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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Buckwheat Crepes with Potato Mushroom Filling

What is Buckwheat?

When I first started realizing that I had a problem with gluten, I was pretty ignorant about how many ingredients were out there that I could still use. I didn't really know how to cook, so most of my foods came out of a package and were usually exclusively rice. Any time I saw buckwheat on a label, I put it aside assuming it was just another name for wheat and had gluten. As I got bored with the same old foods, I started doing more research and was happy to find out that buckwheat isn't remotely similar to wheat and most certainly does not have gluten. Wheat is in the grass/cereal family whereas buckwheat is in the Polygonaceae family or "smartweed" family and is referred to as a pseudocereal to emphasize that it is not related to wheat. The part of the plant used is not a grain; the groat is actually a fruit.

If you soak buckwheat, it will become slimy. This characteristic makes it useful in cooking because that actually helps as a binder. To me, buckwheat has a very distinctive flavor that I can only tolerate in moderation. My favorite way to enjoy buckwheat is sprouted and dehydrated. Raw sprouted buckwheat has a much milder flavor than buckwheat flour used in cooking. Baked or cooked buckwheat is something I usually pair with stronger flavors.

Buckwheat Crepes
makes about 10 7-8" crepes
1 1/2 c buckwheat flour
1/4 c sorghum flour
1/2 c potato starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 c olive oil
2 1/2 c water
2 Tb agave

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl and quickly combine the wet and dry together.

Preheat a seasoned pan over medium heat. I run a little bit of coconut, grapeseed, or peanut oil on a paper towel over the cooking surface.

After the pan is heated, put 1/2 a teaspoon of coconut oil in the pan and swirl the pan to coat before ladling in the batter. I use a ladle large enough to put the right amount of batter in the pan at once. Then rotate the pan to spread the batter out thinly. For more tips on cooking crepes, click here.

One the batter bubbles and starts to firm up at the edges, work your spatula under the crepe and flip. Once the crepe is done, I transfer it to a cooling plate, and then to a stack of crepes with wax paper dividing them once cooled. These can be made the day before and refrigerate well.

Potato Mushroom Filling
Fills 5 crepes
2 red potatoes, diced
3 "cloves" shallots, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tb fresh oregano, finely minced
1 1/2 Tb fresh chives, finely minced
1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Preheat the pan over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is ready (will very slightly ripple because of the heat), add the garlic and shallots. Cook for one minute. Add potatoes and herbs. Do not stir often to let the potatoes crisp up a bit before turning them. If you stir before the potatoes crisp, you will end up with soggy, soft potatoes. Once the potatoes are nearly done cooking, add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper.

I cook these two components at the same time because the potatoes don't require much fuss.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reading Labels: Soy

As a little girl, I was always bringing home injured wild animals I found while climbing around the woods or around my grandparent's lake front property. My mom was not very excited when I brought home a robin or swallow that got kicked out of its nest, and all things considered she was pretty understanding when I showed up with three baby ducks that lost their mom. She even made little diapers for them when they ran around the house. We always had a few dogs adopted from the pound and everyone thought I was aspiring to be a veterinarian. Because I loved animals so much, veganism appealed to me BUT I thought it would be impossible without soy.

Annie: our puppy rescued from a last chance shelter fair

Like many people, I thought that a large portion of each meal had to be protein and the only real vegan source of protein was soy. I would need to incorporate a soy product into every meal. I was so wrong! Proteins are just a large, complex series of amino acids. Our bodies actually have to work pretty hard to break those chains down, making them harder to assimilate. Vegetables and fruits have smaller amino chains that are easier to break down. Legumes and grains aren't your only non-soy vegan option for protein. Think of protein as a bucket of amino acids. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables (especially leafy greens), nuts, and seeds will get you the amino acids you need to fill that bucket.

One of my favorite raw vegan meals: lettuce wraps with assorted sprouts and guacamole

For the last few decades, soy has been touted as some kind of super health food. I personally believe that to be a bit of a joke. The history of soy is something I find quite interesting. In short, soy was considered strictly a rotation crop until it was discovered that fermentation made it edible. I believe that in its fermented forms (tempeh, tamari, miso), it can still be beneficial in moderation. Now it's a highly processed or non-processed component that is found in many "health" foods. It contains phytochemicals that mimic hormones, and can cause health problems in its unrefined or over-refined states. If it's not treated properly, the proteins are completely useless and pass through us like they never happened. Unless processing includes fermentation, soy is not a food. There is also an issue with genetic modification (GMO), but that's a whole new rant.

Reading Labels

Soy is a fairly inexpensive crop and has found its way into many processed foods. Remembering that it is considered a health food, it is in many protein shakes, protein bars, and an added "boost" in several health food products. It is commonly used as a diary alternative in vegan milks, cheese, and ice creams. It is used as a texture component in candies, cakes, and ice creams. Frying and cooking oils as well as salad dressings usually use soy for the oil.

Other names for soy:

* Miso
* Tofu
* Teriyaki
* Tamari
* Edemamme
* Mono-diglyceride
* Kinako
* Kouridofu
* Natto
* Nimame
* Okara
* Soya, Soja
* Yuba
* Hydrolyzed Soy Protein

Hidden Soy Ingredients (high likelihood of being soy):

* Vegetable Oil
* Vegetable Protein
* Lecithin (may or may not cause a reaction)
* monosodium glutamate (MSG)
* hydrolyzed plant or vegetable protein
* baking mixes
* baby formula
* Thickening Agents
* Soups
* Baked Goods (Doughnuts, pastas, breads, crackers etc.)
* Natural or Artificial sweeteners or flavors
* Sauces
* Salad Dressings
* Marinades, gravvy, broths, buillion cubes, stocks (vegan or not)
* Simulated meat products (imitation crab, bacon bits, "tofurky", etc.)
* processed, cured, canned, or prepared meats for those non-vegans out there

Soy is a prolific ingredient that should not be taken lightly. It is in most all salad dressings, marinades, sauces, spreads, spice rubs, and is in some diet sodas and most beverage mixes (hot chocolate, apple cider, chai tea mixes, etc.). It is almost impossible to avoid in bakeries and restaurants, and most servers and even chefs may not know what all they are using that contains soy. I was in a restaurant the other day that tried to assure me I could have a dish because it contained tamari instead of soy. Tamari is soy. I'm glad I knew that!


"Soy." The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. December 11, 2009

"Soy - one of the nine most common food allergens." Developed in consultation with Allergy/Asthma Information Association, Anaphylaxis Canada, Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and Health Canada September 17, 2009. December 11, 2009

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Travelling with Allergies

Chicago lived up to its nickname while I was in town for business. The windy city was SUPER windy!

I have anxiety about traveling. I don't mind airplanes, and I can get a good night's sleep just about anywhere. I have trouble with food. Eating out is tricky because you have to find a restaurant that understands what contamination means. Even cutting something on the same surface or cooking something in a used pan can mean serious consequences for people with allergies.

Being vegan doesn't complicate matters for me. Animal products are usually marinated anyhow. I've found that vegan restaurants seem to have more concern for allergies and understand the impact foods can have. Locally, Chaco Canyon is great about letting me review ingredients, and other vegan/vegetarian options are usually just as vigilant. You can find decent options using and I usually ask for referrals on sites like that have forums for vegans.

Surviving without Time for Restaurants

The meetings I was in included plans for the evening, so going out and exploring my food options really wasn't a reality. Planning ahead is crucial, and I was fortunate that a friend was willing to drive me to a grocery store when I arrived in town. I packed a few days worth of soups that were frozen solid. They traveled quite well. I also included date/nut bars, Gone Nuts packs (so yummy), raisins, quinoa (cooked) and pumpkin spice muffins (gf and home made of course). I went to the store and picked up some bananas as well as some seasonal fruit, carrots, avocados, shallots, fresh herbs, and romaine. I didn't have a lot of time for food prep between meetings and group meals, so I kept things simple.

vegan cream of mushroom soup traveled well
with freezing/thawing
Other things I packed:
  • vegetable knife (Santoku)
  • 3 hand towels
  • food safe hydrogen peroxide
  • rollable cutting surface
  • medium bowl with lid
  • large bowl
  • fork and spoon
  • vegetable peeler
  • zip lock baggies
  • dish soap
With those tools I could easily cut up fresh fruits and vegetables to take with me to meetings in baggies. I made salads with lemon herb dressing, guacamole with carrot slices as chips, and cut up fruit to go in my quinoa. As a rule I don't use microwaves, so I put a lot of warm water in the large bowl, and heated up my portions by immersing the food in the small, sealed bowl. This meant eating the bulk of my meals independently of the group (I have to admit I enjoyed the quiet time).

By day 4, I started craving more fresh foods and was ready to go home. I avoided a lot of anxiety by planning ahead (as well as discomfort and medication if I ate something inadvertently).

Lessons learned:
  • Buy a wider variety of fresh foods
  • Purchase a hand blender for dressings and smoothies

I am so happy to be back in Seattle! Annie was quite happy to see me and I have my Vitamix again! I didn't miss my stove so much as having access to fresh foods.

I bet Annie missed her smoothies!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Heading out of town for a few days...

I'm heading to Chicago for a few days, so the blog will be a little quiet. I'll try to post the recipe for the pumpkin spice muffins I made to take with me and the butternut stew when I get back.

Traveling as a vegan can be a little tricky, but traveling as a vegan with allergies is very tricky. I bring with me a knife, utensils, big bowl, small seal-able container, frozen foods, food safe hydrogen peroxide to wash fresh food, and a cutting mat. I'm packing 2 soups, frozen into bricks and packed into a small cooler, quinoa, muffins, nuts, and nori (for wrapping salads). When I get there, I shop for a little fresh produce.

I'm not going to have spare time, but if I can find a way to get to Karyn's Kitchen, I definitely will. I am really going to miss Annie and Lance.

Be well. Recipes will resume in a few days.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Seattleites - Vegan Bake Sale for Pigs Peace

For all of you in Seattle looking for something to do this weekend, stop by the Sidecar for Pigs Peace between 1 PM and 8 PM on Saturday and Sunday (the 23rd and 24th). The baked goods will be vegan and there will be at least 2 kinds of cookies that are gluten free :)

The Bake Sale is to benefit Pigs Peace Sanctuary. I remember in the 90's it was all the rage to have a potbellied pig for about five minutes. What happened to all of the pigs after the fad died down and people realized they are intelligent, needy animals is pretty disturbing. The sanctuary also adopts neglected and abused pigs outside of the potbelly breeds, including animals intended for food. Please check out their website and meet some of their delightful residents. Some of the stories are heartbreaking, but I'm a sucker for a happy ending:

Here is more information on the bake sale including directions:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vegan, Soy-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Chocolate is packed full of anti-oxidants and is actually quite the little super food IF you don't have all the processed sugar, milk, and other ingredients that often throw this food into the junk food category. It's really quite a shame. Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy ways to enjoy delicious chocolate.

Lance loves chocolate and peanut butter, so I decided to make this with real peanut butter (ingredient = peanuts only). To make a raw version of this treat, use raw almond butter or another raw nut butter instead. You know you have good peanut butter when the oils separate. This means many of the preservatives and stabilizers haven't been added to the peanut butter and it's just gooey goodness.

This recipe calls for cacao products - not premade chocolate. Cacao is the unprocessed precursor to chocolate in its original state. Some people argue that cacao is not raw because it exceeds 115 degrees and ferments after harvest, but there are enough benefits from indulging from time to time that I still kept it in my diet when I was extremely high raw vegan.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
makes about 16 cups that are 1.5 inches in diameter and about 1/2 an inch high
3.5 oz cacao butter
1.5 oz cacao powder
3 oz agave
several 1/2 tsp of peanut butter
Tiny cupcake or foil cups to hold the chocolate

I used a small sauce pan and slowly melted the cacao butter over the lowest heat possible. If you are trying to make this as raw as possible, you can put the cacao butter in a food dehydrator over several hours to slowly melt the "butter" or you can use a thermometer. I frankly don't have that much patience.

Once the cacao butter is melted, add the agave and cacao powder and stir very well. Use a teaspoon to spoon chocolate into the bottom of the foil cups. You want it to be about 1/3 of an inch or more thick on the bottom.

Stir between chocolate cups so the agave doesn't settle on the bottom. Then add a small amount of nut butter into each cup. Then spoon enough chocolate to cover the nut butter.

Let chill to set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fresh Tomato Sauce (and why to avoid canned)

There are a lot of reasons to avoid canned tomatoes, but if you want only one, let it be the bisphenol-A that is in the resin that lines the cans. Bisephenol-A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen that is linked to many health problems. Because tomatoes are acidic, they leach the BPAs from the lining and it enters our food. Canned tomatoes can also contain citric acid (from corn!) and high sodium. Making your own is extra work, but if you have a little spare time on the weekend and a lot of tomatoes, you can make a batch for use throughout the week.

I don't have a formal or even informal background in Italian cuisine (I'm on the West Coast, if that tells you anything), so this is just some information on how I make my sauce. This is not marinara, or a final product even. This is a sauce I add to other recipes (like marinara, vegan jambalaya, curry etc.). The flavors are pretty mild to ensure I can mix and match across different cuisines.

8 cluster/vine tomatoes translates to about 2 1/2 cups of sauce, so keep that in mind when purchasing your tomatoes.

Peeling Tomatoes

Peeling tomatoes is quick and easy. It only takes about 30 seconds. First, put a pot of water on to boil. Once it get to a rolling boil, take a tomato and remove any green/leaves and score the tomatoes on the bottom and make a little "X":

Carefully lower the tomato in the boiling water and leave there for 20 seconds. The skin should start to visibly split up the sides:
Remove the tomato with a wide, slotted spoon:
Simply tug at the skin to easily peel by hand:

Making the Sauce

After the tomatoes are peeled, get a pre-heated 3 quart sauce pan and put a little olive oil on the bottom - just enough to prevent the tomatoes from sticking. Remove the hard area around the stem, and rough chop the tomatoes. Add 1 tsp of dry basil and a pinch of salt.

Stirring occasionally (I walked away and did a little blogging between stirs), let the tomatoes cook down until there is a thick consistency (about 45 minutes).

Tomato Sauce
yeilds appx 2.5 cups
8 tomatoes, peeled, trimmed, and rough chopped
1 pinch kosher salt
1 tsp dry basil
3 tsp olive oil

Use the olive oil just to barely coat the bottom of a 6-7 quart heated pan over medium heat. Add the other ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally for 45-60 minutes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Maple Pecan Shortbread

Shortbread was always a favorite of mine. I think that was because it's a little salty and not as sweet as some of the cookies out there. Shortbread tends to disappear in my house quickly, and these were not an exception. Let them cool for a while as they tend to harden as the cool. Of course, a good quarter of the batch didn't get that luxury.

Maple Pecan Shortbread

1 cup pecan flour
1 1/4 cup sorghum flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup maple syrup

Put a little over one cup of pecans in a food processor with an S-blade to make the pecan flour. Don't overwork the pecans or you will end up with a nut butter. You just want them broken down enough to resemble a coarsely milled flour. Put the nut flour in a large bowl and add the sorghum flour and salt and combine the dry ingredients. Measure out about 2/3 cup of palm oil shortening (vegetable shortening is fine I suppose, but I avoid soy and corn at all costs) and mash the shortening into the flour with a fork or pastry cutter. Add in the maple syrup and mix until well combined.

I put baking paper in a 10X10 pan so it wasn't such a chore to get the shortbread out of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. I plan on using this recipe down the road as a cookie as I think they will hold up well in a cookie shape (reduce cooking time to 8 minutes for a drop cookie).

Fresh out of the oven:

Vegan note: It's best to research your maple sources as not all are vegan. Some will use bone-char as a filter or fat to keep the maple from boiling over the sides. I recently checked Shady Maple Farms and they claim they do not use bone char and the maple syrup is vegan. I encourage people to do their own research. If you aren't comfortable using maple syrup, try splitting the amount of maple syrup with date paste and turbinado sugar.

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup

Fall is kicking up around here, and the house has been getting colder. A warm bowl of soup sounded really good. The olive oil and zucchini combine to give this soup a creamy flavor and texture without the cow.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
serves 6, prep time: about 30 minutes
1 scant cup onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 pounds zucchini, skinned, trimmed, and diced
2 1/4 cups water
1 tsp salt

2 Tb olive oil
2 1/2 cups diced mushrooms
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
black pepper

Put the olive oil in a 3 or 4 quart sauce pan over medium heat. Once the oil is ready, put in the onions and garlic and cook them (stirring often) for about 5 minutes or until they are soft. Add the zucchini and stir occasionally for 5 minutes. Add 2 1/4 cups of water and simmer partially covered for 15 minutes.

Dice 2 1/2 cups of mushrooms and mince a clove of garlic. Add 2 Tb of olive oil to a saute pan and cook the garlic for about a minute. Add in the thyme and basil and cook for another minute. Add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Cook down the mushrooms.

Cool the zucchini mixture a bit and then pour 1/2 in a blender (careful!). Blend until smooth and empty into a large bowl. Blend the other half of the zucchini mixture until smooth and add that to the large bowl. Pour the cooked mushrooms over the top, give a quick stir with a ladle, and serve.

If you are planning to use this as a casserole base, add 1-2 Tb of tapioca flour in the cool water you add to the zucchinis to make it thicker.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gluten Free Tortillas II

I prefer this recipe over Tortillas I personally because there isn't any starch and it is closer to a whole food. It also avoids rice. It does tend to crack slightly more, but does hold up well to folding when it's warm.

Tortilla II
makes three 5" tortillas
1 cup amaranth
1 heaping tsp palm oil
2-4 Tb water

Use a fork to work in the palm oil. Add the water a little bit at a time to get to a workable consistency. You want it wet enough to stick together well, but not so wet that it clings to your hands much or rolling pin. Dust a surface with amaranth flour, and dust the top of the dough ball and roll out with a rolling pin:

Throw the disk into a hot frying pan heated to medium heat and flip after about 4 minutes or several blisters form:

Take the tortilla out of the pan after another 2 minutes to brown the other side:

Serve when warm. These are pretty easy to make, so I make them after the rest of my ingredients are prepped and are just on low heat to keep them warm.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Gluten Free Tortillas I

A few weeks ago, Lance and I tried some store bought gluten free tortillas that really fell flat. I appreciated that they were vegan, but they didn't tolerate being used as a wrap and would shred, leaving us with a big mess. Fresh made tortillas are worth the little bit of extra effort and tolerate being used as a wrap much better. I have a few different tortilla variations, but this has been my husband's favorite so far - probably because they are the closest to wheat flour tortillas he is used to.

Tortilla with guacamole, mac sour creme, and portabello fajita filling

Tortillas I
makes six 5" tortillas
1/4 c Potato Starch
2/3 c Amaranth Flour
1/3 c White Rice Flour
1 tsp Salt
2-3 TB palm oil (Spectrum Shortening is what I use)
2 Tb Water

Thoroughly combine the dry ingredients with a whisk. Potato starch has a tendency to clump, so be sure to pay special attention. Add the palm oil and combine with a fork or your hands. I find it works better to get in there with my hands to make sure things are combined evenly. Add a little bit of water at a time. What you want is a consistency that sticks together but does not stick to your hands.

Take a 1 1/2" ball of dough and put it on a rolling surface dusted with white rice flour. Dust the top of the ball of dough as well so it doesn't stick to your rolling pin. Roll the ball of dough out into a thin disk and carefully put the disk into a pre-heated frying pan (at medium heat). It will blister up a bit when it is ready to flip (after around 4 minutes). Don't worry, those will disappear once you flip it over.

Cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side.

Ideally, these should be cooked as the rest of your taco meal is nearly finished. My husband helped with the macadamia sour creme and guacamole as I cooked the portabello fajita filling along side the tortillas. It was a lot of multi-tasking, but the meal was quite good if we do say so ourselves. I need to work on the portabello marinade a bit before it's blog worthy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkin Lentils

I don't normally post main courses that are easily translated into a gluten free dish, but in the interest of keeping the autumn pumpkin theme, I thought I might as well. It's a great way to use up any leftover pumpkin. This is great over rice or quinoa.

Pumpkin Lentils
1 cup lentils, soaked overnight and thoroughly rinsed
2 cups water
2 Tb grapeseed oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1-2 Tb lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
pinch allspice
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Fresh chopped cilantro as a garnish

Any time I know I want lentils in the next day or so, I get them out to soak. Soaking and sprouting beans makes them much more digestible, and it greatly shortens the cook time. I try to get them out as I'm cooking dinner the night before so I can rinse them before bed and put them in more soak water and in the fridge for the next day. When I get home from work, they have little sprouts started and are ready for me to thoroughly rinse them and cook them for dinner. Soaking beans helps break down the enzyme inhibitors and remove the complex sugars, oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are one of the main sources of gas because they travel through the g.i. tract without breaking down, allowing bad bacteria to feed on them in the small and large intestine. That causes a fermentation, which causes gas. Be sure to throw out the lentil soak water.

Put a pan on medium heat and add 2 Tb of grapeseed oil after the pan warms. Put in the cumin seeds for about a minute and then add the onions, garlic, and finely grated fresh ginger. Let the onions cook until they become translucent and start to sweat. Add the rest of the spices and lemon and thoroughly stir to combine the ingredients. Add in the lentils and 2 cups of water and cover to cook for about 30 minutes. After the water has reduced, add the pumpkin. The lentils should be cooked until they become soft.

Vanilla Hemp Milk

Hemp is a wonderful food, packed full of essential fatty acids and protein. I've used it to supplement protein intake and as an EFA supplement to aid with arthritis and digestive health. It's a fantastic, humane, and environmentally responsible alternative to animal milks. It's becoming so popular that I can find hemp protein supplements, hemp oil, hemp ice cream, hemp milk, and hemp seed in grocery stores that are part of nation-wide chains (QFC, Safeway, etc.). I have found some medical articles suggestion that consumption can lead to a false positive on very sensitive drug tests (articles suggested waiting 6 days after seed consumption and 48 hours after oil consumption), although the food is perfectly safe and legal, and will not make you giddy, lazy, or high. Hemp is in the cannabis family, but the amount of THC is negligible (typically 0.3% compared to marijuana's 6-20%).

The hemp milks I have found in the supermarket are tasty, but have a lot of additives that really aren't necessary. I don't care for carageenan (a processed seaweed used for texture) or brown rice syrup. I buy hemp seeds from in bulk and freeze or refrigerate what I am not using immediately. The oils make the food more prone to going rancid.

Hemp Milk
yields appx. 8 cups
3/4 cup hulled hemp seeds
2 vanilla beans, scraped
1/4 cup agave (or more depending on your taste)
pinch of milk
7 cups of water

Put the hemp seeds, vanilla, agave, and 1 cup of water in a high speed blender. Blend until smooth. Taste the mixture to see if you need more agave. I like the nutty taste of hemp, but some people want to mask the flavor. After the ingredients are combined, pour in the rest of the water and blend until combined.
Stored hemp milk after a shake - some sediment rests on the bottom

I don't have to strain the mixture because my Vitamix does a great job of breaking things down and I don't mind the small amount of sediment that forms in the bottom of my storage container. If you don't have a high powered blender, you will want to strain the mixture through a cheese cloth. This will keep in the fridge in an air tight container for 3-4 days. I've used the milk in amaranth porridge, baking, risotto style grains, and cereal.
hemp milk over sprouted buckwheat and bananas
Breakfast of Champions

Raw Vegan Diets and Building Super Green Smoothies

A little about Raw Veganism (the diet)

For the past 8 months, I had a very strict raw vegan diet. This means only raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts/seeds. I would rarely have cacao, and over the past few months even agave was out. There are many, many subsets of the raw vegan diet - fruititarian (just fruit), 80/10/10 (high fruit and vegetable, no nuts/seeds), and Phase 1 (no fruit, heavy nuts/seeds) are some examples. For 3 months I followed the Phase I diet, which eliminates fruit and foods prone to molds, but now I'm back to fruit and cooked plant foods. The Phase I diet was just too restrictive for me. I have many food allergies and it becomes very difficult to reintroduce foods that I haven't been exposed to, and I also develop intolerances if I have a food too often. That being said, I learned some really great raw vegan techniques that can carry over into every day life and even cooked vegan foods.

Raw veganism (I'm talking diet here, not philosophy) is based on the fact that as foods are cooked, they break down and become nutritionally less viable. As the temperature goes up, enzymes are destroyed as well as other nutrition molecules. To illustrate this point, have you ever steamed vegetables too long and noticed that their color went from green to bright green to darker green to gray? My grandma is known for her gray veggies because she tends to forget them on the burner, and then they are pretty much just good for filling you up - that broccoli loses its calcium, amino acids, and other nutrients. Don't forget vegetables also continue to cook once you get them off the burner unless they are shocked. 115 degrees Fahrenheit is considered by many to be the maximum temperature foods can be exposed to before enzymes and other molecules break down.

Many people abandon raw veganism in the first two weeks because of detox symptoms. The body tends to push toxins out through the skin, and it can create some digestive turmoil and fatigue. I would really suggest easing into a raw diet with smoothies and salads for breakfast and lunch and then have a cooked meal now and again. I went cold turkey and just fought through the detox. Right now, I'm trying to enjoy more smoothies and raw meals to ease back into a high raw routine.

I personally believe that some of the fatigue people experience is because they are not familiar with the volume of raw foods they need to eat to take in enough calories. If you elect to go with a low fat diet, you will need to eat large quantities of fruit and vegetables to make up for it. Some raw vegans eat only fruit, and I knew some who would eat half a watermelon for breakfast, 5 oranges and 4 bananas for lunch, and then have a big salad with several apples for dinner. I had a hard time going back to a cooked diet because I wasn't used to pacing myself. I don't absorb food well, so I was throwing down a lot of food prior to switching back to cooked. That resulted in eating way too much cooked and not really knowing where full was. I continually face life lessons of moderation and I choose to continue learning how to achieve moderation in many things.

Why Smoothies?

Smoothies are a great way to get a high volume of fruits and veggies, along with their fiber, and they are super convenient and fast. It is really easy to experiment with them once you are comfortable making a few base recipes. I usually start my work day with a smoothie to sip on during my commute. My dogs also really like green smoothies, and I share with them in the morning. Champ is very fond of pears and apples, and Annie is our little garbage disposal. Annie particularly likes raw squash, apples, pears, bananas, and will chomp on any veggie. Annie is helping me type right now (if I don't pause enough to pet her, she starts batting at the keyboard).

Champ (on his bed) and Annie, wondering where their
green smoothies are

There are a few schools of thought on Smoothies vs. Juices. Juices require less work from the digestive system and are packed full of vitamins because the fibers and excess materials are removed. Some people favor juices because of this. Other people favor smoothies because our bodies need fiber. Personally, I believe there is a time and place for both. I'll be honest though and say I prefer smoothies because it's so much easier to clean my Vitamix than my juicer.

A Word About Blenders

When I first started a raw vegan diet, I had a cheap blender I picked up for under $20 at Target. It actually did alright with fruit, but if I chose to add any nuts or greens, I could end up with a soupy mess and would have to strain out some of the green fibers. When I decided to commit to a plant-based diet, I invested into a Vitamix blender, and I sounded like an infomercial for a good month after the purchase because I was so happy with the results. I even talked a coworker into purchasing a Vitamix and now they sound like an infomerical. It works very well on greens, nuts, and even rough chopped carrots.

My only critique of the Vitamix would be that the base is not removable, so sometimes it's hard to recover a good portion of nut butters or thicker recipes from behind the blades on the bottom. My friend has a Blendtec that they love, and their only critique is that the base is so wide that not everything always gets blended thoroughly. I hear it is easier to remove stuff from the bottom. The Blendtec and Vitamix are probably the two manufacturers I hear the most about in the raw community. If smoothies or a raw diet are something you are serious about, I would recommend either. Going from my old rickety blender to a Vitamix was like going from a tricycle to a competitive road bike. It's night and day.

Building a Green Smoothie

Some greens are much more bitter than others, and I usually use fruit to mask the taste, especially when I haven't had them in a while. I usually pick one green and one or more fruits per smoothie.

I've ordered these greens from smoothest taste to bitter-est taste to incorporate into a smoothie:
* lettuce (I don't use iceburg)
* spinach
* kale (dino seems less pungent than curly)
* chard
* collard
* mustard

According to Ani Phyo, a good rule is 2 cups greens to 2 cups fruit such as banana, mango, or apple. I think banana is necessary with some greens as the flavor pairing seems to tone things down. I would definitely start at the top of my greens list and work your way down as you experiment.

Here's what I shared with the dogs this morning:

3 cups packed lettuce
2 ripe bananas
enough water to blend things smoothly

After pouring some smoothie into their dog bowls, I added the following to the remainder of the mix for myself:
1 tsp Maca
1 tsp Spirulina
probiotics (vegan - not dairy based)

Spirulina is considered a superfood. It is high in the B vitamins, iron, vitamin A, and has all of the amino acids necessary to form a complete protein. The chlorophyll and phytonutrients help with detoxing the liver and kidneys as well.

Maca is another superfood. It is an adaptogen that will help regulate hormones and adrenal function.

Another tasty green smoothie:
1.5 packed cups kale or 2 cups spinach
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup raspberries

kale, raspberry, banana smoothie with
buckwheaties sprouting in the background

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reading Labels: Gluten

It is very tricky to eat out as a celiac or someone with a wheat allergy, and I generally recommend against it unless it's something that isn't cooked (a salad, for example), or it's at a restaurant that has a menu dedicated to people with a gluten intolerance. Even Red Robin has a gluten free menu now, but it doesn't necessarily mean that those french fries weren't fried in the same fryer as breaded onion rings. When my husband and I eat out, I usually opt for sushi bars with vegan options or vegan restaurants - many in this area are very conscientious about allergies.

Grocery shopping is also tricky, and it is absolutely crucial that people with allergies ready every label. Products can change ingredients or manufacturing guidelines, so it's important to recheck if you haven't bought the product in a while. Manufacturers aren't really required to list whether or not something shares equipment (although thankfully many reputable brands do), so a phone call or searching the company website doesn't hurt.

Gluten can be found in several grains and grain like products (1):

* wheat (a.k.a Bulgar, dinkle, spelt, durum, emmel, einkorn, fu, kamut, semolina, wheat germ, wheat berry, wheat nut)
* pastry flour, cake flour, pasta flour
* barley
* rye
* triticale (rye/wheat hybrid)
* Beer, ale, and most hard alcohol is derived from glutenous grains

Tricky products/derivatives are (1):

* couscous
* edible starch (often derived from wheat)
* farina
* gliadin
* gluten
* gluten peptides
* glutenin
* graham flour
* matzo, matzah, or matza
* MIR. (wheat and rye cross)
* Seitan
* wheat grass - may or may not cause a problem

Even trickier ingredients include (2):

* Binder or binding
* An ingredient with the word "Cereal"
* Filler
* Flour
* Gum base
* Hydrolyzed wheat protein
* Anything with the word "starch"
* Thickener or thickening agent

These items can be found in food product labels you find at the grocery store. When at a restaurant or bakery, it is nearly impossible to find gluten free fare - and honestly it's usually safest if you stick to home made, whole foods that are not pre-packaged.

If you must eat out, be aware that wheat is often used in (I've included some non-vegan items for those of you not a plant based diet - the vegan alternatives of these also often have gluten):
* many meat products or imitation meats, as a binder
* condiments
* marinara
* Alfredo (includes tofu versions)
* sauces
* gravy (includes mushroom gravy)
* soy sauce
* teriyaki sauce
* soups (as a thickener)
* stuffings/dressings

And of course breads, muffins, bagels, doughnuts, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, bread sticks, doughs, pot stickers, miso, wontons, noodles, crusts, and croutons. Even tempura is usually mixed with a pastry or cake wheat flour. It is easy for the wait staff to not be aware or not remember that something has a small amount of wheat flour in it.

If you are gluten intolerant, Oats may or may not be suitable depending on the extent of your sensitivity. Oats are commonly used as a rotation crop with wheat. They are usually grown in adjacent fields, stored in the same storage areas, and processed using the same equipment. There are farmers who are dedicated to growing gluten free certified oats that are not grown with wheat - but some people still may react to the grain. It is important to search for certified gluten free oats and try a small amount and watch for any reaction.

Be aware that many cosmetic products contain gluten. Makeup, hairspray, lotion, toothpaste, soaps, and other personal care products often contain gluten as a binder. I've gotten stomach cramps from getting too big of a whiff of my husband's pancake batter flour or hairspray really doesn't take much to set some people off!

Research Sources:

1. "Grains and Flours Glossary." Celiac Sprue Association March 24, 2009.
December 11, 2009

2. Fletton, Helen. "Wheat by any other name." March 8, 2005.
December 11, 2009

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin Sticky Buns

I set out this morning to bake cinnamon rolls, but thought these were more suited to a "caramel" topping. Caramel is a combination of sugar and cream, but I replaced those with dates and vanilla. I made mini-rolls because I didn't have large surface ready for the whole batch of dough, so I split it into two. Bonus: I feel less guilty when I eat a lot of them :)

Cinnamon Roll Dough
1/2 cup teff flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 & 1/4 cup pumpkin
4 tb palm oil, melted
1/4 cup agave

Combine the dry ingredients first, and then mash the pumpkin in with a fork. Combine the melted oil and agave first, then transfer onto the batter and combine. If the dough is sticky and hard to handle, it's too warm. I had to let it rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Flour a surface and lightly roll out the dough. It will stand up to rolling, which is fairly rare for a vegan gluten free dough.

Once you have rolled the dough into a rectangular shape, soften 2 TB of palm oil and mix in 3 TB of maple syrup to brush over the dough. I made the mistake of completely melting the palm oil, and ended up with a gooey mess, which you'll see below. Delicious, but gooey. A nice addition would be rough chopped pecans. Sprinkle a liberal amount of cinnamon on the dough, a small amount of allspice (just a pinch), and grate some fresh nutmeg on top. Note: Not all maple syrup is actually vegan, so it's best to research your sources. Sometimes they use fat to keep the syrup from bubbling over. If you would rather, you can use turbinado sugar, which to the best of my knowledge and research is never filtered with bone-char.

Roll the dough along the length of the dough (roll long end to long end - don't start at a skinny end, or you'll end up with the fattest cinnamon rolls ever) and cut them about at a length of about 1 1/2 inches. The second mistake I made while making these is not putting baking paper on the cookie sheet. These are gooey, and while cleanup wasn't impossible, it was a little longer than it could have been. The baking paper I use sparingly is unbleached and I reuse often before composting. It's a great way to keep things a little fresher than just sitting in the open.

These buns look a little dry on the outside when they are done (after about 25 minutes at 350 degrees F), but they are quite moist in the middle. They are so yummy.

4 dates, soaked for a minimum of 45 minutes
3-4 TB of water
pinch of scraped vanilla bean
small pinch of salt

Blend the ingredients in a high speed blender and spoon over the top.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This Blog is Going Vegan

10/12/2010 After reviewing feedback (which is appreciated, even if scathing), I did a lot of introspection. The content of this blog will be and is vegan. I do not promote the consumption or usage of animal based products or products that have been tested on animals. I do my due diligence when purchasing my own house care, personal care, food, and clothing products. I take pride in my honesty and felt I should be upfront. I know there are a lot of people out there who label themselves as vegan to appear enlightened and just aren't either. I do not label myself as vegan. It's not because of what I eat, wear, or use - my ethics just aren't always in line with the real vegans out there. I felt the distinction should be made to avoid misleading anyone, not because I wanted to offend people with statements considered to be anti-vegan. So by all means, consider me a flexitarian on a strictly plant based diet with vegan tendancies. Now let's get back to the food!

After careful consideration, I've decided to go 100% vegan on this blog. I have a vegan diet and the vast majority of my recipes are vegan. In the interest of full disclosure, my husband and my dogs are not vegan, so those of you who like labels shouldn't call me a vegan because of association, despite my dietary, personal care, and clothing choices.

I chose a vegan diet because of health reasons. At 30, I have arthritis, allergies, and several other health issues related to inflammatory responses. Animal products make my symptoms more noticeable. After much research, I can't agree with how the vast majority of animals that end up on our dinner plates are raised, fed, medicated, or slaughtered. I also can't believe I ate shellfish or pork (there is a great reason for them not being kosher at all). I don't know if I'll ever change my mind or write a recipe book down the line that is not vegan. In fact, I'm pretty sure I will collaborate with a friend on a book that has recipes that are vegetarian with conversions to vegan. I am one of those people who started for health reasons, and continued because of research - which probably makes me more prone to waffling on the subject. I admire people who are dead set in their convictions, but the world is not black and white anymore to me. I just can't view a fish as my equal and don't view consuming them as morally repugnant. Now genetically modifying them and feeding them soy and corn - that's disgusting to me.

As it stands, I choose to prepare and consume vegan meals. They tend to have less allergens than non-vegan meals, and there are plenty of places everyone can go to get meat related recipes that are gluten free. That aspect of meals tends to be the easiest to convert once an allergy is discovered. I also would like to avoid alienating any readers because of one recipe. Until further notice, this blog will have vegan content.

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust

Have I mentioned how much I like the flavors of fall yet? I'm sure I have, but let me reiterate - the earthy tones of fall just agree with me. There's nothing really dainty about apple and pumpkin, and you can combine them with some really strong spices. I don't have to worry about being heavy handed - except when it comes to cloves I suppose. I really am sensitive to cloves and prefer they be used sparingly, if at all.

Prepping the Pumpkin

Lance picked out a very nice sugar pumpkin at PCC for me. There are several types of pumpkin that lend well to baking, but the big pumpkins that are cheap and used for jack-o-lanterns are not a variety that will work. They are too fibrous and dull. The smaller pumpkins can have some really full, buttery flavors. Here is a great link with everything you could want to know (really) about pumpkin varieties:

We used the Baby Pam, I'm pretty sure. Lance hacked it in half for me, we de-seeded and took the slimy fibers out, then Lance cut it into several good sized chunks. I laid the pieces, flesh side up, on a baking pan and covered it with tin foil to keep some of the moisture in. In retrospect, a bit of water would have been a very good thing (2 cups at least). Set the oven at 400 degrees and cook for 45 minutes or until the flesh can be pierced with a fork. I've put butter and sugar on the pumpkin as it roasts in the past, but it's really not necessary especially considering none of it is going to be eaten as is.

Because I didn't use water when I roasted the pumpkin, the food processor had a time cutting up the tougher, dry edges, and I had to add a decent amount of water to get the food to turn in the food processor. It all worked out though and I ended up with about 4 cups of pureed pumpkin (enough for 2 pies or 1 pie and a baking project, muaahaaha).

Pecan Pie Crust
makes one standard pie crust, bottom only
3/4 cup ground pecans
1 1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tb palm oil shortening
1/4 cup agave

Combine the pecan and sorghum flours and salt. I just pulsed pecans in a food processor until they were fine enough for a flour - nothing fancy. Add in the palm shortening and agave and use a pastry cutter to combine the flour. When you pinch some dough and it clings together, it's ready to sit in the fridge for 1/2 an hour to an hour to rest.

Pie crust is a difficult thing to approach without a gluten binder, especially if it's vegan and you can't rely on eggs. It's important to handle it very little so the fats don't get too warm. This crust holds up quite well and keeps its form. Like all gluten free vegan crusts I've worked with thus far, it does not roll out. I pressed it into the pie pan.

Quick baking tip - cover the edges of crust that are exposed during baking with aluminum foil to prevent burning. The rest of the pie has moisture from the filling it can collect, but the edges are exposed and will burn.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

Date Syrup

20 deglet dates, soaked in water for at least 45 minutes
1/3 cup soak water
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped

Combine the date syrup ingredients in a high speed blender. It should have a caramel taste almost. Deglet dates are lower in sugar and higher in fiber than most varieties, so it shouldn't be overwhelmingly sweet. If you use Medjool dates, only use about 10. They are much higher in sugar content. Honey dates are supposed to be good as well, but I haven't seen any in Washington - Deglet and Medjool seem to be the two varieties.

Pour the date syrup into a food processor along with the remainder of the ingredients:

2 cups pumpkin puree
2 TB tapioca flour (in just enough water to make the mixture smooth - 2 TB water)
1 1/3 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp ginger
1/8-1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
pinch cloves
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt

Once all of the ingredients are combined, poke holes in the bottom and sides of the pie crust with a fork. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. The filling will firm up nicely and should not ripple when you move the pan to check on it.
Serve warm with Vanilla coconut ice cream.

Teff & Sweet Potato Donuts

I think my new favorite ingredient is teff. I hadn't worked with it much, but recently I have been using it to convert some recipes, and I really like the texture and molasses undertones it lends to recipes. Some people consider it sour and it has a strong taste, so I tend to use it as a one-fourth of the flour volume or less. It creates a beautiful dark brown color, and retains moisture really well if you combine things properly. Like most gluten free banana breads, it seemed to settle down and hold much better as day old, although it was delicious as a melty crumble the day of.

Chocolate Banana Tease Bread - note the rich color

Like quinoa, teff has all 8 of the essential amino acids, which would be considered a complete protein. It is very high in fiber, iron, and calcium. It was almost exclusively grown in Ethiopia, but it is catching on in popularity. There is a farm that grows quite a bit in Idaho, so it's fairly easy to find in the Seattle area.

Teff is considered a gluten free grain, but it does contain a form of gluten. It just doesn't have the chain considered to activate celiac/gluten intolerance in people. Both my husband and I seem to do fairly well with it. If it does have gluten, it's not enough. I tried to make a soda bread with it recently, and it was not pliable at all and turned into a powdered mess. Trial and error seems to be my cooking method of choice, and not everything is a home run.

Yesterday, my mom and grandparents came over for a nice big dinner. I have been sick lately and was getting cabin fever, so I was glad they all came over. We had plenty of vegan sides to go with their meat (I stuck to the sides). I had my pea salad with macadamia dressing, lightly blanched broccoli, sweet potatoes, and a nice vegan pumpkin pie with coconut ice cream. It was a very filling dinner. Surprisingly, I actually showed some restraint this time and didn't cook enough for an army, so leftovers were limited. I had about a cup and a quarter of sweet potatoes left over and wasn't sure what to do with them. I've made sweet potato pancakes that are always a hit, but I wanted something different. I settled on pan fried doughnuts. It sounds very unhealthy, but we rarely have anything fried.

Sweet Potato Donuts

1/2 cup teff flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 1/4 cup sweet potato (cooked and mashed)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
4 Tb melted palm oil (Spectrum Shortening is the brand I used)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vinegar

powdered sugar (corn starch free)
granulated sugar and cinnamon

Combine all of the dry ingredients thoroughly with a whisk. Mash in the sweet potatoes with a fork or pastry cutter until it resembles pie dough (pea sized clumps). Melt the palm oil and combine that with the water and vinegar and then combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.

My sweet potatoes were fresh out of the fridge, so it helped temper the palm oil. If everything you start with is at room temperature or warmer and the dough is hard to work with, stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes. You should be able to form a snake or length of dough with your hands really easily. Connect the ends of the dough to form a doughnut shape. I made mine really small because I was pan frying them instead of deep frying. I used peanut oil, but you can use whatever high temperature oil works best for you. Vegetable oil is usually soy and corn, and I am terribly allergic. If you are deep frying them, watch for them to get a nice dark golden color. If you are pan frying, just cook them a few minutes on each side, and be careful to only flip them once. You should notice the side start to turn a golden color before flipping them.

Once they were done cooking, I put them on a drying rack over a sheet pan with raised sides so the oil would drain off. If you put them on paper towels, you will end up with a mess. I didn't have much oil, so I flattened the rest of the batter and made naan bread for my dinner tonight (yum!). This is a versatile recipe, and I may find other uses or variations down the road.

I put 1/4 cup of turbinado sugar in the Vitamix blender and let it whir and ended up with some nice powdered sugar. I strained that over the top with a fine sieve. You could also roll them in granulated sugar with cinnamon while they are fresh out of the pan, but I prefer them with very little sugar for a hint of sweetness.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lemon Cake

Please note that you will want to use shredded yellow squash, not pureed, baby food or pre-cooked. My mom thought pureeing the squash would give the cake a better texture, but the cake sank. Even my friends with a texture food phobia thought the texture of this cake is very good. I like the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

I like using yellow (crookneck) squash because the color blends in very well with the batter. I prefer the squash without bumps in the skin, but you can peel those off. If you can't find the proper kind of squash, you can substitute with zucchini, although I would probably peel off the skin.

Lemon Cake
makes one 10" cake
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 c sorghum flour
1/4 c tapioca flour
1 1/2 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup turbinado sugar and 1/2 cup agave)
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups shredded yellow squash
1 lemon, zested and juiced

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the squash with the wet ingredients. be sure to add in the lemon zest and juice. Combine the liquid and dry ingredients by folding in the squash mixture. This will be a drier than normal cake batter. The squash releases liquid as the cake cooks in the oven and it comes out quite moist. Because the cake doesn't have eggs, feel free to try a very small amount of batter. If there isn't enough lemon flavor, zest half of another lemon into the cake batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes away mostly clean. You don't want to overcook this cake and a little extra moisture is better than too little.