Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mediterranean Flair Humus...

Humus. Who doesn’t like Humus? It makes a great appetizer especially at pot lucks or parties, it’s a perfect late afternoon snack when you need that little something but want to keep it healthy, it’s a great spread for sandwiches, and I’ve even been known to thin it a little and mix it into my salad for a healthier kind of dressing. It’s great on the go too, but the absolute best thing about Humus is that it’s quick, easy, nutritious and vegan! That’s right, humus is and has always been vegan. So next time an anti-vegan tells you he or she doesn’t like that weird vegan stuff you always eat, ask them if they like humus.

Interestingly many cuisines try and claim humus as a regional dish that’s been a staple since ancient times. However while chickpeas, lemon, sesame and garlic have all been consumed in the Middle East for Millennia there is no specific evidence to point us to the actual birthplace of what we consider to be a ‘traditional’ humus, also known by the name hummus bi tahini. Pureed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini does not seem to appear before the Abbasid period in Egypt and Levant. (751-1258) While the earliest known recipe for a dish similar to hummus bi tahini dates back to the 13th century Egypt, it is described as a cold chickpea puree with vinegar, pickled lemons, oil and herbs but no tahini or garlic.

Though regardless of where humus may or may not have originated, it is and has been a beloved staple throughout the Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean for a very long time, and it’s popularity in the west is growing.

Maybe it’s because I’m part Greek, and grew up with humus, but to me it seems so strange to think that amongst average white Americans humus wasn’t part of the culinary fabric until the end of the twentieth century. That makes it a relatively new idea for a lot of people and the enthusiasm shows. Personally I love watching culinary trends, I find them so interesting and often humorous, particularly when something I’ve eaten for a long time suddenly because ‘popular’ in the culinary world. Humus is definitely one of those things, in fact I can’t think of a single cook book that I own that doesn’t include at least one - and sometimes multiple - recipes for humus. Humus seems to be at every party these days, and it appears to be one of those universally loved non-threatening foods that can be equally enjoyed by both the very young and the very old alike.

I find it so interesting that according to market research conducted in 2010, humus consumption in the United States increased by 35% in a period of 21 months. That’s a lot of humus! And as much as I love the stuff, with that much humus floating around it can get a bit tired. Which is why I like to jazz up the dish by adding in different seasonings and flavors. Sure it’s not ‘traditional’ to included roasted red peppers or olives in humus but it’s fun, not to mention delicious, and sometimes even the best loved things - be they food, or your own
personal style - can benefit from a make-over every once and a while.

This afternoon I found myself hungry and craving humus, so I decided to take some traditional components of Mediterranean cuisine and mix them in with my chickpea puree for a heightened flavor profile. Now the color of the end result may not win any awards for beauty, but flavor wise this dish kills it! Seriously, if you like olives and sun-dried tomatoes as much as I do you need to give this dip a try pronto!

Never be afraid to try new things even if they seem out of the ordinary.

Mediterranean Flair Humus

1 15oz Can Chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1-2 Tbsp Tahini
1/3 C Pitted Kalamata Olives
1/3 C Sun-dried Tomatoes (not oil-packed)
1-2 tsp dried Basil (or fresh if you have it, I didn’t)
2-3 Garlic Cloves
1 tsp Paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
Sea Salt to taste

- Reconstitute sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl of warm water for about five or so minutes. Reserve a little soaking liquid before draining.

- Combine chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, paprika’s, and basil in a food processor. Process until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. If your humus is too thick and you need help getting things moving add in a little of the liquid from your reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes. It adds a great flavor!

- Give sun-dried tomatoes a few good squeezes over the sink to remove excess liquid, then add them to the food processor along with the kalamata olives and a dash or two of salt. Puree until mostly incorporated, but not entirely smooth. It’s nice to leave the olives and sun-dried tomatoes a little chunky for texture. Taste for flavor and adjust seasoning as needed.

- Serve on a platter alongside pita, or other flatbread, carrot sticks, celery and other raw vegetables. Enjoy!

PS: And tomorrow I’ll be back hopefully with my recipe for tonight’s dinner. You see it’s my husband’s birthday week, and one of the dishes he requested I prepare for him is a vegan ‘beef’ stroganoff. A childhood favorite of his that he hasn’t eaten since going vegan. I told him I’ll try my hand at it, using my mother-in-law’s recipe, as well as my own research as a guide, and we’ll see what I come up with. Hopefully it’ll be out of this world fantastic, as I wouldn’t want to disappoint my birthday boy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Orange Sunshine Beta Booster...

Because sometimes you just need a little Beta-Carotene. If you’re anything like me then by now you’re so ‘over’ the holiday’s. You’re in a junk food funk courtesy of the holiday season. You’re stuffed and bloated and sick to death of fat, and sugar and can’t even look at another piece of bread. You’ve been consuming chocolate via IV and are pretty close to slipping into that post Christmas food coma thanks to all those leftovers stinking up your fridge. You’re desperate to claw yourself out of this mess and wonder how you even fell victim to it in the first place. Maybe you’re now faced with battling the holiday bulge, but you know that New Year’s is just around the corner and so you won’t be able to stick to any kind of healthy eating plan despite your best intentions.

It’s okay, take a long slow breath and fear not. Just because you can’t commit yourself to going back to your healthy ways right this minute doesn’t mean you can’t at least prepare your body for what will eventually come right? As much as I want to start to detox now, I know that with my husband’s birthday and New Years fast approaching I will not be able to stave off the sweets, bypass the fats, and break away from the delicious seduction of gluten and soy.

While I may not be able to steer clear of these temptations at a New Year’s party, a family dinner, or a birthday outing I am capable of making good choices the rest of the week, and so are you. Don’t think that just because you ate a piece of cake at a party last night that gives you free licence to eat cookies, pie and potato chips for breakfast this morning. Don’t fall into that trap of saying "oh well I ate junk yesterday so I may as well continue till the New Year." It’s a poor excuse. You’re giving up control and letting yourself go because it’s ‘easy’ but choosing health is easy too, it just takes a few moments of consideration rather then a mindless grab for the chips that are sitting on the counter.

So stop with the excuses, take back control and realize that while you may not be perfect for the next week, you can still do good for yourself, by choosing health when and where you can, until you’re ready to re-commit. I find breakfast to be the easiest time to choose health during the holiday season, because so often it is the one time of the day that we’re alone. Free of temptation, and free of influence it doesn’t take much to throw some good nutritious food into the Vitamix and start your day off right. That’s what I did this morning and I got a nice little boost from it.

Now as much as I love me some greens, and especially a green smoothie sometimes you just want a little something different. As far as nutrition is concerned greens are paramount but that doesn’t mean you should neglect all the other delicious plant foods out there. After all we should be eating all the colors of the rainbow, yet very often I find the majority of people eat a very muted color palate. Not this smoothie however. It is bright, bold and beautiful and packed with all kinds of healthful nutrients. So stop making excuses for yourself and give it a try today!

Orange Sunshine Beta Booster

2 C Chopped Peeled Carrots
2-4 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2-3 Tbsp Chopped Parsley
1 Piece Fresh Ginger
1 Pink Lady Apple (or other tart apple such as Granny Smith)
1 D’Anjou Pear
1 Banana
2 C Purified Water
1-2 Packets Stevia (to taste, optional)

- Place all ingredients except stevia into highspeed blender and blend on high for roughly 1 minute or until everything is well combined and smooth. Add in stevia blend a few seconds until incorporated, then pour into glasses and enjoy!

*** Note - If you want a little extra fiber you don’t need to peel your carrots. However if you want to eat the peel then make sure you are using Organic carrots and wash them well to remove any dirt. ***

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas and Holiday Mulled Wine....

I know, you don’t have to tell me, I’ve been a very bad little blogger. I’ve been absent a week, and missed the holiday season! My sincerest apologies, but I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve barely had time to even get online to check my email let alone find the time to post recipes or other musings. I see now that so many of my favorite bloggers spent the month posting deliciously decadent holiday theme food. I would have loved to toss my hat into the ring as well, but it appears as though I’ll have to wait until next year, and hopefully I’ll learn to manage my time better.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice etcetera, etcetera... I know I certainly did. Though it was hectic - which is to be expected - and though I was busy cooking away, I felt this Christmas went a lot smoother than last. I got spoiled rotten by my husband and my family, ate some delicious food, and engaged in some wonderful conversation. Unfortunately despite all the wonderful food I made I neglected to take pictures of it! I know, I was such a bad blogger! However just because there aren’t any pictures doesn’t mean I can’t talk about it right? And I can still give you my recipe for Mulled Wine.

We started the food extravaganza off with a delicious hearty Christmas breakfast. For which I made the Shiitake Mushroom Dill Frittata, and the Cherry Sage Sausages from ‘Vegan Brunch’ both were delicious! I had never made a frittata - vegan or non - before and I had never made my own sausages so that was quite the interesting experience. The frittata was actually super simple, all you do is mix a bunch of stuff together press it into a pie plate and bake for twenty minutes, and even though I’m not a huge fan of Shiitake’s it was sublime! I particularly loved the use of dill. The sausages I was definitely more intimidated by. I really had no idea what I was doing, and would have liked maybe a few pictures to accompany the instructions, but I slogged through it with some common sense and it despite my reservations and uncertainty it actually turned out pretty good. They may not have been the most beautiful sausages ever made, but they were delicious! Once I have more practice I’ll be a pro at wrapping the aluminum foil tight so they don’t explode and become misshapen. In fact despite their appearance, I was so pleased with the overall ease of the technique and their delicious flavor and texture that I can’t believe it took me so long to make my own sausage! I feel kind of silly for being so afraid of making something that I now see is super easy, so if you’re a bit intimidated by the prospect of preparing your own take my word for it - you can totally do it! You just need a little patience and a little faith. Now that I know, I can easily see myself never having to buy another processed vegan sausage again! As long as I plan accordingly I can always make my own, which has the added benefit of me knowing exactly what is going into them, and how they’re being cooked.

Along with breakfast I served coconut milk nog, orange juice and of course the Stollen my Oma makes and sends me each year, spread with a little Earth Balance. For me Christmas Breakfast is all about the Stollen, it’s a tradition on the German side of my family to eat it for breakfast every Christmas Morning, and while we may eat other things alongside it, no Christmas in my opinion could ever be complete without it. For those of you who may not know Stollen is a bread-like fruitcake - seriously do not groan at the word fruitcake this is not your 90 year old great aunts dray as sawdust fruitcake or that horrible store-bought affair that some distant relative always drags along because they don't know how to cook - made with yeast, water and flour. Inside the bread is filled with candied orange peel and citrus peel, dried fruits, and slivered almonds, and sometimes rum is also added. The top is dusted with icing sugar, and while some people may also include a marzipan center in their recipe, my Oma does not, nor would I want her to, i definitely like my Stollen Marzipan free. Seriously if you have not had a Stollen you need to find one ASAP because it’s that good!

Next on the menu were the appetizers. I didn’t go extravagant this year, I just made a couple of dips. The Curried Green Onion Humus from "Appetite for Reduction" which was good, particularly if you like curry however I think I much prefer the my own roasted red pepper humus. I also made a Roasted Red Pepper and Broccoli Dip with Toasted Pine Nuts of my own invention, that didn’t exactly turn out the way I’d envisioned. Served of course with sliced up Pita. With our appetizers we drank the Mulled Wine that I’d made and boy was it delicious. Now I am not a drinker, I have a drink maybe two or three times a year, and I’ve never been a wine person but for whatever reason I got it into my head that I needed to make Mulled Wine this year. Odd since I’d never actually had it before, but I am so glad I made it. I’d seen a few recipes floating around, and knew vaguely what went into it but instead of following a recipe already available I decided to try my hand at making my own. It exceeded all expectations and was so delicious that I ended up drinking three glasses. The pot didn’t last more then an hour and a half before it was drained by the guests! - Recipe to follow.

Then it was time for dinner. My husband’s cousin and my good friend J brought Field Roast’s Cranberry Hazelnut en Crute, which we baked according to the package directions, which was met with mixed reactions. C, My husband, and I all thought it was pretty decent, however my husband and I both agreed that we liked the tofurky roast a little better which came as a surprise considering the Field Roast always comes so highly recommended. Maybe I’m just losing my taste for this kind of stuff all together, or maybe now after my sausage making experience I just think that I could do a better job, haha... J on the other hand was not impressed by the roast and ended up smothering it in gravy, and while I’m not entirely sure of L’s opinion he did seem less than enthused. Oh well, these things are always worth a try right? To go with it I made the Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions, and the Golden Mushroom Gravy from "The Vegan Table" both of which were delicious though I thought the gravy could have used a splash or red wine in it. I also made the Kabocha Squash and Sprouts wtih Pears and Pomegranate from "Clean Start" although I didn’t have a Kabocha Squash so I used Butternut instead. It was phenomenal! There were also sweet potatoes covered in brown sugar and vegan marshmallows contributed by my husband’s aunt. Very kind of her to make a separate dish of it for my husband using the vegan Mallows, he was very appreciative. Marshmallows aren’t really my thing so I can’t attest to the deliciousness of the dish.

When it was time for dessert we dug into the Roasted Banana Maple Rum Cheesecake with Spiced Pecan Crust and Maple Rum Sauce that I made from "The Conscience Cook" it was fantastic and so decadent! I also made the Gingerbread Apple Pie from "Vegan with a Vengeance" which was superb! And J made the Orange Kissed Chocolate Tiramisu from "Party Vegan" which I thought was good though could have used a bit less Grand Marnier in my opinion. After sufficiently stuffing ourselves with so many goodies we enjoyed The Republic of Teas holiday blends - Holiday Spiced Plum is my fave, but Comfort and Joy as well as Dream by the Fire are also pretty good - while sitting around the table engaging in fun conversation.

It was a wonderful Christmas, and I was definitely spoiled by my husband and my family. I received 14 vegan cook books, amongst them "My Sweet Vegan" by Hannah Kaminsky, "Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food" and "Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations" by Alicia C. Simpson, "Vegan Italiano" by Donna Klein, "Quick-Fix Vegan" by Robin Robertson, "World Vegan Feast" by Bryanna Clark Grogan, "The Best Veggie Burgers On The Planet" by Joni Marie Newman, "Blissful Bites" by Christy Morgan, "Vegan Holiday Kitchen" by Nava Atlas, "The Vegan Cook’s Bible" by Pat Crocker, "Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites" by Joni Marie Newman and Celine Steen, "500 Vegan Recipes" by Joni Marie Newman and Celine Steen, and "Big Vegan" by Robin Asbell. As well as a copy of "Super Immunity" by Joel Fuhrman, and "Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty and Style" by Kim Barnouin. I also have a copy of "The American Vegan Kitchen" coming to me shortly, there was apparently a mishap with that. In addition to the wealth of books I also recieved some fiction books, some dvd’s - Including my new favorite film "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" an extraordinary amount of delicious dark chocolate. Some beautiful organic vegan makeup from Earth Diva cosmetics and Zuzu Luxe. Some eco-friendly bamboo makeup brushes to apply it with. A Tofu press a dumpling press and a really cool shirt from Mercy for Animals. I also got some great essential oil blends from my mother. One for pain relief and one for stress relief both arriving at a pretty poignant time considering my busy schedule of late.

However delicious food and lovely gifts aside the best part of the holiday was getting to spend some quality time with my husband. He makes everyday of my life bright and shiny and worth living. Everyday he encourages me and inspires me to speak my truth and to live my life the way I want to live it. He is my rock.

Now without further adieu I do believe I said I’d give you my Mulled Wine Recipe.

Holiday Mulled Wine

2 Bottles Pinot Noir
6 Whole Cloves
6 Whole Cardamom Pods
2 Whole Cinnamon Sticks
1/3 C Orange Juice
1/4 C Pure Maple Syrup
2/3 C Dark Brown Sugar (or to taste)
The Peel of one entire Orange (I used a Clementine)

- Pour Wine, Juice, Syrup, sugar, orange peel and spices into a crock pot. Stir until combined and sugar has dissolved. Simmer on low for 6-8 hours and serve warm in large wine goblets. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Green Goddess Smoothie....

There’s a reason for my naming this smoothie Green Goddess, it’s a bit of a story but bare with me!             

Our body is a temple and as such we should treat it with love, care and respect. Not just physically, but emotionally and nutritionally as well. Yet how many of us really take the time to do that on a day to day basis? It’s so easy to slip into the ‘excuse’ of "I’m too busy" or the trap of convenience, and far too often we allow ourselves to be swept up in a hurricane of bad food and lifestyle choices with the vague promise that we’ll get to it tomorrow, next week, or next month. Then tomorrow comes and we’re still wrapped up in that monstrous cyclone of never ending punishment. With no door visible in the haze of junk food chaos to walk out of, nor window ajar to jump from we passively let loose the reigns and keep on riding that toxic wave until something inevitably wakes us from the nightmare.

It happens to everyone from time to time, it may be happening to you right this minute. The most important thing to do is be conscience, be aware, don’t lie to yourself. Have the courage to realize that you’ve been treating your body like an amusement park or a science experiment, accept that, and be brave enough to make the changes you need to, to get yourself back on track.

Even I - though I usually take great care in my health - slip from the wagon once in a while. These past couple of months have been one of those times. Ever since vacation my world has been turned a little Helter-Skelter. I don’t exactly know what happened either. Before going on vacation I did a 10 day cleanse, that basically consisted of low-fat, low-cal food with no sugar, no salt, no oil, no gluten and no soy (except in the form of miso or soy sauce) I had been eating healthfully before that but I had just wanted to give myself that extra kick. I’d been engaging in 45 minutes of cardio work five mornings a week on top of my usual activities such as walking, biking, jogging, swimming etc... I felt great, fantastic actually! Then vacation came, and while we didn’t eat poorly while on holiday, and while we were considerably active, we did end up consuming quite a bit of rich food as well as a lot of foods heavy on sugar, soy, and gluten, not to mention a pretty hefty and regular dose of nut butter - at least in my case. While away I joked that I was eating more bread in those two weeks then I’d normally eat in two months at home, but really it was true. Same with soy. There were a lot of cliff bars on that vacation, and while I always enjoyed cliff bar for a quick energy boost mid afternoon at work I literally haven’t even looked at a bar since being home. I can’t even look at Raw Revolution’s crazy delicious spirulina bar!

When we returned home I was pretty committed to going back to eating and exercising the way we had been prior to the cleanse, but that little sugary, glutenous devil had a hold on me, and as the days grew busier with work and various holidays and gatherings I let myself get sloppy. I trashed the morning cardio workout, stopped biking (too cold out) stopped swimming (membership expired) and shortened my daily walks (again due to weather) As for the food portion of my life we haven’t been eaten particularly bad, it’s just been a continuation of vacation. A lot of rich food, too much oil, sugar, gluten and soy with a real emphasis on regular desserts, too much fruit juice not enough water, and far, far too many coffee’s.

The past few weeks in particular I’ve really been feeling it. I’ve been exhausted, no energy, a little impatient, bloated, and gassy. I’ve had a lot of headaches, a few blemishes on my face - which for my usually clear skin is a lot - I’ve had a lot more mucus and phlegm when I wake up in the morning not to mention a slightly irritated throat - until that first morning cup of tea or orange juice anyway - indigestion, and just general skin sensitivity and digestive discomfort. The gastric distress is the thing I’ve been most troubled by lately, that and my constant napping. I knew after a couple of weeks past that initial jet-lag reboot, that something was wrong, and I had planned to cleanse. Except every time I said I was going to start my cleanse ‘something’ got in my way. Me.

Then Thursday I was in my local library renewing my library card. - Yes some people still actually use libraries and read books that aren’t downloadable - while I was there I decided to take a look around. Naturally I found myself in the health and wellness section, and as I was browsing up and down the shelves I saw a copy of Kris Carr’s "Crazy, Sexy Diet" I’ve been wanting to read this book for sometime but it’s always checked out at the library and I’m just one of those people who’s always apprehensive about buying a book I haven’t read yet. Needless to say I grabbed the book up before anyone else could, took it home and dove in. I devoured chapters 1 through 10 in one sitting and read the last chapter the next morning when I woke up. None of the information in the book was news to me, the vast majority of it was just a refresher on stuff I’d already heard or read about, but somehow reading those words again, in the way that she presents them ‘woke me up’

I took one good hard look at my life, realized that I’ve been feeling like shit for near on two months now and said "This has got to stop." Friday morning I skipped the O.J. headed straight for my Vitamix and the Green Goddess smoothie was born. Generally I do my grocery shopping on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, most often it’s Sunday so by Friday the fridge is looking pretty sparse, I didn’t have much in the way of green but what I did have I used in abundance. While I was digging around in there I found a large knob of ginger that hadn’t even been touched and I thought "What the hell" throw some of that in for good measure to help with the tummy woes.

Honestly I had no idea what was going to come out of the blender. The Smoothie was so green and the smell was well.... leafy. I took a look at my husband - who also immediately hopped on board the get clean and green train - and said "I don’t know how this Is going to taste, but just remember it’s about nutrition not flavor." I poured us each an 18oz glass, wrinkled my nose, closed my eyes and took my first tentative sip. "Not bad." I said to my husband. I took another sip and was hooked!

As I sucked back my smoothie with all the eagerness of a child drinking chocolate milk I could literally feel all that good green energy coursing through my body. Starting the long job of healing, and rejuvenating. As I swallowed each sip it was like a light had opened above my head and was shining down on me, filling me with green goddess love. I knew after that second sip that I had found my way back and by 3pm that afternoon I was making my second blender full of this amazing elixir.

Now to you the smoothie might not sound that great, but trust me when I say you need to give it the benefit of the doubt. You can hardly taste the kale - even though you certainly can smell it - and the ginger lends a really wonderful sweetness with a bit of bite. The banana makes it creamy without imparting an overpowering flavor and the apple gives is that fresh crisp taste. I’ve been guzzling this stuff since Friday and though I haven’t yet changed too much else about my diet - except eating way more greens particularly in the form of salad with little to no oil, and virtually no sugar - I already feel worlds better. I can feel my digestive disaster correcting itself, as my stomach, intestines, and other organs start moving, processing, and filtering quicker and smoother. Though I’ve been working my tail off these past three days I’ve had more energy then I have had in two months.

It really is amazing what a little green power will do for a gal! So do yourself and your body a favor and give it a try.

Green Goddess Smoothie

2 Small-Medium Celery Stalks
3 Handfuls Kale
1 Pink Lady Apple (or other tart apple such as Granny Smith)
1 Banana
2 Packets Stevia (or other sweetener, Optional)
2 cups Filtered Water
1 ½-1 inch Piece Ginger (to taste)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (or to taste)

- Add everything into highspeed blender except for the Stevia. Blend on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute until mixture is completely smooth. Add in Stevia or other sweetener if desired, and blend on low for a few seconds until just incorporated. Enjoy on it’s own or with a piece of fruit or handful of raw nuts.

Though I’ve already begun cutting back severely on oil, salt, sugar, gluten, and soy, and have began incorporating more raw fruits and veggies back into my diet I won’t be going full throttle until after the holiday season. Starting any kind of cleanse the week before Christmas is never a good idea, and with my husbands birthday the week after I know we’ll be engaging in some rich delicious goodness that just isn’t going to fit into a cleanse. Once January 1st rolls around though I am going to be all over my health with a vengeance, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated with lots of great smoothie, salad, soup, main dish meals and healthful sugar-free dessert ideas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Clove Is The Spice of Life...

Cloves seem to be the kind of spice most people only hear about when they start in on their holiday baking. We know cloves go into pumpkin pie, and gingerbread but aside from that what do we really use them for? And how many of us actually know what a clove is? I know I for one am totally guilty of only for the most part using cloves as a seasonal ingredient. However after writing this post I’m convinced that clove can, and should be so much more then that. There are so many awesome benefits to be had where cloves are concerned, that we should try to include them into more meals year round. I know I’ll be testing out a few new ways to incorporate cloves in the weeks to come.

Clove -


Cloves are native to the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, (formerly known as the Spice Islands) and are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree belonging to the Myrtaceae Family. Interestingly cloves are the unopened pink buds of the evergreen clove tree, which are hand picked and dried until they turn brown. Due to their resemblance to tiny nails their English name Clove, is actually derived from the Latin clavus which means nail. While cloves have been used throughout the world for thousands of years, across many different cultures they were exclusively grown and harvested in Indonesia. In fact it wasn’t until modern times that commercial production of cloves began taking place in India, Madagascar, Pakistan, Zanzibar (which is one of the leading clove producers today) Brazil and the Caribbean.

Though they were virtually exclusive to Indonesia they somehow made their way west to The Middle East and Europe sometime before the 1st century AD, as archeologists have found cloves within ceramic dishes in Syria with evidence that dates them to within a few years of 1721 BC. Dating back to the 3rd century BC Chinese courtiers were required to keep cloves in their mouths and chew them, as their sweet and fragrant taste would freshen their breaths so as not to offend the Emperor. Cloves, along with nutmeg and pepper were highly prized by the Romans.

Despite Arab traders having brought cloves to Europe, they did not become popular there until the Middle Ages when they became prized for their ability to mask the taste of poorly preserved foods. In the Middle Ages Cloves were traded by Muslim sailors and merchants via the Indian Ocean Trade, however in the 15th century the trade route was taken over by Portugal due to the Treaty of Tordesillas with Spain, and a separate treaty with the Sultan of Temate. The Portuguese were responsible for brining large quantities of cloves to Europe from the Maluku Islands. Cloves then became one of the most valuable spices costing 7g of gold for 1 kg of cloves.

The high cost of cloves and other spices drove Spain to seek out new trade routes to the Maluku Islands. However the voyages sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain were largely unsuccessful. Though they were briefly able to capture the trade from the Portugese the trade became dominated by the Dutch in the 17th Century. In 1770 the French, after great difficulty were able to transplant the Clove tree into Mauritius. Their cultivation was then introduced into Guiana, Brazil, Zanzibar and most of the West Indies.

Interestingly during the 17th and 18th century in Britain Cloves were worth their weight in gold due to the high price of importing them.

Health Benefits

Clove and Clove oil have a long history of use in Indian Ayurvedic Medicine, Chinese Medicine and Herbalism. Cloves are used as a carminative to increase hydrochloric acid in the stomach and to improve peristalsis. Cloves are also said to be a natural anthelmintic. The essential oil is often used in aromatherapy when stimulation and warming are needed particularly for digestive problems. Topical application of clove over the stomach or abdomen are said to warm the digestive tract. Cloves are also used in conjunction with ginseng and patchouli to aid in morning sickness, or for vomiting or diarrhea due to spleen and stomach upset.

Clove oil when applied to a cavity or decayed tooth can also relieve toothache, and can help to decrease infection in the teeth due to it’s antiseptic properties.

Clove oil is also used in various skin disorders such as acne, and is used in treatment of severe burns, general skin irritations and to relieve skin irritation.

As far as modern medicine is concerned however cloves are still being researched for their beneficial properties and uses as treatment. It’s been discovered that Clove contains a significant amount of an active component called eugenol, (which makes up 72-90% of the essential oil extracted from clove) which has made it the subject of numerous health studies, including studies on prevention of toxicity from environmental pollutants like carbon tetrachloride, digestive tract cancers and joint inflamation. In the United States, eugenol extracts from clove have often been used in dentistry in relation to root canal therapy, temporary fillings and general gum pain. Eugenol and other components of clove such as beta-caryophyllene, combine to make clove a mild anaesthetic, as well as an anti-bacterial, because of this you’ll find clove oil in many over the counter sore throat sprays and mouth washes.

Eugenol functions as an anti-inflammatory, and in animal studies the addition of clove extract in diets already high in anti-inflammatory compounds brings significant added benefits. Other studies have shown it can reduce inflammatory symptoms by an additional 15-30% Clove also contains a variety of flavonoids, including kaempferol and rhamnetin which also help contribute to cloves anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Like many of it’s fellow spices clove’s unique phytonutrient components are accompanied by a wide variety of traditionally-recognized nutrients. They are an excellent source of manganese, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K, dietary fiber, vitamin C, Calcium and magnesium.


Though here in the west we know cloves as being one of those quintessential autumn and winter spices without which our pumpkin pies and gingerbreads just wouldn’t be the same; they are actually used extensively in many cuisines, and frequently appear in spicy dishes. Cloves are constantly used in Indian cuisine, in both North and South Indian fare. In North Indian food cloves are almost used to add flavor to rich and spicy dishes. It is one of the ingredients of garam masala and is used in biryani as well as many other rice pilafs. So next time you make a pilaf add a little clove! Clove is also traditionally used to make masala chai tea. It’s also used to season the traditional Vietnamese soup Pho. Seasoning soup broth is a great way to add in a little sweet spicy flavor. You can use it in chili or stews to add that comfy warming feeling. Add it into any baked good including pancakes or waffles. You can simmer cloves and cinnamon in apple cider to impart a nice flavor. Add it into pies, crumbles, cobblers, jams, jellies and fruit compotes. Use it to season the poaching liquid when poaching pears, apples or peaches. Bake fruit with cloves and cinnamon. You can also add cloves to your favorite stuffing recipe or use it in a Jerk Marinade. A lot of great things can be done with clove so don’t be afraid to experiment. However because their flavor is very potent keep in mind that a little goes a long way!

May your life be rich in spice! and as always Happy and Healthy Eating to you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fusilli In Cream Sauce With Caramelized Onions, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Crushed Pink Peppercorns...

A few nights ago I was in the mood for pasta, but not just any kind of pasta. I wanted a rich and creamy white sauce, rather then olive oil, pesto, or marinara and I wanted it to be kind of cheesy. Whenever I think of cream sauce I think of Alfredo, but that’s not really what I wanted. I wanted something ‘cleaner’ if that makes sense, that was just a tad sweet, with just a touch of delicious cheesy goodness.

White Miso, Nutritional Yeast and Coconut Milk immediately sprung to mind. Now you may have done a double take on the words coconut milk, but trust me on this. The best, richest, and creamiest sauces I’ve made yet for pasta whether they be for mac and cheese, Alfredo or other have all been made with coconut milk. I don’t know what it is about coconut milk but it works so much better then any other non-dairy milk or cream that I’ve tried for that rich flavor and thick texture. I know you might be skeptical but it’s true, and you may be asking yourself ‘doesn’t it make what you’re cooking taste like coconut’ and the answer is no. I find that if you don’t add sugar into your coconut milk, and use savory seasonings there isn’t any coconut flavor at all. I know it sounds crazy right? And I get your reluctance, because I was a total skeptic too when I first happened upon this amazing culinary discovery, but then I tried my first coconut milk mac and cheese and nearly lost my mind! I really is that good, so phenomenal in fact that coconut milk has since become my ‘go-to’ for cream sauce as well as a few other things.

As for the White miso and the Nutritional Yeast, it’s only natural they sprung to mind for this recipe considering the cheesy taste they impart to dishes. People think I’m a little crazy for thinking that White Miso has a cheese like flavor, but I don’t know, that’s what I taste. Something about the fermentation I think gives it a quality similar to aged cheeses. It has that sharp, salty full-bodied flavor you -or at least I - associate with a rich aged cheddar. So whenever I want to make something cheesy White Miso is my ‘go-to.’ Darker Miso, such as red or brown doesn’t really have the same flavor or quality. It’s more salty and bitter to me rather then cheese like so I wouldn’t recommend using them for this. Stick to white miso, or perhaps yellow. As for the Nooch. Since I’m not a big fan of nutritional yeast I played it kind of conservative here, but if you like the taste of nooch then by all means feel free to add in more. I went with the 1/4 cup but think a 1/3 cup would be just as good too, but if you really want to heighten the flavor you could go up to a ½ cup.

Of course once I had the sauce all figured out there was still the matter of what else to put in the pasta. After some careful consideration I decided to go with red onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parsley and pink peppercorns. Since the pasta is a tan color, and the sauce is so white I wanted to include ingredients that would really stand out and pop with brightness when they came together in my bowl. Red onion, sun-dried tomatoes and parsley are perfect for that, and the pink peppercorns give the dish a cute pink dusting and interesting flavor.

However Pink Peppercorns definitely have a distinct and unique flavor, they’re not hot, but rather have a delicate almost fruity flavor. For some they may be an acquired taste, so if they’re not your cup of tea so to speak, or you’re unable to find them then by all means leave them out and add in white pepper or even black pepper instead. I don’t think the dish will suffer any from their absence, and in fact I think white pepper might give it another distinctive component. The pink peppercorns do lend a hint of sophistication though, and I do really enjoy them.

Now, before we get started I do want to say that there are a couple of steps to this recipe, but if you plan it well it can all come together rather quickly, so don’t feel intimidated!

Fusilli In Cream Sauce With Caramelized Onions, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Crushed Pink Peppercorns

1 lb Whole Wheat or Gluten-Free Fusilli

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Red Onion
8 Cloves Garlic minced
½-1 C Sun-dried tomatoes (not oil packed)

3/4 C Raw Cashews
½ C water
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
3-5 Tbsp Mellow White Miso

1 15oz Can Coconut Milk (not light)
½ tsp Smoked Paprika (or to taste)
½ tsp rubbed Sage (or to taste)
1/4 tsp ground Nutmeg (or to taste)
1/4-1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast
½ Bunch Fresh Parsley Finely Minced
*** ½-1 Tbsp Pink Peppercorns (crushed or ground with a mortar and pestle) (Optional)

- Bring a pot of water to boil and cook Fusilli as directed by the package. When cooked drain, and return to pot.

- Meanwhile, place oil in pan or pot, over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute over medium-high heat for five minutes. Lower to medium and saute another five minutes. Add in garlic and reduce heat to medium-low. Add in the sun-dried tomatoes. Cover and let saute until onions become very soft and light golden brown. Roughly another ten minutes. Make sure to stir every once in a while so the onions and garlic don’t stick. Add a little water If they do.

- When onions are caramelized to your liking transfer them to a plate or bowl and set aside.

- While onions are caramelizing you can blend the cashews, water, lemon juice, and miso in a highspeed blender on high for 30-60 seconds until super smooth and creamy. Taste for flavor and adjust miso as needed.

- Next begin your sauce. Poor coconut milk into medium pot. Add the cashew-miso mixture from your blender making sure to scrape out as much as possible, and whisk until combined. Whisk in Nutritional Yeast, smoked paprika, sage and nutmeg and taste for flavor. Adjust as needed. Let simmer on the stove for roughly ten minutes. Add in crushed pink peppercorns and minced parsley.

- Add your caramelized onion mixture into the pot with your fusilli, then pour in your cream sauce. Mix until everything is thoroughly combined and then serve garnished with a little extra parsley and crushed pink peppercorn if desired.

*** Note - Soy-Free if using Chickpea Miso*** 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Product Review - So Delicious Mint Chocolate Coconut Milk...

I am one of those strange people that actually really loves the combination of mint and chocolate. I know it is a popular flavor combination but amongst my friends and family at least I seem to be pretty much alone in this enjoyment. However I’m very picky about it, you see I don’t like either flavor to be too overpowering and so I find a lot of commercially produced chocolate mint concoctions to be unpleasing in one way or another. The mint really can’t overshadow the delicious richness of the chocolate, and the chocolate can’t be so strong and so rich as to leave the mint tasting bland or artificial.

Last year at Christmas time I bought a carton of Silk’s Mint Chocolate Soy Milk on a whim, just because I thought it might be something fun to try out. Plus I really wanted to make the truffles recipe on the side of the carton! (Which turned out really fantastic by the way) Surprisingly I quite liked it. The flavor was really good. However I found as I got to nearer and near to the end of the carton I became less and less enthusiastic about it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s good, and I definitely recommend you try it if you see it around, but as I said I’m picky about my mint chocolate and the combination wasn’t quite right for my taste. The more of it I drank, the more I realized it was leaving an aftertaste in my mouth. The kind of aftertaste you always get when you’ve eaten WAY to much chocolate, you know? But I was getting that after just a few sips, and the mint flavor started to become artificial to me.

Since then, I wasn’t really planning on buying another Chocolate Mint non-dairy milk, but because I loved So Delicious’s Nog so much, and because I saw they also had a Chocolate Mint variety I decided ‘What the hell’ and bought a carton. I was pleasantly surprised with the So Delicious version, as I thought the combination of flavors was quite perfect. Drinking So Delicious doesn’t leave me with that ‘too rich’ aftertaste in my mouth and the mint flavor doesn’t taste artificial. The flavors blend really well together and neither one really overpowers the other. In fact I think they played it a little safe, as this mint chocolate milk is a lot mellower then I was expecting. Not that, that’s a bad thing at all, in the end it probably works out for the best. I’ll definitely buy this again.

So if you like mint chocolate like I do, or you’re just interested in trying the latest non-dairy milk Holiday flavor then definitely check this one out. Also you have the added bonus of it being soy and gluten free as it’s made form coconut milk.

PS: As good as this milk is cold I think it would also be excellent heated with a few vegan marshmallows in it, and I think it would make for a really good baste to a mint chocolate pudding! The possibilities are endless!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spanish Potatoes and ‘Chorizo’ with Red Pepper...

Years ago for some special occasion I can’t now recall I borrowed some Spanish cookbooks from the library and made my husband a big Spanish tapa’s style dinner. I can hardly recall all the dishes I made, I think there were seven of them, but Spanish Potatoes and Chorizo was one of them. I’d never had chorizo before, and I remember the dish being so full of flavor and heat, it was delicious. I’d always intended to make it again but then I went vegetarian and forgot all about it. Until a few days ago when I was hit with a craving for potatoes, red peppers and spice. I had some chorizo sausage that I’d frozen after Thanksgiving that I could use and decided what better way to put it to use then to try and veganize that old recipe and put my own spin on it?

Well of course it was years ago now that I made that dish, three at least, and I can’t for the life of me recall the name of the cook book the recipe I originally used came from, nor the author who penned it. I remembered the basic components of the dish, onion, garlic, potatoes, chorizo, and olive oil but not the quantities or how to make it. No matter, with my fragmented memories and creative determination I entered the kitchen ready to begin.

Now this recipe does require several steps, but it’s not a difficult recipe, and if you do everything in a particular order and engage in a little advanced prep it really isn’t all that time consuming either. I was able to fairly quickly through it together last night and I was writing the recipe as I made it. So don’t let the length of the instructions daunt you, because trust me this dish is so delicious and so worth making!

Spanish Potatoes and ‘Chorizo’ with Red Pepper

3 Tbsp Olive Oil
8 Cloves Garlic Minced
1 Yellow Onion Chopped
6 Medium Russet Potatoes, skinned and sliced thin on a Mandolin
*½-1 lb Vegan Chorizo Sausage
*1-2 Red Pepper Roasted or Broiled, Skin removed, and sliced thin
1 tsp Paprika
Sea Salt and White Pepper to taste
½-1 Bunch Cilantro Finely Minced
dash of lime juice (about a tsp)
Water as needed

- Slice your potatoes on a mandolin slicer. If you don’t have a mandolin you can cube the potatoes into ½ inch cubes but I prefer the look of the thinly sliced potatoes, they also cook quickly this way and give the dish more uniformity.

- Heat a pot of water on the stove. When boiling add in your sliced potatoes and boil for 5-10 minutes until potatoes are al dente. Softened, but not fully cooked through. Drain in a colander and set aside.

- Meanwhile Place 1 Tbsp Olive Oil in a pan and heat on medium-high. Add Onions and garlic and saute on Medium-High for about six minutes. Reduce heat to Medium and saute another six minutes. Reduce heat to Medium-Low and continue to saute until onions are brown and beginning to caramelize. Remove to plate and set aside for later.

- Grate your Chorizo sausages using a cheese grater. (If you wish you can slice it thinly but I prefer to grate it, it gives it more of a ‘ground sausage’ sort of look and it helps to even out the spiciness of the dish) Heat one tbsp of olive oil in the pan you sauteed your onions in, over medium-high heat. Add the grated chorizo and saute on medium-high for five minutes. Stir to make sure chorizo doesn’t stick, if it’s looking kind of dry add in a little water to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to medium and continue to saute another 10 minutes or so until chorizo is fragrant and slightly browned. Reduce heat to low and add in the onion garlic mixture.

- Add your reserved potatoes, remaining tbsp of olive oil, paprika, sea salt and white pepper to the chorizo and onions. Stir to thoroughly combine then cover and cook over medium for about five minutes. Stir potatoes again, if it seems dry or potatoes are sticking you can add in a little more olive oil or as I did water. Add in about 1/8 of a cup at a time and let it absorb before adding more. It’s okay if potatoes break up a bit when you stir them, most will remain intact. I find using the back of a wooden spoon helps to keep them together. Once water has been added re-cover and cook another fifteen minutes, checking every five minutes to stir and add more water as needed.

- Add in your cut roasted/broiled red pepper and stir to combine. Add in your dash of lime, and minced Cilantro and stir. Add more water if needed and cook another five or so minutes until red peppers are heated through. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

PS: My husband ate the leftovers today for lunch, and as he sat down to the table he felt inspired to drizzle a little ketchup over top of them. He said it was delicious and enhanced the flavor of the dish. So perhaps you may like to try this as well.

*** Note - If you can’t find Vegan Chorizo you can cheat and use Field Roast’s Chipotle Sausages. (Or another vegan sausage that’s comparable.)I think the Filed Roast work really well, and to me they have a very similar flavor to what I remember actual Chorizo tasting like.***

*** Note - Roasting or broiling your own red peppers is easy. I prefer broiling because it’s quicker. All you have to do is grease a broiler pan, and set the pepper under the flame for about 10 minutes on high until the skin has blackened. Then remove from the oven and place the pepper in a bowl in the freezer to ‘quick chill’ after about five to ten minutes remove it from the freezer and the skin will peel away super easy! ***

*** Note - Soy-Free if using Soy-Free Sausage or Gluten-Free if using GF Sausage***

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vegan On Vacation: Maui, Hawaii...

Ah - I’ve been meaning to post this since I got back from vacation at the end of October. However upon arriving home I hadn’t anticipated the whirlwind of activity that would surround me, and so I regrettably neglected writing this post. It’s here now though, and I hope you find it beneficial!

People often wonder how it is to be vegan in another city, state, or country. They want to know how easy or difficult it is and how it compares to where they live. Most often though I think vegans (especially new or untraveled vegans) worry that if they travel outside their immediate area, they will starve. I too am no stranger to this kind of thinking, especially when I’m going to a small town, a small country, or a small Island. The worry is always there - Will I have enough to eat? And how convenient will it be?

Now, having traveled around a little bit I see there is more then just one factor when it comes to the question "How easy is it to be Vegan there?" How easy it is to be vegan in any particular place depends firstly on you. 1) Are you a picky eater or are you open minded? 2) Do you have access to a kitchen of some kind 3) Do you have access to a car or is there adequate transportation. 4) How prepared are you? Secondary factors of course will be the culture of the area to which you are visiting, and it’s remoteness. If you’re traveling to the smallest town on the farthest outskirts of the earth then you may be S.O.L, for the rest of us however I think it can be pretty easy with just a little planning and forethought.

The single most important thing you can do is plan ahead. I can not stress this enough. I’ve taken two holidays in the time that I’ve been vegan and I’ve thoroughly researched food options for both, because of my diligences I never went hungry. Buy or borrow a travel guide, it doesn’t even matter if it’s a year or two out of date. The basic layout of a city doesn’t change. People scoff at travel books but I find them to be invaluable resources. Not only for the maps but also for the tidbits of information you might find within them. So many times I’ve come across interesting bits of information on cool places to check out that I never would have heard of otherwise, and well written guides are always good at giving you the skinny on when the best and worst times to go to restaurants, clubs, attractions, and parks etc... are. Use the maps within your travel guide to get to know your destination city. Memorize the streets, know it like your own backyard or like the back of your hand. Not only does this make getting around faster and easier, it also makes planning activities more accurate and helps keep you on track. I always like to take the first day of my vacation to travel around the city on foot, take in the area, and get a feel for it. Usually by the second day my husband and I are pro navigators and blend in like locals. It’s also important to know about your destination cities transportation. If you plan on renting a car this is much less important, but if you are not renting a car you need to figure out bus/train/trolley routes and schedules and have them memorized. Find out where the grocery stores are, and who selling the best products for the best prices. Being as familiar as possible with your intended destination will ensure that your belly stays full.

Log onto They are an invaluable resource. For those of you unfamiliar with Happy Cow they list most if not all of the vegetarian/vegan restaurants in every major city in every country in the world. Make Happy Cow your best friend! They also list health food stores, natural groceries, and farmers markets when applicable. Keep your eye on travel blogs, and inquire in online travel and vegan communities, a lot of times other savvy vegan travelers will find discovered great vegan food options in places Happy cow hasn’t yet listed.

Another really important thing is to stay positive. Never go to a new place expecting to find nothing because that’s exactly what you’ll find. Keep a positive mind and an open heart and you’ll be amazed at what amazing vegan eats appear to you. These are the basics, and they’ve worked pretty well for me so far.
My latest vacation was to Maui, Hawaii for a sort of family reunion. My mom, step-dad, step-brother, brother and his girlfriend met up with us for two weeks of fun in the sun. I love Maui, and have been several times before but never as a vegan, this was my husbands first time on the Island, which was exciting! Of course I was worried before we left, traveling to small tropical islands are always a concern as the local diet is usually heavily supplemented with fish and other ocean dwelling creatures. In Hawaii chicken and pork are also quite popular, so I wasn’t really sure how vegan-friendly restaurants would be. We stayed in a condo for our two week vacation, that had a full kitchen, I knew this before hand and so was prepared to cook our meals at the condo and eat in rather then eat out. However again I worried not only about how vegan friendly the grocery stores would be, but how health friendly. From afar Hawaii has never stuck me as being an overly health-conscious place and so I simply didn’t know if I’d be able to find things like organic peanut butter, stevia, agave, non-dairy milk, cliff bars and so on in your average grocery.

Turns out all of my worry was for naught because Maui is surprisingly a very Vegan friendly place that is becoming more and more health conscience. First lets start with the grocery stores. Even the local grocery stores were vastly stocked with vegan and healthy items. We did most of our non-health-food-store shopping at Food Land, and Times (the latter being more expensive by the way) and there we were able to find a plethora of non-dairy milks. Everything from soy, to almond, to rice, to coconut, and hemp. All of which gave us a selection of at least two or more brands. The local stores sold tofu, and many of Amy’s frozen food products. They sold all the vegan snack bars like cliff, Lara Bar, Luna Bar, and Odwalla. They had vegan mayo, organic ketchup, stevia, agave. They had all our favorite drinks like Zico coconut water, Alo, and various brands of Acai juice. They had ‘healthy’ chips like sweet potato and root vegetable. They also sold tofu, they even sold a small selection of meatless meat products in the frozen section. Food Land even had Gardein and a selection of non-dairy ice cream and ice cream bars, and the list goes on.

As far as Health Food Stores go there were more of them around then I expected. In Kihei, the city in which we were staying (this is a great city to stay in by the way particularly if you have a car because it’s very low-key and it’s also very centralized. From here you can get to most other destinations in a fairly reasonable time frame.) There is a natural foods store called Hawaiian Moons (2411 S. Kihei Road) Open daily from 8am -9pm. They have all the same things I’ve mentioned above plus more. They even had Daiya!! And Tempeh Bacon! They also have a good selection of Gluten-Free items, vitamins/supplements, bulk items, fresh produce and a vegetarian friendly hot/salad bar.

In Lahaina there is an all vegetarian natural food and grocery store. I never actually had to go here but if you’re in the area looking for something it sounds like a pretty cool place to shop or stop for a bite at the hot bar. 3636 Lower Honoapiilani Road. They’re open daily 7am-7pm and all their food is either lacto-vegetarian (no eggs) or vegan.

In Kahului there is an absolutely fantastic all vegetarian natural food and grocery called Down to Earth Café. They have a hot/bar, a salad bar and a deli and their food is delicious! Located at 305 Dairy Road, we stopped in here a couple of times. Once for lunch after hiking around on Haleakala crater all morning. Again their vegetarian items are lact-veg but they also have many vegan items. Their sandwiches are delicious, and you absolutely have to try their Spirulina bar! Oh my goddess to die for! They’re open Mon-Sat 7am-9pm and Sunday from 8am-8pm. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to shop in a grocery store where you don’t have to worry about seeing animal flesh and by-products everywhere. Fantastic place!

Kahului also has a Whole Foods Market at 70 Kaahumanu Ave, but unless you’re desperate I really recommend hitting up Down to Earth instead or one of Maui’s other natural food stores. Not only is it nice to support the local business, but often times they’re selling the exact same products for the same price or less.

In Paia there’s a great place called Mana Foods. At 49 Baldwin Ave, it’s open Mon-Sun 8:30am to 8:30pm, has it’s own parking lot and reminded me of a downscaled Whole Foods with a better selection. I liked this store a lot and the staff were super friendly. They also have a hot bar/salad bar, and deli and have many vegan and gluten-free options. I just really loved the feel of this store, and couldn’t get over how awesome it was. We went here several times

In addition to these grocery stores there are a lot of farmers market’s and roadside fruit and vegetable stands. They’re great places to pick up cheap good quality produce, and a nice way to support local business and agriculture. So there really is an endless array of options when you combine the conventional grocery stores and the health food and natural grocery stores.

Still maybe you find yourself saying, "What if I don’t have access to a kitchen, or want to go out to eat?" Have no fear because there are plenty of great vegan friendly restaurants too!

In Kihei there is Joy’s Place which is excellent. It’s a very small mostly take-out place at 1993 S Kihei Road. They are almost exclusively vegetarian with only one turkey and one tuna dish. They are also vegan friendly and have many raw options as well. There mushroom soup was good as was their acai bowl. Unfortunately I only got the chance to eat here once, I would have loved to go more often. Such a nice little place with really friendly staff. Then there is Monsoon India at 760 S Kihei Road, again not exclusively veg but serving many vegetarian options. At least half of their vegetarian dishes are vegan. I had the aloo gobi which was excellent, my husband had an eggplant dish which was also very good. Try they potato pakora and the samosa, great basmati rice, naan and chutney. We absolutely loved the atmosphere of this place. It was very peaceful which nice mellow music and a great view. At night they light big tiki torches outside which give the place even more ambiance. Really wonderful place with friendly staff. Ono Gelato on S. Kihei Road. (Scroll down and see my description of it in the Paia section)

In Lahaina there our hands down favorite place was Choice Health Bar. At 1087 Limahana Pl, 1A. They are an awesome wellness lounge that offers all vegan mostly raw food. They specialize in supeerfood smoothies, acai bowls, kale salads, soups, raw entrees and desserts. They also sell life-enhancing products and supplements. They have Wi-fi and outdoor seating and are open Mon-Sat 7am-5pm. HappyCow says they’re open until 3pm, but the last Saturday we were there they said they were open till 5 daily except Sundays. So best to go early and just double check. I highly recommend the acai bowls for breakfast. Best breakfast I’d had in a long time! So delicious. I got the sunrise bowl and it was phenomenal. Also their Insane Maca-chino was ridiculously delicious also their kale salad with lavender dressing, their almond rice pilaf, and their rosemary potato soup were all to die for. Seriously everything I ate here was mind-blowing good and I felt so amazing afterwards. The staff are also super friendly, knowledgeable, and really helpful. This restaurant is a must if you’re in Lahaina!

Also in Lahaina is the Farmer’s Deli Café which I really wanted to go to but didn’t have the time for. Open Mon-Sun 7am-7pm they’re a vegetarian deli at the front of the farmers market at 3636 Lower Honoapiilani ave. They have a hot bar/soup bar, a juice bar salad bar and main entrees. Though vegetarian they do have vegan items some may be labeled otherwise ask, and they are lacto-veg meaning no eggs. A cool fact is that after 6pm the hot bar/soup bar is 50% off! There is also Thai Chef which is a very small Thai place not exclusively veg but with a large vegetarian menu of 22 items. It’s a very small place that’s mostly take-out but there is some seating at 878 Front Street. It’s a little tricky to find, as it’s actually behind front street, so if you have trouble ask a local or another shop owner in the area. Very tasty food I recommend the garlic lovers veggies, the green papaya salad and the spring rolls. So good! There’s also the Penne Pasta Café which I didn’t get to go to but apparently they’re very veg friendly and knowledgeable at 180 Dickenson Street. They supposedly even have gluten-free pasta and lactose/dairy free cheese, so if you’re in the mood for pasta it might not be a bad place to check out. Then there is the Chinese Hawaiian take-out place called Honokowai Okazuya which is vegetarian friendly with a section of the menu listed as "Island Vegetarian" Never got the chance to go but they sound like they have some really good stuff. Check them out at 3600-D Honoapiilani Road. Ono Gelato on Front Street also.

In Paia there is a fantastic all vegan Vietnamese restaurant called Fresh Mint. They’re located at 115 Baldwin Ave just a few blocks up from Mana Foods. They serve authentic Vietnamese fare and have an extensive several page menu. They have some of the best ‘mock meats’ I’ve ever had including vegan soy fish filet. I had the ‘spare ribs’ which were mind blowing and we ordered spring rolls and a few other things. This is THE place to go when you’re hungry in Paia, except they’re only open for dinner. 5pm-9pm. Happycow says they’re open for Lunch on Tuesday through Sunday but we were there on a Wednesday around 3 and they were closed, so I don’t know. The sign said 5pm-9pm. They are worth the wait though, and I didn’t mind walking around beautiful Paia for a little while. Also in Paia there is Flatbread Pizza which is at 89 Hana Highway. They’re not vegetarian but they do have one vegan pizza crust option and there is the flexibility to create your own pizza by choosing whatever toppings you like. I got a pizza with roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, olives, tomatoes, and pineapple and it was fantastic! Another great place in Paia as well as in Lahaina and Kihei is Ono Gelato. At 115D Hana Highway just a few blocks from Flatbread Pizza. Half of their case is dairy-free sorbet. Try the Almond Joy, the Passion fruit, the Guava, the Thai Coconut Lime and the pineapple. We must have went to each one of their locations at least twice, they are that good!

In Wailuku there is Saeng’s Thai Cuisine at 2119 Vineyard Street, while not exclusively vegan they do have a 14 item vegetarian menu upon which all the items are supposedly vegan. Many of the non-vegan dishes can also be made to order that way such as the Pad Thai or Fried Rice. Open Monday-Friday 11:00-2:30 and Monday to Sunday 5-9:30. There is also Saigon café at 1792 Lower Main Street, which is a Vietnamese restaurant again not exclusively vegetarian but they do boast a 14 item vegetarian menu. However there Is no visible signage to mark this place to best to consult a local. Unfortunately I personally didn’t have the opportunity to eat at either one of these places even though I was in Wailuku one day, I would have really liked to try out Saigon Cafe.

In Kahului in addition to Down to Earth there is also a place called Alive and Well Deli and Juice Bar which is veg-friendly. Located at 340 Hana Highway. I would have liked to go here but didn’t have the time. They have a hot/salad bar and do fresh fruit smoothies as well as sandwiches, wraps, and other main entrees, and desserts. All very good from what I hear.

In Hana there is supposedly Café Romantica located on Hana Highway Mile marker 35. This is a bit hard to find so you have to ask around. I really wanted to eat here but didn’t get the chance because when we arrived they were closed. A lady selling fruit near by said she hadn’t seen them open in a while though there was a sign on the door saying they’d be open for dinner. Hence the supposedly. If you’re going to Hana drive by and check it out for sure hopefully you’ll get lucky and they’ll be open, but don’t bank on it. It’s best If you bring some snacks and food along with you because there isn’t much once you get into Hana, vegan or otherwise. Although we did see a Thai restaurant and ethnic restaurants usually have vegetarian/vegan food.

Lastly there is Haiku. A very, very small place that you could drive right through and not even know it, yet they have two vegan friendly restaurants! Very cool peaceful little area. At 810 Kokomo Road is Maui Kombucha which is all organic, vegan and raw. They specialize in Kombucha hence the name and it’s really good. Try the pineapple or the blue ginger though it apparently changes constantly. Try their raw cheesecake and wraps, very tasty. Also their Mayan Almond coffee (I think it’s called) was very good. Though they are a bit hard to find so it’s best to call ahead or ask a local. Veg-Out also at 810 Kokomo Road (this is a complex of buildings apparently part of the town center) is a very small, totally delicious café. Try their falafel burger or their pizza! This café caters mostly to locals and once you get to Haiku you’ll see it would be a miracle for a tourist to find it at all, but if you’re in the area and need some food this place is definitely worth a stop.

Now - having said all of that there are a few other things I’d like to add, and this is as true for Maui as it is for anywhere else. Just because I haven’t mentioned a particular restaurant here, or you can’t find it on Happy Cow doesn’t mean it isn’t vegan friendly. Many restaurants have their menu’s posted outside and as I was walking around various towns I’d often stop to peruse them. Many places in Maui serve at least one or two vegetarian options. Veggie burgers for example, build your own pizza, salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes etc. Even the Hard Rock Café has a veggie burger and Bruschetta (just get the Bruschetta without the cheese and you’re all good) Secondly any ethnic restaurant is usually a good bet for vegetarian fare. You can always find something in an Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern or Hispanic restaurant so take a look. There are also a lot of juice and smoothie places that use fresh fruit, most of these places are vegan by default or have vegan items by default. In fact one day we were walking down South Kihei road and discovered a little general store boasting vegan smoothies and baked goods. Great little place, wish I would remember the name of it.

Next - as much as I prefer public transportation to driving while on vacation renting a car in Maui is an absolute necessity. Taxi’s are expensive, roads are bad, bus routes are inadequate and the buses when they run at all run on what’s known as "Island Time" meaning they come when they come regardless of what the schedule you’re holding says, and sometimes they never show up. For all intents and purposes public transit may as well be non-existent in Maui, so do yourself a favor and rent a car.

Other then that travel safe, have a good time, be open hearted and open minded and keep your eyes open. If you look for abundance you will be blessed with it!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Garlic ‘Honey’ Soy Glazed Brussels Sprouts...

You know that garlic honey soy chicken Chinese restaurants always have? Well over the past couple of days I’ve been craving that sauce. That delicious garlicky, salty sweet combination was always so mouth watering. I always loved the thick and almost gooey texture of that sauce, and so to satiate my craving I decided to try and recreate it at home.

I definitely had an idea in mind for how I should make the sauce, but the problem quickly became what to cook in the sauce? Obviously I wouldn’t be using chicken, and I had no tofu, seitan or tempeh on hand yet I wanted something with a firm and ‘meaty’ texture. I considered using mushrooms, I have roughly 2 pounds of portobello mushrooms and nearly that many cremini mushrooms in my fridge but my original intention for those was a creamy wild rice and mushroom soup. The only other firm and chewy textured vegetable I had was brussels sprouts and since I’m always trying to find new and creative ways of cooking them in the hopes my husband will finally come around to their delicious flavor I decided they would be a perfect experiment.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started out. Wasn’t sure if the glaze would thicken like I’d hoped or If it would remain watery. Wasn’t sure if the agave would be able to comparably mimic the taste of honey in this recipe or if the soy would be too much. More worrisome though was the question of would my husband like them? And would he even bother to give them a chance. Generally he won’t even eat one sprout, which is something I’m working hard to change.

As the sprouts cooked the smell that wafted through my kitchen was heavenly. A rich sweet aroma filled my nostrils underlined by only a hint of the brussels natural earthiness. I started to get excited, and my worry gradually slipped away. When I finally pulled the sprouts from the oven for the final time and peered into the dish I was ecstatic to find the sauce had thickened up like I’d hoped. I tend to have a problem with getting sauces to thicken the way I want them to, but not this time. I let them rest on the stove for 10 minutes to cool, then took my first bite. Amazing! The flavor of the sauce was exactly what I remembered from back in my bad Chinese restaurant days, and it significantly reduced the bitterness of the brussels. Something I knew my husband would appreciate.

Since they smelled so good he was willing to try one, and he surprised me by actually liking it! He thought the sauce was incredible, and his only comment was that he would have preferred it if I’d halved the sprouts rather then leave them whole. So you may want to try that if you’re a brussels sprouts skeptic or if you plan on cooking these for one. I loved them whole but whichever way you choose to slice them you definitely have to try them!

Garlic ‘Honey’ Soy Glazed Brussels Sprouts

1 ½ - 2lb Brussels Sprouts (left whole or halved to suit your preference)
4 Tbsp Soy Sauce (or to taste)
4 Tbsp Agave Nectar (or to taste)
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
4-8 Cloves Minced Garlic (depending on how strong you want the garlic flavor to be)
1 Tbsp Grated Ginger
1/4-1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (depending on how much heat you want)
1-2 Tbsp Water to dilute if needed
Black Pepper to taste

- Preheat oven to 350.

- Wash and trim your Brussels Sprouts. Place them in a baking dish and set aside.

- In a bowl combine the minced garlic, grated ginger soy sauce and agave. Whisk until combined.

- Taste for flavor and add in water if you find the soy flavor to overpowering. Add in the cornstarch and whisk until completely dissolved.

- Add in red pepper flakes and black pepper. Taste and adjust flavor ad needed.

- Add your finished marinade into the baking dish with the Brussels sprouts and toss well making sure each sprout is covered in sauce. Cover your baking dish with aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes.

- After 20 minutes increase your oven temperature to 425, stir the Brussels sprouts making sure to coat them in the sauce and place back into the over covered. Roast for 10 minutes.

- After 10 minutes, remove Sprouts, stir one more time, and place back in the oven uncovered to roast for an additional 10-12 minutes until sauce has thickened considerably and Brussels are fork tender.

- Enjoy as part of a holiday feast or alongside a simple week night meal.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chole Chaat...

Well, I’ve been eating lunch at the hot bar quite a bit recently, and as you may recall the last time I was frequenting the salad/hot bar I discovered the awesomeness that is Tomato Bhaji and Kale. This time around I’ve discovered something just as awesome Chole Chaat, which is another Indian dish.

Generally speaking I don’t like to buy lunch during my work day. I prefer to bring lunch from home and save myself the money. Also this way I can ensure that I’m definitely getting a lunch that’s nutritious rather then just convenient. However because of the crazy business of the holiday season I’ve found myself over the past few weeks with less and less time (not to mention energy) to prepare lunch meals in advance. Thankfully I discovered Chole Chaat, which has been a true lifesaver. Not only is it mind-blowingly delicious it’s also low calorie, and absolutely packed with protein and fiber which is perfect for getting you through those long hard days.

When I saw it initially on my first circle around the hot bar I was less then impressed. It just didn’t look all that appetizing to me to see a bunch of chickpeas floating around in a thick yellow-red sauce. However upon circling around a second time I realized there really wasn’t anything at all that I found to appetizing and so I gave the Chaat a skeptical second look. I read the ingredients on the tag and discovered they were all things that I liked, so with my belly grumbling with hunger and a total lack of something more visually appealing I decided to bite the bullet and plop a few spoonfuls into my bowl.

How amazed was I when I took that first bite? Wow - there are not words to describe it. The dish was absolutely phenomenal. It had a nice heat, not too spicy, a little bit of sweet, a hint of curry, and just an all around grand robust flavor. I gobbled it up and wanted more. I have since got this dish from the hot bar six times, and after about the fifth I decided it was time I write down the ingredients and re-create the dish myself. It’s a good thing I took that initiative by the way, because the food at the hot bar is always in rotation meaning the same thing is rarely there for long periods of time, and this week I happened to see that Chole Chaat was absent from the hot bar. No matter though, armed with my handy-dandy hand scrawled list I decided to embark on re-creating this tastebud tantalizing dish Friday afternoon. The only problem was what quantities should I use?

Now, I did a quick Google search for Chole Chaat, and several recipes popped up. However like with my Tomato Bhaji debacle none of them entirely matched the ingredient list I had in my hand. Many of the online recipes included ingredients not on my list, and most of those same recipes were minus one or two of the ingredients I copied down. Like with the Bahji what made it worse is I couldn’t seem to find any two online recipes that agreed on how to make Chaat. Everything varied recipe to recipe from the actual ingredients to the quantities. Again I checked my Indian cookbook, and while there were several Chaat recipes, one even labeled Chole it again differed from my list, and all of the online recipes I’d found.

While I initially found this a bit frustrating, after a few moments meditation on the matter I decided this just gave me more room to be creative. I jotted down a few notes from the online recipes, took my scribbled on sheet of paper into the kitchen and set to work. The following is what I came up with and it was instantly satisfying, gratifying and amazing. It may have more ingredients then the hot bar version, and it may not taste 100% comparable - though I think it’s at least 90% accurate to what I’d eaten - but it is phenomenal. This is easily my new favorite thing to eat, and as strange as it may sound it’s the perfect thing to eat for breakfast before heading in for a long day at work.

I know that sounds crazy, but trust me. It’s actually quite common for people particularly in Mexico, Central America and South America to eat a form of rice and beans with tortilla for breakfast and I really think they’re on to something. When the first meal of your day is one loaded with fiber and protein it keeps you much fuller, for far longer. It seems like when I’m at work I tend to get hungry at least 2 hours after arriving, regardless of what I ate before leaving the house. Not so with this dish. Chole Chaat combined with a helping of brown rice kept me full for a good five to six hours at work, and when I was hungry a simple non-dairy yogurt, a banana and a cup of tea were enough to keep me satiated till I got home. So not only is this my new favorite dish, it’s also my new favorite before work staple. In fact I love it so much I plan on making a big pot of it to have throughout the week.

Now before we get started I have a note about this recipe. It can be made two ways depending on whether you want a chunky sauce or a smooth sauce. I personally prefer a smooth sauce with this recipe because it makes it more uniform, but if you’d prefer a chunky sauce omit the step that blends the sauce.

Chole Chaat

45-60oz canned chickpeas
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion Grated
2 tsp Ground Coriander
2-3 tsp Ground Cumin
1/4 tsp Ground Turmeric
2-3 tsp Gram Masala
1 Tbsp Grated Ginger
4 Garlic Cloves Minced
3/4 tsp Sea Salt
*1-2 tsp Amchoor Powder (Optional but highly suggested)
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tbsp Sugar (optional)
2 ½ C Diced fresh tomatoes.
14oz Water
Cilantro to garnish

- Heat oil in medium sized pot on medium-high heat. Add in the minced garlic, grated ginger and grated onion. Saute over medium heat until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes.

*** Note - If you plan to blend the entire sauce it isn’t necessary to grate the onion you can chop it. However if you are not blending the sauce you will want to great the onion as it makes for a smoother sauce. You get all that great onion flavor without all the big overpowering chunks. This is a little trick I picked up from my ancient Greek Cookbooks and it works really well. ***

- Add in coriander, cumin, turmeric, gram masala and saute another 3-4 minutes until spices are well incorporated and fragrant.

- Add in diced tomatoes and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until tomatoes have broken down and a sauce has formed.

- Once tomatoes have broken down transfer the sauce to a high-speed blender along with 1 cup of chickpeas and 14oz of water. Blend on high until completely smooth, about 30-60 seconds.

*** Note - For the chunky version, do not transfer sauce to the blender. Only blend 1 cup of chickpeas with 14oz of water. Then pour that mixture into the pot of sauce ***

- Return the contents of the blender to the pot. Add the remaining chickpeas, paprika, red pepper flakes, sugar, and amchoor powder. Stir to incorporate then cover and bring to a boil.

*** Note - Whether you use 45oz of chickpeas or 60oz will again depend on how much sauce you want. If you want a good sauce to chickpea ratio then use 45oz, if you want it less saucy use 60oz. This calculation is for the smooth version though. For the chunky sauce I think 45oz will be sufficient and 60oz may be a bit of overkill.***

Sauce After Blending with 45oz Chickpeas

- Once boiling, stir again, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until chickpeas are heated through, and sauce has thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

- Serve over rice or my favorite kale, or even better rice and kale, and garnish with cilantro. Eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner and most importantly enjoy!

*** Note - Amchoor Powder is made from raw green mangoes that are sun dried and then ground into powder. Used in many curries, dals, chutneys, and vegetable dishes to impart a tangy, fruity flavor without also adding moisture. Amchoor can be found in Indian groceries, or gourmet spice shops. It is definitely worth finding. ***

*** Note - Sugar-free if you leave the sugar out. ***