Thursday, August 30, 2012

Product Review: GO RAW Carrot Cake Super Cookies (Raw + Vegan + GF)

Product Review: GO RAW Carrot Cake Super Cookies (Raw+ Vegan + Gluten Free)

If you were to plant the food you buy on a typical visit to the grocery store, would it grow?  I know the box of Pacific Naturals Organic Tomato Soup I picked up last week, wouldn't!  GO RAW promises that its product line of packaged raw foods is the only brand that will, literally, grow if you plant it!

GO RAW Carrot Cake Super Cookies
GO RAW's product line is amazingly versatile.  It is able to honor many different diets and dietary restrictions.  The GO RAW products are safe for the following diets:
  • Gluten-Free diets
  • Low-sugar diets
  • Vegan and Vegetarian diets
  • Raw Foods diets (of course)
  • Kosher diets
  • Nut-free diets
  • Soy-free diets  
As a bonus, the entire line is also certified organic!

I was struck, when I read the brief set of educational materials the company provided me with at how committed GO RAW is to the purity of their products.  

They described the various stages of quality control the raw seeds and other ingredients pass through before being incorporated to make the final product you buy.  The seeds go through sorting, (entirely safe, organic certification-approved) x-raying, washing, and a custom-designed dehydrator to protect the integrity of their sprouted ingredient's life.  

GO RAW's commitment to the integrity and life of their ingredients is why they are able to guarantee, unlike other raw food producers, that their products will grow if you plant them!  That's pretty cool.  

GO RAW Products

GO RAW Products 

Over a series of posts I will be reviewing several GO RAW products, including:
  • GO RAW Carrot Cake Super Cookies
  • GO RAW Chocolate Granola
  • GO RAW Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds
However, GO RAW's line of products is far more extensive, as you'll see on their website:  GO RAW.  

In addition to finding information about the entire product line, the website's home page displays video and audio that explain the steps involved in producing the products--beginning with finding locally sourced ingredients.  

GO RAW Carrot Cake Super Cookies Review

The first GO RAW product up for review are the Carrot Cake Super Cookies.  These cookies don't look like traditional cookies (see photo at top) and for those of you who are new raw eaters and not ready for that to be the case, the thin, wafer-like look might be an initial disappointment.  But, don't let that stop you from giving these GO RAW Carrot Cake Super Cookies a try.  

With a subtle sweetness from the carrots and a warming spiciness from the nutmeg, these cookies are actually very enjoyable.  Although I wish they had a bit more complexity in terms of the spices used--I think cinnamon would be a great addition, for example--I found the sweetness from the carrots and spice from the nutmeg to be nicely balanced. 
GO RAW Carrot Cake Super Cookies
Nutritional Information

Eating cookies for breakfast, I know, seems like a counter-intuitive practice for someone who is trying to eat raw and otherwise healthful.  But, a couple of these cookies eaten with my morning coffee is a real treat.  I don't miss other breakfast sweets--scones, donuts, muffins, or croissants--and I think the gentle bitterness of coffee (I drink mine with just a little bit of no-sugar-added almond milk) really brings out the complex sweet, nutmeg-y flavors of the cookies themselves.  This balance is no small feat to achieve, even in non-raw baking.

I find that snacking on only a few of these cookies gives me enough nutritional value and energy to get myself to the gym and back in the mornings, and I think they'd be a great mini-snack to incorporate throughout the day to help stave off hunger and maintain energy.  After all, dietary studies have shown repeatedly that people who snack a little throughout the day have more sustained energy and are lower in weight because those who don't snack tend to over-compensate and eat much larger portions during their 3 daily meals (see: Snacking Sense). 

Speaking of nutritional value, you can eat 20 of these cookies and it only costs you 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 22 carbohydrates with 4 grams of dietary fibers and only 1 gram of (natural, unrefined) sugar.  To see more nutritional information, check out the Nutrition Facts at the left.

Product Recommendation

I would recommend this product to anyone who eats a raw, Gluten-Free, vegan or vegetarian, Kosher, soy, or nut free diet.  You can find the products for sale directly on GO RAW's website in addition to information about retailers.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pumpkin Butter (Gluten Free + Vegan): Gluten Free Food Gifts and Party Favors Series

[Post 1] Gluten Free Food Gifts and Party Favors Series

For anyone who has or has a person in his/her life who suffers from celiac disease or wheat intolerance, cooking for oneself and others becomes a little more challenging because the health of yourself or someone you care about is on the line.

My series on "Gluten Free Food Gifts and Party Favors," however, is meant to mediate that challenge a bit by showcasing a few Gluten Free homemade food gifts or party favors that as a person with celiac/wheat intolerance, or as a person catering to the GF needs of a friend or relative, could easily make to the delight of everybody's taste buds.

The posts in the series will cover the following homemade (always the best!) Gluten Free food gifts and party favors:

  • Gluten Free and Vegan Pumpkin Butter
  • Gluten Free (no)Campfire Smores with marshmallows, GF graham cracker crumbs, chocolate and peanut butter chips, and white chocolate drizzles
  • Gluten Free and Vegetarian Chocolate Bark with pistachio, dried cranberries, dried apricots, and white chocolate drizzle

Some Advice on Safe Gluten Free Cooking and Baking

As when doing any GF cooking, make sure all of your counter tops and kitchen materials being used have been properly cleaned to avoid cross-contamination. Even a few crumbs from your breakfast toast on the counter getting incorporated into the final product you give to a person with celiac can be very harmful to them.

You'll want to keep the issue of cross-contamination on your mind as you cook or bake--that bag of brown sugar you're dipping your measuring spoon into, have you ever dipped a measuring spoon into it when it had remnants of a wheat substance like flour on it? Often it's just safest to start with brand new bags of the basic ingredients unless you know--for sure--that you have been careful about preventing contamination.

Another thing to always keep in mind when cooking GF is that you must check your ingredients for GF labeling on the packaging. Some surprising foods are not GF (soy sauce is one example) and if you aren't conscientious about checking your packaging you could feed a friend or loved one something that will make them ill--definitely not the intention!

If you want to use a product but it has no GF label on it, you should search out additional nutritional information on the company's website and/or contact the company directly through phone or email to confirm the product is safe. Companies are very happy to answer these questions and usually do so in a reasonably short time period. Your best bet when searching for certified GF products, for example GF graham crackers, is to go to a specialty store like Whole Foods, Central Market, or Trader Joe's. These stores tend to have more explicitly GF options available.

Gluten Free and Vegan Pumpkin Butter

Gluten Free and Vegan Pumpkin Butter
for Gluten Free Gift or Party Favor
This first post in the "Gluten Free Food 
Gifts and Party Favors" series is on making Gluten Free and Vegan Pumpkin Butter.

As a bonus, I even show you some cute ways that you can package and decorate the pumpkin butter for gifting for a birthday or holiday or for giving out as a party favor!

Fruit "butters" are definitely one of my comfort foods. They remind me of heading to Amish Country with my grandparents and great grandparents as a child.


The long drive was always worth it as we always ended up, first, at the Bulk Foods Store where I would get to pick out packages of gummy worms (among other things), and then we'd go--always to the same--cheese store, where I'd get to sample pretty much every cheese I could get my hands on (thereby developing a strange love of Farmer's Cheese). We'd usually then hit the apple orchard if it was the right season and buy apples and the most amazing cider I've ever tasted.

And, THEN, finally, we'd go to a restaurant called The Der Dutchman. There is where I'd get my fruit butter, specifically apple butter (which is much, much more labor intensive than pumpkin butter, just FYI). Pumpkin butter, for me, recalls those times I shared in Amish Country with family members who have since passed. The sweet, warm spice of the fruit butter leaves me feeling comforted, whether I eat it on GF bread, use it in GF Oats, or dip slices of apples into it.

RECIPE: Gluten Free and Vegan Pumpkin Butter

Ingredients
  • 29oz can pumpkin puree
  • 3.4 cup apple juice
  • Ground ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom added in whatever quantity suits your taste
  • 1 +1/4 to 1 +1/2 cups brown sugar depending on your desired level of sweetness
  • Remember to avoid
    cross-contamination!
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
Directions
[1.] Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and brown sugar in a large saucepan and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered with lid for 45 minutes, stirring frequently. Be careful as the mixture can spit up at you out of the pan.
[2.] Remove from heat. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice.
[3.] Once cool, pumpkin butter should be stored in an air-tight container.  If giving as a gift, I recommend putting them in canning jars for presentation purposes.  
* Recipe makes 3.5 cups; use within 3weeks or freeze
Recommended Presentation for Gifting
What You'll Need:
  • 160z Canning jars (recipe fills 4) 
  • Decorating Ribbon (of your choice)
  • Decorative Gift Label (large enough to write the recipe on the back)
Directions:
  • Transfer pumpkin butter into canning jars for best presentation.  
  • Decorate with large label with "Pumpkin Butter" written on the front and with the complete recipe transcribed on the back.
    Note:  Adding the recipe to the back of the label is not only a nice way of sharing the recipe with your loved one or friend so he or she can reproduce it in their own homes, it is also an easy way to reassure the person you are gifting the gluten free and vegan pumpkin butter to that it does not contain any ingredients that could make them ill!  It's always nice to not have to wonder or ask!
  • Tie label on with a strand of ribbon and tie into a bow.
  • Gift Away!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Baked Cabbage Wedges and Cauliflower Mash {GF + Veg. + Low-Carb}

I know, I know, you're wondering who in their right mind would think eating Baked Cabbage Wedges and Cauliflower Mash, let alone eating them together, sounded like a good idea for a tasty meal.  I was admittedly curious but reticent when I saw the recipes that inspired each of the components of my dinner.

Baked Cabbage Wedges and Cauliflower Mash
{Vegetarian + Gluten Free + Low-Carb}
The thing that really saved the idea of baked cabbage for me was that I've been eating baked cabbage in one form or another for a long, long time.  My grandmother immigrated from the Ukraine when she was just a kid and brought with her Eastern European food traditions like stuffed cabbage which I, along with the other grandchildren, got to eat--whether we liked it or not, sometimes.  Without that sort of early-life primer for appreciating cabbage I'm not sure I would've gone all in on the idea of baking cabbages marinated in lemon, oil, herbs and spices.  The Cauliflower Mash I was a little less hesitant about, mainly because in recent weeks I've seen and created for myself some amazing recipes that have convinced me that cauliflower is a most versatile wonder of the vegetable kingdom.  Raw and Low-Carb eaters, for example, make "cauli-rice" out of it and Low-Carb and Gluten Free eaters make totally grain-free pizza crusts using cauliflower as the dominant ingredient (I'll get to both of these phenomena in future posts).

The benefits of eating a meal of cabbage and cauliflower follow from the fact that both are super-low calorie, no-fat foods that are very low on carbs.  Neither is very high in protein (something to think about when you are meal planning) but both pack a lot of vitamin  C.  And, for those of you planning your meals around a tight budget, these are CHEAP vegetables.  Cooking for a specialty diet can get pricey when you have to acquire specialty, high-priced ingredients.  I assure you that you can eat you fair share (and more) of cauliflower and cabbage and not even begin to break the bank.

For the Baked Cabbage wedges recipe I used the following recipe, Baked Cabbage as inspiration but made my own changes to turn the dish into a vegetarian dish (I omitted the bacon) and I played around with the contents of the marinade to suit my tastes.

For my marinade I used the following ingredients:

  • 1/4c. olive oil (approx.)
  • 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tblsp (approx) sun-dried tomatoes, minced
  • Fresh Herbs (basil, rosemary, sage); minced
  • Fennel Seeds, a dash
  • Dried Thyme, a dash
  • Salt + Pepper, to taste
  • Optional: grated Parmesan Cheese (about 1/2 tablespoon)

As detailed in the original recipe, linked above, I heated my oven to 425degrees F. and cut my cabbage into 4 wedges.  I laid the wedges on to individual pieces of tin foil large enough to totally encompass them and drizzled the marinade evenly onto the wedges before wrapping them tightly in the foil.  I cooked the wedges for 40minutes, but turned my oven off with about 15minutes left to go on my timer.  When the timer goes off, remove and serve!  Easy!  I topped my cabbage wedge with about 1/2 tablespoon of finely grated Parmesan cheese, but it's definitely not necessary so people with sensitivity to milk products or vegans can easily omit it.

For my Cauliflower Mash I took my inspiration from this truly decadent recipe, Decadent Cauliflower Mash but decided I was going to tone the decadence of my version down some.  I followed the recipe's instructions for the most part but decided to omit the heavy cream, butter, and the cheese called for in the recipe.  Instead, for my "wet" ingredients I used:
  • 4oz block of herbed goat cheese (chevre)
  • 1/3c. 0% plain Greek Yogurt
  • 3 tblsp olive oil (in place of cream and butter while cauliflower cooks in microwave)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (added to cauliflower while it cooks in microwave)
When my cauliflower mash was done cooking in the microwave (10minutes in microwave safe bowl that also contained my olive oil and minced garlic) I transferred the cauliflower, my goat cheese, and my Greek Yogurt to the blender.  I blended until I achieved a pretty smooth texture.  My mash was a little grainier than the mash in the recipe that used the butter, heavy cream, and copious amounts of cheese, so if you want your mash to be super soft and silky you might bump up the fat content some to achieve that texture.

My Baked Cabbage Wedges and Cauliflower Mash made for a great low-carb, vegetarian, and Gluten Free meal and I especially enjoyed pairing it with a nice glass of Zinfandel!

p.s.--I discovered, when I made dinner tonight using my Cauliflower Mash, that it makes an EXCELLENT healthier substitute for creamy-style polenta!  Who knew?  Throw some tomato-veggie ragu on top and you're good to go.

Happy, Healthy, Weird Eating!
Kate





Sunday, August 26, 2012

Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho with a Kick {Low-Carb + Raw + GF + Vegetarian}


I recently tried gazpacho at a new restaurant in my area that works with locally produced foods--the name of the restauraunt is fittingly, Local Foods.  I remember having had gazpacho once in the past and not liking it, perhaps it was residual distaste for it produced by an episode of  The Simpsons I watched as a kid where Lisa Simpson made gazpacho as a much derided vegetarian alternative to a roast pig (Homer's doing, of course).  My takeaway feeling from the episode was that I'd eat gazpacho when pigs could fly, but incidentally by the end of the episode Homer's roasted pig was, literally, a flying pig.  So, it was destiny...  

Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho with a Kick
{Vegetarian + Vegan + Low-Carb + Gluten Free + Raw}
The day I discovered my repressed love of gazpacho I was faced with the choice of getting either a cup of watermelon and tomato gazpacho or committing to an entire (definitely not low carb--oh no!)  falafel sandwich.  I've never been a huge fan of raw-tomatoes except on salads.  I regrettably hate Bloody Mary's--the spectre and the alcoholic brunch drink--and V-8 juice and so when I opted to try the soup I harbored a great fear that tomato gazpacho was bad enough, but adding melons to it would make it...well, even less good. 

But, as it so happens, I was wrong.  It took me a while to get used to the soup--its coldness and the sweet and savory combination, but I decided by the end of the cup that I really liked it.  And, weeks later, I still craved more of it--and, indeed, went back and had more!--and continued to crave it.  Hence, me trying my hand at making it for myself.

The base recipe I used was this one: Watermelon + Tomato Gazpacho  But, as I usually do--just to make things more interesting and usually more tasty, to boot, I tweaked the recipe so that it would more closely mimic the gazpacho I had gotten at the restaurant which was was more tomato-heavy with a hit of garlic and spiciness.  The changes I made to the recipe are as follows:


  • Doubled tomatoes from 2 to 4
  • Added 1/4 large yellow bell pepper
  • Used 2 serrano chili peppers, partially seeded
  • Used 4 small cloves of garlic
  • Did NOT strain or liquify ingredients (I wanted a little bit of texture)
  • Used blender rather than food processor
To garnish my soup I used matchsticks of jicama, cilantro leaves, and chunks of watermelon.  After photographing I added some diced avocado.

The soup was delicious and it hits ALL  of my dietary likes:  my watermelon-tomato gazpacho with a kick is Vegetarian (Vegan, even), Gluten Free, Raw, and Low-Carb!  Score!   Even if, like me, you are disposed to think the watermelon and tomato combination seems suspect, give it a try.  I feel pretty confident that it will surprise you--in a good way.


Happy, Healthy, Weird Eating!
Kate


No Shortage of Good Food Blogs...BUT

There is no shortage of good food blogs out there.  If you're a food lover you've undoubtedly already found most of my favorite go-to blogs and food websites whose recipes and photography regularly blow me away:

  1. Smitten Kitchen, see:  http://smittenkitchen.com/
  2. Tartelette, see:  http://www.tarteletteblog.com/
  3. Love and Lemons, see:  http://www.loveandlemons.com/
  4. Food & Wine, see:  http://www.foodandwine.com/
  5. Food Republic, see:  http://www.foodrepublic.com/
Technically, that last one--Food Republic--is geared specifically toward male cooks and manly eating, but they've got some great recipes and food related articles that transcend any silly gender distinctions!  

In spite of the fact that there's a LOT of great food blogging and online food writing happening, I find myself and my particular diet to be a bit marginal and underrepresented--more so than I ever would have anticipated.  I'm a vegetarian--have been for most of my life--and also a recent convert to a more carb-conscious, more Gluten Free, and more raw diet.  Notice my use of the world "more" in the prior sentence--I don't eat exclusively raw foods, nor do I eat zero net carbs, or totally abstain from gluten products, but I'm serious about tackling a rare diet: a pseudo- raw, pseduo- Gluten Free and low-carb vegetarian diet.  Crazy, right?  I hope not!

Raw Zucchini Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomato
Pesto and Mozzarella
{Veg. + GF + Low-Carb + Raw(ish)}
For those of you who think that's a plausible, probably fairly well represented dietary typology you can do what I did: try doing a search on amazon.com, that great repository of print material, for "vegetarian" and "low-carb" cookbook and you'll not find much--a few raw cookbooks might pop up, and a few vegetarian, low-carb cookbooks that were invented, apparently, before cameras were (i.e., they have no photographs!).  Now, try adding "Gluten Free" to the search box.  Woah!  Nothing there, right?  Now, for the sake of comparison--because this is all very scientific, you see-- type in low-carb cookbooks and omit that pesky "vegetarian" bit and you'll get more hits than you could probably handle sorting through in one sitting and, by golly, those cookbooks have PICTURES.    

I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek, as I'm wont to do, but I know there are people out there who live or want to live wholly or partially a diet like the one I'm pursing and I know they are as frustrated as me that they can't just do a simple google search or simply buy a decent cookbook on Amazon.  Instead, they restlessly comb recipe boards on pinterest.com searching for recipes when they should be doing other things...like dating or working or, you know, whatever you think is important.  So, this is where I'm hoping to make my contribution to the very good food blogging and food writing already out there.  I'll do the pinterest and google searches and cook the food, you can just sit back, relax and benefit.  Just remember that one day I'm going to expect a humanitarian or Nobel award out of it, though!

Whoops!  Here I am all the way at the end of my first post and I haven't even introduced myself.  I'm Kate and I cook.  I cook exclusively vegetarian foods.  I cook low-carb.  I cook Gluten Free.  I cook raw.  I don't always do them simultaneously.  I sometimes cheat.  But, what you'll get from me here is the crazy range of foods I cook--like the raw zucchini spaghetti with sun-dried tomato pesto above and to your right--on a daily basis for myself and for the people I love in the hopes that if you're the person like me searching for recipes that match your diet that you'll be able to find them here, with me, on this blog.  

Happy, Healthy, Weird Eating!
Kate


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