Orange Ginger Granola

I don’t have much to say about this except that its delicious. I woke up really early Sunday morning with a hankering to make something I’d never made before. After a few searches through the blogosphere, I fell upon Anja’s (Food for Thought) recipe for Orange Coconut Granola (which doesn’t seem to be loading right now). I modified it to what I had around the apartment, and what I like. Do the same and you’ll be pleased.

Orange Ginger Granola

Ingredients:
1 c rolled oats
1/4 c wheat germ
1/4 c wheat bran
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried fruit, optional
zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange (about 1/4 cup)
2 T honey
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1/2 t cinnamon
a pinch of salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 225ºF.

In a saucepan combine honey, orange juice, orange zest, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Heat until honey is melted. Set aside.

Combine grains and nuts and berries. Toss together. Pour honey mixture over and toss until well combined. Pour mixture out onto baking sheet and spread out evenly. Heat in oven for about 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally until mixture is dry and crunchy. Allow to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

How I Stay Healthy While Traveling: Homemade Cereal Bars

I travel a lot with my work. It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to see different parts of Guatemala, and to help guide foreigners through new encounters in which they can experience the beauty and tragedy of Guatemala. I feel honored to share with fellow gringos this country that I love so much.

Nevertheless, traveling is exhausting. I miss my bed, my shower, my kitchen. I just cannot rest the same as in my own home. And while I enjoy eating out every once in a while, the healthy options are far and few between when I travel with groups in Guatemala. Traditional Guatemalan cooking uses lots of lard, including in their tamales and beans. Vegetables are uncommon or unsafe to eat. Breakfast is usually eggs and beans with tortillas and coffee. Very little fresh fruit. Lunch (on the worksite) is pb&j sandwiches, a hardboiled egg, and an apple or squished banana if we’re lucky. Dinner can vary, but its generally grilled chicken or meat, rice or potatoes, and sometimes an iceberg salad smothered in thousand island dressing (not my preferred vegetable). It’s not my idea of a balanced died, which is something I consider important in my daily life. There is too much protein, too much animal fat, and too few fruits and vegetables. If I’m with groups for longer than a few days I begin to feel sluggish, cranky, and to be honest my digestive system is not too happy with how its been treated.

To help counter this, I began taking my own granola bars so I could take back a sense of control over my diet while I travel. I normally forego the eggs and beans in the morning, or the sandwich at lunch, and stick with something I know is balanced and healthy. At least I can start my day in a way that I feel good about…even if I have little control over the rest of it.

Maybe some of you are in a similar situation. But even if not, this is a healthy, balanced bar that is easy to take anywhere: work, school, road trips, or to just have as a snack on hand. You can use whatever type of cereal you want as a base. I use All-bran because its what I would normally eat at home, and that is essentially my goal: maintain the level of nutrition I am able to enjoy at home.

Cereal Bars

Ingredients:
4 cups cereal of choice (if oats, toast first in the oven until golden)*
1/2 cup wheat bran, toasted
3/4 cup mixed nuts and seeds of choice (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, peanuts, flax), toasted
3/4 cup dried, unsweeted fruit (cranberries, raisins, minced dates or figs, coconut, ginger)
1 t ginger
1 t cinnamon
1 t anise extract (or almond, or vanilla)
pinch of salt
1 egg (or 2 whites)
1/4 cup honey** (or brown sugar)
2 T brown sugar
1/4 cup natural peanut butter

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF
2. Beat egg white until light and fluffy. Add sugar, honey, peanut butter, spices, salt, and extract. Beat until smooth. Stir in nuts and dried fruits until covered. Stir in cereal, and finally wheat bran.
3. Spread mixture evenly in parchment-lined baking sheet, about 1/2 – 3/4″ deep. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until firm and set. Allow to cool completely. Using serrated knife, cut into bars. Store in fridge.

*if you wish, substitute some of the cereal for additional seeds, fruits, and nuts. this is just the balance I prefer for my traveling days. The types of dry ingredients can be played around with quite a bit to achieve the bar you need.
**sugar will make a crunchier bar while honey will made a chewier bar

Curried Egg Salad

Curried Egg Salad - Sandwhich

I never liked egg salad. Remember Mom? I loved loved loved coloring hard-boiled eggs for Easter. When I was tiny it was the highlight of my spring, except for my brithday of course. The Easter Bunny would hide them, we would search around the yard, and Jon would always win. Always… I had fun anyway though. But unfortunately this happy even was the next day followed by <<ugg>> the egg salad sandwich on toasted english muffins. They would always ask me to try it, but it made me gag. It was the yokes. Maybe I would have liked it if it didn’t have yoke…or mayonnaise because I didn’t like that either. To think of it I liked none of those salads with mayo: tuna, chicken, egg.

Now I’ve grown up. But believe it or not, before this very day I had never eaten an egg salad sandwich. I can’t believe it either. Going through the archives of my favorite recipe blogs I caught the eye of this curried egg salad sandwich. Remembering that I now love deviled eggs (love love love), I figured, how could I not like egg salad? It’s essentially a bunch of deviled eggs mashed together and served on toast. Only reheating leftovers could have been simpler (and if we had them that might have been served…but we didn’t). It was a lazy day. (Yesterday we bought 3 pounds of squid and 5 pounds of tilapia, and in order to fit it in our freezer — which was overgrown with ice –I had to chisel it clean. And then I broke the freezer.) needless to say, I barely felt like dicing veggies. This was uninvolved but flavorful and satisfying.

Curried Egg Salad

Ingredients:
6 hard boiled eggs
1 small apple, diced
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup greek style plain yogurt
1/2 large red onion, sliced transparently thin
1.5 – 2 teaspoons curry (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Fresh cilantro, torn — a few tablespoons, to your taste (parsley is fine too)

Directions:
Chop the eggs into 1/4 inch cubes and finely dice the apple and slice the onion. Toast your walnuts for about 3-5 minutes, and let cool. Roughly chop, but I like to leave the chunks rather large. Mix egg, apple, and walnuts together in a mixing bowl. Separately whisk together the yogurt, curry, and salt. Pour yogurt mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a fork. Slightly mash everything together, but not too much so the eggs provide some texture. Lastly stir in the cilantro. Serve on freshly toasted bread.

Beet, Apple, and Grapefruit Salad

Yes…more beets!

Beet Apple Grapefruit Salad

Just now I felt like something light, healthy, but sweet. We had yet more beets to use up, and I had half and apple from an egg salad sandwich I made a day earlier, so this is what went down: Beets, apples, grapefruit, red onion for a bite, dates and some maple syrup for some additional sweetness, red wine vinegar and olive oil for balance, and toasted walnuts for a salty crunch. Exactly what I was craving.

Ingredients:
1 beet, roasted and chilled
1/2 medium apple (I used fuji)
1/2 grapefruit wedges, bitter part removed
2 tablespoons thinly slivered red onion
1 date, chopped (or a tablespoon of rasins. optional)
A few walnuts or other toasted nuts
A dash redwine vinegar
A drizzle honey or maple syrup
A drizzle olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Slice beets and apples in thin discs, as thin as you can. Add grapefruit wedges and thinly sliced red onion. Toss with vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper. Add finely sliced date, or whole raisins, and toasted nuts.

Greek Salad, Guatemalan Style

Greek Salad

I eat lots of salads these days, and they are continually changing and evolving depending on the ingredients we happen to have, how productive my herbs have been, and where my cravings may be leading me. In general, my “Salad” entries will probably be quite short (although this one is not), because there are plenty of them. And in all honestly they’re not that complicated, and perhaps not anything too out of the ordinary. But I love salads, and I am quite particular about the way I have my salads (I rarely order a salad as-is on the menu, and always ask for the dressing on the side because I abhor soaked salads). Besides, this is a blog about everything I love foodwise, so I’m gonna write about them anyway. Also, its often an exploration into ingredients that are new to me that I discovered in Guatemala. Perhaps you are already very familiar with them, or perhaps they will be ingredients that are difficult to find outside of Guatemala or Central America, and maybe sometimes they will be ingredients I am longing for (like sweet wide-leaf basil).

This is a Greek-style salad. I say this mainly because it has olives (yes, we found a shop with high-quality Kalamata olives with pits in the brine – I also abhor canned olives), tomato, and a white crumbly cheese — all things that remind me of a good Greek salad. Also, I don’t care for cucumber unless peeled and seeded, so that will always be left out of my Greek Salad. This salad is different, however, because the cheese is not feta. Feta you can find here in Guate, and its not all that expensive (1/2 lb for 3USD, does that sound reasonable? I really don’t remember). Nonetheless, queso seco, a crumbly salty dry (seco means dry) is much more common, less expensive, and very Guatemalan. Despite my love of international cuisine and goods, I really enjoy keeping with Guatemalan goods and produce wherever possible. After all, when I eventually move away, it will be difficult to find some of these things. So I used queso seco.

Additionally, I added to my salad some toasted pepita, or pumpkin seeds. I was not very familiar with pepita before coming to Guatemala, although have seen them used in a few bloggers’ recipes. Here in Guate they use it on everything. They put toasted and ground pepita on unripe mangos with lime and salt, on oranges, and they even make a fresco, or juice, from it. I use pepita in a lot of my recipes, both whole and ground, especially lately. They are very inexpensive, when toasted they offer a wonderfully crisp pop to in your mouth, when ground they add a nutty flavor and crumbly texture. I especially love the sound they make when toasting — in just a few seconds in a hot pan or in the oven they pop very much like popcorn. I like to prepare everything in my salad and then toast them, and throw them on top still warm and making popping noises. I know people say to let everything cool before putting them onto greens, however I love the effect the hot seeds have on the rest of the textures and flavors.

Greek Salad Guatemalan Style (for one):

Ingredients:
3 Leaves Red Escarole, or two handfuls of any other green you prefer
1 roma tomato, diced (seeded if you prefer, but I like the juice)
5 olives, pitted and sliced
Red onion, slivered (use as much as you like)
2 Tablespoons queso seco (alternatively, finely grated romano)
2 Tablespoons toasted pepitas (perhpas sunflower seeds as an alternative)
A dash of red wine vinegar or juice of 1/2 a lime (both are lovely)
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (the cheese is salty, so you may not need any)Directions:
Start with the greens finely torn. Add the diced tomato and sliced olives, and cheese. Salt and pepper a pinch and few turns. Vinegar and Olive oil last, tossing with your fork.

Bacon Wrapped Dates

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The first time I tried these I had actually been a vegetarian for a few years. It was at a party catered by the university welcoming incoming graduate students. Fancy waiters dressed in tuxedos carried trays of h’orderves  around. At the beginning I was careful to inquire of the contents of the food, but it turned out to be too complicated. I grabbed one of these guys and the flavor was one I could not identify, but they were addicting. A salty crisp on the outside with a hint of maple, a chewy gooey center – the combination explosive. I fascinated over what they could be. I actually never found out. Until a few months later, at another University sponsored event with the same caterers. I was there with some friends, one a fellow vegetarian. When I saw a tray of my old friends being wielded around I almost dove. And as I was marveling yet again over the salty sweetness, my friend asked me why I was eating the bacon wrapped dates. Huh…thats what that strange flavor is…

Well, these days I am not longer a vegetarian. The first time I came to Guatemala I found myself in awkward situations denying food from Tía Emma, or Abuela Zoila – two lovely women I would never want to offend. So little by little I would try a few bites to show respect, but still considered myself a vegetarian. One day, however, just about two years ago now, we went to Zacapa. There I tried chicharrone, which I would best describe as a bacon on steroids. If I could enjoy that, I could no longer call myself vegetarian. I wasn’t going to lie to myself.

To this day I don’t eat very much meat, however I will indulge every once in a while in chicharron or these bacon wrapped dates. High quality products, a new experience, or simply a sinful craving such as buffalo wings. Those are my excuses.

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I would also like to mention that these are served at Mercat, one of my favorite restaurants as mentioned in a previous post. Mercat’s were simple bacon wrapped dates, but I have come across a number of recipes calling for blue cheese, almonds, and other similar stuffings. I thought I would try a couple different ones. Some carry walnuts, some manchego cheese, some both, some neither. They are very simple to put together and take very little time to bake. An easy way to impress some friends at a dinner party or for drinks some afternoon.

Bacon Wrapped Dates:

Ingredients:
10 strips of bacon
20 dates, pitted and whole
Additional stuffings for the dates: blue cheese, gorgonzala cheese, manchego, or other; almonds, walnuts, ect…

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Fill the walnuts with your desired stuffings. Cut bacon strips in half. Wrap the bacon securely around the date. You may want to use a toothpick to fasten it, but I simply rested the tail of the bacon under the roll. Place on a baking sheet and in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the outsides are crisped to desired texture (I like mine well done) and the insides are soft. Serve warm or at room temperature (and I don’t mind them cold either).

Health Nut Bread

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This was a lucky experiment from last week that I wanted to pass on. It was complete improvisation and I didn’t measure anything except the baking soda and salt (don’t wanna mess those up). It was late afternoon, a few hours after I had eaten lunch, and I was starting to get hungry. Lately I had been craving
pan de queso, a sweet bread from a local bakery which is made with sweet cheese and pounds of sugar and butter (or perhaps even lard). They are rich and delicious, and the moment the idea popped into my head I started for my shoes. But then as I was looping the last bow, the thought of ingesting something that decadent slowed me down. I know that delicious things can be made with healthy ingredients. I sat there for a minute weighing the pleasure I might get from the act of eating the delectable confection versus the disagreeably heavy feeling I would have afterward.

I kicked off my shoes and went to our pantry box. I pulled out anything I thought looked good: dates, shredded coconut, walnuts, wheat bran, flour, honey from Ipala. I was lucky there were two bananas going bad sitting on top of the fridge, and actually you can see in the picture that when I held them by the stems the peeled themselves. I had recently made a batch of yogurt that was draining in the fridge, so I decided I would use a little of the whey to pack in the nutrients. This was going to be power food, not only to quench my craving but fill me with good stuff too.

I beat an egg, mashed in the bananas, added a drizzle of vanilla, a larger drizzle of honey, a slosh of the whey along with a few tablespoons of the yogurt, and mixed it all well. Then I threw in two large handfuls of walnuts, crushing them before adding them to the batter, along with a large handful of minced-to-a-paste dates. I had forgotten the flour, so at that point I added just a little, and realized it didn’t need much to reach a consistency I liked. Perhaps it was three quarters of a cup, perhaps less. I added some wheat bran for extra fiber, along with oats because I love the texture in cakes. Then the necessary salt, baking soda, and some cinnamon and ginger for flavor.

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