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!