Saturday, August 23, 2014

a simple perfect salad.

This week has been a hard week for me. I've been out of work with a neck injury, and I haven't been handling it so hot. Not being able to work leaves me feeling pretty useless, especially when I'm limited to what I can even do around the house. Of course, I probably pushed it a little more than I should have, cleaning and cooking. Leaving plenty of time to float around, pity parties sprinkled here and there. 

One thing that always seems to lift my spirits is a simple, balanced, light salad. One that feels like it could come from a restaurant. Taking the time to make myself something that not only nourishes my body, but my mind, and soul. Not like this salad was very time consuming, or labor intensive.... Actually quite the opposite. It just felt like a fancy schmancy treat. 

I had roasted a couple organic local beets a couple nights before, so this was stupid quick and easy to throw together. If you've never tried beets, or you have some traumatic childhood experience of canned beets, or beets prepared by a grandparent that was perhaps encased in gelatin, or perhaps in combination with something equally as awful.... say.... canned asparagus.... Pleaseeeeee give them another chance. The first time I had beets in a way that made my heart sing, I was at East Side King, here in Austin. If you know anything about Paul Qui, anything he touches is gold. Well his beet fries are no less golden. I remember taking the first bite and going "Holy ish. I like beets." It was a profound moment. I've had a nerdalicious addiction to food porn via foodgawker going on about 5 or 6 years now. I've seen so many beautiful photos of beets... in combination with goat cheese, balsamic vinegar (my crack), done in dessert with mint.... The color was so beautiful, but I just had a false reality in my head of what beets are, and taste like. I grew up mentally allergic to vegetables in general, and have come a LONG way in my adulthood overcoming my fear of vegetables, and beginning a life long love affair with delicious dirt dwellers. 

Okay okay.... the salad. 

First, I'm going to have a mini rant on balsamic vinegar. I've turned into a little bit of an oil and vinegar snob, and it's all thanks to an amazing little shop here in town called Conolios. This place is a wonderland of sorts. You walk in, and 3 out of 4 walls are occupied by the most phenomenal infused olive oils and dark and white balsamic vinegars I've ever seen/tasted. The best part? You can sample each and every one. Talk about epic salad dressing people! 90% of my salad dressings are home made, using their exquisite products. For anyone who is interested, and doesn't live in Austin, they have a website you can order most, if not all, of their oils and vinegars. Check em out --->

So for this particular dressing, I used their Cinnamon Pear Dark Balsamic, with their Basil olive oil. Any good quality balsamic and oil will work for this salad. I do not believe in drowning my greens in dressing. The way I dress is a drizzle of vinegar, and a drizzle of oil, + salt and pepper. I toss it, and add more if needed. Soggy greens make my eyes soggy with tears. Don't drown your salad. Use salt and pepper to bring out flavors. 

Here's my vague but excellent and hard to screw up recipe:

Arugula Beet Salad with Candied Nuts & Goat Cheese
Serves 2

4 fat handfuls of arugula, divided (6 if you have tiny hands)
1 roasted beet, chopped (to roast-wrap in foil, drizzle with olive oil, bake at 400 for an hour, or until fork tender)
4-6 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese, divided
4 tablespoons chopped candied nuts, divided (choose your fave from the bulk section, or make your own!)
drizzle o' balsamic vinegar (I used Conolio's Cinnamon Pear)
drizzle o' olive oil (I used Conolio's Basil Olive Oil)

Divide greens between your salad bowls/plates. Drizzle your nizzle....errr I mean oil and vinegar (less is more!), season with salt and pepper. Toss with salad hands, or get intimate with your food and use your hands! Taste, add more as needed. Top with chopped beets, goat cheese, candied nuts, and DEVOUR! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

peanut butter flax cereal bars.

I absolutely love protein/snack bars such as Luna Bars, Cliff Bars, etc. What I don't love is that bagillions of ingredients, AND I've come to learn that even though a large portion of their ingredients are organic, they aren't GMO-free. (Whyyyyyy!?!)  Don't get me wrong, I'm not swearing them off for good, but for around a buck a bar, I felt like I could have a more cost-effective equally as delicious snack, and feel good knowing I don't have to read a short story to know what they're made of. 
I don't usually count calories, but out of curiosity I did a little middle school mathematics, and found they came out to around 110 calories per bar,  between 2 and 3 grams of fat, and around 4-5 grams of sugar. Of course, this will vary depending on what kind of chocolate (and how much you use),  nut butter, sweetener, and protein powder (or not) you choose. Don't be afraid to experiment with different ingredients than I used, this recipe is super flexible! The one thing I tried that I wasn't happy with was doing part real PB, and part PB2 (powdered peanut butter that you mix with water) They ended up a little chewy, which I later realized was because of the water I mixed in, which soggified (cool word huh?) the cereal. 


Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Flax Cereal Bars
15-20 servings (you can cut them as big or small as you'd like)

3 cups Enjoy Life Crunchy Flax Cereal (can sub an organic brown rice cereal too!)
1/2 cup organic salted peanut butter (watch out for added sugar!) (link to my favorite here)
1/2 cup organic brown rice syrup (or other sticky sweetener, like agave!)
3 tablespoons protein powder (optional, I used Vega protein smoothie in vanilla)
1/2 tsp salt
3oz dark chocolate bar, or 1/2 cup-1 cup of dark chocolate chips, depending on how thick of a chocolate layer you want! (I used Lily's Dark Chocolate, sweetened with stevia!)
Coarse sea salt, for sprinklin'! (optional)

9x13 baking dish (use an 8x8 if doing a half batch!)
parchment paper
silicone spatula (or two)
2 medium kitchen bowls (atleast one should be microwave safe)
1 small microwave safe bowl

//how to//
Line your baking dish with parchment paper, leaving extra hanging over the edge. In a medium bowl, mix together cereal and protein powder. In a microwave safe bowl, or in a saucepan on the stove, mix together PB, rice syrup, and salt. Heat and whisk until completely mixed. Pour PB mixture over cereal, and use a silicone spatula to mix and coat evenly. Quickly transfer mixture into your parchment-lined pan, and using your hands (slightly damp hands to avoid sticky icky) press cereal mix into pan, relieving yourself of any built up stress by pressing and mashing until flat, even, and gorgeous. In another microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate at 20 second intervals, stirring after each, until completely melted. Using a silicone spatula, spoon your melted chocolate heaven over your bars evenly, until completely covered. I like doing a verrrrry thin coating, so the cereal is just covered. Mo' chocoalte, mo' betta, so make your chocolate layer as thick as you wanna! Lastly, if you so prefer, sprinkle over the coarse sea salt sparingly, but evenly.
If you are impatient like me, place your pan in the freezer for quicker chocolate hardening.... Otherwise, the fridge will do! Once the chocolate has solidified, lift your bars out of the pan, holding onto the parchment paper, and onto a cutting board. Cut into 20 pieces, or more or less if you choose!

snack on, friends.