Category Archives: Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Raw Brownie Bites with Hemp Seeds

raw hemp seed brownie bites

When WTTW’s cult restaurant review show Check, Please! announced they were looking for a new host, I knew I had to apply.  My family has been watching the show for over 10 years and it’s how we were introduced to great Chicago restaurants like Noon O Kabab, Icosium KafeCoobah, and Kabul House.  The show features a diverse, rotating cast of everyday Chicagoans sitting around a table and sharing their favorite restaurants with each other, in a way that’s both honest and accessible.  In my audition video, I tried to showcase my hosting skills and culinary expertise by taste-testing the difference between wine and cough syrup, eating a salad and laughing in front of the mirror, and trying to shove as many sugary Italian cookies into my mouth as humanly possible. (It makes more sense if you watch the video below, I promise.)

While I love a fistful of sweet and crumbly Italian cookies as much as any other Chicago gal (whose parents met on Taylor Street, no less), this week I decided to mix it up by creating a satisfying raw treat to have on hand when I get the craving for something sweet.  Made with just a handful of pantry ingredients, these Raw Brownie Bites with Hemp Seeds take only minutes to make and no baking or precise measuring is required.  I’m a fan of savory breakfasts like dal, eggs, soup, or even leftovers, but these little bites have found their way into my early morning routine as well.  Truth be told: “breakfast dessert” is a common phrase in our apartment.

These raw brownies are really just fruit and nut bars where dates and walnuts are pulverized in the food processor and cocoa powder is added to give them that chocolatey goodness.  These could also be shaped into little balls and then rolled in hemp seeds to look like truffles.  Either method is great to make with kids since eating the batter is strongly encouraged and hands are the preferred tool for mixing.  You can eat them immediately, but they greatly improve in flavor and texture after an hour or two chilling in the fridge.

In addition to helping you avoid the food coma that traditional baked goods can induce (at least in the quantities I consume…see video), Raw Brownie Bites with Hemp Seeds are Omega 3 powerhouses since both walnuts and hemp seeds provide the essential good-for-you fats.  Hemp seeds have become my little best friends when it comes to adding protein quickly to vegan and vegetarian dishes.  They have a bit of a strong taste in smoothies, but the cocoa here masks it beautifully.

Check, Please! has narrowed down the pool of potential hosts from over 1000 to a list of 17 finalists–and I’m included!  Now it’s up to the public to vote for their favorite candidate to help choose the next host to showcase great restaurants and interesting diners in this fabulous food city.  Voting for the next host of Check, Please! continues through April 17.  Check out the great applicants here, but you know, vote for me. 😉 In the meantime, I’ll be on the edge of my seat, snacking on mini brownies.

Raw Brownie Bites with Hemp Seeds
makes 25 mini brownies

1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, divided
1 1/2 cups pitted Medjool dates (about 15 dates)
1/2 cup cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
pinch of sea salt

1. In the food processor, pulse walnuts and 1/4 cup hemp seeds until finely ground, but not smooth. Add dates, cocoa/cacao powder and sea salt and blend until the dates are pulverized and a crumbly mixture forms.

2. Remove from food processor and press into a ball. Press mixture evenly into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish, using the bottom of a measuring cup to make the top smooth. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds on top and lightly press down. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours to let the brownies firm up. Cut into small squares and store in the fridge.

Mushroom Walnut Pate

When I told my friends that I was starting a blog to share my recipes, the most common response I received was “Can you put recipes on there for SANDWICHES?!?”  Not exactly what I was expecting.

At first, I was worried about those friends that needed explicit directions on how to make a sandwich.  But the more I thought about it, the Sandwich, particularly the Vegetarian Sandwich, is often sadly lacking in style and substance, filled with a few soggy pieces of lettuce and maybe a couple slices of sad, clammy, deli cheese.

But those sad, droopy sandwiches bow down in the presence of this vegan Mushroom Walnut Pate.  It has a meaty, umami taste that’s incredibly rich, considering it has no animal products in it and is mostly lentils and vegetables.  Lentils and walnuts are packed with protein and fiber, so this sandwich will keep you full and energized all afternoon.  It takes about an hour to make, but you’ll have plenty for sandwiches, snacks, and creative leftovers all week.  But it probably won’t last that long.

So friends, here are your sandwich instructions: Make the pate from the recipe below and slather it on toasted whole wheat country bread.  Add green apple slices and fresh arugula for a perfectly balanced, hearty vegetarian sandwich.

Another serving option for this pate is to unmold it and put it on a platter with crackers, crostini or crudite for an hors d’oeuvre.  It’s a real crowd-pleaser since it’s delicious, decadent and figure-friendly.  If you are serving it to a crowd, I would definitely spring for the dry sherry.  It gives the pate an elegant, winey acidity that’s really irreplaceable.  But I’ve also used balsamic vinegar for a similar sweet-tart kick and that’s also quite delicious.

Put any leftover pate to good use by taking a couple tablespoons and stirring them into freshly cooked pasta for a quick mushroom ragu (just add a little pasta water to thin) or add a spoonful to vegetable broth and vegetables to give a mushroomy undertone to a vegetable soup.

I can’t stress enough how phenomenal and addictive this pate is.  I gave my sister a spoonful of it last night, and her response? “OH YES.”

Mushroom Walnut Pate
makes about 3 cups

1 cup Lentils de Puy (French green lentils)
3 cups vegetable stock, preferably unsalted
1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 8-10 ounce package of cremini mushrooms (about 3 cups), thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry (or 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar)
2 teaspoons of salt

1. Rinse the lentils until the water runs clear. Add them to a large pot with the vegetable stock and the Herbes de Provence and bay leaf. The stock should be about 2 inches above the lentils; add water if it’s not at that level. Bring up to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are fully cooked, about 45 minutes, adding water as necessary. The lentils will retain their shape, but will no longer be hard or gritty on the inside.

2. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On a sheet tray, spread out the walnuts and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. They will be slightly golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

3. Heat up a large saute pan and add the oil. Saute the onion over medium-high heat with a pinch of salt until it is soft and golden brown. Then add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the sliced mushrooms with another pinch of salt and saute until they are brown and much of the liquid has evaporated. The whole mixture should be soft and look caramelized. Then add the dry sherry, using it to scrape off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until most of the sherry has evaporated. Then remove from heat.

4. In the food processor, pulse the walnuts until finely ground. Then add the cooked lentils (drained from their water and with the bay leaf removed), the mushroom mixture and the 2 teaspoons of salt. Puree until smooth. Taste the mixture and add salt until it tastes perfect. Then add two extra pinches of salt. It will taste too salty warm, but once it cools, it will taste perfect again. The palate perceives salt differently in hot and cold food.

5. Spoon mixture into a loaf pan, mold or tupperware and cover with plastic wrap. Then place a similarly-sized container on top and weigh it down to press the pate.  Chill in the refrigerator for several hours.  Invert on a plate to serve as an hors d’oeuvre or spread on bread for your sandwich.

Coconut Date Granola Bars


Born out of the days of free love and food coops, granola bars are, in a way, a quintessential health food for the modern era.  The concept is simple: mix some whole grain goodness with nuts and dried fruit and smoosh it all together in a portable little package.  However, commercial granola bars are often loaded with sugar and additives, making them a far cry from the guitar-playing, unshaven, sticky oat squares we expect.  And when all you have to do it combine a few pantry ingredients and toss them in the oven, why not make your own?

For these coconut date granola bars, I use a combination of two natural sweeteners: honey and barley malt.  Barley malt is an ultra-sticky syrup made from (duh) barley that’s predominantly maltose, giving it a distinct malty/Whopper flavor. While there is debate about how different sugars affect health and particularly blood sugar, I think the main reason for using them over refined sugars is that they get your body accustomed to a “less sweet” sweet, and, in these bars, the gentle sweetness allows you taste the almonds, coconut and spices.  Don’t worry if you don’t have barley malt; just use the equivalent amount of honey.  Packed with protein from the nuts, fiber from the oats and dates, and good-for-you Omega 3 fats from the flax seeds and wheat germ, this is an elegant update that will boost your energy while satisfying your sweet tooth.

These granola bars make great gifts, particularly for friends who like to work out.  You’ll soon be just as popular as your baker friends.

Coconut Date Granola Bars
yield: 16 bars

1 cup blanched almonds, chopped (or any other nut)
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons barley malt (or same amount extra honey if you don’t have barley malt)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and edges of a 9×12 baking dish.

2. On a large sheet pan toss together the chopped almonds, oats, dried coconut and wheat germ. Toast in oven, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.  The mixture should be slightly golden and fragrant. Remove from the oven and place in a large  bowl and add the flax seeds.

3. In a small pot, heat the honey, barley malt, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla extract, butter and salt. Let the mixture come to a boil, turn off the heat, and pour it into the bowl with the oat mixture.  Add the chopped dates, breaking apart any clumps, and stir to combine.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and form a smooth, even layer, using a moistened spatula or your fingers. Make sure the mixture is packed down, then bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove and let cool for several hours before slicing into bars or squares.  Wrap individually in plastic wrap to keep your homemade granola bars fresh all week.