Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mung Dahl Perfect Protein Soup

Have you ever read the book, The 3-Season Diet, by John Douillard? Well, if you haven't you should check it out. It is based on one of the most healing nutritional theories in the world, the Ayurvedic approach. Which this approach originally comes from India, and is really more a way of life, than an approach. But for the sake of the western mind, we have labeled it to be more of "a nutritional approach" than a way of life so we can add it to the rest of the fad diets we consume. In his book, I think John Douillard tries to bring the concepts of helpful Ayurvedic theories down into our American culture, and helps us find ways to really make it intertwine into our daily lives. Ever since I have learned more about it, I have been asking myself how I can eat more seasonally, with the cycles of life and more for my body type or imbalances.

In his book, The 3-Season Diet, John Douillard speaks of how the American diet that has gone through the assortment of fad diets has not helped America get healthy, but instead has put our bodies, along with the help of the speedy culture, into a form of panic mode. When our bodies are in that place of panic, with our stress, asking what foods to eat, wanting to loose weight...we start to spiral downward without seeing any positive results with out health and weight. It's confusing though. How can we try and eat healthy, stay consistent, and have positive results with so many diet theories out there? I truly do recommend reading this book or looking more into the Ayurvedic approach. Instead of trying the latest and greatest diet, try changing some areas of your lifestyle that will change how you even look at food and how you gather and prepare food. You need to deal with why you need coffee to start your day, or a sugar bust mid-afternoon to make it home, or why you are so forgetful tired and depressed all the time. It may be related to what you are putting in your body and how rapidly you are living your day. Fast, cheap and easy doesn't have to be the big yellow arches or any other fast food joint for that matter. It can be done in the comfort of your own home and with full nutritional values. That is what I love about this book. It is a solution to living in our day of age, to be more aware, centered and ultimately a wholly healthy person. So buy the book, find it at the library, or read up on it online.

But why am I talking about this book anyways? Well, the recipe today is based off a recipe from the book. On page 72 of the book, John shares his recipe for a "perfect protein soup". It doesn't contain anything abnormal to make it perfect. It is just a good combination of vegan proteins along with helpful spices that will feed the mind, body and soul. So...perfect. It says this soup is best for those in a weakened state, so after a sickness, during a detox, or maybe for the younger or older with a weakened immune system. It is a thick and warming soup also for this time of year, but is said that it can be eaten at any time of the year. I have made this soup quite a bit and I have viewed it more as a medicinal soup. Sometimes you have to think of food as medicine. Something you need to feed your body to restore balance and health. Food is not really about commercials, popularity, or packages. It is the basis of life in how we sustain and fulfill the basic needs of our life to be filled, healthy and striving. So that is why I share this recipe with you, as it was shared with me.

Perfect Protein Soup Recipe
1 cup of split yellow mung dahl beans
2 cups of white basmati rice
1 inch, fresh gingerroot sliced
2 TB. of ghee (clarified butter)(lactose free)
1 ts. of ground tumeric
1 ts. of ground coriander
1 ts. of cumin powder
1 ts. of whole cumin seeds
1 ts. of mustard seeds
1 ts. of kosher sea salt
1 pinch hing (asafoetida) (spice mixture)
12 cups of pure water
***Bragg Liquid Aminos can be added after cooking for flavor or to replace salt
1 small handful of washed and diced cilantro leaves

Some of the added spices I like to add: a few dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
Wash the beans and rice together until the water runs clear. In a large 8.5 quart pot on medium heat mix the ghee, and all the spices for a few minutes. The seeds will pop a bit after a few minutes, and then add the rice and beans into the spice mixture and stir again together. Add the water and the salt and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes and then turn the heat to low and cover pot. Continue to cook until rice and beans become soft (about 30-40 minutes). Add more water towards the end if it is thickening up more than you would like. Add the cilantro leaves before serving, and add some more salt or Brraags if need be. It isn't the most aesthetically pleasing soup, but it will be very filling.

So that is the recipe for the perfect protein soup from 3-Season Diet. It is something worth trying. The recipe makes a ton, so if you are eating for one or two you may want to cut the recipe in half, or make the whole thing and freeze half of it for a later date. It freezes well, and is convenient if you are sick and need to pull something from the freezer to warm up. I hope you try this, read up on Ayurvedic Medicine, and find peace and rest today.

Much love to you!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Breakfast Flax-Oat-Apple Muffins

Another muffin recipe it is. After I made a batch of the banana oat muffins last week, I started craving more whole grain goodness. Whole grain muffins are such a great breakfast or snack on the run. So, I decided to try my hand at another variety, yet with some of the same great ingredients. I felt these muffins even turned out better than the last (if I must say so). But really it was just a matter of what ingredients I had available. So, whether you have ripe bananas or applesauce may determine your route of muffin baking. And of course you will need to have some gluten-free oats on hand. Oats are a great muffin builder, and not to mention body builder.

Not body builder, like you are pounding steroids and pumping weights...

But body builder like how you are building and protecting your body. Let me explain. I once heard this explanation (and countless research) of how what we put in our bodies really is adding to how our genetics and DNA express itself. So if you eat a lot of plants, your body will reflect on that with having great levels of chlorophyll and "sunshine" in your body. If you eat a lot of beef, you might start moving or looking like a cow. :) Ok, so maybe some of this idea is a stretch, but I do think that it brings up an interesting conversation. Especially, if you are raising kids or healing or recovering from imbalances. Because, if you think of how those sugary pop tarts are "building" the arms, legs and the mind of your child, you will probably re-think... "Is this what my child's body should be made out of?" Hopefully, you will think how the candy, pop and junk food isn't what you would want your kids body to be built out of, by rather building blocks of nutrition like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These are the kind of real foods that we need to be strong, built for endurance, and ready for whatever life brings you.

We are constantly growing, changing and evolving, and so we must take into account that the food we are eating will express itself some way in our being. Whether it is by our moods, skin, digestion, and ect. Food does make a difference to how we live and express ourselves. It is not only for the kids that are growing and building every day, but for adults who are needing to evolve and build strong beings as well. This is why balanced and whole nutrition is so important. It feeds the mind, body and soul in ways that fake foods cannot. Real nutrition is just one piece of the puzzle for having a healthier life, but because it is something that we must seek out for ourselves we must be more aware. It forces us to make choices of what is body-building worthy, and what is just waste. These muffins on the other hand are full of whole grain benefits, fiber, vitamins, and only natural real ingredients. So, this is what pushes me to produce baked goods that are actually good for you. That will actually make you feel good, alive and full of energy. So, here is another shot at a whole grain oatmeal muffin.
Breakfast Flax-Oat-Apple Muffins
1/2 cup flax meal
3 TB. of raw honey or agave nectar
2 farm fresh eggs (can be optional if you are looking for a vegan muffin)
1/2 cup of coconut milk beverage (or other non-dairy milk) with 1 TB of apple cider vinegar
1 cup of homemade unsweetened applesauce or store bought is fine too
2 ts. baking powder
1 ts. baking soda
1/2 ts. sea salt
1/2 cup of organic raisins (or other dried fruit)
Mix the oats, ground oats (oat flour), and the rest of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Pour the non-dairy milk (coconut milk beverage) in a separate bowl and add the apple cider vinegar and set aside for 10 minutes to curdle. Once the milk is curdled, add that and the rest of the wet ingredients to the large mixing bowl and mix well. Add the optional raisins last. If you are looking for this recipe to be vegan, or basically avoid the eggs. I would suggest making them without the eggs. Because of the hearty flax meal, oats and applesauce combo, these would really bake up fine without the eggs. So try it out.

This recipe makes 12 large muffins, or 18-24 small ones. I made 12 of the large, and that is what is pictured above. Pour into muffin tins, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Make sure the middles of the muffins are cooked and then pull out of oven and let cool on rack. These muffins are very hearty, and would freeze wonderfully. Or, they do last on the counter or in the fridge for most of the week. Hope you enjoy, and feel nourished and blessed.

Much love to you today! Have a great rest of the week!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vegan Almond Butter Coconut Bite Cookies

These bite sized cookies were created to be a little vegan weekend treat. Sometimes you just need a lil' somethin-somethin', ya know. So these will hit the spot without sugar or any bad feelings. I had some coconut flour on hand and wonder how well it would mix with some almond butter. Coconut flour is a great source of fiber and protein. It has 5 grams of dietary fiber in just 2 tablespoons. It is also full of organic protein, nutrients and is a useful gluten-free alternative flour. The only down fall to using this flour all the time is that it is a little bit more expensive than some of the other gluten-free flours. Yet, you do not need to use a lot of it in recipes, so you can make a pound of the flour last for quite a few recipes. So, if you haven't tried using coconut flour yet, you should. Also, if you are pursuing a grain-free diet along side the gluten-free diet, then this flour is the one for you to work with other than nut and bean flours.

These are cookies, but almost could be a base to a "protein-fiber" bar if you wanted to try and create a similar base. It probably would work pretty well with both the almond butter and coconut flour combo. Because of their thick consistency, I didn't know what I thought of these cookies right when they came out of the oven, but even after a few days, they held their moisture and were very chewy. So, they grew on me, and had to make sure to get a photo before I ate them all. If you make them about the size of a tablespoon you should be able to make about 2 dozen cookies, and each cookie should have around 5 grams of fiber, and something similar to that in protein content too. So, a cookie? Hm, maybe more like a health nugget. I hope you enjoy!

Vegan Almond Butter Coconut Bite Cookies
1/2-1 cup of non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious coconut milk beverage)
1 cup of raw almond butter with its natural oil
1 TB of chia or flax seed meal
1 ts. of baking powder
4 TB of maple syrup or agave nectar 
1/2 ts. of ground cinnamon
Mix the coconut flour, milk and almond butter together well with a spatula or your hands, and then mix in the cinnamon, baking powder and chocolate chips last. If it is a bit gooey, add a little dusting of more coconut flour, but not too much. Spoon out a tablespoon sized cookies on a parchment topped baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. This recipe will make about 24 cookies. Make sure you let them cool for just a bit before moving from the pan. These are very enjoyable hot from the oven, or for days to come. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Cabbage is such a tricky cruciferous (vegetable family) sometimes. I mean cabbage salads, coleslaw, and sauerkraut can only be replicated so many times. Yet, there are so many health benefits to cabbage. Helping to remove carcinogens from the body and promoting healing is what cabbage does best. So, it seems that it is a must to find way to use, eat and enjoy cabbage. So for the sake of find more uses for adding more vitamins and nutrients to my life, I simmer a pot of soup.

I must mention that this soup recipe was initially inspired by a local genius that creates and prepares gourmet soups at her restaurant cafe every day. She inspires me continually with her culinary genius, and ultimately her love for whole pure foods. So, I could never in any way replicate her delicious soups (and of course her recipes are off limits being top secret and all). So this is my version of trying to make a sweet and sour cabbage soup to warm the body and soul. I at least had to try and replicate...

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup
1 ts. of sesame oil or light olive oil
2-3 small green onions-tops chopped off, and white parts thinly sliced
1 medium head of green cabbage chopped and diced
2 cups of slivered matchstick carrots
3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
handful of thinly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 swiss chard leaves, chopped and diced (added last minute, but can be omitted).
12 cups of pure water
1 28 ounces can of diced tomatoes (pureed in blender)
2 TB of wheat free tamari sauce
1 ts. of fish sauce (or miso paste)
1/4 cup of sucanat or agave nectar, either one works
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar works too)
1/2 ts. of minced thai chili, or red pepper flakes

Saute the green onions, celery, cabbage, and carrots for 3-5 minutes on a low heat in a large 8-quart pot. Then add the water, tomato puree (just dump a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes in the blender and blend till smooth, then add to the pot of veggies). Add the rest of the ingredients and cook to a boiling heat. Then turn the heat down and cook at a simmering heat for 30 minutes. If you simmer or cook longer that is ok, it only softens the veggies more and blends the sweet and sour flavors.

The best part about soup is that there is always many bowls to share or to savors for a few days. I have to admit, I did like my own version of sweet and sour cabbage soup, yet... it still wasn't all that I was dreaming of. Maybe in time, with more years of wisdom and experience in the kitchen, I will catch up to Marie's version. Until then...

Happy Saturday, and much love and warmth to you!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hearty Banana Oat Muffins

Warm. Hearty. Muffins. What more is there in the middle of January?! The frozen berries and garden veggies are running low, and not very appetizing to look at in the FROZEN freezer anyways. I am not complaining really. Besides, it's kinda nice to stay warm and cuddle up in the kitchen with a boiling kettle and a hearty muffin. My oven is my friend. Full of heat and good smells. (and I do really love the frozen foods in the freezer that remind me that summer will come again!). Every season has it's joys and yearnings.

This recipe creation comes out of the simple hearty ingredients had I laying around in my pantry. I had many pounds of certified gluten-free oats stocked up from a sale a few months ago, and I am just remembering how much I really have. So, an oat-based muffin it is. I actually have not made something like this before, and now that I am enjoying it so much, I can't imagine why! Oats when they are ground into flour and baked are very chewy and moist. Such a great delite for a gluten-free friend. So my friends, this ones for keeps. I made enough batter to make about 24 muffins, but instead I made 12, and used the rest of the batter for a tea bread loaf, which was just a great addition as well.
You don't have to see these muffins as a heart break either. You can eat them. They are not filled with any refined sugars, fats, or anything bad for you. These muffins will make the perfect breakfast on the go. Almost like oatmeal in a muffin cup. Do, try. You won't get a sugar jump, or regret it for one second. This muffin will give you strength and warmth to get through the rest of the week.
Hearty Banana Oat Muffin Recipe
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
optional: dash of cinnamon and cloves
4-5 medium, overly ripe bananas mushed very well
4 TB of olive oil or coconut oil
2 farm fresh eggs (or use egg-replacement)
3 TB of raw honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup of coconut milk beverage plus 1 TB of apple cider vinegar (or other non-dairy milk works too).

Grind 1 1/2 cups of gluten-free oats to make GF oat flour, then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients with the flour in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a fork or spoon, then add the rest of the wet ingredients. Add the mushed bananas and let everything mix well together for a few minutes. It is very simple and don't end up too sweet, but if you wanted to add something else to sweeten a bit more like dried fruit or frozen fruit that may do the trick. Then pour the batter into muffin tins. I like to fill it almost full to get a whole and hearty muffin. This is because gluten-free flours tend to not rise as much as the glutinous ones, so don't be afraid to fill em' up! Bake for 22 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or longer if it is still gooey. This recipe makes 24 muffins, or 12 muffins and 1 tea cake. So, make what you like.
Now, it's time to sit and enjoy. I especially like this creation because they are not too sweet at all, it just tastes like natural goodness. I hope you give these healthy hearty muffins a try. I kept bragging to my husband all week how great these muffins were. He thought it was funny, because I really don't usually go on and on about something I make, but these... well, let's just say I found a keeper of a recipe. Healthy, simple, breakfast. You gotta have a few of those in your week. I know I do. So, I am thankful these will fit that calling.

I hope you have a great rest of the week, and stay warm with those you love.

Much love to you!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Buckwheat Coconut Pudding (vegan)

Lately, I have been loving anything with coconut milk. My favorite brand is the So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage, they can be found in your "dairy" fridge section at many local health/food markets. So look for it! It is dairy, soy and gluten-free and you can find a lot of great info on their website (which is linked above). A few days ago I shared with you my favorite coconut hot cocoa using the same product, and now here is another hearty favorite.

Not only is it perfect this time of year as a warming desert, snack or even is filled with many minerals and health benefits that can only be found in the hearty buckwheat grain. Yes, I know it's confusing. Buck-wheat! It's gluten-free "wheat"! Well, buckwheat is just the name of the grain, and it is true that it is gluten-free and hearty to boot. Once you start making this cheap and hearty grain you will find it as flexible and versatile as brown rice or quinoa, and it has a very earthy flavor as well. I think I bought a pound of organic buckwheat for under 3 dollars and it makes so much when you only make a cup's worth, so a great frugal gluten-free resource as well.

Some secrets to the buckwheat grain...
-It is produced and eaten most by Russia and surrounding countries.
-"Soba" noodles, based in Japanese cuisine, is made purely from buckwheat flour
-Roasted and toasted raw buckwheat grouts are called Kasha
-It's gluten free, and full of iron, magnesium and many minerals
-Is helpful to the diabetic in reducing diabetic symptoms, it help reduce bad cholesterol with it's binding protein, and helps insulin production to help in reducing the chances of poly cystic ovarian syndrome in women. So it helps many very common issues in the 21st century health issues.

Some ways to use the buckwheat grain...
- Vegetable stir-fry's
-Use the flour in gluten-free baking (a great binding flour)
- Porridges, cereals, and puddings
-Pancakes, pies, and soups

Pre-Soaking buckwheat instructions...
Most grains need to be soaked, just for at least 6 hours, or overnight. So simple instruction would be to soak 1 cup of dry buckwheat groats in about 2-3 cups of pure water for 6 hours or overnight in a glass jar or bowl. After soaking in the water, rise under clean water and then cook on the stove top in 2 cups of pure water. Let the water boil, and then just like when you are cooking rice, turn off the heat when the water is gone and let sit 10 minutes or so to allow water to finish it's job, then fluff with a fork. It seems like the buckwheat just grows, because cooking one cup of dry buckwheat will turn into about 3-4 cup of cooked buckwheat. Use cooked in a recipe, or save the rest in the fridge in a glass container for the rest of the week. This brings me to my pudding recipe...

Buckwheat Coconut Pudding
3 cups of already cooked buckwheat groats
1 TB of unrefined coconut oil (optional)
1/3 cup of flax meal
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
1/2 cup of organic raisins
1/4 cup of agave nectar
1 ts. of ground cardamon
1 ts. or desired amount of cinnamon
1/4 cup of full fat coconut milk from the can
and some leftover shredded coconut for topping

Cook the buckwheat and coconut milk in a smaller saucepan on the stove for 5-10 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. Stir in the flax meal and shredded coconut to start to thicken up the mix, and then add the raisins and spices last. Add more coconut milk if you want it "waterier".

Cook for about 10-15 minutes, until a creamy mixture and the coconut milk is creamed perfectly with the grain. Top with full cream coconut milk and shredded coconut. Serve hot from the stove, or cooled works as well. It doesn't have to only be a winter dish.... if you want to cool, and add some fruit like mango, berries, or other favorites... then it cool be a cooled pudding dessert as well.

I hope this recipe keeps you warm and well friends! Have a great week, much love to you!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Almond Kale Crusted Chicken (plus bonus leftover recipe)

Here is the recipe I promised that I made alongside the tahini roasted carrots they other night for dinner. It was my way of being resourceful and using up some of the left over ingredients in the pantry and fridge. I had some kale that needed to get eaten and some chicken I needed to cook. So, something good always comes from having to be resourceful and creative. It seems that if your focus is making healthy, nutritious food for you and your family then you really give all you got to using the best ingredients without wasting anything.

Kale or other greens are a great way to make a kind of "pesto" sauce if you are lacking the fresh basil or other fresh herbs. So, this is a way to use the nutritious greens in other ways that you might not traditionally think of. It's rich with flavor and you can almost taste the goodness going through your body. Once you turn away from frozen dinners, packaged foods and start feeding your body whole food ingredients, you will start to really crave the goodness they have to offer. The vitamins, minerals, folic acid, and the lists goes on.... why would we ever want anything else? Good question!
Kale Paste Recipe:
1 to 1-1/2 cups of packed fresh kale leaves (I used curly kale)
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of pine nuts (or walnuts or even sliced almonds)
1/3 cup of olive oil, ghee or even pasture-fed cow butter
1 ts. of salt
1 ts. of agave nectar
1 ts. of cracked pepper
1 ts-1 TB of water

Use a magic bullet, a vita-mix, or a smaller food processor, and put all of the ingredients in the mixer and blend for up to one minute to fully blend and whip up the leaves and garlic. Once it is done blending it will be kinda like a "pesto" sauce paste.

Brush or rub the paste all over 1-2 pounds of raw chicken breasts or tenderloins. Rub the paste on thick, and even add any last spoonfuls of it into the pan to bake alongside the chicken. I used a 12x9 Pyrex glass pan to bake my chicken in. Then sprinkle a half cups worth of almond meal (grind up raw almonds in a coffee grinder or food processor) all over the green covered chicken. The chicken will not longer be covered alone in the green paste, but will be fully covered in the almond meal. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until no longer pink or raw.

Then once baked to completion, serve with side of gluten-free rice pasta, and a veggie (tahini carrots). A dinner that is complete with satisfying nutrition. It almost tastes like a chicken pesto Parmesan dinner. I made Tinkyada brown rice pasta to go with mine and then I had great leftover for the next day....

Bonus Leftover Recipe

Kale Pesto "Faux Parmesan" Chicken

I don't know about you, but I love to cook enough of one meal to make for 2 meals. So, yes, I do enjoy leftovers, especially when you can morph something great from the night before into a simple tasty lunch/dinner the next day. Great for a weekend rest if you make the big meal on Saturday and then have the leftover for a simple and restful Sunday. The kitchen needs rest too ya know. So here what I came up with...

Use leftover Kale Almond Crusted Chicken (3-4 smaller chicken breast pieces) and chop them into about 2 cups of chicken bite sized pieces. They are cooked already so the 2nd process of cooking is really just re-warming on the stove top...

Use either the left overs from the package of the 16 ounce Tinkyada spaghetti pasta from the night before, or cook up about 12 ounces of freshly made Tinkyada pasta. Between me and my husband we ate about 4-6 ounces of pasta from the night before and then I used the rest from the 16 ounce package the next day.
So, use the chopped up chicken and leftover kale paste. Put in a large frying pan with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Then add the leftover pasta, or freshly cooked pasta with another tablespoon of olive oil. Stir constantly to get the kale sauce from the chicken and the noodles blend well. There will be a light pesto sauce forming over the whole dish and add a few dashes of fresh sea salt and black pepper. Then lastly add another 1/2 cup of freshly ground almond meal. The nuts add a sweet, rich flavor that makes you feel like you added some fresh Parmesan cheese. I swear it tastes as if I was eating fresh cheese myself, or maybe it has been a while that I forgot the real tastes of Parmesan, but in all honesty if you are looking for something to taste like a traditional Italian meal delite, then try this one out! Cook on the stove top for about 5- 10 minutes until the noodles and chicken are fully warmed and ready to serve. Also, optional ideas for adding more veggies, use some of your leftover roasted carrots or add some roasted tomatoes, zucchini or other favorite pasta veggie another with the stove-top warm-up.

So the next day the leftovers were a hit and tastes different than the night before, very yummy, and simple. A great way to make your meals stretch. I, personally, am trying to find ways to be more resourceful in the kitchen and let the nutrition and budget get stretched beyond one meal. Hope you enjoy, and let me know if this is something you find helpful or if you have any great ideas for leftovers?

Much love to you today!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Roasted Tahini Baby Carrots

This recipe is a $2 dollar side dish that is warming and perfect this time of year. It goes great with any main meat or other veggie dish you are making for dinner. I forgot how much I loved carrots until now. This side dish reminded me of it's prefect sweetness and grace. Sweetly roasted and delicately crunchy. Really. Yes. It is roasted carrots.

This time of year you may be trying a few different habits... like trying to eat healthy, or working on an elimination diet, or attempting to stick to a budget or save more money. I get it. I know...I am in the same boat. We are all trying to improve, it is part of our human nature. And, besides the challenge, it could bring new joys and triumphs once you start to see your new challenges become new successes. So, why am I saying all of this now, well... this kind of simple side dish will hopefully inspire you to take "baby" steps to adding more veggies in your dinners, and adding less sugar to your life...and save money in the process. How do you do that with a side dish...? Well, let me explain.

First of all, carrots. Carrots are a sweet root vegetable that have strong antioxidant power to keep your immune system strong along with vitamins, minerals and basic freshness. Don't underestimate the carrot. It will keep you full of energy and immunity power. So, there is one veggie that can be more friendly to the friend that in starting to adapt more veggies to their diet. It is low in calories and good in every aspect. Also, because it is a sweet veggie you can help derail your sugar cravings with eating more naturally sweet root veggies. They will start to decrease your craving for the bad sugars and find satisfaction in the whole healthy natural sugars in veggies and fruits. My last reason for this great simple recipe is that it is cheap! Let me share how much this cost me to make.... $1.50 for a 1 pound bag of organic baby carrots from California. 1 TB of tahini (sesames seeds) was about 25 cents or so, and then 1 TB of olive oil, another 20 cents or so, and then dashes of cumin, salt, and pepper.... not really more than a few cents probably. There you have it.... a fresh veggie side for under 2 dollars. So no excuses for adding more vegetables to you life. So take baby steps with some baby carrots this week, in the new year and remember...keep it simple and be creative!
Roasted Tahini Baby Carrots
1 bag of organic baby carrots (1 pound bag)
1 TB of tahini (sesame nut butter and oils)
----or if you do not have any tahini, try almond butter, peanut butter or other nut butter----
1 TB of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 ts. of cumin
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1/2 ts of ground black pepper

Chop up the baby carrots in half, or 4ths. Put them all on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Toss the oil and spices with your hands. Make sure they are evenly coated and then put in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until browned enough to your liking. And viola! Ready to serve up!

I forgot to mention that this recipe is simple and fast as well. Not a lot of time with those baby carrots. They are already pealed and cut down to size, so just do a few more chops and add the sauce and they are ready. My main reason for this easy recipes is to inspire you to see how dinner, vegetables and sides in an allergy-free kitchen do not all have to be rocket science and a ton of money. Be resourceful with your time and money and save that to spend more time for your family or loved ones. It's worth it!
I roasted some kale pesto almond coated chicken alongside the carrots (recipe to come!) And the dinner was full of so many nutrients that was satisfying and not too heavy on the diet. I love that. It is these simple meals that keep me inspired and coming back to the kitchen for more.

What are some of your favorite simple, nourishing and budget-friendly meals or side dishes?

I hope you have a great week friends.

Much love to you!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Coconut Hot Cocoa

I have been making this hot cocoa almost every night this week. It's been keeping me warm with the icy cold weather out there. Also, it is so warm, relaxing and helps me sleep like a rock. Maybe it is that same idea about having warm milk before bed. I don't see why you couldn't have this if you are avoiding sugar in the new year. It only has agave and pure cocoa powder. You don't have to worry about a sugar spike, and I promise you will not be disappointed. It is divine, and so easy.

After going dairy-free and sugar-free in the winter can be kinda miserable if you are a big hot chocolate fan. Sometimes you just need something thick and warm to really do the job of warming up your bones. I posted this recipe at the end of one of my cookie recipes a few weeks ago, but because it didn't get a post of it's own, and the attention it deserves... I am posting it for real!

The ONLY real down side to this hot chocolate is that you can't make it instant. You have to make it on the stove, and you have to take the time to really whip the cocoa powder and let the coconut milk bubble and foam just a bit. So, if you can get past that (which if you are reading this blog that shouldn't be a problem, because I have domesticated you already), you should really enjoy this tonight!
So let's get to the recipe, my love...

Coconut Hot Cocoa Recipe
1 cup of coconut milk beverage (nut, hemp and rice milk works too... in that order)
1 TB of cocoa powder (raw or baking) I get the organic dark, but any kind would work. Even give carob a try... make sure it is just the powder and doesn't contain any fillers or sugar.
1 TB of raw honey or agave nectar
1 ts. of organic EV coconut oil, which helps the ingredients blend together and add flavor and healthy fats for health and digestion.

optional additions: dash of cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, orange peal, mint or more chocolate chips.

I make this cup of cocoa with a different spice every time. It is a custom way of making a cup of cocoa depending what kind of mood you are in.

This recipe is for ONE cup of cocoa, so if you are making for more, double it, triple it and more....
Pour the milk in a medium saucepan, and let it start to warm up. Add the TB of cocoa first, then the ts. of coconut oil. Use a whisk to whip of the milk and let the cocoa blend perfectly through the milk. Then add the agave and whisk in some more. Let it cook for about 4-5 minutes and then you we see it start to bubble just a bit. BE CAREFUL, if you let it stay on high heat and leave it alone, it my overflow your pan..... and also be careful that you do not take a sip right away because that milk is hot sista'. Pour it into a mug, hold it in your cold hands, and enjoy the aroma. Then after a few minutes of cooling, you can try your first sip. Hmmmm, perfect, and divine. I like to think of this treat as a dessert as well. That way I can avoid other snacking at night, or filling up more on something more rich or filling. This just just simple and delectable at the same time.

I hope you try this one out. Get some coconut milk beverage from So Delicious. They have the best brand, and it is carried at most health or grocery stores. And if you don't have any of that milk on hand, really any non-dairy milk will do, but to get the thick and creamy that you want, you have to stick with either the coconut, hemp or almond milks.

Now, settle in for the night and enjoy a mug for me. It's what's keeping me warm tonight!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gluten-Free Gnocchi Recipe

My husband decided a few years ago to start eating gluten-free right alongside me. That was after I originally started eating gluten-free because it was giving me allergic reactions (stomach aches, headaches, body aches, numbness and so much more). He kindly supported and helped me do all I needed to do to get healthy that first year of my journey. Although, he wouldn't flaunt his doughnuts, cookies and breads in front of me, it wasn't like he was going to give them up completely. I couldn't blame him either. A year passed, and then he discovered he really needed to try and help heal his adrenals. Some might call this adrenal fatigue. Well, that did it. He was hooked with me to a gluten-free diet, but that is when we also started doing a dairy-free, soy-free and sugar free diet together as well. It was a hard journey in the beginning. It's even sometimes painful to look back, but now it seems like second nature and we really like to have fun with it (obviously.... hello, blog).

So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, this recipe is for my husband. He comes from a large Italian family with memories of great grandma's Italian food straight from Italy. Food for Italians is not a side note, it is the the center of life. Good food. Really, good food. My favorite episodes of No Reservations, with Anthony Bourdain are always when he is in rural Italy and they are eating something from the Mediterranean sea and something from the backyard garden. Absolutely heavenly!

And yet since I do most of the gluten-free cooking for myself and my husband, all of my recipes are really for him in some way. But this one is special. It the the food he would talk about over and over in connection to childhood memories and good food. So, being the creative person I am. And also faced with a challenge, I decided to come up with a gluten-free version of the Italian gnocchi. And this is what I came up with...

Gluten-Free Gnocchi Recipe

Boil: water in an 8 quart pot, fill 3/4 way full of water
2 1/2 pounds of pealed yukon gold potatoes roughly chopped into pieces

Boil the potatoes until they fall off your fork when you stab them. (15-20 minutes-ish). Drain the potatoes into a strainer and then toss the hot potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Let them cool down. Then mush then with a fork or with your hands. Then let them cool some more until they are at room temperature. Then add the following...

1 cup of white rice flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1/2 ts of sea salt
(use more rice flour for kneading the dough on the table)

Mix all the ingredients in with the mushed potatoes. Continue to mix with your hands, and start to knead with your hands on a rice-floured table top, or on parchment paper. Add more rice flour if you need it to be less sticky and until you have a flexible dough. Once you really have a well kneaded and flexible lump of dough, cut the dough ball into 4 parts. Then cut those parts into 2 pieces. So you end up with 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a 3/4" thick log, about 12 inches or so long.
Then take a sharp steel knife and cut about every inch a slice off. So you end up with 12-15 cuts per potato rope. Put the pieces on a plate or in a bowl ready to put into the boiling water. Make sure you keep them nice and floured up so that they don't stick together and you end up plopping a bunch of pieces all together into the water. You want to make sure they are bite sized, but also, not too small... you want to have something to really bite into ya know.
Now, as you are doing the cutting of the logs, you will want to have that large 8 quart pot of water heating up again with clean water. Once the water is boiling toss the gnocchi pillows into the water. They will drop to the bottom of the pot. I had to do this batch of gnocchis in 2 shifts of putting them in the pot. So fill the pot with just enough to fill the whole bottom of the pot and then wait till those are done to put in the rest. Let them cook for about 5-7 minutes and then you will start seeing them float to the top of the water. Like floating pillows. perfect. So, let them cook for another minute or so and use a strainer ladle and pull them from the water and place them on a plate or shallow bowl as the "drying" station. (This is when you can add the rest of them and finish the batch off). Let them dry for about 5 minutes and then they are ready to eat and be topped with some homemade tomato marinara sauce.
My Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce
1 TB (or more if you like) of dried Italian herb blend (basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary)
2 TB of agave nectar
1 TB of extra virgin olive oil
1 TB of dried minced garlic (or fresh is good too)
sea salt and ground black pepper according to taste

optional: If you like thicker sauce, add a 4 ounce can of tomato paste to complete

Heat up all the ingredients on a large saucepan and let cook until it is a steamy rich red color with perfect flavor. Have it simmering and ready to serve over the hot gnocchi from the stove.

We ate and completely enjoyed! It was so warming and comforting this time of year. And my husband loved them! He did say they were not 100% as chewy as his great grandma's (because she used gluten flour), but did say they were exceptionally good. So, that warmed my heart as well. They are thick, chewy and kinda like a big pillow noodle. The recipe does make a lot, and you really only need to eat a cup of them as a serving and you are full. So we had leftover gnocchi for the rest of the week, which lasted for 3 more meals. Which is an accomplishment alone to really enjoy and it was not very expensive at all. Add a salad or a veggie to this meal and you have it made. Or add some meatballs, sausage or side of meat as well.
I stored my leftovers in glass bowls separately so that they would last longer and taste better when re-warmed. And because they did last for lunches and another dinner, it saved in the grocery budget that week. Saving time and money. I love it. I guess I can now be called a frugal foodie. :)

I hope you enjoy. I know we did. It was a great recipe to add to the line-up of dinner ideas.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chocolate Chip Macaroons (grain free)

I made this recipe as a last minute treat to bring over to a friend's gathering. I had all of the ingredients in the kitchen, and it literally took 30 minutes to make and get out the door to spend time with some close friends. It was easy, fast, and ready to impress. It does not have any grains in it (so no gluten), and no dairy, but it does have egg whites. I have yet to find a good alternative to egg whites in macaroons. If you know of one, let me know. I am always interested in how to create more egg alternatives for those seeking. But until then, if you can enjoy eggs, this is a wonderful treat. And you won't believe how simple it is...

This treat is a great way to add good fats and fiber to your life. The coconut has a way of making you feel warm and loved this cold season. It snowed another 6 inches here in the last few days, and it seems like the count down till spring has arrived now that the holidays are done and over with. I think some one mentioned to me the other day... 80 days or so till spring. Yeah, that's all. It is almost spring, can you believe it? I just keep telling myself that it will be here before you know it. But yet, still enjoying winter for all it's worth. The snow has been so beautiful the past day. Big fluffy snowflakes floating in the sky and the quiet dropping of the flakes to the ground. Peaceful. I also love that at like 6pm you can light some candles to enjoy for a quiet evening at home, all bundled up with a blanket in your chair, with a nice cup of tea, a good book, and maybe a little treat...:) yes, macaroons. Winter is a time to rest and let your body hibernate just a little.
The recipe is as easy as follows:

Chocolate Chip Macaroons

3 cups of shredded coconut flakes
4 separated egg whites (from grass fed chickens) save the yokes for another recipe or omelet
1/2 cup of sucanat (dehydrated unrefined sugar cane juice)
1/4 cup of agave nectar or raw honey
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of pure vanilla
optional ingredient: 1/3 cup of coconut flour if you want to make the cookies more crispy

add last: 1/2 cup of allergen free (Enjoy Life) dark chocolate chips

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make sure to mix well and get a "cookie dough" consistency. Add the chocolate chips last and mix evenly through. Spoon out little TB sized balls on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Bake until crispy golden brown on the tips of the coconut. Pull from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before moving so to keep from breaking into pieces. Place on a plate and share.

This recipe make about 2 dozen macaroons.

Enjoy, friends! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baked Kale Chips

This is a simple way to get some extra greens into you diet. Toast up some curly kale leaves and within minutes you have some "chips" to crunch and munch. It is a great way to really get the salty crunch snacky fix without opening a bag of Lay's potato chips. If you are looking to add fiber, you got it. If you are looking to add energy and oxygen to your cells, this is the snack.

I sometimes struggle with how to consume more greens in my diet. I do drink a lot of green and herbal tea, chlorophyll water and try to add spinach salads or greens smoothies when I can, but sometimes you just get bored, ya know. This snack is different and it is not bitter-yucky tasting like you might think. It is a sweet salty crispy delite. Try it, you might like them. It's easy, fast and cheap.... really what more can you ask for in a snack?

If you are following a new year detox from sugars, dairy, bad fats or what else, this is a snack you don't have to throw out the door. I have not been doing a major drastic cleanse or detox this January, just eliminating some of the allergen foods or trying to add in green veggies as much as possible. Yes, this hard in the middle of winter in very cold Michigan. So, you get what you can, and be creative with what you got. If you are looking to have more energy, or simple just have regular digestion... I would encourage you to try and add more greens and fiber to your diet. Not fake fiber bars, or fake fiber water... seriously do you think you can drink fiber, weird. But the real food kind of fix. Real green leaves and real whole grains that you have to make from scratch. Those are the foods we should invest our money and time in. Besides it wouldn't hurt to slow down for a bit and make a pot of brown rice. Part of the benefit is actually taking the time to slow down and prepare from scratch. It's an exercise of the time and a good practice to try and add more to your life. So here we go... the simple ingredients to make baked kale chips.

Baked Kale Chips
1 "head" or bunch of organic curly green kale (you can try other kale varieties as well)
1 TB of extra virgin olive oil
1 ts. of balsamic vinegar
1 ts. of sea salt
dash of cracked pepper, cayenne pepper, or sesame seeds if you so desire some more spice

You could add different oils or vinegar as well if you are looking to make a variation... like rice vinegar, or sesame oil, or grape seed oil. Really use what you have. Just make sure to stay away from trans fat oils. Using unrefined organic oils are the best and keep you cleaner.

Wash kale leaves thoroughly under clean water and then cut off the stems (use for a soup, broth or stew), then cut or tear the large leaves into bite sized chips and put in a bowl. Mix by hand the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and then lay out on a cookie sheet (with parchment paper) to bake at 375 for 8 minutes on each side. If you need to bake longer to crisp up to your desired texture, then go for it. I kinda like them a little crispier myself. You will want to have them cool down and "dry" out for a few minutes before eating. Also, to store them you may want to not put them in a closed container too quickly because the moisture will cause them to be less crispy. Not that you are going to need to store them ;) Now Enjoy!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hunza Protein Millet Bread

Happy New Year Everyone!

Recently, I was doing some research on the longevity of a culture in the mountains of Asia found mainly throughout the Himalayan region of Pakistan. The people group, named the Hunza people, lived secluded from the rest of the world for over 2000 years and survived on their resources they had among their own surroundings. They have just been more studied and researched lately in connection to their health and longevity because it is something the rest of the modern world is searching and longing for. There has been a lot of talk about the locations or people that are the healthiest in the world and what and why they are living up to and past 100 years old. It usually comes down to the fact they live in a non-media dictated society, eat whole foods that contain many organic nutrients, and also obtain healthy doses of activity that their kind of lifestyle requires. It sounds simple, yet in our day of age this is very hard to achieve unless you are going to become completely turned off to all of culture and society, which is usually not an option for the average person seeking health and happiness in 2010.

I'll get back to the Hunza people in a moment...

I find it interesting that some of us who are longing for better health and new year resolutions go straight to ways in how we can loose weight and feel better. Which are both good resolutions of course, but something to think about in a more holistic approach is our whole lifestyle and how it may be affecting our weight, health issues and moods. Some of my new resolutions are exactly the above, but I am forcing myself to think about this is a more connected way with the rest of my life. In what ways do I let myself get stressed out and sick over life and circumstances? Or in what ways am I stopping myself from taking the next step with my exercise routine or any routine for that matter? What are some of the expectations I have for my life that I am disappointed about that may be causing me to feel down, depressed and in turn causing me to carry extra weight or burdens around? There are a lot of good questions to ask yourself as you evaluate where you are now and where you want to be. I would encourage you to have kind of conversation with your self or with someone who knows you very well. To drill yourself and find more of what would connect your mind, body and spirit together in this new year. I will get back to that more in a minute.... but what does Hunza Bread have to do with anything?

Well, as I was saying before the Hunza people come from a secluded environment, and they have many foods that they ate that would nourish them completely and keep them going in their localized environment. Their foods have become more popular to the modern world because of their high antioxidants, some of these include the gogi berry, the hunza raisin, raw nuts and other fruits. My favorite companies to buy trail mixes from is based off of these foods. Check it out here. There is also some popular bread recipes based off of the culture to help promote "weight loss" and a sustainable diet. Here is a basic Hunza Bread recipe. This bread recipe is most commonly used for people trying to loose weight and they eat this bread to help curve cravings and "feel" more full longer. Which would happen if a person switched froma refined white bread to this GF whole grain bread that is filling and nourishing. The bread is thick and very dense. Not meant for sandwiches or anything else besides eating as by itself or with a light topping.

I love the idea of the hunza bread not only because it is made with nutrient rich ingredients to sustain your hunger and energy for hours. Or because it is gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan protein filled bread. But, another great reason to like it is because it forces me to take the time to make a bread that is a staple of life to have through the week to promote simplicity and nourishment. Most of all I think I long to be more connected to the environment I live in like the Hunza people, and although I do not grow any of the ingredients in my back yard like they do.... I still feel more connected to my bread when I make it from scratch with whole ingredients that I know are organic and fresh and ready to be absorbed. That is why I decided to make this bread a part of my new year. I want to live a more simple, sustainable, connected life that will promote natural healthy weight and well being. I want to be less stressed and more nourished. I am sure you can relate to this... I mean we are all human, right?! I know I will never be the kind a person that can truly relate to the Hunza people or environment, but I can take baby steps closer to a life that is more connected to every part of what I believe in and truly live for. So, I make my own version of Hunza bread to feed my whole being.
I did make the recipe linked above, and to be honest... it did not turn out how I truly wanted, so I made a few changes of my own and created the recipe below.

Hunza Millet Bread Recipe
1/3 cup of sorghum flour
1 cup of brown rice flour
1 1/4 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1/4 cup of arrowroot powder (flour)
1/4 cup of buckwheat flour
1/2 cup of flax meal
1 TB of baking powder
1/4 cup of sucanat
2 TB of blackstrap molasses
2 TB of apple cider vinegar
3 TB of olive oil
1 TB of whole millet seeds
1 TB of whole flax seeds
1 cup of warm water
1/4 cup of hunza raisins, goji berries, or other dried fruit

Mix all of the dry ingredients together first and then add in the wet ingredients. Mix well and use some tapioca flour to dust and coat before adding to a bread pan (or a 9x9 pie pan would work too) that has been oiled and floured with olive oil and millet flour. Let sit on a warm oven for 5-10 minutes before putting in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Make sure the bread is baked through and through before pulling from the oven. Let cool for 15 minutes before trying to cut a slice. Cool over an hour before using a serrated bread knife to cut the whole loaf. I cut the whole loaf and then store in a container so that it is easier to grab a piece and eat it for breakfast or lunch. You can eat plain or top with a nut butter or jam.
Now, I did not really get into all that I am trying to do this new year with some of my diet changes and life changes, but I do hope to share more with you as time goes on in this new year!
But to start off with a few more points of inspiration, I will share with you a fellow blogger that I admire and share the core values of whole nutrition and health. The blog is Nourishing Meals, check it out here. Check out the post on 1/1/2010 to learn more about the elimination diet and what foods to enjoy.

I will be following a similar elimination diet (from Whole Life Nutrition) to help myself detox and cleanse from the heavy foods from the holidays, but also to try out a few new forms of nourishment. I have done the elimination diet before with much diligence, and this time I plan to do it out of pure desire to cleanse and detox. When I think of detoxing, I think of how to get more greens and veggies in my diet period. BUT, in Michigan in the dead of winter it is hard to find anything fresh unless it is coming from the freezer or imported from some place warm. In efforts to try and keep my imported foods at a minimum, I will try to eat with more balance, yet according to the season as well. So, my recipes may reflect this journey I will be taking in the next few weeks. Stick around to enjoy and follow, or let me know more about your new year resolutions and thoughts.

Much love and joy to you today!