Monday, July 19, 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dolphin-Free Tuna!

My mom was kind of confused when I asked her the other day how she used to make tuna when I was a kid.  I didn't really like tuna when I did eat meat, and when I read on a can "Dolphin Free" probably in 2nd or 3rd grade, my tuna adventures were over once I learned that sometimes when they're out looking for tuna- dolphins accidentally get caught.  So, when creating this mock tuna I used my mom's spoken word recipe and what I can remember from eating tuna in early grade school.

Mom was probably confused for a number of reasons when I asked her about the canned tuna "salad" she used to create.  First, I don't eat animals and second I don't like mock meats (and she may have been confused because I asked for a recipe from her and she's not blessed in the kitchen).  While its true that I don't care for mock meats, this is different that tofu crusted wheat gluten with seasoning.  This is simple food, good food that would be great without coming up with a cute name for it and a cute way to prepare it.  But cuteness is fun, right?

The mock tuna starts with a base of raw soaked nuts or seeds.  I used a 1/3 cup of each walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds, but all of one of the above would be okay.  To get a pink-ish color I added in one cup of carrots and processed with celery seeds, lemon juice, and dulse in the food processor.  I stirred in the nut pate with chopped celery and coated with a mayo made of cashews, but smashed avocado or your favorite vegan mayo would work great to get a tuna salad consistency.  Stuff in romaine leaves or roll in cucumber slices.  The dulse (a seaweed) adds a salty seafood flavor that also gives the tuna salad a nutrient burst.  This isn't like Star Kist, but you can eat this at your desk without your friends commenting on how awful your lunch smells.  Oh!  And its dolphin free :)

My new website is up and running:
I'll cross-post a few more entries, but soon everything will be over on that .com :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green Chocolates and Other Sweet Treats!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!  How are you celebrating?
I know some people celebrate this day as an excuse to get together with friends and drink (green beer).  I spent the day with family and friends- including meeting up with Brandon of hyperion herbs to make green chocolates!
I've been dreaming of making white chocolate since I got my hands on raw cacao butter.  The light colored base was perfect to add a little chlorella to make it green and festive.  This version of white chocolate was made rich, creamy and sweet by lucuma powder.  Its an energizing sweet treat with maca and bee pollen- and I added in some vanilla, mesquite powder, and stevia just to make it extra delicious.

Green Chocolate Bites with Goji Berries

1/4 cup melted cacao butter
1 tbs coconut oil
3 tbs lucuma
1 tsp mesquite
1 tbs maca
2 tbs bee pollen
1 tsp vanilla
6 drops of liquid stevia
1 tbs of chlorella (optional)

Stir everything into cacao butter that's been melted in a double boiler.  Top with gojis, or throw them in the chocolate.  Freeze for 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

What is chlorella?  Its an algae that's cousins with the better known spirulina or blue-green algae.  I like the name because it reminds me that its full of chlorophyl.  Any green powder will work to tint your chocolates.  Or add to dark chocolate for a nutritional burst :)

We weren't done making chocolate- Brandon brought over some of his awesome reishi , he shou wu , and cordyceps to mix in with raw cacao powder and other goodies to make some truly medicinal chocolates.

We made cinnamon herbal chocolate squares with gojis thrown in, chocolate maca butter cups,
chocolate coconut truffles, and chocolate turtle bites.  All raw, all sugar free and dairy free.

Chocolate Turtle Bites

10 dates soaked and pitted
2 tbs coconut oil
12 raw walnut halves plus 1/4 cup to grind up (all soaked)
pinch sea salt
melted chocolate

In your food processor make date caramel using finely chopped dates and coconut oil and let it run until its the consistency of caramel.  Take half of the date caramel out of the processor and add 1/4 cup walnuts, a pinch of sea salt, and vanilla in with the remaining caramel.  Process until sticky.  In mini-muffin cups, or just on a plate- layer a small round flat thingy of the date/walnut stuff, a rolled ball of the date caramel, a walnut half, and spoon some melted chocolate over it.  Freeze and enjoy!
I got all fancy with my melted chocolate with raw cacao butter and raw cacao powder and the whole shebang.  You can keep this recipe casual by melting a chocolate bar or chocolate chips you have hanging out around the house.  In the picture the one on the left is cut in half.  You can make these bite sized or roll them out into a layered bar or get as fancy/casual as you'd like.  I'm not precise in my food making- it should be a stress reliever not a stress causing thing for you!

Chocolates To-Go!

What is your favorite chocolate treat?  I love blended hot chocolate drinks with plenty of spice (cinnamon and cayenne), but my maca butter cups and raw chocolate truffles are favorites too.  Sometimes I bring a bag of cacao nibs to snack on at work or school.  How do you add chocolate into your daily routine?

Also, get ready for a change.  I'm working on ... Aura's Vegan Kitchen will still be around, but I'm looking to gain more readers by taking away the vegan emphasis (not that I'm switching up my diet) and talk about other stuff besides food that I'm into.  Did you know I'm passionate about massage and body work and especially natural healing?  I'll be talking about that more.

Thanks for stopping by,
<3 Aura

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Finds :)

I went out to the grocery tonight and got some new food stuff!  Averie always posts what she got at the grocery- so I'm giving it a shot, too.

So Delcious coconut milk yogurt, locally made kim chi, a sprouted sun salad, roasted pepitas from the bulk section, seaweeds, lara bars, and all organic produce- lemons, bananas, apples, red and green kale, parsley, ginger, sweet potatoes, cabbage, a pear, and a cucumber!

More super stuff:

I got the Vitamineral Green and the Dr. Ohhira's Probiotics online.  The bee pollen is locally sourced- perfect for preventing spring allergies!

Earlier today I had an amazing juice that was super cleansing and I want to share the recipe with you all-

Spring Cleaning Juice

4 ribs celery
2 granny smith apples
1 small knob of ginger
1/2 lemon
1 cup water

If you have a fancy juicer- this will go quickly for you- if not- blend (in the Vitamix), then strain through a fine mesh strainer or a nut milk bag... Or I've found that a mesh paint strainer from the hardware works just as well for straining nut milks and juices.  
I call it my spring cleaning juice because everything in the juice is so crisp and known to be cleansing to the body.  

Super Cheap Eats!

A filling vegan meal for less than $2 per plate?  Yes- its possible!

1 package of frozen organic mixed veggies- $1.99
1 package of frozen organic "spud puppies"- $1.79
2 cans of organic chickpeas- $0.89 each
2 cups of brown rice- $1.69/lb

I don't like to rely on frozen or canned stuff a lot.  Actually if time allowed- I'd choose to skip anything packaged at all, but sometimes its easy on the pocketbook.  This dinner was a "I-don't-want-to-go-grocery-shopping" dinner- and it worked out.  It's enough for 4 people to get pretty full. 

Chickpea Patties

onions or garlic (or skip this step)
1 package frozen veggies
chickpeas- drained, rinsed, and mashed
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour (or any flour you have will work)
salt, curry powder, cumin, and any other indian spices you have on hand

saute onion/garlic until aromatic, add frozen veggies, mashed chickpeas, flour and spices and combine until veggies have de-thawed.  form into patties and fry or bake (at 425 for 25 minutes- flipping halfway thru)

Serve with brown rice that's been cooked with cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and saffron.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sweet Maca!

My friend Adam LOVES maca.  He likes it so much that he practically eats it by the spoonful.  What is maca?  Its an Incan cousin to the radish that is crazy rich in nutrients like B-vitamins, zinc, potassium, magnesium, sterols, amino acids, fatty acids, and more calcium than milk.  It was an important part of an Incan warrior's diet and is available in powdered form here in the US at health food stores and online.
Maca is known as a hormone balancing adaptogen that provides strength and endurance as well as mental clarity.  I know some people who like maca on their popcorn, mixed into (coconut) yogurt, and in their morning smoothies.  I like maca best when its paired with chocolate.  Adam was over tonight, and although I still think he'd prefer to have maca alone, together we made two maca based desserts/snacks that I'm really excited about!

Raw Cacao Maca "Butter Cups"

Chocolate coating:
Cacao butter
Coconut oil
Agave nectar
Cacao powder
Lucuma powder
Mesquite powder

Maca filling:
.5 cup soaked almonds
.5 cup soaked cashews
1 cup maca
sea salt
2 dates, pitted plus 1/8 cup raw local honey

In a double boiler, melt cacao butter and coconut oil down.  I don't have exact measurements for the chocolate- feel it out.  Sugar would work instead of agave nectar.  Lucuma and mesquite are raw sweeteners and flavor enhancers that give raw chocolate an almost caramel taste.  They are not necessary to have great chocolate.  If you want to simplify- melt any good quality chocolate bar in a double boiler.
Turn the heat off and after chocolate cools slightly spoon into muffin tins.

The maca filling was actually doubled for the maca bars listed below- and it was made in the food processor.  I use raw, local honey and dates to sweeten and bind most of my nut mixtures.  [[I know honey isn't vegan.  I'm vegan first for health reasons- and I can't find a better cure for allergies than raw, local honey.  Plus its delicious and binds well in raw sweets :) ]] If you'd like to use only dates- I've found that 2 dates is about the same as 1 tbs of honey.  After the food processor mixes the maca "dough" roll into balls and then smoosh into flat pancake-ish shapes and throw on top of your chocolate hanging out in the muffin tins.  Spoon more chocolate over maca pancake-ish discs and freeze for at least 15 minutes.  

Cinnamon Maca Bars

.5 cup soaked almonds

.5 cup soaked cashews
1 cup maca
sea salt
2 dates, pitted plus 1/8 cup raw local honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 pinch cayenne

Process in food processor until a dough ball forms.  Flatten out into a small bar pan, freeze for at least 10 minutes and cut into squares.  Wrap in aluminum foil for easy transport.  
Better than Lara Bars!  Filled with Maca energy :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Quick and Simple Lunch

Quick and Simple are two words that have been describing my meals lately.  I like meals that let me work on homework while I'm in the prep process.  This meal was so simple and perfect for a blustery wintery day.  A baked sweet potato, a green salad with a creamy lemon dressing, and mashed chickpeas over quinoa.

First, an hour before I was ready to eat I set the oven to 400 and rubbed my sweet taters with olive oil and wrapped them tight with aluminum foil.  I measured out my quinoa and water in a 1:2 ratio and put in my rice cooker.  I stepped away and studied for about 30 minutes.  Then I grabbed a can of chickpeas and drained and rinsed them and let them hang out on the stove with 1 cup of water, 1 tsp cumin, a pinch of cayenne, and 1 tsp agave nectar (or sugar) covered on medium high stirring every few minutes.  I tore up my lettuce and cut up some veggies for a green salad.  In my blender I prepped the creamy lemon dressing-
half of a lemon- skin and all- 1/2 cup of cashews, sea salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, 1/4 cup of water, and 3 drops of stevia.
After the salad was prepped the quinoa and sweet potatoes were done- the only thing left was to roughly mash the chickpeas and plate the food!

I sprinkled the sweet potato with garam masala- but cinnamon would work just as well.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Lunch Bag is Full!

Getting ready for bed, about to have a "hell day" tomorrow consisting of school and work back to back.  I thought I'd quickly post what I'm packing in my lunch bag tomorrow...

Morning smoothie with chia seeds, frozen berries, vitamineral green powder, and a base of gynostemma tea.  Lunch, snacks, and dinner include leftover pad thai my roommate and I had for dinner tonight, dulse chips, romaine and broccoli caesar salad, ants on a log with dried cherries, baby carrots, an orange, homemade "aura bars" (my take on the lara bar), and homemade raw healthy chocolate I just whipped up made with lucuma, mesquite, raw cacao powder, and raw cacao butter from ultimate superfoods and herbs from hyperion herbs.

I hope everyone has an amazing rest of the week.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Books and Cookbooks

I spend some of my online time on livejournal where there are some awesome vegan communities.  Often people will ask what books are good sources for their specific needs.  So here is a working list of books that I've found particularly inspiring or just plain amazing.

Skinny Bitch- I hesitated putting this book at the top of my list, but as far as not eating animals goes- this is the most entertaining yet fact based book there is about the crazy crap the meat and dairy industries are doing.  Rory and Kim take a weight-loss angle to veganism.   To some their writing could be seen as offensive, but if you'd like to know more about why people go vegan, this is the quickest, funniest, and cheapest book out there.

Eating for Beauty-  This is my favorite raw foods book out there.  David Wolfe makes the connection that consuming living foods will beautify you from the inside out.

Green for Life-  My hope is that one day green smoothies will be as abundant as Coca Cola.  Check this book out to find out the research behind green smoothie consumption.

The Body Ecology Diet- This is not a raw or even vegan book, but a lifestyle diet that advocates for fermented foods, seaweed, a low sugar diet, and grains like quinoa and millet.

The China Study-  Want solid facts to beef up your arguements when coworkers, friends, or family question your decision to not include animals in your diet?  This scientific study is full of reasons to go meatless!

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved-  This is not a vegan or raw foods book either, but a book advocating local and wild foods.  It touches on most issues that were included in Food Inc.

The books above have a few recipes included, but are more informational.
I will make a recipe book post later, but here are my top three recipe books at the moment...

Babycakes- The vegan, gluten-free NYC bakery has its own cookbook!

I Am Grateful- Raw recipes from San Francisco's Cafe Gratitude.

The Voluptuous Vegan- Hearty recipes that taste good!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Raw Raspberry Chezcake Bites

Valentines Day is this Sunday and I don't have a special Valentine lined up.  Most single girls can get pretty bummed about Valentines Day, but not me.  Valentines Day just gives me an opportunity to make goodies for people I care about.  No romance for me, just lots of sweet treats.  
Tonight I took a break from studying and made Raw Raspberry Chezcake Bites.  These red and white bites are super festive and tasty.  The crust is so good it could be eaten by itself, and actually its a similar recipe to my raw pecan snickerdoodles.  The filling was whipped together in my blender- just young coconut meat, soaked raw cashews, lemon, and vanilla.  Together the chezcake filling and the cookie-like crust would be enough to put a smile on anyone's face, but since its mid February I jazzed up these gems with a raspberry sauce- just raspberries and agave blended together.  You could make this into a full size chezcake, or if you have a mini muffin pan, use that!  I put the chezcake filling into a sandwich bag and cut a hole in one end and piped it into the mini crusts, and used the baggie trick for the raspberry topping too.  

Raw Raspberry Chezcake Bites

1 cup almonds
.5 cup pecans
2 dates pitted
pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tbs of coconut oil

Process in food processor until sticky, press into pan or muffin tin.

1 cup soaked raw cashews
meat from 1 young thai coconut
zest from a full lemon
juice from half the lemon
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs honey (or 6 dates or .3 cup agave)

Blend until smooth, scrape into pan or sandwich bag to pipe into mini muffin tin.

Raspberry Topping:
.5 cup of frozen raspberries
agave to taste

Swirl with chezcake filling.  Freeze chezcake bites or full chezcake until firm and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Poor Man's Paella

I hadn't used the saffron that I purchased at the Indian market yet, so I figured I'd try to make some paella.  It's winter and my pantry was kind of bare, but I figured I could make a poor man's paella with an onion, some frozen peas, baby carrots, and canned diced tomatoes.  Paella is a spanish rice dish, not mexican, and it is traditionally made with seafood and veggies  To me paella is more like a risotto than rice found in a mexican restaurant.  Looking up traditional paella recipes, I wasn't too far from the bullseye with what I had on hand.  I simmered the onion then added the carrots and shortly 1 cup of brown basmati rice.  About 30 minutes after the rice the tomatoes and peas were added.  Although I prefer to use fresh veggies, sometimes canned or frozen is the best way to get organic veggies out of season.  I like to have different varieties of canned tomatoes in the pantry just in case.  Muir Glen is a great brand.  And frozen peas are a surprise comfort food for me- growing up my mom had a canned vegetable with every meal she attempted to cook- and while I was all smiles when it was french cut green bean night, I refused to eat more than a fork full of canned peas.  At a friends house years later I discovered how delicious frozen peas were and I went through a couple of weeks where I ate nothing but frozen peas for dinner.  Weird, I know.  Anyway, enjoy this paella base recipe with whatever veggies you have around.  (And, I know calling it poor man's paella is kind of contradictory when the saffron could cost more than anything else in the dish- so sub 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp tumeric if you don't have saffron hanging around.)

Poor Man's Paella

1 onion sliced
3/4 cup carrots chopped
4 strands saffron
2 cloves garlic
1 cup long grain rice (I used brown basmati)
3 cups water/veggie broth
1 can of diced tomatoes (Muir Glen no salt added)
1.5 cups of organic frozen peas
cayenne and salt to taste

Saute onion in a little olive oil on medium high heat, after 3 minutes, add carrots.  Chop, press, or mince garlic and in a mortar and pestle combine with saffron threads.  Add to carrots and onions.  Add the rice and for about 2 minutes before adding the liquid*, toss with veggies to toast the rice.  Add the liquid and stir and reduce heat to medium.  Stir every few minutes and after 30 minutes from when the liquid was added, add the rest of the veggies.  Stir often for 10 more minutes and serve!  
* You may need to add more liquid if the rice is looking dry or the veggies start to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add liquid in half cup increments if needed.  

Why soy free and gluten free?

I get asked a lot why I'm vegan and why I eat the way I do. Usually I keep the conversation light when it comes to not eating animals-I don't like to talk politics. But, I do get excited when I get to tell people why I don't eat dairy, and why I choose to avoid wheat and soy.
My mom just got a test back that says she's intolerant to soy and gluten. Since she eats a few meals with me a week already, this wasn't particularly scary for her. My mom isn't vegan, but I'm proud of the way she's trying to incorporate whole, organic foods into her diet. So, partly this entry is for her. Did I mention that my mom is the best mom ever?

Gluten Free- Some people are gluten intolerant, or have been diagnosed with celiac disease. This means that their bodies are unable to digest wheat and some of its friends like rye or barley. People who are gluten intolerant may have frequent diarrhea, trouble absorbing nutrients- and are at risk for developing other problems. Other people eat a gluten free diet because it is very mucus forming (me!). There is also research that when gluten (and casein, a protein found in milk) is eliminated from an autistic child's diet, symptoms improve.

Soy Free- When creating and naming my blog, I hesitated on whether or not to put the word "vegan" in the title. The word vegan for so many people conjures up images of soy hot dogs and soy hamburgers and other meat/dairy analogues. Although great transition products for omnivores going herbivores, fake meats give in to the mainstream idea that our dinner plates should be planned around the protein. And soy does offer a great source of protein, but it's not the miracle health food some would like you to believe. If you really want a fake chicken nugget because you like the taste, go for it! You're not killing a chicken and you're satisfying a craving. But, if you're eating a faux-meat product because "its good for you", you're not doing yourself any favors. Soy, like wheat, is mucus forming. Soy is one of the top dietary allergens causing problems like acne, asthma, ezcema, and vomiting. Personally, my body doesn't digest it well, though I will include some organic fermented soy products in my diet like miso or tempeh. But, if you're going to eat soy keep these two things in mind- make sure you're choosing organic soy, and realize that soy is very estrogenic. To be granted with an organic label, the crops can not be genetically modified. At least 90% of the soybeans produced in the US are genetically modified. Companies like Silk have moved away from an organic label. Read your labels! Lastly, soy contains isoflavones and phytoestrogens that mimic estrogen in the body. This could be great for a 50-year old menopausal woman, but for a 5 year old boy bringing a carton of Silk in his lunch box everyday, the possible effects are not known.

Dairy Free- Growing up I would get horrible ear infections, to the point that the doctors recommended tubes in my ears. I battled seasonal allergies that turned into constant colds that turned into asthma and soon I was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis. At the age of 21 I was taking 2 inhalers daily, plus an emergency one that I used several times a week, and 5 other allergy and asthma pills daily. To weigh down my purse even more I carried this little bottle of Lactaid to help me digest dairy products. I was constantly sick and my digestion was usually uncomfortable. Being vegetarian, I would see the word "vegan" a lot and write it off, but eventually I began gravitating to eating dairy free and with the help of my new found naturopath, I was able to get myself off every single allergy and asthma pill and inhaler! If the mucus forming elements aren't enough to get you thinking about saying goodbye to milk- keep in mind the amount of hormones and pus there is in commercially produced milk. Even cow's that their milk is labeled organic are still pumped with hormones that are getting in your body. If you gotta have some milk- check out rice milk or almond milk.

Here is my mom holding my new niece Harper. This is her first grandbaby and I know she'll be just as awesome as a Grammy as she is a Mom :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Black Bean Quinoa Roasted Veggie Bowl

One of my unofficial New Year's Resolutions was to update my blog three times a week.  I would have loved to keep that up, but with going to school full time and working full time, sometimes I'm worried I'm not going to be able to shower three times a week!  So, as my life has simplified- my meals have as well.  I'm now okay with one dish meals, compared to my preferred 4-6 dish meals that used to happen several times weekly in my kitchen.
Tonight's meal was simple and prepared while I was busy working on other stuff.  It required some chopping and minimal stirring.  Thanks to my rice cooker the quinoa didn't even have to be stirred.  The butternut squash only had to be tossed once during its cooking time (feel free to sub any veggies that can be roasted).  And the beans on the stove simmered on low while everything was happening- and only needed attention every 5-7 minutes.  When the quinoa was done I mixed it in with the beans.  This is easy and can be done while doing anatomy homework.

Black Bean Quinoa Roasted Veggie Bowl

1 cup quinoa cooked in rice cooker (will yield 2+ cups of quinoa)
2 cans of black beans rinsed and drained cooked on low with:
1 cup water
splash of evoo
2 jalapenos
on cookie sheet in a 425 oven:
1 butternut squash peeled and chopped
1 onion sliced
coated with evoo, cumin, coriander, salt, and cayenne baked for 40 minutes
top with avocado and lime juice/zest

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Indian Market

I have a secret love for Indian food.  I make curries and rice all of the time.  I'm also lucky enough to live in a town with an amazing Indian restaurant that is like three restaurants in one- with a full Northern Indian menu, a full Southern Indian menu, and an Indo-Chinese menu.  Dakshin is the name of the restaurant- if you ever find yourself in Louisville and need a tasty snack, or a crazy large meal.  (Make sure you try a dosai, its an awesome GF snack!)  
Indian markets are full of unique foods that are usually vegan friendly.  I'm buying a lot of spices from the Indian market now- mostly because they come in large bags, are rich in taste, and so much more inexpensive than spices anywhere else.  Indian markets are also a great place to stock up on rice or lentils and produce.  The price on garlic, ginger, peppers, and coconuts can't be beat. Here is a photo of my most recent visit to the Indian market.  Cumin, young thai coconuts, and saffron ($6.99 for a box that could have cost me $20+ elsewhere)!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bring Your Lunch!

In high school I would sometimes forget to pack my lunch.  I was just vegetarian at the time, so I usually had a slice of cheese on a hamburger bun with lettuce, mustard, and pretzels all smashed together complete with a side of fries.  Grossss!  (But at the time it wasn't too awful of a punishment for forgetting to bring my lunch.)  Working in a burger restaurant/bar currently I feel like I have to come up with silly combinations (like the cheese/mustard/pretzel sammie) when I forget to bring my lunch.  I'm sure the high school me would drool at the possible combinations available to me now, but the current me is sick of the non-organic and not-so-fresh/healthy combos I create when I don't bring food with me to work.  I've also just started massage school (YAY!) so I have looong days ahead of me of starting class at 9am and working til 1am.  
Tuesday was my first day of a school/work double.  I started the morning with my three glasses of spring water, then had a coconut water/cacao/chia seed/strawberry smoothie that I blended up to drink during the first part of class.  (Tip- 16oz bottles (maybe from kombucha) work well to transport smoothies!)  The night before I had made my temperature neutral foods for the day: coconut curry soup, quinoa kale crunch, and hummus and veggies.  I also threw in some Gone gluten free crackers, So Delicious coconut milk yogurt, a larabar, and an apple.  

I have access to a fridge at work, but I didn't know if I would at school, so I needed foods that could be enjoyed at any temperature.  Also, I'm trying to avoid the microwave, (and I didn't know if one would be available), so I knew a raw soup was in the works.  Raw soups can be very satisfying.  I pumped this one full of warming herbs, so even though it was room temperature I was nice and toasty eating it.  This recipe is super flexible- have fun experiment with the spice amounts/thickness/ and serving temperature.  

Raw Coconut Curry Soup

4 ribs celery
2-4 cloves garlic
two handfuls of chopped/baby carrots
red pepper flakes/cayenne/jalapeno
basil/holy basil
juice from 1 lemon/lime
1-2 thai coconuts, add meat first then slowly add water, determining desired thickness.
Option: raw cashews blended in

Blend in any order in a good blender/food processor.  I am in love with my Vitamix.  I had a lot of coarse dried spices/seeds so I first blended those into a powder/paste before adding the veggies/coconut.  I really suggest checking out lemongrass and holy basil if you haven't yet.  Lemongrass is such a crisp, citrus-y taste.  Holy basil is also called tulsi and traditionally it is used in teas, as well as a spice for food.  

To pair with my super warming soup, I wanted a protein packed accompaniment that provided a lot of crunch.  Quinoa is the beefiest of all grains with 18 amino acids and a high protein content.  Quinoa is crunchier than pasta or rice, but the real crunch in the recipe comes from walnuts and red onions.  Any kale, as long as its shredded and de-stemmed is perfect with the quinoa.  And again, this is a temperature neutral dish.  It's great cold, room temperature or warmed.  

Quinoa Kale Crunch

2 cups of cooked quinoa (about 1 cup uncooked)
1 bunch of kale shredded, de stemmed
1 red onion chopped
1 cup of raw walnuts chopped and soaked.
juice from 1 lemon
2 tbs olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

After shredding and de stemming the kale, cover with the juice of one lemon, 1 tsp of salt and massage for about a minute, softening the kale.  Add the quinoa (cooled to room temperature), and the rest of the ingredients.  Pack in containers for lunch! 

Hummus and veggies may be my favorite snack, and keeping with the theme of this post- its temperature neutral (some places serve hummus warm, cool, or room temperature).  I have a recipe here for roasted red pepper and jalapeno hummus.  This hummus was made with black sesame seeds and black beans with roasted garlic and jalapenos.  I've already mentioned before that I cheat and use organic canned beans from the major chain grocery, but 4 cups of cooked beans, or two cans is a good base, unless you're making hummus for an army or a baby shower.  Making your hummus at home is easy.  You can invest in pre-mixed tahini, but I find that a big jar of sesame seeds from the asian section is more economical.  Grind about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of those in the food processor, then add 4 cups of beans, making sure at least 2 cups (one can) of those are chickpeas.  Lemon juice, cumin, garlic (raw or roasted), salt, and cayenne are stars in the hummus walk of fame.  Roasted peppers or onions, fresh cilantro or parsley, or subbing half the chickpeas for cashews, kidneys, or black beans are great additions.  This is your hummus- get creative and start tasting and making :)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Well Stocked Pantry

Today I heard Rachael Ray say something about how she uses agave syrup sometimes because its a low-glycemic sweetener and that about made my head spin (with excitement)! Agave syrup, or agave nectar, as I usually call it is a great sweetener for almost any occasion that isn't too harsh on the blood sugar. You can find it now in major chain grocery stores, where its always been in the aisles at health food stores and co-ops, and even on Amazon. Agave is sweeter than sugar, so when a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, I use 3/4 cup agave and reduce a little liquid somewhere in the recipe. Agave appears in my smoothies, ice creams, baked goods and raw desserts, and anywhere in between. It is a liquid thinner than honey, similar to the consistency of maple syrup. (Agave is also the same plant tequila is made from.) Since its versatile and now becoming so easy to find it makes my top spot on essential items for a vegan kitchen..

Essential Items For A Well Stocked Pantry

1. Agave Nectar- easy on the blood sugar sweetener. Now available most anywhere. I like the organic, raw amber blue agave version.

2. Coconut Oil- say goodbye to butter and even Earth Balance and other margarines, unrefined organic coconut oil is the way to get your pans (and taste buds) oiled up right. The benefits of adding coconut oil to your diet are numerous, some researchers have found that the lauric acid in coconut oil can boost your immunity. And even though coconut oil is high in saturated fats, its been proven to help you lose weight! Baking (and unbaking), and cooking with coconut oil is easy, just use it as you would any butter or oil. Most major chain groceries do carry coconut oil, but usually the refined kind. You may have to venture to the health food store or check out online resources to get a good quality organic, unrefined oil.

3. Cashews- the most versatile item in a dairy free kitchen. Raw cashews (not the canned, salted kind) can be used as they are or soaked to achieve creamy textures. You can also toast cashews and add as a garnish to grains. Most of my ice creams include raw cashews. My vegan alfredo sauce is cashew based. I also use them in raw desserts, and even as a veggie dip base. I get my cashews in the bulk section at the health food store. I've not been able to find raw cashews in major chain groceries.

4. Grains- though I disagree with the FDA's food pyramid that grains should be the base of your diet, I do agree that some whole grains are a great complement to a diet based on veggies and fruits. Every now and then I'll have pasta made with rice, quinoa, or buckwheat- sometimes in the natural section/ethnic aisles of major chain groceries you can find these, but these are certainly available at any health food store. I keep my pantry constantly stocked with quinoa, brown basmati rice, and my new favorite, millet. I cook these grains in my rice cooker and purchase them in the bulk section at the health food store (but are they are also available packaged at MCGs).

5. Chickpeas and Black Beans- ideally should be purchased dried. They are cheaper this way and usually available in bulk. Honestly, I usually cheat and stock up on cans of the organic beans at the major chain grocery. Make sure you rinse the canned beans before using.

6. Seeds-sunflower seeds are great in raw desserts and snacks. Sesame seeds are great to keep around if you get an urge to make hummus and don't want to buy a weird jar of tahini, or to throw in asian-inspired stir frys. Sunflower and sesame seeds are great in salads. Flax seeds can be added to smoothies or sweets for extra fiber. Chia seeds are my new favorite food item. I keep a bowl of them soaking in the fridge to add substance and protein to blended drinks/smoothies. They are also great to make into a high protein creamy pudding. I get my sesame seeds in the asian aisle at the MCG, the raw (hulled) sunflower seeds in bulk at the health food store. Flax seeds can now be found at most major chains as well as the HFS. Chia seeds can be purchased online (I like Mt. Rose) or at the health food store.

7. Raw stuffs/superfoods- Jing Masters totally got me hooked on drinking raw cacao based elixirs. I keep goji berries and raw cacao on hand for delicious drinks as well as chinese tonic herbs. I'm also in love with young thai coconuts that I get super cheap at the local Indian market.

8. Spices/seasonings/everything else- dates (in bulk from the HFS), organic garlic, onions, and lemons, organic extra virgin olive oil, organic frozen fruit (for smoothies), and tons of (organic!) greens (kale, spinach, romaine, etc) are also necessities to have in my kitchen. We're lucky, at least in my area to be able to find these at major chain groceries now.

Where do you get your groceries? I like to get my seasonal produce at the farmer's market and what I can't get there I pick up fair priced organics at either the MCG or the HFS. It seems like I'm constantly running around to get groceries, but I'm committed to consuming high quality foods for a good price. If you don't like running around to many different stores within the week or month, you may find it easier to shop online or to shop at Whole Foods Market- which is a nice blend of a major chain grocery and health food store. Kroger, Meijer, and Target all have their own organic labels. Sams Club and Costco carry organic produce in bulk. I am lucky to have two great locally owned health food stores in my area- Amazing Grace and Rainbow Blossom. I also purchase items online quite often. If you're living single, you may want to go in with friends and let them know when you find a good deal on a huge bag of rice or cacao powder and share the cost.  

If you haven't already clicked Follow on my page, please do!  I'd like to know how many readers I have.  Also, if you have any questions or comments, or even want to let me know where you get your foodstuffs let me know by posting a comment below :)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I hate baking (but I love desserts!)

I hate baking.  I mean I like the idea of baking- spending time in the kitchen with sweet stuff- and then in a few hours you have things to share with family and friends that can make their day a little sweeter.  Cooking for others is easy when the food is fresh, but giving others a tupperware full of leftover curry is not as fun as giving a tupperware full of leftover cookies.  However, baking is more difficult for me because I hate to measure things out exactly.  Before I went vegan I had a good idea about the balance of sugar/eggs/flour/fat I needed to make a good cookie or moist cake.  Vegan baking proved to be more difficult- no recipe was the same, some called for vinegar, and no one in the vegan baking community can agree whether banana/flax/tofu/enerG/applesauce is the best egg replacer.  I never felt like I had a grasp on making a vegan baked good from scratch without reading a recipe.  As a natural progression, veganism led me to research a raw food diet and I came across amazing raw dessert recipes that were exactly what I was looking for- mostly glycemic balanced, easy desserts that could be thrown together however I wanted, and the slightest or greatest variance from the recipe wouldn't matter that much- its mostly just fruit and nuts!  A goal of mine for the new year is to avoid sugar and flour based desserts and when I'm craving something sweet, do it up right- raw!

Tonight I made raw pecan snickerdoodles.  They are chewy, moist, and have a nice balance of sweet, cinnamon, and salt, like any good snickerdoodle should.  I didn't cover mine in a dusting of cinnamon and cocoa powder, but you could if you'd like.  

Raw Pecan Snickerdoodles

1.5 cup pecans
.5 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut flakes
2 tbs flax seeds
10 pitted mejool dates
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp salt

In food processor combine and process everything except dates.  When pecans are finely chopped, add dates.  Unbake in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.  

For Christmas I made three types of truffle balls: gingerbread, coconut cacao, and dark orange chocolate.  The first two were raw, and the dark orange chocolate paired some chocolate chips I wanted to use up with some fresh orange zest and juice.  These were fresh from the freezer, so please excuse the frost on the picture.

I've already made my Thanksgiving dinner post and showed a picture of my cranberry cake with coconut icing.  I promised that I'd share the details with a few people from livejournal- and figured this would be the best place for the recipe.  The recipe is actually a perfect base for any fruit and nut cake.  It can be gluten-free simply by using GF flour (I love Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Flour), and it easily adapts to whatever sweetener you like without compromising the constitution of the cake.  Use this base with carrots, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon and you have the perfect carrot cake...

3 cups flour
1 cup applesauce
1 cup drained crushed pineapple
2 cup cranberries (or carrots or whatever base you're using)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup sugar, or 3/4 cup agave nectar (or skip this if you're not looking for a crazy sweet dessert)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1- 1.5 cup of nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.  (If using two 8 inch round cake pans.) This base is so easy to work with that you can't really mess it up.  Good luck and happy baking!