I’m kind of in love with these.

I’ve already made them 3 times, and I want to make them today (to stave off my sugar baked goods cravings), but it’s just too hot. I’m hating the hot. (If it was cold, I’d be hating the cold, too. I’m a total room temperature junkie.)

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I love how they taste, I love how they make the kitchen smell, and I love their color in my mouth.

They have more steps than the average recipe, but I think it’s worth it. If it just wasn’t. So. Hot…

Wanna make them for me?

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Soft Pretzels (from Baking Illustrated) (makes 12)

  • 1 t instant yeast
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 C bread flour (high protein flour)
  • 1 C warm water
  • 3 T baking soda
  • 2 T coarse salt
  1. Mix together yeast, honey, salt, flour and water in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using the dough hook, knead at low speed until smooth and very stiff (5-7 min). DO NOT PUT THE BAKING SODA IN THE DOUGH! It’s for later.
  2. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, let rise until doubled 1-1 1/2 hours. Deflate, recover, and let rise until doubled again, 30-40 minutes.
  3. While the dough is on its second rise, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450. Pour 6 C water into a 12 inch skillet (I use my dutch oven) and add baking soad. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spray generously with cooking spray. Set aside.
  4. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each peice into a 20 inch long 1/2 inch wide rope. Shape into pretzels by bringing the ends towards the top, cross over, twist, and secure to the opposite edges with a little dab of water.
  5. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, gently place the pretzels into the boiling water, (top side down) 3-4 pretzels at a time for 30 seconds. Flip the pretzels over and boil for 30 seconds longer. Remove the pretzels, drain well, and place back onto the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with coarse salt while the pretzels are still wet. When all 12 are finished, bake in the oven for 12-16 minutes until well-browned.

Well, let’s face it. This smoothie has tons of sugar.

But NONE of it  comes from table sugar. Only FRUIT sugar. And I like it that way.

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My smoothie today actually came out purple, which shows the power of the costco mixed berry pack. Usually it’s green. Why green?

Because I put Vitamineral Green powder in my smoothie. About a tablespoon. Vitamineral Green is definitely the best greens powder out on the market. Not necessarily for taste, but for actual green content. There are no fillers in this greens powder, and it is packed with all sorts of hard to get green plants. It’s also raw, and wheat-free. Not too many of those out there. The best deal I’ve found is here: And you get free shipping too. One bottle this size will last you a few months. I keep mine in the fridge and I use it almost every day. 1-3 Teaspoons in your smoothie (although I recommend starting with less than 1/2 a teaspoon and building up to more because it DOES actually work down in your gut and you can feel it if you start off strong). If you have any digestive problems it really helps. At least that’s been my experience.

Because I’ve been reading the book Spent, I got interested in smoothies for breakfast. I started doing that about 3 months ago. I love it. LOVE. (recipes from Spent HERE.)

The fruit I put in my smoothie changes every day, but my staples are: 1 scoop whey protein powder (vanilla or unflavored, no added sugar), 1 T vitamineral green, and 1/2 C almond milk.

If you’ve never tried almond milk, I have to tell you, I think it tastes way better than soy.

And for fruit I use frozen fruit only. I freeze it  and I buy bags of it from Costco.

No added Sugar Fruit Smoothie:

  1. 1 or combination of frozen fruit to make up 1 C
  • blueberry, mango, strawberry, raspberry, peach, cherry, papaya, acai, or other fruit

2. Add a 1/2 frozen banana to sweeten up your smoothie if you’ve picked more sour fruit. This is the key to no added sugar. If you don’t have banana (or don’t like the taste) put about a teaspoon of agave syrup.

3. Add a small amount of a fattener (or a combination, if you like) like:

  • avocado (1/4 C avo makes your smoothie creamy and delicious), 1 T coconut oil (the flavor is amazing), 1 T almond butter or peanut butter, 1/2 C plain yogurt or 1/4 C yogurt cheese

4. Add 1/2 C almond milk, soy milk, or regular milk. No JUICE. The milks make it much creamier anyway.

5. Add a greens powder and whey protein powder, if you like. This is optional, but I recommend it.

BLEND thoroughly! I usually add a couple of fatteners myself. It will take a few tries to figure out how much smoothie fits into your tallest glass. I like to make at least 2 C and drink it on my way to school. If you use frozen fruit and not too much liquid you don’t need ice cubes.

I think the key here is the fattener. In Spent, Frank Lipman convinced me that your body needs some fat in the morning to get through the day. And it tastes awesome in your smoothie. I found that almond butter especially is amazing to get rid of the slightly funky flavor from the greens powder. Sometimes I throw in a handful of spinach, because you can’t taste that at all (even if it makes your smoothie green).

My current fav recipe for smoothie: 4 frozen strawberries, 1 quarter banana, 1/2 C mango chunks, 1/2 C almond milk, 1 T almond butter, 1/4 C yogurt, 2 t coconut oil, greens powder, whey protein powder. Dee-light-full.

Sooooo, I have a proposition for you. Come up with your most awesome smoothie recipe with no added sugar, and send it to me at cooksthink-at-gmail-dot-com, or post it on your blog and leave a comment here with the link. I will try all of them (provided I can get the ingredients in Hawaii) and I will pick my favorite. If you win, I’ll send you a bottle of agave syrup. Because I love that stuff.


Pizza Muffins

09Oct09

IMG_6443Who says muffins have to be sweet?

I know the worst part of no sugar is no sugar in the morning. I think pretty much every possible breakfast involves sugar in the morning, unless you’re like me and like to eat leftovers from dinner for breakfast.

Or you’re like me and like bacon and egg and cheese and potato sandwiches (triple fried) from Ted’s. And then you’ll need an entirely different challenge (the stop-eating-Ted’s-sandwiches-or-you’ll-die-from-heart-disease challenge. I need that challenge). Of course, it doesn’t help that after I eat my fried sandwich I usually have to eat two of their plain glazed doughnuts (plain-glazed seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?).

So I made some savory muffins with my daughter yesterday. They were extremely healthy and still tasted good. I know. How often does that happen?

And really, with someone this sweet, there’s no need for added sugar.

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Lately I’ve been trying to get Amaya into the nursery rhymes and songs I loved as a kid. I’m worried that those classic ones are being lost over time. You don’t hear many people singing or referring to them anymore. One of her favorites? Do you know the Muffin Man, the Muffin Man, the Muffin Man… Do you know the Muffin Man who lives on Drury Lane?

 Pizzazzy Pizza Muffins (p.s. Do you think making silly names for foods helps kids eat them? Probably does. I just have a hard time doing it) Adapted from Super Baby Food

Preheat oven to 400

  • Combine:
  • 1 3/4 C wheat flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 T oregano
  • Combine Wet Ingredients:
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 C bottled tomato sauce (or homemade)
  • 1 C plain yogurt
  • 1/2 C shredded mozzarella (I used about twice this)

Mix the wet ingredients into dry . Pour into greased muffin tins. Place a slice of tomato on top of each muffin, and sprinkle more cheese on the top of the tomato slice. Bake for 20 minutes.

These muffins had a beautiful golden edge and the tomato on top really helped. Next time I make them I’m going to put a dollop of tomato sauce with some cheese in the middle of each muffin too. IMG_6447


Fruity Cravings

04Oct09

My daughter doesn’t really like healthy food, but she will eat fruit. Especially any fruit she finds hiking.

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This picture is of mountain apples we picked and immediately made into a pie (a couple of weeks ago). If you haven’t had mountain apple, then I would describe this as the fruit that Adam and Eve were tempted by in the garden of Eden. Yes, it’s that good. It has a watery, soft pear-like flesh but no annoying skin issues. The sweetness has a hint of rose. Amaya would have eaten all of them herself if we had let her. She also loves guava, strawberry guava, tamarind, and lilikoi. Our friend Christian showed her a clover I used to eat as a kid (which we called sourgrass) and she is obsessed about finding these in our yard. Jake also showed her gota kola, which really tastes terrible, but she loves them simply because she feels like she is hunting them out.

IMG_6416This is an apple banana. I’ve only had them in Hawaii but they probably sell them elsewhere. They’re smaller than regular bananas and they have a slight tang and firmer flesh. I really prefer them to regular bananas.

Fruit does have sugar. I know. And too much fruit is probably similar to eating too much candy on the sugar level. But. Fruit has vitamins that a candy or brownie would not have, plus fruit has fiber. A couple of pieces of fruit a day or a fruit smoothie for breakfast can do a lot to stave off your candy, cookie, and cake cravings.

Most people like some jam, jelly, or honey with their bread in the morning or as a snack. Lately I’ve been eating a piece of bread with freshly ground almond butter and slices of fruit on top. Banana is good, but so is plum, peach, or strawberry. And it’s more filling. Try it! Even if you’re not doing the no sugar deal, you’ll like this.

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After I gorged myself on this amazing cake, I decided I need to practice what I preach.

Well, practice what I know is right, anyway.

I eat way too much sugar. Basically if you put it in front of me, I’m going to eat it. And if I think it’s special sugar, I will go for seconds.

But first, before I get to the challenge, let me tell you about this cake.

I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for the Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake. But instead of 2 1/2 C sugar, I used a scant 2 C, and I added 2 smashed bananas to the batter with the oil. I also amped up the peanut butter in the frosting to a heaping cup. The peanut butter flavor was much stronger and better with the chocolate cake. I only cooked the cakes for about 27 minutes and they stayed very nice and moist. The flavor was AMAZING all together. Lush. Intense. With just a hint of banana. You’re going to love it.

And now that you’ve bookmarked this with the intent to gorge on sugar later, I want to tell you to join my almost no sugar challenge.

Yeah, now you’ve seen I’ve tricked you. I lured you in, and now I want to lecture you.

But really, I’m guilty too, and I just want to give you a reason to jump on the wagon with me.

Sugar is bad for you. You know it, I know it, and we’ve just been living with it anyway. It’s like the  friend you said could crash at your place for the WEEKEND, and soon he’s strewn his underwear all over the living room and has set up permanent shop on your couch. I’m pretty sure I just got my first cavity in my 28 years of life, and I’m pissed at sugar. You should be too. After I made an appointment with the dentist I vowed to lessen my sugar intake. Everything I’ve been reading in the news and books about energy, food, and the planet, is basically telling me that I should do that anyway. So over the next three months, I am instituting an Almost No Sugar challenge, and I want you to join in with me. I will post information about sugar,  ideas of how to lessen your sugar cravings to break your addiction, and recipes that replace that sugar.

Here’s my first reason for giving up sugar: Less Calories. Sugar has tons of calories and we often use sugar in place of other more nourishing foods.

I want to lay down some rules about this challenge, because I don’t think it’s as simple as not eating sugar. I think most people have a hard time with that. So I want to make it possible, but also consciously about not eating sugar.

RULES for the (Almost) No Sugar Challenge: From NOW until Christmas

  1. Raw/frozen fruit is A-OK. Anytime. Sweetened fruit in desserts is not okay.
  2. Pick 2 “special” times you designate beforehand that are going to be cheat times. I’m going to use my birthday, and Thanskgiving. Also make a plan for exactly what special sugar you are going to eat on those days.
  3. Up to a tablespoon of Agave syrup in fruit smoothies is allowable.
  4. Only eat plain yogurt, with a little agave or honey if necessary.
  5. No obviously sweetened “regular” food, like granola bars, 99.9% of cereals, powerbars, lunabars, etc. Most obviously sweetened food is for breakfast.
  6. You don’t have to read labels for food. If it doesn’t taste sweet, you’re okay. This goes for salad dressings, ketchup, soups, bread, etc. If it has sugar in it, don’t stress it. Although it’s nice to avoid those things, if it’s not doable for the way you cook and eat normally, just forget it. That can be an advanced step if you’re up for it.
  7. No fake sugars, like Splenda, Equal, or other chemically enhanced sweet food. This goes for diet sodas as well.
  8. No JUICE. Smoothies yes, juice no.
  9. One or less times per week a cup of low fat low sugar frozen yogurt is allowable (I will post a recipe!).

Too many rules? Pick one you know you can’t follow and take that one out. I know some people who just HAVE to drink diet soda. Although I think that’s probably another addiction that we all would be better without, it’s true that if you have that addiction as well as a sugar addiction– dealing with both of those at once is probably not going to happen. Pick your battles.

If you want to join up, leave a comment. I have definitely noticed for myself that if I make my commitment public, I’m much more likely to stick with it.


IMG_6384A friend and coworker of mine recently stopped me at the grocery store. She came right up, with a large watermelon in her cart, and before any pleasantries came out of her mouth she said, “Watermelon, simple syrup, ginger, and lime.” Then she sighed with the kind of love that only a foodie can understand.

I can’t imagine anything more pleasant she could have said. I immediately went and bought a watermelon and did exactly what she said. And I sighed that same sigh. I brought a bowl of this to a birthday party and the birthday boy (2 years old) couldn’t keep his hands out of it. Okay, so he probably would have eaten it anyway, but I was happy. I’m still convinced that I have happened upon the recipe of the summer.

Summer Watermelon

  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C water
  • watermelon, 10 lbs or larger (oh, believe me. You’re gonna need it)
  • ginger
  • 2 limes
  1. Make a simple syrup. Heat a saucepan over medium high heat, whisking sugar and water together until combined. Let the mixture come to a slow boil and then remove from heat. Let cool.
  2. Cut the watermelon into cubes and place into a large bowl. Drizzle simple syrup over the watermelon (you can choose how sweet you want it.)
  3. Grate ginger according to taste (I used a few tablespoons). I actually freeze my ginger, and then use a rasp grater. Freezing the ginger makes the ginger easier to grate and less fibrous. I highly recommend it here because you don’t want pieces of ginger– you want a light ginger flavor. Add the ginger to the bowl.
  4. Squeeze the limes over the watermelon.
  5. Toss. I used my hands because you don’t want to squish the watermelon.
  6. Eat.
  7. Sigh.

Wild Rice Salad

24Jun09

kale

I have this problem with rice, because I ALWAYS make more than I mean to.

Always.

Then I’ve got this big bowl of it in the fridge, and I have to make more food to go with the rice, and inevitably I will need to make more rice to go with the food.

kalesaladThis time it was even harder, because you can’t eat savory wild rice with savory food. I wanted something to balance it out, and I remembered that you could put rice into salad.

I generally don’t go to salads as real food. I know, some of you out there think that salad is lunch, but me? I need something more. Otherwise I’ll be hungry in 20 minutes, and I’ll just end up eating again. So putting rice into my salad sounded like a good cheater way to eat salad, and use up my leftover, cooked rice.

I rummaged around in my fridge for things to go in my salad and found KALE! Amazingly I hadn’t already eaten it, and unfortunately, I had not marinated it to be in my salad yet (and I didn’t want to wait 24 hours for lunch). I remembered reading somewhere that you could roast kale in the oven; I figured I could wait 20 minutes for lunch. Right?

That turned into me throwing some really thin asian eggplants onto the roasting pan, and me being so proud of myself for eating my vegetables for lunch. The Kale came out AMAZING, and I had to stop myself from eating all the kale plain after it had been roasted. It tasted very similar to roasted seaweed and just melted in my mouth.

Since I also had leftover beans, I threw those in for good measure. I like beans in my salad– out of the can, black, pinto, whatever.

To cook wild rice, if you don’t have some already made stuff around, cook rice in a covered pot on the stove. For every cup dry raw rice, add 2 C water. Add a 1/2 bouillon cube per cup of rice. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for 20-25 minutes until water has soaked into the rice and the rice is cooked. RESIST the urge to stir the rice.

kalesalad2Wild Rice Salad with roasted veggies (serves 1, if you’re me, and 2 if you’re you!)

  • 4 leaves kale, chopped into 1 inch pieces, very bottom of stalks removed
  • 5 VERY skinny eggplants (Asian variety) chopped into 1 inch pieces or 1 eggplant sliced on the bias, about 1/4 inch thick)
  • 1/2 C wild rice cooked
  • 1/3 C beans (pinto, black, lentil– cooked, from the can or from scratch)
  • a few sprigs of cilantro (chinese parsley)
  • a couple of small tomatoes, cut up (about a handful of pieces)
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • lime or lemon juice to taste

To roast veggies

  1. turn oven on to 375 degrees. Toss the kale (rub the kale with the olive oil) and eggplant in olive oil, arrange on the pan spread out. Sprinkle sea salt to taste on the top.
  2. After about 10-15 minutes (watch to make sure it doesn’t burn) pick out the kale pieces off the pan and return the eggplant to the oven to cook a few minutes more after flipping them over.
  3. DON’T EAT THE KALE until the salad is ready. It’s hard. I know.

Assemble the salad

  1. Put all the ingredients except salt, olive oil, and lemon juice together in a bowl and toss. Add the salt, oil, and lemon juice to taste. I didn’t put very much salt in because my wild rice was already salty. I did add a tiny bit of lemon.
  2. Enjoy!



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