50 First Dates

 

One… two, three dates would’nt do. We would  eat the entire pack if we did’nt get this thing under control.  That’s a fact.  It was something like a synchronized feeding frenzy, a date with dates.  We’d split them both open to reveal the slim seed covered by here creamy gooey-ness.  Seeds got tossed, fingers got super sticky, and our mouths were made to feel satisfied. At each bite, we’d promise ourselves and the dates that this mouthful was in fact going to be our last. We made promises we had hoped to keep, but at each turn, we decided that these promises were made to be broken. Each of fifty or so of these delicious fruit were  all eaten as if they were our very first.   It was a  simple recipe for love.

I know what youre thinking… Chef Will… you’re in love with just about everything (there’s some truth to that, delicious and nutritious food is my passion) but dates fall into an entirely different category.  They can be enjoyed as a simple and gooey snack, or as a sweet element to  more meals than you can shake a stick at. And according to the California Dates website (http://www.datesaregreat.com/health-nutrition/ ) dates have antioxidant qualities and have the ability to help keep the heart healthy because of its low saturated fat, trans fat,  and fiber.  Dates are also known to carry a natural balance of calcium, selenium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron and  potassium which are all understood to harmonically lower blood pressure.  And to be honest that should be enough evidence to take your time, fall in love and make each fifty of so feel like your very first.  Here’s an adaptation of a recipe that I used to go gaga for ( in addition to one bonus recipe). Give it a try and …. please do enjoy!

Cheers,

Chef Will Hall

Vegan Cashew French Toast
Ingredients:
4 slices of bread *preferably stale-gluten free if that floats your boat
3/4 cups cashews
*3/4 cups pitted dates
1/2 cup almond milk or soy milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla *or to taste
1 tbs. honey/maple- for serving
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
*1/8 tsp nutmeg – or to taste
In a blender, combine cashews and milk. The consistency should be similar to pancake or waffle batter. If it’s too thick, add more water or milk. Next,  mix in vanilla, dates and pulse until very smooth.
Coat bread on both sides evenly and let excess drip off. Heat a skillet with cooking spray or coconut oil and cook each slice a minute or so on each side. Again, be sure your skillet is not too hot as these burn quickly. * be mindful that the first slice or so might come off very “raggedy”, but take your time and trust that youre about to taste a lil piece of heaven.
Spread on vegan margarine and add whatever toppings you like! Enjoy!

Chickpea and Date Tagine

Chickpea and Date Tagine

Serves 8

North African tagines often combine sweet and savory foods to play off the spices used to season them.
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup whole-wheat couscous
  • 1 cup pitted dates, halved
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 10 minutes, or until starting to brown, stirring often. Stir in garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, and cinnamon, and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, and 1/4 cup water; simmer 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toast couscous in small saucepan over medium heat 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Add 1 3/4 cups water, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.

3. Stir dates and lemon juice into tagine, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve over couscous, sprinkled with cilantro.

References:

California dates health and nutriton. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.datesaregreat.com/health-nutrition/

Chickpea and date tagine recipe. (2011, 12). Retrieved from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/chickpea-and-date-tagine/

Corleone, J. (2013, 12 18). Fresh dates vs. dried dates. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/527815-fresh-dates-vs-dried-dates/

Date image. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.clifbar.com/blog/detail/how_about_a_date2/

Vegan cashew french toast. (2012). Retrieved from http://photofueledfood.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/vegan-cashew-french-toast/

So So Caught up with the Coffee Bean

When I woke up this morning, some of my first thoughts were centered around  the coffee bean; how beautifully brown it is, and how when toasted, freshly ground, and brewed, miracles happen.  Yes miracles…. when freshly brewed coffee touches my lips, I  somehow instantly go from being the human version of the “lil engine that could” to what singer R. Kelly described as ” being able to fly”.  Each slurp and sip brings me into closer communion with GOD.  Clarity comes in each and every swallow, and its in those moments that I feel my very best, …  thus I think my most inspiring thoughts.  A little deep I bet… but true. I am a loyal devotee to  this thing called “java”, and I  make no apologies. We found each other during my sleepless nights of culinary school, while bathed in moonlight I memorized terminology, and culinary formulas.  It was coffee that was there with me, while everyone else slept sound in their  bunks.  In those moments, we had each other only.  Our relationship  began as a one sided situation; me using the coffee to help encourage my eyelids to stay open.  That was primary…. But in the process of my using coffee, I fell in love with its flavor, its aroma, and color.  She was my night nurse ** insert Beres Hammond here** It was then that I realized the coffee needed me just as much as I needed it.  I found that it needed to be sipped, to be wooed, bl0wn on and teased.  She and I  made our love an exclusive one, and we were both better for it.  I know you must think that I’ve gone way too far, gone way too deep.  But my love is real, it’ s us against the world.

There are just as many arguments against the coffee bean as there are for it ( Trust me I wont harp on the cons) .  Lets just start with the fact that coffee is cherished the world over.  Its claim to fame begins with rich soil, in some of the warmest (tropical climates) climates and highest altitudes. It is here where the beauty of the bean is cultivated. My beloved bean is purported to be great to fight against depression (because of its mood altering effects),  it is also believed to help the liver regulate itself,  and may actually make you smarter ( temporarily improves your general cognition -which includes your reaction time, and logical reasoning).  Time Magazine cites coffee as having the power to fight  Alzheimers disease, decrease the risk of heart failure, ward off skin cancer, and believe it or not reduce the risk of  diabetes.  Thats all before you load it down with cream, sugar, syrup, Splenda, and anything else that may mask its glory. She .. the inhuman bean is rich in antioxidants, and bioactive compounds that assist coffee in being one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide. So although the cons include discoloration of the teeth, increased risk of stroke (with daily consumption of more than 4 cups), and the risk of osteoporosis (because coffee is a diuretic  and causes you to purge calcium through the urine), the pros outweigh the cons by far. But balance is key.  As is with all good things .  Whether you are in Ethiopia, Chile, Jamaica, or Ecuador, enjoy a cup of her loveliness while welcoming all good things into your day ( or late nights).  Purchase a cup or bag  of Starbucks ,Godiva, Illy, Cafe Bustelo or the like and join me in my praise of one of earths most coveted beverages.  Heres a recipe from the Vegetarian Times  for  coffee lovers, who like me, are so so caught up with the coffee bean.

Cheers,

 

 

Chef Will Hall

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Ganache Truffles

Chocolate Ganache Truffles

Makes 25 truffles

This recipe offers an introduction to making ganache, a combination of cream and chocolate used for candy fillings, cake frostings, and pastry glazes.
  • 5 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
  • 7 Tbs. heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs. light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee granules
  • 2 Tbs. whiskey or liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Kahlúa, optional
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Combine dark chocolate and milk chocolate in large heat-proof bowl.

2. Combine cream and corn syrup in medium saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, and stir in coffee granules until dissolved. Pour hot cream mixture over chocolate, and stir gently until all chocolate pieces have melted. Let stand 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Add whiskey, if using, and stir 1 to 2 minutes with spatula or wooden spoon until chocolate mixture begins to thicken. Cover, and refrigerate 4 hours, or overnight.

4. Fill small plate with confectioners’ sugar, fill small bowl with cocoa powder, and line baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

5. Dip hands in confectioners’ sugar. 
Roll small lump of chocolate mixture into 1-inch ball, then roll in cocoa powder. Place truffle on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chocolate mixture, dusting hands with confectioners’ sugar to keep truffles from sticking. Refrigerate truffles until ready to serve.

References:

Chocolate ganache truffles. (2011, 02). Retrieved from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/chocolate-ganache-truffles/

coffee from around the world. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.ncausa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=75

coffee image. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.freegreatpicture.com/coffee-chocolate-milk/coffee-and-coffee-beans-close-up-16140

Coffee: The pros and cons. (2006, 09). Retrieved from http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/healthy-living/coffee-pros-and-cons

Groden, C. (2013, 07 26). How coffee could save your life. Retrieved from http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/07/26/how-coffee-could-save-your-life/

Gayomali, C. (2013, 7 25). 9 purported health benefits of drinking coffee [updated]. Retrieved from http://theweek.com/article/index/244468/7-purported-health-benefits-of-drinking-coffee

Health reasons to drink coffee (and cons to consider). (2013). Retrieved from http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/health_reasons_to_drink_coffee_and_cons_to_consider

Oster, E. (2013, 09 09). Take back your pregnancy. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323514404578652091268307904

Sifferlin, A. (2012, 05 17). Coffee: Drink more, live longer?. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/17/coffee-drink-more-live-longer/

Coconuts Oil and Other Cautionary Tales

In the past, I’ve dedicated this blog to share my love for fresh produce, and its connection to optimum health.  As they say, an apple a day can keep the doctor away.. or something like that.  But in my heart of hearts I’m certain that prevention is key and that we all have the power to make simple every day decisions that will ultimately affect us in the long-term. However, eating well has a few more benefits than would be imagined by most people. Meaning; eating well actually has a direct impact on our natural beauty. What we eat effects just how our natural beauty asserts itself. Your diet can directly impact just how clear your skin is, how white or strong your teeth are, and just how strong or healthy your hair appears. This is my life,  I can speak from experience, you can believe that.  The proofs in the pudding.  With that in mind, I’m reminded of a conversation that I had with one of my closest friends, Ceramic artist Delores Hayes (Twitter @Artistdeloresjhayes) .  Delores is a beautiful creative, free spirit (*picture a modern-day flower child) complete with wild, untamed locs. Just the other day we were deep in a conversation about health, wellness, and pottery (weird mix  I know) when she suddenly interrupted me to ask if I had any useful knowledge about what she could do nutritionally to aid in the growth and strengthening of her locs.  “Of course I’m not a hairdresser, ” I said as a disclaimer, “but I could tell you some things that have worked for me”. With that said, I leaned back in my chair, adjusted the phone with one hand, my glasses with the other, and decided I’d  get straight into my Dr. Oz act.  Actually I stopped short of my act and  decided that I’d just refer Delores and my other friends who were curious about such things to really good sources for that  kind of information.  The truth is, a healthy body will produce a healthy head of hair. I can attest to those facts personally, but I think you’d rather hear it from Nikki Walton of Essence Magazines’ CurlyNikki  (@EssenceMag #AskCurlyNikki).  Its understandable that health and beauty secrets are easier to  hear from a woman… I get it she’s prettier, I’m not jealous (*breaks pen, and wipes ink off of face)

Another very special Sista in my life, Rosie Love, ( proprietor of Land of Milk and Honey Natural Hair Care Products takes a very natural approach to her hair care, and it sure shows.  Rosie’s stunning beauty is an embodiment of self-love and also a living testimony to little girls who shed tears at their mothers feet , hoping that the nightmarish combing sessions , will fade away like acid wash jeans… one day.  By some coincidence Ms. Love’s secret to hair care starts on the inside as well.  Like I always say, “health is wealth”.  When I cornered Ms. Love for some hot hair maintenance tips to share with my readers ; two things happened, she bobbed and weaved in hopes that she could avoid a chance to share her hair secrets ( so humble, so beautiful).  And then she gave me a short list of her hair do’s and donts.  ” 1. Keep it simple 2. Keep it protected 3. Like all things in life hair requires balance! The yin and yang of Hair is strength and moisture! 4. Love your hair and it will love you back! AND lastly; 5. Learn YOUR hair!”  In other words, take care of yourself, and your hair and it will yield dividends in the form of gorgeous locs.  Rosie also goes on to mention the importance of eating vegetables/fruit every day, especially dark green leafy and coniferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts )*all super foods, and garlic. Ms Love also places a lot of emphasis on drinking plenty of water. The take home message, keep it simple, eat well, and love thyself. To contact Rosie Love of Land of Milk and Honey , email her your natural hair care questions @Info@LOMAH.com .

One day, very very long ago.  I was rescued from hair purgatory myself,  by an angel that bore grace, moisture and unrefined coconut oil (Spectrum brand to be exact-found in most food Co Ops , & Whole Foods) in her bosom …true story.  I was on the doorstep of disaster and contemplated the possibility a life with limp, dry locs.  It was a fate most fatal for a man like myself.  This messenger from some heavenly place in the clouds found me at my lowest, and offered me a solution that literally saved my social life.  She massaged coconut oil in my hair after a luxurious shampoo, and natural conditioner.  I remember in those moments how everything in my life took on a newness, a rejuvenation.  I had been rescued and I would now walk the earth with rich moist, locs. Yours truly was the cats meow, a walking work of art.  And I tell you why, coconut oil is a force to be reckoned with. First of all, a little goes a long way.  It’s as natural a moisturizer as you’re going to get, assuming that you choose a non GMO , extra virgin, unbleached, and basically minimally processed version.  Coconut oil is known as a great moisturizer of sorts. Ms. Rosie Love has coined it ” the efficient humectant”.   In other words it  has the capacity to help draw moisture from the air into our hair. Which makes for a miracle moisturizer in my opinion.  This same wonder moisturizer is said to bind to the protein structures, and reinforce the hair fibers thereby making them stronger.  That just happens to be a very long winded way to say that coconut oil protects our hairs’ moisture content, while strengthening it.  So, with all that said, be cautioned, green veggies, fruit, rest, and coconut oil may be good for your health.

Respectfully Yours,

Chef Will Hall

References:

Kitchens, S. (2013, 09 24). Coconut oil for skin, hair, body: 6 things to know about the super ingredient. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/coconut-oil-benefits_n_1625631.html

Laquita, T. (2009, 04 13). Natural hair online support groups. Retrieved from http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2009/04/natural-hair-online-support-groups/

Love, R. (2013, 12 18). Interview by Chef Will Hall []. Coconut oil and other cautionary tales., Retrieved from chefwillhall.wordpress.com

Walton, N. (2012, 10 24). Ask curlynikki: Healthy hair starts within. Retrieved from http://www.essence.com/2012/10/25/ask-curlynikki-healthy-hair-starts-within/

The Black Girl, W. L. H. (2011, 12 21). The benefits of coconut oil. Retrieved from http://blackgirllonghair.com/2011/12/the-benefits-of-coconut-oil/

Stranger things than CRANBERRIES

Tonight was a night full of lessons.  For the most part,  I played the teacher, but I must admit, the biggest lessons were taught to me by my two sons.  It all started with my youngest son Maxwell’s invitation to beat me in checkers – that’s right, this kid invited me to a friendly game of checkers where he would hypothetically embarrass me, and therefore teach me a lesson     ( *shaking my head* these are his words not mine).  I suggested that I teach him a few things, providing that he was open to learning, instead of revisiting the day where I crushed him. He preferred the option to learn, and so we moved forward with a “friendly” game of checkers.  A few hours later, he felt empowered enough trash talk again, so we took a snack break in hopes that a healthy treat and some water would be sobering to  his young mind (* this kid is hilarious)  At the mention of a snack, my eldest son Will walks in (so typical) and suggests a few healthy treats before we could get into our next lesson – a game of  ” Go Fish “.  So we grabbed some unsalted pistachios, some water, fruit and made light conversation.  In my sleepy stupor I looked up to see Will smiling while rinsing something in a bowl.  It could’ve been anything for all I could tell.  So I gave myself a light smack on the face, and prepared for what looked like part two of snack time.  “Whatcha got there?” I asked while rubbing my eyes.  “Fresh cranberries Dad” he answered while tossing a few in his mouth the way most children eat jelly beans.  I grabbed a few myself, and got right down to business.  And then my son asked the question that woke me the way only expresso can. He looked  me in the eyes and said  ” Dad is it strange that I like fresh cranberries?, people always say that I’m a strange kid because I eat them”  I grabbed both sides of his face, and gave him a crazy wide eyed look, while still crunching on a mouthful of cranberries.  “Son, you are absolutely beautiful, cranberries are dope, and so are you, whoever tells you that you’ve got strange taste buds is the problem,… tell em Dad says so” I said.  (*and so begins the conversation on what “DOPE” means)  “Yes, son, there are stranger things than cranberries”.  As the night progressed we moved from checkers, to cards, to movies      ( the movie really did watch me), and that cranberry conversation never left my mind.  All I could think about was how crazy a world we live in.  In a land of information, childhood obesity has become our norm, whereas my son is made to feel like an oddity for his  love of whole foods.  I woke up suddenly in the wee hours of the morning impregnated by this question, and all others born from my lil mister’s original thought- Is it so strange for a child, or anyone for that matter to love fresh cranberries? Do people realize the health benefits of cranberries?  Does America understand cranberries integral role in this countries history…. even before colonization?  After rising  in the early am for a restroom run, I sat on the edge of the bed, and contemplated it all.  After 10 minutes of deep thought, i decided that this was no time for sleep.  I needed some answers that sleep would’nt offer.

Native Americans were very generous to the Pilgrims that settled in the Americas.  They sheltered them, taught them how to survive the harsh winters, how to plant, hunt and how to thrive on indigenous foods. They shared super foods like cranberries, and so in short the Pilgrims and all other such vandals survived, consequently the New America was created. Cranberries were called the  sassamenesh, and  ibimi by native tribes because of its bitter, sour taste,  and later, the “cranberry” by the early settlers due to its resemblance to the Sandhill crane.  Native Americans used the cranberry as dye for clothing, medicine, tea ( the leaves), for hunting bait, and an all purpose food. Yes, the Native Americans recognized the many benefits of cranberries early on. Pemmican, which was made from dried venison and cranberries would be stored in pouches and eaten as quick energy food on long journeys.  Cranberries have been recognized by the USDA Food Composition and Methods Development Lab as having antioxidant qualities. Antioxidants are key in reducing the effects of oxidation, or aging in the body. Cranberries are great for cleansing the kidneys and bladder of toxins. They also boast disease fighting properties, so cancer and heart disease can take a hike.  And thats great news!  Besides all of that cranberries are delicious.  Whether you use them to make juice, sauce, relish, cakes, cookies or accent a simple salad, cranberries are a wonderful way to add color and great flavor to any meal.  So why again would anybody question a young boy for loving cranberries’ life giving properties? Like I said, there are things much stranger than cranberries.  Try this decadent cranberry bar recipe from The Vegetarian Times and reaffirm your love for one of Americas native super foods.

Cheers,

Chef Will Hall

Cranberry Bars

Makes 25 bars

These vibrant-hued bars look great on an autumn dinner table. The sweetened condensed milk gives them a texture similar to Key lime pie.
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 7 oz. fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup graham flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbs. butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make Filling: Bring cranberries and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 minutes, or until berries have burst and are tender. Cool. Blend in blender or food processor until smooth, and strain mixture through sieve. (You should have about 1 cup purée.)

2. Transfer purée to bowl, and whisk in condensed milk and lemon juice. Whisk in egg yolks.

3. To make Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8-inch square baking pan with foil, and coat with cooking spray.

4. Whisk together flours, sugar, and salt in bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla extract. Press into bottom of prepared pan, and bake 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F, and pour Filling into hot Crust. Bake 23 to 28 minutes, or until custard is set. Cool, then chill until firm.

5. Use foil to lift baked dessert out of pan, then remove. Cut into 25 bars. Serve cold or at room temperature.

References:

Aubrey, A. (2010, 11 15). Bow down to the medicinal power of cranberries. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2010/11/12/131272331/bow-down-to-the-medicinal-power-of-cranberries

Cranberry bars. (2011, 11). Retrieved from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/cranberry-bars/

Cranberry image. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.appforhealth.com/2012/12/cranberries-small-berries-with-a-big-health-benefits/

History of cranberries. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.cranberries.org/cranberries/history.html

Whitman-Salkin, S. (2013, 11 27). Cranberries, a thanksgiving staple, were a native american superfood. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131127-cranberries-thanksgiving-native-americans-indians-food-history/