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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