Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Citrus and Spice (and everything nice) Chia Pudding

Citrus and Spice and everything nice Chia Pudding {Gluten Free, Vegan/Vegetarian, Lower-Carb}


Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!:  Or, Kate's Merciless Gobbling of Chia Pets

Citrus and Spice (and everything nice) Chia Pudding
Have you ever heard of chia?  Let me guess, you have!  But this is the context you've heard it in: "Ch-ch-ch-Chia!"  Yes, those silly chia "pets" that were constantly advertised in the late '80s and the 90's as the perfect gift for a loved one...or yourself.  As they say on Parks & Rec "Treat yo self!"  Well, I always thought chia pets were kind of cool when I saw ads for them as a kid.  

As a kid I admittedly thought ads for lots of things seemed pretty cool.  But, chia is one of the products that has stood the test of time in my appreciation. It's just that my interest in them has taken on a new form.  No longer (as much) wanting them to be my furry-living plant friends I want them in my belly.  Yeah, that's right.  I'm out to eat chia pets everywhere.  I am a lean, mean chia-eating menace.  Okay, so I'm not that lean or very mean at all, but I still like to eat those suckers.  Here's why...


Chia Seeds:  The Cutest Super Food you Ever did See

As you can tell I'm having some fun with this.  It's a bleak, rainy day where if fun is to be had it has to be manufactured and goofiness seems, to me, the way to go.  But, really, Chia seeds aren't a joke, they're not goofy, they're just...well, super.  Why?
  • Low Glycemic Index: Chia seeds have a low glycemic load (with a glycemic value of 1) and according to research discussed by the Nutritional Science Research Institute, chia reduces blood sugar spikes 1 hour after food consumption.
  • Low Carb: With a carbohydrate to dietary fiber ration of 13:12, chia sees are incredibly low in carbs.
  • Protein: Chia is relatively high in protein (4g/ounce)
  • Omega 3 + 6:  Chia is high in omegas 3 and 6 (omega 3= 4915mg, omega 6= 1620mg).
  • Gluten Free / Vegan / Vegetarian:  Chia seeds are gluten free and vegan/vegetarian.  However, always be sure to check packaging materials to ensure that you are purchasing chias processed in a facility where cross-contamination won't pose complications to your dietary needs.
  • Other Benefits:  It is believed that consuming chia delays digestion and allows energy bursts from eating chia to occur over a greater space of time post-consumption than other foods (for example carb-heavy foods that provide a fast, short-lived burst of energy).  This is supposed to keep hunger levels steady over longer periods of time and provide a more sustained block of energy for use by your body.
For more detailed nutritional information on chia seeds you can see Chia Nutritional Facts here.

Okay, I'll Eat These Suckers: How Should I Eat Them?

You can use chia seeds in everything from smoothies to puddings.  You can add them to pancakes, put them in banana (and other) breads, you can use them in homemade granolas  You can mix them into your morning oatmeal or your morning yogurt.  This is only touching the tip of the iceberg, but you can see many of these chia suggestions and others here at Shape Magazine's 9 Quick and Easy Chia Seed Recipes.  A google search will uncover many other possibilities!


Photo from the LA Times
For my own part, just about every morning I eat 0% plain Greek Yogurt, mix in about 1-2 tablespoons hydrated chia seeds (about 1 part chia seeds to 2-3 parts water let sit so the chia will expand and absorb the water).  I sometimes add in some powdered peanut butter (PB2 brand) that has been de-oiled and, therefore, reduced in fat and some of its heaviness.  I throw on some frozen berries and top with a tablespoon or two of hemp hearts.  Now THAT is a healthy, hearty breakfast.  Half the time I don't want to eat lunch after that until pretty late in the afternoon.  


RECIPE: Citrus and Spice (and everything nice) Chia Pudding

But, chia seeds can also become a super food DESSERT.  Yes, that's right.  This healthy super food can be transmogrified--rather easily, too--into pudding!  The consistency of chia pudding is much like a tapioca or a rice pudding.  There's some firmness to the chia balls as you'd get with either of the aforementioned products.  The chia itself has little flavor and takes on the flavors surrounding it.

I flavored my chia pudding with the spices of winter--nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and ginger--and paired these spices with fresh orange juice, almond milk, shredded sweetened coconut, hazelnut and cashew.  For sweetness I added some maple syrup and a touch of agave.  It was AMAZING.

Ingredients:
  • ½ c. chia seeds
  • 3 - 3 1/2 c. vanilla almond milk (sweetened or unsweetened—I used sweetened because it’s what was on hand)
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/3c. shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened at your discretion)
  • 1pinch salt
  • 1/2 c. hazelnuts (raw)
  • 1/2c. cashews (raw)
  • Clove; ½ teaspoon or to taste (use sparingly because it’s strong!)
  • Cinnamon; 1 tablespoon or to taste
  • Nutmeg; 2 teaspoon or to taste
  • Cardamom; 1 teaspoon or to taste
  • Ginger; 2 teaspoons or to taste**NOTE:  The key to using spices is to start off with a small amount and gradually add a little while tasting as you go.  You could very easily over spice if you don’t add them gradually.  And, if you’re a fan of the show Chopped on the Food Network you know how important it is to taste your food as you go!
To garnish (optional):
  • Dried cranberries, cherries, and/or currants
  • Raisins, golden or regular
  • Chopped hazelnuts and cashews
  • Fresh Fruit, such as mango or orange
  Directions:
  1. Blend almond milk, hazelnuts, cashews and coconut in a blender until liquefied.
  2. Place blended contents in large container.  Add water, spices, orange juice, spices, agave, maple syrup, vanilla, and chia seeds.  Mix to combine.  
  3. Refrigerate 6 hours or until chia seeds are hydrated and the pudding is thick and creamy looking, with a rice pudding or tapioca like consistency.

Kate's Vegetarian Pot Pie: A Yummy Winter Treat


Kate's Vegetarian Pot Pie: A Yummy Winter Treat!

Stage 1: Comfort Food Gone Bad

As a kid I ate a lot of pre-made chicken pot pies.  I remember the blue cardboard box the pot pies came in, the little rainbow decoration that marked the off-brand product, and the oh-so-alluring 50cent price tag.  And, I remember when my love for them eventually turned into a distaste.  Good thing it didn't last forever...

Vegetable Pot Pie Filling
Much like I overdosed myself on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and salads in middle and high school (easy lunch options for my younger, vegetarian self), my parents overdosed me on pot pies early in my life.  Pot pies were incredibly cheap, easy, and because they were bought frozen they lasted just about forever.  These were all strong considerations for two working parents of minimal income.  Pot pies were about as comforting, in ways both gustatory and economic, as our food at the time could get.  When the comfort finally wore off for me from over-consumption I had to wait a certain amount of time for my desire for the pot pie to reset itself.  It took years.

Stage 2: Learning to Love the Pot Pie Again

By the time pot pies started sounding good again they were no longer a staple of my household.  We'd graduate to slightly more swanky fare--only slightly though!--and I'd made the decision to become a vegetarian.  For a few years Morningstar Farms had a vegetarian pot pie with fake chicken in it that I tried out in place of the off-brand chicken pot pies of my past.  The Morningstar pot pies were okay, but certainly not authentic tasting and sometimes even a bit plastic-y tasting, which is probably why production was stopped.

Since then, pot pies have been one of those things that I think about in the coolness of winter when the leaves are falling and the skies are dark and comfort is wanting.  

I've thought of them fleetingly the past few winters and never mustered the appropriate desire to try my hand at making a vegetarian version.  But, finally, this year I gave it a go.

Pot Pie with unbaked Puff Pastry Crust

Stage 3: Making the Pot Pie

Tastier than the pot pies of my memories past, my vegetarian version was simple to make and packed with healthy veggies including butternut squash, sweet potato, yukon potato, peas, carrots, white button mushrooms, celery, onion, garlic and leek.  

For the base I used all natural cream of mushroom soup (Pacific Natural brand and Trader Joe's Portobello type) thickened with nutritional yeast.  The combination of cream of mushroom soups and nutritional yeast give the pot pie that hearty, meaty and creamy taste that all good pot pies ought to have without the addition of butter or extra cream and without the need for chicken stock.

Seasoning the filling were ample amounts of salt and pepper, dried sage and thyme.  The sage and thyme recalled the flavors of Thanksgiving and Christmas, both seasonings being traditional to stuffings and other holiday food fare.

For the crust I opted simply for store-bought sheets of puff pastry coated with an egg wash for optimal browning.  You can't get much easier than that, and you can't dislike the browned crusty goodness that results!  It's perfect for a pot pie crust.

Stage 4: Having your Pot Pie and Eating it, Too

I won't say much here apart from the fact that I ate my vegetable pot pie with a vengeance   Or, to put it another way, I gobbled it up and really enjoyed it.  

So, too, did my boyfriend who remarked just the other night that I was "an awesome cook" and further remarked that my pot pie was especially good and (hint hint) he hopes I make it again!

RECIPE: Kate's Vegetarian Pot Pie

Ingredients
Vegetable Pot Pie, look at that golden crust!
  • 2 12-oz containers of condensed cream of mushroom soup (I used comination of Pacific brand organic and TJ’s cream of protobello)
  • 5-7 white button mushrooms, cut into sixths
  • 1/2c. cubed butternut squash
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and small-diced
  • 1 regular potato, peeled and medium-diced
  • 1/3-1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2c. frozen organic peas
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 leek, cut in half and sliced
  • ¾ small yellow onion, minced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2tblsp olive oil
  • ½ tblsp sage (or to your taste)
  • ½ tblsp Thyme (or to your taste)
  • 1/4c. nutritional yeast (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Puff Pastry Sheets (buy frozen at store, defrost before using)
  • Egg Wash: 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water
Directions
  1. Steam cubes of sweet and regular potato (I used a yukon), carrot and butternut squash until al dente in texture--cooked but still firm because you'll be further cooking the vegetables when you pop the pot pie in the oven later!
  2. In a large saucepan combine olive oil, garlic and onion.  Cook until onion begin to turn translucent.
  3. To saucepan add cream of mushroom soup, spices (salt, pepper, sage, thyme), leeks, celery and frozen peas.  Add nutritional yeast.  Simmer for 7-10minutes.  Turn off heat and add steamed vegetables (potatoes, squash, carrots).
  4. Pour into a large baking dish and make sure contents are distributed evenly.
  5. Place defrosted sheets of puff pastry over top of the baking dish.  Lightly coat top of puff pastry sheet with egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon of water)
  6. Using the tip of a knife, make small incisions in the crust to allow steam to escape crust as pot pie bakes (like you would do to a pie crust!).
  7. Place baking dish on cookie/baking sheet and cook in oven at 400degrees F. for 30-40minutes or until puff pastry crust is browned on top.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fennel, Asparagus, Spicy-Lentil and Mixed Greens "Salad" {Gluten Free + Vegetarian}

Fennel, Asparagus, Spicy-Lentil & Mixed Greens "Salad" {Gluten Free + Vegetarian}

For what I think was our second official date, I made my boyfriend this great "salad" which incorporates the fresh, crisp flavors of fennel, asparagus, celery, leeks and fresh herbs (including parsley and cilantro) combined with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and ricotta salata (omit the ricotta salata for a vegan variation!).  

These ingredients were served on top of slightly-spicy green lentils that, as we ate, we incorporated directly into the salad.


I dressed the "salad" with some lite Italian Dressing.  You can use your salad dressing of choice, but I'd recommend some form of Italian--whether traditional or one of the varieties of Italian dressing, such as sundried tomato flavored--or perhaps a Honey Mustard dressing if you're feeling adventurous.  

The "salad" is very easy to make and you can do a lot of the work ahead of time if you want to serve it for a special occasion (like a date!) or for the holidays!

The dish, though fresh and crisp due to the combination of fennel, asparagus, leeks, celery and fresh herbs, does make for a hearty meal.  This can be chalked up to the lentils, which pack a great deal of protein and lend the salad a more complex flavor and and texturally-diverse nature.  

NOTE:
If you are a lentil hater or planning to feed someone who doesn't like them, you could easily serve the salad over Quinoa (a super-grain that is a complete protein) or even over wild rice.

The salad is Gluten Free and vegetarian and could easily be made suitable for vegans by omitting the ricotta salata, which is a firm, salty ricotta cheese reminiscent of feta.


Recipe: Fennel, Asparagus, Spicy-Lentil and Mixed Greens "Salad"

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Green Lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 4 garlic cloves (whole)
  • 2 jalapeno or serrano chili peppers; halved and de-seeded if desired
  • 1 bunch Asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces and blanched
  • 1 medium Fennel Blulb, quartered, core removed and thinly sliced
  • Carrots, chopped or matchstick
  • 2-4 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1-2 leeks, cut in half and sliced into half-moon shape (make sure to discard large greens on top of leek and thoroughly wash to remove all dirt and sand)
  • 1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped (to your taste)
  • 1 small bunch Parsley, chopped (to your taste)
  • Mixed Greens (of your choice)
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Ricotta Salata, diced (omit for vegan)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste; note: use smoked sea salt if desired)

Directions

  1. Prepare Green Lentils as instructed on packaging adding the halved onion, garlic cloves and chili peppers to the lentils so they absorb the flavors as they cook.  Add salt and pepper.
  2. Discard the onion halves, peppers, and garlic cloves when lentils are done cooking.
  3. Chop and then blanch the asparagus in boiling, salted water for roughly 4 minutes or until tender and immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice-water.  Set aside.
  4. To a large mixing bowl, add chopped fennel, celery, leeks, carrots, cooled asparagus, mixed greens, tomatoes, and herbs.  Add cubes of ricotta salata (or omit for vegan).
  5. Serve asparagus and fennel "salad" over top of cooled lentils and dress with Italian (or other) dressing of your choice.  Serve and enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lucy's Holiday Cookies: Easy Gluten Free Stocking Stuffers!

Lucy's Holiday Cookies: Easy Gluten Free Stocking Stuffers


Odds are that the Gluten Free friend, family member, or coworker on your Christmas/ Holiday list was not so naughty this year as to earn him or herself a nice big, hunk of coal.  But, for anyone not super familiar with Gluten Free eating, finding the perfect stocking stuffer or small gift could pose a bit of a challenge.  So much of a challenge, in fact, that coal might start to look like a decent solution.  Okay!  Maybe that's a stretch...

Over the years the Gluten Free market has become increasingly populated with pre-made food items that are both tasty and pretty affordable. They still, typically, cost a little more than their wheat-containing counterparts but there are a lot of options out there nowadays that won't break the bank.  

Tasty pre-made Gluten Free baked goods, like cookies, are more readily available now than when my father went on the Gluten Free diet about 8 years ago.  In fact, companies like Lucy's are even developing Gluten Free baked goods geared toward the holidays, including their new "Holiday Sugars" and "Chocolate Merry Mint" cookies.  

Both of Lucy's Holiday Cookie varieties satisfy an impressive range of common dietary restrictions; they are:

  • Gluten Free
  • Peanut Free
  • Tree-Nut Free
  • Dairy Free
  • Egg Free
  • Trans-Fat Free
  • Kosher
  • Cholesterol Free
  • All Natural

In other words, whether you're searching for a small item as a gift or stocking stuffer for someone who is Gluten Free, Vegan, allergic to nuts, or lactose intolerant, these cookies have you covered!  

Lucy's elimination of these allergens does not only speak to their interest in individuals practicing a range of specialty diets, it speaks to the company's awareness of an issue plaguing many Gluten Free eaters--a large number of the Gluten Free population, in addition to not tolerating wheat products, suffer a host of other food allergies and sensitivities.  For the individuals with Gluten Free eating requirements and additional food allergies to boot, safe pre-made foods are hard to find, and Lucy's is one of the companies that caters to them.

Lucy's commitment to their Gluten Free and Allergen afflicted client base is readily signaled on their website, which prominently displays their Gluten Free certification, their dedicated production facilities, and the list of allergens the company has made its reputation on excluding from its products. In addition, the website provides a page of Food Allergy Resources including links to support groups and information for persons with Celiac Disease or food allergies.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa: 2-Ways

 Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa: 2-Ways

Apple Salsa: NOT some tomato-based, apple-saucy nightmare of a culinary creation.  I promise.

I'm a huge fan of the blog Love and Lemons; it's one of the food blogs I check most weeks and which helps fuel my recipe-pinning obsession on pinterest.  Recently I found posted to the blog a recipe for Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa and was intrigued by what was a really unexpected combination of flavors and ingredients.  

I embarked upon acquiring the ingredients, not entirely sure all the while whether I thought I'd love the final product or just take some sort of perverse satisfaction out of being open minded enough to try such a strange concoction.  My boyfriend was also a bit skeptical when I told him what was on the menu for Tuesday night.  Apple salsa?  There flickered across his face a moment of hesitation, maybe even a disbursed sense of confusion and horror as he imagined what this "apple salsa" business might entail.  His consternation was only momentary however, as he quickly settled back down into his customary I'm-a-boy-who-eats-anything mode.


The Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa was incredibly easy to make and, what's more, it wasn't just some whacked-out Fall recipe to be made once in honor of the season and resurrected nevermore.  Instead, it was actually really delicious.  The boy-who-eats-anything thought so as well, admitting that the Apple Salsa on his dish was vastly different from the "Apple Salsa" of his imagination--some tomato-based, apple-saucy nightmare of a culinary creation that might find its home properly on something like the Food Network show Worst Cooks in America.

The ACTUAL dish is not tomato-based and the texture of the Apple Salsa is more along the lines of a chunky pico de gallo than a traditional salsa.  In my version of the recipe I used a combination of three different seasonal squashes--Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, and a Pie Pumpkin--which I roasted until they were cooked but still firm (not mushy).  In my Apple Salsa I used one extra jalapeno and substituted leeks for scallions.  In addition to being milder, I think the leeks are just prettier than scallions!

Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa Version 1: The Vegan-in-Texas Fall BBQ Extravaganza Meal  {Gluten-Free + Vegan/Vegetarian + Low-Carb}

For my first version of the Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa I prepared the recipe as called for by Love and Lemon's original recipe.  However, as noted above I used leeks in place of scallions, added an extra jalapeno, and used a combination of different squashes--Butternut, Acorn, and Pumpkin--and cooked them until they were cooked but still firm, not mush.  In other words, shoot for the squash version of al dente pasta.

I served the Apple Salsa over the warm (not hot) diced squash using large ramekins as my dish (pictured above).  The white ramekins really made the colors of the squash and salsa pop, and as we all know we eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouths!  Seriously, it can make a substantial difference in your enjoyment of a meal if you take the time to boost its aesthetic.

I served the Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa with a Fall cocktail of my own creation in which I combined Sparkling Cider, Cranberry Cocktail Juice, and Campari.  I didn't measure anything and just eye-balled it, but you'll want the sparkling cider as your highest-proportion liquid and, of course, the Campari as your lowest-proportion liquid. 

And, because it's Texas, I figured I might as well serve up some oven-roasted barbecued extra-firm tofu and tempeh.  Much, I'm sure, to any real Texas Barbecuer's dismay.


Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa Version 2: The I'm Lazy and Hungry for Lunch Roasted Squash, Black Bean, Avocado, and Apple Salsa Burrito  {Vegetarian}

For lunch the next day I decided that a Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa Burrito using black beans, diced avocado, mild serrano salsa, and some plain 0% Greek Yogurt was my ticket to a tasty, lazy lunch.

Here's how to make your own I'm Lazy and Hungry for Lunch Roasted Squash, Black Bean, Avocado, and Apple Salsa Burrito:

What you need:
  • Leftover or fresh-made Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa; squash diced small enough to easily fit in burrito
  • 1 Large Burrito shell (I used a spinach variety)
  • 1/4 cup fat free Refried Black Beans
  • 1/2 Avocado; diced (or guacamole)
  • Your Favorite Salsa (I'd go Tomatillo Salsa or Serrano or Hatch Chili Pepper Salsa rather than regular tomato-based salsas)
  • 0% Plain Greek Yogurt (in place of sour cream)
Instructions:
  1. Heat up in separate bowls about 1/4 cup of fat free refried black beans and about 1/3-1/2 cup of the squash (you should dice it down even smaller to fit in the burrito better!)
  2. Dice 1/2 of an avocado or prepare guacamole to your taste
  3. Warm large burrito shell in microwave for specified time (check labeling) to soften
  4. Top with black beans, squash, avocado (or guacamole), your favorite salsa and apple salsa.  
  5. Roll to form your burrito.  Top with desired amount of 0% Greek Yogurt!  Enjoy!





Monday, November 12, 2012

Broccoli and Pea Soup with Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast {Gluten Free + Vegan + Low-Carb}

Broccoli and Pea Soup with Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast {Gluten Free + Vegan + Low Carb}

It's starting to get cold out there.  Not so much in Texas, but today it's a cool 63 degrees and not threatening to get too much warmer before the day is out.  It's a welcome downturn in temperatures in the midst of the record highs--in the 80's--that have been plaguing the state this year.  Apparently Texas didn't get the memo that Winter is just around the corner and Fall is already well settled-in.

Broccoli and Pea Soup with Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast
It's hard to legitimate cooking up a pot of hot soup when it's 80-degrees outside, but in the (relatively) cool 60's I felt it was an activity well worth the effort and not likely to overheat me!  So, I made myself some broccoli and pea soup using a product I've been wanting to use--but hadn't had the chance to use--for a while: Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast!  

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast.  It has a yellowish, flaky appearance slightly resembling corn meal.  I have to admit, it's not the most appetizing looking product at a first glance, but don't let the yellow coloring or flaky, dry texture fool you.  This is a tasty and nutritional product.

Nutritional Yeast is used frequently by vegetarian and vegan cooks to impart a nutty and cheesy taste while also lending whatever it's used in an added level of creaminess.  Nutritional Yeast is a complete protein (a sexy characteristic in the eyes of vegetarians and vegans!) and is high in vitamins, including the B-complex vitamins.  It is naturally Gluten Free and does not contain sugar or dairy.  
Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Labeling

Nutritional yeast can be purchased at most specialty food stores, such as Whole Foods, or purchase directly from manufacturers online.  I like Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast because of it's certified Gluten Free.

What Can I Use Nutritional Yeast In?  Or, Why Would I Bother?

In Vegetarian and Vegan Gravies for the Holidays!:

With the holidays right around the corner, Nutritional Yeast is a good product to know about.  It's an ingredient called for in many vegan, vegetarian, and  GF gravies that you can find recipes for online (for example this one: Vegetarian/Vegan Nutritional Yeast Gravy which could be easily adapted to be Gluten Free by substituting GF soy sauce and your favorite GF flour alternative).  

Nutritional Yeast is not just a seasonal ingredient for vegetarians and vegans who want to be able to eat their mashed potatoes and gravy like everyone else, though.

To Produce a Thicker, Creamier Texture:

Nutritional Yeast can be used to flavor and thicken everything from sauces (a post on vegetable pot pies using Nutritional Yeast coming soon!) to soups.  It can be used in place of traditional wheat flour in Gluten Free gravies as a thickening component, as well as in other sauces that require flour as a thickener.  It would also serve as a good substitute for flour in a roux, used in traditional New Orleans cooking, including Gumbo!

In Place of Bread-Crumbs for Gluten Free and Low-Carb Eaters:

For those who are Gluten Free eaters or Low-Carb eaters, it can be used in place of bread crumbs as a binder in things like lentil or meat patties or as a bread-crumb replacement to use on top of casseroles.  Although I haven't tried it--YET--I think Nutritional Yeast combined with hemp hearts would make a truly fantastic, crunchy casserole topper! 

As a Cheese Alternative for Vegan and Lactose-Intolerant Eaters:

The vegan and lactose-intolerant folks out there should take note of the fact that Nutritional Yeast is an effective cheese alternative.  It can replace cheese in dishes ranging from cheesy-mashed potatoes to macaroni and cheese (no joke!  Nutritional Yeast Macaroni and Cheese).  

The uses above are only some of the many ways Nutritonal Yeast can be used in cooking.  A quick online search for recipes incorporating it will yield plenty more results.  It's versatile in addition to being awfully tasty--as I found out when I made myself some Gluten-Free, Vegan, and Low-Carb Broccoli and Cheese Soup.

Recipe: Broccoli and Pea Soup with Nutritional Yeast

Ingredients

1-1.5 head broccoli (steamed until cooked but still slightly firm)
2 bags organic frozen peas (thawed)
1 large onion (finely chopped)
4-6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1.5-2 containers Vegetable Stock (depending on desired thickness)
1 Can Canellini Beans
Smoked Sea Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
3-4 Tablespoons Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast, or to taste
1 tablespoon Olive Oil (or butter)

Directions

  1. Cut broccoli head into florets and steam in large pot with steam basket until tender but still firm.  Remove from heat.  Meanwhile, thaw frozen peas.
  2. Place chopped onion and garlic in large pot and cook in olive oil until onions are translucent.  
  3. In a blender process broccoli and peas in batches adding vegetable stock to help liquefy the ingredients.  Add each liquefied batch to pot with onion and garlic.
  4. When all of the broccoli and peas have been liquefied, add any remaining vegetable stock to the pot.  Add canellini beans.  
  5. Season with smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt), pepper, and nutritional yeast.  Add as much seasoning as necessary and additional vegetable stock depending on the thickness you desire for your soup.
  6. Bring to a simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Serve!



Product Review: Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bars

Product Review: Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bars {Gluten-Free + Vegan + Kosher}

Over the last few months I've been conscientiously trying out raw foods--including homemade Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho and raw zucchini pasta, but also purchasable raw fare like GO RAW's Carrot Cake Cookies and Sprouted Sunflower Seeds.  What I hadn't yet found and was looking for as a pre- or post- gym snack was a RAW food bar that appeared (to me) both nutritious and yummy.  
Photo from rawrev.com

Then, I found Raw Revolution's Organic Live Food Bars.  Gluten-Free, Vegan, Kosher, Organic, and Peanut-Free (for those of you with peanut allergies!) these bars come in a range of amazing flavor varieties including:

  • Golden Cashew Organic Live Food Bar
  • Heavenly Hazelnut Chocolate Organic Live Food Bar (my favorite!)
  • Spirulina Dream Organic Live Food Bar
  • Almond Butter Cup Organic Live Food Bar
  • Apple Cinnamon Organic Live Food Bar
  • Cherry Chocolate Chunk Organic Live Food Bar
  • Chocolate Coconut Bliss

My foray into Raw Revolution's Organic Live Food Bars involved munching down on their Golden Cashew, Heavenly Hazelnut Chocolate, and Spirulina Dream Bars and I enjoyed them all!  

I have no doubt that the other flavors on offer as as good as the ones I've tried.  I'm a chocolate lover (I know I'm not alone in this!) so the Cherry Chocolate Chunk and Chocolate Coconut  Bliss varieties are at the top of my list of things to try soon.  So, too, is the Apple Cinnamon variety which, now that the weather is cooling down, seems like a great Fall treat reminiscent of the iconic apple pie.


Nutritonal Information: Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bar 

The Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bars are about the standard size of any other food bar you can buy--raw or not--about 2 oz.  But, unlike  many of the food bars on offer they are USDA certified organic and contain no preservatives and no artificial ingredients (hurrah!).  Moreover, their packaging proudly boasts that they do not contain refined sugars or proteins.  

Using the Spirulina Dream variety as my sample for nutritional data, nutritionally, these bars pack Omegas 3 and 6 as well as 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein (more or less depending on the variety of bar you choose).  Their caloric, fat, and carbohydrate levels are fairly high at: 230 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 23 grams of carbohydrates per bar.  

But, these little bars are meant to be fuel for athletes and people on the go who need this balance of carbs, calories, and fats to make their activities possible.  No wonder, then, that professional athletes Brian Lopes (professional Mountain Bike Racer) and J.P Walker (professional Snowboarder) endorse the product and appear prominently on Raw Revolution's website.  

I certainly felt no lag in energy and no uncomfortable tug of hunger when I snacked on these bars in the morning prior to heading to the gym to do my own workouts!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Smoky Hatch Chili, White Bean, and Broccoli Soup {Gluten-Free + Vegetarian + Vegan + Low-Carb}

Smoky Hatch Chili, White Bean, and Broccoli Soup: {Gluten-Free + Vegetarian + Vegan + Low-Carb}
Texans like grilling. A lot. But, for many of us who live in apartments in Houston, grilling isn’t always an easy option for meals. That’s why I’ve imported the smoky taste of the grill into this Hatch Chili, Broccoli, and White Bean Soup. Made with oven-roasted Hatch Chilis, smoked sea salt, and a dash of smoked paprika, the soup offers a hint of the grill’s satisfying smokiness while catering to audiences who are typically excluded from traditional grilling—vegetarians and vegans—in addition to those following low-carb and gluten-free diets. This soup, amendable to fit just about anyone’s dietary needs, packs the sweet, subtle heat characteristic of the celebrated Hatch Chili.

Hatch Chili Peppers

What are Hatch Chili Peppers, Anyway?

I had never heard of Hatch Chili peppers until I moved to Texas.  And, even then it took me about 5 years to learn of their existence.  Hatch Chili peppers are a seasonal ingredient produced in Hatch, New Mexico, the self-proclaimed “Chili Capital of the World”. Hatch Chili peppers become available in late August and have a short growing season. The peppers can be used in everything from Chilles Rellenos to soups and they can even be infused into chocolate. Several local grocery chains carry the peppers (Fiesta, HEB, Central Market) and HEB and Central Market both have dedicated Hatch Chili Festival events with featured Hatch Chili products for sale and even cooking contests.

[Recipe] Smoky Hatch Chili,White Bean, and Broccoli Soup

With a texture much like that of comfort-food soups like potato soup and broccoli and cheddar soup, this Hatch Chili, Broccoli, and White Bean Soup is great hot or cold and can be garnished with arugula and pepitas and shaved parmesan (omit for vegan).

Ingredients--

2 Hatch chilies (roasted in 450∘ F. oven for 7-10minutes and peeled)
1 large head broccoli (a little over 1lb or 7cups), cut into florets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
7 garlic cloves, minced
1 and ½ 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
3 cups vegetable stock (low sodium preferred)
Smoked sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Smoked Paprika, a dash
Hot pepper flakes, a pinch
To Garnish—
Roasted Pepitas, to taste
Shaved parmesan cheese, to taste (exclude to make vegan)
Arugula


Directions--

Roast Hatch Chilies under oven broiler for 7-10minutes or until skins are browned. Place chilies in air tight container or zip-lock bag to loosen skins. Remove and discard skins. Note: it is recommended that you use kitchen gloves when handling the chilies to prevent pepper burn from any that might be particularly hot.

Steam broccoli for 5 minutes or until tender but still bright green and firm; avoid overcooking. Set broccoli aside.

In large pot add olive oil and set burner to medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until translucent, roughly 8-10minutes. Add smoked sea salt, pepper, smoked paprika and hot pepper flakes. Add cannellini beans and vegetable stock. Bring to a very low boil and cook roughly 5 minutes.

Transfer broccoli and bean mixture in pot in small batches to blender. Liquefy and transfer to large bowl. Continue to process batches of soup components in your blender until finished.

Serve soup warm or cold garnished with arugula, pepitas (roasted, salted pumpkin seeds), and shaved parmesan (omit parmesan if vegan).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pumpkin "Pie" Super Smoothie {Gluten Free + Vegetarian + Low-Carb}

Pumpkin "Pie" Super Smoothie: {Gluten Free + Vegetarian + Low-Carb}

The Fall is a magical time.  Beloved squashes come into season to festively line the produce section of grocery stores while, in other corners of the store, ghoulish Lady Gaga, Marilyn Monroe, Vampire, and Frankenstein Monster costumes haunt the shelves hoping for a chance for a great debut trick-or-treating on Halloween.  The Fall is crisp, and warm, and spicy.  It's like biting into a pumpkin pie, rich creamy and complex with warming nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and clove.

For the past week I've celebrated the coming on of Fall by drinking it up in the form of  a Pumpkin "Pie" Super Smoothie.  What a great way to indulge in Fall flavors every morning!  

Fall Squash
My Pumpkin "Pie" Super Smoothie is Gluten-Free, Vegetarian and Low-carb, and is made with organic pumpkin puree, 0% Plain Greek Yogurt, hydrated Chia Seeds, Almond Milk, a frozen banana, and those warming pumpkin pie spices I mentioned above, and Bob's Red Mill Hemp Protein Powder--a GREAT easily incorporated source of extra protein--that USED to be produced under Gluten Free certified conditions.

I'm sad to report that shortly after I got my batch of Hemp Protein Powder Bob's Red Mill issued a statement on their website saying that it is no longer going to be producing the product as Gluten Free.  While I give Bob's credit for posting the change in production quality, I'm disturbed by the switch from producing a Gluten Free certified product to a non-certified product and disconcerted that many potential consumers who've used the Gluten Free certified batches produced in the past won't have any easy way to learn about the change in the production standards.  


If you need an easy, Gluten-Free Hemp Protein replacement I've got you covered.  Try blending Hemp Hearts--easily available at specialty stores or online--into a powder and still enjoy that extra boost of protein and Hemp's nutty flavor.  This is going to be my new go-to solution for incorporating Hemp Protein into my diet.


[Recipe] Pumpkin "Pie" Super Smoothie

Bob's Red Mill Hemp
Protein Powder, formerly GF

Ingredients--

  • 1/3C. Organic Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/3C. 0% Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 4TBsp Hemp Powder (if no GF Hemp powder is available, grind Hemp Hearts into a powder in your blender)
  • 2-3TBsp Hydrated Chia Seeds
  • 1 Frozen Banana, peeled and chopped into sections
  • 1/4C. (approx) Almond Milk (I used vanilla, no-sugar-added variety)
  • 3-4 Ice Cubes
  • Pumpkin Pie Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove)
  • Optional: Stevia or other sweetener

Directions--

  1. Blend all ingredients together in blender until smoothie consistency is achieved.  Serve immediately and enjoy!






Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Butternut Squash, Coconut and Red Curry Soup {Gluten-Free + Vegetarian + Vegan + Low-Carb}

Butternut Squash, Coconut, Red Curry Soup {Gluten-Free + Vegetarian + Vegan + Low-Carb}

Fall is just right around the corner.  The weather is cooling down, the trees (in some parts of the US, anyway) are starting to just hint at turning color, the Halloween decorations and costumes are becoming a staple of a(ny) store near you, and a variety of squash are coming into their full seasonal glory.  Including, of course, the Butternut Squash.

Butternut  Squash, Coconut and Red Curry Soup
There are few things more comforting to me than the warmth of soup combined with favorite fall foods like Butternut Squash.  So, when I found a recipe for Butternut Squash and Red Curry soup I got extra excited because it combined two favorite Fall food stuffs with a third food stuff that I could probably eat massive proportions of any time of the year--no matter how hot or cold--for any (or every!) meal: Thai Curry.

Thai Curry was something I discovered a little later in life through family vacations to, usually larger, cities with more adventurous and exotic food choices than the meat-and-potatoes Mid-Western fare I grew up with (not an especially satisfying diet for a vegetarian).  I remember eating Thai for the first time in Washington DC, probably a pretty awesome place to take one's first dive into the cuisine, and I've made Thai an enduring part of my (lately abandoned) traveling career ever since.  

I've tried Thai restaurants out in everywhere from Kennebunkport, Maine, to Santa Barbara, California, to Salem, Massachusetts, to Houston, Texas.  The point, in case it hasn't hit home, is that I really, really like Thai.  But, most especially I like a good spicy red or green curry and I even made a Red Curry with Tofu and Pumpkin when pumpkins are in season.  

Butternut Squash
This Butternut Squash, Coconut, Red Curry Soup delivers everything I love about Thai Curry--the mix of spices and actual spiciness from chili peppers as well as the decadent and creamy texture of the coconut milk-base.  But, notably, what the soup is missing compared with a Curry dish you'd get at a restaurant is the rice--the carbs!  

I promise you won't miss the rice / carbs.  I tried the soup out on a few friends at a small dinner party over the weekend and nobody even mentioned rice.  The sweet, buttery flavor of the Butternut Squash along with the coconut milk, red curry paste, and chili peppers was a bit hit just as it was, although I could probably see myself adding small chunks of grilled tofu to it in the future just for a little texture.

[Recipe]  Butternut Squash, Coconut, Red Curry Soup

Thai Kitchen Brand
Red Curry Paste

Ingredients

  • 1 Butternut Squash (cut in half, seeds removed, roasted in pan of shallow water on 350 degrees F. until cooked through)
  • 3 Cans Coconut Milk (I used 2 Lite, 1 Regular to cut down on fat/calories)
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers; roasted and peeled
  • 1 Medium Onion; chopped
  • 6 Cloves Garlic; minced (add more to taste)
  • 2 Serrano Chili Peppers (or Thai Peppers); adjust based on your personal tolerance for spiciness
  • 1 4Oz (approx) Jar Red Curry Paste (like Thai Kitchen brand)
  • 1 Tablespoon Ginger, freshly grated
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Cilantro; chopped (add as much or little as you prefer)

Directions

  1. Prepare Butternut Squash by cutting in half, removing seeds, and baking in a pan with a shallow layer of water in it (cut side of squash facing down) at 350 degrees F. until Squash is tender; about 35-40minutes.  At same time, place 2 Red Bell Peppers in separate baking dish, covered with light layer of olive oil, and cook on top rack until skins are brownish and loose.  Remove Red Peppers from oven when skins look dark and loose and let cool before skinning.
  2. Add chopped onion and garlic to a large sauce pan with olive oil.  Cook until onions are turning translucent.  Add Red Curry Paste, Ginger, Serrano Peppers (de-stemmed) and Coconut Milk.  Stir.  Add Butternut Squash (cubed) and peeled, roasted Red Peppers.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove soup from heat and add chopped cilantro.
  4. Transfer soup in batches into a blender and liquify.  Serve soup hot with Leeks (pictured), scallions, cilantro, or other garnish.
  5. Enjoy!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Cauliflower Pizza Crust {GF + Low-Carb + Vegetarian}

Guiltless Cauliflower Pizza Crust: Gluten Free  +  Low-Carb  + Vegetarian


The Versatility of Cauliflower--Who Knew?

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
It seems apparent to me now that in spite of all of the time I've spent watching shows like Chopped and Iron Chef America on the Food Network that I know practically nothing about cooking beyond the most conventional forms of cooking knowledge--stuff like, don't chop your fingers off and salt your water before cooking pasta as well as an understanding of basic ingredient combinations and uses.  But, recently, with my growing interest in eating vegetarian, raw, Gluten Free, and low-carb foods I'm discovering a whole different set of cooking techniques and ingredients, as well as some surprising but wonderful uses for those ingredients.

Perhaps the most versatile ingredient I've been working with recently is cauliflower.  Cauliflower seems, in many ways, to be a magical vegetable to eaters of raw, Gluten Free, and low-carb diets.  You can make it into a lower-carb version of mashed potatoes referred to as "Cauli-mash" or "Cauliflower Mash," you can food process it into a raw rice-like substance called "Cauli-rice," and you can use the florets in place of noodles in an otherwise traditional-style macaroni and cheese (I highly recommend this, by the way!).  But, cauliflower has yet another trick up it's sleeve--it can become that food of the Gods, PIZZA!  

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

I've always heard that bacon is the hardest things for vegetarians and vegans to give up and, also, the hardest food for them to continue to resist eating through the course of their commitments to either diet.  I think pizza is that evil, siren of a food for a lot of Gluten Free and Low-Carb eaters.  In fact, I know that many people who have gone Gluten Free due to Celiac Disease or other issues crave pizza so much that they dream about it at night.

Happily, dreams can come true--at least in the realm of pizza consumption--regardless of whether you're eating a Gluten Free and/or Low-Carb diet through the versatile miracle that is cauliflower.  I discovered this through the website of The Detoxinista whose recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust formed the basis of my own.

The first time I made the cauliflower pizza crust I did not have all of the proper ingredients (I was  missing goat cheese) and I winged it, using a reggiano instead.  Needless to say, the recipe didn't turn out well.  BUT, it was a good trial and error experience because it led me to a Q&A with The Detoxinista about how to make the recipe itself--rather complicated--a bit more simplistic for the everyday, at-home cook.  And, it gave me a good idea of how much or little I can tweak the recipe without causing a pizza-tragedy to ensue.

Cauli-Rice
While the original recipe from The Detoxinista calls for food processing cauliflower florets into a rice-like consistency, steaming this "cauli-rice," and then putting it into a cloth to wring out the extra water, I found that this process can be significantly simplified.  Instead of steaming the "cauli-rice" and then expelling the water from it--which, frankly, was not pleasant as the "cauli-rice" did not cool quickly and the water expelled was very hot!--you can freeze the food-processed cauliflower florets (no cooking necessary) ahead of time, defrost in a colander and THEN proceed on to your squeezing.  Still, perhaps, a little time consuming, but at least this way you are squeezing out cold water onto your hands rather than nuclear hot water!

Before I get on, finally, to the recipe let me say that this Cauliflower Pizza Crust is simply amazing.  To boost the flavor profile, I added some fennel seeds, a dash of smoked sea salt, and pepper to the crust "dough" in addition to the oregano called for and, also, opted to use herb-encrusted goat cheese for extra herby-flavor.  In the future I'd like to add some fresh rosemary and maybe garlic to the crust.

I got a little more creative with my toppings than The Detoxinista in her post, using an organic store-bought red sauce, mozzarella cheese, crumbled herbed goat cheese, minced garlic, chopped spinach, sundried tomatoes, and a ton of fresh, chopped basil.  

[RECIPE] Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Ingredients
Baked crust waiting
for toppings!
  • 1 Medium-Large Head Cauliflower, broken down into Florets
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 C. soft herbed Goat Cheese; plus more for topping
  • 1 Tsp. dried oregano
  • Fennel Seeds; to your taste
  • Smoked Sea Salt; to your taste
  • Black Pepper; to your taste
  • TOPPINGS--chopped spinach; goat cheese; mozzarella (fresh or shredded); organic red sauce; minced garlic; sundried tomatoes; fresh basil (chopped)
Directions
Done!
  1. Place cauliflower florets in food processor in batches and process into a rice-like consistency to make Cauli-rice.
  2. Freeze Cauli-rice in air-tight container or freezer bag.
  3. Remove Cauli-rice from freezer and let thaw in a colander; transfer to thin dish cloth or cheese cloth and wring out excess moisture.
  4. Beat egg and add 1/3 C. herbed goat cheese and Cauli-rice with excess water expelled; mix well to fully incorporate all ingredients.  Add oregano, fennel seeds, salt and pepper and mix.
  5. Cover a square or round baking sheet with parchment paper--Don't forget this!--leaving crust about 1/3inch thick (I just eyeballed it) press and form the dough into the pan making the edges a little higher to form a traditional crust-look.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 40minutes; remove from oven and cover with desired toppings before returning to the oven for additional 10 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!  

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