Watermelon Chaat

watermelon fruit chaat

Watermelon Chaat
serves 8

Chaat is a blanket term in Indian and Pakistani cuisine that refers to all kinds of street food and snacks.  Fruit chaat is often simply cut fruit, sometimes with a sweetened syrup and even sometimes with hot and savory spices.  For this chaat, I skipped the savory spices to make it more Americanized and topped with lime, honey, and black sesame seeds.  Fruit salads can be bland or have too many mismatched fruits so this salad uses a few of my favorite decadent fruits like cherries and blackberries along with more affordable watermelon.  

6 cups cubed watermelon
2 cups pitted cherries, cut in half
2 cups blackberries
1 tablespoon honey
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

1. Assemble a platter with the watermelon, cherries, and blackberries.  Whisk together honey and lime juice and drizzle over fruit.  Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Peanut Butter Protein Bars

peanut butter protein bars recipe

Peanut Butter Protein Bars
makes 10 bars

I'm usually not a big fan of protein powders--they can be chalky, weird-tasting, and filled with not-so-great ingredients.  But if I do use one, I stick with a plant-based protein powder (made from pea protein, a mixture of legumes and grains, or hemp).  For this recipe, I used Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Plant-based Protein Natural (unflavored).  It's undetectable in the final recipe but boosts the protein already present from the peanut butter.  I designed these bars for my clients going through chemotherapy because their protein need increases and they often don't have the appetite for things that aren't carby or sweet, but these would be great as an afternoon or post-workout snack for anyone.

1 1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup natural plant protein powder
1/2 cup honey
1/2 of a 3.5 ounce dark chocolate bar, broken apart (70% cocoa)

1. In a food processor, buzz up oats until you get a coarse flour.  Add peanut butter, vanilla, protein powder, and honey and blend until you get an evenly mixed dough.  It will be thick.

2. Take an 8x8 pan and line with a piece of parchment paper.  Press dough into the pan evenly, until it's about 1/2 inch thick.  Put in the freezer to chill for a few minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt chocolate pieces in a double boiler or the microwave.  When it's melted, remove pan from freezer and drizzle chocolate over the pan with a spoon.  Chill in the fridge for 4 hours and then slice bars.  Store bars in the fridge and serve cold, otherwise they won't hold together well.

Summer Squash Spice Muffins

summer squash muffin

Anything you can do with zucchini, you can do with yellow summer squash, both of which are abundant (perhaps a little too abundant) in the summer.  Typically, I turn summer squashes to something savory like pasta, zoodles, or grated zucchini cakes, but here I turned a little grated squash into Paleo-style muffins.  Almond meal and coconut oil make them higher in fat and lower in carbs than typical muffins, keeping you fuller longer and helping you avoid a sugar high.  I tend to avoid making or creating baking recipes that require lots of precision or specialty ingredients (even if they do turn out perfectly) so I stuck with basic ingredients here, but feel free to experiment.  These will turn out ultra-moist and juicy as well as denser and less crumbly than a typical muffin.  

Summer Squash Spice Muffins
makes 6 muffins

dry ingredients:
1 cup, packed almond flour (this is finer than almond meal and will turn out better)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

wet ingredients:
1/2 cup grated summer squash (or zucchini), patted dry with a paper towel
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

mix-ins:
2 tablespoons raisins or dried currants

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line a muffin tin with 6 muffin liners.

2. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Whisk together with a fork.

3. Combine all wet ingredients in a different large mixing bowl.  Whisk together with a fork.  

4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, folding together with a rubber spatula until just mixed.  Add in raisins or any other mix-ins.  

5. Immediately, fill muffin cups 2/3 full (you will get a lot of spread on top if you fill them fuller--this recipe won't puff up as much as traditional muffins).  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick can be inserted and removed with nothing sticking to it.  Let cool in tin for 5 minutes then cool on rack for another 15.  
 

Maple Cayenne Walnuts

Maple Cayenne Walnuts
makes 1 cup

I use this maple-glazing technique to jazz up good-for-you nuts and seeds that I don't necessarily like totally plain.  It allows me to hit my sweet craving while giving my body a snack that has more good fats and substance to it.  I only use 1 tablespoon of maple so that the walnuts are barely glazed, but if you want more of a coating, double the maple.  Watch your fingers when you remove the walnuts to a plate--the sugar gets very hot and will stick to and burn those little piggies.  Use a spoon to remove.  

1 cup of walnuts
1 tablespoon maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cayenne

1. In a non-stick or cast-iron skillet, toast walnuts on low heat for 5 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Drizzle maple syrup over walnuts and toss until maple evenly coats walnuts, getting into all the nooks and crannies.  Let sizzle for a minute or two then sprinkle with salt and cayenne.  Remove to wax paper or a plate to cool completely.  Store at room temperature in a covered container.

 

Asian Snack Mix

Asian Snack Mix
makes about 6 cups

Homemade Chex Mix is a holiday tradition from when I was a kid.  Every year my mom still makes a big batch, and we all go a little too crazy for it.  Here is my slightly "cleaned" up version of the traditional that relies on Asian flavors like tamari and wasabi to give it interest.  I used ghee (Indian clarified butter) for my version, but you could certainly use regular, high-quality butter or substitute coconut oil (I'd go with refined here as not to give the mix a super coconut-y taste).  Feel free to play around with what's in your mix (use more sprouted nuts and seeds, skip the cereal, etc), as long as you keep the ratio of dry ingredients to wet the same.

1 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup wasabi peas
2 cups whole grain or rice cereal
1 cup sprouted pepitas
4 tablespoons ghee or refined coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce (like Amy's)
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
pinch of red chile flake
sea salt to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine peanuts, cashews, wasabi peas, cereal and pepitas.

2. In a small pot, heat ghee or coconut oil and stir in maple syrup, tamari, worcestershire sauce, granulated garlic and red chile flake.  Add to the bowl and stir to combine evenly.

3. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, bake at 250 for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove and let cool.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Salted Caramel Apple Dip

Salted Caramel Apple Dip
makes 1 cup dip

So this isn't "real" caramel because there is no sugar or butter, but the combination of robust, smoky dates with a touch of nut butter makes this creamy dip worthy of all your fall apples.  Dates are rich in fiber and also contain magnesium, a nutrient essential for absorbing calcium, and also crucial to help with muscle cramping.  Lemon juice and sea salt make this dip mature and balanced.

1 cup Medjool dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond or sunflower butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
generous pinch of salt + flaked sea salt to garnish

1. In a small bowl, cover dates with hot water and let soak for 5 minutes.  Strain.

2. Combine dates, vanilla, almond/sunflower butter, lemon juice and sea salt in a food processor and blend until smooth.  You made need to add a teaspoon or two of water depending on your food processor.  

3. Garnish with flaked sea salt and serve with apple slices.

Crispy Chickpeas

Crispy Chickpeas
makes 3 cups

These oven roasted chickpeas are my go-to high protein crunchy snack and salad topper.  They are ridiculously easy to make, but do take at least 45 minutes in the oven, so plan ahead.  They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature to stay fresh.  Try them on my Kale Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes or add them to my Spinach Walnut Pasta Salad.

2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
pinch of red chile flake
generous sprinkle of salt

1. Preheat oven to 400.  On a parchment-lined sheet tray, toss chickpeas with grapeseed oil, granulated garlic, red chile flake and salt.  Roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes, tossing once or twice, until chickpeas shrink and are crunchy and crispy (but not burned).

Cinnamon Spice Kettle Corn

Cinnamon Kettle Corn

Cinnamon Spice Kettle Corn
Makes 10 cups

Upgrade your movie night by making homemade kettle corn.  No special equipment required!  I like the blend of spicy, sweet and salty so I flavor mine with a mix of maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt.

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons maple syrup
generous sprinkle of salt
2 teaspoons good quality cinnamon (I like Vietnamese)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1. In a large, thick pot, heat oil until it shimmers.  Add 3 kernels of popcorn to test oil.  When they start to pop, add the rest of kernels and drizzle in maple syrup.  Stir and quickly put the lid on the pot and let kernels start to pop.  Shake the pot back and forth on the stovetop to make sure the kernels don't burn.  

2.  When the popping starts to slow (2-3 seconds between each pop), dump out popcorn quickly onto a sheet tray and spread out with a spoon.  (It's super hot, don't touch!).  Sprinkle with salt, cinnamon and cayenne and toss together with a spoon.  Serve immediately or let cool and package into an airtight container and store at room temperature.
 

Homemade Coconut Yogurt

Homemade Coconut Yogurt
makes about 2 cups

OK. Fermenting things sounds hard. And maybe kind of messy? But this coconut yogurt is probably the easiest first fermenting project out there. And the final result is yummy, decadent and you can’t really find it in stores. A couple tips: 1) coconut milk has more fat and less protein than dairy so it will not thicken as much naturally and you’ll want to serve yourself a smaller portion. Try serving this in 1/4 cup servings with lots of berries. 2) Agar is a gelling-thickener made from seaweed—look for it in the international aisle.  The agar is totally optional.  Coconut milk has less protein than dairy, so you won't get that thick consistency with just fermentation.  Skip the agar if you don’t mind a thinner final yogurt.

Check out a video of me making this recipe here.

1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1 teaspoon agar flakes
2 probiotic capsules (use the ones you take or I bought P8 brand)
2 8-ounce mason jars (lids and jars boiled in water and left to air dry)

1. Preheat oven to 100 degrees. Pour coconut milk into a small pot and whisk until smooth. Add agar flakes (but don’t stir). Put over heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk to dissolve agar and continue at an almost-simmer (5-10 minutes) until agar is dissolved. Let cool to just above body temperature.

2. Open probiotic capsules and pour contents into coconut milk and whisk. Pour mixture into mason jars and seal.

3. Turn off oven and place mason jars on a sheet tray inside oven. Leave for 12-24 hours. Remove from oven and chill for 6 hours. Now you have yogurt!

Marinated Mixed Olives

marinated mixed olives

Marinated Mixed Olives
makes 1 quart

For these Marinated Mixed Olives, I used a mixture of pitted castelvetrano (bright green), kalamata (large purple) and nicoise (small purple), but use any olives that you like (I’m a big fan of meaty-tasting gaetas as well).  I think olives with pits tend to taste better than pitted, but depending on the familiarity of the party guests with one another, you might want to go pit-less.  It can be hard to pick up a dude while spitting an olive pit out of your mouth.  Or so I’ve heard.

1 quart of olives (I used a mixture of castelvetrano, kalamata and nicoise)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chili flake, or more to taste
zest from 1 lemon (use a microplane or fine grater)
2 tablespoons minced rosemary
2 tablespoons minced thyme
4 garlic cloves

1. Drain the olives from their brine and put the olives in a large bowl.

2. Add the olive oil, chili flake, lemon zest, rosemary and thyme to the bowl. Using the side of your knife blade, smash each garlic clove and peel of the skin and discard. Add the peeled garlic cloves to the bowl and stir everything to combine. Refrigerate and return to room temperature before serving.

Note: These can be served immediately or days later but taste best after one day of marinating.

Mushroom Walnut Pate

Mushroom Walnut Pate
makes about 3 cups

This "pate"--or let's be real "spread"--is unbelievable rich and meaty.  Combined with green apples, arugula and a whole grain bread, it makes my favorite vegetarian sandwich.  There are a couple of steps here, but they are all actually easy and this comes together pretty quickly.  Back when I had my food blog Urban Chickpea, this recipe was one of my most circulated and reposted.  I've simplified the original version here--fewer ingredients, but the same knockout taste.  I like it best on whole grain crackers or bread or served simply as a dip to celery sticks.

1 cup French green lentils
3 cups water
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
1 8-10 ounce package of cremini mushrooms (about 3 cups), thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry (or 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar)
2 teaspoons of kosher sea salt

1. Rinse the lentils until the water runs clear. Add them to a large pot and cover with the water. The stock should be about 2 inches above the lentils; add water if it’s not at that level. Bring up to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are fully cooked, about 30 minutes.

2. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On a sheet tray, spread out the walnuts and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes.

3. Heat up a large saute pan and add the oil. Saute the onion over medium-high heat with a pinch of salt until it is soft and golden brown. Then add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the sliced mushrooms with another pinch of salt and saute until they are brown and much of the liquid has evaporated. The whole mixture should be soft and look caramelized. This is key to the richness of the recipe, so don't hurry the cooking of the mushrooms and onions.  Then add the dry sherry, using it to scrape off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

4. In the food processor, pulse the walnuts until finely ground. Then add the cooked lentils (drained from their water), the mushroom mixture and the 2 teaspoons of salt. Puree until smooth. Taste the mixture and add salt until it tastes perfect. Then add two extra pinches of salt. It will taste too salty warm, but once it cools, it will taste perfect again. The palate perceives salt differently in hot and cold food.

5. Spoon mixture into a loaf pan, mold or tupperware and cover with plastic wrap. Then place a similarly-sized container on top and weigh it down to press the pate. (optional)  Chill in the refrigerator for several hours.  Invert on a plate to serve as an hors d’oeuvre or spread on bread for your sandwich.

Indian Hot and Sour Cashews

Makes 2 Cups

Amchur (green mango powder) is a souring agent used frequently in Indian cookery.  Most sour spices can be harder to find since they aren’t as popular in American cuisine.  Check out Indian markets for amchur or find it online.  If you don’t have it on hand, a squeeze of fresh lime juice on the spiced cashews before serving will give that same sour kick.  Asafoetida is a pungent seasoning reminiscent of onions and garlic that’s used all over India, but garlic powder is an easy substitute.  And the pomegranate seed and cilantro garnish is entirely optional, but I love the festive, holiday look that it gives to this dish.

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other light oil)
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chili flake
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons amchur
large pinch asafoetida or garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grind sea salt
2 cups raw whole cashews
pomegranate seeds and chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 300.  Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and saute until they start to pop out of the pan. Add chili flake, turmeric, amchur, asafoetida/garlic powder and salt.

3. Turn off the heat and add the cashews to the pan, coating them thoroughly in the spiced oil.  Spread evenly on the sheet tray.  Bake at 300 for 12 – 15 minutes, stirring twice during cooking time. Cool and garnish with pomegranate seeds and cilantro.  Eat and enjoy.