Feb 232014

This summer, my friend Erica Sweet Tooth and I auctioned off a dinner party at a charity auction. We knew that it couldn’t just be your average dinner party, but that we had to spice it up in Sweet Tooth/Cook Tush style. We went with a grown up comfort food menu including an “adult” lemonade stand, two types of sliders, healthy butternut squash-kale mac & cheese (recipe coming soon), mixed root vegetable fries, and of course, homemade cookie-ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Everything was a huge hit, especially these two sliders–Jalapeno-Quinoa Falafel and Chicken Meatball Parm.
The chicken meatball parm slider was so flavorful and super easy. Just use your favorite meatball recipe, make slightly more burger shaped than ball shaped, and top with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil. I was bad and didn’t measure anything enough to share the recipe, but mine were a combo of ground chicken and chicken italian sausage (1 lb of each), parmesan, whole wheat bread crumbs, 2 eggs, italian seasoning/salt/pepper, and a splash of milk.
Here’s a little preview of the dinner party spread…
Picture 4
As amazing as the meatball slider was, I liked the falafel even more. They were vegan/gluten free, incredibly flavorful, and so cute on mini pita with tomato cucumber salad and tahini. These falafel were baked instead of fried but they were still super crispy and held together well. The other beauty of sliders is they keep portions in check…that is until you eat several of them. Oops.
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Jalapeno-Quinoa Falafel “Sliders”
Makes about 24 falafel
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What’s in it:
1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
1 cup cooked quinoa
1-2 Jalapenos, seeded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, quartered
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (or a combo)
1 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
2 eggs or flax eggs
If needed, a few tablespoons of any type of flour

For the Tahini Sauce:
1/2 cup tahini
2 T olive oil
2 T water
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice from 1 fresh lemon

For serving:
Mini whole wheat pitas or large pita cut into small triangles
Cucumber-tomato salad (mine was simple chopped cucumber and tomato with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper)
Siracha, in case the jalapeno in the falafel is not enough :)

1. Do in advance! Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches—the beans will get much bigger as they soak. Soak for 24 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 400. Drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a food processor with the garlic, onion, cumin, corriander, herbs, jalapeno, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper. Pulse until everything is minced but not pureed, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides if necessary.

3. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and mix in the cooked quinoa and eggs/flax eggs. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper if needed. If the mixture seems really “wet” add a few tablespoons of flour to make them hold together a little better.

3. Coat large rimmed baking pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Roll the falafel mixture into 24 balls, about 1½ inches each, then flatten them into thick patties. Put the falafel on the prepared pan and brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes on each side.

4. Meanwhile, whisk all of the tahini ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Add additional water if it is too thick.

5. Assemble the falafel sliders by topping a small pita with a falafel, a spoonful of tomato/cucumber salad, and a drizzle of tahini and siracha. Enjoy!

A few notes:
– I found the flavor in the falafel “batter” to be really pungent and almost too strong from all the herbs and seasonings, but once baked they were perfect.
– You can make the whole falafel mixture a few days in advance and just bake them up when you are ready.

Feb 092014

How can you let someone know that you love them this valentines day? Option A: Chocolate. Never fails. Option B: Make them something super healthy to let them know you want them to be around for a while. Well this granola bar recipe does both!
I’ve had a few failed granola bar attempts–some were too crumbly and fell apart, others were too sweet, but these were really perfect to me. They were a great soft consistency but still held together really well. They are so much tastier and better for you than store bought granola bars, and you can make them with any variety of dried fruits and nuts you like or have on hand. These were not too sweet, but just sweet enough to satisfy my daily afternoon cravings.
Nutritional Highlights: A lot of granola bars at the store seem healthy but really are packed with sugar, ingredients you can’t pronounce, and other things that you wouldn’t want in your “heathy” snack. These bars are sweetened only with dried fruit (dates and cherries), coconut, and dark chocolate. There is tons of fiber in here, from the chia seeds and oats, and lots of protein from the variety of nuts and seeds. Extra bonus…these are gluten free (as long as you use GF oats) and vegan.
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Dark Chocolate-Cherry Granola Bars
makes about 12-15 granola bars
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What’s in it:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup packed pitted dates, quartered
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup creamy almond butter
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (I used roasted unsalted)
1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds (I used roasted unsalted)
1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/4 (or maybe a little more :) cup roughly chopped dark chocolate (or use chips/chunks)
1/4 tspn sea salt

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Toast the oats for about 10-15 minutes until slightly brown and fragrant. Let cool. Reduce oven temp to 325.
2. Soak dates in water for about 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
3. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients excluding the oats (seeds, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, sea salt).
4. In a small food processor, blend half of the oats (3/4 cup) into flour. Add the oat flour and remaining whole oats into the dry mixture.
5. Add the dates/water and almond butter into the food processor and blend until smooth. Mix into the dry mixture.
6. Line a shallow baking pan with parchment. Press the granola bar mixture in the pan into a 1/4 to 1/2 in thick, even layer. Press it in very firmly for a few minutes, this will help keep them from falling apart. My batch only filled half of my sheet pan.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm and slightly brown. Allow to cool completely and then cut them into bars (or other fun shapes).
8. Enjoy and share with someone you love!

You can wrap these individually and keep them in the freezer if you have left overs…although I doubt they will last that long!
These will definitely make you and your valentine a little bit happier and healthier this year. Valentineless this year? Lucky you…you don’t have to share :)