Cayenne Cocktail

I love it when friends enlighten me to something new and wonderful.  Such is the case with the Cayenne Cocktail.  Raw food rock star Susan O’Brien of Hail Merry and I were chatting the other day and she gave me a great idea for beverages to serve at the Spring Cleanse dinner party.  I must confess my ignorance as I had never heard of The Master Cleanse or The Lemonade Diet.  Far too rigorous a cleanse for me, I must admit I love the lemonade.  The original recipe contains a hefty amount of maple sugar, but since I’m not fasting I’ve made my version calorie friendly (as in none!)  by substituting stevia.   I’ve also taken the liberty of dubbing it the Cayenne Cocktail because it is tasty and merits being savored in a highball glass garnished with mint.  Before a healthy meal, naturally.

Cayenne Cocktail

8 oz filtered water

2 TBS fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 TBS organic maple syrup (I use 1/2 packet of stevia instead!)

1/10 tsp cayenne pepper

ice

fresh mint leaves

In a cocktail shaker, add water, lemon juice, maple syrup or stevia, and cayenne pepper.  Shake vigorously and pour over ice in a frosted cocktail glass. Garnish with mint.

TGIF!

Anna’s Guacamole

The night I found out I was preggo with Little numero dos, I ate an entire avocado. Maybe two.  It was a chilly December evening out at our friend’s ranch and for supper they served a gorgeous salad of avocados and tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  I seriously ate every slice of avocado on the platter.

So it should come as no surprise that this particular Little inherited a passion for avocados.  Since she was nine months old, she’s been eating them straight from the skin. Gratefully her siblings appreciate the green goodness too, and woe be the day that mama doesn’t have avocados in the fruit basket.

The avocado-loving-littlest is now eight.  For the last two years, the guacamole making responsibility has rested squarely on her shoulders.  In fact, she’s down-right territorial about her method and ingredients.  I’m honored she’s letting me share her tried and true guacamole recipe with you today.

All measurements are approximate because, like her mother, she just adds and tastes as she goes.  You should do the same!

Anna’s Guacamole

2 large avocados, preferably organic

1 lime

coarse sea salt (generous teaspoon or two)

cumin (several shakes, probably 1 tsp)

red onion (2-3 tablespoons, chopped)

cilantro (1 -2 tsps, chopped)

In a large bowl, scoop out avocados.  Add the juice of 1/2 lime (reserve the other half for garnish or additional juice if needed), salt, cumin, red onion, and cilantro.  With a wire whisk blend all ingredients together until well blended with large segments of avocado remaining.  Taste until perfected (or gone!).

Let’s Retake Our Plates

Whole Foods Market recently launched an awareness campaign Let’s Retake Our Plates.  I love the concept.

Every bite has a story.

If  you don’t know the story behind your food, don’t eat it.

Here’s a trailer for a film called Nourish: Food + Community that is part of the Film Series Whole Foods is hosting.  Maybe you’ll recognize a few faces, namely Jamie Oliver and Michael Pollan.  I applaud Whole Foods for launching this awareness campaign.  I’ve seen most of the films and encourage you to watch them too.  Your eyes will be opened and the story of what’s on your plate will become increasingly more important.

Have fun exploring the Let’s Retake Our Plates site.  And come back and let me know what you learned or found to be the most interesting.

Roasted chickpeas with a KICK!

I love roasted chickpeas.  Also called Garbanzo Beans, these petite peas are packed with protein and fiber and the crunch is irresistible.  Sometimes I toss them in salads or use as a garnish for other vegetable dishes.  Mostly, I just keep ’em hanging out in a bowl on the counter for hungry Littles to grab and go as they zoom from one activity to another.  They are also a great ‘tizer to nibble on while you enjoy a glass of wine.

You can use dried chickpeas, but I stock up on the organic cans when they are on sale at Whole Foods or Central Market.  Experiment with seasonings and herbs.  There are infinite possibilities.  My latest fave is with a double dash of cayenne pepper! A handful of these will have you kickin’ up your heels!

Roasted Chickpeas

1 (15 – oz) can chickpeas or garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained)

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp coarse sea salt

2 big dashes of cayenne pepper

After rinsing and draining chickpeas, dry thoroughly on paper towels.  In a small bowl combine olive oil, sea salt, and as much cayenne pepper as you can handle.  Add chickpeas and stir to coat.

Spread chickpeas onto a foil lined roasting pan and roast at 450 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes.  Keep a watchful eye on the peas towards the end of the cooking.  You’ll know they are done by their golden color and crisp texture.

Mexican Quinoa Salad

Tonight I’m cooking for 50 people. It’s a dinner party to kick off a Spring Cleanse lead by Dr. Jeff Ulery and Neissa Springmann of iGnite.  When these creative geniuses behind the event asked if I’d help cook for the fete I jumped on the bandwagon.  We’ve had a great time coming up with a healthy menu to kick off the twenty-one day cleanse.  In addition to Lemon-Dill Baked Salmon and Pork Tenderloin with Raspberry Salsa provided by our lovely hostess, we will be serving a variety of side dishes that are easy to prepare and pack a nutritional punch.

Joining us for the Spring Cleanse? Subscribe (click the button in the top right corner of this page) to The Schell Cafe for recipes to help you continue on your health journey. Even if you aren’t part of the Spring Cleanse, you’ll want to hang around for the tips and resources coming up!  We can all use easy, healthy meal options, right?

We’ll kick the Spring Cleanse off with a tasty Mexican Quinoa Salad.  The flavors will satisfy your Tex-Mex cravings, and you’ll be filled with all the nutritional wonders found in the quinoa.  I’ve written about the benefits of the super seed before, and for the last couple of years quinoa has been a staple in our home.  Even the Littles love it! Especially when it appears as the star in their favorite brownies!

Mexican Quinoa

2 cups quinoa, rinsed

4 cups liquid (I use 2 cups broth, vegetable or chicken, + 2 cups water)

1 white onion, chopped

2 large carrots, diced

1 tsp cumin

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 1/2 cups sweet corn

1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/2 cup cilantro chopped

Dressing

3 Tbs walnut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)

4 Tbs lime juice (1 large lime)

3 Tbs water

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 TBS cumin

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp coarse sea salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

Rinse seeds in a mesh sieve with plenty of water. Quinoa is coated with a natural substance that can taste bitter if not properly rinsed.

In a large pan with a fitted lid, saute olive oil and onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add chopped carrots and saute until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add quinoa and stir in cumin to cover seeds. Add water/broth to pot and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes until all water is absorbed.  Fluff quinoa with a fork and remove from heat to cool.

While quinoa is cooling, prepare the dressing.  In a small jar with a lid combine oil, lime juice, water, garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Shake vigorously to combine.

When quinoa is cooled, place in large mixing bowl.  Add tomatoes, corn, beans, onions and stir completely to combine.  Fold in cilantro and toss with about 1/2 of the dressing.  Use more or less to taste.

Serve salad room temperature or cold.  This salad will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator which is a good thing as this recipe makes a lot! The quinoa will absorb the dressing quickly, add more from the reserved jar (to taste) as you continue to enjoy your quinoa salad for lunch, snacks, or dinner the rest of the week.

Community Sustained Agriculture!

It’s here! It’s here! Our first bushel of the season.  For those of you hanging around the cafe long enough, you know I’m a huge fan of Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) and we are blessed to be part of Tecolote Farms.  Our weekly baskets of fresh picked produce began today and for the next several months, each Monday, I will be giddy with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.

Today’s basket included two big bags of fresh salad mix, savoy (crinkled) spinach, garlic, leeks, parsley, and mustard greens.  And to kick off the season, Katie and David tucked a birdhouse gourd in the basket.  Isn’t that cool?  Harvested last fall on the farm, they dried all winter in the greenhouse and are a special gift from our friends.  Littlest is currently outside trying to hang the birdhouse on the playscape.

I’m off to rescue the birdhouse gourd, but I can’t wait to share recipes with you inspired by the farm and the season.

Quinoa Snack Bars

I’m so grateful for the abundance of information out there in the wide webby world.  My baptism into a gluten-free/dairy-free kitchen has been pretty smooth, so far.  Mostly because of the amazing bloggers who so generously share their talents and tricks for creating yummy treats without the not-so-yummy irritants.

Snacks for the Littles have been the most challenging part of the new regime.  Cranky, after-school Littles need snacks.  And I need something to fill the Clif Kid ZBar and Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies void that so often filled their tummies on the way home from school.

This weekend I did a little spring cleaning and gave away all my baking and cooking supplies that contained wheat, gluten, and dairy.  The cupboard was bare, but quickly filled up with some suspicious looking characters.

Toto, something tells me we’re not in Kansas anymore!

Seriously?!?  I have sorghum flour and xanthan gum in my pantry.  (P.S. Spell check doesn’t even recognize the word xanthan).  With the goal of creating yummy, healthy snacks, the Littles and I have been on a baking experimentation frenzy.  I bake. They taste.  So far? We have three delicious winners — all scoring four thumbs up!

Hands down, Quinoa Snack Bars are our new favorite on-the-go snack.  I found the recipe at The Gluten-Free Goddess.  Heaven help us if the rest of her recipes are as divine as this one.  She is already a goddess in my book.  My version is not egg-free, but check out her original masterpiece if you and eggs are not currently seeing each other.  I made a couple tweaks, but really these bars leave little room for improvement.  Even if you aren’t intolerant, allergic, or sensitive (really what is the pc term?) to gluten or dairy, you must try these bars.  They are loaded with goodness from the quinoa flakes and flaxseed.  And if my picky Littles love them, chances are yours will too.

I cut the bars into small 2-inch squares, individually wrap them, and keep them in the snack drawer of the fridge.  They freeze really well, too,  and only take about 20 minutes to defrost at room temperature. These bars are perfect to toss into backpacks, lunch boxes, and gym bags.  For the record, we are on our third batch of Quinoa Snack Bars in one week.  And to think, only one short month ago, I would have let spell check auto correct xanthan to Xanadu.

Quinoa Snack Bars

1 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup organic quinoa flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1 cup quinoa flakes

2 Tbs flaxseed

1 tsp xanthan gum

3/4 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 2/3 cups organic light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 cup oil (I used canola)

3 Tbs organic maple syrup

1 Tbs vanilla

2 – 4 Tbs of water or almond milk (as needed for proper dough consistency)

1/2 cup raisins

2/3 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 11 x 9 – inch baking pan with lightly greased parchment paper.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs and add oil, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Combine wet ingredients into dry and mix well.  If dough seems too dry add water (or almond milk) one tablespoon at a time, until it is a thick and sticky consistency.

Fold in raisins and chocolate chips.

Press dough into lined baking pan with your fingers to form a smooth surface.  Bake for 22 minutes until firm and golden brown.  Cool on wire rack and slice into 2 -inch squares.  Make approximately 40 (2-in) bars.

Enjoy!