Olive Oil and Sea Salt Brownie Cookies from Butterlust!

Olive Oil cookies
By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch
It was one of those cold fall evenings last night – the kind that was damp with occasional rain, and as the evening went on, the wind from Lake Michigan was on the rise.  The girls and I couldn’t get warm, no matter the thickness of our sweatshirts or how many blankets we cuddled in.
It was time for a fire.  I hadn’t made one in quite some time, but I didn’t want to use the fireplace, so I used the pizza oven.  We have quite a stash of wood in the garage, so I grabbed some wood and kindling and got a good fire going in no time.
Now that I was a little warmer, I could think a little more clearly about dinner and dessert.  I wanted to make something different for dessert.  I realized the other day that I used to make basic chocolate chip cookies quite often, but once I went gluten free, I started making them less and less frequently.  The other night I realized it had been weeks since I had made cookies.  It was time.
I wanted to try something a little different, though, and I was pretty sure my family would appreciate a change as well.  I was in the mood for something chocolatey.  So I grabbed my file that has a bunch of recipes I’ve printed off over the last few months or torn out of a magazine – recipes that are different from what I would normally see and ones I definitely want to try.
I came across this recipe from Butterlust Blog:  Olive Oil & Sea Salt Brownie Cookies.  It looked perfect – how could a cookie containing chocolate, olive oil and sea salt be anything but good?  So Frankie and I got right to work making them.
These cookies call for olive oil , which you don’t see too often in sweet treats.  I’ve been wanting to try some sort of dessert with olive oil for quite some time and when I saw this recipe, it looked relatively easy and the combination of ingredients looked like they would work together nicely.
The only change I made in the recipe was that I used Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour in place of regular flour.  Other than that minor change, I stuck close to what Butterlust suggests.
Well, I have to say, this recipe jumped right into my top 5 favorite cookies! The girls were equally thrilled with the way they turned out.  It was funny because when we all took our first bites, we just looked at each other like we couldn’t believe they were that good.
I know olive oil in a cookie sounds a little strange.   But you have to give these a try!!!
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Ginger, Turmeric, and Grapefruit – a Shot of Health!

Shot of health

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Last week I was in Grand Rapids at least 5 times. Whew!

Tuesday, I went for my follow-up appointment at the Functional Medicine practitioner (as mentioned Friday), and I stopped by Sip Organic Juice Bar afterwards.

Lindsey, my sister, and I went to The Grove Restaurant for dinner on Wednesday for Restaurant Week.

The Grove

The girls and I went to the amazingly gorgeous Meijer Gardens on Friday, with Frankie’s friend from Florida.

Meijer Gardens

Meijer Gardens

Saturday we went to The Grand Rapids Market for some awesome Pad Thai at Rak, and some gluten-free and vegan Cherry Amaretto gelato at Love’s Ice Cream.

And then on our way back from visiting family in Flint, Mike and I stopped to have dinner at the Grand Rapids Market again (and brought home some more gluten-free vegan gelato).

Holy Moly!  That’s a lot of driving! Fortunately Grand Rapids is only about 35 minutes away, so it’s not tooooo bad.  We’re lucky to live so close to such a great city that hosts many great food options, art, nature, and creative stimulation.

I wanted to share some of my Grand Rapids inspiration with you today for the recipe of the week.

My inspiration came from Sip Organic Juice Bar, a relatively new (2012) organic juice bar in Eastown Grand Rapids (originally located in Cascade).  While passing through Grand Rapids, I’ll often stop at Sip for a quick, healthy snack because I know I can get a nutrient-dense smoothie that serves as a meal.  I love their smoothies because they don’t put a lot of fillers – just pure nutrition with lots of superfood add-on options like Maca, hemp seeds, bee pollen, wheat grass shots, spirulina, and turmeric, to name a few.

My favorite thing to get there is the Strawberry Fields Forever (technically it’s a “Substantial Meal Replacement”).  It has coconut water, strawberry, fig, banana, hemp protein, and agave.  I usually substitute honey for agave and sometimes will add Maca and cacao.

So on Tuesday, when I stopped by Sip, I got a Strawberry Fields “smoothie,” but was feeling like I wanted a little more punch that particular day.  And, since I was just coming from the Functional Medicine doctor, and learned, that although I am moving in the right direction in terms of intestinal inflammation, I still had a ways to go.  I decided to take advantage of Sip’s “Elixers.”  Their Elixers are really potent immune-enhancing and inflammation reducing shots along with the drink.

I opted for the “Help!” which is a shot of turmeric, ginger, grapefruit, and honey.  Oh my gosh!  Did that ever wake me up!!!  It was pretty potent, and I had to use my smoothie as a chaser!  But I felt energized and more focused for quite some time afterwards.

So, I thought I would try to make it at home, since it’s not every day that I drive into Grand Rapids (well, it’s USUALLY not every day).  I tried it this morning and made an extra one for Mike to get his day off to a great start.  I had to slowly sip mine, but Mike just drank it much like he would a shot of alcohol and was perfectly fine – or so he said.

I love the combination of grapefruit, ginger, and turmeric, because you get anti-inflammatory, immune-enhancing, and digestive benefits – perfect for me.  I went out that next day and bought all of the ingredients necessary to make it at home (I love my juicer!).  It was delicious!  Here’s what I did:

Healthy shot

Ingredients:

1 inch piece of turmeric

1 1/2 inch piece of ginger

1/3 grapefruit

1/2 tsp. honey

Directions:

Peel the ginger, and grapefruit, and put them in a juicer.  Add the honey and stir to combine.  Sip.  Or gulp.  Or shoot.

Be prepared, though, you may need a chaser to cool you off :)

To your health!

Raspberry Glazed Chicken

Raspberry glazed chicken

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

The other day, Frankie, Lindsey, and I went raspberry picking.

We actually had to trick Lindsey into going – we told her we were just going to Kismet Bakery in Fennville, Michigan, to pick up some muffins and an amazing Chocolate Espresso Brioche.  But once we got on the road toward Fennville, we broke the news to her that picking peaches was going to be our stop before Kismet.  She was not happy with us – at all!

After pulling into the orchard and discovering that the peaches weren’t ready to pick yet, Lindsey thought she was off the hook.  No such luck for her – they were actually still picking raspberries, so I decided we should do that as long as we were there.  Although she fought that idea as well, the three of us ended up actually having a great time!

The girls waited in the car while I checked in and got a couple of containers for picking.  The women explained where we were to pick, how to look for the more “hidden” berries, and the basic rules.  She asked if I had any kids with me and I said yes.  She then said to make sure they don’t run down the aisles and that they don’t throw the raspberries at each other.  I kind of laughed and explained there was no need to worry – my girls were 15 and 18 – they wouldn’t do anything like that.

So I went back to the car, and showed the girls where we were to pick.  I didn’t even explain the rules to them – figured I didn’t need to.  Apparently, I was wrong!  Not more than 10 minutes into picking and I look up to see the two of them throwing raspberries at each other across 3 aisles!  Not only were they throwing the raspberries, but they were running down the aisles and ducking to hide from each other…

Well, we made it without getting kicked out long enough to pick two quarts of raspberries.  As soon as we got home, I decided to make jam, so I got right to work.  There’s nothing like fresh jam.  Everyone was excited to see I was making jam – dessert that night was simply a piece of toast (gluten free for me, of course) with butter and fresh raspberry jam – yummy!!

So the next night, I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, and couldn’t find the chicken recipe I was looking for, so I had to make something else.  I figured I would use the raspberry jam on some chicken breasts somehow  It was a huge hit!  It was perfect for a nice summer night.  Combined with some short-grain brown rice, it was delicious!

There are a lot of raspberry glazed chicken recipes out there.  Some call for seedless raspberry jam.  I actually like the seeds – it gives it a little extra texture and makes it feel more “earthy.”

Also, my raspberry jam is pretty sweet already, so the lemon juice adds some needed tartness, and mellows the sweetness a bit, as does the balsamic vinegar.  The balsamic vinegar thickens as you cook it in the sauce and helps it form a glaze. Some recipes call for Dijon mustard.  I like Brownwood Farms Famous Kream Mustard – it has a bit of a kick and a bit of a sweetness to it.

Hope you like it!

Ingredients:

4 chicken breast halves (boneless, skinless)

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/3 cup raspberry jam

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup onion, chopped finely

1 Tbsp. creamed mustard (like Brownwood Farms)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

2 cups cooked short grain brown rice, cooked according to package

Directions:

Melt the 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 2 Tbsp. coconut oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the chicken breasts and brown on each side (about 3 minutes per side or so).

Meanwhile, combine the raspberry jam, balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, lemon juice, onion, mustard, salt and pepper in a separate bowl.

After the chicken is browned, add the sauce and turn the heat to low.  Cover and cook for another 20 minutes or so, or until the juice runs clear.  Flip the chicken halfway through so both sides get a little thicker glazed coating.

Serve each breast with 1/2 cup brown rice.  Divide the extra sauce among the 4 servings, and drizzle over top of the chicken and the rice, and serve.

 

 

The Holland Community Garden

Holland Community Garden

By Shannon Keirnan, Contributing Foodie Bitch

Earlier this week I had the privilege of touring the Holland Community Garden.

I hadn’t known about the HCG previously, and sort of fell into a tour on accident, as a friend of the family was seeking more information about starting up a community garden with their church. HCG was happy to provide her with information on the process.

Hidden behind the Community Action House building on 136th, and butting up against the production facility for New Holland Brewing Company, it’s a neatly fenced little area teeming with food, herbs, and Michigan wildflowers. Started in 1999, HCG is a joint project between the Community Action House, the Holland Area Master Gardeners, and the Macatawa Resource Center.

Harvest from the garden is distributed through the Community Action House, and goes to provide food for low-income families and seniors at risk of nutritional deficiency.

Barry Anderson showed us the ropes, explaining the working of the garden with enthusiasm and a deep understanding – after all, the HCG is also a teaching venue. At risk youths, or young individuals working off community service often come to the garden as part of their service, Barry explained. However reluctant to work they may start off, most of the time, with a little respect and guidance, they come to truly enjoy their time there. Mandatory short breaks bring together people from all groups – church groups, community service workers, students, etc. – in a cozy little eating area, where they can enjoy a drink, a snack, and some conversation. Fostering this sense of accomplishment and community among young people who have otherwise not been exposed to a positive environment can make a huge impact on their lives, Barry notes.

The garden itself, while not overly large, is absolutely brimming with produce. Dill as tall as myself waved yellow heads in the breeze, giant cabbages spread out purple arms next to broccoli and cauliflower growing toward a second harvest. Green beans hung in thick clumps from a wall, and onions bigger than my fist burst from the soil, ready to be plucked. It was abundance all around, and it was quite a sight… if you thought your garden was doing well, the immaculately groomed HCG will still put it to shame.

Yet everything in the garden has to be of use, Barry points out. Pretty is nice, but only plants that serve some kind of purpose make it on the inside of the fence.

HCG

 

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We munched on snap peas and beans as Barry showed us around, discussing the use of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and fish-based fertilizers. While not entirely organic, the garden strives to use as little chemical impact as they can. Sometimes all it takes to save a crop is a few volunteers plucking harmful insects off the leaves, he explained.

Around us, bees hummed in the air and on the flowers, hailing from a nearby hive painted in bright colors. A wren scolded us from her house amongst enormous tufts of wildflowers and local grasses, protecting her brood in the area dedicated to Michigan plants. Donated sculptures added to the pleasing aesthetic, though most everything else is utilitarian in purpose.

Rain barrels provide some of the water for the garden, though irrigation systems are built in throughout (the exception being in the newly built hoop house, which will extend the growing season to approximately 10 months out of the year). Compost bins are set up to take scraps, weeds, and other discards, and mixed with donated horse manure, and reduce overall waste. The garden is a finely tuned machine, and a pleasure to see working.

HCG

Run largely by volunteers, Barry included, the HCG is always looking for a helping hand. Individuals or groups of any kind are always welcome. Volunteers can learn about composting, bed preparation, planting, maintenance, harvesting, and many other aspects of gardening. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn, while helping out those in need in the Holland area.

Check out the HCG Facebook page for more information on ways to get involved in the HCG, or to network on how to start up a community garden in your own area!

Have a great weekend!

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