Fig + Olive Pâté with Seedy Snack Crackers

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Like most people, I tend to fall into the same routine when it comes to my daily snacks. My usual is to cycle through variations of dried fruit and nut or seed bars, which I make in batches every couple weeks and then grab and go mid-morning as needed. For later in the day or when I need hefty snacks, I often throw a big bunch of ‘functional foods’ in the blender and make a smoothie bowl that is mostly tasty, but more importantly packs a good nutritional punch to make sure I’m getting in what I need during training cycles.

The Recipe Redux challenged us to share healthy bites and bars this month and it ended up being the perfect incentive to put a new spin on my snacking go-tos, as well as finally experiment with a flavor and ingredient combination I’ve had in the back of my mind for months. The result is this absolutely delicious pâté.  It wasn’t exactly what I was after when I began, but that’s the beauty of the creative process. Sometimes getting out of our own way and letting the result happen leads to something even better than we’d imagined.

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Beyond the flavor, I’m really excited about the ingredients I’ve used here, how they work together, and the sprinkles of good nutrition they’ve got going on. Part of this is because I’ve added anchovies, and here’s why:

For almost a decade, my doctor has had me taking daily fish or cod liver oil for its high omega-3 content. Now that I’ve gone to nutrition school and read the research, I find there’s evidence that suggests taking fish oil supplements or eating fatty fish can help just about any illness condition or improve general health. The reason is because in our modern society we simply don’t get enough of the type of essential fatty acids called omega-3s–or more accurately, we eat too many of the other types, including the also essential omega-6s as well as saturated and trans fatty acids.

But on my journey towards nutrition school over the years, I started out with environmental sustainability in mind and our oceans’ health has long been one of my concerns. I’ve experimented a lot and continue to eat all the vegan sources of omega 3’s, but they involve a more complicated metabolic conversion and thus (for me as well as many others) are less hefty in their benefits. This has led me right back to taking my fish oil supplements even as I’ve questioned whether they’re contaminated with heavy metals, been oxidized during processing, or are simply unsustainable given the current state of global fisheries. This is definitely the case of the more you know the more complicated the scenario…

Over the winter months, I finally read The Omega Principle, which was less about the nutritional benefits of consuming fatty fish and more about every other aspect of the sustainability in doing so. If this is a topic you too are interested in, I highly suggest reading it.

Beyond all my chatter about the above, anchovies are one of the most nutritious and sustainable fishes we can eat. There is a subtle but definite umami thread to this pâté due to a small amount of anchovy paste, as well as a good base of hemp seeds which provide a balanced ratio of essential fatty acids from plant sources. Pureed together with sweet figs, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and a pinch of thyme and rosemary, and you’ll be wanting to snack on this sort of easy but fancy tasting treat all the time. I know I will!

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Fig + Olive Pâté, makes 4 small or 8 more substantial servings
Recipes notes: In my quest to make a savory snack bar, I added some cooked millet to thicken the mixture. The result was this thick pâté and not a bar at all. Beyond millet, you can add another leftover cooked grain like rice or quinoa, or leave it out if you don’t mind a looser more tapenade-like consistency. 

1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted
3/4 cup dried figs, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs. anchovy paste
6 Tbs. hemp seeds
1 1/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. fresh or dried thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely minced
1/3 cup cooked millet (optional, see notes)

  • In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients and puree until they come to a thick paste that is almost but not completely homogenous.
  • Serve with crackers or sliced vegetables.

 

Seedy Snack Crackers, makes about 12 crackers
If you’re going to eat crackers, skip the boxed versions and make these instead. They are super simple, highly adaptable, and free from questionable oils. Plus they’ve passed the flavor test–they’re quite popular and quickly gobbled at parties! Double or quadruple the batch if you’re likely to share with others or snack on for several days.

2 Tbs. sesame seeds
2 Tbs. walnuts, chopped
2 Tbs. hemp seeds
4 tsp. ground flax seeds
1/4 cup amaranth flour (or other whole grain flour)
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. honey
1/3 cup water

  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and combine until you’ve got a loose batter. Add more water if it’s not loose enough.
  • Line a small baking sheet with parchment, and then spread the seed mixture as thinly as possible.
  • Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently cut into 12 pieces without separating them. Return to the oven and bake for 30 additional minutes or longer until they are crunchy and completely dry. They should no longer have a supple doughy feel to them.
  • Remove from the oven, cool completely, and then break into pieces.

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and Flying

and Flying

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I’ve finally accepted I don’t handle big, celebratory life events like most people. So I wasn’t jumping up and down excited the day we got the keys to our new house. Actually, I was wishing it would go away, the moving, the moving-on from the town that is home and the many special places there that I consider mine. My high school students asked my age the other day, and when we started talking about it, I shared how I won’t consider myself “grown up” until I reach 30. They laughed at me but were also surprised because as teenagers eager for freedom, they think becoming grown up happens at the exact turn of the clock to 18.  Moving on from Corvallis means much to me for so many reasons, but at the bottom of it, it is the place where I’ve done all my formative growing up, where I belong to and am invested in the community, where my work is, and many individuals have shaped my life perspective.

William’s grandma accused me of not being very happy about the new house over the Christmas holiday. I explained it away with, I’ve only been in it once so it’s a little difficult to love yet, but I was well aware my lack of enthusiasm went deeper. Since then, many people have asked me if I love it and I can tell by their tone of voice that my honest response will burst all their happy-for-us excitement. Ultimately, loving a place (or person) comes from deeply knowing it, and this little space and I are only just getting acquainted. So no, I do not love it yet. But knowing we were eventually moving, I prayed about it for a long time. Finally, just a few days before William brought up the idea of purchasing instead of renting, I felt the peace with relocating that I had been asking for. Later, a couple days before we got the keys, I felt very strongly that there is work for me to be done in this new place, that He is calling us to Eugene for a reason, that it is okay to have little clarity right now.

 

 

A week and a half in to being a Eugene resident, I told William, I’ve skipped straight to the angry stage of culture shock with this town. I prefer a community a little smaller, a little less busy at 5:57 am, a little friendlier to my idea of getting across town, a few less barking dogs in our neighborhood, and many more cats(!). I was complaining, irritated, and aware of it. In other words, I was adjusting.

I have still to figure out which will be “my” grocery store, where I will enjoy running on a regular basis, how to take all the quiet(er) little shortcuts to where I am going. And I’ll have to meet and make some new local friends.

Corvallis taught me these things take time. But even though I’ve felt a little upended this last month since moving, I’m diving in to learning this community in the ways I tend to, with running and with food:

 

 

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A couple weeks into the relocation, I was out running out at the edge of Alton Baker Park, near where the river gets a little wild and Eugene becomes Springfield. I remembered being on my pony, Angel, back at the ranch, about a mile from the house, on the road between the creek and the calving shed. I was around nine years old.

I remember leaning forward over Angel’s neck, letting the reins out, the hairs of her long mane tangling into mine, and feeling her fly, as fast as her legs could carry her. And I remembered that wild, heady freedom that a nine-year-old feels, completely absorbed in that moment, no fear, no coulds, shoulds, if-thens, but just there, all there in that rush, that moment, going as fast as we could go.

I relived that memory a moment and then I turned to run back towards home and my car, and my nine-year-old self and Angel faded behind me.

 

Back at that exact same spot a couple weeks later, the memory came back, just the same as before, unexpectedly, as if waiting for me. And then I connected the dots. So that’s why I’ve been running all these years, I thought. That’s why I love running fast especially. Perhaps I’ve been searching for that part of me I experienced with Angel all those years ago, that wild, carefree little girl who wasn’t afraid to go all out and live.

 

And then I smiled. This little city and I will get along just fine, I thought. There will undoubtedly be some growing pains, and I do miss the comforts of home in Corvallis, but I can tell there will be good things for me here.

 

So when friends ask, do I love the new house? my answer will likely continue to be hesitant. I don’t know that I will ever love the house, as I’ve never grown too attached to a building before. But I do get especially attached to places. And I’d like to tell them, in time, that I absolutely love this new place.

 

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Broccoli, Collards + Kalamata Salad, serves 4-6

inspired by Sara’s Emerald Salad

William is on a broccoli kick lately. He asks for broccoli in everything. I had no idea he is partial to this vegetable until now, but glad I am because our school-garden-broccoli was such a success last year and I’m now planning on upping my broccoli-growing game in our new home garden this spring. Planning has already begun!

2 lbs. broccoli

1 large red onion

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

zest of 1 orange

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

3-5 cups collard greens (or other winter greens), thinly sliced

red pepper flakes

3 Tbs. orange juice

1 small handful flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup kalamata olives, sliced

¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

 

– Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

– Chop the broccoli into 2-inch pieces; include the stems but discard the large, tough ends. Roughly chop the onion into large pieces. On a large bar pan lined with parchment paper, mix the broccoli pieces, onions, 2 Tbs. olive oil, orange zest, garlic, salt, and pepper. Once all the vegetables are nicely coated, roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the broccoli is starting to brown on top. Rotate the pan or stir halfway through.

– While the vegetables are roasting, remove the tough center stem and thinly slice the collards. Put them in a large mixing bowl. When the vegetables are roasted, pour them atop the collards to soften slightly and give the mix a good stir. Add the orange juice, pepper flakes, remaining tablespoon, if necessary, and toss with olives, parsley, and hazelnuts.

– Serve warm or chilled.

Roasted Vegetable Pizza with Golden Tomato Sauce

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There are few people I respect more than those who live each day in truth with their whole selves. I’m in awe of these folks and admire how they stubbornly live in their brassy, blunt, comfortably imperfect beings.

I am not of those personalities. I tend to be quiet, small, and gauge how much I share with how well it will be accepted. If feathers will be ruffled or judgement passed, I opt to keep my mouth shut. I’m one that avoids controversy and negative attention. I like to be perceived as put together.

 

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These last few months I’ve been working on letting go a little: Being me without so much filter. Wearing less camoflouge. Going out in public in whatever I happen to have on. Saying things I mean. Sharing parts of me that I previously shoved away into dark little corners.

 

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In my food-world, I liken this process to embracing the ugly vegetables.

 

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William is working on an awesome organic vegetable farm this summer and he brings home bags of crooked carrots, too-ripe peppers, and weedy leaves.
 
If truth be known, I have a fondness for the most interesting produce cast-aways. A perfectly straight carrot? An apple that has more beauty than flavor? A purely symmetrical tomato? Perfection in the botanical world is boring, sterile, and dare-I-say-it, industrial. Blemishes have their own unique beauty and the taste, what’s inside that really matters, is rarely sacrificed.
 

If it’s so exciting to embrace ugly produce, why is it like hurdling mountains to get along with personal imperfection?

Tough experiences leave scars which make the good days shine all the more brightly. They leave a life rich with experience. And wisdom.

Exposure to another viewpoint and belief encourages acceptance and understanding.

Having a different opinion is some sort of individualistic awesome.

Critisism can be a catalyst for growth–Or expelling bad juju.

Casting aside worry of another’s judgement is liberating.

Self-acceptance is the best form of freedom.

 

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Back in the kitchen, I’m working with golden heirloom tomatoes of an unknown variety–they were too ripe to sell. I’ve seedy, scarred eggplants, and yellow summer squash from my garden. My squash plant is dying so these are likely the last ones for the summer. I’ve Jimmy Nardello peppers that didn’t come up to size and missshapen bell peppers, still green, which came off with a broken stem from overenthusiastic weeding. There are gorgeous red onions too. I’ve no idea why but they didn’t pass the farm’s to-market test.

 

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As for me, I’m working on being real,worrying less about measuring up or missing out. I’m working on embracing the ugly vegetables in my personality, the crooked roots and misshapenness. I’m working on letting the unique beauty that is the real me overpower the pursuit of being perceived as polished as a tasteless red apple.

 
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We are all glorious in our imperfection. Let’s celebrate a little more of that today. And eat pizza loaded with a bunch of ugly vegetable cast-aways.
 
 
 
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Roasted Vegetable and Golden Tomato Pizza, makes 2, serves 4-6
Roasted Vegetables:
1 medium eggplant, chopped
1-2 medium yellow summer squash, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1-2 sweet red peppers, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
8-10 kalamata olives, diced
extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh thyme, optional
 
– Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large baking pan lined with parchment paper, layer in the chopped eggplant, squash, onion, and peppers.
– Drizzle the mixture with oil, and toss in the fennel seed, freshly ground black pepper, and salt.
– Give it all a good stir and then roast for about 20-25 minutes.
– When the vegetables are sizzling and soft, remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
 
Golden Tomato Sauce:
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lbs. yellow or golden tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
 
– Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil sizzles, add the garlic and sauté until just golden.  
– Add the tomatoes and spices and turn to low. Simmer for 45-60 minutes.  
– Let the tomatoes cool for a few minutes and then puree in a blender for a smooth, pizza-sauce consistency. If the sauce is still quite thin, put it back on the stove and simmer a bit longer to thicken up.
 
Crust:
The ingredients below make enough for two 10-12″ crusts. Each pizza usually serves two to three. You can refrigerate the dough for the second crust up to two days. Due to the differences in the flours, I like to weigh them with a kitchen scale to get an accurate ratio of 70 percent whole grains and 30 percent starches. I’ve then put those weights into cups so it will be easier to measure without a scale, but if in doubt, I’d use a “short measurement,” rather than an overflowing cup.
 
1 1/2 Tbs. flax seed, ground
3 Tbs. hot water
40 grams (a short 1/2 cup) garbanzo & fava bean flour
80 grams (3/4 cup) brown rice flour
80 grams (3/4 cup) sorghum flour
80 grams (3/4 cup) millet flour
40 grams (1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. tapioca starch
40 grams (1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. arrowroot starch
40 grams (1/4 cup) potato starch
2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
~2 Tbs. olive oil, separated
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/3 cup warm water, divided
cornmeal
 
– Combine the flax seeds and 3 tablespoons of very hot water in a small bowl until a slurry is formed; set aside.
– Combine the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the yeast, 1 Tbs. olive oil, sugar and 1/2 cup warm water. Allow it to rest for 3 minutes or so until the yeast is activated.
– Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, and stir it all up. Then add the flax seed slurry to the dough and a portion of the remaining water; mix until the dough comes together in a ball. If it is too dry, add enough water to for a tender, pliable dough.
– Cover the dough in the mixing bowl and set it aside to rest for 1 hour.
 
Putting it all together:
– Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Separate the dough into two equal portions. For each pizza, dust your pizza stone or baking sheet with a light sprinkling of cornmeal. Roll one of the dough portions out to desired thickness directly on a pizza stone or baking sheet. 
– Spoon a hefty couple of ladlefuls of the golden tomato sauce over the dough and smooth it out. Then, layer on the roasted vegetables followed by the kalamata olives. If desired, crumble a sprig of fresh thyme over the top. Fold the crust edges in when done, and with your fingers, lightly dab the edges with the last tablespoon of olive oil. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 16 minutes.