Category Archives: Snacks

The Best Big Cluster Granola (gluten free)

Best Cluster Granola
One of the many (oh so many) things I miss being gluten free is granola. I think a lot of my frustration comes from granola really not needing to have gluten in it at all, so I feel like I’m being robbed of yet another tasty comfort food, and one that rather successfully masquerades as “healthy”. Most of the ingredients in amazing granola are things I eat every day, almonds, dried fruit, honey, and so one particularly taxing Saturday in the midst of finals I decided to take a break from work and make a stress-relief comfort snack.
I started with The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’s Big Cluster Maple Granola recipe. While reading and mentally commiserating with Deb Perelman’s long search for a simple, not-too-sweet, extra clustery granola. The trick is in adding an egg white to bind, meaning you need less honey/maple syrup or other sweetener to do the job. The egg white also, when cooked to the right stage (more on that in a minute), makes for great crispy edges while keeping large clusters still chewy in the middle.

A note on taking liberties
The great thing about granola is that you can really add or subtract many of the ingredients to your taste. Maybe this is another reason I’m especially drawn to it. As far as I’m concerned, the nuts, fruits and spices listed in the recipe below are primarily notes for overall quantities. I found that almonds would fabulously, hazelnuts, on the other hand (and very unfortunately) I found really distracting taste-wise. The original recipe calls for a full 1½ cup of dried cherries. I combined some cherries with some cranberries and chopped dates. I highly recommend the dates. Finally, as you may have noticed, I double a lot of spice amounts in my recipe adaptations. For this one I actually halved the cinnamon and added a couple other things to make the kitchen smell a little less like Christmas. My point here is that I hope you take some liberties with the additional flavors to suit the season, and your own taste.

Gluten-Free Giant Cluster Granola
Granola close

3c. old-fashioned rolled oats (I used Bob’s Redmill Gluten Free)
1c. shredded coconut
1c. almonds, pecans, walnuts or your favorite nut combo
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. salt
2/3c. honey (substitutable for maple syrup or agave nectar. I had honey on hand and I’m not a huge maple fan, so that made my decision).
Pinch each of cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger
Splash (about ½ tsp) vanilla
1 large egg white
1½ c chopped dried fruit. I used a combination of cherries, cranberries and dates.

Preheat your oven to 300°f. Combine all ingredients except egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl and toss to coat. Whisk egg white in a small bowl until frothy and pour over granola and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Spread granola into a single layer over a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating tray about half way through. When granola is just starting to brown and feels dry to the touch, remove from the oven and let cool completely before breaking into pieces. (I can’t tell you how many times I have learned the hard way the value of letting something cool completely. Especially with brittle GF flours this makes a huge difference. Now when a recipe calls for patience, I just do as I’m told. In this case, your clusters will thank you.) Break granola into a bowl alternating with a sprinkle of dried fruit to mix throughout.
Granola can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about 2 weeks, or much longer in the freezer (believe it or not this stuff is even delicious frozen) which is what I have to do to stop myself from eating the whole batch in a couple days.
Granola pretty

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The Best Cheesy Kale Chips

Bowl of Chips

When my mother used to tear kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and bake them with olive oil and salt in a hot oven until just browning and slightly crispy I should have known she was on the cutting edge of yet another trend. While our family savored the simple yet oh so tasty and nutritious treat that allowed us to eek out just a few more minutes of eating-together time, the food trend mavens were cooking up a health snack trend to be reckoned with.
When I started seeing kale chip recipes in magazines on food blogs I was happily reminded of what I thought was my mother’s hidden gem. When I started seeing 6oz packages of it for sale at Whole Foods and Rainbow Acres for $11, I was just resentful that I hadn’t exploited the idea 15 years ago. Yes, now kale chips are the hottest fad in healthy (vegan and gluten-free) snacking. I cannot claim to be the first to get on board, but I am finally getting around to making my own, which, I will admit, will become a regular addition to my snacking repertoire. Thanks to Missy for introducing me to nutritional yeast, you are always an inspiration in flavors, especially secretly healthy ones.

Recipe Notes
I started out with a few nacho kale chip recipes, trying to figure out what was what, but by the third time I was so tired of making such a mess of my food processor and honestly, found the cashew (or almond, I tried both, stick with cashew) paste version a little heavy. Now my go-to flavoring is MUCH simpler and I think much more flavorful.

For the Seasoning
Combine in a small bowl:
1/3-1/2c nutritional yeast
1tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne
a few good sprinkles of dried garlic or garlic salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
a bit more salt than you think you should have. Start with ½ tsp, mix well and test again, you should be able to taste the salt (if you’re using garlic salt just keep an eye on the saltiness).

mix seasonings well, everything together should noticeably change the color of the nutritional yeast when you started, but specific measurements are definitely to your preferred taste.

For the Chips
In a large bowl toss:
1 bunch kale, torn in pieces with tough stalks removed
with some olive oil to coat.
Liberally sprinkle the cheesy mixture over the leaves, use your fingers to make sure to get the flavor in all the leaves. Toss a bit, then sprinkle some more until well coated.

Spread on a large cookie sheet (give the leaves some room!) and bake slowly, in a 300°f for about 12-15 minutes. After about 10 minutes pull the tray out, toss the leaves and check for brownness, you want to stop just as some of the smaller leaves are browning for maximum crispiness without burning.

Kale chips staged

The image below is from one of my test runs with the cashew paste version of the nacho sauce. The dressing is much heavier but this recipe should look pretty much the same with the orange of the nutritional yeast and density of the leaves on the tray.
before the chips

Spicy Spinach and Yogurt Dip

Spicy Spinach Yogurt dip
Superbowl snacking becomes a lot less fun when you’re avoiding gluten and anything fried. So I was determined to find something delicious when one of the dozen emails Food&Wine has sent me this week promised healthy Game Day recipes.
I adapted this recipe from them, Food&Wine has yet to steer me wrong, but I did tweak the proportions. I’ve detailed changes below but I like my yogurt dip fairly yogurty, Food&Wine, apparently, does not. I also tweaked the spice levels and used a brand new bottle of cayenne. Maybe I just haven’t had fresh cayenne for too long, but this dip packs a surprising punch.

2 Tbsp EVOO
1/3 c. pine nuts
½ small-medium sweet yellow onion, minced
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cayenne
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed
1½ c. plain greek yogurt
salt to taste.

Sauté onion and pine nuts in the olive oil until the just start to brown, 4-5 minutes. Add spices and stir well. Remove to a medium-mixing bowl.
Squeeze as much water out of the spinach as you can. Don’t worry about the volume, it won’t look like much, but it’s really quite dense. Add to the onions and pine nuts.
My recipe said to drain the yogurt until you end up with about ½ cup. While I drained it, the volume definitely didn’t decrease that much. And in the end I added much more until the proportions felt better to me. My suggestion is to use about 1½ cups yogurt, straight from the fridge. Add the yogurt and mix well. The spinach may be rather stubborn so make sure to disperse large lumps.
Sprinkle with salt and unless serving immediately let sit for at least an hour or two before tasting for salt again. This is a great dip to make ahead of time, say, the day before the super bowl leaving your Game Day morning one-item lighter, and allowing your free hand to crack open an early beer (you know you want to).


Chicken Liver Pate
Several weeks ago my token hostessing friend in LA decided to gather the extended crowd together for a Friendsgiving celebration potluck. (yes, this post epitomizes the #latergram-ness of my holiday documentation). The Google+ invite immediately exploded with dibs on dishes everyone wanted to bring, and the universal claim that each invitee’s family stuffing recipe was the best. Despite my solid—and completely correct—belief that my own mother’s stuffing is, in fact, the best in the world, I took the opportunity to try a dish I’d never made before but that had been on my To Try list for many months: pâté.
My parents’ long-time neighbor and friend, and my own frequent inspiration for many of my side dishes, had served the Silver Palate’s chicken liver pâté at a Christmas party the year before and ever since I had wanted to give it a try. I followed the Silver Palate recipe to the letter (at least the way it is printed here, as my print copy was in a box in Oregon) with the one addition of a handful of roughly chopped pistachios along with the currants. This was in honor of my favorite chicken liver mousse from Viande Meats which, for all you Portlanders, can still be found at City Market and should not be missed.

I served this pâté next to spiced sweet potato hummus for the vegetarians in attendance and both were extremely well received. The hummus recipe is also below, but due to my poor timing and the considerable lack of light hours in November the photos really don’t merit their own post… But then I’m a visual cook.

Also a quick note on brandy: I’m told that calvados is the ‘secret ingredient’ of this recipe and what many adherents swear by as the reason this pâté is so delicious. So if at all possible, don’t substitute the calvados!
Pate with Raincoat Crackers

Silver Palate Pate with Pistachios

2 ribs of celery, with leaves
6-8 whole peppercorns
6 cups water
pinch of salt
1lb chicken livers
pinch of cayenne
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup calvados
½ cup (or a little less) dried currants
¼ cup (or a little more) roughly chopped pistachios

Boil the celery and peppercorns in the water. Add salt and lower to simmer for 10 minutes.
Add livers and simmer very gently for another 10 minutes. The livers should still be slightly pink on the inside.
Drain and remove livers to a food processor. Add all remaining ingredients except currants (and pistachios if using). Process until very smooth.
Scoop into a bowl and mix in currants and pistachios. (I saved a few of each to press into the top) smooth top, cover with saran and chill for about 4 hours.
Before serving, allow to rest at room temp for about 30 minutes. Makes about 3 cups of very rich, creamy pâté.

Bonus Recipe: Spiced Sweet Potato Hummus!
I also served a slightly modified version of this Sweet Potato Hummus from Vegetarian Ventures.
Sweet Potato Hummus
Her photos are infinitely better than mine and make me want to rush out and buy a box full of these swing-top jars for my kitchen adventures.
I just used a can of chick peas and doubled all the spices (my general rule of thumb, especially with hummus) and sprinkled a little extra cinnamon on top to serve. Delish!

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Strawberry Basil Jam

This project was actually inspired by some insanely cheap swing top glass jars I found on the Crate&Barrel clearance sale. Before I knew it a set of 6 were in my shopping cart and then whoops they showed up at my door a few days later.
I think I have a particular affinity for little bitty bowls, glasses, jars, etc. because in the event that an experiment fails, it’s already in a very small portion. OR in the event that it’s a delicious success, small portions make it feel like a rare delicacy.

Sure, we’ll go with that.

Strawberries are all the rage in SoCal right now and these beautiful, giant, bright red strawberries were on special at wholefoods so strawberry preserves became the intended occupant of my mini swing top jars.
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Aside from a personal tendency to burn things required ‘constant stirring’ (well they can’t possibly mean constant stirring can they? I always think. Turns out, they do). And then I threw some basil leaves in the pot.

You didn’t think I could just make classic, simple, strawberry jam did you??

And in all honesty I think the results were more successful than not. I was pretty worried there for a bit, as the jam was thickening up and the basil scent was way overpowering that of the strawberries

2 lbs. fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1 ¼ c sugar
Zest and juice of a large lemon
½ tsp vanilla
small handful large fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Put the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. When the sugar has dissolved use a potato masher to mash the strawberries, leaving some larger chunks (because that makes the best kindo f jam).
Increase the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Using a candy thermometer, boil and stir constantly, and until the jam reaches 220°f
NB: Stirring ‘constantly’ here was a direction I took with a grain of salt. Which resulted in my having to carefully scoop the un-burned jam off the top when finished, leaving the thick, black layer of burned-beyond-repair strawberries on the bottom, and spending the next three days alternately soaking and scrubbing my best heavy pot. Jus’saying.
When you have about 5 minutes left of boiling, toss in the basil and continue to stir. The basil smell will be very strong. I was a little worried the taste would be equally as overpowering but by the time the jam cooled the basil taste softened nicely with the strawberries.
When the jam reaches temperature, or at lest thickens to a point where it coats a spoon and looks delicious enough to eat, remove from heat and ladle into jars.
If you’re going to consume the jam right away, like within a couple of weeks or so, there’s no need to process the jars, just seal and place in the fridge to cool.

Homemade preserves also travel well and make excellent gifts!
Happy Birthday, Al! Thanks for being my fruit preserves guinea pig! Love, Toast.

Quick and Easy Spinach Pesto

I wanted to try something a little different tonight. I had a big bunch of spinach in the fridge that I needed to use before leaving town for the weekend. Combing through the kitchen I realized I had pretty much everything for pesto, except my basil leaves were looking pretty sad. So bam spinach pesto. I scavenged the last few leaves of my basil and added that too but I’m fairly sure the results would have been equally good without. I also combined the last of my pine nuts, almonds and cashews to pull together a ½ cup of nuts. But suddenly I was able to turn several ingredients that would otherwise go to waste or stale into quick, easy, delicious pesto.
So I’m sacrificing the involved photo process I love to obsess over because I really wanted to share this recipe but I’m also starving, and still need to pack tonight.

One bunch (about 2 cups) fresh baby spinach
1 cup fresh basil leaves (
½ cup pine nuts or other nuts. I used a combination of pine nuts, almonds and cashews to use up some remnants
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. I have a tiny food processor so it was especially helpful to start with the nuts and garlic. When those are a course grind start to pile in the leaves, you may have to do this in batches, along with the lemon and zest. Drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running and add the parmesan right at the end, along with pretty liberal amounts of salt and pepper and pulse just to fully combine.
The flavors will meld and change (the garlic will become stronger, as will the salt, depending what type you use) over the next few days. Adjust salt, pepper, or even oil if you choose to later.
Keep sealed in the fridge and put on pretty much anything.

F+T Spicy Mixed Nuts (with Bacon!)

A couple of months ago I was in a trendy restaurant in Portland with my parents (having an interesting discussion about how different genders judge attractiveness, but that’s an entirely different story) when the waitress brought us—instead of a basket of thick-sliced crusty bread—a small dish of spiced almonds and peanuts.
The peanuts were slightly sweet, roasted in some sugar and a bit of cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, nutmeg, etc. (this I know not because of my impressively developed palate but because my mother, as she is wont to do, finagled the recipe out of the kitchen). And the almonds had been smoked with only a bit of sugar and salt. It wasn’t only the shift in restaurant culture, to be served a few nuts to nibble on before a meal, that interested me so much as how that shift creates an opportunity to offer your guests a flavor profile that traditional bread couldn’t necessarily provide. Savory snacks, for some reason, seem to elude the American food lexicon. This has become less true in recent years I think due to the anti-carb movement. Starbucks now, after all, offers sliced apples and cheese cubes alongside their muffins. But these spiced nuts caught my attention as a newly main-stream food trend.

It wasn’t until several weeks later that the promised recipe showed up in my inbox. The waitress has promised to get the chef to email my mother and, amazingly, she did. It came at a perfect time, as I was trying to think of a good F+T housewarming gift to send my grandparents who very recently relocated from their familiar Texas panhandle town to Dallas. I was looking for a relatively healthy, savory, travel worthy snack and, spiced nuts seemed to be the perfect thing.

I didn’t end up using the Irving Street Kitchen recipes. The almonds had interested me most and they required a smoker (with a smoker-less option to simply strain the nuts and toss with some smoked paprika but then the magic was sort of gone). Instead I began my customary general skim of every spiced nuts mix recipe I could find, trying to find patterns and estimate what may or may not work. In the end I couldn’t help but pick a recipe with bacon in it. It was for a gift after all! No calorie counting on gifts. Even after my internal warnings not to make them too spicy I did end up with using a bit of cayenne, but halved it in consideration of the audience.

F+T Spicy Mixed Nuts (with bacon!)
Spice list adapted from: kitchenkonfidence

2 cups roasted, unsalted mixed nuts (I used almonds, cashews and pecans)
1 egg white, beaten slightly
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground clove
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 pound sliced bacon

First, crisp up your bacon. I prefer the hot skillet method because it’s easier to watch, smell and flip your pieces. But if you’re more an oven-baconier then 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes is the way to go. Regardless of your particular bacon eating preferences you want this bacon dark and very crispy. Otherwise it won’t crumble over your mixed nuts properly.

While the bacon is crisping away season those nuts! Place all the nuts in a large bowl and toss with the egg white, making sure to fully coat everything. Add all your spices, sugar, garam masala, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, clove, salt and cayenne (may be helpful to combine all spices in a separate small bowl, stir a bit, and pour over nuts all at once). Toss well (really well) and spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in a 325 degree oven for 12-15 minutes until browned and very fragrant. Remove to a bowl as soon as you can handle them to let cool.
When your bacon is crispy and cool crumble over your spicy nuts and give them one last toss for good measure. Pour off in to charming glass jars and gift to friends and family!

(and yes, writing this post was an epic exercise in restraint)