A few years ago, a family member made a delicious cookie ball that required no baking and instead, a little freezer time. I ate them with great gusto and told myself, “I need to try making those myself.” I was emailed the recipe and then, like most things, I promptly forgot about it. I’m not sure what made me think of this recipe again. Maybe it was a random search of my Gmail account? Perhaps something I saw on Pinterest? I blame mommy-brain for my complete lack of memory on how I came up with this recipe again.
It was my daughter’s birthday and I needed something simple to make with a group of ten preschoolers. I figured, no bake, what could be easier? I adapted the recipe considerably to make things much healthier and was absolutely astounded at how good these cookies turned out when we were done. No seriously…best dessert I’d had in a VERY long time and that was saying a lot.
Ever been to a restaurant and wonder how even a simple salad tastes so much better than what you make at home? Chances are, it’s the homemade vinaigrette. Store bought salad dressings, even the supposed healthy ones, are still loaded with oils you don’t want (canola and soybean), thickeners you don’t need (guar gum, xantham gum) and unnecessary sweeteners (sugar). All these additives help to make the product shelf stable, but don’t do much for taste or your health. So what’s the solution? Make your own. Today’s recipe is one of my personal favorites, although both our cumin lime and honey mustard dressings are pretty awesome too. When people come over for dinner, they always ask how we make our dressing and I figured it was time to share.
Making salad dressing is not an exact science. Every time I whip up a jar, it’s slightly different since the ingredients available in my fridge, garden, and cupboard are ever changing. When we first committed to not buying dressing (one of the few resolutions that actually stuck!), we used one of the Good Seasons salad dressing cruets, the type with the measurements right on the glass. We followed the measurement markings, but instead of adding water and the “dressing packet” we sprinkled in fresh herbs instead. Things have evolved ever since, especially with the revelation that our garden produces thyme, oregano and rosemary year round. In preparation for this blog post I measured everything out so I could put together a coherent recipe to follow. I hope you love it as much as I do.
While this may drive some of you crazy, you don’t need to be exact with your measurements. I use a mix of red wine and balsamic, but you can use whatever vinegar blend you like. If you adore the sweetness of the balsamic flavor, go for just balsamic vinegar. For all the herbs below, fresh is best, but in a pinch, dried will work. If you use dried, you’ll need a bit more of each since they are are not as flavorful. In order to make this dressing “pop” and taste of restaurant quality, you will need at least 1-2 fresh herbs. If you are picking herbs from your garden or using fresh from the market, make sure to wash them thoroughly by soaking them in a bowl of clean water and letting the dirt sink to the bottom. Always get organic when you can. For the garlic powder, make sure it is pure garlic powder and not garlic salt or a seasoning with extra additives. If you don’t mind the raw garlic flavor, a small clove of garlic put through the garlic press works too. As far as the container, old salad dressing containers work beautifully. Really, any old glass jar will do as long as it has a tight-fitting lid.
Balsamic & Herb Vinaigrette
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp fresh Thyme leaves, stems removed, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, stems removed, minced very fine
1/2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, stems removed, minced
1/2 tsp fresh minced basil leaves or dried basil
1/2 tsp fresh minced parsley leaves or dried parsley
1/4 tsp ground mustard (or 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp minced shallots, red onion or scallions
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chop all your fresh herbs very finely, especially the rosemary. Add ingredients into the glass jar in the order listed above, with the exception of salt and pepper. Put lid on the glass container and shake vigorously until powdered ingredients are fully incorporated. Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking. You can also do this in a food processor and pour in the oil in a fine stream while the processor is running. But this method involves more dishes and special equipment, which may scare some of you off and is really not necessary. This dressing is best after it has been sitting for 4-24 hours in the fridge, but can be used right away. Store in the refrigerator and shake well before pouring on your salad.
I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, and I was vegan for 16 years. While my views about the best diet for me have shifted somewhat, one thing has not changed since I was a child: a fascination with food and how it affects our bodies, our planet, and our relationships.
In addition to being vegetarian, my family always had a garden, and I remember the exquisite pleasure of walking barefoot among tomato vines that were taller than I was, feeling the prickly hairs on the stems tickle my nose as I leaned in to smell the ripe tomatoes, and biting into one like an apple, the sun-warmed juices running down my chin. My parents grew their own sprouts, made their own tempeh, and banned processed sugar from the house. When I went to public school, I got teased about the “bird seed” (honey-covered sesame seeds) in my lunches, but I also convinced several friends to taste (and enjoy!) my homegrown sprouts dusted with nutritional yeast.
When I became vegan at age 12, I thought it was a way to make a sacrifice for the health of the planet, but I found after many years of reliance on soy foods that my body was suffering. I was also alienating myself from other people, especially when I would travel and have to refuse food offered to me without being able to explain why. I felt like the costs in terms of my own health and my relationships were too high.
In the last five years, I’ve returned to a passion for locally grown whole foods. My partner and I are members of a CSA and we try to visit the farmers market every week. He eats meat, but his choice comes out of careful thought and I respect it. He is an importer of equitably traded vanilla beans from Madagascar, and he thinks a lot about food and how it relates to social justice and the environment. I know our diet differences will spark some spirited debates if we have children, but that’s also important to me—constantly questioning what we believe. I love hearing about what people eat and why.
Many people in the U.S. think it’s a luxury to spend time choosing and preparing our own fresh food, but I think it’s the opposite. It feels as if our “luxuries” have removed us farther and farther from our food sources, and this is part of what’s making us so unhealthy. I’m guilty of this too—I often prioritize other tasks over shopping for and eating healthy local food, but I feel so much happier and more energized when I’m paying attention to my diet. I get sick less, I sleep better…and hence I have more time and energy to spend on the rest of my life!
If you think you don’t have time to shop at the farmer’s market and prepare food from scratch, try to eliminate one non-essential activity from your life (Words with Friends, anyone?) and spend that time focusing on food in a way that makes you feel good. I think the most important thing is that we simply pay attention to what we eat. Putting a little bit of focus on what you eat is guaranteed to improve your diet. (This is partly why it’s so crucial for everyone in California to vote Yes on Proposition 37, which will help us to be informed about what we’re eating). For an interesting perspective on U.S. food issues and our lack of attention to what we eat, check out The Sun magazine’s interview with Joel Salatin, the founder of Polyface Farm.
Here’s a recipe we came up with during our endless experiments with vanilla. I love this recipe because you can get all the ingredients from trusted local sources. It was the most popular dish when we cooked brunch for 18 people recently. It also fills the house with lovely smells. Don’t be afraid of including vanilla in a savory dish—it’s very subtle and delicious!
Chloë’s California Quiche
For the crust:
2 c. (packed) grated raw potato (from 2-3 peeled potatoes)
1/4 c. grated onion
1/2 t. salt
For the filling:
1/4 c. caramelized onions
1 ear fresh sweet corn (kernels cut from the cob)
1 small vanilla bean
1/4 c. creamy goat cheese or other cheese of your choice
4-5 large eggs
3/4 c. half & half
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix the crust ingredients together and press the mixture into a 9-inch pie tin. Bake the crust for 30-40 minutes. You can brush it with a little vegetable oil if it looks like it’s drying out too much. If you’re worried about the edges getting too browned, you can cover them with tin foil.
While it’s cooking, mix the eggs and half & half. Add salt and pepper as desired. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and using the tip of a knife or a spoon, scrape the tiny vanilla seeds (the “caviar”) out of the pod. Add the seeds to the egg mixture and whisk to distribute evenly.
When the crust is done, take it out of the oven and turn the heat down to 350F.
Spread the quiche fillings (reserving a bit of the cheese) along the bottom of the crust, then pour in the egg mixture. Add the rest of the cheese to the top, and then put half of the vanilla husk in the center of the dish (for decorative purposes—the husk is too tough to eat!). Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until firm, and serve with a farmers market salad.
About the author:
Chloë Gladstone is a writer and doula living in Oakland, California. She is also on the board of directors for Green Branch, a mobile children’s library focused on social justice and environmental issues.
This video is crazy. Who would have ever thought that a simple plastic water bottle could be THIS cool. While you probably won’t understand anything the woman is saying, you will definitely learn how to separate the egg yolk from the egg whites using only an empty bottle. I may just have to whip this one out at our next dinner party.
Something tells me we are going to be seeing a $14.99, “As Seen on TV” version of this very soon.
On Easter Sunday, I went to visit my friend Meg. We had a morning photo shoot to help promote her new show ‘Garden Wise’. Afterwards we had lunch together, which she made from scratch: fresh focaccia bread and salad from her garden. She had prepared the dough ahead of time so all she had to do was roll it out. We worked on the toppings together and she popped it in the oven (great idea for a party or to do with kids). The smell of bread baking filled the house, and I couldn’t wait to try it. She pulled the focaccia out of the oven, steaming hot and golden brown. We enjoyed it in the garden under the blossoms of the orange tree, truly a delicious meal. The taste of the warm, fresh bread dipped in olive oil was fantastic! The olives, rosemary, and garlic were a great combination. It occurred to me that maybe my life could be just a little bit better if I made my own bread. Here is the recipe if you want to give it a try for yourself…
When I order an egg salad sandwich from a deli, it’s never as good as my mama’s. It’s generally dripping in mayo and has way too much crunchy celery. I recall my mother dipping her finger in the mixing bowl and giving me a taste of the still-warm goodness while being asked if it needed anything. It rarely did. The egg salad of my youth is a creamy, curry-infused concoction that people of all ages enjoy. My love of egg salad has not waned over the years and is now one of my favorite things to make with my own daughter.
We often have other little 4-year-olds over at the house and I’ve discovered that egg salad sandwiches are something that virtually every kid likes. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the kiddos are always very involved in the cooking process and by the end, can’t wait to build their own sandwich. This is my mama’s awesome recipe which only takes about 30 minutes to make, including the time to boil the eggs. If you are prepping with kids, check out the notes at the bottom of the post for ways they can help you in the kitchen.
I must admit, when I first saw Daniel Klein walk by me during the conference breakfast, I was a little starstruck (just like most celebrities, I expected him to be taller!). There he was in the flesh instead of in some barn in the middle of nowhere interviewing a farmer.
Klein is a true mover and shaker in the food movement. He is extremely passionate, open and kind. Oh, and a little crazy. You see, he and his love, Mirra Fine (aka the cameragirl), travel around the country creating mini documentaries about sustainable food. For almost two years they’ve released a new film every week. I’m not even sure how you drive to some far away destination, film for hours, edit for hours, add cool music (from unknown and unsigned bands no less!) and release a film that showcases a tiny part of sustainable America. Klein and Fine are The Perennial Plate.
I’ve been following this dynamic duo for 8 months or so and genuinely enjoy their work. Meeting them in person at the 2012 Edible Institute earlier this month brought my admiration for what they do to a whole new level. It was amazing to hear them speak and tell their story.