I know weather talk is really boring most of the time but this has been a wild weather week for us so, forgive me. It was 55 degrees on Wednesday. We stayed late after school playing soccer, football, and sliding down the slide 1,000 times. Nobody had a jacket on. Then came Thursday. A storm blew in and dumped wet, heavy snow all across the island. Most houses lost power, the ferries stopped running, and school was canceled. Today, the island looks pretty and sparkly with its fresh coat of white but it hasn’t gotten warmer than 25 degrees and I do prefer those jacket-less winter days, however abnormal they are.
If you’re looking for an easy cooking project this weekend or simply want a new snack to toss into lunch boxes next week give these Popcorn “Granola” Bars a try. The list of ingredients is completely adaptable to your tastes and your pantry.
Popcorn “Granola” Bars slightly adapted from Food52
Makes 1 9-inch by 13-inch pan of bars
1 cup almond or peanut butter
1/3 cup honey, agave, or maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce or fruit compote
Olive oil, as needed
4 to 6 cups popcorn
1 1/2 cups whole walnuts or almonds or a combination
1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds (I used raw sesame seeds)
1/3 cup ground flax seed
1. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with parchment or wax paper so that you have overhang.
2. In a small pot over low heat, warm the nut butter, honey, and applesauce until melted. You want a sauce that is loose enough to cover the popcorn kernels and become evenly distributed amongst them. You may need to whisk in some olive oil (a couple of tablespoons) to achieve this consistency.
3. In a large bowl, mix together popcorn, nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut, sunflower seeds, and flax seed. Pour over the nut butter mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
4. Dump into the prepared pan, then use plastic wrap to mush the mixture down evenly. Freeze overnight, then slice into bars! Store in the freezer.
We are just hanging out this week – no camp or any big plans so I am going to make this short and sweet (can you hear the eager kids under my feet?!). Today I am sharing a favorite warm weather dinner, Noodles with Baked Tofu & Raw Veggies. I have made a million versions of this dinner (tweaking the sauce, noodle type, variety of veggies, adding a fried egg) but it always hits the spot. The leftovers are great, stored separately, for lunch the next day too. And really, what doesn’t taste good with roasted and salted peanuts sprinkled on top?! I’ve even been known to chop up a handful of salted peanuts to top vanilla ice cream. Try it, you’ll thank me. But, we digress, back to the noodles…
Noodles with Baked Tofu & Raw Veggies
1 tablespoon canola oil (for greasing the pan)
1 16-oz block extra firm tofu
3 tablespoons honey
5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 pound fresh Asian noodles (I used ramen noodles)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon toastes sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced purple cabbage
1 1/2 cups thinly peeled carrot
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
First, make the baked tofu. Place whole block of tofu on baking sheet and press with a heavy pan (I used our big cast iron) for at 30-60 minutes to release excess liquid. When ready, pre-heat the oven to 350F. Slice the pressed tofu into rectangles. Mix the honey, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and rice vinegar together. Gently toss tofu squares in the marinade and let them sit as long as you can (at least 30 minutes but you can do this ahead and store in the fridge), then lay the tofu on a greased baking sheet, brushing on any leftover marinade. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes then flip, baking for another 15 minutes. When slightly cool, slice into strips.
To prepare the salad, mix the vinegar, honey, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and chili flakes in a bowl until the honey dissolves. Prepare all vegetables and cook noodles according to package instructions. Toss warm noodles with half the dressing. Combine vegetables, cilantro, and tofu with the remaining sauce (dump in any leftover tofu marinade as well). Pile noodles onto individual plates, top with slaw, and finally with chopped peanuts.
I love a good book club (in fact I love it so much I just started a cookbook club…more on that below) – the snacks, the drinks, the chatter, and (of course) the push to read a little. But really, it’s about the snacks. All of my fellow book club members are moms of young children so by the time we all plop on someones couch and open a bottle of wine we are feeling equally exhausted and ecstatic to be face to face with friends and eat undisturbed. Our meetings are certainly a time to indulge so I recently prepared these incredibly simple but totally delicious small ice cream sandwiches built from gingersnap cookies, peanut butter, and chocolate ice cream. I ate four while we discussed Fates and Furies (our next book is Not That Kind of Girl which is comforting as I thought I was the last 34 year old fan of Girls).
And this cook book club? Well, after I realized that half the time I bring cookbooks into bed at night it occurred to me that a cookbook club would be SO FUN! especially when we all bring a dish from the chosen cookbook to our meeting – talk about a killer potluck. Our first cookbook club read was Soul, Food, Love (I made Shrimp Stew, recipe below) and now we are reading (and will cook and eat from) A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus.
^As seen on my instagrm, our kitchen awaiting cookbook club.
Gingersnap, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches
Box of your favorite gingersnap cookies
Jar natural peanut butter
Pint of chocolate ice cream
I remember seeing this recipe, or one very similar, in The Forest Feast. It’s really an idea more than a recipe. Essentially, you just spread peanut butter on two cookies, scoop some ice cream on one, and sandwich them together. Place all the assembled sandwiches in the freezer until serving time.
This shrimp stew was incredibly easy to make and feeds a crowd. I was hesitant to put a full teaspoon of cayenne pepper into the pot but the heat and flavors were perfect. At cookbook club we ate the stew over white rice but I enjoyed leftovers served over farro too.
Shrimp Stew from Soul, Food, Love
serves 6 to 8
2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
5 green onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
4 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 pounds peeled and deveined medium shrimp
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped (reserve some for serving)
Cooked rice, for serving
In a large pot, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers, green onions, and celery and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, shrimp, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, salt, and parsley, and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 hour.
Ladle the stew over hot rice in individual bowls and garnish generously with parsley.
Yesterday we celebrated Dylan’s 1/2 birthday. Yup, his 5 1/2 year old mind not only discovered that he was halfway to 6 but also discovered that he could get a homemade dessert out of it. I had to talk him out of a full birthday cake (you can’t blame the kid for trying) but we settled on these No-Bake Peanut Butter Cups. Not only are they totally delicious and simple to make but the ingredient list is short and wholesome. I loved seeing the looks on the boys faces when they asked at 7:00 am “can we have chocolate peanut butter bars now?” and my answer was “Sure thing.” That feels good.
^The 5 1/2 year old in homemade knight armor.
No-Bake Peanut Butter Cups slightly adapted from here
makes about 16 small squares
3/4 cup ground almond meal
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt
Peanut Butter Filling:
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper and set it aside. In a medium bowl, stir together all of the chocolate crust ingredients until a moist dough is formed. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the lined loaf pan, and place it in the fridge to set.
To prepare the filling, you can use the same bowl to stir together the peanut butter, maple syrup, coconut oil and salt. Depending on whether you’re using salted or unsalted peanut butter, you may want to add more salt to taste. Remove the crust from the fridge and pour the peanut butter filling over the top, using a spatula to spread it out evenly. Return the pan to the fridge to set.
Rinse the mixing bowl, and use it again, if you like, to make the final layer. Combine the cocoa powder, melted coconut oil, and maple syrup, whisking well to break up any clumps. Once the mixture has become a smooth chocolate sauce, pour it over the peanut butter layer, and return the pan to the fridge to set until firm, about an hour or two.
Once the bars are firm, grab the edges of parchment paper to easily lift the solid bar from the pan, and use a sharp knife to slice the bars into your desired size. Store them in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
I feel like I’m returning to the kitchen table of a best friend who I haven’t talked to in months – so much to say but not knowing where to start. This (almost) two month break has been the longest one I have taken from this space. And it had to happen (for many reasons). Mostly, I was busy…furiously working on the manuscript and photography for my second book (sorry no title yet). Elizabeth was behind the camera and I was at my stove, sofa, and kitchen table doing my darnedest to create exactly the book I had in mind. It is still very much a work in process but I am damn proud of all we have done. Because of this personal all consuming project, I shut myself off from many other things. This blog, side projects, and life chores like my own dentist appointments and car vacuuming were all postponed. But now, I’m on the other side and more excited then ever to be back here. I missed cooking whatever I wanted and sharing it with you.
The downside of a cookbook schedule is the strange, cobbled together meals and snacks it leaves behind. I have served a pie and side vegetable for dinner on more then one occasion over the past couple of months. Now we are a few weeks into our regular scheduled dinner and snack routine – another cause for celebration (especially for Nick and the boys).
First up, this recipe for Five-Minute No-Bake Granola Bars. They are perfect for busy people, small people, sweet people, and salty people. As the simplicity of the recipe suggests, almost every ingredient can be substituted with something else. The pumpkin seeds can be any seed or nut, your favorite dried fruit can replace the raisins, choose a sticky butter made from almonds or sunflowers, and bind with agave nectar or brown rice syrup. We stuck to this original recipe and they were delicious, especially enjoyed by a refreshed post-nap toddler.
Five-Minute No-Bake Granola Bars from Food52 Vegan
makes 16 small bars
2 1/2 cups rolled oats or quick oats
1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup raisins
2/3 cup peanut butter or almond butter
1/2 cup agave nectar or brown rice syrup, plus more as needed
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
1. Line an 8 by 8-inch pan with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, pumpkin seeds, and raisins.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, agave nectar, and, if using unsalted peanut butter, the salt; alternatively, combine these ingredients in a food processor and process until well combined. Add to the oat mixture and stir until everything is sticky and well combined. If the mixture is too dry to hold together, add a bit more agave nectar.
4. Spread the mixture in the lined pan, then cover with foil or plastic wrap, and press firmly to form an even layer. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
5. Cut into bars and warp them individually. Stored in the fridge, they’ll keep for 2 weeks.