Saturday, January 26, 2013

Squash Attack

As I've developed a more intuitive eating habit over the years, it has become clear to me the importance of eating foods that are seasonal and preparing them in an appropriate manor. According to Ayurveda and my body (an even more scientifically accurate source, if you ask me) the winter months are the best time to prepare lots of root vegetables in a longer cooking process. I bring you: my squash obsession! 

Squash is low in fat and extremely high in fiber and anti-oxidenets. It is also full of potassium, folate and B6 which aids in immune system function. The bright orange color of squash indicates the an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. In particular, the gourd boasts very high levels of beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), identified as a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration.* It is also thought to be anti-inflammatory due to the high anti-oxident content, which is especially vital in the cold winter months. 

Like I mentioned, I have been enjoying squash in numerous forms. The other day I bought an entire butternut squash. I cut off the hallow bottom, sliced in half, scooped out the seeds (which I later roasted) and stuffed them with marinated mushrooms and fresh rosemary. Mmm. I cubed the rest and coated in coconut oil and sea salt before  roasting in a 400 decree oven for 40 mins and placing under the broiler for 10 minutes. I have yet to meet a squash I don't love. 

In other breaking news...check out my little "urban garden" I've got going on. The tin can has celery and those are salad sprouts on the right. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why I will never buy almond milk again...

...because it is so freaking CHEAP and EASY to make and TASTES so so so much better when you make it yourself (as with most things).

With just two ingredients: almonds and water, why would I pay more money for added preservatives and the packaging? Don't need those last two things. Only almonds please! Just make sure the brand of almonds you choose hasn't been fumigate with toxic gas. Yea, that's a thing...You simply start by soaking almonds for about 8 hours (I just left them in a bowl covered with water overnight) and then push the skins off. Ok, this takes a bit more planning than running to the grocery store, but it literally takes 2 minutes to scoop out some almonds and put them in a bowl. Don't get lazy on me now. Why bother soaking? It not only prevents your blender from having a (literal) melt-down, but most nuts actually need to be soak to re-activate the live enzymes within them, making their nutrients more readily available and easier to digest.

The next part of the process is to place your now naked almonds (thats what I call them with their skins off) into your blender and cover with four cups of fresh, filtered water. At this point you can also add a sweetener of choice, some sea salt or other flavoring of choice, such as a vanilla bean or cinnamon. Then press BLEND and let the machinery do all the work. Only about a minute or two. Place your nut milk bag/cheese cloth/clean panty hoes (in order of most legit to janky, but crafty) in a bowl or wide-mouthed jar and empty the contents of the blender into it, slowly. After its all in there and the foam has settled down, begin to lift the cheese cloth out, sweezing it with all your might to get every last drip of milky goodness out of there! 

But don't throw away the left over pulp, that stuff is valuable! 

Not sure exactly what to do with a lump of almond pulp? For starters, you can use it as you would almond flour, add it to oatmeal, make it into cookies or crackers...

This video by one of my all time favorite blogs, My New Roots, totally demystifies the whole process and beautifully illustrates just how simple and versatile making your own milks at home can be!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Year, New Breakfast

I've been trying to experiment with different breakfast options in hopes of straying away from the ever reliable, but occasionally tiering oatmeal. While over the years I've definitely found ways to get creative with that grain, sometimes a girl just needs something entirely new. 

For this bowl, I combined:
3/4 Cup cooked and cooled quinoa
1 Pear, cubed 
5 leaves of fresh basil, sliced
Sliced almonds

This recipe has been submitted to Wellness WeekendHealthy Vegan Fridays, Food-Spectacular Fridays  and  Gluten Free Fridays

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cookie Party

This year my family decided to do secret santa for the holidays. After struggling to figure out how to actually use the online secret santa generator (yup, that's real-apparently hats are obsolete) I received an email informing me that I "drew" my cousin Danielle's name. With a $30 and even smaller budget of time, I knew homemade was the way to go. My cousin always enjoys whatever vegan delicacies I bring to our family gatherings, and who doesn't like cookies? Not having very much experience in the realm of baking, I took it upon myself to test out an array of recipes that seemed to cover the basic grounds of cookies. 

First up was these Carnival Cookies from Shutterbean. I was drawn to them not only because they were inherently vegan, gluten-free and relatively healthy, but I like the idea of using things I already had in my house, most notably popcorn! Popcorn? In a cookie? This was news to me. I think they could have been baked for a bit longer and wasn't that into the presence of the banana flavor. I usually don't mind it, but I think there was a little too much going on with these for my liking. 

Next up were the Flourless Coconut Chocolate Drops also from Shutterbean. While the airy texture of these cookies was quite pleasant, they are not entirely vegan due to the presence of egg whites and also contain white sugar, which only reinforced the fact that this stuff is totally devious and sends my head spinning. Bottom line: I felt so crazy after I ate these that it wasn't even worth it. I'll definitely look into adapting a healthier version next time. 

 The third stop on cookie experiment train was these gorgeous Almond Lace Cookies (recipe to follow) based off the Vegan Florentines from Oh She Glows. These were by far the healthiest and in my opinion the tastiest of the bunch. I got really good feedback from a predominantly non-vegan crowd, so I think that's pretty telling. Plus, aren't they pretty?

Vegan and Gluten-Free Almond Lace Cookies 

1 3/4C sliced almonds (raw or blanched)
2 TBS flour (i used almond flour to make them gluten-free which you can buy at Trader Joes or just put some of the left over almonds in a blender for a bit, or use all-purpose flour if you have that)
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt

1/4Cup coconut oil
1/2 Cup coconut sugar (or you can use cane sugar or Sucanant or I'm sure brown sugar, but i was sticking with a coconut theme and this is what I had)
2 TBS raw honey (or you can sub brown rice syrup or agave, anything sticky and sweet)
2 TBS Coconut cream (buy a can of full-fat coconut milk and place in the fridge, then when you open it later there scoop out 2 T of the "cream" that settles on the top)
1tsp vanilla extract

Place all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Put oil, sugar, honey and coconut cream in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. Fold in all the dry ingredients. With wet hands, roll 2tsp of mixture into a ball and place on a cookies sheet lined with parchment paper 3 inches apart (these will spread!!) Bake for 10 minutes at 275 degrees, then rotate pan and bake for another 7-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn! Slide parchment paper onto a wire rack or other surface that is not hot and allow to cool for 5 minutes. then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and block excess oil. Repeat until all the batter is gone. Once they are cooled you can drizzle them with melted chocolate to make it fancy. They apparently will keep in the freezer for two months, but they only lasted three days at my house :)