Sunday, December 23, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Herbed Gravy

From Vegetarian Times Magazine:
2 russet potatoes
12 button mushrooms
3 carrots
3 celery stalks
2 small onions
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 dry red wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 tsp of thyme (or 4 sprigs of  fresh)
1/2 tsp rosemary (or 2 sprigs of  fresh)
1/2 tsp majoram (or 2 sprigs of fresh)
1/2 tsp sage (or 2 sprigs of fresh)
2 bay leaves
12 peppercorns

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Quarter 1 russet potato, and place in large dutch oven with mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Toss with olive oil. Roast 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or until vegetables are deep brown on edges.

Transfer Dutch oven to stove top and stir in wine, tomato paste and 8 cups of water. Add fresh herb sprigs, bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, simmer for 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. 

Strain liquid, (you should have 5 cups) and discard solids. Peel remaining potato, and cut into small cubes. Return broth to pot with potato and season with salt and pepper if desired. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until liquid is reduced to 2.5 cups. Blend liquid with potato in blender or using an immersion blender. Strain gravy through a sieve or fine-meshed strainer.

What a yummy vegetable, no-guilt gravy. I made a version of this gravy for Thanksgiving, it was delish, my mom loved it and she's not vegetarian! As a vegetarian I do not have to skip on gravy any more... love it!! Now, for my version I saved all the mushrooms and kept them whole in the gravy... I love mushrooms I was not gonna let those babies go to waste! I also took part of the strained veggies and put them in the food processor and pureed them and added them back to thicken the gravy more. I used ground peppercorns instead of whole. I did not strain my gravy either. I wanted mine thick! I also used mostly dried herbs, I did not have majoram, red wine or tomato paste on hand. It was really tasty without these ingredients. Another great thing about this gravy... it NEVER clumps, you can make it ahead, refrigerate it, reheat it, and no lumps. Unfortunately, I have no picture for this recipe!

Dill Pickled Zucchini & Sweet Potato Salad

Pickled Veggies:
1/2 cup water or more if needed
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp dried dill
1 garlic clove minced finely
3-4 stems cilantro, leaves pulled off, stems diced
4-5 fresh chives diced
himalyan or sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 thinly sliced zucchini (i used a vegetable peeler)
1/4 or less thinly sliced sweet potato
2 tbsp olive oil (save this till the blender step)

crispy romaine

Put all ingredients for the pickled veggies in a bowl except oil. Let this marinate for at least ten minutes, the veggies will be softer. Then drain liquid with a metal strainer and put the liquid into blender, add a scoop or two of the pickled veggie mix into blender also, then add the oil and blend till smooth and creamy for the dressing. Alternately you can drain liquid, add only the oil and whisk or shake till emulsified. Then put the rest of the veggie mixture on a bed of romaine and whatever veggies you'd like. I used tomato and avocado.

You can easily substitute any veggies in the pickling mix, cucumber would be really good. You could also add some diced sweet onion, match stick carrots, etc. You could also switch the cilantro for basil. Fresh herbs really kick up salads a few notches. I keep fresh basil, chives, cilantro, parsley on hand as much as possible.

So lets talk about salt. I love salt, I have always been a salt-a-holic, consuming more than I should... luckily I have always had very low blood pressure, sometimes too low! Anyway, in my quest for better health I did some research on salt. Table salt is basically sea salt that has been stripped of all it's minerals, some has iodine added back in, and a lot of it has added anti-caking substances. Another thing to be aware of is that the label "sea salt" can be mis-leading. Since all of it basically came from the sea at one time or another, any salt can claim it is sea salt but not be any different than the stripped down version that you buy as table salt. So, it may not seem like that big of a deal, for the most part it's not really, but I do not like weird additives.

So what salt should you use? And what is this Himalayan salt I keep talking about? Himalayan salt is a pure salt mined in Pakistan. Its natural color is pink due to the mineral content. It is not processed, nothing is added to it or taken from it, and it contains traces of many different minerals, some sites boast up to 84 different trace minerals. It also has a really good taste. Another good salt is Celtic sea salt. This has a brown shade, I have not tried it yet. Personally I prefer unadulterated foods so I use Himalayan or an unrefined sea salt with no additives, I love the pink shade and flavor of Himalayan. Either way, you need to watch how much salt you eat so I really believe this is personal preference. But overall pure, natural foods are usually best!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Power of Green Juice

Green - Carrot
6-7 handfuls of mixed baby greens
10 carrots

Gerson Green
beet greens
swiss chard
romaine, green, red leaf
1/4 green pepper
1 green apple

Green Goddess Juice
1 cucumber
1 green apple
1 stalk of celery

Green juice is a power house for your body. There is a lot to be said about what these leafty greens can do to feed your body, detox, help heal and boost your immune system and your energy. Everyone could stand to eat more of these amazing nutrient dense greens and juicing is one way to do it. By juicing your greens you are removing the fiber and consuming the nutrients. It allows you to consume more greens than you would on a normal basis and flood your body with nutrients and beneficial enzymes. It helps to keep your body alkalized, hydrated and energized! When ever I am feeling low, I make a green juice, and in a bit I am feeling much better. It's a much better pick me up than caffeine, which does not give your body what it is asking for and needs.

Some people juice for periods of time to detox, they may eat certain foods to cleanse then go back to their normal habits and some will do a juice fast where they only consume juice. I do not do juice fasts myself. You can add some juice to your normal day. You can eat to detox everyday which is what I do!

Also, for this you will need a juicer, not a blender. But a blender is another good way to add more greens to your diet in the form of green smoothies!

If you'd like to read more on how juicing can help you heal, check out the Gerson Institute.

Here are ten good reasons to to juice greens borrowed from The Pleasure Nutritionist:
10 benefits of green juices
  1. Green juices are nutrient powerhouses. Powerhouses! 32 oz. of green juice can have a whole head of lettuce, several leaves of kale, carrots, cucumbers, parsley and still taste great. There is no way I could ever eat as many nutrients as I can drink in one green juice.
  1. Green juices digest really easily. Because the fiber has been removed from the veggies and fruit, green juice passes quickly and easily through the system.
  1. Green juices hydrate the body. There is a ton of water in green juices. The water goes straight to the cells.
  1. Green juices give tons of energy. Since green juice travels so easily to the cells, the cells get lots of nutrients quickly, which gives the body energy. And because they are so easy to digest, the body has energy for other things like walks and work and making love.
  1. Green juices flush out waste. All the nutrients and water in green juices act like a big ….washing the waste right out of the body. Less waste means less excess weight.
  1. Green juices decrease cravings. You experience fewer cravings with green juices because the body gets all the nutrients it needs so it doesn’t crave more food.
  1. Green juices are DELICIOUS. There is nothing, NOTHING, like a fresh green juice. So yummy.
  1. Green juices help you slow down. It can take a little while to make a juice and clean the machine. If you go at with more of a meditative mindset then you’ll be fully relaxed by the time you enjoy your delicious green drink.
  1. Green juices get you eating veggies you normally wouldn't. A lot of folks don’t just eat beets or bunches of parsley or raw cabbage but with a green juice you just throw it all in and chances are good it’ll taste great (and give your body a fabulous boost).
  1. Green juices make you more alkaline. Much of the food we eat is highly acidic which leads to allergies, joint pain, digestive issues and a whole host of other uncomfortable and undesirable pains and illnesses. Green juices are very alkaline so they help to balance out all the acids in the body and bring your body to a happier, healthier state.

Green Smoothies - It's what's for breakfast!

Orange Banana
1 frozen banana
2 peeled tangelos (cut away thick membranes)
2 large stalks of kale
2 tsp hemp seeds
1/2 cup Thai coconut water & flesh or almond milk (or more)

Banana Berry
1 frozen banana
5 frozen strawberries
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
2 tsp hemp seeds
2 large stalks of kale, romaine or other greens
1/2 cup of coconut water or nut milk

Banana Mango
1 frozen banana
1/2 mango
handful or two of fresh baby spinach
2 tsp hemp seeds
1/2 cup coconut water or nut milk

A good green smoothie usually starts off with a banana, a handful of fresh greens and a nut milk or coconut water. Then add what ever other fruit you have available! You can also add a scoop or two of your favorite plant based protein mix or hemp seeds. It works great if you have a single serve blender cup like I do, It's so darn easy and very little mess. This is one of the quickest breakfasts ever. And it gives you a jump start to your day!

As you can see the options are limitless! Your smoothie colors will not be green if you add berries and greens, they may look more brown or purple. The color may not be appealing but they will still taste really good! Some people like to add a sweetener to these, but I prefer them without. If you do, you can use stevia, dates, or a teaspoon or two of honey or maple syrup.

I buy enough bananas to always keep some in the freezer. When they get to peak ripeness, I peel them and put them in a large ziplock bag and take them out when I make a smoothie. You can also puree just the frozen banana and eat it as a treat... it is delicious, banana ice cream!

If you've read my other recipes you'll see I use hulled hemp seed a lot, it is considered a superfood and is one of the few plants that are considered a complete protein. It is a plant based protein that is considered above soy and flax. It has all 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids. It is a good source of vitamin E and has many other trace minerals. It is much easier to digest than soy. Here is a really good write up on hemp seeds.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sprouted Salad with Honey Ginger Vinaigrette

I love sprouts, can you tell? lol.. Anyway, sprouting is easy, I sprout my own lentils, mung beans, alfalfa sprouts, garbanzo's and more. Sprouts are extremely nutritious and much easier to digest than unsprouted legumes and seeds. Plus they add a nice crispy crunchy element to any dish. Ok enough on sprouting. Lets get to the good stuff! The dressing! I love making my own fresh dressings. Store bought dressings have so many unneeded and unhealthy ingredients. You think it is healthy when it says "with olive oil" but if you read the label, sure they use some olive oil, they will also use soy oils and other partially hydrogenated type oils as well. A lot of them also use high fructose corn syrup, and lots of other weird thickenings, preservatives, colorings, etc. Bad stuff... Packaging is VERY deceptive. You have to read labels. But, I find making my own dressings is easy, healthier and so much tastier!

A lot of vinaigrette type dressings are really simple to make and only require adding them to a cruet type container and shaking them. Or if you have a blender you can toss the ingredients in and emulsify them. I have a blender with single serve smoothie cup attachments which make this super easy and quick. I use the Ninja Mega Kitchen System. It's has several attachments and I love it. I use it daily as a food processor, blender, mixer, smoothie maker, salad dressing maker... The small cups are so quick and convenient to use for smoothies and salad dressings. I also bought this at Bed Bath & Beyond with a 20% off coupon! This system also has another attachment set to slice and grate which I will be ordering when I have the money. It's really nice to have this all in one capability, one base to leave out, and lots of attachments to do everything I need. I realize this is a bit on the pricey side, but consider it like a stove... These things are what I use daily. I don't actually use my stove much any more! Any blender you have will work for these dressings though! Anyway, on to the recipe!

Honey Ginger Vinaigrette Dressing:
1/4 inch knob of fresh ginger peeled
1 clove of garlic
1 inch of the green part of a scallion
1/2 lemon juiced
1 tbsp honey* or real grade b maple syrup
2-3 tbsp unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2-4 tbsp cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of water
Himalayan salt or sea salt to taste

Sprouted Salad:
sprouted lentils
sprouted mung beans
sunflower sprouts
romaine lettuce
bibb lettuce
red leaf lettuce
grape tomatoes
red pepper diced
broccoli florets and stems diced
carrot shreds
button mushrooms
avocado chunks

For the dressing, if you have a blender just throw everything in and blend till smooth and emulsified and done! Alternately you can mince the garlic, ginger and scallion and whisk together or shake it in a bottle. You can also use dried garlic, onion powder and ginger if you don't have any fresh around. You'll want to use about 1/4 teaspoon of each to start with, then maybe add more to your taste. The best way to make a dressing is to start with less of an ingredient and taste it and add a little more at a time to get it the way you like it. I try to keep low on the oils in my dressings since I eat avocado in my salads frequently. You need the healthy oils, but you also don't want too much in your diet. So start with less oil and more water. If you need to you can add a bit more. The salad is a no brainer, just use what you like or have handy! 

*honey is not considered vegan. you can easily substitute maple syrup, date paste or stevia if desired.

Carrot-Orange Creamsicle Juice

Carrot Orange Creamsicle Juice:
12-15 medium size carrots scrubbed or peeled
2 sweet juicy tangerines
1 half inch knob of ginger

This juice is my favorite!. Remember when we were kids and the ice cream truck would come rolling around playing it's little tunes, hypnotizing children like rats to the Pied Piper? One of my favorite treats was an orange push-up pop. It was creamy, smooth and orangey. Well this juice reminds me of an extremely healthy version of that! The key is to use some really sweet juicy tangerines!

For this you will need a juicer, not a blender. I use an Omega Nutrition Center. It is not a inexpensive piece of equipment but it is well worth the investment if you are serious about juicing. After a lot of research on juice quality I chose this one. There are many good ones on the market, but there are some cheaper ones that do not extract as much juice or they destroy some of the nutrients. The bonus of this juicer is that it can also be used as a food processor, grind flour, coffee beans, nuts etc. and make noodles! It comes with a juicing attachment, a grinding attachment, a couple pasta and bread stick attachments. I ended up ordering mine from Bed, Bath & Beyond with a 20% off coupon. If you sign up with your email address they will periodically send you these lovely coupons!

Most people peel carrots. However, most of the nutrients are in and just under the skin. So now I just give mine a good scrubbing with a vegetable brush (unless the skins look really bad). I cut the carrots into narrow sticks to feed them into the grinder. I feed in a few carrot sticks first to get things going, then add the ginger and tangerines. I don't bother peeling the ginger, I do cut off any section of the skin that looks bad. If the tangerines have a thin clean looking peel I just leave it on and quarter them so they fit down the tube. If the peel has a lot of pith then you are going to want to peel or trim the tangerines and just add a few pieces of the peel. Then I go back to adding the carrots. The carrots are a lot more fibrous so they help push the softer tangerines through. You also don't want to add the ginger last or you may not get all the juice from it. My juicer has two cups, one for the juice and one for the pulp. You can discard the pulp or save it and use it in broths or on top of salads. Mine comes out pretty dry. I use some of it, it is great fiber, but most of the nutrition is in the juice. So when I'm done feeding all of the ingredients into the juicer, I then strain it into the mason jar with a small metal mesh strainer. I picked up a mason jar funnel for about $1.50 and a mesh strainer, that makes this super easy This gets the last bit of pulp out of the juice so it is really smooth!

I drink my juices from mason jars and use a glass straw. I love my glass straws! I was given two as a gift from a very sweet lady I met in a local health food store. She was a sales rep for Foods Alive. They come with their own little brush so you can easily clean them. You'll never want to use a plastic straw again after you've used these! You can also find these on Amazon. Is there anything they DON'T sell? All I know is that finding healthier options can be challenging locally. I do buy locally when I can but when I can't I go right to Amazon.

Sprouted Lentil Vegetable Soup

Sometimes you just want some comfort food, to me that is a good hearty soup. I do mostly eat raw, but sometimes I partake in cooked foods especially when I want to share a meal with others who do not want to eat all raw. I've been making homemade soups since I was a kid, I love making them from scratch. So, I decided to make some lentil soup, but I wanted to do something a little different. So I sprouted them first. The flavor of the broth reminds me a bit of Campbells Vegetable Soup, but much, much better, and with a bit of warmth from cayenne pepper.

So to do this you'll need to start a 3 to 4 days in advance to sprout the lentils. Lentils sprout fairly quick, you can let them grow longer like I did or you can eat them as soon as you see the tiny tails start to appear. I like them a bit longer. I have a large sprouting jar I found in a health food store with a screen lid. (you can also find them on Amazon for $5) Day one you want to fill the jar with lentils then add double the water, lukewarm, like you see in the image. Let them soak overnight. Day two, drain them and rinse them with lukewarm water and set the jar at an angle so it can drain. I put it at an angle in a bowl to catch the drain-off. You'll want to rinse them 2-3 times per day, you'll see the tails sometime around day 3. When they get to the desired size they are ready! The small jar in the image contains some lentils already sprouted. I keep them like this in the refrigerator and use them on salads. Here is a great write up on sprouted lentils. (The picture just above on the left is the soup after adding all the ingredients before it began to simmer.)

2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 medium onion diced
4-5 garlic cloves minced
4-5 carrots sliced
1 cup of carrot pulp or ground carrot (optional)
4-5 stalks of celery with leaves, sliced
2 medium potatoes cubed
4-5 cups of sprouted lentils
1 large can of organic crushed tomatoes
1 large can of organic tomato sauce
4 cups of water (more or less)
4-5 bay leaves
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 tbsp Himalayan salt or sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
2-3 handfuls of fresh baby spinach

In a large soup pot melt the coconut oil and add garlic and onions and saute a minute or two then add carrot pulp and saute till onions and garlic are tender. Add in the sliced carrots, celery and potatoes and saute for around 5-10 minutes. If it seems too dry, add a splash of water instead of more oil. Then add the lentils, canned tomatoes and water. You'll want to have enough water to cover the vegetables by 2-3 inches. Then add the bay leaves, rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Allow it to simmer slowly for 2-3 hours. Here is where I taste it to see if I want to add more salt or other spices. Once the soup is done add in the fresh baby spinach. It will wilt in the soup but not turn to mush from overcooking. Then serve and enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Salsa Salad with a Creamy Taco Dressing

I had been soaking my red lentils to sprout them, I love sprouted lentils in my salads. They are crispy and sweet, nutritious and very easy to sprout. As I was gathering my salad ingredients, my red lentils, and noticing all the cilantro in my refrigerator that I needed to use up before I go on vacation, I decided to make a salsa themed salad. It's no secret to those who know me that I LOVE fresh salsa, guacamole and Mexican food. I've been making fresh salsa and guac for years now and pretty much have it perfected to my taste. So... I chopped up my crunchy romaine, a beautiful red tomato, half of an avocado, stripped the leaves off the cilantro and threw them in my salad whole (I actually threw the stems in the blender, or you can dice the stems and toss them in the salad, to not waste that amazing cilantro flavor!), added some red pepper and my alfalfa & sunflower sprouts. As I was about to sprinkle on the lentils it hit me... so instead I threw them in the blender and with the addition of a few other ingredients.. voila... an oil free, dairy free, creamy raw "taco" dressing. It came out even better than I expected! The lentils give it a smooth creamy texture and lend their beany flavor, reminiscent of well... bean dip! This new dressing is will be an amazing sauce for lots of things, like wraps, as a veggie dip, it gives me a lot of ideas! I am going to attempt to make some garbanzo bean tortilla wraps soon too... This salad would also be really good with a few organic blue corn chips or my favorite Late July Sweet Potato corn chips, either on the side or crunched up over the top like croutons! (By the way these chips are extremely good! One of my indulgences that I don't feel too guilty about since they have really good simple ingredients!) (the dressing recipe makes enough for 2 large salads or around 4 smaller dinner salads)

Raw Taco Dressing:
1/4 cup sprouted red lentils
1/4 cup hulled hemp seed
1/2 cup filtered water
1 garlic clove
2 tsp real maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
cilantro stems

Toss all the ingredients into a blender and run until smooth and creamy. You can add more or less water for desired consistency. I have a blender with single serve smoothie cup attachments and those work perfect for dressings. Alternately you can used cooked red lentils if you don't mind the recipe being fully raw.

1 handful romaine
1 handful red leaf lettuce
1 medium tomato cubed
1/2 of an avocado cubed
1 handful alfalfa sprouts
1 handful sunflower sprouts torn into bite size pieces
1 green onion diced
1 handful cilantro leaves
1/2 lime

Chop all veggies and toss in a bowl, squeeze lime juice over and toss, drizzle with dressing and eat!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gluten Free Raw Granola

1/4 cup raw oats
1/4 cup raw oat groats
1/4 cup raw buckwheat
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1  cup raw almonds 
1/4  hulled hemp seeds
1/4  milled flax seed
1/3  cup dried cranberries
1/3  cup raisins
4   Medijool dates pitted & diced
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp of coconut oil
2 tbsp organic maple syrup
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt

Note: I use all organic ingredients. All the seeds, nuts and grains are raw (meaning uncooked/roasted) purchased from the bulk section of a local health food store, except the hemp seeds and milled flax. I use Nutiva Organic Hulled Hemp Seeds for that and I also use their coconut oil. This variety of hemp does not have high amounts of THC, the seeds are a complete protein and extremely nutritious. Another good option are Chia seeds, (no not chia pet seeds lol!) You can use milled flax, whole flax seed or none if you like. is an excellent place to get these things if you can't find them locally and their prices are sometimes better than health food stores. On soaking, all seeds and nuts (and legumes) are in a dormant state when you purchase them dried. You will need to soak them over night to activate their germination. This actually increases their nutrient content and deactivates the seeds natural defenses, the nutritional inhibitors and other toxic substances. This makes them much easier to digest and easier for your body to absorb the nutrients. Basically unsoaked seeds, nuts, grains and legumes can actually block your body from absorbing certain nutrients, which makes no sense if you are eating them to be healthy! So this is a very important step. You can easily do this the night before you plan to make the granola. You should soak them a minimum of 8 hours.

The night before, in a large bowl add all the nuts, seeds and grains, except the hemp and milled flax (hemp seeds are the exception to soaking) You can vary the types and measurements of your favorites and what is available! You pretty much can't mess this up! Anyhow fill the bowl with lukewarm filtered water until it covers about twice as much as the seeds. Let it sit at least 8 hours.

When ready to prepare the granola, drain and give the seeds a good rinse in a metal, fine mesh strainer to remove the enzyme inhibitors and toxins. They will be larger and tender especially the almonds. They are quite good like this. (I soaked some of my almonds separate, then I removed the skins which pop off easily, and chopped them) Put seeds back into the large bowl, add the hemp seeds, flax, dried fruit and coconut flakes, coconut oil and maple syrup. (coconut oil is solid at room temperature, like shortening, but melts in your hands) Sprinkle in the cinnamon and sea salt as you stir. Mix well! You can sample your granola and add more/less to taste of the cinnamon, salt, maple syrup, it tastes great just like this and would make an awesome raw oatmeal type breakfast with some almond milk and fresh fruit!

I filled two trays from my dehydrator,  so, cut 2 parchment paper pieces to fit the dehydrator trays. If you have the Paraflex sheets use those instead. Spread out your granola unevenly! I left some chunky pieces and smaller pieces. Dehydrate at 105 degrees for about 6 hours or so, it could take more or less depending on the humidity in your home. You can always "test" it while it's dehydrating! The texture should be light and crispy.

Now, you can bake this in the oven as well, but anything over 118 degrees will kill the live enzymes that you just activated which are highly beneficial to your health, but it will still be really tasty. Enjoy!