Amuse-bouche

Crunch

2013-01-28T17:57:00Z 2013-01-28T17:58:26Z CrunchBetty Teller Napa Valley Register
January 28, 2013 5:57 pm  • 

My trainer Stan sure picked the wrong week to add nutrition lectures to our morning exercise class. Not that I disagreed with anything he said during his first presentation. It was a fine talk about the importance of eating fruit and vegetables of every color.

But alas, he didn’t leave it at that. As he spoke, he handed out sheets on which he encouraged us to record our daily food intake.

I looked at him in abject horror and shoved the paper back at him. What was he thinking? There was absolutely no way I was going to write down what I ate that week.

He didn’t realize that in a few days I was attending the Fancy Food Show, that annual gathering of purveyors of all things caloric. To record what I was likely to eat in the seven hours I spend grazing my way through the aisles would require a stack of paper the size of a phone book. I’d get writer’s cramp. And there was no way I was going to put my extreme consumption on the record.

When I got to the show a couple days later, I really did try to keep his advice in mind. I spent the first 10 minutes exercising extreme restraint. I only tasted a bit of toffee, some noodles, three flavors of gelato, a couple pieces of chocolate, a few chips and two salsas.

But after that, I admit I made rather a pig of myself.

Yes, I descended on the show like a hungry locust. But I wasn’t just noshing idly. I make this annual pilgrimage for you, dear reader. I was hunting for trends to report — and amid all my chomping, I found a few.

For one thing, a lot of these folks must have been tuned in to Stan’s lecture by remote. Vegetables like beets and kale and cucumbers were everywhere, turning up as unexpected ingredients in jams, chips, spreads and even tea. My hands-down favorite product at the show (hitting stores soon) was a line of vegetable teas from Numi that use fascinating combinations of dried vegetables and spices in teabag form to create an entirely new class of delicious, no-cal beverages somewhere between herb tea and soup. Brilliant!

Another favorite was the freeze-dried, ultra-crunchy dried fruit and vegetables offered by several companies — another terrific new way to up your daily fruit and veggie intake. (In light of Stan’s lecture, I made sure to sample a whole rainbow of colors, from yellow dried corn to purplish blueberries.)

Stan is always telling me I need to hydrate more, so I also made sure to stop at each and every one of the approximately 10,000 vendors offering coconut water. (Vitamin-enhanced waters are so 2010. Coconut water is the new black.) I found it a delightfully refreshing way to wash down the many, many crunchy tidbits that somehow found their way into my mouth en route. (Crunchy was definitely a trend. I checked it out thoroughly.)

I think some of the exhibitors had also sneaked a peek at Stan’s notes for his future lecture on whole grains. Seeds and grains like flax, chia, hemp, lentils and buckwheat that used to be found only at health food stores have now gone mainstream, showing up as less-than-empty calories in quite tasty (and often crunchy) snack foods of all sorts. Naturally, most of them were also non-GMO, organic and/or gluten free.

Good-for-you foods like that abounded. Super foods, detoxifiers and antioxidants were coming at me from all sides. Everything was so healthy that, really, I felt I owed it to myself to eat them.

It’s true that they didn’t seem to prevent the completely inexplicable stomachache I developed around midday. But I’m sure they kicked in later and balanced out the foie gras, cheese and charcuterie I put away in the afternoon, after I got my second wind.

Overall, it was an extremely educational day. I think I learned even more about nutrition (and about my body’s capacity to absorb it) than I did from Stan’s lecture.

And when I went to class the next day and told him about it, he didn’t mind that I had consumed a few extra calories in my pursuit of knowledge. He got right in the spirit.

I’m sure that’s why we spent the morning doing crunches.

Roasted Chickpeas with Cajun Spices

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, we’re going to need some trendy, crunchy, healthy snacks so we don’t spend the whole time biting our nails instead. Roasted chickpeas are a simple solution: easy to make, reasonably healthy (not low-cal, but high in fiber and nutrients) and very versatile, as you can flavor them with a variety of spices.

I happened to have leftover Cajun spice mix from something I cooked recently, so in honor of the game being in New Orleans this year, I decided to use it as my flavoring. Baltimore fans might want to use Old Bay seasoning instead. I’m not sure if there is one single spice mixture that says San Francisco, but you could go South Bay with Indian spices like curry powder and garam masala. Or East Bay and invent your own wacky mixture.

I started from scratch with dried chickpeas, but you can get fairly similar results using canned chickpeas that have been drained, washed and dried. (And for that matter, you can also use a pre-made spice mix like Zatarain’s and make these even easier.)

Spice mix:

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1 heaping tsp. thyme

1 heaping tsp. dried oregano

2 1/2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cayenne

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients together.

Roasted chickpeas:

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight

Salt

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2-3 Tbsp. spice mixture

Drain and rinse the soaked chickpeas. Place them in a saucepan, cover with water and add about a half teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. When the beans are cooked, drain them in a colander. (If there are some skins hanging off them, pick them off, as they are likely to burn during the roasting process.) If they are wet, blot them with a paper towel. You should have a bit more than 2 cups of chickpeas.

Heat the oven to 250 degrees.

Place the chickpeas in a bowl and drizzle the olive oil over them, then mix with your fingers until they are lightly coated in oil. Add a couple healthy pinches of the spice mixture, and mix with your fingers until it is distributed.

Place the chickpeas on a sheet pan in a single layer. Put the pan on the middle rack in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, then turn the heat up to 400 degrees and cook for about 20-25 minutes more, until they are crispy when you bite down on one. (While they are roasting, check them frequently and roll them around on the pan a bit to make sure they cook evenly and don’t burn.)

Place the roasted chickpeas in a bowl, sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture over them and mix in. Let cool thoroughly before serving.

Betty Teller believes gravity makes it impossible to gain weight from foods eaten while standing. Tell her your dieting theory at amuse-bouche@sbcglobal.net.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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