Thursday, January 31, 2013

Juice Fast Day 2...

Bitter Detox Juice

Tuesday was my second day of Juice Fasting - I know I’m a few days behind, sorry! - and it went better then the first day.

10am - I woke up. I wasn’t particularly happy about sleeping in so late, but since I’m juice fasting I thought I’d cut myself some slack. When I woke up I was feeling happy and positive and not hungry which surprised me since when I was a little hungry before bed the night before.

10:30am - Since I still wasn’t hungry I downed an 8oz coconut water along with a regular glass of water and went for a walk.

11:30am - I arrived home and began making breakfast. Once 16oz Green Juice called The Bitter Detoxifier - from Douglas McNish’s book “Eat Raw Eat Well” Although I made a substitution. I had no dandelion greens so I used arugula for the bitter instead. Surprisingly I liked this juice a lot. I thought the arugula would be too much, and be off putting but I actually quite enjoyed the unique flavor. I followed this juice with 16oz of Strawberry Kiwi Juice from the book “The Art of Raw Living Food” by Doreen Virtue and Jenny Ross. This one was amazing. Very simple, just strawberry, kiwi, and apple. LOVED IT!

Strawberry Kiwi Juice

2:30-3pm - Drank a Kombucha

4:30pm - Got in a small workout. Only 25 minutes of hooping because I had to do some other stuff but it felt good, and exercising and having that kind of energy while on a juice fast made me feel positive and happy. Also tussled a bit with the dog after the hooping.

5:30-6pm - Made lunch, a 36oz Juice called V-5 Staying Alive Veggie Cocktail from the book “Raw Energy” by Stephanie Tourles. It had tomato, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and cucumber plus I threw a garlic clove in there. Again I liked this one alright but I think I would have preferred a smaller amount. Honestly I’ve never been a fan of V8 or Veggie cocktail’s even fresh pressed with organic produce the flavor doesn’t really suit my palate, but it wasn’t bad. I followed it with 5oz of straight mango juice. Since I had some mangoes that needed to get used. Man fresh mango juice is killer!

V-5 Staying Alive Veggie Cocktail 

9pm - I hadn’t been feeling hungry at all around the usual dinner time. Between 8-8:30 so instead at 9pm I poured out 13oz of coconut water and mixed it with 1 tsp of spirulina, and 1 scoop of wheatgrass powder. - Sorry I forgot to take a picture of this one! - It was less work then making a juice, and less quantity then most of my juice recipes make but still packed with nutrients. Since wheatgrass shots are aloud on juice fasts I figured wheatgrass powder mixed with coconut water would be just as good. It was actually really tasty, and filled me up.

11-11:30pm - Went to bed sometime around here.

Overall thoughts for the day -

I felt really good on my second day and I was surprised. I keep hearing that the first three days are the worst and that people are pretty well down for the count, but I felt happy, positive and energetic. I still felt that not eating was weird but somehow it didn’t bother me as much as it had the first day, and I have to say that every time I drink a juice that thought about eating goes away. The juice fills me up, it nourishes me, makes me forget about the mental aspect of eating and makes me positive. I feel positive because I know the juice is good for me.

No ‘detox’ symptoms except around 8:30pm I had a mild headache came on, but that went away after I drank my wheatgrass- spirulina -coconut water drink.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Juice Fast Day 1...

My Lovely New Juicer!

So before I get into the details of how Day 1 of my juice fast went, lets talk about what a juice fast actually is. Basically it’s a fasting method in which a person - in this case me - consumes only fresh pressed fruit and vegetable juices for a period of time. Some people do it for two days, some people for five days, some for seven and some for much longer.  During that time you don’t eat any solid food, you don’t drink coffee or caffeinated beverages of any kind. You also don’t drink store bought juice - fresh pressed juice from a juice bar is okay -  milks - non-dairy or otherwise - or alcohol.  You just drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice - mostly vegetable juice - and water, although many juice faster’s also allow herbal teas, and coconut water. On my juice fast I’m also making an exception for kombucha since it’s raw, vegan, organic, full of vitamins and minerals and full of health promoting properties.

Now, that might sound a little extreme to some of you, so you might be wondering why people do it. Well, there are a number of reasons that people come to juice fasting. Some people might come to it for religious or spiritual reasons, some may come to it to heal their bodies from chronic disease or chronic pain. Some may use it as a tool to help them quit smoking, drinking, or drinking coffee. Others still, come to it as an alternative method for treating cancer, autoimmune disease, and other incurable diseases. Although unfortunate I would also say that the majority of people drawn into juice fasting do it for the oft reported ‘weight-loss benefits.’ I say unfortunate because for me, deciding to make any health or lifestyle change purely because you want to loose weight is never a healthy attitude. Wether it’s going vegan, going raw, cutting out oil and sugar, or juice fasting the primary goal should always be about your overall health. Improving your health, and improving the way you feel. Weight loss may definitely be a part of that, it shouldn’t necessarily be your first - or only - consideration. I’ve seen it happen too often, when weight-loss is the primary or only goal people can’t make the changes stick, and therefore they never reap the full benefit of whatever it is they’re trying out.  You have to have a clear and direct purpose, and you have to want to make the changes. If you don’t really want them, or if you lack focus you just end up on some crazy yo-yo diet, obsessing about weight control and gaining it all back anyway.

I already mentioned yesterday what my primary reasons for trying out a juice fast are. I want to experience the renewed energy and sharper mental clarity that’s talked about, because I feel like I’ve been kind of slack lately. I want to reset my system and get myself back on track since I’ve been feeling off ‘on and off’ since coming home from holiday, and I want to clear up the before mentioned physical problems that have been troubling me on and off over the past couple of months. The itchy skin, the sore gums, the bacterial infection etcetera. On top of all that I also hope to retrain my taste buds to really and truly enjoy the natural taste of foods, so I can move away from using so much oil and sugar. Sugar is my enemy number one, and it is always my downfall. Even if I don’t eat a lot of it, I do eat a little of it often, and all that little adds up in the end you know? I would rather eat a little of it occasionally rather then eat a little of it everyday. I’d like to retrain my focus on the natural sweetness of foods rather then feel like I need sugar. I also want to retrain the way that I think about food and mealtimes, break bad food habits and food dependance. These things include snacking, and eating large portions of food even when a small portion is sufficient.  I want to incorporate more healthy habits into my usual routine and keep them for long after the fast has ended. So those are my motivations, and now onto Day 1.

Juice Fast - Day One.

9:10am - Wake up, feel good, refreshed and rested. Had a good nights sleep. Excited to begin juicing.

10am - Felt a little tired and the first pangs of morning hunger came on. I drank a glass of water.

10:30am - Went for a walk and felt really good. The weather was good in the 60's’F which made it feel like spring.

Green Machine 

11:20am - Arrived home, and began prepping my breakfast.

*** Note - So far this is shaping up like a typical day, except for the fact that I slept in. Typically I wake up at 8am or earlier go for a walk, do yoga and eat breakfast at 10am. ***

11:30am -12:00pm - Made Breakfast and cleaned up. I began the juice fast with a 16oz Green Juice called Green Machine from Any Phyo’s book “Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen” It’s spinach, cucumber, lemon, parsley, celery and ginger. It was pretty good and I enjoyed it. I then made a second 16oz juice this one called the Pink Sunset from the book “Eat Raw Eat Well” by Douglas McNish which was freaking amazing! Seriously! One of the best juices I’ve ever had.

Pink Sunset 

1:00pm - Went for another walk.

2:30pm-3:00pm - Felt a little hungry and so I drank a glass of water and drank a cup of Republic of Tea’s herbal Pineapple Lycee tea. Had a shower and felt great.

3:30pm-4pm - Made lunch. A 32oz vegetable juice called The Gardener from Kris Carr’s new book “Crazy Sexy Kitchen” containing carrots, bell pepper, lemon, kale, and radish. I thought it might be a bit spicy or bitter because of the radish but it was surprisingly tasty. However 32oz of it is kind of a lot and I think tastebud wise 16oz would have been preferable followed by 16oz of some other type of juice.

The Gardener

*** Note - I typically eat lunch between 2-3pm but again as I woke up late, my whole schedule was moved back.*** 

6:00pm - Drank 1 Kombucha while studying.

7:00pm - Drank 8oz of coconut water while studying.

8:30pm - Made dinner. I wasn’t overly hungry so instead of making a 32oz juice I made a 18oz green juice called Morning Glorious also from the book “Crazy Sexy Kitchen” containing cucumber, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli stems, apple and lemon. I thought the broccoli might give it a funny taste but it was surprisingly pretty good and I enjoyed it.

Morning Glorious

*** Note - I typically eat dinner anytime between 7pm and 11pm depending on what else has been going on in the day and what my schedule is like. So this meal didn’t fall outside the bounds of my normal day.***

12:00am - Fell asleep sometime around Midnight which is a little early for me since I’m usually a night owl.

Overall thoughts and feelings for the day - 

The day started off good. I was excited to start the fast and I was feeling positive. I was surprised by the fact that I wasn’t hungry at all except when it came close to meal times. It amazed me that juice could fill me up so well, and I suppose all the water, herbal tea, coconut water and kombucha didn’t hurt either. However by mid-afternoon I was beginning to feel a bit tired and lethargic. When I wasn’t studying and doing homework I spent most of my time laying in bed watching shows I had recorded on my DVR months ago and never got around to watching.

As the night went on I started to feel a little depressed and frustrated. I began to doubt myself and whether or not I could actually do a fast. I was thinking of breaking it and calling the whole thing off. I was looking for any reason to. The strange part is that all these doubts and negative feelings weren’t popping up because I was hungry, because I was no hungrier on Day 1 then I am on any other day of my regular life.  I felt this way because not eating is weird. We’re so used to eating constantly and for food to be all around us all the time that when it’s suddenly not you’re hyper aware of that fact. My brain kept telling me that I should be eating while at the same time my body was telling me it wasn’t hungry. So wanting to eat became purely a mental problem and I found that difficult to deal with both emotionally and mentally.

I suppose that is all a part of the fasting/detox process and is typical of what other people experience. Aside from all the mental stuff and being a bit more tired then usual, the only other actual physical detox symptom I seemed to have was a mild headache that came on in the late afternoon and persisted until I fell asleep. All the other negative side-effects that other people report experiencing upon fasting/detoxing - such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, cramps, aches and pains, sore joints etc... - did not apply.

Stay tuned for Day 2.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I'm Doing A Juice Fast...

For years I’ve wanted a juicer, but something else - usually some other kitchen appliance - would always take priority. First it was a Vitamix, and then it was a really good food processor, then a dehydrator, and then it was no money, or vacation, or the holidays and it never seemed to be the right time. Add to that I didn’t know what kind of juicer to get, I didn’t really know anything about them, and on top of it I wasn’t certain how much use I’d get out of one. Sure I was intrigued by making fresh juices at home. I know a lot of people who do it regularly and swear by it. Sure I love fresh juices when I go to Raw restaurant or juice bars but those things didn’t necessarily mean I would get a lot of use out of my own personal juicer. At least that’s what I thought. Then there were the complaints. This model has wet pulp, this model doesn’t juice this or that fruit or vegetable very well, this model is difficult to clean, this model is loud and so on. It seemed like every model out there including the best of the best had some flaw that continuously mentioned.

And so, time and time again I was dissuaded  form purchasing a juicer, and each time this would happen I would sigh in defeat and dreams of a juicer would filter to the back of my mind. Where of course they would remain until some provocation would cause them to resurface. The latest provocation just so happened to come about because of my obsession with watching health and agriculture documentaries on Netflix. One night I was bored, and having seen almost all of these documentaries already I came across one I hadn’t yet seen, and until that point had, had zero interest in watching. The film in question was “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” and the reason I had zero interest in watching it was because I didn’t think watching an overweight guy juice for weight loss would be very interesting or inspiring. However, that night I was bored, and with nothing else to watch I skeptically clicked the play button. As it turns out this film is about more then just juicing for weight loss, and much to my surprise I found it pretty inspiring. Though I’m not 400 pounds and suffering from all sorts of medical conditions that require me to be on various medications I have since last year been feeling a bit ‘off my game’ on and off. I’ve mentioned this before, it all started with my holiday in Europe last June, and once we got back I think we were pretty well off the healthy-food wagon. We tried to get back on and then bam I was on holiday again visiting my family in Vancouver. Since I was never vegan when I lived in Vancouver I obviously needed to try all the delicious vegan eats around town. Then of course vegan mofo hit and you know how that went. Then there were the holidays. So there were a lot of indulgence last year, and though we never ate particularly bad - and most of the time we ate really well - I still didn’t feel entirely right.

By the end of December I was back on track and January has been a wonderful month of healthy eating, yet still I wasn’t quite feeling like I knew I should. I felt better for sure, physically and mentally, but there were other minor things going on that I didn’t understand.. Itchy ears, itchy skin, sore gums, canker sores, a few pimples, gas/bloating and a bacterial infection inside my navel that wouldn’t go away. All of these things I’d either never or rarely experienced, which was enough to cause me to wonder. Though these things weren’t necessarily all happening at once, they kept happening and it seemed that every remedy I tried only succeeded in treating the symptoms but not the underlying cause. After I watched the film, and then did some of my own reading about the benefits of juice fasting I started to think that this was something I needed to do too. A simple reboot for my system, to get me back on track for real.  In addition to clearing up the problems I’ve already mentioned I also looked forward to experiencing the renewed energy, and sharper mental clarity I kept reading about.

Of course all the original reasons for my not yet owning a juicer still applied, and since the holidays were rather expensive for us this year, money was the main deterrent. Lucky for me January is the month where everyone and their mother decides to start eating healthy and live right. Which means in the month of January what goes on sale? Well juicers, blender’s and other such products. It also happened that I had a very nice gift card given to me by my husband for my birthday last year that I still hadn’t put towards anything. All the dominos it seemed were falling into place, and so how could I deny myself a juicer now? It was kismet. I believe in fate, and I believe that certain things won’t come to you or make themselves available to you until you’re truly ready. After years of wanting a juicer I was really, and truly ready for one, and so I bought one.

I ended up getting a Breville, considering my limited funds it was a good model that I could afford and I knew that if juicing didn’t work out for me I wouldn’t feel too bad about buying it as opposed to having spent $500 or so on the really ‘top of the line’ kind. Besides since I’m a juicing novice I thought this would be a smooth and easy way to become acquainted.. After all they’re highly rated juicers with few complains, and most people who’ve reviewed them online only have good things to say. When you see a ton of five star reviews it may not be a sure thing, but it’s probably a good bet.

My juicer arrived via UPS last Thursday, I knew it would, and I also knew that it was not a good idea to go into any kind of juice fast with a poor diet. So last Monday I started what I’m calling my pre-juice-fast prep. Which basically means I ate lighter meals, and more liquid meals then I normally do. A lot of low-calorie foods, and a lot of smoothie. Since the juicer came Thursday I started Friday off with a breakfast of 32oz of juice to see what that would feel like. A kind of trial if you will. I was amazed at how good the juice was and that It kept me feeling so full for so long. I felt so good after that juice that I decided to have a smoothie for lunch before work rather then a meal of solid food and then for dinner I ate some home-made pizza that was leftover from Thursday night’s meal. Saturday I did the same. Juice breakfast, smoothie lunch, a few chocolate almond cookies - home-made and practically raw. - No really the recipe was from the cook book Practically Raw by Amber Shea Crawley, fantastic recipe by the way! - and then an Arugula salad with tomatoes, onion and tahini lime dressing. Sunday I wasn’t feel that hungry or that well upon waking thanks to some rather bad cramps so I skipped breakfast but made a huge smoothie - pouring it into two travel mugs - to take to work with me for meals. I drank both at work, had a few more chocolate almond cookies, a kombucha and a raw chocolate power bar, then came home to a light dinner of roasted squash and some more of my Black Quinoa Arugula Bowl  from last week.

Thanks to the beforehand prep I was already feeling pretty good. Some of the problems mentioned earlier had already begun sorting themselves out. Namely the bacterial infection, the sore gums, the canker sores, the itchy ears, and the itchy skin. So I was feeling very excited and very pumped to get onto the juice fast pronto. I literally could not wait for Monday to come. Unfortunately because this post is getting a little long as it is you will have to wait to hear all about Monday, Day 1 of my Juice Fast tomorrow, so stay tuned!

PS: There will be pictures, I promise! And I’ll keep you updated about each day of the juice fast. What I’m drinking, how I’m feeling etc... 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Post Workout Elixer...

This is just a little something I’ve been drinking lately, that I knew I just had to share with you all. I know it doesn’t sound like much but it’s absolutely delicious, and after a good workout it is so refreshing and quenching. It was actually after a workout a few days ago when I threw this thing together. See I wasn’t hungry enough for a full on smoothie, but just plain old water or even plain old coconut water wasn’t going to cut it either. What I really wanted was some fresh juice but since the juicer I ordered hadn’t arrived yet I had to think of something else. After thinking it over for a few minutes I decided to make a blended drink but with the spirit of a juice.

What does that mean? Well, there aren’t really enough solid ingredients in this to make it a ‘real’ smoothie, but it’s not quite a juice either. It tastes more like a juice because it doesn’t have much pulp or fiber, and it does foam up a bit like a juice. Overall it’s lighter then a smoothie and yet super satisfying at the same time. Surprisingly it’s also quite sustaining, meaning I was pretty well sated until lunch rolled around.

Now, you may be wondering why I chose these particular ingredients. Well ordinally, I was going for a Thai sort of flavor hence the lime, the coconut, the ginger, and the basil. However just a few weeks ago I came across a delicious new smoothie recipe in a cook book that included dried plums and a quarter of a whole lemon. I love dried plums and always have them on hand, and I just happened to have lemons though I’d never considered using either in a smoothie before. Long story short that smoothie was fantastic and I loved it, and so when I was making my morning drink I decided why not pop in a bit of lemon for that extra kick of citrus and why not through in a few plums for added fiber and sweetness. In the end it worked, and I was super impressed with this drink. So for the past three days I’ve been downing a glass after each workout and I’m absolutely loving every drop of it. FYI - the color of the finished drink does leave a little to be desired thanks to green basil and dark purple almost black plums but hey, if it tastes good who cares what it looks like right?  Try it! You’ll see!

Post Workout Elixer 

1 1/4 C Coconut Water
2 ½ Tbsp Lime Juice
1/4 Lemon Seeded and Peeled
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
3-4 Dried Plums
4 Basil Leaves
2-3 Ice Cubes

- Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend on high for 60-90 seconds until completely smooth.

- Pour into a glass and enjoy with a slice of lemon to garnish. This drink is particuarlly refreshing when drunk after any workout that has you sweating buckets. I’m sure it would be equally quenching on a hot day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Quickie Marinara...

On these bitterly cold winter nights pasta always seems like the perfect dinner idea. It’s warm, steaming, slathered in rich tomato sauce, and it’s filling. What could be better? But maybe you find yourself feeling as I did recently, wanting - no craving - Spaghetti but not wanting all the carbs, calories, and gluten that comes with eating a big bowl of pasta. Well, I have just the thing. Spaghetti Squash! I know, it sounds crazy, but stick with me for a second. Spaghetti Squash is a great pasta substitute! Lets face it, noodles - especially the horrible for you white flour kind - have little to no taste anyway. When it comes to a good bowl of pasta it’s the sauce and the texture that make the dish good. It’s the toppings you drizzle over it that make it amazing. No one eats a bowl of noodles plain, nobody. Nobody that I know anyway. It’s all about the sauce, and with a good sauce a bowl of spaghetti squash not only tastes like pasta it looks like it too, and has a similar texture.

So, Spaghetti Squash makes a fantastic substitute and the best part about it is that it’s super low in both fat and calories. One cup of spaghetti squash only has 33 calories compared to 1 cup of spaghetti which has 221 calories. You could eat the entire squash if you wanted and you’d still only get about 165 calories! As for fat, an entire spaghetti squash only has 25 calories of fat, that’s pretty amazing! Now I am certainly not the first - or the only - person to jump on the idea of using squash as pasta. If you Google it I’m sure you can find dozens of recipes, and I’ve come across various ones in books and on blogs over the years but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to try it for myself. You see, I was always skeptical. I like squash, but spaghetti squash has never been my favorite and so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. Even after all the rave reviews I’ve read of it I was still a skeptic. Then I saw spaghetti squash on sale, and since I’d been craving pasta I thought to myself “why not give it a try?” I mean really, what was the worst that could happen? I wouldn’t like it? No big deal. I’ve been trying to eat on the lighter side lately and so the idea of squash as pasta instead of bogging down my gut with a bunch of heavy noodles really appealed to me.

I suppose I needn’t have worried because it turned out so good I’m amazing it took me so long to try it in the first place. The Squash was delicate and subtly sweet, and when scraped into the bowl it looked just like angel hair pasta. Covered in a delicious marinara and topped with fresh herbs and a dusting of nutritional yeast it was hard to tell the difference between what I had in front of me and a traditional bowl of pasta. My husband and I ate an entire squash each, and by the time we’d consumed our bowls we felt full, and satiated but not bogged down like we often do when we eat pasta. So I strongly suggest you give this delicious meal a try and see how you like it.

Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Quickie Marinara

2 Small-Medium Sized Spaghetti Squash

Quickie Marinara 

1 28oz Can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 6oz Can Tomato Paste + 6oz water
1 tsp Olive Oil
10 Garlic Cloves Minced
1 White Onion diced
1 C Diced Mushrooms (I used Cremini)
2 tsp Dried Basil
2 tsp Dried Oregano
½ tsp Garlic Powder (Optional if you like your Marinara a little extra garlicky)
½ tsp Sea Salt
Black Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh Basil Minced to garnish
Fresh Parsley Minced to garnish
Nutritional Yeast to garnish (optional)

- Preheat Oven to 450'F

- Lightly spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and place the squash inside it. Bake uncovered for 45-60 minutes until the squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork.

- Remove the Squash from the oven and cut in half. Let stand on the counter for 5-10 minutes to cool.

- Remove the seeds from the squash and discard or save to roast. You can do this with a fork or by hand.

- Once all seeds are removed use a fork to scrape out all of the squash. Divide amongst two (or more) serving bowls and top with marinara, fresh herbs and nutritional yeast or Vegan Parm if desired.

- To make the Quickie Marinara blend the fire roasted tomatoes and the tomato paste in a blender till smooth and then set aside.

- Heat olive oil over medium and add the onions. Saute until they begin to turn soft. Roughly 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and mushrooms. Saute until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms are soft and they begin releasing their juice. Roughly 5-7 minutes.

- Add in the blended tomato mixture, the basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine then lower the heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add in the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine.

- When squash is ready, spoon the marinara over top and sprinkle over the fresh herbs and nutritional yeast.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

For The Love of Bread: My New Sunbeam Bread Machine, and Veganizing The Bread Lovers - Maple Oatmeal Bread...

My Sunbeam! Cool Eh?

There’s nothing like homemade bread. Really. My mom has been making homemade bread for as long as I can remember, and once I moved away that was something I really missed. When you grow up on dense, hearty, homemade bread, store bought loves just aren’t the same. Store bought loaves are flimsy, unsubstantial, gummy, and for the most part tasteless, not to mention most store bought breads also contain about 40 ingredients which is absurd. Bread isn’t complicated, it’s extremely simple. It’s flour, salt, water and yeast. If you want to get a little more fancy then okay some breads may have eggs, milk, or sugar, but everything that gets put into a loaf of bread the average person should be able to pronounce and understand. That’s simply not the case with the majority of store bought bread.

So I like to make bread at home from scratch, using nothing but a big bowl, a wooden spoon, my hands, and my oven. Making bread ‘the old fashion way’ certainly takes more time, and then buying a loaf at the store but trust me when I say that nothing tastes better. Not to mention 1 slice of homemade bread is way more filling then a single slice of store bread, not to mention about 100 times more satisfying, and nutritious. Eating store bought bread to me is an evil of convenience, that’s not to say I never do it but I certainly prefer not to eat store bread. - Which is probably why I don’t eat much bread, period, because I can’t always be bothered to whip up a loaf from scratch. Typically when I find myself buying breads at the store it’s french bread to use in making Bruschetta or burger buns to put my home-made veggie burgers on. Every once in a while I’ll buy a good quality loaf of rye or pumpernickel but a regular loaf of bread? Last Years Vegan Mofo Sandwich craze aside, I can’t even recall the last time I bought a ‘regular’ loaf of wheat bread from the store.

 Maple Oatmeal Bread! My first Bread Machine Success!

Now having said all of that you’re probably thinking I make loaves of bread all the time. That I’m popping out fresh loaves of rye, wheat, and sourdough left and right, but I’m not. This is why I don’t eat a lot of bread, because as much as I love a good bread, and as much as I enjoy making a good loaf from scratch it is kind of a process. There’s the proofing of the yeast - and if my yeast doesn’t proof I automatically feel like giving up on the whole thing - then there’s the mixing, kneading, waiting, punching, more kneading, more waiting then you shape and bake. Typically for one loaf it takes between 2-4 hours, depending on the loaf. While most of that time is inactive, it does limit what you can do. You can’t exactly go out and forget about the bread rising on your counter top. You really have to pay attention to the clock and you have to be really exact about the times.

As I said bread from scratch is something I love to make, but it’s not something I can bother to do on a weekly basis. It’s a once in a while thing, and so the end result is that my husband and I just don’t eat a lot of bread period. For this reason Bread machines are a godsend, really. You plop in all your ingredients, press a couple of buttons and then do whatever you want until the machine beeps to signal your bread is done. Nothing in the world could be simpler. However, finding a good bread machine takes time and research, and each bread machine comes with it’s own quirks. Not to mention the fact that if you thought you had to be exact with baking bread the old fashion way you have to be really super exact doing it in a bread machine.

I have never had luck with bread machines ever. As I said my mom swears by hers but they have never worked to my advantage. My husband’s aunt gave me her old bread machine a few years ago and while I was grateful for it I never got a really wonderful loaf out of it. I don’t know if it was because the machine was old, or if it was just me, but suffice to say I rarely used the machine. In that old machine I would use my mom’s tried and true bread machine wheat bread recipe and it never came out right. It was always very dense, like a brick, and while it tasted delicious the texture was too much. Sometimes they would come out dry, and they were always dense, and squat no matter what. The size issue was the biggest thing for me. To have to use 4 cups of wheat flour and then only get a loaf that was half the size of a regular loaf really pissed me off. On top of that the machine in general was big, bulky, heavy, and noisy. Also part of the reason I didn’t use it a lot. It was a pain in the ass to get down out of the pantry and it took up so much space.

So a few months ago I got it into my head that I wanted/needed a new bread machine, and so I did a little research. There were some really good looking ones, and some really highly reviewed ones, that ranged in all manner of styles and prices. Eventually I settled on getting the Sunbeam 5891 2 pound programable bread machine, and lucky me my in-laws bought me it for Christmas!  It was a fantastic gift and I was super excited to receive it. I already know I’m going to be baking lots of bread in this sucker.

Now I settled on the Sunbeam because it was relatively inexpensive, it offered a lot of versatility when it came to programing various bread types, and it has a large clear LCD screen that tells you what mode you’re on, how big a loaf you’re making and how long until it’s done. I also like that it beeps when it rises, and when it’s done. It also has a big clear window so you can look inside and see what’s going on in there.  Size wise it’s a bit more compact then the other machine, and it’s definitely not as tall as the other machine. It’s about the size of a large rice cooker, though perhaps a little longer. When I first took it out of the box, I remarked to my husband that it looked like a space ship, or pod. With it’s sleek design, and oval window at the top. It’s very cool, and looks good.

Inside Shot!

As you can imagine I was very excited to start using this machine. So about a week or two after Christmas I set about making some bread. I read the manual back to front and then made one of the suggested recipes. A wheat bread. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when the bread came out dense and squat. The bread that was produced looked exactly like the breads my old machine use to make, how could this be? I had done everything right! I decided to try making a second loaf using my mom’s tried and true bread machine wheat bread recipe and that one came out completely gnarled, I mean it didn’t even look like bread. On top of that it was also dense and squat. I was really upset, I didn’t know what had gone wrong, and I didn’t want this new awesome gift to go to waste. So I did what any determined bread baker would do and I went on Amazon and ordered myself a copy of the book The Bread Lovers Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker’s 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every time Bread - From Every Type of Machine by Beth Hensperger.

The book had received good reviews, and so I clicked on the ‘look inside’ feature that Amazon has and skimmed over the list or recipes. A lot of them sounded really fantastic and so I knew I wanted to get myself a copy of this book. Now keep in mind this book is not a vegan bread book, so many of the recipes contain ingredients such as milk, butter, eggs, cream, etc... but for me those are easy enough to veganize, and so I thought until someone makes a Bread Lovers Bread Machine Cook Book for Vegans this will have to do.

Once my copy arrived I read through it. The first 40 pages or so are just general information about how to use bread machines, the quirks of bread machines, how to make bread in general and so on. Typically this sort of information is the stuff I gloss over in other cook books but in this book I found it really helpful. Since I’m not a master bread baker - at least not with a bread machine - the wisdom in this section was beyond valuable. It explained to me exactly why my other breads weren’t turning out, and I began to understand just how delicate the balance of bread machine bread baking is. My three main problems seemed to be 1) not enough liquid, 2) packing my measuring cups to densely, and 3) not enough gluten in the flour that I was using. The solutions became 1) adding slightly more liquid, 2) filling the cups with a spoon then scraping them level with the back of a butter knife, and 3) Adding in a tablespoon or two of vital wheat gluten.

Easy-Peasy and now all is right in my bread machine baking world. For my next attempt at bread making I decided to make the Maple Oatmeal Loaf from Beth Hensperger’s book. I chose it because it sounded easy, and delicious and I had all the ingredients called for. I also was kind of in the mood for toast that day and since this was listed in the ‘Sweet Breads’ and “Breakfast Breads” section I thought it would be perfect. It’s a very simple recipe containing buttermilk, maple syrup, butter, bread flour, rolled oats, gluten, salt and yeast. I really liked the idea of adding oats to my bread, and who can argue with good quality pure maple syrup? Veganizing this recipe was super easy. For the buttermilk I substituted Almond milk, with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. I waited 5-10 minutes for it to curdle then added it in as directed. For the butter I used Earth Balance, and voila, a non-vegan recipe becomes vegan. The substitutions - as far as I can tell - in no way harmed the bread any.

In fact this was the first loaf of bread I ever made in a bread machine that came out absolutely perfect. It was light, springy and delicious. Fantastic flavor, great texture. My only complaint is that the crust got a little ‘blackened’ in some spots around the sides, however I think this would have easily been remedied if I’d set the crust color on medium rather then dark. As far as overall flavor goes it didn’t do anything to take away from it, it just removes something from the presentation I think.

So there you have it, great bread from a bread machine - finally! - and I can’t be happier. In addition to highly recommending the Sunbeam Bread Machine I also highly recommend Beth Hensperger’s book The Bread Lovers Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker’s 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every time Bread - From Every Type of Machine. Seriously, not only are the recipes delicious and easy to follow - so far I’ve made four of her breads - but the level of depth she goes into and the wealth of information she provides is really valuable to any novice bread machine user, or any bread machine user that encounters problems. Oh, and did I mention her bread recipes are delicious? They are!

PS: It’s my desire to veganize every single recipe in this bread machine book, and as I do so I will post about each bread, and how I veganized them all. I hope this information will be useful to any vegans out there who own or wish to own this book, who may not be quite as savvy about veganizing things. So stay tuned guys!

PPS: All Bread Freezes well - at least all bread that i've ever made. This one in particular did very well in the freezer. I sliced half and stored it in a zip-lock in the freezer, while the other half we devoured in about 2 days!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tropical Avocado Smoothie...

Looking for another Green-Tastic smoothie to start your day off right? Well I have just the thing. Lately I’ve been really into the whole Avocado for Breakfast thing. Whether it’s in a smoothie or spread onto toast, I’m addicted! It’s delicious, filling, creamy, satisfying and some might even say that avocado on toast is even ‘buttery.’In a smoothie half an avocado adds depth of flavor, and creaminess which I love. Plus it makes your morning smoothie taste rich and decadent when it’s really not. Some people shy away from Avocados but not me. Healthful fats like those found in Avocado or other whole plant foods are an important part of a healthy balanced diet. Your body needs fat, your brain needs fat - unfortunately we as a species are getting far too much of the wrong kind of fat and we’re getting it far too often. However if you’re eating a healthy, balanced, nutritionally dense diet half an avocado - or a whole one - every once in a while isn’t going to do you any harm. And, while we’re on the subject of fat, I kind of like the idea that if you’re going to eat fat you may as well eat it in the morning that way you have the day to work it off and use it for energy. If you eat a lot of fat at night and then just lay around or sit on the couch your body’s just going to store the fat instead of utilize it. So indulge in a little tropical-avocado goodness and power your morning the right way, through fruit, veg and healthy fat!

Tropical Avocado Smoothie 

1 C Coconut Water
½ Large Avocado
1 C Frozen Pineapple Chunks
1 Large Satsuma Orange
1 Sliver of Ginger - or to taste
Pinch of Fresh Parsley
3 Large Leaves kale
1 tsp Spirulina - Optional

- Place everything in a high-speed blender and blend on high for 90 seconds until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

PS: If you’re looking for something to do with that other half of Avocado you can freeze it and use it in a smoothie another day. Or you can do what I did and toast 1 slice of whole grain or gluten-free bread. Then mash the avo in a bowl with some lime juice, sea salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes then spread it over the toasted bread. It may sound strange to you at first - trust me it took some convincing before I was even willing to try it - but it’s so freaking delicious. Your mind will literally be blown! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Black Quinoa, Arugula Bowl with Chickpeas and Capers

Need something quick and easy to throw together for either dinner or lunch that tastes great and has a lot of nutrition? This is the dish for you. Last weekend I needed to make something to take with me for lunch at work, but didn’t have a lot of time - or ingredients for that matter -  to prepare anything. So I took a look around the kitchen hoping for inspiration. I had onions and garlic of course - always a good base I thought to myself, - and I had a ton of arugula. - Now we’re getting somewhere! Quite often when I need a meal in a pinch I make some variation of sauteed greens, onions, and garlic and throw a can of beans into the mix. It’s quick, easy and delicious and very, very satisfying. On this particular day however I was looking for something a little more - well, creative and filling. That’s when I opened up the pantry and found a solitary can of crushed tomatoes, chickpeas and a big ‘ole bag of black quinoa. Perfect!

So I grabbed up all this stuff, dumped it onto my kitchen counter and without thinking too much about it employed my twin brother E’s favorite method of cooking. Which is “Throw some stuff in a pot and see what happens.” Well, what happened was magic. Seriously this is such a simple dish and yet ti’s so filling, satisfying and bursting with flavor. I love the flavor of arugula, love it’s bitterness, and the capers add a really neat element to the overall dish. I also love that this is a plate of all wholesome whole foods ingredients so you can eat it, and not feel guilty because you know you’re nourishing your body in the right way. I strongly recommend the black quinoa, it’s delicious and I love it! It’s really my favorite type. However if you don’t have any, or can’t find any you can always sub in Regular quinoa, or red quinoa. The contrast won’t be quite the same but it’ll still taste fantastic! The best part is you can throw this together in under 25 minutes, how awesome is that?

Black Quinoa, Arugula Bowl with Chickpeas and Capers

1 C Black Quinoa
2 C Water
1 tsp Olive Oil
10 Cloves Garlic minced
1 Large Red Onion diced
1 tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 14 oz Can Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
4 Cups Arugula
15 oz Can Chickpeas Drained
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp Capers
2-3 Tbsp Liquid from Capers

- Add Quinoa and water to a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then lower to a simmer. Simmer until all the water has been absorbed roughly 15-20 minutes.

- Meanwhile minced the garlic and dice the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and once hot add in the onions. Saute for 3-4 minutes until starting to become fragrant and a little soft. Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic, chili powder and red pepper flakes. Saute for another 3 minutes. The onions should be tender but still a little crisp.

- Add in the crushed tomatoes and lower heat to medium-low. Stir to combine with the onions and garlic and then add in the arugula. Stir until arugula has been worked into the tomato mixture and has wilted. About 3-5 minutes. If the quinoa hasn’t finished cooking by this time lower the heat to the lowest possible setting and let sit.

- Add in the cooked quinoa, the chickpeas, capers, caper liquid, and salt and pepper to taste. Taste for flavor and adjust seasoning as needed. Then spoon into large bowls and enjoy!

PS: If you don’t have crushed tomatoes with basil you can just use any crushed tomatoes and add in an additional 1-2 tsp of dried basil. Also this is a perfectly filling and delicious meal on it’s own but for a bit more substance you can serve it with some lightly roasted squash as I did. I used Acorn squash. To roast squash cut into slices, sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and basil and roast at 425'F for roughly 30 minutes.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Product Review - So Delicious: Greek Style Almond Milk Yogurt

Today I bring you a product review, I know Its been a while since I last did one, but this one in particular is one I’ve been wanting to do for some time and it just keeps slipping my mind. The post I did reviewing Amande’s Almond Milk Yogurt in 2011 is one of my most viewed posts, and so I thought a post about a new delicious almond milk based yogurt would be much appreciated.

If you read the Amande post then you know I used to be a real yogurt lover, really I was obsessed with the stuff. Since going vegan however I’ve had little to no desire to actually eat yogurt of any kind including the delicious non-dairy versions available. Still every once in a while I’ll pass by the refrigerated section of the grocery store and the row’s of non-dairy yogurt will catch my eye.  Sometimes I keep walking, sometimes I look to see if there’s anything new, and sometimes I open the glass door and grab myself a couple of yogurts. Typically on the rare occasions I do find myself eating yogurt I’m at work. It’s a quick, easy something to eat on my lunch break that rounded out with a few handfuls of nuts, a banana, and a kombucha keeps me full till the end of the day without my having to ingest a ton of calories. I like that. Unfortunately a lot of the non-dairy yogurts out there, particularly the flavored ones are higher in sugar then I’d like them to be. Then I discovered that So Delicious was making a Greek Style Almond Milk Yogurt.

I happened upon it by accident one day when I was picking up a carton of WildWood Plain yogurt to use in a baking recipe. Since I had never seen it before, and never tried it, and because I quite enjoyed various flavors of So Delicious Coconut Yogurt I decided to grab a few to test them out.

The only flavors of So Delicious Greek Style Almond Milk Yogurt available in my local grocery are Vanilla, Plain and Strawberry though according to their website they also have a blueberry and chocolate flavor. Out of the three that I’ve tried I’d say that the vanilla flavor is my favorite. It’s got a really great flavor and no strange aftertaste. The strawberry flavor is also pretty good but it tastes a tad bit artificial to me. The plain is great for baking, or for throwing into a smoothie or whipping into a dip or making a lassi with. However the hands down best thing about this yogurt is the texture. I said before that Amande had the best texture of all the non-dairy yogurts I’d tried but So Delicious Greek Style Almond Milk yogurt has them beat by miles. This is the thickets non-dairy yogurt I’ve ever come across, and it is probably the only non-dairy yogurt that is truly comparable in texture to actual dairy based Greek Yogurt. Really, believe me when I say the texture of this yogurt is nothing short of a mind-blowing miracle! Other perks of So Delicious’s new Greek Style Almond Milk Yogurt is that in addition to being vegan they’re also gluten-free, and kosher - in case those are concerns for you - as well as being Certified GMO-Free. They are not however certified organic which is a bit of a downer for me, but at least you can feel safe knowing that even though they’re not organic they are free of GMO’s.

Other things that I really like about these yogurts is that they’re significantly lower in sugar then most of the other non-dairy yogurts on the market. The plain flavor has only 6g which is really good. The vanilla has 12 g and the strawberry has 13g. Those numbers seem high - and in truth I’d wish they were a bit lower - however when you consider that most other non-dairy flavored yogurts contain anywhere between 14g-24g of sugar per container this is a pretty significant decrease, and it puts them at the lower end of the spectrum when compared to other non-dairy yogurts. They’re also lower in overall calories then other brands. These three flavors each have 140 calories per container, and only 40 calories come from fat. Again while this may seem high, - and again I wish it were lower - it is significantly less then other brands, or even less then So Delicious’s Coconut Milk Yogurts. It’s typical to see calorie range in non-dairy yogurts be anywhere between 150-220 Calories per container with typically 60-80 calories coming from fat. So I say if you’re going to eat a processed vegan food item like a non-dairy yogurt it’s always best to go with the ones that are GMO-Free, or organic with the fewest calories and the least amount of sugar.

The only drawbacks for me where this yogurt is concerned is that all of their flavors contain Dextrose which is something I really stay away from. However I suppose one little yogurt cup every once in a great while won’t make too much of a difference.

So if you can find So Delicious’s Greek Style Almond Milk Yogurt give it a try, especially if you used to be a yogurt lover like me. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Restaurant Review: WOW Egyptian Fast Food in Carol Stream...

Last Friday before work my Husband asked me if I wanted to try a new fast food place that a co-worker of his had been raving about for some time now. Of course fast and food are not two words I ever want to hear put together in the same sentence and so I looked at him quizzically. After all if you drive around any Midwestern city you’d be inclined to believe that the only fast food it’s capable of producing is burgers, pizza, hot dogs, tacos and subs. Most of which are not very vegetarian - and even less vegan - friendly. Before I could object my husband explained that the fast food establishment in question was an Egyptian restaurant. Oh, well that’s a little different I thought. I love Middle Eastern food, as well as many North African dishes so I asked if he was certain that the place had vegetarian options. He handed me a menu that his co-worker had given to him, and when I saw the words “Vegetarian Platter” printed on the back I knew we would have to at least give the place a try.

So we went. From the outside the place has a very ‘fast food’ feel. It’s painted in bold primary colors and looks like it would be right at home sitting next to a McDonalds. The inside is a little kitschy, with pseudo-Egyptian designs, Hieroglyphs, and pictures of Egyptian Gods but the staff was very friendly and very welcoming. After looking over the menu both my husband and I decided to each get a vegetarian platter which contained 3 falafels, pita bread, hummus, baba ganoush, tahini sauce and Egyptian Salad. Then along with it I got a bowl of lentil soup, and my husband got a side order of fried eggplant. After placing our order we took a seat near the window and began to chat, though it didn’t take long at all for the food to come. Unlike regular fast food places the food here comes served on actual plates, with real cutlery, and the drinks come in actual glasses. From an environmental perspective I really appreciate this, because the waste and pollution of ordering one meal at a McDonalds disgusts me. I hate the disposable culture we live in. The side dishes however come in reusable plastic baskets lined with parchment paper. Certainly not as bad a s typical fast food place since the baskets are reusable but I would have preferred a small plate.

Anyway everything smelled delicious and so we dug in. I ate my soup first, and it was quite good. It was blended and smooth, no chunks like a typical lentil soup might have. Though I thought it was slightly under seasoned - I would have added garlic - it was enjoyable, particularly because Friday was cold and a hot soup is always appreciated in such a climate. Next I tried the humus and the pita, both were fantastic. The pita was so soft and delectable and the humus rich but not overpowering. The Baba was also very good, in fact one of the better Baba’s I’ve had. Sometimes I find Baba bitter, and whenever I order it, or make it at home it’s hit or miss, but this one was great. Next I tried the Egyptian salad which was a combination of chopped onion, cucumber, parsley, and tomato in a vinaigrette, that was also very good. Last the falafel’s which I thought were pretty good, with a nice spicy kick. Although I think I make better falafel at home, but that might be because I prefer my falafel baked and these were fried. I think these were also made with fava beans while I just use chickpeas. Anyway overall they were good and they tasted great dipped in the humus, the baba, and with tahini drizzled over top of them. Oh and of course I can’t forget my husband’s side order of Fried Eggplant! Oh my goddess were they good! They were only lightly fried. When I hear the word fried I expect ‘deep fried’ of which I am not the biggest fan, but these were not deep-fried. They looked as if they’d been fried in a skillet with some olive oil and so they didn’t have that grease taste. They tasted clean, and they were super juicy. I would definitely order them again.

Though the restaurant is not vegetarian - they have chicken and beef - they are pretty vegetarian friendly and they’re certainly serving up food that’s healthier then the typical fast food fare. Aside from the dishes I’ve already mentioned for vegetarians they offer a falafel meal, a falafel wrap, a baba sandwich, a fried cauliflower sandwich. A side of fried cauliflower, pickled vegetables, rice, tabbouleh, fries and a few other things I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Overall though I’m not a fast food person, and don’t particularly like to spend my time in fast food places I think this is a place I wouldn’t mind going once in a while. Certainly it’s nice to have something healthful, and ethnic close by for those ‘in a hurry’ days when you really don’t want to cave and get a $6 veggie sub from Subway, or a $8 Veggie Fajita Burrito from Chipotle. The prices at WOW are actually very reasonable, for the food that my husband and I ordered plus a Mango Juice it only costed $18, and though it might not look like a ton of food in the picture it kept me extremely full all afternoon-evening at work, so that I didn’t eat anything in the hours that I was working. - A big achievement. It really is true what they say about quality not quantity and with WOW unlike other fast food places you can tell that the food is fresh. It tastes fresh, and it tastes clean. It doesn’t taste like it’s full of salt, sugar, and fat like all other fast food places. My only two complaints - and I suppose they’re not exactly complaints per say but opinions - is that I think the order of pita bread should be larger. They give you a large amount of humus and Baba and so it could use a bit more bread. Also I would like to see something a little more exotic on the menu. Though all of this food is commonly eaten in Egypt, it’s also commonly eaten in other parts of Northern Africa and the Middle East, it would be nice to see something on the menu that is a True Traditional Egyptian Dish, but that’s me. Otherwise this place is great, and so if you’re in the area I highly recommend you stop in!

EDIT - We enjoyed WOW so much the first time that we ate here again the following Friday. The Fried Cauliflower Sandwich was just too much for me to resit not trying and so My husband and I stopped in again before I headed off to work. Now let me tell you, everything we ate the first time and the second time was delicious but that Fried Cauliflower Sandwich was absolutely to die for! The flavor was amazing, it is literally one of the best things I've eaten out in some time. The sandwich is made with fired cauliflower florets, Egyptian Salad, and Tahini Sauce and the entire thing is contained in a big pita. After one bite I was totally hooked, and because I love Humus so much and because we ordered some to go with our meal i dabbed a little of that in my sandwich too. I'd have to say that this second time around the humus was even better, and even creamier. We ordered a full humus order and 2 orders of Pita bread to split between us, and let me tell you we probably could have ordered 4 orders of pita bread because it sure was a lot of humus!

For our second trip my Husband ordered the Vegetable soup which he said he liked a lot. I took a little taste and it was pretty decent, though I opted to go with the lentil soup again. Now I don't know if anyone read my review and took my suggestions to heart but the lentil soup this time around was fan-freaking-tastic! really the flavor was amazing, it had a good amount of garlic and it had whole cumin seeds right in it. I loved it!

For my husband's meal he got the Falafel Sandwich which I didn't try because I had enough food of my own to eat, but he said it was fantastic. I could tell he really loved it because he'd devoured it in what seemed like seconds. Then to wash it all down we each had a hot Hibiscus tea which was really good. I love Hibiscus tea, and for me the tea at WOW was just the right combination of tart and sweet.

As I said before I highly, highly suggest you try this place out if you're in the area, the food is really phenomenal  I know my husband and I will probably stop in every now and again. Next time I look forward to trying the Baba Sandwich and the Tabbouleh.

PS: I also love how on the t.v. in the background they play the t.v. sketch comedy show “Just For Laughs” This is hilarious to me, because it’s such a stable of my childhood. I mean who grows up in Canada and doesn’t know about Just for Laughs really? The Just for Laughs festival in Montreal is only the second largest comedy festival in the world, after all. I haven’t actually seen the show in years, and I didn’t even know that it aired in the U.S. so to randomly see it on the t.v. at an Egyptian Fast Food restaurant - très bizarre - kind of made my day! 

WOW Egyptian Fast Food
105 Stark Dr, Carol Stream, IL
(630) 690-4969
Hours - Mon-Thur - 10am-9pm

PPS: Please excuse the shitty cell-phone pics.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Indian Spiced Lentil Loaf...

Everyone loves a good lentil loaf right? At least it seems that way. I say that because out of the 100 + cook books that I own I would say at least three quarters of them contain a recipe for a vegan ‘meatloaf’ or some variation of the classic hippy lentil loaf. Now, I was never that big a fan of ‘meatloaf,’ because well... for starters meat shouldn’t come in a loaf, ans secondly when you really think about what it is you’re eating - a big ole slab of ground beef with ketchup and breadcrumbs - it doesn’t really sound that appetizing. Certainly it’s not a very creative dish. A good lentil loaf on the other hand can blow your mind, after all lentils are a really versatile food, and I never fail to be amazed at what they can be made into. Plus on these cold winter nights when you’re dying for something savory and comforting but don’t want to do a lot of work a lentil loaf is perfect. They’re quick and easy to throw together with minimal active time. Once you have it in the oven baking you can take a shower, read a book, do some yoga, or just relax with a hot cup of tea.

Lentils loafs are also rich in nutrients. You get protein from the lentils, plus lots of healthful nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the array of spices and vegetables you decide to put into them. The problem though - at least for me - is that so many of the lentil loaf recipes floating around out there are the same. It’s always the same kind of lentils - usually brown - with the same basic combination of vegetables - onions, carrot, celery, - and the same combination of herbs - parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, basil, oregano. - Vegetable brother is another typical component as is soy sauce and are almost always topped with ketchup or BBQ sauce. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like this combination - a lot - but as you know I like variety. I’ve never been the type of person who makes the same thing over and over again and so I require a little more creativity in my life.

I had been thinking a lot about lentil loafs last November when I happened upon an interesting recipe in Robin Asbell’s book “Big Vegan” it was a French inspired lentil loaf with Herbs de Provence and a Dijon Mustard glaze, yum! I was immediately excited and so I made the loaf. It was beyond excellent, and it got me thinking about what other kind of cultural twists I could throw into a lentil loaf to shake things up a bit. Initially I wrote down a bunch of ideas that I’m eager to try out, but since Indian food is one of my - and my husband’s, - favorites, that seemed the most natural direction to go in first.

When I first came up with the idea I had no idea how I was really going to do it. I had no idea if it would be good or if it would even be edible, but in the end I really surprised myself because the loaf turned out really fantastic. It tasted like a big samosa covered in mango chutney. It had all the great flavors I love about Indian Cuisine, the sweet, the spicy, the pungent, all rolled up in one easy package. My husband loved it too and so we enjoyed this delicious Indian spiced loaf for 2 days as dinner and 2 days as leftovers in lunches. It was the perfect hearty meal for those cold nights that proceeded the beginning of the Christmas season.

One thing to keep in mind about this recipe however is the fact that this makes a very large loaf. It was too large for my regular loaf pan and so I baked it in a cake pan instead. If you’re not looking to make quite so much you could easily half the recipe, but remember that halving it will mean a shorter cooking time also. Anywhere from 25-40 minutes less, depending on the consistency of the loaf at the time you pour it into the pan. Though if you were so inclined to make the recipe as is it tastes fantastic as leftovers, either on it’s own or stuffed into whole grain pita bread with sliced tomato, onion, lettuce, cucumber and a little additional chutney. Or be a little more traditional and roll it up into some Naan bread. However you decide to make it just enjoy it!

Indian Spiced Lentil Loaf 

1 C Green lentils
½ C Red Lentils
3 C Water
1 1/4 C Oat Flour
6 Garlic Cloves Minced
1 Tbsp Ginger grated
1 Yellow Onion Diced
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
3 Yukon Gold Potatoes diced
1 Tbsp Peanut Oil
2 C Cauliflower Chopped
1 Large Carrot
½ Frozen Green Peas
5-6 Tbsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Ground Turmeric
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Cardamom
4 tsp Ground Cumin
2 tsp Ground Coriander
Sea salt and Black Pepper to taste
2-4 Tbsp Mango Chutney
2 Tbsp Tamarind Paste
8oz Mango Chutney

- Preheat oven to 400'F/200'C

- Cook Green and Red Lentils in 3 Cups water until tender and most of water has been absorbed. If not all the water has been absorbed by the time the lentils are tender drain in a colander. If lentils are not tender by the time the water has absorbed add more. Once cooked set aside to cool.

- Steam the Potatoes and Cauliflower until just tender, then set aside to cool.

- In a pan over medium-high heat saute the mustard seeds for a few seconds until they begin popping. Add the peanut oil, the onion, garlic and ginger and saute for 5-7 minutes until translucent.

- In food processor combine the cooked lentils, potatoes, cauliflower, onion mixture, and the oat flour. Pulse until just combined.

- Add the Cardamom, Cumin, Coriander, Salt, Pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, curry powder, tamarind paste, and the 2-4 Tbsp of Mango Chutney. Pulse until it the mixture just becomes cohesive, and the spices have been incorporated.

- Turn the mixture out into a mixing bowl. Add in the grated carrot and the frozen peas. Stir to combine. Taste for flavor and texture and adjust seasoning as needed.  More curry powder, chutney, salt etc... If the mixture is too wet add in a bit more oat flour. If it’s too dry add in a bit of oil, water, or more chutney or tamarind paste.

- Grease a 9 inch round cake pan - I used a sprongform pan, - and scrape the mixture into it. Smooth the top with the back of a spatula then top with the 8oz of Mango Chutney.

- Bake uncovered in the oven for roughly 60-75 minutes until the top is bubbling and the loaf seems firm when you insert a knife or wooden skewer into it.

- Remove from the oven and let cool on the counter top for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Serve with a giant salad!

***Note - I chose to make this recipe wheat-free, but to ensure it’s 100% gluten-free make sure you buy gluten-free oat flour, or make your own by using gluten-free oats. Alternately if you do not have a wheat or gluten intolerance you can use any type of flour that you prefer.***

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pear and Parsley Spiked Green Smoothie...

I know, two smoothie recipes in as many days? How original, but really this smoothie is freaking fantastic and I thought that since it’s January and everyone’s cleansing it might be appreciated. As I said the other day, part of my goal for this year is to make sure I start every day off right, that means getting my exercise in first thing, and then enjoying a refreshing nutrient packed smoothie for breakfast. I have no rules as far as what kind of smoothie to have for breakfast, it doesn’t have to be a green smoothie or a veggie cocktail, just as long as it’s healthful, and loaded with nutrition. Since I get bored with drinking the same smoothie each day I’ve been treating myself to three different concoctions. My Strawberry Sunshine Beet Blast, a Tropical Avocado Smoothie, and this delicious Pear and Parsley Spiked Green Smoothie. It was extremely refreshing and revitalizing after my hard workout yesterday morning.

The Pear, Parsley, Cucumber and Coconut Water are what make this smoothie particularly refreshing. Both Pears and Cucumbers are loaded with beneficial antioxidants, and both are anti-inflammatory as well. The added bonus of throwing them into your smoothie is that their calorie content is relatively low for the nutrient boost they provide. Parsley also is a wonderfully healing herb, with vibrant color and great flavor it also boasts an amazing amount of Vitamin K, as well as being a rich source of antioxidant nutrients. It also provides you with a good dose of Vitamin A and C, and only has 1 Calorie per Tablespoon how awesome is that? Then you have the coconut water. There is a lot of buzz and hype about coconut water, particularly over the past couple of years as more and more companies began producing and selling it commercially to capitalize on it's popularity. Some people claim it's a miracle food, while skeptics say it's a scam. I personally don't drink coconut water because it's popular, I drink it because it's damn delicious, and while i'm not a food scientist, or doctor I can personally attest to the fact that after I drink it I do feel more energized and definitely more refreshed. It's certainly true that Coconut water is full of electrolytes - which are great to consume if you've just had an intense work out - it's also a great source of potassium - far better then say a banana, - but whether any of the other health claims are true only time will tell. In the meantime i'm going to keep drinking because it's delicious, and also very low in calories. Roughly 45 calories per 8oz provided you're buying pure, natural, no sugar added coconut water.

From the very first sip you take from this smoothie you just know you're drinking something that tastes great, and is great for you, and once you know that, it makes it so damn easy to keep going. Enjoy!

Pear and Parsley Spiked Green Smoothie 

1 Pink Lady Apple
1 Large Banana
1 Large Anjou Pear
! C Kale
½ Large Cucumber
A pinch of Fresh Parsley (or more to taste)
1 tsp Spirulina
½ C Coconut Water
1/4 C Orange Juice (or as much as ½ C if you want the smoothie a bit thinner)
4-5 Ice Cubes (Optional)

- Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend on high for 60-90 seconds until completely smooth. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy after a good workout!