September 28, 2011

Kitchen Tips for Raw Foods

This has been a wonderful journey.  Six years ago I started out looking for some vegetarian ideas to add some more plant based food to our diets. I took a five day intensive vegan culinary arts course with Chef Al Chase and started eating more and more vegan. It opened the door to endless choices. Now we're just about 100% vegan which includes a lot of raw food.  I'm learning more and more about it all the time. I am amazed how quickly our lives and our kitchen have transformed.  We grow lots of our own food now and what we don't grow, we buy from a local organic farm or the farmer's market.  Having that all available makes it very convenient to eat raw. Heck, my favorite meal is in the garden:  an ear of corn, a handful of green beans or peas, a couple tomatoes, and maybe a few chile peppers. 

It may seem like more work at first just because change is work.  But, I find that eating this way is no more work than the way we ate when we were omnivores.  Here's three tips that make it easy for me to stay on track.

#1 Have the Good Stuff Available

We have a very large wicker star on our kitchen table which we keep filled with fruit.  It's always in front of us and very appealing when looking for something sweet.  I fill the blender each morning with at least four or five servings of fruit and a handful of greens.  When the big star is getting low, that means it's time to go shopping.  About twice a week I make a huge salad with the seasonal vegetables.  I use at least ten different vegetables to ensure we are getting a good variety of nutrients. It's also the first thing we see when we open the refrigerator.  It's handy for making our lunches in the morning, and an easy dinner. I've been known to grab a couple handfuls and throw it in our smoothie each morning.

This one is made with: spinach, chard, collards, kale, golden beets, red bell pepper, carrots, jerusalem artichokes, cucumber, avocado, lemon juice, and raw sunflower seeds.

#2 Don't Put that Dehydrator Away

My cooking tools have changed.  I use my Blendtec every day. I have two food processors, one regular size, and a very small one I picked up at a second hand store that I use for nuts, garlic, shallots, onions, and many veggies that I am using in small quantities. I have a coffee grinder just for herbs, and two dehydrators.  One is the old round kind without a fan.  I use it for the herbs I pick from the garden.  The other is a nine tray Excalibur.  It's on almost 24/7.  I have an old cooks table that has two nice drawers, one for the Teflex sheets and one for the dehydrator grids. It's ready all the time and usually working.

When I trimmed the garlic scapes this summer, I immediately chopped them and dried them.  I can throw them in raw soups either in pieces or grind in the coffee grinder.  A large zucchini is no problem.  I just slice up what I'm not using and put it on a tray.  Of the many things I've dried this summer, were about 30 pounds of fresh organic tomatoes. We all know how much dried tomatoes can cost. In my cupboards I have handy: dried nuts of all kinds, cherries, strawberries, peaches, pineapple, eggplant, mushrooms, and even some watermelon.  The watermelon is like candy. I make eggplant bacon and dried some beets that I can grind and put in our smoothies. I make flax crackers once a week and always do a batch of raw cookies on the weekend.

A friend of mine told me the other day she had a 25 pound watermelon and didn't know what to do with it.  I told her to dry it and she said she had just put her dehydrator away after doing peaches.  Don't do that!  You won't use your tools if you have to lug them in and out of hiding.  I told her about the sweet dried watermelon and she's getting it back out now.

#3 Soak Some Stuff Before I Go to Work
I do most of my food preparation on the weekend.  We both work full time during the week and it makes it very convenient to have some prepared goodies during the week.  So, raw foods really frees up my time even though to some it may seem like a lot of work.  On Thursday I start thinking about what fun I want to have in the kitchen this weekend and start perusing the raw foods recipes.  I know I'll use some grains, nuts, seeds, dried vegetables and fruit.  I know that most of the ingredients I use require some soak time.  Many of them take two, sometimes three days to cook in the dehydrator.  My favorite raw trail-mix cookies take a full 48 hours to completely dry. On Friday morning even if I don't know what I'm preparing I set some different nuts and seeds to soak.  I make sure I soak enough for a batch of flax crackers of some kind and enough to make something sweet like a raw pie or cookies. When I'm ready to cook, I have what I need.   

My cooking tools have changed.  That nice flat stove top is now a soaking table.


Vive Bene

September 14, 2011

Fall is Upon Us and We're Storing the Harvest

It just might be fall.  Our hot streak is over and we're back to the normal cool, grey weather in the 60's.  Usually we're cold immediately after Labor Day, but this year we were blessed with two weeks of hot summer weather. Soon the sandals will all be put away and the socks will come out.  The pumpkin, winter squash, and root vegetable recipes will appear on the blogs and Facebook posts. I took proper advantage of the summer's harvest and managed to put up 100 pounds of organic tomatoes, 100 pounds of peaches, 50 or more pounds of strawberries, some blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Many are canned, some are in the freezer ready for smoothies, desserts, and jam. We've got garden fresh green beans canned and this year, lots of fruit and vegetables dried. I won't be buying dried tomatoes this year. There's garlic and herbs of all kinds hanging in the kitchen and onions and potatoes stored for those winter meals.  The garden didn't do as well as other years, but we still harvested plenty enough to keep us from buying at the grocery store. What I didn't grow my local organic farmer grew.  The peaches come from Eastern Washington.  They had a short season too this year, they were only at the markets for about two weeks.

Went over to Rachel's house for a good day of canning a couple weeks ago.  She also has her canning set up for outdoors.  She has a double gas burner.  I show up early, bring my canner and we get busy.  Everybody gets in on it.  The guys snapped all the green beans, Scott helped us with the canning, and Damon grilled the tuna. With her burner we can get two batches of jars done with her canner and mine going at the same time.  She can blanch the peaches and get a batch of jars going at the same time.  I get a lot of exercise going back and forth from the deck to the kitchen at my house.  I think I need one of those double burners. We canned 50 pounds of peaches and the close to the same amount of green beans.  When I left late at night, she was putting on another batch of the jars of beans we filled and getting ready for her tomato canning adventures the next day.

I've got six more heads of cabbage from the garden. I'll get in the crock for some home made sauerkraut tonight.  A few more weeks of fresh local vegetables, I'm not sure what I'll put up next, but the tomatoes in my garden could still ripen, I hope, and need to be 'processed'. If they don't I'll just have to get out all the green tomato recipes:  salsa. enchilada sauce, and I even have some for  bread and muffins.

Rachel also enjoys cooking with fresh, whole foods.  She's a great cook and a talented kitchen witch. She has some unique flavor combinations.  I always enjoy whatever she makes. As usual we combined our talents and made a wonderful dinner. She made her vegetable gyoza with a sweet & spicy dipping sauce.  They were ready before the main dishes and were quite welcome with the hungry gang around the fire pit. I had to remember to stop eating them so I could eat dinner.  Her husband brought home a fresh tuna which we grilled on the barbeque.  I made baked fresh bell peppers from the garden stuffed with quinoa, black rice, vegan sausage, and herbs. I topped them with a raw pasta sauce and Daiya cheese. Rachel put together a fresh green salad with her garden veggies and we roasted an eggplant.  It was a perfect summer feast. Her dad joined us and brought in some fresh blackberries he'd picked the same afternoon. She whipped together a blackberry polenta cake.  I think we ended up calling it blackberry pudding cake.  It was so good, like jam filled cake. Very nice of her to include some of it in my leftover package.  After the long day of canning and an hours drive home, it was a very welcome snack when I got into my jammies and settled in the house.

Vegetable Gyoza
Quinoa & Black Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers

Marinating Eggplant
Blackberry Polenta Pudding Cake - Blackberry Goodness

September 12, 2011

Cosmic Curl Girl's Vegan Carrot Cake

This is a recipe from the Vegan World Fusion Cusine.  I'm very excited the way this cake turned out.  I'm getting much better at this vegan baking thing.  It does take practice.  I think the biggest challenge is judging the consistency when replacing sugar with other sweeteners like agave or stevia. Replacing eggs in recipes is a bit difficult too at first.  Are the eggs making it more dense or fluffy? Making up for what they add can be a challenge. Should I use bananas or baking soda?   I've learned it depends what type of flour I'm using whether I should use baking soda, yeast, or baking powder.   I've spent a long time taking recipes we grew up with from our dear friends Betty Crocker and Julia Child and veganizing them.  Some things work most do, but the beauty of plant based cooking is that I just call it something else, there are no mistakes.  A cake that doesn't rise is now mousse. Burnt the quinoa, it's now toasted.  You get the idea.

This was a successful carrot cake.  No "veganizing" required.  I made the ginger juice myself.  Burnt out the juicer with it too. But we got it at Goodwill pretty cheap, I'll find another.  I was ready to make fresh carrot juice, but not without a juicer so the carrot juice was not fresh, but it was organic.  The carrots are compliments of the garden.  The only change I made was to use toasted Brazil nuts on the topping instead of walnuts.  I also used whole wheat pastry flour instead of spelt flour. It came out dense, but not too dense, and very tasty.

Cosmic Curl Girl's Carrot Cake
     Vegan World Fusion Cuisine, pg 160 


31/4 C Spelt flour
     2 C Sucanot
     2 C Carrots, shredded or grated
11/2 C Raisins
1 TB Baking soda
3/4 tsp Cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp Sea salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp Allspice powder

13/4 C Carrot juice, fresh
  1/2 C Filtered water
  1/3 C Ginger juice, fresh
  3/3 C Safflower oil
2 TB Apple cider vinegar, raw
1 tsp Vanilla extract, alcohol free

Loving Preparation

1.  Preheat oven to 350ยบ.  Place all dry ingredients except carrots and raisins in a large mixing bowl and whisk well.

2.  Place wet ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well.  Add wet to dry, along with carrots and raisins, mix well.

3.  Pour into a well oiled 11” spring form pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.  All ovens vary, I think I baked mine for about 5-10 minutes longer.

Cashew Creme Frosting
1 C Cashews, soaked two hours or longer, drain well.
2/3 C Coconut milk, or more to achieve desired consistency
1/3 C Dates, or to taste (I used about seven and soaked them until soft)
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract, alcohol free or the seeds from 1/2 a scraped vanilla bean.

Place cashews, dates, and vanilla in a blender or food processor with 1/2 C coconut milk and process until smooth, adding coconut milk as necessary until mixture is smooth and still thick.  

Place in refrigerator for 20 minutes or more before frosting cake.  Please wait until cake is completely cooled before frosting.  Topped with shredded carrots and some roasted nuts.

Looking forward to that piece waiting for me in the refrigerator. 

September 11, 2011

Raw Chocolate Layer Cake

There was a really pretty post by someone on Facebook of some chocolate layer cakes with a link to the recipe, Chocolate Layer Cake with Black Cherry.  I just had to try it out, I had the ingredients on hand.  It's a delightful cake.  Very dense and made with flax seeds and cashews, it's very nutritious too.  Rachel came over for lunch and that's what we had.  I'll be making this again.

My modifications: I used fresh blackberries for the creme frosting. I didn't have almond butter so I whipped some almonds in the blender and made my own, I used agave for sweetener.  I don't have access to maca powder or lucuma powder and I don't think Longview ever will, so I omitted those. For the yogurt creme I omitted the Bio-k acidophilus and the sunflower lectithin because I just didn't have them and didn't think it would affect the taste or texture.  It worked out just fine.

Chocolate Layer Cakes with Black Cherry and Orange
    from a blog called  Golubka - Food That Takes Love

Chocolate layers

3 cups nut or coconut milk
6 tablespoons cacao powder
4 tablespoons cocoa nibs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut flakes
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup sprouted pecan butter or almond butter
3/4 cup sweetener of your choice (I used Jerusalem artichoke syrup)
1/2 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups ground flax seeds
3 tablespoons maca powder (optional)
2 tablespoons lucuma powder (optional)

In a high speed blender, combine all the ingredients until smooth. Spread evenly on 5 Teflex lined dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at 115F for about 6-8 hours, or overnight. Flip and peel the Teflex sheet away, then continue to dehydrate on screens only until completely dry. Cut each cracker into 4 pieces, you should end up with 20 total.

Yogurt Cream
1 cup macadamia nuts- soaked overnight
1 cup cashews - soaked overnight
2 tablespoons light agave syrup
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons raw honey
zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast
pinch of salt
8 tablespoons Bio-k acidophilus
1 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons sunflower lecithin (optional) - really good for you

In a high speed blender, combine all of the ingredients until smooth and creamy.

Orange Cream
1/2 of the amount of yogurt cream
zest of 3 oranges
1 orange - peeled and cut into chunks

In a high speed blender, combine all the ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before spreading.

Berry Cream
half of yogurt cream
any berries of your choice - add until you achieve the desired color

If using raspberries or blackberries, puree them first, then run through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.
In a high speed blender, combine all the ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before spreading.

Spread a thin layer of the cream on chocolate crackers layer by layer, sprinkling with cocoa nibs on top of each layer. You can use all 10 pieces to make a 10 layer high cake each - orange and berry. Or you can make 8 layer cakes, like we did, and eat the remaining crackers for a snack.
Refrigerate the prepared cakes for 1-2 hours until set and ready to be cut. Cut each cake into 4 even pieces with a sharp knife. Decorate with cocoa nibs, orange slices and berries. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Family, Love, Joy, & Sorrow

Inspiration from Kahlil Gibran on Joy & Sorrow

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Why am I here? I started this blog about a year and a half ago.  Experiencing what I call a family tragedy, I went into a pretty deep depression. I isolated and stayed close to home.  Up until a couple years ago I only used the computer for work, tracking my finances, paying my bills, or occasional shopping.  While on the quest to find great recipes and increase my knowledge of plant based cooking, I started to see some interesting blogs with personal stories, poetry, music, and  beautiful photos.

My friend Michele posts a daily photo with some highlights of the day.  My friend Diana shares stories of her children, grandchildren, and her beading adventures. Lisa shares interesting herbal tips and lets us know where the next outdoor market is where we can find her selling her herbs and clothing. Morgaine shares her view of the world with personal stories, poetry, and inspirational words.  I started to see that some used it as a journaling tool. I thought I'd give it a try and I've had some great fun with it. I've found some great recipes, cooking and gardening techniques along the way and even started some great relationships.

One of my main objectives was recording my recipes and experiences in the kitchen.  So many times when I was beginning my plant based journey I had produce I was unfamiliar with or needed information about sugar or flour substitutes.  I went to the internet and just did a search on the ingredients I had on hand and found interesting ideas pretty quickly. As a creative cook, I also don't measure and create meals on the fly.  Sometimes I'd like to recreate the meal I made, but don't remember exactly what I put in it.  Keeping track of my culinary experiences has helped me improve them along the way. This has given even me a place to look up my own recipes and favorite dishes.  I've shared some stories, feelings, music, and lots of food. I hope someone else searching for that interesting vegan meal finds some useful information in my experiences.

I looked back today and read my first blog in January 2010.  My son's ordeal had been going on for a year by then.  He's finally home and life is getting back to it's usual chaos. I do believe I've grown since then.  I am still arguing with anger and fear, but that's a lifetime struggle I imagine. Sometimes easy, sometimes difficult. Now that it's a little more calm and a bit less stressful, I can see that we've all grown.  My husband and I are partners more than ever.  Marty's been home two weeks and up and out of the house early in the a.m. and back in the evening.  He's managed to put in two full days work and make all his necessary appointments and obligations.  He's got work for Monday morning. I am delighting in helping him pack a lunch.  Haven't been able to cook for my son for about two years.  What a pleasure it is now especially after knowing what he ate for the last two years, nothing but processed food, very little fresh. He's not too sure about some of the items I send his way, but he tries them all.  He's even spending a little time talking to us before he descends into the basement apartment.  Yes, I have to share my greenhouse with the original resident for awhile. I've never been more grateful for that.

Reunion day, August 29, 2011.  We headed directly to the nearest beach along the river for breakfast.  Then out to the coast where we caught the sunshine.  It was a great day.


What did Rachel say the other day? Rain and Rainbows, yes, they go together.

   Sadness is but a wall between two gardens. ... 

 Kahlil Gibran

September 4, 2011

Green Chile Chickpea Tortilla Cups

This is my variation of a recipe from the Vegan Dad.  His recipe is handy if you're in a hurry and have the canned chiles, but this time of year, I pick them everyday out of the garden. I had some small chickpeas for Chana Dal that were perfect for these little tortilla cups.  I made the homemade tortillas, used the fresh chiles from the garden, and made a batch of homemade salsa with tomatoes, onions, chiles, garlic, cilantro, cucumber, and a handful of chopped pineapple. They'd make a great buffet or potluck dish. The top is crispy and the bottom is pliable like a burrito.

Homemade Tortillas

This recipe makes 5 large, 0r about 10 small, tortillas.

- 10 oz all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 oz vegetable shortening
- 5-6 fluid oz warm water (about 2/3 cup)

1. Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Rub in shortening with your fingers until mixture look like bread crumbs. Add in enough water to make a soft dough.
2. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 2-3 mins, until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for at least 15 mins.
3. Heat a cast iron pan on med to med-hi heat. Pinch off a piece of dough, and roll as thin as possible on a floured surface. Plan on pan and cook for 20-30 seconds on each side. The trick is to adjust the heat so the tortillas get a nice speckled brown look, but do not burn. Do not overcook.
4. After each tortilla is cooked, place in a stack wrapped in a kitchen towel. Keep the tortillas wrapped up until ready to use, otherwise they will harden.

The Green Chile Chickpea Tortilla Cups
    by:  Vegan Dad

- 1/2 recipe wheat tortillas, made into twelve 4+" tortillas
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 cup chickpeas
- 1 can Old El Paso green chiles, drained
- 1 tomato, finely diced
- salsa
- shredded vegan cheese (I grate Tofutti slices)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil a muffin tin.
1. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry chickpeas for 5 mins, until golden. Add chiles and heat through. Remove from heat and coarsely mash with a fork.
2. Line each muffin tin with one of the tortillas. Equally divide chickpea mixture into each of the tortillas. Top with tomato, a spoonful of salsa, and a healthy dose of grated cheese.
3. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until cheese is melted and tops of tortilla shells are lightly browned. Serve immediately.

For the tortilla cups, I put the tortilla cups in muffin pans after rolling.

Added the cooked chickpeas to the bottom, caramelized onions and chiles, some fresh salsa, and some Daiya Cheese to finish off. I topped them with chopped avocado.