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.
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.
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.
Are you hosting a Superbowl party? Need a kick-ass recipe to impress your guests?
Try this food-allergy friendly recipe for Slow-Cooked BBQ Chicken Thighs.
Last week we interviewed Kathy Kottaras of Subtract Soy Now (article coming tomorrow) and she shared this recipe with us. Not only is it a fabulous recipe, it’s also free from common allergens making it an excellent entree for friends with food sensitivities. Kathy explains how she came up with the recipe:
Why soy-free? Because my husband and daughter are both allergic to soy (it’s a top eight allergen), and because most BBQ recipes call for Worcestershire, which contains soy, AND most bottled sauces contain soy. I had to figure out something. The chipotle adds the smoke flavor but leaves out the soy. And family can eat BBQ again! Hallelujah!
If you follow this blog, you may have noticed a slight obsession with Greek yogurt lately. Well, the obsession has not subsided; in fact, I’m now straining my own yogurt. It was one cold evening (okay, it was about 50 degrees, don’t shoot me) and I was seriously craving dessert. I knew there was nothing in the kitchen and the idea of leaving my Snuggie for the store was inconceivable. At some point I remembered I had a little Fage in the fridge and was determined to find a way to dress it up. With a bag of frozen raspberries, I created one very simple, but divine snack that I now enjoy on a regular basis. Before you dismiss it as another tried and true yogurt combo, trust me that it’s the heat that turns this into an absolutely lip-smacking treat. Another bonus? It only has 3 ingredients, tons of protein, and takes only 5 minutes to make.
It was a very overcast and chilly day. While wrapped in several layers of clothing, I was ill-prepared for the bite of wind at sea. For the first two and half hours I was fine. It was magical actually. Seeing dolphins racing alongside the boat, calf tucked protectively under mama’s fin, amazing. I hardly noticed the ocean spray against my cheeks as I peered down into the water with all the excitement of child. We had been told ahead of time that we there was a chance we may not see whales. We were prepared, and quite frankly, convinced that there would be no sightings.