Healthier Granola

The main ingredients

We’ve been on a granola kick in the home of the Spice Raconteurs. It is crunchy, delicious, high in fiber, high in (mostly) good fats and is a nice alternative to boring ole’ cereal or oatmeal in the morning.

I looked at a lot of recipes and finally zeroed in on this tasty recipe that is just asking for you to add your own touch. This version is pretty low on oil/butter and sugar/honey compared to a lot of recipes out there. I don’t miss it, but I don’t like things that are super sweet. If you do, you can, of course add more. Continue reading


Quinoa & Black-eyed Pea Summer Salad

Black-eyed peas & Qunoa Salad
This is one of those lovely salads that sings of summer and summons the vision of (ideally) sitting on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is lovely with herby oregano, acidic lemon and red wine vinegar, salty olives and feta, matched with earthy quinoa and cool cucumber. It is a delcious mix and can be eaten all on it’s own as a vegetarian main dish (for about 2 people) or as a side dish (for about 4). I’d recommend a simply grilled fish to go along with this. If you want to get fancy: fresh fruit, mint and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
This recipe comes from the August 2008 issue of Gourmet Magazine and can be found here. I changed the orzo to quinoa for added fiber and protein (and general whole-grain goodness). The original recipe also recommends constructing the salad in two layers so I’ll describe the recipe in that way as well if you want to do something similar to what I did in the photo and make it all pretty. If you just want to get on with the eating, you can most certainly just mix everything together all at once. 
(*Note that you do have to make the quinoa ahead of time, so get that started before anything else if you don’t have any lying around as left-overs).
Black-eyed Pea Layer (layer 1):
  • 1 15 ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed (other salad beans like kindney and garbanzos can work well here too) 
  • 1 large tomato, chopped (~1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 Mix everything together and let sit at room temperature about 15 minutes while you chop everything and mix up the other layer. 

Quinoa Layer (layer 2):

  • 1/2 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, cored, and diced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all this together. 

 Assemble the salad: 

  • 2-3 cups of romaine or other salad green
  • 1/4- 1/2 lb of feta, crumbled (1/2 – 1 cup)
  • 4-8 pepperocini
  1. Layer some of the black-eyed pea mixture in a glass bowl or jar. 
  2. Layer some of the quinoa mixture on top.
  3. Top with a good handful of romaine leaves or other delicate salad green, and some feta crumbles.
  4. Dig in.

Quick, easy and healthy garbanzo bean salad

Garbanzo Bean Salad

Kind of like hummus but without the tahini, and with chunks, this salad is easy, quick and healthy. I put it together the other day when I had a hankering for Middle Eastern food, but didn’t feel like making a big deal out of it by going out to eat, or making a feast at home. It tastes great on whole wheat pita and a little Greek yogurt, or alongside a nice green salad. Check it.

What you need: 
1 15-oz. can of garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas)
Handful of Italian parsley, chopped
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 lemon, juiced
1 glug of good olive oil (about 1-2 Tablespoons)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

What you do: 

1. Add all the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl and stir.
2. Smash some of the garbanzo beans with the back of a fork, but don’t try to make it smooth. Breaking the beans allows for a slightly more cohesive texture, and lets the flavors get into the beans.
3. Test the seasonings and add more to taste.
4. Serve and enjoy.

Garbanzo Bean Salad

Coconut Red Lentil Soup


This soup, from 101 Cookbooks, is delightful. It tastes a little like spring, but provides warm comfort if you happen to be sitting through another spring rainstorm or perhaps, as we had last week, a freak snow storm with the biggest flakes you’ve ever seen.

The coconut flavor is really mild so if you don’t usually like coconut, you should still try it. The curry flavor is luscious and the raisins plump up to add just a little bit of sweetness when you want it. (If you hate raisins, you could try apricots or prunes, chopped.) And, finally, the green onions provide a springy current throughout this thick, hearty soup. This recipe is also really healthy, full of fiber, vegetarian, and gorgeous. As you can see, I served it with forbidden rice which just so happens to be a beautiful dark purple color because I liked how it looked, of course.

What you need:

1 cup  yellow split peas
1 cup red split lentils (masoor dal)
7 cups water
1 medium carrot, diced
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder (I used the Madras curry powder from Savory Spice Shop)
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
8 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1/3 cup golden raisins (I used the dark kind and it didn’t seem to matter)
1/3  cup tomato paste (this is about half of a tiny can)
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (light is fine)
2 teaspoons sea salt
one small handful cilantro, chopped
cooked brown or forbidden rice, for serving (optional)

What to do: 

  1. Rinse the split peas and lentils until they no longer make the water murky. Place in in a large soup pot, cover with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, then add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. Gover and simmer about 30 minutes. 
  2. As the peas cook, toast the curry powder in a small dry skillet over low heat. Watch it to make sure you don’t burn it. When you’re done, find a skillet and put it over medium heat. Add half of the green onions, the rest of the ginger and the raisins. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste and saute for another 2 minutes. 
  3. Add the curry powder to the tomato mixture and mix, then add all of that to the peas and lentils along with the coconut milk and salt. 
  4. Simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered. The soup should thicken, but you can cook it longer to make it thicker. 
  5. Serve  the soup over or alongside a scoop of rice. Top with cilantro and the rest of the green onions and enjoy!
Coconut Curry Red Lentils

Summer Grape-Tomato Bruschetta

I went to see Julie and Julia the other day. I liked it. I was generally enamored with the Julia parts and apathetic about the Julia parts, but over all the equation turned out favorable.

At the beginning of the movie Julie makes some tasty looking bruschetta and since then I’ve been craving a fresh tomato bruschetta on crunchy French bread. As luck would have it, Whole Foods had some very tasty looking and multi-colored grape tomatoes on sale a few days ago and so for lunch, I made me some bruschetta. And god damn, it was good.

This makes enough for about 4 pieces of bruschetta. I ate all of them for lunch, but if this was an appetizer this could serve 4.

What you need:

  • 1.5 cups grape tomatoes, washed and halved
  • 10 leaves of fresh basil, julienned (dry basil just won’t cut it, sorry)
  • Sprinkle of sea salt (to taste)
  • About 5 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Ttablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 4 slices of crusty french bread (I used the “Daily Batard” from Whole Foods)

What you do:

  1. Drizzle olive oil on the bread slices, then place in a toaster oven until slightly golden.
  2. Meanwhile, put all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix.
  3. When the bread it toasted, pile the tomato mixture onto the toasts *
  4. Enjoy! **

* If you’re feeling cheesy, you could spread a thin layer of goat cheese on the toasts before adding the tomatoes.

**This would be terribly enjoyable, indeed, with a nice red wine.

Healthier Zucchini Bread

Well, it’s that time again. Zucchini time. Our garden zucchini plant is regularly producing 2-3 zucchini’s every few days so we’ve got a bit of an excess on our hands. One way to use up zucchini– especially those zucchinis that got a little too big and aren’t as sweet and delicate as you’d like– is to make zucchini bread!

My mom has a fantastic zucchini bread recipe that she got from her friend Rose Meyer. And Rose probably got it from somewhere else, but I don’t know where. The original recipe has a lot of oil and sugar in it, as well as all white flour, and since T likes to have this for breakfast, I set out to make it a little healthier. In the end, I think I succeeded in making each slice about 70 calories less, and decreased the fat by half (from 10 grams to 5 grams) and doubled the fiber. I think that some more changes could be made to make it even better for us (such as adding nuts to increase protein, adding flax seed for more fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids, decreasing the oil even more, or cutting out some of the egg yolks) but those changes may have to wait for another time. (Also, I kind of hate recipes that complicate things by making me waste a good egg yolk just to save some fat and cholesterol– egg yolks have a ton of vitamins in them so why not eat ’em?)

For now, I present to you a recipe for healthier zucchini bread:

What you need:

  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil (like canola)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 c. coarsely shredded zucchini
  • 1 8-0z. can of crushed pineapple
  • 3 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best!)
  • 1 c. raisins (or currents)
  • 1 c. applesauce

What do do:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Whisk it up.
  2. Stir in the zucchini, pineapple, applesauce and raisins.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients gently into the zucchini mixture until just blended.
  5. Divide batter into two greased 5.5 x 9.5 loaf pans.
  6. Bake in the center of a 375 degree oven for 5o minutes.
  7. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn onto rack.
  8. EAT IT! Yummy.

Nutrition facts per slice (based on 12 slices per loaf):
Calories: 170
Fat: 5 grams
Protein: 3.5 grams
Fiber: 1.4 grams