept of a mosaic culture. Integration in this sense isn't just for the far-right or the nazis in Germany- it's expected by most people that immigrants should integrate fully and adopt German practices. This includes us, but I think like many other immigrants, we refuse, hah. I'm a German national but I often butt heads with my family over what's expected of me as a German person because I don't agree with a lot of it, and the cultural distances are much wider between people from countries that don't have strong European backgrounds like Canada. I don't think full 'cultural integration' is possible within one generation, if it's possible at all (or necessary). People throw terms like this around but can't define them in any case.

Okay, long post! Recipes are below with some extra tips from Khaled! By the way this hummus is pretty much the complete opposite of how I usually make it but it's amazing.


Recipes and notes by Khaled Dbouk and shared with permission.

Lebanese Hummus and Baba Ghanoush
Serves four hungry people

Hummus

2 cups / 330 grams cooked chickpeas*
1/3 cup / 125 grams tahini*
4 ice cubes*
Juice of a lemon (to taste)
1 small clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Pinch nutmeg
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste*
Yogurt (optional)*

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor* and blend on high speed until smooth and slightly fluffy. Depending on the strength of your processor this can take several minutes. Serve immediately or chilled, topped with olive oil.

Baba Ghanoush

2 medium aubergines
1/4 cup / 80 grams tahini 
1 small clove garlic
Juice of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin

Roast the aubergines on a tray in a 250C / 480F oven for 30 minutes, or char them over a gas burner* for about ten minutes. Place the roasted aubergines into a bowl and the bowl into cold water to cool them quickly, and then peel (just use your hands). 

Place the peeled aubergines into a food processor with the other ingredients and pulse until just mixed and not perfectly smooth. Serve at room temperature or chilled, topped with olive oil and pomegranate seeds. 

Notes:
1. Soak the chickpeas for 24 hours in water with a teaspoon of baking soda, and add baking soda to the cooking water as well, to ensure they're very soft.
2. Use the best tahini you can get as it significantly alters the flavour.
3. The ice keeps the hummus from heating as it blends and makes it creamier.
4. Cayenne isn't traditional but a good addition nonetheless.
5. Yogurt lightens the colour and texture of the hummus. We didn't include it but Khaled usually does.
6. He prefers to use a mortar and pestle, and like most things, it tastes better if made by hand instead of with a machine. I don't have a mortar and pestle.
7. Charing them over a flame is preferable to roasting them, and the vast majority of Lebanese homes have gas stoves, so it's how baba ghanoush is made in Lebanon.

Olive Oil Granola

September 18, 2017

I know a lot of people are hanging on to summer as we head into late September, but since it's been autumn here since June, I'm digging it. The local tomatoes barely grew anyway, and the ones that did tasted like nothing - give me some pumpkin! and beets, carrots, grapes, apples! Local apples are a while off yet but I did eat a windfall apple the other day and it was just perfect. It was so cold all year that the autumn vegetables are already doing well. I think it's a lot easier to appreciate what's available for shorter periods of time when you really try to only eat seasonally. I get so excited every time I see something new at the market or shop and try not to jump ahead of myself in terms of what's growing locally. What's the point, when seasonal produce is so much tastier and cheaper anyway? 

By the way this recipe does not use produce BUT it sure combines well with fruit.

Continuing with this staple/everyday recipe theme I've been doing lately, here's my very favourite granola recipe! This is another recipe I make about once a week on my batch cooking day to have for snacking throughout the week. I first made this a few years ago because I was out of coconut oil but it became my standard over time, and I just switch out a few add-ins and spices depending on the time of year and what I'm doing with it. It's a really inexpensive recipe using olive oil and seeds instead of pricier ingredients, and I prefer it as an everyday snack over really nut-heavy recipes. If I'm giving it away as gifts sometimes I'll mix in some nuts and a few sweeter spices to fancy things up a bit. If you want a granola recipe that calls for coconut oil, try this one from last autumn, it's excellent.

My standard spice for this recipe is sumac. It's a citrus-like spice from the Middle East that's not really sweet but adds a nice popcorn-like flavour to the granola. Really, this granola tastes just like popcorn. Sumac is pretty inexpensive especially if you get it at a Middle Eastern grocer, and it's great with roasted vegetables, hummus, in sweets, and more. If you don't have or can't get sumac (I can only get it at one market here so I often don't have any), substitute cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, or whatever spice you'd like. I've made this recipe with all three and I liked it every time. If you're worried that it won't be sweet enough because of the olive oil, well, maybe you're right. It depends on your personal taste. If you like cloying, super-sweet granola, maybe you should head to a different website. This is just lightly sweet but it's great to have with fruit as it's not overwhelming - and the taste is fairly neutral so it goes with seasonal fruits all year round (unlike cinnamon or nutmeg). 

Don't forget to share on Instagram (tag @occasionallyeggs), I love to see what you're making!


Olive Oil Granola
Makes a little over 3 cups

2 cups / 250 grams rolled oats
1/2 cup / 80 grams sunflower seeds
1/2 cup / 80 grams pumpkin seeds*
1/4 cup / 50 grams chia seeds
2 teaspoons sumac*
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup*

Preheat the oven to 150C / 300F and line a large baking sheet* with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia, sumac, and salt. Add the olive oil and honey, then use your hands to mix until the dry ingredients are fully coated.

Transfer the granola mixture to your prepared baking sheet and wet your hands lightly to spread it into an even layer. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden. The granola won't be crisp when you take it out, so just look for colour. It will crisp up as it cools.

Place the baking sheet onto a drying rack to cool. Once the granola is completely cool, break it apart and store in a sealed container for up to a week on the counter, or a month in the refrigerator.

Notes:
1. Alternatively, use a full cup of sunflower seeds instead of half pumpkin seeds. I imagine sesame seeds would be good too but I haven't tried that.
2. You can do half cinnamon half sumac, all cinnamon, or a mix or cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. I like it with all three of those spices individually as well.
3. I use creamed honey and use my hands to work it in. I find liquid honey can make things a little sticky. Creamed honey makes a bit of a clumpier granola and maple syrup results in one that's quite fine, but both are excellent.
4. I use the standard European size baking tray with high sides. A regular large baking sheet is good, and if you have smaller ones you might want to bake the granola on two sheets.