My first time making injera (with pictures)

Pop over to Mother Earth News to read about my first experience in making injera, a traditional Ethiopian fermented flatbread that forms the base of every meal (when I say base, I mean this literally, since injera also serves as the plate!):

Teff, Ethiopia’s traditional grain, has been enjoying its well-deserved spotlight as a recently discovered superfood. Teff is extremely healthy and nutritious, and certainly worth getting acquainted with. You can find teff in health food and ethnic stores. There is a darker variety and a lighter one, and it’s worth trying both to see which you like better.

The process, in pictures:

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Starting the batter.

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Day 3: Bubbles are the evidence of successful fermentation.

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Day 4: Diluting the batter with water prior to cooking.

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I let it cook a tad too long and it over-dried somewhat, but it was still really good, and I hope to do better next time.

Delicious No-Bake Energy Bites

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Sweet cravings are a serious thing in winter – the cold, dark days make us long for something sweet with our afternoon tea. If things get desperate enough, you may find yourself dipping into that secret chocolate stash you don’t want your children to know about.

That’s where these bite-sized balls of yummy goodness come along! They are simple, versatile, easy to make, require little to no processing, are full to burst with healthy nutrients, and contain no refined sugar. Please keep in mind, however, that proportions are not exact, and you will need to play with the consistency a bit until you get what you like best.

You will need:

Approx. 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup sunflower seeds, lightly crushed

A handful of sesame seeds

A handful of raisins

1/2 shredded coconut

1/2 cup natural date spread, or 10-12 processed medjoul dates

2-3 tbsp raw tahini

Shredded coconut, chopped almonds or peanuts, or sesame seeds for rolling

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until you reach a nice workable consistency. You may need to add a little water if the mixture is too dry, or a little shredded coconut or another dry ingredient if it’s too runny.

Form small balls and roll them in the coating of your choice.

Place in container, pop into freezer, and voila! You have a delicious, nutritious, easy-to-serve energy treat to curb those sweet cravings.

Gnocchi with butter, garlic and sage

Gnocchi used to be one of those things I’d never think to make from scratch – because I guessed the process involves some complex, extremely delicate kitchen magic. But then the prices of store-bought gnocchi rose and we stopped buying them. Then, one day, I was reading The Shoemaker’s Wife, and got the most irresistible craving when I came across the description of making gnocchi with butter, garlic and sage. It all sounded so easy – mashed potatoes, flour, an egg, roll out the dough, cook the dumplings. What could possibly go wrong? Dinnertime was about to roll soon, and I just figured out I’d quickly make a batch of gnocchi and surprise my husband.

Well, let me just tell you dinner was very late that night, and I ended up having to scoop up bits of dough with a spoon and dump them into boiling water (which made me understand, for the first time, the origin of the word ‘dumpling’). My husband tactfully said it was delicious as he consumed his plate of amorphous blobs, but I was pretty sure gnocchi was not supposed to assume the consistency of playdough on a hot day.

What could I do but harass Italian friends for their family recipes, scour the web, and keep trying? I came across this tutorial yesterday and gave it another go, and made some definite progress – though I didn’t attain the elegant shapes of the tutorial, at least I was able to roll out the dough and cut it with a pastry knife. I made two changes from the tutorial: used a potato masher, rather than a potato ricer (I’ve never even heard of such a contraption before), and popped the little bits of dough into the freezer on a large tray before cooking them, to better retain the shape. I ended up keeping one batch in the freezer for a quick dinner next week.

The dressing I like to make for gnocchi is simple and delicious: melt equal parts of butter and olive oil in a skillet, add 3-4 mashed garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and a handful of sage leaves. I am blessed with an abundance of fresh sage from the garden, but you can use dry sage leaves, or omit it altogether if you are not a fan.

Easy Homemade Chocolate Spread

My latest MEN post features a recipe for homemade chocolate spread that is delicious, easy to make, and far better for you than anything store-bought. It contains exactly four ingredients, and one of those is water.

“Do you like chocolate spread on toast, pancakes or waffles? My kids are ready to eat it by the spoonful if we would only let them, but the kind of commercial junk that passes for chocolate spread in the industry doesn’t have a place on our pantry shelves (Nutella, for instance, contains about 55% sugar and 30% oil, leaving only 15% for anything else).”

The detailed recipe is here.

Seriously Simple Sesame Cookies

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Although it’s hard to compete with the oatmeal coconut no-flour cookies, these cookies are lately gaining a place of favor in our family. They are delicious, extremely easy to make, convenient for little hands to shape, and not that bad in nutritional terms. Lovers of sesame seed, like us, will find these addictive.

Recipe is as following:

1 cup flour (almost any kind will work)

1 cup sesame seeds

4 tbsp of your preferred sweetener (maple sugar, date sugar, honey)

1 egg

5 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp baking powder

Mix everything together. You should have a pliable, workable mass. If it comes out too dry, add a little water or an extra egg.

Form round flat cookies, place on cookie sheet and bake until edges are just slightly golden. It should only take a few minutes. Don’t overbake!

Allow to cool and store in airtight container.

How to juice a pomegranate

The pomegranate is a delicious fruit with many health benefits, but it can get really messy. When I want to treat my family to fresh, antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice, I seed and juice my pomegranates in the following easy, low-tech way:

1. Cut the pomegranates in half (as shown in the picture, bottom right).

2. Hold the pomegranate halves above a large bowl and seed. I do that by knocking on the outer peel with the handle of a heavy knife – a technique taught by my father-in-law. You can also just remove the seeds with your hands.

3. Once you have the bowl of pomegranate seeds (see picture, top right), mash them with something flat and heavy. I use a beer stein for this purpose – put it on top of the seeds in the bowl, bottom down, and press. The juice will flow.

4. Strain the juice by placing a strainer over a second bowl and pouring the contents of the first. Often, you will have residual juice after the first straining, so press some more.

The fresh pomegranate juice should be consumed as soon as possible so that its unique properties aren’t lost. It gives an antioxidant boost and is also an astringent, great for upset stomach and diarrhea.

The peels go on the compost pile and the remaining seed pulp to the chickens, who love it, so nothing is wasted!

No-Flour Oatmeal Cookies

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Nothing beats oatmeal cookies for a quick and easy snack, and these, a recent experiment, containing no flour or baking powder, are sure to become a favorite recipe. Word of caution: whenever I cook or bake, I’m basically winging it, so if you’re into exact measurements, sorry.

Go ahead and take:

1-1\2 cup of whole or rolled oats

1\2 cup dried, shredded, unsweetened coconut meat

A generous handful of raisins or dried cranberries

A dash of cinnamon

3 heaped tablespoonfuls of coconut oil (and, really, I must digress for a second, because I always feel like I can’t sing the praises of coconut oil enough. It’s delicious in all kinds of baked goods that I want to keep dairy-free, and makes lovely, crisp cookies and mouthwatering, flaky pie crust)

1\2 cup honey, date sugar, or whatever your preferred sweetener is

Mix everything thoroughly in a bowl; it’s best to knead with your hands.

Add 1-2 eggs, just enough to make a sticky mixture.

Take a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. Pick up small portions of the cookie mixture (about egg-sized) and flatten them thoroughly with your two hands. Place the cookies on the sheet, evenly spaced, and pop into the oven for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat, just until the edges start to turn golden-brown. Do not overbake.

Enjoy with a nice hot cup of tea or cocoa, or with a glass of cold milk.