Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

I can't believe all of the positive press this year about alternative offerings at the Thanksgiving table!  US Weekly featured Kimberly Snyder and her Raw Pecan Love Pie in their recent issue, the local paper today had a cover story about gluten-free side dishes, and even Martha Stewart had an episode about having a vegetarian Thanksgiving!
When alternative eating goes mainstream I get super excited.  We all have our reasons for veering from the Standard American Diet- and the more veg press (or even GF press) there is, the better chance that us who choose alternative diets wont feel so ostracized or alone.  
This year my Thanksgivings were great! and I think everyone left the table full and happy.  I could have easily served this meal in courses, but I think everything served family style is essential for holiday dinners.  I had two Thanksgivings at my house this year, most dishes were overlapped, but some things were different.
For starters on Thanksgiving #1, I served olive hummus on sliced cucumbers out in the living room.  I had sparkling water, blackberry sage iced tea, and an iced yerba mate for drink options (as well as coffee just in case).  When we said our thanks at the dinner table we had creamy turnip soup, fennel salad, basil green beans and tomatoes, cranberry apple dressing, shitake and millet casserole, and curried sweet potato fries.  After dinner we got comfy back in the living room for pecan pie and pumpkin ginger ice cream.
Saturday morning I visited the farmers' market (for you Louisville locals- the Bardstown Road market is year round) and picked up some turnips, potatoes, baby tomatoes, apples, onions, and sweet potatoes.   The creamy turnip soup is actually a modified version of the potato and root vegetable soup I posted a few weeks ago- I just added more turnips and cashews and switched the yukons for russets- although I prefer the yukons for a soup potato- the russets made the soup very gelatinous.  
The fennel salad was inspired by my Aunt Lynn.  When I saw fennel bulbs at the market I knew I had to include them for Thanksgiving because she'd been raving about how wonderful fennel was for months.  I then found a recipe in my Raw Food Real World book that paired fennel with grapefruit and avocado- and knowing her signature Christmas salad includes citrus and avocado- I made the match and added some pomegranate seeds, coriander, lemon, mint, and black pepper.  
I couldn't believe that local fresh tomatoes would still be for sale in Kentucky in late November, but they were perfect to toss with some blanched green beans and a great pairing for the (super easy) shitake and millet casserole.  Thanksgiving wouldn't be thanksgiving without cranberries and sweet potatoes, so I jazzed up the cranberries with apples, walnuts, and an orange and tossed the sweet potato fries with some cayenne, cumin, maple syrup and garam masala. 
For Thanksgiving #2, I skipped the appetizer, but for drinks fixed a rooibos and fennel iced tea and popped opened a bottle of sparkling apple cider.  The meal included the same shitake and millet casserole, cranberry apple dressing, and sweet potato fries from the first meal, but I served the green beans with almonds, made some redskin and cauliflower mashed potatoes, and garlicky kale.  The pecan pie and pumpkin ginger ice cream were served again for dessert.
I hope everyone's holiday was wonderful.  I am so thankful for my family and friends and for my comfy home.  
If you'd like to get a recipe of something I mentioned above, please comment!  

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kale Chips

I think we all have cravings for crunchy things and sometimes celery doesn't satiate that craving.  I've been known to gorge myself on potato chips, but I'd prefer to avoid anything fried and super oily.  I think I've mentioned before that Kale has been my very favorite veggie of 2009.  I love buying bunches and bunches of it for my smoothies or to cook it down with some garlic, thai chile paste, lime, and sesame oil.  So, when I had a craving for a crunchy snack- my fridge was already stocked with the perfect ingredient.  
Kale chips have become very popular in the raw foods community.  Traditionally kale chips are made in a dehydrator with nutritional yeast and/or cashews.  If you don't own a dehydrator, there's always an option to purchase kale chips at your local health food store, but that's not always cost effective.  I don't have a dehydrator, and I don't have a ton of cash to shell out for a tiny bag of raw kale chips... so I looked to my oven.  And, although I appreciate the raw kale chips, my baked ones satisfy my cravings until Santa brings my Excalibur dehydrator this year. 
Kale chips can be as simple as a little olive oil and sea salt- this recipe calls for a sprinkle of nutritional yeast after coming out of the oven.  Sometimes I add cayenne pepper, lemon juice, braggs liquid aminos, liquid smoke, or agave nectar to the chips before baking.   Just make sure you rinse and de-stem the kale and tear into pieces- toss and shake with the oil, salt, or whatever else you'd like, and place on a cookie sheet.  

Oven Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch kale
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp of olive oil
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes until kale is bright green and crispy.  Space evenly on cookie sheet before baking to allow the kale to crisp up.  Remove from oven and lightly coat with nutritional yeast and enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

What do I eat for breakfast?

Even as a kid I was always looking for ways to get out of eating cereal for breakfast.  The cereal got way too mushy, the milk too sugary and grainy from the cereal that most mornings I left for school disappointed in my breakfast choice.  Now, there are some decent brands of cereal out currently that are vegan- and there are a variety of dairy-free milks to pair, but I'd rather get my vitamins not from fortified cereals- but from greens and fresh fruit.  
Green smoothies are my favorite breakfast choice- and I try to wake up with one every day.  All you need is a decent blender, some raw spinach, kale, romaine,  beet greens, celery, or any other vitamin rich green and some fresh or frozen fruit.  Smoothies can be a great vehicle for vitamin or protein powders, so load up.  Your RDA of fruits and veggies can be achieved in one cup!
Now, you're probably thinking that this is gonna be gross.  Not at all!  You're making the smoothie, so you can balance the sweet fruits in proportion to the greens.  Start out light on the greens and heavy on the fruit, in a week or so, you'll be able to decrease the amount of fruit and add more greens.  
My basic recipe includes a banana, 1 cup of chopped fruit (frozen makes everything easier), 1 cup of liquid*, and as many greens as you can stand.  If you're not using frozen fruit- throw in a few ice cubes- and if it gets too bitter add some agave nectar or lemon juice.  
If you're not using a Vitamix or a Blendtec- you may want to first blend the greens, liquid, and banana first, before adding the frozen fruit, just to make sure the greens get super pureed.  
*liquid can just mean water, coconut water, cold tea (yerba mate is a great tea to start the day with), nut milk, or fruit juice.

Blueberry Banana Spinach Smoothie

1 banana
1 cup coconut water
1 cup blueberries
3-4 cups of raw baby spinach

Blend and enjoy!

Super Easy Lentil Soup, Greens and Leeks, and Caramelized Carrots

Mom came over for tea one afternoon and this ended up being our clean-out-the-fridge lunch.  I already had rice from a curry I had made, so I just scooped that on top of the super easy lentil soup.  Greens are my favorite side dish of 2009- whether kale, spinach, collards, or mustard greens- you can pair them with garlic, onions or any other member of the allium family (leeks!) and saute with a little hot sauce.  I usually add a dash of lemon juice, lime juice, or apple cider vinegar to my greens, and if I'm working with super bitter greens, agave nectar may find its way in as well.  To round out this lunch I had baby carrots in the fridge for snacking that were tossed with brown sugar, garam masala, cayenne pepper, and salt and baked at 450 until they caramelized.  I added sliced a granny smith on top of the carrots for a nice crunchy tangy contrast.  

Super Easy Lentil Soup

2 cups dried red lentils
2 cups veggie broth
2-4 cups of additional water
your choice of cumin, poultry seasoning, garlic, and/or curry powder

Cook lentils on medium/med high with 2 cups of broth (or check out a veg bouillon cube- I like Rapunzel's Sea Salt and Herbs), after about 10-15 minutes add one cup of water, then after 5 minutes more add any additional water, depending on desired consistency.  The soup will take about 30-35 minutes total.
Serve with rice!

Greens and Leeks

1 Leek
4-6 cups of fresh greens (kale is my favorite)
1 tsp of thai chili garlic sauce
dash of apple cider vinegar
pinch salt

Cut leek crosswise and lengthwise, discarding the end and the dark green tops.  Soak cut leek in water to ensure the dirt that gets in the leek does not get in your food.  In a skillet or wok (lightly coated with olive oil), toss leeks on medium high for about 3 minutes.  Add the hot sauce, then the greens, coarsely torn and stems removed.  Toss with vinegar (or lemon juice) and salt until bright green and ready to serve!

Caramelized Carrots

3-4 cups of chopped carrots or baby carrots
1 tbsp of coconut oil (or soy free earth balance)
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch cayenne
1 tsp garam masala
pinch salt

Toss carrots with seasonings and butter and bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes until brown and caramelized.  Top with sliced granny smith apples.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Potato and Root Vegetable Soup

The cold weather that fall brings makes me crave warm comfort foods.  Potatoes are my favorite feel-good food with warm soup coming in a close second on the favorite comfort food list.  So, here's a great potato soup recipe using potatoes and their other root veggie cousins- turnips and carrots.

Potato and Root Vegetable Soup

4 cups potatoes (I used yukon gold) chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 cups of carrots chopped 
4 medium sized turnips chopped
1 large onion chopped
1-2 cups of raw cashews
4 cups of veggie broth

In one pot boil potatoes, carrots, and turnips with veggie broth until tender.
In a skillet, toast cashews lightly and then add chopped onion until translucent.
When the root veggies are tender, drain veggie broth and reserve.  Add cashews and onions to the root veggies and with a hand blender puree while slowly incorporating the reserved veggie broth until you've reached the desired consistency.  Serve with plenty of cracked black pepper, fresh grated carrot, and maybe some nutritional yeast sprinkled on top.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

First Post- Roasted Red Pepper and Jalapeno Hummus

Hi, I'm Aura!  Welcome to my kitchen :)
Veganism has made such a positive impact on my life that I want to share my recipes and what I actually eat with others.  Being vegan means I do not consume any animal products including dairy and eggs.  Also, for health reasons- and just because I like to include as many veggies as possible into my diet I cook mostly gluten-free and soy-free.  All of the recipes I post will be vegan and if not already GF & SF- will be easily changed to accommodate anyone with allergies or anyone avoiding gluten or soy.  I'm not just vegan because I care about animals- I also am vegan for my health and the environment- so I choose organic when possible- and choose local produce in season from various farmers markets around the city.

My first recipe I want to share is a simple hummus recipe with a kick- that does not require you head out to find a jar of tahini.

Roasted Red Pepper and Jalapeno Hummus

1 red roasting pepper
1-3 jalapenos
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 cups cooked (or 1 can rinsed and drained) of chickpeas
1/2 lime- juiced
1 tsp cumin
salt to taste
optional- cilantro

Preheat oven to 450 and cut and seed the roasting pepper, cut off the tops of the jalapenos (seed them if you don't like spice), and peel the garlic.  Lightly coat in olive oil and bake until the skin of the pepper is slightly charred.  
In the food processor with the S blade- grind the sesame seeds until a paste forms, then add the chickpeas, lime juice, cumin, and salt.  When the peppers and garlic are cool enough to touch- peel off the charred skin of the peppers and add to the processor.  Pulse in cilantro if you'd like.

Serve with any crudites or chips.