Monday, January 16, 2017

Polenta Bites

We hit the jackpot with this one. I could probably eat it every day.

What's not to love? Corn meal, tomatoes, arugula, flax seeds, avocados, black olives and some hot sauce or homemade salsa on top, or whatever you have on hand and suits your fancy.

The hot polenta creates a palette or base for this meal, and causes the tomato juices to warm and run and mmm - these combine all of our favorite flavors and are a super quick and satisfying meal.

Simply slice polenta into 1/4 inch thick slices and place over medium heat in a frying pan (no oil needed - if it sticks add just a splash of water).  Heat on each side...just a few minutes.

Arrange on plate and top with baby arugula (which gives it a contrasting spicy freshness), freshly chopped tomatoes, sliced avocados, chopped black olives, a sprinkle of flax seeds for texture and some omegas, and hot sauce (if you want a little more heat) on top.

Lentil Soup - Pressure cooker

I've made various lentil soups over the years but my family didn't especially love them.
This one however, caught our attention and I'll definitely make this one often.
I've adapted it from a recipe by Jill Nussinow.
It takes less than 30 minutes.

1 onion - chopped
2 carrots - chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs dried thyme
6 cups liquid (at least 2 cups vegetable broth)
1.5 cups green or brown lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 knuckle fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
1 t. ground coriander
2 t. salt
1/2 t. black ground pepper

Place onion into pressure cooker insert and add 3 T. water. Bring to a boil using the saute setting, and add onions. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring if needed. Add garlic, and carrots, and saute for another minute or so.
Add bay leaves, thyme, broth/water, lentils, potato, turmeric, and coriander.

Lock the lid into place and cook at pressure for 7 minutes.  Allow the pressure to release naturally. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve as is, with crusty bread, or over a bowl of rice, quinoa, barley, faro, or a mixture of these grains.

Brussel Sprouts to fight over

Growing up I experienced brussel sprouts just a handful of times. On one of those occasions, my brother and I posed for a photo with our cheeks stuffed like chipmunks.  Then we spit them out because they were so bitter and I hoped to never have to eat them again. Blech!

You may have thought I was jesting with the title of this recipe, but no, for the children (teenagers) had a fight today over these brussel sprouts...complete with someone stomping off to her room crying.. because we used the "I cut, you choose" method when they were dividing them up, and her portion was a little less than her sisters.  Yeah, they are that good. We've had them twice last week.

Our discovery began this Thanksgiving. A friend invited us to dinner and kept talking proudly about how we would be having brussel sprouts. I was not excited...not in the least, but rather I was worried about having to eat them graciously. Somehow, I avoided them, but my family kept raving about them. They kept asking "why we don't eat those, are they too expensive??" So, I asked my friend for her recipe, which I've adapted here just a bit for our family's needs.  
Super simple, and it takes maybe 15 minutes start to finish.

1 lb brussel sprouts - washed, and bottoms trimmed
2 T. coconut milk 
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400*
Half brussel sprouts and place in medium sized bowl. 
Add coconut milk and toss to coat. 
Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet - I use a silpat, if you don't have one, I recommend a layer of foil. Salt to taste.

Place on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, gently stirring once.

Stand back and let the fighting begin - we have a tough time actually getting these to a serving bowl on the table...half usually go missing in the transition!  

Monday, January 2, 2017

Almond milk - whole food, plant based, vegan milk

Almost three months ago, I decided to try out a Whole Foods, plant based diet-not as in "diet" but as in lifestyle. In adopting this new lifestyle, I decided to cut out all processed sugars, oils, processed foods and refined flours.

I know, it sounds pretty extreme, but it has been an incredible adventure. I'm learning how to cook ALL over again. I didn't see that one coming!

I originally thought I'd try it just to see how my body would respond for 3 months.  And my body has loved it. I LOVE knowing exactly what I'm putting into my body.  I've looked and looked for a suitable milk option and just haven't found one that doesn't have sugar or oil, or ingredients I don't recognize or can't pronounce. So, I've been making my own almond milk.

I've tried it using a date or two as a sweetener, but found that it fermented and only lasted a day or so. So I've been using some raw, unfiltered honey.

Here's the method I've been enjoying the most:

1 cup raw almonds
4 cups water
Dash of salt
1/2-1 teaspoon raw unfiltered honey (preferably from your own bees!)

Place almonds into a quart jar and fill with water. Place in the fridge and
allow to soak overnight.
Drain and rinse almonds.

Place in a high powered blender. Add 4 cups filtered water, honey and dash of salt.
Blend until smooth.

Stain using a nut bag (best ever, takes about 3 minutes), or strain cheesecloth.

Add additional water for consistency.
Place in a container with a sealable lid, and refrigerate immediately.
Lasts 5-7 days.

Use ground almond meal remains in breads, granolas etc. 

Hot chocolate - Whole Food Plant Based, vegan

We woke up to 8 inches of snow and after our walk and some snow shoveling, we were totally craving a warm mug of hot cocoa. 

Honestly, I'd been mulling over how to make a sugar free, vegan hot chocolate for a while. My very skeptical non-vegan teenage test taster said it wasn't too bad (that's like winning the lottery), and she said I could probably sale it, she then suggested we move to Seattle and set up hot chocolate stand and hot cider stand.  She's a funny one, but she asked for seconds and thirds. 

This comes out warm and creamy and perfectly hits the spot of a great comfort food on a snowy day.  Mmmm 

3 cups almond milk 
2-3 T cocoa powder or cacao nibs (for a deeper chocolate taste)
6-8 dates (seeds removed) covered with and soaked for 15 minutes in boiling water
1/3 cup raw, unsalted cashews preferably soaked overnight or 15 min in boiling water.
Additional boiling water

Cinnamon (optional)
Vanilla (optional)

Place dates and water they were soaked in, into a high powered blender. 
Blend until smooth.
Add cocoa powder, almond milk and cashews, blend until smooth. Add additional boiling water until it reaches your desired consistency. 
Add a dash of cinnamon or vanilla if desired (optional).

Serve immediately.