Category Archives: Food

Finn’s Peanut Butter and Sweet Potato Cookies (for good dogs)

sand

There are many things in my life for which I give thanks, but this little guy is something special. Finn was abandoned in rural Arkansas, along with his mom and litter mates, when he was only a few weeks old. Just a few months later, he had become a true Rhode Island dog, discovering the joys of rolling around in washed-up seaweed, the satisfaction of a hard day spent attacking garden hoses, and the benefits of hanging out around the grill when salmon is on the menu. He isn’t the bravest of lions: thunder, fireworks, garbage trucks, balloons, computer power cords, and men with large beards are all good reasons to hide under the bed. He’s really more of a Boo Radley than a Huckleberry Finn, but what he lacks in courage he makes up for many times over in sweetness, silliness, and a sometimes exasperating degree of cleverness.

If you’re lucky enough to be some dog’s special human, you probably know what I’m talking about. We dog people could go on forever about our slobbery companions; I am not ashamed to admit that I have way more photos of Finn that I do of myself (he is much more photogenic). But this post isn’t just about me gushing over what an awesome dog I have (he is awesome though). This is about thanking Finn, and all the other pups of this world, for being the best carbon-based life forms ever. Whatever we human beings manage to achieve during our existence on this planet of ours, we will never be as awesome as dogs are. We’re so lucky they like hanging out with us so much.

(This is also, admittedly, a bit of an apology on my part, for not bringing home any Thanksgiving turkey leftovers for this poor dog. Alas, there were none left to take; graduate students had pilfered it all already.)

When you’re being thankful for all the good things in your life — family, friends, not being run over by holiday shoppers on various missions to conquer Black Friday like it’s the elusive superboss of Consumerism: The Game — don’t forget about the pup! Bake your little scoundrel some of these treats, and they’ll probably forgive you for spending all of Saturday in line at Target instead of spelunking through the neighborhood’s leaf piles with them.

Finn’s Peanut Butter and Sweet Potato Cookies

(Though I’ve changed it substantially, the original recipe for these treats is from Yvette Van Boven’s Home Made, a fantastic cookbook that everyone should have. There is a section dedicated to planning the ultimate hangover meal. What more could you want?)

cookbooks

Van Boven’s very well organized book; my not so organized notes.

Finn has never done too well with foods and treats filled with grain, which most conventional dog foods use. He is just such a sensitive kid. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find alternatives to wheat flour and other grain-based ingredients that are typically used in most dog treat recipes. I substituted the whole-wheat flour with potato flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes a good one, available in most health food stores) and the cornstarch with potato starch. If your dog doesn’t have a problem digesting grain, then go ahead and use regular flour and cornstarch. Sweet potatoes take the place of chicken in my version, since I don’t ever buy or cook it. I also used unrefined, virgin coconut oil instead of butter. Coconut oil, when unrefined, has a lot of good stuff in it for humans and dogs alike. I put a tablespoon in Finn’s food at night to help with his itchy, dandruffy skin, and apply it directly to his paw pads when all the hot pavement and salt water starts cracking and irritating his sensitive little feet (the poor guy had mange when his was little, and it was the most persistent on his paws).

doughball

The Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. virgin, unrefined coconut oil

1/3 cup salt-free chicken stock (homemade is best; avoid onions and don’t add any salt. Plain old water could also work here.)

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped.

2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter (no salt, no sugar added)

2/3 cup potato flour

1/3 cup potato starch

Preheat oven to 340 degrees F. Grind the sweet potatoes in a food processor with the coconut oil and chicken stock or water until mostly smooth (minimal chunks). Add the peanut butter and mix a bit more, then transfer into a mixing bowl. Add the potato flour and potato starch, and mix the dough with a wooden spoon until it is Play-Doh like in texture. Form dough into a big ball, dust a clean and dry counter with some flour, and roll out the dough until it is about a centimeter thick. Cut dough into fanciful, outlandish, or completely customary shapes, as your heart desires. Channel your inner child who always liked clay best out of all art class activities. If you feel like it, taste test the dough to make sure it’s “safe.”

finncookies

done

I highly recommend lining a baking sheet with some parchment paper. It keeps the treats from sticking without using butter or sprays, and makes cleanup a lot easier, especially if you are dishwasher-less, like me. Bake for 20 minutes, then check to see how the treats are doing. I ended up leaving mine in another 10 minutes; they should be a golden-brown when they are about done. Allow them to cool before tossing one to your impatient and drooling friend, and store in an airtight container.

thegent

creative inspiration and credit goes entirely to Van Boven and Verschuren’s photography work for this one.

Since this batch did have chicken stock in it, I have no idea what they taste like, but Finn immediately brought his first cookie over to his bagel bed, dug out a safe hole in the bedding, circled around two or three times, and then devoured it. So that’s a good sign.

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salads don’t have to be torture

As a mostly-vegetarian, I dread the words, “but you can just have the salad, right?” Thankfully, in the years since I first became a no-fur, no-feathers eater, vegetarian options at most restaurants have become much more common. Still, every once in a while, I’ll be faced with a meal of lettuce, dinner rolls, and maybe a few potatoes, if luck is with me, and it isn’t a clam bake. I take these moments in stride; having an unconventional diet means that sometimes I just have to make do. But I do get so tired of salads, and the assumption that being a vegetarian means that all I want to eat are vegetables, and the more problematic (and usually gendered) association of salads with dieting and weight hysteria. When I have a salad as a meal, I don’t want to be dreaming of pumpernickel bagels and cream cheese afterwards (although I do love dreaming of pumpernickel bagels).

figpomsalad

This salad of mine was really simple and quick. I was inspired by some fresh figs I found at the market; not cheap, but definitely a worthwhile treat. Figs are quite delicate and don’t have a very long shelf life, but they are really versatile and really good for you. Eat them as is, throw them in some plain yogurt with a bit of raw honey, your morning oatmeal, or even a pasta dish. I love them tossed with roasted vegetables and some fresh linguine or butternut ravioli, and I am dying to try Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for fig challah, which would have been the perfect addition to this little meal of mine. Sigh.

Anyway, the salad: I used Organic Girl’s I heart baby kale lettuce mix, my current go-to in the prepackaged greens department, with some fresh oregano thrown on top. Then I added the pomegranate seeds. I tried to trap as much of the excess pomegranate juice as I could in a measuring cup, to use in my dressing along with my favorite fig-infused balsamic vinegar and some extra virgin olive oil. Then came the figs, cut into fourths, some perfectly ripe avocado, and tempeh that I lightly cooked in a frying pan with just a touch of olive oil. I added some of Cypress Grove Chevre’s Purple Haze goat cheese, which is probably my favorite cheese ever, because it is lovely and because it brings together the awesomeness of goat cheese and the awesomeness of Jimi Hendrix in one little round bundle of happiness. Finally, I sprinkled on some fennel pollen and my pomegranate-balsamic dressing, impatiently took this picture, and sat down at my tiny counter to feast. I am now incredibly full and incredibly happy, though I may still dream about pumpernickel bagels tonight.

Roasted Sweet and Blue Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Fennel Pollen

One of the best things about being a runner is that your appetite tends to increase; in my case, it increases exponentially. Food is obviously an important part of a balanced training plan, to give you energy, help your body recover, and of course, serve as a fantastic incentive for finishing up those miles. Since food is both awesome and important for runners and non-runners alike, I’ll be posting some of my favorite recipes every week. They will usually be the ones that are my go-to’s, which means they won’t be super complicated or time consuming, and will tend to revolve around several key ingredients that I try to always keep around. In all my meals, I try to use foods that are nutrient-dense, to get the most out of every calorie, and high in natural flavor, so that I don’t have to add a ton of salt or sauces. This is why you’ll be seeing a lot of sweet potatoes around here: they are delicious, versatile, and very good for you.

Since I am neither a scientist nor a doctor, I’m not going to really go into the specifics of the nutrition and health benefits of the sweet potato but a good starting point is this article, if you’re curious. It also explains the whole sweet potato / yam thing, which had me seriously confused for a while. Technically I bought garnet yams today, but all that really matters is that they’re delicious.

yams

garnet yams / sweet potatoes

Blue potatoes are also personal favorites of mine. Aside from roasting them, I immensely enjoy consuming them in the form of Terra Blues Potato Chips, which have been a deciding factor more than once when choosing between JetBlue or Southwest for an upcoming flight. Sometimes, when my grocery store is out of those wonderful snacks, I wonder if it’s because I have personally consumed their entire inventory, or whether there are others out there who are equally obsessed. Blue potatoes are, like the sweet potato, significantly more nutrient-packed than your average old potato (check out this article if you need more substantiated evidence).

This is my basic recipe for roasting potatoes, which can be used for a lot of different dishes, or just eaten cold out of the fridge. Fair warning: I’ve never been very good about exact measurements when I cook. I tend to use the eyeball method, which might be why I’m not great with baking. But since you’re basically just tossing sliced potatoes with olive oil and seasoning, it isn’t an easy recipe to mess up. I’ll give you some general numbers, but just remember that it’s really done to taste more than anything. You can also, of course, use any kind of potato your heart desires; I just personally find these types to be much more interesting and delicious. I will also use this recipe for roasting vegetables like yellow squash, zucchini, and bell peppers, which are great on their own or tossed into a pasta dish.

However you want to cut the potatoes is fine. I usually slice them into round chip-like shapes, because they cook faster and are fun to eat as cold finger-food. I’m using one medium-sized sweet potato and two small blue potatoes tonight; this will leave me with enough leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner (or maybe breakfast; I have spinning tomorrow morning, so I’m going to be hungry). Throw the sliced potatoes into a mixing bowl, add the oil and seasoning, and mix it all up. This is what I usually use for seasoning:

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
About 1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen (plus more as garnish)
Fresh oregano and fresh thyme, to taste (I’m pretty liberal with them, but do as you will)

prep

oregano, thyme, and the potatoes

I’ve adjusted the amounts for the number of potatoes I used tonight, but again, I don’t usually measure so formally. I like to use enough herbs, seasoning, and oil so that all the potatoes are covered, but not dripping. There shouldn’t be too much excess oil in the bottom of the bowl once you’ve mixed it all together. You can use more or less (or no) truffle oil, depending on your preferences. It is not a cheap ingredient, but a little goes a long way (one night, I accidentally used way too much, and my apartment smelled like it for days, which wasn’t as pleasant as it may sound).

I have yet to find fennel pollen in any of my local grocery stores, so I get it online from Abe’s Market, which is kind of like Amazon for the health food junkie. Fennel pollen is really worth having around, I promise. It has a wonderful, warm flavor and aroma, is great in savory and sweeter dishes, and can be used before cooking or as a garnish. I haven’t had the best luck keeping any herbs alive in my north-south facing apartment, but if you’re lucky enough to be in a situation where your houseplants don’t give up on life the second you adopt them, it’s worth having a few potted herbs around like oregano and thyme.

Before throwing the potatoes in the oven, I grind a bit more black pepper over them, and sprinkle another light dusting of fennel pollen. I’m going to save the mixing bowl, so I can use the leftover oil and seasoning for the tempeh I’m going to cook for my salad.

ready

ready for roasting

I’ve preheated my little Breville toaster oven (which is the best thing ever) at the roast setting (350F), and am leaving the potatoes in for about 35 minutes. It’s best if you flip them about halfway through, but it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t, especially when they are sliced on the thin side. (I totally forgot this time around, whoopsies.) If you’re using a bigger oven, just keep an eye on them in case you need to adjust your timing. They’ll get a little bubbly-looking on the surface when they’re almost done, and you’ll be able to easily stick a fork through them.

done

done!

When the potatoes are done, top them with a bit of goat cheese (feta is also great, or gouda, if you’re feeling indulgent), and garnish with any remaining herbs. I’m sprinkling some more fennel pollen on these, because I’m obsessed. Now eat and enjoy! These are going into my salad tonight, which is also a great use for them as leftovers.

salad

power salads are the best salads, especially when good beer is involved

The roasted potatoes are now finishing up their existence in a mixed green and baby kale salad (one of those prepackaged mixes), with microgreen pea tendrils, tempeh, chopped brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, avocado, cucumber, kalamata olives, and an olive oil and fig-infused balsamic vinegar dressing with dill pollen. I’m going to be demolishing this feast with a Founder’s All Day IPA, my favorite beer from this last summer that is finally being stocked in Miami, thank goodness. I’ll be getting a bit more protein with dessert tonight, since I’ll be having some 2% Greek yogurt with raw honey, chopped almonds, goji berries, and a touch of cardamom. (I also have some chocolate-dipped amaretti cookies from Whole Foods, because no day is complete without chocolate.)

So now I’m going to go enjoy every single wonderful calorie on my plate, and probably finish up  season three of The Killing, a show that I highly recommend you watch beginning with the first season, unless you have an important deadline approaching, in which case, run away from Netflix. I can’t get over how awesome it is that Mireille Enos doesn’t seem to wear any makeup, at all, which is appropriate considering the interest the show has in gender issues. Also, Peter Sarsgaard is just being plain old fantastic. Ok. Enough. Thanks for reading, I’m going to go be a vegetable now.