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Entries in whole-grain



This month, I’m keeping cool

In this month’s column, we talk about heat. And what to do about it. Turning on the oven and stove isn’t so inviting when just standing around makes you sweat, but when hunger strikes, what’s there to do?

It can be tempting to find shelter in the air-conditioned confines of your favorite restaurant, or pull a container of frozen yogurt from the freezer and call it a day. But when nutrition is top priority, as it is around my house, neither of these options fully satisfies. 

Which is why I wanted to create a menu that involves very little cooking, if at all, and can be served no matter what the temperature. Enjoy it inside, eat it by the pool, or even pack it for a picnic if a shady patch of grass is within reach. Minimal work, maximum nutrition.

See here for the article and other recipes. Below, quite possibly the best dessert I’ve made in a while.

Raspberry Oat Squares :: Makes 9

1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp. water 3 pints fresh raspberries, rinsed 2 Tbsp. raw or Turbinado sugar 3 cups rolled oats 1/2 cup pecans pinch of sea salt 4 Tbsp. maple syrup 3 Tbsp. olive oil or melted coconut oil

  1. Preheat oven to 375’. Stir water into ground flaxseeds and set aside.
  2. Place raspberries on a cutting board and sprinkle with raw sugar. Gently mash with a fork , leaving some pieces of fruit bigger than others. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, add 2 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup pecans, and sea salt. Pulse until mixture is coarsely ground. Add 2 Tbsp. maple syrup, 1 Tbsp. oil, and the flaxseed-water mixture. Pulse again to combine, until mixture forms a lightly moist dough. Add more water if necessary.
  4. Press dough evenly into an un-greased 8×8 pan. Pour raspberry mixture evenly over the top. 
  5. In a medium bowl, toss 1 cup rolled oats with 1 Tbsp. maple syrup and 2 Tbsp. oil. Once evenly coated, sprinkle mixture over the raspberries in the baking dish. 
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until top is toasted and raspberries are bubbling. Allow to cool completely, or else raspberries will not set. Once at room temperature, slice into squares and serve.

Peaches, berries and summer fare

It’s our last morning of a week-long retreat in the mountains of Lake Tahoe. As I type, sitting in front of a wide, sun-lit window, I am gazing out over the calm, glassy lake and marveling in the stillness of nature. 

I have had plenty of time to cook and bake this week. Somehow, whenever I’m on “vacation,” I am not only hungrier but I crave sweet treats much more often. I am definitely not one to ever skip dessert, but since my family is so active I wanted to make something that wouldn’t weigh us down. 

This had me grabbing peaches and berries by the armful. Fruit makes such a wonderful dessert. Inherently sweet, and you don’t need much to dress it up. I used the fruit all week long in so many ways!

Juicy peaches and blackberries made a quick cobbler. A great topping is the one here, or you could simply toss some oats with maple syrup and butter (or coconut oil) and sprinkle over.

Baked oatmeal always tastes so indulgent for breakfast. Like cold pie on the day after Thanksgiving. This one, based on the recipe here, used peaches, blueberries and almonds.

Plump and delicate raspberries were the stars of these unbelievable bars. The crust is based on the one I use for Pecan Pie Squares, only with maple syrup instead of brown sugar. With only a handful of ingredients necessary to throw them together, along with their ability to be served warm, at room temperature, or cold, I’ll be making these all summer long. 

Stay tuned for recipes in the coming posts. With the holiday weekend upon us, these next few days are sure to find me feasting some more. I’m anxious to know: What summer fare will grace your tables?


Cupcakes and coconut palm sugar

There’s nothing like a trip to Napa to remind me what I love about food, life and friends. This charming valley is full to the brim with culinary excellence, winemaking passion, the friendliest people and the freshest ingredients. Lustful eating is what I do there, usually throwing dietary precautions to the wind and chowing down with the best of them. It was a wonderful two days, to say the least. 

Our trip was a welcome relief from the insanity that is my brain these days. In the midst of the usual tasks consuming my time, a I spent a great deal of energy last week on a few rather large decisions that will determine my life for the next few years. I’m one of those people who just can’t sit still: Tell me to be patient and I’ll have a panic attack; hold me back and I’ll develop anxiety; tell me to slow down and I’ll feel lost. I love speculation, I love planning, I love knowing what I want and when I want it to happen. But sometimes, it really is so much more useful to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride of life. I’ve been trying to do a lot of this lately, because I know myself and I know better. It’s hard, but I’m riding on the belief that everything will work out for the best. Not knowing can be very, very exciting.

So, feeling rested, rejuvenated, well-hydrated and anxious to leap and bound into the future, I decided that cupcakes were in order. Celebration-of-life cupcakes. I recently became owner of the BabycakesNYC cookbook (by Erin McKenna) and I’ve been so excited to try my hand at one of her vegan and gluten-free confections. In an attempt to avoid a $100 grocery bill, I purchased just the unusual essentials called for and otherwise used what I had on hand, paying close attention to Erin’s substitution guidelines. The best part? With an egg-free batter, licking the bowl is almost mandatory. Enjoyed with a good glass of bubbly wine, they’re perfect.

But because I have yet to modify the recipe to suit my own tastes, I regrettably cannot share the exact recipe here. For now, I will tell you about Coconut Palm Sugar, which I used in place of the agave and/or cane sugar that are staples in the BabycakesNYC cookbook.


:: Coconut Palm Sugar ::

While browsing the bulk bins at Whole Foods the other day, I came upon a peculiar looking substance with a deep caramel color and rough, coarse-crystal texture. Coconut Palm Sugar, the label read. Eager to try some, I grabbed a scoop and continued on my way. After returning home and doing some research, I discovered that this sweetener is of a unique breed*. 

Relative to most other sweeteners on the market, coconut palm sugar has a lower GI (glycemic index) value of 35. The glycemic index is a tool that measures how quickly the sugar content of foods is absorbed into our blood stream. Agave nectar is said to have a low GI value, but at 42 it’s still higher than my new coconut-derived friend. 

Also, coconut palm sugar is 70-79% sucrose. Having followed Sarah Wilson’s recent sugar-free adventure, I know that fructose is the type of sugar we should watch out for. Both agave nectar and raw honey are pure fructose, as is the sugar found in fruit; so logically-speaking, can I feel a bit better about sweetening my treats with sucrose? I like to think so…

Finally, I learned that coconut palm sugar is extremely rich in nutrients, trace minerals and vitamins of the B and C variety, making it nutritionally superior to all other sweeteners on the market. We have to be careful these days to make well-educated choices amidst all the media’s diet hype, with “natural corn sugar” claiming to be “great in moderation.” Please. Although sweetened treats aren’t a regular occurrence for me, I plan to explore coconut palm sugar’s potential as a replacement for maple syrup and honey, my usual dessert suspects. If you try it, let me know what you think!

What are your sweeteners of choice? What’s your view on sugar?


*Source: Big Tree Farms


This month, time is of the essence

If you’ve ever skipped breakfast due to time constraints, this post is for you.

Last semester, I used to get up at 4:30 a.m. out of necessity. See, I really like getting up early; 5:00 is no big deal for me, even when I don’t have to be anywhere until 10. The morning hours are my absolute favorite time of day, and I savor them. But when I had to get up at 4:30 and rush like a madwoman just to stuff a bite or two of quinoa porridge in my mouth, I had issues. 

I watch my dad leave the house between 6:15 and 6:30 every morning, sometimes taking the time to sit down and eat, unless he’s running late, when he’ll scurry out the door with some sort of portable breakfast in hand. And this works fine for him. But if you ask me, breakfast should not only be mandatory, it should be enjoyed. Somehow I don’t think that many of us remember the importance of nutrition when we’re trying to be speedy. So I took it upon myself to teach us all how.

This month’s column focuses on easy breakfast ideas to make ahead on Sunday and enjoy all week long. You’re going to feel like such a star when you wake up Monday morning and… breakfast is already waiting for you! Read the column here

Remember this baked oatmeal recipe? It’s perfect for the new organized and efficient you. I’m sure it would be a hit with kids, too!


Blood Orange & Barley Cake

Busy doing nothing. That’s what I’ve been up to. Taking time to just be, not setting an alarm, lolling around in bed until (gasp!) 8:00 am. Going for walks, stretching, cooking all my meals to end up as warm, comforting bowls of goodness, lingering in DeMartini’s (our local produce supplier) and tasting each different variety of apple like a selection of fine wines.  I went over to Berkeley on Friday with two of my best girls, for the whole day, to do some yoga and sit in cafes.  This week, I haven’t noticed anything but what’s going on in that exact moment.

I’ve had lots of time to read, too. Last week it was Good to the Grain; this week it’s Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Food. With recipes separated by the seasons, Shafia hopes that each one will bring us closer to the farmer, the earth, and our own health. It’s my habit, as a full-time student, to read anything like a textbook: absorbing important tidbits, marking inspiring passages with a pencil, constantly thinking about how and where to apply this new knowledge. I have pages upon pages of notes from cooking and nutrition books alone. Naturally, both of these texts have been quite influential in my recent kitchen concoctions.

Combining tips and tricks from Kim Boyce’s ode to whole grains with seasonal and eco-conscious inspiration from Lucid Food, I came up with a cake that showcases the best of both worlds. Blood oranges, a wintertime treat, sit glazed in honey atop a Turbinado-sweetened crumb of whole-grain barley and wheat flours. The first try was lucky– I pretty much got what I wanted, and everyone at the party I brought it to seemed to like it. Next time, though, I might use more fruit on top for a prettier presentation. And perhaps try peeling away some of the bitter skin, although I’m not sure if the slices would still hold together or not. I’d also use less cloves– the amount listed here has been reduced.

With cookbooks as my text and the kitchen as my office, creating food like this is my favorite way to learn.

Blood Orange & Barley Cake with Cloves

Ingredients for topping: 3 blood oranges, sliced into thin rounds 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter (I used clarified butter/ghee throughout the recipe, and I really liked the result. It gave a nice earthy-sweet and toasty flavor– perfect with the cloves.) 4 tablespoons honey

Ingredients for batter: 1 1/2 cups flour (1 cup white whole-wheat, 1/2 cup barley flour)  3/4 teaspoon ground cloves 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature 3/4 cup Turbinado sugar 2 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 tablespoon dark rum 1/2 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 350′.

To make topping: Melt butter in a cast-iron skillet and add honey. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring, 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add orange slices on top of butter in a concentric circle design, overlapping slightly.

To make batter: Sift together the flours, cloves, baking powder and salt. Beat butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated. Beat in orange juice, then remaining flour mixture, just until incorporated. The batter may appear slightly curdled.

Spoon batter over orange slices in pan and spread evenly. Bake in middle of oven until golden, springy, and a tester comes out clean, 45 minutes or so. Remove from oven and let stand in skillet 5 minutes. Invert a plate over the skillet and invert cake onto the plate, keeping them firmly pressed together. Replace any oranges stuck to the bottom. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons more rum, if desired, and cool. Can be served warm, room temperature, or refrigerated overnight.