Friday, July 30, 2010

Wholegrain Blueberry Muffins (sugar & nut-free)

Most of you know by now that I have an obsessions with fresh foods. But in my love for blueberries are in a category of their own. Maybe it is because I just love picking them so much. They make me feel domestic and healthy. I just love pulling up to the blueberry farm, gathering a few buckets and heading out to the full beautiful bushes. It is always more wonderful in my head before I get there, and then like 20 minutes into intense picking I remember how hard it to get pick like 10 pounds in a few hours. Each berry is picked with love and dropped with a plop in your bucket... in the beginning you feel the accomplishment with each "ping... ting" of the sound of berries dropping in, but then it always takes much longer than you think to fill that bucket. I always find myself telling my designated pickin' buddy that, "The bucket is almost full," just because I want to feel like I am getting somewhere. And, I also try very hard to put more in my bucket than in my mouth (another added bonus to picking is trying out your bounty as you work).
My husband and I stopped at one of my favorite farms on the way back from our northern Michigan vacation this last week, and I was so excited. And then, I quickly found out that being pregnant in 85 degree-sun-bathing, sweat-dripping heat wasn't going to let me last more than an hour or so. I can usually pick about 5-7 pounds per hour by myself, but with my husband helping we could probably double that. Yet, because I am just moving slower and have less stamina I decided to pace myself and really enjoy it. We ended up with just shy of 10 pounds in an hour and decided that was good enough for the day. In the past I have picked 60-70 pounds to freeze for the winter because of smoothies and baking.

Because blueberries grow so well in Michigan I am able to pick and freeze berries for so much cheaper than buying at any store. So, it is worth it... but this year I may have to either pace myself with a few more outings to the picking farms, or just not set my expectations so high... maybe like 30 pounds in the freezer this year is more realistic. We'll see. But for today, I have lots of fresh berries in the kitchen and decided a hearty muffin was in order to celebrate blueberry season. Fresh berries always make such moist and beautiful muffins, so of course I couldn't resist. I made these muffins specifically nut-free and sugar-free so that my husband could enjoy them. He is going through a special detox diet right now that has many allergy food restrictions as part of the plan. This recipe does have eggs in them, so they are not vegan, but you could easily substitute with an egg replacement or a flax-water mixture as well.

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffin Recipe
1 1/2 cup of gluten-free oat flour, from Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Oats (grind gluten-free oats in your coffee grinder, or food processor to get a hearty flour consistency from the gluten-free oats or if it is possible that you eat gluten-filled oats then you could just use oat flour here or also grinder regular cooking oats).
1/2 cup of buckwheat flour
1/2 cup of millet or brown rice flour
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts of sea salt
1 ts. of dry nutmeg
1/2 cup of maple syrup or pure honey 
2 farm fresh eggs or 2 TB of chia meal mixed with 6 TB of water
1/2 cup of light olive oil or coconut oil or other favorite baking oil works too
3/4 cup of So Delicious coconut milk (or other favorite non-dairy milk)
optional: 1 ts of pure vanilla or lemon zest to add more flavor if you want

Added last:
2 cups of washed and rinsed fresh blueberries (frozen will work too if that is all you have)
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then add in all the wet ingredients and mix well until everything is combined. Then fold in the blueberries and be careful not to mix to hard because it will start to break up the berries before they are baked and turn your batter blue. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until your muffins are golden brown and are not gooey in the middle. You can check this with a toothpick to be sure. Then make sure to let these cool and settle just a bit before eating because then they will be less crumbly. They are perfect just warm from the oven.

It is so satisfying and fulfilling to eat blueberries muffins from your own labor. Well worth all the sweat and work for sure. And, I tend to think fun as well, but you can decide that. If you live in the West or Northern Michigan area and you are looking for a good blueberry farm for picking organic or no-spray berries, let me know and I have a few good ones to recommend. Otherwise, it is always helpful to google some u-pick farms in your area and you may be surprised what you can find close to home. I hope you enjoy the blueberry season for all it's worth, and I am sure there will be more blueberry recipes from me in the coming gotta use them while their good!

Much love to you today!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Superfood Cacao Pudding (vegan)

It's simple. It's raw. It's dessert. And, it's good for you. Super-good for you really. The superfoods are just foods that have been used in ancient civilizations for medicinal purposes or extreme nourishment. There are so many benefits listed for each of the foods that it is hard to just list them all together. One of my favorite company's and sites to learn more about the superfoods is at Navitas Naturals. It is so interesting how so many key nutrients can be found in some of these supplementary ingredients. Instead of taking a calcium and iron pill, wouldn't you prefer a pudding treat with chia seeds that have the same benefits? I know I would. And cacao is one of the highest antioxidant powers out there, yes, this is chocolate at it's best, but you are also getting one of the highest dietary supplements of magnesium. Some of these little natural raw ingredients may boost your energy and vitality in life. It may be just the perk you have been looking for to get you to the next level in your health. It is really surprising how yummy it can be too.
This pudding may be a little more textured than you are used to, but the chia seeds and goji berries will not blend to a perfect smooth. Yet, the texture of the pudding is quite satisfying if you ask me. It adds a little pazaz to a simple chocolate pudding. The cashews will cream up very easily after soaking and the sweetness of this pudding is simple, but very satisfying. I hope try this one out, especially if you are curious of how to use and like some of the superfoods. Other than making this pudding, you could use many of the superfood powders in smoothies and cereals.

Superfood Pudding Delite Recipe
1 cup of raw cashews
1 1/4 cup of pure water
1/4 cup of goji berries
1/4 cup of chia seeds

Soak all of the above ingredients in a bowl in the refrigerator for 4 hours, up to 8 hours.

After soaking the above ingredients, pour them into a blender, vitamix, or food processor.

Then add:
1/4 cup of cold hemp milk or coconut milk beverage milk will also work here
1/4 cup of raw agave nectar or raw honey will work here too, but will not be vegan

Then blend for about a minute and add a touch more hemp milk if you want the consistency to be creamier or if the blending process is being stopped because you need more liquid. Start with 1/4 cup of milk and then add more depending on your desire.
It is just that simple. Perhaps you are trying to follow a more raw diet this summer and need something to feed your chocolate cravings. This is it. It's delectable and delicious!

I hope you enjoy... much love to you today!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chickpea Patties Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Summer is fully upon us. Can you believe it? July is almost over and the heat is still sizzling. They say this is the hottest summer on record all over the globe. Interesting...and good to hear that I am pregnant on such a summer :) I will have to make sure to let my little one know that I had "suffered" such heat. Really though, it is hot enough to really crave some fresh foods. So, how about a salad? Not just any salad of course. How about something crispy and full of flavor. Some to dress up that summer grilled meal or get together...

This recipe was an experiment for me. Although, because chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are naturally gluten-free I thought this may not be much of a stretch in the gluten-free dept. I always love finding a new way to do salad, especially in the summer when you have abundant greens and veggies. So, here we go...

Homemade Chickpea Patties (falafel) Recipe:
1 15 ounce can of chick peas (garbanzo beans)
1 medium chopped yellow or sweet onion
2-3 garlic cloves
3 TB of fresh parsley
1 TB of fresh thyme
1 TB of fresh sage
1 ts. of paprika
1 ts. of ground coriander
1 ts. of ground cumin
1/4 cup of rice flour, or millet flour
1 ts. of black pepper
1 ts. of sea salt

Put all of the above ingredients in a food processor or blender. Chop and blend for a few seconds until everything is blended well. If you want them a little more chunky then be careful not to over do it with the blending, but if you want them to be creamier, then blend till your heart is content.
Then, drizzle some olive oil in a frying pan or cast iron pan. Let it warm up and make sure you have enough oil in the pan not to have the patties stick. Then form a ping ball sized ball in your spoon and drop it in the hot-oiled pan. Fry on each side for a minute or so until it is fried and cooked through. Make sure to cook on a lower heat once you get them into the pan.... slower is better to make it crispier and also to cook all the way through. They will be crispy on the outside and a bit moist on the inside. Imagine you are making little chickpea pancakes...
Now, to dress up a fresh greens salad.
I used:
1 head of green (or red) leaf lettuce
add some fresh cut spinach if you want more greens
1 cucumber chopped
1 green pepper chopped
2 carrots pealed into strips
Add other veggies, tomatoes or herbs to dress it up to your desire.

Homemade Lemon-Tahini Dressing Recipe:
1/3 cup of tahini (ground sesame seeds with oil)
1 fresh squeezed lemon full of juice (1/4 cup amount)
1/3 cup of drizzled extra virgin olive oil (slowly add to emulsify)
1 ts. of paprika
1 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of cracked black pepper

Make sure you use a tahini that is in its natural state that you can see the oil separation in the jar and it is oily enough to use some of the oil and ground sesame seeds. Whisk all the above ingredients in a bowl, adding the oil slowly to emulsify the oil and whip the dressing into a creamy substance.
Dress the salad with the fresh chickpea patties and dressing. You can either dress the whole salad in a serving bowl ready to serve, or individual bowls so that each person can decide the amounts of patties and dressing. Then, enjoy!!! It is a perfect summer salad with a touch of crispy flavor-full goodness.

Much love to you!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Baked Oatmeal Cobbler (vegan)

The alarm just went off and now you got to get the day started right... how about some oatmeal. Not just any plain bowl of oatmeal this morning. How about some fresh fruit, baked, oozing goodness oatmeal. Sound good? Well, why not?! It's time to dress up your breakfast to make it something worth getting up for and enjoying for the rest of the morning.

It's easy to forget how important breakfast is for your body when you are on the run. Breakfast is the first meal that you introduce to your body after an average of 8 hours of rest. That rest allows your body to naturally detox, cleanse, digest and get ready for the next dose of nutrients to absorb. The rest is essential, yes...but you got to make it count by adding something good to your life after the rest. That is why I think the ol' wives tale of how "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" came into existence.

If you find yourself eating vending machine food, a cold coke or coffee and donut for that first dose of nutrients in the morning, I can guarantee you will be having a caffeine and sugar crash before and probably after lunch. Your body just cannot succeed if you are not nourishing it. So, in support of you and in giving our lives and body's a dose of goodness right from the start of the day, here is a way to really give it your all that first meal of the day.
And look at that... that looks like dessert to me :) To start your day with a plate of that you may really feel excited about a 6am alarm going off on a Monday morning... or maybe it's just me (which could very well be true).

This doesn't have to be hard either... here are a few steps to make it easier for your morning to make a bowl of baked oatmeal cobbler.

First, turn on the oven to 350 degrees right when you wake up. Perhaps drink a few glasses of water... and then grab a 8" or 9" glass pie or square pan. Cut 1 peach into pieces and drop 1 cup of fresh and washed blueberries on the bottom. Drizzle about a TB of agave over the fruit. Or if you have fresh cherries or other tree fruit on hand, then add that and use what sounds good or you have on hand.

1 cup of fresh blueberries
1 diced fresh organic peach, or 1/2 cup of other fruit choice
1 TB of agave nectar (or honey works too)

Then in a medium mixing bowl add the oats, flaxmeal, almonds, sucanat, cinnamon, coconut oil and 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk. Mix all together until a crumbly mushy mixture forms. Then drop that over the pan with the fruit, Mix with a spoon to combine the fruit and oats. Then finally, pour the last 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk over the top and let it soak into the whole dish.

Oats Mix:
1 cup of GF cooking oats (rolled oats work too)
3 TB of flax meal ( ground flax seeds)
1/2 cup of lightly ground raw almonds
3 TB of sucanat
1 ts. of cinnamon (or apple/pumpkin pie spice blend)
1/4 cup of coconut oil
1 cup of non-dairy milk (So Delicious coconut milk beverage) or almond milk

The above picture is of the dish before it is baked. As you can see, there is the milk and the fresh ingredients all together in the pan. Then bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. This is when you can leave the kitchen, and get ready for the day with a shower, mirror time, or whatever gets you up in the morning. As if "baking" doesn't wake you up enough, haha. After 30 minutes you will smell the luring smells from the kitchen and it's about time for breakfast. The berries should be bubbling in the pan and the oats should look crispy and cooked. The non-dairy milk should be non-existent and baked into the dish as well. Pull from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.
You can scoop a bowl full now and chow down, or if you want to wait and cool it more, pack it in a glass packable bowl to bring with you to work at your desk. And that will work great if you are really on the run in the morning. Forget the packaged bar option, here is a fresh and yummy way to start things off this morning.
I bet you may even lick your breakfast plate or bowl clean with a meal like that.
That is how to start the day with a real meal. Filing and hearty for sure. If you prefer to not eat oatmeal in the summer because it is so warm, then try baking it all and cooling it and saving it for the next day's morning. It will be like a cold slice of oatmeal or granola bar in the morning. Which is just as fast in the morning if you need to get out the door in a rush. I would encourage you to investigate your morning breakfast routine... and see what works for you in giving you the best amount of energy and motivation. Sometimes some simple ideas and changes in that morning routine can really help you have a better day, and ultimately a better life. If you are interested in finding more breakfast ideas and options, let me know...maybe I could help.

Hope you have a beautiful day!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rhubarb-Filled Cornbread Muffins

I still had some rhubarb hanging around in my kitchen... so I made some sauce out of it. It is kinda like an "applesauce", but made out of rhubarb. And then had to find some ways to use it... like adding it to some vegan cornbread muffins. It's pretty simple and a nice little addition to any summer meal. So, I will share with you if you are looking for a vegan, simple muffin to try out. I usually really like cornbread. It isn't every one's favorite. And some people like to dress it up with a bunch of flavors, or keep things just a simple "southern" style cornbread as well. I like something usually in-between, with a little more flavor... and not too dry.

When I first started going gluten-free, corn foods were a staple of mine. Now, I try to limit myself to eating all organic corn products just because corn is the most genetically modified food out there, besides soy and wheat that is. And it is just not processed well by our bodies because of that. I also understand going "corn-free" for health reasons or "allergies". I did that for 6 months a few years back, which was a challenge being a gluten-free too, but I know it also helped add an extra level of healing to my small intestines. Corn can be a very rough grain to digest, especially if your gut is in a very sensitive state. So, that may be something to consider for yourself if you are still not finding true success on a gluten-free diet...

But for now, I make organic corn bread muffins, and this one is egg-free as well...
Vegan Cornbread Muffins Recipe
2 cups of organic yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup of brown rice flour (or other GF flour of choice) sorghum is a good choice too
2 cups of almond milk or coconut milk beverage
1 TB of apple cider vinegar
2 ts. of cream of tartar (or baking powder)
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
2 TB of sucanat
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 TB of ghee, or vegan "butter" alternative, or more oil works too

First, pour the 2 cups of milk product in a bowl with the 1 TB of apple cider vinegar. This need about 10-15 minutes to sit and "curdle" to become more like a buttermilk kind of milk. Then in a large mixing bowl, mix the cornmeal, GF flour, and the rest of the dry ingredients. After the milk has curdled, add that to the dry mix along with the olive oil and ghee. Then mix well. It seems like it may be a watery batter, but because the cornmeal is dry and thickens while it bakes it is ok that it is "more" watery than a normal muffin mix.

Now here is my rhubarb sauce recipe if you so desire to add...

Rhubarb Sauce:
1 cup of finely chopped rhubarb pieces
1/4 cup of agave nectar (vegan) (or use honey if you are not vegan)
1/2 lemon squeezed
1 1/2 - 2 ts. of corn starch (mix with 1 ts. of water in little bowl before adding to help it dissolve)
2 TB of sugar-free strawberry jam

Put all of the ingredients in a sauce pan, and cook slow for 10-15 minutes until all of the rhubarb is broken down and thickened. It will look like an applesauce texture, and let it cool before you use it to help it thicken. It is also very hot when it the saucepan, so be careful. This recipe can be doubled and tripled and then saved in a canning jar in the fridge for a few weeks to use as a jam, sauce, or filling. I had some in the fridge I wanted to use up so that is why I added it to the muffin mix. Turned out yummy, and a nice little twist as well.

To add the rhubarb filling to the muffin, add 1 spoonful of the cooled rhubarb sauce to the muffin tops before you put them in the oven. Put as much or as little as you desire, and then bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. This recipe of muffins makes about 12 larger muffins. Then bake and you will know they are done when the cornbread turns a golden yellow and there is no gooey mixture.
They tasted great warm from the oven. Or with an added drizzle of honey or ghee on them would be yummy too! They are good for a few days after baking, but I would recommend putting them in the fridge instead of leaving them on the counter to store. They just store and taste better that way. Although I always like to warm my leftover muffins just a bit before eating...

I hope you enjoy!

Have a beautiful summer day!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Watermelon Blueberry Granita Smoothie

So, staying hydrated these days could seem like a chore. Yes, water does seems like it shouldn't be that hard to drink, but sometimes you can only have so much before you start to look for ways to dress it up a bit. A big concern on these overly hot and humid days is staying hydrated and not let your electrolytes and minerals in your body deplete. When you get dehydrated and your minerals and electrolytes are depleted this is when you start to feel lightheaded and lethargic, which leads to overheating or worse yet, heatstroke. So, you hurry up and pound some water, right? Well, yeah, but this may not always help get you hydrated and back to balance right away. You can actually get "water-poisoning" if you drink too much water too fast when you are in this dehydrated state. You will need to allow your body some time to restore the potassium, iron, and b vitamins. That is why the sports drinks are so popular when you feel like this because they do contain many of the minerals and vitamins your body needs to get your equilibrium balanced again. Yet, because of all the processed and toxic sugar in them you are actually defeating the purpose in the long run. This is because when you drink sugar or caffeine your body needs an extra glass of water to make up for it, so what is the answer, or at least a better solution to re-hydrating and staying balanced.... well, I would suggest a more fresh, fruity and processed sugar-free alternative for sure!

And why do I think staying hydrated is so important? Well, to be honest I was once hospitalized for dehydration and heatstroke. I hardly remember the experience because I was so lethargic and sick. It can be very serious because your brain, your organs and nervous system start to shut down. You may loose all sense of consciousness and there can be long-term damage if your electrolytes are not replenished. So, with the past few days of heat wave in most of the US, it is more important than ever to keep yourself hydrated. And don't wait till you are thirsty to start drinking because that is showing you are already lacking hydration. You should start drinking right when you get up and continue all day with a steady flow of water. This is the best defense against the heat! Also, just staying more hydrated in general will help with your skin, detox pathways and digestion, so why not practice it all the time right?!
This recipe is quite simple, but you do need a high powered blender to help everything puree together. If you have a vitamix you are in luck, or any other blender will do the job here!

Watermelon-Blueberry Granita Smoothie Recipe
2 cups of chopped seedless watermelon chunks
1/2 cup of either sparkling water, pure water, or coconut milk if you want it creamy
fresh squeezed juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
3-4 chunks of ice
optional: mint leaves for blending or just topping

Blend all of the ingredients in your blender and viola you have a juicy, summery, replenishing smoothie that is a great alternative to a glass of water and it will help restore minerals and vitamins you may be lacking on a 100 degree day. Add coconut milk to have a creamy fruit "milkshake". Or, if you do not have frozen blueberries on hand, I bet frozen cherries or other berry will have some of the same benefits to the blending and taste of the smoothie. The watermelon will blend down to be pretty liquidy, but also adds great texture because of its fiber.
Not to mention you are adding extra fiber to your diet with a simple drink will aide in digestion woes. You will not even know that this special little drink could be so great for you. It's a good way to use up some extra watermelon too, especially if you bought a whole one on sale, and you just can only eat chunks of it so quickly before it spoils.
I hope that you stay cool and hydrated this week, and well this summer. Remember that it isn't a laughing matter to your body when you are dragging yourself and need more energy. Water, hydration and antioxidants can help, so get yourself some more watermelon while it's fresh and ripe! Whip one of these smoothies up and start sipping away.... Much love to you!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Favorites

I have been a busy little bee of late, and I am hoping to slow down soon. I just entered my 3rd trimester of pregnancy and the 100+ degree weather is making me move a lot slower than I am used too. Yet, I have not created anything crazy new in the last few days in the kitchen, I have been having fun making some old summer favorites with all the fresh foods and friends gatherings. Last weekend I made...

Those are just some of my favorites to make this time of year. The cherries in Michigan are sweet and juicy and ready for the picking and baking. Last weekend I was able to buy some sweet cherries from the famous cherry capital of Michigan and made the cobbler above we enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dessert :) And the coconut ice cream is a delectable delite in 100 degree weather let me tell ya. I am thankful, I have air conditioning, so I cannot complain much. Overall, it is just an overwhelming wonderful time of year to enjoy friends, fresh food and the great outdoors. I hope you are able to soak up every minute of it! Part of the healing journey is to embrace the little things in life that bring you joy, love and peace. Don't let yourself be buried under stress and fear. Break out of your shell this week and find little things every day to embrace your wellness and health. It is always a good reminder that your being is so much more valuable than the material things that pass us by. So take care of yourself today, drink an ice tea on the porch and enjoy some fresh foods from the garden or tree.. I know you won't regret it. It's for you!

Much love to you today!