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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final Vegan Mofo Post: The Ultimate GF Chocolate Cupcakes

I was thinking about keeping this recipe to myself, but in the generous spirit of Vegan Month of Food, I'll share. This cake is rich without being overwhelming and not too overly sweet (despite all of the sugar), so it would be tasty with some frosting. The cake is a little extra work, but totally worth it. There are actually 3 recipes in one here - which helps make up for some of the days I've missed. I bring some of my baked goodies to work for coworkers to taste test. They've gotten really good at it! They said the texture and flavor were very good. It's very chocolate-y without being overly rich, and there is a very slight nutty flavor from the cashews that go into the batter.

The beets in the recipe sound a bit odd, and I can't claim that idea as my own. I often use vegetables and fruits to add moisture and texture to my gluten free goodies, but I found the non-vegan, non-gluten-friendly version of this recipe in the Hot & Hot Fish Club cookbook I was given as a gift. I know the recipe book isn't vegan, but I love free things, especially when it's easy for me to veganize it!

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 2 dozen cupcakes
3 oz finely grated beets
1/4 c. Tapioca Flour
3/4 c. Teff Flour
1 c. Brown Rice Flour
3 oz cacao powder
6 oz sugar (preferably sucanat or turbinado to keep things vegan and minimally processed)
3 Tb ground chia seeds
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder**
3/4 tsp salt
5 oz melted coconut oil (about 3/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups Cashew Buttermilk (recipe below)
1 tsp coconut vinegar
1/2 cup Cashew Whipped Kreme (recipe below)

Cashew Buttermilk
1/2 c. soaked cashews
1 c. water
juice of 1 lemon

Cashew Whipped Kreme
1/2 c soaked cashews
1 Tb water
2 Tb agave

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cake assembly: Sift the teff flour, tapioca flour, brown rice, cacao powder, sugar, chia seed powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the cashew buttermilk, beets, and melted coconut oil until well combined and the lumps are gone. Fold in the Cashew Whipped Kreme and coconut vinegar. Put in a muffin tin with cupcake liners and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean.

I will try to write a review tomorrow about my new favorite cupcake liners, If You Care baking cups. They really make all the difference and they are bleach free!

** Allergy Tip: Baking Powder is often made using corn and gluten. Be sure to read labels carefully and choose a brand that specifically states they are corn and gluten free.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 27: Thanksgiving and GMO foods

Thanksgiving was full of fantastic food and interesting conversation topics. I had plenty to eat, and eat I did. I am still full. I contributed roasted garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry apricot chutney, I brought a pasta salad just for me, and my family set aside several vegetable dishes that were carefully prepared vegan and gluten free. I brought two pies. My Pecan Pie stole the show and was a great conversation piece.

My grandma and I both love pecan pie. I loved its glucose busting sweetness and buttery rich filling - and the way that caramel goodness seeped into the crust was amazing. Now I'm not quite so much of a sweet tooth, but this was a fun dish to try to make healthier (and vegan). With a little creativity, I found that it was completely possible to ditch the butter, eggs, and best of all, the corn syrup! It held up very well to being sliced, and still had that buttery goodness thanks to a little coconut oil. I would post the recipe, but I have to save something for a book and restaurant :)

The lack of corn syrup in the pie got us on the topic of genetically modified foods, factory farming, and the "Food Safety" bill that is on the table, threatening to jeopardize organic farmers and ban seed saving. I need to read up more on the topic, but my grandmother is planning on giving our state senators an earful. Go Grandma!

"We're Americans! We don't plan; we do!" Colonel Custer, Night at the Museum 2

I don't rant very often on this blog, but sometimes it's warranted.

Genetically modified foods can elevate allergic responses and induce food intolerance (particularly gastrointestinal symptoms) (1*). Genetic modification can increase the levels of allergy causing proteins and introduce new allergens. Splicing Brazil Nut genes into corn was fortunately discontinued because of the severe risk to people with tree nut allergies (2). There really hasn't been substantial research over the 20 plus years needed to determine how a modified crop will impact the people consuming it and the environment around it, but we charge ahead regardless, embracing a crop that is more resistant to pests and disease.

I find it very frightening that one of my local food co-ops no longer carried corn because they couldn't find any farms that were reliably non-GMO. Think of what that means for all of the products that contain corn! I don't mean just the product with "corn" listed in the ingredients. I mean the products that have citric acid, liqueurs, maltodextrin, glucose, fructose, "natural" flavors and colors, vanilla extracts, baking powder, and starches. All of those come guessed it...corn! It's in nearly everything! (For more hidden sources of corn, click here). And let's not stop there. What do you think is being fed to livestock and farmed fish? Yes, they feed farmed fish corn and soy - not a species appropriate diet. Corn and soy are not species appropriate for cows, sheep, and pigs, who are all meant to be pasture fed on grass. That's right, pigs aren't meant to eat buckets of food waste "enriched" with genetically modified soy and corn. They are meant to feast on grass, leafy greens, insects, and roots. The overly complex diet fed to farm animals causes digestive problems and lowered immunity meaning more methane and toxic build up for our ozone and more antibiotics for the animals.

Being allergic to corn gives me an easy out for not consuming it, but even I have problems avoiding products that contain trace amounts. Corn isn't the only "product" that is nearly completely GMO these days. Soy is about 90% GMO (with more contaminated GMO) and canola oil is another big one.

Genetic modification isn't just an issue restricted to plants. Recently, a push to approve GMO Salmon was under way. I'm frightened for what this may mean for our ecosystem. GMO Salmon grow to what we would consider a mature weight in under 18 months. Normal maturation occurs at 3 years in the wild. These salmon are more aggressive and consume more, which most likely would mean very bad things for our ecosystem if they were to be released or let out of their pens. For more on this topic, click here. We have over fished our waters and that is being used as an excuse to produce freaks of nature instead of cutting back on our animal consumption. Bluefin tuna is now predicted to be extinct by 2012 (for an article on overfishing, click here). Fish farms are known for fairly unreliable containment systems - imagine how much we could speed up the extinction of natural species of fish by letting these magnificent examples of our need to control everything around us out in the open ocean?

Ain't science grand?

*While I most certainly do not condone the use of animals in medical testing, I will be citing some articles that used this form of research.


1. "A WZS minitature swine food hypersensitivity model orally induced by soybean
beta-conglycinin." Zhonghua Yu Fang Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2009 Sep;43(9):776-80

2. Julie A. Nordlee, "Identification of Brazil-Nut Allergen in Transgenic Soybeans," New
England Journal of Medicine, 334 (1996):688-692.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 24: Butternut Squash Soup & Thanksgiving Tips

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I've been busy trying to figure out what all I am going to make and bring to my family's house. I will bring a vegan side with plenty of veggie protein (there will be salads and I'm making Mashed Potatoes my way). I'm also bringing a couple vegan pies. I know Apple Pie is definitely going to be one of them, and I'm going back and forth between Pumpkin Pie and raw vegan Pecan Pie. I am really hoping things warm up tonight and tomorrow and we don't have to try to battle our way into the Eastside through ice and snow. It has been cold, and Seattle isn't the most equipped to deal with snow and ice.

Annie in her little jacket, ready for some playtime outside

What she really thinks of the camera.

Many of us are enjoying meals with family members who don't share an allergy or a life/food preference. It can be really difficult when people don't understand contamination and appreciate that using one spoon for two things can mean an emergency or severe discomfort to someone with a severe allergy.

Here are some very simple tips I will be following this Holiday.

1. Bring a dish or two that you can eat and share.

I will be bringing a vegetable protein rich dish and helping with sides that I know I am not allergic to and are vegan. If you are able to stand in the kitchen and watch some preparation, you can usually get a good feel for whether or not they understand contamination issues. If you are going to an omnivore house as a vegan, it's also a good idea to bring a couple side dishes. You would be surprised what people think is vegan (I've been offered fish and things with dairy).

Root Roast with Kreamy Parsnip sauce, Kale,
and cauliflower over Miso Cheeze

2. Love dessert like I do? Don't forget to bring yourself a dessert.

It can be very disappointing when you feel forgotten on a holiday. Don't let an allergy or lifestyle preference rob you of dessert -- bring your own.

Cranberry Apricot Tart

3. Bring protein bars.

Just in case you don't get quite enough at the dinner table, an allergy friendly protein bar has saved me from making poor food choices and grabbing something that I would react to or regret later. A Larabar has been my saving grace many times.

What we choose to eat is a very personal matter and can cause heated arguments. People are passionate about food, and usually they mean well. Those of us raised on a traditional diet have been fed nutrition advice by doctors in a very animal protein obsessed society. When I made the switch, my family was very concerned with my health, especially because I am very allergic to soy. I think they are becoming more comfortable with the notion, and I continue to educate myself on the topic. I've found that removing the emotion from the argument and just basing my argument on logical, rational facts surrounding nutrition, food contamination, and health is the soundest approach. I will be doing my best to avoid this conversation on the Holidays. That's not to say I don't speak my mind when prompted.

Butternut Squash Soup

This dish was inspired by Skinny Bitch's Curried Pumpkin Soup in her new book, although I took the dish in a completely different direction. I did like her idea of adding pumpkin seeds to her pumpkin soup for crunch and texture, and will probably try that next time.

2 TB olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 apples, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
pinch of cinnamon
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup hard apple cider
2 cups carrot juice
1 tsp salt
1 roasted butternut squash
1 cup vanilla hemp milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the neck of the butternut squash from the bulb. Cut those sections in half and put them face down in a baking pan with about an inch of water. Cover the baking pan and squash with aluminum foil and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until you can pierce the squash with a fork. Once the squash is done, remove it from the oven and the pan to cool on a rack or plate.

Put a 4 quart+ saucepan over medium heat. Put in 2 Tb of olive oil. When the oil is ready, add the onion, apples, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the onions look translucent. Add the hard apple cider and mix until the alcohol smell has died down. Add the carrot juice, butternut squash, and salt and cook until the apples are very tender.

Take the soup off the heat and put half in a high speed blender with half of the hemp milk. Put the blended portion in a serving bowl and repeat this step with the remaining veggie/apple chunks and hemp milk. Serve while warm.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 22: Sauerkraut Product Review

I've mention my deep and bordering-on-unnatural love for all things fermented. I need to join a 12 step program or something because my husband has caught me eating sauerkraut straight out of the jar. Is it a need for probiotics? Some mineral I'm deficient in? Not enough salt in my diet? A deep rooted instinct from my germanic genetic memory? I just can't get enough of pickled, fermented foods.

Picking up a new jar of sauerkraut this weekend inspired me to do a little taste testing of the three brands I had in my fridge (See? Addict.).

A (Very) Quick Background on Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is thought to have originated in Asia. Using salt to preserve foods was not uncommon in Europe, so I'm not sure of the validity of this theory. Moving forward with the theory, as it moved west to Europe when the trade routes opened, Germans embraced the food and replaced the wine and yeast in the fermentation process with salt. Mmmm...Salt. It is rich in probiotics and very good for you.
The Contenders

All three of the brands in my review have three ingredients: cabbage, water, and salt. They are all made the right way - without vinegar, added lactic acid, or "natural spices." I rated each of them on texture, taste, and ethical/sustainable practices.

Brand 1: Bubbies

Likes: I love the texture and taste of Bubbies Sauerkraut. Of the three, it is probably my favorite (flavor wise) because of the tangy, strong flavor. The texture is very good - the pieces of cabbage are a nice consistency with a little bit of crunch. Packaging in a glass jar as opposed to plastic is a plus for me because I don't have to worry about BPAs.

Dislikes: No where on the bottle do they make the claim that they are using cabbage that comes from organic farming practices. They also carry additional pickled products that showcase or incorporate animal products.

Brand 2: Rejuvenative Foods

Likes: The taste is pretty good. Products are labeled as organic. The foods are raw and not pasteurized. All of the products I've browsed on their site or seen in person are, in the majority of cases, vegan. The exception? Some products use honey.

Dislikes: The cabbage is a very minute, pulverized shred, so no crunch for Cami. The taste is alright, but not as tangy as I would like. On a few of the jars, I've seen mold growing up around the lid immediately after time of purchase, even though I replace the lid quickly and do refrigerate. I recently read the label and I am supposed to be keeping things flat in the jar, so perhaps that would help.

Brand 3: Cultured Classics

Likes: The product is local and available at my local farmer's market in Seattle, WA. The cabbage in the product is farmed using organic farming practices. The cabbage cut is very consistent and a very good size. I get some crunch and chewiness from the cabbage. The packaging is in a glass jar with a plastic lid, so I have less worries about leaching. The products available at the farmers market (at least the ones I looked at) were all vegan.

Dislikes: The sauerkraut may not have fermented for quite as long as I like because it was a bit milder than my preference.

The Winner?

Everyone has their flavor and texture preferences, but my winner was Cultured Classics because they are organic, had the texture I was looking for, and a great taste - plus they are local. I am sad I am shelving Bubbies because of the great taste, but will probably turn to Rejuvenative Foods if I can't get to the farmer's market.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 21: Carrot Breakfast Risotto

Today is a cold one in Seattle. As I'm sitting here typing, little snowflakes are going by the computer room window. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be sticking. I know that snow doesn't mean I get to miss out on making the trek into work, and I really don't want to have to mess with chains or the bus. I'd love it if the weather fit my schedule - let it snow as much as it wants next week when I have a few days off.

The pink blur is Annie in her little jacket
Cold weather doesn't make Annie slow down. She just wants to chase her ball up and down our hallway or in the backyard with Lance and Champ. Champ is a much more mellow dog and just sniffs around the yard.

About a week ago, I purchased 15 pounds of carrots. I had ambitions of soups, salads, risotto, and more. I would pick some out of the bunch during the week, but the majority of them sat in my fridge. This weekend I thought a breakfast risotto sounded really nice, so I finally got around to soaking the carrots (and an apple for the risotto) in a water and vinegar bath. It's about 1/4 cup vinegar to 1/2 a gallon of water. This bath helps get some of the bacteria, pests and residue off the surface. Apples are on the dirty dozen, the list of foods that are the most contaminated with pesticides when not organically grown. There are more than 42 recognized pesticides found on conventionally grown apples. Carrots were just recently taken off the list this year, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't purchase them from the organic section; it means the fruits and vegetables on the list this year have more than the 26 pesticides found on carrots (yikes). For more info on the dirty dozen, visit this link

I have a Jack LaLane Power Juicer I purchased around 6 years ago, well before I had ambitions of becoming a health nut and vegan. It works pretty well, but like all juicers, it's hard to clean after being assaulted with 10 pounds of carrots. It handled the carrots like a champ, and I was able to get a full cup of juice out of one Fuji apple. Not bad.

After juicing the carrots, I started food prep for the risotto and put the rest in the fridge to be used later today for a butternut carrot squash and raw vegan carrot soup.

Carrot Breakfast Risotto
serves 2 hungry people
2 Tb Olive Oil
1 cup Arborio Rice
1/3 cup Hard Apple Cider (gluten free)
2 1/2 cups Carrot Juice
1 cup Apple Juice
1 stick Cinnamon
2 generous slices fresh Ginger
1 cup Vanilla Hemp Milk
pinch salt
Maple Syrup for serving

You can use 100% pure carrot and apple juice from the grocery store if you do not have a juicer. Combine the juices in a sauce pan with the cinnamon and ginger. Increase the heat until it begins to bubble and maintain a slow bubble. This will boil over very easily, so it's important to keep it to a gentle simmer.

Once the carrots become a rich redish-orange and the cinnamon stick has begun to uncurl, heat some olive oil in a large sauce pan. When the oil is ready, add the cup of rice and stir to coat. Cook for about 2 minutes.

I have a strange sense of humor. Note the rich color of the carrot mixture.
Add the 1/3 cup of hard apple cider and cook while stirring until the rice has absorbed the cider (between 3-5 minutes).

Add the carrot and apple juice infused with ginger and cinnamon 1/2 a cup at a time, waiting for each 1/2 cup to be absorbed before adding the next.

Once the juice has been absorbed, add the Vanilla Hemp Milk, 1/2 a cup at a time.

The rice should be done. You want the rice to still be firm and have some shape to it without being the slightest bit crunchy. Serve in a bowl with a small drizzle of Maple Syrup. This is a beautiful risotto with a distinctively autumn flair.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 20: Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Today, Lance and I went to the farmers market in the University District of Seattle. I was really impressed and happy to see pickles to try and a booth dedicated to fermented foods. I would have done my little happy dance if it weren't so darn cold - handling cash without gloves in freezing temperatures equals shivering and loss of one of the five senses. There is a really great representation of local farms with a wide array of seasonal produce. I bought a little something from nearly every local farm booth, and ended up with a nice collection of winter gourds. I anticipate that this will probably translate to another spike in gourd recipes to match my pumpkin streak in October.

I have had some oven roasted pumpkin waiting in my fridge to make its way into a pie or other baked good for a few days. I have been giving Annie a little with her food, so there wasn't enough for a full pie. We had to really watch her after Halloween. If someone had smashed a pumpkin somewhere, she would run straight for it and try to eat it quickly - which isn't bad unless it had been sitting on someone's porch for a while molding.

Annie has a fondness for all things orange

These muffins are really hearty and nutritious. Traditional baking pumpkins have a high amount of vitamin A, fiber, carbohydrates, and sugars. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins do not have the same concentration of nutrients, are much more fibrous, and offer less flesh to use in cooking. I highly recommend using baby sugar pumpkins or other smaller cooking gourds.

I know I have touted the health benefits of quinoa before, but in reading Healing with Whole Foods* (which I highly, highly recommend for anyone with an interest in what a tremendous impact foods have on us) I have discovered even more reasons to love it! It's higher in calcium than milk and has the magnesium and lysine needed to absorb it without having to "fortify" the product. When combined with a grain with a low lysine level, it has a more complete amino acid/protein factor than animal flesh or any other animal products. It's rich in iron, B vitamins, and vitamin E.

*Note on Healing with Whole Foods: It is not a vegan book, although it does acknowledge our society's "obsession" with protein consumption and promotes a plant based diet.

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins
1 1/2 c. Pumpkin
1 c. Water
1/2 c. Maple Syrup (or Date Syrup)
1 scant c. Quinoa Flour
1 1/2 TB ground Chia Seed
1 1/2 c. Brown Rice Flour
3 T Tapioca Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp or less Ginger
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 c. Raisins (optional)
1/3 c. rough chopped Pecans (optional)
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 TB Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients (flours, chia seed, baking soda, spices, salt) with a whisk in a large mixing bowl. Put the cooked pumpkin, water, and maple syrup in a food processor for about 2 minutes or until smooth. Combine the dry and wet ingredients and add in the raisins, pecans, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar. Pour amounts into a muffin tin and bake for about 25-30 minutes.

For more tips on preparing pumpkin, click here.

For money saving tips on grinding your own Quinoa Flour, click here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vegan MoFo Giveaway Winner - Brandi! & Creamy Garlic Potatoes

Brandi has won a copy of Ani Phyo's Raw Food Essentials! Please contact me at with mailing info so I can send the book to you. I hope this book will help you add more delicious raw food into your diet!

I have been taking part in creating some great dishes lately in preparation for Thanksgiving, but the camera has not been available to capture them. Last night we had a few friends over for dinner and enjoyed roasted garlic potatoes, sauteed kale, spinach dip, sliced veggies, and cranberry chutney (which oddly went really well with the potatoes and spinach). For dessert - Gluten Free Apple Pie. Tonight it was No Clam Chowder. Despite the lack of pictures, I will post the recipe for very garlicky mashed potatoes - and hopefully return soon to post a picture.

Creamy Garlic Potatoes
Serves 4 people with some left overs
4 medium-large Yellow Skinned potatoes (you can use red or russet, but this is the variety I chose)
2/3 cup cashews
2/3 cup water
1 head of garlic (yep, the whole thing)
1 tsp salt
1/2 lemon, juiced

Cut the top off the garlic head exposing the tops of the cloves. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top, and put the garlic into the oven, preheated to 400 degrees. I can usually tell it's done when the house starts to smell of garlic (10-15 minutes?). The garlic will not discolor, but become a little transparent and be pierced easily with a fork.

Cooking the potatoes: Thoroughly scrub the skins of the potatoes and rinse them. Place the potatoes (skin on) in a large pot of salted water and set the burner temperature to medium. It will take around 30-45 minutes to boil the potatoes; cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

Take the potatoes out of the water, drain them, and use a cooking mitt to hold them while you peel them. You don't want cold mashed potatoes, do you? :) Mash in a large bowl with a potato masher.

Put the cashews, water, lemon, salt, and all of those roasted garlic cloves in that head into a high speed blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Slowly combine the liquid into the mash potatoes. If you want really creamy potatoes, use a hand mixer until you have achieved the consistency you like. I prefer mine lumpy.

Potato Tips: Potatoes need to be stored carefully and used quickly. One they start to develop green sprouts or a greenish hue to the skin, they have a toxin called solanine. The solanine is not in the green areas specifically (that's chlorophyll), but is rather an indicator that the toxin is present. Cutting off the green skins is not sufficient. While it takes a large amount of green potatoes (4+ lbs according to to start developing symptoms, it's best to not to buy them in excess. Those cheap 10 pound bags aren't always the bargain they seem - wasted food is very expensive.

Potato Storage: Storing potatoes out of the reach of light will increase the shelf life. I put mine in a cabinet in my kitchen. Storage temperatures are ideally mild, but not overly cold. When the weather is overly warm or your house gets too cool in the winter, they will age faster.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 18: Guten Free and Thriving

Spaghetti Squash is a great gluten free stand in for pasta.
Shown: Spaghetti Squash with vegan alfredo and Brussels Sprouts

It is really easy to get overwhelmed when you learn that gluten is out of your diet. Gluten is in so many different things! Some vegans eat a lot of baked goods as a carbohydrate source, but vegans can still thrive without the gluten. Fruit is a great carbohydrate source, and of course there is gluten free baking.

Here are a few Do's and Dont's that helped me cope:
  • Do learn how to prepare gluten free pseudocereals and grains. There are a lot of options.
  • Do learn to enjoy food in its whole state, prepared simply
  • Do think ahead and plan your meals
  • Do always carry a snack with you just in case
  • Do still invite people over for dinner, and offer to bring a side when you go elsewhere that could easily fill you just in case
  • Do realize that people mean well, but don't always understand allergies and cross-contamination
  • Do ask if fryers or surfaces are used for other food items in a restaurant
  • Do carry allergy medication with you just in case
  • Don't exclusively use rice products. People become allergic to rice too.
  • Don't assume a waiter knows what gluten free is
  • Don't forget to re-read labels on products you haven't checked in a while. Recipes change.
  • Don't let yourself get down. There are so many fantastic foods out there that don't have gluten in them!
A few easy gluten free pasta substitutes:
  • Rice Pastas
  • Sea Tangle kelp noodles
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Grated Zucchini
A few cracker suggestions:
  • Fresh sliced vegetables
  • Jicama
  • dehydrated Kale Chips
  • Cassava Chips
Some whole grain substitutes to barley and wheat berries:
  • Quinoa - nutty and great in savory meals or in muffins
  • Amaranth - strong nutty flavor, packed with nutrients
  • Millet - great for grinding and using in frying
  • Teff - molasses like taste
  • Buckwheat - best in crepes or dehydrated as a cereal
  • Sorghum - very mild, almost sweet flavor
  • Rice
We had some friends over tonight and had so much fun. The food was a great conversation topic because it was hearty and filling without having that taste that is unfortunately associated with gluten free sometimes. Gluten free can be delicious. It makes me sad when people get upset about a diagnosis - I want to open up their eyes to a world of incredible tasting food. People who refuse to change their diets are only sacrificing their health - taste is a whole different matter.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 17: Thumbprint Cookies with Orange Caramel and Chocolate Drizzle

I've been thinking of shortbread with an orange caramel for a while, so I decided to try it out. I love these.

Orange Caramel Thumbprints with Chocolate Drizzle

1 batch Thumbprint Cookie Dough

6 dates, soaked at least 20 minutes
1/2 cup date soak water
pinch salt
1 vanilla bean scraped
zest of 1 small orange

Chocolate Drizzle:
1/2 a batch of the chocolate recipe found here (or less than 1/2 - you'll still have leftover for dipping strawberries or bananas)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the caramel ingredients into a high speed blender and blend until smooth and well combined.

Form the cookie dough into small thumbprint shapes. They will expand a bit, so make sure there is about 1 inch between them. Spoon enough caramel to fit in the indentation. Bake for about 10 minutes. They will come out soft, but will harden as you let them cool. I recommend baking them the day before you plan on serving them. I let them cool on the cookie sheet over night to reduce the chance of cracking or breaking on a cooling rack.

Once the cookies have cooled. Drizzle the chocolate over the top.

Enjoy! I know we did. In fact, I had way too many today :P

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 16: Quinoa Banana Muffins

A little planning ahead can go a long way in an allergy household. I try to make muffins every weekend as an easy breakfast for Lance and I as we are heading to work. These muffins are higher in protein than some of my other recipes, and they taste great. Some gluten free recipes dry out rather quickly, but these are still moist and flavorful after 48 hours.

Quinoa Banana Muffins
3 ripe Bananas
1 c. Water
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/4 c. Maple Syrup
1 scant c. Quinoa Flour**
1 1/2 Tb Chia Seeds, ground*
1 1/2 c. Brown Rice Flour
3 Tb Tapioca Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Coconut Vinegar
2 Tb Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Blend the bananas, water, maple syrup, and vanilla in a blender until smooth and combined. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk and then slowly stir in the banana mixture. Add the olive oil and coconut vinegar right before you pour the batter into a muffin tin.

*I grind the Chia seeds in a coffee grinder. Chia seeds are a fantastic source of omega fatty acids, so I try to use them in smoothies, cereals, and cooking. They act a little like flax and help bind the muffin together. I recommend grinding a neutral tasting grain in the coffee grinder after grinding Chia seeds. Chia seeds leave an oily residue that doesn't taste very pleasant with some flavors.

** I grind bulk sale quinoa grain in my coffee grinder to save on cost. It's far cheaper than buying the flour.

Opened a day later, they still retain moisture and texture

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 15: Quinoa Flatbread

I love complex recipes, but sometimes I'm not in the mood to put any more effort into a meal than absolutely necessary. Bitt posted a link to a recipe for gluten free quinoa bread, which you can view here. I decided to give it a shot and was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes quinoa is overpowering in baked goods, but this really worked for me. It is simple and pairs well with a wide array of foods. Today I had some with some sauerkraut and garlic sauce topped with spinach. The day before I had some with spaghetti squash topped with vegan Alfredo sauce.

On bleach free baking paper, fresh out of the oven
Now, you know I can't just take a recipe as is, so I substituted psyllium with ground chia seed (about 2 Tbs). I've added thin sliced onion, garlic powder, and a little cumin seed to the batter before flattening it on baking paper over a cookie sheet. I kept the cook temperature of 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Quinoa flat-bread with onion and cumin seed

I've heard Quinoa flour is much too expensive, but I have an easy penny saving tip for you. I went to Target and bought an $8 coffee grinder, and I use the coffee grinder to grind my millet, quinoa, and amaranth into flour. I don't use a lot of quinoa flour, but what I do use I buy from the bulk section at a greatly reduced price that the flour you find in the baking section. That $8 coffee grinder has paid for itself many times over.

Quinoa is a fantastic super food with all of the amino acids we need. I'm trying to work a little more into my diet.

Why I Started a Vegan Diet

I mentioned that sometimes I am not in the mood to make complex meals. This happens to everyone for a variety of reasons. Mine happens to be a chronic illness. I struggle with systemic lupus, and some days are a little more difficult than others. I am really blessed with a mild case, and I work very hard to maintain an extremely healthy diet and keep up with whatever exercise I can manage. Most days I feel really normal and take on a little too much. Today I felt like I was drunk all day - it was hard to piece together coherent thoughts, much less verbalize them. My husband has to drive me home on days like that. I'm afraid I'll start playing bumper cars.

When I got my very first lupus flare, it was a very frightening experience. I did as much reading as I could online. Some of it was helpful, some of it frightening, but most of it was a mystery. Doctors didn't really know caused it and had a lot of medications to "treat" the symptoms. I decided that I didn't want to settle for a life of steroids, so I went on a mission to improve my diet and lifestyle. People gave suggestions on what I should try, and I admit I probably tried more than I should have.

My diet was the first thing to change. I discovered my childhood allergies had come back and were manifesting in new ways. I eliminated dairy, eggs, potatoes, soy, corn, gluten, apples, cranberries, blueberries, tomatoes, peppers, and many other foods. I started reading about the evils of BPAs, GMO foods, high fructose corn syrup, additives, and coloring. I realized that what I was using in my house to clean or on my own skin was just as important as what I was eating, and got rid of anything with parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, or fragrances. It all helped, but it really wasn't enough.

In my reading, it became apparent that a diet void of animal proteins would be a more suitable fit for me, but I thought that would be impossible. I'm highly allergic to soy and believed that vegans absolutely needed soy with every meal. I also was allergic to eggs and milk, so I couldn't ease my way into it. One day, I received a package from my sister in law. It was a book by Ani Phyo. At first I was going to shove it aside, but something made me look closer. As I went through the book there wasn't a single recipe with gluten. Very few even had soy! I started reading more on raw veganism and two days later I switched cold turkey. The detox wasn't fun, but after the first few weeks I had more energy than I'd had in years. It was AWESOME.

Why I Started a Vegan Lifestyle

I tell some people I adopted a vegan diet for health reasons and they get ticked. They feel I'm not in it for the right reasons. I ask those people to reconsider being critical and angry. Realize that someone has opened a door into an area they may not have otherwise explored. Next time someone says they were vegan because of X, try to encourage that person standing in front of you. The longer I was eating vegan, the more I was reading, listening and talking vegan. While I was researching what was wrong with the food I was eating, I was horrified.

Because I didn't start out an ethical vegan, I admit I wasn't living up to the label. I was pretty clueless and I fell of the bandwagon a few times. I let doctors talk me out of it, and there were times when I was horribly ill and willing to try anything to feel better. I'm still very new to this lifestyle, but I love it. I like that I don't have to worry how the clothing I'm buying started out. I like that my food takes up a tiny fraction of the resources compared to factory farmed. I love that I'm starting to really put a lot of effort into buying local and reducing my carbon footprint. It all started because I felt like crap, but now I have a little more to be happy about in this world.

I know it's weird, but being ill increased my appreciation for the resources we are all given. I still don't like labels, but it feels really good to be making some very positive changes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 14 - Apple Pie I

Food conjures up memories in ways that few other things can for me. The smells, textures, and tastes all have their own background, unique to each person. Apple pie brings me back to my grandmother's kitchen when I was small enough to have to stand on my tip toes and hang on the edge of the countertop to watch her roll out the dough.

My grandmother has always been wonderful about nurturing a child's need to feel helpful and grown up and would let me roll out a little section of dough with a mini rolling pin for my own little tart or scrap to go in the oven with sugar and cinnamon. After accomplishing enough to feel satisfied that I pitched in, I would sit on a little foot stool and chew on pieces of peel and talk about things that only children can find wonder in. I must have bored her to tears talking about a fuzzy caterpillar I saw crawling on the driveway and wondering how he felt crawling around on the ground with so many things soaring tall above him, but she never let it show.

This recipe reminded me of my friend, Bitt, because I know she loves apples and we both have an affinity for desserts that are not overly sweet. The spices are strong and the crust is flaky - just as it should be.

Apple Pie Filling
10 Medjool dates soaked for a minimum of 45 minutes
3/4 c date soak water
2 Tb Tapioca Flour
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Cloves (ground)
1/2 tsp Ginger
1 Tb Spectrum Shortening (Palm Oil)
1/2 lemon, juiced
6 peeled and sliced Apples

Peel, core, and slice the apples into thin slices, no more than 1/4 inch thick. After you are done slicing them, pour and mix them with the lemon juice to prevent too much browning.

I used a combination of Gala and Braeburn apples. Gala can be a bit sweet and mealy for me, so I like to pair them with an apple that is a bit more tart. The ideal apple is Gravenstein, but I only find these on my grandparents' trees. They are old world apples and not common, but if you find them, I really recommend giving them a try in a baking project.

Combine the dates, soak water, spices, palm oil, and tapioca flour in a high speed blender and blend until you get a thick, caramel consistency. Use a spatula to empty the blend and combine with the apples.

Pie Crust
makes enough for two 10" crusts (or the top and bottom crusts for one apple pie)
1/2 c. Potato Starch
1 3/4 c. Amaranth Flour
2/3 c. White Rice Flour
1/2 c. Spectrum Shortening (Palm Oil)
1/4 c. + 2 Tb Ice Water
1/2 tsp Salt

Combine the dry ingredients with a fork and then use a pastry cutter to cut in the shortening until you get clumps between the size of small gravel and peas. Add 1/4 cup of very cold water to the mixture and combine with a fork. Slowly add more water until the dough binds together without feeling too gooey and wet to work with on a rolling surface.

Gluten free pie crust is a bit tricky. I rolled this out on baking paper and then put the pie dish upside down over the crust. I slid my hand under the crust and the pan and carefully inverted them so the crust was sitting neatly in the pan.

I didn't trust the dough enough to go the old fashioned route and roll it over the rolling pin and lift over the pan. Because there is no gluten, the dough will crack easier and separate if you aren't careful (but you can patch it back together easily.

Once the bottom crust is in the pan, pour in the apple filling.

Repeat rolling out the crust for the top. I tried lattice, but it just didn't hold up to a lot of bending and manipulation. Make a few slits in the top as a vent so steam can escape as it cooks.

The crust held up very well as a whole and was very tender and flaky once out of the oven.

Mofo Giveaway

This is my first giveaway, and I'm quite excited to be offering a copy of Ani Phyo's newest book, Ani's Raw Food Essentials. I've recommended it to vegans and non-vegans alike because the recipes are healthy, easy, and often portable. I've made several recipes from her book, and I love her recipe for overnight pickles (I'm a fermented food addict - and who wouldn't love pickles that are ready after only one evening on the kitchen counter?).

Those of you who have never sampled raw vegan cuisine are in for a treat. There are some techniques that are extremely allergy friendly (nearly every single recipe is gluten free, soy free, and corn free - not to mention dairy and egg free). The recipes for desserts are simple and fast, and you will likely learn a lot about super foods and nutrient rich ingredients. I used to be terrified of making chocolates, and now I have recipes that can be done in under 5 minutes with some additional chill time in the fridge. Many people think that you must have a Vitamix and dehydrator to enjoy raw vegan food, but there are plenty of recipes that just require a cutting board and knife.

Please post a comment and I will randomly select a winner by drawing a number at random.

Deadline: Thursday, November 18th 2010, 11:59 PM PST
Must reside in the US or Canada (sorry)

The winner will be announced in Friday's blog post.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 13 - Chocolate Tease Cupcakes

This has been a recipe I have been toying around with for a while. My friend, Noble, is the creator of the original Chocolate Tease Banana Bread, which had milk, eggs, and gluten. She made a gluten free version that went over really well at a gluten free party we had. She sent me the recipe and I've been tinkering around with ingredients and ratios. I have 2 recipes from her original recipe - a loaf and a cupcake. I actually went around handing out samples to friends and family today throughout the day. It went over very well, and no one noticed the banana flavor, and there's only a slight hint of chocolate.

Chocolate Tease Cupcakes
1/4 c Olive Oil
2 ripe Bananas (the riper the better)
1/2 c Maple Syrup
3/4 c Water
1 scraped Vanilla Bean
1 tsp Cinnamon
3/4 c Brown Rice Flour
3/4 c White Rice Flour
3/4 c Teff Flour
3 Tb Tapioca Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Coconut Vinegar
1/3 c Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the olive oil, maple syrup, bananas, water, vanilla bean, and cinnamon in a blender and blend until smooth. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to mix together. Add the liquid ingredients and stir until combined. Add the chocolate chips and coconut vinegar after you have put the cupcake liners into the cupcake pans (or alternatively greased and floured the cupcake pan) and the oven is ready. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out nearly clean. Overcooking will cause them to dry.

Straight out of the oven, these cupcakes are amazing. They dry out a bit after 24 hours, so it's best to enjoy them the day of baking if possible.

I am still working on a suitable frosting combination. Perhaps the maple chocolate would be tasty...although I am toying with spicing up a version and going with a chai frosting.

Tonight I have big plans. I want to make an apple pie, bake my pumpkin and brainstorm on what I am going to use that for (perhaps combine with a little carrot and apple in a thick soup?), and cook up some quinoa flat-bread for "sandwiches" and Brussels sprouts for dinner. I also want to get to my new vegan cookbooks...

Vegan Mofo Day 12-ish - Maple Peanut Butter Frosting

It's a few minutes past midnight and I'm happy because I just spent time with a great friend, ate some fabulous food at Cafe Flora, and watched an interesting movie. I'm sad because I just missed my deadline for posting a recipe! So I guess you'll get two recipes today. One now, and one after I wake up tomorrow. Well, knowing me, well after I wake up tomorrow.

Maple Peanut Butter Frosting
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup palm oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch salt
2 Tb very hot water

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add hot water and combine well with a hand mixer. Taste test often and adjust peanut butter and maple syrup ratios as needed. I don't tend to like things very sweet, so I prefer this to the previous peanut butter recipe I posted. This goes well with the chocolate cake recipes I've posted. If it's too runny, stick it in the freezer for 20 minutes or more.

Today was a stressful day work wise, but things improved greatly afterwards. I received a care package from my sister-in-law with some awesome new books, including Skinny Bitch's new book! She is so thoughtful, especially considering she was just about to give birth to the newest addition to the family. Baby and mom are doing well! We try to keep in touch via the parents, knowing that sleep and spare time are luxuries they are probably doing without.

I went to dinner at Cafe Flora, as I mentioned, and once again had the autumn root roast and sweet potato fries (sans dipping sauce). The sweet potato fries were delicious without the dipping sauce and had a great spice combo on them. The autumn root roast was still delicious. Loved the parsnip puree and the chanterelle mushrooms were flavored and cooked perfectly. The waitress was very considerate. It was a great experience overall. Last time Lance and I went there the waitress was a little spacey, but the food was great so it's going to be a favorite of mine.

My friend and I went back to our house and I was out of chocolate cup papers, so I got out an old cake tin, poured chocolate in the bottom, raspberry filling in the middle, spread cherries in the middle as well, and topped it off with a layer of chocolate. Pictures to come in the next day or so.

Lastly, we watched New York I Love You. It's a series of skits that are slightly intertwined. Each piece has a different writer and director. I really enjoyed it, but it was a bit on the artsy side for Lance.

I'm really tired so it's time to wrap up today's blog. At this point, it's just a random flow of semi-consciousness. Which reminds me, I need to work on improving my photography and may give the blog a bit of a face lift.

Good Night! :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 11: No Chicken Pot Pie

It was the day of chickenless childhood favorites. Comfort food without the guilt!

Breakfast was a simple smoothie. For lunch, I had a treat. Vegan and So Forth posted this wonderful recipe for Chickpea "Chik'n" Salad, which I had for lunch in lettuce wraps. It was a little messy to eat over my keyboard, but so worth it. I did one minor adjustment. Instead of Vegannaise, I used Mac Mayo.

Work has been really busy, so I haven't been getting home until later in the evening. Tonight we decided to have No Chicken Pot Pie, which meant some longer cook time, so Lance and I had some Pomegranate Guacamole and thin carrot slices to substitute for chips to hold us over while we waited. We followed our rule and dressed to match the pomegranate juice. Even Annie has on her pink halter.

I love watching bloopers, and Annie provided us with one of our own. My timer on my camera makes a howling noise, which was so interesting that she had to check it out that very minute.

No Chicken Pot Pie
serves 6
6" of Leek, ends trimmed
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp basil
1 Tb parsley
2 carrots, cubed
2 turnips, cubed
3 red potatoes, cubed
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 small rutabaga, cubed
1 1/2 cups halved button mushrooms
1 tsp salt
3 small zucchini, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup water
pepper to taste

Gluten Free Tortillas I

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the leek (white part into a bit of green, not the tough green ends) and put into a preheated frying pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Once the leek becomes a bit translucent, add in the root vegetables (turnips, potatoes, rutabaga, carrots) and celery along with the herbs and salt. Herb measurements are for dried herbs. Cook the root vegetables until the celery starts looking a little cooked and the veggies are sweating a little. Pour the mostly/half cooked veggies in a pie pan or 10X10 baking dish and stir in the uncooked mushrooms.

Put the chopped, uncooked zucchini, olive oil, and water into a Vitamix. If you don't want your pot pie filling to be Hulk Green, peel the zucchini. My husband likes the Hulk, and I imagine kids would think that the color is pretty cool, so I left it. Once the mixture is well blended, pour over the top of your veggies. I picked up the pan and gently dropped (meaning from 1/2 an inch off the counter, not onto the floor from standing) it several times to work the air bubbles out. Fresh grind some pepper over the top if you would like.

I make the tortilla recipe above right before I roll out the dough. The longer it sits, the drier and harder it is to work with. Today I made the dough while I was stirring very uncooked vegetables and it sat too long, leaving me with a patch work crust. It still tasted great!

Cook in the oven for about 45 minutes.

I am plotting my very first give away! Stay tuned.