30 December 2013

A Quick Leftover Recipe: Pork Colorado

Remember that slow roasted pork recipe I shared?  This would be a great way to use some of those leftovers in the freezer.  And if you have some other kind of meat, it will work just as well--roast beef, chicken, turkey...just pull it apart with two forks and substitute it.  This meal should be simple, fast, and comforting.  It's not for showing off, though it is delicious.

Pork Colorado

Serves 8-10

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shredded pork
8 oz. light beer (or the leftover beer juice from a slow-roasted pork shoulder)
2 cups homemade enchilada sauce
2 15-oz cans red beans (or pintos)
1 tablespoon New Mexico chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onion until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the pork, beer, and enchilada sauce.  Cover and cook until the sauce begins to bubble, about  minutes.  Stir in the beans (do not drain), chili powder, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.  Lower to a simmer, return cover, and cook until beans are heated through.  Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve over steamed rice.

27 December 2013

Scraping together a meal when the kitchen is bare, or, why people hate the holidays, # 789534262

In all the holiday-themed travel I have experienced the past month, I am often left making do with very little in the kitchen the night before a flight.  I hate the thought of food spoiling in my fridge while I’m in another part of the country, and so I stop shopping for groceries at least five days before I leave, but as a result, those last dinners before the long trek to the airport can look pretty dire.  Or perhaps you have stayed home this year and allowed a band of marauders (like your family, for instance) eat all of your food, and you just can't stand grocery shopping yet again. Fortunately, a few staples we all tend to have around can save the day.  Well, that and booze.  Plenty of booze.

Pasta with tuna, lemon, and capers

Serves 4

1 can water-packed tuna, drained
1 small lemon
½ pound dry spaghetti, linguine, etc.
1 cup frozen spinach (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoon capers (or roughly chopped olives)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
bread crumbs (optional)

Bring a pot of salty water to boil.  Cook pasta according t package directions.  Add the frozen spinach in the last minute of cooking, if using.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the tuna (break it up a bit with a fork), juice and zest of the lemon, capers, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil in and stir to combine.

Drain cooked pasta and toss with the tuna mixture and serve on four plates.  Sprinkle each serving with bread crumbs if desired.

Santa Fe Roasted Potatoes

Since we tend to eat light dinners like soups and salads, this stands alone as an evening meal before an early flight out in my house.  However, you could easily combine this with some cooked meat or seafood for more protein.

Serves 4

4 large russet potatoes, washed and cut into 1-in cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen broccoli
1 4-oz can chopped green chilies
1 small lime
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, if you have it

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, toss the potatoes, olive oil, chili powder, and salt to coat evenly.  Spread out into a single layer and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, thaw the frozen corn and broccoli under hot water in a colander and leave to drain. Sprinkle with a little salt to taste. When the potatoes are done, toss them with the thawed vegetables, canned chilies, and cilantro, and squeeze the lime over the top.  If you have any leftover crumbly cheese, like feta or queso, you can sprinkle that on top, as well.

23 December 2013

A Rainbow of Brussels Sprouts!..and, er, other things...

I love my family very much, but how did they never serve Brussels sprouts when I was growing up?  I mean, seriously Mom and Dad, what the hell was wrong with you? These things are delicious!  

So, needless to say, Brussels sprouts were not a staple side dish at my childhood holiday meals, but they are now!  I think this particular recipe is my new favorite: it's colorful, easy, and it covers sweet, salty, and sour all in one bite.  And works so well with my Beer Braised Pork Shoulder for holiday meals.  

Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Potato, Cranberries, and Vinegar

Serves 8 as a side

1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
½ yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Black pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Brussels sprouts, onion, sweet potatoes, cumin, salt, and oil.  Spread in a single layer on two baking sheets and bake at 425°F (no need tp preheat the oven) until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice as they cook.

Transfer to a serving platter or bowl, stir in vinegar, season liberally with black pepper, and serve.

20 December 2013

Down with the Christmas Turkey!

Hey, you know what I hate eating?  Turkey.  That's right, I said it.  And if you've been reading for a while, you have probably noticed that I try to avoid the subject altogether, especially around the holidays.  It's just gross--somehow bland and gamey at the same time--and a total pain in the ass to cook.  You want to slowly cook some meat all day as part of your holiday ceremonies and then actually have something edible at the end of the whole ordeal?  Try this braised pork shoulder.  And if you've got leftovers, you can freeze small bags of it for use in other meals later this winter, sans gaminess.

Beer Braised Pork Shoulder

Serves 8-10

1 4-lb pork shoulder, bone in
1 tablespoon garlic powder
tablespoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
 teaspoon cumin
 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 bay leaves
1 22 oz bottle of beer, preferably a lager or something light

Rinse the pork with water and pat dry with paper towels. 

In a small bowl combine garlic powder, paprika, salt, cumin, and black pepper. Rub spice mixture all over roast.

Heat a large stock pot or Dutch oven over high heat and add 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil. Place roast into the hot oil and sear meat until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes each side. Add the bay leaves, onion, and beer.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook at least 6 hours or until done through. 

Serve roast in chunks or shredded with a fork.

17 December 2013

A Soup to Fight the Cold

I love soup in the winter--it's warming and filling without leaving you with the feeling that you swallowed a lead weight (which can be fun--I'm looking at you, mashed potatoes and gravy--but not so good for you every day).  This is inspired by the classic barley and mushroom combination with a few other ingredients thrown in to keep it from getting monotonous.  Substitute as you wish, but I do love to see something orange or red, something green in there...

Winter Harvest Soup

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 acorn squash
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups mixed mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 bunch kale, thinly sliced
3 cups pearl barley, washed and sorted
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the squash in half, rub the flesh with a little olive oil, and salt lightly.  Place both sides flesh-side down on a baking sheet and bake at 425°F (no need to preheat oven) until flesh is soft but still firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to release their moisture, then stir in the kale and barley.  Season liberally with salt, add the stock, cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook until barley is tender but still a bit chewy, 20 minutes or more.

When the squash is tender but still firm, remove from oven.  Score the flesh with a sharp knife and scoop it out with a spoon.  Add to the soup just as the barley is about done.  Stir in soy sauce, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

13 December 2013

Spiked Traditions: Egg Nog

I can't help it--every year, as soon as they roll out all of the egg nog-flavored dairy and dairy substitute products, I crack.  I don't know why; I don't even recall drinking much egg nog as a kid.  I am able to bravely stave off urges for Pumpkin Spiced things all fall, but I am a whore for Silk Soy "Egg Nog" from the dairy case at Safeway.  And then it sits in my fridge until it gets clumpy, because let's face it, it's only fun to pour that stuff in your coffee about three times.  And drink it on its own?  With that creepily manufactured mouthfeel?  No thanks.

The only thing that cuts the sweetness and thickness of this stuff is booze.  Yep, that's right: it's cocktail time, egg nog style!

Spiked Egg Nog: 1oz. of spiced rum, brandy, or bourbon to 4 oz. egg nog, with cinnamon sprinkled on top

Egg Crusher: 1 oz. rum, 1 oz. Kahlua, 5 oz. egg nog

Brandy Alexander 2.0: 1.5 oz. brandy, 1 oz. creme de cacao, 2 oz. egg nog with nutmeg sprinkled on top

Ginger Snap: 1 oz. spiced rum, 1/2 oz. ginger brandy, 4 oz. egg nog

Imperial Egg Nog: 1 oz. brandy, 1.2 oz. apricot brandy, 4 oz. egg nog

Nashville Egg Nog: 1/2 oz. rum, 1/2 oz. brandy, 2 oz. bourbon, 5 oz. egg nog

Russian Nog: 1 oz. vodka, 1 oz. Kahlua, 1 oz. egg nog


10 December 2013

Gifts fit for a food lover

Winter Solstice is just around the corner (that's right, roll your eyes), and I love the excuse to give presents.  Not all of my friends care that much about food (ahem, french fry aficionado, you know who you are), but for the ones who do, food-themed presents are an easy way to give a unique, stand-out gift to your inner circle.  And hopefully they'll serve it when you're around. Here are some very clever products I have been checking out:

Boozy Stuff:

These mixers (and one very special bourbon) will make you into an alcoholic.  But a happy one. 

Owl's Brew Coco-Lada: a beverage mixer with pineapple, coconut, and chai spices (whaaat?!) with a black tea base makes vodka, rum, and just about anything else magical.

Quince & Apple Honey Lemon Syrup: pour it into whiskey

White Whale Filthy Liar: lychee-rosemary-clove mixer tastes great with gin or just club soda.

Wyoming Whiskey: in true cowboy fashion, these guys have had a slow and disorganized start, but if you can place an order early enough (or just make it a mid-winter surprise when it finally shows up), their small-batch whiskey and newly released bourbon really are worth the wait.

Stuff Your Face:

It's fun to do all of your own cooking and baking, but it's also fun to sample amazing talent from around the country while you sit on the couch watching t.v. and drinking fancy cocktails

Caramels from Fran's Chocolates: handmade in Washington state, the smoked salt caramels are my favorite.

French macarons from the iconic Macaron Cafe in NYC: I love the caramel "fleur de sel", cassisviolette, and jasmin, but you do what you want.

Looseleaf tea from englishteastore.com: the packaging is far from luxurious, but these guys have the best tea, hands down, and at a very low price.  I first discovered them when I had their Monk's Blend (black tea with vanilla, caramel, and grenadine) at an organic shop, but have since become hooked on their chocolate orange and Earl Grey cream, as well.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I get all my tea here.


It may seem a little old-fashioned, but I just don't believe that cookbooks translate well to e-reader, especially with the beautiful artwork modern books all seem to have.  Consider some beautiful, and practical, food porn for your favorite curmudgeon this year.  

Yvette van Boven: Homemade  
I loved her Homemade Summer, and this is the one that started it all.  She's Irish and runs a restaurant in the Netherlands, and her recipes combine traditions from the two cultures in a carefree, relaxed way. You know these people for whom hosting parties, making cocktails, looking perfect, etc., is just natural?  This is how her recipes will make you feel about your cooking.

Christopher Blain: In the Kitchen with Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef
Super fun graphic novel with clean, spare artwork.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: River Cottage Veg
I mentioned this cookbook here in this blog last summer, and it's still one of my new favorites. F-W is pragmatic in his love of vegetables; this is a no-fuss collection of recipes which will sometimes surprise you in the combinations and textures he manages to create.  Plus, he's the only guy who consistently put Gordon Ramsay in his place on the F-Word, so he's earned some serious street cred, as far as I'm concerned!

Michael Hudman and Anthony Ticer: Collards & Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots
These recipes highlight the best of both Italian and Southern cooking, from the use of fresh, local produce in season to simple preparations that retain the character of the original foods.  

Aki Kamozawa and Alexander Talbot: Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook
From the bloggers who created Ideas in Food, this book takes a very scientific approach to solving standard challenges in the kitchen.  These guys are geniuses, and you will learn more about your food so that you can be a more intelligent cook.

Edward Lee: Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen
For the meat lover; this guy was a real douchebag on Top Chef, but his recipes are brilliant, and I love the pairing of Asian and Southern elements--it works surprisingly well!

Ivan Orkin: Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint
I think you all know how much I love ramen, but even if you are not as into it as I am, this will teach you a new appreciation for the art of excellent ramen making and give you some great recipes to try.  This book is total geekery. 

06 December 2013

Enchiladas for the skeptic

Who hasn't had bland enchiladas in their lifetime? Growing up in the Midwest, they were ubiquitous in Mexican restaurants (along with the seafood chimichanga, for more daring diners), and they generally consisted of some soggy corn tortillas filled with greasy ground beef and covered in ketchup. But with the right sauce, they can be quite satisfying. I have thrown in a couple atypical ingredients to this sauce to help give it a little more personality, and I urge you to try it before calling me nasty names.

Slow Enchilada Sauce

(Makes enough for two small batches of enchiladas in the following recipe)

1 teaspoon olive oil
3 small carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 serrano pepper
½ small red onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons New Mexico chili powder
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
tiny pinch ground cloves
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine

Chop the carrot, garlic, pepper, and onion in the food processor until very fine.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the carrot mixture and salt, and saute until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add the cumin and chili powder and cook, stirring occasionally, another 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes (with juice), cloves (trust me), red wine, and black pepper to taste.  Stir, cover, and lower to a simmer.  Cook at least 35 minutes, but the longer the better. For a smoother sauce, you can run this through the blender at the end.  

Keep in the refrigerator up to one week, or it can be frozen up to one month.  

Enchiladas for the Skeptic 

Serves 4-6

1/2 batch Slow Enchilada Sauce, above
1 tablespoon red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1 cup frozen or fresh corn, thawed
1/2 cup black beans
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
8 medium corn or corn-flour hybrid tortillas
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
1/3 cup diced pepper jack cheese

Grease a 9 X 13 casserole dish and lay a very thin layer of sauce in the bottom, swirling to coat. Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a bowl, combine the onion, cilantro, corn, beans, pepper, diced pepper jack, and half of the queso. Season with lime juice and a dash of salt and stir.

Heat the tortillas until pliable, then fill each with equal parts of the cheese-corn mixture. As you roll each tortilla, place it seam side down in the casserole dish. When you have finished this process, cover the tortillas with the Slow Enchilada Sauce. Scatter the remaining queso on top and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes.

Serve with crema or sour cream and guacamole on the side, if desired.

03 December 2013

Miso Poached Salmon and Wasabi Green Beans

Ugh, I always feel so faaaat after Thanksgiving.  It's times like these when I'm glad I keep some frozen fish on hand, and this meal comes together very quickly and with minimal babysitting. You can even poach the salmon without thawing it; just keep an eye on it to be sure it's thoroughly cooked before serving.

Miso Poached Salmon 

Serves 4

1 teaspoon peanut oil
4 salmon filets (or however many will fit in the pan)
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon miso paste
2 cups water

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Sauté the onions with a pinch of salt until they are very soft, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and continue to cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the vinegar and scrape off any browned bits in the bottom of the pan, then add the water and stir in the miso paste.  Cover and bring to a boil; whisk in any remaining miso paste until you have a broth.  Lower the heat to a simmer and add the salmon, skin side down.  Sprinkle top of fish with a little salt and pepper, cover, and simmer no more than 10 minutes, or until fish is tender and cooked through.

Serve with jasmine rice with steamed edamame and chopped scallions mixed in, and . . .

Wasabi Green Beans

Serves 4 as a side

1 pound green beans
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared wasabi paste (adjust to taste)
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Drizzle toasted sesame oil

Toast almonds in a dry, hot  pan until golden, about 1 minute.

Clean and trim green beans. Place in well-salted water and bring to a boil; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, wasabi paste, ginger, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and whisk to incorporate.  Pour over hot green beans, stir in almonds, and serve.

29 November 2013

...and Thanksgiving leftovers!

If you made mass quantities of your Thanksgiving feast (or had a small group over), you may have leftovers.  Honestly, you don't need to do anything creative with the recipes I gave you--no meat, no gamy, grayish crap to deal with.  But, if you want to work a few little magic tricks on some of those containers cluttering your refrigerator, you can certainly get out of making dinner for a couple of days...

Mashed Potato Biscuits: These work well as English muffin-type breakfast food, slathered with cranberry sauce. If you really want a window into my dark soul, I like to split one apart, melt thin slices of sharp white cheddar on each half in the toaster oven, and then slather with cranberry sauce.  Delicious.

Mixed Roasted Potatoes: You know how I love breakfast, right?  Warm these back up in the oven or toaster oven (never the microwave--they are sad and soggy beyond words when you do that) and serve underneath eggs cooked to your liking with cooked greens and a little curry ketchup on the side.

Braised Radishes with Orange: You're not going to have any leftovers of this.  Have you tried them?  They're insane.  But if you do, sprinkle with red chili flakes and toss with pasta and steamed broccoli.  Throw some pine nuts on top if you want to get all fancy about it.

Wasabi Green Beans: These work in any kind of stir fry or Thai curry; just throw them in to any Asian-inspired recipe that calls for green beans. In fact, throw in the leftovers from the stuffed squash and you've got the meal in minutes!

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie: Make a soup!  Stir whatever's left into your favorite vegetable or mushroom broth (I've also used vegetarian pho broth with good results) and heat gently.  The potato will melt into the broth and give it a thicker, creamier texture, so what you basically have is a vegetable soup with what seems like a cream-based broth.

25 November 2013

Thanksgiving treats...

Everyone's posting Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes on their blogs right now, and I just cannot imagine you need any more advice on what to do with your turkey.  Or chicken, or Cornish game hen, if you're going alterna-poultry.  I don't even like those things.  I never liked turkey, even as a kid, so I'm not really a good authority on how to make it delicious.  That, in my opinion, would be chasing a phantom you can never catch, like Tinkerbell or a government run by rational adults.

But you know what I do like?  Vegetables.  And there are so many that are in season this time of year.  You could easily fill your plate up with those traditionally considered "side dishes" and still have room for pie (that is one Thanksgiving tradition I will never fight).  Here are some of my favorites; most of these are repeats from earlier blogs, so please allow me to quote myself:


Mashed Potato Biscuits (use sweet potato if you want)


Mixed Roasted Potatoes (I like to use Russet, red, sweet, and some purple if I can find them.  They'll all roast at the same time).--Sprinkle salt and cumin on them before roasting.

Braised Radishes with Orange

Wasabi Green Beans

Serves 4 as a side

1 pound green beans
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared wasabi paste (adjust to taste)
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Drizzle toasted sesame oil

Toast almonds in a dry, hot  pan until golden, about 1 minute.

Clean and trim green beans. Place in well-salted water and bring to a boil; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, wasabi paste, ginger, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and whisk to incorporate.  Pour over hot green beans, stir in almonds, and serve.


Vegetable Shepherd's Pie
or, make it a Pot Pie by pouring the filling into a pie plate and cover with a roll-out refrigerated crust and bake until golden.

There are many recipes for this, but I think Vegetarian Times hits the nail on the head, and the photo is beautiful: Ultimate Stuffed Squash


OK, here's my one new recipe for the year:

Coconut-Chai Pumpkin Pie

1 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 cup coconut milk
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 black tea bag, torn open and the leaves pulverized into a fine powder with a mortar and pestle
1 pre-made pie crust

Pre-bake the pie crust at 425°F ( no need to preheat the oven) until it starts to firm up, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl.  When pie crust is ready, remove from oven, pour in filling, and replace to bake for another 15 minutes.  Reduce to 350°F and bake 5 minutes or until set in the middle.

I don't know about you, but this is when I like to eat my cranberry sauce, as a relish with the pie.

22 November 2013

Restaurant Review: Two for Evanston

While performing at a conference at the Hilton in downtown Evanston, IL, I of course decided to spend as much of my free time eating as possible. Evanston is just north of Chicago and right on Lake Michigan's shore (and yes, that made for a rather nippy November weekend), but the downtown area is culturally a world apartfrom the historically blue-collar northern neighborhoods of the city.  With Ivy League-ish Northwestern University within walking distance and crisply ironed chinos all 'round, you can bet there are some overpriced restaurants on every corner. Here's what I found:

Farmhouse.  Housed in the Hilton Orrington at the corner of Church and Orrington Streets, this farm-to-table, locally sourced bit of adorableness sports rough-hewn wood tables and a milky, white-washed interior.  This is the place to go for local beers: there are 36 beers total on tap, and over a dozen come from within 25 miles of the restaurant.  I loved my glass of Virtue Cider from Roscoe Village, which was crisp and dry enough to be champagne. We decided not to get too carried away with healthiness at this place, so our lunch consisted of a shockingly generous bowl of fluffy fried cheese curds (amazingly grease-free on the fingers) with homemade garlic aioli and homemade ketchup for dipping, the pork schnitzel sandwich (fine, but a bit dry) with delicious homemade potato chips, and the roasted root vegetable salad, featuring roasted local mixed beets, spring onions, and radishes, on top of baby arugula and dressed with an incredibly soft, tangy goat cheese and a heavenly mustard seed vinaigrette. Fantastic, and so was the extremely warm service.

*                                       *                                      *                                       *                                  *

The Cellar.  Run by the very upscale folks at The Stained Glass, The Cellar is their hipper and more casual younger sibling.  Well-crafted cocktails and long, long wine and beer lists compliment smaller portions meant to be shared, a sort of tapas menu with Midwestern roots. From the cocktail menu, we tried All That Jasmine (Effen Cucumber Vodka, Koval Jasmine liquor, Chamomile infusion) and Pure Cucumber (Hendrick’s Gin, crushed mint, shaved cucumber), which were both delicious.  Pure Cucumber was quite dry, so All That Jasmine might be more suitable for frou-frou fans.  The Spanish ALBARIÑO had a complex, almost nutty finish, and Metropolitan Flywheel was a crisp lager with a bready finish.  

To share, we had haricots verts with mint pesto and almonds, tomato and mozzarella salad with huge chunks of homemade mozzarella, the savory-sweet acorn squash ravioli made with homemade pasta, juicy Black Angus micro burgers with delicate, crispy shoestring potatoes, and one of our party ordered the full-sized lamb burger on a dark, glossy pretzel bun. The table fell silent as we devoured everything in sight, and the lively atmosphere in the restaurant added to our sense of celebration as we said good bye to our formerly clean, clear arteries.  

15 November 2013

Bar Review: Northern Colorado's version of Havana has a lot of booze

Oh dear, oh dear--I have fallen in love with yet another bar in Fort Collins. Here goes nothing, old liver of mine...

The Astoria is a charmingly dilapidated space at 146 N. College Ave. that attempts to recreate the dilapidated charm of Havana.  Having never been there, I imagine The Astoria is heavier on the charm than Havana might be, but the tall ceilings, cracked plaster, heavy red velvet curtains, and slightly run-down (though comfy) furniture sells well enough to me. Like so many bars in Fort Collins, The Astoria boasts a long line of local taps, a good wine list, and over a dozen clever, retro-sounding cocktails.  But these guys also do food: simple, small(ish) plates of starches and protein to satisfy your drunken cravings and provide a little nourishment. The offerings and portion sizes are just right, and the cooking is skilled.  Here's what we got:

The shrimp ceviche had a nice bite thanks to generous squirts of lime juice and just a sprinkling of serrano peppers.  I could have eaten a large vat of this, but it was large enough for two to share, eating about  bites each.

Patatas Bravas were basically potatoes smothered in a smoky adobo sauce with three grilled shrimp on top.  The potatoes could have been crisper (maybe less sauce would have done the trick), but the sauce had a great earthy, and very smoky, flavor with a little heat at the end.

Lechon (roasted, marinated, and shredded pork butt) and Ropa Vieja (marinated, shredded flank steak) both came with white rice and seasoned black beans on the side. About the equivalent of lunch portions (I'm guessing 4 - 5 oz. of meat), this was fantastic comfort food while sitting by the fire.  The beans were seasoned well and cooked tender but not mushy, the rice was fluffy, and the meat was tender and juicy.  The pork marinade didn't come through as well as the one used for the flank steak, so the flank steak was a little more tangy and flavorful, but both were executed well.

We also got flan and rice pudding.  The rice pudding had a pleasant, mild flavor with a pinch of cinnamon, and the flan was intensely caramel-flavored--perhaps the best I've had in a restaurant.

I wish I had written down what I drank, because by the end of it, my mind was a blur.  I started with an El Presidente (vodka, gin, rum, and tequila with orange and pineapple juice in  sugar-rimmed glass with a cherry) and then had a cucumber-y gin thing.  Both were delicious and not too sweet.  The taps included seasonal and standard beers from New Belgium (of course), Equinox, and Odell, as well as some other popular Rocky Mountain regional names.   The service was relaxed but friendly (read: no hovering at the table), dishes were well-timed to arrive when we were ready for them without feeling rushed, and the vibe on a Thursday night was chill and more for the over-30 set.  There is frequently a live music offering later at night, however, so check in advance before you go. 

The Astoria Bar
                                                146 N College Ave, Fort Collins, CO, 80524
  T: 970-484-0995 /E: theastoriainc@gmail.com
     Bar Open Monday - Saturday 4pm - 2am, Sunday 7pm - 2am  
            Kitchen open Tuesday - Saturday 5pm - 10pm

12 November 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Thai flavors

Ever wonder what to do with spaghetti squash besides use it as a pasta substitute?  Well, this recipe won't help you there, but it is a new take on the usual spaghetti squash with spaghetti sauce.  This time, it's topped with a cheap, easy copy of Pad Thai (go ahead and add scrambled egg if you want; I just didn't have any laying around when I whipped this up).

Pad Thai sauce is totally worth the purchase, by the way, and adds a sweet-sour tang to all kinds of things, even fries.

Spaghetti Squash with Thai flavors

Serves 4

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups chopped red cabbage
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, cut into thin rounds
1 small bunch broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons Pad Thai sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Garnishes for serving:
4 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1 tablespoons diced cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
Lime wedges

Split spaghetti squash in half lengthwise.  Place cut sides down in a shallow pan of water, cover the pan in foil, and bake in the oven at 425°F (no need to preheat) until soft, about 20 minutes.

Steam broccoli and carrot slices until crisp-tender.

In a large pan, heat the oil over medium.  Sauté the onion until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the red pepper, ginger, and cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until all vegetables are soft., about 10 minutes.  Stir in the steamed broccoli and carrots, cilantro, Pad Thai sauce, Sriracha, and rice vinegar.  Lower heat to low and cover, allowing flavors to incorporate (about 5 minutes, or however long it takes for the squash to finish).

To assemble, scrape the cooked spaghetti squash into a serving dish and season with salt and black pepper to taste.  Pour vegetables on top and garnish individual dishes with scallions, cucumber, peanuts, and lime to taste.

08 November 2013

Make it at Home: Chicken Osso Buco

Osso Buco is traditionally a dish made with veal shanks and dribbling with marrow, but I like the lighter version made with chicken.  It's a great way to use cheaper dark meat and keep it super tender, and osso buco, after all, is country Italian food, so I think this is a respectable way to honor the most likely purpose of the dish (namely, feeding people on the cheap).

Altitude Chophouse in Laramie, WY has a great chicken osso buco, and so does Trapper's in Parker, CO. But this is an easy dish to set up and allow to stew at home, and it makes great leftovers, so it's crazy to not just do it yourself.  Here's my version.

Chicken Osso Buco

Serves 8

8 medium (about 2 1/2 pounds) chicken thighs
2 tablespoon(s) canola oil
1/2 bag(s) (8 ounces) carrots
1 large onion
1 large celery stalk
1 can(s) (4 1/2- to 16-ounce) Italian-style stewed tomatoes
Chopped parsley and grated lemon peel, for garnish

Remove skin and fat from chicken thighs. In 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat canola oil and cook chicken thighs and 1 teaspoon salt until chicken is golden on all sides. Remove to plate. Meanwhile, dice carrots, onion, and celery.

Using the chicken drippings remaining in skillet, cook carrots, onion, and celery over medium heat until lightly browned. Return chicken to skillet; stir in stewed tomatoes. Over high heat, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender and juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a knife. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and grated lemon peel.

Serve with cooked pasta or rice.

05 November 2013

Pasta with earthy, autumnal flavors

This quick meal is pure fall to me, particularly because of the sage, I suppose.  If you can't find decent-looking asparagus (it sometimes gives an encore presentation in the fall), use whatever green vegetable you like: broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, or even frozen peas would be good here.

There are multiple bitter elements in this dish (walnuts, radicchio, gorgonzola), so the lemon juice and honey are meant to balance that.  If it still seems too bitter to you, you could cut down on (or eliminate) one of the bitter components, add more honey to taste, or add a spicy element, like crushed red pepper flakes.

Farfalle with Radicchio and Asparagus

Serves 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small head radicchio, sliced
1 small yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
6 sage leaves, chiffonaded
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cups farfalle or other medium pasta shape
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons crumbled gorgonzola
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions.

Steam the asparagus pieces until bright green.  If you have a steamer insert, this can be done directly over the pasta water; check to make sure they don’t get mushy.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Sauté the onion until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.  Lower to heat to medium low and add the radicchio, garlic, and walnuts, stirring occasionally, until garlic becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the steamed asparagus, sage leaves, and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is done, drain and add to vegetables.  Add honey and cheeses and stir well to thoroughly coat.  Taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper if necessary, and serve.

01 November 2013

Make it at Home: Lentil Loaf

I appreciate a great restaurant, but I'm cheap and like eating in my pajamas, so I always want to steal my favorite recipes and make them at home. This Grinch-like spirit has inspired a series of "Make it at Home" posts, starting with this one, in which I attempt to copy some of my favorite restaurant dishes so that I won't have to change into respectable clothes.

A good lentil loaf used to be hard to find, but vegetarian cafes like Chicago Diner and Sweet Melissa's in Laramie, WY have figured it out. This is a simple, lightened up version of the old 1970s brick that turned so many of us off of vegetarian eating in the first place, and it's just as homey and comforting as a greasy meatloaf made with low-grade meat and filler, without having to ingest cartilage.

Hearty Lentil Loaf

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups lentils
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups cooked rice (I like jasmine)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup barbecue sauce or ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large soup or stock pot, simmer the lentils in water or vegetable broth until cooked, about 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly then mash the lentils until they are half mashed.

Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Combine the onions, garlic and olive oil with the mashed lentils and add the rice, salt, ketchup or barbecue sauce, sage, and Italian seasoning.

Gently press the mixture into a lightly greased loaf pan. Drizzle a bit of extra ketchup on top if desired.  Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Goes great with horseradish mashed potatoes (just mash some potatoes with garlic, olive oil, and horseradish.).

25 October 2013

Autumn in Jackson Hole...

Not quite as catchy as the original, but I'll take it over New York, actually. Visiting Jackson last week reminded me of its charm, and I though I'd share some of my favorite spots with you, dear readers, in hopes that you will make a stop in the Cowboy State to enjoy the splendor that is the Northwest corner.  A weekend is enough, and you should definitely not spend the whole time in town with the Tetons right there.


The Bird: great burgers and a chill vibe.

The Bunnery Bakery and Cafe: pleasant sandwiches, great homemade pie
The Kitchen: swanky new American with a generous helping of seafood
Nikai Sushi: the other stuff's OK, too, but this is my favorite sushi in Jackson

Phone numbe

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar: Gaudy Western tourism at its best.  You have to stop in this place.

Roadhouse Brewing Company: Original brews on tap served by beer nerds.

Snake River Brewing: Great beer, good food


Atelier Ortega: Chocolatier and dessert bar; the coffee's good, too!

Hungry Jack's General Store: The most practical place to purchase your ostrich boots.

Queenie & Co.: High-end vintage women's clothing

18 October 2013

Steamed Fish with Better-than-Tartar Sauce and Rice and Lentils Provencal

This recipe uses a lot of parchment paper and aluminum foil, but the waste makes clean-up so easy. The earth will forgive you.  Steam some vegetables while the fish cooks (or roast them in the oven with the fish) and you've got a light, healthy, slightly fancy-like meal ready in about 30 minutes including prep time.

Steamed Fish with Better-than-Tartar Sauce

Serves 4

4 medium filets of Swai, Barramundi, or some other delicate, mild white fish
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh tarragon
4 bay leaves
1 garlic clove, pulverized with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle
Zest and juice of ½ fresh lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup thick plain yogurt
1 teaspoon capers
Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven at 425°F. Lay out four generous squares of parchment paper for wrapping around the fish.
Rinse fish and pat dry.  Sprinkle both sides lightly with salt.  In the middle of each piece of parchment, lay down one bay leaf, one sprig each of oregano and tarragon, and then evenly distribute the sliced onions.  Lay one piece of fish on top of each pile.  Bring two opposite ends of the parchment paper straight up together and fold down towards the fish until snug.  Do the same with the other ends.  Wrap each piece of fish this way, then wrap each bundle tightly in pieces of foil. Place fish bundles on a baking sheet and bake at 425°F for 20 minutes. When finished, unwrap and serve on individual plates or a platter.

Meanwhile, assemble the Better-than-Tartar Sauce: combine all ingredients, garlic through salt and pepper, and stir thoroughly.  Serve alongside fish.  Leftovers can be stirred into mashed potatoes, tossed with pasta and steamed vegetables, or drizzled on any other vegetables or seafood.

If you have a little bit more time, serve with...

Rice and Lentils Provencal

Serves 4 as a side

1 cup jasmine or other long-grain white rice
½ cup red lentils (do not substitute a heartier lentil here)
3 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 oz. chopped mushrooms of any kind
1 large tomato, cored and diced
Mixed fresh herbs, chopped: parsley, tarragon, rosemary, basil, mint…

Combine all ingredients in a rice cooker or large saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed (it should be a little saucy), about 25-30 minutes.  You can check periodically and make sure the water hasn't evaporated; if it does, just add a little bit at a time until the rice is done.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

15 October 2013

Lucky Fins Grill in Greeley could be somethin'

A new restaurant has moved into the old Blockbuster in the Centerplace shopping center (lordy, I sound like I'm reviewing Olive Garden in North Dakota...which was good, by the way).  Will it last?  I have yet to crack the code on what people in Greeley like. (For example, why is Red Robin so popular? And who eats at 3 Margaritas?)  But this place just might be the right balance of hip decor, inventive food, and shortcuts to the keep the price down that it might last a while.

Lucky Fins is a Boise, ID based restaurant; the Greeley location is their second. The menu boasts an impressive selection of "fresh" (for Colorado) fish, fruity cocktails, and a good selection of local beers on tap. The vibe is techno-geek sports bar with spare, industrial decor and a laid back atmosphere.  I think this place could cater to people looking for a slightly hipper, more urban feel than they can usually find in Cowtown.  But there are some caveats.

First, let's talk about what was truly terrific.  The Ahi poki on the appetizer menu was wonderful.  Generous chunks of raw sushi-grade tuna were accompanied by a small seaweed salad and a flavorful, light sauce, as well as ginger and wasabi.  I could eat that treat every day. Then there was the Mediterranean Mahi-mahi on special the night we visited, and it was excellent in every way.  The fish was cooked perfectly--flaky yet moist. The sauce was creamy, but much lighter than an Alfredo, and flecked generously with fresh herbs. The lemony rice pilaf was actually flavorful, fluffy, and a great compliment to the fish.  And the grilled vegetables included a great assortment of squash, artichoke hearts, broccoli, and more, and were lightly seasoned and left crisp-tender.  This was an excellent meal.

However, those grilled vegetables did taste a little bit like propane, revealing a probable short cut in the grilling process on that chilly October night.  And the other dish we ordered, the lobster tacos with lavender butter, were slightly better in the hypothetical than in real life.  The lobster was very well prepared--tender, buttery, and mild.  The fresh pico served on top was a lovely compliment.  And the lavender butter was...well, it was so intriguing I had to try it.  But in the end, the tacos tasted like well-prepared fish tacos that had been rubbed with a bar of soap.  I think there might be a reason you don't normally sea lavender butter on lobster tacos.  Any amount probably would have overwhelmed the delicate flavors underneath, and this particular preparation certainly did.

The beers on tap were great.  The cocktails were mostly geared towards those who prefer a little booze with their sugar water.  This will probably go over just fine with their main clientele, middle-aged Weld County citizens who have just gotten done shopping at Target a few doors down and want to treat themselves to something different.  I tried the cucumber-lime saketini, and it was powerfully sweet and limey; I don't think that could possibly have been fresh lime juice in there.  Or if it was, there was also a simple syrup thrown in for good measure.  It went down easily, but it was awfully bright and slightly artificial tasting.

We were treated to a free dessert of Captain Crunch Fried Ice Cream.  Sounds interesting, right?  Like the lavender butter, it didn't work as well as it sounded.  There was so much oil in the crunchy coating that it mostly tasted like canola, and very little like Captain Crunch.  This could be fixed, though, and I would encourage them to do so.  Because without the weird canola oil flavor, this would have been pretty fun to eat.

In general, I think these guys really know how to cook fish, and they care about the quality of their ingredients.  The more creative-sounding menu items were the most disappointing for me, but when it comes to preparing seafood, the kitchen's skills are solid.

Every weekend, some special seafood is flown in and featured on the rotating menu board.  Happy hour is 4-6pm on weeknights and offers some drink discounts. The service is friendly and the wait staff are generally knowledgeable about what they're selling. If you're in town from New York or Japan or some other riparian location, you're probably going to roll your eyes at this place.  But if you have been limited to land-locked seafood restaurants in the Rocky Mountain West, I think this place can definitely keep up with your needs. I will happily give them more chances to wow me; I think I'll just avoid the lavender butter in the future.

11 October 2013

Cold weather: a great excuse to drink!

Alright, it has already snowed here in Wyoming and northern Colorado--like, a lot.  If that doesn't make you want to break out the rum, you must be a better person than I.  Or just crabbier!

Cinnamon Toast
Makes 1 drink

  • 1 1/4 ounce(s) Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
  • 6 ounce(s) hot apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon(s) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon(s) cinnamon

Add hot apple cider and Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum to a glass rimmed with sugar and cinnamon.

Serves 1

  • 1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce dark rum
  • 1/2 ounce port
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Or perhaps whiskey is more your style...

Chancellor Cocktail
Serves 1

  • 2 ounces blended Scotch whiskey
  • 1 ounce ruby port
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Stir well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass; it should pour a luminous garnet red.

Serves 1

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • club soda
  • 2 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon

Place the sugar cube (or 1/2 teaspoon loose sugar) in an Old-Fashioned glass. Wet it down with 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters and a short splash of water or club soda. Crush the sugar with a wooden muddler, chopstick, strong spoon, lipstick, cartridge case, whatever. Rotate the glass so that the sugar grains and bitters give it a lining. Add a large ice cube. Pour in the rye (or bourbon). Serve with a stirring rod.

04 October 2013

The laziest pasta dish you might ever make from scratch

Fall always makes me crave Brussels sprouts.  Perhaps because it's when they go on sale?  This dish requires minimal work and minimal cleaning afterwards; the vegetables roast in the fat rendered from the bits of bacon tossed in, and the whole thing is tossed with some vinegar-laced pasta at the end.  It's comforting and slightly reminiscent of sauerkraut.

You can replace the Brussels sprouts with chopped green cabbage, green beans, broccoli, or some frozen peas (just toss them into the pasta when it's almost done cooking).

German Pasta

Serves 4

1 pound noodles (linguine, fettuccine, or something else relatively wide)
1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut into quarters
½ yellow onion, diced
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch wide pieces
½ cup apple cider vinegar
zest of one small lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
sour cream or plain yogurt for serving

On a foil-lined baking sheet, evenly distribute all the chopped vegetables so that none are overlapping.  Scatter the chopped bacon evenly across the top.  Place in the oven at bake (no need to preheat) at 425°F about 25 minutes, or until bacon is crisp.  Stir the vegetable around a couple of times during this process to make sure nothing burns.

Bring a salted pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain, place in a large serving bowl, and stir in the vinegar and lemon zest.  Toss with the oven-roasted vegetables and bacon, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with a dollop pf sour cream or plain yogurt on top.

02 October 2013

The anti-arsenic Clif Bar

During certain times of the year (like now, which is why you are getting other people's recipes today--shut up if you don't like it), I barely have time to sleep or use the toilet, let alone eat a nutritious, well-balanced meal. My choices while driving between rehearsals and concerts are generally tan-colored fast food or energy bars (strangely, they are also tan-colored).  I have long chosen energy bars thinking that they were good for me, but lo and behold, they're filled with arsenic.  Awesome.  So now I have to make my own, damnit, and I'm not happy about it.  Luckily, these homemade options are delicious, easy to make (and to find ingredients for), refrigerate and freeze well, and are non-carcinogenic.  I've posted one of these before, but here are my top picks for reasonably healthy, filling snacks on the run:

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
from Averie Cooks 
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cup oats (whole rolled, not quick cook; use certified gluten-free if necessary)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (reduce/increase to taste)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (reduce/increase to taste)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Optional: Add raisins, nuts, chocolate/white/peanut butter chips to the mixture.
Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir by hand.  Spread batter (it will be pretty moist) into a foil-lined and spayed 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pan.  Bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  The bars may still look underdone, but that’s ok because they will continue to set up as they cool.  Allow to cool very well before slicing.  Store extras on the countertop, refrigerator, or in the freezer for long term storage.

Peanut Butter Banana Oat Breakfast Cookies with Carob / Chocolate Chips

2 ripe bananas, mashed until smooth & creamy
1/3 cup peanut butter ~ creamy or chunky 
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 scoop vanilla protein powder ** (can be made without, cookie will just be lower in protein)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal  ~ uncooked  (or use old fashioned oats for more oatmeal texture)
1/4 cup chopped nuts (peanut, walnut, or your favorite)
1/4 cup carob or chocolate chips (**optional)

Preheat heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix mashed banana & peanut butter until completely combined then add in the applesauce, vanilla protein powder & the extract~ mix again until all are completely combined.

Add in the oatmeal & nuts to the banana mixture & combine.  (** add the optional carob / chocolate chips at this time if you want them mixed throughout)

Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Drop cookie dough, by spoonfuls, onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet & flatten cookies into circles. (** if you just want the carob / chocolate chips on the top of the cookies, add now)

Bake cookies approx. 20-30 minutes (some like their cookies less cooked, some cooked more - try it both ways to find which works best for your tastes) or until golden brown & done.  Remove from oven & let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to cooling rack.  (if you want the traditional fork tong marks on the cookies, use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to score the tops of the cookies while they're still warm)

No-Bake Energy Bites 
Makes about 20-25 balls

(PS--These are amazing right out of the freezer.)

1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional)
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (Mine were about 1" in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Heidi Swanson's Oatcakes from Super Natural Every Day

Makes 12

3 cups rolled oat
2 cups spelt or whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
 2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup flax seeds
¾ cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup peanut or coconut oil
1/3 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup maple syrup
½ cup natural cane sugar (we use brown sugar in my house)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the top third of the oven.  Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan.

Combine the oats, flour, baking powder, salt, flax seeds, and walnuts in a large mixing bowl.  In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the oil, butter, maple syrup, and sugar and slowly melt together.  Stir just until the butter melts and the sugar has dissolved, but don’t let the mixture get too hot.  You don’t want to cook the eggs on contact in the next step.

Pour the oil mixture over the oat mixture.  Stir a bit with a fork, add the eggs, and stir again until everything comes together into a wet dough.  Spoon the dough into the muffin cups, nearly filling them. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges of each oat cake are deeply golden.  Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes.  Then, run a knife around the edges of the cakes and tip them out onto a cooling rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.