Posts Tagged vegan

Vanilla Mint Smoothie

I want to share my new favorite smoothie, because it’s so perfectly Summer I have to get it in before Labor Day! I usually save smoothies for snacks and this is perfect for a post-hike or after school snack, but with the heat this Summer, it also worked great for me for breakfast. There is a secret ingredient too, with kind of a fun twist…instead of using questionable methods to get the green color that you find in many mint products, spinach and fresh mint each serve the dual purpose of a great nutritional boost and a brilliant green color! If you don’t have fresh mint, which I do recommend, you can put a drop or two of peppermint or spearmint oil in the water before pouring it into the blender. I keep frozen bananas in the freezer at all times in case the need for a smoothie arises. Outside of smoothie season, they are good for banana bread too.

If you are worried about the ice watering the smoothie down, no need to fret. We are essentially making our nut or seed milk and smoothie in the same step, so the ice (plus the water) serves as the liquid for the seed milk and it keeps everything nice and cold which is a critical element to keeping the bananas from getting gummy. Plus, the higher the hydration to sweet ratio the better, in my opinion, especially in a cooling mint smoothie! If you do want it a little sweeter, you can add a pitted date with the hemp seeds for an extra potassium boost!

  • 3/4 cup cold water, plus a little more depending on the consistency you want
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds (I sometimes use raw soaked almonds instead)
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • 1 cup spinach, or more if you like
  • 1/2-1 cup fresh mint (depending on your level of mintophelia)
  • 1 large frozen banana, cut into smaller chunks
  • teeny pinch of salt

Pour the vanilla in the water and set aside; if you are using mint oil instead of fresh mint, add it to the water too. Put the hemp seeds, ice cubes, spinach, mint, and salt in the blender, then pour the water over it. Putting the hemp seeds in first keeps them from flying around before they are blended and sticking to the side of the blender. Blend on low to get it going, then turn to high and blend until smooth, adding small amounts of cold water if needed to allow your smoothie to process. Blend it just as long as necessary, as you want to avoid heating up the smoothie in order to keep a perfect smooth, thick consistency. I like it thick enough to eat with a spoon, but it’s good anywhere between there and milkshake consistency. Sit down, take a deep breath, be grateful, and enjoy!


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Ethiopian-Inspired Collard Greens

I feel like I’ve just had my first real day at home in a long time. Of course, that’s not really true, but it is pretty much my first day at home alone in quite a while and I feel blessed to have the clarity that comes for me when I’m home on my own, listening to my own music, hearing my own silence, cooking a leisurely meal for myself. A perfect time to use up CSA veggies* that were gifted to me by my neighbor last night. What I love about CSA shares is that, at least for the first few years, you always get something you normally don’t buy yourself, which almost always serves as the perfect reminder about diversity! Normally, I am a kale-eater. It’s my favorite all year long. But, last night I got collards which I like, but, I think deep down, associate with fatback and often overlook at the store. Today I decided that I should create a new association with collard greens, an Ethiopian dish called Ye’abesha Gomen. Since the cafe has, over time, inherited much of the contents of my home kitchen in various pinches for ingredients, I was a little light on some of the ingredients I might have used, but it turned out to be perfectly delicious!

This recipe is for one portion, but absolutely multiply it and share the wealth that collard greens offer! It takes about 20 minutes or so total, but only about 5 minutes of your time. To make a whole meal of it, add some cooked lentils and serve over a grain or plan ahead and go all out with homemade injera.

  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin rings (it will cook down a lot)
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger, or more if you love ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • minced chile pepper, to taste (sorry to be vague, but this really does vary – I’m a wimp and I used a few pinches of a dried New Mexico chile
  • 1/2 bunch collard greens, destemmed and washed and cut into thin ribbons.
  • 1 medium tomato, diced (can use 1 tablespoon tomato paste and 1/4 or so cup water when tomatoes aren’t in season)

Heat a medium-sized skillet to medium heat. Add the sliced onion, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 7 minutes or so, or until it softens and starts to brown. Make a little space, add a bit more oil and the minced garlic and grated ginger and cook for about a minute, or until the garlic is fragrant but not brown. Add the collards and tomato, sprinkle with a bit more salt, turn the heat back up to medium or a little higher, and cook until the collards are still green but tender. Keep an eye on it to be sure there is some liquid at the bottom; when the liquid is dry, they will probably be ready. If you’d like them to be a bit softer, turn the heat back down to medium. Enjoy!

*In case you don’t know what CSA veggies are, they are vegetables from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. Find a local farm and ask about whether they offer shares of their produce , picked fresh and available weekly – you pay a fee in advance and get a box of amazing produce picked at the perfect stage of yumminess and nutritional availability every week through the season. In exchange the farm gets guaranteed sales, a wonderful community to feed, and the support they need to keep their farm running when they actually need it – at planting time.

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Roasted Parsnip and Carrot Chips

I have always liked parsnips, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone out of my way for them until now.  Maybe it’s their earthy sweetness, or the fact that they are still feeding my local produce appetite, but I am in love with them right now.  And, like most things I love, they require only the simplest preparation to be perfectly delicious.

They are a nice addition to any roasted vegetable platter, as a side with a sandwich or dip, or of course they are a great snack.

  • 5-6 medium parsnips
  • 5-6 medium carrots
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • a handful of parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and dry the parsnips and carrots.  Slice both the parsnips and carrots about 1/4 inch thick on a diagonal; do this by lying them on the cutting board and holding them firmly (with fingertips rolled back toward you, of course), then angling your knife at a 45-60 degree angle so you are cutting oblong slices.  This provides a greater surface area to brown.  Drizzle the cut vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt, then spread them in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet (the rim will keep any excess olive oil from dripping off).  Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  They will be browned and slightly caramelized when they are done.  Sprinkle them with parsley and a little more salt, if you wish.  Enjoy!

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Savory Millet Risotto Cakes

There are so many bits of good news with this post!  First of all, yum.  Secondly, it’s really not risotto, but just accidentally overcooked millet, that is the basis of this recipe.  Third, since it’s just overcooked millet, it really couldn’t be any easier.  And, of course, finally, you could spice up this very, very, very basic recipe in many, many ways – with herbs and spices, with vegetables, with delicious sauces, and I’m even thinking of a sweet version with coconut butter, palm sugar, and cinnamon.

Of course, it started as an accident.  I soaked millet, then added way more water than usual, and it turned out as mush.  But, mush that was easily formed into cakes without the addition of eggs or cheese or any other binder.  Somehow this brought risotto cakes to mind.  I’ve only had risotto cakes when eating out, because of course they are just a delicious way to use leftovers and I don’t typically make risotto.  These days, since I don’t really eat dairy or eggs, I would have thought risotto cakes, which I do really like, were a thing of the past.  But, just when I was least expecting it, like leg warmers and skinny jeans, they came back upon me!  So, I decided to fry up my little millet mush patties and see what happened and was very pleasantly surprised by their crunchy outsides and creamy insides that would be so amenable to a variety of additional flavors.

While I normally cook millet by adding the grain to boiling water, in this case I’m putting the millet in cold water, then bringing it to a boil before simmering  This will make the millet even that much stickier, because it will develop the starch a bit more.

  • 1 cup millet, soaked overnight
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 teaspoons ghee or olive oil, plus additional oil for pan-frying.
  • Ideas for optional additions:  caramelized onions, steamed spinach or other finely chopped greens, garlic, chopped tomatoes, fresh or dried herbs, etc.

Drain soaked millet and rinse well.  Put the millet in a small-medium saucepan with the water and salt.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.  Turn off the heat and let the millet sit for about 10 minutes covered, then remove the cover and stir in ghee or oil, and salt to taste, as well as any additional ingredients.  Season to taste.  Allow it to cool until you are able to handle it.  Once it’s cooled down a bit, take large spoonfuls and press the into balls with your hands, then flatten the into patties.  You can cook them right away or refrigerate the patties until you are ready to eat them.  Heat a skillet over medium heat, add oil, then place the patties on the hot oil and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned.  Eat immediately.  Enjoy!

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Hungarian Goulash (or GHOULash, for Halloween:)

Ok, so when I looked Hungarian Goulash up before writing this post, I realized that my version is actually not that much like authentic Hungarian Goulash.  However, this is my take on the Hungarian Goulash my mom used to make when I was growing up which was, in fact, inspired by my father’s Hungarian roots.  The version on which I grew up was basically ground beef and onions, seasoned with paprika and probably some other spices and then mixed into pasta.  I’m sure there were canned foods involved too.  It was one of the few meat dishes I really remember enjoying.

I made a few changes, of course.  I pressed some extra-firm tofu and seasoned it with paprika, oregano, and sage, then mixed it in with sauteed cabbage, spinach, and tomatoes, then served the whole thing over quinoa.  You can certainly use pasta instead of quinoa, but I’ve been doing a lot of homemade candy taste-testing, so need to keep things a little lower on the glycemic index.

  • 1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, preferably frozen and thawed
  • olive oil for sauteeing
  • 1/2 medium head of cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bunch of spinach, roughly chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 big clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup jarred strained tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • Cooked quinoa or pasta

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add the onion, sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil, and turn the heat down just a bit.  While the onions are cooking, press as much water as you can out of the tofu and crumble it up.  When the onions are soft and starting to caramelize, stir in the tofu and spread it, more or less, into a single layer on the pan.  Cook until the tofu is browned, then give it a stir and continue to brown on the other side.  Move the tofu and onions to the side of the pan and add the cabbage, and spinach, then sprinkle with salt, cover and cook for a few minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and paprika, then crumble the oregano and sage between your fingers as you add them to the pan.  Cover and cook for a few more minutes.  Stir everything in the pan together and clear a space in the middle of the pan, add a little oil, and cook the garlic directly on the pan for a minute or so.  When the garlic is fragrant, pour the tomato sauce and tamari over it, then stir it all together, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve over quinoa or pasta.  Enjoy!

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(Mostly) Raw Candy Bars

Last year on Halloween, my eldest son reflected that, while he didn’t want the downside of the candy he got from Trick-or-Treating, he was pretty sure that it must taste really good.  I steeled myself and told him that if he was really curious about how they taste and really wanted to try them, he should.  He chose not to, at least in front of me, at least in that moment, but not without lamenting that he’d REALLY like to know what they taste like.  Hence, the raw candy bar post for today.

The thing about food is that it’s all about giving our body the fuel it needs, by nature.  However, by habit and ritual, in our society, it’s often about so many different things, none of which is giving our body the fuel it needs.  It can be comforting, nostalgic, etc, etc, etc.  I could go into that aspect of eating for hours, but I guess my point here is that there are ways to satisfy those psychological desires with food that nourishes our body.  I would argue that the decadence of a candy bars is often just as much, or even more, about texture and contrast (think nuts and chewy caramel, or rich, smooth chocolate with crispy rice) as it is about the actual taste of the food (or not-food, depending on how you look at it).

So, I got inspired to re-create some of those texture and taste contrasts using whole food ingredients.  My kids woke up the next morning to mock candy bars from the candy fairy and they could not have been more excited.  Especially since they got to try their treats before breakfast because, frankly, they are healthier than the average breakfast in this country.  I know this might seem a little over-the-top, but it’s really pretty easy and once you make the main components, you can experiment with all kinds of candy concoctions.  Making up candy bars is a super fun cooking lesson for kids.  And, while I’m giving recipes for making these completely from scratch, you can certainly take shortcuts like melting carob or chocolate chips instead of making your own carob/chocolate coating, or mixing brown rice syrup and coconut sugar for your caramel filling.  You can also modify them – use chocolate, make them sweeter or less sweet; make them perfect for your taste.  Then, just have fun with it!

For me, this recipe made 2 loaf pans full of layered candy bars.  If you want to coat your candy bars in the carob/chocolate coating like regular candy bars, double the coating recipe.  Since coconut oil melts at 70 degrees, it’s best to keep these candy bars in the refrigerator or freezer.  I like to make them bite-sized so they don’t need to stay in the hands very long.

Carob Candy Coating:

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut sugar, maple syrup, yacon syrup, or raw honey, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon raw vanilla powder, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tablespoons nut butter, seed butter, or coconut butter
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup carob powder, or cocoa powder

Notes: you can certainly use cocoa powder or raw cacao powder instead of carob powder.  Just keep in mind that chocolate is much more bitter than carob, so you will either end up with a bittersweet chocolate, or will need to add a bit more sweetener.  I used coconut sugar and, while it was grainy when it was in liquid form, it tasted smooth to me when it firmed up.  Also, if you’d like a fudge filling for any of your candy bars, or just for fun, use this recipes, but increase the nut butter to 1/4 cup, use 3 dates instead of the coconut sugar, and replace 1/2 the coconut oil with coconut butter.

Heat a small saucepan to medium low, then turn it off.  Put the coconut oil in the pan and allow it to melt completely.  Whisk in the sweetener, vanilla, nut butter, cinnamon and salt until it is thoroughly combined.  Whisk in the carob powder until the mixture is smooth.  Taste and adjust as necessary.  Set pan aside while you prepare your filling ingredients.

Raw Caramel: 

  • 1/2 cup pecans (can use other nuts, nut butter, or tahini)
  • 1 cup of pitted medjool dates, softened in warm water if needed
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut butter, or coconut oil if you don’t have coconut butter
  • pinch salt
  • water, as needed

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until very smooth, adding water as necessary.  If you don’t have a blender, use a food processor; it won’t be as smooth and creamy, but it will still be delicious and will be totally great in your candy bars!  Taste and adjust as necessary, then set aside.

Raw Nougat:

  • 1 cup almonds (or other nut, nut butter, or seed butter of your choice)
  • 6 dates
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts, optional
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, optional

Place almonds, dates, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Taste and adjust as necessary.  Fold in optional ingredients if desired.

Filling Options:

  • Snickers: layer carob candy coating, nougat, caramel. and chopped raw cashews
  • 100 Grand Bar: layer carob candy coating, caramel, and something crispy; my favorite option is dried sprouted buckwheat groats, but I also use crumble Adaba Bars; crispy rice cereal is an option too.
  • Twix: layer carob candy coating, graham crackers, and caramel; could also make/use a raw crispy cookie to keep it raw.
  • Kit Kat: layer carob candy coating and graham crackers/wafer cookies; could also make/use a raw wafer cookie to keep it raw.
  • Peppermint Patty: add just a little sweetener (honey will keep it white) and some peppermint oil or extract (or fresh mint) to coconut butter and stir vigorously until smooth; layer carob candy coating and peppermint filling
  • Mounds/Almond Joy: see peppermint patty filling, but add vanilla, skip the mint, and stir in some shredded coconut
  • Crunch Bar: mix something crispy into the chocolate (sprouted, dried buckwheat, Adaba Crumbles, or crispy rice cereal)
  • Need other ideas or options – just send me an email and I’ll help you come up with something!

Assembling the candy bars:

Have 1-3 loaf pans, or equivalent, available.  How many you need will depend on the type/thickness of your candy bars.  Don’t forget to reserve some of the carob candy coating if you want a final layer on top!

1.  Spread the carob candy coating evenly over the bottom of the each loaf pan; should be 1/4 inch thick or more.

For Single-Layer Candy Bars (e.g. Kit Kat, Crunch Bars, Nut Bars): Put your optional additions, such as graham crackers/wafers, crunchies, or chopped nuts directly onto the carob layer.  They will sink in a bit automatically.  Freeze until solid and enjoy!

For Double/Triple-Layer Candy Bars (e.g. snickers, 100 Grand Bars, Peppermint Patties, etc): Freeze the carob layer for a few minutes to firm up.  Continue on to next steps…

2.  Once the carob layer is firm to the touch, spread your next layer on.  If you are planning multiple layers, use your thickest layer (such as nougat) now.  If you want optional additions incorporated into this layer, sprinkle them on now.  This layer may be firm enough to allow you to spread your next layer on, or may need to be frozen for a few minutes to firm up.

3.  Continue to add layers/optional additions as desired.  Freeze to firm as needed.

4.  To finish the candy bars, you have a couple options.  The simplest is to spread another layer of the carob coating over the top, freeze the pan, then cut into bars.  If you want it so look more like a traditional candy bar, you can cut the frozen bars, then individually spread them with the carob coating.  Freeze on a sheet pan, then store in fridge or freezer once firm.  Enjoy!

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Raw Avocado and Cucumber Soup

This is a great soup for this time of year and throughout the Summer – it’s light and refreshing, yet so satisfying because of all those yummy good fats from the avocado.  We can actually get local greenhouse cucumbers at the Market now, which is what inspired me to make this soup.  I think I will be making it a lot once cucumbers hit my CSA.  As the herb selection at the Market grows, I can see many different twists on this soup – fresh mint, maybe tarragon, of course dill would be nice…

In terms of serving size, this recipe will make 2-4 portions, depending on what role it’s playing in your meal.  It could also make a nice salad dressing…

  • 2 ripe avocados, medium-sized
  • 2 small cucumbers
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1 scallion
  • 1 large lime, juiced and zested
  • a pinch to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chipotle powder, or to taste
  • water, as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • for garnish – chopped tomato, minced red onion and parsley or cilantro, optional

Scoop the flesh from the avocado.  Cut the cucumber into pieces.  Put the avocado, cucumber, garlic, scallion, lime juice, cayenne or chipotle powder, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth, adding small amounts of water as needed to process.  Check texture and add a bit more water if a thinner texture is desired.  Once the texture is how you like it, taste and adjust seasonings.  Garnish with chopped tomato, minced red onion and chopped parsley or cilantro.  Enjoy!

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