Recipe: roasted almonds

Roasting almonds is one of the easiest things in the world to do. You might buy your almonds already roasted, but roasting them at home is more fun. I’ve been roasting my own for a few years and finally decided I needed to write down a recipe since they never turned out the same. Note that these measurements are approximate; feel free to skip the measuring or branch out with your seasonings.

  • 4 c. raw almonds
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgen olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. black pepper, finely ground
  • 1 tsp. salt, finely ground (I found that regular salt didn’t stick to the almonds, so I tried popcorn salt. If you have an electric grinder, grinding your preferred salt should work too.)

Stir almonds and olive oil until the almonds are uniformly coated. Add the seasonings and stir until spread evenly.

Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300° F. (150° C) for about 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cool before serving.

Recipe: relatively healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

These cookies are like breakfast muffins except in cookie form… probably an attempt to trick your brain. So, if you’re looking for a crisp, chocolatey bit of sweetness, these cookies aren’t it. But they do carry their own charm if you’re willing to give them a try.

I started making these cookies about the time I tried to eliminate refined white sugar and flour from my everyday diet. I still make them today, but I added the “relatively healthy” modifier because although they’re healthier than regular cookies, I’m not sure how healthy they are when I eat them in uncontrolled quantities. 😉

Like most cookies, they’re best fresh. Make sure you serve them with milk or tea if they last for a few days.

unbaked cookies on baking sheet
  • 1 1/4 c. oats
  • 1 1/2 c. oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 5 Tbsp. (70g) coconut oil, melted then cooled
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce (I peel and puree an apple. 1 apple = about 1/2 c.)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • at least 100g chunked dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix ingredients. Chill dough for about 10 minutes. Press each dough ball before baking (see photo). The cookies hardly spread at all, so you can fit a lot on 1 cookie sheet.

Bake at 350° F. (180° C) for 15 minutes or until done. Makes about 30 cookies.

Recipe: arroz con leche

This recipe is one of my winter favorites. Warm, milky, cinnamony. Mmmm. You can make it how you like it. Sometimes, I add more milk. Most times, I skimp on the sugar.

  • 1 c. (200g) white rice
  • 4 1/2 c. water
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 c. hot milk
  • 1 1/2 c. (320g) sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (Cinnamon sticks come in varying sizes. Use 3 of the ones that fit inside spice containers. Use 1-2 of the long sticks.)
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 egg yolks, beaten
  • ground cinnamon
eggs and cinnamon sticks with dishes

Bring rice, water, and pinch of salt to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and boil gently about 20 minutes, or until water is almost absorbed.

Add hot milk, sugar, cinnamon and second pinch of salt to cooked rice.

Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thick but still soft and moist. Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks.

Slowly pour in egg yolks while rapidly beating them. (Note: you can use a whisk here, but I prefer using my hand-held blender which also smooths the rice and froths the milk. It’s your preference.)

Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve warm or chilled.

Recipe: chimichurri

After I had chimichurri at an Argentinian restaurant in Chicago, it kept coming to mind in the same powerful way as salt and vinegar chips, which make my saliva glands pop by just thinking about them.

Then I moved overseas. But I hunted down red wine vinegar and made myself a batch. My roommate and I grew a movie night tradition that revolved more around chimichurri than the movie. We toasted it on baguette slices. Sometimes I would catch my roommate eating spoonfuls out of the blender before I could slap it on the baguette.

I will say that if you try this recipe, make sure that everyone around you is trying it too. The power is not just in the taste, but also in the lingering garlic that oozes out of your very pores.

From what I understand, this is a sauce that is typically served with grilled meat. But I will eat it here or there, say! I will eat it anywhere! Also note, a little bit goes a long way… unless you’re me.

  • 2 c. packed fresh parsley leaves (chopped a little for your blender’s sake)
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. olive oil
green chimichurri sauce spread on rye crackers

Place all of the ingredients except the olive oil in the blender. Pulse until ingredients are roughly combined. Slowly add olive oil. Blend until relatively smooth. Refrigerate for several hours before serving to allow flavors to meld.

Enjoy on meat or well, anything you choose. 🙂

Recipe: bissap

Ready to say goodbye to the summer heat? Well, maybe we can’t say goodbye quite yet, but that gives us an excuse to pull out this recipe for bissap, or hibiscus tea.

I first fell in love with this drink in Mexico where it came under the label “jamaica.” Now in Spain, the recipe has a bit of an African flair. Do you have access to dried hibiscus? Have you even looked for it? This recipe will make it worth your while…

Note: Bissap is meant to be a powerful burst of flavor, but you can water it down to taste.

  • 50 g (about 1 c.) dried red bissap (hibiscus)
  • 1 1/2 liter or quarts of water (Some will evaporate and you’ll end up with a little more than 1 liter)
  • 125 g (heaping 1/2 c.) sugar
  • 1 8g packet of vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. orange blossom water (Orange blossom water adds a distinct taste. If you’re not sure you’ll like it, start with 1/2 tsp. or mix with fresh squeezed orange juice instead.)

Rinse bissap flowers in cold water and drain. Bring water to a boil then add flowers. Cover and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for another 10 minutes. Stir in sugar and vanilla sugar. When cooled, strain and add orange blossom water. Serve chilled.

Recipe: chocolate-coconut granola

With the descent of summer, do you need a recipe for cold breakfasts? I’ve been faithfully using this granola recipe for the last several years. Granted, it has evolved over the last several years and feel free to keep it evolving to fit your preferences. 🙂

  • 5 c. Old-Fashioned oats
  • 1 c. unsweetened coconut
  • 1 c. walnuts
  • 1/2 c. unsalted sunflower seeds (if you use salted seeds, omit salt from the ingredient list)
  • 1/3 c. ground flax
  • 3 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 generous tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Stir dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine:

  • 1/3-1/2 c. honey (I use 1/3 but, as a rule, I don’t like things very sweet)
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla

Stir and then pour over dry ingredients. Stir granola until well mixed. Bake on cookie sheet at 325° F. (160° C) for 40-45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Aim for golden brown. After the granola has cooled, add:

  • 200g (approximately 1 1/2 c.) dark chocolate, chunked
granola on baking tray
Note: double recipe pictured above

Recipe fail: mousse au chocolat

We tried. Twice. And then I tried by myself a third time. I am still determined. Every time I think of mousse I had in France, I begin stockpiling chocolate and cream.

The first failure was completely my fault. My roommate and I had even purchased precious raspberries to garnish the mousse. But then I tried to whip the egg whites in the same mixer that I had just whipped the cream… without cleaning the bowl.

Yah, so I didn’t know.

We tried again. In the meantime, we watched the cream and chocolate mixture slowly sinking. What should we do? We decided to stick the chocolate mixture in the refrigerator to preserve it. Wrong choice. When we finally folded in the egg whites, we discovered that the chocolate had chilled into ribbons.

We still ate it and it was still amazing especially with luscious raspberries, but we knew we could do better.

So we tried again about two months later. This time, it would be perfect! Instead, we over-whipped the egg whites so that they settled into little pools in the bottoms of the ramekin dishes while we ate dinner. Plus, the chocolate had sat too long and so, although it was warm, it wasn’t warm enough, and beaded as we folded it into the cream. So the mousse was grainy and watery. But somehow still amazing.

small dish of chocolate mousse with chocolate shavings

But I knew we could do better. So one afternoon, I had a guest and decided to try a third time. I felt fairly confident even though I was on my own this time. I would whip the whites into perfect elf hats and whisk the yolks into the chocolate while the chocolate was still warm enough.

Instead, the chocolate stiffened when I whisked in the egg yolks. I tried heating it again, but you probably know how that goes. In the meantime, the egg whites began to sink.

With nothing to lose because it all was a failure anyway and I would just have to serve my guest snack mix and pretend I had never tried, I whisked the globby chocolate mixture into the cream until it was 100% incorporated (forget the 10 folds limit!). Then I folded the sagging whites into the chocolate and cream, poured rather than spooned it into ramekin dishes, grated some chocolate on the top and stuck it in the fridge for time out.

I pulled it out before my guest arrived, just to sample it. Heavy instead of fluffy. A little like mousse meets fudge. Before I realized it, I had eaten the entire dish, but don’t worry, there were 3 more dishes to share with my guest. 😉

If anyone has a mousse au chocolat recipe that is easier than what I’ve tried, I would love to have it! (Note: none of the chocolate pudding and cool whip stuff. I love that too, but it will never transport my taste buds to France.)

Or maybe you have your own mousse story…

Recipe: dahl

This is one of my “go-to” recipes. I eat this every week because I like it that much. Wanna know why? Try it! (And then let me know if you like it.) I typically make a double batch, but I left the calculations for the single batch just in case you don’t like it as much as I do.

stacked cans of coconut milk and tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced or sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, or more to taste. (This amount is mild.)
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 c. (200g) lentils, soaked
  • 400 ml can of pureed tomatoes
  • 400ml coconut milk (I use light, but don’t. Full fat is better.)
  • 2 cups chicken or beef broth
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2-3 handfuls fresh spinach

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently until golden brown. (This takes a while, but the trick to amazing flavor is patience. My Pakistani friend told me, “It’s better just to forget about them for awhile.”)

Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper and cook for a few minutes. Add remaining spices and cook for another minute. 

Add the lentils, pureed tomatoes, coconut milk, and broth, and stir to combine the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes until lentils are soft (the liquid will reduce during this stage). Remove from heat.

Stir in the lemon juice and spinach, or simply serve spinach as a side for everyone to add themselves. Delicious with basmati rice (and delicious without, really).

Recipe: harira

This tomato-based soup is a classic North African dinner, served especially in the winter and during Ramadan. Although unfamiliar as a dish, you might find something familiar in the mild, comfortable flavor. Harira tastes like a food I grew up with, even though I didn’t.

After tasting many versions of this soup in both North Africa and Spain, it’s the aroma that gets me every time. Nostalgia creeps in around the time I add the parsley and cilantro.

The recipe isn’t hard, but note that it takes a lot of stovetop time!

  • 225 g (1/2 lb.) beef, diced into tiny pieces
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 beef soup bones
  • 1 kilo (2 lb.) tomatoes, cooked and pureed
  • 1 handful garbanzos, soaked but not cooked
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 2 handfuls dry lentils
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste combined with 2 c. water
  • 1 stalk celery (with leaves), chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. broken vermicelli (I like to use whole wheat)
  • 1/2 c. flour combined with 1 c. water (Although it’s not traditional, I use oat flour.)
  • water

Brown the beef in the olive oil.

Add the soup bones, pureed tomatoes, garbanzos, onion, spices, and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for an hour.

Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, celery, parsley, cilantro, and 2-3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 90 minutes.

Add vermicelli and simmer until tender.

Thicken the soup to a silky, cream-like consistency by gradually adding the flour and water mixture, stirring constantly. Simmer soup for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add salt, pepper, or any of the other spices to taste. Serve in small soup bowls with large soup spoons… or slurp it right out of the bowl! Serves about 8.

Note: If you want a soup with a louder flavor, go light on the water that is added throughout the recipe. Everyone has their way of preparing this dish, so feel free to be creative.

Recipe: chai

Looking for a warm drink to carry you through winter? This is still one of my favorite drink recipes, although it’s more American than Asian. (I am still learning how to make the real stuff.)

sieve with chai and cardamom seeds
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 chai or black tea bags , or 2 Tbsp. (4 g) if using loose leaf tea
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp. ground)
  • 6 cardamom seeds, crushed (or 1/2 tsp. ground)
  • 1 whole clove (or 1/8 tsp. ground)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 1⁄2 c. milk
  • 1/4 – 1/3 c. (50-67 g) sugar

Combine everything except milk and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in milk, return to a boil for 1 minute. Stir in sugar (to taste) and strain before serving. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.