Banana Nut Snack Cake (Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free)

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I really enjoy each of the seasons as it comes. I’m always ready for the brisk air and cool nights in the fall. I get excited about the first snowflakes every winter. And, when spring finally rolls around, I embrace it.

I love cleaning out the flower beds and planning the garden for the coming summer. I enjoy getting out for some fresh air, going for a run, or chasing the kiddo around on the playground. And, when we have rainy, dreary days, I enjoy those, too.

Monday was a particularly dreary day, and I decided to embrace it. It was a bit on the chilly side, so we stayed in. I read the same book about Clifford’s First Christmas over and over again (yes, we are currently reading Christmas books… don’t ask), stopping to point out puppy Clifford on every page. We colored, and we watched it rain out the windows.

Then, in the afternoon, I took full advantage of nap time and decided to do some baking. Dreary days just call for baking, don’t they? The pile of overly ripe bananas sitting on my counter was calling my name, so I set out to bake a banana nut cake.

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Lemon Basil Hummus

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Hummus is one of those foods that I often overlook. At least, I used to.

Lately, I find myself cooking a big batch of garbanzo beans every other week so that I have plenty of them on hand to make fresh, homemade hummus. Since I ditched sweets, it’s one of my new go-to snacks. I like it with baby carrots, bell pepper slices, and gluten-free whole grain sesame crackers (another new favorite).

Since I’ve been eating more and more hummus, I am constantly looking for new flavors to make. Sundried tomato and artichoke hummus is always a hit at my house, and this lemon basil hummus is quickly becoming a new favorite, as well.

While the outdoors may not agree yet, I’m ready for some fresh summer flavors in my kitchen. It’s been a long winter (yes, technically it’s spring, but I’ll believe it when I see it)!  To brighten things up a bit, I’ve been keeping a fresh basil plant on my kitchen window sill. The fresh basil adds a lovely hint of summer in this hummus. It pairs beautifully with lemon, and the combination just taste like summer to me.

Caprese salads are my favorite use of basil, but we’re months away from fresh, local tomatoes. Until then, you’ll find me snacking on this lemon basil hummus… Wearing my knee-high fleece socks. Under a blanket.

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Lemon Basil Hummus
Makes about 2 ½ cups

  • 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup cooked cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • ½ – ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the garbanzo beans, cannellini beans, tahini, lemon zest, lemon juice, and basil in a food processor or blender. Blend slowly, streaming in the olive oil until you have a smooth and creamy mixture. Season and pepper to taste.

Serve drizzled with additional olive oil and topped with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Let the hummus come to room temperature before serving.

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Beyond the Detox… and Apple Mango Spinach Smoothies

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Last week, I shared a little bit about my “detox” diet experience a few weeks ago. I went 10 days without any gluten, dairy, sugar, or caffeine. And, I even lived to tell about it!

Sure, I joke about how tough it was, and I had my days, but it really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I’d even recommend giving it a try! (Of course, you should talk to your doctor and all that stuff. I’m not a medical professional!)

I had my ups and downs over the 10 days. I cut sugar out a few days before officially getting started. I knew sugar was going to be tough for me, and I didn’t want to have to tackle everything else while dealing with sugar cravings (and some pretty bad headaches). Around day 3 or 4, I felt great… I’m not sure if it was a mental thing (knowing that I hadn’t had sugar in a whole week!) or not. I was optimistic, had more energy than I usually did, and just felt pretty good.  A few days later, after a busy weekend, I started to feel less than stellar. I wasn’t sick, but I also just didn’t feel like myself and had very little energy. For most of the 10 days, I fluctuated between feeling fantastic and having no energy at all.

The surprising thing to me was that, while I didn’t always have energy, I also didn’t have a lot of cravings for sugar. I honestly think that is what kept me going. Knowing that I was overcoming my sugar cravings was a huge for me.

My 10 Days Are Up… Now What??

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Savory Gluten-Free Flatbread

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Red Star Yeast.  As always, all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

I’ve recently fallen in love with gluten-free baking. Yup, it’s true!

As someone who has baked (with wheat) for what seems like forever, I was pretty skeptical about gluten-free baking at first. But, when I finally decided to cut back on wheat and gluten, I thought it would be a great time to really branch out and finally embrace gluten-free baking.

I waded through a lot of gluten-free recipes at first, trying to find the perfect mix of flours or the perfect technique. Ultimately, I was trying to find something that was a close to what I considered “regular” baking as I could. Sure, there are some recipes for a flour mix that can be substituted cup for cup for all purpose flour. But, when it comes to bread, I found that it just doesn’t work that way. After all, one of the key things that makes bread what it is (especially yeast breads) is the gluten. Instead, I found that the most important thing to do when learning to bake gluten-free bread is to forget everything you know about baking bread with gluten. In fact, if you’re new to baking, you have a bit of a head start!

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For me, the most important bread to learn to make was a flatbread… I wanted something that I could use for pizza night (which happens every Friday night at my house) that would also be good for dipping in hummus, drizzling with oil and herbs to serve with a salad, or topped with meats or cheese for sandwiches or panini. I consulted a few of my favorite gluten-free blogs and got great advice from a few friends. (If you are looking for some awesome gluten-free recipes, be sure to check out Gluten-Free Girl, Art of Gluten-Free Baking, and Smith Bites. They all have solid recipes).  In the end, I found myself going back to this recipe for Breadsticks from Gluten-Free Girl. Though, I never did actually make breadsticks, it wound up being a great starting point for my flatbreads.

I worked with a variety of flours. Some of my flour blends were as simple as a mix of brown rice flour, millet flour (which happens to be one of my favorites, very mild in flavor and texture), and tapioca starch. Other times, I threw in between 6 and 8 different types of flour, trying to find a good balance. I discovered that I really do not care much for quinoa flour, even in small amounts. I found amaranth flour to be a bit too grassy when used in large quantities. And, while bean flours like garbanzo and fava do have a bit of a beany flavor (for lack of a better word), I found that I rather liked the flavor and texture of the flour for a savory flatbread. In the end, for my go-to flatbread recipe, I ended up settling on a mixture of quite a few flours that I found gave a nice balance to both the flavor and texture of the bread. Of course, you could substitute your favorites, assuming you measure your flours by weight and keep approximately the same amount of starch in the mix. I also ended up using psyllium husks (look in the supplements aisle at the grocery store) instead of xanthan gum to help give the dough structure so that it would rise.

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After baking flatbreads and pizzas over 6 times, I came up with a recipe that I am very happy with it. I ended up using an additional egg and a bit less water. I found that the extra egg gave the flatbreads a nice texture and some extra rise. I’ve made it for my family and also for friends. While it is not exactly like our regular pizza dough, it really is quite good. In fact, both my husband and other friends have commented on the fact that they didn’t even realize it was gluten-free. It’s been a hit on pizza night and will continue to be in the regular rotation at my house. They are also fabulous topped with hummus, roasted beets, and greens (with a healthy drizzle of olive oil), if you’re not in the mood for pizza.

The flatbreads are definitely best enjoyed the day that you bake them… But, that doesn’t mean you have to eat them all at one time. If you do have leftovers, I’d recommend cutting the leftover flatbreads into wedges, brushing them with olive oil, and then sprinkling them with your favorite seasonings.  Toast up the wedges in the oven for a few minutes and use them to dip away!

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I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share this recipe with you and also to feature it on the Red Star Yeast website. I think you’ll find that whether you are a seasoned baker or you are new to baking entirely, you can bake these flatbreads with great results. I’ve included step-by-step photos to show you what the dough (or, perhaps more accurately, batter) should look like at each stage. Plus, if you want some more tips, or you are looking for some suggestions for substitutions, I’d recommend checking out the Gluten-Free Baking Tips on the Red Star Yeast website. It’s a great starting point!

As always, if you have questions, I’m more than happy to answer them here. You can always connect with me on Twitter (@JenSchall) . Red Star Yeast is also on Twitter (@RedStarYeast), and they are always happy to answer questions, as well! And, of course, we’d both love to hear about your gluten-free baking adventures!

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Savory Gluten-Free Flatbreads
Makes 8 flatbreads or 4 small pizzas
(Loosely adapted from Gluten-Free Girl)

  • 200g Millet Flour
  • 200g Tapioca Starch
    (I also had good success using potato starch, if you prefer that)
  • 150g Garbanzo and Fava Bean Flour
  • 100g Brown Rice Flour
  • 100g Amaranth Flour
  • 3 tablespoons psyllium husks
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) Red Star active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
    (You can also use a seasoned salt or add a bit of garlic powder, as well)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Approximately 2 cups cool water

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Begin by combining the millet flour, tapioca starch, garbanzo and fava flour, brown rice flour, and amaranth flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the psyllium husks, yeast, and salt. Using the paddle/beater attachment on the mixer, mix slowly for a minute or two, until the flours are well combined.

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Add the eggs, and continue to beat the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the flours. Add the olive oil and mix again until evenly incorporated. The mixture will be a bit crumbly, and it will resemble wet sand.

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While mixing on a slow speed, gradually add the water, starting with about 1 ½ cups. You want the dough/batter to be somewhere between a thick pancake batter and a cookie dough. It will not form a smooth ball as it would when working with gluten flours. If the mixture is sticky and sticks to the beater when the mixer is stopped (think cookie dough), continue to add a bit more water. You want the batter to gently fall from the beater when the mixer is stopped.

(If you are used to baking with wheat flours, it will seem too wet. Forget what you know and take my word for it.)

Transfer the batter/dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

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The dough will thicken overnight and rise slightly. Leave the bowl covered, and set it out on the counter so that it can come to room temperature for about an hour or so.  It will continue to rise a bit as it warms up, but it will not rise as much as a traditional bread dough will.

When you are ready to shape the dough, line baking sheets with parchment paper (or a silicone mat). If you have a baking stone in your oven, I recommend just baking on parchment paper directly on the stone.

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Measure out about 150g of dough for each flatbread and gently shape it into a ball. For more of an oval pizza, measure out about 300 – 350g of dough. Sprinkle each ball with some gluten-free flour (I used rice flour at this point) and gently use your hands to flatten and shape the flatbreads or pizzas on the parchment paper. The dough might be a bit sticky, but should be easy to work with, especially if you dust your hands with flour. Cover the shaped flatbreads with a damp towel, and let them rise for about 45 – 60 minutes.

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Meanwhile, preheat the oven. For softer flatbreads, preheat to 450F. Bake the flatbreads for 10 – 12 minutes, until golden on top. For pizza, preheat to 500F. Pre-bake the pizza for about 10 minutes. Then, add toppings, and bake for an additional 6-8 minutes, until the toppings are warm and the cheese is bubbly and golden.

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My Kitchen Addiction Disclosure – This post was sponsored by Red Star Yeast.  Though I have been compensated to write this post, all opinions expressed are my own.

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So You Want To Start a Detox Diet? (WFMW)

So, you’ve been thinking about doing a detox diet?

I can relate. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I finished up a 10 day detox diet just a few weeks ago. I’ve been writing this post in my head, over and over again, ever since. I really want to share the experience with you.  Don’t get me wrong… I’m not trying to coerce you into a detox. Rather, I thought that sharing my experience, successes, and failures with you might be helpful for anyone already considering trying some sort of detox. I think it can be a great experience (or it could also be a horrible experience), so I’ll share what worked for me… And, what didn’t.

works for me wednesday at we are that family

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Almond Pecan Butter with Cocoa and Cinnamon

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It’s a funny thing sugar.

I think it is probably one of the most loved and most hated foods that we eat. One look on Pinterest and you will find more sweet and decadent treats than you could ever possible eat. (A few of them may have even come from this site.) But, you’ll also find equally many people posting about how sugar is addictive and the root of all evil… At least, the root of all health evils.

It can be hard to navigate it all, and I certainly don’t have all of the answers. But, I’m working on figuring out what works for me.

Until very recently, I ate a lot more sugar than I’d like to admit. At first, it stemmed from baking on a regular basis, often to post recipes here. Then, as I had less time to bake and write, I found myself needing a sweet treat in the afternoon. I’d munch on anything from cookies to candy to chocolate chips straight from the bag. I knew it wasn’t real healthy, but I also felt like I couldn’t stop. I craved it constantly.

Eventually, I decided it was time to stop. I was determined. While I’m not necessarily convinced that sugar is the root of all evil, I certainly knew that I needed to cut back.  That was the primary reason I decided to do a 10 day detox from sugar, gluten, dairy, and caffeine a few weeks ago (more about that coming soon, I promise!). I knew my habits and I knew that I was having trouble just “cutting back” on my own.

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Blueberry Apple Crumble (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Sugar-Free)

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If you follow me on Instagram, or if we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed something different about me.  I’ve gone gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free! It’s (probably) not a permanent change, but I do plan to permanently change the way I eat. It’s kind of a long story, but stick with me on this one…

Along with a group of friends from church, I’ve set out to try to clean up my act when it comes to food… We’re following a book called The Daniel Plan (which covers much more than food, but I’ll talk about the food part here) that emphasizes eating whole foods, especially lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and cutting back on the not-so-good stuff like wheat, sugar, and all forms of processed foods. It seems rather simple. And, frankly, it is.

Honestly, nothing about the food portion of The Daniel Plan was news to me. I read a lot about food, we belong to a CSA, I cook from scratch, and we generally eat healthy meals. But, I also love to bake. And, as a result, we have been eating a lot of sweets.

It hasn’t always been that way, though.  I think the sweets have crept up on me over the years. When I started writing my blog over 5 years ago, I was writing about the food that we were eating. Gradually, as I tried to constantly share new recipes and worked my way into the baking scene, we started eating whatever I was writing about. I distinctly remember one night when I made avocado-stuffed, bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers for a blog post, and we ended up just eating them for dinner because I didn’t have time to make anything else. They were from scratch, made with unprocessed ingredients. But, I think we can all agree that bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers aren’t exactly a balanced dinner. And, when I was baking batch upon batch of sticky buns or cookies, trying to come up with a perfect recipe, we would end up eating a lot of those, too.

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Dreaming of Gardening…

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Organic Choice for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

We’ve reached the time of the year when cabin fever has set in… Can you relate? It’s been a cold and snowy winter. We’ve had a few glorious days of warmer weather, but the short preview of spring has only made the cold days seem even colder.

Being cooped up in the house with a toddler all week has me just itching to get out. I can’t wait to get out for a walk or a spin on her new tricycle (a Christmas present that has been stuck in the garage!).  I’m also really looking forward to planting a garden together. Last year, the kiddo was too young to play outside all that much. This year, though, I know she is going to have a blast playing in the yard and digging in the dirt. Getting dirty is what kids should do.

Earlier this week, as I was looking out at my snowy yard and daydreaming and planning our garden for the summer, I made the decision to share more about my gardening here on my blog. My garden is primarily for veggies and herbs, though I do usually plant some flowers, too. There is nothing I love more than picking a fresh tomatoes and basil to toss with pasta or sauteing zucchini and bell peppers that came right from the garden. While it may sound a bit cliche, you can’t beat eating garden-to-table.

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Honey Wheat Bagels

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We’ve had an unusual number of chilly, snowy days this winter.  In the last few years, I have often designated snowy days as my baking days in the kitchen. Preheating the oven just seems to take the chill out of the air… And, a few freshly baked treats don’t hurt either.

While I don’t quite have the freedom to spend a whole day baking like I used to, I’ve still managed to get in some snowy day baking this winter… I’ve taken advantage of nap time and worked ahead on my chores to get a few extra hours in the kitchen when snow was in the forecast.

What was I baking? Well, I’m glad you asked… I have been working on this recipe for honey wheat bagels for Red Star Yeast! Surprisingly, I am pretty new to bagel baking. I’ve done my share of baking over the years, but bagels always seemed to slip through the cracks. Early in January, I finally got around to trying out a bagel recipe from The Sophisticated Gourmet that I’ve had bookmarked for years. Kamran’s recipe was fabulous. I made it twice. Once I had a feel for it, I decided to try to mix it up and make my own version using some whole wheat flour and honey.

After a period of trial and error (and trial and error and trial and error…), I’ve come up with a recipe that I’m pretty happy with. Everyone else in my family has been pretty happy with them, too. (Yes, that includes both the toddler and the yellow lab. The are sisters, and they love to share.)

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While I originally attempted the recipe with all whole wheat flour, I’ve found that adding some traditional bread flour back in helped the bagels to have that nice chewy bagel texture that we all love. I also chose to use white whole wheat flour because it has a more delicate flavor that I think pairs beautifully with honey. I not only made them plain, but I’ve added chocolate chip and made a cinnamon raisin version. Each variety turned out well, and they were all gobbled up quickly.

Of course, my favorite way to eat a bagel is with cream cheese and jam. Not one or the other… Both. Seriously… Give it a try sometime.

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Want to give the recipe a try? Great! I’ve got plenty of photos to help you along the way (along with a tutorial at the end on how to add mix-ins like chocolate or raisins).  Of course, if you’re looking for even more help, I’d recommend checking out this Baking Steps Guide from Red Star Yeast… They’ve got great information to get you started so that you’ll be on your way to freshly baked bagels in no time! Of course, you can always connect with Red Star Yeast (@RedStarYeast) or with me (@JenSchall) on Twitter… We’d be happy to answer your questions!

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Honey Wheat Bagels
Makes 8 bagels
(Inspired by The Sophisticated Gourmet)

  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) Red Star PLATINUM Yeast
    (Note – Red Star Dry Active Yeast will work, too… It will just rise a bit more slowly.)
  • 1 ¼ cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • Water (for boiling)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons additional honey (optional)

In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the bread flour, salt, and yeast. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the warm water (approximately 110°F) and 2 tablespoons of honey.  Add the liquid to the mixing bowl. Fit the mixer with the beater attachment, and beat for 2 – 3 minutes on medium-low, until the mixture is smooth.

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Switch to the dough hook, and gradually add the white whole wheat flour. Add about 1 ½ cups and let the dough knead on the slowest setting for a minute or two. If the dough still seems very sticky (this will depend on the weather and other factors), add an additional ½ cup of white whole wheat flour. Continue to knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball, an additional minute or two.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in volume and the imprint of two fingers remains when pressed lightly into the dough.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Cover again with the damp towel and let the dough rest for 10 – 15 minutes.

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While the dough rests, prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or a silicone liner and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

After allowing the dough to rest, shape each piece into a smooth ball and then press your thumb down into the center of the ball to shape the dough into a bagel shape. Transfer the bagels to the prepared baking sheet, and cover the bagels again to let them rest for an additional 10 minutes.

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Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add a teaspoon or two of honey to the water (optional). Gently place the bagels into the boiling water, a few at a time. Let the bagels boil for 90 seconds before flipping them over to boil on the other side for an additional 90 seconds. Transfer the bagels back to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the bagels for 20 minutes. Let the bagels cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Want to add some mix-ins to your bagels? It’s simple! Before dividing the dough into 8 pieces, simply flatten the dough into a rectangle roughly 10 inches by 16 inches. Sprinkle your mix-ins (cinnamon, raisins, dried blueberries, chocolate chips, etc.) on the dough and then roll it up into a long roll. Then, cut the dough into 8 even portions and let it rise before shaping the bagels.

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My Kitchen Addiction Disclosure – This post was sponsored by Red Star Yeast.  Though I have been compensated to write this post, all opinions expressed are my own.

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Chickpea Curry

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Winter can be a tough time to cook… It’s particularly tough if you are someone who likes to cook with a lot of fresh and local produce.  I rely pretty heavily on our CSA and the local farmer’s market from April to December… But, once January rolls around, I’m on my own.

I like comfort food as much as the next person, but we can’t live on macaroni and cheese for three months.  This winter, I’ve found myself cooking a lot of beans. They are inexpensive and readily available.  I can add some rice just a few extra vegetables for a complete meal. And, there’s just something about dinner simmering away on the stove on a chilly day.

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This chickpea curry has become one of my go to weeknight meals this winter. It’s quite simple, and it smells absolutely divine. You can mix up the vegetables a bit, or even add a few more of your favorites, if you like. I’ve added some diced sweet potato and red bell pepper, and they are both great additions. I generally use the odds and ends of whatever I have on hand.

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Nervous about curry? I used to be terrified of anything with curry in the name. While I’m still not an authority on authentic Indian food, I have branched out and embraced a few curry dishes. For me, the key was finding a curry powder that I like.  My issue with curry was that I had only ever had a cheap curry blend from the spice aisle in the grocery store. I didn’t like it much, so I assumed that I didn’t like curry at all. Turns out, I love it… When I use the right curry powder (or blend my own). Right now, I’m loving this Maharajah Curry blend from Spices Inc. I try to keep it on the milder side since I’m feeding a toddler, but if you want to add a bit more heat, I recommend mixing in some cayenne pepper.

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Chickpea Curry
Makes 8 – 10 servings

  • 1 pound dry chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (approximately 1 cup)
  • 4 carrots, diced (approximately 1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (approximately ½ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 14 ounce can coconut milk
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • Cooked basmati rice (optional)

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Rinse the dry chickpeas and transfer to a large pot. Cover with 8 cups of water and let soak overnight. Drain and rinse.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables have just started to soften slightly. Add the curry powder and continue to cook for an additional minute or two.

Add the chickpeas to the pot and stir to combine with the vegetables. Add the vegetable stock and the coconut milk. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer, partially covered for about an hour, until the chickpeas are tender.

Wilt the spinach into the curry and allow to simmer uncovered until the sauce reduces and thickens up a bit, an additional 15 – 20 minutes.  Adjust the seasonings to your taste. Serve over basmati rice, if desired.

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