Sunday, December 16, 2012

MILLET CRUNCH CEREAL

Before I go on with the post, I want to say to the families affected by the Connecticut tragedy - I am so sorry. My heart is breaking for you, my tears are shed for you, my prayers are prayed for you.

On that note, this will be short.

This recipe is one I make on a regular basis. Which really means I make it a lot. It has become my go-to cereal when I need the crunch without the effort or lengthy ingredient list most granola demands. It's crazy easy and really difficult to mess up. In this season of busy, may this bring a bit of simplicity to your day.

[THE RECIPE]
Adapted from The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook

2 1/4 c. gluten-free oats
1/2 c. millet, uncooked
1/4 c. amaranth
1/3 c. honey [or maple syrup]
1/4 c. tahini
1 T. molasses
2 T. water


splash of orange, almond, vanilla, or coconut extracts [optional]

1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 c. raw sunflower seeds
1 T. flaxseeds
1 T. sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spread out oats, millet, and amaranth on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 250 degrees for one hour.

Meanwhile, warm honey, tahini, molasses and water, stirring frequently, in a small saucepan over low heat until combined. Remove from heat and add flavoring if desired.

Toss roasted oat mixture with coconut flakes, pumpkin, sunflower, flax, and sesame seeds. Pour in honey mixture and stir well.

Spread out on rimmed baking sheet [I like lining with parchment paper] and bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. You may need to use two baking sheets so that the mixture doesn't get too thick.

Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in an airtight container for 3 - 4 days at room temperature, 1 - 2 weeks in the refrigerator, or a few months in the freezer.

Serve with your choice of nut or seed milk and top with berries or other fruit.





Thursday, November 29, 2012

PUMPKIN RISOTTO

Well, here at Chateau VanderKlok our halls our decked, our tree is trimmed, the stockings are hung by the fireplace flue, presents are safely tucked away from nondiscriminatory 2-year-old hands, and Christmas music is on nearly 24/7. It is clear to most that this my favorite time of year. I love the jolly-ness of it all. The cheer. The lights, the stories, the glitz and the glam. And the food. I LOVE the food.

Risotto tops the list as one of my favorite snowy-day, holiday treats. It's thick and creamy and comforting and warm. If you haven't tried it I urge you to give it a chance. If you have, well than here is my gift to you!  

May you find ways to make this time of season extra special and completely indulge in the beauty of it all. 

[THE RECIPE]
Adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine / Oct 2012 Issue / pg. 108

3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium - large carrots, finely chopped
2 large [or 4 small] cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1 T. turmeric
pinch of nutmeg
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
1/4 c. cooking wine
1 c. pumpkin or winter squash puree
4 c. vegetable broth

In a medium saucepan warm oil. Carefully add chopped vegetables and saute until onions become translucent, approximately 7 - 10 minutes. Add turmeric and nutmeg and stir for 1 minute. Add arborio rice to the pot and saute, stirring constantly, for an additional 3 - 5 minutes. Pour in cooking wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has almost completely evaporated. Add pumpkin or squash puree and stir. Pour in vegetable broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each cup of liquid has evaporated [liquid should evaporate prior to adding the next cup]. Mixture should be soft and creamy when done. Add more liquid if necessary.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

THE HABIT OF HABIT



I'm not one for promoting much on my blog [yup, the lack of ads is VERY intentional] but there is always a time for exceptions. This is one. I was asked to be a guest blogger for Venio, a free personalized healthy meal planning app [go ahead my fellow West Michigan Dutch, do the "free" dance]. The app provides each participant a meal plan, recipes, and the nutritional information for each of those recipes.

The really exciting part, outside of being a guest blogger [check out the post here!], is that they are using a number of the recipes you find here on Return to the Garden to broaden their allergy-friendly recipe bank. Pretty cool, huh?!

I encourage you to check out Venio, especially if the idea of eating healthfully seems unmanageable amidst your crazy schedule, handful of kids, college dorm, the sofa, or [fill in the blank].

Check out my post on habits [you had to know it would come up sometime], specifically how to be successful in making and keeping them. 

May you find ways to make this holiday season a healthy one and maybe sneak in a few new habits along the way. 

   

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

SUPER HERB SMOOTHIE BLEND

Today my girls decided not to sleep. At all. Translation, in mamma world that means "today my girls decided to torture me". Okay, it wasn't that bad - the baby did sleep for three ten-minute increments. I'm not sure which is worse: no sleep or constant interruption. Almost any mom [or dad!] of young children will tell you that nap times are the holy grail of parenthood, the ultimate prize after a hard morning of "again!", and "moooommmm!", and "more food!", and "go pee! GO PEE!", and "uh oh", and "bad choice", and timeout, and diaper changing, and more diaper changing, and did I mention diaper changing?

Does it surprise anyone that the energy meter was at an all time low come 3 o'clock? There's no song proclaiming it's 3 o'clock somewhere for a reason. With babe in one arm and toddler in the other I headed to the kitchen [more like wearily dragged myself there in utter defeat] willing it to provide me sustenance and a second wind and maybe some magic knock-out potion for the squirmy sisters. Turns out it provided all of the above. Baby Calm Tincture - thank you. Super Herb Smoothie Blend - thank you too.

If you are looking to pump up your morning smoothie, cereal, or after noon snack, I highly recommend this herbal smoothie blend. My theory is this: get as many nutrients in first thing in the morning that way if the rest of the day is less than admirable [or pure chaos] at least you got a good start. The great thing about the smoothie recipe below is it serves at least 4 which means you've got a great snack for later in the day. You can also give this to your kids [my 2-year-old loves it] which is always an added bonus. It's my go-to when my daughter asks for "more food! more food!".

May it bring you a burst of energy, inspiration and the will to keep going on days that can be summed up with "don't ask".

SPECIAL SAFETY NOTE: Of course all of these herbs are considered safe for the general population, including children and nursing mamas [many are considered common foods around the world], however if you are pregnant please eliminate turmeric, orange peel, fennel seed, and cinnamon. Fennel is generally safe in small amounts [for example, when added to dried beans during cooking] however it should be avoided in concentrated or larger amounts. Cinnamon is safe for culinary use as well but should be avoided in larger amounts. To be on the safe side here, it's best to just remove both from the recipe. If you have any special health conditions or are taking medication of any kind, please talk over the use of herbs with your health care provider as some herbs may interfere with medication or antagonize an existing condition. Of course, most importantly, listen to your body. If you experience any negative side effects [like nausea, vomiting, headaches, hives, or other skin rashes] discontinue use. You can work through the herbs individually to see how each affects your body and eliminate the necessary ones after that.


[THE RECIPE]
Caffeine-Free

I give much of the credit for this recipe to Erin at Bulk Herb Store [you will also find the many benefits of each herb listed here as well]. If you don't have the time / energy to make this mix, please check out Erin's blend! You can find almost all of these herbs at Bulk Herb Store and Mountain Rose Herbs. If you are in the Grand Rapids area check out Global Infusion's bulk herb selection.

If you can't find the powder form of some of these herbs you can easily grind them in a herb / spice grinder or a coffee grinder specifically used for herbs. I recommend not mixing your herbs with your coffee grinder unless you want coffee flavored herbs!

Of course, mix and match with what you have or can get a hold of. All of these are optional, the more the better, but all are great to incorporate into your diet.

One part* EACH of the following:

Burdock Root Powder
Beet Root Powder
Marshmallow Root Powder
Alfalfa Powder
Ground Oatstraw [eliminate if you are allergic to oats]

3/4 part* EACH of the following:

Dandelion Leaf Powder
Lemon Balm
Ground Fennel Seed
Ground Chamomile Flower
Ground Red Raspberry Leaf

1/2 part* EACH of the following:

Spinach Powder
Echinacea Root or Leaf Powder
Spirulina Powder
Nutritional Yeast Powder
Hawthorn Berries
Ginkgo
Eleuthero Root [Ginseng]
Turmeric Root Powder
Rosehips
Ground Cinnamon
Ground Orange Peel
Ground Lemon Peel

1/4 part* EACH of the following:

St. John's Wort Powder


[POWER PACKED SMOOTHIE RECIPE]
Serves 4

Disclaimer: In general I try to use as many local foods as possible. However in this recipe I do use a banana, avocado, and orange when they are in season [where grown] as I try to pack in much needed calories while breastfeeding my daughter. Throughout the summer months I substitute a small - medium zucchini for the avocado, eliminate the banana and orange, and throw in some pitted cherries and raspberries. You can also add more greens [like stinging nettle, broccoli, green beans, cucumber or peas], use pineapple in lieu of the orange, and add a carrot or two. This of course changes the flavor a little but that is the beauty of smoothies, they are super flexible!

1 banana [frozen, optional]
1 avocado [optional]
1 c. blueberries, frozen
1 c. strawberries, frozen
A large handful of greens [like sprouts, spinach, or kale - stems removed]
1 orange, peeled
1/2 c. cooked oatmeal with amaranth and ground flaxseeds** or 1/2 c. raw oats + 1/4 c. ground flaxseeds [optional, will make a really thick smoothie]
1 T. local, raw honey
3 - 4 T. Super Herb Smoothie Blend
1 - 2 c. homemade hemp milk [or non-dairy milk of choice]
16 - 18 oz. pure coconut water or regular purified water
handful of ice cubes [optional]

* A "part" is an easy way to measure herbs. Rather than dictating 1 T., 1 tsp., etc. a part allows you to use any form of measurement as long as it is consistent throughout the entire recipe. For example, if you use 1 T. of each herb under "1 Part" you need to use that same measurement throughout [3/4 T., 1/2 T., 1/4 T.]. If you have a kitchen scale, I like to use ounces with this recipe. 

** I like using cooked oats [essentially leftover breakfast!] for this recipe so the smoothie doesn't get gel-like if I store it in the refrigerator. To make, cook raw oats and amaranth [1 part oats + 1/2 part amaranth to 3 parts water] and then mix in a few tablespoons of ground flaxseeds.



Thursday, November 1, 2012

PUMPKIN [RICE] BRAN MUFFINS

Call me crazy but I don't really get into Halloween. Of course the kids are cute all dressed up in their costumes and there is an undeniable excitement in the air but, to be honest, I completely forgot this holiday dropped in last night! Bah humbug [oops, wrong holiday, but you get the picture]. Since I have become a parent I have really begun to think critically about what my girls take part in and how it affects their health. In doing so, this may mean sacrificing a holiday or two. However, the beauty of having young ones is that they may not even realize they're missing out and my husband and I have the chance to define what each holiday looks like for them. Maybe whatever we decide will be their normal and a bucket full of 5 years worth of candy [generally eaten within a week] will seem really odd [hopefully insane] to them.


Okay, I'm really not as grumpy as I may sound. I, probably more than most, look for any excuse to celebrate, well anything. Valentine's Day - call it a Hallmark Holiday, I still love it [pun completely intended]! President's Day - well I don't know him personally but sure, I'm up for that. National Give Up Your Should's Day [I'm not joking on this one] - yes please! Use Your Common Sense Day [Nov. 4] - does this mean throw a party?! And of course World Vegan Day [today!]. There are plenty more out there [you can find them here if you feel you need a reason to celebrate].

My theory on celebration is, why not?! The days are filled with enough mundane tasks to keep me plenty dulled down. I guess I think if I don't celebrate at least one thing each day then what is the alternative? A day filled with have tos, need tos, don't want tos, and "just one more thing". Oh yeah, and "MOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!" If I don't celebrate, or at least look for one good thing, I become a lifeless being operating on cruise who just gets up to repeat the day before. Boring!

I have no idea how I got on that subject.

Anyway, in honor of World Vegan Day and National Give Up Your Should's Day, here are some yummy pumpkin muffins to ring in a new month and give you a little something special to enjoy on a day that could just be like any other. But, now it's not.

May you celebrate today in big ways and small. Cheers!


[THE RECIPE]

1 3/4 c. quinoa flour [I like using freshly ground]
3/4 c. sorghum flour
1/2 c. rice bran [you could also use freshly ground oat flour]
1 tsp. ground chia or flax seeds
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt

2 c. pumpkin puree
3/4 c. grapeseed or sunflower seed oil
1/2 c. honey or maple syrup
2 T. blackstrap molasses
2 tsp. real vanilla extract
2 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice

Optional Crumble Topping:

1 c. oats or lightly ground nuts [walnuts or hazelnuts taste great]
2 T. honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a large mix bowl, stir together dry ingredients [except for the spices]. Set aside. Place wet ingredients and spices in a blender. Blend on medium to high until mixture is very smooth [appx. 1 minute].

Pour wet mix over dry mix and blend well using a hand or stand mixer. Make sure all the dry mix in incorporated.

If you choose to do the topping, mix topping ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line muffin tin with silicone or paper muffin cups. Using a 1/3 cup measure cup, scoop out mix into each muffin cup. Sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes. The tops will begin to crack and brown. Insert knife or toothpick into one of the muffins and remove gently. If  it comes out clean, the muffins are done. If not, continue to bake in 5 minute increments.

Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy warm or store in refrigerator or freezer.

Enjoy with a pumpkin shake!





Thursday, October 18, 2012

SPAGHETTI [SQUASH] AND [NO MEAT] BALLS



The other day I had this intense craving for spaghetti and meatballs. I think I will blame the change of season, a very hungry baby, and a rough week. That being said, a good hearty, "feels like home" meal was in order.

Now I know what your thinking. Me too. Squash? In place of pasta? Really? But it's true, spaghetti squash really can handle it's own when it goes up against it's carb-packed opponent. 

[PASTA vs. SQUASH]

If you are looking to cut down on your carb intake, this is the perfect place to start. Pasta is one of those sneaky places you can pack in the calories without even knowing it. Rarely is a serving size enough. Spaghetti squash allows you to forego those rather empty calories. This squash has 42 calories per cup vs. a popular GF pasta brand's 200 calories per 2 oz! Instead this squash provides fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

[WHAT'S IN A LENTIL]

If I told you that lentils don't produce gas [you know, the embarrassing kind] would you give them a try? What if I said they are super high in soluble fiber which is known to reduce many common Western diseases? How about if I mentioned that they help keep you feeling full longer? Not sold yet? Okay, well they contain a good amount of protein, are high in folate and at least seven minerals [including iron], and need no pre-soaking which makes them quick and easy to cook [although soaking will make them even more digestible and sprouting prior to cooking adds additional health benefits]. If you have never tried lentil I urge you to give them a try. Health benefits aside, they are delicious!

[THE RECIPE]

For the Squash:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half, lenthwise, and scoop out seeds. Set seeds aside to roast later. Place squash cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet and add about 1/4 inch of water. Bake at 375 degrees until the squash is soft when poked with a fork [this could range anywhere from 20 minutes to and hour depending on the size of your squash]. Remove and let cool until you are able to handle it. Using a fork, gently scrape the squash from the outer edge down towards the center [across not lengthwise], pulling the squash to create "noodles". Repeat on second half. Place squash "noodles" on a plate, sprinkle with a little salt and cracked pepper, and top with pasta sauce and meatballs [see recipes below]. 

For the Meatballs:
Recipe adapted from "Veggie Balls", Natural Health Magazine, April/May 2012 Issue, p. 30

2 c. green lentils [pre-soaked, optional]
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 - 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. fresh thyme, finely chopped or 1 tsp. dry thyme
2 tsp. sea salt
3 T. tomato paste
10 - 12 button mushrooms, finely chopped
3 T. ground chia seeds mixed with 9 T. pure water to create gel
1/2 c. ground oats
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley or 3 heaping tablespoons of dried parsley
1/4 c. finely chopped walnuts
Bring lentils and 2 quarts of water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are soft, 20 - 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. 

Saute onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt in the olive oil over medium to high heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and continue to cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and continue to cook for 15 more minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer the mixture to a glass bowl and set aside. 

When vegetable mixture has cooled enough to touch, add in the lentils, chia gel, ground oats, parsley, and walnuts. Mix well using hands. Refrigerate for 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using your hands, form the mixture into balls and line on baking sheet leaving about a 1/4 inch space between them. Lightly coat balls with either olive oil spray or dip your fingertips in a little olive oil and dab. Roast for 30 - 45 minutes or until browned and firm.

Note: You can also top millet, quinoa, or rice with these veggie balls. I like cooking 1/2 part quinoa + 1/2 part millet in vegetable broth and 1 - 2 T. of ground turmeric root powder [don't even get me started on the benefits of this!]. Top with veggie balls and cherry tomatoes and season with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

For the Sauce:

I use homemade canned pasta sauce. I love the recipe found in The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving. You can also use any store bought pasta sauce but please purchase an organic variety in a glass jar to reduce your exposure to chemicals, pesticides, and other toxins. 


Friday, October 12, 2012

UP-SIDE-DOWN PUMPKIN PIE CRISP

Pumpkin pie really needs no introduction. It's a fall classic, at least in our home, and is one enjoyed over and over again. This is a gluten free twist on the traditional pie and crust. Enjoy!

[THE RECIPE]

CRUST / TOPPING:

2 c. gluten-free old fashioned oats
1/4 c. unrefined, organic coconut oil, melted
1/2 c. raw, unfiltered honey or maple syrup
1/2 c. gluten-free all-purpose flour or brown rice flour

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
splash of almond extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium size glass mixing bowl. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Gently press into glass pie dish and bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove and set aside.


PIE FILLING:

2 c. of homemade pumpkin puree
1/2 c. raw, unfiltered honey or maple syrup
1 c. homemade non-dairy milk [homemade coconut, walnut or cashew milk works great here]
3 T. ground chia seeds mixed with 9 T. of warm water [should form thick gel]
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Place all in a blender. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pour pumpkin mixture over prepare crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 50 - 60 minutes or until the center of the pie firms up and cracks form.

Remove from oven and cool until pie dish is room temperature and than transfer to refrigerator to cool completely. Cut slices of pie and gently flip onto serving plates. Top with homemade cashew whipped topping.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"CREME DE PUMPKIN" SHAKE

When I think of fall, I think of pumpkins. Few things get me more excited this time of year than pumpkin pie, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin shakes, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin soup, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin fries - pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin! When harvest time comes around I crave them more than any other food. There is something so warm and fall-like about them - a richness and depth of flavor that only a season of hard summer work can bring.

[MO BETA!]

And not just beta-carotene. Nope, that beta has an estimated 500 family members. And you thought your relatives were a handful. Actually this family, called carotenoids, actually work best when all together. Just another reason to eat whole, fresh plant foods!

Pumpkins and carrots are both packed with a variety of carotenoids including: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. All are useful, if not critical, in preventing cancer - specifically bladder, cervix, prostate, lung and colon cancers. Some studies have shown a risk reduction of 30 - 50 percent [20 percent in post-menopausal breast cancer]! Moreover, beta-cryptoxanthin has been shown to have strong antioxidant properties which are helpful in fighting off and reducing the risk of many diseases including rheumatoid arthritis. Carotenoids, working as a team, provide enormous benefits for the eyes by protecting them from macular degeneration and cataracts.

Oh, and just so you know, a cup of pumpkin packs in more than 2.5 grams of fiber!




[THE RECIPE]

1 banana, halved and frozen
1 c. homemade pumpkin puree
2 carrots, washed and cut into chunks
1 - 2 c. homemade coconut, cashew, or walnut milk milk
juice from 1/2 a lemon
4 - 6 soaked dates + soaking water*
1 T. honey or maple syrup
1/8 tsp. of ground cinnamon
large handful of ice

Place all in blender and blend on high until very smooth. Serve immediately!

Place dates in a 2 cup glass measuring jar. Cover with boiling water, enough to fill to 1 1/2 c. line. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

Well....IT'S A GIRL!

Okay, it was a girl 6 weeks ago but if you have, or have had, kids you know that it takes at least that long to get into a new rhythm. As I type I am looking at the clock [6:15am?!] and thinking "things have certainly changed!". I have always been an early riser but this is a tad over the top. However, the sacrifice seems worth it - the house is quiet, the scent of sweet peppermint tea is filling the air, and two little girls lay angelic-like in their beds, far off in dreamland.

Now that I am somewhat back to the land of the sane, albeit sleep-deprived, I have found myself in the kitchen and ready to cook. With the cooler weather [love, love, love fall!] the cravings for hearty, earthy soups and risottos have commenced. Winter squashes [think butternut, spaghetti, pumpkins, etc.] abound these days, a welcoming committee of sorts for this multi-colored, football game on a crisp night, spiced cider laced season.

[NOT THE BUTT OF THE JOKE]

Butternut squash is conveniently a warming food that increases blood circulation and improves energy. Obvious as it seems, it's still worth stating that winter squashes are high in beta carotene as well as complex carbohydrates [a good food for diabetics and those who struggle with proper digestion or digestive related problems]. Vitamin A and C, potassium, magnesium, and carotenoids [meaning it has anti-carcinogenic properties] are all found in these odd shaped orbs.

I have found winter squash to be so versatile and use them [butternut squash and cheese pumpkins being my favorite] in risottos, soups, pasta sauce, ice cream, crisps, and smoothies [yes smoothies!]. And of course, I love roasting the seeds.

This soup is one of my favorites and a constant repeat throughout the fall and winter months. I make it two ways and have provided both recipes below.

May you find ways to completely embrace this season. May you be intentionally present, taking in the changing of the colors, the crispness of the air, and the beauty of harvest. And may you wear out your favorite jeans and hooded sweatshirt.


[RECIPE ONE]
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen's "Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Soup" [link no longer available]

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
5 c. [1 1/2 lbs] of butternut squash or cheese pumpkin, peeled and cubed
2 c. potatoes, cubed
1 large onion or 2 medium leeks, washed and sliced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 c. vegetable broth
4 c. water
2 bay leaves
1 - 2 c. cooked quinoa
1/2 c. non-dairy milk

Heat oil over medium heat. Add squash, potato, salt, and pepper. Saute 3 minutes. Add onion / leeks and saute for 1 minute. Stir in broth, water and bay leaves and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the potato and squash are tender when poked with a fork. Remove bay leaves and add quinoa.

Using a blender, puree in batches until mixture is very smooth. Return to pot and stir in non-dairy milk. Warm if necessary and serve.

[RECIPE TWO]

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
6 - 8 c. of butternut squash or cheese pumpkin, peeled and cubed
1 large onion or 2 medium leeks, washed and sliced
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small chunks
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 c. vegetable broth
2 c. water
2 bay leaves
3 c. cooked white beans [ex. Great Northern beans], drained and rinsed


Heat oil over medium heat. Add squash, salt, and pepper. Saute 3 minutes. Add onion / leeks and cauliflower and saute for 1 minute. Stir in broth, water and bay leaves and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the potato and cauliflower are tender when poked with a fork. Remove bay leaves and add white beans.

Using a blender, puree in batches until mixture is very smooth. Return to pot, warm if necessary, and serve.





Thursday, July 19, 2012

GRANOLA PARFAIT

Over the last few weeks since I last updated this blog I have been in constant motion prepping for baby #2, freezing berries in mass amounts, traipsing through the Farmer's Market collecting as many fresh finds as possible, taking in some daily yoga [my body depends on it these days], potty training my now 2 year old and acting as her constant companion as this active "twos" stage really sets in [which means lots of puzzles, blocks, and coloring], having frequent [okay, daily] watermelon picnics, and consuming a ridiculous amount of blueberries. Phew! 



Needless to say, raw has been my mantra and easy my battle cry - preferably both together. I have also taken in my favorite restaurant a time or two [if you are in the area you MUST try Marie Catrib's]. It is at this cozy little nook of mine that I fell in love with her granola. It's sweet and nutty and chewy and perfect topped with fresh blueberries. The unfortunate part of this new found relationship is that I don't live close enough to pacify my now daily craving for this oat-filled goodness. So I did what any self-proclaimed chef-but-not-so-much would do....I came up with a recipe of my own that is close enough to fool those demanding taste buds of mine.

As my pregnancy winds down to weeks [soon to be days!] rather than months, these posts may become a bit more sporadic [my extreme apologies here]. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy previous posts and uncover hidden treasures found in the recipe index. May you find ways to thoroughly enjoy these summer months; take in as much melon as you can [and then eat some more!]; put away a thing or two by freezing, drying, and / or canning; take a stroll at the beach; make some popsicles; and use this time to take in as many raw, unprocessed foods as possible.

Here's to summer and cheers to an almost family of four!


[THE RECIPE]

6 c. gluten-free old-fashioned oats
2 c. dried, unsweetened coconut [shredded or finely chopped flakes]
1/2 c. raw sesame seeds
1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds
1 c. raw walnuts, slightly chopped
1 c. raw almonds, slightly chopped
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. celtic sea salt
1 to 1-1/4 c. grapeseed oil [organic, unrefined, unfiltered, cold pressed]
1 c. local honey [raw, unprocessed, unfiltered]
1 - 2 T. blackstrap molasses
splash or two of almond extract [optional]
splash or two of coconut extract [optional]

1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. dried unsulphured apricots, chopped
2 c. dried unsulphured apples, chopped

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except dried fruit. Make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly tossed together. Spread on two parchment lined baking sheets. Bake in a preheated oven at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 180 degrees and bake an additional 25 minutes. Allow to cool on the counter completely.

Once granola is cooled, place in a large bowl and mix in dried fruit. Store in an airtight container for a week or less at room temperature or place in freezer for longer storage.

[TO SERVE]

Choose your choice of plain yogurt [coconut, nut, Greek, or goat's milk] or non-dairy milk. Add a touch of honey or maple syrup [optional] to sweeten the yogurt a little. I like to use plain yogurt and add my own sweetener so I can control the amount and type of sugar. The granola is sweet so the yogurt doesn't necessarily have to be. Mix well.

Top yogurt or milk with granola and berries of choice. Serve immediately!



Thursday, June 21, 2012

KALE SAUTE WITH MILLET













The larger and larger my belly grows, the more and more I am hunting out easy, nutritious meals to feed my family and I. For some ridiculous reason my energy has been sapped yet my motivation stays strong. This makes for quite the volatile mix of emotions [something I am sure my husband would say "Amen!" to - he's been such a trooper]. Mix in a week of 90+ degree days and UGH, UGH, UGH! 

Today we actually got a break in the heat [evidence that there is a God and he does answer prayers!] and I actually have a bit more energy than in the past week thanks to some chia seeds, a relatively good night's rest, 70s, a little rain, and a bit of help from "Bep" [ie. my mom]. My initial thought is to spend this little treasure I've been given as quickly as possible knowing that it will most likely disappear after one night of tossing and turning or another few days of potty training. Yet the more wise voice inside [that would be my husband's voice as I have no sense of limitations whatsoever] begs me to take it easy - do a little more than normal but not too much and still "rest" for the most part. This receives one big, heavy, defeating *SIGH*. But I submit knowing it is for the best.

So, back to easy meals. This one has become one of my favorites, especially for lunch. You can make a large batch and have quite a few lunches to go around. I have been dutifully stocking the freezer with such meals knowing that cooking will fall a few notches down the priority list in month or two.

Oh, and I have to give props to my mom for introducing me to using mushrooms in this way. She sauteed asparagus in a similar manner and I was hooked. Thanks mom!


[FOOD OR FUNGUS?]

A word about mushrooms - I generally can't bring myself to swallow them. I think it may be the texture but seriously, gross! Mushrooms are one of those foods that I go back to again and again with childlike faith, desperately hoping that maybe this time I'll think they are delicious.

So why do I continue to work at acquiring a taste for something so small, spongy, and well, weird?

Mushrooms are amazingly effective detoxifiers, especially when it comes to fat in the blood [think cholesterol], pathogens [bad bacteria, viruses, toxins, etc.], and mucus [for example, respiratory infections]. Stronger mushrooms, such as reishi, are highly valued in the eastern countries and believed to increase longevity [meaning good health throughout life]. Mushrooms are high in protein [for vegetarians and vegan, cha ching!] and host a good amount of vitamin B2 and zinc as well.

Reishi mushrooms in particular can be helpful when treating AIDS, leaky gut syndrome, Epstein-Barr, and chronic bronchitis. Need another reason to add them to your diet? They are used to aid sleep, keep you "regular", and lower cholesterol. Taking a reishi tincture is a great way to get these benefits if cooking with them is a bit too much [although mushrooms in general are known in the culinary world to improve the flavor of whatever they are cooked with so I guess you can make the call].

Shitake mushrooms have immune boosting, antiviral, and antitumor properties and work to specifically protect the cardiovascular system. Of course this is of no interest to us Americans as we don't struggle with any of these issues...

In addition to having similar uses as the reishi mushroom, they are also used to treat environmental allergies, candidiasis infections, frequent flus and colds and are rich in vitamins D, B2, and B12 [and we thought we needed to consume obnoxious amounts of fortified foods and supplements to get these rare nutrients!].

If mushrooms give you the willies [something I understand all too well!], I hope you continue to explore ways to get them in your diet. May this recipe be the perfect place to start.


[THE RECIPE]

For the millet:

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped into small pieces
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 c. of millet [I love this with millet but you can also use brown rice or quinoa]
1 3/4 c. homemade [or gluten-free] vegetable broth

Rinse dry millet well in a fine mesh strainer and set aside. Heat oil in a medium size saucepan. Once warmed [not smoking], add onion and saute until onion begins to brown [5 - 7 minutes]. Add garlic and saute an additional minute. Add dried millet and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until millet is fragrant and toasted [7 - 10 minutes, it may turn a deep golden or begin to brown but shouldn't burn]. Carefully add broth [it will sizzle and may splatter a little], stir, and cover. Bring to boil and then reduce to low. Do not stir with millet is cooking. Cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed.


For the veggies:

1 - 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked and finely chopped [to soak, place mushrooms in water for 10 - 20 minutes to soften, drain] or use mushroom of choice
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 - 4 c. of loosely packed, chopped kale leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

While millet is cooking, heat olive oil in a medium to large cast iron skillet. Once the oil is warmed [not smoking] add mushrooms and saute for 3 - 5 minutes or until mushrooms are deep brown and soft. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Toss in kale and stir. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until the kale is just wilted and bright green. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper. Serve over cooked millet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

VEGAN BREAKFAST SCRAMBLE [SOY-FREE]

There are some days when the only thing that sounds good for breakfast [or any other meal for that matter] is an omelette or some kind of egg and vegetable scramble. Going egg-free was hard mainly for this reason. I love eggs and still crave them from time to time. But the negative effects on my body out weigh the positives in this case and so I remain egg-less in my diet. Of course, this doesn't take the cravings away. Creating an adequate substitute has been on my list for quite some time.

Now, like me, you have probably seen countless recipes that replace scrambled eggs with scrambled tofu and you may be wondering, "why not just substitute tofu here?". Well, my body says no to soy as well. That and tofu happens to be a highly processed product and not all that it is cracked up to be. Processing, in general, strips away many of a food's natural nutrients, soybeans included. So what is an egg-loving yet egg-free, soy-free girl to do?

Sometimes the greatest challenges actually lead to something, well, great. In this case, a recipe that mimics one of my favorite breakfasts without the soy and eggs my body prefers to avoid. The secret? White beans. I have used white beans as a substitute for a number of different things including creams in soups, meat, and as the main ingredient in spreads and dips. These little guys add much of the richness and depth that an egg brings to a meal without having to actually use an egg!

[WHITE BEANS? HUH?]

White beans [like cannellini and great Northern beans] are one of the highest of all the beans in protein content. They are also one of the most mild in flavor making them an easy first bean to introduce into a bean-resistant diet. They rank among my favorite bean, especially for taste and adaptability.

For an introduction on how to prepare dried beans and the many health benefits of beans, go here.

[THE RECIPE]

1 - 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 c. potatoes, cut into small cubes
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 - 3 carrots, chopped or cubed
4 -5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, minced
2 c. of cooked and drained white beans [like great Northern]
1 1b. of fresh asparagus, cut into small pieces
a bunch of kale leaves, cut into thin strips
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet on medium-high. Once hot [but not smoking], carefully add potatoes and saute until they just start to get soft and a little browned, 3 - 5 minutes. Add onion and carrots and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3 - 5 minutes. Once the carrots begin to soften and onions are translucent, add garlic, rosemary, white beans, and asparagus. Cook for an additional 2 - 3 minutes or until asparagus turns bright green. Turn the burner to low, place kale on top, and cover. Let steam for a minute or two or until the kale has wilted a little - it should be bright green. Remove cover and stir kale into the other vegetables. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.




Wednesday, June 6, 2012

SPRING FAVORITES [2012]

On Sunday one of my closest friends and I had an impromptu picnic among our small backyard orchard while our husbands took in a baseball game. It was a picture perfect day: sunny with a few dream-like puffy clouds scattered about to give a fairy tale appearance, mid-seventy degree temperatures, a light breeze...my daughter running from picnic blanket to swing set chasing after two of her favorite playmates in the world, giggling the entire way and trying desperately to tell them what to do. These kind of moments make me take in how much I have to be grateful for. They effortlessly strip away my cynicism and give me a glimpse into an enchanted world - one filled with laughter, glee, and beautiful friendships. It's as if heaven transformed earth for a while - a very holy, pure moment. Have you ever had one of these days? If so, you know exactly what I mean.

This particular afternoon also brought to mind of all the things I love about spring. The new green-ness that just some how happens. A garden no longer stark with only the hope of what is to come. Walks and pond-side yoga; Farmer's Market treasures and open windows; soft breezes and sun tea; and all of the other things that make spring one of my favorite times of the year. It also reminded me of the things that have become "my favorites" over the last few months [ie. things I use all of the time, recipes I just can't get enough of, you get the picture] - things I wanted to take a minute and share here.

May you take time for a picnic with a friend or friends and be blessed in a deep and powerful way.












Note: Photos are compliments of my very talented husband!


[SPRING FAVORITES]

This homemade toothpaste. It takes a bit of getting used to [and by a bit I mean only a day or two] and the color is less than appealing but the effects far outweigh those things. It really feels like I just walked out of the dentist after getting a cleaning!

The mineral tea recipe from this book. It is light, not at all "herb-y", and is packed with minerals.

This cookbook [rarely, and I mean rarely, do I even open a cookbook without pictures but this one is fantastic]. I picked it up from the library and I think at least half of the book is flagged with recipes I want to try! The ones that I have made have been delicious.

Sun tea, sun tea, and more sun tea [or as my daughter says "more tea!"].

I got this gadget for my birthday and can't believe I have lived so long without it! I use it for garlic but also herbs, fresh ginger, and fresh turmeric.

This strawberry shortcake biscuit recipe [If you melt the coconut oil you will get a softer biscuit, if you leave it firm the biscuit will be a bit thicker - both are great. I also added a touch of molasses.] with fresh picked strawberries and this cashew whipped cream.

My Vita-Mix - smoothies, sauces, dressings, and all other blended things have reached a new level of amazing! This is the real workhorse of my kitchen.

Can't wait to try making my own sunscreen from here.

Awesome kombucha recipes and tips found here.

Any children's book written by this author - my daughter can pick them out of a stack and I actually enjoy reading them to her!

My glass straw from this store [which is probably one of my favorite stores as well]. I can't believe how much easier it is to clean than the reusable plastic ones.







Saturday, May 26, 2012

CREAMY DREAMY FUDGESICLES

A couple weeks ago my husband and I took a short vacation to celebrate all things May that for us includes a birthday, wedding anniversary, and mother's day. In true planner / packer fashion, I dutifully pre-cooked and froze as much as possible [including 20+ smoothies], packed an arsenal of road snacks [including these and this and these], and cleaned the house to as spotless as a toddler and farm will allow [trust me, this is much more appealing to come home to and worth the effort]. All of this preparation allowed for plenty of time to hike, explore, lounge, beach, and simply enjoyed the beauty that is Sleeping Bear Dunes while soaking up some good ol' fashion family time. Our daughter was in her glory having the constant attention of both parents!





The area that we stayed hosts a small little chocolate delicatessan that alone is worth the drive. Creativity weaves itself in everything they do but what really gets me is that their products are fair trade, organic, and made with as many local ingredients as possible. If you have been in the area it is quickly apparent that supporting the local farmers is a lifestyle not a marketing tag line.

The real reason I mention any of this is that while driving by this small shop [that we of course visited later], I noticed a sign out front that touted homemade fudgsicles. Not only did my pregnancy-driven "must have immediately" dial crank to high but a total frustration with having a dairy intolerance set in. Talk about a mood buster. A fudgsicle flavored cloud set in and, as we passed, all I could think was "Arrrggghhhh!!!!!".

Fast forward a week or so and, although the toddler like tantrum has warn off, the craving still goes strong. Mix that with couple of high 80, low 90 degree days and, wala!, the motivation necessary to come up with a fabulous treat of my own.

As a former lover [and clearly a present dreamer] of fudgsicles, I admit I was really skeptical that any attempt to mimic these classic favorites of mine could actually succeed. Let's just say I proved myself wrong. Craving indulged - check, check and check! The best part? My toddler-age daughter can enjoy these along side me as a special summer treat and I can give them to her knowing that she is getting some pretty awesome nutrients with no added "junk" [ie. flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners, etc.].

May you never have to go back to boxed iced fudge [and the body bullies that they hold]. And of course, happy Memorial Day everyone! Enjoy!

[THE RECIPE]

1 3/4 c. homemade nut milk [or 1 1/2 c. water + 1/2 c. nut of choice - I love walnut or cashew milk / nuts]
3 tbsp. raw carob powder
2 pinches of Celtic sea salt
1/3 c. coconut oil, melted
6 dates
2 tbsp. freshly ground flax seeds

Place all ingredients in blender. Blend on high until very smooth. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid.

Once frozen, run popsicle mold under warm water to release.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

SPRING VEGETABLE PASTA SALAD + HOMEMADE PRODUCE WASH

This past weekend our local Farmer's Market opened for the season. I have been going to an organic winter market, which has been really great, but of course there is nothing like our downtown marketplace on a warm, sunny Saturday morning. My husband, daughter, and I stroll around leisurely completely enthralled in our surroundings. Actually, I'm interested in the produce, my husband, the people, and my daughter, anything she can get her hands on. I tend to get lost in the variety and pure beauty of it all. I like to rustle my family out of bed and get there early, guaranteeing the best selection and the ability to chat with the farmers.

To my utter surprise, this past Saturday I struck gold in the form of greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers. It has been quite a while since I have had either as the supermarket versions just aren't worth the price. I bought out one vendor's cucumber supply [which sounds a bit obnoxious but really it was only 6 cucumbers] and a few of his tomatoes, promising to return later in the week for more. On our drive home I eagerly dreamed up what dinner would come of these precious finds. My husband just smiled at my child-like enthusiasm. It's times like these that I cherish and am reminded that some things are simply worth waiting for if for no other reason than to experience the anticipation and pure delight of it all. I think a child remains in all of us, sometimes it just seems to get lost in our immediate gratification world.

When dinner time rolled around my daughter polished off half a cucumber while I laid on the counter all of the fresh ingredients I could find: ramps [or wild leeks], asparagus and spinach fresh from the garden, garlic and then more garlic [can you really have enough?], and of course my greenhouse treasures. It happened to be almost 90 degrees at the time and all I could think about was raw, raw, raw. So here is a recipe with minimal cooking [only a quick saute for the ramps, garlic, and asparagus and a dunking of the pasta] and a host of fresh ingredients compliments of my local farmer friends.

As a quick aside, remember even if you are purchase organic produce it is still important to thoroughly wash your produce prior to cutting and eating. Here is a simple homemade recipe that is worth keeping on hand.

[HOMEMADE PRODUCE WASH]


1 c. water
1 c. vinegar
2 tbsp. real lemon juice
2 tbsp. baking soda
10 drops grapefruit seed extract
3 tbsp. salt

Mix all ingredient in a clean spray bottle or regular bottle [for a soak solution] and shake well until salt has dissolved. Spray fruit / vegetables generously and allow to sit for 5 - 10 minutes or add 1/4 - 1/2 cup of solution to a sinkful of water [or bucket / bowl / etc.], adjusting the amount of solution to the container and amount of water you are using. Let soak for 15 - 20 minutes, rinse well and dry.


May you take the time to wander through a market somewhere and get in touch with where your food comes from. May you find ways to experience anticipation and delightful fulfillment and may the child inside you be freed.


[THE RECIPE]

1 12 oz. package of gluten free pasta [try Tinkyada's vegetable spirals]
Homemade Italian Dressing [I use 1 c. of homemade canned tomato sauce in lieu of a tomato]
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of wild ramps, a leek, or 1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. asparagus, cut into small chunks
2 tomatoes, chopped [I like blending red and yellow tomatoes. If you prefer low acid or have trouble with acid, use two yellow tomatoes]
1 - 2 medium size cucumbers, chopped
large handful of spinach leaves, sliced in thin strips
raw sunflower seeds [optional]

Cook pasta according to manufacturer's instructions. While the pasta is cooking [be sure to check it from time to time to make sure it doesn't get too soft], make the dressing and chop all of the vegetables. Set aside.

Drain pasta, return to pot [uncovered], and add half of the dressing. Toss until pasta is thoroughly coated.

In a large skillet heat olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add ramps and garlic and saute for 2 - 3 minutes. Add asparagus and saute another 2 - 3 minutes or until asparagus is softened a bit but still firm and crunchy.

In a large glass bowl combine remaining vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, and spinach. Cover with remaining dressing and toss until coated. Add the sauteed asparagus, leeks, and garlic. Gently toss. Add pasta and again gently combine until well mixed.

Scoop onto plates and garnish with a small handful of raw sunflower seeds if desired.

This dish can be served slightly warm [it will be a little warm when completely assembled] or chilled. Both are equally fabulous!


Note: You could also make this with brown or black [forbidden] rice, quinoa, or millet and it would be equally as good!







Sunday, May 20, 2012

HERBAL SUN TEAS DO THE SHAKE

 Well the heat has hit and I for one am welcoming it with open arms [at least until I get deeper into the third trimester that is!]. Not only does heat mean we get to bum around on Sunday afternoons beach-side, spend long days taking in the open air and sunlight, and treading around barefoot, it also means 'tis the time for sun tea.  My husband can attest to this - I have a weakness when it comes to tea. Every time I see an intriguing new blend I just have to try it. Our pantry is lined with different loose leaf blends.

One of my favorite morning rituals throughout the summer is to peruse my tea shelf and pick the brew a of the day. Nature's timing is perfect - at just about the time, late afternoon-ish, I get a hankering for an ice cold cup of something , my sun-brewed tea started first thing in the morning is ready. I love that the sun's energy comes free! My daughter has recently taken up a love for tea and now asks for it by name. She also likes to crunch down on the melted ice, her newest summer treat. Ahh, summer.

Drinking a variety of herbal teas has many health benefits as well. Herbs are nutrient powerhouses just brimming with vitamins and minerals. They offer a generally safe, natural, and tasty way to take your vitamins each day. The Bulk Herb Store is a site I highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about the power of herbs. There you will find tea blends, bulk herbs, herbal remedies and recipes, book recommendations, fun videos, and a lot of passion. If you are pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or have recently had a baby I highly recommend their Making Babies Series. I have the book and find that it can stand alone with or without the companion DVDs although I wills say that Shoshanna's videos are typically brimming with additional information and fun to watch. I also love Mountain Rose Herbs but find many of my herbs and teas locally at Global Infusion.


Please Note: These are my opinions alone and I am not receiving any compensation for sharing my feedback on these companies [in fact they most likely have no idea that I am recommending them here]. I am strictly a consumer and want to pass along places that I have found to be incredibly helpful in my health journey.


All of this being said, for as much as I love my sun teas pure [meaning simply on ice or chilled without any sweetening, etc.], I also love to experiment. Recently I have been craving shakes - creamy, sweet, flavorful shakes. The blessing in having food allergies and health awareness is that it prevents me from giving in to those fleeting cravings by swinging through a drive-thru or rushing to the nearest ice cream stop. On the other hand, it can pose quite a frustrating dilemma as the cravings are still real, demanding, and when pregnant, incessant. So, I improvise by either hunting out a new fun recipe or coming up with own based on the craving of the moment. Today's answer: tea shakes!


Here are two of my recent favorite combinations. May you find that you can toast to both health and indulgence!



[TEA-BERRY SHAKE] 
Caffeine Free

2 c. organic berries [I used blueberries for this one]
1 c. berry-infused tea [I love Hummingbird Nectar. Find it here and here.]
1 1/2 c. non-dairy milk [I used homemade walnut milk]
1/2 - 1 tsp. molasses [start small and work up to your desired taste]
4 dates [or a few fresh stevia leaves]

Place all in blender and blend on high until very smooth. Add more liquid or berries to get your desired consistency.



[APRICOT ROOIBOS FLURRY]

Caffeine Free; Recipe from Ani's Raw Food Essentials


2 rooibos tea bags [I love the rooibos chai from here]
3 1/4 c. filtered water
1 c. halved, pitted fresh apricots or 1/2 c. dried apricots, soaked optional, with soaking water*
1/2 c. cashews or walnuts, soaked optional**
1/4 c. pitted dates, soaked optional, with soaking water*
1 to 1 1/2 c. ice [more or less per desired consistency]

Make sun tea with tea bags and water by placing tea bags in a quart-sized glass jar, cover with water, and place in sun for 4 - 6 hours. If you run out of time, simply brew tea using boiling water [let steep for at least 10 minutes to get a strong brew] and place in refrigerator or freezer to chill.

Combine tea, soaked apricots and soaking water, nuts, soaked dates and soaking water, and ice. Blend on high until very smooth.

*Soaking the dried fruit is optional but I find it makes a creamier flurry. Place dried fruit in glass cup or jar and cover with water. Add enough water to raise water level 1 inch above the dried fruit. Let soak in the refrigerator over night. For time-saving, cover with boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes. Place in freezer to chill.

**Soaking the nuts is optional but, again, I find it makes for a creamier shake. Place nuts in a glass cup or jar and cover with water. Add enough water to raise water level 1 inch above the nuts. Let soak in the refrigerator over night. Drain water and rinse. For time-saving, cover with boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain water and rinse.






Monday, April 30, 2012

A CHOCOLATEY TRIBUTE



Chocolate. Just the word makes some people [like my prior self] go a little crazy. I admit, I used to be an addict. The smell of chocolate would make my mouth water and taste buds jump.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine met and quickly fell in love with her now husband just months prior to his military deployment over seas. Without giving away too much of her story [which is now published and a book I highly recommend if you are looking for a good read], this particular friend decided to fast from sweets for the whole of his leave. A few of us decided to join her in her endeavor [misery loves company right?] and thus began our year long furlough from sweets, including chocolate.


Oh how the first weeks were tough. Each time I thought of the "pain" [yes, I realize this is an extremely exaggerated use of this word, especially in this context], I was reminded of both the woman who had to say good bye to the man she loved and the man who was time zones away doing a job with little glory, immense sacrifice, and a lot of hard work. My meager sacrifice paled in comparison to what these two people were going through. But it was a sacrifice - one that kept me connected in a small way to these two people I care about.

One of the unexpected benefits of this fast was that, as time passed, I noticed my cravings change. I went from dreaming of sugary snacks and desserts to wondering where on earth all the fruit had gone. I longed for berries in a way I never had. Peaches were a pure delight and melons - well don't even get me started. It seemed this fast was slowly detoxing my body and teaching it to yearn for the best the earth had to offer in it's raw, unadulterated form. As the loss of something I once held dear morphed into a gain I never saw coming, I was reminded of what a little sacrifice and a bit of faithfulness can bring.

This is a lesson I haven't forgotten, one that has really impacted the way I view desserts and sweet snacks now. Rarely, and I mean very rarely, will I add sugar [including sucanat] to a recipe. Dried, whole dates have recently found their place as my go-to sweetener and soon fresh stevia leaves will rival their number one spot. Honey and maple syrup also grace my kitchen and come out when a little extra sweet is necessary. A little aside, honey also happens to be an effective allergy remedy. I combine it with bee pollen to beat those nasty spring time sneezing and faucet nose episodes.

This recipe was born of this - my desire to use whole foods in their purest available form to create a delicate, decadent dessert. It is a tribute to a couple of friends who have taught me much about grace, sacrifice, love, and a deep faith in the provision of God - something they continue to do to this day.

If you are interested in the story I am referring to [which you should be!], go here.

[THE RECIPE]

1/2 c. organic, extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil
1/4 - 1/2 c. creamed honey [to taste]
2 tbsp. raw cacao powder [or replace with 2 tbsp. carob powder if caffeine or chocolate is an issue]
2 tbsp. carob powder + more for powder coat
1/4 - 1/2 c. ground flaxseeds [I go heavy on the flax but you'll have to adjust to your taste preference]
1/4 - 1/2 c. shredded coconut [optional, you could also add a nut butter]
pinch of sea salt

Combine all in a medium size glass bowl. You will probably need to use your hands to really get everything mixed together well. Break off tablespoon sized portions and form into balls or logs. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and freeze 10 minutes or until firm. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

EARTH DAY: LET'S CELEBRATE!


Lately I have been combing all of my recipe books for plant-based, whole foods recipes using mainly local, seasonal ingredients [see this post to understand why local has become really important to me]. Turns out there are quite a few out there.

In honor of earth day I thought I would share one of my favorites. It's extremely simple, filling, and unexpectedly delicious. This recipe comes compliments of Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson [author of the blog "101 Cookbooks" and Super Natural Cooking] and happens to be on the cover of the cookbook.

This earth day may you find yourself outside admiring the flowers, trees, grass, bugs, birds, dirt, air, water, and all else natural and good within this planet. May you gaze up at the stars in awe that something so much bigger than you and me is going on around us. May a deep gratitude flow from you and may you find ways to preserve what you've seen.

And may you whisper a prayer of thanks to the creator of it all.

Happy Earth Day.


[THE RECIPE]

6 -8 small potatoes or 3 -4 larger ones, cut into small cubes
1 - 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
pinch or two of finely ground sea salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1 medium size sweet onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 - 4 c. of cooked white [or Northern] beans. drained and rinsed

1 head of green or purple cabbage, thinly sliced

In a large cast iron skillet or wok, heat oil. When oil is warm, not smoking, add potatoes. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Cook until just soft, stirring frequently, about 5 - 7 minutes. When soft, add onion and garlic and cook an additional 3 - 5 minutes. Add cabbage, mix, and cook until cabbage is soft with a little crunch remaining [or to your preferred texture]. Don't worry if the cabbage seems to overflow. It will shrink as it cooks. Stir occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

This will make a large batch allowing for leftovers!