Friday, December 7, 2012

Multi-Colored Cauliflower

Just when you thought the earth started hibernating for the winter and all of the local colorful produce has stopped growing for the season, you spot the most beautiful cauliflowers you have laid your eyes on. Yup, that was me this week at the farmers market when I picked these up along with some gorgeous bunches of kale.
Let me introduce you to the Romanesco cauliflower. It's this psychedelic looking heirloom vegetable that's pretty entertaining to look at with all it funky green swirls. It has a mild cauliflower flavor and looks really great alongside some other multi-colored cauliflower (look at that purple, orange, and neon green one!). The health benefits of cruciferous vegetables like these cauliflower are abundant. Compounds in cauliflower actually protect against numerous forms of cancer and stimulate the body's detoxification systems. Aim to eat 3 cups of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cabbage, kale, watercress, and mustard greens daily and your health and vitality will skyrocket.  Enjoy them raw, lightly steamed, roasted, pureed, juiced, and any other way you can think of!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Black Bean and Kabocha Squash Soup

I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday filled with delicious food and many blessings. I for one have a lot to be thankful for and I loved spending time with family to celebrate that. I hope that as the end of the year holiday craziness is upon us, we can remember that attitude of gratitude that we all have at Thanksgiving.
I've made this soup a few times and I've just gotten around to blogging about it. It's super simple and most definitely delicious. It's from the Sprouted Kitchen blog, which I highly recommend you check out. The blog is filled with beautifully photographed vegetarian food and the writers of the blog, Sarah and Hugh, just came out with a gorgeous cookbook that's totally on my Christmas list this year.
This soup is hearty and healthy, filled with all the nutrients to make your body happy in this cold weather. I love it topped with lots of avocado and cilantro, so don't skimp on the garnishes! The addition of cabbage to the soup is genius and should not be omitted. The local savoy cabbage I used was so super gorgeous, I squealed with delight when I was photographing it.
I used kabocha squash in this soup. It's a beautifully sweet squash and the skin is entirely edible. I like using it in recipes that call for butternut squash because I don't have to peel it.  Also, you can't go wrong with the proportions in this soup. I've added much more squash and more cabbage before and it's still delicious. Just season and adjust to taste.

 Black Bean and Kabocha Squash Soup (from Sprouted Kitchen)
1 Tbsp. coconut or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 a small head of cabbage, chopped (heaping 2-3 cups)
3 cups cubed winter squash (butternut, kabocha, sweet potato would be good, too)
3 cups water or vegetable broth
2 tsp cumin (or more to taste)
2 tsp chili powder (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
2 cups cooked, black beans
avocado, for garnish
cilantro, for garnish
pumpkin seeds, for garnish

1. In a large pot, warm the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until just beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, cabbage, squash and water (or broth). Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 15-20 minutes for the vegetables to cook.

3.Add the spices and the beans and stir. Let everything continue to cook another ten minutes for the flavors to blend. Salt to taste. At this point, I did a few pulses with my immersion blender through the soup, because I wanted to thicken up the broth a bit. This is optional, but makes it seem a bit thicker. You could alternatively, run just a bit of the soup through a blender or food processor, and add it back in to the pot.
Garnish each bowl with some diced avocado, a handful of chopped cilantro and some pumpkin seeds.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Green Juice

Look at that green goodness right there! Gorgeous. I've been on a juicing kick for awhile now. Each morning, I wake up to one of these giant green juices and it makes me feel so good. I've known about the health benefits of juicing fresh vegetables and fruits for a long time. After all, my first job in high school was at a juice bar, where we made different concoctions of vegetables and fruit. I've enjoyed having juices occasionally over the years, especially if I was battling a cold or just needed an extra nutrition boost. But now that I have a juicer of my own (a purchase made just about a year ago), I can enjoy them on a regular basis.

What's wonderful about juicing is that it's possible to consume very large amounts of vegetables and fruits in a very absorbable form. Basically, all the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes from the raw produce is quickly transported to and used by the body's cells. There's no fiber to break down and slow digestion when it comes to juice.  The juice itself is extremely detoxifying, contributing to a whole host of health benefits. So, here's to a big glass of green goodness, full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to keep your beautiful body humming along wonderfully!

Super Green Juice 
Note: when juicing vegetables and fruit, it's important for them to be organically grown so you're not ingesting toxic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc...

4-5 leaves of kale
2 collard green leaves
3 stalks of celery
half a cucumber
juice of one lemon
1 or 2 apples
1 inch piece of fresh ginger

Add vegetables and fruit to the juicer, making sure to juice the lemon by hand separately into your glass. Juicing the entire lemon with the peel is just a bad idea. Enjoy!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Sweet Potato Coconut Kheer (Indian Style Rice Pudding)

I have the privilege of working with really talented cooks on a daily basis. I've learned a lot over the past year working in a natural foods kitchen and the experiences I've had have taught me a whole lot about cooking delicious and healthy food. This particular recipe was inspired by a dear friend whom I work with on Thursday nights. She's an incredible cook and I just love seeing all of the many flavor combinations she comes up with every time I work with her. She's also hilarious and a joy to be around. This past Thursday night, we were pretty busy (given that it was the week before Thanksgiving and we work in a food co-op) and she was trying to come up with one last thing to make that would be quick and simple so that we wouldn't have to stay really late that night. She decided on whim to make this sweet potato kheer, which is a super delicious Indian style rice pudding. Traditionally, it's made with milk or cream, but she chose to make it with coconut milk to make it vegan. I was blown away by how delicious it was and how incredibly easy it was for her to make. I took some home and gave it to my husband to try and he liked it a lot. I then realized that I had all of the ingredients on hand at home, so I whipped up a batch, too!

This dessert is rich and warming and actually quite good for you, given that it's made with all healthy ingredients and contains no refined sugar. It will certainly be a hit among all your friends, whether they're vegan or not. And I just may have it warmed up for breakfast tomorrow. It's that good.

Sweet Potato Coconut Kheer (serves 4)

1 cup short grain brown rice, uncooked
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 small sweet potato, peeled and grated (I used a cheese grater)
1 can organic coconut milk
1/4-1/2 cup pure maple syrup (sweeten to taste)
pinch of sea salt
large pinch of saffron threads
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cardamom (adjust to taste)
shredded coconut flakes, pomegranate seeds, slivered almonds, or chopped pistachios for garnish (optional)

1. Add rice and 2 cups of water to a small pot on high heat. Bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked and the water is absorbed. Remove cooked rice from the saucepan and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

2. In the same saucepan that the rice was cooked in, add the coconut oil and the shredded sweet potato. Cook over medium low heat for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly so the sweet potato doesn't stick to the pot.

3. Add coconut milk, maple syrup, sea salt, saffron, and cardamom to the sweet potato. Stir well, then add the cooked rice to the pot. Stir again and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes to allow flavors to meld and the rice to warm through. Serve with desired toppings. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days and can be warmed up in a pot on the stove simply by adding a bit of water and stirring.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Five Minute Spaghetti Squash Bowl

I don't know about you, but I've been in many situations (usually at the end of a long week) where I look into my refrigerator and there's hardly anything in there but a few odds and ends. And it's during these instances where my mind starts creating and discovering ways to combine whatever little bit of produce and leftovers that I have into meals. And I have to say, most of the time, I'm pretty impressed with my brief moments of genius. This meal was the product of one of those moments.
I realize I've never talked about spaghetti squash before on the blog, but I have to say it's one of my favorite squashes to cook with. All you do it cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle it with olive oil, and roast it cut-side-up at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. You then gently scoop out the flesh with a spoon and magically, you have spaghetti! Not just any type of spaghetti, but crazy healthy, vitamin A packed and perfectly al-dente spaghetti that can be used any way you would typically serve regular spaghetti. It's really awesome with a quick sauce made with sundried tomatoes and lots of garlic, I might add. Anyways, for this meal, I had half of a leftover cooked spaghetti squash in my refrigerator, plus a half head of broccoli. There were some kalamata olives leftover from a previous meal, plus a bit of goat feta cheese that I had bought as a treat a few days prior. That was about it. So, all I did was put the squash and broccoli in a frying pan with a splash of water, warmed it up until the broccoli was bright green, and topped it with the olives and cheese, plus a healthy grind of black pepper. It was one of the best lunches I had all week. Plus, it was ready to eat in 5 minutes. Gotta love those moments of genius.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Savory Breakfast

Recently, I've been changing up my routine for breakfast. For as long as I can remember, I've eaten oatmeal, lots of fruit, and nuts (usually almonds and walnuts) in the mornings. In the summertime, it's lots of fresh berries. In the fall, it's lots of apples and pears, and everywhere in between it's a mix of dried and fresh seasonal fruits. And I love my packed bowls of oatmeal very dearly. But over the last few weeks, since the local fruit season is definitely winding way down, I've been drinking a giant green juice in the morning filled with kale, celery, lemon, apple, and ginger followed by a meal with some more green. And you know what? I'm loving the way I feel. Loading up in the morning with greens is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. I'm also trying to get more healthy fats and protein into my diet, as well, so a beautiful poached egg and avocado is perfect on top of a bed of wild rice, steamed broccoli, and probiotic-rich sourkraut. It might sound weird to have such a savory meal for breakfast, but it works for me. Did you know that it's perfectly normal for the traditional Japanese (who usually live to be over 100, I might add) to eat vegetables, rice, and even fish in the mornings for breakfast? Yeah.  And to be honest, eating this in the mornings keeps me full for hours with zero signs of low blood sugar that I would normally get with oatmeal during a busy day of work. So I leave you with inspiration to have some green in your breakfast...and maybe next time I'll share my recipe for the giant green juice, as well.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mung Bean, Sweet Potato, and Squash Stew

Please don't be upset with me, dear readers. It's bad enough I've been absent from the blog for over two weeks (that never happens), but I'm here to share with you yet another soup recipe. I know, I know. Enough with the soup already. But the thing about this soup is special. See, I've made it at work now a bunch of times and every single time I do, it's gone within hours. And I've gotten loads of requests for the recipe, so it's finally here to share with the world!
I absolutely love the mung beans used in this soup because they have a similar texture to lentils (which I love), but with a bit more structure. They cook quickly, due to their small size, and they are the coolest shade of green. For thousands of years, mung beans have been used for a variety of purposes. They originated in India and were cultivated throughout Asia. The ancient Chinese used mung beans for culinary and medicinal purposes, such as dispelling heat and detoxifying the body. Today, the beans are currently being used for culinary and health purposes due to the beans' high nutritional content and value.
Mung Bean, Sweet Potato, and Squash Stew

1 cup mung beans
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, ghee, or olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
 6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup peeled, seeded and cubed winter squash (butternut, kabocha, pumpkin)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed (or leave out the sweet potato and just use squash)
1 or 2 large carrots, chopped
2 cups collard greens, tough stems removed, and then chopped
2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
3 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 can of organic unsweetened whole coconut milk (totally optional, I like the soup with or without it)
1 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste (the amount of salt needed will depend on how salty your stock is)

1. In a large bowl, soak mung beans overnight (or for at least 8 hours) in plenty of water. Drain and set aside. Soaking is entirely optional here, just know that the beans will be a bit more digestible if you soak them. I've made the soup with unsoaked mung beans before, and I didn't have a problem, but again, totally up to you!
2. Warm coconut oil or ghee in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and saute until fragrant. Add stock or water.
3. Add the mung beans, squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Then add the spices. Stir well to combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally, and adding more liquid if it becomes too thick. Remove from heat when everything is soft and cooked through. Add the chopped collard greens and allow them to wilt into the soup.
5. Add optional coconut milk and stir well to combine and heat through. Taste, add salt, and adjust for seasoning. Serve with chopped cilantro and even some diced avocado on top.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Amazing Vegan Whole Grain Pumpkin Spice Bread

What do you do when you're stuck inside during Hurricane Sandy? Make pumpkin bread! While the wind is whipping around outside, my apartment is cozy and smells of pumpkin spice deliciousness. But my prayers are with those who are at great risk during the storm. I've witnessed firsthand what horrible damage hurricanes can cause, so I don't take this lightly. Stay safe everyone!
 This is a deliciously dense bread with complex spice flavors coming from the garam masala. You can most definitely use a pumpkin spice blend (usually cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger) and it would be fantastic. The bread is vegan and made with whole grain spelt flour, but you can adjust the recipe to use butter, eggs, and whole wheat flour if you'd like. It's super moist and oh-so-tasty. This is my fourth time making it already this season!

Whole Grain Pumpkin Spice Bread

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, plus more for the pan (or use butter)
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3/4 cup  coconut sugar or rapadura sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons chia seeds (or 2 eggs)
6 tablespoons water (omit if using eggs)
1 cup well-pureed roasted winter squash* (pumpkin, kabocha squash, butternut squash, etc.)
3/4 cup pecans
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the top 1/3 of the oven. Rub 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or butter) inside a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.

2. Melt the 1/2 cup coconut oil in a small pot over low heat. Set aside and allow to cool but not set.

3. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, garam masala, and sea salt into a large bowl. Set aside. In a smaller bowl whisk the sugar, maple syrup, chia seeds, water, and squash. Whisk in the still melted coconut oil. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Fold in most of the pecans, reserving 1/4 cup or so for the top of the cake.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with remaining walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds and a drizzle of maple syrup, and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the edges have browned and the center of the bread is well set.

*To make pureed winter squash: Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down in a rimmed baking pan with about a half inch of water. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until it is fork tender. Remove from the oven, let cool, and then scoop out the squash flesh from the skin. If it needs it, you may then puree the squash with a hand blender or food processor to make it extra smooth.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Escarole and Bean Soup

I had a wake-up call this past week. You see, I'll be honest with you, I eat a pretty healthy diet. I mean, most of it consists of tons of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. There's a whole lotta color going on in my diet, as I'm sure you can see from the blog. I'm not telling you this to make you feel guilty or to make me feel better about myself. I enjoy eating well because I love how it makes me feel. Simple as that. But here's the wake-up call: it's not all about diet.

The past few weeks have been beyond stressful. Family drama, workplace stress, fears about moving across the country in a few short months (oh yeah, I'm moving to Seattle everyone!), and a few other things have been making it hard for my body to cope. I'm feeding it exceptionally well, but the stress just became too much and bam...I got sick. Not a serious sickness or anything. Just a cold with a little fever and chills and fatigue and you know, the usual. But it made me realize that stress really does have an effect on the immune system. And so I needed a little slowing down and nurturing to get myself back in order.

So, all you beautiful people, bear with me as I post yet another soup recipe. I hope you're not getting bored with me, I just really love soup.  This particular one is really great when you're battling a cold like me because of the greens and lots and lots of garlic. Garlic has antibiotic and antiviral properties, so it's one of those superfoods for cold season. And, the soup is beyond easy to make. It's perfect when all you feel like doing is snuggling in a big blanket and wool socks, when cooking is the last thing you want to do.

Escarole and Bean Soup (makes 4 servings)

1 1/2 cups dry white beans, soaked overnight in plenty of water
1 head of garlic (about 8 cloves)
extra virgin olive oil
2 cups water or homemade vegetable stock, plus more if desired
1 bay leaf
1 large head of escarole
unrefined sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the soaked beans in plenty of water until nice and tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Peel and chop about 8 cloves of garlic and put in a soup pot. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute for just about 10 seconds. Add the water or stock, one bay leaf, and the cooked beans to the pot. Bring to a simmer.

3. While the beans and water are coming to a simmer, rinse and roughly chop the escarole. Once the beans are simmering, add the escarole to the pot. Stir until the greens have just wilted and are still nice and green. Turn off the heat.  At this point, if you think the soup needs more water or stock, add it. Add a generous amount of salt to the soup at this point. I usually add at least a teaspoon and usually more if I'm just using water, but just salt to your liking. Ladle into bowls and grind lots of fresh pepper on top and finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Butternut Squash, White Bean, and Kale Soup

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I like wearing scarves, chunky sweaters, cute leather boots, and furry moccasins. I like mugs of mulled apple cider and fireplaces. I especially love soup. Lots of types of soups filled with vegetables, beans, herbs, and grains. I love how satisfied and cozy I feel after eating a perfect bowl of soup on a chilly fall evening. Lovely.
This soup is one of those perfect soups. It's easy to prepare, and tastes wonderful reheated throughout the week. It's packed with vegetables and beans, making it oh-so-healthy and hearty. Plus, it's gorgeous to look at. It is sure to please any dinner guest you may have, vegetarian or not. So go put on your furry moccasins, get cooking, and then snuggle up to this steaming bowl of delicious nourishment.

Butternut Squash, White Bean, and Kale Soup (serves 4 generously)

1 1/4 cup dry white beans, soaked overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, very finely minced
2 carrots, chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 medium butternut squash, seeds removed, peeled, and cubed into 1 inch pieces
1 bunch of lacinato kale, stalks removed and finely chopped sea salt and black pepper to taste

1. Cook the white beans in plenty of water until soft and tender (usually takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how long your beans have soaked and how fresh they are). Drain and set aside.

2. In a large soup pot, cook chopped onions in olive oil and a pinch of sea salt about 5 minutes, or just until they start to soften. Then add chopped sage, thyme sprigs, rosemary, and bay leaves. Stir and let cook about a minute.

3. Add chopped garlic, carrots, parsnip, celery, and butternut squash. Add just enough water so that the vegetables are just submerged. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, then cover the pot. Let vegetables cook for 20 minutes or until they are fork tender.

4. When the vegetables are tender, add the cooked white beans to the pot along with a teaspoon or so of sea salt. Turn off the heat. Stir well and add more sea salt if you think the soup needs it. Remove the thyme sprigs. With a potato masher, mash the soup  so that the butternut squash and beans break up a little bit to give it a creamy-chunky consistency. Lastly, add the chopped kale and stir again to wilt the kale. Serve with fresh black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and warm, rustic, crusty bread.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thai Vegetable and Black Rice Noodle Soup

There's something really comforting about noodle soups. Chicken noodle soup was always my favorite soup as a child, and I think my favorite part about it was the noodles and the broth. The chicken was unnecessary. This here soup is my kind of soup, full of incredibly nourishing colorful vegetables in a deeply flavorful broth entwined in gorgeous black rice noodles.

A word about these special black noodles. I was lucky to find them at a small health food store not far from where I live and I'm in love with them. They're 100% organic, whole grain, and gluten free. They're made with black rice, which is crazy high in antioxidants. I've written more about the awesomeness of black rice here. Good stuff, I tell you.
The Thai flavors in this soup are great and not difficult to achieve. I add super fresh ginger, lemongrass, and garlic, in addition to some awesome green curry paste. The paste lends so much flavor without a lot of heat (which I love). It has green chili peppers, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime, which are all wonderful ingredients that lend depth to this broth. I keep a collection of all natural and high quality curry pastes in my pantry to add flavor to many vegetable dishes. You should, too!
I imagine that adding some coconut milk to this soup will bring it to a whole new level. The mix of vegetables I used were spot on (and all of them were local!) but feel free to add others. I can see baby bok choy and perhaps some cauliflower working very well.

Thai Vegetable and Black Rice Noodle Soup (serves 2)

3 oz black rice noodles (or any other noodle of your choice)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon coconut oil or other oil of your choice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 lemongrass stalk, outer layer removed from stalk, bottom 3 inches chopped finely (optional)
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1 large carrot, sliced on the diagonal
half of a daikon radish, sliced on the diagonal
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
large handful of snow peas, halved on the diagonal
1 small crown of broccoli, cut into florets
cilantro, to garnish

1. Cook black rice noodles according to package directions. Strain, rinse well, and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook sliced onion in coconut oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic, fresh ginger, and lemongrass, green curry paste and stir well. Cook about one minute and then add carrot, daikon radish, and bell peppers.

3. Add 2 cups of water to the pot of vegetables. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook about 7 minutes or so until vegetables are tender, but not mushy. You want the vegetables to be still a bit crunchy.

4. Take the pot off the heat. Add the broccoli florets and snow peas to the pot. The residual heat of the broth will lightly cook the broccoli and snow peas.

5. Divide the cooked noodles between two bowls. Lade the vegetables and broth into each bowl. Garnish with cilantro.

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Ginger Lemon Tea for Healing

Apparently, ginger grows locally in my part of the country. I thought for sure that ginger was some exotic spice hailing from Asia alone. Nope. Fresh ginger is now more than fresh for me, it's alive! So freaking awesome. It's so pretty to look at, I must say.
I use ginger a lot in my cooking. I especially like it warming Indian dishes, like lentil soups and curries. But I also love making ginger tea. Its strong spicy-sweet flavor just can't be beat. Ginger has many health benefits and is one of the most used medicinal herbs on the planet. It's a time proven remedy for nausea, indigestion, vomiting, motion sickness, and cramps. It is antibacterial and can destroy Salmonella and it promotes healing of inflammation and minor burns. Ginger root tea eases sore throat pain and kills cold viruses. Drinking ginger tea three times a day when you're feeling under the weather will help the body heal from a cold much faster.
Source: Prescription for Dietary Wellness, Phyllis A. Balch

Renee's Ginger Lemon Tea for Healing

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon freshly grated organic ginger, skin peeled before grating
(I like my tea spicy, but feel free to adjust the amount of ginger to your liking)
Juice of half a lemon
raw honey to taste

1. Put grated ginger into a large mug. Pour very hot, but not boiling, water into the mug. Stir well, let steep for 10 minutes. Add honey and lemon juice, stir well again, and enjoy. If you would like to strain out the ginger before drinking, you may pour the tea through a small strainer into another mug. Or put the grated ginger into a mesh tea ball and let it steep that way. I, personally, don't mind the grated ginger. More health benefits, for sure!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nourish The Roots

I thought of something today as I was photographing these carrots. These colorful roots are hidden from plain sight as they grow in the earth and develop into gorgeous and vibrant nourishment. It is not until they are ready to be harvested that we see their beauty, taste their flavor, and absorb their nutrients. It just made me think about how important it is to take care of ourselves on the inside, our roots, if you will. When we do, our bodies become beautiful, healthy, colorful, and full of life for all the world to see and enjoy.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Food as Art

I guess I would call myself an artistic person. When I was younger, I would paint a lot and design my own jewelry. I would have fun with crazy colors of makeup, from indigo blue and purple eyeshadow, to fuchsia lipstick and glittery gold lip gloss. In high school, art was by far my favorite class and I welcomed a homework assignment of sketching over writing an English paper or doing math problems. But later on, my artistic interests moved away from drawing and painting (although I still would like to pick up a paintbrush and set up my wooden easel sometime soon) to the art of food. I am amazed at how beautiful food can be. I believe we eat with the eyes as much as we do with our mouths and when food is beautiful, it usually tastes better, too. Plus, the more colorful meals are, the more health benefits there are.
 It's pretty funny how excited I get over a basket of rainbow heirloom tomatoes or multicolored string beans or a salad tossed with edible flowers. Seeing a bowl of jewel-toned berries, cutting open a watermelon radish, or drinking a cup of vibrant emerald green matcha tea just knocks my socks off. What can I say? I'm a food nerd. And I'm proud of it.
 Putting this salad together was like painting a picture, really. A lovely friend from work gave me some purple African basil from his garden and I knew immediately that it would look (and taste!) beautiful in a salad with some sexy edible flowers and sunflower sprouts I bought at the farmers market the other day. Did I mention the gorgeous string beans? Just look at them!
 There really isn't a recipe for this salad. Just put gorgeous, vibrant food together and you'll get a gorgeous meal. I hope this inspires you to paint a picture with your food. Combine colors, textures, and flavors and you'll always get something incredibly beautiful.

And some VERY exciting news...if you're in the Albany, New York area, you should most definitely check out the raw food class that I'm teaching with my dear friend, co-worker, fellow food blogger, and healthy food nut Cathy from Kale and Kumquats. It's going to be off the hook!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

White Bean, Sundried Tomato, & Olive Salad

It's going to be a short little post today. I'm sitting here with my big mug of jasmine green tea as the rain is falling from the sky and the trees are whipping around like crazy. I'm checking things off of my must-do list and planning out the menu for my upcoming raw food class, which is super exciting. This pretty little salad reminds me of something I would eat in Italy. It's simple and really flavorful. My husband loves sundried tomatoes (so do I), so I like to add a lot. Serve it over a pile of salad greens for lunch, and it would also be great with some cooked wheat berries, farro, or barley mixed in to make it a complete meal.

White Bean, Sundried Tomato, & Olive Salad

2 cups cooked white beans, drained and rinsed of cooking liquid (or use two cans of beans, rinsed and drained very well)
1/2 to 3/4  cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
1 red bell pepper or roasted red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 cup sundried tomatoes, rehydrated in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes, chopped
1 large fresh tomato, seeded and cut into chunks, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
lots of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, black pepper, and dried basil to taste

1. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and plenty of sea salt, black pepper, and dried basil to taste. Toss gently and serve.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mexican Cabbage Boats

Can you believe that summer is winding down? I sure can't. The season just flew by. Yesterday, I was wearing my warm wool socks around my apartment because it was so chilly! In all honesty, I'm pretty excited. I really like autumn and I especially like making soups and warming, nourishing foods.  I've been reading some awesome new cookbooks and nutrition books lately and I've been really inspired by them all, so expect some more amazingly delicious and super healthy meals coming soon. Wow, I'm getting ahead of myself here...these Mexican bowls, my friends, are what I'm here to talk about today.
I've been sitting on this recipe for almost two weeks now, which is bad because we're nearing the end of the summer season when raw meals like this are not typically served. But summer produce like corn, tomatoes, and peppers are still rolling in, so you still have time to make these little Mexican bowls of deliciousness if you want. I have to say, they're as delicious as they are beautiful. Just look at those colors! Antioxidants galore, my friends. They're almost completely raw, because I threw some cooked black beans in the mix, and they are just full of flavor. The sweet corn and juicy heirloom cherry tomatoes are just divine. And top them with my favorite condiment ever, homemade guacamole, and you have a nutrient-packed bundle of  bliss.

Mexican Cabbage Boats
Basically, for this recipe, you just prepare all of the "fillings" and serve them in red cabbage leaves. To easily remove the leaves off the cabbage, cut three inches or so off the stem end of the cabbage. Gently peel the leaves off one by one. Fill each bowl with your desired amount of fillings. The amounts for each filling will make at least 6-8 bowls.

Corn and Black Bean Salad
3 ears of corn, kernals removed with a sharp knife
1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed very well
half of a red onion, finely chopped
2 handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced
juice of two limes or one lemon
3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit 15 minutes or so to allow flavors to blend. Set aside.

Fresh Raw Salsa (from My New Roots)
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes (I used a mix of red and yellow)
½ red bell pepper, chopped fine
½ orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped fine
½ red onion or 4 green onions, minced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ clove garlic, minced
juice of ½ lime
1 tsp. raw honey
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt

1. Whisk the garlic, lime juice, honey, olive oil and sea salt in the bottom of a bowl and set aside.
2. Cut up the veggies into rather small pieces, chop the cilantro and add everything to the dressing bowl. Fold to combine and let sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

2 ripe avocados
¼ red onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
large handful cilantro, finely chopped
juice of half a lime
sea salt, to taste

1. Mash avocados with a fork in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Almond Milk

To me, there's nothing more satisfying than making an entire meal from scratch. Knowing exactly what goes into a dish from start to finish is so comforting. I don't find the process labor intensive or too complicated. Instead, I find joy in partaking in something that people have done for generations. Sadly, much of our own generation has lost the art of making meals from scratch. Society has become too busy to do such things and convenience is what is sought after. Making food with love and attention to detail has been forgotten by some and I think that it's one of the reasons why people are in such poor health these days.
All of the meals in my kitchen are made with whole foods. That means that I skip the processed items and focus on preparing foods in their whole form. In doing so, I avoid the garbage that food corporations put into processed and packaged foods while also enjoying the flavors, textures, colors, and nutrition of the real thing. Transitioning to a whole foods way of eating may take some getting used to, especially when you can buy anything under the sun already pre-packaged in a grocery store, but I guarantee you will be benefiting your health and the earth by adopting this way of eating. Making food from scratch really isn't that complicated to make. With a little planning ahead, you can have a beautiful and nourishing meal on the table in no time.
And yes, I understand that life is busy. We work long hours, drive long distances, and take care of our families. But take a moment to re-examine just how you're spending your time. Despite our busy schedules, we still have time to sit on Facebook or click through the television channels for an hour (or more) every day. In that time, you can have a healthy homemade meal ready. Really, it's true.
So, I leave you with almond milk. It's a perfect, all purpose dairy milk substitute. Use it in your coffee, baked goods, or over your homemade granola. All it contains is almonds and water and you decide if you want it a bit sweeter with some added honey or vanilla. That's it. No crazy ingredients, no preservatives. Just a little planning ahead and lots of love. That's the recipe for any good meal.
Check out this adorable video from my favorite fellow food blogger Sarah B. from My New Roots on how to make nut milk. It's a must see! And, when I took Sarah's cooking class, we actually made this very same almond milk. Enjoy!

Almond Milk (makes 1 quart)

1 cup raw almonds (or literally any other nut of your choice)
4 cups water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1-2 teaspoons honey, agave, or even a Medjool date (optional, but totally delish)

1. Soak the almonds in water in a bowl for at least 8 hours (overnight works for me).

2. Drain and rinse the soaked almonds. Peel each almond, discarding the skins. This step is way easier than it sounds. The skins literally slip right off and you'll be done peeling the almonds in no time. (NOTE: Peeling the almonds is completely optional. If you're pressed for time or just don't feel like peeling them, don't worry. Just blend the almonds with the skins on and your almond milk will still be fabulous!)

3. Put the peeled (or unpeeled!) almonds in a blender with 4 cups of water. Add the vanilla and sweetener (if using). Cover and blend on high for a minute or so.

4. Line a fine mesh strainer with two layers of cheese cloth. Alternativeley, you can use a nut milk bag (they sell these at natural food stores) or a new pair of panty hose (just cut the foot off and use it as a nut milk bag). Pour the contents of the blender into your choice of straining vessel. Let the milk drain into a jug or pitcher of your choice. Squeeze as much of the milk out of the pulp as you can. You'll be left with very dry almond meal. Store the almond milk in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Cozy Labor Day Breakfast and Multigrain Hot Cereal

All I wanted to do this Labor Day was relax with the man I love. I planned a cozy breakfast for the two of us that was a little bit more special than what we have on our usual weekday mornings. I had no intention of blogging about it, but when we prepared everything, I realized it was all too beautiful not to share.
 I've been savoring every last bit of local fruit that has been available this season, and this breakfast was full of it. Juicy peaches, Italian prune and red plums, concord grapes, succulent blackberries, late harvest blueberries and late summer strawberries have been gracing our table for the past few weeks. I'm so blessed to live in such a fertile area of upstate New York!
Instead of the typical oatmeal we both eat every morning, I decided to jazz it up by adding  buckwheat groats and quinoa. And in lieu of cooking the grains in water, I cooked them in homemade almond milk (recipe here). I toasted up some hazelnuts and shredded coconut and let the beautiful fruit do the rest of the talking. Oh how I wish fruit season would never end!

Multigrain Hot Cereal (inspired by this recipe)

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup quinoa
1/4 cup raw buckwheat groats
2 1/2 cups almond milk, plus more if needed (you could also just use water)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 cup dried currants or raisins (optional)
Toppings of your choice (I used fresh fruit, toasted coconut flakes, and toasted hazelnuts)

The night before you plan on making the hot cereal, put the oats, quinoa, and buckwheat in a large bowl and cover with water. Let the grains soak overnight to make them more digestible and to enhance their nutritional quality. In the morning, just strain them in a fine mesh strainer before following the rest of the recipe to cook them. However, this soaking step is entirely optional and unsoaked grains will work just fine.

1. Put strained (if you soaked them) grains in a pot. Add the almond  milk (or water) and bring to a slow simmer over medium low heat. Watch the grains closely, adding more milk or water if they become too thick and stirring them to make sure they don't stick. Cook the grains for about 15 minutes.

2. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, maple syrup, and currants and stir well. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, again adding more liquid if you feel its necessary. Serve topped with fruit and nuts of your choice.

Serves 2 generously

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