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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beets and a New Smoothie!

I don't love the flavor of beets. I try, I really do, and I still eat them often. But they aren't my favorite. I had some tiny ones in the fridge and they weren't going to last much longer. They weren't enough to make into a meal for the whole family, so I just had them myself in a quick, late day, pick-me-up smoothie.

Sweet Beet Smoothie

1 1/2 cups beets, cleaned and chopped
2 bananas (sliced, preferably frozen, but fresh is okay too)
1 peach (sliced, preferably frozen, but fresh is okay too)
2 cups water (or more depending on desired consistency)

Throw everything in a blender with the water and blend on high. If you use fresh fruit instead of frozen fruit, add 3-4 ice cubes. 

Beets are really sweet to begin with, but they have a distinct flavor. The addition of bananas and peach slices only adds to the sweetness and helps to disguise that "beetness." Not everyone needs it to be covered up, I know- but I sometimes do, haha. This was delicious!

Beets are high in folate, fiber, manganese and have a good amount of potassium, vitamin C and iron. Bananas are high in fiber, vitamin C, Potassium, Manganese, and Magnesium. Peaches have vitamins A and C, as well as fiber.

Thanks to my mother in law, Billie Jean for her garden harvest, including these beets. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash soup embodies fall, in my opinion. While I just received a good amount of squash and it is still summer, the flavor of butternut squash screams autumn. And I am not complaining.

Between butter, heavy cream/half n'half, and chicken stock, a typical butternut squash soup is far from vegan. And while you are still getting a ton of nutrition in a bowl, it can definitely be made healthier and without harming or exploiting any animals. So that is what I set out to do, natch. ;)

Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

2 large butternut squash
1 large yellow onion
3 carrots
2 stalks celery
6 tablespoons coconut oil- (Don't be afraid of coconut oil! It helps fight Alzheimer's disease and helps the body to burn fat, among MANY other benefits. Imagine that :)
3 tablespoons sage
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked 6 hours or overnight
4 cups water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 tablespoon onion powder
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel two big squash and scoop out seeds (reserve seeds- I have a post coming where I tell you what to do with them!) Chop up the squash into 1 inch cubes and lay them in a roasting pan. Roughly chop the onion, carrot, and celery into 1 inch pieces and add it to the roasting pan.

Drizzle in 4 tablespoons of coconut oil and toss the vegetables to coat. Sprinkle two tablespoons sage, one teaspoon nutmeg and toss again to coat.

Roast the mixture about 1/2 hour, or until everything is fork tender. Let cool.

Rinse the soaked cashews and put them in a blender. Add 4 cups water and blend on high until creamy.

In a big stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil on medium. Add the cashew milk and stir occasionally.

Put a little bit of the vegetable mixture into the blender and puree. Add a tiny bit of water (or the cashew milk from the pot) if the blender is not able to puree without it. Puree the mix in batches, and add the puree to the milk.

Stir the soup well to incorporate everything. Add the vegetable bouillon, onion powder, 1 tablespoon sage, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, few pinches salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste.

This made a very large batch for me- we were having guests and also wanted to have some leftover. It made a light lunch along with a cucumber salad.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Butternut Squash Chips

I mentioned on Facebook earlier today that I had received a bunch of butternut squash from my mother-in-law's garden. I spent a good amount of my morning cleaning, peeling, chopping, cooking, blending, or otherwise preparing it. I like to do things in big batches so as to save time and energy, so I made it several different ways all at once. My mother in law had requested that I try making butternut squash chips, so that is one of the ways I utilized the squash. These chips were kept simple and savory. 

Butternut Squash Chips- original flavor

1 butternut squash, washed and peeled
good olive oil
Pink Himalayan salt 
fresh ground pepper

1. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds/pulp. (Save the seeds- we've got plans for them in a future post ;)
2. Use a mandolin to slice the squash as thinly as possible. 
3. Toss them in a bowl with a good quality olive oil. (Flavors become super concentrated when you dehydrate- it is worth it to use a good oil here because the flavor will shine through.) Crack lots of fresh pepper in and sprinkle a pinch of the salt. Toss well to coat everything. 
4. Lay the slices in a single layer on dehydrator trays- use mesh trays, not Teflex sheets to ensure they dry as quickly as possible. 
5. Dehydrate as long as necessary. The thicker the slices, the longer it will take to achieve a CRISPY texture. 

Enjoy these addictive but healthy snacks!

Anyone out there make their own chips (healthy or not?) What are your recipes?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fruit Overload

What do you do with fruit that needs to be eaten ASAP, or else it will go bad? Make a smoothie, of course!

Smoothies are my go-to food. I can pack a ton of fruit, greens, "super food" powders, nuts, and seeds into them. I can make them high calorie, high fiber, high fat, and/or high protein, depending on what I am needing or craving. I have one every single morning, and it lasts me well until lunch time. Without one for breakfast, I feel lost. Yea, I suppose I could eat fruit, cereal, yogurt, whatever, and sometimes I do, but I almost always have to have a smoothie first. 

This smoothie came about because I had about a pound of strawberries to use up. Aurelia had about 4 or 5 of them, along with some carrot cake cookies, a cup of blueberries and an avocado for lunch. It was lunchtime for me too, so I dumped the rest of the strawberries into the blender, and started adding whatever caught my eye. The result is yummy! It made a good lunch, paired with some carrot ginger crackers and avocado.

Strawberry Almond Joy Smoothie (raw vegan)

1 pound strawberries (more or less, depending on how hungry you are)
1 1/2 cups almond milk (see this post for instructions on making your own! Note: I am now straining out the pulp every time.)
2 tbsp raw cacao powder (you can use regular cocoa powder if that is what you have.)
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, plus a sprinkle for garnish
4 ice cubes
sprinkle of cacao nibs for garnish (optional- you can use chocolate chips or shaved chocolate if that's what you have, or just omit altogether)

Blend everything (but the garnish) on high, making sure ice is incorporated. Pour into a large glass, and garnish with cacao nibs and shredded coconut. Enjoy immediately.

What do you do with excess fruit? And do you make smoothies? If you have a favorite recipe, link it up in the comments!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Carrot Cake Cookies

Say that three times fast! This was another "necessity is the mother of invention" recipe. As I mentioned previously, I have been juicing A LOT of carrots and I am left with A LOT of pulp. I have been making a lot of my Carrot Ginger Crackers, but I was craving carrot cake something fierce. These give that same flavor, a soft moist texture, but none of the awful ingredients that go into conventional carrot cake. Thy travel well, and you can just pop them in your mouth.

Carrot Cake Cookies

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pitted dates
2 cups carrot pulp from juicing
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup raisins

Mix everything but raisins in a food processor until well combined. Empty the batter into a bowl and mix in raisins by hand. Roll batter into balls a tablespoon at a time. Flatten slightly and store in the refrigerator. Once refrigerated, the batter should firm up a bit and hold together.

My almost two year old LOVES these. And I love giving them to her- all that nutrition! (Side note: almost two years... what? Where did those two years go?)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Raw Vegan Basil Cashew Cheese

One of the things I miss most is cheese. Brie, mascarpone, ricotta, super sharp cheddar, mozzarella, provolone. Always the strong stuff, pungent and full of flavor.  Every once in a while I still sneak a bite, and then I regret it. I end up feeling like a fake, a fraud. Plus, my stomach just hurts afterwards. So, I have wanted to find a replacement- something that would fool my taste buds, that was made of raw, vegan, organic and whole food ingredients. The raw food world has shown us cheese made from nuts before, so I might be reinventing the wheel here, but I needed to do this for myself. I also needed to find a use for pulp leftover from cashew milk. I plan on experimenting some more to achieve different tastes and textures.

Raw Vegan Basil Cashew Cheese

1 1/2 cups pulp from making cashew milk
juice from one lemon
large pinch of salt (I only use pink Himalayan sea salt- better flavor and better for you, in my opinion.)
handful or two of fresh basil

Pulse to combine everything well in a food processor. Spoon mixture into a miniature spring form pan (or you can do what I did and use a cookie cutter, or several cookie cutters) and press down to fill any pockets. Refrigerate for 6 hours so the cheese can get firm and solidify. Garnish with more basil.

The texture of this is very similar to ricotta, and makes a good topping for raw crackers (as shown here) or mini toasts, baguette slices, etc. I think it would pair well with bruschetta- mmm! The taste is very mild, also like ricotta. I can't wait to experiment with other flavors and using this as a base for more recipes.

Have you made your own cheese (raw, vegan, or conventional dairy?) Recipes to share? Link up to yours in the comments!

Monday, August 6, 2012

What do you really need to start on the raw vegan lifestyle?

So if you read health and nutrition blogs as much as I do- especially those focusing on the raw vegan lifestyle- you might feel overwhelmed. I know I did for a while. It seemed as though I was going to get nowhere unless I had a really pricey Excalibur Dehydrator, a high speed blender such as the Vitamix, an upscale juicer, etc. While I have (among many kitchen appliances) a dehydrator, a blender, and a juicer, I did not buy any of them. They were all gifts to me. Eventually, when I have done all I can with these appliances, I would like to upgrade, but for now they will do.

The one appliance out of all of them that I would not survive without is the blender. I have at least one smoothie or juice a day, usually several. It has a hard time with some fruit, especially frozen fruit, and I have to use sufficient liquid to mix and incorporate everything well, but it provides me with quick and nutritious meals that I can drink quickly and on the go if need be. And the price can't be beat. The model I have has one motor for both a blender and a food processor. This thing is worth every penny in my opinion. I haven't seen it priced over $150!

Of course, I still plan on getting a Vitamix eventually. But my Cuisinart is holding out very well until then.

Are you in the market for a blender? Don't want to spend a fortune? Try this machine on for size!  

And if you would rather buy the upscale option upfront, I doubt you would be disappointed.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Banana Nut Cookies

I feel like the vegan Paula Dean here, but "y'all are gonna love this recipe." I recently posted about how I started making my own nut milk. (I may just be a perv, but that never seems ok to say out loud or to write...)  

Since I didn't have a dehydrator, and I didn't yet have a clue about how to use almond pulp, I was not straining out the pulp. I would just shake the milk extra hard before using it. The pulp left the milk kind of gritty though, and I knew we would all prefer it to be creamier and smoother- Aurelia included.

Now that I have a dehydrator though, I have started straining the pulp out and I finally found a way to use it. Cookies! Banana Nut cookies, to be specific.

These treats are raw, vegan, and comprised of whole food ingredients I feel good feeding my family and eating myself. In fact, I don't think they make a bad breakfast or snack, either.

Banana Nut cookies

2 cups almond pulp
1 ripe banana- the riper the better. Ripe bananas are sweeter and you won't need as much added sweetener
2 tbsp maple syrup, agave syrup, or raw honey
1 tbsp liquified coconut oil
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp allspice
pinch salt
cacao nibs, chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate chunk- the darker the better. (optional)

1. Use a food processor to blend up everything but the cacao or chocolate. Or you could mix well by hand.

2. Roll the batter into small balls, then gently flatten and place on a dehydrator tray. The batter does not spread, so you could place the cookies close together.

3. If desired, you can sprinkle the tops with the cacao/chocolate (pressing in slightly). I guess you could just mix the chocolate into the batter, too. They were an afterthought for me, so I had already formed the cookies before adding the chocolate.

4. Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 5 hours, or they are as crispy/chewy as you like. After 5 hours, the outsides were a bit crisp, but inside they were chewy.

5. You could try baking these in the oven at the lowest temperature, they just won't be raw. I would keep a close eye on them.