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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